"Ino…that is quite enough." Haruno Sakura unsuccessfully tried to grab the bottle of saké away from her blonde best friend.
"I…hic…" Yamanaka Ino's face was very red, and she could hardly speak because she was laughing so hard.
"Hahahahahaha! We need to celebrate!" Ino chuckled.
"My oh my! What's the occasion?" TenTen questioned. She smiled wryly at Sakura.
"F-for what, Ino-chan?" Hyūga Hinata asked timidly.
"Nothing…hic…much. My very good friend Nara Shikamaru and his Sand girl are getting…hic…married tomorrow."
Sakura looked at Hinata, Hinata looked at TenTen and TenTen looked at Sakura. So that was it. Ino was trying too hard to hide the symptoms of a broken heart by getting drunk. It's as simple as that. All because of a dirty-blonde kunoichi. And a certain pineapple-haired man.
TenTen gently placed her hand on Sakura's shoulder.
"Let her be. Broken hearts are not ever after," she told Sakura. Sakura kept quiet. She knew better than TenTen and Hinata, or more than anyone else. Yamanaka Ino is a woman who doesn't know the true meaning of the word forget. Or at least, she had no idea how to apply it during the most difficult times. Emotional times. Sakura and Ino were the best of friends since childhood and then became rivals because of a sharp-eyed Uchiha guy. They rekindled their friendship after their preliminary match, many years ago. And speaking of Uchiha…Sakura scolded herself for not joining Ino earlier in her drinking spree. Her ultimate childhood fantasy, Sharingan-bearer Uchiha Sasuke, went off to some rank A mission and after some time, Sakura heard from a few townspeople in the Hidden Leaf Village that he is happily married to an unknown kunoichi and they had a son.
Sakura glanced over at Ino, who was ready to fall asleep.
It was all worthless, Sakura thought angrily. She threw away Ino's friendship, devotion and protection hoping to claim Sasuke for her own but he never ever made her feel anything special, let alone a rabid fan girl. He didn't even give her a hint that she meant something to him. He treated her just as a person should treat his teammate. You REALLY are annoying, Sasuke would tell her every time she would express her love and fondness for him.
I wish I never fought with Ino over something so silly.
Poor Ino, she added to her silent monologue. She was so head over heals with Sasuke that she overlooked a wonderful person right in front of her, silently waiting for her, hoping that she would realize that there was somebody who loved her deeply ever since they were just children. But people have their limits. Things were getting ironic, as Shikamaru is engaged to be married to Temari, it was then that Ino realized that it was Nara Shikamaru whom she truly loved, not Sasuke. Of course it was too late, and here she is in her drunken state.
Given Ino's situation, Sakura considered herself lucky. Sasuke never really valued her as a woman, so she need not regret anything except that she fell for him and her former rivalry with Ino. Ino, on the other hand, was on the verge of being with a man who really cared about her, but she took it for granted, letting Shikamaru, her best friend and her true love, slip right through her fingers, far away from her. So far that it could not be undone. And that was the most painful thing of all, and Sakura pitied Ino for that.
If only they didn't fall hard on their faces for a cold-hearted man, it wouldn't have gotten this far. If it weren't for Sasuke, Ino would not be blind enough to miss Shikamaru; she probably could've been the woman at his side right now, not that Temari girl. If it weren't for him, she and Ino would have never been enemies, not even for once in their entire lives. Because of him, their friendship was spoiled, they have to start anew again and those times that they were bickering at each other could have been spent for sleepovers, bonding sessions, picnics…any activities that best friends were capable of. One could never make up for the lost and wasted time. If it weren't for him, she would not be this hurt; she wouldn't have a lot on her mind this very moment. If it weren't for him…
Sakura jumped in shock. She was so absorbed in her 'blame-Sasuke-for-everything' thoughts that TenTen's voice surprised her.
"You really have a funny look on your face right now."
The wedding took place in a small country church near the hillside in the Hidden Sand Village, located in the Wind Country. It was the home of the legendary Sand Siblings, with Temari being one of them. All of them from the Hidden Leaf Village of the Fire Country were present. Ino sat in the front seat, between Sakura and her father, Yamanaka Inoichi, who was in turn seated next to Nara Shikaku, Shikamaru's father. The two old friends were happily chattering away. And Ino can catch some of the words.
"You know what? I really thought Ino and Shikamaru was the real match…"
"After all, my boy used to be so fond of your Ino; it never occurred to me that he would give up on her and fall for the daughter of the late Kazekage!"
It was all too much for poor Ino's ears. She stood up abruptly. The two old men stared at her.
Shikaku and Inoichi are waiting patiently for her to say whatever it is that made her stand up in the middle of a very crucial gathering.
"I…I need to go to the toilet," she finally blurted out.
"I'll go with you," Sakura said, standing up as well.
The two friends proceeded to the toilet just outside the chapel. As soon as Sakura bolted the door behind them, Ino burst into tears.
"Ssshhh. Now, now…soon everything will be alright again," Sakura told her best friend soothingly. I hope, she added to herself. Ino cried even harder. Oh dear, Sakura thought.
"Nnnooo, it's not going to be. I know. I just know," Ino sniffed.
Sakura reached inside her pocket and pulled out a silk handkerchief. She handed it to Ino.
"I…Thank you," Ino said. She smiled at Sakura through her tears.
They spent the whole time in the toilet, enjoying the silence wrapped around them, taking time to understand each other's pain, holding each other while letting it all out. After all, everything would be the same again. At least, they have each other.
By the time they were ready to emerge from the comfort room with straight faces, the whole occasion had just finished. People were already out in the garden, flocking around the newly-wed couple.
