I own neither Naruto nor Samurai Warriors.

Chapter Three

Moon Rising

Sink or swim—it's dog-eat-dog here, baby.

Weeks passed, and finally she found herself growing familiar with the terrain and the people. At first, she found class uninspiring and completely useless—until she encountered the concept of chakra.

Iruka—for whatever reason—had given the class a break from their chakra studies to cover the more tedious history component of his curriculum. It was just her luck her 'leave of absence' took the brunt of it—so when the aspiring shinobi took to the floor to practice their technique, they were rusty and bent out of shape, the perfect atmosphere for the struggling kunoichi to blend in and pretend to know what the hell was going on.

Wisely, she consulted every source she could, having discovered the academy library. Even the woman at home—mother—knew something about it, so she caught up quickly to her peers and managed to scrape along.

Though the thought of spitting fire or walking on water fascinated her, she still found the school to rather…lacking.

Sakura—she could now safely call herself that, time to time—found herself skipping class more often than she went. In fact, her attendance record rivaled that of the class clown's, but unlike her blond peer, she spent her treasured time doing something much more productive than loafing around.

Sometimes she spied in on the local dojo, eventually getting caught and forced to participate by the strangely enthusiastic teacher. She didn't mind.

There were times she scouted the forest, learning from trial and error about the wildlife around her home, finding that fortunately, what was edible and what was not from her experience hadn't changed.

Some days she stole away to the deepest part of town to people watch, learning the slang and different styles of speech—incognito, of course. She found this to be a good time to put her henge no jutsu to use. It remained unchallenged as her favorite technique.

And of course she spent time alone practicing—doing her damndest to get back into shape.

So when the girl actually deigned to go to class and waste time learning about codes and procedures—completely asinine to her, if you asked—she didn't appreciate being lectured.

"Sakura," he started, putting a hand to his forehead. She kicked her chair leg under her, trying to remember her flute fingerings for a scale. Music was an "important" part of a well-rounded shinobi education.

"How badly do you want to be a ninja?"

She immediately dropped her feet and gave him a piercing stare. How badly do you want to keep your balls, she thought.

Despite himself, the man stepped back.

"What I mean to say is—how much thought do you put into your future?"

"Every second of every day," she replied unhesitatingly, never blinking.

Iruka cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable.

"Uh, well—when you don't come to class, it puts off the appearance that you—that you don't."

"Don't what."

"That you don't care. I mean, what are you doing? When you're not here?"

She shrugged, finally breaking her unnerving gaze. Like hell was she going to give him her schedule so he could hound her down.

He sighed, looking off longingly at the door.

"It seems I have no choice then."

This caught her attention.

"No choice?"

"I'm going to have to dismiss you."

Her jaw dropped. All this work and pain and he was going to fail her? Did he not know a good ninja when he saw one? She was speechless.

"I understand you went through a…trying time a month ago, and I've given you the benefit of the doubt, but…"

"I can show you."

He deadpanned.


"I can show you I'm a good shinobi. Just give me a chance—tell me to do something, I'll do it!"

She clutched at the edges of her desk, desperate to prove herself and keep in the game. After all—it was graduation she was working for. Graduation meant getting away from this place, getting placed on a team, if temporarily, until she acquired the amount of experience to work on her own.

Free to do her own thing, as Yukimura put it.

"Well…," he eyed her uncertainly, "I suppose I can put you on probation…"

She jumped from her seat and hugged Iruka with all her strength, earning a chocked plea for breath from her instructor.

Two weeks.

The Sakura-kunoichi-girl had two weeks to pull her test scores up and show adequate progress to be able to participate in the graduation exam in three weeks.

She tapped the pen against the desk, heaving a heavy sigh as she perused over the handouts and study guides her thoughtful sensei thought to pepper her with on the way out the door. It was her ticket back to safety, she knew, but… damn if it wasn't boring.

The breeze filtering inside from her open window, beckoning her to escape. It was the perfect time of day to go swimming—and it was her day off, too…

No, she groaned, not today…

"Man, what a drag! Isn't there something a girl can do to show she's serious without wasting ten pounds of paper?"

"Sounds like you're working hard," her mother tartly noted, bearing a glass of sweating sweet green tea and cupcakes. She eyed the woman with puppy eyes.

