A mourning fic for Asuma (yeah, I know I'm sooo yesterday but I haven't got the time to finish this fic. Damn exams…)

I cannot believe you, K. Masashi! You gave me bliss for the awesome 327 but now you ruining it! Damn 328! Arghh! This could not be happening!

Okay, now I'm done with the squirming. Even though I cry blood, Asuma-sensei won't rise from the dead. I'm not satisfied with the way the plot is going now but there's nothing I can do about it. Naruto is K. Masashi-sama's work art anyway…

I feel so down, so hollow, so empty inside. Team Ten is not the same anymore without Asuma in it. Poor Ino, Shikamaru and Chouji… But inspiration keeps on coming at me, so I guess I had to let it out from my head.

To ShikaIno lovers, please enjoy reading this fic. And to Asuma, all I can say is, "May you rest in peace…"


Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto.


© ArAshiMitArAshi

Ninja rule #25: "A shinobi must keep emotions on the inside, no matter what the situation. You must make the mission top priority, and you must posses a heart that never shows tears."

Ninja rule #25 was not something to be laugh at, to be fool at or to take simple at. There were reasons why this so-called one rule was drawn out. And as Konoha shinobi, every soul knew they had to obey that one simple rule no matter what.

There was no escape for exception.

Since Asuma's funeral, which had been two months ago, Shikamaru never saw Ino again. Due to the fact that they were both busy with their own things, he understood why she never appeared in front of his eyes again, but it had been too long he started to found himself missing her.

Like crazy.

And that feeling bugged him a lot.

"A shinobi must keep emotions on the inside…"

He knew he had crossed the line. He had broken the rule.

"Chouji," he asked his best friend at one time they met. "Have you seen Ino around?"

The huge Chuunin shrugged. "Nope. I haven't seen her since these past few weeks. Why?"

"Nothing." He answered hastily. "It's just…it feels weird not to have her around, you know, hanging out together with us. I wonder where she is. Is she on a mission?"

"I don't know. If she has, she must've told at least one of us."

"You're right." He nodded.

"I heard she's busy." Chouji took out a bag of potato chips from his back pouch. "I happen to come across Sakura yesterday and she told me Ino's been taking a serious medical training together with her under Hokage-sama's observation. She was surprised I didn't know about that."

"Medical training?" His mind reeled. He knew she had been practicing the medical ninjutsu short after she was appointed chuunin but she never really serious about becoming a medic-nin like Sakura. Medical ninjutsu could come out practical whenever necessary, she had said.

"Ah." Chouji replies, stuffing more chips into his mouth. He already started on a diet just like Asuma had told him between his last breaths but without Ino around to watch over, it was hard for him to stick to his new routine. "And I heard she's going on many missions lately. Always go off after another. Her father complained about that on one of his visit to our house."

"Strange." Shikamaru suddenly remembered about how frustrated Inoichi had been when he came to pick up his drunken father from the bar. The blond man had asked him to name any guy Ino possibly dated because she rarely stayed at home anymore. He said he didn't know, which sent Inoichi to land a few punches on the poor table, muttering curses about how worse the blow could he give on the guy who stole his precious daughter away from him. He didn't felt surprised on Inoichi's action. He was drunk as well. "What kind of missions? How come we never been inside her team?"

"She's with the spying division. Their missions are a lot different from what we always have."

"Figures…" He muttered. "But where do you think she must have been when she was off missions or medical training?"

"Scratch the flower shop." Chouji answered. "She never helps anymore. Her father complained about that, too."

"That adds double strange…" He thought, recalling the times he passed in front of the shop on his way home but never once he found her behind the counter. "Is she possibly dating someone?"

"If so then the words spread out throughout Konoha, probably reaching Suna and goes right to Sasuke's ear." Chouji stated a wise answer. "But then again, maybe she just keeps it to herself. You know how our ninja life works." Seeing Shikamaru rose from his seat, he added, "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to watch the clouds." He pulled out a few bills and paid. "My treat."

"Thank you. So, I'll see you later?"

