Disclaimer: I own no assets of Naruto. Nor do I own any materials pertaining to the music used in the chapter.

Ages: All the Rookie Nine students plus Gaara are 17 at present. Neji, Tenten and Lee (when I put him in) are 18. Temari is 19. I've kept Zabuza at his part 1 age of 26. I've upped Haku's age in relation to the rookie 9. So I've made him 21 in this.

Face the Music

A Naruto Fan Fiction

Chapter 1: Idiot or Prodigy?

An alarm clock. It's a simple piece of technology; one half of the title's duty tells the time, the other refers to their secondary – or even dual primary – function. They come in many shapes and sizes, noises and volumes, but they all do the same thing: they wake up the lazy ass sleeping across from them. All in all, they are but inanimate objects, but they fulfill their duty without regard to neither consequence nor status of their victim, but they can bear very unfortunate ends. And, regrettably, an unfortunate end was to be the fate of Yamanaka Ino's alarm clock as the brunt of her fist smashed down upon it with a little more force than the manufacturers would deem necessary.

The never-ending claxon that emanated from the ironically small machine was suddenly halted as small shards of plastic and a single AA battery flew towards different corners of the overly purple bedroom, lightly clanging against the wooden floor before echoing away into nothingness. Such a shame, that clock had been through and survived a lot over its two years of life, and now the plastic face laid cracked and the digital display blank as if it never existed…it was now nothing but a dead carcass, soon to be thrown into the trash like it had never lived a dutiful life of waking up its violent owner.

Naturally, none of that mattered to the seventeen-year-old young woman, whose hair flowed and meandered down her back like a blonde river that started at the watershed that was her scalp. She stared at her extended fist through half lidded eyes, the realisation dawning upon her features when she finally realised she'd done it again.

'Dammit! That's the third one in five years!' While she chastised herself with loud vigour in her mind, her lips and vocal chords could barely spit out a low groan in translation, a groan that could also convey disappointment over numerous aspects of the coming day. One: It was a school day. Two: They were going to be serving fish at the cafeteria. Three: She shared the majority of today's classes with one of her lesser-favoured acquaintances. Four: It was a Friday.


"YES!" The blonde's laziness was suddenly declared redundant as she lifted her upper body vertical. Such an action was soon regretted as she felt her blood drain away from her brain and momentarily darken her vision. She grasped her head and used her fingers to slowly massage her scalp, noting how her hair felt slightly coarse despite having only washed it the afternoon before. She repeated her earlier groan as she flung the duvet away from the side of her bed and slowly coaxed her legs into moving outwards, exposing her cream coloured thighs and unbelievably smooth shins.

She reached her arms above her head in her predictable morning stretching pattern, her small sleeveless purple top lifting in perfect synchronicity with her shoulders as she drew out a long yawn. Any man watching would have been truly mesmerised by the outward expansion of her chest as it was pushed out, easily revealing the beginning and end of the curves of her youthful bust, one which earned the eyes of many a fellow student over the past three years.

Ino had always taken pride in her looks. Her face was totally unblemished, which gave no real reason for why she left a single thick batch of her blonde hair to dangle and conceal almost the entirety of the right side of her face. Her amazingly deep eyes of light-tinted teal were a near perfect contrast to her platinum blonde locks that ended at the small of her back. Her mid C-cup chest was one that grasped both the admiration from the boys and the jealousy of the girls; suffice to say that it was one of the only reasons anybody had ever wanted to go out with her. Her breasts immediately progressed into a flat and slightly toned stomach, courtesy of her regular jogs and occasional two-week diet terms. Her thin waist birthed beneath it a lovely set of wide hips that supported a perky and round derriere that would knock anybody dead from blood loss should she decide to wear a skirt or anything with fabric tight enough to resemble a second skin. From there her long, firm legs travelled all the way down to a pair of soft, light coloured feet. She freely admitted that her body was the biggest factor to make her feel good about herself, but it disheartened her to think that it was the only thing that people would see her for. It wasn't like she didn't have brains either, otherwise she wouldn't be in the running for a place in college as a journalism student once she finished her senior year of high school.

Despite her hypnotizing looks and above average intellect, she was by no means a model student in the social aspect. She was quite bossy, brash, confident, sometimes overly so, and sadly unafraid of belittling others if her own personal progression was being blocked by whatever unfortunate soul got in her way. She was by no means an ice queen, but her attitude staved off enough people that tried to get an idea, that's why she was more comfortable at being stared at rather than being approached by those who thought themselves to be hot stuff.

All in all, the way people would describe her made her sound like the stereotypical spoilt brat of a rich oil tycoon or sports club chairman. That, however, was far from the case. Her father, Inoichi, owned and helped to operate an independent but popular flower shop in downtown Konoha. Her mother, Inoto, was the full-time perm who tended to the customer service and decoration of the store, and usually got help from her husband three days a week when it came to deliveries and heavy lifting duties such as large hanging baskets. Financially, they were a near-totally self-sufficient family, and Ino herself would earn her allowance by working on Saturdays. Inoto's name was on the majority of the shop's paperwork and income books; this was because Inoichi was also a fully qualified Psychologist, working regularly at a local clinic in the field of psychotherapy. Despite the apparent happy family work ethic, their home life was quite calm. The Yamanaka's lived in a simple detached two floor house in one of the more middle-class areas just west of the city centre. There was no white picket fence to decorate the near non-existent front garden, but the driveway that connected to the front porch via a stone slab path allowed for safe vehicle parking rather than keeping it out on the side of the road.

Some people, when looking at her, would think she had it all: looks, personality (well, when it came to people who liked having a woman that could give them a challenge), intellect and money. The majority of that seemed so, but all in all her family were simply making the money to get by. They couldn't afford a flashy car or an Olympic sized swimming pool in the backyard, it was enough to pay the bills, put food on the table and leave a few dollars to go and treat themselves every few weeks. Overall, they were really just a basic middle class family.

Ino's looks didn't reflect this, but that was only because she knew that working hard for oneself would get one far in the world. She had originally made the offer to work for her parents to make her money, she took the incentive to go out and keep herself looking fit and healthy, she pushed herself through middle school and her early high school years to get herself set for a bright future…unlike some other idiots she knew.

She had done all of this. But after seventeen, going on eighteen years of life…she still hadn't had a proper boyfriend.

Sure, there was the odd guy who piqued her interest, but very few had that…she couldn't currently put a word to the single thing that she was looking for. Then again, that never stopped her from competing with her best friend of ten years to win over the heart of the lead singer of the official school Indie band: Uchiha Sasuke.

All of these things had shot through her head within a grand time of five seconds as she dully gazed down at her trimmed, unvarnished toenails. But as soon as the word Sasuke flashed in her mindscape with numerous thousand-watt neon lights and his face came into view, she let out a smitten sigh.

'Wait! Sasuke-kun's band practices on Fridays!' As soon as that thought had started, she was shooting out of her room, quickly turning right to avoid the stairs that were directly ahead of the entrance of her room, and heading the few extra metres across the landing to head into the bathroom.

Half-an-hour later, emerging from within a plume of steam that made the whole room look like a sauna, came a towel-clad Ino with darkened, water-matted and flat hair that perfectly outlined her scalp and traversed down her smooth cheek, cementing itself to her collarbone and down the back of her neck. She exhaled with minor elation before heading back into her room, too embroiled in her own relaxed state to hear her mother holler a quick 'good morning' from downstairs.

Her realisation before heading for the shower was the exact reason for Ino's provocative choice of underwear: a lacy, practically transparent black underwire bra that slightly uplifted her eye-popping chest along with identical panties…minus the transparency at the front for the sake of lower region dignity. She had been the kind of girl to flaunt her looks, but not enough to make her think she was open to any drooling pig that got some nosebleed inducing idea. Sasuke's band would practice during the hour lunch break, and they were certainly not alien to having numerous fangirls and boys – thanks to the female bassist, Itodane Karin – trample all over each other outside their room. Although the blind fanatics called it 'Sasuke's band'…it really wasn't. 'Will of Fire' was the official band of Konoha High, founded six years before by the then junior year students. As the generations passed, new students would audition to become backups that would eventually replace the outgoing graduates in their attempt to grasp the campus-wide spotlight, and maybe get more credit before leaving for college.

