Mayu slowly opened her eyes. She breathed out. This place was a lot creepier than the last time she had been. Well, it was dark outside. That may have been why it was creepier. Her lips pressed into a thin line. But anyway… She didn't need to be thinking about the environment. What mattered was the information source this place might become. The girl scaled up the wall, using chakra. She had just finished speaking with Uzumaki Naruto, concerning what he was to tell Tsunade. Once she was sure the blond got it, they parted ways. He was supposed to tell the woman about Sasuke's plan, concerning what he was doing in the Sound village. However, he was not going to tell her about Mayu's existence at all. She needed to be as undetected as possible. That conversation had lasted through sunset. Mayu shook her head at the thought. It was because of that conversation that she had decided to start her 'mission' ahead of time. She had planned to wait until Hinata was out of the hospital. But after thinking about it, waiting a few months didn't seem to be the best option.

Finally, she reached the top. With a grunt, Mayu pulled herself up. "There has got to be an easier way up here!" she muttered. Sure, she could use only her chakra, but that felt like cheating. Chuckling and rolling her eyes at her mind's logic, she fully stood and headed towards the traditional house. Within moments, she was standing at the entrance to the Ishikari residence. She opened the door. Her eyes narrowed a bit, feeling a strange wind. She got goose bumps from that wind. "That was weird..." Mayu shrugged it off and walked into the house. Once she was in, she slid the door closed behind her. "Down to business."

Apparently, this clan liked to hide stuff underneath things. Her best bet was to look under the floorboards again. Not in the same spot, of course. She had only found that diary last time. The other rooms hadn't been completely checked. She would look at the rooms where Sasuke had looked before and go through it thoroughly. However, that woman's diary was a good start for information. She and Uchiha Fugaku had some type of deal going on. Could that have been the start of the relationship between Uchiha and Ishikari? And if so, what was their connection? With any luck, that diary would hold all the answers, which is why she had to find it. Before, she had believed that she had carried the diary out with her, but after some thought she had dropped it. Sasuke had been pulling her—nearly dragging her—out of the house.

Mayu stopped walking. She had reached her destination. However, the book was not outside the door and the door was closed. There was something wrong here. To her surprise, the door began opening. Immediately, she backed away. "Crap…! Why is someone-" Her thought was abruptly cut off. Her eyes widened. That familiar black cloak with red clouds—it was Akatsuki. Mayu's eyes slowly traveled up, confused as to why Akatsuki was here. Red eyes stared down at her. "Weasel man…?" She nearly shouted while pointing a finger. "What the heck are you doing here?" The girl gasped loudly, slapping a hand over her mouth. She really had to stop blurting things out. Making fun of his name was not the best idea.

Without a word, Itachi stepped forward. This caused Mayu to step back. He didn't seem the least bit concerned about that. He continued to move forward, and she continued to move back. At last, her back hit the wall. Sasuke's voice suddenly echoed in her head. If it gets too dangerous, you pull out, he had told her. Mayu squeezed her eyes shut. This was looking more and more dangerous. However, Uchiha Itachi was a link. If she wanted to be thorough, she needed Itachi, too. Bracing herself, she voiced her eyes open. "Mayu… chan…" he said. Instead of staring directly into his Sharingan, her blue Hyuga eyes focused on his eyebrows.

"Uchiha-san," she returned. Mayu noticed that his lip twitch—like a slight frown.

"Have you remembered everything?"

"That depends on what that means," she replied. Itachi raised a brow. "What are you going to do if I do remember?"

"So you do not then?" he murmured more to himself than her. It was then that Mayu noticed the book in his right hand. It was the diary! "Do you wish for your memories to return completely?" So he realized, did he? Darn, she could have gotten valuable information if he hadn't. Mayu frowned, not answering him. "I'm afraid I will not be the one to bring about your memories, if not even my genjutsu did so."

"I'll find out eventually," Mayu bit out. Well, there was no point in pussy-footing around now. "So why don't you make it easier for me and tell me about you and Ishikari Mayuka? How involved were you with this clan?"

"Heh," he smirked. "Even without your memories, you haven't changed."

"I really can't stand how vague some people are," Mayu thought, refraining from glowering. "If you won't talk straight to me, then don't talk at all," she spoke out loud. The girl crossed her arms. "But you can give me that diary you have."

"Such hostility from you."

"Hm… I wonder why!" came her sarcastic remark. Itachi narrowed his eyes. "I'm not scared of you. The hatred that I have is kinda overpowering fear at the moment." The Uchiha did not reply to her hateful comments. Instead, he closed his eyes. Mayu's body tensed, watching him closely. It most likely wouldn't help, but it's how her body reacted. Without warning, his face was suddenly seriously close to hers. Her body froze. She even stopped breathing.

"If you wish to know, find out by yourself," Itachi said. This time, Mayu did not attempt to hide her scowl. "I will not give you this." He held up the diary. The book was immediately set aflame in his hand. The girl gapped at the sight. That thing probably had valuable information in it—the kind it would take years to find out. And Itachi was just letting it burn! The missing ninja dropped the charred remains of the book to the floor. He reached into his cloak. "However, I will give you a clue." Finally, the Uchiha straightened his back, pulling away from her. His arm was extended, though. In the palm of his hand, there was a small oval-shaped frame. However, before she could have a glimpse at the picture, the object was shoved into her hand and covered by Itachi's palm. "Here's a small hint, Mayu-chan."

