Sakura, the Beginning of a Kunoichi - Chapter 20 - Mayurakarin (2024)

Chapter Text

Sometimes one forgets the world by running tirelessly, sweating and bleeding, everything seeming to be done to survive rather than to live to achieve goals.

Since the day she announced her desire to become a ninja in front of the Hokage, she knew things wouldn't be easy, especially at home. What she didn't expect was her family to become particularly harsh when it came to chores and errands around the house. If they had been strict before, now they were even more so; any speck of dust behind the furniture, the quality of the food, the slightest wrinkle on the bed, or a tiny stain on clothes became grounds for criticism.

Nevertheless, she tried not to get discouraged and searched for small gaps between classes and chores to train. However, these moments grew shorter and shorter, to the point where she felt suffocated.

Her first evaluation as a ninja was the theoretical exam, and she scored outstandingly. She almost cried with joy; all the nerves that had left her on the verge of vomiting had been worth it. However, to her dismay, in the practical part, she had to fight against her own sister. With just one look, she knew she had to lose, and after a few painful blows to the cheek, she let herself fall to the ground as Sakuya jumped and laughed with her friends.

She didn't mind losing in the fighting exam, even though Ino started ranting about the injustice toward her. When she received her written exam, she scored the highest. As thrilled as she was, she couldn't help but show her parents that she had succeeded; she wasn't as useless as they believed—there was a future for her ninja aspirations! Unfortunately, that was just another mistake on her list. Instead of surprise or acknowledgment, there was anger.

Foolish of her to think otherwise. At least after a couple of blows from them, she wouldn't show them another one of her exams.

The days passed as gray as before, her mind focused on going to school, reading books in the library, avoiding Naruto getting her into trouble, doing everything her sister ordered her to do, and enduring her parents' insults and blows. The only thing that comforted her was spending time with the spirits of Konoha.

When she opened her apple-green eyes, she found the baby puff on her nose, looking at her with curiosity. She gave it a small smile until she realized two things: her mother hadn't slammed the door to wake her up and make breakfast like every morning, and today was both Sakuya's and her birthday.

Carefully, she took the baby puff in her hands so she could sit up. She was turning twelve today, and the puffs knew it, as they began hopping around Sakura with apparent joy. Infected by their enthusiasm, she hugged all three of them warmly.

"Thank you very much," she said, before setting them aside and starting to dress.

Twelve years old at last, and in a couple of months would be the graduation exam to become a ninja. With nerves on edge and knowing she was behind her peers, she pushed herself twice as hard when no one was watching. She hoped it would be enough.

Opening the broom closet door, the smell of freshly baked bread caused a slight pang in her stomach, remembering she hadn't eaten dinner the night before. Both she and her "inner" promised themselves mentally to be good and obedient today, hoping to at least receive a pancake.

With caution, Sakura peeked into the kitchen and saw her mother humming a song while preparing another batch of pancakes that made her mouth water.

"Oh, Sakura! Darling, you're awake. Go ahead and sit down," Mebuki said with a smile, before returning to her task.

Astonished, Sakura blankly stared for a long moment, unable to believe what she had just witnessed.

"She either didn't kill us or we've entered a strange and unknown dimension," Inner remarked, running in circles.

For as long as she could remember, it had always been her job to make breakfast and call everyone to eat, not her mother's. With some caution, half-expecting her mother to get angry and throw the hot spatula at her, she sat at the far end of the kitchen, hoping to dodge the blow at least.

"Good morning," Kizashi greeted as he appeared.

At that moment, Sakura was about to take her first bite of pancake when she saw him, felt herself choke, and lowered her fork, hoping he wouldn't get mad at her for eating before them. To her surprise, her father ignored her and went to kiss his wife.

"What?" Kizashi asked when he saw her, "Eat that before it gets cold."

This time her inner was running in circles in her mind, screaming that it was the end of the world. Afraid of angering her father, Sakura began eating the pancake incredulously, though she wasted no time and took bite after bite without worrying about choking, fearful that this idyllic moment would shatter into pieces and leave her hungry.

