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Fate's Allotter

By Kist

Romance / Adventure

Down the Rabbit Hole

Summary: She had been standing next to her cousin, smiling carelessly, but then the world shifted and Sakura was tossed into the middle of the Third Shinobi War. Armed only with a single kunai and a hair clip, she makes her stand. It's not about the fact that she was thrown back in time but why. It's not about what she did in the past, but what shedidn't do. It's a story about how she got there... and how she came back. A slow, burning romance.

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Pairings: First, this is a story about Sakura and her adventures during the Third shinobi war. This is not a fic about who hooks up with who; it is a story about what might have happened realistically if she had been thrown into the past. It is an adventure story first and foremost with action, suspense, and general awesomeness. Romance, while important, is not the central the me so if you can stomach the suggestion of an odd pairing, you might actually enjoy a good story.

Of course, I understand if you find these couples revolting (just like I find Orochimaru/Third Hokage pairings a bit far out), but just know you'll be missing out on an amazing adventure. This is not going to be a story you will regret reading, and I promise to make it worth your while.

That being said, there are a number of Naruto/Sakura and Minato/Sakura moments within the story. No, I'm not trying to turn Sakura into a pimp or a pervert, but a certain amount of attraction has to be present in order to advance certain aspects of the storyline. However, there are plot twists around every corner so just because person A may be attracted to person B doesn't necessarily mean they will end up together.

If you just absolutely have to know before you read another word of this story, please PM me and I will be more than happy to give you some plot spoilers of why both pairings are hinted at and which one will prevail.

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Disclaimer: I do not now nor have I ever claimed ownership of Naruto or any of its characters.

Fate's Allotter: Part 1

Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit hole

When Sakura woke up on that fateful morning, she hadn't realized the significance of the day. As she rolled over to stare at her alarm clock, she was not thinking about the date or the year or the fact that there was going to be a full moon that evening. No, all she thought about as her eyes widened in alarm was the fact that she was late.

Her mother was going to kill her.

Cursing as she tumbled from her tangled mess of sheets, she nearly tripped over her "damn blasted, thrice cursed, ill-witted, good for nothing" cat in her mad dash for the closet. Mr. Fluffykins purred as he settled into the warm spot in the blankets she had just vacated, and his blue eyes followed the young woman as she shot from the house like a bat out of hell.

As she raced through the breaking dawn fixing the jingling hairpiece and trying in vain to straighten her obi, she did not sense the presence on the corner. Nor the dark eyes that trailed after her.

Had she known—but then how could anyone have known? Mortals cannot see the wheels of fate as they turn. But even if she had some kind of insight, would she have been able to change her destiny? Would she have even tried?

But these were not the thoughts of the woman clattering down the cobblestone path; she was more afraid of dishonoring her father by her tardiness and rumpled appearance than what her future held. Such is the nature of ninja as they lived almost exclusively in the present.

While her clan was of no significant measure, or at least not by any ninja standards, they were still a clan, and like all clans, they were founded on strict traditions. Even though her ninja duties excused her from the majority of the family's affairs, today was a special day.

Temple day was of great importance to her family. Few were aware of this, but in the days before shinobi, the small community that would become Konocha had been protected by the samurai—her ancestors. This day marked when her ancestors had united the people of Koro—for such as Konoha was called in those days—and a great many races that had previously fought and bickered were united under the strength of her ancestors. The first protectors. In time, they would come to protect the entire region of what would become Fire Country, and to this day, some of the clan members, cousins mostly, still took up the call of the samurai and stood at the Daimyo's side. Although their role was more ceremonial than anything, they could still defend their Daimyo in times of need, drawing their swords only in his defense.

The Temple that the pink-haired medic was approaching was constructed by the Daimyo when the shinobi arrived and filled the samurai's place. It was built so as to be a reminder that it was men that were of ordinary skill who first united the land of fire.

Perhaps if her life had been different, she would have been expected to marry one of the Daimyo's nephew's or a son had the Daimyo been blessed with one. As it was, nobility often scoffed at the shinobi life, considering it foul and dirty, and hardly considered marriageable.

Sakura hardly minded, having found those childhood lectures on how to sit and smile and stand tiring even on her best days. She had no desire to be betrothed to someone who didn't know how to laugh without restraint or to smile without meaning. The very thought of being trapped indoors and being painted to look like a doll for the rest of her life made her skin crawl.

