Naaaarutooooo!

Sasukeeeeeeee!

NAARUUUTOOOO!

SASSSUKKEEEEE!

Anyways, without further ado, chapter time.


Chapter 67: A Much Needed Talk


Returning to the Leaf was something of a relief for Naruto, who'd been in two life-or-death scenario's only around half a week ago.

That wasn't to say the Leaf would prevent that, he'd had just as many of those encounters here in his home, but at the very least, he'd probably have a hell of a lot more allies around him if it came down to it.

Their trip back from the Waterfall had been entirely uneventful, and they trusted the entire country of the Waterfall to be able to keep Fu safe, even if, really, he found himself wanting to protect her himself.

She was younger than him by a year or two, and only a Genin at that. He'd never really had older brother feelings towards anyone in his life, bar maybe Sasuke when the boy had been really struggling with his families deaths, but he was pretty sure these were them. He wanted to watch out for Fu, prevent her from coming to harm, because apparently every member of the Akatsuki was going to try and kill her at least once.

It also probably helped that they both had tailed beasts. She reminded him of himself, in a way. It wasn't a bad feeling, either. He felt he wouldn't mind seeing her again.

Maybe he could visit?

Wait, would that be weird? Coming in all "Hi, I was thinking I could be something of a surrogate older brother figure for you"…

Yeah, that was definitely weird.

He sighed as they made their way up to the Hokage's office, putting his fellow Jinchuuriki out of his mind as he and the rest of Team 7 prepared to give their report. It wasn't like she wouldn't have already heard it all from the other teams, and hell, she'd likely received a status report before they'd even left the Sand Village indicating what happened, but still, it was their duty to go ahead with this.

He pushed open the door, waved hello to Shizune, who gave a small wave back, and then to Tonton, the woman's pig, who… also waved back?

He didn't question Tonton. No one did.

Sakura and Sasuke filed in behind him, the latter closing the door.

"Team 7." Tsunade was apparently going for the official angle, which, honestly, after the week they'd had, was a bit exhaustive. "Your report?"

They gave a lengthy summary of the events.

"Hmm…" Tsunade rubbed her chin. "You all did well. At the very least, your report matches up with what we've been hearing from the others." She smiled up at the three of them. "Most sung your praises rather unabashedly."

He blushed at that, even if he got a not-so-subtle amount of joy from the praise.

"So, all that said and done," The woman planted her elbows on the table in a loud way, shocking them all into taking a step back from the table. "You had a suspicion that the Akatsuki would attack the Seven-Tails a second time… and instead of telling anyone, even the people who'd be attacked themselves, you followed them alone, without any backup, support, or reinforcements?"

Naruto cringed slightly.

"Yes?"

Tsunade let out a horrid groan.

"Team 7, I think it's no exaggeration to say that you're both my favorite and least favorite people to deal with." Tsunade glared at them all, a look which they could only return with embarrassment.

With the exception of Sakura, she just looked bored.

"With that being said… it can't be denied you succeeded in your mission." Tsunade seemed almost unwilling to be giving them that credit, more than likely not wanting to reward them for such reckless behavior. "You killed a member of the Akatsuki, Hidan, and chased off another, Kakazu. Not to mention, you strengthened our ties with the Waterfall by protecting their Jinchuuriki, and effectively earned a favor from them that we, the Leaf, can cash in at any time."

She sighed again.

"Well done." She spoke like she was pulling teeth. "Now please don't do something that stupid again."

Naruto bowed. "We make no promises."

Tsunade pushed three folders across the desk as she let out another exasperated breath, giving them a second to reach out and take them.

"What're these?" Sasuke asked, looking up at the Hokage.

It was Shizune who answered, stepping past and gesturing for them to open them. They did, and Naruto's eyes widened as he read the first few lines.

"Promotions to Jonin!?"

"Preliminary!" Tsunade corrected, groaning as she turned her head up towards Shizune, who was now standing just to her left, on that side of her desk. "Honestly, I still think it's too soon."

"That's why we're doing a trial period, Lady Tsunade." The Hokage's aid smiled over at her, giggling quietly as the woman rolled her eyes. "Yes, these're documents that authorize you to take on missions of B difficulty on your own, and A difficulty with a team of experienced ninja behind you. You'll effectively be Jonin, but this is a good way to test whether or not you're ready for that kind of authority."

Naruto could only nod dumbly.

