Summary: She had given up on the idea of being anything more than a friend to him, concentrating more on her training than him. During the course of her training, he had begun to realize that what he felt about her was past peripheral vision. Sasuke/Sakura.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, at all. All the characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi-sensei. The only things in this story that are mine are the OCs and the plot itself.
Chapter Twenty-Three – The Jounin Exams
Tsunade looked at the calendar, her watch, then back at the some forty, or even fifty, Jounin who were assembled in front of her. It was that time of the year and it was their turn to host it once more.
The day after tomorrow, it would be exactly two weeks until the Jounin Exams, a set of tests that were given only very rarely. And as often as it happened, there were only very few who managed to pass it. Most of the time, you could count the number of people who passed with only one hand.
"There will be five Jounin the rest of you will report to for anything about the preparations for the Jounin Exams within the next two weeks. These five Jounin will personally report to me about everything to do with these exams," spoke Tsunade, sitting up straight. "Mikizuki Aya will be in charge of the Sunagakure paperwork. Hatake Kakashi will be in charge of the Kirigakure paperwork. Maito Gai will be in charge of the Iwagakure paperwork. Yuuhi Kurenai will be in charge of the Kumogakure paperwork. Mitarashi Anko will be in charge of the Konohagakure paperwork."
"Godaime-sama, there are no participants this year from the lesser villages?" asked Gai, a rumble of low murmurs starting within the group of Jounin.
Though there were only five Kage, there were a number of other smaller hidden villages. Although those villages, didn't have a Kage among their ranks, a Jounin was appointed to take care of the way the village was run. By no means was that special Jounin anywhere near the caliber of a Kage from one of the five main villages but he, or she, was strong enough to hold the position as the village's leader.
"There are none. All of you who are training a specific Chuunin or a specific group of Chuunin, the training ended the minute you stepped into the room. Pointers or suggestions can be given but you cannot oversee the training," said Tsunade, leaning back into her chair.
"Yes, Godaime-sama!" said all the Jounin, standing up straight as they awaited their dismissal. It didn't seem like there was anything more to be discussed.
"All of you, except for Aya and Kakashi, are dismissed. I need to speak with you," said Tsunade, grabbing a thin folder, rare on her desk, as she waved them off.
As the other Jounin turned around and began to leave, the two named ones came forward, a slightly curious expression on their faces.
"What date is it today?" asked Tsunade, opening the folder and blocking their view from its contents. Clearly, she knew the date but it seemed like she wanted to hear it coming from them.
"The twenty-sixth of March," they replied in unison, a slightly confused expression on their faces. Even Shizune looked back at the calendar, something strange appearing the minute Aya and Kakashi said the date. A certain day seemed to look clearer in her eyes.
"And what day is two days from today?" asked Tsunade once more, closing the folder. Picking up a pen, she began to write big, bold characters on the folder.
"The twenty-eighth of March," said Aya as she narrowed her eyes slightly. Kakashi's sole visible eye widened in surprise at first, but softened slightly at the fact that surfaced in his mind. "What's so special about it?"
"It's Sakura's seventeenth birthday," informed Kakashi, a smile appearing beneath his mask. "Planning to do anything, Tsunade-sama?"
Tsunade treated Sakura like her own daughter. Since the girl had become her apprentice some five years ago, the Godaime held a small celebration on Sakura's birthday during the succeeding years. The day after tomorrow wasn't an exception.
"Could you both just inform her friends and her family about the gathering? Shizune and I are going to prepare everything else for it. It'll be held in the conference room upstairs," said Tsunade with a somewhat motherly smile, her eyes twinkling.
"Of course, Tsunade-sama," said Kakashi with a bright smile of his own.
"Yes, yes of course," said Aya, grinning widely.
"Then off you both go to your paperwork," said Tsunade, dismissing them. "But, here, Kakashi, you'll need this." Handing the folder over to the Jounin, a slightly sly smile appeared on her face.
His lone eye drifted to the characters written on the folder, a twinkle appearing in the black depths of his eyes as he spoke out the characters.
"Uchiha Sasuke. Now what do I need this for?" asked Kakashi, waving the folder in the air.
"I don't know. Think of something. It'll be good for them to be given a little push, don't you think?"
