Sakura was mid-leap between two rooftops – taking the rooftop highway even though the village’s civilians hated it, because she would sooner die than be later than Kakashi-sensei to the gates – when she felt the hook go through her gut.
Shocked, she looked down, expecting to see herself injured, but her stomach looked like it always did: flat, unperforated, whole. It just didn’t feel like it always did; except, somehow, it also did. When Sakura ran a quick medical diagnostic through herself, there was no damage.
And yet, thought Sakura, as she fumbled the landing, the literally gut-wrenching pain.
A yank on the invisible hook, a dizzying, sickening wrench sideways, backwards, and then upwards, and daylight winked out around her. Sakura blinked, and then blinked again. Stars winked into the darkness, except they weren’t quite right, and then Sakura was suddenly falling from a great height.
And, as one half of the combination move dubbed Death From Above by their enemies, Sakura knew a thing or two about both falling and making an entrance, especially on the battlefield. Whatever was going on below her, it played to both her skills.
Far beneath her, but rapidly getting closer, was a scar on the land, stark against the lush forest that surrounded it. In that scar of cleared space raged a battlefield, pockmarked and bloodied by the combatants’ jutsu. And, cowering against a boulder, was a small figure, one that glowed in the night with Katsuya-sama’s chakra.
A summoning between Slug summoners, Sakura realized, shocked.
In all the world, only she, Tsunade-sama, and Shizune-senpai currently held a contract with the Eternal Slug. Only they could call on each other. Well, the three of them and whoever that was, apparently.
At least I know whose team I’m on, thought Sakura, as she tucked herself into a roll, repositioning herself for her best entrance possible under the circumstances. Her chakra surged, reinforcing what needed to be reinforced; the power to pulverize mountains coalescing in her hand.
Sakura slammed into the ground fist first, shattering it; sending rippling shockwaves of force through the battlefield, like a stone flung into a pond. Around her, the earth splintered, sundered by the pinprick of force that was her fist. Its breaking was deafening, nearly drowning out the screams of her opponents.
And through the waves of earth and flying debris darted Sakura, grinning sharply.
It was the work of a moment to grab her fellow Slug summoner, catching him midair and tucking what proved to be a child under her left arm. With her right, she punched through stone, knocking away some grey-haired bastard. Sakura had the barest impression of his eyes – his red sharingan eyes – widening, and then he was gone.
Two dark-haired figures launched themselves at Sakura, one from either side, and were easily dodged. Except they ended up where Sakura meant to end up, and only the swift substitution of a passing stone saved her and the kid from an untimely combination attack.
Three dodges and Sakura landed on the ground, the two landing across from her. They glared at her with whirling red eyes, and Sakura missed a step.
Why are there sharingan users on this battlefield? Sakura wondered, shocked, indignant.
Chakra twisted around her, the cloying touch of genjutsu waking Inner Sakura to battle, and Sakura flexed her chakra, shattering the technique even as she leaned out of the way of the giant shuriken attack that it had been meant to disguise.
Charging forward, not back – Slug summoners regrouped, they didn’t retreat – Sakura dodged the two Uchiha’s attacks even as they dodged her tests. They weren’t bad, but neither was on Uchiha Sasuke’s level, never mind Uchiha Itachi or Uchiha Obito or Hatake Kakashi.
She’d definitely seen better sharigan users in her time.
She’d killed better too.
Putting that aside, Sakura blew fog over her battlefield, making her opponents’ bloodlime limit useless. Under the cover of her fog, she punched the nearest Uchiha through a tree, then spun into a roundhouse kick a moment later, catching his partner in the face. Neither attack had been meant to kill, but neither shinobi got up again either.
Sakura could singlehandedly demolish mountain ranges. Shattering human bone, tearing out a human heart, or pulping a body weren’t much to her; going easy on her opponents was harder. But, if these were Uchiha lost from her village, Sakura had no intention of killing them until she understood what was going on.
Of course, that begged the question of who she had under her arm, his old-fashioned armor digging into her side.
Truly, there was only one thing to do: she had to capture and question everyone who wasn’t already dead.
It was a shitty plan, especially since she was probably the only shinobi on the battlefield not aiming for the kill, but she was the Godaime Hokage’s apprentice, inheritor of the legendary power of the Sannin, and, most importantly, Tsunade-sama’s heir.
She could do this.
And it wasn’t like any of them seemed to have Mangekyo, although it probably didn’t hurt anything that she had been the one to extinguish the Uchiha line from the world.
Or so I thought, Sakura thought grimly, Inner Sakura howling bloodlust through her veins.
Sakura slapped some non-Uchiha, her hand open. It sent him tumbling to the ground, a hopeless mess of twitching limbs and helpless gurgles.
And under her arm, the child began to cry.
Subduing everyone took longer than killing them all would have done, and absolutely no one was thankful for their lives, except maybe the children.
Ungrateful scum, thought Sakura, as she knelt next to a grey-haired Uchiha.
