This is my first attempt out of my usual fandom (DBZ) which couldn't be done at a worse time as I got 2 fics I really, really, need to update. However, I just had to get this out before it festers too long in my mind. Heh, I guess I'm a bit masochistic after all. There's another idea for the Sasusaku fic I'm planning, but I won't attempt it until I get something finished. That said, I hope you enjoy this story.
Note: Since this is a 'slight' AU, there might be some OOC-ness. I will try to make them as natural as possible.
The hand had already reached out from under the covers to switch off the alarm three minutes before it would have beeped. All movement ceased until, in a blur of pink, the covers were thrown back and the sleepy girl shot upright. She always found it easier to wake up in mornings if she got up as sudden as she could. Not that she had to ever worry about being late. Because, of course, Haruno Sakura was never late. In fact, she was always early, maybe even too early. It wasn't as if being late would have any impact on her high school life. It was no exaggeration to say her grades were so good that skipping classes a few times wouldn't even dent it.
The memory of refreshing green and the rising sun behind her eyelids reminded her she would have to get ready soon if she was to fully enjoy her daily ritual. Anticipation welled in her chest, more so than usual, as the ritual had been skipped for a week due to after-term break. In no time she was out of the house in her modest school uniform, walking down the familiar streets towards Urakawa High which was the only high school in the quiet town it resided in. Some of the early vendors and neighbors called out to her and she returned the greetings with a smile of her own. It was all good, for years her routine never changed yet never got dull. Comfortable, familiar, she wished the rest of her life could continue this way.
The gates came into view and she took a deep breath before entering the empty courtyard, enjoying the serene atmosphere. Going straight to her shoe box she quickly took off her own shoes and slipped on the school's white indoor ones. They were a bit dusty after a week of neglect but she cared less and just quickly made her way to class 3-C on the second floor. Her desk was near the window in the back of the room where it would be for another six months before she was to graduate. Hooking her school bag to the side of her desk she immediately turned to the window, her green eyes drinking in the view.
The still empty courtyard below was bathed in the dawning sun, golden with cool shadows that made her sleepy due to the serene contrast. The water fountain in the center was still turned off but the sculpted white stones sparkled no less beautifully. The pine trees surrounding the school swayed in tandem to the gentle winds and she could see that a bird nest in the tree closest to her was still present. For some reason it brought a smile to her face. The sun itself was round just above the horizon, casting purple silhouettes off houses and buildings in the distance. She had been living in the small town on the fringe of Rain Country almost all her life and the view was still breathtaking each day.
Everything was perfect. Life was beautiful; she wouldn't want to change a thing. Settling her head onto her folded arms, she sighed at the tall pine trees before closing her eyes for a nap.
Everything was perfect. But only when it was two hours before school started.
Sakura was barely awake when she heard the classroom door slide open and close again. It was peculiar for anyone to arrive half an hour after she did, but she thought no more and surrendered to the darkness lulled by the gentle sounds of wind through trees. She totally missed the fact that footsteps could not be heard.
When she stirred back to consciousness again the classroom was almost full, loud with classmates filling each other in with a week's worth of gossip. She blinked and sat up, wondering where—
"Sakura-chan, early as usual I see."
Sakura grinned, but only slightly. "Ino-chan."
The blonde gave a bark of laughter before slapping Sakura on the shoulder. Sakura pretended to be hurt by the act and rubbed the spot with a pout on her face. Ino laughed again before kneeling by Sakura's desk so her aqua eyes were parallel with emerald green. "How are you doing? Any yummy news this past week?"
Sakura giggled, "Fine. Nothing happened; as usual I just helped out my mom and studied."
Ino snorted, "Tch, so boring, you should have called me up or something!"
"I didn't want to bother you, Ino-chan…"
"Nonsense, I thought we're past that stage, Sakura-chan." The blonde then shifted her eyes to a group of girls entering the classroom. After a beat she turned back to Sakura, the playful light in her eyes replaced by a stern gaze. "Sakura-chan…"
Sakura knew that tone of voice, knew what the other girl was referring to. "Don't be worried, Ino-chan. It's no big deal—"
"You don't deserve it," the tone left no room for argument, "none of us do. So please don't just stand there and do nothing." Sakura closed her eyes with a small smile and Ino knew her efforts this time were not going to produce any results either. "You're stronger, you're… This is another one of those useless attempts is it?"
Sakura just kept smiling and looked out the window. Ino felt like punching the girl but knew it wouldn't help the situation because the blow would actually land. With a sigh, Ino made her way back to her seat up-front just in time for the bell to ring as other students scrambled to prepare for the first period.
Their teacher was Fujiwara Takuma, a timid man who Sakura had liked from the start; she couldn't have wished for a better homeroom teacher. Perhaps her fondness towards the man was because she subconsciously felt he was the exact opposite of her real teacher? She rather not dwell on the thought, almost afraid that the powerful woman Sakura called shishou could read her mind right then somehow. Fujiwara cleared his throat and the class quieted down, curious to why he hadn't called for head of the class to lead the teacher greeting yet.
"Class, I want to welcome you back after your term break. I trust you all had enough rest and can now quickly return to school life. Your exam grades will be posted in the hall after recess, so check up on them then. Moving on, I want to welcome a new transfer student into our class." Fujiwara raised a hand to someone in the opposite corner where Sakura sat. "Please come up front, Matsunaga-kun."
There was a visible brightening of the room as females of the class sparkled at the gift bestowed upon their eyes. Some already have started chattering animatedly before the young man had walked three steps, planning ahead on how to 'accidentally' fall into his lap. At the same time, the male students had more varied feelings. Roughly, they could be divided into those that were planning how to befriend the new student then reap the benefits, those desiring to throw sharp things at him, and those wanting to curl up and die.
Sakura felt something else, a quick glance at Ino told her the other girl felt the same, and it wasn't anything to do with adoration. The striking young man was tall, blue-black hair jutted out behind him with bangs that framed impossibly dark onyx eyes. There was a cold aura about him and Sakura was alarmed that such a demanding presence wasn't felt until he was literally pointed out. The black gakuran covered his arms and was high on his neck but she could clearly see the way he walked. Calculated, silent, too precise to be—she had to leave, something was wrong, they all had to leave, it didn't felt right… Sakura swallowed thickly and calmed herself down. It was too early to jump to conclusions yet.
"Please write your name on the board and introduce yourself," Fujiwara smiled, ignoring the now bustling class. The young man took a chalk piece and wrote out his name quickly with broad strokes. The motion pulled his uniform against his back and the breath of the female students hitched comically in unison. Afterwards, the new student turned towards the class while absently dusting his hands off.
