After almost a whole year (just three months short), I've finally come up with the next chapter for this fic. I apologize for being so late with it, but college was busier than I thought. Thankfully, though, I can say that this chapter should be of good quality. Response time

SilverBlade219: Itachi is a fun character to twist and mold. He's like the character that you can absolutely change and still get interesting results. As for your question of whether Hinata saw the two go crazy or not, it will be expanded upon in the next chapter.

Crazy-Silly-Me: No, that was not Gaara who had gone up against Sasuke's team. If you remember, Gaara was unconscious with Hinata and Naruto.

AN: This chapter was actually a bit hard. I fell a bit short on the description of the areas for a while, but thankfully managed to get over it. This chapter, instead of focusing solely on Naruto or Sasuke, actually combines what the two see and experience. I was unsure if this was a good idea or not, but I feel that the fic has reached a pivotal moment. I know what will happen after this, but I don't know how to format it. The story may continue to do a split point of view, or I may take out one side and focus solely on the other. We'll see how it goes when the time comes.

I would like to thank A very odd fellow and Demon Kaizoku for helping me beta the story.

I do not own Naruto or Gunz.

Onward!


Chapter 5: Turn Around

Naruto awoke to find himself in what appeared to be some sort of... cell. His body ached all over from who knows what and there was little light besides what came from beneath the cracks of the door. His upper body was leaning against the wall in a sitting position and he noticed that his clothes seemed foreign. Judging from the thin beam of light bouncing off the ground, they were bright orange, loose, and had no pockets on them. He did not feel hungry, but he guessed that he hadn't eaten in a long time and that sooner or later he would want something to eat.

Just where exactly was he? Gaara was nowhere in sight and neither was Hinata. Had they been captured and were being held in separate areas? How long had they, or perhaps just he, been there? He could only barely remember that he was outside the Village of Rain.

He had stayed up much of the night folding leaves, trying to make those leaf food holders Hinata had made earlier. He never knew when it would come in handy one day. But eventually, even he tired of it and he lay down to rest. The next morning they got up, walked to and entered the village, and...

He could recall no more. It was as if a curtain had suddenly fallen; he could just barely remember up to a certain point before everything was lost. What happened, he asked himself. Did something happen to him?

Lost in his own thoughts, he did not even notice that someone had entered the room until he was roughly hoisted up. A light was abruptly shined into his eyes, forcing him to squint and focus on the guest.

"Get up." He had begun to rise slowly but the person spoke again. "Faster." Now that he had risen to his feet, his first instinct was to fend off the attacker. He raised his right hand, but found that both of his hands were bound together with hand cuffs. A little surprised, he soon found himself viciously struck down.

"Don't get any smart ideas now." He heard a gun being pulled out. "Now I want you to get up slowly. Move too quickly and you will get yourself shot." He left out where he would shoot, but Naruto understood a threat when he heard it. Now slowly rising, he saw the guard. "They want you in the interrogation room. Get moving." The guard gestured towards the door and Naruto slowly began to walk out.

Upon exiting, his eyes began to adjust a bit to the light. There were guards on both sides of him, and the hallway was only a little wider than two meters. Both of them walked up and connected a chain to his hand cuffs before leading him away.

As he walked through the hallway, Naruto slowly began to look around. All the doors seemed to have a sheet of paper on them, with a written character on it. Things were still a blur; he could not make it out, but they appeared to be a ward of some sort.

Eventually, he was brought to a room with a single chair in it. "Sit down," one of the guards commanded, and he did so. It must have been the interrogation room that they have been talking about. The guards re-applied the handcuffs, making sure to link it around one of the loops in the chair before leaving the room.

He was alone again. That was, until he heard a voice. "State your name," a gruff voice said. Naruto looked around for a little, trying to see where the voice came from, but was fruitless.

"Who's there?"

"State your name, now."

"No! I want to know what I'm doing here, and then maybe I'll let you know my name."

"That is irrelevant," the voice said. "What matters is that you comply now, or the consequences will not be enjoyable." Out of nowhere, Naruto felt someone punch him across the face. Once he recovered, he looked around for the perpetrator, but he saw only emptiness in the room.

"Your name?"

