50 – Notes

Chapter notes

• “The Puppet” at first refers to Sakura being Chiyo’s puppet, then flipping it to be her own body as the puppet, and then Chiyo. The puppet ends up operating the puppet master by the end. Chiyo and Sasori have ideas about control — through puppets — and Sakura turns that on its head by using their own skills against them. First with Sasori, then with Chiyo.

• There are a lot of themes in this chapter — themes of darkness and abandonment, with some of Sakura’s deepest fears being exposed; themes of natural energy versus human-made containment of that energy; themes of ancient and hidden power, which open up questions about who was powerful enough to build these structures, and for what end. All these answers will point Sakura straight to one jinchuriki. 😉

• Sakura is allowing herself to think of Katsuro again (yay!), in a way that she hadn’t for a long, long time. Which is bittersweet, because she still doesn’t know what’s happened to Katsuro (*sob*)…. More on this to come….

• Sakura levels up so many times during this chapter. She pushes her own chakra to take on a new form to get her out. She rebuilds an ancient structure that apparently many people were unable to do before her. But she uses her intuition and ability to follow the pathways of the original builder. Then she becomes a better puppet master than Chiyo by using her own body as her puppet. Then she takes out Chiyo and uses her to permanently reseal the creature that’s a threat to them all. Sakura’s innate ability to take what’s around her and make it her own to survive really shines through her. 

• The shadow side to all these gains is that Sakura has had to give up parts of herself. She’s had to make herself more like Chiyo. She’s knows it’s to survive, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be long-term fallout from those choices. 

Spoiler Notes:

• “Just pretend it’s like the game,” she said aloud, if only to hear any sound in the emptiness. “It’s only a game.” Her voice, raspy from fear, was swallowed by the darkness. It did not echo back. — Ties to Sakura’s habit of mapping her surroundings by closing her eyes, like she did in Konoha for fun. But also represents her actual skill: reaching inside and healing someone where she can’t see and can’t go. This space, and her ability to work within it, is something that only she could do. This is her specialty. None of the other characters could do it. So she’s definitely afraid, but it’s also like a life-size version of the healing she does within a body. In the dark, feeling it all out. 

• Another time, Sakura might have marveled that chakra could be used that way…she clearly had not been taught that in Konoha. But perhaps they didn’t know it to teach it. — Sakura’s first realization that there might be other techniques and methods for using chakra.

• Her head fell back against the stone, and she ran her hand down the flat boulder she leaned against. It sat flush with the ground, as if it were an ancient building block. Her hand stopped. This was familiar to her, like it had happened before—  A long buried memory swept through her…. She was with Katsuro, in a soft blue night that seemed welcoming compared to where she was now. They were climbing up a starlit mountainside to a partially destroyed temple, scrambling over boulders the size of houses. — It’s not an accident that the blocks are so similar and that Sakura is reminded of the old temple. There are many similarities. This gets at a deeper question in this chapter, who made this? And whoever was adept enough to build structures on the inside of human must have started on the outside. 

• Bitter anger at Katsuro mingled with her own shame at ever trusting him. She had locked him away in a part of her memory where she would never have to see him again. — Connection here to the temple, where there are lovely things all locked up and hidden away. Sakura has locked up her memories and emotions tied to Katsuro, like the paintings have been locked in the temple. 

• But images of him came sliding back anyway, without any effort. And she discovered that it did make her feel a little better, a little less alone. — Her memories of him come back as images, literally like the painting in the temple room. Just scenes. 

• There were more memories, she could feel them surfacing, tugging on her heart. But she pushed them away. Because in the end, it all ran to the same terrible place. — Like the painting in the temple, Sakura’s memories always have an unsatisfactory ending. 

• She pushed it all away, sweeping the memories back into the dark corners of her mind as she swept the dust from her legs. She pounded a fist into the ground, welcoming the anger in to fill up the hole of despair that was opening inside her. — Again, emotions and memories, considered dusty and forgettable, just like the temple.

