Chapter 20: Chrysalis Cracked
"Everything has changed
I am more me
than I've ever been."
"Just inhale deeply, and try not to tense your muscles," the nurse's artificially soft voice instructed.
Sakura grit her teeth, and had to count to three in her head before she could even contemplate unclenching the tight shell her body had become. The nurse had made her remove her shirt after all. And even for someone who didn't avoid touch, the situation would be uncomfortable enough.
Reluctantly, she inhaled and uncoiled her tense posture. Goosebumps crept across her skin, as if trying to add more protection. And the sight of the unfamiliar woman nearing her vulnerable flesh, especially wielding a pair of scissors nearly had her tensing up again.
So Sakura did the unthinkable, and closed her eyes at she felt the scissors snip the first stitch on her side.
It went against every instinct and rule that both her training and experience taught her. Because even nurses could be enemies in disguise- and closing your eyes when a stranger was manipulating your body was never a good idea. But it was also the only way she was going to get through this little procedure without her nerves crawling their way out of her skull.
And while the process was not painful, the sound of the scissors snipping the thread from her body felt unpleasantly loud. The noise, coupled with the nauseating smell that seemingly permeated every hospital, and her lack of sleep, had Sakura's anxiety reeling.
"All done Sakura-chan," the nurse said. She offered Sakura a large grin, while she smeared a thick paste on the scar, "You did very well."
Sakura was tempted to scoff at the woman. Partly because the woman knew she was a nin, and was still treating her like a little civilian girl. And partly because she was also sure that she had not done very well.
Her body remained stiff as a stone, until the woman finished wrapping a small bandage over the puckered skin.
"Thank you for your help," Sakura said, sliding off the cold examination table.
And before the woman could utter another word, she was out the door and down the hall.
While it was true that most nin avoided hospitals- their pride and paranoia overcoming whatever painful ailment they were in, Sakura loathed them for a different reason…
Both of her parents had instructed her from a very young age to never enter a hospital. No matter how serious her potential injury or illness, she was never to come here. And now that she knew the truth about her parentage, their reasoning made sense. If anything, the feelings of paranoia were heightened around the hospital's sterile white walls.
Sakura's pace hastened as she spotted the glass doors leading to the streets. But at the sight of the familiar little creature standing on the other side of them, Sakura paused in her tracks.
Fear skittered down her spine- had Sasuke and Naruto told?
The little pug cocked its head at her from outside the door.
Had her two teammates gone to Kakashi-sensei and relayed to him what her grandmother had hissed at her at the festival? What grandmother Satomi had called her…
The infernal moniker that had confused, saddened, and recently infuriated her. The one that had haunted her for her entire life…
The one that her teammates had heard being directed towards her.
Sakura hadn't deigned to worry about this unfortunate incident too much at first. After all, Naruto was hardly one for putting two and two together. And although Sasuke had a surprisingly nosey side to him, she doubted he would question her about her clan elder.
…But then again, Naruto was no stranger to insults. He would without a doubt recognized her grandmother's unfriendly tone, and hateful words. And Sasuke, though much more subtle, was much more likely to actually investigate why her grandmother had uttered such a term.
Biting her lip, she watched as the pug huffed before scratching his ear. Her feet slowly moved forward again. There was no point staying in the hospital, even if the dog wasn't allowed in, Kakashi-sensei was, and he was obviously searching for her if he sent one of the pack out.
"Finally," the small dog grunted as she stepped through the door. "I thought my nose was going to dry up if I had to stand by this infernal place any longer."
The dog made a distinctly disgruntled snuffing noise. "Boss wants me to tell you that you are to head to the Hokage Tower."
Her breath caught in her throat, while her heartbeat decided to pick up the pace frantically. Sakura's feet stayed rooted to the ground as she stared at the little dog in horror.
Pakkun cocked his head.
Sakura closed her eyes and inhaled deeply for a moment. When she opened them, Pakkun was already trotting across the street in the direction of the Hokage Tower. Ice cold fear scuttled down her spine, as she reluctantly moved her feet to follow. After all, if she didn't show up, she doubted the next person they sent would be a dog…
"Did Kakashi-sensei say why he wanted to meet at the Hokage Tower?" Sakura asked the pug, already mentally preparing herself for his answer.
Pakkun's head turned and he studied her with large, watery eyes, "You're a skittish one, aren't you? Like a cat…"
The statement was so bizarre that she momentarily forgot her fear. "A cat?"
The dog nodded, "You're hesitant and curious. Boss didn't tell me why exactly I needed to fetch you."
