Ravine Village, a year ago...
Known among themselves as a village, the community had also been known to the outside world for its splendid pottery exports. Between the stone walls, a man of nineteen years sat on a stool, his hands in the clays, his mind distracted by the past that caught up to him.
For the past half year, Uchiha Sasuke had been a member of this community, though he was bad at the skills, he was a keen learner and liked the place greatly.
The man behind him spotting two hitai-ate around his upper left arm, stood silently under the sun, only looked at the missing Akatsuki's back, waiting.
The silence was broken by Sasuke, "Naruto? I noticed that you have been watching me for a while. You came alone?"
"So it is true that you have lost your memories of the past few years, which you don't remember?" Naruto solemnly asked.
"Hinata," Sasuke's voice called out to him from the depth of his mind. "But it is slowly coming back to me," Sasuke replied.
"I had been in this dilemma to whether let you go in peace, if you have truly forgotten," Naruto said, his actions revealed the lies he told himself. "No, I can forgive you for what you did-," Naruto continued, he pulled Sasuke up by his collars, forcing him to look into his eyes. Teary. "-but I can't forgive you for forgetting!"
Ravine Village, present...
"What was that?" Sasuke pondered, had the time finally caught up to him, could this be his last moment? Why did he suddenly remember the day Naruto found him? Closing his eyes, he could sense the approaching threat.
Hanabi was fast, already close to approaching her attack range. In an instance, Sasuke grabbed her by the hand, he twisted his body, swiftly dislocating her right shoulder. Ignoring the pain, the girl immediately returned with another strike, throwing herself at him, she forcefully socket her shoulder back with the force of the impact, and quickly sought to grasp onto his neck, instead, she found herself the ground, thrown by the older shinobi.
They exchanged blows after blows, with only Sasuke parrying every attack Hanabi could offer. Konohamaru and Udon stood behind them, though they proclaimed that they would aid her in the fight, they hesitated knowing that this was her fight. Itachi soon joined them after Moegi helped him out, leaning on the shorter girl, Itachi too was unable to do anything with his injuries. The presence of an Akatsuki member no longer frightened them, their mind were on the battle before them.
Sasuke's actions were odd, he was wavering, even the inexperienced Hanabi could see it. He was not acting like the seasoned killer he was, all these while, Sasuke had only been defending from Hanabi's attacks – dodging, blocking, reflecting, but never truly attacking. Every time Sasuke unleashed an attack, Hanabi would dodge it, or was Sasuke missing on purpose? Sasuke was not hesitating on whether to kill her, he was afraid of being killed by the girl. In the barren village, Sasuke was not fighting Hanabi, instead the girl realised that he was fighting against himself.
Sensing Hanabi's resolution faltering, Sasuke opened his eyes to reveal his Mangekyo Sharingan.
A blinding golden light exploded from the impact, engulfing the master of Kyuubi as he crashed against the wielder of Mangekyo Sharingan. Bringing up a chakra barrier to shield herself from the heat of the demonic Rasengan and the Mangekyo Chidori, Hanabi watched in anticipation of the outcome.
A dark silhouette tumbled forth from the fire, with the flame as the backdrop, she was uncertain whose hand was stretching out to reach her. All she could use to identify him was his flaring orange eyes. "Naruto!" she cried out as she ran towards him, and it was then that she realised the world around her was moving in slow motion. The man lying on the ground was not Naruto. "Sasuke!"
'Sasuke' stood up in an instant, rushing towards Hanabi with both hands armed with a Rasengan each. "Sasuke!" he yelled. Without hesitation, Hanabi prepared to let loose her final attack.
The attacks connected, with neither opponents even attempt to escape it, they believed this was their chance to remove Sasuke from the face of the world.
The fogs over their eyes waned, the two shared a moment of silence over what had just happened. Removing her open palm from Naruto's chest, Hanabi collapsed into his arms, worn and shattered.
"No, no, no, no…," Naruto repeated. "It can't be," he pleaded to the sky. Even if he had mastered over Kyuubi, his eyes and hers could still be tricked by Sasuke's Mangekyo Sharingan. Embraced by the man she loved, the last thing she felt was the kiss, and a drop of cold tear on her cheek.
Hanabi found herself crying, she had just re-experienced the last moment of her sister's life, but she was not crying because of her death, but knowing how much Naruto had to suffer knowing what he did.
"My eyes can make people see what I want them to see," Sasuke offered a commentary. "But that was not made up, it was an re-enactment."
Hanabi removed her palm from Sasuke's bare chest, his clothing was shredded to pieces from an unknown force, and the whole of her right arm quivered with pain, as if every single veins and arteries in it had ruptured from the sheer force from her chakra. That technique was something Hanabi had never learnt before, it was something her sister created after she left Konohagakure.
Looking up, afraid of seeing what she had done, she saw Sasuke wobbling on two unsteady legs, the technique struck true, it had hit his heart. Hinata's most feared technique was something that would guarantee an instant death to the victim, provided she could land a clean shot, something useless on a fast moving target unless he wanted to be hit by it.
"Naruto lived through it," Sasuke explained with a weak smile, to disprove her belief that her sister killed Naruto. "He had Kyuubi, something I don't."
Catching the falling Sasuke, Hanabi hastily rested his body gently onto the ground. What Sasuke witnessed next before he slipped off unconsciousness was something he was not expecting, Hanabi called out to her friends and his brother for help, to save him. Konohamaru quickly pulled Moegi by her hand, knowing that she among the four of them was most skill in medical techniques, however Moegi herself was confused by the event, all she could do was to ask, "Why?"
