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Bearing an Hourglass

By fourthfireshadow

a Timeline Traded

A bright flash of light, so bright and pure it was painful to look at. The light consumed everything in sight, bathing all its obstacles in it. No sound was heard for that single moment. It was utterly silent.

"Child."

Swords clashing, the gritty tang of metal squealing, the screams of despair and hopelessness, the staleness of the dusty molten air, the feeling of anger and adrenaline clawing its way out...the shouts and battle cries...

"...sengan!"

Her eyes snapped open as she bolted upwards in a quick movement, deep green eyes blinking dazedly as she tried to get rid of the blurriness. Her hand gingerly rubbed her temples, an intense case of vertigo crashing down on her. She winced as she felt the dried blood crusting in her hair.

"..Ugh."

But it was only when she looked around, she panicked.

It was the Hidden Leaf Village, she realized. But that wasn't what made her panic. It was the state it was in. Everything was still there. As it were before the war, before Pein's attack. This was pre-war Konoha. And while the sight was confusing, it was every bit as breathtaking.

The sun was just setting, illuminating everything in the bustling village to glow a bright orange and gold. All the houses and buildings were intact, with vines and flower beds growing on the side. An abundance of trees surrounded the entire village. People were walking and laughing making the village seem healthy and...real. The Hokage tower stood tall in the center, as it always had. The Hokage Mountain stood tall and proud, regally showcasing all the five Kages of Konohagakure, both past and present.

Her hand slipped from her hair in shock as she simply stared at the scene in front of her, knowing it's too good to be true but nonetheless hoping anyway.

"Wha...?"

"Surprised?"

Startled, she spun around in fear and paranoia as she faced the person who spoke. Her eyes automatically went to his eyes, and her heart rate doubled as she quickly averted her eyes. The rinnegan. She could feel her limbs trembling a bit as she fought to keep her calm. It wouldn't do her any good to lose her rationality in this time.

"Do not fret, young one. I mean you no harm, truly. I merely wish to speak to you of a matter of utmost importance." The rinnegan user spoke in his deep gravelly voice, intimidating but kind. Confused more than shocked, her eyes went back to the man. Her bewilderment rose as she caught onto the details she had missed before.

This man was clearly not Pein or Nagato. This man was aged beyond years, though he still exuded that frightening aura of sheer power. The chakra signature on him made Madara's into child play. The man had a goatee and spiky light colored hair, with two bits of hair spiked up in the front, resembling horns. He wore a white haori with a high collar, with the peculiar design of the rinnegan in the back. She also took note of his necklace; a cord with six red magatama. The outfit was completed by the white staff held in his hand.

All in all, he looked formidable. However, the kind expression on the man's face threw her off. Why would this person show kindness to her?

How did she even end up here? The last thing she remembered was the gory battlefield and carnage as she healed everyone with the help of her slugs. She remembered watching on as Naruto and Minato tried to attack the bijuu, hoping for some miracle. Then she remembered...white. A painful bright light. Then...nothing.

Was she dead? Was this heaven?

But no. if she was dead, then she wouldn't be feeling this much pain or exhaustion. She wouldn't be feeling so alive. She subconsciously sent chakra to her wounds, healing them easily. So then, was this a genjutsu? Possibly. But then, who would put her in a genjutsu that was so different from reality, that even an idiot could identify it? That's when she grasped that all the answers she wanted lied with the man in front of her. If she ever wanted to get back, she would need to ask him.

"...What about?" she finally managed to speak, though she winced at the pathetic sound that came out instead.

The man only smiled slightly as his violet rippled eyes rested on her. She felt uncomfortable under the scrutiny, as if she was only an inch tall.

"Haruno Sakura." The man stated, an almost melancholy aura passing over him, "This was not how I envisioned things to be." He looked at her with his piercing eyes, an almost expectant look in them. "Do you know where we are?"

Her eyes narrowed. "This, I believe, is a part of your mindscape. An imaginary situation. This village does not exist anymore, after all."

He nodded thoughtfully, a wistful smirk gracing his lips for a split second before disappearing completely, neither confirming nor denying. "And are you aware of who I am?"

