DISCLAIMER: All characters DO NOT belong to me.

Here's my first attempt at a Naruto fic. Here's a warning, it's very Sakura-centric so if you dislike the little cherry blossom, I suggest you turn your attentions a different way, I won't tolerate flames. Thanks. Enjoy.


Chapter One

When We Were Young

I saw them for the first time for over seven years. They stumbled into Konoha, barely conscious and possibly bleeding to death. One had a splitting smile while the other had a blank expression that arose many unforgettable memories; memories that had long ago been locked away.

Crowds gathered around them; the infamous Uchiha who had gone missing years ago and the boy who had the kyuubi sealed within him. They looked much older and too mature for their nineteen years of age but then again, everyone who became a ninja matured faster than normal; that's the burden and the curse of taking on this life.

The fifth Hokage, Tsunade-sensei, made her way through the chattering crowd, followed closely by Shizune-san. You could already hear the whispers of multiple rumors passing through the clustered people as the boys stopped just inside the gates of Konoha.

As Tsunade-sensei halted in front of the two boys, a ghost of a smile lost upon the onlookers, everyone went completely silent so as to hear what she would say to the two ninjas who had gone missing seven years ago; one to gain power to avenge his family's death and the other to gain power to bring home his lost friend.

Naruto had left seven years ago with Jiraiya-san to train with the legendary Sannin but after two years, he had some how escaped Jiraiya's tutelage and disappeared. Jiraiya had made his way back to Konoha after months of searching and he had been severely pummeled by the Hokage herself for his terrible mistake. Apparently, he had been working on one of his perverted books and failed to notice Naruto's absence for two whole weeks. When he finally did realize that Naruto's annoying chatter was not to be heard, he immediately delved into his search but he found no traces at all of his young apprentice and so he was forced to run in a wild goose chase for several months before finally giving up.

Now, as I watched Naruto standing so near to his closest friend, I felt silly for not realizing sooner where Naruto would have went. Maybe I had always known and I was just too angry and jealous to confront it. I smiled slightly as I watched the blond boy and knew that nothing could come between him and Sasuke.



Nothing. The giddy, bubbly, butterfly feeling that used to flutter in my tummy when I was twelve whenever Sasuke was around or whenever his name was mentioned was gone.

It should have been expected after all that I went through in those seven long years.

"Follow me." Tsunade's voice broke through my thoughts and I was able to catch the Hokage turn on her heels and start briskly walking back to her office. The crowd parted as she walked through them, Naruto following close behind with a lagging Sasuke. Both seemed to forget about their loss of blood and major injuries as concern for their future clouded their minds.

As the crowd began to disperse, I remained crouched on the rooftop that I had claimed the moment I sensed my old teammates' chakra approaching Konoha. A gentle breeze blew my way and I closed my eyes while inhaling deeply. When I opened my eyes again and looked down by the gate, no one was in sight except for the two gatekeepers in their little booth.

I stood up and stretched my arms above my head to get rid of all the strains from crouching in the same position for too long. I had gotten used to it though after long hours of surveillance during missions. With one last glance at the empty entrance, I transported myself to the Hokage's building in a flurry of cherry blossoms.

"Haruno Sakura."

"Yes, sensei?"

"I'm sending you on a mission that will commence as of tonight."


"It's highly confidential and I want not one person to know of it's existence. You are to go alone tonight at 6:00pm and act as if you are on a simple solo mission. The time it will take is unknown but I've estimated that it will be a few years before you can see Konoha again."

"What's my objective, sensei?"

"It's written in that scroll Shizune gave you. Once you have read it, and memorized it word for word, burn it immediately. Do you understand?"


"Very well then." Her voice went from professional to resigned in an instant, "Sakura-chan, I know you're only a chuunin and you have no experience in solo missions but I know you can do this. I believe you can become something great and this mission will help a lot. Keep this in mind though, this mission does not only concern you, or me, it concerns all of Konoha and you must do your best. I've taught you all I can in only four years, I know you're beyond capable to complete this mission." a small smile graced the Hokage's features as she looked upon her young apprentice.

"Thank you, sensei. I'll try, no, I'll do my best." she smiled back at the Hokage with sweet determination etched into her emerald orbs.

Before turning to leave, a crease appeared between her pink brows as she looked back at Tsunade, "Sensei? Where am I going?"

Tsunade took a deep breath before whispering, "Saarik, land of magick."

As I entered the Hokage's building, I was nearly floored by the uproar of it's daily workers. Everyone was rushing about in a flurry of blurred motion and oozing excitement. As I dodged bustling workers I managed to find Shizune in a panic, scrambling papers up on a random desk.

I approached her with one delicate pink eyebrow raised and a smile on my face. I leaned on the desk as I let out a loud sigh.

"Shizune-san." No answer.

"Shizune-san?" I couldn't believe she couldn't hear me when I was right there.


