Sorry for the rather long rants below, but I feel they're all needed to be said:

-I'll say it straight from the beginning: this is a Naruto x Sakura (NaruSaku) story, so if your preferred pairing is not them, you might not want to read this story of mine (though, you'll be more than welcomed to read it nevertheless.)

-English is not my first language, and I have never learned it specifically in an English language school or anything, so do not expect to be treated with a Shakespearean-level vocabulary and/or truly exemplary use of grammatical proficiency in here.

-I suck at describing action scenes and making descriptions for characters' appearances… and making summaries. There, I said it.

-The setting of this story is a few years post the Akatsuki-arc. Let's just assume that the entire Akatsuki problems have been dealt with, and everyone has moved on to new things. Also, as for Sasuke… well…

-This is the very first Naruto fan-fiction I have ever made in my entire life. As such, I apologize beforehand if how I portray the characters may betray your expectations. Also, the creation of new original characters is inevitable since this story is based on a new plot—regarding this, although I always strive to keep their characteristics within the plausibility of Naruto universe, there may be times when things will get out of hand without me realizing it. If this happens, feel free to give me a good, hard, slap to keep me back in track.

-Reviews, comments, or anything, would be most certainly appreciated.

Best Regards,

Pizza Blade


A Fan-Fiction based on the popular Manga/Anime Naruto

Created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto

Into the Future…

Written and directed by Pizza Blade

Special honorary thanks to all of my readers and reviewers

First Episode


"To love is to place our happiness in the happiness of another."—G.W. Von Leibnitz


-Konoha Streets

It was one of those usual busy days at Fire Country's Hidden Ninja Village, Konoha. Although the day has not yet reached maturity, the streets were already packed with people, each with their own businesses to attend to, eager to compromise whatever tribulations fate has in store for them starting from this day forward.

The weather was very accommodating today. One could almost say that it was even glorious. The sun shone just the perfect amount of light, and its ray swept across the entire land like a master painter meticulously painting its own masterpiece. The wind blew softly, caressing all that it passed through with its gentle touch, giving a truly pleasant sensation. Birds sang a beautiful orchestra atop many trees inside the village, and the sound of the leafs ruffled by the soft blow of the wind served as a perfect compliment for the beautiful melody nature has composed to those fortunate enough, and attentive enough, to embrace for it.

And yet, although there were all the reasons for all people to feel that blissful feeling inside their hearts on a beautiful atmospheric day like this, one could still clearly see that for some people, not even the strongest power of nature's allure could make those lips of theirs smile. One such example amongst those people was a young boy, one that has yet to reach adulthood, who stood inauspiciously in front of one of the tall lamp post besides one of Konoha's main street. His face looked annoyed, and it's obvious that for whatever reason he stood there, he didn't enjoy it in the slightest.

If there's also one thing that made him different from any other boy on the street, it's the fact that he wore a Konoha Ninja band on his left arm. A band only given to those qualified enough to serve as a part of the proud Fire Country's Hidden Village Ninjas, the home of many excellent and world-renowned Ninjas in the world. Judging from the boy's relative age and appearance, however, it was pretty obvious that he was still a Genin—the lowest rank available in the entire hierarchy of Ninjas—or, he could also just recently graduated from Konoha's Ninja Academy.

He kept waiting, and waiting, while ignoring all the looks he got from people passing through him that wandered what was a young boy like him stood conspicuously in front of the street when the day was still young like this.

…Finally though, two people from the crowd approached him. A boy and a girl each, both of them appeared to be of the same age as the waiting one. Contrast to him, however, they both had an excited look on their faces. Theirs also looked particularly exuberant, like they were expecting that something really good would befall upon them soon enough.

Like the waiting boy, both of them also appeared to be Ninjas, since they both wore a similar looking Ninja band on themselves. The boy wore it on the more "usual" place, his forehead, while the girl wore her shiny, reflective symbol of Ninja admittance like a necklace, slightly below her neck. Since they seemed to be at the same age as the waiting boy, it was most probably safe to assume that both of them were also either a Genin or newly-graduated students from the Academy.

"Hey, Kenji!" the approaching boy raised his hand to the waiting one.

The boy that was called Kenji looked up. He then didn't waste any time to give the approaching party a glare.

"Ito, Haruna," he said to them, trying to look as angry as possible, "……Both of you are late."

He looked at the wristwatch wrapped on his right ankle.

"We're supposed to meet here at 6.30," he said dubiously, "And now it's already 6.45. A Konoha Ninja isn't supposed to be lax at things like this!"

Both Ito and Haruna showed an apologetic expression on their faces.

