A/N: So I was binging on Naruto fics lately and this story just came out like word vomit. I don't think I've ever written so quickly in a single setting.
I don't have this story planned out much, so a lot of this is just writing as I go. I also don't have a beta so beware typos as you go through the chapter. Hopefully I was able to catch most of them but my editing is never perfect. If you see something atrocious, point it out to me.
I'm trying out a new style with this story by mashing a bunch of different character perspectives and timelines, almost like snippets of the event instead of a full blown chapter in just Sakura's point of view. They will not all be in chronological order.
This fic is gen, meaning, I will not focus on pairings and/or romantic exploits. I'll consider intertwining it later, but at the moment, no pairings except for the obvious canon ones.
I'll say this once and apply it to all the chapters from here on out: I do not own Naruto.
"Sakura… Are you absolutely sure—"
"Yes, we've discussed this and I've looked over the theory hundreds of times! I can do it."
Kakashi sighed tiredly, running a hand through his unruly white hair.
"I know. This is just extremely dangerous," he said quietly.
Her eyes softened, and she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I wouldn't do this if I had another choice."
He gave her a stiff nod, allowing the two of them to enter a deep underground cave. Sakura ran through a special set of hand seals, activating a seal that blocked off all waves of chakra from entering or leaving. She required absolute secrecy.
In the deepest room of the cavern, Sakura lowered her third and final sacrifice within the ritual circle. The small deer in her arms whined and tried to escape, but the paralytic held, allowing the seal to trap the animal in.
"Forgive me," she whispered, brushing her fingertips against its snout.
Sakura got to her feet, standing near the mouth of the cave where she took in her handiwork. Three animals were locked down against the cold ground, black scribbles of long and tedious seals keeping them trapped in place. A special scroll was laid out in front of her, and she gave a deep exhale before steeling her nerves.
"Here we go."
Clapping her hands together with a burst of chakra, she watched as the scroll in front of her shot out a web of intricate sealing, surrounding each animal in a wide circle. White strips of ash erupted from the ground, sticking onto the sacrifices like a second skin. There was an anguished cry of pain before the white form increased in height as if it was growing.
Sakura slammed her hands onto the dirt, sending a wave of chakra.
"Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei no Jutsu!"
The seals vanished as the white strips of ash burst away, revealing three revived shinobi standing before her.
Kakashi took in a sharp breath, meeting the gaze of the man in the middle.
Obito's eyes widened, the cracks in his skin making the scarred side of his face seem strained. "Kakashi? Is this…?"
"Edo Tensei," a gruff voice answered to his right. Jiraiya crossed his arms, frowning. "Though, never in a million years would I have predicted you'd be the one to revive me."
Sakura decided to take it as a compliment, giving all three Shinobi a courteous bow of her head. "Forgive me. I wouldn't have done this if there was another choice."
Itachi stood to Obito's left, raising his hand in an experimental manner. "You've changed something. I can hardly feel my chakra."
"I've altered the jutsu to accept animal sacrifices instead of human ones," she explained, "and there's an added seal that suppresses and converts your chakra so it's undetectable."
Jiraiya whistled. "Never thought you'd take up sealing, Sakura-chan. How did you manage to get my DNA anyway? I'm pretty sure my body is under leagues of water."
"The Toad Summoning Scroll," she said with a small smile. "And the Crow contract for Itachi-san. It took years to find, but I managed."
"And mine?" Obito raised an eyebrow. "Pretty sure I burst into dust from Kaguya's attack."
"Yours was much more difficult," Sakura admitted. "But because your Sharingan was in Kakashi's body for so long, a bit of your chakra remained. I was able to separate and purify it in order to get it to a useable state."
"Impressive indeed," Jiraiya said in approval. "I guess I'm not surprised you managed to excel in Fuinjutsu. You've always been the smartest of the bunch. Naruto was never into it, saying it took too much studying and extra calligraphy practice."
Sakura's laugh died in her throat, and she felt her expression contort at Naruto's name.
All three shinobi stiffened at the realization.
"There's a reason you called us out," Obito said carefully. "What's going on?"
She swallowed, receiving an encouraging nod from Kakashi.
She gave them a quick and brief rundown of the events after Jiraiya and Itachi's death, as neither of them had been there to see the resurrection of the Ten-tails, Uchiha Madara, the Infinite Tsukuyomi, and Kaguya Otsutsuki.
"So seven years ago, after Kaguya had been sealed away with Cibaku Tensei, Sasuke challenged Naruto to a final battle to see whose resolve would triumph over the other." Itachi's eyes widened at this. "They fought in the Valley of the End, with Sasuke ultimately killing Naruto—"
"What?" Jiraiya gasped, mouth wide.
Sakura nodded firmly. "Kakashi and I believe that this is when Sasuke truly lost all parts of his past self. He declared that he would carry the hate of the world as his older brother had once done, dealing with all of the Shinobi problems, including executing justice and punishment. Using his newly developed Rinnegan, he forced all nine Bijū under his control and killed every Kage that were trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi."
All three looked petrified.
"Now flash forward seven years to the present," she continued, "there are no more shinobi villages. Sasuke completely decimated all forms of community and life, using the Bijū to their destructive potentials. The shinobi who survived the Fourth War scattered across the lands but even then, nothing is the same. There are no alliances. There is no war. But at the same time, there is no life."
Silence reigned through the cave with the only sound being Sakura's own heartbeat. At last, Itachi cradles his face in the palm of his hands.
"This may be my punishment for everything I've done," he muttered. "I've wronged him incredibly so that he's come to this."
"You're not to blame Itachi," Jiraiya spoke, his voice low with what Sakura frighteningly recognized as anger. "Sasuke is responsible for his actions and him only."
"And you were not given any other choice, Itachi-san," she added softly. "Please do not put this on yourself."
Obito grimaced. "So in the end, Sasuke became what Madara and I had once tried to become."
Kakashi nodded once. "He's become Kaguya Otsutsuki—controlling the world with power and fear."
"Then why are we here?" Obito asked at last. "We really can't do anything for you."
Sakura felt her own heart skip a beat and Kakashi refused to meet his eyes. After a tense moment, she took a deep breath.
"I'm going back in time to change everything."
The reaction was instantaneous.
"Are you crazy?" Jiraiya shouted. "There's a good reason why no one's ever attempted such a straining time-space jutsu! You'll tear yourself apart not minding the chakra needed to pull off such a task."
"I know of the difficulties, Jiraiya-sama, but please hear me out—I've been thinking about this for the past six years, and developing the necessary points," she said defiantly.
"Kakashi! You've honestly been letting her do this?" the Sannin demanded.
He sighed softly. "Like we first said, there is no other way to turn. Sakura had glazed over much of the destruction and change that has happened. At this rate, the entire Elemental Nations will perish within a decade."
That quieted the cave once again.
Rubbing her forehead, Sakura removed the large scroll from her back, unsealing it with a mixture of her blood and chakra. It clicked open and she rolled the entire contents open for Jiraiya's eyes.
"This is what I've been developing for the past six years," she said, watching as all three men approached her open scroll. There were thousands upon thousands on tiny markings that ran along the paper.
"This…" Jiraiya traced over the center of her seal, eyes impossibly wide. "This is Orochimaru's—"
"Fushi Tensei, yes," she confirmed. "I studied the way he was able to transfer his soul from one body to another, and twisted his work for my own needs. I'm not planning on taking this body with me, just my soul. It'll—"
"Put less pressure on the chakra needed," Jiraiya nodded absentmindedly. "But it would still be an enormous amount—comparable to a Biju."
Sakura jabbed a thumb at the diamond seal on her forehead. "This is why I am the only one who can do this. I've been collecting chakra in my Yin seal since the war ended, without having released it once. If my calculations are right, it's enough to warp the time by fourteen years."
"You'll be nine," Itachi quickly did the math. "What do you hope to accomplish then?"
"Actually, my goal is to gather enough chakra to add four more years so I can arrive when I'm five," she admitted. "The first thing that needs to get done is to prevent the Uchiha massacre, which is why I've brought you here, Itachi-san."
"And you need me, to understand the movements of the Akatsuki," Obito said in realization. "As well as stopping the Eye of the Moon Plan."
Jiraiya scowled. "I'll admit you've thought this out quite thoroughly but that doesn't make it any less simpler. You're messing with something completely out of our leagues."
"Then I'll die trying," she shot back fiercely. "Even if it takes my death, I'll save Naruto, and I'll save Sasuke too… I've lived long enough here anyway."
All eyes laid on her at the statement, and Sakura straightened her back in determination.
"Then I will help you," Obito said first, eyes darting to Kakashi with a nod. "I have no other way to redeem my unforgivable actions—"
"Obito," Kakashi scrunched his face.
"No, it's true, I don't need your arguments, Kakashi," he raised a hand, turning back to her. "I'm putting my faith in you."
She nodded firmly, feeling her chest lift at the statement. She wouldn't fail him. "It won't be misplaced."
"I'll help you as well, Sakura-san," Itachi spoke. "I've failed Sasuke greatly by trying to do everything on my own, so this time, I'll put my trust in you like I did with Naruto."
"Ugh, fine!" Jiraiya crossed his arms, getting to his feet again. "You better make sure Naruto stays alive this time. He was supposed to be Hokage, you know?"
"And he will," she said without a moment of hesitation. "He'll be a great one."
A large hand clasped her shoulder and she turned to see Kakashi give her a reassuring grip. "We're going to change history. All of us."
Sakura stared at the white mask in her hands, giving it one last glance over before pulling it over her face. She strapped on her chest plate that all standard Anbu bore along with the arm guards. Turning to the mirror, she studied her reflection.
