A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Formula Arc, Arena

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: Welp, new record for longest chapter yet, at-HOLY SMACK! 14,055 words!

This took longer than usual because of the sheer about of words and plot and such. I'm also drawing a couple of cute pictures of Sora and co. for the upcoming 200k words milestone! Well, here the chapter is. Some of you guys have been asking for this for SO long... I remember what you asked for Vixeona, ehehehe... Enjoy~

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the cannon characters! Nor do I own any other movie or comic or music references that may be... referenced to.

WARNING! RATED M! For word overload, overt fluff and suggestive reading material. I think you know what that means~

Formula Arc,

Chapter Twenty-Four: "Arena"

"When I'm bored, I send a text to a random number saying; 'I hid the body... now what?'" -Yuno Hoo

Perspective:

空 (Sky)

Sora, May 4th: A Road in the Middle of Nowhere
Mission: 'Retrieve the Golden Statue!'

The three of us were hiding in the trees waiting for any sign of the thieves we were hired to apprehend to show up, they were to come from either of two paths. Kakashi-sensei had split us up into two teams, him being a team all by himself and one comprised of us genin. If they ended up coming our way we were to light a flare of sorts with this 'Lightning barrel' contraption to signal Scarecrow and to not act alone.

Ridiculous to think that the boys wouldn't listen to that order, right?

After giving us our orders he shunshined away, leaving me to deal with the two bickering boys. Duckie was being especially provoking today, easily igniting the Hero into a fight. As a result I got electrocuted when they ignored the sadistic Scarecrow! Today wasn't off to a great start to begin with so I wasn't really surprised when things when downhill.

Literally.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First things first, the thieves showed up on our path. I completely blame the Protagonist's Aura that revolves around everything Naruto and Sasuke do. We can't leave the village without something unexpected happening. I wonder if Scarecrow has noticed this trend? Or maybe this is average by his standards because he's got some of the Protagonist's Aura himself from his close exposure to Obito and the Yondaime Hokage?

Stop thinking about that like it's a real thing and pay some attention! One of the horses just nearly fell down the cliff. Terra chastised me.

Sure enough, the ground gave way under it's footing and it nearly-Holy smack! That guy has Spiderman-jutsu! He shot some kinda of goo stuff out of his wrists and caught the horse before it could fall off the path. That's not fair! I wanna be like Spiderman! Terra groaned in exasperation.

"Hey you!" Spidey-wannabe shouted, "Idiot! Careful with the treasure!"

The treasure is on the horse, in that box? Thanks for letting us know, wannabe! Now all we have to do is wait for them to pass by so I can shoot this barrel and-Both of the boys straightened their backs in synch.

Oh no. C'mon, please, guys don't-

-Intent spiked in their chakra and I immediately began to reach for the lightning barrel. They jumped and I set the barrel down on the branch and set it off. I heard the horse rear and surprised shouts as smoke fanned out around me and I watched the lightning bolt rocket towards the sky and-

-What the fudge!? The signal got caught in that goop stuff! I whip my head around to see Naruto and Sasuke rolling downhill with the horse while wannabe shouted at the other men to capture me. As Spidey-wannabe ran after my two idiots who were rolling down the hill in a fashion I will not fail to tease them about later, I was left to deal with the others. Great.

Thankfully none of their chakra was anything above civilian levels, the only actual semi-trained opponent just ran off. The odds were me verses four non-shinobi thugs.

I got this.

My heart began to pound in my chest and I felt that familiar feeling of adrenaline rushing through my veins, slowing the world around me. Leaping into the air away from what I recognized as Kusari-fundo flying at me, I dashed behind the nearest tree to get out of their line of sight before attaching myself to the side of the tree and running straight up.

First thing's first, need to contact Kakashi-sensei.

I fell to my knees and slid under the latest chain thrown at me and immediately got back to my feet and ran higher up my tree. Pulling out a flash bang kunai I deflected another chain to the side and wrapped a specialized paper bomb on the hilt of my weapon and tied ninja wire to the ring and began swinging it in a circle, fast. Once it reached a high enough velocity I swung it forwards and let go, pulsing my chakra into it as it flew upward through the leaves.

Scarecrow may have said not to act alone but I don't really have a choice in the matter. I can't dodge forever and these guys seem to have a lot of chains and energy. I pushed off the tree and flipped through the air in a way that had my heart soaring, I landing in a crouch on the ground and started taking account of my screwed up situation. When I looked up, the scene around me was playing in slow-motion as I relayed the facts in my head.

Four men, all bigger than me in size and probably stronger in brute force, also armed with Kusari-fundo and who knows what else. Still, these guys are civilian thugs. If I get taken down by these chumps I'll never live it down. I'm outnumbered but I'm also a trained shinobi, I have to be fast and clever is all.

I got this.

My foot hit the ground hard as I propelled myself towards the guy farthest from the group who also happened to be the bulkiest, I ducked under a slow swing from the man and kicked my foot out, hitting the back of his knee and making him buckle to his knees. I ignored the revulsion I felt at the necessary physical contact I made and pulled out another kunai and hit him in the base of the neck, he slumped to the ground with a small grunt.

The other three gawked at me for a second and I felt a very not-nice smile pull at my lips. Above us there was a 'BANG!' that echoed through the air. If that didn't get Scarecrow's attention, I'll eat my boot.

'Three left' my mind whispered.

I can't take all three at once, wannabe will be back soon if he didn't catch the boys, he'll be the real problem if these guys are still standing. Think! I need to incapacitate them. How? Wires? Barrier? Bombs? Genjutsu?

Genjutsu.

Picking out the one with the most unrefined chakra I focused in on him and folded my hands into Bird and Rat seals, creating a Genjutsu that was once described as a 'bastardised' version of the Demonic Hell Viewing Technique.

I pulled an image from Before, a particularly nasty looking Freddy Krueger came to the front of my mind. With practiced ease, I mixed my energies and focused my chakra towards the man. It took around four seconds for me to do this and his reaction was instant. His mouth stretched open in horror and his eyes went wide and glazed over, Kusari-fundo slipping out of his grasp. The guy with the comb-over slumped to his knees and fell face-first into the dirt, making small whimpering noises.

...woah.

YES! It actually worked in a combat situation! Oh my gosh! I can't wait to tell Hinata about-dodge the long-haired guy running at me with the knife he pulled from somewhere. Pulling out another kunai I parry his thrust toward the ground, exposing his ribs for me to drive my knee into. As he grunted from my attack I lifted my arm to bring the hilt of my weapon down on him, but I felt something cold snaked around my arm and pull. I was lifted from my feet and dragged across the ground towards the fourth guy, with bandages around his head.

Thinking quick, I twisted my hand and wrapped it around the chain to get a hold and pulled myself back to my feet. There were heavy footsteps behind me and I cycled chakra into my arms and legs to yank the chain in my grasp and turn around, throwing the chain guy off-balance and intercepting the long-haired guy's attempted backstab.

Stopping the guy from stabbing me, I noticed the other guy was about to get his baring's back and pull on the chain again. So with my free hand I reached into my tools bag and pulled out a kunai with a white cloth tied around the ring. I used my chakra sense to aim and threw my weapon behind me, ignoring the muted 'pop' and cry behind me, the chain in my hold went slack. I grabbed it with my other hand and moving quick, I wrapped it around knife-guy's wrist and stepped away, pulling with chakra strengthened muscles.

He stumbled forward and I-dropped to the ground as Intent spiked from behind me.

There was a wet 'splooge' sound and the guy in front of me went down, torso covered in that goo from earlier. My head snapped around and wannabe was finally here. The boys weren't in sight and wannabe was practically seething. A typical reaction to getting caught in-between one of Naruto and Sasuke's spats. I didn't spare him much sympathy though.

"What the hell is wrong with you all!? You can't even take care of a little girl!?" he snarled at the... a glance around me showed that the four men were either unconscious or whimpering pathetically due to blindness/80's horror flick.

I felt a serious confidence boost as I looked over my handiwork. I stood and faced wannabe, he was the last one left. Judging by the refinement and size of his chakra, he was about genin level. My breathing was on the semi-heavy side but I was still confident about my odds. Just have to remember to be clever, not to mention I haven't even used any paper bomb or my barriers. I still got this.

