Summary: Because she reached heights that were never her goals and when she was ready to take on the world alone she found their shadows to stand beside her. Because when she found her heart, she was prepared to let him go.
Disclaimer: Only one of the story, I DO NOT own Naruto or anything of substantial value.
Edited as of December 2nd '08 by Anita Tseu. Thank you very much for your hard work.
Edited as of April 22nd 2010 by author
Chapter one: The Meeting of Hokages
The day had long since set into motion, the streets were filled with the every day bustle of the citzens and ninja alike going about their everyday lives. The air was humid and hot but no rain fell from the sky even as rolls of thunder could be heard from somewhere off on the horizon and the Hokage waited. Something would be happening today. Of that fact, the Third Hokage was positive.
Even with the years of his life weighing heavily on him and the wrinkles on his face verifying his age, the old man still had his instincts. One does not become the strongest ninja in the village without first achieving battle honed instincts and intuition. Even if his physical strength might have dwindled by his aging, the Hokage's instincts had only improved. So, Sarutobi waited, waited for what ever it was this day would bring to him and his people.
"Hokage-sama, one of the academy students is here to request an audience with you. Should I let her in?" The chunin stationed as the Hokage's current guard asked standing just inside the barrier of the double doors. The Third studied his ninja amused by the chunin's uncomfortable demeanor. After all, with little but paperwork to occupy him these days, the man needed to find his amusement somewhere.
"Hai, please." The old man replied reclining back slowly. He watched the smoke raise quietly from his pipe and wondered briefly if he might have considered quitting if he wasn't already so aged. His thoughts shifted as the pink haired girl entering his office, respectfully thanking the higher-ranking ninja for his service. Turning toward the desk she nodded as the Hokage gestured to a strait backed seat. Situating herself calmly before the village leader the girl meets his eye with no hesitation. This meeting, he mused, would be much more interesting than the average interactions with novice Shinobi he participated in daily.
"Hokage-sama, my name is Haruno Sakura. Thank you for agreeing to see me without notice." Lightly the girl reclined her head in a motion of respect but was meeting his eye again the very moment her head raised.
"Of course. You are testing to be a Genin soon, correct?" The elder asked kindly, not the least bit annoyed by the distraction from his growing paperwork.
"That is actually the matter I am here to speak with you about, Hokage-sama." She voiced politely, expertly directing the conversation to her desired topic.
"Are you rethinking your choice to become a ninja?" Sarutobi asked, leaning forward so that his elbows rested on his desk. This position allowed him to watch the girl with keen eyes honed by years of missions and similar interactions.
His suspicions were well founded because it was fairly common for young academy students to get scared off of their career paths. Especially near each graduation date, the reality of the profession rarely set into their minds until their graduation was finally within their reach.
"No. To be blunt Hokage-same, I am not the Haruno Sakura this village currently knows."
The village leader sat up a little straighter before he commented on her worrisome remark. "Are you implying that you are an imposter?" The Third worded his question carefully as the situation rose is seriousness. The location of all weapons within his reach flitted through his mind.
"In a sense I believe so. However, I am Haruno Sakura and I hold nothing but loyalty to this village." The girl spoke confidently and did not make any indication of being worried at the older man's more defensive demeanor. "Only I am my twenty-four-year-old self. One of the Fourth Hokage's jutsus was used to send me into my past." She continued without wavering and a confidence which gave her superior little room to doubt her claim.
"That type of jutsus would not be available to anyone under Hokage status." He replied with a raised eyebrow. He was skeptical but not yet willing to write off the current events as a practical joke. The implications and possibilities of her words were staggering.
"Yes. The Leaf Village was falling. This what I came back to change." Her sentences were becoming clipped and her next words explained why to the other occupant of the room. "You believe that I am lying." Sakura's words were spoken with no question. Which made the Hokage feel obligated to prove that he could believe her. As odd as the situation was, a Hokage trying to prove himself to whom for all intensive purposes was a Genin, he still responded.
A request or a command, "Tell me your story.", Sakura could not be sure.
"Hai Hokage-sama. I'm afraid that to truly understand you must hear of my past a bit further back then the immediate decline in the leaf's strengths." The man nodded and sat back to make himself comfortable when his visitor still sat stiffly. "When I was a genin most of the events started to unfold and that was when things for Konoha started to go downhill. I did not take being a kunoichi seriously in my genin days, and for that my Sensei ended up neglecting my training. Also, another of my teammates was neglected although to a lesser degree. That was Uzumaki Naruto, who along with Uchiha Sasuke, makes up my genin squad." The Hokage nodded indicating that he knew which team she was meant to be put on. "During the chunin exams Sasuke was bitten by Orochimaru and he received the cursed seal-"
"But-" The Hokage began to question her.