"Uh, sorry," Ito answered regretfully, "…I was kind of… too excited last night that I just couldn't sleep. Also, there's the fact that my parents threw me a celebration for my successful inauguration from the Academy… so…"

"Yeah, I apologize for my lateness too, Kenji-kun…" this time the girl called Haruna responded with a bit of guilt added to her tone, "My parents also threw me a celebration party… My hands got sore having to shake so many relatives and friends that came to my house to congratulate me… I didn't have time to get a proper sleep last night…"

"Well I didn't have time to celebrate at all!" Kenji retorted, his face looked tense, "Since my father is a respected Jounin, as do my mother, they would never throw me a party before I could become a Genin today! And I bet the Jounin that we all going to meet today to inspect us would dock points off our score if we come late to the promised time!"

"…Sorry…" both Ito and Haruna said slowly, with their heads looking down.

Kenji huffed.

"...Well… it doesn't matter anymore now that you are both here," Kenji signaled both of them—although he was clearly angry before, seeing the downed faces of his comrades still managed to make him felt kind of sorry, "…Come on—if we run, we might be able to be there on time."

"Oh, okay!" Ito and Haruna answered almost at the same time.


-Konoha Training Ground

"…say, Kenji-kun…" Haruna said quietly.

"…Yeah?" Kenji answered absent-mindedly. For some reason, he looked even more upset than before.

"…You said back then that a Ninja shouldn't be lax about arriving on time…" she continued.

"…Yeah I said that," Kenji replied nonchalantly.

"…so…" Haruna said—she looked kind of amused.

"So what?" Kenji said again.

"So what are you going to say to the Jounin since he's the one getting late right now?" this time Ito spoke, and just like the girl, he had that amused look on his face.

Haruna went giggling.

"…Hmph…" was all that Kenji could muster, since he couldn't construct an answer to that kind of question. Actually, he could, but making a follow up to that answer would most probably something he'd hesitate of doing.

The three of them stood at one of the Training Fields of Konoha, places where Konoha Ninjas sometimes used in order to hone their skills. All the Training Fields were located inside the walls of Konoha, so they were relatively safe places for practice, while also at the same time each and every one of them provided a large enough space for everyone to train various Ninja abilities. They mainly served as places where all Ninjas from Konoha—even the most famous and strongest of them—first took their step in the harsh realities of the world they're about to inhabit.

…And through his first step towards all that, all Kenji could do was grumbling furiously.

He just couldn't believe that the Jounin that was supposed to inspect them for their Genin test was late coming to the appointed time. He remembered it well: on the announcement yesterday from their Academy, their team—team five—was supposed to meet here today with their appointed Sensei right at seven A.M. But now it's already forty five past seven, and the one they've been waiting from has not yet shown his face.

"Perhaps something came up," Ito tried to assume a reason, "Our inspector is a Jounin after all—perhaps suddenly some huge mission came up and he's forced to take it up or something…"

"If that's what happened, someone should have already come here to tell us that," Haruna shook her head, "But nevertheless, you maybe are correct—perhaps something important happened…"

"Whatever the case, it's already the Jounin's obligation to meet us here!" Kenji said with a fiery tone, "It's his responsibility! His duty! He couldn't just shrug it off without paying any regards to us!"

"Yeah…" Ito murmured, agreeing to Kenji's statement—although perhaps he would just say 'yeah' to everything Kenji said right now.

"So anyway," Haruna muttered, "Do you guys know about this Jounin that is supposed to inspect us? Also, if we all manage to get through, that Jounin will also become our squad's captain, right? Our leader?"

"Yeah," Ito nodded his head, "The other teams have already met with their respective Jounins. We were supposed to meet him yesterday, on the day our team was formed, after our graduation from the Academy. But they told us our Jounin was in the middle of a very important S-Rank mission from the village… so we couldn't meet him until today…"

"I know the whole story! Geez!" Haruna complained, "…I just want to know what kind of person this Jounin will be. Anyone knows?"

"…All I know is that he's quite a famous Ninja," this time Kenji was the one that answered her question, "Supposedly one of the most talented—those guys at the Academy told me. They also said that he is supposedly a one of a kind Ninja—we simply just won't be able to find anyone else quite like him even if we are to search every corners of Konoha. He also appeared to be the possessor of many unique and famous Jutsus that only he can perform…"

"Woah, really?" Ito looked excited, "So we have a famous and strong Sensei to inspect us today?"

"Famous or not, he shouldn't shun his obligation to meet with us here on time!" Kenji once again pouted, "That's not a responsible Ninja behavior that a Jounin should display as a part of proud Konoha Ninjas!"

"Yes, yes, but do you know anything else about him?" Haruna quickly asked him—like Ito, she too looked excited that they were about to meet with a famous Ninja, "Like, anything else exciting?"

Kenji sighed.

