Chapter One: Welcome Aboard
The docks were teeming with people.
That was the first observation that Haruno Sakura, twenty-three, noticed as she stepped out from under the shade of the carriage she was riding in. Her hand came up to shield her eyes from the bright sun, and it allowed her to see more of the docks clearly. Workers walked back and forth loading the ships with large crates filled with goods ready to be shipped all over the world; fishermen were trying to sell their catch of the morning; and children were running around happily enamored with the thrill of being so close to the ocean.
She had never seen the ocean before this. For most of her life, she was stuck in Konoha, the hidden leaf village, surrounded by lush forests and small enclosed spaces. Here, everything was so open! Sakura closed her eyes and took in the smell of the sea and the way the wind swept through her hair.
A few days ago, the fifth Hokage had assigned her an S-ranked mission. She was to board a pirate ship as a crew member and assassinate the captain. The captain was said to be a ruthless man who killed just because he felt like it. He attacked innocent unsuspecting merchant ships, stole their goods and killed the men on board. The government finally took notice after it became evident that such behavior was affecting the overall economy of Japan. People were beginning to rebel against the government for not doing anything, so as a result, ninjas were pulled to try and destroy the rebel group.
All of those ninja were found by the notorious Akatsuki Organization and killed, or so the reports said.
"I'm going to do this, and I'm going to come out alive," Sakura muttered to herself.
Hell yeah! screamed Inner Sakura. We're gonna kick some pirate butt!
And so she stood on the docks, dressed in baggy cargo pants that hid her leg wrappings and held her kunai and shuriken. Long brown hair changed from the original rosette color by a concealment jutsu was tied into a thick braid that ended just past her shoulder blades. A slightly overlarge dark blue shirt with a few patches sewn in finished off her disguise, making her look every bit like the daughter of a low middle-class fisherman.
"Sakura, the ship will be leaving soon."
The girl snapped out of her thoughts as she turned her green eyes upon the speaker.
"Hai, Neji-kun, let's go."
Her companion, a young man who was about the same age as she, picked up the large duffel bag that contained her belongings with ease. They walked for a while, looking for the ship Sakura was to sail on.
"What was the name of the ship again, Neji-kun?"
"You'll see when you get there."
"Why are you here in the first place? I thought I was the only one Tsunade-sama sent."
"You're actually just back-up," Neji replied, pearly eyes scanning their surroundings.
"Oh. That doesn't answer my question though."
"I'm here to make sure you get to the right place."
"Because I don't know the ship?"
There was no answer from Neji, so she assumed it was true. How Tenten could ever marry this taciturn man was a mystery to the naturally boisterous pink-haired woman.
As they neared the ship, they saw less and less people. Those they did see were rough-looking men who walked around with narrowed eyes. Cargo was being lifted onto the ships, but other than that, no other noises were heard.
"Neji-kun, what's my name again?"
Neji rolled his pearly eyes. "We've been over this before. You're Yoshizumi Nami, daughter of Yoshizumi Ryo, the late fisherman of the high seas. Don't forget that."
"I won't. Guess I'm a little nervous."
They walked a little further before Neji stopped all together. He dropped her duffel bag onto the ground.
"This is your ship. Good luck, Sakura."
With a poof, Neji disappeared, leaving Sakura by herself staring at the huge ship. She was about to walk toward it so as to see the name of the ship, but a voice stopped her.
"Hey, you there! You're the new guy, right?"
Sakura turned, only to see a man with silver hair and glasses.
"What's Kabuto doing here?" Sakura asked herself silently. For once, her inner self had nothing to say, which unnerved her.
"Hai," she replied, voice slightly lowered by her chakra.
He gave her a calculating look, light glaring off his glasses, which effectively hid his emotions.
He led her onto the colossal ship and pointed to the left. "That's the forecastle, where you and your shipmates will be living. There's a hammock for you in there. You main job here is as a medic-our last one was thrown overboard in a tragic accident."
"Tragic accident my foot," thought Sakura as she followed Kabuto around the ship, memorizing his directions and faces she came across.
"What's your name again?"
"Yoshizumi, sir. Yoshizumi Nami."