Her hair had been temporarily dyed an unassuming and passable dark brown, hiding her most distinctive trait. The Anbu geared sparked a sudden memory from her past but she pushed it aside, satisfied with her appearance.
There was a small poof of smoke on her dresser and a tiny palm sized lizard came crawling forth at startling speed.
"Sakura-chan, Danzo's moving. It's time."
She nodded, letting the reptile crawl onto her hand.
"Sei, do I look passable enough?" She questioned.
The lizard made a face. "If eight year olds could pass as Anbu, then yes."
She sighed. "I'm twenty-nine. And besides, the Sharingan can decipher when a henge is being used. Is Mika still trailing Shisui?"
Taking a deep breath, she calmed her nerves. "Let's go."
Feeling the tug of her Hiraishin seal on her summon, she released a spike of chakra and vanished from the room.
Landing silently on top of the Naka River, Sakura turned her gaze to see a small brown lizard on the wall of the cliff. She quickly concealed her chakra and her own heartbeat to where hardly anything was left.
"Mika," she greeted the small summon. "Shisui?"
"Two streets down from above us by the temple. Hurry Sakura-chan, I can sense fighting."
Nodding in thanks, Sakura bolted up the cliff's face, spreading out her senses to try and track other shinobi, specifically, Root. Danzō would have called them for aid as soon as the battle started.
When her scan returned negative, she threw herself over the cliff's edge onto land, heart silently pounding in her chest.
This was the moment she had been preparing for three years. She could not fail.
She flickered down the streets as Mika had said, spotting two figures tucked away in the middle of the road by the temple. Chakra was wildly fluctuating around them, and to Sakura's anger, Shisui's right eye was already closed and bleeding.
She flipped through a well-practiced hand seal, focusing on Shisui's flickering form. She only had one chance. Once the element of surprise was over, her mission would get impossibly harder.
Releasing a specialized substitution jutsu, she felt her body being tugged forward, and in a blink of an eye, she was engaging Danzō, Shisui warped to her position down the street. His mismatched eyes widened at the sudden change in target, but Sakura was faster.
Her right hand came over his heart before Danzō could jump away, and high frequency chakra erupted from her palm. His back exploded outwards with blood and broken skin, the pressure of her chakra snapping his bones and rupturing all organs in range. Her other hand immediately formed a chakra scalpel, lengthening to rival a tantō, and slashed across Danzō's eyes, disabling his Sharingan.
His body seemed to fall forward in slow motion, and Sakura quickly snatched Shisui's right eye from the elder's grip.
Danzō sagged against the ground not a moment after six chakra signatures flashed into the scene.
"Stand down," she ordered, muffling her voice with chakra. "Danzō is dead. The silence seal has been removed due to his demise and orders from Hokage-sama state for Root's separation."
To her expectation, none of the shinobi moved. Sai had told her there were no certain orders or regulations in the chance of Danzō's death. He was simply that confident. And given the fact that he had all their emotions suppressed, no soldier felt an inkling of retaliation for their leader's death.
It was the ultimate price to pay in the end.
Giving the specific root hand signs that Sai had taught her, she signaled for retreat and hide.
To her utmost relief, all six flashed away.
Crouching low next to Danzō's broken body, she forced his chin up and ripped out his stolen Sharingan. Although it was completely obliterated from her attack, the outside remained perfectly intact.
Flipping through a familiar set of seals, she bit her thumb and palmed the dirt ground.
Kuchiyose no Jutsu!
A cloud erupted under her hand as a large lizard appeared in the smoke. He was well over three meters in length with jagged scars marking the left side of his face. A long forked tongue slithered out.
"Mission success?" he asked, looking at the corpse.
"Success," she confirmed. "Body ready for your disposal."
"Hn," he grunted. "I except the highest form of recompense for having to shoulder this disgusting excuse of a Shinobi."
She nearly smirked. "Of course, Kanae."
His jaw opened impossibly wide, and after a moment of effort, Danzō's body was swallowed whole.
"I'll never get used to that," she muttered, smiling slightly.
"Taste like dirt too," Kanae grumbled. "Take care of my two fools."
The large lizard poofed out of existence just as Mika and Sei came crawling forward.
"Brother left?" Mika asked.
Sakura nodded. "Mika, I need you to track down Shisui again. I have no doubt he escaped the moment he could. He's still injured and disorientated, so the faster we find him the better. Sei, track down Itachi. Shisui will attempt to give him his remaining eye to commit suicide. We can't have that. Part two of our mission starts now."
With a silent salute, both lizards disappeared.
Crouching one more, she pulled out a blank storage scroll, created specifically for medical purposes. Sterilizing Shisui's Sharingan, she placed it at the center and sealed the organ with a quick hand sign. She tucked the scroll into her hip bag and rose to her feet.
As she stood alone in the clearing, Sakura let out a tight breath. She was going to better the future. She swore it.
Shaking away all her thoughts, Sakura flashed away, heading towards the backside of the Hokage Tower where Danzō's office was held. Knowing the news of his death would ultimately reach the Hokage's ears; she had no time to spare. Utilizing a proper henge, she transformed into her old height, giving the average appearance of an Anbu soldier.
She slipped into the secret Root passageways underneath the ground, heading towards the room at the far end of the hall.
She had unhinged this office once before in her past timeline, she was positive she could do it again.
Overriding the seal on the door, she entered the office and immediately went to work. All hidden compartments she remembered were open and trashed out, sealed papers and mission scrolls were broken, and all classified information she could get her hands on were brought out into the open. By the end, the entire office had been turned inside out.
With hope, Sarutobi would send someone to check Danzō's office and would find it as such. She needed him to know of all the things that man had carried out behind his back—every little mission detail. As much as she respected the Third, there was an inkling of bitterness that crept into her heart when she realized he had simply not tried enough with Danzō. He had purposefully turned a blind eye to the man's activities and that was something that Sakura could not let go.
A small cloud materialized on the messy desk, and Mika appeared.
"Shisui's currently hiding in the forest behind the Uchiha compound," he revealed. "He quite injured and half-blind, I don't think he's going to move for a while."
Straightening her back, she nodded. "Itachi?"
"In a training ground on the other side of the village. Sei's keeping an eye on him."
Satisfied, she held out her hand. "It's time to wrap this up. Lead me to him."
The lizard crawled up her arm and rested himself on her shoulder as Sakura jumped out the window, removing the henge.
She leaped soundlessly from roof to roof, flickering in the air to make her movements were completely undetectable to the normal eye. Within ten minutes, she had covered the distance and sped into the thick forest.
"North-west, Sakura-chan," Mika guided, flicking his tongue in the air. "He's in the same spot."
She spread out her senses, completely hiding her own and felt for his signature. "Got him."
Without another word, Mika poofed away, undoubtedly to report to Sei.
Sakura treaded carefully, knowing that any wrong movement could throw him off. He had been wrongfully attacked and beaten by a council member of Konoha, and she could only trust in his pacifist nature to not charge her on sight.
When she was in twenty meters of him, she finally spotted his messy hair, body hunched between two large branches. He was definitely hidden well. Purposefully stepping onto a branch, she allowed her presence to be known.
Shisui's head snapped up, his left eye blazing red. Sakura stopped moving towards him entirely, allowing him his space.
"Danzō is dead," she said firmly, hands out in a universal sign of peace. "I am here to help. Please trust me."
Shock filtered through his face before confusion. "Who are you? I know Danzō keeps his own Anbu division, and I've never seen you before."
Slowly, as if to show all her movements, she reached into her pouch and pulled out a storage scroll. After a hand sign and some chakra, she lifted his stolen Sharingan.
"I am a shinobi of Konoha. Will you allow me to transplant your eye back in? There's only so much time it can be sustained outside a body."
If he wasn't surprised before, his expression definitely showed it now. The Sharingan couldn't be duplicated, and there were no traces of genjutsu around her.
Yet even with solid proof, she knew she was putting him in a dangerous position. By allowing her to do the procedure, he was giving her direct opportunity to possibly take his other eye.
"Are you the one who substituted me during our fight?" he asked carefully.
Finding no point in lying, she gave a firm nod.
"Then you're also the one who's responsible for Danzō's death?"
"His death was necessary," she said softly. "As much as I dislike to take life without reason, please do not mourn for him."
After a silent moment, Shisui gave her a hesitant, but solid nod, and Sakura took this as her cue to approach. Exhaling in relief, she covered the distance between them with visible steps, crouching by his side with his eye in hand.
"Head back," she murmured, pushing back his forehead so that he was lying on his back.
She placed her free hand over his bloody socket, diagnosing the injury. Since the eye was forcibly ripped out, there were a lot of torn nerve endings that needed repair before she did the transplant. Sending in her chakra, she concentrated, starting the tedious process of realigning his eye socket and fixing the broken connections.
Minutes ticked by in silence as she gave all her concentration in healing. The eye was an incredibly delicate area, especially for the Uchiha, and one mistake could mean blindness.
She was suddenly thankful for all the times she had studied and soothed Kakashi's Sharingan issues.
When all was set, she began preparing for the transplant.
"Since when does Konoha start training them so young?" Shisui finally spoke, his voice dry. "You can't possibly be older than ten."
"Do not think my size indicates my age," she said evenly.
"You can't lie to me," he said confidently. "I can tell you still have baby fat around your wrists."
Curse him. Why did she even bother opening her mouth?
"Shisui-san, if you don't shut your mouth and let me concentrate, I'll transplant your eye in backwards. Purposefully."
To her utter surprise, he let out a chuckle, lips twisting into a grin.
As much as she wanted to sigh in exasperation, Sakura had a job to finish. "Listen. It is of utmost importance that you pull through with your Kotoamastukami. Even with Danzō dead, if the Uchiha coup manages to begin, there is no safe ending for anyone— do you understand?"
