Naruto: Sekai ni Hi o Tsuketa
Disclaimer:
I do not own Naruto

IMPORTANT NOTICE!
Alright, in the beginning of this story, it was SasuKari. However, after some careful considerations, I've changed it to SasuSaku. I have also changed Akira's (Sasuke's daughter's) appearance. She has pink hair now and her outfit changed from what it was before. So, yeah! Just letting you all know there have been changes to the first part of the prologue, and chapter two. Sorry :/ I also apologize for the long wait.

OoOoOoOoO

Chapter Seven
"
I Love You"

OoOoOoOoO

KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
FOREST OF DEATH

Kisa flipped up into the air, bringing her foot down on one of the stupid shinobi who had decided to ambush her. Jouta and Mao were fighting back-to-back as all of their techniques were designed this way. Mao's Mud Style would capture the enemies and Jouta's Earth Style would turn the tight-fitting mud to a brittle earth and crush them. Of course there were other ways of combining their two styles, but this was the one they were using now.

Kisa's personal ways of fighting was to strike at the weak points and then break the enemy down. She was a whiz at wire traps – but other than that she was an excellent taijutsu fighter.

The last enemy went down at her hands, the other two just being crushed brutally by Jouta and Mao. Kisa landed on her feet, flawlessly. She sighed and turned around, the other two running at her.

"Are you okay, Kisa?" Mao wondered, checking the girl over with her eyes. Jouta seemed to have the same question in his eyes.

Kisa laughed, "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting it. You'd think they'd wait to attack when we all fell asleep." Their strategy was to sleep during the day – which they'd done already – and then strike during the night. But just when they had gotten everything together, Kisa had to use the bathroom. On her way back, a team jumped her.

…She was really hoping they found her after she used the bathroom.

Mao exhaled, relief evident. "We heard you scream. We were so afraid they had hurt you."

Jouta ruffled Kisa's hair. "Good thing they didn't. They'd have a scary-ass girl in pigtails looking for blood." He smiled at Mao, who just punched his arm.

As he rubbed his arm, Mao turned. "Come on, let's head back to camp. I left my canteen."

"Pour it out and refill it," Jouta wisely advised. "Never know what creeps are still hiding."

Mao stuck her tongue out, "I know what to do."

Kisa laughed and followed them, a small skip in her steps. She supposed being with these two wasn't so bad. She blinked. "Hey, wait. I screamed when they first jumped me. You guys didn't show up for a while." Odd, because the camp wasn't that far. She blinked, "Did you guys fall back asleep?"

Both froze in their tracks. Mao laughed… nervously, "Huh? Uh. Uh. No, we were just…"

Jouta scratched the back of his neck, a small blush on his cheeks (although due to the time of night and the color of his skin, you couldn't see it). "Studying. We were just studying."

Kisa blinked. Studying? At this time of night? In this forest? Why would they be… "OH you two are sick! You just said there might be creeps hiding!"

Mao spun around, pointing a finger, "We admitted to nothing! And why do you know about that? You're ten years old!"

"You're only fourteen!" Kisa shouted back. She crossed her arms. "I mean, geez, its not like kissing is something I shouldn't know about."

Jouta and Mao stared. "Oh." Mao said. "Kissing. Right."

Kisa blinked. "Wha-"

Jouta slapped a hand over her mouth. "And that's the end of this conversation. So! What's our plan of action now?" Kisa opened her mouth to say something else, but Jouta had already turned away. She rolled her eyes and followed after them.

Mao turned to Jouta, "I guess for now we should-"

The silence of the forest was broken. The crickets and the birds and the rustling leaves were overshadowed by a sharp scream. The panicked scream echoed through the forest, alerting a couple of birds to flee their nests. Kisa gasped, the other two inaudibly staring at the sky in awe. The scream died off as quickly as it had come, replacing the forest with silence.

The three Kumo Genin remained silent. Jouta whispered over his shoulder, "Should we check it out?"

Kisa gulped, "Er. Should we?" She turned to Mao, who was – more or less – their decisive leader.

Mao's green eyes looked up to the sky, her face contorted. She clenched her fist and clicked her tongue. "Yeah. It could be people fighting over an item. We could swoop in and take control of the situation."

Jouta reached for her hand with a nod. He smirked at Kisa, "Let's go."

Kisa beamed and nodded once, "Mm!" She ran after the two of them, her short kimono holding tight to her legs but the arms flew out from behind her, the sleeves too long for her little arms. The three jumped up – not bothering with Mao's canteen, because honestly, she shared with Jouta anyway – and wound through the trees. A branch nearly not Kisa in the face, alerting her to jump up and over it.

As she landed on the next branch, the screams became louder. She heard the syllables now, could make out the strangled voice.

"HANAKO! Oi, oi, Hanako!"

Jouta cast a glance at Mao. Someone was hurt.