There were only three people in history with a complete rinnegan. But then Madara had transplanted his rinnegan into Nagato's eyes, therefore really only two people had the complete rinnegan. Madara's chakra paled in comparison to this man. Her eyes slowly widened. Could it be?...no...way...

"I have my suspicions." She replied curtly, glad her voice came out even.

The man...the sage...just looked at her with his eerie eyes knowingly. She supposes she should feel honored that she was standing in front of the Sage of the Six Paths, the creator of all things, but all she really felt was dread, curiosity and paranoia. She was a war-hardened kunoichi after all.

"What do you think of travelling through time, Haruno Sakura?" he finally murmured after a few moments of silence.

She was pulled out of her reverie, her eyes snapping to his. Time travel?

Sakura hesitated before answering, eyes narrowing in thought, "I...believe it's impossible. And even if it was, the repercussions...would be terrible. But then again, I'm standing in front of the Sage of the Six Paths, so maybe it's not so impossible..."

"There will be no repercussions. That will be taken care of."

She had the sudden urge to laugh. What was happening?

"Ar-are you actually considering-?"

"Time travel? Then yes I am."

She knew he could feel her alarm as she stared at his haori fluttering in the wind. She waited for him to elaborate. As it turned out, she didn't have to wait for long.

"I cannot directly interfere the time line. Alas, I was...forbidden," he stopped for a moment, his face looking a bit sheepish for a second, "therefore, I myself have chosen two time traders. A keystone, as such, of two beings whose actions will affect one particular lay line as they trade their own line."

Somehow, Sakura feared what he was going to say next even though she had a fair idea as he looked solemnly at her.

"One of the time traders I have chosen, is you Haruno Sakura."

She closed her eyes tightly as her hands clenched into fists. Nothing could've prepared her for this. She let out a butter chuckle that bordered on hysteric. What the hell was this? She was suddenly taken from the middle of an ongoing war to a supposed Sage's subconscious so that the old man could tell her she was chosen to go back in time. That was utter bull!

"...Why me? Why not someone else? And how am I to trust you? How am I to make such a big decision such as this?" she fired question after question, knowing she was simply stalling for something she feared was inevitable.

He nodded as if expecting her ire. "I understand your lack of trust. It's a good quality and one of the reasons you've been chosen for this task." He gave another sigh. His face looked suddenly weary. As if age had finally caught up with him in that single moment. "My duty was to make sure the flow of life would remain peaceful. I did not imagine the unleashing of the bijuu's would result in this. That was wishful thinking in my part, I admit. Of course, I wouldn't change that decision, but it was foolish of me to think the world would retain peace. The time traders are only called when something dire happens. As it is, this is one of those instances."

She could feel the irrational anger bubbling up again, but she pushed it down. It was of no use now anyway. This whole thing sounded like such a big hoax—a genjutsu taken to the next level. But...

Seeing the look on her face, the sage continued, "As a time trader, you can revise everything that went wrong and fix it without facing any repercussions. Your appearance in the time line will completely destroy this present one, but you may be able to save more people than you know. Both guardians will have complete knowledge that you have now. Of course, you cannot come back to your own time, you realize."

Sakura felt nauseous.

"Who is the other one?" she asked, though it was more of a demand than a question.

He looked a bit sympathetic to her plight, "I cannot reveal that to you as of now. The other one is facing the same situation as you are, though he is a bit more...stubborn, which is the polite way to put it." He said, his eyes darkening for a minuscule moment.

So that means—a pain in the ass. Just fantastic.

" Both of you will meet, that's certain. It is only the matter of you accepting your pivotal role."

She was still livid, but she felt a little bit better knowing someone else was also facing the same dilemma. She could say no right now—go back to the battlefield, heal everyone who's left alive, as morose as that thought was, and place faith in Naruto and hope for victory in favor of the Alliance.

However, if she did go back in time, she would be able to save so many people whose lives were lost so unfairly—the Sandaime, Jiraiya, Chiyo, Tsunade, Neji and so many more. Maybe she could stop the massacre! Maybe she could save Itachi! She could help Naruto so much. So many possibilities...

