Behind the Mask
Rated: T for language and violence
Disclaimer: Naruto characters (c) Masashi Kishimoto
Summary: We all wear masks. But that only makes it harder to tell the difference between truth and lies.

Note: Thanks for the reviews! Keep them coming! A few more till the next chapter!

guest - I had earlier complaints that putting the glossary at the end was too confusing for some readers. However, if anyone would like to share where they would prefer the glossary, please let me know!

016: 接吻
(k i s s)

The sun had just dipped below the horizon, casting Peking into darkness. Kakashi's kunai was instantly at Asuka's throat as he dragged her away out of the crowded city streets and into a deserted alleyway.

"You lie." Said Kakashi, uncertainty pushed away from his voice.

"Why would I lie?" Demanded Asuka as Kakashi frisked her, keeping the kunai firmly against her throat. Kakashi quickly disposed of the kunai and shuriken that she had concealed within her clothes. He tossed them on the alley floor and kicked them away with his foot. "Do you think I favor the predicament that I am in? I have no reason to lie." Pleaded Asuka.

"To trick me." Kakashi reasoned. He paused for a moment, looking her over. Her statement had come out of the blue and had taken him off guard. While the practical part of Kakashi's mind had responded quickly, Kakashi had to admit he was still confused. She had seemed so nice and well spoken…however the shinobi in Kakashi knew that shinobi were good actors when they needed to be. If she was who she claimed to be however, there was no way she would sell out her own village. Kakashi needed to find out what she was up to.

Her amber eyes were fierce as she stared at him, yet they almost seemed to be…pleading? "Did you know who I was all along?" Asked Kakashi. He pressed the kunai further into her neck. Asuka felt the tip pierce the skin and she swallowed down the prickle of pain. "Did you seek me out?"

Kakashi was about to speak again, when Asuka kicked him between the legs and then elbowed him in the face when he lost his balance. Quickly, she pried the kunai out of his grip and pointed it at him as he fell to the ground. "I'll be willing to tell you everything." Asuka explained carefully and cautiously, as if Kakashi were a bomb that could explode at any minute. "But we need to leave the city." And with that, she sailed over the rooftops of Peking.

Kakashi growled, forcing down the pain that he felt in his groin. How stupid of him to be ambushed like that. He quickly grabbed one of Asuka's discarded kunai and sailed after her. Kakashi quickly located Asuka as she seemed to be staying true to her word and was heading out of the city and into the neighboring forests. He started to move faster.

Asuka glanced behind her to see Kakashi quickly gaining on her. 'Good.' She thought as she dropped to the ground and into a wooded area. Her feet had just touched the ground when a force propelled into her and tackled her from behind. Asuka and Kakashi fell to the ground and Asuka grunted in pain. She quickly parried Kakashi's kunai as he aimed for her neck again.

"Look I'm sorry for kicking you, but you do really need to hear me out!" Asuka said through gritted teeth as she grappled with Kakashi.

Asuka rolled on top of Kakashi and managed to break his hold on the kunai as she slammed his fist into the ground. She rolled out of Kakashi's grasp and managed to get up when Kakashi pulled her leg out from underneath her. Asuka fell face forward, smacking her chin against the ground hard and driving her front teeth into her bottom lip. She squeezed her eyes shut, dazed for a moment. She tasted the bitter and coppery taste of blood in her mouth. She rolled over and kicked Kakashi, who was advancing on her, in the stomach with both of her feet, sending him toppling backward.

Kakashi quickly recovered, throwing his hands out behind him to catch the ground before flipping over and launching himself back on his feet. Asuka rocked backward on her hands, flipping herself up. Kakashi and Asuka circled each other tensely. "The Tsuchikage met recently with his war council where they approved his proposal for waging war with Konoha." Asuka explained, her voice serious.

"And as his war general you would know wouldn't you?" Asked Kakashi. "You said your name was Shan Deng Ling right? You're in my bingo book too." Said Kakashi. "Enlighten me. Why would the Tsuchikage want to start a war when we are in a time of peace right now?" Probed Kakashi.

