I've updated the prologue and first 4 chapters as of 6/30/13. For those that have followed for years, I appreciate your patience. There are 3 brand new chapters coming. The first new one is chapter 4. Chapter 5 will be posted later on tonight and chapter 6 later on this week. My inspiration comes and goes with this story so don't expect regular updates. Thanks again for all your support. The title of the story comes from Mr. Lee way back in 2007.
The sun soared overhead on a midsummer day in the village of Konoha. A pleasant atmosphere permeated through the various inhabitants from the trees lining the streets to the people strolling about. Peace brought about great happiness for the citizens here and none more than its loudest and most rambunctious blonde ray of sunshine.
Naruto Uzumaki, the Hero of Konoha, the Great Champion of the Fourth War, Future Hokage; all illustrious titles that fit his persona but today he was merely a young man in good spirits. Today of all days he was especially ecstatic because of where he was headed and what he had planned. He was on his way to his girlfriend's house, one Sakura Haruno, to celebrate their one year anniversary of being a couple.
Naruto and Sakura had been friends since they were genin. Sure it was a little tense in the beginning but for the past eight years, they have been by each other's side through thick and thin. When things were at their worst, they stood by each other, fighting side by side against all of their enemies. This friendship gradually grew to be more. It was obvious to everyone except themselves apparently what they were. It wasn't until last year though that they finally realized what they always had and officially started dating.
Since then, the two could be seen just about everywhere together. They were the epitome of a normal, loving couple. They held hands, kissed in public and went on dates. The two were completely comfortable with one another in every aspect. That isn't to say they never had arguments. These are two very headstrong individuals that have worked together since they were twelve. Arguments for a couple are a common thing though. It didn't detract from the happiness they exuded. Naruto especially appeared to be happier than he's ever been.
So for this day, he wanted to make their anniversary very special. He had spent the last few months searching for the perfect gift until he found a beautiful jade necklace at a local jewelry store. This pricey little memento of his affection set him back about a month's worth of his pay. Naruto had taken on as many A and S ranked missions as he could in order to scrounge up enough cash to afford the extravagant item that signified his love for the pink haired med-nin. Tsunade, despite her reluctance to send the Hokage in training on such dangerous missions, knew his heart was in the right place and thus granted him the assignments. She only wanted to have a picture of her apprentice's face when she received it.
Well the waiting was over and Naruto was ready to give this symbol of his love to her. He took a shower, put on some nice clothes and made his way to her house to pick her up for their day together.
He arrived and knocked on her door. After a few moments, the beautiful, pink-haired kunoichi answered.
"Hello, Naruto-kun." Sakura greeted him with a warm smile.
"Hi, Sakura-chan. If you're ready to go there's just one thing I need to do first." Naruto replied in his usual boisterous tone.
"Oh, what's that?" Sakura coyly replied expecting a cheesy response.
"Just have to make a quick call to god to let him know about the angel he's missing." Naruto coolly remarked before breaking out a lop-sided grin.
She giggled at his corny compliment.
"Naruto you cheeseball! You know those lame lines only work on billboard brow." Ino yelled from behind Sakura in the doorway with a mocking grin.
Naruto glanced behind his girlfriend and threw a smile at the buxom blonde. "It's all in the delivery my dear Ino-chan. I can try them on you some time if you'd like." He ended with a wink.
All three friends broke out in a laugh. "Alright you two. Break it up before I have to kick both your asses." Sakura casually stated with a smile for her best friend and her boyfriend. Naruto and Ino both gave a mock salute and a nod of encouragement to the other having done a similar exchange many times before much to the delight and dismay of the pinkette.
Ino waved them off with a genuine smile for two of her best friends and told them to have a good time. The couple walked hand in hand on their way to a restaurant they frequented for a romantic lunch to kick off the afternoon. They were both too content in sharing each other's presence to care about anything else at the moment. There wasn't anything that could distract them from their perfect day together. Well, almost anything.
The couple was just about to enter the restaurant right by the Hokage tower when they noticed some commotion not too far away. Their ninja reflexes kicked in and they both head over to the source of the commotion. Making their way through the crowd of onlookers, they finally found out what the big deal was. It was a sight that neither of them expected to see.
