By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is for my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. Most of the story, characters, place names and other etc stuff in this fiction are copyright Naruto, Kishimoto Masashi, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any others I might have forgot.
For non up-to-date readers, this fiction contains characters and events introduced post-timeskip and spoilers up to Chapter 293. I also humbly suggest reading Garden of Sanctuary first before reading this fiction. Although not a requirement, many things in this fiction will not make sense unless that has been read beforehand. The link to Garden of Sanctuary is in my profile.
With that said, enjoy.
"The scattered fragments of my thoughts."
- First Entry -
Reign of the Fifth Hokage, Third year. October 5th.
15 years old.
It was the decision of the village. The secret mission of that ANBU man he only knew by the name Sai had revealed itself when Naruto had lost control. Orochimaru had pushed him over the edge at the not-so humble reunion at the Tenchikyou Bridge, and the Kyuubi had pretty much taken over and he went under a violent, uncontrollable rampage. Sai was there to observe and recorded the entire incident to the smallest detail, and handed in the report stating that he was a danger to the village if they continued to let him roam free. Using this as leverage, Sai's superior, a Village Advisor by the name of Danzou swiftly seized control over the Hidden Leaf's Village Council that had governing rights and power that over a Hokage. He forced a court martial concerning the issue, and the decision was made. In a village that already resented him – or rather, the thing inside him – the result was not that surprising. From that day onward, Naruto's home was the long-forgotten dungeons far below the sewers that ran underneath the Hokage Tower.
Naturally, when the decision of imprisonment came about, many of his friends, comrades, even his 'granny' had told him to leave and run away from the village. The opportunity was there, and they even offered to lend him a helping hand in the escape, but Naruto politely declined. For Naruto, no matter how resented he was, no matter how much he was hated, the Hidden Leaf was his home. He loved the village. Leaving the village was simply not an option.
- Introduction, "Garden of Sanctuary"
The woman softly knocked on the door.
She barely heard the reply in between the fit of sobs.
For a while, there was nothing more but silence. The elder apprentice of the Fifth Hokage frowned in front of the door but she expected this quiet the other girl was trying to withdraw into. For the short but sweet three years they've been together under the legendary Tsunade, Shizune had found herself treating Sakura like her adopted little sister, becoming close and slowly coming to understand one another. That was why Shizune knew of Sakura's pain better than anyone else, and it made Shizune feel that much more sympathetic.
"…Sakura, look… it's been four days." The older woman said, her voice in an attempted soothing tone.
For the past few weeks her little sister had been going through some tough times, but she only started to break down after the events of four days ago. Since then, the girl had been crying non-stop, locking herself in her assigned room in the Hokage Tower. It was the day when that damnable sentence was handed down, the day when her hopes and dreams had been shattered into a thousand pieces. And Sakura could do nothing to stop it. She cried until her tears were dry, she cried until her throat ached. And even after four days, she still was crying.
Realizing that she was going nowhere with her words, Shizune tried something a little more direct.
"Today is the day, you know."
Her words were harsh, marking the approaching reality like a nail in the coffin. Shizune knew it was cruel but for the sake of this girl it needed to be done. Shizune soon heard Sakura's uncontrollable chokes of sobs erupting into full-fledged tears as she wept again and again – but then… it stopped. For a moment Shizune wondered if she had finally gotten through Sakura but was quickly proven wrong. It was quiet at first, but there was no mistaking it.
Sakura was laughing.
Horribly worried if Sakura had gone insane from overwhelming grief, Shizune broke the door down with one powerful shoulder slam reducing the door into mere kindling. She found the girl sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, her laughter getting louder by the minute. Shizune held the held the hollering Sakura by her shoulders and shook a little. "Sakura? Sakura! Snap out of it! C'mon!"
She was laughing and laughing.
Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Shizune couldn't think of doing anything else.
She slapped her.
It worked. The laugher ceased and the insane grin had been wiped off clean from the girl's face. Her face soon settled into something neutral, something cold and detached. She looked like a broken porcelain doll.
