Tsubame: I am two years over my deadline. I know. I know. I have to finish this! My brother read this and now asking me to get off my lazy butt and finish this. I will. I will. :/
I am not sure if people can still remember this. I am sure that the story changed a bit because my writing style is so different from 2-3 years ago. I am not that into Naruto anymore. However, I still love mysteries. Detective Conan, Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. For me, they never grow old. Hahaha… I hope you like this latest case!~ Have fun trying to solve it yourselves. Tell me who you think did it.~ Who knows. You might be right!
Disclaimer:I don't own Naruto. It is the property of Masashi Kishimoto and company…
By Tsubame Ongaku
Chapter 13: Uzumaki Naruto
"Did you find anything, Sakura-chan?" A bored Naruto asked.
Sakura took out a roll of scotchtape and used it to take the prints from the wall. "Seven sets of prints. I will match them later to the members later." She carefully labeled each print. Suddenly something caught her eye. "Well, well. What is this?" With a pair of tweezers, she pulled out a lock of hair on the floor and bagged it.
Naruto watched in fascination as she bagged and labeled it with other items she gathered. "Hair? Is that important?"
She shrugged, frowning almost angrily at the bag. Looking up, her hand gripped at her sides. "I'm not sure yet but I hope it is… the hair…"
The blonde assistant grew serious, seeing Sakura look like that. Whatever she was thing about must have been grave indeed. "Yeah? What about it?"
" it's silver…"
Naruto wasn't a stranger to mysteries. After all, he was bestfriends with one of the biggest mysteries in Konoha. He felt bad about lying to Sakura. He wasn't just helping her out of pure coincidence. Oh, no. Life wasn't that convenient. But, Sakura wanted to believe that it was and it is a convenient excuse for Naruto. Otherwise, he and his bestfriend were going to have to survive her wrath.
"Keep an eye on her, will you?"
Naruto blinked, staring in disbelief at his bestfriend. He had been on his way to see Sakura after she asked him to get a few things from her locker. After that, he had plans with Ino and Hinata. They had asked him to go with them to a friend's exhibit. Outside his classroom though after spending an hour doing Sasuke's chores, he finds said person waiting for him.
Naruto brushed pass him, more than a little irked that he had been talked into doing his dirty work again. But, Sasuke stopped him.
At the request, Naruto rolled his eyes. "Oi, Sasuke, you're taking this obsession with Sakura-chan too far." He was about to push him away.
"She is trying to investigate about Shimizu."
At that, Naruto froze. There was worry now.
Sasuke knew that he had his attention now. "We can't leave her alone. It would be bad if she knows too much."
"Oi, Sakura-chan, tell me." They were in the cafeteria, Naruto was eating as Sakura wrote down her notes. Sakura looked up, still a bit distracted. "Isn't this already a closed case? Why do you want investigate it again? I mean---- why reopen old wounds?" Naruto suddenly stopped eating and was now staring at the girl with a solemn expression.
Sakura stopped writing and was quiet for some time as well. That look on Naruto's face scared her a bit. She began to wonder if Naruto was much more involved with this case than he was telling her. Not even when Naruto gives a grin could change her mind. Was there something he wasn't telling her? "I think this girl deserve some closure. If that girl was murdered, her murderer should be caught." Leaning forward, she asked, "Were you and Miss Ito close? Why all the questions?"
Naruto chuckled, but it wasn't his usual carefree chuckles. " I can't say we are very close. If you want close, I'd say that Sasuke and Ito were close. But---," he paused. "I know her. She was a good girl. She never wanted to hurt anyone, even when people around her were hurting her." Naruto looks up at Sakura again. "Sakura, I know you mean well by doing this but you don't have to. Just stop, okay? You're only going to hurt him."
"Hi---him?" Blinking, Sakura couldn't move. What did Naruto mean? Who did he mean by him? "Sozoichi?"
Naruto shook his head. "No. Sakura-chan, you're only going to hurt Sasuke."