There stood guarded by four ANBU black ops was a certain raven haired Uchiha that they had vowed to rescue for the past eight years. It was like the world had gone into a time warp. Everything was in slow motion. Naruto couldn't believe what he was seeing. Sasuke Uchiha, strolling down the street with that neutral expression. He looked so calm and smug. It was like he had never left.
Naruto and Sakura had all but given up their quest for his return after their last encounter nearly three years earlier.
Naruto led a team of himself, Sakura and several other Konoha ninja to confront Sasuke for the final time and deliver an ultimatum; Return or die. But fate it seemed had other ideas. Their battle was interrupted by Tobi, presumed to be Uchiha Madara but later revealed as Obito Uchiha. He was once the presumed dead teammate of Kakashi but it was revealed that he an evil mastermind looking for world domination. He apparently leaked the information to Konoha and used Sasuke as bait to lore the nine-tailed container out for capture thus bringing the final step of his plan closer to fruition.
Both Naruto and Sasuke decided that their feud could be set aside one more time. They needed to team up on the bigger threat. Sasuke had a score to settle with Tobi for destroying his clan, manipulating his brother and basically ruining his life. He was the driving force for why Sasuke walked the lonely path of an avenger. Naruto, having the fate of the world thrust on his shoulders since birth being the nine tails jinchuriki, also had Tobi to blame for the death of his family and general disarray his early life took on. Both former members of team 7 knew the stakes were high and were prepared to end this threat to all of civilization or die trying.
The battle was long and arduous. Just when it seemed like one side had the upper hand, their opponents would take it to another level. After hours upon hours of fighting, Sasuke managed to slow Tobi down with a shot to the chest from Kirin. This allowed Naruto to capitalize on Tobi's momentary weakness and hit him full on with his ultimate Rasenshuriken. Nothing remained of the Uchiha patriarch. The Fourth Great War was over.
While Tobi was presumably disintegrated and victory attained, Naruto was left sapped of all his strength and Sakura was on her last legs due to healing not just him but the rest of the team. Once the battle had cleared, Naruto and Sakura pleaded with Sasuke one last time to return. With tears streaming down her eyes, Sakura all but begged him to come back to make things the way they were again. They would forgive him for all the attempts on their lives. Sasuke refused their request but did make it clear that he no longer held any hatred for them. His path of vengeance has forced him to continue finding his true purpose. Naruto was in no condition to keep Sasuke from escaping and Sakura didn't have the heart or the energy to stop him either. He continued down his path of self destruction leaving his only friends and family in the distance.
Three long years after that bitter sweet day, Naruto and Sakura stood dumbfounded in front of the Hokage tower. They stared at the one who left them so long ago without being able to formulate any words. Suddenly, Sasuke noticed the two of them and stopped. He looked at both of his long forgotten teammates and smiled. A genuine smile from the brooder was rare, but it seemed like he was actually happy to see his one-time colleagues. Both of them though were still too awestruck to make any moves. Seeing this, the Uchiha made his way over to them while still being guarded by the ANBU.
"Long time no see, eh?" Sasuke said as he attempted to joke at his former teammates.
Finally, Naruto was able to awaken from his shocked state. "W-what…H-how…W-why...?" Naruto was trying to formulate a sentence, but all that came out was stuttering incoherence.
Sakura suddenly reached out, wrapped her arms around Sasuke's neck and began to cry. "Sasuke-kun, it's really you!" She proclaimed to the raven-haired boy as if she returned to her twelve year old self.
Despite Naruto's comfort and report with Sakura, he couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy as he watched his long time nemesis return the hug by wrapping his arms around the slender waist of the woman he loved. As quickly as it came though, he squashed it down to greet his old friend.
"It's good to see you, teme. If you're able to, we should get together later so you can tell us where the hell you've been and what you've been up to." Naruto said cordially as he was finally able to generate a coherent response.
Sasuke slowly broke his embrace from Sakura, much to Naruto's subconscious insecurity's relief. "I'll see what happens, dobe. I'm not sure what my situation will be till after I meet the Hokage." He replied with a nod.
With that said, he was off to the tower to face whatever fate Tsunade had in store for him.
