Title: The Snow Song
Chapter: 01 - One Hundred Years Ago
Word Count: 2804
Summary: Fantasy AU. When Kakashi has a run in with a fortune teller and asks what his best future would be, the last thing he expects is for that to be taken seriously. Thrown into a world that has been locked down for a hundred years, Kakashi's options are to either go on a quest to save it… or die. KakaSaku. Written for pockyphoto, for the KakaSaku lj comm holiday gift exchange!
Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me. It's Kishimoto's and I just play with it. Part 1 of 11. Unbeta'd.
Laughter rang out under pink skies and cotton candy blue clouds. Naomi lifted her face to the sun and hurried after her daughters. "Sakura! Ino!" she called, as two little girls, one blonde and the other pink-haired, darted around the next bend in the path. "Don't go too far ahead!"
They answered her with more laughter. Naomi smiled. She could not blame the children for being so excited-it was their first foray into the edges of the Luminous Woods and they'd been dying for the treat for weeks.
The woods glowed with pale silver and golden light, all of which emanated from the trees itself. The path they were on was wide enough for three carriages to ride side-by-side and had been smoothed by magic. There was no real need to walk this way but Naomi had thought, and her husband had agreed, that going on foot would keep the girls from going too far.
Naomi rounded the bend and spied her daughters crouched over a spindly flower with electric blue petals and long green fronds. Sakura, her eyes as green as grass, looked up as she approached. "Mama," she said, beaming. "Look what we found!"
Ino ignored them both, her attention firmly on the plant, which was wriggling in place. Her small hand petted one of the leaves gently, like one would do for a pet who wanted attention.
"Do you girls know what this is?" Naomi asked as she knelt down by the flower as well.
Sakura shook her head.
Ino lifted hers. Her blue eyes-as blue as the other world's sky-were dreamy. "It doesn't like company," she said, "though it doesn't mind us."
Naomi smiled and ruffled both girls' hair. "You're right, Ino."
Sakura tugged at her sleeve. "Why does she know and not me?"
"Because you're not a green Gene," Naomi said simply, seeing no reason to beat around the bush when it came to her daughters' respective fields. "And Ino is. She's always going to know more about plants than you are."
Sakura looked mutinous. Ino had gone back to ignoring them both Naomi saw. The fronds of the flower had wrapped themselves around Ino's tiny wrists.
"What if I want to be a green Gene?" Sakura asked. "Can't I be, Mama?"
Naomi shook her head and, as Sakura's lower lip began to tremble, carried on speaking. "Don't worry my darling," she said. "You'll have your own powers and they'll be just as exciting. You should be happy for your sister who has found her own gift so early in life."
"I am," Sakura said, still sounding a bit sulky. "But I just want to know what I can do too." Green eyes peered hopefully up at her. "That's not bad, is it?"
"No," Naomi said reassuringly. "It's not bad. And when we find out what you can do, we'll be just as excited for you as we are for Ino."
Naomi wasn't worried about Sakura's lack of specialty showing yet. She was only five. It was odder that Ino, who was a year and a few months younger, was already showing.
She pressed a quick kiss to Sakura's forehead. "This plant," Naomi said, wrapping her arms around Sakura, "is what is usually known as..."
The morning passed comfortably, with much laughter. Ino was pulled, gently, away from the plant and talked into a game of tag. Naomi spread out a blanket and sat upon it, watching as the girls played games that were as carefree as they were changeable and where rules were more of a wish than a reality.
Twice, Sakura's tiny feet left the ground for the space of moments, leaving her to run across nothing but air and her green eyes were so bright that they cast shadows on the ground. As Ino got more excited about the game, her hair began to burn with golden light as it whipped about her face.
Naomi smiled. Such expressions of power now, at their young age, meant they'd grow up strong. To make them shriek with laughter, Naomi wriggled her fingers and sent illusory butterflies in purples and pinks and greens and blues darting through the air where they trailed sparks that were shaped like little stars.
The afternoon passed easily, spent in happy leisure, and Naomi rather thought that, as the girls napped after their noon meal, that the day was as close to perfect as it could be. It is a shame that my lord is not here with us, Naomi thought, gently patting Sakura's hair back from her face. But it was not to be.
Filtered sunlight, that crept through the foliage, was enough to warm the air and leave her drowsy. Naomi yawned, covering her mouth with one hand, and then shook her head firmly. She could not sleep. The Luminous Woods were as safe a place as most—but her children were young and untrained and relied on her to protect them.
And Naomi knew that she was no warrior. Her magic was devoted to illusions and gentler magics for the most part. Keeping an eye out and solving a problem before it got started was the best.