But...I will never have the same life again.

They would never know her for her. She would be someone else. She doesn't even know how far past she'd be going, and she didn't think he'd reply even if she asked. She would never be able to see her friends, the Konoha 12, her teachers, her parents...she knew that was a selfish thought when compared to the fate of the ninja world, but it was her whole life.

Bloodshed. Death destruction. Despair. She could somehow make it right. Somehow.

She looked past the village to the Hokage Mountain, her eyes falling on the face of the Yondaime. The likeliness of it to Naruto was uncanny now.

The corners of her lips curled slightly to form a rueful smile.

She'd do anything for him. A chance to make his life better? Done.

Of course, the small venal part of her was also kind of flattered that she, of all people was chosen to be one of the time-rider things. But she disregarded that thought quickly.

She sighed. "I-"

Her eyes blazed in determination, "I accept."

The last thing she saw was bright eyes and a smile before everything turned a brilliant white as she felt her consciousness slipping away quickly.

"There was a reason I chose you, Haruno Sakura. Remember that."

.

.

.

Warmth.

It was what the human body sought out when cold. It was something that every human being wished for from family members. It was what children needed to survive throughout their childhood.

It was something Sakura would find missing, when originally, her previous life had been filled with it.

There was a sharp noise within the room before a door was hauled back and slammed in its frame. The sound of footsteps pierced the girl's ears and Sakura groaned, body curling up tighter underneath her blankets as her mind remained foggy.

"Sakura-chan! Get up! Outo-san's getting angry that you're taking so long! And if you take so long then the old geezer won't give us any breakfast!"

What...?

Sakura heard the high-pitched voice telling her to do something, but she was just so...tired...

"Aaah!" she yelped as she felt the covers over her disappear, cold air hitting her skin harshly making goose bumps rise.

"So, Get. Up, dattebane!" That same squeaky voice commanded again.

Sakura finally jolted awake, blinking rapidly to get rid of the hazy vision. The first thing she saw as her vision cleared up was a girl's face staring down at her in annoyance. She looked to be about six or seven, with long brilliant red hair framing her chubby face and big green-blue doe eyes. Her own eyes widened in response as she quickly backed away from the offending face and looked around, still a bit disoriented.

The room she was in was not very huge, with rice paper sliding doors and lots of windows, letting rays of sunlight in. There was a big bed with a lot of pillows right next to the one she was sleeping on just moment ago before she was rudely awakened. The room was quite messy; she was surprised to see, with small items and knick-knacks cluttering the floor and the vanity table. Her eyes again went to the unknown girl and the reality of the situation sunk into her head.

She was in the past. In another time. She had gone back to Kami knows how long! And—who was this girl? More importantly, where was she? Who was she? Was she still Haruno Sakura? She doubted it.

"Saaakura-chaaan!"

"W-what? I'm up, I'm up." She muttered hastily as she stood, folding the green and red covers in the process into a neat bundle. Somehow, the way the girl called her seemed familiar.

My name's still Sakura. Small miracles.

That's when she took note of her next dilemma as she saw her hands. Small, soft and chubby. What?! How old am I?

When she looked back at the girl who was now grinning, her eyes still somewhat wide, she became aware of their heights. They were both the same height. The other girl was only seven. Oh...Kami-sama...no way!

"U-uh, I gotta go to the washroom for a minute..." Sakura stuttered as she made her way to the door in the room she assumed was the bathroom. "I'll be just a minute. Really." She added quickly as she saw the puffed cheeks and the furrowed red eyebrows on the other girl.

The girl sighed as she rolled her blue-green eyes dramatically and pouted. "That's what you always say, Sakura-chan!"

Sakura inwardly raised an eyebrow. Was she still appearance-centered in this time-line as well? Well, that won't do. Nodding her head, she quickly walked to the washroom, and closed the door behind her.

