- Chapter Three –
A New Guest Arrives
When morning finally came, Sakura's body awoke quicker than her mind and she slipped out of bed on autopilot, still groggy and unfortunately forgetting that she wasn't alone in her apartment. Yawning into her fist and blinking wearily, she shuffled into her kitchen to pour herself a glass of juice before making her way towards her living room. She spared the sleeping form on her couch a tired glance and thought nothing of it for a few moments until her mind finally caught up.
Reeling backwards, she kept herself from tripping over her feet and stared wide-eyed at the man before slapping a hand to her forehead as she remembered, yes, the previous night really did happen.
Sai was indeed still asleep, his face peaceful and his breathing steady, and, all things considered, he looked like any normal guy. Distracted and still in the process of fully waking up, Sakura watched him for a few moments before finally turning away, pinching the bridge of her nose as she returned to the kitchen.
It'd be best if she acted like a proper host and made breakfast.
Only, Sakura's plans for pancakes were quickly put on hold as she remembered, right, Sai was from the 16th century. A modern breakfast, even a Japanese one, would probably cause more culture shock than anything and Sakura really wasn't looking forward to trying to explain cereal and scrambled eggs to the knight.
After standing in front of her fridge for a few moments, racking her brain to try and remember what a typical breakfast during his time might have been – rice and? What else? Japan still had that ban on meat during the 16th century so bacon or sausage was definitely out – and inwardly wishing she'd taken a few culinary classes, she finally decided to just play it safe and make a few simple options, hoping Sai would be able to find something to his tastes.
In the end, she might have gone a little overboard.
Sakura felt an odd urge to take a few pictures of the array of food she'd prepared, grinning down at the small dishes of rice, pickled daikon, miso soup, broiled salmon, natto, toast (with a choice of either margarine or strawberry jam), simple omelets, umeboshi, nori, and apple and mandarin orange slices, all ready for sampling. Nodding in approval, she turned to check on the tea before catching sight of Sai standing unsurely in the doorway, his expression blank but his eyes on the table of food. She sent him a sheepish smile, running her fingers through her hair as she retrieved a pair of cups from the cabinet.
"I hope you slept well. Feel free to eat as much as you like – I wasn't sure what you'd prefer to eat and I don't know if five hundred years in a painting has actually left you feeling hungry but, uhm..." Sakura paused after trailing off, feeling a little embarrassed as Sai continued to stare at her, before quickly pouring some tea and taking a seat at the table.
Sai was quiet for a few moments before he sent her an appreciative nod and that odd smile of his, moving to sit as well. "Thank you, Sakura. It all smells delicious."
Sakura fought down her blush but sent him a small smile in reply before distracting herself with grabbing a slice of toast, inwardly wondering just how she was going to get through this.
Breakfast was quiet and passed fairly quickly, though Sakura was still pretty distracted. The knight had politely sampled a little of everything but seemed to be just as lost in thought and, eventually, she felt compelled to break the awkward air.
"I technically don't work today," Sakura began, fidgeting slightly when Sai glanced up at her before continuing, "But Sasori wants us to come by the museum later this afternoon to get things ready. So, I've got all morning to attempt to catch you up on roughly five centuries worth of history, but that's nowhere near enough time to even make a dent."
She nervously combed her fingers through her hair before standing, moving to gather the dirty dishes before glancing over at him. "Basically, what I'm trying to say is, well, is there anywhere you'd like to start? Any particular questions? Or do you just want to start from the top and we'll see how far we get?"
Sai looked thoughtful for a few moments, holding his cup of tea carefully as he glanced around the kitchen.
"I do have a few questions, actually..."
They spent most of the morning discussing modern technology – Sakura explaining electricity to the best of her abilities and teaching him the purposes and functions of various objects Sai pointed out. They were very light lessons since she was a little worried about overwhelming him with so much information but, eventually, she began to delve more into what Japan was like in the world today.
Inwardly, she knew she'd eventually have to get into some of the nasty events of the past five hundred years but, for now, she just wanted to teach him enough so that he wasn't completely lost.
The possibility of her having to repeat these 'lessons' to at least seven more knights was a thought she aggressively ignored.
Eventually, they took a break, the pair resting on the couch as Sai processed all of this new information and Sakura sending him a thoughtful look. After a few moments she was unable to contain her curiosity any longer and she turned to face him, leaning forward and resting her chin in her hand.
