Winter came like a punch to the gut, the coldness seeping into every corner of both her room and the rest of Imladris. Carwegeth had kindly reminded her that other people were sources of heat if she was cold – so perhaps she could go and cuddle with her soulmate someplace private, or so she was told in more formal words. Those words had almost been teasing, something Sakura was becoming more accustomed to from the elleth the longer they spent together. Sakura had rolled her eyes at the prospect of that. She was hardly ready to cuddle others. It really said something that she had only just become fully comfortable in talking and walking with her soulmate dearest. Holding his hand was probably the closest she had gotten to the tall, golden figure who always seemed just out of reach for her when she thought on it.

Crippling attachment issues, Sasuke's ghost had helpfully supplied much to her mental chagrin. Wisely, she chose to ignore those words. They only brought up other ghosts to the forefront of her mind, and she didn't particularly want to focus on them. Not when she was trying so desperately to be happy.

Somehow, she doubted constantly thinking on the past would make her happy. Even if she couldn't forget it all. A sigh escaped her at that thought, and Sakura could only muse on the topic of her soulmate then and there. He was, after all, something she would have to consider when it came to the talks of happiness. That was what the mark on her forehead was for – a supposed guide to her happiness. Yet when she thought about it, she inevitably, invariably remembered the tragedy it might as well have heralded.

She was surprisingly fickle in some ways.

That particular morning, Sakura rather wished she had perhaps stuck a bit closer to her soulmate before he ventured off to do his rounds of the lands surrounding Imladris, or maybe asked for some more blankets given he was one of the few elves she was actually on speaking terms with. A sneeze exploded from her nose, and Sakura bitterly lamented the fact that chakra couldn't deal with the common cold, not that she was really in any state to channel chakra. Not that she really trusted in her own healing abilities beyond the ones which happened unconsciously, a consequence of being a mokuton user lest she release the seal beneath the corner of her left eye and become all but invincible for a short period of time. Not that invincibility saved anything aside from her own skin. Another sneeze escaped her, head feeling as though it had been stuffed with cotton wool as she lay there in bed and bemoaned her physical state.

Glorfindel was out on patrol – not due back until that evening at the earliest, possibly the morning after. She doubted anyone would really mind or notice if she didn't attend breakfast. There was only a fanfare which occurred when she ate at her soulmate's side, though it had calmed down quite a bit since her arrival there some months ago. Yet breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Sighing softly, entire body protesting, she rolled out of bed, watching as the room spun and didn't stop. She sank back onto her bed with a rough sigh. "Nope, not happening," she muttered, the sound making her head ache something fierce. Shivers wracked her body, and dizzily, she wasted no time in throwing herself back under her covers.

Sleep came almost alarmingly easily, considering how awful she felt, and Sakura was grateful for the reprieve. Cool fingers stroked at her brow seconds later, silvery eyes gazing down at her almost curiously as she lay on the grassy fields of that strange not-a-dream dreamworld. "Rest now, little princess," he murmured, and oblivion called and whisked her away from that place in an instant.

A sharp knock interrupted her rest, tearing her from her slumber. Her eyes might as well have been glued shut for all how easily they opened. A soft grunt escaped her, throat now unable to make much of a sound for all that it now hurt. Brilliant. Sakura closed her eyes, blinking ever so slowly, part of her whispering she should have been up and reaching for a weapon at the way the door clicked open.

"Lothris?" the familiar voice of Carwegeth reached her ears, and she just about managed to grunt in response, shivering at the wave of cool air which washed over her at the opening of the door. "Lothris!" her voice changed from hesitant to outright concerned, and Sakura could only blink at the cool hand which came to rest on her forehead. "You are burning up," Carwegeth murmured, meeting her gaze as she grunted in acknowledgement of that.

All she wanted to do was roll over and sleep until everything stopped hurting, but there in lay the problem. Sleep was not easy to come by, and Sakura could only gaze up at the ceiling, feeling as though she was immersed in treacle.

"This winter is not kind to you, little princess," the silver-haired not-elf murmured, cooling fingertips resting upon her brow once more, and she blinked at the suddenness of his appearance. She couldn't quite remember falling asleep, and yet being asleep was the only way she could see him. It was the only way she knew how; the only place he ever seemed to exist. There in that world within her dreams was where she knew to find him.

"Huh?" she mumbled, staring at the cloudless night sky above which was lit up by a silvery light, nearly concealing the twinkling stars above her head.

"Sleep a while longer, scion mine," he said, voice soft and yet unyielding in its command. "You will recover from this, that I promise to you."

Perhaps if she'd been in her right mind she would have tried to wheedle answers out from him. Perhaps if she had been feeling even slightly better she would have tried to question him once more, scarce as he'd made himself in the past few nights of sleep. As it stood, she merely placed her head in his lap once more, the touch of his hand on her forehead oddly cooling and comforting. She was at peace there.

The feeling was oddly eerie yet far too familiar.

My, how far she had fallen…

A poking, prodding sensation made itself known, the heaviness of her own body seeming to slam back into her as she cracked her eyes open. She blinked languidly, feeling as though her eyelids were in the process of being glued shut. A low groan escaped her, eyes locking on the slightly hazy figure hovering over her. The scent of herbs and starched, clean sheets reached her, part of her dimly acknowledging that she had been moved from her room. And she hadn't even noticed… Sakura half wanted to berate herself, but she didn't quite have the energy for it. She just wanted to sleep on and on, until she woke up feeling better.

She closed her eyes, listening to the sound of her own laboured breathing even as the sounds of winter howled behind the window. Dimly, she wondered how Glorfindel was faring out there in the coldness which had come to claw at the earth. The thought didn't stay long, the bliss of unconsciousness pulling her back under, and Sakura could only ponder on why she was so very tired. Perhaps it was the years of sleepless nights catching up with her? Perhaps it was the mysterious illness which had suddenly come to call when she had settled into an elven dwelling?

