Chapter 18 notes

Chapter 18 – Whole

• This chapter, Katsuro is more laid back, happier. Away from Itachi, his personality shines through. So this is the true Naruto underneath. Hope it comes through.

• “Well? What about me?” Katsuro said in mock exasperation. “Do you think I’ve changed?” “No,” she said, chuckling in spite of her distracted feelings. “Not a bit.” — twist on the lines they say to each other after reuniting in part two. She asks if her appearance has changed, he happily tells her no.

• Sakura’s character — so there is not much in the manga that gives direction to Sakura on any independent work. She is almost always presented in connection to Team 7; her growth as a medical student, her training with Tsunade has been skimmed over. So I am trying to show strength and character growth, missions and decision making, in a way that is in keeping with Sakura’s nature. Which, to me, is more level headed, engaging and patient than Naruto or Sasuke. Either of them on a solo mission would barge through and possibly botch it (Naruto) or decide it wasn’t worth his time (Sasuke). Sakura would treat it with the same efficiency she uses as a medic. Taking the time to identify all the variables, thinking through the situation, then acting to bring about the best resolution.

• Sakura’s missions — In this first one, both the mission and her interaction with Katsuro will be easy and straightforward. But the tone, urgency and violence of her missions will build. And her bond with the rogue will be tested accordingly.

‘This is it,’ she thought and stepped out of the tidy golden square. One foot, then the next. … Standing there, at the edge of a field that rolled away from her like an ocean, Sakura’s throat went dry. — The tug-of-war between Sakura’s village obligations and Katsuro’s obvious refusal of anything to do with village life will continue to build. But here, Sakura has to take the leap into the unknown for him.

• For your listening enjoyment: Blue-back waves rippled across the tops of the barley in the cool evening breeze. — I listen to a lot of music while I write, and some of it seeps through and colors my thoughts. If I could make a soundtrack for the scene of Sakura deliberating at the edge of a moonlit barley field, wind racing over the tops, it would be this song: Imogen Heap’s Canvas (the Mark Eteson remix). You can hear it on youtube at The lyrics are fine, but it’s the insistent beat giving way to lush instrumentals (beginning at 3:20), that gets me every time. A year later, I hear that bit of the song and still think of this scene.

Hell, he thought with a soft laugh, looking down to pluck a leaf from the branch. He could probably wait forever if he knew she would come. Katsuro traced the smooth edges with a finger. — From the scene in the first chapter, where he is watching her from the branch as he decides on which team member to abduct. He plucks a green leaf from the branch before he leaps off after her, setting all these events in motion.

Spoiler Notes:

• Katsuro’s description: Faint brown freckles mottled his cheeks… the curls peeking out under the back of the straw hat were burnished gold by the midday sun. — The freckles “mottling” his cheeks are a cover for the whisker marks. And we know what Sakura can’t, that under that brown hair the blond is waiting to be revealed.

Warmed by the sun, her hair moved just then in some slight, unseen breeze. It stirred a vague memory. — Two things are happening here. First, she’s remembering the genjutsu. The fragmented memory, the shimmery haze, it’s all just wisps of that happy illusion. She won’t remember it this clearly again. Second, this marks her first awareness of Katsuro’s wind user nature. Although neither of them know it yet. She will slowly come to recognize that there is something he does, something in response to her and her alone, that sets the air moving slightly around her. The lost memory of the genjutsu will become associated with Katsuro’s wind thing, and she will remember this warm, shimmery moment in the field as the beginning of a bond with him.

Katsuro’s gaze drifted over her face, settled on her big green eyes, and he made a snap decision. — foreshadowing for a future event where he has to make a snap decision concerning the both of them.

• However she was quickly discovering that nothing on this mission was what it appeared. — Reference to her dealings with Katsuro and foreshadowing events to come. She will leave this town and complete the mission successfully, but Sakura and Naruto will meet up with the innkeeper later, separately, and both draw wrong conclusions about his actions. But his appearance is deceiving for a good purpose. Also, Sakura dismisses his concerns about protecting trade interests as simply fantasy. But she will discover, with regret, that it is not so farfetched as she thought.

“One small slip can easily lead to a bigger fall,” he added gravely. — foreshadowing. There are very big changes which are coming slowly, steadily, in very small ways.

Omitted Scene:
Very small. Variation on Sakura’s reaction to Katsuro asking her to meet him. Thought there was too much going on in this scene to be included the way it was, too overwrought and complicated, so I rewrote it. But this version isn’t terrible. So now it will live here.

“Wait,” he grabbed for her arm, the cart teetered again. He propped it against his leg, stepping closer to her. The jingling sound was growing steadily louder. Katsuro lowered his voice.

“You don’t have to tell me anything, ok?” he said quickly. “I don’t care what you’re doing here. It doesn’t matter to me.”

His words carried a desperate note. As if he were bargaining with everything he had.

“I— I just want to see you again,” he said softly.

Reflexively, Sakura sought out his eyes, and the look she found there stole her breath.

It wasn’t calculated or carelessly friendly.

It was the same look she’d seen countless times as a medic. The desperate pleading of a loved one for an unwell patient. The bitter mixture of need. And fear.

She was trained to detach, identify, pacify. And she did her job well. Assessing the need, efficiently doling out the cure. Reassuring the patient without getting too deeply involved.

But this was a vulnerability she’d never trained for. It struck her to the core.

No simple request, his expression betrayed a raw need. Like air, water, food. But this one was for a connection, a friendship.

Studying his eyes, she thought for the barest moment that maybe this was a side he let no one see.

Sakura swallowed thickly, suddenly aware of just how warm his hand was on her arm. She tore her gaze away and looked up the road, biting her lip.