25 Jan 2020 4 Comments
Happy Lunar New Year 2020! Glad to be back writing and posting! I want to get this story moving along, so my plan is to try to get something up once a month…not once a year! Lol! So I’ve broken this chapter into two, which works well with the chapter title! 🙂 Hope you liked my take on Sakura, Konoha, and her interactions with everyone. It’s been fun writing about Konoha and its environs. More Konoha scenery and some adventures from academy days in the upcoming chapters! As always, read and review. And for extra notes, spoilers, and chapter previews and early chapter releases, check the website listed in my bio.
This chapter was very much about Sakura and her experience growing up in a village that held both shinobi and civilian areas. They coexist, but neither side seems to cross. Sakura is the exception. And I wondered how she would take it. Would she love it? Hate it? Like some things and be embarrassed by others? Would her parents support her or discourage her? Would shinobi clans encourage her or look down on her?
One thing’s for certain: After writing this and the next few chapters, trying to answer these questions, it’s completely clear that Sakura is far from being the “normal one” on Team 7. She’s just as unique, over-powered and out-of-place as the rest of them. So, it took me a while to figure out where to go with Sakura’s story, but I got it. And it’s going to be awesome! And this chapter is the beginning of her journey. And as you’ll see, the “Two Worlds” theme will come to represent many things in the course of the story. Even “Heaven and Earth” could be considered two worlds, right? 😉
“Two Worlds” — This chapter is very much about the seen and unseen, about what is contrasting because it’s right out there in the open (like the shops in the districts) and what is more hidden away (like the Nara deer park). So even though it’s two worlds, there are many, many more: The shinobi district and the civilian district in Konoha. The clan upbringing of all the other shinobi and the civilian upbringing for Sakura. Sakura’s shinobi duties for Tsunade and her family obligations to her mother. The civilian market and the shinobi market, and again with the shinobi market and the thieves market (which really might not be a thieves market at all…). So the Two Worlds theme is very, very much multi-layered.
• Next came the bakery, and, at that moment, a waft of sweet bean cakes hit her nose. She breathed deeply. — Red bean cakes are the best. Happy Lunar New Year everyone!
• The Civilian district — Sakura’s walk is a tour of the civilian side. I’m curious about what life would have been like for a non-ninja in a ninja village. It was never explored in the original manga. The question I kept coming back to was how did Sakura manage these two lives?
• The Shinobi district — I have wondered how the village dealt with old, injured or inept shinobi. And how they supported the shinobi side while keeping in all their secrets. This is my take on it. Having the old nins come back and be farmers while running shady operations just seems to fit. And having the ones who can no longer take it, or weren’t that great to begin with, run the shops and lead a quasi-civilian life just makes sense.
• Sakura loved it. Her parents hated it. — Hahaha! I just imagine Sakura’s parents would be so stressed out for their daughter! I can’t remember if they were nins in the manga or not. Doesn’t matter though, cause in this story they’re not. So I think Sakura would be at a significant disadvantage trying to be a nin and not coming from a clan. Those who raised her (her parents, her neighbors, etc.) would not understand her drive nor be able to help her. It would be very different than being in a clan, where everyone lives and breathes shinobi goals. Ultimately, there has to be some distance from her previous civilian life to make Sakura reach out to her team. If she were happy in that old life, then she never would have worked so hard to be a nin.
• TenTen and Lee came out of a shop that sold weapon scrolls. They waved and Sakura said hello. Sasuke said nothing. — Sasuke is such a grump! Haha! But I’m having fun writing him. I’m not trying to make him nice or mean. Just real. He’s had a seriously messed up life. And I think it’d be hard to let that PTSD go, even with friends and teammates he has come to trust. I’m just trying to write him honestly and hopefully do a better job with him than the manga did.
• “Ohayo Sakura!” Ino flipped back her blonde ponytail and waved brightly. — I’m making Ino and Sakura better friends. No jealous girl trope here, thanks.
