Garden - Chapter 31 - GollyWhoKnows (2024)

Chapter Text

Chapter 31: Words Written with the Reed

Sakura tensed her feet and pulled her chair in with her toes. Feeling tiny at the wide table before her, she couldn’t help but wonder why the Leaf were separating her from Sasuke and Naruto. ‘Surely they can’t imagine our stories are going to be that different.’ She tried to think over the differing perspectives they all had. As she considered it, they had split up a lot. ‘It must just be standard procedure, to question us like this.’ All Sakura wanted to do was take a cold shower to wash the salt and sweat out of her hair, then lay down for an impossibly long time. All she got was a ninja to look her over and assure Lord Danzo she wasn’t in need of immediate medical treatment. Then they took her branch, and Mei’s scroll, and left her here. Maybe this alone time was all the Leaf could afford her. After all, people had died. She waited for someone else to enter the little room she’d been put aside in. ‘Were they talking to Naruto and Sasuke first? Maybe Shizune’s perspective interested them?’ Sakura rapt on the table nervously. She’d be lying to say she wasn’t nervous about if they’d punish her. She hoped they’d see she did what she could. ‘A forest is the worst place for a sapling to grow. The sun is already blocked, the soil already leeched, by the trees that came before. How would my garden grow if I wasn’t there to tend it?’

The door cracked slowly, and Danzo Shimura crept in without opening it fully. He closed the door shut again as he pressed his back to it. “Sakura Senju.” He announced, but in a tone that almost seemed phrased as a question.

Sakura nodded delicately. “Y-yes m’lord.” She’d hoped Shikamaru’s dad would be the one talking to her.

“I wanted to ask you some things about the mission.” Danzo said as he pulled out his own chair before her.

“I’m sure,” Sakura confessed. “I’m not sure where to start, sir.”

“From the beginning.” Danzo clarified. “From when you left the village, up until right now.”

Sakura took a sharp breath. “It’s… been nothing but bad luck. I’m not sure I’d even believe it myself.”

Danzo leaned in wordlessly, and Sakura began after a quick breath.

Hiruzen Sarutobi always knew Shizune to be a capable kunoichi. Just like Kakashi was the last surviving student of Minato Namikaze, Shizune was the last of Tsunade’s legacy. And now she returned for the first time in over a decade with news that Kakashi had been killed.

“We only encountered the genin recently. Under attack by one of those Akatsuki that Lord Jiraiya warned us about.” Shizune clarified, arms folded as the Hokage opposite her probed her for answers.

“What were they after?” Hiruzen asked, but he could already guess as much.

“They… were attacking the children. I’m not sure if they were aiming to capture or kill, but luckily Lady Tsunade was powerful enough to drive them off.” Shizune continued.

“Which did you encounter?” Hiruzen asked quickly.

“When I first saw… them. They were separated. Neither looked totally human, one was black, the other white. As they fled, they rejoined into a single body, or at least what was left of them. The genin said when they first appeared they were joined like that too.”

“Some kind of clone jutsu then?” The Hokage asked.

“I-I don’t think so, they had separate personalities and abilities. I have samples of the matter that made up each of their bodies.” Shizune produced the matter she took from the ruined parts of their bodies they left behind. “It’s organic, but does not appear to be flesh. In fact, it doesn’t look like it came from an animal at all, but that would need to be studied further.”

“A sage mode gone wrong,” Hiruzen theorized.

Shizune shook her head. “I can’t say, they had plant-like qualities and I don’t know of any senjutsu like that. The white one emitted spores, the black one… possessed wood style.”

Hiruzen co*cked his head smartly. “You’re certain of that.”

“It summoned roots from beneath the earth and directed them.” Shizune nodded along.

“That is…” Hiruzen paused. “Concerning. About how long before that was Kakashi killed?”

Shizune uncrossed her arms as she leaned back. “Days before at least. The genin said as much as well. The Akatsuki was a newcomer. As I said, Kakashi died in the Land of Waves, which I know… less about.”

Hiruzen rolled his overarched neck. “So two tragedies in the span of one mission. That’s something isn’t it?”

