Disclaimer: The Naruto characters are not mine.
Cycles in Life - Chapter 2
"Lee-san, I am here."
She stared at the dark stone memorial in front of her and traced his name sentimentally. The stone did not reply. Of course there was no reply. Yet, she found herself obligated to explain herself all the same, "I could not sleep so I came."
She gave up after two hours watching the moon on her bed. Instead, she dressed herself and walked out of her large house, slamming the heavy wooden door in the process. Once upon a time she would have taken more care, worried that she would wake her parents from their shallow sleep, but after becoming its sole occupant, that was no longer a concern.
She caught a glimpse of the house as she turned to close the wooden gate in the front. She could not help but notice, with some pain, how disconsolate her home looked under the dim light. The grass obviously needed some cutting, but that was not it, she decided. It was the cheery trees, the favourite kind of trees in her family, planted all around her home. Or to be more precise, it was the forbidding shadows they cast. With dried leaves hanging on the barren branches threatening the join the rest on the ground below, their shadows resembled odd claws, trying to devoir everything into darkness. Autumn was never a good season for cheery trees.
She supposed, everything had its own time.
It dawned on her during her father's funeral that there was a large possibility she would become the last Haruno alive in Konoha, her father was dead, and aside from her grandfather, who died that following year, no one else held the last name Haruno in the village. At first she was angry at herself for not realizing something so blazingly obvious sooner.
Then it hit her - no one else noticed either.
It just seemed so natural. Everyone grew up with the knowledge that Haruno was once a powerful clan, but everyone also knew Haruno was no longer a considered a clan. They knew the family became smaller every generation; that its population had diminished from the two hundreds members to the less than a handful. They knew as the blood got thinner, the family became weaker, until pathetically, no one became more than a Chuunin for the last five generations. The death of such a 'clan' was like an old man dying of old age. It was not exciting. It was not special.
It was totally expected and because it was expected it was not tragic. Unfortunate is when a clan perish suddenly in its prime. Tragedies occur when a young person die before his time...
"The mission to the Cloud country was good, Lee-san. Negotiation was flawless, they agreed to our every term after a few fights. Naruto did most of the work of course, but you know how careless he is, there were a few times when I had to stop him from hurting himself..." she laughed softly at this but quickly faded into silence. Her eyes landed on the carved name, around her the only sound was the crickets.
Crickets... all she could hear that night were crickets. They had just finished attending a cerebration for their successful mission with the others. Ino left with Shikamaru and Naruto left with Hinata, leaving them awkwardly alone. Lee offered to walk her home. She did not decline because their homes were both at the same side of town and she thought he was a little too drunk to go home alone.
For some reason she tripped and would have fallen if Lee did not steady her. Yet, instead of letting her go when he was sure she was okay, he held on. Silently he gazed into her eyes before slowly leaning forward. His objective was quite obvious. He must have wanted to kiss her. If the thousands of invitations he gave her to dates told her anything, it was that he probably wanted to kiss her for a long time but never had the courage until that night when alcohol loosened his mind.
That night she ducked away from the kiss.
It was not that she disliked him, or she disliked the fact he was drunk. It was just pure instincts that built up through the years, but of course to Lee it as a serious rejection. The following month he did nothing except to avoid any contacts with her and she did not see him again until... until that fight.
If only she did not avoid that kiss that night. If only she had trained herself seriously enough to protect herself. If only she had been less selfish and cared more about what was around her. If only she ran faster that day when she heard her home was being attack... How different could her life be now?
She never did anything right.
She was so stupid back then.
An owl hooted.
She looked up into the sky where the crescent moon hanged in the clear sky. A crescent moon hanged in the sky the night when he left. In a few days he would be likely be awake again, and when that happen she imagine Sasuke -
Sasuke, the boy who betrayed the village, betrayed her, and who deserved neither her respect nor admiration; yet, he was the boy who she gave all her childhood attention. He had once again successfully found his way into her mind. Shame, guilt, frustration, and anger all mixed in one as she slammed her fist into the ground.
She was so stupid back then.
She was stupid still.
Lee, the boy who loved his village, loved her, and who gave her his life so that she may continue live. He was the boy who deserved all her respect and admiration; yet, he was the one who never gets any of her attention when he was alive: She owed everything to him.
The least she could do was think only of him in front of his grave.
Yet, she could not do even that.