Ninja who disobeyed orders were trash, but those who abandoned their teammates were worse than trash. The Uchiha had founded Konohagakure. Why were there so many here – wherever here was? Why had they abandoned the village? And when? Before Itachi, obviously, but –
“Don’t!” screamed one of the Uchiha, a black-haired woman with flashing red eyes.
Delicate tendrils of chakra pulled at Sakura, trying to bend her to the Uchiha’s will. Flexing her own chakra, Sakura easily brushed them off.
“I’ll kill you!” she howled at Sakura, now visibly struggling against her useless body. It had been unresponsive to her will since Sakura had slipped past her, running her fingertips across the back of the other kunoichi’s neck in passing. “Touch him, and I’ll kill you!”
“Would you prefer I leave him to die here?” Sakura inquired, arching an eyebrow at what had to be someone who loved the dying man. Raising one hand between them, Sakura coated it in medical chakra, saying “I’m a medic nin by trade.”
A beat of silence then, lower but no less meant, “If you kill him, I’ll kill you, Senju medic nin.”
Sakura blinked. “I’m no Senju.” To the child, who was still sitting obediently where she had put him, Sakura said sternly “Do you promise to stay put?” And, when the child quickly nodded, Sakura raised a finger between them, saying severely “Ah, ah, you can’t lie to me. It’s a promise between Slug summoners.”
The child’s eyes widened and, looking a bit awestruck, he nodded again. He was looking at her like she must have looked at Katsuya-sama the first that that Sakura had successfully managed to summon a division of the Eternal Slug.
Sakura was fairly certain that, awestruck or not though, he was lying again. Unfortunately, she was out of both rope and razor wire. But there were other ways to bind a person.
“If you move, then I’ll never undo what I did to any of your kinsmen,” added Sakura carelessly. “They’ll be helpless for the rest of their very short lives. Do you understand?”
“I promise,” said the little boy, his little voice subdued, and Sakura decided that it would have to do.
“Good!” said Sakura, beaming.
That more or less sorted to her satisfaction, she turned her attention to her patient, a man that she had punched early on in the fighting. Not that there were many shinobi in need of her services. Apparently, no one else had been pulling their punches.
She was working on a non-Uchiha, when movement at the corner of her eye drew Sakura’s attention to the child on the rock.
“Going somewhere, little Slug summoner?” asked Sakura dryly, and the child froze. He darted a guilty look at a brown-haired kid then a frightened one her way. Sakura sighed. “Get back on the rock, little Slug summoner.”
The kid with the bifurcated hair meekly got back on his rock.
Sakura resumed her work.
When her patients were stabilized, Sakura returned the bulk of her attention back to her unwilling audience. Only about half of them resembled each other, but at that moment, they all looked very much alike to Sakura. Maybe it was the hate shining in the adults’ eyes. The children looked frightened, as Sakura herself no doubt would have done at their age. Only the boy who had summoned her looked like he genuinely appreciated the awesomeness that was Haruno Sakura. He still looked at her like she really was Katsuya-sama.
Sakura smiled at the kid, who beamed back at her.
“Itama!” snarled one of the non-Uchiha, a man with a severe face and crazy eyes. He must have been unconscious when Sakura started her work, because she definitely would have remembered those eyes. They were some of the craziest eyes that Sakura had ever seen outside of a Uchiha face.
“Hey!” snapped Sakura at the other shinobi. “Don’t you speak to my summoner like that!”
Slug summoners had to stick together. It was a rule.
He glared at her and, unphased, Sakura glared back. A rude hand gesture on her part, and his lips peeled back in a sneer. Grinning, Sakura turned back to the Uchiha contingent.
“Look, I went easy on you, because you’re obviously Uchiha. But what the hell are you doing here?” Sakura asked conversationally. “Uchiha belong in Konohagakure no Sato, not wherever we are.”
She was trying to channel Ino in interrogation mode, although she wasn’t certain that her results were going to be anything to write home about. Torture and interrogation just weren’t her strong suits.
The adults all glared at her with their red eyes, their chakra clawing at hers, and for a split second, Sakura worried that her conversational gambit had failed to hit. But at nearly the same moment, one of the Uchiha kids, his eyes large and black, blurted “Konohagakure no Sato? What’s that?”
“It’s the hidden ninja village that I’m from,” said Sakura, jerking a thumb at her flak vast. “See?”
“Never heard of it,” sneered the black-eyed Uchiha kid.
Sakura frowned. “Never heard of it? It was founded by the Uchiha and Senju clans.”
“Lies!” howled he of the crazy eyes, now struggling so hard against his bindings that he fell onto his side. Blood flecked the ground around him. And it wasn’t like he was the only one to completely lose his shit either. In this, the two sides united to become one seething mass of outraged fury.
“Someone has lied to you,” said another kid quietly, the brown-haired non-Uchiha that Sakura’s summoner had tried to get to. Looking at him, he reminded her of nothing so much as Rock Lee but with better eyebrows. “We’re the Senju. And we come from no village. We’re wanderers.”
“Kid, my master is the Slug Sannin, the Godaime Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, Senju Tsunade. I know every living Senju, and none of you are them.”
