I've updated! Finally, right? It took me almost two weeks to get this chapter out of my head. I apologize for the lateness. And also, for those who are wondering where the hell my Archive Of Our Own account went, I'll inform you guys that it got hacked by a jerk who can't get over himself and his life. XD For you ladies out there, choose your guys wisely. Stalkers and haters are a bitch. So, if my fanfiction account gets hacked too, you'll know what happened. If my stories suddenly disappear, you'll know who did it.

Thank you to BuriedInBooks for looking over this chapter and giving me sound advice. Thank you for calming me down when I was just about ready to hunt down an asshole and throw a really hard object to his face.

Thank you to Hendrixson for being a voice of reason and sanity. I don't think I'll ever be able to get this chapter out without our conversations. And thanks for offering to throw cars around if anyone pisses me off.

On to my chapter! :D

Chapter 37

The Thirty-sixth Complication

The Break Up

"There is no greater woe than in misery to remember the happy time, and that thy Teacher knows. But if to know the first root of our love thou hast so great a longing, I will do like one who weeps and tells."

He recited it over and over. He remembered it when he was a child. Once he saw something, he never forgot it. He once saw these words carefully drawn by his own brother, who had been a fan of drawing mutilated corpses cringing in the depths of his personal vision of Hell. Written by a famous poet and interpreted by his brother… but even with the gruesome, distended human forms, he knew that his brother was only insane in his art, not in real life.

He was the insane one.

Do you remember when we were children?

Mother loved playing with us in our backyard. We had a little clay pit that was one of the last reminders that we had a father. Mother loved that little clay pit. She said that it was a place where love was born. I didn't understand back then. Right now, I think that was the place where she found father fucking his mistress. I'm a little too certain. I don't know why.

But there was a use for the clay pit. Without it, we would never have discovered our passion for art. I would never have discovered that my passion was for sculpting and molding while you directed your eyes to painting and drawing. Such was our talent that every Sunday, our mother would show our work to neighbors – those horrid, gossiping women who stank of cheap perfume and cigarettes. I still remember the mismatched colors of their makeup with the bright red lipstick and the bright green eye shadow. I wondered if they rehearsed the terrible color combination.

Remember our house? That was the only beautiful thing in the neighborhood. While theirs was a drab, uninteresting brick red, ours was the color of the skies – blue and clean and perfect. Up until now, blue was the standard of beauty in my books. It somehow resembles something fleeting, like a dream in our heads that disappear as we wake up. I finally understood that day that true beauty doesn't last. It must fade. It must surely fade.

Like our mother, whose mind rotted away with every moment she thought of the beauty of the love she had for our father. Like our father, whose talent we inherited and whose lust for beauty consumed him into sin. Like you, my dearest brother, whose trust for the beauty of virtue led you to fester underneath that beautiful lake of the Yamanaka estate.

It seemed poetic. Beauty is the reason why you all faded so quickly. I had to bring you to a rest in the Yamanaka estate. No one saw me, I swear. I had to dig up your body from the asylum. Forgive me, brother, for putting you through that experience. If you hadn't meddled, I wouldn't have cracked your skull open. I wouldn't have cut your tongue. You would have remembered. You could have spoken. I had to make sure. I thought you died for certain. But you clung onto life, thinking that you could bring justice when it was due. But no.

Luckily, you died right after you remembered. I guess the pain of recollection finally set you on the edge. You killed yourself. But you continue to haunt me. I applaud you on your attempt at revenge. You revealed my identity. Now, I had no choice.

I had to chase after the 'blue'. When I saw her – Yamanaka Ino – I knew she was the one.

Her eyes reminded me of our house and all the fond and dreadful memories we experienced there. Does that make sense? All I knew was that when I saw her, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I knew that I had to make her mine. And when I made her mine, I would kill her.

She looked just like our mother, don't you think? When she was younger and untainted and full of life. But Ino was different. She tried to make herself believe that she was better than reality. That she could escape into a world where all her fantasies came true. She believed that she was better than us. But then again, reality caught up to her. She fell in love – love, which is the ugliest thing that could ever happen to a person. And of all the people she could love, she fell for the person who was most like her. He wasn't even a person. He was a mutt.

I was never good with writing and letters. Mother said I write so randomly and so out of order that she refused to speak to me using pen and paper. She preferred talking to me on the phone. But see, she stopped talking to me after what you told her. You just had to tell her that I was chasing after Ino… that I finally found 'the one'.

When I saw you that night, trying to warn Ino, you can only imagine how angry I was. But she didn't believe you. She even thought that you were me. And if our mother thought that I was an incoherent writer, you were the incoherent speaker. The more agitated you were, the more your words didn't make sense to her. You ended up making her more afraid to the point where she fought you. And that was when I used the situation to my advantage. I managed to make you both forget in the nick of time.

I would have killed the two of you. I intended to kill you. But by some sick twist of fate, you two didn't die that night.

But it's like the fates are slowly favoring me. Now that you're gone, dear brother, the only witness to the crime is Yamanaka Ino. And she can't remember. She only trusts me and me alone. But because of that damned Inuzuka, she is starting to doubt me. No matter. Your death is a sign. Ino will come next.

All will go according to plan.

Art is a blast, isn't it?

After finishing the letter, he lit a cigarette and stared into the old but elegant roofs of the Yamanaka estate. As he drew in a deep breath that filled his lungs with smoke, he idly realized how lax the security system was for a place that was supposedly housing an important member of Konoha's nobility. He had to thank Yamanaka Inoichi for being away almost all the time. And he had to thank the incredibly lazy guards that were trusted to care for his sprawling property. They wouldn't find the buried body there unless they suddenly woke up from their daze and actually started patrolling.

The plan would come to a close in a week. He barely got a wink of sleep for the past few days since meeting up with his angel. He should wait for the opportune moment. Right now, chaos was descending. He needed to time everything perfectly. With the supposed death of the Crown Princess of Konohagakure, he couldn't make his move yet. He would let her mourn. He would let her breathe for a while. After all, they were friends, right?

