15 May 2020 No Comments
Author’s notes: Again, the theme of ‘two worlds’ is continuing to build. This time with Sakura balancing her civilian life with her shinobi one. You can understand Sakura better when you know where she’s come from, and sadly that was missing from the manga. This is my take on her backstory!
• Sakura’s building was a narrow grey box. No one would ever call it charming. But for Sakura, it was home. — Sakura’s home is in contrast with the storied clan homes and mystical history of Konoha. She doesn’t dislike it…. It’s more like she’s aware that hers is serviceable. Not flashy or charming or mysterious. She doesn’t think much of it, and it is completely disconnected from her shinobi life. You get the idea that she’s never brought Sasuke there. But one day, maybe she will meet someone who will be thrilled to see it…. 😉
• Sakura took a breath, straightened her vest, smoothed back her flyaway hair and poked the loose pieces back into her braid before opening the door. — The braid theme is already present in her hair. Her mother expects things to be perfect, but Sakura doesn’t even have perfection in her own life. Sakura spends the evening making ‘perfect’ braids, but this one represents the real her. Just as the first braided talisman represents her. The rest are the ‘perfect’ ones she makes for everyone else.
• Sakura’s mother and father — both are facets of Sakura. Her mother is diligent, fastidious, naturally talented at working in detail, and ready to dig in to a full workload — Sakura as a medic. Her father is pleasant, positive, delights in dumb jokes, and ready to work with others and do whatever he can to find a solution to their needs — Sakura as a shinobi.
• Sakura’s parents careers — I wanted them to be in a line of work that has a valued position in a traditional Japanese village. Whether it was a samurai/feudal era one or not. Kimonos, fabric dying, embroidery, tassel making, cord weaving (kumihimo), and traditional Japanese handicrafts associated with fabrics and embroidery were vital to families of all walks of life. I think it would be the same in Konoha. If ninja clans passed jutsus down, then civilian clans passed down these talismans and techniques. And by making Sakura a civilian, I wanted her to fully live into that life. Not just have her family be shinobi-adjacent. But that Sakura actually could have chosen a different path, and maybe her parents are still hoping for it!
• Sakura’s mother suddenly focused on something behind her father’s back. “What’s that?” He produced a folded parcel of fabric, turning it in his hand as if he’d forgotten it. “Oh this? Just a last minute repair—“ “What?!” — Okay, this whole little exchange I could just see happening between a grown up Naruto and Sakura. So it was fun to write them.
• Each year, Sakura’s mother made small braids of rice straw for the festival. They were decorations to be hung on doorways, windows, or wherever a person needed one. She made piles and piles of them. And each year, as many people came by to pick one up. — Sakura’s braid is inspired by the Japanese shimenawa, a sacred twisted rope that is often hung at temples and that was the inspiration for Orochimaru and Sasuke’s rope belts. I made hers as a braid because A) way more cultures use plaits, braids or braided talismans than rope, and B) it was way easier to write! 😀 But the symbolism of twisting or braiding individual threads together to strengthen them will come back.
• The hours slid by. Her mother worked ceaselessly, matching the thread and the stitches of the Hyuuga seamstress so exactly that anyone would have a hard time finding where one woman’s stitches ended and another’s began. — So again, I’m using Sakura’s mother’s skill to describe Sakura’s healing abilities. This is the mindset Sakura applies when mending the tissue and muscle, she’s doing it so finely that no one can find a difference.
• “Yes, the red is for luck. And for love. But mostly, it’s for remembrance.” — *sigh* this will come up again. But right now, it’s a beautiful symbol of connection between mother and daughter, and a nice symbol tying these chapters, including the one to come, together.
• Sakura’s mother’s career in embroidery and her father’s career in kimono fabrics and procurement will come back many many times in Sakura’s life. She will be picked for missions based on her knowledge of kimonos. She will understand when something’s been tampered with based on her knowledge of tassels. And the old books that her mother keeps on old patterns might hold the key to a mystery at the end.
• The hours slid by. Her mother worked ceaselessly, matching the thread and the stitches of the Hyuuga seamstress so exactly that anyone would have a hard time finding where one woman’s stitches ended and another’s began. Her mother sat up, stretched, held her fingers for a moment, and sat back to inspect her work. Sakura could find not a single fault. Not a stitch out of place. It was like it never happened. — Sakura is not a seamstress and her mother is not a shinobi — on those points they couldn’t be farther apart! But here, her mother is mending the tear with such precision and care, that it is very much the same as Sakura’s healing abilities. She just mends humans instead of torn fabric! Sakura works her chakra so finely that you can’t tell where the healing has occurred, and in the end, for the patient, it’s “like it never happened.” So, it was important for Sakura and her mother to have this hidden connection. Some day they’ll realize they are more alike in their separate paths than they know.
• She turned back, but not before seeing her mother’s gaze sweep over her clothes, making sure she didn’t look the part of her “other” life, as her mother once called it. Sakura knew she didn’t. — Again, I wanted to make Sakura more like a real life civilian one. Where her parents are concerned for her safety. And that translates into disapproval. I think the shinobi clans would be much more accepting of danger and weird powers than a civilian family who has never been exposed to it. So I’m using this to illustrate just what a balancing act Sakura has to do to follow her path.