Shisui stiffened immediately, left eye boring into her. "Danzō gave the possibly that it might not be enough to—"
"Ignore Danzō," she said sharply, reestablishing all the torn connections in his eye. "Do not trust a word he spoke to you, he's a foul excuse of a man that was obsessed with power. Believe in your ability and believe in Konoha. We cannot have another war break out."
He paused for a minute. "Who are you really? You're far too young to know all of this."
"The less you know, the better."
Silence settled in the air once more as Shisui didn't give back a response. Once his eye was fully restored, Sakura gave a pulse of diagnostic chakra into his system, checking for other injuries.
Three chakra signatures suddenly stared closing in on their location and Sakura realized she recognized two of them.
This was not good.
Pulling back her hand, she rose to her feet. "Go to the hospital, Shisui-san. You have multiple broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and your left lung is about to collapse."
"Can't heal me yourself?"
"Unfortunately, my stay is long overdue," she said easily, stepping back from him. "Take care, and remember your duty to our village."
Imagining the Hiraishin seal in her room, Sakura let the tug of chakra pull her out of the forest and she disappeared in a crack.
Sarutobi Hiruzen was having a very strange day.
The morning started out relatively normal with all his paperwork laid out on the table, unmoving no matter how many he went through within the hour. He had a nice talk with son, conversing the various pros and cons of utilizing a village-wide barrier, and changing up the rotation movement on the borders.
His day began to turn sour, however, as the sun began to set and an Anbu flashed into the room. The white hair and wolf mask gave him away as Minato's last reaming student.
"What is it?"
"Danzō is dead, Hokage-sama."
He immediately froze, eyes wide, a hundred different scenarios going through his mind.
"Details," he demanded. "When? How?"
"A disturbance was found near the Naka River Temple. After investigation, we can conclude there was a brief fight between Danzo and Uchiha Shisui. A third party was also present, but the scent was covered rather well. As of now, identity is unknown. Danzō's trace however, remains and died at the temple while Uchiha and the unknown third party traces towards the compound forest."
Sarutobi paled. He knew things have been rough between Danzo and the Uchiha, but surely murder wouldn't be his answer, he had talked to the boy just yesterday!
"I checked for Root's involvement, but they've completely gone underground. Danzō's office is overturned. All his seals are broken and every confidential mission is laid out around the room."
He rose to his feet. Impossible. "I want you to take bear and panther and track down Uchiha Shisui in the forest. I want him in my office when I get back."
Without need for another word, he flashed out of the office, heading straight towards Danzō's building.
Just what on earth was going on?
Shisui thought he had seen enough surprises in his life.
Apparently he was very, very wrong.
The Anbu disappeared without a trace. Completely. When normal shinobi executed the shunshin, there was always a trail of movement that followed after, even thought it was impossible to see with your eyes—it was still there.
But this? This wasn't fast movement. This was true teleportation. Not a figment of the Anbu's movement was left behind, as if they vanished on the spot.
His head snapped around. He could recognize that voice anywhere.
Three Anbu—ones he recognized this time—came running forth. Hatake Kakashi was at the head, Yugao Uzuki at his left, and Itachi on his right.
Itachi landed first, scanning his rugged appearance and noting the trail of dried blood below his right eye.
"You are to report to the Hokage immediately," Kakashi announced. "Can you move?"
"Mah," he grunted, "I'd prefer if I don't have to. My doctor said to take it easy, you know."
Ignoring his effort to lighten the mood, Itachi slung his arm around his shoulder and pulled him into the air. He groaned as the movement jostled his broken ribs, already finding it difficult to breathe.
"Taichō, Shisui needs the hospital," Uzuki said, undoubtedly glaring behind the mask.
"I'll be fine," he waved a hand, "Just watch my—Ouch! Itachi, watch my ribs!"
After a moment of settling, the four Anbu started their trek back to the Hokage Tower. Every jump rubbed at Shisui's ribs, but he kept silent, the only evidence of his pain being the pale tone of his skin.
At last, they made it back to the center of the village, flashing in through the windows in a typical Anbu fashion. Sarutobi was already waiting, standing in front of his desk with an inscrutable expression.
"Shisui, I need your report," he said seriously, looking as if he had aged fifty more years within the span of an hour.
"Hokage-sama," he grunted, leaning onto Itachi's shoulder. "Near sunset, I was approached by Danzō regarding my plans for the clan. He claimed that even with my interference, the old bitterness would never wash away, and the only way to save Konoha was for complete extermination. He asked if I was going to put him under the genjutsu as well, lamenting about the fact that my eyes were not being used to their proper potential. He… he then attempted to steal my eyes, and revealed under the bandages that he already had a Sharingan of his own. He activated one of our forbidden jutsus to forcibly steal my right eye—" all eyes suddenly flickered to his face "—and was about to steal the other when I was caught at the other end of a powerful substitution jutsu."
"Your right eye was taken?" Sarutobi frowned in obvious confusion.
"In that moment, yes," he nodded firmly. "I was transported a street down from Danzō, and I took the opportunity to escape, knowing he would send Root after me for my remaining eye. I went and hid inside the forest by the Uchiha compound, until I was discovered by an Anbu."
"Who?" he asked immediately.
Shisui hesitated. "I… I don't know, Hokage-sama. The mask was devoid of any coloring and the agent couldn't have been older than ten by physical proportions. The Anbu told me that Danzō was dead, and he was here to help me. He returned my right eye and preformed the transplant, leaving without a trace once he sensed taichō and the rest."
The Hokage went very still, and for a moment, nothing was said. "I do not have any Anbu in my guard that young. A root member?"
He shook his head. "He supposedly killed Danzō himself and told me not to mourn his death."
"And no obvious affect of a henge being used?"
"Not that my eyes could sense. He was as he appeared—undoubtedly young, short nondescript brown hair and a blank white mask."
The room suddenly seemed to get colder. "This is a very serious matter. An unknown shinobi is on the loose, killed Danzō —whose corpse is yet to be found—completely upturned the sealing inside his office—we're talking about an s-class shinobi. Is there anything else to consider about this Anbu?"
Shisui swallowed, finding it harder to breathe every moment. He really needed his left lung checked. "Hokage-sama, with all due respect, I don't believe that this person is Konoha's enemy."
"And where does this confidence come from?"
"He told me that I have a duty to Konoha, to trust in its shinobi and avoid war at all costs. I can't explain it properly, but the feeling I got from this person was not that of an enemy."
"He killed Danzō."
Shisui felt his blood rush with anger. "And Danzō nearly killed me in his selfish conquest for power."
Sarutobi sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I understand. Go get checked into the hospital. We will discuss this at a later time."
A blonde boy turned around at the voice, blue eyes practically gleaming. He ran towards her, waving his had wildly in the air.
"Sakura-chan!" he grinned. "You're late!"
"Almost," she countered slyly. "Did you wait long?"
He shook his head. "Nu-uh. I was practicing climbing the tree like you told me!"
Noting the multiple scratches and leaves scattered over his hair, she smiled. He was getting better every day. "I brought food, come on, sit down."
Without complaint, Naruto squatted down next to her on their makeshift picnic blanket, grabbing the bento box with unrestrained glee. "Ehe, thanks, Sakura-chan!"
"Where's Sasuke today?" she asked, glancing around the training ground where she usually met her boys.
Naruto shrugged. "Dunno. Teme said something about clan business and left early. That's okay though, I get more of Sakura-chan's food!"
She smiled. "If you honestly thought I was going to let you eat ramen everyday for the rest of your life, you're sorely mistaken."
"But ramen is the best!"
She gave him a look. "You need proper nutrients, Naruto. When you become Hokage, how're you going to run Konoha on ramen alone? You've seen how much paperwork is on that desk."
Naruto suddenly paled, chopsticks limp in his mouth. "You'll, um, help me with the paperwork, right?"
She stared unblinkingly.
"Please? I hate reading!"
She grinned. "You'll have to sacrifice in order to be Hokage."
She could have sworn Naruto's eyes began to water with the thought of atrocious paperwork, but a cheek splitting smile soon overtook his face. "I'll just run Konoha as a paperless village! So no paperwork at all—we can save the trees!"
It was possible. Maybe if all their data could be stored digitally, but Sakura knew the dream was still a far reality.
Before she could respond, a familiar voice interrupted their time.
"Look it's forehead girl! And the freak!" There was a round of giggles and three girls sauntered towards their training ground, chins high in the air.
Sakura wanted to sigh. This was one thing she didn't miss about her childhood. Since her return, Sakura had ignored her bullies, not giving them the satisfaction of getting under her skin. In fact, it was more annoying than hurtful, especially now that she could simply walk away.
But the girls had never caught her with Naruto before.
One glance at blonde's suddenly defensive expression and she knew she wasn't going to let this go. Call her names? Fine. But call her future Hokage a freak? That was not okay.
"Get a life, Ami."
The purple haired girl spluttered slightly, eyes blazing. "What was that? Just because you're trying to make yourself look better doesn't make you anything!"
"Are you deaf?" she prompted, watching the girl's face turn an ugly shade of red. "I said get a life. You obviously need one if this is what you do with your time."
"You're just a stupid forehead girl!" Ami screeched. "Of course you'd hang out with this freak since no one else will play with you."
A deafening silence filled the air as Sakura froze, her eyes unblinking. A trickle of killing intent slipped past her and by the look of Naruto's face, she knew he felt it.
"S-Sakura-chan, it's fine, just—"
"No," she said firmly, getting to her feet. "It's not fine."
At any other situation, Sakura would never have let such a low taunt raise her temper. But this was for Naruto. She had seen this time around how much he struggled everyday to live, to be treated like a normal human being, and anger rose up in the pit of her stomach.
No. This wasn't okay.
