Oblivion. She hadn't known what the word truly meant until the moment her ex-knight in shining armor plunged his katana into her heart.
One moment all those worries and doubts and all the subtly macabre things that haunted and ruled her world were there. In the next, the dirty battlefield disappeared from her view; replaced by that infinity of white, of oblivion around her, easing her panicking soul. She seemed to be suspended in the strange substance, while her mind was put into an almost meditative state.
Oblivion,she thought vaguely. It was the only thing that she came up with for this alien feeling. A voice that sounded suspiciously smooth and silky, almost innocently seductive whispered in her ear, like a soft breeze in the summer.Yes, oblivion…come, dear, rest your feet here, there's plenty of time…don't ever leave…She felt herself slipping away, into the soothing voice…
A series of lucid images filtered through her mind, brushing against her sense of responsibility. Something felt wrong. Maybe it was the hollow cavern in her chest where her heart was supposed to be. Then, it hit her- she couldn't die yet. There was still something she needed to do. No, no, no!She couldn't die right here, right now, not when she was so close!
Her thoughts were clearer now, her sense of duty rekindled. I can't die yet,she yelled at the voice in the whiteness. Not when she was only an arm's length away to avenging her. She screamed with a renewed vigor, not from the burning agony in her chest, but for the best friend she'd once had who had died from the same hands wielding the offending blade that protruded from her back. She forcefully pushed the white expanse away, resurfacing into reality, fueled by that long platinum blond ponytail and those icy chips for eyes.
Then, she was there again, in that familiar vast yet empty field that had once been her home, her village. Her attacker still standing a few inches away, staring at her with those nightmare-inspiring red eyes. This was where she was going to die.
She'd barely had the time to make those observations before Oblivion* called out to her once more, hushing her senses and telling her to shut the hell up, to enjoy her deserved peace and abandon the living hell that she knew as her life. It reasoned that here, at cloud nine, there were no madmen trying to conquer the world or her spirit. There weren't any achingly familiar dead bodies littered on the bloody battlefront either. She felt herself agreeing with that, until her other persona decided to interfere.
Don't forget Ino-pig, Inner's boisterous tone was somber for once. He killed her.
That was all the motivation she needed to wiggle loose from Oblivion's grasp. She couldn't succumb to death before she slits his throat; before her skin was stained with so much of his blood that they were the same shade of red as his eyes. She screeched a makeshift war cry, and wormed her way back to be material world.
The monster in front of her was apparently not happy with her admirable clutch on life, however. A second blade was drawn out of its sheath, the hollow ring eerie to her ears. Without hesitation, it was inserted painfully slow into her upper chest, joining its bloody twin in her right atrium.
For a split second, as the cold metal pierced through layers of cardiac muscles, everything was crystal clear to her. The man standing in front of her was no longer the tragically beautiful prince that had ruled her past, taking up her time and rendering her useless for most of her early years. He was nothing but pure, unadulterated chaos now. He was too far gone for her suffering to sway him anymore.
The woman screamed again, and the man- no, beastin front of her cackled. This time though, someone else joined her, adding to the fray of the chorus their voices created. She vaguely recognized the new voice in the back of her mind…spiky blond hair and blue, almost cyan eyes…
The cackles died out, and the man once again plunged the blades deeper into her chest, causing the woman to convulse violently. Three more inches of metal peeked out from her back. Dear God, how did she ever love this beast? Ten years ago, he was the world to her. Thinking back now, she was revolted by her emotions for him.
As if following her thoughts, her murderer grinned at her, showing those pearly teeth. His face was dirty from war; sweat and blood marring his natural beauty. A couple of images- no, they were memories- played before her eyes, stirred by the sight of what was left of what was once one of the driving forces of her life. One stood out to her- the night that he'd finally abandoned his teammates, opting instead to sell his body to a certain S-class criminal in order to accumulate the power for revenge.
She felt conflicted. As much as she hated to admit it, he was still handsome to her, even with the madness clouding his crimson irises. Evil hot guys are still hot,Inner quipped. It sickened and excited her to think that the last moment they'd be spending together was being bathed in each other's blood. Feelings like that just don't change, do they? Well, they were going to now.
The woman let herself return that malicious grin he fixated on her. There was no possible way that her arm can move fast enough to cut his windpipe now, but she felt immensely satisfied by the glimmer of doubt and disbelief he'd suddenly projected, obviously not understanding her sudden shift in demeanor. She laughed, spittle flying into that beautiful, stunned face. It soon turned into a weak cough, globs of blood heaving out of her mouth and landing on the packed earth below. Her conscious was fading fast, her soul being dragged into that damned oblivion as her brain began to shut down from the lack of blood and oxygen.
She was fading.