Stars twinkled above her head once more, the silvery light seeming that much fainter as she lay on the familiar knoll. Silvery hair pooled on the ground around her head, silvery eyes staring determinedly at those stars in the sky. "Scion mine," she murmured, the words of the silvery-haired not-elf coming to gnaw at her. "You are my ancestor, then," she said, putting something she felt she had already known into words. Part of her supposed it was obvious if she really thought about it. She wasn't human, neither was he, and they even looked so very alike in that strange place.

"You already knew that much, even if you did not seem to truly acknowledge it, darling," her ancestor said, sitting beside her as per usual. "Perhaps an answer to the unspoken question that has been burning within you ever since you first found your way here to this place."

"Neither of us are human," she mumbled, still feeling groggy and terrible, even as an oddly soothing sensation wove over her in breath and song.

"Indeed, princess," he murmured, a smile playing on his lips. "Though as to what we are – that I will leave to you to figure out."

Sakura felt her eyes roll, an odd swelling of fondness making itself known as she lay there beside her apparent relative. "I do not suppose you have a hint for me," she said, knowing it was a long shot, what with how cryptic her apparent ancestor liked to be at times. She wondered then whether she hated him or loved him for it. There was an uncanny fondness she seemed to have for him. He had seemingly breached that wall of iron she had built around herself. Though if she was being honest, that wall had already long since started to fall. Because you're healing, Sakura-chan, Naruto's ghost informed her, no matter how her heart ached at the thought of that and moving on.

Yet she had to move on and live her life. That was the only way forwards. She simply didn't want to forget and let the same disaster happen over and over again. History did have a tendency to repeat itself, after all.

So don't forget, Sakura, Sasuke drawled, and her brow furrowed at that.

"The clues will make themselves known," he said as cryptically as ever. "Besides – do you not think it fun to work out exactly that which you are by yourself?"

"I think it frustrating," Sakura muttered, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I could tell you that which I am and that which you are, yes," he stated, and Sakura looked at him sharply, part of her almost begging for the answers. "Yet you would not believe them. Not wholly. The journey to discovering that which you are and how you fit into this world is an important one, and I will not deprive you of that…"

A sigh escaped her, part of her already having expected such an answer. Nothing could be simple for her. Though she supposed nothing had ever been simple for her – she had clawed what she had by herself. Other Mokuton Users had been in short supply, and Yamato had learnt by himself. So the village had let her learn by herself while using one of their best ANBU operatives where he was more needed. Sakura closed her eyes, willing the memories of the past away. It did no good to linger on them, especially not in the state she was in. Otherwise she might do something stupid, like cry.

You're allowed to cry, Sakura-chan.

"There is a reason you wound up displaced to this world rather than any other of the countless options out there," her ancestor explained, a thin smile curving at his lips. "And there is a reason that certain beings of this world would do anything to corrupt you and mar you forevermore. You belong here, unquestionably so, and that comes with risk and reward."

Sakura blinked, brow furrowing as she tried to digest those words. "I…" she trailed off, sitting up slowly and glaring at her knees. "I do not understand." She had been saying that and feeling that far too much as of late. Sakura hated it.

He sighed softly then, a hand mussing her hair in a touch that was comforting and familiar to her. "Then I will give you your first clue to this puzzle you are so struggling with," he informed her. "That being this truth: I told you once before, I am but a memory of something which once was, and there is a meaning to this that you do not yet seem to have fathomed, nor do I ever think you will at the rate you are figuring all of this out." He stared at her, silvery eyes deep, old, and unfathomable. Sakura blinked once more, finally feeling a deep, terrible emotion from him for once. Sorrow and longing. "I am dead, dear one."


The world came back to her in a whirl of colours and confusion, part of her feeling completely and absolutely numb because how could she be talking and interacting with something – someone – that was dead? It couldn't be the truth, and yet… he'd never lied to her, had he? Yet, some small cynical voice in the back of her head reminded, and her stomach twisted at that. She almost wished that he was lying, no matter the betrayal she would probably feel at that.

"Lothris?" the familiar voice came again, and Sakura blinked, her vision oddly blurry as consciousness came back to her ever so slowly. Wildly, she turned her head from side to side, eyes soon locking on the familiar, golden figure who had seated himself at her bedside.

Golden hair was still slightly damp, falling in soft waves over his shoulders, golden eyes narrowed upon her as she stared up at him with blurry vision, taking in the visage which was almost a comfort to her by that point. His shirt was plain and simple, the buttons not all fully done up, as if he had been rushing to get somewhere after he had undoubtedly returned from patrol. Sakura blinked, the realisation that he had rushed to see her slowly making itself known, and she pulled herself to a half seated position with an alarming amount of exertion which left her feeling breathless. One of the many joys of being ill, or so she was discovering.

"Lothris, what is wrong? Are you in pain?" he asked, reaching for her then with careful hands, his touch as delicate as ever, as though she might break and crumble into a million pieces if he was too forceful. "Shall I fetch one of the healers for you?"

Sakura blinked. "Glorfindel," she murmured, hearing the choked tears in her own voice, even as a thumb came up to wipe at the tears falling from her eyes. She was crying, she realised belatedly – and she was crying for the shadow of a memory she had met. The ancestor she had never really known, and yet had interacted with somehow. Yet how could she interact with him when he was dead, and presumably buried? Her brow furrowed, part of her jolting back in surprise at the cool fingers which smoothed her brow.

You're allowed to cry, Sakura-chan.

Her stomach tensed at the words and that voice which spoke to her so joyfully and gently. She didn't want to cry – didn't want to show weakness in that strange place which was ever so slowly breaking down those iron walls she had put up between her and the rest of the world around. Any remnants of apathy she had perhaps once felt were gone with the wind.