She had been the first in several generations, much less the first female, to join the shinobi ranks so naturally there were a few comments in regard to her newfound position. Sakura would never be able to thank her father enough for withering those judgmental glances and snide remarks for how he let his heir, his only child, run amuck with with such low-ranked persons as shinobi.

Her mother had been scandalized, of course, when she finally learned of the truth, and there had been a icy chill in the house ever since. Of all the people who stood in the way of Sakura's path to becoming a ninja, she had never expected her mother to be the most vocal of the lot.

Sakura sighed solemnly. It was just one of the many stones that had been cast that had build such a wall between them.

As the temple came in sight, she slowed her pace, easing her rapid breathing. 'A woman must always look refined,' her mother's nagging voice reminded her as she smoothed out her silk kimono, tucking in the folds and straightening her obi. 'You must always appear as they imagine you; not a hair out of place!' Jabbing a few more pins in her hair, she began walking at a much more refined manner. 'Sakura, use small, graceful steps. You are not a man to walk with such long strides.'

Her uncles and cousins had her father surrounded, talking politics as to who the future clan head would be, when the latest shipments from Suna were coming in, if they could expect trade negotiations with Cloud to proceed, and so on. Sakura nodded to him politely as she passed the swarm of flies and stood next to her mother.

The elder Haruno didn't so much as glance at her daughter. "You were nearly late."

"My apologies," Sakura replied in a flat tone, "but you know the nature of my work."

Her mother wrinkled her nose in disgust. "It is not a nature fitting of a lady, especially not one of your heritage."

"I am honoring my heritage, " she replied with a touch of irritation, "serving my people just as my ancestors before me."

It was an old tired argument and had actually started long before Sakura had even began considering her desire to become a shinobi. Mrs. Haruno was strict and had very specific ideas of what her daughter's life should be like, and when Sakura did not live up to those expectations or turned her back on them completely, the mother-daughter relationship collapsed.

Mrs. Haruno wanted a nice, clean, presentable daughter with a respectable reputation in manners and demeanor, and as a child, Sakura had once eaten a handful of mud and three worms just to prove to a neighbor boy that she was just as tough as boys were. Mrs. Haruno had wanted her daughter to be cultivated and refined, sitting and smiling just so, but Sakura wanted to read books other than etiquette (like The Art of War and History of the Fire Nation) and wanted to run around in shorts like a boy rather than skirts or constricting kimono. If Mrs. Haruno wanted her daughter to sing, the child would howl like a dying dog. If Sakura wanted to go outside and climb trees with the other kids, her mother would make her sit in the kitchen and arrange flowers.

Round and round they went like oil and water that was unable to mix or bend or compromise. Each one was too stubborn and willful, and when Sakura had signed up for the academy, against her mother's loud disproval, that had been the end for them.

The only reason they ever tolerated the other's presence was because of their shared love for Sakura's father (perhaps the only thing they did have in common). Mr. Haruno was a quiet man who had very careful extracted himself from the women's bitter arguments. He was not the type of man to choose his wife over his daughter nor his daughter over his wife. Perhaps he hoped that his negligence of their arguments would force them to come to some resolution, but so far, there was no sign of such a thing occurring.

On the other hand, her more distant relatives were more than eager to take sides as they sought after their own advancement in the clan. Some favored Sakura's untraditional approach with the hope that despite her ninja background, she might still be made clan head. Others attempted to curry favor with her mother and presented their much moresuitable children to her in the hopes that she would pressure her husband to make that child his heir.

Mrs. Haruno, who seemed to like nothing more than receiving flattery, savored these family gatherings and was more than happy to throw her daughter snide remarks throughout these meetings. Sakura believed that somehow this was her mother's way of trying to pressure her into becoming a more "honorable" daughter, and she tried to be patient and understanding, taking the harsh glares in silence. Her mother didn't realize what being a shinobi meant to Sakura just as Sakura knew that she would never know what being a noblewoman meant to her mother. So she tried to be patient and understanding; a task that was hardly considered easy.

As such, it was with no small relief when Sakura noticed one of her younger cousins approaching her. A small boy with freckles and a missing tooth smiled at her shyly. "Sakura-sama would you walk in the gardens with me?"

Sakura smiled at the little boy affectionately, "Of course I will chibi-chan. It would be my honor."

