Let The World Burn - Chapter 2 - NewTaste (2024)

Chapter Text

In the upcoming days, the dear ladies and gentlemen of Konoha took it up on themselves to provide an in-depth analysis of the latest spring ball and exchange their opinions and conclusions with all the folk they accidentally or purposefully met. It was the first time an outsider family (that is, a family that does not traditionally belong to the old clans of Konoha) hosted the event and the Haruno family was anxious to hear whether the ton considered it a success. To them, it was not only a pleasant evening but a form of application to officially enter the tightly-closed circle of elite families. Failure was not an option.

No one in the city knew, but the Haruno family spent more money on this special evening than anyone before, more than what they had the means for, for one purpose only: their daughter, Haruno Sakura would be considered a possible partner for marriage to one of the eligible bachelors of the clans. Her mother had the finest dress tailored, the emerald she wore was imported from the far East, the money they invested in her delicate lessons (such as piano, dancing or languages), all for the sole purpose of ensuring a successful marriage. Their efforts did not seem to be in vain, Sakura was one of the most popular ladies during the ball with numerous callers in the coming days. The problem was, none of these suitors came from the old, wealthy clans. Sakura’s mother knew that these prominent families tended to marry each other and it would be a job for a general to break that pattern, but her daughter dancing the mazurka with Uchiha Sasuke gave her a lot of hope. She knew a lot about the Uchihas, they controlled the military force of Konoha, they had exceptional political power, and since the unfortunate incident, both Uchiha survivors were looking for a wife. Itachi would be the first and best choice, but he was also a tough nut to crack; although he was the heir, he did not seem to frequent any social events the Harunos were invited to, so she decided to encourage her daughter to seek the attention of the younger Uchiha. She did not have to convince Sakura much; her daughter fell in love with the man the first time she saw him. Sakura’s parents were eagerly waiting for Uchiha Sasuke to call upon their daughter, but they also suspected Sasuke would only come if he heard positive feedback about the ball. So, they were all desperately awaiting the ton’s remarks.

The fine people of Konoha seemed to agree that this was the biggest spring ball they ever attended, though not everyone seemed to think it a great success: a lot of people felt that it was unnecessary to break the tradition and invite not only the clans, but other families, investors, merchants, which gave the whole evening a festival-like atmosphere. However, being able to host and entertain this number of guests also entailed the Harunos had the means and the capacity for it, which certainly elevated the family on a higher rank on the invisible shelf of elite-ness. And while the good citizens agreed that the ball can be labelled as generally suitable, pleasant and more than tolerable, they did not give much consideration to who would be Haruno Sakura’s suitor. Although everyone could witness how she danced the mazurka with Uchiha Sasuke, they saw no reason for gossip as the Uchiha seemed to adhere to his usual character: he was distant, he danced little, and many mothers believed the Uchiha would marry beneath his rank if he courted Sakura. The general consensus labelled Uchiha Sasuke as still an eligible bachelor who may or may not actually entertain the thought of courting Haruno Sakura, and as the days went by without Sasuke calling on the fine lady, the Haruno family started to lose hope, and Sakura tried to find solace in the notion that she would go to the Yamanaka’s hunting party together with Sasuke. She bathed in the attention she received from the lords, but she secretly kept hope the young Uchiha was just polite and reserved.

