A Gift From The Universe Chapter 9

Chapter Nine: Cats and Waterlogged Genin

Naruto was grumbling again as Sakura made use of her medical pouch strapped to her dress and disinfected his scratches. No matter what their mission━more like tedious errand━for the day, he somehow got injured.

Sasuke was beginning to think it was on purpose.

“Kiss it to make it better?” Naruto puckered up his lips when Sakura finished spreading the healing balm on his cheeks.

“Never gonna happen, moron!” Sakura smacked a bandage over his mouth and pushed him away.

She immediately left his side and sat down by Sasuke who was cradling an overly affectionate calico in his lap and teasing it with a feather toy.

“She’s such a cutie!” Sakura cooed. “How did you get her to come to you so easily?”

“Catnip,” Sasuke explained.

Sasuke always carried catnip and a spare toy in his weapons pouch. There were so many cats within the Uchiha district and he had taken trips to Sora-ku with his brother and sometimes his mother on many occasions where they ran into ninneko━the ninja cats━every visit, it just made sense to carry supplies with him for any possible run in.

“And respect,” he added just to rile up Naruto.

“Yeah, yeah you cat geek.” Naruto stood up and stretched his arms over his head.

When the squad had first went in search of the cat, Sasuke had explained to them how to approach the cat so that she wouldn’t be agitated, which was a request from the owner. Naruto had of course ignored the instructions and immediately tried to leap on the cat who retaliated. Sasuke and Sakura were forced to listen to him struggle as he screamed into his mic.

Sakura fidgeted, hands on her thighs. Her eyes shifted from the cat in Sasuke’s lap to his face and back.

“Go ahead. Palm up. Wait for her to sniff you first.”

Sakura eagerly did as she was told. She barely had her hand in front of the calico when the cat pushed her entire face into her hand.

“She’s so friendly,” Sakura giggled. “I’ve always wanted a cat but my parents would never let me have one. Mama doesn’t want cat hair all over her furniture and clothes.”

“Can we just get Miki-chan back to the Hokage tower?” Naruto glared down at the purring feline. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and leered at the cat distrustfully.

“Yeah, we should probably do that now.”

Kakashi had popped out of nowhere which he was prone to doing when they split up for pet recovery missions. He was nowhere in sight while they were running around but he always had a comment to make over the mic whenever they messed up.

“I think we might have another assignment waiting for us after we deliver little Miki.”

“Do you know what it is, Kaka-nii?” Naruto asked glumly. It was only two weeks since they became a genin squad and he was already tired of the boring tasks they were assigned.

“It’s either reshelving the scrolls and tomes in the village library or repotting the foreign herbs in the botanical garden. That’s if we’re lucky enough to get passed over for the river clean up. I think they were assigning two genin squads for that.”

Sasuke let Sakura carry Miki back to the tower. The calico was a friendly cat and wasn’t likely to run away like the cat the Daimyo’s wife owned. She looked content to be carried in Sakura’s arms.

It was a few blocks away from the tower when Team Seven ran into Team Ten.

“Kitty!” Ino squealed as soon as she saw Sakura with the cat.

“What did you guys have to do?” Naruto eyed the trio warily. The other group of genin were covered in random splotches of white paint.

“Take a guess,” Shikamaru said dryly.

“I never want to touch another paint brush again!” Ino stamped her foot.

“It was a lesson in patience and focus,” Asuma offered.

“Is that the line you’ve been feeding them?” Kakashi’s brow crinkled in a way that made it seem he was raising an eyebrow but his genin nor Asuma’s could really tell what facial expression he was going for.

“Being a jōnin instructor isn’t what you thought it would be like is it?”

“It’s exactly what I thought it would be like,” Kakashi muttered. Becoming an instructor was something his Hokage, his former sensei, thought would be good for him, a break from being a member of Anbu. “D rank missions on top of more D rank missions.”

“At least you don’t have to deal with these three.”

“Wanna trade?”

“Hey!” Sakura, Ino, and Naruto shouted in unison.

“You have any idea how weird it is when a twelve year old is smarter than you?” Asuma coaxed Kakashi into conversation as their teams made their way together to the Hokage tower.

“You too?” Kakashi pointed at the back of Sakura’s pink head. “Don’t be fooled by how giggly she is with your blondie. Sakura-chan knows things you wouldn’t expect a twelve year old fresh from the academy to know.”

“Like what?”

“Like how fast it would take for someone to bleed out according to varying factors.”

“What?” Asuma’s eyes widened and he stared at the pre-teens in front of him. “Why would you need to know that for cat retrievals?”

“She really likes her trivia,” Kakashi deadpanned. Asuma didn’t respond to his statement, not knowing if he was joking or not.

“So how’s Rin?”

“Did Kurenai put you up to this?”

“What does Kurenai have to do with this?” Asuma questioned back without missing a beat.

“Why else would you be asking about Rin?”

Kakashi focused his attention on his group of brats. His sensei’s son was being loud as usual and bragging to the seemingly disinterested boys of Team Ten. He would occasionally halt his story to yell at Sasuke who made points that contradicted his tale.

“How’s Kurenai doing with her kids?”

“I think out of all us of she lucked out,” Asuma sighed and rubbed his forehead with the heel of his palm. “The Aburame kid is quiet enough you forget he’s there and the Inuzuka pup knows better than to mess with a kunoichi. And the Hyuga girl stays quiet just happy to be part of a group where her sensei acknowledges her as a person.”

“Ah. Hiashi’s eldest daughter, right? Don’t Hyuga main branch members usually only get paired with other Hyuga as per their clan customs.”

“He disinherited her,” Asuma whispered. “He wasn’t going to kick her out into the streets but the youngest was named heiress years ago.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize that.”

“Yeah, it’s only known among clan heads.”

“But you know because that’s what Kurenai considers pillow talk?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


The two jōnin turned their attention to the genin who had stopped at the steps of the Hokage tower.

“What are you guys mumbling about?” Naruto crossed his arms in front of his chest and narrowed his eyes at the adults.

“Let us into your conversation sensei,” Ino pleaded with a singsong lilt to her voice. The way she fell into a cutesy pose worried Kakashi.

He didn’t want his own genin kunoichi to be adopting that behavior.

“Come on, up the stairs,” he ordered the six of them. “Or you’ll be running laps around the entire village next training session.”

He chose to ignore little miss blondie when she muttered to Sakura about what a stick in the mud he was.

“Seems you can’t deal with girls no matter what age,” Asuma teased him before following their students into the building.

I still fail to see how this is any good for me…

Kakashi shrugged his shoulders and decided he was going to beat his students to the Hokage. Anything to annoy them.

“No way!”

Sakura watched Ino and her teammates whine about their assigned mission. Team Sevens and Ten were tasked with river clean up, much to their dismay. They had hoped for one of the more relaxed missions after having to run away all morning in the sun.

“I’m already covered in paint and now you want me wade in dirty river water?” Ino huffed, crossing her arms in front of her chest and stomping her foot.

“I kind of get how she feels,” Sakura mumbled to Sasuke, gesturing to her hair covered in leaves. She had gotten her hair caught in the bushes she crawled under looking for Miki the cat.

Sasuke got to work in removing twigs and leaves scattered in her hair as Naruto made fun of Team Ten’s whiny behavior.

“How about I take you guys to dinner afterward, huh?” Asuma tried to placate his genin squad.

“That barbecue place again?” Choji perked up.

Naruto snapped his attention to Kakashi as soon as he heard that. He pointed at Team Ten and his mouth flapped open and closed.

“No,” was all that Kakashi had to say about that.

“Come on!” Naruto whined, tugging at his sleeve. “You could take us for ramen at least.”

“No.” Kakashi turned a page of his book, ignoring him as best as he could.

“Oh, come on! Obi-nii would buy us ramen.”

“Well, I’m not Obito.”

“It doesn’t even have to be dinner! You can buy us some dango.” Naruto grabbed Sakura’s wrist and tried to get her involved. “Sakura-chan, you would like some dango right?”

“Sasuke-kun doesn’t like sweets. It wouldn’t be right to go get something that one of us couldn’t eat.”

“But apparently it’s alright to bother your sensei?”

Kakashi lightly tapped the spine of his novel on the top of Sakura’s head. He pulled back quickly, avoiding the the swipe of Sasuke’s hand who had just finished pulling out the last leaf from Sakura’s hair.

Huh. Interesting.

“Come on slowpokes!” Ino hustled over and tugged on Sakura’s arm, pulling her ahead of their group.

“We would be that energetic if you gave us some incentive,” Naruto insisted.

“Still not doing it.”

“Come on, Kaka-nii!”

Choji and Naruto sighed dreamily as they bagged litter into their trash bags. Naruto kept getting distracted and missing his bag because he wasn’t paying attention.

“Girls are so nice…”

Sasuke picked up a flat stone from the river bed and chucked it at Naruto’s head.

“Hey! What was that for?”

“You’re spilling all of your trash back into the river, moron.”

“It’s going to get dark by the time we finish up if you two don’t keep your eyes to yourself,” Shikamaru yawned out his complaint.

“I don’t get how you can’t help but look,” Naruto grumbled, roughly throwing his trash back into the bag.

Sasuke shook his head but peeked from his peripheral to where Ino and Sakura were knee deep in the river pulling out debris. In order to keep dry, Sakura had hitched her dress up and tied it into a knot on her side to keep it from falling into the river. Ino had removed some of her bandages as well as tucking up her skirt revealing a good expanse of skin.

“I wonder what they’re talking about, “ Choji muttered, turning his flushing face away from them and stared back at the water.

Shikamaru looked at Sasuke knowingly which caused his brows to pull down in a frown.

A giggle snapped their attention back to the girls. Ino was splashing water at Sakura while the latter was shrieking at her in between laughter to stop.

“Okay, why do they get to goof off?”

“Maybe if you quit dropping the trash back into the water we could finish faster.”

“Maybe you should quit dropping the trash!”

“Naruto,” Shikamaru sighed. “Sasuke isn’t dropping any trash. How did that make any sense?”

“You don’t make any sense!”

“Quit arguing, loser.”

Naruto shrieked in frustration and dropped his bag to splash Sasuke repeatedly. Sasuke quickly tied his bag and tossed it on the river bank.

“Stop being stupid.”

Sasuke braced his hands on Naruto’s shoulders and dunked him into the river.

Ino looked on to the scene with an unimpressed look on her face. She and Sakura had filled up three bags already between the two of them as they chatted without any problems. She wasn’t happy about the heat but at least she could work on her tan.

“You need more sunblock or you’re going to freckle up more,” she reminded Sakura. “And let’s tie up your hair.”

“Hokage-sama sure went easy on us by assigning two genin squads for this.”

Sakura plopped down on the river bank and searched her bag for her sunscreen and a hair tie. Out of luck on the second thing, she pouted until Ino found her one under her arm guards she was removing.

“Do you think we’re going to have to stay here until the entire river is clean?”

“Considering your instructor?” Ino looked over to where Kakashi was under a tree reading. “Hatake Kakashi is known for being a militant team captain━super strict━but he also looks like he wants to be here as much as we do so it’s up in the air.”

“Militant, huh?” Sakura looked back at the river forlornly.

“What’s up with you?”

“Nothing. Just…”

Ino shook Sakura’s shoulder and urged her to continue talking by shaking her until she gave in and told her what was on her mind.

“It feels like he doesn’t care to teach me anything. Like he favors the boys and I’m just there. He’ll let me spar with Naruto and Sasuke-kun at times but it feels like I’m just air to him.”

“Maybe he’s just no good with girls? A lot of the jōnin instructors are like that I heard.” Ino shrugged her shoulders. “I heard he’s having problems with his own female former teammate.”

“And where did you hear that from?” Sakura narrowed her eyes at her in suspicion. “Have you been practicing one of your mind jutsus inappropriately again?”

“I would never!”

“Sure you wouldn’t.”

“Okay! Enough chit-chat.” Ino stood up abruptly and called out to the boys on the other side of the bank, “Come on losers! I have to get home early so I can get prepare for tomorrow. I have a date with a very good-looking older boy.”

“Does he know that?” Shikamaru called back.

“Shut up, Shika!”

Sasuke was shuffling home, tired and with his clothes soaked from having to save Naruto after he got pulled in by the current, when he ran into an unusually morose Izumi.

“Oi!” He called out to her and she flinched, startled as if she hadn’t noticed his presence.

“Hey, Sasuke-kun.”

Izumi gave him a watery smile and a weak wave in greeting. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her in suspicion. Izumi was always annoyingly cheerful. Something was wrong.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing much. Can you let your mother and Ita-kun know I won’t be coming over for dinner today? I kind of just want to go home and rest.”


Sasuke watched her turn down the path that led to her house on the other side of the district where most of the shops were located.

When Sasuke got home his mother bombarded him with towels and forced him to strip of his wet clothing at the genka.

“You’re not going to ruin my floorboards.”

“I won’t! Let me go take a bath.”

“He’s so scrawny,” Shisui snickered as he entered the doorway and removed his sandals.

“Shut up, Shisui!”

“Is Izumi here already? I brought some sweets to celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?” Sasuke asked, voice muffled as his mother dried his face and hair. “She went home already.”

“Oh, no.” The grin slid off of Shisui’s face and he sat back down to tie his sandals up again.

“I’ll let Itachi know when he gets in about what happened,” Mikoto told him before he left.

“What’s going on?”

Sasuke was getting frustrated with always being left out of everything. Every single time the adults talked they censored their conversation if he was around.

“What’s going on with Izumi-nee?” He asked more forcefully.

Mikoto sighed and looked behind her shoulder before she crouched down and whispered to him.