"Yeah." He walked towards the door.

"Say hi to Ino for me, okay?" He turned around in surprise. Chouji grinned wickedly, making his small eyes disappear beneath his fat. "I know you're going to look for her, Shikamaru."

He really meant what he said about watching the clouds and he was going to. But instead of heading towards the rooftop where he and Chouji usually lazed around, he chose to go somewhere else for a change. He decided on a certain hill where he spent a quality time there with his blond childhood friend once, at the time where he had been forced to accompany her during the night of the shooting star a few years back. The hill was nice and could be a perfect cloud-watching spot in the day because it provided an unusual calming atmosphere but he never made his way there anymore. The place was quite a distance from Konoha and he found the whole walk troublesome.

He settled under a tree and relaxed his body on the ground, pillowing his head on his arms and fixed his gaze up high towards the sky. The scent of grass and flowers nearby filled his nostrils and he found himself melting into the silent peace. The blue in the sky formed a certain familiar eyes and as he stared more and more at the clouds passing by, slowly an image of Ino appeared in front of his mind's eye.

Where the hell is she?

He was halfway drifted into sleep when suddenly his sharp hearing detected a faint sound which kept him awake. The sound troubled him and out of curiosity, he decided to investigate. He got up and followed the trail where the sound possibly came from. His searching led him deeper into the woods and finally to a large clearing area that seemed to be new. And there, he found his answer.

In the middle of the training ground, stood a certain blond he hadn't seen for weeks. The sight of her filled him inside and out, for he had been missing her like crazy.

As he made his way towards her, wanting to say hello, he was greeted by a few shurikens thrown towards his way. Luckily for him, his quick reflex made his body able to dodge the weapons from hitting him.

"Wha-?" He noted in confusion as he found another set of shurikens aimed at him.

Ino looked at him with unreadable expression. "Good for you to come here." She said quietly. And seriously. "I need a training partner." Without bothering for a reply, she made her move. He had no choice except to comply with her demand.

She could've won if only her chakra was on the same level as him. She was completely exhausted once their sparring ended, with the winning part on his side of course, making him wonder for how long she had been training before he came. The sparring surprised him for it had been a long time since they train together and he found out that her performance was way better than the last time. Perfect chakra control, precise accuracy, excellent hitting points, strong willed…

She must be training very hard.

"So…" He started, looking down at her who was sitting on the ground, busily healing the wounds on her legs. "This is your new training spot? I never thought I found you here."

"Same here…" She whispered to herself but loud enough for him to hear. "I found this place not so long ago and I thought this place is perfect for training. It's quite far from the village and away from distractions. Nobody will disturb me here. So I got it cleared."

"Why don't you tell me and Chouji? We could've train with you once in a while."

"This place supposed to be a secret."


She worked on her bleeding arm. "No reason."

He sat on the ground beside her. "Chouji said hi." She raised her brows in question. "If I, by any chance is happen to come across your way."

She shrugged in response, slightly feeling strange at his remark.

"It's been a long time since I last seen you," he took in the sight of her. "Since the funeral, if I'm not mistaken…" He noted her flinched. "Where have you been?"

"Nowhere." She replied simply.

"But I haven't seen you around. So does Chouji."

"Mm…I've been quite busy actually."

"Oh...you mean with the medical training and spying missions?" She looked surprised upon hearing that he knew when she never said a word to any of the two, but finally figured out that the information probably came from people around.


He looked at her intently. Since they met a few moments ago, she seemed unlike her usual self. She didn't scream, she didn't yell, she didn't tease, she didn't do anything her. She looked battered and sore, tiredness marred on her face as if she had no rest at all. Her blond hair failed to glow under the sun and her eyes remained dull and lifeless, light blue which look almost grey. Her precious skin she used to care a lot so much now seemed calloused and hard, probably resulting from her harsh training and although her clothes was still in similar fashion she always wore, it seemed like she took black color to her liking now.

He hated to see her new image.

As if with Asuma gone, it seemed like Ino had gone, too.

