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There was a section of the store that housed media in a range of colors that Sasuke only knew the names of. He never wandered over to those aisles unless he was with his mother.
Mikoto would open tubes of paint and scoff, unsatisfied with the pigment, until she found tubes that were satisfactory━paints she could work with, and manipulate better.
Sasuke didn’t understand what she was looking for.
It all looked gray to him.
Although he worked in all media, Sasuke preferred to work with charcoals. In a world of grays it felt safer to stick to the nubs of black and white. He didn’t have to worry about what colors objects were. He studied the shadows and the way light hit and created his images.
Walking down the hall and examining the work from the students, he couldn’t help but feel jaded.
He was supposed to be touring Konoha University of the Arts, his mother’s alma mater. It was an open house for prospective students and it was the school that Sasuke wanted to get into.
His portfolio was reviewed by his teachers and his mother and they all said his pieces were sure to get him in but he felt as if something was missing.
“Do you want to check out the Department of Sculpture, Sasuke-san?”
He was brought back to focus by the voice of Sai, one of his friends and classmates and the only one that would be applying to schools for the arts with him. Sai worked with ink and painted in a very traditional style.
And just like Sasuke, he could only see in shades of gray.
Sai was being oddly accommodating. It was probably due to the fact that they were the only students from their all boys school at the open house. Sai had no reason to head down to other departments considering he only ever worked in one media.
“In the showcase the art that’s in the most advantageous locations for display seemed to be all color work. It’s in the info cards.”
“Yeah,” Sasuke muttered his reply.
It was unfair but artists that could create in color had an advantage over those that couldn’t. Those that lived in the world of grays had to put more depth, more feeling, into their work.
Sasuke ditched Sai in the sculpture department’s showcase hall. Sai was all smiles and listening intently to a long haired man’s presentation on his clay sculptures, easily amused by the interruptions of a wood carver that kept arguing with the other man.
To Sasuke it seemed like the two of them were flirting through the insults they tossed at each other. When he read their info cards and color was listed on them, it became even more clear that it was their variation of flirting.
Two artists finding their soulmate while at school was something out of a shoujo manga. It was the kind of thing his sister-in-law would have squealed over but what grated on Sasuke’s nerves. He wasn’t fond of witnessing people in love.
He got enough of it at home with his parents and then with his brother and his in-laws when he visited them.
He supposed he wouldn’t have found it as annoying if he could see what they saw. If he could live in the world of color as well.
Sasuke meandered the halls and eventually found himself to be lost. He had walked too far away from the showcase and there were no more signs with arrows leading him back.
He was no longer looking into studios but lecture halls and normal classrooms. Sasuke ran a hand down his face, frustrated by his poor sense of direction. He was about to admit defeat and call Sai when he heard giggling from the floor below him.
“We’re going to be late!”
Sasuke leaned over the railing and was about to call out to the girls walking below. But when his eyes moved from the girl with white hair in a ponytail to the shorter girl walking next to her the words got caught in his throat.
The shorter girl’s hair wasn’t the soft gray that lighter shades would appear. And her skin while still pale wasn’t the white he would normal have seen. There were tones, nuances of that lovely color in her flesh, where the shadows giving her contours had once been.
When she laughed her eyes squinted a little but then opened up wide when she caught Sasuke’s eye revealing a color he was never going to forget.
The girl froze, laughter gone from her face as she gaped up at him. She looked ready to shout at him when the taller girl whose hair was no longer white blocked her face from Sasuke’s view.
“I came to your open house like I said I would now keep your end of the bargain,” the girl huffed. “We’re going to be late!”
“Ah! Wait, Ino━”
She was being dragged away, panic in her features. Sasuke booked it for the stairwell, intent on following her. He exited the same door the girls had and found himself outside where students were crowding around and everything was brighter.
His mother had spoken of completeness. Itachi described it like a puzzle coming together.
Pretty words that felt like lies. The world of color was loud and overwhelming. The grays had faded and he clapped his hands over his eyes to shield himself from the brightness of the new world.
No one had prepared him for the sudden explosion, the assault on his senses. But then, no one knew that would happen.
When his mother met his father the world opened up slow, a gentle awakening as she reached for his tan fingers, a warm tone that left her delighted. She had been young when they met. Fugaku was an older neighbor boy that was only trying to help the primary school kid that had moved in three houses down and had fallen off of her new bike.
Itachi had met Shisui first and they both only saw patches of color, an odd phenomenon that left adults baffled. At least until Itachi met Izumi at school and then brought her to the park he was to meet Shisui at. She fell into step and the rest of the world opened up for all three of them.
It was a slow build for them, as they had a singular object to focus on as they stared at each other in wonder.
