A/N: It took a year for me to update this but it was because I got busy and also the country I live in blocked ffnet. I don't know if any of you guys have ever had to be in a position where you are "the other person", but I hope you never have to be, because it's terrible and it will make you question whether being a good person was worth it or not. Reviews are always appreciated.
Also, a side-note: listen to Disney songs when you're having a block.
the greatest pretenders
Chapter Three: Fragments
It had been too many years since she sparred with anyone, and even longer since she had moved her fists and her feet in twists and turns in a kind of dance. She never believed it before, but she was always told that the body remembers, even when you don't. In every part of her body, she felt her chakra flow reach the tips of her fingers, the palms of her hands, and the fists she made as she looked before her at the two people whose knitted brows were furrowed in concentration. With just a surge through her body, she remembered. Just like the days she was training with Tsunade, she felt an air of determination. Only this time, she was the teacher.
Sakura sucked in a breath and released it through her nose.
Speed was of the essence for a shinobi. The quicker you were, the more formidable you were, as was the philosophy that was made legendary by The Yellow Flash. Sakura threw herself forward, gathering chakra in her fists as she first aimed at Yuzuru. Neither person saw her, neither person felt her, until her knuckles knocked him in the stomach, sending him flying backwards towards a tree bark. Her head snapped towards her daughter, whose eyes were wide and fearful as she picked up a kunai.
It's not like she didn't know I fight hard, Sakura bemused.
Reflexes as quick as lightning, she dodged Sarada's weapon with ease. Her eyes focused on the sharp point and at the right opportunity, she twisted her daughter's wrist and turned the odds in her favor. Suddenly, she was in control. Her hard-hitting punches made her well-deserving of the title "Second Tsunade". The earth-shattering punches that she threw at Yuzuru were different than the ones she threw at Sarada, and not just because she was her daughter, but because there was no real urgency in teaching her. There was no war, there were no political conflicts, and if there were, then she'd be teaching her from A to Z.
Yuzuru, who collided into the tree barks far too many times for him to count, now stood with quivering legs. His knuckles had bleeding scrapes and he wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist, eyes lit with resolution. Snapping his hands into the first seal, he moved his fingers in a blur before closing his eyes and taking in a sharp breath. He sprinted towards Sakura with a furrowed brow and Sakura could see the chakra flow to his fist. Good, she thought to herself, he's learning quickly.
Turning her shoulder, she dodged the forward strike that sent him flying forward. The sheer crash of his body hitting the earth was like a shuddering earthquake. The birds sitting in the trees flew off, the branches beneath them quivering with their departure. Off to a corner, the young Uchiha stood, bewildered. With widened eyes, Sarada observed the scene before her, as Yuzuru wheezed and dusted the dirt off his shirt. Her dark eyes followed the ridged edges of the cracked earth, all leading back to her mother who stood with a devilish grin painted across her lips.
"Quitting?" the pink-haired woman hollered.
Suddenly, Sarada was just as determined as Yuzuru was to give her all.
Taking a few steps forward, Yuzuru glimpsed at the girl beside him, more than just a little impressed at her ability to hold her own against her mother. His eyes moved from her face to the figure that stood at a distance, and he felt the ideas in his head percolate.
"Sarada," he said, his voice low, "listen carefully. We're gonna go in opposite directions, okay?"
"Because we're going to catch Ms. Haruno by surprise."
The girl blinked and beamed.
"You're gonna go from behind," he said, all the while keeping his eyes on his shishou, "and I'll attack from the front. I'll go ahead first, so that her focus is shifted to me."
Sarada nodded and straightened her back, ready to move at his signal. Sakura, who had been watching them the entire time, lifted her hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. Pushing one foot into the ground to for momentum, Yuzuru charged at the woman before them, whose eyes were less amused, and more calculating. She watched his feet move as though she had memorized his movements, her expression unbothered. Just as he was about to come into contact with her, he spotted Sarada right behind her, twisting her fingers, signaling a fire jutsu.
"Wait, Sarada-chan-!" Yuzuru exclaimed as he shoved Sakura out of the way.
"Wha-" his shishou responded as her body hit the floor, her head hitting the base of the tree next to her. Sakura moved a hand to rub at the bulge she could now feel, then turned to look at the horrific sight before her.
