People change history sometimes.
Some of the time they are in the spotlight, startling in their power and sheer ability to transform the world.
The rest of the time? They are not so noticeable.
Sasaki Riku was a faithful shinobi of the Leaf.
His family was not one with a bloodline, but they'd made out fairly well as a clan during the warring states period, and since joining Konoha had served the Fire Nation as a whole faithfully. They'd done so quite well, too; while they had no unique genetic talent, the Sasaki family as a whole seemed to have sensory abilities disproportionally frequently, and that ability was one that Konoha as a whole promoted above many others.
Riku did not have that ability.
He was a good shinobi besides, very athletic and with significant power behind his fire techniques, but he couldn't back it up with any sensing at all.
Beginning when he was a genin, then, he had a really nasty habit of trying to be even more alert, even more aware of what was going on around him: maybe if he made up for it by his eyes and his ears he'd be just as good as his brothers and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles.
The problem was there was such a thing as being too alert.
Riku had become very, very aware from this sometime between the first and fifteenth time he was punished for one too many false alerts during a mission.
He was a chunin now, though, delivering a message between Uzu and Konoha. They'd delayed their exit from the island the previous month—they'd found a new Iwa spy there, and wanted to 'ensure' their identities before allowing them to leave—but they were finally on their way home and Riku was on that night's second watch while his two partners caught up on sleep (none of them having a particularly easy time of it on the water.)
He fought his jaw to keep himself from yawning, succeeded, and looked around again.
There—that bush. Did it just move?
Riku crept towards it silently, keeping watch for any other movement.
There was nothing there.
He fought to keep from yawning again and settled back into his spot. Still… something felt off.
He wondered if he should wake his teammates, but…
Well, now that he was thinking of it, it was entirely possible the bush hadn't moved at all, and even if it had it was just as likely it was rattled by the wind or a scampering fox or something.
He stayed in place, keeping quiet, and noticed nothing else.
Twenty meters away, increasing the gap by the second, a man with an Iwa headband dashed off. His hands were free, and he hadn't taken anything, but then he didn't have to; he'd practiced for years to be able to memorize things by sight, and so he hadn't had to leave a single mark of his presence.
The earth kept on spinning, Sasaki Riku kept on watching, and no one was any the wiser about how he may very well have been able to change history, if only he had cried wolf one more time.
Sakura woke up buried under six thick blankets. She shifted, before deciding she was too comfortable to move. She wasn't sick, or injured, but she doesn't have any work to do today so Sakura decided she may as well luxuriate in her blankets a bit longer—it had, after all, taken a not insignificant portion of her cut of her pay to afford them.
And then Himari is shouting in laughter, and the light is streaming in through the river, and Kaa-san is calling out for one of the many people passing the house to tell Ren that Arato is back.
Sakura supposed it was time to get up, then.
She sat up, rubbed her eyes, pushed off her load of blankets, and reconfirmed with herself that it was, in fact, Saturday and she did not, in fact, have to get up that early.
And then she got up.
"Sakura!" Himari shouted when she finally forced herself downstairs, fully dressed. "Look! Arato's back!"
"I know." Sakura said. She grinned, glancing at Arato. "I brought him back. He owes me so many birthday presents, you know; I had no choice."
Arato grinned. "I'll get right on that. Today, in fact… or maybe tomorrow. Next week works too; so does next month. Maybe some time next year?"
Sakura smacked his head, then ducked around to get breakfast. The rest of her family—those that were living in the house, that is—were already eating.
"I have a shift today," Kohana complained, "or I'd show you everything that changed."
"I can show you!" Himari said. Himari was only five when Arato left; she only had vague, incomplete memories of him to rely on. But then Himari liked everyone, and Arato was willing to play the good brother at least for today and be shown around.
"I'm going to head back out soon, though." Arato warned. "Plenty of things to do, you know, and so little time to do it in."
"Yeah, yeah." Sakura teased. "Keep up your mysterious front." She leaned closer to Himari and whispered "Really, he just digs fire ditches across the country. He's not very good at it, though, which is why it's been so long since he came home." Himari giggled.
And then the alarm sounded.
It all happened in between heartbeats—Kaa-san dashed to her room, Kohana and Himari to the street where they'd join the other civilian Yamanakas in safe houses, and Sakura and Arato to her room, where she grabbed her emergency pack and tossed Arato her backup pack in the same movement. Then they, too, were out of the house, but they didn't head to any of the other ones—they headed towards the Administrative building with their mother.
It took two, maybe three minutes for every shinobi in the village to amass either there or on the walls. Masses of people stood on the road, on walls, on roofs. Their eyes darted everywhere, keeping watch for the danger that had required such an alarm to sound, but nothing appeared.
Everyone else—the civilians, children, travelers—had been tucked away into various safe locations.
It was a general alarm, so there was little else they could do without additional information.
At last, after several seconds of bated breath, the Hokage appeared. He stood, silhouetted by his advisors, and stared off into the crowd.
"Uzugakure has been invaded. There are no known survivors."
Silence cut across the expanse.
"A fleet of Iwa ships went around the Land of Lightning and overwhelmed Uzugakure with numbers. Most of their naval fleet is gone, now, but their shinobi population still greatly outnumbers ours."
The silence grew, deepened.
"There is, as of yet, no official declaration of war."
The silence turned disbelieving, already foreseeing where the Hokage was leading.
"Given that Uzugakure was so wholly destroyed, the Daimyo has decided it is not worth seeking retribution. He finds peace too valuable, and believes the Land of Rock's Daimyo—the young master who only last month celebrated his eighth birthday—will be able to settle his shinobi."
The silence, now, turned cruel. Sakura supposed more than a few of those around her were considering treason.
"We will honor the Daimyo's request, and not instigate a war. That said, expect any leave you may have been planning to vanish—we will be tripling border patrols and taking other precautionary measures."
The Hokage frowned, then looked out across the masses of faces staring back at him. "For decades the Land of Whirlpools and the Land of Fire have enjoyed incredibly positive relations. We each have been able to rely on the other whenever we needed help, and we always repaid that debt in full.
Today we will not attack Iwa. We will stay back, allow our people as much peace as we can possibly grant them. But when Iwa attacks—for one day, they will attack—when Iwa attacks we will fight.
We will win.
And, more than that, we will do so so conclusively that we repay our debt to Uzugakure in full."
A cheer flew through the crowd, arriving as a swell of emotion and moving from body to body until everyone was crying out in rage, despair, grief, and determination.
The Daimyo ordered them to wait, so they would wait.
But they would not be idle.
And when they did go to war, they would not crumble like so much rock—they would roar as a fire, sustained by the power of their goal, and they would prosper like the woods around them which survived animals, humans, fires, lightning, and earthquakes without ever giving up.
Iwa had once again done what they did best: struck where no one was looking, hit the relatively undefended underbelly of Konoha. But it had not, would not kill them, and by the time Iwa had no choice but to try a direct attack Konoha would be waiting, teeth bared and ready for vengeance.
The roar slowly died down and Sakura took deep, heaving breaths from her spot next to Arato. He glanced at her, then slapped a hand on her shoulder.
"Ready for war, little sister?"
Sakura looked back at him. She wanted to say no—say that war was terrible, and she just wanted to do 'science stuff' anyway, and that she wasn't really the killing type, but…
Iwa had destroyed an entire nation.
"Yes." She said. "More than ready."