Naruto excused himself after that. He still had to meet Hinata. He was a bit worried if it was alright to reveal that much to Sakura. Sasuke was going to kill him, but he wanted Sakura to know a bit of what she was getting herself into. Naruto remembered Shimizu Ito. She was always had such sad eyes. Whenever he saw her, she had such frightened look in her eyes. The only times he had really seen her smile was when she was painting in the Art room. Thinking about her, Naruto had to admit that she reminded him a bit of Hinata. However, Shimizu didn't have a strong family name like the, Hyuugas.
Sozoichi, Sasuke and him had always did their best to protect her but they only made things worse. Some girls didn't think she deserved the protection of three such handsome men. Ito had always kept quiet of the horrible treatment.
Sakura smiled and waved goodbye, but there was something different about her smile. It seemed slightly hesitant now, but Naruto knew that she was also too curious to stop when she had barely just begun. Her determination was impressive but troubling. Naruto promised to meet her the next day to meet with a few of the other members of the Art club that she should keep an eye on. Also, he knew that he had to keep an eye on her as well as Sasuke said.
He reached the front of the Exhibit to find Hinata there, waiting for him. For a while, Naruto just watched her as he walked towards her. She really is cute. Clear eyes, long dark hair and carrying such a gentle demeanor. Once she saw him, her face became bright red and ran inside. At that, Naruto stared confused before going inside as well. She was outside to wait for him, wasn't she? He guessed wrong maybe. It was too bad because the thought of her waiting for him did make him feel slightly happy.
"Naruto? You're late!" Ino shouted, hitting him on the head with her purse.
The blonde rubbed the sore spot on his head, frowning at his girlfriend. "I'm here, aren't I? And it is not my fault! That Uchiha wanted me to do a favor for him!"
"It's al—right, Naruto-kun," Hinata told him, stuttering and clutching on her pretty sun dress. "We un---der---stand."
It was obvious that she was trying her best just to utter those words to him. For Naruto, it was normal Hinata-chan behavior, and he found it cute. Ino just sighed, Naruto was just too oblivious. Like everyone, she wasn't as oblivious as the two of them of their feelings to one another. Ino knew perfectly well. Which was why she wasn't so bothered by the two's display.
Naruto was her boyfriend, but their relationship was strictly friendship. Neither really felt attraction to one another. Honestly, Ino was more attracted to Sasuke but it was clear that he would never like her as she liked him.
Naruto gave a grin. "Thanks, Hinata-chan. Ino is just brutal, isn't she?"
"What did you say?!" Ino began hitting Naruto with her purse again. This time harder. "Nevermind. What took you so long anyway? Weren't you supposed to be here two hours ago?"
"Come on, lets see this friend of yours who's an amazing artist," he said, not answering her question. Ino sighed. She knew that if Naruto didn't want to answer then it was for a reason and there really was no talking him out of it after that. Despite what a lot of people believed, Naruto was really no idiot. At least not all the time.
Naruto looked around and gave a whistle. He might not be into art, but he knew talent when he saw it. It was weird tough. His paintings were strangely accurate. Too accurate…
"You're so amazing, Sai-chan!"
"Sai?" Naruto knew only one Sai and he was---
"AH! Him?!" Naruto leaped back, pointing at the figure who was currently surrounded by a number of females.
They found Sai inside and he was talking to a few girls who were congratulating him on his success and leaving pieces of paper with their phone numbers in his hands. But an Uchiha being surrounded by females wasn't really an unusual sight. When he noticed them, he smiled and excused himself from his fans.
"Miss Ino, I am glad that you could make it," he said, kissing the back of her hand. "You too, Miss Hyuuga." He also kissed the back of her hand, but when he turned to Naruto, he made a face and said, "Don't even think about it."
Sai just smiled as if saying that he didn't know what he was talking about.
Naruto turned to Ino and asked, "Why in the world did it have to be him? When did you two meet anyway?"
