Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
A/N: OK…I'm going to be so bluntly honest that it's gonna hurt…but you guys don't know how sorry I am to all the reviewers…so here it goes…
I shouldn't have any excuses for that LONG period without updates, but here's what happened: I had Autumn Leaves chapters about one through fifteen all typed out and ready to go…but…for some reason my computer refused to save on Microsoft word, which was fine, so I bought a cheap floppy from Staples, and when I came back…my mom told me not to waste electricity, and had turned off the computer without my permission!…and I was so disappointed by this that my taste for continuing fics just completely stopped…but when I kept getting hopeful reviews from thoughtful reviewers (and I thank you for that) I began writing again…so here it goes…
Chapter 6: Where the Wind Blows
The Mist Village's occupants were quite unique.
Most of them carried a giant weapon on their backs in which it would almost always be bigger than the wielder itself. The shiny polished masses of steel glistened in the sunlight as Sasuke walked through the aloof pedestrians. Sasuke also noted that some of the bearers of the weapons had similar ones to Zabuza, "the ghost" he and his team had fought in one of his genin days.
The residents of this village watched and glared like hungry dogs at Sasuke in suspicion. Though he was irritated, a part of him couldn't blame them. After all, he was wearing the notorious Konoha ANBU uniform, so they would probably be curious to see what he was here for.
'Or who he was here for.'
Naruto turned to see the timid Hinata fidgeting with her index fingers as she sought for what to say. He watched curiously as she abruptly opened her mouth to speak, only to close it out of nervousness.
"Ah, Hinata, what're you doing here?"
In the entrance of the Konoha Village, Naruto and Hinata stood in front of each other. The former with a curious glance and the latter with fidgeting fingers. Hinata noted the bags that her crush had perched on his shoulders, and feared for the worst...that he would leave…and he would feel almost exactly like her pink-haired companion…whom she had felt pity towards.
"A-Are you g-going s-somewhere, N-Naruto-kun?"
A moment of silence followed after the question, until Naruto looked off towards the brown dark gates of the village. His eyes remained stoic as he watched the dark forest sway with the winds, and Hinata had noticed that Naruto never smiled like he used to anymore…even when he was in front of ramen.
"Oh...I see." Hinata said as she started fidgeting more quickly with her fingers. "M-May I ask w-where?"
"Heh heh heh…" Naruto scratched the back of his head, and Hinata anticipated for the answer that would confirm her darkest fears.
"I'm going to look for Sakura-chan."
Sasuke turned around to see a male teen running towards him, who looked strangely familiar.
"S-Sasuke-san…" The boy stood panting in front of Sasuke, who was eyeing him suspiciously to think who he could be. He had just arrived at this village an hour ago and the only person he's spoken to was the owner of the inn in which he was staying at.
"Who are you?" Sasuke asked emotionless, yet suspiciously, his face still radiating the cold exterior appearance.
"You don't remember me?" He didn't look hurt, just disappointed. He reminded Sasuke of Naruto, not exactly his looks, but how he responded to things.
Sasuke eyed him with suspicion and a hint of curiousity. He wore pale blue jumpers that matched the color of Konoha skies with a light brown shirt underneath, and on his head was a hat that resembled a bucket.
The young teen brushed his black hair out of his eyes that got in the way. Sasuke noted the bow that was across his back. Sasuke narrowed his eyes. He was…
"Inari, remember?" He suddenly exclaimed happily, his face void of the disappoint before when Sasuke hadn't remembered him.
"Aa…" Sasuke furrowed eyebrows suddenly relaxed, now that the 'guess who this stranger is' game was over.
"Are you here for a mission, Sasuke-san? How come you didn't bring Naruto-kun and Sakura-san?"
This kid was just like Naruto, annoying and talkative, and though he didn't see any physical resemblance, he felt the shockingly similar aura as he would feel with Naruto. As he looked forward, he watched in surprise how he didn't have to bend his neck all the way down to catch what he was saying, yet, still he was shorter than Sasuke.
Since Sasuke met him around his genin days, he must be about thirteen?
"I'm not here for a mission."
Inari wasn't uncomfortable by his coldness, in fact, he seemed to be ignoring it.
"Then what are you here for?"
Inari asked as he suddenly looked at Sasuke with a very curious and excited look.
"I have some business to take care of."
There was a long period of silence.
'Wait…maybe this kid could tell me where Sakura is. I need to talk to him.'
