Sakura frowned to herself, watching the ripples in the water as the ferry carried them up the river. Closing her eyes, she listened to the hum of the engine of the boat and the sound of the water splashing against the side. Birds chirped in the distance, hiding in the trees that lined the bank, a fair distance away. It was a wide river and, the farther they traveled, the more it widened. Clouds covered the sun and everything seemed dim and grey, a chill in the air and her jacket zipped up all the way.

Sighing, Sakura turns around in her seat and checks her phone for a moment. She was losing signal fast and, by the time they reached their destination, she knew her cellphone would have little to no service. Snorting and running a hand through her hair, she leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees, chin in hand.

This was the fourth summer in a row that her parents would be away on business.

Of course, they'd only missed a week or two out of the previous summers and returned home fairly quickly, leaving Sakura home alone only for a little while. But, this summer, they'd be overseas for a good month or so, directing the construction of a new customer's Dream House. As fairly notable architects, they were often commissioned to draw out plans and oversee the building of new homes and, occasionally, larger projects.

This new project was going to take some time to complete and, rather than leave Sakura home alone for weeks on end, her parent's had decided to send her to spend the summer with her great aunt.

Who just so happened to live, literally, in the middle of nowhere.

Like, in the middle of a lake.

In the center of Lake Manta were a few sparse islands of sorts. A town had been built on these islands, connecting them with bridges and extending further with stilted buildings and homes rising out of the water. Canals ran between buildings and through the entirety of the town, under the bridges and around the small islands.

She liked to think of it as a very crude Venice.

Truthfully, Sakura had only visited the town and this great aunt of hers once before, and she was much too young at the time to remember much. What she did remember, however, was falling into the water of one of the canals and nearly drowning, saved by some blonde-haired stranger who she'd never had a chance to thank. The townsfolk had told her how unbelievably lucky she was but Sakura was too freaked out to pay their words any mind.

After the incident, she developed a fear of the water and her parents never brought her to visit her great aunt again.

Years passed and her fear lessened and she grew to at least tolerate swimming.

But, living most of her life in a landlocked, heavily wooded area, Sakura found herself in love with the trees and forests, spending afternoons climbing the tallest trees she could find and taking naps in the branches.

She had no fear of heights or of falling, but she still occasionally had nightmares of the cold chill of the lake's water, her lungs burning as she struggled to breathe and everything quickly grew dark.

Sakura was not fond of having such fears and weaknesses and, when her parents had told her that she'd be spending the summer with a relative and asked her whom she wanted to visit, she'd immediately requested her great aunt who lived on the lake.

Her parents had, of course, been skeptical and tried to convince her otherwise, but Sakura, seventeen and stubborn, had insisted that she wanted to spend her summer with her great aunt.

It was time she squashed this lingering fear.

And now, as the ferry carried them closer and closer to Lake Manta, Sakura was beginning to regret her decision.

She'd done extensive research of the town, which seemed to only be referred to as "The Lake Manta Town", and she'd been fairly disappointed. It was reclusive and, from what her parent's had told her, rather old-fashioned. The townsfolk were secretive and not too welcoming of strangers, with children that either left the lake to see the world and never returned or stayed to carry on whatever family business their parents had shaped them to take over.

They were superstitious and secluded.

The lake itself stemmed off with small streams and one main river that, fortunately, led a couple miles south to a larger city that seemed like a modern paradise compared to Lake Manta's town.

No internet, no cell service, probably prehistoric technology, and a perpetual fish-smell in the air.

At least Sakura had packed enough books to last her for a couple weeks.

Her parents had given her a fair amount of money that she could use in Pearlview, the city at the end of the river, if Lake Manta grew too boring. Coffee shops with WIFI, a couple book stores, a decent-sized mall, and other small shops and places to explore.

The ferry service was free and the only transport from lake to city. It had set departure and arrival times and a schedule that the ferry followed like clockwork. There were no roads cutting through the dense forest surrounding the lake and river, leaving the town cut off from most of the rest of the world.

A nudge from her mother drew Sakura from her thoughts and she glanced up, looking out over the water to see that the river had met the lake and the dark shadows of the town could just barely be seen in the distance. Mist drifted over the surface of the water, the clouds overhead parting for just a moment to cast sunshine down onto the lake. The water sparkled and shimmered and Sakura could see fish swimming past the boat, the water clean and clear.

The clouds returned and everything was grey again.

"From what I remember, there's a curfew and Auntie has a few strict house-rules. Be sure to follow them and listen to her, dear."

Sakura nodded slightly, inclining her head towards her mother but still staring out over the water, eyes on the forest treeline that grew further and further away as the ferry drifted out into open water.

"Remember, we'll just be an email or Skype chat away! I'm not sure if the town has good cell service, so texting your friends might be difficult." Her father added, sending her a smile and leaning back in his seat on the bench.

Checking her phone, she saw the bars of service disappear and she pursed her lips, slipping her cellphone back into her bag. What were the chances that there would be kids in the town around her age?

"Make new friends, don't spend all my time clinging to WIFI in a coffee shop, don't die of boredom, got it." Sakura smiled at both of her parents and sent a final gaze towards the trees, the town growing steadily closer. Damn, this lake was big.

"Don't worry. I'll be fineee."

Sakura's parents both send her soft smiles, her mother patting her leg and her father adjusting the collar of his shirt.

Leaning slightly over the ledge beside her, Sakura peered out over the water to watch the town drift into view, the ferry letting out a low set of honks, signaling that they were nearing the dock.

"It's just for a few weeks." Sakura thought to herself, tucking a few stray strands of her pink hair behind her ear. Details slowly came into view and she could pick out people walking down the sidewalks and across the bridges between buildings. "No way this town could be that boring."


notes: I'm sure a few of you are surprised to see some activity from me. That is, if you've managed to stick around after these last couple years of inactivity.

I haven't written anything new in a long, long time.

But I've been planning and brainstorming this particular fic for a couple months now and finally sat down, opened my word doc, and wrote this prologue. I wont reveal much of what I've got planned, but a few of my friends already know a little bit of what to expect. In case the summary wasn't much of a hint, this is (polyamorous!) Kimimaro/Sakura/Ino with a few other SakuraCentric pairings on the side. Modern AU, with bits of fantasy, drama, suspense/mystery, action/adventure, romance, all that jazz.

Please, don't ask about my other fics. As of right now, this fic and Tempest are my biggest priorities (but, even then, idk when I'll work on more of Tempest). I plan on going back and editing/rewriting Just a Little Bit before I even think about updating and I have no idea when/if Sugar Cube will ever be updated. I've lost a lot of muse for that fic.

But! I hope you enjoyed this and, depending on how well its received, I'll get to work on the next chapter fairly soon!

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think so far!