Chapter Thirty-Three

The Chuunin flak jacket was a dark green. It held pouches for various equipment, going from tightly packed steel wires, bundles of shuriken, small fist-sized kunai and larger ones. The longer pouches contained rations and medical pills, as well as various bandages, gauzes and morphine shots in a ratio varying accordingly to the Chuunin's classification as Administrative, Medical or Field assigned.

The Hokage handed over the flak jacket already packed, heavy as it was, to the recently minted Chuunin. Usually, during the ceremony, the Hokage would say something and the Chuunin would then reply with a pledge of loyalty towards Konoha. There was nothing else to say afterwards. Once a shinobi became a Chuunin, the mission assignment desk would assign C-ranks and B-ranks upon request, but only to a group of four of said rank.

Unless a Jounin was present, no group beneath four members could partake in any mission of B-rank.

The Shinobi bureau also assigned new, wider apartments in the shinobi blocks to the Chuunin who needed them, generally closer to the Administrative buildings or the Medical hospital of Konoha. Those didn't come packed with food however.

The Hokage smiled warmly as the three new Chuunin of Konoha strode in purposefully, their vests hiding their underneath clothes for the most part. Naruto had a black shirt, his hair once more raven and spiky. Sakura's own shirt was a deep crimson red, striped with black and dark orange —like the stripes of a tiger. Sai's clothing was unchanged.

"Very well," the Sandaime said as he nodded to Iruka Umino, sitting at his left. "As Chuunin of Konohagakure, you will now begin Elemental Chakra training. For that to happen, we must first find out what your affinity is."

The Chuunin slowly stood, taking three pieces of paper from the desk he was sitting at. He handed them over, one at the time, to the new Chuunin.

"The paper is chakra sensitive —after you have sent chakra into it, it will split if your nature is wind, burn if it is fire, become soggy if it's water, crumble if it's earth and crackle if it's lightning."

As soon as Iruka finished explaining, there was a small barely audible snap from Naruto's chakra paper, revealing wind. Sai's own burned, but he already knew what his affinity was after all. Sakura's paper combusted too, startling the pink haired girl who dropped it.

"Fire nature, two out of three," Iruka remarked. "And…wind Nature? It's extremely rare in Konoha," the Chuunin said slowly. "Well, guess your teammates are lucky to have you in the team, Naruto," the man said then with a slightly strained smile. "Try not to burn half the village while practicing together."

Sakura sported a tick mark. "What's that supposed to mean, huh?"

"Fire and Wind naturally help each other," the man remarked —not rising to the bait— "techniques that use both together are stronger, and Konoha has long kept up its tradition as the Fire Country's village by producing quite a rate of Fire Affinity shinobi…and quite few Wind Affinity ones. Sunagakure is the exact opposite, and that is also one of the reasons we are allied with them."

"The Gōkakyū no Jutsu is the standard fire release we have all Chuunin learn," Hiruzen spoke then, carefully penning a document. "For wind instead, we have the Shinkū Renpa." He wrote down another document. "Head towards the library and deliver these to the librarian. Remember that no technique may leave the library at any one moment, and if found in possession of a technique scroll outside of it, the penalty is imprisonment for at least five months."

Iruka grabbed the scrolls, before offering them one at the time to the Chuunin. Two of them had a red seal to keep them closed, while the third had a light blue-ish one.

"Very well," the Sandaime said then. "You are dismissed."

"Hokage-sama," the three Chuunin stood to attention as one, before slowly turning and leaving.

Naruto's thoughts on what it meant to be a Wind affinity shinobi halted as he found himself bumping together with his team against another one.

The team was made of Shikamaru, Chouji and…Ami?

Their Jounin-sensei was the bearded son of the Hokage —Asuma Sarutobi, if Naruto remembered correctly— and he held a cigarette in his mouth as he walked behind his own team.

"Well," the Jounin was the first to break the silence, "I suppose congratulations are in order, then?"

"Thank you," Sakura properly replied with a light bow. Her eyes then moved towards Ami, a questioning look passing over her features.

"Exams are a fraud," Shikamaru drawled out slowly. "It's the sort-of polite thing all villages know and no village speak of."

"Indeed," Asuma huffed. "Well, we are late for a mission," the bearded Jounin rolled his eyes as he gestured to his team to move, but it was only with reluctance that Ami actually began to walk away.