He lifted his arms and I saw two contraptions in his wrist pop out and aim towards me, he-his eyes widened as a chain wrapped around his torso. He was suddenly and harshly thrown into the ground and dragged backwards through the dirt.

Okay then.

Snapping out of my surprise, my eyes whipped towards the other end of the chain and I grinned when I spotted my silver-haired sensei slowly stalking towards the bandit. Looking very threatening.

"What happened to the lightning bolt?" he asked casually as he loomed above wannabe, glancing around at the other men. The big guy I took down was still out. Long-hair was unconscious and wrapped in goo. Bandage-head was wandering around with his hands stretched outward. And Genjustu guy was drooling now.

They'll be fine... eventually. I think.

Remembering my teacher's question, I pointed towards the ball of rubberized chakra, wincing as I watched my teacher bring his heel down on wannabe's face. Knocking him out cold.

"And the other two?"

I then pointed towards the cliff.

One silver brow slowly raised as he processed that. He searched my expression for any sign of panic and I just shrugged at him. I wasn't too worried. A little fall wasn't going to hurt those knuckleheads, I'm sure they were fine.

"Maa... shall we go look for them then?" he asked as he raised his hands into a seal and 'poofed' out two shadow clones. As the clones began to secure the thieves in bindings we traveled down the cliffside to begin searching for our wayward boys.

It didn't take long at all until we found them sopping wet further along the river. Though, the position we found them in was definitely interesting and worth an eyebrow raise.

Hair still dripping with water, Naruto was sitting on top of Sasuke and had a rough hold on the front of the other boy's shirt. The blonde was yelling at the other boy about something. Scarecrow and I shared a glance before approaching as quietly as we could to eavesdrop on them.

What? Don't judge! If you saw a scene like this you'd be just as curious to find out what the heck was happening.

"-despite that. It's what friends do!" the Hero shouted. "I... I don't want to be some kinda trash who doesn't give a damn about his friends!"

And that was the point at which Kakashi's heart melted into a gooey pile of warmth. Beside me, his White Hot chakra spun with both pride and affection at the Hero's declaration.

"Then joining up with Kakashi is the right move! It will boost Sora's chance of survival!" Sasuke countered. What the heck? My chance of what now?

"Don't talk about her chance of survival!" Naruto growled. "It just depends on how badly we want to save her!"

At this point Naruto raised the golden statue-thing that had to be our mission objective above his head and Kakashi-sensei took this moment to clear his throat, announcing our presence.

Both the boys stiffened up and turned their heads towards us. My lips twitched upwards as I spotted the hardened chakra goo ball joining their hands together. Cerulean blue eyes widened and the Hero scrambled off of Sasuke and he ran towards us, dragging the other boy behind him.

"Sora-chan! You're okay! We thought that when the lightning thing didn't go off that you were kidnapped 'ttebayo!" What the-I put my hands on my hips and scowled indignantly.

I didn't need to be rescued for crying out loud! I've been training really hard and it happened one time! And this time the guys weren't even up to shinobi standard unlike fish-hood who was a jonin from Kirigakure! I feel very insulted that they didn't have faith in me... and a little hurt.

"Sora not only managed to signal me like she was supposed to, but she also successfully subdued the bandits before I showed up." Kakashi-sensei praised. Well, four outta five but that's close enough. A warm fuzzy feeling of pride bloomed in my chest as the boys looked vaguely ashamed.

Without much thought on my part I started taking in the boys' appearances to check for any injuries. I gave their adjoined hands only a passing glance as I scanned, nothing really stood out except for the occasional scrape I assume they'd gotten rolling down the hill.

I did cock my head to the side as I noticed Sasuke's busted lip. It looked like he smashed his face against something hard. He noticed my eyes and instantly turned to Scarecrow, demanding that the man do something to separate him and Naruto. He almost managed to hide the slight red tint on his ears.

Odd.

"Hmm..." Kakashi-sensei inspected their joined hands closely. He poked at the gob of goo. "The chakra in it is gradually fading, so... this is just a guess but my estimate would be... three days until it completely dissolves." the boys squawked. "Give or take four. We could ask the bandit but I think that's about right."

"Like I can put up with him that long!" Duckie growled, he grabbed his other wrist and began to pull.

"That's my line, 'ttebayooo..." Naruto did the same, even placing his foot on it for leverage. Scarecrow and I watched in amusement as they both began to pull at the hardened chakra goo, trying to brute force their way apart.

Naruto's face suddenly flattened out as he stopped pulling. "Gotta pee." he said.

Sasuke's head whipped around, eyes large. "What!?"

"I said, I gotta pee." the blonde repeated as he walked towards a wall.

"Naruto, you-" Sasuke cut himself off, face falling.

"Hm? What is it, Sasuke?"

The Uchiha boy was quiet for a long minute, he lowered his head and his bangs hid his face from view.

"...me too."

Don'tLaughDon'tLaughDon't-Pfffft!

I almost doubled over as the two boys walked off to go relieve themselves together. Mortification rapidly rising in Duckie's chakra. The best part is I don't think either of them have realized that they have to do this for the next three days!

When we returned to the gaggle of bound thieves, Scarecrow summoned a dog and gave it a message to deliver to the nearest outpost to come and pick up these guys for arrest. When the chuunin squad arrived we finally got to head home with our mission objective safely in tow. It goes without saying that the entire trip home was filled with complaints and disgruntled whines from the two boys that were bound together.

Ignoring all the odd looks we were receiving as we exited the Mission's Assignment Desk after turning in a mission complete, I turned to the dark-haired boy and signed. 'You'll be staying at Naruto's apartment.' Just as he looked like he was about to protest, I held up a hand to stop him and continued. 'Please don't argue. It'll just be easier for you to stay at Naruto's and have dinner and breakfast with us. Unless... you want to be the one who feeds him?

Sasuke scowled but when he didn't retort further I knew I won this conversation. Naruto was a black hole and he knew this. The Hero looked just as unhappy with the idea of bunking with Duckie but he didn't voice his complaint.

I then turned to Kakashi with a hopeful smile, 'You can come by too! We can make it a team dinner.' I signed happily. Kakashi then looked very uncomfortable.

I could already guess his answer before the words left his covered mouth. "Uh, sorry. I think I'll probably be busy with... filling reports."

I stared blankly at the socially awkward man. That was probably his lamest excuse yet. From the sheepish feeling he was giving off, he knew it too. He didn't bother to say anything more before he disappeared in a puff of smoke. I shook my head at where his was previously standing.

I turned around as the two boys began bickering again. I held in a sigh when they began pushing and shoving at each other. Dinner was sure to be... interesting at least.

Dinner had gone exactly as you'd expect with two one-handed teenage boys that were constantly at each other's throat. Thankfully I had just the right ingredients to make spaghetti, Naruto's temper was quelled with food and because he loves all my cooking and Sasuke became sated with the tomato dish. I was slightly disappointed, but not surprised when Kakashi hadn't shown up to eat.

It was my Mom-Training that saved the night from being an absolute wreck. I'd spent the last seven years learning how to care for Naruto since he was five and had five years of prior experience raising a baby of my own.

After their bellies were filled to the point where they couldn't argue without risk of making themselves sick, I'd instructed Naruto to go to my apartment and pick out a book to read while I did the dishes, giving Sasuke permission to pick one out for himself. My plan to distract them worked wonderfully. All was quiet and peaceful as I finished the cleaning.

These two might have been trained to kill and follow orders but the fact was they were both little kids still.

And it did not escape my notice just how uncomfortable Sasuke had been the entire night as I treated him like the kid he was. He was doing a good job of not showing it but I could tell just how awkward he felt staying here and eating a home cooked meal with us. Just how long has it been since he's had a family dinner like this?

'Four years three months and nine days.' My mind so helpfully supplied. Well, that was depressing.

One hand absently played with my earrings as the other continued to write down the plot of Star Wars Episode III. I wondered why I had the sudden need to write about a good guy going to the Dark Side to gain power so he could protect the ones he loves?