Sasuke followed in his older brother's footsteps by making it to lead singer, further fuelling everybody else's scrutiny that the Uchiha were nothing but attention whores. Before he had actually joined, he was already pined over by roughly one third of the girls in his year, and at least one quarter of those in the year below; so it was no surprise that 'Will of Fire's' popularity skyrocketed over the space of a week. Ino took an arrogant, simple-minded pride in being Sasuke's self proclaimed first fan, a title that…once again…was fought over by Haruno Sakura. And thus the love-hate cycle of their friendship began all over again like it did in both lower and middle school. The fangirl duo personified the phrase, 'Some things never change'.

Sasuke aside, Ino was also looking forward to a night out at one of the biggest nightclubs that Konoha had to offer: The Sixty-Four Palms, named as such because that was usually the minimum number of hands that were planted against one of the many bars at any one time on a busy night; and all for the sake of getting a drink. She and Sakura both had been to the establishment a few times over the past year, exploiting the single-track minds of the bouncers to avoid being ID'd. Hey, they couldn't help it that they looked stunningly gorgeous; enough so to make them look like they had just hit twenty.

The scales in her mind weighed the few niggling annoyances of the day against the parts she was bound to enjoy, and the bias was obvious as the scale not only favoured the enjoyment side, but it had toppled in its direction and fallen off its imaginary pedestal from all the weight that Ino's mindscape had slapped on it.

Yep…today was going to be fun.

Ino smiled as she basked in the warmth provided by the partially cloud-blocked sun as she walked down the last street of her daily walk to Konoha High. All the way through the morning up to now she could feel her jitteriness come across her features in anticipation of seeing the hunk she was determined to nab and call hers. A gentle breeze blew across from her left, letting her hair flap outwards like a natural short length cape and revealing the round rear of her somewhat tight jeans, above which was a purple button-up shirt with three-quarter length sleeves. Although Ino had strategically buttoned her top to display only the first few millimetres of her cleavage, it was still enough to make the boys' imaginations run wild. While strategy seemed to have no real legitimate implementation in her clothing choice, it was her intention to sift out the lusters from the potentials…then again, only one man was a potential in her eyes. Anybody who got the idea that looking down her top was the path to her eyes (which was roughly 99.5 percent of the males she came across) was a self-serving luster; but that didn't necessarily mean that those who ignored her chest and paid attention to her face during conversation were any better, it simply showed that they had more self discipline. Ironically, this attitude had never been reflected onto the Uchiha himself. He never actively sought any girl out, despite them practically begging for him to dive between their legs, and never showed any incentive that would so much as hint towards somebody he admired. Even when Ino had struck up multiple, albeit very short and almost one-sided conversations with the near-emotionally dead young man, he never looked anywhere below her nose line. However, Ino being Ino, she chalked that down to the guy showing his respectful side, and not to obliviousness.

Ino's internal reverie was disrupted by the repetitive monotone blare of a car horn overlapping the growling of an over-enhanced turbo engine. A BMW Z3 convertible, kitted out in a nausea-inducing blood red paint scheme, flew past while the two occupant's wolf-whistles were already dying down in the distance. These were the kind of assholes that frustrated her to no end: disrespectful, brainless morons who thought a car meant everything. She felt like flipping them off as they blew by, but that would only satisfy their habit further; in these situations, ignorance was indeed bliss.

Four minutes and a double check of her workbooks later she was walking up the short flight of stairs and through the main entrance of Konoha High. The majority of the school was a single red brick, 1950's styled building shaped like a three-sided square, and the playing fields, sports and maintenance equipment lockers and gym were located further away in a wide clearing made of natural grass, fenced off Astroturf, tennis courts and a half-sized baseball field. A large eight-foot high wall encompassed the majority of the grounds, and was erected roughly ten metres away from the furthest outgoing point; basically a square inside another square. Two black, inward swinging wrought iron gates covered the large gap in the wall that made out the main entrance.

Ino made her way to the eastern wing on the ground floor and her feet took her straight to her first destination of the day. She found the door to her homeroom open like it was any other day, and had no hesitation in bursting right in with a somewhat self-righteous smile, one that said, 'Time to pay attention to me!'

The homeroom of Class 4 was no different from any other standard lecturing room. The door was in the bottom right corner, if one was to look straight ahead from the dry board, and a row of three-metre high windows covered almost the entire length of the far left wall, revealing some of the internal courtyard stuck between the east and west wings, as well as the west wing itself further in the distance. The seating was separated into three even sections, each split vertically by a shallow staircase, with each section being split horizontally into six elongated desks. It allowed for enough individual space to splay out a work and textbook next to each other without running across onto somebody else's materials.

Now on a Friday, one would commonly expect students to be eager to get to classes so that they could be done and dusted. The sight that greeted Ino's teal eyes was almost identical, but had then been flipped upside down and reversed.

In the upper corner, furthest from the door, sat a boy with short red hair and black eyeliner covering the entirety of his eyelids. His arms were crossed and he was leaning lazily against the back wall while showing a firm interest in the plaster of the wall directly across from him. At the front desk, with his feet crossed upon its surface and holding an orange book, sat their homeroom teacher, Hatake Kakashi. The silver haired man always aroused suspicions amongst his students, mostly because of his unwavering superstition surrounding airborne germs and particles, which was the reason for his wearing of a doctor's white surgical mask. He had worn one the day he was first introduced to Ino's class, and he had not been seen without it since…at least in this class' history. Nevertheless, he was a quirky man who liked to 'get down' with his students…such actions included planting his feet on his desk and reading adult novels during school time.

With his head of pulled back, dark brown hair lying flat against the desk in the middle seating area on the front row sat one of Ino's childhood friends, Nara Shikamaru. A lazy guy above anything else, Shikamaru was still one of the school's smartest students, and it was a common occurrence for his report cards to mention that the boy could be a genius in and of his own class if he got off his ass and worked harder. Regardless, he always handed assignments in on time and usually got exceptional grades, even though he was usually spending the majority of the night before the deadline date finishing it up. Ino and Shikamaru's fathers were old school friends themselves and kept in touch most of their lives, which secured the bond that they would pass down to their children. To each other, there was more of a sibling feel to their relationship, since Ino didn't like the idea of having a lazy boyfriend, and the blonde herself reminded Shikamaru too much of his bossy mother.

Much to her chagrin, Sakura had already arrived. The simple fact that she had arrived behind her best friend was not what initiated her blood boiling process.

It was the fact that she was sat in the only available space next to Sasuke, who was on the second row of the furthest desk area right next to the windows, staring out towards nothing as the pinkette nattered on about something regarding a new dress and how it hugged her curves. Very few words were processed in Ino's mind as she entered her 'competitive mode'; focussing on nothing but Sakura's wide open body language and hair flicking, the majority of the surrounding noise simply went in one ear and out the other.

She stormed over to the windows, failing to spare a single glance to the one other current occupant of the room that she had missed, who himself was too embroiled in his iPod Touch to care for anything in his immediate vicinity. Even as Ino forced her feet down in an attempt to get a reading on the Richter scale, Sakura had turned her entire body to the raven-haired man in such a way that another single degree would mean she'd be straddling her area of the flat bench. Unfortunately, the frilled knee-length skirt of bright pink may have just been implemented for that exact reason, and that only served to raise the temperature in Ino's cheeks.

Even as she filtered into the third row, right behind the pitiful scene, Sasuke was still staring out the window, and Sakura was too busy twirling one of her bangs through her fingers to bother looking behind her. Sakura finally spared a look behind her when it felt like a gun had been discharged right next to her head. She looked at the small, uneven pile of books that now sat on the desk behind her, and followed the button line of the purple shirt up to a pair of eyebrow-disturbed orbs of light blue.

And Sakura's reaction: a smile that had 'I won' written all over it.

"Morning, Ino", Sakura chimed sweetly, pretending to not be affected by the murderous glance that was returned by her friend. Ino sat down and grumbled out a 'morning' between pursed lips. All of a sudden, the scales that had balanced the day in her favour early in the morning had returned to their pedestal and slowly shifted to the negative.