"What?" Kasumi, one of the girls behind Ami suddenly stuttered. "You—you wanna fight? Ami will beat you down you know!"
Sakura wasn't listening, her gaze unwavering at the girl in front. "Apologize to Naruto. Now."
Ami scoffed. "Why? It's not like it isn't true! Everyone says he's a freak and a monster!"
"Take that back," she growled, voice dangerously low. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
"And you're just a loser too!" Ami retorted hand swinging. "Look at this giant forehead!"
"Hey! Leave Sakura-chan alone!"
Ami's hand came flying towards her face and Sakura immediately recognized this habit. While being bullied, Ami would often smack her forehead and laugh about how much space was still showing around her hand. Back then; it was the cruelest thing Sakura had ever endured, but now…
Her own hand came up with a snap, catching Ami's wrist in a dead lock. The girl faltered.
She had to tread carefully. Sakura knew everything she did with Naruto next to her would somehow make its way to the Hokage's ears. Besides, the Anbu guarding Naruto was also watching.
"L-Let go of me!" she cried, trying to pry her iron grip off.
She glared. "Apologize."
Ami turned red again, anger clouding her eyes. With her other hand tightened into a fist, she swung wildly. "Get off me you stupid—"
Sakura caught the slow and sloppy fist easily, eyes narrowing. Enough was enough. Feeling the delicate side of Ami's wrist, she forced down a tank of pressure, resulting in a loud crack as her wrist broke.
Ami screamed, contorting her body to try and somehow shield herself from the pain. Kasumi and Fuki seemed horrified behind her, faces paling.
"Apologize to Naruto," she said coldly.
"I—I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm—"
Sakura released both of her hands, causing Ami to crash onto her back and cradle her wrist with tears.
"Get out of here," she glared at the other two girls. "Don't come back unless you have something nice to say."
The girls immediately ran, dragging along a sobbing Ami through the training ground. After a moment, the field was silent once more.
She spun around, hand rubbing the back of her neck as a sheepish grin formed on her face. "Ehe, sorry about that Naruto. They aren't very nice are they?"
Naruto, who had got to his feet sometime during the confrontation, charged her with a ramming hug, burying his face into her shirt. Sakura immediately obliged, understanding him without words.
"Thanks, Sakura-chan," he mumbled. "I don't know what I did to have you as my friend."
Her heart clenched.
"Naruto. That would be my line."
"And then, and then, her hand went whoosh and there was a snap and Sakura taught that mean girl a lesson! They ran away and Sakura just stood there, like, like, staring off as they ran and, yeah, it was so cool!" Naruto concluded, hand waving and all, stopping in a pose.
Sarutobi chuckled, watching as Minato's son pulled on an impressively intimidating expression, glaring at invisible bullies. It was the second time hearing the story as the respective Anbu already reported the situation the day before.
He had heard about this Sakura since Naruto's first day at the Academy. She was the first to befriend him in class, treating him with kindness and attention that Naruto undoubtedly craved his entire life. At first, he had been suspicious of the little girl—as was the way of a shinobi—but after extensive tailing and observation of her, he deduced that she was simply a child from a clanless background who happened to have a heart of gold. She was Naruto's godsend.
"And then, I, um, hugged her really, really hard because Sakura-chan is so nice," Naruto ended sheepishly, face reddening.
"I'm glad you had fun, Naruto," he said sincerely. "Is she still teaching you things?"
He perked up, blue eyes ablaze. "Yeah! She taught Sasuke-teme and I how to walk on trees and I've been practicing really hard, Jiji! She said it's a skill I need before I become the Hokage."
He had of course, known already that Naruto was getting pointers and tips from his rosette haired friend, but the stories were always much more pleasant to hear from his perspective.
"You said she reads a lot at the library, hm?"
Naruto nodded, blonde bangs jumping at the moment. "She spends so much time in there, Jiji! I don't know why—reading is boring."
"Reading is important, Naruto," he said gently. "You can learn a lot from reading books and scrolls from the past. Besides, when you become Hokage, you'll have to do tons of reading."
"No!" Naruto yelled, putting his hands over his ears. "Sakura-chan said she'll help me with the paperwork! Wait, did she? Ack, I don't remember! Wait, no! I said I'll make Konoha a paperless village when I'm Hokage! See? No reading needed!"
Amusement bubbled in his chest as he watched the young boy scrunch in thought. "Sorry, Naruto. But unless you revamp the entire Shinobi mission system, or we run out of trees, you're stuck with paperwork."
He wilted. "All right. But since Sakura-chan said she'll be my biggest supporter, I think I can handle the paperwork."
Sarutobi smiled. He really did appreciate this girl.
Sakura sat cross-legged in the confines of her room, stretching her senses in deep meditation. It was one Kakashi had passed down to her during their time together, which pushed and pulled the limits of her chakra reserves.
She never knew her old sensei was born with average chakra levels, especially for a Shinobi so dedicated to ninjutsu. He had given her his meditative process that allowed the senses to be used beyond normal capabilities, almost like opening chakra gates. It was an incredibly strenuous ordeal, and by the time she was done, Sakura's system felt like a well in the Suna desert, completely and utterly empty. It could only be done once a week but results were staring to show from three years of constant practice.
Panting in exhaustion, Sakura lied on the cold wooden floor, staring at the ceiling above her.
It had been a week since she saved Uchiha Shisui's life, and to her utter gratefulness, the clan was still alive. There were no signs that his mass genjutsu over the clan had been completed, but Sakura supposed it had been carried out in a completely classified and secretive manner. Konoha was never going to come forth with the truth of Uchiha's attempted rebellion anyway.
She shuddered at the sudden thought, grateful that Shisui's particular eye technique couldn't be used often. It would have been an incredibly dangerous and misuse of power if it stayed in Danzō's hand. No wonder her future had turned out like it did.
If Shisui had completed his end of plan like Sakura had requested, saving the Uchiha clan, she needed to move on to the next part of the plan.
Bringing up memories of her conversation with Jiraiya and Obito, Sakura went through the timeline once more in her head, analyzing all the critical points.
It was a shame, but Akatsuki was no longer the peace striving group in Ame under the hand of Yahiko. Danzō had played his part before his death, leaving the group in Nagato's hands who turned it into a Bijū hunting criminal organization.
Damn him. Danzō was ruining her spirit even in death.
Sighing, she concentrated once more. As of now, the main members of Akatsuki were Nagato, Konan, Kakuzu, Sasori, Orochimaru, and Obito. Kisame was still in Kirigakure, and wouldn't become a missing-nin for another two years, as was Deidara. Hidan was in Yugakure, and only joined Akatsuki after Kakuzu's fourth partner was killed, which wasn't for another five years. Itachi would remain in Konoha.
Then there was Black Zetsu. She grimaced at the last thought, mind spinning. Kaguya's will—the unexpected mastermind of Akatsuki all along. He had been originally sealed away by Naruto and Sasuke's Chibaku Tensei, but that meant having to wait until Kaguya was unleashed and the Infinite Tsukuyomi was implemented. No… she couldn't wait that long. She needed to find another way of sealing the bastard herself.
A sudden thought flickered through her mind and she snapped her eyes awake, unable to believe she had nearly forgotten.
Uchiha Obito was coming to Konoha.
She knew it was the night of the massacre; he had aided Itachi in exchange for the latter to join Akatsuki. Now that the situation was under tight control, what would Obito do? Massacre the clan himself? At this moment, Sakura didn't have Kakashi to snap his teammate out of it, or have Naruto to inspire the long lost boy once again in protecting Konoha.
He was her enemy right now, not the apologetic man she had talked to through Edo Tensei.
Biting her thumb, she slammed it down on her wooden floor, pouring out a small leak of chakra left in her system.
Kuchiyose no Jutsu!
Sei and Mika poofed into existence, the latter looking up at her questioningly. "So soon Sakura-chan? Did your intervention no go as planned?"
She shook her head. "I've overlooked something possibly problematic. Uchiha Obito is due for a visit to Konoha soon. I know Itachi will be the one to find him, but now that the coup has settled, we don't know how it'll play out. Every precaution is necessary."
The two lizards nodded their small heads. "We'll spread the word. The moment he comes in Konoha territory, we'll let you know."
She breathed in relief. "Thank you both."
With another poof, they were gone.
With all her chakra spent, Sakura collapsed back onto the floor, not bothering to climb onto her bed and closed her eyes, allowing sleep to take her.
When a second week went by, Obito finally made his appearance.
Well into the night, a surge of chakra jolted Sakura awake as she turned to see Sei appear on her nightstand.
"He's here," the lizard said quietly, minding her guest. "Just past the Konoha borders and heading towards the Uchiha compound."
Cursing under her breath, Sakura slipped out of bed, careful not to wake the blonde haired boy who was snoring away on the other side of the bed. Out of all the days Sakura invited him to a sleepover, Obito had to come tonight.
With a single hand seal, a clone flickered into existence.
Quickly reaching into her drawer and pulling out a familiar scroll, she gave it a swipe of her blood and chakra, unsealing her Anbu uniform.
"How fast is he moving?" she asked, slipping on every piece in a mechanical speed of practice.
"He doesn't appear to be in any hurry. He's moving very cautiously."
A small sense of relief rushed through her chest as her clone popped open a jar of powdery hair dye, smearing it all over her locks. Thank god her hair had been cut boyishly short.
After a few more seconds of silent movement, Sakura stood in her gear, holding out her hand for Sei to climb. She looked towards her clone.
"Take care of Naruto."
Nodding in satisfaction as the clone slipped back under the blanket, Sakura glanced at Sei's perch on her shoulder, receiving a nod in return. Focusing on Mika's seal, Sakura flashed out of the room.