From my seat at the table I glanced over at the two boys sitting on the ratty off-brown couch, busying themselves with reading a couple of my other stories from Before. Naruto was finally learning how to slay the dragon and Sasuke was reading about a mad scientist that brought the dead back to life.

Hm. It's a complete mystery to me.

Naruto's book snapped shut and he yawned, stretching his arms above his head. As a result he raised Sasuke's arm as well and received a glare for disrupting the dark-haired boy's reading. He turned his fluffy head around and looked at me with wide eyes and I mentally prepared myself for whatever he was about to ask me for.

"Sora-chaaan, can you play a song?" he asked with a grin. Ah. So that's what he wants? But I'm kinda busy with this and he's looking at me with those eyes and I really should learn to tell him 'no' once in a while.

With an inaudible sigh I set my pen down and walked over to the couch, pulling out my grey ocarina. As soon as I was seated beside my friend a head of fluffy blonde hair made it's way into my lap, as a consequence of the Hero's new position Duckie was wrenched from his seat and landed on the floor with a 'thud'.

He hissed a couple curses at Naruto's stupidity but he went ignored as the blonde snuggled himself further into my side, hanging his adjoined arm off the side of the couch.

This is exactly why I can never say no to him. He's just too darn cute sometimes.

Taking pity on the dark-haired boy, I threw the pillows off the couch for him. Still glaring holes into the oblivious blonde's head, he took the pillows and made himself comfortable on the floor.

I raised the cool metal to my lips and began to play, no particular song coming to my mind, it was just a soft melody that didn't have a name. The rise and fall of the tempo changing occasionally.

If you were an emotional sap you could call it the Song of my Heart.

It was ten minutes until Naruto's breathing deepened and evened out, signaling that he'd fallen asleep. I stopped playing and pulled my instrument away to run my hand through his short blonde locks, musing at it's length. He'll probably ask me to cut it pretty soon.

"...what is that song called?"

I blinked and looked over to see Sasuke still had his face in the book, I almost thought I'd imagined the question until he looked at me from the corner of his eye.

'It doesn't have a name.' I told him honestly.

"Hn." he gave me a nod before turning back to the book in his lap and I resumed running my fingers through Naruto's hair. If I hadn't been listening I would've missed what Sasuke said under his breath.

"...it's really sad."

Heh. If that's really the song of my heart, I wonder just what that says about me?

Sora, May 5th: Home

I set the last of the dishes in the sink and dried my hands on the towel, glancing at the clock on the wall. It was almost time to meet-up with Sakura. We made plans to meet up outside the hospital at 1 p.m. to find an empty TG and run non-invasive tests on my chakra network so we could see just how my Influencing works.

I turned around to face the boys seated at the table behind me. 'I'm going to go out. Try not to kill each other before dinner, I should be back by then.'

The Hero tilted his head at me. "Where are you going?"

'I made plans to meet with a friend.' I answered, not specifying who.

"Which friend, Hinata?" I shook my head. I hadn't mentioned my new friendship with the Haruno girl yet, unsure of how Naruto would react. My Hero frowned slightly, "Well, can I-uh, can we come too?"

'You guys probably wouldn't like it.' I signed.

"C'mon Sora-chan~ You can't leave me alone with the bastard all day! Let us come with you."

"I'll end up killing him before the day is over." Sasuke agreed with a solemn nod of his head. I rolled my eyes at the both of them. If they wanted to come that badly then fine!

'Don't say I didn't warn you.' I signed ominously as I headed for the door. Naruto cheered from behind me and Sasuke grunted as he was forcibly dragged behind the little ball of sunshine. And with that, all three of us left to go meet Sakura.

Seeing a head of pink hair waiting patiently at the gate of the hospital I gave a short whistle and waved when I had her attention. She waved back with a grin but I was soon completely disregarded as her bright green eyes landed on the dark-haired figure walking next to me.

"S-Sasuke-kun!" Sakura squeaked with wide eyes and blushing features.

I sighed. I suppose it was too much to hope that time and distance would've lessened her crush just a bit. As her green eyes began to sparkle with stars, I looked at the boys and noticed Duckie had gone a bit paler than usual and the Hero was staring dumbly at the pink-haired girl. He raised a hand and pointed at her, gawking at me.

"Eh?! Sakura is the friend you were meeting, Sora-chan! Since when 'ttebayo?!" my best friend demanded. Sakura seemed to finally notice that there were people other than her beloved Sasuke-kun and promptly ducked her head, looking sheepish.

'We ran into each other a couple weeks ago and we've been talking on and off. She's actually really nice, so I expect you to be too.' I signed with a silent warning in my eyes. Naruto looked very much like he wanted to protest but was interupted by Sakura hastily bowing and mumbling a shy greeting to each of us, lingering on Duckie's a bit longer.

It was absolutely hilarious when he shot me a betrayed look. I had warned him. I merely shrugged at him with a grin pulling at my lips.

"What's that?" Sakura asked, pointing at the hardened chakra ball binding Naruto and Sasuke together.

"A long story." Sasuke dismissed curtly.

"Ah, okay. Uhm... are we still heading to the training grounds?" Sakura asked hesitantly. No doubt unsure of our plans with the addition of the boys. I nodded and gestured the way. I think TG-26 would suit our purposes well.

As we made our way towards the edge of town Sakura made multiple attempts at holding a conversation with Duckie, failing each time as he gave short answers that left no invitation to continue. What I found funny was that the Uchiha boy maneuvered his way to walk by my side and had Naruto on his other side.

Leaving no room for Sakura to squeeze in beside him. So instead of further trying to endear herself to Duckie she opted to tell me a bit about the tests she would be running on me. It was as I was looking at Naruto and Sasuke's confused expressions that I remembered that they knew nothing about what we were doing.

Whoops.

"What are you talking about?" Duckie asked Sakura suspiciously.

"Yeah! What kinda tests?" the Hero demanded, concern for me rising rapidly.

Sakura pinched her brows together, confused as to what was happening. Then she gasped and turned to me looking extremely apologetic, I waved her babbled apologies away. If I wasn't prepared to share this with them then I wouldn't have let them come along. It was really my fault for not explaining in the first place.

So, I explained my Chakra Influencing.

By the time I finished we were stepping into the forested area of TG-26. Naruto was excitedly going on about my new super-cool ability and Sasuke was staring at me with a scrutinizing look in his eyes. I turned to Sakura to begin her tests but I was stopped when my Uchiha teammate stepped forward, holding his fist out towards me.

"Do it." he ordered.

I blinked dumbly at him. Do what? The thing? He wants me to do the thing? Why would he want me to do the thing to him?

Seeing my confused look, Sasuke rolled his eyes at me and closed them. When they opened again, his dark orbs shifted and began glowing Sharingan red. I heard Sakura's breath hitch beside me. He's using his Sharingan, okay. But what does tha-

-Sharingan can see chakra pathways.

He can recognize my chakra signature just like he did on the bridge in Wave! He'll be able to track my chakra in his system with his eyes! Oh, brilliant Duckie!

I wrapped my hand around his wrist and closed my eyes, thinking calming thoughts, sharing them. I didn't need to prove anything, we just needed it to be working. I pulled away and ignored the jealous spike in Sakura's Grounded chakra as Sasuke began staring intently at his wrist.

"I thought so... it's warm." he mumbled as he narrowed his glowing eyes. "I can see your chakra, it's in my system and it's... it's spreading." he moved his hand further away, "It's spreading all the way up my arm..."

A pit formed in my stomach as I watched Sasuke's expression go from interested to unsettled, bordering on disturbed, his eyes trailing up his arm and to his chest.

"S-Spreading?" Sakura asked, switching out of Fangirl-mode and back into Medic-mode. "What do you mean? Spreading like-like an infection?"

"I... guess. It's traveled to my chest and..." his face smoothed out and his shoulders loosened, all the tension from before draining away. "It's reached my heart."

That is scary.

"...incredible." Sakura whispered.

Terrifying.