His gap-toothed grin warmed her heart. "Can we go now?" he begged, bouncing impatiently on his toes.

Her mother pursed her lips at the boy's rushed manner, but it only caused Sakura's smile to widen. "Very well."

But before she could take a single step, her mother grabbed her elbow. Tilting her head to meet her mother's eyes, Sakura was surprised by the uncharacteristic look of fear. The grip on her elbow tightened as her mother bent forward slightly quickly muttering, "Hurry back."

Mrs. Haruno looked as though she had more to say, more she yearned to say, but before Sakura could voice her questions on her mother's unusual behavior, the little boy's hand had wormed into her own and he was tugging on her arm, eager to get moving.

"Sakura!" he whined, "C'mon let's go!"

Distracted from her mother's meaningful expression, Sakura let herself be dragged off. "Alright, alright, I'm coming already."

The walk in the gardens was another tradition. Throughout the garden, there were small shrines to deities or ancestors that had been considered especially heroic by the Daimyo. After they had lit incense and prayed at each one, they would climb the stairs to the temple to await the formal ceremony.

The pair had been walking a few minutes in silence before the little boy tugged on her arm to get her attention.

"I got you a present Sakura-sama."

"You don't have to call me sama," she said stooping to his level, "Sakura-san is fine." In all honesty, she would have preferred an even less formal title, but her mother would absolutely murder her if she dismissed all formalities. Ninja or not, her title was still of some importance.

But the little boy didn't seem to be paying any attention to her as he searched his pockets and procured his gift. A small scroll. It looked ancient, the paper yellowed and crinkled at the edges. Taking it from his outstretched hands, she held it delicately.

"What is it?" she asked curiously.

"Open it! Open it!" The little boy cheered.

She glanced at him. Something was off about the kid; although he had the same excitement as a normal boy his age, he didn't have the refinement that was so characteristic of the Haruno clan, and his eyes were dark, almost black, which, while it wasn't unheard of, was considered highly unusually in her vibrant clan. Sakura didn't sense any ill intent from him just general excitement, and even his charka coils appeared normal for his age.

"C'mon," he whined with a cute pout, "open it already."

She smiled letting her suspicions slide. "Alright, calm down chibi-chan," she said, patting his head, "see I'm opening it."

As her finger curled back the parchment, black ink rolled up her skin. The young woman froze, her pupils dilating as though she were caught in a genjutsu. Ancient characters continued to crawl across her skin covering her arms, wrapping around her waist, sliding down her legs. A few crept up either side of her neck and marched their way across her face until they met in the middle of her forehead. Two kanji, one for time and the other for space, stretched towards each other. When they touched, a brilliant light, bright as a star and equally as blinding erupted from the figure of the pink-haired girl as the characters on her skin glowed red with an ancient energy that pulled inward.

Then the light was gone and a faint thump could be heard as something landed on the ground.

Brining his hands back down from where they protected his eyes from the burning light, the boy found himself standing alone in the garden with a scroll, now blank, sitting at his feet. Picking it up, he put it back in his pocket.

"I'm surprised that you acted so quickly." The boy turned to see the head Haruno walking towards him with the usual entourage surprisingly absent.

The boy tilted his head to the side, and his form shifted, growing taller and broader until it took on the shape of a man.

"I have waited long enough."

.

Sakura looked around in confusion. Her cousin had seemingly vanished.

"Chibi-chan?" she called, scanning the gardens for her missing cousin, but the blob of reddish hair was mysteriously absent.

'How odd,' she thought, 'maybe he got scared and went to the front of the temple with the others?'

As she began making her way back to the front, the garden seemed strange and foreign to her. The trees seemed smaller, the plants arranged in a somewhat different manner, and she couldn't recall ever seeing those yellow flowers before. She fingered the delicate blossoms carefully, wondering how she could have missed them.

Before she had any more time to contemplate the disappearance of her cousin or the strangeness of the flowers, she sensed the approach of three chakra signatures heading towards her. She straightened immediately. The Hokage knew the significance of this day to her family and would not call on her unless it was an absolute emergency, but as three masked ninja appeared in the garden before her, it took all of her training to not bite her lip in worry.

The tall one with a wolf mask she was unfamiliar with addressed her. "Citizen, did you not receive notice?"

Citizen? Sakura was a shinobi. She had not been called a citizen since she was a child, but given her current appearance, she could forgive this unintentional slight.