"Matsunaga Kei, pleased to meet you," he said in a smooth voice that was too devoid of emotion than Sakura would have liked. The young man named Kei swept his eyes across the classroom once and Sakura made sure she had her eyes averted slightly to his left. He didn't pause in her direction and she wasn't sure that it was a good sign. Usually people would stare at her longer because of her unusual hair color, but then again he had already been in the class for who knows how long… it shouldn't mean anything.
"Matsunaga-kun here had to join in middle of the year because his family recently moved out of the country temporarily. He would be living on his own until they return so please make him feel at home and help him however you can," Fujiwara then pushed up his glasses before turning to a red-head upfront. "Sawada-kun, please stand up." The girl did, light brown eyes sparkling with a hardly contained smile. "Matsunaga-kun, this is Sawada Naomi, she's head of the class so I encourage you to ask her anything if your have problems." Kei nodded once, ignoring the way Naomi was eyeing him like she had found the one thing that would fulfill all her dreams.
Afterwards, the new student returned to his seat and the class progressed normally save for the occasional giggle or scowl. Sakura kept her concentration on the lesson, determined not to attract attention. She had a lot of practice at staying under the radar, more so than others, since visually she was the most eye-catching. It really had to do with attitude more than looks—interesting visuals don't stay long without being backed with a good impression. Unfortunately, it didn't work in some cases.
"Haruno-kun, could you please answer question 26 on the board?"
Sakura stood up with her work-book in hand, suddenly feeling self-conscious. Ino gave her a quick supportive glance from the front and Sakura felt a bit calmer, determined to play things out like she always did. Even more so when she could feel dark eyes upon her back.
The foot stuck out suddenly was something Sakura saw a mile away, so very painfully slow, it always was. However, she kept her pace and tripped like she always would. After she regained her balance she kept her eyes on the board as some girls giggled, ill-concealed whispers of "stupid doll" and "teacher's pet" echoing in her sensitive ears. Inside, a part of her rarely shown shouted death threats that were never carried out. Fujiwara was ignorant as usual, his nose in the text book.
Sakura started copying her answer to the board, suddenly feeling exposed and alone up front with nothing to hide behind. But soon she settled down as she neared the end of the equation, her mind always quickly calmed with calculations she could answer with ease. The class was still buzzing with quiet chatter and it was soothing in a way as well—
Her hand exploded in a burst of red as the chalk she was holding blew up like a bomb, sending crimson droplets into her eyes. She staggered back, a scream building in her throat even as she expertly identified the situation. The pain was almost too real and tears spilled before she landed on her knees, clutching the bloody stump to her stomach. She had to bare it, she had to, mustn't escape it.
Because normal students can't dispel genjutsu.
And she had to be normal.
The scream finally tore itself out of her throat, immediately bringing the whole class to her attention. Fujiwara was the first to reach her, worry evident in his voice as he tried to get her to release her right hand. She felt Ino near next and knew what the blonde girl was going to do. Sakura shrugged off Ino's hand as she continued whimpering, sending the older girl a look that clearly told her not to scatter the illusion.
Then Sakura didn't know what was real anymore when Ino fell, a kunai sticking out of her temple, the worried expression still in place. Another cry tore from Sakura's throat as she reached for the falling body, already forgetting about her own injury. She blinked as Ino hit the ground and only then noticed that blood was splattered everywhere. On the floor, the walls, the ceiling—Fujiwara's body was behind her, but his head was next to her. Bodies of her classmates were strewn about, kunai and shuriken sticking out of backs and heads, some disemboweled or decapitated where they sat. They were all pointing at her, even severed hands, pointing at her accusingly and heads—deadtheyweredead—twisted with a sickening jerk to stare at her as well. Sakura could only numbly look down and stare at the bloody katana in her white knuckled grip. Her right hand was back but she hardly noticed it being too fixated on the blood and gore splattered on the blade, her whole arm, down her front—Sakura screamed.
Sakura shot open her eyes to see her pale and terrified face reflected in Fujiwara's glasses. "F-Fujiwara-sensei…" She was on her back and she stared past the old man at the board where a white jagged chalk mark lead from her unfinished equation down to where she lay.
Classmates were all standing at their desks, peering down with either worried or curious gazes. Ino had the most worried expression as she bit her bottom lip. Sakura didn't know what to think at first before she doubled over and vomited her breakfast all over the elevated wooden platform. Fujiwara was quick to dodge back as the class gasped and Ino was suddenly by her side.
"Sakura-chan? Sakura-chan?" Ino didn't know what exactly had happened, but she could guess. There wasn't much that could cause Sakura to stiffen then collapse before screaming at nothing from the ground.
Sakura kept heaving and took the time to gather her bearings. What would a normal student do in this situation? How would someone never being in contact with genjutsu react? The pink-haired girl started to cry, babbling incoherently about what she seen, hoping it was a convincing display. Ino caught on immediately and responded accordingly, giving her best friend a mixture of worry and disbelief. Inwardly, the two girls were already planning their next moves.
"Fujiwara-sensei, I need to take her to the clinic now!" The urgency in Ino's voice was not faked; they really need to get out of the still stunned classroom. The genjutsu was probably meant to lure them out of the class so it was exactly where they were going to go.
"Yes, yes, please get her there, Yamanaka-kun. I'll send someone for her mother immediately…" Fujiwara hurried out of the classroom as Ino slung one of Sakura's arm over her shoulder, paying no attention to the bits of vomit on Sakura's skirt. The two girls exited the classroom, all eyes upon them. Even as she kept crying, Sakura could feel a particular stare from the corner of the room. She shivered.
Behind white curtains in the bed furthest away from the door Sakura laid with Ino in the folding chair next to her. Sakura still sniffled, whispering with as much confusion she could muster into her words. Her left hand was in Ino's grip and Sakura started tapping her pinky against the other girl's unseen.
"I-I don't know what happened—oh, blood, there was blood and… and…"
School. Not safe.
"How can it be? Are you sure you weren't hallucinating?"
Affirmative. Inform others after.
"Maybe I w-was… You died, they all, m-my hand…"
"Shh, calm down Sakura-chan. It wasn't real, you just suddenly collapsed. The nurse said it was probably just low-blood pressure."
Not confirmed. Uncertain. Still chance.
"You're right… I, I'm just still shocked. I don't even know why, but, it was so real—it hurt so much…"
Afraid. New Student. Suspicious.
"Just take a nap, your mom is on the way to pick you up. You probably just snapped from all the studying, eh? I told you before you shouldn't study so hard!"
