AN: Hello and thank you to all those who decided to read this story which is now AMAZINGLY rewritten. Forewarning to all this story is pretty much violence, dirty politics, swearing, and bloodshead. Loooooots of bloodshed.
While it's slow to start the morality of this tale is questionable at the best of times and if you can't read without feeling as though I'm advocating (against your will) something you disagree with, hit the back button and leave, I won't hold it against you.
There are no heroes here but a hell of a lot of villains and levels of evil to choose from. And once again: blood. Can't forget the blood.
Because in this story there's: gratuitous violence, implied child abuse, unapologetic swearing, boldfaced lying, treason, adultery, murder, torture, and genocide. Yeah, you were warned.
I've read a lot of Naruto stories over the years, and I know of dozens of crappy Sakura is the demon container ones and she's either:
a) A whiny little girl who does nothing
b) An exact replica of Naruto's personality, she's basically him except her hair's pink and she's a girl
c) The same as in cannon with no discernable difference
d) The story was really crappy and abandoned after two chapters
I will not ever abandon this story, and while it will be close to cannon before the time skip (though it will be awesomely more violent with no repeat on the dialogue front) it will then veer away wildly afterwards.
And on an unrelated note, this is now the edited cleaned up version of Hell's Radiance you're reading, enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, or anything remotely affiliated with it for that matter. I don't even own any of the manga which is just downright depressing.
It was with regret the Sandaime Hokage looked out on his burning village. The pipe in his hand was lit but he had long forgotten its presence. It hung loosely in his hand and the smoke curled between his fingers, mirroring the black haze rising out from the village just outside the window.
The world he had known, the world he had built up over decades of blood and sweat had just come crashing down around him and he hadn't been able to do one thing to stop it. He clenched the pipe tighter, his eyes tracing the burning outline of buildings as far as the eye could see. The Kyuubi no Kitsune had wreaked havoc before it'd been pushed outside the village walls and even now he could hear the distant wail of people screaming in the streets.
The death toll at the last count had rise in the thousands.
A long, lone cry came out behind him. A little girl barely hours old was screaming for her mother. The mother would never come and the child would cry alone. Sarutobi couldn't bear to bring himself to touch the tiny bundle of blankets lying on Minato's desk, or look at the child therein.
He sighed heavily. He supposed it was no longer Minato's desk, not anymore. Dead men had no use for such things.
He felt every second of his age right then and regrets choked him. He'd let the Yondaime die, let the village burn, and the child crying behind him was just a reminder of his failure.
Someone hit the window sill across the room, letting themselves into the Hokage's most private office with no care for decorum or tact. Sarutobi knew it could be only one man who'd waltz right in like that during the middle of a crisis
Jiraiya spoke up airily as if trying to find humor in the situation. "What the hell are you doing standing here with all the lights off?"
Sarutobi felt more weary than he had in years. "The fires are providing enough light at the moment, Jiraiya."
The white haired man snorted, stepping up besides his old sensei and staring out at the village as well. The two men remained silent and lost in their own worlds as they contemplated the horror of hell on earth.
Sarutobi asked a question he knew he didn't want the answer too. "How are Kushina and little Naruto?"
The younger man breathed in sharply and seemed to withdraw in on himself. "The complications…the birth went on too long and she bled out. Kushina she's…she's—"
Sarutobi's heart ached. He remembered Kushina and Minato, always smiling and bright, always believing in the best of their future together. Both of their ends by all means should have seemed heroic. The father had died saving the village from a Demon King, the mother died giving birth so the son could live. But right now to him it only seemed ugly and tragic and futile.
They wouldn't see their son grow up.
The baby girl on the desk sobbed again and Jiraiya snapped his head around to look. He breathed. "Is that…?"
Sarutobi agreed, wishing he didn't have to. "Yes. That's the new jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune."
As if in a trance Jiraiya wandered to the desk and picked the little girl up. He cradled her gently and brought her into the gleaming light from the window. Red and orange flickers played out on her skin, the baby was naked and coated in blood and ink on her stomach, and on her chest glowed an intricate seal.
Jiraiya would almost swear he could see red chakra boiling just beneath it, thrashing and screaming and clawing for its release.
"Who is she?" Jiraiya asked softly, rocking the crying child and staring down at her in a mixture of awe and revulsion.
"Minato told me her name was Sakura, but beyond that..." Sarutobi shrugged. "He just picked her from the hospital at random, and with the state of affairs there and the records hall being damaged...we may never know for sure."
The disgust lit Jiraiya's eyes with a smoldering intensity that eerily matched the fires outside. "It was supposed to be Naruto."
Sarutobi felt his fingers spasm and his chest go tight. The world seemed to go out of focus. "What do you mean?"
"He meant for it to be Naruto. Minato said he couldn't dream of making any child hold this burden if not his own but…" Jiraiya laughed and it sounded dry and tight, hanging on the edge between humor and insanity. "Kushina just couldn't finish the birth fast enough and so he ended up sticking it in another kid anyways. Perfect, just perfect."
Sarutobi didn't know how to respond to the bitterness and instead lifted his pipe and took a long pull. The smoke calmed him, marginally, and he let the blue haze curl back past his lips.
Jiraiya peered closer at the girl's stomach, and that odd intense loathing of his remained. "The design's all wrong."
Sarutobi shuddered. "What?"
