Chapter Five:

Natsuki wasn't in the hospital for more than a day, had slept for more than half the time she was there, though. She still didn't feel any more refreshed than before, however, but checked out nonetheless. The nurse that attended her had some objections, but Natsuki silenced them immediately, protesting calmly that she would be fine if she could get into her own bed. Besides, the hospital's medicine wasn't going to help her hold up for long, so she would have to get back to the inn she was still taking residence at and make her own. At that, she couldn't leave her dog alone much longer. Tomodachi must've been lonely with the company she'd left him in, and was sorry she hadn't seen her in so long (seven to eight days).

Now inside the inn built of dark wood, Natsuki lay in bed, cuddling with Tomodachi. She'd bought the ingredients needed to grind together her life-sustaining remedy and to a shot of it. It would take a few more until she felt to be back to normal, as normal as she could get, that is, but for the moment she was content.

The lap dog licked her nose, and she tried to smile softly. Her rare show of happiness was still that rare, as her smile turned out to be upside-down. She frowned even more at that, but snuggled in closer to the furry animal. "Oh, Tomo, why do I feel like something bad is going to happen soon?" she whispered in its ear sadly. "I'm afraid…" The pet whimpered like it could relate to its master, but Natsuki knew it was impossible.

*-*

The following thirty days were filled with nothing but simple bareness. Kakashi assigned Naruto a trainer named Ebisu while he trained with Sasuke somewhere secluded the entire time, though Naruto ditched Ebisu soon after his instructing from the tall, black-clothed man had begun. Also, the silver-grey headed teacher told Natsuki to get some training in as well, since she'd advanced to the Third Exam too. She didn't waste time pondering over the reason why he hadn't picked a mentor for her like he'd done with the two boys, for she didn't care. But, she didn't work hard at the training grounds, either. She was confident in herself, hanging over the idea that as long as she wasn't overcome by fatigue, she would have no problem against any of the other contestants.

That is, except for maybe that Gaara of the Sand and his siblings. No, Temari and Kankuro she could beat for sure, though it might be a little troublesome. Gaara wasn't a sure thing, but Neji could be defeated with no problem. She would enjoy beating him to a pulp, similar to the way he'd done to the cousin he had, whose name she ended up forgetting in a day. Naruto was definitely a sure thing, no matter how adamant a person he was; likewise for the lazy and laid back Shikamaru. Sasuke would take some trouble, but he wasn't a match for Natsuki in the long run. She only knew the quick of Shino's abilities, but he was only a Genin from the village of Konoha. How hard could this be?

She wasn't nervous. Or excited.

Today was the final stage of the Chunnin Exams. She slipped a dark blue, short sleeved shirt with a square neck and fishnets to fill that three inch void, just below her collar bone. And then a pair of khaki shorts, a navy holster secured about her thigh, and then her long jacket buttoned from collar bone down to waist. Natsuki knelt down and patted Tomodachi on the top of the head, fairing an adieu after filling the creature's food and water bowls.

Her battle was against Shikamaru, the last fight of the first round. Sasuke was running late, and the matches had to be pushed forward to allow wait for the Uchiha. She thought she would be next up, as the boy was still not there, but just then Sasuke appeared almost out of nowhere. He was sporting longer hair and a new outfit, a black one piece suit that did not flatter him at all.

Natsuki sighed with some form of relief, knowing Shikamaru was also, as his chakra still hadn't regenerated completely yet; she was not quite ready to go against someone who had just beaten a Sand Nin. That Temari wasn't a weakling; she was a strong strategist, in fact. But her thought was that, if a mere Genin could beat her, and then maybe he had a chance. Shikamaru was lazy, but he did try after all, even though he renounced his victory after his clear win.

In this match, it didn't matter who won or lost, only what a ninja's abilities could do exactly; that is, aside from the fact that she cared not whether she was named Chunnin or not this time around.

The spar had barely begun when Natsuki sensed a Genjutsu and quickly used a Releasing jutsu before it took over her. Illuminated white feathers were falling all around the stadium, putting every person in the stands asleep. She ducked down behind the safety bars where she stood alone, searching for the Genjutsu caster.

She shut her eyes tightly, heart racing, pondering over what was happening. Sasuke was going after Gaara, whose chakra was wild. Sakura had just released Naruto from the sleep inducing jutsu and was making her way over to Shikamaru. Kakashi and Guy were fighting off many attackers, and further away was the Third Hokage fighting against someone she could tell was very strong, but also very weak in more than a few ways.

