Okay, I'm a liar. This isn't the end. Well, it sort of is, but there's an epilogue too, which will tie up all the loose ends. The epilogue might be from Naruto's POV. Not sure yet... but it's definitely coming.

This chapter hated me. Or rather, the jutsu Team Seven spent last chapter learning hated me. It took me forever to come up with what they learned. I didn't want to give them super-awesome jutsu, because that's not exactly the focus of the story and because they're growing more steadily in this verse, but they all had to learn something at least moderately cool. So that took forever. I'm pretty satisfied with what I ended up picking. By the way, Naruto's jutsu is too hard to control for him to use like crazy, thus keeping it from turning him into uber-Naruto.

Umm, what else. Oh yes! I've been thinking of going back and adding little blurbs to all of the chapters. For instance, this chapter's would be as follows: In which Kakashi is evil, Sakura makes Sasuke look like an idiot, Naruto kind of is an idiot, and Sasuke finally mans up and does something.

What do y'all think? If you like it, I'll go back and add those to every chapter. If not, I might add them anyway, because I like the idea. In any case, thanks for being so patient, and enjoy the last official chapter (and remember, there will be an epilogue!)

Chapter Ten: Declaration

Sasuke was beginning to suspect that he might have a slight case of emotional retardation. Oh, nothing too terrible, just… a total inability to understand his own emotions until the absolute worst possible time. After all, if he had realized his own feelings two weeks ago, then he would have been able to respond to Naruto's confession in kind, and then everything would be fine. Though, at the moment, Sasuke was actively trying to block out all thoughts of just what 'fine' might entail, because every time he pondered too long on the subject of what liking Naruto meant he wanted, he started to feel very hot and woozy and altogether humiliated.

…But in a kind of good way.

Anyway, now he was faced with a dilemma. He'd decided, about halfway through the night, to just acknowledge to himself his slowness in the emotional arena and move on to more important matters. Matters such as what the hell he could do now.

His options were kind of limited, after all. Naruto didn't love Sasuke anymore. Oh no, he'd seen to that (idiot, idiot, idiot, Sasuke told himself, and then called Naruto an idiot too for good measure). In fact, Naruto had decided quite splendidly to move right on to the next available teammate.

By the way, Sasuke was really disappointed in Sakura. Wasn't she supposed to hate Naruto? Then he remembered that he'd convinced her to work hard as a ninja just last week and that she had probably decided being a good ninja included getting along with one's teammates, and then had stopped hating Naruto in favor of dating Naruto. Then he punched his pillow and ripped it in half, scattering feathers everywhere. Then he decided not to dwell on that little detail, either.

Sasuke moved on to thinking about training, getting off the Naruto subject altogether for a while. This lasted all of ten seconds before he punched what was left of his pillow a few times, clenched his teeth, and stomped out of bed, muttering various obscene words. Really, just – damn Kakashi.

…He was running out of coherent thoughts.

Sasuke made himself stand very still. He took a deep breath, held it, and let it out. He closed his eyes. He strove for inner peace.

He swore, kicked the wall, and swore again as the pain in his toe flared up again.

Then Sasuke went to the kitchen to make himself some instant ramen, because he was getting hungry again and he clearly wasn't going to get any sleep tonight.


Morning came, a perfect summer sun in a perfectly blue sky, and cheerful for just about everyone in the world except for Sasuke. He dreaded meeting up with Team Seven; the thought that when he arrived at the bridge he'd see Sakura and Naruto whispering together over some stupid scroll made him feel almost violently ill.

But Sasuke left home at the same time he always had, because there was no way in hell he was going to advertise his emotional state to anyone. He walked swiftly, stomach fizzing in what was either nerves or indigestion from stale instant ramen, and arrived at the bridge exactly on time.

…Or he thought he had. Sasuke stared, all nerves blown right out of him in his utter shock at arriving to a team meeting last.

He quickly looked up at the sun, trying to estimate the time from its position in the sky. It seemed right, and he could've sworn all his clocks were accurate, but Naruto was known to pull stupid pranks like that and – no, wait, Naruto wasn't grinning. Naruto looked just as stunned as Sasuke felt, and Sakura's face was actually quite pale. Both of them were staring at Kakashi.

"What–" Sasuke stopped, unsure what to say next.