Asuka blew out an angry breath. The circle between them had grown smaller. "He's held a grudge ever since the Third War. Konoha ran Iwa into the ground and he felt personally responsible…embarrassed even…"

"A vendetta?" Asked Kakashi skeptically.

"There are other reasons, to be sure." Said Asuka. "But what do reasons even matter? Iwa will still attack!"

"How can you expect me to believe that the Tsuchikage's own right hand general would betray her own village to alert the enemy?" Asked Kakashi. "You must know how ridiculous and suspicious this sounds."

"I let you see my face." Said Asuka. "You know my real name."

Kakashi responded by dashing backward, breaking off their game of cat and mouse. Kakashi's hand went to his mouth as he jumped up, spinning.

"Katon: Hibashiri."

The fire blossomed from his mouth, underneath his protective mask as Kakashi pulled down the mask that covered the lower part of his face. It looped around Asuka, sizzling as it touched the snow. The flames arched higher and closer to Asuka before she jumped backwards out of the fiery circle. Sparks from the fire peppered her clothes and she managed to scrape by with only the bottom portion of her long skirt being burnt off. Her shins stung where the cold air nipped at them.

'I didn't even see the hand signs.' Thought Asuka as she performed her own. She landed on the ground with a thud and slammed her palm into the dirt floor.

"Daiton: Tsuchi Kairo!"

The earth rose up from her hands and she maneuvered so that the earth damped out the fire Kakashi created. Asuka stood up, her eyes roaming the darkness. Kakashi no longer stood before her. The air still smelled of smoke. She stood for a moment, the only noise being the sound of her breathing.

'His reputation precedes him.' Asuka thought.

"The repercussions are worse for me than they are for you. My identity is the price I am willing to pay so you understand I speak the truth." Asuka said, speaking out into the darkness.

"Alright then," Said Kakashi's voice, seeming to echo from all around Asuka. She spun around, trying to locate the origin of his voice. "But perhaps it is like this. You convince me that Iwa is going to attack so that Konoha attacks Iwa first. Konoha instead gets eliminated simply for interrupting the peace and for giving all of Konoha's enemies an excuse to attack."

'Entirely plausible.' Thought Asuka with a scowl.

"Maybe." She said instead, shifting her stance as her eyes darted around the forest. "But then I guess my job is done. I've done all I can to convince you. It's just your job now to believe me."

Kakashi smirked from his hiding place high in the trees. She was brave and stubborn, not to mention cocky. He could give her that much. Kakashi shifted his foot on the tree branch and suddenly, Asuka spun around, looking straight at him.

"Shit." Muttered Kakashi. He quickly leapt off the tree branch. Kakashi sailed through the night sky, his hands blurring as he completed the hand seals. "Raiton:…"

"Raikou Kujo." Kakashi landed, immediately slamming his palms into the snow covered ground below him. The electric current rippled out of his hands, into the ground below him, creating a shockwave as it moved toward Asuka.

Asuka watched the attack come toward her. Her hands moved to perform the hand seals to counter the attack when suddenly, her hands dropped to her sides. She managed to squeeze her eyes shut just before the point of the attack hit her.

Asuka managed to keep from screaming out, instead biting down hard on her already split lip. The point of the attack hit her smack in the stomach, with the currents rippling out and immobilizing her limbs. For a moment, it felt like her entire body was on fire and then it was gone, the cold rushing back into place. Asuka was vaguely aware of anything else going around her, including her own body falling onto the snow covered ground. Kakashi dropped down beside her and sounds erupted from him, but Asuka couldn't understand them due to the erratic buzzing in her ears and brain. Asuka felt dazed and numb, her vision partially blinded by the spots flickering in and out of her vision.

"Answer me." Said Kakashi. He bent beside her and grabbed the front of her tattered silk outer coat, lifting her upper body off the ground. Asuka's head lolled back; she was unable to keep it up.