"Is there something you didn't tell us?"

She met his eyes. "Why'd you ask that?"

"You look a lot different from before." He voiced his thoughts.

"How much is in different?"

"I don't know but just…different."

As she tamed her ragged breaths that hadn't seem to dissipate after their brief sparring, he stole glances again at her. She knew she was being stared at but said nothing which was something very not Ino because usually she always happy to show her discomfort by any of her scary actions. The air was getting tensed more and more each seconds passed. Neither had said a word. Seeing she was so deep in thought, he was anxious to know what she had been thinking.

"Tell me," he broke the silence. "Are you still upset?"

"Of what?"

"Of Asuma-sensei's death." She said nothing in reply, troubled him more. He sighed as he spoke, "You're not the only one who feels this way, Ino. I feel it, Chouji feels it, Kurenai-sensei feels it and everybody in Konoha feels it. It's a great loss."

"You know you could always cry." He continued softly. "It will make you feel better."

She met his eyes after hearing the last line and felt his body grew numb upon looking at those dull, emotionless, lifeless…deadly eyes.

"…you must posses a heart that never shows tears." She quoted and dropped her gaze to the ground once again.

"We're not on a mission." He replied. "You don't have to hold back your tears."

"I'm not going to cry." She stated quietly.

"Just let it out." He sighed. "It will make you fee-"

"It won't make me feel any better."

Silence again but he didn't want to give up just yet. He had to know what it that turned Ino out from her usual self was.


"Don't worry," she cut him in before he had the chance to work out his plan. "I am perfectly fine."

"No, you're not." He objected, slightly angry at her stubborn self. "You're still upset. Asuma-sensei's dead, Ino. You have to accept the fact. This is reality. There's no point on going harsh trainings or busying yourself with overloaded missions or turning yourself into a ninja you never meant to be just to take your mind off from the fact. You have to face it, not running away from it. You-"

She quickly rose. "It's been a long day. I'm going home."

"You have to move on, Ino." He finished his words as he stood as well. "Like Chouji and I have." True, they themselves hadn't been themselves for the first few weeks. Chouji hadn't gone to eat his favorite BBQ meat at the usual place Asuma always treated them and he didn't play shougi for quite a long time.

She stopped in her tracks abruptly upon hearing his last sentence and turned her head around to face him. Dark aura marred dangerously on her beautiful face. "If so," her eyes shot him a piercing glare. "Then why are you smoking?"

He tensed upon her words. He didn't expect to hear that at all. His mouth hung open a little in surprise. "How did you-"

"Know?" She gave a faint smirk. "It's not a big, big world." He was speechless. "For someone who hasn't move on," she added before continuing her steps again. "That's a big talk, Shikamaru."

However, she didn't manage to get very far as she felt her body frozen out of her own will. He was not going to let her off easily without straighten the thing out.

"I never realized that I really hate your jutsu up until this point." Her voice was icy cold. She mimicked his stance but he could see her body was unwilling for her shoulders tensed and her muscles stiffen. Her fists balled in anger. She was anxious to go, far, far away from his sight. "Release me."

"We have to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about."

"Oh, yes." He manipulated his shadow so that her body turned facing his. He walked a few steps ahead, forcing her to do the same until their body was just inches away from each other.

"Oh?" She challenged. "So what is it you want to talk about?"

"Tell me why you behave this way."

She glared again. "I don't know what you mean by that."

"You're not being yourself. You're still upset. I know what you feel."

"Shikamaru…" She locked eyes with him. "Do you really know what I feel?"

"Asuma-sensei's dead." He stated. "And of course you feel sad."

She smiled a faint smile. "No, you really don't know what I feel."

He inched closer and closer until their body barely touched. He could feel her nervous breaths on his skin upon the closeness. He studied her still face. "Or maybe I could guess." His breath blew away her long fringe.

"Then go ahead and guess."

"It's the feeling of losing someone." He stated. "You hated it. Especially losing someone who is dear and special to you. Like Asuma-sensei." He hesitated a little. "And Sasuke."