…Somehow he felt like neither Haruna nor Ito has any semblance of realization in their minds about the severity of this whole "not coming on time" thing for a Konoha Ninja.

Nevertheless, he said,

"Well…" he muttered while scratching his hair—although it wasn't really itchy or anything, "…They said that he played a very significant role of saving Konoha during the last Legendary War, although technically he was still not a Jounin back then…They told me that if it wasn't for him, Konoha might probably not just be able to exist today. Even my father and mother looked really glad when I told them about him going to inspect us today. They said we couldn't possibly ask for a better person to lead us……although now I start having some suspects to that…"

"Oh my God!" Haruna looked even more excited than before—so excited, in fact, that she could just combust here and now, "Are you saying that the Jounin that we are about to meet today is one of the heroes of the Legendary War? Wow!"

"…Don't get your hopes up too much," Kenji looked at her silly, "There're a lot of people involved at the Legendary War. Even those who did nothing at the War would still be considered as heroes by our people right now—after all, we don't have any really detailed records of that War. Everybody can claim they did something back then…"

"Well, but even your parents acknowledged him, right?" Ito jumped into the conversation, "So that means that he is the real deal. After all, your parents participated in the Legendary War too, right? Managed to defeat some very famous and powerful enemies too, I've heard from many people."

Kenji didn't say anything. In his mind, he admitted that what Ito just said truly make sense, since his parents really were not the kind that would give compliments to anyone unless they were really deserved—but still, he didn't want to concur to the thought that a hero of the last Legendary War would neglect an obligation as simple as coming on time. No honorable character would ever do that!

"…Legenday War… Legendary War…" Ito murmured to himself, "They taught us that at the Academy, but why can't I remember the whole details that clearly…?"

"That's because you are a lazy bum who can only get excited for lessons when they involved throwing shurikens or something," Haruna put her hands on her waists, "You're not the type to read the books, aren't you?"

"Well shurikens are a lot more important compared to books for a Ninja to have in combat anyway! And they didn't ask for it during our final test at the Academy, so it shouldn't be that important, right?" Ito retorted back to her, "Anyway, if you know so much about it, why don't you shed some light for me then?"

Haruna sighed exasperatedly. Although she was still a young girl herself, the attitude she showed towards Ito right now was just like a school teacher facing a very slow student.

"Alright, listen up!" she said in a bossily manner, "The Legendary War was a battle fought between the best Konoha Ninjas against a force so powerful, it had the potential to disrupt not only the future of Fire Country, but also all other countries around the world. In fact, ever since the last Great War, it was the only time where countries all around the world worked together in order to face a common foe. Collaboration between countries was inevitable, since the enemies we're facing back then were really that strong! It's said that each member of the enemy's group held the potential to ruin a single country single-handedly! They were that powerful! That powerful!"

"Okay, okay, we get that," Ito nodded, "And then what?"

"Well, details were a bit sketchy as to why those powerful bad guys wanted to threaten the balance of the world order back then," Haruna said seriously, "Some said they wanted this, some said they wanted that……according to our textbook anyways, their goal was nothing less than to conquer the entire world under their belt. It was said that those bad guys were joined together under one particular organization called…"

"Wait!" Ito raised his hands to stop Haruna before she could manage to finish what she wanted to say, "I remember this! Wait a minute… wait a minute… The name of that organization that tried to conquer the world during the Legendary War……"

"…Um……" Ito murmured, thinking.

Haruna looked annoyed. She stopped for a moment to give him a chance to redeem himself, but she didn't plan on stopping for that long.

"Um… uh…" Ito still in the murmur mode, his face looked so terribly serious.

Haruna couldn't stand it anymore, but before she could manage to say anything, Kenji interrupted,

"It's Akatsuki," he said evenly.

"Ah! That's right!" Ito clapped his hands—for some reason, although the one answering the question was Kenji, he still looked mightily satisfied with himself, "Yes! That's right! I remember! Akatsuki!"

Haruna sighed.

"Well, congratulations on being able to remember the obvious," she said sarcastically—Ito did not seem to catch on it, since he still had that satisfied look on his face, "Anyway, yes, the organization was called Akatsuki. On the day now remembered in Konoha as the Day of the Heroes, after all the extreme measures taken with a lot of casualties to find their exact location, Konoha—in collaboration with another parties, most particularly Sand—launched a massive all-out attack to eliminate the Akatsuki once and for all, for the dangers they exhibited were just far too serious to be ignored any longer."

"Ah…" Ito once again clapped his hands, "…We lost many extremely talented Ninjas, right back then, right? In fact, I remember something about that all-out battle was the only fight ever fought by Konoha that took so many very important casualties that it almost tore apart the very foundation of Konoha itself. It was even more devastating than the Great War a long time ago. Same thing happened with the Sand, and other parties that participated. The entire world of Ninjas itself nearly collapsed because of that one, single most glorious battle ever known in the history…"

Haruna looked at Ito with a strange expression on her face.

