The Calling is the sequel to The Awakening. I greatly suggest reading The Awakening if you have not or just skim it over if you have.
On the first day, she was anxious.
Haruno Sakura had always been used to rejection and ill-fated farewells. Never once had she necessarily embraced this fate, but it was what she was dealt albeit she wasn't sure how to play the cards laid in front of her. Unbidden and entirely unneeded situations were something that she knew she would always find herself in no matter how hard to she tried to keep out of it. It always seemed to find her. And just when she had finally thought that she had said goodbye to her last headache, she realized that goodbyes were never final and fate had a funny way of sneaking up behind you and pushing you in a new direction, not caring if the results would end up forgiving.
It was no surprise that she had gone back to her normal life, though she would never mark it as such. Sparring with Naruto still deemed to be challenging although she was getting close to gaining the half-inch in step and finally sending that punch right in the gut. Though when she fought, she thought not of the person who was really standing in front of her. More or less, she picked someone to direct her aggression towards and usually the victims remained the same—both of them being Uchihas. Long, hard hours at the hospital further increased her skill with controlling her chakra, though it was already close to perfect. But, she understood perfection was not something to try to reach for perfection did not exist and what good was it to chase something that didn't exist? It was foolish to say the least.
Unfortunately, she was a fool.
For so long she had chased after Uchiha Sasuke and tried to catch the feeling of love and embed it deeply within her so that she could channel into it whenever she needed that last bit of reassurance. For so long she had strived to become the ultimate candidate to stay at his side and fight as an equal. For so long she didn't even care if he didn't see her as an equal. She wanted him no matter the conditions. And pathetically, she still did. Though she couldn't forget about the elder brother. No, something about him still plagued her thoughts like an unwanted white elephant. She couldn't quite label it love. No, it definitely didn't meet the criteria. But if not love, then what? Perhaps she would settle with attraction. Or maybe just interest. Yes, interest was safer.
"You understand the mission then?" the Hokage asked from behind her desk, picking at her nails with a bored expression. Sakura, across from her, nodded dutifully.
"Yes," she whispered, further reassuring her knowledge of the plan for the days to come.
"Good," Tsunade grunted, looking from her nails to the pink-haired girl in front of her. "It shouldn't be too difficult. Naruto can go with you, but I'm sorry to say that he will have to leave to take care of some other business."
"I'll be fine," Sakura replied, fully confident. She certainly possessed enough skill to break down walls. Finding her way back to Konoha would be a breeze.
"I know you will," the Hokage answered, sending a sad smile Sakura's way. "I just feel sort of mean for sending you on such an easy mission like this. We both know you deserve more."
Sakura had thought she had moved on from delivery missions a few years ago and yet here she was about to embark on one, though she couldn't put any sort of blame on the Hokage. Even Tsunade could sense the strange mood set deep into Sakura's current personality. She was sure anyone could, now that she really thought about it. Tsunade opened a drawer dramatically, letting it bang as she pulled it. With the click of her tongue, she retrieved the scroll, handing it over to Sakura.
"I'll take whatever I can get," Sakura answered as she took the scroll, sending a shrug towards her mentor. "I just need to get back into the swing of things."
"I like that," the Hokage said with a smile, pouring herself a glass of sake. She lifted it too her smiling lips and took a delicate sip. She laughed, shoulders lifting. "Back into the swing of things."
It sounded just as good to Sakura.
She twirled the ring in her hand and wondered if she had ever felt a ring weigh this heavy. Her finger lightly grazed over the kanji that contrasted greatly with the red background, but at the same time, blended so well. The colors associated with different things in her life. Blood. Tomatoes. Eyes. Brothers. Though her lips should have curved down, a small smile fanned itself over dry lips, a small shake of a laugh moving over her.
It was ironic almost, or maybe just a cruel teasing done by nothing other than fate who had taken a liking to messing with her. She had found it lying lonely under the chair she had fanned the cloak over, and figured that it must have been hidden in it, falling out just for her to retrieve. And every night since she had noticed it, she continued to partake in a sort of ritual, though thinking of it as such made her stomach turn. She still held that small section of his cloak, rubbing the red cloud with her thumb as she spent her sleepless nights in bed. But the ring had been added to this and before she would shuffle to bed, she would crouch by the wooden chair and inspect the ring, looking to see if anything had changed. And night after night, she saw that nothing had, and she would carefully set the ring in its proper place, which was the only area not covered in dust under the chair. It was unnerving to say the least. But the nights went by and her interest disintegrated. The last couple of weeks, it had sat underneath that chair alone, forgotten.
But now she held it in her hand during the day, the sunlight making the red of the ring sparkle dangerously. She had finally taken a wet rag and ran it underneath he chair, wiping away the dust and old memories, lifting the ring to get it out of her way. Now as she glanced down at it, she tilted her head. It was virtually useless to her, but for some reason, she didn't want to throw it away. Again, she was interested. What would she do with it while she was away for the mission? She figured it would be safer sitting in its designated spot underneath the wooden chair, but there was that prickle of curiosity—the one that usually got her into a lot of trouble. She pocketed it quickly with a jump as it almost fell out of her hands when someone had knocked on the door loudly.