Sai was quick to notice and he inclined his head in her direction, waiting for her to speak.
"So," Sakura started off, watching him attentively, "Exactly what kind of magic can you do? I know you made the whole portrait spell, but what else can you do, Sai?"
He looked a little surprised by her questions, but quickly recovered, sending her a smile as he turned to face her more directly.
"My main technique involves imbuing ink with my magic." Sai explained, looking thoughtful as he figured out the best way to describe it to her. "I can bring my drawings to life, for limited amounts of time, and control them."
Sakura scooted a little closer, eyes wide with interest.
"Whoa, really? What kind of drawings? Like, of people?"
He shook his head, but smiled – this one seeming more... genuine than the others he'd given her.
"Mostly animals. Giant hawks, lion-dogs, snakes..." With a glance at her intrigued expression, he continued, reaching up to scratch his cheek absent-mindedly. "I can also transform words into smaller creatures – very useful for sending messages."
Sakura grinned, sitting back slightly as she tried to imagine it. "That's sounds so amazing! I'd love to see it."
Sai quickly replied, a pleasant feeling in his chest from her interest in his abilities.
"When my magic fully returns, I can show you."
Her smile was immediate and he couldn't help but return it as she beamed at him, a gentle, comforting feeling washing over him. The two chatted for a while longer, comparing their childhoods and giving each other brief glimpses into their lives. At some point, Sakura's phone went off and Sai watched her curiously as she texted her mother, bringing up a whole different conversation of modern day communication.
After brushing up on his literacy abilities – he could read and write, just as he'd mentioned, and hiragana hadn't changed too drastically over the past few centuries – Sakura showed him her collection of encyclopedia (Encyclopedia Nipponica and Heibonsha World Encyclopedia – all twenty-six and thirty-five volumes, respectively) and tossed him a dictionary just in case before hurrying to her bedroom to get dressed. When she returned, Sai was flipping through the pages of the dictionary, obviously not too focused on the words, before glancing up at her curiously.
"I'm gonna head out and get you some actual clothes since I'm sure you won't want to be stuck in that," she gestured to his plain T-shirt and sweatpants combo, "Forever. I could probably find more of Naruto's clothes hiding around the apartment if I searched hard enough, but I'm sure Sasori will be more than happy to cover any additional expenses while you're staying with me."
Sakura grinned to herself – there was no way she was going to let Sasori make her do this for free.
Sai nodded quietly from his seat on the couch, glancing down at his clothing.
"I'll be back pretty soon." She continued, stuffing her wallet into her purse, "Feel free to read if you want, but I'm sure you've got a pretty big case of information overload so just, uhm, relax? Here let me show you how to use the TV."
When Sakura returned with a few sets of casual clothes that were close to Sai's size (if, maybe, a little too big), the knight was still on her couch, thoroughly invested in some cooking show with one of the encyclopedia volumes at his side. She was pleased – it'd been a bit of a challenge to explain television to him – and greeted Sai with a smile, holding up the bags as she made a mental note to start a collection of receipts to later 'bill' Sasori with.
"We've got enough time for lunch and a shower, if you're up for bathing – just the thought of being in that stuffy basement makes me feel gross..."
Sai regarded Sakura silently for a few moments before offering her that close-eyed smile once more, nodding in agreement.
"I would appreciate that, yes."
After a brief explanation of modern bathrooms and how to use her shower – he seemed to be taking everything in stride and, inwardly, Sakura assumed that his easy acceptance of all this new technology could be credited to the fact that it probably seemed a lot like magic – and a hurried apology for only having fruity and sweet-smelling soaps, Sakura left him to bathe on his own, leaving the bags of clothes in the bathroom. Sai emerged some time later, hair smelling like her shampoo and dressed almost unsurely in jeans and a loose-fitting grey shirt, and she grinned, nodding in approval before finishing up with preparing a quick lunch.
The morning and early afternoon passed by quickly with the pair lounging about in the apartment, Sai fixated with the TV and occasionally bringing a new subject of interest up with Sakura, listening attentively as she explained more modern customs and mannerisms and a brief overview of proper etiquette for people today. She was sure it would take a long time for everything to sink in and for Sai to actually get used to 'modern day behavior', but she was glad that he wanted to learn.
