Kinomi wa moto e otsuru
"A berry falls to (its tree's) roots."
Children observe and copy what their parents do; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
There was something to be said about the sheer lack of child responsibility that all parents/carers in Konoha seemed to have. Initially, I had (rather surprisingly) assumed that Sakur- my parents were simply bad with children and it was just a one-off thing. In fact, they were significantly better at the whole parenting gig than many others were, as I'd learnt after seeing a whole pack of three/four-year-olds running in the street outside my house with no visible accompaniment whatsoever.
It made sense once I thought about it - the parents of my generation had lived a somewhat large chunk of their childhood during war time. Even those who had not been brought up in a ninja household had to deal with the parental figures in their lives being away for extended periods in order to help with the war effort. Those who were training to become ninjas were also expected to rise through the ranks quickly. Chūnin promotions were given out almost recklessly and you were given responsibility for lives at a very, very young age sometimes. And if you could be responsible for other people's lives then you could take care of yourself. Theoretically.
Consequently, those who had grown up in that time period now often accidentally left their children alone to a point that bordered on being dangerous because they'd been left by themselves by their own parents. The amount of times Mebuki and Kizashi Haruno had just gone out of the house, without even thinking it might be a bad idea to leave their three-year-old daughter unsupervised, was somewhat horrifying to me as someone who had lived in a world where that sort of neglect could land you with a prison sentence.
This shared mindset by many parents did explain why so many kids ran around Konoha without anyone accompanying them though. Children, from ninja clans especially, usually just went out to play when left alone at home for whatever reason. Large groups would form of kids wanting to stave off their boredom or just have some company and huge games of 'ninja' would take place across the whole village. In a way, it made the children safer. Out on the streets, there were various ninjas passing by you at any given point. If something ever went wrong then you'd receive help in a flash.
Mixed feelings about parents abandoning children aside, I was nothing short of thrilled with the idea of being left to my own devices for large portions of time. As nice as they were, I didn't have too great of an attachment to my parents or at least not as strong a connection as one usually would have towards their mother and father. Whilst their relationship dynamic was amusing, I had difficulty harbouring feelings of deep affection for them, even with Sakura's memories from her time as an infant. The fondness was there, for sure, but it was more like that towards an aunt and uncle. Our relationship wasn't helped by the fact they treated me like a child when my mental capabilities were far beyond that. As a result, I enjoyed being left alone more than I did with them.
Plus, not having them looking over my shoulder to see what I was doing meant I could learn the things I needed to without any sticky situations coming up.
The Haruno clan, although having extremely sparse members, had quite the impressive book collection. It was no wonder as to how the original Sakura had managed to wield such intelligence with this much information at her fingertips. Very quickly I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge there that I wanted to absorb but found difficulty in doing so due to the language it was written in.
Speaking Japanese hadn't been so much of a hurdle due to my fairly absent consciousness from Sakura's early years. If I had been present for all that time with my adult mind then I doubted that I would have been able to learn the language as fast as I had. Children were just so much better at that sort of stuff after all.
Reading, however, was an issue. When I'd finally burst back into consciousness, Sakura had only just started to learn to read under her mother's tutelage. The Japanese writing systems were infamous for their difficulty to learn and I realized very quickly that this idea wasn't over exaggerated. I struggled stubbornly through paragraphs of text during the day when my parents were out and then heaved my way through the pages of books for children when they were around for me to ask for help.
Progress was infuriatingly slow. My parents found my almost obsessive focus on learning how to read amusing, which only served to make me even more irritated. What they saw as endearing, I saw as a major block in the roads of my plan. I'd start the academy in a little under two years so I needed as much information as possible before then. My days would there on out be taken up with classes and I'd be less free to do things as I wanted. Also, in order to be average I needed to know the things we'd learn - or at least the basics - before our class did. If I didn't I'd be in danger of either going too fast or too slow, both drawing attention to me.
It was exhausting, spending hours trying to go through a single passage of a book everyday. Although, at the very least, it was better than joining the children playing outside. My parents thankfully didn't ever force me to join the other kids, even if Mebuki did sometimes voice some concern to her husband when I was meant to be asleep that I wasn't being social enough. Kizashi always replied that I'd be more interested in it when I started going to school. "Anyway," he said once, "some kids just like being by themselves. It's not a bad thing at all."
I wasn't quite like that, but his assessment of me was better than I thought it'd be. Really, I liked being social with some alone time mixed in every now and then. What I didn't like was some of the pointless conversations that children had with each other. I wanted talks with witty remarks woven into the chatter. I wanted to discuss mature topics sometimes. I wanted conversations with people on the same wavelength as me. I didn't want to enter a debate with a child about meaningless things like 'which ninja move is the coolest' or 'ugh, you're a girl, you have cooties'.
