A/N: I present to you the next installment. Enjoy it. Love it. Hate it.
Chapter - 10
"Time skips and their troublesome side effects"
"I can't believe I took two years to train with the toads," Naruto berated himself as he rushed through the humid mushroom jungle that was the slugs' domain. "Sakura-chan will never forgive me for taking a complete year longer than intended…"
"What the hell," Naruto suddenly yelled as the mushroom he was standing on collapsed under his weight. His world turned up-side down as he was falling head first towards the jungle floor.
"What the hell is that?" Naruto thought as he saw what he believed to be the jungle floor rapidly approaching. And as he neared and readied himself to twist in the air so he would land on his feet, the jungle suddenly sprang to life. Giant raptors appeared from the underbrush below Naruto, hissing in anticipation of an arriving meal.
"Sorry but I am not going to be your lunch," Naruto replied with a smirk and summoned several shadow clones. With grace, he used the clones as spring boards and his decent stopped as he shot into the sky.
Aiming for another mushroom, Naruto twisted in the air and was about to land when a giant bird scooped down from the sky and plucked him out of the air.
"You got to be kidding me," Naruto yelled in frustration as the bird's claws dug into him. He winced as he felt his shirt stain with his blood. He turned his head and tried to look up at the massive claw in order to try and see what kind of bird had snatched him up.
"I am sorry but if anyone is going to hurt me for being an idiot," Naruto said as he summoned a Rasengan. "It'll be Sakura-chan."
The giant bird squawked in protest at the sudden pain that shot up its claw and released Naruto immediately. Naruto felt the air rush passed his ears and he twisted again in order to prepare his landing. He quickly found a clearing within the massive jungle that seemed safe to land in and with the help of his clones adjusted his descent accordingly.
With a heavy impact, Naruto fell to the ground and was surprised to sink up to his knees into the soft orange colored ground.
"Huh?" Naruto muttered in surprise as he looked down at his feet and frowned. He tried to pull his legs up but was confused when he couldn't lift his feet. "What now?"
And as luck was on his side, the orange ground suddenly trembled and split into four massive panes that quickly rose to the sky. Bug eyed, Naruto helplessly watched as the four panes closed up above him and drenching him in darkness.
"Um… okay I give up," Naruto said and shook his head in the darkness. Closing his eyes, Naruto began to concentrate his Sage chakra in order to figure out where he was.
The sound of water rushing into the darkness forced Naruto to open his eyes again. His legs were suddenly drenched in an unidentifiable liquid. Frowning, Naruto summoned a Rasengan and used it as a light source.
"Hn," Naruto mused and watched the liquid continuously rise. By now he was already submerged to his hips and the level was rising even faster.
"Time to leave," Naruto thought and tried to get his legs free again. Struggling, Naruto was finally able to free his legs and he quickly moved towards one of the walls and slammed his Rasengan into the wall.
He felt his hand push through the fleshy wall and a large sucking groan emanated through the darkness. And just as quickly as the walls had closed on him, Naruto found himself standing back in the natural light, covered from head to toe in the fleshy gooey substance that was the giant flesh eating plant.
"Yuck," Naruto muttered and wiped his hand over his face to remove the goo. "I am going to need a bath and more," he added as he waded away.
Eventually jumping back up the giant mushrooms that counted as the trees in this jungle, Naruto resumed his return to Sakura. Closing his eyes, he let the natural energies of the jungle guide him in the proper directions. He could sense her in the far distance. It was a bright warm beacon that stood out from the surrounding jungle and his legs raced towards them as fast as they could.
Hoping he would arrive without further more delay, Naruto concentrated on every step he was doing. And hours later, he finally slowed and stopped all together underneath a mushroom and slowly pushed the giant drooping dome of the shroom up in order to see what was awaiting him.
His eyes widened and warmed as he saw a crystal clear small lake in front of him. The sound of a small waterfall feeding into the lake drew his eyes and he swallowed hard as he saw the woman of his desires swimming near the waterfall. He saw Sakura's grown out pink hair cascade down her naked body as she slowly rose from the water.
Mesmerized, Naruto's breathing intensified as he watched Sakura leave the lake and walk towards the shade of a mushroom. He saw her kneel and fuzz about something as she was occupied with something small in front of her. What it was Naruto couldn't tell but he pushed the dome of mushroom higher in order to step out from the shade and a happy smile adorned his face.
His smile froze on his face as he saw Sakura turn around with a bright smile of her own and holding a small child in her arms cooing at it lovingly. Frozen in shock, Naruto watched Sakura glide back into the lake with the baby in her arms. Swallowing, Naruto slowly edged forward.
"Who is Mommy's little angel?" Sakura cooed lovingly with the baby as she drifted through the water with the child in her arms.
The baby responded by blowing bubbles.
"Yes you are," Sakura said lovingly as she placed a kiss on the forehead of the small child.
"What is it?" Sakura asked her child as she listened to the child babble. "Oh you're asking where your father is?"
Naruto heard all this and his legs suddenly stopped dead as Sakura unknowingly translated for him. His breath was caught in his throat as he stood several feet behind Sakura and her child. A strained pause overcame him as he waited for Sakura to respond and when she did, tears welled up in his eyes.
"Your father is far away training to become stronger," Sakura said with happiness and a hint of yearning. "He is doing that in order to protect not only himself but us as well. Your father has a dream; he wants to become the Hokage and to do so, he needs to be the strongest shinobi in our village."
"Baba…" the child bubbled and the small meaty hands reached out over Sakura's shoulder and laughed.
"Oh has Baa-chan come to let us know that dinner is ready?" Sakura asked the child in amusement.
Sakura turned around to say hello to Tsunade but froze when instead of the aged Hokage, someone else stood behind here.
"BABA!" the baby shouted again and struggled to get out of Sakura's arms.
"N-Naruto?" Sakura whispered his name as tears swelled in her eyes. "Is that really you?"
"Sakura-chan," Naruto breathed her name and immediately ran forward and without hesitation walked into the water and threw his arm around her and the baby.
"I am sorry," Naruto apologized. "I meant to come sooner but… but…"
"Shhh," Sakura shushed him and placed a finger on his lips as she smiled at him. "I am just glad that you're finally back."
"Sakura-chan," Naruto said and choked back tears.
Naruto stepped back and looked at the small child in Sakura's arms. The baby's arms were outstretched as it tried to grab hold of Naruto. Unsure, Naruto's eyes wondered from the child to Sakura and hesitantly he stuttered, "Is… is that our child?"
"Yes," Sakura replied with a smile as tears of joy brimmed at the corners of her eyes. "This is your daughter."
Stunned, Naruto blinked and looked back at his daughter in Sakura's arms. He hesitantly reached out with his right hand and the small child immediately wrapped her tiny fingers around his fingers. A broad smile crossed Naruto's face, "She's so beautiful. W-what's her name? How old is she?"