Eventually, it was nearing time for them to meet with Sasori and Sakura quickly grabbed her purse and keys before ushering the quiet knight to the front door. The drive to the museum was mostly silent but Sakura was beginning to get used to Sai's personality, patiently answering his questions when he pointed out something they passed by, but, otherwise, sitting in silence. It was about 5:30 PM when they arrived at the museum and, surprisingly, the place looked pretty deserted.
They approached the front doors of the museum and Sakura spared the sign taped to the glass a quick, curious glance – "Temporarily Closed for Renovations" – before opening the, fortunately unlocked, door and motioning for Sai to follow her. He looked around curiously as they walk through the dim lobby, heading for Sasori's office and relieved to find light shining from behind the door. Knocking once to announce their arrival, the pair barely had a moment to wait before the door was opening and Sasori – scowling, perpetually annoyed Sasori – exited his office and motioned for them to follow.
"I trust Haruno has been a satisfactory hostess." The curator said before anyone else could speak, glancing back at Sai, who simply nodded and smiled in reply.
"What's with the sign up front?" Sakura questioned, frowning at the redhead's back. "You're really closing the museum for all of this?"
"For now, it is necessary." It became apparent now that Sasori was leading them back to the door to the storage basement. "I was busy all day with making preparations and trying to figure just what I'm going to do when all the knights emerge."
He paused after they made their way down the stairs, swinging open the door to the room still housing the portraits and flipping the light switch.
"Unfortunately, I didn't have time to properly clear out the room so," He looked to Sakura, nodding towards the boxes and old displays and taxidermy animals, "Get to work."
Eyes narrowed, Sakura crossed her arms and tapped a foot in irritation before replying with a simple, "I'm not on the clock right now."
Sasori gave an annoyed sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose before shooting her a glare. "You'll be paid, stop acting like a child. There's no telling what will happen as the knights appear so we need to take precautions and empty the room. I need to speak with Sai so, please, Haruno, get started on this and I'll aide you when I'm finished."
The look on his face didn't leave her any room to argue and, with a huff, Sakura started clearing out boxes, glancing over her shoulder to watch Sasori usher Sai out of the room, his voice low as he spoke to the knight. They didn't leave the basement but she couldn't hear the entirety of their conversation, only catching small snippets – most of what she overheard was in regards to what magic each knight specialized in, probably to give Sasori a better idea of what to expect as the spell on the paintings broke. Sasori did eventually return to help her clear out the room and, by the time the room was empty of everything except the portraits, Sakura was beginning to feel a little nervous.
Sai's painting had ripped open and nearly flooded the room with ink – what on earth would happen this time? The knight had guessed that Temari, Sasori's ancestor, would be next and the pinkette sent the woman's portrait a wary glance before glancing down at her phone. It hadn't seemed like much time had passed since they'd arrived at the museum, but it was nearing 7 PM now and Sakura leaned against one of the bare walls, only half-heartedly listening to the men talk.
Eventually, Sakura swore she felt a sudden drop in the temperature in the room and she turned her attention to Sabaku Temari's portrait, the hair on her arms standing on end and a slight chill in the air. There was a soft groan and Sai and Sasori stopped mid-conversation, glancing over at the painting as well before approaching Sakura to stand with her as they waited. She felt a breeze brush the back of her neck and, after a moment of watching her hair begin to sway, she realized that a light wind was suddenly circling through the room.
Another groan from the frame of the painting, louder this time, and the wind began to pick up, the light breeze ruffling her hair quickly becoming stronger as the sound of rushing wind and groaning wood filled the room. Both she and Sasori jumped slightly when there was sudden movement in the painting, similar to what Sai's had done. The canvas began to bulge out and the wind became more violent, whipping around them with nearly enough force to knock her over.
"Did this happen last time?!" Sasori called through the deafening gusts, taking a step back as he tried to brace himself.
Sakura pressed herself against the wall, squinting through the turbulence to try and keep the straining portrait in her sight, and yelled back in reply.
"No! What's happening?!"
"Temari specializes in magic that harvests and controls the winds – I imagine this is a result of her abilities." Sai could barely be heard over the roar of the gusts, quickly reaching out to hold an arm in front of Sakura when she was suddenly rocked forward and nearly lost her footing. Grimacing, he took her wrist and grabbed Sasori's attention, motioning towards the open door. The wind in the room was circulating in a way that kept the door wide open, slammed against the inner wall of the room with almost too much resistance for them to move it.
