Author's notes: The story won't hit 2000 for another chapter, I said. I have at least another week before I needed to finish the special chapter, I said. Well, damn… You guys proved me wrong. Enjoy!

Iryo-nin Kasa (医療忍)

Flower by the Still Water (花了靜水)

For Hana Inuzuka, her life was decided the moment she gained the Haimaru brothers. None in her clan ever chose to live out their lives as a civilian, their blood would never allow it. The call for battle was strong in many of her clansmen. The question whether or not any of them wanted such a dangerous lifestyle was unnecessary.

Before she could walk, the dogs in her clan taught her how to crawl and how to climb. The closeness to the canines in her family couldn't be compared with any other. Their dogs didn't serve them, they walked alongside them. If she decided on the path of a civilian, there would be no place for the Haimaru brothers. They would never shine without battle and she could never do that to them.

While part of the alpha pack of the clan, she doesn't share the same aggression as her mother. She never partook in the thrill of battle. To her, a fight was not something to enjoy, rather it meant something dear to her was in danger.

In the academy, aside from spars she rarely got into any fights. The Haimaru brothers deterred any most from approaching… at least until a certain little auburn-haired idiot stepped into her life.

Kasa Mon, the girl from Ame. Her mother spoke of her when she returned from the border of the Fire Country. At first, she didn't believe her when she said the girl wasn't the least bit terrified of Kuromaru's ferocious appearance. Even grown men were terrified of her mother's canine partner. How was it possible that an outsider that had nothing to do with the clan find him unthreatening? Not only that, from her mother's recount of the return trip, the girl had great fondness over Kuromaru and even used him as a teddy bear when she slept.

When she first saw her at the academy, Hana raised a brow. At a first glance, she thought the girl was no different from the civilians in the class. Dressed in a pleated khaki skirt, a baggy long-sleeved shirt and a blue-hooded vest, she looked utterly harmless. If not for the bandages peeking from the hem of her sleeves and the one on her face, she looked almost like a porcelain doll with how her hair framed her face and the thick braid swaying behind her.

Harmless… at least until one gets to know her. Anyone who spent more than half an hour's time with her would know the image of her fragility was nothing more than an illusion. The girl's brashness could rival those of her clansmen. Trouble drew to her like magnets even when she made no effort to search for them.

"Ka-sa, Ka-sa, Kasa the um-brel-la," jeered her would be bullies.

"Real mature, dipshits," retorted Kasa.

"Oh big words for being the dead last in the class," taunted another boy.

"Why don't you come a bit closer and say that to my face? As I recall, this dead last beat your ass in combat training last week!" said the brash girl as she jumped onto her desk into a fighting stance and motioned her hand for the other to come at her.

"That was a fluke," said one of the boys. "We were just going easy on you."

"Oh, is that so? Let's see how you like it after this dead last beats your ass!" snaps the girl as she charged.

She didn't help the matter either with her hotheadedness. No wonder her mother spoke so fondly of her. The girl didn't carry herself in the conventional manner. Loud, abrasive and confrontational when pushed, Kasa wasn't like most girls. Not to say she didn't act like one, Hana witnessed on more than one occasion the delighted squeals and gushing cooing she made towards things she liked or things she thought were cute. Those moments were usually reserved for food, the Haimaru brothers and the occasional good grade.

Unlike moments like these…

"Kasa Mon, how many times have I told you no fighting in the classroom?" snapped Daikoku sensei in exasperation.

"…Sorry sensei," mumbled the girl while the class snickered.

Hana felt bad for her. Being one of the youngest in the class, most saw her as an easy target to bully. Though, that didn't seem to be the case for the other youngest. Itachi Uchiha, the heir to the Uchiha clan. The first moment she saw him, she could tell he came from a ninja clan, be it the glaring Uchiha crest on the back of his shirt or the manner he carried himself. Unlike Kasa, he didn't give off the aura as someone that's easily targeted. Despite being close in age, the two couldn't be any more different than day and night.

Yet, the two appeared to get along fairly well.

"Must you always cause a scene?" droned Itachi as Kasa made her way pass his desk.

"Bite me duck boy," hissed the girl as she stormed back to her seat.

…Maybe not fairly, but the two did get along better with each other compared with the rest of the class. Hana wasn't sure if it was due to Itachi not joining the bullies or the fact that Kasa didn't share the same childish infatuation the rest of the girls in the class. Whichever the reason, they appeared to have a mutual… tolerance of one another.

Sure, Itachi would antagonize the auburn-hair girl whenever she did poorly and she him whenever his fan club decided to act up, but neither of them were ever venomous or hateful when doing so. If anything, they shared a level of fondness.

"No thanks, I'm quite sure you taste nasty with the amount of tea you drink daily," retorted the Uchiha dryly.

"Screw you dango-fiend," said Kasa childishly as she stuck out her tongue and made a face. "With the amount of sweets you secretly eat, you're going get fat and die of diabetes."

"Uchihas don't get fat. What do you think I have morning training with father?" noted Itachi, throwing the girl completely off.

"…Wait what?" said Kasa in confusion before disbelief crossed her face. "You're telling me that's why Fugaku-san makes you train every morning?"

"My father has a particular fondness for botamochi," continued Itachi, his tone never going beyond his usual monotone.

"Serious?" asked Kasa, agitation gone, replaced by bewildered wonder instead. "I never thought Fugaku-san liked sweets."