'Great. First Billboard gets the seat next to Sasuke-kun, and now I've got to live with that idiot for two hours!' Ino's mind was referring to the figure she had walked past earlier and since ignored until the moment she looked over to him, sat on his own on the fourth row of the seating area nearest the door. He was sat on the end of the row with his right leg idly sticking out into the staircase, effectively blocking it off from anybody else except the other idiots – as Ino called them – who would sit with him.

The boy in question wore a dark pair of jeans coupled with a black and white patterned box frame-buckled belt. On his upper half, his first layer was a simple orange t-shirt with a black spiral pattern over the left breast. The second layer was also black, consisting of a long-sleeved button-up shirt. The collar was down, the buttons undone, and the sleeves were rolled halfway up his arms, stopping at the elbows. He had shining blonde hair that most certainly did not reflect the nature of dirtiness he seemed to exhume; and his blue eyes, deeper than Ino's, had somewhat of a mystery surrrounding them. At times they could be wide, bright and cheerful, at others they would narrow and harden to reflect some kind of inner turmoil. His long fringe was held back by a thin black bandana with an orange swirl similar in design to that on his t-shirt on the front, giving his hair a messy look as it cascaded down the sides and back of his head to his jaw line and lower neck respectively. The flanks framed his face while the uncovered parts of his fringe tried to fight against the bandana and drop again, making it only as far as his eyebrows.

This was Uzumaki Naruto. One of the two class dunces, a title jointly held between both himself and the dog lover Inuzuka Kiba. 'Dunce' was in fact the name bestowed upon them by the other students; they still did their parts as students by handing in work on time…but that was it. Naruto himself was a hyperactive young man, a prankster who always had a smile that Ino wanted to punch and dislodge some teeth from. She didn't hate the guy by any standards, he was just…annoying; and the fact he was always the one to try stupid things in school time did not do his reputation any favours. Things like deliberately sneezing on his term paper before handing it to Kakashi, thus kicking off the teacher's tendency to kill the germs…using fire. Naruto ended up laughing too much to bother retaking the paper.

She narrowed her eyes at Naruto as he mindlessly bobbed his head up and down to a tune on his iPod, noting how his brow had crinkled into one of concentration. Interestingly, Naruto would have one of these days every few weeks. He'd do nothing for the whole day except pay attention to his earphones and tap out a beat on whatever surface his fingers could reach: a desk, his thighs…Kiba's head.

'I guess it won't be that bad if he's gone into his hypnosis mode. Why can't he be like this all the time? That way he'd stop annoying everybody.' That was another reason why Ino wasn't too fond of the class's only other blonde, she felt that he never took his life seriously. He didn't seem to be bothering so much with his work, despite being constantly warned that he could leave with grades that would not impress more prestigious employers. Ino worked hard for everything, and Naruto was almost the opposite, therefore she didn't see why he should have the pleasure of her time.

Ten minutes later, Kakashi put his book away once he noticed that the chatter had died down as the students waited to be called on the register. He leant forward, grabbing a pen from his breast pocket and poising the nib at the first name.

Even as the class waited for everybody else to turn up, Naruto was still too immersed in his iPod and using the desk as a drum set to hear his name be called out. The lyrics, vocal style, guitars and drumbeat…all of them had amalgamated into a beautiful collection of harmonies that soothed his ears. He loved these days, when nothing mattered but him and his own enjoyment away from the mockery of his friends and fellow students. Sadly, while he thought about his overdue time of solitude, he hadn't felt his left earphone get yanked out, nor the short breath against his ear before…


The blonde jumped from the sheer volume and proximity of the foghorn-like wail. His recoil had been powerful enough to throw him backwards and crumpling into a pile between his bench and the backing wall, his body almost contorting into a 'J' shape as his legs stuck up towards the ceiling. His reverie was finally broken as he heard the usual mocking and degrading laughter of his class.

'Yep. Let's hear it for Uzumaki Naruto. The class's pre-determined target of constant humiliation.' While Naruto's inner mind had created a verbally intelligent and constructive sentence, what came out of his mouth was the ghetto translation, solely directed at the person who had put him on the floor in the first place.

"Fuck you, Kiba!" Naruto had to fall towards the side and onto the stairway before he could stand up and shift back onto the desk.

"So glad you could return from the stage, Naruto", Kakashi sarcastically retorted before finally ticking Naruto's name on the sheet sat before him. Some of the students smiled at Kakashi's joke and gave Naruto another look before ignoring him once again, but Gaara actually frowned with disdain. Naruto simply shrugged the remark off and shot an unimpressed look to the boy who was still snickering next to him.

"Kiba, I'm going to neuter you some day, you know that?" Naruto quipped loud enough for the whole class to hear. Kiba smiled smugly before looking straight back into Naruto's eyes and responding.

"You're just saying that as an excuse to see my dick, you queer!" Kiba laughed to himself, earning a few backing giggles from across the room.

'Gotcha', Naruto prematurely threw a victory party in his head.

"Who said I was calling you a guy? I was talking about your pussy, you moron." With a humorous grin and a quick cackle, Naruto faced the front, opting to ignore the look of anger on Kiba's face as some of the other students laughed at Naruto's jibe and began chimes of 'Burned'. In all honesty, it was hard for a lot of people to believe that the two warmongers were close friends.

"I hope you enjoy doing that improv, Dobe. It's the closest you'll ever get to being in a band", Sasuke spoke up confidently and leaving no room for argument, intent on stopping Naruto's verbal victory pride in its tracks. The remark got both Sakura and Ino to look in Naruto's direction with equal full-of-themselves sneers, all in the manner of silently supporting their crush. Naturally, the guy who just so happened to be in a band had to go and make fun of somebody who was merely acting like they were.

Over time, everybody had come to know Naruto as someone who took everything on the chin and smiled afterward; why he did it was something that only those closest to him knew. So it came as a surprise to the trio by the window when they saw the spiky-haired blonde glare back with a deep frown and a clenched jaw; something his fellow students had rarely seen the likes of before. The way he had tilted the top of his head towards the light emphasised the shadows surrounding the strange whisker marks on his cheeks, further pronouncing them and giving him a distinctly feral look when it was combined with his piercing blue eyes. So out of character was the expression that they couldn't help but stare back in genuine confusion – although Sasuke's face was still stoic as ever – and bewilderment. It was all the better, because if they had continued to look around, they would have noticed Gaara also staring down at them with the face he had adopted earlier from Kakashi's jibe.

'What the hell? He looked like he wanted to attack one of us!' Ino suddenly felt nervous as she played back Naruto's face. It was so primal, so animalistic, and so…dangerously magnetising and attractive.

'Wait…WHAT?' Ino rapidly shook her head and widened her eyes as the movement ceased. She wasn't sure whether she had hallucinated that or not, but the mere thought - be it real or dream - that her mind had suddenly diverted itself away from her sane conscience and complimented Naruto on his looks was enough to throw her a curveball. She needed something to take her mind off the sudden change in her attitude…fast. Quickly leaning forward, Ino tapped Sakura on the shoulder, getting an impatient look from the pink-haired flaunter due to the interruption of her 'Sasuke Swooning' time.

"Are we still on for the 'Palms tonight, forehead?" Sakura frowned at the moniker, but promptly switched her face to her previously cheerful one, clearly hinting her anticipation of their night out.

"Of course!" Sakura suddenly jumped with an idea, widening her smile and turning back to Sasuke, "Sasuke-kun, why don't you come with us? We'll have drinks, do some dancing-"

"No", Sasuke shot back without hesitation nor turning away from the window he had returned to looking out from, "I have things to do tonight, things that take precedence over hanging out with people like you." His voice was completely devoid of emotion bar the low, cold tone he tended to adopt when he was in thought. Both girls' shoulders slumped in disappointment, not allowing themselves to be fazed by the hurtful remark. Even when Sasuke took shots at them much like this one, they never got the hint that the boy just wasn't interested. Many of the groups impervious to Sasuke's so called 'charm' felt that dating a fridge would get better results. Both were cold, unemotional and physically stiff, but at least the fridge could give you a refreshing drink when you wanted one.

