Chapter 1: Memories
Sakura's first memories are unusually clear. She remembers long ruby red hair that smells like roses, she remembers the sound of a laughing voice, she remembers kisses as light as moth wings on her cheek, nose, and forehead.
Later on, when she's a bit older, she's able to pin a face to the long rose-red hair. The face is smooth and clear of blemishes, the skin a color like porcelain, seafoam green eyes like jewels twinkling in the sunlight. But it's the warm light of her eyes and the fond smile in her direction that grabs her attention and has an answering smile curve her lips as well.
Once, she went to her mom crying because kids were making fun of her, calling her a foreigner, pointing out the pink color of her hair, and how the kids had told her that the unusual hair colors, like Sakura's and her mom's, are because they are immigrants. Most people in the village have brown or blonde hair. To her dismay, her mom only confirms what they say as the truth, that they come from a now dead village. Sakura wishes she was born with brown hair instead and her mom pokes her in the nose and tells her she thinks the pink color is beautiful.
Everytime the kids at the playground sneer at her hair, she remembers this memory of her mom calling her pink hair beautiful with this soft look in her eyes. It is one of her most precious memories of her mom.
Sakura opened her eyes.
Color flickered into her vision as she familiarized herself with her surroundings. The bedroom's walls and ceiling are painted a pastel pink color. The dressers and furniture are all made of glossy, deep brown wood and the curtains and bedsheets are made of light pink fabric. Her small bed is a canopy bed, the canopy made of sheer white fabric that was easy to see through. She was huddled in a burgundy red and pink quilt. Overall, the room looked beautiful and homey. Sakura recognized the bedroom as her own.
The alarm clock next to her bed began to ring. Sakura was already awake, so she turned off the alarm clock, got up from bed, then went to her closet, and picked out her clothes. Then she headed towards the bathroom, where she brushed her teeth and then showered in a tiny stall. She put on her clothes quickly, a pink t-shirt, some khaki shorts, and pink ninja sandals. She then looked straight into the mirror, at her long bubblegum pink hair and her too-large forehead she had always been insecure about.
She brushed her hair and then braided it in a unique braid that her mom taught her. Unlike the classic braid, it began at her scalp, and instead of passing the alternating strands over each other, you pulled them underneath the center strands. This created a braid that appeared to pop off the head. Her mother called them the braids of Uzushio.
As she finished, her hand passed over her necklace. After her dad died, there were only a few photographs with his visage. Among them all, the most precious was a photograph of her mom, dad, herself, and her little brother that she kept in her locket. She wore it in a necklace over her own heart. Sakura tucked her rose gold locket underneath her shirt, where it would hopefully not catch anyone's eye. Things like jewellery were frowned upon in the Ninja Academy.
Sakura went down to the kitchen, where she could see her mom preparing her breakfast while her little brother, Ichigo, was seated by the table. Ichigo was still wearing his pajamas. Her mom looked up and smiled at her. "Breakfast is almost done, so there's no need to help today," she said, "Why don't you take a seat?"
Sakura sat down in a seat near the table. Soon enough, a western breakfast was laid down on the table. There were a stack of pancakes with a cube of butter melting at the top, omelettes stuffed with bacon, scallions, and cheese, toasted hash browns, and two small bowls of cinnamon and green apple oatmeal. It was a lot of food. Sakura served herself a small bit of everything and so did her mom and her little brother.
"How's school going, Sakura-chan? Have you enjoyed it so far?"
"Hideaki-sensei is really strict with us, but we've been learning a lot. We've been starting on fuuinjutsu basics recently, all in the Suna dialect, and it's really amazing! I especially liked making my own paper bombs and explosive tags. Oh and Hideaki-sensei says that my chakra control is excellent. He even agreed to send a letter of recommendation to the Puppet Brigade! It's supposed to be super competitive though…the entrance exam is no joke. I wonder if I will actually get in?"
Her mom smiled affectionately at her rambles. "I think that the Puppet Brigade will want you once they see what you're capable of doing with chakra threads. You don't need to worry about a thing, have confidence in yourself, and I'm sure you'll succeed."