"Good morning!" Sakuya shouted as she entered the kitchen like a queen.

Both Mebuki and Kizashi dropped what they were doing and rushed to embrace Sakuya.

"Happy birthday!" they exclaimed with great enthusiasm before showering her face with kisses.

Sakura lowered her fork onto the empty plate and watched the lavish display of affection bestowed upon her twin sister. This seemed more like the world she remembered; she shouldn't be surprised. Despite that, the fierce hunger she had felt just moments ago vanished in an instant as she saw the laughter and love among the three. For a moment, she felt truly alone.

They must have known it was her birthday too. Well, she would have to settle for being served breakfast without yelling, right?

"It's time to give you your presents," Mebuki said, taking Sakuya's hand and leading her to the living room.

"Why are you standing there? Come on," Kizashi said.

Suppressing the urge to raise an eyebrow, Sakura got up from her seat and cautiously followed them. She shouldn't expect much... Wow! Inside the living room was a sea of gifts of various sizes. It looked like a gift shop! Large and small, with golden and silver ribbons. You couldn't even see the floor with so many there were.

Sakuya squealed with excitement and instantly pounced on the largest gift of all. Sakura, still surprised, suddenly didn't know how to feel. W-were any of those for her too?

As if suddenly remembering her sister's existence, Sakuya stopped upon seeing a bicycle inside the gift and looked at Sakura with disgust.

"What? You think any of these are yours? No way! All of this is mine," she growled.

"Come on, Sakuya, don't be rude to your sister," Mebuki scolded her.

Both Sakuya and Sakura looked at her wide-eyed, first because they had never in their lives seen Mebuki scold Sakuya, and second, because their mother was defending Sakura over Sakuya.

"Today is her birthday too, and as your 'servant,' she should be rewarded," Kizashi added beside her, emphasizing the word 'servant.'

And there it was, she shouldn't be so surprised that her father underscored that destined fate for her. However, bitterness vanished in an instant upon the surprise that they both handed her a couple of gifts. Both Sakuya and Sakura looked at them incredulously.

As she took the two red gift bags with a small yellow ribbon, Sakura felt her chest warm. Were her parents really giving her a gift? She had never received one in her life. Carefully, she opened the first bag and pulled out a white sock.

Sakuya couldn't resist and laughed at her sister.

Ignoring her, Sakura opened the other bag and found the matching pair. Her parents had gifted her a pair of socks.

"How considerate," Sakuya whispered maliciously, low enough that their parents wouldn't hear but loud enough for Sakura to hear. "The best gift you'll ever get in your life."

Her sister's words brushed past like a breeze. Contrary to Sakuya's belief, this seemingly insignificant gift meant the world to Sakura. She couldn't quite describe the emotions she was feeling. Not only had her mother prepared breakfast for her, but both her parents had also given her a pair of socks.

She bit her cheek, trying to contain her emotions and not show how overwhelmed she was.

"Thank you," she whispered to her parents.

"Why are you still here? Take out the trash and you can go out. You won't do any cleaning today because it's your birthday," Mebuki said.

Again, Sakura and Sakuya stared at their mother wide-eyed.

"Go be with your, uh, friends. Have fun and don't come back until bedtime," Kizashi added.

Unable to believe it, Sakura nodded and hurried off to her "room." She showed the puffs the gifts from her parents and then went to take out the trash.

"I don't know, this isn't normal. Are your parents dying or something?" inner asked, arms crossed.

Sakura huffed irritably.

"Don't be pessimistic, inner. It's my birthday, maybe they finally see me as their daughter?" she thought, though filled with doubt. She didn't want to get her hopes up.

As she went to leave the trash can in the backyard, she stopped upon hearing Sakuya's tantrums with their parents.

"What happened to me being your servant? This day should be the best ever! I even invited my Sasuke-kun to the party," Sakuya said before bursting into tears.

"A party?"

"That's why we let her go. Your party will be better without her there, she's just a burden," Mebuki said.