The world was still for a second, as if stunned into a reverie, stopping to revolve around her pain. Until someone had finally joined her struggle.
The bloody flowers blooming endlessly from her wound, staining her green flak-jacket, seemed funny- like her rugged blond savior's tears and his frantic screams- who was he, anyways? She had a feeling that he was important, but then again, it could've just been the torn but still fancy white robes he was wearing, adorned with the kanji for Rokudaime Hokageon the back. Hm, that was definitely it. Why is he fighting that evil pretty man? And how did she end up cradled in that strong arm, the katanas removed but the blood still pouring out of all her orifices? Didn't he know it was useless to save her now?
No matter, she was tired right now. It was time to sleep, and Inner blatantly agreed. Funny, they were actually agreeing on her death day out of all days. She closed her eyes, the sounds of the two roaring men and clashing metal dying as she snuggled into the warmth of her Hokage.
Oblivion welcomed her with open doors, and this time, she had nothing that tied her to the real world anymore.
Ah, sweet oblivion, why was she denied of it for so long? This was what she had wanted, her delicious escape. Maybe this was the choice she should've picked after they've killed her first precious person, instead of following those thrice be damned shinobi rules and seeking vengeance instead. Ha, she even sounded like one of those damn bastards…what was his name again? Something with an S, like hers.
She relaxed, letting the calming color envelope over her. It was like one of those hot springs in the Land of Hot Water; you just wanted to stay in there forever. Oh, yes. Being dead was fun. Some years ago, her blond mentor had told her that at certain times in your life, death was a better prospect than life. Tsunade-shishou was right this time, it seemed.
Unbeknownst to the last Uchiha and the last Uzumaki, Haruno Sakura spent the last of her strength on a wan smile as she was drawn into eternal sleep. Farewell, Sasuke, Naruto. Cha!Inner's final exclaimation trailed away as her senses fled her.
Warning: Heavy Dialogue ahead.
"Your story does not end here."
At the sound of that male voice, so deeply intimidating and authoritative, Sakura jolted into consciousness. Her breathing filtered in and out of her spent lungs as struggled to open her eyes.
Her eyelids peeled away slowly, as if they were glued to her eyeballs. It was bright outside, where ever the hell she was. She must have been sleeping for quite awhile…
Suddenly, the flaps of skin rolled back, and blinding white light attacked her pupils. She quickly screwed them shut again, and an earth-shattering headache followed.
"Shit!" The pink-haired woman hissed in pain and clutched at her head, feeling drops of sweat trickling down her scalp, leaving a cold trail of gooseflesh on her neck. God, this was worse than a Tsunade-level hangover.
And then she recalled that she was supposed to be dead.
The last thing she remembered was finally kissing the world good bye, finally getting her eternal peace, finally leaving behind her dysfunctional teammates, finally letting go of her destroyed home…
It seemed like only a few seconds ago, but at the same time, it felt like an eon had already passed.
Something inside of her twinged, and her confusion resurfaced again. The last time she checked, death did not involve any conscious or twinges or anything of that sort. While her skull still trying to crack itself open, Sakura's mind spun as it tried to come up with a logical explanation.
Did her body, conditioned with years of raw survival skills and medical instincts, somehow managed to miraculously cure itself? Or maybe Sasuke died, and Naruto somehow succeeded in saving her. But that was impossible, considering the Hokage was an idiot at medical jutsu and he was pretty evenly matched with his nemesis. Or did they both succumb to a deadly double attack, and the owner of the powerful voice had found her and managed to revive her?
Yet none of her conjectures made any sense. There were no survivors within a 100 miles radius of the battlefield that had once been Konoha. The voice was probably Inner. No one could've rescued her besides Naruto and Sasuke. The former only knew basic first aid, and the second was a dick. Even if she was somehow revived, she should be in a comatose state.
So that left her with one possibility.
Could it be…?
While she tried to soothe her headache, she ran a quick check through her body systems. Nothing was wrong. Her heart was intact and beating, and none of her entrails were located outside of her body…In fact, she felt…fine.
"That is because you are dead."
"Shut up, you good for nothing mental defect." Sakura murmured back, rubbing her forehead.
Without warning, she felt an absolutely devastating amount of chakra surging forth, pressing down on her.
Sakura screamed as the pain from her headache shot off the charts, magnified by the impossible amount of killing intent in the air. This…this chakra signature, if could even be called that, made Madara's look like a wet kitten's, and made the Ten Tail's seem like a joke. It was suffocating, and she felt her blood dance and bubble in her veins, her chakra trying to escape her body, her mind gnawing away at itself. Holy Kami! She curled into herself, trying to shield her mind from the destructive chakra.
And as quickly it came, it disappeared.