"...Sora-chan?" my eyes snapped to Naruto, he was looking at me with a worried frown on his whiskered face. Naruto's voice drew the attention of the other two and now they all were looking at me. I pulled my knees closer to my chest.

When did I curl into a ball in the first place?

Two arms were wrapped around my shoulders and I heard Sasuke grunt before my vision was filled with orange, my arms reflexively moved to wrap around Naruto in return. I unconsciously leaned into my Hero's warmth. Kakashi-sensei was right. I really do have a problem.

As Naruto was trying to comfort me Sasuke was awkwardly hunched over us, one of his arms being used against his will. He didn't forcibly break Naruto away so I was thankful for that. I pulled my senses inward, I didn't need to know what Sakura or anyone else was feeling right now. I wrapped myself in his Bright and Breezy chakra and my heart calmed down.

I patted his back and my Hero pulled away to give me a questioning look.

You okay?

I smiled warmly in response.

I'm okay.

Naruto fully pulled away and relief flooded Sasuke's chakra as he moved farther from our mushy-feeling scene. The brat. I reached back pulled out my notepad, turning back towards Sakura. "You said you had some tests?"

She blinked at the pad a couple time before remembering herself and quickly rooting through the bag on her hip, pulling out many different tools and objects that I have never laid eyes on in either life. I gulped my nerves down when she held up a long tube-looking thing with an excited grin.

"-so, from what the latest test tells me. Your chakra has a sort of communicable quality to it, allowing you to transfer it through physical contact." Sakura explained as her green eyes flit over the pages of the medical text in front of her.

I nodded as I absorbed that, ignoring the grunts of a brawl behind me. Those two really can't get along for an extended period of time. I clicked my pen open and wrote.

"My chakra is infectious." I summarized. She nodded. Next question. "Until recently I've been doing it unconsciously, what about if I try to force it? Change the ratios of chakra?"

"Like... if you were performing a jutsu?"

I nodded and she frowned thoughtfully, tapping her chin with a finger.

"Well, in Medical jutsu when the medic's chakra isn't purified before-hand then the foreign chakra entering the system most often has negative effects on the patients body unless they're closely compatible, just like with blood transfusions."

I nodded slowly. "Then it would probably end badly."

"That's a good guess. We'll have to run more tests and read more studies on chakra transfusions to figure out all the risks and side-effects. Can't risk you accidentally shuting down someone's nervous system with a handshake! Haha..." she joked.

I froze.

Was that even a remote possiblity?

I scribbled furiously, "Next thing, how do we flush my chakra out of someone's system?" then I turned around and whistled to get the boys' attention and signed. 'Is my chakra still in you?'

Sasuke let Naruto up from where he'd pinned him down and checked himself with his Sharingan. "Yeah but it barely visible anymore. It wasn't a lot to start with."

I nodded and turned back to the pink-haired medic expectantly. She flustered for a bit, mumbling to herself before pounding her fist in her hand triumphantly. "Oh! I know a technique some of the shinobi medics use when someone comes in with chakra poisoning!"

Chakra poisoning? That comparison doesn't make me feel better.

"The technique is fairly simple although it requires intense focus and careful chakra control." she stressed. "The user brings their chakra forward, like this-" she held her hands suspended over her stomach. "-and they gather the specific amount needed for a whole body cleanse -which is quite a bit, by the way- and they purify their chakra of any personal qualities and slowly cycle it through the patient's body. When they reach the poison they extract it with the cleansed chakra and release it in a concoction of medical herbs in a tub nearby. They continue to flush and extract until the patient no longer shows any signs of sickness."

That was really interesting. Purifying, flushing the system and extraction of-

-Ohmigosh! This is just what I've been needing!

Before I can fully register my movements, I was pulling out my storage book and unsealing my Big Red Book in a flourish. It landed heavy on the ground with a 'THUD', startling Sakura. I flip to the back pages and began making calculations and running the logic through my head.

This is what I've been missing the entire time.

I've been going about the seal the wrong way entirely! So far I've been thinking like a engineer working on a machine when I needed to think like a medic working on a living being. The barrier keeping the subject in a suspended state wasn't the first necessary step to creating Stasis!

When dealing with a wound, the first step is sanitation.

Jotting down some Physical and Elemental manipulation Characters I created a filter for when chakra is applied to the seal, drawing out everything but the pure Yin chakra required for healing. Adding a few more parameters for the seal's commands as for what to do with that newly made Yin chakra I finished the seal with a flourish.

It was beautiful.

And it will work.

By now I'd drawn the boy's attention and they came back over to see what had gotten me so worked up. I carefully removed the page and turned to my best friend, handing it to him.

'Knock me unconscious.' I signed with a grin that was probably worrisome. Naruto's jaw dropped in shock and Sasuke stared at me like I'd lost my mind.

"N-No! I won't do that 'ttebayo!" he denied.

'I want to test this, please? We even have a medic if something goes wrong. But it won't!' I assured him with wide, pleading eyes. Naruto scowled and attempted to cross his arms over his chest but failing.

"No." he said firmly.

Hmph. Plan B.

I turned to Sasuke and he involuntarily tensed up. He scowled in a somewhat defensive way as he spoke. "Don't look at me. I won't help you with this stupidity either."

Have'ta break out the big guns, huh? Fine. I raised my hands and signed. 'What's wrong? Don't want to get your hands dirty Princess?'

The Hero's eyes went wide as he realized what I was doing and Duckie glared darkly at me. "What did you call me?" the Uchiha asked slowly.

I grinned toothily and cocked my head at him, channeling my inner arrogance. I've spent enough time around the Uchiha it was easy to mimic.

"Don't listen to her, Sasuke! She's just trying to get you to hit her dattebayo!"

"I know that."

"Wait, what's happening? What did Sora-san say?"

I raised my hand and gestured him to bring it.

Duckie's eyebrow twitched with anger but he inhaled deeply. When he exhaled he looked significantly calmer. Pooh. He looked me directly in the eye. "No."

Plan C then.

'Be sure to use the seal.' I signed uncaringly before I turned and began walking away.

"W-Wait Sora-san! What are you doing?" Sakura shouted after me as my hands slipped into my pouches, pulling out a kunai and a tag. I wrapped the tag around the hilt of the kunai and placed it between my teeth, pulsing a hint of chakra into it as I let go.

I turned around and they all were moving towards me, too slow to stop me though. Duckie's eyes widened comically when he saw the tag in my mouth.

'You guys caused this.' I signed as the ink sparked to life in my mouth. Naruto and Sasuke ran forward and-

-White-HOT-Seizing-HURTING-Burning-CAN'T MOVE-

-My taser fizzled out and darkness filled my vision.

I woke back up with a start, jolting off the ground. I felt hands on my shoulders pushing me back down. The first thing I noticed was that my every nerve ending was tingling. My muscles were incredibly loose and kinda numb and I couldn't fully feel my fingers yet, but my mind was crystal clear.

Did it work?

My eyes shot open and I took in my surroundings. Trees, check. Blue skies still. I hadn't been taken to the hospital so that's a plus. Three pairs of eyes were looking down on me, two in concern and one in curiosity/exasperation.

"Sora-san, can you hear me?" Sakura asked sternly, I nodded. My tongue felt really heavy in my mouth. Also a bit fuzzy. That's not right. Tongues shouldn't be fuzzy. "Okay can you tell me what day it is?"

'Five' I signed in Standard. She nodded, satisfied with my answer and helped me to sit up. I looked to my teammates and asked, 'How long?'

Duckie answered me, "Two minutes. You woke up as soon as the seal had chakra."

It worked? It worked! Of course it worked, I had complete faith in myself. My arms still shot up in triumph. Yeeeessss!

I had one solid step towards my Stasis seal's completion. This Wake-up seal or Rejuvenation-Revival seal. My Revival seal is the first true step to saving the Hiruzen's life. Now to figure out how to turn the Yin chakra into real-deal healing energy not just a hard reboot of the chakra system and how exactly I was going to get it to the Hokage but...

This is a victory.

I won't have to worry about people falling unconscious again.

"Sora-san," Sakura's awed voice pulled me back, "this... I had no idea Fuinjutsu had applications like this! This is incredible! Do you know what kinds of medical applications something like this could have!?"

