Chapter 20: Two Mothers and a Knickknack Collector
As soon as Sakura was aware she had woken up from sleeping, she reached out to grab hold of her black diary that her mentor had given her the day before. Flicking though the pages, she was relieved to find that another day had passed and was safely stored in her memory.
It was time to meet Tsunade again to dive into discussions about their ongoing problem. She was excited to be trying this, perhaps more so because she was finally spending quality time with the evasive Hokage. Currently, she was enjoying that more than finding out about amnesia. She wouldn't admit that out loud.
One thing was more important than her today though. It was Tsunade's birthday - her thirty-eighth. The fact that the woman was only twenty years older than her didn't quite feel believable. Not because of her looks, but because of her masses amounts of knowledge. She had the presence of someone much older.
Not knowing what Tsunade enjoyed outside of her job, Sakura had settled for a simple gift idea that could be given to anybody no matter their age or interests. She was playing it safe, but she did want to give the older medic a token of her appreciation for all she had done now (and likely in the past too).
After a short knock on the door and a brief answer from Tsunade, Sakura burst into their usual meeting room, a lottery ticket in hand which she waved in enthusiastic greeting.
Tsunade raised her head to smile awkwardly at her before her eyes settled on the flapping ticket.
Responding to this, Sakura walked forward and placed the small, rectangular piece of paper on the table in front of her mentor on top of whatever she had been reading at the time.
"It's not much, but it could be," she said with a smile.
It was for today's draw. There wasn't much chance of winning the jackpot but it was possible to win a smaller amount.
Her mentor picked up the lottery ticket and stared at it in silence, making no comment.
Oh dear... Had she offended her in some way? Sakura had heard the woman was a gambler (a bad one at that), so what was wrong with getting her a lottery ticket? The chances of winning anything were so slim... It was just a bit of a joke.
However, it didn't make Tsunade laugh. The Hokage placed the ticket back down and still said nothing.
Sakura grimaced. "What's wrong?"
"You usually get me a lottery ticket."
Oh. She didn't know what to say to that. This wasn't meant to be serious. It was only meant to be a token of appreciation, not have a deeper meaning. Why did she always get Tsunade a lottery ticket? Could she not think of something more personal and meaningful each year?
"You say that the day I win the jackpot is the day I should retire." Tsunade smiled to herself. "Because it will be a terrible year and that I shouldn't bring such poor luck down on Konoha. It's a bit of a recurring inside joke between us."
Sakura smiled back. "Do you ever win anything?"
Tsunade snorted at the question. "No."
Maybe deep down, she really did know her mentor quite well!
"But, Sakura, I just thought I'd tell you that... it's not actually my birthday."
Sakura crossed her arms. "Then why did you tell me it was?"
"I'm just giving you little mind tests."
Sakura narrowed her eyes. "You were hoping I'd buy you alcohol."
Tsunade laughed lightly. "Yes."
She wasn't impressed. This might be something she would need to get used to if she were to continue with these meetings.
"You do usually get me a bottle of sake as a way of saying thank you," the Hokage continued.
"Really?" Sakura replied sceptically.
"It's my favourite pastime," Tsunade persisted.
"Second to spending time with me?"
Tsunade looked at her thoughtfully for a moment before saying, "Nope, it's still my favourite."
Sakura pouted and ignored the amused Hokage as she took a seat by the lying woman's side.
Amnesia really was a wormhole. There were so many unconfirmed theories that had no factual proof behind them. Some seemed dangerous. Sakura was beginning to question how far she was willing to go when it came to medical experiments.
Sakura pointed at an image of a large machine and asked, "Will this do any potential further damage?"
Tsunade glanced at it and then looked back at what she was reading. "No, it should not."
"It just scans the brain's activity."
She wasn't very willing to be studied by machines – she much preferred a medic and chakra healing from someone she trusted. Large metal containers and cold metal instruments determining her mental state frightened her. It would be nice to have hard facts and evidence about her brain activity, but the results of them were so final.
It was almost comforting to have open-ended theories. There was no definitive conclusion until she tried them all. Would some potentially harm her though? More often than not, complicated therapies and operations had higher rates of success if done correctly.
"Are there plans that could do damage but help?"