"...Uzumaki Naruto."

"Mhmm..."

"..."

"Tell us about yourself."

"Excuse me?" the question surprised him.

"Tell us about how you arrived at the Hidden Village of Rain, and why did you take a hostage?"

"Well... someone had directed us to go to the Waterfall Village, but we later changed our course to Rain." He paused for a moment. "As for Hinata, Gaara was going to kill her, but I felt that it was unnecessary. She seemed to know something about us as well, so I took her as a hostage to gather information and use her as a way to keep ourselves alive."

"I see..." There was a short silence. "Are you thirsty?"

"...Yes."

"Bring him some water." A guard opened the door and brought in a glass and a pitcher of water. Pouring some out, he brought the cup to his lips and let him drink.

Naruto had not realized how thirsty he was. "Thank you," he said. He was, however, now more confused about why they were treating him in this manner.

"We're going to be talking about a lot of things," the voice said. "I would like you to be as comfortable as possible while we hold our discussion."

--

Having arrived in Konoha late last night, Sasuke would have enjoyed nothing more than returning home to rest. Procedure, however, required that he report the success of his mission as well as be debriefed.

This mission, however, drew more attention than he wished. With both the Hyuuga heiress and the suspects returning with him, the entire team had to go through the debriefing immediately. This would be the second time in such a short period in which he was debriefed. Yet he could not stop thinking about Sakura. She was going through a difficult point in her life; he wondered just how much she could take before crumbling.

She had another debriefing. Where she displayed difficulty in Suna, she appeared fine back at home. She easily retold what happened, answered whatever questions she was asked, and then walked home, appearing fine.

He wanted to see her. He was worried about just what would happen to the two suspects, but he was more worried about Sakura. Normally, he would leave her alone after each mission that they had together. He knew that she enjoyed her privacy. Sometimes, during his latter teen years, he would follow her. It was just to make sure that she was alright, a lie he told himself constantly back then. But he knew it was caused by the rapid changes in his body at the time. He craved, lusted for her body. The day that she finally succumbed to his subtle approaches would be the day that he could call himself a true man.

The streets were empty as he walked down the path towards her apartment. Night had fallen as the debriefing process took much longer than usual and having seen just the opposite in Suna, the calm of night left a feeling of home in him. No longer in foreign territory, he could relax behind the walls of the city, free of the careful eyes of the Suna shinobi. Yet he couldn't. Sakura was, and always would be, he concluded, on his mind.

This would be the first time that he had openly visited her apartment. Normally he would watch from a vantage point. But tonight, he was walking up the stairs into the first floor. His heart beat faster than when at gunpoint; he had never gotten this close to where she lived. Stepping into an elevator, he pushed the button and waited. As it traveled upwards, his mind began to fill with thoughts. It began to create scenarios, ranging from the most likely to the most improbable.

What if this was where the relationship changed from one-sided to mutual? Would she realize that, while not obvious, he had been doing his best to help her?

What if he got lucky tonight?

The elevator's bell shook him from his thoughts. Walking down the hallway, he stopped at room 541. He took a breath. He closed and reopened his eyes. Raising one hand to the door, he began to knock.

Right as he was about to strike the door though, fear struck him. What if she displayed something other than acceptance? Ideas of rejection began to fall into place, and suddenly, talking to Sakura didn't feel like such a wise idea anymore and he was beginning to lose his nerve.

--

"Are you sure that he's telling the truth?" Tsunade asked.

"At the moment, yes Hokage-sama. Their stories appear to support each other. While we cannot rule out the fact that they may have been told to tell that story, when we pressured them they remained consistent with the facts."

"That only tells us that they're good shinobi, not good at heart."

"I understand, but they both seem to be telling the truth."

"What about the Hyuuga's story? Do they match?"

"Everything seems to be in order."

"Hm…" she thought for a moment. "Let me talk to him." With a nod, the interrogator pressed a button, opening a door into the room.

Naruto, as they had learned what his name was, appeared apprehensive. Having finally seen someone who did not appear to be a guard seems to have put him into a defensive mode.