In theory, Naomi was correct.
But Naomi did not know that, from the moment they'd entered the Luminous Woods, it had been too late.
A breeze wound through the branches and rustled the leaves and Naomi yawned again. Sakura stirred; Ino didn't. Naomi smiled at the both of them and before she quite knew what was happening, her eyes closed. Her breathing became deep and even and her defenses went down.
From the far corner of the clearing, a dark figure slithered up a glowing tree and surveyed the sleepers. It had an elongated nose, a neck that was twice the length of a yard-stick and a body that faded into the shadows.
It had no mind of its own, as it was only a magical construct. It had been built for one purpose only.
Find prey. Take them. Feed on their power.
It's long tail lashed, like that of a cat's, though no cat had ever had spikes that stretched out over several feet.
The one who watched behind its eyes was well pleased and, feeling that pleasure, the construct was pleased as well. It breathed out and the tree it was wrapped around shuddered. The light began to fade as the tree turned from gold to silver and then to an icy white.
Another breath sent the same effect flooding over the clearing. Grass and flowers crumpled and withered, turning brown and black in death and then frosting over.
The little blonde prey woke with a pained cry. She stared with uncomprehending blue eyes at the white devastation that was creeping every closer to her and, with a whimper, began to shake her mother. The little girl's magic, unfocused and untrained but strong, swirled around her warily.
It made the construct hungry.
The big prey woke up groggily even as the little pink-haired prey blinked green eyes open. The woman shook her head and then paused, taking in the creeping white and the danger she and her young were in instantly.
Take her before she flees!
The construct breathed, putting every scrap of magic that sustained it into the breath. Even as the construct began to shimmer and fade—having no energy to survive any longer—ice, faster and more vicious than the slow takeover of the clearing had been thus far burst into being.
"No!" The little blonde cried. "Not the flower!"
The spindly flower that the prey had been enamoured with was directly in the path of the ice. The construct barely noticed.
The blonde-haired little girl flung herself off the blanket, towards the flower, tiny hands out-stretched as immature magic swirled around her hands.
"Ino!" The woman cried as the pink-haired child screamed.
Ice, pale and deadly, wrapped itself around the little blonde's ankle as she stood protectively over the flower, her arms outstretched.
With a slash of her hand, the woman sent the other child to the far, safe, edge of the clearing where no ice had reached. The child screamed as the woman lunged for her other daughter, pulling her protectively against her chest.
Ice crept around her ankles, around the child's ankles, and began moving upwards.
"My magic won't work," the woman said, sounding horrified, as she tried to escape.
The construct could feel it's master's humour at that. Of course the magic didn't work. The ice stole it. Fed on it. Kept it.
And the ice kept growing around the small blonde child, who still had her arms out-stretched. The ice kept growing, trapping the woman where she was and feasting on her magic.
The woman reached out towards her free daughter. "Sakura!" she cried. "Run! You must get away! Tell your fath—"
Ice, cold and inexorable, covered the woman's face.
The child, Sakura, gave a great heaving gulp and, as the construct considered chasing her with the ice, turned on one foot and ran.
No, the construct decided, feeling how pleased it's master was with it already. Two are good enough. No one needs another one that little anyway.
Sakura woke with a whimper, rolled over on her side and buried her face in her pillow to keep from crying too loud. If she made too much noise, Daddy would come running, his face pale and his blue eyes wild, the way he'd been ever since Mommy and Ino had been taken away by the ice. She'd learned that in the two months since the clearing.
She sniffled into her pillow and tried to be quiet. Daddy was doing everything he could to find Mommy and Ino and that meant she had to be a big girl and big girls didn't cry every time they had the same dream.
But it was a sad dream and she was really very young and Sakura cried because she'd been back in the clearing with Mommy and Ino again and again she hadn't done anything and just watched as they'd been taken by the ice.
Daddy had told her that no one expected her to have done anything. She was too little. She wasn't a coward for having run away, the way her Mommy had told her to do.
Sakura's lip trembled. Ino had looked brave, standing there to protect a plant. And Ino was just a baby compared to her.
She wished that Ino was there so that Sakura could be brave for her this time. But no, now Sakura had to be brave all by herself, just for herself.
And brave little girls didn't cry all alone in too quiet bedrooms.
Sakura slipped from the bed, landing on the thick, plush carpet with a soft thump and after wiping her eyes on her bedspread—though the tiny beads that decorated it were rough on her cheeks—she sniffled once more and went to get a glass of water from the kitchens. A sprite was always up to handle such requests and they never asked questions if she came in, all puffy eyed and red-faced from weeping.