Jiraiya grimaced. "It was made for a boy, Minato's boy, Minato's blood, Kushina's blood…this girl is none of those things. The locking mechanism is different than what he showed me and…just what color was her hair?"
The old Hokage blinked, he felt as like he was only asking questions tonight. "What do you mean what color was her hair? It was always pink."
But when Sarutobi actually looked at the girl's hair he saw it was lank and grayed. The tips were still pink but her roots now showed a midnight black, as dark as the ink on her skin and the seal on her stomach.
Jiraiya stroked her hair gently, pulling at the fine strands and before their eyes the hair grew darker. "She's being changed, I don't know how or why but…she'll be an interesting creature, that's for sure."
"She's no creature." Sarutobi growled.
Jiraiya shrugged, lifting the little girl to look out the window. Her wide green eyes stared out, now calm and curious. Jiraiya smiled at her but the grin was sharp and false. "She'll have to be a creature; she is the legacy of this night. The village is screaming for her head and I have to ask: are you going to give it to them?"
"Of course not." And Sarutobi looked at his student as if now, for the first time, he was really seeing him. And what he saw filled him with disgust. "Minato wanted her to be a hero and I'm not going to betray his wishes."
Jiraiya shrugged and lifted the girl high. She did not laugh or cry but merely stared at Jiraiya curious as only a child could be. The Sanin spoke. "Suit yourself. Things are pretty bad out there, the clans are vying for power, people are dying, other's are demanding revenge. You better take back your job soon old man or the village is going to go to war with the nearest thing it can find, probably itself."
"I know." Sarutobi sighed. "I know that too well. I've already taken emergency power and by this time tomorrow I'll have the council vote me back in and send a message to the Daimyo."
That seemed to appease the Toad Sage but he made no mention of it, and instead he continued to stare up at the girl. He then spoke to her fondly but in a way that set the Hokage's teeth on edge. It was if Jiraiya was speaking to a favored weapon and not a baby girl. "Hey kid, grow up strong and hard and beautiful and be a stone cold bitch. You'll need it."
"Jiraiya!" He admonished.
The Toad Sage didn't seem to hear. "I need to get back to my information net so I guess this is goodbye for now old man."
"What about Naruto?"
Jiraiya waved the concern off. "I've got him set up in one of my old houses with some nannies and tutors. By the time he gets to the academy he'll be the strongest kid there, you can count on it. When he's older I'll train him like I did his father, but until then I've got work to do."
The Sage wandered to the desk, setting the girl and her blankets back on the smooth surface. He didn't look back at her and vanished in a swirl of wind leaving Sarutobi alone once again with the child.
The girl cried, wanting to be held. He couldn't bring himself to pick her up. He made a signal with his hand and an ANBU appeared. "What are your orders Hokage-sama?"
He hadn't yet taken back his old job, but the elite ninja were quite perceptive. They knew how power would shift now that Namikaze Minato was dead, and they flocked to him ready to answer the call.
It made him as proud as it made him sick. "Take the girl, clean her up, and find an orphanage to take her in."
The ANBU moved over the desk and didn't pick up the girl as carefully or as gently as Jiraiya had. But the ANBU held her in the same way, as if she was a fragile as a ticking time bomb. She stopped crying immediately.
And as Jiraiya had before, the ANBU touched her hair and then the seal on her stomach in wonder and fear. "Of course sir. Security?"
"One squad until further notice. Go." He ordered.
"Yes sir." The ANBU bowed his head and vanished, taking the jinchuuriki with him and he murmured as he left. "Come on fox brat."
The sharp sting of hatred in those words remained in the room even as silence fell around the Hokage like a curtain. Outside the village burned and within his head Sarutobi wanted to scream. There was so much yet to be done if Konoha would survive the night and some battles were worth more than others.
Konoha came first.
Then his ninja.
Then the clans.
And then, somewhere at the bottom of that list, were his concerns over the new Jinchuuriki. But she was a nobody even with the demon in her stomach and for the moment he couldn't spare time for her concern.
With a heavy sigh Sarutobi got to work not realizing the far reaching implications this night would have. The village was now a breeding ground for hatred, and from hatred bred monsters, and from monsters came atrocities.
And though Sarutobi did not realize it, he'd just unwittingly had a hand in creating the most terrible monster his village would ever witness.
Five Years Later, Konoha
She moved through the village without a sound, a whisper in shadows, an echo with no source. Being chased around by angry, drunken, and furious people had taught her that skill well enough.
She had not planned to halt but her well honed instincts cautioned her and she stopped for a moment in the shadow of an alley.
The long black cloak she wore pooled around her feet, scuffed with blood and dirt and all manner of things a little girl on the run could pick up. Sakura fingered her hair for a moment, strands of midnight black passing through her fingers. Then her fingers hit a snarl and she gave up, she couldn't even remember the last time she'd combed her hair. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd washed it in anything more than cold water and hand soap from a public bathroom.
Mindful of her instincts she looked out of the alleyway, tasting the air and smelling and seeing. Moments later a rather rowdy and very drunk group of chunin wandered past. If she'd been out there...well, she didn't care to dwell on that.