She finally released the shaky breath she had been holding in. she couldn't believe it was done. She was actually in the past. When she raised her eyes to the mirror in front of her, she stiffened. She was...small. She looked to be only about seven, maybe even less! A chubby face with large blue-green eyes stared back at her, her face filled with confusion and disbelief. Thankfully, she retained most of her features. She still had her rose colored hair, though it was till mid-back and shimmered a light red when the sun's rays bounced off of it. Her forehead appeared normal—again, a small miracle—but it was her eyes that were different. They were the same as the girl's outside. Green with an outer rim of sea blue. Her small hands gingerly touched her face, silently marveling. This was...unreal.

Was she a civilian? Or a shinobi-in-training? If she was a civilian, it would be a lot of work to regain her strength. Though checking her chakra stores, she found out she did have chakra, in fact, there was an abundance of it. How was a child as young as her capable of storing this much chakra? Widening the boundaries of her senses, she realized the girl outside also had the same amount, more or less.

The many emotions flickering in her eyes made her realize how this was messing with her mind. She briefly wondered how the other time-trader was faring.

Becoming aware of how long she was staring at herself, she turned the tap and splashed some cold water on her face. She had to get used to this. She had to go out there, pretend everything was normal and hopefully pick up some useful information.

"Finally!" the girl—what was her name?!—yelled, grabbing her wrist just as she came out and started pulling her towards some unknown location. "Time for breakfast! We also get to train today, Sakura-chan! Otou-san's finally free to train us."

Sakura stumbled at the fast pace they were running in, but more or less kept up, allowing the girl to pull her. Finally, they stopped before a room. Sliding open the door quietly, the girl slipped in. Sakura quickly followed after her and looked around the room. It was a modest room, with wooden floors and ancient paintings and calligraphy proudly displayed on the chipped walls. There was a large dining table present, a man sitting right at the head. The one thing that stood out was the amount of swirl symbols present in the room.

"Kushina, Sakura. Finally made it. I was wondering whether you were going to come." The man said once thy stepped into his view, smiling. The man had short red hair, lighter than brilliant red, and twinkling violet eyes. He was sitting in a relaxed position, in a comfortable yukata.

Kushina. Where have I heard that...before...? I swear I know that name! Kushina, Kushina, Kushina Uzuma—no.

Her green-blue eyes widened as she bolted before returning to their own size. Was it possible? Was she a—?

Her small feet trotted behind Kushina's and sat in the chair next to hers. It would make so much sense though. The huge chakra stores, the spirals she saw, the bright red hair, the way she said Sakura-chan that made her chest ache.

Sakura didn't know she was unabashedly staring at the redhead until she registered that oh-so familiar mischievous grin sent in her direction; the one that was so wide that her eyes were squeezed shut. For a moment, Kushina was replaced by Naruto—flashing the same grin she'd seen so many times before but had taken for granted then.

Her own lips routinely curled at the action as she felt the first warnings of tears. She abruptly turned her head down to look at the plate of food in front of her.

"My daughters. It is time to start your training in the ways of Uzumaki,"—if that wasn't enough proof, she didn't know what was—"as you know, in Uzushiogakure, the specialty in fuuinjutsu. It is the art of sealing. As you have both mastered the academy jutsus and the basics, it is time to delve into these arts."

Fuuinjutsu? Uzumaki? This was all a lot to handle in on meal. She could already feel the starting of a migraine. She was an Uzumaki? So, her name was Sakura Uzumaki? She could feel the shock running through her system. And even though this was quite astonishing, she couldn't help but think dryly, Naruto'd be having a field day if he'd heard.

Another aspect was that the girl sitting next to her—brash, mischievous, red-haired—was Naruto's mother.

Of course, she'd already heard of Kushina Uzumaki. Naruto had told her all about his meeting with his mother in his subconscious while fighting Kurama. He had spoken about this woman with such love and affection, tinted with disbelief, as if he couldn't believe he had actually seen the woman who had given her life to protect him. He had told her of how she as the previous jinchuuriki of Kurama and how she and Minato had met. He had told her everything. And she, so overcome with emotion that her best friend finally got to meet both his parents, just held him as he broke down, both in happiness and sadness that he may never be able to see her again.

