Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. I do not own Wedding Peach. I do not own any great quantity of money or property. I'm a STUDENT; that's why I'm poor, okay?
(Notes to an OPTIONAL SEQUEL are in the ending credits.)
Sigh. "Dimensional Exchanges" is finally coming to an end. Wow.
I wrote "Dimensional Exchanges" to be a coming-of-age story of Sakura, and to be a full story in itself. That's why it ends on the place where Sakura resolves her friendship to Sasuke, and returns home. Yes, it was rather unrealistic that Sasuke actually decided to go home, but he was kind of desperate at the moment. And it won't make the sequel as interesting.
All in all, fifty chapters was exhausting, fun, and an educational experience. The story got in over 250 reviews on chapter 48. To all those who had no time or the effort to drop a review, but read to the end anyway: it has been cool. Thank you. Peace.
(( Flashback ))
Chapter 50: Starting Over
The morning sun broke through the windows of the Hokage's office. The sound that came out — not many people expected, especially so early in the morning.
"You want me to do WHAT?" Tsunade exclaimed. She was not sure if she heard it correctly from Sakura.
"Yes. I want Uchiha Sasuke to take my place in the next Chuunin exams." Sakura combed her fingers through her hair. "And for the last time: I am in my right mind now, thank you very much."
"Yes, I know that perfectly well but... Sasuke, of all people?" Tsunade was baffled.
When Sakura had come back, Tsunade had planned to put her with Naruto and Hinata on the same three-man cell for the upcoming Chuunin exam. Sure, Hinata was the only one of the four who did not work with the others. But Hinata deserved the chance, and Sakura and Naruto were trustworthy.
Sasuke was the deviant. It was politically incorrect to let the likes of the Uchiha to represent Konoha. Some sort of punishment on the boy would be presumable. It was illogical for him to take the exams. So why was Sakura even bringing up the issue?
"I haven't trained as a ninja for over a year now, Tsunade-sama," Sakura stated. The young lady's face was serious — much too serious for the Hokage's tastes. "Sasuke has devoted his heart and soul to the Shinobi Arts. The best way to keep him calm in Konoha, would be to challenge him. Putting him in the exams is an opportunity, both for the state of the village and for him. Naruto can control Sasuke, especially when Sasuke is rather weak." She swallowed. "And... Hinata deserves to take the exams with Naruto." Saying that resurfaced past disappointments. But it was the truth. "She is more capable than I am for the position."
Tsunade wanted to rip her hair out. "This is outrageous! Do you expect me to comply with that? Honestly, your devotion to this traitor—"
"I don't expect you to comply with anything I say, Tsunade-sama. I am merely requesting this for myself."
Tsunade understood now. 'She's afraid,' she realized. 'Sakura is afraid of Sasuke. Although, I think it has more to do with their friendship rather than their difference in strength...'
Sakura breathed. She knew perfectly well how ludicrous this sounded. But her argument had its merits, and she wanted to show it. "Should Sasuke... snap, and attack Naruto, at least it would be a member of the Hyuuga clan backing him up instead of me," Sakura said. "From what you told me of Hinata, she has medical expertise. Plus, she has the Byakugan, something that the Sharingan cannot catch. I am not qualified to take the Chuunin exams at present. This is not self-sacrifice on my part. It is self-interest."
Tsunade's tight fist loosened on the desk. "You are certainly wise to tell me this without Sasuke in your presence. He would not be impressed at all."
"Few things impress him." Sakura bowed. "Thank you for your time, Tsunade-sama." With that, she walked out of the room.
The morning birds chirped, their sounds dancing into the building. A silver-haired jounin stood in front of a dark-haired boy, who was now sitting in a chair.
"So you escaped Orochimaru," Kakashi mused.
Sasuke made a brief "hmpf" before going back into his usual silence.
"And you ran into Itachi."
Kakashi twitched. Sasuke had not changed one bit.
The older man sighed. This was going to be hard to explain — it was a good thing Naruto was not here yet. Sasuke needed time to get used to Konoha again. And considering what Tsunade had planned...
"The Hokage gives you an assignment, Sasuke. Do the recovery program Tsunade recommends — and take the next Chuunin exams with Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuuga Hinata."
