Disclaimer: I Don't Own Naruto. Except for some characters not mentioned in the manga/anime.
Rewind Chapter 18: Calm Before The Storm
It's finally happening.
The Yondaime took immediate action, commanding all ninjas who were in combat condition to be in standard uniform up until he withdrew the order. The Elder Council also passed the agreement for all the civilians to temporarily move into the shelters inside the Hokage Mountain. However, as there were too many villagers, the elderly and young went first, and civilians who could fight voluntarily joined the ranks.
Sakura herself was placed to a role near Arashi's side, who was extremely cautious of the chance that he might lose another student.
The first two days passed in peace, and just when everybody thought Kyuubi had taken another route, disaster struck on the third day.
A large chakra blast surged through the walls of Konoha, knocking the patrolling guards off their feet, and many others soon followed. Sakura, who had been in the Hokage's office when it happened, rushed out only to find herself forcedly pushed into the wooden wall. The hairs on her neck stood straight up, following goose bumps appearing on her arms.
"What's going on?" One of the many knocked over shinobi cried out from the ground, and a murmur of questions escalated to screams of horror, which came from the lower floors of the Hokage Tower.
Arashi pushed the wooden door open, and many of the shinobi finally saw their leader for the first time since the initial sighting of Kyuubi. His usual bright cerulean eyes were bloodshot, and faint dark bags hung under them, implying that he hadn't had a decent night since.
"I want everyone to remain calm," The Yondaime spoke, and voices ceased to speak. "We will be experiencing similar chakra blasts in the following days, and it might increase in energy. But, I need everyone to remain in their standard formation." Arashi fixed his eyes on a group of jounins, who were caught slacking off a day ago, "There will be no reports of slacking off, and if I happen to receive one. Well, let's say that person will end up on a sabbatical."
The older, seasoned shinobi knew being on sabbatical during emergency situations normally meant that you aren't suited for the job, and might end up getting downgraded, or having your ninja rank detained.
And so, the whole corridor remained silent.
"Yondaime-sama's been working all day and night." Sakura whispered softly, holding her cup of tea as she and the Sandaime sat in a room that connected with the Hokage office. Across from their spot, a group of ninja huddled around a table, muttering softly and pointing at papers, gesturing here and there.
"They're trying to figure out a way to contain the Kyuubi." Sandaime replied. He too, was holding a paper with unreadable scribbles in the margins.
"Why not kill it?"
"It's impossible to kill a god like Kyuubi." The Third Hokage spoke, eyeing Sakura, "It would mean thousands of sacrifices. The best way Arashi came up with is to…"
"Is to what?" Sakura still asked, fully knowing the answer.
The Sandaime didn't continue, and Sakura didn't persist.
Sakura winced as a vanilla colored folder flew across the office, and landed on the wooden floor with an inaudible plop, joining the slowly growing pile of scattered papers.
Arashi had suddenly stood up from his seat, his normally warm sky blue eyes blazing with suppressed rage. He glowered at the pile of papers, as if willing it to burst up into flames.
Sakura picked up the new addition to the pile and quickly read it, "Seals, Hokage-sama?"
"Don't. Call. Me. That." The Yondaime bit out before sighing, and slumping back into his seat, "And yes, those are blueprints for seals."
Nodding, Sakura walked over to one of the chairs and sat down, "What did the book say?"
Arashi paused, his eyes darting to the book propped before him. "A human sacrifice, and….it must be sealed into a human baby who has only been born for two hours."
"That's quite a lot of requirements."
"Yes, but-" The Hokage glanced at the girl, "I can't do that. A human baby! I…" He sighed, and buried his face in his palms. "I can't burden anyone with that kind of fate."
It was silent after Arashi's confession, and Sandaime, who had been listening from the other room, pouring over different books on sealing, walked in.
"Have you found any other methods?"
Arashi shook his head mutely, and looked up. "But if we tried harder, maybe we could find another-"
"We don't have enough time, Arashi." Sandaime cut in, his voice hard. "The Council is pressing for details, and they're demanding a meeting as soon as possible."
