1 I Will Protect You

There weren't many places a Kohona doctor could do malpractice of research into forbidden jutsu.

And there weren't many intelligent enough to actually cause a problem after gaining materials.

Not everyone was at the level of Orochimaru.

He may have been a once great villain that had the powers of a legendary sannin in the past, but he had reformed after the 4th Great Ninja War… and eventually died in the 5th war of the ninja world.

Leaving a certain pink-haired 'Medical Sage' to take his place… His hideout having been altered.

The cave walls and doors were made with strengthened 'chakra draining' materials. All so no one could interfere with the last experiment the dead-eyed 'Healing Goddess' of the last ninja war.

She pulled down her glove a little and wiped her sweaty face. Her haggardness couldn't be hidden.

A part of her pink hair had was discoloured with a greyness. It wasn't of old age, but of losing vitality.

Scars marred the skin underneath her glove…

But she didn't seem to be able to feel pain, nor was she able feel her body having reached its limits.

Her mind was clear.

She could drop dead in this underground research facility at any time, but she kept on typing codes.

This was a new way of 'Moulding Chakra' that Orochimaru had invented and passed down to her.

Though one's skill needed to be at a high enough level for use, she'd already found a successor for it.

Even if she died today, she'd leave her legacies…

That's why she didn't care if today was her last.

The dexterous old woman wanted something that was worth giving her life for. She'd do it for 'her'.

Her beautiful… loving daughter.

'My baby…' Sakura thought of the little girl she'd raised from a tiny infant. How her child played with her fingers with curiosity, and pulled on her hair without knowing the dangers of the world.

That child would later become the leader of the village hidden in the leaves, Konohagakure.

A black-haired woman and the true successor of the Uchiha Clan. Able to weave and finely control her chakra like her mother, while also having the myriad of abilities passed down from her father.

The first Uchiha to have become a Hokage…

At least, that should have been the happy ending.

With strength, she should have lived long.

So how it is that Naruto lived longer than her…?

This thought echoed through her mind while typing on the keyboard. Her gloved fingers never resting.

Sakura Haruno's eyes was glued to the screen.

Not even giving half a mind to the static shocks her seemingly malfunctioning headgear was giving off in the slightest. In fact, each fluctuation on her headgear seemed to make her more excited...

The sparks only serving to discolour and ruin her once pretty hair once more, which had grown out.

Her laughter was delirious…

*Boom!* An explosion went off behind her.

This caused her snickers to finally stop. The joints in her fingers finally gave out and spasmed a lot.

Screaming for her to stop.

Sakura turned to see two people walking through a gap that was made on the reinforced chakra resistant walls. They were originally meant to keep both these 'friends' at bay, but failed their purpose.

Now she could only hear their worthless cries.

"Sakura, stop this! You'll die if you experiment anymore! Haven't you seen the state your in?" A voice filled with pain left the blonde-haired man wearing orange clothes, Naruto Uzumaki.

A thorn in her side.

He had always managed to have the last say ever since Sarada passed away. What an annoying man.

Uselessly worrying about others.

Sakura didn't heed his advice. She put her hand on a nearby wall, then punched it her full strength.

*Ptch!* Her hand ripped apart, but she managed to put it back together even without her lost Yin Seal.

The regenerative abilities Tsunade passed via the 'Strength of a Thousand' Seal no longer working.

She had already used most of her chakra reserves.

Despite that, she punished her disobedient hand and reformed it after having crushed the bones.

Her face showed no signs of pain whatsoever.

Sakura heard another voice following the blonde temporary Hokage, the forever 'Shadow Hokage'.

And also her husband at the side.

"Please, come back to us... Come on… Sakura!" It was only at this moment did the woman turn to meet the gaze of the new arrival. Her once pretty face no longer like that when she was young.

Anyone else who saw her ugly and aged appearance wouldn't have recognised her.

She had been warped by countless experiments.

However, how could Sasuke not recognise his own wife? With both his Indra Rinnegan and Sharingan deactivated, he walked up to her… only to be coldly stopped by a gesture. His eyes looked pained.

Unable to bring himself to approach her in this current state. Feeling responsible for everything.

