Chapter EIGHT

The aftermath of the invasion is full of utter chaos and mourning. The death of the Third Hokage, who had fallen at the hands of Orochimaru, was greeted with desperation and sadness.

Jiraiya agrees to stay until the initial panic had settled and he spends a lot of time outside meetings walking around the village and helping with reconstruction. His summons seem to brightened the day of children and his presence alone appears to calm everyone

Sakura finds herself not liking the sudden change to the village. As she follows Jiraiya around as his unseen shadow, she searches. All she sees are sad people trying to cling on to something that does not exist and faint traces of what had once been.

The bright and colorful Konoha she remembers is nowhere to be seen.

She later asks Jiraiya about it, and he reminds her that to everyone here, Konoha was their home. They are sad because it was destroyed and angry because they could not do anything to protect it.

To Sakura, Jiraiya is her home. He is the one constant presence in her life and the one place she could be herself. She imagines what it would be like if she lost him and decides she understands the sadness.

When Jiraiya is once again called in for a meeting, Sakura asks for permission Jiraiya happily gives and wanders out by herself. She does not know what is calling, but she decides she wants to find it. As she walks, she recognizes the traces of buildings that had once been and small parks with only rubble left as proof of its existence.

She sees adults running around rebuilding and children gathering around places of memories.

"You!"

Sakura hears the voice but she keeps walking, because no one apart from Jiraiya or one of his contacts had ever talked to her. She turns around though, when the voice repeats itself, louder and more firmly this time.

She sees a sees young woman, older than her, rapidly approaching her. At her feet are three dogs.

Sakura stiffens and realizes with a start that she had been so deep in her thoughts that she has wandered away from the civilian district. Around her, the rubble piles are higher and there are close to no people around.

"You aren't supposed to be here. This area is a no-entry zone."

Sakura does not know what to do, because while the woman does not look openly angry, Sakura knows people often get angry at her anyways. Jiraiya has once told her people get angry when someone does something bad, and if Orochimaru's subordinates got angry at her for nothing, what was to say this woman was any different?

She thinks back to what Jiraiya does when a scary looking woman stomps up to him. She turns and runs.

There is a sharp order to stop from the woman behind her but Sakura does not. She knows the woman is chasing after her and Sakura makes several sharp turns around the piles of debris in hopes of throwing the woman off as she makes her way back towards the heart of the village.

However, the woman is clearly good at tracking, because she is hot on her heels. Sakura takes to the roofs the first chance she gets and immediately notices when several shinobi appear in her line of vision.

The woman had called back up.

Jiraiya had told her that she was not to raised a blade against those on her side, but she is not sure it applies here, when said people are looking like they are going to attack her. She slowly raises a hand to the seals that releases the bandages from around her mouth, knowing that the poison she releases with each breath is not strong enough to kill, but it will be more than enough for her to escape.

"Sakura-chan!"

Sakura freezes at the call of her name and warily glances behind her to see a young man waving frantically. "Wait, Tsume-chan! That's Jiraiya-sama's accompaniment."

The woman with the markings on her face narrows her eyes but drops her stance. "Oh?"

The man who had defended her hurries over so he is in between them. "This is Sakura-chan. She was there during the invasion. She helped us."

The woman, Tsume, signals for her growling dogs to back down and Sakura watches in interest. "Then why didn't she just say so? She didn't have to run."

The man flicks his senbon from the left of his mouth to the right and turns to her. Sakura realizes she recognized this man as one of the shinobi who had moved to defend the hokage when she had first arrived. "Remember me?"

Sakura warily nods.

The man sags in relief and signals for the gathered shinobi to leave. They do so without more than a few curious looks, and soon, only the man and Tsume are left.

"I'm Genma. Shiranui Genma." The male tells her. "I was there when you first popped out of nowhere in the arena."

"I remember." Sakura says softly. She then turns to Tsume. "I'm sorry about running." She apologizes quietly, because Jiraiya has told her that it is right to apologize if she has done something wrong. "Nothing good comes out when a pretty lady chases us."

"'Us' as in-" Tsume snorts in amusement. "Ah, Jiraiya-sama."

Genma laughs too, and Sakura wonders what she has said had been warrent a laugh.

"Well, I'm Inuzuka Tsume, and I'm sorry about yelling, then." Tsume says. "It's just that the area you were in was still very unstable and dangerous. The debris might collapse or something."

Sakura is not sure what to say and instead, glances back down at her feet again. A flash of grey catches her eye and she glances over at the three dogs, who had now lost all of their hostility and were sitting patiently at Tsume's feet.

Their fur looks fluffy and rich, so unlike her dried, deadly skin. Sakura subconsciously runs her bandage wrapped fingers over the material of her clothes. Touch for her is always through at least one layer of rough bandages and never natural. The only thing she has ever run her fingers through freely is her own hair. She quickly tears her gaze away because animals have never reacted well around her, unless they were Orochimaru's snakes, and uneasily shuffles her feet. "I...I have to go back." She says. "Jiraiya-sama will be-" Sakura hesitates. "...wondering where I am."

Genma hums thoughtfully. "The meeting ended a little while ago." He tells her. "If he didn't get sidetracked somewhere, Jiraiya-sama should arriving at his apartment right about now."

Sakura nods. "Okay." She glances down towards the streets, recognizing her current location and knowing that Jiraiya's apartment is not very far.

From up here, she can see a whole lot more of the destruction caused and she can even see a large dented section of the road that had been crushed, probably by Orochimaru's snake summon.

She is Orochimaru's former master piece. She is a creation of the man that everyone in the village currently hated more than before.

While it had occurred a few times in the last few days, the thought once again hits her, and she decides that she wants to return to Jiraiya's side.

Sometimes, she likes it when she doesn't have to think. Beside Jiraiya, she knows exactly where she stands and what she is meant to do. She has been with the man long enough to know what he wants and what he expects of her.

Genma and Tsume are softly talking about something. "I'm sorry for causing a commotion." Sakura says, managing to catch their reaction.

Genma opens his mouth but Sakura hurries off before she hears what he has to say. She is sure that the man at least knows something about her, and she does not want the kind smiles they had shared with her after the initial confusion to be replaced with looks of hostility.


So, here's chapter nine~

Darque: This chapter is focused around Sakura, I guess. She'll be meeting a few more people before she leaves with Jiraiya again.

Raven: In other words, this is like a build up before she meets a few core characters.

Darque: Then we have the Tsunade search arc thing, and she will meet Team Seven, probably.

Raven: So look forward to that~

Read and Review~