He closed his eyes and picture the many ways her beautiful face would contort when she found Deimaru's dead body in their gardens. Surely, she'd find it, for the lake was a place where she often went to when she was sad. She told him on numerous occasions that it was the place where she and that mutt would often play as children. She had many fond memories of the place.

He wondered briefly if she would be fond of seeing a rotting body emerge from the pool of crystal clear water.

He could barely stop himself from giggling like a little girl. He would give anything to witness the look of utmost horror and trepidation on her face. It would be a sign – a sign from the universe that her father was right. That Deidara was her attacker. That the police got the wrong man. That it was his twin who warned her against Deidara's cruel intentions. That it was Deimaru who was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit and confined in an asylum for constantly screaming at the top of his lungs to no avail, having purportedly cut his own tongue out and losing almost all cognitive abilities. He was no witness. He was just another distraction – another distraction from the fact that the real criminal was lurking in the shadows, biding his time until the day that he could make Yamanaka Ino his.

Yes, it was cruel of him. Cruel of him to beat his own brother half to death while cutting his tongue out for good measure. He didn't care though. Everything was justifiable for the sake of art. And art was a blast… art was a blast because it was fleeting. Yamanaka Ino should only last for a second.

But there was a nagging thought at the back of his mind – a part of him which suddenly wanted to make Ino eternally his. It was a cruel thought and without knowing it, his cigarette had already burned out in his palm as he inadvertently squeezed it, leaving a nasty burn at the center which oddly resembled a shape of a small mouth.

He ignored the pain. He could hardly feel anything after coming down from one of his infamous highs. He just retrieved another stick of cigarette and lit it without even blinking.

The sudden ringing of the phone sounded like a canon blast that pierced the silent dusk. He silently cursed and narrowed his eyes at the caller ID. He suddenly leered.

Finally.

"Hello?" His voice was clear and even, without a trace of anxiety.

"Is this Chikara-san?"

Just the woman I was waiting for, he thought with a widening sneer.

"Yes."

"Are the photos ready?"

"Three days ago. They were already sent to your e-mail. What took you so long?"

A barely suppressed scoff. "You really shouldn't be demanding when you called us for help."

Deidara frowned. "And you really shouldn't be treating your most prized client this way."

"You better be sure that the photos are legitimate."

"They are. You can even pull out your best men to check it out," he answered coolly.

"How much will it cost us?" The tone held a certain edge and agitation to it that made him laugh. Really? Do these fools even think that he was in this for the money?

"It won't cost you a thing," he replied, puffing out another cloud of smoke. "But it will cost you everything if you fail."

"You're not in the position to make threats. We can very well report you to the police."

"Oh really? Let me see you try. You don't know who you're dealing with," he confidently stated. "Anyway, just make sure this gets out on the exact date or else. You're getting a lot of money without spending a single cent on your source. Count yourself lucky."

With that, he cut the call and turned off his phone. He quickly pried open the back cover and extracted a small sim card. Grasping it firmly between four fingers of both hands, he snapped the thing into two and threw it as far away as possible. He noticed that his cigarette had gone out again and he sighed as he pulled out another one.

Before he could light it, a car slicked past the road below him towards the imposing gates of the Yamanaka estate. He recognized the ride immediately. It was the one that belonged to Ino.

He laughed slightly. He knew that Inoichi would convince his daughter to go back to their home for security purposes. It's a little bit too late right now and there was absolutely no way that the walls surrounding all their wealth and splendor would protect his darling daughter from him. On the contrary, this was exactly the place where he planned to make her his.

He knew exactly how to do that.

"The Yamanaka estate," he mumbled, "built in the Era of the Warring Clans, year 485, headed by Yamanaka Ichiro, a revolutionary leader who fought for the throne using his right as the great grandson of Otsutsuki Hagoromo's sister, Otsutsuki Kagura, who married a noble warlord named Yamanaka Inori. A family of modern ideals, they pride themselves of creating an environment where men and women have equal status within their clans. They also developed the first doctors who specialize in illnesses of the mind. But their greatest renown came when they were acclaimed as the family who created ikebana and other refined Konoha traditions that have become central to the history of the country. The house was designed in such a way as to display this love for beauty – patterned and arranged according to the clan's symbol, the bush clover. Aside from the main structures and the new ones today, there are many secret passageways that lead from inside the rooms of the leader and his family to the exit, ensuring them safety and a means of escape whenever there was an attack. However, most passageways have been sealed off because of potential dangers and because they no longer held any use in these times of peace."

He smirked as he continued whispering to the unknown, "There is one room in particular… the hime taishi, the Princess' Ambition… since the Yamanaka clan prided themselves in giving emphasis on the importance of the equality of men and women, they protect their princess not just because of the future alliances that her marriage can bring but because she can also inherit the leadership in the event that there is no son born to the family. Because of this odd tradition, many clans chose to purge the Yamanaka clan for their 'demonic practices' of worshiping women. They began targeting and killing the Yamanaka women, particularly the heiresses. That is why the eldest daughter had a special room wherein there lies a secret passageway in and out of the estate in case of an attack or an assassination."

Another cloud of smoke covered his face. "The Yamanaka clan's current princess… its heiress and sole child, is named Yamanaka Ino. Thankfully, no other person wants to murder you, dear Ino. You were born in a greater, much more peaceful age. But that doesn't mean that you're lucky. No… this time, you're going to be murdered for your beauty. I feel so sorry for you. You didn't explore enough of your own home to know about that secret passageway. Inoichi had it sealed, but I found a way in… I found a way to get past his barricade. Even your precious guards don't know it, Ino. There is a way for me to get to you… a way for me to invade your little dreams and replace them with nightmares."

After a few seconds of staring at the gates that opened and closed slowly, he turned around and walked off, trudging towards his beloved motorbike. The rant he had to himself rendered his mouth dry but he still loved talking to himself.

Patience is a virtue, they say.