Tsunade looked up to study her face. "Would you be prepared to try them?"
Sakura hesitated at first, and her voice wavered as she answered, "Yes."
She cleared her throat and looked back down at the papers. She was prepared, but not right now.
"There are not any we would try anyway."
Sakura tried to move back to thinking about the task at hand, but all she could think was:
Would past Sakura be brave enough to try?
Sakura sat at the dinner table with her parents. She didn't have much appetite and so slowly ate her meal.
The second meeting with her mentor had been less productive than the first. Sakura hadn't spoken to Tsunade much after their initial banter. She realised that they would soon run out of things to read. The next stage would be discussing what they should try.
Therefore, Sakura had slowed down her actions.
After reading each theory, she would sit back as if she was thinking about it, but in reality she was nervous about experimenting. What part of the experiments frightened her? She wasn't too sure. Being a test subject wasn't a nice thought and both the potential outcome of success and failure still made her stomach churn.
After she first questioned how her past self would deal with her situation, Sakura couldn't stop comparing herself now and back then. She wished she found comfort from her past but she didn't even feel like she was having normal dreams. There was nothing in her slumber that she could interpret as part of her inner-thoughts and desires apart from remember, remember, remember.
Other people could tell her about who she was. She would almost have to agree after she had missed out on ten years of her life, in which she would have had dreams and life goals and experiences that changed her. Many of them would have been with Naruto.
Naruto would have been able to comfort her right now, she knew that. He would protect her from scary machines and even scarier results. He wouldn't let something hurt her so easily. He probably wouldn't even understand the results.
She smiled to herself, almost laughing as she imagined his cluelessness with anything medical. She often found that she would then comfort herself in an attempt to also comfort him. There was something about lying to yourself that almost made things OK. Only Naruto made things a lot better than OK. He made things enjoyable and funny.
He was probably out there now causing all sorts of clueless trouble.
Or he was depressed because of her...
"You're thinking about Naruto, aren't you?"
Her mother's question surprised her. Sakura looked at Mebuki with wide eyes. How did she know that?
"Oh, honey, I just know when you get that look on your face."
"What look?" Sakura pressed.
"The thoughtful look, sad eyes but a smile on your lips before that falls too."
Sakura sighed and didn't deny it because it was a hundred percent true.
"I do miss him," she admitted.
"Maybe we should invite this boy over for dinner," her dad suggested.
"No... I can't do that. I sort of told him that we needed to take a break."
"You were dating?" Mebuki asked, her eyes widening.
Kizashi also looked surprised and uncomfortable. He sat up straighter and eyed her thoughtfully.
"No, well, not really, I'm not sure."
"Be clearer, Sakura, do I, or do I not need to beat this young man up?" her dad asked.
Her dad was very protective. She shouldn't have been surprised by this. He always liked to think he was their shield but Sakura knew her mother was much tougher than him. If there was a bug in the house, Mebuki would be the one to move it. She was fairly sure she could even recall an instant with a particularly large spider and her dad hiding behind her, as she also hid, while his wife dealt with the situation. She probably got her hatred of bugs from her father's side.
Still, she wouldn't risk it when it came to Naruto's safety. She wanted her family to like him, especially after a not-too-kind past between most people and child Naruto and unacceptable behaviour that her mother had admitted she took part in.
"Not at all. Please don't do that."
Mebuki smiled at her. "Your father's just a tease, you know he's a big softie, he'd be marrying you off to any boy that bought him a gift."
Her dad was also appreciative. He was always appreciating the thought of an action, even if it was lame. If you went out of your way to give him junk, Kizashi would make an effort to somehow put that junk to good use. He was a DIY man who was terrible at DIY. Yet somehow, his inventions did work. The thought of him allowing any boy to date her because said boy gave him a cheap gift at the door, to make him feel special, irritated her slightly.
Meanwhile, Kizashi looked offended at the thought. "No, I wouldn't sell my girl for anything!"
"Two gifts?" Mebuki asked.
"Dad!" Sakura shot back.
Her parents laughed and after a moment she did too. She could picture it happening. Her dad was a sucker for cheap junk. He likely had a larger collection of knickknacks than pictures of her – and he wouldn't forget them either. He would know exactly when and where they were from, unlike him forgetting what they did on special birthdays or family days out.