Shizune narrowed her eyebrows. “Sir?”

Hiruzen reached across the table for the samples collected by Shizune. He stared overlong into the vials. Wordlessly, he leaned back and knocked on the door behind him until another ninja entered. Hiruzen passed them off to him. “I want these examined by the medical team.” Before the new ninja could even leave the room, Hiruzen turned back to Shizune. “Tell me more about the figures in the woods.”

Koharu appraised the Uchiha before her, retelling his story of his arrival to wave. Nothing seemed at all out of the ordinary until Zabuza materialized and dueled with Kakashi in the forest. Then there was the ice ninja, Haku, Sasuke called him. And Kakashi electing to stay in the Land of Waves. Sasuke suggested that Kakashi felt some kind of obligation to protect the impoverished there. That Naruto’s urging had turned their captain sympathetic to the local plight. But Koharu knew the truth better. Kakashi was at risk of losing his genin. Coming home after failing to complete their first mission would fast track Kakashi to having them taken away just as Hiruzen threatened. And Kakashi couldn’t bear that. He’d been allowed to dream of training Sasuke and Naruto for years, and finesse the system in every sort of way to make it happen. Lord Hokage never batted an eye, not until the entire council rose up to oppose the idea. Koharu could only lift her eyebrows as Sasuke went on. ‘This is Hiruzen’s fault,’ she told herself. ‘His gentle, naive heart, saw Kakashi twisted in two ways. It saw some of the most promising young genin placed under him put in danger beyond their station. All for Hiruzen’s nostalgia.’

“And that’s how Kakashi got hit.” Sasuke continued. He paused afterwards.

“He was… killed?” Koharu clarified, pulled out of her own thoughts.

“Yes,” Sasuke confirmed. “I called out to him but he didn’t answer. I think the blast must have knocked Naruto out too.”

“How did you respond?” Koharu asked.

“The Wavers, the villagers we were trying to protect. They started storming the bridge.” Sasuke began. “I’ve never seen civilians fight that… eagerly… they should have known better than to fight with a ninja.” Sasuke thought of them; the untrained, the powerless, falling as flaming heaps on the ground as Sasuke boiled anyone who got too close. No matter how zealous, no bravado keeps your face from controting into panic under the touch of fire. Sasuke shook his head sharply. “I tried to kill anyone who got near me and Sakura but… there were so many.” Sasuke bit his lip for an instant, then went back to his description of the attack.

“You didn’t try to flee?” Koharu interrupted.

“I was injured, and still trapped by the ice. I thought I was making my final stand.” Sasuke said defiantly. “I was hoping Sakura could make her way over to me but… she killed the bridge builder herself. Then fought with the bridge builder's daughter. They knew how to fight ninja. They came fast and hard, surrounded her so she couldn’t use her agility against them. That’s how they all fought, sloppy, but keeping up pressure.”

“How did that confrontation end?” Koharu asked.

Sasuke closed his eyes a moment too long. He remembered. ‘A red light, and a roar.’

Homura’s straight face and chapped lips didn’t surrender the slightest hint of emotion. “Why did you take the Kyuubi’s offer?”

Naruto’s eyes widened. “I-I didn’t take any offer…” Naruto fidgeted. Homura stared right through him. “They were going to kill us all. I had to do something.”

Homura was stock still. “What exactly did it say to you? Repeat its wording as accurately as you can.”

“That-that it could help me.” Naruto confessed. “And that it was,” the boy swallowed hard, “my fault. My fault that we were there, you know?”

“Why did you want to stay in Wave so badly?” Homura asked.

“I,” Naruto shifted under the councilman’s unblinking scrutiny. “I know Miss Kushina and Miss Mito had the Kyuubi before me. I remembered how Miss Mito stayed to defend us even when her home was being besieged. I felt like-”

“Do you love the Land of Waves more than the Leaf?” Homura asked sharply.

Naruto looked up quickly. “Wh-what?”

“Do you love the Land of Waves more than the Leaf?” Homura repeated, more slowly this time.

“N-no!” Naruto said quickly. “I just wanted to help people who I thought needed help.”