Burden. She carefully set the trash can down on the ground, making sure not to be heard.

"You'll be able to focus on having fun with your friends without her inside the house being a nuisance," Kizashi said.

Nuisance.

With the utmost care, she took a few steps back until she was far enough away and then started running as fast as her legs could carry her. Her eyes began to sting as she fought back tears. Even inner remained silent, at a loss for words. She ran and ran until she finally ran out of breath.

She hated them, she hated them, she... hated. No, more than hatred, it was sadness. For once they showed affection, but it was all just a facade to keep her away. Maybe if they had just told her to leave home, her chest wouldn't hurt as much as it did now.

Once again, her birthday would be spent with a heavy emptiness in her chest. Above all, because that gaping void screamed at her that not everything was okay, something was missing in her, something she had already experienced but was now absent and wanted to pull her back.

Tired, she sighed in resignation. There was no point in dwelling on this; she needed to clear her mind before venturing into darker places she didn't want to visit. It was a Sunday morning in the streets of Konoha, so there were many people strolling or shopping. Fortunately, this time passing by the food stalls didn't twist her stomach with hunger. That was the only good thing about her parents' plan.

"Sasuke-kun! Sasuke-kun!" several girls shouted, catching Sakura's attention.

When she turned around, she saw a large group of women running like a furious herd after Sasuke, although she couldn't spot him.

"Kyaa, Sasuke is around here. We'll see that darn handsome melancholic!" inner cheered, gaining strength again.

No. As much as she wanted to chase after Sasuke like the other girls, she knew she would end up being pushed aside. Just like her parents, they considered her a nuisance. Deciding to salvage what little pride she had left, she went down a different path away from the girls to avoid being harassed by them.

Her surprise came when she saw a small floating pink ball with large ruby eyes dart into an alley. Following it, she gasped when she saw who was there.

"S-Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke, upon seeing her, frowned. With great speed, he pulled her close and covered her mouth with his hand.

"Sasuke-kun?"

"Where is he?"

"I swore I heard someone calling him."

It was the girls from earlier. Although Sasuke covered her mouth to silence her, it wasn't necessary; she was beyond nervous and blushing from having him so close.

"Yes! You have him at your mercy now. Go jump on him!" inner cheered excitedly.

Who understood inner? One day she cursed Sasuke, and the next she wanted to chase after him like the other girls. Although she couldn't deny feeling comfortable around him, as if she had known him for a long time and felt safe with him.

When the girls ran off and everything was safe, Sasuke finally let her go. Sakura coughed a couple of times before looking at him and blushing.

"H-hello, Sasuke-kun. I didn't expect to see you today," she managed to say.

Since the punishment incident, she hadn't had the courage to do more than admire his presence from afar and secretly cheer when she saw him fight others at the academy. This was her chance; maybe she could invite him for a walk.

"Sasuke-kun," she began, gathering her courage, "D-do you want to go for a walk? Today is my b-"

"Hn. I have to go," he interrupted, not letting her finish.

Turning his back, he put his hands in his pockets and left. He had only come to town for some kunai to continue training, but he had to run into the annoying girls. He needed to be patient and keep training to become stronger and one day kill that person.

"Birthday," she finished whispering once he was gone.

Well... at least she had tried, right?

"Hmph! That arrogant guy will see how someday he'll be the one chasing after us," inner shouted angrily, throwing punches into the air.

Taking a deep breath, she stretched. She couldn't cry over spilled milk. At least she had been close to Sasuke and he had hugged her, even if it was just to silence her! It had been her best gift so far!

"In your face, Sakuya," Sakura thought maliciously.

She exited the alley and decided that if she was going to be out of the house all day, she might as well go train for a while before seeing Ino and Hinata.

"Haha! You'll never catch me! Waah!"

Sakura ended up on the ground, pinned down by someone, struggling to breathe.

"S-Sakura-chan!" Naruto shouted from above, his cheeks tinged pink.

Great, it had to be him of all people.