"That's all I could figure out." He rubbed his neck and watched her did the same. "For now."

Her eyes clouded. "Another is guilty…" She whispered.

"Guilty?" He stared at her. "Why are you feeling-"

"It's my entire fault Asuma-sensei couldn't be saved. I was too weak."

God! His eyes widened upon the realization. She's been blaming herself all this time?

"If only…if only at that time we came a little earlier…if only at that time my medical ninjutsu is much better, then maybe…maybe Asuma-sensei-"

"Ino…" He said in disbelief. "It's not your fault. Why take the blame?"

"You don't understand! I cannot forget how hopeless I was at that time! Knowing the fact that I was the only one who knew medical ninjutsu but there was nothing I could do to save him was a terrible feeling, Shikamaru!" She raised her gaze to meet his. "If only I were a great medic-nin like Sakura, then Asuma-sensei could be saved! He'll still be around…here…with us…"

He put his hands on her shoulders with her mimicking his action. "Asuma-sensei's death is not your fault."

"I was too weak…I couldn't save him…"

"It's not your fault!"

"If only I…then he didn't have to…die-"

"Accept the fact, Ino!" He tried to get her out from denial. "He's dead and it's not your fault! It's not anybody's fault! Akatsuki-"

"What if…" Her eyes roamed wildly. "What if you are the one in Asuma-sensei's position? What if you are the one who's dead by now? Do you think I could handle that?" Her bloodshot eyes fought back tears. "Do you know how scared I was seeing you so helpless in the battlefield the moment we arrived?! Do you know that?!"


"I couldn't forgive myself if that person who's dying in front of my eyes is you, Shikamaru! I couldn't forgive myself if I'm unable to save you! Do you think that I could live with the fact that the whole damn thing is not my fault?! I could never forgive myself…I could never be able to live with it because I-…" She halted in her speech, eyes shot wide upon knowing that she had talked too much.

A thought struck him so fast in motion like lightning. His eyes widened in realization. It was then he detected another feeling of hatred hidden deep inside her heart.

It was then he realized that the feeling was the real feeling she had been feeling…

She hated to have the feeling of feeling someone.

She hated to have that feeling because it made her weak by the way it tortured her from the inside because she couldn't let it out. She couldn't kill the feeling no matter how hard she tried because there was nothing to kill for she never let it bloom. But the feeling was there, although it was not physically exist, the feeling of feeling someone always existed.

He knew her long enough to know that she was feeling for someone.

He knew her long enough to know, judging from her words and body language that she was feeling for...


She gasped upon the realization that he had detected her real feeling. He could hear her heart pounding so hard against her ribcage upon her nervousness. Her body trembled in wanting to get away, wanting so desperately to escape from his shadow that captivated her, wanting to disappear forever from his sight…

He released his jutsu ever so suddenly to pull her body crashing into his. He didn't know why he reacted that way, maybe it's just reflex. Cool sensation filled his blood circulatory, melting into his tissues and fed him with such calming effects he never felt before. It was such a relief to know that she had been feeling the same as him. All these times, he never thought that she would ever look his way, acknowledging his existence or aware of his presence. He thought she would always go for cute guys, the one like Sasuke type and not in a million years would she choose an ordinary, plain guy like him but man, was he wrong…

"Shi-shikamaru?" She gasped. Her cheeks reddened.

Another thought after thoughts came into his mind and he finally figured out that all the things happened before suddenly made sense.

Why Ino always chose to sit in front of him every time they gathered at the BBQ place? Simple. She wanted to take a better view of him.

Why Ino always chose to sit or stand beside him during team reunion or mission briefing? Simple. She wanted to be close to him.

Why Ino always bugged him around and forced him to do her errands? Simple. She wanted his attention.

Why Ino dragged him to go with her alone on the night of the shooting star, instead of bringing Chouji or Sakura? Simple. She wanted to be just with him to share the special night.

Why Ino rushed to him instead of going to badly injured Asuma firsthand at the battlefield? Simple. She wanted to make sure he was perfectly alright before attending others.