“Izumi-chan applied to be a teacher at the Academy. But she didn’t get the job.”

“Can’t she try again later?” Sasuke whispered back although he was unsure as to why they were whispering. If his mother was doing it, it must have been important to keep quiet. “Maybe they just want her to wait until she’s older.”

“Yeah.” Mikoto gave him a soft smile and patted his shoulder, directing him to the stairs. “That’s probably it. Just make sure not to mention it again. It may still be a sore spot for Izumi later.”

Sasuke nodded and headed upstairs to get his things for a bath.

Coming back down from his room, he slowed down his steps when he heard muttering from the kitchen. One voice was harsh while the other was soothing and pleading.

He edged into the bathroom away from the sounds of the voices and locked the door.

Something strange was going on with his family.

Itachi had intercepted a crow messenger on his way home from the Hokage tower and changed course to the docks.

Shisui was already there, an arm wrapped around Izumi’s shoulders as they stared out onto the lake.

“You could always try again when you’re older,” he offered as he sat on her other side on the dock.

“They told her to try applying to the police force,” Shisui bit out. His expression was a lot darker than Itachi had ever seen it. “What does teaching have to do with police work?”

“Nothing,” Itachi muttered taking Izumi’s left hand in his own. “Nothing at all.”

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 8

Chapter Eight: Bell Test

Mikoto was ready at the genkan when Fugaku came home. It didn’t matter how late he came, she was always there to greet him.

It was one of those things that carried over from when they were younger. Mikoto always knew where he was and he wouldn’t be aware of her presence until she wanted him to be.

His wife always left him flustered whether she was his genin admirer that somehow snuck around his defenses or his jōnin retired wife simply assisting him in shedding his attire of the day.

“Bad day?” Mikoto murmured, delicate fingers massaging the back of his neck.

“Are the boys sleeping?”

“Shisui picked up Itachi for an overnight mission earlier and Sasuke is asleep. He has an early start tomorrow. Training with Hatake Kakashi.”

Fugaku grunted. Uchiha did not became jōnin instructors which was unfortunate considering Izumi had asked permission to apply if she were to be promoted. Kakashi had the sharingan and was the teammate to an Uchiha and would be able to help Sasuke if he were to obtain it while away on a mission.

“Hatake never struck me as the type to become a teacher.”

Fugaku followed Mikoto towards their kitchen. She wouldn’t let him rest until he was well fed and then bathed.

“I believe Obito said that the Yondaime thought it would be good for him.”

“And yet it’s not something he offered to Obito now is it? Not something he thought would be good for him?”

Mikoto kneeled by her husband and kneaded his shoulders.

“I’m sure Minato understands that Obito has his hands full with Madara-sama.” Mikoto rose from her seat and with a soft sigh she prepared a fresh pot of tea. “He does speak to his old sensei quite often.”

“How is Madara-sama?” Fugaku took the tea his wife offered and held onto her hand, guiding her to take her seat by him again. “He didn’t give you any trouble today did he?”

“Not much has changed. He had another moment of clarity but it didn’t last long.” Mikoto rest her head against his shoulder. “He thought I was his mother.”

“And he believes Sasuke is his younger brother Izuna.”

Fugaku rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. Things were really getting to be more stressful than he originally thought they would be.

He was fortunate to have his wife and Obito caring for Madara. The former clan head was more than he could handle with his already busy schedule.

There was a divide in the clan when it came to Uchiha Madara. There were those who believed he still threatened their peaceful life in the village and then there were those who believed it would be wrong to euthanize the man and that he should be allowed to reach the end of his life naturally. And then there were the small few that believed it would be akin to blasphemy of them to kill off the only remaining pure blood Uchiha.

Despite what everyone believed, the Uchiha━unlike the Hyūga━were not a clan of blood purists. The clan had survived and remained as large as it was by intermingling with the smaller clans that followed them. Long before the Uchiha co-founded Konoha, their loyal bannermen abandoned their old names and were allowed to take that of the Uchiha.

They married amongst each other, finding love within their clan, although the ones with the most claim to Uchiha blood believed themselves superior.

Though there were none above the Uchiha that awakened the clan kekkei genkai, the sharingan.

“I almost didn’t expect Itachi to have a mission,” Mikoto’s soft voice cut through Fugaku’s musings. Her brow wrinkled in confusion. “The shinobi life…isn’t for Itachi.”

That was something Fugaku couldn’t argue against. It was starting to become difficult to ignore the fact that his eldest son, despite all of his talent, did not have the qualities one needed in a clan head.

His son was a pacifist. He did not enjoy heated discussions or confrontations. Itachi was better suited for a different role.

What that was, Fugaku had no idea.

He had never considered a different path for his eldest son. He had figured that Itachi would become clan head and Sasuke would become chief of the police force someday, as he heard that it was an ambition of his to one day join the police force.

But that was a problem for another day. He would have to set aside time to discuss Itachi’s future when Itachi was available to speak.

Currently Fugaku’s main concern was the Yondaime. Or more specifically, how the Yondaime had been following in the footsteps of his predecessors and utterly failing to show any support for the Uchiha.

Shimura Danzo had been imprisoned for his planned assault on Shisui. It didn’t take a genius to understand what his intentions were.

Danzo had meant for his Root Anbu agents to take the fall for the attack should they have failed.

What Danzo had not expected was for the Uchiha to have an unlikely ally. Orochimaru was the one that gave him up. No one knew what he had hoped to gain by leaking information about the former councillor but the Uchiha clan could not deny that without his information, they could not have gotten proper justice for Shisui.

But was it really proper justice if the remaining councillors were attempting to grant a pardon and return him to his seat?

Right now Fugaku had the support of most of the clan heads, excluding Hyūga Hiashi. The Hyūga had always been loyal supporters of the council. Unlike the other clan leaders, Hiashi wasn’t trying to be included in decisions that affected the villagers.

Fugaku suspected it was because he already had some influence over the councillors.

Fugaku expected Namikaze Minato to put an end to their scheming but he still allowed his elders to sway his decisions.

He was able to hold them, to overturn their decision once. He had chosen to disband Root and imprison Danzo, but Minato did not make the imprisonment indefinite. This had angered not only the Uchiha but the Aburame, Nara, and Yamanaka who discovered the attempt at Shisui’s eyes.

If they had attacked a member of one clan what was to stop them from going after members of different clans?

The clan heads had become wary, no longer fully trusting in the Hokage and his power to properly protect and lead the citizens of Konoha.

Just because one wasn’t a bad Hokage, it didn’t mean they were a good Hokage.

Sasuke had to drag himself to the training field.

Waking up early before first light wasn’t easy but it was something Sasuke knew he had to be prepared for when he went on missions.

When not if because there was no way he was going to be sent back to the Academy. No Uchiha had ever been demoted to Academy student after graduation and he wasn’t going to be the first.

He woke up an hour sooner than he had planned. Shiro needed to go out for a walk and the puppy was still not to be trusted wandering around alone. He was up even before his parents and the quiet of his home was unnerving but it was a silence he had to become familiar with.

Because once he passed Kakashi-sensei’s test he is sure he would have more silent moments in his home and elsewhere when he took on missions in the future.

Sakura’s soft footfalls across the lawn of the training field cause him to look up from his feet.

She was gripping the strap of her usual cross shoulder bag loosely. Her eyes were closed and Sasuke was unsure how she found her way if she was asleep on her feet.

“Where’s Naruto?” She asked setting her bag on the ground.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Naruto whined. Sasuke hadn’t noticed him, Naruto having been silent for once. He was probably too exhausted to make a sound.

They waited over two hours before Naruto nodded off. They had sat down after thirty minutes of waiting for their instructor.

“Is this supposed to be part of the test?” Sakura grumbled. “We’re starving and tired and we’ll be far too frustrated to think straight when he finally shows up.”

Sasuke berated himself for not asking his cousin for more information on his new mentor. He was about to smack Naruto awake and interrogate him when a weight fell on his shoulder.

Sakura sighed and snuggled against him. Sasuke gawked at her as she made herself more comfortable.

Sasuke wasn’t used to this type of skinship. There were subtle displays of affection between those of his clan and they were never done in public. Even holding hands outside of their district with someone that was not a child was too bold a move.

He looked down at her relaxed expression. Curls of pink framed her face, locks falling across her closed eyes.

Hesitantly, Sasuke took a strand between his fingers, examining the upward curl at the end.

“I didn’t have time to blow dry my hair,” Sakura mumbled, looking up at him with tired eyes. “My hair kind of spikes and curls if I don’t but I wanted to sleep more than spend time to look pretty.”

Sasuke didn’t know how to respond to that. In his opinion Sakura didn’t need to spend any time to look nicer. Her features easily singled her out from the common colorings of dark hair and dark eyes and the fair hair and blue eyes that made up the people of Konoha. Those looks were average or pleasant at best.

He knew his family was thought of as beautiful. He had the misfortune of being mistaken for a girl often enough to never grow his hair out the way Itachi did. It was probably due to the fact that he took after his mother who was the most beautiful woman he knew.

But being surrounded by the dark eyes and dark hair of his clansmen and other clans and seeing the blond and blue eyes of Naruto and of the Yamanaka clan so often, made Sakura’s jade eyes and petal pink hair refreshing.

She really didn’t need anything more to bolster her looks. Naruto wasn’t the only loser that went stupid and rambled on about her looks.

“How much longer do you think it’s going to take for him to show up?” Sakura shifted in place, moving away from Sasuke as she adjusted her body for comfort.

As if on cue, Kakashi appeared as if out of nowhere.

“Hello,” he greeted in a sing song voice. “Good morning.”

“You’re late!” Naruto had instantly woken up and shouted along with Sakura.

“Well, a black cat━”

“Save it.” Sasuke stood up and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Obito uses that excuse all of the time.”

“Alright then.”

Kakashi walked over to the center log pillar. An analog clock laid on it, previously unnoticed by the three of them.

“It’s set up for noon,” Kakashi informed them as he pushed the button on top of the clock. “Your assignment today, is to take these bells from me before that time. Those who can’t do it, won’t get lunch. You will be tied up and you’ll watch me eat my own lunch.”

Naruto immediately started complaining and rubbing his stomach.

“Well that explains why we couldn’t have breakfast,” Sasuke muttered under his breath. Sakura had been right. Kakashi had ordered them to skip out on breakfast to weaken them before their test even started.

“You only have two bells,” Sakura cut off Naruto’s grumbling. “There’s three of us though.”

“Yes.” Kakashi’s lone visible eye crinkled at the creases, a sign that he was smiling. “At least one of you will be tied to a log and disqualify and be sent straight back to the Academy. At least one of you will fail but all of you have a chance of failing today if you don’t obtain a bell before noon.”

He dangled the bells in front of them and then tied them to his pouch.

“You can use all of your weapons and any skill in your arsenal. If you don’t come at me with the intent to kill, you’ll never get a bell.”

“Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Sakura couldn’t keep the concern out of her voice.

“Yeah Kakashi-nii.” Naruto placed his hands behind his head, elbows sticking out. “We wouldn’t wanna hurt you?”

“I’ll take my chances. We’ll start on the count of three. One━”

Kakashi was cut off by Naruto’s battle cry, he aimed a kunai straight at their mentor. Faster than either Sakura or Sasuke could track him, Kakashi had Naruto pinned, his kunai aimed at his own neck instead.

“Jumping the gun already Naruto? Predictable.” Kakashi pushed him towards his teammates. “Actually wait for the signal this time.”

At the count of three the trio launched themselves into the trees, hiding. Sasuke kept an eye on both of his teammates, keeping track of their positions.

There were two bells but three of them. He could ally himself with one of his teammates and take the bells for themselves or they could all three call Kakashi’s claim as a bluff after they took the bells together.

“Hey,” Sakura whispered. She had moved in a direction closest to Sasuke when they first split up and made her way to his hiding spot. “We can’t get those bells on our own. We need to come up with a plan.”

Sasuke nodded. Sakura had taken the initiative to approach him with a plan of teamwork. She would be his ally if Naruto couldn’t be convinced.

“Please tell me the idiot isn’t doing what I think he’s doing,” Sakura groaned.

Gazing back to the clearing, Naruto was standing out in the open.

“Come on, Kakashi-nii. Just you and me, fair and square.”

“God, he can’t be that stupid.” Sasuke’s jaw dropped in disbelief as Naruto ran right at Kakashi, letting out his obnoxious battle cry once more.

“Looks like we’ll be going over taijutsu first.”

Naruto halted in his tracks as Kakashi reached into his weapon’s pouch. He eyed him warily and waited for Kakashi to pull out his own kunai. Naruto flinched when Kakashi withdrew his hand but at the sight of something orange Naruto stomped his foot and shrieked in frustration.

“Put that crap away you dirty old man!” Naruto pulled on his hair. “I can’t believe you read that geezer’s disgusting books.”

“You’re just too young to appreciate it. I just got to a good part and I don’t feel like waiting to read the rest. I can take care of you and read at the same time.”

With a grunt of frustration Naruto swung at Kakashi, missing when Kakashi took a step back. Naruto growled and spun for a roundhouse kick only for Kakashi to duck, his eyes never once straying from his book. He turned a page and stood straight, waiting for Naruto’s next move.

Naruto swung his fist out in a wild attempt to land a hit. Charging blind had him lose sight of his target. He missed Kakashi moving behind him.

“What’s that? A hand sign?” Sakura’s pale eyebrows pulled down into a frown. “A tiger seal?”

“No.” Sasuke’s right eye twitched. He had seen that pose before. It was something Obito did all of the time when he was goofing off during spars.

“He’s going to seriously hurt Naruto!” Sakura panicked. Before Sasuke could stop her she shouted, “Naruto, look out!”