"I'd appreciate it if you'd stop calling me that like we know each other," she retorted. Silently, Itachi backed away from her. Mayu kept her blue eyes on his person. She frowned when he turned his back on her. Well, at least she didn't have to worry about any genjutsu. But this Uchiha didn't seem like he would provide a lot of information for her even though he was probably the source. That fact made her glare at his retreating back. Then she shifted her narrowed eyes down at the frame. The girl gasped and dropped the frame to the floor.

It couldn't be… There must have been some mistake. Eyes wide, Mayu pressed her back against the wall and slid down to the floor. Her head shook a couple times. Her eyes had to be playing tricks on her, right? What she saw couldn't be right. Swallowing hard, she reached out towards the dropped object. Her fingers trembled before grasping the frame. Her breath came out as a shudder. There was no denying it. She had seen correctly the first time. The old picture—probably only a few years old—was in sepia tone. There were two young people in the photo. Both looked like younger versions of herself and Itachi. Mayu swallowed hard again. It was definitely her and Itachi. The pose was all too much like her. Grinning, eyes looking directly at the camera, her right cheek was pressed against Itachi's left. When one other person was with her in a photo that was the pose she did. It was a fact. No matter whom the person was as long as they were a… friend. Itachi was not impassive. He wore a small smile. His arm was wrapped around her shoulders. They looked to be quite close.

Mayu pressed her lips into a thin line. She flipped the frame and hastily removed the back. The picture had writing on the back. Just as she thought, the writing stated that it was herself and Itachi, age eight and twelve respectively. "Eight…?" Mayu thought, biting her lip. Her eyebrows furrowed. She couldn't… seem to remember anything before that point in her life. No, she couldn't even remember being eight at all. A hand covered her mouth. What did this mean? "Calm down… calm down… This is a coincidence…" It had to be. She had already come to terms with her being a descendant of this clan. "Right… This is not me. This is… my ancestor. She just has the same name and face—perfectly plausible." Besides, there were plenty of people out there who couldn't remember their early childhood.

However, this could be a potential vital piece of her investigation. Mayu stood up, removing her hand from her mouth. Her eyes looked around. Uchiha Itachi was long gone by now. He had given her this 'clue,' which told her that he, as Sasuke had said, was deeply involved with the Ishikari clan. If that was possible, then it was certainly possible that one or more of the clan members could have helped him carry out the massacre. "Wait…!" Her eyes sharply looked up. That couldn't be possible. Mayu reached up and clutched her head. If she remembered correctly, Ishikari Mayuka had written her last message while dying. She had written that Uchiha Fugaku betrayed them. That meant that the Ishikari clan was dead before the Uchiha clan. "Well, Sasuke was wrong about that then… But then who helped out Itachi that night?"

Damn. Figuring out one thing just to have more questions spring up—this was just great. Then again, no one had said this was going to be easy. Mayu narrowed her eyes. Admittedly, she was becoming curious about this whole affair. She returned the back of the frame to its proper place. Then she put the frame in her pocket. The girl looked around once more. "Time to get started then," she muttered, cracking her knuckles.

0-0

As he followed behind his new teacher, Uchiha raised an eyebrow. On either side of him, there were cells, equipped with prisoners. He wished he understood more about Orochimaru. Why did he feel the need to keep captives? Sasuke frowned. The last place was like this, too. The three of them—Orochimaru, Kabuto, and he—had just made it to the new base. This led the young Uchiha to believe that there were many bases, belonging to the traitorous Sanin.

What did he know of the man already? Not much, unfortunately. As a Sanin, he was one of the most celebrated ninja, hailing from the Leaf village. However, at one point, he abandoned the village. Why? As of now, he couldn't be sure. In the Academy, he was spoken of as a criminal. Outside of school, he was thought of as a boogeyman, someone meant to scare children into coming home as quickly as possible. There was a rumor going around that he kidnapped civilian and ninja alike. None of those people ever came back. What had he done to them?

Sasuke glanced out of the corner of his eye. Some of the prisoners wore medical dress. Most of them didn't and had bruises and scratches over their arms and legs. Were those needle marks? These people had been injected with something. Or their blood had been used for something. The young Uchiha narrowed his eyes and shifted his attention back to Orochimaru's back. That sounded like he was conducting experiments. A scientist, was he? That meant there was an abundance of information that could prove to be valuable for his plans.

"Kukuku… Sasuke-kun." Orochimaru suddenly spoke. Although he looked different with the short white hair, it was definitely him. Those snake-like eyes were distinctive, after all. The bandages around his face didn't cover up his identity. The young Uchiha had to keep his face impassive. He really didn't like the old man adding –kun to his name. It was weird. "You are the chosen human." That was even weirder.

"Whatever…" Sasuke indifferently responded. "When are you going to give me the power I seek?" It had to appear that he had a one-track mind while he was here. "I have no need for exploring this place if we're only going to be here for a short period of time." Orochimaru shifted his uncovered eye in his direction. He didn't say anything, but perhaps he was feeling a bit disrespected. Kabuto's pace suddenly increased.

