Only when Naruto turned around and went back to the village did Sasuke finally realised - his journey for redemption had started.

And he couldn't help but feel elated.

Yes, as Sasuke went through his many emotions (some of them far darker than he wanted to admit) the one feeling that stood out the most was indeed elation. He couldn't help but smirk tiredly at this. He had a completely unknown future in front of him, he was banned from the village for who knows how long (and plausible from all the other big villages as well) he had no place he could call home, nothing to really do with his life... yet here he was…

The word 'crazy' went over his mind but he quickly let go of it. He was crazy once and he remembered it very clearly while this... this right now was something else. Though who knew, maybe there were many ways in which a human being could be crazy?..

Maybe out there somewhere, I will find a person who will give me an answer to this question… and some other ones as well.

He looked at the headband held tightly in his sole hand and then at the winding road in front of him. With a confident nod he put the metal object in his ninja pack on his waist and moved on.

The time will come when we will fight again, Naruto. On that day I will wear this headband as a sign that I am a whole person. Someone who is not hunted by the past. Someone who is worthy of your trust. But only then will I truly accept it.

Even though his mind was flying over every possibility he now had at his disposal in general the Uchiha felt tired.

This day was far from being a pleasant one.

The Kage's made damn sure of it.

Sasuke was enough distance away from the village that the chance of seeing a random passerby was minimum and yet, no matter this fact, he somehow managed to be greeted with a whole crowd of travelers. And as it happened, the crowd was marching right on the secluded road he was using. So much for solitude, he thought annoyed.

The crowd which at first looked quite big actually consisted of only two families.

As they came closer Sasuke could see three kids running off at the front, all of them laughing and talking loudly about the bright future that awaits them while behind them followed two men and a woman. Both men looked peaceful enough but the woman showed great inner conflict on her face.

"You think we will fair better in Konoha, Tanaki, Toza?" Her voice rang clearly through the still vast space that separated them.

"We don't have any other choice, Tsuma." The man with a brownish hair said slowly, kindly. "I'm sure we'll manage somehow. Ain't that right, brother?"

The other man who appeared to be taller and lot more intimidate looking only shrugged in response.

Now Sasuke could see that they all carried a great deal of baggage with them. Even the kids.

Immigrants, he concluded with ease.

When the adults finally saw Sasuke approach they stopped, wide eyed and shocked. And then when the initial surprise faded they immediately reached out for their kids trying to shield them away. Few, tense seconds later the man whom Sasuke heard speaking before had stepped forward, with an unsure smile on his face.

"Hello there, fellow traveler! Going to Konoha by any chance?" the question was asked in a light, carefree tone but behind the brown haired man both adults were frowning and gazing unsure at the brooding boy. To be more accurate they were gazing in fear at his no doubt recognizable purple eye.

"No." Sasuke replied shortly, tone flat. The man in front of him let out a nervous laugh, "Ah, pity, we are on our way just there! You know, a ninja village where it's safe? We sure could have used some company..." He laughed some more but tensely and then cast a short nod to the others after which they slowly started moving ahead.

Sasuke's eyes almost went wide when he realised that the man he was speaking with was actually buying time and making sure Sasuke kept his attention solely on him instead of his family. "Well, we'll be moving on then! Have a good day!" he said a minute later when the gang had gone on ahead and was out of hearing range. One more minute passed and the crowd had hurriedly turned around the corner, completely disappearing from view. Their scared stares being the last thing to remember them by.

Sasuke was left confused.

What was this? Why were they afraid of me even though I haven't even done anything?

He felt anger rise in him.

Ignorant fools.

Frowning at such stupidity Sasuke had started walking on again. His pace brisk and his strides wide.

Why? Why did people act as they did? Why would some cling to love and destroy themselves for it? As this brown haired man did for his family… as Itachi had done for him.

Why?

An image appeared in his mind. Green eyes and pink hair.

Yes, Sakura too. She had nothing to do with his sins and yet she kept reaching out just as Naruto did.

So again, why? Or do I simply not understand what love is?..

One more hour in his walk and he felt the temperature slowly start to decrease. This made him get out of his trance.

Casting a short glance up onto the sky he was surprised to see it was already early evening.

"Should have started off sooner…" he whispered quietly. Shaking his head at his more than weird day he went off the road and into the thick foliage of the trees. It took him another thirty minutes at most to find a good enough clearing to spend the night at. Sasuke hadn't picked any chakra in the radius so that meant he was still far off from any settlements.

As the sky started turning bloody red Sasuke found himself thankful for the long cloak and the warmth it provided. It was almost the end of the autumn. Soon it will probably even snow.

Getting comfortable under a thick oak tree the boy reached for his bag and finally decided to see what has been packed for him by his old mentor.

The first thing he noticed was that the backpack itself was very easy to reach out to and open. It went over his right shoulder and the straps were long enough to reach over to his waist, thus, even with just one hand Sasuke had no trouble in using it. Any normal ninja attire had numerous pockets in them and Sasuke was sure those would be problematic in his current state but this bag had only one big section in it.

Kakashi must have gone all the way out and ordered it for me.

Feeling a tiny spark of gratitude the boy went on with his exploring.

Firstly he noticed a piece of paper laying right on top of his new belongings. Taking it in his hand he found that the said parchment was way too thick to simply be a friendly letter. Furrowing his eyebrows Sasuke wondered what was so important that Kakashi couldn't say it to him when he was back at Konoha.

Time to find out.