• Even though shinobis and civilians lived side by side, their worlds couldn’t be more different. Sakura was one of the few who crossed over those lines. For Sasuke, the civilian side didn’t matter. In fact, if it wasn’t for her, he’d probably never even noticed it. — I also want to focus on how Sasuke would have been completely unaware of her life, of things that were completely out of the realm of ninja life. So while Sakura is thinking they are the same, the really are quite different.
• Kakashi’s voice suddenly boomed, “—then you are banished. Forever!” There were gasps from inside the room. — Two Worlds theme of these chapters could also extend to Kakashi, that notoriously slack teacher who sometimes scared the crap out of his students. He definitely has two sides!! Super fun to write him too.
• Sasuke rounded on her, as accusing as he’d been in their youth. “You knew about this and didn’t tell me—“ — Sasuke’s like the Kylo Ren of Naruto! Hahaha! But actually, it’s just to show how distrustful he still is, expecting the worst of even Sakura. He’s still learning to trust. More on this in the next chapter.
• “That’s right, Sakura! You’ve always looked ‘underneath the underneath!’” — 🙂 Could also be a theme for this chapter. Are you looking underneath the underneath? There is another meaning here! Sakura isn’t seeing it yet, but she will. Have you picked up on it? 🙂
• The meshy clumps in the “Swampmoss” bowl looked dewy and almost medicinal with their vibrant green. There were handfuls of hairy twigs tied in the middle and labeled “Bitterroot,” and the dried petals of something called “Feverfew.” — The bowls on Ma and Pa’s table are a mix of real and imagined items. Feverfew is a real flower, the leaf parcels are filled with some ingredients for chai tea, and the molted beetle skins are a real medicinal remedy. But the rest are made up. I know of NO sulphuric yellow smoking berries! I’m trying not to stick to one cultural, medical, or herbal remedy system. Instead, I’m trying to write things that someone could understand from anywhere in the world. Whether you’re on a sandy island at the equator or in a snow-locked town inside the arctic circle. I’m trying to make sure I write things that readers could have a picture of, even if they’ve never ever seen it. Like hairy roots or meshy moss clumps. Some are real, some sound real. Some are completely made up. I’m not a doctor, so don’t go brew dried pond scum like tea! Haha – the point is that we should feel like Sakura…a little weirded out!
• She continued on, enjoying the birdsong and crunch of gravel underfoot as she walked towards a natural rise where a tall roof was jutting through the canopy. — Gravel here is to denote this as a sacred area. It is common to have gravel walkways leading up to Japanese shrines, lined by tall trees. So in this story, the sound, the crunch underfoot, reinforces that you are entering a quiet, sacred place. And sometimes the gravel is likened to water, and used to reinforce the idea that the shrine is a place set apart from the rest of the world. So all of this is here in Sakura’s entrance to the Nara park. (Also, the Nara Deer Park is an actual sacred deer sanctuary in Nara Japan! So cool!)
• “So she’s a healer?” Shikamaru snorted. “No, she’s a shinobi. Like me.” His mother watched her turn out of sight. “I thought she was a medic—“ A whine crept into Shikamaru’s voice. “I don’t know mom. I guess she took some classes or something.” — I think not everybody would know or care that Sakura did medical work. Again, her not being from a clan, it would simply be beneath most shinobi to even notice. Basically, each clan member was taught to believe that their skill was the most powerful, most vital, most important to the village. So Sakura logging some hours at a civilian hospital would be seen as charitable work at best (by giving away her healing energy for so little in return), or just beneath them at worst (by them simply not caring what happens to those foolish or unlucky enough to wind up in a hospital).
• “No, but do you know what is? The state of that barn. I think you need to get in there and clean it out—“ Shikamaru slumped his shoulders and trudged off. He knew if he hung around she’d find more work for him to do. — Okay, writing the interactions between Shika and his mother is just too fun.