"Never address me like that." There was a venomous edge to the monotone as the cold order was delivered.
There it was again, the voice. So it meant that it was real…and this same person possessed the most powerful chakra she'd ever encountered.
It made her feel oddly weak and useless.
"Child, I only will say this once. Look. At. me."
Sakura flinched. Hesitantly, she opened her eyes, afraid of what she'll see.
And once she adjusted to the light, she felt her stomach flip.
Below her was Konoha.
The full sun was shining above her, illuminating the beautifully wooded landscape beneath her. Gone was the barren field that was bulldozed flat by the Fourth Shinobi War. It was full of life, bustling, each and every shop where it should be, and the Hokage monument was still intact, with the five faces still adorning its surface—Naruto, the Sixth, was named Rokudaime Hokage on the battlefield the minute her old mentor was declared dead.
This was pre-War Konoha.
And she was floating thousands of meters above it all, suspended in mid air. It was as if there was an invisible layer of glass between her and the village she cherished so much.
Alarmed, Sakura scrambled up, expecting to fall down towards her death. Instead, she landed solidly in midair. "Impossible." She whispered, dragging her feet on the flat surface. "This has to be a genjutsu. Genjutsu."
"Foolish girl." The voice was much louder this time, nearly making Sakura jump. The stranger was close, perhaps a few feet behind her.
Sakura whirled around, making a grab for the kunais strapped to her knee. Her hand froze midway down her leg.
The man was dressed in a set of white robes that draped regally from his shoulder and arms. A large cloak that resembled the Forth Hokage's—with a tall collar and wide, short sleeves- was set over them, and the outfit was completed by a simple white staff that he held in his right hand. His hair was stark white and spiked, vaguely reminding her of Naruto, and two particularly long strands poked out from either side of his head, like horns.
But it was the white mask that he wore that captured her attention. Thin rings of black was painted on its surface, and three black Sharingan tomoes at the center. It was the Ten Tail's eye. A very familiar man had worn into battle almost eight years ago.
"Obito…" She growled, backing cautiously away from the tall man approaching her. "What do you want? Why are you here?"
The man laughed, spreading his hands out and leaning back as he did so. It was more like a cruel bark, a chilling sound that sent shivers through her body.
"Look at you, Haruno Sakura." He sneered. "You were one of the most widely revered kunoichi of your time—the Slug Sannin's Heir, friend of the Godaime Kazekage, one of the Members of the Legendary Team 7, and of course, the Rokudaime Hokage's Right Hand. And look at you now, reduced to a fidgety child that has forgotten all of her intuitions."
I am not Obito.
Sakura flinched as the man's voice sounded in her head, but she felt anger bubbling up inside of her at his words. "You are wrong to think that I can no longer infer. I already knew you weren't Obito. You... have much larger chakra storages than him, and I'm sure that you have two Rinnegan eyes, not one." Her eyes widened at the realization. There were only two people in history with a complete set of Rinnegan…No, it couldn't be. "I…I admit I do not know who you are, but I am still a loyal kunoichi of the Leaf."
The man looked at her coldly, an icy aura vibrating off of him. "I did not question your loyalties, nor do I care." He paused, and then gestured to the village below them. "Tell me, child. Do you know where we are?"
Sakura's eyes darted down below her again, devouring the sight of the lively village beneath her. "This is where I belong. This is what I died for." She replied resolutely, meeting his level, eerie gaze. His entire cornea was lavender white, surrounded by black ripples that were customary of the Rinnegan. "But I'm not part of this world anymore. This, I believe, is a section of your mindscape."
The mysterious stranger nodded thoughtfully, crossing his arms in front of him. "You're wondering how and why I would bring a dead kunoichi to this place."
He didn't deny it, nor did he confirm it.
"Yes," Sakura closed her eyes, letting a breeze play with her hair. "After all, I've already finished my role in my lifetime. There is no need for me to do anything else. For anyone."
I will not accept anything you offer me.
They were silent for awhile. Sakura listened almost nostalgically to the sounds of the bustling town below. It might just be a figment of the man's imagination, but it was good to be home again. Or at least feel like she was home.
After what seemed like an eternity, the man spoke again.
"What do you think of time travel, Sakura Haruno?"
Jade eyes rounded on him, and the girl in question observed him sharply. "And suffer the repercussions? No, thank you. I would like to go back to being dead."
"There won't be any repercussions."
I am capable of it.
It was Sakura's turn to laugh. Naruto once said her laugh was like a tinkling bell, a sad, mourning bell. That was a five years ago.
