Under the Rabbit Moon
Their story did not have a happy ending. Happy endings were endings, the finishing of things. Their story cycled into the hibernation of another ancient pattern doomed to be repeated in a later generation. Her boys died to save the world and all it had achieved was a handful of years meant for peace.
But it was peace, and hoards of people were too tired and too lost and too broken to believe it was anything less than what they had been fighting and dying for all along. The fatherless drank deep cups of sake in a shared tent and sang until they couldn't feel the tears on their face anymore.
To them it was enough.
Not for her.
Sakura felt cursed with her inability to let go and see the resolution to their conflict as anything less than what it was. She couldn't lie to her self, (though she tried), and believe things were okay. No, her boys were dead and that force was not yet defeated. Their last, best hope hadn't been enough to lay the moon goddess to rest for good. The mother of all chakra still remained, but Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi were all gone.
She was alone, and that was why she dug through the ancient tree, peeling back bark and acid sap and carving out chunks of the innermost wood before reaching the nub of gelatin like coating that housed the immortal. Sakura's body was decaying fast, burning down to bones, but she peeled it back and broke the pod open, yin seal blow wide and glowing.
''You hope to kill me?'' Kaguya's voice was a mournful echo between Sakura's ears. "Ah, if only you could. There must always be a cursed one. That is the price of things. Magic, chakra, power…it isn't free. Don't you know that silly child?''
Sakura screamed, feeling her face burn as the seal spread out lines of iridescent purple thicker and thicker across her body. She was dying and being reborn all at once, but it wouldn't last forever. She would run out of chakra and die soon enough and no one would be around to find her body. No one dared come close to the sacred tree, not after they saw what it had done at the last battle. Too many people remembered being a part of it, of being sucked dry by it.
"I'm taking you with me," Sakura grunted through clenched teeth.
The woman's voice tinkled like a bell. "Will you do it? Will you free me from this curse?"
Suddenly, it was more than just a voice between Sakura's ears. She saw the moon goddess standing in the darkness, her skin ash white and eyes as wide and ancient as the surface as the moon reflected across a still ocean. Sakura's mental defenses sprang up in response, strong and faster from all those years of developing a second persona. Mental hands reached for the mental moon goddess, but froze just shy of squeezing her to death.
"I'll give you what you want if you can take it from me,'"Kaguya intoned, closing her pearl colored eyes and opening the slit on her brow to show a spinning third eye, patterned with the sharingan.
Sakura's body was nearly gone, approaching the point of no return as the acid burned faster and harsher than ever. In her mind she fought against the woman, but in the real world she was paralyzed. It wasn't unexpected. Sasuke and Naruto had been powerless when they teamed up alongside Kakashi. What made her think she would be enough?
"But you are. They were going about it the wrong way," Kaguya cried.
Sakura screamed, feeling the pain of her physical body give her the last mental boost needed to finish closing her fists and squeezing the woman out of existence. Kaguya was gone in a cloud of shimmering moon dust and Sakura collapsed, knowing her body wasn't going to last more than a minute.
'That's fine. I'll see them again,' she thought, closing her eyes.
In the back of her mind she felt cold fingers run patterns through her thoughts. There was a tinkling of bells and womanish laughter. "Yes, you will."
That had been three years ago.
Sakura makes it a game to guess the ages of the children who dare each other to pass into her hedge garden, a place she's tended to with the intention of making it a place for healing the sick and tending to the injured. It just so happened that too many of the men and women she restored took to repaying her with cultivating the land into a zen garden surrounded by intricately trimmed hedges. It makes it easy for her to develop a genjutsu on the hedges that keep out intruders.
Children too young to see through her illusion wander until they are tired and give up or fall asleep in the cooling shade. More than once she's had to carry out sleeping children, proving further stories of horror and terror.
There is a boy today too young to be much older than five or six with ashen blond hair, stumbling around, trying to get through. Sakura recognizes him as one of the boys she has had to carry out. Admittedly she found him cute with wide eyes and a face full of soft baby fat too innocent and too young for the leg guards and gauntlets he already sported.
When he falls asleep under one of the hedges Sakura stops just outside the reach of the hedge's shade and wonders if she shouldn't just keep him to herself, protect him from the fighting she knows is happening not too far away in a land she has no interest in.
She kneels, loose pants brushing the soft grass as her knees touch down. His mouth is open and drooling onto his arm as his legs stretch out in sleep. He is content where he lies, he feels comfortable in the shade and it nearly breaks her heart. Nearly.
Sakura reaches out and brushes the hair from his face and he closes his mouth, tasting breath before opening it again. He doesn't wake when she lifts him up in her arms and holds him close. Carrying him is easy.