Same. Stay vigilant.
Stay together. Not safe.
"I-I don't think I want to go home… I want to see people. I… I don't know, I don't want to be alone…"
Ino gave out a loud sigh as she released Sakura's hand. "Are you sure? You really scared me back there…"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Sakura pulled the white covers higher, rubbing her now pant clad legs against the soft sheet. "I'm… just don't leave okay?"
"I won't. Go to sleep, Sakura. I'll wake you when your mom arrives."
Sakura nodded and closed her eyes. Ino sighed again and settled back in her chair preparing to doze off as well. Unseen, a small bug flew off from under Ino's chair out the slightly open window.
It was a bit difficult to convince Sakura's mother to leave without her, but the woman complied after Sakura pleaded with huge green eyes brimming with unleashed tears. Maybe she caught on to the seriousness of the situation or was just moved by the puppy-eyed look, Sakura and Ino would never know. Regardless, soon they were making their way to the exam score board before heading for lunch.
A group of students were already gathered before the board, trying to find their student number and total scores. Sakura found hers easily as it was, like always, the first listed.
"Way to go, Sakura-chan! First again!"
Sakura grinned nervously, still feeling aftershocks of the genjutsu, "Thanks, I see you didn't do so badly either. Improved actually, you got in seventh place!"
"Yeah! I told you I would!" The blonde girl struck a pose, eliciting a giggle from Sakura. "Thanks to you too, for helping me in hist—"
"Yamanaka! Haruno!" The two girls turned to see one of the student council members waving them down. "Yamanaka, the president wants to see you about the spring festival. And Haruno, Fujiwara-sensei was looking for you."
The girls threw each other a look; it was a normal occurrence but being separated that particular day wasn't a good thing. Even so, keeping the appearance of normality was even more imperative. Ino nodded and, with a last glance at Sakura, followed the boy to the student council room. Sakura herself quickly made her way to the nearby teacher's lounge.
Fujiwara asked her how she was doing and if she really wanted to continue the day. Sakura answered like she did for her mother, reasoning that she was just really tired and the rest in the clinic was enough. Fujiwara accepted her reasons before handing her a stack of corrected notebooks that she should bring back to her class. Sakura nodded and exited, hoping to get the task done so she could go buy something to drink rather than eat. Her appetite won't be returning for a while.
The classroom still had students littered in it, talking loudly about exam scores as most of them ate in designated groups. A cursory scan told her the new student wasn't present and she calmed somewhat. Making her way to the teacher's desk, she deposited the stack of notebooks without a sound, hoping to exit the class again without being noticed.
As she turned, she nearly slammed into a black clothed chest. Startled that she was startled, her emerald eyes shot up into cold onyx ones and she stamped down the reflex to reach for a kunai. She let herself take a surprised half step back, wanting to get out of his space without making an obvious retreat. He merely kept his gaze on her with an expression she couldn't read. Up close the young man was even more striking, chiseled features and perfect skin. The fact added to her nervousness as she never had much direct interaction with attractive men.
"I'm sorry, you startled me," Sakura was aware she looked cornered; her eyes were avoiding his, eyeing the door just behind him, "pl-please excuse me…"
Kei wordlessly turned his body, letting her walk past him. She noted he smelled like nothing, no scent at all. Perfect for stealth. She tried to not run out the door. When she was outside the class she calmed her breathing and made her way downstairs to the soda vending machine wishing all the way that she took some of her master's liquor.
After buying a can of chrysanthemum tea, she wandered to the school's activity grounds wanting to be out in the open with many people. Witnesses, her mind grumbled, not feeling particularly positive. Picking an empty spot under a highly visible tree, she sat cross legged on the grass, feeling a bit glad that she got to change into her P.E. uniform. Leaning back, she let her mind whirl as she kept an eye on her surroundings.
It was certain Kei Matsunaga was a ninja. A deadly one. The genjutsu earlier in class was powerful; enough to make her trapped even after she knew what it was. It didn't need eye contact to be imposed on her as well—though, she had been unguarded. Sakura took a discreet sniff of her wrist as she sipped at her drink. Barely detectable, but Sakura was one of a handful that could identify the non-corrosive contact poison from smell alone. The exploding part of the illusion was probably to keep her from seeing the poison being delivered, most likely by a small, breakable capsule. It had been a fast acting poison that only effects a small area for a short period and leaves little to none residue. It wasn't the first time Sakura experienced the agony caused by one, frequently subjected to worse by Tsunade, but she was a bit disappointed that she didn't recognize the pain and had confused it with getting her hand blown off. The way Matsunaga could sneak up on her was unsettling as well. They were in deep trouble as there was no reason for a shinobi of his class to show up in such a manner if he wasn't after them.
18 years ago, a revolt lead by the legendary Tsunade tore the hidden ninja village of Konoha in two. Equality for both kunoichi and shinobi, Tsunade and Sakura's mother had told her, were not present at the time and eventually we had enough. Kunoichi have always been used in means that only they were allow to; using feminine guiles and sexual persuasion. Very few, if any, were allowed to stand equal by their male counterparts in combat or even permitted to possess the potential to. They were basically deadly skilled geisha, using covert means for information and assassination while being totally controlled by their danna. In this case, the danna would be the jounin and Kage as no female nin was permitted a rank above chuunin. It had gotten to a point where wealthy clans could bid for the strongest kunoichi available to 'enrich the bloodline'—or even as a casual night companion. As Tsunade had crudely put it, the kunoichi were one step away from being expensive high-skilled whores.
The tension had been building in the recent decades as more and more kunoichi found ways to further their ninjutsu surreptitiously, achieving power above that of a chuunin. Some had been open about it, pleading their case to be set on equal footing as the men and having the chance to fight without sacrificing their virtue. Others did it in secrecy, stealing clan secrets and training in the dead of night. The need for secrecy was understandable; many kunoichi had been executed or chakra-locked for stepping out of bounds. Tsunade had been an exception, a genius kunoichi in the medical arts secretly developing jutsu that would give her edge over the jounins. As the grand-daughter of the Shodaime Hokage, Tsunade was allowed to further her medical training, though, was still barred from learning the other arts. Even with the leash around her neck, the gambler gained a legendary status along with two men who had been under the tutelage of the Sandaime. Even Sarutobi, a man with a gentle heart, could not fight against centuries of conditioning and Tsunade's title was an empty one. The last two and a half decades were the result accumulation of the desire to be equal and free. Tsunade, wise with 40 years of experience without loosing to age, had been the one to start the underground preparation for the rebellion, training kunoichi from around the world and teaching them how to wait for the right moment.
