AN: HEYYYY. I've not written in a loooong while so do pardon my mistakes (I don't have a beta) and go easy on me (I appreciate constructive criticisms, though!). This was inspired by a gendebent Disney photo dump but I ended up not genderbending anything hahaha. I still haven't decided on what the general tone of this fic will be so yeah, we'll see as we go along. :) Also, this chapter's purpose is to ease us in the Beauty and the Beast AU and to introduce our characters so please bear with me. ;)

yaezakura: a cherry blossom with more than 5 petals

Story Image: Credits to owner! It's so prettyyyy 3

Anyway, standard disclaimers apply. Enjoy!

Title: Yaezakura: Flower and Thorn

Pairing: SasuSaku

Summary: "I can't. She is so lovely, so vibrant, so full of all that is good. How can a tainted being such I even dare to feel love for her?" Beauty and the Beast AU.

Winters were harsh and long in the valley, but this night was particularly worse. The winds were turning into howls of searing cold. The man's grey fur coat sagged beneath the weight of the wet snow, his breath a thick fog against his face, the wound on his side leaving a trail of bright red on the white snow. Thankfully, the storm's picking up. His red trail will be buried within a minute.

It's been at least an hour since he last felt his nose and fingers, which seemed whiter than his hair at this point but he knows he can't stop. Not with the General's faithful dogs hunting him. If he took the path by the stream, it'll take only an hour for him to reach the little estate where his small family is undoubtedly waiting worrying about him. He was supposed to be home yesterday but things didn't go as planned. They rarely do anyway. Nevertheless, he'd sooner surrender himself now than lead the pack of merciless soldiers behind him to where his family is, no matter their fighting capacity. Better to run to the unknown parts of this side of the wood. They say no one ever comes out of them alive and if his chances of survival here are low, then their chances are near zero for Jiraiya is the Toad Sage and they are just lost dogs.

This short moment of self-reassurance had him stumbling over a thick root, hidden in inches of snow, to rolling off the steep hillside, some ten meters down and into a thicker foliage of trees. As soon as he hit the bottom of the steep hill, he shook off his heavy outer coat, scooped up some snow and packed it over his wound. He then climbed the nearest oak tree, flattening himself onto one of its broad branches.

"Faster! He couldn't have gotten far!" A voice boomed meters above his head. He exhaled slowly through the mouth, careful not to make unnecessary noise despite his throbbing side and aching wound.

"I got a scent!"

"Looks like he fell down here. Do we pursue?" Jiraiya could barely hear their shouts.

"No. That's a pretty high fall. Even if we didn't pursue, he'd die out here in this storm anyway. There's no shelter for miles. Back to the village, quick!"

The winds have picked up once more and the storm has blown to a near frenzy. It was only bound to get worse. He might have evaded capture but he needed to get out of this forest and find shelter if he wanted to escape the clutches of death.

Trying to sit, he clutched his side and groaned out loud, his body suddenly too heavy.

"Too tired…Tsunade…"

White seeped through his vision then his world fell to black.

It was the best time to run a perimeter check. The snowstorm raged heavily outside, its winds slamming silently against the invisible barrier in front of him. If it weren't for the barrier, the castle and its humble grounds would also be deep in ice and snow.

A wolf with deep brown fur about the size of a pony dug his paws in the soft, warm earth beneath and closed his eyes. He turned his nose west and sniffed. Blood? Human and a lot of it.

"Captain! I think you should smell this!" He half barked in surprise and alarm.

Three wolves ran to his side, their noses upturned. The largest of them, a huge white wolf with mismatched eyes, padded to the very front, his nose almost touching the barrier.

"Human blood and quite a lot of it. Something about it smells familiar..."

"That's what I though too. Do you want me to go and-"

"Nah, Sai and I'll do it. You boys stay put and do another run around the barrier and then prepare tea. We'll be back before dinner."

With a short bark, the white wolf took off, the smaller black one turned back before following.

"Guess you'll be preparing tea for His Royal Arseness in my stead then, Naruto."

A gust of warm wind fluttered as one of the remaining wolves, one with golden, russet fur and blue eyes, whined.

"How does Sai always manage to find something important to do right before tea time?"

