The moment Sakura stepped into the classroom, she found herself nearly being tackled to the ground by a very distressed Naruto.
"Sakura-chan!" The blonde cried, looking as though he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. "I'm going to die!"
Sakura frowned. It wasn't everyday that Naruto would be so upset. Something dire must have happened. Was it a fight? …Or perhaps shortage of ramen?
"It's today! OH, WHY TODAY?!"
Sasuke, who had been behind Sakura, stepped into the room. He paused when he saw the scene in front of him, but merely rolled his eyes and continued to walk to his seat as though he had witnessed nothing.
Thanks a lot, Sasuke-kun. Sakura glared in his direction, but if he saw it, he made no move to acknowledge it. She refocused her attention on the blonde, "Naruto, calm down. I'm sure that whatever's bothering you is something that can be solved."
"SOLVED?!" If possible, he seemed even more troubled at her words. "Report cards are coming back today! How am I going to solve the grades that are going to be showing up on that stupid piece of paper! Sakura-chan, I'm doomed! Really really—"
Naruto blinked. "Yeah, report cards."
A muscle twitched in her jaw. This was what he was spazzing out about? Sakura grabbed his hands and wrenched it off her shoulders. "Get off me."
The blonde retreated quickly at her tone, but continued to whine, "You were sympathizing with me before!"
Sakura sighed. "Yes, because I thought that you were actually upset at something worth being upset about. The grades you get are basically earned by yourself."
"That's not true!" Naruto immediately protested. "My teachers grade unfairly!"
Sakura laughed at the excuse, "We have most of the same teachers."
"Like Kakashi, that perverted bastard, he grades likes a madman. All he ever does is assign us huge amounts of assignments, and while we're slaving away at them, he snatches out that handy dandy porn book of his. I mean, can he blame me for failing all his tests? He's better off with sex ed. than math and god, why is he always late? The excuses he gives are ridiculous. This is so not fair! How am I supposed to be the number one in class if people like him exist?!"
"Why Naruto-kun," a sudden hand came down on his shoulder, "how awfully kind of you to let me know how you really feel about me. I mean, I knew you thought I was hard, but hearing that you detest my existence? I'm hurt."
All color drained out of blonde's face. He whirled around and could only gawk at the smiling teacher standing behind him. "You're—You're EARLY!"
Kakashi sighed. "Well, I had to go pick up the report cards. That nasty old Tsunade threatened to confiscate Icha Icha Tactics, or as you call it the 'handy dandy porn book,' if I didn't come on time." He slapped his knee as though it were the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard. "As if she could confiscate from a teacher! Hah!"
They grew silent, and Sakura watched as the two exchanged a look that could only be described as a type of 'Tsunade-could-kick-our-asses-so-we-should-never-annoy-her' fear.
Kakashi cleared his throat, and refocused on what Naruto had been saying. "So I grade too hard huh?"
Naruto crossed his arms, "Of course! I mean I'm doing the worst in your class! Okay…your class and Ibiki's…and Gai's…and Asuma's…and Kurenai's…but that's not the point!"
Kakashi pointed at Sakura. "She's in your class and she's getting wonderful scores."
Naruto pouted, "That's…! That's…! That's because you're a pervert and you go easy on the girls!"
Sakura glared at him. He really must have wanted to die.
Kakashi barely reacted to the boy's comment. He whipped out his precious Icha Icha Tactics, and signaled towards the Uchiha sitting across the room. "Sasuke-kun is at the top of his class."
Naruto faltered for a moment, but a smirk soon found its way onto his face. Sakura knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. She could only pray the aftermath wouldn't be too bloody. "Well, that must mean Sasuke's a—"
The textbook flew across the room so fast that Naruto didn't even have time to duck. It hit the mark and Naruto clutched his face in agony. "Sasuke-teme! That was my cheek!"
"Next time it'll be your eye."
Kakashi and Sakura both watched Naruto charge towards the Uchiha as they started in their bickering. Kakashi laughed, "My cute students are so feisty these days."
Sakura shook her head. Did this guy even qualify to be a teacher? Teachers usually broke up the fights. Instead, this one was watching on as though he were at a circus. She looked at Sasuke and Naruto, who were currently locked in a heated glaring contest. It had been a month since that entire Ami fiasco, and quite frankly, she was glad that things had finally seemed to start settling down. If things continued this way, it seemed she'd actually be able to have a normal school year.
Sakura peered over Sasuke's shoulder as he shifted through the contents of his book bag.
He scowled at her to show that she was bothering him, but she only responded with a sheepish laugh.
"What do you want?"
"Your report card, of course!" She smiled, but when he only continued to stare at her, she pulled out her own grades and held up it up as though it were a peace offering. "I brought mine. I thought we could compare."
The boy's scowl deepened. He turned away from her, hoping that his blatant unresponsiveness would give her the hint that he wanted her out of his room.
Sakura grimaced. Obviously, the boy wasn't too big on sharing. "Oh come on, it's not like you have anything to be embarrassed about, being the genius you are. Don't tell me you're not even a little curious about my grades."