He had become patience itself for this day.


"Hi Dad."

Ino yawned widely as she kissed her father on the cheek. Inoichi smiled at his only daughter, relieved to see that she was visibly more relaxed today compared to the weeks prior.

After finding out that the real stalker had actually wormed his way into Ino's life again, the police were instantly alerted by Inoichi, including some 'friends' who had contacts and contracts with vigilante groups. They were all on the prowl for this 'Deidara' person who, unfortunately, seemed to have erased his very existence off the map. The security in the mansion was tripled as Ino was convinced to move out of her condo unit. He was able to sleep better at night and function well if he knew that his daughter was out of harm's way.

But he knew that he wouldn't be totally at peace if they hadn't found the lunatic.

"How was your day?" he asked.

"Dreadful," Ino recalled. "Sasuke and Naruto had a fight."

"Sasuke and Naruto?" Inoichi scratched the back of his head sheepishly as Ino rolled her eyes.

"Uchiha and Uzumaki."

"Oh." A raised eyebrow. "What's wrong with them? Girl problems?"

"I don't think so," Ino replied, sitting on the sofa opposite her father. "Something tells me that there's something big going on with Sasuke and his family."

"Their clan meeting, maybe," Inoichi said. "You know how it goes with us."

Ino only nodded. Although her family prided themselves to be the most forward thinking of all the noble clans in Konoha, they knew that others still practice 'meeting with the Elders' during Christmas break. She was fortunate enough that the Yamanaka clan had broken that mold and still commanded the respect that they deserve despite raising a few eyebrows from traditionalists. And it was all through the hard work and dedication of her father.

That actually worried her for a bit. If that was what Sasuke had been worrying about, then it meant that it could probably involve Sakura, since he just treated her like she was worth nothing. Ino's fists tightened. She hated seeing Sakura cry. She defended her all this time and yet she felt powerless when Sasuke just shunned her best friend. There must be a reason, but then again, no reason was good enough when it came to hurting other people. Especially when it came to hurting Sakura.

"Whatever problems he's having, I'm sure it'll be fine in the end," Inoichi offhandedly assured her, flipping through the pages of a book that he had been reading.

Ino sighed. "Dad?"

"Hm?"

"Do they have any clue as to where Deidara is yet?"

The question was met with the angry look in Inoichi's eyes that Ino had grown accustomed to every time she mentioned the stalker issue. The tightening of his lips answered Ino's question immediately.

"Oh," was all she muttered.

"Did he ever try anything to do anything to you while you were together?" She knew that the question was hard for Inoichi. She had gotten a lot of grief from her father after he found out that she had been 'friends' with Deidara for the past weeks now. What he couldn't stand was that they had even become very close, to the point where she had countless 'alone' sessions with the man.

The question was hard for her too. It was hard because she hadn't told her father about that night when she woke up without any recollection of the events of the past night with Deidara. She hoped that nothing had gone wrong and from what she had observed, he hadn't tried anything on her. The thought made her shiver unconsciously, something which Inoichi picked up instantly.

"Well?" he prodded, this time with eyes barely a millimeter open.

"No." Ino's voice was firm, as though she were also convincing herself.

"Are you sure?"

"Do we really have to have this topic?" Ino impatiently said. "I said, no."

Inoichi nodded and resumed reading. They stayed that way for a couple of minutes, enjoying each other's company without ever saying a word. Some of Ino's worries were gradually alleviated. Her father had a reassuring presence about him that made her feel like a little girl – the only daughter who basked in his love that she didn't even wish for a mother as she grew up. She started to feel more and more relaxed when a knock resounded in the study.

"Enter," Inoichi said, straightening up.

It was Fu. Fu was Ino's cousin – the son of Inoichi's half-brother. He was formally accepted into the Yamanaka clan despite being a bastard and rapidly rose in the family's ranks, eventually earning the position of Inoichi's personal assistant due to his intellect. He was three years older than Ino and the girl treated him like an older brother.

"Fu!" she exclaimed, gliding towards the young man and embracing him, making the other blush. But the embarrassment didn't stop him from hugging her back.

"I'm glad you're back," Fu said, patting her head. "You'll be much safer here."

"As pointed out to me a hundred times already," Ino said with a hand on her hips. "So…?"

"What brings you here?" Inoichi added, smiling slightly at the two.

Fu immediately straightened and bow. "Hai. There's a visitor for you, Inoichi-san."

"Who?"

"Inuzuka Kiba."

Inoichi's eyebrows shot up so high that they threatened to disappear into his hairline. Ino reddened so much as she stood there, stupefied.

What?! What could possibly bring Kiba to the Yamanaka estate? She thought that he was still away, but apparently, he was already back without even texting or calling her. Did he really think that surprising her by coming to the one place in the world he would rather avoid due to its many memories was a good thing? Well, she did want to introduce him to her father formally but not in this setup! Not in a time where she was desperately hiding the truth from him about Deidara lest he freak out and scold her again.

What was he doing here anyway? Did he suddenly have an epiphany that made him want to let bygones be bygones with Inoichi? There were so many thoughts raging in Ino's head that she didn't even register the fact that Inoichi already gave Fu permission to let the visitor in. She didn't even notice that Kiba was already standing at the doorway, eyeing her with amusement.

"Ino," he said, looking utterly bemused.

She was startled out of her thoughts as she gaped at him. "Kiba!"

"Aren't you going to let our visitor in?" Inoichi sounded much more amused at the two. At this, Ino whirled around so fast that she felt her neck complain at the sudden movement. To her shock, Inoichi wasn't at all angry with Kiba's presence. It was true that he was surprised, but it was already gone. Ino somehow had a bad feeling about this.

"What…?" she started to say, looking back at Kiba. Her neck protested again. "What are you doing here?"

"Just wanted to visit you," Kiba said. "I'm sorry for the sudden intrusion, Inoichi-san."

"No problem," the man said, waving his hand dismissively. "What do you want to have? Tea? Coffee? Juice? My daughter?"