The paranoia returned in double fold. It had to be something terrible or confidential- or both if he wouldn't even tell one of the pack.
Pakkun stopped at the foot of the stairs to Hokage Tower. "Alright, in you go. I have an appointment with Inzuka-san."
The toe of Sakura's boot hovered over the first step. Her eyes caught the ones of a nearby guard. Kami- this could be it… The secret blown… A secret that she hadn't even been able to keep for a week- even if it was her insipid grandmother's fault.
But if this was how things were going to end, than she was going to do it with dignity. She wouldn't bow her head in shame for her mother's ordered actions. Straightening her spine, Sakura marched up the stairs and through the hallway to the Hokage's office.
With each step she felt her confidence wanting to falter, but her face remained stubbornly stony. But she couldn't quite help the tremble that raced down her spine as her knuckles reached out and rapped on the heavy wooden door.
Her heart felt like it was going to explode once the door swung open, revealing not only Kakashi-sensei and the Hokage, but the rest of Team Seven too. Her gut clenched as she considered what they had probably spoken about.
"Ah, Sakura-chan, there you are! You're not usually this much of a slowpoke," Kakashi said in his usual lazy drawl.
Sakura's green eyes nervously darted between him and the aged figure of Sarutobi Hiruzen, who was puffing on his pipe.
"We were just discussing possible missions," Kakashi continued, lone eye studying her.
Sakura's heart stuttered, as relief overtook her system. Her whole body felt like slumping down in a pile of exhausted happiness.
"Yeah! So, like I was saying Gramps, we are totally awesome, butt-kicking shinobi- we deserve a higher ranking mission!" Naruto all but demanded.
Sarutobi just raised a bushy eyebrow in a distinctly unimpressed display before setting his pipe down.
"You're team has been the victim of not only one, but two attacks by S-ranked missing nin Naruto. All of the C-ranked missions currently take place outside of Konoha. I don't think it would be very wise to have you leave the safety of the village under these circumstances," the Hokage's low and steady voice declared.
"But Gramps, we are sick of cleaning up garbage! We will be much more valuable to the village in a higher ranked mission!"
"Naruto is right," Sasuke quietly declared- and by the slightly pinched look on his face, it was a difficult statement to make.
"Damn right I am!" Naruto's whiskered face resolutely nodded, before he fully comprehended exactly who his ally was in the conversation. His blue eyes widened as he whirled around of gape at Sasuke.
The Uchiha ignored him, and stared directly at the Hokage. "We are past the point of learning anything useful from D-ranked missions. Our teamwork is solid, and we would have Kakashi to look out for us. We are more useful to the village on a C-ranked mission."
"And what does the kunoichi of your team think about all this?" the Hokage's deep voice rumbled, as his warm eyes settled on her.
Sakura felt like flinching away from their intelligent depths, but knew better than to advertise her discomfort. Instead, she pondered his question for a minute.
Sasuke's statement 'our teamwork is solid' was utter bull considering how much he and Naruto fought, and how much she was hiding from her team. But… another mission right now would potentially distract her mind from all of the chaotic thoughts swirling around in it. Not to mention, this mission would take her out of the village and away from her family. And Sakura would rather have another showdown with Kita Mirai and the creepy grey haired nin, than have to put up with grandmother Satomi anymore.
She pasted a sweet smile on her face. "I agree with my teammates. We will never further our skill sets if our learning is being stunted."
Sarutobi's lips twitched for a moment, as if he was trying to hold back a grin. He sighed deeply- the kind of sigh that only the truly weary can emit, before his eyes traced each person in the room.
"-YES!" Naruto whooped, his fist punching the air.
The Hokage rolled his eyes and Sakura had the distinct impression that this type of interaction happened often between the two.
"I have a mission to the land of Waves. The client is actually on his way here now. It's a simple escort mission that shouldn't cause you too much trouble," the Hokage explained.
Naruto's eyes widened dramatically, "An escort mission! Who are we escorting? A prince, a medic, a rich merchant?"
The heavy oak door banged open just as the last word rolled off Naruto's excited tongue.
A tall man with short grey hair, and small spectacles that were hanging crookedly off his nose stepped into the room. And along with the man came the heavy scent of liquor.
Sakura wrinkled her nose as she took in the sight of the obviously drunk man.
"Look here Hokage- I can't wait any longer. I need to get back to Wave. Where's my escort?" the man demanded.
"Ah, Tazuna-san," Sarutobi said with an infinite amount of patience tempering his voice, especially considering how rude the man was being. "Your escort is actually standing right in front of you. Meet Team Seven."