"…They're gone." Sakura said finally, her voice a mechanical tone.
"They're… they're both gone…"
Tears were starting to form in her eyes again. Shizune comfortingly embraced the weeping girl in her arms. Sakura offered no resistance, and instead accepted the invitation almost too eagerly. They continued to sit on the floor, the silence and the sobs that periodically broke it utterly painful.
Danzou was a man who thirsted for power and revenge.
The origins for his desire came from his missing right arm and eye, having suffered the loss during the attack of the Kyuubi fifteen years ago. Since then, he has never forgotten the pain and the suffering, not even for one day. He had sworn an oath for vengeance.
The moment he heard the beast was sealed within a baby, instead of acting he waited instead. He was a clever man too, for he knew he wouldn't get his revenge if he acted so hastily, especially so when the child was put under the protection of the then Third Hokage. So he waited, quietly biding his time. He waited and waited until the child who held the Kyuubi within grew strong – so strong, in fact, that he could successfully prove that the child could and would be a danger to the village. It was then when he struck, and he succeeded. By imprisoning the demon child, he ensured his political stability within the Council and disproved the credibility of the Fifth Hokage he despised. Now that he was appointed as the newest leader of the Village Council, Danzou knew it would only be a matter of time until he would take over. He had killed two birds with one stone. He never felt more satisfied before in his life.
His loyal subordinate who carried out Danzou's orders flawlessly was kneeling in front him yet again. Their situation was eerily similar to the day the boy accepted the mission; they wore the same clothes, they held it in the same place, and even the subject of discussion was of the very same mission. The only difference was that this time Sai was reporting the successful completion of the mission instead of receiving it.
"Good work." The village elder praised him.
The boy's head bowed forward. "Thank you, Danzou-sama."
Like before, Sai had a fake smile plastered on his face, but this time he personally felt it looked more genuine. Only… he wasn't so sure if the smile carried forth the intended message. In fact, he still couldn't get used to this new feeling he unlocked just recently, this thing they called emotion.
He felt it for the first time in his latest mission he was assigned to, and the experience was one he certainly did not care to repeat again. Of all the emotions he had to suffer for the very first time in his life, what he felt was – fear. At first, it was horrifically displeasing, but when he let it loose, something had snapped in his mind telling him that everything was going to be all right. He listened to that voice, and gradually he found himself performing better when it came to controlling expressions. He omitted that part from the mission report. There was no need for his leader to be aware of that.
"Is there anything you wish for, Sai?"
Ah, the words he had been waiting for. Sai's head rose from his bow. He nodded.
"Name it. I will do anything in my power to grant your wish."
This time Sai's smile really was genuine.
"Your death, Danzou-sama."
Sai moved swiftly and smoothly. He whipped out a scroll from behind, drawing a simple line on the paper within. Then, molding a bit of chakra, the black line on the paper shifted as he manifested the sharp senbon needle with his signature technique. Before the elderly man could even understand what was happening Sai had already thrown the instrument of death. Danzou was dead even before he hit the ground.
Sai felt nothing at first as he stared at the corpse beneath his feet. Not that he expected to, of course, so he was amusingly surprised when he gradually felt as if he had just taken a stack of weights off of his shoulders even when there was no such thing.
Am I feeling… relief?
He liked it. Perhaps he really could get used to this thing called emotion.
A swirl of ink, and he was gone.
Yamato was nervous as hell. He had finally been called up to see her personally.
For the longest time, he had managed to avoid the summons from the Fifth Hokage. He knew about her reputation and the acts she… erm, 'preformed' when she was utterly pissed off (Jiraiya-sama in near-death when he attempted to peek at her bath when he was young a very good example), so he was scared to think that this time the target of her extremely pissed off anger was directed mostly at him.