Kisa narrowed her eyes – if it came down to it, it would be up to them if that person lived or not.

OoOoOoOoO

It all happened too quickly. Hikaru jumped back on his feet, the mysterious boy not giving them any time to think. He sped forward, a flash of light in his hand – the moon reflecting on one of the diamond panels of a kunai blade. Hikaru's eyes flashed red, the two tomoe flickering within the red.

The boy raced for Hikaru, but Hanako was ready. "Man Beast Clone!" Hanako shrieked, Kiiromaru being enveloped in a cloud of smoke and becoming a perfect – more feral – clone of Hanako. The two lunched forward, back to back, shouting, "Fang Over Fang!"

Jumping back to avoid the drill of the infamous Inuzuka attack, the intruder jumped around as Hanako and Kiiromaru buried themselves in the ground. Hikaru slid two shuriken from the sheath on his thigh, throwing both of them at the enemy. Both were dodged as Yasuo moved out of their way in a snake-like fashion, coming for his prey.

He was within inches of Hikaru's face, his fist winding back. Hikaru could see it moving in slow motion, the wind up, the curling of his fingers to a fist. And suddenly Hikaru's eyes saw where the right fist was going to go, a blue pre-vision that headed for his abdomen. Hikaru swiftly moved back and to the right, avoiding the attack.

The Uchiha smirked, the rush of his Sharingan coursing through his veins. He loved this feeling, loved it so much! Power, pride, the adrenaline – all of it put Hikaru at his best game. He reached back for a kunai, seeing the enemy do the same.

Yasashi was in the fight now. He slid his weapon of choice – two chakra blades given to him by Shikamaru – over his knuckles, a surge of chakra rushing through him. He raced forward with a battle cry, but Yasuo was quick and threw a knife at Yasashi before he could get too close. The knife went past his guard and stuck itself in Yasashi's ankle.

"Yasashi!" Hikaru shouted, fearful. Yasashi had teetered and was brought to the ground, on his side. Yasuo ran for the kill, Hikaru at his heels. There's no way I'd let you-

Hanako came out from the ground, Kiiromaru missing from her side. She appeared in the gap between Yasashi and Yasuo, eyes flaring. Her pinpoint eyes were somehow smaller in her anger. She flew a fist out, still in mid-twirl from the technique, her eyes on Yasuo.

Hikaru jumped forward, trying to grab Yasuo, to stop him. Yasashi tried to scream, but it was too late. It all happened too quickly.

Yasuo's kunai slid from Hanako's collar bone, to her right, stretching down to her midsection. Hanako cried out, blood flying form the wound.

Hikaru's eyes widened, his Sharingan igniting. Fear and anger struck his expression, his hair flying up.

Yasashi gasped, catching Hanako as she fell back, writhing. "Hanako! Hanako!"

Hikaru grit his teeth, the kunai knife flying out of his hands. Yasuo was smiling, smirking, eyes insane. No. No.

"No! You! I- I- I-"

A second tomoye seemed to appear in his eye. He began to make several hand seals, seething,

"I'll kill you for touching my friend!"

Hanako looked up from her wound, shouting, "No, you idiot! Don't do it!"

Yasuo's grin grew, "Let's see how great of a vessel you are!"

OoOoOoOoO

KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
UCHIHA HOUSEHOLD

Sasuke opened his eyes.

The sound of something thrashing around the backyard woke him, and Sakura. Sakura groaned from her side of the bed, "What the hell is that?" She pulled the covers up and over her head. She had just arrived home from a nine hour shift at the hospital.

That meant Sasuke had to figure out what was going on. Sasuke sat up, moving out of the bed. It had to be Juugo; he didn't sense anything else back there. From time to time Juugo lost his cool, and it wouldn't be hard to snap him out of it.

Suddenly the sound of a shriek snapped Sasuke to attention. He sped forward, down the stairs, as fast he could. Damn, he warned the kids time and time again to not go near Juugo when he was angry!

Pushing out of the sliding door, Sasuke hardly touched the ground as he crossed the lawn. Juugo was half-transformed, his orange hair standing on end. A snake – a large one, at that – was lying dead at his feet. Aito and Kaito were huddled together, Juugo having them trapped in the corner of the fence.

Activating his Sharingan, Sasuke sped forward and got in between Juugo and the kids. Juugo's dark eyes glowered at him, half of his face black and one arm completely turned.

"Stop, Juugo," Sasuke warned, a hand held up. He wouldn't hesitate killing Juugo, loyal or not.

Something changed in Juugo's eyes, fear stricken. He took a step back, grabbing a fistful of his hair, groaning. Sasuke sighed, and glanced back at the two boys, trying not to glare at them.

"Are you two alright?"

Aito and Kaito – even Sasuke became confused on which one was which – gasped, pushing themselves further into the fence. Sasuke knit his eyebrows and looked back to Juugo, whose transformation was receding. His loyal servant fell to his knees.