Before her eyes, Sarada had already began to suck in a breath to blow fire out of her mouth. Yuzuru, who was about to be caught in the fire, was half a second too late in forming his seals, and just as he gathered his chakra to counter the attack, Sakura pushed herself off the ground and threw her body at her daughter. The two hit the ground with a loud thud, and the green-eyed woman writhed beside a wide-eyed Sarada, her hand accidentally seared with a second-degree burn. The girl froze as she watched her mother beside her, sweat gathering at her forehead in pain. Yuzuru shouted as he ran over.
"Ms. Haruno!" he cried out. "Show me your hand!"
"No," she huffed, "this isn't that bad."
"You got burnt!"
"I can heal this, it's no big-"
"Don't you dare tell me-"
"Yuzuru," Sakura roared, her eyes filled with an anger as hot as an Uchiha fire, "I'm fine!"
Staggered, he took a step back and rested his hands at his sides. Both of the trainees stayed dead silent as Sakura sat up and winced. Gathering chakra, she brought her left hand over her right and expended her iryō ninjutsu, the burn marks slowly being remedied. A grimace was still plastered on her face, touching the eyebags that had been accumulating for weeks, folding itself into her corners of her mouth, where fake smiles had been etched her entire life. She felt her energy being drained with each burn that went away, and in the end, she let out a sigh, clicking her tongue when she found her right hand was still partially burnt.
"Mom, I didn't… I wasn't meaning to-"
Sakura was facing away from her daughter, who still sat on the forest floor, petrified.
"What did I tell you about using that jutsu?"
A long silence followed her question and the woman felt her jaw clench. Growing irritated, she whirled around to get a good look at her daughter, whose eyes had filled with tears.
"Sarada," she shouted, "what did I-"
"You said not to use it," the dark-haired girl answered, her voice small, "because I wasn't ready to."
Seeing Sarada hang her head low didn't make her so much angry as it made her feel hurt. As she was raising her daughter, she had told her time and time again that while the Uchihas had been proud of their ability to manipulate their fire jutsus, it was incredibly difficult to control it. She remembered a time when she had seen Sasuke practicing with his older brother Itachi, continuously burning his arms by accident. Even then, he would come back the next day to train harder, bandages on his arms as he continued to make seals with his hands and blow fire from his mouth. Still, she frowned, because it wasn't just the fact that the Uchihas had an immense desire to be good at what they did, but it was the fact that their lack of control could hurt the people they loved.
She had a permanent scar here and there to prove it.
"Then why?" she asked quietly, feeling a little more calm.
"It was my fault," Yuzuru spoke, his own voice quiet, "we were trying to come up with a plan to attack you."
"That's well and fine," Sakura sighed, "but you don't have to take the blame, Yuzuru. It's clear to me that my daughter has been practising this technique in secret."
At her words, Sarada turned her head, further avoiding her mother's gaze. Surely, she was ashamed of herself and was even mortified that her mother had been able to tell that she was training and refining that technique in secret. Of course, what ninja as talented as her mother wouldn't be able to figure it out? Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose and took in a sharp breath, her brow furrowed. She was struggling to find a word that matched the emotion she was feeling as she tried to think of something to say. Betrayed was too strong, but hurt was too weak. Perhaps something in the middle was the most accurate thing to what she felt.
"I wanted to be good," Sarada breathed, "because you said Dad was good."
In all honesty, she wasn't surprised, but it didn't mean that the knick in her heart she felt a moment ago wasn't real. Crouching to sit across her, Sakura moved to push back a lock of hair behind her daughter's ear. Offering a smile, she reassured Sarada that it was okay to open up.
"He was," Sakura affirmed, "and you will be too, one day. But not right now."
"You have all the time in the world to be a good shinobi," she said, "but I want you to be safe."
"I can't be better if I'm safe," she uttered, "and if I'm safe, then I can't be good enough."
Sakura blinked, confused. Yuzuru stood behind her, his own twisted expression of confusion written on his face. "What do you mean?"
"Wouldn't he want to come home if he knows his daughter is more like him?" Sarada said, her voice exhausted.
"Do you mean… that you want to be more like him?"
The teenager didn't utter a word but with the slightest movement of her head, she nodded. That put things into perspective for Sakura and an abundance of things that she could say were at the tip of her tongue. She turned around to glance at Yuzuru, as though asking him what he thought, but the man stood there, just as perplexed as she was. She sighed, but she was sure that no matter how many times she did, it never felt like she had enough room in her lungs.
"Sarada," she started, "he didn't leave because of you, and that was never why he left."
"Then why did he leave?"