On the other hand, Shikamaru and Ino gave a lot of reason for gossip. The morning promenades, the afternoon teas, the women workshops all were busy scheming about the relationship between Yamanaka and Nara. The two have been betrothed since their birth, the whole city knew, and thus neither Ino nor Shikamaru were ever subject to speculations and matchmaking schemes, they were like the first strong pillar that held the future of Konoha. No one expected to witness Shikamaru dance not once, but twice with Sabaku no Temari, the scary looking lady from the south, who was also older than Shikamaru, almost at the age to be called a spinster. And while a few rounds of waltz may be considered harmless, paired with the romantic mazurka, people were left utterly speechless at the ball, culminating in limitless gossip in the upcoming days. To their best knowledge, this was the first time the two met and that is why it was a riddle how the cold, strict and distant Temari could have got the attention of an already betrothed man. Everybody felt pity for Ino, and that provided enough reason for her to not attend any social events she usually frequented. Shikamaru was also avoiding the gentlemen’s club, which gave even more reason for rumours, and Temari went back to her own city with the Kazekage, letting the whole of Konoha fill the void of information with their wild imagination. The absence of the famous couple, the pillar of the future, seemed to have shaken up all the conversations. While the Haruno family understood that this is was an unexpected turn of events, they often tried to swift the conversation into more practical topics at hand, which primarily involved to get people talk about Sakura dancing the mazurka with Sasuke, but very few seemed to find it a match worth mentioning. Sakura’s mother understood that they have to do more to earn the attention of the young Uchiha, and started her own investigation as to what Sabaku no Temari might have said to Lord Shikamaru to win him over.

However, there was another phenomenon at the ball that rather stirred up the still water of Konoha’s elite.

The appearance of Naruto, unexpectedly, shook up some of the conversations. No one knew anything about him and no one saw him in Konoha afterwards. On the other hand, his presence at the ball was rather hard to miss: he danced the mazurka with the wealthiest and most influential lady, but then, just like the morning fog, he disappeared in the middle of the evening. People could not agree whether he was a commoner, or someone from the country, maybe a newcomer who still could not adapt to their rules, a distant relative of the Hyuuga family or someone from abroad. Few people talked to him and all claimed he was simple, but somehow interesting, in a way they could not explain, though women quickly found the solution: he was handsome. The ton generally agreed that Naruto, with his bright blue eyes, wild blond hair, his tanned skin tone carried some exotic features that captured the attention of women. Where there are many ladies looking to find a partner, they will always notice a young, handsome and unknown gentleman, even if he is (seemingly) lacking in manners, ignores the dress code or spends only little time around. Actually, all these things, together in hand with the fact that he danced the mazurka with Lady Hinata, lead to the final conclusion that he was one of the most surprising and most intriguing presence at the ball.

Sasuke spent the week at their city villa, not feeling open to chit-chat with women with a large imagination about the events of the ball. I was there, why should I discuss it further, was his general statement. He wanted to avoid listening to gossips, and also getting invitations to private teas he would otherwise be rude to refuse.

Nevertheless, he still could not avoid to hear about some of the most discussed rumours in the gentlemen’s club. He usually visited the place once or twice a week to meet his friends, and he was rather irritated to notice how one of his few friends, Shikamaru, decided to skip going to the club, most probably to avoid the scrutinizing questions he would get from the lords. He understood how fed up Shikamaru must feel after the whole town was talking about who he danced with (Sasuke was rather glad it did not catch much popularity that he danced the mazurka with Sakura), and he could empathise with Shikamaru. He would not want to leave the comfort of his own home, too, if everybody would be talking about who he was dancing with. At first, Sasuke did not give it much thought and he believed people would get bored of speculating why Shikamaru danced with Temari; Sasuke was convinced people were over-analysing a simple event, but as the days went by and neither Shikamaru, nor Ino seemed to want to demonstrate how unaffected they are from the rumours, how perfectly fine their engagement was, Sasuke started to feel the worry that there might be a conflict between the Yamanakas and the Nara family. While a conflict between great families may sound scandalous, it was also rather dangerous. By the end of the week, he was determined to talk to his friend, he was just still unsure how to approach a topic he himself was uncomfortable with.

Sasuke was also surprised to see the growing popularity of Naruto among the women. By the end of the week, it was him the unmarried (and some married!) ladies all talked about (at least that is what the lords at the club complained about), they seemed to be taken by the mysterious and handsome appeal the unknown blond could claim for himself. Most of the women did not even speak a word to him, yet he became a sensation, as if he was magical prince from a romantic novel that danced with the most accomplished Hyuuga lady, just to disappear into the night like in a fairy tale. Sasuke did not understand at first what the excitement was all about, he found Naruto rather annoying, very simple-minded, raw, obnoxious and never forget, a mere commoner. Though he could not deny the fact that his unusual appearance at the ball, despite his shortcomings, did make him interesting.