"You can relax, Naruto. We're not going to do anything to you." The youth only steeled his appearance more. "As we know so far," Tsunade began to pace around the room, "you found yourself in the desert, bumped into Hinata, and then eventually headed towards the Village of Rain, where your memory ends before finding yourself here. Do you know who I am?" He shook his head. "I am the Hokage of this nation. I hold the highest office and control much of the power within the state."

"Do you happen to know where you are?" He cautiously shook his head once again. "You're in the highest security prison that we have." She turned and faced him, a small smile on her lips. "Do you want to know why?"

"… Yes."

"You are being held in here because you are being charged with killing three of the most powerful shinobi in the land." Naruto was silent before her. "Several days ago," she continued, "those three were assassinated. They were the leaders of their own separate lands, each one a powerful state. There was an assassination attempt on another similar shinobi, but luckily it was prevented."

"We've started to receive identification pictures from all three of the afflicted nations, and you two matched the profiles. The pictures also identified Konoha forehead protectors on you. Can you explain yourselves?" She began to pace again.

"… How can we be at four places at once?"

"People will conjure up powerful stories about those stronger than them. They will not hesitate to say that you have abilities far beyond that of normal shinobi."

"What about the protectors?"

"I wish to know about that as well." She thought to herself. "Our head interrogator believes that you and your partner are telling the truth." Naruto smiled for a moment. "I am willing to say that there is some kind of conspiracy going on, as I am not one to believe that you can be in four places at once."

"But then how do you explain the… destruction of Rain?"

She turned away from him for a moment. "We don't know how it happened or when the next one will occur. I do not want that to happen to Konoha. If it were, one of the strongest nations will be reduced to little more than rubble. The people on the outskirts will be safe from the effect, but the capital will be gone. We would have no choice but to surrender. Believe it or not, we are already preparing for war. If another situation like that is to occur, we would like for it to happen far away from home." She turned to face him again. "I want to know just what is going on here, and I believe that your cooperation will help us."

"...Why do you want me to help you?"

"I believe that, judging from what you have told me, you two are something different, beyond human almost. If you help us, we may save not only this country, but also let you off the hook."

"…"

"What do you think?"

"What if I refuse?"

"You two will be handed over to the other three countries and they will do with you as they want. They will most likely execute you, or worse."

"And if I accept?"

"We will enlist you as one of our shinobi. You will be given almost all the rights of a shinobi, except that you will be under heavy surveillance at nearly all times. We will also further investigate what is going on with cooperation from Suna."

"… I suppose I don't have much of a choice, right?"

"The choices were decided by the actions of other countries, not me. I'm assuming that you will comply with us, then?" Naruto cautiously nodded. "Very well then," taking out a set of keys, she removed the restraints on him, "You and Gaara will be coming with me then."

She headed out of the interrogation room. "Do keep in mind, however, that I have the best intentions for this nation above all other things right now. It is my duty to prevent it from being taken over. If I have any reason to believe that you are indeed responsible for what has happened, then I will hand you over without hesitation. Am I understood?"

"Yes… Hokage-sama."

--

It had taken a lot for Sasuke to get the courage to finally knock on Sakura's door. There was much pacing, contemplating, worrying, but he decided that he would rather try this than not at all. Walking up to the door, he took a breath.

He took another breath, ruffled his hair a little bit.

He took one more breath. Finally, after a very prolonged pause, he knocked on the door. He intended to put down three solid knocks, hide the fact that he was nervous. Such a solid knocking would definitely gather her attention from whatever she was doing.

However, when he landed the first blow, the door slowly creaked open.

His first thought was to go in and see if she was there. Maybe she was busy with something that he could help her with. Maybe she was resting and accidentally left the door open. Eventually, his thoughts turned to more cautious ones. No matter how tired Sakura may have been, she always made the point that she trusted no one. She was extremely anti-social and she would have closed the door if anything. Something was wrong here.

Taking out his pistol he entered the apartment, scanning each area with intense scrutiny. While there was nothing much out of the ordinary, he couldn't truly say what was normal or not; he had never been inside her apartment. Anything that seemed strange could have just been personal taste. The kitchen held no non-perishables and he thought that Sakura preferred fresh foods. However, when he opened the refrigerator, there was little besides eggs and milk.