"Even though his form is different," he whispered in his ear. "That is Orochimaru-sama in front of you. If you don't want to die, you should watch your mouth." What did this guy take him for—an idiot? Of course he knew it was Orochimaru. He also knew that the Sanin wouldn't kill him just for mouthing off. He had gone through so much trouble already. After losing some of the strongest people who had worked for him, there was no way he was going to kill the thing they were after.

For his stupidity, Sasuke openly glared at the glasses-wearing man. Kabuto actually reared back in shock. Serves the pussy right. He had actually stopped moving and shuddered. The young Uchiha turned his eyes back to Orochimaru, whom was looking at him with intense interest. Like he said before—weird. But whatever… He could deal with the looks. Still, he would make sure never to be alone in a small dark room with the guy if he could help it. "Sasuke-kun, I'm sure you're tired. I am showing you to your room. We will begin tomorrow."

"Good." After a few more minutes of walking, the journey had come to an end. Orochimaru opened a door, welcoming Sasuke to his room. It was simple. There was a bed and a wooden chair. Kabuto cleared his throat and began explaining things to him. However, Sasuke wasn't listening at this point. Whatever he was saying couldn't have been that important anyway. After lighting the two candles above his bed, the two men left, closing the door behind them. Finally, he thought they would never leave.

Sasuke sat on the bed, getting a feel to it, before lying down. His dark eyes stared up at the ceiling for a moment. This place was unpleasant. Hopefully, this mission didn't last forever. He turned onto his side, back facing the door. After waiting for a few minutes, he pulled a small object from his short's pocket. He held it up to his face. It was the heart-shaped frame Mayu had thrown at him. It occurred to Sasuke that he shouldn't be carrying this thing around. There was a possibility that someone on Orochimaru's side could discover it. Still, it gave him comfort. It was a reminder as to why he wanted to go through with this in the first place.

The Uchiha allowed himself to smile. How long would it be before he saw her face—her real face, that is? Hopefully, it wouldn't be too long. "Ishikari Mayu…" His smile widened just a bit. Slowly, the young ninja closed his eyes and pressed the frame to his chest. This one small picture would help him in the future. He would keep it on his person at all times. That way, it was less likely for it being discovered by another party. "You'll wait for me, won't you?" Sasuke placed the frame back in his pocket. With the thought of Mayu's grin on his mind, he drifted off to sleep.

0-0

It was a beautiful day in the village. The temperature wasn't too hot or too cold. Though the sun was hiding behind a cloud, it did not take away the light of day; it merely provided shade. It was peaceful, too. The birds were singing. The flowers were gently swaying, and it was "LOUD AS SHIT! GODDAMN BIRDS!" And apparently, Mayu was irritated. Again. Hinata slowly opened her eyes. She turned her head, frowning at her companion. The two of them were supposed to be meditating. Why the sudden change in training? It was because her mind guest had become prone to agitation. This wasn't an overnight thing either. Her change in demeanor had been building these past few months. The littlest of things could get on her nerves, for example the chirping of the birds.

Meditation was to help relieve stress. However, it did not seem to work for Ishikari Mayu. The girl threw her hands in the air, and then stood up. Growling, she walked over to a random tree and kicked it. Hinata's eyebrows knitted together, watching her friend repeatedly kick the defenseless tree. Something was seriously wrong with her. But when asked, Mayu only responded that it was stress. She had not gone into detail about it. It wasn't like her to be secretive about something that was obviously upsetting her. The Hyuga heiress cleared her throat before attempting to calm her friend down. "Mayu, I do believe you have succeeded in getting rid of the birds. You can stop now," Hinata advised.

The girl's leg abruptly stopped mid kick. Still, the scowl remained her face. She crossed her arms and sharply turned to face Hinata. "Why are we meditating this early? I'm pretty sure I'd do better in the afternoon!" The Hyuga had to reframe from rolling her eyes at such an obvious false statement. Meditation, no matter what time of day it was, did not help her friend to calm down. The scowl suddenly dropped from her face. She appeared thoughtful, eyes looking up. "Hey, isn't today the day your Naruto-kun leaves for a couple years? Shouldn't you go and kiss him, or something?" Despite almost a year of learning to control her reactions, Hinata could not stop the massive blush from overtaking her face. Generally, she could, but when it came to Mayu's teasing about the wonderful blond ninja, her body shivered and her face felt hot and cold at the same time. Lucky her; Mayu didn't drop her teasing antics with her change in behavior.

"Na-Na-Naruto-kun is spending time with Iruka-sensei at the moment," Hinata murmured, eyes focusing on the ground. She couldn't even contain her stutter. "And he's not… my bo-bo-boyfriend!" Mayu chuckled a bit.

"So you already checked up on him, eh?" she asked. Hinata didn't respond, but her expression must have given her away. "Well, anyway, I'm hungry. Let's go get breakfast." The Hyuga almost snorted at her dark counterpart. Her appetite hadn't changed either. With a sigh, Hinata stood from her sitting position and nodded her head. Grinning, Mayu suddenly disappeared. Becoming one with Hinata's mind once again, the girl told her to 'chop chop.'