"Naruto," she greeted with a sincere smile after opening the door to reveal her light-hearted friend. He grinned back, stepping into her apartment as she moved aside. He scratched his chin thoughtfully as they settled in the living room, old couches giving way as they sat.
"Excited for the mission, huh?" he asked, wiggling his eyebrows as though he were suggesting something else. She laughed, shaking her head.
"It's just to deliver a scroll," she replied, shrugging her shoulders.
"Deliver a scroll!" he said as he leaned forward, eyes wide. She smiled wide, biting her lower lip in an attempt not to laugh. "Sakura if there's anyone that can do it, it's you!"
"Nice try, Naruto," she sighed. "It's not big, but you know, that's okay."
"Sure it is," he agreed, nodding his head. "You've been working so hard at the hospital that it'll be good for you to get out and do something different for a change."
She nodded, a content look thinning out over her lips. "How about your mission?"
"Confidential," he said with a wink. "You know how that goes."
But really, she didn't. Her last mission that had been confidential was so long ago that she could barely remember it. Her training nowadays relied so heavy on her medical abilities that her skills were needed in the hospital and occasionally for research. She missed that secret feeling of selfishly enjoying the fact that she had something to do alone and that it was covert to the rest of the world.
"Well," he said, continuing as he slapped his knees to catch Sakura's attention, "the reason I came here is to ask you if you wanted to get some ramen. Kakashi-sensei said he'd meet us there."
"Yeah, sure," she said, nodding as a large grin spread over her face, cheeks lifting back to their jolly form. He sat up and she perked up instantly, holding a finger up. "Let me go grab a sweater."
Before Naruto had the chance to say anything, she disappeared into her room. She grabbed a sweater from the floor and made her way back into the living room. Naruto was already waiting by the door, hands in his pockets.
"Sakura, I don't think you need that sweater," he said, eyebrow lifting at her. "If you haven't noticed, it's hot out. It's been hot out."
"Oh," she said, looking down to the sweater in her hands. She shrugged, throwing the sweater on the couch in the living room behind them.
"Where have you been lately?" he asked with a smile on his face, opening the door for her. She smiled genuinely at him before exiting her apartment. They both walked away from her apartment and she shrugged, smile on her face.
"I don't know, but I'm coming back."
Idly, she swirled her ramen, eyes staring straight at the eye that was closed off to her and the rest of the world. Naruto had been talking in the background and every now and then she would give him a small nod, allowing him to continue further. Their lazy teacher wasn't particularly listening; rather, he found his attention focused on his book. Sakura, being so used to this simple fact, continued to stare at his covered eye, not looking away when she brought some ramen to her mouth.
Something bumped into her shoulder and her arm knocked against the ramen in front of her, spilling some small spurts everywhere. Jumping, she turned to what had hit her and found a nervous looking blonde-haired boy next to her, smiling sheepishly.
"Whoops," he murmured, scratching the back of his head. She tried to wipe the food off her forearm, glancing up at Kakashi to notice that he was looking at her, bored expression on his face. "It's just that you were staring, Sakura," Naruto continued, mouth tilting in contemplation as he looked to Kakashi.
"No, I wasn't," Sakura replied quickly, shaking her head.
"Yes you were!" Naruto persisted, pointing at Kakashi.
She looked up at Kakashi, who continued to look at her with drooped eyes. His gaze had proved to be very penetrating despite the relaxing look. "I wasn't looking at you," she said, shaking her head again as if it would better help her argument. His eyebrow lifted, book still held in his hands. "I was looking at…your book."
"My book?" Kakashi asked, finally speaking.
"His book?" she heard Naruto ask behind her.
She nodded and shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah. You know, his book."
The air filled with an awkward silence and she laughed, perhaps thinking it could lighten the mood. She watched her former teacher with a weary eye as he shifted in his seat, turning to look straight at her with his one uncovered eye. He lifted his book up and let it fall shut. Slowly, it moved towards her and she could do nothing but stare at it in a sort of shock.
She was sure if Naruto hadn't been so shocked he would have asked why she would want it in the first place. It must have been a trick. It had to be. She looked back to the elder's face, scanning it for any doubts. But she had found none and with that, she brought her eyes back to the book.
"I have another copy of this volume at home," he explained, shrugging only slightly. She reached her hand up, pausing before her fingers touched the cover. When she looked up at him, his eyebrows were slanted, his cheeks lifted as if she were to pull his mask aside, she would end up finding a smirk. "If you really want it, Sakura, you can have it."
Quickly so as to not second-guess herself, she snatched it out of his hands, rolling it tightly into her own. She stood quickly, looking to Naruto.
"I'll see you later," she murmured, nervously moving the small book from one hand to the other. "I need to go clean before we leave."
The book felt wrong in her hands, almost as if it were forbidden. She walked to her apartment with quick, graceful steps, stuffing the key into the lock hole when she had reached her door. Once inside, she threw the book and her keys on the counter of her kitchen, running her hair through her fingers with a large sigh.
She was excited.