"Doesn't this seem…" Sakura shook her head. "I don't know… quick? We've only been Chuunin two years."

"And Kakashi was a Jonin when he was twelve. Things don't always have to line up exactly as forecast." Tsunade smirked. "He had a lot more raw skill than the three of you, but you've got the potential to go further. Everyone can see that, and that's why we're not afraid to invest in you all like this."

Sasuke seemed… not against it, but uncertain himself.

"Sakura and I are still training. Her with her Wood Style, and reigning in the properties of her Curse mark," he held a hand out to her, and she nodded, before he gestured to himself. "And I'm still trying to master Kenjutsu, and the art of healing."

"Once again, preliminary promotion." Tsunade pointed out, quite literally pointing to the top of each of their sheets, where 'preliminary promotion' was written in bold. "Not permanent, or even confirmed. If you blow it, I will personally see you're kept as Chuunin until you grow into the positions."

Naruto bristled slightly at the woman's words, though not in a bad way. It was telling, what she'd said about them. Not that "they'd be kept as Chuunin" but that they'd "be kept as Chuunin until they grew into the positions".

She had full faith they would grow into Jonin. That wasn't in doubt. The only thing being questioned was whether or not they were ready for it now.

And that felt…

That felt amazing.

Having the implicit faith of the Hokage herself… Naruto couldn't help feeling just the smallest bit giddy.

"I guess I'll talk with Anko and Tenzo about speeding up my training." Sakura placed the form down and signed it with a pen Tsunade had given the three of them to share. "Not a secret I've wanted to increase our pace, and now, well, I've got a good excuse."

"I… guess I'll do the same with Kakashi and Hayate." Sasuke murmured quietly, before his eyes narrowed. "Oh, and Yugao will be there too. Great."

Naruto snorted, even as he realized he didn't have a training partner to buff up with at the moment.

"Maybe I'll see what Hinata and the others are up to." He wondered aloud. "Oh, right, granny," he turned to see Tsunade's less than pleased 'go on' expression. "Did Team Guy get Chuunin?"

"Naruto, I finished writing their promotion forms before they left for the Sand Village."

"Yeah, that sounds about right." He muttered. "Guess I'll see if they want to hang out, too."

He talked with the rest of the group as they made their way out of the Hokage's office. Shizune had given them a fairly bland rundown of their new authority, and the duties that'd come along with it, but really, they weren't that concerned. Naruto hadn't ever pulled rank on anybody, with the exception of his friends (purely for humorous purposes, and definitely not to get them to pay for meals), and he suspected Sakura and Sasuke were much the same in that regard.

Still, with all of this talk of Jonin, and of the other two strengthening themselves faster, he was going to be left behind if he only trained with his friends, as good as they were.

…Maybe I should have a talk with Jiraiya.

/-/

What the hell am I doing?

Kabuto had asked himself that a couple of times now, actually.

He had fair reason to, to be fair to himself. Here he was, currently stalking his way through the underbelly of one of the Akatsuki's main strongholds, trying to remain undetected so that he could have the conversation he needed to have without any interference.

Of course, that also meant interference wouldn't be coming to save him, either.

Which was a worrying prospect when one was likely walking to their death.

He pushed up on the grate above him, and stepped out of it into a separate room, just off of one of the many hallways. He hadn't wanted to be found traversing them, the main hallways, that was, for it wouldn't be very difficult to trace him along one, and this meeting needed to be secret.

He hoped that wouldn't bite him in the ass come a few minutes from now.

He stepped into the adjacent room, and came face to face with a person who had, clearly, not expected to see him.

Itachi Uchiha wasn't surprised; Kabuto imagined his face wasn't quite capable of that emotion, but he also didn't look like he'd seen this coming, which was both good and bad.

Good, because it meant that, since Itachi wasn't killing him right now, he probably wouldn't until he'd heard him out, and bad, because he'd sort of held onto hope that Itachi, through some prodigious ability to read minds, would already know why he was here so he wouldn't have to say it.

No such luck.

"Kabuto." Itachi opened. "Good to see you."

It was a lie, and they both knew it, but that was fine. It didn't particularly matter, and the small talk gave him a few moments to think.

"Itachi," He nodded at the man, choosing to take a seat directly opposite him. "Good to see you as well."

They sat at a table that would sit around four. There were a couple in the kitchens just like it, but this room was more for relaxation, or, in the terms of the people of the Akatsuki, about evilly brooding in silence. He didn't judge, Orochimaru had possessed a brooding room of his own.