The school day passed by without incident for the buxom blonde. Naruto kept quiet for the majority of her classes, and she even caught him working during English, which got her worried about the possibility of an impending apocalypse. She had had a quick lunch before teaming up with Sakura to watch Sasuke's band practice in the music studios – neither girl ever called it by its proper name – and mindlessly smile at his singing. Will of Fire's practice sessions had become more frequent in preparation for a Battle of the Bands contest that was coming up in two months time. They practiced like they wanted to win, but almost everybody knew that there were next to no other competitors, nor did they have the skill their precious Uchiha exhibited. While the band had stopped to have a drink, Ino noticed a shadowy figure near one of the few fire exits. She didn't know how long the unknown addition had been standing there, but she was positive that they were interested in what Will of Fire, nee Sasuke's band, had to offer. She suddenly got farfetched ideas that it was a studio scout looking for new talent. But just before they started playing their last song, the figure, who looked no older than herself in neither posture nor body structure, had simply vanished, leaving almost no trace of their existence.

She walked down the steps outside the main entrance with another cheery smile, revving herself up for a night on the town with her best friend. She already had her get-up planned out, how much money she would take, how many guys she was predicting that would come up and ask her for a dance; all in all, tonight was going to be fun, much more so than the bland day she had just experienced.

As she approached the gates at the outer wall, she saw numerous figures grouped by a fully leafed oak tree a way off to the left of her field of vision. The tree itself had a bench that had been built around the circumference of its trunk, allowing for a 360-degree, outward facing seating arrangement. Immediately, she recognised Naruto's waving blonde hair as he continually bobbed his head to a beat going through his ears, tapping his thighs and sometimes slapping the arm of the boy to his left. Ino saw the unmistakable blackened eyes of Gaara look up at Naruto, and she stood motionless as she watched his lips articulate something. Not being schooled in lip reading, she could only start to imagine what he had said. For some reason, the mysteriousness of their proximity only served to whet her appetite for gossip; she wanted to get closer, but feared that they would scram like startled squirrels. Naruto, meanwhile, just kept on tapping, completely oblivious to Gaara's words. Stood side by side in front of her peers were two slightly taller students, both of which had one of their arms wrapped behind the other's waist. One figure had long, dark brown hair that stopped at the middle of his back, and the woman in his arm had lighter but shorter hair which had been wrapped up into two buns atop her head. For some reason, they always reminded Ino of a cartoon mouse she once saw on TV as a child.

The two halves of the duo formed one of Konoha High's oldest couples, Hyuuga Neji and Kamezura Tenten. Neji was the well respected cousin of one of Ino's classmates, Hinata; while Tenten was an ordinary student whose parents owned a local gun shop and firing range. Ino was never close to Tenten, but the fact their parents were alike in the sense of self-employment was enough for the younger girl to respect her. Neji and Tenten had gotten together in 9th Grade and had been happily together ever since; so strong was their relationship that there were even rumours going around that Neji was planning to propose at their graduation ceremony at the end of the year. Whatever their future plans, looking at them made Ino smile, but also upset a small part of her, the part that wondered when she'd find her perfect guy.

'Probably not in the next three or four years', she thought without any hope. Keeping her eyes on the four by the tree, she saw the three not enraptured in listening to music actively talking to each other. With all the hand movements going around, it looked like they were having some sort of debate or question and answer time. But to Ino, the whole scene just looked wrong. Naruto had hardly ever spoken a syllable to neither Neji nor Tenten since their sophomore year, when Naruto faced off against the elder Hyuuga for upsetting Hinata over something. That one confrontation started the rumour mill going over a potential crush Naruto had for the violet-haired girl; and while Naruto tried his best to nip the myths in the bud, Hinata simply blushed and incoherently mumbled whenever people asked her. It was no hidden fact that Hinata had a crush on Naruto since middle school, despite the latter's total obliviousness.

Naruto finally pulled his earphones out and let them dangle freely from where they emerged from his t-shirt neck; the cable disappeared underneath the fabric and traversed down his torso to the iPod jack socket. He looked up at Neji without a single hint of anger or disdain, and began openly conversing with him, much like Gaara had done. The calm interaction between the age-gapped students only confused Ino more, and her mind had zoned out her surroundings and dedicated itself to trying to figure out what their connection to each other consisted of. Only when the quadro of students looked over to their uninvited audience did Ino shake her head again and walk at double pace towards the gates. She spared one more glance at the group, still feeling the pressure and heat from their eyes as they continued to stare at her before she vanished behind the cinderblocks that made up the wall.

Under her parents' belief that she was sleeping over at Sakura's for the night, Ino had left her house with neither Inoichi or Inoto seeing the sleeveless, silk like, thin-fabric purple top that hugged her bodacious chest and stomach; nor did they see the cream-tinted, three-quarter length pants that, much like her jeans earlier that day, looked like a second skin. Then again, it wasn't a complete lie. Sakura had given Ino permission to stay the night at her house if she felt that there was no way the blonde would make it home. Even though the pair of young women were just going out like any other ordinary night, Ino couldn't help but smile with content as she mentally planned out the general rota for the night's festivities.

'Start conversation. Conversation turns to Sasuke-kun. We argue for four minutes over who's better for him. Agree to buy each other a drink and put the argument aside. Mock other people while having said drink. Repeat.' The thought remained floating around the confines of Ino's mind as she approached the city centre fifteen minutes later. Shops lined both sides of the street she currently found herself on, the out of hours lighting illuminating enough of the botanical setup that ran straight through the length of the avenue to avoid any accidental collision. She didn't have to focus all her concentration on her human surroundings, either; the slowly increasing concentration of partygoers around her was enough to tell her that she was getting closer to her destination. She quickly righted her small, purple-sequined purse to hang from her right shoulder as each step brought her ever closer to her night of enjoyment. She heard a rapid tapping of heels against the stone sidewalk behind her and inquisitively turned around to see the vivid head of waving pink-hair that had stolen her seat next to Sasuke that morning.

Sakura had a pleasant smile upon her unblemished features, most likely sharing the same optimism for the night ahead as her blonde counterpart. The pinkette's outfit consisted of a pink (what else?), thin-strapped one-piece blouse whose hem ended wide and frilled around her knees. A red, faux-leather belt about one hand wide was wrapped tight around her midsection, further emphasising her hourglass figure. Ino returned the lipstick bordered smile her friend sent her way before being beaten to a greeting.

"How are you doing?" Sakura added a helium-like inflection in an attempt to punctuate her question more than a question mark could ever do. Before Ino could even reply, she was enveloped in a close hug that spoke like a union between friends who hadn't seen each other in years. The former was true, the latter was not; and that was why Ino was surprised…and also mildly freaked out.

"I'm great!" Ino said loudly, forgetting how close Sakura's ear was to her mouth. They pulled back and shared a quick look before the blonde spoke up again, "So, you ready to have some fun?" Sakura simply nodded, widening her grin. And without another word, the pair walked arm in arm to the Sixty-Four Palms.

The club itself was massive. It was a two story, white plaster building shaped like a simple cuboid. Behind the entrance doors was a wide, twenty metre long carpeted corridor. The ceiling of which had embedded lighting and the walls had evenly set frames that held posters pertaining to the entertainment business: upcoming concerts, special nights at the club itself, drinks offers. At its end, the corridor widened out into a foyer lit by a fake chandelier with bars to both the left and right, chock full of spirits, liquors, lagers, ciders and sodas for patrons with different tastes. The entrance to the actual dance floor consisted of four sets of double doors, beyond which was a fifty-by-fifty metre polished hardwood floor, and beyond that was a raised platform, roughly two metres high, for a DJ and some hired dancers. So soundproof was the building that the noise coming from the dance floor couldn't be heard until one was nearly halfway down the entrance corridor.

The foyer on the ground floor also had two staircases on both sides that led to and identical area on the floor above it. The same bars were in place, as were the same sets of doors. If somebody were to use an elevator, it would feel like the machine had moved, but the doors opened to reveal the same scene. It was for this reason, i.e. the potential for drunken freak-outs, that an elevator was never installed. The only difference was that the first floor had no proper dance floor beyond the doors. Instead, it consisted of a single large parapet that extended out for roughly seven metres from the wall and covered the front and side walls, leaving the far wall reserved for performers clear. This oversized balcony gave a marvellous aboveground view of the stage and the dance floor below.