Why Ino did all these things? Simple. She…she probably loved him.

She tried to escape from his arms but he held her even close. No, he was not going to let her go, not until they straighten out what exactly happened between them. If he let her go now, there was never a chance like this to come. They will never have the chance again to discuss their feelings from heart to heart.

Their relationship will always remain unchanged.

"I didn't know that you care so much about me." He tightened his grip around her when feeling she wanted to break free. "Please don't punish yourself, Ino. It's not your fault Asuma-sensei cannot be saved. And don't ever torture your mind if I was the one who dead because as you can see and feel, I am still here…warm and alive."

"Shikamaru, let me go." She gritted her teeth.

"Ino, listen. We have to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about." She struggled. "Let me go!"

"We need to straighten this thing out. Once and for all."

"What thing?" She asked with a faint hint of tease in her tone.


"There are no us, Shikamaru."

"Don't live in denial, Ino. Whatever the feeling you have, just let it out."

"A shinobi must keep emotions on the inside, no matter what the situation." She replied.

"I'm feeling you." He told her softly and he felt her body stiffen upon the confession. "And if I'm not mistaken…you're feeling me too, right?"

"There is no such thing." She spoke through gritted teeth. "We're done talking."

"No." He decided to be more dominant in the situation. "Tell me what you really feel, Ino."

She jerked her head up and met his eyes. She was almost in tears, he noted with sarcasm. "I bet…you already know by now."

"Maybe…" He answered dryly. "Or maybe not. Who knows if I'm mistaken?"

"You're a genius. You'll never make any mistake."

"I think I already have." He opened his mouth in order to tell her that he had crossed the boundary, that he had broken the rule. "I-"

"Don't say it." She snapped. "You don't know what will happen once you say it."


"Ninja rule #25 states that-"

"Damn that rule!" He drew her out from his arms and held her by her shoulders, looking at her furiously. "Damn that troublesome rule! Our lives don't have to be abiding by that rule!""

"What are you trying to say, Shikamaru?"

"The rule…it's not really necessary to follow…" Her face turned shocked, he noted.

She released his gripping hands on her. "No. We're Konoha shinobi. We have to obey the rule no matter wha-"

"By living in denial?"

"That's what we should do!" She shouted furiously. "There are reasons why the rule was made, Shikamaru! As a shinobi, our lives always at the verge of danger! We could die anytime! That's why the rule was drawn out! It's to protect us, it's to protect our heart…so that if we lost any precious person, we will not be broken-hearted…Just look at what happen to Kurenai-sensei…"


"No." She held up her hands. "Don't say the word, please…because…if you do…then the feeling inside will get bigger and bigger I'm afraid I could not hold it any-"

"Even if you keep the feeling inside, you'll still be broken-hearted." He stated calmly. "It scratches you from the inside, little by little…"

"Then…just let it be."

Shikamaru looked up at the sky, almost defeated by her stubborn act. "Since when do you take this…rule so seriously?" He asked quietly. "You're not like this in our younger days. You always are the one who chase after…you-know-who."

Her gaze dropped on the ground. "I guess since…Sasuke-kun left…and when Chouji almost died back then. I realized that…caring for somebody so dearly could cause so much pain… That's when I thought that rule #25 makes sense…" She paused. "It hurts so much losing somebody, Shikamaru. I felt it a few times, I've gone through all that before…and now…I don't want to experience it again. Ever again…"

"Ino," he studied her hurtful look. "It's true that our life as a ninja always being at the verge of danger. Our life is short. We could die any time. That's why as long as we are still alive, we have to live our life to the fullest. We must cherish every second for each is very valuable. And it is more meaningful by sharing those little moments with our loved ones so that when we die, there is no regret at all. Well, hopefully."

"Do you want to let it out?"

He stepped towards her and once again, he took her in his arms. "I do."