She gathered the cloak back around her; it had been a gift from the Sandaime Hokage. She had felt so special, so wonderful that she had gotten attention from the man, enough that he would to take her shopping for a single gift. She'd picked the cloak: it was camouflage, a blanket, a pillow, and sleeping bag all in one. It would be her second skin for years to come. She would have liked to show it off but there was no one to see, not anymore. Sakura had been moved from the orphanage to an apartment at the age of three and she, even from early childhood memories that should be blank, remembered the hatred of the caretakers there.
She remembered the loneliness, the gnawing fear of the other children or the adults, the fear of pain that would always come. The apartment had been better for a short while, but when the village at large had learned where she lived without the protection of the orphanage…things took a turn for the worse.
She had stared death in the face enough times for it to be an old and dear friend. Her only friend in the world apart from the Hokage. But the Hokage visited her once a year, if that. Death came to see her far more times than that. She supposed the nurses in the ICU might be her friends too; some gave her juice and cookies when her injuries were bad enough that a good night of sleep wouldn't take them away.
They never talked to her but the snacks were delicious. If it didn't hurt so bad for her to have to go there and then beg for treatment she might do it more often.
She had no concept of the horror those thoughts would have to others, no concept that the life she led was something no one would even wish on their worst enemies. The five year old girl instead thought of cookies and juice and hospital rooms, and checked to make sure her way was clear. She wanted to avoid the cold hatred filled glares of the villagers and the whispers of "monster" and "demon bitch". She wanted to avoid the violence and staining her cloak in another layer of blood. Pulling the hood of farther up she melted back into the shadows.
Three Hours Later, Abandoned District
She slid the paper door noiselessly, stained by years of dust and decay. The room it led to was dirty and large and rather empty, but importantly to this little girl it was home.
She had stopped living in her apartment in the interests of her best health. It was constantly vandalized, the electricity never worked, and the water was a sickening shade of brown. That people knew where it was and could go there to find her was…equally as bad.
The floors there were still stained through by her blood.
But here in this abandoned clan compound (to who it had once belonged, she couldn't say) she was relatively safe. No shower, no running water, no creature comforts, but being able to live without fear and pain crippling her into a sobbing ball of terror was well worth the price.
She moved deeper into the house to her room, though it wasn't really a room. It was a...closet.
Sakura lived in a closet and it was paradise to her. People came through even this abandoned compound enough she couldn't afford to stay in the outer rooms of this rotting place. So she curled away in a closet in a back room lost in the maze of hallways enough that she felt safe. And yet burrowed here like a frightened animal she was afraid, always.
She slid open another door and a smile, for the first time in weeks, flickered on the her face.
The closest was small and almost all of the space was taken up by a large but clean mattress. On the wall were a few hooks to hang possessing she didn't actually have and sitting in the corner was a pile of worn blankets and pillows. She slipped the cloak off and hung it up carefully and it looked rather lonely among the empty hooks.
The horrors and injustices of her world were still too complicated for her brain to grasp or for her to feel hatred and bitterness. But those things lingered, flashing through her during her worst moments. She didn't quite understand them yet but they remained and with every passing day of hatred and suffering they gained strength.
Underneath her cloak she was wearing a red t-shirt, black shorts, and simple black sandals. The shirt had belonged to a boy who'd bullied her and she'd stolen it out of the trash after she'd bit his arm and bloodied the cuff. (And the father of that boy had then hit her so hard that she couldn't see straight for a week and kept getting nosebleeds)
The shorts had come from a public bathhouse and she'd stolen them from an open locker. The sandals had been broken and abandoned by another child and Sakura had patched them quite handily and wore them herself. The little girl was very proud of her resourcefulness, considering the pain and stealth a good trade for clothing.
The oddness of her appearance was only increased by the fact she had what appeared to be around thirty shuriken, kunai, and other weapons tied flush to her tiny frame by wire. She unhooked the loops carefully and pulled the weapons off gently so she wouldn't impale herself.
Getting hurt though was a small concern, after a good night's sleep most of her wounds healed up just fine and she liked the weapons far too much to throw them away. Her collection had stared at the tender age of four, each weapon had at one point or another been stabbed into her body or drawn her blood. She liked to think some of her life was in each one, and every night in the shine of the blades she fantasized returning those wounds on the people who had inflicted them.
But for the moment it was only the twisted dream of a little girl far too weak to fulfill it.
The wire the weapons hung from came from someone who had tried to strangle her with it on her fourth birthday. That had started the collection, but what had continued it was a different dream. She had wanted to be a ninja since before she could remember. Sakura wanted so badly to be strong. Strong people couldn't be in as much pain as she was, and she kept collecting weapons hoping someday she would learn how to use them.
And on a more practical note since she had little money to speak of, getting her needed weapons from those who scorned her seemed like a brilliant idea. She hung up the weapons over the next hook and moved over to the mattress humming to herself as she did, little curls of pride warming her heart.
People had tried to take all of her self-worth out of her: villagers, ninja, anyone. But she clung to her pride that remained carefully, nurturing it out of sheer spite. Spite was something she knew very well and some days it was all that kept her moving.
She laid down on the mattress, sighing happily and breathing in the clean smell of it. She couldn't clean anywhere else or somebody would become suspicious about why an abandoned estate looked lived in, but here could be sanitary.
She contemplated the walls, loving them in only the way a child with nothing could love. They were hers, the roof, the walls, the mattress, the floor. Hers, and if she was careful no one could take them from her. There would be later years when she would feel shame and hatred looking at this place, but now all she felt was pride and love.