Ino blinked. She couldn't understand why Naruto was acting so strange. Then she remembered. The rivalry between Sai and Sasuke was legendary and she heard that Naruto wasn't too fond of him either. Naruto didn't say anything about it, but there was simply something about Sai that he couldn't really trust. He was too charming, too smart and too calculated in his movements. It was like he regarded everything like a giant chess board. He always seems to have a motive. There was some kind of king on the board.
"We met at the festival. He invited Sakura and me, but Sakura turned him down so I decided to bring you." Answering his question, she turned to Sai and apologized for Naruto's rude behavior. "I guess you both know each other?"
Naruto nodded. How could he forget? He was Sai, Sasuke's cousin. Sai nodded as well. He knew him. He was Uzumaki Naruto, his cousin's close friend and Miss Ino's current boyfriend. He only smiled at the obvious distrust in Naruto's face. Maybe he might have a little fun with his cousin's bestfriend for a while.
Ino could sense the intensity and Hinata was getting uncomfortable with it. He had seen that look on Naruto's face before and that was when he was about to fight with her cousin, Neji. So, this worried her a lot. One of them might not leave the gallery in one piece. Ino wanted out of theire and she was going to take Hinata with her. She might get hurt in the crossfire of whatever the two were going to do. "Hinata-chan! Come on, lets take a look around. We'll see you boys later!" Without wasting time, Ino grabbed Hinata's hand and they left, leaving the two boys to themselves.
After they were out of earshot, there was silence for a while. But Naruto decided to break the ice by saying, "You know I don't like you, right?"
Sai just shrugged, "I know."
"You knew, didn't you? You always knew that it was Yukino." Naruto was clearly more than upset, but with Hinata present he kept his temper in check. "You always knew that Yukino had tried to kill Hinata but you didn't say anything. Why? Why didn't you say anything?! What if something else happened and this time Hinata would have been hurt?"
Sai paused but continued to smile. He didn't seem to be too affected by what Naruto just said. "Relax. I knew she wasn't going to try again for a while. It would have been too suspicious. She wanted to wait for that case to finish. I figured she wouldn't have been stupid enough to even try. Besides----"
His grin became just a bit bigger. "Telling them right away would hardly have been fun."
"You bastard!" It took everything Naruto had just to keep himself from trying to kill Sai at the moment. Sai really was the two-faced Bastard Sasuke as always telling him.
Sai just replied with a smile.
Naruto growled, not trusting that smile at all. He really couldn't say anything to the others of what kind of person Sai really was. He wasn't sure anybody would believe him. "I hope the others hurry out and figure out your real personality, you bastard," he grumbled, then turning to where Hinata and Ino were. He smiled when he saw Hinata turn very red when she realized Naruto was looking at her.
"Oh? Hinata-chan? I don't blame you," Sai said, giving another suspicious smile. "She's very cute."
"Shut up. Don't say anything if you want to keep that head of yours," Naruto warned. With that, he walked away to catch up with the girls. He never left Hinata's side that night.
The next day, Sasuke found Naruto in deep thought on his way to school. "Oi, you're going to get hit by a car if you keep up with that lost little boy look."
Naruto looked up and sighed. "Sorry. I was just thinking."
"Stuff, huh?" They walked in silence for a while before Sasuke finally asked, "What did Sakura say? Did she find out anything?"
"She really wants to close this case. She seems determined. I don't think you can stop her, Sasuke," he warned. "She is as stubborn as---"
"Yes. I know," he cut in. "As stubborn as her. But, she can't let her know too much. It can only get her killed and they will…"
"Naruto! Sasuke! Wait up!"
They looked behind them and saw someone coming towards them. It looked like a boy and he was riding on a skateboard. Both boys stopped and waited for the boy to join them. The boy was pretty small. He was much smaller than Naruto and Sasuke that was for sure. He was a boy that was much too pretty to be a boy with his big green eyes and short coffee brown hair.
"Thanks! You two are walking to school together? That is so gay. Don't you both have girlfriends for that?"
"What was that?!" Both Sasuke and Naruto looked like they were ready to pound the boy into the pavement.
The boy laughed and raced pass them, then sticking out his tongue. "See you both in class!" Laughing hysterically, he left.