He had always pride himself for being an early riser. Certainly the ability to wake up before six every morning without the use of an alarm clock must be considered a skill. This morning, he took long strides into the almost empty main street of Konoha. He walked without thinking of a destination, but like always his feet led him to the hero's memorial.
The hero's memorial was a rather popular place for ninjas, since being a ninja was a high risk occupation. Yet at a time when most ninjas were still in bed, Kakashi reasoned he would be the only one there as he often was. Not today, it seemed. He was surprised when he saw a woman standing in front of the memorial. From afar he could not see her clearly but her distinct pink hair gave her identity away. It was Sakura Haruno, a member of team seven, his team seven. A member of the first team he led, the only team he led.
She never mixes with death in his mind, although nowadays, they always seemed to be side by side in reality. Sakura was standing in front of the memorial again, and by the looks of it, this time she had stood there for the whole night. Kakashi sighed.
Everything started out so well, how did it come to this?
"Good morning, Kakashi-sensei," Sakura greeted nonchalantly without turning.
She was once a very warm person, when ever she greeted people she used to greet with an exaggerated wave and a bright smile. Of course he did not choose her as a member of his team just for that quality, but certainly it was one of the reasons. He could not say she became unfriendly; however, she only became more timid and somewhat more distant.
Kakashi walked toward Sakura, looking perfectly forward at the memorial, although all he really wanted to do was to scream at the girl for being a reminder of how much things had changed in the last five years. "You had been standing here the whole night hadn't you?"
"I could not sleep, so I came," she said evenly as her lips curled into a weak smile.
Kakashi shook his head. This was not the first time he saw the girl there at such an hour, she always come there the night after a mission. He respected her reason for coming there: Lee was a worthy precious person. Yet, no matter how hard he tried, he could not help but find the thought of Sakura endlessly lamenting over the past painful. "No one can change the past, you know."
He did not realize he spoke his thought until he sensed Sakura tensed beside him. He turned just in time to catch a glimpse of anguish flashed past her eyes before she closed her them, reclaiming her composure. When she spoke again her reply was calculated, "I am not trying to change the past."
"No you are not," Kakashi agreed with a wistful sigh, "You are only regretting."
She quietly turned toward him, her eyes drilled straight into his uncovered eye. "You don't understand."
Watching her darkened countenance, Kakashi wondered if it was right for him to bring up such topic. Perhaps he should have just talked about the weather, or maybe his morning, but as he said himself he could not change the past. The damage was already done and he realized there was nothing to do but to continue. "I came here every day I could in the last ten years, thinking of the people I loved, punishing myself for all the mistakes I had made. I understand, Sakura."
She finally looked away, her gaze momentarily lingered on the memorial before she closed her eyes. "Then you should also understand why I can never forgive myself," she stated quietly. When she opened her eyes again, she looked away, tried and defeated. "I am sorry, I am tired, Kakashi-sensei, I think I will go home and take a nap before I head to the hospital, good bye."
He did not turn to watch her go.
Instead, he closed his eyes and thought of the group he was in all those years ago. He remembered the Fourth and his colourful lessons, the boy who died for him, and the girl who drifted away after their team mate's death. By the time the Fourth died he found his relationship with his remaining team mate deteriorated to non-speaking terms. The team he belonged to was dead and he could not help but feel responsible for its downfall.
It had always been his secret desire to relive his life through these three, to undo all his mistakes by preventing them from making the same ones. In a way, he accepted Sakura, Sasuke, and Naruto as his pupils when he never accepted anyone else for their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses - almost a complete copy of his dead team. He wanted them to grow to their full potential but at the same time stay as friends. He did not want them regretting about their pasts when they are twenty five. He wanted them to be happy.
He tried, but it was all so futile, for all he could see, Team seven had failed rather miserably at staying as a team. Although every member managed to stay alive, it seemed to him that history may only be repeating itself.
Ino found herself one of the few people who took the news of Sasuke's return happily. To such unbelievable news, she checked the rumour's credibility for herself. When she saw him, unconscious but ever more handsome, she found herself quite happy. Not for herself as she would have been five years ago, but for Sakura.
Perhaps Forehead Girl could find herself again.
It was quite a serene scene seeing Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke all in the same room. Although Naruto was still angry with Sasuke, Sasuke was probably still a revengeful bastard, and Sakura still hurt from everything she had been through, Ino thought maybe this meeting would heal each of their wounds. Of course, there were no guarantees about a happy ending, happy endings are quite rare for ninjas as powerful as they are, but perhaps like their unusual powers, they would be special ones. Perhaps...