The fact she gave one last look at Sakura's jacket with envy, before smirking at the sight of Sai and Naruto sent chills down Sakura's back.

"Neh, Naruto-kun?" Ami's voice was sultry as she slowly came to a halt. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Uh? Oh, yes?"

"What does it feel like, to be a blood-thirsty monster?"

Naruto's eyes widened briefly, before the chiding 'Ami!' came out of Asuma's mouth. Sakura clenched her fists.

"What? Sensei! He was laughing when he did that to poor Tenten-san, all that gouging and ripping…shouldn't he be leashed somewhere?"

"Ami," Shikamaru said slowly. "You don't want to keep talking."

"Why not? I mean, shouldn't he be kept in a cage for all that he did? Isn't he dangerous?"

Sakura's teeth were grounding one against the other. She wasn't going to hit her. She could kill her though, couldn't she? She would slowly open her mouth and bring her teeth near the girl's neckline, and then she would rip off her neck and proceed to tear her head apart. Yes, she could do that.

Or she could make it simpler and less messy —Naruto probably wouldn't like all that blood— she would just have to throw a kunai at her neck one night, while the girl went back home. The whore would bleed out in an instant in the back of a dirty alley, and maybe the rats would feast on her body.

She smiled gingerly at the thought.

"Exactly because he's dangerous," Shikamaru replied calmly. "Do you really want him angry at you?"

Ami huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, giving one last look at Sakura's team. "Well, all right. It's not like his teammates are any better... What's up with that one anyway? Does he have a facial cramp or something? Although I suppose it is better than being scarred for life to look like a Halloween monster."

Sakura flinched as her hand went to her neck wound, before she began to show her teeth in a slight growling noise. Sai moved his head to the side for a moment, locking eyes with Ami without saying a single word. He just gazed at her. The boy then took a single step forward and brought his right hand up to his chin.

There was silence once more.

"What?" Ami stuttered out. "What is it!?"

Sai said nothing.

"Creepy…" he slowly whispered. "She thinks she is alive, Dickless…"

"Wh-What!? Of course I'm alive!" Ami screeched. "I didn't die back there, did I!?"

"She's…she thinks she's alive," Sai murmured again. Suddenly, his right hand shot forth, passing through the girl's chest as if it wasn't there. "You're a ghost, girl," he deadpanned. "Go on, towards the light," he added then. "You are dead." A light appeared just behind Sai, illuminating everyone in a thin ethereal blanket of light blue.

"I'M NOT DEAD!" Ami screamed with her skin pale, running away from the light and down the corridor.

Asuma raised his right eyebrow slowly, looking at Sai. "Kurenai taught you, didn't she?"

"Indeed," Sai said, the Genjutsu used to scare away the brat calmly dispelled.

"Well…at least there wasn't any bloodshed."

Chouji kept on munching quietly, before slowly starting to walk towards the same direction Ami had taken. Shikamaru sighed, and soon followed too.

Asuma remained there for a moment more, before finally crossing his arms over his chest and smiling wistfully. "I'm sorry for them," he said. "They're still kids in the end."

"Of course," Sakura gritted out, a venomous smile on her face. "Of course," she nodded.

"Have you already been told of the passcodes to access the Chuunin lounge?"

"Yes," Sakura nodded once more with a thin smile. "It's on the third floor of the Tower, right?"

"Exactly," Asuma nodded. "Pass by the lounge sometime tonight: they're winging up a welcome party for you."

"Really?" Naruto asked, slightly perplexed.

"Chuunin are what form the bulk of Konoha's shinobi," Asuma shrugged. "You will probably remain a Chuunin for years —better to become friends than enemies with them, since you will eventually end up taking missions with other Chuunin rather than your team."

Sakura's eyes now looked downcast, as if a thin veil of misery had settled on her. "Anyway, good luck with the librarian," Asuma nodded towards them as a goodbye, before heading off towards his Genin.

The three Chuunin left the Tower then, Sakura huffing with her arms crossed over her chest and huffing. "Really, the nerves of that girl," she mumbled before letting her arms fall limply to her sides. "That was plain mean."

"Plain Stupid," Sai nodded.

"Wasn't she right, though?"