"She's a year and half and I named her Ino," Sakura offered and watched Naruto's expression carefully to see if he showed any signs of not liking the name. "That is if you are fine with it."
"Ino-chan," Naruto repeated the name and his eyes lit up with laughter as he watched the baby blow more bubbles. "I love it. Can I hold her?"
"Of course," Sakura answered quickly and was a bit taken back. "Why shouldn't you be allowed?"
"Well I am quite clumsy," Naruto said with a chuckle. "I never held a baby before…"
"Nonsense," Sakura said and walked next to Naruto and gently placed the child into his arms. "Here, this is how you should hold her."
"This is… this is amazing," Naruto finally uttered in awe as he held his daughter for the first time. "Thank you Sakura-chan. Thank you for everything."
Sakura blinked in surprise at receiving praise and frowned, "Why are you thanking me Naruto-kun?"
"For this," Naruto said and motioned to the baby girl in his arms, "And for everything that you have done for me in the past, present, and hopefully future."
"Naruto you're a silly idiot," Sakura chuckled and snaked one arm around him as she looked at their daughter as she lay in his arms.
"She's so beautiful," Naruto whispered as he stared at the girl. "She's as beautiful as her mother," he added and sniffled as he was overjoyed.
"She has her father's eyes though," Sakura replied. Her voice was filled with emotions and she wiped away some of her own tears. "And she has her father's unrelenting restlessness. I swear she has more energy than you do Naruto."
"Heh," Naruto uttered. "I recall that you had a certain amount of non-stoppable energy as well."
"I did not," Sakura retorted.
"Oh you do," Naruto replied with a chuckle. "You mainly used it in order to impress a certain someone from Konoha back when we were younger."
"Oh," Sakura muttered dejectedly. "That…"
"Yes," Naruto said in amusement. "And I recall that you had excessive energy during one of our many nights together."
"Naruto," Sakura growled his name in danger as he referred to the night of their little girl's creation. "You're crossing dangerous waters right now."
"I know," Naruto said and leaned over to give the pink-haired woman a short yet passionate kiss. "You look wonderful Sakura-chan."
A hint of pink flushed her normally white cheeks, "Thank you. You don't look too shabby yourself."
"I know," Naruto blurted without hesitation that earned him a small smack against his head.
"No need to be conceited," Sakura smiled. "I missed you."
"I did too," Naruto said. "I missed you so much that I was hurting for each day that I spent apart from you."
"Really?" Sakura asked as her eyes narrowed and her voice turned dangerous. "Then why have you taken one extra damn year to come back to me?"
Naruto suddenly blinked rapidly in confusion at Sakura's sudden change in mood and failed to realize that Sakura had gently taken the baby girl out of his arms.
"Two years," Sakura growled with tears running down her face. A dark shadow was cast over her face, "I waited for two years and you didn't even bother sending a single message asking how I was doing or informing me that you would take longer to come back. Nothing… not a single word!"
And with those words, Naruto suddenly found himself flying across the lake as Sakura's fist impacted with his face.
"Heh," Naruto thought as he crashed, his body bouncing like a rag doll and finally coming to a stop under a giant mushroom. "She hasn't changed at all - one of the reasons why I love her so much."
Sakura was fuming in anger but it was quickly replaced by a smile as she heard Naruto groan in the distance. The baby girl in Sakura's arms started giggling and excitedly clapped its tiny pudgy hands and reached out into the direction of where Naruto had flown.
"BABA!" Little Ino shouted in amusement and squirmed in Sakura's arms.
"Yes," Sakura said and waded out of the water. She quickly wrapped the baby in a towel, while she herself got dressed in the robe she had discarded earlier before she went for a swim. "Let's go pick up your idiotic father and take him home to see Baa-chan."
Naruto lay crumbled underneath a giant mushroom stalk and held his head as he groaned from the ringing pain. He rolled his stiff shoulder and with a loud hiss and a pop, his bones realigned and the dislocation was rectified.
"Wow that was quite a punch," Naruto thought in irritated pain. "Sakura-chan has grown far stronger than I imagined."
"I am sorry," Sakura said softly in remorse as Naruto felt a delicate hand come to rest on his forehead. A rush of cool chakra surged into his mind and methodically disassembled Naruto's ringing headache.
"Thanks," Naruto grunted and their eyes met. A smile cracked his lips and a hint of mischievousness flickered in his eyes, as his right hand stealthily moved up and slowly groped Sakura's bum.
"I forgive you Sakura-chan."
"P-pervert!" Sakura screamed as her healing hand left Naruto's forehead.
However, before Sakura's fist was able to impact with Naruto's smirking face, his face shot forward and snatched her lips with his own, draining her of her anger. Their kiss ended as quickly as it had started as the baby girl squirmed in Sakura's other arm excitedly.
"Y-you," Sakura huffed in deflated anger as she looked into Naruto's beaming face. "I… I should break your hand for doing that," Sakura puffed between labored breathing.
"Hey you deserved it as much as I deserved being punted across the lake," Naruto joked and pulled her onto his lap after settling himself in a more comfortable position. His arms snaked around her waist and he lovingly looked into her eyes. "I really missed you Sakura-chan."
"DADA!" Young Ino bubbled and broke the spell of silence between her parents. Her pudgy hands reached up to Naruto and Sakura and both their faces turned to look at their baby girl as she rested in Sakura's arms.
"I missed you too," Naruto soothed as he smiled and placed a soft kiss on the baby's forehead and was rewarded with a giggle from the baby.
"Naruto let's go," Sakura spoke and stood up. "It's getting late and Ino-chan needs to get her sleep."
"Right," Naruto quickly replied and hastily brushed the dirt of his clothes as he stood next to Sakura. "So where are we going?"
"There is a cave system nearby," Sakura began as she shifted the baby into her left arm and took one of Naruto's into her right. "It's quite beautiful," she explained as she was slowly leading Naruto towards it. "The caves are covered with ancient cave drawings and Katsuyu-sama claims that one of the very first humans had originally come from here."
"Sounds exciting," Naruto said and studied the jungle surrounding them. "But aren't you afraid of the predators that are living here? I ran into a few of them and I have to say they appear quite fearsome and dangerous."
"They are," Sakura admitted. "But the slugs keep it relatively safe."
"Hn," Naruto grunted in understanding and he lovingly squeezed Sakura's hand that was interlocked with his.
Touched at his show of affection and worry, Sakura mentally sighed "Why am I not surprised at his subconscious urge to protect me?"
A smile spread across her face as she watched Naruto scan the jungle for any threats. "I wonder how he will react when he meets Shishou again," Sakura thought and inched closer to Naruto.
"I got you," Naruto said reassuringly and let go of Sakura's hand before snaking the arm around her waist and pulling her into his side. "I'm never going to leave you again Sakura-chan."
"Whoah!" Naruto muttered as they stood in front of the complex cave system. "T-this is amazing…"
Sakura chuckled and left Naruto's protective embrace and walked towards one of the cave entrances. She stopped at the entrance and waited for him to catch up. "Naruto-kun! Are you coming?"
