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… once again mine."
"Long forgotten memories… filling me once more."
"However… these memories generate suffering… these thoughts… bring remorse…"
"Tell me… for what searches thou, to travel this far?"
"Show me… by what principles art thou driven?"
- Absolute Virtue, Final Fantasy XI
- Epilogue -
"…blub blub blub…"
It really couldn't be helped if Sakura's thought process had grinded to a screeching halt at that precise moment and the only course of action she could take was to repeatedly blink her eyes in confusion. It, however, soon became apparent to Sakura that blinking was a very bad idea when she finally realized that her entire head was submerged in some sort of black murky water. The repeated blinking was starting to sting her eyes. Minutes passed, and when the realization finally dawned on her, the gears of her bewildered mind finally started to turn.
Wait, what the hell? I'm drowning?
Before she could even process the astonishing revelation that the feelings in her arms had returned she had already instinctively moved her two arms lying lazily by her side. Smashing her palms against the murky surface, she felt the water break and her palms coming in contact of what felt like a smooth concrete floor. Then, focusing a brunt of strength she didn't know she still had left in her, she lifted her head out of the crushing waves and breathed in a fresh batch of air. It tasted coppery.
She blinked and squinted a few more times as she lifted one of her palms and rubbed it against her eyes in order for her to get rid of whatever that had gotten in. It was only then she realized that she was actually moving her arms. That meant…
…I'm still alive?
But… but how? I just died!
Even now she could still feel the cold brushes of death creeping up to her skin, slowly robbing the life out of her. She remembers, oh yes, she remembers indeed. It was only minutes ago when she was writing her final diary entry, putting down the pen and trying to reach her bed so she could peacefully retreat into peaceful slumber. She remembers being inches away from her bed, but she had collapsed, feeling the very force of life fleeing out her taxed body. She remembers thinking about Naruto in her final thoughts, begging him for forgiveness, for wanting to see him one last time before she died…
Yet… I'm here.
She was soaked from head to toe, no doubt thanks to the water she was still halfway submerged in. She pushed herself up a little bit more and tucked her knees back in so she wasn't in her push-up position and sat herself up. She discovered that the water wasn't that deep; instead, it was rather shallow, probably only reaching halfway up her knees if she decided to stand.
Sakura checked herself over. She was still wearing the same red-dress uniform she wore when she visited Naruto down in the dungeons, and judging from the fact that the skin on her arms and legs were smooth and without pores, she was still in her youthful body of when she was 25 years old. She frowned. Had her drug actually been successful in turning her body young, yet somehow not robbing her life? It was the only logical explanation she could offer herself at the moment.
However… the thought slowly found itself into her mind. Apparently, this isn't the first time I cheated death.
Could it be that I… did it again?
"Welcome home, Setsuka."
Sakura breathed in a deep breath and tried to exhale out her nervousness. "…So… I guess I am, then. Thanks… I guess."
The Hiashi lying beneath her looked up at her from his futon matress, looking a little piqued. "I take it your memory still hasn't retuned."
"I'm curious… how did you reach to the conclusion that you were Setsuka?"
"I didn't find it out by myself. I was told."
"Told?" Hiashi's face twisted into that of concern and worry. "By whom?"
"If you're worried that my secret might spread, then you don't have to worry. There are three people who have told me that I'm Hyuuga Setsuka, and two of them are already dead and nobody will probably believe the other one if he's caught."
"Who were they?"
"Uchiha Itachi, Orochimaru, and the thief that stole the Twin Emeralds from Cloud and for some reason decided to give it to me."
"…I see… I have a feeling I understand why Itachi would know. He was your… apprentice when you were still Setsuka."
A sharp intake of breath could be heard. "…I was Itachi's… master?"
"You two were quite close. That is, of course, until you… 'died'. He was quite devastated when he was told of that. He never quite was the same person afterwards."
"…Do you know why Itachi murdered his clan?"
"…No, not exactly. I had suspected that your death contributed to his eventual actions, however."
"Were you aware, then, that Itachi was ordered by the Fourth Hokage to infiltrate the Akatsuki?"
A brow was raised.
"I take it you didn't, then."
"No, I wasn't aware. So what you're saying is that when Itachi murdered the clan, he was acting under the Fourth's orders?"
"I'm afraid all I can offer at this point is speculation. All I know is that, somehow, the Akatsuki is aware of the information that I'm Hyuuga Setsuka."
Hiashi's other brow was raised. "…So the thief that stole Hizashi's eyes from the Cloud was a member of the Akatsuki as well, then…"
She nodded. "And I'm assuming that Orochimaru knew because he used to be in Akatsuki as well."
A brief silence.
"…Do you any idea why?" Sakura asked eventually.
