Two years earlier

"Say Sakura, do you wanna go out for drinks? We're catching up as the Rookie Nine," Ino spoke, catching the attention of the pinkette who was nose deep reading a medical textbook. The two were seated in the library in the Hokage's Tower. Tsunade had left them three hours ago to their own devices. "No, I'll pass," came the reply. "You're not even looking at me," the blonde said with a frustrated tone. Sakura raised her head to find her best friend glaring daggers at her. "What?" she asked innocently. "You're acting as if the library is your new best friend," the other girl snarled. "I'm just passing time whilst doing something useful," the medic spoke wisely. "By useful, you mean staying locked up in this dungeon doing God-knows-what," Ino sneered indignantly however Sakura continued to look at her innocuously. "If this is what it means to become a medic then I'll pass," she said as she stood up and walked towards the exit, leaving the pinkette alone in the study room.

The sound of the door as it slammed shut was unheard to Sakura as Ino's words rang in her mind. They hurt a lot but she understood where she was coming from. It had been a total of one year since Team 7 disbanded officially. Naruto had left six months ago and she hadn't seen Kakashi since their last encounter at Naruto's departure. Lady Tsunade had taken her as an apprentice, training the fourteen year old in medical arts and taijutsu. Though she was grateful for her intervention, the whispers of the girl who was abandoned by her team amongst the shinobi ranks made her anxious. Friend Repeller Sakura, they called her. Her ridiculous pink hair made her stand out even more.

She had spent a large part of the previous year trying to avoid those whispers inside her head but the rumours only made it worse. She was too weak to do anything; she was the one responsible for breaking up their team. If only she hadn't been an annoying fangirl, if only she had treated Naruto better, if only she had listened to Kakashi-sensei, none of them would've left. If only she had managed to protect Sasuke from getting the Curse Mark.

She slammed the textbook on the desk, the noise echoing loudly in the empty room. Gathering her books and putting them in a satchel, the kunoichi departed from Hokage Tower and headed towards her apartment. But the voice inside her head wouldn't stop. Why was she alive in the first place? It was better that she had gotten the Curse Mark instead of Sasuke, or the Kyuubi instead of Naruto. She shouldn't have become a ninja in the first place. She didn't deserve to be on Team 7, she was the weak link of the team. She was the one responsible for dragging everyone down. No matter how much she tried, she'd always be weak.

By the time she arrived home, hot tears were streaming down her cheeks. Luckily, her parents weren't home and had left Konoha for a week to visit her grandparents. Quickly discarding her satchel in the lounge, the pinkette took comfort in the solitude provided by the empty kitchen as she cried her heart out, the thoughts turning disastrous every second.

She should just die. She was better dead than alive because she only caused trouble for everyone. Her hands itched for the kunai pressing into her right thigh. She could slit her wrists right there and die a slow death.

She didn't know how much time had passed as she sat in the kitchen, leaning against the counter and blankly staring up at the ceiling, contemplating if her life was worth living.

As if possessed by a familiar spirit, she raised herself from the ground and exited her apartment. Her movements were stiff and robotic as she made her way towards the Uchiha district. Never in all her life had she gone to the place but today seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was nearly midnight when she arrived, noting that there wasn't any security. Was Konoha stupid enough to leave it unguarded as it was, she asked herself as she entered the market place. A random thought popped into her mind as she walked through the streets.

What happened to all the Sharingans? Were they buried with them or they were extracted? They most likely extracted given the lack of security at the district. But if they were extracted, who took them? Was Tsunade aware of what happened to their eyes or was she kept in the dark? Maybe she was told. Or maybe she wasn't told. Her thoughts wandered back to who would take their eyes. The only people with enough power to order something of that manner, since Sasuke was too young to become clan head and Itachi was out of the question, would be the Hokage and the Council, that was if an enemy min hadn't already done so. Say Tsunade wasn't kept in the loop given the Council's obvious contempt at the blonde Senju, she might not have been told what happened to them. So who took their eyes? It was probably one of the Council members.