Although he had managed to eventually subdue the Jinchuuriki boy thanks to his powers he inherited from the First Hokage, it had caused enough havoc that the report made by Sai had an overwhelmingly convincing effect on the Village Council. The woman loved the boy as if he were her own child, and now the boy was going to be eternally imprisoned. And to think, it was all because of him. He couldn't really blame her for being pissed off. He was the one that failed her, after all. He should have subdued the Jinchuuriki the moment he started to lose control. Hell, even during the trials Yamato was pretty much forced by the Village Council to testify against them adding insult to injury.
Yamato replayed the scene both in the field and in the courtroom time and time again in his mind, thinking of something he could've done that would've prevented this whole mess from happening in the first place. The problem was, he could, and he endlessly blamed himself for not taking action sooner. Yamato's footsteps were extremely heavy as he entered the Hokage office after he knocked on the door and heard her voice telling him to come in.
The first thing he said was: "Hokage-sama, I'm sorry."
What came back was something he certainly did not expect.
"Yamato, I'm not angry."
Well, that meant he avoided his immediate death for now at least.
The Fifth Hokage nodded her head with the chin on her kneaded hands.
He couldn't help but ask. "Why?"
With those words the neutral mask the woman wore suddenly twisted into a serious expression. She slowly got up from her chair and looked outside the window in the office. He saw several flocks of birds flying by in this typical October evening. All seemed so peaceful. Yamato knew very well that was a far cry from the truth in this village of ninjas. Nature was so ignorant at times.
"This does not leave this room." She suddenly said, her back still turned.
Yamato did not like where this was going. However, given the fact that he had little choice, he gave his consent and nodded. He wasn't sure if the Hokage saw his nod with her back turned around like that, but she seemed to have acknowledged his answer: she turned around with a thin smile on her lips.
"You may come in now."
Yamato heard the door open behind him. He slowly turned around to see the person who entered, and yet again Yamato was surprised. The visitor was certainly someone he did not expect.
It was Sai.
As Yamato continued to gawk in confusion at his traitorous teammate of his previous failed mission, the young man strolled inside the office calmly and stood next to him. Sai nodded once at Yamato, then once at the Hokage.
"It is done." The youth said simply.
Tsunade solemnly nodded at this as she sat back down in her chair. She shuffled through a few pieces of paper stacked on her desk and took out an official looking form. She eyed and gestured Yamato. He took the hint and approached her and the desk and took the form from her hand. It was a request for a transfer.
"As of now, he works under you. Yamato, meet your new vice-captain, Sai. Sai, meet your new captain, Yamato."
"I'll be looking forward to working with you in your squad, Yamato-taichou." Sai offered his hand. The dimmable fake smile of his was still plastered on his face. It was getting on his nerves but he would be damned before he would let it show. He took his hand and shook on it lightly.
Yamato let go and turned to the Hokage. "This still does not answer my question."
"You were not the one I should've been angry at."
Her answer left him only more confused. "That doesn't-"
"You'll see what I mean soon." Tsunade interrupted him. "And remember, this does not leave this room. You are dismissed, Yamato."
Her sharp tongue told Yamato that this conversation was over.
Bowing once out of respect, he left the room.
It wouldn't take long for Yamato to learn the true meaning behind Tsunade's words. In a few hours from now, the deceased body of the village elder Danzou will be found, dead from a single puncture wound through his brain. Then, a few more hours later, another village elder by the name of Homura will be arrested by special ANBU guards and be found guilty of plotting the crime. Branded as a traitor, Homura will be sentenced and be put death in the same day as Danzou in an unprecedented speedy trial.
The truth was something different, of course. Homura was framed of the crime and was used as Tsunade's scapegoat to cover the assassination conspiracy up. Homura was a village elder Tsunade sincerely disliked, and by disposing of both Danzou and Homura she had essentially killed two birds with one stone.
This does not leave this room.
Yamato had indeed discovered what she meant and just how deep the scope of anger Tsunade held within. So he kept quiet. He certainly did not want to be on the receiving end of that anger.
It was the correct, and most wise, decision.
Despite the assassination, the final decision of Naruto's imprisonment was still irreversible. According to law, once the Village Council makes a decision the issue could only revoked with a unanimous vote. With the way things were now, it was something that just couldn't be done.