Because of the sheer size and popularity of the establishment, there was an entrance fee, enforced by the four small, single-person barrier-joined booths. The bouncers were the first level of security outside, and the booths inside made sure people had the cash to actually get in.

Five minutes later, the dangerous duo were presenting themselves to the two bouncers that guarded one of the three sets of double doors that allowed entrance to the amazingly popular club. Sakura was smiling sweetly up to the bald man who stood at least a foot-and-a-half above her whilst simultaneously twirling her hair through her fingers, giving him a front row seat of her lips and beautifully lined and glistening white teeth. Ino had played the same kind of game, but exploited the low cut front of her top to fool the bouncer into looking. And once he did…let's just say the game was won. As the bouncer gave in and waved Ino through with a nod of his head, he quickly wore a look of underlying comedic roots. He looked like he wanted to laugh, but his tightened lips had narrowly hidden it. His partner, the one who had also let Sakura through, looked across; and they both shared a look that said they knew something the two girls didn't.

As they passed through the tollbooths, the terrible two stopped off to the side of the corridor to put away the change from their tickets. Ino looked up and suddenly noticed something that their pleasure enveloped mind had missed out on, the thing that the bouncers had smirked at behind their backs.

Everybody else was dressed in some form of black. Patterned t-shirts, baggy slacks with rings and chains, and heavy looking GI-like boots…all suddenly seemed to be acceptable in the club dress code.

Sakura saw Ino freeze and quickly saw her scanning the other patrons who began to practically run down the corridor and to the bars. She too noted the lack of any vivid colours, and narrowed her eyes in suspicion. She turned her head to look back at the blonde, whose face had confusion written all over it.

"Ino," Sakura began in a low, sceptical tone, "Is there something you're not telling me?" Ino shook her head without making eye contact, which only sought to get a hardening gaze from Sakura. Sakura's answer sat right in front of her face as she turned back to face the wall on the other side of the corridor, and her face immediately fell into one of disbelief. The first large A1 sized frame held a poster:

Sixty-Four Palms



Skin-Cutting Shredders! Finger-Shearing Thrashers! Ear-Rupturing Riffers! A collection of the region's best up and coming talent!

Friday the 12th, 9:00pm – 2:00am

The poster's text was placed over a generic and stereotypical image of a longhaired, sweat-covered guitarist appearing to be half way through a headbang. Sakura slowly and rather creepily turned back to face Ino, only to be met by a look of incredulity that equally mirrored hers.

"Ino." The pinkette let out a harsh tone that drew out her soon-to-be-dead-friend's name. Ino's surprise hadn't yet settled, and that was reflected within her response.

"What?" The blonde securely shot back. For her troubles, Ino received a short push on her left shoulder.

"Are you telling me I got all dressed up for a night out with these…these…" Sakura desperately wanted to say something aloud in her anger, but she knew that the nearby metal fans would hear her and start a one-sided confrontation. As a result, the pink-haired girl forced herself to restart the rant.

"A metal night, Ino? What the hell? Did you even bother to look ahead and see what was happening tonight?" Ino frowned at Sakura's shift of 100-percent of the blame.

"Well excuse me! I haven't been here in months, forehead! How was I supposed to know this was going to happen?" Ino pointed back to the corridor, ignoring the few gazes that were flung her way. Sakura huffed through her nostrils.

"You were the one who asked if I wanted to come in the first place, so you should have done the research!" Sakura poked a lithe finger at Ino's collarbone with some slight force. Ino sighed and brought a hand up to her forehead.

"Look, I know that they have some of these themed nights every few months; but I just thought it was going to be like normal. I mean come on, forehead, what were the odds that I'd pick this night?" Sakura shook her head, not happy in the slightest.

"It's too late to talk about odds now," the pinkette sighed and looked back towards the entrance, now the exit to her. Ino saw the look of want in her eyes, the want to escape and head home in a depressed slump, the type that would only be quelled by a pint of ice cream. Without a thought, she snatched Sakura's arm and forced their gazes back to each other's eyes. This was one of those times when Ino's confidence outshone that of Sakura's. While there were some situations that brought out Sakura's shy side, it would take three times of a more embarrassing scenario to similarly effect Ino. After all, the only things that had changed for these once-in-a-blue-moon dos were the dress code and music genre. It didn't mean that they couldn't still have a few drinks and have at least some fun. That uncaring look was what Sakura saw as they stared at each other for a second before anything was said.

"Ah, ah, ah", the blonde quickly interjected, "I paid to get in here, and I'm damn well going to try and enjoy myself! And I'll be damned if I do it on my own!" She tried to pull Sakura along as she forced all the worries out of her head and began her defiant trek down the corridor. Unfortunately, a steadfast resistance from the arm in her grasp stopped her in her tracks, forcing her to turn back and see a look on Sakura's face that clearly acted as a window to the cogs turning in her head. Yes, she had paid to get in just like Ino, but both the music and fellow patrons had started to drown her will to continue.

"I don't know," Sakura whined in a meagre tone, "I just don't think I'll enjoy myself. I don't see the point in staying and listening to music I hate." A lightbulb suddenly pinged on in Ino's head.

"Well, you know, we don't have to go into the main area. We can find a table by a bar and talk." Ino's eyes softened as a means of pleading for her friend to stay. Sakura noted the look, it consisted of almost fully open eyelids and eyebrows crinkled upward…a perfect guilt trip inducing face. Sakura rolled her eyes and gently coaxed her arm from Ino's grasp.

"Alright, you've got an hour to make me not regret my decision to not leave, and then I'm out of here. Got it?" Ino smiled and led the way down the red-carpeted and gold-walled corridor, forcing Sakura to follow so as not to be split up. The parents of both girls had constantly reinforced the order to their respective daughter that they were to always stick with their company. Nighttime Konoha in the late hours got dangerous for people walking around on their lonesome; it was by no means a crime-laden city, but nothing could ever be predicted, and that especially applied to street crawlers looking for what could only be referred to as their 'prey'.

As the duo somewhat cautiously walked into the ground floor foyer, they were greeted with the saving sight of other patrons at the bars who had dressed up more conventionally, the only black on one girl being their stilettos. Sakura's shoulders visibly lowered as she exhaled a sigh of relief. Although there were only a small number of these people, it was still a forgiving image. The two girls looked at each other, one flashed a big uplifting smile while the other merely raised the corners of their lips as a sign of nervousness at the events to come.

Forty-five minutes had gone by, and the two girls were sitting rather dejectedly in a small booth near one of the first floor bars. Ino was gliding the fingers of her left hand up and down her glass of Chardonnay, as if trying to caress the beverage into phasing out of existence. Her right hand was palm up and supporting her sagging head, a head that held downwardly curved, pouting lips, a half-dead set of eyes, and a scrunched up nose.

The woman dressed exclusively in pink and red next to her had her hands lying flat on her lap, her head looking down at the table and staring at her slim glass of Gin-and-Tonic as if it were an alien. Both girls hadn't said a word in three minutes, and they felt like the rough, low toned and gut-heaving excuse for music that boomed from the balcony area was reading their minds and reflecting their moods.

"I guess the music's an acquired taste." Ino spoke up just loud enough for her voice to carry over the shrill guitar echoes and monstrous vocals. Sakura simply looked over with a glare of mild hatred. Why, oh why did she let herself get dragged into this state of coma inducing boredom?

Ino was contemplating something in her mind, but the simple fact that her company was not the easiest person to be swayed stopped her from taking any action. She had fifteen minutes to make sure Sakura had some fun; but with the current environment and ambience…she'd need a miracle.

'Sod it', her mind's voice burst out and kick started her body's motor functions. Sakura was only aware that she had been pulled out of the booth and straight towards the parapet doors when she felt a foreign presence on her arm.

"Last resort, Sakura." 'Sakura', the moment her friend had said her name so sternly told her that Ino was not letting go and was forcing her into a less than desirable situation. In that moment, she knew two things: The first was that nothing she could say or do would stop Ino from dragging her into the source of the (in her opinion) awful music. The second was that she'd be leaving the moment her small wristwatch's second hand marked the start of the fifteenth minute of the twenty-second hour of the day.