All three quickly piled behind the door for cover, the wind turning violent and the remaining six portraits were banging against the wall (though, luckily, they seemed like they were going to stay in place). Sakura tried to make herself as small as possible, head down to shield her face and suddenly aware of Sai pressing against her back, keeping her between him and the door. She felt her face grow warm but ignored it in favor of trying to shout over the wind.
"It's like a tornado! This is going to get bad if it doesn't stop soon!"
As if on cue, there was a sudden crack and all three heard the sound of canvas tearing, the room flooded with an even stronger rush of wind before, suddenly, it died down. Within moments, the air was still and all was quiet, save for the slow creak of the door as it slowly swung shut and the groan of the knight kneeling in the middle of the room. She looked exactly like her portrait, dressed in her armor and that odd black box at her side as she raised a hand to her forehead, a few stray strands of her blonde hair falling over her face. Behind her, the portrait was blank, the canvas ripped to shreds and even the wooden frame broken and cracked in spots.
Sai took a step forward and the movement caught her attention, her head snapping up to look at the other three people. The new knight looked relieved when she recognized Sai (but not before staring at him quizzically for a few moments, eyeing his strange clothing) and her gaze traveled to Sakura, expression confused, before she noticed Sasori.
She gave a brief, excited smile before she seemed to really look at him, her expression falling as she slumped slightly. The blonde attempted to rise to her feet but stumbled slightly, Sai rushing to her side to steady her. She looked like she wanted to speak but was quickly distracted by a short coughing fit, leaning against Sai for a moment as she caught her breath. After a moment, she seemed to have recovered and, still standing unsteadily, she frowned at her fellow knight.
"Sai, where are we?"
He sent her that smile of his, patting her back gently before replying.
"I think you'll be more concerned with the current year, rather than our location."
She sent him a slightly startled look before returning her attention to Sasori and Sakura, the former stepping forward.
"Lady Sabaku Temari, the Prudent, Gale of the South?"
Temari regarded him with slight suspicion before slowly nodding.
"Yes? Who are you? What is going on?"
Sasori glanced to Sai before offering her an apologetic look. "We will explain everything, but I think you'll want to sit down first."
All things considered, Temari took the news pretty well.
Of course, she'd been there when Sai first cast the spell, so it wasn't too surprising. Temari greeted Sasori exuberantly when she learned that he was a descendant of her family, briefly remarking that he looked a little similar to her father and her youngest brother.
She also seemed very interested in Sakura and spent quite a while questioning her about herself after Sasori and Sai explained the current situation. Curious about the mystery of how Sakura had managed to break the spell, Temari inspected the younger woman thoroughly before shrugging to herself, sure that they'd figure it out eventually. The blonde knight was much more relaxed and was quick to thank Sakura for her hospitality when she learned that the pinkette would be housing her and Sai for the time being.
Sasori collected her armor and the long black box – which turned out to be a huge folding fan, storing everything with Sai's armor in his office as he made plans for the three to return the next day.
"As long as the knights' arrivals stick to a daily schedule, we should be able to control the situation. Haruno, I'm entrusting you with helping the knights adjust for now, but I'm sure I'll figure out a further use for you once the spell has fully broken." Sakura frowned at this, crossing her arms but not bothering to argue, and Sasori continued. "In the meantime, I will be searching through my family's records to see if there's anything I've missed that might help with locating Kabuto's portrait."
Everything settled, Sasori stayed behind to finish working on a few things while the other three headed out to Sakura's car, the knights making hushed conversation as they made plans for when the rest of their companions were finally released.
Making their way out of the museum, Temari was obviously very intrigued by her surroundings but she restrained her questions for now, barely holding back a yawn as Sakura drove the knights home. She looked thoughtful throughout the drive, her curious expression soon becoming more solemn and leaving Sakura to wonder what was going through her mind.
The evening repeated very similarly to the one before, with Sakura grabbing spare clothes and bedding for Temari but, this time, she prepared a quick dinner for herself and her guests. Temari examined her kitchen curiously but, otherwise, kept mostly to herself as she steadily adjusted to the current circumstances.
Sai seemed comfortable enough by himself in the living room and soon retired to bed after dinner, dressed in comfortable pajamas Sakura had bought earlier that day and wishing the women a good night. Temari had a slightly larger build compared to Sakura, but her clothes fit well enough and, after pointing out the bathroom and assuring her that she was free to sleep in as late as she wanted, the pinkette led the knight to her bedroom.
"I've only got one couch but you can have my bed. I gonna run out of room for you guys real fast if Sasori doesn't come up with an alternative..."