Is it really a weakness, Sakura?

"Tell me what ails you," Glorfindel asked of her, his words pulling her from the memories and questions of ghosts long dead. "I cannot help if I do not know what the problem is."

"It…" she paused, stumbling over her words because—because she didn't know the root of the problem herself. She didn't know why she was crying when all that had happened was that her ancestor had told her that he was dead, and that she was the only living not-quite-human, and—oh. A smile pulled at her lips, though it definitely didn't fool him, if the way those golden eyes stared at her were any indication. The waves of emotions and feelings – predominantly those of disbelief and irritation – were unmistakable. "I am fine, Glorfindel," she said, watching as the expectant, pleading expression on his face crumpled and the familiar tang of disappointment came to rest tartly on her tongue.

She was used to that disappointment though, and she could hardly fault him for such. There was no anger anymore, because disappointment was only natural, and it tasted better on her tongue than anger and hatred. Glorfindel sighed, a low, long thing. "As long as you are not in any pain," he said, fingers curling around her hand positioned closest to him. "I had gone to see you soon after I returned," he murmured, thumb tracing patterns on the back of her hand almost absentmindedly as he spoke. "Only to find out from Carwegeth that you had been taken ill… severely at that. Though they would hardly let me into the Halls of Healing, dressed in dirty armour and clothes as I was."

Her nose wrinkled at the thought of that, given how he had been away for days. Sakura didn't want to imagine waking up to the stench of that. "I suppose my nose ought to thank them for that," she remarked, the dull throb in the back of her head resurfacing as he laughed then.

"Indeed," he said, his smile bright, his expression lighter compared to the concerned mien which had stared down at her when she had first awoken to the sight of him at her bedside.

"Do you know what was wrong with me?" Sakura asked, somewhat confused and mildly concerned over her sudden, ongoing bout of illness. It wasn't as though she'd never been sick before, but she didn't think she had been struck down like that for a good while and it unnerved her. "I have not been ill like that in a long while…"

"A winter flu," Glorfindel replied smoothly. "You were more susceptible to it than most, given your constitution. Nevertheless, you should be past the worst of it."

"Past the worst…" she trailed off, frowning yet again, ignoring thoughts on her constitution because she wasn't as human as they all undoubtedly thought her to be. "How long have I been here for?" she asked, wondering if time had slipped by her while she had danced between the waking world and the one beyond.

He tilted his head. "Two days. My return home was delayed by heavy snowfall, given how our horses here cannot tread as lightly as my kindred," he answered.

She hadn't thought it had been that long, and yet time had evidently slipped from her grasp, much like how she had wound up moved from room to room without a conscious thought. "Oh," she mumbled. "I… see…"

"Does something trouble you, Lothris?" he asked, a rephrasing of his earlier question, and Sakura only shook her head, still feeling as though her brain had been replaced with cotton wool for how awful she felt.

"I am just tired," she said, words coming out more slurred than not as she tried to ponder over things, ill as she still was.

A hand gently squeezed at her shoulder. "Then rest. I will be here when you awaken once more."

Her eyes sought out his own, gazing up into those golden eyes which softened ever so slightly as she held his gaze, closing her eyes once more and seeking out an escape from the hazy confusion and mild pain which still ailed her even then.

The dark midnight sky met her gaze, strands of silvery hair swaying in the faint breeze which reached her as she sat atop a familiar yet strange hilltop. There was no source of silvery light which oftentimes blocked out the full beauty of the night sky, and she was completely and utterly alone there.

Swallowing amidst the silence, Sakura looked around, lips parting as if she could call the name of her dead ancestor. Yet she didn't know his name, and she couldn't call out for him.

Are you sure about that, Sakura? Sasuke's ghost drawled in her ear, and she frowned at that. That not-elf had never told her his name, and so she couldn't know it. It was impossible. Yet perhaps that was one of the many correct questions he had nattered on about. She didn't know, and her usual source of cryptic clues was nowhere to be found.

There was a foul scent in the air, whispers of trees reaching her there in the place where they was usually only silence, telling her of tragedy and loss. Tears bit at the corners of her eyes, even as she stared at the blackened grass which coated that hilltop which had so recently been full of lush green grass. "Where did you go?" she murmured, wondering why the stinging loss of her so-called ancestor's presence had her feeling so lonely. She had dealt with being the last of her people before…

Had she merely grown too complacent in those few months of consistency and contentment? Sakura could only wonder as she sat on the marred ground, curling her arms around her knees as she stared out into the quiet emptiness. She missed the place of silvery light and him. It was almost pathetic. She wasn't supposed to be bothered by such things, and yet…

Her eyes opened, reality returning in place of that hilltop of her dreams, time having passed if the cold light pouring through the window was any indication. She felt far better than the last time she had woken, fever and headache having vanished into the wind. Sitting up was far easier of a task, the movement catching the attention of the one who clearly hadn't left her bedside for very long, if at all. Sakura only wondered why. It wasn't like they were particularly close, but then again they all thought her such a fragile little human.

"How are you feeling?" Glorfindel asked, peering down at her in concern.

A smile curved at her lips. "Like I just recovered from a rather nasty winter flu," she said, earning herself a small smile in response.

"I am glad to hear that."

"I do not suppose there is any chance of a bath and a fresh change of clothes?" Sakura asked, already knowing she probably didn't look the greatest. Plus there was her hair which undoubtedly needed tending to. She didn't particularly want pink roots to start to show. That would undoubtedly go down well, what with how strange she seemingly ever was to be to the elves of Imladris.

"Would you prefer to use the shared baths, or would you rather that one is drawn in your private rooms?" he enquired, looking her up and down a few times as if ascertaining whether she would be able to make her own way to either of those locations.