Ichigo stood up and went to the fridge to get some more orange juice.
"As for fuuinjutsu…" her mother whispered to her ears alone, "you kept what I taught you so far a secret, right?"
Sakura's eyes went wide. "Of course I did!" she whispered earnestly back. "I promised, after all! And I always keep my promises, that's my nindo way!"
Her mother relaxed. "Good, that's good."
Ichigo sat back near the table. "What about you, Ichigo-kun?" Sakura asked. "Are you enjoying daycare?"
Ichigo had red hair like her mother and brown eyes like his father. He was four years old and mostly spent his time in a daycare, since he was too young to be in the Academy and too young to go to trade school or be mother's apprentice.
Ichigo beamed. "I made a new friend," he said. "His name is Keisuke and he taught me how to play ninja. It was fun."
Sakura smiled and ruffled his floofy hair. "I'm glad you made a new friend, otouto." Sakura finished up her breakfast in a few bites. "I should head off to the Academy now that I'm done with breakfast," Sakura told her mom. "Do you need me to do anything before I go?"
"I made you a bento, it's over there, next to the stove. Make sure to take it with you."
Sakura perked up at the mention of a bento and peeked inside. "You made some of my favorites!" she exclaimed happily. "Thank you, mom!"
"Mom's planning to bake a strawberry sponge cake today!" Ichigo piped up.
Sakura hugged her mom and gave her a kiss.
"You should go," her mother advised. "You don't want to be late!"
Sakura agreed. She took off upstairs, where she grabbed her bookbag. Then, she went downstairs again, waved goodbye at her mom and little brother, and stepped outside.
The hot, sweltering sun poured brightly from overhead, the dry wind carrying granules of sand that stung her cheeks and grated over the rest of her skin. Buildings of sandstone, all sand-colored, met Sakura's eyes, each looking the same as the next, as if dunes had risen from the sand and formed buildings.
The walk was a short one, since Sakura lived near the Academy. On her way, Sakura noticed that street vendors were now setting up their stands. She spotted shopkeepers opening their doors, not even lingering one moment in the sweltering heat, ducking inside quickly, where there was shade and the circulated air from their mechanical fans. The village was peaceful, especially this early, before the mid-day bustle.
Sakura walked up the staircase to the Academy and, passing a few early bird students, made her way to her locker, where she stored away her bento and pulled out a couple textbooks to put in her bag. Then, she went to the classroom. Sakura soon turned her attention to a book she had in her book bag, one of the medical ninjutsu books she had gained upon acceptance to Suna's after-school combat medic nin program. Suna placed lots of importance in learning anatomy and physiology first, medical jutsu second. So Sakura reviewed the basics, making notes in her notebook as she did so, as she waited for class to begin. Soon the class filled up and Hideaki-sensei stepped in front of the class. Sakura closed her book and paid attention.
Hideaki-sensei was a man in his early thirties. For the most part, he was forgettable–he had the same brown eyes, tan skin, and brown hair all Suna citizens seem to have. The only thing unforgettable about him was the scar across his left cheek and the hard look in his eyes.
"Listen up, maggots!" Hideaki-sensei called out. The class quieted at once. He began lessons on the history of Suna and Sakura doodled on the edges of her notebook as she listened.
An hour later, it was time for shurikenjutsu practice. She then went to open her locker, using her key, and once she opened it, she felt someone sneak up behind her. When she turned her head, she was shoved to the floor. She heard laughter all around her and it was then that she noticed that she was surrounded by a group of tough-looking kids.
The ring leader appeared to be a girl with choppy dirty blonde hair. She sneered at Sakura and held up her fist and shook it. "You are such an arrogant, little butt-licker, you know that? I bet you think you are oh-so-special too, so different, so much more deserving than us!"
Sakura blinked in shock as a boy reached in the locker and took out her bento. Her mom had made that for her! "Wh–what are you doing?! Hey, put that back! I never said that! Hey-ugh-" Before she could protest more, she was grabbed by the end of her braid and pulled up.
