Chapter 1 – A Spiral Symbol
"Eh? Kakashi Sensei?"
He looked up from the pages of his book and saw Sakura weaving through a crowded street. "Ah, Sakura," he quickly slipped the book into his pouch, "what are you doing out here?"
"Oh, Lady Tsunade sent me out to find medicinal herbs. Apparently a new species is growing and she wanted a rooted sample," she explained patting a box with holes.
"And she sent you alone?" Sakura looked irritated at that. "So… um are you going back to Konoha now?"
"Yes. I've been travelling a bit to try and get back while the sample is fresh. I was looking for something to eat when I saw you. Do you mind?" she asked, although she was already seated and looking through a menu.
"No…not at all. We can go back together."
They ordered a light meal and were making small talk when light reflected into his eye. He squinted and turned to the direction of the light. It was a metal cuff.
Sakura looked as well. "Ugh, I hate gaudy jewelry," Sakura said trying to make small talk with her former Sensei.
Kakashi squinted a bit. A swirl on the cuff…and red hair… it could be a coincidence?
"You could just ask her to remove it if it's bothering you that much…"
"Hrm? No. It's fine…"
Ugh, he's just probably staring because it's a girl. Guys are all the same.
They ordered their food and made polite conversation. During lunch he watched the girl inconspicuously so he wouldn't have to mention anything to Sakura. He wanted to find out more but all he could see was the person's back. He assumed "the person" was actually a girl due to the build and the clothes. Her hair was short, slightly longer than Sakura's. Her top was charcoal grey; there was magenta and turquoise detail around the collar, waist and sleeve edges. She also had small travelling bag beside her; the same spiral symbol was embossed on the leather strap. Interestingly enough, she seemed to be alone.
"…you think about it?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, what was the question?" he laughed.
"Geez, Sensei… at least do a better job of pretending that you're interested!"
"Ah, I'm sorry Sakura," he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He noticed that the girl was getting ready to leave. "How about I pay as an apology," he mollified her, throwing money on the table. "We should get going anyway."
As they got ready to leave, he lost sight of the girl. Hrm… oh well. It was probably nothing. It was still a two day walk to Kohona and Sakura wanted to cover as much distance as possible. Sakura wanted to walk through the night, but Kakashi suggested they rest tonight and cover as much ground as possible tomorrow. She consented wanting to get the sample in a cool place and out of the heat.
Sakura and Kakashi compromised on a inn. It was a small room that was split by a sliding door. The place was cheap, but they had a bath, and Sakura wanted nothing more than to clean herself. "I'll go sign us in," Kakashi said as Sakura checked on her sample.
"Hi, I'd like to book Room Style C… the one room with the sliding door."
"Just tonight…" the clerk looked over Kakashi's shoulder at Sakura.
"You know, you can get Room Style A… one room…one bed… and it's cheaper…"
"No. It's not like that; she's a student of mine."
"Hey, we've heard it all…"
Kakashi became irritated, "Just. Style. Room. C…please."
Sighing, the clerk fished for keys and pushed the registration book towards Kakashi. "Here's your keys. Pay in full now. Sign in the next opening. You sign out when you return the key and someone inspects the room…" Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Look, we get a lot of drunken travelers. We try not to take them in, but sometimes we miss and the room's a mess."
"I understand," he said as he signed his name. Eh? Uzumaki? "Hey, did you see this person?"
"Hrm?" the clerk spun the book around, "Uzumaki Chise? Looks like he checked in about half hour before you…"
I can read… "Did you see this…Chise?"
"No, my shift just started," the clerk turned, "Hey! Haru!" Kakashi looked back at Sakura, who was approaching.
"Discreetly please," he said so she couldn't hear.
The three guys leaned in. "Yo, Haru, did you see this dude?" The clerk pointed to the name.
"Oh yeah," he said whispering, "Red-head. And it's a girl." He saw Sakura almost behind Kakashi. "And she's alone," Haru said winking.
"What's going on, Sensei?"
"We got our key and the room, the last one too," he lied.
Sakura and Kakashi went their separate ways for dinner. He feigned having to gather some research and Sakura didn't ask questions. Unfortunately, he couldn't find any red heads out that night. After a few hours of searching, he came back to the room. Sakura took the furthest portion; door already closed, and was sleeping soundly. He looked down at his futon and saw, in angry scribble, that she left him a note: "The baths are unisex!" He laughed to himself. It's good to be a guy… it's always good to be a guy.