Naruto's question met with the sharp sound of a slap. Sakura's hand throbbed as the girl eyed him murderously. "Say it again, I dare you," she hissed at him. "Well?"

Naruto remained quiet. "Good," Sakura huffed. "What are your cheeks made of anyway?" she moved her offending hand up and down, as if to cool it off. "You're no more of a monster than we are, Naruto. I don't know what they all have against you anyway," she muttered. "I should watch the recordings of the fights."

Naruto just winced at that. "Oh, come on," Sakura sighed. "It won't change my opinion of you, Naruto…can't you trust me on this?"

"You shouldn't watch it alone," Sai quipped then. "You are probably going to wet yourself—"

"I'm not afraid of—"

"—watching him fight, and you'll be panting and sweating and—"


Sai was plunged deep in the ground, where he laid twitching for a moment. Sakura suddenly began to cough, bringing both her hands to her mouth as she felt Naruto's hand placed against her back, as he held her steady. The coughs soon subsided, letting the pink-haired kunoichi watch her hands with slightly watery eyes. She breathed once, to recollect herself, before standing back up as if nothing had happened.

Sakura then huffed, "Pervert, Pervert, double Pervert," she muttered. "I'll have to keep you on a short leash when we go with that Super Pervert," she growled. "I don't want to think what you can become unattended."

The library came into view a few minutes afterwards, a sign outside announcing the recordings of the Chuunin exams were available since a few days before —with their stay in the hospital, it wasn't much of a surprise they had already begun sharing them.

The librarian aid was an old woman with buns held together by hairpins, wearing a long flowing robe. "Oh, new Chuunin, right?" she looked them up and down for a moment, before finally nodding. "Go to the Chuunin section, and ask for Mitokado Homura. Hand over the permission scrolls to him and he'll take care of it."

She gestured towards a hallway further down the way, standing slightly hidden from view due to a couple of shelves placed at an angle to ensure nobody from the entrance of the library could see the passage.

"Ehm," Sakura hesitated as she slowly took a step forward. "I'd like a copy of the Chuunin matches."

The old woman raised an eyebrow at that. "Of course," she perused through a metallic drawer for a while, before taking out what looked like a thick bundle of cloth. "The tape is to be returned by the end of the week."

"Thank you, ma'am," Sakura nodded, before returning to her team and following them through the half-hidden passage towards the Chuunin section. In there, another counter was set in the far end of a slightly circular room, where bunches of Chuunin were hovering over piles of papers of various types and forms, muttering to themselves.

They passed by without even a glance in their direction until they reached the old man who had a pair of thick-rimmed glasses on his nose. The old shinobi had a scroll hanging loosely around his neck, with scribbles implying they could summon things forth, or at least that much was what Naruto saw at a glance.


"Mitokado-san?" Sakura asked, bringing up her own scroll.

"Ah," the man remarked calmly with a knowing look. "Three fire-techniques?"

"I'm wind," Naruto said handing over his scroll, just as Sai gently left his on the counter.

"Very well," Homura nodded. He eyed Naruto for a moment more, before asking. "You are unlucky," he sighed. "To think Danzo is a wind user and has been assigned to the war front…a pity," the old man shook his head slightly.

"You know Danzo-sensei?"

"Oh? Right, I was one of his teammates during the war…that's how we know each other. He spoke fondly of you."

Naruto wearily eyed the old man with a slight amount of distrust, before settling for an awkward smile. "Ah…is that it? I see…I…I couldn't find him and I thought he…"

"Oh, don't worry," Homura shrugged, "He's tough and cranky: the enemy Nin won't even manage to scratch him."

The old shinobi grabbed three scrolls, two of which were identical with their back red, while the third one had a light cerulean colour to it. "Here you go: remember, you can't leave the room with the scrolls. Taking notes is fine, but they too cannot be brought outside."

There was an understanding nod from the three Chuunin then, as they grabbed their assigned scroll and went to sit down at a free table. Sakura was the first to open the scroll and start reading, soon followed by Sai. Naruto fidgeted for a bit, before finally giving in to pressure and doing the same thing.

"I could teach you that," the Kyuubi's voice suddenly assaulted his ears, making him jump slightly on his chair. "I could teach you about sealing, about Fire Techniques, about Wind Techniques…I could teach you everything you desire."

He closed his eyes for a moment, mouthing to himself a simple 'Shut up'.

