(A\N: I am sorry this took so long. I've been very busy getting ready for college. Anyway...enjoy!)
A Song of Silence
Eight-year-old Hamamoto Akuro turned around with a small frown at the sound of her mother calling. She clutched her stuffed rabbit closer to her chest and pouted, waiting for her to find her.
"Akuro! There you are!" Her mother walked into view, pushing through the large crowd of people. She placed her hands on her hips and gave an exasperated sigh. "Akuro-chan! I finally found you! Why do you keep running around like that? With the festival in town everything is crowded! Someone could scoop you up and take you away before I knew what was going on!"
Akuro gave a guilty look. She knew it was true…slave traders would pick up little children at times like this to sell to other people. If she wasn't careful, she could get scooped up too! She bit her lip. "But okaasan…I just wanted…I just wanted to hear the pretty music!"
"Music?" Her mother questioned with a raised eyebrow.
Akuro nodded excitedly. "Hai! Come on mama, I'll show you! They came yesterday and are playing there!" She pointed at the pale orange tiled roof in the distance. The Peachblossom Pavilion, the local entertainment hub.
Her mother sighed. "Alright, alright…" She wiped her hands on her apron. "We'll go hear the pretty music later tonight, alright?"
The soft sound of a guzheng being played lingered in the open halls of the Peachblossom Pavilion. Three figures were seated on the stage, all holding instruments.
Nimble fingers stroked the instrument, the soft, vibrant sounds filling the entertainment hall. Upon closer inspection it could be seen that it was a man, dressed in a modest forest green changshan and brown slacks, his instrument placed upon his lap. His fingers moved quickly, almost too quick to see…the hands of a musician. His blue-black hair was long and tied back in a braid that hung over one shoulder. His gaze never left his instrument, his handsome and stern face twisted in concentration.
Seated beside him was a young woman in a sky blue cheongsam, lined with gold and covered in gold and pink lotus flowers. Her deep brown hair was piled atop her head in a bun with four chopsticks. One leg was propped up as she sat gracefully, and the slit up the side of the cheongsam freed the long appendage from the silk confines. In her lap was a pipa, the instrument held gently in her arms, like a child.
The third figure was another male, this one darker in color compared to his pale companions. His own hair, a light orange that contrasted with his dark skin, was cut short, shaved completely off the left side. In his hands he held a dizi, the slender flute placed to his lips with care. He wore a rust-colored changshan compared to the other male, but with brown slacks beneath it as well.
"This has been uneventful." The light-haired man muttered as he held his dizi lightly, looking to the other two.
"Well," The brunette looked up, showing off startling emerald eyes. "The festival doesn't start till tomorrow. We've been performing all week to gain some prestige. If he's such a great lover of music as everyone says, he'll come to the pavilion sometime this week."
"Hn." The black-haired man muttered, looking disdainfully down at his braid. "Why do I need hair extensions?"
The brunette almost rolled her eyes as she stood, carefully holding her instrument. "I don't like mine either, but we have to live with them. We're too noticeable with our hair color and styles."
"Yeah, no one else in the world has hair that looks like a chicken's ass, teme." Naruto walked into the large room with a wicker basket. "Iwane-san and I brought food!"
"Dobe." Sasuke muttered, even as he placed his instrument down gently and strode over to where the Kyuubi container stood. Naruto had been a little angry at the fact that he couldn't help in the main part of their mission. But his lack of musical talent made that a bit impossible.
Of course, Sasuke also didn't know how to play an instrument. So during their day in Stone where they'd picked up Eisaku—their rust-haired companion—he'd watched a guzheng player and had copied all of his songs with his Sharingan. Sakura only knew how to play an instrument because all kunoichi were taught how. That, or singing, but Sakura couldn't carry a tune and didn't try to do so.
But since Naruto had no earlier musical knowledge and no Sharingan to copy anything with, he was stuck as dead weight for the beginning of the mission.