The laughter calmed down and Sakura's thoughts grew more serious. As far as she was aware, she had no dating experiences that her amnesia had taken away from her. She was serious about her job, not boys.
"At least I didn't have a wedding and family of my own to forget," she said quietly.
Mebuki hummed dismissively and attempted to revert back to the topic of Naruto. "Why did you abandon the boy?"
Sakura winced. "Don't put it like that. It sounds so cruel."
"Why did you drop your teammate?"
That wasn't much better. She grimaced again.
"Because I was too happy. For a while I didn't care if I had my memories, or my abilities, I had him and he liked me either way. But when I saw pictures of my friends and felt nothing... When everybody else around me was so attached to these images of our past and I felt left out, I just needed to leave. I wanted to feel normal again, at home. I wanted to recover my desire to learn everything for a second time."
And since then she had got nowhere alone, yet she couldn't just go back to Naruto and change her mind – although she had started up her attempts to remember again... with a shaky start that Naruto would definitely be able to help her re-think. Was that enough to start meeting up with him again? Or was that too selfish of a reason?
"Can't you do that with a boyfriend?" Mebuki asked.
Her mother laughed. "You see, you're more grown up now than you feel you are. When you were younger, for anything scary or new, you always wanted us to be with you."
"I came home didn't I?" Sakura bit back bitterly.
"You want us to help you with your memories?"
"No, I want to do it on my own, but frankly, I could use all the help I can get."
Mebuki looked thoughtful for a moment. "Then what about your team?"
Facing her team would be tough too. Facing anybody after telling them all to back off would be an awkward encounter.
"I need to accomplish something first. I can't go back to them the same as when I left, the pain won't be worth it otherwise. Other than missing my friends... my emotional attachment is nearly non-existent. What I know about scares me, what I don't know about scares me, but the possibility of never knowing, and the possibility of knowing, scares me too."
"Always the over-thinker," her dad joked.
Latching on to the chance to change the tone of the conversation, Sakura tried her best to smile genuinely. "You know what I'm thinking? What's for desert?"
Talking about her team, and Naruto especially, gave her heartache. There were only so many love and amnesia talks that she could take in a short period of time. People just wouldn't drop the subject of her and Naruto, even those who didn't know much about their relationship, and she knew she would never drop that subject either.
She didn't think she could last much longer without him and that meant that she needed to start making progress with Tsunade.
Sakura was surprised the next day when she reached their meeting room and her mentor was not already waiting for her. Thinking about it, there had not been a time over the past two days when she couldn't find the Hokage hunched over the large desk with an even larger pile of paperwork to work through. She had even left nearly an hour early yesterday morning and the woman was still there before she was.
As Sakura was unsure if she should make a start on their research alone or not, she closed the door again and walked back down the corridor to search for her mentor instead. She didn't want to read and discuss today. She wanted to make a start on something more substantial. Hopefully, Tsunade wasn't busy with something else – she was the Hokage after all, Sakura was lucky for all the time that her mentor had dedicated to her.
Voices could be heard from the Hokage's office and Sakura was glad that Tsunade was so easy to find - if Tsunade wasn't in her office, their meeting room or the hospital then she would be stumped. She would probably then start looking in bars.
Sakura knocked the door and the voices stopped.
Sakura opened the door and stopped in her tracks as she realised who was talking to the Hokage.
It was the two people she had come across walking through the streets - the Sand ninjas who she had awkward eye contact with before completely ignoring, which was happening again now. They blankly watched her and she stared back at them.
Tsunade spoke up, "Sakura, this is Temari and Kankurō, our allies from the Sand village."
"Hi," she greeted them with an awkward smile.
They nodded back.
Then it hit her. Naruto had told her about these two! Kankurō was the ninja she healed. He was Gaara's brother, the Kazekage of the Sand, and Temari's sister too. They were good friends and she had completely blanked them like an idiot.
Briefly smacking her head with shame, she stepped towards Temari and held out her hand for them to shake. "I'm so sorry, Naruto told me about you. I know you, but I didn't recognise you, I'm sorry."