"Please Hokage-sama, I will answer all the questions you might have for me when I am finished. However, you must understand this is not an easy story for me to tell and it only gets more difficult." Her eyes begged for the man to understand pleaded for his kindness.
He didn't disappoint, "I apologize. Please, continue." The female took a long breath but did as she was instructed.
"After Sasuke received the seal was when I first received a taste of the life of a ninja. My wake up call was when I had to defend the lives of my unconscious comrades. The exams continued and the events reveled the Sand's betrayal of our treaty. They had been used and manipulated by Orochimaru as he posed as their Kazekage. Naruto was forced to face off in battle against the container of the one-tailed demon, Gaara." The last sentence was spoken clearly and slowly but Sakura was quick to pick up at her normal pace."
"Naruto was able to win with the help of Gamabunta. You were the one who faced off with Orochimaru and at the cost of your life you were able to make his arms useless. You deprived him of all his jutsus." Ashamed of her words, Sakura diverted her eyes. "The village had been pretty beat up," She continued, "but, we were still standing. Naruto went with Jiraiya to look for the next Hokage, Tsunade. Shortly after Tsunade had returned to Konoha and accepted her position, Sasuke went to Orochimaru in pursuit of power. "
"His greatest weakness had always been being blind to everything but his revenge. His choices influenced a lot of Konoha's decisions. Furthermore, multiple of our retrieval missions ended in failure. After one of those missions, Tsunade took me on as her apprentice. Under her tutelage I learned medical jutsus and inherited her 'monstrous strength'."
"For around two and a half years things were as quite as they could be in a ninja village. Most of the ninja, including Naruto and I, took advantage of that time to train. I was learning and working under Tsunade and Naruto left the village to train with Jiraiya. Obviously, events had occurred, which were important to the situation, such as the extraction of the one-tails. However, it wasn't until I was nineteen that things really started to fall. Naruto was dead. He had killed himself as a captive of the Akatsuki. The Akatsuki is an organization that is striving to extract the demons from their containers. Uchiha Itachi is also a member. Naruto had taken his life before they could take the Nine-Tailed demon fox."
"With Naruto's death, Orochimaru began attacking the village backed by an army of Sound and Stone nin. Tsunade died defending the village. I was twenty. By this time we had lost a lot of our power players but we weren't in that bad of shape besides the loss of our Hokage. The Elders decided that the best option was for Jiraiya to lead Konohagakure, especially during a time of full war."
Sakura almost laughed when she realized that the Third Hokage was writing down questions he had for her. "However, Jiraiya was near stone with an army of Leaf and Sand nin. They were stationed on the other front and were attempting to get the war off of our soil. The contact we had with that front was limited and largely delayed. The clearest estimate indicated that we would not have him back in Konoha for at least a year, unless the war came to an end. As a result the Elders named me temporary Hokage. They reasoned that I would be good for the village on the grounds that I had surpassed Tsunade in all but experience. Furthermore, as her apprentice I had been involved in the affairs of the Leaf since I was 13. For the village I reluctantly accepted the responsibility."
"During that year, Gaara and I worked closely together. This reflected in the Elder's opinions when Jiraiya did return. The war looked to be heading in our direction due mainly to the strengthening alliance. Jiraiya and the Elders decided to make me Hokage. As strongly as I protested that it was not my dream and that Jiraiya would make a much better candidate, I was somehow left in the position. By the end of another two years strengths shifted again as Cloud joined the Orochimaru alliance and the other countries shuffled to stay out of the war. Kakashi and Jiraiya had both been acting as my aids having been ordered by the Elders only days after my inauguration to stay within the village at all times. The three of us were the last defense. The bulk of the strategies we created to defend the village was focused on our summons and their abilities to take out the bulk of the attack. With that done the three of us served as the final line. The final battle was barely two years later."