Naruto licked his lips and swallowed nervously. If Sasuke weren't so completely blown out of the water at the scene he found himself in, his new awareness of that sort of gesture may have made him very embarrassed.

"He was already waiting when we got here, too," Sakura eventually whispered, still looking like she'd seen a ghost. "I think he came… early."

Somewhere amidst the very world imploding, Sasuke took a moment to want to stab his teammate for her use of the word 'we'. It wasn't like she'd stayed over at Naruto's place or anything – heck, Naruto wouldn't have known what to do with her if she had! Most likely they had just been meeting to do their scroll study again. Sasuke knew that, he wasn't an idiot.

Still, though. Stabbing didn't sound bad.

"Sasuke," Kakashi spoke up, sounding more amused than usual. "You're late. Shame on you. Punctuality is a very important quality in a ninja."

Naruto actually gurgled. Sasuke very nearly saw Sharingan red. Sakura still seemed in too much shock to leap to his defense, and just continued staring.

"I'm not late," Sasuke finally grit out. "You're just – evil."

He wouldn't normally admit this, but he was under a lot of stress right now, and besides, it was true. Naruto was nodding fervently, and even Sakura seemed unable to argue otherwise.

Kakashi sounded as though he were pouting when he next spoke: "And here I just wanted to reward my hardworking students! I guess the Road of Life really is preferable to an alarm clock…"

Whatever reaction he may have hoped to provoke, it didn't come. Sasuke poured all his energy into his glare, Sakura was still just staring into space, and Naruto – well, Sasuke wasn't looking at Naruto so it wasn't like he knew what Naruto was doing. He had no reason to be looking at Naruto. He was glaring at Kakashi. Naruto was beside the point right now.

Naruto, Sasuke noticed, was also glaring at Kakashi.

Well… good.

"Anyway!" Kakashi said. "You've all been doing pretty well in your individual training, so I think we can call that quits for now and get to that out-of-town mission." He paused to allow cheers. Naruto was the only one to do so, and even he quickly stopped himself in favor of glaring even harder at his sensei. Kakashi coughed awkwardly. "…Right. But first, it's time you all give each other a little demonstration of what you've learned, yes? It's important for your teammates to know your skills, after all. Sakura, you're up first."

This time, Naruto's cheer was long and loud and heartfelt. Sakura finally snapped out of her daze to smile a small, eager smile. Both of them seemed very excited about this demonstration, and Sasuke's glare grew a little more hateful at the thought that he would be the only one to fail in producing something impressive.


He slouched against a nearby tree, watching sullenly as Sakura walked out to the middle of the clearing in front of them. She took a few deep breaths, then reached up with both hands to tie her long hair back. After doing so, Sakura lowered her hands, and stood still with a look of deep concentration on her face. For a long time, nothing happened.

Then, Sakura began to float. She went higher and higher, until she was standing even with the tops of the trees, where she then proceeded to bow proudly.

"You can FLY?" Naruto shouted in shock. "What was in those scrolls?!"

Sasuke, on the other hand, merely clicked his tongue in irritation, linked his hands together in a single seal, and said, "Kai!"

The genjutsu broke; Sakura wasn't up in sky, but standing right between her teammates, grinning widely with her hands held loosely behind her back. Naruto jumped in surprise, and started to yell again, but Sasuke cut him off quickly.

"It was just an illusion, Naruto. And an obvious one at that; don't tell me you're really such a bad ninja as to be fooled by something like that. She made the seals when she was tying up her hair."

Rather than wilting under Sasuke's less-than-glowing evaluation of her new skill, Sakura's grin grew even wider. "Actually," she said, "I never even left this spot. That was an illusion too."

That caught Sasuke's attention. He'd detected the obvious pulse in Sakura's chakra levels when she'd been tying up her hair, and had instantly (and scornfully) realized it was a basic genjutsu at work. But if she had actually cast the genjutsu much earlier, then that meant she was far better at this than he had initially supposed. He hadn't even noticed her casting the jutsu, despite her standing right next to him, and then she'd been clever enough – and had enough chakra control – to willfully pulse her chakra at the right moment in her illusion to completely fool the more observant Sasuke as well as Naruto. That really was impressive – she could have stabbed either one of her teammates before they could ever respond, thus transforming a fairly simple jutsu into an effective weapon. Sakura really did deserve praise.