Sasuke arrived at the Yamanaka hunting lodge early on Saturday. He rode one of his most gentle-mannered horses there, Taka, because he did not exactly plan on riding together with the party to hunt. He always considered hunting a lonely sport and others distracted him; he decided to just ride in the forest casually once the hunters were deeper in the woods.

Sakura arrived soon after him on a two-horse carriage. Her long hair was let down, she carried a white sun umbrella and she blushed when she noticed Sasuke waiting for her on his dark brown stallion.

Sasuke got off of Taka and offered his hand to Sakura to help her down from the carriage. She looked beautiful in her white dress, the light spring wind played with her hair and Sasuke felt reassurance again that Sakura is a good choice to be a lifelong partner. No one could deny that Sakura’s physical features were exceptional, she was a real diamond in the pool of beautiful young ladies, but Sasuke did not want to rush towards serious courting: he still wanted to get to know the lady more, and he secretly agreed with the saying that he would marry beneath his rank if he proposed to Sakura. He wished Sakura was from an old clan, his job would have been easier, but it was only wishful thinking and he still felt like he had time to decide.

He walked her to the terrace where all the ladies gathered as they would not participate in the hunt, but rather drink some refreshment, play games, and do what women always do: gossip. Whenever ladies were asked to join a hunting party, it always meant a special occasion for them to chat without any men present, they were never expected to actually go hunting with the lords.

Ino was standing on the terrace in a circle of young ladies, but she looked rather grim. She forced a fake smile on her face when Sakura and Sasuke arrived, with Sakura’s hand in Sasuke’s arm. All the ladies welcomed the couple and noticed the intimate touch they shared, all getting ready to talk about it later today. Sasuke did not want to read much into it, and upon seeing the sadness in Ino’s eyes, he quickly bowed to the group of ladies and started looking for Shikamaru, hoping he would not be stupid enough to refuse an attendance here.

Most lords were already sitting on their horses by the entrance of the forest, with the ladies’ eyes fixated on them. While this event was another occasion for women to charm the good men with their country beauty, the lords were all typically talking about the speed and sturdiness of their horses or they were preparing the guns for the hunt. Sasuke noticed his friends, Kiba and Shino, in the group of lords, but Shikamaru was nowhere to be seen. Sasuke really wished he did not put himself up to more gossip, nor Ino.

“Don’t tell me Shikamaru is not here,” he approached his friends, with Taka’s reins in his hands.

“He is over there,” Kiba pointed in a direction far away from everyone else and then Sasuke noticed. Shikamaru was sitting on his black horse, gazing into the distance, not talking to anyone. Sasuke could not restrain himself from rolling his eyes at the sight and decided to have the chat with him he was still not prepared for. He got up on his horse and walked over to Shikamaru. He knew it was not his task to amend the seemingly broken relationship between Shikamaru and Ino, and he hated seeing that his friend was not sensible enough to solve the problem he created, but he sure did not want to witness the Yamanaka and Nara clan break apart.

“Shikamaru,” he rode next to him and his friend looked at him with empty eyes. To be fair, Shikamaru always had empty eyes, as if he was always bored, or tired, or maybe both.

“Uchiha,” Shikamaru patted the neck of his own horse as it became rather distraught with the other horse’s appearance.

“You are riding Shadow today,” Sasuke said. Shadow was a beautiful, slim black mare that fit Shikamaru’s energy well. It was horse riding that brought these two gentlemen first together. Both Sasuke and Shikamaru were lone wolves, feeling uncomfortable in the company of people, but horse riding in nature gave them the kind of control that stabilized their emotions and let them feel at peace. Sasuke considered Shikamaru a friend, but they never really talked much if not about horse care. When it came to other topics, they rather avoided mentioning them, and this is why Sasuke was unsure how to bring up the topic that kept the ton on their toes.

