Sai smiled as he watched the three original members of Team 7 embrace each other by the gates of Konoha, Sasuke with a reserved grin, Naruto beaming, and Sakura all flushed with happiness. Yes, Sai thought. That kind of bond was worth fighting for, worth protecting.


The long struggle was over. Sasuke finally decided to come back after overcoming his hatred and shame, with more than a little help from his devoted friends. Along with constant nudging from Naruto and kind assurances from Sakura, Sasuke finally drew up the courage to face the reception of his return. And what a reception it was. The moment he took that very awkward first step through the gates and back inside Konoha's walls, everything else fell into place.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that moment. The Fire Country's precious kekkei genkai was home. All was forgiven. For how could one not understand what drove a man to revenge after losing his whole clan to a massacre? All was forgotten. For was it not hypocrisy for a shinobi village to dwell on one man's shedding of another's blood?

All was forgiven, all forgotten for the sake of a dream - a dream of peace and unity. And no one was happier than an obscure artist nin who gave his all to help achieve that dream - his friends' dream.

Sai withdrew from the crowd smiling a sincere smile and retreated home satisfied and grateful that he was part of that mission. Perhaps they would let him stay on as part of the team. Perhaps he could become friends with Sasuke just as he was with Naruto and Sakura. And they would go on missions together, fight together, and protect Konoha together. He smiled again, a sincere smile. It was a good dream.

"Friends will eventually start walking their own paths,

living their own lives...

These are not farewells. They are not the end, but beginnings.

It will be a little lonely, but that's how it is."

Nobuhiro Watsuki, (Rurouni Kenshin, vol. 21 chap. 183)

Next: Chapter 1 ~Chemistry~

About this story: "Ink" is an over-used title for Sai-centric fics but I wanted it for this particular story so I decided to use the Japanese word instead. The kanji looks cool too, a combination of characters for "black" and "earth."

This is the antithesis to my other fic Finding Home. You don't have to read it before this story but if you prefer lighter fare, you're better off with that one. Truth to tell, I had no intention of uploading this. It's the kind of story that I usually just keep locked in my head. But I wrote it down and I've been working on it since August and the plot kinda evolved into something that seemed more interesting than your ordinary angst piece. Plus, I got a little push from a friend *cough* Reina Kuran *cough*

Anyway, playing around with the concept of emotional regression was interesting especially with Sai who has a fairly weak self-identity and low self-worth. It's also always a challenge to write a story where there are no real villains and yet things go from bad to worse anyway. Will it end in tragedy? It may or it may not...

Like my other stories, it's a bad idea to skip chapters. DON'T! Thanks & Enjoy!

Rated T for eventual dark themes. (The concept of 'dark' is relative, isn't it? There will always be 'light at the end of the tunnel' is my view)

The link below is the video format of above prologue with music (to set the mood). Pls. view it and tell me if it works properly. Feedback is always appreciated.

youtubeDOTcom/watch?v=eLABTT8YU18 (Replace DOT with an actual dot ".")