With great effort, Asuka picked up head up so that her eyes could just make out Kakashi looming over her. Asuka blinked her eyes rapidly as she tried to see him clearly. He seemed as if he were a blur in front of her. Forming the words on her lips seemed harder than she thought as her whole body seemed paralyzed.

"I-I have n-no more r-reason to fight b-b-back…" She mumbled out.

With an aggravated huff, Kakashi dropped Asuka back to the ground. Asuka's head hit the ground with a mild thud, her hair splaying out on the snow underneath her. She blacked out.

Kimimaro reclined back in a shabby bed that could barely support his weight. The wooden bed legs creaked when he moved, as if they were going to give out at any minute, not that Kimimaro moved much. His head was perspiring with sweat. He sat with all the window blinds drawn around him, sitting in complete darkness because the sunlight proved to strong for his sensitive eyes.

The door to his room creaked open and closed. Kimimaro heard footsteps and slowly opened his eyes. "Sifu Orochimaru." He said, sensing his master's presence. "I'm so happy you've come."

"Of course my dear boy." Said Orochimaru, placing a cool hand on Kimimaro's forehead. "You've done so much for me as of late, it is the least I can do."

"I would do anything for you." Murmured Kimimaro.

"I know." Kimimaro didn't notice the satisfactory smile that crossed Orochimaru's face. "Tell me," He said, bending down beside Kimimaro's bed, "How is your progress with the Uchiha boy? Has he accepted you?"

Kimimaro nodded wearily. "He has an affinity with lightning." Kimimaro explained. "His chakra reserves and control aren't very good, but he is an adept learner, and he is quick."

"Wonderful." Said Orochimaru excitedly. The Uchiha boy was making progress. Soon it would be time to move on to the next step of his plan.

"You will visit him once you are feeling better again right?" Orochimaru asked.

"Anything for you, Sifu." Said Kimimaro faintly.

'I count on it.' But instead Orochimaru replied. "Would you like another dose of medication?"

Kimimaro smiled faintly at his master. "Thank for caring so well for me. But I'll be fine soon."

Orochimaru nodded, still smiling. He checked on the IV drip that was hooked into Kimimaro's arm and then left the room, closing the door behind him.

"He is making good progress with the Uchiha boy." Said Orochimaru proudly, meeting Kabuto outside the room.

"As he should be." Kabuto muttered. "We spend more every year on his upkeep and medication…"

"Don't worry about such things." Said Orochimaru patting Kabuto's arm as they walked. "Kimimaro is moving far past his expiration date. Soon, he will be disposed of…"

Kabuto looked at Orochimaru shocked. "You would dispose of Kimimaro?"

"He once had use to me." Said Orochimaru. "But ever since he contracted that degenerative bone disease, he is bed ridden more than half of the time. You just said we spend more every year on his medication than we do anything else. He is weighing down this operation. I'll squeeze every last ounce of usefulness out of him before we do away with him. And it will be so simple to do so…"

"But…he loves you." Said Kabuto.

"And that," Said Orochimaru, "Is what makes everything so easy."

Sifu - Master

It was late, past midnight as Naruto made his way to talk to Kakashi. He had made sure Sakura was sound asleep before he even dared leave the house to talk to Kakashi about what Iruka told him of the Bijuu. There was no way he wanted Sakura involved.

"Wo Lang?" Called Naruto as he bounded up the steps to the guest house Kakashi was staying in. He could see the candle lights flickering in the windows which meant Kakashi was inside and awake. "Wo Lang?" Naruto called out again, pushing open the door. The door swung open at his touch and Naruto tip toed inside.

Slipping off his sandals, Naruto padded through the house quietly in stocking feet and slipped his mask off his face. "Kakashi where are yoooou?" Naruto called out quietly as he checked the rooms.

Finally, he came to Kakashi's bedroom. "If I catch you reading porn again Kakash…"

Naruto stopped short at the doorway to Kakashi's bedroom. Kakashi was standing with his back to him, dumping the body of an unconscious woman on the bed. The woman was clearly beat up.

