Daughter Of The Land
By Yellow Mask
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Bonds Of Blood
Her name was Mikiko. In the Faerie Court, her title was Treesinger, nymph of the Konoha Sakura. To the mortals of the hidden village, she was the Sacred Sakura, the towering cherry tree that grew beside the river, whose leaves often rustled without the need of a breeze. To some, those who could sense the Faerie aura about her, she was the last proof of magic in an increasingly jaded world. To others, she was simply a pretty tree beside the river that offered welcome shade in the summer's heat. To many, she was just part of the scenery.
But to two...she was family.
And to one she was mother.
For though Mikiko was a nymph, and she had been 'born' as one...she hadn't always been one. Twenty-four years ago, an ambitious dragon had made a bargain with Skwall – the sky god and the Destroyer, contained in a delicate balance with his counterpart, Haevyn, the goddess of the land. In return for Skwall's near infinite power, the dragon would set the Destroyer free.
Cohen, the Faerie Lord, had learned of the bargain, and mustered all the Otherworld to arms. Mikiko and the other nymphs had used the deepest reaches of their magic to seal the dragon away...but not without a price. Many of the nymphs had died.
Mikiko's Faerie magic had been so depleted she was forced into a mortal form for ten years.
She had tried to integrate herself among the people of Konoha, optimistic that she could spend a few years as a mortal and then return to her Faerie self without any problems or complications. After all, how difficult could it be to live as a human for what was – to an immortal – barely a passing fancy?
Except she hadn't counted on falling in love.
Sotaro was the kind of man who deserved a loving wife by his side for the rest of his life. And so for his sake, Mikiko had tried to remain strong, to dismiss their feelings like so much dust in the wind, but in the end...
But in the end, not even a Faerie was immune to love. Twenty-two years ago, she and Sotaru were wed. And nineteen years ago, Mikiko gave birth to their daughter – a bright and curious child, filled with the magic of the Faerie, and – in Mikiko's rather biased opinion – beautiful in every way.
They had named their child Sakura, for her Faerie heritage, reflected in the pink hair and green eyes that made her a miniature version of her mother.
But fourteen years ago, her time as a human came to an end. Her power restored, Faerie Law decreed she must mingle among humans no longer. So it was with great grief and reluctance that Mikiko left her husband and their five year old child, and returned to the Otherworld.
A breeze rippled through her leaves, and Mikiko sighed at the welcome weight of the flowers on her boughs, content in the knowledge of their meaning.
Her daughter's Faerie blood meant that four times a year, at the equinoxes and solstices, when the barrier between the mortal realm and the Otherworld grew thin, it was possible for Mikiko to draw her child to the Otherworld through the Sacred Sakura. So four times a year, without fail, Sotaro would bring Sakura to the tree, she would place her tiny hands on it...and she would to be drawn into the Faerie Court, where she and Mikiko would spend the day, before returning in the evening.
Though Mikiko treasured the days she spent with her child, it wasn't enough. She wanted to be able to see Sotaro, to be able to fall asleep beside him, to watch her child play in their garden...
So the Faerie Lord decreed that, in the month when the Sakuras blossomed, she would be allowed to take human form and live with her family in Konoha.
And after another year of longing, that time had finally arrived once more.
Mikiko could feel someone approaching her tree. While not as aware of her surroundings as she would be in the Otherworld or if she was in human form, she was still able to sense when people were approaching her, and overhear conversations held near her.
And she was well aware who was approaching now. She felt it when Sakura looked around the small clearing, checking for any prying eyes. They had learnt the hard way how unwise it was to advertise Sakura's Faerie heritage.
Mikiko had always been worried about her daughter dwelling in Konoha. In a society in which power-hungry ninjas weren't uncommon, she feared that someone would realise what Sakura represented – a link to the Otherworld, and the power the Faerie possessed. Those adept at sensing opponent's auras had already been able to tell that there was something strange about her – something not-quite human. Mikiko had watched a small, pink-haired toddler in the meadows of the village, and been unable to smile for the fear that someday, someone would recognise her for what she was, and she would suffer for it.
Her forced return to the Otherworld only increased her anxiety – what if Sakura's Faerie blood attracted an Otherworldly threat, something Sotaro couldn't handle on his own? Mikiko had tried to convince herself that her family would manage perfectly well without her, that Sakura's Faerie blood was still rather underdeveloped, and it was highly unlikely that anyone would note her pink hair, the fact that she was missing on the days of the equinoxes and solstices, and even then, it wasn't likely they would put the pieces together and realise what she was.
Or so she tried to tell herself. But when someone tried to abduct an eight year old Sakura, Mikiko realised her fears had been justified.
She hadn't been present for the actual kidnap, of course. She had learned about hours afterwards, when Sakura was perched in her branches and crying into her trunk about how scary it had been. From her child's distressed babblings, Mikiko managed to determine that someone had snatched her on her way back from the academy, tied, blindfolded and gagged her, and tried to make off with her. But Sakura's immature powers had responded to her distress in an outpouring of energy, injuring her abductor and forcing them to release her.
Yet that did not ease Mikiko's fear in any way. Where there had been one, there would be others, and Sakura didn't have the power nor the experience to fend off an elite shinobi.
And Mikiko decided there was only one way to keep her child safe.
She had taken Sakura into the Otherworld, intent on sealing her Faerie blood away, cutting her off from her immortal heritage and – hopefully – erasing her appeal to power-hungry maniacs. But her daughter's last visit to the Faerie Court turned into a disaster unlike anything the Otherworld had ever known.
The balance between Skwall and Haevyn was what maintained the Otherworld's existence – a realm so inherently tangled in magic required the yin-yang balance of the two opposing elements to provide stability. If one element dominated, the Otherworld would simply...fall apart.