Nearly rolling her eyes, Hinata complied with her mind guest's wishes. At least she hadn't said 'mush, mush' instead. Mayu had done that before in the past. The Hyuga began her light jog towards town. Within ten minutes, she had reached her target location. A quaint little restaurant, that had become her favorite place to eat, was mere inches away. This was the only place in the Leaf village that served cinnamon rolls—her favorite pastry. When she was much younger, her mother would often spoil her with the sweet snack. Smiling at the memory, Hinata moved to enter the establishment.

Just as she was about open the door, a loud and familiar voice caught her attention. She turned her head. As she thought, the owner of the voice was familiar to her. Slightly blushing, Hinata greeted the enthusiastically waving blond with a small wave of her own. Uzumaki Naruto stood in front of her, wearing his trademark grin. "Hey, Hinata—I'm glad I found you!" he exclaimed.

"Na-Naruto-kun…" she murmured. Then she blinked. "Why? Weren't you with Iruka-sensei?"

"Yeah, but the Pervy Sage wants to go earlier than expected," Naruto answered. "Actually, he's waiting for me at the gate."

"Oh…" Hinata bowed her head a bit. "So then… This is goodbye?" It was then that she noticed the bag strapped to his back. She already knew the answer before he had even spoken.

"Yeah, I came to say goodbye to you and Mayu," he explained. He rubbed the back of his head. His grin became a bit sheepish. "I kinda need to talk to her… alone, so I can ask her something. You don't mind, right?"

"Ah… Of course not," Hinata replied. Her pale eyes looked around. It was still pretty early. Not many villagers were out and about at the moment. The few that were didn't pay them the least bit of attention. Deeming it safe, the kunoichi made the signs for the Clone Jutsu. Seconds later, her darker comrade stood beside her.

"Good, hey, Mayu, we should talk privately," the blond stated. Hinata furrowed her brow.

"If this is about what I think it is, I'm going to give you the same answer—no, Naruto!" Mayu crossed her arms. The shinobi visibly pouted. Hinata's eyes narrowed. She had no idea what the two were talking about. "Ask me again and I will use violence."

"But he said you could tell me!" Naruto protested.

"Screw him! He doesn't know what it's like! I'm not telling you—especially right before you leave!" Mayu nearly snarled. The shinobi crossed his own arms, showing his sudden irritation. Her dark clone merely scoffed and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Hey!" Naruto shouted. Inside Hinata's mind, Mayu remained quiet. The blond sighed, dropping his arms. He seemed quite dejected by her friend's lack of response. "This is so unfair," he muttered.

"What is unfair, Na-Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked. Her voice seemed to snap him back to reality. He coughed and cleared his throat. The shinobi also averted his gaze to the ground for a moment. It was suspicious behavior to say the least.

"Nothing really! Anyway-" Clearly, he wanted to change the subject. "So… since I'm leaving… Can I… hug you… like I did before?" Clearly, he had succeeded. Hug? Again? Already, she could feel the heat rising to her cheeks. Ignoring her friend's chants of 'yes, yes, yes, yes,' Hinata turned her eyes to the ground. Not trusting her voice to not squeak out a reply, the Hyuga merely nodded her head. A real smile crossed his face before he abruptly placed his arms around her. Hinata could not prevent the squeak after all. Not just her face, but her whole body was consumed by heat. Burning, yet pleasant, the heiress squeezed her eyes shut, burying her face into his shoulder. She couldn't attempt to return the hug, but this was just as satisfying. "I'm… glad you're my friend, Hinata." At his words, she bit her lower lip and nodded her head. "Really—I really mean it. Thank you."

"Naruto-kun…" Slowly, he pulled away. His hands remained her shoulders.

"I'm going to come back stronger than ever," he stated. Hinata nodded her head again. She worked up the courage to look him in the eye. "You'll get stronger, too?"

"I'll… I'll do my best, too!"

"Great! See you in a few years, Hinata!" Naruto exclaimed, and then began to walk away. The Hyuga heiress watched his departing back, trying to push down the blush on her face and not faint at the same time. Mayu was not helping her do this either. In fact, she was giggling insanely.

Hinata and Naruto, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

"Ma-Mayu!" she tried to scold her friend, but the girl continued laugh out obnoxiously. Hinata sighed out heavily. Once Naruto was out of her line of vision, she closed her eyes. Almost. She was almost at the point where she wouldn't faint. Really, her body felt like it was going to even now. With another sigh, she turned and opened her eyes, only to come face to face with blue eyes—lighter than Naruto's. Hinata reared back in shock. Then she realized it was only Yamanaka Ino. The blond kunoichi had a somewhat eerie grin on her face.

"I saw that," she stated.

"Wh-Wh-What?" Hinata stammered out.

"That hug that you had with Na-Ru-To-Kun!" Ino clarified. Well, the blush was back. "Who knew I would see something so cute this early? Maybe it wasn't so bad doing this errand for Master Tsunade." Hinata had to force herself not to poke her index fingers together. Ino had gotten more observant since she became the Fifth Hokage's apprentice. No doubt she would figure out that Hinata pressing her index fingers together at this point meant confirmation. "Are you two on kissing terms yet?"

