New and improved and edited!

After the Naruto ending we were given, I was so grateful that I had written this a few years ago. Now I have an idea of what I would've like to see happen in the end.

I hope this is a good enough gift to those who hope to see the #RealNewEra

Regardless, this is still dedicated to my girlfriend, whose relationship to me, including our three year separation, always seemed eerily similar to NaruSasu. Still holds true, in its own way.

I don't own anything of Naruto. Do you still really have to say that on fan fiction?


The Trials

Pre-Trial: Confrontation

The newly built Hokage tower rises above the rest of my young village. Well, not that it's really young, but you know what I mean; it's all fresh and unpainted. In a way, its newness could be blamed on me. I couldn't get to the village fast enough to save the buildings. Excuse my timing or whatever. At least the people were all safe in the end, right?

Though, now that I'm thinking about it, even the villagers are acting younger and darting around like a weight has been lifted. Apparently, the Will of Fire finally got through to ninjas and citizens alike. It's almost like there isn't any stigma attached to the village's past anymore. Maybe that's true?

Ha, look at me, using words like "stigma". I think I'm hanging out with Shikamaru and Sakura too much. I even read another book! And I liked it! It blows my mind.

But right now, I have no time to waste on reading Pervy Sage's Icha Icha books, none at all! I've finally gotten my chance, and I'm not ruining it by pulling a Kakashi! So, I work myself into a quick pace, my excitement getting to me. Everyone's heard the news, so I receive enough praises and pats to leave both my cheeks and my back red.

The glow remains until I notice a particularly large group of ANBU posted along the rooftops a few blocks away. A ladder is raised, and a few guards begin to climb. Another dark figure, not an ANBU, struggles to climb the ladder while they are yanked by heavy-looking chains.

Now that the figure is at the top, I can just make out that they have handcuffs and chakra suppressors all up their forearms. And if that isn't harsh enough, two guards pull on their chains while another blindfolds them with a headband. A prisoner...

It's injustices like that that just piss me off and make me wanna become Hokage even more. And finally, that dream is within walking distance.

Making my way down the curved hall leading to the meeting room, I let my nerves slow me down. Wait, the great Uzumaki, nervous? No, I'm just trembling with anticipation, that's all.

Alright, I don't really have the same expectations about being Hokage that I did when I was a kid. I know it's way harder, but this is my dream we're talking about! Now, it's not a matter of being the best and having everyone finally acknowledge me - that's been done.

Even though Konoha has healed and improved so much in such a short time, it's still not what I believe it can be. I need to be Hokage to make my promises happen, not just for the people in Konoha, but for all of the other ninja I met and fought alongside during the war.

Hopefully, the meeting can stay on points like that instead of other things I'd rather not talk about. The last thing I need is for the old geezers to pretend to be deaf to me and say some shit about me still being a child. I'm eighteen! I mean, Gaara was even younger when he became Kazekage and was Commander General of the Joint Shinobi Army!

I'm never going to be as level-headed as Gaara is now, but that's always worked to my advantage, anyway.

The guards outside the meeting hall have familiar faces, and I feel just a little calmer as they smile at me.

"You'll probably get lucky, Naruto. They're always less grumpy after they've had tea," Kotetsu chuckles and pats my shoulder.

"Konoha's rooting for you, Uzumaki," Izumo adds before the two open the double doors and shove me in.

It takes all the self control I have not to stumble as my sandals sink deep into the tatami mats. A cloud of incense floats past me, revealing the three people I need to convince: the Konoha Council.

"Take off your sandals, boy, you're getting our tatami dirty," the oldest hag chides me. Her green and red earrings wave with the slight shake of her head.

I feel my eye twitch as I bow shallowly in apology, but I obey the orders and kneel down on the dark green cushion given to me.

The low table in between us is bare on my half, but littered with various official-looking scrolls and an old tea set on theirs.