"DAD!" Ino was mortified by her father's statement.

Kiba just grinned. "I'm fine with anything, Inoichi-san. But you don't have to bother on my behalf. Just your daughter is fine."

Inoichi sighed. "I regret ever saying that you should find a man, Ino."

Ino stared at her father in alarm.

"I finally realized that I don't think I'll ever be ready to see you with anyone and leave your poor father all on his lonesome," Inoichi said almost wistfully, dramatically dabbing the side of his eyes.

"I won't be taking her away from you, Inoichi-san," Kiba assured the older man with a warm smile. "She would always be your daughter."

"That's reassuring," Inoichi replied. "But you shouldn't stop your date on my behalf. We've already talked, Inuzuka, and I don't think I ever want to cause you any more grief, especially the – "

"Hold on!" Ino interjected after seconds of seemingly watching a tennis match, her eyes roving back and forth intently between the two men. "What do you mean 'we've already talked'?! Talked about what exactly?"

"Well," Kiba said, bearing that usual expression that he had whenever he was about to say the truth, which was often, "I actually tried calling you a few times but you weren't answering your phone. I managed to get your home number through Yugito-san. And well, your dad answered the phone."

"And you just decided to come here?" Ino asked, alarmed. "He just looked as shocked as I was that you came along!"

"I knew," Inoichi quipped. "You have to inherit your acting talents somewhere, chibisuke."

Ino visibly blushed at the old moniker. Kiba was chuckling openly. "Don't these discussions usually happen in person?"

"I never pegged you as someone who was old-fashioned," Inoichi told his daughter. "Just go, Ino. Stop pestering me. I'm reading."

Ino almost grabbed the book that her old man was reading. Instead, she planted her feet firmly in front of him and said, "What did you tell him?"

"I know everything," Kiba said, his expression suddenly grim. "About Deidara."

She felt her heart break out into a run. Her eyes rested on her father, who was looking at the two of them with a blank expression.

"A-And you're mad at me?" Ino asked. "You're mad that I didn't tell you too soon? Come to rub it in my face that you told me so?"

To her surprise, Kiba smirked. "If I wanted to do that, I would have said so the moment I saw you. But I didn't. Meaning, I'm not angry. I'm just happy that you chose to accept your father's suggestion that you live with him again."

"And of course, I also asked Kiba to look after you," Inoichi told her, putting the book on his table and crossed his arms. "I'm sure you won't object."

"I…"

Before she could say another word, Kiba approached her and embraced her. "I'm just happy that nothing happened to you. The issues between our families… the past… we've put it behind us. Your father and I only want one thing, and that is to protect you."

Inoichi cleared his throat. "I'm glad that we agreed on a number of things, Kiba, but I don't think that includes hugging my beloved daughter in front of me. I prefer you keep your hands to yourself."

At that, the Inuzuka instantly jumped away from Ino, smiling sheepishly and bowing apologetically towards the irritated older man. Ino, whose mind was still reeling with information overload, just stared at the two men. She was dumbfounded by their reaction to everything. It was clear now that there was an alliance formed between the two most precious men of her life – an alliance forged out of the desire to protect her.

"I'm sorry for that, Inoichi-san," Kiba said.

"Off you go," Inoichi said with finality. "I'm reaching the final chapters of this book and I really don't want to be disturbed. Whatever questions you have Ino, Kiba will answer on my behalf. You just have to trust us and relax for a while."

Ino nodded mutely and followed Kiba as he led her to the winding corridors of the mansion. They finally stepped out into the garden, making her wonder belatedly how he remembered the way despite not being inside the place for many years. Suddenly, she was thrown back to a time when the sun was a little kinder, when the birds chirped a little happier, and when the trees seemed less ominous.

And yet, even with the fear that engulfed her entire world because of one crazy bastard, she was now standing in the garden with the boy, now a young man, who had shed so much light into her life that it was overwhelming. She was now back at the same place where she spent so many of her childhood moments in and she spent the best of them with the same person who was holding her hand at that moment. Said man was staring at the sky's waning light, signaling that it was already four in the afternoon.

He gave her a disarming smile, "Remember when we played tag? You would be it for hours. You couldn't catch me."

"I so could," Ino said.

"I'm not really inclined to believe someone who's lost her memories."

At that, Ino suddenly swung her hand and slapped Kiba hard against his arm.

"OW!" he yelled.

"You're it!"

"That's it! I'm coming after you!"

Ino laughed as she ran as fast as she could across the garden. The Yamanaka estate's garden was renowned as the biggest privately owned garden in Konoha. Most of the flowers from their renowned shops were taken from the Blossom Paradise. Many people have tried to gain access and asked permission to tour the place. However, Inoichi was very strict about that, given the fact that many tourists and some spies tried to pluck some precious flowers. The Imperial family officially sanctioned the Blossom Paradise as a protected historical site in the country with the Yamanaka family as its caretaker.

She glided along the neatly trimmed grass, leaving her slippers and going barefoot. The foliage looked in full bloom today and she was always mesmerized every time she strolled the place. She whipped her head back to look at Kiba, who was closing in on her with surprising speed. She squealed and quickly sidestepped a small tree that was blocking her path. She was careful not to disturb any of the flowers and bushes that bloomed. She hoped that Kiba would also watch his step.

She almost screamed when she felt his fingers brush her skin. Luckily, she managed to escape him in the nick of time as she laughed uproariously.

"You can't catch me!"

"Ha!" he said from behind her. The sky was growing darker as they both looked up. Dark clouds were rolling in.

"It's gonna rain," she breathlessly said as she continued running.

"If you really think that that's going to stop me from chasing you, you're kidding yourself," Kiba told her, his smile almost feral.

"Eep!"

A single raindrop hit Ino's face, sliding from the top of her cheek downwards, making it seem like she was crying. Before she knew it, the downpour was on them, drenching them before they could seek the sanctuary of the trees all around them.

"It's raining!"