The blonde was a little distracted, inspecting the pajamas Sakura had given her, but glanced up curiously when they entered the bedroom. She eyed the bed with furrowed brows for a moment before catching Sakura's arm as she moved to set up a spot on the floor for herself. Sending the knight a questioning look, she paused, head tilted slightly as she waited.
"I, ah, wouldn't mind if we shared the bed." Temari said, looking a little embarrassed. "I'd hate to force my host out of her own bed and, well," She paused, rubbing her arm as she suddenly looked very worn-out. "When I was younger, my brothers would often sneak into my room at night, so I'm used to sharing a bed and it's honestly a little... comforting for me."
Sakura had a suspicion that this was more of a request than just Temari being polite – she knew that the knight had left actual family members behind and the thought of how much she must be missing her brothers was more than enough to fill her with sympathy.
Sending the blonde a gentle smile, she quickly agreed and moved to rearrange a few pillows and blankets on the bed. The mattress was big enough to accommodate them both comfortably and, with the lights out, Sakura wished the blonde a good night and let herself drift off.
At some point during the night, Sakura awoke, mind just barely conscious enough to realize that Temari was still awake. The knight was staring up at the ceiling, her expression tired and obviously unable to fall asleep. Concerned, Sakura slowly sat up and sent her a sympathetic look.
Temari sighed, rubbing her face before rolling onto her side to face Sakura.
"It's so quiet. I used to spend a lot of nights camping and falling asleep to the sounds of the wildlife, so it's a little unnerving for everything to be so silent." She looked a little embarrassed after admitting this but Sakura had a sudden idea, quickly slipping out of bed as she grabbed her laptop and a pair of headphones.
"I think I have a solution for that."
She spent a few minutes searching through the internet, Temari watching her curiously, before she found what she was looking for. Testing out the audio of the forest night ambience video, she set it to loop and offered the headphones to the blonde, smiling softly.
"There's gonna be sounds coming out of these," She gestured at the headphones, "So don't freak out. Think of it like, uhm, someone playing music for only you to hear? But the music is, well, here..."
Still a little confused, Temari put the headphones on as Sakura directed, jumping slightly when the audio began before sending her an excited smile. After showing the blonde how to adjust the level of the volume – she had a feeling Temari's first questions in the morning would be in regards to this – and plugging in her charger, Sakura got comfortable on the bed once more, soon drifting back to sleep.
The blonde knight didn't wake up until early-afternoon, but Sakura wasn't surprised.
She grabbed her phone before heading out, leaving the other woman to sleep as she entered the living room and greeted Sai, who'd apparently been awake for a while now. He was browsing through one of the encyclopedia volumes and almost instantly began bombarding her with questions when she appeared. After a fifteen-minute discussion over the topic of airplanes and air-travel, Sai finally let her leave the living room, the pinkette shuffling into the kitchen.
He followed after her, the book tucked under his arm as he watched Sakura start working on breakfast, gaze attentive. It didn't take long for her to notice the way he was staring, standing next to the table with his eyes on the stove as she twisted knobs and grabbed utensils.
Grinning, she nodded him over. "You wanna help make breakfast? Best way to learn about all this stuff is to experiment with it."
He gave a small nod and, with a smile, Sakura showed him how to work the gas stove, inwardly searching through her mind for useless facts in regards to kitchen appliances. Sai would have missed the development of the raised kamado but, really, the concept of cooking hadn't changed much. Being able to adjust the temperature was convenient, but it didn't take him long to start grilling the fish with almost practiced ease. The pair got to work on creating a breakfast very similar to the previous morning, though with larger portions.
At some point, Sakura realized that Sai was eyeing the rice cooker curiously and, with a grin, she nudged his arm, flipping one of the omelets.
"Wanna try it out?"
"What is it used for?"
"Rice." She laughed at his frown and waved him over, giving him careful instructions on how to use the rice cooker.
Preparing breakfast went faster with the two of them working together, but Temari never appeared. Sakura had no problem with letting the woman sleep and set aside the extra food when it became apparent that she wasn't going to wake up in time to join them for breakfast.
The morning passed slowly, TV breaks sprinkled between mock-lessons – Sai was quickly becoming invested in nature documentaries and cooking shows – and, eventually, Temari emerged from the bedroom, her hair messy and her stomach growling.
