Chapter 45 — Notes and Spoilers

Chapter Notes:

There, carved in wood, outlined in faded paint, and completely covered by the Hyuuga banner, was an Uchiha fan. It was unmistakeable. — The reality is, after the Uchiha were killed, the other clans would have swooped in to take apart the remains. It is only because Sasuke is so powerful that they don’t. (It is another way that Sasuke and Naruto are similar in this story — they have both been in the unique position to watch the demise of their former lives.) The hint of pressure is there for Sasuke. They are biding their time, acting respectful, but really they would like to absorb everything left of the Uchiha into their clan. The Hyuuga aren’t bad, btw, just moving to gain power when they can, just like the rest of the clans.

The shape always reminded her of a blade jutting from the earth, like a lone kunai left behind on the battlefield. — Just an iconic image of sadness: the weapon thrown that could not save the thrower’s life. The nins who in field are the first half of the ‘those left behind’ idea that the chapter title is for. But like everything in the Two Worlds arc, the title has a deeper meaning….

• He broke the silence. “I think….. Your ability doesn’t have to work like the rest of them. Let them catch up to you.” His voice was firm, decisive. “You’ve handled everything that’s been thrown at you. Better than anyone.” He paused, then added softly, “I think you’ve done alright.” — Sasuke’s support and Sakura’s reception of it are very different from Sakura and Katsuro in the temple. Sasuke is very measured, whereas Katsuro grew to be overtly supportive of everything). And then, Sakura was very needing of support with Katsuro, but with Sasuke she is quietly confident. It is an affirmation of what she already knows. Important distinctions. Sakura doesn’t need to be told, but she still doesn’t mind hearing it.

• Sasuke looked sideways at her before admitting, “I always forget you’re not from a clan—“ He shrugged one shoulder as an apology. Sakura nodded once, not taking offense. Where others saw her as an anomaly, Sasuke had simply forgotten she was not brought up exactly like him. Had she not done the same thing? — Sasuke and Sakura are the epitome of the Two Worlds arc, so it’s fitting to end with them having this realization in his compound, which is another world locked off and forgotten inside Konoha.

• Sakura blew out a steadying breath, let her feet feel the wood, her hands slide down the polished walls, and tried to forget that it was so dark it didn’t matter if her eyes were closed or open. She just imagined that they were closed. And that she was at home. And this was simply another made up game. She let herself feel it out. And slowly, it began to work…. — Using the very same words she described her chakra healing abilities, Sakura begins to ‘feel it out’ in the darkness around her. This is a throwback to the same idea in the beginning of the arc, where she is going through her neighborhood with her eyes closed. This is also a physical representation of how she heals. Eyes closed, feeling it out, moving into unknown territory and trying to establish a pattern.

• She felt sick just imagining the pictures on the wall, the curtains on the windows, the clothes in the drawers. Books still in their cubbies at school. Tools beside long-dead fires at the blacksmith. Shoes beside doors, never to be touched again. — This is another part of the title, “Those Left Behind.” These are all the little things left behind from the departed civilians. These aren’t kunai on the battlefield, instead these are just the little bits of everyday humanity that have been lost.

• And Sasuke, the one left behind, he was their memorial too. All of their lives lived on in him now. — This is the other half of the title, Sasuke is both the living memorial for everything that was his clan, both sides, the shinobi and non-shinobi. But also, and more heartbreakingly, Sasuke himself is the one who was left behind, thus rounding out the Two Worlds theme. 

• Kakashi stepped out of the treeline, pale, eyes deathly serious. “Sakura. Sasuke.” — The scary ghost story of her childhood escapade has become reality. Kakashi has said their names. (He has a mission, and by the looks of it a dangerous one.) But just like in the story, it means that they must leave behind everything they’ve ever known and go with him. Foreshadowing changes to come….

About the Uchiha, the backstory of Konoha and general clan dynamics….