"Well, that was definitely a mood killer." Naruto said with a heavy sigh as he turned towards Sakura who was still in complete shock at what just happened.
"If you'd like Sakura-chan, we can skip lunch and just relax back at my place… you know… if you want to talk about this." Naruto offered selflessly.
Sakura didn't hear him at first. She was still lost in what she just saw. Glancing up at him she finally comprehended what he asked her. "I'm sorry, Naruto. I just… I don't know. I think I should go home now. I'm just really out of it all of a sudden." Sakura responded quietly.
Naruto felt a little down by her reply, but he understood how she felt. He too, needed some time to think about what just happened. It's not every day that your former teammate, who's tried to kill you several times, suddenly drops in out of thin air after he walked away from you all those years ago.
"It's cool, Sakura-chan. We can do it tomorrow or another time… you know whenever you're feeling better. Let me walk you home." He told his girlfriend as they started to walk back to her place.
They reached her doorstep again, despite having only arrived there to pick her up 30 minutes earlier. A whirlwind of emotion trampled on what was supposed to be one of the best days in Naruto's life. When Sakura reached the door, she was about to rush in but Naruto gently grabbed her shoulder.
"Sakura-chan?" He started.
"Yes, Naruto?" She replied softly glancing back at him.
"Well, I know our anniversary was cut short but maybe if you're feeling better later we can go out?" The spiky blond said carefully.
Sakura again seemed in a daze and barely registered what he had said. "Hmm, oh maybe tomorrow, Naruto. I just need to get my mind off of things right now. Sorry." With that she abruptly began to run in the house.
"Sakura there's just one thing I wanted to…"
And the door slammed shut.
"…show you." Naruto replied to the closed door. His right hand fumbled with the small case in his pocket containing the symbol of his love for her.
Dejected and momentarily defeated, Naruto started the slow trek back to his apartment. He arrived about a half hour later, opened the door and then collapsed on his couch in a confused heap. He had a lot to digest.
Sasuke's return brought about numerous emotions. Some of which he expected. Other's he thought he'd outgrown. The tortuous seed of jealousy began to sink its roots into Naruto's mind the same as when he was younger. Where one moment he was completely secure in his feelings for Sakura and hers for him, a nagging doubt began to grow.
'Why am I worrying so much? Sakura-chan's just emotional at seeing the teme back. She'll be better tomorrow. I'll talk to her about Sasuke and give my gift to her when she's over the shock.' He contemplated. After hours of thinking about it, Naruto decided on the plan he first thought of and fell fast asleep on his couch.
Months had passed since that day. Naruto had seen Sakura that next day and many others after but she still seemed frazzled by Sasuke's return. He had still never got the chance to give her the necklace. He noticed a crack in their once solid foundation of trust and love began to form. Sakura spent more and more time at work and grew distant from him. Before she was happy and content, but now she seemed scared and confused. Their once joyous encounters, filled with laughter were now dull and quiet. The intimate times they shared with one another, each being one another's first, now seemed a forgotten memory. Naruto felt as if Sakura had something on her mind and it was causing a rift between them.
In those months, it was learned that Sasuke had surrendered to Konoha and was willing to accept any punishment bestowed upon him. It turns out that his path of vengeance was finally at its end with Tobi but Sasuke had needed time to accept it. Those many years after he walked away were spent searching for a purpose in life. He realized that with no one left to hate, he could finally heal. Thus he made up his mind to return to his friends, his only family in the hopes that he may possibly be forgiven by the village he betrayed. He had expected to be executed but in this time of peace and prosperity, Tsunade had decided to be lenient. A good word from Sakura and Naruto may have swayed her opinion as well. He was sentenced to house arrest for two years and would be guarded by a full team of ANBU around the clock.
Naruto and Sakura visited Sasuke regularly. Sometimes they went together but for the most part it was when they had the time, which was usually alone. Naruto even managed to repair his relationship with his surrogate brother and regained a little of the old insult laden camaraderie that only two male friends could have.
Almost exactly five months after Naruto and Sakura's one year mark, Naruto decided to go all out and shake Sakura from her funk. He had a day planned full of fun and mischief to hopefully be capped off with him successfully wrapping her sparkling jade necklace around her beautifully sculpted neck line. Which would hopefully lead to her graciously rewarding him with a memorable night to follow.