"…I'm afraid not. This information is all new for me."
"Feared as much." Then, choking down the nervousness down her throat, she asked the single question that had been haunting her entire life. "How did I 'die', exactly?"
"…We don't know."
"You don't know?"
"About nine months before the Kyuubi attacked, you suddenly just… vanished. When the Fourth ordered a search party to find you – you're aware that the Fourth was your husband, right?"
"He was quite devastated that you had vanished and was desperate to find you, so he had assigned me, Hizashi, and Uchiha Madara after you. And a month later, we did find you, except at the precise moment when we found you, standing in the middle of a barren clearing in the sacred forests inside the Capital borders, there was this… flash of light, and when it cleared you quite weren't the same person anymore. You were… turned into an infant with green eyes."
"…And green eyes for a Hyuuga means the mark of death, right? That's why you decided that I had 'died' and I was turned into the 'Haruno Sakura' I currently am."
"…So you know about the effects of the caged bird seal as well, then."
"The thief told me."
"…It's worrisome how this criminal organization knows of our secrets so well…"
"We can make all the assumptions we want, but until we catch one of them and make them spill out the answers, we will never know. Rest assured, I'm doing my best, but it seems that they have gone back into hiding again."
Hiashi smiled a little. "I'm glad to know you're making an effort."
Sakura smiled back. "Trust me, I don't want this to spread anymore than it already has." Then, as soon as it came, it disappeared. "But… why did you decide to keep this away from me?"
"…I had wanted for you to lead a normal life."
"Because of the caged bird seal?"
He nodded. "I could do nothing to prevent you from receiving it. It was… it was the least I could do."
"And the Fourth Hokage didn't protest?"
"We didn't plan on telling him about it, but he found out. But eventually, after we found that whatever had happened to you was irreversible, he too agreed that his wife was now lost to him. We then decided to adopt you into the Haruno family. At the time, the Haruno had discovered that their heir was unable to give birth to any children. They were more than happy to take you in and raise you as their own daughter."
Sakura closed her eyes, listening to every word he said, nodding her head slowly, assimilating everything she had heard. Hiashi cleared his throat, but before he could speak again she shook her head, soothing him into silence.
"It's all right. Hiashi, no, Hiashi-niisama… can you… can you tell me about my childhood? I may not remember any of it… but… I just want to know what I was like. What I was before. It's something I have to hear so I could accept who I really am. So… I…"
Teardrops were falling down into the tatami floors. She was crying. The emotions she had bottled up inside, emotions she was never supposed to show while she was Hokage, was starting to overflow.
"…You were quite the mischievous little one." Hiashi began, and slowly began to tell Sakura of her tale.
But this time, it was clearly different. Not only was she not turned into an infant, she still had all of her memories of her previous life (assuming that her existence here right now was the start of a new life), and… well…
Actually, where the hell am I?
She finally found the courage to take a look around at her surroundings, and she soon found herself disappointed with the lack of information her eyes told her. Really, it only took one world to accurately describe her surroundings.
Okay, so she could be a bit more detailed than that. There was a lack of color, that's for sure, a deep gray monochrome everywhere she looked. The entire floor was covered with water, and she currently was sitting in the middle of what seemed to like a long hallway. The hallway itself seemed to branch into many directions with its many pathways and corners, giving her the impression that she had somehow ended up in the middle of a giant underground labyrinth. There were also gray pipes attached to the walls and ceilings, and judging from how she heard the sound of flowing water even though the water underneath her feet was unmoving, they were somehow being put to use. For what, she didn't know.
For a moment, Sakura wondered if she actually had died and this place was the afterlife.
"Damn, if this really is the afterlife, what a depressing place this is."
HAH! AND I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE!
Even though she was still sitting, Sakura couldn't help but jump at the sudden voice that startled her out of her passiveness. Fists clenched tightly in front of her, she instinctively settled into a basic fighting stance. "Who… who's there?"
WHO'S THERE YOU SAY? I SHOULD BE THE ONE ASKING YOU! WHO DARES CROSSES MY DOMAIN?
By now she was definitely feeling the gigantic evil chakra that was pulsing out from one of the nearby pathways. She could literally see the red likeliness seeping through with her own two eyes. Whoever… or whatever had addressed her definitely lay in wait beyond there. She continued to stand there, frightened, ready for anything that this stupid afterlife was already throwing after her.
WHAT'S THE MATTER, HUMAN? SCARED? WHY ARE YOU NOT ANSWERING ME?
A little ticked off that she was easily dismissed as just another ordinary human being (a corner of her rational mind was screaming at her saying that the voice had just now indirectly referred to itself as something that was NOT human, but she ignored it), Sakura shook her fears away and shouted back. "I'm not scared of the likes of you! And my name is Haruno Sakura! I'm not just some ordinary human you can order around, you demon!"