Shikamaru gazed into the distance again, not paying attention to the group of people, friends, relatives behind him that were getting ready to ride out. Sasuke did not know how to start. He was not even sure what he wanted to say. All he wanted was that things got back to their rightful place, the world would move on its natural course as it did before, and no one would even mention that there might be a conflict between two of the most prominent clans.

“How are things with Ino?” he finally asked.

Shikamaru sighed.

“Why does everyone keep asking me that? Everything is fine.”

“That’s not what I heard.”

“You never care about what people say. Now you suddenly do?”

Sasuke hated it. He did not want to talk about gossips, feelings, perceptions, he only wanted to talk to Shikamaru about horses. He half expected to hear Shikamaru say everybody is a moron Uchiha, people are just bored and talking, everything is normal between Ino and me, maybe this sentence would have given Sasuke a peace of mind. However, seeing how defensive Shikamaru just got, his fears suddenly felt founded, because if all the things people said the past week were really just gossip, Shikamaru would shrug it off. But he did not. He was just sitting on his horse, away from everybody else. He felt like he should just leave Shikamaru to mope around and handle the mess he created. Sasuke was angry at Shikamaru, for being an adult but not being able to handle the criticism he would have received at the club.

“Are you still betrothed to her?”

“Of course, I am.”

“Then act like that. You are an adult, the heir of the Nara clan. Do not disappoint your family or your name.”

Sasuke considered his job done and rode back to the company. He was not sure if his words got through to Shikamaru, but he thought his friend was rational enough to realize the situation he was in. He hated to talk to Shikamaru like an older brother scolding a young brat, but someone really needed to remind him that he has a reputation, a name to live up to. The rules and culture of society were sacred to Sasuke, the power and political balance between the clans was crucial to maintain, no matter how much he repulsed reprimanding a friend. He really wished Shikamaru would come to his senses and make up with Yamanaka so the people would stop gossiping about imaginary conflicts and other nonsense.

While walking back on his horse, he noticed a flash of yellow from the corner of this eyes. He looked in the direction, and there he was, the sensation of last week, Namikaze Naruto sitting on the fence by the hunting lodge. The stranger with wild blond hair, bright blue eyes, tan skin, an accurate description indeed. And to an extent, one can even say handsome, though Sasuke was sure Naruto would never compare to an Uchiha. He was alone, with no horse in proximity.

Naruto also noticed Sasuke and rolled his eyes, even turned his head dramatically, visibly displeased at the sight of Uchiha. That just hit a nerve in Sasuke.

“Are you hunting from the top of the fence?” he yelled over to the blond. “Interesting strategy.”

Naruto was very easy to rile up, his emotions quickly showed on his face.

“The forest is that way, Uchiha,” the blond pointed in the other direction, behind Sasuke. “Or you plan to hunt me down?”

Sasuke did not even notice that he turned his horse toward Naruto and started walking to him.

“Who knows, you seem like an easy prey.”

Naruto raised his eyebrows. “And you seem like a man who would miss his shot even if it was a meter away.”

“Do you want me to demonstrate?”

“Is that a threat? Are you challenging me to a duel, Uchiha?”

“I do not see that you have a gun.”

“Because I don’t.”

“See? That’s why you are the prey, and I am the hunter.”

Sasuke stopped his horse by Naruto, who was still sitting on the fence, their eyes were nearly levelled. Sasuke suddenly realized what he has just said, how Naruto can misunderstand it as if Sasuke looked down on his social status, as if he belittled him. He was not sure whether it really was his intention, but he sure did not want to openly look down on a commoner, basically calling him game. He might have his own thoughts about other’s social status, but he did not want to abuse his own power and rub it under others’ nose.

“Where is your horse, Namikaze?” he asked to defuse any possible reply Naruto was forming in his mind. To his surprise, all negative expressions disappeared from Naruto’s face to the question.

“I’m flattered you remember my name, Uchiha-san,” the blond man grinned, as if he really was flattered, not just being sarcastic, and jumped from the fence, now looking up at Sasuke. “May I?”

Sasuke motioned with his hand that Naruto may pat his horse. Naruto caressed the neck of Taka, with a slow, gentle motion, pulling his fingers over to Taka’s head, his forehead, his nose.