It's warm out, but his skin is cool like the shade, reminding her of the changing seasons. She figures if she is in the world she thinks she's in, it's her own world a few hundred years ago. The tools and clothing are too dated and crude for even the more backwater places. The manner of speak is also different, the dialects reflect an older, more proper time with rigid social casts and titles. Sakura knows she is in the past, but is it her past?
"I'll give you what you want if you can take it from me."
The memory of the voice almost makes her stop walking, but Sakura doesn't even falter anymore when she hears those words. She hadn't made sense. What Sakura wanted was Naruto, Kakashi, and Sasuke back along with all her friends, but mostly just her boys. She wanted her family back, but instead she was sent here, to a long ago place that likely isn't even in the same dimension. (Time travel did that. )
Sakura finds a shaded spot far away from her hedges and lays the boy down by the roots of the tree. He seems at peace there. When he yawns and turns over he feels the rough of the tree and curls into it. Sakura knows one of his friends or relatives will find him here soon. Someone always comes to claim this one.
Sakura waits and watches. An hour later another little boy with two toned hair finds her sleeping intruder and begins to kick him awake in playful anger. The ashen haired child rouses on a groan and catches the offending foot before the two of them roll together into a mess of wrestling limbs.
Sakura leaves before she can see any more, but this time at least she learned the child's name. Kawarama, and his brother's name had been Itama.
The next time Kawarama came back he was alone and doing a good job of weaving through her genjutsu. If it had been a weaker illusion he might have dispelled it with his first shout of 'Kai.' Sakura chuckled when she heard his voice crack.
Watching him became a sport. He trespassed at least once a week and nearly every other time he would fall asleep in the hedges. Sakura hated to admit she looked forward to his visits, even if they never interacted. It had gotten to the point where she recognized his chakra signature and could feel him from a ways off.
Her hands were bloody when she felt him approaching. Removing her fingers from the incision Sakura replaced them with a metal clamp that pulled the infected tissue mass out. Her hands then glowed green to seal the opening with practiced ease. The woman's husband watched Sakura work with eyes wide with wonder. Surgery is still such a far off thing for this time period, she doubts he's even heard of it before.
"He'll be just fine after this, but no heavy foods. Soups and then rice, he'll need to rest to regain his lost strength so don't overwork him. You're welcome to stay here until then, take a hut for yourself," Sakura said, sweeping a bloody hand out behind her to show off the row of grown houses meant for providing shelter to the sick and recovering.
"Truly?" the woman breathed in wonder.
"Of course. You make no trouble with those you meet her and you will find no such trouble. Those are my rules."
The woman bowed her head, eyes downcast. "You are a blessing."
The low bow made Sakura feel odd, so she looked away and hummed before taking her leave.
It took a few weeks, but after first coming back Sakura realized she wasn't physically the same person she had been before the incident. A quick medical diagnostic showed an intricate path work of bolstered chakra pathways stemming from her Yin seal, only her Yin seal was supposed to be empty and no longer a part of her physiology. The war had drained her in ways more than one. Instead of her seal, something else pulsated there.
"Will you free me from this curse?" Kaguya had said, only for Sakura to understand much later on.
A part of Sakura had been transformed by the goddess' cells. She felt it in her cells, how they refused to age, in her eyes, how the seemed to see so much further now, on her forehead where a seam one day appeared, only to open and show Sakura what it felt like to view the world through a third eye.
That had been a fun migraine to get over.
Sakura hadn't opened the eye since first discovering it, bandaging it over with cloth and pretending she was fine for it. The other things were easier to deal with, like Kaguya's own form of earth release and gravity manipulation. Sakura could do some of those things, but the drain on her chakra reserves was substantial, even if her reserves were tripled. She suddenly had so much new power, but she didn't have the body to manipulate it well. She stayed away from most new jutsu and did her best to forget she was any changed at all.
Still, the wood release helped her make so many houses, even if they were ugly and rough in parts. That was something she could use. The rest of her was violence and Sakura swore to never fall into that lifestyle again. She would use her gifts to help and heal, the world of bloodshed was done with her, like it or not.
"That boy is here again, sensei."
Sakura turned and saw one of the in training medics that lived inside the garden. Sakura mentored them when she could and tutored them as they needed it. She never asked for clan names or affiliations when they came, but took on anyone who swore they would get along and treat everyone equally, regardless of clan loyalties.
"I will see him out then. Thank you for letting me know, Aoi." Sakura reached for a cloth next to the pitcher of still warm water and wiped her hands clean.
"You're quite tolerant with him."