I grinned smugly. Fuinjustu is incredible.

My vision was obscured by a scowling whiskered face. Naruto grabbed the front of my shirt and began to shake me vigorously. "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!? JUST BECAUSE I WOULDN'T HIT YOU, YOU ELECTROCUTED YOURSELF!? I SHOULD PUNCH YOU JUST FOR MAKING ME FREAK OUT LIKE THAT DATTEBAYO!"

"Hey! Don't shake her, you idiot! She might still be hurt!" I heard Sakura shout before hearing an impact and a groan. My shirt was released and I noticed that everyone had a clone now. Huh. I... feel very light-headed~

I unsteadily raised my hands and signed, 'At least my bird porked.' I paused and frowned. 'Seal works. At least my seal works.'

Duckie scoffed, "Barely. There was a full minute these two were panicking over your unconscious body."

I raised a brow with a teasing smile, 'You weren't worried?'

He smirked condescendingly in return, "You're stupid and reckless, not suicidal. You obviously had some confidence that it'd work." My smirk fell away and I stared at him.

That's... probably the nicest thing he's ever said to me.

I smiled at him genuinely and he looked suddenly uncomfortable, averting his gaze to the side. When his eyes settled on Sakura he narrowed them and the pink-haired girl shrunk in on herself. What was that?

"Are you sure you're qualified to be a medic?" he asked haughtily.

Sakura shrunk in further on herself and I was left wondering what exactly happened in the two minutes I was unconscious?! As her chakra slowly became filled with a despair only Sasuke could cause her to have, I made a decision. I slowly pushed myself to my feet and faced the frowning Duckie.

Then I ground my fist into his head.

Sasuke hissed a curse.

Naruto laughed.

Sakura gasped.

'Don't be mean.' I signed with a frown. Duckie glared daggers at me and I had the distinct feeling he wanted to set me on fire with a katon jutsu then and there.

"Yeah! Don't be mean, bastard!" Naruto said in a mocking tone.

Sasuke's gaze whipped to the blonde attached to him, "Shut up, loser!" he grit out.

Naruto scowled, "Eh? You wanna fight, princess? Bring it! You can't even duck Sora-chan's hi-OUCH!"

I rolled my eyes and Sakura lowered her fist to glare at my best friend. "Don't pick a fight with Sasuke-kun!"

"What!? But he started it by meaning mean to you, 'ttebayo!"

"I wasn't 'being mean'" Duckie said disdainfully, shooting me a dark look. I merely crossed my arms over my chest, very unimpressed with this scene. "I was asking a reasonable question."

"See!" Sakura said empathically. "Sasuke-kun is just worried about the health of his teammate-unlike some people who try to give them whiplash!"

"HOW IS THIS MY FAULT NOW!?"

They continued on like this and I felt like I faded into the background. My chest clenched painfully as I watched Naruto and Sakura yell back and forth while Sasuke just glared at the sky, trying to ignore them both.

For the first time in a long time I felt like I really didn't belong here.

I remembered that this... this is how it's supposed to be.

I didn't have a place here with them.

Like always, my Hero's voice broke through and pulled me back out of my darkness. "Sora-chaaaan! Tell Sakura to stop nagging me and making gooey eyes at the bastard!"

"Wha-That's-I AM NOT! Don't say such stupid things you idiot!"

"OUCH! DON'T HIT ME!"

"...two more days." Sasuke mumbled to himself.

I smiled although my chest was still hurting. I know I didn't belong here but... there was really no other place I'd rather be.

"Hold on, babe. W-We're almost there! We'll be at the hospital soon!" he said, panic lacing his voice. He continued to babble as I focused on trying not to scream at him to SHUT THE HELL UP!

These contractions were bad enough to deal with as it is without fighting down the urge to punch him in his face. I reached for the volume knob and turned up the music loud enough that I could no longer hear my idiot husband's voice. This was all his fault after all. He's the one who got me pregnant. It's his fault I'm in so much agony right now. Music began to play loudly over my latest groan of pain.

-'Turn around~ Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round~ Turn around~ Every now and then I get a little bit tired-

Contraction. Pain, so much pain.

"HUAAAAAAAAAAH! BAAAABE! I don't wanna die to this song!" I say only half-jokingly.

"That's not funny!"

His foot hit the petal and I was soon in a wheelchair being pushed down a white hallway with my pretty-boy blonde husband flitting nervously at my side, constantly asking questions like; 'Is she okay? Is the baby okay? Why does she keep screaming like that? What can I do to help? Babe, do you want hold my hand? Something to drink? Tell me what I can do.'

I pinned him with a deadly look and spoke through gritted teeth. "Babe, so help me-if you don't calm the hell down RIGHT NOW, I will stick my foot so far up your ass, YOU will be the one in this wheelchair!"

His green eyes went wide and his jaw shut with a click of his teeth. After I stared him down to make sure he wouldn't start up again I ran my hand through my sweaty brown hair before taking several deep breaths as another contraction hit me. They were coming faster now. It was almost time.

Oh god.

She was almost here.

I was going to be a mother.

Someone's goddamned MOTHER! I suddenly felt like throwing up was a very good idea then. I was beyond fucking nervous. Was this whole thing just a huge mistake? How was I even going to be a mom!? I didn't even know my own mother! How-How-Ohmygod. Am I having a panic attack right now?

A warm weight landed on my shoulder and my eyes snapped up to see him smiling down at me. Warm and gentle and full of love, just like always. He is always there by my side. How the hell did I ever live before I met him?

I reached my hand out expectantly and he swiftly took it in his own, interlocking our fingers. I wasn't alone. He was here just like he always was. I wasn't alone, I didn't have to be.

We were doing this.

We were having a baby.

Sora, May 17th: Bedroom (3:12 AM)

I sat on my windowsill, my feet hanging out. It was dark out still when my favorite Neko had woken me up from my restless sleep to come to say good-bye. I leaned back against the pane and let the cool breeze ruffle my orange-pink hair. It was getting longer, I noticed. It reached my shoulder blades now. It's been months since I last cut it but I was thinking of letting it grow out. I'd always liked having long hair.

I wrapped a finger around a stray lock and looked at it, still expecting it to be honey-brown.

I'd wiped away the tears but I swear could still feel the warmth of His hand in mine, of soft lips brushing against my sweaty forehead as we looked at the proof of our love for the first time.

Our daughter sleeping quietly in my arms.

It wasn't often that I had these memories play in my sleep anymore. Not for a long time actually. Usually I'm having nightmares about the people from this life dying in horrlble creative and varied ways. Or maybe the worst moments of my life on repeat. Those nights weren't fun.

It's memories like the one I had that are the most painful to live with though. The ones that remind me of how much I love and miss Them everyday of this life.

It also reminds that didn't belong there anymore either.

Neko shifted and I looked at my old friend from the corner of my eye. 'How long will you be gone this time? Or will you have to kill me if you tell me?'

Neko snorted a soft laugh behind his painted mask from his seat beside me. "A month, at least. Longer if there are... unforeseen circumstances."

I smiled wryly. 'Maybe you'll encounter a missing legendary swordsman?'

Neko did not appreciate my sense of humor it seems. I could practically feel the exasperated stare he was giving me through his eye-holes. I smiled cheekily at him.

"That's not funny."

I pinched my fingers together. It was a little funny. He shook his head at me, his chakra betraying the amusement he felt towards me.

'Be careful.' I asked as I always did when he stopped by to say goodbye.

He dipped his head slightly, "I will."

'Be sure to kick some butt.' I reminded him.

He nodded again, amusement tinting his voice. "Always."

'And bring me back a souvenir?' I tried with a hopeful smile. I got the distinct feeling he rolled his eyes at me.

"I should be heading out about now." he said dryly. The man stood up to leave but glanced over his shoulder at me, "Ah, Sora. Please don't get into too much trouble... at least until I get back, okay?"

I grinned and made no promises. He sighed softly and with one more wave, my ANBU friend shunshined into the night. Leaving me sitting on the ledge by myself.

I let my eyes drift up towards the starry night sky.

