In a secret research facility owned by the likes of Orochimaru, a pink-haired woman was typing on the keyboard in front of her with great dexterity as her 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 energy fluctuation on her headgear seemed to make her even more excited...
*Boom!* An explosion went off behind her as she turned to see two people walking through a gap that was made on the reinforced metal walls that were meant to keep both these 'friends' at bay.
"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, Uzumaki Naruto.
"Please, come back... Sakura!" It was only at this moment did the woman turn to meet his gaze.
Anyone else who saw her ugly and aged appearance that was warped by countless experiments wouldn't have recognised her. 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.
"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. The only thing I need to implement it is time. After I've finished using Chakra Matrix to power of the Flying Thunder God- Time Distortion, I will have hope to see Sarada again... My child..." There was a hint of madness in her eyes as glared the black-haired man.
"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."
"Shut up! Don't give up on her!"
"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!" Her emotions were in disorder as grabbed a kunai and pointed at her husband with great killing intent.
It was only after noticing that she seemed a little abnormally disturbed that Sasuke used his Dōjutsu to observe her. His heart quickly leaped out of his chest as found her Chakra to be under an influence.
"You used Genjutsu on yourself!"
"Shut up!" She repeated like a broken tape recorder.
"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!"
"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 pained look on Naruto's face did she realise her mistake. Her eyes became much more cynical as 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 in derision of her previous tantrum towards him.
"You know, I once made a promise after cutting off my hair a long time ago." She looked at Sasuke.
"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 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 call for help while Hinata put her life on the line to save you.
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.
"Sakura, wake up!" She heard the words of Iruka-sensei resounding in her ears and opened her eyes.
"Sorry...!" She spoke unconsciously as if everything her mind had experienced was just a dream.
However, Iruka didn't pursue her for this since 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.
"Hehe! See, even Sakura fell asleep, ya know! So please lessen my punishment, Iruka-sensei!" These words naturally left the blonde kid who was holding up buckets of water with both arms and his head.
Despite knowing that she had finally been brought back in time, she couldn't help but want to cry after seeing the naive and cheeky face of the future Seventh Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village.
She remembered back and realised that Naruto was in the most troubling time of his youth where nobody but Iruka-sensei accepted him. Even though her body was that of her younger self, her mind had far matured to the point this scene was nostalgic.
"Naruto, do your best...!" She smiled at the orange clothed Knucklehead Ninja before realising that multiple gazes became glued to her as soon as she gave out her encouragement. She felt confused at how everyone was staring at her wide-eyed.
"What's wrong?" She asked Iruka-sensei, who also needed some time to regain his senses.
"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 as her attention as a proud look appeared on Naruto's face as he glared at Sasuke, who was sitting quietly in the corner.
'Damn... I forgot he liked me back then.' Sakura felt a chill down her spine at his gaze as she turned to see Hinata looking at her. She could tell that the shy girl was worried for reasons she herself didn't know.
'Time to use my secret Jutsu: Pretending nothing had happened.' She thought before ignoring everyone else and doing her best to uncover the memories she needed to understand her tests.
The strangeness in the atmosphere quickly faded away everyone went about their own things. The only thing bothering her was that she still didn't understand why it turned so strange initially.
"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 as the girls in class shot towards Sasuke to fangirl over him!
He was talented, cool, brooding. Every girl in the class found the aura and sense of purpose in his eyes to be very attractive, but for Sakura who knew his past and future, all she saw in him was negativity.
The Sasuke of now was nothing like her cute husband who had problems expressing himself after dedicating himself to training his bloodline limit and battling those he deemed his enemies. 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 on an emotional level. He feared going berserk in anger once again, but also felt the love of his wife who raised his daughter in his absence.
It was this duality that made even her daughter confused on whether they actually loved each other or not. If they 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 the 'Supporting Kage' for way too long.
Their 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. She didn't even know if he thought of her more than a friend when he left the village or not. Only that he 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's no way they'd actually put a 'spoilt' girl like her original younger self in their eyes. Especially Sasuke who only saw her as just another member of his extended fan club.
"Sakura, please go out with me!"
"Not in your lifetime!" For the first time in a long while, a vein bulged on her forehead as she beat Naruto (who was currently lunging towards her after thinking she came to like him) into the ground.
'What should I do?' She ignored the knucklehead writhing in pain on the ground while not noticing the relief on Hinata face as she 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."
"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 and resolved himself to go practice his throwing skills tonight to not let his crush down.
"That's good. I overheard the sensei's talking to each other and heard of a person who trains like there's no tomorrow who isn't in this Academy? I also heard the person training was Might Gai-sensei." She thought of the Chunin Exams and decided it was best to get them to train harder if they wanted to survive Orochimaru's assault on the Hidden Leaf.
"Why mention this guy?"
"Because I'm going to go train under Gai-sensei in my free time and will even skip some 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?!" He 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 considering he'd been 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. She 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.
Though he seemed like a stoic loner, only someone who had known him long enough would know his actual personality wasn't this edgy. His trauma from the Uchiha's 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.
"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. The word 'genius' had been stuck to him so long that he had grown arrogant about his abilities, goes now was the time to put him in his place. She actually felt sorry for what awaited him once he got there, but steeled her heart.
'Sorry... and I promise: This time... I'll protect you!'