I’ve highlighted some facts about the Uchiha that never made sense. The Uchiha were the most powerful clan in a village led by a young man who was the last of his once-powerful clan. It makes no sense that Minato would be picked over any of the Uchiha, except that the elders wanted control through the Senju and were clearly hoping to resurrect their clan through Minato. 

And then when Minato, the last known Senju, dies, they don’t pick a new kage from the capable ranks of Uchiha (or anyone else, for that matter). Instead they throw it back to the Third for 10+ years. Why? It only makes sense if he’s holding it down till they can drag back Tsunade, the only other known Senju descendant. 

Yes, in the manga they enlist Itachi to massacre his clan to prevent a coup. But…uh…if the Uchiha are the most powerful, then is it really ‘a coup’ from the Uchiha? Or are the Senju just cravenly try to hold on to power when it should be rightfully passed to the next powerful clan? 

As for the Hyuuga, Sasuke of course looks down on them. (He looks down on everyone. It’s his thing.) But the Hyuuga aren’t bad. They are just going after power in a different way. A polished appearance, but a highly stratified and controlled power system behind the scenes. None of the other clans are like that, and nothing is mentioned about it. But if the Uchiha had lived, they wouldn’t have had much use for a clan that stomped out power instead of celebrated it. And for the Hyuuga, because they tightly restrict who has power in their clan, they must move up the rungs of power through alliances, not weaponry or techniques. 

Same basic story facts about the background of the clans and village, just looking at them a different way. The idea is that there are ancient power structures in the village, and these could be playing out in Naruto and Sasuke’s lives, without either of them knowing it. Which is a much more interesting basis to build a rivalry between Sasuke and Naruto upon instead of just “they didn’t like each other in the schoolyard.” Same with Sakura’s story to come.

Spoiler notes:

All of these men and women were much older than her parents. But one priest was very old, as frail as the scroll he was carrying. She realized she only saw him once a year, at this festival. And she couldn’t believe he was still alive. He looked the same as he did when she was a child. — There are two clues hidden in the parade segment that things are not as they seem on the surface. This is the first, that the man in front if somehow ageless. Meaning, he’s not aging at a human timeline. The second clue is a few paragraphs down and more obvious, with Ma and Pa frog walking through in their human forms. Mixed in with the real humans are creatures from the ‘other world.’ Visitors from the spirit side who have taken human form for the night to observe the rituals and pay visits to the houses making offerings (like Sakura saw as a child from her bedroom window in the last chapter).

• The last one carried a length of oversized twisted rope with a conspicuous red knot at the bottom. It was the precursor to the braids she’d been making all last night. — Just like in the previous chapter, the twisted rope is based on the sacred Japanese rope, called a shimenawa, and it’s the one Orochimaru and Sasuke have as belts. But here, the shape is one that Sakura can’t make with her hands. It’s too hard, and she has to make them fast. But she understands that it’s the origin of the tradition they are still upholding. In just a few chapters, this shape will reappear for her, although not as an old-timey symbol no one understands from a temple no one visits anymore. Instead, she will see this anew as a legacy on  how to use chakra the most efficiently. Like the Two Worlds theme, this shape has a human function, and a deeper, hidden spirit-world purpose. 

He chuckled too. “Yeah I guess this festival empties all the little temples out. Then when they come back to Konoha, they bring their special ‘thing’ with them.” That’s right, Sakura thought. These people came from all sorts of different sacred places. Both inside and outside Konoha. — Again, Sasuke is unknowingly pointing out the truth. That all kinds of people return to Konoha for this festival — both from the human and the spirit world.

Sakura thought he was angry again. But he was uncharacteristically fidgety. “There’s something I have to do,” he half-mumbled. “And I’ve been putting it off….” He surprised her, looking back over his shoulder at her— “Do you…uh, want to come with me?” — ‘Nervous Sasuke’ is a rare creature. And only someone as finely attuned as Sakura would even recognize it. Where Sakura is open about her fears, in this chapter and others, Sasuke is not. This is his one moment. Just like Sakura going with Ino to the memorial stone, Sasuke doesn’t really want to go alone to his compound. He wants so company. It doesn’t make it fun, but it take some of the dread out of the trip. And Sakura, just like with her trip to the stone with Ino, has no idea what she’s in for.