Inari looked at the ocean beside them, and watched the Naruto Bridge as he remembered those days when he had been little and unable to do anything important if his life depended on it. And yet he also remembered Naruto…who had smacked him for being the crybaby that he was, and had told him to get stronger, so he was able to protect and cherish the ones he loved.
He turned his gaze back to Sasuke, and realizing that he had been a great help when he was young, decided to mind his manners.
"Sasuke-san, if it wouldn't be much troulble…it would be an honor if you had dinner at my house."
"O-Oh…I see." Hinata's head drooped, and she bowed her head down. Perhaps the only thing she and her crush had in common was that they were both the victims of unrequited love. The pain was almost unbearable.
"Are you okay, Hinata?"
Hinata looked up to see concern in his azure blue eyes, and was a little contended that he at least saw a friend in her. She forced a tiny smile on her face and clamped her hands over her chest.
"H-Hai…" Hinata looked at Naruto, and watched as he stared off in the distance outside Konoha.
"I-Is she really important t-to you, N-Naruto-kun?"
Naruto continued looking at the birds and the trees that were above him yet under the same spacious skies. The corners of his lips began to rise, his smile gentle and genuine.
"Someone I knew once told me that everyone has a precious person…and I think that person is her."
People think I like her just because she's beautiful. Sure, she has the most beautiful pink hair, her attractive yet innocent emerald eyes can drag you into a trance…but besides the appearance…there is so much more reason why I like—or love her.
Fuzzy-brows probably likes her cause Sakura-chan is beautiful. But maybe I just feel this way because she was the first girl that ever noticed me. Sure she slapped me a lot for calling Sasuke-bastard a bastard…but at least she noticed that I actually called him that, right?
The villagers in Konoha tend to ignore me and hate me for something that wasn't my fault; perhaps I can't blame them either. But Sasuke-teme and Sakura-chan are the only friends I have that liked me for who I was and not what I have inside of me.
But Sakura-chan loved Sasuke-bastard.
Yet a part of me isn't so jealous…perhaps because I knew it all along that Sasuke eventually would get everything?
Or maybe not.
Or that…besides everything I've went through when I was young…all of the hate…the lonliness…the pain…Sasuke would still need Sakura-chan more than I do.
And maybe a part of me tells me that if I really loved Sakura-chan, I'd want her to be happy…which is when she is with Sasuke-yaro.
That mission in our genin years…it broke my heart, yet it strengthened my love for her as well.
I remember it being particularly cold that day…and Sakura-chan, Sasuke, and I were stuck in that cave because of the heavy rainfall. I remember being really mad at Kakashi-sensei for getting us lost because his map was all wrong.
I remember Sakura-chan telling me to get closer to her and Sasuke so I wouldn't be cold. A simple act like that…almost left me in tears. But I also noticed Sasuke's eyes glare at me for just a second…and I was too stupid to notice that he had feelings for Sakura-chan. I just ran and hugged Sakura-chan until she couldn't breathe.
"Get off, Naruto!"
After a scolding and a fist in the head she gave me a reassuring smile…maybe that's why I like annoying her so much.
It's the smiles that come after the scolding that seemed to warm the loneliness of my heart.
I remember waking up at night. I had to go to the bathroom so I carefully crept away trying as best I could not to wake the two. After I got back I heard whispers from where we were sleeping.
I saw Sakura-chan smiling slightly yet sleepily at Sasuke, who steadily wrapped an arm around her, and I couldn't help but feel the exclusion as I saw Sakura-chan smile so brightly. I remember clenching my fists so hard that my knuckles cracked. But what came after hurt so much more than Orochimaru's and Itachi's attacks combined can ever could.
Those simple words…"I love you." I never knew how much it could affect a person. it hurt me so much that I didn't even realize the tears coming out of my eyes. But for some reason…that made me want to love you more. Is it because Sasuke had everything I wanted since forever? Or is it because my love is ten times stronger fuzzy-brows?
I'll never know, Sakura-chan, the real reason why I love you. But it isn't important…the important thing is that…
The woman known as Inari's mother Tsunami hadn't changed a bit. She had a couple more wrinkles here and there, but her overall appearance was yet the same.
"Would you like some tea, Uchiha-san?
Sasuke looked straightforward, but in his preferral vision he noted that the furniture and the photo frames had slightly been changed, added, or removed. Sasuke had a photographic mind, even if he didn't take in detailed observances in his last stay here, he still remembered where the things exactly were. He watched Tsunami as she poured the tea into the green teacup, and sprinkle the crisp green tealeaves after.
He looked to the left and saw a framed picture of the old man Tazuna. There were white and obsidian ribbons wrapped around the edges of the frame.
