Chapter 9 Notes

Chapter 9 – Struggles and Triumphs, Part 2

“Is she stronger than you?” he asked finally. The kunoichi burst out laughing, green eyes dancing above the slim fingers that covered her mouth. He just grinned back. — So this exchange mirrors their attitude from the original, when Sakura did have to go up against Ino in the exams, and Naruto supported her.

• “So I know you’re one teammate is from a clan, what about the other one?” He hoped that by not mentioning her teammate, the Uchiha, his target and the only reason she was here, she would continue talking. — So there’s not much surprise here: Sakura’s teammate is revealed to be Sai.

“They don’t understand it, and they don’t understand why I want to do it. We don’t talk too much about it,” she said half-heartedly, leaning her head back against the wall. — Sakura is surrounded by orphans, so I tried to make her an orphan from the normal life her parents want for her. They aren’t good or bad, they just aren’t present in this part of her life.

• Sakura knew what she was doing this time. Her movements were sure, her fists were tight. She knew she had him. … He toppled backwards onto the floor, eyes wide, hands splayed out behind him. — Sakura lands a solid punch on him, bringing the first vignette of the chapter full circle.

• Katsuro was offering his support. Not just because it was convenient to him, but because he thought she needed to hear it. “Thanks,” she said softly, studying his profile. — In the last two scenes, they come to some sense of recognition with each other, first from Sakura’s pov, then Naruto’s (although his is tinged with guilt, as would be expected). But now the foundation for their future teamwork is laid.

Spoiler Notes:

• “What about you?” Katsuro pushed on quietly. “Are you from a clan? You have a…thing,” he said, wiggling fingers at her back. She laughed. “A symbol? Yeah, I suppose I do.” — To an outsider, Sakura and the symbol on her back would look like the type of shinobi from a clan. But that will be a bit of a sore spot for Sakura in the future. And much later, the truth will be revealed about her symbol.

• An image caught his eye and he leaned in closer, admiring the flowing black hair, perfectly rouged lips and delicately downcast eyes of a woman in the painting. She was posed under a flowering tree, choosing a piece of fruit. It was all contrived, and all so different from the one who’d opened his eyes to this other world. From her. — This is foreshadowing of events to come, when he does return to the village. If this were a cast of characters, and this “princess” does not at reflect Sakura, then it must reflect someone else that he might find pretty, Hinata.

• Her easy smiles and that hair. He was almost ashamed to think about it, that when he’d seen her his immediate thought was that the pink hair would make her an easy target. Now, when he thought about her, it fit her perfectly. Unrepentant and open. She was different. — Katsuro reflects on Sakura’s beauty in terms of her strength and character attributes. Not passive beauty for the sake of being pretty.

• If she was this — this glorious, sunlit moment — then he knew which part he was. Katsuro flicked a glance down to the dimly lit corner where he knew the last panel hung. Its angry scene waiting there, even in the darkness. The hero and the demon, poised for battle. Katsuro frowned, his mood darkening. He knew which part of that equation he was. — So Katsuro is understanding a different aspect of the painting that Sakura is not capable of seeing. She doesn’t have to explain it to him, and in fact, she can’t. But Katsuro already has a feeling that the topic matter is not just about the Sage bringing knowledge to the world. It’s about something else. It’s about conquering a demon. And Katsuro knows a lot about caged demons.

• A frothing waterfall broke the placid scene, cutting a straight line through the mountains and terminating at a knee of rocks that jutted out into the churning waters. A lone blossoming cherry tree clung to the rock, with a small patch of grass its only companion. — The first panel, but especially this image, the special secluded place under the cherry blossom, will have deep meaning to Katsuro later on.

• “It’s more than that though. Look closer,” she said, tugging him forward by his arm. “So, if this whole painting is a story about a sage’s journey, then this is the beginning. The river probably represents the chakra that he’s teaching about, flowing through everything.” Her fingers trailed along with the water, then returned to the rocky knoll. “And if it does, then this spot right here is where it springs from, literally. It transcends the seasons, it’s untouched by time.” — Sakura explains it to Katsuro, again helping him to see what he was missing. But it’s more than that: this panel of the painting is a metaphor for their whole experience together at the temple. It is special, set apart, and untouched by time, though neither of them know it yet.

• “I’m good,” he said, exhaling deeply. He smiled back. “I’m great. Let’s go. I’ve been looking forward to this too.” They turned together and left the floor, sending more flecks of dust sparkling into the air in their wake.Last line directly connects to the last line of the first chapter. — Ch 1: Another light breeze stirred the last bits of blossoms aloft in his wake. Ch 9: They turned together and left the floor, sending more flecks of dust sparkling into the air in their wake. — Katsuro left with a knocked out kunoichi, flowers stirring in his wake. Now they are walking out together. Small, but intentional reflection of their journey to teamwork, which is what this whole chapter is about.

“Thank you, then,” he heard her call out. He paused, hand on the metal handle, listening. “For this. For treating me differently. You have a great deal of kindness.” He didn’t say anything but closed the door. This time, he couldn’t see what she did. — Sakura is offering support as well, just not in the form of fighting techniques. It’s trust or friendship or teamwork, and it’s freely given. But the difference between them is that Katsuro can’t accept it.

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