HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, EVERYBODY!!!
ATTENTION – TO ALL OF MY BELOVED READERS, INCLUDING THOSE WHO ARE NOT REGISTERED AT BUT NEVER FAILS TO DROP REVIEWS: Oh. My. Gawd. Thank you very much! Well, I always reply to all of my registered reviewers, but I never had the chance to reply to any of the unregistered ones. They usually don't leave e-mails, so I can't even send you messages to express my gratitude. But please do know, I really appreciate your reviews, no matter how simple they are, they mean a lot to me. Every. Single. Review. I read them all and appreciate them. I think now is the time to say THANK YOU. Thank you all so much. You make me happy no matter how tiring and how brain-dehydrating my day was. Thank you all so, so, much! :)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: School sucks. I'm busy all the time. I rarely have sufficient rest at all. Weekends? Those are the days when I'm busier. Oh well. Just finished my Midterm Exams last week. Moving on…
Hello everyone! This is my very special Valentine treat to you all! It's a SaiNatsu fluff! Sort of. Hehehe. This is one of my favorite chapters. I really did put my heart into writing this chapter. I hope it will be one of your favorites, too! It's a bit long, too!
Enjoy!!! Love, love, love!!! Hearts, hearts, hearts!!!
PS: Happy Independence Day to all single ladies and gentlemen out there! Hahahaha! You're not alone! I'm in that same bandwagon since birth! XD
(From the last chapter…)
"Rokudaime-san," Sai formally called Sakura, "I think we should get going. You are still not yet well."
"Ah, yes." Sakura spoke, "Well then, I hope that the signing of the Kirigakure-Konoha Treaty of Eternal Alliance will be pursued today. The Godaime Hokage will be signing the contract in my place. I could not stay any longer for I still have to recuperate from my illness. I have to excuse myself now, Mizukage-sama, Hokage-sama."
With that, she bowed and she stepped down from the stage, Sai still accompanying her.
As soon as she reached the floor beneath the steps of the stage, Sakura had clutched onto Sai's shoulder for support – she had lost her footing. Sai held on Sakura's frame securely.
"Sakura! Sakura, are you okay?" Sai had forgotten that they were still in a formal event, having addressed her name informally.
Sakura clutched her aching head with one hand, her other arm was still encircled firmly around one of Sai's shoulders. Her vision was questionably blurred. She said in between huffs, "I… I… I-I think I'm not feeling too well."
(Chapter 98 – The Tale from the Giant Paper Windmill)
"You ugly hag, you've been pushing yourself too hard." Sai scolded, loud enough for only her to hear. Sai eyed Shizune and called her, "Shizune-san!"
Shizune immediately walked to where Sai and Sakura were.
"What happened?" Shizune asked.
"Sakura-chan!!!" Naruto screeched as he ran towards Sakura.
Because of Naruto's concerned call, the audience turned their heads to where Sakura and the other three were. There were several 'ohs' and 'ahs', gasps that were concerned for the Rokudaime's health. They saw that she had lost the glow that she had possessed earlier on stage. She was now very pale.
"Let's escort her out of here first." Shizune instructed, "Naruto-kun, please help Sai in guiding Sakura out of this venue. I'll be the one to attend to her. I'll just grab a few things. I'll be back really soon, okay?"
With that, Shizune ran out of the venue.
Sakura lolled her head back, "Damn it. I really don't feel so well."
Naruto grabbed Sakura's other arm and draped it over his shoulders. He and Sai started aiding Sakura to walk out of the venue.
"Neh, Sakura-chan?" Naruto called, "You were really cool back there!"
Sakura could only smile to that. Naruto had seen that small gesture anyway.
Then, Sakura's body felt heavier.
"Shit." Sai cursed, "Naruto, she passed out."
"Eh?!" Naruto looked at Sakura whose eyes were already closed.
Naruto turned and tapped her cheeks gently, "Sakura-chan! Sakura-chan!"
"Really, she never listened to me whenever I told her not to push herself too hard." Sai shifted as he wrapped an arm across her back, securing his hand right under her left arm. He then bent down a little and placed his other arm around her thighs and lifted her in his arms. He shifted a little due to her weight.