"Hey, Ino what are you thinking about?" asked a deep voice beside her.
She looked over to her left at a teenage boy lying on the floor and glancing at her with an expression of deep puzzlement. Amused, she smiled and replied playfully, "Sasuke."
A peculiour expression spread onto his face as he tried to keep a calm face but failed quite miserably. "Sasuke?"
Ino giggled. "Are you jealous, Shikamaru?"
"Definitely not," Shikmaru stubbornly replied with scowl before turning his attention back to the clouds. "You are just so troublesome."
Ino narrowed her eyes dangerously. "What did you say?"
"You are so trou-" Shikamaru never finished repeating his sentence because he found Ino suddenly kneeling next to him with a shuriken in hand.
"Say that one more time and you will be deader than dead!" Ino threatened, as she lowered her shuriken until it was only an inch from his neck rather menacingly.
Shikamaru gulped, fighting the temptation to point out the impossibility to be 'deader than dead'. Girls are scary, especially when they are angry. Ino just happened to be the scariest.
Damn. He hated girls.
Tsunade looked at the stacks of paper on her table and sighed. She shook her head in dismay. She had only been away for three hours, no doubt all those papers were inquiries from the Nobles about the Uchiha problem.
News of an unconscious Sasuke Uchiha was found about a mile away from the gate of the hidden leave village spread quickly like an autumn fire. What little people knew was the peculiar situation he was found in: at the bottom of the cliff where Orochimaru was found dead, lying perfectly straight as if he was merely sleeping. Of course physically he was almost beyond repair, had he came to the hospital a few minutes later they might not be able to save him. She could only conclude fate was on his side this time.
As for Orochimaru, his death was kept secret for the last month to prevent further chaos.
She recalled feeling something was wrong that morning, an ill premonition she could not shake off, then, around noon she felt his death. It was an odd feeling, like the disappearance of a weight she never knew she carried. She felt the vanishing of a great source of chakra, Orochimaru's chakra.
A few moments after, she was joined by Jiraiya, who shared identical feelings rushed to see her in alarm, while doing what he often did when he was nervous ?babbling. She was saved from his non-stop talking by a timely messenger eagle that flew into her office with the scribbled message: Sasuke Uchiha Orochimaru suspicious finds follow eagle.
She still could not believe the irony, that after all these years of seeking for immortality, Orochimaru would die before both Jiraiya and her in such an unsightly way. It was quite a demoralizing death, and she was sure it was equally painful.
Orochimaru's mangled corpse only give rise to more questions, the two main wounds on his body were two gaping holes, too large to be the work of Chidori. The two holes were mortal wounds, but the actual cause of death was dehydration. By the time the jounins found Orochimaru he was sucked dried and resembled mummies from Sand village.
So many questions, so little answers, well, at least until little Uchiha wakes up...
"What do you think? Will he wake up soon?"
"They said any moment."
"I know, but they said that for the last two weeks, honestly if I have to sit here for two more weeks I will go insane."
Ah. So he did not die.
He could hear voices, at first they sounded distant, but as time passed they became closer until eventually he was convinced the two women speaking were just beside him. Curiosity was getting to him, but years of experience told him gathering information about unknown environment is always a good idea, so he forced his eyes to stay shut. He wondered who the speakers were, their voices sounded much too gentle to be from someone from Sound.
They smelled too clean too.
He laughed at himself mentally, how long had it been since he allowed himself to make such trivial observations? Too long perhaps, in Sound you must always be on guard because assassination was very popular in that country. He was at least confronted by a hundred attempted assassins in the short five years he lived there, but after a while one gets used to them.
He assessed his situation and options. From the sterilized smell gave away his current location: a hospital. The woman's conversations told him they were probably nurses who have no idea of his current consciousness. What they said was probably foolishly unguarded, and therefore, reliable.
"I hate the tight security. It makes me feel like I am the criminal just sitting here."
"I know! He is a missing ninja and all, but they purposely did not finish healing his legs, it is impossible to jump around with disabled legs. I don't see the fuss."
Silently he cerebrated his success in finding more useful information from the two unsuspecting nurse. Deliberately not healing his legs was certainly an intelligent move for his enemies, seeing their main priority was his captivity and not his death. Though, as much as he was thankful he could only conclude it was foolish that their priority was not the latter.
"In my opinion"
There the girl was interrupted by the opening of the door.