Deeming that the kitchen led nowhere, he headed towards the living room. There was a couch that looked a little dusty and a small drawer by the side. There was not very much light, but Sasuke did not dare turn on a lamp. He wanted to attract as little attention as possible, in case there was someone in the area. He noticed that there was a picture frame lying face down on a small tabletop. Silently, he turned it back up and found that the picture was marred.

It showed Sakura as a child between two adults, which he assumed were her parents. However, their faces were torn out. Placing the frame back down, Sasuke suddenly realized that the apartment was very large for just one person. Was it shared by someone else? Going down the adjacent hallway, he encountered a locked door at the very end on the left side. He wondered why the door was locked. It could not have been a bathroom, as there was no light coming from beneath the door and an unoccupied bathroom was never locked.

He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to sense if anyone was inside…

No one. Taking out a lock pick, he unlocked the door, prepared his gun, and let chakra creep out from his feet. He sent it into the room, to see if there were any traps. There were none, however, and he opened the door.

There was faint moonlight coming in from the window. It illuminated only a patch of ground with what looked like small droplets of dried blood. The ground looked dusty, as if no one had been in here for a long, long time. He took a step in, but felt something soft beneath his foot. His eyes having adjusted a little to the dim light, he took a look underneath and saw a white feather.

Very carefully, he felt the wall for a switch and turned the lights on and let out a gasp. He was in a master bedroom that was turned into a nightmare.

The bedding was slashed. Stuffing and feathers were spewed out on the ground like blood. The window drapes were in tatters, rags barely fit for even a thin blanket. The ground was scratched, long claw-like marks having dug trenches onto the wooden floor. The walls were similarly scratched, long vertical cuts marring the white paint and the wood beneath it. The window, he suddenly realized, was broken and the nearby flooring was beginning to show signs of rot. The light source came from an old lamp that was lying on the ground, the light bulb having miraculously survived the fall. The furniture was in general disarray, table legs chopped off and drawers broken in half. Clothes were tossed onto the ground and torn into pieces.

All pictures were destroyed beyond recognition.

It took Sasuke a short moment for his heart to stop pounding. When he regained his senses, he noticed that there were small prints of blood on the ground. Taking a closer look, he realized that it were small footprints, but only the top half of one foot, leading out of the room. Apparently, no one was killed, but someone was hurt. He had no clue when, but he guessed that it was at the same time the room was slashed. He turned off the lights and left the room, being sure to lock the door.

He was sure that Sakura wasn't in here anymore, as she would have heard his gasp and come out. He quickly walked to another door in the hallway and opened it. It was the bathroom. He looked for things that were missing, and noticed that there was no soap, toothbrush, or other hygienic items. Hastily leaving the bathroom, he ran to the last room, which he assumed was her room. It was her sanctuary, the place where she could be alone to herself and not be interrupted by anyone. It was like treading on sacred ground.

He had dreams of this room. What it looked like, what Sakura looked like when no one was around, and especially of what he would have liked to do if he could have had just one night alone with Sakura. He would cradle her in his arms, whisper to her that it would be alright. Softly lay her down on the bed, kiss her, caress her, slowly strip off their clothing. Take her, gently, slowly, tenderly. Break down the wall that she had set up between herself and everyone else. And when it was all done, they would do it again.

How many times had he replayed the scenario in his head? Hundreds, no doubt. Each time it might have been a little different, but each time the ending would be the same; they would do it again. Was the opportunity still there, or had it closed its doors to him permanently?

Leaving no time to answer the question, he forcefully turned the knob and thrust the door open. The place was neat and tidy, a complete binary when compared to the master bedroom. Everything was neat and in order. The walls held little more than some posters which dictated many of the important rules of being a shinobi and a clock hung from a nail, reading eleven thirty-five PM. The drawers were clean and appeared untouched. The bed had few, if any, nuances which would otherwise depict a scene.

However, Sasuke took a closer look. He understood that Sakura had been on a mission for almost more than a week now. There should have been a fine layer of dust if the place was untouched. Approaching the drawer, he looked closely and saw handprints. Covering them with his hands, he opened each drawer and tried to take notice of what was missing. It was impossible, however; he did not know just how much clothing Sakura had. Each drawer was neat and organized; each one held a separate article of clothing.