The moment had come in form of Kyuubi, resulting in the death of Yondaime Hokage that night. Even with the rebellion lying in wait, the kunoichi were faithful to their home, if not the men, and pleaded to assist in defending Konoha. Apparently, even a giant nine-tailed demon fox could not instill enough fear to override pride from years of ingrained customs. It had been the last straw. Just as the Kyuubi was sealed into an infant boy, Tsunade had brought her heel down on the Hokage Tower with little guilt and even less effort. To the shock of the men, all that was left after the smoke cleared was the flattened remains of the historical building. It had been the signal the women waited for as wives, sisters, and daughters burst forth, paving a bloody road to freedom minutes after the death of the Hokage. The men had been surprised—weren't the kunoichi always faithful and bound? Treason shouldn't even be a word they would dare think against their husbands and superiors. They had the women completely tamed, trained to answer their every beck and call. It was a thought many men had as their last before once docile women sank kunai into their skulls. The power in which the kunoichi fought had been overwhelming especially after so many of the shinobi had been killed by the Kyuubi. Most surprising was the kunoichi that lead them: Tsunade.
The almond-eyed woman was everything a kunoichi wasn't supposed to be. Stunned ninjas watched as a giant slug was summoned, a jutsu prohibited from the women, decimating what was left of the village in acid. A single fist blew the Konoha gate off it hinges adding even more escape routes to the damage Kyuubi had done. Before leaving with the others, the grand-daughter of Shodaime took the time to remove the deceased Hokage's face from the mountainside—it was not a secret she knew her grandfather was one of the founding shinobi that started the oppression against kunoichi. It had been quick and efficient, too sudden for any effective counter measures even by the Konoha military police with all their Sharingans. Therefore, the women succeeded in tearing off their leashes while having enough time to kick their masters in the groin.
Sakura's mother, Haruno Kiseki, left Konoha carrying Sakura in her womb, leaving behind a husband who chose pride over love. Many kunoichi of other countries have followed after the news spread, deserting their comrades, husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons, wishing for a life of freedom. It was a dark mark in ninja history, including a bloody one as each and every kunoichi was labeled a missing nin unless they return. Some did, others fought back, and the rest just kept running.
Tsunade and the women from Konoha were among those still fighting back even if passively, training new generations of kunoichi in secret to keep their legacy alive. Missions for profit were still carried out by taking advantage of male arrogance. Leaders of the hidden villages wished not to make it a bigger fuss than it already was and gave the renegade kunoichi a bit of leeway. After all, a bunch of women shouldn't be that troublesome. Though, competition for missions and the fear of further embarrassment was something that still kept the pressure on the renegade kunoichi alive.
A hidden ninja village without the village. Sakura always liked the idea. Even more so that she was one of the first generation of free kunoichi that carried the bloodline of one of Konoha's clans. Her mother, like many others that had married, didn't bother to change their names, stating proudly that they would run and evade but never deny their name. Some even confessed that it felt satisfying to be a missing-nin under their ex-husband's clan name—it was a suitable revenge of sorts to "taint" it. Sakura was also the only girl of her generation to be an apprentice under one of the Legendary Sannin; the second student ever after Shizune, Tsunade's faithful assistant. It was something she was proud of even if the title came with more hardships than she imagined.
There were fractions among the kunoichi that regret the rebellion and blamed Tsunade, who had been listed as an S-Class criminal, for the continuing conflict. They reasoned that if Tsunade's head was offered as a peace offering then the rest of the bunch would be forgiven and welcomed back. As a direct student of Tsunade, it had put Sakura in danger and an assassination attempt on her life 6 years ago had brought up concerns for her welfare. Her status as Tsunade's apprentice became a top secret immediately; allies who knew were sworn to secrecy as some others were quickly killed. Those of her generation weren't more forgiving. Most were ignorant of her position but alienated her anyway because the general idea was to stay away from the Haruno girl for a reason nobody mentioned. It had really hurt her in her early teens and contributed to the inferiority complex she still harbored.
Then Yamanaka Ino had come along a year ago. The girl was found by one of their scouts, bleeding and unconscious on the outskirts of the city. She was from Konoha; barely escaping after having found out her mother was killed when trying to escape with a still infant Ino. Sakura was part of the team that nursed Ino back to health and they quickly became friends due to the blonde girl's infective persona. It was hard keeping her position a secret from Ino since Sakura had been sworn to secrecy herself. Just before the exams earlier that year Sakura relented and spilled her guts out, words she suppressed for too long rushing forth until her mouth was dry. Ino had been shocked, then indignant, and finally understanding, swearing that there were now two people who carried Sakura's burden. Sakura didn't remember a time she had smiled so widely.
Lately, she had detected that something was bothering Tsunade but knew that if it was something she needed to know then the older woman would have told her. After the incident earlier that morning, Sakura wondered if it was one of those times she should have been assertive and demanded to know if she should be wary. The scar on her chest wasn't the only mark she carried from the assassination attempt.
An air of malice was nearing her position but Sakura didn't move, keeping her eyes away until the sound of multiple footsteps were near enough to be heard by a normal girl. Sakura tried to look surprised when a large cup of ice water was dumped over her head.
"Feel better, little doll?" Sawada Naomi's sickly sweet voice cooed at her. "Since you threw up so grandly in class after screaming like a lunatic, I thought I could help your head cool down a bit." Three other girls behind her giggled, fanning out to hide what they were doing from other students.
Sakura kept her eyes downcast, her scalp and face burning from the cold. Her inner self was screaming obscenities but Sakura decided it wasn't something to be upset about. This was familiar; this was something she could handle at the moment. She stayed silent even when Naomi roughly shoved Sakura's head downward after pulling at a lock of pink hair.
"Lunatic," Naomi spat before leaving, the trio of girls following after her. Sakura just sighed before wringing out her hair, hoping teachers won't be asking questions later. Emptying her drink she stood up just as the bell rung. Sighing again, Sakura absently flung the can at the trash bin 10 feet away as she ran past it.
After she turned the corner Kei Matsunaga picked up the can that had missed its mark and tossed it into the trash bin, black eyes narrowing at the spot Sakura had occupied under the tree.
Returning to class, Sakura found Ino already seated before mentally frowning at Matsunaga's empty seat. He came in a minute later and Sakura wondered if he had been following her—she then wondered if he saw what happen with Naomi if he did. Somewhere inside, she burned with embarrassment at the thought of being caught so weak by a superior ninja. An enemy no less whom she had been taught to hate. She honestly never really hated any of the hidden village ninjas that exiled her teacher and mother, nevertheless Sakura wouldn't hesitate to kill any of them. An act she had already done and still did on a regular basis since she was 13.