"Naruto!" she grunted angrily, pushing him off with all her strength until she could stand up.

As she got a good look at him, Sakura was horrified to notice Naruto wearing his usual orange jacket tied around his waist, revealing his T-shirt, and holding a paintbrush in his hand. Remembering that traumatic event, she took a few steps back.

"We have to find him!" someone shouted in the distance.

Naruto turned pale with worry and, without thinking, grabbed Sakura's hand and dragged her along.

"Come on, Sakura-chan, let's run!" he shouted, sprinting ahead with her trailing behind without even giving her time to react.

With her hands now stained with paint and horror-stricken, all she could do was follow him. If they got caught, they would blame her for a conspiracy, and this time, it wouldn't just stain her school record but also her reputation in the village as a citizen.

"This way!" someone yelled from behind.

Sakura gasped in worry. They were going to catch up to them! This was her end.

"Naruto," she said with painful concern.

Naruto glanced at her and furrowed his brow. He stopped abruptly, almost pulling them both down when he did. With one arm around Sakura and the other grabbing a blanket, they pressed against the wall and waited without moving a muscle.

Both of their hearts were pounding for different reasons. Sakura's raced as she heard the ninjas pass by them, while Naruto's raced because of how close he was to Sakura, so close that he could smell the shampoo she used.

"I'm hugging Sakura-chan, dattebayo!" Naruto thought, his cheeks flushed red.

Meanwhile, Sakura's eyebrow twitched in anger at feeling him so near. Unlike Sasuke, with whom she could melt into a puddle of water, Naruto's presence often sparked a growing annoyance due to his stupidity. The last time she got into trouble was also because of him.

When they were sure no ninja was passing by anymore, Naruto kept the blanket over them, enjoying having Sakura so close. That was until she also felt they were safe and pushed him forcefully to the ground.

"Ouch, Sakura-chan. That hurt," Naruto said with watery eyes, his face paling at seeing the anger on the pink-haired girl's face.

Fearful for his life, he scrambled backward like a crab.

"I-I-I mean, Sakura-chan. It wasn't on purpose, I swear," he cried out, though he knew that the last moment had been intentional.

Sakura took a deep breath, containing her anger.

"You have five seconds to explain yourself, or I'll give you the beating of your life," she snorted.

Naruto nodded vigorously before getting up and approaching with a shy smile. He scratched his head as he spoke rapidly.

"Heh, heh. You see, Sakura-chan, this morning I woke up really early. I was starving, so I went to the kitchen and made myself some ramen. While I waited for those eternal three minutes for it to heat up, I was thinking about what I was going to do today..."

With each passing second, a vein popped on Sakura's forehead, showing her growing impatience. Until finally, she exploded.

"N-A-R-U-T-O!" she shouted, fist ready to strike.

"Happy birthday!" Naruto yelled, closing his eyes, bracing for the worst.

Feeling no devastating blow, he cautiously opened one of his cerulean blue eyes. To his horror, Sakura's white fist was just an inch away from his face. He found her with wide apple-green eyes and her mouth slightly open, as if time had stopped.

"Sakura-chan?"

She blinked several times before really looking at him. Did he know her birthday?

Nervous about Sakura's silence, Naruto started rambling again.

"So, I thought about doing something together for your birthday, but last time you got punished because of me, so I decided to paint the Kage's faces. It's water paint, don't worry! But I got so into it that I lost track of time, and then they showed up, and I had to run so they wouldn't catch me. Then I saw you and ran with you! And that's how we ended up here, me explaining to avoid getting punched."

Sakura knew he remembered her birthday. Suddenly, Naruto's ramblings seemed funny to her, and she started laughing. Impressed with himself for making Sakura laugh, Naruto joined in.

"You idiot!" Sakura suddenly yelled, delivering a direct punch to Naruto's cheek, causing him to slam against the opposite wall. "Painting the Hokages' faces like that is way too reckless. It's against the rules!"