Naruto screamed in pain and went flying into the lake.

“Did Kakashi-sensei just━?”


“How old is this man again?” Sakura groaned, running her hands down her face.

“Twenty-six but I doubt age has anything to do with maturity.”

“I can hear you.” Kakashi lifted his gaze from his book and tilted his head in the direction of Sasuke and Sakura’s hiding spot. “Those growling stomachs are a dead giveaway.”

“Shit,” Sasuke cursed. There was no time to strategize an ambush if their target already knew their location. He and Sakura were forced to split up and find new hiding spots.

“Don’t count me out yet!” Naruto dragged himself out of the lake as six shadow clones formed around him.

“Your father wasn’t kidding about you breaking into the Hokage tower, was he?” Kakashi asked, the tone of his voice bored as if he had expected Naruto’s latest stunt.

We should use this as a diversion, Sakura thought to herself as she watched seven Naruto’s scramble trying to find their teacher.

The idiot is falling for a trap. I’m not even surprised. Sasuke rolled his eyes at Naruto’s naivety. Did he really expect their teacher to have just accidentally drop a bell.

Sure enough, Naruto was soon flailing around, hanging off a tree with rope, his legs tied up. Kakashi was prodding him with a long finger, making him twirl.

Now’s the best time to strike! Sasuke flung his shuriken landing on his target.

“Holy shit, Sasuke!” Naruto shouted. “Don’t you think that’s overkill?”

Wait…shit! Sasuke’s eye widened in shock as Kakashi’s prone form burst into a puff of smoke, only a log left behind. I just gave away my location again.

Sasuke took off through the trees, darting quickly, trying to avoid rustling any leaves as he fled.

He split us up! Sakura looked frantically from where Naruto was hanging back to the direction that Sasuke had taken off in. Kakashi was nowhere in sight.

Gotta go help Sasuke-kun! Sakura flung shuriken and cut down the rope holding Naruto up. Naruto landed with a groan and as soon as she saw him hit the ground, Sakura ran in the direction that Sasuke had run off to.

Kakashi had a head start on looking for Sasuke. Sakura wasn’t naive enough to believe she would be able to track Sasuke’s location before a jōnin ranked ninja but she had to try. Naruto was safe as long as Kakashi believed he was incapacitated, unable to free himself.


Sakura wrapped her arms around the trunk of the tree she was preparing to launch off of to halt her movements. She didn’t find Sasuke but she found Kakashi waiting at the edge of the tree line.

Sakura’s face scrunched up in frustration. She could try to go for a bell but she couldn’t face him head on. Her style of taijutsu was more defensive. She would have to formulate a plan if she wanted a chance at the bells.

Maybe I should go back and check on Naruto…

Sakura had hoped that Naruto would have followed her after he freed his legs from the rope binds but he was nowhere in sight.


Sakura flinched at the lazy intonation and whipped her head to look behind her. Her forehead smacked against a green flak vest and she screamed in terror.

Kakashi-sensei had found her.


Sasuke looked toward the forest. He had assumed that Kakashi would have been drawn away from his teammate after Sasuke had given away his location with his attempted attack. He had used the time he had away from his sensei to set up a trap.

“Genjutsu.” Kakashi appeared behind him, standing at a tree and still reading his book. “I’m sure you know how those work considering your family.”

“An illusion…”

Sasuke grit his teeth. He couldn’t fault Sakura for falling for genjutsu but now it left her incapacitated until he could release her from the illusion if she couldn’t break herself out of it on time.

“Well, I’m not going down that easily. I can’t afford to━you know, considering my family.”

Sasuke flung a pair of shuriken directly at Kakashi, forcing him to dodge and land in the direct line of Sasuke’s trap.

Another kunai was thrown, slicing through the rope that released a volley of shuriken and kunai.

Sasuke knew it wouldn’t stop Kakashi but it slowed him down enough to allow him to flash step just behind his teacher and swing his leg out for a fierce kick. Kakashi blocked it but Sasuke was ready with another swift attack, aiming a punch at his face only to be blocked again. Spinning his body upward, Sasuke aimed  strong kick that Kakashi was forced to block with his forearm.

Forced to brace against the quick and strong attacks, Kakashi almost let his defense of the bells down. A tinkling sound alerted him to Sasuke’s fingers brushing against one of the bells. Kakashi pushed him away quickly, backing away from Sasuke’s grabby fingers.

“Looks like I can’t just sit back and read anymore.”

“No, you can’t!”

Sasuke’s hands flew through a series of hand signs. Chakra built up in his chest and flowed hot up his throat until he released a fireball large enough to consume his sensei.

After a few seconds of releasing a steady stream of fire, Sasuke cut it off. His eye widened at the empty crater left behind.

Where did he go?

The sound of the earth below him cracking drew his attention to the ground. A fist had burst from the ground and grabbed his leg.

Sasuke screamed as he was dragged down into the ground. He squirmed but he couldn’t move his body.

“You’re just about as much trouble as certain other Uchihas I know.” Kakashi sighed and rolled his neck to stretch it out. “Good luck getting out of that. The clock is ticking.”

And with that he left Sasuke up to his neck trapped in the ground.

She had been running for a long time and couldn’t find anyone.

Sakura had woken up back by the empty clearing alone. No Naruto. No Sasuke. No Kakashi.

No one.

She went searching for her teammates and their instructor but found no one. She was forced to head back to their meeting spot and check to see if anyone had come back.

The clock on the center log pole stated the time as hours past the deadline.

She had failed and no one had bothered to stick around and inform her of her fate.

They just left me here. Alone.

Sakura leaned against the pole and slid down until she was sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees. She failed. She never failed.

At least not on paper.

She knew that she wasn’t as battle oriented as Sasuke or Naruto. She knew she was going to have a harder time with the bell test than her teammates. But Sakura had hoped she could use her intelligence to find a way around it. There couldn’t be just one way to be a ninja.

But the thought of just being abandoned left darkened her mood, made her go somewhere she hadn’t been in a long time.

Sakura was always alone when she was younger.

In Laolin, the district she lived in, she was an anomaly when it came to looks. Her mother had golden hair that was unlike the fair coloring of Konoha natives and jade eyes and then her father had the most exotic coloring of all.

Sakura was always insecure about how she stood out from her people, how she stood out amongst everyone. She could enunciate better and try to mimic the clarity of a high born native’s accent but she stood out like a sore thumb.

And then her forehead. It just had to be so large.

Being the youngest in her class and the strangest looking didn’t help her when it came to making friends.

One of Sakura’s greatest worries when it came to this test was that if she failed she would lose all of her friends. Would they still be her friend if she couldn’t cut it as a ninja? Would they travel all of the way to Laolin for her? Or would they never set foot again into the crowded district?

They left me…

Sakura stood up with a sigh and dusted off her red dress. It was late and she would need to get home and explain to her parents what had happened. She could go back and finish the year with some civilian classes and then work in her parents’ tea shop.

Quitting already? A snarky voice whispered from a corner of her mind. You can’t be that pathetic.

Sakura brushed the voice off and looked for her bag. She had left it by the poles but it was nowhere in sight. She put her hands on her hips and stomped the ground with one foot.

Don’t tell me they took my bag! I put it right here by the clock! Right by the…the clock?

Sakura tilted her head to the side, confused as she stared at the clock. The larger hand hadn’t moved from it’s position since she had first left the clearing to find the others. The time hadn’t changed at all.

Which was odd considering it was making a ticking sound.

A flaw. Could it be…a flaw?

Sakura formed her hands into the ram seal and muttered the word “Kai.”

Sakura was sprinting through the forest. When she came to she wasn’t in the original clearing with the logs but at the base of the tree where Kakashi had found her.

She had fallen for a genjutsu and was embarrassed at how easily it had happened. She would have to be more alert from now on.

Just gotta find Sasuke and━

Sakura stopped in her tracks when she saw Sasuke’s head sticking out of the ground.

“Sakura?” Sasuke’s head blinked up at her.

“Don’t tell me this is a multi-layered illusion!” Sakura pulled at her hair.

“No, I’m actually trapped in the ground!”

“Oh.” Sakura squatted so that she could examine the ground. “How do we…how do we get you out?”

“I had an idea but it might not work.”

“Well, let’s try it.”

“Uh, back up.”Sasuke averted his gaze. He could feel heat gather at his ears. “Just in case.”

Sakura backed away into the tree line and used a tree as a shield. She felt a pressure like a release of chakra and had to duck as rubble whipped around.

“That’s a pain.”

Sakura came out of hiding and saw Sasuke rubbing at his shoulders.

“I’m glad I found you.” Sakura smiled shyly as she kneaded Sasuke’s arms and shoulders. “I thought I was left behind. I mean, in the genjutsu I was left behind.”

“That wouldn’t happen.” The words rushed out before Sasuke could stop them. “I━we, Naruto and I, would never leave you behind.”

“Yeah?” Sakura giggled, finally releasing her hold on Sasuke. Her stomach growled and her face flushed pink.  She chuckled nervously and muttered,“I could really go for some jianbing right now…”

“Jianbing?” Sasuke tried out the word, the sound foreign on his tongue.

“Yeah. It’s a crepe. It’s so good with youtiao! I always pick some up on my way to the Academy. There’s a stall that starts selling them before it’s even light out but Kaka-sensei told us we couldn’t eat.”

“Yeah. Speaking of, we should go for those bells again.”

“I couldn’t even get near those bells,” Sakura mumbled in disappointment. “This is impossible.”

“It is if you have that attitude,” Sasuke scolded her. “I almost got one. I’m sure if we all work together we can definitely get those bells.”

He placed a hand on her back and gently pushed her forward, guiding her in the direction he wanted to head in.

“You think so?” Sakura gave him a weak smile. “How much time do we still have left?”

An alarm rang in the distance.

“None,” Sasuke muttered darkly.

Sakura was shocked when they found Naruto already tied to a pole. Sasuke just kicked at the log.


“You got caught so easily, stupid.”

“As you may have noticed,” Kakashi appeared behind them, “Naruto is already dealing with his punishment. He decided to try and steal the bento reward for those who passed.”

He crossed his arms in front of his chest and began to lecture them. Naruto whined and Sasuke averted his gaze and glared at the ground. Sakura wrung her hands around the hem of her dress, feeling ashamed.

Kakashi made a good point about how she focused too much on helping Sasuke and had left Naruto to his own devices.

“I’ll give you guys one more shot after lunch. But,” Kakashi turned to leave them, “no feeding the thief. You’ll fail if you do.”

“You’re such a jerk Kaka-nii!”

Sakura munched on her rice feeling guilty. Naruto’s stomach was growling right above her head.

“Moron,” Sasuke called out to Naruto. He held up his chopsticks holding up a piece of rolled egg. “Eat this.”

“He just said not to feed me.”

“Just eat the damn food. You’ll be useless if you’re starved. He did say we had to work together. Don’t hold us back.”

“He’s right,” Sakura sighed. She held up a bite of rice for Naruto.

As soon as Naruto munched on the rice, a strong gale blew across the training grounds.

“Oh come on!” Sakura cried out in frustration. “We’re being good teammates.”

“Yep. And for that,” Kakashi gave them a thumbs up, “you guys pass!”

I don’t know if I can be happy about that, Sakura groaned inwardly. What a messed up test.

Sakura was dragging her bag behind her by the time she reached her front door. She was covered in dirt and leaves and her hair was a tangled mess. She barely raised a hand to return her mother’s greeting, her muscles were sore after running around with her teammates.

But she was the happiest she had ever been.

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 7

Chapter Seven: Little Girls, Big Weapon Dreams

There was something heartbreaking about love. About love the way the Uchiha felt it. They loved so strongly that it could be their undoing.

Mikoto had always found it tragic.

Obito had to go to work and as the matriarch of the Uchiha it was one of her duties to care for Madara during the day. She busied herself with boiling the deep fried tofu she needed to blanche for his favorite dish, while keeping him in her line of sight. As old as he was, he still had bursts when he would be agile and move with such grace that he would wander away from his caretaker and then be found collapsed on the ground by any clan member that found him.

The former clan head had the strangest luck. He was believed to be dead long ago but was found by Obito during the war or rather Madara had found Obito and healed him. At that point, Madara had already lost his mental faculties and when Obito was healed enough he brought the raving elder back home to Konoha.

Hidden away in the Uchiha district, none of the villagers were to know of his existence. No one knew what sort of complications it would have brought if anyone knew they had someone as old as he was still living in the Uchiha district. Fugaku would not listen to those that wanted to euthanize the old man, choosing instead to have Obito, who had a history of tending to the needs of the elderly, care for him until his death.

It was also Obito’s fault that Madara survived the first false alarm. Instead of letting him die peacefully, Obito had panicked and had his best friend Nohara Rin resuscitate him. It was a strike against him but it wasn’t as bad as having given his eye to an outsider, Hatake Kakashi. It seemed his squad mates were learning too many Uchiha secrets.

Over time Madara had calmed down but it was quite clear that he didn’t always understand what time period he was in. It was made worse when Mikoto would bring Sasuke along with her on the days she had to watch over the both of him. Madara’s eyes would cloud over and he would call him Izuna, forgetting that his younger brother was dead.

“Where is Izuna?” Mikoto heard him ask over the bubbling of the tofu.

“He’s out training, Madara-sama.” When they were alone she never had the heart to remind him that his brother was dead and who he believed was his brother was actually her youngest son.

“He’s getting so tall,” Madara sighed. “And strong. But he says the oddest things sometimes. ‘Rookie of the year’. Such an odd boy.”

Mikoto lightly pressed the abura-age until they were dry and stuffed them with rice. When she deemed them ready to eat she plated them and brought them to the chabudai Madara was seated at.