"Very well, Yoshizumi. I am Kabuto, second mate. You'll know everyone else soon enough. We set sail within the hour."
Sakura bowed, much to her disgust, and Kabuto left her. She made her way across the deck to the forecastle to settle her things down. Opening the door, she could barely see anything. The only source of light came from a corner in the interior of the room. Dirty garments hung from the ceiling along with cheap pictures-some rather crude ones at that. Cups, shoes, and bits and pieces of rope lay here and there, scattered across the floor. In the center of the room sat a chess board balanced precariously on a wooden chest. Hammocks lined the walls, some holding bodies while others were empty.
"Ugh," thought Sakura, looking at the sight before her, "So this is the life of a sailor."
"Stop standing there like an idiot. Get in here."
Snapping to attention, Sakura quickly shut the door and went farther into the dark room. She saw a few faces illuminated by the light, but she doubted that they could see her well.
"Come into the light. We won't bite," came a friendly voice. Sakura offered a small smile and took a few steps toward the light, slowly. One of the figures stood up.
"I'm Kin Tsuchi."
"Hello," said Sakura softly, looking at the girl that stood before her. She had shoulder-length black hair and dark eyes.
"She fought Shikamaru," remembered Sakura, thinking back ten years. Bells on string.
"It's very rude of you to not introduce yourself when Kin did so first," said another with his head wrapped in bandages.
"Ah-gomen. I'm Yoshizumi Nami."
Sakura felt many pairs of eyes upon her.
"Why do you keep your hair long, Yoshizumi?" asked Kin, narrowing her eyes, "Don't tell me you're as vain as some peacock, keeping your hair at that length. Hardly characteristic of a sailor."
Sakura laughed nervously, one hand on the back of her head. "Family tradition. My father was a fisherman-he said that by having a fishtail braid, I could have more luck catching fish!"
Kin smirked. "This isn't a fishing ship-you won't be needing that hair." She lunged and grabbed a kunai out of her pocket. "Let me cut it for you."
Sakura dodged as Kin lept at her.
"I'd rather not, I mean. I'm used to the weight and all, and I'd hate to be a hindrance just because I can't get used to the fact that my head feels too light. Perhaps after a few days at sea, after all, I've really only been in fishing boats…"
"Then you know nothing of life on the high seas."
"No, not really."
"Then why are you on this ship? Wouldn't you agree, mates? That she's a little odd?"
There were murmurs of agreement among those who sat behind her, hidden by the shadows of the forecastle.
"Well then, I'm sure, Yoshizumi, that you wouldn't be game for a…test, of sorts?"
"Test?" asked Sakura, timidly. She really wasn't liking the evil glint in Kin's eyes.
"Naturally. I mean, how else can we possibly evaluate you? Every man and woman on this crew does his or her share of work, and that involves climbing, cutting, slashing, and cleaning. Let's see your hands, girl."
Sakura held out her hands, palm side up. Kin touched them.
"Feh. Like bloody cream. You're not cut out for the life of a sailor. Get off the ship."
"You heard me. Get off this ship. Fisherman's daughter? As if," Kin retorted, placing her hands on her hips.
"Leave her alone, Kin. You're just mad because she's got long hair," came a deeper voice. The owner stepped into the light, revealing spiky black hair.
"Psh. All girls with long hair are vain little freaks. Cut it off, I say," was Kin's reply.
The man ignored her and introduced himself. "The name's Abumi Zaku, little lady."
The wheels in Sakura's head were already turning. Shino had fought him, and Sasuke had broken both his arms before that. Why was he on this ship? She thought he had died.
People who make deals with the Devil can't die, said Inner Sakura, menacingly.
"Pleased to meet you," was Sakura's reply, much to the frustration of Inner Sakura, who was opting for the "WTF why do you still have your arms and why aren't you dead" reply.
"Don't be so pleased yet," he said, "I agree with Kin. We should test you. After all, we can't have anyone WEAK on this ship. The captain wouldn't allow it."
"Let her climb the royal yard, Zaku-kun," said Kin, smirking, "I'll bet this sissy couldn't do it."