Guilt appearing in his warm black eyes.

"Don't bother. I have already combined Kabuto's Yin Healing Wound Destruction, Teacher's Creation Rebirth, and Gai-sensei's Eight Inner Gates Formation to create my very own Ninjutsu." Sakura spoke while seemingly disconnected from reality.

She continued with confidence and at her own pace: "The only thing I need to implement it… is time. After I've finished using Chakra Matrix to power of the 'Flying Thunder God Technique, Fifth Step: Time Distortion', I'll finally have hope to see Sarada again... My child... We can be a f-fa-family."

There was a hint of madness in the eyes glaring the black-haired man. Stuttering when saying 'family'.

Her grey tinted eyes that could barely see anymore twitched. Sakura punched her head to get it to listen to her. She didn't care if her brain was malfunctioning. It needed to listen to her for now.

She couldn't die yet..

Not yet… Not now…

She was almost there. Everything had been prepared, and she could finally get things done.

"Don't ruin this chance for me." There was an indescribable sadness in her as she spoke.

"Sakura, please... look at reality...! The Fifth Great Ninja War has ended. Sarada will never come back." Naruto pleaded. He wanted to take her away from this place, but an electric shock came from the surroundings. The 'Chakra Matrix' was nearby.

"Shut up! Don't give up on her!"

"Sakur-" Sasuke tried to approach her instead when the environment was becoming dangerous.

But Sakura cut his words off with a scream:

"Shut up! I regret getting married to an idiot like you! I would have been better off if I had been less stubborn! You... betrayed my trust after the Fourth Great Ninja War, and now you're doing it again!

You always betray me! ALWAYS!" Her emotions were in disorder. The woman quickly grabbed a kunai and pointed at her husband with great killing intent. Her body creaking with each movement.

Finally, Sasuke discovered her abnormalities.

He looked at her with his personal Dōjutsu despite it not being the best at sensing chakra in others.

And immediately saw what was wrong with her.

Her chakra was twisted, and it seemed to act as a natural pain canceller and removal for her limits.

Sasuke's heart leaped out of his chest after realising it wasn't under any outside influence.

He roared in panic:

"You used Genjutsu on yourself!"

"Shut up!" She repeated like a broken tape recorder. Her brain was starting to break down.

"Please... think about this calmly. The Flying Thunder God Jutsu can only teleport a person to a Formula Mark. Dad even told us that it was more of a space jutsu rather than a space-time jutsu!" The orange Hokage tried his best to reason with her.

But she was running on only emotions right now.

"Shut up!! Why did you come here anyway? It's not like Boruto or Himawari died, only Sarada was killed in the war! It's all because you were weak... All of you didn't take care of her...! It's because of you!"

It was only after noticing the increasing agonised look on Naruto's face… did she realise her mistake.

That face… That look…

It deeply etched into her mind despite having almost fallen apart earlier. She put herself together.

Sakura's eyes became much more cynical. She mocked herself inwardly for blaming him like this...

"No, you too weren't at fault. I was... I've always been the weakest member of our trio, needing to be protected by you even from Sasuke...!" She laughed again in derision of her previous tantrum towards him. Everything seemed so funny now.

Hilarious… Like it was all a comedy routine…

"You know, I once made a promise after cutting off my hair a long time ago." She looked at Sasuke.

Feeling like she was being whisked into their memories together. Oh how 'cute' they were.

Naive to the ways the world worked.

Her eyes shifted between the two men while speaking. She monologued about their past:

"I promised to grow strong enough to protect you both as well... I trained really hard under Teacher's tutelage and became much stronger... but it was only after the Fourth Great Ninja War did I realise..."

"It wasn't that I lacked strength, but courage. When Naruto was fighting against Pain to save the entire village. All I could do was cower and cry out for help. Waiting for you two to come and save us."

"Hinata put her life on the line to save the man she loved and the whole village, but what did I do?"

"Cheer you both on?"

"I acted like a damsel, thinking that my Medical Ninjutsu and physical power was enough to be considered part of the team..." She said what was in her heart all this time, causing them to tear up.

"I won't give up this time!" Sakura spoke these words as her five senses started to fail her.

