:: Chapter One
Naruto ran to where Sakura was sprawled on the muddy earth, his heart beating loudly in his ears so that it was all he could hear amidst the cries of battle surrounding them. Right away, he could see that Sakura's shirt was already a sickly shade darker than its usual red, and the creamy color of her skirt had taken on a deep red hue. Ungracefully, he fell on his knees beside her in a rush of panic, forgetting to be gentle as he slipped his left arm under her neck while the other reached for her blood-soaked hand.
Sakura was still breathing but it comes in rapid, short, and painful gasps. Slowly, her cracked lips stretched shakily to form a smile as she looked up to him, as if to tell him she was okay.
Naruto would not have any of her futile attempts to deceive him; the blood soaking even his clothes was telling him that she was anything but okay. Fully aware of how helpless he was he opened his mouth in a desperate attempt to comfort her when he sensed a person closing in on them. In his blind rage and panic, he almost attacked the medic who came to aid them but he quickly managed to restrain himself.
A few seconds was all it took for the young medic to evaluate her state and before Naruto could say a word, the medic brusquely apologized and left to help tend to the thousand others who are gravely injured in the ongoing large-scale war.
Naruto wanted to punch the medic, wanted to yell and beg the man to check Sakura again because, damn it, he was not going to lose her like they lost Sasuke. Before he could do so, he felt the girl in his arms feebly squeeze his hand and his attention was on her again.
"It's... okay," she managed to cough out, wincing as the two words introduced her to a whole new wave of pain.
Naruto was crying now, his tears flowing without charge down his cheeks and falling on her face. He was crying for the both of them. His tears were a mixture of pain, of sadness, of desperation, of helplessness. "It's not okay! Just wait and see! Tsunade will be here soon and she—," he paused as she shook her head gently, her features grimacing, but the pain would not let her tears out.
"She can't do anyth—," the blood in her lungs dribbling out of her mouth cut her off. At this point her breaths were accompanied by wheezing sounds as she struggled to take in more air.
Naruto held her as tightly as he could allow himself without adding any more to her pain. This was not happening. He fervently hoped it was all just a terrible dream. But he would be lying to himself if he believed that. He whispered her name one more time as he buried his face in her dirt-covered hair, his tone desperate and his voice coarse. Anger was boiling inside him, emerging from within the dark depths of his conscious. He felt so helpless and so useless. What kind of a friend was he if everyone he cherished so much was dying? He could hold himself against the likes of Obito and Madara, and yet, his friends were falling to the clutches of death one by one.
Sakura's frail voice drifted into his ears. "Naruto..."
He watched through narrowed eyes as her free hand came to rest on his tear-soaked cheek. She was smiling again, but the gesture barely reached her eyes. From the trembling of her lips he could tell that it was taking all of her willpower to keep the smile in place. Her thumb gently traced the whisker-like lines on his cheek, silently telling him that she had accepted her fate and that he should as well.
"No… you're not going to die!" He growled then, grinding his teeth together as he felt the chakra that was different than his own rise inside him. "I won't let it! Don't give up Sakura!" Her eyes were glazing over, he noticed, and so he crushed her lithe body to his own in an anguished hug, as though it will keep her life from retreating from her body. His own body was now surrounded by the orange glow of the Kyuubi's chakra, shaking from both anger and immense grief.
I can save her.
Briefly, his eyes widened from shock and disbelief. The Kyuubi's offer was tempting, considering the large amount of chakra the demon fox possessed. With its immense power there was little room for doubt that it could heal Sakura completely and save her life. After all, it had been healing him every time he got injured for as long as he could remember. But why Sakura? It was true that he and the Kyuubi had come to respect each other and had recently reached a truce. But as far as the demon was concerned, its only worry would be if he, himself, were on the verge of death. So why must the fox bother itself with an offer to save a person it could care less about?
Naruto growled again, his anger now directed towards the entity residing within him. 'Now is not the time for games!' he reproached.
The Kyuubi only gave a dark chuckle and spoke with a serious tone. I can save her, give her some of my own chakra.
Naruto's full attention was now on the fox. There was not a second to be wasted; every second he doubted the fox was Sakura's life ticking away. He quickly glanced at the girl in his arms. She seemed to have lost her conscious. He searched for any sign of her breathing; panic resurfacing inside him once more when he failed to catch any.
No. He would not lose her as well. Too many people already lost their lives in this war. Neji died protecting him and he was unable to do anything but stand there in shock while his comrade's body leaned heavily against him, lifeless. He would not let the same thing happen to Sakura. If the Kyuubi could save her, then he should stop having second thoughts about the fox. With determined eyes, he addressed the Kyuubi once more with a resolute expression.
The demon closed its eyes, channeling its own chakra into the body of the kunoichi currently wrapped in its host's arms. Yes, it could save the girl, but its chakra would only bind with her soul. There was nothing it could do about the body, for even a demon like him could heal only the physical body of its own host. If the boy wanted the girl to live, her body would have to thrive in a different time; only in that body would the soul he was healing could be bound. Given the infinite amount of its chakra, the Kyuubi could do just that—send the soul to the body living in a different time.
There was a force that slowly darkened the battlefield, minutely distorting their scene, and in the darkness of its surroundings, the Kyuubi let out another round of low, wicked laugh.