Naruto and Sasuke stared at his back, exasperated. "Aki, that little---" But Naruto didn't finish what he was about to say.
Sasuke understood and nodded. "Mnm. Who would ever think that Aki is a girl?"
"Chihiro! Naruto! Sasuke!"
At their names being called, all three of them turned around to see Aki racing towards them on her skateboard again, waving her arm for their attention.
Maybe it was the baggy clothes, tomboy attitude and the fact that she prefers to wear the male version of their uniforms. It was just difficult to think of Tsujimura Aki as female. She doesn't seem to acknowledge that she was one either.
"Oi, Chihiro-kun!" Aki greeted him that afternoon, then leaping unto his back.
Chihiro looked behind him and gave a grin. "Shouldn't you be with your band for practice?"
Aki shrugged. "I don't feel like practicing yet."
Chihiro turned to Sasuke and Naruto for help, but they simply shook their heads. When it came to Aki, it was like trying to get a little puppy to behave. She was very fond of Chihiro. No surprise there because animals seem to be very fond of the guy. "What is the band going to do without their vocalist?" He asked her, ruffling her hair. "It is not good that you are giving your bandmates trouble."
"But the battle of the bands isn't going to happen for a while!" she argued.
Naruto watched them. He always noticed how Chihiro always treated females with the same degree of gentleness and kindness. But, Naruto couldn't help but feel that it was deceptively cruel. He knew that look on Aki's face. It was the same look that girls gave Sasuke, the difference was that Sasuke had always made it clear when he was interested and when he wasn't.
Naruto didn't know what Chihiro told her, but Aki hesitantly nodded and said that she would be leaving. "I'll see you later, Chihiro-kun. You too, losers!"
If it wasn't for Chihiro pulling them back, Naruto and Sasuke would have chased after her.
Sasuke sighed and gave up. "Come on, lets go to the Art Club room. She must be there already."
When they opened the door, they found Sakura talking animatedly with one of the members. Whatever they were talking about seemed to be very funny because both girls would laugh hysterically for a while before continuing their conversation. They stopped once they noticed the presence of the three boys.
Naruto gave a friendly wave. "Yo, Sakura-chan, Aoi-chan. You seem happy today."
Sakura turned bright red, while the other girl just giggled. This made the three boys a bit more curious about their conversation a minute ago.
Naruto turned his attention to the other girl. Her name is Miyagi Aoi and she was a member of the Art Club and Drama Club. She had transferred to Konoha from Sand months before. She is with the Drama Club with Chihiro and Shizuka and handled the make-up and costuming. In fact, she dressed Shizuka and Chihiro for their last play, Romeo and Juliet. She did so well that she was now in charge of the whole Make-up division.
Aoi was true to her name. She had eyes the color of the morning sky and hair as dark as the night sky. She had a lady-like smile and very pretty features. She had a smile that many people could have sworn looked a lot like Ito Shimizu.
"I think it is safe to say that conversation is over, right, Sakura-chan?" Aoi said, giggling mysteriously and making Naruto scratch his head at how weird women were.
Sasuke took the seat beside Sakura, much to her displeasure. "Can't you go sit somewhere else?"
But his only reply was a shrug before crossing his legs and giving a lazy smile to Aoi. "You're looking well, Aoi. I heard that you were just recovering from a cold."
Aoi's eyes widened and began to look slightly nervous, but after a while flashed another smile. "I am quite alright. It wasn't a lonely time. Miss Shizuka came to visit and Aki as well," she paused, thinking. "She has been missing a lot of practice lately. Will she be alright?"
Naruto gave a thumbs up and a wink. "She'll be alright! Don't worry! Believe in that monkey!"
Suddenly a shoe came flying towards Naruto's head, rendering Naruto falling to the ground with an enormous bump on his head. "Who are you calling a monkey?" Aki was in the doorway, not looking very happy. She had both hands on her hips and standing on one leg. With one shoeless foot, it is only too easy to guess where the flying shoe had come from.
"Aki? Shouldn't you be in practice?"
