Hi anyone who still has ff net notifications! Unfortunately, this isn't the long awaited chapter of tkab but instead a new chapter 1 of a tkab rewrite. I'm really sorry to anyone who wanted the former - there's a lot with this original fic I wish I'd done differently and that was partly blocking me from writing anything else for this fic (among other things). So, since the alternative is never writing for this fic again, we are starting from ground zero lads!

I'm posting the new first chapter here so any old readers can decide if they want to read the rewrite but I'll be updating as a whole new fic on both this account and on my ao3 lavenderlock so please read/review there if you want more :) (also please be gentle, my writing skills are still v rusty and first chapters are always such a bitch to write :')

Chapter 1:

"To kill a bull by sharpening its horns."

The remedy is often worse than the disease it cures.

"Excuse me?"

Kizashi Haruno watched as the young Academy teacher shot a somewhat nervous look between him and his wife. Ordinarily, Kizashi would've taken it as his cue to jump in and attempt (most likely unsuccessfully) to placate Mebuki. Alas, the look completely passed him by, too busy processing what he'd been told.

Not knowing he'd just been thrown to the wolves, the teacher cleared his throat awkwardly. "This isn't something we haven't seen before," he said in what was clearly meant to be a soothing tone. "It can be a big adjustment for some children, being in a new environment with all these new people. Really, it's quite common for a few students to find themselves struggling to keep up-"

Mebuki cut off the man with a loud scoff. "Struggling to keep up?" she retorted, voice getting louder with each word. "Her entrance examiner said she had one of the best chakra control scores he'd seen in years! Hell, better than some genins even!"

The man visibly tried not to wince. "Yes, of course, Sakura's potential is undeniable," he rushed to reassure her. "All it is that I am- that the Academy is suggesting, is that Sakura may be able to better tap into that potential if she were in a class moving at a more…" he trailed off, searching for the right word, "...comfortable pace for her."

"No, absolutely not!" Mebuki jabbed a finger in his direction, accusingly. "Sakura is a clan kid- you cannot kick my daughter out of the upper class just because you are failing to do your job!" She stood up before the teacher could continue, chest heaving with anger. "Don't think you can pull a fast one on me. I was an Academy kid too and I know exactly what's happening here. Just because the Haruno clan isn't as big as some of those other clans, doesn't mean you can ignore my daughter in favour of those kids!"

"Mrs Haruno, please!" The teacher exclaimed, shooting another somewhat desperate look at Kizashi. Luckily for him, the shock that had gripped Kizashi had finally run its course.

"Mebuki." He reached up to hold his wife's hand, trying not to wince when she whipped around to glare at him too. But, despite the heat of her glower, she began to soften, her fingers automatically twining with his own. She held his gaze for a few moments longer before letting out a long breath, sitting slowly back down beside her husband.

"...You can't move her down a class," Mebuki finally said, gripping Kizashi's hand tightly. She was looking down at her lap, not meeting the teacher's gaze. "I know what the prospects for the lower classes are. And Sakura- my Sakura, she-" her voice faltered and she had to take a deep breath before continuing. "She's not a failure."

Kizashi rubbed his thumb over her knuckles in a soothing motion. He then shifted his gaze over to the teacher. The young man was wearing a somewhat complicated expression now, seeming torn between continuing the spiel the Academy had taught him or saying what Kizashi suspected was actually on his mind. A few seconds went by before the man let out a sigh, running his hand through his hair. "Look, let me be frank," he began, voice not entirely unsympathetic. "This year our intake of major clan kids has been much higher than usual. And pretty much all of those kids have been receiving some level of private tutoring. Because of that, the upper class is moving at a much more accelerated rate than usual, so that may be what's throwing Sakura off."

"So you'd suggest we get a tutor for Sakura?" Kizashi prompted, watching him carefully.

The teacher sighed again. "It may help, yes. I have some contacts for private tutors that I can give you. But I think you should both be prepared for the possibility of Sakura moving down a class." He shot a meaningful look over at Mebuki. "I understand your apprehension about the lower classes, Mrs Haruno. But the Academy has changed much since either of us were students there. And, as you said, Sakura has immense potential. We wouldn't want to lose her so quickly."