"He's n-n-not my… bo-boy-boyfriend!" The attempt at shouting did not sway the Yamanaka. The kunoichi merely wrapped an arm around Hinata's shoulders and playfully tried to kiss her, saying that she was Naruto. "In-Ino-san!" Chuckling, the blond pulled away.

"Calm down, Hinata. I'm just messing with you," Ino grinned. She waved her hand. "Anyway, have you seen Sakura anywhere? Master Tsunade wants to see how far she's come compared to me since she's been taken under Shizune-san's wing." The girl scoffed. "Probably not much," she remarked. "I'm the best—everyone knows it." Hinata blinked once. A few days after the failed mission to return Uchiha Sasuke to the village, Naruto had told her that Sakura was no longer going to be a part of Team 7 because she had decided on an alternative. She, instead, was transferred to another line of work—a medic. For two months, she trained at the hospital under various medical ninja. Then, at the beginning of this month, the Hokage's assistant began teaching her. Tomorrow would mark the end of this month.

"Sorry, I have been meditating. This is my first time in town today," Hinata answered. Ino sighed and looked down the road.

"Oh, okay… Oh well," she murmured. "I didn't feel like bragging, anyway."

"How is your training coming, Ino-san?" Hinata politely asked. The grinned stretched its way back onto her face. Didn't feel like bragging, her butt. The Hyuga stood there, listening to the blond kunoichi boast about how far she had gotten in her training with Tsunade. Something about a fish was involved, but it appeared to be good news. Finally, she ended her bragging, hands on her hips, grinning triumphantly.

"… so Sakura can suck it!" she finished. Hinata nodded, doing her best to ignore the ranting coming from her mind guest. She seemed to be quite annoyed. And hungry. "So anyway, I guess I'll see you around, Hinata." Ino walked off, giving a wave. Hinata returned the wave. At last, she turned and entered her favorite restaurant.

Finally! Go to a back table, Hinata.

After the two girls were settled and their order of food had arrived, Hinata finally came down from her Naruto high. It was because of that that the Hyuga started thinking clearly again. The conversation between Mayu and the blond ninja had been too strange. This was honestly the first time Hinata felt left out. She didn't like this feeling, especially since it was her best friend and crush who were excluding her from whatever they were talking about. The kunoichi mentally sighed, watching Mayu happily eat her natto on rice. Perhaps it was a bit selfish, feeling this way. Perhaps it was jealousy as well. Whatever the case may be, Hinata wanted to find out now.

The Hyuga cleared her throat, setting her chopsticks across her bowl. This drew the attention of Mayu, who looked up from consuming her breakfast. She blinked, the gooey texture of the natto dripping from her mouth. She blinked once more as Hinata frowned. Hurriedly, her best friend finished eating that part of the meal. Mayu must have sensed the serious shift in the mood. "Is there… something wrong?" she asked, setting down her bowl and chopsticks.

"Something wrong…?" Hinata repeated. Her eyes narrowed a bit. "That is what I've been trying to figure out these past couple of months." Expectedly, Mayu bit her lip and averted her gaze elsewhere. "Mayu, please tell me what's going on."

"I told you," she murmured. Still, she did not look her in the eye. "It's stress."

"This stress you have… is causing me to become stressed as well," Hinata stated. "Why can you not tell me the cause of it?" Mayu remained silent. "I…" The kunoichi swallowed. "I thought we were best friends…" Her friend was quick to snap her head back up.

"We are best friends!" Mayu nearly shouted. "It's just…" Again, her gaze lowered. "I can't tell you."

"Why? Why are you hiding something from me? And what does it have to do with Naruto-kun?"

Mayu blinked in rapid succession before lifting her head to stare at the Hyuga. Hinata's own eyes had widened in mortification. Had she really just say that? Her cheeks glowed pink as her friend continued to stare blankly in her direction. Then a grin slowly etched on her face. "Oh, I see," she said. Hinata's cheeks grew warmer and warmer. "Let me assure you that your precious Naruto and I have a purely platonic relationship." The Hyuga mentally tried to cough out her embarrassment. Then the grin dropped. "Naruto's wanted to know what's up with me, too—that's all."

"You can't tell either him or me about it?"

"No… Rather, I refuse to," Mayu clarified. Hinata's eyes narrowed. She knew it.

"Why?" she repeated. "I don't understand."

"… It's not something I should tell," the girl shifted in her seat. "It's something I won't tell either of you—at least not yet. I know things that I shouldn't know… Three months worth of information that I should have not discovered, but I did… This information, Hinata, is so valuable that I'm sure people would kill for it. I refuse to share that burden." The kunoichi was at a loss. Her friend's eyes welled up with tears. Her fist, clenched on the table, trembled. "Please don't continue to ask me what I know, Hinata. Because eventually, I'm gonna tell you. So don't ask. Just let it go." Chewing on her bottom lip, the heiress furrowed her brow and stared down at the table.

The two girls continued their meal in silence.