She landed softly onto the forest soil, immediately cloaking her chakra and heartbeat. Mika jumped from his position on the trunk of a tree, amber eyes blinking at her.
"Fifty meters west, Sakura-chan. He'll reach the outskirts of the Uchiha compound in less than five minutes."
She exhaled. "Thank you."
"Stay safe," he muttered, before both lizards poofed out of existence.
Making no more room for hesitation, Sakura bound westward, concealing all noise with chakra. Not three minutes later, a kunai came flying straight at her face.
She dodged, bringing out her own kunai as a large figure appeared in front of her, sword in hand. Metal clashed loudly as Sakura pumped chakra into her blade for extra strength. She knew with this body and age, there was no way she could hold him off on sheer physical power.
"Your ability to hide your presence is far better than what I've seen in other Konoha Anbu, I'll praise you for that," Obito said through his mask, voice muffled and low. "Even your chakra signature in indecipherable… But you underestimate me, coming on your own."
Metal ricocheted off each other as both jumped back after the third blow, landing on opposite sides of the forest. They were so close to the Uchiha compound, Sakura wondered if the brief fight was sensed.
"Why are you here?" she asked, already knowing part of the truth. But this was a different timeline and different circumstances. She couldn't take the chance. She had promised that much at least.
"That," he answered, drawing out the word, "is none of your concern, seeing as you will be dead. My time here is not for you."
Sakura braced herself, her sharp mind flowing through dozens of different outcomes. She knew the ins and outs of Obito's techniques—he had told her himself—but that didn't make him any less dangerous at this moment.
"Possible harm to Konoha concerns me at all levels," she replied evenly. "And you are it."
She dashed at him, kunai raised to strike him blow for blow. Much as she was expecting, her arm and entire body sailed straight through him.
"Listen," Obito's eyes sharpened, the black sclera of Edo Tensei making his gaze intimidating. "My intangibility and teleportation cannot be used at the same time. Especially during the early years of Akatsuki, it will be the technique I heavily rely on. The moment I attack, I have to be solid. That is when you can stop me. That, Sakura, is where you can exploit my weakness."
She gritted her teeth, knowing the outcome already. She needed the physical contact, and there was no way she could out speed him at her current skill like Naruto's father had done. She had to sacrifice an injury.
His sword came swinging in from behind her, driving straight towards her heart. Instead of dodging, Sakura tilted ever so slightly, reaching out with her hand.
His sword plunged into her side, its hilt imbedding itself against her skin. In the same moment, her hand grabbed his wrist, sending a seal to mark his hand. A large black symbol bloomed under her touch, and Obito immediately yanked his arm back, taking the sword with it. Blood split from her wound like a faucet, and she immediately sent chakra to heal the hole.
Both Shinobi staggered backwards, Sakura nearly losing footing from the immense pain. She couldn't breathe properly.
"Sealing," Obito hissed, staring at the mark.
It was a small black circle with a spiral in the center, equally split in half by a thick line passing vertically through it. It was a seal that embodied her team. The outer circle represented her clan, the spiral for Naruto, and the line for Sasuke. Kakashi had been the one to draw it out.
"Surprise," she gritted through her teeth, smiling behind the mask even though he couldn't see it.
She flashed towards him, feeling the tug of the seal. Obviously cautious about what the seal did, Obito moved on the defensive. They traded blow for blow, and the trees around them began to bend with the sheer amount of chakra in the air.
At her eighth attack, Sakura called chakra to her left fist, feinting with her right. As his sword lashed out in an attempt to bisect her at the wait, Sakura vanished, reappearing above his head. He was an extremely fast reactor, but not quite enough. Her fist pummeled into his left shoulder, undoubtedly tearing it out of its socket and fracturing the bone. Obito staggered and teleported away with kamui, appeared a dozen meters behind her.
"Hiraishin," he spat, obviously recognizing the technique. "For a brat like you to learn the Yondaime's signature move—I'll admit it's impressive, but it's not enough."
Of course it's impressive. All of you guys helped me perfect it.
He swung at her, a barrage of different weapons flying out from his sleeve—undoubtedly from his kamui dimension—and she flashed away, landing a hundred feet back.
There was a flicker and Obito appeared behind her back, sword swinging down with incredible speed. She flashed away again, but he followed just as easily. Sakura led him on a chase, countering when she could and dodging when impossible.
She knew she couldn't continue this forever. Her chakra was draining, and her smaller body simply couldn't keep up with his fully developed one.
Before she could flicker away again, her injury tore open at the sharp moment, and she faltered, her left knee hitting the thick branch she stood on.
This was very bad.
The glittering metal of his sword came flying down, and before it could strike her, a clash echoed in her ears as two swords collided.
Shocked, her eyes darted left, seeing none other than Uchiha Itachi parrying Obito's blow, Sharingan blazing.
She hadn't even sensed him coming.
Either she was really disoriented, or Itachi was that good. She concluded it was a mix of both.
Obito leaped back to create distance between them, lowering his sword.
"Uchiha Itachi," he drawled. "I should have expected. Do you know who I am?"
For a while, he said nothing, opting to observe. "You claim to be Uchiha Madara."
If she didn't know better, Sakura would have agreed. Obito had grown his hair out so it resembled his ancestor's, and a Sharingan spun behind the open hole of his flaming mask.
"I am Uchiha Madara," he said firmly, and Sakura wondered how many times he had practiced saying that. "From this Konoha that turned their backs on me. One I will surely destroy using the unrest of my forsaken clan."
Itachi stiffened. "The coup has been neutralized. There will be no conflict."
Clearly not having known that news, the elder Uchiha froze.
"A deep shame," Obito said. "This village is wasting away with the clan."
"Changes are in order," Itachi said with confidence. "We will all protect Konoha as one."
After another silent moment, Obito seemed to retreat. It wasn't wise to try and taken on an entire village, even if he was incredibly powerful. "So quickly to forget the hatred of eight years ago. Very well. But this is far from the end; remember that little Uchiha. There will always be war on the horizon."
With a distorted swirl of his left Sharingan, Obito vanished with his kamui.
Sakura released a bated breath, having taken their brief conversation to clot her injury once more; she looked up, finding Itachi's eyes on her.
She quickly stared at the point between his eyes.
There was no way she was going to get into a conflict with Itachi and come out alive, especially in her state. He might not have activated his Mangekyō Sharingan due to Shisui's continued existence, but it didn't make him any less formidable.
"You are the Anbu that saved Shisui's life," Itachi said at last. His kunai was still clutched in hand, and his body was tense, ready to move if necessary.
She collected her thoughts. "Life is an overestimation, Itachi-san. I merely returned what was originally his."
"Who are you?"
"A shinobi of Konoha," she said earnestly. "That much I can tell you. Thank you for helping me."
He went silent for another moment before responding. "There is a warrant for your capture. Hokage-sama would like to see you."
Of course there was. She didn't expect to murder a high councilman and get away with it easily. She had to leave, now.
"I'm afraid I cannot follow you," she replied softly.
Suddenly, both shinobi moved, their forms bolting to life. Itachi's hand lashed out to grab her, and she felt the familiar tug of chakra as she focused on the seal in her room. Right before his hand was about to reach her, Sakura flashed out of the forest.
She landed uncoordinatedly in her room, the injury still burning in her chest. She was breathing harshly, one lung unable to completely do its job.
Her clone immediately woke up at the noise, sliding out from the bed. Wordlessly, she dispelled herself, and Sakura felt the unused chakra merge back in her system with relief.
Grabbing the storage scroll she trudged herself over to the bathroom, needing a sincere wash from all the blood that had drained from her.
She was definitely going to skip out on Academy tomorrow, that was for sure.
There was something to be said when Itachi came home from a mission two years ago to find Sasuke absent.
Which never happened.
His little brother, without fail, would always be at home waiting for his return, eager to ask for training. No matter how many times Itachi had denied him, he continued to press the matter.
"Itachi, you're back."
He turned to face his mother, nodding in greeting. "Where's Sasuke?"
Her expression changed into one of amusement and Itachi nearly frowned. "Probably out training."
She was baiting him, and he knew it. Giving in to her demands, he asked, "Alone?"
Her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Ah, you weren't here to see it, but two weeks ago, Sasuke was carried home unconscious on the back of a little girl."
Something in his stomach immediately tightened at the thought.
"Nothing bad, Itachi," Mikoto said with a little too much glee. "Sasuke had simply worn himself out to exhaustion while fighting her. They apparently made a bet that if he won, she would acknowledge that he was better than her, and if she won, Sasuke would have to train with them."
Itachi processed his mother's words in his mind, recalling that Sasuke had just started the Academy six months ago. There was surprise in this thought as he had assumed Sasuke to be the best in his class.
"Who are they?"
"Her name is Haruno Sakura, and her friend… Uzumaki Naruto."
The girl's name did nothing to spark recognition in his mind but the latter was a name that all Anbu knew.
The Kyūbi container.
"She defeated Sasuke?" he wondered out loud.
Mikoto smiled. "Fair and square. You should have seen your brother when he woke up the next morning. He went out training declaring that he was never going to be defeated by pink haired girls ever again. He's been training with them every day after the Academy gets out."
His lips tugged up into a small smile. "Where?"
"Training Ground Three. Why don't you go pick him up for dinner, Itachi?"
It was already on his mind.
Heading to his room, he removed his mission pack and changed into a clean set of clothes for the day, curiosity tingling his mind as he moved mechanically.
As he bid a temporary farewell to his mother, Itachi leaped to the roofs, heading towards Training Ground Three.
Within minutes, he neared the river that flowed through the field and landed softly on top of the water. With silent steps, he made his way towards the open area, already hearing voices pierce the air, his brother's being one of them.
"Get him, Sakura-chan! Sasuke-teme you'll lose!"