Naruto looked comically different, at least to Sasuke. Make-up had been used to hide his whisker-like scars—quite well, actually, and his spiky blonde hair was now a dull wheat-color. With the drab hair color came a unique expression, as if he were walking to his own execution. Naruto hated deception, preferring to jump in, take all the bad guys out at once, and heroically make a big speech at the end to liven things up. All he had done since they'd finalized their plans was pout.
Sasuke and Naruto had first suggested genjutsu to disguise themselves…and had been graced with a two-hour long lecture by Sakura on the intricacies of genjutsu and how easily it would be for someone to discover a disguise-illusion—with help from Yuudai who had continued to point out that his Byakugan made any small illusion obsolete.
So here they were with makeup and hair dye—and hair extensions in Sasuke and Sakura's case. Iwako and Yuudai had briefly entertained the idea of colored contacts, especially for Sasuke, but they weren't sure how that would affect his Sharingan, so it was tossed aside quickly. He was, however, under strict orders not to show off his Sharingan at all until they'd begun the end phase of their mission. If he blew their cover they were done for. He was the only Uchiha besides Itachi still living, after all, and word of his reinstatement in Konoha would have spread.
Eisaku gave a small grunt, clearing his throat as he placed his dizi back into its case.
Chishu Eisaku was a plain man in himself, at least in character. Despite his rather odd hair style he was hardly someone of notice. If you spent two minutes with him you'd quickly become bored. His personality was dull and slow, and he rarely spoke at all. But Sakura suspected that was because he spent all his time watching other people. He didn't have a personality of his own because his talent lay in mimicking others.
He was an odd one, always half listening to what you said. Sakura found it slightly amusing to watch him in return, only because she could see him picking up people's personalities and mannerisms as they went. He'd take someone and study them in the market for a few hours and come back and practice his new personality on them.
He really was amazing. With a proper, layered genjutsu, he'd be able to become anyone. And that was why he was their choice to take over after they dealt with Ayugai Gesshin.
"Well, Yuu-san is still off scouring the streets for the proper hair-pin for you, Sakuriko-chan." Iwako murmured as she walked up and placed the second wicker basket on the stage, opening the top. Yuu-san was Yuudai, of course, and he wasn't really looking for a hair-pin for Sakura, but was scouting the area for shinobi. 'Sakuriko' was Sakura's name for the mission. They'd decided on picking names close to their normal ones. It was easy to remember a name that was close to your own, after all. Besides, Naruto would probably end up forgetting their code names if they were too different.
So Sasuke was now Sasudo, Naruto was Narumane, and Iwako was Iwane. Eisaku didn't need to change his name—Sakura wasn't quite sure if Eisaku was his real name anyway—so they continued to call him by his given name.
"Man…" Naruto moaned out as he sat down on the stage before lying down completely, looking up at the wooden rafters of the ceiling, "I'm just glad the festival starts tomorrow. All of this scouting and waiting was so boring."
"Che." Sasuke grunted, but merely reached over and took a bowl of rice from Naruto's basket and began eating without saying anything else derogatory to his companion.
"Yuu-san will be back soon," Sakura murmured as she grabbed her own food, "So that means we'll have a few more hours to practice. After that, Iwane-san and I will get my outfit ready for tomorrow's opening and we'll meet to go over the songs we'll be playing."
Translation: Iwako and I will see how many weapons we can successfully hide inside a cheongsam and then later we'll all meet to discuss tomorrow's mission.
"What songs are we playing tomorrow?" Sasuke grunted, sending an almost nonexistent, scathing glare at his hair extensions. Uchihas do not pout, after all. But he could certainly brood.
"Let's see…" Sakura bit her lip in thought, absently twirling a lock of hair as she did so. "Under the White Wind would be a good choice, and Song from a fishing boat during sunset is always popular…"
"Fighting the Typhoon." Eisaku muttered.
"Che." Sasuke grunted. "I'm best at Ripples over the River and The Butterfly Lovers." Or rather, the person he'd learned from had been best at those songs, and so he had copied them to perfection.
