A New Beginning
The war was finally over. But everything was unfortunately not back to normal. The village still stands. But it stands on the sacrifices of the many, who had given their lives hoping that it would help in building a better tomorrow for their loved ones, the people they cared for, the people for whom they fought, bled, murdered and finally gave their lives.
But was it enough? Was the victory any meaningful?
As she walked through the streets of Konoha, Sakura couldn't help but wonder how much the place had changed. How much the war had changed her? Hell, how much it had changed the knuckleheaded ninja?
She thought of the times when people laughed at Naruto's rants on becoming the Hokage. But after the war, all of that was changing, faster than ever before. It all started with chuunin exams long back, when the dead last, the one person no one even expected to be worthy of a genin, defeated the might Hyuuga Neji, and proved to the world that he was not to be looked down.
Naruto was finally preparing to be the 7th Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. He was currently in training under the 6th Hokage, none other than her own former sensei, Hatake Kakashi. Sakura was musing over how her perception of the people around her had changed so much. The memories of the times when she wondered whether the man, her ex-sensei was capable of anything other than reading Icha Icha, or torturing them came back to her. But now he was a source of comfort for her, was somewhat like a parent figure for her.
Thinking of that brought up memories of her shishou. Lady Tsunade, the person who made her who she was, the person who took the weak willed genin and made wonderful frontline medic out of her.
No, she wouldn't cry. She had already shed too much tears over this. Besides, there were other matters to attend to. Her shishou would have never wanted her to mourn over her death.
Sakura was too much caught up in her own thoughts to notice that she had bumped into someone.
"Ouch! How troublesome. Watch where you're going Sakura." The Nara looked at her with the usual lazy look on his face and with a cigeratte hanging from his mouth.
"Sorry Shika. Just got caught up in some inner turmoil." Sakura replied with small smile tugging at her lips.
She knew how much Shikamaru hated being addresses as Shika. Ino was the first one to come up with the nick name, using it to irritate him when she wanted something from him.
Shikamaru muttered something which sounded close to troublesome women and walked away. Sakura thought of how each day Shikamaru was growing up more and more to resemble their sensei Asuma Sarutobi. Asuma Sensei, Neji, Lee, the Third, all those people..
The smile that was tugging at her lips faded away. It was replaced by a resolute determination. The time has come for the village to be led by the next generation of shinobi – it was their time. And this time, she will stand beside them, they will stand together and make sure that the sacrifices of these people will never be in vain.
Sakura's feet carried her to the Memorial. No, she was not there to cry. She was not there to mourn the past. She was there to tell them, that the village was rebuilding, and that maybe not now, but in a few years, the people of Konoha would forget the past, the war, their losses, and streets will soon fill up will laughter and life. She would stand by the Hokage's side and make sure of it.
"Good Morning, Sakura." She heard the very familiar voice from behind.
"Kakashi sensei, I didn't knew you still came here!" Sakura replied.
Sometimes she wondered how her sensei was able survive through everything. How this man was still standing after finding his team mate presumed dead for years, in a battlefield, fighting against him, bringing him back to his senses, only to lose him again. Sakura knew very less of Kakashi's past, but from what she has heard and observed this ex-ANBU had lost everyone precious to him at a very young age. Now, they, Team 7, were the closest he had to a family. She had often considered asking him about his family, but decided against it, thinking that it might bring up past demons.
"Sometimes I wonder, if I had made some different choices in my life, may be all this would've never happened." Kakashi mused out aloud with a distant look in his eyes.
She didn't know anything about his past to comprehend the meaning in his words. But she knew she had to somehow make him feel a bit better.
"Ne Kaka-sensei, we all make choices, sometimes they are not all right. But hey, we are human. We should be given the right to make mistakes." Sakura looked up at him to see if her words might may a difference.
"How exactly can we define something as right, Sakura." Kakashi left the bunch of Daffodils at what Sakura presumed as Obito's grave, waved at her and left.
Sakura thought of what Kakashi had just said. Yes, the line that separated the two was very blurred and she wondered if there is any such line at all.
"Do you think what he did is right, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked her with a troubled look on his face.
They were lying on the training ground after a good sparring session.
"Do you think what Itachi did was right?" He asked again, this time a bit more loudly.
"I don't know Naruto. I don't know. I never thought there'll come a time when I would actually feel bad for Uchiha Itachi. But after all that, and then remaining as spy for Konoha, even when the leaf shinobi despised him, even when his own brother looked upon him with pure hatred, it would have been very difficult. I don't think that man deserved it all." Sakura replied, staring at the night sky. It was cloudy. The stars hid behind the clouds.
"People do strange things in the name of love and loyalty. Ne, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked.
"Yea. He was loyal to Konoha without a fault and he loved Sasuke to his death." Sakura said and turned to look at Naruto who was lying on the grass beside her.
He had an even more troubled and distant look on his face now.
"Do you think what Sasuke did is right?" Naruto asked.
But she could see that he didn't have the courage to face her. He was still staring up at the starless night sky. Somehow, she knew he wanted her to say yes, to tell him that what his best friend did is right, that he was right in defecting his own village, going after power, then turning against his own village. Maybe he hoped that she would be able to come up with some justification for Sasuke's actions.
But no, she didn't have any justification for Sasuke. She was long over the stage of justifying everything that Sasuke did, of idolizing Sasuke.
"We should all be allowed to make mistakes, Naruto. We should also be able to forgive for the mistakes of our loved ones. Love enables us to do great things like that." She replied and poked his shoulders with her fingers.
"Will team 7 be ever back to how it was Sakura-chan? Will we ever get our teme back?" Naruto was now looking at her, expecting an answer from her.
"No promises Naruto. We can try. Maybe Sasuke will just come back to us, maybe he just need some sometime on his own in the Uchiha Compound." Sakura replied.
He remained silent for some time. Then, she saw a change of mood in his eyes. A new determination in his eyes.
"Or else, I'll drag down his sorry ass to this training ground, fight him and prove it to him that he belongs with us, he belongs in team 7." Naruto declared with a new confidence in his voice.
Naruto will always be Naruto. And somehow it made her feel better.
End of flashback.
Sakura stayed at the memorial for a few more minutes and found her way back to her apartment. It was a new one, though not as good as the one she had before the war. She still had some fixing up to do, but left it for a later time. She had to go to the Hospital. Not the there were many injured now. She would soon be taking over the position as Head Medic and had lots of paperwork at the hospital. She wondered if Kakashi Sensei ever did his own paper work. She couldn't image the man sitting in the Hokage tower and doing all the paperwork.
She heard a knock on her door. Well, here goes the idea of completing the paperwork. She was summoned at the Hokage Tower.
"Ne, Kaka-sensei, why did you call me?" Sakura asked Kakashi who was now seated in the Hokage's office with the cloak hanging over his shoulder.
It made him look old. She wondered. He hadn't cared to wear the hat. That would just hide the only visible part of his face, which was his right eye. Sakura couldn't help but smile.
"May I ask why my favourite student is laughing at me?" Kakashi looked up at Sakura from the file which he appeared to be reading when she came in.
"I am still getting used to seeing you in the robe. It makes you look old, sensei." Sakura replied, with a bit of malice in her voice.
"Aw, come on Sakura-chan, but you know I'm only 29." Kakashi replied trying to sound as harmless as possible. She wondered if he was actually pouting under his mask. His only visible eye crinkled.
"Right. You were 29 six years ago Kaka-sensei." Sakura wasn't ready to give it up that easily.
"Ah. Do I really look that old? Maybe I should try some age-control technique like Tsunade-sama." Kakashi mused.
"We can't even see your face sensei. So you'd be simply wasting you chakra with that jutsu. Now if you would actually take of that mask..."
"Aren't you the curious little genin today? Well then I called you here to assign you a solo mission. It's a simple patrol and report mission. I'm sending you out as your skills to detect genjutsu might come in very useful." Kakashi handed over the mission scroll to Sakura.
She took the scroll and went through it.
"So I am supposed to patrol the area and report if there are any strange occurances." Sakura was confused.
"What do you exactly want me to do, sensei?" Sakura asked.
"Well, there has been reports of strange sightings, of display weird colours in the night sky near the mentioned area. I want you to check it out. You are not supposed to engage in battle at any cost. You are to leave by tonight and return in two days." Kakashi replied.
"Hai sensei." Sakura bowed, and turned to leave.
"Be safe Sakura. Look underneath the underneath." She heard Kakashi's voice from behind.
"You know I always do sensei."
Sakura left to pack for her mission. It's been a long time since she had been out of Konoha. This should be interesting, she thought.