Danzou and Homura's death was only a shallow victory for Tsunade. She had won the battle but lost the war.
She kept on telling herself it was the least she could do, the she least could do…
"How does it feel?" Tsunade asked Sai after Yamato left the office.
"Very awkward." The youth replied. "I was empty before. Or so I told myself. It wasn't satisfying if that's what you're implying."
Tsunade shrugged her shoulders. "That's what revenge does."
Sai scratched his head. "I'm not sure if it could be called revenge."
"Then why did you betray him? You had even volunteered for this mission yourself."
He thought carefully at her question. Just why did he betray Danzou? Why did he betray the man that had cared for him, nurtured him, taught him knowledge, taught him strength, taught him everything he knew about the village and the world of today? Sai was a weapon, a tool. He didn't have name, much less something trivial called emotions. He didn't even have a future, and he certainly didn't have a remarkable past to speak of. All he had were missions.
Despite all that, Sai had betrayed Danzou by accepting the mission to assassinate him. In fact, it was Sai who was the one that confessed to the Fifth Hokage that Danzou was plotting to take over the Hidden Leaf using the imprisonment trial as leverage.
"I'm still not sure, really."
"So this wasn't about your brother?"
Tsunade knew about his past. She had researched about him.
Sai shrugged. "I don't think so. I had known for the longest time Danzou-sama had purposely sent my brother on a suicide mission so he could get rid of him. My brother was the only one in the way of Danzou-sama's desire to grow me into the perfect tool. If I wanted to take revenge, I would've done it sooner."
Tsunade's eyes narrowed. "…Even now, you call him Danzou-sama."
His expression never faltered. "If I can feel appreciation, this is my way of expressing that emotion. He did raise me to what I am."
"Point taken." She leaned back in her chair.
"Is there anything else?" He asked. His felt his continued presence was unnecessary.
He sharply bowed and turned around to leave. Steps before the door, he paused. He remembered something. "Ah, one thing."
"What is it?"
"Can I ask a favor?"
He couldn't see it but he knew his new leader was smiling wearily. "We're partners in crime now. Name it."
"Can you make me Naruto-kun's escort to the dungeons?"
This seemed to have shocked Tsunade. For a while, nothing came back. He slowly turned around to face the Hokage once more and indeed, she wore a rather startled expression on her face.
"Why?" She finally asked.
"Don't worry, I won't help him escape or anything, although I doubt he would accept my help even if I offered. I just wanted to talk to him, and to thank him."
"You asked earlier why I had done this. I think I have an answer."
"…You mean… you had done all this… for him…?"
Sai smiled genuinely for the second time today.
He's had countless visitors to the room he was temporarily held in until the sentence was carried out, but for Naruto this most recent visitor was the hardest to deal with. And, of course, like many others before him had offered, this particular visitor was convincing him to escape the village. He did appreciate their efforts to help him, he really did… but why couldn't they just understand that his mind was made up already?
"Iruka-sensei! I told you, for the last time, I'm going to accept this."
He really wasn't used to having the father figure of his life in tears. It was the second time he had seen him like this, and this second time was just as, or perhaps even more painful than the first. For him and Iruka both.
"Dammit Iruka-sensei! Stop going all teary like that! It's not like I'm going to be dead or anything! Don't worry, I'll be fine."
Silence settled over the two. It was awkward, and Naruto hated this atmosphere. Naruto, escape, Naruto, run away, Naruto, leave the village blah blah blah. Why was it so hard? Why did they have to make this all the more difficult for him? Nothing was black and white in this world, nothing simple, and above all, not easy. He was learning that quickly very well. If his three-year journey with ero-sennin didn't teach him that already, that is.