“The Land of Fire has far more people in need of protection than the Land of Waves. It has more people than the Land of Whirlpools ever did.” Homura’s declarations were simple facts, but there was an undertone of disappointment in his voice. “Knowing how valuable you are to this nation, why would you risk yourself to stay in Wave when it put you in such personal danger?”

“That’s not fair!” Naruto shot back. “Nobody ever explained what I was! I’ve had this thing in my ear since before I could talk and nobody ever told me why. I thought I was crazy! I thought I was sick!” Naruto settled slightly. “When I learned it marked me as a hero, all I ever wanted to do was use it to protect people. I had to learn in the woods that night, scared for my life and my sensei’s. And even after that, nobody explained. Kakashi just went on training me and said, ‘we can talk more about it when you’re older.’ Well I’ve fought, I’ve killed! I need to know now! People risk themselves, not even for me, but the thing inside me. So don’t tell me I don’t love my home because I wanted to help the Land of Wave.” Naruto pointed an accusatory finger. “You sent me there!”

Homura’s flat wide stare finally showed a fraction of emotion on his aged face. “It was our impression that if the other ninja of your generation didn’t see you as a Jinchuriki you wouldn’t be defined by it. Mito, Kushina: they bore the beast later in life. You have had your burden since the day you came into the world. Clearly what the council wished for you could not come to pass.”

Naruto took two heavy breaths. “What did they wish for me?”

“The same thing you wish for yourself.” Homura replied.

Kurenai Yuuhi paced outside the interrogation chambers. “I don’t understand,” Kurenai spoke loudly. “If you’re worried she acted out of place, she’d confess it to me. You didn’t have to turn her over to Danzo.”

Shikaku watched Kurenai pace throughout the room. “Danzo and Sakura are just talking, Kurenai.” Kurenai didn’t reply. “Look between you and me, the council is in a bit of shock. With Kakashi dead, and Kyuubi's Jinchuriki was left as a sitting duck for the enemy-”

“Sakura doesn’t know anything about how to handle something like that.” Kurenai began. “Shikaku,” She continued, desperation in her eyes. “She just graduated from the academy. She wasn’t trained to deal with what happened.”

“There is something else Kurenai.” Shikaku beckoned Kurenai to come a little closer and lowered his tone. “Sakura… she awakened wood style.”

Kurenai’s mouth fell open. “What?”

“Privately the council didn’t think this was impossible. Her chakra control is of a strength that only comes along once or twice in a generation, even before formal training.” Shikaku’s comments were plain for the information he was revealing. “She is of the Senju and has the necessary chakra natures. Water, Earth… Yang.” Shikaku added.

“I know that but… wood style?” Kurenai shook her head. ‘And they suspected this?’ Kurenai bit her lip. “Why did no one tell me?”

“We would have issued her special training when she was older.” Shikaku continued.

“Which is to say you didn’t want to waste resources trying to draw it out of her if she couldn’t manage it.” Kurenai gathered.

Shikaku nodded his head. “We thought that if you knew, you would subconsciously steer Sakura toward it, maybe even upset the process in some way. Most of her feats have been raw instinct. After she mastered her basic chakra natures, Sakura would have been reassessed. This was only picked up near the end of her academy days. If you saw the potential yourself, it would have been more unbiased than if you knew.”

“Well that point seems moot now.” Kurenai sighed. “How did she do it?”

Shikaku shrugged. “When she knows, we can tell you.”

“You retrieved Kakashi’s Sharigan yourself?” Danzo asked. Of all the details to Sakura’s story that was one of the most impressive.

“I just went with the rebels when they took the fight to Gato and found it. It was our intention though. We didn't want to leave him there. And knowing that the Mizukage would have wanted the Sharingan.” Sakura looked away from the councilman with a pained face. “I know it could have been considered an act of war with the Mist, but I felt like it all started before me.”

“The Mizukage manipulated our forces into fighting his battles for him.” Danzo issued a quick nod, his tone during dour. “That transgression will not be overlooked, but you need to be subtle if you’re going to bite back. Holding a blade with the rebels without direction from a higher ranked ninja was indiscreet at best.”