"I am allowed weaknesses," Sakura huffed, running a hand through her short bangs before heading off.
By the time she reached the hedges he was already sleeping under a different bunch. Just as peaceful looking as before, Sakura waited a long moment before reaching for him, hesitant to alter the image she watched.
The moment her hand touch his shoulder Kawarama's eyes went wide. Instead of running or scurrying away he launched himself forward, landing on her arm and wrapping himself around it.
"Got you!" he cried. "I caught you, you're trapped."
His statement wasn't entirely true, but Sakura felt too stunned by the turn of events to do anything other than stay frozen in his grip. He was smiling up at her with wide eyes and a wider smile. Sakura felt her ears burn. "Y-you tricked me," she stammered, trying to remember how she should behave in such a situation.
"I caught you, so now you have to tell me your name."
"Is that it?" he nodded cutely at her answer. When Sakura groaned, already feeling like she was powerless, he only grinned harder. "What if I don't want to tell you?"
"You have to! I caught you, it's the rule. It's what ninja do. You have to spill all your secrets."
"Aren't you a little short for a ninja?" Sakura asked, standing up and dragging him with her. He held on fast to her arm, more persistent than a spider monkey.
At her accusation his cheeks inflated and his eyes narrowed. "I'm not short. Itame is almost my same size!"
"He's short too, I've seen him before. He's the crazy kid that can't make up his mind what color hair he wants."
"Th-that's not his fault!" He readjusted himself on her arm, beginning to slip. "Besides, I'm already a ninja. I've watched battles and in a few months I'll be able to join them."
Sakura felt cold dread travel down her spine. He was so young, small enough that he fit on her arm and he was going to go out onto the battlefields. There was no modest war in this time. The people that came back to her for help came back in pieces. He was too small. He was going to die.
Just like everyone else….
"You won't be going anywhere trapped on my arm like that. Eventually you're going to fall off."
"Oh?" Sakura hummed, starting to shake her arm. He squeezed it so tightly she felt the skin under his hands grow tight. His face was one of pure determination. "What if I shook harder."
"Noooo, you're trapped. You need to tell me your name. You're not supposed to shake me off."
"How old are you?" Sakura bent her arm, drawing his face closer. She didn't miss the way he shrank from her gaze.
"I'm five. I'll be six soon. The-then I can join my brothers."
"What about your mother?"
"Dead." The answer came quickly and was so matter of fact that Sakura wondered if the woman died in childbirth, leaving Kawarama with no memory of the woman. Such a fate wasn't rare for women. They died in their beds all the time.
"Ah," Sakura's voice was a single note in the wind. "Then there is nothing I can do about you." Sakura lowered her arm but still the boy held tight, like a desperate monkey. "You're going to have to come home with me."
She heard him hiss out a secretive cry of 'yessss' under his breath as he buried his face in her sleeve but ignored it. When she got back to her lands she went straight to her personal tent to shake him off her arm for good and land him on her bed. He had put up a good effort, but Sakura's actions were sharp and he landed on the best of her pillows, settling down safely.
Sakura fisted her hands on her hips and stared down as the adorably innocent looking child. There was no room for war in him. She could see clearly, that if he joined any battle anytime soon it would be the last thing he did. Death was in his youth.
"If you're going to stay here you're going to have to be useful, at least until your brother comes looking for you. Do you know what it is I do here?"
"You take people and eat them!"
Sakura flinched, not knowing if he was serious or just joking. "No, that's the opposite of what I do."
His face is wide and open as he turns his head to one side and watches her with innocent eyes. "You steal their food?"
"What, no? Who gave you that idea? I don't do anything like that here. You think I look like a person who would do that?"
Sakura wanted to slap herself in the face. He was far too, brutally honest. "I don't know if I want to hear what made you think such a thing, but you're wrong, regardless. I don't do anything like that here. In this garden, in my lands, people who are sick get treated. I heal people. That's my occupation. Like, you're a ninja…" When he nodded she pressed on. "I'm a healer. Understand?"
"We have one of those, but she's old…older than you. You must not be very good. Do you use chakra? Someone said it was possible you could! Can you really do it? If you can you're a ninja," he laughed, bouncing on her bed a bit.
"Of course I can do such a thing," Sakura scoffed, not pretending to be modest for the child.
She knew most people who healed did so using the old ways. Chakra was a battle element, it had no place in the healing tents like back in Sakura's time. Aside from Sakura, she doubted there were more than five people alive in the world who knew how to use chakra to heal. It was one of the reasons why the first Hokage had been such a legendary figure. He had no need of a healer like all the others in his battalion.