She turned to the window and took a surreptitious glance at the dark young man's reflection. He was flipping through his textbook with a disinterested look on his face. Then a combination of instinct and training had her focus away from his image less than a second later.
'I wonder what rank he is… jounin, perhaps? He doesn't look older than me... At the very least he might be a high-level chuunin,' Sakura tossed the thought around a bit more, '… No, jounin level definitely. There's a possibility of him being a hunter-nin or ANBU… but they don't resort to these types of undercover operations. Especially crappily done ones. At least, that's what I know…,' Sakura rubbed a lock of her still wet shoulder length hair between her fingers, a habit she would do when in serious thought.
If he, and who knows how many others, were jounin level it would prove to be a problem as she herself was at most a weak jounin. Even though there was a period of intensive training until her assassination attempt, afterwards she had been enrolled into public school and her training and skills could not be fully honed. If she really did have a decade of intensive instruction under the powerful Tsunade, it would be fact that she would be on the verge of legendary as well.
At the cost of her training she managed to avoid detection, ironically because her name was readily available to the community whereas hunter-nins search for hidden trails and suspicious ninja activity. She still went on missions, usually as a medic-nin, but even those were restricted to ones that didn't interfere with her schooling. A perfect attendance record was something Tsunade wanted out of her—more for her to have a shot at 'normal' school life than anything else.
However, Sakura shifted her eyes to Matsunaga's reflection once more, maybe it was about time the guise of normalcy had to end anyway. When Ino joined in hiding at school without changing her name Sakura had been apprehensive. Yet, Tsunade and the others let it pass; stating that school records were somewhere nobody would be looking in for Ino. It had been preferred to give Ino a new identity all together but the girl had refused, stating that she wouldn't abandon her name. Sakura was happy she could share her school life with the blonde, but had felt that the move was one that might reveal them all. Still, it didn't matter that much as Tsunade had deemed her apprentice strong enough to become full-fledged after high-school. By then, she wouldn't need to hide behind a blue and white school uniform. It was a pity, Sakura actually liked looking like a regular high school student devoid of kunai and shuriken pouches even if the fabric—he was staring back at her.
Sakura's eyes widened and her breath stilled but she couldn't find the will to look away. Even through the unclear reflection there was something about his eyes that either made her feel like running away or stay fighting. Maybe it was because he was across the room and that she wasn't really staring at him that she suddenly chose the latter. She knew she would regret it later when, for the first time in the day, she narrowed her eyes at him. Not necessarily as a challenge but just to find out what he would do. For a moment there was no reaction and Sakura wondered if he really was staring at her, then her heart skipped a beat when he smirked.
Naomi's voice rang out and Sakura snapped her head to the front, heart still pounding even as she stood up with the other students and greeted their history teacher. For the rest of the day, Sakura kept her eyes off the window.
When the final bell rung Sakura immediately made a bee-line towards Ino who stood up with school bag in hand. Not once did Sakura look in Matsunaga's direction even though it still bothered her she couldn't feel his presence.
"Ready to go home, Ino-chan?" Sakura asked quietly. Ino had been living in one of the apartments a block away from Sakura's modest house and though Ino would never get up as early as Sakura, the two kunoichi would walk home together whenever they got the chance.
Ino gave Sakura a worried look, "Actually, I need to stay late today. There was some stuff needed to be worked out for the spring festival and all members on the committee were asked to vote on the ideas. Judging from the list I got this recess, I'm going to be stuck here till five…"
Sakura nodded slowly, really not liking how it felt she was deliberately being separated with Ino. From the genjutsu this afternoon, it indicated Sakura was the target. However, there was still the possibility that it was ruse to lower Ino's guard. After all, as the daughter of one of the precious Konoha clans, they wouldn't let her go so easily. Maybe no one knew Sakura was Tsunade's apprentice yet, just that she was a kunoichi… that would be the best chance they got. "I understand. I'll go on ahead then."
Ino put a hand on Sakura's shoulder and pressed down a few times with her pinky just enough for Sakura to detect. "Be careful, it looks like it's going to rain." The sky outside was cloudy and dark as it would frequently be on the borders of Rain Country.
Sakura nodded and exited the class ahead of Ino, suddenly feeling worried for her mother. It they knew where she was schooled, they would definitely know where she lived.
Sakura stared at the umbrella handle in her hands. If it was just holes, like last time, it wouldn't have been something a bit of duct tape couldn't fix. However, this time the perpetrator made sure there wasn't anything to fix. A glance at the empty umbrella rack next to the glass doors also told her there was no extra umbrella she could borrow. Just her luck. Inwardly she cursed the school for not providing private lockers.
"I heard mental people like the rain; shouldn't you be thanking me?"
Sakura said nothing until Naomi exited the building. It really was like the red-head to leave the handle behind to mock her. Sighing for the third time that day, she glanced at her watch and then the heavy rain that was just beginning. She could wait the rain out, stay another three hours for Ino, or just run home. Thinking about it, maybe it was better to just wait for Ino… but she was worried about her mom and had to inform Tsunade as soon as possible.
She was still in her P.E. uniform so running through the rain wasn't remotely a problem. All she had to do was run for a couple of blocks and she could just walk leisurely under the overhangs of stores until she was a couple blocks away. Or, she could take to the roofs and get home under two minutes. Though, she had no doubt she would be followed… She wondered if keeping up pretences that she was not a ninja mattered at that point. Regardless, it was not a decision for her to make.
Depositing the umbrella-less handle in the trash can, Sakura stood at the threshold peering out into the rain. Students continually streamed by her, noisily opening their own umbrellas with some opting to wait the rain out. She reached a pale hand outward, catching some of the rain drops from the overhang, and wondered if she could just ask a random student going in the same direction to share. Her brows furrowed and looked around to see if she could think of another way to get home quickly without getting drenched.
A black umbrella opened up over her head and Sakura jumped. She already knew who it was before she whipped her head left to gape at the dark-haired youth. "I can escort you home," Matsunaga said in a monotone voice and she noticed it wasn't a question. The top few hooks of his black uniform were unfastened, showing the white shirt underneath and a strong neck she had expected from a ninja like him.
Sakura snorted in her head, he even talks like a ninja. Apparently the men truly weren't good at the whole undercover thing. "Thank you, but I'm fine. Please, go ahead," Sakura tried not to emphasize the 'please'.
"It's okay; I'll just wait the rain out."
