Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto—but if I did… I would make Sasuke suffer so much for being such an ass!
A/N: I live! Yes, yes, I am passed the overdue, but you can't blame me! Well, maybe you can―but still! I was busy and work was overflooding. Not only did I have homework, but I also had a job, which in fact took most of my time. Not only do I work on weekends, which is sometimes both Saturday and Sunday, but sometimes I had work after school during weekdays. I get home at 10, and I'm left to do my homework until 2 in the morning. This happens at least two or three times during the week, which is sad. I don't get enough sleep anymore.
please, have mercy in this poor and pitiful soul. I told you that
I'm not giving up on this fic, and I gave you my word. This will
be finished! On with the chapter!
Chapter 28―Secrets of the Hikari
His eyelids fluttered open, revealing his cerulean orbs. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, the blurry image at the edge of his sight slowly became clear. Scanning the place around him, it was then that he realized that he was now alone… alone in this lonesome and hollow place.
"Sasuke! Hinata-chan!" he called out, trying to see if his fellow companions were also in this hollow place surrounding him. Sadly, no one answered him, but a empty and eerie silence.
Suddenly, he heard a girlish giggling surrounding the hollowness around him, making it the only sound that he heard around him. He looked around, trying to locate wherever the voice came from.
As he finally turned and looked behind him, the hollowness disappeared in front of him, revealing the back of a familiar figure that he had already missed so much. His eyes widened. Those waist length pink tresses… it could only belong to one person. There was only one person whom he knew possessed that distinctive hair color. The only person who cared about other people's happiness above her own… even if it meant getting hurt herself.
Feeling his throat dry from the shock of seeing her, he gulped. "Sakura… chan…" He took a deep breath, eyeing the figure in front of him. He waited patiently for her to turn around… and recognize him.
As if reading his mind, the figure slowly turned around to reveal the familiar face. The face that he had longed to see. The figure's face looked directly towards him. His gaze locked with hers. His eyes widened in shock as she looked back at him with a blank and unreadable expression in her eyes.
Naruto could only stare at her in silence. He didn't know what to say. Seeing her again, with her staring at him like she had always been alive was enough to render him speechless. No words came out. His azure orbs locked on her emerald green ones. Neither of them broke the gaze. The silence that engulfed them both finally stopped as he noticed a smile that slowly formed on her pale lips. Her eyes softened and her smile widen as she cocked her head to the side, her cherry blossom tresses following her head's movements.
"So… it's you Naruto," she said softly.
It was when she finally spoke to him that he found his voice. "Sa… Sakura… chan…"
"I never imagined that you would reach this place." Her voice was oddly changed with an underlying strain of hopelessness.
Naruto averted his gaze away from her figure and looked around their hollow surroundings. "Sakura-chan, what is this place?"
Sakura kept her gaze fixed on his figure as she watched him looking around, trying to find something―anything that was left astray in their hollow surroundings. "This place…" she replied in a murmur as she broke her gaze away from Naruto's figure and trailed her emerald eyes to their surroundings, seeing… nothing. It was then that Sakura's lips quirked into a small smile. But it was more of a mysterious smile in Naruto's opinion.
Sakura-chan… Naruto thought sadly as he watched her unreadable expression. Somehow, he felt as if her emerald orbs reflected sadness in them.
"This… is a place of my memories. Everything that had happened in my life is within here. During my past life as a Summoner in Amaterasu, and my current life as a Kunoichi in Konoha." Her smile faded as a solemn expression replaced it.
"Memories?" Naruto asked unconsiously.
A smile formed on her lips once more. However, this time, it seemed that it showed every ounce of sadness that was in her soul. "This is the place where I was born into… and this will also be the place where I would die… engulfed by my memories."
"I don't…" Naruto shook his head. "I don't… understand."
"You don't need to. Just… please… listen to me… even just a while longer," Sakura said softly. She sounded as if she was pleading, begging for him to stay. But why?
"Sakura-chan…" he said her name in a way that would tell her how confused he was―very confused. He didn't know what she was talking about, nor did he like the meaning that he was getting from what she was talking about.
"Before… before you… leave me. Please… just listen to me… and hear me out," she softly and vulnerably pleaded once more.
All that Naruto could do was nod and let her say what she had to say. She wouldn't answer his questions anyway, so the best thing to do now was to do what she wanted him to do. Listen.
She smiled as she saw him nod. Her eyes softened and she said, "You were the only one who was able to get here, I pressume. It must be because of the Kyuubi inside you… the Bijuu that I summoned 22 years ago," she paused as Naruto merely stare at her tensely, waiting patiently for her to continue, "I already told you this, but I want to say it again: I'm sorry."
"Saku—" Naruto started, but was immediately cut off as Sakura spoke once more.