Shizune let out a loud squeak as the papers in her hands flew into the air in her surprise.

"S-Sakura-chan! I'm so sorry! I was trying to get the papers and Tsunade is upstairs with a whole bunch of other jounin, oh and Naruto and Sasuke are back and this is going to cause an uproar and--"

"Shizune-san! Calm down and breathe. What papers are you talking about? I'll help you." I couldn't help but grin at Shizune's flustered state. You would think she would be more calm being a medic-nin and all but apparently she was worse when it didn't concern saving lives.

"Oh thank you so much, Sakura-chan! I was trying to find those papers that formalized punishments. Tsunade is always loosing things and then she expects me to find them quickly whenever they're needed urgently, like now!"

I calmly surveyed the surface of the mess and when I didn't see what I was looking for, I walked around and pulled open a drawer and after a second of shuffling through the papers in the drawer, I plucked out the needed papers and with a wide grin on my face, handed them to the astounded medic.

She pouted as she took the papers and then smiled fondly at me. Before she could utter a 'thank you,' a young man with short cropped brown hair rushed up to Shizune with a panicked look in his eyes.

"Shizune-san! You're needed down by the hospital! It's urgent!"

"Hai." Shizune looked at me with an apologetic look and I just smiled with a nod.

"I'll take the papers to Tsunade-sensei, Shizune-san. Don't worry."

"Thank you so much, Sakura-chan!" and without a second glance, Shizune disappeared in a whoosh of cool air.

I looked down at the papers and let a sigh pass from my lips, the outrageous noise from the office leaving my senses. Dread began to build up in my stomach as I thought of coming face to face with my former teammates. After a few seconds, I forced any thoughts of what was to come from my mind and hardened my features as I made my way to the stairs that led to Tsunade's office on the top floor.

Tsunade stared hard at the two young boys who had both disappeared from Konoha so many years ago. They were bleeding hard and she knew they were fighting hard not to faint from loss of blood but she refused to have them healed before she issued their punishment. She knew she was being stubborn and a little childish, no way a Hokage should be acting, but she couldn't help it; these boys had caused so many people so much pain and worry.

Naruto still managed to smile broadly at her even though his knees were shaking from the mere effort of standing up. His clothes were different from what she remembered, despite being torn and dirty. It was now a darker orange with black going down the zipper. His hair looked more tame but still unkept. He was now taller than Tsunade and his features had matured into a young man. He had become very attractive, his eyes still a bright, jovial blue. His Konoha headband was still securely fastened around his forehead, though it looked a bit beaten up and scratched. He was still proud to be a ninja.

Tsunade almost smiled but then her eyes fell on the other newcomer.

He was everything Naruto wasn't. He had a brooding, blank expression on his features and his arms were crossed against his abdomen as he leaned against the back wall. His eyes were the same black but they had dark bags under them. He too had become taller and his features more sharp and strong. He flourished into a very handsome man but his dark aura just made you want to crinkle your nose. He wore a loose, dark blue gi, tied around his slim waist and it opened across his well defined chest. He had an off-white hakama on that looked absolutely filthy. No where in sight did he display a Konoha headband.

Tsunade felt rather than saw Jiraiya shuffle his feet on her right as he glared at Naruto with a childish gleam in his eyes. She also felt Kakashi nestled on the frame of her office window to her left. He was staring intently at his old students, his one visible eye hard and neutral.

A long silence passed before Tsunade opened her mouth to finally say something.

"Uzumaki Naruto. You were reported a missing-nin five years ago. You went against your duties as a Konoha ninja. You disobeyed your Hokage's orders and you were in the company of a missing-nin from Konoha. Is that correct?"

"Hai." Naruto clenched his fists as he waited to hear what his punishment was but instead Tsunade went on to Sasuke. He clenched his jaw as he listened to his leader.

"Uchiha Sasuke. You were reported a missing-nin seven years ago. You abandoned your village and allied yourself with a wanted, S-Class criminal and missing-nin. You ignored your Hokage's orders and you attacked and attempted to harm and kill fellow Konoha ninja. You were found in the presence of multiple missing-nin. Is that correct."


"...I'll take that as a yes." She gave the young Uchiha a disapproving glare before continuing, "Now for your punishments." After a few seconds of shuffling papers on her desk, a tic appeared on her forehead as she remembered she had sent Shizune to fetch the documents to assign their punishments. Before she did anything, a polite knock sounded on the door and Tsunade recognized Sakura's half-hearted hidden chakra.

"Enter." Her voice rumbled through the thick silence and the doors slowly creaked open to reveal the pink-haired kunoichi.