"Yes," Naruto quickly replied and bounded towards her. "Sorry, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of this mountain range. I had no idea something this large was hidden in this jungle."
"I know what you mean," Sakura said and entered the cave they were standing in front of. "I was quite shocked myself when I found this place with…"
"Sakura? Sakura is that you?" An aged voice suddenly echoed through the cave. "Who are you talking to? Is everything alright? How is little Ino-chan doing?"
Naruto abruptly stopped walking as his eyes widened in surprise at hearing the voice. His head snapped towards Sakura and saw her smiling reassuringly. He received a small nod from the pinkette next to him and his throat suddenly dried up.
He licked his lips nervously and looked towards the bend in the cave he stood in front and saw a cone of light slowly coming towards them. A rhythmic tock, as if wood hit naked stone, slowly grew louder with the approaching light and Naruto found himself transfixed upon the bend.
"Sakura what's wrong?" The worried voice asked again and the light was nearly around the bend.
"Sakura…" the voice stopped as the person inched around the corner.
"B-Baa-chan," Naruto stammered in a whisper as he saw Tsunade halt in her step. The busty blonde stood frozen in shock and her mouth was pressed into a thin line as tears edged at the corner of the aging Hokage's face. Gone was the youthful Genjutsu the strong woman always wore and in its place was an ancient, wrinkled face that had been written on by many hardships and too much remorse.
"Naruto," Tsunade whispered in disbelief as her right hand held a torch, while her left firmly grasped atop a gnarled stick that worked as a cane.
"Baa-chan," Naruto said again and the spell was lifted as he rushed forward and enveloped the old woman in a bone crushing hug.
"I missed you so much," Tsunade wept as her frail arms wrapped around Naruto.
"How did you get here?" Naruto asked eventually. "What happened to you?"
"Naruto," Sakura interjected and placed a soft hand on his shoulder as the pinkette saw a shift in Tsunade's eyes.
"I am sorry but who are you?" Tsunade suddenly asked as she looked at Naruto and then at Sakura. "Has granddaddy sent you to get me?"
Naruto blinked in confusion, "What? Baa-chan it's me Naruto."
"Naruto," Sakura repeated his name again and softly shook her head.
"If granddaddy didn't send you," Tsunade continued pompously as she had reverted back into her mental state of a child. "I will not go with you. I am not supposed to go with strangers."
"Sakura-chan," Naruto asked and turned towards his wife. "What's happening?"
Sakura smiled painfully and handed their child to Naruto as she tried to explain what she had found out over the past two years. "She has suffered greatly from Danzo's imprisonment. Her chakra is erratic and when she is experiencing a lot of stress, she forgets people. She is degrading," Sakura said as she saw a look of confusion on Naruto's face. "She doesn't remember us and thinks she is still a child. I don't understand why, but she always mentions her grandfather the Shodai Hokage."
"Okay," Naruto muttered as he looked at Tsunade in worry. Sakura then left Naruto's side and approached Tsunade. Placing a hand on top of Tsunade's that was holding on to the cane, Sakura gently turned Tsunade and walked with her deeper into the cave as Sakura gently spoke to the demented Hokage.
"Baba hurt," young Ino muttered with tears in her eyes.
Naruto hefted his baby girl high above him and smiled, "Don't worry Ino-chan. Mommy and Daddy will make sure that Baba becomes healthy again."
It was late during the night when Naruto lay on his back under a warm raptor-hide blanket. Sakura's head was resting next to his shoulder as one of her arms rested on his chest as she lay on her side. Deep in thought, he was staring up into the black cave ceiling and listened to the soft cracking of the small fire that was slowly dying out.
"Naruto-kun what's troubling you?" Sakura asked as she lifted her head to look into his eyes.
"Hey, sorry I didn't want to wake you," Naruto mumbled quietly. "It's nothing really Sakura-chan. I've just been thinking…"
"Tell me," Sakura insisted after she had waited briefly for Naruto to finish.
"It's nothing," Naruto said again and leaned over and kissed her gently. "Go back to sleep."
"Naruto," Sakura growled. "Tell me what's keeping you awake this instant or else…"
"You're not going to go to sleep until I tell you, will you?" He asked and received a look from her that spoke volumes. He chuckled lightly and sighed.
"I was just thinking about our next steps. I was secretly hoping you and I could just go to Konoha and defeat Danzo," Naruto started. "However, now I don't know anymore. I want to go to Konoha and clear our names but with our child and Baa-chan, I don't think we can afford it anymore."
"Don't you want to go to Iwa anymore?" Sakura asked curiously.
"Truthfully, I never believed that we could or should be hiding from Konoha; but now the priorities have changed. There is Ino-chan, Tsunade, and you that I need to protect. I want to offer you a peaceful and quiet life but I am afraid that if we settle down somewhere, that we'll grow weak and forget about our responsibilities towards Konoha."
Sakura propped her head up with her arm as she looked at Naruto intently. "Do you really think that we would grow weak and forget our friends and family back home? That we would grow complacent and live happily and quietly our lives, hidden away in secret? Do you really think that I want that?"
"No," Naruto answered as he looked into her face. "But I am still thinking about these possibilities. Let's say we hide in Earth Country, near Iwagakure, what are we going to do if Iwa finds us and realizes that we are shinobi? We can't fight an entire nation Sakura-chan…"
"Then we run," Sakura said but it was clear in her voice that she wasn't convinced herself. "But Naruto don't you want our little Ino-chan to grow up with children her own age?"
"Of course," Naruto quickly said. "I am just scared that I can't protect you."
"Naruto, sweetie," Sakura whispered as she leaned closer and hovered briefly above his lips. "You're not alone Naruto-kun. I will always be with you. I love you and we got married. We will protect our daughter and Tsunade-sama together. We are going to be one big happy family and when Ino-chan is older, I promise you, I promise that we will go to Konoha, clear our names, and reunite with our friends and family. And if Konoha is still unable to accept us, we'll leave Konoha and settle somewhere else. Sunagakure would be ideal. You would have Gaara to hang out with and our friends in Konoha aren't that far away."
A small smile crept upon Naruto's face and he erased the distance between their lips and pulled her on top of him as they kissed. "I knew I could count on you my cherry blossom."
13 weeks later
"Here we are," Naruto said happily as he walked into a small town deep inside Earth Country. Young Ino was currently sitting on top of his shoulders and studied the surroundings with wide open eyes. "What do you think Ino-chan? Do you like it here?"
"No," Ino said abruptly and shook her head as she fisted her father's hair.
"You don't?" Naruto asked in surprise and turned around to see Sakura walking alongside Tsunade, making sure the old woman wouldn't trip. "But why? Mommy and Baa-chan like it here, right?"