An ANBU approached them and bowed his head to Sai before saying, "Need a little help with that, Sir?"
"No thanks, I'm fine. I can handle her." Sai told him as he started walking, "She's not that heavy, anyway."
"Well then," the ANBU nodded as he escorted Sai and Naruto out of the hall, "right this way, Sir."
Of course, the crowd was still watching and they clapped in salute to the Rokudaime Hokage who was unconscious in Sai's arms.
…And yes, Uchiha Sasuke was watching as well, much to his chagrin. How he wished that he was the one carrying his 'savior' in his arms and not Sai. Well, he doesn't have a right to be jealous anyway. Sakura officially ditched him, even announced it in public today. Also, in over a million times, he tried scolding himself mentally, telling himself that he shouldn't be jealous of Sai because Sai was nothing more than a friend to Sakura.
Sai had set Sakura on sitting position on a bench along a corridor leading to the main function hall.
"Sai-kun?" a gentle voice called.
"Excuse me," the ANBU with them turned to the owner of the voice, "please return to your seat in the main function hall. The Rokudaime's assistant and the advisor can handle this."
Sai looked behind the ANBU, who was blocking his view of the voice's owner. Immediately, he recognized the owner.
Sai stood up from his crouching position and tapped the shoulder of the ANBU, saying, "No, no, it's okay."
"Sai-kun, I just wanted to help out in some way that I could." The voice's owner told him.
Sai smiled sweetly at the voice's owner and said, "Of course, Natsumi-san."
"Who's she?" Naruto stared at the beautiful, young brunette-haired lady who appeared before them.
Natsumi bowed and smiled at Naruto, "I apologize I have not introduced myself. I'm Natsumi-"
"Sai's new girlfriend?" Naruto interrupted, well, he was more like teasing Sai.
Natsumi blushed at that statement.
"Naruto," Sai turned around, "Natsumi-san is my new friend, not girlfriend. I met her in the Konoha Art Gallery a few days ago. Her father owns that place and she works there, too. She's an artist as well."
Naruto chuckled mischievously and told them, "Well, I'm going back in the hall. Hey, Mr. ANBU, you should be going, too. I'm gonna leave you two alone. Looks like you need some privacy."
"Naruto." Sai warned, as if trying to state a death threat.
Naruto started walking away, with a malicious, almost girl-like giggle. The ANBU bowed before Sai and excused himself as he disappeared in thin air.
"That's Uzumaki Naruto." Sai told her, "One of Sakura's advisors. And this is Haruno Sakura. She already knows about you. I told her about you yesterday."
"She's such a brave woman." Natsumi replied, "I admire her. It is an honor for me just to stand this close to her."
"Not really, especially when she's angry. She'll be throwing punches at you if you get too close." Sai laughed, "So, you said you wanted to help with something?"
"Ah, yes." Natsumi brought out a scroll the size of her thumb.
"What's that?" Sai pointed at the little thing. He did notice though, there was the kanji of 'air' written in ink on the scroll.
"Watch." Natsumi smiled as she made handseals with her right hand alone. The handseals were made so quick, the actions were a blur to Sai.
"Release." She said as she made her last handseal.
With a puff of light blue smoke, appeared a huge, lilac-colored paper windmill that towered just a little bit over Natsumi.
Natsumi gave the windmill a pat on the trunk and the top started spinning, giving off a cool air, blowing towards Sakura and Sai's direction.
"Well, well," Sai amusedly remarked with one eyebrow raised as he glanced at Natsumi, "looks like you'd still be a pretty good kunoichi, an ANBU even, given the chance."
"Really? Thank you. I haven't used any jutsu in a long while."
"Didn't seem like it. Not everyone can do handseals quickly and effectively with one hand." Sai praised as he stared with great interest at the giant paper windmill before him, "I can, but I don't do it too often."
Sai sat down beside the still unconscious Sakura.
"I don't see why you can't like her." Natsumi said as she stared down at Sai and Sakura, "And I know why you can't leave her side. You're her strength, aren't you?"