0-0

Hinata abruptly sat up, eyes wide and body trembling. Panicked, her pale eyes darted around the room, taking in her surroundings. Slowly, her breathing returned to normal. Her eyes had gradually adjusted to the darkness of her room. The young kunoichi shut her eyes, gripping at her sleeping garments. It was only just a dream. No, it was a terrible nightmare. However, she could not remember its contents. But it must have been a nightmare to invoke such intense negative emotions. Her heart continued to beat quite rapidly within her chest. Hinata swallowed hard, willing her heart to slow down. Although she couldn't remember the nightmare, an image of Ishikari Mayu had appeared in her mind's eye.

Despite what her friend had told her, Hinata couldn't just let it go. Knowing that her friend was suffering and not being able to do anything about it caused the Hyuga's insides to churn. A week had passed since that conversation, yet it still bugged her. She had never seen Mayu come so close to shedding tears before. Never. Well, there was her irrational fear of bees, but she had never cried while running away. Hinata had always believed that her friend was so strong. When Uchiha Sasuke did not come back, she hadn't let out one sob—even when the two of them had been so close.

That conversation was the reason that she sometimes couldn't get to sleep. And now she had had a nightmare. With a sigh, Hinata opened her eyes. Hopefully, that would be the one and only nightmare she would have pertaining to Mayu. It made her uneasy. The Hyuga shifted her eyes to the side. However, who she was expecting to see was not there. Frantically, she looked around the room again. There were no light snores, only silence. Mayu knew it was not safe to relieve herself in the middle of the night. She couldn't have left the room, right? "Mayu…?" Hinata tried to speak with her mind guest. There was no reply. "Mayu? Are you there?" Still, there wasn't an answer.

The kunoichiplaced her hand on the spot where Mayu usually lied. It was still warm from her body heat. Quickly, Hinata triggered her advanced bloodline. The rooms were specially design to keep the Byakugan from seeing inside. However, one could still look outside of the room. It only took a second for her to spot the chakra system that was similar to hers. "Mayu… What are you doing?" Hurriedly, Hinata removed the cover from her body, and then stood up from her futon. She didn't have any time to waste, so she would have leave without changing.

It was easier to slip out of the Hyuga estate than she thought. Hinata frowned as she scaled the wall. It was better not to use chakra, after all. That was probably how Mayu wasn't sensed leaving. Narrowing her eyes, she spotted a moving shadow among the trees. If it was this easy to leave, how many times had she done it in the past? Come to think of it, there were times when Hinata had awakened from slumber but Mayu had not been there. In her sleepy state of mind, she automatically assumed that Mayu had merely returned to her mind. "Wait… She did tell me that she had three months worth of information that she shouldn't know…" Hinata thought. Since they were always together during the day, that meant Mayu had snuck out every night.

Hinata anxiously chewed on her lip as she continued to follow Mayu at a safe distance. She had been following her friend for over five minutes now. She seemed to be running in circles. Could she have discovered that she was being followed? No. Neither one of them had used their chakra. Mayu shouldn't be able to detect her, not at this distance. Finally, after another five minutes, the surroundings began to look strange. "I see… She did that as a precaution," Hinata thought. The Hyuga had never been to this part of the village. Well, there was that one time when she had accompanied Mayu to the Uchiha district. However, her friend did not appear to be heading in that direction. She had slowed down, choosing to walk at a leisure pace. Because of that, getting to whatever destination she was going took fifteen minutes.

At last, Mayu came to a stop at a high steep rock face. This cliff seemed to be odd, though. For a moment, her friend merely stared up. Finally, she lifted her leg, using her chakra to stick to the wall. The girl sprinted up the strange cliff. It wasn't long before she was out of sight completely. Hinata stepped forward after a moment. She couldn't use her chakra, lest be discovered by Mayu. "There must be some other way…" The kunoichi could climb up. However, she wasn't confident that she would make it, using only her physical strength. Hinata, instead, walked. As she thought, this cliff was strange. It wasn't connected to anything, appearing to be in the shape of a cylinder. Not only that, but there were steps leading up. This was not naturally formed.

These steps were hidden amongst the heavily dense forest. No one would even think to come this way. This place, Hinata realized, was a secret. Mayu's previous words echoed in her head. I know things that I shouldn't know, she had said. The kunoichi clenched her fists. With a determined nod, Hinata began to travel up the stone steps. As she walked, she noted the wood-like material was also used to create this strange cliff. Perhaps it was the work of a genjutsu? Hinata was tempted to see—after all, her Byakugan could see if there was chakra residue left behind—but thought better of it. Right now, she needed to focus on Mayu.

Finally, she had reached the top. There was a large red shrine gate, and beyond that was a building complex—traditional in structure, similar to her own house. Hinata slowly moved forward. She stopped again, coming to the entrance. There was some type of crest on the door. It was peculiar. Three black felines seemed to be intertwined with one another. Still, there faces and eyes were distinct. The eyes seemed to glow a surreal green color. One paw, belonging to each feline, barely touched in the middle of the crest in the shape of a mitsudomoe—three joined tomoe. Behind the felines, there was a void of blue, pink, and purple.