……Sometimes she just didn't get him.

"Yes, that's correct," she said, nodding her head, "But thanks to the great efforts and sacrifices by many heroic Ninjas, we were able to rebuilt what was lost because of the Akatsuki, and although it took some time, Konoha and the rest of the countries were able to stood back on its feet again! And right now, we are a part of the New Generation of Konoha Ninjas!"

She looked somewhat proud when she said that.

"Well, that's that!" she said.

She looked once again to the direction of Kenji.

"So anyways, since we have rid that out of the way…… any other information about this Jounin of ours?" she said excitedly, "If he's truly a hero of the Legendary War, a survivor, he must have had some very great Jutsus, yes? Yes? He must have been a great Ninja, right? Right?"

"Why don't you just wait until he arrives here anyway?" Kenji said, sighing, "Then you can ask him all the things that you want to ask. So then you can annoy someone else other than me…"

It was a testament of the friendship between those three that Haruna did not seem the very least bothered by the fact that Kenji just said that she was annoying. It's like she just took it for granted, like it was one of those things that's so usual happening between them that it's just not worth to get angry about.

In fact, Ito just laughed about Kenji's comment, and Haruna looked even more determined than before. She immediately sat on the ground in front of him, and looked directly at his face from below complete with puppy eyes.

"Aww come on, don't say that!" she pleaded, "Your parents knew him personally, right? So they should have told you some things about him! Also, you knew some info back from the people at the Academy, right? Come on… Don't be so stingy! Tell us!"

"Yeah man," Ito nodded, "Tell us."

"…All right……" Kenji finally succumbed—either he finally just wanted to make his team-mates stop battering him with questions, or perhaps it's simply because he couldn't find anything else better to do while waiting for their supposed Jounin inspector… he might as well indulge them to kill some time.

He took a deep breath.

"Well…" he started his explanation, "They said that our Jounin guy here was once part of a squad personally led and taught by the Sixth Hokage himself. Also…"

"Wha? The Sixth Hokage?" Ito nearly jumped out of sheer surprise, cutting through Kenji's explanation without even thinking, "…For real? Our Sixth Hokage?"

Haruna looked even more excited than before.

"Yeah…" Kenji nodded his head, "That's right. Of course I am talking about our Sixth Hokage. What? Do you expect a Konoha Ninja to be in a squad led by someone from other country?"

"And then? And then?" Haruna pressed on.

"Um…" Kenji said as he tried to remember all things his parents and the people at the Academy told him yesterday when he inquired about the Jounin, "……They also told me that he was one of very few people personally taught by one of the Legendary Sannins of Konoha…"

Ito's eyes looked like they almost popped out from their sockets, while Haruna wasted no time to immediately sigh breathlessly in awe. Her face was completely stunned, like she got suddenly hit with a lightning bolt.

"W…which one? Which one?" Haruna was quick to barrage Kenji impatiently, her eyes filled with immeasurable excitement, "Because, they were like, so awesome! …Although one of them turned out to be a madman… but still! The Legendary Sannins of Konoha…… Jiraiya-Sama, Tsunade-Sama, and Orochimaru-sama…… which one of those three taught our Jounin? Which one? Which one?"

"You are always so eager to talk when it's about the Sannins, aren't you?" Kenji said to Haruna, all the while raising one of his eyebrows. Until now, and most probably up until forever, he just couldn't really understand how she always looked so obsessed and excitable for anything related to Sannins.

"Well yes, of course! Who wouldn't?" Haruna said breathlessly, "Because they were like, the greatest Ninjas ever in Konoha… what's wrong with becoming a fan? If you read some of the books in the library about the Sannins—oh, by the way, I have read all available books about them in the Library, when will they add some new collection?—you would most certainly be able to fully appreciate all the things that they have done to Konoha, and what impact did they have to Konoha as a whole… Also…"

"Yes, yes, yes, we know that we should read the books!" Ito interrupted Haruna hastily because he got the feeling she would just continue to drabble endlessly if no one's stopping her, "But to have our Jounin like that…" he continued as he ignored Haruna's glare, "It's really surprising isn't it? That our Jounin was a student of one of the Legendary Sannins……"

"To be honest, I am kind of surprised too, when I first heard the news…" Kenji admitted, "I mean, who doesn't know about them? Their feats were legendary, after all…… To think that our Jounin was one of their former students…"

He sighed.