Mebuki was still somewhat sullen as Kizashi showed the teacher back to the front door, the list of potential tutors on the table in front of her. "...I still think they're just not doing their jobs properly," she muttered, looking up at her husband when he returned. "I mean, her scores for the entrance exam were so good. And you saw her practising those control exercises- I wasn't nearly half as good as she was when I started at the Academy, and I know you weren't either." She shook her head, Kizashi placing a hand on her shoulder. "She's talented, Kizashi, I know it. It just doesn't make sense why she'd suddenly start failing like this."

Kizashi didn't reply, just rubbing her shoulder comfortingly. The teacher's explanation for Sakura's recent struggles was perfectly plausible, Kizashi had thought. He himself remembered hitting a wall at the Academy when he'd compared himself to Uchiha kids in his class. The major clan kids always seemed so unfairly ahead of everyone else.

And yet.

He shifted uncomfortably. Mebuki was right. Kizashi couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he could feel it, deep in his gut. His old shinobi instincts were telling him that the teacher's hypothesis was just plain wrong, that there was something all three adults were missing.

It was that same instinct that made Kizashi look upwards towards the stairwell to see Sakura perched on the top step, gazing down from between the wooden railings.

His daughter had always been a little strange, Kizashi would admit that readily. How quiet she'd been even as a baby, the way she'd sometimes look so intensely at things, like she was seeing some greater meaning beyond them. Mebuki had often laughed about how their little Sakura would stare at Hokage Rock. She's already imagining her face up there too, she'd joke, she's got big plans, our blossom.

It had been easy to laugh off her oddities back then. But something had changed in the past three weeks.

Sakurahad changed.

It had all started when she'd returned from her first day at the Academy. Mebuki had been fawning over her in the doorway, interrogating her one-sidedly on everything that had happened whilst Sakura took off her shoes. And Kizashi had been about to join in when that sickening sensation of wrongness had struck him. Something was off, the way she was standing, the way she was speaking. Like an actor trying too hard to get everything right, a complete stranger playing the role of his daughter.

Fear had settled in his chest as he'd stared at her, blood roaring in his ears.

Who are you?

Reality had then kicked in and he'd felt terrible, wondering if it had been a burst of momentary madness. Of course, it was his daughter, how could it not be?

He'd later chalked it up to the fact it had been her first day at the Academy, the response of a wistful parent who couldn't quite get over how his little girl was growing up. But that treacherous thought was weaving its way through his mind now as he watched Sakura gaze down at them, her expression kept carefully blank.

Who are you? Where is my Sakura?

"Sakura!" Mebuki interrupted Kizashi's thoughts, his wife looking startled as she stood up. "What are you doing up? It's way past your bedtime."

"I heard shouts downstairs," Sakura replied, voice soft. She furrowed her eyebrows, a shift in expression that erred on the side of exaggerated. "Am I really failing at school?"

Mebuki looked stricken. She began for the staircase, not quite able to hide the panic in her voice. "No! No, of course not, it's just some misunderstanding."

"But sensei just said I was," Sakura replied, not letting Mebuki get away with her vague lie. Her lower lip jutted out slightly, her grip on the bannister railings tightening. "It's true, isn't it? All the other kids are doing better than me in class…"

Logically, Kizashi knew he should be going up those stairs like Mebuki, rushing to comfort his daughter. But there it was, that churning in his gut, that cursed feeling keeping his feet stuck to the floorboards. "They aren't, sweetheart," Mebuki insisted, kneeling beside their daughter as Kizashi watched from the lower floor. "It might seem like they are, but it's just because they've been taught some of those things before." His wife smiled reassuringly, tucking a lock of hair behind Sakura's ear. "Don't worry, we are going to get your own special tutor. And then you'll be just as quick as your classmates, you'll see."

Something flickered across Sakura's face when she heard she'd be getting a tutor, but it was gone before Kizashi could parse what it was. "But what if that doesn't work?" She asked, flicking her gaze towards her feet. "Maybe I'm not meant to be a shinobi."