The Next Day: Second Floor of the Hokage Tower
People were shuffling everywhere, hurrying in order to meet the deadline. Every so often, one of the villages would have to experience this sort of stress. The Jounin who were involved were so stressed out at the end of all the preparations, it seemed like they wanted to get back at those who started it all in the first place, the growing number of Chuunin in the villages.
Even the most elite of Jounin were of no exception to this sort of stress.
Gai, the almost eternally smiling Jounin, actually had a frown on his face. The Jounin who were near him had red flags in their heads, as if warning the world was almost at an end.
The usually calm Kurenai looked hassled, scrambling to get things organized and to read through everything she had to, making sure that everything was fine.
Anko was being even more sadistic than ever, threatening each one under her to extreme torture if they didn't meet the deadline the Hokage had set for them for that day.
Kakashi, well, nothing was different with Kakashi to begin with. He was sitting down, leaning back on his chair with his legs propped up on the table reading Icha Icha Paradise.
Aya was going berserk at the amount of papers she had to read through, almost crying every time even a single paper was added to her already enormous pile.
"Sakura, could you hand me the folder over there please?" asked Aya, pointing to the brown folder lying on top of the drawer. Handing it to her, Sakura offered Aya a reassuring smile for Sakura. "It's just two more weeks until the Jounin Exams! While you've been preparing for it for a year, I've been stuck finalizing the paperwork for the Sunagakure Chuunin who are coming!"
Sakura laughed as she watched Aya mourn over the paperwork. She was just like the Godaime, hating every piece of paper that was on her desk that needed to be read and signed. The flow of it never seemed to stop.
"Yeah but I'm nervous about it," confessed Sakura as she sat down in the chair nearby. Aya looked up, this time, giving the reassuring smile.
"Don't worry. I'm sure you'll pass with flying colors!" At her words, Sakura couldn't help but nod in agreement.
Such was the life for the Jounin, and the Chuunin who weren't participating, in the hidden village hosting the Jounin Exams for that year.
Yamanaka Flower Shop
As usual, due to the lack of missions, Ino was watching over the shop. On the desk in front of her, a slightly tall number of magazines lay. Glancing at the calendar, a small smile found its way to Ino's face.
"Sakura's going to be seventeen tomorrow," she said to herself, looking back down at the magazine she was holding. A stylish red and white jacket with a slightly chunky metal zipper was being displayed, its price rather expensive. "I hope she likes this gift."
Yesterday, she had spotted this jacket in the latest issue of Fire Hot Fashion. It was perfect for Sakura and it would take about twenty-four hours for them to deliver it to Konoha, one of the factories of the company some eight hours away.
As Ino continued looking through the pages, hoping to see something she'd like for herself, the door swung open. A surprised look found its way to the blonde ninja's face when she saw who it was.
"Why, Sasuke-kun, what are you doing here?" asked Ino, setting down the magazine, as a grin alighted on her face. "Here to visit me? What would Sakura-chan think!"
"I'm here to pick out some flowers," said Sasuke bluntly, pocketing his hands as he looked away, trying to find fresh blossoms that would attract his gaze. A sly look appeared on Ino's face as she heard him speak that. "They're for a grave I haven't visited in a while," he managed to lie, pocketing his hands deeper into his pockets.
"You're no fun. You know as well as I do that tomorrow is Sakura's birthday!" said Ino, slightly deflated, as she slumped back down into her seat. "Well, take your time then tell me what you'd like. I suggest you just pick the flowers then have it made tomorrow. That way, the flowers you'll bring to the grave will still be fresh."
"I'll take your suggestion on that," he mumbled, walking around. He was no flower expert nor did he want to be.
The many fresh flowers seemed to brighten when Sasuke had entered, probably trying to coax him into buying them somehow. The faint sunlight seemed to make them even more beautiful than they already were, trying to give Sasuke a reason to buy everything.
It probably took him some twenty minutes before he approached Ino by the counter, his eyebrow twitching slightly at the sight of the tall magazines. Ino seemed to catch that.
"What, can't a ninja girl have the fun of a normal one?" she defended, pushing the magazines aside as she took out an order slip and a pen.
"Whatever. It's your life. Sixteen white roses and one red rose in the center," he said as he looked down at the order slip. It seemed like the piece of paper fascinated him more than what Ino was about to say.
"That's seventeen roses. A single red rose means that 'I love you' in the language of flowers. Are you sure this isn't for Sakura?" she asked, writing down what the Uchiha had asked for in her neat handwriting.