"Utatane-sama, Mitokado-sama, Tsunade-...sama," I let the unfamiliar title for baa-chan roll off my tongue. Even I can hear the tell-tale rasp in my voice, the same that I had mostly grown out of, but I don't dare clear my throat.

They aren't the type to waste any of the short amount of time they have left, so Mitokado starts reading off of a scroll that I recognize as my record file.

"Uzumaki Naruto, Chuunin, age 18, a former member of the Rokudaime's Team Seven. Ninja registration number 012607, graduated under Umino Iruka at the Ninja Academy at age 12. The Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, and now in full control of the demon. Had a large hand in the defeat of Uchiha Madara, Uchiha Obito, and Kaguya during the Fourth Shinobi World War. Defeated Pein and other members of Akatsuki. Son of Namikaze Minato and the former Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, Uzumaki Kushina," he finishes and glances up at me above his green frames like he's asking for me to comment. I simply nod my head to show that I listened to him read off my record like it's a baseball card.

"You have been recognized as a hero of sorts for this village," Utatane grumbles, "But that doesn't guarantee anyone the title of Hokage."

Duh, I want to say to her, but it should get me pretty damn close. Maybe I should read off her record to see what "guaranteed" her the title of the official Scary Grandma of Konoha. Nevermind Tsunade, how the hell did Sandaime work with these jerks?

"Naruto," Tsunade's softer voice is a welcomed change, "we wouldn't have called you here if you had no chance of becoming Hokage. There will be much more involved in this process for you than there has been for years."

"Why?"

It's much easier to talk to Tsunade after all these years of calling her an old hag, but that might end up being my downfall here. Wait, what was it she said? A process? I never heard of there being a process for becoming the Hoka-

Tsunade interrupts my thoughts like she read them, "It hasn't been a process for many years because all but one of the previous Hokages were appointed during a time of distress. The Shodai Hokage, my grandfather, appointed his younger brother during the First Shinobi World War. They were still fighting that war when Nidaime passed the title down to Sandaime. Many years later, he was defeated by Orochimaru, and I became the Godaime. I was going to take too long to recover from the war, so I chose to step down and allow Kakashi to handle the aftermath as the Rokudaime."

I'm sure she knew I would notice which one was missing. How couldn't I?

"My father, he was chosen to be the Yondaime after the war, right?" I asked, locking eyes with Tsunade to avoid seeing the expressions on the other two.

"It was a time of relative peace, and there was no rush to instate a new Hokage since Sarutobi-sama still had plenty of years left in him. It was then that he discovered the Trials in documents left to future Hokages. These were scrolls written by Shodai himself. In them, he found that a new Hokage wasn't meant to be named until they passed the thirteen Trials left behind. These are the trials that your father completed to become Hokage, and they are the trials that you have the choice to attempt."

"So what, is this like the Chuunin exams? Am I going to be thrown into the Forest of Death again or pitted against an army? Or am I going to be running around an arena for everyone's entertainment?" Oh shit, I think, as I bite my tongue and bunch the orange fabric of my pants into my fists.

Mitokado speaks up finally to deliver this charmer, "As profitable as it would be to televise your Trials, we have already come to the conclusion that we wouldn't want to risk a camera or a cameraman to record it," Geez, straighten out your priorities, "You'll just have to come back to the village after every trial and come to this meeting room with your Assistant to report."

"Did you- I mean- Assistant?" I instantly picture Shizune running into Tsunade's office with a huge stack of reports and Ton-ton waddling alongside her.

And just like the woman she's assisting, Shizune can read minds, apparently, as she is the next person through the doors behind me. She's followed by Sakura and Shikamaru, of all people. The three of them enter, line up side by side to bow, and take their seats; Shikamaru on my right, Sakura on my left, and Shizune next to Tsunade on the other side of the table.