"The Butterfly Lovers is a song that everyone enjoys." Iwako nodded, "You should save that one for last…"
Naruto gave a small, pitiful moan, slumping against the side of the stage with a pout. They were talking about music again. He wouldn't be able to get a word in for hours now. He looked down at his hands, curling his fingers one by one.
Dammit…why can't I play an instrument too? He gritted his teeth, before puffing out his lower lip and glaring at Sasuke. Darn you Sasuke…I'll learn to play an instrument WAY better than you! Just wait and see, dattebayo!
And with that goal in mind, he slipped out of the music hall in the direction of the marketplace.
"Let's see…" Iwako murmured, patting down the folds of Sakura's hanbok. "We can fit at least three senbon into the inner sleeve. I suggest we don't use kunai or shuriken. If he has shinobi with him, they'll be able to spot minor bulges in cloth." She held up the silk fabric. "I would suggest placing a few senbon in your undergarments, but if it comes down to it…he'll be able to spot them easily."
Sakura gave a nod. "We'll leave it with the senbon in the sleeves, then. What about my shoes?"
"The first place they will look for weapons are your shoes, hair piece, and jewelry."
"Mmm." Sakura agreed. "So what will we do about them? Three senbon in each sleeve…I won't be able to fight off a well-armed shinobi with six of them."
"This bracelet has a secret clasp." Iwako pulled something out of a wicker basket. "The jewel is fake, see?" She showed Sakura how the back opened and it was hollow inside. "I suggest we put soldier pills in there. If you end up trapped in his home without the rest of us for a period of time, you will need the boost of chakra."
"Also, this hair ornament can turn into a skeleton key, and when heated with chakra can cut through ninja wire and ropes. It may not be a weapon, but it will be essential in the event that you are captured."
"Thank you." Sakura nodded, "But why am I not wearing a traditional kimono or cheongsham?"
"Ayugai Gesshin is from a land further to the south, and it is the traditional dress of the women there. We want you to stand out and appeal to him as much as possible. You've already been briefed on your background story, correct?"
"My mother comes from Ayugai's homeland, The Land of Foam, but my father was from Marsh Country and that is why I do not have the accent of the Land of Foam nor have I ever seen it." Sakura recited, closing her eyes as she tried to remember everything she'd been taught. "My mother died young and m father and I traveled. I learned to play the pipa as well as several of the instruments of my mother's homeland such as the gayageum and the bipa." She had already learned to play a few songs on each of them in case he asked her to demonstrate when the time came.
"Good." Iwako nodded curtly. "Tomorrow I will do you hair and makeup. Yuudai discovered that Ayugai heard of our performances and is coming tomorrow to see it. You must capture his attention."
"Of course." Sakura murmured coolly, running a finger along the stiff fabric of her hanbok.
"Both Uchiha-san and Hyuuga-san seem to have a running rivalry between them."
"Sasuke always has to feel better than someone," Sakura scoffed as she began undressing. "Yuudai-san is probably just humoring him."
"Mmm." Iwako mumbled in agreement. "Perhaps that is true when it comes to their skills as shinobi, but they seem much more competitive over women."
Sakura snorted. "Uchiha Sasuke has the sex drive of a rock and Yuudai-san is a gentleman. I doubt the two would be competing over a woman." She looked around the room before leaning in closer to Iwako. "…who is it?"
"Who are they fighting over?" A hint of curiosity tinged her usual emotionless tone, and Iwako smiled.
"It's something you will have to learn for yourself." She then picked up the rest of the clothing on the floor and folded them, hanging a few yards of silk up on the ceiling support beams.
Sakura eyed her suspiciously for a moment before going back to the task of slipping on a sleeping yukata. She wasn't needed for guard duty that night, so she was going to enjoy a coveted full night's sleep. Still…as she watched Iwako leave the room she wondered over her words.
Who could they two be fighting over?
