A/N: Because Sakura's family background is shrouded in mystery, I had to create one for her. So, if we find out about her family in future chapters from the manga and my version doesn't match up…well, I apologize, but I won't change it. Though, I promise to try and keep it within a canon environment.
And- It's my one year anniversary for my NaruSaku stories! Happy Valentines Day and Happy New Lunar Year!
The team traveled all night and reached their village right at the break of dawn. They raced to the Hokage's tower, their feet barely grazing the rooftops they flew across. It was almost as if they were racing against the rays of the morning sun. Sakura leapt swiftly from the tips of the rooftops, keeping the strong pace of her team captain's. Her heart was pounding and her muscles were aching from their unwavering use, but she spoke not one word of protest. If what Shiori said was right, then they were on the brink of a war. They didn't know the reason for this sudden opposition or this Valley of the Stars's target, but hesitation could be the Fire Country's downfall. The moment any warfare was scented, it was a shinobi's duty to report back to their Hokage.
"Will Tsunade-baa-chan even be there?" When Sakura heard Naruto's hoarse voice to her left, she felt the urge to look into his calming blue eyes, but she knew she needed to focus on their destination.
"I sent Pakkun ahead of us," was all the silver haired man said. Kakashi's nin-dog was a reliable resource to tap into when an urgent message needed to be delivered.
They had arrived at the door to Tsunade-shissou's office, and the Team Seven captain wasted no time on formalities like knocking. Sakura followed behind Naruto and Sasuke, standing by her teammates' side the moment the kunoichi closed the door behind her. Tsunade-shissou was sitting behind her desk, holding a sleepy looking Toru. Sakura could feel her heart flutter at the sight of her son and smiled lightly despite the growing pains in her muscles and the layers of sweat and dirt that covered her body. It was hard not to rush over to take her son into her arms and hold him.
"I suppose this is important," the Godaime said as she stood up to greet the exhausted shinobi.
"You've no idea…" Naruto said.
"Godaime-sama," Kakashi began, "we learned about a recent exchange of power in Diamond Country and have reason to believe that a Village of the Stars is behind it. They have been rumored to be taking over other small countries, one by one." The middle-aged ninja paused, and Sakura could see he was thinking through his next choice of words very wisely. The silence filled the air, letting Sakura's physical state take the front seat again. She could feel her blood pump painfully throughout her; especially in the soles of her feet. The pink haired woman took a deep breath and called her chakra to soothe the harshest of the aches. She knew that would be enough for now.
"Argh, I can't take this silence! Look, Baa-chan, some old magic hag told us that some Valley of the Stars was going to declare war. We don't know who they want to fight and we don't know why." Naruto took a deep breath of relief and smiled. "There…done."
Sakura's glare was only topped by Sasuke's, and Naruto winced at the palpable frustration sent by the two. That idiot needed to learn about some basic diplomacy.
"What else did she say?" This time the older woman's eyes were locked onto her student.
Years of training left Sakura with no hesitation when a question was asked by Shissou—even when her insides twisted at the thought of what she would have to do. "She said some unit of five people is following us and we are not to let them get to the fox."
Tsunade-shissou's eyes instantly went to Naruto. In her arms, Toru began to fuss, and as was in the Hokage's very medical nature, Tsunade-shissou began to tend to him.
"Is that all?" The blonde woman's voice was low as her eyes flickered back to the Team Seven captain. Kakashi looked calm, but then again, he was never one to reveal his emotions so readily.
"Shiori told us to go see Asuka…and to tell her that the Great War is upon us."
There was a long and unpleasant silence that grew in the room. In all of Sakura's years as the fifth Hokage's apprentice, she had seen many different emotions demonstrated by her shissou: fury, grief, disgust, pride, joy, more rage, more sadness… But never…never had the Uzumaki woman seen fear. Not when they had been on the brink of destruction by the Akatsuki, or even when one of their own was walking the line between life and death.
The look that drew over the Godaime's face as Kakashi spoke was foreign to the apprentice. And it felt wrong. Sakura rubbed her eyes to adjust to the unfamiliar sight. The blood drained from Tsunade-sama's face and the hands that held Sakura's child shook slightly.
"Tsunade-sama…" Sasuke broke his silence. He sensed it too. The pink haired woman felt something in the pit of her stomach tighten painfully as Tsunade's slight shaking began to escalate to a full body trembling. Naruto wasted no time in pulling Toru from the older woman's arms. Sakura rushed to her shissou's side and helped the Hokage to her seat, and the kunoichi bit her tongue as her hands touched the ice cold skin of the Godaime.