But then, she thought that she had known all of (and killed most of) the four of the last Uchiha too. And yet, there were more than a dozen sharingan eyes glaring at her, all of them trying to catch her in their genjutsu. It was really pissing Inner Sakura off.
“Hashirama!” snarled one of the non-Uchiha, and the helpful brown-haired kid flinched.
Crouching, Sakura pressed her hand to the ground, lines of chakra briefly forming her summon’s seal. Under her hand appeared a minor division of Katsuya-sama.
If anything, that seemed to enrage the non-Uchiha more.
“Sakura-chan?” piped Katsuya-sama. For once, the Eternal Slug sounded surprised. “You don’t belong here.”
“Katsuya-sama, where’s here?” asked Sakura around the lump in her throat, because the stars, the old-fashioned clothes and gear, the living Uchiha, some self-proclaimed Senju kid named Hashirama were beginning to worry her. None of it painted a very good picture to her mind.
“About a hundred and fifty years before your birth,” said the Slug, and Sakura swayed, rocking as if her shisho had gotten a hit on her in practice. The world spun away, shock, and Sakura held onto it with her fingertips. As if from a very great distance, she heard the Eternal Slug say “Well, a hundred and fifty years from when you would have been born. It’s hardly certain now. Sakura-chan, you haven’t been here long. What have you changed?”
And, against her will, Sakura’s eyes were drawn back to the kid on the rock, the kid whose life she had saved first, before she had chosen not to kill anyone else. Under her gaze, the child quailed.
“What’d you say your name was, kid?” asked Sakura through numb lips.
“Itama,” said the boy, his voice quivering as much as his shoulders were.
Itama, one of the two brothers that had been killed; one of Senju Hashirama’s greatest regrets, just as Nawaki had been one of Senju Tsunade’s. He had been meant to die here, his early death informing the shape of Hashirama’s nindo, which in turn would have informed the shape of her village.
Thanks to her, Senju Itama had lived; possibly a lot of people were alive that were meant to be dead now.
She had really fucked up.
This is what comes of being a hothead, thought Sakura bitterly.
Shizune-senpai had warned her and warned her, but Sakura had never listened, not really, and now she had ruined the timeline, maybe even unmade herself and everyone that she had ever known.
Briefly, Sakura considered whether or not it would make things better or worse to kill everyone not named Senju Hashirama and call it a day.
In the end, though, there was only one thing to do; one surefire way of getting to the end result that she wanted. It was going to be hard, though. And it was going to hurt.
Crushing down her own emotions – she’d deal with them later, when the danger had passed, as any shinobi should – Sakura clapped her hands together. She graced her audience with her widest, brightest smile, the one that Naruto and Sai had always fallen for; Yamato-taicho and Kakashi-sensei had never been stupid enough to trust it.
“So, how does everyone feel about starting the world’s first hidden village?”
If the timeline wasn’t going to flow right anymore, then Sakura would make it flow right. No, she’d make it flow better, starting here. Starting the Village Hidden in the Leaves a few years too early probably wouldn’t fuck up the timeline too badly, and it was the better than the alternative – no Village Hidden in the Leaves, because she’d interfered in a battle that wasn’t hers and saved the life of a child that wasn’t meant to be saved.
Across from her, the adults from both clans flipped their shit. They’d probably have flipped a few tables, if they could have. That was okay. She was Haruno Sakura, jounin of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, apprentice to the Godaime Hokage, and inheritor of all the legendary Slug Sannin’s power; she was Tsunade’s heir and all that was left of Konohagakure no Sato’s legendary Will of Fire.
She could do this.
She had to.
She was the only one left to do it.
As she passed through the village’s gates, a child stumbled a step and then stopped, standing in the middle of the roadway. She craned her head back, studying the monument that had suddenly unveiled itself to her, and wondered why she hadn’t seen that before she stepped through the village’s gates. It was huge!
Genjutsu seals, decided the girl, excitement and curiosity itching through her. It was the best thing that she’d seen since leaving home – since home was burned down.
From the side of the mountain, three enormous faces stared down at her, at the whole village and the forest beyond it. Of the three, only the woman on the left looked pleased by what she saw.
Next to her, Hideki hissed through his teeth and Haru shouted “What’s that?”
“That’s the Hokage Monument,” said their guide cheerfully, a chuunin whose name Sakura had already forgotten. “From it, the past heroes of our village watch over us. See that one on the left? That’s our village’s founder, the first Hokage, Sakura. She was an orphan, like all of you. She didn’t even come from a ninja clan, and everyone she knew was dead, her village gone, but she still managed to create the world’s first hidden village, nonetheless. She was the world’s best medic nin. It’s her Will of Fire that we all carry within us.”
“What’s a Will of Fire?” demanded one of the other children. “And why would we want one?”
Their guide laughed.
“Huh,” said Hideki, at nearly the same time but much more quietly. “Neat.”
And Haruno Sakura nodded. She didn’t know much about this village that she’d come to, but Sakura – orphan, clanless, born to a family of dead civilians – already loved this other Sakura fiercely.
Someday, she was going to be a kunoichi just like the Shodaime Hokage.