Chapter 1

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Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any franchise, unfortunately.

Efflorescence: The state or period of flowering, an example or result of growth and development.

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They lost.

They had lost so totally and completely that almost no one was left.

Even their contingency plan still wasn't finished.

Naruto was the mastermind behind such an amazing seal, with the help of Kurama and some notes on space-time sealing that Kakashi had... but now it was untouched. Almost complete, but what was she supposed to do? The war had dragged on for years as they slowly lost more and more people to Madara's plans.

The seal was meant to send all of them back. Before some of the most important events that led to now could happen.

The others had given up. Even Shikamaru, with all of his genius, sat broken and defeated. Choji's corpse slowly rotting next to him. Decompositon at a middle stage, where his flesh was infested with maggots and the eye he had left rotated slowly before seemingly melting in on itself, causing the fluid to poor our of his eye socket and over the blood stained yet visable nasal bone.

The stench of death was pungent and consuming. Ino had died long ago... and team 7... team 7 was no more.

The last of her hope began to rot away slowly, there was nothing she could do for the bright-eyed man she was clutching desperately. She was never strong enough for them, her boys, she had always watched their backs as they grew in strength. She strived to walk with them, but could never completely catch up.

For a while, she was okay with that.

Until the war started.

Before, even though Sasuke had left the village, she had been okay.

She wasn't great.

She doubted she ever would have been great again, but she was okay.

Then the war started and comrade after comrade fell. Her hands were always covered in the blood of those she loved.

She wished it had been her enemies blood instead.

Before Naruto had been Sasuke, before him, their sensei. And even now, as the last of her boys was bleeding to death in her arms, she could do nothing about it.

"Don't cry, Sakura-chan" A sad smile crossed his face, it was covered in grime and blood and more just kept pouring out of him.

"I can't Naruto, I can't lose you too. Please don't go, I... You're all that's left. No one else can go, please!"

"It will be okay, Sakura-chan," He gently clutched her hand, she squeezed back with all the strength she had left. Holding on as if the warmth of his palm was all that held her existence together. "You can fix it all, I finished it. Go back Sakura-chan. Go back and save everyone."

"I... I don't think I have the strength left... Naruto-kun. Without you... Without Sasuke-kun and Kakashi-sensei... Tsunade-shishou... I'm not strong like you, Naruto-kun. I can't hurt this much and smile. I just can't!"

"You can do it Sakura, I believe in you. I believe you can change what has happened. What happened to the fierce pink-haired girl with the monstrous strength who decided never to give up? The one who trained under Baa-chan, who faced down an S-ranked criminal and walked away? Who healed hundreds of people, almost overdosing on soldier pills to keep on going?"

"Hah! Baka. What happened to her?! Hahaha! She watched as her shishou choked to death on blood and aged before her eyes.

She watched her sensei as he was impaled by living wood and his head then severed from his body.

She watched as the boy she once loved died of blood loss and chakra exhaustion.

And now? Now she's watching her best friend, all cut up and bleeding everywhere, slowly dying while she can do nothing, because she has no strength left and he can't even heal himself anymore.

All of their blood is on my hands. My clothing stained a muddy brown in it.

Shikamaru is catatonic. If he went back, I don't think he would live through it.

I don't even want to live anymore Naruto.

I don't want to live."

Tears streamed down her face, rolling off of her skin only to land on whiskered cheeks. Half of her was trying to keep the bubbling laughter from taking over. She wasn't sure what she thought was so funny. Just that the bubbly feeling was rising along with her desperate sobs.

A bright smile crossed his face, so out of place, but nothing that couldn't be expected of him. Of course, he would die with that idiotic grin plastered there.

"Don't worry about it Sakura-chan! It will be fine! You know why? Because you won't die.

I might be dying now, but that's okay. I know it doesn't seem like it, and it might be hard to get this, but if you go back then I won't die here like this.

You'll be able to see Baa-chan again, and Sasuke-teme, and Kaka-sensei, along with everybody else. 'Cause if you change what happened then nobody's gotta die, you know?

Even people that died long before the war can be saved, 'cause you already know the truth about everything!

You know who Tobi was. You know about the Akatsuki and about the war and about all the other stuff that happened. And hey! You might even be able to save Jiji and Ero-sennin too! So, it will all be okay Sakura-chan! I'm counting on you!"