It's not that she didn't appreciate him remembering her birthday, but there were more mature ways to congratulate someone, even if painting the faces of the Kage was somewhat amusing, she wouldn't admit it.

With a black eye, Naruto sat on the ground.

"So, uh, wanna go get some ramen?"

"No."

She huffed through her nose once more before turning away with her head held high and walking off, avoiding getting into more trouble with the remorseful Naruto who asked from afar if they could go out for food another day.

"The day we go out with you on a date will be the day the dead come back," inner said.

As she walked away, a small smile slipped onto Sakura's lips. Maybe Naruto wasn't so bad, just a big idiot. But even Konoha's biggest loser had given her a great gift.

Angry with herself, she threw multiple punches into the air in a matter of seconds.

"Ouch."

When she looked up, she found a ninja with silver hair and a mask covering everything but one eye. Embarrassed, she blushed to the tips of her hair. She had hit a ninja! Great, what else did her day need to make her birthday miserable and embarrassing?

"I'm sorry, sir," she said, bowing repeatedly. "I must be more careful."

Kakashi looked at Sakura, instantly recognizing her as Soku's younger sister. Not only had he seen her when she was captured, but they had also rescued her from an explosion. The distinctive pink hair was unmistakable. He observed her closely, making Sakura nervous and starting to sweat.

"Yeah, well. Be more careful," he replied nonchalantly, before lifting his Icha Icha book again and continuing to walk.

It was then that Sakura frowned as she watched the ninja walk with his eyes fixed on his book.

"I apologized to a ninja who isn't even paying attention to where he's walking because he's reading a book," she grumbled irritably.

"He must be a useless ninja," inner remarked, crossing her arms.

It was barely midday, and she already felt completely tired, wanting to go home and lock herself in her room, although she knew her family always found something for her to do. When she felt her chest tightening, she got angry with herself again.

"Go to the library," she told herself.

It was the best thing she could do.

She stopped abruptly when a huge raccoon-like creature with a straw hat crossed in front of her, blocking her path. She looked around, making sure no one saw them before addressing it.

"Do you need something?" she asked. She remembered reading about mythological creatures, and among them was the Tanuki.

The Tanuki stared at her before turning towards the forest. Sakura watched him, confused, until the Tanuki looked back at her again, this time from further away.

"Alright. I'll go with you," Sakura decided.

Following closely behind the Tanuki, they ventured into the forest near the park, enough to avoid being seen. Gradually, the noise of the village people became more and more distant, until she began to see creatures of various sizes: tiny mushrooms, pink ghosts, colorful slimes, the laughter of invisible Kodama, and she even thought she saw a dryad darting among the trees.

"Where are we going?" Sakura asked the Tanuki again. Perhaps another person would have been afraid to see so many spirits, but she was used to them and sometimes even preferred them to humans.

She always wondered why she could see spirits. She didn't know anyone else who could, and that seemed strange to her. Although she had met a few gods like Wisdom, Nature, and Luck. She didn't complain, but it did surprise her sometimes.

Suddenly, they entered a clearing where several creatures and spirits were gathered, and among them were Wisdom, Luck, Nature, and another man she didn't know: tall, tan-skinned, with reddish hair, looking like a great hunter, distinguished by a scar that crossed from his chin to halfway across his cheek.

When they all noticed her, they smiled.

"Happy birthday, Sakura!" they shouted and chirped.

She was speechless. They were all congratulating her. They had remembered her. Unlike her family, her chest began to warm, and, unable to help it, tears began to slide down her cheeks. Tears of happiness.

Feeling this, Nature was the first to approach, wrapping her arms around her and covering Sakura's face with her long purple hair.

"Of course we were going to congratulate you," she said affectionately.

"You're turning twelve today!" exclaimed Luck with childish glee.

Next to them, Wisdom nodded with her usual equanimity, although this time, revealing a gentle smile.

Of course, this time she felt happy to have them. She wasn't alone because they were with her.

She knew she had a long road ahead and it wouldn't be easy, but sometimes moments like this, where she could relax and enjoy, were what motivated her.