“Beautiful creature,” he said in an awe and Sasuke had a strange feeling that Naruto barely has a chance to see a horse. “What’s his name?”


Naruto pulled his eyebrows together, thinking, but Sasuke noticed the look.

“You don’t like the name?”

“It’s just that… a name carries a weight. It symbolizes something,” What a fancy word for a commoner to use, Sasuke thought. “The name of your horse might tell a lot about you, Uchiha-san.”

Sasuke raised his chin. He suddenly felt uncomfortable sitting higher than Naruto, who was still caressing his horse. He watched the movement of the man’s hand. It was insecure, as if he was afraid Taka might bite him any minute. Naruto then moved his hand swiftly down the stallion’s neck, the back of his hand accidentally bumping to Sasuke’s knee. Sasuke felt a rush of cold run all over him by the brief touch.

“Where is your horse, Namikaze-san?”

Naruto noticed the sudden form of respect and pulled his hand away, stepping back slightly from the horse. He turned his eyes towards the rest of the people.

“I’m still waiting for Hyuuga-san. She promised we would meet here but I’m afraid she won’t turn up.”

Sasuke remembered the inappropriate proposition Naruto shared with Lady Hinata at the ball. Of course she won’t turn up.

“You should be happy if she didn’t tell her family about what you said. You would be a dead man by now. The Hyuuga is a powerful family and Hinata-san should be treated with respect.”

“I only said what I felt. Is talking about my feelings disrespectful, Uchiha-san?” Naruto was looking up at Sasuke, covering his eyes from the sun.

“Yes,” Sasuke said without hesitation. “You do not respect that others want to feel comfortable.”

“I do not agree with that.”

“Oh well, no can do.”

Sasuke felt strange. Here he is, the mystery boy, the man who is considered interesting by the womenfolk. A mystery, that is for sure. There was something in him that made Sasuke want to continue the conversation. Sasuke was never one to talk a lot but he found himself interested in what Naruto would say. Yet, the man did not say much, not at least about himself. He sounded simple but used words that well-read people use. He never acted intimidated by Sasuke’s role in society, yet he seemed to be aware of the differences. Sasuke still could not figure out who or what Naruto might be, why he often avoids answering questions directly; he had a strange feeling that he wants to crack this riddle called Naruto, by force if necessary.

He shunned the thought as quickly as it came.

Shikamaru rode past them and he shot a quick glance at Naruto and Sasuke.

“Are you coming, Uchiha?” he asked as he was walking to the company of hunters. Sasuke felt relief that Shikamaru seemingly understood the message Sasuke tried to convey and turned his horse toward the company to ride back to them.

“Good luck with the hunt, Uchiha-san,” Naruto said and put his hands in his pockets. A gentleman never did that in company. “But I must warn you, I’m very good at hunting. I will get my hands on something today, I feel it.”

“You should get your hands on your horse then. Or are you going to accompany us walking?”

“Would that be so bad? I could wander in the forest. And if I had enough, I could just hop on back behind you. Taka could take both of us.”

Sasuke chuckled.

“You must not ridicule yourself. Claim your horse,” and he rode away with Shikamaru.


Sakura was still holding the white umbrella in her hand. She was talking to Ino, standing next to a high bouquet of flowers, smiling politely, looking tall and proud. The breeze gently played with her long hair and Sasuke watched her from afar. She looked perfect and he was happy about it. Perfection was something he expected from his future wife, though it always left him with a tad of disappointment remembering how Sakura was not from a clan. Itachi’s words were lingering in his mind: there is no rush.

Hyuuga Neji and Hinata arrived late. Neji’s white horse was already prepared, he was putting his gloves on to get up on his stallion. Sasuke was disappointed to see Hinata turn up, he half hoped Naruto messed up his chances with his more than intimate proposal. Hinata wore a long, white dress, just like the other ladies, and smiled weakly at her cousin as he saddled up. She did not join the circle of girls with Sakura. She is a lone wolf, too, Sasuke thought, a feeling that he very well understood.