“I shouldn’t have done it, I know. I wasn’t in a position of authority to make those choices. But Sasuke was hurt, Naruto was so shaken, I wasn’t sure if the Kyuubi could come out again.” Sakura rubbed her forearm self-soothingly. “I didn’t know what to do except go with Haku and pray. They seemed alright in the end. They even offered to bring Captain Kakashi’s head to us but… I don’t know. I felt someone needed to be there from our team to oversee it all. Sasuke and Naruto weren’t suited anymore, so it had to be me.”

“Mizukage Yagura bears the Three-Tailed Turtle.” Danzo said candidly. “A beast of their own would have offered the Mist rebels a valuable weapon in their fight. Naruto is more important than even a Mangekyou Sharingan.”

“I know,” Sakura replied. “I know, sir." She added. "But the gamble paid off. They helped us.” Sakura sounded like she was reassuring them both.

“You claimed your mission was nothing but bad luck, but you’ve truly been quite fortunate. A sympathetic foreign power came to your aid, a Sannin, and…” Danzo produced the branch Sakrua had taken from the tree she’d connected to, “this.”

Sakura blinked when she saw it. They’d taken it from her the second she’d gotten to the room. “It’s still awash with chakra,” Danzo commented. “Yours.”

Sakura shook her head. “Like I said I just acted. I was forcing all the chakra I could outside of myself.”

“You were drained of your Yin chakra,” Danzo surmised. He shrugged before adding on. “You’re very strong to awaken something no other person has naturally in decades.”

“Naturally?” Sakura asked. That wording stood out to her.

Danzo smiled, not with encouragement, but more respect for her noticing. “We were never sure if it was a genetic trait tied to the Senju or not. Considering your enemy in the woods, we still aren’t.”

“Surely you would know more about this than I.” Sakura remembered her place quickly. “Sir.” She added.

Danzo pushed the branch toward her. “Do it again.”

“Do what with it?” Sakura felt foolish even while the words still escaped her lips. Lord Danzo clearly meant use wood style, but she really had no idea how to recreate what she’d done before.

‘Anything,” Danzo replied. “Make it move, grow, explode, I don’t care. Just manipulate it.”

Sakura took the branch tenderly into each hand. She squeezed it a little. Tracing her chakra across the surface, she tried to penetrate into the branch like she would genjutsu into another being. She held back her yin chakra as best she could, but the branch reacted to her no differently than it would any other ninja willing their raw chakra onto a plant. It trembled slightly from the imbalance, but otherwise responded like an inert object. “I,” Sakura tried a few seconds more before she continued. “I really don’t know what I’m doing.”

Danzo stared at her with an impartial eye. “Don’t you?”

“I-” Sakura felt a disturbance and grimaced. ‘You’re casting genjutsu on me?”

“Just to insure you are being honest.” Danzo admitted. “There is no need to resist.”

It was hard not to. Sakura had been trained to resist genjustu passively. Even still, Danzo was far beyond her prowess. She wasn’t even sure what the genjustu was doing to her, but Sakura tried to allow it to wash over her still.

“I don’t know what I did in the woods.” Sakura said quickly. She realized as fast it was Danzo’s genjutsu lowering her inhibitions. She continued to speak, as words poured from her. Not untruths, but more curtly than Sakura would have phrased them. “The trees spoke to me. The vegetation grew and spiraled around me. Leaves, grass. The white matter the enemy pinned me with turned to foliage. I forced all my chakra into the matter. I was unsure of how to direct it but I remembered Hashirama Senju’s seal and tried to direct it at the enemy. Tsunade intervened before we could fight.”


Danzo leaned back in his chair with a satisfied smile. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

Sakura’s head throbbed as Danzo’s technique wore off. It only lasted a few seconds, before Sakrua felt like nothing had happened at all. Unsure of what to say now, Sakura sat tense, fumbling over the branch. Danzo spoke again.

“Wait here,” Danzo ordered as he rose. “We will call you before the council in a few moments.”

Sakura was left alone in the room again, now wondering why Lord Danzo had used genjutsu on her. ‘Was he so distrusting?’ She pondered. ‘I wouldn’t have lied to him.’