Sasuke didn’t get that. He had only seconds to look at her and then she was gone and the world of color crashed over him in forceful waves.
When he was ready to uncover his eyes he knew he wasn’t going to find her.
He stood in the middle of the lawn, lost and alone.
Sakura hadn’t left her room in days.
When she wasn’t practicing until her fingers were raw from holding down on the strings of her violin, she was face down in bed soaking her pillows with tears.
She had forgiven Ino for dragging her away. Ino couldn’t tell what was going on with her at the moment. She had panicked when her senses were overloaded with all the new colors and if Ino hadn’t been holding onto her she was sure she would have collapsed in the middle of the street.
So unfair, she complained yet again to herself.
She didn’t have a single clue who the boy could be other than a student or a potential student of KUA. He could be her upperclassmen the following spring if she passed the entrance exam. Sakura wasn’t even sure if he was in the music department. She assumed he was because he was on that side of campus.
He was beautiful…
His skin was just a smidge darker than hers and Ino’s and his messy hair wasn’t the inky black she would have once believed it to be. There was a haze in the color, a tone that she now knew was called blue.
The color of his eyes were still a shade from the gray world but they had a brightness to them that would have been lost in the monochromatic field.
Sakura shifted her left hand’s position slightly and moved it in the knocking motion of a vibrato. The warm sound as she pulled her bow was the bloom on her mother’s cheeks after Sakura’s father flirted with her felt like.
Sliding her bow she shifted into a slow glissando and she could feel the ruffling of blue black hair and the shine of it under fluorescent lighting.
The warmer the sound the more vivid the colors that bursted in her mind. Melancholic melodies brought her splatters of cool colors.
Sakura hadn’t expected the change in vision to affect her playing but her father had made a comment about it.
“It doesn’t sound stiff anymore,” Kizashi offered. “There’s more feeling now. Almost as if someone in love was playing.”
He had only been teasing but it didn’t stop Sakura from stammering out protests and storming back into her room.
Sakura was a prodigy which was expected of her from friends and family despite the fact she was the daughter of a little known composer and former concert pianist. She perfected every technique and her playing was almost flawless.
She played all music, fell into every movement, exactly as they were meant to be performed but there was no passion.
At least that was what her instructor had critiqued her on before she decided to take a tour of KUA.
“This isn’t love,” Sakura scoffed.
It felt more like loss.
It was like learning to draw all over again.
Mixing his paints, Sasuke grew frustrated with his pack of colors. The paint tube labeled pink wasn’t the right shade. He needed a color closer to the strawberry flavored Calpis his brother-in-law was fond of drinking.
“I kind of need that back.”
Shisui reached for his drink but Sasuke smacked his hand away. Sasuke didn’t bother looking up as he compared his swatches to the liquid but he could hear him complaining to Itachi.
“You should know better by now.”
“It’s not my fault he’s obsessed with pink!”
The green was a different case. Nothing was right ever. Not emerald nor forest green nor viridian. Sap green was much too dark.
Mixing more oil paints, a little yellow and a lot more white, Sasuke found the shade that matched the light coloring of the Myanmar jadeite bangle his mother wore.
Close but not close enough. Sasuke clenched his jaw in frustration.
“Try this maybe?”
Mikoto showed him a swatch that she had created and scribbled a word underneath. She was helping him learn all of his colors and their names.
“I guess,” he mumbled.
“They must be considering your one track minded approach to these colors.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” the words rushed out as he tried to mimic the color his mother had made.
Mikoto brushed off the way he snapped at her with a knowing smile and pulled out more textured sheets of paper.
Now that there was color in his life, Sasuke moved on to making mixed media art. Black and white would explode into color on his canvas. He would sketch in his charcoals on one portion and then a symphony of color would crescendo across the rest.
Everything once felt so static but now the world seemed to play a melody, a concerto with every new color palette he found in the universe.
Sakura was optimistic at first but after a few weeks she gave up.
Her soulmate was either a graduate or was a prospective student that didn’t pass the entrance exam.
Sakura discovered that there was no one other than her father that had hair in the shade hers was. Her hair was like a beacon and it attracted the attention of everyone she met that could see in color.
She had hoped that her hair would lead her soulmate back to her.
“You should model for the art department,” a classmate joked.
“I’ve been asked by a few in our general classes,” Sakura admittedly bashfully. “But that’s not my thing. I’m only good in front of an audience when I’m playing.”
The stage was where she really came to life. Music was her everything and she wanted to share it with the world.
It was going to be a long time before she entered the Master’s Program but Sakura was enjoying the vigorous coursework in the Department of Composition. Ino had once called her a masochist because she actually loved having a lot of work to do.