"Is it because your family is wealthy that you think you are better than us?" A sickly sweet voice asked. "Is it the things you have? You certainly have a lot of things, you should give some of these to the more deserving! To someone less arrogant! Like us!"
There was a chorus of agreement on these words. And more of Sakura's items emerged from the locker. Some spare clothes. Her books. Sakura wanted to dash forward and protect her things, but the girl holding her hair kept her trapped.
That was when the girl holding her hair said, "Hey, what's this?" And ripped the locket straight from her neck.
That's when Sakura saw red. Grabbing a kunai from the pocket of her shorts, she imbued it with chakra instinctively and cut her hair. Then she pummeled her chakra-enhanced fist straight into the girl's face. She heard something crunch, she heard the others scream at her in rage before the other pounced on her, some to hold her arms, others to hold her torso, another to hold her legs. Sakura struggled then, but she was definitely outnumbered and some of the kids holding her were older and larger than she was. More than that, she could see the anger and hatred in their eyes. Sakura didn't understand. She didn't speak to anyone and kept to herself. She thought she faded in the background. Until today.
"I haven't done anything!" said Sakura, as she watched the blonde girl saunter close to her. "What do you mean, arrogance?! And my family isn't wealthy at all!"
The girl spits in her face. She tugged away the kunai from her hands and began to glide it across Sakura's cheek. "You haven't lost everything, like we have, have you? You think you are so much better than us because you are not poor or an orphan!"
A girl with brown hair stepped in front of Sakura. She was the one with the locket in her hand, she was the one who held her hair earlier, and it was also apparent that she was the one that Sakura had punched if the blood dripping down her nose was any indication. "You are gonna pay for what you did. I'll give you a nose to match mine!"
Sakura struggled again. But it was no use, she couldn't escape. There was only one option left. She screamed, as loud and as shrill as she could. She poured chakra in her throat too, as if that would make her voice louder, easier to hear from far away. And it worked.
"Shut her trap!" the blonde girl said in a panic.
There were footsteps coming down the hall, hurried, coming at a run. Several boys blanched, their hold loosening. It was enough. Sakura fought, kicking one boy in the groin, punching a girl straight in the face, and squirming her torso as rapidly as she could. All the while, she didn't stop screaming.
"What is going on he–"
Sakura pounced on the girl who held the locket. If there was one victory to be had in this entire ordeal, it was getting back her locket. She punched her straight in the nose, making sure to use chakra, and felt something break. She then punched her in the torso while she was still reeling and the locket was sent spinning to the corner of the room.
"What do you think you are doing?" A woman with curly brown hair and purple eyes grabbed her arm before she could run and pick it up. Other people in the hallway all scattered, leaving behind only two girls, the ringleader and the one whose nose she just broke.
The blonde girl crossed her arms. "She attacked Rumi-chan!"
"You and your minions stole my things!" retorted Sakura hotly. She turned to the chuunin sensei and pointed at her locker. "Just look! All my clothes and my things are gone."
"I didn't steal anything. And neither did Rumi-chan!"
The caretaker looked at the locker. "It's true that it's empty," she admitted. "But how can we know for sure it wasn't always that way?"
Sakura deflated. "They pulled me by my hair so I wouldn't be able to do anything as they stole my stuff!"
The caretaker stared at her now short hair and the strands of pink hair all over the floor. "Did they cut your hair too?" she asked, bewildered.
"She was the one who did that to herself, not us!" exclaimed the brown-haired girl. Her voice sounded strange because of her broken nose.
"Yes, I did that," Sakura admitted. "But I only did that because they were holding me by the hair! I had to do that to break free!"
"It seems to me that you are both at fault. Sakura-chan, for resorting to violence and Rumi-chan, for pulling Sakura's hair and holding her back."
"What about my things?" Sakura cried out. "And what about her?" She pointed to the blonde girl. "She was the ring-leader to the group of people who stole my things!"
"Unfortunately, this all happened too fast," the caretaker admitted. "I know maybe two or three boys and girls who were in the hallway just now, but I don't know who stole exactly what. I can't punish everyone, so I punish the ones I know for sure did something. And unfortunately, Sakura-chan, by resorting to violence, you made yourself just as much a villain as the ones who stole your things."