"Yes we do," Sakura answered with a smile. Her hair had grown down towards half her back and was tied together by a small white ribbon at the end of her mane in order to hold it in place. Gone was the pink color and instead, Sakura had dyed it Kyuubi red. The unique color was a side effect from mixing her natural pink with the usual red hair dye.
"Hn," Tsunade grunted and stopped as she heavily leaned onto her cane. "Why here? This is too close to Iwagakure. We shouldn't be here, you shouldn't be here Naruto."
"Baa-chan hates it here too," Ino shouted and pouted.
"Tsunade-sama," Sakura asked as she frowned. "You mentioned it before that it wouldn't be good for us to be hiding in Earth Country, let alone near Iwagakure. Why is that?"
"Another time," Tsunade grunted as she saw several sets of eyes focusing in on them. "Now where did you find that house Naruto? My legs are getting tired from walking this far."
"We have to go through the village," Naruto replied and started walking deeper into the small lumber town. "The house sits by a lake and is about a thirty minute walk away."
"Great," Tsunade muttered sarcastically and slowly inched forward.
"Shishou," Sakura whispered softly. "He is trying to make you happy and proud. Why are you being so hard on him?"
"I know that," Tsunade snapped back in a whisper as she frowned. "It's just too dangerous here for him and for us. We would be killed if they found out who we are, especially if they knew about… No I can't speak about this here."
"About what?" Sakura asked with a hint of anger. "Shishou you've been like this since we left Katsuyu's realm. Why didn't you tell us there what is bothering you so much?"
"Later," Tsunade grunted. "I will tell you later tonight. Now let us catch up with those two energy bundles that are your husband and daughter."
Later in the day, as the sun was slowly setting behind the distant mountain range, Naruto and Sakura stood in front of the small house that they now called their new home. It was their luck that one of Naruto's shadow clones was able to buy the house cheaply with the money from the Bounty they had collected in Kumogakure over two years ago. The building was in need of some dire repairs as the roof had accumulated several leaks over the years of neglect and Naruto's shadow clones had quickly dispatched of those needed immediate repairs.
"It's quite beautiful here," Sakura said softly as she had her arms wrapped around Naruto.
They were currently watching the sunset and watched the orange sun rays bounce off the crystal clear lake ahead of them. The sky was painted a fiery orange as flocks of birds flew towards their resting places for the night.
"It sure is," Naruto said and tilted his head and kissed the top of Sakura's head. "C'mon let us go inside. Baa-chan wants to talk to us and I am sure Ino-chan is driving her insane already."
Sakura chuckled at Naruto's remark, "Like father like daughter."
"Hey now! What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto shouted quietly but smiled.
"Love you," Sakura quickly said and kissed him before rushing away from him while laughing.
Naruto chuckled and shook his head as he thought, "I'll get you for that tonight Sakura-chan."
He followed her and entered the small house and came to a stop when he saw Tsunade sitting in the corner of the living room and looking very grim.
"We need to talk Naruto."
"Sure," Naruto replied and closed the door behind him. He walked over to the table and pulled two chairs out and carried them over towards Tsunade's corner. "Where is Sakura-chan?"
"She is checking up on little Ino," Tsunade said and studied her hands that were neatly folded upon her lap.
They waited several minutes until Sakura quietly exited the small room that had been claimed by Ino the minute they had reached the small lake-side house.
"Sorry," Sakura apologized. "Ino didn't want to go to sleep until I told her a story."
"It is fine," Tsunade mumbled and waited for Sakura to take the empty chair next to Naruto. "What I am going to tell you two now is an S-rank secret amongst our village."
Both Naruto's and Sakura's eyes widened slightly and shared a brief glance before nodding for Tsunade to continue.
"The reason behind my vehement standpoint against using Earth Country and the shadow of Iwagakure as a hiding place for us lies within the simple fact of Naruto's appearance."
"Wait a minute Shishou," Sakura interrupted her aging mentor. "I don't think I quite follow you. You are afraid that people here might recognize Naruto? But why, he isn't well-known and his Jinchuuriki status is a village secret. Wouldn't it make more sense that people might recognize you or in fact me?"
"Not quite," Tsunade answered and looked at Naruto, who had remained eerily quiet. "Senju Tsunade is known almost everywhere but only as a woman that hides her age behind a Genjutsu. My real me is only known to a handful of people, to which I count you two. However, you are correct to assume that you might be recognizable, considering your unique hair color Sakura. Yet, even that connection might only be made if people were to find out that you are from Fire Country and figure out that you dye your hair. And of those people, only shinobi with the in-depth knowledge of enemy ninjas had an inkling of such knowledge. Again we are only speaking of a few individuals, mainly Jounins and ANBU that are tasked with keeping taps on Kages and their apprentices."
"Why me?" Naruto suddenly asked as he looked to the ground. "Why would they recognize me?"
"Because you are becoming more and more a spitting image of your father," Tsunade softly answered.
"Y-you knew my father?" Naruto suddenly asked. His voice was laced with surprise and anger. "Why didn't you ever tell me? Who was he? Is he still alive? What happened to him?"
"Shishou?" Sakura questioned her next as the pinkette realized that Tsunade was softly sobbing.
When Tsunade's aged honey-brown eyes that were filled with water looked up into Naruto's expression, the aging woman shook her head sadly. "Naruto your father, he, he was a great man. He loved your mother and Konoha dearly. He cherished his home and protected it with all of his might. His strength alone drove Iwagakure to the brink of destruction during the Third Great Ninja War and his name is cursed amongst these lands we now call our home. The utterance of his name brings instant death for it reminds the people of Earth Country and Iwagakure of their most shameful moment in history, a moment where a single Leaf shinobi annihilated Iwa's armies."
Tsunade paused briefly and closed her eyes as she remembered. "I can still hear the wails of the slaughtered Rock shinobi as they lay defeated in the dirt. Lying in their own pools of blood as their throats had been cut or limbs had been severed and as Iwa's armies were cut to pieces in a battle that didn't last for more than a few minutes, it ended with your father kneeling on a small mount in the middle of the carnage that had become the battlefield. Crying into your mother's arms and apologizing to her for the horrors he had committed."
"He was a simple man Naruto," Tsunade continued as tears slowly ran down her cheeks. "He only wanted to live in peace and harmony but he also knew that sometimes sacrifices had to be made. And it was on that day, a day that was his personal nightmare, while for others' it was considered to be his greatest achievement that he earned the name of Konoha's Yellow Flash."
"Sakura-chan," Naruto yelled out in worry as the young woman fell of the chair in shock. He quickly bolted off his chair and immediately rushed to her side. "Are you alright Sakura-chan? Are you feeling sick? Is there anything I can do for you?"
A small groan was all Sakura could muster as an answer as she held a hand to her head as her mind processed everything that Tsunade had just told them. She looked up into Naruto's worried face that hovered inches away from hers and finally offered a short nod, letting him know she was fine. She was relieved upon seeing his expression lighten and she graciously took his helping hand in rising from the floor. She took her seat again and locked eyes with Tsunade.