"You appeared eager to get home earlier."
"I don't want to trouble you."
"It's no trouble at all."
Damn it, Sakura couldn't believe she was having this conversation with an enemy shinobi. She didn't know why, but suddenly she felt that as long as she pretended to be normal, he wouldn't outright confront her. He, they, were obviously after something if they weren't trying to kill her or Ino already. Information on Tsunade's whereabouts? Most likely, if so, they won't kill her just yet. Why the not so secrecy? Maybe they really were not certain of Sakura's position yet. Argh, it would be better to think it through when she wasn't being forced to accept a walk home. "No, really, I can just run if I need to," she knew she said the wrong thing even before his reply.
"So you live nearby then, all the easier for me to escort you." He said this while using his right arm to nudge her forward. She actually jumped at the contact making it all the easier for him to push them out into the rain as well.
"Ah, um, this isn't necessary, I…" maybe he was going to lead her into an ambush therefore had to lure her from the school to lessen civilian casualties, "I th-think I'll just wait for my friend."
He looked at her coolly, still subtly pushing her forward with the hand he held the umbrella with even as she made to turn around and dash back in. "Didn't she tell you to go on ahead?"
Sakura snapped her gaze back to his, knowing she was loosing control of the situation as they were already past the school fountain. "Were you ease-dropping on our conversation?" She really did want to know his answer.
"I was just passing by and happened to overhear."
The pink-haired kunoichi briefly calculated if making a scene could disrupt his evil plan since many of the female students were already looking at them. Well, swooning at him and glaring at her. She made a sharp turn and walked out from under the umbrella. "I'm sorry, Matsunaga-san, but I really would like to wait for her instead—"
Hardly five drops of rain hit her head before the umbrella was over her again, difference being that Matsunaga was now in front of her. She took a step back, boggled by his speed, now letting a wary look settle on her face. He smirked slightly, the action making him look all the more dangerous as he tilted his head down at her. "Haruno-san, I insist. I would feel guilty letting you get drenched and it would be too dangerous for a lady to stay after-hours alone." Sakura didn't like the way he had pulled at the word 'dangerous'. She also didn't like the fact he knew her name, he must have found it out when she collapsed earlier.
"If you really care, then I can just borrow the umbrella and you can relax at school until the rain lets."
"I rather just walk you myself."
Was he trying to separate her from Ino? Was Ino the one going to be ambushed? Sakura wasn't used to the type of confrontation she was currently facing and knew Matsunaga had the upper-hand. What should she do? Maybe she could just loudly scream and take the opportunity to escape him. However, it was only a temporary fix. She didn't know his exact motives so she shouldn't act recklessly. "Shouldn't you respect a lady's wishes?"
"There are times a lady might not know what's best for her."
At that, a bit of her inner self molded by years with Tsunade bubbled out and Sakura's emerald eyes flashed with indignation. "I can say the same for gentlemen," she retorted, putting more bite than intended. "I'm outright refusing your offer to escort me home, Matsunaga-san. In case you couldn't tell."
To her fury, Matsunaga seemed to be pleased by her bluntness and she wondered if she had been playing into his hands the whole time. "Appears you can speak your mind. Therefore I assume you enjoy the abuse from Sawada?"
Sakura was so shocked that she didn't notice him maneuver them towards the school gates again. "Wh-what?"
"Earlier at recess."
"It was none of your business," Sakura suddenly realized what he had done and tried to stop but the arm behind her didn't yield and the slippery ground gave her no traction. Could he be stalling her knowing she would put up a fight to refuse his offer? Had they attacked her home? Or was he separating her to kidnap her? Sakura's voice raised a pitch as the last of her control started to slip. "And please stop stalking me!"
Kei's answer was immediate, "I was just passing by."
They were now just before the gate and Sakura hated how she started to breathe faster, knowing that even with all the training in the world she was still a girl who shed frustrated tears easily. It suddenly became vital that she didn't cross the school gates with the dangerous youth. She darted forward and turned to stand in front of him, holding both hands up for him to stop while keeping her school bag hanging off her wrist. As expected, he halted in his steps right before her palms could touch his chest. If he knew who she was and what she was capable of he wouldn't risk having such a vulnerable spot come into contact with her hands.
He didn't even glance down, only keeping his expressionless gaze locked with hers as they both stared at each other. She was just outside the shelter of the umbrella and the rain started to fall harder, making it difficult for her to see as rivulets of water poured down her face. She couldn't even hear the sound of her own breathing, the rainfall drowning out all else. She didn't even notice curious students eyeing them before scurrying away.
"Please let me go." Sakura wasn't sure what she was referring to anymore but said it again when there was no reaction from his side. "Let me go…"
It came out only as a whisper and she wasn't sure he could hear them, but she was certain he could read her lips. It was only after she said it that she realized her blurred vision wasn't from rain water alone. She let her eyes clench shut, not caring that it was the stupidest thing she ever did in front of an enemy, and fought back a sob.
Her breath hitched and her eyes flew open when she felt warm cloth under her palms. He still had the expressionless look on his face as he kept walking forward until she was fully sheltered from the rain once more, both her hands still on his chest. It was the first time she touched a man in such a manner and hoped it didn't show in her eyes. She knew that he knew his life was literally in her hands. If she desired so, a burst of chakra from her could stop his heart before he could even gather the intention to dodge. She stared wide-eyed up at him, trying to read him, trying to gauge his reaction. But his eyes were so dark all she could see was her own reflection.
"Come, I'll take you home."
Sakura's hand slid off his chest and they both exited through the gate. The rain fell harder.
They said nothing during the walk so Sakura took the time to think. Only problem was that she couldn't. All she could focus on was the sound of rain falling around them and on the black umbrella over her. Even the cold from her drenched form was dulled. Soon, familiar faces greeted her and she smiled back at them, wishing it wouldn't be the last time she would see the shopkeepers. A group of old ladies who played mahjong every day in a noodle shop called out to her and her 'boy-friend', making Sakura stumble in her step a bit. She was relieved there was no apparent outward reaction from her silent escort. Soon, the colorful stores turned into modest houses and the pink-haired girl finally started to feel apprehension once more.
A block from her house Sakura stopped in her tracks pretending to straighten out her bedraggled look and Matsunaga stilled beside her. He said nothing, patiently waiting for Sakura to move. She did a moment later after she took a hard look at her surroundings a finding nothing out of the ordinary. The rain was coming to a halt around them.
When she reached the front gate of her house, Sakura almost collapsed in relief that the warmth of her mother's chakra could be felt in the living room, most likely watching the afternoon soap drama like she always did. A bit unsure what to do next, Sakura turned to Matsunaga, finding him folding up his umbrella since the rain had stopped.