"As you wish," Kurama merely replied with a smirk, his tails swishing in the giant cage.

There was a moment of silence, before Naruto began to grumble. "Ah…"

He closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them again to the pages. The words still looked alien to him, as if they were in another tongue. The fact that Sakura was simply nodding to herself, playing with a lock of her hair as if it was something extremely understandable, and Sai was acting impassively as always…it just made him feel unfit.

He was a Chuunin, but what did that mean?

Did that make him suddenly powerful? Was his rank something he had acquired through his skills or something the Kyuubi had given to him? Would he have won against Kurotsuchi on his own strength, or against Tenten? Would he have managed to win through all three of his opponents anyway, without the Nine Tailed fox intervening?

What was he, in the end, without the fox? Was he still Naruto?

He didn't know the answer to that question. His life without the fox would probably be easier, but then again that would mean that someone else would have to shoulder said burden. What if… what Sai or Sakura had ended up with the Kyuubi? What if the fox hadn't left his mother to begin with?

He'd still have his parents, wouldn't he?

He'd be loved. He wouldn't be settled with a team of dysfunctional individuals in which he was the most damaged —at least in his opinion.

An hours easily passed, before he was startled out of his thoughts by a voice familiar to him.

"Naruto?" Sakura's voice was low as she spoke. "Is there something you don't understand?"

Softly, he nodded his head back. "Well," the pink haired girl said calmly. "What's the problem?"

He frowned, before pointing at the first few lines of the scroll. "What does…Brachial equivalent of an intra-perpendicular jab followed by pharyngeal exhalation of chakra kneaded streams through multiple division and separation of wind spinning in counter…"

"Ah," Sakura said, slowly scuttling closer. "It means you have to hold your hand in front of your mouth, as if ready to stab it forward, while at the same time you must exhale from your throat chakra. The chakra must be divided into various…shapes," she was softly whispering, and close as she was Naruto could even smell her light perfume of…was it vanilla with an undertone of copper?

"While you must take the single…streams of chakra and make them spin one against the other," she finished softly, before her eyes —emerald orbs that they were— settled on his. They looked at one another in silence for a moment, the quiet breathing as they gazed into each other's face uninterrupted. Sakura slowly brought one of her locks behind her ear, biting on her lower lip as she seemed to be inwardly struggling about something.

"No orgies in the library."

Sai broke the moment.

Sakura's forehead sported a giant tick-mark.

Naruto exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding, as he moved back and back to his scroll. So basically…he just had to make the chakra in his throat do…some sort of spinning motion like with the rasengan? But one against the other.

The scroll was telling him to create two streams of chakra inside his body, have them conflict and then have them meld into a single jutsu then expelled from the mouth.

"Sai?" Sakura snarled slightly, "Can you step outside with me a moment?"

Sai complied, and Naruto —from his spot— could distinctively hear the sound of the ground trembling as if someone was repeatedly punching someone else against the ground.

Sakura returned with a droplet of blood against her chin, which she simply swept away with her right finger —before licking it off. "Sai's gone home for today," she smiled then. A positively twitchy smile that seemed to give a completely different story than what she was telling.

"Did you call a medic-nin for him?" Naruto asked carefully.

"Uh? Ah," Sakura blushed lightly. "I never really hit him that strongly," she fidgeted with her fingers for a moment. "I'm not a violent person."

Naruto tried to keep an impassable face, but there was a slight twitch at the side of his face, which soon became a snort as the boy tried to hold in a chuckle. He shook his head with his lips twitching up in a smile, as he sighed in resignation and defeat. "Should we go somewhere, you and me?" he asked then.

"L-Like on a date?" Sakura stammered out, blushing even more.

Naruto frowned. "We should…talk about this outside, yes?"

He stood, rolling up his scroll and handing it back to Homura, who took it without as much as a second thought. Sakura followed him with both her scroll and that of Sai, coming out of the library a few minutes later with her hands holding on to the tape.

"Do you have a tape recorder at home?" he asked her, slowly.

She nodded, hesitantly. "Y-yeah, why? You want to…"

"We can watch that," he tapped on the Tournament video. "And then…then you can decide."

"Naruto, nothing that I will find in there will—"

"Just do it for me, all right?" he sighed. "Please?"