She'd even met this woman. When she had travelled with Naruto to the alternate genjutsu world where both his parents were alive. But that Kushina Uzumaki was merely a copy and she hadn't really talked to her then, not knowing what to say.

And now look. She, Haruno Sakura, the best friend of Naruto Uzumaki, was the twin sister of Kushina Uzumaki, his mother.

Funny how life works out sometimes.

She jerked as she felt someone pulling at the sleeve of her simple black top. Her eyes fell on Kushina.

"Mou, Sakura-chan, what's with you today? Tou-san's already gone to the training room. You looked like a moron spacing out like that, dattebane!" she whined.

Sakura stared at the girl in surprise. Dattebane? Did Naruto get his 'dattebayo!' verbal tic from his mother? Even worse, it was inherited? She suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Kami-sama, Naruto never really stood a chance!

Sakura and Kushina soon followed their tou-san. That was still a sore topic for Sakura. This man was her father, and at the same time, not. No, her real father would always remain Kizashi Haruno—the annoying, pink haired man who always joked about everything. That will always be her father. Not this man. No, this man was only the father of Sakura Uzumaki, not Sakura Haruno.

He led them to a vast room in the compound. He sat down, and urged the girls to sit down in front of him. After sitting cross legged, both girls looked at him—Kushina with an expression of utter excitement at being taught something new and Sakura with evident curiosity.

She had never learnt fuuinjutsu, though knowing it was one of the most powerful techniques there was. The art of sealing had never come up in her quest to get stronger. But now that she was in Uzushiogakure, the village that was famous for its sealing arts and an Uzumaki as well, she could feel the thirst for knowledge she was always so known for come bubbling up again. This was something that could end a life with just one simple touch. A simple seal jailed beasts of chakra into normal human beings. She definitely wanted to learn this.

"Fuuinjutsu is the art of sealing. With the knowledge of Fuuinjutsu, one can seal almost anything, corporal or non-corporal, into anything as well. Chakra, objects, even human beings can be sealed. Of course, you have to be a true fuuinjutsu master to conquer that. Fuuinjutsu is a very delicate process that could very well kill you. We have already flushed out most of the inner workings and have them all written within the books, but, essentially, one can create possibly any kind. As you know, Uzushiogakure specializes in sealing techniques, dating back to almost—"

"Hey, old man? Can we move on to the real fuunjutsu? All this history stuff is boring! Why can't we actually do something instead of listening to you ramble—itai!" Kushina yelped as the man struck her chubby knuckles with a wooden ruler.

"Don't interrupt when I'm talking, gaki! All this is important too, y'know!" the man yelled.

Kushina stuck her tongue out as she crossed her arms and looked away, "maa, you just wanna sound all fancy ad official! Don't lie! Actin' like that."

Sakura sighed. It was almost like Naruto had come back with her. Her eyes focused on the scene—Kushina looking away with a stubborn pout on her round face while he yelled at her. The scene was so nostalgic to when Iruka yelled at Naruto. Was everything going to remind her of her past? Because if it did, she didn't think she could live through that.

"Ne, Kushina-chan," Sakura began hesitantly, hoping this plan would work, "how about if you listen now, we can both go and get ramen? Will you do that?"

Her eyes lit up as she whipped around to stare at the pinkette. Yes it worked. Like son, like mother.

"Really?" she asked with sparkling eyes, "we'll go for ramen, Sakura-chan?! Cuz' you hate ramen!"

Can't imagine why, Sakura thought dryly, but she nodded her small head firmly.

Kushina turned with new found vigor as she slapped her fist to her other palm, "Yosh! Let's do this, old man! The faster the better!"

Shaking her head, an amused smile playing on her lips. If Kushina was like this, she thought maybe, just maybe...she could adjust to this life...

.

.

.

Two years later

Time passed quickly for Sakura. She had somehow adjusted well to ending up in Uzushiogakure and ending up being an Uzumaki and also gaining a twin sister. What she hadn't adjusted that well to was being thrown more than twenty five years in that past. She didn't think anyone could adjust well to that.