Sakura was sure she wouldn't have to move for a while; she was somewhat near the Uchiha estate but they never came near here. The Uchiha's, when considering their egos, wouldn't be caught living or dead within a hundred yards of this place.
She stared out the small window for a moment (her only source of sunlight for sometimes days) feeling the warmth on her pale skin. Having spent her short life running through the shadows her body was beginning to show the effects.
As she stared her vision began to waver. The fledging feelings of happiness and contentment vanished and her head began to throb. She shot up frantically, trying and failing to get up from the mattress and only managing to fall and hit the floor.
She moaned. "No, no, no, please no…"
But her pleading wasn't answered and the world went dim. She crawled over to the mattress, dragging herself by her arms as her strength waned. She wrapped a blanket around her frail body as she collapsed once more and this time didn't move again.
Not even sleep was safe, not anymore. At one point it'd been her refuge and sometimes the only place she could find happiness. She'd dream of having a mom and a dad, of having friends, of eating yummy food and drinking sweet things. She'd dream of being a ninja and being the best. She'd dream of no longer being afraid and dream of others cowering in front of her.
But the nightmares had stolen that from her. They always came, always, dragging her into horrors she never knew if she'd wake from and no matter how long she tried to stay awake…she couldn't run forever.
Sakura thrashed violently and her limbs went still. She was thrust into the abyss of sleep and the nightmares clawed their way up to meet her.
It was a battlefield. Corpses lay strewn across the land, blood stained everything, the forests were burning, and the sky itself was on fire.
She could only liken this place to hell.
But she'd wandered this battlefield before and as she knew they would the screams started. Not all the bodies were dead and their pleas for help drowned out the roar of even the flames. She didn't understand it; the scope was too vast for her mind to handle. She knew it was a battle and she knew ninja were dead but she only identified Konoha shinobi. Their leaf headbands appeared like molten steel in the raging infernos, and she wondered why they were the only ones here.
Where was the enemy?
She wandered through the carnage and it was familiar to her as on old friend. This nightmare had happened before. The wind was hot and it kicked up ash and embers into her face. She shielded herself and the dress she was wearing whipped around her in the gale.
It was white, made with ribbons and lace and it was the kind of thing little girls like her loved. No matter the blood, smoke, or dirt around her it remained clean. But the ribbons were bound so tightly it felt like her rib cage was collapsing and even if she tore at the dress until her fingers were bloodied the dress would remain on and the blood wouldn't touch it.
Even the things she adored were out of her control.
The faces of the dying turned to her, reaching out with ruined hands and begging for her help. "Please…please…"
"I can't." She whispered. Their hands fell short and she couldn't seem to get closer to them no matter how far she ran. And she couldn't get away. Never away.
And like always the pleading turned to hatred. The unknown faces twisted to become her tormentors, villagers and Shinobi alike, yelling obscenities and spitting at her.
"Bitch! You were supposed to die, not them!"
"Demon whore did you think we wouldn't find you?"
"Animal! You were a bane to us!"
"It was you! Always…always…our harbinger of death!"
The wind around her hissed and sighed, warm on her cheeks like breath. She felt more than saw the kunai sticking out of the ground in front of her.
The ashes seemed to caress her, the embers consoled her, and the wind they road on cajoled her.
Wasn't it your dream? It seemed to whisper. Wasn't it your desire? Pick up the blade; I left it there all for you.
She picked up the kunai in her hand and weighed it and in the light from the fires it gleamed white hot.
The wind continued to twist in her hair like a gentle hand and stroke her cheeks like a dear friend. It will feel so good. So right. Use it.
Her body moved of its own violation, desire fueling her actions before reason could catch up with her. But she was a child and her impulse control was shoddy at the best of times. It was only a dream after all, and what the wind whispered to her sounded so nice…
She took a step closer and one of her tormentors grabbed her skirt and pulled. She fell to her knees and the kunai snapped forward. The blade hilt deep into the man's throat and blood bubbled up on her hands. The man died quickly, she felt his throat shudder under her fingers, and she watched the light dimming from his terrified eyes.
Good. They should be the ones afraid.
She wiped her hands off on the dress and left long stains of red behind. The streaks felt right somehow, felt good and warm against her stomach and she pulled the kunai loose and cleaned it on her dress. It left another bloody streak.
The ribbons and lace didn't feel quite as tight anymore, quite as suffocating.
The wind swirled around her in something resembling delight, scattering embers and ash around her like confetti at a birthday party. Good girl, good girl, so smart and strong. Get up there's so much you can do…
The wind guided her like a friend, dancing with her, playing with her, whispering suggestions in her ear. There are so many ways to kill.
And the wind began to teach her every one. And with each kill, with each new technique, each new scream, she added a new stain of blood to her dress. It was her canvas to paint and no one could take that from her.
There's something I want you to see. The wind fluttered, tugging at her dress. She noticed the breezes now had a reddish tinge to them like vapor . It felt like chakra. She knew chakra, she'd felt it coiling in her guts, always itching and tugging and letting her know it was there.
On the horizon she could see a red glow, it was chakra so intense it had become visible and she was drawn to it like a moth to flame. She wanted to burn on it. The wind seemed to take in the chakra and it burned hotter and hotter on her face as she scrambled up the hill.
She was reaching the crest and could feel something exhilarating and alive on the other side.