Madara chewed slowly on his inarizushi, staring at Mikoto. His left eye ran over her facial features, the right blindly following, before settling back on his plate of food.

“That boy…isn’t Izuna, is he?”

“No, Madara-sama,” Mikoto replied sadly. “He’s my son Sasuke.”

Mikoto pretended she couldn’t see the tear roll down Madara’s cheek.

Sasuke’s eye twitched as Naruto’s arm wrapped itself around his neck. The idiot was screaming his head off as he cheered at his fortune at being placed in the same team.

Despite his low scores, there was probably no one else Sasuke would have wanted on his team. Well, except for…

A giggle caught Sasuke’s attention. Sakura had originally been sitting next to him until Naruto pushed her aside to get to him. She was listed first as being part of Team Seven and although she had sighed in defeat when Naruto’s name had been announced, she seemed to have quickly gotten over her disappointment and was now beaming at the both of them.

“I should have known I wouldn’t be able to escape these two,” Ino grumbled from behind them. On her right Shikamaru was snoozing away and on her left Choji was busy munching on a bag of potato chips. “This lazy bum is always sleeping!”

“Well, he was up late watching his dad and mine playing shogi.”

“I bet Auntie Yoshino came storming into the shop looking for them.”

“Yep.” Sakura nodded. “I gave her a discount on her tea to try and calm her down.”

“Hey! Why don’t I ever get a discount?” Naruto complained.

Sasuke was used to feeling as though there were a wall between him and his classmates. His family lived on the outer rim of the village and it felt as if he were missing out, that there was this disconnect between him and everyone else who saw each other a lot more often than he did.

He knew Naruto and Shikamaru were friends. And obviously, Naruto would make trips to the Haruno’s shop whenever he could just to bother Sakura. Considering how Shikamaru always griped about girls he never could have pictured Sakura being friends with him.

It did sound like it was actually their fathers that were friends but it was still uncomfortable knowing that his only two real friends at the Academy had parts of their lives that he didn’t know about.

“Sakura-chan, we should go get lunch,” Naruto suggested while waggling his eyebrows, “now that we’re teammates and all.”

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Naruto. It would be just like him to use any opportunity he could to try and get a date. Something heavy dropped in Sasuke’s stomach when Sakura clapped her hands together excitedly.

“That’s a great idea! We won’t be meeting our jonin instructors until after lunch block so we should all go and have lunch together.”

“All of us?” Naruto asked in disbelief.

He should probably take the hint already. Sasuke rolled his eyes as Naruto hung his head. She’s been pretty blunt when it comes to her disinterest.

“How about it Sasuke-kun?”

Ignoring Naruto mouthing “No”, Sasuke gave her a sharp nod in agreement. Naruto screwed up his face in one of his ugly pouts. His lips pursed as his cheeks puffed out, stretching the whisker pattern lines on his face. Sasuke’s mother always found it funny yet endearing how Naruto looked more like a fox than his jinchuuriki mother.

For lunch the three of them had wandered off of the Academy’s grounds toward the part of the village near the neighborhood Sakura lived in. It was a small area with as many shops as possible crammed into the location. As they walked through they noticed that the shop owners seemed to wear the same style of dress as Sakura and her mother.

“Shūshu,” Sakura approached a stall with steamed buns, “may I have two anpan?”

The man spoke to her in a harsh sounding foreign dialect Sasuke had never heard before. Sakura smiled sheepishly and shrugged and the man sighed before packing her three steamed buns and tweaking her nose fondly.

“And what can I get for you two?”

“Two meat buns and one vegetable each please,” Sasuke asked politely, pulling Naruto back by the collar when the latter stood on his toes to loom over the buns on the cart. Naruto seemed to have gotten over being upset that he was out voted on where to go to lunch and was looking for the plumpest buns.

“Vegetable?” Naruto wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Who are you? My mother?”

“Growing boys need vegetables.” The stall owner smacked Naruto over the head with a paper fan.

Although he was grumbling, Naruto pulled out his frog coin purse to pay for his share. The three of them thanked the stall owner and meandered the streets as they ate.

Sakura kept catching Sasuke’s eye and looking away, a slight pink tint on her cheeks. When Naruto announced that he needed to use the facilities, the two of them leaned against a shop’s wall to wait for him. After a few minutes of silence, Sakura broke it.

“He was just scolding me for using the native tongue.” Sakura pulled at her dress, rocking back and forth on her heels. “He’s an old friend of my grandfather’s on my mother’s side. He thinks it’s a shame that the younger generation doesn’t speak the homeland’s language.

Sakura dropped her dress to make air quotes. Her nose wrinkled as she said ‘homeland’.

“ I think he’s actually the only person that speaks it fluently anymore. It’s been decades since anyone has thought of anywhere but Konoha as home.”

She was babbling which usually meant she was nervous but Sasuke couldn’t help but smile softly. He may have felt left out earlier in the classroom but with Sakura it was like there were never any secrets. Her face told everything she was feeling and she never left him in the dark.

“Things are…different in this part of the village.” Sasuke looked around at all of the hustle and bustle of the people in their foreign attire.

“This is mainly a civilian district,” Sakura explained. “Very few shinobi come from this neighborhood. But there is one shop here that I love that’s not civilian.”

Sakura grabbed hold of his hand and pulled on it as she lead them down the street. Sasuke mused on how much smaller it was than his already despite him just entering puberty.

“You don’t have to pull.” He started to get embarrassed as they drew the attention of some middle aged women.

“Here it is!”

Sakura brought him to the window of a weapons shop. There were a variety of familiar tools on display and some that weren’t. Sasuke chuckled at the way Sakura’s eyes glittered when they landed on an oversized axe. She pressed her nose against the glass, hands on the window in yearning.

“They have the best explosive tags here because they’re made with this top quality powder, a trade good brought to Konoha a long time ago that was originally used for fireworks. There’s nowhere in the entire village that makes them as great as this place.”

“You know that axe is impractical right? It’s too heavy.”

Sakura scoffed and turned away from the window to glare at him.

“It wouldn’t be impractical in the hands of someone with the strength to carry it.”

Sakura turned her attention back to the window and her face fell. Inside was a slightly older girl with twin buns holding up the price tag for the axe. The brunette girl smiled sympathetically before turning back into the shop.

“Tamura-san said I can start a payment plan once we start getting paid for missions.” Sakura pulled away from the window with a heavy sigh. “He and his wife will make one custom just for me since I’m the only other kid from the neighborhood besides their daughter Tenten and her teammate that graduated from the Academy.”


The two of them jumped at the sound of Naruto’s voice.

“I can’t believe you two just left me!”

“Well, you took an awfully long time.” Sakura’s fists went to her hips as she confronted him. “Let’s go or we’re going to be late and I don’t want our sensei’s first impression of us to be bad.”

It turned out that they didn’t need to worry about being on time. It was already an hour and forty-five minutes after all of the other genin were picked up and Team Seven was still waiting for Hatake Kakashi.

“I thought Obito-nii was supposed to be the tardy one,” Naruto grumbled as he re-crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“Well it seems like my cousin has rubbed off on his old teammate.” Sasuke leaned back in his seat, tired of resting his mouth against his interlocked fingers.

“Did he just…forget us?” Sakura’s face was steadily getting redder the more frustrated she got. She had already snapped one of her pencils within the first hour they waited.“How irresponsible can he be?”

“I’m definitely spilling salt into his food the next time he comes over for dinner,” Naruto mutters.

“Wait, how well do you know this guy?” Sakura asked curiously.

“Enough to know that he’s never late to anything dad calls him for.”


The three of them snapped their attention to the open door, a man with spiky gray hair leaned against the entryway.

“Sorry I’m late. There was an old lady that needed my help with some bags and then━”

Sasuke’s head fall back and he groaned.

Not another Obito!

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 6

Chapter Six: Back-Talk

Inuzuka Hana slid into the available seat next to Izumi. The other brunette tutted at her and tapped a finger on her wrist.

“Sorry. My idiot brother ate chocolate again and I had to wait for his medication to start working.” Hana had a way of sounding affectionate while still being annoyed with Kiba.

“When is that kid ever going to remember that he’s allergic to it?” Shisui’s voice came out sounding thick as he had just stuffed a piece of meat into his mouth. He had gone ahead and started cooking the meat while they waited for Hana to arrive.

“Hopefully before the next false alarm.” Itachi served the girls some of the more choice grilled meat slices before taking any pieces for himself.

“There was another false alarm?” Hana’s jaw dropped.

“We didn’t head home until the sun was already up,” Izumi let out a large yawn.

Hana patted her shoulder sympathetically. She had been friends with the Uchiha trio long enough to know about how the entire clan would stand vigil whenever their ancient former clan head seemed as though he were about to finally pass away.

The wizened old man was practically senile at this point but it was as if he refused to die.

“Obito-nii was freaking out because he thought Madara had finally croaked but the old man just turned over and asked him for his breakfast and then got up and walked around complaining about how useless his caretaker was.”

Shisui paused in his explanation to stuff more meat into his mouth.

“He called Sasuke Izuna again. I never get tired of that. The little guy just sighs now and peels his tangerines. Doesn’t even grumble about it not being his name anymore.”

“Speaking of Sasuke,” Hana rolled her eyes and let out a breathy laugh, “I heard he’s going to be named rookie of the year.”

“Let me guess,” Izumi examined her nails to try and hide the smug grin creeping onto her face, “Kiba has been complaining about our little guy?”

“Wow, how did you know?” Hana asked sarcastically. She let out a sigh and pouted. “I swear Kiba has ADHD. He could have been rookie of the year if he applied himself.”

Shisui snorted which earned him a glare from Hana. Itachi tried to frown at him but the corners of his mouth twitched upwards. Izumi just gave Hana’s shoulder a comforting pat.

“Sasuke is a dork but I wouldn’t have expected anyone else to take that spot.” Shisui leaned back and patted his stomach. “I am stuffed.”

“You ate two thirds of the meat on your own,” Itachi noted. “And all of the pickled daikon.”

“Ita-kun had to fill up on rice because of you,” Izumi scolded Shisui.

“Well maybe you should just cook us up something later. I know Hazuki-san has been teaching you how to cook.”

“That would be nice,” Itachi agreed.

“Come on guys,” Izumi protested, “I’m still terrible at it.”

“I’m sure you’re not that bad. You do everything well.”

“And you probably look super cute in an apron too,” Shisui added with a wink. “Give Itachi a run for his money.”

“Will you three please stop flirting in front of the single mess over here,” Hana feigned a glum tone as she joked.

As she was Izumi’s best friend she was trusted with the status of their relationship. She would have had to have been blind not to notice. Hana always teased Izumi about how she smelled of both boys after any of them came back from a long mission. Izumi’s face would flush red and she would stammer as Hana barked out a laugh at her in embarrassment.

“Awww!” Izumi wrapped her arms around Hana and brought her into a tight embrace. “You’ll always be my favorite.”

“Hey!” Shisui turned to Itachi for backup but was ignored by him in favor of drinking his tea.

The girls laughed at him and Izumi slid the bill across to him.

“You did eat the most.”

“Now that’s just mean Izumi.” Hana shook her head and pulled out her wallet. “I’ll pitch in too Shisui.”

“You know what, you’re my favorite too.”


Ino was digging through Sakura’s bag for a hair brush when she found a neat little carton of the best fruit in the world.

“Yum! My favorite,” Ino chirped pulling out the box of cherry tomatoes. “The perfect snack for break time.”

“Those aren’t for you Ino!” Sakura snatched the box out of her hands.

“If not for me than who?” Ino snatched the box back.

Ino watched as Sakura’s face practically glowed red. Flustered, Sakura averted her gaze and muttered something under her breath. Ino heard her but decided to tease her by pretending she hadn’t.

“Come again?”


“I’m sorry I still can’t hear a thing you’re saying.”

“Sasuke-kun, okay?” Sakura snatched the carton of tomatoes back. “He got rookie of the year and I wanted to give him something and he doesn’t like sweets.”

“What about my gift? I got top scores too!” Ino pouted and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“But did you get rookie of the year?”

“No,” Ino said glumly, still pouting. Sakura wanted to roll her eyes. Ino was taking this so seriously.

“Fine,” Sakura sighed. “I’ll make you some pudding later.”

“Yay!” Ino threw her arms around her neck. “Now come here so I can get those tangles out of your hair.”

Ino reached back into Sakura’s bag. As she grabbed the brush her hand brushed against a jar. Curious, Ino pulled it out of the bag as well.

“I also made a salve…for burns,” Sakura mumbled. “I use it for burns I get when I work in the shop. I thought I might, I don’t know, give him some?”

Ino stifled a groan. This was what always made her so frustrated with Sakura! She was doing so well with breaking out of her shell but then there were these little clouds of self-doubt and Sakura would draw back into herself.

“Give it to me then.”


“Well, I technically helped make the salve. I knew where all of the ingredients you needed could be found.” Ino shrugged. “I could give it to Sasuke-kun. It’s not like he’s any less cute now that I’ve met Sai-kun.”

Sakura’s jade eyes went wide and her jaw dropped open. Her right eye was twitching and it was obvious that Sakura wanted to say something but she was holding back. It was a hilarious sight but laughing would ruin Ino’s little game.

“Don’t you think giving such a practical gift would show Sasuke-kun such a mature side of me?” Ino shook her head slightly to shake out her long ponytail in a flirtatious manner. “Like I’m sure he already knows how gorgeous I am but what a way to remind him of how smart and considerate I am, right?”

“Or pig-headed.”

It was Ino’s turn for her jaw to drop.

Sakura’s pale pink brows were drawn forward in a glare, her round cheeks puffed out and flushed red. It was the angriest look Sakura had ever sent in Ino’s direction.