• She squinted through it, then wiped it quickly, not meaning to but bringing chakra to her hand in a green swipe on the glass. — An example of Sakura’s chakra seeping out when she doesn’t mean for it to. This will come up again in other flashbacks about how her skills are identified when she’s a child.
• In her memory the woman who looked up had strangely exaggerated features. A too-long neck. A pointed chin and pointed fingers. A column of black hair that hung down far past her back and curled up on the end, flipping independently as she moved. She tipped her head inquisitively, eyes reflecting a shine when they locked with Sakura’s overly wide green ones— Again more strange people returning to Konoha for the festival. First it was the Ma and Paw Frog, then it was the Slug woman. Now it’s someone from the Cat clan, the one that the Uchiha were connected to. And so, you can deduct that the people young Sakura is seeing are not from the local temple.
• Sakura chuckled at the memory. A lot of things scared her back then. Most of them imagined. The priests did visit houses, but the ones she’d seen didn’t looked like her dream. — So the interplay of imagined fears and real fears will continue into the next chapter. It’s very much about her growing up safe in a village where a little fear is kind of fun. Next chapter she confronts real fear and loss when she visits the Uchiha compound.
• And she’d never heard of spirits coming back to eat the food, but she was pretty sure a few stray animals were getting a free meal on those nights. — Much later, Naruto and Sakura will be stranded somewhere, and Naruto will admit that he sometimes grabbed food from those plates. Because he essentially is a stray. So Sakura is not completely wrong about who comes and eats them.
• “The different colors are for thanks …or for finding love….” “Huh,” Sakura said, ignoring the last remark. — I love the idea that Sakura is constantly dodging pressure from her civilian life. If it’s not about her job, then it’s her mom hinting that she might ‘find a nice boy and settle down.’ I think it’s such a normal family pressure, and Sakura is the ‘normal’ one in the group. There’s another aspect here that’s important to me here: I want Sakura to be orphaned from her civilian life. Naruto, Sai, Sasuke, even Kakashi and Iruka are orphans. Sakura it technically the only one on her team that’s not. But I want to highlight that she is choosing to turn her back on what she has in the civilian world and go into the shinobi world where she has no support, no clan, no ‘family.’
• “Yes, the red is for luck. And for love. But mostly, it’s for remembrance.” — This will come up again, a few times, in poignant ways for Sakura and much much much later for Naruto. Specifically the use of red thread.
• Sakura’s mother explained one time that it would bring bad luck on them to profit from blessings from the spirit world, as much as it would bring bad luck on the asker if the spirits found out they paid for it. — I have no idea if this is true or not, lol. I just made it up. I was thinking more about exchanges of spirit power could not be bought by earthly means, and that so much of the quest for the tailed beasts is about controlling power, instead of being in harmony with it. And that there is hidden information in these old traditions.
• She’d never been taught it. Never even heard of it. But she could feel it working as she hoped it would. She smiled into her mother’s face, looking for any signs that she noticed. She didn’t. — Sakura’s confidence in her natural affinity has her inventing new ways to use her chakra, on the fly. It’s also one of the skills that sets her apart from everyone else and puts her on a level with Naruto and Sasuke.
• She squeezed her hands back. “I’m glad you were here too.” And she leaned forward and kissed her daughter’s forehead, surprising Sakura, who let go when her mother pulled back. — A variation on Tsunade’s forehead kiss, but from mother to daughter.
• Her mother nodded. “So this one, wants a bow with a series of knots, representing rice. So I guess they’re from the Rice territory.” — Sakura’s mother is tying the tassels in shapes that represent their countries. This will come back later when Sakura is able to identify scrolls by their tassels — a definitely non-shinobi skillset.
• “You are always welcome to stay, you know. Your bed is always here.” Sakura smiled. It was tempting, but she had to get home. — She’s really living her shinobi life now, but there will be a time when she accepts and decides to stay in her old home.
• But she was surprised to discover that this year, a great many visitors wanted to speak to her as well. — I l loved writing this whole part, imagining Sakura trying to navigate questions about her life and love to the people who’d known her her whole life, but didn’t know what she did now. And dodging the civilian herbalists with their potions and secrets. The whole thing is something that she alone would have to deal with. None of her shinobi friends would have any experience like this.
• She cringed when she pulled it out into the light. The only one left was her first braid. Lumpy, bumpy and sticking out at the edges. But it would have to do— She grabbed a length of her mother’s fine embroidery floss — a deep shade of crimson red — and tied it around the bottom, wrapping it more thickly then the others because there was too much thread. But it hid the white twine, and the knot was neatly centered. Done.— So in the end, Sakura has to put out the one that looks the most like her. And with the extra deep red thread. It’s not blessed, but it’s much finer, and will hold its color for much much longer. This little talisman will come back into her life again, sadly, just when she needs it the most.