Sai shook his head in ridicule, "I wouldn't say that. It's my duty to stay by her side always. I give her a little boost when she's feeling a little pessimistic about things. You probably heard what the Mizukage said regarding her, she's quite a broken woman, really."
"Do you like her?" Natsumi said in an almost sad tone.
"Used to." Sai looked up at Natsumi and held her by her wrist, pulling her down to sit beside him, "I'll be telling you a little secret. Are you in for it?"
The wind blew some of her auburn locks on her face. She used her right hand to tuck them behind her ear. Natsumi nodded, "Sure."
"Don't tell anyone about it, swear?"
"I swear I won't tell anyone." Natsumi smiled, "And besides, I have no one to tell this one about."
Sai snickered at her innocence, her purity, as he spoke, "Sakura and me… well, we used to be lovers. I used to be her boyfriend, and she used to be my girlfriend. That happened when I was still a part of her team when she was a chuunin…until Uchiha Sasuke came back. You see, Sakura already had that little crush for Sasuke way, way back when she was still in the Konoha Genin Academy. That infatuation grew into a sad, unrequited love. Her love for him only grew deeper when he was away. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder. I was Sasuke's replacement on the team. And I guess I was only a replacement for Sasuke in her heart as well, back when I was still deeply in love with her. She and I were in a secret relationship then. When Sasuke returned, Sakura and I had to break up. Sasuke apparently got interested in her, even offering her marriage. I turned bitter towards her. We only came into terms about a month ago, I guess. She apologized for what she did and told me that she loved me uniquely. She loved me in a way that she couldn't love Sasuke. I guess I have outgrown my love for her and the bitterness that came with it. I only see her now as a friend, a very important and indispensable friend."
"I see." It was a rather delayed reply from her, really. But it was an understood and sympathetic gesture. She empathizes with him. After all, that's all that she could do or feel for him as of the moment.
What he just told her tugged at her heart a little bit for some unknown reason. Jealousy? No. Hurt? Maybe. She was confused. But this man beside her… he possessed something in him, something like a magnetic force that made her want to be as close to him as she could get.
Oh but she knew she can't. This man was busy with his work. He was his ex-girlfriend's loyal assistant. His work demands a lot of time. She also knows that despite how tiring his work could be, he also takes pleasure from what he does. He was a workaholic and it was obvious. Aside from that, this man can be surrounded by several other high-ranking ninjas at times, knowing that he is an Elite ANBU as well.
He was everything she was not, except for two things – an artist and a broken lover. She knows what it must have felt like to let go of the only person you love so much. It hurts as hell. (A/N: Damn. You don't want to feel that. I did! I already experienced the pain of loving and being defeated in the end. It cuts like a knife, I tell you! I was miserable for a month! T.T Okay, before we end up in another story…)
She can also relate herself to Sakura, a little, maybe. Natsumi knows how it feels like to be excited to know that you're going to be married to that one man who you truly love, only to have him go in the end. It hurts to the point that she wanted to die. With so much pain in her heart back then, she had almost burnt the precious paintings she made, entailing the memories of her and her ex-fiancé.
And then there came along a stranger by the name of Sai. She can't exactly explain that effect he had on her…such as the moment she saw him in the Konoha Art Gallery a few days ago. At that very moment, the wounds in her heart closed and dried up. Somehow, her heart started beating again.
But after hearing what he had to say today, it was as if some of her healed wounds reopened and bled out again--
Wait. Wait. Hold it right there.
What gives her a right to feel a little hurt this way? She had just met Sai a few days ago! She barely even knows him! She cannot – cannot – be feeling hurt. She was nothing to him but a new friend. And nothing else, nothing more, nothing less.
Oh, damn it.
Is she falling in love with a stranger?
Is she falling in love with Sai?
"Sakura told me I should ask you out on a date when I get the time." Sai turned to Natsumi, shaking her out of her reveries.
Yeah, funny how his ex-girlfriend suggests that he should go out on a date with her when he gets the time.
Uhh, what did he just say? She stared at him.
She was trying to register what he had just said.
Finally, his words were ingested and processed by her jaded brain.