"No, I was visiting the temple with my family."

"There are others here?" asked the shinobi on the left. He had blond hair that was spiky and familiar, but his voice and chakra signature were not that of her teammate. For a moment, her heart ached at missing him as Naruto was gone on another training mission, but recalling the present situation, she immediately centered herself for the task at hand.

"Yes, I was just walking with my little cousin, but he seems to have disappeared suddenly. My parents are at the front of the temple along with my older cousins and uncles."

The three men tensed, and her level of apprehension only increased.

"What has happened?" She asked, her own muscles tensing.

The tall leader didn't answer her. "Kuru search the front of the temple, see if you can locate the refugees. Minato, sweep the area for the boy. Miss, you better come with me, quickly."

Now Sakura was outright alarmed. No answers and only more questions as the tall man that she did not know tried to usher her along.

"What's happening? Where are you taking me?"

He grabbed her arm as though he intended to drag her, "There isn't time to explain Miss. The Iwa forces are drawing near the village, and Hokage-sama has ordered that everyone be relocated behind the safety of the walls by nightfall."

'Iwagakure? A surprise attack? But didn't we just sign a treaty?!' And what about her cousin? If something happened to him she would never forgive herself.

Wrenching her arm free from the tall leader, she darted back through the garden. "Chibi-chan! Chibi-chan! It's me Sakura, please come out! We need to get home!"

In a flash, the tall ninja was in front of her, blocking her path. "Please go back to the village, I promise we'll find your cousin. It isn't safe here."

But Sakura wasn't listening as she shoved him out of the way, fear creeping into her voice as she leapt through the rows of hedges. "Chibi-chan!"

Her traditional wooden sandals and constricting kimono hampered her movements, and she was tempted to use the kunai hidden in her obi to slash the fabric so she could move more fluently. Before her hand could reach her concealed weapon, she was stopped again, this time by the blond shinobi.

Some part of her recognized that stance, that solemn look of one about to bear bad news. During the war she had become so familiar with that look that she didn't even need to ask what he had to say.

"I'm sorry," he said, "the little boy is... he's gone."

She felt something inside of her shatter as her vision blurred, and tears, hot and burning like acid, rolled down her cheeks. Sakura clutched her sides as if her arms could keep her from breaking. 'A boy, just a little boy.' She felt the blond man's eyes on her as she curled inward and struggled to gain control of her emotions.

The tall shinobi with the wolf mask appeared beside the other man, and the two exchanged a few words that she couldn't hear before the tall man disappeared.

The blond stayed, a silent presence.

"My parents," she finally whispered, "Are they safe?"

His hesitation was enough of an answer. "I am so sorry," he repeated.

She nodded once, as if confirming it for herself. His eyes were sympathetic, and she was once again struck by their familiarity. Warm blue like the oceans, soft and gentle and sad—just like Naruto's. And when everything was breaking inside her, that was who she needed, who would comfort her, the only person she wanted to comfort her, but he could have been a million miles from her for all the difference it made. This doppelganger would have to do.

She wanted to throw her arms around him and pretend that he was her best friend, but instincts rejected this idea. Despite his appearance, this man was a stranger. No amount of grief or desperation could allow her to abandon such requirements as basic trust. She clung to herself instead, willing her shoulders to bear the weight.

"I'll walk you back to the village," the man said, his voice gentle.

Sakura felt a coldness settle in her, a kind of numb complacency. The man put a hand on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort, but she hardly felt it in her own grief.

As they began to walk, grief turned in to guilt. How had she not sensed the Kumo nin? Had all these years of training been for nothing if she couldn't sense a group of ninja murdering her family. She had failed in the most basic aspect of shinobi life, to protect those who could not protect themselves.

As the pair walked through the east gates of the village, the pink-haired girl looked up at the faces guarding the wall, searching for someone familiar, Ino maybe, to explain what was happening, someone who would hug her and make promises that things would be alright, someone who would understand… but all the faces on the wall were foreign and strange. No one called out to her, no one greeted her, no one knew who she was or what she had lost. More than anything else, that made the anxiety in her heart grow until she was almost completely overwhelmed.

A guard greeted them as they passed through the door, "Any word on the refugees staying at the temple?"

Her companion shrugged, "She's the only one?"