The girl caught a glimpse of the yellowish slip of paper peeking out between the books in his bag. With a grin, she reached out past him and grabbed it. He glared at her, but made no move to take it back. "Are you going to leave now?"
"In a minute," Sakura answered, eyes scanning over the grades. Her eyes widened, and she looked at him in disbelief. "I thought my grades were good, but wow. Hey, how'd you manage to get full marks in Ibiki's class? That guy's a beast."
"Morino Ibiki? Oh, he's a dear."
They both turned towards the doorway, where Uchiha Mikoto stood. Somehow, she had entered without either of them noticing. She walked over to Sakura and looked at both the report cards in her hands. She smiled up at the girl, "Good job, Sakura."
Sakura reddened and laughed. "Sasuke got better grades than me."
Mikoto looked at the boy in question, "Well, that's expected. My son does nothing but study. I mean, when was the last time I've seen him bring friends into the house?" She sighed. "I'm so glad you're here to make things lively, Sakura."
Sakura coughed to stifle her laugh, but couldn't help but let out a giggle at the glower on said son's face.
He snatched the paper from Sakura's hands and pointed at the door. "Out. Both of you."
Mikoto laughed. "I think it's best we leave."
Once they were outside, Sakura glanced back at the closed door. "You don't think we annoyed him too much, do you?"
The woman sighed. "Don't worry about it. Sasuke-kun is always in a foul mood when report cards come home."
She glanced at the woman questioningly, "Why? I mean, shouldn't he be happy with his full marks? I'm sure you're elated as well."
Mikoto shook her head, "As his mother, of course I'm elated. But Sasuke wants his father's praise."
"His father isn't happy with him?"
"He has difficulty expressing how he feels, but rest assured, my husband is definitely happy with him. Sasuke used to be disappointed when he was younger, but he's pretty much gotten used to it by now. There's no need to worry."
"So as you see, that's how orchiectomy is performed."
Sakura cringed. "That sounds so painful. I can't even imagine having that kind of surgery."
Tsunade sighed at the student. "If you wish to excel in the medical field, you need to be prepared for anything. There are many people in the world who may not think the same as you do, but you have to respect their wishes anyway."
"I know," Sakura said embarrassedly. "I'm sorry for sounding squeamish."
"You are planning to become a doctor, right?" The principal took the book they had been discussing and placed it back on the shelf.
"Of course," Sakura nodded. "I've wanted to be one since the time I first saw my father tending to one of his patients."
Tsunade handed her a sheet of paper. "This local hospital's looking for a few interns. You could do with some hands-on activity instead of reading books all day. You're a very bright girl, so I have no doubt that you'd excel in your studies. But you should also go check out the work environment when you get the chance. As for med school, Konoha's University has a very good program. You should aim for that school if you plan to stay in the city."
Sakura smiled, "Thank you, Tsunade-sama. I probably will."
Sakura stepped into the house to be greeted by silence. It was no surprise that Itachi and Fugaku weren't at home, as they usually had other business elsewhere. She guessed that Mikoto was out buying groceries, but where was Sasuke? Hanging out with friends? She highly doubted that.
Shrugging it off, she went up to her room, pouring her books onto the bed. She learned a lot from Tsunade every time they had an afterschool session, but it always caused her to return very late, which was a problem on days like today where she had so much homework.
"What do I start with…" Her eyes flew to the calculus book. If she remembered correctly, Kakashi had given them nearly 120 questions for the night. She groaned, "Maybe Naruto was right. He is a madman."
Sakura awakened to the sound of the door slamming shut. She sat up groggily, and realized that her math homework was attached to her cheek. "Great," she muttered as she peeled off the assignment. There was probably a list of functions on her face now.
She walked out of her room, to see Uchiha Sasuke storming up the stairs. "Sasuke-kun?" She called out, rubbing her eyes to try and adjust to the corridor light.
He completely ignored her. She watched worriedly as he made his way to his room, flung the door open, and closed it so forcefully that she was sure she saw the walls shake.
Sakura wondered what had happened. She made a mental note to ask him tomorrow morning; hopefully, he'd calmed down by then. By the look she had seen on his face, she'd doubt it would be wise to attempt any sort of conversation tonight.
The next morning, Sasuke was nowhere to be found.
"Don't worry," Mikoto reassured her as she handed the girl a plate full of eggs. "I'm sure he just had early morning practice and forgot to tell anyone."
Sakura did her best to smile back. Mikoto was right. Clearly, she was just being paranoid. There was nothing for her to be on edge about.
However, her worries increased when she arrived at school and Naruto ran up to her.
"Naruto!" she exclaimed. "Didn't you have practice today?"
Naruto gave her a strange look. "Practice? No, I'm completely sure. Why?"
"But Sasuke left early today."
"Oh, well he probably just has an appointment with a teacher," Naruto laughed. "I know the guy's perfect, but teachers might still want to see him once in awhile."
They walked to homeroom together, and began a conversation. She'd expected to see Sasuke come in, but he still hadn't appeared after a good five minutes. The worry resurfaced. Naruto, evidently, also realized that Sasuke was not showing up. Even if it was an appointment with a teacher, he would have been let off to go to homeroom by now. They sat and watched as the minutes slowly dwindled away. Sakura kept expecting for him to walk in at the last second, all nonchalant and level-headed, but the bell rang, and the only person that walked in was Kakashi.