Heck, many would consider the path he was choosing was the easy way out. If he had run away like all the others suggested he would undoubtedly lead a much harsher life. He would have ANBUs and hunter-nins after him swearing oaths of his death, always running away in a desperate attempt to live just another day. And above all, it would get them – his friends, his family, all of his precious people – in trouble. Helping someone becoming a missing-nin or assisting in the escape of the village was a serious offence. Last he heard, it was even punishable by death. So what he was doing was the correct decision. He knew that, and he was pretty sure all of them knew that too, yet that didn't stop them for acting the way they did. Hah, and they all told him he was the dumb one. Naruto felt a smile coming to his face. For once, he was the smarter one of them all.
"How can you still smile like that?"
"Eh?" Naruto suddenly realized at that moment that he was actually smiling. He hadn't intended to let it show, but he supposed he did if Iruka saw him. A little embarrassed, he laughed uneasily at his teacher's question and avoided his questioning gaze.
"You know, Iruka-sensei, I told you my dream was to be the Hokage someday."
"Huh?" Iruka seemed unprepared for this sudden shift in conversation.
"For a while, it was really a dream, a goal that I was looking forward to achieving someday. But I realized that… all I wanted was to be acknowledged by people. A Hokage was a name that everyone would acknowledge and accept for who you are. So I wanted that, almost desperately, when I was all alone, before I met… you."
"After I met you, things changed, Iruka-sensei. I met Konohamaru first. Then I met Team Seven, Sakura-chan, Kakashi-sensei, and… Sasuke. Then I met that idiot bridge-builder named Tazuna, that scary Zabuza, Haku, Inari and his mom, the people in Wave Country… by the time I came home from my first real mission, I was acknowledged by an entire country. Then when I came back, more people slowly acknowledged me. The rookie-nine, Team Gai, many Jounin teachers, Gaara and his siblings, ero-sennin, Shizune-neechan and Tsunade-baachan, people of the Sand … before I knew it, many people accepted me for what I was. I was happy."
Naruto bit his tongue a little. "Yeah, it's hard, Iruka-sensei, to throw all that away and my dream of becoming Hokage by willingly accepting this sentence. I had hoped… that one day, I would get the entire village to accept me… but this guy here." He poked his stomach. "I understand he's done terrible things, something not easily forgotten. But, I am happy knowing that even still, there were people who treated me as a human being and not like a monster. I didn't have the world against me. And that, to me… is enough. For that, I love this village. That's why I can't run away, Iruka-sensei. The Hidden Leaf is my home."
A clapping sound cut through the remorseful atmosphere.
"That's such a touching speech. You must've overworked your puny brain in order to spew such words from your mouth."
Surprised, the two turned around to see a figure leaning by the now ajar door of the holding room.
Naruto groaned. "Shit, don't tell me that you're the escort…?"
"Sorry small penis, but I am it."
"Go to hell Sai."
Naruto stood, leaving a confused Iruka on the ground. He smiled one last time for his teacher. "It's time, Iruka-sensei." Naruto then hugged him in a bear hug. "Thanks for everything."
"Geez, get a room." The foul-mouthed youth commented.
"Go to hell." Naruto shot back off-handedly as he let go of Iruka. "Goodbye, Iruka-sensei."
Realizing now that his time was over, Iruka stood and slowly nodded. "Yeah… goodbye… Naruto."
Naruto nodded back, then turned to glare back at Sai. "So sorry to keep you waiting." His tone was tainted with sarcasm.
This time Sai said nothing as he calmly strolled out of the room, Naruto following after him. The only person left in the room was Iruka, left all alone with an empty feeling in his empty heart.
Naruto had half-expected Sai to take him straight to the dungeons in the Forest of Death where he was going to be confined to for the rest of his life, but was mildly surprised when Sai first lead him to the Hokage office. So he had to see granny Tsunade yet again.
He had appreciated all she's done for him. She fought valiantly in the trials, every tooth and nail for the freedom of Naruto. He was certain that if it weren't for her efforts, his current sentence could've been much, much worse. To be honest, he wasn't so sure if he wanted to see her. Well, she was the Hokage. If she wanted to see him, he will. Her word was law. Well, almost. There was that one exception that called itself the Village Council.