Namikaze has also arrived to where all the gentleman gathered. As he noticed Hinata, he immediately walked up to her and Sasuke felt ashamed that he was interested in what he was about to say to the lady. Neji followed Naruto’s approaching body with cautious eyes. The blond man bowed to both of them, a motion Neji reciprocated, even from his horse. Hinata must have introduced Naruto, telling from her gestures, but Sasuke did not want to stare longer. He rode to Shikamaru and Shino.

“I hope the dogs will sniff out a hundred pheasants, Inuzuka,” Shikamaru watched as Kiba and his family brought a dozen dogs to the group. All hounds were well trained, tall, ready to help out the hunters.

“What do you need a hundred pheasants for?” Kiba asked as he got back on his horse.

“My family is about to organise a ball,” Shikamaru said lazily.

“And you want to serve pheasants from the Yamanaka’s forest? That is poaching,” Shino said.

“It’s only poaching if they don’t know about it.”

“Then stealing.”

“Again, only if they don’t know about it.”

No one could argue with that.

Sasuke was glad to know Shikamaru would throw a ball, most probably to demonstrate his commitment to Ino, and he silently congratulated himself for bringing Shikamaru to his senses.

Sasuke looked around to search for Naruto, he was curious what his horse looked like, but he could not see him anywhere, and neither Hinata. A bad sign, he thought to himself. Sakura noticed Sasuke’s searching gaze and waved to him once Sasuke looked over to the ladies but he did not react. He was considering to tell Neji that Naruto might have ill intentions with his cousin, and the fact that he could not see any of them seemed to prove him right, but he decided that it was not his business. He has had enough drama with Shikamaru.

The gamekeeper explained the route the hunters were about to take (Sasuke knew these forests very well) and after blowing the whistle, all gentlemen rode out towards the forest with the hounds leading the way. They would later gather at the pheasant shooting spot, get off their horses and continue on foot, ready to shoot the birds.

Sasuke was riding together with Shikamaru and Shino, but soon tried to get out of the middle, knowing he would divert from the group and continue on a lonely journey. He enjoyed galloping through the open field, hearing the fast thuds of the horses, but once they arrived at the forest, he slowed his horse, only to turn left and leave the hunting group behind. He rode towards a stream, on unbeaten paths, and once he reached the water, he slowed his horse down and followed the upstream in a gentle pace. No one seemed to notice how he left the group, or probably no one cared.

He walked with Taka in complete silence. The birds were singing their spring melodies, the stream flew lazily with frogs jumping in and out of the water, and although they were still close to Konoha, the painful noise of the city vanished. There was no one else but nature.

Sasuke got off of Taka and decided to stroll on his own foot. He did not want to leave the stream, in order not to get lost, and he also hoped he might shoot something, maybe a boar or a fox.

After walking for about half an hour, he found a tree where he decided to leave Taka. It seemed like a perfect spot for the horse to find shade under the trees, to eat the tall grass, and Sasuke walked deeper in the forest, ready with his gun.

He saw one of the bushes move so he raised his gun to his eye and approached it carefully. He did not want to shoot until he saw what was actually moving there. He circled around the area, not wanting to get too close, but ready to shoot any minute. He was by the stream again and he stepped into it with only one of his legs to get a clear shot and that was when he saw it was Naruto.

And when Naruto noticed Sasuke, with a gun pointing at him, jumped up from the rock he was sitting on, raised his hands and yelled:

“Whoah Uchiha, don’t shoot!”

“What the hell, Naruto!” Sasuke yelled together with the blond.

It was only thanks to his quick reflexes he did not pull the trigger.

“What are you doing here, you idiot?”

“Why the hell are you trying to shoot me?!” Naruto kept yelling. There went the peace and quiet of nature.

Sasuke decided to just keep irritating Naruto a little and kept pointing the gun at Naruto.

“You said I would miss my target even from a meter. Maybe we could test it out.”

“Uchiha, you can’t be serious,” Naruto’s hands were still in the air.