The Yondaime remained silent, as the other two occupants stared, watching the Hokage's inner struggle.
Just when Sandaime turned, Arashi spoke again.
"Bring the Sealers in."
The Yondaime looked around the Council table, his blue eyes emotionless. The Elders stared back at their leader, eyes too emotionless.
"So, Hokage-sama." Spoke one of the Elders, curling his mustache as he spoke. "How is your research coming along? Fine, I presume?"
Sakura, who was standing behind Yondaime's chair, tried to make her face seem impassive. It was rather hard, as the Elder continued to curl his mustache even after speaking. She refrained from staring at that particular Elder.
"Your presumption is correct." Arashi said, "The Seal that will save Konoha," He paused, for effect Sakura thought, "Is finished."
The meeting room was silent, and Sakura thought she was going to suffocate by the tension.
"And this seal, are there any requirements for this seal to work?" Hyuuga Hisashi inquired from his seat across from the mustache curler.
Arashi nodded, "There is. It will require a human sacrifice, and a human baby born within two hours for the sealing to work."
Uproar broke out.
"What are you thinking!"
The increasing volume of enraged shouts drowned out any words Arashi might have heard.
"SILENCE!" Arashi bellowed, and the room indeed, became silent once more. "We do not have time left, all the other methods require much," He paused, looking around the table, "Much more gruesome requirements."
"And who will be the human sacrifice?" Uchiha Fugaku asked.
Arashi stared at the Uchiha leader, "Me." He held up a hand, quelling another wave of chaos.
"The baby, then?" An Elder at the far end of the table asked.
"I have already personally taken care of that." Quickly moving onto a different subject, Arashi asked Uchiha Fugaku, "Are the defense troops stationed yet?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama. The First Division are already stationed at checkpoint 5. But from what I've concluded from the reports sent by the commander there, the Kyuubi may breach the first line by tonight."
Collective murmurs filled the room, as Arashi frowned shortly, "And the other divisions?"
"The Second was sent out this morning, they will be arriving at checkpoint 4 by evening. The Third and Fourth will be sent out tonight."
Sakura leaned over to Sandaime, "Checkpoints?"
"Points where division troops are placed. Checkpoint 1 is the furthest from Konoha, and checkpoint 5 is the closest."
"And how are the refugee shelters holding up?"
"They're holding finely, but I'm not sure if the buildings will stand the chakra waves as Kyuubi closes in."
Nodding, Arashi turned to the other council elders, and promptly changed the topic into something more pressing…
The meeting lasted for only an hour.
But it felt like an eternity to Sakura.
By the time the meeting adjourned, it was already evening outside. The sun was setting as Yondaime stood by the large window of his office, staring outside.
Blue eyes fixed onto her person, making Sakura cringe slightly. The eyes weren't warm, like the ones she was used to seeing. It meant what the Yondaime was going to say next was important.
"I will not be able to live through this ordeal, that I am certain." The Yondaime inclined his head, "But, I hope you, Kakashi, and Sandaime will do your best to look after my child."
Frowning, Sakura realized that she didn't really know who Arashi was going to use as the human container. But at that very moment, she understood.
"It can't be…Sensei, you can't be serious about this!"
Arashi lowered his eyes, "Yes, I am. I can't force this kind of imprisonment upon another child, but I know my own child will able to handle it. I have faith in him."
Tears sprang to Sakura's eyes, and she did with all her might to hold them in. A lone tear slid down her cheek, and Sakura turned her head away so that Arashi didn't see. The Yondaime, however did see, and moved around the office desk to place a reassuring hand on his student's shoulder.
"It's okay to cry once in a while. Emotions are what make us human, unlike what they say in the ANBU corps. Honestly, I have no idea what they're drilling into our agents…" Arashi flashed a small smile, making Sakura realize he was trying to lift the mood, even if it was a weak attempt.
Playing along, knowing being depressed over something that couldn't be undone wouldn't help, Sakura smiled back.