He made his way down to the bath, eager to rid himself of the film travelling left. It was so late that he was sure he would be alone. When he got there, sure enough, no one was in the rinse room. He scrubbed and washed himself down until he was thoroughly clean. I should just go to bed now…but a soak may not be bad… He looked toward the hot spring longingly. Maybe for a half hour… he grabbed a modesty towel and headed out. It was a beautiful area, despite it being such a small in. There was a natural stone off to the far right, designed so that everyone could lean their back on it and everyone's modesty was intact. (Instead of a hot tub where you face one another, there was a conical stone, so you leaned your back on it – and you basically sat with your backs to each other. Close enough for polite conversation, but not looking at anyone's naked body.)
Kakashi made his way to the stone when he saw movement in the shadows.
"Hello?" a voice called out.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I thought the place was empty…"
"Oh," the figure leaned around the corner to hear better, but avoided looking at Kakashi, "I was just startled that's all. It's a pity there aren't more of these stones. But I don't mind sharing…let me get resituated." The voice was soft, not necessarily sweet in a girly sense, but definitely the voice of a female.
"Did you want to view the moon? I sort of took the best spot for that…"
Kakashi laughed to himself; "No, just wanted to soak. The stars are fine enough."
"Okay, then feel free to sit," she laughed. They sat in comfortable silence for what seemed to be twenty minutes when he heard her move. "Well, I've been in here long enough. Enjoy your stars."
Kakashi didn't even have time to divert her eyes when he saw her walk past. She had no modestly towel; her backside was completely exposed to him as he walked past. Well, apparently she's fine with nudity… Wait, is that… "Excuse me…"
"Hm?" She turned.
Instinctively he looked straight up, "This may sound strange, but… when you walked through the light…your hair… what color is it?"
She laughed again. "Well isn't that the strangest pick up line…its red; auburn actually. But in this light, I would have thought it looks more brown…"
"I…uh…" How am I going to ask her name without sounding like I'm hitting on her?
She laughed again. "Look, the name is Chise. Good night, star-gazer," she turned and walked into the rinse room laughing.
So that was Chise Uzumaki? It's too much of a coincidence at this point. I should probably tell Sakura, or not. She might tell Naruto before anything's been confirmed. However, if I were to tell Lady Tsunade, she'd likely end up telling Sakura anyway… Maybe I should tell Sakura, she might be able to help me follow her…but wait, that herb…
Kakashi deliberated his options and forced himself to stay another fifteen minutes. He was worried that if he left too soon, Chise would think he was following her.
"Sakura, why don't you sign us out," Kakashi suggested, offering her the key. "I'll be down in a minute."
She left the bags for Kakashi to pack and made her way down to the front desk clerk. "I'm here to sign out…"
"Ah, your key please?" Sakura handed the key over and the clerk looked for the matching name. "Ah, please sign here to acknowledge the return of the key. We'll send someone up to check the room."
Eh? She looked at the name above Kakashi's. Uzumaki? Chise? Did Kakashi have me sign out intentionally? There's no way he would have missed this.
They left the traveler's village without stopping to eat. Once on the main road, they took to running along the tree tops to cover as much ground as possible.
Will he not bring it up on his own? "Kakashi Sensei…"
"So you noticed."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I was debating different things. I wanted to be sure before approaching you with it."
"It could be coincidence though."
Kakashi shook his head. "That's like finding a Hyuga in Sunagakure… or another Uchiha somewhere else. The name Uzumaki is a clan name. It's not a common name."
"When did you notice?"
"When we met yesterday. That cuff, it had a swirl symbol. I thought it could be a random fashion design and therefore circumstantial with the red hair. But the symbol was also embossed on the strap of her bag. Then at the inn, there was the name in the guest book."
"But how could you now it was the same person?"
"I met her in the hot spring at the inn."
"She was already there… she ended up telling me her name."
Sakura was too embarrassed to ask any detail so she left it at that. "But…Naruto…"
"Yes, if he found out, he'd run off from sheer curiosity. I think its best we don't mention it to him until something can be confirmed. You can tell Lady Tsunade when you see her; however, it's highly unlikely we'll run into Chise again."
Sakura nodded in consent as they continued on their journey.
"Hrmm…" Tsunade said as she bit her nail. "Are you sure of this, Sakura?"
She shook her head, "I didn't actually see her, so I'm just relaying to you what Kakashi Sensei told me."
"And you didn't run across her on the way back?"
Again she shook her head, "I was too concerned with the sample wilting."
Tsunade nodded. "That was wise. It's all merely speculation at this point and is nothing to be concerned about. Thank you Sakura, you may leave."
Another Uzumaki…they are said to have magnificent sealing abilities. If she's anything like the kunoichi from the clan, this could do wonders. Jiriyah said the seal was weakening. She might be able to help re-strengthen the seal. If, that is… she is from the Uzumaki Clan.