She cocked her head to the side as she gave a soft yet sad smile. "I'm really sorry, Naruto. All I ever did… was hurt you. I always did… didn't I? I never appreciated anything that you did for me. All I did was cause you pain." Tears that shone like crystals cascaded down her cheeks, as the sadness, regret and guilt that welled up in her heart poured out along with her tears.
Naruto shook his head. "That's not true, Sakura-chan."
However, Sakura didn't seem to hear what Naruto had said, or she might have just ignored what he said completely. "My wish was to be treated like a normal person. To be treated equally like other people. And… that's―what you did. You treated me like a real person… and not some tool. You took care of me… you protected me. I owe many things to you, Naruto… but in the end, I can only do one thing for you. I can only repay you… this way…"
Naruto's cerulean orbs narrowed as he frowned in confusion. He didn't understand the last part of what Sakura said, nor would he understand it anytime soon. She was speaking in riddles, making it harder for him to understand. He was at a loss for words for a while, but at last he found the right words to tell her. Well, at least, in his opinion, it was the best thing to tell her. He opened his mouth to speak, but Sakura's next words struck him speechless.
"Maybe… my death will be a good thing after all." Sakura forced a smile that Naruto saw through easily.
Naruto shook his head with a frown and turned away from her, saying, "That's not true, Sakura-chan. I don't care if you do anything to repay me or not. That isn't what matters!" It was then that he locked his gaze back towards hers with a reassuring expression on his features. "What matters is that you were there with us. We were together, developing and creating more memories together. That's what matters!"
Sakura was taken aback and shocked at his words. Somehow, she wanted to just release all of her burried feelings and just run towards Naruto and cry on him. However… "It's too late for that now… Naruto. I can't go back… there anymore."
Naruto gave a soft chuckle at hearing those words. Those words that were exactly identical as his… "You know, you sounded just like Sasuke. The first time when I tried to bring him back to Konoha. It's ironic… that you said the same thing… like him."
Sasuke… Sakura's eyes softened as her mind instantly drifted towards their raven haired teammate.
"You would know what my answer would be then. Sasuke said the very same thing, and I'll say the same thing to you. Sakura-chan, I'm not leaving this place without you." Naruto's eyes narrowed with a mix of determination and stubborness.
"I'm afraid you don't have much of a choice," Sakura said as she pointed towards something behind Naruto, making him turn around curiously to find out what it was.
Naruto's eyes widened as he saw a bright white light before him that gave him hope of escaping this horrid and empty place. He averted his gaze from the light towards Sakura who was now smiling at him. Naruto's eyes narrowed once more, putting up a obstinate attitude. "I'm not leaving."
Sakura merely continued to smile at him, but this time it was a weary smile. "Naruto…"
"No! I'm not leaving you here all alone. No!" Naruto protested as he shook his head.
"I was born alone in this world, and I would also die alone. You shouldn't throw away your life for someone like me. I'm not worth it. If you really do care about me, then you would do this one little favor for me…" Sakura approached him, and clasped her hands around his, which startled him. "You'll live for me… that's all I'm asking. Don't try to follow me. It isn't your time yet. Besides, there's someone still out there who's waiting for you to return."
Suddenly, he heard a faint yet familiar voice that belonged to a certain person. He could hear it saying and uttering the same words over and over. As it repeated over and over, it got even louder and louder.
"Naruto-kun! Naruto-kun! Please! Naruto-kun!"
That sounded just like… "Hinata-chan!" Naruto exclaimed out loud as he realized whom the voice came from. "She's calling for me."
"You should go to her then," Sakura said, nodding her head as she spoke. Her grip around his hands tightened a bit, but not enough to hurt him. "She's waiting for you."
"No, I won't leave you." He was still as stubborn as before.
Sakura shook her head as her eyes closed. When she opened them once more, she gave him a sad smile, "It's not like I'm forced to stay here. I chose to stay here. It's a decision that I made with my own free will." She averted her gaze from him towards the side, refusing to look at him. "I'm dead anyway. This is the place that I will be now that I'm dead, but you…" She turned back to face him with a hopeful smile. "You're still alive. You can still live a life around with others and enjoy their company. But me… now that I'm dead, all I can do is stay in this place."
"But… Sakura-chan…" Naruto tried to protest once more, but Sakura's placing a finger on his lips, silenced him and prevented him from saying another word.
"Don't say anything else, Naruto. Just go―now, while you still have the time." She forced him to turn around and pushed him towards the direction of the bright light, while hearing his startled cry.
Naruto stumbled, but was able to regain his blance right before he touched the light or rather―the doorway out of this sad and empty prison. He turned around to glance at Sakura one last time, frowning at her figure to make sure of her decision. She merely nodded, giving him a smile, but he knew that behind that smile was an everlasting sadness that she tried to hide from everyone.
He knew that she would be alone if he left her in this hollow prison, but what could he do. This wasn't the same situation when he was trying to bring Sasuke back. At that time, Sasuke was mocking, taunting and sneering at him, but Sakura, she smiled at him, telling him that everything was going to be fine.