Sakura recognized it as a moment of trust, after the moment in the village when he accused her of not telling him everything. — Just trying to make Sasuke more human, by showing him evolve as the story progresses. He still has a lot of work to do, but he is reaching out in his bond to Sakura and allowing himself to become more connected to others than he has in the past. 

The shape always reminded her of a blade jutting from the earth, like a lone kunai left behind on the battlefield. — Just an iconic image of sadness: the weapon thrown that could not save the thrower’s life. The nins who in field are the first half of the ‘those left behind’ idea that the chapter title is for. But like everything in the Two Worlds arc, the title has a deeper meaning, that gets revealed by the end of the chapter.

• It was the memorial stone, and the trees never encroached on this space. — Small touch, but still treating the Forest as a living thing. It very much respects spiritual boundaries.

• The custom was once a year, you stopped by the stone, touched it and said those names aloud. You remember them. …You say that you still carry the ones you’ve lost with you. And that’s all. There were no floats here, no parades. No lit candles or incense or plates of food left out as an offering. That was not the shinobi way. Instead it was just the name spoken aloud. That was enough. — This. This scene. The idea that you become the living memorial to your fallen friends/loved ones. This will come back again in some meaningful and unexpected ways. More to come! 🙂

• “So….I don’t learn the way other nins do. And I don’t use my chakra to heal like the other med-nins do. Not exactly. So it’s difficult for me….” — A big, untold part of Sakura’s story is what exactly is her skill and how did she get it. She’s incredibly talented in her field, like Sasuke and Naruto, and like them, she is an orphan in her powers. She doesn’t have direct people whom she inherited it from, and though she has Tsunade as a teacher (like Orochimaru for Sasuke and Jiraiya for Naruto), Sakura quickly outpaced her ‘learning environment’ — meaning the hospital work. She does things her own way, just like Naruto and Sasuke. 

• “Tsunade said I had a knack for it. But I was always just feeling it out. That’s the only way I can describe it. I figured things out, then skipped ahead.” — The idea of ‘feeling it out’ is very much what Sakura is doing, whether with her chakra or with her weapons, her medical ability, or simply testing herself by the walking with her eyes closed. Her ability to assimilate and adapt on the fly is what makes her so good. But it could be her downfall in the wrong situation. 

• Sakura shook her head. “No. Not that she’s ever said. Apparently she just picked it up on the battlefield. There was no official medic-nin corp when she started. That’s why she created one.” — Tsunade is an anomaly in a different way than Sakura. Tsunade didn’t seem to have magical healing abilities when she was younger. She was an anbu, a fighter. Not a healer type. Then suddenly she returns to Konoha when she’s a little older and she is fully in control of her healing abilities and that’s where her focus is. Her power is amazing, but where did she learn the medical side? No one questions it, but it can’t have come from Konoha. More to come on the origins of Tsunade’s power and what that means for Sakura.

• Sakura was shocked. “Y-Your clan thought Kakashi was lying?” — lots and lots about Uchiha backstory, most of it just filling in how people would have reacted. 

• He added quietly, “He’s done alright, though.” He gave her a brief smile, and she nodded back. — His words of support of Kakashi are the same as his support earlier of Sakura. He’s not as effusive as Naruto. So his words are more understated but still carry deep weight. 

• “Well, you were only partially wrong. The clans did all move to one location…. But it was the Senju who left, not the Uchiha.” He turned and threw open his arms to the cluster of buildings. “This is it. The beginning of Konoha.” — Two worlds theme here: Sakura’s textbook reading of the origin of Konoha was touched on in the Forest of Death. And Sasuke’s version is the other side of it. Not polished and tidy, with the more powerful clan winning the day and the losing clan happy to cede, like the book makes it out to be. Instead, the truth was much more complicated. And the proof is right before her eyes.