The wind hissed. This is the truth…your truth.
Out of seemingly nowhere a staff came angling in straight at her head. She jumped and the wind howled and flung her from harm's way, sending her skidding down the hill. The red glow that laid beyond, the truth, was now far out of her reach.
The wind howled. Who dares to deny? Who dares!
And as she saw who stood in her way her heart froze. It was the Sandaime Hokage in full battle armor. Unlike the last time the old man had seen her he wasn't smiling. He was staring at her with cold and hard rage in his eyes and a disappointment so deep it cut her to the bone.
"Why did you kill them Sakura?" He asked her harshly. "Did you want to be a monster?"
She was taken aback for a moment, the killing and the bloodstains on her dress felt cold and heavy on her. But the wind screamed. You're the monster! You're the blind eyes that see no harm! You're the cold shoulders that turn away!
The gales curled around her protectively, the red chakra in the wind searing her and it whispered only to her. He's the one who doesn't protect you. You deserve the riches of heaven, the comfort of empires, the blood of treacherous old men. Kill him.
"But…" She clutched her blood slicked dress between her hands. "He was so kind to me—"
You know nothing of kindness! The wind raged. But you know their cruelty, oh yes, even if you don't understand it. Share your cruelty like a good little girl and you'll feel so good.
"Let me pass," She whispered softly. "Let me see the truth."
"I cannot." He said calmly and slipped into a battle stance. "What awaits you beyond will bring you nothing but misery."
She looked into his eyes not believing his words, and she saw sorrow and pity there. The bitterness she had never understood swelled in her and everything finally clicked together.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up.
"Pity?" Her chakra began to fluctuate, itching and burning out of her. Her eyes became slitted and her sight sharpened as the world seemed to crystallize. "Is that all you'll ever give me?" Her eyes turned crimson like a blooming wound, scarlet as blood. Her nails lengthened to claws and she felt like a monster and she liked it. "You think you can pity me? Save it for yourself!"
The wind screamed its approval.
She charged at him swinging her arm and trying to cut open his throat. He blocked her with his staff easily and deflected her blow to the side. Her fist struck out again only to be knocked away, and she hit the ground like a meteor and rock and ash and dust went everywhere. The blood on her dress was now her own.
Growling in frustration she went on the offensive again and flung herself at Sarutobi, the wind went with her but it still wasn't enough. She was still too weak and the staff cracked her across the face. Blood filled her mouth and she choked on it. The fight was as beautiful as it was ugly and she loved and hated it in equal measure.
The wind tore at her, letting her know its displeasure. Weak, weak, WEAK! Get up and fight!
So she got up and the battle raged on. The longer it went the more chakra she poured out. It was no longer an electrifying icy blue but rage filled crimson. The tide of the battle began to turn; the red chakra and the wind seemed to sing in her veins and on her skin and it was as if she could see everything at once. With last roar she poured out everything. She flew at the Hokage knowing his movements and as he raised his staff to block her the red chakra turned into a claw and grabbed it. She could see his surprise and with a feral grin she plunged her hand into his chest.
The blood flowed down her arm like water and they stood there, him kneeling, her with her arm through him. "Take your pity and rot with it."
She pulled her hand out slowly, staring at the blood covered appendage in fascination. The Hokage's eyes dulled and he fell lifelessly to the ground. For a moment she could feel the burning sensation of regret but it slipped away as her features returned to normal.
"Serves the old fool right." She mumbled, shaking her hand and trying to rid herself of the blood. It was only a dream.
Strangely the wind was silent but it caressed her letting her know of its approval. She began walking up the hill again and she could feel the chakra growing stronger to the point of it becoming unbearable. It diidn't take long for her to break out into a sprint, and the need to see overwhelmed all else.
Her goal was almost within her reach when she felt the ground shift beneath her feet. She stumbled and tried to right herself only to fall to the ground again. Everything turned to haze and she was slipping from the nightmare's grasp. She clawed out desperately trying to hang on but the more she held the more that fell away.
It was gone. She was falling through the darkness and with a flash of light she was thrust upwards. The walls of her closet greeted her opened eyes.
She then proceeded to vent her displeasure by screaming at the ceiling. "Damn it! Damn it all to hell! The one time I actually wanted to see the end and the damn things stops!" She shouted at the walls, kicking at her blankets only to get tangled in them and fall. She snarled and thrashed across the mattress and was almost on another tirade when she glanced out the window.
Her face visibly paled and she sobered up immediately. It was the evening of October the 10th; the day the village celebrated the fall of the Kyuubi no Kitsune.
It was her birthday and the worst day of her existence. There would be no cake, no gifts, no fun games to play or yummy things to eat. There might be beatings and curses, broken arms, shattered ribs, punctured lungs and a trip to the ICU. If she was lucky she'd be awake later tonight after the worst long enough for the nurses to bring her juice and cookies.
Last year, on her fourth birthday, one nurse had even patted her head. That was as close to a birthday well-wisher as she'd ever gotten.
"Why can't I just die?" She asked the walls.
They didn't answer and the bitterness she'd finally understood welled back up. It wasn't fair.
She pulled her legs to her chest trying to stop feeling like the world was ending. Tears ran down her face, fell to her knees, and then slid down her legs to the floor. It wasn't fair.