It felt awkward looking at the drawers that held her panties and bras. He quickly closed them but not before noting that they were of various colors, just not pink.

He turned towards her bed. All off-duty shinobi had some sort of firearm in their home, as it was required by law. It was to remain loaded and not be taken on missions. If it was somewhere in the apartment, this would be where it would be. Taking a look at the bed, he noticed that there were some stress points where he assumed that Sakura had put a part of her weight on. The pillow seemed a little off center. Lifting it up, there was nothing underneath it. Looking around, he made sure that there were no other major disturbances in the room. The dust leading to the closet was unmoved and the footprints ended at the bed.

It was clear that Sakura left the apartment and was most likely heading towards the nearest exit.

--

Naruto was reunited with Gaara once more. They had just been in the unfamiliar supply room and were now standing in front of the Hokage. Both of them were given the option of defection and both had taken it.

"I hope that both of you have gathered enough supplies for the mission," she said to them.

"We took what we could," Naruto replied. Gaara, being the less social one, simply nodded.

"Very well then. Understand that the mission that you are about to undertake is highly classified. Both the Kazekage and I have not released the pictures of the assassins to the public, meaning that you can walk freely in Konoha and Suna. However, there is no doubt that the other nations will be looking for you."

"Our investigation teams have found that at the ruins you two found yourself at, there is evidence to believe that there were numerous tests, many of them possibly bordering that of illegal or inhumane. You are to head to the other facilities and see if you can gather any further information about whatever project was going on in there. Report back when you find anything. Both of you should have a radio on you somewhere. Do not touch the frequency dial."

"Konoha Jounins will know who you are and will be given orders to assist you if needed. Be warned, however, that they will also apprehend you if we have reason to believe that you two have become malignant. You are to head north until you reach the Kasa Corporation's weapons facility nearby. Infiltrate it and gather as much information as possible. Your mission starts at midnight in one hour and you start at the North Gate. You are dismissed."

--

Sasuke followed the south path through Konoha. He leapt from rooftop to rooftop, looking for any tuft of pink hair that would give away Sakura. He had to find her before she left the village. The Southern Gate was the closest one to where she lived. He guessed that if she wanted to leave the area as quickly as possible, this would be the path that she would take.

The streets were empty save for the lone civilian every now and then, but he ignored them. They would only see a quickly passing blur of blue and black, almost an illusion in the night. Please, he thought, please still be here.

If he did not find her and she left, she would be marked as a Missing Nin, a criminal. He would be unsure of her danger ranking, but he doubted that it would be high. But still, leaving the village without orders was punishable by death. It was something that he could not bear to think of.

Then he saw it. It was at first just a flash of pink in the distance, her hair, barely waving above her shoulders. But as he closed in, he knew that he wasn't imagining it. Sakura was still here.

He called out to her. "Sakura-san!"

She paused, but did not turn around. He came to a stop. "Sakura-san, you're not… planning to leave the village, are you?"

Her shoulders rose and fell. "Uchiha… I did not expect to see you here tonight, nor for you to see me."

There was something about her tone that was different.

"I came by your place to see if you were alright after the debriefing. The door was opened and I became worried that-"

"Did you enter the master bedroom?" She was using the tone she used back in the Suna hospital; the harsh edge that he was so used to hearing had disappeared.

"… Yes," he truthfully answered. "…It was like I walked into a nightmare."

She paused for a bit. "On the night that my parents were executed, I entered the room and did all that. I destroyed everything that belonged to my parents. I hated them for what they had done, and the circumstances that I came to live under. I was betrayed by my own blood."

"Everyone knows the story, Sakura-san." He lied. No one knew that she destroyed the room. "Your parents were intending to give away information that would have lead to the destruction of the village. There was nothing that could be done."

"Everyone knows what they were told."

"It was talked about for years to come, and you were only six at that time." He knew because he was there right before on the night that her parents were apprehended and summarily rushed to the execution.

"You don't understand." Her words shot through him. "I was betrayed by my own blood. Since you entered the master bedroom, I believe that you saw the bloodstains on the ground."