Sasuke,

You probably noticed that during this whole day we had...observers. If not - now you know. A special team of ANBU was selected to keep tabs on you with members from all the great villages. They will probably follow you through your journey. They are following you right now. Do not provoke them! Even if they might do so to you. Their reports for the five Kages will decide how long your banishment will last. So I will repeat myself - do not provoke them. Otherwise everything Naruto, Sakura and I worked for will be ruined. I understand that right now you want to be as far as you possibly can from the village still don't forget - time flies. At some point you will have to settle down somewhere and all members of team seven, me included, hope that you will choose Konoha by that time.

As far as I know they were not ordered to tail you 24/7. But stay sharp. The information I've given you is top secret and you should not be aware of it. I trust you understand the concept. After reading this burn the letter or otherwise make sure it does not go to the wrong hand.

The Uchiha bank account was reopened. Now you can receive the money almost everywhere, but, keep in mind - people are slow to forget. There's also a limitation on how much you can withdraw in a certain time period. Kage's decision. You can ask for the details about this limitation from the staff.

P. S.

In addition I've gave you a stack of paper and a special ink designed by Sai. You can write letters if you want and no one will be able to read them apart from the receiver. It's chakra sensitive.

P. P. S.

I hope you like the bag. Sakura made it especially for you.

After going through the letter one more time Sasuke did as Kakashi told him. He burned it. Actually he used it as a material to start his small fire for the night but who would care for the difference.

As the new Hokage wrote, right below the letter Sasuke found some papers and three bottles of ink. Each with a name on it. His first instinct was to throw those in the fire but when he was about to do it, something at the back of his mind protested at the idea.

It might be useful, he concluded solemnly.

Deciding to wait with the bag revision Sasuke went over the contents of the letter in his mind.

Kakashi went out of his way to give him the heads up about the ANBU, something Sasuke did not expect at all. He frowned at the possible reasons for this. Either his old sensei was cautious for his own reputation or he actually still cared for him. Deciding to ignore this for now Sasuke went to the other important part. Kakashi wrote 'the wrong hand' so it meant that the Raikage was responsible for the surveillance. Sasuke was not that surprised to conclude that this was also a warning to stay away from the land of Cloud. For now, the boy agreed in understanding.

His eyes fell on the bag.

So it was Sakura who thought of it. Somehow it all made perfect sense. He simply couldn't imagine the lazy Hatake sitting around and making such a thing. But Sakura, she would. So that's what she was doing… Sasuke thought amused, it was quickly pushed away though. Not now. He ordered himself.

Sasuke decided to get back to his few belongings.

Next to the paper and the ink there was a small transparent bag. In it he could clearly make out a soap, a small bottle which was probably shampoo, few rolls of bandages and what appeared to be a new toothbrush and towel. The bandages got the boys attention. After staring at them for some good few minutes Sasuke moved them to his weapon holder. They would be so much easier to reach for there.

After all those things came one big tent which took all the lower space of the bag. At first Sasuke didn't want to bother and open it out of sheer laziness, but then again, it was much more reasonable to go over everything now since he had already started. Sighing slowly he took out the pack and looked it over. The tent was waterproof - as he read on the side label - breathable and wind resistant. Expensive, Sasuke thought in annoyance. He did not deserve to have this! Pushing it aside he almost growled out loud. Once again his team had went out of their way for him. Just so he could be comfortable. And once again all he could do was question why…

Because we're friends!

Because I love you…

. . .

His idea to finish everything at once was rewarded when he found another, smaller package inside the tent. A sleeping bag. Now this was something he was greatly thankful for. It was lot more safer to sleep this way. If he was attacked all he had to do is just push the cover away. The tent was too much trouble he concluded. Sasuke was about to push it aside when a strong gust of wind went through the small clearing successfully pulling few sticks out of the fire. Winter, the boy repeated to himself while fixing the fire, and it meant rain and snow as a minimum. Maybe having such cover as a last resort might not such a bad idea after all.

And that made everything.

Looking at all of this Sasuke wondered if he needed anything else. When he traveled in the past he always had a destination to reach in the end. So he never really took anything with him, apart from weapons. Weapons. The Uchihas gaze fell on his sword. I will need a sharpening stone. Sasuke didn't even want to think of where his old stone had ended up. It could be somewhere in Konohas IT department where he was held or it could even be somewhere out there on the old battlefield! Sasuke made a mental note to visit the battle scene in the near future and at least look for it since it was one of the few possessions he got left from his clan. In the mean time he had no choice but to buy a new one.

Another few minutes passed and it became completely dark with only the small fire to give light. Sasuke looked around with his sharingan trying to detect any movements or chakra signatures but in the end he found nothing.

Maybe the ANBU squad decided to give me a free evening, the boy thought ironically. Not much evil can be done when you just left interrogation department. Sasuke smirked at this. If he so wanted the said building could have gone to hell in mere seconds. And the squad designed to survey him… he could kill them off so fast they wouldn't even know!

Sasuke whole body tensed when he realised where his thoughts had taken him. It's a straight way to insanity. He shook his head abashed.

Long ago - he actually felt like it was a lifetime ago - Orochimaru had made him meditate as part of his training. Back then he had done it to collect chakra but maybe now he could use it for his mind. As originally the monks did.

Deciding to insert meditation in his routine, and hoping it will help with his ever rampaging thoughts, Sasuke started to pack everything back, that is until his eyes caught some small object at the bottom of the bag. Without a second thought he reached for the thing. It appeared to be a small box. Turning it around Sasuke had found a small, messy writing on the side.

For cuts and injuries.

It was a remedy.

Sakura again. This time Sasuke did smile. She truly was a medic to her core.

He quickly packed everything back except the sleeping bag and with a swift move put off the dying fire.

Sleep.

He needed sleep.

And a plan.


This chapter was rewritten on May 19 to better portrait the one and only Sasuke Uchiha.

Honestly, he is one tough character to write and I hope I'm doing him justice.

Read.

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