"How are you feeling, Naruto?" She asked as soon as he entered the room. Leave it to granny for the first questions she asks to be that.
"Okay as I can be?" He replied, sounding uncertain. He scanned around the office. It was just the two of them inside. Sai was standing outside the door posting as guard. "So… what did you want me to see me for? Not much time left is there?"
"There were a few last minutes changes." She said. "It took some convincing and pulling a few strings but I managed. I found an old dungeon running underneath the Hokage Tower suitable for imprisonment so I had it remodeled a bit. It's a lot more… accommodating than the one that you've been assigned to previously."
"You mean I'm not going to be confined to the dungeons in the Forest of Death?"
So that's what was going on. "Tsunade-baachan…"
"Brat, how many times do I have to tell you not to call me that."
Naruto cringed. He was expecting to be punched through the wall any moment now but she continued to sit behind the desk, her face still serious. She looked tired, and much older than he'd ever seen her before. She must have going through so much, and to think, it was all because of him.
"I'm sorry." He meant every word.
"Naruto, the offer is still valid. This is your last chance."
And even now, she too tries to convince him to escape.
Naruto stood up tall and defiant. "I won't run away." He said.
She smiled wearily. "That's what I expected of you. Now, one more thing."
"There's more?" He complained. He just wanted to get this over and done with.
"I also managed to strike a deal with the council."
"Naruto, it's your choice."
"…Is this about the escaping thing again…"
"Your original sentence was to be imprisoned and isolated indefinitely. I managed to bend the last part of the sentence a little."
Now, Naruto wasn't exactly the brightest or smartest person but this time around he managed to pick up on his granny's cryptic hints and guessed correctly on what she was about to say. "You mean I'm allowed to have visitors?"
"That's where you get to choose. Think carefully. You will have to decide now and there's not much time left."
He didn't have to think that hard to reach his conclusion.
Tsunade smirked at his answer. "You're so predictable, brat."
It didn't take much to offend Naruto and that snide insult did just that.
"Come in, Sakura."
His flamboyant attitude immediately ceased with those words. The door opened. He spun around only to see his teammate standing right outside the open doorway with her head bowed downward.
"I assure you heard everything, Sakura?" Tsunade asked.
The girl nodded.
"Do you accept?"
Her head still downcast, the girl looked unsure for a moment. She eventually nodded once more.
Naruto was baffled. "Sakura-chan…"
She then looked up for the first time, revealing the face that was previously hidden in the mess of pink hair. It was only then when Naruto saw Sakura's face.There were clear-as day traces of tears scarred all over and her eyes were bloodshot. She had been crying, and had been for a long time.
Tsunade rose from behind her desk and stood. She sparingly glanced at the clock that hung loose on the walls. "It's time."
Naruto looked back at Tsunade, then at Sakura. The girl looked away from his sad glance, but nodded again, a display of understanding. At this point, exchanging words was unnecessary. Tsunade approached the two and rested a comforting hand on both of their shoulders.
A silent agreement was exchanged, and they all marched out of the door. Seconds before he left the office, Naruto quickly glanced back and stared at the sinking sun outside the window of the room. He burned that image to his mind. It was the last sunset he'll ever get to see.
Naruto certainly wasn't expecting some grand farewell party waiting for him in the basement of the Hokage Tower where the hallway that led to his dungeon that Tsunade constructed existed, but he did at least expect a bunch of official looking people along with all of those old geezers who had sentenced him to this fate grinning at him triumphantly. Instead, there was no one there. This surprised him. In the pale white walls of the basement, there was just the stairs behind him and the wide, empty mouth of a hallway in front. From what he could see, the dark corridors ahead were strung and laced with runic-looking threads of paper that hung across the ceiling like cobwebs.
"Where is everyone?"
Tsunade answered his question in a heavy voice. "…The only people who are allowed to see you off are the Hokage, the escort, and your chosen visitor."
That meant granny Tsunade, bastard Sai, and Sakura-chan. Indeed, they were the only ones here with him in this room. Still, it seemed something was amiss from the equation.