Sasuke's head shot up. He wondered whether he had heard that correctly. Why did the Hokage want him to take the exams? And why Hyuuga Hinata and Uzumaki Naruto, of all people?
Kakashi read the expression on Sasuke's face. "Sakura, right? Well... After what you did, we can't possibly put back everything the way it was before." Kakashi refrained from telling Sasuke that it was Sakura herself who asked the Hokage to do this.
The jounin's tone slipped into that of a lecturing father. "The Haruno household only recently got their daughter back after a year of her abduction. They would not want her to take the Chuunin exams in such a short period of time — especially alongside a boy who abandoned Konoha, mastered the Sharingan, and associated himself with Orochimaru."
Sasuke looked down. Of course he was not allowed to be with Sakura. Sasuke was too strong; he was a monster in people's eyes. Even now, conversing with Kakashi, there were at least two jounin in the hallway, monitoring everything Sasuke did.
Kakashi shook his head. His returned pupil was visibly upset about the ordeal. "With Orochimaru training you, your skills are at least Chuunin level. The Hokage judged that the best way for you to adjust would be to represent Konoha in the next exams, along with Naruto and Hyuuga Hinata."
Personally, Kakashi did not approve of the team combination. It was unbalanced to a high degree. Two out of the three kids had doujutsu in their eyes. The one who didn't have a doujutsu had instead a nine-tailed fox-demon sealed in his belly button. An over-powered team, if there ever was one. But Kakashi had no say in this case; it was the Hokage's orders.
Sasuke frowned at his now-official mentor. "Aren't you afraid like the others that I'm a double-agent for Orochimaru? Or that I might attack Naruto?"
"I can tell that you're rivals," Kakashi said. He turned to Sasuke. "But I know something. You had the perfect chance to get the Mangekyou Sharingan when you faced off against Naruto. It's what you needed to tie with Itachi. And yet..."
Sasuke turned away. Now he understood.
The hyperactive blond ninja was the only genin who knew Sasuke enough to be civil with him — and yet beat him to a pulp if he made the wrong move. After all, Sasuke was powered up with the curse the last time they met, and he did not have that brute strength anymore. Naruto was being tutored by Jiraiya, a rival of Orchimaru. The blond shinobi also had Hinata, the heiress of the Hyuuga clan, to back him up. The plan had the guise of rehabilitation, but there was also cruel enforcement in every detail.
Kakashi's one visible eye trailed on the side of Sasuke's neck. The black marks were faint, almost nonexistent. "Tsunade and her medical specialists confirmed that your curse is gone. And there are no records of you killing Konoha ninja or innocent civilians. Those are the two primary reasons why you are eligible. But still, you should be grateful for the Hokage's generosity: she's giving you a chance."
"Sakura gave me a chance, not the Hokage," Sasuke said.
"If Sakura gave you that, then don't waste it," Kakashi gravely retorted. There was a stern pause. His tone smoothed out. "I'll help you start retraining. Your body suffered exhaustion when you escaped Orochimaru. And although you've mastered the Sharingan, that alone is not enough for your full potential." Kakashi turned around to leave. "For our first session, meet me on the bridge at ten, tomorrow morning."
Sasuke stared. A hint of an old smirk traced his lips. "I'll kill you if you're late."
"Be careful when you say that, Sasuke," Kakashi said in light humor. "There'll be people watching." Something of a smile crinkled through his mask. 'Damn, it will take a hell of a time to make him loosen up a bit. Maybe puberty will help.'
Sakura was a little annoyed with the prevailing theory of her disappearance. The investigators concluded that she, Haruno Sakura, had received a powerful genjutsu or lost her memory when she was abducted. Once she came to her senses, she managed to come back to Konoha on her own.
It was the only valid theory the interrogators could come up with. When Sakura calmly told them that she had been taken to another world, that marked the end of the interview. Her answers were sincere; that much they knew — but the jounin could not accept them. The citizens of Konoha were extremely sensitive when it came to theories of monsters or demons. They would laugh the truth off, at the very least. It was safest for the official report to say that she had been under an illusion.