• Leaves blew up the road, and Sakura thought she could feel the sadness emanating from the place. — Seriously, how is the Uchiha compound not the most haunted place in all of Konoha? Much more on the clans and Sakura’s interactions with them, and her classmates and teammates in the next chapter.
Theme notes — Two Worlds
• Different paths of medics — So one of the hidden meanings of the “Two Worlds” title is the duality of being a chakra-based medic. You can either use it to heal or you can use it to kill. In this chapter, Sakura is perusing the table, wondering if Tsunade needs the things for a poison or for a cure. So, Sakura doesn’t realize it yet, but that’s the dichotomy of being a medic. And very soon, Sakura is going to learn that, just like shinobis, chakra wielders can also chose very different paths. She will be tested.
• Animal Spirit world — Two Worlds has another much bigger meaning – on the surface it’s about Konoha’s civilian and clan. But underneath, it’s about the human world and the animal spirit world. They are very much intertwined, even though most people cannot see it. Tsunade does, and she knows Sakura has some connection to it, even though it may not have fully awakened yet. So she’s sending her on errands that have very little to do with her career as a shinobi or as a medic. Sakura thinks it’s completely bonkers.
So the biggest spoiler by far from this chapter is the hint that the universe of human and animal spirit is much bigger and more interactive than any of the characters even understand. There are ancient powers being fought over and old wrongs to be righted. There will be much much more about this, but if you’re reading this, then you already know and can look for the signs. There is much more spirit animal interaction going on than any of the main characters realize, except, of course, for those who are charged with protecting them. (cough, cough…Tsunade, the Naras…cough, cough) And those who are desperately trying to find the most powerful human/animal spirit hybrid before it’s too late. (cough,cough…Naruto…cough,cough) And of course, the one person in the village, the one person in a lifetime, who has shown an amazing potential to channel chakra and possibly connect with this spirit world (cough, cough…Sakura…cough, cough). Naruto is clearly the one with the animal spirit locked inside, but Sakura has a big part to play in his life. And this is where she begins to understand her own unique and amazing powers.
• Sakura stretched her hand out into the darkness until she reached the warmth. — The opening of this chapter is foreshadowing an event in the near future where Sakura will have to use her inner ability of guiding her chakra into places unseen. It’s very much about her being a healer. She has to use her skill to guide her to places she can not see inside the body, and do a precise healing technique. So walking through the networks of Konoha with her eyes closed is a macro of what she has to do when she heals. And its a foreshadow of how she has to use her skills in the very near future. I don’t want to spoil the surprise! Just know that this is foreshadowing something specific that will happen to her!! This little scene is happy, warm. The next one…eh, not-so-much! lol
• She imagined Konoha’s streets glowing gold, running away from her in big straight veins before fracturing down into the maze of lanes and alleys that connected the other districts. — Oh man. Not exactly a spoiler, but this is a theme that won’t be revealed until the very end. 😉
• The district was the one constant for all Konoha nins. And if they didn’t come for supplies or the camaraderie, then they came for the food. — So, in future chapters, when we switch back to Naruto, one of the reasons I want Konoha to feel so full of life and overflowing with food and friendly people is because Naruto’s world is the exact opposite. He will be a real-life ninja, with no food, no friends, no roof over his head. Just the mission. So Sakura’s life in Konoha, on the one hand, is fascinating (and I have LOVED writing this!). But on the other hand, it is setting up a giant contrast for how Naruto’s life is, being constantly on the move.
• That’s why the shinobi district suited her perfectly. It was like everyone there understood each other. Even though they were so different, this area was what made them all the same, connected them as shinobis of Konoha. — Ok. So giant blanket statements in stories are usually an indicator that the statement is going to be proved wrong. And this one is no different! Sakura is completely certain everyone in Konoha feels the same as her, and in the shinobi district they are all the same. No matter their background or skill. But, in time, she will come to see that even the shinobi district there were people who went against the grain, who worked against Konoha. (cough, cough…Orochimaru…cough, cough)
• These imperfections — the rundown buildings and cluttered rooflines — may be at odds with the civilian side, but there was an order here, as reliable as the roads. Yes, she understood this too now. And she was happy she finally found her place in it. — Again, a little foreshadowing. Her view of this happy place is a tad oversimplified. And the farther she gets in shinobi career, the more she will come to see that.