The blonde haired girl and the brown haired girl both grinned.
Sakura stomped her foot. "That isn't fair! I was protecting myself and my things! They were the ones to initialize things, they were the ones who are at fault, not me!"
The sensei's nose flared in irritation. "How dare you raise your voice at me! Sakura-chan and Rumi-chan, you're both doing chores for the rest of the week after school. If I hear about you two fighting again, then the time will be lengthened."
Rumi and Sakura both protested, but the caretaker ignored them.
"As for Hotaru," the teacher gestured towards the blonde girl, "as far as I can tell, she doesn't look to have stolen anything and she hasn't raised a hand at Sakura either. That means there is no reason to punish her."
Sakura's mouth gaped open and she stared at Hotaru as she smirked a smirk filled with satisfaction.
"Now off with the three of you. And Sakura-chan, you're in charge of sweeping all this hair off the floors as well!"
Sakura gritted her teeth, but said nothing. She doubted any of her protests would do anything. Plus, this was a good thing. While everyone was gone, she could get her locket.
The sensei waited a moment more, then shooed a smirking Hotaru and Rumi away. The last thing that Sakura heard was the sensei worriedly fussing over Rumi's injury.
She waited until everyone was gone before she approached the locket and picked it up. The necklace part was unfortunately torn, but the locket part was unharmed. She placed the locket in the pocket of her shorts and then went to her locker. It was empty of her things. She thought of her bento, made by her mother herself, and tears began to soak her cheeks.
"At least I still have the locket," she whispered to herself in comfort, as she brushed her tears away. But the tears still came. She was not only crying because of her lost things, but also because, for the first time, she realized how scary it was, to be surrounded by people who disliked and hated her.
Eventually, the tears stopped and she began to sweep the room.
Once she was done with that, she left to go to her next class. Hideaki-sensei had been irritated with her and didn't bother to listen to her explanations, merely pointing at the only open spot. She had wilted and begrudgingly stood where he pointed.
Ten minutes later, she had to explain to him why her stack of shuriken and kunai were missing. He eventually handed her another pack, not as well cared for as her own, and shooed her away so that she could start her target practice. She was frustrated and kept missing the bull's eye though.
The next class was taijutsu matches, which Sakura was not entirely good at either. She ended up losing pretty quickly.
When classes ended, she had to spent an hour working on chores after school because of her fight, but after that she was free to walk home. Soon she was outside, the hot, sweltering sun directly overhead, the breeze carrying bits of sand that scraped across her skin. It was unpleasant, but Sakura ignored it as best she could and made her way through the market district of Suna. There were stalls of food everywhere, and the scent of barbecued meat and fried doughnuts wafted to where she was walking. Her stomach growled and she ended up buying a bag of barbecued chicken kebabs. It tasted delicious, but Sakura still mourned her bento.
Soon she was back home, climbing the stairs of their rooftop apartment. Then she opened the fridge and grinned. Her mother had pre-made scorpion and cheese casserole the day before and all Sakura had to do was stick it in the oven for an hour and then it was done.
As the meal cooked, Sakura made herself a pastrami sandwich with cheese, onions, green and red peppers, and mayonnaise. As she ate, she turned on the oven alarm to go off in an hour and then she opened her medic ninjutsu book and began to read.
Around dinner time, her mother and her little brother arrived. Her mother was carrying a giant box and her brother had a smaller box in his arms.
"Ooh, thanks for heating up the casserole. Now we can eat dinner right away!"
Her mother prepared the table and served everyone a slice of scorpion and cheese casserole. She also unboxed the cake. It was a magnificent giant strawberry sponge cake.
"I made the cake myself in my bakery," her mother said proudly. "I hope you guys like it."
They ate and talked about their day. When Sakura got to the part of the fight and her punishment, her mother frowned.
"I was wondering why your hair looked like that. Do you want me to come in and complain about your punishment? It doesn't seem fair, you were only protecting yourself and your things…"
Sakura shook her head. "If they find out about you helping me, then the other kids would only hate me more. I just…don't understand where everything went wrong. Why does everyone hate me?'