"Private, if possible," she answered, watching as he went and asked for the preparations to be made before he came back to sit at his bedside – where he'd seemingly been all that time. "Thank you," she said, eyeing him up as he sat there, simply looking at her once more. "Do I have something on my face?" she asked, shifting on her mattress ever so slightly under his rather intense scrutiny. "You seem to be staring…"

Glorfindel blinked, stirring himself from whatever daze he had found himself in. "My apologies. I was merely lost in thought."

"About what?" she questioned, pausing a split second later. Ever was she undoubtedly placing her foot in her mouth one way or another. "Oh. I am sorry. That probably came across as a rather blunt question," she said hastily.

"It is of no bother to me," he said. Sakura blinked at that, the confusing panic which had been rising in her chest subsiding at his words. She wasn't entirely sure why she had been so panicked over misspeaking. Probably an aftereffect of her illness, and her almost near constant worries about fitting in within the bounds of Imladris.

Everything there, including herself, seemed to be so slow to change.

The hilltop was still marred with blackened grass when she appeared there once more, and part of her wondered if she wanted to keep searching for answers. Her search had seemingly taken her ancestor from her side, even if he'd been nothing more than a memory of sorts. She didn't want to lose anything else, even if she obtained an answer to her origins in that place. She was greedy – Imladris and her soulmate had made her greedy for someone to talk with and be with. She almost wanted to hate that place and him for that much, but the accursed ember of hope had already been fanned into flame once more and she longed for things once more.

Terror gripped at her at the thought of it all vanishing into smoke before her eyes. Are you going to run and hide, Sakura-chan? The ghost of Naruto sounded, and Sakura stared at her hands, wondering if it was too late to run away from it all and bury her head in the sand. Even though she would never actually do such a thing. She could see it on her hands still: the blood of her friends, allies, and family lingered there. The ones she hadn't been able to save.

She hadn't been able to save her ancestor either.

"Yet that was before your time," the ghostly whisper of her ancestor came, and she looked up and around at that. Darkness reigned around her, the silvery, glowing figure her ancestor cut nowhere to be seen. Her shoulders slumped at that, a familiar biting disappointment coming to claw at her belly as the scenery around her remained unchanged. Hope was such a fickle, oftentimes cruel thing. She should have known better than to believe in it, and yet…

Fingers rested in the grass, clenching in the hard earth at the irritation and loss of hope she felt at the sight of it all, pausing as a foul stickiness came to rest upon her fingertips. Frowning, Sakura pulled her hand out of the blackened grass, frowning as she lifted her fingers and the taint upon them up into the distant light of the stars. It was sticky and dark like tar, almost seeming to suck away all the light when she looked at it. Curious, she rubbed the sticky substance between her fingers, blinking in realisation as she realised what it was despite its unusual colouring.

"A spider's web?" she murmured, freezing as she heard the echo of an almost familiar chittering which sent shivers down her spine. Sounds of movement reached her ears, and she turned, staring then at the small shadowy eight-legged arachnid which was scuttling across the grass. It was tiny – a small thing which she could have easily crushed underfoot.

Ghostly fingers of a fear which wasn't hers curled around her heart and squeezed. Sakura looked upon the black-bodied spider innocently skittering across the grass, frozen in the throes of fear, and she knew true terror then. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the thing, transfixed by the sight of it as it milled about there almost harmlessly. She didn't understand the helpless terror she felt as she watched the spider – didn't understand the sickening lurch in her stomach at the sight of it. It scuttled closer, the chittering sound only growing louder and louder as she watched it eat up the distance between them. Her heartbeat thudded in her ears, some raw, primal part of her not wanting the creature anywhere near her.

As if hearing her silent, desperate pleas, a foot stomped down on the spider, crushing it beneath its armoured heel. Darkness like ink spread across the grass, the mangled body nothing more than a smear on land and shoe. "Filthy creature," the unfamiliar voice came, and Sakura blinked as the pulsing terror she had felt receded just as quickly. Her breath caught in her throat, eyes blown wide as she stared upon the figure which almost seemed to glow just a bit. Not as brightly as her beloved, cryptic ancestor, but the light they radiated was unmistakable nonetheless. He stood there, tall, indomitable, and beautiful. It was almost a shame he looked ready to murder her. "Though I suppose it was emboldened by your presence." Golden eyes bore into her silvery, inhuman ones, surveying her with a bored disinterest. His armour gleamed in the light, and Sakura was made aware of how flimsy and weak the silvery white dress she wore was in comparison. "Speak, Servant of the Enemy. What paltry message did your master send you to convey?" Sakura blinked, eyeing the blade which was then levelled at her throat as the male stood before her in all his glowing glory.

"What?" she mumbled, and her utter confusion had to show upon her face.

"What designs does the Enemy dare to have upon these shores?" he demanded, blade lowering to press against the skin of her shoulder. "Speak swiftly." Long brown hair fluttered in the wind, golden eyes which had once looked so lovely now as hard and cold as stone and ice as they looked upon her. They were nothing like the other set of golden eyes which looked upon her with nothing but warmth and perhaps a tinge of fondness after all the time they had spent together. Though those brighter feelings were always mixed in amongst other, darker emotions.

"Enemy?" she muttered, beyond confused at their sudden appearance and what they were currently accusing her of being. It wasn't like she was anything of importance to the Enemy or his plans – whatever those were. Rather, she was simply a girl trying to carve out a life in those lands.

Golden eyes narrowed. "You dare feign ignorance?" he questioned, and cautiously she began shuffling backwards, freezing only when the tip of the blade dug into her shoulder that much more. The same foot which had once crushed that small spider came to stomp down on her shoulder, stopping her retreat before it could even truly begin, pushing her flat down against the ruined, blackened ground. "I know everyone of our number, and yet I do not recognise your face. You cannot have had this form since the very beginning, and there is only one such way you could have gained such form after so long. Do not bother trying to deceive me, and speak whatever words your master has forced you to come all this way to state." The corners of his lips curved downwards, golden eyes staring down at her in disgust.