"Because. Besides, you're better at preparing the tea that he likes." With a last glance to the castle, the two wolves took off.

Haruno Sakura loved winter.

She loved the coziness that the contrast between the constant warmth from the fireplace and cold from the snow outside the windows gives the entire house. It was also the best season to snuggle with a book and a cup of tea. The silence of the forest behind their house and the white sheet of snow on everything outside makes it easier for her to be transported from her reading corner to a different world full of action, magic, mystery, and occasionally, love. On the downside, getting to patients' houses or buying goods from the village maybe a little dangerous for winters were bitter in the valley and bandits usually use this to their advantage to ambush the roads outside the village.

Turning her gaze out the kitchen window, she hoped that Shikamaru, a friend she made at the village library managed to borrow that healer's tome she was eyeing. She couldn't get it the last time she was in town because of an emergency patient.

The loud whistling of the kettle shook Sakura out of her reverie.

"The storm's gotten really bad. I hope dad stayed put in the village." Ten-ten, Sakura's sister sauntered into the room. She had her dark brown hair up in a loose bun. Physically, they weren't very different. Except for the hair and the eyes. They were both lithe, of almost the same height. Although Ino, their friend at the village flower shop notes without fail that Ten-ten has more curves and that Sakura's forehead could be used a flower patch.

"Please tell me there's still some cheese left. Lee hasn't come by yesterday. You know he wouldn't miss passing by our house if only to catch a glimpse of his beautiful Sakura!" Ten-ten throws a cheesy grin at Sakura. Lee was a loud, cheerful lad with a mop of black hair that framed his head like a thick, bowl-shaped hat. He peddles some goods from south of the village including sandals, fruits, some rare herbs, milk, and cheese. He's recently made a habit of dropping by their house more often than the usual twice a week that most peddlers do to the amusement of Ten-ten and Shizune, their mother's apprentice. Taking a quick look outside, Ten-ten grimaces and immediately scowls at the weather. Just then, the said apprentice steps into the kitchen with a tray of used towels.

"Sakura, your mother's asking for some of your sleeping brew. The young Lord Inuzuka's having trouble sleeping."

Lord Inuzuka was a young lord whose family live just outside the village. Shizune found him while collecting mushrooms in the woods behind their house, unconscious and bleeding with his dog barking beside him.

"How are his wounds?" Sakura asked as she sipped her tea.

"They're minimal, mostly scrapes and bruises, like someone dragged him through the woods. The bite marks on the scruff of his neck were the worst and even those were not very deep." One by one, Shizune dropped the used towels in one of the three small cauldrons near the wall, which were full of hot water to wash away the blood. They would then be soaked in the next one, which had some lemon slices and would eventually be dunked into the last one on the far end which had mint leaves.

"Funny how most, if not all the patients that we find on our side of the woods have similar injuries. You reckon it's by the same person or thing?" The sound of the boiling kettle in the background covered the silence that followed.

Tsunade, mother to Sakura and Ten-ten, and master to Shizune entered the kitchen with a sigh with a bucketful of used water on one hand. "That's a definite yes. But so far, none of them were life threatening and none seemed to be because of ill intent. Like they were caused by a rough rescue." Her voice was commanding yet gentle, a mother's tone.

"Oh, our good neighbors from the far side of the wild wood." Sakura sang as she began to pour the sleeping draught to a green teacup. "If we're talking about the distance between us and our hypothetical neighbor, then we shouldn't be calling them neighbors because there is a forest between us and them." Laughing, Ten-ten munched on an apple she peeled with her pocketknife.

"Well, whatever their reasons are and however far they live on the other side of the wood, these people owe them their lives by keeping them alive and bringing them to our backyard. More patients for us to treat. I see the storm's not let up, let's hope your father was not stupid enough to brave this." Tsunade's hair, loosely held back in a long brain shone like strands of gold against the fire from the stove. She seemed relaxed but the tightness in her lips gave away the worry she felt as she thought of her husband.

As she sat down at the table, the girls held each of her hands and squeezed, "Don't worry mama, papa's a tough one, he'll come home. He always does." Sakura adds as she smiled at her mother and sister reassuringly.

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