“Stubbornly draping yourself all over him all of the time and squealing like a little pig despite his obvious discomfort,” Sakura huffed. She puffed her chest out, hands on her hips. “Really attractive Ino, really. Just so appealing.”

Ino scoffed, absolutely insulted. She wanted Sakura to be more honest but not that much.

“I at least do something.” Ino jabbed Sakura’s forehead with her pointer finger. “The brain behind this giant forehead is only good for books but not for real life apparently.”

Sakura sucked air in and puffed her cheeks out more, face turning an even darker shade of red. She snatched the jar out of Ino’s hand and stormed off mumbling under her breath something that sounded like “I’ll show that pig doing something.”

“Finally,” Ino exhaled feeling exhausted. Grabbing her bag she headed into the Academy building.

I can’t believe she called me a pig!

Exhausted as he was, the graduation test was a breeze.

Sasuke packed up his hitai-ate into his pack and stifled a yawn. He was ready to head home and have a cat nap out on the engawa with Shiro and all of the cats.

Naruto had originally wanted to drag him along to celebrate graduation. Sasuke was almost willing to go along with the hyperactive kid. There was a part of him that was relieved that his friend had shaped up enough in the end to graduate, but there was another part of him that wanted to go home and rest.

And there was a bigger part of him that wanted to rush home and show off his new hitai-ate to his family.

He didn’t graduate early like his brother or Izumi. No one graduated early anymore but there was always hope to be the exception just to prove that he could be just as great as Itachi. But he was the top of his class and now officially the youngest shinobi in the Uchiha clan. A shinobi like his loved ones. He finally had the forehead protector that put him one step closer to his older brother’s level.

So he was a little proud of himself.

All he had to do know was get home without being stopped by anymore people trying to congratulate him.

Almost as soon as he thought he was in the clear and was heading down the road that lead to the far side of the village to the Uchiha district someone called out to him.

He would have ignored it and pretended he hadn’t heard of it weren’t for the fact that the voice sounded familiar. A good kind of familiar.


All day it seemed as if Sakura had something she wanted to say to him but couldn’t get the words out. It was such a contradiction to the usual chatter that flowed out of her.

Sasuke slowed to a complete stop to allow her to catch up. He was avoiding everyone but it didn’t seem right to ignore Sakura.

There was also a part of him that was kind of hoping maybe Sakura had come to congratulate him. There was something pleasurable about her acknowledgement that was different than the recognition from that of his family.

It was a kind of pleasure that made the back of his neck heat up and his stomach go light and airy when her eyes sparkled as she beamed up at him.


Sakura’s gaze was averted but there was a pretty bloom of pink flushed on her cheeks. A bashful tuck of her hair behind her ears brought his attention up to the hitai-ate tied on top of her head where her red ribbon was previously.

No more bunny ears…

Sasuke looked at her  expectantly. There was no way she had traveled to the far end of the village just to stand in front of him.

“I, uh, got you something.”

Sakura swung her pack off of her shoulders. For the first time that day Sasuke noticed that it was misshapen, a different sort of bulk than it usually had when it was filled with her books and journals.

“Just to say congrats, you know? It’s really amazing that you got rookie of the year—not that I doubted you would get it! It wasn’t a surprise at all, really…”

Now she was rambling. Sakura did that often but usually it only took a look from him for her to realize she was straying from the point and she would get right on track. But she wasn’t looking at him, keeping her eyes trained on the ground.


Sakura thrust out her arms in front of her. In her hands was a carton of cherry tomatoes and a flat, circular jar.

“It’s an ointment for burns,” Sakura explained. “You favor your katon and well, your forearm protectors don’t really do anything for your cheeks so uh…”

Her voice trailed off and that’s when Sasuke realized he still hadn’t made a move to take the gifts she was offering.

“Thank you,” he said softly, finally taking the gifts.

That was the magic of Sakura.

Naruto was his first friend, fated to be his friend since the day Kushina made that wish, but Naruto didn’t really understand him. They were always at each other’s throats and arguing but that’s just how they were.

Barbaric as it was, they were friends that spoke with their fists.

And then there was Sakura who seemed to be able to get him even with how little he contributed to their conversations in comparison to how much she filled them.

“I hope you find it to be soothing.”

Sakura smiled so sweetly that all Sasuke could do was nod in response. He was the one receiving a gift and yet Sakura was the one that looked overjoyed. It was strange making someone that wasn’t his mother or his brother so happy by doing so little.

It was strange but he wanted to do it again. He swallowed and quickly thought of the first thing that came to mind considering where they were standing.

“We’re pretty close to that senbei shop I told you about. Do you want to—“


Sasuke stiffened at the call of his name. There was no mistaking that voice.

“Hey Little Uchiha!” Shisui ran up to the pair and ruffled Sasuke’s already disheveled feathery hair.

“Cut it out!” Sasuke grit his teeth and elbowed his older cousin. Shisui always had the worst timing. Or convenient timing as it seemed like it was his life mission to embarrass Sasuke whenever possible.

In retaliation for the elbow to his ribs, Shisui placed Sasuke in a headlock.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Sakura-san.”

Sasuke turned as much as he could to see his brother bowing in greeting to Sakura, having missed when she had introduced herself.

“So cute!” Shisui dropped his hold on Sasuke and proceeded to ruffle Sakura’s hair with both hands.

“Shisui!” Sasuke hissed. Normally so polite, Shisui was being overly familiar and rude.

“Hands off the prepubescent girl, Shisui,” Izumi scolded knocking his head with her knuckles.

Hypocrite, Sasuke griped inwardly. She has reacted the same when she first met Sakura.

“I’m pubescent,” he heard Sakura mutter under her breath.

“Izumi is going to make us an early dinner. Would you care to join us?” Itachi smiled pleasantly, holding up the shopping bags in his hands as if they further explained what he meant.

Sasuke choked on air at his brother’s invitation. How did he make everything seem so easy? The words came out so smoothly while they were trapped in his own throat.

“Izumi-nee knows how to cook?” Sakura clasped her hands together in front of her chest, beaming up at the older girl in admiration.

“We’re about to find out,” Shisui answered while giving Izumi a smirk.

“I wish I could but I have to go help my parents in their shop today. I keep running out of allowance.” Sakura rubbed the back of her neck, giving them a sheepish smile. “It was nice meeting you all though. Bye Sasuke-kun, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Sakura turned and jogged down the road, her long hair trailing after her. Sasuke was watching her until she turned the corner until he felt the eerie sensation of being watched.

“What?” He glared at his brother’s lovers. They snickered into their hands, not taking him seriously.

Itachi emitted a sigh, causing Sasuke’s head to snap in his direction.

“That’s just too bad, Sasuke. I guess your invitation for senbei would have been turned down as well. Better luck next time.”


Sasuke’s cheeks heated up. He didn’t think they were close enough to hear him!

“It’s none of your business!” He snapped at them before marching into the Uchiha district.

“What did I say?” Itachi blinked at his younger brother’s retreating back.

“Don’t worry about it Ita-kun.” Izumi rubbed his upper arm in a comforting manner. “It’s just puberty.”

Shisui cringed at Izumi’s words and held himself tightly.

“May the gods be with us.”

Sakura was wiping down a table when Nara Shikamaru strolled in.

“They’re in the patio,” she answered his unasked question. Besides picking up satchels of his mother’s favorite jasmine tea, Shikamaru was also tasked with locating his father who was most likely hiding in the Haruno’s tea house, playing shogi with Haruno Kizashi.

“I’ll let him play another game. I don’t feel like heading home yet. You free for a round?”

“I can’t play today.” Sakura gestured to the apron she was wearing. “I’m working. Want a cup of tea?”

“Do I gotta pay for it?”

“Nah. I’m in a pretty good mood so it’s on me.”

Sakura went back into the kitchen and prepared some Shui Hsien tea. It was a favorite in the store amongst the villagers that preferred the tea from the far, far away land her mother’s family had immigrated from generations ago.

Brewing tea was Sakura’s favorite part of working for her parents. Playing with the fire to make the perfect cup of tea was down to almost a science. Just like how creating the environment for their different leaves was down to a science.

When she brewed teas she could imagine herself brewing antidotes and creating new medicine to assist those that needed her help.

Sakura thought about her hitai-ate sitting on her desk in her bedroom and inwardly squealed with excitement.

She was a genin now and that was the first real step to becoming a shinobi others could rely on. She was on her way to achieving her dream.

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 5

Chapter Five: Books

Sasuke let out a deep sigh and pulled out a book from his bag. He believed being early was being on time—something his mother had instilled in him—but waiting around for their teacher was boring.

Especially considering the fact that class should have started ten minutes earlier. Iruka-sensei wasn’t usually this late unless he was dealing with a Naruto or Kiba issue.

What could that moron have done now?

Sasuke tried to focus on his novel but he couldn’t block out the giggling from the row behind him. He glared at his book, not caring if he was reading the same sentence for the fourth time now.

Sasuke was used to a certain routine by now. He would come to class early to beat Sakura whom he was in a small competition with to see who would get to class first every day. Sasuke prefered to sleep in and he lived further away from the Academy than Sakura, but it was worth it to see her look of frustration. The way Sakura’s cheeks would puff out and her face turning as pink as her hair was sort of—


Sasuke cringed when he heard the dreamy voice of his desk mate. He chanced a peek from the corner of his eye. He held back from groaning in annoyance.

Naruto just had to sit next to him again.

The two of them didn’t hang out in class. They were always fighting considering the fact that Sasuke was the top student and Naruto—for all the brilliance of his Hokage father—was sitting at the bottom of the class roster when it came to grades. It always amazed him how Naruto could have parents that were famed for their ninjutsu and still perform pitifully.

But then again, Aunt Kushina doesn’t really care about Naruto’s grades…

Sasuke’s eye began to twitch at the creepy giggling coming from his right.


“Nothing you would care about,” Naruto grumbled. He turned back around to face the front. “Not like you’re into girls.”

Before Sasuke could even think of retorting a notebook smacked Naruto on the side of the head.

“Shut up Naruto!” The shrill cry of Yamanaka Ino had Sasuke turning his attention to the row behind him.

The outburst from Ino was expected. She was the loudest girl Sasuke had ever met in his life. What he hadn’t expected was the person to have thrown the notebook to have been Sakura.

“Why are you always so rough with me Sakura-chan?” Naruto whined.

“Why are you always such a rude idiot?” Sakura scoffed. “Apologize to Sasuke-kun.”

“Like hell I’m going to apologize to this asshole,” Naruto grumbled and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He squinted up his face into an ugly pout.

Sasuke had witnessed Sakura fuming in class whenever she was placed in a group with Naruto in teamwork drills. Naruto didn’t do so well when it came to teamwork and most of Sakura’s strategies relied on everyone working as a unit.

It was no wonder she thought he was a brat.

Sasuke picked up the notebook from where it had slipped onto the floor. He straightened the crumpled pages and handed it back to Sakura who smiled softly at him and thanked him.

Well, that’s a complete one-eighty…

Sakura flipped open the notebook and went back to taking notes from one of her books. Every time she came across something that interested her she would flash it to Ino who would either nod enthusiastically or shake her head. Occasionally Ino would get a thoughtful expression on her face and pause in the middle of braiding Sakura’s hair to tap at her chin.

“We can check that spot, you know the place.” She would snap her fingers and Sakura would nod and write down a note.

Sakura was in the middle of jotting down notes when Ino and Sasuke caught each other’s eyes. Sasuke waited for the usual attempt at a flirtatious smile or cooing but didn’t receive any. Ino merely gave him a sly grin and wrapped her arms around Sakura’s shoulders.

“Hey Sakura. Wanna help me again with that thing after class?”


Sasuke shot Ino a glare. For the past week Sakura had been skipping out on their training sessions to spend time with Ino.

What could be possibly be more important than getting stronger? Especially something with Ino?

“I kind of had plans today…”

“Aww, really Sakura-chan?” Naruto recovered from earlier. “I thought maybe we could—“

“No!” Both Ino and Sakura responded.

“You don’t even know what I was going to ask!” Naruto whined.

Probably about going to go get ramen. Again. Sasuke rolled his eyes. His cousin Obito was always taking Naruto out to get ramen and trying to drag him along.

“I bet it was about ramen.” Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest and rolled her eyes. “And then Uzumaki-san will get upset that you’ve ruined your appetite by eating out and drag you by the ear across the village. Again.”

“Do you have any idea how much sodium and carbs are in ramen?” Ino wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“Looks like you need the carbs,” Naruto shot back.

The two blondes continued to bicker. Sasuke watched Sakura as she rubbed her temple with both of her hands as she tried to block them out. It wasn’t new for her to be caught in one of Ino’s shouting matches whenever something irritated her.

Ino was always the more loud one. Sasuke recalled Sakura to be a crier, always emotional over something. She was still a bit of a crier. She would get teary eyed whenever she struggled with something she had hoped to excel in on her first try. If Sasuke ever acknowledged her tears she would immediately wipe them away and give one last sniffle before pulling her face into a pouty look full of resolve.

Sasuke let her be after that. Even if she got overwhelmed or upset she braced herself and carried on with training. It was hard to stay irritated when she was trying so hard.

Without meaning to Sasuke caught Sakura’s attention. He must have been staring at her longer than appropriate. She felt his eyes on her and lifted her head back up to smile at him.

I have something to show you later, Sakura mouthed to him.

Fighting off the heat that was creeping up the back of his neck, Sasuke nodded and turned around to face the front of the room.

He ignored Naruto’s whispered questions during class of why he looked so pleased.

Sakura couldn’t keep the smug look off of her face. She had worked hard all on her own and finally nailed it.