She turned her face away from him, hiding that blush that had crept to her cheeks, her lips pursed together tightly, in shock to what he had said. Oh, but if she thought that he didn't see these, she thought wrong. Sai did see. Those reactions brought a smile to his handsome face.
"Well, I think I don't need to ask you out on a date." Sai added.
As soon as he said that, the blush drained from her face and her lips were parted a bit to release an inaudible sigh.
"I don't need to ask you for a date since you are here with me, and I have time. I don't think asking would still be necessary." Sai continued, "I didn't see you in a while. Happy to know you're here."
That statement made Natsumi's heart sink to her stomach. She didn't know what it exactly meant, but whatever it is, to her, it meant a lot.
But could this little encounter, with an unconscious Sakura, even be called a date? Well, she was confused. She didn't know if this was a date either.
"I heard what you've been through." Natsumi was finally able to speak, swiftly changing the topic; she was really feeling squirmy when she thinks of what Sai had just said. "The Rokudaime's ex-fiancé assaulted you?"
"Oh yeah, that one." Sai snickered, "Yeah, he did. That fucking bastard back there was so jealous of me because I was so close to Sakura. I felt sorry for the poor guy then, so I forgave him immediately. Ironically, Sakura was still so bitter towards him before, so she was telling me off that I should take back what I told the Uchiha. I can't, I meant forgiving him anyway… despite all the broken ribs, several cuts and bruises I got from his assault."
"Wow, that's really kind of you." Natsumi remarked.
"Damn, what's taking Shizune-san so long?" Sai whined.
Natsumi stared at her hands which were on her lap and called, "Sai-kun."
"I… I…" Natsumi sighed, "I might not be able to have much time for my art anymore."
Sai turned his head to face her, "Why is that?"
"Do you know someone named Yamato?"
"Yes, he's also one of Sakura's advisors. Why?"
"Well," Natsumi told him in a nervous and sad tone, "he was recruiting me to be a part of the team of jounins from Konoha who will be sent to Kirigakure to aid in the training of ninjas there, and to be of little service to Kirigakure, as part of the implementation of the Kirigakure-Konoha Treaty of Eternal Alliance. It's a long-term mission. It would probably take a year or two, maybe even longer, before one could come back here in Konoha."
Sai's eyes widened at that.
"And?" Sai was able to find his voice, "What did you say?"
"I agreed to come." Natsumi stared back at Sai with sad eyes, "Which means right now, Sai-kun… I'm a jounin. I'm back to being a jounin. I'm back to work as a ninja of Konoha."
"Is that what you really want, Natsumi-san?" he asked.
Natsumi caressed the trunk of the paper windmill she had just summoned and told him, "I missed doing this – this kind of artwork which can be shared to all. This kind of art which could be either be beautiful or dangerous, or even both at the same time. It would be such a waste to just keep it in, don't you think?"
However, Sai could sense the sadness in her voice. Natsumi tried to hold back the tears threatening to fall for some unknown reason, "But a part of me wants to say here in Konoha."
"So what made you say yes to Yamato's offer?" Sai queried, his eyebrows furrowing a little bit.
"I wanted to get things off of my mind for a while."
He sighed, "Like that jerk? That moron who couldn't even appreciate you?"
He was referring to the guy who proposed marriage to her and then dumped her. For some odd reason, the tone he used with that sentence was meant to be monotonous. Why the hell did it come out like he wanted to hunt that guy down and slit his pulse, and then mutilate him afterwards until he becomes nothing but an unrecognizable heap of dead meat?
Natsumi nodded, "Yes, like him. I wanted to avoid circumstances for a while by going away."
"Circumstances? Circumstances such as?"
"Such as…" Natsumi gulped, "Such as seeing him on the street, walking with his wife and children. I think that would be too painful for me, Sai-kun."
"Circumstances such as falling in love with you, Sai-kun. I think that would be just a silly, blooming, unrequited love." Natsumi thought absent-mindedly, though not really paying attention to that notion, dismissing it as quickly as it came across her mind.
"I think that you were too quick with coming up with that decision." Sai quipped, "Think. Would you be happy doing that?"