"I- I apologize, Sasuke-dono… I truly… I did not…"

Sasuke opened his mouth to speak, but one of the twins spoke first, "N-No, dad! Juugo didn't do anything! We went outside to play a prank on him, but then this big snake tried to eat us!"

Aito gripped onto Kaito; Sasuke knew now which one it was, because Aito was younger and always clung to Kaito when he was afraid. Aito nodded, "Y-yeah, and Juugo stopped it."

A snake? Sasuke glanced down at the dead reptile, seeing the snake had been ripped in two. Snakes had never been a problem before. And if they had been around, they were Sasuke's summonings and never did anything Sasuke wouldn't want them to.

Eating his kids was definitely something Sasuke did not want them to do.

Sasuke knelt down to the twins, ruffling their heads. "It's alright." He said, his voice devoid of emotion. "The snake's dead."

Tears appeared in Kaito's eyes but he shook them away. "I-I'm fine!"

Aito sniffed and began to cry, and when he let go of Kaito he dug his face into Sasuke's chest. Sasuke felt the sobs through his shirt. He sighed, and held his arm out for Kaito. The older twin glared and looked away, his face red and eyes watery.

Sasuke sighed and decided just to pick him up. "I hope this taught you to listen to me for once." He turned to Juugo as he stood, one kid in each arm. "Are you alright?"

The curse mark had receded completely. Juugo strained to look up at Sasuke and nod weakly, "Yes, but, I did not harm-"

"I believe you," Sasuke told him, surveying the lawn. A couple of pots hat fallen over and were broken, dirt spread across the sidewalk. "Rest for now, but clean this mess up in the morning. I'm going to bed."

Juugo nodded, "Yes, Sasuke-dono… Thank you."

The head of the Uchiha didn't bother to respond, heading into the house. He closed the sliding door with his foot, Aito still crying. Kaito he wasn't sure about, because the boy had his face buried in Sasuke's shirt and was being as quiet as Sasuke had ever heard from him.

It seemed the noise hadn't awakened Akira, but it only figured since she listened to Sasuke unlike the boys.

Aito's sobs had faded into sniffs, "Dad, can I sleep in your room?" Kaito nodded with Aito. Both looked up at him with red faces and eyes, their lips quivering.

…How was Sasuke supposed to say no to that?

He closed his eyes, defeated, "Alright, alright." He smiled at them, just barely, but enough. Aito smiled and laid his head back on Sasuke's chest. Kaito just looked away.

Sasuke finally finished walking up the steps, stopping at Akira's room. He pushed Aito into the arm Kaito was in, holding them both. He slid the door open and peered in, making sure the girl was alright. When he was assured by the soft breaths in the bed, he shut the door again. Once he stepped into his own room, he set the twins down. Both just stood idly next to him as he shut the door.

Taking both of their hands as they wouldn't move without him, he got them both to the bed. "Sakura." He said.

She rolled over, her hair a tangled mess. "Hmm-wha?"

"Move over. The boys are sleeping in here."

Sakura sat up lazily and moved towards the center. She pat the side next to the edge of the bed. Kaito came to her side and laid in the bed, snuggling into her side quietly. Sasuke laid down next to Sakura, and Aito laid by him.

Sasuke closed his eyes once they became situated, taking a deep breath. He hoped Juugo would be alright for the remainder of the night. And that snake unsettled him… why would a stray snake-

"Dad," Aito whispered, just as Sakura's and Kaito's even breaths filled the room.

Half of Sasuke wanted to pretend he was asleep. But that would be "wrong".

"Hn?"

Aito remained silent for a moment. He said softly, "…Can snakes talk?"

Sasuke opened his eyes. "Some." That was it. It was a summoning. But who summoned it?

Aito glanced up at Sasuke, "It started talking to Kaito-nii. And Kaito-nii…" Sasuke watched Aito, waiting for the child to continue. "It told him something. But then Juugo…"

"It's alright," Sasuke told Aito. "Nothing is going to happen. Not as long as I'm around." He ran a hand back through Aito's hair, comforting the child. Aito only nodded, and curled into Sasuke's figure. The head of the Uchiha held Aito close.

No, nothing else would happen. He would find this person who tried to assassinate his sons, and he would end them. If it was the last thing he did, he would end them.

OoOoOoOoO

KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
FOREST OF DEATH

Yuki hooked his knees around a branch and fell back upside down. He reached his hands over his head and reached to the object below – an old clay-based teapot, glazed with green. It was sitting in the middle of four trees – and if you walked on the trees, you were alright. But if you tried to walk on the ground…

Well, Yuki wasn't entirely sure what happened. But there were dried out bodies littered around the object. The skin was torn off the bodies in some places, but the rest of it looked like the people were trying to mold their skin off, like snakes. It was disgusting.