Temari ignored the handshake and pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry for ignoring you too, Sakura. We didn't want to intrude; you looked a little... engrossed in thought."
She had been near to a breakdown when she walked passed them. She felt bad for it, but if they had stopped and talked to her she could have ended up crying on them so at least that didn't happen.
"Don't worry about it," she told them genuinely.
Temari pulled back and Kankurō was soon to hug her as well.
"What have you gone and hit your head for, eh, Sakura?" he said as he held her tightly.
She tensed. "Uhh..."
"You'll fix it. You're the best medic in the world."
He pulled away and smiled at her and she awkwardly scratched the back of her head. "I currently can't control chakra at all."
"What?" Kankurō answered in confusion.
Temari smacked her brother around the back of the head. "Kankurō!"
He moved out the way and looked at her more seriously. His teasing demeanour slowly fizzled into one much more serious. "Sorry..."
"It's OK," she said with a small smile.
She would probably normally respond to him much differently to how she was now. She saved his life – if that didn't create a bond between two people then what did? He was viewing her as a completely different person and she was effectively meeting him for the first time.
Trying to change the subject and get some conversation going, she gestured to the wrappings he carried on his back. "What's that?"
"This?" Kankurō lifted off the large object off his back and placed it on the floor. Proudly presenting it, he grinned. "-Is my puppet!"
An involuntary shiver passed through her and she took a step back. "I do not want to know."
Kankurō took his hand off the wrappings and she was glad when he didn't take the puppet out of its bindings.
"They creep me out," she added, not wanting to offend his obvious pride and glory.
"Still?" He pouted at her.
Still? What did that mean? It was a recent, unpleasant discovery but likely coming across them at any point would cause her to dislike them. She couldn't voice how strong her hatred for them was - there was even some fear...
"Why, Sakura?" Tsunade asked her.
"I had this nightmare. It was horrible. There were all these puppets and I couldn't save this old lady. It was just-" She shivered again.
"That's real, Sakura!" Kankurō told her with enthusiasm.
"Kankurō," Temari warned.
"You fought Sasori with Lady Chiyo and you won and then she passed away saving my brother, Gaara."
Sakura stared at him before lowering her head.
It had been a terrible dream. It was realistic, but that didn't make it real. She couldn't recall it all properly now, but the feeling of sadness was still present. She didn't know 'Sasori', nor did she want to. She didn't even want to know 'Lady Chiyo'; she didn't want to know if she was close to her, because she was dead. She may have saved Kankurō, they may have defeated Sasori, but she didn't manage to save the old woman who was obviously somebody good.
"I never liked Chiyo," Tsunade chipped in, "she had been my rival and we never got on. But you greatly respected her, Sakura. I didn't think it was possible to change her, but it seemed like you did. I thought of her a little differently after your stories too."
Was it worth remembering that bond and respect, only to remember the sadness of her funeral right afterwards?
"Unlike your dream, she was not yours to save. She died of choice and in the most honourable way. She gave her life to resurrect Gaara."
Resurrect?! Sakura's head shot up in shock. Not possible, surely? That was definitely not in her dream. Could it all be a coincidence?
"I didn't see Sasori... I can barely picture Lady Chiyo's face... The puppets were just endless monsters..."
"Puppets are cool, Sakura. One day, I will show you that," Kankurō said in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Sakura smiled back at him. "I don't think so."
"Drop it, Kankurō, you've tried this before." Temari hissed before flipping her personality and smiling at her. "We should hang out, Sakura, you, me and Ino. No puppets, no idiotic younger brothers."
"That sounds good, Temari, but I'm... awkwardly avoiding most people at the moment."
Temari sighed. "We already knew that. We've been getting updates."
Sakura raised any eyebrow.
Kankurō nodded in affirmation. "We want to know about our favourite Konoha medic. Even Gaara was worried."
"Gaara doesn't worry," Temari disagreed.
"He does when it comes to Naruto and Sakura," he countered.
"She's ignoring him too," Tsunade pointed out.
"Aw, no, Sakura," Temari commented before questioning, "Ino?"
"We're speaking," Sakura replied.
"So I guess you'll soon be talking to Naruto again." Temari laughed.
