Morrigan was quietly cleaning herself off at the far side of the lake. Fairly distant from Naruto and Jiraiya. Being alone like that gave her time to think about many things. Due to Jiraiya's mock training, reality was beginning to surface.
"...I'm going to slow them down..."
Morrigan began to gently wash away the day's impurities from her delicate, womanly skin. This had been the first real moment she had alone to think about the overall situation that she herself threw herself into.
"Healing is all I'm good for...in a fight...I'm just a burden to him..." her mental reality was very bruising. In her eyes, current and past events alike made her feel as though she was a liability to Naruto.
Letting her hair down, she began to dip herself deeper into the lake. After allowing her hair to soak, she slowly arose from the lake. Her hair was silver and silky. It's color told of her beauty while at the same time showed a maturity beyond her years. However, her hair's lusters could not save her from her painful realizations.
" She wouldn't be a burden to you, would she foxy...?" her thoughts were on Sakura.
This particular facet of reality hit her hardest. Of the two, Sakura was both the better trained healer and fighter. The bangs her hair had given her due to being wet covered her anguish very well. It served as a shield from the world, not allowing it to see her inner pain.
"...Why me..." Morrigan spoke out loud as she stepped out of the lake and dry herself
She then looked over to where Naruto and Jiraiya were sitting. It was hard to make out the expressions on their faces being at such a distance. However, she trusted her instincts and gathered they were talking about something serious. Being curious, she decided to do what most girls do.
"Time to be nosy!" Morrigan couldn't resist eavesdropping on their conversation.
She took the long way back to them. Making sure to keep herself in good cover. Eventually, she made her way to bundle of thick bushes. She was a fair distance away from the two. Not too close to be detected yet at the same time not to far away for words to be inaudible.
Kakashi, with Shizune at his side was standing outside of the Hokage's office. For a strange reason, the two had a nervous awe about them. The timing and oddity of the Hokage's summons was questionable at best.
"Why do I have the feeling I don't want to go in here?" Kakashi said with a low tone.
Shizune looked at Kakashi and gave him a nervous smirk
"...You too?" Shizune made it known that she had the same feeling of unease.
Kakashi returned the nervous smile then turned his attentions to the door ahead of them. Raising his left fist, he knocked slowly and signaled his arrival.
"Come in!" A strong female voice resounded to the other side of the door.
Kakashi grabbed the door handle and slowly opened the door. He and Shizune walked in to be met by two other presences aside from Tsunade's. The owners of these presences were Hiashi and Gai.
"Not good..." Shizune thought to herself worried.
"Have a seat. We need to get right to the point." The Hokage wasn't one for small talk. Now would be no exception. All normal pleasant subtleties were subsided.
Gai and Hiashi just gave silent nods to show they acknowledged Kakashi and Shizune's respective presences as the couple responded in the same manner. With that, Tsunade began to get right to the point.
"Now that everyone is here, there are two very serious matters that need to be attended to." Tsunade's face was hardened like a true veteran.
Kakashi looked to the Hokage and interjected.
" The prisoners that attacked Konoha. Right?" Kakashi assumed the topic at hand
Tsunade propped her elbows onto the desk and folded her hands in front of her face, nodded in approval to Kakashi's assumption.
"That is one matter yes. However, there is one other matter at hand." Tsunade replied
The four ninjas across from Tsunade all looked at each other in question.
"And what could be more important than retaliating against our enemy?" Hiashi asked annoyed, almost demanding an answer.
Kakashi, Shizune, and Gai stared at the Hokage. Just like Hiashi, they too were surprised that there was possibly something more important than the attack that had befallen Konoha. Seeing the curiosity in their eyes, the Hokage began to answer.
" Not surprising. I'd ask myself that too. What WOULD be more important than the past aggression taken upon our beautiful village." Tsunade saw the question to be both reasonable and valid
The Hokage began to answer.
"I received a report from Jiraiya recently. He and Naruto came under attack while in wave country, at Atwright's manor." Tsunade began to explain
" So, that's where he took my student...WAIT! If they were attacked there then..." Kakashi began to ponder a possibility of an overall grander plot
"And!" Hiashi was even more annoyed than he was previously.
Now Tsunade's temper had become short. She felt she had tolerated Hiashi's brash arrogance long enough. Her eyes were as beautiful as they were fierce. With a cold, direct voice, she sounded to Hiashi
" Know your place Hyuuga. Don't EVER break my speech." Tsunade was short and blunt with her words
The twos eyes were fixed to each other. Hiashi's eyes were in awe of Tsunade. Much like the Hokage, he wasn't used to being reprimanded. However, despite the majestic anger Tsunade's eyes gave way to, he too was not one to stand down.
Hiashi began to stand up. Defiantly, he gritted his teeth. But just before something serious could transpire, a friendly, almost care free voice broke the negative tension.
"SO!" Gai quickly tried to defuse the clearly visible anger between the proud and prideful two.
Kakashi and Shizune watched on. Not wanting to get in the middle of anything yet at the same time ready to break up any kind of physical confrontation should it arise. Gai began to resume his voice.
"Did Jiraiya give any possibility as to why he and Naruto fell upon enemies?" Gai asked an reasonable question
"It wasn't actually those two the attackers were after." Tsunade responded
Kakashi's suspicious were at full peek. If the attackers weren't after Naruto and Jiraiya, there was only one other explanation for them to had encounter any sort of enemy back at waves. This was a fact that Kakashi was sure of.
"Princess Morrigan..." Kakashi realized the only other possible target.
Gai still however had a puzzled look on his face
"I don't understand. That would mean Naruto and Jiraiya were in a city, not some forest."
"What are you saying Gai?" Shizune questioned
Gai looked to Shizune to respond although his words were for everyone
"I'm saying that since they were in civilization, there should have been some kind security. Why would anyone let foreigners from an outside village defend their own?" Gai asked,
Everyone looked at each other. Gai did have a point. For the sake of pride, why WOULD anyone allow an outsider to do THEIR job? Tsunade watched on, interested in what things were being said around her. Shizune had a possible conclusion.