• “Is that a…a cat’s paw?” Sasuke just shrugged as they walked past it. “No idea.” — More human world/spirit world. If your clan has a connection to a spirit animal, and your clan is obliterated, then how would you know anything about that connection at all? Or how could you reconnect if you did? So much of Sasuke’s life is shrugging off what he can never know, and holding on to what he can. So he’s not lying. He doesn’t know, so it doesn’t matter to him.

• Sasuke nodded sagely. “Yes, the ‘honey trap’ works just as well inside the village walls as it does outside. Maybe even more effectively, especially since the clan elders were involved.” — More to come later on the honey trap, and the negative effects of it.

• Sasuke nodded. “By far the easiest way to get a nin to give up his duties to his family, make him forget his obligations.” — So here, Sasuke is talking about the ‘honey trap.’ But the same could apply to love, from ‘friendlier sources.’ It makes you forget your duties, it becomes a distraction. Right now, his time with Sakura is enjoyable. But if his goals change, he might see her in a different light too….

• Sasuke nodded. “Early on, they rerouted part of the river to run through the compound.” He shrugged once, adding quietly, “This was the Uchiha’s most secretive technique.” — This was why the Uchiha diverted the river, as it was mentioned in the backstory of Konoha two chapters back. This was part of the rift between the Senju and the Uchiha. Also, here the katon is named as the most secret “clan” technique. It’s different from the sharingan, which was cultivated and jealously guarded within individual families within the clan. There will be more about that in the future. 

• This section of paneling was painted with a stylized version of Konoha. There was a great dark forest, a flat grassland with a river cutting through it, and at the center was a stone outcropping, just like the carved monument that loomed over the village. A pair of white cranes rose up into the sky just above it. But notably, in this rendition, the Hokage Rock was bare. No carvings of past Kages jutted from the cliff face. — Not much of a spoiler, but in the future, it will be revealed that the Uchiha went along with the Senju leadership, they always felt displaced. So when they painted their version of Konoha in the their meeting hall, it was without the propaganda-like carvings on the natural stone outcropping. Seeing it in that light — that the rock is carved with the faces of one clan, and one clan alone — gives it a very different feeling.

• Sasuke smiled at her look of concern. The wall sunk back to reveal that it was a sliding door. Sasuke put both hands on it and slid it sideways, dividing the scene between the forest and the cliff. It revealed narrow, steep stairs descending behind the panel. He shot her a smug look over his shoulder. — Not by mistake did the original Uchiha build the steps to their most secretive room at the break between the Senju and the Uchiha clans. Between the forest and the fields. This was where they were storing the items that made up the backbone of their clan, and where they made plans for how they would one day return to power.

• “They were trying to track family abilities, and who they might be passed down to. They were trying to determine or even control when it might show up again in the lineage.” He shook his head. “The clan elders were always obsessed with power. Finding the one, the one…. The most powerful one who would carry on their legacy…. That didn’t turn out so well for them,” he said acidly and threw the scroll back in the box in a puff of dust. He slammed it shut. — Two things are happening here: first is about legacy. They are all seeking to leave a legacy. Naruto is known as ‘the Fourth’s legacy.’ Sasuke is the legacy of the Uchiha. And Sakura? Well she’s about to find out about legacies and power, both good and bad. Second is about the prophecy: It hasn’t been revealed yet, but the prophecy that the frogs make —that there will be one to make the change, to make the choice, who will change the system — will be make an appearance in this story. But it’s tricky — it has different meaning to different people. All those who come in contact with it believe it means them, or someone they have control over. It’s intoxicating. They want to be ‘the one,’ and if they can’t, then they want to be the one who finds ‘the one.’ Jiraiya of course being the prime example there. But the Uchiha are no different. As for the prophecy, they all have pieces to a puzzle and none of them have it figured out yet. But they are all sure it means them.