"Well, yeah, but I figured that those bastards from the council would jump at the opportunity to see me off for good."
"They are preoccupied at the moment." Tsunade replied. She didn't tell him that they were dealing with the death Danzou and Homura right now. There was no need for him to know the dark and dirty things she had done for him, and she intended to take that secret to her grave. The only ones who knew about the truth of the assassination was herself, Shizune, Yamato, Sai, and… Sakura. She was at first against the idea of involving her latest apprentice into the conspiracy, but in the end the girl's tears had broken down that resistance. Tsunade trusted them all. After all, if they were ever found out, it would mean all of their deaths. Lies and deceit. This was the world they lived in.
"Ah." Naruto, clearly oblivious to her thoughts and the truth decided to just leave it at that.
"Give me your hand, Naruto."
He did. Tsunade took out a kunai and a small white plate, and with the kunai she made a small cut on one of his fingers. He winced a little as the blood flowed from the wound, and Tsunade collected a bit of his blood on the plate. She then approached the entrance to the hallway and then sprinkled some of his blood on the pieces of paper that hung randomly from the ceilings. Then, going through a set of complicated one-hand seals with her free hand, the runic words written on the paper glowed an eerie red.
"Sakura, you next."
She repeated the same process with Sakura, cutting a small wound and sprinkling the blood on the paper. Only this time, Tsunade used both of her hands when she made her sets of seals. When she was done, she closed both of their wounds using some of her medical techniques. It was rather unnecessary, for Naruto possessed unnatural natural healing powers and Sakura was certainly capable enough of closing up her own wound. What mattered was the symbolism, the care Tsunade held for both of them.
"It's finished. With the blood-contract in place, Naruto, you can walk through the corridors once, but it'll prevent you from ever coming back. Sakura, you are the only one who can walk through the passageway freely. Not even I can enter it now. Those council bastards made sure of that when they came up with the seal." She smiled sadly. Tsunade then turned to Naruto. "All that's left to do is to walk through that hallway."
So this was it, then. He closed his eyes for a moment before gripping the woman's hands with small specks of tears in his eyes. "Thanks… baachan."
Her reluctant smile grew a little larger. "…I'll forgive you for calling me that this one last time, Naruto."
"Yeah…" Naruto then turned to Sai, who had remained quiet this entire time.
"What are you staring at me for? Is it penis envy?"
This earned a chuckle from both females in the room. Naruto was fuming. "You bastard! Don't you have anything nice to say even after all that?"
The apology caught him so off guard he couldn't hold the surprise back. "WHAT?"
"I said I'm sorry, Naruto-kun. I take back everything I said about you."
"Eh… gah… what the hell?" Naruto was utterly confused. That insulting Sai was actually saying sorry? Hell itself would've frozen over before such a thing! Was the world coming to an end? "Why?"
"You have taught me what emotion is. For that, I owe you."
"All I did was to beat you up to a pulp and made you scared shitless!"
The two females bursted into light laugher at the words. Ever indifferent, Sai still had his trademark fake smile on his stupid face. Naruto shook his head.
He turned around and faced the hallway. He was prepared to enter it for the first and last time.
He would've missed the quiet voice if it weren't hers. He turned around. "Sakura-chan?"
She had a few books in her hands. "I know you don't like reading much, but… here… some books for you to read."
He took the books from her arms and scanned a few covers. They were all hobby books, things to do when one had lots of times on his hands. He smiled. "Thanks, Sakura-chan!" One particular title caught interest. "Ah, gardening eh? Maybe I should try that."
"That's the one Ino gave me a long time ago… why gardening?"
"That's obvious, Sakura-chan! Flowers will remind me of you!"
"Naruto, you idiot! You… you… ahh…" She hastily turned away from him, who lay on the ground unmoving. It was a rather useless attempt at hiding her tears. "Shishou-sama, t-there's some work that I need to take care of." She bowed apologetically to Tsunade. "I-I'll see you tomorrow Naruto… I-I… I'll visit you everyday, so… ahh… dammit…!"
