Not to be taken completely seriously, I suppose. Just a little thing that came out while I was trying to finish the chapters for other stories.
Updates for anything else are coming soon, though I don't know exactly when, please don't ask again.
Rated for language, very bad language, and awkward, mentioned, hypothetical 'M-rated' situations.
if the shoe fits
She wakes up to the sound of wind whistling through the leaves.
Of course, like the good shinobi she is, her body makes no movements to reveal her arrival to consciousness.
(breaths remain slow and regular, senses reach out to probe the world, muscles completely relaxed)
The ground feels cool and solid beneath her naked fingers. A deep inhale brings in the scent of grass and soil floating through the air. There is a faint gurgling sound whispering by a few meters away, hinting at the presence of a running stream.
With slow, measured movements, she opens her eyes.
(bright light, sun filtering past the trees, burning her sleep-induced eyes)
And shuts them in agony right after.
Fuck the world, she moans with irritation, dragging a hand up her head. In a single moment, she is examining her unusually sensitive eyes before probing the rest of her body.
Less than half a minute passes and she hums at the results.
Slightly drained reserves, no physical wounds, a little strain in the eyes - nothing particularly terrible. Honestly, she actually feels kind of rested and content.
Which, if she thinks about it, isn't quite right.
There are brief flashes of war, with egoistic bastards and battles that go so far past the laws of logic they land into tales of fiction.
Oh, and a narcissistic moon goddess.
Fuck Kaguya, she thinks viciously, smoothly sitting up to calculate her surroundings. No, seriously, fuck her.
Because she is now somewhere (warm, familiar, bright, familiar but not hers?) that will never be able to send her back. Back to Konoha, back to home, back to her teammates and back to an ending war that probably doesn't need her anyway (she's sweat blood and tears to get where she is but she's still shit compared to the rest).
She feels the truth ring deep in her bones.
Seriously, Naruto better beat the shit out of the crazy hag, or she'll have saved his ass for nothing. (shoving his blonde butt aside because he's too busy sealing the bitch away - she is pretty sure her entire existence should have evaporated into tiny chakra bits).
Silently, she jumps onto the branches of the nearest tree and glances around.
Well. Definitely in the Land of Fire.
She runs across the forests with feet that seem to vanish and heads to the place she has always called home.
Chances are, she's in a genjutsu (she'll have to flush it out of her system) at best or in another alternate reality (god, that one time with Naruto was enough) at worst.
Or dead. She could actually be dead and it's just her messed-up afterlife playing around.
She flashes as close as she dares to the gates of Konohagakure (and that's a relief because at least there is a Konoha) and almost flies up to the entrance before she catches sight of the towering, awe-inspiring Hokage Mountain that has only three heads.
"By the Shodai's balls." She blurts out, raising her shaking finger to physically count the heads (onetwothree) just in case she has suddenly forgotten her numbers.
But, no, she's still got it. The realization leaves her mouth hanging open for an entire minute before reason hits, forcing her to use a few shunshins to bust her pink ass out of there.
Her chakra flares in severe spikes.
"Kai," She mutters, forming hand seals once she notices that she'll have to move on to more rudimentary methods. "Kai."
She glances up. The little bitch of a mountain is still visible from where she stands (at the tip of a very tall tree) and yes, there are still only three heads.
With a swift flick, she pulls out a kunai and stabs herself in the thigh.
"Huh." She says, blankly registering the pain and blood that stains her lovely pants.
Her brain flicks through possibilities (what are the chances she was hit with a space-time ninjutsu?) and thinks.
With a vague twitch of her hand, she pulls out the crimson weapon and heals the wound in the same motion. Her eyes stay trained on the unchanging three heads.
(if another dimension can be reached, who says that another time can't - she hasn't moved left or right, she's moved backwards - )
There's no way, absolutely no way -
She doesn't like where her logical, very intelligent brain is taking her.
No way, no way, no wayyyyyy -
But it's already there and she's in so far deep that she goes straight from despair to strangled, manic laughter.
Yeah, she thinks, wheezing till tears brim unnaturally in her eyes, fuck Kaguya.
(still. she doesn't regret it)
Plan. She needs a plan. Haruno Sakura is (was? she could totally still be dead) a ninja and no self-serving ninja goes gallivanting through the past without a plan.
Except for Naruto. But he doesn't count, that butt.
She strolls lazily on top of a stream and twirls a single kunai within her fingers (she's sorely lacking in weapons - she'll have to fix that quickly). What to do, what to do.
A part of her just wants to hide in some obscure mountain and live the rest of her life as a badass hermit because damn, she deserves a vacation.
She wants to rest her weary bones and drown in the musky scents of nature until forgets she's human. She wants to build her own house and nurse her wounds and then tear down the house and build a better one with a glorious bathroom and a fucking jacuzzi.
She wants to steal expensive sake and drink till she can stare at the sky and think yes this is her sky, it's no different from before.
Sakura squeezes her eyes shut and breathes in deeply.
Calm down. No pity-parties. That can wait.
She took that blow for Naruto knowing what would come after. May it be death or the past, she doesn't regret it. She never will. She'll do it again and again and again. (Because Naruto - Sasuke, Kakashi-sensei, Sai, Yamato, Konoha - is worth it).
"Right." She swallows dryly.
Okay, so, plan.
First, exactly when in the past is she?
She takes the next week to orientate herself into this world and force her mind, heart, and soul to accept that it isn't hers.
(there will be no Kakashi-sensei to ruffle her hair - holyshit does sensei even exist right now - or Tsunade-shishou to punch her face when she gets moody, or - )
With time that she didn't have before, she mourns for all that she has lost.
Sakura knows the dangers of ignoring disassociation, of mixing reality and fiction till the lines are blurred like sand against the oceans. Mental health is a huge compartment of staying stable in the shinobi community and she has learned from the experts.
So she copes. She pilfers some thugs and buys Icha Icha Paradise (also a good way of guessing when she is) under a henge. With little hesitation she grabs the most aesthetically pleasing pair of goggles and eventually decides against any orange (it clashes with her hair).
She eventually falls into temptation and steals some sake but takes it with gentle sips, savoring the flavor that Shishou always chugged. Her pockets fill with ink and paper and she takes up wood carving as a hobby.
(it's a terrible choice, she's really bad at art, but she does it anyway).
In a fit of nostalgia, Sakura collects light material fabric and tries to stick it on her face. She feels ridiculous afterwards, so she steals a shinobi-gear mask instead.
It's pure black and actually very comfortable. The soft material halts at the bridge of her nose and connects with her long-sleeve shirt, allowing it to remain firm despite any movements.
She most definitely looks very cool and most definitely does not blink rapidly when she catches herself thinking about how she'll show it off to the rest of her team.
Sakura is sure she looks like an utter mess (bad practice for a shinobi), but it lets her heart settle a little deeper in to her chest. Tying her hair into a high ponytail (this is definitely not because of Ino-pig), she leans forward into a stream to check out how she looks for the first time in a week -
-and punches the water in shock, her broken image rippling across the fluid liquid.
What the fuck, she wonders, light-headed. Her hands grab her hair for a better look because she has not destroyed enough lives to deserve this.
But apparently she has, because she finds her eyes pouring over something that isn't pink, why isn't it pink.
Careful examination reveals the pink bleached to the point it leaves a light, feathery blonde across her mid-length hair instead. Pink only remains in the lightest of tints and when the sun hits her hair, it glows like the sunrise.
