A/N: Ahhhh… I sure many people might have thought that I'm probably dead. Well, in a way I guess I'm dead from university. So I've decided to churn out chapter 12 before I begin semester two. I guess for the past few months/years I've been kinda sidetracked by many other things (such as the Beatles) which got me out of the anime phase for quite some time. But nevertheless, I'm back (momentarily) to update my story even though some followers may have given up on me. Hopefully those who are still there (if there's any left) will enjoy this chapter. Cheers.
Disclaimer: I do not owe Naruto if not Kakasaku would have been canon.
"W-Why is Itachi here? Isn't he supposed to be dead?" Sakura half-screamed out, her finger pointed at the Akatsuki sitting beside Kakashi. The Uchiha merely raised an eyebrow in respond.
"Maa… it's a long story… but most importantly, he's an ally of ours so there's no need for you to fear him." Kakashi scratched his head as he stood up to help pick up the groceries that had spilled over the floor.
"…" Sakura remained silent as she eyed Itachi warily.
"You don't need to stare that intensely at me," the Uchiha finally spoke. "I have no interest in killing weaklings."
That earned a flustered Sakura as vein marks started popping on her forehead.
"I'm not weak! Do you need me to show you-…" she raised her clenched fist and dashed in his direction. It wasn't for long as Kakashi swiftly grabbed her waist, stopping her from hitting her target.
"Let me go, Kakashi-sensei! I'm going to decapitate that man and-…"
"Now now Sakura-chan, relax, getting riled up will only prove his point." Kakashi gave a grunt when Sakura's elbow hit him in the ribs… either from his comment or from the struggling. He hoped it's the latter. "I'll treat you to ice-cream."
"I'm not a child, Kakashi-sensei." Sakura stopped her attacks. The boy made sure it was safe before releasing her from his grip, "but I'll take up that offer anyway." With a 'hmph', Sakura picked up the groceries and stomped into the kitchen.
"You are too soft on her, Hatake." Itachi commented before taking a sip from the cup of tea that was on the table.
"Ahaha… don't worry, although she may not seem like it, but she's strong." Kakashi let out a nervous laughter. "She's also a medic-nin."
"I see… she'll be useful for us then. Let's wrapped up tomorrow's plans before you bring her for ice-cream."
Kakashi's eyes turned serious as he gave a nod in agreement.
(Outside Naruto's apartment)
"Naruto-kun! Are in there, Naruto-kun?" Chouji's voice rang out as he knocked vehemently on the door. "Shikamaru and I are going to ichiraku, do you want to tag along?"
"Come on, Chouji, he's probably not at home." Shikamaru let out a yawn and walked away from the scene. "How troublesome."
"W-Wait up, Shikamaru." The chubby boy flailed his arms as he ran to catch up with his friend. "I guess it's his loss for not staying put at home…"
"Ramen, gears, clothings, sleeping bag and ramen… I guess that should be enough for the trip!" Naruto let out a satisfied grin as he zipped his bag and swung it behind. "If Tsunade-Baachan doesn't allow me to go find them, I'll just have to run away on my own! Nothing's gonna stop me now dattebayo!"
Naruto punched his fists in the air, getting hyped up over his plans. A rustle behind him caught his attention almost immediately.
"Who's there?" he shouted out frantically for fear of someone overhearing him.
There was a high-pitched squeak as Hinata fell to the ground, revealing herself.
"I-I didn't m-mean to overhear what y-you've said. I just happen to see you and-…" she began quickly.
"You scared me, Hinata-chan! For a second I thought you were Sasuke-teme or some spy from Tsunade…" he let out a sigh of relief.
"A-Are you really running away?" her question sounded more like a plea.
"Don't worry, Hinata-chan. I'm only going away temporary. I'll return as soon as I find Sakura-chan and Arashi-kun." He let out a bright smile to reassure her. "After all, only you and I believe that they are still alive, isn't it?"
Naruto patted her shoulder which caused her face to turn redder than before. It was a miracle that she had yet to faint.
"I'll be back soon."
That sentence pierced her heart.
"He's going alone out there in the wilderness… What if he gets attacked by enemies? After all I'm the one responsible for giving him hope that Sakura and Arashi might still be alive… if he ever gets hurt it'll be my fault…"
"I-I am going with you." Her eyes hardened with determination as she gazed into Naruto's sky blue ones.