He'd gone on occasion. Honestly, it was quite good for the skin.

Still, he felt like he might as well come out and say what he'd come here to say. The problem, really, was how to say it without being trapped in a Genjutsu and executed silently, before having his body burned to cinders.

Well, one of those things had probably already happened. He'd felt a small pulse the moment he'd entered, and, if he were right, he was already within a fairly simple Genjutsu, one which froze his movements in the real world, but let him keep talking. It'd prevent him from attacking Itachi, but it also wouldn't sell the boy out if Kabuto were really only planning on talking.

He could appreciate the man's paranoia, given that he'd slaughtered two members of the Akatsuki within the last week, and was predictably wary about someone having figured that out.

So, he couldn't open with the fact that he knew, that'd be a fast way to get himself killed without Itachi listening to a word he had to say.

"You seem tense, Kabuto."

That was… not what he wanted to hear. He looked up into Itachi's face and saw the man staring at him not with curiosity, but with suspicion.

That was bad.

Quite bad, in fact.

"Ah, no, I'm fine, Itachi, though I appreciate your concern." He didn't quite sound fake, but with the man opposite him likely having activated his Sharingan in the real world, he'd be able to see through his weak façade.

With the way Itachi tensed slightly, he realized with a small grain of fear that in the real world, he was likely preparing himself for combat.

Welp, there went the whole 'ease the man into it' thing he'd been going for.

Time to sink or swim.

"I saw you kill Kakazu."

Even the illusory Itachi stiffened. He remained still, but Kabuto knew he had seconds in the real world, if that, before the man killed him.

"I know you were responsible for Hidan's death as well. You're trying to destroy the Akatsuki from the inside." He felt a small pain on his left breast, likely a kunai poised to break into his chest. "And I want to help you do it."

The pain in his chest stopped, and he couldn't quite contain the small breath that came out of him.

He'd survived the initial assault. Now, the long game had begun.

"Why?"

A rather simply opening question, one which he had a rather simple answer to.

"Because I don't agree with the Akatsuki's methods. Because I find myself, day in and day out, questioning who I am, and what I want out of my life." He sighed, letting out a small bit of emotion and hoping Itachi would latch onto it, empathize with it. "It is not this. That, at least, I've decided."

"And you'd throw your lot in with me?" Itachi leaned back in his chair. Now, at the very least, he was no longer giving off that same cold, calculating expression he'd had before.

This one was far more overt in its desire to kill him.

"I'd been looking for a way out for a while." Kabuto admitted. "Then all of a sudden, I catch you murdering Kakazu in broad daylight without batting an eye, and I see an opportunity. Can you blame me for taking it?"

"No…" Itachi eyed him warily. "I cannot."

Itachi didn't trust him, and he'd be a fool to do so. This was more of an eighty-twenty scenario, where eighty percent of the time, Kabuto was a spy sent by Pain. He wasn't worth anything to the organization, and if they had their suspicions about Itachi being the one who'd killed Kakazu, which, to be fair, was unlikely given that Kabuto didn't think they even knew the man was dead yet, then they could've simply told him to go and say all of this to Itachi, in the hopes of getting on the man's side.

Then, a simple double-cross later on, and Itachi was at a disadvantage.

Or, with the Akatsuki in the know, more than likely dead.

And Itachi knew all of that.

And what did he even gain out of the twenty-percent option; what did he gain from having an ally in Kabuto?

He'd have to present something worthwhile, something that would be worth keeping him around…

And he had nothing.

Except for one, tiny thing.

It was a guess, actually. Just a theory he'd gained from observing the man over the years.

But it would, perhaps, be enough.

"Your eyes…" He looked up at Itachi's face, made direct eye-contact, and saw as the man squinted ever so slightly. "The sight within them is gradually fading, isn't it?"

Itachi's eyes widened, even as they narrowed a moment later.

"Not to mention you're sick, terribly so." Kabuto continued, knowing this was the make or break moment. "You'll die within a year or two without treatment. I am a medical ninja, one not bound by the rules and laws of the Five Main Villages. I have knowledge known only to those like Orochimaru, knowledge I could use to prolong your life, and your sight, long enough to keep your brother safe."

That was the last bit of information he'd acquired. A tiny, almost asinine detail that nearly everyone else had missed. But there was a common thread in almost all of Itachi's recent missions, and one he'd barely picked up on.