"He had his own things to deal with," she said honestly, "and some of those things required him to leave."
"Did you try stopping him?"
"Then why didn't he listen?"
"It's not that-"
Abruptly, Sakura stopped talking and listened in the air for the caw of a hawk that was soaring towards them. All three of them looked up and the pink-haired woman slowly lifted herself off the ground with Yuzuru holding her arm as she stood. Holding out her left arm - the one that didn't have the burn wound - the bird perched itself. Excitedly, Sarada stood up, her eyes bright. Her father's signature messenger hawk was one of the few things that gave her genuine content, but it was quickly wiped from her face when Sakura shook her head no, and she moved to untie the paper attached to its leg before sending it off again.
"It's not from Dad?"
"No," she shook her head, "I want you to go home."
"We'll talk later. I have some things to attend to."
"More important than family matters?"
Sakura shot her a look. "Sarada, that's not fair."
"What you're doing is unfair-"
"Go. Home. Now."
They glared at each other for a few seconds before Sarada scoffed and shook her head. Glancing at Yuzuru, she nodded at him and turned the other way, leaping into the trees and jumping from branch to branch, finding the quickest route home. Watching her, Sakura felt uneasiness brew over her and the dread that she felt in the air certainly wasn't just her own emotions. She couldn't help but think about what to say and had already started to come up with a few ways to start her lecture until she heard Yuzuru clear his throat.
"That was… uh…" he said, clearly feeling more than a little bit awkward.
"I'm sorry," Sakura said wearily, "she gets like that whenever her dad is brought up."
"What teenager whose dad isn't around wouldn't?"
He gave her a small smile, trying to lighten the mood. Although she appreciated it, that sense of dread did not disappear. Unravelling the rolled up paper in her hand, she felt an incredible sense of anxiety wash over her that it must have been showing on her face. Yuzuru took one step forward, his expression concerned.
"Is everything okay?"
Her eyes read the paper before her about three times, recognizing the handwriting and the way it wrote her name. Inhaling through her nose and closing her eyes, she nodded. Suddenly, in her head, she was thinking of all the disconnected and scattered information that she had been gathering for the past two weeks, wondering if any of them would be sufficient to present to the Lord Seventh as evidence, even if it were minimal.
"Yes," she breathed, folding the paper and putting it in her pocket, "but I have to go." Her feet began walking east, where Konoha was located beyond the forests.
"The Hokage's office."
Yuzuru blinked and she knew that that in itself was a question. Sakura laughed, although there wasn't much humor in it.
"He summoned me."
The path that led to the Hokage's office hadn't changed by much in the last decade, except that the photo frames of the Hokages had been replaced. The wood looked newer, cleaner, and Sakura smiled as her eyes fell upon Tsunade's, Kakashi's, and Naruto's faces. She had always been in awe of these three people that were in her life, always wishing that she had been more like them. As she passed by their photos and approached the door she used to walk into so often, she tightened the bandage around her right hand. She stared at the wood and took three deep breaths before raising her hand to knock. A few were shuffles were heard before the door was opened, revealing Shikamaru who gave her an awkward smile.
"Lord Seventh is expecting you," he said, ushering her inside the office.
Once she stepped inside, she saw Naruto at the windows behind his desk, looking over the village below. His hitai-ate was slung over his chair and his hands were behind his back. Sakura eyed his bandaged right hand, suddenly remembering how terrified she had been that day when she thought she lost two of the most important people in her life. She took a few steps closer, placing herself at a distance that was halfway between his desk and the door. Nervous, she glued her arms to her side and cleared her throat.
"I received your summons, Lord Seventh," she said diplomatically.
The man before her, whose orange color clothing scheme had always secretly made her wish she had taken him shopping at least once, didn't even flinch. She fidgeted with the hem of her shirt and thought that maybe he was deep in thought. When Sakura turned her head to look for Shikamaru, she saw that he was nowhere to be seen and had actually missed that as soon as she entered the doorway, he left it, leaving the two old friends alone. She sighed.
Still, no answer. Her temper was being tested.
"Naruto!" she shouted, irked.
The Hokage chuckled before turning around, an amused expression on his face. "I haven't heard you call me like that in so long."
She felt a jolt in her veins, as though trying to wake her from a reverie. Naturally, she had accidentally blurted out his name the way she used to - a habit that she had long tried to forget. Even as he turned around to give her a smile, she stood her ground and kept her arms by her side. Truth be told, she hated the way she tensed up whenever she heard his name or had to face him this way. Still, being a shinobi, and being a medical ninja that was taking Tsunade's place, was her job.