But Sasuke didn't feel inclined to give her any, not when he had just been made a fool. Naruto was already laughing hysterically; it would compromise Sasuke's pride too much to actually go complimenting Sakura now.

"Hn," he said instead, looking pointedly away. Naruto's laugh grew a little louder, and even Sakura giggled a little. Sasuke did not like the feeling of those two laughing together at his expense. His already dark mood got a bit darker.

"Excellent job, Sakura," Kakashi interjected before the Naruto's mocking could get too out of hand. For a moment, Sasuke felt grateful. "This is, of course, only one of the many ways you can utilize your chakra control and natural intelligence in battle. These qualities could aid you in becoming a genjutsu specialist, or perhaps even a field medic – I'd encourage you to start thinking more about what you want to focus on in the future. But fooling Sasuke's good enough for now."

No, on second thought, there was no reason for Sasuke to ever be grateful for anything Kakashi ever did, because all of the man's actions turned out to be evil in the end. That was the real meaning of his stupid "look underneath the underneath", Sasuke knew it.

"…Speaking of which, Sasuke, it's your turn to show off your new skills."

Sasuke trudged out to the center of the clearing very slowly, trying hard to think of some new skill he could demonstrate. None came to mind. Finally he decided that he'd just have to use an old jutsu, one he already knew but had never demonstrated before his team… only to think over his list of techniques, and come to the depressing conclusion that he'd revealed all his cards over the course of the Wave mission. Sasuke had absolutely nothing to show, Sakura had just made him look like a dunce, Naruto was watching, and it was all Kakashi's fault.

But just as he opened his mouth to admit his utter lack of progress (a slight increase in speed just wasn't enough to match up to Sakura's genjutsu trick), his sensei wandered out to join him in the field.

"Now, Sasuke's new trick might be a little hard to demonstrate on his own, so I'll give him a hand," he announced. "Sasuke, go ahead and use your Sharingan. I want you to copy my hand-seals exactly, as fast as you can."

Then, without even giving Sasuke a single moment to prepare, Kakashi launched into a blindingly fast series of seals. Quickly, Sasuke activated his Sharingan and copied the movements as well as he could. Much to his surprise, he was able almost to keep up, and could even detect the shape of the chakra Kakashi was forming and pouring into the technique. Oh, he realized, those seals were just a diversion. The real move is –

Then the world blurred around him, and Sasuke focused all his attention on controlling his movements and coming to a sharp stop before he hit a tree. Instead he stumbled a bit, and caught himself with a hand on Naruto's shoulder. His teammate was staring at him in apparent awe.

"He taught you that teleportation jutsu all the jounin use? That is so cool. Can you go anywhere in the world? Can you take me with you? Sasuke? Hey!"

Sasuke didn't answer, too surprised even to get annoyed at Naruto's misunderstanding of Shunshin – it wasn't a teleportation jutsu, it just gave the user incredible speed so that it looked as though they had disappeared. They'd gone over that in the Academy, but then again Naruto had probably been asleep during that lesson.

No, Sasuke was more focused on the fact that he had managed to complete the jutsu – or rather, he'd been able to accurately discern the flow of Kakashi's chakra instead of just watching his physical movements. Up until now, only one of his eyes had been capable of doing this, and that ability was iffy at best. Now, it had been almost automatic, and as a result he'd been able to master a new technique without any forewarning whatsoever.

Kakashi was chuckling. "You may have thought this week's training was useless, but speed and battle stress are both essential to the development of any Sharingan user. You've managed to gain another tomoe now; isn't that great? And although Shunshin is a D-ranked jutsu, we still don't usually teach it to genin as they're not typically capable of controlling their movements at such a high speed. It's very impressive that you didn't launch yourself halfway through a tree – well done, Sasuke."

The praise went a little way towards appeasing Sasuke's temper of the morning, and Naruto's open admiration went a little further (Sakura was equally admiring, and had in fact been praising Sasuke too this whole time, he'd just chosen to ignore her). Of course, Kakashi could have just told him all of this at the beginning of the week and spared Sasuke all that stress and frustration, but... better late than never. After a moment, he smirked a little, his bruised pride slightly recovered.

And so, it was Naruto's turn. He sauntered out into the middle of the field with a skip in his step, clearly eager to show off his new abilities. Once he was a good distance away from his teammates, he formed a very familiar seal and shouted some very familiar words: "Kage bunshin no jutsu!"