Naruto knew from experience that Kakashi wasn't a womanizer. Sure he enjoyed the company of women and may have acted flirtatious at moments, but Naruto had never known Kakashi to take a girl home. Kakashi's life had been devoid of women since…Naruto shook his head. "Kakashi, what the hell…" Said Naruto stepping inside the room.

Kakashi turned toward Naruto wearily. He was still wearing his sandals and his mask. "Naruto." Naruto could tell from Kakashi's voice that he was beat. "Can you please bring Tsunade here?"

Kabuto's eyes, hidden behind thick lenses glasses, were shrewd as he surveyed the underground the lair before him. The shadows mostly cloaked him, hiding him from prying eyes. The dark cloak that was swathed around his lean form helped further hide him. Kabuto scrunched his nose slightly, not enjoying the scents of excrement and sweat that seemed a permanent fixture within the lair. Frantic yells punctured the air, sometimes followed by disjointed ramblings and childish cries.

Kabuto bit his lip. It was much too soon to test his luck again with another of Orochimaru's kidnapees. The last thing he needed was for Orochimaru to start actively taking inventory and find he was short from the original twenty he kidnapped. Especially since his pride – the Hyuuga branch member, was now dead. It had disappointed Kabuto to find that the police still weren't clued in to Orochimaru's presence, especially after the Hyuuga was found dead.

Kabuto hoped that maybe he would have more progress with the dead body recently deposited in Temari's room. Sure the action had been rather rash for Kabuto, but he hoped that by doing so, Temari would at least point the authorities in the correct direction. Maybe it did work out to his advantage that his cover had been blown.

Kabuto pushed his glasses up his nose with his forefinger and spun around, his cloak billowing around him like a cape and strode out of the lair with its inhabitants none the wiser.

"Sasuke-hou, the servants have arrived with the bed."

Sasuke turned toward the servant, the ever present bored expression on his face. Solemnly, he nodded his head.

One by one, the servants moved into the newly installed marital chamber, bringing with them a newly purchased bed. They slowly set it on the wooden floor and proceeded to add and smooth the sheets and pillows. The noon sun beamed brightly through the windows, bringing light where Sasuke would have preferred darkness.

"You must be so excited for your wedding, Uchiha-hou." Sasuke turned and looked into the shining brown eyes of Hyuuga Hiromi.

Wedding traditions were often elaborate in Peking, especially for those who could well afford it. Today marked the day where they would install the bridal bed. Traditionally, the presence of a 'good luck man' and a 'good luck woman' were required at the installation to ensure that the newly wedded couple would have a prosperous marriage and many children. Children were also asked to play on the bed after it was installed as an omen of fertility.

All Sasuke's relatives, however, were dead and most of Temari's family lived in the Land of Wind where Governor Feng originated from. Governor Feng's wife was dead and Itachi wasn't married, meaning neither of them could act as the good luck couple. It was with this unfortunate luck that Sasuke was forced to ask for the presence of Hyuuga Neji and his wife Hyuuga Hiromi to be his good luck couple. Sasuke had refused at first, but Itachi insisted that he ask them, since the Hyuuga's were practically distant relatives of the Uchiha, albeit their rivalry with the clan.

"I hear Feng-xiaojie is a wonderful woman." Said Hiromi continuing. "You must be so happy to be marrying such a becoming woman." Beside her, Neji smirked. Arrogant bastard.

"Of course Hyuuga-taitai." Said Sasuke neutrally.

"We are ready." Said a servant, gesturing for Sasuke to begin to move the bed.

With a family less well off than the Uchihas and the Fengs, the good luck couple and the groom would move the bed into the room entirely on their own. Money, however, ensured that the servants would actually do the installing, with Sasuke and the good luck couple merely doing their part for show.

Hiromi bent down, moving her pale pink skirts aside and placed her delicate alabaster hands against the bed. "Shall we, gentlemen?" She asked, looking expectantly at both Neji and Sasuke.

With reluctance, Sasuke bent down as Neji moved beside his wife and together, they gave the bed a push. The servants gave a round of applause as the bed moved over an inch. The maids scurried over, smoothing out the bedding and sheets once more. Hiromi stood up beaming. Her constant positive attitude seemed to annoy Sasuke.

