In the shadows of the cherry trees.
Eight years of age.
Eight years of age was when many students started their education at the Academy, that is if they wished to embark on the long treacherous journey of becoming a ninja and serving those of Konohagakure. Eight years old was a young eye opening age for children to decide whether to wield a kunai or stay a simple civilian. There was nothing wrong with not pursuing the ninja way, in fact most villagers didn't become a ninja as they knew how dangerous it was. Yet with peacetime in the region, many families couldn't help but cringe even slightly when their children boasted their dreams of becoming a power ninja. While being a ninja was a noble and refined art to look up to in admiration, most children didn't know the suffering they would have to endure even in peacetime. For Sakura Haruno's parents, they would be very content with their only child becoming a simple bookkeeper or seamstress or teacher. What they didn't wish for her, was to follow in the footsteps of many ninja before her. They didn't wish to see their precious flower dirtied or torn by the harshness of training and combat.
In their mind, Sakura wasn't kunnoichi material. While she was smart and bright for her age, she didn't have a lot of confidence, which was a powerful asset to have under one's belt. And she also didn't have any sort of physical traits which would help in battle or on missions. Sakura wasn't someone who they would approve of if she raised interest in becoming a kunnoichi. And sadly for them, she already had her jade colored eyes set on becoming a strong willed kunnoichi. She had faith in herself even when her parents kept dismissing her interest, insisting she wasn't cut out for it, that she should stick to something safe and simple. But Sakura didn't want safe or simple, she wanted to better herself. She wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror and not see a shy wallflower who failed at making friends, who failed at speaking up, who failed at everything up books. Sakura spent most of her time reading tales of fantasy and romance, tales that inspired her to reach higher than what was expected of her.
And what better way to expand her thirsty mind than to go to a proper Academy?
So Sakura told her parents her decision and for the entire summer, they kept her on a tight leash, as if insisting to spent time with her which wouldn't be available soon. When summer was coming to a close, Sakura finally manged to wiggle herself out from under her mother's tight thumb and get out of the house. When she was out, she would wander around the Academy, looking at it longingly. She would then continue on, wandering around the large village. She would slow down once in the shopping district and let herself pretend to pick out jewelry for her future self. She would then continue onward toward the park which had a small play ground up on top of the hill overlooking everything. Usually the play ground was packed full of kids her age but for this select summer afternoon, it was fairly vacant as if all parents had put their foot down on their children wandering out on such a lovely day. Sakura wandered over to the swings and hopped on. She pushed herself back and forth for a while, her tiny hands holding onto the chains on either side of her. Sakura wasn't a fool, she knew life would get tough once school began. She would hopefully stay in for all six years and then at the age of fourteen, she would graduate and be placed in a team along with her peers.
She closed her eyes and imagined the sorts of missions she would go on with her future friends. Perhaps they would have to find some secret treasure and bring it back to their home for good fortune? Or perhaps they would have to defeat a large rowdy band of evil doers who were terrorizing innocent people in near by small towns. The ideas were practically endless if one had a wild enough imagination. As she swung by herself, she failed to notice a pack of kids approach her. They were people who Sakura wasn't very familiar with. Her eyes shot open as the first insult hit her ears. They laughed, saying how large her forehead was, how it would blind her teammates in battle, how she would be such an obvious target for enemies, how she would be a terrible kunnoichi. Her grip tightened on the chains and she dug her toes into the sand to stop herself from rocking back and forth. The gang of kids just laughed at her, already noticing her large eyes filling up with tears. Before she could muster up a reply to their jabs, a blond boy called out to them and they shifted their attention to him. Sakura got off the swing and moved to see a blond boy with bright blue eyes defending her.
The crowd faded off until the boy was left. He ran over to Sakura and made sure she was okay. She was quick to reply and thanked him for helping her. She then saw the sun begin to set and said she had to go. He asked her to meet him again tomorrow, to which she just blushed, confused. They quickly shook hands with a delayed introduction and she ran back home, unsure of what to make of the boy named Naruto Uzumaki. When she reached home and dinner was served, she told her parents about the boy who defended her and her mother quickly told her daughter to never cross paths with the demon boy again. Sakura was quite perplexed as to her mother's reaction and tried to get more information. All Sakura was told was that Naruto was a troubled boy, very dangerous and a threat to everyone's peace. With that, Sakura was excused to go up to her room and get ready for bed.