"Haruno Sakura, age 18, Former..." Blah, blah, blah I know where this is going, Mitokado does the same thing for Sakura and Shikamaru that he did for me. Sakura has been working in the hospital non-stop since her participation in the war, earning herself a high position in the medic nin field. Shikamaru, on the other hand, was constantly being sent out for missions that required his amazing skills as a strategist. Both of them were irreplaceable during and after the war.

Once he finished Sakura's spiel, she bowed so deeply it looked like she was imitating a rock. Shikamaru's bow was more of a drawn-out nod.

"For these qualities and accomplishments, Nara Shikamaru has been chosen by Utatane Koharu-sama and I, Mitokado Homura, as a candidate for the position of Assistant of the Nanadaime," he announces, and things start to click.

These Trials or whatever sound hard, but I'm not going to be alone.

"And for her qualities and accomplishments, I have chosen Haruno Sakura as a candidate for the position of Assistant of the Nanadaime. Naruto, both candidates are close friends of yours, but they are both highly qualified for their work. You are now allowed to choose which candidate you wish to have as your Assistant."

I stare blindly at Tsunade for a second, but I soon snap out of it when I feel a gentle hand placed on top of mine. I turn my head to my left to catch Sakura's little smile. It quickly turns into a silent scream as the doors are brutally snapped open and a dark body is thrown onto the mats behind us.

Two masked ANBU march forward to grab the figure and force them into a kneeling position by kicking their legs together and yanking them up by their long mat of dull black hair. Their entire body is dusted by some crumbly white stuff.

Hey, they have handcuffs, chakra suppressors, and a headband blindfold! This must be that person I saw with the huge entourage earlier, that prisoner!

Well, no matter what they've done, they can't possibly deserve being tossed about like this!

I begin to stand up in protest, but one of the ANBU begins to speak. His words are muffled slightly by the long beak on his mask.

"We've brought the prisoner, as requested. It was a longer trip than intended, we apologize, but we had to drag him across rooftops. We followed your orders; he was never walking in the streets. He didn't complain, at least- Whoah!"

A teacup smashes on the wall right behind where the ANBU's head was just a second ago. Tsunade is on her feet, her monstrous fists threatening the two guards. Shizune stands gaping next to her, trying to hold her back with a too-gentle hand.

"You complete morons! If you miss your appointment, don't assume that we aren't busy with something else! He's the last person we want in here! You were supposed to be in and out of here an hour ago!" she screamed, and the tension of the room turns into one that's not so official.

"We apologize, Hokage-sama," the next ANBU, this one masked as a badger, makes himself known, "But, if you would please complete the sentencing, it won't be a wasted trip! All you have to do is sentence him to death and we'll be on our way."

Death? Who the hell could be bad enough to deserve death? No one, that's who! So, of course, I have to speak up.

"Yo, Baa-chan, who's this prisoner and what did he do?"

But now Koharu begins complaining,"Fools! It's hard enough to feel safe in the same room as the Jinchuuriki, now you want to add the Uchiha to the mix?"

Wait a fucking second.

Uchiha?

The table smashes in half from the sheer force of my hands slamming down. I quickly lift myself and spin around to face who might be my best friend on the ground.

The ANBU make a quick move towards me, but there's no stopping me. I take the handcuffs in my hands and break the chain with red chakra. I use the same chakra to overload all but two of the chakra suppressors.

Soon, I feel the weak signature that I craved to run into years ago. The same signature that was supposed to be in Kumogakure, willingly and freely serving under them for a few years as a repentance for attacking the Eight-Tails Jinchuuriki and taking the arm of the Raikage. Or so I was told!

Though common sense tells me not to, I have to see what's behind the blindfold to be sure it's him. I slow down my frantic movements to untie the familiar headband. I let it fall into the lap of Uchiha Sasuke. His red eyes, dulled by the suppressors but still vivid, show the pattern of the Eternal Sharingan and Rinnegan. They could've been keeping him blindfolded for more than a year.

He spent a whole year as a prisoner, and not even Tsunade told me about Sasuke's suffering!