"Well...maybe it's possible they don't have any kind of force for defense. Waves has its natural boundaries thanks to the rivers and oceans that surround it Maybe the leaders felt nature was a defense in itself. It wouldn't be the first time we were called to help somewhere that lacked personnel security." Shizune spoke, voicing what was a logical assumption.
"Or..." Kakashi had another possibility
Everyone was quiet and awaited Kakashi to finish. Through the years Kakashi had grown wise and even those more powerful and/or superior to him knew this well. His voice was one to be heard.
"It's possible that they HAVE a security force of some kind. But the enemy was too wrong. Think about it, if they were a handful for Naruto AND the sannin, Jiraiya, I doubt any normal infantry of any sort could have held them off. " Kakashi had no clue how correct he was.
Tsunade looked at Kakashi in awe.
"His sense of perception never ceases to amaze me" Tsunade could see Kakashi's sharp intellect and always be amazed by it
"I remember the mission to waves with my students. In the report, she DID have an envoy. But, they were nowhere to be found. My guess, they were easy to dispatch for Malhavoc and his underlings." Kakashi realized that he had never actually met the princess's court that was mentioned in his original orders.
"Yes, that brings us back to Jiraiya's report. Hiashi. Gai." The hokage called out their respective names. Putting them both on notice.
The two looked at the Hokage with serious intentions. The sound of her voice alone was enough to let them know a task was about to befallen them.
"Atwright has asked for Konoha to extend itself to Waves. In doing so, we'll be sending a mix of skilled chuunin and veteran jounin to train the soldiers." Tsunade's talking had begun to show her real intentions
The Hokage held her voice for a few seconds. Then, she resumed
"I would like for you two to oversee this project. I'm not ordering this. You can decline at your own leisure. But I wanted to ask you first because...well, you're among the very best. And I know you both can do a world of good there." Tsunade told the truth.
Gai and Hiashi looked at each other. Then to the Hokage. Gai's face lit up, seeing this chance as an opportunity for adventure. Hiashi's expression however, was the polar opposite. To him, this was just Tsunade scheming.
"I'll ta..." Gai was cut off by Hiashi's brashness.
Hiashi slammed his fist to the table bluntly
" Oh boy..." Kakashi felt another argument between Tsunade and Hiashi coming.
Hiashi demanded the beautiful Hokage's attention. He saw this 'opportunity' as more of a reprimand rather than something good.
"I don't trust you. You just want me out of Konoha" Hiashi bared his fangs and was livid at the thought. He saw Tsunade's proposal as nothing short of audacious.
Tsunade's hands remained placed folded, covering the lower half of her face. Had her hands been placed any lower, they would reveal a pair of full red lips smirking.
"Hiashi...this is a great chance. Don't you realize what I am proposing to you?" Tsunade replied to his anger.
Hiashi's eyes were fixed on Tsunade with anger. While Tsunade's eyes were confident while at the same time seemed jovial.
Shizune caught on to what the Hokage was trying to say. Being her assistant, she decided to interject herself into the situation.
"Hiashi... you'd be in charge of an entire defense for. That's quite a task. Not just anybody can handle it. Don't you see... you might her first choice because you're the best and possibly only choice Hiashi." Shizune attempted to appeal to Hiashi's dominant-like ego.
Hiashi calmed himself. Shizune's words sunk deep as he began to really ponder her words. Power was something he held in great regard
" This could work... I wouldn't have to deal with this woman having authority over me. This can even forward my own political gains..." Hiashi began to ponder what could come of accepting such a mission.
Hiashi was no longer angry. However, he was not one to allow any sort of smile grace his face. Smiling was not something he indulged in. And the fact that it would make Tsunade seem as if she'd won a victory, smiling was even less of a possibility.
"Fine." Was Hiashi's answer as he rudely accepted the task.
Hiashi exited the office, leaving Kakashi, Shizune, Gai, and the Hokage behind in silence. Tsunade still had her hands covering her sexy, yet dominant smirk.
"Well madam Hokage, I accept too." Gai accepted as he was before Hiashi's rude actions intervened.
Tsunade removed her hands and smiled. She had already knew Gai would accept. But it was good to vocally hear it nonetheless. Still pleased over getting Hiashi to accept the mission, she answered Gai in a happier tone than normal.
"Thank you Gai..." Tsunade's voice was momentarily soft. A rare instance of being caught off guard.
Gai however, took the sound of the Hokage's voice the wrong way. To him. It sounded as though the older woman was coming on to him. And like any man, he too would try to press the issue.
"Ah... another one fallen under the spell of the infamous Gai smile." He thought to himself as he began to form less than pure fantasies within his head.
"You know, we can hang out a bit. We have a little time to kill after all." Gai indirectly tried to ask for a date, flashing his smile
Kakashi and Shizune were still in the room. And still quietly watching on
"This ought to be good." He was this as humorous as Tsunade's face nearly screamed rejection.
The Hokage clearly wanted nothing to do with Gai in that way. Slowly, she dropped her hands from her face. Still smiling, she replied
"When do you plan on picking me up?" The Hokage asked, shocking everyone.
Kakashi, Shizune, and even Gai himself had those one-in-a-millions faces. That was totally unexpected from the normally all business Hokage they had all come to know.
" She's joking...right?" Shizune, who knew her best thought this was just a joke
"Hmm...9 sound good?" Gai asked, still grinning like an idiot
Tsunade closed her eyes and smirked
"It's a date. I'll just go home, wash up, slip into something more comfortable, dispel my genjutsu..." Tsunade trailed off, continuing to say miscellaneous things.
" She'll go home, wash up, get into comfy cloths, dispel her gen..." Gai's thoughts stopped as a mental image of the Hokage without her genjutsu came to mind
Kakashi and Shizune were both staring jovially at Gai as he looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown. The two ninjas realized Gai had paid attention to what the Hokage said. Floods of sweat were falling from his face and he'd do anything to save himself.
"You know, maybe I better keep to the task at hand." Gai replied as he exited the Hokage's office with the speed of God.
Tsunade just laughed as she had gotten herself out of that small predicament. But there was little time for fun and games. Pressing matters needed to be tended to.
