M-chan: Hey everyone! Gods, aren't I terrible? I haven't updated in so long. I'm sorry! I'll try to start updating more in all my stories: This one, TAOBF, the movements, and the Masque. I'm also planning on cleaning up the first chapters as soon as I have the time. For now, enjoy this very, very, very, very, very late update!

"..." –Talking

Setsuna thinking
Sasuke thinking
Sakura thinking
Kakashi thinking

/.../ –Voice in Setsuna's head
-...- –Voice in Sasuke's head
//...// –Voice in Sakura's head
((...)) –Voice in Kakashi's head

Chapter 23

"You understand why this must never pass from you to another, Kakashi-sensei?" The jounin stared, mute, at Setsuna. Blue eyes turned to look back at Kakashi when there wasn't a response. "Kakashi-sensei?"

"Does the Hokage know?"

"He knows enough, a bit more than you. Not that much more. There are things that must be kept secret, Kakashi. Though they may not be secret for much longer…"

The silver haired jounin was silent for a moment. "If secrets be not secrets any longer, why don't you tell Sasuke about this?"



"No! I cannot! I refuse to tell that…that boy!" Setsuna bit her lip hard enough to draw blood as she tried to calm herself. A bead of blood slowly rolled down her chin as she continued speaking. "Please understand, Kakashi-sensei, I cannot tell him. Not yet at least."

"He would be relieved to hear this."

Sad blue eyes looked up at Kakashi. "Would he? I don't want him to know what happened. That's why I said what I did. There are so many things that have changed. I…there are things I have to do, Kakashi-sensei. Many, many thing before I can tell Sasuke, or anyone else."

Kakashi sighed, turning away from his student. "Well, in any case, you'd better get ready for the chunin exams." The sensei's one eye turned back to the girl. "I heard that it's going to be very…interesting."

Setsuna smirked once Kakashi had left. "You have no idea."

The days passed quickly, as did the first two parts of the chunin exam. Sasuke could barely comprehend what was going on around him. He had no one to talk to anymore. Setsuna was ignoring him. Kakashi was avoiding any conversation that had to do with Setsuna for some reason, and Sasuke needed to talk about what had happened between him and Setsuna. Neji was busy preparing for the exams—not that he talked to the boy much anyway. Gaara was training. Kokoro, while a very good listener, was a fox and couldn't give Sasuke any advice. And Sakura would have told him to give up Setsuna…well, he and Sakura never talked anyway so there was no real loss there.

All this, however, did not explain what he was doing now. He was standing over a bed and gazing at Setsuna with longing eyes. No…that wasn't right.

Gazing at Setsuna.

Gazing at the occupant.

Staring. No.

Glaring. Better.

He was standing over a bed and glaring at the occupant. There. Much better.

But it wasn't so much glaring as it was staring with softened eyes at the young girl he knew to be Setsuna. It was her room after all. And it wasn't gazing so much as a longing glowing in his eyes. And he did long for her, in a way he just couldn't describe.

And it hurt. A lot.

She wasn't speaking to him. She was intently avoiding any time that they might spend together--always coming in late and rarely found in the mornings. He had a niggling feeling that she wasn't sleeping as much as she should be, but she seemed fine. No fatigue showed in her face. Perhaps she was taking a nap when she was avoiding him.

But she was fine. Without him.

Sasuke sighed as Setsuna shifted in her sleep, blond hair spilt on the pillow, and a sad smile crossed his face.

But maybe this does explain everything…

The Chunin exam.

It was finally the day when the genin from various countries gathered to participate in the exam and, hopefully, proceed to the next level.

It was the day that would test Setsuna in many ways. Some she knew, such as her ability to camouflage herself, but others she didn't. And those were the most dangerous. The first of the latter came when the genin were gathering.

"Setsuna-sama!" Ino practically jumped Setsuna the moment she, Sakura and Sasuke entered the hall. Ever since that altercation with the Sky genin, Ino had been concentrating more on Setsuna than she had on Sasuke. It was a nice change for Sakura, who could get close to Sasuke without interruption, and Setsuna didn't mind the attention. In fact, the only person who cared about this was Sasuke, but he was pretending that he didn't. So the genin group plus one walked around to sit about in the same place; Sasuke with Sakura on one side and some other girl on the other, Setsuna with Ino and an empty seat.

"Ne, Sasuke-kun, there are so many people here, aren't there?"





Before Sasuke could reply with a noncommittal grunt, a kunai lodged itself in front of Sakura. The Uchiha raised on eyebrow as the pink-haired girl gasped. Well, that was one way of shutting her up. He turned to see who it was that had thrown the kunai. He wasn't sure if he was going to tell him/her off, or thank him/her, but at least looking at who it was would keep Sakura quiet for a bit longer. Unfortunately, what he saw when he turned around was enough to make him sick.

It didn't do that at first. At first, he merely saw a group of nins from Sky and Cliff standing on the steps, trying to find a seat in the large hall. The one who appeared to have thrown it was a Sky jounin. His eyes were black, like Sasuke's, but his hair was an irritating sunny blond. Like the blond hair that graced Setsuna's head.

"Don't do that again or I won't aim to miss."

Sasuke tilted his head, knowing that he was speaking to the twitching and foaming Sakura behind him. "Who are you?"

The jounin raised an eyebrow, but didn't say a word. He didn't have to; Setsuna had stood up and approached him cautiously. Her eyes were glowing with a faint hope, though it held hesitation in it. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came. She swallowed hard, staring at the jounin.


Sasuke stared as Setsuna swallowed once more before words finally worked their way out.


Aaaaaand...done! Hopefully the next one won't take as long.