When Nature released her from the embrace, Sakura looked at the burly man with an intimidating gaze, her brown eyes staring coldly until they shivered.

"You're scaring her!" Nature gave him a knock on the back of the head.

At that moment, the man's intimidating look vanished, his cheeks turned pink, and a big smile formed on his face. Now he looked like an affectionate grizzly bear.

"Hello, Sakura! I've been looking forward to meeting you. You can call me Love. I'm the god of love," he said enthusiastically as he hugged her.

Sakura couldn't help but laugh. Could a god of love seem so terrifying when he was actually so kind inside?

The sadness that had been building up inside her dissipated with the party she had with the four gods and the spirits. Many of them brought berries, leaves, and fruits from the forest to celebrate, and even the Tanuki, who had previously disguised himself as a human, brought a cake and treats.

It had been a great day. In the end, it was good not to have gone to the library and instead had a good time with her friends. After the celebration, she headed to Ino and Hinata's house, where they ate until they were more than full.

When the moon was high in the sky, Sakura walked back home dragging her feet. She didn't want to return to what they called home, but she had to.

"I'm glad you had a good time, Sakuya. It's a shame Sakura decided to spend her birthday with her friends."

Sakura stopped at the door upon hearing that voice. Her eyes widened, and time seemed to stand still. She had almost forgotten that voice completely.

"Yeah, it's a shame. Come on, brother, it's time to go to bed."

Yes, it was Soku.

She swung open the door and saw Sakuya pushing Soku upstairs. Behind them were Mebuki and Kizashi, her parents. Upon seeing her, they frowned disapprovingly, as if they hadn't wanted her to arrive at that moment. In that instant, Sakura knew. It wasn't just about the party; they also wanted to prevent Soku from meeting her.

The only family member who truly cared about her.

"Sakura?"

"Brother..."

Instantly, Soku ran to Sakura and crouched down to hug her.

"You're here. You have no idea how happy I was when I found out you were back. I wanted to finish the mission as soon as possible to come back to you," he said, stroking his sister's pink hair.

He was more than thrilled. For years, he had searched for any trace of her or Akatsuki, to no avail, until one day he received a message from the Third Hokage informing him that Kakashi's team had found her. Since then, he had only hoped to finish the mission quickly to reunite with her.

"You were supposed to arrive later," Sakuya said, pushing her sister.

Soku looked surprised at Sakuya. It wasn't the fact that she was separating them that surprised him, but the look of hatred that he now understood better. He had always thought Sakuya's jealousy was just whimsical, but now he saw there was more to it.

"Today was supposed to be the best birthday ever, but it wasn't! Sasuke-kun didn't come to my party and now you show up," she pointed at Sakura, "when Soku-nii should be with me and my parents."

Seeing that their parents didn't intervene, Soku decided to take matters into his own hands.

"Sakuya, that's not how you talk to your sister," he said firmly.

To his surprise, Sakuya's green eyes filled with tears before she turned towards her mother and began to cry.

"Soku, Sakuya has my permission to do whatever she wants with Sakura. As the future leader of the clan, she is learning to lead, and Sakura is nothing more than her servant," Kizashi said.

Soku couldn't believe what he was hearing from his father. He thought maybe it was some kind of joke, but the severity in his father's gaze made it clear that it wasn't.

"You may still be the leader, and if it weren't for me deciding not to be, Sakuya wouldn't be the future leader," Soku replied firmly.

Sakuya stopped crying and looked at her brother with disgust.

"But you're not anymore, and she will be. She can do whatever she wants with her sister," Mebuki interjected. "We already have enough with you not wanting to lead this poor clan and Sakura deciding to break tradition to become a ninja."

This statement surprised Soku. He looked at Sakura, who lowered her gaze with evident pain. He felt powerless seeing her like this. She was no longer just another member of the Haruno clan; now her own autonomy was at stake. He knew he couldn't go against his family any more than he already had. Although he thought about cutting ties definitively, he didn't feel capable of taking Sakura away and living far from them right now.