Sakura let her lips curl down unpleasantly as she took in the sight of their drunken client, who was in turn observing them with a sneer on his intoxicated face. He seemed just as unimpressed as they did- which was ridiculous…
"These little runts are my escorts?" Tazuna scoffed.
Sakura sighed in defeat as she could practically hear the outrage simmering under Naruto's skin.
"Hey, who are you calling runt, you old fart!" Naruto practically growled, his blonde brows drawn together.
"I want real shinobi escorts Sarutobi, not a bunch of kids and their babysitter," Tazuna demanded, wobbling on his feet a bit.
This time, it was Sasuke who spoke up, "We are real shinobi, and if you don't accept our services, than I guess you're walking home alone."
Sakura stared at her dark haired teammate in slight shock. Sasuke wasn't usually one to let other people's opinions bother him, or to speak up against them… But Sasuke was a bit of a prideful peacock, so she shouldn't be too surprised.
Tazuna on the other hand was surprised. His rosy cheeks were sagged down with his gaping mouth, as he stared at the Uchiha.
Kakashi-sensei stepped forward, placing each of his hands on Sasuke and Naruto's shoulders. No doubt to silently tell them to shut up. And considering that Tazuna was their ticket to leaving the village, Sakura was inclined to agree with him. She didn't want to get fired before even leaving the Hokage's office.
"I assure you Tazuna-san that despite Team Seven's young appearance, and outspoken ways," Kakashi said this with a pointed glance at Naruto, "they are quite capable shinobi."
Tazuna grunted, "Fine. We leave tomorrow morning at sunrise." He turned and lumbered out the door.
Naruto snorted loudly when the closed behind him. "What an assh-"
"-Well I can already tell that your team won't be sent on any diplomacy missions Kakashi," Sarutobi said.
Kakashi's mask twitched, and Sakura would have thought the Hokage was berating him, if not for the amused glint in his eyes.
"I don't know Hokage-sama. I think Sakura-chan is diplomatic enough for the both of them."
Sakura caught her sensei's lone eye, and wondered if that was a compliment or not. Especially since Kakashi knew about her manipulative side.
"Alright Team Seven, you heard our client, we will meet him at the gates at five a.m. Just like our last mission out of the village, you will need to pack extra supplies, and a few extra weapons. Make sure you pack wisely," Kakashi said with a pointed look at Naruto.
"Good luck and represent our village well," the Hokage said, before dismissing them.
Sakura exhaled, and felt even more relieved as she stepped outside of Hokage Tower, the sunlight was warm on her face. She was safe, the secret was safe, and she was leaving the village and her horrid extended family behind. Things were looking up.
"Hey Sakura-chan, do you want to get Ichiraku's for lunch?"
Sakura looked over at Naruto with a bright smile on her face. Naruto looked slightly stunned at her uncharacteristic behaviour.
"Ramen sounds wonderful!"
Sasuke too looked a bit started at her cheerful demeanor and easy acceptance of Naruto's lunch date.
"We should celebrate our first C-ranked mission after all," Naruto continued, matching her quick stride toward the noodle stand.
Sasuke trailed behind the two, stony and silent, though Sakura knew that he too was pleased with the outcome of the Hokage's meeting.
When they reached Ichiraku's Sakura's eyes widened. An elderly man in his pajamas was sitting on one of the stools, slurping up noodles, while Ayame nervously watched.
Naruto blatantly stared as they each grabbed some stools further away from the man. Ayame quickly made her way over to them.
"Is everything okay?" Sakura quietly questioned the girl.
"Yeah, what's with that weirdo?" Naruto loudly asked.
Sasuke shook his head as Ayame nervously looked at the man.
"That's Ando-san. He's harmless, but his mind is starting to fade a bit," Ayame delicately said. "He shows up here a couple times a week before his daughter comes to get him. He's a nice man, but bad for business. Anyways, what can I get you?"
The three placed their order and chatted about the upcoming mission as they waited. And just as their ramen arrived, a flustered looking middle aged woman showed up."
"Dad, it's time to go home now," the woman quietly said, tugging on Ando's arm. Her face was bright red as she glanced over at Team Seven.
"Oh, I suppose my lunch break is over. I should head back to the field," Ando said as he rose off his stool.
"No dad, you don't work in the field anymore. Let's just go home."
"I don't?" Ando questioned as he was led off by his daughter.
Sakura watched with sympathy. Perhaps it was a bit unkind, but she hoped she would never end up like that man one day. She would much rather go down on the field than succumb to her own mind deteriorating.
And after witnessing the man's little display, the excited chatter of their C-ranked mission died down a little bit, until the three bid their farewells for the night.