"I agree. Does everyone else?"
The shadows all gave an appreciative murmur.
"You do know, Yoshizumi, that the royal yard is the highest sail on the main mast? One hundred and thirty feet up-you can reach it only in two ways: the ratlines or the mast itself. Which way would you prefer?"
Sakura thought for a moment. She could easily climb up the mast itself by forcing her chakra to her hands and feet, but she was supposed to be a mere medic-nin without much power.
"The ratlines," she stated confidently.
"Best be careful," came another voice, "Hope you're up to it. If you slip and fall, you'll be lucky if you fall into the sea and drown. Otherwise, you'll crash onto the deck. So either way, it's either drown or be maimed. Your choice."
"How about I live to tell the tale?"
Kin laughed. "Hardly. You're such a sissy. Come on. Let's do it now."
"Now?" asked Sakura, incredulously.
"No time like the present! We've got another hour before we set sail anyway."
Zaku and Kin ushered her out of the forecastle with everyone else following. Come on, Sakura. You can do this! Think of all that tree-climbing Kakashi-sensi made you do. You've got this in the bag! said Inner Sakura, cheering Sakura on.
"Last time I checked, trees weren't a hundred and thirty feet tall. At least, not the ones we climbed," thought Sakura, darkly.
The crew all went to the deck, with Sakura in the lead being pushed forward by Kin.
"Let's see how all that hair will help you now," said Kin with a sardonic smile on her face.
"Are you obsessed with hair or something?" snapped Sakura, vein popping out of her forehead, "I swear that's all you ever talk about."
"Humph. Start climbing."
And so Sakura did. She scampered up the ratlines easily, careful not to look down. She was always slightly afraid of heights.
"She's not going to have the stomach to go all the way up there," came a condescending voice, "Someone follow her to make sure she makes it all the way up."
Sakura heard someone start up the ratlines behind her, and it made her try all the harder. She was determined to make Kin eat her words-Kin always thought her to be vain because of her long hair. She shrugged.
"Shikamaru beat her anyway. It doesn't matter," she thought as she climbed steadily up.
It was a matter of time before she realized that she had chosen the wrong lines to climb. There was a set of lines that went directly up to the royal yard, but she had taken the ones that led to the first trestletree, which was the top of the lower mast, instead. As a result, she would have to inch her way across the first trestletree and up the second set of ratlines. She did so carefully, controlling her chakra to her hands and feet so that she would not fall to her death, which Kin was apparently looking very forward to.
This set of lines led her to the topsail spar, but there was nowhere to rest there. She could feel herself slowly getting tired from her intense concentration.
Come on, Sakura! You're gonna show that little bitch exactly what you're made of!
Smiling slightly at her inner self, Sakura hefted herself up higher. Slowly but surely, she made it one hundred and thirty feet up from the deck onto the royal yard. She couldn't see the man who was following her, but she could sense that he was there. He seemed rather familiar, but she couldn't really put her finger on why she felt so comfortable with him following her. Pausing for a few moments more to let the man know that she was indeed at her destination, she started back down.
She didn't know exactly how terrifying that would be when she started up the lines. At least on the way up, she could see where she was going. On her way down though, she had to grope around for the rungs of the ratlines. It was frightening, but she did it, landing with a double back flip onto the deck.
"Huzzah!" shouted some of the crew, happily. Kin was seething, and Zaku was smirking. He did, after all, had some faith in the girl.
Sakura rose from her landing and stood up, smiling sweetly.
"Yoshizumi Nami," came a voice from behind her. Sakura spun around, smile quickly fading into a shocked expression. Before her stood the man who was following her, complete with the overly familiar onyx eyes that haunted her dreams and the chicken-like raven hair.
"Welcome aboard the Sharingan."
A/N: Did you like it? I hope so! Please leave a review! A lot of this particular chapter was based on Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is one of the best novels I have read. This fic will not be taking the same course as Avi's work, but I'm using some of the scenes (such as the mast-climbing one) from it. The terminology also comes from the novel. I do not in any way own Naruto nor The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but I'm a great fan of both! Do drop a review and point out my mistakes-it's my first time writing Naruto fiction!