"I knew it, I knew I shouldn't have let him leave! I trusted you assholes! You said he was pardoned!" I turn my head to scream at them, then turn back quickly to assess the damage to the once-proud Uchiha.

Though I should be more careful, I reach behind Sasuke's head and bring his hair forward. It falls in dreads and mats that brush his calloused hands that lay in his lap.

Hands? They must have given him an artificial arm like mine. Now, whether it was his choice or not…

My eyes travel up, and I see that he's thinning quickly; even the loose, black shirt can't conceal his protruding ribs and weakening muscles.

"Naru...to?" His ragged voice pushes past his chapped lips.

Trying to hold back tears of anger, I turn my head once again to look at Tsunade and address the bigger issue at hand.

"Death? You were going to kill Sasuke behind my back, after all those years it took to get him home? He even helped us at the end of the war, and you three think he deserves death?"

"Guards, put the blindfold back on the Uchiha and move him to the corner. Our current business is more pressing," Koharu snips, which makes me want to attack her just to wipe that small smirk off her face.

I really would've done it, too, if it weren't for Sakura, who's reaching her hand out to lead me quietly to my cushion.

If it wasn't already broken, I would've broken the table again, but I did every trick I knew to keep my anger down; I bit my tongue, bunched the fabric of my pants in my fist, and stared right at the one person I knew would give me some answers.

"Naruto, if we would've completed his sentencing today, we would've claimed that he had died of disease out in his travels. I'm sorry, but it's been decided by the council that his crimes couldn't be pardoned. What he did in the name of revenge and revolution was inexcusable, no matter the ultimate outcome."

Tsunade does look torn, tired, and apologetic, which leads me to believe that it was the two wrinkled asses in front of me that were responsible for this whole plan. What the hell did they end up telling Kakashi?

"Tsunade, he must make his decision now. Time is of the essence, you realize. They need to make it to the inn they're staying at tonight before sun down," Mitokado sighs impatiently.

He waves a hand at the guards, and I watch as they take the opportunity to blindfold Sasuke again and drag him by his hair to sit in the corner. At least Sasuke has the strength to use his freed hands to help move himself.

A cough from in front of me brings my attention back to the matter at hand.

"Why do I need an Assistant? And do either of these guys even want to do it?" I demand, and for the first time, it's Shizune who speaks up.

"An Assistant is vital to the Hokage. They are supposed to make up for any pitfalls that the Hokage might have and support them so they can make the best decisions. In my case, Tsunade-sama has a difficulty staying awake long enough to finish her reports, and she is very loose with money. I, on the other hand, have issues with unfinished work, and I'm very frugal. You see? It follows the principle of Yin and Yang, of compatibility," she explains it as clearly as possible, but something still doesn't fit for me.

"So why did you choose Sakura or Shikamaru?" I ask, and now it's Shikamaru, who I thought was sleeping this whole time, who answers me.

"Sakura was picked for her intelligence and that she would be driven enough to make you do your work, assuming you wouldn't do it anyway. Also, she can represent the feminine Yin that you lack. I, on the other hand, was also chosen for my intelligence, though I think they didn't realize that I would be even lazier than you. However, I know that I was chosen for my battle experience, which would be helpful for your trials." He shrugs, then rolls his neck around, making small cracking noises.

I don't spend more time watching him as I'm too busy trying to picture who would be the best to bring with me.

Sakura would be great as a medic nin, but I don't need healing usually because of Kurama.

Shikamaru would probably make the best plans, and I've always wanted to work with him when I'm the Hokage. But, this Assistant thing sounds like a huge commitment, and he's already committed to being his clan leader. And he's right, the last thing I need is to become less motivated to complete boring reports.

But if they're my choices…

"Is the decision I make now final?" I glance up at Koharu, but it's Tsunade who tells me that it is.