Mebuki immediately began to protest but Kizashi didn't join in. He watched Sakura's expression instead: sad, round eyes, trembling lower lip. It should've kick-started his parental instinct, made him stop thinking these stupid thoughts and go reassure her already for god's sake. And, to be truthful, it almost did. Except-

Practised, he thought. She's practised this.

"Are you failing on purpose, Sakura?"

"Kizashi!" Mebuki exclaimed, whipping around to stare at her husband in shock. But Kizashi's gaze didn't leave Sakura, watching her be just too slow to cover up the distinct expression of someone caught red-handed.

"You're failing on purpose," Kizashi repeated the question as a statement this time. He finally began up the stairs, Sakura tensing when he did like she was going to bolt. "Why?"

"Kizashi, this is ridiculous!" Mebuki protested, though the serious expression on her husband's face made her pause. She glanced down at Sakura, suddenly uncertain. "Sakura? That's not true, is it?"

Sakura's mouth opened and closed, her expressions no longer as controlled as before. "I…" Her gaze darted between her parents and this time Kizashi did feel an ache in his chest at the panic in her eyes.

He stopped in front of her, finding his accusation now softening to concern. "Tell me what's wrong, Sakura," Kizashi prompted her, gently, placing a hand on her shoulder.

He felt her lean into his touch for a moment, a myriad of emotions crossing her eyes. And then, just like that, she cracked. "...What if I don't want to be a shinobi?" Her voice was small. Scared.

Mebuki's wasn't. "What?" His wife looked more appalled than when the Academy teacher had told them Sakura was failing her classes. "Don't be ridiculous Sakura. Of course you want to."

"But what if I don't?" Sakura shot back, her voice clearer this time. She met her mother's gaze, seeming to have resolved herself now. "I don't. I don't want to."

Kizashi let go of Sakura's shoulder as Mebuki spluttered. "We are a family of shinobi!" She declared, gesturing wildly. "My parents were shinobi, their parents were shinobi- it's who we are!"

Sakura shook her head, hands curled into small fists by her sides. "It's not! It's not who I am!" It was like a dam had been broken, words spilling from Sakura's lips seemingly almost against her will. "I don't want to be a shinobi! I don't want to fight, I don't want to get hurt, I don't- I don't want to go to war, I don't want to die-"


Kizashi watched as his daughter flinched, the way she seemed surprised by both his and her own reaction. He rarely raised his voice. Mebuki was always the louder of the two of them, always having to be the one to discipline Sakura whilst Kizashi was the pushover.

But not now.

"That's enough, Sakura," Kizashi repeated, voice ice-cold. The father he was to her usually was gone. In his place stood Kizashi Haruno, ex-chūnin leader, a veteran of the third shinobi war. "Whatever this is, it stops now, do you understand me? Now." There was no room for argument.

He held Sakura's gaze as she stared up at him, her eyes tearing up with a multitude of emotions: hurt, anger, betrayal. Then, he watched as she smothered them all away, the mask she'd let slip sliding back into place.



I leaned against my closed bedroom door, resisting the urge to bang my head against it.

Shit, shit, shit.

Closing my eyes, I tried to slow my panicked breaths, nails digging into my palms.

It had been three weeks since I'd realized where I was. Three weeks since my first day at the Academy where I'd caught a glimpse of blond hair and blue eyes, strange birthmarks on cheeks like whiskers. Something in my mind had finally clicked into place then. A puzzle I'd been pouring over for the first six years of Sakura's life, kept tantalizingly out of reach.

New school jitters were enough to make my sudden request to visit the bathroom perfectly normal and I was then lucky enough that no one was there to hear me puke my guts out. With my head halfway down a toilet bowl, uncontrollably retching, the truth of my current situation blared through my mind.

I was in Naruto.

Fucking Naruto.

It was easy as an audience to overlook the disturbing aspects of this world. The main character himself aided in that: our excitable, orange underdog, chasing after his dream, spreading the word of peace and friendship as he went. But take a moment to pause and you'd notice that even he, the supposed nicest, friendliest one of them all, had killed before.