Reeling herself back in, she straightened her back. "I assume you wanted an update."
"Sure," he nodded, sitting back in his chair, "what do you got?"
"I haven't been able to go out and investigate myself yet," she started, "but from what I've gathered so far, it seems that it's not just children who are being targeted."
"While most of the victims are children, there's a small percentage who are full-grown adults."
Naruto let out a heavy breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Anything they have in common?"
"So far, nothing," she answered honestly, "but the interesting kicker is that the older ones aren't civilians."
"Don't call me that," the Seventh Hokage muttered, his voice low. To Sakura, he even seemed a little bit annoyed.
"Do you have any more orders?" she asked, pretending as though she hadn't heard him.
"It's not really an order," he replied, watching her face carefully, "but I want you to let me know if you need any extra help. Do you have enough?"
"I have Katsuyu."
At the nostalgic name of her summoning animal, Naruto chuckled and nodded. Taking the action as her signal to leave, Sakura turned her heel and began heading for the door when he called her name, the same way that he used to call her. Jerk, she thought to herself, but a small part of her knew that she was just a big as jerk as she was making him out to be. Hesitantly, she turned around to face him, her posture way too good for someone that was chatting with an old friend.
"I saw Sarada-chan training the other day."
"You did?" Sakura's eyebrows shot up in surprise, "Was she uh…?"
"Good?" he laughed. "Of course - look who her parents are."
She offered a soft smile, not really feeling the pull at the edge of her lips, after having experienced her daughter's upsetting secret that she was perfecting a technique she was told not to. "What was she doing?"
"Practising the Fire Ball jutsu - the one Sasuke used to use all the time."
At his confirmation, she felt her shoulders slump. Even Naruto knew that her daughter had been practising. To be fair, he had no idea that Sakura had forbade it in her home, telling her that she wasn't ready for a jutsu of that magnitude. Subconsciously, she moved her bandaged hand behind her back in an attempt to keep it hidden, though she knew he had already seen it. He was, after all, a shinobi, like she was. There was no point in hiding something that was so blatantly obvious.
"Is that why your hand is bandaged?" he asked after a minute of silence.
"It was an accident."
"That's not what I asked."
Truth be told, one of the things that she secretly both hated and loved about him was his persistence to know everything about the people he held dear. They no longer spent time together, but from the moment she walked into his office, she knew that it was akin to her walking back into his life. She averted her eyes to the side and let that be her answer, and when she heard him sigh, she turned back to look at him, putting her bandaged hand by her side. His blue eyes followed the small action and allowed his lips to give the slightest frown.
"Kids will be kids," she said, feigning humor. Naruto chuckled posthumously. "How's Boruto?"
"Everyone,' he surmised, "says that he reminds them of me."
"I guess it goes without saying," the pinkhead snickered, "like father like son, huh?"
The Hokage smiled then sighed. His laughter lines had sunk into his face, making him seem as though he was tired of even laughing. He had always dreamed of being Hokage and was well-deserving of the title for all the hard work that he had put in to ensure he achieved his dream. Nonetheless, if he was completely and utterly content with his life, the atmosphere in his office would not have turned cold and melancholy when he looked at her. Just as Sakura was about to open her mouth, Naruto chuckled.
"Was I like that when I was his age?" he asked, a tinge of sadness in his voice.
Though he tried to laugh and smile, she could see the weariness in his eyes at the mention of his son. Sakura wasn't sure what to make of his emotion that was slapped across his face, but it was certainly one that came from some kind of strained relationship. She could relate.
"At first, yeah," she declared.
"But then," she continued, "after a while, every time I looked at you, I wanted to believe in you."
Was this dangerous territory? Maybe.
Did Sakura care? No, because she wasn't even aware that the eyes of the man she knew had been in love with her widened by a fraction, as though she had given him the sweetest drink of water after having been in the desert for a month. What she had uttered was the truth, and she knew for a fact that acknowledgement was an incredibly important thing to him. It was the reason that they became friends, and it was the reason that she felt she had a responsibility to protect his dream until the very end. She offered a smile.
"Don't worry about him so much," she reassured, "he'll grow up to be just fine."
"I hope you're right."
"Look who his dad is," she replied, using the same line he had used on her. "Anyway, I think I'm gonna head out. I will report to you directly when I find new information."
