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Prelude

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Ino giggled as she sipped her frappe, relishing the taste and the sight of the most handsome hunk on a stool in front of them.

"He's Uchiha Sasuke, the piano prodigy who graduated from our academy last year." Sakura said, poking Ino's arm as she whispered not-so-quietly.

"Shouldn't he be in France performing concerts or something?" Ino giggled, "what's he doing in lil ol' Mudemy?"

Mudemy was the nickname of one of the most prodigious music academies in the whole world. Getting into the academy was hard, only a handful could get into this fine academy. Being successful after graduating was another story. Almost all of the graduates became successful professionals.

Uchiha Sasuke was no exception. Born from a musical family, fate seemed to have blessed him with intelligence, exceptional ability to play the piano and good looks.

"Haven't you heard?!" Sakura exclaimed, causing a few customers to look at in the direction of the two girls. "He's here because of his debut concert. He's looking for a partner in his fourth piece! It is a duet, and what better place to find his partner than his old academy where all the talented are gathered!"

"A trip to France, a gorgeous guy sitting close to you while playing the piano…. WHERE DO I SIGN UP?!" yelled Ino.

:x:

Several days later Sakura and Ino jumped up and down nervously as they waited for their turn to audition.

"Do you really think we will have a chance?" Ino said as she scrutinized her fellow rivals. All of them winners of various piano competitions, just sitting next to them made Ino feel as small as an ant.

"Relax, we will do fine." Sakura encouraged. "Let's do our best, okay?" Sakura held out her pinky.

"Okay," Ino promised hooking her pinky on.

"Contestant No.45 please come into the auditorium.

"Best of luck," Ino called out after Sakura as left her seat and headed into the smoke-free auditorium. Sakura waved back in response.

Inside, as Sakura walked down the steps to the centre where the grand piano stood, she stared panicking.

I can't do this!

As she reached the last step, she looked up to see Uchiha Sasuke in all his glory sitting behind a table.

"The name's Sakura is it?"

Sakura made a muffling noise.

"Play anything you want, show off your best skills. You will be notified by tomorrow if you are in the call-backs."

Sakura nodded nervously.

"When you're ready." Sasuke said formally.

Sakura took a deep breath and began to play.

"How was it?" Ino asked as she high-fived Sakura on the palm.

"It was awesome," Sakura said with a grin on her face, "I'll definitely be in the call-backs for tomorrow." Sakura's faced suddenly went sombre. "You better step up a notch if you have any hopes of beating me."

Ino seemed to sense the seriousness in her voice and hardened her tone in turn, "I will not loose to you, Sakura."

"No. 52, please go to the auditorium."

Ino left her seat and entered the auditorium; no words of encouragement left Sakura's mouth.

Ino walked slowly down the steps, savoring Uchiha Sasuke's full attention on her.

"The name's Ino," she said confidently. She took a moment to admire the Uchiha's choice of attire. It was a cream colored collar shirt that was classical yet stylish.

Sasuke took a moment to readjust his seat before beckoning her to the piano.

"When you are ready," he said.

Ino picked her favorite piece, Blumenlied by Lange. It was probably simple compared to all the other complex pieces others have played. But she knew she could never win in the technique department, but she could make up for what she lost in her showmanship section.

Her fingers lightly touching the piano keys, she commenced playing.

Ino thought she was flying as she played the piece, each note, a brush stroke of a masterpiece.

A flower happily swayed in the breeze peacefully, however without warning a storm brew, the wind blew relentlessly, merciless trying to rob the flower of its beauty. However as abruptly as the storm started, it ended. The flower was peaceful blowing in a soft breeze. In the final movement; the sun came out vibrantly through the clouds giving life to the flower. Dew drops slid from its petals and onto the moist ground...

When the piece ended, Ino heard Sasuke clear his throat. "Thank you," he said emotionlessly. "Callbacks are on tomorrow at three."

"So how did it go?" Sakura said, sipping her frappe while sucking her cheeks simultaneously; she had to look good by the time Sasuke picked her for his partner!

"Wonderful," Ino said to Sakura dreamily. "He told me the call-backs were on tomorrow at three."

"He said what?!" Sakura exclaimed. "Are you sure you didn't imagine he said that?"

Ino absent-mindedly stirred salt into her coffee, "maybe…"

She was too infused to notice Sakura's eyes darting left and right. Measuring, calculating and planning.

:x:

"My name's not there!" the girl screamed before collapsing onto the floor sobbing.