Honestly, was Naruto even capable of going a single day without making clones?

Sasuke sighed, but continued to watch expectantly, using his new Sharingan to the fullest as he analyzed Naruto's chakra flow. Naruto grinned widely, then said, "Okay, flying and teleporting might be awesome, but you guys've got nothing on me! Check this out! Bunshin Daibakuha!"

The single clone Naruto had created exploded. It was mostly a vertical blast, but there was still a fair bit of damage all around it – and anyway, Naruto had been standing idiotically close to the clone when he activated his jutsu. He was directly within the circle of destruction.

Or, he would have been, if Sasuke hadn't detected the unstable change in the clone's chakra flow just in time and used his own new technique to dash across the field, catching Naruto on the way. He doubted Naruto's reflexes were fast enough to perform Kawarimi. Or he would have if he had been thinking. Mostly he just acted, and moments later came to a painful halt on the other side of the field, having lost his balance with the combination of great speed and Naruto's added weight. The pair tumbled to the ground as the explosion shot up behind them, and Sasuke really should feel angry at Naruto's idiocy, or at least worried about it, but he just couldn't bring himself to care. Not when Naruto had landed directly on top of him, and his wide blue eyes were staring down at Sasuke, and his body was very warm, and his face was very close, and Sasuke couldn't breathe.

With a single, quick movement, Sasuke shoved Naruto off of him and stood up, turning away to hide his blush. "Idiot! If you're going to make an explosion, then make sure you're out of the blast zone!"

He began stomping back across the clearing, stepping carefully around the smoldering wreckage Naruto's new jutsu had left behind. He did not wait for Naruto. He did not look at Naruto.

Thus, he was unprepared for Naruto latching on to his arm. "Aw, you really do care," the idiot laughed. "Thanks, Sasuke, I wasn't thinking. I mean, I would've been fine, but –"

"You don't know that!" Sasuke snapped, yanking free.

Naruto chuckled sheepishly, following Sasuke back towards their teammate and sensei. "Um… No, I kinda do. I sort of exploded some on myself already, earlier in the week. It's a really hard technique to control, that's why I needed Sakura to help me, and I still can't do more than one clone at a time when I'm using it – but still, isn't it totally awesome?"

Sasuke really did consider yelling at Naruto about his idiotic self-endangering tendencies, but at this point Sakura had probably done more than enough of that. So he shoved that impulse down, and smirked instead. "Totally awesome? Please. If you really can get caught in that explosion and come out of it fine, then it's basically useless. It took you all week just to master a jutsu that doesn't do any good? You really are the dead last, aren't you."

This had the desired effect of starting Naruto off on a furious and mostly illogical tirade that finally ended in him proclaiming, "You're just jealous, Sasuke!"

And okay, yes, that particular choice of words had Sasuke tensing up for a minute, but Naruto clearly didn't mean it that way. He was totally oblivious to how Sasuke felt – and what's more, Sasuke realized with an odd sinking feeling in his gut, Naruto would remain oblivious forever. The imbecile wasn't ever going to notice Sasuke's feelings for him, and Sasuke couldn't really blame him – he had just noticed himself, after all.

But he wanted Naruto to notice. He wanted Naruto to already know, to at the very least be aware of how Sasuke felt, so that he'd understand the ramifications of saying stupid things like that. Even if it was selfish to reveal now; maybe even especially because it was selfish. Sasuke was a selfish person. He always had been. And he wanted Naruto to know how he felt. Even if it was too late, even if he was happy with Sakura now, Sasuke wanted Naruto to know, damn it.

But the only way to ensure that was to tell him.


To say Sasuke wasn't well acquainted with the art of confessing love was something of an understatement. Oh, he had tons of experience receiving such confessions, and as such knew quite well how they usually went.

But if he dragged Naruto to stand under a sakura tree in full bloom, it would only remind him of Sakura. Most other 'romantic' places would do the same, unless they made Naruto hungry or bored – both very likely possibilities, and not the sort of mood Sasuke was going for.

If he cooked him a bento with a love confession written inside, not only would Naruto eat so fast he wouldn't notice the words, but he'd complain that it wasn't ramen. And Sasuke's cooking wasn't so great, so he'd probably also accuse Sasuke of trying to poison him.