"Um, thank you for taking me home," Sakura unlocked the front gate, "Sorry for the trouble and please take care on your way back as well." It was all meaningless pleasantries. But the air smelled fresh and Sakura always loved it after the rain.
"It was not a problem," he replied, getting ready to leave. He halted his attempt when Sakura didn't enter her garden. She had a small smile on her face.
"Matsunaga-san," Sakura wondered if Naomi was right all along that she was crazy, "what's your name?"
His eyes widened and she noted it made him look younger. After a few seconds he then slowly stepped forward to bend down towards her ear. Sakura didn't flinch, somehow knowing he wasn't going to hurt her. For a moment he just stood like that, his breath tickling her cheek, and she knew he was struggling within himself.
"Uchiha," he eventually whispered, "Uchiha Sasuke."
He straightened back up and there was something in his eyes that made it look like he didn't believe what he just did. She didn't quite believe it either. "Thank you for taking me home, Uchiha-san." She meant it this time and it showed in her smile.
Not knowing what else to do, he nodded and she gave him one more smile before entering and locking the gate behind her. Uchiha Sasuke stayed there until he heard her muffled 'Tadaima!' before making his way to the apartment flats the next block over.
"Okaeri!" Haruno Kiseki replied, not taking her eyes off a rerun of The Secret Love of the Nomadic Fisherman which was really much more romantic than the title appeared to be. "Are you feeling better? I hope you didn't catch something at school."
It was one of the reasons kunoichi were superior in espionage; the ability to completely separate their roles. Were any ninja to search their house, not a single nin paraphernalia would be found. All their equipment were in hidden areas where the active kunoichi based their operations. Although a person knowing what to look for would find incredibly well-kept kitchen knives and insecticide too strong for grown men. Other than being devoid of any physical clues about their identities there was also no speaking of ninja matters directly in the house—or anywhere within their normal roles.
"I probably have," Sakura answered as she peeled off her P.E. jumper and went into the kitchen, "It might not be anything serious." After she started brewing some tea, her mother came in and took a seat at small dining table. Kiseki was a dark red-haired woman still in her early thirties having wed at a young age. Her eyes were the same as Sakura's save for the irises being a soft lavender. Sakura herself got her eye color from her father, Haruno Taido. Everyone agreed that the pink came from dark-red mixed with platinum blond.
"My goodness, Sakura! You're soaked! Don't tell me you lost your umbrella?"
Sakura snorted, "Yeah, something like that." The pink-haired girl carefully poured the tea into two ceramic mugs and handed one to her mother. "Someone walked me home though, so it's okay."
"Oh?" Her mother raised a delicate eyebrow. "Any chance it's a boy?"
Sakura actually spluttered at the teasing in her mother's voice even though she knew what the question really meant. "Well, yeah, a new student…"
Kiseki smiled, though Sakura could tell there was a certain sad tinge to her eyes. "I should thank the young man, what's his name?"
Uchiha Sasuke. "Matsunaga Kei."
"Invite him over if you got a chance, you don't get boys like him around much."
"Yes, kaa-san." Sakura drained her mug and placed it back in the sink. "I'm going to go change."
The young kunoichi halted at the kitchen entrance and looked back. Her mother was facing out the window, the steaming mug near her lips. The light blue yukata with white floral patterns coupled with her mother's waist-length hair reminded Sakura of a painting she once saw. "Yeah?"
"Careful not to get sick, it's flu season."
"I will, kaa-san." Even as Sakura said that, all she could remember was the feel of his breath against her face.
On the roof of the apartment flats he would be calling home for an undetermined time, Uchiha Sasuke stood with his hands in his pockets. The school uniform was still on him even when it was nearing dusk but he had already removed the coat and pulled out his shirt ends to make it more comfortable. The stiff uniform was something he wasn't used to, especially the tight collar. Regardless, he had been too busy writing his report to change into anything more comfortable.
With impeccable timing Sasuke turned to look at the railing on his left even before the dark figure landed on it. "Target unconfirmed," Sasuke growled as he tossed the small scroll containing the report at the other man, "Was the information faulty?"
The scroll disappeared into a long white coat and the man stepped down so that they wouldn't have to raise their voices any louder. "You know that's not a possibility, Sasuke."
Sasuke agreed but didn't let it show. He must be out of his mind. "From the initial contact I've yet determined her to be a kunoichi, let alone what the information claimed her to be." He must be totally out of his fricking mind.
The other man just stared at him behind tinted-glasses and Sasuke had the time to wonder if it was worn to sleep. "Explain."
Sasuke turned to walk back in, "I don't need to explain to you, Aburame."
"Might as well do, as I'm certain there will be questions later despite your written report. Godaime won't be happy." Aburame Shino always had a way to persuade people with few words.
The Uchiha heir stopped for a moment before turning back to face the other. He had hoped he would be left alone quickly so he could sort out if what he was doing should be labeled as treason or not. "It was as the base intelligence had said; there was no reason to believe her to be kunoichi other than her mother. Even so, the target herself showed no ability possessed by a genin even. Her grades in P.E. are average to low, never missed school, fairly active in school events, and is top in academics—such things leave little time for anything else. She had not reacted to any potential of being harmed, did not guard her expression, did not silent her steps, nor did she posses other habits of a kunoichi." The image of lilacs flashed in his mind as he recalled the smell of her hair.
"How had the genjutsu test gone?"
"Negative, she didn't throw it off and collapsed afterwards." Sasuke didn't say that the level of the genjutsu he forced on her should had made her more than throw up. If anything, she should have been still shaking from it. It had erased all doubt for him that the girl really was who they were looking for when she had stood up so quickly afterwards. The girl had obviously seen her share of blood and gore.
"No additional information was obtained either when she was brought to the clinic," Shino added, his bug had merely reported the target did not talk about anything worth being suspicious about. Even so… "Afterwards?"
"Negative. If anything was confirmed, the reports about her being bullied were true. There was no sign of aggression on her part with the abuse." He remembered the patient look in her eyes as she did nothing through the humiliation; most notable was the lack of fear. She was merely tolerating them for a reason he didn't understand. Which got him where he was now.
Shino put his hands into his pockets, almost mirroring Sasuke, and frowned. "She must be pretending. The information we got is utterly reliable."
"The mission can only go forward after I confirm her status and how she would affect the goal regardless of conflicting information. If you all insist, then extend the observation period." Sasuke made sure to sound like it was a bother.