"Well," Tsunade said a tad bit surprised. "I would be lying were I to deny that I hadn't expected that reaction, however, I had expected Naruto-kun to be the one on the floor and not you Sakura-chan."
Flustered, Sakura cleared her throat. "I was simply overwhelmed with Naruto's heritage. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined Naruto-kun be the son of the Yondaime Hokage."
"Whaaaaat? I am the son of who?" Naruto suddenly yelled out that surprised both Sakura and Tsunade.
"Baka," Sakura muttered as she shook her head at seeing Naruto's bewildered expression.
A soft laughter drew both hers and Naruto's attention and they saw Tsunade laughing into her hand. "Naruto you idiot, weren't you listening to everything that I had just been telling you?"
Naruto sheepishly brushed the back of his head and grinned, "Sorry Baa-chan, you lost me at big battle and my father supposedly taking out all of Iwa's armies alone."
Sakura simply shook her head in dismay and muttered something eerily akin to not be surprised, while Tsunade blinked numerous times that only ended in more laughter, "Leave it to Naruto to space out and only listen to the 'cool' stuff in a story."
"Sorry," Naruto muttered apologetically. "So my dad really was the Yondaime Hokage?"
Tsunade nodded in confirmation. "Naruto you have to understand, this was kept a secret because your father had many enemies. Konoha was in danger after the Kyuubi attack and with the death of your father that day, we were extremely vulnerable and it was decided to keep your birth a secret from everyone, even the villagers. In order to stave off invasion, the need of the many was put before the need of an individual. I am sorry Naruto, I truly am but by you not knowing your heritage, you've been protecting Konoha and everyone you care for far longer than you ever thought possible."
"And what about my mother?" Naruto asked sharply and made it clear that he no longer wanted to hear about the many reasoning that existed in keeping his heritage hidden. "Where was she? What happened to her?"
"Your mother, Uzumaki Kushina," Tsunade began as she remembered her past days as if they were only yesterday. "She was a powerful kunoichi - a gem amongst gems, a beauty amongst the Leaf, and a real pain in the ass. You and her are actually very much alike, in ways you don't even know. However, I only know little about what happened to your mother during the Kyuubi attack but I do know that she died during childbirth."
"I understand," Naruto murmured and stood. He walked towards the door that lead to the outside and paused briefly with his hand resting on the door knob.
"Naruto there is more," Tsunade said. "About the Kyuubi and…"
"Why my father sealed the demon within me and not somebody else?" Naruto questioned without turning around. "Don't bother Baa-chan, I already understand and I would do the same thing."
And with those words, the door opened and Naruto vanished into the night, leaving behind a silent old woman and a young wife.
"Shishou what did he mean by that?" Sakura finally asked as she had collected herself again. Unknowingly, she had started crying as she had listened to Tsunade's tale. Her thoughts always centered upon Naruto and the harsh life he had lived alone. A life without knowing his parents, a life without knowing the warmth a mother could give to their child when it had a nightmare, a life with a father that would teach you jutsu or help you learn to read, or a life where he wasn't recognized for being the Kyuubi.
"The reason Minato sealed the Kyuubi inside Naruto is quite simple Sakura. Minato couldn't ask of any parent to sacrifice their child, without bringing forth the same. He chose Naruto because he didn't want to make a different family suffer his mistakes in protecting Konoha from the Kyuubi."
"I see," Sakura whispered in thought. She was trying to think herself into the position of Naruto's parents and wondered whether she could offer her own flesh and blood, her own little Ino-chan as a sacrifice in order to protect the village and keep a different family from this hardship of a life that would no doubt await them. And it surprised her that neither her heart nor her mind could give an answer to said question.
"You should go to him," Tsunade finally said and brought Sakura out of her musing. "He needs time but he shouldn't do this alone. His love, his wife should be with him and help him Sakura. Go to him and take him into your arms and comfort him. He will tell you what he needs from you in order to lessen his pain."
"Hai Shishou," Sakura answered meekly and walked towards the door.
"I hope you two finally understand why coming here was a dangerous and foolish idea. If Naruto's heritage comes to light, we are as good as dead." Tsunade told her before rising herself from the chair and turning towards the room that was hers. "I am going to bed Sakura but before you go to him, know this. Even though I am still against coming here, I know that this is the safest location for us to hide from the Leaf but please make Naruto understand that his heritage needs to be kept a secret. You can't let Ino-chan know, no matter what. Children tend to speak before they think and it could cost us all with our lives."
"Good night Tsunade-sama," Sakura responded a bit forced and angry. The pinkette, now with her hair dyed red, sighed and twisted the door knob and entered the cold night and began to look for her wayward husband and lover.
Shikamaru quietly entered his home and breathed out a tired sigh as he leaned against the closed door. Closing his eyes, his mind replayed the events of tonight's Council and Shinobi meeting with the current Hokage Danzo.
"What's the matter lazy?"
Shikamaru's eyes slowly opened and wandered towards the voice of his wife as she stood leaning against the door frame that lead into the living room. "Troublesome," he muttered.
A soft smile spread across Temari's lips and she softly walked towards Shikamaru and tippy toed as she kissed him. "It's always troublesome with you Shika."
"It appears to be a recurring theme with me," Shikamaru muttered as his hands rested on Temari's hips.
"Yes," Temari replied playfully as she rested her head on his chest and pressed her body against his. "So are you going to tell me why you were locked away in Council meetings all day?"
"Now that's really troublesome," Shikamaru replied cryptically and pushed Temari away from him. He smiled at her and took her hand in his and led her towards the kitchen. "Let's eat first."
As two sat and ate together, Temari continuously watched Shikamaru out of the corner of her eyes, wondering whether she could discern anything from the way he held himself at dinner. She silently cursed as she was unable to break his mask. She eventually decided to give up and enjoy the meal as she held casual conversation with him.
Shikamaru suddenly smiled, "Giving up so soon?'
A quirk appeared upon Temari's face along with a scowl and she angrily placed her utensils on the table. She cleaned the corners of her mouth and locked eyes with Shikamaru. "And are you going to talk or are you going to keep me on the outside again?"
One of Shikamaru's eyebrows rose significantly higher than normally, "What are you talking about?"
"I am talking about your secret little club," Temari angrily continued as she stood up from her chair. "I don't like it when you keep secrets from me. We are married Shikamaru and we are not supposed to have secrets from one another. So you better start telling me what you are up to or I am packing my things and go back to Suna. At least there I am being respected for my strength and skills."
"Temari-chan," Shikamaru said and stood up. He pulled her into his arms and trapped her against his body. "I am trying to protect you. If Danzo finds out about this…"
"Nonsense," Temari growled as she rested her head on his chest. "I don't need protection. I am a capable kunoichi and besides, I am the Kazekage's sister. Danzo wouldn't dare do anything to me."
"You don't know him," Shikamaru sighed.
"I don't care," Temari said and looked up into his eyes. "At least tell me what todays meetings were about?"