"Kakashi, Shizune, now we have the first matter to deal with. Which is why I called you here." The Hokage was immediately back on topic
The two patiently waited for the Hokage to continue
"I'll be brief. I originally wanted you to investigate the prison Kakashi. To see if our enemy really is Mizuki. With your vast amount of jutsus, you'd be best equip to adapt to any situation."
"Originally? You want someone else to take on a mission like that?" Kakashi was surprised that a mission of such importance wasn't left to him.
Tsunade felt as though she may have hurt Kakashi's pride. When it came to dangerous, high profile missions, he was among the top ninja to be chosen.
"You still haven't fully recovered from your injuries. And we can't afford to lose you in battle. Since you'd have to throughly analyze the enemies strength and tactics, this would be too risky for you."
"I understand that Hokage. If adaptability was your aim for this mission, how can take my place?" Kakashi had a point. Because of his Sharingan eye, he had far more jutsu techniques in his arsenal than almost any one in konoha.
The three were silent. But among the three, an attractive brunette saw this as a chance to get back out to the field and away from the normal secretarial duties. At least for a brief time, the moment had become awkward.
"Why don't I take the mission?" Shizune suggested.
Kakashi and Tsunade both looked at Shizune with a mix of questionability and shock. Although Shizune was indeed a capable ninja, it was unheard of for her to partake in missions being a medic nin and Tsunade's assistant.
"You've been away from the field for too long." Kakashi was immediately worried.
Shizune gave her mate an odd stare.
"So? A ninja needs to be ready at anytime. You of all people know that."
Kakashi felt an argument coming. But that wouldn't sway him from making his case.
"But you heard the Hokage. This mission is dangerous and calls for someone that is diversified in jutsus."
Shizune's eyes showed slight anger. Kakashi's words sounded almost mocking.
"Kakashi, I outrank you. What the hell makes you think I'm not diverse in my abilities?" Shizune was clearly angry with Kakashi as she stared him dead in his eyes
Kakashi's eyes were easy to read. He was hurt seeing the woman that had his heart enraged at him. Defeated, his one uncovered eye looked downward. Not wanting to fight with the woman he loved.
"And it's not even your decision. Is it Lady Tsunade?" Shizune was asking the Hokage's permission to take this mission while at the same time making Kakashi feel somewhat small.
Tsunade wanted no part of this argument. Especially since this is between her best friend and assistant, Shizune. And one her Konoha's top ninja in Kakashi. She too didn't feel Shizune was up to the task. However, despite her extended absence from the field, she was very qualified. Therefore, as a true leader, she made her decision regardless of her personal feelings.
"Kakashi... I'm sorry" She apologized in thought at the decision she was about to make.
"The mission is yours Shizune. Take 5 ninjas of your choosing and head out no latter than tomorrow night. This mission is even more important than the one given to Hiashi and Gai" The Hokage's decision was made.
Kakashi was stunned. He could not believe what he had just heard. Shizune was about to excuse herself to prepare immediately. But after no more than three steps, a male hand grasped her feminine forearm.
"Can't you at least think this over Shizune. It's been a lo..." His speech was halted as Shizune angrily snatched her arm away.
"A long time? Yeah I heard that already. Say something new." Shizune coldly left the room. Leaving a confused Kakashi behind.
He turned to the Hokage. He was very annoyed that she was allowed to take this mission. But being the calm ninja he always was, he made sure to keep his anger to himself. However, that was not to say that she wouldn't pick up on his negative demeanor.
"You know she shouldn't have this mission..." Kakashi's voice was bittersweet
"I don't want her to go either. I agree with you that she isn't ready" The Hokage made it known that she shared Kakashi's view on the matter.
Kakashi was silent. Tsunade knew that overall Kakashi had no say in the matter. Shizune was an adult after all. But as a loved one, she knew how Kakashi must have felt. So, she decided to explain herself
"Like I said, I'm against her going too Kakashi...but... she is a grown woman. And she is a ninja. No matter how long it's been since she has seen battle, she does have the qualifications." The Hokage turned from her seat and began to face the window.
Kakashi, without so much as a goodbye, left the Hokage's office. The task of being a leader was hard on Tsunade. Especially since she had become close to so many under her command. Hearing her door close, she sighed in despair.
"I'm sorry Kakashi..."
The Hokage was in her room with nothing more than her surroundings and her thoughts. She would soon think about the things that had transpired in her office until the chuunin exam began
Sakura was outside of building where the chuunin exam was taking place. The streets of Konoha were even more busy than usual. Sakura figured the abnormal high volume of the crowd was due to the chuunin exam. But that didn't make her any more at ease.
" I can't breathe." Sakura felt stifled due to the sheer number of bodies that cluttered Konoha.
Sakura ran into the exam building, leaving the masses on the other side of the door. Until the exam began, she was safe from the cluster of human bodies. There were people inside the building. However, the amount was drastically less than the amount outside. Two people inside quickly took notice of her.
"YO SAKURA!" Ino called to Sakura from a fair distance.
Ino and Shikamaru were waving to Sakura from the far end of the hall. Lately, the two of them seemed to be together more and more. It seemed as though slowly but surely, Ino was trying to make her move on her teammate. This was something that made Sakura happy for her friend while at the same time woeful for her own situation.
"I knew you guys would come" Sakura hugged Ino as she approached her.
Sakura's eyes began to slightly water.
"Of course, but I had to drag 'this' along" Ino pointed to the man she had yet to admit her feelings to.
Sakura released Ino from her embrace and Ino got a good look at Sakura.
"What's wrong?" Ino asked as she sounded worried.
Sakura's tear was one of happiness. The two girls spent so much time being enemies that it was hard for Sakura to believe Ino would actually be there for her despite their renewed friendship.
"Nothing at all Ino" Sakura wiped the tear from her eye and smiled
Ino returned the smile
"... We need to talk..." Ino said bluntly
Ino took Sakura's hand and began walking off. Shikamaru was just quietly watching, wondering why the two girls were just leaving him by himself. Ino turned her head to her teammate. She didn't want to just leave him without saying anything.
