Sakura disliked traveling. No, that would be incorrectly. She loathed it. The excessive need to pack. The rush to get where you needed to go. However, as she had learned in the past month or so, she loved wandering. There was no need to over-pack. Everything you needed would be found as you approached it. There was no rush to get anywhere since she wasn't exactly going anywhere is particular. Having her husband as her wandering partner certainly helped as well.
The sky was beautiful in this area just outside of the Village Hidden in the Grass. The village wasn't close enough to obstruct the view of the stars and they had chosen a wonderful clearing to spend their evening. "You were right about stars," Sakura sighed, arms behind her head. She could almost hear his gentle nod as he sat around the fire, roasting some fish.
"I'm excited to go into town tomorrow."
Sasuke's eyebrow raise was almost audible as well. "You're always excited to go into towns." Sakura smiled back at him. Of course, he was right. They often lent out her healing skills as a source of income, or Sasuke's ninjutsu skills for help with mundane tasks. Sasuke found these things a necessary irritation. Sakura delighted in them. She beamed every time she was able to help out one of the sickly civilians. He loved that about her.
"The fish is ready."
Konoha had one of the largest and most advanced hospitals in the world. Sakura had always known this fact, but hadn't truly understood until she had encountered other villages. They lacked what she considered fundamental medical equipment. Their leaders, since it was peace-time, often disregarded the hospital budgets and they were left with the bare minimum.
Sakura stood in the director the Grass's main hospital's office. "I'm Haruno Sakura. I am here to offer my medical-"
"The mission team isn't supposed to arrive for two days. You seem to have made excellent time."
Sakura blinked a few times. "I'm sorry, I'm not on a mission. I am from Konoha-"
"I know who you are. Pink hair isn't exactly common."
Sakura bit her cheek. Patience was a quality she was lacking these days and if this man thought he was going to continue interrupting her, he had another thing coming.
"So, here's the thing," her tone was a little more aggressive now. "I'm here to offer my healing services. Take them or leave them."
The man smiled and leaned his face into his palm. "Hmm, you come at a perfect time. I give you free reign. I will compensate you accordingly, as I am no longer in need of a mission." Sakura frowned, she'd hadn't agreed to a mission, yet a scroll was handed to her.
"You will find everything you need to know in there. Let me know if you have any questions. There is an office three doors down on the right, feel free to use it."
"Thank you." She grabbed it, and walked out of the office. Apparently, she had taken a mission now. She padded down to the office and peaked in. It was bare, but it would suffice.
Sitting in the chair, she opened the school and gnawed her lip. There was a disease in the village. It seemed to be transferred by body fluids. Definitely blood, possibly saliva. Its symptoms included: blurry vision, sweating and…she read the next symptom several times. It was extremely possible the handwriting was just sloppy.
The last symptom was an uncontrollable urge to eat human flesh.
The grass was having a cannibal epidemic.
Sakura was back in the director's office, frowning. "What do you expect me to do about cannibals?"
A smile crossed his lips. "They're diseased, cure them."
Her eyes danced over the commission for a completed mission. If anyone was going to save these people, it was going to be her.
"Take me to them."
Sasuke was actively concerned with how large this store was. This was not a large village by any means. It was nearly a third of Konoha's size, yet why did the freezer section alone seem to have enough variety to feed all of the Land of Iron?
The produce section was worse. He was than well aware of how rich the soil was, but did that mean they had to stock seventeen different kinds of apples? He had simply had to make due with buying four different red apples since he knew Sakura's favorite was the red one. He hadn't known he would have to memorize its breed.
He sighed and approached the check-out counter. Sakura would hopefully be done soon and they could spend the night at the inn before heading back out of their travels. Something about this village was off. Despite this being the single grocery store in the village and it being a Saturday, there was no one here. It seemed as though no one was leaving their house. The streets weren't particularly active either.
The inn was just as barren as the rest of the village, save for the innkeeper and bartender. It was nearly evening, but Sakura wasn't back yet. It wasn't necessarily unlike her to stay late to help with procedures at the hospitals and clinics they visited, but she almost always told him.
His frowned deepened as he sat on the bed, he would give her an hour before he checked up.
The body Sakura was presented with was vile. There were sores all around their mouth. Several bite marks were on their arms and it was clear the person had been restrained at some point by the marks around their wrist. The nails were crusted with blood and after further testing; flesh.
Tests revealed a few thing Sakura had already suspected, the victim's saliva had become far more acidic than normal, attributing to the sores in and around the mouth. The brain was equally as interesting, there was scaring in the pathways as if the chakra was acting erratically, but genjutsu had be ruled out by her in-person consultation with several patients. Chakra poisoning could also cause this, but few of the victims were shinobi, let alone shinobi who could have an over-abundance of chakra.
The chakra pathways did have one troublesome feature as she delved further into them. They were blocked and the way they blocked resembled the technique she had developed was unsettling. Only a handful of people knew the technique and she could name and account for them all.
"This is an interesting case."
Sakura jolted up, cursing.
"How did you get down here?" Sakura furrowed her brow. She was in the basement of the hospital and it had been difficult for her to find, with an escort.
"Apparently I'm well known nearly everywhere now."
Sakura rolled her eyes, turning her attention to the brain in front of her. "You don't need to check on me. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself. It's not even-" Her eyes flickered up to the clock and she bit her lip.