Naruto spent the better part of the day searching for his bubblegum beauty but come up empty at every turn. She wasn't at her and Ino's apartment. Ino was concerned for her fellow blonde and wished him luck in his search. She wasn't at the hospital. They had apologized for her absence but couldn't offer an answer for him. He even asked Tsunade and Shizune but they hadn't seen her in several months let alone that day. It was like she had up and vanished despite him seeing her the day before.
Naruto decided to ask Sasuke if he had seen her since he knew she visited about as often as himself, if not more so.
Naruto arrived at the front door of the Uchiha estate and knocked. No one responded after a few minutes. He knocked again, and there was no sound, but the door was unlocked. Figuring that Sasuke wouldn't mind him coming in uninvited, Naruto opened the door and strolled through the main hall.
"Sasuke? Hey! You here, bastard?" Naruto yelled good-naturedly as he walked into the house and closed the door.
He didn't get any response, so he walked around a bit more and figured that he was outside or something. He walked out back towards the big lake in the backyard of the Uchiha household. The sight before him he could not prepare for. Only in his most delusional, jealousy induced visions had he foreseen this. Unfortunately, he could not unsee it for he would if he could to save him from the mental wound that will scar him for the remainder of his life.
There on the grass was his raven-haired former best friend rolling around with his, as of that moment, very EX-girlfriend. Sasuke lay on top of Sakura thrusting hungrily into her for all his worth. The blissful look on the kunoichi's face as she moaned in pure ecstasy was one Naruto had never seen during their similar sexual encounters, he painfully noted.
The pain Naruto was experiencing was nothing he had ever felt before. He had been neglected. He had been beaten. He had been betrayed by his best friend. He had been nearly killed too many times to count but despite all of that, he endured but not without a price. Naruto's heart was fragile. His emotional state could see-saw from highest highs to lowest lows in a matter of seconds if the right catalyst caused it. Sakura was his ultimate catalyst. His one true love, or so he had believed Sakura to be, had the ability to fulfill all his greatest dreams or drive the stake through his heart.
At that point, the mask he always wore was beginning to crack, so to speak. Naruto was about to break down and let the sadness seep through, but something stopped him. Anger. Pure, righteous, unadulterated anger! Anger at being tossed aside so easily by the one he loved since they were young. Anger at, once again, being betrayed by his 'best friend.' Anger at being so alone in the world that the most precious people to him, the ones that he once called friends, the ones he called family, would betray him so completely.
His eyes began to turn a deep crimson and formed black slits where pupils should be. He hadn't used the Kyuubi since that fateful day against Tobi. He almost allowed it to take control and do something he would regret, despite the fact that he felt that they deserved to be punished. He held fast though. Years of mental preparation would not be undone just yet. But how long could he keep his mind together? Rather than explode and kill them both though, he made his presence known in a surprisingly peaceful manner.
"Ahem." Naruto calmly cleared his throat loudly enough to let them know he was there. If they didn't hear him, they'd have to be almost chakra incapable to not notice to ridiculous KI he was putting off.
Both of them were startled and looked over at the source of the disturbance. To their dismay, it was a rather pissed off looking blonde haired demon container whose eyes reflected a cold hard, piercing gaze at them. Sakura went wide-eyed with shock and fear. She scrambled to put her clothes back on as she began to try and talk her way out of this sticky situation.
"Naruto, I…" Sakura began to say.
"DON'T YOU DARE, SAKURA!" Naruto shouted as he swiftly raised a hand to shut her up. He composed himself. His next words chilled the air as he spoke them. "Any excuses you have, I don't want to hear them. Just understand that after today, I don't consider you a lover or a friend. I will only interact with you when I need to for the sake of this village. Outside of that, you don't exist to me. You have hurt me for the very last time!" Naruto growled as the words escaped his mouth like venom.
"Naruto, wait…!" The med-nin cried as she tried to get close to him while tears began to flow from her eyes. But she was again cut off, this time by a violent storm of red chakra.
Sakura's quick approach caused an intense burst of Kyuubi's chakra to funnel all around Naruto. The powerful waves lashed out in every direction searing the earth and air around him. One strand caught Sakura on her left cheek leaving a gash that had already cauterized due to the intense heat. She screamed out in pain as a result of it.