Itachi arrived at a location, captured someone, fought his brother, and was chased off. Itachi arrived at a location, he and the rest of the Akatsuki surrounded the location, forming a net that would catch even the most seasoned of ninja.

Somehow, despite impossible odds, his brother was able to escape.

Even most recently, Itachi arrived at a location, captured someone, fought his brother, and was chased off.

The pattern held for every single one of his missions that involved Sasuke, and even his earliest 'mission' if one wanted to call it that, assassinating every member of his clan, had left his brother out of it.

He cared for him more than he cared to or was willing to admit.

Or, perhaps, he simply cared for the boy… but did so from the shadows.

The latter was more likely, considering that two Jinchuuriki had managed to slip underneath the man's grasp, even with Kisame as back-up. They'd lost to, what, a few Jonin and three Chuunin? Even if the latter trio were a rather annoying set, Itachi should've been able to beat them all with his hands tied behind his back.

That he'd been unable to wouldn't have made sense to anyone else…

Except for the fact that Kabuto was the same way.

He couldn't bring himself to let that mother and son die back at the Sound Village. He'd fought Sasori for gods sakes, nearly died, and for what, two civilians? It made no sense, and yet, at the same time, some things simply couldn't be explained logically.

They both had a soft spot, himself for his mother…

And Itachi for his brother.

He looked up at Itachi, and watched as a tiny, almost absent smile appeared on the man's face.

"You've done your research."

"I have." He let himself smile, even as his heart began to slow down from the mile a minute it'd been beating at previously. "You think I'd have approached you without having a fool-proof plan, at the very least?"

Itachi actually let out a small chuckle, shaking his head all the while.

"I notice you said 'prolong' earlier." He looked up. "I take it that means you assume I won't last very long even with your help?"

He nodded, shrugging.

"It's not as if it's impossible I'll suddenly discover a cure for your disease… but its been around since the time of the warring states. It's very likely the same disease that took the First Hokage's life, if the descriptions of it from that time are accurate. If even he was killed by it… well…"

Itachi simply smirked.

"Then you imagine I, as someone without a god-like power of regeneration, probably don't stand much of a chance?"

"Yes."

Itachi nodded, completely calm about the entire thing.

"I don't intend to die, though I don't exactly have much say in the matter." Itachi looked up at him, before letting out a small sigh. "Alright, Kabuto. You'll lend me your medical expertise…"

"And we'll dismantle the Akatsuki, together." He finished.

Itachi nodded, and the illusion that'd been hanging over him for the last ten minutes faded away.

He'd survived.

"I take it you figured out I'd placed you in a Genjutsu?"

"Not terribly difficult to do so when you did the same thing to Kakazu." He admitted. "So… allies?"

Itachi nodded.

"Against all odds… I think that will work nicely."

It was a shame, then, that neither of them saw the small, black shape on the ceiling, or watched as it smiled widely, before disappearing back into the rock.

/-/

Ino sat quietly, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm her raging nerves. The bed beneath her creaked ever so slightly as she shifted atop it, and she looked up as Haku walked back out of the bathroom, smiling at her softly.

He sat across from her in a chair he'd pulled up, looking, much like her, like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world right now.

But this was important. This was necessary.

…She just had no idea how to start.

"So…" Haku muttered, clearly having similar problems. "We… need to talk."

"Yeah." She answered him with a curt nod. "We do."

Silence reigned for another twenty or so seconds, during which time, she was drawn to certain parts of Haku's room.

This place had grown to be a space she'd have called home as well in the last two years. She hadn't quite lived here, but she'd been here often enough, drifting in and out in an effort to check up on Haku every once and a while.

Every once and a while, of course, meaning more along the lines of every couple of hours. Seeing him about to take his own life had been… shocking, to say the least. She'd not been able to risk leaving him alone for more than a day at a time, even having one of her friends check up on him whenever she was away on missions, something that'd been happening less and less recently.

She'd simply stopped taking them altogether, too scared, too afraid of what he might do on his own.

She'd set herself up a few spots in the room. Near the back was a mirror she used when applying make-up, and a few boxes scattered across the space held clothes, jewelry, and a variety of other items she liked to doll herself up with. Hell, she had an entire space on Haku's sink reserved for her.

It painted an… interesting picture. That even here, in Haku's home, she had been in the midst of taking it over.