"Is it our turn now, baba?" Neji looked down where his young son of four years was tugging on his pants. His milky eyes were looking at Neji with a mix of excitement and anticipation.

"Hao." Said Neji giving the boy a smile.

"Yipee!" The boy shouted as he ran over to where the other children were waiting. He waved them over and with a roar, the other children – a mix of Hyuuga relatives and Feng children, raced onto the bed. The girls had been given baskets filled with an assortment of fruits, red dates, lotus seeds and peanuts which they happily doused the bed with for good luck.

Sasuke watched the room with a sense of overwhelming detachment. He watched as the young children romped on the bed, playing and yelling. The servants and maids all watched the children happily and egged them on. He watched as Hiromi knelt next to the bed watching her son and his twin sister play as Neji watched her with a loving look in his pale eyes.

Sasuke knew he would never have this, even if he tried. How could he ever be happy when his entire clan was dead, wiped off the face of the earth by some no good bastard? How would he even attempt to be happy? It made him almost sick to be watching this scene, watching all these people without a care in their perfect lives.

Quietly, Sasuke slipped from the room, his face set in stone. Neji watched Sasuke go from his place beside his wife.

Hou – rank below lord
Taitai – Chinese honorific, refers to the wife of someone; Mrs.
Xiaojie – Chinese honorific, equivalent of Miss
Baba- Father
Hao- Good

Sasuke wandered aimlessly through the Peking streets. He didn't even bother to put on any outerwear before leaving the estate, but Sasuke didn't much care. He didn't really feel much of anything. Not even the cold was enough to sway him.

Snow had started to fall again, pushing the citizens of Peking into a frenzy. Everyone started to scurry away, hoping to get home and out of the cold before a full blown blizzard decided to come their way. Sasuke watched the flakes fall to the ground, some dissolving on impact, others coating the ground like sugar. Sasuke felt so helpless, so frustrated.


Sasuke whirled around, his heart skipping a beat and came face to face with Sakura.

Sakura titled her head at the seemingly lost Uchiha. "My apologies, Uchiha-hou, I didn't mean to startle you." Said Sakura bowing her head. He didn't notice how her voice was so emotionally unattached.

Sasuke dismissed the apology with a wave of his hand, his heart slowly calming to its normal rate. "It's perfectly fine, Wu He. I wasn't startled." Sasuke lied.

He watched as the wind played with the shinobi's hair, sending the pink tresses whirling around her face. Sasuke was overcome with a sudden desire to run his hands through that hair, to see if it was as soft as it looked. He wanted so badly to see her face under her mask.

"I'm sorry…" Said Sakura as she peered at Sasuke, who continued to stare at her as if he were in a daze. "Do you need help, are you lost or something…?" She offered uncertainly.

Sasuke paused for a moment, snapping out of his thoughts. "I'm not lost, but perhaps you can escort me to Tsunade-furen's estate?" Sasuke asked, tilting his head slightly. "I was going to pay a visit to Temari."

"The day before the wedding?" Sakura questioned.

"I wish to talk with her about something...important." Sasuke gave a slight smile, as if to prove the legitimacy of his request. He actually had no intention of visiting Temari, but it was the fact that Tsunade's estate was quite a walk from where they were that propelled Sasuke to choose it. Anything to spend time with this girl who had so unexpectedly sent his emotions out of whack.

Sakura hesitated. She really didn't have time to escort Sasuke all the way back to Tsunade's estate, but she couldn't be rude, could she? She thought about the last time that she had encountered the Uchiha. She easily remembered the confusion and trepidation she felt when she was last with the young Uchiha and they weren't fond memories. She knew she shouldn't be rude to a man who was her superior, but he still made her uneasy.

"Fine, Uchiha-hou." Said Sakura reluctantly, her voice a tad curt.

