I returned to my seat, my arms crossed over my chest. I was furious. How could Kankuro just back out like that? Is that why he didn't want me to come?
I didn't even watch Temari and Shikamaru's match. I ignored the heavy gusts of wind that flew by. They only messed up my hair.
"Shikamaru's got her now!" Ino cried out happily. I jumped up from the seat and peered over the metal bars. She was right; Temari was stuck in Shikamaru's shadow.
It seemed that he used the shadows from the two holes Neji and Naruto made to grab onto Temari's shadow. He held her frozen the same way he did to Gaara.
Everyone watched in silence as Shikamaru started walking toward her, making her do the same. Both their hands slowly rose into the air and I braced myself for something extremely violent to happen.
"That's it!" Shikamaru called. "I quit!"
"The winner is Temari!"
Everyone's mouths fell open and Ino growled. "What the heck, Shikamaru? You had her!" she shouted to her teammate. He glanced in our direction and shrugged, releasing Temari's shadow.
"What is with everyone giving up?" Sakura mumbled to herself. Kyan stood motionless, as if waiting for the match to resume.
From the fighter's waiting area, Naruto jumped down and pointed a finger at Shikamaru, calling him names. Temari, who seemed just as surprised as anyone, gave me a quick glimpse before returning to her brothers, one of which I was still tremendously upset with.
"WHERE'S UCHIHA?" a random man in the crowd shouted. Sasuke still hadn't showed up and Sakura was obviously worried. She nibbled on her fingernails in the same way Temari had earlier.
"Stop that," I told her, lightly slapping her hand down. "You'll make your nails look gross."
"Where's Sasuke?" she asked me.
Just as she finished talking, Kyan pulled on my shirt, pointing down to where Shikamaru and Naruto stood. A whirlwind of leaves appeared, revealing two figures in the middle. I sighed in relief, bowing my head in Kakashi and Sasuke's direction.
"Sasuke!" Ino and Sakura called happily at the same time.
"That is just like Sasuke," a voice remarked from behind us. We all turned to see Lee standing with the help of a crutch next to Guy.
"Lee!" I greeted, turning to hug him. He caught me in an awkward embrace, wincing slightly. "Oh crap," I mumbled, backing away. "Sorry."
Sakura, Ino, and Kyan remained standing while Lee and I sat next to each other. "Sasuke is fighting Gaara, is he not?" he asked quietly.
I nodded slowly. "I know Sasuke is a good fighter, but I'm worried. When you were in the hospital-"
"I know," he interrupted. "Guy-sensei told me. I, too, worry for Sasuke."
"Man, that kid is freaky," Ino commented, looking down at Gaara.
My gaze moved to Kyan, who had an odd look on her face. The last time she had that look was when a very attractive man came into the restaurant. She kept refilling his drinks.
"Oh, man," I muttered, burying my face in my hand. "Not Gaara, Kyan…"
"What is it?" Lee asked. I shook my head, thankful that the cheers started up before I had to explain to him.
I stood up and returned to my sister's side, nudging her elbow roughly. When she looked up at me, I could see the pink tint on her cheeks.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura called from behind me. I wanted to turn around and greet him, but I was too focused on the match.
As soon as the proctor called the match into progress, sand slithered out from the opening in the gourd. Sasuke hurriedly leapt away from it, but Gaara winced in pain and held his head the same way he did in the hospital.
"Mother," Gaara hissed to himself, but loud enough for everyone else to hear, "I gave you some bad blood earlier, didn't I? I'm sorry. But don't worry. I promise this time, it'll be tasty blood."
What the heck? He was talking to their mother? How was that even possible? She had died giving birth to him. It just didn't make sense.
My gaze moved to his siblings. Temari had her face buried in her hands and Kankuro was gripping onto the bars tightly, his eyes glued to his brother.
Gaara winced once more and the pain in his head seemed to have disappeared. He glared up at Sasuke and exhaled slowly. "Come."
Sasuke reached into the pouch connected to his leg and pulled Shuriken from it, flinging them at Gaara. From the sand, an exact replica sprouted and caught them between his fingers. Sasuke began attacking the sand clone, throwing more weapons and kicking and punching until he vanished from sight.
