A/N: The manga has really been depressing me lately, to the point I've just about stopped reading it. I want to knock Sasuke over the head and tie him up, then beat him full of sense. Because he's being incredibly stupid. I'm starting to hate his character now, which is really upsetting because I love the tension between he and Sakura.

Anyway, I've also started writing two novel-length original works, and I'm trying to decide if I want to put them on FictionPress to get feedback. Or if I'll have time to finish them with grad school around the nearest corner.

And now that my little 'life update' is over, I'm going to work on my fanfiction. Because I owe a chapter of SYWBL by August and I have two one-shots I'd like to get written as well.


"Exodus"

She looked at the Hokage momument bathed in the noon sun, imposing faces etched in stone literally and figuratively. That mountain had protected them for so long. It had made her feel safe, welcome, let her know she was home.

What would she do without it?

Ino and Sai were silent at her side, walking in time with each other as her steps faltered from the beat of Konoha shinobi. Of course, she would always be a shinobi of her home, but she wouldn't be home anymore. Not for a long time.

"You sure about this, Sakura?"

Ino eyes sparkled in the sun, blue fading into a grey sadness she'd only seen once before.

"Yeah, Ino. I am."

Staying wouldn't do anyone any good now. Naruto was gone, again, off to train and to be hidden from the Akatsuki. Kakashi was with Hinata's team, Yamato going back to ANBU, and Sai was joining up with him. There was no team anymore. Once again, she had been left in the dust, forgotten as always. It got old. She couldn't deal with being the pitied girl, the one always two steps back and off in the distance where the steps became those of a giant. It didn't matter how many Tsunade's there were to take her in, how many Shizune's were waiting in the background to tell her it would all be alright in the end.

It was time to go.

Tsunade had traveled for decades, so why couldn't she? The women shared the same eyes now, the same grief of watching their team torn apart by power, and Sakura was taking the same path.

History repeats itself. Lost words and actions, floating on the breeze.

The gates loomed large before her, the gateway to the world beyond her little village. Who knew what she would find in that big world? Maybe somewhere out there was someone who would appreciate her, love her, keep her close to them.

Shinobi life was hard. She knew it when she started, but she didn't really understand it until now. Now, when she was on the verge of something different, something wholly new. Different. Real. Exciting.

Her journey was only beginning, and she briefly wondered if this was how Sasuke felt all those years ago, when he did the same thing. Did he feel this sense of nervous beauty, this welling emotion of indescribable wonder?

Kotetstu nodded, almost sad, giving her a small smile and a little acknowledgement. That meant that Tsunade was already being informed she was leaving, that her apartment was clear and clean and her desk spotless of the mounds of work usually overflowing its varnished top.

She looked down at the sword on her hip, the last gift her shishou had given her, telling her that a woman out on her own needed protection. By it was a purse full of money, a present from Shizune, who had begged her not to gamble it all away. They had made sure she was as prepared as possible.

When they finally stood outside the gates, Ino hugging her as if she would never see her again and Sai giving her one of his few, so rare real smiles, she felt the world twist and time stop. The breeze shifted, the air was stale, and the leaves of her city were still for a second. It was like the world was taking a picture of them.

The breeze stills, finally ending the cyclical destiny of man.

They stepped back, all three of them staring at each other. Afraid to break the tension. Because once the moment ended, it became true. She would really leave instead of it being something off in the future, some unknown uncertainty.

"I guess this is it, guys."

Ino smiled, her eyes watery and glistening. Sai nodded, his face a mask from what he might have really been feeling inside.

"I'll miss you guys, you know."

"Me too, Sakura."

She nodded, giving them a small smile that faltered after a few seconds and broke on her face. But she straightened herself, fixing her cloak and the pack on her back. This was her life, and it was time. No more stalling. No more waiting.

"I'll write when I reach somewhere interesting. Ok?"

"Yeah, forehead."

"Heh. You too, Ino-pig."

They grinned at each other, refusing to let the tears fall. And in a few seconds they were out of her sight, blocked by the blurring of trees around her and the big blue sky above her. Everything had changed in the span of a few seconds, her shinobi career literally over and her new life beginning in a forest of silence and slow sound.

If this was freedom, she wasn't sure what she would do with it. It was bittersweet, tangy on her tongue in a way she hadn't expected.

But repetition is inevitable, the all-seeing eye will always return to guide your hand.

This was her new life. Wandering and traveling, seeing the sights and living her life without the stigma of being Sakura hanging over her head. But in removing all the burden of that persona, she removed happiness, too.

Maybe she would see them. Sasuke, Naruto, her old friends. Someday. They were all out in this big big world, and it was possible. Maybe she would come back someday.

Maybe.

She pulled the small pendant out of her chest pocket, tracing the etched metal with her fingers. It was the last present she was given for her birthday this year, from Ino, of course. 'The Lady in the Book' was what she had called it, pointing out the sad creature on the front of the tome in the pendant's middle. Ino had said that she was that lady, that sad creature who had so much sorrow to drown in her writing. For Sakura, though, it was study and research, methodology instead of the ambling depression of grief.

"Just in case you ever want to come back. You'll have something to help you remember."

The small clasp on its side hid a tiny engraved map of the shinobi nations, complete with a large stone marking Konoha. Just in case she ever needed to find her way back home, just like Ino had said.

Maybe someday. Something assured her she would be back.

You cannot escape.

You cannot escape.

You cannot escape.

Destiny turns the wheel, fate guides the hand, God holds your mind in his palm.


A/N: A very short one-shot, featuring a tweaked version of one of the few poems I've had the pleasure of getting featured in literary magazines. I have a small poetry collection that seems to get more attention than my prose (which is upsetting, I promise).

Anyway, hope you liked it. If not, well, that's okay too.