Springtime in a Youthful Garden

By GLORIOUSGREEN

Author's Note: Fear not dear readers, though the Closed Minded sought to break my Genius, I have risen to write again!

RAMENZLVR – I had heard of the Legendary Gai's unfortunate accident. I was much saddened that such a powerful hero was brought so low. But, a mere coincidence I assure you. Time and long journeys, not broken fingers, have delayed my writings!

SebDaryus – Such eloquence from a reviewer! You are indeed a True Intellect. Fear not! Absence has not quelled the Splendor of my Words, though circumstances may keep my pen from paper from time to time. Such is the way of the world. I will continue to write as I can.

BranchHousPWNZ – Sasuke did indeed Flip when he read my marvelous prose. His cheeks burned bright with pride, but how can one blame such a Shy Boy with the light of such brilliance illuminating his True Character?

senkoed – The Great Kakashi reads my works? Truly, you know of this? I am delighted! But, what is this uke you speak of?

AgeNtSPaNdEx, 10x2 – Do not mourn for my forced hiatus! I have returned with the Vigor of

Dawn to carry on my tale. The story shall continue to move you to ever further depths of ecstasy! The Beauty of Manly Rivalry shall prevail!

ichaichasilver – Typing with my toes? I do not have to for indeed my fingers were not broken by any angry kunoichi as were Maito Gai's, for I am not Gai, but a most compelling challenge nonetheless! As always, your suggestions are exquisite in their creativity!

UchihaPink – Your enthusiasm is appreciated, but Konoma's teams are comprised of two. If you seek a grouping of three, I strongly suggest you try GaMaGaMa's newest story Naughty Ninjas. Indeed, I have heard the heroes face many Inspired and Heated Challenges over which they must prevail!

ichaichasilver – No, I do not have the link to GaMaGaMa's story on hand, but I do believe it may be found through the Google.

TheClosetPervert – As always, I am honored that you think of my work so highly, and your observations are correct. Indeed, I seek to show the world of the Eternal Struggle of young Sasuke to top Naruto.

Now, the story awaits...

Chapter Four

Sasuke landed on the window ledge more graceful than any cat born. Balancing delicately on the balls of his feet, he raised his hand to knock on the glass. He swallowed convulsively. He could see his own eyes, swirling and glowing the red of blood and rubies reflected back at him from the darkness.

No. Sasuke blinked. He was wrong. It was not his reflection at all. There was only one eye, not two, and it lay nestled beneath a thatch of molten silver hair.

Sasuke felt his hand clutch tightly around the Great Emerald Heart. He should have known. Kashi was the magnificent rival of the gallant Green Beast, and one of the greatest warriors of Konoma. He must have known Sasuke was coming all along.

"K-Kashi," Sasuke stammered, trying to keep his voice steady. He must complete his mission, he repeated to himself. "Please, let me in."

He watched as Kashi hesitated, his long, lean limbs tensed as if to flee in another direction, before reluctantly coming to unlatch the window. Sasuke needed no other invitation. He slid the pane up and crept inside.

"Is it..." Kashi began before stopping. He let his voice trail off into silence, as if afraid of the answer his question might bring.

But, Sasuke had a mission, and he would complete his charge. "Yes. He said it's your turn now to guard the future, you are the new Guardian."

"The Great Emerald Heart of Konoma," gasped Kashi as Sasuke handed him the glowing green stone. He groaned then, as if his heart was tearing in two. "Then the Beast, the Beast is really... Our last bout, I never got the chance to finish..."

Sasuke watched as Kashi lowered his head. For a moment, the man seemed to crumple, the Heart clutched tightly to his chest, so consumed with grief it was unbearable. To lose a youthful rival at the prime of his life, a fight left unfinished...Tears streamed unbidden down Sasuke's face.

"Kashi," whispered Sasuke walking over to comfort the man.

"No," moaned Kashi, "Go, go to Naruto, battle and scream and beat against one another while you still can. Leave the wounded in peace."

Sasuke took in the sight of the taunt muscles Kashi had built over his fine bones just to strive against the Great Green Beast once more. Such supreme effort and noble expectations, yet the fight was left unfinished. Sasuke wiped at his manly tears. It was too much.

"Kashi, I will be the Green Beast tonight," vowed Sasuke through his curtain of tears. "Just for tonight. We will finish your last fight."

Kashi turned to stare, his expression torn between hope and grief. To train, just once more with the Green Beast...

"Please Kashi, with the lights off, I'll be him."

Yes, Sasuke thought later, as they took their positions. A glorious farewell between comrades: the Green Beast would have wanted it this way.