She looked serene and calm as she entered. She wore her usual attire that she normally wore around the village; tight black shorts that went mid-thigh under the dark red wrap that had a strip of cloth that fell over her behind and crotch and fell all the way down to her calves. She had flat sandals on that went all the way up to just below her knees. Her wrap was sleeveless and the collar went all the way around her neck. She had elbow length black gloves that had one tie around her middle finger. Her hair had grown long over the years and it was up in a high ponytail that fell towards the middle of her back. Her nails were painted a bright red as well as her lips.

She had a closed-off expression and she didn't look at anyone in the room but straight ahead. She slowly walked up to the Hokage's desk, her chin held high and held out the needed documents. The entire room was silent and all eyes were on her but she paid no one any mind except for Tsunade.

"Shizune-san asked me to deliver these documents to you immediately, sensei." her voice was steady and strong. It rang through the room and bounced off the walls.

Tsunade nodded her head and glanced at the two young boys before taking the documents. Naruto was staring open-mouthed at Sakura while Sasuke remained impassive yet his eyes didn't move from her form.

Kakashi looked surprised to see his old student and swiftly slid off the windowsill, "Sakura. When did you get back?"

Sakura finally looked away from Tsunade and she smiled slightly at her old sensei, "Just three days ago. I was in the hospital most of my time so that's why no one knew I was back."

Before Kakashi could reply, Tsunade interrupted, "Now on to the punishments." She scribbled something quickly onto the documents before looking up at the two boys. "Uzumaki Naruto. You are to remain off of any missions for three months and you will help around the village along with the genin. You are banned from the Ichiraku starting from tomorrow and if you are found near the booth, your punishment will start over with an added week. Do you understand?"

"H-Hai.." Naruto's face paled as he thought of three months more without Ichiraku's famous ramen. It was easy when he wasn't near the great, rich smell of fresh ramen but now when he was within range, he didn't know if he could resist!

"Do you accept your punishment?"

With a large gulp, Naruto nodded, "H-Hai..."

With a firm nod, Tsunade moved on to the next page, "Uchiha Sasuke. You are to remain within the village boundaries and off of any missions for six months and you too are to help around the village along with the genin. Also, you are expected to lend your assistance to the Academy every day without any complaints or problems. If you in any way disobey any of this, you will be sentenced to a more fatalistic punishment depending on how far you go in disobeying my orders. Is that clear?"


"Good. Both of you are to report to the Jounin building for interrogation once you are completely healed. Understood?"



Once that was done, Tsunade turned to Sakura who had moved to the left to lean against the wall next to the window.

"Sakura, I would appreciate it if you took them to the hospital and healed them." Tsunade's voice softened and Sakura just sighed and nodded, letting her hands fall to her sides.

She turned a bit hesitantly to her former teammates, the silence thickening as well as the tension. She licked her lips before she walked towards Naruto and positioned her two first fingers above his forehead, barely brushing against his skin. Naruto's eyes widened as a green light began to glow around her fingers and then his legs didn't feel so weak nor did they ache.

Before he knew what was happening, she was gone from in front of him. She was already walking out the door before she carelessly threw out a bored, "Follow me."

Sasuke, 'Hned' and pushed off the wall to follow her with Naruto stumbling after him.

The entire walk to the hospital was done in silence and once Sakura had checked the two boys into a room with two beds, she immediately got to work on healing them.

Naruto lyed stiffly on the bed as Sakura's hands hovered above his middle, adorned with the same strange green light from before. His bright blue eyes didn't move from her blank face and not once did she meet his gaze.


Naruto jerked in surprise at her voice, his face turning red in embarrassment, "What?"

"You're as stiff as a rock. Relax. Your nervousness is distracting me."

"You don't look distracted."

Sakura resisted the urge to roll her eyes at him. She threw him an annoyed glare before the green light intensified and she blocked him from her mind.

Naruto watched her for a moment before turning his attention to Sasuke. He was reclining on his bed near the window and when he felt Naruto's stare, he rolled his eyes to meet his blue ones without turning his head. When Naruto didn't say anything, just kept on staring, Sasuke rolled his head to the side to return the stare. He didn't let his annoyance show.

As Naruto opened his mouth to say something, he was startled out of his objective when Sakura suddenly slid her chair back before getting up to position it next to Sasuke's bed and then sitting back down.

"You're done already?" Naruto was amazed as he moved his callused palms over his chest and abdomen where his painful wounds used to be.

"It wasn't that serious. You were just fatigued. I'm sure you had more life-threatening wounds before. Now just get some rest."

"Thanks, Sakura-chan." His soft words caused Sakura to stiffen as she began to heal the silent Sasuke. Naruto didn't notice her response but Sasuke did and when she met his calculating gaze, her pained eyes hardened and she focused on healing him fast.

As the minutes passed by, Sakura's nerves began to go crazy with the thick tension coming from the two boys. She had thought Naruto would go to sleep after she had healed him but he just lyed there, boring holes into her back and she felt Sasuke's hot gaze on her face that she fought to keep blank. When Sasuke's last wound closed up and the tissue was healed, Sakura could have gotten up and screamed her relief.