Ino and Sakura went, anyway. It would be too impolite to just disappear without greeting Temari and Shikamaru. The two were in each other's arms, looking blissful. Shikamaru's eyes searched the crowd for his two best friends. He suddenly remembered that Akimichi Chōji, just like Uzumaki Naruto, is away on a mission trip. He quietly chastised his absentmindedness for not keeping himself posted about Chōji's whereabouts. Shikamaru searched the crowd once more for a certain white-gold haired girl. He saw her arm in arm with the strawberry-blonde kunoichi. The strawberry-blonde girl was holding her as if she's going to collapse, that Shikamaru wondered whether she was ill. He signaled to Temari, who nodded and they made their way towards the two young ladies.
"Ino, Sakura. Enjoying yourselves?"
"I certainly am, Shika-kun. Why, this is quite a feast, that I feel I must take a break from my diet," Ino replied. She was smiling, but the smile did not extend to her cerulean eyes. Sakura was impressed with the way her best friend handled herself in front of the people who were the very reasons why her heart is in pieces. She nodded politely to Shikamaru and Temari. Temari and Ino laid eyes on each other for a moment.
So this is Yamanaka Ino. She's quite a pretty face. I'm lucky I'm the one who's beside Shikamaru right now, Temari thought.
And Ino was thinking, I lost so badly to you, Sand girl. In a way, I'm relieved, because I know he's in good hands. You deserve him a lot more than I do.
As if reading each other's thoughts, Temari smiled at Ino. It wasn't a smirk, but a real one. Ino was taken aback. Really, years ago, she seemed so menacing when she was still an enemy of Konohagakure and when she cruelly beat TenTen to a pulp in the preliminary matches. But now, without her usual sneer, she looked so sincerely beautiful. Ino cannot help it. She smiled back.
Ino's heart is still broken, but she felt a little better. She and Sakura roamed about the place, tasting dishes that they have never tried before.
"I do wonder…" Sakura began. Ino looked at her.
"…why the two Sand brothers aren't here."
"It's better that way. Really, it is. Those two looked like a pair of serial killers. They scare the hell out of people," Ino hissed in a very low voice.
"Well, yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that they're Temari's siblings," Sakura pointed out.
Ino could be so mean when it comes to describing people regarding physical aspects, but Sakura understood. Ino wasn't there when she, her former teammate Uzumaki Naruto and their sensei Hatake Kakashi, together with Team Gai, bade farewell to the Sand Siblings after Sunagakure's poison expert Chiyo-baa risked her life in order to resurrect the youngest of the three. The young Kazekage has changed so much, due to his confrontation with Naruto. He even held Naruto's hand before they parted, something that his old self would never do in a million years. In fact, all three of the Sand Siblings became their good friends and there was no need for words. Since Ino wasn't there to witness the said happenings, to her, the mere mentioning of the two brothers sounded as frightening as ever.
An irritating noise of a malfunctioning megaphone interrupted Sakura's flashbacks.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the two Sand brothers! Godaime Kazekage Sabaku no Gaara-sama and Puppet Master Kankurō-sama!" the announcer boomed.
"I thought they were never coming!" Temari exclaimed. She hurriedly cut her way through the sea of people in order to be the first to meet her brothers the moment they arrive.
"Well then," the announcer continued, "May I please call on the shinobi of both the Hidden Leaf Village and the Hidden Sand Village to join us here to welcome them altogether?"
Sakura stood up to go over to Shikamaru and Temari who were standing next to the announcer. She stopped walking when she realized that Ino wasn't following her. She looked at Ino over her shoulder.
"Stand up, you lazy bum. You heard him. You're also a shinobi of the Leaf."
Ino gave Sakura a blank stare.
"Oh, come on, you." Sakura said, going near Ino. The blonde looked up at Sakura idly. "I don't feel like it," she said mildly.
Sakura's reply was a painful nudge in Ino's ribs.
"Alright, alright, I'm going." With that, Ino stood up and followed Sakura. There were the clans of Hyūga, Inuzuka, Akimichi minus the clan figurehead Akimichi Chōji, Aburame, Nara, Kurama and Yamanaka. Their former sensei also made it; Sarutobi Asuma, Yūhi Kurenai, Maito Gai, Hatake Kakashi, Mitarashi Anko, Umino Iruka, Ebisu and Baki. Their other comrades were present, namely Sai, Rock Lee and TenTen. Jiraiya, one of the Densetsu no Sannin, was ranting on about the latest issue of Icha Icha Takutikusu Make-Out Tactics to Kakashi, who looked extensively pleased. Konohamaru Corps associates Udon, now 17 and Sandaime Hokage's grandson Konohamaru, now 18 were also in attendance, with Moegi absent. They are now Chūnin-ranked shinobi. Uchiha Sasuke made his appearance there as well. Sakura's heart stopped for a moment, seeing the man that she loved and hated so much. He didn't bring his family with him, much to Sakura's disappointment, for she wanted to see the woman. Ino looked from Sakura to Sasuke, and gave Sasuke her most piercing glare. Sasuke just gave them a cool, impersonal glance. Ino wished that Sakura would stop gaping at the man engulfed in an air of arrogance. Really, his head was swollen enough without him realizing that almost all of the girls had their eyes on him, disregarding the fact that he already has a family.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Good evening, everybody. I hope you all don't mind me making a very few changes here in this fan fiction work of mine. If you've copied and pasted this story on a separate sheet after a few days that it was first written (which I pray you did NOT), you could easily point out which was replaced with which. Thank you for your kind attention. c'',)