By some coincidence, the music had died into nothing once the two young women were stepping onto the fuzzy carpeting of the first floor balcony. In replacement of the music, the packed dance area both around and below them erupted with cheers, cheers mostly emphasised with curse words. The parapet was so full that neither girl could see the far wall that sat behind the main staging area. Ino frowned and once again forcefully dragged Sakura behind her like a four-year-old would drag their teddy behind them in the house. Ino's attitude suddenly seemed to pay off in this environment as she unremorsefully barged through the sweat-laced, over-deodorised patrons. Her sudden worry about losing Sakura in amongst the torrent of bodies unconsciously made her grasp the pinkette's wrist harder than a vice. Sakura felt the pain, but she was grateful that Ino was concerned enough to keep them together. The cheers died after a minute, bringing calm to the patrons and allowing the girls an easier passage. Silence, bar the residual and unintelligible chatter around the vast hall, came over everything as it sounded like the next act was preparing to start their set. The lighting had also intensified to allow people to find their way around in case they wanted to get another drink or simply move to a better location. Ino's bashful attitude to get an eyeful of the stage brought her to the right hand wall and up against the stomach-high railing.

The view was quite surprising. Below them, the dance floor was utterly crowded; neither girl could see any of the polished wood for black shoes, baggy pants and wild hairstyles. Glow sticks hung around necks and flew over peoples' heads like fireflies on speed, giving some appreciated illumination to those in need of it. Unlike on a conventional night at the Sixty-Four Palms, the stage area took up three-quarters of the width of the far wall and extended out for approximately ten metres. It allowed plenty of space for performers to move around; bar the drummer as they were expected to remain seated for most of the performance, not to mention the drum set itself was raised slightly higher than the rest of the platform. Why was anybody's guess; maybe it was to carry the sound of the drums when they were hit, therefore adding more emphasis to the power of the tune? Just in front of the stage was a basic chest high metal barrier, covered every two metres by a bouncer or independently hired steward. It came as no surprise; metal fans were renowned as one of the more likely types to try something stupid…or so Ino had once heard. There was a multitude of equipment staggered all around the stage, from microphone stands to amplifiers, a keyboard idly sat on a stand next to the drum set, which itself was full of different types of percussive instruments. Cymbals crowned the mid and low tom toms, which themselves sat either on top of or next to the two large bass drums. From their position, the girls would be able to see the entirety of the stage, including the drummer's seat, meaning they'd fully see whoever was going to go on a stereotypical drum smashing rampage.

Without warning, the entire hall was enveloped in black as the lights died. Excited gasps and a few screams of anticipation echoed around the large room before the clicking sound of an activating microphone could be heard from the roof where the tannoi speakers were located.

"Alright ladies and gentlemen!" A hyperactive voice yelled out over the stereo system, getting a roar of support from the crowd…bar the two girls who suddenly felt way out of their depth. The girls nervously looked at each other, their eyes doing all the talking. The announcer continued, eagerness smothering his tone, "Presenting themselves for their second appearance here at the Sixty-Four Palms, is a band labelled as a 'one to watch' by the Leaf Standard newspaper. Combining beastly growls and heavenly clean vocals, hundred-mile-an-hour drums, and string-melting guitar riffs… it's the one, the only…Rasen…Shuriken!" The man on the mic screamed the name as way of riling up the patrons…and it worked. Again, the crowd erupted, backing their cheers by stomping the floor and waving their glow sticks like jacked up stockbrokers.

Aside from the slightly annoying glow sticks below, nobody could see anything on the stage at all. Just as people started to get suspicious, two longer-than-standard glow sticks formed an 'X' shape near the back of the stage, although from the balcony's angle, the shape looked distorted. If the girls' memories had served them correctly, they'd have to say they were located near the drum set. The sticks were brought apart and briefly twirled between some unidentifiable hands like a marching band baton before the stick on the left (performer's right hand) was brought up to hover over an object.

(A/N: I advise you listen to the track to get a feel of immersion. It also means I don't have to waste typing time by describing the whole song. Song = Sanctity of Brothers by Unearth)

With a pause of a few seconds, the stick was brought back and made the first light hit on what sounded like a crash symbol in what was to become to counting in momentum. The speed was quite fast, roughly 5 hits per second, which rounded up to 300 beats per minute. The stick left a small afterimage of light blue as it was quickly brought down and back up on every hit of the cymbal. The eighth beat had been made, and as soon as it came down for the ninth, the dual guitars and bass fired off a single heavy note. The cymbal was immediately silenced and paved the way for the rhythm guitar to play a short riff. Upon its repeat, the drummer four-counted back in and joined in on the single guitar with a heavy use of snare, toms and bass drums before the instruments erupted in unison at the end of the repeat. The glow sticks made an erratic but ironically beautiful dance as the drummer rapidly changed between the drums before returning to a standard position at the loose hi-hat and snare.

As soon as the whole band joined in, the vocalist had made a single scream that marked the signal for a single flash of a strobe light. Within the tenth-of-a-second that the stage had been illuminated, the girls could make out a man directly front and centre of the stage, a microphone held up to his mouth. To his right (everybody else's left) stood two guitarists, with a third on the opposite side. The drummer was also there, in position behind the vocalist on the raised platform. Unfortunately, it had happened too fast to make out any distinct features. The sudden explosion of instruments fired off the crowd into screaming and jumping like kangaroos on meth…all except Sakura and Ino, who both had a single eyebrow raised in bedazzlement, bedazzlement at how people could actually like this sort of music. Then again, they had only heard the first few seconds, so it would have been unfair to make opinions off that. The same riff from the intro repeated again before the vocalist kicked into the song.

A west side run through
One string away from taking the lead
We stalked the streets at night,
To live, to feel, to breath

Sadly, the tone-deaf screaming of the vocalist only served to further discourage the two girls as the base riff repeated at the verse's ending.

Bring back those days of gold,
When the torch was ours to bear
A troubled youth to some,
To us a crown to wear

The darkness over the stage had lifted slightly, and the luminescent glow of the drummer's sticks created a hypnotising display for all who laid their eyes upon it. They could just make out the people's movements across the stage, it was likely that they needed the small amount of light in order to see what drums they were hitting and what strings they were strumming. Everybody could see from the sheer speed that the sticks were moving that the drummer was a man of exceptional skill.

I see a time, a santity of brothers
We knew another world

A second voice on a higher octave repeated some of the words of the chorus, immediately informing the crowd that the band, in fact, had two vocalists. As the band played the bridge for the second verse, the strobe lights activated and looped on numerous flashes a second. Eventually, everybody on the stage became clearer, but the tricks that the strobes played on everybodies eyes meant that it looked like quick flashes of many different stills.

We knew another world
We knew another

A west side horror
A torch burned out before his own time
We closed our eyes at night,
To hurt, to heal, to breath

To both girls, it sounded like the vocalists voice box had been run over by a cheese grater…ten times. They couldn't see the appeal of lyrics that were screamed rather than sung, and Sakura was doing her best to keep her hands away from her ears.

Bring back those days of gold,
When the torch was ours to bear
A troubled youth to some,
To us a crown to wear

I see a time, a santity of brothers
We knew another world

Bring us back to the days

The strobes slowed down to one flash for every snare hit, but immediately picked back up as the final verse played out.

Bring us back to our age of innocence
Our time to live forever
Our worlds will meet again

The crowd continued their headbanging and uncontrollable jumping as the outro began, paving the way for a unbelievably fast tempo from the drummer, sticks all but a blur for everybody watching. The song quickly died down to single strums and drawn out notes, and then opened back up into a final outro riff and a small drum solo before the hall fell into silence with a crash of cymbals and deep but heavy guitar strums. The crowd's volume increased with screams of praise and cheers as well as few glow sticks landing on the stage, fortunately missing the performers. Once again, the hall was enveloped in darkness, but the stage lights finally kicked into a permanent on state that illuminated the platform as the drummer opened up a a slower eight-count that landed at four beats per second, which equated to 240 beats per minute.

(A/N: Song = Rolling Chances by Raintime. I advise you pause after the intro, because there's a bit of descriptive writing here before the lyrics come up.)