"Maybe we could have you switch with—"
"It is unnecessary as it would look suspicious. She does not suspect me."
"Matsunaga-san, what's your name?"
The youngest Uchiha made sure his eyes did not waver from Shino's.
"Sasuke, you know we do not have the luxury to have you occupied with deciding whether or not she is a kunoichi. It might be better to proceed with plan B and retrieve both mother and child."
Sasuke felt his patience waning; he was in no mood to bicker with the bug user. "We would then loose our lead to Hime. There is no advantage in provoking drastic measures from the kunoichi. We will proceed with plan A. Expect weekly reports unless noted otherwise."
Shino too was in no better mood as he had a long journey back to Konoha that night. He felt that the other jounin was withholding something and filed the observation for later; it was too early for any accusations. It didn't help sooth his worries that the Uchiha had deserted Konoha for a couple of years when he was 13. "What about Yamanaka?" he asked.
The dark haired youth had already opened the entry door. "Leave her, she is of no importance at this moment," he paused a moment, "Have her removed if she proves to be a hinderance."
The next second, the roof was already completely devoid of life.
"Tsunade-sama, I believe they have discovered us. Or at least Sakura."
The moonlight illuminated the canyon in light blue hues, making it seem colder than it really was. On the other side of the glass, a fireplace crackled with warmth but the legendary medic-nin felt chilled even with the thick cloak around her shoulders. "I know. They are being discreet about it, so discreet they probably didn't even send a whole team."
"Sakura reported one ninja posing as a student named Matsunaga Kei."
"I know of that too, anything else I should know?"
Haruno Kiseki let out a sigh, "The shinobi walked my daughter home."
"What?" The surprised question came from Shizune while Tsunade gave no reaction.
"It was raining and he walked her home under his umbrella."
Tsunade narrowed her eyes and turned to gaze at the vast canyon outside. "Did you get a look at him yet?"
"No. What worries me is…" The same feeling Kiseki felt when she learned that Sakura had walked home with the enemy returned, "… is that he might be someone far more skilled than her."
Tsunade chuckled a bit. "They didn't need to send a team because one was enough." And with news of Orochimaru in the final stages of gathering an army, Konoha really couldn't afford it either.
"What should we do, Tsunade-sama?" Shizune cut in, worry evident in her voice. "It's peculiar they are using such subtle methods yet not completely hiding who they sent. Why go through the trouble?"
"Sakura had been attacked with genjutsu earlier as well, but that was the only offense reported. She doesn't even seem to be all that worried!" Kiseki added. "Seems this boy, whoever he is, is being ordered to get close to Sakura. Most likely to get to you…"
"Tsunade-sama…" the short-haired medic-nin watched Tsunade's reflection rub at her chin.
"Tsunade-sama…" Kiseki echoed.
"Hush, there's no need for panic—especially at this time," Tsunade spun back around and sat in her chair, weaving her finger together in front of her face. "Everyone is to continue their tasks normally, this includes Sakura, Ino and you Kiseki-san. The enemy is definitely up to something but I want to see what they would do."
"Tsunade-sama! Isn't that too dangerous?" Kiseki didn't like the idea of Sakura being near a male ninja of any kind.
Tsunade smirked, a look that made the brown-eyed legend seem as every bit as dangerous as she was. "It's about time our little blossom had some off-battle interaction with a Konoha jounin."
"Jounin? How do you know for sure, Tsunade-sama?" The elder Haruno wasn't quite certain where their leader was getting her information. Then again, the older kunoichi had five decades of wide experience despite the young visage. After living so long, one was bound to learn some neat tricks. The next second was occupied with her catching a file folder tossed at her. Opening it, she rifled through the student records of Matsunaga Kei. It was all obviously forged, stating him to be the only son of a cloth dealer and having been transferred from a nearby town. The 4x4 cm photo showed a handsome young man with smooth features. Kiseki felt even more worried at that.
"He's probably ex-ANBU as well, knowing how that family is." At the confused look Kiseki shot her, Tsunade gave a small chuckle.
The red-haired woman flipped through the papers again, "I don't see any information about his ninja history, nor do I remember any clan called Matsunaga in Konoha…"
"Kiseki-san, don't you think he looks remarkably like his mother?"
At that, Sakura's mother studied the photo even more closely, taking in the dark hair, the pale skin, the large eyes—she widened her own. She couldn't believe she didn't catch it the first time; the young man really did share his mother's features. Uchiha Mikoto had been a kunoichi truly worth praising, faithful to the movement as she was one of many choosing to stay behind as spies, ironically using what they were taught against those that exploit the same skills. Her death had been a tragic one no matter from what perspective. In the women's own version of the bingo book Mikoto's eldest occupied a space in the first pages.
Kiseki swallowed thickly. "That means, he's… They actually sent the last of that clan? Not just any… I can't believe…"
Tsunade smiled. "It good to have Sakura gain some experience with doujutsu; especially those of that particular bloodline."
"Sakura doesn't know anything about the Uchiha clan's ability, does she?" Shizune asked.
"No, she doesn't," Tsunade replied, "She probably isn't even sure what rank he is."
"Then why are you—" Kiseki paused to control her rising voice, "—I mean, what is the purpose of letting her be exposed to such danger? The boy could kill her easily!"
"Have some faith in your daughter," Tsunade stated firmly before giving Kiseki a reassuring smile, "it's time for her to bloom."
Kiseki said no more and nodded slowly, knowing that there was little she could do at the moment. "Yes, Tsunade-sama."
"It's late Kiseki-san, you should be heading back. Report to me any other developments off the school-grounds. Other than that, let Sakura handle the young Uchiha herself."
"Understood." With a quick bow, Kiseki disappeared in a puff of smoke.
After the Haruno matriarch was gone Shizune turned to Tsunade, her eyes questioning. "You aren't going to tell her more about the boy?"
The legendary kunoichi settled back into her leather chair, sighing loudly. "The youngest Uchiha, I didn't remember his first name but I recognized him the moment I saw him. He was younger back then—standing beside that snake-bastard." After a moment of silence Tsunade stood up and once again stared outside the large window. "For the boy to be sent here… What is that perverted Godaime up to…?"
Tsunade had an inkling what was up, just like that saying… how did it go? The enemy of my enemy is my friend. She smiled bitterly at the moon.
Don't think it'll be this easy, Jiraiya. Pink and black flashed across her mind. Because slug beats snake.
To be Continued…
AN. Forgive me for any grammar and spelling mistakes and thank you for reading! (And for those from the Gh/Vi section… pleasedon'tkillmeIwon'tforgettheotherfics!)