"Can't you call the guy up and threaten him or something? This is just—impossible."

Mebuki rolled her eyes and set her bundle down on a cleared spot.

"Get to work, Sakura. By the way, your father is coming home tonight," she toned, her voice dropping low. The girl just nodded, knowing what that meant. It seemed whatever world she escaped to, her scowling shadow of a father was going to follow her. Though he was light-hearted and kind, he was also pretty serious when he found out about her progress-or rather, lack thereof.

"'Kay. I'll behave."

If behave means I won't slip anything too poisonous into his drink, she smirked to herself, though she doubted she'd do it. This family was getting to her.

"Good," Mebuki replied, bending over to gently kiss the top of her head, "now finish that up so you can help me cook. I need an extra pair of hands."


Unconsciously smiling, she returned back to her busywork humming a tune.

The food on the table had more to say than the three members of the Haruno family that night.

Picking at her leeks, the pink-haired deviant schemed to escape, but duty kept her rooted.

"How is Sakura's schooling coming along?"

Both women put down their chop sticks. This was the dreaded question.

"Well, about that…"

"I'm failing."

Mebuki shot her daughter a horrified, angry look, but to no avail. He put down his utensils and severely frowned.

"But Iru—sensei gave me another shot, so I'm working super hard. In two weeks—"

"This is what happens when I'm gone? Mebuki, if I had known you—"

"Now you're blaming me?! She was gone a long time! She—"

"—I'll take a test so I can take another test—how lame is that—and in three weeks—"

"That's just an excuse—"

"Maybe if you were home more—"

"—and in three weeks I'll graduate and become a real kunoichi. So there. Chill out."

Kizashi stopped mid-sentence, a twitch creeping across his frozen face. Sakura lifted her chin a little higher, stuck out her tongue, and returned to earlier conversation with her rice. Her mother sighed. She was expecting a reprimand from the still silent man across from her, but she was met instead with sudden laughter.

"A girl after my own heart!"

He continued to laugh, the dark cloud hanging over his mood lifted by the resolve and spunk he heard in her response. It was Mebuki's turn for an eyebrow twitch.

As a result of attending class, Sakura found herself the focus of much conversation and interest. Besides the women that trained her in the art of death, she never got along with other women, namely because she didn't work with very many. However, she found them interesting and a change from her tedious task of actually paying attention to the lectures. It was during this time, however, that made her more aware that this life she was living was not her own. These girls all knew her, knew her family, talked about memories she never had, talked about people she's never heard of. The best thing, she figured, was to go along with it. Unknowingly they were giving her the answers about this life that she needed answered.

There was just that one question about, well, why. And more pressing-how.

Through her own general observations, conversation with her mother, father, classmates, and teachers, as well as various doctor visits, she found a few noteworthy facts.

One. This girl, this Sakura, got very sick. They do not know what caused the illness.

Two. The onset of the disease, the timing, the symptoms, were very similar to the experience she vaguely remembered before her death.

The missing piece boggled her mind. How was one and two connected? If she was here, did that mean that the girl she was masquerading around as was...there? In her body?

Thinking was not her style. She preferred to do. And thinking about something unfathomable, something almost sacrilegious, was taxing at best.

And then there was her.

The long-haired blonde thought she was being sneaky, but the only thing sneaking past her was the whole reason behind this mess. Sakura decided to put an end to the shameless and honestly terrible stalking.

"I know I'm beautiful, but you can come closer. I won't bite," she coyly purred, not bothering to turn around to face the flushed Ino behind her.

"Just-just what the hell?! That's not how Sakura talks! You-who are you?"

This got her attention. She stayed silent.

"Ever since that stupid kokkuri-san thing we did, you haven't been the same! You got sick, and now-"

Her ears rang. Finally, a lead.

She turned and straddled her chair, facing Ino with a smug smile.

"My memory has been a little foggy lately. Maybe we can talk after school?" She winked and whisked back around, feeling more and more like herself. Perhaps when she learned the real reason behind all this, learned how this happened, perhaps there was a way to...

I will reach for the stars

just like you showed me to.

How's that for a revision? I found that Sakura's parents were actually introduced in the show, so I thought to actually include them. I admit to not seeing these episodes, so if they are wildly out of character, sue me. I found that they argue about minor things, her father has dull pink hair, her mom's a blonde, and they care about her.