"We girls just need some private. I promise I won't be long. K Shika?" Ino winked at her teammate as she left
"Whatever..." A normal Shikamaru response
" Would a LITTLE care kill you?...Lazy idiot..." Ino didn't care for the nonchalant response she was given.
Sakura saw Ino's dismay and decided to add in.
"We'll be back soon. Besides, wouldn't it be less troublesome without loud blond women disrupting your conversation?" Sakura tried to be playful
"Too true!" Shikamaru agreed instantly. It was almost as if someone finally understood where he was coming from.
Ino shot Shikamaru a glare of death
" HE AGREED WITH THAT!" Ino's stare could kill the strongest of men thrice over.
Her teammate was nervous out of his mind. Ino's stare could have singed a hole right through him. He and Ino knew each other very well. So he knew when he had said something that would have been better left unsaid.
"...I'm too young to die..." His thoughts were on his demises as beats of sweat ran down his back due to the girl's stare.
Eventually, leaving a near-nervous breaking Shikamaru behind, they continued on their way. The two girls found a small spot so that they can talk in privacy. As important a day this was for Sakura, girl talk was something that had its own personal schedule.
"So?" Ino began
Sakura gave her friend a questionable look.
"So?... What?" Sakura was clueless
Ino sighed and just stared. She gave way to a small frown and wrapped her arm around her friend. Then she once again began to speak.
"Are you ready or what?" Ino was referring to the exam
Sakura now knew what Ino was talking about. She gave off a confident smile and an even more confident response. She glanced around looking for left to right. There were plenty of people taking the exam this year.
"Please Ino, you act anyone here can take me." Sakura's confidence had grown tremendously along with her skill. This was an advantage of training under Tsunade.
"Here alone? The little crying girl wants to make a name for herself?" A kunoichi with short red hair said.
Two other kunoichi's were taunting as well. Sakura and Ino both turned around. The three unknown females seemed familiar to them. They were the three girls that were mocking Naruto and praising Sasuke back when they were having lunch.
" Well well well..." Ino thought with a combative smile.
"Who the hell are you?" Sakura asked rudely
The red haired girl smirked. Personally, she felt Sakura was beneath her. But for the sake of average courtesy, she complied and gave her name.
"Call me Sakuya." She said her name in a almost royal turn
Sakura and Sakuya gave each other competitive stares. Eventually, Sakuya introduced her friends
"These are my teammates, Misura and Roe" Sayaka announced her team
Sakura and Ino still looked annoyed that these rude interlopers would just get in the middle of their conversation.
"I didn't ask the names of your two left feet" Sakura replied
The two girls faces became twisted. They knew when they were being ridiculed. Prolonged exposure to the Hokage had made her tongue very sharp. Sakuya disregarded the comment
"Anyway, pray that you don't run into any of us during the exam" Sakuya threatened
The three girls left and Sakura and Ino were once again in privacy.
"Don't let them get to you Sakura." Ino patted Sakura's shoulder
She looked at Ino competitively.
"Get to them?...No Ino, they better hope they don't get to me..." Sakura's bangs covered her fiery gleamed emerald yes
"Wow...Go Sakura!" Ino was impressed with this new Sakura.
The people were starting to come in. The chuunin exam was starting soon. Shikamaru was making his way through the masses. And being someone who seemed to almost enjoy doing nothing, this was quite the displeasing activity. Eventually he found Ino and Sakura
"Women... nothing but headache" He had finally found Ino and Sakura.
"It's starting soon." He simply said as he walked up to Ino
Ino and Sakura turned and saw the one who called out to them
"Aww, did the lazy ass take a break from his schedule of doing nothing to come get me?" Ino batted her eyes
Shikamaru replied with a simple frown. He caught on to her sarcasm easily. With the frown as his response, he put his hands into his pockets and made his way to his seat.
"Ino, why do you pick on him like that?"
Ino quietly answered into Sakura's ear.
"To show that I care."
With that, she wished her friend luck and followed behind Shikamaru. Now that Sakura was alone, she to the time to take in her surroundings. The tournament room was much bigger than she had remembered. The balcony along the walls was still there. But now, there were deep indents built into the walls filled with seats behind the balcony. Clearly, plenty of people were expected to be there.
Shizune was wandering aimlessly around Konoha. She was thinking about the mission that she had just accepted. Deep down, she had begun to wonder if this was a wise choice. She indeed possessed the necessary skills. But the problem lied in the fact that those skills haven't been used for a long time. A familiar voice broke her train of thought
"SHIZUNE!" Kakashi yelled as he dodged the masses.
Eventually, he made his way to Shizune. Who was still angry with him. And now that they were out of the Hokage's office, she can let her anger out. She turned around with an angry scowl, not even trying to mask her anger.
"Hey" He smiled through his mask, trying to ease the tension.
"WHAT Kakashi!" Her response rough and hurtful
Kakashi saw she was angry. He and Shizune had been through a great deal together over the years. He wouldn't let a dispute sway him from talking to the woman he loved. So, he disregarded her angry voice as best he could.
"Come on Shizune, can't we at least talk about this?" Kakashi was pleaded.
Shizune gritted her teeth. Her eyes were ever so angry. In her eyes, Kakashi truly undermined both her authority and her ability. If it had been anyone else it wouldn't have hurt her so much
"Talk!" Shizune said almost commanding
"Can't she cool down even for a minute?" Kakashi found it hard to reason with Shizune. Her angry made everything difficult.
With Shizune's response, Kakashi was stunned and silent. Shizune's cold responses left him totally off guard. He cast his one visible eye downward, thinking about what came out of his mouth before he spoke it. Unfortunately, he had no time to think things through because an angry woman was pressing the matter.
"TALK!" Shizune repeated. This time her voice was louder as she pushed Kakashi at his shoulder
Kakashi's visible eye sprung up. He and Shizune were now staring each other in the eye.
"I just don't think..." Kakashi's voice was warm and understanding, trying to be reasonable as he was cut off.
"I'm ready yet? Stop saying that" Shizune finished his sentence.
There was an awkward silence
"Kakashi, let me make this clear. I outrank you. That means I can handle anything you can. Possibly even better than you" Shizune began to push Kakashi again
"This isn't a competition"
Slowly, people were beginning to notice the squabble between the couple. However, Shizune's attentions were on Kakashi. Not the on lookers.