She relented. Nodding once, she began to walk towards her house, with Naruto following her this time around. She felt somewhat anxious: her parents hadn't yet come back from Otafuku Gai, and that meant she had taken care of the house in their absence. What if he ended up in her room and saw the way she had left the bed sheets? Or the dirty clothes in the laundry? Suddenly, she realized Naruto was going to enter her house. She was going to let her packmate see her cave.

It was normal. She just had to breathe and remember that it was normal for packs to go around together and sleep in the cave together to stave off the cold. It was normal. Everything was going to be normal.

There they were —the porch was tidy and neat, perfect. She opened the door and gestured for him to come inside. "W-Welcome," she stammered out.

"Thank you," he softly whispered. She moved towards the living room, where the only tape recorder was in the house —she would have died of embarrassment, if it had been up in her room.

"Do you want something to drink?" she asked as she gestured for him to sit on the sofa. "There's…water, and milk. I could put up some tea if you like…"

"Sakura," Naruto murmured, "Just put the tape on and sit down…"

She hastily did so, taking her seat slightly distanced on the other extremity of the sofa. The television soon turned on, and as it began to whirr and click, the images appeared a second later.

"Welcome to the broadcast of the Chuunin Tournament, held in Konohagakure no Sato!" the voice of the announcer spoke clearly, just as there was a cut to the tournament grounds where Naruto could see himself standing in line. His eyes fixed on Tenten's form. The girl was smiling. She was waving her hand at the crowd and laughing, every now and then giving a small shoulder bump to her teammates to make them do the same.

She looked every bit as happy as he did normally when he was hanging out with his own teammates. She was an orphan as he was. She didn't have the Kyuubi in her stomach —she didn't have anything special, and held no fault but having placed a trap that Sakura hadn't dodged.

Why had he believed avenging such a wound meant killing that girl?

Show no mercy.

Why? Why did he have to show no mercy!? Why did he have to listen to Danzo-sensei's words!? Clearly, the man hadn't really meant for him to kill her, had he?

The commenter saw the arrival of Sakura as 'surprisingly characteristic', before moving on to the first match that Sakura watched dispassionately.

"I couldn't let him hurt you or Sai," she whispered softly from her corner of the sofa. Her arms clasped around her knees as she was sitting crouched. "He was strong, really strong…And I know I could never beat him no matter how hard I trained…so I just had to bet everything on that move. I knew it would hurt afterwards, I knew it but…pain is a constant thing in the shinobi world."

Naruto remained quiet as the next match began. He had just a fuzzy recollection of what he had actually done with his body, as he wasn't actually fighting Tenten as much as fighting both the Kyuubi and his…dark self?

His body covered in red chakra with two tails swishing behind him, his entire appearance looked feral and demonic as he charged and literally won within the first minutes of the match.

"The Jinchuuriki of Konohagakure no Sato! Naruto Uzumaki! With complete control over his demon, he is the youngest host of the Jinchuuriki, and…I think I'm going to feel sick," the commenter wasn't the only one feeling sick. Naruto was too: he watched as his past-self tore apart the girl's lower limbs, her spine, her chest, her ribs, her organs…he watched him do all of that and…and keep her alive screaming. It was…

He heard the sound of Sakura running out of the room, heading upstairs.

Sighing, Naruto stopped the tape from going further and stood up. He moved towards the hallway, just in time to hear Sakura starting to retch in the bathroom. He clenched his fists. Wasn't this proof enough?

"Weapons aren't supposed to have anything," the Kyuubi remarked dryly. "Your mother was pretty clear on that, oh she was! Did you know that in her mind, I couldn't even stretch my legs or play shogi? I was forced to remain tied to a circular table, with chains daily digging into my own body and she took from my chakra whenever she had a need for it," the fox growled. "Just leave, and forget this day ever happened…it will be better for both of you. Nobody wants you Naruto: they only want me in the end."

He shook his head. He wasn't going to listen to the Kyuubi…not yet.

He heard Sakura retch one more time, and because of that…he turned and left. If his very presence made the girl vomit, then why was he still insisting? He wasn't supposed to even try. There were regulations in place! There were laws to be followed!

As he dashed out and began to ran away, heading towards his apartment, he felt the sting of treacherous tears in the corner of his eyes. He wiped them away quickly…

That day, that specific day…hadn't happened.