The only female that either of them came in close contact with on a regular basis was herself, and that was absurd. Yuudai knew about her seduction missions, and as a member of the Hyuuga Main branch family, he would never sully the Hyuuga name by courting a kunoichi trained in seduction. Sasuke…well he had always demeaned her in the past and while she was unable to forget the way he had been in their genin days, always calling out cruel remarks. It was a difficult thing to let go of, and she doubted he found her attractive now either.
Besides, like she said before, the emotionless Uchiha Sasuke had zero to no interest in sex or love. He preferred revenge, and then he would find a suitable woman to become the Uchiha Matriarch. Romance had nothing to do with it.
Sakura sighed, running a hand through her hair.
Maybe she would take a nice, long bath to calm her thoughts.
The streets of Konoha were deserted for the most part as Juugo made his way back from the marketplace to Sakura's apartment. He always did his shopping around dusk, since there were less people around to stare at him. While most of the civilians had gotten used to his presence—they didn't know exactly who he was in the first place, after all—they'd seen him being taken in with Sasuke and the other members of team Hebi and were still wary of him. The only ones who greeted him warmly were the owner of Ichiraku Ramen and the wizened old lady who sold fried dumplings at the marketplace.
Oh, and there was the young woman who sold scarves as well, but he still wasn't sure if she was comfortable around him or not. She always got so flustered when he came near, and she acted nervous. Maybe she just pretended to be nice to him because she was afraid? Either way, he was pleased that she had been the first person in Konoha—besides Sakura and the doctors and nurses at the hospital—that had smiled at him and given him a present. He wore the knitted scarf proudly around his neck as he hoisted the two large bags of groceries in his arms to get a better grip on them.
He'd gotten very used to living with Sakura now and doing chores around the house when she was gone on missions or working at the hospital. He had learned her shift schedule early so that he would always be awake and welcome her back with a cup of coffee or tea and a warm smile—and the frequent back massage to loosen her tense muscles. He liked having that kind of constant in his life. It made him feel secure, as if he had a set place and was needed.
He wondered if, even more than Sakura, he just needed to feel needed. When Kimimaro had been so kind to him in the beginning and told him of his usefulness, he had never felt so alive. Then that had transferred to Sasuke and now…he figured Sakura was the most sturdy and honest of the group. There were no ulterior motives behind what she asked of him.
"What the hell are you wearing around your neck!?"
Juugo blinked, looking up—he'd been staring absently at the ground—to see Suigetsu and Karin standing five or so feet away, both holding dango sticks.
"Does that thing have freakin' flowers knitted on it?" Suigetsu's face contorted in disgust. In fact, it looked as if he were in genuine pain, and Juugo's brow furrowed in concern.
Karin raised an eyebrow at Juugo's present, walking forward and grabbing the end of it to survey it at a closer distance. "Juugo…this scarf is pink."
"It's fucking fuschia, dork." Suigetsu muttered absently, coming forward as well, taking a bite of dango as he went. "And those are flowers."
"Chrysanthemums." Karin nodded, sending Suigetsu a death glare and then going back to her inspection of the scarf. "It's actually really cute, where did you get it?"
"The scarf lady." Juugo answered back with a small smile. "It was a present, because I complimented her work."
Karin and Suigetsu exchanged a look that Juugo couldn't decipher before Suigetsu cleared his throat. "Anyway, Karin and I were going to get something to eat. You wanna come?"
"But you just had dango." Juugo pointed out.
Karin rolled her eyes. "We just stopped at a stand on the way. You can't live off of dango."
Suigetsu decided not to make a comment about how Sakura's interrogation partner Mitarashi Anko seemed to be doing just fine on her dango exclusive diet.
"So come on then!" Suigetsu gave a rakish grin and plucked a bag of groceries from Juugo's arms. "We'll just take these with us. There's nothing in here that will spoil if it isn't refrigerated, right?"
"But I have to water Sakura-san's plants!"
Karin rolled her eyes, grabbing his arm and forcibly dragging him in the direction of the Ichiraku ramen stand. "Her plants can wait!"