The fact I wanted nothing to do with any of the rookie nine only caused the prospect of interaction with children to be even less appealing.
Within six months I managed to have the barest of reading basics down and could crawl my way through a book provided I had several others open to refer to as I read. If anyone were to walk in on such a sight I supposed it would be rather disconcerting: a young girl with a large book on military affairs laid out in front of her and various storybooks covering the floor that she was constantly flicking through. Luckily, that never happened.
Despite being trained as ninjas when younger, my parents weren't exactly the 'sneaky' type. They entered the house noisily enough to always grant me enough time to clear away the books. That being said, they did retain some very ninja-like qualities even if they were technically retired from duty (my father to become a merchant and my mother to have me). Kizashi had a tendency to walk very, very softly even without the use of chakra, which was rather ruined by his loud voice and constant laughter. Mebuki would often hold things like one would a kunai or some sort of other weapon. Both had a habit of placing their hands near their left hip, something I had never paid attention to until realizing that was close to where their pouches would be slung.
These little reminders of the presence of ninja became increasingly concerning over those six months as I began to become more comfortable with the chakra flowing around my body - an earlier constant symbol of the dire world I inhabited. I was still hyper aware of it, however, I'd stopped squirming so much at the sensation. Even now it was a foreign entity, just a foreign entity that I'd become used to being around. Sometimes it went as far as being reassuring to feel it running through my body.
Since my chakra wasn't so overwhelming anymore, I begun to sense the chakra of others, most notably my parents. It was a slow process though. The first time I'd sensed either of their chakras, it had been when I'd been in physical contact with them. To be honest, I'd been surprised when I'd felt it. I'd describe it as being like a heartbeat, a steady pulse you could feel when you placed your fingers on their wrist. My father, who had naturally larger chakra reserves than my mother, had a noticeably more prominent rhythm, although initially I lost all sense of it when I wasn't in contact with him. After a while, I began to be able to sense my parents at further and further distances away, as though the pulses of their chakra were carried through the air to my ears.
I wondered briefly whether one would count chakra as a radiation of sorts, carried by waves through the surroundings. Could it technically then be diffracted or reflected? Reluctantly, I had abandoned my curiosity in favor of focusing on reading and learning more useful known things. Once I had run from Konoha I could busy myself with things like that.
I was teetering on the edge of my upcoming fourth birthday the first time I saw the titular character of the universe I'd fallen into.
I'd been sat in the window of my bedroom, book in my lap but my attention drifting to the view beyond the glass. Konoha was annoyingly beautiful in a way the appreciative, artistic side to me loved. If I'd been any good at art I might've spent the time I wasn't reading on painting the landscape of the village. In the distance there were sloping, stretches of trees that seemed to continue on forever whilst in the forefront there were interesting buildings that were a mix between modern and old architecture. Every now and then there'd even be a display of grace and skill by ninjas jumping from rooftop to rooftop, headbands glinting in the sun.
That day, as I'd stared at the world that lay outside my bedroom, I caught a glimpse of the usual sight of children running around outside, presumably playing 'ninja' with their cardboard weapons. If I hadn't indulged myself in that moment by allowing a few seconds to wonder whether the game had been made by adults to ease children into a life of fighting, my eyes wouldn't have followed the group and I would've totally missed the child running around in the middle, grin far too wide for his face. It took even longer for me to recognize who it was.
Naruto, I realized, was actually quite unnoticeable without his orange clothing.
He'd disappeared by the time I'd processed this all, although some effects of his presence remained on the street. A few adults had turned to each other in horror, one going as far to point accusingly in the direction he'd run off in, presumably saying that they should drag the demon away from those other poor children. Those I could make out in recognizable ninja attire, however, did nothing more than glance at where Naruto had gone before continuing on their way, seemingly unaffected by the ordeal.
It made sense. Those who had been trained as ninja up to chūnin class would know that the young boy posed little threat and that the demon curled up in his stomach wasn't going to suddenly burst out just like that. Anyway, even if they did hold some grudge against him, they were smart enough to know that firstly, they would get into deep trouble if they did anything against him, and secondly, it wasn't worth their time. Beating up a child with your superior skill in every way was something I doubted to be that satisfying.
I was a little surprised by the sight of Naruto playing with people of his age though. Of course, if I logically thought it through then it was hardly shocking. Those who played on the streets during the daytime did so usually because their parents weren't around and the groups of children were often so large that they probably knew only a few of the other kids' names. It would take a while until any adults that feared Naruto's existence found out about their children playing with the 'demon-child' and forbade them from doing so.