"Having foreseen this emergency and war funds had been set up more seriously for years before the war actually started. Before I had become Hokage, all traces of Sasuke had disappeared. Only a week before this happened a legal document surfaced which named Naruto and I the owners of all Uchiha property and money. I wanted nothing to do with the estate and so I transferred everything to the war funds, Naruto did the same. This proved to be one of our greatest assets. About a month after I had become the official Sixth Hokage, I turned the Uchiha District completely into medical wards so when the war hit the hardest we would not have to depend on beds set up in the academy for our wounded. As you can tell by my presence in front of you, the final battle did not go well for Konohagakure. Both Tsunade and I had used Rookie 9 and Gai's team as our trump cards. Slowly over the years they all got picked off and during the final battle the last two, Shikamaru and Shino died."
Another of Sakura's multiple calming breaths was taken before she continued. "After Kakashi went down Jiraiya and I put our plan into action. With his life we were able to activate the seal and send me back here to change the outcome."
The women gave the Third Hokage a full eight minutes and thirty four seconds needed to process the information. "Unfortunately," He said at last. "I see no way that you could be lying. You've been through a lot." He observed sympathetically.
"The whole village went through a lot." She amended. "I'm going to change that. Hopefully, with your help."
"I do have some questions I would like you to answer." He replied seriously, her words repeating like a nightmare through his mind.
"I noticed." Her voice was formal, Sakura looking like her twelve year old self, held all the mannerisms of a seasoned Shinobi and a qualified Kage.
His first question was not written among his others, "How am I meant to help you when I am set to die?" The man did not seem bothered by the thought. He was sixty-nine not to mention Hokage, he would give his life a thousand times for his people.
"Because you aren't going to die." The women from the future answered strongly and with a healthy amount of conviction. "I've spent the last two years knowing that I would come back to this time if things turned for the worst. Jiraiya and I worked to modify the jutsu that you will be using. This new version will considerably deplete your chakra but you will live. Furthermore we will be able to have a sufficient security squad in place to take care of things when this happens." To his experienced eyes, it was never clearer that this woman before him had spent many days issuing orders from his very seat.
"From your accounts of what happened, it seems necessary for Tsunade to take the position of Fifth." He offered kindly with the best of intentions. The people come first, before himself, before the ninjas and most importantly before wants and desires.
"It is true that Tsunade made all the difference in the world to Konoha's strength but that was almost entirely done in the hospital and our medic programs. With that said, she never held the desire to be Hokage and just as I, she strongly protested to the idea at first. Furthermore, I'm confident that I will be able to convince her to return to Konoha to run the Hospitals and to train the medic nins. If for some reason I cannot convince her then I will step in concerning the hospital and we can only hope she returns for the war." Sakura sat straight backed with her chin set challenging the Hokage to find something wrong with what she had informed him of.
"You had mentioned something of a Rookie nine." He prompted after looking down onto the list of questions he wished to ask her.
"Yes, the graduates of this class, Team Seven and the teams given to Asuma and Kurenai, all participate in the first the Chunin Exams offered. Along with team Gai. We gained the name Rookie nine because we were all freshly out of the academy but surprised everyone when all of us made it to the preliminaries. Over the years we all grew to be a bit more powerful then people expected us to become. In some cases a lot more powerful then what was expected of us. Furthermore, because we went through so much together each of us formed strong bonds with each other in different ways and for different reasons."
"You had also mentioned someone named Gaara multiple times." Sakura's body tensed for the barest of moments before the Kunoichi forced herself to relax and answer.
"Hai, as I said Gaara was the container for the one-tailed demon and also the son of the Kazekage whom Orochimaru impersonated. Unlike the seal on Naruto, the one placed on Gaara is very sloppy which causes him to be very unstable. He was the one that had the demon extracted by force by the organization Akatsuki."
"I have read the reports." The Third was hinting that he wanted more information but Sakura only smiled lightly. They could discuss the Akatsuki later. Or preferably she could put together some files and hand those over instead of a discussion.
"After Naruto defeated him, they formed an understanding. Once Tsunade became Hokage and Gaara became the Sand Kage the treaty was reestablished and Konoha and Sand had the strongest alliance within the hidden villages. Not too long after he became Kazekage, the demon was extracted from Gaara. During my time as Hokage we worked closely on defeating the Orochimaru alliance." She informed instead of the information the Third was actually after.
"To understand this situation I must ask you to explain things fully to me." The Third said sternly but not unkindly. "You tense when you speak of the Kazekage named Gaara. You are not telling me something."