'I have to do this now...' She ignored her former teammates and turned to press a certain key.

After she did, a yellow current of electricity electrocuted her as she slowly lost consciousness.

Her body started to fall apart at that moment.

When the electrocution started to stop, she realised that all her efforts had been in vain.

That the experiment would fail.

She knew when the electrocution stopped, she'd die in agony. Knowing her efforts were worthless.

A futile struggle against fate.

'Sorry… Sarada…' Her mind was blacking out, until she hallucinated a presence not of this world.

A white-haired woman in a black dress appeared in her sight. Seemingly made of her malevolence.

The foreign looking beauty smiled. Red tattoos on her cheek pulsed while approaching the kunoichi.

"Do you want to make a wish? Would you want it fulfilled at any cost?" The white-haired woman spoke with a gentle voice. A wicked smile plastered on her face, unable to hide her demonic nature.

Sakura didn't need to think before answering:

"I… would…"

"Then our deal is done. I'll be taking your pain, power, and memories of this event as payment." A hand stretched out towards the kunoichi. She felt as if something was being sucked out of her soul.

Then dropped into a vessel that could 'digest' her.

The same 'Sakura Haruno' from a different part of the timeline suddenly felt a piercing headache.

The long haired young girl held her head.

Feeling like someone else's memories were merging into her own, but with some bits missing.

The first thought after fully digesting the memories inside her was the word she pursued: 'Success!'

Her intelligent mind reformed all her memories into a new consciousness. She closed her eyes tiredly.

Feeling fatigue…

"Sakura, wake up!" Sakura heard the words of now younger Iruka-sensei resounding in her ears.

Making her eyes open in great surprise.

She was sitting in her classroom from all those years back at the academy. Iruka was here again.

Looking no different from in her memories.

"Sorry...!" She spoke with sincerity, as if everything her mind had experienced was just a long dream.

Able to regain her composure.

Her teacher found her to be acting a little strange today. His brightest student was usually more attentive to his lessons. Though the biggest thing was that she normally wasn't this honest a speaker.

However, Iruka didn't pursue her for this mater. It was the first time a diligent student like her actually fell asleep in the middle of class. Even her fangirl-ing over Sasuke was only done in her free time.

The same couldn't be said for the idiot next to him.

"Hehe~! See!! Even Sakura fell asleep, ya know! So please lessen my punishment, Iruka-sensei!" These words naturally left the blonde kid. He was holding up buckets of water with both arms AND his head.

Despite knowing that she had finally been brought back in time, Sakura couldn't help wanting to cry after seeing the naive and cheeky face of the future Seventh Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village.

But she held herself together.

A bright smile etched onto her face unconsciously.

She remembered back using her photographic memory, then realised that Naruto was in the most troubling time of his youth right now. A time when no one but Iruka-sensei accepted his existence.

Even kids his own age kinda avoided him.

Her included…

Even though Sakura's body was that of her younger self, her mind had far matured to the point this scene felt nostalgic. She felt kinda bad seeing the future Hokage being treated in this manner.

But he WAS a snotty kid right now that kinda deserved it, so there was no use in 'saving' him.

The only thing she could do was cheer for him.

Like always.

"Naruto, do your best...!" She smiled at the orange clothed Knucklehead Ninja and gave a thumbs up.

A casual action with innocence, but one that didn't fit the strong image she'd built up in her time here.

It was after her action did she realise that multiple gazes became glued to her. This was as soon as she gave out encouragement. Sakura felt confused at why everyone was staring at her so wide-eyed.

Did she do something wrong?

There shouldn't be anything morally wrong in her actions, so what's with this exaggerated reaction?

It seemed silly to her.

"What's wrong?" Sakura asked Iruka-sensei, who also needed some time to regain his senses.

She really seemed 'off' today…

…but it was good she had become more honest.

"Nothing..." He replied before getting back to teaching, leaving Sakura even more confused.

She looked around to see Kiba, Choji, Shikamaru and the gang giving her strange looks… as if this was the first time they had met her. Even Ino, her best friend turned frenemy, lifted her eyebrows.