"Don't you afraid of getting hurt? What if one day one of us-"

"Let's not worry about that for the time being. What we have now…is all that matters. The feelings we both have towards each other…let's cherish it, savor it. Let it live, let it bloom…"

"I don't know I-"

"Do you think I'll let you go so easily? After knowing that you're feeling me just the way I'm feeling you, do you think I'll let it all slide just like that? Pretending like it's nothing? No, Ino. I won't do that. I want you and I will have you."

She gulped. He knew, she never thought that he will be a bold person like this. This was the side of him she never got to see. Way too different from his obvious, lazy character.

If he wanted something, he'll work hard to get it. He wanted her. He wanted her to be his. He wanted to be the lucky guy who could have her. Now that he finally had the chance, he was not going to waste it.

"Remember you promised Asuma-sensei that you'll take care of me and Chouji."

"You don't have to remind me." She sighed as she closed her eyes, finally relaxed in his arms. She started to surrender. She was a girl after all. Moreover, she was a person who liked to love and to be loved. She kept the feeling for so long it was practically killing her. "I remember that."

"Good. You don't know how terrible we have been without you." Finally… He thought happily. Ino had slowly returned to her usual self. As troublesome as she always have been, he didn't mind really. He pulled her head up to face his as he lowered his mouth to capture her lips for the first time. They were so close in kissing when suddenly Ino pulled away from him and shot him a fiery glare.

"What?" He asked, dumbfounded.

"Get rid of that cigarette." She replied hastily and made her way home, leaving him speechless for a few seconds.

"Ino, hey!" He caught up with her. "It's really bugging me. But how did you find out?"

"It's not a big, big world." She repeated her earlier words.

"But I never smoke in front of anybody. Even Chouji didn't know."

She stopped and faced him. "I saw you smoked on the day I visited the memorial stone a few days after the funeral."

"Oh…" He nodded slowly. Then, he blinked. "Hey, why don't you approach me then?"

She shrugged, not answering his question. "And then I found out, you smoked more often. It's not daily but…often. Kinda…" Noting his confusion, she added, "I just knew."

"But I never saw you and vice-versa."

"I said, I just knew." She smiled. "I have to take care of you two, remember? I just play my part in secret."

"Secrecy is never your thing."

"I know, but…how should I put this…um…I was really, really ashamed to face you guys. Because-"

"Ino, cut it out. For the last time it's not your fault okay?"

"Ah…" She sighed. "I'll try to remember that."

Silence fell between them as they walked together side by side heading towards the village. He knew that they already became something and had something going on between them but that something hadn't officially declared yet. He lost for any wise words. He knew he should be the one who start the conversation about the whole thing but he knew he was defeated.

Say something! He urged himself. Anything!

"Shikamaru…" He turned to her direction. He noticed that her face lit up a bit.


"I guess…we really are going to break the rule, huh?" He realized now how he loved her confidence.

Smiling triumphantly, he braved himself just enough to put an arm casually around her shoulders. She didn't seem to mind, he noted and instead, she snuggled closer to his body and hugged his waist, at the same time trying to match up her pace with his long strides. He tightened his hold and felt her cheek crushed onto his chest, and that was when their walking came into a halt.

He embraced her again, loving how her body fitted perfectly in his arms. He leaned his face against her head, inhaling her scent and finally kissed her forehead. He breathed his relief out and muttered the words softly.

"I think we already have, Ino."

Today was a hell day really… As usual…

Troublesome… Shikamaru muttered under his breath, eyes fixing at the clouds floated by. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. Deep in his heart, a new sensation called pity was just been born.

No, he did not pity himself. His life was perfect now. Never mind overloaded missions, never mind never-ending stress, never mind his death sentence will reach him sooner than he expected for he always took dangerous mission after dangerous mission, never mind all that damn, troublesome things…

As long as he had the gorgeous blonde by his side, sweeping it all away, he didn't mind all that really.

Shikamaru felt a heavy weight settled beside his lying form and he cracked his eyes open just enough to see. Knowing who the person was, he smirked and shut his eyes back.

"I'm hungry…" A pitiful voice echoed in the air, companied with a sigh.