Sakura was only a genin, after all. She had no proof that she went to an entirely different reality. Her wind-jutsu did not work well without a katana, and the angelic exorcism was useless because it only affected zombie-like curses or creatures. Not that she wished to give any proof.
'Oh well, I might as well look at the bright side of it,' Sakura thought with amusement. 'I'll have more privacy than in some other places.' She remembered the attention she got in Ramah Village after she stopped that elfin arrow. Although flattering to a certain degree, the pink-haired girl was not so stupid as to willingly put up with that again.
Tsunade and her team checked that she was physically and mentally Haruno Sakura. But nobody could guess where she had been. Not even the hunter-nin had spotted her. 'That's because I wasn't here, you idiots!' Sakura desperately wanted to scream.
It was unwise to tell Tsunade that it was her who removed Sasuke's curse. Nobody needed to know about that. If one person got wind of this, and the secret managed to spread across the networks of shinobi, Orochimaru would have one more reason to annihilate Konoha.
Although somewhat improved, Sakura's ninja skills were still mediocre. She had to train more. It would be best if she laid low for now — all the more reason to decline taking the upcoming Chuunin exams.
Sakura curled up within her bed sheets. Mrs. Haruno sat next to her, lovingly brushing away some strands of pink hair.
"I'm so happy that you're alive," Sakura's mother whispered.
"I'm happy that you and Dad are still alive." Sakura crawled over, and squeezed her arms around her mother's torso. She had been secretly afraid that one, or both, of her parents had been killed while she was gone in the other dimension. They usually performed C-rank missions, B-ranked in times of need. There was always a risk involved with being a ninja. There was always a risk in living, period.
Mrs. Haruno sighed. She had never felt so relieved and overjoyed when the Hokage's office sent the message of her daughter's return. The muscles in Sakura's arms were firmly built, and new confidence seemed to radiate from the girl's aura. Not only did she safely return — she came home a little more mature than before. Her green eyes showed a new sadness, but also the hint of wisdom.
"Sakura, you really did go to another world, didn't you?" Mrs. Haruno said.
Sakura looked up. "You heard the interview?" The girl bit her lip, observing her mother. 'And she BELIEVED me?'
Mrs. Haruno giggled. "Of course. I was right behind the two-way mirror when they were talking to you. Just because the interrogators were skeptical doesn't mean that you were lying."
"A year-long genjutsu on me," Sakura grumbled. "Nice idea they came up with."
"It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're back."
The pink-haired girl heaved a sigh as she cuddled in her mother's arms. This was her mother. She only needed one.
Mrs. Haruno picked up what looked like a pile of trash. Her daughter's red dress with the white Haruno symbol was totally ruined. Flecks of dirt and blood blotched it, like paint on a canvas. 'Terrible,' she thought. Little did she know that some of the hardened blood came from a certain Uchiha boy. "Sakura, you're going to need some new ninja clothes," she said. "I think we'll need to throw this away. And you can't walk in the streets in your pajamas."
Sakura groaned. Her hand traced the soft pajamas hugging her. "I like walking around the house in nothing but a T-shirt and boxers." She snuggled into the pillow. "Maybe I can wear it outside the house as well..."
Mrs. Haruno laughed. "That is sure to attract unwanted attention. Especially when your hair has grown so long and..." She declined to say the word 'beautiful'. The older woman sat up from Sakura's bed, and walked out of the room. "I'll go and make dinner while you rest, okay? Dad will come back from work soon."
"Mm'kay," Sakura chimed.
Mrs. Haruno shut the door with a gentle click.
The sky was a refreshing blue. Sakura got up, and opened the window partially to clean out the stuffy air. A gentle, flowery breeze followed. Sakura stretched her body over the bed, living the moment to wonder about things.
She planned to visit Sasuke the next day to check up on him. She was now his only friend in the village. Kakashi was working as Sasuke's mentor again, but it was obvious that he was cautious around the boy. Naruto was currently away with Jiraiya.
The pink-haired girl looked out the window. She breathed in the scent: this was her real world.
'I'm home. I'm finally home.'
A pink flower petal danced through the wind outside. It brushed past the windowsill.
But Sakura never saw it: she had already fallen asleep.