Sasuke smiled inwardly at her acceptance as they started their walk back to Tsunade's estate. It was lucky for Sasuke that Sakura didn't know much of modern wedding ceremonies; otherwise she would have known Temari was barred from seeing anyone today other than her closest friends.

The walk back was calm and the snow fell mindlessly around them, drifting into their hair and crunching under their shoes. Sasuke watched Sakura move out of his peripheral vision. He liked the way that she strode forth with large confident steps and the way her lithe arms swung freely by her side. Women didn't usually walk in that way. From her side profile, he could catch a glimpse of the smooth skin of her face that wasn't obscured by her mask. He licked his lips and continued to stare straight ahead.

Sakura couldn't help it as the uneasy feeling grew to unprecedented heights inside of her. She made sure to keep an appropriate distance away from him while walking so that she wouldn't accidentally brush into him. She could feel his eyes on her and she wondered what exactly he was staring at. Sure, he was undeniably attractive, as she had admitted to herself before, but that wasn't enough to mask the feeling that Sakura just didn't feel safe. She tried to brush the idea off. After all, it was quite preposterous to feel unsafe around a civilian. She was a shinobi wasn't she?

While winters in the Land of Fire were considered mild by some of the other northern provinces, that wasn't to say that they still weren't bitterly cold. But the picturesque landscape created by the snow blown down from the mountains was perhaps enough to make some overlook the cold weather. Snow had piled high on the rooftops, leaving them in a blanket of white and covered the boughs of trees, obscuring the bare bark underneath. The sky was a mild blue color and there wasn't a cloud in sight. The colorful hue of the sky seemed to erase the dullness of winter for a moment and everything just seemed to glitter.

But not everyone found the glittering snow to be beautiful. For Naruto who had a headache, the snow seemed too bright and it hurt to look at it. But, his sour mood could perhaps not be helped. He had involuntarily stayed up the whole night, guarding Kakashi's new prisoner – a young woman who was perhaps as beautiful as she was mysterious. Kakashi had been unwilling to divulge any clues as to who she was to either him or Tsunade and instead had tasked Naruto with watching her while he slept on a couch in the living room.

Initially, Naruto hadn't minded. These days, he had been looking for excuses not to get any sleep. But after guarding the woman for five hours, Naruto could feel the weight of only having two hours of sleep the previous night and it took all he had not to fall asleep. He had snapped at Kakashi who finally came to relieve him of his duties at seven in the morning. He couldn't even make it to his own guesthouse and opted to sleep it off on Kakashi's couch. Admittedly, it was the best sleep that he had in days, but the now pounding headache wasn't helping him any. He had half a mind to think that the headache was the Kyuubi's way of getting back at him. He suspected the Kyuubi was amused by his nightmares every night.

And to make matters worse, Sakura wasn't at the guesthouse. Naruto paused on the porch and rested his forehead against the railing. Thankfully it was cold from being outside and it eased his headache for a moment. Knowing Sakura, she probably went batshit when she found that he never came home last night. She could be scouring the city searching for him and then if she came back and found him here, her yelling would only cause his headache to worsen. He was really in no condition to search the city for her, but Naruto knew he would make the effort anyway. If he explained himself, Sakura might take pity on him and make him hot green tea and yuntun mian.

Fueled by thoughts of soup, Naruto picked his head up off the porch and leapt down the stairs. He was only a few feet away from the entrance gate to the estate when Naruto spotted Sakura. Only she wasn't alone…

Uchiha Sasuke was with her.

Yuntun mian - Wonton noodle soup

Sakura stopped a few feet away from Sasuke, turning back to look at the dark haired man. "Is something wrong?"

Sasuke's breath tensed. He was getting married tomorrow, yet this woman in front of his captured his attention far more aggressively than his own bride-to-be did. Furthermore, since he was getting married, it was likely he wouldn't have another moment with her. Could he deal with that?

Slowly, Sasuke crossed the space between them. Sakura watched Sasuke move through confused eyes. Suddenly, she felt as if something was about to go wrong. She clenched her hands, waiting for Sasuke to say something.