She sighed, looking up at Haku, who was staring down at the ground, and realized she probably just needed to come out and say what they both knew.

"I think…" She swallowed on some spittle in her mouth. "This doesn't work."

Haku met her gaze for the first time in a little while, a bit of sadness hanging within his brown orbs. Despite that, he nodded, evidently agreeing.

"At the very least… what we currently have doesn't work… but I also don't think…" He trailed off, but Ino caught the meaning.

He didn't really want to try again, either.

She felt much the same.

This entire experience… she didn't want to relive it. She didn't want to have it hanging in the back of her head every time she wanted to hang out with Haku or break them apart whenever they were close.

No, it was better for the both of them that they put this behind them, burned this bridge and used the cinders as fuel for future endeavors.

But…

It hurts.

That couldn't stop her, though. All this time, the thought that she might be alone had been what'd stopped her from doing what was right. It wouldn't break her here, at the finish line. She'd complete her mission, whether or not she wanted to.

Because that was what was fair to Haku.

"I'm sorry." She watched with some surprise as his eyes widened immensely, and he sat up, fully paying attention to her. "I took advantage of you for two years. I treated you like garbage, and walked all over you, and let you trail behind me. I didn't let you make friends, or do anything without me… or…"

A warm hand settled atop her own, and she looked up at Haku's small, sad smile with a trepidation that betrayed her fear.

She was scared of being rebuked, or, more accurately, of being told everything she'd just said was right.

And yet, even so…

"No. It's not entirely your fault." Haku shook his head. "I never tried to change anything. I never tried to make you treat me better, and I never tried to make friends outside of you. I let you be my shield… an aegis against the darkness inside me, but eventually, I needed to face it without you, without anyone, and-"

"No."

He seemed shocked she'd interrupted, but she needed to say her piece. She wouldn't let Haku blame himself for this, she refused.

"Ino?"

"No, you're not at fault." She shook her head this time. "You were emotionally vulnerable, and I took advantage of that. I took advantage of everything you just said to keep you exactly as you were. I didn't let you change out of the fear that when you did, you'd leave me behind like-"

"Like everyone else?"

It was her turn to be shut up.

Haku looked into her eyes as he squeezed her hand, smiling supportively.

"Ino, I could see why you did what you did. You were terrified. I didn't blame you for it, I blamed myself for not being strong enough to help fix the both of us." He let out a tiny laugh. "We were both half-broken people, trying to make two people out of two halves. Eventually, we had to realize that we needed to recomplete ourselves first before either of us could go on… and now we have realized that."

She shook her head, wanting to correct him once more, wanting to step in and take all of the blame…

But she stopped herself.

Clearly, the both of them were too emotionally invested in this to accept that, perhaps, they'd both made some errors here and there.

…Even if she was fairly sure hers were the worse of the two of them.

"So… what now?" She asked him, letting him take the lead in this. "What do you want to do?"

"I'm not sure." Haku admitted, leaning forward ever-so-slightly. "But… I think for right now… we should go our separate ways."

She could agree with that, nodding.

"Then… tomorrow, I'll come back and move my stuff out?" She delayed the action just the smallest bit. "I think… for tonight, we both kind of…"

Haku nodded, seeing what she meant. She could see tears threatening to break from the corners of his eyes. It was… a hard thing to watch. It was even harder to know that the moment she left, he'd likely cry and cry until he fell asleep…

Whereas she only felt… cold.

Neither of them had said anything, really. She'd been unable to admit that they'd broken up, Haku had been unable to admit he'd wanted her to leave, and she'd been unable to admit what they both now needed.

It was… an all so taxing feeling.

She bid him farewell and exited the apartment. On her way back to her family's place, she found herself oddly numb to it all. She'd expected sobbing, prepared herself mentally for the inevitable breakdown, and yet…

Now, here she was… and she hadn't let out a single tear…

Perhaps she was heartless after all?

/-/

Haku wasn't in his apartment when she arrived to get her things, which was a welcome absence, given that she wasn't sure she could've faced him yet. Even if that made her feel weak, it was the truth.

And she was trying to be more honest with herself.

She still hadn't cried since last night. Breaking up with Haku… it'd felt like a big thing, but it was possible that it still hadn't caught up with her yet.

The moving went slowly, grabbing boxes and all sorts of accessories and placing them on a trolley in the lobby she'd rolled in from outside. Apparently, the proprietor had seen his fair share of couples break up and move out, so he'd had the moving equipment ready.