Sasuke had been helping her with shurikenjutsu. He was the absolute best in the class and there was a tricky move he had done once that she was interested in. She finally figured out how it was that he altered the trajectory of his shuriken and trained beyond their sessions and finally got the hang of it.

She couldn’t help but look so pleased by Sasuke’s slack-jawed expression.

“I didn’t notice it the first few times because of how quick you are but after breaking it down it turns out that you were tossing a second shuriken.”

Sakura quickly flung a shuriken and then a second to swing the first shuriken’s path to the originally awkwardly located target.

“Not so hard now.” Sakura placed her fists on her hips and tossed her hair over her shoulder haughtily. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be better than you one day.”

Sasuke scoffed. She was lucky she was cute.

“Let’s not get carried away.” Sasuke took hold of her hand and adjusted her grip on her shuriken. “And if you flick your wrist more like this you’ll have a more controlled toss.”

There were nicks along the grooves of Sakura’s fingers. Her hands had once looked perfectly smooth and were soft to touch when he helped her adjust her form. The scars were still fresh so the lines were noticeably raised up on her skin.

Sasuke didn’t find the new flaws to her soft hands ugly. They reminded him of his mother’s hands. She was retired but the scars along her fingers remained. When he was younger and held her hand he could feel them against the smoothness of his own fingers.

The friction of their scars was a peculiar feeling but not unpleasant. It made him want to brush their fingers against each other more.


Sasuke dropped Sakura’s hands as if burned by them. Quick to hide how flustered he was, he missed catching the flush of pink that formed high on Sakura’s cheeks.

“I’m almost done with that novel you recommended,” Sasuke changed the topic. Anything as long as it wasn’t about hands.

“Really?” Sakura’s eyes shimmered with excitement. “There’s currently another published book in the series and one that’s being worked on. I tried to get Ino to read the Shinobi Strategist Detective Story but books aren’t her thing.”

“I didn’t expect to like a mystery since I prefer history novels but it’s a page turner.”


Sakura hopped a little when she clapped her hands together. If her bow was still in her hair instead of the twin plaits that Ino had made she would have resembled a rabbit even more.

“There’s a shop by my house that carries copies of the second novel if you want to keep reading it.”

Sasuke’s attention was drawn back to her hands that she was now wringing together. It was an odd habit but he noticed she only did it when she was nervous. She would stand their wringing her hands around the handle of her kunai as she prepared to do whatever drill Sasuke had planned.

“It’s still pretty early,” Sasuke thought aloud. “We can swing by the bookstore. Maybe.”

Sakura beamed and grabbed his wrist. Heat bloomed on Sasuke’s cheeks at the sudden contact.

“Lets go now! I have a book on chakra theory being held for me.”

“Don’t you already have a book on chakra theory?”

“This one’s a newer edition!” Sakura pouted. “And I may or may not have damaged the one at home.”

Sasuke exhaled a laugh through his nose and rolled his eyes.

“So what’s different about this newer edition?”

“There’s an added section just on Tsunade-sama. She’s one of the sannin.”

“Like that creepy guy that lives at the far edge of the village?”

“He’s a sannin, Sasuke-kun!” Sakura scolded him. She looked around before dropping her voice down to a whisper. “But yeah Orochimaru-sama is kind of creepy.”

Sasuke enjoyed talking to Sakura. It was much more peaceful than when he talked to Naruto but just like with Naruto he felt like she was talking to him and not just as one of the Uchiha.

Sasuke followed Sakura into the bookstore. He bowed his head slightly in greeting to the clerk whom Sakura waved at enthusiastically.

Sakura easily navigated the narrow book aisles, clearly knowing exactly where she was going to find what she was looking for.

“Books have such a nice smell,” she whispered as she flipped the pages of the novel she pulled down.

“A little obsessed with them aren’t we?” Sasuke teased. Sakura flushed pink whenever he did it and it made him think of how he would catch his mother teasing his father or of when Itachi teased him. He understood the appeal when Sakura’s face would warm up and his chest got all airy.

“Well when I was younger I didn’t have any friends and books are one of those things where you don’t need another person…”

Sakura’s face fell for a moment before a shy smile slowly formed.

“But it’s always fun when you can talk about your favorite ones with someone.”

She offered him the novel and he took it in his hands wondering if his mother would give him more ryo to spend so that he could buy all of Sakura’s favorite novels. He usually spent his allowance replacing shuriken he misplaced but he would gladly set aside a bit for something more relaxing. He needed a hobby anyway.

Sakura was busy explaining something she really liked in the first novel when something caught Sasuke’s attention.

There was someone moving in the next aisle over. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at the slow way the person walked, as if they were trying to be quiet and listen in on the conversation.

Through the shelves Sasuke could make out dark hair and taller build than he or Sakura had. He would have mistaken the person for a clan member if it weren’t for the extreme paleness of their skin or the inky black of their eyes.

With a nod of his head, Sasuke gestured to Sakura that it was time to get going.

As Sakura chatted away with the cashier and claimed the book she had on hold, Sasuke was on the lookout for their stalker. Whoever it was seemed to have lost interest in what they were discussing and walked away for Sasuke couldn’t feel any eyes on them.

Narrowing his eyes once more at the aisles, Sasuke chose to forget about the eavesdropper. It was probably just a random browser and he was being paranoid.

We’ll probably never see that guy again.

Ino almost slipped out of her stool when the new patron walked into her family’s shop. The tinkling of the bell over the door drew her attention to the door but nothing had prepared her for Sai to stroll in as if he hadn’t been missing for over a week.

She watched him as he made his way over to the water filled bins that held the cut blooms. Sai hadn’t even noticed that she was sitting at the register!

Ino was stuck between glaring at him and thinking that she should look busy, like she didn’t care that he was there. That she hadn’t acknowledged his absence whatsoever.

But Ino wouldn’t be Ino if she didn’t give him a piece of her mind.

Hoping off of her stool, she swung up the countertop to march right up to him when her path was blocked by a bushel of purple hyacinths.


Oh?” Ino crossed her arms in front of her chest, blue-green eyes narrowed into slits. “Let me ring you up.”

Ino snatched the flowers out of his hands. As she wrapped them into a presentable bouquet, she watched Sai fidget out of the corner of her eye. He frowned as he watched her nimble fingers wrap the stems in a paper wrapper and tied it off with a ribbon.

“That’ll be one hundred sixty ryo.”

Sai handed over the payment due and took the bundle in his hands only to hold it out in front of him toward Ino.

“What?” Ino’s jaw dropped as Sai stood there holding out the flowers.

“This is the proper flower for apologies, is it not? I read that it was the proper coloring to make my statement clear to the receiver.”

“You don’t give a girl flowers you just bought from her!”

Ino was stuck between being irritated with him and feeling giddy. The only person that had ever given her flowers was her father so this new experience filled her with the urge to giggle and gush.

“I had not calculated you being an employee here.”

“The name Yamanaka Hana  wasn’t a big give away?” Ino raised an eyebrow. “My family owns the shop.”

“I still did not expect to see you so soon.” Sai cocked his head to a tilt and observed Ino’s reactions. “I have discovered recently that it is considered rude and inconsiderate to disappear for a long period of time without contacting one’s friends. We are friends right?”

Ino rolled her eyes but nodded anyway. Strange as he may be, Sai was her friend.

“Then I have wronged you and I must apologize.” Sai bowed slightly in her direction. “I should have informed you that I needed to take care of things in my personal life and make arrangements.”

“We really need to do something about how you talk,” Ino mumbled.

“Is this where I explain what I was doing?”

“You don’t need to tell me everything!” Ino huffed in exasperation. She took a calming breath in before she continued. “I was just worried about you. Just give a heads up next time.”

Ino finally took hold of the offered bouquet and cradled it in her arms. They were for an apology but they still made her feel warm inside.

“Did you really read up on flower meanings?”

“Yes. I recently discovered that taking an interest in what your partner likes can be beneficial for your relationship.”

Sai missed the way Ino’s face flushed at his words. She cleared her throat and fidgeted in her spot.

“Where did you learn that from?”

“The bookstore.”

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 4

Chapter Four: Seeds

Itachi’s mouth kept twitching at the corners as he watched his brother take occasional pauses in his dinner to glare at Izumi who was smiling pleasantly and chatting with their mother and Shisui.

“What’s wrong Sasuke? Not hungry?” Itachi asked, eyes softening with concern.

“Nothing’s wrong.” Sasuke took a large bite of his food and made a big show of chewing and swallowing, never taking his eyes off of Izumi.

What is up with him today?

Growing up Sasuke didn’t like Shisui and Izumi. They were always coming and going from the house, taking Itachi away to hang out or go on missions. But although he disliked the two of them for taking his older brother’s attention from him he was usually cordial with at least Izumi. Itachi had no clue what could possibly have made Sasuke change his attitude towards her.

“I met the cutest kid today,” Izumi announced clapping her hands together. As soon as she got everyone’s attention━excluding Fugaku’s for he was too distracted with sneaking Shiro table scraps━she continued to prattle on. “A girl with hair the strangest shade.”

Sasuke’s eyes narrowed even more, his glare intensifying.

“And with a name to match the shade to boot.” Izumi turned her seemingly sweet smile in Sasuke’s direction. “Sakura. Helped her with some taijutsu today.”

“Hmm.” Mikoto hummed thoughtfully as she tapped her chin. “I think I saw a girl with hair that color before. I don’t know her name but that description sounds familiar.”

Itachi caught Sasuke shift at his spot at the table from the corner of his eyes. He knew that his parents wouldn’t protest a friendship with someone outside of the clan but Sasuke was always worried that their father would think he was slacking in his training.

“Hmm, yes.” Mikoto brightened up, eyes shining. “Now I remember where I heard of a pink hair child. Kushina said Naruto has a little girlfriend named Sakura.”

“Sakura is not that moron’s girlfriend.”

“Sasuke!” Mikoto frowned at his outburst.

Shisuis’s face twisted into a look of horror. He was sitting closest to Sasuke and knew that whenever Mikoto called Sasuke by name instead of her usual nickname of “Sasu-chan” that she was in a mood that he didn’t want to be around for.

“Well she’s not. She calls him a brat,” Sasuke muttered. Mikoto narrowed her eyes even more at him. She expected him to take back what he said or apologize for the rude thing she called her best friend’s son.

Sasuke lowered his gaze and continued to eat. Mikoto became cross and removed a small plate of tomatoes from Sasuke’s dishes.

“I think you have had enough of those for today.”

Sasuke pouted, a small scowl on his face. Shisui turned his head to the side and tried to cover his snickering.

After dinner Sasuke went to his room to complete homework, an essay with a topic that had apparently been too embarrassing to try and complete in front of his family members.

Mikoto chuckled to herself before letting out a dreamy sigh. Her son was too cute but eventually he would be setting up walls between them as he got older. It was to be expected.

“Have you seen some of those kids around the village?” Mikoto could hear Shisui ask over the sound of water running over the dishes she was washing.

“They’re a bit…” Izumi but her lip nervously and focused her attention on the teacup in her hands.

“Odd?” Itachi supplied.

Fugaku grunted. Whether in agreement or in disgust it was anyone’s guess. Mikoto felt as if it were a bit of both.

“Does anyone know what the Hokage has decided to do with them?” Izumi asked.

“There are rumors,” Shisui worded carefully, “that the children will be integrated into normal life. That because they weren’t officially initiated into the organization they will be examined before they can join society and decide what they will want to do with their lives whether they want to be civilians or to join the shinobi force.”

“And the fanatic supporters of Shimura’s?” Fugaku asked gruffly, no longer petting Shiro and feigning nonchalance.

“So far no word on the matter,” Shisui answered with a frown. He lifted a hand to his eye and traced the scar just underneath. Izumi covered his hand with her own and pulled it away from his face.

“So far no word on what the Hokage will do about them either,” Fugaku muttered. “Not that I expect much.”

“Let’s not have this kind of talk in the house.” Mikoto nodded toward the direction of the hallway leading to the upper floor. “Not where Sasuke can hear it please.”

The younger adults had the decency to look ashamed. Sasuke wasn’t even a genin yet, barely twelve years old, and shouldn’t be listening to their discussion.

“It’s getting late. Hazuki-san must be worried.” Mikoto looked out the living room window in time to see a street light turn on. “You should walk Izumi home now boys.”

“It’s alright,” Izumi brushed off the gesture with a wave of her hands. “It’s not as though I live far.”

If anyone noticed the clenching of Fugaku’s jaw, they didn’t bring it up. Despite the friendly relationship the Uchihas had with Namikaze Minato, it was hard to forget that he too was once in the council’s pocket.

Although they had helped during the catastrophe that was Naruto’s birth, the Uchihas still dealt with prejudice and discrimination. Something that many turned a blind eye to or simply did not notice—so use to things being the way they were.

So of course no one batted an eye when the Uchiha were relocated after the seal keeping the kyubi at bay was broken during Kushina’s arduous labor. A motion brought up by Danzo. A motion that the Hokage did not fight.

“More tea?” Mikoto offered her husband as soon as they were alone.

“I would like to go for a walk.”

“I’ll go with you.”

Mikoto’s fingertips skimmed atop Fugaku’s wrist before she slipped her hand into his.

“Sasuke would be home alone.”

“Not for long. Itachi will be back soon.” Mikoto leaned against her husband, resting her head on his shoulder. “And he is a very responsible boy, Fugaku.”

“And interested in girls now it seems.” Fugaku let out a barely there chuckle that had Mikoto smiling. “When did that happen?”

“Maybe if you spent more time with him you wouldn’t miss so much.”