Sasuke finally reached her, staring into the holes in her mask in an attempt to see her eyes.

"Uchiha-hou…" Her voice sounded uneasy. Sasuke found that he liked the sound of confusion in her voice; the sound that this strong woman could become vulnerable in front of him. "If you'd rather walk the rest of the way by yourself, I can…"

Sakura never finished her sentence because with surprising speed that Sakura had not expected, Sasuke brought his hands up to Sakura's face and violently ripped her mask away. It clattered into the snow a few feet away. For the briefest moment, Sasuke saw the brilliant green of her eyes, widened in surprise and smirked before his lips found Sakura's open mouth.

Sakura's mind was chaos for a few brief seconds and she felt the cold air hit her face with a rush. She felt icy hands on her scalp through her hair and she heard the clatter of her mask on the ground. Sakura saw the cold darkness of Sasuke's eyes before she felt his lips enclose on her mouth. For a moment, Sakura wondered if this was what a kiss was supposed to feel like – cold and rough.

Then, Sakura's mind found clarity again; her functions finally back in order.

Sakura jerked her arms back and pushed Sasuke away with some force, breaking his lips away from her. There was surprise written across his face and his breath came out in ragged beats, punctuating the cold air. A moment of silence passed between them as they both stared into each others eyes. Sasuke found himself mesmerized by the beauty and delicacy of Sakura's eyes despite her strong appearance while Sakura looked toward this man who just took what he wanted no matter the consequences.

With her mouth set into a hard line, Sakura pulled back her arm for a second time and punched Sasuke. Her fist connected with his cheek and he fell to the ground in a heap. He let out an anguished and surprised cry as he hit the ground. Sakura could already see purple and blue staining his fair skin across his cheek. She quickly retrieved her mask from the ground and leapt away into the forest. She left Sasuke on the ground where he was without a word as there were no words excusing him for what he did.

In the back of her mind, her subconscious recognized a flash of yellow disappearing quickly through the trees.

Hou – rank below lord
Furen – Chinese honorific, used for women of high rank

The sun rose from horizon, swathing the landscape in the morning hues of pink, orange and yellow. The sun glittered coldly off the snow and gave it the appearance of diamonds. With the rising of the sun, the start of a new day was approaching, however for Feng Temari and Uchiha Sasuke, it was the start of an unbreakable, and unwanted union.

With sleep still in her eyes, Temari stepped into a porcelain bathtub and dipped her head backwards, her blond hair swirling in the waters around her. Temari could smell the pumelo in the water – meant to cleanse her of any "evil" spirits. Three maids swarmed around her, digging their nails into her scalp and effectively washing her hair. Beyond Temari, stood a beaming young woman, no older than Temari. Her silken brown hair was elaborately coiffed on top of her head and she stood in a priceless silk embroidered outfit of teal. Temari only knew that her name was Hyuuga Hiromi and that she had stood as the good luck woman when Sasuke had to install the dreaded marital bed. Temari thought she was smiling way too widely for a ceremony that symbolized the loss of her freedom.

Sasuke knelt on the wooden floor, his house smelling heavily of incense. Beyond him, the house gleamed and sparkled – a dramatic difference from the home that Sakura had seen. The maids and servants, though there were few, stood off to the side of the main room. They all had their hands clasped together and were smiling as if it were their own wedding. It made Sasuke disgusted.

Sasuke glanced at the sullen pictures before him that were placed on the family altar. His mother looked as beautiful as she had in real life, a serene smile upon her lips. Fugaku's scowl had been lessened in attempt to look good for the picture, but Sasuke would like to believe that had he been there, his father could have at least managed a smile for him.

Sasuke heard footsteps enter the room and out of the corner of his eye, saw Itachi standing with the cypress cap in his hands. So it begun.

Temari listened to Hyuuga Hiromi's sickly sweet voice murmur out auspicious words as the maids pulled and twisted her blond hair into a style that would be 'appropriate' for a married woman. Temari hardly wanted to look at her self in the mirror.