"The better it is!" Kiba retorted as he sprinted towards her. Her hesitation caused him to tumble against her, making them roll down the small hill that led to that place – that place where they often met as children.

The lake.

"Kiba…" Ino said, looking up to see that Kiba had landed above her, his face inches away from hers. She could hear the distant sound of the rain slapping against the ground and the water.

"Ino…"

Kiba could hear it. The sound of a song that gave him hope… that song that he wrote when he felt like the two of them couldn't overcome the challenges. This was another time wherein they would be tested. But he knew that his love couldn't be shaken. There was no way that Deidara would stand in their way. There was no way that he would let Ino be hurt. He would protect her no matter what.

(A/N: I don't own Please Don't Stop the Rain by James Morrison)

I don't know where I crossed the line,
Was it something that I said or didn't say this time?

The silence was palpable. The beating of their hearts was in harmony. He lowered his head. She tilted hers. They were meeting at that spot.

And I don't know if it's me or you,
But I can see the skies are changing,
No longer shades of blue…
I don't know which way it's gonna go.

"Whatever happens," he whispered, "I will always be at your side."

If it's going to be a rainy day,
There's nothing we can do to make it change,
We can pray for sunny weather,
But that won't stop the rain.

You're feeling like you've got no place to run,
I can be your shelter 'til its done,
We can make this last forever,
So please don't stop the rain.

"Thank you," she replied. "I will be here for you too. Always and forever."

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall,
Please don't stop the rain…
Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall,
Please don't stop the rain…

They kissed – kissed under the rain. It was supposed to be heavy from the sounds that were made all around them, but they paid no mind. Kiba was shielding Ino from the onslaught, and even with the cold, they were both excruciatingly hot. Their lips danced against each other, moving in perfect timing. Their bodies fit – his planes to her curves. He held on to her as if she would disappear at any moment, shivering against all the sensations he was feeling. She couldn't help but tremble against his fiery attentions, wanting to move closer and to feel all of him against her.

"I love you," she murmured against his lips as she paused to catch her breath.

I thought that time was on our side,
I've put in far too many years to let this pass us by…

"I love you too," he replied. He smiled – the best and most disarming smile she had ever seen on his face. There was always something about Kiba before that felt like he was holding back. She knew that his candor was almost limitless, but the sadness that hid behind his eyes couldn't be denied. There was still a concealed pain there which was perhaps the fruit of all the years of pain.

Because of her. Because of her father. Because of the Inuzuka's exile and removal from service. Because of his father. Because of her mother. Because of all the challenges that he had to face to be where he was now.

But all traces of the pain were gone now. It was replaced by such love that instinctively made Ino's throat constrict. This young man loved her – always her. There was never any other girl. She was the only one.

You see life is a crazy thing,
There'll be good times and there'll be bad times,
And everything in between…
And I don't know which ways it's gonna go…

But all traces of the pain were gone now. It was replaced by such love that instinctively made Ino's throat constrict. This young man loved him – always her. There was never any other girl. She was the only one.

If it's going to be a rainy day,
There's nothing we can do to make it change,
We can pray for sunny weather,
But that won't stop the rain…

Feeling like you've got no place to run,
I can be your shelter 'til it's done,
We can make this last forever,
So please don't stop the rain…

"I can't take it," she said, her lips trembling as a fresh batch of tears melded with the rain that fell on her face. She draped her arm across her eyes and began sobbing. "I-I can't…"

Kiba was startled but he immediately understood. He tried to pry Ino's arm from her eyes. "Don't. Let me see your eyes."

"No." She sounded like a little girl.

"What can't you take?" he coaxed.

"Your love…" she choked. "It's too much."

"You deserve it, Ino," he gently declared. "And if you don't accept it, it's just going to rot somewhere and die."

"Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall,
Please don't stop the rain…
Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall,
Please don't stop the rain…"

"Let it fall?" she repeated, wondering why he suddenly sang the lyrics of a song she had never heard before.

"Your tears… the rain," Kiba said. "Whatever happens, we'll let it happen. But we're going to be in this forever."

Oh, we're a little closer now,
In finding what life's all about.
Yeah, I know you just can't stand it,
When things don't go your way,
But we've got no control over what happens anyway…

The sky was already growing darker by the second. They must have stayed that way for an hour now. They gingerly sat up. Ino laughed when Kiba shook his head like a wet dog.

"Stop that!" she said.

"I think we need to go back soon," he told her.

"I think so too." The rain wasn't going to stop any time soon.

If it's going to be a rainy day,
There's nothing we can do to make it change,
We can pray for sunny weather,
But that won't stop the rain.

Feeling like you've got no place to run,
I can be your shelter 'til it's done,
We can make this last forever,
So please don't stop the rain.

They stood up with Kiba supporting Ino. They took one last look at the lake.

"Remember that time?" she said, her voice almost a whisper.

"Yes."

"We used to play here when we were kids."

He chuckled. "I said I remembered."

"I can't believe that I forgot all about you."

His brown eyes sought refuge in her brilliant blue ones. He was instantly reminded of the sky on a fine day – not too hot, not too cold. A warm feeling erupted inside of him despite the cold rain that beat against their bodies. "You remember me now."

She hung her head. "But still… all the years lost."

"It doesn't really matter, Ino. We have each other now."

She nodded as she stared at the water, its usually calm surface filled with countless ripples. Seconds later, something marred the lake other than the droplets – a seemingly large, solid mass that was hard to make out in the waning sunlight.

"What that?" she asked Kiba, whose eyebrows were already furrowed. It seemed that he had seen the same thing.

"I… I'm not sure," he said, feeling a sinking sensation at the pits of his stomach. Was that… a foot?!

"A-A foot?" Ino stammered, suddenly growing cold.

Kiba whipped out his phone and turned on its flashlight feature. Luckily, the devices nowadays were all waterproof or else he wouldn't have dared. The sudden pool of light streamed down to the solid object that was now slowly making its way to the banks of the lake. He knew that the body of water wasn't that deep, but it still was twelve feet at its deepest. It was called a lake because of the huge and natural expanse that it covered in the Yamanaka estate, with its water coming from the mountains a few kilometers away.

