Unfortunately, I am not the genius behind the greatness that is Naruto. This story is strictly for personal enjoyment. ^_^

The idea for this whole thing started out a long, long time ago, I just didn't have enough guts (or time) to start writing. And now, I just barely managed to muster enough courage to Publish! Oh, and this story was in no way intended to be a spoiler. I started this around November 2008, waaay before the current Naruto manga chapters.

It's been four years now since that god-awful war that very nearly destroyed Konoha and annihilated its populace, but to me it will forever seem like only yesterday. Ironically, it was the bloodiest war of the century that eventually brought peace among the shinobi nations. However, peace or no peace, I still have vivid recollections of all the gruesome sights and sounds of that fateful day: mangled corpses of civilians and ninja alike, screaming women and children, terrifying enemies hurling threats and curses at Konoha shinobi… and most especially, the bright crimson blood on my hands. The distinct smell of fear has constantly stayed with me that I sometimes still suffocate from it.

It's been four years since Sai, Sakura and Sasuke-kun died. How perversely funny that all their names should start with 'S', but now isn't the time for me to think that's funny nor will there ever be a time for me to think so. It's been four years but I can still see the three of them as clearly as they were on the last day of their lives. Sakura, with her bubble-gum pink hair in disarray, green eyes dancing wildly, ordering the medic-nins to action in a shrill voice filled with terror. Sakura, who'd eventually learned to care so deeply for Naruto and who'd panicked at the sight of him almost overpowered by Pein, clinging on to dear life. She'd rushed to his side and made the fatal mistake of turning her back on Pein. In a matter of seconds she was dead. In a blind rage, Naruto had retaliated, killing Pein in such a manner that I cannot even bear speak of. Sai on the other hand, had died at the end of that day's victorious battle. I had found him lying face down in the middle of a ring of enemy corpses. He'd taken them on by himself and managed to kill them all, unfortunately, not without sustaining severe injuries himself. He was still breathing but just barely. I did all that I could for him…as frustrated, frantic, exhausted and confused as I was. It was too late of course. Even though I'd managed to bring him to the hospital and the medics there had put him on life support, we still lost him. I held his hand for the first time and the last time that day. At least he died with a faint trace of a smile on his lips, or so I might have imagined. And Sasuke-kun… oh where do I even begin? I'd always envisioned that he'd eventually return to Konoha, just not the way that he did. Instead of feeling elated, I felt a potent fear and sensed for the first time just how dark and ominous his chakra had become. He'd killed his brother, he'd killed Uchiha Madara and he was definitely dead set on destroying Konoha. His eyes were the most menacing shade of crimson, full of hatred and the desire for death. Call me a coward, but I had to run. I had to get away from him, I couldn't face him and I knew I had every right to be afraid because he could and would kill me in a heartbeat. I never really found out, nor did I care to learn, the instances of Sasuke-kun and Naruto's final battle. All I know is that Naruto went on a rampage after defeating Pein. Those who witnessed the fight said it was unlike anything they'd ever seen: rivals and one-time best friends engaged in a battle that would decide the fate of Konoha and its citizens. They say Naruto won because of the kyuubi, the demon fox sealed within his body, ready to lend him unlimited amounts of chakra. But I've always thought he won because of his broken heart. He'd lost the two people who mattered most to him both on the same day and in circumstances that, in one way or another, he felt were his fault. His sadness, frustration and anger helped him emerge the victor that day. Naruto's loss eventually gained Konoha a hero.

It's been four years now and of the former Rookie 9, only seven remain. I've only ever spoken to Naruto once in four years and that was to tell him how sorry I was about Sai, about Sakura, about Sasuke-kun and about everything. All I got in response was a blank stare, then a grunt and finally, an imperceptible nod. He was never the same after what happened, never the same cheerful, loud and unpredictable ninja that he was four years ago. He'd become morose and somber, preferring to spend his days training from dawn 'til dusk. At least he hadn't given up on his dream to be Hokage. If only he'd be a little less anti-social, but who could blame him anyway? I had changed, everyone had changed and so had Konoha. The people finally saw Naruto as a hero, as the Fourth wished, but that mattered little to Naruto. He didn't even attend the victory party they threw for him. The dream to inherit the title Hokage was all that drove him to keep going and I was among those who watched him spiral deeper and deeper into isolation. He was out of reach, impenetrable and he exhausted himself to no end.