Though he must admit that he—once again—felt so sorely disappointed that a person that was supposed to be taught by one of the legendary Sannins turned out to be a Ninja so irresponsible that he was incapable of respecting an obligation as simple as coming on time. He was actually very excited when he woke up this morning… but now…

…Maybe not so much anymore…

"Hello…? Kenji-kun?" Haruna pressed on, "You haven't answered my question yet! Which one of the Sannins taught our Sensei?"

Kenji lifted both his shoulders.

"I don't know, I forgot to ask," he answered casually, "It doesn't matter anyways, right? Regardless, he should be pretty strong. If we all manage to pass through his examination today, Haruna, you'll be free to bother him anytime you want."

"Oh… that's right……" Haruna's enthusiasm suddenly dwindled down, "That's right. He can only become our Sensei if we are able to get pass his Genin test, right…… If we don't …… we have to return to the Academy for some time…"

She bit her lip, her face looked concerned.

"Okay, now I'm a bit worried…" she mused, "…He's a former student of one of the Legendary Sannins…… I suppose he must have already prepared a super duper difficult test for all of us… I bet he's a strict Jounin with that kind of history under his belt……"

Her expression showed that she was very worried about the prospects of failing.

Ito looked kind of worried too, since what she just said make perfect sense for him. If they fail this inspection, they would only have two similarly undesirable options left: going back to the Academy or just quitting Ninjas altogether…

Kenji, however, did not look that worried. He gave a thought to something for a moment, before saying,

"This might cheer you both up a bit, although I have no means to confirm whether it is true or not," he said, "The people at the Academy also told me that, our Jounin here is supposedly one of the most 'fun' Ninjas out there in Konoha... I suppose…… that's just a way of saying that he is actually the very opposite of strict. Also, we are supposed to be the very first team ever for him to inspect since he got inaugurated as a Jounin…… I've heard that usually first batch of teams get inspected by newly promoted Jounin get some leeway in terms of inspections, or something like that… So…"

He exhaled a long breath.

"You two should just relax and just do your best today," he said casually.

He didn't expect his words could bring so much relief to his team-mates, but apparently they did. Just like that, both Haruna and Ito's faces were freed from most of their worries, and they looked considerably more confident in themselves than before.

"Heehehe…" Haruna smiled appreciatively, "Thank you for the words of encouragement, Kenji-kun."

"Yeah, thanks," Ito too, showed his appreciation.

Kenji suddenly felt a twinge of happiness inside himself, although it happened so suddenly he didn't have enough time to figure what to do with it. In the end, he just looked away from his smiling comrades, his face decorated with a shade of blush.

"…You know, Kenji…… all those things that you told us about the Jounin…" Ito looked like he just realized something important, "They're finely informative and all… but it appears like you left out the one, most crucial information of all…"

"And what's that?" Kenji asked.

"His name." Ito said promptly.

"Oh yeah, that's right…" Haruna clapped her hands together, "You haven't told us his name yet…"

"…His name?" Kenji raised one of his eyebrows—now that he gave it a thought, he hasn't told those two the name of the Jounin yet. For some strange reason, it just slipped through his mind.

…Also, for some strange reason, he seemed to have some difficulty recalling the name of their Jounin. He remembered the people of the Academy told him the name already, but perhaps his euphoria yesterday of being able to finally graduate from the Academy made him less attentive than usual.

He could remember it vaguely though…

"Oh… yeah, his name…" Kenji muttered thoughtfully, "It's…"

…Vaguely…

"If I am not mistaken… it's… um…" his eyebrows were furrowed closer to each other, "…It's… U… something… um…"

"Oh come on!" Haruna insisted.

"It's…"

"Uzumaki Naruto."

Kenji nearly jumped out of sheer surprise, and both Ito and Haruna immediately looked so shocked that they seemed like they could just get a heart attack anytime now.

Because all of a sudden, someone stood behind Kenji, holding his shoulders firmly from behind. It was so sudden, so fast, it felt like one moment nothing was there and then the next moment they blinked… someone… just like that… stood there.

Kenji reflexively jumped forward and quickly turned his body to face the person suddenly appeared from his behind without even the smallest glimpse of warning. He looked positively stupefied to the fact that a person could just suddenly get to his behind without him detecting the approach not even in the slightest bit.

Ito and Haruna just stood there, their faces still enveloped in total shock. "Disbelief" was written all over their faces because unbelievably, it was as if all of a sudden someone just came out from thin air.

Just. Like. That.

It was a truly unbelievable feat for them, but it's the truth, whether they would believe it or not.

The person was there.

Standing.

Smiling.

He's a still relatively young man, perhaps with an age around twenty or so. Tall, with a bright blonde hair that although looked so messy and ruffled at first glance, actually complemented his overall look so well in a way that no other hair styles just could do. He wore the official Jounin outfit, with his Ninja band tied securely not on his forehead like usual, but on his right hand, slightly above his elbow. In his forehead, he wore a red bandanna instead with a yellow colored fire motif spread throughout. Overall, aside from a peculiar white bandage wrapping his left thigh, there was nothing unusual on his overall attire.