"That…" Ino said as she fell on her knees. When the light made it clear to them what exactly the thing was, she screamed at the top of her lungs in horror.

It was a scream that he would remember forever.

A body was floating on the surface, blurred by the water coming down from the sky. Long, blonde hair formed a ghostly halo across his severely deteriorated face. His skin was a sickly gray, making it apparent that he was already deprived of life. His mouth was covered with something that looked eerily like clay.

He had no clothes on, that much was apparent. His foot faced them, making it clear that his other one must still be underwater. And his eyes… his eyes revealed nothing but empty sockets as though both balls were plucked out without much effort.

But what startled them the most was not the disturbingly haunting picture that the corpse displayed. It was his face…

Deidara's face.

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…

"Let it fall." He heard Kiba. He repeated his words. The scream was heard. He smiled to himself.

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…

"You're going to beg me to stop the rain." That was his final whisper before he went back underground.


Two horrors happened to Yamanaka Ino within that week.

First was the discovery that the body that had mysteriously appeared in the Yamanaka estate belonged to no other than Deimaru, Deidara's twin brother who was wrongfully accused of stalking Ino. The question was, he was already buried in the cemetery of the asylum, so what was his body doing a hundred or so miles away from its original resting place? And from what the police said, he had at least one eye – the eye that Ino mistakenly stabbed in self defense when she thought that he was the stalker. But the corpse had no eyes.

And it also had no clothes that were given to him as a last show of respect.

What happened?

Who brought it there?

There was only one answer to the 'who' question, and that was Deidara.

But how did he manage to get past the guards?

Twenty-four hours later, another disaster struck Ino. She just found out that Hyuuga Hinata was dead – dead in an explosion after her car fell almost a hundred feet off the cliff in the mountains that separated Konoha from its neighboring countries.

The convoy had thirteen people with three cars. In Hinata's limousine, there were five people – her, Chie, two guards, and the driver. There were thirteen bodies found, much to everyone's dread. Twelve were positively identified as the members of Hinata's party, but the last corpse was burnt so badly that it was almost beyond recognition and identification. The police were taking more time in identifying the body, but they were almost certain that it was the Crown Princess. They were just waiting for the test results to return.

"It's not her… no… that can't possibly be her…"

She could still hear Naruto, who was mumbling to himself the minute she and Kiba arrived to the Imperial palace to find out what was going on. There was a surprising lack of people from their group there. The only ones who were present were Sakura, who was sobbing uncontrollably and Neji, who wasn't moving an inch and just staring into space. Sasuke was nowhere to be found and Ino didn't dare ask. Tenten was also missing.

"NO! THAT'S NOT HER! I KNOW IT'S NOT HER!"

Naruto screams pierced her aching brain as she leaned against Kiba, who was stroking her head absently. He was also staring at nothing, feeling his grief consume him. Hinata was also his friend, despite not knowing her as long as the others. He felt her kindness and her quiet strength. She held Naruto together, and now she was gone.

Ino couldn't bring herself to cry. She was so shaken that she felt like her soul no longer belonged to her body. Even Kiba's presence was no comfort.

Two people had died. One on her behalf.

She refused to believe that Hinata had died. The laboratory was taking a very long time to identify the last corpse. There was just something wrong with it. Naruto kept on saying that it wasn't Hinata – that the body looked different. But no one could be sure, judging from what they said about the thing being burnt beyond recognition.

There was just no proof that she could be dead.

There was also no proof that she could be alive.

"I can't believe it," Kiba said in a hoarse voice.

She said nothing and did nothing. There was nothing to say. There was nothing to do.

"Who could have done such a thing?"

She flinched. "It was an accident. The police said so."

"Do you really trust them?" The question had a point. The police have proven to be a failure in many aspects. They trusted them one too many times and all those times, they have failed.

"Then what should we do?" she uttered brokenly. "Take matters to our own hands? Find Hinata's body? No one could have survived that blast."

"Thirteen bodies… one unidentified body," Kiba muttered. "That one could possibly be another person and not Hinata."

"Who else could have been there?!" Ino impatiently exclaimed. "Stop planting ideas in your head, Kiba! You're not a detective! Let Hinata's friends grieve! Let Naruto accept the truth!"

"I was Hinata's friend too," he said through gritted teeth. "You don't know how much she's helped our relationship… how she helped me accept you."

What?

"Is it wrong to hope for the best?" he challenged.

Kiba didn't understand. He promised to protect Ino. He wanted her to know that what was happening around them was bordering on bizarre and illogical. It seemed that the only relationship that was standing strong amidst all trials was him and Ino.

According to Sai, who was strangely the only person at that time rational enough to answer any questions, Sasuke was gone. He just up and left to a place that even his own family doesn't know of.

Tenten seemed to have disappeared as well. No one dared to ask the members of the Hyuuga family, who were all in various states of grief. Neji was so emotionless that Kiba feared that he would snap at any second – the proverbial calm before the storm.

"I'm sorry," Ino sobbed. "I… I just can't believe it! What's going on?!"

"Shh…" Kiba comforted her. "I'm here."

Ino could not find any consolation in him. Everyone else was drowning in misery. She could still see Naruto's wild, grief-stricken face ordering around all the members of the Imperial staff to find out exactly what was going on. No one could understand his commands – all of which were getting more and more unintelligible as time passed by. At the end of the twenty hours since the time of the incident, Naruto fell on his knees and began crying so heartbreakingly that Ino could not help but feel her own heart shatter with him.

No one deserved to die so young, much less the most loving and considerate person she had ever met – Hinata.

Naruto's unearthly cries… his bellows… his yells…

The country of Konoha wept because it was quite possible that they heard their Crown Prince's cries echo through the night.

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…

She felt her hand fist the front of her dress as her heart clenched so painfully that it was getting harder to breathe.