Shikamaru briefly paused and eventually shook his head sadly. "Alright I tell you," he started but briefly paused. "We're going to war."
Temari blinked at him in confusion, "W-what?"
"Yea," Shikamaru muttered. "The Lords of Fire and Wind have decided to launch invasions upon the smaller countries surrounding us."
"You can't be serious," Temari hushed. "H-how can they just decide that?"
"They just do," he replied and an air of depression befell the two. "The Lords want war and we'll give it to them. And we're the ones that will have to pay for it with our lives as well."
"Troublesome," Temari muttered as she retreated into herself.
"You say it," Shikamaru chuckled and slowly lead her towards their living room and the couch. "Let's enjoy this last night of peace. Tomorrow we begin to train for war."
Sakura found Naruto standing by the lake, looking out over the black water. She gently approached him and slung her arm around his frame as she rested her head on his shoulder. Nobody was saying anything for a while as they simply looked out over the water.
"A penny for your thoughts?" Sakura softly asked eventually.
"Hn," Naruto grunted.
"Oh," Sakura mouthed and turned her head to look into Naruto's eyes that were focused on her. A soft smile split her face, "I am sorry but it appears I have mistaken you for my husband. I had no idea that you had changed that much Sasuke-kun."
Naruto's frame suddenly shook from silent laughter. "I'll forgive you, this once," Naruto said in jest.
Not wanting to get caught up in Naruto's theatric avoidance tactic, Sakura nudged him quite strongly as she lifted one of her brows. "How are you holding up Naruto-kun? Do you want to talk about this?"
"I am fine," Naruto finally answered as he had fallen silent again momentarily. "It's weird really. I know I should be feeling delighted at finally being told about my parents or even feel angry at them for pushing this burden upon me but I don't feel anything. There is absolutely no reaction within me."
"Are you sure?" Sakura asked a bit worried. "Maybe you're still in shock and you need more time to realize everything first."
Naruto shook his head, "No that's not it. I think if I were to try and describe the feeling I am having right now, I would have to use the word 'peace'. I feel at peace Sakura-chan. I've never felt this calm in my life before."
"You could be relieved too," Sakura offered and took one of Naruto's hands into her own. "You finally know about your true heritage and it is possible that not knowing your parent's identity, has always weighed you down psychologically."
"Sure, I guess," Naruto replied but it was close to obvious that he wasn't entirely convinced.
Another silence fell upon the two as they looked into each other's eyes. "Naruto before you left… Would you really?"
"Yes," Naruto replied and pulled her into an embrace. "If that were the only option, I would seal the Kyuubi within our own child and not have anyone else suffer that fate. But rest assured Sakura-chan that will never happen. The Kyuubi is locked within me until the day I die."
"I am not worried," Sakura mumbled into his chest as her head was rested against it. "I would lie if I said that I weren't against sealing the Kyuubi into our daughter, however, I know that if it were ever to come to a situation like this, I think, no I hope that I will do the right thing and support you with all my strength."
"It's fine Sakura-chan," Naruto said and gently rubbed her back. "I'll make sure nobody is ever going to suffer from the Bijuu again."
"Naruto don't," Sakura interrupted him. "Stop trying to protect the world from all evil. I need you Naruto, your family needs you, and when we get Konoha back, the Leaf will need you too."
"Let's go to bed," Naruto said ignoring Sakura. "We'll have a lot to do to fix up the house and I need to find a job as well."
"Naruto," Sakura called him as he was already walking away from her. "Fine," Sakura muttered in anger at the realization that he would ignore her further. She followed him into the small house that they called their home now and entered their bedroom. They undressed and without saying their good nights, Sakura lay down and turned her back towards Naruto and awaited the next day.
2 years later
Sakura stood in the kitchen and was busying over the cooking stove as she prepared lunch for her family. She looked out of the kitchen window and saw Tsunade sitting in the rocking chair that Naruto had built for her. A soft smile spread across Sakura's face as she remembered how Naruto had taken months to build a working rocking chair. It had taken countless attempts, a never ending string of curses, and quite a few slaps against the back of his head but after six months, Naruto had finally succeeded.
Tsunade had been overjoyed at the present and was sitting within said chair every day enjoying the lake view from the small dock that Naruto had built first after the house had been fixed. And there, the aging Godaime Hokage was sitting there once again, most likely napping in the soft sun rays of fall season.
"Mama," Ino softly spoke up as she clutched Sakura's leg. "What are you cooking today?"
Sakura looked down at her roughly four year daughter that had become a small version of her younger self and gently picked her up and sat her down on the kitchen counter. "I am making your father's favorite."
"Ramen? Again?" Ino objected with a pout as she crossed her arms. "I don't like Ramen."
Sakura chuckled and lovingly ruffled her daughter's hair. "I know sweetie but Naruto-kun loves it and we don't want a grumpy father now do we?"
"No," Ino muttered as she was still pouting.
"I'll make Dango tomorrow," Sakura offered to placate her daughter. "I promise."
"Yay Dango!" Ino shouted and was ready to bounce off the walls in a typical Naruto fashion.
Sakura simply shook her head as she chuckled at her daughter's antics. In so many ways, Ino was so much like her father it was practically scary, however, Naruto had confided with her once that he thought that Ino-chan was as scary as Sakura was when angry.
And as Ino assaulted Sakura with questions about Dango, the constant rhythm of chopping vegetables filled the kitchen as Sakura listened and replied to her daughter's intelligent mind. Sakura was brought out of her flow when she suddenly heard hectic loud hammering at the door of her house. She frowned and placed down the knife and turned to her daughter.
"Ino I want you to run out the backdoor and go to Baa-chan," Sakura said and helped Ino off the kitchen counter. She walked her towards the door and opened it. "Go to Baa-chan and stay with her until I come and get you two."
"Can I go swimming in the lake?" Ino asked excitingly seemingly oblivious to the aggravated hammering at the front door of the house.
"Well," Sakura started as she turned around to look towards her front door as it shook from the constant hammering against it. "As long as Baa-chan is awake and allows it. Now off you go and remember, I will come and get you."
"Thanks Mom," Ino shouted and quickly ran towards the lake and towards Tsunade.
"Now, who might be at the front door," Sakura thought as she quickly left the kitchen to answer the door.
Sakura abruptly opened the door and her eyes grew wide in shock as she was suddenly face to face with a blood soaked Iwa Genin. Sakura blinked in confusion and only came to again when she realized that the young boy was pulling on her arm.
"What?" Sakura asked as she finally registered the boy was frantically yelling at her.
"Please you have to help me," the boy yelled. "My team, we were attacked, and my Sensei is fighting them but…"
"Are you hurt?" Sakura asked him as she studied his panicked face.
"No," he shook his head and Sakura could tell he was at the brink of tears. "This isn't my blood. It belonged to one of the enemies. Sensei got him as he was trying to kill me."