"That's too bad, now move out of the way, loser." a high-heeled leather boot kicked at the direction of the girl. It would have connected to her head if the sobbing girl was kicked aside by mobs of swarming hopefuls. Most were disappointed their shoulders sagged dejectedly as they realized their names were not on the list.

High-heeled leather boots smiled as she saw her name at the top of the list. Obviously it meant that she was the first one she picked. She picked her cigarette out of her mouth and dragged it along the list, they didn't need to know if they got in or not. They weren't going to get picked anyways, Uchiha Sasuke was definitely going to choose her!

As expected of Sasuke-sama.

Uchiha Sasuke infamous for his looks and piano skills was also renowned for one more thing. And that was his brutality. Within the 128 that auditioned only 4 remained.

"MeReow" Ino pretended to be a cat swiping her paws at Sakura as she gestured to the red head who had stubbed her cigarette on the call backs list. "That is what I call a first-class bitch. It's a good thing we looked at the list before-hand or we would have never known we had got in."

Sakura nodded, "Her name's Karin, a senior, like us. She's been overseas until this year. I heard she won many competitions overseas and is really good. She has a good chance in becoming Sasuke's duet partner… You know I wouldn't mind if either of us got the part, but I would hate it if she's the one who won. Just look at her…" She half hid behind Ino.

Karin at that moment looked over in the two girls' direction. When she caught the girls staring at her she made the rudest gesture she could with her hands. Ino gasped and indignantly began striding over to the girl.

"Stop," Sakura said, dragging Ino's arm in the opposite direction. "Let's settle this in the auditions."

Ino lifted her nose haughtily and huffed. Then she turned to Sakura, "Fine, but we HAVE to beat her."

Sakura turned back to look at the red-head.

She better not wreck my performance.

:x:

"Here's to getting into the finals!" Ino and Sakura clinked their mugs of beer. They were in their favourite bar, Tanuki.

"Hey… Isn't that Karin?!" Sakura said, squinting at a red-head a few tables away.

"Why it is!" Ino shouted. "KARIN! GET YOUR ASS HERE RIGHT NOW!"

"What are you doing?" Sakura screamed at her blonde friend. "Don't tell me you plan to sabotage her chance of winning by giving her a hangover!"

"Hmmmm," Ino thought. "As a matter of fact. I think I shall do that. Ne, Sakura." Ino's eyes glinted evilly as she concocted a plan for revenge. "Help me do this."

"I still don't feel right doing this," Sakura moaned. The red head hung limply between her and Ino's shoulder.

"It's not like we are going to kill her or something. We're just booking a room for her in a far, far away hotel…"

"And leaving her there so she won't be able to make it to the exam." Sakura finished glumly for her.

"I'm a genius!" Ino proclaimed. "But who would have thought that Karin would oh-so-foolishly oblige and binge drinking?" Ino whistled. "She chugged it down like water!"

Sakura was about to reply when they stepped inside the hotel. "We booked a room reserved under the name Karin?"

"What is her last name?" the receptionist asked politely, though it was early in the morning and she was getting tired.

"Ria," Sakura said, thinking back to when she impersonated Karin.

"Ah yes," the receptionist said politely. "Your room is the penthouse 568. Enjoy your stay."

As the three girls reached the elevator Ino asked Sakura, "why did you choose the penthouse?"

Sakura grinned evilly. "If she were to wake up early we would not want her to have sufficient money to pay for the penthouse and travel all the way back to Mudemy."

Ino smirked back at Sakura as she inserted the key into the key-hole revealing a luxurious living area. "Why, how fast you are learning my dear Sakura."

:x:

Sunlight streamed into a window, inside laid a figure snoring as comfortably as they could be on the floor in their own vomit.

Slowly, the figure aroused from its slumber, Karin blinked the last traces of sleep from her dropping eyes. She wasn't so comfortable anymore. As she tried to sit up a searing pain forced her back down again. Karin groaned as she licked her dry lips. Which wasn't a particularly wise thing to do as it still had the taste of vomit on it.

Yes, a classic hangover. Karin forced herself to sit up and crawl to the bathroom. She needed to take a shower. As she turned the faucet on water drenched her clothes, but she didn't care, all she cared about was getting the smell off… She lifted her face to the nozzle, the water was calming and soothing, like music.

Music….

Karin shrieked. Without even bothering to dry herself, she ran out of the hotel room.

"Excuse me Miss Ria! Miss Ria!" The receptionist called as she hailed after Karin who was running down the hotel steps.