"Tonight…we feast!" Suigetsu crowed happily. "And Karin's paying!"
"Right—wait, what!?" Karin shrieked. "I am not! Get back here!" She broke into a run, chasing Sugietsu down the nearly deserted road as he launched himself in the direction of the ramen stand.
Juugo stood in the street for a moment, wondering if he should take the opportunity to go water Sakura's plants before the two noticed that they'd left him behind.
Naruto breathed in deeply, reveling in the fresh night air. The entertainment district of the city was still alive and bustling, and lights created a permanent glow, making the streets look as if they were covered in a thin layer of visible chakra. People laughed and danced and sang, and the smell of alcohol and food drifted with the cool breeze.
"You seem very alert, Uzumaki-san." Iwako walked up to him from her place at the other end of the roof. She knelt down to make herself less conspicuous, surveying the skyline.
"Yeah." Naruto grinned cheerfully. "Going on missions like this with Sakura-chan and Sasuke-teme…it's great. And guard duty is a lot more fun than watching them practice their instruments." He pouted again, ignoring the sharp sting that accompanied any movements of his hands. He'd secretly been practicing to play Sasuke's guzheng for a while, but he wasn't about to tell anyone that.
"I see." Iwakoe nodded. "Uzumaki-san, may I ask you a question?"
"Huh?" Naruto blinked, before nodding. "Sure. Go ahead."
"Why don't you take your father's name?" Iwako questioned into the darkness, lacing up her sandals. Her head was bent, so Naruto couldn't see her face.
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked in confusion, crouching down to be on eye level with her.
"You don't use your father's surname. I just wondered why. Are you ashamed of him?" Iwako's voice was soft.
"How do you know that I don't have my father's name?" Naruto demanded a bit hotly. How do you know anything at all about me? Then again, he supposed everyone had begun doing research on the remaining Jinchuuriki.
But Iwako didn't answer his question. She merely continued to check the weapons she'd slipped into her sandals. Finally, she gave a small sigh as she finished, and looked up into the night sky. A small breeze rippled past them.
"My father fought against the yellow flash and lived. He has never been more proud of any other feat, and he has many titles. He is a respected shinobi and an Elder on Tsuchigakure's council. He was even in line to be Tsuchikage after the 3rd died. Your father was a great man. My own displays his battlescars proudly. You should not be ashamed of him."
"I am not ashamed…I just…I don't KNOW him. How do you know who he is?"
Iwako turned to him full in surprise, eyes widened a bit. Her eyebrows knitted together and she leaned forward slightly. "…you don't know…?"
"What do you mean by that?" Naruto snapped out, obviously irritated.
"Your father…" Iwako began, but was cut off as the rooftop door was opened and Sasuke stepped out.
"Hm." Iwako murmured, sending Sasuke a suspicious glance. "The change in watch. I'll head in then."
"Wait!" Naruto called after her, "What were you going to say about my father? Iwako-san—wait!"
"Baka." Sasuke muttered, placing a hand over his mouth and stifling his cries. "If you keep yelling everyone in the town will know we're here."
Naruto sputtered behind Sasuke's palm for a few more moments before settling down, sending Sasuke a vicious glare. When Sasuke saw that Naruto wasn't going to start shouting again, he took his hand away.
"Damn teme." Naruto muttered hotly. "You always come at the wrong moments!"
Sasuke merely raised an eyebrow in question at Naruto's tantrum. "What's wrong with you?"
Naruto wondered if strangling his best friend after spending such a long time trying to get him back would be worth the energy or not.
(A\N: Here it is! Ta da! It took a while but…the chapter is finally here. If you want to know about the different instruments and outfits that Sakura and the others are wearing, just google image them and you'll see what they are. Oh, and their choice of instruments was brought about by my addiction to the 12 Girls Band, which I listened to while I wrote this chapter. If you've never heard of them, or listened to them, do so now! They're amazing. :)