As the guitars joined in, the girls and everybody else finally had a good look at the band members, as well as the two new additions to the group. Somebody now manned the keyboard to the side of the drum set as they played through the intro and added some extra harmony amongst the heavy distorted guitars. And a second person holding a microphone stood almost directly behind the drummer as they played in with the guitarists themselves were split on either side of the stage. The bassist, a man with long, dark brown hair that stopped in the middle of his back was strumming side by side with one of the lead guitarists. Their fellow string player was on the other side of the stage and joining in with the intro. Ino suddenly noticed something about the two main guitarists; their chests stuck out more than the bassist's.

She had pegged it the moment she saw the two mounds underneath their black patterned t-shirts. The lead and rhythm guitarists were female. One had light brown hair that came down to between her shoulder blades, and the other had sandy blonde hair that went just a little lower, but not as low as the bassist's. The faces of both the bassist and this brown haired woman looked awfully familiar to her, but at that moment in time she couldn't put her finger on it. The female presence came as a big surprise to Ino, and she felt a small sense of empowerment that two of the most important parts of the band were filled by women. She turned to the side and called this out to Sakura, but she wasn't sure she heard it as the pink haired girl simply nodded her head with an empty smile. The blonde looked back to the front of the stage and saw the vocalist from the first song. He had short black hair, and the lower half of his face was covered by what looked like surgical bandages. It was too soon for Ino to start asking why, but she thought it to be a strange addition to his wardrobe. The other vocalist behind the drummer had long dark brown hair that almost mimicked the bassist. He had a clean shaven face that looked eerily androgynous.

And that was when she saw the drummer.

His hair was a shade of bright and blinding blonde, moreso than the guitarist, but it hung just so that it covered the sides of his head and some of his face. He wore a simple black vest that mirrored that of the masked vocalist that showed his non-bulky but well toned arms to the light, his sweat giving his skin a small glistening sheen. And then he snapped his head back as he rapped repeatedly against the snare drum as the keyboard beside him played small melody before the song kicked off again. His hair flew back, and revealed his face to the ceiling and gave the girls a clear view. His eyes may have been closed…but those whisker marks were unmistakeably unique to one person. Ino's eyes shot open, watching with an open mouth as she saw one of her homeroom classmates return to hitting the hi-hat and snare with added fervour. He opened his eyes and pulled a face of utmost concentration through his own minor head banging, looking over to the guitarists that now stood in front of his platform as they followed his tempo. Ino was gobsmacked, she couldn't begin to describe the wave of surprise that had washed over her and wiped her mind in the process, she was so taken in by the look of ferocity about Naruto's person that she didn't feel Sakura poking her in the side until the poke became a hard elbow.

Ino looked over and saw Sakura's look of concern, evidently saying she hadn't seen Naruto's face yet, and leant forward to practically shout into Sakura's ear.

"Look at the drummer!" This time Sakura had heard what Ino said and followed Ino's extended arm and pointing finger to look at the waving blonde locks of the class idiot and the passion his face displayed as he made every hit look like the drum set was an extension of his own body. At that moment, Sakura's face became exactly like Ino's as she froze at seeing her fellow classmate on the stage.

Naruto had quickly shot a smile to the keyboardist next to him even as he continued to hit the drums with everything he had, and that was when the girls saw a stout young man with short…red…hair…and black eyeliner around his pale green eyes. The boy in question met Naruto's eyes but still showed almost no emotion bar a flicker of the corners of his mouth. The girls looked at each other and let their hanging mouths quickly form into a disbelieving grin. They both wanted to laugh. Hard. But they were still too shocked by the new revelation as they watched two of their classmates play along to the heavy guitars. And then the masked vocalist finally came in.

Once again I've breathed the fire
Awaking inside those feelings
That won't go!
I've sensed this before

Another weak and cruel desire
Bothering me and it won't leave me alone!
I won't pay this toll

The second vocalist had since moved from behind Naruto to join his partner in (almost literal) vocal crime. He brought his own mic up to his lips and opened the chorus.

I always felt that this could be
A good chance for me to see
If I could fit into a world
That moves

I feel so strange and so deranged
One other chance flew by
To solve my shit I only need a try
I am so stressed and so depressed
'Cause I keep hiding from
A thing that could be a new dawn

I gonna try to see if I
Can make up my mind and live this crazy show!
I will need it all
All the strength and will that I
Will gather from my trembling little soul!
I will need it all!

I always felt that this could be
A good chance for me to see
If I could fit into a world
That moves

The blonde guitarist began a small harmonic solo that proceeded into a small keyboard solo by Gaara with Naruto emphasising his notes with the bass drum and cymbals. Gaara continued the same tune while the drums came back gently with added guitars before exploding into a synchro climax with both lead guitarists standing next to each other and playing on different octaves as the bassist stood off to the side. The keyboard came back in once more time before the younger looking vocalist played the last repeat of the chorus.

I always felt that this could be
A good chance for me to see
If I could fit into a world
That moves

That moves

As the song came to its outro, Naruto smacked the cymbals, snare and bass drum hard in a last moment show of rhythmic passion. With a final pinch harmonic from the brown haired guitarist, the song ended and elicited more screams from the crowd on both floors. Sakura and Ino, on the other hand, were completely silent, struck by admirable shock.

"Thank you", the masked vocalist said into his mic, raising his hand to the torrent of cheers before him. His voice was deep and rather intimidating, despite the fact it sounded like he was completely calm. He turned to face the rear wall but kept talking, "I think we've got time for one more before the management kicks us out for being too awesome…" that statement got a few whoops and screams from girls mixed in the crowd, "…and…what's this? Looks like our drummer wants to say something." The masked man had caught Naruto waving his hand at him in a 'come hither' motion. Instead of moving over, the man simply tossed his mic over the drum set, allowing it to safely land in Naruto's hands with a loud thud that came over the speakers. Naruto stood up from his stool and leaned over the cymbals.

"Hi there", Naruto simply said as if beginning a normal discussion. A few more whistles came from the crowd, while on the balcony Ino and Sakura were stood there wide eyed with funny smiles that displayed their confusion, but also a slight sense of admiration as they were shown a new side to the idiot that everybody found annoying.

"Er, yeah. I have a question for everybody. Nothing heavy, I just wanna know, are you all having fun?" The response was a lighter wave of shouting and whistling, but the girls could make out a frown on Naruto's face. For some reason, he didn't seem pleased. He leant forward more and bellowed into the mic.

"I CAN'T FUCKING HEAR YOU!" The effect was immediate. The crowd responded at least thrice as loud as the first time. Ino and Sakura looked back at each other with mouths agape in shock. And at that moment, they finally laughed. It was a laugh composed of slight mockery, genuine humour and amazement at their classmate's boldness. Naruto nodded his head towards the crowd in appreciation.

"That's better!" Just as everybody cooled down again and Naruto was about to relieve himself of the microphone, a woman's voice could be heard over everybody else from the other side of the parapet.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. Everybody shut up a second. What was that? Up there, what did you say?" Naruto pointed his finger towards the source of the scream and pushed his ear forward as the rest of the audience quietened down.

"Take it off!" The voice was quite clear and got a few shouts of support as everybody looked back to Naruto, who looked down at his vest and grabbed a piece of it.

"What? This?" His answer came in the form of more screams. He looked down to the stage to see the bassist and brown haired rhythm guitarist clapping at him in further encouragement, and then looked over to the side and saw Gaara smirking at him with his arms folded.

"Guess it can't be helped." He nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders before lobbing the mic back at the masked vocalist. He turned his back to the crowd and quickly relieved himself of his vest, making the female members of the crowd cheerfully scream. He reach down to his side, unscrewed a full bottle of mineral water and tipped what must have been at least half of its contents over his head, letting some of it stick in his hair while a minature waterfall crept down the dip between his trapezoids and the muscles surrounding his spine and adding further shine to his tanned skin as it mingled with his sweat. He turned back around, revealing his toned chest and almost six-pack covered stomach. At that moment, Ino's wide eyes glazed over and her mind tried to suppress a nosebleed at such a sight, she saw every muscle move fluidly around each other as he shifted his torso back to a comfortable position on his stool and reached for the sticks he had placed over the snare drum. Sakura, meanwhile, simply stood silent. Her mind was paralyzed from such an unexpected sight, she had no idea Naruto looked so…animalistically hot. Sure, she would pick Sasuke any day, but just seeing Naruto's body in such pristine condition knocked her brain out of the ball park in terms of expectations.