With a gesture of resignation, Soku slumped his shoulders. It wasn't the right time yet.

Satisfied, Kizashi went upstairs with Mebuki, leaving the three siblings alone in what was their first meeting after many years apart. Sakuya glared hatefully at her twin. Her big moment with Soku had been ruined because of her.

"Go to your room. Tomorrow, you'll clean up this mess before we wake up," she said spitefully.

All the joy of having a good birthday with the spirits crumbled in an instant. Clenching her teeth, Sakura turned around and opened the door that was under the stairs, until she heard Soku's gasp behind her.

"Do you sleep there?" Soku asked.

Looking at him, Sakura saw how deeply concerned he was for her, and a sadness in his eyes that nearly brought tears to her own. She bit her tongue to refrain from confronting her sister and giving her the satisfaction of seeing her suffer.

"Yeah, it's not so bad," Sakura replied, casting a sidelong glance at her sister.

"No, you'll sleep with me," Soku said.

The Haruno twins opened their eyes in surprise once more.

"What? That's his room. No, I won't allow it," Sakuya ordered, annoyed.

"... I'm sorry, Soku-nii. I have to do what Sakuya says," Sakura said, shuddering at the thought of what her father would say if he found out about this.

She was about to contradict Sakuya when she froze as she saw Soku looking at her with fury, an intensity that seemed to emanate from his body.

"No. She'll sleep in my room from now on. Come on, Sakura," Soku said.

Suddenly, Sakura also felt afraid and was about to follow Soku when she remembered something.

"Wait," she told him.

She went to her small room and carefully picked up the little family of puffs, especially since the puff son was already asleep. She came out with all three in the palms of her hands.

"Can you see them?" Soku asked, surprised. His anger instantly evaporated as he saw what Sakura had in her hand.

"See what?" Sakuya asked, confused and angry as she saw Sakura and Soku equally surprised while looking at something that supposedly should have been in Sakura's hands. "I don't see anything. I demand an explanation."

She's never left out.

"The spirits. Sakura and I can see spirits," Soku said. "I thought I was the only one because Mom and Dad couldn't see them, and I thought you couldn't either, but I see that Sakura can."

This time, Sakuya couldn't hold back and snorted.

"Who cares about seeing spirits?" she said before climbing the stairs with dignity.

Sakura and Soku smiled happily to finally be together. Carefully, they both climbed the stairs and entered Soku's room. Sakura had been here before, though only to clean. Having her brother with her now was a welcome gift. At least she could feel safer. She placed the puff family on a shelf and slipped into bed with her brother, who hugged her.

For the first time since arriving at the house, she was able to fall asleep quickly. Soku, on the other hand, remained awake, stroking and watching his sister sleep in his arms.

"I'll protect you. I'm here now," he whispered.

Sometimes, it's important to stop and appreciate what we have instead of constantly rushing forward, only to later regret what we left behind.

It was a quiet afternoon in the Akatsuki tower. Most members were busy with their daily activities or on missions. In one of the rooms, Tobi watched the constant rain from the window, contemplating how the drops fell over Amegakure. When not bothering his comrades, secretly managing Akatsuki, or playing with his new dog, he spent hours simply watching the rain.

Sometimes he felt as lonely as those raindrops. His days had been cold and distant, until recently when a young woman with pink hair arrived, as Kisame called her. At first, he had doubted her; she was everything opposite to what Akatsuki represented, and he feared she might interfere with their plans. However, to his surprise, Pain accepted her just moments later.

"Surprisingly, Tobi, you've bothered to show up. What are you doing here, Silly?" said Sakura, appearing soaked from head to toe.

"Oh, it's my dog. Why are you wet?" he replied with false cheer, feeling his quiet corner invaded.

Sakura sat down beside him. Despite her small stature, her feet dangled and she swung her legs.

"I was playing in the rain. I like rain, it's fun, unless you have to go buy food, then it's annoying," Sakura started, rambling.

Tobi felt his mind starting to wander. He just wanted to be alone.