“He prefers Itachi.” Fugaku frowned. There had only been one training session between father and son and that had been when Sasuke was learning the katon.

“Itachi is his older brother.” Mikoto squeezed his hand reassuringly. “But you are his father. Now let’s get going. Shiro needs his nightly walk.”

“I don’t want him on our walk.”

“Oh, please. Stop pretending like you don’t love the dog. I saw you feeding him during dinner.”

“That’s preposterous,” Fugaku denied, grabbing Shiro’s new harness. “I would never do such a thing.”

“Sure you wouldn’t.”

Ino sighed heavily. She was becoming restless just lying around. She had no idea how Shikamaru could cloud gaze for so long without getting bored.

“Where is he?” She huffed with frustration.

Every day at around the same time, Ino would find the strange pale boy in the same clearing at the same training ground. She never had to wait on him but today when she arrived he was nowhere to be found.

“I could be doing something better with my time,” Ino whined, trying her hardest to hide her disappointment. It was hard not to feel that way when there was a part of her that had been so excited to spend time with her new friend.

It had been three days now that he had been missing from the clearing.

Ino had first met Sai when she was in the middle of a tirade. Sakura had been avoiding her for a while and she needed to get answers as to why Sakura was always sitting in class with her Sasuke-kun.

The first day was just mere coincidence. And Naruto was sitting with them and it was no secret that the Hokage’s son had a crush on Sakura. Perhaps she was finally giving the boy the attention he wanted.

But when Sakura was found sitting with Sasuke the next day and then the next and then the next it was getting to be unacceptable.

“That-that, that forehead girl!” Ino had shouted in frustration to the trees. She knew Sakura was heading to the training grounds but wasn’t able to find her or Uchiha Sasuke.

“Forehead girl?” An odd, dull voice had asked from somewhere behind her.

Ino spun around and gaped at the pale boy standing under the shade of a pine tree. He looked familiar but at the same time not.

I was just talking to myself in front of an Uchiha!

“Is it normal to barge into forests and converse with oneself?”

“Uh…no?” Ino’s pale eyebrows pulled down, brow wrinkling in confusion. The kid spoke funny.

“I didn’t think so. You’re an odd one.”

“I’m the odd one?” Ino’s cheeks burned pink with heat. “You’re rude, Uchiha-san!”

“Uchiha?” The boy tilted his head to the side quizzically. “This is not the first time I’ve been called that. Do I really look like one?”

“Huh.” Ino approached the taller boy and stared right up at his eyes. “Now that I actually think about it, I don’t think any Uchiha has actual black eyes. Yours look more true black…inkier maybe?”

The only Uchiha she has ever been that close to was when she would latch herself onto Sasuke’s arm. She noticed he had dark eyes but now staring at this boy’s eyes she realized she had never really noticed what the color of Sasuke’s eyes actually were.

Ino noticed she was almost brushing her nose with his and he just smiled down at her. She jumped back flustered. That wasn’t the usual reaction she got when she entered someone’s personal space.

What a creepy smile…

“Well if you’re not an Uchiha,” Ino recovered and brushed off her discomfort, “what is your name?”

There was a long pause before finally, the boy answered her.

“You can call me Sai.”

That was weeks ago and every day Ino would coincidentally come across him in his clearing. He was always alone whenever she met him and had come to the conclusion that he didn’t have any friends.

I could have been figuring out why Sakura won’t talk to me anymore…

Ino sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. She had been content with placing all of the blame on their crumbling relationship on Sakura but looking back on it she had never tried to figure out what was wrong.

She had assumed the issue had been that Sakura was secretly harboring feelings for Sasuke and decided to cast her aside. But Ino didn’t notice any significant change in how Sakura acted around Sasuke. The only significant change she could notice was with herself.

Do I even like Uchiha Sasuke?

Ino fingered the ends of her long platinum blonde hair. She treated it weekly with her own homemade brew and spent all her allowance to make it healthy and shiny. All for a boy she had not even bothered to seek out in weeks. A boy who might as well have been interested in her best friend.

Subtle he is not, Ino jeered mentally. It was irritating watching the two of them. Just do something already!

Sighing, Ino stood up and brushed off her skirt.

It was time to finally talk to Sakura.

Training with weapons was okay but there was something about taijutsu that really spoke to Sakura.

So use to devising strategies in her head on how to avoid close encounters, Sakura never believed she would enjoy running through hand to hand combat exercises.

Uchiha Izumi had changed her mind, making it a lot more enjoyable.

Izumi-nee-chan should be a teacher at the academy.

Sakura used her forearm to block a kick that Izumi spun around and aimed at her. Izumi smiled at her encouragingly before sweeping under for her next blow.

I wouldn’t avoid lessons if the teachers were like her.

So far Sakura was mainly evading. Learning that a strong defense made for a better offense.

It was a lot different that the more aggressive attack pattern Sasuke had but she realized that she preferred this method a lot more.

It helped her lure her opponent into a false sense of assurance that the battle was in their favor.

In this case though, Izumi really did have the upper hand.

“You’re still pulling your punches too much,” Izumi admonished. “It’s too easy to block and makes it way too easy to read what you’re next move is as well.”

Sakura groaned in frustration as she was pushed down onto her bottom. Izumi sat next to her as it was time for a break.

“You’re improving a lot Sakura-chan. I bet you’re scoring higher in class. Right Sasuke?”

“Yeah she is,” he muttered sulkily. He was at the edge of the field, turning pages of one of Sakura’s giant textbooks, eyebrows pulled down in confusion as he read.

“Really?” Sakura beamed at him, hands clasped in front of her chest excitedly. Sasuke’s ears turned red when he noticed the megawatt smile she aimed at him.

Izumi bit the back of her hand to hold in her giggling.

Sasuke was still irritated by her presence but he couldn’t argue when Sakura more than welcomed Izumi’s instruction. She had been very logical with her reasoning that Izumi would make an excellent person to learn from considering how advanced she was in taijutsu being the top of her class in the subject before she graduated a year ahead of everyone else minus Itachi.

“Which one are you reading?” Sakura moved to sit near Sasuke.

Izumi noticed that she sat close enough for their thighs to touch but neither one of them adjusted themselves to make space or acknowledged their closeness.

“There’s a lot of chemistry in this. How do you understand any of it?”

Izumi scooted behind them to get a look at the large book. Her eyes crossed as she tried to follow the formulas and instructions.

How old is Sakura-chan again? Eleven?

“I can loan you one of my more basic texts. It would help you understand this one more.”

Sasuke frowned and then shook his head. It was easy to tell that he wasn’t too happy about needing a lower level book.

“I’m not really into this stuff,” he grumbled.

“I wouldn’t mind borrowing that book, Sakura-chan,” Izumi interjected. “Poisons and antidotes wasn’t a topic they covered in the Academy and my Sensei had a really basic knowledge of them.”

“There isn’t any focus on medical ninjutsu at the Academy. You would think there would be more of an introduction to it but no all we learn is basic first aid.”

Izumi smiled at how cutely Sakura pouted. This kid was too much for her.

“Medical ninjutsu requires extreme chakra control. You gotta be really good at it in order to learn. They don’t really check Academy students for that kind of control.”

Izumi pulled the textbook away from them and flipped to the introduction. She couldn’t understand some of the terminology.

Wow, Sakura-chan is a smart one.

“But creating poisons and antidotes doesn’t necessarily require chakra control,” Sakura explained as she continued to gripe. “It’s more of a science.”

“I don’t know. A bunch of little kids around poison? No thanks.”

The three of them jumped at the sound of the new voice. Shisui grinned mischievously at the three of them.

“Shi-chan!” Itachi pushed against his chest. “How many times do you need to be told not to sneak up on people like that?”

Sakura watched the older teens as they flirted, confused. She caught Sasuke staring at her from the corner of her eye as she watched them. She scratched her cheek and whispered low to him.

“Isn’t Izumi dating Itachi?”

Or was that Shisui that was dating Itachi?

She wasn’t quite sure. Their behavior made it confusing to figure out who was with who.

“How is it any of your concern? ” Sasuke retorted with a tone of finality.

Sakura averted her gaze, his curt words made her feel slightly ashamed for asking.

“It’s complicated. It’s just something you shouldn’t ask about. If they want you to know they’ll tell you,” Sasuke explained after he noticed that Sakura was feeling down from what he said.

Sasuke was used to the relationship between his brother and Izumi and Shisui. Most of the clan was. To the other villagers the Uchiha appeared to be a strictly old fashioned and traditional clan just like the Hyuga. Unlike the Hyuga, the Uchiha clan placed more importance in love than the acceptance of outsiders.

Sasuke sometimes wondered if that’s why they were treated differently. If that was why some of the older villagers stared at them with wary eyes.

But it made no sense considering that the Uchiha kept most of the relationships within them secret, hidden from those outside the clan.

And unfortunately for Sakura, he couldn’t explain any of that to her.

She wasn’t an Uchiha. And who knew how much longer the relationship they did have would last? Graduation would be coming up soon and if they were split up, what then? Would they still get together like they did now? Or would they drift apart when they were placed in their genin squads?

Izumi twirled the bag in her hands, twisting the handles together as she did so.

“When did he say his mission would be completed again?”

“Two days from now,” Shisui answered her. “Which means he’ll be here in another five minutes.”

Izumi giggled, but nodded in agreement. Itachi always finished his missions ahead of schedule. It was always funny how Shisui was the fastest yet he was always strictly punctual.

Izumi had accused him once of meandering until his due date.

They stood there at the gates another few minutes and in the distance they could see Itachi approaching.

“Welcome home,” the chorused as Itachi entered the gates.

“I’m home,” Itachi responded softly. He gave the two of them a fond smile. “You know I have to head to the Hokage tower now right?”

“Yeah, but we figured we could walk with you and back home.” Shisui grabbed Itachi’s travel pack and swung it over his shoulder.

“We got you some dango.” Izumi held up the bag. “We can eat them on the way back.”

“That’s nice.” Itachi rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his palm.

“How are your eyes?” Shisui asked.


“Is your vision blurry?” Izumi took hold of his shoulder to stop him in his tracks. “Should we get—“

“It’s fine,” he reassured them.


They walked back home from the tower at a leisurely pace, not caring of getting there quickly.

“I think I want to become a jōnin sensei.”

“What?” Izumi gaped at Itachi. “Really?”

“Are you just saying that because Sasuke is graduating in a soon?”

Izumi and Shisui watched Itachi’s face as he tried to appear as poker faced as possible. The two of them broke out into a peal of laughter when he he flashed them a sheepish grin.

“I heard Hatake is going to become a jōnin sensei this year.”

“Which one?”

“Oh, don’t say that!” Izumi playfully shoved Shisui. “What if Obito-nii heard you? You know I meant Kakashi-senpai.”

“What? Just because it’s not official doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.”

“I’m sure Obito is more than aware of it,” Itachi tried to quell the tension before the two of them started arguing in the streets.

“They could have just avoided all of that nonsense if they were like us.”

“You know not everyone can be like us.”

Izumi slipped her hand into Shisui’s. The other hand had been in Itachi’s since they had entered the Uchiha district.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Itachi finished her thought.

Ino sat awkwardly at the Harunos’ dining table not quite sure if she should continue waiting.

She played with the bundle she had sat on the table when Haruno Mebuki offered her tea. The paper package had been carefully wrapped earlier to make the gift more presentable, the way Ino believed any gift should be.

“I’m home!”

Ino jumped out of her seat and followed Mebuki as she went to greet her daughter, hiding the gift behind her back.


“She’s been waiting for you but you took so long to come home,” Mebuki gently chided Sakura. “I’m going to go check on dinner. I hope you wiped your feet properly on the mat outside.”

“Um, what are you doing here?” Sakura hung her gear pack on the hook in the hall. Her backpack was dropped carelessly at the foot of the stairs.

“Do I need a reason to visit a friend?” Ino tried to joke, putting her hands on her hips and flipping her hair haughtily over one shoulder.

“You’ve never entered my house before.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything right?” Ino chuckled nervously. She fidgeted in her spot for a bit and then finally pulled the package around from behind her back. “I’ve missed you.”

Sakura’s pale green eyes went wide with surprise. She gingerly took it in her hands.

“It’s not an exploding tag!” Ino huffed in exasperation. “Well go on, open it!”

Sakura pulled on the twine and the package slipped open, revealing a handful of seeds. She frowned at the offering. Was Ino comparing her to seeds now? Like having called her a bud wasn’t bad enough!

“Knautia arvensis. Or more commonly known as—“

“Field scabious. Used to treat cuts, burns, and bruises.”

“It was in that book you read during break.” Ino scratched her cheek. “The Book Of Herbalism? I checked out a copy at the library. I’m really into flowers but I never really noticed we had seeds for medicinal herbs in the shop.”

“I guess you gotta study some more.” Sakura have her a cheeky grin. “If you’d like to read up on some, I have more books in my room.”

Sakura and Ino stormed up the stairs only for Sakura to pause midway.

“Um. Ino?” Sakura bit her lower lip. She gripped the banister and turned to look Ino straight on. “About Sasuke…I—“

“I know.”

Ino took a step up so that they were on equal footing.

“And I’m mad that you kept it a secret. But we can deal with that later. There’s something—someone—else I want to talk about. Someone…someone that’s not Sasuke.”

Sakura cocked her head quizzically. Who else could there be but Sasuke? If it was Shikamaru an intervention was going to be needed.

“His name is Sai-kun.”

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 3

Chapter Three: Ink And Flowers

Sometimes when it was quiet and they were inactive, Sakura would tug at the ears of her bow. Sasuke would never tell her but he thought they made her look like a rabbit sometimes.

It was kind of cute.

Sasuke was staring at the red bow when Sakura caught him looking at her.