Sakura looked up from the globe she'd set on the coffee table in the living room when she heard the blonde shuffle in, smiling in greeting while Sai compared the globe of the Earth to the flat map spread out next to it, a sandwich in his hand.
"Morning, Temari. I hope you slept okay. Hungry?"
Temari eyed the sandwich Sai was eating with a curious look, an eyebrow raised, but another growl came from her stomach before she could reply. Cheeks flushing a bit, she nodded and sent Sakura a sheepish smile.
"We've got some leftovers from breakfast and I can make some more rice – sandwiches too if you're interested." Sakura mused aloud, moving to stand. "Sai probably has a better idea of your palette, so I'm sure he could make a few recommendations..."
Sai quickly put a hand on her arm, smiling up at her as he stood instead.
"Allow me, Sakura. I'm sure Temari has a lot of questions and it won't be long before we should be returning to the museum."
Sakura was a little surprised at his offer but returned the smile, waving Temari over as she watched Sai move towards the kitchen. The blonde took a seat next to her on the couch and their discussion over the past five-hundred years quickly began.
Temari was mostly interested in the government at first and Sakura spent a while explaining the current constitutional monarchy and rights of modern citizens, as well as some of the major historical events, before the conversation inevitably turned to the topic of technology. At some point, Sai called them into the kitchen and Sakura was both shocked and inwardly pleased to find that he'd made tea, apparently having figured out how to use her electric kettle on his own. She took the cup he offered her with a gracious smile and continued to answer Temari's questions as the blonde ate.
By the time they were done, Temari was very interested in the thought of a shower – or, rather, just bathing in general; she admitted to feeling less than fresh after spending nearly five hundred years under a spell and was dying for a bath – and was quick to figure out how to use the shower, grinning to herself as she smelled Sakura's soaps. After freshening up, the blonde spent a few minutes inspecting Sakura's wardrobe, asking about some of the graphic T-shirts and what they referenced, before eventually tossing on some clothes.
The three left for the museum, Temari up front and inspecting the radio and AC while Sai continued to skim through one of the encyclopedia volumes from the backseat. After entering the quiet museum and greeting the curator, the group headed down to the storage basement and waited for the next knight to emerge, unsure of who it would be.
By 10PM, nothing had happened.
Sasori had gone out to get take-out for everyone a couple hours prior when there had been no activity from the paintings and Sakura inwardly wished she'd brought her laptop. There was very little to do while they waited, but the knights took advantage of the free time by asking both Sasori and Sakura any questions that popped into their heads.
Sakura stifled a yawn into her hand, in the middle of showing Sai how to use the touch-screen keyboard on her phone. Temari had headed upstairs about half an hour ago, wandering through museum while Sasori traveled to his office for a few minutes.
When he returned, he gave an annoyed grunt, leaning against the doorframe as he crossed his arms and shot a glare at the still portraits. He didn't have enough patience for this shit.
Still, he waited a few minutes longer until Temari returned as well, nodding in greeting before addressing the room.
"Alright," Sasori said after a moment, pinching the bridge of his nose, "Obvious nothing is going to happen tonight. You are welcome to stay and spend the night in this room, but you're not obligated to."
Sakura frowned to herself, glancing to the paintings, and the curator continued.
"I, however, will stay here, just in case someone does emerge. It would be a bad idea to just leave and hope a knight doesn't pop out in the middle of the night with no one here to explain anything. I'd probably come back to the museum in ruins..."
Nodding to herself, Sakura stood and stretched, more than happy to head home. Sai followed suit but sent a glance to Temari, who replied with a grin.
"I'll stay as well." The blonde knight announced, smiling at the curator. "It'd help if they were welcomed by a familiar face and, besides," she paused, draping an arm over Sasori's shoulder and ignoring his sputter, "It'll give me some time to get to know my grandnephew!"
Sakura giggled to herself and bid the pair farewell, walking with Sai as they left the museum. It was pretty late in the evening when they returned to her apartment so they both were quick to head to bed. Inwardly, Sakura hoped Temari would be able to sleep well enough without the ambience audio and fell asleep making plans to bring packed breakfasts to both the knight and her boss in the morning.
However, the next day passed with no new activity from the portraits.
After preparing enough breakfast – mostly simple stuff this time, though she did make some pancakes to see how Temari and Sai liked them – for everyone and loading some blankets and pillows into her car, Sakura grabbed her laptop, chargers for both it and her phone, and a few books and drove herself and Sai back to the museum. The four spent the day at the museum, dragging some spare chairs and a table from storage into the portraits' room while they waited for something to happen.