"Don't you like rain?" Sakura asked, her eyes shining with curiosity.

Seeing her like this, Tobi sighed resignedly, remembering she was just a child and he shouldn't harm her, at least for now.

"No," he finally replied.

He returned to contemplate the rain, and this time the silence was welcome. For a moment, he thought Sakura had left out of boredom, but when he glanced sideways, he saw her watching the rain with such a sad expression that it surprised him. While he knew she was shy and shrank back when someone got angry, she was slowly starting to open up. However, he had never seen her as melancholic as she appeared in that moment.

"I used to think like that too. Sometimes I wished the rain would take me away," Sakura suddenly said. At that moment, Obito felt he wasn't in front of an innocent child like any other her age, but someone who had grown up facing pain. "I didn't want to be here; I just wanted to run away from home. But then Itachi came and saved me. Now this place is my home, that's why I like the rain now. It represents my home, don't you feel that way?"

When his gaze behind the mask met Sakura's emerald green eyes, he sensed the gleam that reflected pain and happiness struggling for dominance within her. For a moment, he felt a tightening in his chest; somehow, this girl reminded him of Rin. That's why, even though he wanted to keep her away as much as possible, he also felt the urge to embrace her and not let her go.

It was her aura, her determination when facing Kisame, even her sadness over rejection.

Obito gritted his teeth forcefully as he allowed these thoughts to strengthen his resolve to carry out the Infinite Tsukuyomi.

"This is not my home," he said, looking at Sakura through his orange mask. Seeing the sadness and a slight trace of fear in her eyes, he forced himself to calm down, seeing a glimmer of Rin through her.

"I lost a friend."

When silence enveloped them again, Obito looked at Sakura, who met his gaze with determination. He was about to ask her what was happening when she reached out and touched his neck, sliding her small fingers under the mask. He was so surprised by her action that he couldn't move away.

Suddenly, Sakura's eyes closed and the landscape around them vanished, leaving a blank space.

"She's okay," Sakura said, surprising him even more.

Obito's eyes widened as he saw the figure of Rin smiling lovingly alongside Minato in the background. Both greeted him with a smile. He reached out to touch them, but the figures disappeared, and the room next to the window reappeared. When Sakura withdrew her hands from his cheeks and opened her eyes again, he realized she was crying.

"She's calm, happy to see you, and she says you should move forward. The man beside her says he forgives you," Sakura added.

"H-how... How did you do that?" Obito asked, unable to find words to describe what he was feeling.

Sakura glanced out the window again for a moment, and Obito was about to hold her in his arms and shake her for more information.

"I don't know, I just have a friend who tells me to do it when he wants to, by touching people to see the dead. Not even Itachi-nii knows I can do this," she swung her legs back and forth. "A friend taught me the day I joined Akatsuki, when I talked to Dad. He whispered to me how to do it. No one else can see it but me."

A shiver ran down Obito's spine at those words. Did beings really exist that only she could see? He looked around suspiciously.

"Can you do it again?" he asked, perhaps hoping to see, talk to, and embrace his beloved Rin again.

"No, I think it only works once."

Yes, it was Rin and Minato who were there. It wasn't a coincidence that he had felt their forgiveness. Could he set aside his entire plan and seek peace?

No.

He was going to complete the Infinite Tsukuyomi at all costs. Seeing Rin so close only gave him hope that she would wait a few more years. Looking at Sakura again, he felt a warm fire expanding in his chest. Perhaps he wasn't as alone as he thought.

"Thank you."

"What?"

"Wanna go annoy Barbie?" The childish tone returned, ready and eager for mischief. "I know where she keeps her clay stash."

Sakura's emerald eyes gleamed with excitement.

"Yes, I do! Let's go, Silly!" she exclaimed before darting out of the room.

Obito laughed at how easily he could make her happy. Maybe having her in Akatsuki wasn't so bad after all.

Sakura, the Beginning of a Kunoichi - Chapter 20 - Mayurakarin (2024)

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