Before he could say another word, Sakura bowed and headed for the door, not bothering to wait for him to scold her for treating him as anything other than a friend. The halls that led to the public area seemed much wider now, and she felt as though something was shifting. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but the only thing she knew for certain was a fact that she stubbornly would not admit out loud. As she exited the building and began heading back to her office to grab her things, her thoughts kept going to the Seventh Hokage, whose genuine, bright smile had stayed with her after all these years.
As she looked up at the sunset of another autumn day, she suddenly remembered that some things didn't change.
Ever since she was given this assignment, she wasn't getting enough sleep. There were nights where she knocked back about four cups of coffee before her hands started trembling from too much caffeine, and she would have no choice but to rest. One of the things Sakura hated the most was being limited. She had always been the type of person to give it her all, even if it compromised her health a little bit. After the war, Ino had always lectured her that she needed to be kinder to herself, especially since there was no war to work hard for anymore. Of course, Sakura had brushed her off and continued working as hard as she always had, helping Tsunade and pulling all-nighters. Now that she had taken over, her old habits were far from disappearing.
It was only about 11:00PM, but she was already brewing coffee and waiting for her teenage daughter who hadn't returned home, even though she had asked her to go home earlier after their training.
She clicked her tongue.
Reaching across the dining table, she reached for her cell phone and called Sarada for the third time in the last thirty minutes, unsurprised that once again, it went straight to voicemail. She let out a sharp breath and shook her head, refocusing her attention to the documents that lay before her regarding proposals regarding the hospital and the Ministry of Health of Konoha. Tsunade had had a very difficult job, and Sakura would be damned if she couldn't do just as well as her shishou. It seemed that every time she managed to get through several mountains of documents, there would be a couple new ones on her desk that Yuzuru had set there. She couldn't help but wonder when it was appropriate to change offices.
In the back of her mind, she pondered her mother's ability to not worry about her when she was out past a certain time. She glanced at the clock on the wall before her and sighed.
Without a doubt, she was an incredibly restless woman.
With patience that was wafer thin, she stood up and bit at the skin of her thumb, drawing blood. She performed the hand seals and pressed her palm to the the floor, watching as her chakra formed a ring that eventually summoned a smaller version of the usually ginormous blue and white slug. Katsuyu gasped, clearly more than a little surprised.
"Sakura-sama!" she exclaimed. "It's so rare of you to summon me at this hour."
"I wanted to know if you had more information on the investigation," the pinkhead replied, allowing the slug to climb up her arm. She walked back to the dining table and sat down, setting Katsuyu on the table while absentmindedly reminding herself to clean the table later.
"I'm still looking," the creature replied, "but there is one thing I think you need to know, Sakura-sama."
"What is it?"
"These shinobi…" Katsuyu said, a tone of caution in her voice, "...they're not just normal shinobi."
"What are they, then?"
"They all possess strong chakra."
"Even the children?"
"Especially the children."
Sakura hesitated, an uneasy stomach piling in the pit of her stomach. "That means they can't control their own chakra."
"Yes," Katsuyu affirmed, "it's very much like children who were Jinchuuriki."
An image of Naruto's face flashed across her mind. She sighed. "Their chakra reserves can't be the only thing that categorizes them as a target."
"It's not," the slug confirmed, "but I am unsure if you are ready to hear the rest."
Sakura blinked. "Please, Katsuyu. I have to know."
The animal hesitated, twisting her antennas side by side before she seemed to come to a decision. "Sakura-sama, all of the people that have been captured so far…"
"They all have a kekkei gengkai."
At that moment, Sakura could have sworn that her veins turned to ice. Katsuyu didn't utter a word as she processed the newfound information, causing her to stand up and pace back and forth in the space between the dining room and the kitchen - which admittedly, wasn't that much. Of course it made sense for the criminal to use people who had large chakra reserves, and particularly children or generally younger targets who had less control over their techniques. It was rare in the modern world for children with a kekkei gengkai to know exactly what they were doing, as that always required precise chakra use and execution. Sakura took a deep breath and looked over at Katsuyu, who still had not said a word.
"Thank you, Katsuyu," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry, Sakura-sama."
"It's not your fault," she shook her head and lifted her hands to release the jutsu, "I'll summon you again soon."
"Take care," the slug replied, her voice heavy with remorse.