For the better part of the first year in the foreign village, she was mostly distant, or cold to anyone who talked to her or tried to figure out what exactly was wrong. Of course, no one found out. No one could've even come close to the truth. She knew that all along, but it didn't make it any easier not to feel isolated.

So, she had focused on her training, learning as much as she could.

She learnt the Uzu fighting style. This was much harder than the basic taijutsu stances and katas. It was a more aggressive approach. There was a different technique for both men and women. For the men, it was focused more on using body weight to their advantage. For the women, while body weight was also considered, it gave more importance to flexibility.

She learnt them both.

She also advanced leaps and bounds in the fuuinjutsu area. The number of seals she had to memorize had been painstakingly difficult. Whenever she accidently drawn the wrong seal, even if there was a minute error, otou-san would strike her soft knuckles with his favored wooden ruler and make her do it all over again. While the progress was meticulously slow, she couldn't deny how proud she was of even reaching that point. Her otou-san had said she had the true makings to be a fuuinjutsu master. Now she just had to prove that right.

She knew she had definitely surprised her second father by her behavior, and by how dedicated she was to her training. She had become obsessed with it at one point, some days falling asleep right in the library as she read on about seals and the like. Apparently, between both girls, Kushina was the tomboy and she was the girly one.

That had stopped the moment Sakura Haruno stepped into the body of Sakura Uzumaki.

Kushina had also trained right beside her. Even though she hadn't come as far as Sakura had, it was still impressive for an actual child. She could see why Kushina was called a seal master in her generation. She had a natural knack for it. After all, she was the one who taught the fourth how to use fuuinjutsu.

Until one day, on the eighth month since she had been here, Kushina had come barreling into the training room where she was training just to yell at her about her behavior— How hurt she was at being ignored; how she was so sick of it that she couldn't stand it and told her she'd be glad to beat her up just to knock some sense into her.

That was the first time Sakura cried since she came here.

She had completely broken down, sobbing hysterically, instantly worrying Kushina who rushed to her side and just hugged her tightly; apologizing again and again. Sakura just clutched her firmly, burying her head into the long red hair she was always envious of. They became closer after that day.

Now, Sakura considered the girl a true sister. Kushina was the same as her, she soon realized—she lets her emotions rule her. Sakura was like that as well and now they had formed a bond that no one could ever break.

A bond of sisters.

She was still distant with others, but never with Kushina.

The war was approaching soon. She could hear the whispers around her—the whispers of death, of battle, of how it would come soon. She could see the secret, knowing glances among the village elders. Her own father mostly looked tense, as if always on the lookout. Kushina and she didn't have a mother. Their birth mother had died when they were about four years old. They both were said to have inherited her looks, though no one knew where Sakura had gotten her odd hair color from.

Uzushiogakure, her home of two years, was about to be destroyed.

And she could do nothing to stop it.

.

.

.

Kushina stood frozen, trembling as she looked on at the bloody corpses littering the cobbled streets. She was paralyzed with shock and disbelief. What was happening? She didn't...

Sakura quickly glanced at the bodies before reacting. She swiftly grabbed the sleeve of Kushina's mesh top and ran in the opposite direction. Away from the bloodshed. She didn't want Kushina's innocence to be taken away so fast, however, judging by the frozen expression on the young girl face, she feared it might be too late already.

Finally able to move her limbs somewhat, Kushina shakily turned her head to look at her sister. Her eyes widened. Sakura was fully focused-no doubt, no hesitation. Not even fear or shock. Though if she looked closely, she could see a glimmer of sadness in her eyes.

H-how could she be so calm? A-at a time like this?!

Sakura just tightened her grip on the redhead as she slipped on spare rubble and kept on running, ignoring Kushina's wince. She picked up her pace as much as she could with her small legs as she heard a distant explosion. The air was thick with the heavy tang of blood and metal. It was sickening.

"S-Sakura! S-slow down!" Kushina gasped, forced to pick up her pace as well, "there may be people hurt!"

"No!" Sakura yelled, "We don't have time!"

