Shizukesa:  - ReturnSakura ran from room to room, delivering medical supplies to different nurses and patients, a list in her mind of what went where, and to whom. She was almost totally focused... but Sasuke still crept into her thoughts. She missed him, his sudden tenderness and care, his rare gentleness, his aloof demeanor, just... him.
“Sakura!” Tsunade's voice kicked her back into high gear, and she ran off once more.
~ ~ ~
The necklace was almost completely black. Two weeks had colored it with a deep, dark hue that, while still transparent, aspired not to be. Sasuke held it in front of his face, observing it closely as he walked.
Karin was marveling at Konoha's main gates along with just about everything else, and Kakashi was indulging her by pointing out landmarks and other typical touristy things.
“Alright, Sasuke, you're dismissed.” his sensei said, giving him what appeared to be a suggestive grin behind his face mask.
“Bye, Sasuke!” Karin waved, smiling.
Shizukesa:  - Misty MidnightMidnight in the Hidden Mist village was a completely different experience from Konoha. The ocean was a deep black mirror whose surface was marred only by the distorted reflection of the stars, and its soft murmur floated in the air, an almost tangible sound. Strands of black, damp hair fell in front of Sasuke's eyes as they roamed the waters, taking in every ripple, every splash, every whisper.
Sakura's face flashed in his mind, and like that he was lost.
I'm going to miss you too.
He hadn't been lying. A dull ache was spread through his chest as he thought back to her. Her voice echoed in his head, soft as the ocean's thoughts.
Why did she care so much? What was he worth over every other person in the village? Surely there was someone else who deserved her sympathy more...
“I thought you had broken ribs.” he said, his voice breaking the brittle silence of the night. He hadn't spoken loudly, but in contrast with the relative quiet, his words sounded like thunderclap
Shizukesa:  - KarinAgain, he was on the ground, but this time he had control of his body. Nearly a week later, he'd mastered the curse mark enough to move freely under its influence. Now he just needed to revoke it on command. As he stood, he noticed that the small crystal around his neck was almost half covered in black. It was still translucent, but nearer to opaque than completely see-through.
The pain was getting easier to deal with as well. A slight jolt in his bones now and then, not the constant tearing of his entire being that it had been. As he stood, one of these jolts shook him momentarily, and he stumbled for a half-second before righting himself.
Tentatively, he performed hand signs in slow, deliberate succession, and drew his breath in. The fireball that escaped him seemed larger than normal, as if it had been waiting to escape during the many weeks that he had avoided ninjutsu. Whatever the case was, his body was out of chakra, and the curse mark receded, as if it had realized that its pre
Shizukesa:  - Chakra CrystalsIt was taking everything he had not to scream. This was the fourteenth time that the curse mark had attacked his body today, and the straw that broke the camel's back was more like a block of concrete. His muscles had tensed to their maximum, and now they were twice as taut. He was getting better at stopping it, but sending it back was only possible when he was at his best... and he was exhausted. A growl escaped his lips, and he began to move, but Kakashi's hand was at his back. Sasuke's pitiful amount of remaining chakra was swept away by the jounin's potency, and the curse mark went with it. The Uchiha collapsed onto the ground, his sweat mixing with the earthy forest floor.
“That's enough for now. You're improving, at least.” An uncharacteristically serious undercurrent was present in the jounin's voice. He was obviously concerned. Sasuke's life depended on this training, after all.
The seal had completely disintegrated; the curse mark no longer had the circular prison
Shizukesa:  - ProgressDeep gashes laced the tree bark in front of him. After three hours, he felt at least comfortable with the sword in his hand, but he still felt unrefined, like he was only using a fraction of its potential.
The sound of blades cutting through wind alerted him to the shuriken flying at his chest. Activating his Sharingan, he swung the sword in his left hand in an arc that intersected the path of all three of the spinning metal stars. They stuck into the ground, harmless.
“Kakashi.” He was used to this form of greeting, although his teacher normally took enough care to make sure he wasn't zoned out before tossing blades in his direction.
The copy ninja landed mere feet from Sasuke, and looked him dead in the eye.
“So?” The silver ninja inquired nonchalantly.
“So... what?” Sasuke responded, unsure of the question. He disengaged his Sharingan, his eyes fading back to their normal black.
“How is it?” Kakashi's eyes flicked to the Uchiha's shoul
Shizukesa:  - A New Weapon“Was that your boyfriend?” Mebuki asked her daughter, with one eyebrow raised.
“N-no...” Sakura stuttered unconvincingly, even though she told the truth. Oh, why did her parents have stay at her house? They were just visiting, but it was a pain. They totally made everything tense and awkward, and pried into her business far too much. What had Sasuke even wanted to talk about? He never initiated conversation.
Her mother did not seem convinced. She was giving Sakura an unamused gaze of disbelief, and shook her head before leaving the room.
~ ~ ~
Yeesh. Sakura's mother didn't like him very much.
Sasuke plodded along the streets of Konoha, ignoring the chattering background noise of the villagers. Following a winding path of main roads and back alleys, he made his way towards an old, moss-rotted wooden building. At least, that's what it appeared to be. The wooden exterior led quickly into a stony dome at the back, it was simply obscured by trees and grasses, which s
Shizukesa:  - Self HarmThree years...
Shadows danced across the candlelit Uchiha's figure, clawing at his back and overlaying themselves on his emotionless face. His red eyes roamed the scrawling handwriting on the crisp scroll.
Akatsuki... Jinchuuriki... Naruto... Kyuubi... Three years.
Sasuke remained composed as he processed the wealth of information in the scroll. That annoying blond haired kid had a monster of chakra inside him? No wonder his progress was so threatening. How was he supposed to compete with that?
That name and face flashed in his eyes, and he scowled down at the scroll.
~ ~ ~
Pages flew like raven's wings as he read hungrily into the old, cracked book. Hours passed in seconds, and he found himself at the back cover.
Standing up abruptly, he tucked the book into his shuriken pouch and turned away from the old wooden table. His face was covered in darkness, and he walked from his light-less house into the territory of the setting moon. Sakura had lef
Shizukesa:  - AssistanceThree shuriken thudded into the targets on the nearby trees: two direct hits, and one slightly to the left. A pang of pain ran up his bandaged arm, and he sighed. Dropping his aching arms to his side, he walked slowly to the edge of the clearing and retrieved his metal projectiles. Experimentally, he gathered his chakra and performed several signs.
As he cast a medium-sized fireball into the air, he felt his shoulder go hot. Damn. A tiny hiss escaped the bandages on his arm, which sizzled and smoked ferociously.
He grimaced in pain, and gripped the afflicted shoulder tightly. No... By sheer willpower, he forced it to subside, but the effort left him drained and exhausted. Depositing his weapons into his tools pouch, he turned and walked shakily out of the forest.
~ ~ ~
Books piled above her head obstructed Sakura's vision. Tsunade had sent her to fetch some 'reference material', and it was... substantial. Konoha's librarian had given her a disbelieving glare, first in regards to her ab