"Why can't he understand"
"Kakashi, you go off on your missions. I barely see you at all. You're in Tsunade's office talking about lord only knows what. And I have to fight for whatever little time is left." Shizune was starting to tear
"Shizune, I'm a Jounin. I have students. I have missions. I report to the Hokage. You know that's the life a ninja leads.
"Yes I do! Because I'm a ninja too. What makes you think I'm supposed to just sit back and watch you go off on missions. I'm just as capable as you." Shizune pushed him yet again
Kakashi now took notice to the audience he and Shizune had.
"...Great..." He looked down feeling both embarrassed
Shizune didn't like it when Kakashi took his eyes from her when she was talking to him. As mad as she was, ever so gently, she place her delicate hand under his chin and brought his face upward. He was now looking at her again.
"Who the hell do you think you are hon?" Shizune still felt belittled by her lover as she asked her question softly and began to cry.
Kakashi removed her hand and warmly grasped it in his own. The two were silent. And Shizune's eyes showed that she demanded an answer.
"...Someone who truly loves you Shizune..." He gave her an answer as he slowly let go of her hand and walk off, disappearing into the crowd.
" Oh love...I'm sorry..." Shizune closed her eyes and fold her arms together, hugging herself for protection.
The once vast crowd that witnessed the display began to resume their daily lives. The beautiful brunette stood in the street, crying her tears of regret. She closely resembled a weeping goddess.
"That was bad Shizune" A familiar voice witnessed the event that had just transpired
Shizune quickly wiped her tears and turned around. Her tears were easily dealt with. However, her still shivering delicate frame showed her pain clearly.
The Hokage was on her way to see her student at the exam. But felt that it could wait as she took Shizune back to her office. To the Hokage, this was something that should have been taken care of before Shizune and Kakashi had their dispute.
Morrigan watched on secretly as Naruto and Jiraiya were in serious conversation. And the expressions on their faces peeked Morrigan's curiosity even more. Unknown to her, Naruto was about to give Jiraiya an answer to a question that she herself had a stake in.
"Well Naruto, you learned the rasengan, but you didn't master it. So, I'll leave it up to you which way you decide to go with our little wager?" Jiraiya was lenient and open-ended.
Hearing this definitely opened Morrigan's ears wider
" Wager?...What bet could they have made?"
"Sensei, I won't dodge anymore...instead of picking one, how about I just come clean..." Naruto looked at his sensei.
Naruto's blue eyes spoke volumes for his sincerity.
"...He's more of a man that I'll ever be..." He thought to himself ashamed. His student was about to tell everything when he could have just chose one. And he on the other hand was still keeping the truth from his student.
"To be honest, I didn't give it as much attention until you made this wager" He said as he reverted his eyes from Jiraiya and back to the lake.
Quietly, Jiraiya joined him in looking out towards the lake. Normally, he would push Naruto to talk. But this was a delicate topic. And for this particular instance, he'd let his student take his time. This would be the best way for Naruto to answer both clearly and completely.
"...Sakura..." He started by uttering her name. Smiling as he looked upward into the alluring night sky.
" Her first huh? Oh well, old habits..."
Morrigan was listening ever so intently.
"I miss her... she's been in my heart for so long..." Naruto began to think about the longevity of Sakura being his love.
" Just how long have you felt this way about her Naruto?" Jiraiya asked
Naruto turned to his sensei smiling.
"...Honestly, I don't know... it's like... something that always was. Like..." Naruto was cut off.
"Fate?" Jiraiya asked and at the same time finished Naruto's sentence
" Yeah..." Naruto answered with a oddly soft response
This quickly had become one conversation Morrigan wished she hadn't been listening in on.
"...Fate...Who am I to go against destiny huh..." Morrigan could do without what she had heard.
The two were unaware of Morrigan's presence. If Naruto knew Morrigan was listening, his words would have definitely been altered from what they were. In a way, even though Morrigan's heart was breaking, she felt it was best she stayed to hear what was said.
"... I remember how Sakura always put me down... she use to give Sasuke the love and affection that I always wanted." Naruto remember the not-so-great times
"Just like most of Konoha... they praise Sasuke. And they shunned you" Jiraiya noted
Naruto nodded reluctantly
"I don't understand... I know Sakura-chan is nice deep down...but I don't understand..."
"What is it that you need explained?" Jiraiya probed
Naruto stood up to stretch his legs a bit. He then looked downward to his Sensei
"If she cared for me the way she said she did before we left, why did she treat me like that for so long..." Naruto's facial features began to sadden.
"Who knows, maybe she repressed her feelings. If she had shown that she liked you outright, it would have made her an outcast" Jiraiya tried to reason.
Morrigan was not too pleased with the answer Jiraiya had given Naruto. To her, that explanation was both weak and inexcusable.
"Poor excuse... very poor..."
Naruto laughed at the irony. It was almost as if he found Jiraiya's words to be humorous. He then sighed as he continued to talk about the sad story that was his life.
"...So...that's why she left me waiting for her and slept with Sasuke...she was just hiding her feelings for me..." Naruto spoke softly, making no effort to hide his pain
He took a deep breath and began to yell
"YEAH GREAT JOB SAKURA-CHAN!...NOTHING SAYS 'I LOVE YOU' BETTER THAN SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE ELSE!" Naruto yelled with a mix of anger and sarcasm as he stared into the night sky.
With his yells quieted, he resumed his place, sitting next to his sensei. Jiraiya looked at Naruto and studied him. His student sat with trembling closed fist. While at the same time his eyes were wide open with tears. A clear sign of conflicted and mixed emotions. Morrigan fought her instincts. She wanted to comfort him, but that means she'd have been caught spying.
"...Foxy..." Morrigan bit her lower lip, halting herself from calling out to Naruto
"Naruto... I have a question for you?" Jiraiya had something on his mind
Jiraiya asked the question any reasonable adult would have
"Kid,... why didn't you talk with Sakura about this. It's not hard to see this was nagging you."
