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the sky of the sky of a tree called life

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“What am I?” Sakura asks, laying soft grass, the day is still young, the sun is barely peeking over the mountain ridge. Beside her, Kurenai sits with her legs crossed. She’s picking at the grass, even though she knows not to.

“A miracle,” Kurenai says, she’s good at avoiding questions, Sakura notes with frustration.

“But what does that mean ?” Sakura asks because she’s never been given a real answer, not by Kurenai or anyone else, and Kurenai’s lips press together, they do that when she wants to say something she’s not supposed to talk about.

“It doesn’t matter what you are,” she says, finally, “only who you become.” Sakura accepts that for now, but she’s so tired of the non-answers and unsubtle whispers behind her back - she just wants to know where she comes from, is that too much to ask? Because everyone around her seems to think it is.

Sakura scoffs as she looks up at Kurenai, black haired with red eyes, so different from Sakura’s own pink hair and green eyes. “Sakura…” she sighs, “Hiruzen doesn’t think you’re ready, but Asuma and I do so you’ll have to keep it a secret.” There’s a secretive smile on Kurenai’s face and Sakura can’t help but smile back.

Kurenai stands, holding her hands out for Sakura to grab, which she does. Kurenai grasps her hands tightly, “Feel the world around you. The ground beneath your feet. The air around you. Feel it all.”

Sakura enhales, tasting the air and the sweet pine scented wind. “I feel it,” Sakura smiles, elated.

“No. No, you don’t,” Kurenai says softly, letting her hands slip away from Sakura’s. “The truth is that you taken, as a child. You were meant to replace a fae child who was stolen away by humans. Your powers are from a fae deal, you will never be one of us.”


Sakura is but a babe when the gift manifests (it’s a pretty thing then, growing the flowers of her namesake, it’s enchanting enough to think it’s not a curse). Plants grow around her as she giggles, as she sings, as she screams .

After her gift manifests, the Fae call her the child of the rightful Queen (Tsunade, a name that haunted Sakura her entire life). They watch her with reproachful eyes, searching for things that will never be there.

(Childhoods are supposed to be sweet and behind the whispers, Sakura’s was.)


Fae blood is milk white, the color of purity, Kurenai says. Sakura’s blood is red, the color of death. It is a secret, only three people know the truth. (The Fae wear red at funerals, as rare as funerals are. Sakura is a disgrace.)

When Sakura first sees her blood well up red, she cries. Not even Kurenai can console her (Sakura hates herself then). It makes sense now.

The Fae talk of humans with scorn, they think of them as less (as monstrous). Sakura doesn’t cry when she finds out she is human, but inside a piece of her is shredded.

(Her soul is incomplete, as are most humans raised as faeries. They are both the Queensguard and prisoners of the Realm. Sakura is broken.)


“Kurenai says I was taken because a Fae child was taken by humans,” Sakura tells Anko as she settles into her new quarters (as a human, she now belongs to the ANBU unit). She smooths out her bedspread as she talks to her new roommate, just to be distracted.

“That’s how it usually is these days,” Anko says as she picks at her teeth, “Fae children keep disappearing, but the child must have been really special to be replace. The Court can’t afford to take too many.”

The Court, right. Sakura was raised by the Court but sometimes she forgets that since her childhood was so normal . Sakura was raised by High Lady Kurenai, betrothed to Asuma, son of Hiruzen who is ruling in the stead of Tsunade. Her circumstances are quite odd when taken into account.

The true Queen has been missing for centuries, but everyone knows she lives. All the Court can hope is that she hasn’t been captured in Unseelie territory. (Sakura prays for her Queen’s health, sometimes, when she can be alone.)

“Then how did you get here, Anko?” Sakura asks, even though she knows she shouldn’t.

“I’m one of the few humans who still has magic. Orochimaru noticed.” Anko doesn’t quite stiffen, but her body is tenser than before.

Everyone knows who Orochimaru is. Some speculate it is fault the Queen disappear, others think he was simply born into the wrong court. (He defected to the Unseelie Court, he can no longer be prosecuted even if the Queen’s disappearance is his fault.)

Sakura tries not to ask Anko personal questions after that.


 

Hiruzen is killed in a raid (nobody knows who killed him, just that it is the Unseelie Court’s fault), and the Realm has no ruler. Once again, Sakura prays to the Higher One for her Queen’s return.

Hiruzen’s death causes a power vacuum and some call for Asuma to take his place, but Asuma is no leader, and some vie for the throne with power that is not theirs (Sakura’s job is to protect the throne, but what if the throne has no one to sit in it?).

Anko solves the problem as she sits on the steps of the throne, as mobs storm the castle. “We recognize no king nor queen who wins the throne with bloodshed!” She snarls at the High Lords and High Ladies who carry borrow swords. “Only our true Queen, Tsunade can win this throne!”

Sakura is secretly relieved when the mob subsides (she will never tell Anko, she can’t afford to be seen as weak) and loosens her grip on her spear. When the room is clear, “Do you think our Queen Tsunade will come home of her own will?”

“No,” Anko says bluntly, “you’ll have to make her.”

“Me?” Sakura squeaks, nothing this important has been entrusted to her.

“Yeah,” Anko says, simply. “I can’t go and I don’t trust the others, it has to be you.”


Sakura sneaks away that night, to the entrance of the human world with a bag packed with forbidden things. (Rowan, vervain, and witch hazel. A jar of salt. An iron knife. She’d be execute if a Faerie found her with these, but she has to take them, just in case.)

The human world is cold, far colder than the Faerie world will ever be so she dresses warmly. When she steps through to the human world, Sakura feels as though she’s been dunked in a tub full of ice water.

The lights in this world are bright, brighter than any she’s ever seen. It hurts her eyes to even look, but Sakura must find her Queen and nothing will stop her so she sets off in this strange world, watching for anything strange.