Naruto hesitated for a second before a smile returned to his face.
"Thank you, Hinata-chan."
"So which one was it again?"
"The strawberry one."
"Hai, hai…" Kakashi gave a sigh as he dug out his wallet, "why am I even doing this in the first place?"
"Because you promised to do so."
"No. I mean WHY am I even buying ice-cream for Uchiha Itachi? And strawberry flavoured ice-cream?" He really felt like hitting his head against the wall next to him.
"Kakashi-sensei, you should never judge someone for his preferences!" Sakura stared at him in disbelief. "You don't see me complaining when you read porn in public."
"It's a romance novel, not porn." A scowl appeared this time. The approaching waitress ended their conversation as she passed Kakashi the ice-creams, one chocolate and one… strawberry.
"Buying ice-cream for your girlfriend?" the waitress smiled and asked Kakashi which caused a slight blush to appear on his cheeks while Sakura smirked at the Copy-nin's embarrassment. Deciding to take things a bit further, Sakura hooked her hands through Kakashi's arms and smiled politely back to the waitress.
"Isn't he sweet? He knows that I love ice-cream and decides to take me out on a date for an ice-cream treat!"
Kakashi felt like dying. Here was her student… wait, ex-student, openly flirting with him. And Itachi's strawberry ice-cream… the world must be coming to an end.
"He is really a shy guy, isn't he?" the waitress chuckled upon seeing Kakashi's red face.
Yes, he knows that he's not wearing a mask like he usually does before the whole incident. He really missed his mask, considering the predicament he is in now.
"Here's your STRAWBERRY ice-cream." Kakashi threw the packet over to the aloof man who was sitting by the table, staring out into the sky. Itachi gave a soft grunt before reaching out for it. Kakashi and Sakura took the floor a few metres in front of Itachi.
"I've sent a scout over to sound."
"I see. Any results?"
"No news. He's taking extra precaution this time round especially after he got rid of the old hideout."
"Who's this 'he' you guys are talking about?" Sakura interrupted.
"Well, you see… Sakura-chan, this guy is-…" Kakashi stuttered, unsure if his partner was willing to share the information.
"It's Orochimaru." Itachi deadpanned.
"Orochimaru? Didn't Sasuke already kill him?" she frowned as her eyebrows knitted together.
"He did. But his minion was still alive. Kabuto, I believed, took some of Orochimaru's cells and merged with his own." Itachi shrugged. "End product was a mixture between Orochimaru and Kabuto."
"And you guys are looking for him?"
"Not just looking, Sakura. We need to kill him before he destroys Konoha." Kakashi stated grimly.
There were still a tons of questions that were bugging Sakura but she decided to swallow them. Meanwhile, she will just have to trust in Kakashi and his actions… and Itachi's as well.
Kakashi could see the perplexity in Sakura's eyes and guilt started gnawing at him. Yes, he owed her many explanations and he was partially at fault for dragging her into this mess.
Itachi glanced at the copy-nin who was looking worriedly over at Sakura and her looking back with equally worried eyes. He gave an irritated sigh at the two who were still trapped in their own world.
"I'll be scouting the area over here. Just do what you need to do." Itachi stood up and walked out of the door. That brought the two back to reality.
"Well… I'm sorry you got dragged into this, Sakura." Kakashi started as he stared at his feet.
Sakura shook her head, "It's not your fault, Kakashi-sensei. I was the one who wanted to follow you."
"Just… tell me what happened from the beginning. Ever since that B-ranked mission that Tsunade-shinshou sent you on."
"Well, during that mission, a trapped was set off and the cave started collapsing. It was terrible; Genma got into trouble so I went to save him but got myself stuck instead. I guessed I was knocked out by the boulders and probably died under all those rocks. But when I woke up, I found myself in another cave. It was…" He hung in mid-air as the atmosphere around him tensed.
Sakura's eyes widened as she beckoned him to continue the story.
"Apparently I was found by him, barely alive, and became one of his experimental subjects. It is also the reason why I've became like this. I knew I had to escape before he kills me with his weird experiments and I was really lucky that Uchiha Itachi decided to pay a visit to Orochimaru's hideout shortly after I woke up. I don't know why Itachi was still alive though, nevertheless, he helped me with the escape, swiping some documents away at the same time. We got to the borders of sound before settling down in the forest. It turned out that Itachi knew that Orochimaru was planning to attack Konoha and he was planning to stop it by himself. So, after much contemplation, I've decided to work with Itachi to stop Orochimaru as well."