So, I tell them that I've made my choice. My finger raises and points to which friend I wish to have work beside me. Everyone gasps, and the guard that I'm pointing at has a finger pointed at himself.

"No, not you, you dolt! Sasuke! I choose Sasuke!" I yell, jumping up and making Sasuke stand up by pulling on his rough hands.

"He's not one of your choices, Naruto! He's not a candidate!" Mitokado and Koharu start complaining, but they're too old to stand up and stop me.

"No, he's right. His decision is final, and he chose Sasuke. If he was still a recognized Konoha ninja, he would've been my first choice as his Assistant."

She steps over the broken table and lifts the headband off of Sasuke.

"Uchiha Sasuke, do you accept the position of Assistant to Naruto as he goes through these Trials and promise to serve him if he succeeds?" she asks, daring to stare into his Sharingan.

"Hn..." he starts out, sounding more like himself, "What do I get from it?"

"A full pardon," I scramble to answer, making sure that the elders realize it's directed at them, "And he's actually considered a Konoha ninja this time!"

"And if you fail?" Mitokado asks, raising his eyebrow. I suck in a breath to answer, and Sakura's face makes it obvious that she knows what I'm about to say.

"I'll go on death row in place of Sasuke, and he is free to go and live anywhere outside of Konoha."

I know that they find me as even more of a threat than Sasuke, so I wasn't surprised when the two elders nodded their heads in agreement.

"Do you accept these terms, Sasuke?" Tsunade asks again.

Everyone's eyes are on Sasuke, who straightens his back and looks at me to answer.

"I do," he says, but his eyes turn into slits, "For purely selfish reasons."

Hell, that hurts, but I should've expected he wouldn't be too happy with me.

"I accept them, too," I say, and take the headband from Tsunade. Instead of tying it around his eyes, I tie it around his forehead. His hair is all messed up, but I can still see a bit of the Sasuke I said goodbye to a year ago.

"Now, where is that inn you talked about? And I assume we'll be given some supplies?" I ask hurriedly.

"So you can travel with all the equipment specified in the document, you and your...Assistant...will be riding in a carriage with storage compartments to the town. You'll receive your first Trial tomorrow."

I twitch a bit at how disgusted Koharu sounded when she said 'Assistant.'

"Is it out there now?" I ask, my hand already on the door.

"Yes, but-" Mitokado begins, but I cut him off.

"Then we'll be leaving. Nice seeing you, Sakura, Shikamaru. Sorry, no offense to either of you," I smile at both of my friends.

Though they look concerned, they smile back.

At that, I take Sasuke by the wrist and pull him through the doors. Yeah, I hear the two elders squawking at Tsunade, but they don't matter to me now. I don't really have to impress them anymore, I just gotta get through these Trials.

With Sasuke.

Who, speaking of which, seems to be going along with me, even though I'm dragging him. It's a bit unnerving, actually, knowing that he's quick to comply because he's been shoved around by those ANBU for about a year. He's so used to being blinded and cuffed.

My mind wanders to all the things that the ANBU is capable of doing to people. He might've also been subjected to the terrifying Interrogation and Torture Squad!

I can't seem to calm down until we get to the exit. I swallow and let my gaze shift towards Sasuke.

"There's not many people out there, so you don't have to worry about them noticing you before we get into the carriage. But, in any case, you should protect your eyes. You haven't used them for a while, right?"

Oh, damn, I feel like I need to cough but I just swallow again and lead us out of the Hokage Tower. Sasuke doesn't make any sound, but he does keep his head down and eyes away from the light.

I guide him into the wagon and follow right behind him, shutting the doors gently. I seat myself across from him and finally allow myself to look at his face again. I jump a little when I'm met with dim red.

Oh, right, I forgot about the chakra suppressors.

My hands wrap around the last metal bands, and for a split second I reconsider, but I still overload them. One of them lands on my toe, but I don't make any sudden sounds.