Sakura dragged her feet slightly as she made her way home, knowing the unpleasantness that was waiting for her. Her extended family was still occupying her house, with seemingly no end date to their visit. It was something that made Sakura feel both antsy and annoyed. Because their secretive looks, and constant whispering made it alarmingly clear that they were up to something.
The shinobi in her demanded to know what. The mistreated youth in her didn't particularly care. None of them were a match for her anyhow. And though it was forbidden for a nin to attack a civilian, Sakura was practically itching for an excuse to punch someone- especially after her grandmother's horrid display in front of her teammates at the festival.
But thankfully when Sakura made it home, the Haruno's were all congregated in the backyard, enjoying the warm spring air. Sakura could only be thankful as she slipped up the stairs and into her room unnoticed.
She quickly got to work packing her bags for the early morning, and read through another scroll on ice jutsus before crawling into her bed. It was still a bit light out, and the jovial voices of the party outside were loud, but her earlier bouts of paranoid fear seemed to have exhausted her. It didn't take too long for her green eyes to shut, and her mind to drift off.
She was perched on craggy rock on the coast of the sea, and despite the ocean's angry waves, she felt nothing but content. The cold salt- water lapped at her bare legs, and she laughed freely at the feeling.
Another voice joined in her laughter.
She turned to see another girl, younger than herself with rich red hair, and brilliant green eyes also playing in the ocean.
Sunlight warmed her back, and she let a large smile stretch across her cheeks.
"Be careful Hisana," her voice reminded the laughing child.
She shut her eyes, letting the sun kiss her face, and lull her senses into a dreamlike state. Time passed slowly as she enjoyed the coolness of the ocean and hotness of the sun.
Until something felt amiss… her smile slipped off her face… green eyes slowly opened…
The girl's laughter had stopped.
She wrenched herself up off the rock and noticed a man holding Hisana. Her mouth was covered, and a kunai was biting at her jugular.
NO! Not Hisana- not her sister!
"Tell me where the scroll is, or the girl dies," the man snarled.
She felt boiling rage rapidly heat her veins; fire practically igniting the chakra in her throat.
"Kill yourself," she hissed, and the man removed the kunai from Hisana's neck before slitting his own throat.
Sakura wrenched her eyes opened, and immediately felt the sweat drenching her form. She exhaled shakily before slipping out of her bed and going across the hall into the bathroom. Turning the shower on, she stepped in and let freezing water both cool her body and sharpen her mind.
Something about that dream was… different.
It didn't feel like a dream, but rather a memory, which was ridiculous because it couldn't be her memory. And to be dreaming about someone else's memories just seemed outside the realm of possibility.
Reaching for the soap, Sakura lathered up her body, wanting to remove all the dried sweat that was making her skin itchy. But when she reached her thighs she was startled to notice the blood coating them.
Realistically she knew what this was. She knew that this was a natural cycle of her body. But knowing about menstruation and seeing the trail of scarlet did not make it any less jarring.
Swallowing her panic, and the impulse to shout for her mother, which would wake the whole house up, Sakura quickly cleaned her inner thighs and shut off the water. Grabbing a towel, she quickly wrapped it around herself, before routing through the cupboards in search of her mother's feminine things.
Embarrassing as it was to have to read the instructions on the tampon box, Sakura could only be glad that they came with them and she didn't have to wake her mother.
Quickly dressing in some black nin pants and a black shirt, Sakura shoved some more tampons into her pack before shouldering it and attaching her whip to her belt before heading downstairs. She scrawled a quick note to her mother before slipping out the door and into the brisk early morning air.
The walk to the village gates was peaceful, with Sakura only catching sight of one other man- a strange looking one in green spandex running by. She allowed the freshness of the oncoming day to relax her somewhat cramped body.
She was only slightly surprised when she reached the gates and Kakashi-sensei was actually already there with their client, who thankfully looked more sober than the day before.
"Ah- good morning Sakura-chan, we are just waiting on Naruto," Kakashi said.
Sakura turned and spotted Sasuke slumped on a nearby bench, sharpening his shuriken.
"I'M NOT LATE SENSEI," Naruto's booming voice declared, as he ran towards them, startling some birds from their trees.
"You're not quiet either," Tazuna grumbled under his breath.
"Alright Team Seven, we are going to take standard guard position as we leave the village. Sakura you take the left side, Sasuke, the front, Naruto, the right side, and I'll cover Tazuna-san's back," Kakashi ordered.
Sakura got into her position, waiting for her teammates to do the same, before they left the village.