• The pool of green chakra was changing around her, morphing, becoming a beautiful tangle of roots and vines. It was like she sat at the base of a giant tree, held there, protected. — Parallels to the Forest of Death here. Sakura is terrified of becoming abandoned to a forest of “death,” yet her chakra taps into some ancient power that is life itself, just like she feels just below the surface in the real Forest of Death that surrounds Konoha. This foreshadows some future events in the Forest of Death, where its true nature is revealed to her

• Like the watery nature of her chakra, the tendrils rolled away from her with barely a suggestion. They twisted and turned, reached and explored. Little green leaves unfurled here and there. The vines were gently moving across the boulders, like little emissaries, each returning information to her. … Sakura listened as they crawled down over the stones and sank deeper and deeper, like roots disappearing beneath an abandoned temple. — This calls back to the green vines that grew around the well room in the old temple. It also foreshadows a deep connection between her, that place and her chakra. More on that in future chapters. 

• Vibrant little looping vines raced out from her fingertips. Seeing the glowing tendrils, Sakura’s chin crumpled. Her chakra had flowed and flowed without stopping. And when she needed it most, it had even given her a new gift. This delicate new form that looked like life itself. And now she had to destroy it. — Sakura already understands that this is unique. That it’s more than just a shape, that it’s an extension of ‘life,’ coming to help her as she confronts something that wants to take life away from her. She’ll get a better understanding in the next chapter. Of what it means for her chakra to change its shape….and what it means to lose it.

• But she still didn’t realize how hollow she’d feel inside. A cold weight was settling into the place where her chakra sprang from, the place that always felt flowing and alive. The more chakra she reabsorbed, the more she felt it. — Sakura has always felt life in her chakra. But now, for the first time, she is feeling the absence of organic life, and instead the cold substitute of a things she controls. It’s not death, just the absence of life. 

• Sakura pulled the rest of the energy back to her core as fast as she could, ignoring the cold that was sinking its tendrils into her body, her soul— — Just as the vines extended outward, exploring and going deeper, the tendrils of cold, emptiness, and loss are now inside her, going deeper. 

She looked down at her body. It must be the energy, unlocking the pieces of herself that she’d locked up inside. It knew what she needed to hear. It brought him back to her. — Later on, she will realize that in her time of deepest need, when all hope was lost, it was Katsuro that she thought of for support. Not Sasuke. Sasuke is her partner, but there is a deeper connection with Katsuro that has never truly gone away. No matter how much she wished it would have. She comes to realize this here.

• But an even more ancient energy was scattered across the blocks. She had to tune out all the other chakra just to feel it. But it was there. Pale silver smudges were still visible at the edges, like deteriorated fingerprints.— Sakura is discovering the first person who built these places, who used energy to contain and control. Foreshadowing the backstory about Naruto, the fox and him being a vessel, as well as Sakura’s growing abilities. Discovering an ancient ability might help her…or it could attract attention from the wrong people. 

• This was a vessel for containing monsters. Whoever built it must have been a genius. Sakura knew what she had to do now. — Sakura doesn’t know what the ‘monster’ is, or the history behind why someone would contain it. But this foreshadows some problems to come. She understands that she’s rebuilding a vessel, and it’s the only thing she can do to survive. But later, it might present some conflicts for her, when she realizes that she has no idea what she’s done to Gaara.

• The last ray of light closed on Sakura’s desperate face, the darkness stealing across her green eyes like the closing of a door. — Being lost to the dark, is Sakura’s worst fear. The metaphor here ties her to the paintings in the temple room. The door is closing over her just as it did over those paintings, sealing away her light and color forever.

• Sasori turned his puppet head with a slow ratcheting sound. His human heart was still pinned to the wall with Chiyo’s vicious looking dagger. He watched the scene with interest, tipping his head to get a better look. A slow smile curved up the corners of his beautiful mouth— When he looked back at Chiyo, new life had come back to his face. Pink spots appeared on his cheeks and a light had returned to his eyes. — At that moment, because of his angle, Sasori was able to see the green chakra coming from under Sakura’s body. He knows she’s got fight left in her. So he decides to right then to thwart Chiyo by helping Sakura.