Was that because Ino would work on getting them back together? That was true but why would Temari know that? Did everybody, all over the world, want her and Naruto be a couple? What was with these people? Why? She did not know how to feel about it. It was weird.
"I was kind of hoping she would get with Gaara, just so she could officially be our younger sister and move to the Sand," Kankurō added.
Temari grinned at the thought. "True, but come on, her and Naruto?"
If there was a less subtle way of getting out of this than walking straight out the room, she would have done it by now. She looked at Tsunade for help, only to be greeted with amusement.
Thank God Ino wasn't here – or Naruto. She would die of embarrassment. Yet she had a feeling that Naruto would defend her from their teasing.
She missed him.
Tsunade finally gave her some mercy, however what she said next made Sakura's heart fall.
"We won't be researching today, Sakura."
But she needed to make progress right now. She needed to achieve something and then run to Naruto and apologise profusely.
"I have some Hokage things that I need to do," Tsunade added after seeing her disappointment. "Go home."
Sakura pouted. "I'm going to be bored today."
"When I send Naruto away, you complain you're bored out of your mind, but when you do, it's still my fault? You could go see him you know."
That sounded like the old her - the person Ino had originally described her as. She didn't ever want it to be true of her current self.
"I can't quite yet," she mumbled.
"We can hang out today, Sakura," Kankurō said.
Oh dear. Hang out with the puppeteer who seemed very attached to her?
"We're meeting Shikamaru today," Temari pointed out to her brother.
"We don't have to meet your boyfriend today."
"We promised and he's not my boyfriend," Temari growled back with an accompanied death glare.
At least she wasn't the only one who got teased about romance.
"Just go home, Sakura. We'll meet again tomorrow morning," Tsunade said.
Sakura sighed. "OK..."
As she turned to leave, she spotted the lottery ticket on the desk and nodded at it. "Any luck?"
"I won some money."
Sakura grinned. "Way to go!"
Tsunade didn't look too pleased.
Sakura's smile turned into a look of confusion. "Were you not happy with the amount you won?"
Tsunade shook her head. "I tend to associate me winning anything, or being lucky, with bad things."
That was a bit of a downer on any time something nice happened by chance. Did something bad always happen? Just how bad were the outcomes?
"When was the last time you won something?" she asked.
"A few months ago, before you left on a mission, I bet you that I would win some stupid bet at the pub."
Sakura's eyes widened. Did she mean...?
"You came back to me in a coma."
Tsunade looked crestfallen. It certainly wasn't her mentor's fault that she knocked her head, fell into a coma and developed amnesia. It would be crazy to associate the two things.
"Don't worry about it, shishou. I bought the ticket for you. I'm sure it doesn't mean anything bad will happen."
Tsunade smiled sadly.
"Maybe my luck is a little better than yours and you winning actually prophesies good things to come."
Tsunade stared at the door, her gaze becoming ever so more serious. "Your luck is pretty poor too."
"Amnesiacs have to develop good luck. I think that's only fair," she replied optimistically.
After nodding awkwardly to both of the Sand siblings, she turned to leave.
"See you around, Sakura!" Kankurō called after.
"We can meet up soon!" Temari added.
Apparently, she had been good friends with those two... They seemed nice, very friendly, yet a little intrusive.
Following her mentor's wishes, Sakura went back home. She sat at the kitchen table and propped her elbow up on the surface to lean her chin in her hand. She was already bored.
"Ah, Sakura, you're back," her mum commented as she walked into the room. "What's wrong? Naruto?"
"Tsunade's busy," she huffed, "so no research today."
Mebuki pulled up a chair and sat next to her daughter. "It's happening again."
Sakura looked at her mother blankly.
"Twice in a row you've left in the morning before I was even up. As soon as you train with Tsunade, that's all you want to do."
Sakura felt sorry for her mother. She didn't want to pull away from her for a second time – but she would have to. There was only so much leaning on other people that she was prepared to do. She knew her parents wouldn't mind, that they would even enjoy it after not seeing her like this for years, but she wanted to grow up as normally as possible.
