(Day Four of SasuSaku Month.)
The young woman straightened up after a series of difficult katas, wiping the sweat dripping from her forehead and retying her long pink hair in a high ponytail. The sun had barely risen and she was already up and about, training under the watchful eye of one of her legendary teachers, Tsunade Senju.
It had been her routine ever since she was five. The mornings were devoted to taijutsu and medical techniques, taught to her by the Slug Sannin. Lunch was for the study of Fuuinjutsu and genjutsu, taught by the Toad Sannin Jiraiya. Lastly, the night was for ninjutsu and politics, taught by the Snake Sannin Orochimaru.
It was hard work, but Haruno Sakura never had time to complain. Her teachers were relentless and utterly sadistic in their own way that she had to be on her toes in every single second of every single day, and she doesn't speak about the harsh treatment because it is her duty.
She would gladly sacrifice her comforts if it means she can fulfil her part of the prophecy.
"Pay attention!" Tsunade sharply barks, rewarding Sakura with an uppercut that she barely dodges, and she is inwardly thankful that it doesn't connect because the woman's punches hurt.
"Sorry." Her answers are clipped, and Sakura can see Shizune's sympathetic nod behind their teacher's shoulders. "Are we done yet?"
Tsunade huffs, glaring at the pair of determined (and tired, oh so tired) green eyes staring back at her own, and almost immediately her gaze softens. Sakura shouldered a heavy burden that no one aside from the pinkette understood, and even if the world they lived in was hardly fair, Tsunade had no idea how someone so young could look so old at the same time. Sakura had weary eyes, eyes that had seen and experienced far too much for a face as young hers.
Looking at the destined child, Tsunade thinks that, yes, the world really isn't fair.
"Take a rest before you go to Jiraiya, brat." Tsunade sniffs, and her two students give her the perfunctory bow before excusing themselves. By the time training is done, the sun has fully risen, its rays beaming down on the temple they lived in.
"Do you want a massage, Sakura-chan?" Shizune ask, eyeing the silent teenager beside her worriedly. Her medic eyes were quick to zero in on the tenseness of the younger shinobi's muscles, and she knows that Sakura had another brutal training session.
Sakura shrugged. "Nah, I can live. Besides, Naruto would finish our breakfast for us if we don't hurry up, and I'm starving."
The mention of Jiraiya's other apprentice and her fellow Guardian makes Shizune chuckle, because in all her years she has never met someone who was on par with the blonde's abysmal stomach. "I suppose you are right."
The tense muscles are quick to be forgotten when the two arrive in the temple's dining area, already bustling with activity. Once Sakura slid the shoji doors aside, they are greeted with a cacophony of sounds. Everyone living in the temple made it a tradition to always eat the three main meals together, and it goes without saying that they do not want to take any time together left for granted.
A storm is coming, and when it passes, no one knows who will be left standing.
Sakura's smile makes an appearance when the people she cared about greeted her, and after reciprocating it, the girls makes a beeline towards the table where they always ate, and it was already occupied with the remaining Guardians.
"Hey, Sakura-chan!" Naruto cheers, not bothering to swallow as he greeted her. Jiraiya's other apprentice was eating his customary ramen with gusto, and the bad habit has been going on for so long that nobody chastises him for it.
"Hn." The last member of the Guard grunts, mouth still too busy on chewing his tomatoes. Sasuke was Orochimaru's other apprentice, and together with Shizune and Naruto, the three of them were the Guardians of the prophesied chosen one.
"Good morning Naruto, Sasuke." Sakura greets, taking her seat between the two boys while Shizune took the seat on Naruto's left.
The dining hall is a wide space that is more than enough to house the full occupants of the temple, and the noise is something that Sakura savours. There is a precious few of that in her life now, and she would take all that she can get.
Sakura stretched, feeling relaxed after Jiraiya had dismissed her and Naruto after a surprisingly relaxing session of Fuuinjutsu study. She was nearing her eighteenth birthday, so it is a common occurrence for her teachers to work her to the bone – having a free time for what seemed like ages feels like heaven.
The sun had just set, and it was time to work with Orochimaru and Sasuke in the gardens. The walk took a short time, and Sakura finds that her Guardian is already waiting for her under the temple's oldest cherry blossom tree, eyes closed and stance relaxed, so different from his normal disposition.
It is such a rare sight that Sakura slows down and hides her distinctive chakra, taking the time to observe her friend unseen.
Sasuke had always been a little different, even as a child. He seemed to naturally set himself apart from everyone save a few, and though it could've been due to his past, as the demise of his whole clan at the hands of his elder brother was a known secret in the whole temple, or his relative, who was hell bent on destroying the world as they knew it, they knew it wasn't all to be said for his elusive character.