Sakura and Naruto looked at each other. He wasn't at home, and he wasn't at school. Where was he?
It was lunch, and no one had yet to catch glimpse of Uchiha Sasuke.
"I don't get it," Naruto frowned. "Where the hell did he go? Not coming to school? It's not like him."
"Did hey say anything to you yesterday?" Chouji asked Sakura.
Sakura shook her head. "He came back really late, and was in a really bad mood. I called him but he just went straight to his room…" She paused as she watched Naruto and Kiba exchange glances. "…Did something happen with the team?"
"We uh…" Naruto rubbed his head sheepishly. "We kind of…"
"Lost," Kiba scowled. "We lost a game yesterday."
"You lost? What team did you face? Must've been strong." Chouji asked.
"The Sound bastards," Naruto spat out. "Can't stand them."
The table quieted down considerably, and Sakura wandered who these Sound people were. However, that was for another day. She refocused her attention on the problem at hand. "I don't get it. I mean, surely you've guys lost matches before? It shouldn't warrant him to pull a vanishing act, right?"
"Well…" Naruto looked troubled, and Sakura's eyes narrowed.
"What aren't you telling me?"
The blonde sighed. "Sasuke's probably getting frustrated. The season's almost ending; we only have a few games left."
"He hasn't broken any of Itachi's records yet, huh?" Kiba asked, and Naruto nodded his head in confirmation.
Sakura was confused. "We're only juniors. Even if he doesn't do it this year, he still has one more year, right?"
"You don't understand," Naruto said. "Itachi made these records when he was a junior, so Sasuke has to break those records while he's a junior or else he's not satisfied. Competitive bastard he is and all."
"I see how he could be upset, but what does his disappearance have to do with this?" Sakura frowned.
"Don't worry about it," Naruto patted her on the back. "He's bound to show up some time. We can't do anything about it now anyway. We'll just question the hell out of him when he returns."
Kiba grinned, "Should I ask to borrow some torture devices from Ibiki?"
Naruto shivered. "Definitely you. The guy hates my guts."
Sakura laughed. They really knew how to improve the mood.
On her way home, she passed the park where she had first met Lee. She smiled fondly at the memory, remembering how he had freaked her out at first with his straightforward confession of love. Surprisingly enough, he was there again. This time with Tenten and Neji. Neji was shooting 3-pointers on the basketball court with an eager Lee as his rebounder. Tenten sat a few feet away, seemingly doing her homework.
Sakura approached, and it was Tenten who first noticed her. She smiled and gestured towards the seat besides her, indicating for Sakura to sit down.
"Neji's kind of aggressive today, isn't he?" Sakura asked, watching the Hyuuga prodigy shoot balls as though there were no tomorrow.
Tenten scoffed, "He's just pissed he lost a match yesterday. Don't worry, he'll get over it."
"Let me guess," The senior girl looked up from her papers. "Uchiha Sasuke is also throwing a temper tantrum. Well, it's expected from them. They can't accept loss, especially against Sound."
"…Why especially Sound?"
Tenten's brow creased. "You don't know? The founder of Sound was Orochimaru. He donated millions to the small town a few years ago and requested that the school be built in his name. I'm sure you know what happened a few years ago with Sasuke, so naturally they have a bad history—Sakura?"
Sakura had gone rigid. Orochimaru?!
Tenten waved a hand in front of her worriedly. "Sakura?"
"I gotta go," Sakura whispered, before she bolted off the chair and began running home.
The door to the Uchiha household burst open.
Mikoto, who had been dusting a shelf in the living room, looked up in surprise. "Sakura?"
"Is Sasuke-kun home?"
"No," Mikoto's tone grew concerned. "Should he be?"
Sakura hesitated, "I—No, it's nothing. I'm just being forgetful. I completely forgot he told me he had practice tonight."
"Then why are you in such a hurry?" Clearly, the woman wasn't buying it.
"I-uh..." Sakura reddened. "I have to use the bathroom."
Mikoto stared at her, and for a split second, Sakura thought she was caught, but the woman simply smiled and resumed her housework.
Sakura quickly escaped to her room. She didn't want Sasuke's mother to worry, especially if it turned out that she was just making a big deal out of trivial matter. But even as she headed up the stairs, she knew that it wasn't a trivial matter. Something was about to happen.
Sakura had just finished her homework when her cell phone began to ring.
She answered, "Naruto?"
"Sakura-chan! Gaara called and said he thinks he saw Sasuke with Orochimaru!"
Oh my, a cliffhanger. The ultimate torture device of the sadistic writer. Haha. This was clearly the longest chapter I've written in a very long time. I hope you're happy. xD
Sorry if everything feels rushed or sudden, but I really need to get the plot moving again. The story was kind of dragging on…yeah. Remember Kojo, that guy that beat Neji from way back? (I think chapter 12.) He'll be making his re-debut shortly. In case anyone is wondering, orchiectomy is the medical term for castration. :
Oh, and look forward to a new oneshot next weekend. :P