For what, she didn't quite know. The mission, she figured, was making her anxiousness—perhaps because it would be the first in a while. It was a simple mission, one she had done in the past, but one loses certain talents if one does not use them. It was a silly thought, but what if she were to fail? She fell onto her couch, arms stretched over her head. What if she could not complete something that was considered simple? She watched the small speckles of dust in the air shine in the sunlight, following them with her eyes as they floated past each other. They bumped into each other, each going their separate way.
And as her eyes slowly closed, she couldn't help but be saddened at the thought that life was moving too fast and if she didn't catch on quick, she'd be watching it go.
She woke with a start, neck cracking painfully as her headshot up.
Her hair was a mess, eyes swollen with fatigue. She had looked to the door, a loud banging filled her ears. Once she heard the person say her name, she sighed heavily, gathering herself up from the couch. She glanced quickly at her window, noticing that night had taken over, the sky was dark, and she was sure that if the lights of the village weren't so bright, that she would see the stars shining brightly, giving her some ray of hope.
She opened the door reluctantly, feeling groggier as the man on the other side gave her smile. "Naruto."
"Sakura!" he greeted, pushing past her to enter her apartment. His hands were placed proudly on his sides as he glanced around. "I thought you were going to clean."
Sakura stood behind him, closing the door. Her eyes, however, were on her apartment, which should have been renamed a disaster zone. There were different clothes strewn around the living room, a big pile of dishes loitered in the sink in the kitchen. She shrugged as she stepped next to him. "Yeah, me too."
"Well, let's go!" he said as he clapped his hands together, rubbing them with excitement.
"Now?" she asked incredulously.
"When'dja think?" he asked. She walked further into her cramped apartment, brushing her hair from her face. "It's a little past nine. It's cooler to travel at night. We'll keep going until about midnight, then set up camp."
"We can't go now," she argued, turning back to him, shaking her head lightly. "I was planning on taking a shower, packing some extra things."
"No time, Sakura," Naruto insisted, shaking his head back at her. "Grab whatever you can. We need to go. The rest of my team is waiting by the gates."
With a grumble, she entered into her room, grabbing some shirts from her drawers and stuffing them in a bag. She proceeded to fill it with skirts and shorts and some food pills, grabbing the scroll from her nightstand and placing it safely inside. She reappeared in the living room, trying her best not to direct her annoyance at Naruto who was waiting innocently by the door. She moved to her kitchen counter, pushing her apartment keys into her bag along with the book that she was too lazy to move.
"Ready?" he asked, opening the door with a sad smile.
She sighed, grinning at him as she rolled her eyes. "As ready as I'll ever be."
The tent was stuffy, the humid air greatly contributing to this. They had nearly reached the border of Rain and already she could feel the rain clouds looming overhead, bringing gloom and desperation. Had she felt more energized, she figured she would have further pondered this feeling, maybe even begin to analyze while she stared straight up at nothing, lying in the small tent with Naruto snoring loudly beside her.
She shifted, turning onto her side. When she did this, something sharp dug into her hipbone, making her turn onto her back once more with a scowl. After reaching down to her pocket, she immediately felt what was causing this, and she took it into her fingers, squinting to try and see the ring in the dark. She had forgotten that she had stuffed it into her pocket, but it certainly didn't mind resurfacing again, just to remind her that it was always there.
She thought she was seeing things when she saw a light blink for a split second. Sitting up, back facing her blonde-haired friend, she stared at the ring closer. And there it was again. For a split second, the ring flashed. A few seconds later, it happened again. When she heard Naruto shift beside her, she smothered the ring in her hand, turning slightly to acknowledge him as he yawned.
"Yes, Naruto?" she asked quickly with a sharp whisper.
She twisted fully to look at him, soft eyes scanning his drooping, tired expression. He looked around the small tent, blinking only once. She lifted her eyebrows expectantly, but he did nothing but fall back onto his sleeping bag, turning away from her.
"Never mind," he yawned. "Just seeing things."
She nodded, looking back at her clenched hands around the ring. Once she heard his breathing regulate, she unclenched her hand, waiting for the blinking light. When it happened, she wasn't quite sure how to feel. But something was happening and it was not to be ignored.
The Callings had begun.
Something was happening.
Her instinct was itching in the back of her head, trying to warn her of events about to happen. The sky was growing dark, the humid air made her forehead sleek with sweat. She glanced around the area, finding it very hard to do so with the thick fog clinging onto everything so tightly and desperately that it strung her feelings of anxiousness even higher for she felt that she was losing her grip on the reality around her. The tips of her pink hair were already brown with dirt that was turning into a muddy mixture from the moisture nearly drowning her. She heard a rustling beside her and for a minute, she felt time skip because suddenly someone was in front of her. In the back of her mind, she could heard the faint sound of bells ringing.
It felt unreal.
Her eyes first landed on his feet, scanning slowly to catch a cloudy glimpse of red. She squinting, trying to see through the fog. The figure was so dark, so looming that she stepped back. And she knew that she was in trouble when the figure titled his straw hat up and revealed his red eyes.
Rich, deep, red eyes.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Review?