Think, she told herself, think of what to do. Where should I go? After Sasuke alone, or with Sakura and Naruto? She shook her head fiercely, heartbroken, and admonished herself. I don't fit in anywhere! Where am I needed most? There...? Her mind flicked to the image of the leaving Sakura, Shikamaru, dog Pakkun, and Naruto. Then, she found the mental direction alternating toward Sasuke, and then bug-boy Shino. She couldn't face off with that pale man named Orochimaru with Third Hokage; Natsuki wouldn't stand a chance, it was all too obvious. She weakened by the day, and by now… by now there was no hope for her to physically quarrel with anyone that had such a powerful aura of chakra leaking from their pores.

I'll go… I'll go…! I'll follow Sasuke, and do what I can that way, she decided unsurely. Maybe I'll survive.

With one swift move Natsuki was out of the round arena and made way to her destination. She didn't allow Sasuke to know she was playing chase, and kept fifteen yards away from Shino, the other pursuer of the dark headed fellow.

Soon she halted, feeling the stopping of both Shino and Sasuke. And then there was another person, who had meant to delay the Sharingan-user. She sped ahead, going out of her way to stay away from the Abarame clan member, and sojourned on a thick tree branch, hiding behind the thicker trunk roughly twenty feet high.

Now what? I was shadowing him, but now that he's stopped, will I fight? Natsuki questioned her conscience for an answer that would suffice with no problems.

Temari had stayed behind to fight him. Okay, she could do that. Natsuki would be able to fend her off. But, if she did, then Sasuke would proceed toward Gaara, where she feared the most for him. The girl couldn't let him die now, not while she was still searching for inkling as to where her father was, who he was. Sasuke was the only one she knew of that could possibly help, as she'd established earlier before, and she wouldn't let that go until she no longer needed him.

No sooner did she come to a decision did Sasuke make it meaningless. He'd been reciprocating Temari's attacks and she was defeated. Chiding herself would be no better than her finishing off the flaxen haired adolescent, and so Natsuki found herself continuing after the Uchiha in a daze. What was wrong with her? Why didn't her brain process correctly?

*-*

"Stay down, you dummy!" screamed Natsuki. Sasuke was trying to get up after clearly being weakened by Gaara's blows and having used Chidori more than his limit allowed. He was being stubborn, wouldn't listen to what she had to say, and she was glad when Naruto and co. arrived.

Natsuki held her arms in a defensive position in front of her face, keeping all attention on the maniacal enemy on the branch before her as she said to Sakura and Naruto, "Make sure Sasuke doesn't get up; if he tries, then I'll kill him myself!" Of course, it was a bluff, however the shocked faces of Genin surrounding her, and even Pakkun the dog, showed they weren't aware of that.

Sakura nodded her understanding and rushed over to the incapacitated Uchiha lying on his belly, Naruto yelling his gameness for fighting and how he would show Sasuke up. Meanwhile, Pakkun was ditching them, claiming he wasn't really that much of a fighter.

"Na-ru-to Uzumaki Barrage!" shouted the blond ninja, shadow clones identical to him spouting from above the other Jinchuriki. Natsuki stood on reserve, waiting for her chance to deliver a near-killer blow and observing every move made by the fervent One-tails. When the opening came, she would snatch it and beat the heck out of that Gaara!

Gaara was spurred on the ground, bloody head, and Naruto lying on his stomach almost ten feet away. Natsuki had passed out long before that.

*-*

Natsuki had been asleep for a day and a half, and when she finally did awaken it was early, and Sakura was at her bedside with a glum expression. "What is it? Why are you here?" the junior inquired slowly, throat dry. Sakura handed her a glass of lukewarm water.

"When I came to visit Sasuke," she started, unsure, "I overheard some of the medics talking in front of your door. It was only a few things, but…" The pink-headed kunoichi turned her head, fidgeting.

"Spit it out," commanded Natsuki, not sounding at all bossy; she held the now half-empty, clear glass cup encircled by her small hands in her blanketed lap.

Almost impulsively, the Haruno shouted with furrowed brows, staring directly into the opposing girl. "You're sick, aren't you Natsuki? And that's not all, you're blind, too!" Natsuki had to admit, her words surfaced in an accusing way, but she remained calm, in-taking a large breath. She wasn't ready to explain, but the determined Sakura would have her way.

"I have always been plagued with some sort of illness that has no cure," she explicated. "I know my body better than anyone, so I began mixing chemicals and other things that made my internal organs react. If those doctors couldn't, then why would I, a child, be capable of doing it? I had drive. Also, I wanted to live just a little longer, to exact a certain goal of mine.

However, the serum I've developed doesn't fight all of the bad cells in my body until they're gone. Only a specific amount of time it works, so I have to take it frequently. My insides are in turmoil, rotting away by the day, the hour… the minute. Actually, I'm positive I'll die before I can meet him, but I accepted that a little while ago. It's okay if I d---"

"No!" shrieked Sakura, shocking and bewildering her teammate. She stood on her feet, tense, and maybe even angry. Natsuki had never heard of Sakura acting like this; the female Genin seemed to genuinely care about her current comrade. Natsuki didn't know what to say.