"Where is the rest of your team?" Sakura asked next as she bit her lip. "Damn what am I going to do? I can't use my shinobi skills or else they will find out about us."
"Please lady, you have to come and help me." The boy pulled at Sakura's hand again. "I don't know if there are any doctors around here but you ought to know if there are. Please…"
"Right," Sakura said and stepped out of the house as she made a decision to help. She closed the door behind her and turned to the boy, "Lead me to your team. I have some medical knowledge."
"Oh thank Kami," the boy screamed and started running and pulled Sakura behind him. "It's not that far but please we have to hurry."
As Sakura was pulled through the wild woods surrounding the small lumber town that they had chosen as their new home, her mind was focused at the problem in front of her. She had debated whether to just kill the boy and shrug herself of any responsibility. She had argued that idea with a simple explanation of needing to defend her family but a sudden image of Sasuke that had flashed in front of her mind's eye had quickly crushed that idea.
Sakura mentally shook her head and felt a cold feeling run down her spine as she remembered Sasuke's sneering face as she had debated of killing the young Iwa Genin in front of her.
"I can't," Sakura mused depressed. "Killing in cold blood is something Sasuke would do. I… Damn what should I do?"
"We're almost there," the young Genin suddenly spoke in a whisper as he slowed and pulled out a half broken kunai. "We need to be careful. I don't know if Sensei was able to dispatch all of the enemy ANBU."
"ANBU?" Sakura exclaimed in shock and her senses instantly became alert. "Damn it, if we run into them… Kami please, please don't force me to jeopardize my family's safety."
"ANBU are one of the strongest ninja a hidden village has," the young Genin explained. "But rest assured, my Sensei used to be Iwa's ANBU Head-Captain, he won't be defeated this easily."
"O-okay," Sakura replied with unease. "Why is my luck running out?" She thought angrily. "Not only might I have to fend of enemy ANBU, the person I am supposed to help was one of Iwa's strongest ANBU. Damn, damn, damn… Tsunade-sama was right in saying Earth Country would be an unsafe hiding place."
"SENSEI!" The young Genin suddenly yelled and rushed away as he and Sakura reached a small clearing.
Sakura hesitantly stopped at the edge of the clearing and studied the surroundings carefully. The clearing she was standing at wasn't a clearing at all, she realized as she saw countless of trees snapped in half. The ground was littered with impact craters that ranged from small to fairly large and her eyes immediately made out the scattered weapons all around her.
"Please," the boy called out to her and her attention went to the large man that lay on his back in the center of the clearing. "Sensei is still alive but he needs help."
Swallowing, Sakura hesitantly walked forward. Ever keeping a watchful eye on her surroundings, she attuned her senses to detection and she finally arrived by the fussing Genin and his sensei. She quickly knelt beside the man and studied his injuries.
"How bad is it?" The Genin asked and looked fearfully back and forth between Sakura and his teacher. "Will he live?"
"Shit," Sakura cursed in her mind as she took in the Iwa shinobi in front of her. Her eyes immediately recognized the fatal stomach wound that she knew she could heal easily and make it a non-fatal wound but that would reveal her in-depth knowledge of chakra and medic ninjutsu.
Sakura frowned as she realized that the Iwa nin had somehow miraculously no other real wound besides flesh wounds that would heal by itself and she then knew what kind of skilled shinobi was lying in front of her and she visibly swallowed.
"It's okay," the Genin said thinking Sakura's hesitation was a sign of her being afraid. "Sensei was briefly awake and told me that he had killed the enemy ANBU. You're safe here but please, can you safe sensei?"
"I-I'll do my best," Sakura said and she suddenly had an idea. She turned towards the Genin and smiled reassuringly. "Didn't you have teammates? Where are they?"
The young boy looked to the ground and Sakura could see tears within his eyes. She deflated and put a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder and was surprised when he jerked away from her contact. He looked at her with wide eyes and abruptly stood up. The boy looked north, away from the clearing and the direction from Sakura's house. "Akira was killed by the enemy ANBU and we were separated from her body as we defended ourselves. Ai, she, she ran towards Iwa saying she wanted to get help and I don't know if she made it. In the end Sensei and I were the only ones left and he had told me to run away myself."
The boy visibly trembled in pain and Sakura looked sorrowful at the young Genin and asked him. "Do you remember where Akira was killed?"
"Yes," the boy quietly replied.
"Why don't you go get her body so we can give her a proper burial" Sakura suggested. "I will take care of your sensei and I'll wait for you to return."
"And then what?" The boy asked in anger. "Akira is dead, Ai is probably dead herself, and Sensei is unconscious… what should I do? This was our first mission out of the Academy… What am I supposed to do?"
"You take one step at a time," Sakura said and hoped that would convince the boy to leave so she could quickly heal the shinobi's wounds to a degree that he wouldn't die without revealing her knowledge to the young Genin.
"C-can sensei and I stay with you?" The boy asked and sniffled. "Would you let us recover at your home?"
Sakura looked to the ground in thought and cursed herself, "Of course."
"Thank you," the boy said and ran north.
Sighing in relief, Sakura quickly turned towards the dying shinobi in front of her and quickly used a sedation jutsu on the Iwa-nin in order to ensure the man wouldn't suddenly wake up. After that she placed her glowing green hands over the stomach wound and willed the internal organs to repair themselves and flush out the poisonous fluids that were the stomach acid and bile. Once she was certain that his organs were repaired, she stopped her chakra flow and searched the shinobi for his emergency medical kit. Once she found it, she disinfected the wound with the Iodine and began to dress the wound.
She let out a heavy breath as she finished the last knot in her stitches. She made sure that it looked like someone with limited medical knowledge had sown up the ninja, while ensuring that the man wouldn't die.
"I have to thank Shishou," Sakura thought as she wiped her bloody hands on the skirt she was wearing. "I always thought it was a waste of time of having to learn how to do these things without the use of chakra but it appears I was wrong."
A small groan alerted her from the shinobi in front of her to wake up and placed her soft hand on the man's shoulder.
"Everything is going to be alright," Sakura softly spoke. "Don't move or the stitches will open up again."
"W-who are you?" The man asked as his eyes fluttered open and turned his head to look up into Sakura's face.
"Just someone that lives nearby and ran into one of your students'," Sakura said. "Who did this to you?"
"The enemy," the man responded shortly. "Who did you run into?"
"He didn't give me his name," Sakura answered. "He went to go look for his teammate's body."
"Thank Kami that he survived," the man whispered to which Sakura frowned. "I don't think I could forgive myself if something happened to the Tsuchikage's great grandson."
Sakura's eyes widened in surprise and fear, "You mean to tell me that boy is the Earth Shadow's great grandson?"
"Yes," the Iwa-nin spoke and groaned as he tried to sit up.
"I said not to move," Sakura said and pushed the man back down.
"Sensei!" the young voice of the boy echoed over the clearing and Sakura saw the boy carry a dead girl on his back as he approached. The boy put the girl to the ground and was immediately by Sakura's side. "Sensei it's me. How are you doing?"