It hit him. "… That was your own, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was my own blood. I hated how such blood, blood that belonged to dirt that was my mother and father, flowed in me." She mentioned her parents with such malice. It was the first time he ever heard her talk about them. "I wanted to get rid of it and I cut myself." She rolled up her left sleeve to her shoulders and revealed a long horizontal scar on the outside of it.

"I was young and didn't cut it right. It hurt so badly that I couldn't carry through with it. It bled onto a small puddle and in my pain I stepped on it without realizing."

He was biting his lip and his fists clenched. He did his best to relax while she continued. "When my rage had passed, I had begun to think. In order to be betrayed, there are certain requirements that must be met. First there is the victim, and then there is the person that the victim trusted. I believed that if I could remove the perpetrator from the equation, I could never be betrayed again and I decided to live my life in seclusion."

"I don't understand," Sasuke interrupted. He didn't have to hear her say that she was leaving; he knew it. "Why would you leave Konoha when you have already secluded yourself from it? Are you saying that you're not satisfied with what you have?" He was becoming angry. At what he did not know, but he was angry. The thought of her leaving began to take its toll on him. He, who had put her on a pedestal, watched out for her, cautiously made sure that she was okay, would in the end be betrayed by the one he loved.

She took a breath. "On the night that we saved the Kazekage, I was betrayed by Yakushi Kabuto."

Kabuto. The name seemed far off and distant now that Sasuke knew of his involvement. When he mentioned the name during the debriefing and how it was he that attempted to take the Kazekage's life, a warrant of arrest was given out. However, he was away on a mission. There was no doubt that whoever he was working for had managed to pull him away from the place, or perhaps he had yet to return from one of his own mission that was assigned a while ago. He could care less about Kabuto's status as a traitor, however. He only saw that he was someone that caused Sakura pain. "…That was why you suffered from the nervous breakdown, wasn't it?"

"I thought that I had put up enough barriers between myself and other people. However, I was proven wrong by the fact that just by working in the same institution, I could be betrayed. I didn't have to know the person very well."

"So you're leaving Konoha to escape from this?" It was almost silly. "If you leave us, wouldn't it be the same as betraying us?"

"I have thought about that, Uchiha," her voice remained calm, "and I believe that in order for me to maintain my own peace, I must leave. If I am to be seen as a traitor, then so be it."

"You're being selfish!" he exclaimed. "…What about me?" he said, his voice beginning to tremble. He tried to still himself, but he knew that he already gave himself away and he had a feeling that she knew as well. "Would you betray me too?"

"I understand that you have done a lot to try to accommodate me." He was stunned by this. "I noticed your stares at me ever since the night my parents were killed. I don't know when or why you started caring, but I noticed that when all the other children at the academy picked fights with me, you took my side. You took it willingly. When the other children saw me as filth, you saw me as an equal, someone worth protecting and caring for."

Why did he start caring for her? He asked himself this many times, but he always had difficulty answering.

"I'm going to leave the village, Uchiha. I believe that you will come after me, so I ask that you do not." She turned and began to walk away. She paused and looked over her shoulder. "I doubt, however, that you will take my request."

"I'm not going to let you leave!" he yelled. His emotions had begun to break through in his attempt to stop her. "I…" he had trouble bringing himself to say it, to someone who was going to betray him right after. "I…"

"I know what you're going to say, Uchiha." She turned away and began to leave. "You do not have to say it." Sasuke immediately began to give chase, but he discovered that as he ran, the distance between the two became further and further apart. He stopped, realizing that he had been caught in a genjutsu. Creating a seal, he was going to break it but he felt something holding onto his hands. Looking, he found that Sakura was now in front of him, holding onto his hands with hers. His heart pounded.

"In Suna, you asked me what my favorite memory was. It took me a while to come up with an answer, but I have made up my mind." Pulling his hands towards her, she made him come forward to keep his balance.

When he looked into her eyes, there was something else behind it for the first time in many years. Was it happiness? "My favorite memory was the moment before I found out that my parents were executed, when you helped me touch the sky."

It was from that night. He saw that glint in her eyes that night, that glint that hid itself until now.