The results leave behind a catastrophic fact.
She, Haruno Sakura, is now blonde.
Haruno Sakura, the pink-haired, crybaby ninja… is no longer with pink hair.
(is it a side effect of ninjutsu? Kurama? Naruto?).
Despite all her attempts to reason with the idea that it's better without her eye-catching hair, the world becomes a bit blurry as a strange wetness embraces her cheeks.
Stupid, you're being stupid, her mind rebukes her aching chest, it's just hair - it's just hair - it means nothing -
And so, beside the bank of a lonely stream, Haruno Sakura cries like a mother desperate for the return of a perished child.
She loses all semblance of control and wails for her friends, her family, her lost future and past, her namesake. Her hands tremble as they cradle the tainted locks and she resists the urge to shave her entire head off.
(In the back of her head, she hysterically thinks that there's nothing really stopping her from wearing orange now).
It's disgusting how vain she is - it's revolting and a curl of hatred crawls at the thought. But the grief still remains; it claws at her heart even as she recognizes that at least it's something (blonde, she knows blonde) familiar.
She gives herself another week, consequences be damned, to mope around.
With no purpose, she wanders around the Land of Fire, flitting across the borders and avoiding any patrols with ease. Her blonde (fucking blonde, this is definitely Naruto's fault) hair is tied into a tight braid and her mask rests nicely against her face.
Sakura takes an entire week - and maybe even more - to explore the different towns in the region and is pleasantly surprised when she finds what they have to offer. She's pretty sure she would have never been able to taste Otafuku Gai's drool worthy takoyaki otherwise, or admire Tanzaku Gai's massive castle because it was pummeled to dust by her shishou long ago.
"Here you are, miss," A massive bowl of ramen is set down in front of her and she mumbles her thanks, guilt nagging at her stomach because this is her fourth meal today. She's been pigging out on dumplings and food as much as possible because she can (no more food rations, shannaro!), but her wallet is feeling awfully light as a result.
(Here, she realizes she's going to have to find a way that's more stable to bring in the cash than just stealing from some punks).
Sakura breaks apart her chopsticks and relishes in the clean cut (there has never been a better use for chakra control). Then, though a little reluctant, she pulls out her still newly bought Icha Icha Paradise.
She's decently into the first half and decides that for all of Jiraiya's questionable actions, he's not that bad of a writer. The plot's pretty well-written, the porn scenes a little excessive but hey, no one's complaining.
It's not as fantastic as her sensei has hyped it up to be, but it's certainly good for a light read. Sakura's read better, hell, she could even write better -
Noooope, she chants, stopping the idea before it can start. Her eyes close in horror. That way leads to madness.
The thought is immediately bleached from her mind.
She then turns to her ramen and moves to pull down her mask when she feels a very incessant stare. In a snap, her eyes quickly lock on to the startled server who has yet to move away from his spot.
Twenty-three, son of the stand's owner, curious, steady hands, burnt fingertips, she bores into his flushing face with relaxed muscles, civilian, not shinobi.
"Is there something wrong?" Sakura tilts her head, slightly curious as well. Does she have ink on her face? She tried her hand at painting this morning and was not surprised to find that she really sucks. On the other hand, she can now carve a decent potato from wood! That should count for something.
She puts her book down and tugs the goggles on her forehead (her hitai-ate is stuffed at the very bottom of her pack) self-consciously.
"No, no, nothing!" He squeaks as his hands flail around his sides. "It was rude of me to stare, sorry, miss!"
The young man flees from the counter and goes on to serve the other customers. Sakura frowns, though the action is covered by her mask, and glances around. With sudden wariness, she brings her Icha Icha book to her face and slips down her mask.
Several pairs of eyes zoom back onto her person.
She shoves ramen into her mouth with speed that would make Naruto proud and pulls the mask back onto her face.
"Thank you for the meal," She says pleasantly and stands up, blatantly ignoring the aura of disappointment permeating the entire stand. "It was delicious."
Her tongue also kind of burns after devouring an entire bowl of hot ramen in less than a minute, but she decides not to mention it. (she heals it easily in a few seconds anyway).
"O-Oh," The server stutters and accepts her proffered cash. "Of course, p-please come again!"
"Sure." She shrugs, grabbing her pack and practically booking it out of there.
It's actually not that hard to figure out where she is in this convoluted past, because tensions are running awfully high along the borders of other countries. She has a few close calls when she stumbles (read: spies) on a few skirmishes between shinobi of different villages here and there, and that is telling enough.
She's been thrown right into the precursor of the Third Shinobi World War.
Fucking Kaguya, Sakura digs her kunai into the potato-shaped piece of wood in her hands with ferocious anger, obviously has to drop my ass from one war to another.
She leans back onto the trunk behind her and lets her legs dangle off a sturdy branch.
Now, how to get into Konoha without being stabbed as a spy?
Her mind shifts through various plans (maybe she could pose as a wandering civilian? A medic in need of a home) until they become more ludicrous as time goes by (she could totally just bust her dead self to the Hokage Tower, shriek her knowledge, and hope ANBU won't cut her down).
It's kind of sad and a bit ridiculous that she has no resources to rely on; here, she's all alone. Little, blonde Haruno Sakura who can't even infiltrate her own village. Tiny, weak Haruno Sakura, too scared to see faces that should be dead as the ones she knows aren't even fucking fertilized eggs in anyone's womb.
She crinkles her nose at the thought. Okay, that's disgusting - enough with the self-pity.
Her hands furiously whittle her wood potato as she picks apart a few decent plans. The moon rises like a silent swan and the light helps her to not completely destroy the wood. By the time the potato looks like a decaying duck, she's almost, not-quite satisfied with her idea.
She eyes the awkward wings and demented hole that technically is meant to be an eye.
It reminds her, oddly enough, of Sasuke.
Immediately her kunai flies forward and slashes the duck a few times across the chest. Feeling a bit better, she eyes the 'wounds' appreciatively and coos. Pocketing the wooden animal inside her vest (she had to dump her old one for something more non-descript), Sakura stretches out her arms and prepares to sleep. It will be a long day tomorrow, creating the components to travel to Konoha and -
And do what, exactly?
She bolts up, startled.
That, she thinks, blinking rapidly, is a very good question.
For all her loyalty, Sakura is well aware that Konohagakure is a oozing mess of accidents just waiting to happen. (And with the war nipping at the world's heels, incoming residents are regarded with harsher regulations she can't afford to have).
The purpose of entering Konoha. The purpose of living near her precious people is to… prevent the future from getting so out of hand.
How the hell is she going to do that?
Changing the future to her whims is a dangerous prospect. It's awfully self-centered and smells a bit too god-like in her opinion (she flips the moon off, just in case Kaguya is miraculously catching hint of her thoughts).
The plan's pretty decent but it doesn't really cover what she'll do once she actually gets to Konoha. Enter the civilian sector, prove an interest in medicine, show prior knowledge with little chakra exposure (there's no way she can hide her developed chakra system) - and then what?
Work in the General Hospital for the rest of her life and hope to get enough clout to contact the necessary people?
She knows what it was like before; before Tsunade overhauled the entire medical system again once she took over the Hokage mantle. It will take years upon years before she's allowed to go near a single patient (she doesn't have a background, she'll be an outsider) and the thought stings.
The idea chafes Sakura more than she would like. No training, no sudden movements, no healing, no freedom. She'll be watched and questioned - her own home could become a nightmare-like trap.