Sakura's mind felt slow and sluggish as little warning bells went off. She struggled to place the problem, but it felt as though pieces, important pieces were missing, but by the time she refocused on her present situation, the blond shinobi was gone.

"My Lady," the guard called gaining her attention, "I have a map to the refugee center, but I can arrange for someone to walk you there if you think you will get lost."

Taking the map from him, she inclined her head in acknowledgement, "Thanks, but I'll manage."

So they thought she was a lady of some sort. Strange, she thought the whole village was aware of her characteristic pink hair—not that she had a big head, it just that it was hard to not stand out in a crowd.

As she walked the familiar route back home, she couldn't help noticing slight changes here and there. A missing tree, a missing bench, more of those yellow flowers. Perhaps all the work at the hospital had been getting to her lately and she had been oblivious to the changes, but those same alarm bells kept ringing louder and louder with every step she took.

When she stood outside her parents' house, the very place she had been running from just a few hours ago, the first thing she did was perform a genjutsu release. Then another. And another. And when it finally became apparent that she wasn't in a genjutsu and she wasn't dreaming and she wasn't standing outside the wrong house, she very nearly had a panic attack. It was her parents' old house, or at least it was before all the remodeling and the extension in the back and the addition of the porch to the front.

She stared and stared and stared. Puzzle pieces, unbelievable as they were, began falling into place. She was shaking and sweating and her heart was racing a mile a minute, and in desperation she searched around wildly for proof that she was wrong, that her mind had left her in the moment of grief, but the more she looked, the more the panic rose in her chest. The village was smaller, the buildings were less congested, the hokage tower, the old one, was still standing.

But it was the faces in the mountain that finally drove it home. One, two, three. No Tsuande, no 4th Hokage.

She was alone then, back in a place where her friends could never reach her. Back before they existed, before even she existed. No Tsunade, no Ino, no Naruto, no Kakashi, no Mom, no Dad. She didn't have any weapons or money. She didn't have a job or a house. She didn't even have her forehead protector.

She trembled and shook, but she did not cry. Instead, she walked forward. Her feet carried her to the bottom of the Hokage tower, and she stood outside as a war waged in her mind. Should she tell? Should she not tell? Would he believe her? Should she lie? Would she ever be able to go home again? Could he help her?

.

The third Hokage stared at the woman seated across from him. Her kimono indicated that she was of some noble birth as such high quality silk was not readily available in times as war, and her unusual hair color indicated that she was a foreigner, perhaps from Cloud or a refugee from Whirlpool. He certainly didn't know of any pink-haired families living in the land of fire—not even the Haruno's were that colorful.

The woman was quiet as she sipped her tea, quite aware of his evaluation. She kept glancing at his face as though she kept rediscovering his presence and finding it surprising. Perhaps, mused the Third, he was not quite what she had been expecting.

"What brings my lady to the Land of Fire?" he asked summoning all the proper mannerisms of a courtly official.

She carefully set down her cup. "The manner of my coming is of great concern, but before I continue, would you be so kind as to activate the seal of silence? These matters are of a most sensitive nature, and I wouldn't risk them being overheard."

The Hokage was impressed. A noble of high rank indeed, perhaps even a princess, to know of such things as the seal of silence. Not that it was a secrete per say (most hidden villages had them in their administration buildings) just that it didn't reach the common knowledge of most citizens.

Had he known that the young woman was struggling to restrain herself and that the slowness of her words and the softness of her voice came not from years of court exposure but the careful evaluation as to what she could say that would not instantly reveal her. The back of her mind was whirling with dates and patterns of speech and slang of the era—perhaps she could play the foreigner card but after a while, someone was bound to notice the little peculiarities.

After the room was sealed and the Hokage reseated, Sakura took the lead, directing the conversation with the skill of a practiced politician, "It is the tradition of my family to visit the Wunting temple every year. We had believed ourselves to be safe, but as I have come to understand, that is not so. My cousin and I were walking in the gardens when I lost sight of him. As I searched for him, three shinobi approached me with an urgency to take shelter at the village of Konoha as the grounds were no longer safe. As the events unfolded, I was the only one who was brought here. My cousin is dead and, for all I am aware, so too is the rest of my family."

She hesitated then, and whether it was in grief or fear, the Hokage could not tell, but he did not press, understanding the sensitivity of her experience.

