51 – Chapter Notes

This chapter is about vessels, who puts things into them and who controls them. And it’s about making choices in the face of uncertainty. The whole lid has been ripped off of what Sakura thinks she knows…about healing, about her own abilities and about the people she’s trusted most. It’s also a chapter about power, obsession and ego. This is how I wish Sasori would have been. Just obsessed with Sakura and the revealing of her power. These themes of power and vessels and who to trust will be coming back.  

Chapter Themes

This chapter is about vessels for energy, and what makes a perfect one. Chiyo thought she had it in controlling Gaara. Sasori did too in making himself both puppet and puppet master. Then he believes it was actually Sakura, or rather, a body that is conditioned to accept the level of power that is needed to become a puppet or a weapon. Sakura says that it’s all about Gaara and the power within him. And that’s partially true. The greater theme is that it’s about vessels. And, of course, there is one vessel out there who is more powerful than them all. 

But this chapter is a bit of the power struggle behind what villages and people will do to harness and keep a vessel like jinchuriki. Who put it in? Who wants it back? What will they do to keep it? 

It also is revealing that Sakura is so much more than a healer. So much more than chakra conduit. She’s on an equal level with her prodigy teammates (even Naruto, who’s still out of the picture). 

And for those concerned about Sasuke…. Good! Lol – Sasuke in this story is a complex character, not a completely one-dimensional villain. He loves Sakura. Why wouldn’t he? She’s amazing. It would be weird if he didn’t. Without Naruto there, it makes sense that they would connect. However….Naruto has never been known to back down from anything. Sasuke included. And when he returns, he will happily throw a wrench into everything he can. Cause even in Akatsuki…he’s still Naruto…. And he’s not going to give Sakura up that easily. 🙂

As for Sakura, you might be able to pick up on the plot threads here. She has secrets. And she’s not sure who she can reveal them to. Distances are already forming in the bonds she thought were unshakeable. More to come on these….

Sasori is a delicious, dangerous, obsessive mess. This is how I wish Sasori would have been. Just obsessed with Sakura and the revealing of her power. At that moment, He knows her new-found power is only known to the two of them in the cavern. And if he had even a fraction of his power, he definitely would have done everything he could to keep her. Definitely low-key Sasori/Sakura shipping here. 

Even though Chiyo is dead in this chapter, the backstory reveals her real hand in sealing the bijuu in Gaara. This is foreshadowing for Naruto and the whole saga of power of these natural element creatures. Chiyo could have been the same power-hungry person in any number of villages down through history. 

Chapter Notes

• She sat back on her knees. Her braid had unraveled at some point, leaving her hair clinging to her neck and shoulders. Messy strands hung over her face. With each breath, they shivered. — Sakura’s hair has come out of her braid. Everything has come undone for her. 

• This wasn’t the work of days. It was more like weeks. He had been slowly, brutally tortured to death while the Sand village hesitated…. She shook her head, but still scanned his body like a medic would, cataloging his injuries as if she were somehow responsible for him.  — Gaara’s tortured body will be brought back again in shocking clarity for her when she learns of someone else’s death….

• It was just a single word. “Love.” Tears burned her eyes. Who had loved him? Who had let this happen to him? — The idea of loving someone and protecting them will be brought full circle for Sakura very soon.

• Her hand came to rest on Gaara’s chest. Her fingers curled over the top of his tunic, brushing the bare skin at his throat, the one patch that was remarkably free from injury. — This is where the healing is beginning. She doesn’t recognize it. But the healing power of the bijuu to heal its host, now that the power is stabilized, is already working. It is the same power that effortlessly heals Naruto.

• A new thought was whispering through her mind…. I could kill him…. Face empty of emotion, Sakura stared down at Gaara’s broken body. — She could kill him and be well within her rights as a shinobi from a foreign country. But doing so would also make her like Chiyo. So Sakura has to first turn away from her training as a shinobi, then turn away from the path that would lead to her being like Chiyo, then turn away from her own need for self-preservation in the face of blame if anything goes wrong. All of this to save him. It’s more than just a simple sympathetic choice. 

• She closed her eyes. Fresh tears slid down her own cheeks. I am not Chiyo. — She turns away from her own abyss, her own dark path. For now….

• With deep relief, Sakura realized that there was no sign of the monster. Perhaps she done it, truly contained it. She wasn’t proud of herself. Building a structure inside a living human was surely something that should never be done. It was the realm of power-hungry people like Chiyo who had no thought for the human lives they were destroying. — Sakura doesn’t know what a bijuu/jinchuriki is. No one does. It is the deepest secret the nations keep. No one speaks of it, no one knows who is one. No one knows who has the power to seal them, remove them or control them. So the fact that she’s able to contain and seal one is mind-blowing. (Even in the original, her battle with Sasori and healing a jinchuriki who was robbed of his bijuu was pretty epic already.) Sakura is in a class all her own. And this will lead to both positive and ‘negative’ attention in the future. 

