Honokuni Monogatari - “Fire Country Stories”

Uchinaru - “On The Inside”

A Naruto Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Two

 

            The following day, Sakura was released from the hospital, but was told to return for a follow up later that afternoon. She trudged to her apartment, eyes on the ground. A large pile of junk mail greeted her on the other side of the door, but nothing else was out of order. Her apartment was grey and cold and silent. She sloughed off her clothes and took a hot shower.

            When she came out, her clothes were still scattered where she dropped them. She changed into a new set of spandex and a red over-dress and went about cleaning her apartment as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The bandages on her upper-arms had survived the shower, but she refused to acknowledge they were even there. They made her dress sleeves damp. She picked up the dress she had worn the day before and went through the pockets before dumping it in the hamper. In one of the pockets she found a lint ball and an illegible fortune-cookie fortune that had been washed once already. In the other she found what looked like a paper football the boys used to play with back in the academy.

            “What’s this…?” she muttered and sat down on her bed. Carefully, she unfolded it.

.x.

            Tsunade leaned against the far wall in her office and narrowed her eyes. “When is she due to come back in?”

            Shizune flipped Sakura’s chart. “Today at three. I assumed that would be alright, I peeked at your schedule earlier.”

            “Yes, that’s fine. We need to address this as soon as possible. You say it’s been going on all her life?”

            “At least since she was a Genin; perhaps earlier in a lesser respect. It seems to be getting worse every year. I managed to get the Inner Sakura back inside, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she comes back up to the surface.”

            Tsunade clicked her tongue. “Poor kid. Do you think she can be helped?”

            Shizune nodded. “I think I have an idea…”

.x.

            “What… the hell is this…?” Sakura whispered. The ‘football’ unfolded into a piece of paper about four inches by five inches wide. The characters on it seemed to be gibberish at first glance, but Sakura was smart enough to notice code when she saw it. “How did this get in my pocket?!” she asked breathlessly. She rushed to her desk where she knocked some books and CDs to the ground, grabbed a piece of paper and pen and began an attempt to decode it. A few hours later, she was certain she had cracked the code and made sense of the characters, but the message was still unclear.

            “Time of change draws near. A second question and a fourth, yours and mine. Fall will become spring.” Her eyes darted over the words of the ‘football’ note and the words she had written. “Did you give this to me?” she asked, feverishly. “What does it mean, Sasuke-kun?!”

            A knock on her door made her jump in her seat. She quickly hid the note and translation in a notebook and went to the door.

            “Shizune-sempai?”

            “Sakura-kun, are you alright?” Shizune asked, looking extremely concerned.

            “Oh my god, it’s three?!” Sakura asked craning her neck to see the clock on the microwave. She had to think fast. “It’s four! I’m so sorry, I must have overslept!”

            “Oh, I’m glad you got some rest!” Shizune chimed. “If you like, Tsunade-sama still has some time…”

            Sakura wanted nothing more than to pour over the note until she had the message’s meaning, but to deny the Hokage would arouse suspicion. “That would be great. I’m so sorry…” Quickly, she grabbed her bag, leaving the note in its hiding place. She decided that she had the translation memorized and could mull it over while she waited to be seen by Tsunade.

.x.

            Once more Sakura recounted the details of her mission, this time for her mentor and Hokage, Tsunade. The woman listened intently to the information and Shizune sat to their left against the window and paid close attention to the way the information was being delivered. She watched every movement and gesture, listened to every pause and stumble, unwittingly evaluating her patient. When Sakura was done speaking, Tsunade looked to Shizune who nodded slightly.

            “Sakura, I understand you were behaving strangely when you woke up in the hospital?”

            She sat up a bit straighter and looked to Shizune. “I… I was a little out of it, maybe…”

            “I’m so sorry I didn’t see it years ago. You’ve kept it well hidden, Sakura.”

            “What?” she asked, alarmed.

            Tsunade stood up, walked to Sakura’s chair and crouched down beside her. She took her hand. “You have what’s called Multiple Personality Disorder.”