"Hai." She took a few seconds to collect herself knowing that she was cornered. "We had crossed paths multiple times and had formed a strange friendship over the years. However, then I was twenty we started our work together. It surprised a lot of people, everyone really but soon people including ourselves realized that we had fallen in love. We were engaged by the time I was going on 22 and married a year later. The union seemed to give our villages hope. During the final battle Sand had been attacked at the same time Konoha had been. I do not know what had become of him." The women was surprised to realize she was silently crying. Tears had become a part of her life these past years, regardless of her strengths, but that did not mean that she liked them even a little bit.
"I'm sorry, it is a horrible thing to lose a loved one." He had said those words many times before and both present knew so.
"I'm just glad I had the time with him that I did. What is important now is making sure that he nor anyone else will die in the battles to come."
"You have an incredible strong heart and a strong will to match." Sarutobi observed fondly.
"Thank you." Sakura responded stiffly, accepting the compliment she did not want from a person she hardly knew.
"We can continue this conversation later." He offered but she declined, no use spreading the pain over a longer period of time.
"No Hokage-sama, you have more questions for me." She tried to laugh a bit to dry up her tears.
"I do but please call me Sarutobi, Haruno-san."
"Likewise, just Sakura. However, around others it is right back to Hokage-sama."
"Understood. Now, what of your abilities? The Forth's jutsu returns you directly into your younger body. How is this to effect you?"
"Hai, all of my techniques require perfect chakra control. I have had this control since I was this age. Me reserves, speed and stamina along with my flexibility are all going to have to be improved. Luckily, the hardest part of medical jutsus is knowing what you are doing and experience which I have a surplus of. My reserves can be improved by a simple form of meditation that Shizune created. I should be able to do that rather then wait for them to develop naturally as I age. The rest gives me stuff to do with my genin team. I could be in worse shape." She concluded.
"Ah, Kakashi is approaching. I had a meeting with him scheduled for six this morning." He mentioned amused.
"Well it is ten, he seems to be right on time. Unfortunately, he probably has already sensed my chakra. I can't leave before he comes without looking suspicious." Sakura was bitter as she got her first taste of the decrease in power her younger body provided her with.
"Refer to me as Sarutobi-sensei. This might help Kakashi to take you seriously this time around." The Third said with a humorous wink. That was something that Sakura had never understood, the enjoyment late Hokages had always gained in playing with their underlings.
"Hokage-sama." The Jonin said with a brief incline of his head. His eyes however were on the pink haired girl, who unknown to him was consciously acting to make herself seem mildly uncomfortable.
"How rude of me, Sakura this is Hatake Kakashi. Kakashi this is Haruno Sakura. A soon to be academy graduate and aspiring genin." The Kage introduced them properly.
"I haven't graduated yet Sarutobi-sensei." Sakura said modestly sounding her twelve year old part. "Hatake-san it is a pleasure to meet you." Kakashi nodded slowly curious as to the titles and praise the occupants in the room were given. He was also curious to the Hokage's words when they both knew that she would be on his team if she passed the graduation exam. Also, they both knew he had never passed a team before.
"You are training under the Third?" He asked the girl casually.
"Only in medical ninjutsu. I want to become a medic nin. Although, to be honest I can wait to see what team I will get, I really want to be well rounded even if I'm mainly interested in medical jutsu. Tsunade-sama is my hero. I am going to be like her someday."
"It's refreshing for someone her age to take an interest in the medical field, ne Kakashi?" The Hokage asked with a strange twinkle in his eye, ah deception.
"Hai, not very many think to focus on a specialty. Rarer are those focusing on the art of healing." Kakashi answered awkwardly his customary slouch in place.
"You make me sound abnormal. Is it wrong to want to protect your comrades?" The girl asked with a false naivety.
"Not at all but few realize this until later, after watching death." Kakashi answered truthfully. Strangely not pulling out his orange book.
"Maybe your right, I'll try to change that in the future." She replied bordering on being sucked into the depth of her thoughts.
"An admirable goal." the Hokage pulled her back from her contemplation. "Kakashi, forgive me the reason you're here." The men exchanged a scroll. "Thank you. Are you prepared for your Genin team?"
"Your one of the new instructors?" Sakura questioned before Kakashi could respond to the Third. "Maybe we will be seeing each other soon then." She voiced with a smile.
"Maybe, but I have yet to ever pass a team." He warned.
"If you thought them ill prepared then there is nothing else to do. Forgive me sensei," she
directed towards the third. "But I must be going."
"Of course. I'll see you after you meet your team."
"Have a good day Sarutobi-sensei, Hatake-san."