Chapter 20 notes

Chapter 20 – Sakura’s Mission

Author’s notes:

This chapter is Sakura-centric, focusing completely on her mission, choices, etc. Kind of the answer to the Katsuro-centric chapters earlier on. Next chapter will move through several missions, focusing on their interactions and some trials and tribulations they are going through away from each other. But this has the spotlight on Sakura. Some themes from this chapter will be built upon, including Katsuro’s background. This mission is a happy one, everything is straightforward and resolved easily. But they won’t all be like this….

Chapter notes:

Sakura sighed to herself. ‘Can’t find one set of kids. Can’t shake the other.’ — With the kids, Sakura has both compassion and a short temper. She’s very much like Tsunade here.

But he had to admit that he knew very little about her. Perhaps she was just like everyone else in Konoha. Only following orders, serving their own needs. Abandoning anyone once their usefulness was at an end. Even little kids. Especially little kids. — More to come on Katsuro’s background. Obviously, a friendship with a Konoha kunoichi is going to stir up bad memories for him. 

But this young man had taken it on himself to right his wrongs. She was very proud of him, but she had hoped to keep him from any serious punishment. He was doing what he had to do to survive. — Sakura understood all along what was going on with the boy, and why. What Katsuro thought of her was wrong, stemming from his upbringing. So Sakura and Katsuro are seeing the same thing but from different angles.

• This is one of my favorites. The “ducklings” scene:

The boy scrubbed his arm over his face, and ran after her.

“Grab the food. I brought enough for everyone,” she called over her shoulder.

The boy hauled up the basket by himself, and the younger children tussled over who would carry the sack. Finally after loosing quite a few, one took the sack and each child carried a piece of fruit. Katsuro watched them wind back up the path, Sakura striding at the head of the line and the children following behind like ducklings.

Katsuro landed softly in the empty space. Just moments ago, this had been the setting of a tense standoff. The easy peacefulness had returned.

A slip of color caught his eye. Nestled in the grass beneath one of the shrubs was an orange that had escaped their notice. Katsuro scooped it up and bounced it in his hand, thinking.

He was wrong about her. Just as the boy had been. He supposed both of them were used to thinking the worst of people. It was second nature when you had to do it to survive. 

But she was the exception, he thought, pitching the orange high and catching it handily. It didn’t matter that she was from Konoha. He wouldn’t doubt her again.

Katsuro pocketed the orange and softly padded up the trail after them.

— The immediate focus in this scene is about Sakura convincing this little band of orphans to come with her. It seems like the hardest one to win over is their leader, the rough-edged boy. But, unknown to Sakura, there is another orphan lurking in the background who is also being convinced to join her. Katsuro. And by the end, she has won him over too. So the scene opens with the boy deciding to go follow her and ends with Katsuro deciding to follow her too. He’s trailing way behind cause he’s older and more distrustful, but he’s still there. He’s made the decision to go with her too. Katsuro is the last duckling. 

Even though Konoha was days away, she could still hear her parents’ voices ringing in her ears, as if they were right beside her. “Why would you want to get involved? Their troubles have nothing to do with you. You could get hurt…or worse. Just stay out of it. It will all work itself out, you’ll see.” — In this story, Sakura’s parents are not shinobi. They live completely in the civilian side of Konoha. And though they love and support Sakura, they still wish she wasn’t a shinobi. That she’d chosen a life path that was much less dangerous. There’s not a lot of angst, just a more normal teen/parent relationship. But Sakura going a different direction from what her parents want makes her more in line with Naruto, Sasuke and Sai’s orphan status. They don’t have parents to support them either. So Sakura’s bond with Team 7 is as strong as the others because they represent a different kind of family to her. 

“You probably saved his life,” Katsuro said, sobering finally. But she wanted none of his praise. “He saved his own life. I just helped out where I could.” — another smallish theme. They all have the keys to their own success or demise.

Katsuro’s pov: Katsuro was silent, but his eyes glittered. His mouth curled into an easy smile. He should have known her answer would surprise him. … Sakura’s pov: A corner of her mouth tugged up into a smile. He’d been working out things out, coming up with some sort of plan. She should have known. — parallel thoughts, sentence structure. Reinforces that they are coming to know one another.

He decided he’d never tell her what he saw, or what he had thought of her. Instead he would amend his thinking. Trust was something he’d never had much use for. But he would try. For her. … If this was how it would be, then meeting up with him while on her missions might actually work. She’d try it. Just once. For him. — another parallel, reinforcing their choice to trust one another.

Spoiler Notes:
• He was wrong about her. Just as the boy had been. He supposed both of them were used to thinking the worst of people. It was second nature when you had to do it to survive. — This theme will be revisited when Naruto returns to Konoha. Both he and Sakura will have to rediscover each other beneath that layer of defensiveness.

• She spoke quietly to the boy, who only nodded impassively. He thought maybe Sakura was lecturing him. But when she reached down impulsively and tousled his hair, Katsuro smiled. Maybe not, he thought. — Katsuro ruffles her hair when he first captures her. He understands it’s a little kindness on her part. This little movement will come up again in the flashback chapter to come: Iruka ruffles young Naruto’s hair. So it’s important for Katsuro/Naruto to see her doing this. I am writing in how important “touch” is for all of them. As a child, when Iruka freely tousles his hair, Naruto hadn’t been touched in ages at the orphanage (he’s not abused, just ignored). Sakura has the same sort of freedom to give of herself. And Katsuro, in turn, relishes in being able to touch someone in a friendly way when he lives in such a violent world. This theme will be built on with Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke.

“Well,” she said at length, “I told him…. I told him that it didn’t matter what happened, it was only how he fixed it that counted.” … “He never gave up.” — This theme will come back when Naruto returns. Sakura’s vow to ‘never give up’ becomes Naruto’s internal mantra. Although he won’t realize it. But he gets that core belief directly from her. And even when he doesn’t want it, even when he cuts himself off from everything having to do with her, the core will still be there. And it will carry him through some rough times and guide his choices. Even though he’s not outwardly aware of it. Yet….

“And I told him that I believed in him,” she rejoined strongly. “That he’d figure out a way to get through this. Because, you know, he….” But her voice trailed off. “Never gives up?” Katsuro filled in for her, expression teasing. — In the future, when Naruto returns to Konoha and reconnects with Sakura, this ‘never give up’ mentality will be more complicated than just an upbeat mantra. Naruto will get frustrated with Sakura putting herself in harm’s way because she doesn’t give up. And he will reluctantly begin to adopt this mentality as he commits more and more to a village he once hated. 

• Some writer’s notes — I changed the point-of-view in the middle of the story from Sakura to Katsuro. So, the whole “point” of the point-of-view is to figure out who tells the story the most powerfully. I originally wrote this in Sakura’s pov. But it was boring, more walking, searching, etc. But with Katsuro, his pov lets me talk about his background and add the element of surprise and suspense to the plot when the reader could pretty much figure out what was going on anyway. You won’t care about this stuff unless you write, but if you write, then you deal with pov choices all the time. Just thought I’d mention it because Katsuro’s pov was not my first choice, but I’m really happy about the way it turned out.