"Has anyone told you gullible was taken out of the dictionary?" commented Itachi.

"Eh?" It took a split second before the girl's face flushed red in embarrassment and her cheeks puffed up in irritation once more and threw a scroll at the Uchiha's head. "I am not gullible!"

"Says the idiot that's red as a tomato," said Itachi as he caught the scroll and tossed it back.

"Go fall into a ditch and die," growled the girl as she stumbled to catch the scroll.

Most days in the Academy, if Kasa didn't pick fights with Itachi, she latched onto Hana and played with the Haimaru brothers. Had Hana been anyone else, she might've thought the friendship she shared with the younger girl relied purely on her having the Haimaru brothers, but she doubt it. If the girl really was that shallow, she would've made friends with the civilians instead.

No, something about her made her different from her peers. Be them civilian-born or shinobi-raised, she felt different from the rest. Hana was quite sure she wasn't the only one who noticed, but she couldn't say if their peers were conscious of their awareness either. Age couldn't explain why everyone enjoyed bullying her more so than anyone else.

"Hana-chaaaan! Itachi's being a dickwad!" whined Kasa as she latched her arms around the Inuzuka girl's shoulders when class ended.

"Kasa-chan," said Hana with a sheepish grin. "What exactly do you want me to do about it?"

"I don't know… sic the Haimaru brothers on him?" suggested the auburn-haired girl in frustration.

"You know I can't do that," sighed Hana in exasperation. "Outside of spars, we're not allowed to attack each other maliciously."

"Then make them pee on him," said Kasa childishly. "Anything would do at this point."

"…Kasa-chan, that's not very hygienic," said Hana awkwardly at the younger girl's suggestion.

"Idiot," murmured Itachi as he walked pass.

"Come back here and say it to my face duck-boy!" snapped Kasa as she released her friend and chased after the Uchiha.

"Are they at it again?" chuckled Shisui as he came up from behind. Being several years older, Shisui had classes with the older students.

"It's rather one-sided," sighed Hana in exasperation, but amusement touched her lips brief as she glanced over to the older boy. "I'm surprised that you haven't stepped immediately to help Kasa."

"Nah, I'll wait a bit. Kasa's cute when she gets all riled up," grinned Shisui.

"Hmm?" Hana raised a brow at that comment.

At the time, she didn't think much of it since Shisui made a habit to say outrageous things just to get a reaction from Itachi. With how stoic the younger Uchiha acted, she wasn't surprised that Shisui restorted to such tactics. However, in doing so, his words had less credibility, making it near impossible to tell whether he was joking or serious at times.

Hearing him call Kasa cute or adorable wasn't uncommon, he did the same for Itachi as well, but with Kasa…

"Easy there Kasa-chan!" chirped Shisui as he latched his arms around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug before she could pounce and attack Itachi.

"Let go Shisui! I'm going to kick his ass!" roared the small girl.

"It's nice to dream," commented Itachi before the girl flailed even harder to get out of Shisui's hold.

"Itachi-chan, it's not nice to pick on a cute girl like Kasa-chan, even if you like her," chided Shisui playfully. "And Kasa-chan, there are better ways to get Itachi's attention than to attack him."

"Who said I was interested?" said Itachi with a raised brow.

"My only interest with him right now, is planting my foot up his ass!" snapped Kasa.

"Oh?" said Shisui as he hugged Kasa tighter to cease her movements. "Then does that mean I could have Kasa-chan? I play much nicer than Itachi."

"Shisui… can't breathe…" whined Kasa as she struggled to break free from Shisui's grasp.

"Well, they say love takes your breath away, right?" chirped Shisui.

"No, I'm quite sure you're just crushing my lungs," wheezed Kasa.

"Aw, you're just saying that because you're shy," grinned Shisui.

"Nope, quite sure you just enjoy other people's suffering," rasped Kasa. "G-get off, you ass."

"Aw, I love you too," laughed Shisui as he released her and retreated as she turned to attack him instead of Itachi.

These instances happened often enough that most people would treat it as part of the norm and likely think Shisui did so to give Itachi a break whenever the girl got too rowdy and uncontrollable. While some might pass it as a quirk, Hana saw differently. She wasn't sure when she first noticed the difference, but Shisui always seemed to have that closeness that bordered on possessiveness over Kasa. Aside from the classrooms, there were few that would dare to bully Kasa out in the open.

Hana suspected the older Uchiha had a hand in this, but she couldn't find any proof to prove her theories… at least until the day the Three-tails attacked Konoha.

Kasa stood paralyzed the moment she saw the creature wreak havoc through the village. Regardless what Hana said, the girl wouldn't respond. In the end she had to grab the younger girl by the arm and drag her along just so she wouldn't get left behind. By the time they've reached the shelter, the auburn-haired girl was a trembling mess with her hands clasped together against her forehead in a prayer as she fought off the urge to sob and cry.

As much as she wanted to comfort her friend, there was little any of them could do in such a situation. She could see Shisui's troubled face as he tried to think of a way to cheer up the girl, he was at a lost too. Hard to reassure anyone with a demon outside destroying everything you've grown to know and love. There was no promise on who would survive.

Yet, much to their surprise, Itachi attempted first. With soft words, barely audible with the quiet chattering of the other refugees, he attempted to distract her by drawing her into a conversation, but the sniffling girl immediately brushed him off with a shake of her head, refusing to talk. Even so, he continued to draw her into conversations, making her talk and listen to him as the conflict raged outside.