"Oh, I'm certain that you are capable, stranger. But why send me back in time? I'm not important compared to my team mates, Kakashi-sensei, Sarutobi-sama, or anyone else that I knew, for the matter. Why not give them the chance? Surely they can change the past more than I can. Better yet, why would you offer me this chance in the first place? What could you possibly gain from sending a pathetic medic back in time?"
The stranger ignored that. "Why did you think I chose you?"
Sakura blinked, taken back by the question. She'd thought he chose her to play with her, to mess with her mind…But why would he, if he could use anyone else? He clearly wanted her to do something for him. In the world of shinobi, an offer that was too good to be true was always false.
She'd discovered that rule too late.
The man's steely gaze was still boring into her. "You're the one who's underestimating yourself now. It takes a lot of mental capacity and spatial imagination for someone to enter the mindscape of a Rinnegan user. In fact, even the most skilled genjutsu masters, the people who know every aspect of the human mind, have a hard time entering a Sharingan user's head—which is a lot less complex than mine."
"Then how did I get here?"
The man scoffed. "Haven't you noticed? You've been missing her for a while now."
A scowl marred her face, and Sakura let out an impatient breath. "Look, if you're going to negotiate with me, you might as well just spit whatever the hell you need to say out."
It was completely quiet for awhile after her outburst, and Sakura felt proud for cursing at the man. Surely Inner would congratulate her for that? And she sounded so spunky, just like Inner—
Sakura did a double take.
It all makes sense now. You needed more than one mindset to enter a completely tangible landscape created by a mind, especially one that wasn't designed as a genjutsu. Inner was the perfect vessel to transfer her in, which explained why he chose her. She was possibly the only candidate that fit the two descriptions. Sakura was no fool—she understood that she was powerful, and her Inner personality only contributed to that.
"You…" her voice quivered as she spoke. "You took her…"
"And?" He challenged in return, drumming pale fingers on the staff. "Does it matter?"
"Of course it does, you bastard!" Sakura screeched, spittle flying from her mouth. "She was my best friend for years, after—after—after he took Ino.." her voice faded away, replaced by a fresh wave of pain.
"Sacrifices are necessary, child. You know that better than anyone."
"I didn't ask for her to be sacrificed!" she cried out, pulling at her hair. How did she not notice? "Why me? Why can't you just let me save her?"
"No one can save her now!" The man snapped, his deep baritone accompanied by another spike of chakra and effectively causing her to quiet down. "She was only a fraction of your mind that I eliminated for the rest of your consciousness to enter. After all, I am dead too. And maybe I should tell you that being one of the last three survivors of Konohagakure's ninja population is not a desirable outcome. And neither is having your soul destroyed once you refuse my proposal."
Seeing the look on the kunoichi's face, the man continued. "This jutsu took a huge toll on your spiritual aspect and mind, child. If you accept and travel back in time, there is a huge possibility that you can correct mistakes and save everyone. But of you don't, this will be the last time you'll be conscious again. The seal I used to transport you here is chewing away at your soul, child. You're a ticking time bomb."
"Funny, because I can't feel my soul being bitten." Sakura spat.
The man elegantly ignored her comment again. "You have at most two more minutes left." Sakura felt her stomach lurch. "It's either an opportunity to revise everything in your past and aiding me in the process—or going back to Oblivion forever."
"I…you…I still can't trust you." Sakura said weakly, feeling ten years of experience as a diplomat under Tsunade melting away.
"Think about it, Sakura. I'm offering you to go back twenty-four years, to the day you were born. You'll keep your past skills and knowledge and memories…I'll slowly give those back to you over the course of the first six years of your new life. Of course, the new timeline would be completely different, but think about all the possibilities, all the people you can save…"
"I'm not interested in that anymore." She retorted softly.
"And you can prove yourself to be a better ninja this time."
Sakura bit her lip, fighting the urge to shout at the man. Sure, she was pretty much useless until she'd become Tsunade's apprentice. And yes, her pitiful adoration of that Uchiha monster had held her back on her potential. But she was powerful in her own right, in her own name. Sakura Haruno had become a title of reverence in her later life.
Scenes of the battlefield flashed before her eyes. Blood. Death. Marks of betrayal. Hatred, deep, red-eyed hatred.
The white-robed fiend had caught onto Sakura's wavering willpower.
"Ten seconds left, child."
"It's not that simple, is it?" she murmured to herself.
"And I don't even know how it's going to be like." She added, her vision blurring.
"I'm becoming senile." She whispered, feeling her mind slip away.
"I hate you, Lady Fate. Neji had the right idea."
Sakura looked up at the sky. It was a bright cerulean, the color of Naruto's eyes when he was happy.
She'd do anything to see that shade of blue in his eyes again, reflecting her own apple-jade orbs as he laughed.
And maybe she'll save Sasuke, too.
They'll be Team Seven again.