In a span of four years I, on the other hand, learned to be a little less vain, a lot less loud and a little more thoughtful. I'd quit being a Konoha kunoichi, preferring to be an average, normal civilian. Although this was in direct contradiction of Asuma-sensei's dying wishes, I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't go on. The death and destruction left me disillusioned, I began to question the path I chose for myself and I grieved for a very long time. I grieved for my best friend, Sakura. I grieved for our friendship and our rivalry. I grieved for Sai and the thwarted romance we might've had. I grieved for Sasuke-kun, the boy from long ago whom I thought I loved. I grieved for Konoha and for everyone who'd lost someone. Eventually, I felt exhausted and drained. I had to move on or else I would be left stuck in a meaningless stagnation. Four years gave me the opportunity for introspection; I took a good look at myself and decided once and for all what I really wanted. Turns out, the answer was rather simple: I just wanted a life that was worthwhile, simple and quiet. So I began by taking over the flower shop. Completely. I suppose it was time for my mother to retire anyway. I worked full time, 7 days a week, 8 hours a day. I must admit I enjoyed the solitude and all the time I had to myself while tending the shop. I had the opportunity to daydream for hours and hours on end, something I'd always enjoyed as a child but had to give up in order to become Konoha's best kunoichi. I'd relish in watching the occasional customer wander around the shop pondering which blossom to choose and I'd finally help them decide on the perfect one. The Yamanaka Flower Shop was my safe haven. There I didn't have to worry or fear anything, and there I could forget every single bad memory I had of the past. True, some people would call the activities of my daily life boring and mundane, but I didn't really care. I enjoyed the calm and quiet satisfaction it brought my soul. Besides, I had one other activity to occupy myself with. I can never really recall the exact day or hour when it happened, but the place, I shall always remember. And I will forever blame fate for it.

I vaguely recall that it might've been a little more than a year ago. I'd started doing flower and seedling deliveries around that time for extra income and of course, the view. Deliveries gave me the perfect excuse to wander around Konoha and take in all its magnificence. Around town all the houses, buildings and shops that got destroyed during the war were rebuilt, so everything looked fairly new. But on the outskirts everything was the same, the lakes, fields and the gentle rolling hills. In a word, Konoha was breathtaking. Its serenity seemed to match my new found meditative personality perfectly. On one particular afternoon I delivered a bunch of peonies to a kindly old lady who lived on the outskirts of town. On the way back I decided to take a different route, one that would take me round the eastern side of Konoha before finally leading back into town. The road I chose to take happened to pass by a gentle slope that led to a grassy patch around 20 meters or so away. It was surrounded by trees and there was a little brook off to the left side. I stopped a while to admire the view, the place was perfect, especially that the eastern mountain range provided an excellent backdrop. I was just imagining how wonderful it must be to watch the sunrise in this particular spot, when a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye distracted me. It surprised me for a while, but comprehension dawned on me quickly enough. It could only have been him anyway. True, his clothing was a little more subdued, his movements more careful, calculated and purposeful but it was still that same look of fiery determination he wore on his face.

I decided to stay a while, to observe and possibly even admire his swift, fluid motions. He'd grown so much over the years. He looked more mature and serious, someone who seemed to not tolerate foolishness of any kind. Judging from a distance, he was probably more than a foot taller than me now, slightly tanned and muscular, trim but not bulky. It looked like he was practicing taijutsu at the meantime, but around him I saw various targets embedded with a number of kunai and shuriken. That was the first time I'd seen him in a very long time. I'd occasionally hear news about him of course, of how he had breezed through the chuunin exams and how he'd become a jounin almost overnight. I smiled inwardly, a little ruefully maybe, but I was still somehow glad for him. He'd suffered so much but I was amazed at his steadfast willpower. How he must miss them...his teammates...the original Team 7, his friends. I guessed that he somehow felt he'd failed them, failed to bring Sasuke-kun back and failed to protect Sakura. The Hokage-ship would be his way of honoring them, of remembering them and it would be his personal monument dedicated to them. I decided right there and then, that he truly deserved to become Hokage more than anyone else in Konoha. I left around ten minutes after, I didn't want to intrude and I had to get back to the shop anyway.

Well, that's that for now. A chapter or two may be on the way. But not too soon as school is, you know, Arrgh. ^_^