As Hana and Shisui watched, their eyes widened in surprise when they saw Kasa's eyes close and Itachi leaning forward. At the corner of her eye, Hana spotted Shisui tensing… but before anything else could happen, a delighted giggle echoed in the shelter before it blew into a full blown laugh. Hana snapped her attention back to the younger two in surprise and found Kasa on the ground shaking with laughter as she desperately tried to stifle her laughter under her hands.

Turning her attention back to Shisui once more, she noticed the older Uchiha relaxing as he made his way to the duo.

"Itachi, what did you do to her?" asked Shisui with a curious tone, though from Hana's perspective, it was nothing more than a façade to hide the irritation beneath it.

"Just a couple of words, that's all," replied Itachi offhandedly, not thinking much of what he managed to accomplish when no one else could think of anything.

"What did you say?" Hana asked, choosing not to call Shisui out as she tried to bring some normalcy into the group. It was a relief to see Kasa returning back to her old self, even if only a little. There was no need to confront Shisui now and upset the girl again. "I've never seen her laugh so hard."

Itachi said nothing and Kasa eventually broke out of her fit of laughter and finally smiling once again. The four of them tried to pass the time with conversation, but it wasn't long before Kasa lost herself in her thoughts again and the smile disappeared. Her brows furrowed in thought as if trying to figure out a puzzle or a problem. She saw that look on the auburn-haired girl's face many times before while she struggled to memorize plant names and the various lines of poetry for kunoichi classes.

"Kasa," spoke up Itachi once more, drawing the girl out of her thoughts. "What are you planning?"

"Nothing," said Kasa innocently.

"I know that look on your face," noted the boy.

"What look?" she continued to feign cluelessness.

The two continued to trade words, one trying to counter the other, but eventually Itachi won and the auburn-hair girl had no choice but to answer.

"I want to help," murmured the girl quietly.

"Kasa, you're an academy student. You can't help," said Shisui firmly.

"But I can! I think..." She continued to protest, but Shisui didn't let up. He gave one reason after another to deter the girl, but even then she wouldn't let up.

"Even if we don't stop you, how would you help?" asked Hana, deciding to help Shisui's attempt to stop the girl.

"That's the issue, I need to find the answer first," murmured the girl absently as she scratched at her bandages.

Hana frowned as she stared at the bandages, for as long as she knew Kasa, those bandages on her arms were always there. At first she thought maybe she hurt herself, but she wore bandages every day without fail.

"The marks on your arms," remarked Itachi. "They're seals aren't they?"

Seals? Kasa looked mildly surprised at Itachi's words, but she didn't deny his claims. If anything she elaborated a bit more on them informing them that they were knowledge seals marked on her by her mother. She suggested that there might be something that they could use to help the situation. Hana highly doubt a child, like Kasa, would have the knowhow to handle a tailed beast, but she didn't have the heart to disagree with the determined and hopeful look on her face.

"Are you sure?" frowned Itachi. "Have you even used them before?"

"Yeah!" retorted Kasa with an indignant huff. "I know how it works. Kushina-san and Minato-san been training me!"

"Kasa…" Itachi didn't sound like she believed her and he wasn't the only one, both Shisui and Hana

"I'll be fine!" She waved it off. "Though… get sensei if something goes wrong."

The trio's eyes widened. "Something goes—"

Before any of them could do a thing, Kasa charged up chakra to her hand and slapped it down on top of the bandages. Immediately, her eyes glazed over like a lifeless doll.

"Kasa!" Hana shouted as she reached for her friend, but the Uchiha boys were quicker.

Both boys grabbed an arm each trying to force her arms apart, but as if held by an unknown force, neither of them could pry her arm away from the death grip of her hand. The girl's lips moved rapidly as if reading or chanting. She looked almost possessed with her lifeless eyes and mechanic murmurings. They could do nothing as she continued to ramble in a quiet whisper. Eventually, a stream of blood came from her nose as her body started to tense and convulse.

"Kasa! Let go of your arm right now!" snapped Shisui as he and Itachi forcibly pulled at her arms.

Her hand slacken and the two boys managed to pry her arms apart. She sat there in a daze as her nose continued to drip blood.

"Kasa-chan!" Hana hastily pressed a tissue to the younger girl's nose as she tried to stem the blood flow. "Are you all right?"

The girl remained in a daze, blinking slowly as they fussed over her. Even Itachi's constant attempts couldn't draw her out of it. Hana feared for the worst that maybe her friend screwed up and injured herself in the worst way possible. However, before any of them could scream for a teacher, she spoke.

"…I got it," whispered the girl.

"Kasa?" called out Hana in worry.

"I totally had it!" whooped the girl in joy as she jumped up and darted away from them.

"Kasa, where are you going?" shouted Shisui as he got up to chase her with Itachi close behind, but before either of them could make it to the exit, their Academy sensei caught them and promptly tied them up.

"It's too dangerous for either of you to be heading out!" scolded Daikoku sensei.

"But Kasa—" Shisui started to protest, but never finished.

"No buts! It's too dangerous to head out! Someone will bring her back, you two are you stay here! No exceptions!" said the portly chunin.

The two tried to talk their way out of captivity, but their sensei would not give in regardless how desperately they begged him. Hana watched as the two fell silent, seeming broken from being unable to leave to help Kasa. Daikoku gave an exasperated sigh as he glanced towards Hana.