• Chiyo’s stopped pushing for a second, rage taking over. “The Slug Princess killed my teacher!! I will never forgive her. I will strike at her any way I can!” — Revealing a bit of Chiyo and Tsunade’s backstory. Chiyo hated her in the manga, though it’s never fully explained why. In this story, it’s becomes a lifelong rivalry that is fraught with death and tragedy, not unlike Orochimaru on Tsunade’s own team.

• “No,” she said slowly, looking up at the cavern ceiling, thinking. “She may be the best healer of her generation. Maybe even several. Who knows what her future might have held had she lived longer.” She refocused back on Sasori, with a toothy smile. “But she wasn’t powerful enough to take down me!” — Chiyo acknowledges just how much of a prodigy Sakura is. But it’s not enough to make her stop her destructive nature. This is a constant theme of those who seek extreme power in this story: they end up destroying everything to get it.

• “She told me everything I needed to know. Couldn’t keep her mouth shut! She didn’t know how to use her own power. So her destiny was always to be used by someone more powerful than her: Me!” — Sakura’s trustworthy nature is absolutely turned against her here. It’s a lesson she won’t soon forget.

 Life flooded back into Chiyo with her rage, burning spots on her cheeks. “Tsunade did that when she killed our teacher! How do you think she got her skills? She ripped them out of her body!” Her voice was shaky, reliving some painful memory. “Broke her body, poured our teacher’s power into herself, then left an empty husk behind.” Chiyo’s face was twisted with rage at the memories. “I was there! I saw her do it! Ask her, she won’t deny it!!” — Sakura will grapple with the fallout from this knowledge in the future. Did Tsunade do it? Is it possible to steal someone’s power and place it in yourself? And once she learns of the death of someone she loves…Sakura will need to know, can power be stolen and transferred to someone else? The images from Chiyo has left her with will haunt Sakura. Especially when she learns that someone else’s she cares about might have been killed and emptied of his power…. 

• “Why do you think I killed her precious love,” she snarled. “To make her pay!” She annunciated every word and punctuated it with vicious laugh. — In this story, Tsunade’s fiancee was killed by Chiyo as revenge. Tsunade doesn’t know it. But it will be one of the things in Tsunade’s backstory that Sakura will have to come to terms with.

• “But you. You— “ Chiyo continued, voice dripping with cruelty. “A girl who can hold me and that at bay. A girl who is too stupid to conceal her power, just handed it over to me. And a teacher who’s still too meek to educate you on the what your real value is— What real power looks like, in the hands of a true master—“ — This has two connections. First, to Katsuro, in the temple, when he says they didn’t train her before sending her out into the world. Second, it is a parallel to what is said to Katsuro by Itachi and Pain. That someone else knows more about you than you do. This will come to haunt Sakura. 

• Chiyo tipped her chin up defiantly. “So I choose my own death. Upstart girl, you will not take that from me. But it will be worth it….” — Parallel to Chiyo’s earlier words about medic’s only getting to chose death, not life. Sakura clearly is choosing life, but Chiyo has chosen death.

• “And I’ve saved my best for last.” Chiyo looked like she was finally victorious. “I’ve poisoned you,  you will never detect it. You will never know it’s coming. And when you finally figure it out it will be too late.” — These thoughts will follow Sakura home, and no matter how hard she tries she will not be able to shake them off.

• “You are my student now.” — Prophetic words from a crazed, vengeful woman. In death, she hopes to drive one more knife into Tsunade by turning her student against her. Sakura brushes it off, but like everything that has happened to her in this battle, it has changed her in ways she simply cannot yet comprehend. 

• The light in Chiyo’s pale blue eyes flickered out. — This is about death dimming the light in her eyes, and it’s also about the light of her chakra going out. Just as Sakura’s eye color matches her chakra, in the last line Chiyo’s eye color is revealed to her chakra too. It is a mark of masters, of those uniquely gifted. Sakura doesn’t know it yet. But Chiyo certainly did. But in time, Sakura will try to conceal her connection to her chakra so that others can’t use her the way Chiyo did.