"Good morning, Sakura-sama," the two nurses greeted the new arrival.
"Did he show any sign of consciousness?" The nurses said nothing, but a reply must have been given because 'Sakura-sama' added after a pause, "Page for me right away if you do see any signs."
The door was quietly shut close.
Sasuke found his mind spinning.
"If Sakura-sama did not personally put me in charge of watching over him, I would never agree on this. But it is hard to say 'no' to her."
"It is impossible actually, she asked me in a way I could not say anything negative. But enough of this, are we still watching the movie on..."
Sakura-sama... could it be? The last he heard of her was that she became an excellent healer, but he knew better than to jump into conclusion so soon. Sakura was, afterall, a rather popular name for girls. It would not surprise him if this Sakura was not that Sakura... But her voice ?Sakura-sama's voice did somewhat resembled the voice of hers, more melancholy, reserved, and calculating, but it had been five years and...
Five years are plenty time for a person to change beyond recognition.
The door opened again.
"Is he awake yet?" asked an impatient voice, a male's voice.
"Naruto-san! We were not told you would come."
Naruto was not a common name.
"Oh I just thought I should drop by for a visit after my mission."
There were no questions; his voice was much too familiar.
"We will leave you with him then." The door was opened.
"Hey, can you inform Sakura of my return?"
"Of course." The door was shut.
So he was in Leaf. After so many years he was back in Leaf. He never imagined himself returning in such a manner, no, he had given up the idea of returning peacefully for a long time. He was convinced if he ever see both Naruto and Sakura again it would be in a battle.
That would be the natural course, but fate, it seemed, had ideas of her own.
The door was pushed violently opened before it was slammed shut in the same fashion. A few quick steps could be heard before Sakura spoke, "Naruto, you are back early!"
"Yes, Sakura, the mission was less exciting than expected," he joked before speaking in a lower voice, "But I don't think I am the only surprise." There was a slight break before he whispered, "I think our friend is awake."
"I know," came the hushed but surprising reply, "I thought I should let him be until you come." She ignored Naruto's snort and addressed directly to Sasuke in a determined tone, "Quit pretending, Sasuke."
There was nothing left to do but surrender in defeat, slowly he opened his eyes. As he adjusted to the light, a bitter smirk formed on his pale face. "You caught me."
The arrival of such a day had been in their mind for years, they had thought thoroughly on how they should act and what they should say, yet thinking was very different than experiencing. Instead of their pre-planned speeches, each found themselves speechless as they stared at each other. There were no hugs, no kisses, only severe silence as the tension raise to an almost unbearable level.
Finally, Sasuke decided to sit up.
Instantly, the three went back into motion.
"There is no point in trying to escape right now, Uchiha, there are plenty of Anbu out there," Naruto gave his grave warning, unconsciously shifted into his battle stance.
"You are as brainless as always," Sasuke retorted wryly, "Leaving so soon is hardly my inclination."
For one so determined to be angered, any words was an insult. Naruto roughly grabbed Sasuke by his shirt. "What did you say?" He muttered dangerously, "Don't you understand your life is in our hands?"
Sasuke only smirked. "Can you hurt me?" He was sure the Hokage gave orders to keep him alive. If given the chance, he was convinced Naruto would kill him with no hesitation. Simply being alive was enough prove his life was beyond Naruto's grasp.
"Bastard!" Naruto raised his fist but dropped it after some contemplation. Sasuke calmly pulled Naruto's hand off his shirt and laughed. Naruto glowered, Sasuke stared back unreadable, neither remembered the existence their other ex-team mate.
His returned had already made a considerable impact in her, but while he was unconscious all she felt was concern. His betrayal hit her with renewed velocity as she looked at him, wide awake and remorseless. That and the painful sight of Naruto, bounded by his promise to the Hokage, unable to protect himself from the attacks of Sasuke's provocative sarcasm fused into unfamiliar and blinding rage. Sakura thought the war had numbed her feelings, that she would never feel any emotion so violently again, but she was very wrong.
Before she could stop herself, her fist connected to his unsuspected cheek with a sturdy punch.
The accustomed tang of blood instantly filled his mouth. Of all the people in Leaf, he never expected Sakura to be the one to lash out so fiercely at him. Immovable by surprise, Sasuke could only watch as Sakura, distressed, astonished, and shocked promptly left the room without a word.
Chapter two ends.
Yo, thank you for reading. If you have more time to waste then please review, and after that promtly read my new Naruto story.