This universe was terrifying. Here, children were trained from a very young age to be able to kill an enemy with the flick of a wrist. Major villages were in a constant state of what was pretty much martial law. You were practically guaranteed to see at least one wide-scale war in your lifetime.

And I was Sakura Haruno.

A girl thrown right into the thick of everything that could possibly go wrong.

There were very few worse people I could be than her. The Haruno clan was hardly a family that could give me a biological edge over anyone in a fight or powerful techniques that nobody else knew. At least the other clan kids of the series had something to protect themselves with practically from birth. Sakura was blessed with the oh-so-helpful gift of a larger-than-average forehead.

I had to get out.

That was all I could think about from the moment I realized where I was. I had to get out of the Academy, out of Konoha. Staying was akin to tying the noose around my neck and kicking away the stool.

How many times had Sakura nearly died?

As an audience member, it was simple to think you could do better than her. All you had to do was train harder, you might reason, focus more on being a shinobi than silly boy problems. But in truth, that was overconfidence at best, delusion at worst; a similar mindset to sports fans believing they could outperform the professionals with the same training. And even then, if somehow I was better than her, then what worse situations would I face?

All it would take was one misstep. One bad choice, one reaction too slow.

I needed to get out.

I'd been half resolved to make a break for it then and there, so consumed by my terror I could think of nothing else. Except, when I'd dragged myself over to a sink to wash the aftertaste of bile from my mouth, I saw my first hurdle in the mirror: the round, somewhat chubby face of a child.

Sakura Haruno was six. Six.

It didn't matter if I had the intelligence of an adult, a six-year-old child who would most likely make it no further than Konoha's main gates before some concerned adult intervened and took them home. And, even if I could make it further, how would I survive? Would I have to catch my own food? Beg off strangers? How did money in this world work, where even was the nearest town?

I couldn't escape Konoha, I realized, at least not for a while yet.

But I could escape the Academy.

It was then that a chūnin instructor came in, escorting another student to the bathroom. I soon found myself back in my classroom, keeping my head down, refusing to look up at any of my classmates. I spent the rest of my first day swinging between suppressing a panic attack and desperately trying to formulate some plan to avoid becoming a shinobi, all while trying to pretend I didn't recognize some of the voices around me. By hometime, I finally had my solution.

Fail until they kick me out themselves.

At first, the plan worked great. A couple of dropouts had already occurred by the end of the first two weeks and there were certainly more students on track for the same fate. Granted, they were all from the lower classes - classes filled with clan-less kids who had only achieved mediocre scores in the entrance exams. But I knew I wasn't the only one struggling in the upper class either, overhearing our instructors whispering about the stragglers.

It was only a matter of time, I'd reasoned. Maybe a few more weeks and I'd be out of the Academy, into the safety of a normal, civilian school.

And then, like a fucking idiot, I'd ruined everything.

I rubbed at my eyes, furious that they were welling up with hot tears. That was the problem, I knew, these stupid, instinctive emotions. I should've been, no, I was better at hiding my expressions and lying than I had been earlier. I'd been managing fine at the Academy after all, playing the role of the failing student who must've just got lucky at the entrance exam. But all it had taken was some light prodding from Sakura's- my father, and I couldn't stop myself: years of unconditional love and trust made me fold like wet paper.


So stupid.

What had I thought was going to happen?

All Sakura's childhood, she'd been raised with the knowledge that she was going to be the next in a long line of shinobi. That was how it worked - clan kids went to the Academy, served their time as Konoha-nin, and only then after that could you consider pursuing other things. That was why I'd come up with the whole dropout plan in the first place, because deep down I'd known my parents wouldn't let me quit on my own. So why had I spilled my guts when Kizashi had asked, hoping my father would somehow take my side?

I took a deep, shuddering breath before walking over to my bed. No, if I was being more logical, I knew it wasn't just my outburst that had killed my plan. It had been dead the second the possibility of a private tutor was introduced. Pretending I couldn't perform chakra exercises was easy back at the Academy. As one student among dozens with only a single teacher, I simply wasn't under enough scrutiny for anyone to notice that I wasn't trying to succeed at all.