But he knew… he knew… that it wasn't going to be alright. Judging by the look of this place, it would only bring her…
As he stepped through the light, it was the last time that he saw her. For he had already left the world of the unliving… or rather the border between the world of the dead and the world of the living. She was stuck there. Stuck inbetween those two worlds, and he could do nothing about it.
As she saw him disappear through the light, which began to fade with his presence, she was left in the hollow darkness once more. Now, there was no one with her anymore. She was all alone.
"I don't want you to die now that the Kyuubi is leaving you. I don't want you to die yet, even though that way… I'm going to have you here with me. I rather have the satisfaction of saving you, even though it mean I'll be alone in this hollow prison, rather than having the satisfaction of having you here with me because I left you to die. It might be selfish that I was only using you, so that I would feel good about myself. But… yeah… it is selfish isn't it." Tears once more cascaded down her pale features.
All she could do now… was cry. There was nothing else she could do in this place. All she could do was watch her past memories and cry in regret, sorrow and emotional pain.
Was this the only way to redeem herself from all of her sins during her past life as a Summoner? Was this the only way to redeem herself from killing hundreds of innocent people without remorse?
Maybe it was…
Maybe it wasn't…
Only time would tell…
What would happen next…
No one knew…
"Naruto-kun! Naruto-kun!" A gasp suddenly escaped Hinata's lips as she saw the crimson light surrounding Naruto's body shoot out as it left Naruto's frame and went to the side, now glowing by itself in the air. As the crimson light left Naruto's body, he immediately collapsed on the ground like all his energy had been suddenly drained out of him. His body leaned forward, and with the help of gravity, Naruto collapsed to the ground.
A gasp escaped Hinata's lips once more as she ran to Naruto's side. She brought her index and middle finger towards the side of Naruto's neck, cheking for the sign of his pulse. Hinata's lavender orbs widen when she didn't feel something that she should have. Oh no… there's no pulse.
Sasuke was about to run towards where Naruto's lying figure was laid when another bright scarlet light from the corner of his onyx orbs caught his attention. He planned to only look at the unusual light for a brief moment since he needed to help Naruto out. However, as soon as he focused his onyx orbs on the scarlet light, it was then that he noticed the light having a shape of a bird, but it wasn't the shape the light formed that brought Sasuke's full attention towards it. What made him curious was that the light was oddly changing its shape.
It was a faint silhouette of a human. He could see two arms, two legs and a faint thin outline of a person's head.
The scarlet light slowly descended to the ground. As it slowly went near the ground, the light suddenly dissipated and a figure landed softly on the ground. As the figure looked up, a spiky flaming red haired guy with sky blue eyes faced them. He was strong built and handsome. His clothing was an ancient style though. It wasn't modern style clothing. It was more of a ancient Japanese fighting style of clothing. He had a cloth tied around his forehead, completing his fighter image.
He was expressionless as he kept a impassive gaze on their direction as they could only look at him with bewilderment and shock.
The red haired stranger averted his gaze towards his hands as he lifted both arms up and inspected his features. He trailed his sky blue eyes down from his shoes towards his well toned body, which he smirked on, and towards his calloused hands. Slowly, he brought his gaze back to Sasuke, who merely frowned at his location, to Tsubasa, who stared at him with of confusion and shock, while Kimiko and Yukino could only blink in shock as he gave them a smirk.
"I'm finally out of that form," he said, his voice marked with content as his smirk grew wider. "It's good to be in human form again."
"Don't be so cocky, Setsuna. We won't be out in this form for too long." A foreign female voice stated curtly.
Setsuna's sky blue orbs trailled to the side as he brought everyone's attention to whatever he was staring at from the corner of his eyes. It was then that everyone brought their attention back towards the crimson light that came out of Naruto from before. The same thing happened just like when the stranger called, Setsuna, appeared. The crimson light dissipated, leaving a figure to softly land on the ground. The figure looked up, revealing a face of a beautiful pale skin tonned woman. She had a shiny long blonde hair, and her eyes shined like the sea. She was wearing a Chinese clothing of a simple tank top and lose pants.
"Ah, if it isn't the infamous Kaori." Setsuna drawled in a mocking manner. "You know, you shouldn't sound so bossy when you're talking to someone who is far more older than you." He eyed the woman beside him with sheer irritation.
The woman beside him could only scoff in reply. "Do you look any older than me?" She asked slyly. This made Setsuna's mouth shut, knowing that he was getting into an argument that he knew was inevitable who would win.
"Who are you two?"