The Leaf's skies never stops being just as spectacular as the first time I laid my eyes on it so many years ago. As I began searching for familiar constellations an old tune began playing in my head. I smiled sadly as I mouthed the words.

Once upon a time I was falling in love but now I'm only falling apart... There's nothing I can say.

A total eclipse of the heart...

Sora, May 20th: Shopping District
Secret Mission: 'Literature!'

I can do this.

I can do this.

This should be no problem. I faced off against scarier opponents before. Killer ostriches. Feral cats. A sadistic Scarecrow. Peaches, Demon of the Mist? That guy is real-time nerve wracking. This is nothing compared to all that.

I walked slowly through the aisle trying not to draw any necessary attention, slowly because I was still unused to all this extra height and leg length. I entered the section which I have been previously been denied, my eye searching out any sign of my mission objective. I soon found it and with a wary glance around, I picked it up in my hands and admired it for a moment before heading towards the front counter.

The woman behind the counter was fairly young -early twenties- with blonde hair tied up in a sloppy bun. She looked up at me through her large and thick glasses, and I was amused to see a faint blush cross her cheeks. She fumbled with the book she was previously reading and straightened in her seat to greet me.

"A-Ah! How can I help you!" she sorta-shouted. I placed the book on the counter. Her eyes glanced over it and she hummed. "Paradise, huh? What happened to your other copy-if you don't mind my asking."

I didn't respond. Or rather, I couldn't. I tried shrugging to serve as a response but the lady just frowned slightly.

"Hatake-san...? Is everything alright?"

Ahh... crap! Need to think of something quick. You're gonna get busted if you don't answer. Ooh! I know! I casually fold my hands behind my back, forming the Bird seal. I focus on the crystal clear memories in my head. I recall the pitch and volume. I mix my physical and mental energies, focusing only on recreating the voice.

I expelled my chakra and the Genjutsu cast.

"It-got lost on the road-" I heard said clear as day. The memories of his voice sounded like a cheap recording job but judging by the only slightly suspicious look on the other woman's face, I think it did the trick.

I had successfully forged Kakashi-sensei's voice.

I'm awesome.

Not only had I recreated a convincing sounding voice but my henge was also holding up under the duration I've had it on! Training with Hinata is definitely paying off.

The blonde woman rung up the book and I paid the amount asked and picked up my goods and opened the book, eager to begin my reading. Don't skip. Don't skip, I reminded myself as I headed towards the exit. Saunter out, like you couldn't care less-Ouch! That was a fricking wall! How the heck does Kakashi walk and read at the same time with only one eye open?

"Uhm, Hatake-san?"

Oh, crap.

I look back over at the book clerk and thinking quickly, I eye-smile to assure I'm alright and that was totally done on purpose. She blinked rapidly before a rosy blush swept over her cheeks.

Hah! Being Kakashi is kinda fun.

I gave a two-fingered wave before hightailing it outta there. I went down the nearest alley and turned down a couple side streets before I finally felt safe enough to dispel the transformation. My heart was pounding wildly in my chest as I looked over my very own copy of Icha-Icha paradise! Oh, I never thought I'd be so excited about this. I'm not really psyched to read what was basically porn but it's really Scarecrow's fault for telling me that I was 'banned' from ever reading until I was at least thirty.

The temptation was just too much for me.

Taking a que from my dear Sensei, I slipped on a fake cover over the iconic orange one and opened my newest book. Not sparing a single thought of how Scarecrow would murder me if he ever found out what means I used to get my hands on this.

I walked slowly down the side-street using my chakra sense as my only means of avoiding obstacles as I became totally caught up in Jiraiya's infamous story. It was funny and I have to give it to him, he knows how to write a fight scene. I was halfway through the second raunchy chapter when I heard an argument being had nearby.

"How many damn times do I have to say it?! We are not lost!" A feminine voice shouted. I ignored it. Not everyone's problems concerned me. I was busy. Yes, very busy.

-Takeo held the beautiful stranger's hips in a bruising grip, tearing a guttural sound from her throat when he-

"Sis, let's face it. We're lost." another voice, deeper, male. Still didn't concern me.

-grabbed his neck and hooked her legs around the back of his knees, flipping them over to-

"Oi, ponytail!" No. I paused in my steps, crossing my fingers hoping that he wasn't calling me. Please, no. Tell me there's another person with a ponytail on this deserted street?

"Yeah, you in the jacket!" Fudgicles! I'm wearing a jacket.

With a sigh I closed my book and placed it in one of my many pockets and lifted my eyes towards the voice and then every muscle in my body seized up.

...they looked really familiar.

Two figures were standing a few feet away from me. There was a girl that looked slightly older than me with sandy blonde hair pulled back into four pigtails. Green-blue eyes and very pretty to look at. She was wearing a form fitting dress and mesh armor underneath. There was also a Big-Fudging-Fan on her back and a hitai-ate around her neck.

Her hitai-ate did not have the Leaf's symbol on it.

That was most definitely Temari of the Sand, eldest sister of the Sand siblings. So that means... my eyes drifted over to the boy dressed in all black next to her. Scary purple face-paint and something big and suspicious looking on his back. I liked his hood though, looks like he's got cat ears.

Kankurō of the Sand waved me over, "Yeah, can you come here for a minute?"

Yeah. So this is really happening.

As I walked towards them, Temari whirled on her brother with a scowl. "Kankurō, we don't need help! I'm sure the hotel is just around the next corner!"

This is really happening. Wow.

Okay then.

I was amused to note the annoyance that spiked through the two ANBU's who where perched on a nearby roof when they spotted me approach what I can only guess were their assignments. It makes total sense that these two weren't wandering the Village completely unsupervised.

What doesn't make sense is that there's only two ANBU stationed on them. They usually work in squads of four or so.

Oh, wait. Where's Gaara?

With a quick scan of our surroundings I found that the five of us were the only ones around. Huh. That's worrisome. I really hope our ANBU haven't lost sight of the most dangerous genin in the world. I would lose a lot of faith in our elite-of-the-elite if that were true.

I was standing in front of Temari and Kankurō, my stance casual and my expression non-threatening. I didn't want to start of on the wrong foot. They were only invading the Village under what they assumed were their Father's orders, I can't really hold that against them.

"Do you know how far the Golden Oak Inn is?" the puppet-user asked, completely ignoring the dark look his sister was giving him.

Ah, well uh-oh. These two are two districts away from the popular traveler's Inn. I reached into one of my pockets, mindful but ignoring how the foreign shinobi tensed up, and pulled out my notepad and pen.

"The Golden Oak is on the other side of the village." I informed them, watching as both their eyes widened in realization when I didn't speak. After an awkward moment of silence, they seemed to finally read what I wrote.

"Ah! See! I knew we were lost!" Kankurō exclaimed with a smug smirk aimed at his irritated elder sister. That probably wasn't smart, she looks like she's barely stopping herself from smacking him upside his car-eared head as it is.

"Fine, I admit it. We're lost. Happy now?" Temari growled.

Kankurō scowled, the paint on his face making the expression more intimidating than it would usually be. "Of course I'm not happy! We're lost in a foreign Village! Not to mention that the boss is waiting on us to return!" he hissed, chakra spiking with fear. Temari also grimaced at the mention of the boss.

I felt like I should do something. Hm... WWND? What would Naruto do in this situation? Demand their attention and eternal friendship? Mmm, gonna check that a definite Plan B. Might as well be straight to the point.

"If you'd like, I can show you the way."

The amount of suspicion that spiked through the both of them would've been funny if it wasn't so sad.

Temari eyed me critically. "Why?"

The answer was easy. "Because you are guests in my home and it would be rude of me to let you wander around when you obviously have someone to meet."

Now, I didn't really have to wonder about what kind of people these two were because of the healthy amount of guilt that sprung up in their chakra when faced with that seemingly selfless answer.

My motives were far from selfless.

After moment Temari gave me a curt nod. Before turning away I flipped to a new page and wrote.

"You can call me Sora, by the way. And welcome to Konohagakure."