Her body ached, she was starving and hadn't been able to bathe for god knows how long and the aches of the nightmare stayed with her as if it'd been almost real. At that moment in time falling asleep and never waking would have been a blessing.
When her tears ran dry she pushed herself off the mattress and mopped up her face with the collar of her shirt. She pulled out the blankets from the closest to dry, they smelled like sweat and tears and the chore gave her something to do. As she aired the blankets out her mind spun.
"Money." She told the walls. "I need money and a bath." The walls did not object to this plan and she frowned. "And food, my tummy really hurts."
Her stomach gurgled to agree with her and she threw the blankets onto the mattress and sat back down. "But…tonight's a really bad night. Super-duper bad and juice and cookies aren't worth what I'll have to do to get them."
If worst came to worst she'd go and get cornered outside the hospital, get beaten badly enough for someone to see, and then plead and cajole her way into a room for the night. They'd clean her there, feed her, and knock her out with enough sedatives to sleep for a week without dreams.
But that was a last ditch effort, the pain…the pain was too much for her to take voluntarily.
"I gotta sneak some money, or make it." Neither the walls nor the mattress had advice. "Then I'll go for a walk! And maybe…if nothing comes to mind…I'll go to the hospital."
She didn't feel good about this, not at all, but it was the best she could come up with. She'd make it work and she gathered up her cloak and threw it over herself. Sakura dearly hoped she wouldn't regret this.
Konoha, Festival Grounds
Smoke filled with the scents of sizzling vegetables and savory meat permeated the air. Stages were filled with performers entertaining the large crowds, jugglers, acrobats, and retired ninja who could still put on a good show. Various booths lined the streets with their owners yelling to attract attention to their merchandise: toys, foods, garments, masks, and trinkets from all across the elemental countries. Children laughed and ran with sparklers in their hands between the adults on the streets, and the buzz of the crowds was almost comforting.
Sakura stared wide eyed at spectacle before her but quickly shook her head and wandered in another direction. She was soon far and deep into the woods. Now was not the time to be distracted, this world of happiness would never be her own anyways. She had a self-appointed mission and she be damned if she didn't see it through. After walking a fair distance the noise of the crowds diminished and soon all she heard was the sound of wind in the trees.
Except she heard the voices of a young boy and an older man, and despite herself she felt curious. The sound of their voices was unpleasantly harsh, something she was familiar with, and despite everything that tone was recognizable to her and therefore more appealing.
Anger was something she fully understood.
She saw a clearing and realized she'd somehow stumbled onto one of the shinobi training grounds dotting the village. In the center of the clearing was a boy her age with hair a sunny yellow sahde of blond. And he was arguing fiercely with the adult in front of him. "Why can't I go to the festival?" The boy shouted and stompied his foot down.
The adult rolled his eyes. "I told you Naruto, learn this technique and then you can go."
The boy pouted. "That's not fair, and it's a stupid jutsu anyways."
Sakura felt a sudden and intense dislike for the boy, what the hell did he know about things being unfair?
The man sighed. "Henge is not stupid. With this jutsu you can be anyone and blend in anywhere, that's the life blood of any ninja. Would you want your father to be ashamed of you for not learning such a simple technique?"
Naruto squirmed and crossed his arms. "Whatever. Show it to me again…" He mumbled under his breath, "…jerk."
The man narrowed his eyes, seeming to have noticed it, but despite that he fell into a long lecture about the jutsu and demonstrated it for his charge.
From the shadows Sakura watched with avid eyes, her hands clumsily mimicking the hand seals of the man. She remembered how chakra felt in her dream and…
The jutsu activated without warning and Sakura felt funny. She fled back into the woods looking for a pond she'd stumbled across. When she looked down into the water a different face stared back at her. Sakura screamed and scrambled back and the chakra sizzled and went out.
She took a deep breath. "That was supposed to happen." She assured herself.
She tried for another hour, tweaking and shifting and trying to make the features line up just right. When she was done a brunette teenager stared back at her wearing a pretty blue kimono like she'd seen at the festival.
With this she could go anywhere. No more people staring at her hatefully, no more beatings, no more curses. She practically squealed in delight. She could get money and food and baths and…right, a bath.
Maybe the bath houses were open? It was a rather large festival after all.
Twenty minutes later she arrived at the largest bath house in the city. It took her longer than expected after taking extra precaution to not bump into anyone else. She wasn't sure if the henge would hold if someone hit her and she was leery of finding out in the middle of a reveling and drunken crowd.
The place she arrived at was known as Crystal Springs and it was overflowing with people trying to get in. It seemed her bet had gone right for once.
She pushed to the front of the crow carefully, concentrating hard on the henge so it wouldn't slip. When she finally reached the front of the lines she wanted to collapse and thank god that she made it out alive. She settled on talking to the head attendant instead.
"Um ma'am? Excuse me..." She called out, trying to grab the attention of a woman in her mid thirties behind the desk. Sakura's voice came out rather high and she realized the henge did nothing for her voice. She immediately pitched it lower. "Ma'am? Could I…?"
"Wait your turn in line like everyone else! Can't you see I'm a bit busy here right now?" The woman snapped, running harried behind the desk trying to hand out bath tokens and take money at the same time. The woman was succeeding, barely, but the lines of people behind Sakura were getting restless.
Sakura flinched, every sense screamed at her to run away and forget about the stupid plan. But she shrugged it off, she was hungry and tired and dirty and she just wanted something to go her way for once.