Sakura never had a dating life and she could count her friends on one hand. She strained her eyes until she had to wear glasses—contacts on special days—and worked her fingers raw.
The end results were always worth it.
“There’s an interdepartmental showcase this winter,” the Professor droned on. Sasuke only ever heard him excited when it came to critique days.
He wasn’t a fan of interruptions and preferred when all the students threw themselves into their work.
“Although this showcase is open for submissions from all students in the painting course,” the professor took a pause to sigh, “those that can see in color are at an advantage.”
There were a few scattered groans across the studio.
“The theme of the showcase is In Color. If you are interested in applying see me after the studio block is over and I will give you the guidelines.”
Sasuke waited until the last student dragged themselves away from the studio before approaching the professor.
His professor handed him a packet and a flash drive.
“Here are the compositions selected by the music department for the showcase.”
Sasuke scanned the information listed in his packet and nodded.
It shouldn’t be too hard to paint imagery to match the scores.
She wasn’t going to be making many friends.
Oddly that didn’t hurt as much as Sakura thought it would. Once upon a time she would have been devastated over it but now it meant very little.
If they don’t want to be shown up by an undergrad they gotta step it up.
Sakura’s composition had won a spot in the winter showcase. It was only her first year in school and she was already a favorite among the faculty.
I worked hard for this. I earned it.
She was the daughter of a small name composer and easily forgettable pianist. Her mother was an ordinary seamstress. Everything she earned she worked for, slaved for.
She didn’t care if everyone in the Department of Composition saw her as the enemy.
Sakura wasn’t at university to make friends. She was there to color the world through sound.
The sound was breezy. It was gentle and then it marched in like a storm before drifting back into gentle waves.
Sasuke inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly. He laid back in his bed, his arms crossed behind his head.
Sasuke tried to summon the grays and deep plums of a cloudy winter night sky. He tried to envision swirls of white for a blustery night, perfect for a blizzard. It was what would be expected for a winter showcase.
But pink clouded his mind.
He was taken back to spring and pink clouded his mind in dots flirting along his peripheral, a gentle cascade. Falling petals danced behind his eyes but then stormed around as the wind of late March picked up.
Cliché after cliché is what Sakura expected. It was what she feared.
She knew everyone would have their own interpretation of the scores but it still left her feeling anxious. None of the composers were permitted to get in contact with the submitting artists and she wasn’t going to see the art pieces until the night of the showcase.
Sakura fingered her modest black skirt, gripping it as she made her way around the hall. The pieces were divided into clusters so that they were grouped together with the songs the the artists were inspired by.
She had wanted to reach her section alone. Her parents had linked arms and mock pouted about her being embarrassed about them before moving on without her.
Taking out her cell phone, she opened the app the university had created for their interdepartmental showcases. She put on her ear buds and used the in-app camera to scan the QR codes by each section. The app gave her the information on the student composer and the contributing artists and also played the music composed for the showcase.
She went through two more sections before she reached an interesting display. In the center of blizzards and thunderstorms three panels, each twenty-four inches by thirty eight inches.
The outer panels were an explosion of pink. Cherry blossom trees stood against a white world, their petals rushing from their panels into the center panel, swirling gently toward the center toward a lone figure in pink.
She scrolled the app and found the painting under the name and the title of the work.
Sakura’s face warmed. How did the artist know? Or was it coincidence?
Gently, Sakura traced over the lone figure in the center, barely brushing her finger pads over it.
The figure had its back to the viewer but would it be a reach to think it was her?
“You’re not supposed to touch the artwork.”
It took a moment for Sasuke to realize he had said something. He had been in shock, just watching the pink haired girl as her eyes roamed over his work. It wasn’t until she brushed her fingers against the canvas that he snapped out of his daze.
The girl’s eyes━seafoam green eyes━widened and her lips parted. She just stared at him, gaped at him. Sasuke cleared his throat, feeling hot around his collar. This wasn’t how he expected meeting her would be like.
“You’re,” Sasuke cleared his throat again, the girl’s staring making him feel self conscious., “you’re not━please don’t touch my canvas.”
Something must have clicked because as soon he finished his sentence, the girl threw herself at him, arms wrapping around his torso and her face pressed into his chest.
Is…is she crying!?
Sasuke awkwardly patted her back.
“There are people around,” he muttered.
Instantly she tensed up and pulled away.
“Uchiha Sasuke,” he offered.
“Nice to finally meet you. My name is Haruno Sakura.”
What were the odds that his work shared the same name as the inspiration?
He gawked at her as she burst into a fit of giggles. She shook her head and smiled at him, flashing perfect white teeth. Her eyes squinted a bit, pale pink lashes meshing at the corners around green eyes.
The sight was more vivid than anything he had seen in the world of color.