Chapter One

He was superior, both in power and mind. I'm stronger than Naruto will ever be. The haughty thought running across his mind spread a contemptuous smirk on his lips as he hovered the sharp end of his steel blade above his old comrade's heavily wounded body. Naruto's life was in his hands now, and it would be no more in just a matter of seconds.

"No! S-stay away from Naruto-kun!"

Sasuke furrowed his brows, head turning in the direction of the feminine voice. Not given the chance to react, he felt the impact of a forceful tackle — one that caused him to tumble down, sword still in hand. He grunted more in annoyance than in pain, shaking his head out of disorientation.

Before him were glossy locks of navy-ebon, obscuring the eyes of a rather-familiar girl. Her moist lips were parted as she strove to retrieve some air for her lungs. When she raised her head, Sasuke saw the anger in her light lavender orbs.

"You?" He whispered. There was almost a tone of disbelief in his voice. How the girl had changed… maybe for the worst. Has she no regard for her own life? Sasuke rose slowly, his upper body propped by an elbow. His countenance returned to its stoic state, completely unfazed by the person of opposite gender sprawled atop of him in a comprimising position. But beneath that facade, Uchiha Sasuke was touched with wonder.

Steadily she withdrew from him, her lips inhaling and expelling each breath as the fire in her eyes remained unfaltering. She was desperate, and willing to do anything to save Naruto.

"I- I don't understand, Uchiha-san! You've returned... but to kill Naruto-kun? Why?" There was a sense of pride in her when she spoke without stammering. One thing everyone seemed to notice about Hyuuga Hinata, when it came to Naruto's life, fear did not affect her.

A soft wind blew, invisible fingers raking through the silken-strands of her waist-long hair. Sasuke noticed the gentle scent of flowers, entering his nostrils and nearly giving an intoxicating effect. His eyes narrowed as he recalled her appearance four years ago. Her corporal-self from then had changed, matured; however... he was able to tell, this was the same Hinata who had eyes for Naruto, and only Naruto. It seems like she still does, Sasuke thought, in a strangely bitter way.

Since then, certain thoughts never ceased to occupy his mind. Such as why the Hyuuga heiress was the only girl in Konoha who had no interest in him, why she was very sane — the only sane girl in Konoha… and why that fact alone had interested him so much. There was something appealing about her, but he couldn't quite grasp it. It wasn't her appearance, Sasuke mused, for there were other girls who were equally as attractive, if not a bit more or perhaps less.

His reverie shattered within seconds when Hinata's obscured words reached his ears. Sasuke remained silent, easily rising to sit as Hinata stood before him with defiance in her determined, pupil-less eyes.

"I- I'll fight you. If I win, you leave Naruto-kun alone- -" Her hands were tightly clenched into fists.

"And if I win?" Sasuke interrupted, clearly engaged in her little challenge. Who was she kidding? She hasn't got a chance against him.

"If you win... then, I- I'll exchange my life for Naruto-kun's."

Sasuke glared with unfaltering obsidian eyes. He was taken aback, yes; however, his face remained as impassive as ever. Is she for real? Naruto was worth losing her life over? "Are you stupid, Hyuuga?" It was really a rhetorical question. Slowly, menacingly, Sasuke rose - towering over her with his superior height. "You mean nothing to me, alive or dead. Naruto, on the other hand, often gets in my way, which is why I need him dead and out of existence."

She cringed as he inched closer.

"I don't understand why you even give a damn about him. Naruto doesn't care about you, he's in love with Sakura- -"

"Shut up!" And Sasuke did indeed at her sudden outburst. Not because she had made it imperative, but because he'd noticed tears well up in the corners of her eyes. "I… I-I don't care if he's in love with Haruno-san! Naruto-kun has supported me, I look to him when I feel …unsure of myself. He's encouraged me in so many ways, even if he might not realize it. I… I've learned that… if it wasn't for Naruto-kun, I wouldn't be what I am today." Hinata strove for breath, "I-I'll always be there for Naruto-kun! No- no matter what!"

"Tch, girls are so annoying." Sasuke rolled his eyes, but he couldn't help but secretly admire her brave confession.

But Hinata suddenly dropped onto her knees, moaning almost inaudibly with one hand clenching her side, earning a surprised look from the avenger. Without warning, she collapsed, appearing to have gone unconscious.

It was then Sasuke realized the iron-tinged scent of blood.