Setsuna, who was watching Kaori's feeble attempts on comforting the petite girl beside her with a emotionless stare, and Kaori, who was snapped out of her forming thoughts, turned towards the owner of the voice that had spoken. Both Setsuna and Kaori's attention became focused on a stern faced Kimiko who was standing right inbetween Tsubasa and Yukino with Uchiha Sasuke standing in front of them. Neither of the two strangers opened their mouth to answer the question directed towards them though. Silence was the only response that they gave Kimiko, ticking the girl off in the process.
"Answer my question! Who are you people?" Kimiko's jade orbs narrowed into slits, giving the two strangers a glare.
Setsuna and Kaori didn't seem amused as their expressions didn't alter. They still had the same indifferent gaze like before. An dead panned and deafening silence was emitted around them. Kaori took this as a time for her to straighten herself up to stand right beside the stoic Setsuna, who didn't even acknowledge her actions by giving any attention towards her. He kept staring at Kimiko, refusing to break the eye contact between them.
The silence was broken easily―like how a thread can be cut by a pair of scissors with one snip―by the sound of Setsuna's soft chuckling as he finally broke his gaze from the uncomfortable Kimiko. She must have wanted to break eye contact from him long before because of how intense his gaze was directed towards her, but couldn't bring herself to do it.
With his eyes closed, Setsuna was chuckling softly. He opened his sky blue eyes once more, with a smirk on his lips as he ruffled his hand through his spiky flamming red hair. "People these days can be so naïve―and foolish," Setsuna taunted coldly.
Taking the insult to heart, Sasuke's onyx orbs suddenly changed into his blood like orbs, the Sharingan. "What was that?"
"I forgot to mention that they're also quick tempered," Setsuna added, merely provoking the Uchiha even more as he heard Sasuke growl in annoyance.
"I don't think you would be smirking anymore when I thrust my hand into your mouth and pull out your vocal cords," Sasuke replied ferociously.
"Oh, I would like to see you try," Setsuna smirked, unaffected by Sasuke's threat.
Suddenly Kaori's hand shot up before Setsuna's figure, signaling him stop talking. He obeyed the message and didn't say anything else after that.
Kaori immediately apologized on Setsuna's behalf. "I apologize. We didn't come here to have any quarrels with you. We came here because―"
"It can't be… grandmother…?"
Everyone whirled around to find Seiji's wide eyed expression, staring at Kaori in bewilderment. He was standing just behind Yukino, Tsubasa and Kimiko, and must have arrived back just a moment ago.
"Hello, Seiji," Kaori replied with a small smile.
"Seiji…" Yukino murmured unconsiously as the words just seem to flow out of her mouth.
"What do you mean by grandmother?" Kimiko asked, her brows wrinkled together in a state of confusion.
This time, she received an answer, but from an unexpected source. "She's Sakura and Seiji's grandmother," Tsubasa answered, informing the woman beside her.
"Actually, I am also your grandmother" ―Tsubasa blinked in shock as she heard this― "And to answer your question earlier, I was the Summoner of Amaterasu just before Sakura." Kaori stated calmly, her voice not holding any ounce of hesitation as she informed them of her identity.
All eyes merely gave her a stare that sent the same message. They were all confused and shocked by the new found information that they received. In fact, they were too shocked to even say anything as silence was the only response that they were able to give Kaori.
"What are you…" Tsubasa shook her head, her pastel orbs not leaving Kaori's figure. "I don't… understand."
"In time you will," Kaori said, giving Tsubasa a sincere yet secretive smile.
"But I don't understand," Seiji shook his head with uttermost confusion as everyone turned to face him, hearing him speak for the second time. "You're suppose to be dead. How can you be here?"
Kaori could only give grandson a smile.
Setsuna scoffed and explained the details thoroughly, not wanting to waste any more time with silly questions. So, he chose to start… to where it all began. "There was once a time when there were no such things as demons that ever existed. Demons were only created by peoples imaginations, and were mentioned in myths and tales. People lived in peace and harmony, and war was a word that no one knew of.
"There was one girl named Hikari that many people came to whenever they wanted to see someone dear to them that had already died. What made her special wasn't because that she could communicate with the dead, but it was her ability to summon the dead spirits into the realm of the living.
"Some were misled by the special abilities that Hikari possessed that no one else would be able to achieve, so the only way they could get hold of this power is to manipulate her into their bidding. Hikari wasn't easily fooled by their trickery of manipulation, but she knew that she couldn't just let them off loose.
"So, she used her abilities to manipulate the souls of the dead and took away the souls from the people that tried to control her, killing them in the process. Thus, is the creation of evil spirits. These spirits combined themselves and tried to get revenge in her and tried to possess the girl's body, but failed, when the girl sent them to the realm of the dead.
"The next time she tried to summon a spirit from the spirit realm, good and evil spirits both escaped to the land of the living and everything went out of control. Evil spirits started possessing the people who are living and tried to ruin their lives by tempting them to do terrible things. Thus, the seven deadly sins were born: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. This not only created the burning hatred that people felt for each other, but it managed to escalate that the word 'war' was finally created and experienced.