The familiarity of the look calmed her somewhat. Just a small bit.

Her heart hammered in her chest, fear bubbling up to the surface as she lay there. "Uh," she muttered, hissing in pain in the next second as that blade dug into her skin. Her hand went up, fingers closing cautiously around the blade, feet kicking up and at him in a desperate attempt to dislodge his grip, eyes meeting those golden ones and the face which told her he was beyond done with everything. It was hard to feel his emotions the way she was used to, the mass of anger, annoyance, and outrage not telling her much of what was going on, if anything at all besides the fact that he would likely kill her if the situation didn't change one whit.

"I know not what you—" His words cut off midway, eyes fixing on the shoulder he had just wounded. The grip he had on his sword slackened, and Sakura took the opportunity to wrench the blade from her shoulder, shuffling back and placing a hand over her newly gained injury. Torn skin burned, the hot pulsing sensation beneath her fingers familiar as she pressed them over her wound, and stickiness coated her fingertips once more. She was—

A bead of silver dripped from the end of the silvery blade whose tip was covered in a glowing silvery liquid. The same blade which had just pierced her shoulder and ought to be covered in her blood. Yet the liquid dripping from the blade wasn't red like blood. Underneath its glowing, silvery touch bright silver flowers bloomed – little blossoms which seemed to chase away the blackened earth, bringing it back to life. Sakura blinked, sparing a glance towards her injured shoulder, panic twisting beneath her skin at the sight of the silvery liquid she was bleeding instead of blood. Part of her wondered why – she had bled red blood before. The other half of her already knew the answer to that. As if in answer to her realisation the heavy feelings of disgust and anger lingering in the air bled away, replaced by something akin to awe.

Golden eyes bore into her silvery ones once more. "You," he stated, reaching for her then, his foot having long since ceased pressing down on her shoulder.

Sakura scrambled to her feet, panic pulsing beneath her skin at how quickly feelings of outage and annoyance had been replaced with shock, awe, and the undeniable want to possess. Fingertips brushed against her shoulder and she ran, yanking herself free from the fragile grip before it could tighten. She didn't understand, but there was nothing particularly new about that, other than the fresh wave of annoyance and fear she felt at how adrift she was in that place.


The sound came from right behind her, and the arms which wrapped around her waist and pulled her against an armoured chest told her he was far too swift in pursuit for her to escape so simply. She met his stare, teeth bared and a fear twisting in her stomach like a knife to the gut even as those golden eyes unpicked her. They sought her out, demanding answers. Something in her twisted, fear giving way to something else rising up to the surface where her skin had been cruelly torn open. Whispers greeted her ears, the familiar voices of trees echoing in them, and the skin of her injured shoulder warped, chakra bubbling beneath the surface, smooth skin twisting into ropey vines as silvery branches grew out of it. Dark green leaves coated in a silvery sheen tickled her jaw, blooming to life on those silvery branches blossoming from her, and a familiar silvery glow filled the air once more. The same glow which had once seemed to herald her ancestor's arrival. Yet her ancestor wasn't there.

Brown eyebrows twisted, wrinkles appearing on his brow as he peered down at her, hesitant and yet joyful. "You," he murmured once more, the sound almost reverent, and belatedly, Sakura realised he had left his sword behind, discarded on the renewing hilltop. Golden eyes stared down at her intently, his lips moving, but the sound never came out and the golden-eyed being vanished as swiftly as he had appeared. The darkened hilltop vanished like smoke, the familiar whole, rich, grassy hilltop coming into sight. It was as thought she had been snatched from one dream to another. The arms which had once held her captive there were replaced with thinner, far more familiar ones, brown hair which had fallen around her like curtains replaced with silvery locks.

"Silly little scion mine," her ancestor whispered, wrapping his arms around her in some form of a hug as they stood there in a familiar place. The grass and little hilltop no longer looked marred and ruined. "Why did you keep coming even though I did not come to meet you?" he asked, resting his chin atop her head. "I had hoped to keep you a secret just a little while longer."

"Then you should have met with me," she answered succinctly, staring out across the landscape which seemed so familiar to the one she had found herself in only minutes before. "Besides, it is not like I know why I keep ending up in this place… nor how to stop myself from coming here… wherever here is…"

"Your birthright," he said flatly. "Here – this place… it is your birthright, and one day you will come here in physical form. I had hoped perhaps you would have more time to figure things out, but that maia has always been a sharp one."

"Huh?" Sakura felt her eyebrows knot together, brain working overtime as she attempted to piece things together.

"Silly little scion mine," he murmured again. "You did not work out my earlier hint, did you? There are things upon this world who would seek to harm you and corrupt you for that which you are…" his words trailed off, silvery eyes looking at her with nothing but concern. "You are strong yes, but you cripple yourself in ways I do not quite understand – perhaps a lingering sentiment of humanity. It is why I refrained from reaching out for you earlier than I have. The deeper your connection to this world becomes, the more aware of your existence the beings upon this world will become."

"I do not understand," she said, gritting her teeth at how often she might as well have said such a thing.

"Patience, dear," he stated, as if that was such an easy thing for her to come by. "The last pieces of the puzzle are that which you will have to find and fit together yourself, but for now you must be warned…"

Her fingers trembled, hands curling into fists, a well of frustration and fear mingling in her gut. "Warned about what?"


Sakura felt her brow crinkle. "What?"