Stop thinking about Naruto before you start to regret the plan you decided on.
Pitying him will gain you nothing but trouble.
Jumping down from the window sill, I yanked on the cord to my blinds with more force than necessary, blocking my view to the village a young child was running around happily with other children who couldn't care less what resided inside him.
It was over dinner one night that my parents first tentatively approached the topic of which school I was to attend: civilian or ninja. I wasn't quite sure why I hadn't expected such a thing to be discussed, perhaps because I'd assumed it was an unspoken rule that I'd attend the academy as they had done themselves at my age?
Then again, despite the mindset of their generation that had been brought up with war surrounding them, I could see the changes being introduced to combat that. Adults were being made to accept the fact that their children might not want to be ninjas and weren't allowed to be forced to become one either, like many of them had years earlier. The accelerated path prodigy ninjas used to fly down was being slowly closed off in an attempt to create a new breed of youth who weren't going to be traumatised by war at an early age. We were the generation that would have all the happiness our predecessors couldn't have.
(In a way that kind of made it worse as we were now going to get pressure to be happy because our lives were so much better than their's. I knew from experience that a mindset like that was toxic, one which dismissed those who were upset as 'back in my day, it was much worse, you have it so good you know'.)
"What do you learn in the other school if not to become a ninja?" I asked my parents in response to their own inquiry, honestly curious as to what the answer was. My original assumption had been that they'd learn what I'd learnt in my first run of school - mathematics, literature, science, etc. - but then I'd realized it couldn't be that simple. You couldn't exactly have civilians being smarter than ninjas after all as, if they were, then they'd inevitably at one point get overthrown.
There was a reason as to why my previous world had been filled with countries run by democratically elected leaders and weren't just in constant states of martial law with military dictators like the Kages (or something similar to that). People had learnt they'd deserved better than just obeying the person in charge they hadn't even agreed to be in power. People wanted their say in things, people questioned authority, people didn't like being controlled by fear and power.
And people invented weapons to combat the power those controlling them had - because really, considering the point the Naruto universe was in technology wise, guns and weapons of mass destruction that might be able to effectively push back jutsu should've been invented and known to the general populace but they weren't. Were the civilians learning the same things I had in my first run of school, then it wouldn't matter if ninja were hiding such inventions because 'multiple discovery' (the discovery/invention of things done separately but almost simultaneously) was a real concept and there were so many civilians in this world that enough people would've discovered the wonders of firearms that it just couldn't be covered up any longer. If they weren't learning the same things though then that might not be as great an issue.
Arguably, the civilians in Konoha did have some control with their own council that could bring up their own concerns to the Hokage and often get their requests granted. But politics was never quite so simple and transparent. Make no mistake, the ninjas overall had complete control and the civilians just followed them obediently in a way I couldn't see happening without some foul play involved.
Kizashi and Mebuki seemed a little surprised by my question, eyes darting towards each other in a secret, silent exchange of words that only those very close to each other could do. "Well, you learn how to do other useful things," Kizashi began uncertainly, making me think that he had never even thought to wonder about such a thing.
"How to be a merchant for example, like your dad!" Mebuki seemed equally clueless although she covered it up with a confident, loud voice.
I quickly decided that it was useless to probe further for information they didn't have. I wasn't intending to go down that route anyway and my curiosity could easily be shoved aside. Maybe one day I'd find out what they did there and probably be disappointed by the normality of it. It was usually the case of the question being more interesting than the answer.
"I want to go to the academy," I told them with all the finality a four and a half-year-old could muster. Which wasn't very much.
My decision was met with pleased smiles and unsurprised gazes. Even if they were being slowly forced into accepting this new time of peace and gentleness with the younger generation, I doubted the expectation first drilled into them by their parents and now into me would ever be shifted. The ninja lifestyle was most definitely considered a family occupation. Even if a kekkei genkai wasn't inherited down the line, even if no real important techniques were passed from relative to relative, if your parents were ninja, you became a ninja. It didn't matter that my dad and mum had retired from the profession now, I at least had to have a crack at it.
To continue on the name of a clan that really, really didn't matter.
The world was unfair, but, then again, I'd known that from the start.
Thank you for the positive feedback last chapter, I really appreciate it!
Edit: ugggghh gonna probably change that 'multiple discovery' bit several times because I don't think I'm explaining Sakura's reasoning that good (I tried okay guys I trieeeed)
Question for reviewers: if you found yourself reborn into Konoha, would you choose to be a ninja?
I would probably be very tempted to become one (because ninja super powers) but go down the civilian route instead in the end.