All was still with the exception of the soft winds blowing by. The town of Konoha was gathered around a small rock which served as a memorial to all the brave shinobi who had lost their lives for the sake of the village. It was sunset, the skies filled with dark red and purple smudges with the odd bird or two that flew across the scene. The people had their heads bowed low and remained silent.
It was August 23rd.
The Godaime appeared in front of the crowd, her eyes soft and pained for a change. She greeted the people formally, "People of Konoha, we are gathered here today as a commemoration of the lives that have been lost to protect our village. Five years ago, we faced the greatest threat this town has seen since the attack of the Kyuubi. Five years ago, we lost over 200 people. Five years on, we continue to live, grow and expand. It is thanks to these lives, and the lives of all the other Konoha shinobi who live and have lived to protect Konoha." She spoke with authority and certainty and held a posture of power.
Obviously the people agreed, considering that they were nodding and had determination as well as pride in their eyes. In a single file, the people took it in turns to place flowers on the rock as tribute to the lives that had been lost for them.
About an hour and a half had passed and most of the crowd had dwindled to about 20 people. They had begun talking amongst themselves, some reminiscing, others gossiping and chatting away.
There was one more person in the crowd that had yet placed down a flower.
Wearing his usual bright orange and black jumpsuit, he knelt down on one knee and ran his thumb over an engraved name. He gave a bittersweet smile.
"Hi Sakura-chan, still missing you. It's been five years now, but you know what, sometimes, I feel like you're still here." He placed a waterlily on top of the bed of flowers that were placed by all the people, "Who would have thought that flowers have different meanings? I can't believe you've sat through all the crap that Ino's taught me. Anyway, this kinda stood out, the waterlily, purity of heart. You weren't perfect, hell you were no angel either. But you were as pure as you could get."
He sat a good few moments before he was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. Naruto turned to face the owner of the hand and recognised Tsunade. She observed him and his matured features with a gentle smile.
"It's getting dark, the festivities begin tomorrow" she stated.
Naruto nodded, "He didn't show again."
"He's never come before, what makes you think this time is any different?" She replied with a rhetorical question. The blonde boy of 22 scoffed, "He comes every other fucking day, but he goes off during the time that's actually for set for remembering. That's the teme for you!"
The Ichiraku was bursting with people. Decorations hung on the walls and ceilings, performers dancing and singing, and families laughing and spending time together. Among the crowd was a blonde haired ninja with his white eyed girlfriend sitting in a private booth. She was smiling, a tint of pink in her cheeks at something Naruto had said.
"Okay Hinata-chan, what is it?" Naruto suddenly said, completely changing the mood. Subtle changes in her behavior as the night continued had alerted him that something was definitely in her mind.
"I-i don't know what you're talking about Naruto-kun" she responded meekly. She didn't want to spoil their evening together. They had been together for two years now, however, ever since Hinata was elected into the Council, they had seen each other a lot less, especially with Naruto out on ANBU missions. Naruto raised his brows at her blatant lie. Hinata sighed softly, knowing she had been caught out and continued, "I realize this isn't the best of times for this, but the council is getting restless. The Godaime chose you, if you don't accept the hokage title, I'm afraid they will attempt to appoint someone else-" the annoyed look that appeared on his face saddened her, and she grasped his hands in hers, while adding softly, "Naruto-kun, you're whole life you've wanted to prove yourself and be recognized as the hokage. Now that it's within you're grasp, you're putting it off. I don't understand."
Looking back up into her eyes, Naruto explained, "I'm not ready I guess. Ever since five years ago, our team changed. Especially Sasuke. We don't hang out anymore because it reminds us, and frankly remembering hurts.
"As the Rokudaime, there will definitely be no way that we'll go back to the way we were. We'll be in different worlds. I just want Team Seven to go on one last mission together, like how we used to, as a final tribute to her." Naruto found himself answering truthfully, despite how he usually would evade the topic. At his answer, Hinata's hands moved to cup his face and pulled him into a kiss on the lips.
"I love you," she whispered softly.
She was twirling the contents of the wine glass, watching intently. Red wine was a movement away from her usual sake. Shizune entered the room, bowing and addressing her before moving to sit on the chair across from her desk.
"I don't think she realized just how much he needed her," Tsunade sighed, still watching her glass of wine. Shizune remained silent, knowing her shishou always got this way when this time of year came.
During this time, she would reflect on everything, Dan, Nawaki, Jiraiya, Sakura, Naruto - everyone and everything.
There was always the issue of her conflicting loyalties. Upholding her word and watching how her silence wounded another was increasingly becoming harder, and as another year passed, her resolve fell just a little bit more.
The door to her office slid open to reveal a tall shinobi, dressed in appropriate Jounin uniform. Underneath his green vest, he wore a black top, and loose pants with white bindings. It was Sasuke, looking ready to leave on a mission.