• “A fake? All this time?” Kakashi grinned wider. Iruka and Sasuke laughed, which made her turn on her teammate. “Did you know?” “Of course! Didn’t you?” — Sakura doesn’t realize it, but of course Sasuke would have known. His awful brother was in it. He would have been monitoring it. He also grew up in a clan, so he would have seen it before, from some of the older family shinobi. Sakura only thinks of him as someone like her, having these shinobi experiences for the first time. She doesn’t realize the gap between them, because she doesn’t yet understand the depth of Sasuke’s loss. So there are comments between them that show they don’t exactly understand each other. Sasuke doesn’t care about her non-clan family, and Sakura doesn’t know anything about what life in a shinobi clan would have been like. They are opposites, but because they are such exceptions to each side (shinobi and civilian) they actually have things in common.
• Once the well-wisher was out of earshot, Kakashi’s voice dropped again. “Sorry for the ruse— Can’t be too careful….” — Sakura thinks everyone understands each other in the shinobi district, and muses on this a few times. But even right in front of her Kakashi, who is older and more worldy wise, knows that even in Konoha you have to take precautions. Sakura doesn’t catch that though. She just thinks her teacher is cagey and weird. Which, of course, he is! But this is a bit of foreshadowing for the future, when she understands why Kakashi takes some extreme precautions.
• She tipped her head, looking at him full in the face. “I would never keep something like that from you.” She paused, then added, “We’re Team 7. We move as one. Remember?” — Future flashback of a team-building exercise that they get terribly wrong, a lot, before they get it right. But it will be a Team 7 type of mantra in the future. When they figure it out!
• She passed a table with an innocent-looking coiled rope. She glanced up to see a tall figure in the shadows of the booth, watching her. Eyeshine flashed back, but she couldn’t make out a face— The eyeshine is a big tip off that whoever is back there is not human. Or at least not all human….
• Ma and Pa – Both had leathery, wrinkled skin and were quite small, coming only waist-high on her. — Okay, so I’m sure you’ve figured out who Ma and Pa were! Frogs disguised as humans! SO, from that you can guess what else was going in the market by the other sellers with eyeshine flashing back. It’s not at all a thieves market…. 🙂 I imagined this as more of an animal spirit market — a place where those who had business with the spirit world come come and interact, buy weird charms, potions and talismans, make connections, perhaps even sign animal contracts. So, more on this in the future. This is just the first brush with a different world than Konoha. And Tsunade is directing her to it.
• So Tsunade did know them. Her instincts to trust these weird little people were right. Sakura smiled, more at the nickname than anything else, bowed and backed away. — Foreshadowing here. Sakura’s trusting these people because Tsunade knows them. So she’s giving them a lot more leeway than she would other people. She’s not acting as a shinobi should, which would be to maintain a healthy distrust for anyone claiming to know her leader. It could have been a trap.
• Around a rather large tree, an old stone lantern came into view. Its base was carved with the Nara crest — a deer antler. — A few of these themes, like the gravel leading up to the Nara’s as indicating it’s sacred, will be touched upon again with Naruto. The unlit lanterns are one of them.
• Sakura turned. Across the gravel courtyard, standing at the edge of the tree line, were a half-dozen deer. They watched her with shining round eyes and twitching noses. — A couple things here. First, the deer are interested in Sakura. They are special deer, with a deeper connection to the spirit world. So they are sensing something that Sakura doesn’t yet know about herself and coming to check her out. Second, this interaction is foreshadowing a future interaction with Naruto, when the deer will again show an unusual interest in someone from the outside.