"Don't you think about going after Kasa either," said the man before the Inuzuka girl ducked down her head.

"Yes sir," murmured the girl quietly.

"You can stay and talk with them, but if you free them, I'm tying you up too," warned Daikoku before he turned his attention to watch over the rest of the Academy students.

"Shisui, Itachi," started Hana, but younger Uchiha interrupted.

"Are your hands loose?" asked Itachi to Shisui.

"Yeah," replied Shisui quietly.

"I'll make the genjutsu clone of you, I should be able to hold it long enough for you to get out," said Itachi.

"What?" hissed Hana in a low whisper. "Didn't you hear what sensei say? It's too dangerous to head out!"

"Exactly," replied Itachi. "That idiot is out there and she'll get herself killed if we don't drag her back. Shisui is the fastest one out of us three, he'll be able to get out as long as I provide the dummy, but the issue is that he won't be able to find her in this chaos. Can you lend him one of the Haimaru brothers?"

"But…" Hana protested, but the determined looks on both boys' faces made her sigh in defeat. "If you're going, I'm coming with you."

"Hana!" whispered Shisui loudly.

"The Haimaru brothers are not to be separated," said the girl firmly. "If something happened to one of them, it would kill the other two by heartbreak and I'm not about to leave my partners to face such dangers alone. I'm coming."

Silence fell on the three as a battle of wills started. Neither Uchiha boy wanted to put Hana in any more danger, but likewise she refused to abandon them.

"…I could create one more illusionary clone." Itachi broke the silence.

"Itachi!" hissed Shisui.

"We don't have time to argue," said Itachi in quiet seriousness. "The more time we waste, the higher the chance of something happening to that idiot. I could hold the illusion for a couple of minutes at least. Just go, I'll take of things here."

Shisui gritted his teeth, but nodded. "Hana, you ready?"

The girl nodded and immediately, Itachi went through the hand seals for the Clone Jutsu with his hands still tied behind his back. Within seconds, two perfect clones of them appeared beside him while Shisui grabbed Hana's wrist and dragged her along to the exit.

With shelter tightly guarded, she thought they would get caught in no time, but somehow Shisui knew when to duck into an alcove to hide and wait for the guards to pass. It didn't take long for them to exit the shelter and to the staircase of the Hokage Monument that looked over the village. From where they stood, they could see the Three-Tailed Demon flailing and screaming bloody murder.

"Hana, which way?" demanded Shisui immediately as he turned to her.

"Right, Haima—" Hana pause when she spotted the red eyes staring back at her. "Shisui, your eyes."

"It's just the sharingan," brushed off the older Uchiha. "Now which way did she go?"

"Sorry," apologized Hana, but before she could command any of her dogs, a loud explosion took place not too far from the demon and a giant frog showed up, lashing out its tongue to catch something that fell from the demon.

"Wait… is that…?" Shisui frowned as he narrowed his eyes trying to see despite the long distance. "It's Kasa! What the hell is she doing? The demon's right there!"

"How can you see?" asked Hana as she squinted her eyes trying to make out what he saw, but she couldn't see anything beyond the demon and the giant frog.

"NO!" roared the demon before a puff of cloud appeared and the demon disappeared.

"Kasa!" shouted Shisui as he grabbed onto the banister.

"What? What's happened?" asked Hana frantically as the Uchiha boy's face paled. "What's going on Shisui?"

"…No," whispered the boy, shaking his head as he turned to run.

"Shisui!" shouted Hana as she chased after him.

The Uchiha boy ran as if possessed. Hana had a difficult time in keeping up with his pace, but with the Haimaru brothers, she found him with ease even when she lost sight of him. As she followed her dogs, she realized Shisui ran towards where the demon stood before. The closer she got, the more destruction she saw.

By the time she found Shisui, he was on his knees with the palm of his hands pressed against his eyes. His breath ragged, his jaw tensed with clenched teeth and Hana watched as he resisted the urge to scream in frustration and anger. Hana stood quietly as he strained to reign back the scream that desperately wanted to escape

It wasn't until the Haimaru brothers nudged her leg to warn her of the ninjas coming to the area, she wouldn't have known to move and reach out to Shisui. They needed to leave before they were found or else they'd just get drag back to the shelters.

"Shisui…We have to go," whispered Hana when she got to his side and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"H-Hana…" choked out Shisui, his voice broken and caught in his throat as he desperately tried to gather himself. "Kasa… she's… she's…"

Hana bit her lower lip as she could guess what Shisui wanted to say. She moved forward, slipping her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a hug. From his deep breathing, she could tell he did his best to calm down. When he finally did so and lowered his hands, she found herself staring into his red eyes once more, but this time, his pupil appeared in the shape of a shuriken. Why was it like that?

"Thank you Hana, let's go," said Shisui hoarsely, but before he never managed to get up. His eyes faded black as his body slumped over unconscious.

"Shisui!" Hana barely had enough time to catch him before he landed face first into the ground. "Hey, are you okay? Hey!"

Regardless how she shook him or slapped him, the Uchiha wouldn't wake. Even though his breathing and his pulse didn't seem all that off, she found herself terrified for the older boy. Hana felt close to hyperventilating as she lowered Shisui to the ground and held his head protectively on her lap. Her eyes darted about, surveying the area for threats as she forced herself to calm down.