"What?!" Karin hissed. She was late!

"You have to pay for you hotel fee." the receptionist said, shrinking back from the smell.

"How much is it?" Karin said, impatiently tipping out all the cash in her pocket. Perhaps that was an overstatement. To rephrase, Karin took out a single coin out of her pocket. The receptionist frowned at Karin. Karin had the grace to blush, she must have looked like a mad women there and then. She wrote her account number details to the receptionist ensuring, that her Swiss bank account was authentic and ran out of the hotel without a single look back.

Karin had no idea what time it was. It occurred to her that she should have asked the receptionist, but she was too hurried to think of small things like that. However what she did know was that it was sometime in the early afternoon as the sun was shining brightly glaring at her.

She looked at her surroundings and found them unfamiliar in all aspects.

Where the hell am I?

Then she saw something that made her blood run cold then boil. In the distance the Mudemy's clock tower began to strike two. Karin squinted into the sunlight. The clock tower was nothing but a small stick in the distance. Moreover it was over the sea. Turning to the left she glanced at the signpost it said.

Fresh Rocher Hot-dogs!

Karin seethed despite her stomach growling at the prospect of food. Rocher was two HOURS by car away from the music academy! Karin stamped her foot in annoyance. Somehow she had been tricked into a trap and someone, somewhere was laughing at her foolishness. Karin gritted her teeth.

They will pay.

Karin walked along the harbour. There was only one thing to do. In some ways she was horrified at the prospect of hitching a ride. Since the day she was born she had always never ran out of money. Now she had not a single dime on her. (Karin spent her last coins on a hot-dog, coke and some breath mints). She lingered along the ferry's entrance, close enough so that the ticket officers could see her but far away enough not to arouse suspicion. She squinted at the coke bottle she had inconspicuously chucked up the ferry boat. It was already foaming and at any moment it would explode… Karin marveled at the brilliance of her plan; add a few mentos into the coke bottle and screw the lid tight before throwing it onto the ship's deck. The coke bottle exploded, passengers, and the officers shocked, looked up to the source of the noise. Karin slipped into the boat un-noticed and locked herself into the toilet. Somewhere on the top of the ferry, a mother was yelling at her child for playing a mean trick and apologizing profusely.

The ferry would take an hour to reach the shore but Karin gambled on the fact that she would be last. It would take her around 15 minutes to get to the academy and with a bit of luck she would not be late. She tidied herself up by washing her hair in the basin and clawed at her hair in an attempt to brush it. Karin scowled as she smelled her designer shirt- she reeked. She promised herself the first thing she would do when she got back home would be to burn the shirt. Karin stepped out of the toilet building, saying hello to the ticket officers stationed near the arch of the hallway.

As soon as she got off the ferry she ran to the academy with a speed that would have shamed any Olympic marathon runner. Karin ran through myriad corridors and burst into the auditorium. It was empty. Inside, Uchiha Sasuke there deliberating on the various performances he had just heard.

"You are late." he said.

"I am sorry, please hear me out-"

"Uchihas are never late." Sasuke said stoutly. "It was a good thing I did not choose you. What would have happened if you forgotten to show up for the performance, that would not do." Sasuke sniffed at her snobbishly and wrinkled his nose in disgust.

"I could not believe I considered you as my first choice. Now I regret it. However," he paused.

Karin's heart skipped a beat. Could she possibly be given a chance?

"It is a privilege to be even considered by an Uchiha, consider yourself as lucky." Sasuke finished as he packed his folders away.

With long strides Uchiha Sasuke walked past Karin.

:x:

"See she didn't show up after all!" Ino cried happily as she sat on their favourite table in the coffee shop.

"But I'm worried about her, I wish you didn't force me into your plan to make Karin drunk and leave her somewhere far away…" Sakura said as she sipped her orange juice through her straw.

Sakura's performance was a success. Just before playing the finale she was sure she saw the Uchiha with a look of approval! After the performance he had even thanked her! Sakura grinned. So there was some emotion under that glacier after all.

Ino smiled, "well it worked, as I thought! I am a genius!"

Two tables away a red head smashed her clenched fist onto the table, her eyes smoldered with anger.

How could this be? She was absolutely certain that she was the successful candidate.

The Uchiha had even thanked her for her "immaculate performance". Thanked her!

She reread the handwritten letter printed with the elegant cursive writing of Uchiha Sasuke:

To The Candidate 'Haruno Sakura',

Thank you for your performance at the call-backs.