Slowly and silently, Hinata opened the door. She shuddered, feeling a cold wind, from inside the house, brush past her. Deciding to ignore that, the kunoichi walked into the house, closing the door behind her. Again, Hinata bit her lower lip. In such a large place, tracking Mayu—without the use of chakra—would take quite awhile. Fortunately for the kunoichi, the person she was tracking apparently liked to shout out her exploits. "YES! I finally mastered it!" The shout had come from further in the house. As there wasn't a second floor, Hinata deduced that it came from the eastern part of the house. Quickly and quietly she followed the echoed.

It didn't take long to come across the room her friend was currently in. After a moment, Hinata peeked around the corner. Luckily, Mayu wasn't paying much attention. Actually, her eyes were focused solely on the blue flame in the palm of her hand. The fire enveloped half of her arm as well. It didn't seem to burn her, though. Hinata saw the grin stretch on her face. "Past masters, eat your heart out!" She abruptly closed her hand and the flames extinguished. Upon closer inspection, Hinata noted that Mayu was drenched in sweat and she looked fatigued. Strange how she wasn't like this a mere few minutes ago. The flame—it must have been a powerful jutsu.

Mayu suddenly fell to her knees, panting heavily. Hinata forced herself not to expose herself. The grin was still on her face, so she supposed her friend was relatively okay. The girl's hand reached out, picking up a scroll. Hinata narrowed her eyes, watching Mayu scan over the inscription. Her mouth moved, but the Hyuga—who was trained to read lips—could not decipher what Mayu was mouthing. It was as if she was speaking, but not really speaking, a different language altogether.

"Alright… This is the last one," Mayu muttered. "Should I try now or later…? Well, I do have some chakra left. Ah, it couldn't hurt." Hinata found herself twitching. The nonchalant way Mayu spoke of chakra exhaustion made her want to smack her friend upside the head. The girl began to speed through hand signs. She had gotten quite faster at making them over the course of their training together. Then Mayu smacked her palms together and took in a large breath of air. Subconsciously, the Hyuga leaned forward. "Transfer Mind…" A large of amount of chakra seemed to explode from her darker counterpart's body. Hinata shuddered a bit. What jutsu was this? To hell with being stealthy. The kunoichi activated her Byakugan. "Transfer Body…" Another explosion of chakra from Mayu's body came forth. "Transfer Soul!" The sudden cry—of pain—escaped Mayu's mouth. It was getting harder and harder to keep from exposing herself. The girl clenched her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. "Forbidden Ninja Art!" Sweat dripped from her chin. "Transportation of Ishikari Jutsu!"

Both girls were expecting something big to happen. However, there was nothing. Only silence came out of whatever jutsu she had tried to use. "It didn't work?" Hinata's thought mirrored Mayu's indignant shout of frustration. The girl threw her hands in the air, muttering something about tomorrow night. Hinata furrowed her brow. She decided now was the time to reveal herself. Whatever Mayu had been doing, Hinata was going to force her to talk. It would take prodding, but as the girl had stated before, she would eventually give in and tell.

Before Hinata could enter the room and make herself known, unnatural winds picked up, blowing around lightweight objects. Her Byakugan was still in effect, so she could clearly see the chakra surrounding Mayu. Speaking of the girl, she had snapped to attention. Her blue Hyuga eyes darted around before they zoned in her Hinata. Mayu gave her a fierce stare. "What the heck are you doing here?" Her scream was heard over the harsh winds. Hinata opened her mouth, but was cut short by the blinding light, which emitted from her friend. The light actually hurt her eyes, and so she quickly stopped the flow of chakra to her eyes. "HINATA!"

"M-Mayu…?" Forcing her eyes to open again the bright light, Hinata barely made out a ghostly form of her friend. The Hyuga rushed into the room, but the light had kept her at bay. "MAYU!" The wind stopped. The light stopped. Everything seemed to stop. Hinata slowly opened her eyes. The room was dark and cold. Swallowing hard, the kunoichi slowly moved forward. "… Mayu? Where are you?" she whispered. There was no response. "Mayu?" she called out, feeling panic arise. Again, nothing. Hinata triggered her enhanced eyes. Expectedly, there was a large mass of chakra residue in place of where Mayu had been sitting. "Mayu?" she thought. Even in her mind, there was no reply or angry scolding. Feelings of her nightmare suddenly came flying back to her, along with utter dread.

Mayu… was gone.

0-0

The eyes of Ishikari Mayu opened, only to close again because they were met with a bright ceiling. "Morning already?" she thought, carefully opening her eyes again so that they could adjust. Just as slowly, she sat up, looking at her room through squinted eyes. The girl blinked. This wasn't her room. There was no way her room was painted white. Waking up to that every morning would cause her resentment towards her dear parents. "Hospital..." Mayu presumed. There was no one in the room, though. "What's going on?" shethought. "Why am I in a hospital?" A hand reached up to grab her head. There was a dull pain there. Like she had sprinted home without water. God, she really hoped that hadn't happened again. Last time, her dad had something similar to a 'bitch fit,' as mom liked to call it.

Mayu looked to her left. There was a open window, causing a soft breeze to enter the room. Judging from the position of the sun, it was still morning. Her hand dropped from her head. How did she wind up in the hospital again? She wondered how long she had been out this time. Wait… Now she remembered. She had been playing around. Great. Most likely, she was going to get an earful for it, too. Sighing, Mayu closed her eyes.