Her mother chewed her lip, looking worried. "My dear, it is not everyone. It just seems that way. And I'm not sure either where this hatred comes from. But if any consolation, know that your family has your back."
The conversation then went to lighter matters.
"I helped with the cake," said Sakura's little brother proudly. "It was real fun. I think I want to be mom's apprentice and become a baker when I grow up!"
Her mom smiled in amusement. "You sure you don't want to be a ninja like your sister?"
He shook his head. "Being a baker sounds more fun."
"I'm glad you think so, Ichigo-kun." Her mom began to cut the cake and served each of them a slice. "Someone has to take over the family business. Maybe it can be you."
The cake tasted wonderful. The vanilla cake was light, the whipped cream was sweet, and the strawberry filling was a nice combination of tart and sweet.
When they were done eating the cake, Ichigo excitedly brought Sakura her gift.
It was a puppet of a small dragon.
"Made from Kazane's Puppet Workshop," her mom said, "they are the best in the business. I figured you will need your own puppet to practice on in the Puppet Brigade. This here's a theater puppet, made for entertaining people. I figured you will eventually need one."
Sakura examined it. It came to about her knee and was styled to look like a pink dragon with wings made of what appeared to be stained glass and mimicked a dragonfly. "She looks so pretty…" Sakura said. She looked up at her mom and smiled, then manipulated the puppet with chakra strings. She could change her expression and her limbs were segmented for easy positioning. It definitely wasn't a battle puppet. It would be useful for her theater classes, where they practiced their puppetry for an audience.
She hugged her mom. "Thank you, mom! I love it!"
Her mom relaxed and smiled.
The rest of the evening passed quickly. And soon her mom was helping bathe Ichigo.
As she walked across the stairs though, she was hit by a piercing, excruciating headache. She cradled her head for a few minutes but it only seemed to get worse and worse.
She fell to the floor, cradling her head, and fell unconscious.
"Sakura-chan! Sakura-chan, are you o--"
She opens her eyes.
There is a white canopy overhead and she's laying in a soft bed. Her head is pounding and it hurts hurts hurts. For those few seconds, she doesn't know where she is or who she is or why she was laying on the floor.
"Sakura-chan?" A head enters her vision, and her hair is long and ruby red, her eyes are a beautiful shade of seafoam green, her skin fair. Whoever she is, she is beautiful. "Sakura-chan?" She repeats, brow furrowing in concern as she looks down at her, "Why don't you respond?"
At that, she starts from her daze and tries to talk. "Who--Who are you?" She says finally, putting a hand to her head and frowns. It still hurts. More importantly, why can't she remember anything?
She tries to sit up from where she's laying on the floor, but the woman instantly grips her shoulders and pushes her back down. "Don't move, Sakura-chan. You must have hit your head when you fell down. Tell me, how do you feel? Do you remember anything?"
Her head is still pounding, making it harder to think. She instantly tries to remember who the woman is, who Sakura is…
"I'm Sakura…" she says slowly, that much is right. She remembers her family, she remembers Suna, she remembers her birthday party. When she looks at the woman's face and asks who she is, she remembers her as her mom…
"Oh! Sorry. I was just-- thinking. Your my mom a
and my name is Sakura..."
She trails off as she notices a ghostly figure right behind her mom, hovering and looking worried. She looks like an older version of herself, with short hair and a diamond marking on her forehead. She appeared translucent and washed out, like a ghost.
Her mom looks behind her, but doesn't seem to see the ghostly figure.
Sakura fakes a smile, to make her mom feel more at ease, as her confusion mounts.
"Are you really okay? And please stop faking that smile, Sakura-chan. That only makes me more worried."
She drops her fake smile. "I must have hit my head very hard when I fell," she tells her honestly. "My memories still feel a bit jumbled. But I'm sure I'll be fine in a couple minutes, so stop worrying so much."
She sighs, exasperated. "Okay, okay. I'll stop my hovering. But if you still feel weird after a couple hours, don't hesitate to tell me. We could go to the hospital."
Her mother left the room.
Now that she was alone, she instantly meets the eyes of her older self.