• But the more she reached into him, the more certain she became that something was wrong. Something was missing…. Her eyes darted back and forth, as if reading data from a medical chart. She couldn’t find Gaara. Not a trace of him. — Jinchurikis heal differently than normal humans. (There are times of deep healing when their body goes into stasis.) There’s no way Sakura could know this now, but that’s what’s happening here. It’s definitely foreshadowing for future events too. It also speaks to the uncertainty of healing a foreign leader, in a battlefield of sorts, then having to leave and yet not knowing what’s wrong or if what you did fixed him. Just heightens how much this is a perilous choice for Sakura.  

“You truly are singular, Haruno of the Leaf.” — I think the moment that Sasori knew he’d been defeated by Sakura he would have immediately become obsessed with her. He’s a collector. Of puppets and weapons. She would have been both for him. So I imagine he would have wanted to talk to her like a teenage boy – showing off a bit and trying to get her to pay attention to him — and also been like a stalker maniac who wanted to literally possess her, body and soul.

• “Yes,” he drawled, smiling toothily, savoring her shock. “Can you imagine, that woman making puppets from her own children?” He added triumphantly, “See, I told you she was crazy.” — He devours, drinks in, savors her emotions. He is no longer human, but he craves human interaction. Specifically, he wants to see people react to him. And seeing Sakura, whom he’s enthralled with, is the best of all. So the language here around him seeing reactions is about the senses. He no longer eats, cause he’s no longer human. But he’s consuming her emotions. 

• Sakura shook her head, staring down at Gaara’s chest unseeing, trying to process just how blindly powerful and detached from life you must be to even consider such a thing. Turning humans into puppets. It was beyond cruel. It was monstrous. — Katsuro once told her that ‘All Akatsuki are monsters.’ So it plays with the idea of which is the real monster? The thing locked inside or the ones who put it there in the first place? Switch the term puppet for vessel, and you have Naruto.

“But if you truly do not know what he is, then you still have a lot to learn, Leaf girl. Even with your talent. Your teacher isn’t serving you well by sending you out into the world uninformed. Especially with people like Chiyo out there….” His voice turned, softening like a lover’s. “Or me….” — Call back to Katsuro saying the same thing to her in the temple. It’s just a little thing that unsettles her. She keeps getting thrown in these situations where she’s in over her head. 

• Because she couldn’t deny it now, something was happening inside him. Something she wasn’t controlling. He was healing faster than anyone she’d ever seen. It was Chiyo’s energy. It had to be. Sakura could feel it moving through him, healing him everywhere. — Sakura is grasping the difference between a jinchuriki’s healing capability and that of a human. But she’s never encountered it, so she just assumes it’s the byproduct of absorbing a whole human’s chakra into your own. On a more technical note, Chiyo sacrificed her energy to restart Gaara’s body. It will slowly synthesize with the more stable form of the bijuu energy. Since Sakura trapped it, the bijuu’s energy will only slowly release into Gaara’s system (like an oven with the door closed, giving off gentle and consistent heat, instead of burning him up like an out-of-control wildfire). So, just like Sakura’s chakra was drained to silver, Chiyo’s chakra retains her signature, for now. But it will fade away. It will disappear into Gaara’s life. Chiyo is the spark that will burn away to become Gaara’s flame.

• “Tell me about yourself, Sakura Haruno.” He said her name slowly, as if savoring it. “Those eyes, that hair, all that chakra just dripping off of you…..Tell me what you are.” — Foreshadowing. The ones who know how to look for differences always mention her eyes. And since they glow with her most extreme use of chakra, it’s not a surprise that they focus on her eyes first. Sakura wonders how they know things about her, but her eyes and her hair — those visible anomalies — are already giving her away. 

“Him? No!” Sasori laughed, but it came out with a wheeze. “I’ve seen a dozen Chosen Ones so far, and killed off half of them!”  He snorted, gloating in his knowledge. “It’s just a ridiculous story that one generation uses to control the next. Chiyo probably thought you were the Chosen One. All that power crammed into one vessel.” — If no one knows who’s a jinchuriki, then any powerful shinobi could be one. Or any village could lie about having one. Makes for a much more interesting story.

• “I have made myself both puppet and puppet master. I control both the power and the vessel. I alone have the it all, the ultimate power they are all so desperate for!!” — Sasori outlines it here. The ‘ultimate’ power is control of both the monstrous power and the vessel that contains it. It has to be both. Sasori, a puppet master, would understand this deeply. So he’s made himself his own vessel. And he sees this in Sakura as well, a natural source of power. A spring of energy, and her body is perfectly suited to flow with it. Her human body is a perfect vessel. He had to break his body apart to become that way. He had to shatter his humanity to become like her. This is deep foreshadowing for Naruto too, who is working towards becoming the most powerful shinobi. But the closer he gets to the goal, the more dangerous it is for him. Because there are others plotting the control of his power as well. So Sasori is giving a snapshot of the tug-of-war over power from the villain’s side. Sakura is the object of his desire now. But the same speech could apply to Naruto as well. 

• Sakura snapped her gaze to him, curious about what he meant. Delighted to have her full attention on him, Sasori smiled broadly. He wouldn’t waste it. He began, narrating the past like putting on a puppet show. — Chiyo’s past is a window into the power struggles within villages over of keeping and holding a jinchuriki. It is an absolute power that corrupts absolutely. This is foreshadowing for Naruto’s backstory as well.