Sakura, however, was not reliving the events of the temple as the Hokage imagined. No, she was playing a fast-forward-rewind game, trying to figure out who she should be or claim to be, what she could change or couldn't change, what affect her presence would have on both the past and the future. Should she tell the Hokage the whole truth and face his skepticism? Should she lie and pray that she was never found out?

Again, she chose her words with care. "My circumstances are a bit peculiar, and I hardly know how to explain. I am without title or coin and my name has little value. I cannot morn my family or raise a memorial in their honor without causing much disquiet among your people."

"My dear," the Hokage began with an air of great sympathy, "while we have not been allies with Whirlpool, the people of Konoha would not protest raising a memorial in their honor, and we are no stranger to refugees, foreign or otherwise."

When the girl started in surprise, it only confirmed Third's suspicions. So he had guessed right that she was from Whirlpool—the tragedy that had sparked the Third Shinobi War. Even though her kimono had some signs of wear, cuts and tears, it was remarkable that the young woman had arrived here in such pristine condition.

Which led him to another theory… "Perhaps I am mistaken, but are you a kunoichi?"

There was a certain fierceness to the girl's eyes, a sharpness that didn't come from spending her days sitting like a flower.

"I am a shinobi." She declared, forcefully and with pride, showing more emotion in that simple sentence than she had in the entire extent of her conversation so far.

While many might have shrugged it off, saying isn't that the title of kunoichi and shinobi were the same, Hiruzen, a man surrounded by war himself, understood. The fact that the word kunoichi exists is very telling. The Third liked to think of it as a relic from a time long gone before men and women stood on equal fields—but some roles had remained stagnant. Kunoichi were a force in their own right, but they had a tendency to take up positions as spies, medics, and, occasionally, seducers. Not soldiers. By declaring herself a shinobi, she claimed that she was as fit as any other to stand on the front lines and fight amongst chaos and bloodshed.

It surprised the Hokage such a fierce declaration, and he responded as neutrally as he could, "Indeed."

The girl deflated. "I apologize Hokage-sama for my boldness, I am merely used to having to explain my ninja pride to those who do not understand."

The man nodded, "Did you wish to take up residence here? Become a… shinobi of the Hidden Leaf?"

The girl's face pursed in an unreadable expression, and Hiruzen got the impression that he had somehow insulted her again.

"It is not that I do not wish to fight for you, Hokage-sama just that I wish to return home."

The Third scrunched his eyebrows in confusion, "You wish to rebuild Whirlpool?"

Sakura sat very, very still. It was either now or never, and yet, she still had not decided what she wanted. Dare she keep up the facade of being a foreign nin, displaced by circumstance? It was an easy alibi, but one that was easily disproved. All it would take is someone who really was a previous resident of Whirlpool to state that they had never seen a girl with pink hair in their village.

It would have been easier to change her "background" so that she was from Snow, a country renowned for it's strangely colorful population. People from Snow rarely left their homeland, and even when they did, it was even less likely that they would travel as far north as Fire Country.

And yet, there was another problem; Sakura's specialty had never been infiltration and spy work. Team seven had been designed to be a open-combat team, and while Sakura probably could pull off the occasional undercover mission, could she keep her identity hidden for months? years? From her own village no less?

And then when they caught her researching strange things like sealing techniques and time/space transport would they still remain unsuspicious? This was the era of the Yellow Flash, and she very much doubted any elemental nation would pass up the opportunity to learn such a technique so her carrying around scrolls of a similar topic wouldn't exactly be building her a reputation as a trustworthy shinobi.

Sakura wanted to be able to meddle in the affairs of the village, changing fate and fortune without anyone batting an eye. She needed to be able to freely dig through the archives without anyone questioning her motives, and what she needed more than anything (as much as it pained her to admit it) was help.

"Ah no, I believe you have misunderstood me. I am not from Whirlpool," she said softly, her eyes downcast.

Hiruzen watched her shift uncomfortably, and got the impression he was about to learn the real reason this young woman was sitting in his office under the highest level of secrecy. "Then where are you from?"

Sakura felt her heart pounding in her chest, her palms moistening with sweat. He had to believe her; he just had to. She couldn't afford to get this wrong, and she really didn't want to spend the next two weeks down in T&I drugged up and screaming out her secrets.

With this thought in mind, she picked her next few sentences carefully. "Forgive me Hokage-sama for this is where my story becomes unbelievable, but I am a refugee that has been displaced in time not place. Ano, I am from Konoha, but a different Konoha."