"People started dying pointless deaths each day, as there wasn't seem to be an end to the war in sight. With each passing day, people hatred towards each other grew stronger and stronger.
"Hikari felt great remorse for all the people that died, and pinned the blame on herself for their deaths. She thought―and knew that it was her fault that all of this happened. She protected the people that hadn't lost their ways to the burning hatred that was shed whenever a battle occurred. Hikari protected the people, who still had pure hearts and encouraged them not to be tempted by evil.
"She tried to send the evil spirits back into the realm of the dead and succeeded. However, the damage was already done, and nothing went back to normal. Hikari had no power to change a human heart, and couldn't stop the bloodshed, pointless deaths, and painful suffering.
"She tried one more, but this time, she had aid from the people who still had pure hearts and tried to cast away the deep, and growing hatred that many people were experiencing. It was tough, but she managed to succeed. However, it wasn't in the way she wanted it to.
"The positive and negative emotions that clashed against each other managed to combine and form different and demonic creatures called the Bijuu. Finally forming a distinctive shape, Hikaru was able to banish these Bijuus into another realm, bringing peace in the land of the living once more." Setsuna said as if he was a spectator during the past events that he had just told them about.
"Not quite though," Kaori interrupted wisely. "These negative emotions have already been experienced by humans, thus, making the world a balance of good and evil."
"I knew that," Setsuna snarled impatiently. "As I was saying…
"Hikari came to a decision to hide herself and not to associate herself with mortal beings again, afraid of making the same mistake over. But even through this, she was able to create a family of her own. She thought her children her abilities and passed them the knowledge of being a Summoner, but there was one huge difference. Her children weren't able to have all the abilites that she possessed. Only one was able to inherit the ability to summon a Bijuu in the realm of the living." Setsuna spoke placidly.
"And we're Hikari's descendants," Kaori concluded, refering to both Setsuna and herself.
"Even her―that girl who referred to as, Haruno Sakura, is a descendant of Hikari." Setsuna said, still keeping the same tone as his previous statement.
"So, that's the reason why I couldn't have the ability to summon a Bijuu?" Seiji asked, yearning for answers for the cause of his mind to be brimming with jealousy in the past. He wanted to know, whether it was just because he was worthless that he wasn't blessed with the abilities of being a Summoner instead of his sister.
"Every generation, there can only be one Summoner in that time. A new Summoner can only be born when the past Summoner has died. Even though you and Sakura are twins, there will only be one person who can summon a Bijuu," Setsuna snarled impatiently. He really reviled explaining things verbally. He chose to speak his mind by actions, and being engaged into a battle, but he knew that Kaori wouldn't take a second thought and stop him before he even tried to lift a single finger.
"But you should also know that being a Summoner is a great responsibility. It is not only controlled by your will alone, but also by the emotions that you are feeling inside." Kaori explained with the sound of her soothing serene voice ringing through the air. "There's one thing that I want to know: why exactly do you want to be blessed with the abilites of being the Summoner?"
Seiji couldn't help but flinch at the direct question that his grandmother has given him. Lowering his head and was now looking at the ground―he wasn't able to keep an eye contact with Kaori―he realized that he couldn't find the words to the answer to his grandmother's question. "I… it's because…" or maybe, he just didn't want to answer that, "… I don't know."
Kaori was about to open her mouth to speak to Seiji, when someone's weak and muffled voice that interrupted them.
"Why?" Hinata burried her head on Naruto's cold chest. "Why… Naruto… kun…" she sobbed, freely letting her tears flow down her cheek.
Kaori turned to her side as she saw the panic striken Hinata, fighting tears that was flowing down freely on her cheeks. Her eyes softened as a sad expression replaced her cool yet cold features. She didn't say anything. She merely trailled her sea foam orbs from the lifeless form of her container towards the tear faced Hyuuga beside him.
"Naruto-kun…! No… it's not true." Hinata shook her head swiftly in denial. "It can't be true. It just… can't be."
Kaori's sea foam orbs narrowed piteously as she heard everything that the Hyuuga heiress had said. He's the Jinchuuriki that contained me. It's only natural that now that I left him, his life will be cut from there, Kaori thought miserably. She didn't want to tell the Hyuuga about this for it will only make matters worse. Hinata's stiffled sobs was only making things harder for Kaori as she inwardly gave a weak sigh.
please…" Hinata clutched Naruto's shirt into a fist. "…
don't leave me…" she was making Naruto's shirt moist from her
tears, but that didn't matter to her right now. What mattered was
Is that… Naruto-kun?
I'm so sorry…
Why… why did he sound so sad…?
Then, she felt a warm and moistured wet substance drop on her arm. Wait. Was Naruto… no―it couldn't be.
Opening her eyes and letting them adjust towards her surrounding for a couple of seconds, she saw Naruto sitting at the side of her bed, trying to fight back tears from coming. Her eyes softned at this. Was he just… crying for her?