"Ino…" Kiba said, embracing her tightly.

Her mobile phone suddenly rang.

She immediately fished for the device in her dress purse and opened it. "Hello?"

She knew that her voice resembled that of a bullfrog's.

"I sent you a link," Ino registered Yugito's voice who spoke in a clipped tone. "Watch it. Now."

"I-I can't…" she stammered. "Can it wait? You know that something just – "

"I know what happened," the older woman cut her talent off almost rudely. "But this is also important. And this can't wait."

Before Ino could say anything else, the line went dead.

"What was that all about?" Kiba asked, concern etched on his face.

"I was Yugito-san," Ino replied. "Wants me to watch something."

"Can't it wait?"

"Apparently not." She opened her messages and touched the link that Yugito sent her. It led directly to an Internet video in what looked like a very dark and seedy site.

She squinted as she seemed to see flesh – skin on skin. There seemed to be two people in the video but it wasn't clear because the area was dark, only illuminated now and then by the flash of lights. It was becoming apparent that the setting was in a club, judging by the blaring music that erupted from her phone that was becoming incomprehensible by the second. Before she could even react to what she was seeing, Kiba was one step ahead of her.

Boys, she thought dryly.

"Porno?" Kiba said with mild amusement. "Who knew that Yugito had such kinky hobbies?"

Ino glared at Kiba as she watched the scene that was unfolding in her phone. If this was indeed porno, then she had no idea why Yugito would want her to watch it as such a time. And why would she even think that Ino would consider watching something like it? But since she trusted Yugito, she consented.

That was when she felt that something was off. The place where the video was shot in looked oddly familiar. People were meshed together in a profane Friday night ritual that took off most of their stress, unmindful of the sweat and germs that they transferred towards each other as they happily swayed to the beat. Drinks were limitlessly passed around. Couples had their tongues entangled. This was not a place that Ino was ever exposed to since she was still, technically, a minor. But she knew that she had been to a place like it. She had been in one when she was with Deidara.

When they talked to one another and decided to close the curtain on any possibility of them being in a relationship.

That was when reality started to sink in. The camera zoomed in to a girl wearing a tight purple tank top and skinny black jeans. The purple pumps were unmistakable even in the dark. Ino felt her throat dry up as she saw herself with her long blonde hair in disarray, dancing against a pole with a stripper who was touching her almost everywhere.

"What the…?" she heard Kiba growl.

She didn't look at him, for fear of seeing any sign of condemnation. But really, why should he be acting all pious when he himself had been shot by the paparazzi as he snuck into bars and clubs even way back when he was 14. Even with that justification, she knew that Kiba was, for all intents and purposes, a rockstar. It was perfectly normal for people in his circle to be caught breaking the rules. And even with that, he was never reported to have danced with a stripper in very suggestive positions like what video-Ino was doing at the moment.

And there was no video of him posted on the Internet. She would know because she was a Kiba fan.

Her heart pounded against her chest as she watched herself do a slow dip. By this time, people already flocked around her, apparently noticing the presence of the most famous actress of their generation. They were all hollering, screaming, and clapping. Some were even lewdly hooting and throwing bills at her. That was when video-Ino decided to turn up the heat by shedding her blouse, leaving her in her lacy black bra.

Kiba was stunned. He really didn't know what he should be watching. When Yugito called Ino, he suspected that it was to check up on her. With everything that was going on, the older woman would be worried about her talent's condition and if she was still fit for any projects that were already scheduled.

But now he was looking at her girlfriend in a club. From the timing of things, it was obvious to him that the video was just taken recently. Most probably, it had happened while he was away. The Ino she was seeing was completely like the rumors that once circulated around her – that she was a promiscuous, spoiled princess who would go out of her way to do what she wanted. She tried desperately to prove people wrong by doing her work excellently. And he knew Ino. She wouldn't do something like this.

And he could see by the look on her face that she was just as shocked as he was.

That was when a hand shot out to grab Ino from the stage. The next thing Kiba saw turned his vision completely red.

Another shock of familiar long, blonde hair invaded the screen. He was dressed in all black and he looked very relaxed as he pulled Ino into a dark corner where the camera followed. It seemed that there was a third party shooting the entire scene and Kiba felt his heart pound aggressively against his chest. Somehow, he knew what was coming next and he felt sick to his stomach.

Oh my god, Ino thought. She was completely petrified as she stared into Deidara's face. It was now clear to her that he was the type of man who could heinous acts towards other people. His face was now void of the sweet and caring man she met months ago. He now looked vindictive – his face taking up a very cruel expression that she had never seen on anyone she knew.

Her hands grew clammy as she watched herself being led to a dark room at the back of the club. A soft chuckle came from the man who was holding the camera as his hand shot out from behind, pointing towards a bed with sickeningly crimson sheets and pillows. Deidara whispered something in her ear as she giggled. She looked so intoxicated that she was actually amazed that she hadn't passed out yet. That was when a realization suddenly dawned on her.

She might have been drugged.

She didn't know for sure since she didn't know what the aftereffects were. When she woke up, she knew she had drunk the night before since she had all the symptoms of a hangover. Her mind was a total blank and the video was telling her exactly what happened to her.

The next scenes were unbearable to look at. The moment she saw Deidara kiss her full on the mouth, her senses stopped working. And of course, it's only right that this author stop describing exactly what was going on in the room because the story is Rated T, not M. The author doesn't want to risk antagonizing the site's administrators and some hawk-eyed readers who might report the story.

And of course, Yamanaka Ino couldn't stand watching the clip anymore. She instantly stopped the video and closed the window in her phone. She didn't even register the fact that she was already crying. She couldn't believe what just happened. The blanks were slowly being filled in and she didn't even know if she wanted to know what was going on. As far as she could tell, the video was already posted online and it was sure to hit the computers of every fan out there. She was only waiting for the news to be broadcasted. It was only a matter of time before shit hits the fan.

When shit hits the fan…

Don't turn it on, idiot.