"Shissou?" Sakura's voice was barely above a whisper, though it seemed to echo throughout the office like a painful scream. Suddenly Tsunade was still and her eyes were pale—she must be going into shock.
"Sakura—!" Sasuke's voice called out like an order. With no time to bark back at him, Sakura merely nodded. It was like a burst of fresh air as the young medic-nin's mind switched gears. She placed her hands on either side of the Hokage's face and shot spurts of cool green chakra right into the blonde woman. This fear from a mere string of sentences had paralyzed their high leader.
"Baa-chan, what the hell is going on?!" Naruto held onto a now wailing Toru. The blond father jumped in surprise to the infant's cries and tried to calm him.
Sakura ignored all the orders being shouted around her. She was sure her team captain was trying to tell her something, but all that mattered now was bringing back their Hokage to consciousness. The woman pooled her chakra into the older woman's central nervous system, overriding what the brain was doing. She sent signals throughout the body to relax the muscles and calm the constricting veins. And soon, the heart slowed to a healthier pace, and the joints between the bones were relieved. Blood calmly flowed, bringing the color back to her shissou's face. And then those brown eyes sharpened.
"Sakura, water…" Tsundade-shissou's voice was hoarse as she spoke, but it was a clear and steady order. Barely a second passed before Sakura pressed a cold cup of water to the woman's lips.
No one spoke. No one dared to—even Toru had settled down. The Hokage finally straightened in her seat, regaining her composure.
" Kakashi," she said, " your team is to immediately go to Asuka's home."
There was a sense of hesitation that crossed the captain's face as he registered Tsunade-shissou's words. Finally the silver haired shinobi nodded and looked over to Sakura for the slightest second. Sakura felt her mind buzz with the new mission and suddenly froze. Asuka…Asuka…Haruno? The kunoichi stood firmly and looked into her trainer's brown eyes, her heart pounding furiously.
"Shissou…you can't possibly mean that I have to—"
"You are a part of Team Seven, aren't you, Sakura? So by team, I would assume that would include all of us." Sasuke's voice had the bitter taste of annoyance coupled with his usual glassy stare. Sakura narrowed her look to the Uchiha man but didn't give him the pleasure of a retort. She didn't know what the hell had him in a foul mood, but she didn't give two shits about that. The pink haired woman turned back towards her Shissou to find the blonde woman looking at her softly.
"I apologize, Sakura. I understand your apprehension, but this is not something you—nor I—have any say in. Asuka Haruno is the only person who can clear this matter for us—because if your information source was valid…we're about to be thrown into war."
"Asuka…Haruno?" Naruto's voice sounded, and in habit, Sakura looked to her husband. The blond man's eyes were as wide as saucers. "Sakura…I didn't know…"
"You can bring your teammates up to date on your family matters while you make your way to Asuka's home." The Godaime's voice was tinged with frustration. "I assume you still know where she lives?"
"I've only been there once, Shissou…" Her memory was a little fuzzy about how her parents had brought her to Grandmother Haruno's new house so long ago. She was sure it was just north of the town…had they crossed a river or a mountain range? Maybe it was both.
"That's one more than anyone else in this village." Sakura watched her Hokage's eyes soften once more. "It might help if you bring Toru with you. It could…soften her a little bit."
Sakura looked to Toru and saw her infant son smile widely. Surely her shissou was joking. Bring Toru, a six month old baby, on a mission? But this was to her grandmother's home. A place she only visited once—ever since the old bag decided to leave.
Sakura took a deep breath. "I refuse. I won't let that…woman see my son."
"Sakura-chan!" Naruto protested. "This is your family, ne? Why wouldn't you want to include your grandma in something like a grandkid?" Naruto's eyes hardened suddenly and Sakura froze. Of course Naruto would be upset. Outside of Naruto and Toru, Sakura had a family—whereas Naruto didn't. No Uzumaki uncle or aunt to share the joy of marriage and children with, no Uzumaki grandparents to spoil Toru or congratulate Sakura or Naruto…
I'm such a fool.
Sakura was completely torn. Although she should be absolutely grateful that she had a grandmother…for the greater part of her life, she was taught to forget Asuka Haruno. The pink haired woman looked to her small family and sighed. As much as she hated to admit it, Naruto was right. Toru would be just the thing to heal old wounds. At least…she hoped so.