"...Naruto... you dobe... even if I go back, it won't be the same! It won't be you! They won't have had the same experiences and they won't even know who I am! We're in our twenties and we've suffered far more than anyone! We've grown in ways they never will!

You won't be the baka that kept asking me out on dates and Sasuke won't be the boy I loved and Kakashi-sensei won't be the one whose always late because of black cats anymore! Ino won't be my rival and Iruka-sensei won't even be my sensei!

We have no idea how this is going to affect my body either! We don't know what will happen because it hasn't been tested and if it doesn't work it will all be futile! I'll lose everyone again and again and I just can't do it Naruto! I can't!"

"...Sakura-chan..."

"I'm so so sorry Naruto. If only I were stronger. If only I could heal you so you could go instead! You're so much better than me and get along with almost everyone! I would die in your place if I could Naruto!"

"...Sakura... If you don't go, it will all end anyways. We might not be the same people, but does that really matter?

You say you would die in my place, but you won't go back in time to save your comrades?

Those who break the rules and regulations are scum, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than scum! That's what Kakashi-sensei taught us!

You won't just be saving everyone Sakura-chan... You'll be giving them better lives!

Obito wouldn't have almost died and gave Kakashi-sensei his eye. Kakashi-sensei wouldn't have accidentally killed his friend. I might have grown up with parents and Itachi wouldn't have to kill his clan so Sasuke wouldn't be alone!

When I told you I finished the seal I wasn't lying! The reason it wasn't finished was because I didn't know how to give it enough power, but now I do Sakura-chan and I'm dying anyways, even if it's kinda slow and painful.

So, take me to the array Sakura-chan.

Back then, when Sasuke-teme left the village, you selfishly asked me to bring him back, no matter what. Even though I was still a kid and I was never able to do it.

So now it's my turn to be selfish Sakura-chan.

I'm asking you, please, go back. Change it for the better. Watch me grow up happy and become Hokage.

Become happy, Sakura-chan. Grow up and start your own family and be the best damn medic since Baa-chan herself!"

She watched him silently, the determined look in his eye never wavering.

He was right.

Of course, he always was good at setting people on the right track. At giving them strength when they thought they had none left.

She wasn't sure if she could do it. If she could watch the people she loved treat her like strangers. Yet he was still right.

"...I will do it. Only because of you. Because you are all I have left. Because this is my only chance to see you live and be happy, even if I might not be a part of your life. So, I need to know, Naruto, what does the seal need. Tell me. And don't you lie to me either."

"...The only way it would work is through sacrifice. A deal with the Shinigami. I'm dying anyways Sakura-chan and while my soul may be used for payment in this future, when you go back, it wouldn't have happened."

She heard shifting to the side and looked over.

Shikamaru was watching them.

His skin pallid, cheeks sunken from malnutrition, much like the rest of them, and the dark circles under his eyes prominent.

"Naruto... Will only your soul be enough? Will it send her far enough back? Do you have enough chakra?" He said, his eyes taking on a glint that she hadn't seen in years.

"My soul should be enough, but I'm not sure chakra-wise. Even Sakura doesn't have enough to assist."

"Use mine."

She looked at him, shocked. "Shikamaru..."

"Use. Mine."

"You might die Shika!" She said, fiercely.

"So? What does it matter if I die if my sacrifice can save everyone?

I'll tell you now, it doesn't.

You going back will save me as well... Save Chouji... Ino... Kurenai-sensei... Asuma-sensei... My... My dad.

We don't have much time. We're lucky that dying is taking as long as it is. He's probably not even got ten minutes left now. You've been talking for twenty.

You'll need an alias. You can't have the same last name as your parents.

You can alter your DNA right? You're a medical ninja, you must have read up on it some, especially with Sasuke defecting to Orochimaru. Use Naruto's. Try to only take the Uzumaki DNA though.

You can probably change your hair color to red easily. You can claim to be an Uzumaki. There won't be anyone to deny your story and DNA testing with a known Uzumaki could confirm it.

Take half of a soldier pill. It might damage your organs, but immediately doing the procedure as quickly as you can should reduce the damage. Naruto has some pretty sturdy DNA.

This will also give you a reason to keep a close eye on him, since you will be related."

"...I do know what you're talking about... But I don't know if I can do it in time.