Still, that teapot was their way of completing this test. They had to risk something – only, it was probably best they thought of a plan first. So he had Mayumi and Kazuna positioned in trees on either side of his tree, weapons at the ready. Yuki was trying to reach for the pot on the lowest branch that could sustain his weight.

"Yuki-kun, I don't think you can reach it," Mayumi said softly, holding the hem of her dress down. She was up high in a branch and both boys were standing at a level beneath her, which meant they could see up her dress. Of course, she was wearing shorts, but it still made her uncomfortable.

Yuki's fingertips didn't even graze the pot. "Yeah, I know. Let me try…" he swung himself back up, getting his spool of ninja wire out. He tied one end of the wire to his ankle. He took a deep breath. "Kazuna. Come over here and lower me down."

Kazuna rolled his eyes and jumped over, careful not to leap over where any of the bodies were. He smacked down next to Yuki, taking the spool. Yuki sat on the branch, glancing up at Kazuna with his clear blue eyes. Kazuna was wondering why Yuki was giving him such a look when he realized. "Oh, yeah, right. You can go now. I've got it."

Yuki gave him a vague nod, slowly pushing himself off of the branch. Kazuna held on as tight as he could to the wire, bracing himself for the increase in weight. Yuki held on with both hands, "Got it?"

"Yeah," Kazuna strained. "Just make it quick."

Yuki nodded, letting go of the wire and flipping upside down. Kazuna huffed loudly, the shift in movement throwing him off. THANKS for the warning, asshole. Kazuna screamed this in his head, trying to keep Yuki in mid-air. He grunted, "You got it?"

Yuki glanced up, "Just a little further. I've almost got it."

Kazuna took a deep breath and carefully let some of the wire slide through his fingers. Yuki held tighter to the string as it swayed violently. "Watch it!" Yuki hissed.

"I'm trying my best here!"

"Obviously not," the blonde growled, still reaching for the teapot. Kazuna's eyebrow twitched and he smirked.

"Fine. You're right. That wasn't my best. This is." He let a long portion of the wire slide out of his grasp. Yuki gasped and screamed, holding onto the wire in a futile attempt to not hit the ground. Mayumi screamed something, but Kazuna knew what he was doing and grabbed the wire just before Yuki hit the ground.

Yuki sighed in relief, then glared up at Kazuna. "What the hell were you doing? You just nearly killed me!"

"That was not funny, Kazuna!" Mayumi shouted, worried.

"I knew what I was doing." Kazuna seethed. "And besides, you're right by the teapot now. Grab it and let's go." The black-haired Ame nin could almost feel the iced glare. Nevertheless, Yuki reached and grabbed the item.

"Pull me up – and try to not drop me this time." Kazuna rolled his eyes, but the guilt was killing him. If Yuki had hit the ground, he might have ended up as gruesome as the bodies below. He didn't mean to get him that close…

Pulling him up was harder than keeping him from falling, that much was for sure. As Yuki got further away, he swayed the wire around until his feet made contact with the tree trunk. He cut the wire away from him with a kunai.

Mayumi crossed through the branches to join the boys, landing at Kazuna's side just as Yuki climbed up, teapot in his possession. Yuki glared at Kazuna, but said nothing, holding the treasure forward.

Mayumi blinked, then smiled. "Well, I guess… we follow the compass now?"

"I suppose," Yuki mumbled crossly. He held the teapot next to his chest. "It's breakable. We should be careful with it, but we have to hide it."

Mayumi hummed, "Hmmm, well, we could wrap it in the extra pair of shorts I brought. Or we could seal it into a scroll for safe-keeping – oh, yeah! We should do that. That way even if someone gets their hands on it, they couldn't use it."

Yuki nodded. Kazuna smiled at Mayumi, "Smart."

The violet-haired girl made a face that obviously read 'smarter than dropping your comrade onto a deadly piece of land' but she didn't speak it. Mayumi was too sweet to scold him.

Kazuna scowled as Yuki handed Mayumi the item. Mayumi took it in her hands, which started to shake when Yuki's hands grazed over her own. A blush formed on her cheeks, but she shook it away. "A-Anyway. We should move away from here and then seal it – just in case."

Yuki nodded and pulled his hands away, his expression devoid of emotion. Kazuna felt anger all of a sudden, because either Yuki was ignoring Mayumi's affection, or he just wasn't paying enough attention.

Kazuna sighed and turned around, facing away from the clearing. "Let's get out of-"

Something light of color sprang out of the forest – out of seemingly nowhere – and slammed into Kazuna's gut. He lost his breath and his footing, flying backwards.

"Kazuna!" He heard Mayumi scream. He saw Yuki move after him, but before Kazuna had any time to think about much else, his back hit the ground. However, he didn't slam into any rock, dirt, or sand; his body fell back further, the ground weighing down like a trampoline. He tried to pull himself up and jump, but his back was stuck, glued.