"What?" I heard Lee mutter from behind me.
Suddenly, Sasuke was behind Gaara. The redhead turned slightly, only to be punched in the cheek and sent flying a few feet. When he regained himself, his face was cracking.
"If you're not going to come to me, then I'll come to you!" Sasuke shouted, running at the boy again.
As he continued to beat Gaara, Kyan seemed to shrink away from the bars. I knew she didn't want to watch him get injured, but it still seemed odd to me. She didn't know the kid. Why was she so wrapped up in him?
"Kyan, look," I told her, putting my hand on her back. "Gaara's okay."
It seemed he really was. He stood in a Jutsu stance, pulling his hands together. A dome of sand began to surround him, but Sasuke took the opportunity to attack. He ran toward the dome, but when he went to punch through it, spikes formed in his direction, nicking his cheek and shoulder.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto's voice called from behind us. I turned to face him and Shikamaru, who were panting heavily. "You have to stop this match!"
"Why would I do that?" Kakashi asked lazily.
"Gaara's not normal! He's not like the rest of us! He lives to kill other people!" Naruto pointed a finger at me. "Haketa can back me up on this!"
"Don't worry, Naruto," Kakashi replied. "There's a reason why we were late."
I looked over toward Temari and Kankuro. Temari was still watching the match through her fingers, but Kankuro was looking straight at me.
"Leave," he mouthed. I shook my head. If something was going to happen, I wanted to be there to help stop it.
Ignoring Kankuro (yes, I was still livid), I focused on the floating eyeball above Gaara's sand shield. Sasuke ran at it and attempted to kick it, but nothing happened. My eyes followed him as he moved back, jumping up backwards onto the concrete wall.
Behind me, Naruto and Sakura began questioning Kakashi, but I blocked them out, watching Sasuke make hand signs. He held his palms downward when a brilliant blue Chakra ball formed, oddly resembling lightening. The sound of chirping birds could be heard from his direction.
With incredible speed, he sprinted toward Gaara. The spikes started to form again, but they were too slow. Sasuke swung his glowing hand into the sand, penetrating the defense. The unfinished spikes stopped moving and started to fall onto the ground.
There was a long silence, and then Gaara's scream filled the arena. Kyan covered her ears and fell to her knees, tears falling onto the floor. I kneeled down next to her, holding her close.
"BLOOD! ITS MY BLOOD!" Gaara screamed.
Sasuke tried pulling his arm from the sand, but it had a tight hold on him. He yelled in pain until finally, he was able to pull himself free. A strange claw followed him, then quickly retreated back to Gaara.
The dome started to crack then completely fell on top of Gaara, who was holding his bleeding shoulder. I started at the boy until a solitary feather slowly drifted in front of my face.
"A feather?" I whispered, reaching up to grab it. My body suddenly felt very heavy, like I was relaxed. I was falling asleep.
I gasped when Sakura grabbed onto my shoulder and shouted, "Kai! Release!"
The drowsy feeling snapped away as quickly as it came. I stood up, stepping over my sleeping sister, and looked toward Kankuro. He and Temari had rushed to their brother's aide.
Speaking of Gaara, he was doubled over, shaking and holding his head in pain. Baki appeared next to his students and ordered them to take Gaara and run. Kankuro lifted his brother to his feet, shot me a quick glare, and jumped out of the arena with Temari. Sasuke was right on their tail.
I hurried to a nearby Shinobi, who had fallen to the ground in sleep. After searching his person for a moment, I found a lone kunai. There was no way in hell I was going to let Kankuro get away.
"Where's Sasuke?" Sakura demanded to know. Just before I had the chance to tell her, two Sound Shinobi appeared before us.
Kakashi leapt toward them, slicing their faces with a kunai in each hand. "You two stay down for a little while! Guy and I will take out as many as we can!"
We obeyed him, falling to the ground and pretending to be unconscious. I failed at it, though. The tears gave my position away. When I opened my eyes, I saw Sakura watching me with concern on her face.
"Its okay, Haketa," she whispered to me.
"I know. I know all about it."