Naruto still wasn't able to notice that Hinata had already regained consciousness. He was too busy blaming himself―that it was his entire fault that this happened to her.
Smiling softly, Hinata stretched her hand and reached towards Naruto's face. She placed her hand on his cheek, making Naruto immediately look at her in shock, confused at seeing her. Hinata brushed her index finger right under Naruto's eye, wiping the tear that was threatening to fall down. She gave him a small yet sincere smile.
Naruto couldn't get over the rushed emotions that he felt. He couldn't believe it, Hinata was awake. But he thought… he thought… Kiba and Shino didn't tell him anything about this, and they were the ones that were guarding her when he was away. Why didn't they tell him?
"Hinata… chan…" Naruto muttered, deeply shocked and yet glad in seeing her smiling at him.
Hinata sat up from the hospital bed she was lying on. Her smile widened as she said, "Welcome back, Naruto-kun."
That did it. Naruto's cerulean orbs widened once more before it narrowed into a gentle gaze. With his emotions getting the better of him, he enclosed her body in his arms and gave her tight and warm embrace. He tightened his grip on her, afraid that she'll disappear if he released her small form.
"Naruto-kun," Hinata blushed, taking her hands away in shock at Naruto's unexpected actions. It was taking quite a while for her to register in her mind that Naruto was actually… hugging her.
Naruto burried his head on her shoulder, taking a sniff of her unique scent. This only caused Hinata to flush an even darker shade of red. If he doesn't let go soon, she might faint in his arms.
That would be bad. Very bad.
"I'm… glad…" Naruto's voice was shaking from the intense happiness he felt. "I'm glad… that you're finally awake… Hinata-chan." He sighed in relief. "I thought… I wouldn't see you again."
He was that worried about her?
Kiba didn't tell her that Naruto ever cried though. No, he didn't. Maybe, he didn't know though. Somehow, this eased her nervousness a bit, making her tense shoulders slump back to their original state.
"Naruto-kun…" she murmured silently.
End of Flashback
She wanted him back. She didn't want him to die yet. He wanted to see one of his playful grins. She wanted him to be alive. "Come back… please come back…"
"I am back."
Hinata's head snapped up only to see Naruto open his eyes that had always been full of life. Naruto chuckled, "Hey, Hinata-chan."
Hinata shook his head, tears cascading down her cheeks in the process, and jumped on Naruto, wrapping her arms around his neck. Naruto was unprepared by Hinata's outburst, making them both fall to the ground in a lying position once more. She cried on his chest, relief washing over her, glad that he was alive. He was alive! He didn't die. She almost thought that he would, but he didn't. He was back. "Naruto-kun," she sobbed happily. She repeated his name over and over again with relief and joy.
It took quite a while for Naruto's sudden resurrection to register in Sasuke's mind. After a couple of seconds of staring at his best friend's (not that he'll admit this fact out loud) grinning expression, Sasuke couldn't help but smirk. In a way―his own way―he was relieved.
Naruto couldn't help but smile grateful for the Hyuuga heiress's unconditional affections. He was happy that someone cried for his sake―really glad. Placing a gentle hand on Hinata's bluish-purple tresses, he stroked her head gently, accepting the girl's affection for him.
Kaori frowned with great confusion, "How… that can't be…?" She shook her head in disbelief before she was able to form the words out of her mouth, "How can you still be alive?"
Setsuna narrowed his eyes, making him look like he was almost glaring at Naruto. He was both baffled and confused about the situation as well. This was supposed to be impossible. When the Bijuu has left the Jinchuuriki's body, the Jinchuuriki would die. How can that be possible?
Naruto waited until Hinata was able to settle down before he gave one last pat on her head. Hinata understood immediately what he wanted. With one last sniff, she wiped the excess tears on her cheeks, calming down. She got off from on top of Naruto and sat up. She took his hand and helped him sit up as well.
"You're suppose to be dead," Kaori asked with utter confusion. She didn't mean to make it sound that it would be better if Naruto was dead. She was just confused―really confused.
Hinata gave a worried glance from Kaori to Naruto. She didn't understand―why Kaori was so worked up with this. Hinata gave a momentarily glance at Kaori's companion. He also seemed that he was also taking the situation rather seriously.
What was wrong with them?
"Sakura-chan…" his face suddenly quirked into a pained expression. He had a hard time with just uttering her name. "I saw her."
"What?" Setsuna asked with a frown. He didn't understand who this boy was talking about.
"Who?" Kaori asked, wanting Naruto to clarify his last statement.
Naruto looked up and gave a curious glance at Sasuke's reaction―if he had any―and brought his gaze back down the ground, unfocused.
Sasuke narrowed his obsidian orbs when he saw Naruto gave him that curious look. How was he even related to what they were talking about?