That hadn't been the first time their Clan had been attacked past their borders. This was the third time they had been breached. This was the first time they were successful.

Kushina crashed into her as she abruptly stopped. Sakura stared up hard at her panting father of this world in front of her, her eyes calculating. Her inner medic spoke.

Three bruised ribs, one cracked. Nose broken. His limp arm was broken, most likely shattered. A deep wound on the left side of his torso, most likely by poisoned kunai. Internal bleeding—definite. Muscles trembling. She came to her conclusion. He's not going to make it. He was probably only going on through sheer will power to save his daughters. It was an admirable feat, but a heartbreaking one as well. An ANBU had followed him as well.

"O-Otou-san," Kushina whispered from behind. It was her broken voice that made Sakura close her eyes. Wars were such ugly affairs.

"Kushina-chan, Sakura-chan...Follow this man, wherever he takes you, do you hear me? Follow him and don't ask any questions. Just follow his instructions and...And you'll be safe..." he gasped quickly, looking at his daughters with intense, tragic eyes.

Sakura averted her eyes. She had grown close to this man. While he may not be her real father, he was a good sensei to her. He had become one of her precious people. And now...she didn't wish to think it.

"Why should we follow him, otou-san?" Kushina mumbled, looking up at her father with trusting and worried eyes.

"B-because, he will take you...to your new home."

"Our new home? Will you come with us?"

"Of course! I-I'll catch up with you guys later though...I have to fight for our village, after all." He uttered with a small trained smile.

"You better, dattebane!" Kushina yelled at her father, surprising him. His eyes widened before softening as he gazed at both of them.

Placing a rough, calloused hand on both their heads, he grinned at them—both tragic and heartwarming.

"Take care of yourselves, ne?"

Both of them were ushered away quickly by the ANBU, away from the battlefield. The only thing that gave him relief was the almost imperceptible nod the pinkette had given him after gazing at him with a knowing look.

Yes. They were going to be fine.

He had no choice but to believe it.

.

.

.

"He's not gonna come with us, is he Sakura-chan?"

Sakura stared ahead as they walked, green-blue eyes narrowed. They were well away from the borders of Uzushiogakure. Only the distant yells and explosions could be heard. Right now, everyone knew the fate of the once proud and powerful village. Soon, only rubble of the village will be left. Nothing else.

She wasn't really surprised at the question. She knew the redhead wasn't as oblivious as everyone believed.

"...No."

Kushina nodded jerkily, quickly using her long hair to shield her face from everyone. Sakura didn't say anything. What was there to say anyway? What can she say?

The group that was walking towards the village that would soon be their new home were the only people that escaped the violence. Most of the group comprised of civilians as the shinobi were called to the front lines to defend the village. Only about three or four shinobi were in the group of refugees from the land of Whirlpool, including her and Kushina. That's why they were walking at civilian pace, instead of running through the trees.

There were two Konoha ANBU escorting them, though she didn't know who they were and frankly, too tired to care.

She couldn't say she wasn't affected by this event. It was her home for two years. It was the destruction of Naruto's homeland. And the person she considered a sensei if not a father had just gone to die. To a normal eight year old, this was what emotional traumas were made of. But she wasn't a normal eight yea old—she was an eight year old with the mind of an eighteen year old.

She glanced at Kushina. Her red hair still covered her face, and she was never this silent. Silence was taboo for her. She could've sworn she saw something crystalline on her pale cheeks for a second. She sighed in concern.

Tears. She was crying.

Slowly, she reached out and wrapped her small hand around an equally small hand and squeezed gently. She heard Kushina's gasp as and could feel her gaze on her face. She stared ahead, only lifting the corner of her lips in a slight reassuring smile.

She felt more than saw her return the smile with a small one of her own as she squeezed back.

They would be fine, that she was sure of. They would get over this and come out even stronger.

As she looked ahead, she could make out the massive gates of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. From the gasp from the girl next to her, Sakura knew she'd seen it as well. Soon the whispers and murmurs of the group of refugees grew.

As for Sakura, she finally felt as if she had reached home.

To Konoha.

.

.

.

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