Sasuke shakes his head, eyes closed, and rubs his arms. When he looks at me again, I finally see the familiar crimson of Sasuke's eyes.

"Uh, there you go! I'll need all the help I can get from you to do these Trials," I give a huge grin, and it's not completely faked.

"There was no guarantee that I would lift a finger to help you. Shikamaru and Sakura, they would've been more than glad to fall all over themselves to help their hero."

I'm trying to stop myself from kicking my own ass. The connection between us has not weakened at all, so all the pain in his heart is flooding into me while I look into his eyes. He said hero but I heard betrayer.

"This is obviously a better deal, don't you think?" I press and forgo any attempt to fake a smile.

"No matter how this turns out, I get out. Shouldn't that be even more of a reason for me to not care about the outcome? In fact, it would be better for me if you failed," he bites back, one eyebrow disappearing under the headband.

Ahh, wait...if I complete the Trials, Sasuke becomes a Konoha Ninja and gets a full pardon, but he has to work for me. If I fail, I die in his place and he gets out of Konoha for good. Both sound pretty good for Sasuke. Fuckin' A. My hand flies to scratch the back of my head once I realize how stupid my terms are.

"Look, I'm sorry, I just-" I start, but his growl stops me in my tracks.

"It's your fault, you idiot. You tricked me to get me to come back here, saying stupid shit and spewing lies. Then you believed the very bastards who are responsible for the massacre of my clan! Like hell they were going to let me out of Konoha freely!"

Okay, so maybe I don't want him to talk. I would join him if he wanted to rip my heart out of my chest and start stomping on it.

"My fault? Do you really think feel it's my fault?" I ask, but I already know the answer even before Sasuke's glare tells me.

Thinking back to the war, I remember Sasuke fighting against me and what we've admitted to each other. He trusted me, and he lands in jail because of it. Fuckin' A!

"I trusted Tsunade and Kakashi, but those elders seem to have even more power than they do!"

What an excuse, idiot. Blame the old chick, that'll make Sasuke happier!

His voice is warmed up now, so his words are hitting me at full force.

"Even if it were true that I was in Kumogakure, one would think that, after all that garbage about wanting me back, you would think of checking up on me. Or you would send a message, even, to your old friends over in that village, and maybe put a word in to ask about me? Was anybody stopping you?"

Though he's saying one thing, I'm the only one who would be able to hear what he's really asking me. I didn't want to think of Sasuke asking these things from inside a small cell.

Why aren't you saving me?

What are you doing that's more important than helping me?

What happened to being my friend?

The only thing I've been doing this past year was training, building, eating, and sleeping. Non-stop, no other thoughts. Once I thought that Sasuke was safely in another village, repenting and being treated well, I began running on auto-pilot.

For the first time since I've met him, Sasuke didn't constantly slip into my thoughts. Since Sakura was always in the hospital, she and I never talked about him, and she didn't think of asking about him, either.

Kakashi is also busy as the Hokage. He's currently surveying the damage to the country and small villages because of the war.

Nobody made time for Sasuke in their thoughts at a time when he would most need it.

"Sasuke, all I can say is that I'm so sorry. I just didn't know and I never would have thought they would do this. You're my best friend, Sasuke! I never wanted this to happen."

I plead with him, hoping that my feelings reach him like his are reaching me. It seems to be working, I guess. He looks a bit more relaxed than he did a few minutes ago, at least, but he refuses to acknowledge my apology.

We spend some awkward moments in complete silence. Sasuke's dreads sway with every rattle of the carriage.

"Hey, Sasuke, can you sit in front of me for a minute?" I ask as quietly and cautiously as possible.

"I am sitting in front of you, usuratonkachi."

Even though I know he's pissed at me, the old insult makes my stomach flutter and a smile pull on my lips. Maybe, just maybe, this isn't the end of everything between us.

"I mean here." I point to the floor between my feet.

"The hell?" He sends bloody daggers with his bright eyes, but what for?

All I said was . . . oh, shit. I scramble to cover for myself, but I feel my neck heating up a bit.

"I want to cut your hair!" I clarify, and he noticeably relaxes. Safe!

"I'm not sure that the inn will let us in if you look like I picked you up from an opium den," I spout, and his glare returns.

Fuckin' A!

Despite my suddenly horrible social skills, he sits facing away from me and unties the headband so that I can have access to the long mess of black strands. Ah, well at least the only bad dreads are a couple ones up front here.

Oh...

Prison is boring enough for dreading your own hair, I guess…

Hey, at least the back isn't bad, but it definitely needs cleaned and combed. I take a kunai from my pouch and chop off the dreads, which were luckily near the bottom.

It's not the nicest job, but I manage to cut his bangs so that they resemble what they were a few years ago, if not a little longer. The back is quicker, but I stop cutting once his hair is short enough to spike in the back like it used to.

I run a hand through just to untangle the last few knots. Despite the dust, your hair is pretty soft, ne, Sasuke?

"What did you say about my hair?" Sasuke's quick to go sit back on his side.

He doesn't stay there for long once he sees all of his old hair on the ground. I watch him throw it all out the open window and wipe his dusty hands on his black prison clothes.

"Uh, I didn't say anything, I just asked if you wanted your headband back," I grab my convenient cover-up and offer it to him.

His hand hesitates, but he takes one end of the headband. My heart aches as I remember his departure yet again. This headband meant so much to both of us, and to see it used to hurt Sasuke is unforgivable.

Instead of tying it around his head, it goes around his neck like how Hinata wears hers. Uh, weird comparison, self, don't do that. Hinata and Sasuke?

Glancing up at my face, he gives me a simple explanation, "I don't want to risk it covering my eyes." Understandable, "Anyway, I'm not used to wearing headbands anymore."

"We had some kick-ass headbands during the war, didn't we? I wish we would've kept them, but I guess that would defeat the purpose of having the different village symbols on them in the first place, right? No one would know what village a shinobi's from if it just says that he's a shinobi. Vague, huh?"

Good, a conversation about headbands. This is such a great topic, I'm sure we can shoot the shit like this until we end up at the inn.

And then I can hide in my room.

"Did you forget that I never wore one of those, you idiot?" His arms and legs cross in one fluid motion, and I can see some strength returning to those weakened muscles. By the way...

"Oh, right. Hey, enough talk about past war stuff. We gotta stay in the present right now! We're getting the Trial tomorrow. We'll have time to shower and relax and think of strategies and whatever else tonight. So, I was thinking," I smirk at him, knowing he'll hear the challenge, "How about warming up a bit with me tonight?"

"What." I didn't even hear it as a question, that's how bluntly he said it. Damn it...

"Sparring, Sasuke, sparring. You haven't used your muscles in forever. They need warmed up!"

I made sure he heard every damn word so there couldn't be any more weird misunderstandings, "Strictly taijutsu. You'll just have to practice with your Sharingan along the way."

Once he seems to understand, he smirks a bit at me.

"Sounds good."

Aw yeah, that's the first positive-sounding thing he's said this whole time!

He didn't expect me to answer, so neither of us spoke up until we made it to the inn. The driver pulled a huge bag out of a compartment underneath his seat and threw it onto the ground. I guess they're our supplies.

Then again, the town we're staying in has signs everywhere for shops of all kinds, so they seem a bit unnecessary. Feeling the sad and deflated frog wallet in my pocket, I remember to be grateful.

Despite what I said before, the woman running the inn does not actually seem to think Sasuke was pulled from an opium den. I must be better at hair-cutting than I thought since I can see on her cheeks the same blush that used to tint every girl's face whenever they were around Sasuke.

When we open the door to our room, I get proven wrong yet again. I would have no room to hide in. Even a ninja can't hide in a shared room.

Fuckin' A.