Naruto paused, trying to get the words out but it took him a while to do so. "Sakura-chan. I saw her."
Seiji's eyes widened when he heard this. He didn't know if he was feeling a spark of hope within him or he was just plain shocked by hearing the unexpected news.
Kaori couldn't help but blink in surprise, while Setsuna frowned with utter confusion. Even with different reaction, they both thought of the same thing. How can that be?
Sasuke kept silent. Turning to the side to look at the unmoving Sakura, Sasuke couldn't help but feel something inside him that he couldn't seem to describe. She looked like she was only peacefully sleeping, and maybe she was. The only thing different from her now was that she would never wake up. He didn't understand. Why did he feel like this? Sakura…
Sakura-san, Hinata thought, gasping in shock. Just like everyone, she was confused, maybe―even more confused than before.
"I was inside a dark and hollow place… until I saw her. She looked so… sad. She said that we were inside a place where her memories were located. She apologized and thanked me." His face scrunched up in a pained frown. "I asked her to come with me, but she remained there. I could've just forced her, but I didn't. I left her there."
Naruto gritted his teeth painfully. He was blaming himself. If he just did that, then maybe, Sakura would've been with them… here―right now.
"That can't be helped now, can it?" Kaori said with an understanding smile. "It was her choice to stay there. It might have been stupid and foolish of her, but you couldn't force her even if you wanted to."
"Then I'll revive her," Seiji said without any ounce of hesitation within his voice. He was determined to bring his twin sister back―no matter what.
Naruto narrowed his cerulean orbs.
They were both thinking the same thing.
Kaori shook her head and opened her mouth to protest, but before she could even do so, Setsuna said what she wanted to say… in a more sophisticated manner.
"How can you revive someone when they aren't willing to?" Setsuna asked, with a bemused expression.
"What are you saying?" Seiji asked in an confused yet annoyed voice. He wasn't going to let this person stop him. He had the ability to bring his sister back, and he wasn't going to let anyone get in the way―even if he had been one of the Summoners in the past.
"Even though you have the ability to revive someone, it would still be impossible to revive someone who isn't willing to come back," Kaori explained, elaborating Setsuna's statement into something more understandable.
"What?" Seiji asked awestruck.
"So, Sakura… she can't come back," a stiffled sob echoed in the air.
Yukino couldn't help but give a concerned glance towards her youngest companion. "Tsubasa…" she whispered sadly. She felt the same way, but Tsubasa had been best friends with Sakura for real before, so this might affect her more than her.
"No… she can't!" Tsubasa shook her head in denial. She closed her eyes, trying to wipe away the hopelessness that she was feeling. Opening her roseate orbs ones more, she gave a pleading gaze towards Kaori's directions. Approaching her 'supposedly' grandmother that looked like they could be sisters, Tsubasa asked in a desperate and pleading manner, "You can do something, can't you? You were once a Summoner like her, that's what you said, wasn't it? You can" ―Tsubasa took a deep breath, since she had been talking too quickly― "You can summon one of the Bijuu to revive Sakura, can't you? You can do that… can't you?" She couldn't help but choke her words out because she was sniffing uncontollably with droplets of tears fell down her cheeks.
Kaori couldn't help but narrow her eyes sadly. She was hesitant, but, "That's… impossible," she shook her head nonetheless. There was nothing she could do.
"So, she's really dead, huh?" Yukino muttered sadly, lowering her gaze to the dirty ground.
Kimiko couldn't help but clench her hands into tight fists. She hated herself. She thought of herself as responsible for everything that had happened. It was her fault. She was guilty.
"You said, she was in a place where all her memories laid, didn't you?" Setsuna asked, not entirely fazed by the depressing and uncomfortable silence.
Naruto slowly nodded.
"Sakura…" Kaori started, pausing afterwards, analyzing something. Her gaze was lay unfocused on the ground with a thoughtful expression on her face. "… She's still alive."
Tsubasa couldn't help but lift her head up, shocked by the sudden news. Did she just hear what she thought she heard?
"Sakura-chan's still alive," Naruto said in disbelief.
Hinata couldn't help but breathe out a sigh of relief and confound happiness.
Yukino glanced at Seiji's direction, expecting to see a smile on his face, but his face remained black as he continued to look at the ground he was standing on. Yukino couldn't help but smile to herself. He was too shocked to even flinch, she noticed.
Kimiko's eyes widened, thinking of all the possibilities if Sakura could just come back. She knew that many people would be glad to see her alive, including her friends in Konoha. Even though it would be shameless for her to think this, but she would be one of those people that would be glad for her to be alive.
"However―" Setsuna shattered the hope that was starting to build up in them once again. "―that doesn't really matter."
Doesn't really matter? "What do you mean by that?" Naruto asked, even though he was very much afraid that his final hope will be completely shattered if he listened to what the impassive Setsuna had to say.