There were plenty of people who had wanted to know him, but kept their distance. It wasn't out of the way he spoke, he was fairly polite, or the way he acted, he was tall, but slender, and didn't use physical violence to get his thoughts across (although his interactions with Naruto are an exception). Quiet and solemn, he didn't go out of his way to be noticed, though people still stared and whispered about him regardless. He simply had a sense of presence not even a blind man could miss.
The only one who could be said was close to the sole Uchiha heir was his teacher Orochimaru, and the Guardians, who had grown up in the temple together. It took a long while for them to break his barrier though, but Sakura is proud to say that she had been the first to earn his friendship.
Of course, the fact that she is also crushing on him (maybe it's already love, but she doesn't dare dwell on it) is something that Sakura is totally not proud to say.
"Hey." She tries to act like she wasn't spying on him a while ago, but seeing the amused tilt of his mouth as Sakura makes her way towards him, she knows that it is a lost cause. "Where's sensei?"
Sasuke shrugs, watching the girl plop herself down beside him. "He cancelled. Told us to take a break for a while."
His mouth quirks when he turns to see Sakura gaping at him, eyes wide. "Are you sure we're talking about the same teacher? This is Orochimaru we're talking about."
"Pretty sure it was him."
"Woah. This is a first. I mean, he never gave us breaks before." She frowns. "That's weird, Jiraiya-sensei took it easy on me and Naruto a while ago, and the same happened with Tsunade-sensei and Shizune."
With that admission, Sasuke understands. Sakura sees the way his shoulders stiffen, and immediately rounds up on him. "Spill. What do you know?"
And because Sasuke was never the one for tact, he tells her. "Your birthday's near, Sakura. I think they've taught you all they know by now."
The comfortable atmosphere takes a turn for the worse as the mirth in Sakura's eyes disappears, to be replaced by dread and responsibility and fear, and Sasuke regrets. The pinkette deflates, her body slumping against the bark of the tree behind her, and Sasuke stares as the once vibrant green eyes dull.
Sasuke is suddenly reminded of how young Sakura was, younger than any of the Guardians - and yet she had the bigger burden to bear. She was taken into the temple at five to begin her training as the chosen one, the prophesized child who was told to be able to end the reign of Uchiha Madara with the Guardians by her side.
Sakura had been strong, more than capable of assuming all the duties thrust upon her by fate and by right of birth. In the end though, Sasuke feared that perhaps Sakura had lost more than she had gained from her years of training. Sakura had never known a childhood, or not a full one at least. Her duties had served as her friends, her responsibilities as her vacations.
Sasuke thinks that Sakura doesn't deserve the life that she has.
"My eighteenth birthday is when the barrier around the temple breaks and lets Madara know where I've been hidden all these years, huh." Sakura talks as if he isn't there, and somehow it scares him. "I'm gonna be an adult in two weeks and I'm really not looking forward to it, like any girl should be."
"You're not any girl." Sasuke scoffs. He stays silent because he feels that she has something to say, and Sakura doesn't disappoint.
"I want to be just like any other girl."
The admission works like a breaking damn, and in seconds Sasuke is holding a sobbing Sakura in his arms, and as he works on calming her down and failing, Sasuke's heart breaks just a little bit because Sakura always tried to be strong, tried to shoulder everything thrust on her, tried to be perfect –and while she was many, many wonderful things, perfect just wasn't one of them.
"I'm – I'm so sick of this." Sakura sobs on Sasuke's chest, because she is, she is so fucking sick of responsibilities and training and saving the world and being herself.
She wanted to be ordinary, she wanted to be able to live outside the temple and experience things normal people did. She wanted to wake up late in the morning and not care about training every single day. She wanted to be selfish and tell Sasuke that she loved him and not care that she might die in her eighteenth birthday. She wanted to marry and have children by the dozens and live.
She didn't want this life. She never wanted this life.
Sakura didn't want to be brave anymore; she wanted to be looked after, to let someone else be the leader. And Sasuke – Sasuke understands because he lets her cry on his chest, and in that moment, Sakura feels that the burden isn't so heavy when he is by her side.
Major AU here, but meh.
To those who can't understand: Sakura is prophesied to be the Chosen One who will defeat the tyrant Madara Uchiha. At a young age, Sakura is smuggled on a hidden temple to be taught by the Legendary Sannins. The Sannins have their own students, who then becomes the three Guardians. Basically, the protection of the temple wears off by the time Sakura hits eighteen, thereby informing Madara of her location. And because of her duty, Sakura is forced to grow up fast.
Get it? I know you do!
Reviews are appreciated!
[Day Four: Misspent Youth]