"Okay. We'll bring Toru."
"Good. You leave by the end of the hour. I suggest all of you shower. I know Asuka Haruno to be one who prefers a very well kept company."
Sasuke Uchiha entered his home silently and quickly stripped away his soiled clothes. He tossed them into the basket he kept by the side of the doors to the master bathroom. One of the maids he kept would come to take care of his laundry later that day. He paid a nice sum to a staff of servants to keep his home in good condition while he was away on missions. Sasuke didn't find chores an annoyance—in fact, they were a good way to build discipline and a good, solid work ethic. But when there was only one person in a large estate like his…
Sasuke was quick to shower and clean away any soot or soil that had gotten onto him. He used a scentless soap, as was his preference. A ninja should leave no trace to be caught: sight, sound, nor scent- something he found was one of Sakura's numerous errors. Whenever they had a mission, she would wear some bothersome flower fragrance—it was light, but it was enough to annoy the shinobi. The Uchiha pushed his thoughts away and found he had scrubbed his shoulder till it was raw. He growled at his carelessness and picked up his pace. For sure he would be the first to arrive at their meeting site, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
As he concluded his shower, his thoughts began to process their new mission. Asuka Haruno, from what Sasuke had gathered, was Sakura's estranged paternal grandmother. How could she have been connected to that fortune teller back in the Diamond Country? The Uchiha hated having to rely on others to gather information, but this was something he would have to hear from Sakura herself.
Sasuke was clean, dressed, and packed within minutes.
"All right, Sakura, tell us what's going on." Naruto had miraculously held his tongue for that whole hour before they met up with the rest of Team Seven, and he swore he could feel his muscles twitching. It was going against his nature to not immediately clear up any confusion, especially since he would get confused most of the time. And man, this was one big ass mess.
"Well…"she said as Naruto watched Sakura shift the strap that held Toru onto her back in what looked like some weird cocoon. Naruto was a bit disappointed because he wanted to hold onto Toru, but Sakura-chan promised the blond ninja that they could switch on and off with holding him. Naruto never liked to be too far from his son, and though he knew he was being like one of those parents who would spoil their kids rotten with mountains of hugs and kisses, he didn't care. He was going to make sure Toru's life would be filled with love and warmth. And if anyone were to threaten that—Kami help the poor bastards.
"Dammit, this stupid strap!" Sakura's voice snapped him out of his thoughts of violence and plunged him right into ones of a much more lecherous nature. Sakura was trying to loosen a strap that was, rather nicely, pressing her breasts together. Naruto inched closer and helped Sakura with the tie, though his eyes were practically glued to her plump chest. Naruto had always loved the way her breasts perked just so, and their creamy color just made his mouth water with the thought. And that delicious flower soap she used didn't help his situation one bit.
"Naruto, where the hell are you looking?"
"Uh…is the strap too loose?" Naruto tried to desperately change the subject, even though he knew that if it weren't for their infant son strapped to his wife's back, face would be kissing the pavement.
"Pay attention, Dobe. This isn't some family date for the three of you. We're on a mission." Sasuke sounded pretty ticked, but when was that ever a surprise?
"Shut up, Teme!" Naruto fought the stupid blush that came over his face and forced any thoughts that weren't related to the mission into the back of his mind. That's right, Naruto thought, we're going to meet Sakura's baa-chan…
"All right, Sakura, while you lead us, you can tell us about your grandmother." Kakashi nodded toward Sakura, and the woman nodded.
"There's not too much to tell…" Sakura led the men west of the village. She was sure of it now; the house was due north past the river that snaked between the twin mountains. It would take them a good three hours if they kept a solid pace.
"Well, any information would help out," Kakashi gently urged her on.
"My grandmother used to live with me and my family. From what I heard from my mom, my grandmother had raised my dad alone for most of his life because my grandfather died in the Second Ninja World War. She used to be a kunoichi herself but had retired to raise my father and became a seamstress for a clothing shop to get them by. My grandmother was a very…strong-willed woman. My dad told me she was called the Wild Sakura because of her hair color…and because of her uncultivated personality." Sakrua tried to play down her grandmother's famed rage, but she was sure it wasn't working too well by the looks on her teammates' faces. She was sure as hell Kakashi had heard something about Asuka Haruno from Shissou…
"When I was born, my mother and father decided to name me Sakura—because I looked so much like my grandmother. And she was gentle towards me. She taught me things that my parents didn't and gave me all the love that I ever could need. I really loved her." Sakura sighed and pushed her way through a thicket of berries that signaled they were getting closer to the river. "But what my family tried to hide about my grandmother…" The kunoichi bit her lip at those painful memories so long ago. It had been the worst and the most exciting time of her young life. She had been granted admission into the Ninja Academy and her parents were absolutely thrilled. But her grandmother…
"You're lying." Asuka Haruno's blue eyes were thick and stone cold as she looked to her son. "Kaede, you jest."