"Sorry ma'am, I was sent here, I mean I came here because..." Sakura searched for the right words.
The woman turned so fast her neck audibly cracked . "Are you one of the temps the agency sent over?"
Sakura had no idea what that meant but she nodded anyways.
The woman's lips broke into a wide grin. "Why didn't you say so? Hurry up and get back here! I don't have a lot of time and the other girl called in sick..." The woman beamed at her and Sakura nearly took a step back in surprise. No one was ever happy to see her, ever, it just didn't happen.
"Alright." Sakura answered and tried to return the smile. Then she realized it was the henge that needed to smile and she shifted her chakra to do so.
She was dragged behind the desk and handed a clipboard and after that time just seemed to just slip away from her. Three hours passed as she ran around the springs restocking, cleaning, and working the front desk. The jobs were menial and frankly well within the short attention span of a five year old. Especially a five year old starving for food and money and a good bath.
When a lull hit at the beginning of the fireworks Sakura circumspectly grabbed a basket of the most expensive soaps, a private shower ticket, and she re-did her henge in a closet into a freckled redhead in a towel.
She practically ran to the showers and slammed the door behind her, cutting off the hectic noise of the bathhouse. Giving a sigh of contentment she slid to the floor released the henge. Her chakra stores, while vast, had been drained from the exertion of keeping it in place that long.
She hummed happily and started peeling off her clothes. She spun the dial of the shower to warm and stepped under the water. Instant relief flooded her muscles and the heat felt so nice that she giggled and danced a bit under the showerhead.
It was a good day, she decided.
As she washed her hair she could feel herself unwind and the stiffness seeping out. She grabbed a bottle of conditioner and turned back to the shower and that's when she saw it.
Crimson. Blood. It coated the floor, spattered across the porcelain walls and the water coming from the shower head had turned scarlet. The conditioner bottle clattered to the floor. She stepped back and her whole body began to shake.
In the heat and steam she broke into a cold sweat and her stomach rebelled and tried to vomit up food that wasn't there.
"This can't be real."She told herself. Images flickered before her eyes reflected in the blood pooled all around her. Battlefields, corpses, flames, and finally the body of the Third Hokage. His chest had a gaping hole where his heart had been. She looked at her hand in horror and it was covered with blood and flecks of tissue. His eyes blamed her, accused her of his death, and he was right.
"No, no, NO! He's still alive! I didn't kill him, I didn't, it wasn't real. It was a dream and it couldn't be real and… "She smashed her hand against the floor, shattering a tile and cutting her arm open. Immediately the hallucination vanished and the only blood left came from her arm. She pulled out the splinters from the wound and watched it heal over in a matter of seconds.
"Dear god what am I?" She stared at her hands in horror. "What the hell am I?"
Now it wasn't even sleep that was no longer safe. The nightmares were entering her waking moments. Nowhere was safe, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to go.
Sakura cried under the hot water until her skin was scalded. Eventaully she got tired of crying and got to washing her hair and then her body and then her clothes. She barely felt any of it.
It couldn't go on like this. She pieced herself together like a broken sheet of glass, lining up the shards but unable to heal the cracks. She got dressed and tried to reapply the henge. When it failed she started to cry. What else could go wrong?
Then she remembered the words of the teacher who'd been speaking to that blond haired boy. No jutsu worked without concentrating really hard. So Sakura concentrated and the henge came up. She didn't cheer or even smile but she at least stopped crying.
Sakura practically stumbled to the front desk.
"Ma'am, I've finished the job." At this remark, the woman behind the counter smiled and threw a wad of bills at her chest.
Sakura barely caught the money and stared at it in awe. It was the most she'd ever held, not that that was saying much.
"Good work. Have fun at the festival and thank the temp agency for sending you on such short notice." The woman waved her off.
Sakura waved back, dazed. She quickly exited the bathhouse and reemerged into the festival.
Her dazed happiness quickly turned into a scowl. She'd managed to pull herself together long enough to put up a henge and get paid but now she saw a new problem coming on. In the back of her mind, just at the edge of her subconscious, another nightmare lurked. She wouldn't have much longer before it overtook her. Trying to suppress the mental pressure was difficult and she only had about an hour's worth of energy before she'd crash, but for the sake of food she had to keep going.
She stopped at an all night store and a bakery and with her money she bought enough food to last a week. Balancing the bag carefully on her hip Sakura headed towards her home. About halfway there she smelled something wonderful and couldn't resist splurging on some kind of meat on a stick.
It was wonderfully salty and greasy and she gnawed on it like a hungry animal. It'd been so long since she'd had something delicious. When she had it halfway down she nibbled at it more slowly, trying to make it last as she watched the people on the street.
The women were all wearing elegant kimonos and had bright flowers in their hair. The men had their hamanaka's and gaudily decorated masks. In her henge she was happy to be just another face in the crowd not standing out in any way.
She sighed, somehow that thought only made her sad: it was only thanks to wearing a face not hers that she got any peace.
Abandoned District, Midnight
Her tummy was full and her body was clean and smelled good. Sakura was a very happy little girl and she carefully nibbled at a candy bar she'd bought, content to lay on her mattress and stare at the ceiling. She could now feel the nightmare tugging at her mind, willing her to sleep so that it could take over.