Was this a genjutsu? She wondered.
Immediately, she tried the Genjutsu Dissipation Technique: her hands formed into the appropriate hand sign and she disrupted her chakra flow."Kai!"
She looked up, but the woman was still there.
The next way out of a genjutsu was causing herself pain.
She chakra-enhanced her teeth and bit down on the fleshy bit of her finger. Instantly, she could see blood begin to well up in her finger. She sucked on her finger and she looked up again. Her ghostly self was still there.
So if neither technique worked, it was possible it wasn't a genjutsu.
"Who are you?" she asked finally. "Why are you here?"
"My name is Sakura Haruno. I come from a different dimension than your own," she hesitates then, looking down. "In my timeline, my parents, my team mates, and most of Konoha were all dead. I was the only survivor and I wanted to die, but a man called Obito used his dojutsu to send me to a different dimension, in the hopes that I would find a better life there. But something went wrong, my soul got ripped out of my body, and now I'm here as a ghost of myself."
Younger Sakura examined her older self closely. She appeared genuine and didn't seem to want to harm her. Plus, her story made a strange sort of sense.
"Now that you're here, what do you intend to do?"
Sakura walked to the window, where the visage of Suna could be seen. "Do? I don't know. From what I've seen so far, only you can see me. I have a few questions myself actually. Who was that woman who inquired over your health? And why are we in Suna?"
"That person is my mom and we are in Suna because Suna is my home. I was born here."
"Born in Suna? I see … that's very different. And your mom… is very different from mine's. Is she an Uzumaki?"
Younger Sakura's brow furrowed. "An Uzumaki? What's that?"
Older Sakura sighed. "Well, I guess you wouldn't know, would you? Whether your parents came from Uzushio or not—"
"My mom did come from Uzushio, a long time ago," younger Sakura corrected. "My dad was a Suna shinobi. He died on a mission."
Older Sakura nodded back, her expression thoughtful. "I was born in Konoha instead of Suna," she told her. "My parents were both proud chuunin ninja of the Leaf. But anyway, since even this is different, we can't assume that our pasts and futures will match. Your future may be very different from my own," Older Sakura looked hopeful at this.
"Were you a shinobi too?" the younger Sakura asked her.
Older Sakura nodded. "I was a combat medic nin. Trained by Tsunade herself."
That definitely caught younger Sakura's attention. "One of the Sannin?" Sakura looked awed, "Like Lady Chiyo?"
Older Sakura seemed amused. "Yes, exactly."
"Can you train me then? I want to be a strong medic nin and puppeteer nin both! Just like Lady Chiyo!"
Sakura shook her head, seemingly awed. "You are so different… is it because you grew up in Suna? I didn't even know I'll pursue medic ninjutsu until I was a genin."
"Hey, lady, do you happen to know any fancy jutsu?"
"Fancy jutsu? Unfortunately, my arsenal is limited to medic ninjutsu and taijutsu."
Younger Sakura looked so disappointed that Older Sakura couldn't help but smile in amusement.
Someone knocked on the door. Younger Sakura told them to come in and Ichigo stepped in the room.
"Hey," he said, "are you okay? I heard you talking for awhile now, but mom is downstairs?"
Sakura laughed awkwardly. "Just talking to myself. No need to worry."
Ichigo gave her a strange look, but eventually nodded. He left, waving goodbye and Sakura waved back.
"I should really go to sleep now," younger Sakura muttered, glancing out the window. The sky had darkened since dinner time. Sakura changed into her pajamas and then went downstairs for a glass of milk.
Her mom was in the kitchen, sweeping the floors. She looked up when Sakura came in. "Ooh, your complexion looks alot better than before. I'm glad."
"Yeah, I'm much recovered. I don't think I need to go to the hospital."
Her mom nodded. "Let me know if you faint again alright? Your health is important, and fainting spells may point to other problems."
"Okay." After drinking her milk, Sakura went off to bed.
Her older self told her that she was unable to fall asleep, so she would explore Suna in the meantime.
Younger Sakura eventually fell asleep, cradling her teddy bear close to her chest.