She expected the demon (or what she assumed as a demon) to emerge out that pathway anytime now, but the response that came back was something she certainly did not expect.
HOH… YOU ARE INTERESTING, LITTLE GIRL. YOU ARE THE THIRD PERSON EVER TO HAVE THE GUTS TO SPEAK BACK TO ME LIKE THAT.
COME A LITTLE CLOSER SO I CAN SEE YOUR FACE.
Seeing that she had little else to do other than to run into the hallways that led god knows where, she obliged, stepping into the small corridor and turn a sharp left. She then found herself inside a gigantic room, coming face to face with a large gate with a simple paper in the middle that had the kanji of 'seal' inscribed.
Putting two and two together, the conclusion was automatic.
"…The nine-tails… Kyuubi no Youko…!"
SO YOU KNOW OF MY NAME… YOU ARE INDEED INTERESTING, LITTLE GIRL.
"…Naruto told me about this place before."
THE BRAT TOLD YOU ABOUT ME, EH? HMPH, THAT COWARD, HE SHOULD'VE LET ME OUT OF MY PRISON A LONG TIME AGO. HE IS A FOOL FOR WANING TO SHUT HIMSELF AWAY IN THAT DUNGEON HE IMPRISONED HIMSELF IN. BEING SENTIMENTAL OVER ONE HUMAN GIRL. PATHETIC.
Her eyes widened. "He's… he's imprisoned himself because of me?"
SO YOU ARE THE GIRL THEN! HAH! I SHOULD TEAR YOU APART FOR PUTTING ME IN SUCH PREDICAMENT, BUT THIS STUPID SEAL HAS TO GET IN THE WAY!
She stepped back, a little intimidated at the tailed demon's death threat. "But this… this doesn't make any sense. Why am I here?"
YOU DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU ARE HERE?
"I… died in the real world."
I SEE… TELL ME, LITTLE GIRL, HAVE YOU EVER COME IN CONTACT WITH MY CHAKRA WHEN THE BRAT WAS STILL OUTSIDE OF THIS PRISON?
A scene immediately flashed into her mind.
"Naruto… ! This... that's enough! I'll save Sasuke-kun for you! So please... Naruto! It's enough! You don't need-"
When she had tried to stop Naruto when he had turned into his demon form with four tails… the wound she received in her arm fifty-nine years ago…! Clutching the old scar with her right hand, her voice was shaky as she replied. "I… I did… a long time ago."
The old demon grunted his displeasure.
HMPH. SO YOU ARE INDEED. YOU ARE THAT HARUNO SAKURA.
"Y-You know about me?"
LISTEN CAREFULLY LITTLE GIRL. YOU HAVE ALREADY DIED, BUT BY SOME FLUKE YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY THE EMPYREAL VIRTUE TO BE THE ONE TO CORRECT THE PARADOX.
"Wait… what? The Empyreal Virtue? Are you telling me that what that Shinto missionary said is actually real?"
YOUR TIME HAS NOT EXPIRED. YOU STILL HAVE AN IMPORTANT DUTY TO FUFILL.
"What duty are you talking about?" She was shouting now. "Does this have to do with something about me being Hyuuga Setsuka? What you're saying makes no sense!"
LITTLE GIRL, YOU ARE NOT HYUUGA SETSUKA.
HYUUGA SETSUKA IS YOU.
NO MORE QUESTIONS. THE PINNICALE OF INFINITY IS HERE.
A loud booming sound suddenly echoed behind her, sending ice cold shivers down her spine, effectively freezing her on the spot. Her instincts were screaming at her to turn around, but she wasn't even given that chance when she felt her body slamming against a raging wall of cold water, rushing at her like a flood. The dark water was washing her away from here. She tried to breath but only water reached her lungs. Her consciousness was escaping away from her again.
I SHALL BE SEEING YOU AGAIN, LITTLE GIRL.
The last thing she heard was that demon's voice before she finally allowed herself to drift back into the darkness.
So warm and…
Red, red, everywhere.
Red, red, the rush of cool winds.
Red, red, the yellow of blinding lights.
I'm so scared!
"…A baby girl, Lady Hyuuga! It's a baby girl…"
"…Nurse, don't just stand there! She's losing too much blood! Grab me another supplement AS SOON AS POSSIBLE…"
"…No use, doctor! Blood transfusion is impossible – she requires special blood, and we've already run out of blood the Hyuuga donated…"
"…Shit, she's going into shock…"
"…Hang on to me, Masaki! Please, don't leave me alone…"
The red, the red!