He stared. And stared a bit more. He felt like rubbing his eyes and calling for T&I, or a Yamanaka at the very least, but he got the impression that would not sit well with his strange guest. Her eyes were sharp and focused, and she was completely serious.

"I know it is a bit unbelievable," she acknowledged, "but I think it was a scroll that transported me here. It was foolish of me to open it so casually, but I did not imagine I would ever encounter such a rare artifact or be kidnapped from one era and thrown into another."

The Hokage felt a headache coming on as he rubbed his temples. "And you say you are a ninja of Konacha?"

"Yes, with your permission, I can prove it. I was the apprentice of—" she caught herself, "one of the future Hokage's, and sometimes I would help her with paperwork."

Hiruzen waved at her to continue.

"There is a secrete compartment in the bottom of the third desk drawer. I think was originally used to store special scrolls, but the Hokage of my time just used it to hide—" she jerked, catching herself again, "…personal affects."

Hiruzen grew increasingly intrigued as the girl detailed various aspects of the village: the catacombs in the Hokage mountain that were originally built to house citizens in the event of an attack on the village, the secrete panel behind one of the bookshelves in the library that led to the jounin and ANBU restricted sections, and the selection process for academy graduates. It was when she started listing his students particular quirks, that he finally stopped her.

"It is not that I don't believe you just that you must understand the circumstances. We are in a war," he continued gravely, "and if you are a spy, the risk of allowing you to remain in the village could lead to dire consequences."

The girl—and suddenly it bothered him that he did not know her name—simply nodded in understanding.

"I would consent to a Yamanaka to search my most recent memories if that would ease your fears, but I must warn you not to dig too far," she cautioned, "To know the future is to curse the present and to ignite a fear that either you will change it—or that you won't. Certain things need to happen, good and bad, certain people need to be born while others have to die. This knowledge will only bring you harm. Search my mind as thoroughly as you need to satisfy your fears, but please search no farther beyond that."

The Hokage sighed. "Agreed." Then he asked a question that caught her off-guard, "What is your name?"

The young woman smiled, "My name is Sakura, Hokage-sama, but I don't believe I will be able to use my family name here."

"Very well, what name will you go by?"

"Just Sakura for now. If anyone presses, I can just say that for safety reasons, I can't use my family name."

"Hmm, I suppose that will do for the time being, but I encourage you to consider alternative names. People will begin to question your identity, jumping to conclusions and such, if you plan to stay here for any length of time. Sometimes a lie is easier to believe than the truth."

Sakura nodded her head in acquiescence. "I will think on it."

"Tonight you may stay at the refugee center, and I'll arrange for a Yamanaka to perform a superficial mind-walk tomorrow to confirm your story. After that, we can discuss your rank and living situation and perhaps, how to find you another scroll."

Sakura stood and bowed gracefully. "Thank you Hokage-sama. I appreciate your understanding."

The Third nodded and watched as Sakura left with grace equal to the princess that she claimed she was not. As soon as the door closed behind her and her chakra signature faded, the Hokage of Konhongakure lit his pipe.

A figure emerged from the shadows to stand at his side. "Orders sir?"

Taking a long drag, the older man exhaled slowly, pausing to digest his thoughts and to savor the moment of calm. "Have someone tail her."

The ninja nodded in acquiescence before vanishing back into the shadows.

Alone again, the Hokage turned back to the papers on his desk: maps of the western front, reports on Kumo's troop movement, mission reports, lists of shinobi and kunoichi that had been killed, injured, or were otherwise missing. Despite this new complication that Sakura brought, he still had a war to finish, and as Kumo pressed forward in their last attempts for victory, they became more desperate and thus, more dangerous. A band had made it through the eastern front and had been attacking outlying villages hoping to either lower moral or to stretch out Konoha's troops. The attack on the temple had been the last in a string of incidents, and the great professor feared their next attack would be all the bolder.

The sudden appearance of a girl with unverified origins did nothing to ease his suspicions. Of course she would be watched; that was just protocol. The question was what would she do?

A/N: I'm going to try to minimize the amount of author's notes on the story so if you have any questions feel free to message me. I am more than happy reply to reviews and make any corrections (grammar or otherwise) anyone finds.

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As always, your reviews are my reason for writing stories like this so please give me a shout out even if it is only to say "nice fic."

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