A five-year old girl named Haruno Sakura looks in the mirror, tears running down her cheeks. It has been another day of being picked on by the other kids due to her unusual hair color and her forehead. They push her, shove her, and call her names such as "pink-haired freak" and "giant forehead". She cries harder, believing she is genuinely ugly. No one will ever want to be her friend.
At six, Sakura is once more looking in the mirror. However this time she has a small smile on her face and a red ribbon in her hair. Two people have helped her with the bullies. A few months before, a boy who she only heard, but did not really see, yelled at the boys who were teasing her. After they told him to go away, and started taunting him, came and started punching the boys. They ran, and so did her rescuer before she could thank him. The only thing she saw was a flash of yellow. Soon after, at school, a girl named Yamanaka Ino approached her after the other girls at school had picked on her to the point where she started to cry. Ino told her she was just giving them what they wanted by her tears and tied her hair with the ribbon, saying she should show off her forehead proudly to let them know they weren't bothering her. She smiles a little wider, she has a friend now, and a hero too.
The friendship is over, thinks the eight year-old girl, brushing her hair in front of the mirror. She has just found out her friend likes the same boy she too has a crush on. His name is Uchiha Sasuke, and he is considered the handsomest and smartest boy in school. She is going to give Ino back her ribbon after school. They are no longer friends, she thinks, but rivals for the love of a boy who she has come to believe was her hero of a few years before. She has forgotten the yellow flash she saw that day. She lays down the brush and finishes getting ready for school.
At thirteen, Sakura walks by the mirror, this time not even bothering to glance at it as she knows what she will see. Again her face is tear-streaked, this time for different reasons. A few months before, she became a ninja of Konohagakure. She thought it would be the best way to get close to Sasuke. He would admire her skill and brains and ask her to be his girlfriend. The best day of her life, she felt, was being put on his ninja team. Of course, she was put on the team with Uzumaki Naruto, the loudmouth prankster of the class. He was just a waste of space, she thought then, and would get in the way of her "romance". But all Sasuke did was ignore and belittle her. He paid more attention to competing with Naruto than to her, and used her knowledge in that competition. Then he got the curse mark from Orochimaru during the Chuunin exams and things got worse. During the battle with Sabaku no Gaara, Naruto showed he seemed to have more power than Sasuke, in spite of his new jutsu, the Chidori and his Sharingan bloodline. Added to that was anger over an incident involving his brother which occurred soon after this battle. He challenged Naruto to a fight, which was stopped by their sensei, Hatake Kakashi. All she wanted was his love, but he seems to feel nothing but the desire for power. This revelation is shaking her to her core. This is what she gave a friendship up over? She looks now in the mirror, her face still tear-streaked but she has come to a decision: She is going to tell Naruto about the curse mark. This way, he will understand and maybe, just maybe help her get through to Sasuke. Although she doesn't realize it yet, doubts have crept in about the identity of her hero from so long ago.
It is now Sakura's fourteenth birthday and she is preparing for another day of training with the new Godaime Hokage, Tsunade. She ties her headband on in front of the mirror, reflecting on the past few months. She did tell Naruto about the curse mark Sasuke had, but it was too late. Sasuke had decided to leave the village with the Sound Four, who came to recruit him under Orochimaru's orders. She tried to stop him, pouring her heart out to them, but he just knocked her out and left her on a bench. Naruto was assigned to the team sent to bring him back, but it failed. Two of the team members were admitted to the hospital in serious condition. A third was added when Naruto returned on their sensei's back. At first, Sakura was devastated to learn that Sasuke had used that Chidori on him, putting a hole in his chest. She cried over it for a while, feeling she had been weak and helpless to stop Sasuke's leaving. Then tears gave way to anger. The boy she cared about had attacked a friend because she had been too weak to stop him. Sakura made a decision, in part because Naruto had made a similar decision, and left with a new sensei in order to become strong enough to bring Sasuke as he had promised her he would. She went to Tsunade and asked to become her apprentice. Tsunade did, although she made it clear she would not go easy on her, and Tsunade hasn't. Sakura is sore and exhausted each day from not only the sparring sessions, but the medical lessons as well. Sakura gives a grim smile as she finishes tying the headband and goes out to her daily practice. As long as she can stop Sasuke, she thinks, it is well worth it.
A hardened face of a seventeen year-old young woman is looking in a mirror as she prepares for her mission. After Naruto had returned from his training several months before, they began going on missions together, starting with the mission to rescue Gaara from the Akatsuki. During that mission, she learned of the burden Naruto carried, the Kyuubi no Kitsune. She also learned that he would die should the Kyuubi be removed from him. She has developed a new respect for her teammate, and some new feelings as well, although she has no time to examine them. Since then, each mission they have gone on has brought them face to face with death or pain. She feels much older than seventeen. Sakura looks at the clock. It is time to go on the next mission to retrieve Sasuke. It is no longer called a rescue mission, as he doesn't feel he needs rescuing. She turns away from the mirror and walks out of the room.
At twenty, Sakura looks in her mirror for the last time in her room at her parents' house. The room is bare, as she is leaving today to live elsewhere. She thinks once more of all that has happened to her in her life: the tears, the smiles, and the pain. She now knows who her childhood hero was, and has learned the true value of friendship along with the meanings of pain and love. Sasuke died on their last mission at Naruto's hands. The council had finally grown weary of his actions against Konoha, and allowed the Hokage to give the order. Naruto had carried it out, though with great reluctance and regret. She had long ago reconciled with Ino who was now getting married and had asked Sakura to stand with her. She got up and turned to leave the room. At the door, she looked around one last time and then closed the door, leaving the mirror and the reflections of the past behind.