The voices, the voices!
What is going on? What is going on!
She was so scared. She was so scared!
"…Too late to save her now…"
"…I'm sorry, but she…"
"…This… this thing had taken the life of my wife away…"
"…What of the baby? Her name…"
"…I do not care anymore, I don't want to see her ever again…"
Strong hands wrapped around her body.
"Hello little sister."
"You're a cute one, aren't you? Nice to meet you, I'm Hizashi. Your older brother."
"Forgive father, he's just… just a little upset right now. Here, would you like to hear a lullaby? It goes on like this-"
"You're so beautiful, sister. You're like a flower that blossomed in winter."
"Ah, I know! You name shall be…!"
There are many facts that get lost in the whirlwinds of events known as history.
Orochimaru, the man who had once tried to grasp the secrets of immortal life, knew of this, and so originated his desire of everlasting life. He wanted to stand above history, to absorb all knowledge, to know all known techniques, and finally become god itself. He wanted to be one with the Empyreal Virtue.
However, even a careful man like he tends to miss a few important details.
The most important one, for example, was the time when he fought the Third Hokage in his attempt to eliminate the Village of the Hidden Leaf. During his battle with the Third Hokage, he had used a forbidden jutsu that brought the very aspects of history back into the living world, the 'Edo Tensei' – Summoning: Worldly Resurrection. Orochimaru had committed the ultimate crime by breaking the laws of causality and pitted the Third Hokage against his very own mentors.
Most historians tend to miss this fact, but Orochimaru had actually attempted to resurrect three individuals with the Worldly Resurrection. He only succeeded in bringing back the First and Second Hokage to fight against the aged Third, but failed to bring back the third, more powerful individual. Prodigy he may be, Orochimaru actually had failed in his execution and failed to summon the Fourth Hokage back into the plains of the living.
Orochimaru himself thought that he had failed because of the Third Hokage's interferences, and so dismissed his failure with a brush of his hand, but had he looked in a bit more carefully, he would've caught on that it wasn't the case. The reason Orochimaru couldn't resurrect the Fourth Hokage was quite simple.
You couldn't resurrect the living.
The Fourth Hokage was still alive.
One may ask, well, if that was the case, why didn't he come back to the Hidden Leaf to help fight off its invaders?
Actually, he was.
He was busy fighting the boy who would eventually become the Fifth Kazekage.
"…I've always felt… that I belonged here."
"No matter what happens, I'll be back, ok?"
"Good night, Naruto."
"And good morning."
Almost 8 months and 94000 words later, this story has finally reached its conclusion. And all I can say is… wow. It's finally over. It really is.
Honestly, when I first started this project, I thought it was going to be rather simple, a series of ten one shots all rolled into one. But what do you know? As I started writing, it became something more, something… big. And to think, this all started with just a single piece of writing.
I have a lot of people to thank. Firstly, I would like to thank all of the people who have ever reviewed Garden of Sanctuary and Medusa Javelin. Honestly, I would've never expected a one shot to accumulate 165 reviews, and Medusa Javelin coming close and scoring 161 at the time I'm writing this author's note. Kind of funny the one shot is getting more reviews than my expansion series. Heh. But I view them both as one story, and thus, the response I got is simply just astonishing. For everyone who has read, reviewed, added to alerts or favorites, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It simply wouldn't have been possible without your support and encouragement.
Second, I would like to thank a lot of authors: Desmond Morris, Jack Whyte, Jack McDevvit, Tom Clancy, Stephen Baxter, Richard Alexander, The Sh33p, Robin Skinner, John Cleese, Mark Colby, John Fowels, Nick Hornby, Tom Wolfe, and all other authors whose writings and books I had the privilege to read. They have provided me with a lot of facts, inspiration and ideas for scenes in Medusa Javelin, and if I never had read of their works, most likely I would have never been able to finish this fiction.
Finally, I would like to give special mention to one particular reviewer, Nepehilm Reborn, on the review he submitted on May 18th, 2006.
To quote: "Hold on you guys. Let's not get around to assuming yet. The author hasn't even wrote a single sentence about the Yondaime being Naruto's Father. Have you people forgotten the "Naruto is the Yondaime." theories? Nes Mikel could easily be aiming for a "NaruSaku parallel in their past lives" plot. So we can't assume that Sakura is Naruto's Mom. Be patient."
My hats off to you, good sir, for figuring out the direction of where my story was going when the story was nowhere near close to being complete.
Again, thank you everyone for your support. I'm sure this epilogue had thrown even more people off the loop and it gave rise to even more questions, but to find out, you're just going to have to wait until I start on Empyreal Paradox.
- Nes Mikel
Medusa Javelin, Complete, October 2nd, 2006