"Seventeen is a nice number and can't a son say I love you to a mother?" he defended hotly. Ino shrugged at his reply. "How much do I owe?"
"Two thousand ryo," she said simply, showing him the order slip. Taking out a slightly thick wallet, Sasuke pulled out the exact amount she had asked for. "Just show this to me or my parents tomorrow at around nine in the morning for your flowers."
"Sure," he said curtly, turning on his heel and walking out of the shop.
"This is so for Sakura!" Ino said with a grin, pinning the slip on a nearby corkboard.
Outside, Sasuke was having another mental battle with himself.
"Now what the hell did I do that for," he thought to himself, the frown on his face deepening.
As Ino had guessed, the flowers were indeed for Sakura, the deepness of the red extremely evident in the pool of white petals.
March 28th, Evening: Conference Room at the Hokage Tower
"Happy birthday!" shouted everyone, confetti falling down as Sakura entered the room. Her family and her friends were inside, each with a wide grin on their face, well, most of them having a wide grin on their faces. The stoic people in the group were still, well, stoic.
Surprisingly enough, Sasuke was there, with a grumpy look on his face. She guessed it was because Kakashi had blackmailed him into going, or he was always like this during celebrations. Sakura guessed it was the former knowing Sasuke well enough.
"Sakura-chan! Sakura-chan!" sang Naruto, dancing slightly, as he hugged her tightly but loose enough to still let her breathe. "Happy birthday!"
"Thank you, Naruto," she replied, a smile on her face.
Sasuke seemed to be watching it but did nothing to join in on the conversation. To begin with, he wasn't really much of a people person, but, the sight flicking from onyx to crimson and back to having onyx eyes seemed to show he was jealous, slightly jealous.
"Let's get this party started!" cheered Ino, lifting up a glass. To that, everyone agreed, Naruto ushering Sakura to her seat.
All in all, the party had been lively. The adults, most of them, had gotten themselves almost drunk.
Tsunade and Anko had been playing all sorts of gambling games, which Anko seemed to be winning. The Godaime had to be restrained from breaking everything apart because of her not too surprising losing streak.
Kakashi and Jiraiya were talking to each other, both of them leaning against a wall for support, with red cheeks which probably wasn't caused by the alcohol.
Gai was giving a motivational speech about the burning flame of Sakura's youth where only Lee was really listening, actually taking down notes.
Kurenai and Aya were talking about which of the Jounin boys were actually good enough for them to date, and which of those deserved to be mauled to a bloody pulp. At that, Kakashi had been sneezing continuously, a slight twitch of concern overcoming him but nothing too grave.
Naruto was being his usual self, eating as much food as he could without causing himself to choke. Hinata was there just watching in what seemed to be rapt fascination as to how Naruto could down so many plates of food and still go on. It was like his stomach was a bottomless pit.
Tenten and Ino were talking about the latest fashion found in the recent issues of the fashion magazines that Konoha stores managed to stock. What surprised a small number of people was that Tenten was into these things. She did look tomboyish after all.
Kiba was busy crouching down in a corner, trying to nurse the bump on his head. He was making mental notes about how never to insult a female weapons master about being tomboyish.
Shikamaru, as usual, was busy playing Go with Asuma, a bored look on his face. Chouji was watching their game, a few bags of potato chips to one side, a tall pile of empty ones at the other.
Neji, Sasuke, and Shino seemed to all have one thing in consensus, keeping quiet and sitting still until the celebration was over, having a drink nearby in case they were thirsty.
And near the door, Sakura watched all her friends and her family interact with each other. They were an extremely eclectic collection of acquaintances, relatives, and friends but she wouldn't change them for the world.
Outside Sakura's House: One in the Morning
Sasuke shifted his weight from one foot to another, his right hand clutching what looked to be a bouquet of flowers. What was so unusual about this? He was just going to give her flowers for her birthday, nothing more. Taking a deep breath, he managed to take a few steps forward before jumping up to a tree limb.
"God what am I doing?" he muttered, leaning against the trunk. The bouquet was resting on his lap, the wind gently blowing away a few of the petals. Most of them had been white, though one red one, its carmine color evident against the plainness of the white, fluttered by.
It was the bouquet he had asked Ino to make, the same bouquet he had used an excuse to offer to his mother's grave. He was pretty sure his mother wouldn't have minded that he give the roses to a girl, a girl who had known him more than anyone else had.