A small laugh escaped him, silvery eyes twinkling with mirth. "Silly scion. It is not what you need to be wary of. It is who," he explained, a smile curving at his lips. "You are the last of my line, and this world is so very fortunate you decided to return." His eyes went to her forehead. "Though perhaps you were always destined to. Nevertheless, I am gladdened. The shadows cast upon this world are long indeed, and as such it is sorely in need of some light…"

"Who do I need to be warned about?" she asked – more demanded – unwilling to let his words run away from him, as was his habit.

"They are numerous – and they will come for you with intentions good and ill," he answered, giving her answers perhaps for once in his life, though the words were as long winded as usual. Sakura bit her lip, staring into those silvery eyes, all but silently demanding answers. "But who will find you first on Arda, I wonder…"

"You speak as if we are not already on Arda."

"Oh." He blinked. "We traverse the space beyond the waking world here and now, if you want to be specific. 'tis likely the master of such a domain is aware of your ventures here… though perhaps he knew not of your importance. Though the place you first came to tonight, unclad, I might add, was Aman."

Sakura blinked, her brain choosing to pick up on the strangest of things he said. "Unclad?" she echoed, feeling as though she had done nothing but stumble around under the words which seemed to meander around before coming to the point. "Aman?"

Another smile curled at his lips, pitying that time. "I forget how new you are to this world at times," he murmured, one hand releasing its grasp on her to pat at her cheek almost lovingly. "You really are silly, little scion mine. Tell me, what would you do if I told you that many of the answers you seek could be figured out if you merely look at the history of this world which is yours by the blood which flows through your veins?"

"Is it really blood?" she asked, staring at the silvery liquid which coated her fingers still. Her shoulder ached, and a glance told her she was still bleeding. She wondered why that was so.

Her ancestor smirked. "Why not taste it and find out?"

Eyes snapped open, the scene vanishing like whisps of smoke into thin air, a familiar ceiling swimming into view as she woke from her latest dream. "Ugh," she grumbled, heart beating a mile a minute as she thought on everything which had happened in her unconscious hours. Sakura was only thankful that her brief stay in the Halls of Healing had come to an end. Grimacing, she sat up, pausing midway as pain throbbed through her shoulder and something hot and pulsing leaked from her skin with every beat of her heart. "What?" she hissed through clenched teeth, panic pulsing raw beneath her skin as she hauled herself to a fully seated position and clamped her hand over the wound which bled silver.

Silvery droplets stained her nightdress and her bedsheets, the sheer unnaturalness of it making her stomach twist. She scrambled to her feet, brain working overtime as she struggled to figure out exactly what was going on and what she was supposed to do. It wasn't as if there was time to be terrified of the proof that those strange dreams weren't in fact dreams at all. They were real. Irrevocably so. The proof of it was sliced into her skin, and it was that evidence she needed to deal with. A hiss of pain escaped her, the priority of dealing with her wound taking up the forefront of her mind as she tried to stem the flow of her possible not-blood with just her hand. Not that such treatment would be enough – if it was enough to be called a treatment at all.

Chakra answered her call as per usual, slower and more sluggish than it once had been, eyes narrowing at the memories of green chakra and bloodied, dead bodies. Her hands hadn't been able to save anyone back then. The familiar thrum of chakra beneath her skin died before she could even fully muster it. Gritting her teeth, she relinquished her grip on her shoulder, instead forming the correct hand seal to release the seal beneath the outermost corner of her left eye. If her natural healing and regeneration weren't seeming to work, then that seal was her last choice. Then it would just be a matter of dealing with her clothes and the bedsheets.

Silvery light radiated through the air, part of her feeling so very exposed as light pulsed beneath her skin and gave her a silvery aura so similar to that of her soulmate. Only his was gold. It suited him more – that colour which was so reminiscent of sunshine.

Pain throbbed that much more strongly in her shoulder, the pulsing, thudding feeling making her eyes widen as she choked on her own saliva, muffling the hiss of pain which escaped her. Almost reflexively, her seal crept back to her cheek, silvery-turning-black lines receding into the glowing silvery diamond until it was but a speck on her cheek. "Dammit," she muttered, clutching at the wounded shoulder which still bled. "It affects my chakra…" she murmured, eyes narrowing on the silvery substance she bled. "Am I bleeding chakra?" she asked herself, part of her vaguely wondering who she was expecting an answer from. The other part of her musing on whether it was possible for chakra to be bled. "Or is it something else?"

Silence was all that greeted her as she clambered to her feet, bumping into her bedside table and sending the potted plant to the ground. The crash of pottery almost seemed to ring in the air, silvery droplets splattering against the floor. An almost unearthly stillness descended, and Sakura could only lament on her apparent clumsiness there and then.

A sharp knock at the door sliced through the silence which had fallen. "Lothris?" Glorfindel's voice was hesitant, and yet she could feel the waves of concern he radiated even from where she stood. "Are you quite alright? I heard something shatter…" he trailed off.

Frantic, Sakura looked around the room, eyeing the small spatters of silvery liquid, the broken plant bowl Sadril had procured for her, and the general mess which was her bedding. "Oh," she whispered, knowing in an instant that she could hardly answer the door or even allow him a glimpse of her or her room. Otherwise the sham of her being not particularly human would be brought into light, and she wasn't even the slightest bit ready for that much. It couldn't happen. Not when she still didn't have the slightest clue about what she even was.

Silvery blood trailed over her skin, its light like a beacon for her gaze.

Why not taste it and find out?

"If you do not come to the door, Lothris, then I do apologise, but I will be coming in," Glorfindel said, voice stirring her out of her momentary daze, knocking yet again, and before she realised it, she was moving. Her fight or flight response had been unduly activated, and everything within her screamed at her to get away from it all. A soft sigh came from outside the door, as if hearing her decision, the latch clicking as he twisted the handle.