A grunt. "Shut up, dobe! Do I need to beat your face down again?"
"Hey! You were lucky! I can totally beat you tomorrow!"
Itachi peered from the end of river, partially covered by the surrounding trees. Uzumaki Naruto sat cross-legged at the base of a large tree, wildly moving his hands and shouting cheers to the two people currently sparring in the middle of the field.
His eyes moved to Sasuke first, surprised to find the boy sweating deeply, looking disheveled and dirty with scrapes all over his skin. His sparring partner however, looked completely unfazed.
As his mother had said, the girl had a head of bright coral hair that was cut shortly, even shorter than Sasuke's. Her green eyes were focused on the opponent before her, but her lips were twisted into a grin.
She moved fluidly, much more gracefully than his own little brother, stepping around Sasuke's attacks and countering like a dance.
She was good. He could understand how Sasuke had lost.
"Ah! Who are you!"
He turned his head at Naruto's voice, catching the attention of the other two in the field.
Sasuke's eyes brightened, halting his steps. "Aniki!"
The girl on the other hand had no reclusions to stopping and swung her leg in a perfectly executed sweep, knocking Sasuke onto his back with a surprised grunt.
"Sakura, you cheater! I was distracted!"
She grinned, chest rising with adrenaline. "A Shinobi must make use of every opportunity, you know? It's not my fault you have the attention span of a spoon."
Itachi's lips threatened to quirk up, but he held back his amusement. "She's right Sasuke. Accept your loss gracefully."
He whined pitifully before getting to his feet. "Why're you here, aniki?"
"Kaa-san said to bring you before you forget about dinner," he replied easily.
"I wasn't going to forget!" he protested. "I was just about to beat Sakura—"
"Yeah right, teme!" Naruto yelled, now on his feet as well.
Before Sasuke could make his furious retort, Itachi cut in. He had never seen his brother so riled up before. "Sasuke. Why don't you introduce me to your friends?"
His scowl didn't lessen as he jabbed a thumb towards Naruto. "That's the dobe, Naruto. And that's Sakura. They're… they're my classmates. Dobe, Sakura, this is my aniki, Itachi."
Naruto shouted a loud 'hey!' in response while Sakura just sighed, rubbing her forehead.
Unable to bite back his smile, he ruffled the dirt out of Sasuke's hair. "I'm glad you found good friends, Sasuke."
His immediately went beet red at the word, knowing it was something Sasuke never used. Itachi knew his little brother. Knew that he had no friends his age outside of the clan.
But it looks like his friends had found him.
"It's nice to meet you Itachi-san," Sakura said, a warm smile on her face. "Forgive me for beating your brother into the ground. He had it coming."
"Sakura!" Sasuke yelled, face still red.
She laughed. "I only speak the truth, Sasuke-chan, now come here."
Sasuke looked as if he was going to protest, but after a resigned sigh, he walked towards the girl, sticking out his left arm.
Itachi watched with surprise as Sakura placed her palm over a scrape on his forearm, hand glowing green. After a moment of concentration, the injury lessened.
It was apparently a well-practiced habit of theirs as Sasuke wordlessly presented injury after injury, and Sakura healed them away. He could tell her technique wasn't perfect by any means, but it was an impressive start for a child her age. A new sense of curiosity formed in his mind as he watched her work efficiently, no hesitation in her movements. He knew the art of healing was a difficult and strenuous practice that required near perfect chakra control.
"Sakura-san, where did you learn how to heal like that?"
She jolted out of concentrated, eyes suddenly wide. After a moment, she grinned sheepishly. "Um, my kaa-san taught me when I told her I wanted to be a medic-nin. I'm not as good as her yet but I can fix small scrapes."
"Yeah cause she's been practicing a lot on teme and me!" Naruto said cheerily.
Itachi processed her words, imprinting them in his memory. "You don't come from a shinobi clan do you?"
She shook her head. "My kaa-san is a medic in the hospital, and my tou-san is a civilian."
Once Sakura was done healing him, Sasuke grunted, muttering a 'thank you' under his breath, as he pulled his shirt back on.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
Sasuke nodded, jumping to his side. He turned back to his classmates, a small smile on his face.
"See you tomorrow, Sasuke!" Sakura waved, taking the words from his mouth.
"Yeah, teme," Naruto cut in, arms crossed. "I'll beat you tomorrow you hear?"
His smile turned into a smirk as he looked towards the blonde. "Yeah right. Bye dobe. Go do your homework."
Naruto's shouts of protests echoed through the field as Itachi walked his little brother back towards the compound, glancing at his smile that stayed on his face all the way back home.
Sakura stared at the large Memorial Stone in front of her, feeling the gentle caress of the breeze trail against her skin.
It was a rare moment of alone time as nether Naruto nor Sasuke were with her. Naruto was off eating ramen with Iruka-sensei—a connection she did not want to step between by being there—and Sasuke was off with his clan, attending their monthly meetings.
The Uchiha clan was still alive.
Two years after saving Uchiha Shisui, Sakura allowed herself a moment of self-praise, understanding that she had successfully diverted the massacre. As Itachi had said, changes had been made between the villages and the clan. The Uchihas were no longer forced to live in a certain sector of the village of their compound for surveillance, and many of the lesser members spread throughout Konoha. The Military Police Force was unofficially disbanded, giving more missions to Uchiha shinobi, and allowing them true access to climb the ranks.
Sakura hadn't realized how restricted the Uchiha clan was until their limits began to lift. It was no wonder Fugaku and the rest of the elders were easily poisoned into planning rebellion.
So far, Shisui's genjutsu had done wonders. He quite literally saved his entire clan. And now that the Hokage knew with absolute conviction that the Uchiha's first priority was Konoha—a sense of peace was returning to the village once again.
It was a vile situation when Sakura continued to think about it, but she couldn't do much about it anymore. She had a choice between Konoha and the Uchiha clan, and her choice was clear, no matter the outcome.
Yet, while peace was returning to Konoha, Akatsuki was moving in the shadows. She gritted her teeth. She was still developing a seal that could lock away Zetsu, but it was a tedious and difficult process. But once Zetsu was out of the way, Kaguya's revival would be put to a halt.
Next was Madara. According to Obito, he was truly dead at the moment but would be resurrected at the time the Ten Tails was revived. She couldn't have this either—meaning, Kabuto had to be killed as soon as possible.
She narrowed her eyes at the thought of Orochimaru's right hand, wondering what he was doing at the moment. She had never seen him around in the streets of Konoha, but the man was a slippery bastard to start with. She needed to take him out early.
None of the other Akatsuki members were a large threat at the moment other than Orochimaru. His possible invasion of Konoha was only two years away and Sakura was itching to figure out his method. Otogakure was Orochimaru's main force along with Suna, but the village was founded after his defection from Akatsuki. Had he left yet? Was he still planning his invasion?
She exhaled, focusing on the Memorial Stone once more.
Her fingers traced invisible names that were not yet carved into the stone; inwardly swearing that if her time here meant anything at all, none of the names she remembered would be placed there.
She spotted the name of Uchiha Obito next to the many that died during the Third War, and traced over his name in careful strokes. She had promised him too.
The following week, Orochimaru's answer came to her.
Sakura was in the process of a strenuous warm up with Naruto, who was complaining about all the silly little countries they had to memorize for tomorrow's test.
Stretching out her leg muscles, she reached forward and sent a pulse of chakra to her seal weights, increasing their mass.
A loud rustle of noise came from her right and Sakura glanced up to see Sasuke burst from the trees. Her greeting died in her throat as she saw his panicked expression.
"Sasuke? What happened?"
Her tone immediately alerted Naruto who was in the middle of doing a backstretch, and promptly fell over trying to see Sasuke.
He was breathing rapidly. "A-Aniki just came back. He's really badly injured, and… and they said they don't know if Shisui will live either."
"What?" Naruto harped, getting to his feet.
To Sakura's shock, Sasuke looked as if he was close to crying. Never in this timeline for as long as she's known him had she seen such a vulnerable expression on his face.
Without the massacre, this was his first experience with the idea of death to those near to him. He looked close to hyperventilating.
"Breathe, Sasuke," she commanded firmly, taking both his hands. "Inhale… exhale…"
When his panic attack seemed to even out, Sasuke tried to school his features. "Kaa-san said to stay home, but… I just… what do I do?"
The ten-year-old boy took in a huge breath, undoubtedly holding back a mountain of tears. Itachi meant that much to him.
"Let's go see him," Sakura said without hesitation. "We can wait in the hospital."
He looked wary. "But Kaa-san said to stay—"
"Do you, or do you not want to see your brother?" she asked. "I'm sure Itachi-san would get better faster if he knew you were waiting for him."
Sakura knew that Sasuke was a clan child through and through. He probably never went against his parents' orders so blatantly—they'd have his head. This was the ultimate decision. His parents… or Itachi?
At last, Sasuke nodded. "I want to go see him."
She smiled. "Let's go."
"Ne, Sasuke, didn't you say that your brother was like, super strong?" Naruto asked, walking next to him. "Hospitals can't hold him down!"
His dark eyes softened a fraction as he nodded, and Sakura felt something warm fill her chest. This is what Team 7 should have lived up to be.
Sakura led the two towards the largest square building in the center of the village, walking through the double doors. Sasuke's steps seemed to stiffen considerably, and Naruto just looked around the place in awe.
Walking straight up to the front desk, she placed both hands over the counter. The lady there seemed surprised for a moment before giving the three of them an odd stare. Without their hitai-ate, they just looked like normal civilian children without their parents.
"Can I help you?"
"We're looking for Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Shisui's rooms. We want to visit," she said firmly.
She flipped through her papers before answering. "I'm afraid not. Only family at this moment."