And that day, in the middle of the Faerie celebration of the summer solstice, every creature present felt Skwall vanish like a physical shock – like a hammer blow to the very fabric of their existence. Mikiko could remember the sickening horror that had shuddered through her body as she lost sight of Sakura in the panicked, milling crowd, the very land around them quivering and thrashing like a snake in its death throes.
But then they'd felt Haevyn vanish too, and as the land stabilised and slowly restored itself to its normal state, in spite of the absence of the god and goddess. Mikiko had hurled herself through the confused huddles of Faerie, screaming for her daughter, until she'd run into the Faerie Lord himself, Sakura safe in his arms.
That catastrophe had only strengthened Mikiko's resolve. If even the Otherworld wasn't safe, then the only way Sakura could be protected was if she became just another ordinary girl. So Mikiko had sealed Sakura's Faerie blood away that very afternoon, leaving her with no mark of her immortal heritage save her soft pink hair and luminous green eyes, and never brought her into the Otherworld again, forcing herself to be content with the one month per year Faerie Law permitted.
The month that was about to begin now.
"Mum...?" came the soft call, telling her it was safe, that no unwanted eyes would witness what was about to come.
Mikiko concentrated, feeling her essence shift and change, feeling herself beginning to slide from the tree...
With one last concerted effort, Mikiko took human form, appearing to simply rise out of the tree in a mist which swiftly solidified into her mortal shape.
For a moment, catching a glimpse of pale, elegant limbs, soft green eyes and bright pink hair, Mikiko could have sworn she was looking into a mirror. Then she took in the ninja clothes and shinobi trappings, the way the kind, smiling face seemed tired and battered and the hair barely brushed slim shoulders instead of falling past the waist...and realised she was simply looking at her nineteen year old daughter.
'She looks more like me every year,' Mikiko acknowledged, the thought rueful yet at the same time bringing a flash of maternal pride.
"Mum!" Sakura all-but squealed in joy.
She rushed across the grass, hurling herself into Mikiko's arms. For a moment, mother and child simply held each other tightly, absorbing the other's presence like rain-starved grass in a sudden flood.
"It's so good to see you again..." Mikiko breathed, strands of Sakura's pink hair brushing her lips.
"You, too, Mum," Sakura sniffled. "You, too."
"Is Sotaro still on that mission?" Mikiko asked, remembering Sotaro telling her about an extended bodyguard mission about a week ago.
"Yeah, but Dad said he'd be back by this evening," Sakura grinned, slinging an arm around her mother as both women began the long walk back to the Haruno house.
"What's happened this year?" Mikiko inquired, her eyes landing on the bruises decorating her child's skin. "And why are you injured?"
"Well, you remember what I told you about the mission to kill Uchiha Itachi?"
Mikiko nodded. Several months ago, her daughter had arrived at her tree, saying she and her teammates had been given the mission of hunting down and eliminating the murderous Uchiha. She, Naruto, and the newly-returned Sasuke had set off that very evening, and today was the first time Mikiko had heard from her daughter since then.
"Well, he's dead now," Sakura said bluntly. "I don't remember much about the fight – side-affect of the head injury, you see – but Sasuke killed him."
There was something in Sakura's voice that caught Mikiko's attention. A slight hesitation, a longing, a hint of sorrow...
"What's wrong?" she said softly.
Sakura looked down, watching her feet kick small pebbles along the road. "It's Sasuke," she admitted. "I always thought, if he killed Itachi, he'd be...I don't know, better, or something..."
She gave a rueful smile. "Kinda stupid, huh? But if anything, he's worse than before! He locks himself up in his mansion and hardly comes out except to train..."
"He murdered his brother," Mikiko said gently. "No matter that Itachi slaughtered all their family...he was still Sasuke's brother. He needs time to cope with what he's done. Not to mention that, for almost all his life, he focused on being powerful enough to defeat his brother, to the exclusion of all else. Now that his brother's dead, his focus is gone, too...that's a lot to deal with."
Sakura nodded, but her eyes were still distant. Mikiko tightened her grip on her daughter's shoulders in a brief hug.
"Give him time, Sakura," the nymph advised. "But still show you're there for him – be friendly, be supportive...and don't let him chase you away. As long as you and Naruto are persistent, things should work out."
"Sometimes I think persistence is the very essence of Naruto's being," Sakura smiled. "So I don't think we have anything to worry about on that front."
"So, now that you've got the depressing news out of the way, any good news?" Mikiko asked eagerly.
"Well, I told that Naruto asked Hinata out about a year ago, didn't I?" Sakura began. "Well, they were really cute the other day – Hinata's been learning how to cook, and when Naruto tasted some of her ramen he said he thought he'd have to marry her. She blushed so much I thought she was going to have one of those old fainting spells again..."
Mikiko smiled, turning her head to watch her daughter's animated expressions and wide ear-to-ear grins that accompanied her stories.
"...and Lady Tsunade says I'm getting better all the time – she could never use chakra like me when she was my age..."
At that, Mikiko's smile became tinged with worry. She knew that the seal on Sakura's Faerie powers had never been renewed, and was no doubt eroding at a rapid rate, especially given her frequent and extensive use of chakra. Even while she felt a little concerned, Mikiko acknowledged she'd never planned to make the seal permanent – it hadn't been designed to cut Sakura off from her heritage forever, just until she was old enough to understand the danger immortal blood brought.
Mikiko knew she couldn't shelter her daughter forever – it was time Sakura learned to use her Faerie powers...
AN: Thanks to my brother for beta-reading this chapter - he likes Naruto, too. He writes some stories, too, and I'm trying to encourage him into creating an account, so let's hope we see him around someday! Also, this is my first time writing for Naruto, so I'd welcome any comments.