Sakura is at the top of her class in the written exams.

The practical ones... not so much. She excels at the theoretical parts, yes, but she struggles with applying and doing them. She tells herself that she'll improve as time goes by, but that promise had been made a year ago and they were now halfway through their second. She turns on the faucet and immediately starts to wash her hands, then her face and up her arms and knees which are caked with dirt. The washroom is empty save for her. Sakura winces in pain when she touches her right arm. Already she can see bruises forming.

Her sparring partner during Taijutsu class had been swift and decisive, immediately going for a roundhouse kick to the head. Sakura had been unprepared for that and hastily blocked with her right arm. Fortunately, the block was successful. Unfortunately, the brunt of the blow was delivered to her right and it had been pretty powerful, and boy did it hurt. With her dominant arm down and surprise at her disadvantage, it didn't take a minute for Sakura to be swept out of the ring, defeated.

"Sakura-chan?" Ino's voice calls out from outside.

"Coming!" She replies.

Sakura quickly turns off the faucet and dries herself with her towel. She checks herself in the mirror and notices that her red ribbon (a gift given to her from Ino) is slightly off, and quickly makes right with it. She pats down her shorts for good measure, and once done, exits out from the washroom. She sees Ino crossing her arms and tapping her foot.

"Finally!" She says impatiently. "What took you so long anyway?"

Sakura grins sheepishly. "Sorry about that Ino-chan. I was just fixing my hair." Ino playfully rolls her eyes. "Oh, whatever. Now come on we're gonna be late for class. And I wanna sit near Sasuke-kun before we end the day!."

Grabbing her hand, Ino all but drags her back to their classroom.

Sasuke Uchiha had easily become one of the most popular in school, not only being the smartest but also pretty handsome. Ino, and the rest of the girls had easily taken to the heartthrob, and it was always a battle between all of them fighting for a seat right next to the Uchiha.

While Sakura wasn't as obsessed with the Uchiha like Ino , which she could say was courtesy of her great-grandfather frequently expressing his dislike towards the Uchiha in general and, after learning that Sakura had one in class, had immediately started indoctrinating her to the "Uchiha are bad" club. She didn't agree with him of course, but the influence was there. Enough to prevent her from becoming completely besotted at least. That and one other reason.

So yeah, Sakura didn't have a crush on the Uchiha, but she could understand why Ino and the girls- and some boys, liked him. She wasn't blind, Sasuke was the most attractive in their batch. She also felt a bit of pity too towards him. It must be hard, being followed by a bunch of rabid fangirls.

The two arrived with five minutes to spare, and sat on the third row on the left, right by the window. Ino was dejected to see that all seats near Sasuke were already taken, and was now sulking on her seat. Sakura had taken the window seat, Ino just right beside her. Sakura loved sitting near the window, where she had a good view of the trees. She always felt calm and a sort of peace and wholeness whenever she was near nature in general. From below her, the door slid open and came in a man wearing the standard Jounin uniform. He had brown hair that was tied to a ponytail and had a scar that ran across the bridge of his nose. Iruka-sensei called for order and the whole class gradually quieted down. Sakura liked Iruka-sensei. He was kind to his students, yet stern when needed to. He always encouraged Sakura and motivated her whenever she failed Taijutsu or Kunai-throwing class, and she greatly appreciated him for it. Iruka-sensei took out his attendance sheet and started calling out their names.

Aburame... Akimichi...

Sakura raised her hand and a 'present!' when her name was called.

Matsumoto...Murakami...

Nara... Nakamura...

Ono...Ota...

Sayaka...Sawano

Tanaka... Uzumaki...

"Uzumaki Naruto?" Iruka-sensei repeated. There was no reply. "Honestly...told him...promised..." Iruka-sensei muttered. His face held a tired, and annoyed expression.

When Sakura first heard of the name Uzumaki Naruto, she had been ecstatic and looked forward to meeting him. Her father was an Uzumaki, and that made Naruto family. But when the moment came to meet each other, Sakura felt...well not disappointed, but unimpressed.

Uzumaki Naruto was loud, a prankster, and always skipped classes. He wasn't what Sakura expected him to be at all. She didn't know what to expect, but it was certainly not that. Naruto was mischievous and easily goaded which resulted in fisticuffs. He caused mayhem whenever he was around and Sakura, Sakura who just wanted to have a good and peaceful and I dunno normal, as normal as a ninja academy student could be, school year.