A few moments turned out to be almost an hour. Sakura had been left with little to do but sit at the table with her branch. Assuming she was being watched from some one way mirror, she continued to try and activate some effect from it with no success. Finally the door opened again. Sakura looked up, expecting another council member but her eyes turned bright. “Kurenai sensei!”

“Sweetie, I’m sorry,” Kurenai said as she hurried over to her and pulled in into a gentle embrace. “They wouldn’t let me in to see you, but I've been here. You were never alone.” Kurenai said reassuringly. The interrogation department ninja waiting outside wouldn't like to hear that. 'But screw them,’ Kurenai thought. Sakura was her charge. She needed to feel safe.

“Sensei I- I did what I could.” Sakura confessed as the pair pulled apart.

“I know,” Kurenai smiled. “You brought Naruto and Sasuke home safe, you brought yourself home safe. That is everything I’m training you for. I’m very proud.”

“I’m not sure if the council feels the same,” Sakura confessed.

“You spoke with Lord Danzo?” Kurenai asked, knowing the answer already. “I know he seems cold, but he cares. Everyone is just worried.”

Sakura wasn’t sure she believed her sensei when it came to the council, but she knew that Kurenai cared. “I don’t know how I did it sensei. I’ve tried but I can’t do wood style again.” Sakura’s voice shook a little. Purpose robbed. “Maybe I didn't do what I thought.”

“We’ll find out.” Kurenai said calmly. "But Lady Shizune disagrees. You have the wood style, I can almost assure you." Kurenai's smile lessened some as she he tilted her head toward her student. "Come on, the council is going to make a judgment." Kurenai moved to take Sakura’s hand but the girl pulled away.

“A judgment?” She asked. “A judgment about what?”

Kurenai brushed aside some of Sakura’s hair that had fallen into her face. “Sakura... I will need to talk to you about what happened in the woods. I know Danzo didn’t say more but I’ve been given dispensation to. When you faced Zabuza your mission became A-Rank. When you faced the man in the woods, it became S-Rank. This is above your station, but you persevered. The council isn’t sure what to make of it.”

“Am I in trouble?” Sakura asked nervously.

“No,” Kurenai said gently.

“Are Naruto and Sasuke.” Sakura asked as quickly.

“No,” Kurenai said again. “But dear, the man in the woods was no ordinary rogue ninja. He is part of an organization that the higher ninja, the ones well above me, have been keeping an eye on. Even I had to be informed. There is reason to believe that they target Jinchuriki.” Kurenai took a breath as Sakura looked up at her anxiously and urged her sensei to continue with her eyes. “And there is reason to believe Sasuke’s brother is one of their associates. We don’t know how far this goes. If you were found by simple chance, or...”

Sakura shook her said. “I don’t understand. Were we being tracked?”

“We don’t know honey. We honestly just don’t know.” Kurenai confessed.

“What is the council going to do with me?” Sakura asked. “What does any of this have to do with me? Was he after me too?”

“Until this morning, Naruto was the most valuable genin in the Leaf. But Sakura,” Kurenai leaned in. “Lord First created the ninja system. Only his wood style could overcome the tailed beasts, and they were the crux the great nations were built on.”

Sakura’s heart started racing as she tried to anticipate what Kurenai was saying. “He was very strong,” Sakura agreed in an out-of-breath voice.

“He was,” Kurenai nodded. She took Sakura’s hand again and squeezed. “But it was his jutsu that made it possible. Tailed beasts are… weak to wood style, I guess you could say.”

“So what does that mean?” Sakura asked.

“Naruto is our Jinchuriki, but the wood style is the catalyst and key for creating Jinchuriki at all.” Kurenai took Sakura’s other hand, and knelt down a little so they were on the same level. “The council now feels that you are the most valuable genin in this village.”

Sakura's eyes widened. "Just because of wood style?"

"The shinobi system as it exists today was built on the back of wood style." Kurenai continued. "Within your cells lies the power that changed the world once. This is no mere bloodline limit. This is the future."

Garden - Chapter 31 - GollyWhoKnows (2024)

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