"Mother…" Sakura's father looked worn, but the young girl knew he wasn't going to back down. "There's nothing we can do about it now. Sakura has enlisted into the Academy and will be starting lessons this spring."
The little pink haired girl clutched one hand to her father's dark pants and another to a piece of parchment that proved she was wanted in the Academy. This was her first step to breaking her thick shell—as Ino had put it, and Sakura had thought her grandmother would be proud of her for following in the footsteps of the Wild Sakura. But Grandmother only looked upset…
"First, you…" Sakura watched hergrandmother's pale skin darken to a red she had only seen once before on a pretty kimono at a New Year's festival. "And now Sakura? Why must you always aim to defy me…to hurt me?"
Hurt Grandmother? Sakura thought. She would never want to hurt Grandmother. "Grandmo—"
"Silence, child." Sakura jumped back in surprise at the tone of voice that came from her beloved grandmother. Those soft blue eyes she used to stare into for ages were now boiling with anger. It frightened the little girl so much that she burrowed her head into her father's leg. Sakura had seen her grandmother's rage before, but it had never…never been directed towards her. Yes, she had been disciplined, but this…was stone cold rage.
"Mother! You have no right to be angry at Sakura."
"No right? No right?! That is my grandchild! And you've just sentenced her to a life of violence and sadness! I never wanted that life for you, yet you chose it anyway. Even though you knew that very same profession took your father's life and nearly destroyed this village! Ninjas are a curse to this world—for all they bring is violence upon the simple civilians who want to live a normal life! I curse the very day I was forced to become a kunoichi."
"And that's your choice, Mother. But…Sakura wants to become a kunoichi."
"Only because you polluted her mind with your thoughts of that filthy world."
"I love being a shinobi, Mother. I protect this village from the dangers that you know all too well lurk out there. And they appreciate it! Why don't you ask Arisu?"
"Your wife was the exception. And I question her sanity for it." The older woman was stubborn.
"Well, like it or not, Mother, Sakura is on her way to becoming a kunoichi. And you can either be a part of it and her life—or not at all."
"You're making a mistake, Kaede." Sakura heard her grandmother's stiff footsteps going towards the door, and the little girl lifted her head to watch her grandmother leave their house for the very last time.
"No, Mother…you are." Sakura looked up to see a look of pure anguish in her father's eyes. Her little hands tightened their grip on his pants, and the man looked down to her and cracked a small, fake smile.
"Don't worry, honey. Grandmother will be back…"
"But she never did. My parents took me to see her once at her new house to try and persuade her to come back home, but she refused and turned us away." Sakura sighed as she finished her story and pushed along the winding river between the twin mountains. They were getting close.
"She hates shinobi…" Naruto repeated to himself in disbelief. Sakura couldn't blame him. It wasn't common to find someone who so blatantly hated the shinobi world in the village of Konoha, but there was always an exception. And Asuka Haruno was just one of those people who waved that furious flag high.
"Which will make discussion with her quite troublesome," Kakashi remarked.
"It's also the reason the Hokage wanted us to bring the brat," Sasuke noted with a look to the wide awake Toru who was now being carried on his father's chest. The infant's green eyes were soaking in the entire scene around him. This was his first trip outside of the village.
"HEY! Don't call Toru a brat, Teme!"
"Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Dobe."
"Well, you're no Prince-fuck-Charming, either."
Sakura's patience snapped. "Naruto! What the hell did I tell you about cussing around Toru? His mind is a sponge! He's going to take in everything he sees and hears and repeat it back like a damned parrot! So shut up and behave!" She could feel her face turn red as she looked down to a shocked, mute Naruto and Toru. Sakura opened her mouth to say something, but instead she sighed and kissed the top of Toru's head in a silent apology to her son. She turned back around and walked forward through a knot of trees that was the prelude to a stone bridge. Just across that bridge and the house should be in sight.
That was when they all heard it.