Suddenly she was glad that she shared a room with Sasuke, because he interrupted the conversation.

He voiced darkly as his body moved forward, "Shut up."

Natsuki's head flicked over to stare at him, ready to give him a major tongue-lashing for being so rude. However, Sakura seemed to sense this and gave a nervous laugh, saying, "Ha-ha-huh, Sasuke, you're awake! A-are you hungry? How about an apple? I'll go to the store and buy some. You want one too, don't you, Natsuki?" She turned her eyes to her, and Natsuki nodded slowly, clenching her jaw. A moment ago, Sakura had showed her kindness of some sort, and she would return the thought; this time, anyway.

Eager to get out of the tension filled room, Sakura walked around Natsuki's bed, which was closer to the door while Sasuke's was at the window, and she slid open the door. Giving a grieving look to Natsuki, not that she could see it, she slid it shut behind her and headed to the market for fruit and some sweets.

She thought she would come back to an eased hospital scope, but instead she was greeted by a Natsuki she'd never seen before. She was standing outside of her room, looking about apprehensively. "Ah, Sakura!" she exclaimed. "Sakura, Sasuke and N-Naruto, they went up to the roof. They're--- they're going to fight!"

Sakura dropped her bag beside her, eyes wide. This couldn't be good. She was aware of how much stronger Naruto had gotten, and Sasuke--- Sasuke started out strong, only to get stronger and stronger! Taking a step that broke into a run within moments, she went up to the staid place, as fast as she could. She could already feel the salty tears brimming in her green eyes.

*-*

"Kakashi," whispered Natsuki, "and Master Jiraiya. Tell me… why did you...?" She gulped, wondering how this question would affect their outlook on her. Jiraiya had never met her, and he probably was in a very suspicious mood, as it was right after Kakashi had pulled apart Sasuke and Naruto before they hit Sakura in between them. While she couldn't risk the suspicion, Natsuki knew this was important. "Why did you allow those two off without any punishment? Clearly they are going to clash again, and next time, I doubt you'll be there to protect them and anyone else caught in between."

Jiraiya's eyebrows furrowed and Kakashi said coolly, "If you're that concerned about your teammates, Natsuki, then you should talk to them. I can't punish them for fighting, even if it could turn out badly one day."

Anger coiled in the girl's heart, and she held herself back from screaming her opinion. She was still ill, though, and her small body wouldn't be able to take the excessive turmoil she placed upon it. Instead she leisurely made her way to the door that lead to the stairs so she could go back to bed. Sakura reluctantly followed her, and when they were half-way there, queried, "What did you say to Kakashi-sensei?"

"Nothing," she uttered harshly, causing the adolescent to stop. She could tell it wasn't her business, or at least that that was what Natsuki thought.

She opened her mouth, aware of the dangerous ground she stood on, but chose nonetheless to ignore it until it finally took her. "You said something important, and I want to know what it was." Sakura thinned her lips so she wouldn't shudder with fright. Natsuki really did put some fear in her.

The answer Sakura expected to hear was never presented, and all courage she summoned to stand up against the precarious Natsuki had decapitated. Natsuki sped away from her sight, and didn't go back to her bed.

She was gone.

*-*

Natsuki hadn't showed up until later that night, when she caught Sasuke leaving. He'd already had a run-in with Sakura, and then meeting up with another girl irked him. There were too many stoppages, and he began to wonder if they were set to keep him from leaving.

No, he shook his head inwardly, that's impossible. My fate was decided a long time ago.

"Uchiha Sasuke," muttered Natsuki in a haughty tone, "making his silent escape in the debt of night. How strange, though. I bet myself you might stay in this aghast village another month. Oh well, even I can be wrong."

"You can't stop me. I've already made up my mind," he retorted; back to her, a good three and a half yards ahead, Sasuke readied himself for an attack from the diminutive kunoichi who he knew was exceptionally strong to some extent.

She frowned, and tone changed to a smooth, eerie one. "I haven't come to bar you, so don't worry."

"Then why are you here?" Sasuke was getting impatient.

"In the beginning, I was looking for someone. Do you remember?" Natsuki didn't pause to allow him to answer the rhetorical query. "All I wanted you to know is that I know who he is, and I'm going to find him soon."

"And what does this have to do with me?" sneered the Uchiha.

"Just… be careful with the choices you make," she cautioned, and then Sasuke heard a faint swishing noise. Turning, he saw in the dim glow of the moon that she'd left. What a weird little girl, he couldn't help but muse before taking off as well, ruminating over her eccentric ways.

And thus ends, Itachi's Daughter


A/N: So, this is the last chapter of Itachi's Daughter, but Part 2, taking place in Shippuden, will be put up tomorrow. Thank you!