"Hehe!" However, she didn't have to properly observe their reactions. A proud look appeared on Naruto's face as he glared at Sasuke, who silently sat in the corner. Minding his own business.

His chuckle seemed high and mighty for a dimwit.

It was only then did Sakura remembered one key detail she had forgotten after having came back:

'Damn... I forgot he liked me back then.' The pink-haired girl felt a chill down her spine at his gaze

She turned to see Hinata looking at her…

Sakura could tell that the shy girl was worried for reasons she herself didn't know at the moment.

'Time to use my secret Jutsu: Pretending nothing had happened.' The little pink-haired kunoichi thought before ignoring everyone else. She did her best to uncover the memories of her 'current self'.

She needed to understand her written tests if she wanted to be on the same team she was on before.

They wouldn't pair a fool with another fool and a prodigy with yet-to-be-seen untapped potential.

Her exams were important.

The strangeness in the atmosphere quickly faded away everyone went about their own things.

One thing bothering her was that she still didn't understand why it turned so strange initially.

Was encouraging him so weird?

"Okay, you can have a break." Iruka-sensei finally gave them some time to breath, and immediately it felt like the whole world was altering. The girls in class shot towards Sasuke to fangirl over him!

He was talented, cool, brooding, and acted like he was too good for them. That last part was oddly more attractive then if he reacted properly. At the very least, Sakura had found this attitude nice.

She liked 'bad boy' types.

And Sasuke ticked every box in bring a stone cold wall that wouldn't be swayed by anyone's feelings.

Every girl in the class found that aura and sense of purpose in his eyes to be handsome, but for Sakura herself, who knew his past and future, all she saw in him was negativity. The inability to socialise.

That he was closed off.

Unlike the extroverted Naruto who was trying to seek attention, Sasuke now looked apathetic.

He had overcome his loss to a certain extent, but it still seemed to haunt him that others could die.

They relationships could be cut so easily…

It was only now she understood why he sought rivals and did his best to be the strongest he was.

Because if he couldn't, things would be taken.

His 'evil' brother would take care of that.

The Sasuke of now was nothing like Sakura's cute husband, who started to have problems expressing himself. After all, he had dedicating himself to training his bloodline limit and battling those in the shadows. Spending most his life fighting.

It also didn't help that overcoming the 'Curse of Hatred' his future Sharingan would impose on him… really took a lot out of him. It was hard... This was both on an emotional level and spiritually.

No wonder he became awkward.

He started off being a guy of few words since the beginning, and constant fights only made it worse.

Her husband had feared going berserk in anger once again, but also felt the love of his wife who raised his daughter in his absence. Someone who ended up defined by an extremely troubled past.

It was this duality that made even her daughter confused on whether she and Sasuke actually loved each other or not. If they truly did love each other, why is it she knew so little about his tastes?

The problem of course was naturally the kind of personality that resulted from being a 'Supporting Kage' for way too long. He was secretive, and rarely came home to meet with his family.

'Why did I marry that guy again?' She suddenly felt like maybe she'd been too attracted to that face.


'Oh, now I get it.' After a closer look, he really did seem like husband material. Just look at that face!

Was it shallow of her to like his looks?

Probably, but she was this type of person in the past anyway. She started feeling attracted again.

Her past self hadn't been erased when her memories filled the vessel, it'd only expanded it.

Which was why she felt:

'Maybe I should make the base of what we will have more genuine.' Not solely looking at his face.

Even though that was STILL important to her.

…Their future relationship wasn't perfect.

After all, it was only through stubbornly choosing to pursue him (no matter the hurdles that came her way) that he eventually opened up to her. Sakura didn't even know if he really thought of her more than a friend when he left the village or not.

Only that that Sasuke was willing to put aside anything in order to avenge his 'departed' family.

She felt a little unsure of how to interact with the younger selves. After all, there was no way they'd l put a 'spoilt' girl like her original younger self in their eyes. Naruto being the exception, of course.

But if it's Sasuke, the him right now only saw her as just another member of his extended fan club.

"Sakura, please go out with me!" She heard a voice in her ear while boldly looking in Sasuke's direction.

But the knucklehead didn't seem to care one bit.