He's a relatively handsome young man, though, there's no doubt about that. There's just something in his overall look that's just make it hard for people not to look, and just look, when they caught him in their eyes… and when they did, it's hard to break off... His face looked so playful, but one look at his emerald blue eyes and it felt like anyone could just drown inside the immeasurable depths hidden behind them… Those undoubtedly were the eyes that have felt, seen, and experienced many...

Also, although he radiated such a carefree aura from his overall appearance, one could undoubtedly sense that there's a man behind that playful demeanor that no one would be able to just mess around with carelessly.

…And…

Kenji couldn't explain it well.

It's not that this moment could be classified as his first time ever seeing a Jounin with his own eyes. After all, his parents were also Jounins, and sometimes other Jounins were kind enough to give him some trainings or stuff as some sort of courtesy or nice gestures for his parents.

However, when he looked at this one Jounin standing in front of him… in this one Jounin that made an appearance so shocking Kenji's still unable to calm his heart-beat…

…He felt different somehow.

Like he was staring not just an ordinary Jounin… or an ordinary person, for that matter…

…Like his feelings were telling him that there's more to this man than what he appeared, but for all the things in the world he just couldn't finger what… Like there's something in this Jounin that made him different somehow, but it was hidden under an impenetrable wall… It was obvious, yet at the same time unnoticeable…

...

Naruto just smiled widely.


-Hokage's Office

-Knock-

-Knock-

Kakashi turned his attention away from seeing the view of Konoha through the window in his office to the entrance door.

"Yes," he said shortly, adjusting his Hokage attire.

A woman clad in a formal appearance courteously opened the door and said,

"Excuse me, Hokage-sama," she said politely, "A Jounin by the name of Haruno Sakura-san is here. She said she was summoned by you."

"Oh yes," Kakashi nodded casually, "Let her in."

"Certainly, Sir," the woman nodded, and disappeared again behind the door.

Not long enough, the door was reopened, and this time a different woman came in.

It was Sakura.

"Excuse me," she said politely.

"Sit down, Sakura," Kakashi signaled her, "There's something I need to discuss with you."

Sakura complied, and she sat down promptly on the seat right in front of Kakashi's desk.

It was weird, Kakashi immediately thought inwardly inside his mind. It was weird that they're both now has moved so much forward more than just Sensei-Student anymore. He was appointed Hokage after the previous Hokage, Tsunade, was unfortunately, but nevertheless honorably killed in the all-out battle against the Akatsuki many years ago, a full-scale battle people would refer to as the Legendary War nowadays. At first he hesitated to accept such a grand position, because he felt like he just couldn't handle that big of responsibilities yet. He just felt—lacking.

However, after a lot of thinking, plus a lot of pressure from many of his peers that he should just accept the position since no one was as appropriate as him, he finally succumbed. After all, Konoha needed a new leader lest it would collapse under the threat of disorganization after the extremely massive losses it took because of the Legendary War. He just couldn't say no after practically everyone voted him to sit in the seat of the leader to help set things up. The biggest final push of all, however, came not from his peers or the people of the Village—it came from Naruto. The blonde haired Ninja with a dream to become Hokage someday, one that have pursued that dream in the fiercest possible way since his first inauguration as a Ninja, said that no one but his Kakashi-Sensei should be allowed to take the responsibility of leading the Village after the devastating loss caused by the Legendary War.

It was then that he knew he couldn't avoid the responsibility.

Remarkably, he was able to perform just as fine as his closest Konoha comrades expected. Sure, at first there were some doubts whether the seemingly lax Ninja would be able to handle the burden of leading a nearly collapsed Konoha to the state before the Legendary War, but lo and behold—people calling him a genius was truly an appropriate thing to do. Under his leadership, and the hard-work of many Ninjas that believed in his leadership, the Konoha village was slowly but surely able to prosper again in only a matter of years. Today, many even believed that Kakashi's leadership was even better compared to the Fifth.

As for Sakura that sat in front of him right now…… True to her name, she has blossomed into such a beautiful flower, a true Ninja, the one who always help people, not the one who always became helpless all the time. No longer a Genin that passed out because of a basic Genjutsu anymore, she has made quite a name for herself not only because she's the only true student of the now deceased Fifth Hokage, but also because she's one of the best Medical Ninjas in Konoha, with capabilities many believed could—in the end—even surpass her Mentor, given her still relatively young age. Her Medical Jutsus-know-how contributed greatly to the rebuilding of Konoha post the cataclysmic event of the Legendary War, and there're quite a number of Ninjas out there wouldn't even be able to survive without her. She's now a Jounin, one of the only few that specialized in Medical Jutsus, and a person many would say mostly responsible for the recent sudden surge of people's interest in trying to learn Medical Jutsus. Obviously, she has become a source of inspirations for many to become a Medical Ninja, just in order to become like her.