"Give me a mission" He demanded.
Tsunade appeared annoyed, she leaned back on her chair and looked away from him "It's Remembrance Week. There are no missions." She stated carelessly. She snuck a glance at him and saw how he wasn't phased by her words. It happened every year afterall.
Tsunade sighed. "Along the northern borders of the Fire Country, I heard there was a rogue ninja scaring off a few people-" she was cut off by her sliding doors closing. The space Sasuke occupied was empty.
Shizune looked surprised, "Tsunade-sama!"
It didn't take long to reach his destination. With the hidden waterfall village was less than a day away, Sasuke knew he was where he needed to be. Sasuke scanned the dense foliage surrounding him.
He'd heard about the rogue ninja. Some of the common villagers had complained about being scared off by this ninja who would interfere with their trading patterns with the Waterfall.
Sasuke continued north, keeping east of the waterfall village. With a swift whir, three shuriken grazed past his face from his right. His eyes bled red in attempt to locate his attacker.
A teenaged male with green eyes and red hair stood on the branches of a particularly large tree. He was dressed in light leather, equipped with several weapons strapped to his body. He switched his sharingan off.
Sasuke smirked and threw a handful of kunai at his target. The teenager dodged, and retaliated with his own swarm of kunai, exploding tags attached. Sasuke blinked out of sight with his speed but was greeted with a fan of shuriken flying toward him when he reappeared.
He flipped backward to avoid the weapons. With a few hand seals, the teenager multiplied into three and was once again coming at Sasuke. The taijutsu bout left Sasuke victorious, and the clones popped out of existence. The original target had landed on his feet but Sasuke was already coming at him.
The redhead did a few hand seals, and dug his hands in the ground yelling "Doton: Doruko Gaeshi!" Seeing the rock wall, Sasuke blinked out of sight and reappeared behind his opponent attacking with "Katon: Goukakyou no Jutsu!"
Sasuke at that moment saw red eyes with two black circles and was momentarily surprised. Copying his hand seals, his attacker returned his fire jutsu and Sasuke dodged. Another sharingan user?
Sasuke's eyes turned mangekyou, now being careful. His opponent wasn't very strong, but the charka patterns he saw indicated he didn't waste charka, he could control that quite well. He was most likely genin level, or even low chuunin at most. The intriguing point was the sharingan. Since the clan's massacre, he had known of only four other sharingan users, two of which were dead, and the other two being Kakashi and himself.
Sasuke lunged at his opponent again, the force of his kick sending the foe flying at a tree. There was a pop and where the red haired teenager was now stood a young boy with spiky ebony hair and green eyes. He was holding a transformation jutsu throughout the fight.
The boy looked unphased and was about to attack Sasuke again, but Sasuke just caught his attack.
"What's a kid like you going around starting fights in this area for?" Sasuke asked staring at the boy who stood at about a third of this full height.
"What, you're going to stop fighting me just because I'm a kid!?" the boy yelled, freeing himself from Sasuke and trying to attack again.
"Woah, easy. Truce okay?" Sasuke surrendered holding up his hands. He was fighting a child! The boy couldn't be more than four or five years of age. "I was just sent here to investigate some rogue ninja stirring up some trouble. I'm from the leaf village" Sasuke explained pointing to his forehead protector.
The boy's face changed from angry to thoughtful but still untrusting. "Who are you?"
"I'm Sasuke, who are you?" Sasuke introduced himself, having no intention to fight a child. He held out his hand for the child to shake. The child gladly reciprocated, as if happy to be treated as an adult.
"I'm Hisoka!" the child answered cheerily.
The sudden change in the boy's attitude surprised Sasuke, but found himself relieved that he was no longer on hostile terms.The fact that this child was attacking people randomly without knowledge of their capabilities was dangerous. Had someone of Sasuke's level challenged this boy at full strength, he could have lost his life. Beyond the trees, the orange was merging with the purple of the sky indicating sunset. Hisoka seemed to notice this and got a bit edgy.
"Uh oh, I'm gonna be late," Hisoka muttered, turning to face behind him, "Hey Sasuke, would you like to come to dinner?" he asked full of innocence, previous fight forgotten. Sasuke agreed, curious to about the identity of the child's mother. Perhaps a few Uchihas had left Konoha before the massacre.
The boy led Sasuke deeper into the forest, and it became apparent that Hisoka was starting fights to keep people away from his home. Not too much further away he saw lights coming from a small cottage, and he could smell fresh cooking. Hisoka's face brightened when he saw it and sped up his pace, "Kaa-san, sorry I'm late, I brought someone to dinner!" he called out.
Sasuke followed the child to the entrance of the boy's home and came face to face with a woman.
Black eyes met green.
Until next time ;)