"Died." Sasuke said, finishing the sentence for him. It annoyed him when people would grieve or spill their sadness in front of him, because no one has lost all of his family in a short period like he did. He usually wouldn't be able to stand it and just walk away…except when it was her that was sad.
Sasuke didn't know it but he unconsciously took out the locket from his neck and stared at the picture.
"I-Isn't that, Sakura-san?"
The birds in Konoha were chirping happily and their songs were heard through the giant trees crowding the exit of Konoha. The breezes blew here and there to cool off the trees under the sun. Kakashi stood in front of the memorial in which his friend's name was engraved with honor.
Kakashi said quietly. He would come here once in a while when he had a problem, or a discrepancy as he would like to call it.
Kakashi quietly chuckled.
'I wish I could've been like how Yondaime was to us.'
Kakashi thought, smiling sadly in a nostalgic manner.
'…if I could've been half as good as him…'
Kakashi released a heavy deep sigh. He slowly raised his leather-gloved hand and brushed gently against his friend's name.
'Personwise…teacherwise…then maybe I could've saved you from death…and Rin from wherever she is now…'
Kakashi couldn't help but release a long, melancholic sigh, and flipped out his Icha Icha Paradise from his back pouch. Kakashi began walking away slowly, his visible not muck interested in the book anymore.
' I told Sasuke that dwelling on regret is foolishness…yet I find myself doing the exact same thing.'
"So you two are together?" Inari said while smiling widely.
Sasuke sat still, unable to reply to his comment. He was never asked if he had an intimate partner, especially if it was Sakura.
"I feel sorry for Naruto-kun though…" Inari said, his curved smile getting smaller. "He really cared for her…"
Sasuke, annoyed by his behavior, and anxious because he didn't know what to reply to these comments, had tried to change the uncomfortable subject.
"Have you seen her around here?"
The awkward question made Inari watch Sasuke with a confused face.
"Have you seen Sakura around here?" Sasuke asked, definitely irritated at having to repeat everything twice. He always wondered why the kids that Naruto knew always had something in common with them.
"No…has she come to visit or for a mission?" Inari asked curiously.
He was surprised that Sasuke wouldn't know where his own girlfriend would be. 'Maybe they had an argument?'
"No…it's nothing." Sasuke said. He didn't like telling people unnecessary information.
"Sasuke-san…" Inari said. "Can you please tell me what's going on?"
Sasuke grunted in reply. This was none of this kid's business and he wasn't intending on making it his either…
Besides…why would he think that there was something going on?
"Naruto-kun came some time ago and was looking for Sakura-san too."
Sasuke tightly clenched his fists, and felt his teeth clench as his knuckles began turning white.
'That bastard…he knew where she was and yet he didn't tell me?'
"Sasuke-san…are you okay?"
"Hn." Sasuke realized what he was doing and relaxed.
"When did he come?"
"I'm not sure…it was about two months ago…"
"Sasuke-san…Naruto-kun is like a brother to me…" Sasuke couldn't read Inari's eyes. Where was he trying to go with this?
"When he came…he was really sad…"
"I want to know what caused it."
'This kid is so annoying.'
"Sakura is missing."
Sasuke observed his reaction switch to surprise or a slight shock.
"But how? When? Why?"
"I don't know…" Sasuke replied calmly. "For all I know she could be dead."
"Gomen." Inari said, bowing his head down in shame of asking such hurtful information abruptly.
After a while of silence, Sasuke decided to stand up.
"W-Wait, Sasuke-san…" Inari still had his head bowed, whispered something under his breath. "Then how do you know she's alive?"
"…" Sasuke stared at his eyes as he slowly rose his head back up. "I can feel her."
Inari thought for a minute, then nodded, a slight smile forming in his youthful features. He turned to the direction of his mother, and watched as she walked gracefully out of the kitchen doors, wiping her hands in her apron.
"Okaasan, Sasuke-san is about to leave."
Tsunami quickly walked towards Sasuke.
"Goodbye and stay safe, Sasuke-san."
Sasuke bowed slightly in respect to the woman.
Sasuke slowly nodded as he began walking towards the direction of the exit of the Mist Village.
'Her love is like the wind…' Sasuke thought has he slowly walked out of the house. He breathed in the nearby breeze that blew the bangs out of his eyes. He closed his onyx eyes and slightly smiled. 'I can't see it…but I feel it.'
A/N: There…the chapter that everyone was waiting for ( and once again I deeply apologize) and I hope everyone stays tuned and keeps reading. Thanks a lot!