Of unexpected legends, and the tales never told. Sakura-centric, future, AU.
song of the unknown child
you must admit the land is now in good hands
Sometimes, a shinobi is born of Konoha that surpasses all expectations: a child destined to become the next legend, whether it be a tale of horror or triumph. It is natural, perhaps even traditional, for the village to bet quietly among themselves as to who that child will be. Through this, it is rare for many to be surprised by the outcome.
Some bet that the Uchiha boy would go mad: a prodigy, yes, but Itachi moreso. Any ninja with half a brain understood that to face the missing-nin was suicide, and yet this boy swore his life to his relentless pursuit of that exact death. They said, quietly amongst themselves in their somber kitchen gatherings, that the noble house of Uchiha would lie in ruins forever.
Some bet that the roles within the house of Hyuuga would be reversed by the ruthless power of young Neji. Truly, the boy was great among the greatest, and there was nothing but tradition and perhaps a bit of some stubborn sentimentality keeping his branch from domination. Perhaps, they said, it would be for the best.
Some bet, albeit drunk or grudgingly (and Iruka was not entirely blameless for this) that the vessel of the kyuubi would rise to be the best Konoha had ever known, that despite his seeming incompetence, his insistence of becoming Hokage would come to pass. Some trained for that day, because secretly they believed death was better than being directed by someone who was nothing more than a servant of the demon fox. They said the blood of the Yondaime running through his veins would only grant him so much safety amongst them. Their village was stronger, this time around. To defeat the fox would certainly be easier (though not without their own losses); to defeat the fox while inside the boy easier still. After he grew, none raised a hand to him. None, save his friends, ever offered to help him, either.
In the village of the hidden leaf, there is a monument to the fallen.
Mothers tell their young the stories of those shinobi, the heroes who died for the protection and glory of their village. Stories that hold sadness, pride, and sometimes . . . sometimes regret.
They tell the story of clan Hyuuga, whose most exceptional shinobi set aside his resentment and laid trembling hands on the face of his princess with blank eyes full of triumph even in death, proud to have given his life for that which his house had protected for generations. They speak reverently of how the quiet girl had avenged his death and then laid down where he died, just lying there, just staring at the sky. She had not risen for a week, but she had never shown her tears.
They never think to tell the story of the pink-haired girl who sat by silently, holding the Hyuuga's hand when she was allowed, leaving only to return with food and water that she knew would remain untouched until she had convinced the grieving girl to continue living.
They tell the story of the last scion of the Uchiha clan, pulled from the grip of a blood-curse by his comrades only to fall prey to a surprise attack by a missing-nin. There had been no warning, nothing but blood on the cobblestones and the walls of a ramen stand and a dead man with a kunai lodged in his throat. He'd raised the alarms, though, and the anbu had dispatched the intruder within the night. He was given a hero's ceremony, and those who cared enough to go mourned the death of a great clan.
They never think to tell the story of the girl who loved him fiercely and unconditionally, the one who had claimed him from youth first as a crush then as a brother and comrade, who cared for his empty home though there would be none to claim it. (The villagers spoke in hushed tones that a curse had long fallen upon the house of Uchiha, that the house was haunted. And though they did not tell her story, they looked to her as one who spoke with those ghosts, who may have perhaps loved them more than the living.)
Rarely, they tell the story of Uzumaki Naruto, who despite all efforts had been taken by the Akatsuki group. They don't tell of his escape, and they refuse to speak of the way he returned to them, broken but happy before he was hunted and killed by those who had failed to control him. They don't need to, because they all remember the way his blood had burned into the trees and the earth and never went away, how it forever marks the place where one of their own died. They do not tell this story, because there is no need. They remember, and they regret. He had died a proud Konoha shinobi, and not the monster they all feared him to be.
They do not tell the story of the girl who risked her life to set him free, knowing her death was inevitable should she be caught. They do not tell of how she had learned to love him after being raised to hate him for reasons she could never understand until she dared to question them. They do not tell of how he died protecting her as she lay unconscious among the leaves, how in death his will had merged with and dominated the kyuubi to shield her. They do not tell this story, because they do not know. All they remember is her return to them, carrying nothing but a cracked headband and the heavy burden of grief in her doll-green eyes. And they remember the scream. Some say they wake, hearing it again in their darkest nightmares.
She left them some years after the funeral, slipped away into the forest and never returned. The Hokage did not bother to list her as 'missing'. In the records of the shinobi, Haruno Sakura is dead.
And they do not understand, though perhaps some primal piece of them can sympathize.
In the village of the hidden leaf, there is a legend told.
Quietly, in the tea houses and around the winter-fires, they speak with awe clear in their voices of a kunoichi who lived among them for years. They sometimes wonder how they never really noticed her; how they never realized the wisdom and power of the girl they had raised within their walls. Those who knew her shake their heads, because they understand that she'd never truly needed it. Those who she wanted to acknowledge her had already done so. She'd loved them dearly, and she'd never asked for more than that.
Sometimes, though, those who remember her, and those who are young enough to believe, say that she still lives, protecting her home from outside their village walls. The young, when brave enough, will speak of her: they swear, sometimes, that they can see an unfamiliar shadow at the edge of the village, whispering through the grasses. In the morning there are always fresh flowers at the stone, even in the dead of winter. Sometimes, there is fresh blood in the forest, and signs of battle. Konoha village is safe.
No one seeks to follow that ghost anymore, but sometimes there are stories.
Those that remember her smile. They say she, too, has stories to tell.
october 21, 2003