Needless to say, Sakura didn't like Naruto. Yes, he was family, she knows that, and sometimes she felt a bit guilty for feeling such a way but she couldn't help it. There was all that and also because...

"Has anyone seen Naruto ?" Iruka-sensei asked them. Various voices all called out with a no. Sensei sighed and put a hand on his face. "Well, if that's the case, then let us proceed with the-"

Everything, to put it plainly, erupted into chaos.

There was a yell, and the whirring sound of wires and a sloshing sound. Suddenly, a bucket flew past right past the students and onto one unfortunate target. Iruka-sensei. The bucket swayed along the way, spilling what seemed to be like paint. And paint it was, as the bucket turned over and completely drenched Iruka-sensei with orange paint from head to toe. To give him credit, Iruka-sensei didn't cry out or anything, he just stood still. In shock or anger, no one knew. But that wasn't all however because another whirring sound was heard, and a trapdoor just right above the orange soaked teacher was opened and down came feathers.

Right beside Sakura, outside, someone was cackling. Everybody turned to look, including her, to see Naruto standing on a tree branch, laughing maniacally.

"HAHAHA HAHAHA! You should see yourself Iruka-sensei. Now you look like a chicken 'ttebayo! An orange one!" Naruto cried out, pointing a finger at their sensei.

This was also one of the reasons why Sakura disliked Naruto. He pranked Iruka-sensei whenever he could, and Iruka-sensei was one of her favorite teachers in class. And even through all that, Iruka-sensei still put up with Naruto.

Speaking of Iruka-sensei... Sakura turned back to see that he had wiped off his face of paint, and his expression was one could only describe as furious. Even though she was a bit far, she could swear she saw a tick mark form on his head.

"NARUTO!" He yelled. "Come here!" Naruto merely stuck out his tongue at him. "Sorry sensei," he said. "But I have a job to do 'ttebayo! Bye now! And see ya later Sakura-chan!" With a wave for Izuka-sensei, and a wink to her, Naruto leaped and ran away from the scene of the crime.

Sakura felt her eyebrow twitch. "Stupid Naruto..."

With a "Get back her Naruto!" Izuka-sensei ran outside to chase after the blond. It was quite a sight to see too. A man covered in orange paint and feathers chasing a blond boy who also was wearing an orange tracksuit.

And that was how her day ended. Afternoon classes only had two subjects and Iruka-sensei was the first, but after the whole spectacle said the class was ended. Their teacher for the last period had given her time for free since they were already up-to-date and far enough, so she decided to give them her time. So the afternoon had been relaxing for all of them.

Students filtered out the academy gates, eager to greet their parents or guardians, and go home. Sakura and Ino walked together, chatting as they did. Or more like Ino gushing about Sasuke-kun and his handsome face and his spiky, shiny, black hair. "And he's so calm and collected all the time Sakura-chan! Unlike the rest of the boys in our class," she said the last part a bit distastefully. But that quickly turned back to a love-sick expression and Sakura could see her with heart eyes. "He's just so cool! " Ino giggled. Sakura merely nods. The two have been inseparable ever since that fateful day in the forest.

Before that, Sakura had been alone and was always being teased and bullied around. Her main tormentor was Ami, a civilian girl with purple hair. She and her gang would call her names, making fun of her forehead and her pink hair. "Billboard brow! Billboard brow! " They chanted, crowding around her and pulling at her hair. Sakura was on the ground, trying to shield herself.

But then Ino came, shining like the sun. All bright and powerful. She had strode in with purpose and full of confidence as she told off Ami and her gang away from her. And warm and full of kindness as she reached out her hand to her. It was Ino, cute, fashionable, and kind Ino who had told her that her hair was just as pretty as her name. Who had given her a red ribbon and used it to tie her hair, brushing away her bangs and leaving her forehead bare. It was Ino who gave her confidence and strength to be herself.

Yet...