• Sasori didn’t seem to hear her. He was still looking at her with fascination. “But it was you all along wasn’t it. Not that empty husk of a Kage on the ground. I think it was the only thing Chiyo got right. You might very well be the perfect vessel. Your body is a conduit.” — Chiyo said in the previous chapter that medic’s bodies are trained to be conduits for chakra. So that’s why Sakura was able to stand in for a the Sand Dagger, an energy-focusing blade, and shatter Gaara’s seal. Chiyo was right: it’s the living body that can handle that much power. Not a puppet body. All this talk of power and vessels — including acknowledging the perfect vessel — is foreshadowing for the power struggle that will surround Naruto in the future.

• “It would have been a joy to restring your bones…. Hang your heart in your chest, like mine. We could have lived forever then— No more soft flesh and failing parts. It would have been perfect— perfect— perfect—“ — Dark twist on the word ‘perfect’ from Sakura and Katsuro’s chapters. Sasori’s version of a ‘perfect’ kind of love is very, very different from theirs.

• “Only I know what he’s done. Only I could see it. The boy— The boy— The body that never changed….” — Katsuro! He figured it out what Itachi did, capturing his jinchuriki early on then hiding him from the rest of the group disguising as a regular kid. A puppet master, with such deep knowledge of a human body, would recognize when someone wasn’t growing. That was the only flaw in Itachi’s plan. The simple act of growing like a regular human, which was visible only to the one who had turned himself almost completely into puppet.

• Chiyo was dead. Sasori was dead. She was the only one left. So she got to decide the story. And she decided to let the lie tell itself. “It’s just as you said. I fought Sasori while Lady Chiyo healed the Sand Kage. I helped with what I could but,” she shrugged, “I’m only trained as a field medic.”  In the original, her help is only shown in a positive light. But it could have gone so wrong, in so many ways. So Sakura is protecting herself. And she’s also splitting from Team 7 here, without even realizing it, by withholding the truth from them too.

• Kankuro recognized the blade and gasped, “It can’t be! Is that the Sand Dagger—“ — The Sand Dagger may have been buried under a mountain in this chapter, but there will be more connections to it in the future. This is a weapon associated with chakra channeling. So people like Kankuro, Sakura, and a lot of others who use chakra as their primary weapon/tool are interested in it, and weapons like it. This ties into the idea of what kind of weapon would Sakura use.  

• He’d changed so much. She didn’t want to disappoint him. She wanted to be this person, the one he saw. The one he believed in. The one he was relying on to be strong. Maybe she still could be, if she just put it all behind her— So she brushed back her tears and gave him a watery smile. “Yeah. Thanks. I’m just…tired. That’s all.” — This just feels like such a Sakura thing to do after a deeply traumatic event like this. She would chose to be strong for Sasuke, and not reveal the thing that has made her feel truly weak and question everything she thought was true. However, her reasons are different with Kakashi….

• Tucking her hair into a loose bun, Sakura moved through it all mechanically, eating but not really tasting her food. — Sakura’s hair is part of her storyline. So the fact that she’s changed to a bun here is significant, even though it’s almost thoughtless on her part. It’s something she’s doing now because she’s exhausted. But it will come to represent more for her. This tiny bit of foreshadowing will reveal itself in the next few chapters.

• Did Kakashi know too? Had the Third, when he came to her house as a child? Is that why such an unusual array of shinobis came too, fighting between placing her in the ranks of anbu or the academy? She knew now that this never happened. None of them, it seemed now, were what they appeared on the surface. — Doubt is already seeping in. Sakura doesn’t want to reveal what’s happened because she no longer knows who to trust. She doesn’t tell Kakashi the truth because she’s not sure she can trust him.

• Did he know why my chakra was so different— Was this why he picked me for Team 7? Not because I’m was the normal one, but—  The realization broke across her face before she could stop it. Because I’m an ‘odd one’ too? — All of this stems from the quote about Kakashi ‘having a nose for the odd ones.’ Sakura always thought of herself as the ‘normal’ one in the group. No outrageous powers. Just steady control. And that she was there to balance them out, bring them back down to the ground. Turns out, she’s just as powerful, just as much in her own league. She’s just as much an ‘odd one’ as they are too. Going forward, this will be just another belief that gets shattered for her. She has to come to grips with the fact that she’s an odd one too, and figure out what that means for her.

• She looked around. She was nestled in the center of the dog pile as if she was another one of them. They grumbled and shifted and moved, and were warm and fuzzy all around her. She wasn’t supposed to move. She was supposed to stay in the middle. Kakashi lowered his voice to a whisper only she could hear. “They also help keep the nightmares at bay.” — This little part, with Kakashi understanding her pain without her telling him, then calling the dogs for a little warm-and-fuzzy, post-trauma dog pile…it just feels like something Kakashi would do. There’s a bit of foreshadowing here too. Sakura is going to have to deal with the fallout from this event in the future, no matter how hard she tries to put it behind her.