I wanted to break down into hysterical cries right there, but I didn't have time. Kakashi knelt down beside us and ordered Sakura to undo the Genjustsu on Naruto and Shikamaru. He personally gave us an A-ranked mission to track down Gaara and help Sasuke.
"You'll need this little guy," he told us, performing a hand sign on a lifeless body. A small poof of smoke arose to reveal a small dog. "Pakkun will track down Sasuke's scent."
"A dog?" I questioned.
"Hurry up!" Kakashi yelled, throwing a kunai into the forehead of an enemy Shinobi. We crawled toward Naruto, who was drooling a river. Sakura woke him up the same way she did me.
"Stay down!" she ordered when he tried to stand up. "I'll explain everything later!"
We hurried to Shikamaru, who I noticed was twitching. Before Sakura could do anything, Pakkun trotted over to him and chomped down on his leg, sending him flying up.
"Ow!" he yelled, kicking the dog off.
"Shikamaru!" Sakura yelled. "You knew how to reverse the Genjutsu, too! Why were you pretending to be asleep?"
"No offense," he replied lazily, "but I don't care about what happens to Sasuke. I don't want to get involved in this crap."
"Haketa, move!" Naruto called just as I felt someone behind me. I doubled over, covering my head with my hands.
A loud explosion sounded from behind me. I turned to see that Guy had tackled a Sound Shinobi into the wall, making it crumble away. Kakashi appeared in front of us, glancing at Shikamaru and Naruto.
"Okay, here's your mission. Chase after Sasuke, help him, and stop Gaara! Then wait for new orders!"
"Did something happen to Sasuke?" Naruto asked, but Sakura grabbed his shirt.
"I'll explain on the way!"
Before I could follow them out of the hole, Kakashi grabbed onto the back of my shirt. "You go home," he ordered. "You've only received limited Shinobi training."
I slapped his hand off and shook my head. "I'm sorry, Kakashi, but I'm not your student. I have a personal goal to achieve."
Another Shinobi attacked him, so his attention was taken away from me. Shino appeared next to me, gazing out the hole.
"Where are you going, Shino?" I asked, trying to look at his eyes through his sunglasses.
"I'm going after Kankuro. We have an unfinished match to complete."
"I'm coming with you," I told him. "He and I have unfinished business."
He nodded and jumped from the hole, taking off toward the trees. I inhaled, doing as Kankuro told me to focus Chakra to the bottoms of my feet, and hurried after him.
I blinked tears away as we jumped from branch to branch, following the weapon trail that others had left. Traveling this way was much easier than running normally.
"Its Sasuke!" Shino called to me as we approached the Uchiha. He had stopped on a branch, facing only Kankuro.
"I guess I have no choice but to take you on!" Kankuro said in a cocky way, holding the puppet upright in his hand.
Shino and I landed on both sides of Sasuke. "No, I will be your opponent," Shino informed the puppet master.
"I will be, too," I added. Tears of hurt and frustration stung my eyes, but I held the kunai firmly in my hand.
"Haketa," Sasuke mumbled. "Shino, what are you guys doing here? How'd you find us?"
"Before you left the arena, I planted female beetles on you. They give off a certain scent that only males of the same species can smell," Shino replied. "Go after Gaara. Haketa and I will deal with this one. It seems we both have business with him."
"Are you sure?"
"Give us ten minutes and we'll be there to help you," I told him, forcing a smile onto my face.
"I'll be done by then, too," he responded. "Good luck." With that, he was gone.
Shino and I faced Kankuro, who watched us carefully. "You're all a bunch of idiots," he insulted. "You have no idea what being scared truly is."
"I take it you're going to show us?" Shino said condescendingly, holding out his arms for his bugs to crawl on. I resisted the urge to shiver at the sight of them.
"No. If you take me down and go after them, then you'll see. But I doubt you two can do anything. Especially you," he said toward me.
I stood still, knowing he was trying to screw with my head. He put his hands together in a praying form in front of his face.
"Kugutsu no Jutsu!" he called out. The wrapping fell from Crow's body and the Chakra strings attached from his fingers to the puppet's body. It wrapped itself around his body, watching the two of us.