She appreciated that, even if it were another small wound on her heart seeing how easily he'd realized what she was there for.

It felt oddly… pedestrian to do something like this. She was no blazing warrior here, no Kunoichi who could've fought off ten men twice her size…

Just a young girl breaking up with her boyfriend, moving her things out of his apartment and trying to lift a ridiculously heavy box onto this stupid trolly that had one bad wheel that kept turning against her that was slowly driving her insane

She would've laughed at her situation, likely would laugh about it in a few years time, but for now… she just didn't have the energy for it.

She had nearly finished, and so she made her way back up to Haku's room for the last few things. She decided to do one last sweep of the area, taking stock of anything she might've missed. Idly, as she was finishing up, she realized she might've stored something underneath the bed, and even if she could distinctly remember not putting anything under there… well, it was probably better just to check.

Her eyes widened as they saw something she hadn't been expecting.

A tiny, neatly creased piece of paper.

She reached out to it, but her hand stopped halfway.

She knew what this was. She'd seen it before.

It was Haku's suicide note.

Her hand trembled mid-flight, and yet, even still, she reached out and took the accursed parchment. She pulled back slowly, almost wishing it wouldn't make it to her. Unfortunately, the distance wasn't any more than two or three feet, it took barely three seconds for her to be holding the thing right in front of her, laid on the ground.

She handled it like a paper bomb, unwrapping the edges slowly and carefully, as if not to disturb it.

She questioned, briefly, if she should even be able to read such a thing. He'd evidently left it to be read, but even still… that was different… right?

She opened it anyways.

The writing was scrawled in such a way that suggested it'd been written in a hurry, which didn't really surprise her. Her eyes hovered on the first word, before she forced them further, along the winding sentences.

'First of all, I'd like to apologize for this cowardly exit, but I fear I am not strong enough to go on.

Zabuza was the only person in my life who gave me meaning, who gave me purpose. I do not know what to do if he is gone.

Instead, I intend to follow him. I am sure he would not want this of me, but I hope when I see him he will forgive me.

To whomever finds this note, I would like a few notices to be carried to members of the Leaf Village.

First, to the Hokage. Thank her for allowing Zabuza and I to stay in this village, even when it seemed we might be removed from it when the Third Hokage was killed.

Secondly, to Kakashi Hatake for inviting us to come to the Leaf. My memories here were some of my happiest.

And lastly, to Ino Yamanaka. I never told her…'

A wet splotch impacted the paper, before another followed suit a moment or so later. It took her a second to even realize she was crying, and by the time she did, the final line, covered with splotches, was almost unreadable.

She remembered it, though.

'…But I always thought she was pretty.'

"You idiot…" She whispered under her breath, her eyes leaking as a gasp escaped her lips. "You stupid… precious… idiot…"

She fell to the floor, a rasping, horrid string of hiccuping sobs pouring out of her. She screamed and cried and let out everything she'd been holding in for the better part of two entire years, until she'd been entirely spent. She felt both ashen and dead… and more alive then ever before. Like… like she could start moving forward again.

Finally, it seemed her heart had returned.

She smiled as she took the note, and, reaching into a nearby box, produced a lighter. She set the small parchment ablaze and set it on the floor before her, and then… she simply watched.

Watched as it wither away, watched as it turned to nothing on the floor, like a tiny birthday candle lit only for herself. The last vestiges of the reliant Haku, who'd been burdened by escaping the pain of his past, went with it. As the flame died out, she was left, once more, with only the calm midday sunlight streaming in through Haku's lone window.

And then, just like that, it hit her.

It was over.

It hurt more than she cared to admit, even if, as she took the last of her things, and made her way to the door, she couldn't resist one final look at the space. Everything about it screamed Haku, from its simplistic functionality, to the small little bits of character. It gave off an icy feeling, but if one only looked deeper…

They'd find something truly special.

GoodbyeHaku.

And she closed the door behind her.

End Chapter 67


And the Haku/Ino Arc comes to a close!

I'm happy with this one, actually. I don't think its going to win an emmy or anything, but I'm rather satisfied.

In other news... There's no other news. I have nothing.

Uh... End of this arc next chapter, and the start of the next one in the one after that? I'm trying to end this story within three arcs, so... hopefully within 30 chapters? That's my goal, it'll probably be extended somewhat, but who knows.

Anyways, see you all next week!