Morning came soon enough and a curious Sakura headed out of her house, intent on thanking the boy properly. Perhaps the rebellious child inside, which she called Inner Sakura, wanted to rock the boat and see what was so bad about the blond kid. She managed to grab a simple flower as a plain and innocent gesture to give to Naruto, hoping he'd understand she was just trying to thank him for sticking up for her. As she walked along, wearing a red tank top and dark blue pants, she wondered when exactly Naruto had wanted her to meet him at the park. She decided it didn't matter and that she had no qualms with spending the entire day there. Again, the day was nice like all those leading up to it. Soon the winds would become a little colder and kids would toss around stories of ghosts and terrible criminals, anything to scare one another. With the amount of reading she did every day, Sakura was likely to just tell a story she had read, rather than recount a myth or make one up at the top of her pretty head.
A trio of birds flew overhead, causing her to lean back toward the blue shy.
Soon she resumed her walk towards the park. She saw her blond acquaintance, Ino Yamanaka in the grass eyeing a bouquet of lilies. Sakura approached her, "What are you looking at?" Sakura asked.
"The flowers." Ino said quickly and looked down to see the simple daisy in Sakura's fist. "Why do you have that ugly thing?"
"What?" Sakura looked to her flower and then back at Ino.
"Do you know what it even means?" Ino questioned. "A daisy means innocence and loyal love. If you want a simply platonic meaning, try a gerbera daisy, they just mean happiness more so than anything else." She explained and stood up from her crouched position. Ino and Sakura were slowly getting to know one another, as Ino's parents ran the Yamanaka Flower Shop which Sakura's father went to fairly often to surprise her mother with something nice and sweet scented. Ino tagged Sakura and they headed off to play on the playground. Ino was much more outgoing than Sakura, which was probably why Sakura wanted to get to know her better, hone in on her secret to being so bold and carefree. Ino was slowly trying to ease Sakura out of her shell but sometimes their varying personalities would result in a fight between them which was why Sakura wouldn't consider Ino a friend too soon due to their clashing of heads from time to time. But Sakura saw Ino as someone who was nice, despite the way Ino could be overly blunt to the point of insult. Sakura didn't have any friends and so she hoped her time with Ino could involve into a friendship, such as the kind she read about in her books of fantasy and adventure.
As the day progressed, many other future classmates gathered in the open playground. Soon a game developed where the group was split up into a team of good nin and bad nin. There wasn't much of an object until Ino spoke up and took off the bandana around her neck and tied it to the monkey bars. She then said that the evil nin group would have to find a way to steal it without getting tagged or caught. Sakura was on Ino's team thankfully and when she gave the call, chaos spilled out over the entire area. Kids were running around chasing one another. Screams of delight and excitement and fear filled the warm air. Sakura couldn't help but shy away from the main source of bedlam but when two boys ran toward her, aiming to get past and take the flag, she stood her ground and managed to tag one of them who headed back to the evil nin side of the playground. The other kid managed to run past her to which Ino took after. When ten minutes ticked by, the game ended and it was the other team's turn to take the flag and defend it. Sakura saw a blond haired boy and a spiky haired boy walking up the hill to them. It was this cue that made Sakura bow out of the next round and hurry to where she put her flower. She looked around and couldn't find it anymore.
Sakura let out a defeated sigh and looked around at the park, not sure that it would be wise to pick anything around her. Sakura felt quite foolish since her gift had gone missing but even so, she decided she could still approach Naruto and his friend and try to explain the intent behind the missing flower. Some of the other kids noticed Naruto's presence and stopped playing to stare at him. Some of them went home while others put more distance between them. Sakura looked over her shoulder to see Ino still trying to rally everyone back to the game they had just started. Sakura just closed the gap and trapped Naruto on the shoulder, as she had approached him from the side out of shyness. "Hey." She said softly. Her pink hair was down, bangs sweeping over her forehead as the rest of her mane reached just about where her jawline was. Sakura looked to his other friend as well but kept her eyes mostly on Naruto. "I wanted to thank you for yesterday." She told him, her voice a bit frayed with nerves. If Ino were within earshot, she would have smacked Sakura upside the head for being "so damn doubtful." Sakura bit her lip, "I had something for you but I sort of lost it around here...it...it wasn't much, just a flower..." She said, blushing a little. "Anyway, that's all I wanted to say." She offered a small smile to him.