She ran out of the basement floor, crying all the way.
"Smooth, Naruto-kun. Very smooth."
"You sure know how to handle the ladies."
"I said shut up. What do you know about handling ladies anyway?"
"That's simple. There is this series of books authored by a sennin named Jiraiya, and it said-"
"Never mind. Forget I asked."
By this time Naruto recovered from his teammate's powerful punch and had managed to stand up, albeit a still wobbly. Tsunade stood off the side, smirking at the exchange. She was obviously enjoying all this.
"You said you owe me one. So promise me something."
For a moment, the black-haired youth didn't reply.
"…Very well." He eventually said. "What is it?"
"…Protect Sakura-chan for me, will you? With me being stuck here, I can't do that anymore. Especially now that… she's agreed to become my only visitor to the dungeons. Tsunade-baachan… you know what this means, don't you?"
Tsunade closed her eyes and sighed. She gave a curt nod. "Yeah… she most likely won't be looked on kindly. I'm sure they won't say anything to her face since she's my apprentice… but you're right, Naruto."
Naruto nodded, and looked at Sai serious eye to eye. "Just protect her, and… don't make her cry. Promise?"
Sai shrugged it off. "Fine, fine."
"Promise?" Naruto stared at him intensely. He wasn't going to let him off that easily.
Sai gave a heartfelt sigh.
Sakura was back in her assigned room in the Hokage Tower. Ignoring the door Shizune had broken down earlier she flung herself onto her bed. Her mind was in turmoil. Everything happened so fast, and so much, she didn't know what to do.
That's obvious, Sakura-chan! Flowers will remind me of you!
That idiot's voice echoed in her mind.
She eyed a notebook on her desk.
It was a diary.
Maybe writing about it would make her feel a bit better.
Waving a farewell for the last time to the idiot bastard and the granny Hokage, Naruto took his first steps into the sealed corridors and entered the dungeon.
It was going to be a long walk.
Damn, his toes were cold already.
Two separate wishes for a peaceful night echoed in two individual's thoughts that evening. One belonged to a hyperactive blond-haired blue-eyed kid who had endlessly bragged that he would be the Hokage someday. The other belonged to a strong-willed but somewhat timid pink-haired green-eyed girl who had a strong determination to protect the two boys she had cared about.
Both of their dreams were shattered into a million pieces that night.
Still, they prayed.
"Good night, Naruto."
"Good night, Sakura-chan."
To quote a famous saying, time was indeed a harsh mistress.
Life went on. It didn't matter if their dreams were broken. It just moved relentlessly forward.
- First Entry -
Reign of the Fifth Hokage, Third year. October 5th.
15 years old.
Today, Naruto will be imprisoned despite the valiant efforts put in by my shishou, Tsunade-sama. The least she could do was for her to change the location of his imprisonment to the beneath of the Hokage Tower instead of the Forest of Death outside. She ordered a construction of an underground dungeon, the place where Naruto will be forced to spend the rest of his life. Before he was imprisoned, he was given one wish, to select just one visitor that had the permission to see him. He had chosen me. At first I was startled, but I knew how important that request was for him so I accepted.
I gave him a few books for him to read, and he seemed to take interest in the one Ino gave to me, about gardening.
I have decided that in my Diary I would write my daily visits to Naruto's cell.
For those who have previously read the Garden of Sanctuary, this fiction is somewhat of a behind-the-scenes look at what had happened in the AU. I myself couldn't just get enough of Garden of Sanctuary as I had so many ideas and concepts of side-stories in my head I just couldn't let it go. So it came to this.
I have this story planned out in ten chapters. As several of you might have guessed, each chapter deals with each diary entry first introduced in Garden of Sanctuary.
Also, let me make it clear that although there will be romance in the story, and will be the main focus, since I am not terribly good at writing such things it might come out awkward. It worked out okay in Garden of Sanctuary. I'm not sure what will happen in Medusa Javelin.
I guess that's all. Thanks for reading!
- Nes Mikel