We'd walked all of ten minutes along the Main Road before the sand siblings stomachs growled in an embarrassing fashion. I was just glad it wasn't me this time. The two spent another five minutes arguing about whether or not to even stop to pick up something and if they should get the boss something to eat as well. It was decided that they would buy some street food and have some wrapped up for later.

I found it sweet that even if they were terrified of their little brother, they still worried about his eating habits.

Walking up to the modest Yakitori stall, I knocked on the counter to grab the owner's attention. There was no response. I realized too late that we were on the Main Road.

In the middle of Konoha.

And I'm me.

This was bad for a number of reasons.

I really should've thought this out beforehand. Odds are that the guy behind the counter recognizes me as the Demon's friend and is not one of Naruto's fans. I chanced a glance to the side and saw my new companions were watching this scene with sharp eyes.

How awkward. This is exactly why I avoid frequenting the shops around the Main Roads. I knocked again but when I still received no acknowledgement I turned around with and flashed them a smile and began writing on my pad. "We should visit another stall, he seems busy. I know a great place that serves fresh Nikuman."

I moved forward but when the other two didn't follow, I turned and saw as Temari's eyes narrowed at the man's back and Kankurō frowned before addressing the stall owner.

"Oi, are you hard of hearing old man?"

At the sound of the puppet-users voice, the man turned with a practiced smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Hm? Ah, hello Sir. Would you or your lovely companion like some of Konoha's finest Yakitori?"

Wow. Completely ignoring my existence. This is pretty humiliating. I feel very much like throwing myself off of Hokage mountain right about now. Temari stepped forward, her imposing presence demanding attention. The sandy-blonde narrowed her eyes and gave the man a look that had me feeling nervous.

Her tone was low and dangerous. "Yeah, actually. All three of us will be eating."

What? I looked at her out of the corner of my eye. What was she doing? Her expression was intense as she willed the stall owner to comply with her stare alone when he was obviously unhappy with serving me. Within minutes we were leaving the Main Road for a less populated side-street -people began to stare an uncomfortable amount- and I was staring thoughtfully at my greasy snack.

Temari took a bite of her snack and eyed me from the side, "So what was all that about?"

Meeting her gaze, I shrugged one shoulder. Way too much to explain. Doesn't matter that I might get some sympathy from her if I told her about how people here treated Naruto, reminding her of her own brother, it would require me to give them information on Naruto. Which, not happening.

Chewing on my chicken I kept the other girl in my sight as my mind whirled to figure out her motives. At this point I can't rule out the fact that this might all be delusional fever dream but I'm pretty sure that Temari, foreign shinobi, just stood up for me over a simple refusal to give me chicken.

Why?

She didn't know me. we met less then a half-hour ago! She is here to invade my Village and start a war, after all. If I recall correctly, she did nothing to help Konohamaru when her brother was being threatening Before, so what's changed now? Was it some kind of 'girl power' thing? I mean, to them I'm supposed to be an enemy shinobi-

-Ohhhh, yeah. Okay, I get it.

It's my day off.

And because it's my day off, I'm dressed in my casual clothing and my hitai-ate is in the pocket of my jacket, out of sight. All my weaponry was safely sealed away in my storage book, also in one of my pockets. They assume that I'm a civilian.

They both probably think I'm some harmless mute girl they've come across. Well, I do mean no harm to them but I've got to wonder what they're reaction will be when they figure it out? It'll probably be funny to see the surprise on their faces.

"Sora." a voice called from the side.

Hm? I follow the voice and see a familiar head of spikey black hair. Now what is Sasuke doing up in that tree?

He was dressed in what I think was his version of casual clothing. It was just a black high-collared Uchiha shirt with his usual white shorts. Though he wasn't currently wearing his hitai-ate, I knew he had it on him like I did. Unlike me, he still had his kunai pouches strapped to his legs, making it obvious that he was a shinobi.

I lifted my hand in a wave and he jumped down to stand beside me, eyeing the Suna shinobi with extreme caution. "What are you doing?" he asked quietly.

I raised my hands and signed, noting how the Sand siblings watched this with slightly widened eyes. Hah. Surprise. 'Helping them find their Inn. They were lost and needed help.'

He shot me a look of pure exasperation, like I wasn't suppose to associate with foreign shinobi by my lonesome or something.

He raised his hands and caution spiked high in the Suna shinobi's chakra. 'Why are they here?' Duckie asked.

I raised my hand and flicked his nose.

He recoiled from me and his hand shot up to his nose as he stared at me in shocked anger. I heard Kankurō snicker behind me as I signed with a frown directed at the Uchiha boy, 'That was rude. They are guests of the Village and also standing right there.' I emphasized my point by gesturing at the two standing a foot away from us.

Duckie scoffed, rolling his eyes at me as I wrote and lifted my pad towards the siblings. "I apologize for my friend's rude behavior. Could you please show him your visitor's passports so he can stand down?"

They both nodded, eyeing the two of us warily now and reached into their pockets. Sasuke tensed beside me and I resisted the urge to elbow him. They produced two diplomatic passes that clearly stated that they were allowed entry into both the Village and Chuunin Exams.

Interesting. Their last names are listed as Kazekage, like that was their actual name. Wait, was it?

"Chuunin exams?" Sasuke murmured under his breath as he scrutinized them. At least when he accepted their passports as the real thing he relaxed slightly, lowering the overall tense atmosphere. I finally gave in and elbowed him when he failed to introduce himself like he just demanded of them.

I knew from the look he gave me, he was going to make sure I suffered the next time we had a 'friendly' sparring day. I held in a shiver.

"Uchiha Sasuke." he said curtly with the slightest of nods.

Temari grinned and her posture shifted, she placed her hand on her hip and leaned back. "Temari." she darn near purred. Sasuke grimaced slightly, Kankurō rolled his eyes and introduced himself and I stared at the Suna girl.

She was my age if not a little older and she even a head taller than Sasuke! I mean... really? He wasn't that pretty! That's it. I will never understand the girls of this world.

Shaking my head slightly, I gave a nod to Duckie before I gestured the siblings to follow me again. We were almost to the hotel, it wasn't long now. I raised a brow when I saw Sasuke keeping pace beside me. He was pointedly not making eye-contact with me.

I felt a bloom of affection in my chest when I realized he was making sure the Suna shinobi didn't do anything like, kidnap or interrogate me! I wanted nothing more than to ruffle his spikey hair at that moment.

Ah, screw it.

I lifted my hand and tussled his dark locks, his reaction was instinctive as he swatted my hand away and scowled darkly at me. I heard Kankurō snicker again and even Temari snorted a laugh. If it was possible, Sasuke glared harder. I was taking away all his coolness credibility with the foreign shinobi.

As we walked further down the side-street, we heard the sounds of gleeful shouting. We turned the next corner on our way to the hotel and Duckie was quite suddenly tackled to the ground by a blur of brown and blue. As he lied on the ground, Sasuke glared at the sky and was probably regretting his decision to accompany me right about now.

Bending over the two, I notice that the small brown-haired boy was wearing a pair of goggles that looked just like the ones Naruto used to own. When he didn't move I gently reached down and shook him awake. Apparently the collision knocked the boy unconscious.

"Uuuuuggghhh..." he groaned, slowly blinking his eyes open. Two midnight-blue eyes focused on my face and I smiled, holding out a hand for him. His chakra was so pure and warm, I found I didn't have any problem with the idea of physical contact. Adorably, his cheeks went rosy as he took my hand and pulled himself to his feet.

I left Sasuke on the ground where he was. I knew if I tried to give him a hand he might hiss or swipe at me for it. I wasn't going to chance it, instead I focused on the little cutie in front of me. He was staring resolutely at his shuffling feet, cheeks blooming with pink as he mumbled a 'thank you'.

Aww! He was just so cute I wanted to wrap him up in a hug and squeeze him to bits!

"Konohamaru-chan!" "Konohamaru-kun!" two incoming voices called out. I looked up and saw two more kids with goggles running towards us, a girl with ginger pigtails and a boy with glasses and a runny nose. As they hovered around him, asking if he was hurt at all another voice I was very familiar with spoke up.