It had never happened.

Sakura was retching against the toilet seat.

Images assaulted her mind, not of Naruto tearing apart Tenten, no…but of carcasses. Animal carcasses she ate raw to survive. Their glassy eyes, their dead faces on the ground…she had been forced to shadow a tiger pack. She remembered their pungent smells. She recalled the fear of failing at any moment and dying. If she didn't shadow them, if she didn't follow them…then the whore would sweep down from her hiding spot and attack her. She'd break a bone.

She'd snap a limb.

She'd cut a piece of cloth.

She'd punch her. She's make her eat dirt, hallucinogenic fungi and things. She had to follow the tigers, to act like them. She had to keep up with their strides, with their movements. She had to be wary of the biggest one, the Alpha. She had to…she had to eat their preys' remains.

The people who had died and remained behind —the ones belonging to old and past Chuunin exams taken in the forest— the tigers had eaten them already, but she found their tools— old and rusty— and pieces of fabric she could use to stem the blood from the animals of the forest lucky strikes at her.

If she didn't fight for survival, she would die. If she didn't fight for supremacy, she would die. It was the law of the jungle, of the might is right and of power…and it disgusted her.

She retched once more, her eyes closed as tears kept on falling down her face. She was a disgusting monster. She had been so hungry…the cub had been out there alone. He had meat on his bones.

So what did it matter to a tiger-mother, if she went and ate a bit of the child? Nothing.

She had been careless, the tiger, and she had paid.

The price for being careless is death. The price for believing the world is happy is death. The price for thinking the world has only nice things? It is death. The price for failure? Death or pain.

The prize for success? Food. It was warm food, succulent to eat when hungry, which sizzles when the fat burns on the open fire, which can also let out droplets of blood that can be drunk warm to soothe your throat…

She puked one last time, before letting out a shuddering breath. She couldn't fall asleep there, with no-one standing guard. She needed to be somewhere safe. She needed to be with someone she trusted. She stumbled back up groggily, slamming open the door as she rolled down the stairs, hitting her head against the wooden planks and feeling the skin crack as blood began to dribble down her forehead.

It didn't matter.

She needed…she opened the door and stepped outside. She needed someone, anyone.

Sasuke was not a choice. Naruto had run away —no, he hadn't. He just…was somewhere else, wasn't he? No, he had run away.

Naruto had run away from her.

She had to find her sensei, she was the pack leader, right?

She would know what to do, wouldn't she?

Yugao Uzuki had been patiently waiting in her house for Hayate to come back from whatever mission the Hokage had assigned him within the village. Short of guarding the gates, he should have been home within a few minutes at most.

A rapid set of knocks suddenly assaulted her door, as her hearing caught the added sound of sniffles and choked cries, mixed with the word 'sensei'.

Yugao opened the door slowly first, but when she realized there wasn't a Genjutsu and it really was Sakura crying in front of her door, she had no choice but to let her in. The girl stumbled forward, her forehead bleeding, before ending up held by Yugao's arms.


"He," she blurted out between wracked sobs and tears. "He left!" she actually wailed that aloud.

"Who?" Yugao said, suddenly on the alert. "Who left? To go where?"

"N-Naruto! I…I we watched the Chuunin exams and then he…he left…I…I don't know what to do and…"

"Sakura," Yugao said calmly. "Breathe."

The pink haired Kunoichi did so, just as the ex-Anbu began to think. If the Genin had tried to run away from Konoha, then after knocking out his teammate he would have gone towards the safest place for him. Kiri had just finished its revolution after all, and then there was Kumogakure or Iwagakure.

Her blood ran cold. In Anbu, turning traitor meant a death sentence —it didn't matter when you were found, you would be killed the moment you were recognized. She had a job to do however, and the crying wreck of her student didn't help her much.

"Where did he go? Did he tell you?" she asked then.

"No!" Sakura was trembling as she spoke. "I'm alone, he left me alone…like…like the forest, there was—" Hadn't Inoichi said something about this? "The blood and…"

"Sakura! Stay with me!" stick her to the present —that was what Inoichi had said to do. "Do you know if he is going to betray Konoha?"

"W-What?" Sakura's voice lowered itself to a low murmur. "Why would he do that?"