It would've killed any normal civilian. And were Sakura not so preoccupied, she would've sensed it earlier. But her foot had slipped past and pulled a string that triggered the hundreds of arrows that were now racing their way towards Team Seven.
"Quick! Get under the bridge!" Kakashi called out. Sakura made sure Naruto made it to the bridge in front of her, their precious cargo safe. The arrows scraped along the bridge and whipped into the knee deep river that, thankfully, was flowing moderately. Had it been summer, they would have all been swept away in the current. But the cold of the wintry water was just as unforgiving.
Sakura pressed herself close to Naruto so that her body covered Toru, just in case. She could feel Naruto's hot breath beating rhythmically onto her face, a welcomed warmth in the slush of river water. Sakura now wished that she had left Toru with her shissou.
"What was that?" Naruto looked down to Sakura.
"I don't know. It wasn't here the last time I came here." It was true. What they had just witnessed was a triggered trap. Meaning if there was one, there would be more.
"Keep your defenses up. Those arrows were clean and waxed, meaning it was a fresh trap. Someone could be tracking us." Kakashi's visible eye was scanning their perimeter, but Sakura didn't sense anyone out there. Who had set these traps?
"Okay," Kakashi whispered, "proceed with caution. Naruto, give Toru to Sakura. Sakura, stay in the center. The rest of us will wrap around you." Sakura immediately took Toru and strapped him to her chest. The little infant was quiet but his eyes were watering with worry. Sakura ran a gentle hand across his covered head to comfort the poor boy.
"And Sakura," Kakashi whispered enough for the whole team to hear, "should something happen, take Toru and run."
They took cautious steps out of the river while Sakura whispered lightly to guide Kakashi, who now lead the unit up front. Sasuke flanked the kunoichi's left, leaving Naruto to her right, though the blond shinobi drifted a little farther to cover his wife's back as well. All of Team Seven's senses were open wide to any more attacks.
Sakura scanned the perimeter, keeping one hand on a kunai tucked beneath her shorts and the other on Toru's head. The little boy was wide awake now and was fidgeting, obviously uncomfortable in this thick silence. Sakura knew he would begin to fuss soon, giving away their position, if they hadn't already.
Was this the Five? The group Shiori warned them about? Then shouldn't it be Naruto in the center holding tightly to their child? They would be after him, surely. The kunoichi didn't know anything about this enemy except their number, if their name was any obvious clue. Sakura felt her blood boil at the thought of someone laying a hand on her loved ones. If anything were to happen…
Kakashi lifted his hand as an order for them to stop. He then formed another signal to tell them something was up ahead. Sakura dug her heels into the soil beneath her, ready to pounce. She watched her team captain as he silently made his way a few yards ahead of them. Sakura watched with curious eyes, but she made sure she didn't leave herself completely open for any surprise attacks. No one was going to lay a single finger on her family.
The silver haired ninja stopped in his tracks and made a few quick hand gestures for a simple wind jutsu. The older man whipped his right hand out, and a strong current whipped the deep build-up of foliage into the air like a storm of leaves. The numerous bear traps that were once hidden by the leaves now lay visible to the ninjas.
"We're going to the trees," Kakashi said. And in one collected and fluid motion, they were all whisking their way through the vegetation. Each of the men was weaving through the branches, keeping their formation around Sakura, while the kunoichi was pulling Toru close to her, protecting him from any stray limb from a tree. She kept her eyes ahead, informing Kakashi that her grandmother's house was only a few hundred yards away.
The shuriken landed only a hair's breadth from Sakura's head. The kunoichi stopped immediately, whipping her kunai out. They needed to find their opponent's location immediately. Until then, they were sitting ducks. Sakura whipped her head about, but it didn't take her long to find the owner of the weapon that had lodged itself into the trunk of the tree that was mere centimeters from Sakura.
Down below them stood a tall, elder woman with beautiful silver hair pulled tightly back into a bun and furious blue eyes. She was dressed in a black kimono flecked with dancing blue butterflies that seemed like they would fly right off of the cloth. In the older woman's pale hand was a long steel sword, unsheathed and waiting. She had every intention to kill them and she looked like an all too worthy opponent for Team Seven of the Hidden Leaf Village.
"Come down here, you damn fools. Or I'll slice you all for my bedroom rugs," she shouted testily. Sakura's heart leapt into her throat at the all too familiar voice and immediately sheathed her kunai. Despite her cherry hair having changed to almost iridescent silver, Asuka Haruno's personality was still the same as always.
Sakura smiled. "Hello, Grandmother."