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.”
“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.
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—“
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.”