Naruto momentarily cringed with guilt at the sight of Sakura being wounded, but his anger immediately suppressed that knee jerk reaction in order to keep his righteous fury. He then turned his back to the both of them and began speaking with his head lowered.
"I loved you, Sakura. I loved you ever since we were genin. I cherished you more than anyone else, and gave every fiber of my being to you. I would have done anything for you Sakura, ANYTHING! All so that you could be happy. I would live for you, and you know better than anyone that I would die for you. In the last year that we were together, I thought that you had grown to love me the same way. But once again, I see that I was wrong. If I mean so little to you that just having your precious Uchiha back after what he did to us for seven damn years, was enough for you to betray me and crush my heart, then I don't want to be around you anymore." Naruto spat out bitterly.
Sakura brought her hand up to the scar that was throbbing intensely on her cheek as a river of tears started to flow from her eyes. The pain she was feeling was only surpassed by the guilt she felt as she stared at Naruto's back.
"I'm sorry Naruto! Please don't go! I don't want to lose you as a friend!" Sakura sobbed.
At that point, he wanted to slap the taste out of her mouth for such a stupid comment after what she just did. But he closed his eyes shut and restrained himself for fear that he would do more than just slap her.
"It's too late for that, Sakura. The moment you thought so little of my trust and my love that you went ahead and decided to fuck that bastard, without giving a damn how I'd feel, you lost the privilege of calling me friend. I never thought that I would say this to the people I loved and protected with my life since I became a ninja, but I'll say it now. Sakura, Sasuke, I…hate…you…both! As far as I'm concerned, you can both go to hell!" Naruto bellowed with pure rage.
Naruto began to slowly walk back to the entrance of the house, ignoring the continuing pleas for him to stay and talk from the pink haired kunoichi. He did stop for a moment though and turned to face her. Reaching into his pocket, he felt the smooth cloth of the purse that contained her necklace. With a bitter, hollow chuckle, Naruto took it out and tossed it to her.
"Happy Anniversary, Sakura."
He didn't wait to see her open it. He turned back to his slow march away from their lives. He needed to get away but he wouldn't give them the satisfaction of making him run. He reached the door and let his emotions flow. Once out of their sight, he ran. He didn't know where he was going but he ran as hard as he could; away from the pain, away from the torment. With the state of his mind he was afraid that he would either kill them or worse, forgive them, like he always did. He didn't want to do either. He went to the only place he could think to go where no one would look for him, the forest of death. He had never let anyone know that he went there for solace, not even Sakura. So it was his only sanctuary from the madness that this world has heaped upon him since he drew breath.
Once he arrived, he couldn't help but let it all go. He screamed to the heavens until his throat was hoarse. He unleashed all his pain and fury into that yell which thankfully dissipated his radiating chakra before he caused something truly terrible to happen.
After letting it all out, he promptly passed in the middle of a rare clearing within the dangerous woods and fell into a dreamless sleep, tears falling out of his eyes like a faucet he had no control over. From that point on, his life was never the same, and it never could go back to the way it was.
Three years have passed since that incident and Konoha has remained relatively the same on the surface. However, to those that knew it well, they could tell that the soul of the town is now missing. There is a noticeable difference in the ninja community. The Will of Fire that the Sandaime once preached so adamantly about had dwindled to a flicker. Business went about as usual of course but the good natured hero of the town turned into a stone cold killer with an attitude as abrasive as a rusty kunai. Everyone wondered what happened to change their hero but sometimes it's best if certain things remained unspoken.
About a week after that horrible day, Naruto decided his grieving was over and it was time to become more serious about his profession. He informed Tsunade that he could no longer pursue the Hokage title since he felt he wasn't mentally prepared enough to accept the full responsibility that it entailed. He explained that if something as trivial as a failed romance could turn him into time bomb then he needed to train harder than ever. Tsunade threw a very heated argument at him but he never flinched and he never wavered. She reluctantly allowed him to put his apprenticeship on hold indefinitely. He gave a curt nod and swiftly exited without a single word more. Tsunade could not help but cry for her surrogate son's fate. What would he become if he turned away from his life-long dream?