He found himself under a shelter, probably one of the houses that were still standing after the last fight between him and Naruto a year ago, he could not be sure, but it must had been days since Hanabi killed him.
"How?" he muttered to the girl standing next to the bed, she had a sling around her right arm, and was facing him with an irritated look, as if she regretted saving his life.
"When I was there, it's as if I was my sister herself, and when I returned, I brought back with me her memories and knowledge. That attack is not perfect, within a short limit of time, the process can be reversed by someone who has mastered how chakra works. Had my sister not die, she could easily save Naruto's life even if he did not possess Kyuubi. Alas, I still lack my sister's trained body, I hurt my arm in the process, it will recover in a few more days," Hanabi explained as she moved the wounded arm. With that said, Hanabi turned and proceed to leave the hut.
"Why?" Sasuke would have shouted if he could, now he barely had the strength to turn his head.
Halting in her steps to the door, she turned around to face Sasuke and asked, "First, tell me how Naruto died."
It was something he didn't want to remember, but he answered, "I killed him."
"Tell me everything that happened a year ago."
"He found me, and we fought. People died, and… I was defeated, lying on the bloodied soil with him looking down at me."
"He was about to kill me, but he cried instead. I attacked him and killed him with one hit."
Shutting her eyes for a moment, Hanabi took a deep breath, and continued the questioning, "Were you happy in this town before Naruto found you?"
Sasuke said nothing, but Hanabi could see the answer the way he acted.
"Who killed the people of this town?"
Sasuke's lips parted slightly, but closed before saying anything.
"How?" Hanabi continued without waiting for the answer.
"He released his control over Kyuubi, he let it berserk before sealing its power again," Sasuke murmured, and surprised that it came out so easily. "I watched as he killed all of them without even lifting a finger, I could do nothing, it was over before I even realised what happened."
"He hated me, for having a new life here, while… forgetting what I did."
"Do you really believe it's possible for someone with all that power to die so easily?"
Sasuke torn his eyes away from the girl and looked at the paint-peeled ceiling. "He let me kill him."
"Why, why, why?! What do you want me to say?! I don't know what he's thinking, why he cried, why he let me killed him!"
"You do. Now, why did you wait for me to come to have my revenge? Why did you want me to kill you? Why didn't you take your own life?"
"You are both afraid of living and dying, you need someone to end it for you, you believe that me having my revenge will remove your guilt. Now, tell me why did he let you end his life?"
"He was sorry for what he did, what he did to the town and its people. It was a moment of impulse, and he let anger overwhelmed him."
Hanabi lowered her head, hiding her tears.
"He believed that he didn't deserve to live, and-"
"My sister and I are practically the same person now, I know what she knew, and we are the only person who truly understand Naruto. She knew that if given a chance, Naruto would never kill. All those years fighting against Akatsuki, he had never killed a single person, he would not want you to be his first. He wanted you to live on, my sister and Naruto were the only two people who were still pursuing after you, he wanted you to sever your tie to the shinobi world. With his death, you will be free."
"He wanted me to live a new life," Sasuke said blankly. He knew this all along, but could not convince himself that it was real.
"You regretted your actions but refused to admit it, he still cared about you as a friend yet hated you at the same time. Both of you act against your feelings, your actions contradict your consciences. The two of you are idiots, cowards and liars, Sasuke, Naruto."
An air of silence lingered within the space between them before Hanabi decided to leave.
"Hanabi, I'm sorry," was what Hanabi heard before she closed the door from the outside. A few more steps later, she collapsed into tears, "I'm not Naruto, I can't forgive you."
"Hanabi, are you okay?" Konohamaru asked, and not surprisingly Moegi and Udon were there beside him.
"I'm fine," the girl said as she resisted Konohamaru's help to get up.
"But you're crying," he questioned.
Wiping the tears away with her fingers. "Do you know how it feels to be love with a dead person who you don't really know?" Hanabi asked as she walked away.
Stumped by the question, it took Konohamaru a while before he realised that she was already heading towards the older Uchiha. "Hanabi, you can't be serious! Who's he? I'm not dead…"
"We are not that close, don't call me by my first name," she shouted back as she approached Itachi. "I guess I will be heading back home now, Uchiha-san. Thank you for helping me find your brother."
"I should be the one thanking you," Itachi smiled.
"Take care," Itachi said.
With a simple wave, Hanabi went to retrieve her backpack, the trio hurriedly followed closely after Hanabi.
"It's going to be a long way home, figure we can hitch a ride back?" Konohamaru asked.
"As long as we are not on some monkey's back," Udon said, he soon received a slap behind his head from Moegi.
"I will catch up, I need some time on my own, and some places to visit," Hanabi said.
"Let us come with you." Hanabi ignored Konohamaru and started running. "What I said this time? Come on, we need to catch up to her."
Elsewhere, some time later...
The dogs barked.
Turning his head a little, Kiba spied Shino climbing the slope. "Yo," he said as he resumed into a squatting position. "Looks like they still don't like you, must be the fleas."
Shino nodded before saying, "Very funny. I guess Hanabi-chan found you too."
"Yeah… She's been busy lately, but still, I should have been here earlier without her telling me to," Kiba murmured as he carefully placed another flower before the simple tombstone.
Author: This story was a spin-off deviation of another story I wrote, the kunoichi Gaara was fighting was a character from there.
There were supposed to be two more short paragraphs discussing about the fate of Team 10 and Neji's team, I removed them because they didn't contribute to the story at all.