Naruto hesitated to answer. For a brief period he was quiet. However, the look on Jiraiya's face told him a reply was expected.
" I...I didn't want to talk about this with her..." Naruto began to feel ashamed. Time away from Sakura had made him second guess his actions.
Jiraiya looked at his student in pain. He knew no matter how much he tried to help, ultimately, this was a problem that only Naruto himself was able to solve.
"...Not surprising...how COULD he talk with her so soon after she broke the boy's heart" Jiraiya had sympathy for his student.
Morrigan too was sympathetic of Naruto's plight. However, along with that care and remorse for Naruto came a growing despising of Sakura.
"...How can someone live their life so...backward... she gets close to my foxy...just to ditch him for that selfish idiot... how...how could she?..." Morrigan shook her head in frustration, fighting back her tears at the thought.
"She tried to talk with me. But... it's so hard to listen when you feel... like you're in second place." He spoke as he lay down on the ground. With his back to the ground, all that was left was the color of night.
"Second to the Uchiha boy?" Jiraiya with an obvious conclusion.
"If only you were there sensei...she was really nice to me before I left. For a little while, she had become all I needed. My dream...it seemed like it was all coming together..."
" It just feels like... like I'm a stray...being lead randomly"
More silence. Jiraiya asked his final question in regard to Naruto's pink haired teammate.
" Do you still love her?" Jiraiya asked with full intent on a straight answer
Naruto eyes grew. A slight feint of red gave way under his eyes, just above his cheeks. Any mention of loving Sakura opened the doorway to a world of a million fantasies.
" I... it's hard for me to understand her...and..." Naruto was cut off as he was stuttering anyway.
Jiraiya pounded his fist to the ground. It wasn't out of frustration. He just wanted Naruto be face his heart and fears head on. To be direct. To be clear. And to be honest. Everything that he himself was losing touch with.
"No,... skip the excuses. I asked for an answer." Jiraiya made furious eye contact with his student.
Morrigan was fully focused. She knew she had no right to eavesdrop in the first place. Hearing Naruto's answer was of extreme importance. If the answer was in her favor, it would mean that she would have a chance at him. A chance at her foxy.
"..." For her time was standing still. Anxiety was getting the better of her.
"...I'm still in love with Sakura chan..." Naruto answered almost hesitantly. As if something more should have been said.
Unfortunately for the princess, she had heard his answer all too clearly. She became silent with her thoughts now momentarily blank. The air had become symbolically cold. Almost parallel to her feelings. Slowly, the princess tilted her head downward, allowing her hair th shield her tearing eyes from plain sight.
"... Guess I am a burden to him after all..." Her tears slowly and silently streamed down her cheeks.
Her body began to tremble as the cold, dense air continuously pounded her body
" I'm so stupid...like you could ever love me..." Her heart was broken
Morrigan, still crying and full of heartache, slowly walked away. She felt she had heard enough. Paying no further attention to what was being said, she was gone in an instant. Unaware, Jiraiya and Naruto continued to converse.
"...Very bad... she was here..." Jiraiya heard faint footsteps leaving
"But... being away has done me some good I think. Having Morrigan-chan around makes things...bearable." Naruto begin to speak of his newest traveling companion with a smile
"Why do I have the feeling you're not saying what you should?"
Naruto felt fairly embarrassed. Hiding things from Jiraiya was beginning to prove pointless. This was a fact that he was beginning to understand more and more as they went along.
"...She takes my pain away..." Naruto spoke what he should have the first time
Jiraiya smiled and begin to shake his head in acknowledgment
" With her... I feel...like a new person. And whatever troubles I have can be fixed...because I can confide in her..."
"The way Sakura is starting to confide in you maybe?"
Once again, the expression of shame graces Naruto's face.
" I'm scared...Sakura...she's the only one that can break my heart..."
"And the princess?"
His head now sank
" Morrigan-chan...I... she's the..." Naruto struggled to say his words
Naruto could not help but feel disgusted with himself. He knew where this conversation was headed. He stood up and forcefully hurled his fist at a nearby boulder. His fist trembled as the huge rock shattered under the forceful blow. Jiraiya, seeing Naruto's frustration walked behind him and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"She takes your heartache away doesn't she?"
Naruto hung his head and began to cry. The more the situation lingered on, the greater the effect it was beginning to have on him
"I... know what it's like to be alone... I can curse anyone else to that" Naruto's voice became soft
Jiraiya released his hand from his student's shoulder
"And you can't decide because you don't want to leave either to be lonely the way you were?" Jiraiya spoke sarcastically yet true
"...Lucky little runt... just take 'em both. Heck, that's what I'd do" Jiraiya was thinking in a way that only he could.
But this wasn't he they were talking about. It was Naruto. His soul was pure despite his body harboring a demon. Unlike Jiraiya's, how practically reeked impurity. The Sannin was aware of this fact and kept his lecherous thoughts to himself.
"You better than most know what being alone is like. This I have no doubt of. But Naruto... life isn't perfect. Sometimes choices have to be made. We don't always like the choices and sometimes we chose what he have to rather than the things we wish for."
Jiraiya looked his student eye to eye
"It would be disrespectful to both of them to stay void and indecisive Naruto."
"...What am I supposed to do..." Naruto truly needed someone's guidance
" They both want the best for you. You need to realize that. But...YOU have to chose. Young one, life is short... too short to be hesitant. And if you call either of them friends of yours, it's your obligation to chose...for both their sakes." Jiraiya spoke the complete truth
"... Obligated to chose..." Naruto was afraid. However, he took Jiraiya's words to heart
"Naruto, someone is waiting for you..." Jiraiya was referring to Princess Morrigan.
"... I... won't run away this time..." He resolve was strong. He remembered how he ran from Sakura and was not ready to make the same mistake twice.
Naruto sped off with his goal set. He wasn't sure of what would say to Morrigan. But all that ran through his mind was seeing her. During which time, all his sensei could do was watch his student and pray for the best.
" Good luck son..." Jiraiya said aloud as he sat alone
" He'll be a better person than I could ever hope to have been..." Jiraiya still harbored the same of not tell Naruto about his tainted past.