"Yeah, I know that, Chouji…"

"Ino's practically killing me…"

"I'm well aware of that, too…"

"Talk to her, Shikamaru." Chouji pleaded. "She'll listen to you…"

Shikamaru chuckled. Yep, the newborn pity he had in his heart right now was dedicated to Chouji.

"Maybe…" He replied his best friend. "Or maybe not."

"Please, Shikamaru! I couldn't stand any of her crash diet anymore! I mean, look at me!" Chouji pointed his slightly thinner body. The plumpness still there but almost all his fats were vanished and replaced with muscles instead. Way to go to harsh diet and training at the same time.

Shikamaru followed his direction. "Congratulations. You look great. Ino did a great job, eh?"

As if on cue, said person appeared from behind. "Chouji! I knew I'll find you here! Well, what are you waiting for? Go on with the training!"

"But Ino…" Chouji whined. "I'm hungry…I couldn't train in my condition like this… Can I at least have a bag of chips?"

Ino smiled broadly as she made her was towards the two. She settled down beside Shikamaru, slightly leaning into him. "No. You just ate an hour ago." She crossed her arms. "And no junk food. Now go and continue your training!"

"You're so evil." Shikamaru commented his girlfriend as soon as the brooding Chouji disappeared from their sight.

"I have to."

"Asuma only mentioned about working on a small diet…"

"I guess I couldn't help myself." She smiled, looking down at him. "I want girls to notice him…"

"Playing matchmaker now, are you?"

"Hm-mm…" She rested her head on his chest. "Kinda…"

Shikamaru smiled and pulled her to face him. She didn't hesitate at all. Instead, she allowed her body fully to be controlled by him. She just loved the way he dominated her. His mouth captured hers in a swift kiss.

"I wouldn't want to kiss you if you're still smoking, Shikamaru." She gave him a warning look. "If you start it again any time soon, then I'll-"

"Don't worry…" He wrapped his arms around her waist securely. "I will never touch that thing again, I promise. You knew I hated smoking. That damn smoke gets into my eyes."

"Then why'd you do that before?"

A smile tugging his lips. "Maybe at that time it's true that I haven't moved on…"

"And now?"

"I guess I already have…"


They had been dating for couple of months and he was very satisfied with their current relationship. Though from the outside, they still looked like friends and just teammates, never once people thought that they were actually an item, but he was fine that way. There was no need to tell or show the world how much they were so deeply in love. The rule was broken. It was left ignored, as simple as that. But not without them knowing the future consequences. Whether it's good or bad, they already prepared for it.

Ninja rule #25stated that "A shinobi must keep emotions on the inside, no matter what the situation. You must make the mission top priority, and you must posses a heart that never shows tears." The rule was not something to be laugh at, to be fool at or to take simple at. There were reasons why this so-called rule was drawn out. One of it was to protect them - those whose lives abide by the rule - it's to protect their heart, so that if they lost any precious person, they will not be broken-hearted.

Shikamaru and Ino were perfectly aware of the reasons. They knew that as Konoha shinobi, they had to obey the rule. Even so, as Shikamaru had said, the rule actually was not really necessary to follow. Life was short. They could die anytime. They'll probably lose each other in the end, if not now then it will be one day, someday. If the didn't lose each other by dying from missions, then they'll lose each other by dying from old age, as simple as that.

But they didn't mind all that. What they have between each other right now was all that matter.

Because they already found a solution.

If one of them dies, the other dies as well. As simple as that.

As long as they're together.

"The clouds look nice…"

"Yeah…" At first, Ino didn't understand the wonders of watching clouds and still was, she got bored easily but if it meant by spending time with him then she tried to blend herself in his nature.

"Hey, Asuma-sensei?" She tilted her head up to the sky. "I know you're watching from above. I just want you to know that…" She smiled broadly as she snuggled closer to him. "In love, Team Ten now is leading Team Seven with Ino-1, Sakura-0."

"He must be proud of you…" Shikamaru commented softly.

"No." Ino corrected. "Of us."