Instead, she slid her chair back calmly before getting to her feet and without a word, she moved to the door. When her hand was on the doorknob, Naruto's voice stopped her.

"Sakura-chan, are you alright?"

Taking a steadying breath, Sakura straightened without taking her hand from the doorknob, "I'm fine Naruto. Now get some rest. You two should be expecting your interrogations in the morning."

"Sakura-chan, wait." Naruto's soft voice struck something in her and she fought the tears that burned her eyes.

"What for, Naruto?" She spun around without thinking, her eyes blazing with an emerald fury.

Both seemed unaffected as Naruto went on, "How have you been all of these years?"

Sakura let out a helpless breath as she felt more tears building up; she feared they would spill over before she left the room and they would see her cry like a little weakling, as if she hadn't changed in all those seven years. "Naruto, what would you have me say? That I've been fine all these years? That I've been preparing for your grand return that I was constantly sure would come? That-That I was waiting for you guys to come back and I would be waiting by the gate with open arms and tears in my eyes? What did you expect, Naruto? You left me! You both left me! Team Seven is forever broken, our bond as teammates has forever been severed and frankly, I don't care! So many things have happened! You have no idea what I've been through, what's happened to me! I can't forgive you!" She choked on her last words and as she felt her tears well up on the verge of overflowing, she spun around and whipped the door open before letting it close shut behind her. She just walked away with her head held high and when she was out of the hospital and safe from anyone's eyes, she surrendered to her tears under the shelter of a beautiful cherry blossom tree. She didn't sob or bawl, she just let the tears roll down her flushed cheeks. And as the sun gave way to night, she disappeared in a flurry of cherry blossoms, lost in the camoflauge of the ancient cherry blossom tree.

To the far east you will find a city engulfed in magick.

Warriors who wield swords colored in the tints of their enchanted blood.

An exotic land where the sands meet paradise.

A cliff where a palace is cradled, lies an emperor with powers as plentiful as the sea.

There you will find a crystal capable of taming any such beast;

Years will pass before a man is borne with power enough to free that of blood as red as his own.

Then peace will cast its magic over the lands of Saarik,

And the rivers will run true once again.


Objective: Go to Saarik and give aid to the emperor. Heal him to perfection before your mission is to be completed.

Time to Carry Out Objective: Unknown

You are given permission to return to Konoha for aid of the Hokage alone but you must return before a week has passed. No messages shall be sent between visits for they can be intercepted.

Saarik is far to the east, past the deserts of the Kazekage. You may stop for rest and equipment when needed in the Village of Sand but you must be on your way within the second day. Keep moving east and you will come across grasslands, abundant in waterfalls and rivers. Continue east and a village will appear of the name Saalihl. Speak the saying above and they will lead you to the gate of Saarik. When you enter Saarik, immediately find your way to the emperor's palace and there your objective will commence.

Speak of your objective and mission to no one. Do not let slip the location of Saarik. It is hidden by the village of Saalihl and if they find you have spoken of its location, Konoha cannot protect you from the consequences.

Burn the scroll after you have memorized it, especially the saying above for that is your admission into the city.

The next day, Naruto and Sasuke were sent to different rooms, both accompanied by four advanced jounin ninja, to be interrogated. By then, the entire village of Konoha knew of their return and rumors began to spread. The interrogations took up the entire day and flowed into the night. Just before the clock struck midnight, the boys were allowed to be escorted back to their hospital beds to be fed and to rest. The next morning, they returned to the jounin building to commence with their interrogations.

"Sakura-chan! Is this where you were all night? Tsunade-san was looking for you since Naruto-kun and Sasuke-san were sent to the interrogation room." Shizune's voice startled Sakura out of her study. She looked up at the entrance to the quiet library in the Hokage's building. A thick scroll was sprawled out in front of her on the wide mahogany desk and as Shizune looked closely, she could see dark circles under the young girl's dulled eyes.

Sakura gave a sheepish smile after stifling a yawn, "Hai. I was doing a bit of studying and kind of lost track of the time. I told Sensei where I was going to be. It's her own fault for not listening." Sakura grinned.

Shizune raised one eyebrow as she leaned her hip against the desk, "And what were you so ferverently studying through the night?"

Sakura's grin faltered before she began to make her way to the door, "Just a few new methods of healing is all." She stopped when she saw Shizune eyeing the scroll. She then turned her direction back to the desk before rolling up the scroll and heaving it into a random space in the cluttered shelf. "Sensei should really think of organizing this place." With a bright smile at a suspicious Shizune, Sakura flounced out of the room and headed for the Hokage's office.

End of Chapter One.

Things will begin to unfold better in the next chapter! I can't wait. I've been dreaming this up for quite some time now. I'm so happy I've finally decided to write it now!

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