What she wanted to do was go crawl into bed with Daddy. But Daddy always looked so tired lately and that made her lower lip tremble as she thought about it. Daddy was supposed to look bold and heroic, like a warrior from a tale and she was only five but she knew that warriors like that didn't ever look tired. At least, not until the battle was all over and everyone could go home safely.
Since Mommy and Ino weren't home the battle hadn't yet been won.
Good little girls didn't listen at doorways, they didn't, but as Sakura padded on silent feet down the long hallway from her room to the kitchens, she heard her Daddy speaking to someone. Going to see Daddy would let him know she'd been upset again.
Just listening to Daddy, Sakura reasoned, as she leaned against the wall and peered in the half-open doorway, would make her feel better and he would never have to know.
He was talking to a woman that Sakura thought was the most beautiful woman ever, after her Mommy. (Sakura thought her Mommy was, of course, the most beautiful ever.) The woman had long blonde hair, brown eyes, and wore white robes. A hat with a scarlet spiral on it rested on the woman's head.
"It's been months," her Daddy said. "We can't get anywhere near the woods, much less close to the scene where…" He broke off and shook his head. "Tsunade, are you certain?"
The woman, Tsunade, nodded. "All fortunes speak the same. This is only the beginning."
"Will have her part to play," Tsunade said quietly. "She is but a child now, but a child grows."
"I do not like it," her Daddy said in his unhappiest voice. The sound was staccato and sharp in her ears. Sakura knew that when Daddy talked like that, it was better for her to go, but she couldn't. They were talking about her. "I've already lost my wife and one of my daughters."
"They're not dead." Tsunade, when Sakura peeked at her, did not look unkind though the tone of her voice was harsh.
"Prove it, wise woman," her Daddy said, his voice low. "When all of your magics can no more penetrate the ice that creeps ever farther into our realm than mine can. You have no proof of anything. My wife and daughter are goneand I cannot find a way to get them back."
"The prophecies say that—"
"Damn the prophecies!"
Sakura flinched as her Daddy stood up and began pacing. He'd said a bad word.
"You do not mean that," Tsunade said quietly. "But I understand that you are grieving."
"No," he said, after a long moment. "I did not. My apologies."
Tsunade inclined her head. "The prophecies state that what's been taken is lost, not gone. There is a chance for their rescue."
Sakura hugged her nightgown close around her body. She was getting chilly but was far too curious to move.
"Some chance," her Daddy said bitterly. "When either our destruction or our saving grace are meant to rest in Sakura's hands."
"That's not what it says," Tsunade said. "Only that her love will play a part. We have the time to figure out what it truly means. She's just a child."
Sakura thought she'd never seen her Daddy look so despairing before. "We have it," he said, "but do my wife and Ino?"
Tsunade said nothing to that. Sakura, while she didn't understand much of what was being said, except that it frightened her, thought that it looked like Tsunade had nothing to say that would make her Daddy feel better.
"Surely," Daddy said finally, "there must be something we can do."
"We can try," Tsunade said and they both leaned over the table. Sakura couldn't see what was on it. "More patrols, to start with. Perhaps ask the University to put their scholars to the task of breaking through the ice."
Tsunade hesitated a moment then looked at Daddy.
"But," Tsunade said, "it will probably still come down to who Sakura trusts with her heart. Her love shall determine the rise or fall of our home. If she loves unwisely…"
"The end of everything will come," Daddy whispered.
They kept talking, but Sakura heard none of it. Her heart ached and her eyes were blurred with more tears. Sakura quietly backed away from the door and a few feet down the hallway before running back to her room, heedless of who might be awake to see her. She shut her door behind her and leaned against it. Her pink hair tumbled over her shoulders.
She didn't get everything they'd talked about. She was big enough to know that it had been a grown up talk and that, being too little, she knew she couldn't understand all of it.
But she was clever.
Daddy had said that if she loved unwisely, her love would destroy the world. Sakura sniffled as she stumbled over to her bed and reached her arms out for her favourite plush rabbit. She buried her face in it's soft fabric and hiccoughed miserably.
If her love destroyed the world then she would never get Mommy and Ino back.
Sakura knew what that meant. That meant, if she wanted them back, that she couldn't ever love anyone else.
"I'll love Daddy and Mommy and Ino," she told her rabbit. "And n-no one else. Ever. I promise."
And she wept, sinking to the floor to cry. "I won't - I won't - I won't!"
Outside, for the first time in more than a thousand years, it began to snow.