            Sakura’s jaw dropped. Tears formed at her eyes and she looked from Tsunade to Shizune and back again. Shizune put the pad she’d been writing on down and leaned against Tsunade’s desk. “You have two distinct personalities. The one that we know that’s usually on the outside and one that refers to herself as Inner Sakura. This inner-self is coarse, crude, loud, aggressive, angry: many things you are not. She generally comes to the forefront when you or your friends are in danger of losing their lives. That is not to say she’s evil in any way, just different. It’s my opinion that you’ve been suppressing this other self for so long that an event like the one that happened the other day triggered her to come out and stay out, even after the threat was gone. We’d like to help you meet in the middle, if you’d let us.”

            There was a long pause. Sakura looked up from the floor, tears running down her face. “Am I crazy…?” she whispered.

            “No, no, of course not!” Tsunade comforted her, but looked to Shizune as if to say ‘is she?’.

            “You’re not crazy, Sakura, but you’re not mentally well. I want to dedicate as much time to helping you as possible. So until we’ve made some progress, I’m going to remove your responsibilities.”

            “No, please not that. Please don’t make me useless!” Sakura cried.

            Shizune knelt down in front of her. “You are not useless. You’ve proven that over and over again at the hospital. You are a valuable Konoha Ninja, that is why we are going to do our best to help you.”

            Sakura snuffed and wiped her tears on the front of her dress.

            “That and we care about you very much, Sakura,” Tsunade smoothed her hand over the young woman’s hair. “When Shizune came to me I was a wreck. But I know that you’ll be in good hands. If you need anything, to talk or just chill out, come see me, ok?”

 

            Sakura nodded and composed herself before being shown out. She didn’t remember about the note until she had left the building. Rather than go home, she walked slowly to the park. It was only just getting dark and not that many people were out. She found a quiet spot on a bench under a street light and sat down.

            “Time of change draws near. A second question and a fourth, yours and mine. Fall will become spring,” she repeated the note’s message. “A time of change… something’s happening soon. A second, a fourth… I don’t get that at all. Fall will become spring,” she muttered and pondered this last phrase. “Fall will become spring…”

            “Reciting poetry, Sakura?” a familiar voice from behind startled her.

            “Kaka’i-sensei!” she shouted and stared at the Jounin who seemed to have materialized at her left. “Uh, no! I just…”

            Kakashi was dressed not in his usual Jounin attire, but in simple gi pants and a mock-turtleneck shirt. His mask and hitai-ate were still in place as usual. “It’s a nice metaphor, anyway,” he said and sat down next to her. “‘Fall will become spring’, you hear that a lot at graduation ceremonies and pep-rallies before big missions.”

            “You… you do?” she asked as innocently as possible.

            “Mmmm,” he hummed. “It means the Leaves always come back.”

            Sakura gasped and jumped from her seat. Before she could give her old sensei an excuse and run away to try to put the rest of the message together, Kakashi’s hand clamped down on her wrist.

            “Ah, ah, ah. Not so fast, Missy. You and I need to talk.”

            “Talk?” she asked, a hint of terror in her voice. “What for? I…” her mind whirled. “Let go of me!” she shouted angrily.

            Immediately Kakashi released her, staring hard with a shocked look on his face. “I’m sorry, I just heard that…”

            “That I’m nuts?” she asked, a manic smile spreading from ear to ear. “That I’ve been fired from the hospital and pulled off missions ‘cause I’m a fucking lunatic who doesn’t even know who she is!?” she screamed. Sakura gripped either side of her head and grimaced. “No! You’re not coming out again!”

            Kakashi got up slowly and approached her. “Sakura, are you alright?” He put his hands out carefully and took her gently by the shoulders. Her breathing slowed back down to normal and she looked up at him, but couldn’t quite look him in the eye.

            “No…” she said weakly and let him sit her back down on the bench.

 

            She explained very little, but admitted that she had been put on probation because of the very outbreak he had just witnessed and that she would get the very best treatment. “So you heard about it already, huh? Please don’t tell Naruto, ok?”

            “No, I hadn’t heard about it. I heard about the intruders.”

            It couldn’t get any worse. Sakura’s shoulders slumped. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

            “I understand. But if you need to, please talk to me. If there’s anything I can do…”

            She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Kaka’i-sensei. This is something I have to do on my own.” Sakura stood and began walking away.

            “Are you sure? You don’t seem to be having much luck with that metaphor of yours…” he drawled, playing a magnificent bluff. It worked like a charm. She stopped dead in her tracks. He pushed it further. “He gave you a message, in code, didn’t he? But you can’t discern its meaning.”