Sai and Temari were obviously beginning to get a little worried, but distracted themselves by learning all they could from Sakura and Sasori, the knights huddling around the pinkette's laptop as she browsed the internet.
Having retrieved his paintbrush, supply of ink, and scroll from the curator's office, Sai spent a while bent over the table, concentrating on the ink. Eventually, he suddenly sat up, waving for Sakura's attention, a pleased look on his face.
She sent him a questioning look and approached, sending the pair of ink mice drawn onto the scroll a curious glance.
"My magic has been steadily returning over the past couple of days, still filtering through you," He explained before nodding down at the mice. As Sakura watched, the drawings shifted slightly before they seemed to lift off of the paper, coming to life before her eyes. She gave an excited gasp and crouched down next to him, watching as the mice scampered across the table before approaching her. "I'm not at full-power yet, but it's definitely grown stronger. I imagine that I'll have fully regained my magic in a few more days' time."
The mice ran around on the table, much to Sakura's delight, for a few more moments before dissolving, the ink splattering on the table. She sent the knight a grin and quickly began to ask him more about his magic, inwardly excited at the thought of him making bigger creatures.
Sasori went out for food again later in the day but, otherwise, stayed with the three in the room and, by the time the evening came, everyone was a little antsy. All four stayed the night, too concerned to leave, and made themselves as comfortable as possible on the blankets and pillows Sakura had brought. Temari gave her a thankful smile when she offered her laptop again to help her sleep, the blonde looking much more tired than she was letting on.
The basement was by no means a pleasant place to sleep, but the night passed uneventfully.
Finally, fairly late in the morning, something happened.
Sakura had just returned with pastries and tea for everyone when the temperature in the room suddenly dropped. Everyone froze, their attention snapping to the line of portraits as they held their breaths and waited.
It was silent for a few moments until there was a soft crackle in the air, almost like static, and a sudden, barely visible, spark of light danced off the portrait the farthest from the door.
They all watched and another spark shot off, the sound of the electric crackling growing louder.
Temari and Sai exchanged knowing, slightly worried, glances, the former muttering a name under her breath and the latter nodding in agreement.
Sakura and Sasori were thoroughly invested in watching the sparks of electricity dart out of the seams between canvas and frame but the knights rushed to action, Temari grabbing the pinkette's wrist and hurriedly tugging her out of the room while Sai took the curator's arm and followed suit.
Sai slammed the door shut behind him and their questions were quickly cut off by a loud crack, as if lightning had just struck.
In fact, it sounded like there was an entire thunderstorm forming in the room. Bright light, streaked with white and blue, flashed under the door and the sound of sparking electricity and lightening grew louder and more frequent. They took hurried steps back when sparks danced through the cracks between the frame and door, the chattering and flashes growing more and more frequent until-
Everyone rushed forward, opening the door quickly and just in time to see a ball of while light take form in the middle of the room, quickly materializing into a person, posing very similarly to the knight in the painting. Within seconds, the light washed away and the new knight, standing in mid-strike, moved, his raised sword swinging down, but slicing through thin air.
The silver-haired man stumbled forwards in surprise, quickly looking around in confusion. His movements were frantic, but he quickly froze when he spotted his companions, body swaying before a violent coughing fit overtook him. Temari and Sai were quickly at his side, holding him steady and greeting him with happy, if slightly worried, smiles.
"T-Temari?" His voice sounded hoarse and he stumbled through his words slightly as he caught his breath. "Sai? What's going on? Where's Kabuto? What are you two doing here?"
The blonde knight gave him a quick pat on the back as she and Sai led him over to one of the chairs in the room.
The room itself was a mess, the furniture and walls scorched by the lightning strikes and a few of Sakura's blankets charred and ruined. The canvas of his portrait was tattered and burned, the ripped pieces smoking slightly and scorch-marks spread over the wooden frame. The other portraits, unsurprisingly, were unharmed.
"Well, to put things simply, Kakashi… You've been stuck in a spell – originally casted by Kabuto, of course – for almost five hundred years," Temari answered, grabbing one of the cups of tea that hadn't been knocked over and offering it to the older knight – Kakashi – before continuing. "We couldn't break the spell over everyone so Sai casted his own."
She nodded in the direction of the wall of portraits and Kakashi stared, shoulders slumping in disbelief as he took in the various paintings depicting his companions in battle.