Suddenly, the door opened. This caused Mayu to snap her gaze to the familiar form of Ishikari Sheena. "Morning, Mayu…" The woman closed the door behind her, not bothering to look upon the awakened body of her daughter. Mayu frowned at the thought. Jeez… She must have been out for a long time. Well, enough with the ignorance. Flatly, she called out to her mother, asking where her other parent was. The woman was so startled by her, rasping, voice that she dropped the folders and papers that were in her hands. No doubt she would have dropped her laptop, too if it wasn't in a bag, which was strapped to her shoulder. "M-Mayu…?" Her voice held uncertainty. "You-"

"HEY!" Her mother had suddenly launched herself at Mayu with tears streaming down her cheeks. This definitely freaked out the child because she wasn't used to her mother showing tears. "M-Mom! Your ta-tas are gonna kill me!" Mayu's voice was muffled due to her mom's fierce hug. Good thing Ishikari Sheena understood because she released Mayu moments later. However, her hands still gripped her daughter's shoulders. "Mom…?"

"Do you… Do you have any idea how long you've been here?" Sheena questioned. Mayu blinked, and then shook her head. "I've been—your father, too—has been worried sick. Some thought you would never wake up."

"What are you talking about?"

"You were comatose for nearly a year, Mayu."

"… Get the heck out!" the daughter exclaimed. "I almost drowned, but I was out for that long? I feel so… so weak!" Sheena scoffed and rolled her eyes. She removed herself from the hospital bed as she wiped at her wet face. "Please tell me you sued the guy who did this to me! Where's dad?"

"Of course I did," Sheena crossed her arms as if the daughter should have known better. "Who do you think paid for your medical bills? Not me, that's for sure. And your father is at work right now." She frowned. "He had to distract himself in order not to get completely depressed." Well, now Mayu felt guilty. Her poor sensitive father… Who knows how he took this news. Well, she was back now, so he could stop worrying. Suddenly, the woman sharply turned her gaze. Mayu blinked in confusion. "Did you… have any strange dreams, Mayu?"

"… I didn't think people could have dreams if they're in a coma." Sheena raised a fist to show that she didn't like the sarcastic tone. Mayu only cowered in mild fear. "No, mother, I did not." The woman sighed out in relief. Again, the younger female blinked in confusion.

"Good, so it's not like last time," she murmured.

"Last time…?" Mayu repeated. "Oh, when I ran into that car? Yeah, that dream was awesome. Pity I didn't get the same dream." The girl blinked. "But I could have sworn dreams didn't come with unconsciousness. Weird." Sheena frowned. Mayu's eyebrows furrowed. For several moments, the two merely stared at one another. Then Mayu scratched her cheek. "Okay, so… Anyway, could you call dad? Surely he needs to know, right?" Mutely, her mother nodded her head, and then stiffly headed out of the room whilst pulling out a cell phone. "What was that about?" Mayu asked herself after a few seconds.

After several minutes of humming and playing with her—longer—hair, Ishikari Sheena reentered the room. The woman picked up the dropped papers and beige folders—those probably had something to do with her job as Sheena was a workaholic. Often, her father would boast that his wife was the best lawyer in Japan. Really, Mayu just thought he was trying to get on her good side. Once finished with the small task, Sheena came to sit by Mayu's bedside. "Your father will be here soon," she stated. Mayu nodded. "Also, the doctors said that you should rest easy for awhile. That means no advancing in rank." At her look of utter dismay, Sheena chuckled. She was so sympathetic, right? "It's not like you can be up and about so soon, anyway. Mayu, it's time to wiggle you big toe."

"What…?" Then she caught the reference. In response, she tried to move her legs. Nothing happened. "What the friggin' hell—heck?" Mayu quickly amended what she said due to her mother's glare. "Heck is what I meant." Sheena snorted.

"I did tell you it's been almost a year. Of course you're going to need rehab in order to get your body functioning properly again. That'll take a couple of months. Well," the woman grinned. "Unless, of course, you're determined to kill someone named Bill."

"Har-dy har har…" Mayu scowled. "This is so monkey nuts."

"That better had not have been cussing."

0-0

So here it is, dear reviewers, the end of My Life as Hyuga Hinata. But what's this? Were your eyes deceiving you, or can Mayu not remember anything about her lastest experience in that parallel world? Hahaha! You'll have to find out in the sequel, titled My Life as Ishikari Mayu—the third installment of this unexpectedly popular story.

But hey! While you're waiting for that first chapter, how about you check out some of my other stories? Not to toot my own horn, but I have other characters just as awesome as Mayu. Trust me, if you like her, you won't be disappointed with others. Still, some of you might not like the plots of the other ones, so may I suggest a story known as Team 7: Revolution? It's basically a continuation of what would happen to Mayu had she not have left the body of Sakura. It's quite the adventure, let me tell you. And man those plot twists? Everyone Like Me is an excellent writer and he definitely does my character, Ishikari Mayu, justice. Please check it out.

… Yes, I have shamelessly pimped out my works and another person. Fufufu!

Review to tell me your thoughts on the sequel?