It didn't hurt so much as it had startled him. He glanced up at his comrades, whose eyes were wide.

Kazuna blinked his eyes, "…What? What's that look for?"

"It's a spider web." Someone spoke from behind. Kazuna could see the boy clearly, but Yuki and Mayumi had to whirl around to see him. He was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a strange bird tattoo was carved into his forehead. An Iwa band was on his arm.

Kazuna gasped and glanced around, at the giant web they had thought was a clearing. And he was stuck in it, like the other victims who had fallen in. He couldn't see the spider, his head wouldn't move. "Get me out, guys, get me out!" He screamed, the thought of becoming like those other ones chilled his spine.

Yuki glanced over at Mayumi, "You focus on Kazuna and the teapot. I'll take care of him."

But just as soon as he said this, three more made an appearance. Two of them seemed to be accomplices of the Iwa teen; one with golden hair and violet eyes, and a sloppy-looking girl with one pink eye and one gold eye. The other appearance was a large, brown spider – almost four times the size of a large dog – crawling over Kazuna's figure. Eight black eyes glanced down at him, drool falling off of its mouth.

Kazuna's eyes shrunk, fearful shadows crawling over his face. Some of the saliva dripped down onto his cheek. His heartbeat was racing, his fingers shaking. "Help." He squeaked. Mayumi tried to come to his aid, but the golden-haired one got in the way. Yuki had his hands full with both the girl and the bird-tattooed fellow.

He was stranded.

OoOoOoOoO

KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
ROOFTOPS

"Hey, sorry I'm late. I got lost on the path of life-"

"Save it," a voice snapped. Kakashi laughed nervously.

Shikamaru and Shino got up from their position just a couple of feet away, meeting up by Kakashi. Shikamaru held a finger to his lips to silence them. He knelt down to the roof, pulling out a piece of paper. He already had a pencil tucked behind his ear, as they weren't supposed to be speaking right now. He scribbled onto the paper.

Kiba is going to be around here any moment now. We have to be silent – and take extra care with it. Kiba's ears are highly trained. He can hear a fly buzzing a mile off.

The two nodded and complied. Shikamaru pointed to their designated positions and then returned back to his own, watching.

The city streets were almost empty at this time of night. The occasional drunk and people going home from work passed here and there, one pair of lovers and a mother with her child. A couple of Genin who were messing around ran out of a dango shop, grinning at one another as they began home.

The three Jounin watched for almost an hour before they caught sight of their target – Inuzuka Kiba and his ninken Akamaru. Kiba was walking almost casually, as if he did this every night. His eyes were watching the crowd but at the same time they were far off. Akamaru was at no attention, he was without worry. Shikamaru wasn't sure if Kiba had told Akamaru to act like this, or if Akamaru was just at ease because there really was nothing to worry about.

He made his way down the street, sauntering slowly. He stopped just in front of Hizaku's Dango, leaning against a streetlight. Akamaru sat at his master's side, panting happily. Kiba smiled down at the dog, stroking his ear.

Shino narrowed his eyes. There was nothing happening yet. At any moment, something… someone was meeting up with Kiba. Kogu. That was the woman's name. A civilian, apparently. According to Kiba, but there wasn't much about Kiba to trust at the moment.

Minutes passed. Suddenly a woman ran down the street – a sprint or a fastwalk, probably something in between. Her hair was long and black like a raven's, curly. It reminded Shino of Kurenai-sensei's hair, how it tangled but still remained beautiful. She was about the same age as them, with strong legs and a beautiful figure. Shino couldn't see her eyes from the angle, but she skidded to a stop in front of Kiba.

The Inuzuka pushed himself up off the pole as the girl waved her arms around frantically, explaining something and pointing off from the way she came. Kiba gave off a disappointed scowl, but sighed and nodded, mouthing, "I get it. Don't worry about it."

The girl laughed, relieved, and threw her arms around Kiba's neck, placing a kiss on his lips. Kiba closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss, letting it grow intense. They broke off about a minute later, smiling at each other's eyes.

She then broke away from him, speeding off from where she came.

Shikamaru had been watching their hands during the kiss, waiting for her to pass on a note, a piece of paper or any sort of object that could carry a message. But her fingers were intertwined behind his head, and his hands were on the small of her back. Nothing was exchanged.

Shikamaru narrowed his eyes. Something about this was wrong – Kiba knew they would be coming tonight. He was going to make everything seem like a normal fling. He was trying to put suspicion away from himself. Nothing was going to happen tonight.

He expected that as much.

Kiba was left alone at the streetlight with Akamaru. Suddenly a man inside Hizaku's dango came out with an order, shouting loudly enough for the four to hear. "Take out order for a mister Inuzuka-san!"

Kiba raised his hand and took the order, mouthing a thanks and giving the man some money. Kiba offered the man a small smile as thanks, then pat his side for Akamaru to follow. He said something they couldn't hear, and walked out of the line of sight.

Shikamaru, Kakashi, and Shino regrouped in the middle of the roof. Kakashi nodded once, now that Kiba was out of their earshot.

"There was no clear evidence. It looks like an affair," Kakashi told them.

"Looks," Shino pointed out. "He knew we would be watching tonight. There might not be anything going on right now, but somehow the two of them are passing information around. We're going to have to find out how."

Shikamaru nodded, "I agree."

"The ANBU are trained for secrecy," Kakashi stated, pushing his headband over his Sharingan eye. He closed his one visible eye as if recalling his own time in the ANBU. "If he is hiding something, it's going to take a while to expose it and find concrete evidence. We should be watching this woman as much as we watch Kiba."

Shino nodded in agreement, but Shikamaru bit his nail. He had missed something in that meeting. He knew it. Some information had to have been passed.

But what?

OoOoOoOoO

Kiba was out of their earshot and watch. He reached back into his collar and pulled out a note she had dropped into it. He snapped his fingers and Akamaru stood at attention, glancing over his shoulder blades. Kiba flipped the message open.

No information yet in regards to the Tea Country. This Friday is the big meeting. We're meeting at Hizaku's – the theme is "first month anniversary". I hope you enjoy your meal.

Just for the record, if you just so happen to put your hands on my ass during the kiss, I will kill you.

Kiba scowled at the first sentence but was smirking by the end. Just because the Tea Country was turning out to be a dead spot too meant nothing. They were still in operation.

He sighed and sent some chakra into the paper, watching as it crumbled into dirt. He glanced down at his meal. He wasn't sure if she poisoned it or not. He put his hands where she clearly did not want them, so maybe she had the order "specially" made?

Oh, gosh.

He pulled the bag open as he walked, afraid, but once his eyes set on the contents, he smirked.

He pulled out a piece of paper in between two napkins, the words "ANIMA PROJECT" as the heading.

No information my ass.

OoOoOoOoO

KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
FOREST OF DEATH

Thrown back. Smacked against a tree. Lost his breath. Hikaru fell forward with a burning feeling in the back of his skull.

Stay on your feet.

Hikaru immediately ducked, although there wasn't much reason to, and leapt to the side, trying to stop his brain from rattling.

Keep moving. Don't stop.

The enemy was suddenly in front of him. He raised his arms in a cross-formation to protect himself, but the boy's fist was too fast and slammed into his jaw. Hikaru cried out and was thrown back again, toppling over himself and smacking against a log. Hikaru lost his vision for a couple of moments, thrown off. What had just-

Something slammed down on his hand, bringing his vision back. Flames blazed all around them, devouring the forest with ever lick of heat. He could just faintly see the boy's teeth glow within the inferno.

"I suppose you aren't all of the hype I thought you were. When I heard Sasuke-kun had a child in this exam, I became very…" Hikaru shuddered when he stuck his tongue and licked his lips. "Interested."

Sharingan deactivated in all of the confusion, Hikaru narrowed his obsidian eyes. "How do you know my dad?"

The Kusa nin smiled. "Call us… old business partners."

Hikaru blinked. How old was this kid? He looked, what, ten years old? At most? He doubted his father did business with children. Unless they were, convict children. That tried to rob banks or something and his dad had to stop – oh Hikaru, focus!

Hikaru glared at the boy's foot, which was crushing three of his fingers. His pinky finger screamed at him to do something about it. But his other wrist was in the Kusa nin' hand, and he couldn't feel his legs at the moment. Hikaru reactivated his Sharingan, because that was really the only thing he could think of doing. He was lucky to be an Uchiha, because even without his limbs, he still had some sort of chance.

"Who are you?" Hikaru demanded, narrowing his blood-colored eyes.

The boy smirked, chuckling. "Those eyes… those beautiful eyes. For such a long time I've wanted to see them… to be gazed upon by them. I've always wanted eyes like those… and now, there are plenty to choose from. You have brothers, a sister, even. That makes five, including your father. Five beautiful vessels…" The boy licked his lips.

Anger boiled in Hikaru's chest. Hurting Hanako and Yasashi was unforgivable, but talking about his family – his precious siblings? – in such a way…

He could suddenly feel his legs – as if his anger chased away all of the pain and fear from before. He shot one of his legs up, but the enemy quickly let go of his wrist and jumped backwards, anticipating the kick.

Hikaru jumped up, holding the hand that had been stepped on. He shook it off, pulling another kunai out. "I don't care for your name – but if you're going to go even remotely near my little siblings, I will end you."

It was then a thought occurred to Orochimaru. Hikaru was the oldest, he cared more for his friends and family than he cared about himself. If anything, he was more like that damned Itachi than he was like Sasuke. Itachi… that man seemed to always be in his way.

But more importantly, this boy wasn't filled with vengeance or a self-desire. This boy was of no use to him.

A small smile lifted on Yasuo's face. Well, saying that was a bit of an understatement – any Uchiha could be of use to him. Besides, between Hikaru and Takeshi was a direct line. If he went to Hikaru, Takeshi was sure to show up, and vice versa. Takeshi was an asset – that much was definite.

So instead of turning tail, Orochimaru lifted a small knife – like one would use to cut meat, rather than a kunai knife – and grinned, "Is that so? Because I've already taken a liking to your brother, Kaito. He is such a sweet child."

That did it. Hikaru's nostrils flared in anger, and he folded his hands into the Tiger Seal. "Katon! Great Fireball Technique!" Fire seemed to flare from Hikaru's lips, forming into a giant sphere of fire, and heading straight for Yasuo's weak and frail-like body.

Yasuo smiled.

OoOoOoOoO

"Alright, alright… Just hang in there, Hanako… I've got you, don't worry…" Yasashi was mumbling to both himself and Hanako – but honestly, more to himself. He had no idea how to treat wounds – that was usually Hikaru's job, who knew what he was doing because his mother was Haruno Sakura, the greatest healer Konohagakure had to offer.

Hikaru, however, was off fighting, leaving Yasashi to care for their dying friend. He didn't know how to stop the bleeding, he didn't know where to apply pressure. He couldn't let Hanako die, but he didn't know what to do, and he was panicking…

All he did was get her away from the fire.

"Yasashi… I hope you know… that while you have your face in your hands, I'm d-dying because I just got gutted open like a fish…" Hanako just barely managed it through the pain. It seemed she was alright enough to snap at him, but it wouldn't last long.

"I don't know, Hanako, I don't know… I'm sorry but I- I'll try but I-"

A hand rested on Yasashi's thigh, and Hanako just shook her head. "Best plan – go fight the enemy, distract the enemy… but get Hikaru back here..." She left her voice as if she was going to say more, but she blinked hard from the pain.

Go get Hikaru was the equivalent to leaving Hanako to die alone. No, he couldn't do that. Leaving Hanako just wasn't-

Hanako spoke as if she read his mind. "Not alone. Kiiromaru." The blonde pup pacing all around Hanako, barking and whining in panic. His ears perked at the sound of his name, pushing his nose to the tattoo on Hanako's cheek.

Yasashi's eyes watered, but he wiped the tears away with the back of his knuckle. "I'll be right back, I promise I won't let you die, I promise I won't Hanako!" He pushed himself up, but he stopped when Hanako seethed,

"No, Yasa-agh!" She suddenly cried out, clutching her chest in pain.

Yasashi stared worriedly at her, "Hanako, what's…" his voice slowed when Kiiromaru began growling, over at the trees. Yasashi quickly drew his chakra blades, sliding them over his fingers easily. They felt cool against his skin. "Who's there?!"

Immediately a pair of hands flew up as a sign of peace. "No – no! I'm not here to hurt you guys."

Yasashi narrowed his deep maroon eyes, glaring. "Who are you?"

A girl stepped out of the darkness, bearing a Kumogakure headband. Her ashy blonde hair seemed to strike against the shadows. "Mao – I'm from Kumo. My friends just went to go help your friend, Hikaru. We're repaying the debt – I mean, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have gotten past the first test."

There was a moment of silence between the two. Yasashi glanced between Kisa and Hanako.

"I can save her." Mao said. "I can't heal her completely because I'm not a medical ninja, but I have a first aid kit and I can stop the bleeding."

Yasashi hesitated.

"F..ine by me, I'll take the ch-chance." Hanako said shakily. She waved Mao over, "Not gunna like forever."

Mao nodded and hesitantly dashed forward, keeping eyes on Yasashi to make sure he didn't suddenly attack her – but he didn't, instead, he turned away from them and readied his weapons.

"I'll watch your back while you save Hanako," he explained. "You just better promise you won't do anything funny."

"I won't," Mao said indefinitely. She knew it was stupid to help the enemy, but Kisa seemed so concerned for them. Kisa said they had to repay the debt, that Hikaru wasn't a bad person. They had to help. Besides, it promoted comradely between their villages and had the potential to help them during the test.

It was for their own good.

Yasashi let out a shaky breath, not wanting to look at Hanako. He almost let her down – no, he let her down. She could have died – she could still die – and he couldn't do a damn thing about it. She got hurt protecting him – and it could have been avoided if he had just gone with his gut feeling and-

Tears fell down Yasashi's cheeks, and for the moment he was glad he had turned away from them. He was always the one Hikaru and Hanako had to make up for. He was always the screw up. He would always be the weak one.

He tightened his hands into fists, sniffling.

I'm sorry.

OoOoOoOoO

It had been dark for hours, the trees blocking away the moon's light. Kairi and Kizu were fast asleep, and Giroro was leaning back against a boulder the size of an apartment, watching over the two from above. Usually they would trade off shifts, but Giroro couldn't sleep. His little sister Kago was stirring up trouble somewhere out in the forest without him. He worried for her, obviously – she was his little sister.

Even though she had to have been the most obnoxious, annoying…

Giroro sighed, shaking his head and combing his fingers back through his hair. In any case, she was probably in some sort of dangerous situation, while his team was already headed for the tower, item in tow. A snake the size of friggin' Amegakure came out of nowhere and attacked them. It made Kizu faint. It almost ate Giroro. Kairi managed to stab one of its' eyes, though, and gained the upper hand. They destroyed the creature, Giroro using a "Sand Coffin" to finish the lousy reptile. However, he felt something else in the snakes system, and worried it was someone else who had been eaten. In the end, he only used the Sand Coffin on the beast's head. After… searching… through the snake's guts, they found an item.

It was a paintbrush, coated in silver and engraved with kanji. The kanji read "friendship" and honestly Giroro found it endearing. He held the small object in his hands, hoping this paintbrush was really an item and not just something the snake's stomach couldn't digest. He would just have to trust his instincts, like the other candidates of the exam had-

A sudden flash of cold flew up Giroro's spine, making him gasp and jump up. He breathed heavy and hard, not being able to move for a moment. His hands trembled and he dropped the paintbrush, the small instrument landing on Kairi, who stirred from her sleep.

Giroro's teeth chattered from the cold, but at the same time he had no control over his mouth. He couldn't scream or even whisper anything. He tried to call Kairi up, to tell her something was wrong, but it wouldn't-

His eyes suddenly rolled into the back of his head, and he began to fall unconscious. He was caught by his attacker, though, who heaved him up and over his shoulder, and disappeared from the premises.

Below, a stirred Kairi sat up, rubbing her eye. Her eyes fell on the silver paintbrush, which hadn't been endangered at all during its fall. She blinked her fushia eyes, and then, in a panic, looked up at where Giroro had been but was now missing.

"Oh dammit," Kairi swore, taking the paintbrush. She kicked Kizu awake and shouted, "Kizu! Up! Giroro's gone!"

OoOoOoOoO

Aoi made it quick, only leaving Kiri alone for not even five minutes. When he returned with the unconscious redhead over his shoulder, she was still in the same place she had been, lying on his coat on the cave floor, trembling even though she was covered with a blanket. She peeked her eyes open, and smiled softly upon his return.

"Ao…i.."

Aoi threw down the bitch's twin, who was already tied up with seals wrapped around his neck, and knelt down next to Kiri. "Hey… how are you feeling?"

She smiled sympathetically as a reply, but couldn't give him a verbal answer. He didn't expect her to. The poison must have really been taking its toll, and it almost killed Aoi to see her in pain.

He glanced over at the boy, his face so much like his sister's. He couldn't take the chance to trust the enemy, or Jinta, so he had to do something on his own. He had to make sure he would get the antidote, no matter what. When Kago returned, her brother wouldn't be safe until Aoi got the antidote.

Aoi sighed and sat back against the wall next to Kiri. The red-haired girl turned onto her side, curling into Aoi for comfort. He smiled softly, setting a hand on her hair. She fell back asleep almost instantly, her breaths still short. Aoi closed his eyes painfully.

He leaned over and kissed her softly on her temple, and pulled away. The silence dragged on for a couple of moments, Aoi lost in his thoughts. He always tried to piece things together, to make sense of things. Sometimes he just couldn't remember things correctly, sometimes, and sometimes when he thought he remembered what he'd forgotten – anything before the Red Street Massacre – it slipped away from him. All he saw in his head to anything before that day was a blue flower growing in the snow.

He could remember anything about Kiri, though, any memory of her was as clear as day. All of the sad ones and the happy ones were memories he cherished and looked to when he just couldn't piece anything together.

Aoi wasn't quite sure what he was without Kiri.

He supposed without Kiri he was just a lost dog with nothing to do.

He glanced over at the paled girl with eyes that could only be described as dead, and whispered, "I love you."

OoOoOoOoO

A/N: DONE. DONE, IT'S DONE. I am so sorry for the long wait… like, four months now, I think? Anyway, yeah, I am happy with this chapter. I honestly don't have much to say this time, other than the notice from the beginning of the chapter. The reason I changed it to SasuSaku was because the co-creator of this story and I changed a lot of things. In the beginning, it wasn't going to be NaruHina either, but now it is. We've done a lot of thinking over this. In the end, SasuSaku worked out more than SasuKari.

In any case, I really hoped you guys all enjoyed this chapter! I AM EXCITED FOR BATTLE SCENES COMING UP. Although, I must admit, it was boring without Takeshi in this chapter. Well, it wasn't boring, I just miss him haha.

Read it? Love it? Review it!

-FFoaP