"Itachi is my brother," Sasuke said defiantly, glaring at the lady. He flashed the clan symbol on his shirt. "And they're with me. Where is he?"
Looking thoroughly startled, she stammered out the room numbers. Sakura wasted no more time with the desk lady and headed deeper into the building with Naruto and Sasuke right behind her.
They climbed up to the topmost floor where Sakura knew the hospital kept all their emergency Shinobi patients, and walked towards a nondescript white door near the middle of the hallway, noting that Shisui was a room down.
Sasuke took a sharp breath from behind her as she gripped the door and slid it open.
The room was slightly darkened with the curtains closed, but Sakura could clearly see Sasuke's parents rising to their feet in surprise.
"Sakura-chan? Wha—Sasuke?" she frowned. "I told you to stay home, why are you here?"
"I wanted to see aniki too!" he defended, clenching his fists. "I couldn't just stay home."
Fugaku looked disappointed. "Sasuke, I will not accept such disobedience—"
"It was my idea, Uchiha-san," she said, taking a small step in front of Sasuke. "The blame is not Sasuke's to bear."
Fugaku looked as if he wanted to give a nasty retort when Mikoto just sighed, raising her hands in a sign of peace.
"It's okay, Sakura-chan. No one is to blame," she said, and then turned to Sasuke. "I just didn't want you to see your brother like this. I thought it would be better for you to see him when he wakes up."
"When will he?" he blurted.
"The nurse said he should be awake in a few days, Sasuke," she replied, gently taking her son in her arms. "He just got out of a long surgery."
Sasuke nodded glumly, letting Mikoto hug him. "What about Shisui?"
Both adults stiffened ever so slightly. Fugaku continued to glare at the wall as if did him some personal offence and Mikoto sighed once more.
"We still don't know. Shisui's in a coma right now and no one knows if he'll be able to wake up. He was in a bad state when he got here."
Sasuke didn't respond, and Sakura took this as her cue to take her leave. She was invading a personal family moment no matter how much Mikoto seemed to like her.
"Naruto and I will head out," she said softly, taking the blonde hand. He had been uncharacteristically silent the entire time. "I hope Itachi-san wakes up and recovers soon."
"Thank you, Sakura-chan, and Naruto-chan," Mikoto smiled warmly. "Take care of yourselves."
Nodding once more, Sakura led him out of the room, and quietly slid the door shut behind her.
"You've been so quiet, Naruto," she said, giving him an odd look. "Are you all right?"
This was probably his first experience with death too, even if it was through Sasuke's family.
He grumbled. "Nothin'. I was just thinking about how many strong people are outside of Konoha… to be able to do this to Sasuke-teme's brother."
That was unexpected. "Does it scare you?"
He clenched his fist before thumping it on his chest. "No way, Sakura-chan! I'm gonna get super strong too, I promised! I gotta be Hokage and protect Konoha!"
She ruffled his hair. "I have no doubt that you will. Now come on. I want to make one more stop before we leave."
Sakura walked down a room to where Shisui was supposed to be, placing a hand on the door. She sent out a wave of chakra to make sure no one but Shisui was in the room. Satisfied that it was empty, she grabbed the door and entered.
"We're visiting Sasuke's cousin?" Naruto asked.
"Just for a second," she said carefully. "I just want to see if he's okay too. He's also important to Sasuke."
Sakura waked over to the bed where Shisui lay, his face a picture of perfect calm. His skin was paler than usual, and she was itching to lay a diagnostic jutsu on him. She knew that before Tsunade came and revamped the entire hospital, many of the medics were poorly trained. Could she try?
She was finally acquainted with Shisui via Sasuke and Itachi, and although she wasn't monumentally close to him, she still cared a great deal about the man she first saved.
Inwardly shaking her head, she squashed down the urge. Not with Naruto in the room.
"He looks sorta sad," Naruto commented.
Sakura's right hand slid underneath the edge of the hospital bed, and she marked the metal with a small Hiraishin seal.
"Yeah," she muttered, discreetly putting her hand down. "Come on. Shall we go?"
Naruto nodded, looking more than eager to get out of the gloomy hospital.
She would wait it out just in case.
Four days later, Itachi had woken up and was beginning his road to recovery. Sasuke had been bursting with relief and happiness Sakura thought he smiled more that day than he had in the past year.
Shisui remained the same.
When another two weeks past and there was no change in Shisui's condition, Sasuke's mood began to slowly dip. Apparently, Itachi was starting to grow extremely withdrawn with every day that passed and Sasuke was feeling the brunt of it.
When the month passed, Sakura had enough waiting. She couldn't put it behind her when it was possibly in her capabilities to do something.
As the moon waned in the dead of night, Sakura unsealed her Anbu uniform and prepared to leave, making sure all her supplies were secured before heading out. She hadn't used the particular disguise often, but she had no doubt the order for her capture was still in place.
Taking a deep breath in preparation, Sakura focused on the seal in the hospital and flashed away.
She landed in the hospital room without a sound, immediately regretting the decision. Someone was already by the bed, spinning around with a kunai in hand, eyes shining red.
Sakura cursed. Out of all the days she could have done this, she managed to run into him. Besides, it was nearly three in the morning—why the hell was Itachi still here?
It's then she realizes that his Mangekyō must have awakened from Shisui's accident.
"Itachi-san," she murmured carefully, lacing her voice with chakra.
"I was waiting," he replied.
Confusion ran through her before she caught on, unable to believe him for a moment. But there was no other explanation.
"You found my seal," she stated, blinking in disbelief. The Sharingan was able to see and discern chakra patterns—including the small amount in her Hiraishin seal. He was with her when she marked Obito's hand two years back, and undoubtedly traced it back to her.
Damn. He was good.
"Yes," he confirmed. "I admit, I wasn't sure of its properties but I knew it was yours."
"Are you here to stop me?"
He seemed to hesitate. "That depends on what you intend to do."
"I find myself unable to stand back and watch when I am capable of doing something," she said honestly. "Wouldn't you agree?"
Silence filled the room.
He lowered his kunai. "Will you help him?"
"I will," she said with unwavering conviction. "Will you trust me?"
He made no hesitation in his response. "I will."
Relief flooded through her system as his stance relaxed. He walked around to Shisui's other side, allowing her the space to work.
Cautiously she approached, pressing a glowing green hand on his chest. "Can you tell me what happened? I don't need the mission details, but I do need circumstances of his injuries."
His expression seemed to darken as he recalled the memory. "We were returning from our mission, when we were ambushed by Orochimaru." Sakura froze, raising her face to meet his. Thankfully, his Sharingan was off. "Our team was already strained and he took advantage of that quite thoroughly, separating us with his three other shinobi."
"Shisui received unknown injuries from his opponent but came to aid me against Orochimaru. He… took an attack that was meant to be my own, which cut through his chest with an unknown black liquid. The bleeding did not stop the entire return, and Shisui said he could not feel or move his body before losing consciousness."
Sakura flickered her eyes to Shisui's forehead, pressing her hand against it. Immediately, she felt the sluggish strain of her chakra trying to move through.
"Poisoned," she immediately said. No wonder he wasn't waking up.
She felt a trickle of worry stab her heart when she realized the sheer amount of it in his brain. Surely, the medics have felt it, but either they couldn't diagnose it correctly, or they didn't dare try an extraction. The brain was an extremely delicate area to heal.
She exhaled. Tsunade wouldn't let this stop her and Sakura had sworn an oath to the woman when she asked for training. She wouldn't give up either.
"Itachi-san," she said hurriedly. "Please get me a large bowl with water. You should find an empty one in the bathroom behind me."
He moved without reply, and Sakura focused on separating the toxins in his brain. Thankfully, it wasn't a deadly one, but one that caused paralysis over time to keep everything shut down.
She grimaced, realizing that it was the perfect method for what Orochimaru needed. In order to take over Itachi's body, a deadly poison was pointless to use. He needed the body alive, but incapacitated.
A tiny incision was made with her chakra scalpel, and she began to extract the poison from his skin. Itachi placed a wide bowl on the stand next to her, quickly moving back to his original position.
The poison was putridly black and thick as it was pulled from his face and into her chakra laced hands, floating in between. She dumped the offending liquid into the bowl, returning for another round.
Again and again she extracted everything she could possibly reach, every movement and fluctuation of chakra carefully measured and calculated. One mistake meant Shisui's brain being ruined forever. It made sense why no sane medic attempted to try it.
When all the poison had been removed, Sakura forced open the flimsy hospital garment, exposing Shisui's chest. There was an ugly scar that marred his skin from left shoulder to hip, and Sakura nearly stopped to scowl at it. She would never have left it to scar like this. Widespread scarring meant lack of feeling, and that equaled to disadvantages for the shinobi during combat.
Reaching into her hip bag she pulled out a scroll, smearing chakra and blood to open the seal. A small palette of ink and a brush fell into her hand, and she snapped the compact shut after swathing a few strokes of black ink.
Steadying her hand, she began to draw the seals needed, sticking to the uninjured side of his chest. She then drew over both arms and up his neck, forcing the seals to meet at the point on his forehead. Satisfied with her work, she placed the brush down, flying through a set of hand seals.
Chikatsu Saisei no Jutsu!
Shisui's entire body began to glow a magnificent green, the black ink of her seals glowing white. With careful and strenuous effort, she forced the damage to heal, coercing his body's natural cells as a medium.
The jutsu was normally done with a rotation of four people due to the long hours required to preform the skill, but she had stabilized the technique to suit her one-man stand. Sakura momentarily recalled Neji being treated with it during their Genin days, and her resolve strengthened.
She would save him.
When what seemed like an hour drew by, a soft groan escaped from Shisui's lips and Sakura felt her chakra redouble in will. Itachi jolted slightly, turning to look at his friend.