Sakura was looking at the many people fill into their seats. She looked all around. Shifting her eyes constantly from left to right, hoping to catch some familiar faces. Immediately, she caught a glance of Ino and Shikamaru. And almost is if it were on cue, the saw her from their spot in the balcony.
"YO SAKURA!" Ino yelled loudly as she normally does
Sakura waved in reply. She wasn't the type to be as loud as Ino. Once Ino was certain she Sakura's attention, she resumed her loudness.
"IF YOU WIN, I PROMISE WE'LL GO TO THE TO DOCTOR TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT WIDE FOREHEAD!" Ino continued her yelling with her 'attempted' incentive for Sakura to win.
Sakura's face had an evil smile on it.
" When I get my hands on you you'll be lucky if the doctor can do anything with you at all" Sakura had evil thoughts in her mind for Ino's remark.
Ms. Haruno had just entered and immediately saw Ino. She walked over to announce her arrival to her loving daughter's friend
"Why didn't you enter this year?" Ms. Haruno asked as she walked behind Ino
Both Ino and Shikamaru turned to see the source of this unknown voice.
"Miss Haruno!" Ino quickly hugged the mature woman
The two exchanged normal pleasantries and smiles. Ms. Haruno noticed the boy sitting with Ino
"Hi sweetie, out with your girlfriend?" Ms. Haruno was referring to Ino
Shikamaru's eyebrow arched upward. He looked at Ms. Haruno. Then at Ino. Back to Ms. Haruno again.
"Girlfriend? Yeah right!" He replied emphatically. Almost as if Ms. Haruno was making a joke rather than asking seriously.
Ino gave him the most evil of glares. He noticed her stare and did all he could to avoid any eye contact.
"...Maybe if I look away, she'll stop staring at me" She was making him nervous
Shiftly, he averted his eyes away from Ino. But feeling piercing eyes still staring at him, he looked back at Ino. She was still looking at him with utmost fury
"...Help me..." He knew that once they were in private he was in for it.
While Ino continued to instill fear into her teammate, Ms. Haruno was waving down to her daughter.
" Mom!... I can always count on her..." eagerly, she returned the wave.
As Sakura happily acknowledged her mother's presence, her mind began to wander. The more she looked around the more she realized something. So many men and women were in attendance. So many men and women...as couples. Sakura's confidence was slowly waning.
" This... is going to be so hard..." Sakura sighed.
Slowly, Sakura stopped her waving and brought her hand down to her chest. Her eyes closed. And like any mother, Ms. Haruno knew something was wrong with her daughter. Ms. Haruno immediately rose to her feet.
"SAKURA!" Ms. Haruno yelled out to her daughter.
Ino and Shikamaru looked in shock. Ino took a glance in the direction Ms. Haruno was looking to see what was wrong.
"Sakura?...what's wrong with her..." Ino was concerned for her friend.
Sakura was completely silent. She looked into the balcony where her mother and friends were. They could see the pain in her eyes even from that distance. Unable to handle the pressure around her, Sakura immediately ran, pushing over anyone that was in her way.
"SAKURA!" Ms. Haruno called out to her daughter again. This time louder than the last.
Ms. Haruno slowly began to weaken at the knees. Shikamaru quickly steadied the woman as Ino watched with concern.
" Something is wrong with Ms. Haruno" Ino remembered the last time the woman seemed weaker than an average woman before.
"Shika, can you stay here with Ms. Haruno for me?" Ino asked
Shikamaru nodded his head positively and Ino smiled at him.
She then turned to Ms. Haruno and gave her a quick hug.
"I'll get her. I promise..." Ino spoke as she quickly began to run after Sakura.
Shikamaru helped Ms. Haruno back to her seat. He comforted her as best he could. All Ms. Haruno could think about at the time was the welfare of her daughter and that she had really good friends.
Meanwhile, Sakura continuously bowled over the vast audience. Nearly hurling people left and right. She was truly in despair. And as fast as Ino was, she simply couldn't keep up. Sakura ran to the door and opened it. A familiar person was on the other side of the door.
"Shouldn't you be getting ready?" Tsunade asked as she had just arrived from her chat with Shizune.
Sakura looked into Tsunade's eyes without saying a single word to her. Tsunade was confused. Sakura's eyes began to water and she continued to run away. Tsunade was left wondering.
"SAKURA WAIT!" Tsunade began to run after Sakura just as Ino did.
" I can't do this... I can't..." Sakura's tears began to fly through the air as she ran through the crowded streets of Konoha.
Sakura ran until she ran to a familiar door. It was oddly quiet in this area in comparison to the rest of Konoha. Quietly, she hung her head downward and her sobs were heartbreaking. She reached for the doorknob. Upon grabbing it, her heart and soul froze as she realized she hadn't run home.
"...I ran home...I ran...to his house" Sakura looked on the side of the door and read the name.
"...Uzamaki..." She uttered his last name as she gently brushed her fingers across the name imprinted on the door.
She stood still as her tears began to flow. Thinking she was alone, her words became vocal rather than thought.
"I can't be strong without you Naruto-kun... I need you..."Sakura's knees began to give way
"...I can't do this without you..."The girl pounded her fists to the ground with pure frustration.
The beautiful kunoichi's knee's were touching the ground as she began to hug herself. Her cries began to resound louder.
"...I love you... I'll always love you..." Sakura's voice was soft
Sakura had thought she was alone. However, a saddened Ino caught sight of the heartbreaking display. She didn't know what she could do for her friend. All she could do was watch. No matter how confident she may have grown, not having Naruto in her life was breaking her spirit. Ino knew she had to get Sakura back to the exam. But, she felt it was more important to let her friend cry for now.
Shizune was slowly walking home from Tsunade's office. Once she had cooled down, the rashness of her words began to ware on her mind. She realized that she said some things that were very cruel. Especially coming from someone you love.
" Don't you understand Shizune? He's only saying that because he's worried about you." Tsunade was reasoning.
"Yeah, and I worry about him when he leaves on his missions."
" I can fight too. And I have authority over him" Shizune became loud
Tsunade normally would have gotten into an argument had it been almost anyone else. But this was her best friend, so her voice was soft.