This awakened the emotions towards him in the past. The fiery temperament kept from teachers.

"Not in your lifetime!" For the first time in a long while, a thick vein of fury bulged on her forehead.

She naturally beat Naruto (who was currently lunging towards her after thinking she came to like him) into the ground. Her movements so casual that you'd think she'd done this her entire life.

…Which wasn't much of a stretch to say.

'What should I do?' Sakura ignored the kid writhing in pain. He didn't notice the relief on Hinata face.

The white-eyed girl inwardly encouraged Naruto to follow his dream and become stronger inwardly.

"Why punch me so hard! Believe it, I'll become the Hokage someday and show you how awesome I really am!" As Naruto spoke up to here, the whole class started to laugh as if they heard a funny joke.

But even at these jeering eyes (excluding a specific few), the resolve in his heart didn't shake one bit!

"Oh? What plan do you have in mind for training then? Let me be clear: 'Painting' doesn't count."

Only Sakura asked this seriously.

"Umm..." It was only now the knucklehead felt a little embarrassed at how he was so untalented.

"Did you just think you're untalented?"

"No! I am going to be the future Hokage, ya know! I just need to put some more guts into training!" He was hyped up. Resolving himself to go practice his throwing skills tonight… to not let his crush down!

"That's good. I overheard a sensei talking and heard of a person who trains like there's no tomorrow… but he isn't in this Academy. I also heard the instructor was Might Gai-sensei." Sakura thought of the Chūnin Exams while saying this.

She decided it was best to get them to train harder if they wanted to survive Orochimaru's assault on the Hidden Leaf… No, if they wanted to beat the life out of him and stop his evil schemes with force!

"Why mention this guy?"

"Because I'm going to go train under Gai-sensei in my free time. I'm even skipping classes to get some training done. You want to become Hokage in the future, right? Isn't the best way to get there by dedicating your time to training your butt off?"

"But... will a that sensei accept me...?" It was only now did she realise what she had gotten wrong.

'Was Naruto always this isolated?' Whenever she remembered that childish 'Lord Seventh' who was like a ray of sunshine in everyone's life, she would unconsciously forget that the kind of feelings the village had for him in the past. Although she knew that it was bad, she didn't know it was THIS bad.

*Slap* "Ow! What was that for?!" Naruto was now actually a little pissed while rubbing his back.

"Stop sulking! You never know until you try!" She outwardly great enthusiasm to get him into training.

Why act this 'pumped'? Obviously it was to get Naruto to listen to her by preying on his current greatest weakness: The fact that he'd literally take anyone's acceptance right now… because was ignored by the entire village throughout his life.

Was she manipulating him? Absolutely! After all, as an adult who raised a daughter, she felt like she was guiding a child to a more correct path than vandalising the stone faces of the past Hokages.

She then looked at Sasuke not far from her and took a deep breath after organising what to say.

Sakura squeezed in through the crowd of girls forcefully, but even while doing so, didn't catch his attention.

"Are you bored from not having a good opponent here?" She asked, causing him to look at her.

Touching on his fighting spirit, his near obsessive compulsion to be the best fighter in the room.

Though he seemed like a stoic loner, only someone who had known him long enough would know his actual personality wasn't this edgy. Sometimes, it was really easy to get a read on his thoughts.

His trauma from the Uchiha Tragedy is what drove him to try and kill off his emotions, but no matter what, he was still a twelve year old kid who young and easily swayed. All she needed was bait.

"I know someone strong. His name... is Rock Lee! A Taijutsu Specialist that has honed his skills." These were the only words she needed to get him hooked on wanting to follow her. Fire appeared in his eyes.

Unable to stay away when she said 'strong'.

Though he made an effort not to show it outwardly.

The word 'genius' had been stuck to him so long that he had grown arrogant about his abilities, so now was the time to put him in his place. Sakura specifically chose Lee so he could do that again.

Make him realise that hard work was important.

The pink kunoichi felt a bit sorry for what awaited him once he got there, but steeled her heart:

'Sorry... and I promise.' She lead him away while thinking with intense emotions: 'I will protect you.'

Unknowing of what the future will hold.

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