Your articulation and precision of the piece is worthy of being congratulated.

However, although your technical skills are at a professional level, you are still a budding in the performance and emotions department.

Thus, I'm sorry to say that you are not ready to play with an accomplished player such as me in a duet.

May you bloom in your future career as a pianist.

Yours sincerely,

Uchiha Sasuke

A tic developed under her eye as she realized that he had been making a pun of her name, by comparing her to an undeveloped flower.

Suddenly a tinkling version of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata rang from her pockets.

Clicking open her mobile phone, she quickly held it away from her ear, as a loud sound projected out from it.

"OH MY GOSH! YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO BELIEVE THIS!"

She was right, Sakura truly couldn't believe it. Grimacing, and already knowing what had happened, Sakura grit her teeth and replied in a strained voice:

"That's wonderful Ino."

"KYAAA!! I can't get over the fact that I'll be playing beside THE Uchiha Sasuke!!"

"Congratulations…"

Picking up on her best friends dejected voice, she realized how insensitive she had been.

"Aww. It's okay Forehead girl. At least it was one of us, not that red-head bimbo!"

Sakura smiled. Ino sure knew how to cheer her up.

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"You know what, Sakura? Let's have a slumber party to cheer you up!"

"Um. Sure."

"Okay! I'll see you tonight at seven! Get ready for panda eye rings the next day!"

"Whatever, Miss Piggy. See you then." Sakura giggled.

But as the conversation ended, Sakura's smile slowly dwindled away. She didn't know when she could accept the reality.

She sniffed as a lone tear dripped dejectedly down her face.

Why Sasuke…why her…not me…

Oh they were in for it. Those two little wrenches!

How dare they mess with her chances of being selected! Wait, correction, if it wasn't for them, she would definitely have been chosen.

Karin ground her teeth together as she fumed.

Now to plan the sweet hour of revenge…

:x:

Sasuke frowned. All of the candidates were lacking something.

What disconcerted him to no end was that he couldn't quite point his finger on what it was.

He had originally considered the pink-haired girl, but decided against it almost immediate. Sure, she had perfect articulation, however, she lacked something.

And although the chosen candidate had a tasteful style of performance, was adequate in her technical skills, she wasn't much better than the previous one.

They were all lacking something.

This was irking the Uchiha the whole way, as he strolled briskly towards a local classy bar on the corner of the street. Maybe a glass of wine or too would calm him down.

As he entered, his attention was drawn to a sweet melody which drifted from the centre of the bar.

A young girl was playing the piano as entertainment. However, although she was still a developing pianist, her music allured him.

He frowned, could it be…?

As he ordered a glass of red wine, he closed his eyes to savor the music. Although he was a professional pianist, he found himself admiring the passion the girl played with.

The music seemed alive, even though it was a very simple melody. It was then that Sasuke realized what was missing in all of the candidates.

Emotion.

Even though Hinata would have her Diploma examination the next morning, she still insisted on playing in the bar tonight. She had grown attached to her small part time job, as it helped her release all her tension and emotion of the day.

Hinata smiled as she played, her heart soaring with the music. Early in the morning she had spotted the boy in the park again.

Remembering his smile, her heart swelled, and the music followed her heart.

Well, it had started with a simple photograph.

She was in her first year at the prestigious Mudemy. Her recent project was to compose a melody, yet, she was stumped in inspirations.

Consequently, she had taken her trusty little camera with her to the park. Hinata decided to find inspiration through taking photos of nature.

However, she had found much more. Randomly aiming her camera at the white clouds which dotted the sky, to the little ladybird on a leaf; her camera aimed itself at a beaming boy.

His golden hair shone in the bright sunlight as he laughed at the sky, his arms outstretched at his sides.

The word 'freedom' rang in her mind and she instinctively took a photo.

And from then on, she always visited the park in hopes of getting a glimpse of the blond boy; her inspiration.

Little did she know that a certain dark-haired man had committed her face to memory before leaving the bar.

Sasuke smirked. He had solved his little dilemma.

After inquiring the manager at the bar about the young pianist, he had successfully located her details in the Mudemy Student Profile Database.

How did he get such as resource?

He had his ways.

"Tell the blond girl that I changed my mind." He stoically informed his concert manager, "I've found a better suited pianist."


Due to our high level of expectations, we are rewriting this story. We WILL make it the way we first expected it to be.

For those who are new here, Musiqua and I are writing a joint story. Be warned, we are extremely slack on updating. However, if this gets popular it may override the priority of our other stories.