Setsuna gave him a cold and indifferent stare. "Exactly what I mean."
"Like what Sakura told you, she's trapped in a world of memories―her memories. This is possible for the people who couldn't bring themselves to move on from the past. It is either that they were guilty of what they did in the past, or they experienced something that made their lives the way it had been." Kaori spoke before Setsuna could say anything. It would be much better if she was the one who did the talking. Setsuna might only 'cause havoc when they only tried to help… in any way possible.
"I don't know the reason how you could've been there, but Sakura could've kept you there with her. In a way, you would see everything that had happened to her life." Kaori shrugged. "You were suppose to be dead. When I left your body, you supposed to have died."
"You… you're the―Kyuubi?" Naruto asked, utterly shocked.
Kaori only smiled at him sincerely.
"So the Bijuu that everyone had been so afraid of are only people?" Naruto asked, shaking his head and sighing with confusion.
"You make it sound like we're demons," Setsuna commented curtly.
"Summoning a Bijuu isn't as simple as you think," Kaori's eyes narrowed carefully. "For us to summon them, we have to give our own lives. Since we are nothing like Hikari, to be able to materialize a Bijuu in the world of the living, we have to give our own lives. One of our ancestors was foolish enough to start this process, giving us the ability to summon the Bijuus from the other realm."
It was the same. To obtain power, one must give up something important.
"However…" Kaori's smile turned sad. "This became a neverending cycle. Because one of our ancestors had already started the sacrificial ritual, the Summoner in each generation must then, give up their own lives to summon a completely different Bijuu."
A cycle that never ends.
"It's the reason why a Summoner can summon even more bijuu than from the last generation Summoner. I was only able to summon eight Bijuus until I gave up my own life to summon the Bijuu that you call as Kyuubi."
Using a living soul from the world of the living as a medium.
"That's why… Sakura isn't dead yet. She can only die if she sacrifices her own life to summon another Bijuu. She can't die by only locking herself up within her memories." Kaori turned her head to the side to look at her granddaughter's peaceful, yet pitiful state.
This triggered hope for everyone.
"However, if she can't be brought back to the world of the living within 24 hours, she's as good as dead anyway. You can leave her to die, but I know you won't, am I right?" Kaori smiled mysteriously.
"How can you say that? Of course we won't!" Tsubasa chipped in firmly.
"But if you leave her to die, then the neverending cycle of us Summoners will finally be at an end," Setsuna muttered in a more discreet manner. It might be selfish, but they just wanted the painful cycle to end.
They want it to be over.
"But… that doesn't mean that Sakura-chan doesn't deserve to live a peaceful life that she had dreamed of," Naruto concluded. When he saw her in that hollow place and when he listened to her saying that it was a place of her memories, he couldn't help but notice that she looked really sad. He wanted to help her. He wanted her to live a life together with them―in Konoha, where she belonged.
Hinata looked at Naruto, trying to search for something within his expression. When she found what she was looking for, she nodded without a doubt. "That's right." She understood now. She understood what they had to do.
Tsubasa couldn't help but sniff in happiness. "I'm going too," she smiled.
Yukino smiled as well, "Yeah."
Kimiko nodded silently.
had a determined glint in his eyes, "I'm in.
"Just give up will you? No matter how much you wait, I'll never return any feelings for you." He said being quite sure of himself.
"Like I said eight years ago, 'I love you with all my heart.'" She said with great confidence in her voice.
"Most people who get rejected just give up. You should do the same thing. Your determination in loving me will only get you nowhere." Sasuke said, walking away from her.
When he was a great distance from her, she spoke while watching his retreating back. "Because my feelings are mine and mine alone, no one would be able to change that… even you."
End of Flashback
Damn! Why was he remembering that? He didn't understand her. How could she be so dedicated to him. How can she love him―that much? Now. He knew what to do. He knew what he had to do.
"What do we do?" Sasuke asked firmly, his gaze fixated on Kaori.
The only answer to his question is from her―from Sakura. He felt that it was the right thing. He was doing the right thing, and he's willing to stick with it.
If this was the only thing that he could do for her, he'll do it.
But… is that his real reason?
Or is there… something else.
A/N: Yes! Done! ―squeals in delight― I finished it! I actually finished it! I'm so proud of myself. I actually did it! Sasuke's feelings are still a mystery. No one knows what he really feels―even he doesn't have a clue. What can we do? That guy is utterly clueless. We'll let him redeem himself after a few chapters.
Don't expect me to update anytime soon, but I will! See you in―hopefully―a month. I haven't even started the next chapter yet. Gotta put that in my 'things to do' list.
To tell you the truth, this wasn't how I planned the story would be. Even the ending that I'm picturing in my head is completely different from the ending I'm thinking now. Sorry the lameness of the chapter. Well, it seems kinda lame.
More questions will be answered in the next few chapters. Ja ne!