A horde of bugs surrounded Shino's arms, making annoying clicking noises. I whispered to him that I would distract Kankuro to give him an opportunity to attack.
I jumped toward the kabuki boy, my kunai positioned to stab at his chest, but as I expected, he moved his fingers to make Crow tackle me into a nearby tree. As my head smacked against the trunk of the tree, I cried out in pain, trying to be as dramatic as possible.
I watched as Crow attacked Shino's bugs, and then turned to look at Kankuro. "K-Kankuro!" I called out, throwing a whimper into it. He turned his head to look at me, bit down on his lower lip, looked back at Crow, then moved closer to me.
"Why didn't you listen to me when I told you to leave, Haketa?" he whispered, touching the back of my head. I tried not to freak out at the sight of my blood on his hand.
"I-I wanted to support you," I told him.
"Damn it," he growled. "I'm sorry I hurt you. Please get up and leave. I don't want to fight you."
From the corner of my eye, I saw Shino nod to me. I held my arms out toward Kankuro and when he embraced me, I buried my face under his hat, biting down hard on his neck. He cried out in pain, trying to throw me off, but I had a tight hold around his neck.
"Let go!" Shino ordered. I released him just in time for him to dodge Shino's punch.
They went after each other for a few minutes before a cloud of poison gas emerged from Kankuro's puppet. He used this opportunity to return to me. As he glared down at me, I saw his neck was heavily bleeding.
"I hate you," I whispered as he kneeled in front of me. "I trusted you, Kankuro, and you do this to my village. I hope you die in this battle." Tears fell from my eyes as I stared at his pained face. "I hate you."
"Good," he replied softly, kissing my forehead. "Keep telling yourself that, no matter what you really feel."
"Get away from her!" Shino yelled, lunging at him with the bugs.
I leaned back against the tree, feeling myself slowly slip from consciousness. As my vision blurred, I watched them attack back and forth until it was over. There was no more yelling or groans of pain. Just silence.
Everything turned black, then. For how long, I couldn't tell you. My entire body hurt. From my head to my toes, nothing but pain. Even my heart hurt.
Kankuro had betrayed me. He made me think I loved him, that I needed him. In the end, it was all planned out. I was nothing to him. Nothing but some girl to keep him company during his time in Konohagakure.
"Haketa, can you hear me?"
"She isn't responding. The poison knocked her out, Father." That was Shino's voice.
"W-Will she b-b-be okay?" Kyan? Kyan spoke?
My body was lifted from the hard wood of the tree. "We'll take her to the hospital. I hope its still standing."
I'd regained full consciousness a few hours after the attack. The village was left in ruins, but luckily, everyone close to me was alive. Even Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Shikamaru.
I sat up in the hospital bed two days later, trying to ignore the stupid IV they'd stuck in my arm. Because I wasn't able to leave the hospital, I missed Lord Hokage's memorial service. He had died trying to protect the village from Orochimaru, the mastermind behind the entire plan.
"Miss Haketa," the nurse called as she opened my door, "your sister is here to visit you."
Kyan walked in, dressed entirely in black. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. A long sigh escaped her lips as she sat next to me.
"How did it go?" I asked her.
"De-Depressing," she stuttered. How she reclaimed her voice, we'll probably never know. "I st-still can't believe th-this happened."
"It'll be okay," I reassured her. "Konohagakure is a great village. We'll rebuild in no time."
Kyan looked at me with a piercing gaze only a sister could give. "Wh-What about Kan-Kankuro?"
"What about him? He's probably back in Suna right now, the lying bastard." I glared out the window, trying to hide my tears from my sister. The feeling of betrayal settled uncomfortably in my gut.
"I-It wasn't h-his f-f-fault," she defended. "He was f-following or-orders. We b-both kn-know he loves y-you and you f-feel the s-same way."
"No," I hissed through clenched teeth. "I hate him."
After all, Kankuro told me to tell myself that, no matter how I truly felt.
And so the story comes to an end! I want to thank everyone who left reviews and who have followed this story since day one! ^^ It really means a lot to me!
Sequel: Just Fall has been posted. Rate and enjoy!