I can try healing Naruto a little, I won't be able to save him, but I can make him last long enough to do the procedure and have him activate the seal..."

"You can do it Sakura-chan! Do ya need some of my blood? 'Cause I got plenty right here."

"...You... I don't even know how you can joke around right now!"

"Here." Shikamaru tossed her his Kunai pouch.

"There's some Nara soldier pills and rations along with weapons in there, All I have left.

You're going to have to get rid of anything suspicious. Remove and hide the plates of your headbands. Stick it in the lining of your pouch or something. Or even better, once you get there and have enough chakra, put it in a storage scroll etched into your skin. I know you helped Naruto develop this thing. So do it woman."

"Hai" Sakura got to work.

Splitting the soldier pill and healing what she could on Naruto and then using a diagnosis jutsu to analyze his DNA.

"Naruto, do you have anything that might have your dad's DNA on it? I need to know which strands need to be integrated."

"You bet I do. Here. It's my dad's headband... I managed to get my hands on it a while back... before Ero-sennin left to Ame..."

"Thanks." Taking the cloth, she analyzed it as well, there was a chance that there wasn't anything on it, but hopefully it would help.

She studied it closely, not thinking too hard about anything that was happening, her decision, Naruto's, Shikamaru's.

She was doing this for them.

There! It was really lucky, but there was a small patch of dead cells that matched part of Naruto's DNA. She moved quickly after finishing her last task. Working on separating the Uzumaki strands from the Yondaime's and integrating them with her own. It's an extremely painful process, but this pain was nothing compared to what she has already felt. Nothing compared to what she would do for the blue-eyed boy watching her intently.

Her pink hair turned darker, a deep shade of red. Not a blindingly bright color, but a slightly wavy burnt auburn.

He watched as her eyes turned darker, a deep forest shade, and her over all structure altering to somewhat match his own.

A smile quickly spread across his face yet again and as soon as she finished, he cheekily addressed her.

"Let's get this done! Nee-chan!"

"If you weren't dying right now Naruto I swear to Kami I'd knock you upside your head..." She growled. Slightly exasperated with her male teammate.

Shikamaru knelt, grasping Naruto's arm to help her support him as they made their way over to the seal array.

"Kami that hurts! Ne, Sakura-chan, Shikamaru, bring me over to that upper left portion will ya? That's where I gotta add in the new features, and hand me my tools outta my pouch."

Silently, they worked to assist him, it was another ten minutes before the array was now complete.

"Sakura, you should be arriving somewhere on the border of frost and lightning, which is where we are now." He got up and walked over to the remains of what used to be a tent. Grabbed a few scrolls, and walked back.

"These are the last of the good supplies and a map. It will be dangerous, you might be thrust in during the middle of another war.

It will be especially dangerous because of the relations between Konoha and Kumo in the past. Use this cloak to try to hide your features and don't spend any time with strangers.

You have a lot of obstacles to face between here and Konoha.

Once you get there, tell them your village was destroyed. That your only choice was to flea and that you're all that is left. If your body changes any then alter what I've just told you to the situation. Don't assume you're safe once you get there.

It will be troublesome, but you'll have to deal with Elder Danzo. I'm pretty sure Sai told you both plenty once Naruto was able to get that seal off of him."

"Hai."

"You ready Sakura-chan?"

"Hai, I am. Before you two activate it... I love you both. I will do my best to save you."

"...Troublesome woman."

"Heh, we love you too Sakura-nee-chan!"

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There wasn't a bright light, not that Sakura could see anyway.

One minute she was memorizing the faces of her comrades and the next she was engulfed in darkness.

The pain of such a technique swallowed her completely and her screams were so harsh she tried to muffle them with her palms.

The burning sensation filled her limbs and her eyes were closed harshly before the darkness changed to red. Light hitting her irises through her eyelids. But the pain did not relent.

She knew it was dangerous, that if she fell into unconsciousness it might just be the last thing she would do, but with how much her body was deteriorated it was fighting a losing battle.

Every part of her felt as if she were bathing in Sasuke's Amatarasu.

It was the only comparison she could think to make. However, she persevered. Determined not to let down her best friend. This anguish was nothing compared to the people she has lost.

Nothing compared to being washed in the blood of her loved ones as she failed to save each of them.

"This time," she thought fiercely, "This time, they will not die!"

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