"Yeah. Sorry, Aoi. I just came back to get something from your bag." Aki ran inside and reached into Aoi's bag and pulling out what look like sheaf of music. Naruto noticed that Sakura was watching them throughout the exchange. He frowned, wondering what she was thinking and how to divert her attention somewhere else. Sasuke beat him to it.
"Sasuke! You pervert!" The group looked up to find, Sasuke holding Sakura's hand with a triumphant look on his face. Sakura was grinding her teeth at him. Naruto did not really see what Sasuke did, but Aoi was giggling. Chihiro wasn't any better either. He didn't even seem to be paying much attention. Chihiro was happily humming with his headphones and iPod keeping him plenty busy. When he saw Naruto looking at him with a confused look, he looked around as confused as he was.
Suddenly, Sakura noticed something else inside Aoi's bag. Aki had forgotten to close it when she got her music. "Aoi, what is that inside your bag?"
"Eh?" Aoi turned to where she was pointing and smiled. "This?" She pulled out a book from her bag and handed it to Sakura. "I got it from Miss Ito's exhibit."
The book was a compilation of Shimizu Ito's art. Her gorgeous paintings, innovative statues and lovely sketches. "Are you a big fan of---" Between the pages of the book was an old ticket. She looked at the date and the date was for the night that Ito had died. "This ticket…"
For a second, Aoi looked genuinely shocked and laughed. "Oh my… how did this get there? I must have forgotten to remove it when I bought it." She reached out and plucked it from Sakura's fingers, putting it in the pocket of her bag. "I do not want to lose it. I treasure it."
Naruto smiled, but when he turned to Sakura, he noticed that look she threw. She looked at Aoi with suspicion and Sasuke noticed it too. He turned to his friend, mouthing 'what should we do?' but Sasuke just shrugged and sighed. The best they can do is to remain silent and give the impression that they knew nothing. Sasuke knew that even that farce was not working and that Sakura knew that he did play some sort of role. He couldn't tell her. Not yet. She would never forgive him. Even Naruto took a while to accept what he had done.
Naruto frowned, he knew that Sakura would be unlikely to forgive him too for the role he played.
"What time is it, Aoi?" Sakura asked sweetly.
Aoi lifted her right hand and glanced at her watch. "It's around three minutes past four? Why do you ask?"
Sakura began fixing her things. "I need to go to the library then go see Tsunade-sensei before going home." When she finished, she turned to shake Aoi's hand. "It was nice meeting you, Aoi. I will see you tomorrow at the café then? The cake there is delicious. I promise."
"I don't mind. See you tomorrow, Miss Sakura."
She left, leaving the three boys with Aoi. Naruto just sat there, uncomfortably. He had a lot of questions and he was sweating buckets just itching to ask them. Sasuke beat him to it. "What did she want?"
Aoi sighed, expecting this. "Just a few questions about the club and if about Ito. I was careful not to saying anything. Don't worry, Sasuke. It is safe for now." She picked up a brush and began working on a painting that she had been working on before Sakura's arrival. Naruto took a peak and clapped his hands with awe.
"That is pretty good. What do you call it?"
"Rainbow," she replied proudly.
Sasuke took a peak himself and just sighed. Even though Aoi was a self-proclaimed fan of Ito Shimizu, she had no talent in painting. The painting she was working on looked like simple streaks of rainbow colors tossed here and there. It would definitely rival Chihiro's talent with music. What was Chihiro doing the whole time? He was listening to his Ipod again and playing an imaginary flute.
He did not hear anything. That was good. The fewer people who knew the better.
"If she wants to find out, I don't think you can keep her in the dark for long. She is quite intelligent," she reminds him, not looking up from her painting. "I dare say… that I might be in trouble, Sasuke."
Sasuke smiled, still looking very calm. "I will think of something."
Naruto didn't like that smile. He stands up and smiles as well to her. "I think this might be a good time to tell the others then."
Aoi gave a pretty and nodded. "Alright. See you soon I hope, Naruto."
Author's Note: Yes! Finally! An update after... a year? Two years?