END OF DIMENSIONAL EXCHANGES
Many special thanks to the faithful readers and reviewers! I actually thought for a while that I did not have many readers, considering that the review rate of this story had a much lower average than, oh, say, yaoi fics. But now that I look at this long list of reviewers — it was a success. Some people really enjoyed the story, and I'm glad.
Here are my plans for the upcoming story, which is an optional continuation — i.e., if you don't like the sequel's features, you can just read "Dimensional Exchanges" by itself, and just believe that the sequel doesn't happen (or exist, for the matter).
a) The title of the sequel is "Beyond Hearts and Minds". IT IS UP.
b) Main pairings: naruhina definitely. Sasusaku maybe. I consider writing a good sasusaku fic a hard challenge. For those of you who wanted minosaku, I'll put in a few scenes to appease your tastes.
c) Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy, like before. There will be some romance (see above), drama, and lots of action. I'm an action girl.
d) Mood: Funny to weird to dark. You have been warned.
e) Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, and sexual innuendo.
f) If anybody wants to suggest anything for the sequel, put it in a review.
Thanks to individual reviewers:
Jade Eyes: If you still want to do that one-shot, you can do it now...
Nocterayne: Thank you so much for your encouraging reviews. Some of the stories you told me made my day, especially the one about the Masochism Tango! I know you're probably disappointed about the pairings, especially when they're 'traditional'. But it will be harder for Sasuke than you could ever imagine. And I'll put in the Japanese mythology as promised. I'm looking up to Serpentine Rose as a model.
Lady Light: Rejoice, sasusaku fan! I always loved to see your beautiful messages of delight and encouragement. You also saved me at one point, where something wasn't too clear... That helped this fic a lot.
Fwoggie: I loved your reviews! Sorry that it's not the pairing you wanted, but there's always the chance that opinion will tilt my plans.
Thedarkowns1: Thank you for reading this story! Your screenname owns. I also want to thank you for helping me resolve that the sequel should pair up Sakura with Sasuke. In the middle of Dimensional Exchanges, I asked people to vote either for Minoru or Sasuke, and it ended up as a dead tie. You tipped the scale with that last review. Ah, democracy in action. And your reviews were wonderful: even though it was later in writing this story when you began to drop some words, I still liked your comments and suggestions.
catc10: Hello, and thank you for cheering me on! I particularly enjoyed your panicked reviews after cliffhangers. They were so cute! Since they seem to torture you a bit, I'll try to keep them to a minimum in the sequel...
jelly-bean89: You're no help! I'm kidding — I loved your reviews. As for ideas in the sequel, I'll just have to make up something on my own. That's a writers job, you know?
Ashley: I'm so glad to have entertained you all this time. Your reviews are so cute!
Ciastor: Yeah, fanfic specialist! You always keep us on our toes. I can tell that you've read a lot of fanfiction, and it was an honor to be critiqued and complimented by you. Hopefully, you're not mad at me for making Minoru into a 'bad guy', which he actually isn't, but he will prove himself worthy in the sequel. He's complex as an OC, so I'm choosing you as a judge on his character.
HikaruofArrow: You're awesome.
Maya Amano: Well, thank you for your long, LONG support. Your suggestions really helped when I made Sakura's attacks and such. And hopefully, the sequel will suite your tastes.
CrissyKitty: Look! Sakura came back! Just teasing. You were so anxious for me to get her back. I was happy when you kept on saying that; it was just a sign that you were reading this story. Thank you, thank you for reading and commenting.
The Librarian's Assistant: Your screenname is not cutsy, nor vulgar. I love it. Thanks for your wonderful review; that was one of the most heartfelt and sincere reviews I've ever gotten, especially when you're quite picky in what kind of Naruto fanfictions you read.
Blueberry Dalquiri: if you're still reading, I hope you enjoyed the story. I know who you are, and worship your writing — but since you seem to be lying low, I won't reveal your true identity. (I mean, why else did you change your name? Privacy is something nice, and I respect that.)