The warm rays of the sunshine gleamed on her eyelids, causing her to close her eyes a little tighter. Her body must have gone into shock because she could not feel the immense pain anymore. Although, from all her time as a medic, she always thought being in shock would leave a person unfeeling, more or less. She never supposed that it would feel this comfortable, as though she was lying down on a soft bed with a snug comforter thrown over her body…
Her eyes snapped open then. The last thing she remembered was being thrown to the ground by the enemy's jutsu, and then there was nothing but pain in her stomach where she was hit. Her hand darted to her middle subconsciously at the thought; it had been covered in so much blood that it was baffling that she managed to move without so much as a wince. Surprise etched on her face when she perceived nothing but the silk fabric of her red pajamas. There was no blood, no throbbing from the open wound she knew not even her sensei could heal quick enough to keep her alive.
Without further thought she shot up from her bed, taking in her surroundings with wide, disbelieving eyes. This was not even the hospital. There were no white walls, no life-support machines she was sure would have surrounded her, or the smell of antiseptic that was eternally attributed to the hospital. Instead, the walls were the color of neutral brown, and there was only a dresser on her left side where a window was as well. The curtains were drawn over the window, and the light managed to seep through the slice of space in between the thick fabric. She was in her own room and now that her senses were on full alert, she was certain she was not dreaming.
'How long have I been unconscious?!'
A miracle must have happened if she was able to survive that attack. The hit managed to carve deep into her flesh and severely damage her internal organs. There had been so much blood, and from what little she remembered, the medic who assessed her had shook his head at Naruto in a silent verification that nothing could be done to save her. Come to think of it, upon closer inspection there seemed to be no indication that her life had hung in the balance. There was not even a hint of a scar, considering how fatal the wound was. Even the scar she acquired from fighting the Akatsuki member, Sasori, was not present on her skin. Whoever healed her did an amazing job. She survived another mortal injury that was probably even worse than the first one she sustained. This was her third life and it was a miracle indeed.
Sakura played with the material of her comforter, her brain sorting through her current predicament. It was a bit out of the ordinary that she woke up in her own room though, rather than the hospital. They must have decided to transfer her home after she stabilized, so she could fully recover. It could be that the war had ended and they needed more room in the hospital for the casualties of the war.
'... the war!'
In her mind, Sakura tried to calculate how long she could have been asleep considering her state of recovery when she woke up. The only way to find out what kind of miracle had happened, or more appropriately who, was to go to the Hokage Tower. Surely, they would know what happened. They would be able to relay to her how the war had progressed while she was healing.
Sakura stumbled out of her bed, proceeding to rummage through her dresser for a change of clothes. Her hand scanned through the neatly folded clothes when she noticed something out of place. Confusion marred her features when all she found were her old red dresses. She hadn't worn those in almost three years, and she swore her mother had donated those to charity. That did not matter too much, so she grabbed one of the dresses and a pair of black shorts. She figured it would still fit her; after all, only three years had passed and her body size had not significantly changed to the point where she would not be able to squeeze into the dress. There were more important things she had to sift through than the fit of her clothes.
The dress was a bit snug, but it was at the moment when she put her dress on, when she felt her hair pressed on the skin of her back, that she realized that her hair had significantly grown in length that it reached the middle of her back. She couldn't have been asleep for that long! Her fingers pulled at the pink strands, freeing them from her dress. Her hair went past her shoulders and was as long as she remembered them before her team took the Chuunin Exam.
Deciding that the fit of her clothes and the length of her hair should not keep her from getting to the Hokage Tower any longer, Sakura reached for her forehead protector that was neatly folded on top of her dresser, tying it securely on her head. Without further delay, she left her room and headed downstairs. When she passed by a mirror that was hanging on the wall down the hallway, her whole body froze at the sight. With mouth open a little in shock, she reached for her cheek and let her fingertips caress the skin lightly before pinching it to make sure she really was not dreaming.
The twinge was all too real, and even more was her mother's voice who called from where she can only be too sure was the kitchen.
"Sakura! Hurry up or you'll be late for the academy!"
She panicked for a few seconds but gathered back her wits just as fast. She could possibly be walking into an enemy trap. The ongoing war was the last she remembered and an enemy could have cast a genjutsu on her. A hint of a smirk graced her lips as she stalked down the stairs quietly, hands balling into fists in preparation for an attack from the enemy. Genjutsu was her specialty and she would not be easily fooled. The one chance she met Itachi while they were on a mission to save Suna's Kazekage she was able to see through the genjutsu that the Uchiha had cast on them. Together with Kakashi and Chiyo, she was able to dispel the genjutsu and help Naruto escape from his own illusion that Itachi directed at him.
Her alert, emerald eyes scanned her surroundings, looking for any signs like a shift or a noise that would tell her she was indeed under an illusion. Unfortunately, there were no indications that what she was seeing was being manipulated; in fact, everything her trained eyes could see was very much real. There was a chance that this was a stronger genjutsu that cannot be detected easily. To be on the safe side, she stopped the flow of her chakra in her body. Closing her eyes, she was engulfed in darkness momentarily before she opened them again along with a powerful burst of her chakra. By doing so, she would have disrupted the flow of the caster's chakra in her system, thereby effectively dissipating the genjutsu.
Rushing back to the mirror, she inspected her reflection once more, her breaths increasing in pace as realization dawned upon her. It seemed so ridiculous in her mind and so impossible. But the fact that after performing a genjutsu dissipation nothing had happened, and the fact that she was not in a dream, there was no other choice but to believe that the reflection staring back at her was the real deal.
She really was in her younger body again.
To be continued.