Sakura turned, something in her demanding she stop and look back at him, one hand on the windowsill even as those golden eyes sought her out, honing in on her with alarming precision as she paused there, about to make her get away. For a single moment she played with the idea of staying, silver blood and all, but the memory of golden eyes looking at her coldly and then with referent joy had her stomach twisting and her body moving without a conscious effort.

"Oh—for the love of Eru—"

She vaulted out the window without a second thought, feet planting themselves in soft grass, a grunt escaping her at the way her shoulder twinged as she landed. Silver beads of blood – or whatever it truly was – landed on the ground, and Sakura barely spared a glance at the little silvery buds which grew and opened beneath the pale light of the moon as she ran. Her feet knew where to take her, even if her mind was occupied and she was being chased by a certain golden-haired elf.

"Lothris!" his call seemed to echo so loudly in that space, even as she ducked into the Halls of Healing, vaulting in through yet another window. She had been a visitor enough times to know its location by such a point. "Why do you run?" he demanded, ever close on her tail. He was almost alarmingly skilled at pursuit. Too bad for him she was exceptional at running and dodging.

Not that it stopped her from swiftly barricading herself in one of the supply rooms. She could deal with the injury herself, or so she hoped, especially with the chakra which had only ever really saved her own skin. Never had there been an injury much like that one before. Yet another consequence of her world hopping adventure. Though adventures were supposed to be a journey with a happy ending. Weren't they? Her fingers perused the shelves, prying out a curved needles, medical thread, tweezers, and everything else she thought she'd need. She was almost moving on autopilot, memories from another world stirring and guiding her hands as she laboured.

"Lothris!" Glorfindel banged on the door, the thuds heavy, the creak and rattle of the door on its hinges telling of his strength. She only hoped that the lock and the chair she had placed beneath the door held out. "Are you injured? Open this door!"

Sakura gritted her teeth, scrambling to make preparations, even as she felt the alarming onset of dizziness. "Not in a million years," she muttered, glancing at the way the door, the lock, and the chair she had swiftly placed for good measure were rattling.

He heard her words, of course he did. "Lothris, please," he pleaded. "I only wish to help."

Gritting her teeth, she pushed a small cabinet in the way of the door, hoping that would be enough the prevent his access. "I will be out in a short while," she said flatly, grabbing the strip of leather she had found and biting down on it. Cautiously, she cut away the shoulder of her nightdress, not bothering to watch as the material landed in second bowl of water she'd procured. Silvery blood leeched into the water, and Sakura only prayed the stains would fade. Though he had probably already seen the ones in her room, unless he'd been in too much of a rush.

Secrets don't hide themselves forever, Sakura.

She ground her teeth together once more, ignoring the almost relentless banging on the door as she threaded the string onto the needle. Chakra moved in an old habit, and she almost blinked in surprise when it took to the needle. Rather than the green colouration which would probably have made her lose concentration and wallow in memory and misery, the thread seemed to glow silver. A familiar colouration to her by such a point. She had certainly seen it enough in her dreams.

"Perhaps I would be less worried if you told me how you were injured and what exactly it is you are doing in a supply room in the Halls of Healing no less," Glorfindel said, still pounding on the door rather firmly. "Should you not answer me, I will assume you have lost consciousness or are otherwise incapable of—"

Hissing through clenched teeth, Sakura tuned him out, her lizard hindbrain idly keeping a track of what he was rambling on about, even as she brought the needle to skin. Pain of the physical sort was an old friend, though she hadn't stitched up any wounds on the fly for quite a while. Sharp pain and the grating tugging sensation were hardly enough to make her pass out on a good day. Though it hadn't been particularly long since she'd recovered from the winter flu which had affected her quite badly.

Wincing, she stared at the silvery blood which mingled with the red which bled from the stitches she was putting in, slick, silver and red stained fingers tying off the ends.

Taste it and find out.

The words of her ancestor rang out in her head, and she wondered then as to whether it was a clue in the mystery she was trying to figure out. Laughter rang out in the back of her head like the tinkling of small bells, and she fumbled around for the little capped vial she had plucked from the shelves on a whim. Uncorking it, she pressed it to her skin, capturing a few droplets of that silvery liquid which hadn't mingled with any of her blood. Stoppering it once more, she brought it up before her eyes, staring at the glowing silvery liquid which sloshed about inside the glass walls. Curiosity burned at her, but the pressing need to deal with her injury and the evidence overcame her interest. She could figure it all out later now that she had a sample. After all, there were supposed to be clues in the history of that world.

Cautious of jolting her injured shoulder and the stitches she had put in, she carefully pulled the bowl of clean water that she'd grabbed. Dipping a cloth in the water, she washed away the silvery streaks falling down her skin, dabbing it furiously against any clothing which had been stained. Though she supposed she could try to claim that she'd been experimenting with silver dye… Not that she thought such an excuse would work against Carwegeth should things come to a head.

Sighing softly, she brought her fingers to her lips, licking at the silvery substance stained on her fingers, ignoring the part of her which screamed at how unhygienic such an action was. Though she definitely wasn't licking her own blood. That was a taste she was too familiar with to mistake it for anything else. The silvery liquid didn't taste of copper, thick and rich and cloying.

It tasted sweet.

She dipped her fingers in the bowl, watching as the silver vanished into the water, reaching for fresh bandages with clean fingers, making quick work of bandaging her shoulder even with only one arm and an almost alarming sense of light-headedness. The world was eerily quiet, and dimly, Sakura wondered why that was the case.