"All I'll do is leave the flowers on the window sill, knock on the pane, and go back home," he mumbled to himself, trying to rally him on. It was a simple task but he found himself struggling to do it.
Taking a deep breath, Sasuke crept along the tree's limb and did as he told himself to do. Before knocking on the window sill, he looked up to peer inside her room. He froze at what he saw. Sakura was wide awake, standing in front of the very window he was going to leave the flowers on.
The sleeve of her slightly large shirt slipped from her shoulder, revealing the smooth, pale skin of her neck. The disheveled state of her hair gave him the idea that she had just woken up. However, she was alert enough to open the window.
"Sasuke-kun, what a surprise," she said, a smile on her face. The Uchiha looked away, unable to say anything in his defense. It wasn't normal for people to be on top of a tree's limb and about to knock on someone's window.
"Here," he said, handing her the bouquet of flowers. "I was supposed to give them to you earlier but you had a lot to carry." That had been partly the reason why he avoided giving her a gift. The other part was that he was embarrassed to prove Ino right about her speculation with the flowers and give them to her in front of a number of people.
"They're, they're beautiful Sasuke-kun. Thank you," whispered Sakura, accepting the roses from the Uchiha. Sasuke nodded slowly, standing up straight.
"Well, I should go now," he said, pocketing his hands, readying for a jump. As he was about to push off from the limb, Sakura's hand gripped around the bottom of his shirt, forcing him to stay.
"Good luck for the Jounin Exams," she said softly, looking down. Turning around, Sasuke walked closer towards her and faced her, their lips just a few centimeters away from each other. "Sa—Sasuke-kun…?" A smirk graced his face when he heard her say that.
"Just… wait alright?" Closing the distance between them, Sasuke leaned in for a kiss, a kiss with less passion and more feeling, a kiss with less anger and more love, a kiss with less cold and more warmth. It was a kiss with more Sasuke in it.
Sakura's cheeks burned red when he pulled away from her, the same smirk still on his face.
Sakura's Room: Two Weeks Later
"Sakura, Sakura," spoke a voice, shaking the half-asleep Chuunin awake. "Sakura, it's today!" Groggily, the rosette haired Chuunin sat up straight, looking straight at the mirror in front of her.
Since her birthday, her relationship with Sasuke had just gotten even more confusing, at least for her. Although it was established that they were more than friends, they were certainly far away from the next level of friendship. It was like she was something more, yet something less.
"Okaa-san, don't worry. I'll be alright," said Sakura, turning to face her mother. "I'm not your daughter for nothing, after all."
Today was the day that she had been waiting for the past year. It was the day she was going to prove herself, not only to Sasuke, but to everyone who had seen her grow from a young Academy student to a Genin and eventually to a Chuunin. After the duration of the exams, Sakura hoped to be what many Chuunin longed to be, a Jounin.
…Did I just…
Did I just finish Past Peripheral Vision?
This fanfic took about a year to complete! And I'm pretty satisfied with the way things turned out. I hope you guys are too.
This will be my last post before I leave. Hopefully, I'll be able to post the first chapter of Appraisal of the Diamond soon after I arrive from the US.
It's been a wonderful experience working on Past Peripheral Vision, me being able to better my writing style and to know how to better stay in character. It's been pretty tricky, considering just how many characters there are in Naruto. Hopefully, the way I portrayed the characters is up to your standard.
I leave you now with a preview of what you can expect in the first chapter of Appraisal of the Diamond! Please look forward to that and I'll be seeing you soon!
AotD Preview: Chapter One – Arrival
Chapter Preview: The village was deathly quiet today, the beginning of the Jounin Exams. The civilians had enough nightmares from a particular Chuunin Exam to last them one lifetime. The Genin and the other Chuunin were shifty in their movements as they looked every now and then at the direction of the gate they were closest to.
The Jounin were restless as it had been so long since the last time the Jounin Exams were going to be held in Konoha. The Jounin-hopefuls of Konoha were all nervous for the one thing they were preparing for the past year. The sky darkened continuously, as if Mother Nature herself was feeling the same anxiety the Konoha Nin were.
Suddenly, a loud shout from the Jounin on duty came from the South Gate, a large crowd of Chuunin from the different countries all gathering. Successive shouts from the North, East and West Gates came soon after as more and more of the Chuunin began arriving.