Day Five (Early Morning)
The evacuation was still in steady progress, much to Sakura's shock. As she went through Arashi's files for the plans that were finished or still in progress, she found out that Konoha was much bigger than she previously thought.
"Why do you think I made the plans in advance?" Arashi had remarked dryly, as he went over his notes and blueprints for the seal.
Annoyed, Sakura had plowed on, "But at this rate, we wouldn't be able to evacuate all of the villagers!"
The sad expression on her mentor's face told her that he already expected that outcome.
Sakura now sat in the empty apartment that she and Kakashi shared. It was morning, although it was still dark outside.
October Tenth. The day Kyuubi finally arrives. The day Yondaime dies, and the day when Naruto's born.
The similarity between Naruto and Yondaime was obvious, but Sakura hadn't been able to make the connection until now. Arashi's family name obviously wasn't 'Uzumaki', that she was sure of.
His mother's, then?
But, if Naruto was really Kyuubi's container, then that would solve all the questions that came up when Sakura was younger. Especially when she saw all the adults glaring at the lone blond boy, beaten for no reason, constantly picked on by the teachers at the academy…
Guilt clawed at Sakura's heart, she had blindly listened to her parents to avoid Naruto like the plague, treated him badly as a teammate, and even though her behavior towards him had improved, it didn't stop Sakura from feeling.
Prying her thoughts away from the future, Sakura focused on the present. Or the past. Whatever it was.
He was still away on his mission, and Sakura had a suspicious feeling that Arashi sent him away on purpose.
Lying down onto the couch, using the armrest as a pillow, Sakura stared at the ceiling. If she were to go back to her own time, how was she supposed to revert to the old her? Kakashi and she had developed a tentative friendship during her stay in the past. Sakura knew of his darkest fears, something that she doubted the others in his generation, friends or not, knew of.
Kakashi in turn, only knew her as Sachiko, the girl who suddenly dropped from the sky according to the deceased Obito.
Would he still remember her?
Kakashi-sensei will. But he'll only remember me as Sachiko. Not Sakura.
Frowning, Sakura realized that revelation depressed her, but she didn't understand why. Deciding not to pursue the thought, she flipped to her side and tried to get some decent sleep.
But Sakura didn't manage to sleep for a few hours before Konoha's greatest danger reared its ugly head…
Kakashi led his team through the woods, leaping from tree to tree at a steady pace. The mission had been long and collecting information on the underground organization bent on overthrowing the government in that small country had been tedious work. But, thankfully, nobody on his team died.
"Captain!" The silver-haired ninja tilted his head slightly to glance at his teammate, codename 'Bear'.
"There's a chakra-signature coming from north-west. It's something big, and…" The shinobi stopped at mid-speech, because he suddenly slipped of the branch he was supposed to step on. 'Racoon', another shinobi leapt off the branch onto the forest floor to check on 'Bear'. The rest of the team quickly followed.
"'Bear', you alright?" Kakashi asked, as the winded ANBU managed a nod. 'Bear' was adept at targeting chakra signatures, and was more sensitive to them than anyone else on Kakashi's team.
"It's big, and it's evil." 'Bear' whispered, as 'Racoon' helped the shaking man to his feet. The other teammates shared concerned glances from behind their porcelain masks.
"And it's heading towards Konoha."
A/N: A few paragraphs shy from ten pages! I'm truly sorry for the long wait, even though I had this chapter half typed out a month ago. I should have finished it then, but I had more pressing issues to deal it at that time. (My thesis report, for instance.) I heard my oral part was docked points because I couldn't speak clearly. It's not my damned fault I have a big tongue!
The Yondaime-Sakura interaction in this chapter will lead to nothing. I'm just laying down the foundation for the sequel. If there's some facts I've missed out, or glaringly obvious plot holes that I didn't notice, please mention it in your review, cause I've done my best going back to re-read the earlier chapters. Honestly, I should have made an outline.
And I'm still not fully satisfied with my chapters. The words are not coming to me! (wail)