Glorfindel had stopped knocking, she realised belatedly, a soft, sad smile coming to curl at her lips. She wondered why part of her felt disappointed at that, but who knew? Perhaps he was waiting outside the—

The sound of glass shattering jolted her out of her thoughts, and she vaguely remembered that the particular supply room she was in was on the first floor. It was easy enough to gain access to A figure stepped through the window, haloed by the moonlight, and Sakura could recognise him, even cast in shade as his features were. After all, his eyes were glowing ever so slightly, and they were such a unique shade. Fear raced through her at the sight of those eyes, and Glorfindel paused at that before shaking his head as if casting a thought away.

"You," he remarked, and Sakura flinched at that as his hand reached for her, the memories of that other golden-eyed figure who'd given her the wound she'd just treated far too fresh in her mind. Glorfindel paused again, uncertainty burning in his golden eyes, and Sakura slumped back against the set of shelves she was apparently leaning against. She hadn't been paying that much attention to anything beyond treating her wound. "You," Glorfindel repeated, hands reaching her carefully and gently lifting her up into his arms. "Are one of the most infuriating beings I have ever laid eyes upon," he murmured, exasperation and fondness tingling on her tongue as she rested her head against his broad chest.

A smile curved at her lips at that weakly, part of her acknowledging that the ceiling was spinning, and that it was probably good that he hadn't given up on her, stubborn and probably thoughtless as she was.

"What happened to your shoulder?" he asked, sharp eyes having already found her bandaged shoulder and her torn nightdress.

A grunt was the only thing which escaped her, and she berated how very weak she seemed in that time and place. She had been ill or injured far too often, more so when her soulmate had been nothing but the peak of health – and he was currently the soldier of the two of them.

"I will foot the cost of the window," he said all of a sudden, and it took her a few moments to realise he was no longer speaking to her, but to someone else instead. A face she hadn't seen recently and yet couldn't for the life of her forget appeared in her peripheral.

Lord Elrond gazed at her as she lay there in her soulmate's arms. "The door too, I would hope," he stated, and dimly Sakura realised she was now out of the room and the door had since fallen off its hinges.

"Yes. That too," he answered, sounding alarmingly sheepish at the admonishment in Lord Elrond's tone. "I apologise for the commotion I seemed to have caused."

"You did not cause such a commotion alone," Lord Elrond remarked, and Sakura found herself being scrutinised by curious grey eyes. "I find myself quite curious, both as to how you seem to have injured yourself when by all accounts you were in your room resting and as to how you have managed to treat your own injury."

Golden eyes fixed upon her, eyeing up the bandages. "Perhaps due to her tailoring abilities. Though she is young in the craft, Carwegeth assures me she is progressing well…" he offered, and she couldn't begrudge him that. Not when she couldn't really seem to muster the energy to talk.

"It seems you did not see in your haste to bring your fated other half for healing," Lord Elrond stated, and Sakura couldn't bring herself to meet that scrutinising grey gaze once more. "There was thread and a needle involved, Glorfindel," he said. "The ways of stitching clothes and skin are quite different, and yet quite oddly I suspect when I remove this bandaging of yours, I will find nothing bar acceptable stitching beneath. Curious, that."

Glorfindel looked down at her, golden eyes curious and surveying. "I believe only Lothris knows the true answer to such a line of enquiry. Though perhaps we can speculate…" he trailed off, gazing down at her, concern still pulsing from him in thick waves which seemed to burn the back of her throat. "You told me once, and Carwegeth as well, that tailoring was not your first craft. Perhaps you have given us such a clue as to the buried craft you claim to have learned first?"

"Bring her this way."

He followed behind his lord, and Sakura could only look around dizzily as she was carried into an all too familiar treatment room. The beds were as soft as she remembered, but the underlying tension in the air was anything but. "You were a healer, were you not?" A hand cupped her cheek, golden eyes looking down at her earnestly.

"Not just any sort of healer, Glorfindel," Lord Elrond murmured. "She stitched her wound up quickly without making a single sound or even stopping to think to use a numbing paste. How many of the healers within these halls do you think could do the same?"

A bark of exhausted laughter escaped her at that, the dawning realisation on his face giving her the burst of strength to speak. "You once told me I knew nothing of war," she said, voice nothing more than a raspy whisper. "How bold of you to assume," she stated, looking up at him with eyes which remembered the blood, fire, and deaths which had followed in Kaguya Ootsutsuki's wake. "I was a frontline medic once upon a time, silly…"

"Healers are always inevitably in short supply," Lord Elrond said. "Healers who are willing to travel to battlefields are even fewer."

Laughter left her lips once more. "You speak as though I was hidden away in a tent, treating those who were dragged off a nearby battlefield…" she murmured, wondering why her tongue seemed to be running away from her. It was probably the fault of the sweet not-blood loss. "A frontline medic is different to a battlefield medic… though there were only two of us in my—that village. We fought alongside our people… at the forefront of battle… and as long as we—I was there, they should not have died."

Fingers brushed her temples, grey eyes looking down at her with a haunted sorrowness. "Healers… we cannot save everyone," he said softly. "To think that you could would only be arrogance."

She gritted her teeth, hating the tears which came to burn in her eyes. "I know that. I cannot save everyone… but you would think I would be able to save at least one." She closed her eyes, exhaustion and dizziness coming for her as the adrenaline of the chase and the stitching of her own wound wore off. "Failure. That is what I am…"

Her eyes cracked open once more, meeting the golden eyes which stared down at her in blatant sorrow, and the grey ones which only looked down at her solemnly. "Heavy upon your brow weigh the shadows of your past," Lord Elrond said. "Rest now. We will speak more on this matter when you wake once more."

A hum of acknowledgement escaped her, fingers curling protectively over her bandaged shoulder as she closed her eyes again and let sleep take her from that place. But that time, only sweet dreams awaited her – ones which didn't seem to affect her waking hours. There was no golden-eyed figure chasing her. There was only warmth, and the soft, vague memory of fingers caressing silvery hair and a warm pillow beneath her as the trees sang once more, and her world was awash with silver.