…Not only that though. As a thing that was perhaps even more important than her transformation from a rookie Genin to an accomplished Jounin, she has transformed from a spoiled young girl into an independent and focused young woman—a beautiful one too, no less. Gone were the days where all she could ever think of was pursuing a selfish love, or accommodating her childish needs. The Sakura that sat in front of Kakashi right now has defeated that side of her a very long time ago, and the current her showed no signs—not even in the slightest bit—of wanting to go back to her former self that only existed in history right now.

…Not many would notice that transformation, however. As one of her closest aides that have been together with her since her childhood days, Kakashi was one of those few who undoubtedly noticed Sakura's shifting—perhaps even dramatic—changes. And that oftentimes sent him a very funny and odd feeling every-time he saw her—how the old days just felt like yesterday, and how he has become a Hokage and she has become a full-fledged Jounin. Sometimes he could still see her as his former student, although perhaps it was more like he still wanted to see her as his former student. He knew that he had to get rid of those feelings now, but somehow he just found himself often unable to do so.

……Aah, the bane of changing times……

"Hokage-sama?"

Sakura's remark snapped Kakashi back into reality. He didn't notice that he was staring at Sakura, almost like he was scrutinizing her.

"…What's wrong?" she asked questioningly, "Are you okay? It's not like you to just daze off like that."

Kakashi shook his head.

"No, its okay…" he said, "Sorry."

He sat down on his chair.

Suddenly, Sakura laughed softly.

"…You know…" she commented, "Even after all these years, it's still really hard for me to call you Hokage-sama… I don't know—I guess I will always still see you as our Kakashi-Sensei no matter what. And that Hokage hat you wear—I still have a hard time getting used to you wearing it."

Kakashi smiled.

"Well, you don't have to be so formal with me, Sakura," he said, "You and Naruto can still call me Kakashi-Sensei if you want to."

"Tempting, but nah," she shook her head, "I don't want people entertain the thought that you as Hokage is playing favorites. I think it would be best if I just train myself in order to get used in calling you Hokage-sama. At the very least when I'm talking with you in the presence of others, or when I'm talking about you with anyone other than Naruto. Although… calling you in that way may prove to be the hardest training of all, mind you."

She laughed again.

Kakashi nodded slightly.

"If that's what you want," he said.

"Anyway, Ka… sorry…, Hokage-sama," Sakura corrected her seating position, "What are you calling me here for?"

Kakashi leaned himself against the back of his chair.

He looked serious.

"Have you seen Naruto around?" he said, "He should already be back right now—I have already received the report of the mission I assigned to him."

"…No…" Sakura mused thoughtfully, "No, I haven't seen him yet. Strange… usually he always said hello to me every time he returned from a mission… Hmm, I wonder what's wrong with him…"

And just like that, she immediately had that worried look on her face.

She did not seem to realizing it herself, but more often than not Kakashi noticed that she's always too quick to jump into worry every time the name Naruto was mentioned along with even the tiniest signs of abnormality. Like she's afraid something could happen to him even though more often than not nothing did actually happen.

"Probably nothing though, you don't have to worry," Kakashi said casually, "Perhaps he just went straight to the Training Ground. Today is supposed to be the day when he inspects a team of freshly graduated Academy students to become Genins. So perhaps he just went there straight after he finished his mission and reports."

"If that's the case, then he should at least get some rest first!" Sakura immediately remarked.

"This is Naruto we're talking about, Sakura," Kakashi stated, "He should be okay."

Sakura sighed.

"……I guess…" she nodded slightly, "Anyway, your reason for calling me here. Is it about something related to Naruto?"

"Yes, but no, not really," Kakashi answered. He leaned forward and interlocked his fingers with one another, using his elbows as support on the table, "I mean, it's actually not about him, but unfortunately whether he likes it or not he must be involved with this one."

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked curiously.

Kakashi opened one of the drawers on his table, and pulled out what appeared to be some sort of a letter. He inspected it for a few seconds, before finally giving the letter to Sakura.

"What's this?" Sakura asked again as she received the letter. It was written in a lavishly decorated piece of paper, a sign of unmistakable importance contained within.

"It's a formal, and personal, request from the Kazekage of the Sand," Kakashi answered, "He said that it would be best for the Leaf to send Naruto, since he's already familiar with the terrains of Sand's territory."

"…You mean Gaara?" Sakura said as she gazed on the letter, "Wow, haven't heard from him from quite some time……"

…Sakura read the letter.