• And at the bottom where there should have been a signature or a red stamp was instead a stylized cat’s paw made of fat dots of the paintbrush. She held it up to Sasuke who just shrugged. “No idea.” He took it and dropped it unceremoniously onto the pile, while Sakura unrolled the top of the next ancient scroll. — So obviously this is the Uchiha contract with the Cat spirit clan. But yeah, Sasuke has no idea what it is. So he doesn’t care. lol

• “Look at this weird sharingan…. And it says something about a curse—“ Sakura started to laugh, dearly wanting to read more, but Sasuke grabbed it suddenly. He opened it, scanned it quickly, then dropped it into the box as if he didn’t care. “Dunno,” he said as he lifted another out, but Sakura noticed he moved the offending scroll deeper down in the box, so it was unreachable. — Clearly he does care about this one. More in the future, but Sasuke is aware there is something behind his clan being “The Cursed Clan,” and it may have something to do with him. So, some foreshadowing….

• Sakura continued on her side. Just under her fingertips, beneath an ink portrait of a severe looking old Uchiha was the edge of a painted panel that had been torn out of its frame. It was a fragment, and the original must have been quite large. It was vibrant…almost sparkling with color…. And Sakura had the strange feeling that she’d seen something like it before somewhere. — Sakura too has found something from her past, something she’d would have probably liked to keep secret if she had realized what it was. Deep in the Uchiha vault is a painting from the temple, ripped from its frame and brought to the clan for some not-yet-revealed purpose.

• He sighed and moved on to another scroll, this one much older than the rest, its tassel-end merely a twisted rope. This one seemed to have caught his interest. It had diagrams of weird sharingans and thick black writing that was barely legible— — So, the twisted rope symbol, strange sharingans. And Sasuke is not freaked out by it. So it’s a good guess that it’s a very, very old training document. The idea is that Sasuke is finding both dangerous techniques and helpful ones locked in the same Uchiha ‘Pandora’s box.’

• A shaft of torchlight fell across the painting fragment, and it radiated a tantalizing burst of color. The scrolls had shifted, revealing the head of a creature and the torn face of a man with very strange eyes staring out, and Sakura remembered she wanted to have a closer look at it— But the strip of light thinned to nothing, and the painting disappeared back into darkness. — A shaft of light falling across the painting is the same as when they closed the temple doors on the counterpart paintings for the lat time. So this is another clue as to the origin. If Sakura had seen it in full, she might have been able to put it together. But the moment slipped away. However, if the Uchiha have it, and the rest of the painting is about the origin of chakra and control of a great demon, then you can guess that it will play a role in the future. 

• They climbed out the panel, and Sasuke slid it back into place behind them, reuniting the forest with the grasslands. — The facade that the Uchiha are going along with the Senju has been restored when the door is closed again.

• Sakura noticed he didn’t look at the buildings as they left. Neither did she. They moved as one, traveling soundlessly through the empty courtyards, both of them silencing their footsteps out of instinct. — This is the Team 7 mantra “we move as one” put into place. The team mission statement is good for bonding now, and sets a bar later for Naruto. At first he thinks it’s ridiculous, then he feels left out, but then as he realizes it’s what give the Konoha three-man cell their strength. Then he decides it’s something he want to work toward too. 

• He sighed. “I told them I was sorry.” His sad voice turned away, as if he were just then looking at the stone. “I was sorry that I couldn’t protect them, and that I couldn’t stop it from happening. I was sorry I wasn’t there. And that I lived when they didn’t.” — It’s a moment of sincere openness from Sasuke, who hides himself in layers of protection. And, for the future, these words will give Sakura the language to cope with her own losses. Sasuke’s grief will help her understand her own. Sakura only thinks of the memorial stone as a representative of things left outside the village. But now, through Sasuke, she sees that it can be not just the loss of something that didn’t come back, but the inability to save something…or someone. 

• They continued back and passed the glade where the marker stood. Sakura could see it, glowing softly in the dewy mist that was hovering just over the ground. It was seeping through the trees and spilling out into the edges of the lane. — The bells and voices as they walked up, the mist hovering right over the ground, the fact that it’s very, very late on the night of the parade. This is when Sakura saw the strange people outside her window as a child. So there is definitely a subtext of other-worldliness here.