Even better: she could totally kill herself in the process. One accident later and genin Haruno Kizashi could die because of one reason or another. Or, what if little baby Kakashi-sensei (baby sensei she giggles) never receives the Sharingan? What if one of the hundreds of jutsu he learns later on saves his lazy butt in the future?
(Suddenly, the idea of breaking into the Hokage Tower sounds very appealing now; she could easily divulge her knowledge then, with a Yamanaka checking her mind as long as the Hokage doesn't, well, cut her down before she can open her mouth).
But it's for the best…? She'll have to grit her teeth and play dumb because she has to go to Konoha to -
Her mind turns to another direction.
Or, a thought slides insidiously inside, I could just… not go to Konoha.
The traitorous idea plants itself deeper inside her head.
(there are tons of other ways to live her life - she's never visited the Land of Hot Water before, or tried the Land of Rice Field's famous sake or - )
"Oh no," She groans, shoving her face into her hands. "Oh nonono."
(bounty hunting is definitely a thing; she'll never be short on money again - )
"Noooo," she whines and tugs at her hair. "I am a loyal shinobi of Konoha - think about baby sensei, Sakura, baby sensei."
Actually, according to Obito's various rants, baby Kakashi-sensei is kind of a prick.
And just like that, Haruno Sakura's mind is made.
(This is all because she never got a vacation, damnnit).
Despite all assumptions about her now gone pink hair, Haruno Sakura travels from a war to the past. She doubts she'll ever match evenly with the likes of Sasuke or Naruto (reincarnations of gods, wow, why is she not surprised) but she's spent years growing into her skills, into her own skin.
So, in summary, it's really easy to just snatch a bingo book from the nearest jōunin she can find.
The shinobi in question doesn't even notice. Asleep and drained from a border patrol mission, he barely twitches when she silently lands into his trapped clearing. From there on it's a simple task of replacing his bingo book with a book of similar size into his pack and resetting his painfully simple traps.
His scrunched up nose and blonde hair reminds her of Ino and the thought makes her cackle.
(As thanks, she leaves a wooden duck that looks marginally better compared to her own Sasuke-duck, now dubbed Suke-chan).
She chooses her first target based on various bingo book entries (it's terrifying to find that it's very easy to steal from jōunin of various hidden villages) and rumors heard throughout nearby towns.
He is a missing-nin from Sunagakure, a mid-level chūnin with a penchant of stealing and sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.
His name is Goto and Sakura finds that very fitting, not to mention hilarious.
(She also has heard on four separate accounts that he has a terrible, terrible habit of harassing young girls, taking and returning them broken beyond repair).
Sakura decides to do Gaara (and the world in general) a favor by taking care of the scum before he can become even more of a problem.
"Hi,"She says a bit lamely, landing in front of him as he is travelling from one town to another. The ninja startles badly in alarm and jumps back, dropping a suspiciously large bundle from his arms.
"What - " Goto's eyes narrow as he pulls out a tantō. Sakura silently whistles at the sight because that tantō looks expensive. "Who are you?"
She opens her mouth and then closes it immediately after because Haruno Sakura can't exactly exist before she is even born.
(Not that she has any plans on becoming well-known but, well, considering Team Seven's nefarious luck…)
So, technically, this is another very good question.
"You don't need to know," She finally answers, a little disappointed that she isn't able to think of a cool nickname within an appropriate time frame. Thankfully, her mask covers most of her facial expressions and hides her from Goto's suspicious gaze. "Though I'm afraid you'll have to come with me."
"Oh?" Goto smirks, eyeing her admittedly sloppy appearance. There's ink stains on her fingertips and wood shavings stuck in her blonde hair - she doubts she gives off a great impression. "And you think you can stop me?"
"Well, I certainly hope so." Sakura tries to smile in intimidation before realizing it's kind of pointless because the mask hides it all. She tries to crinkle her eyes to convey her expression instead, inwardly wincing at how awkward it feels.
Note to self: practice lethal expressions before apprehending trash.
Goto grunts at the threat and kicks the bundle away to create more space. And because she has impeccable manners, Sakura almost thanks him for his thoughtfulness until a fucking squeak warbles from out of the bag.
They make eye contact.
"Pray that you're worth more dead than alive," She commands sweetly. "Because I'm already pissed about the amount of ryō I'm losing because of you."
The fight lasts a good five minutes, with Sakura easily slipping past Goto's decent swipes because they have nothing on enemies like Uchiha Madara. He swings for her head and she neatly ducks, left leg already sweeping to catch his crouched knees. They trade blows but not a single hit makes it to Sakura and eventually, she tires of the game.
"I'll be taking this." She mutters, a single tap breaking his wrist and forcing him to drop the tantō. Sliding to the right to avoid his answering punch, Sakura grabs the falling tantō and twirls around to jab the back of Goto's neck in the same motion.
Immediately, the missing-nin drops to the floor, eyes rolled back and most certainly dead.
With a sigh, she releases the chakra scalpel in her hand and sheathes the tantō against Goto's prone back. It takes only a few minutes to clean up the leftover mess; she seals Goto's body into a storage scroll (it had been a bitch and a half to get her hands on it - she'll have to start making her own) and, though reluctant, tucks his tantō away for later use.
If anything, she can probably get a good price for something this expensive.
She stretches like a cat sunning on a rock and makes to leave before remembering.
Right, she leans down to pick up the bundle a little hesitantly, not really surprised when it reveals a pretty, dark-haired girl with beautiful grey eyes. The child's face is slightly bruised but Sakura takes care of it with barely a wiggle of her fingers, not really registering the widening expression. Let's take care of this first.
"I can't thank you enough - I thought I would never see our Kimiko ever again!" The bawling woman crushes Sakura in a deadly embrace.
"It was nothing." She says, again, thankful that her voice remains steady and the rest of her awkwardness is covered by the mask. "Just, uh, doing my job?"
She winces and wonders if her time spent with Team Seven has reversed any social skills she used to have.
"Still, at least let us have the name of our little one's savior!" The mother, Kahoko, insists, for the third time. Beside her stands the child Sakura has saved, staring shyly behind the mother's yukata.
Wow, it's like the heavens are telling her to hurry up and choose a name.
"Um," She looks around, stalling, and says again, "I'll go by whatever you prefer…?"
She blinks and realizes that's probably for the best. Here, she's a literal nobody: no title, no family name, no obligations, no home -
Woah, put the depressing thoughts for another day.
"Kotori." A soft voice interrupts her chattering mind. Both women turn to stare at the little girl, her tiny hands fiddling with a Suke-chan 2.5 (it looks like an actual duck now). "Because you like birds, right?"
"Sure," Sakura immediately replies, doubtful it's true but reluctant to argue with the girl. "I like birds."
Kimiko brightens with a brilliant smile and damn, that kind of makes this entire awkward situation totally worth it.
"So you can be called Kotori," She affirmed with a soft but strong voice. "Then you can always fly back to us and we can play together again."
Apparently, while Sakura wasn't looking, children actually became capable of throwing down heartwarming, poetic shit like this all the time.
"Of course," Sakura smiles and her eyes crease, the movement barely feeling forced. She tries to put as much sincerity into it as she can. "Thank you."
As it turns out, Sakura realizes she's not really cut out for the whole 'bounty hunting' thing.
She cashes in Goto's bounty with relative ease and goes on to leisurely pick her targets. It's almost nice, killing aside. She's never forced to do anything she doesn't want to and if she feels the chase is futile, she can drop the hunt whenever she wants.
Of course, there are times when her careful planning is pointless because her targets turn out to be a lot more dangerous than she expects.
"You have a lot of nerve to try to take out me, little girl," One vicious missing-nin from Kirigakure spits out, his slashed hitai-ate glinting harshly against the sunlight. A vicious spear with a parted blade hangs across his bare, pale shoulders - shoulders that are easily twice the size of Sakura's own. "Biting a bit more than we can chew, aren't we?"
They clash with dangerous ferocity, his double-edged kunai moving rapidly against her tantō.
(Okay, well, it's Goto's tantō but it seemed like a waste to sell such a high-quality weapon, especially after it saved her ass that one time with another bounty hunter).
"Probably not," Sakura cheerfully replies, careful to remove all hint of worry in her voice. The man is easily A-rank, despite his chūnin status, if not borderline S-rank. This is what she gets for stealing the older versions of bingo books. "I'm just a little upset at the way you trashed that town back there. They have really great sake."
It's more because he massacred a few terrified, civilian families for the sake of passing time, but both are technically true.
"Bullshit," The missing-nin, Shirane - infamous for his spear and genjutsu of all things - snarls. Very unpleasant. No manners, this one.
A few more blows are exchanged with Sakura holding off not-so decently well (at least something good has to come out of all those times she's dealt with Tsunade-shishou's errant ANBU) till the tips are turned when jutsu come to play.
His hands rapidly twist into a few hand seals - Ram, Dog, Monkey, Snake - and nothing changes.
Genjutsu, she hisses in irritation, knowing better than to assume that jutsu fail just like that. The brief lapse in concentration causes her to stumble briefly, the mistake costing her a torn side wound that bleeds through her favorite vest.
"That was expensive, mister," She barks, disrupting the chakra in her system and immediately finding herself face to face with her opponent.
"That's what happens when you poke something that should be left alone," Shirane snaps back, his ugly spear barely missing her thigh. "Learn your place, girl."
"My place is beyond what you can imagine." She retorts. Hot anger bleeds through her eyes and the entire fight remains a blur. Her chakra flickers as she tries to heal her wounds within the heat of the battle, but the process is halting with her focus slipping from time to time.
Another thing to practice. Shit, I really suck.
A kick flies to her head and she sidesteps with kunai already flying past her hands. Shirane dodges her attack easily and raises his spear to block her incoming tantō, the sound resonating with a harsh screech. Within moments, they meet at a stalemate as their weapons lock once more in a death-threatening clash.
"And already so angry," He growls, the almost disappointed tone stirring emotions that should have no place in a battle like this. "Tell me, are you always this irrational when you go around asking for death?"
Her mouth almost immediately opens in response before she can even register his words.
"Of course - " She winces when the question finally hits. "…not."
"Hah," A noise that sounds almost like a snort escapes from his lips. "Had some shitty mentors, didn't you? God knows I wouldn't have let any of student of mine walk around an unreasonable mess."
Sakura blinks, affronted.
"I'm not an unreasonable mess!" She exclaims, indignation pushing Shirane back and breaking off the awkward stalemate. "And I've had wonderful teachers, by the way!"
"Could have fooled me," He replies back with a sneer. "Look at you, all hot-headed and overwhelmed by your emotions. You have no idea what you're doing with your life."
Sakura throws a hand in the air and waves it around at situation before her.
"I'm pretty sure I did! Before this ended up happening! I didn't come here expecting a therapy session with a mass-murdering missing-nin!" Okay, so he's kind of right, but this is hardly the appropriate time to discuss her terrible life choices.
"Also, your kenjutsu skills are shitty. Stick to your sub-par taijutsu, child," He adds, walking all over her words as if they never existed in the first place.
A frustrated noise makes past her throat before, suddenly, they are back to trading deadly blows with Shirane's killing intent flooding the area like toxic, polluted air.
Against all odds, Sakura finishes the fight when Shirane's spear stabs her thigh. Her hand closes around the weapon and forces it to stay there even as his kunai moves to block her thrown tantō. She responds to the created opening and throws her right fist, making contact with his chest in a chakra-laden punch.
Shirane's eyes widen as he flies through a dozen trees. An eternity passes until his body stops and Sakura heaves a deep breath before pulling out the spear from her leg with a sickening gurgle.
Too close, way to fucking close. She flickers to the dying missing-nin with shame bubbling in her throat. I wasn't thinking, I really wasn't thinking. Whose bright idea was it to challenge S-ranks like that?
What the hell are you doing, Sakura?
Her hands move quickly, chakra spreading across Shirane's injuries without even thinking. Limbs trembling, she begins the careful process of repairing shattered bones, mending torn muscles, healing -
"Stop." A hand grabs her wrist. "Leave it."
"What? No - " Her throat makes a strangled noise. "I don't - I can't - "
"If soft-hearted girls like you are beating up the likes of me, it's clear that I'm getting far too old for this profession." His voice rasps, a knowing look passing his face. "There's not enough blood in me to change that fact."
This time, she is the one snarling.
"I'm not leaving you here to die!" Her chakra flares up again, healing Shirane's injuries even with the distance and firm grip on her wrists. "You're going to - You're going to get better and teach me how to use this stupid sword and learn how precious sake is and - "
She falters when his knowing eyes never change.
"Just - " He coughs and more blood spurts out. "Just give me a name to remember."
Get this in your head, Sakura. Sometimes, no matter how much chakra you push into someone's body, they'll still die anyway. You are not a god, Sakura, so don't fucking go around acting like one.
A bark of laughter escapes her lips even as she drops the healing jutsu.
(She would have killed to have a blood-replenishing pill at hand).
"Who would have thought even missing-nin would have honor." She mutters, a bubble of hysteria climbing against her chest. "I learn something new everyday."
Her eyes lock onto his dark ones. Without hesitation, she swiftly lowers her mask and shows her face for the first time, to a dying enemy.
"I am Haruno Sakura of Konohagakure." She says, trying to articulate the words as clearly as possible, relishing the words because they'll never escape her lips again. And with that solemn thought she lowers her head and bows to the near dead shinobi. "And I thank you, Shirane of the Mist."
"Of course." The ninja snorts as his eyes start to glaze over. "Obviously you're from Leaf. Those tree-huggers are the only ones that would produce a shitty blonde like you."
"You honor me." Sakura responds dryly. A brief pause hangs in the air before she blurts out, "And I have - I mean, I used to have pink hair."
"Yeah, sure." He rolls his eyes half-heartedly, a shudder running through his body. "Just…don't ruin my…reputation…by dying…"
And then Shirane is gone, his last, bitter words echoing spitefully around the clearing.
"Ha…" Sakura laughs. She laughs and cries and laughs some more next to the corpse of a man twice her age because she can't find the energy to do anything else.
(Briefly, she wonders what it would have turned out if life went another way: where Haruno Sakura stumbles across a grouchy missing-nin, following him, cursing at him till he ends up teac - )
Sakura brings her knees up to her chest and wraps them within her arms, feeling like a child for the first time in ages.
Time passes and the sun sets. The rustic rays dance around the bloody clearing below with warmth that does little to ease the cold in her heart. Still, she begins to move. Her hands are gentle as they clean up, the actions perfectly mechanical till they pause when they pull out a storage scroll.
Here is the corpse of someone…(not a friend, not an enemy)…who could have been a teac-
Shut up, she tells her bleeding heart.
Here is his body and to exchange it for something as meaningless as money…
The thought leaves a disgusting taste in her mouth.
A quick doton jutsu later and Shirane's body is buried far deep into the ground. His spear pierces the soil and marks his grave with bitter pride, the only sign of the battle left within the forest.
So yeah, she's really not cut out for the whole 'bounty hunting' business.
But that doesn't mean she can stop.
(I'll get stronger, I promise).
(Unbeknownst to Haruno Sakura, the death of Kirigakure's Shirane creates quiet ripples when certain circles never catch sight of him again.
There's an unknown floating around, the words slip by from only here to there.
It's a quiet splash that hardly flickers. Barely noticed, but noticed all the same).
"Kotori-san? Are you in need of anything?" The inn's hostess pops in, face falling when she catches sight of the surgical mask covering her customer's face.
"Oh, no. I'm very comfortable, thank you." Sakura creases her eyes and warily watches as the woman slinks away in disappointment. She remains perfectly still, not relaxing until all nearby chakra signatures are finally a safe distance away.
"Really," She mutters, sliding deeper into the hot water with a content sigh. "What's with all the hype around my face?"
Sakura pretends to not notice the hypocrisy of her words when she leaves the temporary replacement mask on her face. Honestly, she's a little surprised at how guarded she's become about showing her face - it was simply a way to honor her sensei, not to become more like him. Perhaps… she really is becoming more like Kakashi-sensei…?
She pauses to shudder. The horror.
Rolling her shoulders, she floods her weary muscles with a wave of fresh chakra that cleans the exhaustion from today's training.
(After Shirane, Sakura has taken extreme precautions when choosing her targets. She begins to train between and during jobs, slowly removing her presence within the bounty hunting business for the time being. It's arrogant to think that a medic like her can take on opponents above her caliber, no matter what the rest of her team does otherwise.
However, it's even more arrogant to think that she can just relax, with the war just about to begin. So all that's left is to train, to get better until she can stand with her own two feet).
Sakura lowers her chin into the delicious water and hums a soft tune her shishou used to sing when piss-poor drunk.
Little leaf among the tall trees
Come down and sing this song with me
We'll watch the stars with open arms
And catch their forms to hide our scars
Little, tiny leaf
Please come back to me -
"Oh jeez," She groans. A quiet laugh escapes her lips as she covers her face with her hands. "I'm such a crybaby."
She spends a good few days relaxing in the Land of Hot Water before heading to the Land of Rice Fields, training furiously at the expense of a slower pace. It's a decent trade-off, with the two countries sharing a border, but Sakura discovers that she probably should have held off the sake-tasting for another day. Or month.
"Excuse me, miss?" A hesitant tug on her long pants. "Are you a ninja?"
"Maybe," She answers, not looking down from her book (she's put Icha Icha Paradise aside for The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi and is very satisfied with her choice). "Depends on who's asking."
"I'm asking, I am!" The tug becomes more insistent. "Please, miss, I'm asking!"
With a forlorn sigh, she closes the novel and tucks it away. Her eyes turn down and she almost double-takes at the sight of brilliant, blonde hair.
Shit, Sakura, no need to get so emotional.
"Well then." She crouches and looks straight into warm, brown eyes. "Do tell me. Why are you asking?"
It's not like she's hiding her profession. Actually, it's kind of painfully obvious if you factor in the highly suspicious black mask. For whatever reason, the child is desperate enough to ask a random, dangerous stranger for it.
"M-My brother - " The little of boy of maybe five sniffles and oh god, she is not ready for this. "He - He got taken away b-by a bad person - "
"Okayyy," She says slowly, understanding but not really sure what it has to do with her. "So you want me to bring him back?"
Sniffle. Nooo, no crying.
"But - " Sakura flails a little and tries to grab for an escape. "What about your parents? What are they doing?"
Of course, he might not have any parents, but judging from his simple, but well-kept clothes, she highly doubts it.
"They're - " Sniffle. "They're g-getting ready for hi-" Hiccup. "H-his funeral!"
The child's face scrunches as it turns red and an entire waterfall of tears comes down.
Nononono, she cries inside as well, feeling awfully shitty, no cryinggg.
"Okay, okay," She picks up the crying boy with ease, cradling him in her arms. "I'll try to find your brother - ?"
"Right, Souta-kun," Her heart falls a little because for all she knows, the older brother could already be dead. "And you are?"
"R-Ryouta." Souta and Ryouta - not very creative, but, whatever, it's not like she can actually say she's better.
"Okay, Ryouta-kun." She adjusts his body to fit more comfortably in her hold, slightly relieved to see the tears slowing down. "Now, let's go find your parents, okay? I'd like to know more about this 'bad person.'"
Who will hopefully just be an arrogant bandit and not, say, a vicious S-rank missing-nin.
(For fuck's sake, she's not even a tracker, why is the universe doing this to her?)
As it turns out, little Souta's kidnapper is a missing-nin from Kusagakure with a very high bounty placed upon his head.
Of course, Sakura does not know this (because if she did, she would have thrown down the towel and helped Ryouta's parents with the funeral) until she tracks him down in a ditch halfway past Takigakure. Her steps are silent as she appraises his wandering form, making sure to erase all traces of her existence - chakra suppressed to nothing (a habit that's become almost second nature), breaths still, and movement slipping behind the shadows flickering against the trees.
And then he turns, giving her a full view of his slashed hitai-ate.
Really? She scowls and examines his twitching left hand. Like, seriously: really? What's with the sudden increase of civilian kidnappers?
(dominant right hand, taijutsu based on flexibility and evasion, old injury in the left humerus, decently skilled in the poisoned katana - )
Her eyes roam around the area to check for traps (there are quite a few) before they center at the hollow of a gigantic tree. The space is large enough to easily fit a child inside, though there is no visible sign of any life at the moment.
Right. She'll have to disperse the genjutsu once she's done disposing of him. (she gives a silent prayer in hopes that little Souta is still breathing).
Settling down, she lets her muscles sway to match the rhythm of the whistling branches surrounding her. The stars rise soon enough after, their brightness making up for the lack of moonlight (which is awesome because fuck Kaguya).
Hours pass before the missing-nin's breathing slows and even then, Sakura waits even longer after that. Her patience is rewarded when the man's chest follows the set rhythm half an hour later and his muscles relax even further.
She drops forward with little warning, twisting and turning to avoid the wires surrounding the ditch. Her landing is perfectly silent and unseen as chakra scalpels appear within her hands. The weapons glitter against the darkness and Sakura moves, centimeters away from taking the man's life (she will remember the face forever because she is now responsible for him) and -
A dangerous, impatient, greedy presence floods the area.
The missing-nin beside her wakes up with a choke, eyes flailing in terror. With a hidden choke of her own, she disperses her scalpels and swiftly taps the missing-nin's forehead to knock him out for a good few hours instead.
Then, careful to keep her hands in full view, she smoothly stands and gives a short bow.
"My apologies," Her voice is controlled and not quivering in fear. "I did not know that this man was your target."
In the back of her mind (oh shit, oh shit, I'm going to die, I'm going to die), she vaguely acknowledges that it's been a good few months.
The ninja in front of her does not respond even as she cautiously stares at the black mask that gives none of his thoughts away.
(Hysterically, she realizes that they are both matching).
"…I heard of his presence while travelling by," It's not the greatest of explanations, but Sakura will take it because she is scared shitless by the man's dark, gravelling voice. "He was not my intentioned bounty."
She blinks at the words and tries desperately not to think about how reasonable they are.
(Her thoughts fall back to late nights by the campfire with a hardened Shikamaru, fists clenched and eyes brimming with darkdark emotions at the thought of his sensei's murderers).
"Still," Wait no, why is her mouth moving, no no no, don't be stupid - "I should have known better. My primary goal was to retrieve his hostage; everything else is second to that."
"I see." And holy crap, his voice is absolutely terrifying, she wants to run (no, grab Souta and then run).
"If I may?" Sakura asks, motioning to the hollow space meters away. She then dips her head respectfully in case the man thinks she's being uppity.
A single black eyebrow is raised.
Sakura wants to cry.
"Are you not going to claim the bounty for your own?" There is a hint of challenge in his words because technically, the bounty is hers. However, Sakura likes to think she is simply reckless, not suicidal.
"The bounty holds little meaning when there is a mission at hand," She says honestly, though careful not to mention that nothing is more important than a child's life and that she is so very afraid and would just like to leave this place with Souta and her in one piece. Then, with little thought, she adds, "And you are also my senior. This is the least I can do to show my respect and apologies."
An excruciatingly painful silence follows as Sakura keeps her posture confident but deferent. By the time her brain comes up with seven different ways the shinobi can pulverize her, he gives a barely perceptible nod in permission.
She doesn't waste any time. Her feet fly to the hollow tree, back never facing the bounty hunter even as she dispels the genjutsu with a jab of her fingers. Hands reach out to grab a tiny body and pull it safe to her chest, only taking the briefest of seconds to check if there is a pulse (there is).
"Thank you for your allowances," She says quietly, doubtful a shinobi of Kakuzu's caliber really cares but whatever, it proves she has impeccable manners. "I wish for your continued success."
And then she is gone, fleeing so quickly she never quite catches the heavy stare that follows her back.
Also, because of her fear, Sakura does not stop running until she's travelled across two countries, looped back and run again some more, all the while performing diagnostic scans on the child in her arms.
"What is that?"
Sakura glances to the solemn child sitting on a log next to her and answers, "It's a duck."
He gives a doubtful frown.
"…It's a very ugly duck." She looks down at her Suke-chan 4.0 and concedes - yes, Suke-chan is a very ugly duck.
"At least it looks like a duck." Her chest warms with pride because little Souta-kun can't deny that fact. "Why, do you want something else?"
He considers the question carefully and the sight of his scrunched up nose makes her smile. Light blue eyes (too light, but so familiar) turn to her as he answers reluctantly, "No, I guess."
"Hmm." She hums thoughtfully. Maybe she should start branching out her skills? "Well, you can name this one whatever you want, if that makes you feel better."
"It doesn't," Souta replies back instantly, shadows haunting his face. He clenches his eyes and Sakura keeps a trained eye on his movements, just in case he lapses into a panic attack.
(Nobody comes out of a hostage situation unscathed. The worrying question is why the missing-nin targeted a merchant's son for his plans).
"It will." She says, confident in the child's ability to bounce back. Brushing off the wandering wood shavings, she leans forward and presses ugly Suke-chan 4.0 into his soft, malleable hands. "Go on then. Give it a name."
Souta pauses, distracted by her actions. His nine-year-old mind considers the possibilities before turning to her.
"What about your name?" Sakura blinks and answers easily.
"Who knows?" She creases her eyes at his petulant stare and ruffles his blonde hair. "But some people call me Kotori."
"Kotori." He repeats slowly, tasting the feel of it in his mouth. The curve of his lips lift into a smirk and he kicks some dirt into the campfire. "That's lame. Everything about you is lame."
Her hands pause before digging the knuckles into his scalp, causing the boy to squawk. "Not as lame as you."
She returns Souta, healthy and sound, in the quiet of the night. Her knocks are met with an open door and a weary, depressed woman who freezes at the sight of the blonde boy in her arms.
"Your son, as promised." Creasing her eyes, she gently nudges the child awake before setting him down.
"S-Souta…?" The woman's voice cracks as her blood-shot eyes frantically devour every inch of her drowsy son.
"M-Mu - " Souta, the little brat, yawns in return and rubs a hand into his eye. "-um? Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
With a delighted shriek, the mother envelops the boy in a tight embrace and runs inside. A few moments later, every light is turned on and music (music?) begins to play throughout the modest house. Roars of laughter and tears dance by and Sakura smiles, turning to leave when a hand latches on to her forearm.
"Please, kunoichi-san," Bags of ryo are shoved into her hands and she looks up to find Souta's misty-eyed father at the doorway. "We feared the worst for days. Allow us to pay back only a fraction of what you have done for us."
"I don't need the money." She says, shoving the huge bundles (could it be that Souta's family is actually really rich?) of cash back into the man's hands. The father's brown eyes turn down, upset and Sakura winces, all too reminded of little Ryouta and his tears.
"I didn't do this - " Her hands gesture to the cheering behind him, trying to clarify her words. "For money. Or anything."
"But - We have to repay you somehow," His blonde hair rustles in the wind as he gives her a considering glance, something warm lighting in his expression. "My honor won't allow for anything less."
And because she is tired and drained (dealing with a brat and an S-rank bounty hunter can do that), she thinks about his words and says, slowly,
"Well, I guess a little sake won't hurt - "
"Sake it is!" The man interrupts cheerfully, Turning around, he roars an order at a painfully high volume. "Get the best sake we have! We're celebrating the return of my son for the rest of the week!"
A few affirmatives are shouted in return as the man ("Tamotsu!" He introduces and half-jokingly boasts. "Merchant by day, pirate by night!) grabs her arm again and drags her inside.
"I bring a guest!" He bellows again, to the cheers of multiple people. Various eyes turn to Sakura and she shuffles around, awkwardly patting her vest. It's a little difficult, with Tamotsu's grip still holding her arm, but she manages and pulls out a few tiny, Suke-chans.
"I bring toys?" She guesses, taking a stab in the dark at why many of them are still gazing curiously at her.
"She brings ugly, wooden blocks!" A man stands up with an approving shout. There is a brief pause before the rest of the crowd (god, there must be at least dozens of people here, celebrating) chants their acceptance, passing bottles of sake around like flowing water.
Sakura blinks, not sure if she should be offended.
"Hahaha!" Tamotsu roughly slams a hand onto her back with force that, if she had been any less of a ninja, would have sent her flying across the room. "You'll fit right in, kunoichi-san!"
She takes in the roaring laughter surrounding her as hands continuously reach out to ruffle little Souta's hair a little distance away. The boy in return huffs in irritation, but his eyes are alight in happiness and love and she realizes that this place is a precious home.
"Please," Sakura answers, a tiny laugh escaping despite everything else. "Call me Kotori."
The rest of the night consists of many approvals at her high tolerance for alcohol, with not a single person aware that Sakura does not let the delicious sake make her more than little bit relaxed. They try to shove her around and she lets them with amused eyes as she tosses a Suke-chan 4.8 into a beaming Ryouta's hands.
"I knew you could do it!" The little boy grins and tucks the wooden duck into his pockets. "I always knew you could!"
The words fill an empty hole that's been growing steadily for months and Sakura brings the child in to give a warm, fond hug.
"Thank you for that," She whispers and presses her fabric-covered lips against his forehead.
By the time the celebration comes to a halt, the morning sun is burning brightly against throbbing heads. Within the chattering crowd, a solemn, blue-eyed child sits, the first to notice that his house is empty of a single, blonde-haired ninja.
The Third Shinobi War begins like a pot of water placed over a blazing fire. Tension bubbles slowly, shinobi on every side testing border lines and battling in brief, but bloody, skirmishes.
By the time war is officially called, four months into Sakura's entrance to the past, no one is really surprised at the boiling water whistling for escape.
Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask), Sakura does not really notice because she is re-reading Icha Icha Paradise and wondering once again, how exactly Jiraiya got so famous with his mediocre porn-writing skills.
(The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi, on the other hand, is quite intriguing, and she can't help but wistfully wish Jiraiya could focus on this kind of genre instead).
"Shizuka sighed happily, her arms wrapped tightly around her lover's head as his hand travelled down into - " She intones blandly, as she breaks her chopsticks apart with one hand. "Not the greatest, but decent enough. What do you think?"
The server in question squeaks, her shaking arms desperately trying to keep the bowl of ramen in her hands.
"Here, let me." Relieving the food from the flustered woman, she motions to the cushioned seat across her table. "You're not busy, are you? Sit."
She - Mimi, the name tag states proudly - sits down immediately, face completely flushed.
"Now, I'm not trying to question Jiraiya's skills," Sakura starts because it's true, he is a very good writer. "But there's only so many moans and groans and sighs you can put in before it gets repetitive, you know what I mean?"
"Um - " The waitress looks ready to cry as she looks steadily down. "I'm not really familiar - "
"Yeah, okay," Sakura replies blandly, not really believing her server's words. The woman's eyes were alight in recognition and horror when she pulled out her book. "But you understand what I'm talking about, right?"
Mimi shakes her head.
"Of course you do," She continues, pretending to not see the woman's denial. "Anyway, I've been thinking - this part is the worst, because they're, y'know, getting it on in a fucking closet. You'd think the author would use the surroundings to his advantage, wouldn't you?"
"I - "
"There's the fear of getting caught; the musty darkness should factor in a bit more excitement; with that much little space, a few more interesting positions should be used!"
She shoves the book into the woman's glazed face as multiple eyes follow and takes the opportunity to shove her ramen into her mouth.
(Her brain needs to think of better ways to distract curious bystanders because the amount of situations she's been forced to create for her face's privacy is staggeringly high).
"…You're right." Mimi whispers, eyes wide and scanning the contents of the book with the familiarity of a long-time reader. "You are absolutely right; there's so much potential - why isn't it being used?"
"Oh." Sakura blinks and downs her tea with another quick swipe. She hadn't expected anything to come out of her distraction. Her arms move to form a boneless shrug. "I don't know? I'm just one avid reader. Just spreading out some thoughts here."
"But still," The waitress looks almost forlorn as she hands the book back. "What I would have given to see a better scene."
With a sigh, she stands up and this time, really looks like she's about to cry.
Shit, Sakura frowns, feeling awfully terrible because making civilian girls cry is not part of her profession. Well, shit.
"Get me more dumplings," She orders, pulling out a pen and, after realizing she doesn't have paper, starts scribbling on a few napkins.
"…Okay?" Mimi runs along with little question.
Half an hour later, Sakura shoves a pile of napkins into the server's face and takes the time to swallow her dumplings when the woman fixes her gaze into the words.
"W-What is this?" Mimi whispers with shock coloring her voice.
"A result of my bleeding heart," Sakura answers promptly, mask already in place. She then adds in a kinder tone, "Also, I was kind of curious. Take it is an extra tip for being such a great server."
"Thanks, I think." The woman says a bit dazedly. Her eyes are already flipping through the fourth napkin - wow, maybe Sakura should drop the ninja business and move to writing. "It's really good."
The ninja preens a bit at the praise (but she knows she'll never drop her hitai-ate because Konoha will always be her home - the home she'll cross dimensions and time for).
"If I ever stop by, I'll write some more if you want." She boasts even further, though she doesn't know when she'll ever come back to the Land of Rivers.
"Please do," And then Sakura gives a more serious promise, because Mimi's answering face makes Sakura feel almost as complete as those times when she brings back kidnapped children back to their mothers.
Who knew writing light porn could make someone so happy?
She is finishing up an abstract painting of Katsuya-sama (who she misses terribly) when a group of ninja break off from a larger sized battle a few kilometers away. Her fingers dabble across the slug's feeders as she notes that the group consists of four jōunin chasing down another one.
Isolating one ninja to take them down is a common tactic, though Sakura - with her bleeding heart - doesn't really approve if the enemy isn't a bitch (like Kaguya). She's not one to involve herself with something so volatile though, considering it's the past, but she's almost sorely tempted because that single chakra signature feels achingly familiar.
She cleans up her supplies and smiles down at her finished work (it looks more like a blob than a slug, but whatever). Her hands move to pick the painting up when a suiton jutsu flies by, forcing her to flee from her place amongst the trees. Inwardly cursing whoever it is that sent the wayward jutsu (because none of the five jōunin are aware of her presence), Sakura moves to collect her precious work of art before freezing at the sight in front of her.
Much to her horror, she realizes that while she may have escaped the wraths of the jutsu unscathed, her lovely painting has not - the remains of the blob-like slug torn into soaked, fragile pieces.
(A piece of her heart breaks, unreasonably enough, along with the ruined work).
Irritation fills her head and she breathes in deeply, trying to find reason within her anger (Shirane's words ring with truth, and she will do no less than honor his teachings).
I am angry and that is okay, She thinks with measured breaths, It is a simple painting -
Her mind flashes back to memories of training, where the gentle summon would teach her how to use her chakra simultaneously in different body parts -
It's a simple painting -
There, Tsunade-shishou would cackle at her failed attempts before whacking the back of her head and showing her a better way -
It's a simple painting -
The eyes of Kakashi-sensei coming alight the first time she heals his broken ribs and torn leg muscles at the same time, his hand reaching out and ruffling her hair in pride -
A simple painting -
Naruto hugging her fiercely as she swiftly removes the poison within Kankuro's body, his beaming grin infectious and loving and confident in her abilities and -
Her feet flash toward the jōunin and she dully notes that the cornered, strangely familiar jōunin is down, chakra bleeding out with fatal injuries.
Well, that's fine. She can deal with that after she pulverizes the punk who destroyed her painting.
It's a simple painting but it's precious and represents home and I am going to destroy these bitches if it's the last thing I do.
"Alright," She flies down and slams her chakra scalpels into the chests of the nearest two shinobi (Iwagakure, she recognizes with distaste), sending them down without a single warning. "Which one of you fuckers sent the suiton jutsu?"
Her hands don't wait for a reply (it's not like she's going to get one anyway) as they form the seals for a genjutsu. Ram, Dog, Monkey, Snake - she remembers with a twinge of fondness: she always did think Shirane could have been a great teacher.
Both Iwa ninja pause to erase the genjutsu (she sent as much chakra as she could into it) and Sakura zeroes in on the one who is struggling a bit more. Her punch is blocked with an arm but a kick is already sent to the man's side and then he is flying, intestines flying as his ribs cave in within themselves.
She pulls out her tantō immediately after to block the oncoming kunai attack from the remaining shinobi.
"So it was you!" Her eyes crease in a not-so-friendly way and is pleased to see the wary look on his face. That is good, because she is going to hurt him. She recognizes the chakra signature left over from the residual water of the jutsu. "I hope you have a large bounty on your head."
At least something good has to come out of this.
And then she's moving, a hand reaching out to break his shoulder after she ducks under his kick. Her arm blocks the oncoming roundhouse kick and she responds with a backward flip, catching his chin with her foot and sending him into the air.
The ninja rolls, trying to recover and break his fall but Sakura is already up in the air with him. Her heel crashes into his back and his body slams into the ground with a satisfying crack, a decent sized crater created as a result.
You are lucky I didn't put much chakra into that kick, She tells the knocked out Iwa-nin silently, tapping the back of his head to make sure he really is unconscious.
She doesn't bother checking the other three (they are most definitely dead) and turns to the dying victim of those painting destroying bastards. Her feet halt next to the man's barely moving chest as everything in the world stops for her to stare.
A hitai-ate with Konohagakure's emblem stares back with a mocking call.
"I am pretty sure you're not supposed to be here," She informs the man, hysteria clinging to her throat. She hungrily drinks in his facial features because oh, oh, oh she now knows why his chakra signature feels so familiar. "In fact, I'm most definitely positive we are never supposed to meet in this lifetime."
Which is a shame, because woah, Naruto's dad is fucking hot, even with death-threatening injuries.
"Who - " The future Fourth Hokage coughs, blood falling freely from his lips.
"Also, you're dying right now," She adds almost cheerfully, wondering if this is supposed to happen or not. There are no other chakra signatures in the general area and she knows that if this man doesn't get medical help in the next five minutes, he will be gone.
And then these beautiful genes will never go on to father a future Uzumaki Naruto, but Sakura will die before she ever lets that happen.
She pokes his shoulder and blinks.
(Internal bleeding, very fractured ribs that are poking the lungs dangerously, both legs broken, severe cuts within numerous places, wow, he is so lucky none of them hit a major artery).
"Aren't you, like, magical?" Sakura asks while categorizing the information she has just received and ignoring his baleful glare. She remembers the rumors surrounding the Yellow Flash's infamous teleportation technique and ponders about the mechanics.
"Well, that hardly matters." With agonizing slowness, Sakura forms the seals for a healing jutsu, more for the benefit of Naruto's dad than anything else. (She's been able to do sealless healing for years now).
The shinobi doesn't relax, but he doesn't reach out to kill her either when she places a chakra covered hand over his chest. Her chakra moves quickly as she carefully shifts his broken ribs back into place, crooning in sympathy as he hisses in pain.
There, there, she thinks absently, already moving on to his tender lungs as another hand closes the tears in his right arm.
She hums a random tune (little leaf, little leaf amongst the trees) as a careful silence permeates the air.
"…why?" Namikaze Minato's voice asks, voice scratchy and as polite as she remembers. Why are you helping me?
She toys with various answers to the loaded question -
Because I have a bleeding heart? Because your son is my best friend and I love him sososo much, I've crossed time for him? Because Naruto loves you, and I'll stab myself in the heart before I do anything that will hurt him, because you are Kakashi-sensei's beloved teacher, because I am lonely and I want to see a familiar face, because Konohagakure needs you, Naruto needs you -
"Well," Her eyes close and crease with ease (she's glad she took the time to practice this) as she exudes a friendly aura. "It would be a shame to leave such a pretty face like yours for dead, wouldn't it?"
The Fourth Hokage stills and stares at her with disbelieving eyes. She continues on, amusement hidden.
"You only find an ass like this - " She waves a hand dangerously close to said appendage. " - once in a lifetime," Sakura states monotonously, very serious. "I am doing the entire world a favor; every single male and female will thank me because everyone appreciates a nice bu - "
"Stop, stop!" The man cries, face pale as the tips of his ears burn behind the hitai-ate. "Please, stop."
"You asked." Sakura shrugs and mends his right leg, leaving the left leg alone for, ah, insurance, just in case Naruto's dad becomes protective of his virtue.
A very familiar chakra flares in the far off distance and they both freeze. He eyes her still body warily and fingers the inside of his weapons pouch because it's very reasonable to think that she won't be as friendly with other shinobi as she is with him.
(Secretly, she thinks that reasonable belief is very unreasonable because she'll never raise a hand against Kakashi-sensei ever).
With a sigh, she stands up, fingers twitching against the bruise on his face, much to his surprise; she's left all superficial injuries aside for the more serious ones.
"Can't leave the pretty face damaged, can we?" Her fingers waggle cheerfully at the man.
"I have a girlfriend!" He blurts out, a little fear embracing his face. "A girlfriend who I am very happy with!"
She picks up the jōunin who has no appreciation for art with ease and flings him onto her shoulder with a single hand.
"Even better." Sakura replies and reassures, "I am very open to threesomes."
She waves and darts away, leaving the words behind with no regret.
Six months into the past, Haruno Sakura finds herself in a slight predicament.
"Look," She says, struggling to find the right words. A little distractedly, she pushes more chakra into her second Strength of a Hundred Seal, both located at the valley between her breasts because she doubts anyone will get close enough to catch a look. "I know it may seem like I do that for a living, but I don't."
"Please," An entire village bows down, on their knees in desperation. Her fingers play with her braid, now long enough to trail along her back. "With the war, you are the only one we can turn to."
That… is actually understandable. With something as draining as a war, no Hidden Village will refuse any kind of mission, but prices will be upped in return.
"The last few times were a fluke," Sakura informs them. "I'm not actually very good at this."
"Your prowess has been heard throughout the lands," A young, teenage girl counters, her hands clenching at her bent knees. "Over a dozen children saved with little to no harm, their takers never heard of again."
Okay, it was only thirteen children, but it's not like Sakura went out of her way to look for kidnapped children.
"But - " She starts, already feeling herself losing. All she can see is the girl's frozen form, back bent over, the lines of pride framing her face even as her eyes are desperate.
"Please," The sixteen-year-old whispers brokenly - she's not that much younger than Sakura, and that breaks the ninja's chest. "Even if there's only a d - "
She chokes but forces herself to finish the sentence.
" -a dead body," A desperate plea writes into her voice. "Even if it's only remains, I want him back. Please, bring my brother back."
In that moment, as the setting sun hits the girl's brown curls, Sakura is reminded painfully of Temari. A proud, talented kunoichi who would break off her own fingers for both her younger brothers, who would throw pride away for their safety.
Damn her and her fucking bleeding heart.
"You better have the best sake ready when I come back." Sakura says quietly before disappearing in a shunshin.
Seriously. She's not even a fucking tracker.
Shirane: "White Wave"
Kotori: "Little Bird"
In case you were curious.
SE: And so begins the adventures of Kotori, child protector and perverted bounty hunter!
Seriously, this came out of nowhere. Most of my inspiration came from a few wonderful fics, like, The life and times of Hatake Kakashi, nukenin by Whispering Darkness, Make the Future Blossom by Dreamyin, and a little bit of Of the River and the Sea by Aleycat4eva. The latter you can see with Sakura's potty mouth and some other important... stuff. If something seems awfully too familiar, do let me know - I don't purposely go around plagiarizing works.
This is mainly a product of my brain when I wondered what exactly would happen if someone came to the past and held back from actively trying to change anything.
Technically, this is a one-shot until I find more inspiration or if enough people hound me to make more, whichever happens first.
Searching. For. Enadi.