She read on, and on…

Every once in a while she read the letter, her eyes seemed to exhibit a sense of disbelief, and also every once in a while, she gasped, albeit quietly. She seemed very focused as she read the whole letter word by word.

It took her some time, because sometimes she reread what she has already read. Finally though, she carefully folded the letter and gave it back to Kakashi.

"What do you think?" Kakashi asked as he received the letter back from Sakura and returned it to where it was stashed before.

"…Well…" Sakura's voice trailed off for a bit, "It's interesting, undoubtedly… It's a personal request from the Kazekage himself, so it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible, that's to be sure."

"Of course," Kakashi nodded, "And then?"

"…I assume the reason why you called me here right now is so that I can, together with Naruto, be the ones that go there as Konoha's representatives, am I right?" she asked.

"Yes, although for Naruto's case, it is Gaara-kun himself that requested him," Kakashi reminded her, "After all, you two are probably the most knowledgeable Leaf Ninjas in regards to the Sand. It's not an exaggeration to say that most people there even look upon you two with fondness because of what happened back then during the problem with Akatsuki."

"I know, but that's that though…" Sakura responded, "Naruto's an accomplished Jounin right now, Hokage-sama. He handled numerous A and S rank missions already, so why do you feel the need to add me to this mission?"

"You don't want to be together with Naruto for this mission?" Kakashi asked.

"I am not saying that!" Sakura hastily said, her face looked a bit flustered, "It's just that, I feel that my presence there might be unnecessary since Naruto is most probably more than capable to handle this all by his own!"

"True," Kakashi nodded, "…But an extra precaution won't hurt."

"……Extra precaution?" Sakura looked mildly surprised at that sentence.

Kakashi didn't say anything for a while.

Sakura felt like he was not telling her something, but remembering the fact that he's a Hokage right now while she's a Jounin, and also the fact that she just said she didn't want to be treated differently by him, she decided to just stay quiet in the end.

After all, she figured that since it's about Naruto, if she truly deserved to know, Kakashi would have told her already…

"…Never mind that," Kakashi shook his head casually, "So, what are you going to say? Will you accept?"

Sakura gave it a thought for a moment. Although she said all what she just said, in truth, she would be more than happy to take a mission together with Naruto. Ever since they both became Jounin, both have been busy with their own businesses that they rarely could spend time together outside of formal Ninja affairs. They rarely ever spent time as a team together again, like they used to be when they were Genins and Chuunins, doing missions side by side…

She wasn't entirely sure why, but she missed the days where she could tackle a mission together with him, when she could work together with him. She also missed the times when she could just…

…Fool around with him or something…

"……Okay, then," Sakura nodded her head, "What about Sai? Can he join us too?"

"I suppose that can be arranged," Kakashi nodded his head, "I'll send someone to tell him. I am sure he'll accept. However, that's all that I can spare for this request—the rest of the Jounins unfortunately have already taken other assignments."

"We three should be more than enough," Sakura said happily—her together with Naruto and Sai in a team would be like old times, "…But oh, Hokage-sama. I have one request, if I may."

"What's that?"

For some reason, Sakura looked a bit nervous. She was fidgeting a little.

"I know before I said that this thing needs to be addressed as quickly as possible," she said, "But unfortunately, since this is so sudden, I have to finish a lot of important things first back at the Konoha Hospital. So, is there any chance that we might just go to the Sand, like, the very first thing tomorrow morning, perhaps? Instead of today? We should still be able to arrive in Sand before the required time anyway."

Kakashi looked at her directly. For a moment or two, he didn't say anything, although behind his mask he formed an appreciative smile.

"Gaara-kun didn't mention in his letter that we should send someone today, per se," he responded, "So yes, I suppose, we could do that. That way, Naruto could get some rest too, while he's at it."

"Yes, yes, that's correct," Sakura nodded—a bit too hasty to be considered natural, but Kakashi was willing to just let it slide.

Sakura stood up.

"Is that all?" she said.

Kakashi nodded.

"Well then, I'll go find Naruto…" she said, "I also need to taking care some businesses at the Konoha Hospital, since this is so urgent. If you'll excuse me, Hokage-sama."

Kakashi nodded again.

He didn't say anything else when he watched Sakura turned to the door, opened the door, exited the room, closed the door behind her, and altogether vanished from his view.

For some reason, suddenly he looked even more serious than before.

Once again, he pulled one of the drawers on his table, and pulled something out from there.

This time it was a piece of white paper, with many difficult-looking numbers and symbols written all over it.

He looked at the top most writing at that paper with a very serious look on his face.

It said,

"REPORTS OF UZUMAKI NARUTO"

TO BE CONTINUED