"Eh, Sasuke? And Sora-chan? What're you guys doing 'ttebayo?" Naruto came walking down the street dressed as usual, hitai-ate proudly displayed for all to see. If the siblings had any doubt we were shinobi before, it was gone now.

The odds of this meeting happening were astronomical. Of all the days Naruto would choose to play ninja of all the streets in ALL of Konoha he had come down the one where I was escorting foreign shinobi.

It was truly impossible.

I held in a scowl. The Protagonist's Aura strikes again. What does that mean for everything else that was 'changed'? Does anything I do really matter? Does that mean Haku and Zabuza were going to die? Were they already dead somewhere?

I... suddenly didn't feel too well.

As my stomach began twisting into knots I couldn't really pay much attention to Naruto noticing the foreign shinobi and Sasuke explaining what we were doing with them. They exchanged introductions and were actually being civil with one other, Naruto being cheerful and magnetic as usual. It was surreal, actually.

There was little-to-no hostile atmosphere, just caution on the Sand's side due to the fact they were here to start a war and all. Naruto easily hijacked the conversation, under the assumption that these two were new friends of mine, and I almost gave a startled laugh at the siblings shocked expressions when my Hero offered to continue to give them a tour of the Village. Making sure that they stop to try the 'best restaurant in all of Fire country, believe it!'

Duckie pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation with the blonde's ramblings and the siblings were totally and completely dumbfounded by Naruto's openness and warm-

-I sucked in a sharp breath as I felt him.

Unconsciously, my eyes slid shut as I became fully enveloped in his chakra, it was hard not to get caught up in the magnitude of his presence. It was odd. I'd been expecting him to burn as bright as Naruto's. Don't get me wrong, it was still quite large and noticeable but... it wasn't Bright or Breezy at all.

But there was no doubt in my mind as to who just showed up.

Hushed and Cool like the dead of night. Trembling and ready to fall in. A feeling like something is underneath my feet, waiting, expecting, dreading.

I opened my eyes to see a boy with wild red hair and cold blue-green eyes, an expression on his face that could give Hokage mountain a run for it's money. He had no eyebrows and there was also a giant gourd on his back. He was standing on a roof watching us.

Sabaku no Gaara.

As if he felt my eyes on him, teal orbs slid to me and I froze in place. His chakra stilled and I felt like everything else just stopped. The air around us became scarily calm as we stared at one another.

This was so strange.

When I woke up this morning, I really had not been expecting to play tour-guide to foreign shinobi or get into a staring contest with the One-Tailed Jinchuuriki. If you would've told me this yesterday, I would've had a pretty good laugh at your expense. Distantly I heard an echo of Terra yelling at me in my mind. Something about burials and survival instincts, I couldn't really hear her over the white-noise in my ears.

His chakra was a lot calmer than I'd been expecting, not wild and abrasive or reeking of Blood-Hate-Kill-Kill-KILL! I mean, it wasn't warm or welcoming whatsoever, he was still giving off that very distinct feeling of stay away or suffer but... I... I couldn't really explain it. What really boggled my mind is that I couldn't feel any malice or killing Intent coming off of him.

At this point in time wasn't he supposed to be a mindless beast-no. That's wrong. Gaara was never a mindless beast. This is the same guy that has the mental capability and savvy to become the Leader of his Village, just, minus the Naruto life-changing heart-to-heart and lesson on love and friendship.

Gaara isn't a beast. Shukaku is the bloodthirsty one. Gaara is just scarily smart and dangerous with little empathy for human life.

Yeah... right. And neither of us have made any reaction to the other yet.

In the back of my mind I knew that the others around me were still chatting om like they haven't even noticed the intense chakra that just showed up. I knew that no one else was a sensor or as sensitive to chakra as I was but I still couldn't comprehend that they couldn't feel him standing right there.

I couldn't look away from him.

I couldn't look away when I really should have. Why couldn't I? I half-hysterically wondered if this was how a moth felt before being set on fire. Some small part of myself that I wasn't entirely familiar with was telling not to take my eyes off of the threat. Another part was saying that if I looked away now, I'd lose. The largest working part of my mental processes was trying to find out what exactly I was trying to win?

The spell or whatever had it's hold on me broke with the sound of Naruto's voice. "Hey, Sora-chan, what's-WOAH! Where did you come from 'ttebayo?!"

All attention was drawn to Gaara and panic filled Temari and Kankurō's chakra while everyone else startled in surprise. Soon all eyes were looking at the red-haired boy and he finally looked away. I let go of the breath I didn't know I was holding.

"Temari. Kankurō. What's taking you so long?" his voice was deeper than I was expecting, a bit coarse.

Kankurō forced a smile as he began sweating nervously. "A-Ah, Gaara! Sorry, we got... distracted. You see, on our way back-"

"Shut up." the Ichibi Jinchuuriki said, his voice stayed completely even but it didn't fail to convey his displeasure with the situation.

The puppet-user shut right up after that command, his jaw clicking shut. With a whirl of sand the red-haired boy disappeared from sight to... to manifest next to us. I felt a chill run up my spine at the newer, closer proximity of his chakra.

"We didn't come here to play games." he said coldly. Both siblings hurried to voice their agreement. And with only a passing glance at the rest of us he started walking away, towards the direction of their Inn.

"Wait a minute." Oh, Sasuke. You couldn't resist, could you? The world's most dangerous genin stopped and looked back. "What's your name?"

Gaara was quiet and I wondered for a moment if he was going to respond until his voice rasped again. "Gaara of the Sand."

Then he turned without asking for anyone else name. Sasuke noticed this and grit his teeth. We weren't worthy of his attention. I had very mixed feeling about that for some reason.

The sand siblings shunshined away and were left in a somewhat stunned silence.

"Hey, Sora-chan?" I looked over my best friend, his face was scrunched up in thought. I gestured for him to continue.

"What are the Chuunin Exams?"

Formula Arc,

Chapter Twenty-Four: "Arena"

END

A/N: Did you know that 'Arena' is Latin for Sand? I didn't. Do now though. Learning~

...so? They've arrived! What'cha think about how I introduced Sora to them? I can bet if I'd asked you how this would happen you wouldn't have answered; 'While she was trying to read porn when they stopped her to ask for directions.'

Hmm? Yeah, I'd never have guessed that either. She was going to get her hands on that book, damn it! What did you guys think of how she did it? Were you expecting her to use Genjutsu like that? What else happened... hm. A lot of stuff happened actually. I'm running so many plot-lines it hard to keep up sometimes. Let me know what caught your interest most.

Muwahaha! I loved you're guys' responses to the last question! I agree Noface, hug the Gaara. The Gaara deserves LOTS'O'HUGS! The poor baby~ And to reviewer Guess, you made my day. Thank you.

I also want to give a Thank You to everyone who reviewed, read, fave'd and followed!

I know I don't do this every chapter but I do try and write a response to everyone and personally send a thank you for reading and for taking the time to write to me. I really enjoy hearing from you guys and what you write tells me what stood out most from the chapter for you. Whether it be Kakashi and Sora's banter or your hopes for her getting a pet or just expressing your general dislike of Terra.

Terra: "OI!? What the fudge do you mean by that!?"

Author: "You know what you are!"

Terra: *Pouts* "Nobody likes me..."

Ahem, as I was saying... thank you. You help me to become a better writer and keep this story on the right track. You share your theories about what's happening and I can either correct that assumption in the next chapter specifically or I have to panic because I somehow gave away the plot twist before it's time! I still remember people pointing out Sora's connection to ROOT before she even left for Wave.

Fun times.

Author Question!

"The Exams. Preliminaries, more specifically. Who would you want to see fight?"

I'll admit it, I am already planning on having a couple changes because Sora isn't simply a swap-out Sakura. Odds are that you won't see her and Ino go at it because... well, that would be kinda one-sided and that would be boring. Now, my answer here has no bearing on the story but your guys' might. Keep that in mind.

Shino vs. pretty much anyone but Gaara or Lee and I think the Aburame would win. Maybe Neji if he notices the bugs early enough? The bug-user is very underrated. His power is actually terrifying if you don't put him down quick.

Wuv yew all!

-Nanami

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