It was one of the last things she heard her own mother say. She vaguely realized that there was no point to it when other people threw the shit and turned on the fan for her.

"Ino… what did he do to you?" Kiba said in a clipped tone. That was when she remembered that Kiba was with her, watching the video. She immediately turned to him and instantly regretted ever looking at him in the first place.

Unlike her, there were no tears in his eyes. He wasn't even looking at her. He was looking straight ahead and would have burned holes through the wall that divided them from the limousine's driver. His mouth was set in a furious line that made her involuntarily shudder in fear. Even with his hushed tone, it was clear that his body was just waiting for the right moment to strike and kill anyone within reach.

And he was asking what Deidara did to her.

"I… I don't know," was all that she could manage.

"You didn't tell me about this," he added, "that you went out."

"Because – "

"STOP THE CAR!"

His yell made Ino jump so suddenly that she bumped her head against the roof. The car came to a screeching halt as the window that separated them from the driver slid open.

"What's going on, sir?" the man addressed Kiba.

"I'm getting out."

Ino furiously shook her head as tears streamed down her face. "No! K-Kiba, let's talk!"

Kiba shook her off as she clung desperately to him. She knew that he wasn't really fighting because he didn't want to hurt her physically. He wasn't meeting her pleading gaze as he opened the door with such force that she thought it would be unhinged. He went out without so much as a word, almost slamming the door against Ino, who followed him.

"Kiba!" Ino screamed as he walked briskly away. "Listen to me! I don't remember a thing! I don't remember what happened! I'm sorry!"

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…

She suddenly stopped in her tracks and fell on her knees at the sidewalk, alarming the guard and the chauffeur who got out of the car to follow their young mistress. She abandoned all pride as she called out to him at the top of her lungs, "KIBA!"

At that, Inuzuka Kiba turned.

His heart stopped when she called his name and he was stunned when he saw her almost sprawled on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably as she begged for him to listen on her knees. When he looked at her blue eyes, he realized his mistake of doing so. He felt an overwhelming surge of pity. He couldn't take seeing Ino that way. But there was also the fact that this was the final straw – this would be the last time that she would hurt him this way. Hadn't he told her so many times that Deidara couldn't be trusted? Hadn't he given her everything to the point that he had been willing to have her maintain the friendship she had with the creepy bastard? Granted, it was because he thought he knew her. He thought that she was the type of person who would rebel when people prevented her from doing something.

But apparently, everything that he thought of her was wrong and everything that everyone else had been saying about her was right. Yamanaka Ino had indeed changed. She was someone with no regard to rules at all. She was a party girl. She was a spoiled brat. She wanted to have both him and Deidara and she was getting enormous pleasure from having two men salivating after her. Despite all the warnings, she chose to be with Deidara to the point that she would be burned. She only heeded caution when it was proven by the people around her that Deidara was the stalker. But it was too late.

Should he be angry? Hell, yes. He just witnessed his own girlfriend – the woman he loved – have sex with her own stalker. She went to an unknown club even though she knew that it was a dangerous place to be. She knew that people would take advantage of her. When you go to clubs in downtown Konoha, people had drugs in their pocket. She went there and kept it a secret from him. She was asking so much for trouble and attention and he knew that this was a trait that she had ever since she was a little girl.

"I didn't remember," she was sobbing, "I don't remember… I'm sorry… I'm sorry."

There it was again. That line – I don't remember. How many times should he excuse her from hurting him? He knew that he promised that he would be there for her. He knew that he swore that he would protect her from everything. But what was he to do when she was intentionally pushing him away? What was he to do when any form of protection that he was giving her was being disregarded? How could he handle all the accidents, all the crap, that she had brought on to herself?

Would he forsake his own heart for someone who didn't give it any importance? Did Ino even love him? Should he still trust her after what happened? His heart and head hurt like hell. Someone was certainly laughing up there. He was a person who gave everything he had wholeheartedly. It would take a miracle for someone to restore the broken pieces once he was shattered, especially his trust. But when it came to Ino, he decided to risk it, knowing that it was only by circumstance that they weren't together. He thought that for sure, right now, the timing was right.

But the fates were conspiring against him again. It seemed that nothing in this world could ever bring them together. Something always happened when they were with each other. Was this a way of telling them that they weren't meant to be? Should he stop fighting?

He should. For her sake. For his sake. All his life, he devoted to her and the memories that they shared. When he accepted her again in his life, he thought that they should just forget the past and make new moments. But that was obviously out of the question.

Because Ino would rather hold on to all the senseless things around her rather than focus on the things that matter the most. Just like when she held on to her senseless love for Nara Shikamaru, a boy who couldn't even look at her as opposed to seeing Kiba, who would give her the world. Just like when she chose to 'protect' Kiba and her senseless reputation by destroying a friendship that mattered to her. Just like when she chose senseless relationships with potentially dangerous strangers as opposed to the sincere and heartfelt consolation that she could get from her own best friend. Just like when she chose senseless independence over a father who would very much want to see his only child grow up in their own home – protected from any harm that might come her way.

She took everything for granted. Maybe it would take a huge loss for her to make her wake up from her dream. She couldn't get everything that she wanted.

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…

Rain began to pour down once again.

Kiba hailed a cab that was passing by as Ino cried louder.

"PLEASE!" Her cries were tearing his heart asunder. But he had to do this.

"DON'T!" he yelled when she started running towards him. "STAY WHERE YOU ARE!"

"Kiba… please…" she said, shaking so much that a single whisper of the wind could have knocked her out.

He held his ground as he opened the door to the taxi. "You want a lot of things, Ino. But you don't want me. You just think you do. Go live your own life where you don't have to sacrifice people who actually care for people who just want to use you. Leave me alone."

"Kiba." Her sobs were beginning to sound otherworldly to him.

"I don't ever want to see you again."

The last thing Yamanaka Ino saw were the haze of her own tears, the heavy downpour of rain, and the dimming lights of a cab that sped away into the waning light.

Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall…