Chapter 1

Sakura bowed her head, letting her hair fall forward over her face. It made a curtain, as pink as a cherry blossom tree around her, and she imagined it was the walls of the Hokage. The ANBU would come for her soon, to take her to that sacred place for what either be her first of three time, or else the last.

This final hour was afforded to her by traditions to be spent in solitude. She'd already said her farewells to friends considering that she have no family members, in hope that she might see them again. She raised her head and looked though the doorway of the hut. This was not her house, although it was made of the same reddish brown clay and a thick thatch for a roof. This hut hosed only the ceremonial trappings of the bride-feast.

Outside, the sun was setting, and Sakura rose up from where she knelt on the thick, bamboo rug so she could watch it. Her new white linen shift fell around her, pooling about her feet. Her hair hung light and heavy with the black ornaments woven into the strands. Small bells chimed softy as she moved.

The sun was gold turning red, streaking the floor of the valley with its last light. On either side of the clearing tall trees cast shadows, drawing the darkness closer as the sun san down. In the last of the sun's fading light the ANBU came.