If Ino was like the sun, then Sakura was the moon. Always hidden and overshadowed by the sun's brilliance. Ino was sociable and so sure and confident of herself, making her popular among their peers. Sakura may be the first kunoichi amongst her class but that was only on the theoretical ones. Ino was not only one of the top in theoretical, but was also good, in fact, the best in their practical tests, which Sakura was abysmal at. Sakura, as dubbed by her teachers, was a paper ninja whilst Ino on the other hand, was a ninja. Ino, cute, fashionable, kind, popular, and smart Ino shined through all. Eventually, Sakura will be left behind her shadow, and Ino... wouldn't probably look back.

Sakura didn't like that. She didn't want to be overshadowed, she didn't want to hang around at Ino's back. She wants to shine too. She wants to be a great ninja, just like her great-grandfather. But fate, unfortunately, must hate her. Sakura wasn't like Ino. She wasn't pretty, not with her huge forehead around. She wasn't popular among their batch, nor great at Taijutsu and kunai throwing, nor was she fashionable. Sakura only has her brains, and what good was that if you can't even physically protect yourself anyway.

So no, Sakura was not like Ino.

But Ino was also Sakura's precious friend. Her only friend. And it scares her because she doesn't want to lose her. So when Ino had asked her whether or not she liked Sasuke, she said no. Her friendship with Ino was something she cared for most and she would not allow for some boy to just ruin that. Yet, the fear is still there. The fear of Ino leaving her for something better. The fear of not being able to catch up, of not being enough. This is why Sakura tries hard to ensure that that doesn't happen. She wants to become strong because she wants to someday stand up to Ino as equals.

"...and then the way he flipped over Takeo so easily like it was nothing. He didn't even had to move from his position too! I also heard that Sasuke-kun loves tomatoes, hey Sakura-chan do you think I should make him a bento of - Oh daddy's here! I gotta go Sakura-chan, see you tomorrow." Just as she said, Yamanaka Inoichi stood right outside the gates waving at their direction. With a tight hug and a hasty wave of her hand, Ino left and ran towards the direction of her father. Sakura watched as the duo left for their homes before she too started walking away.

Her parents seldom fetched her from school, both of them busy with work with papa being a shinobi and mama handling their business. But that didn't bother her though. She rather liked the independence of being able to walk to and from school. As long as she was able to return home before curfew, then all was fine. Luckily for her, the school had ended earlier than usual and that meant she had enough time to go to the forest and relax. She could go there and maybe read a book. Yeah, that was nice. Sakura took a left and towards training ground 18. Training ground 18 was by far her favorite spot, as it was dense with trees and across the field was a river. It was also far enough that Sakura couldn't hear the bustle and hustle of the village.

It takes her nearly forty minutes to arrive, and she is surprised at the sight that greets her. Just meters from her she sees a group of four people her age standing in front of a tree, and from what she observes it seems that they are surrounding someone else that she cannot see. Their backs are all turned towards her, and from the way that one of them points at the unknown someone and the way the shoulders of the rest are shaking she guesses that they are laughing. Sakura's eyes narrow. They were probably bullies and that wasn't good. She walks around silently, taking cover behind the trees, getting nearer until she can hear them.

"...wonder nobody likes you. " One of them says.

"It's because you're a monster. My mom said that the Hokage must be pretty senile now for letting you stay." Another one chimed.

"Yeah, that's right. You should leave the village now you monster before you destroy our home and eat us." A third cruelly said.

Sakura clenches her fist. She may have been mocked for her hair and forehead but she was never called a monster by others and told to leave the village. And they were mocking the Sandaime Hokage at that too. Her grandfather had told her lots of stories about the Hokage, as he was one of his students. He had given many praises of his skill and wisdom and of how he was a prodigal genius of his generation. He was, as Sakura soon discovered when she attended the academy

She circles to try and see who the poor kid was that they were attacking. The first thing she sees is the striking amount of orange. Orange and blue jacket, orange pants and blue sandals, and blond hair. With a start, she realizes it is Naruto. Gone is the impish smirk, and cheerful expression. In its place is a piercing glare. Sakura crouches down near the bushes, carefully observing the scene before her.

The group of boys is unfamiliar to her, probably from another class or just some civilians who don't attend the academy. They are all laughing and jeering at Naruto.

And Naruto... he isn't doing anything, yet. She prepares to leap out and to all them off but at the last moment, she hesitates.

She's not like Ino.

And this makes her whole body freeze. That's right, she wasn't like Ino. She wasn't strong nor has the confidence to face on four boys.

But Naruto needs help. Dislike for the boy aside, he was being bullied and no one was there to help him. Except for her.

So why isn't she moving?

Sakura wills herself to just, step forward, but her legs aren't listening. She isn't budging. And every time she does take a step, she crouches back down again. Why is she just sitting around here? Why is her whole body quivering? She feels anger bubble out of her. She is angry at the bullies and most of all at herself. Angry and frustrated because she wants so badly to help but she isn't. Instead, she is forced to watch as the boys turn physical and push Naruto around. She watches Naruto fall to the ground with a yelp, and the group only continues to laugh some more and one of them kicks Naruto. The same boy snatches Naruto's green goggles that are strapped on top of his head and toss it to another, who then smashes it to the ground, stepping and breaking it.

Move damn it, move!

Bully#1, she labels him and is probably the leader of the group. The same bully who had kicked Naruto starts to open his mouth and mock him.

"Why don't you just leave and save us the trouble." He jeered. "You're an orphan yeah? That means no one will care about you leaving. Maybe you killed your parents too. Or maybe, they just didn't want you and left."

Years from now, when an older Sakura looks back, she can recall this memory clearly and the vivid way she sees Naruto's face crumple and how his shoulders sag.

How his complexion pales, and his body stiffens and goes limp as if the soul was sucked right out of his body. And then, Naruto begins to tremble, hugging his knees and hiding his face.

"If I were them, I'd have been grateful to die. At least that way I wouldn't have to take care of someone like you."

And Sakura snaps.

With a yell, Sakura leaps out of her hiding place and dashes across the field, towards the group of boys who all turn around at the sound.

"What- AH!" Sakura doesn't hesitate to cut bully#1 off and punches him square on the face. He stumbles off to the side and falls face-first on the ground. The remaining three are too surprised at the sudden turn of events to do anything else and she wastes no time to kick bully#2, a bald boy to her right, and pushes bully#3, a wiry brunette, on to bully#4, a boy wearing a red cap and grey scarf. She positions herself right in front of Naruto, arms raised at the sides, shielding him.

Behind her, Naruto called her name, disbelief in his voice. "Sakura-chan!? What- why are you here?! " She doesn't glance back at him, busy staring the group down, but she replies.

"Don't worry Naruto, I'm gonna defend you from these guys."

Bully #4 finally snaps out of his shock and an indignant expression crosses his face. "Hey, who do you think you are pinkie!?" He shouts out. From her left, she sees bully #2 help bully #1 up.

"What? are you his girlfriend or something?" Bully #4 sneers. Sakura's eye twitches but doesn't fall for the jab. And that wasn't the point right now! Speaking with her most serious voice, and trying to be as intimidating as possible Sakura speaks up.

"Leave Naruto alone. Or I'll kick all of your butts. " and, hoping that her guess that they were just civilians was right, she continues. "And I'm from the academy and our sensei recently taught us how to fight. So you better believe it when I say I'll beat you. " She wasn't lying though. They were taught a new kata during Taijutsu class and they did spar. She also failed at said spar, but they didn't know that. What she also didn't tell was the fact that they were told not to fight against civilians. They were trained to protect them and the village after all, and picking fights with them was the opposite of said objective. Luckily, from the sign of bully #3 slowly backing away from her and the group's hesitation, it meant that they didn't know that tidbit and her intimidation worked. The only one unfazed was bully#1, who to her immense glee, was nose bleeding. He was glaring at her and his fists were raised, ready to fight it seems.

"You're probably lying." Bully #1 said. " You're just saying that to scare us off. Besides you're just a girl, a weird one at that too with your stupid pink hair."

Oh, that did it. Sakura squared her hips, one foot forward, and arms raised with her hands just below her forehead. Her right arm was still in pain from her sparring earlier in class and her punch from earlier had hurt so it would be pretty foolish of her to fight with her fists. Instead, Sakura settled for a stance that was more focused on striking with her legs, knees, and elbows. She may not be the best in their class when it comes to taijutsu but surely she could handle four civilian boys right?

"Oh yeah? Well, let's test that theory." She taunted. Bully #1's face turned into an ugly shade of red. Number 3 who had been quiet the whole time, began to speak up. "Umm... I don't think she's lying Kenta-Kun."

"Yeah man, " Number 4 chimed in. " She looks like she knows how to fight too.." But Number 1, now Kenta, was having none of it. Face twisting into a snarl, he spat out. " I don't care! She's just a fucking girl anyway and there's four of us." And proceeded to run straight towards her. Sakura cringed at the crass language but braced herself. This boy wasn't like Nakamura-san who was swift and agile. Who had downed her with a single kick and two consecutive punches. No, Kenta was like a bull. Charging in one direction, full speed ahead. Sakura could use that momentum to her advantage. She took a deep breath. She just had to be patient and strike at the right time. He was getting closer.

Closer...

Closer...

Closer...

... Now!

As he raised his left arm to throw a jab, Sakura effortlessly moved to the side. She then swung around, pivoting on her heel, leg raised, and kicked him on the back. Kenta stumbled, and with an oomph, he fell right next to Naruto who was now standing up. To Kenta's credit, at least he didn't land on his face this time. Naruto glanced down at him, and then turned his eyes to Sakura, awe in his face.

"Whoa Sakura-chan that was so cool!" He said enthusiastically. Immediately, he pointed behind her and cried out, "-behind you!" Sakura turned around to see Number 4 just about to tackle her.

She wasted no time in ducking down, out of reach from his arms, and elbowed him on the stomach. He fell with a pained grunt, curling into a ball. Right, she forgot. Never turn your back on the enemy.

That had been one of the main rules before they started lessons. And she forgot all that because of one small victory. It was only thanks to Naruto that she managed to dodge in time. She could thank him later once this was all over and done with.

Sakura returned to her stance and glanced at Number 3, waiting. Number 3 was now shaking, looking at his friends who had all been defeated with one move, and he jumped back in fright once he turned his gaze on her and realized that she was staring. He held out his hands up in surrender.

"I- I'm sorry! " He cried out. " Please don't hurt me. We- we won't bother you and you-your friend ever again. " He was sobbing now, and Sakura felt pity for the boy. Naruto must have felt the same too for he began to approach him, probably to comfort him. Sakura relaxed slightly.

Even though it was only moments ago that he was just being bullied by the said boy and his friends, Naruto was still kind enough to comfort him in the end. Granted, all his friends were beaten up by 'the weird pinkie' and was full out crying but still. Maybe she had been a bit too quick to judge her classmate. She decided that after this she would properly talk and get to know Naruto.

Wait!

Sakura started, settling herself back into position, eyes darting around the field. There were four of them. Number 1, Kenta, Number 4, and Number 3 were already down for the count. 'But where was Number 2?' She thought.

"Naruto!" She called out. He was currently trying to cheer up number 3, who had now stopped crying. He glanced at her direction, head tilted.

"There's supposed to be four of them," she continued. He seemed to get the message as realization began to sink in his eyes. "Well, there were only the two of them that attacked, and then there's that guy but I don't see the last one anywhere. " She finished.

"Maybe he ran awa- Sakura-chan behind you!"

Naruto began to reply but once again alerted her of danger. Sakura turned, but it was too late. Below, she felt a hand grip tightly on her leg. It was Number 4, the one whom she had elbowed. He was staring daggers at her and grinning. "Now Subaki!" He yelled triumphantly.

And suddenly she felt a heavy weight push right behind her, and gravity began to work its way, and she began to fall. She landed harshly on her back, her head slamming down flooded her vision, and she could hear a ringing in her ears. Sakura opened her eyes to see Number 2, Subaki if she heard right, sitting atop her, effectively pinning her down on the ground and unable to stand back up. She didn't have time to block the fist that hit her.

"You hurt my friends!" Subaki screamed at her face. Sakura tightly closed her eyes, both from the pain and of the loud volume, which was also painful. From behind her Naruto shouted.

"Sakura-chan! Oi, you bastard how dare you do that!" And then the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, getting louder as it neared. Naruto was running towards them. The heavy weight was gone as Subaki stood up, and began to charge in towards Naruto. "Who you calling bastard, monster?! " He shouted angrily.

Sakura lifted herself up but was pushed again back to the ground. A hand was painfully pressed against her head. "What do you think you're doing pinkie?" It was Kenta. She began to struggle.