Hana knew her options were limited. In this chaos, she'd be lucky to run into an adult if she ran off frantically searching for help. She thought to try to drag the older boy along, but she knew she wouldn't be able to get far. Even if she could haul him up, she didn't have the strength or stamina to keep it up for long.

"H-Haimaru!" Her voice quaked, but she reigned it in with firmness as she turned to her canine companions. "Find help."

The three pups were reluctant at the command. They didn't want to abandon her, not with how terrified she looked.

"Go! Get someone, anyone would do!" snapped Hana.

When she looked back at this moment years later, she would often cover her face in embarrassment. It was perfectly normal for a five-year-old to be terrified in such a situation, but she took pride in being the most level-headed compared to her peers. That day only stood as proof that she was only a child and regardless how mature she acted, she was no different from the other children.

However, not even embarrassment could distract her for long. Not when there were more interesting things about. As she noted before, she never found any proof of Shisui's peculiarity when regarding to Kasa. His actions were consistent enough that no one would ever think twice about there being something more. Hana herself wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't been watching him the whole time.

She suspected that his fondness for Kasa was greater than what he showed, but she never expected… She shook her head.

In the aftermath of the Three-tail's attack, the Haimaru brothers managed to find a jounin that scoured the village for survivors and the injured. Shisui suffered a mild case of chakra exhaustion and was given a soldier pill and a brief scolding. Hana didn't have to be a genius to know that Shisui overused his sharingan in their attempts to get out of the shelter and to find Kasa.

With how distraught he was when he first ran off, she hazard a guess that Kasa was either dying from a severe injury… or actually dead. She never saw Shisui in such a state. She expected him to be last person to ever break down. Kasa must've meant a lot even if they haven't even known each other for a year. Even so, she wasn't Shisui's biggest obsession. No, that would be Itachi.

"Don't tell Itachi," whispered Shisui in a hoarse croak as they made their way back to the shelter after he recovered enough to walk. "He'd…"

"…He'd notice," said Hana quietly. "You know he would."

"I know, but…" Shisui sighed. "Just… hold off telling him for as long as you can."

As much as the older Uchiha obsessed over Kasa, prior to her appearance, Itachi had been in the center of his attention prior to her appearance. She hadn't known either Uchiha boys before she became friends with Kasa, but she saw them on occasion outside of the Academy. While the level affection of obsession differed between the two, there was no doubt that Shisui held the two of them dearly.

…To the point that it looked like he tried to pair the two together at every any given chance.

"Itachi, you're not going to say anything?" commented Shisui as he urged the younger boy to talk.

Despite what Shisui believed, Kasa managed to survive whatever that placed her in the hospital. The girl made some ridiculous excuse of having a sign fall on her while running about in the village. None of them believed her ridiculous lie. The injuries she sustained and the obvious seal on her head proved enough, but no one wanted to call her out on it. They didn't have the heart to. The three of them knew that Kasa was a horrible liar.

Like an open book, she wore her heart at her sleeve. Hana often thought her friend naïve and oblivious, but who could blame her with how her friend acted? When Kasa's father returned and supposedly took her from Konoha due to health reasons, the girl fell quiet and listless. It wasn't until she realize that her departure from Konoha wasn't permanent that she started crying and laughing like the loveable idiot Hana grew to adore, promising she would return as soon as she could.

In the year that Kasa left, Hana noticed Shisui reverting his attention back to Itachi once more. Constantly teasing and testing the younger Uchiha's patience with jokes and affectionate gestures. Hana noticed that Itachi grew reclusive as time passed. Aside from their auburn-haired friend, there was no one else that would openly insult him and challenge him at every turn.

Not that Kasa ever stood as a challenge. While everyone placed him on a pedestal because of his prodigy status, she didn't treat Itachi differently. Even though she ranked dead last and he took the top ranking in each grading period, she didn't gawk at him in amazement or compliment him at every turn. If anything, she dismissed his achievements and goes off challenging him with the weirdest battle propositions.

At first, it was odd to not hear the random bouts of challenges, but eventually everything settled into a dull haze. For a year, life went on as if Kasa never existed in their lives. Konoha gained a new Hokage, Itachi and Hana each gained a little brother and things went on.

Hana was tempted to say she was disheartened by the fact that her friend's memory slowly faded and forgotten… but then being the trouble magnet she was, Kasa returned in the aftermath of the Kyubi's attack. No letter or warning, the girl just decided to appear out of the blue when the classes at the Academy postponed and students were drafted to help out with the village's repairs.

"Yo!" waved Kasa cheerily during line-up as if she never left in the first place.

"…You're late," said Itachi in a deadpan not a moment later.

"What took you so long?" returned Shisui cheerily as if he saw her only the day before.

"Sorry! Had a detour with future international S-Class criminals of the world," laughed the girl as she spouted her usual nonsense. "Hi Hana!"

And like that, she slipped back into everyone's life as if nothing happened. To this day, Hana couldn't figure out how her friend managed pull it off with such ease.

Once the village managed to regain some semblance of order, classes at the Academy resumed. Kasa being the impossible girl she, declared that she would graduate from the Academy within the year. Hana thought the whole notion seem ridiculous, but that didn't deter her friend in the least. She watched as Kasa plowed through fevers and challenges on pure determination. Much to her surprise, the auburn-haired girl managed to graduate, albeit dead last of the graduating class, but succeeded nonetheless.

Of all the things she expected, she didn't expect the Uchiha boys to graduate as well. Though she didn't share the same closeness to them as Kasa, she felt oddly left out at their graduation.

"You okay?" asked Shisui the next time they met, over half a year later when Kasa ended up in the hospital yet again due to her recklessness.

"I'm perfectly fine…Unlike Kasa," said Hana quietly as they stared at Kasa's prone form on the bed. No part of her was bare of bandages. Her hair gone and her face showed signs of first degree burns. The medics placed in a healing coma to spare her the agonizing pain.

"You seem a bit down," commented Shisui.

Hana shot him a raised brow as if questioning his choice of words.

"Okay, maybe that's not the most appropriate thing to say under these circumstances," said Shisui sheepishly. "But I doubt Kasa would be happy to see you down."

Hana said nothing as she turned her attention back to her comatose friend. For a moment they stayed in silence with only the sound of Kasa's faint raspy breaths.

"...She's a reckless idiot," said Hana quietly.

"No arguments there," agreed Shisui with a chuckle. "But that's part of her charm wouldn't you say? She wouldn't be Kasa if she wasn't reckless."

"I suppose," murmured Hana as she snuck a glance of the older Uchiha at the corner of her eye. "Say… do you by any chance like Kasa?"

"Hmm?" Shisui turned his attention to her curiously. "Why do you ask?"

"…No reason, just curious," said Hana offhandedly.

"Curiosity huh?" hummed Shisui thoughtfully. "Mm… I guess you can say I like her."

"What?" said Hana in surprise, not expecting such a casual admittance.

"Something wrong?" asked the boy with a disarming grin.

"…You just admitted you like Kasa," said Hana utterly dumbfounded.

"You like her too," chirped Shisui. "Otherwise why would you come visit her?"

It took a moment before Hana realized that she had been duped. Even though Shisui freely gave his answer, the manner he said it made it sound like he interpreted her words differently. However, that wasn't enough to fool her. She watched him for long enough to know his evasive habits.

"Kasa's popular isn't she?" continued Hana as she ignored his attempt to evade her question. "It seems like every time I see her, there's someone new that likes her."

"Is that so?" said Shisui.

"Yep," nodded Hana as she tapped her nose. "It's a bit hard to pick up with how strong the disinfectant smell is in the hospital, but he had a particular woody scent to him that reminds me of the morning dew deep in the forest."

"Really now?" said Shisui cheerily. "Maybe we'll ask Kasa to introduce us to her new friend. The more the merrier, right?"

His deceptively cheerful tone didn't distract Hana from the slight twitch at the older boy's hand. She definitely got a reaction out of him.

"Maybe," agreed Hana as she ended their conversation there. She didn't find the need to force Shisui any further. She had her answer.

It would be some time before Kasa recovered enough to be roused from her healing coma and even longer before she could leave the hospital. Sandaime assigned her to the hospital for the span of half a year as punishment for her reckless abandonment.

At first it looked as though she engrossed herself into her duties, but as the months passed and Hana realized her friend used it as an excuse to avoid the Uchiha boys. She had no clue what happened between the three since Kasa's hospitalization. Hana briefly thought maybe the younger girl became infatuated with her woody-scent visitor, but she knew better. Anyone who knew Kasa for more than a few hours would know that silly girl crushes were not something she indulged in. She rather spend her time occupied with something more useful.

At the loss of a possible reason, Hana found herself back to her initial question once more. What happened between the trio? They never had such distance between before. It wasn't until she became a genin that managed to drag Kasa off to confront the two. The level of awkwardness that followed was indescribable.

For Hana, she always saw Kasa as the loud and reckless idiot that charged headfirst into every situation without a care. To have her quiet and reluctant, brought a startling new light to Hana's observations. As much of an idiot Kasa made herself out to be, she had her moments of fragility and uncertainty. That much she could see when she dragged her off to Itachi's home.

"SASA-NEE!" shouted Naruto as he plowed into Kasa with glee.

The girl was surprised at his presence, but relaxed when the smaller boy babbled excitedly to her about his day in the Uchiha household.

While Hana hadn't expected the younger boy, he gave her a perfect opportunity to leave the auburn-hair girl and let her talk it out with Itachi. She sent the Haimaru brothers to keep Naruto and Sasuke occupied while she listened in.

"…Uh…Hey," said the girl lamely before falling silent once more.

As the silence stretched, Hana thought she might need to intervene to help the conversation along, but it wasn't needed.

"Even after months of not seeing you, you're still the same space head," droned Itachi before Kasa blew up with indignation and duck threats.

…So much for the reserved silence. Regardless how Kasa tried to control herself, Itachi always seemed to be able to find a way to rile up the auburn-haired girl either in anger or laughter.

"Ooh! Is Kasa doing duck threats again?" joined in Shisui in a cheery tone.

"What are you doing here?" said Itachi in a drone.

"Aw, don't be like that Itachi-chan! It's been ages since we've seen Kasa! Be nice and share!" said Shisui in his usual cheer.

Hana kept silent as the conversation continued into the usual bickering banter that followed whenever the trio gathered. To a casual listener, their conversation sounded nothing more than a group of friends catching up. There was nothing outstanding worth mentioning... at least on the surface.

Nothing ever should be taken at face value, not in a village of ninjas. Lies and deception played a part of the shinobi lifestyle, to the point that it slipped into their daily lives without much thought. While the conversation between the three meant nothing to an outsider, it spoke volumes to Hana.

Something happened between them that discomforted Kasa enough to avoid them. Though it didn't seem like any one of them was at fault, the boys were more than willing to pretend it never happened if only to spare Kasa. The mystery served to peak Hana's curiosity further, but even so it didn't deter the generous amount of physical affection that Shisui shared whenever in Kasa's presence… Did he and Itachi have a fight over her?

When she learned of the trio's teams joining to take the chunin exams in Kiri, she thought they would be inseparable. Yet, barely a week since their three teams started training together, Hana found Shisui strolling the streets alone.

"Yo!" greeted Shisui cheerily when he spotted her. "It's been a while. Just finished with your missions?"

"It's my day off," answered Hana with a vague wave. "Where's Itachi and Kasa? It's rare to see you without them."

"They're on a date," chirped Shisui.

"Date?" repeated Hana with widen eyes before she caught herself. "By date, you mean…?"

"Equipment shopping," replied Shisui cheekily. "They took Sasuke with them."

"…That's not a date," said Hana in a deadpan.

"That's as close as a date they're going to get for now anyway," continued Shisui as he wiped away a fake tear. "Oh, they grow up so fast!"

Hana let out an exasperated sigh as she crossed her arms. "I don't get you."

"Hmm?" hummed Shisui with an inquisitive tilt of his head.

"I could tell you like Kasa," said Hana.

"Of course I do, I thought we had this conversation already," said Shisui in good humor.

"Yet, you constantly try make everyone believe that she and Itachi are an item," continued Hana as she ignored his attempt in thwarting her words. "Why don't you just tell her instead of using such an indirect way of driving a wedge between them?"

"What do you mean?" asked Shisui with confusion over his face.

"Stop playing dumb, you know very well what Kasa is like," continued Hana. "The more you push her towards something, the more she'll resist and shy away from it. By constantly trying to pair her up with Itachi, you're making sure she never gets together with him. It's such an underhanded tactic."

Shisui blinked, bafflement crossing his face. "Wow… I didn't know you thought so poorly of me."

"I have nothing against you," said Hana. "But I don't think Kasa would like someone who would be so underhanded in…"

"Itachi!" said Shisui in surprise as he darted around her and raced over to the younger Uchiha. The boy was disheveled, clothes covered in rips and dust. On his back, he carried an unconscious Kasa that looked in a similar state.

"Oh my god, what happened?" Hana covered a hand to her mouth as she raced over.

"Nothing, the idiot just got overzealous against some cats," said Itachi in exasperation. "She'll be fine after her chakra recovers."

"She's fine, but what about you?" fussed Shisui as he waved at the younger Uchiha's arms. "You're covered in cuts! Did you even treat those yet?"

Hana blinked in surprise as she watched the older Uchiha scold Itachi. This did not expect this at all. She thought that maybe the three of them were in some sort of a love triangle and that he was doing whatever he could to force Itachi and Kasa apart. Yet, seeing how he fuss and worried over Itachi, she needed to reevaluate her theory.

"Hey Hana, could you lend us a hand? Itachi looks like he's about to drop and I don't think I could carry both him and Kasa," said Shisui as he pulled their friend off Itachi's back.

"R-right!" said Hana as she moved to haul Kasa's arm over her shoulder.

Shisui's actions confused her. Regardless what she thought, he would always prove her wrong. She couldn't read him at all and it bothered her. It bothered her so much that she enacted on the boldness of her clan that she usually avoided. She invited him out just so she could wrangle him for answers.

"So…" dragged out Shisui several days before it came time for the three teams to leave for Kiri. "You wanted to ask me about something?"

"Why are you so confusing?" snapped Hana in irritation, never before had she felt so annoyed at someone because she couldn't read them.

"Excuse me?" asked Shisui in confusion.

"Why do you do the things you do?" snapped Hana. "You like Kasa, I know you do! But at the same time you're constantly trying to get her together with Itachi! I know you care for him too, but why would you go so out of you way to do this? It's not like Itachi is interested in Kasa and Kasa's not interested in anyone! So why would you ruin your own chances with her by trying to set her up with Itachi?"

Shisui stood silent for a moment, digesting the words she violently threw at him.

"Hmm… why indeed," murmured Shisui as he held his chin thoughtfully. "No one's ever asked me that before."

"And?" continued Hana as she waited for him to give her a logical explanation.

"Why do you want to know Hana-chan?" Shisui glanced at her at the corner of his eye as a grin crossed his lips.

"Because I don't like being confused," replied Hana. "Your actions make no sense!"

"By any chance," continued Shisui with a disarming smile. "Are you doing all this because you like me?"

"W-what?" Hana spluttered indignantly as her face turn red. "I am doing no such thing! Stop trying to change the subject and answer the question!"

"Ah sorry, I guess that was presumptuous of me to assume," said Shisui as his shoulders shook with mirth.

"Answer the question!" demanded Hana, face red from both indignation and embarrassment.

"Well, since you asked so nicely," said Shisui offhandedly. "How about we play a game?"

"Game?" frowned Hana. "You're treating this like a game?"

"Yep," agreed Shisui. "You can ask all the questions you want and I'll answer, but you'll have to figure out if I'm telling the truth or not."

"Really, you're really going to treat this as a game," said Hana in annoyance.

"What fun would it be otherwise?" chirped Shisui.

Hana found herself too irritated for words when she decided to leave the conversation for another day. Slowly, but surely, her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to take up Shisui's game. Between training, missions and the chunin exams, it was near impossible to set up a time so that they could meet. Even so, Hana wasted no time as she plotted for ways to get Shisui to spill the reasoning behind his actions.

Their meetings were few and far in between, but the few times they managed, Hana found herself enjoying herself as she tried to decipher the puzzle that was Shisui Uchiha. She was not infatuated with him, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy his company.

As time went on, she picked out Shisui's odd quirks and broke it down piece by piece. She was quite certain of the older boy's interest in Kasa, but have yet to make him openly admit it… At least until that day…

"Hana-chan!" sung Kasa cheerily as she snuck up behind Hana during one of her and Shisui's meetings.

"K-Kasa-chan!" yelped Hana with a jump.

"Fufufu," chuckled the girl slyly. "Do my little eyes spy a pair of lovebirds chirping nearby?"

"I-it's not what you think!" said Hana with flailing hands, face flushed as she denied her claims.

Her friend went on and on, each claim more outrageous than the last. To make it worse, Shisui decided to join in not a moment later escalating the ridiculous claims by leaps and bounds. Both he and Kasa teased her mercilessly, letting up briefly to go on about the current news in Konoha before resuming the teasing once more.

"We're not dating!" screeched Hana before she finally snapped and turned to the Uchiha. "Shisui tell her!"

"She wouldn't believe me even if I said it," replied Shisui in turn.

"Tell her!" growled Hana.

"All right, all right," sighed Shisui in fake exasperation before he did what Hana didn't expect and spoke seriously. "Kasa?"

"Yes?" The girl blinked in surprise at the tone switch.

"I would have to agree with Hana that your guess is incorrect," said Shisui with half-lidded eyes as he leaned forward and lifted Kasa's chin with the curl of two fingers. Hana found her breath hitch as Kasa stared up into his eyes in confusion. "Because the one I'm in love with… is you."

…He said it. He really said it.

Hana was floored. She thought he would've done it jokingly and pulled Kasa into another one of their silly love confession routines, but he didn't. He genuinely told her.

"…Shisui," whispered Kasa in a quiet grimace as she grasped onto his hand with hers. Horror crossed Hana's face as she finally realized why Shisui never confessed. "…I love you too from the bottom of my heart, but…"

"…It's not the same as mine, I know," replied Shisui softly with a sullen expression as he grasped onto her hands and held them to his lips.

Hana's breath hitched once more as she covered a hand over her mouth as the heartbreaking scene unfolded before her.

"Sorry." Kasa pulled away, distancing herself.

"…The person you like is Itachi right?" noted Shisui with a bittersweet smile.

"That can't happen either," murmured Kasa. "You know that. Not with…Naori-san…"

The two fell silent and Hana felt her heart torn at the sight before her. How could she have been so blind? No wonder Shisui never tried pursuing her, Kasa… Their sullen faces served to send her deeper into guilt.

"Kasa…Shisui," said Hana hoarsely as she couldn't decide who to comfort first. "I…I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have said anything. I didn't kn—"

Abrupt laughter filled the air as the two broke their solid mask and revealed the farce of the whole confession.

"You thought we were serious?" wheezed Kasa as she leaned against Shisui, desperate for support. "Oh god, Shisui, I'm dying!"

"But he—you…what?" spluttered Hana incoherently. "You were joking!?"

The two fell into another fit of laughter and continued into another act, teasing Hana mercilessly before Kasa finally decided to leave. As if serving an encore to Hana's embarrassment, Shisui waited until Kasa was halfway down the block before he shouted out another confession.

"I love you Kasa!" shouted Shisui with his hands cupping at the side of his mouth.

"Love you too!" shouted back the auburn-hair girl in good humor before she left for good.

Hana planted a hand against her face in a poor attempt to hide her embarrassment, but it did little to help.

"You enjoy doing this to me don't you?" sighed Hana.

"Well," grinned Shisui in amusement as he glanced back at her. "I did tell you she wouldn't believe me even if I told her."

Embarrassment fading, Hana said nothing as she cracked an eye open to peak through the cracks between her fingers. Even after all this time, she couldn't tell whether or not his words were genuine, but she supposed it was something that she'll have to continue the game to find out.

Author's notes: You guys totally took me by surprise. The story averaged out to 35-40 reviews per chapter in the span of a week, but you guys doubled that amount in the span of two days. I get the sinking feeling that someone cheated with the anon reviews, but oh well. Special thanks to PyrothTenka for bringing it to my attention of my horrible lapse of grammar in the previous chapter.

I should not be allowed to edit while sleep deprived as my grammar goes flying out the window. I've gone back and done what I could re-editing the previous chapter, but again I'm still rather sleep deprived and will continue to be so for quite some time. So, I apologize for any grievous grammar mistakes that might show up in the future chapters. I will do my best to go back and clean up any grammar issues I've made. I know there's an option to allow someone to beta the chapters, but I find it a good learning tool to find where my writing weaknesses are when I edited it myself. So… yeah…

You guys are awesome and amazing for sticking around for over 50 chapters! And I hope you'll continue to do so for many more to come! Until next time! I'll see you guys in the next chapter!

PS: I totally just did one of those annoying recap episodes in anime that no one likes… so yeah… xD SURPRISE!