"-nine-thirty," Sasuke finished, pulling a stool up to her table.
Sakura chuckled. "I'm sorry, this case is just…intriguing. They are becoming cannibalistic. Don't touch anything. That's why my gloves are so long and my mask. It's apparently transmitted by bodily fluids and well look at them, they go crazy. Somehow I got put on this mission-"
"Mission?" They weren't supposed to be taking any missions. He was on a mission, taking another would be too time consuming and likely lead to there being delays. Not that he had any new developments from his connections.
"You're not the only one that can take missions, Sasuke." Sakura was frowning and her left eye was twitching. Sasuke attempted not to flinch, he knew that face.
"Yes, dear." He paused because while the frown receded, the eye twitch remained. "Tell me more about the mission."
Sakura smiled and turned back to the brain. She knew exactly what he was doing, she wasn't stupid. "Well…I'm troubled because see here, yeah, this build up is similar to the one I developed..."
As she continued Sasuke listened attentively. Something about her talking about these things got to him. Due to their different skill sets, he never quite got to learn from her. He was always out and by the time she was home, she was too exhausted to teach him anything. But here she was, talking to him about a S-Rank technique she developed and how it had been modified to allow for a disease which was able to identifies its causes. It was fascinating and honestly the woman was a modern marvel.
Sakura suddenly made eye contact with him. "What?"
Sakura's cheeks were suddenly warm. She turned her attention back to the brain and sighed.
"So, I just have to finish this report. Then, I'll be home."
Sasuke handed her a scroll. "Done."
"While you were speaking. I wrote it down in a report." As always, his voice didn't change. It was as if she should have known he was doing it.
Sakura tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled. "I'll take that to the director's office. See you back at the room."
The walk to the director's office was equally as bleak. The place nearly shut down minus the moaning of several disturbed patients. It did not reflect the typical hustle and bustle that happened at all hours in Konoha. Sakura stopped beside on patient doorway.
The door was only open a crack, but inside her saw the patient desperately trying to gnaw into the woman on his bedside. The resistance was futile due to the restraints, but the woman was nearly in tears.
"Excuse me? Do you mind if I sedate him?"
Sakura smiled at the woman, who was older and clearly exhausted.
She opened her mouth several times before hanging her head. "Yes, I just want him to rest."
Nodding, Sakura took a vial from her pack and injected the adolescent into his thigh.
"They're all young boys, you know?" Sakura stopped and looked at the woman, who seemed to greatly resemble the now unconscious boy.
"I just don't understand why someone would do this to young boys."
"It's an illness ma'am. Unfortunately, illness is not a matter of choice." The words felt foreign feeling Sakura's mouth. She understood exactly what Sasuke meant about this place making him uneasy.
"Ah…yes. An illness…I forgot…"
Sakura nodded and left the room before heading back to the director's office. The light was on and Sakura smiled at the familiar sight of someone sleeping at their desk.
A grunt. Then he bolted up, but upon catching Sakura's gaze he calmed, composing himself quickly. "Ah, yes. Uchiha Sakura. Hello."
Sakura hadn't introduced herself as an Uchiha. Her maiden name was more well known when it came to her medical skills. This is how Sasuke had found her and of course he had to make it clear to everyone in his path that she was an Uchiha. She shrugged it off, those thoughts were for another time.
"I get it. I spend more nights at my desk sometimes than in my bed." The man shrugged, but smiled a little.
"Could I have all the patient files tomorrow? I want to see if they have any commonalities. Especially starting with patient zero."
"Of course. They'll be waiting on your desk tomorrow. In addition to any information I feel with be helpful after reading your report."
Sakura realized as she searched from the key to the room at the inn that she spent far more time frowning lately than she did before. She supposed she was irritable when she was tired, and she spent most days after being in the hospital tired. She leaned her head against the door and sighed despite having found the key.
This case was heavy. That was it. Obviously, people were rarely out because of this random disease, so human interaction was slim. Sasuke was lovely, but sometimes she just needed some other sort of stimulation than him. There also was always the fact that this case so far involved two young male patients and the disease was particularly vile.
Sakura took a deep breath and opened the door. Sasuke was awake and reading. The man was waiting up for her. That frown she'd found nagging her, deepened.
"You don't have to wait up for me."
"I need to make sure you make it home safe."
Sakura's placed her hands of her hips. "I am more than capable, Sasuke. You don't have to hover."
Maybe it was the fact the two hadn't spent an extended period of time together since they were twelve, but the last six months had been hard. Sasuke was on top of her. Young Sakura would have loved nothing more than relish in him being near her every moment and seeming to constantly be concerned with her, but the Sakura here now was consistently irritated.
Yes, the premise was sweet. But she was capable and it was as though he didn't understand that.
His hands were in his head and their foreheads were pressed together before Sakura could finish the thoughts reeling in her brain. She looked into his eyes and tried to relieve the frown that seemed to rival his.
"I know that. Forgive me." It was sigh from him and an uncharacteristically desperate one.
It wasn't the first time Sakura had heard it, though. She knew he was trying to show his love in the most socially inept way he could. But having all the time in the world to think lately certainly wasn't helping her at all either.
"I'm trying." It was all she could sigh back and be honest.
Forgiveness was hard, but they'd get there.