"Let go of me!". Kenta sneered. "Not so tough now huh? Did you really think that you could beat us all on your own?" He pulled her hair, making her cry out in pain. "You're just some weakling playing ninja. "

Kenta spat out, and then let go. She felt his presence disappear, heard his footsteps as he walked away.

Sakura bit her lip as tears pooled out her eyes. She craned her head towards the sound of shouting to see Naruto trading blows against the bullies.

She saw Subaki about to land a hit, to which Naruto blocked and countered with a kick. Number 4 sent a right hook right but Naruto pulled his scarf, making the boy miss as he swung at an awkward angle. He seemed to be holding up well on his own against the two of them. But then Kenta joined the fray, and now it was three against one.

A few feet away from them was Number 3, who was again crying. At first, Naruto was able to hold fine against the three of them, but that eventually changed the longer the fight went on. During the duration of the fight, the three had managed to circle Naruto, trapping him in the center unable to defend all three sides at once.

And that was probably their plan from the start. Subaki pounced first, and Naruto prepared to defend himself. But to Sakura's dismay attacking wasn't Subaki's goal.

Subaki ducked down, holding tightly onto Naruto's legs, locking the orange-clad boy in place. Caught off guard at the sudden move, Naruto began to try and pry him off. But Number 4 chose that moment to join in and held up Naruto's arms. Naruto, with both his arms and legs being held down, is left defenseless. And Sakura could only watch in horror as Kenta brought a powerful blow on his stomach. Naruto wheezed, the breath knocked out of him. But he wasn't given a chance to recover as another punch was sent his way, this time to his face. This continued, Subaki and Number 4 pinning Naruto and Kenta beating him up.

Sakura was crying now. She failed in protecting Naruto, and now he was being beaten up. She wanted to help, but that had greatly backfired. Now she was back to being the girl that she was. Helpless.

Her head was pounding like being continuously hit by a hammer. She wants to stand. She wants to rush in and help. She wants to fight back. She wants the bullies to just leave them alone.

Leave us alone.

And suddenly, Sakura feels it. She feels the warmth that suddenly surges within her, throughout her whole body. She feels the earth beneath her feet and hears the river across the field, flowing swiftly and rapidly.

I want to help.

She feels the cool breeze as it touches her skin, is lulled at the gentle swaying of the trees.

I want to be strong.

She cannot think, only feel. She feels whole, balanced. As she breathes, nature breathes with her.

I want to protect others.

Sakura reaches out.

The earth cracks. Roots sprang out, snaking their way through the assailants, wrapping around their legs. Kenta and his group are not given the chance to scream before the roots pull them away from Naruto. That is not all, as more roots surface just below Naruto. But unlike the others, these roots worked it's way around him, shaping it's way like a cocoon, with the boy inside, sheltering him. Flowers bloomed around them.

This is the scene that Sakura snaps back to. She glances at the splintered earth their way, sees the roots around Kenta's group, entrapping them.

And at Naruto's to where she sees that the green dome is covering him. Her eyes widen, as she starts to feel not the dry and rough ground but soft, lush grass. She turns to look around to see that it is only at her area where the brown of dirt had turned into green grass.

Sakura manages to stand with a strength she didn't know come from. There will be time to think about that later though she has a pretty good guess as to where.

She begins to approach Naruto first, whose nose is crooked and lips bleeding. Naruto is badly beaten up and is smiling at her.

"Are you alright, Naruto-Kun?" She doesn't know what made her begin to add the honorific. She had always called him only by his name and nothing else, never feeling a need to do so since they weren't friends nor did she like him. But maybe that could change after this.

If he had any thoughts regarding the change, he didn't say it. Instead, Naruto's eye lit up, shining with something akin to wonder and also warmth. It makes Sakura almost stop in her tracks. His eyes radiated and expressed so much that together with his smile, it was a bit blinding. It was as if nothing was wrong and that everything was fine now. As if he hadn't just been pummeled moments prior. Somehow, Sakura thinks. She feels that this

would be a typical trait with Naruto.

"I'm feeling alright now Sakura-chan!" He cheerily replied. " What you just did was super cool 'ttebayo! You really saved me back there. I didn't know you could do, well that stuff you just did but yeah! It was super awesome 'ttebayo. "

"I didn't know I could do it too until now," Sakura admitted. "But I bet my great-grandfather knows. I could ask him the next time I visit tomorrow."