Grummur: Are you ready to rumble? :grin: Let's see if Minoru can compete with Iro as an original character. For some reason, when I started reading your fanfic, I thought of Iro like Minoru. Both have dark pasts, and strange abilities... Oh, jeez, let's be careful not to make them Mary-Sues, even though they are men. Let's go!
rjsRocketeer: Thanks for the comment about my grammar and spelling, which I take pride in doing carefully! It's hard to find people who appreciate that...
sonydjsnmix: Thank you for reading — it may not seem like it, but I noticed that you were keeping up with the story! Thanks!
phoenix-light: Thank you for that comment... Yeah, that does make sense, now that I think about it. Who knows what Kishimoto meant by that, but your explanation is a lot clearer than mine. If I edit that chapter, as well as the first thirty-some chapters, which are the only ones which accept the brackets for Inner Sakura (SHANNAROOO!), I'll put your interpretation in the notes as well.
LoveLiveLaugh: Well? Okay story? I hope so.
Honolulu: Yes! I was so happy with your review, because I wanted to write the story so that anybody who did not know Wedding Peach could enjoy it anyway! (To tell you the truth, I'm only acquainted with the manga. I don't know how the anime did the story...)
joann: Hope you liked it. :evil laugh: Sorry that I can't pair up Itachi and Hinata for you, but Itachi will show up in the sequel!
Azianhikari: Yeah, Sasuke will get jealous over Sakura in the sequel. It will be extremely funny and interesting.
cat.l.d: Thanks for reading! I know your reviews were few, but I loved them all the same, since you were keeping up with the story.
Pikachu: Oh, how cute, your screenname! I hope the story ended up to your liking.
Chocobaby: I'm glad that this story entertained you for so long. I hope its wording wasn't too complicated at times; this ended up pretty long.
Agent Vash: I love that name, just because it sounds like "vache", the French word for cow! That's so cute!
grace: Yeah, Itachi. He's coming, you rabid fangirl.
Anonymous "reviewer": Yup. Kakashi knows his students. And there's more sasusaku in the future, as I've already said.
Okashira Paige: I updated, as you requested.
Haruchan: I love cliffhangers. Don't you?
Mse: I kept going.
Aik0h: You support me all the way? All right!
JAi0rOKu: Yes, she has returned. Sakura will still have some closeness with Minoru... Well, I can't give you the details.
Silent Angel: Thank you! And I saw your site: it is absolutely gorgeous. It's so touching to see my story there...
weirdnezz279: Why, thank you! I tried my utmost to make this fic original and weird, yet still cool.
MoonSeaEarth: The sasusaku is coming!
aNI-fREaK: You were the one who suggested both sasusaku and minosaku... Well, I sort of made it that way.
aznstarlu: Rejoice and be glad. Sasusaku shall come, although in a different flavor. Thank you for your reading.
Rogue solus: Cool ficcie? Thanks. I'll try to make the next one even cooler.
Destiny1029: Yes, she has returned home.
C.M Aeris Queen of Insanity: You still there? I just want to let you know that the sequel will be more insane.
Yoko: I hope I did Serpentine Rose honor in writing this. It's not as gruesome as her "kamikaze inn" and "three of fates", but it will get somewhat close in the sequel.
chynk: I hope that you enjoyed the story! And yes, you were one of the few ones who could guess that Sakura would meet Sasuke in her dreams.
Samuru-Sa: Did it end okay?
Merffles: Sorry that there were no clear-cut pairings in this fic, but there will be in the sequel. Hope you enjoyed it.
phew: Thanks for your technical input. I hope you liked the magic fighting scenes; you seem the type if you know so much about Shaman King!
Cora: Your view on sasusaku was dead-on. I think that's what makes it all the more interesting. I hope that this story was written okay without a clear pairing; I wanted to keep it kosher, at least for this story.
Jnai: Romance? Coming up.
the gal Ran Kotobuki: Wow, you seemed very passionate about sasusaku...
Cattleya Glory: Thanks for your review; it's awesome to hear people compliment writing. I'll keep up the good work.
SJ: Sakura kicked ass in this story — and she'll do more in the next.
Eadha Ohn: Yes, this was a weird fanfiction. It became even more outrageous as it went on. I hope you had fun reading it!
Zsych: Yup, Sakura grew and matured though her intelligence.
To all readers, thank you for reading this story!