"We soon parted ways. He had to continue his investigations while I decide to go back Konoha and wait for further news. To keep my profile low, I pretended to be a commoner while trying to get back to Konoha. Of course, Orochimaru's men found me and I was cornered. Furthermore, I wasn't exactly adapted to my new body and that's how Jiraiya-san found me. I didn't expect my cover to be blown that fast and thus this is how we ended up here."
He turned to Sakura who looked as if she had just heard an incredible tale. The confusion was now gone as a smile graced her lips.
"Thank you, Kakashi-sensei, for telling me everything."
"I'm sorry for getting you into this."
That earned an irritated glare from the pink-haired kunoichi.
"How many times do I have to tell you, it's not your fault, Kakashi-sensei. I was the one who wanted to join you."
"Stop calling me sensei. I'm only sixteen." He mumbled under his breath.
"Sixteen? I thought you were eighteen." Sakura gasped in disbelief. "You're still an old man at heart anyway."
"That hurts, Sakura-chan." Kakashi feigned hurt. "I'm sure thirty-two is not that old."
"I'll stop calling you sensei if you stop calling me Sakura-chan."
"So Kakashi-kun, what's our plan for tomorrow?"
Kakashi could feel his face turning red. After all, social awkwardness can't be cured in a single day.
"We'll be staying put till Itachi gathers new information for us so the next few days may be boring for you."
"Don't worry, there's no way I'll get bored staring at your face." Sakura chuckled as the boy turned a deeper shade of red. "You're really fun to teased, Kakashi-kun."
"I didn't know you enjoy picking on your old sensei."
"Old sensei? Just a minute ago you told me to stop calling you sensei because it made you feel old and now you're calling yourself old?" She had to suppress herself from bursting into laughters. "Make up your mind, Kakashi-sensei or Kakashi-kun?"
"Kakashi-kun." He muttered while the girl grinned. Their playful banter was interrupted when the door opened and Itachi walked in, taking his seat again.
"I'm making dinner." Sakura stated as she stood up and headed for the kitchen.
Itachi's eyes followed her figure before landing at the copy-nin.
"So, how's the bonding time, Kakashi-sensei?"
(Somewhere out there)
"Arghhh, how are we even supposed to start the search?" Naruto's voice rang out as he crushed the map in his hands for the third time. Hinata was sitting on the ground, tending to the fire while the water in the pot started boiling. "I don't even know where the mission is."
"S-since A-Arashi is new, I think Hokage-sama w-would have sent them somewhere n-near Konoha." Hinata voiced out.
"You're right, Hinata! I'm so glad I brought you along." Naruto cheered, oblivious to the blush on the girl's face. "I guess we can always start with Suna, after all, Konoha's pretty close to them."
(Back in the Hyuuga's mansion)
"Neji, have you seen Hinata anywhere?" Hiashi asked the white-eyed boy who was meditating in the garden.
"No, Hiashi-sama. She might be sent on a mission."
"That's funny, I don't remember her mentioning anything about mission…" the man pondered as he walked away, lost in thoughts.
Smelling something fishy, Neji stood up and head towards the streets of Konoha.
"Hey, Neji." A voice appeared behind him.
"What brings you here, Shikamaru-san?" Neji turned and came face to face with Shikamaru.
"Nothing much, just asking if you've notice a missing blonde and probably, a missing Hyuuga too." That got Neji's interest.
"They could be on a mission."
"Checked. Nothing of that sort."
There was a pregnant silence as they stared at each other.
Shikamaru gave a small chuckle. "Anything's possible with Naruto."
"I'm gonna kill him, that bastard." Neji growled. "For dragging Hinata-sama into his recklessness…"
"Calm down, Neji-san. The issue now is, should we report it to the Hokage or should we take actions on our own?"
"Report it to the Hokage."
Some bit of progression. I think I'll probably need three to four more chapters to finish up the story. Read and review!
Anyway, many thanks to:
Konoha's White Fang
For reviewing my fic. Your reviews are my encouragements though please forgive me for the long wait. I really appreciate your patience :) After all, the waiting is the hardest part (Tell me if you get this joke). Especially for those who had been reviewing since chapter 1, I salute thee if you're still keeping up with this story. Many hugs and love to the reviewers.