Tsunade wasn't just a teacher to her, but like a second mother who watched out for her like family. Sakura felt incredibly close to the Hokage and loved her like a mother. Mebuki and Tsunade were different, yet Sakura felt like she needed them both. They were both important to her. It was just that Tsunade was the sort of person Sakura wanted to be – she held the knowledge and skills and answers that Sakura wished she knew. She needed to be more independent to achieve those things.
"Is it tough to see me grow up?"
Mebuki smiled and shook her head. "You're already grown up, Sakura. You've not changed."
"At all?" Sakura frowned.
Surely she couldn't be exactly the same as before she hit her head.
"I don't see you any differently. Maybe you were a bit confused, and rightly so, but you're still Sakura."
"Not even a little bit?"
Mebuki shook her head.
She was sort of hoping that people would tell her she was better now.
Her dad entered the kitchen and headed to the sink to place a glass in the washing-up bowl. Sakura jumped at the opportunity to ask his opinion.
"When I grew up, did I change at all, dad?"
"Let's see... You got taller, and louder."
Kizashi nodded. "You can be as scary as your mother sometimes."
When Mebuki glared at him, he rushed out of the kitchen and made himself scarce. Her mother then stated, "Ignore him. You know how much of an idiot your father can be."
Sakura looked at her blankly. She hadn't been living here long, but plenty of times she had seen her parents bantering and witnessed her mother take a swing at her dad. They had only gotten worse over the years.
"You're not having marriage problems are you?"
Mebuki laughed. "No, sweetie, he just tells really bad jokes sometimes."
Sakura wasn't convinced.
Mebuki noticed. "Perhaps we didn't allow you to see it when you were much younger, but just because I hit him, doesn't mean I don't love him. Even you punch him on the arm sometimes."
Her dad did irritate her, but she loved him and couldn't see herself going beyond exasperation and taking a swing at him. It was too often that she felt like knocking some sense into people, Naruto was the prime example, but she had managed to reign herself in so far. She hoped that even if people wouldn't say she was different now than before her amnesia, she could at least aim to be less violent, less selfish and work on her faults.
"I can't imagine myself doing that."
It was Mebuki's turn to look unconvinced, but Sakura insisted, "I'm not a violent person."
Her mother laughed. "Not even towards Naruto?"
Sakura frowned. "No."
After her mother had come down from her laughing high, her face turned more serious. "You used to talk about him as I did your father."
Sakura stared back, not knowing what to say.
"I actually assumed you were dating, more than once. I do think you have a special bond."
"...Like you and dad?"
Mebuki nodded. "Don't leave him alone too long, Sakura. I can see you're very important to him."
And Naruto was very important to her. He really did mean a lot to her. She could not deny that they had a special bond. She didn't want to live without him. She didn't want to go long without knowing he was OK. She had thought about him more than herself since she had woken up in hospital.
If he hadn't been there for her, she might not even be who she was right now. She wouldn't be as happy. She wouldn't feel as safe. She wouldn't feel as loved.
"What can I say to him?"
Mebuki smiled. "Only you can answer that."
Sakura stood up and pushed her chair backwards. "Thanks, mum. I'll be back soon."
Sakura returned to the Hokage's office to see her mentor. Tsunade had been surprised to see her turn up after being told to go home. Sakura noted that the woman looked a little tired, so hoped her request wouldn't be too much to ask.
"Will it take long to do a physical test? Anything will do. I just want to get some kind of concrete result about where I stand."
Tsunade's eyes widened slightly. "I was under the impression that you didn't want to jump into tests."
Sakura wasn't surprised that Tsunade had realised that. She had acted awkward yesterday and even displayed fear when it came to certain theories and tests.
"I'm ready now," she said with confidence.
It just needed to be something small.
"I've wanted Ino's dad to look at you. I wanted to test your brain, monitor its activity, and even monitor your dreams and REM sleep since you seem to think they are so important."
Sakura nodded slowly.
"We can start with a brain scan. Then we'll see if your brain has healed."
"Today?" Sakura said hopefully.
"What's motivated you?"
"I want to go and speak to Naruto soon. I need to convince myself I've got somewhere without him."
Tsunade studied her silence.
Please, Sakura inwardly prayed. She knew her mentor was busy, but she wanted to go and see Naruto today. She wanted to see that he was OK and that she didn't hurt him badly and that she still had a chance to make it up to him. She was almost desperate.