"Alright," the lead vocalist began, "This'll be our last one of the night, so I want you all to make some noise with us!" The man walked next to the drum set just as Naruto was shaking his head to free himself from excess water, lest it drip down his face and throw off his rhythm. Naruto nodded at him and then looked over at Gaara. He took position at his keyboard and began playing a virtual string track.

(A/N: Song = The Illusionist by Scar Symmetry)

Within seconds a guitar had kicked in with a grind and was quickly followed by a steady drum rhythm, the second six-string and the bass. After the second play through, there was a quick drum solo from Naruto, the growling began.

As an outcast I faced defeat
Seeking comfort in this painful retreat
Made an oracle against my will
Word spread of miraculous skills

Ino was surprised that Naruto could keep all his limbs in check throughout the verse, as the bass drums were clicking on and off numerous times with almost no relation to the snare or hi-hat.

Premonitions call my name
I once doubted them all when they came
Now I embrace it and I'll never be the same

For once, the masked vocalist had sung in a surprisingly clean tone, and Sakura was amazed that he actually had a sense of tuning. For added effect, the other vocalist added a quiter but higher octave choral track.

Transfixed in the desert sands
Take a look at my once empty hand
See the rose that appears so real
Just like the one you saw in your dreams

Those who call me avatar
Knows not what they're looking for
They just feed their flames with miracles
Just so you know
If you bathe within my light
You diminish your own might
The illusionist in everyone

For both girls, it sounded quite awkward to have such harmonic vocals in amongst deep growls, heavy guitars and fast tempo drums. Nevertheless, Ino found that the amalgamation worked in a strange way.

As an outcast I faced defeat
Seeking comfort in this painful retreat
Made an oracle against my will
Word spread of miraculous skills

Premonitions call my name
I once doubted them all when they came
Now I embrace it and I'll never be the same

Those who call me avatar
Knows not what they're looking for
They just feed their flames with miracles
Just so you know
If you bathe within my light
You diminish your own might
The illusionist in everyone

From their angle above the stage, the girls saw how hard Naruto's legs were working on the double bass to keep in the triple and quadruple hits that sometimes ran out of sync with his arms. To get to such a level, they both figured that he must have been playing for years. The first solo was played by the brown haired woman whose face Ino still couldn't identify. The same situation went for the bassist as well. He looked so familiar, but not at the same time.

What I say and what I do was once potential
Sprung from the infinite place that dictates the seen

The blonde took the lead for the second solo, while her counterpart played the backing rhythm with the bassist playing a layer underneath her. The crowd cheered as the woman smiled to the audience, letting her fingers do the musical aspect of the talking.

Those who call me avatar
Knows not what they're looking for
They just feed their flames with miracles
Just so you know
If you bathe within my light
You diminish your own might
The illusionist in everyone

Those who call me avatar
Knows not what they're looking for
They just feed their flames with miracles
Just so you know
If you bathe within my light
You diminish your own might
The illusionist in everyone

Sakura looked over and quickly gawked in disbelief as she watched Ino's head lightly bounce up and down during the final chorus repeat. Ino, meanwhile, was enjoying the power of the higher reinforcing vocal level too much to care about her actions. In matter of fact, the fast beat combined with the clean vocals stirred something inside her, something that likely needed an event such as this to awaken it.

In everyone!

After the final growl, the band continued for a few more seconds before ending on a powerful triple-strum note emphasised by the crash cymbal. And just as the vocalist had suggested, everybody began jumping in exasperation and excitement as the band stood up and calmly received the cheers and whistles. Sakura began clapping above her head with a gentle smile, whereas Ino couldn't help but left off a supportive whoop.

She had needed a miracle to make the night enjoyable…and Naruto of all people had become that miracle. The masked man brought the mic up to his mouth once more.

"Thank you, everybody, you've been brilliant as always!" The following cheer of thanks was a good sign to all. "Let's meet the team. On clean vocals we have Momochi Haku." He pointed at the girly looking man stood next to him, who in turn politely bowed to the front. He looked to the two brown haired people to his right.

"On the bass, Hyuuga Neji!" The man kept one hand on the neck of his four-string bass and performed a 'bull horn' sign at the crowd with the other. Ino slapped herself in her mind. The face was right on the tip of her tongue, but she had been concentrating on Naruto and Gaara too much to bother finding out.

"On rhythm guitar, Kamezura Tenten!" Tenten smiled and waved. This time, Ino physically slapped her forehead. She could have easily identified the woman if her hair wasn't let down and waving about from her playing. Again, she had a recognisable face, but Ino's concentration got the better of her. Sakura gaped at the band members. Not only were two of her classmates in this 'one to watch' band, two students in the year above them were as well, and they were a couple to top it all off. The vocalist looked to his left and pointed at the sandy haired blonde, who Ino noticed was getting some looks from Gaara.

"Lead guitar is the one and only Temari!" Yet more whistles ensued as the woman played a quick ten note solo.

"On keyboard is her brother, Gaara!" The man pointed at the red haired young man, who simply folded his arms and nodded to the people before him.

"On drums, our resident sugar addict, Uzumaki Naruto!" Naruto followed up with a comical 'badoom-chhhh' from the drum set, much like that from a talk show when a joke's punchline was told. Both Ino and Sakura looked at each other and shook their heads with a small chuckle of embarrassment. Finally the man looked back to the audience and placed a hand on his chest.

"I'm Momochi Zabuza, and we've been RasenShuriken. Goodnight!" The lights quickly blacked out again, leaving the crowd to listen to their own cheers. After ten seconds, the stage was relit only for everybody to find it totally devoid of the people who had manned it not ten seconds before. Even the vest that Naruto had earlier discarded was no longer there. Sakura shook her head once again before looking down at her watch.

It read 10:18, which got the pinkette to laugh at the irony.

She tapped Ino on the shoulder finally knocking the blonde out of her small bout of Naruto-induced hypnosis and nodded her head back to the exit. Ino understood her meaning and nodded understandingly with a gentle smile. They took each other's arm and headed back towards the balcony exit to make their way out of the building and back to Sakura's house. As they went through the doors and made their way down the stairs to the ground floor foyer, they both realised that none of the band members that knew their faces had noticed them. The most likely reason was that they were just two more fans that were there to listen to the music, their presence was nothing that should have been exclusively noted.

As the cool night air touched their faces as they walked out, earning some appreciative stares from the bouncers still stood there, they both had the same thought without saying a word to each other.

School on Monday morning was going to be interesting.

A/N: Wow! That's the longest chapter I've written to date for any story. So here we are, this is a new thing I started writing ever since I thought my other Naruto fic, 'Shattered Masks and Broken Hearts' was going to die. I thought this would be a cool setting because I love having shocked reactions to things that people never knew about a character. it makes the moment seem more awesome.

I hope I got the whole high school system right. I did a bit of research to make sure I didn't make it look like I knew nothing...which, in all honesty, I really don't XD. Being English and all, I'm not sure how the whole secondary school system works in the US. Speaking of the US, I used dollars as the currency for the sake of not having to do Ryou-Yen or Ryou-Dollar exchanges...despite the fact that Ryou is a Naruto world-only currency and doesn't really exist.

Anyway, in regards to the metal songs I used, I hope you listened to them as you read. As I mentioned, it gives you a sense of immersion. If you don't like the artists used, or you have suggestions, then don't be afried to PM or put your thoughts in a review. I know 'RasenShuriken' is probably not the best name, but I figured that the fluidity of a spiral combined with the deadliness of a shuriken gave the band a sort of dangerous sounding name. Meh, if you don't like it, live with it.

As for pairings. I may have written Sakura a little funny, but she's not going to be involved in any way. I'm making her the standard Sasuke's bitch character. And as for Tenten and Karin's surnames...I just thought of things at random. Also, I gave Haku Zabuza's surname for reasons that'll be explained later on in the story.