"Yes you're a great fighter...but...do you have to put it in his face like that. Do you know what it's like when someone you care about treats you inferior"
"..." Shizune was silent and shamed
" How could I be so stupid..."
Shizune made it back home and quietly opened the door. She expected to see a familiar face. But, she was greeted with the silence of. She called out, hoping for an answer.
"LOVE?" She called out to her mate. But no answer was given
She decided to make a second attempt.
"KAKASHI?" Once again she called out to him. And again, no reply
Shizune silenced herself. After her recent actions, she wasn't really surprised that nobody answered her. Quietly and in shame, she walked to her room. She opened the door and began to smile.
"KAKA..." She quickly cut herself off from her excitement
She saw Kakashi asleep in bed. She was happy that he was even home considering their disagreement. However, the happiness quickly vanished as she couldn't get her recent actions out of her head. Careful not to disturb her mate, she sat by him on the bed as he slept. She brushed her brunette bangs behind her ears and quietly looked over Kakashi as he slept.
"...Hey love..." She spoke quietly, being careful not to wake him
She reached to touch his face. But she stopped herself. She felt that she didn't have a right to touch him while he slept after what had happened
"Bet you would have knocked my hand away...huh love?" She second guessed touching him
Remorsefully, she looked away and began to speak
"You know...it's not easy for me...it hurts knowing that the person you love can be gone in an instant..." Shizune placed her hand on the bed, close to the sleeping Kakashi's face
"I...didn't mean to give you the same helpless, scared feeling I was have when you leave...maybe you're right...maybe I'm not ready..." Shizune couldn't fight back her tears any longer
She began to sniff and wipe her gorgeous brown eyes
" I said things...cruel, hurtful things... and you stayed a gentleman all that time..." She paused.
She placed both of her hands on her lap and looked down. Her hair now hung over her face. Once she stopped crying she continued.
Shizune was no longer able to fight her urge to touch the sleeping Jounin. She stood up and placed both of her hands on his cheeks. She began to study his face intently as her thumbs were moving back and forth, caressing his cheeks. Hesitantly, she pulled down his mask.
"...Love...when I come back... I promise I'll have the courage to apologize to you when you're awake." She slowly leant down and closed her eyes. Delicately, she kissed his lips. Knowing she wouldn't see him again for a very long time, she allowed her lips to linger. Unwilling to leave the warmth of Kakashi's lips, she reluctantly rose up.
"...forgive me...but I have to do this..." she apologized to the sleeping ninja while returned his mask to its original position.
Shizune slowly made her way to the door. It was hard on her knowing that this could be the last time in a very long time that she would see Kakashi. Not allowing her body to leave the room. She turned around to see him one last time.
"Your Shizune gal...she loves you...so very much..." She softly said as she wiped her eyes from her tears and closed the door.
The door closed. Kakashi was left sleeping. His lover had said her goodbyes and apologized without him even knowing.
Morrigan was setting up her tent, several feet away from Jiraiya and surprisingly, away from Naruto as well. The princess was silent and kept her heartbreak inside. She was caught totally off guard when Naruto came to her.
"Morrigan-chan... can we talk?... Naruto found her, ready to work things through.
"...Now's not a good time foxy..." Morrigan answered hesitantly. She was still reeling from a broken heart.
" Why is her voice so shaken?" he quickly noticed Morrigan wasn't her normal aggressive self.
Naruto was curious of Morrigan's new demeanor. He had gotten used to her so any sudden difference could not be hidden from him.
"Are you ok Morrigan chan?..." Naruto asked concerned.
Morrigan turned away. She now had her back to him. Which was the kind of thing that was uncharacteristic of the Princess. Nervously, he continued
"... I didn't want to take long... I wanted to tell you how much you mean to me and..." Morrigan held her hand up. Which stopped him from talking.
The two silently looked at one another until Morrigan spoke.
"Foxy...Do I really mean something to you?" her voice was blatantly serious
"...Why is she asking that? What did I do..." Naruto was confused as he answered
Clearly confused and nervous, he answered her
"Morrigan-chan...you mean the a lot to me...you should know that." Naruto answered. He was hurt that she question the value he placed on her.
She tried to smile. She really wanted to believe those words. But the memory of his confession was all too clear in her head. She shook her head and answered with another question
" I'm just a burden to you, aren't I?" Morrigan's eyes began to water
Naruto was totally stunned. What had become a chance for he and Morrigan to have a heart to heart talk had now become a bout of confusion.
"Burden?...what is she talking about?...I don't understand..."
"No, no you're not Morrigan chan... I need you..." He truly spoke from his heart.
Morrigan began to walk off
"Wait!" Naruto asked her to stay
Morrigan, now crying continued to walk away. But Naruto ran behind her and grabbed her arm. He spun her around and they looked eye to eye
" She's crying...what did I do?" he was hurt to think he had done something wrong to her without him knowing.
"Morrigan-chan...what did I..." he began to ask. His heart was breaking
She placed her hand over his mouth and finished his question
"Do?...no foxy, you didn't do anything...I ... I'm just realizing my place is all..." She allowed him to see her cry.
He released her arm and asked on final question. What was to become a moment of truth had become a moment of anxiety.
"Are you frustrated at me?..." Naruto was scared to asked
Morrigan continued to cry. She allowed her normal smile to show through her tears. Gently, she brushed his ear where she had made her mark. Then she glided her hand down to his cheek.
"It's not your fault foxy...it's mine...for falling in love with you..." She began to lean up to his cheek.
Naruto blushed upon the feeling of Morrigan's full lips pressing his cheek. At first, she gave him a quick kiss. But then immediately, she delivered a second kiss, which lingered and absorb the feel of Naruto's skin. She eventually released him from the confine of her lips and looked him in the eye.
"...Yes foxy...I am..." She smiled and cried as she answered truthfully.
The princess walked off, leaving a heavy hearted Naruto behind. He had no clue that Morrigan had overheard him admit is feelings for Sakura. And she didn't stay long enough to hear how she had begun to forge a place into his heart. The young gennin knew he would not sleep well tonight.
To be continued...