Yugao's heart stilled for a second. There was a heartbeat of silence. "Isn't Naruto trying to leave Konoha?"

"No!" the girl shook her head firmly. "He…he left my house without…without telling me."

"So…" Yugao suddenly felt the need to slam her head against the nearest wall. "He is not going to become rogue?"

"Naruto would never do that!" Sakura croaked out, her throat sore already from the crying. "He'd never…never do that," she whispered once more.

"So you are crying because…he was rude and left without saying goodbye?"

Her voice was pitiful as her eyes went down to her fingers. "He…He was gone," she weakly said. "I…I don't like it when he's gone."

"I see," Yugao exhaled, putting her right hand over the girl's shoulder. What did one do with a student who had a crush? Oh, right.

"Then…why didn't you follow him?"

"Because…because I don't know where he lives, sensei," she whispered.

"I do," Yugao replied firmly. "Now however…" her eyes steeled themselves. "Sakura! This is unacceptable behaviour!" the girl stiffened to attention, her back ramrod straight.

"You are a kunoichi! You do not sniffle or sob because a man left you without saying goodbye! Act like a shinobi and if he leaves, then chase after him!" Yugao exclaimed firmly. "Now go out there, find your teammate and—"

"Talk with him calmly before asking why he left," Hayate Gekko remarked dryly as he entered from the doorway. "Really…Yugao, you find the most interesting ways of making my life interesting," the man coughed slightly, shaking his head. "Patch her before she leaves and bleeds out along the way," he pointed out as he stepped past Sakura to give a quick kiss on the cheek to Yugao.

Yugao just looked at Hayate for a moment, before turning her gaze back on Sakura and nodding firmly. "Precisely, now come here and let's get you cleaned: you look a mess."

"I'm sorry, sensei," Sakura sniffled one last time…before a murderous glare from Yugao made her shut up completely.

"Don't be," she replied calmly —if with a bit of frost in her voice. "I actually expected something like this to happen, but not at this time of the day."

"Sor—" the glare was enough to keep Sakura silent through her sensei's treatment.

With a bandage on her forehead, the green-eyed kunoichi left after bowing profusely to her teacher.

At the same time, atop the Yondaime's head, Naruto was nervously taking out from beneath the secret cache the kunai of his father, as well as preparing a plan to empty the cemetery of a particular tomb. If he ended up in the middle of the war, then he might never get another chance…and whatever supplies his father had, they'd serve him better now than later.

He'd have to apologize to Sakura…but he had warned her! He had told her not to watch, but now…now she was disgusted with him as everyone else. Only Sai, the Sandaime, the Super Pervert and sensei remained who weren't disgusted with him…and even then, for how long?

He had no-one who he could truly trust, did he? If even Sakura retched from seeing him…then…then what hope did he have?


And in that pit of misery, in that dark and deep pit of darkness…the Kyuubi grinned and flicked its tails.

"You must fill that void with love," the Kyuubi mocked the voice near him, "Really? Well…then it comes to term that misery and hatred stretches it, right?"

"You are a despicable abomination," the voice replied angrily. "He offered you an ear, and this is how you repay him! You…You atrocious monster!"

"So spoke the jailer, the executioner and the tyrant," the Kyuubi replied while yawning. "I'm enjoying this. Aren't you?"

"Never," the voice spat out.

"Now, now," Kurama rolled his eyes. "Mito-chan, you shouldn't act this way…it makes your skin wrinkle."

The Kyuubi laughed then, his voice reverberating across the empty halls.

Everything was going right. For once, maybe, he'd finally have his chance at revenge.

Author's notes

I will reiterate one. Last. Time.

The Tags are Naruto. Sakura. Sai. Three tags. Not two. It is not a pairing story. It's a Team Story.

Please. Please. Stop asking about pairings. You have to read the summary, there is a big and easily readable 'No Pairings'. Please. Please…don't make me think there are people out there who can't read for 32 chapters what is written on the summary. Please, give me hope for the human race. PLEASE.

Ahem. That said, 'Misunderstandings ensued next' would probably be an apt title for this chapter. Then again…no, it would be stretching what is truly to come.

*Winter is coming*

Angst is coming.

Ps: Orochimaru isn't marching 'against' Nagato. He is going…in that direction. And he wears Akatsuki clothes…do you know how to make an army disappear gents? I do!