            She walked back and stood in front of him. “Fall will become Spring. If that does mean the leaves return, that means that he’s coming back?”

            “Or wants to. The first bit again?”

            “Time of change draws near. A second question and a fourth, yours and mine.”

            “Something important is going to happen…” Kakashi rubbed his eye to hide his surprise. “No idea,” he lied. “The other bit is odd. Are you sure that’s what it was?”

            “Positive. Yours and mine, if the message is for me from him, it’s Sakura’s and…” She still had trouble saying his name.

            “His fourth question and your second. Did you answer different questions on that Chuunin exam?”

            “No. I answered all of them. I hadn’t thought to think back that far.” She sat down next to him again and rubbed her hands together in thought, staring straight ahead. Even though it was painful to think about the past, it felt good to work her brain. “Questions, questions. If it’s supposed to have some significance, it’s got to be something really important and obvious to me but not to anyone else.”

            Kakashi leaned forward and gripped his own hands together. “What’s your name?” he asked.

            “Kaka’i-sensei…” she said rolling her eyes. “I’m not losing it right now.”

            “What is your name?”

            “Haruno Sakura!”

            “What are your likes? Or more importantly, what were your likes when you were 12 years old?”

            She opened her mouth but it stayed that way for a moment. “Sasuke-kun…”

            “And his fourth question, ‘what is your aspiration?’”

            “To kill ‘that man:’ his brother, Itachi. Ok, so far it reads “Time of change draws near. You like me and I want to kill my brother. I’ll come home.” They both sat in silence for a good minute, mulling it over. Sakura still didn’t understand the whole picture, but Kakashi tapped his foot nervously.

            “You have to take this note to Godaime-sama.”

            “I can’t.”

            “You must. There’s something huge going on. If you don’t we could lose him again, this time perhaps forever.”

            Sakura blinked at his seriousness. “Forever? What was it the last time? Seeya later?”

            Kakashi stood up. “Last time we didn’t have a plea in the form of an encoded note stressing off the bat that something’s going to change soon. If you don’t take it to her, I will.” She couldn’t see his single eye from where she was standing, but she was sure that the expression didn’t match the typical nonchalant timbre of his voice.

.x.

            Sakura fidgeted sitting next to her sensei outside the Hokage’s office, keenly aware that she was still just a child. Kakashi was silent. She sat to his right and stared at his covered Sharingan eye. The idea that she had never asked him of its origin crossed her mind, but now was not the time. As last they were shown in.

 

            Tsunade studied the note and its translation as Kakashi told it to her. Sakura rubbed her hands together and stared at a piece of the carpet about a foot from the Hokage’s desk that was sort of coming undone. Kakashi finished and Tsunade drummed her fingers on the desk. “What do you want me to do about this?”

            Kakashi glanced to see Sakura’s reaction. She seemed to still be in a daze. “We merely wanted to bring this to your attention. What you do with the information is up to you, but it’s clear that Sasuke wishes to communicate with us.”

            Tsunade was unmoved. “By beating the living shit out of our nin?” Kakashi let out a slow breath. “Well, what do you think he’s trying to say, Kakashi?”

            Sakura lifted her head to say she had no idea when her sensei surprised her. “Orochimaru is about to switch bodies and Sasuke wants out before that happens.”

            Tsunade shrugged. “He’s a Sound-nin now. Whatever happens to him is none of our concern.” She picked up a brush and dabbed it in some ink, ready to get back to work. “Thank you for letting me know. You’re excused.”

            Kakashi stood, but Sakura didn’t move. She stared at the carpet, slowly coming undone. “Sakura…?” Kakashi asked and touched her shoulder. She smacked his hand away, leapt out of her chair and ran out of the room. He watched her go, then turned to the Hokage. “Why did you…?”

            “Kakashi. Whatever you want to ask me I’m not at liberty to answer.”

            “She told me about her problem.”

            Tsunade put the brush down and leaned back in her chair. “Ah.”

            Kakashi put his hands on the desk. “She’s obviously not in a stable enough condition to be talked to like that about him!” he said, raising his voice and the Hokage’s brows.

            “We are very well aware of her condition. I appreciate your concern, but the only thing you can do for her right now is be there for her.” She leaned forward.  “You should probably follow her,” she said with a flip of her hand and went back to her paperwork.

            Kakashi seemed unsatisfied but he relaxed. “I understand,” he agreed and left the room.

 


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