"OK, Sakura. We'll do the scan now."
"How long will it take?" Sakura asked nervously as Tsunade strapped her head and limbs down to a white, plastic medical bed.
"Up to two hours. I want to be thorough."
She would have nodded if she was able to but instead she lay there silently.
"You've had this done before, for fun in the past," Tsunade informed her.
Tsunade pushed the thin bed backwards, and Sakura found herself inside a small circular tube. There was breathing room, but she was glad she wasn't claustrophobic.
"The brain is always interesting for a medic to study. Now, don't move."
She couldn't move if she wanted to. She wasn't going to enjoy this, but it had to be done.
When the machine turned on, there was a deep whirring noise before it transformed into a continuous low humming sound.
"Could this not be done with chakra?" she asked.
"Not if we want a picture. We need this scanner for comparison to the past and future," Tsunade's voice sounded as if it was in the tube with her and Sakura looked as far upwards with her eyes as possible to spot a small speaker. "I can hear you, but the less you speak the quicker this will be."
At least she wouldn't be alone during this. It would be more comforting to have Naruto here too.
Now she had two hours of thinking to do.
Two hours to convince herself of what she was doing, or two hours to change her mind.
The time went by slowly. She closed her eyes to take her mind off the small space she was trapped in.
At least after this she could give Naruto news on how she was getting on. She would be more interested in how he was though. She couldn't wait to see his face and hear his voice. Her parents would want to know the results too - and Ino, probably.
Tsunade's thoughts would be key. Why was it that Tsunade suddenly showed more ongoing interest in her? Obviously, she had always been keeping an eye on her and making notes, but she originally refused to train her and avoided as much contact between them as possible. That couldn't all be because she was waiting for her to be ready to talk about these things.
"Why did you suddenly decide to help me, shishou?"
"Don't speak. Ten minutes left."
Did that mean Tsunade couldn't speak either? The woman was too good at avoiding personal conversations. They were opposites in that respect. They got on well. It would be nice to be a bit more open with each other.
Sakura opened her eyes when Tsunade pulled her out of the scanning container and then proceeded to undo the bindings. She lay there for a moment, still feeling paralysed despite being free to move.
Slowly, she sat up and stretched.
Tsunade walked across with a large image. When Sakura first saw it, she noted lots of little images of her brain at different angles.
The Hokage pointed to the front of the brain and ran her finger along its outskirts. "The swelling has gone and all of the damaged tissue has healed. Both the hippocampus and temporal lobe appear to be healthy."
"That's...good," Sakura noted.
"It is. It's the best possible outcome."
That was something. Yet did that mean she should have remembered by now if her brain had healed itself?
"And what does it say about my amnesia?"
"Sometimes, amnesiacs appear to have completely healthy brains, even on the initial scan. Hopefully this means that things won't get worse."
Hopefully. It was not certain but it was better than not having any clue at all if further problems would develop. This meant that if anterograde amnesia was unlikely, she could feel less selfish by going back to Naruto and being a part of his life again. Since it was only hopefully however, she felt like she would need to talk to him about the possibility of her getting mentally worse. It would only be fair for them to both be prepared.
Tsunade sat down next to her on the medical bed. "I'm happy with that."
"Me too, shishou. Thank you."
After a brief moment of silence, Tsunade reached over to take the images of her brain back. The Hokage stared at the paper.
"To answer your question, when I stopped avoiding you, I was finally prepared to accept that you may never get your memories back."
Sakura's eyes widened and she looked at her mentor but Tsunade still wouldn't look at her.
"I'm still prepared to try. I can't blame myself for this – nobody understands it yet. I just want you to be happy and I will always make time for you. I will teach you any time."
Sakura stood up and turned to face her mentor head-on before leaning forward and pulling the older medic into a hug.
"Thank you," she mumbled. "You're like a second mother to me."
Despite not being a hugger, Tsunade hugged her back firmly.
"Please pick a time when I have lots of paperwork. I can shove it onto Shizune then. You know she has a soft spot for you too."
Sakura laughed and pulled back. "If you are busy, I can just get Shizune-san to teach me instead. I wouldn't want to distract you from such important work, would I?"
