“Sakura-chan! It’s time to come in for lunch now!”
The noise filters in hazily through her ears. Something in her feels like she should be paying attention, but the words are so distant and she’s so warm and cozy…
“Sakura-chan? Did you fall asleep out here again?”
She shifts slightly, turning and feeling the soft cushion beneath her and the gentle caress of warm, humid air on her skin. Smooth branches stroke across her cheek. Without even looking, she knows that Suzume’s branches are draped over her protectively. She can feel Suzume’s heart beating alongside her own and it whispers of love and safety and contentment. Surely she’s fine to drift here for just a little while longer…
Soft footfalls approach and then silence as a hand gently shakes her shoulder.
“Sakura-chan, you need to wake up now. Honestly, napping on the ground again, you’ve gotten your pretty new dress all dirty.”
Sakura finally blinks her eyes open and squints into the brightness above her. Through the dappled sunlight let in by the branches above her, she can just make out her mother’s bright green eyes, narrowed in concern for her.
“Oh, sorry, I was just—” A wide yawn interrupts her words. “I was just keeping Suzume-chan company! She’s been so lonely ever since you moved Kei-kun and I didn’t want her to have to be out here all alone with nobody she knows around her! Who would she even have to talk to?” As she begins to feel more awake, Sakura pushes herself up off the grass and turns to face her mother. As she moves, strands of her petal pink hair run through the pointy leaves and branches of the tree behind her. Not a single strand is so much as tugged.
“I’m sure she’ll make friends with the others really soon since she’s so nice and always looks so pretty but until she does I just wanted to make sure that—”
“That was very nice of you, honey,” Sakura’s mother interrupts with an indulgent smile. “I’m glad you care about Suzume-chan so much but I think she’ll be alright without you for a little while now, okay? Let’s go inside and eat before the food gets cold.”
As she leaves the garden and moves to enter the house behind her mother, Sakura casts one last look back at Suzume. In her spot against the fence the maple tree stands tall and proud, red leaves rustling with a gentle breeze. She would look healthy to any casual onlooker, but Sakura has seen the way her branches have been hanging lower for the past few weeks. Suzume-chan might have more room to grow now that the space around her has been cleared, but she misses her brother tree. She would trade all her new freedom for the chance to be next to Kei-kun again, Sakura knows.
“Don’t worry, Suzume-chan,” she whispers. “Kei-kun isn’t too far away. One day you’ll both be big and strong and your roots will entwine again. Just wait and see.” It might just be her imagination, but Sakura thinks Suzume-chan’s branches perk just a bit higher at her words. It makes Sakura’s chest feel warm, and she closes her eyes to imagine lifting branches of her own in joyful reply.
If a Hyuuga had been passing at that moment with their Byakugan activated, they wouldn’t have missed Sakura’s casual display. They would have seen the way the chakra in her core began to churn and intensify and expand far beyond the limits of what a six-year old’s body should be able to contain. Even a shinobi without such a dōjutsu might have noticed the unusual chakra disruption and gone to investigate. She would have been discovered and monitored and cultivated—
And yet, on that day the only people who pass by are civilians. They see a cute little girl standing quietly in a garden and they smile, not noticing how their steps become a little lighter and their eyes shine a little brighter. A woman walking by with a heavy cough suddenly breathes a little easier and believes herself to be on the path to recovery.
When Sakura opens her eyes, her chakra returns abruptly to its dormant, resting state and she carries on into her house, oblivious.