"Not yet, Itachi-san," she spoke through her teeth, feeling the unbelievable strain on her chakra. Half of her written seals have yet to disappear.
She pressed for another hour, circulating her chakra through his system at every loop, filling in all his injuries that the poison had damaged over the month. She had no resources to make a proper antidote, so the only other option was to neutralize the stubborn remains.
When the last of her seals merged and disappeared to the point on his forehead, Sakura released the jutsu, about to fall on her knees. The morning sun was breaking over the horizon, slightly illuminating the room.
She knew she didn't have a lot of time. The first hospital round came at six in the morning, and if she guessed, she didn't even have twenty minutes left. Sakura momentarily spread out her chakra, unable to sense more than the topmost floor in her current state.
No one else. Yet.
Shisui's face suddenly scrunched as another guttural noise passed his lips. To her amazement, his eyes pulled back.
"It… Itachi?" he croaked.
The Uchiha nodded, his eyes wide and more expressive than Sakura had ever seen them.
Shisui grunted again, undoubtedly disoriented from the month long coma. "Wha' happened? Did Orochi—"
"No mission reporting Shisui-san," she interrupted, voice cracking. She needed to get out of here. "I command you to bed rest for the next three days."
He clearly didn't realize that she was there, as his black eyes flickered slowly over to her, shocked.
"You're…" he trailed off, blinking as if in a daze. "Am I dreaming?"
"You might be slightly delirious," she admitted. "Being in a month long coma does that to you. Now please go back to sleep."
His eyes widened, about to ask, as she pressed two fingers to his temple. He went out like a light. It was a useful technique Tsunade had taught her for dealing with stubborn patients, but only worked if their chakra levels were low.
"He'll wake up again in a few hours," she said, pulling back her shaking hand. Kami, she was going to collapse any second. "The medics here will bring him back to health if they're not too incompetent. I will take my leave."
"Thank you," Itachi blurted, his gaze extremely intense. "Thank you for saving him…. Again."
"You saved me long ago, Itachi-san, and I do not forget to repay those who give to me," she replied. "Though, I do have one question."
"During your confrontation, was Orochimaru wearing a black cloak with red clouds on it?"
Obviously not having expected such a particular question he blinked. "No."
She nodded, feeling for the Hiraishin seal in her room. "That is all then. Thank you."
In a snap, she vanished from the hospital.
"Dobe, shut up! She's probably sick!"
Sakura threw open her door with a bang, finding two boys in the middle of a brawl lose their balance and fall into her doorway. Sasuke's elbow collided with Naruto's stomach, causing him to jerk his knee and smack Sasuke in the back. The dark haired boy grunted, rolling forward and crashing into her.
Sakura didn't bother to stop the fall. The three of them fell into a mess of limbs onto her carpeted floor.
"Ack! Look what you've done Sasuke-teme! Get off her! You're going to suffocate her!"
Limbs untangled themselves, and Sakura felt a large weight lift off. "I've done? You're the idiot who kneed me! And do you even know what suffocate means?"
Sakura banged her fist down onto their heads, receiving a mirrored cry from Sasuke. She crossed her arms, still annoyed from being woken up to loud banging on her door.
"What on earth are you two doing here?" she demanded.
Both boys momentarily wilted, grabbing their heads.
After a tense moment, Sasuke muttered, "Naruto started it."
"Hey! I did not you tem—"
"No shouting," she said sternly, pulling back her fists. "I want to know why you've woken me up at such an ungodly hour."
Naruto gave her a confused look. "But Sakura-chan, it's almost dinner time… you weren't at the Academy today so I thought you were sick…"
Memories came flooding back to her mind like a tsunami, and Sakura nearly groaned out loud. She had barely cleaned herself up and collapsed in bed when the sun rose, completely devoid of chakra, it was actually a miracle Naruto managed to wake her up at all.
"Oh right," she grumbled. "Sorry, you're right. I kind of took a rest day today, but I feel better now so no worries."
Naruto looked satisfied. "And you'll never guess! Sasuke-teme's cousin woke up this morning! It was a apparently some big miracle—"
"Dobe!" Sasuke hissed. "He's my cousin, I should be the one to tell the news!"
"Really?" she inquired, genuinely happy. "That's great Sasuke! Did you go see him?"
"Not yet. I was going to go today but Naruto said to follow him to your house—"
"Did not!" Naruto protested. "You were the one who wanted to come along to see Sakura-chan—"
"All right, all right, enough," she sighed exasperatedly, smiling. "Let's all go now, shall we?"
"Yes!" Naruto pumped a fist into the air.
Sakura ran up the stairs to her room, rummaging for a change of clothes. After a second of searching, she pulled on a comfortable kimono-shirt and a pair of grey lounge pants.
She scanned her chakra as she walked back down, estimating that she had recovered nearly half. It was good enough.
Naruto and Sasuke led her out of the house as they chattered and argued about what they did at the Academy. The sun was low in the sky, and Sakura felt her stomach grumble slightly for food.
"Hey Naruto, want to stop at Ichiraku's when we go back?"
His eyes lit up like Christmas had come early. "You bet, Sakura-chan! I'll out-eat Sasuke in ramen any day!"
"Who would want to binge on ramen?" Sasuke shot back.
"So you're saying I'm better than you, right? I knew it, I—"
"What? You're on, dobe! I don't lose in anything!"
Sakura sighed again as the two continued to banter on, all the way to Shisui's room. The nurses threw the boys strange looks as they walked through the hospital halls, and she had a temporary urge to smack the two again.
Thankfully, they reached Shisui's door without the need for violence, and Sasuke was the first to enter.
"Aniki! You're here!"
Itachi glanced up from his chair. "Sasuke. Naruto-kun. Sakura-san."
She waved cheerily at him, following Naruto's loud greeting.
"Sheesh, can't catch a break with you three, eh?" Shisui grinned. He was sitting up in bed, looking much more alive than she had seen him the before.
"Sasuke said your recovery was some sort of crazy miracle!" Naruto blurted. "So? So? You gotta tell us what happened?"
Shisui laughed. "Dunno, Naruto-kun. I sort of just woke up. I don't think I did anything special myself." His eyes flickered to her, and he grinned. "My cute little Sakura-chan! You've come to visit me too! I think I deserve a hug for all my hard work right?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "You literally just said you didn't do anything special yourself."
Shisui pouted. "You're so not cute Sasuke, you know that?"
"Good. Being cute is useless."
"Now, now, don't say that," Shisui said shewrdly. "I bet when Sakura-chan gets older, all she'll have to do is smile and the enemy nin will give up right away, eh? Oh, imagine all the boys I'll have to fight off—"
"Shisui-san!" she growled, about to smack him upside the head. The man was the most un-Uchiha Uchiha she had ever met. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you weren't waiting at death's door just the other day. Were you pretending to sleep?"
Shisui looked appalled, putting a hand over his chest. "How could you say that about me, Sakura-chan! I'm probably the most honest Uchiha you'll ever meet!"
"There is something funky about you," Naruto muttered, squinting his eyes as if to study the older Shinobi a bit better.
Sasuke smirked. "Yeah Shisui, are you sure you're an Uchiha at all? Where'd you really come from?"
"Itachi! Are you seriously going to let them gang up on the poor me like this?" he whined.
Itachi, who had been watching the entire conversation with mild amusement simply blinked once in response. "I'm not the one getting run under by a group of ten year olds."
Completely against the odds, Shisui sagged dramatically into his bed, clutching his head. "Oh my head. I think I might die early of a migraine."
Even knowing that he was joking, Sakura felt her right hand twitch in a habitual movement of checking his condition. If some incompetent nurse accidently undid all her hard work, she might just blow something up.
"Oh, don't be melodramatic," Sasuke muttered. "At least you don't have Academy homework. That stuff is such a bore."
Naruto groaned in response.
"Speaking of, you three, how are your studies going?" Shisui grinned, bouncing back from his previous disposition. "Going to graduate soon?"
"I'm at the top of the class," Sasuke said proudly, crossing his arms. "Naruto's still dead last—"
"Am not!" he interrupted. "Only in the stupid writing classes—ugh, I hate studying for those."
"And Sakura," he continued, as if Naruto hadn't spoken, "still sleeps through most of the lessons."
She shot him a glare. "How many times have I told you that it's meditation, not sleeping!"
Sasuke snorted. "Yeah, and remember when Iruka-sensei tried to get your attention for five minutes but you wouldn't wake up no matter what."
"Whatever," she grumbled. "At least I always beat you in taijutsu."
Sasuke promptly turned tomato red, eyes blazing in embarrassment, and Shisui burst into laughter.
"Ah, poor Sasuke! Is Sakura-chan still beating you?" he clutched his stomach, wiping a nonexistent tear from his eyes. "Oh man, just give it up, my dear cousin."
"I will not!" Sasuke declared, his face burning. He shot her a glare. "Just wait until I awaken my Sharingan—I'll totally win."
She raised a delicate brow. "Are you, Sasuke, suggesting that you can't defeat me otherwise? Well… I suppose if it'll make you feel better, then sure, go ahead."
Shisui erupted into laughter again and Sasuke stiffened.
"Give it up, Sasuke," Itachi pitched in, lips curved into a rare smile. "Leave taijutsu to Sakura-san and you can focus on ninjutsu."
Sasuke sighed. "Fine. Then what's the dobe going to specialize in?"
"I think Naruto can do ninjutsu too," she suggested. "He's got tons of chakra anyway, it doesn't even matter how bad his control is."
"Yeah!" Naruto agreed. "I'll totally be awesome at ninjutsu!"
"You're on," Sasuke immediately challenged. "I don't lose to anybody."
Shisui grinned. "Except to Sakura-chan."