Sasuke refused to even consider giving a Valentine. For one, that was practically a year away. And also that would make him the girl, plus it would automatically give Naruto a month before he had to reply. Not to mention Naruto didn't seem to know what Valentine's Day even was.

Also off-limits were any love letters, stalking, fawning over, and general fangirl nonsense. Of course, Sasuke could always just go the 'Naruto route', and break into Naruto's home at two in the morning to whisper his feelings, but Naruto would think it was either a dream or an ambush.

There was, of course, the basic fallback, which was just to get Naruto to accompany him somewhere private and not located near any sakura trees in full or even partial bloom, and just flat-out tell him: "I love you." But there were complications even with that; Sasuke would have to explain why he'd already claimed not to love Naruto, and then he'd have to listen to Naruto reject him in favor of Sakura, and there just wasn't going to be time for a private conversation of that length during their upcoming mission. Said mission, to escort a merchant from his home village in the outer reaches of Fire Country to Konoha so he could sell his merchandise, was going to last several weeks. And even if there probably wasn't going to be any A-ranked missing-nin attacking them this time around, Team Seven were still going to have their hands full guarding the merchant's goods from bandits. Not that bandits were really a challenge, but they should be fairly time-consuming at least, and on a guard mission getting any alone time would be rather difficult.

Sasuke supposed he could just wait until the mission was over. But, in much the same way that he was selfishly determined that Naruto know how he felt, he also wanted Naruto to know now. Or at least as soon as possible, so he was determined to confess some time during the mission. Plus, if he confessed far from home, Naruto would be less likely to inadvertently go spreading the news of Sasuke's feelings around to all the ninja in town. That was a humiliating prospect, and highly probable to boot.

Really, Sasuke was starting to wonder if it would be best just to tie Naruto up, gag him, and then confess. That way he could avoid the conversation part entirely, and the whole problem would be solved. …He had a nagging feeling, though, that that probably wasn't the best way to convey his feelings.

Kakashi had only given them two hours to go home and pack what they needed, and most of that had already elapsed while Sasuke packed and panicked. Seeing as Kakashi might actually be on time again today, he didn't have time to go ask Iruka for more advice. He almost desperately wanted to, but there was no way in hell he was going to be later than Kakashi twice in one day. No, Sasuke was going to have to do this himself.


…And he was going to have to do this fast.

He was running out of time. Since their client was waiting at his village, Team Seven had been able to travel at full ninja speed (well, for Sakura, anyway – everyone else could have gone faster, but she wouldn't have been able to keep up) on the way there. It had taken them only three days to travel eighty percent of the journey.

The first day, Sasuke had been frantic, recalling every single confession he had ever ignored in an attempt to figure out which would work for Naruto. In the end, he'd only confirmed his initial thoughts that none would be suitable. That, and wasted a day.

The second day, Sasuke spent alternating between wishing Iruka was around to ask for advice, and wishing Konohamaru was around to drop-kick his frustrations out on. He also dedicated some time to staring furtively at Naruto, realizing how attractive his friend was (in a stupid sort of way), and then getting embarrassed for thinking so – not to mention paranoid that Kakashi or Sakura had figured everything out from his furtive staring. Naruto stripping down to his boxers so that he could cannonball some fish out of a river for dinner probably did not help matters.

The third day, Sasuke had been all sorts of useless, because Sakura finally got worn out from their grueling (for her) pace, and Naruto volunteered to carry her until she felt better. Sure, she didn't actually let him, but he still spent the whole day hovering worriedly near her and making Sasuke want to practice his fire jutsu in their direction.

Now, it was the night of that third day – the last night. Tomorrow they would arrive at their destination, where they would be busied with civilians and pottery in desperate need of guarding. There wouldn't be another chance for the next several weeks as they traveled back to Konoha at civilian speed. Sasuke couldn't wait for weeks. He was itching constantly with the (fairly ironic) unpleasantness of unspoken emotions, and wanted nothing more than to throw them at Naruto for him to deal with. Once the pressure was on Naruto to respond, for once, Sasuke thought he'd be able to finally relax a little.

The only problem was, Kakashi was sleeping in the same tent as the boys and he'd refused to take watch at any point so far, claiming jounin rest took higher priority than genin rest, especially if another Zabuza happened along and he was too exhausted to take care of him this time.

("What would you do then?" he'd asked the first night, with what sounded like a yawn behind his mask as he unrolled his bedroll.

"We'd beat him on our own, just like we did when you got caught last time!" Naruto snarled in return. Kakashi, unimpressed, put him in charge of cleaning up after dinner and erasing all signs of their having camped there the next morning, then stayed up half the night reading his porn.)

But for once, Sakura and Kakashi both seemed to be on Sasuke's side – she was allowed to sleep through the night to catch up on her rest, with Kakashi taking over her shift. This left Sasuke and Naruto with a three-hour window alone in their tent, from two to five AM. Not ideal timing, to be sure, nor the ideal location, but at this point it was the only option Sasuke had left. He'd just have to go for it.


So here he was.

Two in the morning, hovering over Naruto as he slept, preparing to whisper, "I love you" and then probably get punched in the nose (Naruto didn't know any fire jutsu). Sasuke really hadn't wanted to go this route, but he was out of options now so it looked like he'd just have to copy his teammate and hope it wasn't taken as a mocking gesture.

At least there wasn't much to it. No cooking, chocolate-making, or letter-writing involved. He hadn't even had to scout out the location – that, along with the crucial timing factor, had been taken completely out of his hands. All Sasuke had to do was say three simple words. Three very small, simple words.

Three very terrifying words, which he'd only said to three people ever in his life, over five years ago.

…Shit, he couldn't do it.

It was impossible. What the hell had he been thinking, anyway? Why did he even care? Sasuke curled up in his bedroll, facing away from Naruto, and closed his eyes very tightly. There wasn't any point in confessing. It wasn't like it was going to change anything, or accomplish anything except his own humiliation. Naruto was dating Sakura. Sakura. He'd been very vocally crushing on Sakura since he was seven! Sure, he'd liked Sasuke, but that was pretty well ruined by now.

And besides, was Sasuke even ready to call this love? He'd realized he was jealous, yeah. And his stupid imagination had returned with a vengeance to supply him with idiotic daydreams aplenty, but that didn't exactly mean this was anything serious. Just because Naruto was the person Sasuke cared about most in the world, that didn't mean this infatuation was going to last or anything. Why should he waste his words of love on something like that? There was no reason. None at all.

Sasuke had just about decided that he didn't like Naruto very much at all and would be mostly over him by morning, even, when Naruto snored loudly, kicked him in the butt, and mumbled, "Miso's the best…"

And the wave of stupid affection that washed over Sasuke at that was impossible to deny. He had to admit it. His feelings were real, no matter how recently he'd realized them. He knew they were; he was just too scared to make himself so vulnerable again.

Sasuke had been hurt by someone he loved in the past. He'd even done it to Naruto recently himself. He knew how much worse such a hurt was than any physical pain, and he didn't want to experience that again. He didn't want to lose what little he had now, which was almost solely Naruto's friendship. Sure, he had Kakashi and Sakura too, and even the rest of the Rookie Nine, but they meant so much less than Naruto did. Sasuke knew all of Naruto's secrets, and even if Naruto didn't know all of his, he thought he'd probably be able to share them, and trust Naruto to keep them secret as well. There were plenty of challenges to their relationship – recently, more than most – but they'd always made it through, and even become closer because of them. Hell, Sasuke had valued Naruto enough to die for him in Wave, and they'd hardly even known each other then, at least compared to now.

…Maybe they would make it through this, too. If not, Sasuke only had himself to blame. And he had no excuse not to try – Naruto had, after all. They were rivals; Sasuke couldn't lose over something as stupid as three one-syllable words.

He rolled over determinedly. He had to do it now. His last-minute cowardice had wasted nearly all his time; the sun would be rising soon. There would be no more backing out. It was time for action.

So Sasuke acted, copying Naruto at the start of it all, bringing the whole debacle full circle. He crouched over his teammate and poked him in the cheek until Naruto woke with a bleary, "StoppitSasukeeee."

Sasuke waited until Naruto had finished yawning. Then he leaned forward until their eyes met. What the hell, he thought, and copied even the grin Naruto had worn so long ago. It felt awkward, but so did everything else, and at least it got Naruto's attention. "Listen up, dumbass," he said, stomach flipping uncontrollably and palms sweating and face too hot by far – "I love you."

Then he kissed Naruto, because he felt like it and because there was no way he was just going to copy the idiot without beating him at his own game, at the very least.