Their conversation was interrupted by Kenta's cry. Oops, Sakura almost forgot about that. With a promise of coming back later, Sakura then turned to face the three boys, who were now actually crying. Subaki was not looking at her, hands on his face. Number 4 was wailing, loudly and Kenta... well he too was sobbing but was the most put together. One thing in common though was that they were all shivering out of fear, and profusely crying out and wanting to be let go.

The roots had slowly snaked their way all the way up to their shoulders.

"Pl-please just let us go. " Kenta stuttered. "We promise to never bother you again. "

"Yeah, we promise!" Subaki chimed in. He had placed his hands to the side of his face, which was red and puffy. Sakura looked expectantly at Number 4. Kenta nudged at him with his head, having understood what Sakura was trying to say. "Oi, Daichi, we promise not to bother her anymore right? Right?"

Number 4, now revealed as Daichi sniffled. "Ye-yeah! We p-p-promise t-to le-leave you a-a-al-alone." Sakura raised a brow, a hand on her hip. "And?"

"We're sorry !" The three yelled out.

That would be enough, Sakura thinks. She continued. "You promise to never speak of this?" It wouldn't do her and Naruto any good if the academy, and also the Hokage if word got wind and they'll be expelled without ever

getting the chance of being a ninja. And, if her guess was right, the Hokage's interest would certainly get piqued if word also got wind of her newfound abilities. She wanted to tell her family, most especially her grandfather about this. Sakura was so deep in thought that she almost missed their replies.

"We swear never to tell anyone we saw anything! I'll tell my mom that I just tripped and broke my nose on accident." Kenta said, and the two nodded their heads enthusiastically.

"What Kenta said!" Agreed Subaki.

"Nothing ever happened here!" Added Daichi.

Sakura narrowed her eyes.

"You promise?"

A chorus of 'we promise!' and 'yes!'

Satisfied, Sakura said. "Then we're all good here." The three sagged in relief. She glared again. "But if I hear anyone who speaks of this, I'll immediately know it was you three and I'll make sure to do much worse got it?" They gulped, and croaked out a yes.

"...So that means you'll let us go? " Daichi asked, nervous.

Oh... Sakura sweat-dropped. She didn't exactly know how to set them free. But luckily she didn't have to panic.

As if reading her thoughts, the roots slowly started to unravel themselves, thereby freeing the three boys.

The moment their limbs were free to move around, they all bolted. From the corner of her eye was Number 3, who had been watching the entire exchange, began to run, and trying to catch up to them.

"H-h-hey! Wait for me!" He cried out, completely disregarding Sakura.

And then there were two.

Sakura returned to Naruto and helped him up as he tried to stand. Above them, the sky had begun to turn into a myriad of purple, red, and orange.

Dusk was beginning to settle. She glanced back at the boy beside her. Both of them were too tired to walk without supporting each other. Naruto and her needed treatment, and the hospital was too far away from here that even with the support it'd be too hard. They could treat themselves, but Sakura didn't exactly have a medical kit lying around, and she could guess that Naruto didn't too. The only location that was nearest, and that she could confidently say was safe was her own home.

Mind made up, Sakura once more glanced at Naruto to ask him. "Hey Naruto-Kun, you wanna go to my house instead?"

It was time for her dad to finally get to know another long lost member of the family.

A/N :
Hey guys! So here's the second chapter of roots (and in this house we stan Sakura and her two best friends who are practically the sun personified) and I gotta say I didn't expect the kind reviews. I just wanna say that I greatly appreciate them and it really made me happy! I don't write much, I mean there's the usual school essays and research paper but when it comes to writing stories and fics... myeh.
This is actually pretty much my first one lmao, I'm more of an artist than a writer anyway but I just had to get my thoughts out. Mokuton Sakura has always been one of my favorite au's. If that was the case then let's just make her into a Senju too amirite or amirite? owo
Anyway yeah, once again thank you! And I hope that you find the second chapter good too. (oh god oh fuck I hope I didn't make any grammatical errors I finished this at 3 a.m lmao shit)

Stay safe everyone and have a great day!