"Five hundred...- How did-? Why are we-?" He floundered around for a few moments, trying to figure out what to say, until his attention snapped to the side as Sasori and Sakura carefully approached.
His gaze fell on Sakura, eyes widening in shock before he seemed to relax, letting out an amused, yet strained, laugh as he reached up to run gauntlet-covered hand through his hair.
"Well, that explains things."
Sai and Temari exchanged confused glances and Sakura paused mid-step eyebrows furrowing.
Kakashi sent her a smile, looking a little dazzled, before he stood and approached her, stopping to drop to a knee and take Sakura's hand.
"I'm honored, my lady, to formally meet you. Hatake Kakashi, the Intuitive."
Sai stepped forward, sending the older man a questioning look.
"What's going on, Kakashi? Why are you acting like you know her?"
Kakshi sent him a confused frown, straightening up carefully as he replied. "Don't you recognize her, Sai? I never met her personally but I definitely know her face - there were a few portraits of her in the estate's halls."
Sai continued to frown unsurely, but he scrutinized Sakura for a moment while Kakashi gave her another smile, his cloth mask hiding his face.
"This is obviously Lady Haruno Ume."
Temari's attention snapped to the pinkette, a shocked expression passing over both her and Sai's face. Sakura took a hesitant step back, blinking in confusion before she shook her head slowly, much to Kakashi's confusion.
"N-no I'm- I mean, yes, my surname is Haruno but-" She sputtered for a moment, combing her fingers through her hair and just barely catching Sai mutter "I thought 'Haruno' sounded familiar..." under his breath.
"My name is Sakura! I don't know wh-"
"Who is Haruno Ume?" Sasori suddenly asked, his eyes narrowed and ignoring the curious look Kakashi sent him.
Temari, who was regarding Sakura with a mix between recognition and astonishment, replied, almost unsurely. "She was a sorceress. A very powerful sorceress who died years before our time. She-"
"She was the sorceress who defeated Orochimaru." Sai interrupted, frowning to himself.
Kakashi nodded in agreement, moving to take a seat once more after bowing to Sakura, who looked bewildered, mind reeling.
"B-but- But! That's not me! I'm just Sakura, not a... What is going on..?"
Sai glanced over to the blonde knight, eyebrows furrowed.
"It would... It would explain how she managed to break both spells. Lady Ume created the spell Kabuto based his around."
"But that was centuries ago." Sasori interjected, arms crossed as he glanced over at the flustered girl. "Unless Sakura is over five hundred years old and is just not aware of it, it's impossible."
"Yeah!" Sakura paused, rubbing her temples as she tried to make sense of this.
"Pardon me – Sakura, was it?" Said Kakashi, looking more confused as he listened to their conversation. "But you share a striking resemblance to the Lady Ume. It can't be purely a coincidence."
"But, I..." Sakura groaned, leaning against the wall as she buried her face in her hands. "Maybe we're related? We're both Haruno's and I know for a fact that I'm only twenty-three, so maybe- I mean- UGH, this can't be happening."
"Madara would know." Temari said suddenly, her expression serious. All eyes turned to her, both of the other knights nodding slowly in agreement while Sakura and Sasori regarded her with confusion.
She nodded at the curator's question, turning to approach one of the portraits while Kakashi answered.
"Madara knew Lady Ume personally – he was her apprentice." The silver-haired man turned to send Sakura a gentle smile and Temari stopped in front of who she presumed was Madara. "Whether you are the Lady Ume herself or simply her descendant, or perhaps some sort of reincarnation, Madara will know."
"He's the only person who knows what happened to Haruno Ume, before she disappeared..."
Sakura frowned to herself and approached the painting Temari was inspecting. She quickly recognized it as the black-haired knight she'd found oddly familiar.
Her mind reeled at the thought – what was going on – and she found herself unable to look away, hundreds of questions swimming through her brain as she stared at the knight in the painting, unable to figure out why his face seemed so familiar to her and almost afraid to know the answer.
notes: slamdunks this chapter and ollies out im finally fuckign done with it goddamn
didn't like this chapter much but! Now we can finally get to the interesting stuff hehehe
hope you enjoyed! sorry the wait ;w; I plan to cycle through incantation, bad blood, and cherry bomb's updates before I get back to this one but! Hopefully it wont take too long!
thanks for reading! please leave a review if you enjoyed the chapter!