"Well, in any case, with what you have shown to me with that jutsu," Sai pointed at the giant windmill, "I think you'd do very well with your mission."
"Thank you, Sai-kun." Natsumi smiled gingerly at him.
He can't help but smile back at her.
"I think that's Shizune-san coming now." Sai remarked as he heard footsteps in the distance; the soft yet hurried tapping of the said woman's heels were very familiar to him.
"Well, I just came here to see you and to talk to you about what happened yesterday," Natsumi stood up and placed a hand on the trunk of her creation, "also to bring this paper windmill to you. I have to get going now. Oh and I'm leaving this windmill to you. To dispel it, just snap your fingers and say 'Return'."
Sai nodded at her with a smile, "See you, Natsumi-san."
"See you, Sai-kun. We might see each other often around the Hokage Tower or by the streets of Konoha from now on. I won't be at the Konoha Art Gallery anymore." Natsumi started walking, "The windmill, remember, snap and say 'return'. Just like that."
When she was gone, Sai snapped his fingers and uttered, "Return."
With a puff of light blue smoke, the giant paper windmill returned to its original thumb-sized scroll on the floor. Sai bent over and picked it up.
He stared at it and sighed, whispering to himself, "When you do leave, do I snap and say 'return'? Would you come back, just like that?"
He felt a tug at his heart as he held onto the small scroll almost protectively, his long, slender fingers gently caressing at the kanji of 'air' on it. She was going to Kirigakure soon. Why did it hurt him to know that somehow?
There was definitely something about her – something that made Sai want to stop and stare, listen and nod, touch and know, but most importantly, feel and protect. There was something about her that made him feel differently. And he knows it's not an ordinary feeling. Only Natsumi can evoke that good, comforting, positive, swirling, heavenly feeling in him.
He couldn't really explain that effect that she had on him. However, he could compare that effect to a drug. The effect she had on him was like an addictive drug, which he can't stop himself from thinking, from taking, from savoring. She was like a painkiller; the moment he met her, the pain he possessed from his past heartbreak was numbed.
But if that was the case, why did it hurt him upon knowing that Natsumi was leaving for a mission?
Why did he feel that little ounce of… fear?
Darn, Sai. It's as clear as daylight that Natsumi can make you feel. But Sai dismisses this idea. Sai shakes his head in ridicule.
Sai swallowed the lump in his throat as he pocketed Natsumi's scroll.
Damn it, she already left. Why was he still thinking of her?
It can't be.
It can't be possible, right?
Well, could it?
… That he's helplessly, rapidly, falling in love with Natsumi, a woman he had just met merely a few days ago?
He was confused. She left him completely confused.
And no one, no one, had ever made Sai feel that way. Not even Sakura.
Only Natsumi had.
"Shit." Sai cursed under his breath, pounding a fist on the bench while he closed his eyes tightly. He didn't like both that idea and feeling either.
But alas, it was inevitable.
There are those subtle moments after the storm, such as Shio comforting Kashime. There are also those abrupt aftershocks, such as Tsunade and Sasuke's conversation after Sakura handed down the executive clemency. And there are also those superficial rationalizations and secret explanations too difficult to understand, such as Natsumi returning to her jounin status. Now, aren't these so wonderful?
Hang on, it's Chapter 99: Calm Wonders
"STOP! I remember, all right?! I'm not stupid, so don't try to remind me regarding those!"
A/N: Hey, have you read chapter 482 of the Naruto manga? My eyes almost popped out and, as far as I'm concerned with my reaction at that moment, my jaw dropped really low at the end of that chapter! That was totally unexpected! I was like, "Sakura! Oh no, you didn't! You did NOT just say THAT!" XD
Anyway, I'm anticipating chapter 483. I might make a oneshot out of it, that is, if 483 turns out well (and if I manage to get some time to write fanfics XD). I'm sure SasuSaku fans all over the world are looking forward to chapter 483 of the Naruto manga, too. Hehehe.
Well, I definitely hope that you all loved this chapter on this lovely day of love. ;]
Won't you give me some love? Hit that review button RIGHT NOW!