“Ino gave it to me.”

Sasuke blinked in surprise, not sure what she was talking about. Sakura snickered at him making him frown.

She has a dimple…just one…

“I don’t see what’s so funny.” Sasuke hid the lower part of his face into the high collar of his blue shirt. It was the most color his mother had allowed. He caught her muttering something about his cousin Obito being a bad influence and “all the men in this family have bad taste in clothes.”

“You’re just really cute sometimes.” Sakura gave him a cheeky smile and Sasuke was sure his face was red if the heat rising to it was anything to go by.

He scoffed and turned away. Cute. It was a word for kittens and puppies not training partners. Sasuke huffed to himself when he realized that was where his thoughts were straying earlier.

“That was a long enough break.” Sasuke stood up and made to pull their shuriken from the target boards.

Sasuke had set up a training regimen for Sakura when he realized just how far behind she actually was when it came to handling weapons and taijutsu. She was improving but they were so close to graduation that it wasn’t making that much of a difference in regards to her overall scores.

He had wondered for a while now why Sakura didn’t ask Yamanaka Ino for help with training. They were supposed to be friends and although Sakura’s test scores were better than Ino’s, Ino was still a top student when it came to the overall average of the combined categories that they were ranked on. She was a lot better when it came to shinobi skills than Sakura.

But the girls weren’t talking.

Sasuke didn’t normally care about what happened with the girls in his class. There was a divide in his class with the boys and girls and then the girls either annoyed Sasuke or made him skittish with all of their attention. The only girls Sasuke ever noticed were the ones that were around Sakura.

Yamanaka Ino may have been annoyingly clingy and loud, but she was the perfect friend for Sakura. She had really brought Sakura out of her shell and when the two girls were together and giggling, Sakura really glowed from true happiness which was amazing since she was such a gloomy kid when she started at the Academy.

Sasuke had to refrain from scowling every time he was reminded that it was thanks to Ino that Sakura was so open with people now. That she had made it so much easier to get to know Sakura at all.

But the girls weren’t talking.

“So what’s Yamanaka up to?” Sasuke asked as Sakura as they finished up gathering all of the weapons they had lying around.

“Ino?” Sakura’s eyebrows pulled forward in confusion. After a moment her face relaxed into a blank look. “Oh. Not sure but if you asked her I’m sure she would talk to you. You don’t have to ask me about her.”

Sasuke’s eyes widened in horror when he realized what Sakura’s thought process led her to.

Really? She thinks I’m interested in Yamanaka? Never!

“I was just wondering why you guys aren’t talking. That’s all.”

There was a need to be firm with his response, to leave no room for misunderstandings. He didn’t understand why but it bothered him to think that Sakura would misunderstand.

“Oh.” Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and fingered the edge of her hair ribbon. “I just don’t wanna be her tag along anymore.”

The conversation died down there. Sasuke knew how she felt as he was always in Itachi’s shadow but he didn’t want to bring it up to Sakura. His personal failings and insecurities with being compared to his genius older brother weren’t things he was ready to discuss with anyone beyond his own mother.

“I have to go. My parents need my help in the shop today.”


It was kind of sad that after spending weeks together, Sasuke didn’t even know what Sakura’s parents did for work. All he knew was that they were civilians and he felt a little guilty for having lost interest after finding out that fact.

“Oh yeah. My parents own a teahouse. It’s more like a café than anything else. You should stop by sometime. Don’t worry, we serve lunch too not just sweets.”

Sakura swung her bags strap onto her shoulder. She was always toting around a bunch of books.

“I’m sure I can find a tea that pairs well with tomatoes,” she teased him before waving goodbye.

“Funny,” Sasuke muttered. Café? He was more accustomed to traditional tea houses because his mother and father were fond of the art of tea ceremony.

As soon as Sakura was gone Sasuke glared at a cluster of trees.

“I know you’re there.”

“Know you don’t!” Shisui snickered in the distance. “Ow! Izumi quit it, I’m delicate.”

“Idiots.” Sasuke shook his head and made his way home.

Sasuke found his family’s puppy sleeping on the engawa with the cats. Shiro was on his back, tongue out, and with no care in the world.

“I don’t think the dog needs a walk, Kaa-san.”

“Yes he does. All he does is sleep and eat. He will get fat.” Mikoto joined Sasuke on the engawa and handed him a leash. “He’s too young to be allowed to roam freely. Don’t take him off of his leash.”

But he likes being free…

“Don’t let him take treats from strangers. He gets enough of them here.”

Sasuke pouted and mumbled to himself about how she was being too strict with Shiro and hooked the puppy to his leash. He had woken up as soon as he heard the word “treats.”

“Come on Shiro.”

Walking Shiro was more of a work out and a lesson in patience than any training Sasuke had ever done. How could a small dog weigh so much? The Shiba Inu puppy would find something interesting and refuse to move from the spot or he would give up walking. His favorite thing to try and munch on were flowers. Sasuke had to avoid people’s gardens just in case Shiro decided to chomp and destroy anyone’s azaleas or tulips.

There’s no way he acts like this for Tou-san..

Shiro stopped in the middle of the path to the training fields and started sniffing around. His head snapped to the right and Sasuke followed his gaze to a familiar blonde head. Yamanaka Ino was jogging off the path, shielding a bouquet of flowers by clutching it to her chest.

“No. Shiro. No.”

Worried that pulling on the leash would hurt the puppy, Sasuke let Shiro run and just chased after him. Sasuke sped up and tuck and rolled to grab Shiro. The two of them ended up rolling into a bush and Shiro whined.

“We’re getting you a harness.”

Ino looked around, pale eyebrows drawn together in confusion. She could have sworn she heard her classmate Uchiha Sasuke and a dog barking. Shrugging it off she continued until she reached a clearing.

Under the shade of an oak tree sat a pale dark haired boy, only a little older than she was. He was always there at around the same time, just drawing away. It’s in that exact same spot that she had found him only a few weeks ago. He had reminded her of how gloomy Sakura had once been and introduced herself to him. He told her she could call him Sai which was a little unsettling in how he said it but she still came back every day to see him.

“Uh, hey Sai-kun.”

Sai looked up and blinked up at her with inky eyes. He nodded in recognition and Ino took it as an invitation to sit down. When she sat down Sai gave her an icy smile.

“We’ve been over this,” Ino huffed. “You don’t need to smile unless you mean it. You don’t have to smile for people to like you.”

“But if I don’t smile━”

“No!” Ino put up a hand to pause him in his talking. “No smiling unless you actually want to smile.”

Sai’s face dropped into a blank look and he nodded. He turned back to his drawing of a hawk.

“I brought these for you so you could draw them.” Ino handed him the bouquet she had made. “I thought it would be a nice change from all of the animals.”

“Thank you,” Sai muttered. The corners of his mouth twitched upward but they fell back just as quick as they had rose. It was the warmest gesture he had made so far.That’s so much better. Ino beamed and watched as Sai’s charcoal danced across the parchment of his sketchbook.

A Gift From The Universe Chapter 2

Chapter Two: Meddlesome Uchihas

Sakura decides that she likes Sasuke’s hands. Unlike her hands that still have the clumsy and chubby look children have, Sasuke’s fingers are slender and have a sort of graceful quality she is sure she will eventually have but for now she’s ten and she has to wait for the baby fat of childhood to melt away.


Sakura looked up from her spot in the middle of the clearing. Sasuke was handing her what looked to be a small carton. He took a seat beside her, their knees brushing slightly against each other as they sat cross legged in front of the target boards.

“Senbei?” Sakura opened the carton box to reveal rice crackers.

“It’s the only thing I can eat that’s even a little bit sweet.”

“This is really good!” Sakura happily munched on the treat.

“They’re from a shop in the Uchiha district.”

“They’re the best I’ve ever had.”

Sasuke smiles softly at her and Sakura feels guilty at the airy feeling in her stomach. She was suppose to be training and becoming a better shinobi, not gushing over Uchiha Sasuke. He was kind enough to go along with her request of helping her train and she didn’t want to seem as though she were trying to take advantage of their time alone.

But at the same time Sakura didn’t want anyone else to get involved. A part of her liked being selfish and taking up Sasuke’s time.

Sakura had always been smitten with Uchiha Sasuke but had never been vocal about it. At one point in her excitement she wanted to share the discovery of her feelings with Ino and her new friends she had made through her but something held her back. Later on she found out that Ino also had feelings for Sasuke when the rumor of him liking long hair had circulated.

Sakura didn’t offer words of support only continued to stick her nose in her books. Coming from a civilian clan she had to work harder than anyone else and nothing was going to stop her from doing just that.

That didn’t stop her from growing out her hair though. She had caught Sasuke staring at it a few times as they trained and she figured she made the right choice.

“You guys need a better hobby.”

Itachi and Shisui both just shrugged and scooted apart as Izumi squeezed in between the both of them and took a seat on the branch of the tree overlooking the training field Sasuke and his pink haired friend happened to be using.

“Any progress today?” Izumi asked as Shisui shushed her and clamped a hand over her mouth. She nudged him with her elbow and glared at him. The older boy just kissed her nose and stuck out his tongue at her.

“He fed her.” Itachi sighed, resting his chin in the palm of his hand. “Which is a step up from criticizing her posture.”

Itachi had become accustomed to his brother pleading with him to train together. Something he usually brushed off with a poke to his forehead and a vague promise of there possibly being a next time. For the past couple of weeks Sasuke was out of the house almost as often as he was and curiosity had gotten the best of him.

Itachi and Shisui had tailed Sasuke after he was dismissed from class and found him training, but not on his own. A small pink haired girl had been with him and after a while the two of them had begun observing the two Academy students whenever they could.

“The little squirt has had so many chances to make a move and he’s completely oblivious.”

“Shi-chan. He’s eleven.” Izumi crossed her arms in front of her chest and just shook her head as he snickered. “The only ‘move’ he should be making is to be nicer to her.”

“Perhaps I should talk to him.”

“Oh, Ita-kun, honey,” Izumi patted Itachi’s arm and smiled sweetly at him, “no.”

“What? I think I would give helpful advice. He obviously likes her.” Itachi nodded to himself. “I should help.”

“No,” Shisui and Izumi said in unison. Itachi’s eyes went wide and he stared back and forth at the two of them, confused at their united front on the matter.

“You’re not exactly…” Izumi looked at Shisui nervously for assistance.

“Smooth. You’ll probably make it worse.”

“How so? I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend.” Itachi pointed at the two of them.

“Oh, babe.” Shisui put a hand on Itachi’s shoulder and gave him a sympathetic smile. “That wasn’t really due to anything you did.”

“Shi-chan and I did all of the work with that Ita-kun.”

“That and those three bottles of sake.”

“I am so insulted right now.” Itachi feigned a hurt look, placing a hand to his chest dramatically.

“Aww.” Izumi clung to his arm and leaned against him. “I’m sorry. Would it make you feel better if Shi-chan bought us dango.”


“Yes. I think that would make me feel better.”

“Are you two ganging up on me?”


Something felt off about the way his older brother was smiling at him. Sasuke slowly lined his sandals up alongside the pairs that belonged to his family members and hesitantly made his way into their house.

“So her name is Sakura.”

Sasuke froze and turned slowly around to look at his older brother who was still giving him that odd smile.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“She’s awfully cute.” Itachi continued, ignoring his brother’s obvious discomfort. “Izumi wouldn’t stop gushing about that pretty shade of pink her hair is.”

Sasuke’s ears burned a brilliant shade of red and he began to stammer. He couldn’t believe that it wasn’t just his brother that knew about Sakura’s existence.

“Sasu-chan? Ita-chan?”

The sound of his mother coming down the hall had Sasuke clamming his mouth shut. He glared up at his annoying brother and muttered something incoherently.

“What was that?”

Sasuke’s eyes went wide in panic as his mother turned the corner and came into view.

“I said I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

Sasuke stormed up the steps to the second floor and Itachi just chuckled, amused at his younger brother’s behavior.

“Was Sasuke just yelling at you?” Mikoto looked up the steps and back to Itachi in confusion. Her sons never got into fights.

“I was just teasing him,” Itachi assured his mother. “Nothing to be concerned about.”

“If you say so…” Mikoto narrowed her eyes in suspicion.

Itachi just smiled at his mother until she gave up and returned to preparing dinner.

Itachi was going to have fun teasing his brother but it didn’t mean that he had to tell his secrets to their mother.


Sakura winced slightly at the shrill sound of her mother’s voice. She paused in her reading for a moment and when there was no other call of her name continued.

“Haruno Sakura I am talking to you!”

Sighing, Sakura folded the lower corner of the page she was reading and marched downstairs to face her mother. Mebuki standing at the bottom of the stairs with her hands on her hips, tapping her foot impatiently.


“Care to explain why I tripped over another stack of books?”

You weren’t paying enough attention, duh, Sakura inwardly grumbled. Instead she mumbled out that she forgot to put them away.

“What a bad trait to have passed down from your father. I have enough trouble with his books we’re not starting this up again with yours. Now take them up to your room and put them away. In your bookcase this time.”

Sakura groaned as she hefted up the heavy tomes. Concerned, her mother took half of the stack from her to help her carry the load.

“When did you pick up books on human anatomy? Aren’t these a little advanced for an Academy student?”

“It’s just for some light reading,” Sakura chirped.

“Light? Hate to see what heavy reading looks like,” Kizashi joked as he passed by with a mug full of tea.

“Papa!” Sakura groaned, hands too full to smack her own forehead from the shame.

She grumbled to herself as she dropped her load of books on the floor by her bookcase. Ignoring what her mother said about tidying up, she flopped back on her bed and picked up where she left off on her book on medicinal plants.