Sasuke felt the weight of the cypress cap placed on top of his head. Itachi stepped back, a glimmer of a smile on his face. Sasuke took a deep breath, first bowing to the Heaven tablet that was placed on the altar before he knelt before the Earth tablet. Itachi signaled for him to bow again and Sasuke collectively bowed to his ancestors and slain family members whose portraits were placed upon the altar. As he bowed, Sasuke made a silent promise that he would avenge their murders.

Temari was helped up from her stool by a maid and made sure to keep her back erect and her head straight to keep from spoiling her hair. Temari was afraid that if she bent her head, she would come toppling down from the weight of her Phoenix crown. Temari was supposed to be carried down the hall from her bedroom to the main room on the back of the good luck woman, but seeing as how slight Hyuuga Hiromi was, Temari wasn't sure how she would handle it.

But as it was, Hyuuga Hiromi was a spirited young woman and very eager. She bent down before Temari, offering Temari her back. With a slight smirk, Temari climbed on top of her and the maids helped a struggling Hiromi stand up, or as straight as she could get. Hiromi struggled with her steps and it was a slow and tedious process, but they finally emerged into the main room after a good fifteen minutes. Temari thanked the gods that their hallway wasn't longer or she might have died from boredom.

Temari was set on the ground and although Hiromi tried to hide it, she could see that Hiromi was relieved to get rid of her. There was a sheen of sweat across her forehead which the maids quickly wiped off and one maid even set to massaging Hiromi's lower back.

Kankuro emerged in the main room, carrying in his arms the red bridal clothes. One maid took them from him, helping Temari into a red jacket and skirt. They were exquisitely made and Tsunade had even helped Governor Feng to locate a seamstress to make the clothes. It did not come at a cheap price. With the maids steadying her balance, Temari placed her feet into a pair of red silken shoes that were placed in front of the door way. Another maid picked up a string of tassels and beads that would hang in front of Temari's face and hung it from the bridal crown. Temari turned and took one last look at her family that had assembled in the main room. Kankuro was there, looking indifferent, but a hint of sadness was there, at seeing his baby sister go. Governor Feng was there, a triumphant smile upon his face. Only Gaara's face was turned into a slight frown. Temari then faced forward, as ready as she would ever be to meet the groom.

Sasuke picked himself off the ground in front of Itachi. He straightened himself up, dusting off the red clothes that he wore. With a proud aura emanating from Itachi, he moved the silk ball that was sitting on Sasuke's shoulder, tethered with a silk sash, off and placed it on top of what would be Temari's bridal chair.

It was the wedding day and neither Sasuke nor Temari had ever felt more depressed.


Katon: Hibashiri- Fire Release: Running Fire
A jet of fire that can be manipulated in a circle of fire to enclose on an opponent.

Doton: Tsuchi Kairo- Earth Release: Earth Corridor
The earth in the surrounding area rises up and traps the opponent inside.

Raiton: Raikou Kujo- Lightning Release: Lightning Destruction
A powerful bolt of electricity is charged through the ground at the opponent that can destroy anything in its way.

Character Corner

Name: Jiang Tenten
Age: 20
Specializes:Taijutsu, Weapon's Master
Tenten was born to a civilian family just outside of Peking. Her father was a weapons expert and dubbed The Greatest Weapons Maker There Ever Was. Under his tutelage, Tenten became just as skilled in weaponry. When her father died, Tenten took over as the head of her father's security company Jiang Security. Tenten has since flourished with her father's company in supplying both weapons and security to those who need it. Tenten often is indiscriminate in whom she does business with, a fact that is often lauded by others.

Tenten is a strong willed and independent female who despises shows of weakness. She has trained in the art of weaponry as well as Taijutsu since a young age and thus has complete mastery over every weapon that she picks up - a fact that causes Sakura to often comment that she should become a Konoha shinobi. Tenten has been good friends with Sakura ever since Sakura's sixteenth birthday when Tenten beat Sakura in a Taijutsu fight. Tenten believes that females can be just as strong as men but she still has a soft side. Tenten is very perceptive and often gives Sakura advice.