But this time as they left Konoha's boundaries, Sakura did not let her awe and curiosity distract her. If her last mission had taught her anything, it was not to be distracted. She focused entirely on her surroundings and any potential threats as they marched forward at a much slower pace than usual due to their lumbering client.
And even though Sakura was young, she had experienced alcohol and its affects on people after seeing her father's binges. So it only took the girl about twenty minutes to realize that Tazuna was experiencing a hangover. And in his grumpy and unwell state, he seemed determined to make everyone else feel miserable as well.
"You, a ninja? You barely look like you could handle weeding someone's garden," Tazuna goaded Naruto.
Naruto's lips were twisted in a fierce scowl, and Sakura was almost tempted to laugh, as technically Tazuna wasn't wrong…
Sasuke caught Sakura's eyes and both of their lips twitched into smiles before they refocused on their task. But it was proving to be more and more difficult as Tazuna picked everyone apart. From Naruto being a runt, to Sasuke being a mute, to Sakura being a girly girl. The only person their annoying client hadn't decided to pick on was Kakashi, and that was probably because their sensei's reputation preceded him.
"And I thought Konoha was supposed to be one of the great Shinobi villages," Tazuna scoffed, causing Naruto's temper to boil over, losing whatever subtly they had as they trekked through the forest.
Sakura watched for a moment as Naruto's face turned angry red, as he shouted about how awesome the Hokage was. And in her distraction, she didn't notice her other teammate slip beside her.
"Did you enjoy the festival the other night?"
Sakura turned; surprised that Sasuke left his post, and even more surprised that he was trying to strike up a conversation with her.
She thought over Sasuke's question. For the most part she had immensely enjoyed the festival. Getting to spend it with her teammates instead of her clan had made it her most enjoyable one yet… until the end of the night at least.
"Yes, I had lots of fun. Did you?"
Sasuke nodded in return, his dark eyes once again darted over to her. And Sakura could feel apprehension build within her at the calculating glint in them.
"I hope you didn't get in trouble- your grandmother seemed upset," Sasuke continued, eyes watching her.
Sakura's breath caught in her throat. So he had noticed.
"No I didn't get in trouble," she replied, her response almost drowned out by Naruto's outraged argument with Tazuna. She kept her gaze focused on the surroundings, and purposely off of her dark haired teammate.
"Oh that's good," Sasuke said, and Sakura knew without looking that he was still studying her. "She called you something funny though…"
Sakura hummed noncommittally and prayed that Sasuke hadn't actually remembered the word. The world that would cause a whole skew of question she wasn't allowed to answer.
"Mongrel," Sasuke said, the world sounding even harsher coming out of his mouth.
And Sakura couldn't help the way her head snapped over, her green eyes clashing with his midnight ones. She hated the way he was studying her- analyzing her reaction.
Swallowing through her thick throat, cruel, but useful inspiration struck her. "My grandmother is a very elderly lady." Her eyes became steely as they met Sasuke's, "and sadly her mind is slipping a bit. Sometimes she gets confused, sometimes she even gets a little manic..."
Sakura watched, as her teammate seemed to process what she had just told him, knowing that the incident at Ichiraku's would only highlight her believability. And if someone thought her grandmother was going senile or crazy, all the better…
"I'm sorry to hear that," Sasuke said, and Sakura was slightly dismayed to note that his eyes looked just as cautious as her own.
Did he not believe her?
"If something bad was happening though, you would tell us, right?" Sasuke continued, holding her gaze.
Sakura bit her lip, knowing her answer, but not wanting to disappoint her stoic teammate.
A startled cry caused her to whip around though, her kunai at the ready.
Emerald eyes widened in horror as she noticed the chains wrapped around Kakashi. Before she could even process what was happening, two men yanked on either side of the chain, causing their sensei to explode…
A/N: Hey everyone, I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
I know a lot of you have been waiting a long time for this, and I'm sorry for the wait! Lots of exciting and slightly stressful things are happening in my life right now, so this story had to take the back burner for a bit. I am way to intrigued and invested to every abandon it though. And because it took me such a long time to get writing again, I did a little reread myself to get back on track.
That being said, please remember that writing is a hobby for me, and not my job. I received a lot of downright rude messages making all kinds of demands. I will update when I have time. If you don't like where my story is heading, than don't read it, or write your own!
I know how frustrating it is to be reading a story, and not have it updated for a long while/ever. But please remember that fanfiction writers are under no obligation to update their stories. Frustrating yes, but flooding them with hurtful messages or reviews is not going to inspire them to update.
Anyhow, rant over, and the majority of you were very kind and uplifting. I hope your summer's are going well and look forward to reading your reviews on the chapter!