She stopped at the graveyard, halting her thought processes as she took in the sight of the dozens of graves lined up. Her tears came involuntarily as a sob wracked her form. Why would Itachi wipe out his clan? In as much as they were 'evil', didn't he take into consideration the innocent lives he would've slaughtered for the faults of others? She dropped to her knees as she hugged herself, feeling her chest constrict tightly with pain. The genin wondered how Sasuke must've felt, having everything and everyone he ever loved wiped out in a single night.

"Why are you crying?"

She stopped and sniffed, looking through the darkness to find the source of the voice. The moon was partially full, providing enough light for her to see the crow which was perched on one of the many random graves. She blinked slowly and she stared at the crow which cocked its head to the side, watching her curiously. The girl stood up and cautiously made her way to the crow. The creature was the least bit bothered by her arrival as it remained on its perch. She stopped in front of the grave and looked down at the name engraved on the stone.

"Uchiha Shisui," she read as she traced the characters with her fingers.

She looked back the crow which was now looking at her expectantly. "Can you talk?" she asked but she received silence in return. "I thought so, crows don't talk. I must be going crazy, thinking that a crow would ever bother to talk to me even if it was possible," she said bitterly. "In fact I am crazy because I'm standing in a graveyard in the middle of the night, alone too. I wonder what possessed me to come here," she told herself as she shook her head at her antics. She turned around to leave when she heard the voice again.

"You didn't answer me. Why are you crying?"

She turned to the crow again, eyes narrowing suspiciously. The crow looked at her innocently, its black eyes glistening in the darkness. "If you wanted to talk, you could've just said so," she said as she pointed as accusing finger at it. The crow flapped its wings, as if saying that it didn't know what she was talking about. She sighed, she was going crazy. She looked back at the name on the grave again. "Uchiha Shisui, that name rings a bell," she thought out loud.

The kunoichi shivered unconsciously as a light breeze blew, colder than usual. Winter was approaching soon. Her birthday had passed a few weeks ago, she had turned fourteen. She had been on mission during that time, where she met the stranger who helped her accomplish the mission. Had it not been for him, she might've been six feet under the ground. Or maybe lying in that hideout, long forgotten. Or maybe Orochimaru would've taken her and experiment with her body as much as he pleasured, whether dead or alive.

"I'm crying because I'm weak. I want to become stronger, for Sasuke-kun, for Naruto, for my friends. I want to become stronger for myself but I just can't. I feel like I'm backtracking with every breath I take, with every day that passes. Why couldn't I have been stronger? I feel like I'm responsible for the disbandment of my team. I know it's petty and immature to think that a single person can break up an entire team when there were other reasons beyond my control but I can't help but think if only I had been a better person," she told the crow, watching as its beady eyes blinked almost in understanding.

"You're not responsible for breaking up your team. You're the one who kept it together and will continue to do so. But you have to believe in yourself," the voice spoke again. Sakura was convinced that it was coming from the crow. "Why should I believe in someone so worthless?" she spat out as she glared at the creature, offended that it would suggest something so ridiculous. Believe in herself? Yeah, right. "Do you know why you wanted to become a ninja?" it asked. "Obviously, I wanted to –" She stopped. Why had she joined the ninja academy? It had always been Sasuke-kun during her years at the Academy that she simply forgot why she had joined in the first place.

"I wanted to become a ninja because there's never been one in my family. And even though I was a civilian and a girl at that, I wanted to prove that I can do it too," she replied. "And now?" came the reply. She took a deep breath, her mind reminiscing her days with her teammates. "Now, I want to become strong that I can protect my precious people and not to be a burden anymore. And also I want to bring Sasuke-kun back. I don't know why he did it but I'm choosing to trust him, he'll come back eventually if he's the Sasuke know. But I don't know if I can trust myself to keep waiting. Its only been just a year but I'm regretting letting him go just like that. I should've told Naruto to bring him back. What if he loses himself at Orochimaru's hands? I really want to understand why he left," she retorted.

When she received no reply, she came to the conclusion that was being delusional and talking to herself.