Tsunade stood up from the medical bed and walked over to a desk where she must have sat for the scan. She began sorting through a file. "Like today?"
Sakura winced. "Sorry, I wanted to get this out the way. I'll go see Naruto now."
She didn't rush off. She took a deep breath.
It was time to face Naruto.
She would just apologise. Surely he would take her back. If he didn't, she wouldn't know what to do. She wouldn't blame him but it would hurt.
She cared too much to lose him.
"You don't want to remember."
Sakura blanched, caught off by her mentor's words.
"Of course I do," she denied.
Tsunade looked disbelieving.
Sakura sighed. "It's just that I'm frightened. I want nothing more than to remember who I am, what I can do, what I have done... But I'm scared I won't like it, that I won't like who I am, what I have done, how I feel."
Tsunade nodded. "You fear that you were a bad person, or that you did bad things."
If she were suddenly to remember hurting her friends... if she suddenly remembered all the times she hurt Naruto... she would die a little inside. Recalling all her mistakes and all the sad times would be heartbreaking.
"...Did I do bad things?"
"Anybody who worries about being a bad person is not a bad person."
But even good people do bad things. She knew for a fact that she made mistakes. She didn't like her childhood behaviour and from what she had heard, she had experienced some intense events in her lifetime.
"But how did I treat Naruto?"
"You tease him, you put him in line when he is inappropriate, but we all know he can't dislike it that much, because otherwise he would not still treat you like he does."
"But is it possible that my feelings will change?"
She was worried about that. She was worried that she would remember and all of a sudden Naruto would be something different than what he was. She never wanted to see him differently to how she saw him now. He couldn't get better.
Tsunade regarded her with amusement. "Your feelings won't change, you just won't be able to hide or ignore them."
The sureness in the Hokage's tone made her feel awkward. "You sound certain."
"If you do remember, you will die of embarrassment."
Surely that was better though if nothing changed? Now uncomfortable, she tried to get off the subject. She looked away, straight ahead of her and cleared her throat. "Well that's better than learning you're a terrible person."
"Learning you're in love?" Tsunade clarified.
"The emotions that come with that are difficult enough without having amnesia," Sakura grumbled, eyeing the exit to the lab room.
"I know why you are ignoring him, Sakura. He has completely changed this entire experience for you. But you need to accept what is real and move on."
He had. She did.
"So I can die of embarrassment when I remember?" she asked, allowing her eyes to drift back to the Hokage.
"So you can be happy if you don't."
If he did accept her again she would be happy. She was so invested in his answer and what he would say that she was getting too nervous to go and see him.
"Will he take me back?" she asked worriedly.
"He's dying waiting."
She slumped. "I'm a terrible person."
"You're a good person, Sakura. But the guilt you harbour for the smallest of things is just daft."
"This wasn't small."
"But you had good intentions. That's why you still have so many good friends. The person you were has resulted in the support you have now."
She had never thought of it like that. She had always thought that her friends were so good that they would help her even if she wasn't the kindest of souls. But you had to care for someone to put as much effort as they were doing into helping her. At some point, she might have been a bad person, but she must have come out the other side with a minimum of the best intentions.
She didn't believe she deserved someone like Naruto - he was just too good for anyone. However, she had given him enough in her life to capture his attention, and she did not want to pass up the opportunity to be his friend. To be something with him.
What she would do next would be for her, and if her past self didn't like it, she didn't care one bit.
We hit 50,000 views on Amnesia! *High five*. And we're at chapter 20. Thanks everyone for your continued support. I had a day off work yesterday so I spent about half of it writing this and then spent the same amount of time today finishing it off.
Lots of little things happened in this chapter. I like writing the bond between the Kankurō and Temari and Sakura. I think that after Sakura saved Kankurō and helped saved Gaara, there would definitely be a connection between her and the Sand Siblings. I always enjoy writing relationships like that.
I was also thinking of changing the summary. I thought of it before I started uploading and was only on about chapter 4. Back then I had a very different idea about where I wanted this to go. It was back in the days when I wrote without the intention of uploading anything to this website.
Naruto will finally be back in the next chapter. And there will be NaruSaku.
Thanks for reading and for all your kind feedback.