"Come with me, little bean," Sakura sighed, letting her hands drop to her side as she turned to lead the way out of her house and into the main area of her garden. When she turned to look behind her the child was following close. "Tell me your name again, kid."
"I like little bean, so you can call me little bean," he laughed, thinking it so funny she couldn't remember his name. "What do I call you. I caught you so you have to tell me more of your secrets, like your name."
"You didn't-uh, never mind. My name is Haruno Sakura."
Sakura frowned. "That's awfully familiar," she said. 'And a little too much like what I'm used to.' A flash of Naruto made her heart hurt.
"You can just call me Haruno san for now."
"Show me your home, Sakura chan!" he cried. Kawarama tugged on her arm and pointed towards the odd looking houses that Sakura had grown herself over the course of a couple of months. They were shoddy and rough. "What are those for?"
"Sick people rest in those until they can leave or work."
"Where did they come from?"
She squinted at the houses, too embarassed to admit to actually growing them herself with jutsu. They really were such ugly things. "I…built them."
"All by yourself? Where is your family?"
"I don't have a family here. I came to this place on my own after they died," Sakura explained in a detached voice, thinking of Naruto and Team 7 when she should have been thinking about her parents. Both her mother and father had died some time back, but it was her team she thought of when she heard the word family. Team 7 was dead. They were gone, so her family had died.
"What about your brothers?"
"I don't have those." Sasuke and Sai and Naruto were running through her memories, straight through the light and into the maw of destruction where she could not follow. Sakura swallowed before adding, "Not anymore."
"I guess that happens. Sorry. My brothers are stronger than anyone, so they won't die though. You can share mine with me. We don't have a sister or a mom so it could be fun."
"I don't think I'm old enough to be your mother," Sakura laughed, remembering she was still not even twenty. Or maybe she was. Maybe she had been here longer than she imagianed. She didn't keep track of such things. Has it been two weeks or two years? "And I'm content here on my own. I don't need things like a family anymore."
Kawarama scrunches up his nose with a thought but then he grabs his stomach and frowns. Sakura watches as his lower lip quivers as he refuses to say anything. Seconds later the rumbling turns audible. He flushes a cute pink color and Sakura laughs, making the blush darken. Still, he looks down and refuses to ask for food.
"I have plenty of meal to spare, come with me, you'll make your own from what we grow in the gardens."
"I-I'm not supposed to take food from a stranger." Still, he follows when she begins to walk away.
"Many say that when they come here, so I won't force you to eat anything I make. All the same, if you harvest the food yourself than it's not food from me, is it?" He ducks his head lower and walks close to her side, making her think of him like a scolded dog before adding additional reassurance. "And I really owe you a treat anyway, since you've captured me. It's only fair."
That seemed to work and feeding him became infinitely less challenging once he believed he had earned his own food. It was nearly twilight when one of the patients came to her to let Sakura know that he had sensed a child not far from the garden borders. He was a sensor type that insisted on staying in her garden until his debt was paid off along with his newly recovered son. Kawarama was bragging about something to the man's son and didn't overhear the adults hushed conversation.
Sakura rose from where she sat at the outside table and nodded in understanding. "Kawarama," she called out. Immediately the boy dropped his hands from the air and turned his face up to meet her, eyes wide. "It's time you went home. I think your brother is here for you."
"Ah, Sakura sama," the sensor ninja interjected. "There are two others that just approached as well. There are a total of three now."
"Those are all my brothers!" Kawarama exclaimed, jumping up to stand on the seat of his chair and raise his hands high as fists. "They all came to try and find me." He jumps down and then freezes. When he looks up his face is ashen. "Is dad with them?"
Sakura looks back at the sensor nin and he shakes his head. "No," Sakura says.
Kawarama breathes a sigh of relief. "I'm not in trouble then."
The grin returned and he followed Sakura to the edge of her garden and happily continued on his own until he noticed she had stopped. When he turned around she was smiling and waving.
"This is as far as I will go. Stay safe with your brothers."
"You're not going to meet them?" Not far off there is a voice calling for Kawarama.
Sakura smiles and waves her hand, sealing back up the genjutsu. She sees the moment she becomes invisible to him right before he stumbles back, dizzy and confused.
"Maybe another day."
Sakura time-skip back to the warring era and then the founding era. This will be a sort of slow burn kind of fic with no real pairings until later on. The world and the characters come first.
For fun, because let's be honest, everyone and their mother has done a time skip or back in time or time warp sort of story. This is nothing new, but I wanted to try my hand at it.
Reviews validate me and keep me from deleting works.
Reviews encourage me to update.