A sudden thought came into her mind an hour after she rambled to the crow. She looked at it suspiciously, with one eye squinted. "You know, it's quite the coincidence that I happened to meet a crow at the Uchiha clan's graveyard. And even suspicious that their killer was a formidable ninja who used crows as his summons," she jabbed a finger at the which was looking at her blankly. The two continued to stare at each other for the next fifteen minutes. "You know what, I think I'm going crazy," she muttered as she stared at the sky which was devoid of stars. Another random thought entered her mind. Why would Itachi kill his entire clan? How was he able to do that all by himself? It didn't make sense. The information at the library left a lot of loopholes she had ignored until now. The Uchiha clan was one of the founding clans of the village. Come to think of it, she had overhead the women at the hot springs gossip that they had been relocated to the outskirts of the village after the Kyuubi attack a decade ago. There had been rumors that that they were responsible for the attack itself and wanted to take over yet that couldn't have been true. They were the founding clan after all.

But let's say they did try to take over the village and actually were responsible for the clan. What would make them turn against the very thing that they had built unless the village had turned against it. Gears started spinning in her mind as she mentally went through all the books she had read on the founding of the village. The Nidaime Hokage, Tobirama Senju had sidelined the Uchiha specifically during his reign when he formed the police force plus he was also the one who had killed Madara Uchiha's younger brother and showed obvious distrust of the Uchiha since before the founding of the village. Her shishou had told her the many times that she had seen the white haired shinobi express his disdain of the said clam multiple during her childhood.

Sakura groaned as a migraine wrecked her head. She was thinking too much. Trying to get answers when there wasn't any source except what she read at the library and common sense. Sending a crow a fugitive glance, she bid the creature farewell with a promise to meet the following day before she returned to her apartments and slept barely two hours before the sun was up.

"Oi! What are you doing here?"

Sakura turned to the sound of Shikamaru's voice, a smile gracing her features as the brunette shot her a curious look. The pinkette was currently in the midst of the Nara forest, a secluded area she had asked Shikaku to use for her experiments. She had gotten to work with Shikamaru more than a few times on the missions he led as a chunin, forming a mutual but strong bond between them. Sometimes, it would be just the two of them for diplomatic missions. She guessed that Lady Tsunade wanted her to be well-versed in politics as she was her apprentice.

"Good morning," she chirped as she turned back to the plant she was tending. "When my mom said that a pretty girl was looking for me, I had a hunch that it might've been you," he drawled out as he stopped to stand beside her. "Am I the only physically appealing female your age that your mother knows?" she asked, holding back a chuckle. "Apart from Ino, yes. Plus I haven't introduced you to her. My old man knows you but he's probably too lazy to tell her," he said with a barely concealed yawn. "Sounds like someone familiar," she joked, earning an eye roll from the older boy.

"So what are you doing?" he asked as he peered at the plant curiously. It wasn't like anything he had ever seen. It was looked like a combination of a poisonous ivy, a cactus and opium. "What in the world is that?" Sakura giggled with barely contained glee. "I'm trying to create my own plant with both poisonous and healing effects," she told him with a Cheshire cat smile. "And how are you doing that?" The Nara heir regretted his question as soon it left his mouth. Because she would start a very long lecture about medicine, biology and whatnot. He was saved from an earful of biology garbage as a masked ninja appeared in a tree above them "Sakura Haruno, you're required immediately at the Hokage Tower." He disappeared before she could blink.

"Well, I guess that ends this session before it even started," she said with a barely concealed groan of annoyance. "I'm actually grateful," he commented as he perched himself on the tree branch, closing his eyes. Sakura grumbled at the action. She was about to leave when Shikamaru's next words stopped her.

"If you ever need someone to talk to, come find me."

She turned to look at the chunin but he was already fast asleep. Had she been dreaming? Was Shikamaru, the laziest person she knew actually offering her a shoulder to lean on? Had he seen her emotional turmoil for the past year? Had Ino told him? She shook those thoughts away, allowing herself to revel in the small pleasure his words had given her.


With that, she sped off to the Hokage Tower.

I'm done with this chapter. I hope you like it. A lot of reviewers are actually asking what happened to Sakura during the time skip, like why did she become an ANBU operative, was is she cold all of a audden? That's what this chapter and the following two chapters will do. Consider it an arc if sorts.

Thank you to everyone who's following and loving this story. I hope I live up to your expectations. Sorry for an grammatical errors, I have no beta reader so I might skip some parts.

Don't forget to leave a review!