As Sakura sat down again, knowing that she was going to have a headache the rest of the night, she heard the jingle of keys at the front door that was a telltale sign that her daughter was now home, and was very deliberately not answering her calls. She stood up again and walked towards the living room, facing the door that Sarada had no choice but to go through if she wanted to make it upstairs. The dark-haired teen came through the doorway quietly without noticing her mother standing behind her as she closed the door, livid as ever.
"Where have you been?" Sakura growled, her patience the visual of a Pocky stick breaking in half.
"Mom," Sarada answered as she turned around, clearly startled and was quickly becoming terrified, "I was, uh. I was… out. All day."
"Uchiha Sarada," Sakura spat, "you better have not been practising that technique after what happened today."
"I w-wasn't!" she stammered.
"Can you imagine," the pinkhead shouted, "that the Hokage knew what the hell you were doing, but I didn't?"
"Don't think that just because you have Uchiha blood running through your veins," Sakura warned, "that you can do whatever you want. Especially practising dangerous jutsus behind my back. I did not raise you to be entitled."
"I wasn't being entitled-"
"You may not see it that way, but when have you ever listened to me when it comes to things like this?"
"I just want to be a better ninja - what's wrong with that?" Sarada argued.
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a better ninja," the pinkhead reassured, "but there is something wrong with trying to teach yourself a jutsu without having someone to guide you."
"Who's gonna guide me? My father?" the teenager spat back, her words making Sakura taste venom in her own throat.
The bite of their voices had left an echoing tension that rendered Sakura speechless. Her daughter stood before her, who resembled both Sasuke and herself so much, that she felt a sense of loss that she was unable to explain. One half of her daughter was missing, and had been missing, for fourteen years now. Her words had been direct, had cut through Sakura so easily, that she clenched her jaw in an attempt to keep it together.
"You know what," she enunciated, "you are so. Unfair."
"Me? What about you, Mom? Yelling at me like it's all my fault!"
"I never said it was your fault," Sakura argued, "all I asked was for you to not practice that technique, because you are simply not ready for a jutsu of that magnitude!"
"How do you know that?" Sarada whispered, her tone exhausted.
"Because the only reason your father perfected it at such a young age was because he had no choice." The teenager stared at her mother, her dark eyes that had been filled with anger, now filled with shock. "You have no control, Sarada. You don't have a proper teacher to teach you all that, and I can only do so much."
"So, have someone teach me! I can learn with Kakashi-sensei!"
"That's not the point, Sarada."
"So what is the point, Mom?"
There was an obvious, blatant reason that Sakura was not giving her teenage daughter a reason as to why it was important to her that she not practice that technique. It was considered a simple one amongst the other more difficult ones that Sasuke had mastered, but it was still an advanced move for a shinobi her age. It required a lot of discipline, a lot of chakra control, and a good teacher. Of course, having Kakashi guide Sarada - even for just the beginning - was no problem. The real problem laid in the fact that she was an Uchiha through and through, and with the investigation that she was conducting, Sakura couldn't risk her daughter being in danger. She was already a target, even without activating her Sharingan. Sakura sighed.
"Someday," she whispered, "you'll understand."
"You never tell me anything," Sarada replied, feigning a smile as tears filled her eyes, "you're always keeping secrets from me, acting like you're protecting me."
"Leave me alone," the teenager breathed as she turned towards the stairs, the sound of her feet thumping against the wooden floors. She was careful not to slam her door, but Sakura could hear the click of her pushing the lock in its place, and just as suddenly as the fight had started, the room suddenly became still. The pinkhead groaned and rubbed her temples.
Perhaps, when she was a lot older, she would be able to understand Sarada more. She was always told that teenagers were incredibly difficult to raise, mostly because they were beginning to discover things about themselves that helped to shape who they were to become as adults. On one hand, she understood her daughter's frustration, but on the other hand, her mind was racing and her heart was pounding at the prospect that she still did not have enough information. Heading back to the dining table, she reached for her cell phone and quickly scrolled through her contacts - past Hinata's name, past Ino's name - all the way down to the bottom of her contact list. She waited, listening to the dial tone and took a deep breath when a deep voice answered.
"You're calling late. I was about to sleep."
"I need a huge favor."
"Something you have to run by the Lord Seventh?"
"No," Sakura admitted, "but I can't wait for his approval. This is urgent."
"What do you need?"
"Information," she breathed, "and I need as much as you can give me, as quickly as you can. Is that okay?"
"Yes. Anything for an old friend."
"Okay," Sakura exhaled, eyeing the clock, whose ticking seemed louder than usual, "I'm counting on you, Sai."