She was afraid, really and truly afraid. The incident in the bathhouse hadn't left her and she still shivered in terror at the thought of it. And yet, at the same time, the last dream had felt good. And Sakura wanted nothing more than to feel nice inside for the rest of her life. After ten more minutes of glassy eyed staring she finished her candy and let the dream consume her.
It started right where it had left off; the Hokage's body was still where he had fallen, the wind was still whipping up and down the hill, blood still coated her hands and the breeze murmured in her ears. Right at home, I'll give you everything you'll ever need, all the blood and screams you could ask for.
She could feel the pressure building; the chakra on the other side was growing to astronomical rates. Before she even realized it she was running. The gravel cut her bare feet and she didn't even notice. The wind seemed to laugh, a shivering and rattling sound. So close, so close!
When she finally reached the crest her eyes widened in horror. There in its full glory was the Kyuubi no Kitsune, its nine tails swinging erratically behind it and smashing the earth. It was sending out shock waves so powerful they knocked her off her feet. She was caught by the wind and it settled her on her stomach. Welcome to your legacy.
The demon was being attacked by leaf shinobi and all to no avail. With one swing of a tail it killed scores of men, splattering the bodies and searing them into fine mist. No one could stand up to the demon's wrath and their attempts were almost laughable. The wind roared its laughter and she just laid there in awe. The ground began to vibrate and the demon looked up just in time to dodge the sword of a giant toad.
"Look at that!" Sakura shouted to the wind giddily. It was all just a wonderful and horrifying game to her as the fox and toad battled.
The wind did not share her humor and buzzed along the ground. Do not cheer for bastard amphibians child. No, no, you are of the fox.
"I am?" She breathed excitedly. If that was true she was part of something powerful and strong and it made her entire body hum with delight. She was finally important.
You are. Now watch little girl and know where you come from.
"You die today demon!" The low voice of the toad boomed as it readied itself for the next attack. A deep growling filled the air and chuckling boomed through the night. Sakura soon realized the fox was laughing.
"You come back for more froggy? I think I'll give you a matching scar over the other eye!" The demon howled and bloodlust thundered in its voice.
"Give it a scar, give it a scar!" Sakura cheered.
"So be it." The toad muttered. The beasts clashed again, the shockwave of teeth hitting steel flattening the forest for miles.
The two titans faltered when the voice of a man was heard. "Gamabunta! The ritual has been completed. I think it's time we wrap this up old friend."
Sakura could not see where this voice came and her eyes narrowed trying to find its source.
The toad seemed to deflate at these words. "Goodbye Minato, I'm sorry that it came to this."
The demon charged the stationary toad, taking the distraction for the advantage it seemed to be.
"Why stop now? The fun's just beginning!"The Kyuubi roared and bared its fangs.
"There's no turning back now." The man named Minato said sadly. A light enveloped the toad and it burned as bright as the sun.
She shielded her eyes away from the blinding light. She heard the screams of the demon as whatever the jutsu was did its work. As the light died away the demon's body turned to ashes.
"No!" She screamed desperately and clamored over the edge.
A shriek of wind pulled her back and buffeted her from leaving. It's already done. There is nothing a wretch like you can do to stop it.
A maelstrom of crimson chakra seared the sky and surrounded the man and the bundle he was carrying. The chakra whipped out and knocked the man away, sending him tumbling to the ground hundreds of feet below.
The toad barley managed to catch him. He set the man's dying body down carefully before vanishubg in a cloud of smoke. The maelstrom continued high above in the air, the chakra for a moment took the appearance of the demon and then was completely sealed away. The dying crimson winds gently carried the bundle to the ground where it was caught by the man.
He fell to the ground, his lips moving and she couldn't hear the words. He too turned to ashes. Sakura was now all alone again except for herself, the wind, and the odd bundle on the ground. She was released by the wind and it beckoned her forward and she slowly walked towards the small bundle.
An ear splitting wail come from beneath the blankets. She stared at the bundle incredulously. "A baby? The Kyuubi went away into a baby?" She knelt down and pulled the sheet back.
Her mind went blank; in the bundle was a pink-haired green-eyed child with a strange tattoo on its stomach. The same tattoo that she had. The pink hair started to gray before her eyes, taking on hues of black she recognized from her own locks.
"I had pink hair." She whispered.
The wind seemed to slap her. Stop whining over such idiocy. The Kyuubi no Kitsune didn't die, it was sealed. Sealed into you. The legacy of hatred, the cage of revulsion, the weakest creature ever to hold the power of a Demon King. How far have we fallen…
The illusion of the dream crumbled beneath her. When the world reformed she was standing hip deep in a sewer and somewhere far above her a storm raged and poured out rain. The rain water rushed into the pipes and in the water she saw the threads of her own memories caught beneath the surface.
How long would it be until the water rose above her head and drowned her?
She covered her face with her arm. The lukewarm water smelled of blood and dying cherry blossoms and the sickly sweet smell of rot.
But she was faced with a more pressing question now that the dream had ended.
Where am I now?
Edit: This is the rewritten and clean version. What got changed in this chapter was: new scene added for Sarutobi and Jiraiya, more background and a glimpse of Naruto's childhood alongside Sakura's, Sakura was made more childish as her age should have made her, grammar was cleaned up and the story logic was made clearer, the character of Sano was cut and shifted later into the story.