"I am fine Katsuro," the man replied and smiled for reassurance. "You did great Katsuro. I am proud of you and so would be your mother and your great grandfather."
"No they wouldn't," Katsuro muttered and looked away dejectedly.
"Don't say that," the man said and Sakura realized that she was suddenly intruding on something personal. She silently stood up and walked over towards the dead kunoichi.
Sakura looked at the limb body of the young Genin and was filled with sorrow. She closed her eyes and whispered a silent prayer for the girl. She knelt and brushed the brown strands of the girl's hair out of the lifeless face and whispered, "You did good Akira. You died in the service of your village. I am sure your parents will be proud of your sacrifice."
"W-what are you doing?" Katsuro asked as he neared.
Sakura stood up and smiled softly at Katsuro. "I just spoke a silent prayer for Akira here and told her that her family would be proud for her service towards your village."
"No they won't," Katsuro muttered in anger and looked away in shame. "We Genin are nothing more than cannon fodder for our village. If we die too early, it is only looked upon as a shame on the family. Akira here didn't even have a family. She was just an orphan that fought her hardest to pass the Academy classes. She was a great ninja that shouldn't have died."
Sakura was shocked at hearing how Iwa handled their dead. Her mood turned sour as she continued to listen to Katsuro and she knelt so she could be at eye level with the young Genin. "You liked her a lot didn't you?"
Katsuro looked away and nodded his head in confirmation of Sakura's questions and said loudly for his sensei to hear, "No I didn't. I am not allowed to associate myself with a commoner."
Sakura sighed but smiled. "Why don't you carry Akira's body and I will handle your sensei."
"Okay," Katsuro mumbled and briefly looked at his dead teammate.
Sakura decided to let the boy grief and returned to his sensei. She helped him slowly to his feet and helped him lean on her for support. She grunted from the strain but her body quickly compensated for the sudden shift in weight. "Wish I could use my chakra for this," Sakura thought meekly. "It would make this so much easier."
"Thank you," Katsuro's sensei quietly spoke to her.
"I couldn't really let you die here," Sakura responded and slowly lead the way to her house.
"For that too," the Iwa-nin spoke. "But I was talking about Katsuro. He suffers greatly under the pressure that is put upon him by his family."
"Is it true what he said?"
"About us not honoring our fallen comrades?"
"Yes," Sakura answered.
"In a way it is true," the shinobi offered. "We are a militaristic society and strength is everything to us. And sometimes it happens when families cast out their members. We aren't proud of it but the Tsuchikage doesn't disapprove of it either."
"Sounds like a cruel man to me," Sakura said and navigated them through the forest. "I never caught your name?"
"Hisashi Takehiko," the man grunted in pain and Sakura's heart stopped in fear.
"Of course I run into Iwa's Boulder," Sakura whined in regret. "I hope he doesn't figure out that we are Leaf shinobi. Oh Kami please save us!"
"Is everything alright?" Takehiko asked in concern as he realized Sakura had fallen quiet.
"Yes," Sakura squeaked and cursed herself for her sudden nervousness. She decided to quickly use her nervousness and come up with an excuse, "I am just nervous because my husband can be quite the jealous type."
Takehiko laughed only to wince right away from pain. "Don't be afraid my dear, I am sure he is a reasonable man."
"You have no idea," Sakura muttered under her breath as she thought of Naruto's thick headedness.
"Mommy!" Sakura suddenly heard her daughter scream in joy and Sakura looked up and was surprised that she was already nearing her house. A small smile split her lips but turned to a frown as she saw Tsunade standing in front of the house, leaning on her cane and holding young Ino on the other hand.
"Damn," Sakura muttered as she saw Tsunade's frown.
"What is it?" Takehiko asked in confusion. "Is that your family?"
"Oh it's nothing," Sakura tried to placate him. "I just realized Ino's grandmother can be quite a pain when she is upset."
"Why would she be afraid?" Takehiko asked.
"Um…" Sakura quickly tried to come up with an explanation. "She doesn't like shinobi very much. She lost her fiancé and brother to the ninja world and has never recovered from that loss."
"I see," Takehiko murmured in thought. "I promise that Katsuro and I won't over extend our stay here."
"Mommy!" Ino shouted again and was now running with her arms wide open for Sakura. "Where have you been? Baa-chan and I were worried when we returned from swimming."
"I am sorry Ino-chan," Sakura said as she stopped with Takehiko leaning onto Sakura. "But this man needed my help and I couldn't just say no."
"Oh," Ino mouthed and looked with her huge blue eyes up at Takehiko. Her eyes widened in joy as they came to rest on the Iwa headband on his head. "Are you one of those ninja my daddy always talks about?"
"Yes I am," Takehiko answered with a smile. "My name is Hisashi Takehiko. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"I am U-Uzumaki Ino-chan," Sakura's daughter shouted in joy and suddenly looked behind Sakura and bounded off. "Hi! I am Ino-chan. Who are you?"
"Katsuro," the Genin grunted and Sakura could still hear sorrow in his voice.
"And who is that? Is she sick?" Ino pestered innocently.
"She is dead," Katsuro said and walked towards the house with Akira still in his arms and leaving Ino behind.
"Katsuro," Takehiko called after his student but didn't get a reaction. He turned towards Sakura, "I am sorry. I think it is best that you speak to your daughter and explain everything to her."
"She'll be fine," Sakura responded, shocking Takehiko in the process. "Ino-chan is as carefree as her father. See," she said and pointed in the direction young Ino had disappeared.
"She has already forgotten about it," Sakura said and she watched Ino hob towards Tsunade. "Let's go inside, you need to lie down and rest."
"Thank you again and I am sorry for the trouble we're bringing."
"Nonsense," Sakura said as she entered the house and directed him towards the living room. "You can use the sofa for now."
"Thanks," Takehiko said and grunted in pain as he slowly lay down. "Could I ask you of burying Akira?"
"I'll have my husband do it when he returns from the village," Sakura replied. "Now if you'll excuse me, I better check on my daughter and whether her grandmother is fine."
"Excuse me but why don't you call your mother by your name? Or is she the dreaded mother in law?"
Sakura chuckled and sighed inwardly, "Damn it I was hoping I could get away from using names."
Sakura stood by the door that lead outside and briefly looked towards the Iwagakure shinobi. "Tsunade isn't my mother or my husband's mother. She has been like an adopted mother to us and for Ino-chan she is simply her grandmother."
"I understand and I wish you good luck placating your mother."
"Heh," Sakura smiled. "Thanks."
Sakura walked through the door and closed it behind her. She briefly leaned against the door and rested her head against the wood and whispered to herself, "I think our luck is holding up pretty good so far. Let's hope it stays like that."
A/N: And that's it. Hope you liked it. Sorry for the many time skips but it'll slow down again. Next up... it's going to be a surprise.