"Goodbye, Sasuke-kun." She leaned in and kissed him, and it was the kiss that he always dreamed it would be: soft, deep, luscious, wet, wanton, innocent, everything.

--

When Sasuke had regained consciousness, he found himself in an empty training field. He sat up quickly and scanned the area around him. It was like he had just woken up from a nightmare, but in truth he had woken up in one. Sakura was gone. He wanted to scream, scream because it hurt to live with the reality. She knew that he wanted the best for her, and yet she still left. He tried to walk, to leave the field and head back to report the incident, but he found himself too weak with emotion. He fell to the ground and wailed, screamed, cried.

He wondered about why he cared for her, why he had done so much for her in the past. Of all the people, he chose one of the potentially worst people to fall in love with. Why did everyone separate themselves from her while he pushed to get close? What did he see in her that everyone else did not?

It was that glint. He wanted to see something that was no longer visible in her. That glint, that little spark of hope and happiness. It was what drove him to where he is now, to try to see her become alive again. And he had seen it. It was like a glimmer of gold, something that hinted that there was more to it and that if he pursued it enough, it could be his and his alone.

When he was finally able to, he picked himself up and ran to the Hokage's office. He had to speak with her. He dare not go through the process of listing her as a Missing Nin – that would not only lose more time, but it would also put her life in more danger than it already was in.

When he arrived at the building, he raced through it. He cared less about security, and how they were now chasing after him. He just had to see her. When he arrived, he thrust opened the door and entered the office.

"Hokage-sama!" He was ragged. "I have to speak with you!"

"Uchiha, I have papers to file. It is one in the morning and you should be resting, considering what you have recently been through," she did not even look up from her work as she dismissed his request. He was suddenly held up by the ANBU, their guns pointing at him.

"I hope that you haven't been doing anything dangerous, Uchiha," she warned Sasuke, still not looking up. "What has he done so far, captain?" she addressed the security team.

"He entered without prior permission. He did not even tell us where he was going and so we took the necessary procedures."

"Please, Hokage-sama, this is important!" he begged of her.

"Is it more important than these papers that I'm working on?"

He had to pick his words carefully. "…It concerns the mission that I was just on."

She looked up and studied his face for a moment. "Unhand him and leave," she told the captain. A little surprised, the team disbanded and left. She then turned to him. "Close the door. Anything concerning the previous mission is highly classified and we do not want information to leak out. Now then, what do you want to tell me?"

"It concerns Haruno Sakura. She's left the village."

"…You've been crying, Uchiha," she said. "Your eyes are puffed up. Be sure to wash your face with a warm towel after this, it will help the swelling go down."

"That's not the point!"

"It has everything to do with your point. A shinobi must take control of his or her emotions and cannot let it take over." He gritted his teeth.

"Why are you lecturing me?" he almost yelled. "Sakura is gone now! We've just lost a soldier at crucial time!"

There was a small pause. "I know why you're here." He remained silent. "You want me to give you permission to go out after her, am I correct?" She did not have to wait for him to respond. "Uchiha, I do not have time to deal with a problem like this. Haruno, after the execution of her parents, has always been a difficult case to deal with. She secludes herself and causes worry for teammates for not only her life, but their own as well. Tell me, what makes you think that she is worth recovering? She is a loose gun, a danger not only to herself but also to us. Konoha does not need someone like that."

He was ready to burst, angry at how they could not view Sakura as a person, but only as a thing, a problem. "She is not a danger to us." He did his best to stay calm. "I believe that with enough help, we can return her to a more stable mind."

"And how do you propose we do it?"

He could not answer her question. The Hokage returned to her work. "How valuable is she to you?"

"… Very."

"If things turned out for the best, where do you see Haruno and yourself in the future?"

"… Married."

"I see…" She pulled out a blank scroll and started writing on it. When she was finished, she turned it around and let him read it. "I'm giving you an A-ranked mission." He tensed when he first heard her speak, but he later relaxed. "You are to find and bring back Haruno Sakura with whatever means necessary. For your sake, I will allow you to bring her back alive. But if you cannot subdue her or change her mind, then you are to kill her."

The end left him silent.

"Your mission starts at seven in the morning. You are dismissed."


Hopefully the next chapter won't take so long. Hang tight.