But one-on-one….

I buried my face in my pillow, wishing I could block out the sensation of my chakra squirming inside me. All it would take was someone with rudimentary sensory skills and they'd see through me in an instant: Sakura Haruno had impressively good chakra control for her age. It wasn't nearly enough of a talent to make me reconsider how dead I would be if I stayed, but it was certainly enough for the Academy to prevent me from dropping out.

I was going to have to figure out how to somehow fail realistically. Harder now, since my parents knew I wanted to fail, but what other option was there?


I paused. Rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling, the cogs of my mind beginning to turn.

What if…what if I didn't pretend to be failing at all?

I'd been going about this all wrong, I realized. In my panic, I'd latched onto the idea that I needed to get out of the Academy as quickly as possible, thus avoiding becoming a shinobi altogether. But that wasn't the main danger I was trying to sidestep. Team seven was the real danger.

Naruto was the real danger.

Failing out of the Academy was one way to get away from that future, yes. Except, that plan had been almost doomed from the start. Failing outright when my entrance exam had revealed such promise in chakra control was more suspicious than I had considered and with parents willing to hire a tutor, it was always going to be more likely than not that I'd be unable to drop out.

So, instead, what if I was average?

Utterly, boringly average?

The original Sakura had been placed in team seven because her smarts coupled with Sasuke's talent were a good balance to the 'dead-last' Naruto. And beyond that, on paper she'd been a good balance to Sasuke too - another member with high grades in at least one area was needed after all to make sure Sasuke didn't just overrun the entire team. Sakura's talent for chakra control and her aptitude for genjutsu even positioned as a decent support to the powerhouses Naruto and Sasuke were both destined to be one day.

Therefore, going by this logic, there was no reason to put someone with average grades in team seven.

Maybe they'd replace me with Hinata, leaving a chance I'd be placed in team eight. But I doubted it: team eight had clearly been intended for reconnaissance and so it seemed unlikely they'd ignore the benefits of a Byakugan there.

(There was zero chance I'd be placed in team ten though - I couldn't even bring myself to imagine a world where someone would think breaking up an ino-shika-cho combo for some mediocre kunoichi was a good idea.)

So, chances were I'd graduate and be placed in a team that wouldn't pass their jōnin test. Then I'd be sent back to the Academy or carted off to the genin-corps, which might in of itself be mortifying enough that my parents would forget the idea of me being a shinobi altogether. Perhaps in their shame, they'd let me leave Konoha, maybe accompanying Kizashi on his merchant business outside the village walls.

But if I managed to get onto a team that passed their jōnin test for the first time or otherwise then I could cope with that too. As long as I was a decent distance from any rookie nine characters, the level D and C missions would stay just that: low-ranked, safe missions. The only real danger I'd face would be the chūnin exams and those I could just flunk out of in the first stage before making sure I was well away from any of the action during the invasion.

Then, as soon as my parents had accepted that I'd given it my best shot but that I was never going to progress much further as a shinobi, I'd retire young. And if my parents were taking a bit too long to get to that conclusion, I'd simply disappear during one of the invasions of Konoha, likely declared MIA.

I'd be able to figure out the details as it happened. But it was the best escape route I currently had.

At least, it was better than trying to run away from home as a six-year-old.

What is up my good dudes! Sorry I've been MIA for what, 6/7 years? Life has been a lot! I am currently doing a phd in astrophysics, which is very slightly insane bc last time I updated I was panicking over my a-level exams lmao! (dr discoabc is a very real reality we will hopefully reach in a few years) But believe me when I say I've thought about tkab often in that time and wished I could continue with it.

But yeah, here we are with the first chapter of the rewrite! Not my best work, and there's a few lines I'll probably go in and fix tomorrow that I find clunky (like the last line lol) but I wanted to get it up as quick as possible since i've been promising people on the blog for agessss I was working on a rewrite. In that vein, please forgive any typos, future me will get on them as quickly as possible...

As I said though, I am a phd student so updates will almost certainly be sporadic when I have both the time and the mental bandwidth to write. So please be patient, I am trying my best besties :')