Of course, Sasuke was not. He lowered his gun and put it on his back. Naruto finally lowered his hands and seemed a little less frightened and a little more furious.

“You nearly shot me down, you bastard!”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but we are hunting.”

“So you are shooting at everything that moves?”

“That’s exactly the point of hunting.”

“Well, you must be terrible at it if you can’t differentiate a wild animal and a citizen of Konoha.”

“I could, if I saw a citizen,” Sasuke smirked.

“You talk big now that you have a gun with you.”

Sasuke crossed his arms. He did not understand why he constantly bumped into this blond idiot, or why he would not join the hunters’ group. Naruto had no equipment with him, it seemed like he really was just sitting on a rock by the water, like a carefree child.

“What the hell are you even doing here?” he asked and Naruto seemed hesitant to answer. He calmed down a bit and looked around, with his fists in his pockets, as if he was expecting someone else to answer in his stead.

“I could ask the same from you,” he finally told Sasuke.

“Stop avoiding my questions,” Sasuke said strictly. Naruto barely give straight answers and that really pissed him off. Women might find a mysterious man appealing, but Sasuke simply found him annoying. “What are you doing here?”

“I was just… walking here, I guess? The forest is really beautiful. I enjoy the peace. And it’s nice to spend a day away from the city.”

He is lying, Sasuke thought.

“You are hunting, yet you have neither a horse, nor a gun. You are away from the group in the Yamanaka clan’s private forest. What are you hiding? Is this somehow related to what you said to Hinata-san last week?”

“Is this an interrogation now? You are not with the company either, and you nearly shot me!”

“Answer me.”

Naruto did not seem to be intimidated by Sasuke, and he responded with silence. They both eyed each other as if both were eyeing an animal they are about shoot.

“Yes, I hoped I would meet Hinata-san here,” Naruto admitted after a long pause of silence, not breaking the eye contact.

Now that sounded more plausible.

“Why did you want to meet her… here?” Sasuke opened his arms, showing how ridiculous it sounded to meet someone in a place like that.

“Maybe because this spot is beautiful, remote and there are no assholes prying about my business? At least that’s what I hoped but clearly I was mistaken.”

Sasuke snorted.

“No respectable lady would be alone in the forest with a gentleman.”

“Luckily, I am not a gentleman.”

“I can see that,” Sasuke concluded. But what exactly are you? You are not one of us.

Naruto shrugged. “I guess I’ll have to settle with mighty Lord Uchiha instead.”

“I certainly hope you will not have improper propositions for me.”

“Why not? You don’t seem nearly as respectable as Hinata-san.”

“You seem to forget I have a gun.”

Naruto raised his chin and Sasuke could not maintain a weak smile to appear on his face. He realized he felt amused. As much as he was outraged by a commoner attending their events, clearly not abiding by their rules, he was also entertained by the sharp, quick responses. They kept the distance between each other, and Sasuke wondered if he should leave the blond behind or drag him back to Neji.

“And why are you not hunting with the others, Uchiha?”

“As your superior, I do not need to explain my actions to you.”

“I see you do not need to sit on a high horse to actually talk like that.”

“You should learn some respect, Namikaze-san.”

“I hope you don’t mean I should learn it from you.”

Sasuke has had enough. The guy might be amusing at times, but he was ten times more annoying. His rational mind has warned him that he was acting childish by getting into a meaningless quarrel with someone below his station, and that Itachi would pay no mind to people like him. Itachi would always act cold and polite; he would never stop to have a conversation with someone he did not want to do business with. If Itachi saw him, he would shake his head, saying that Sasuke should know better than to get into a fight of mockery with a commoner.

“I must join the others,” the sudden responsibility calmed him. “You, sir, just be glad I do not inform Hyuuga Neji about your disrespect towards his cousin.”

Naruto became more serious when he realized the unexpected change of tone from Sasuke and bowed respectfully.

“I apologize if I offended you or Lady Hyuuga. It was not my intention.”

It was finally a tone the Uchiha in Sasuke agreed with. Naruto should learn to always show this level of respect towards anyone if he has the chance to attend events with them. Sasuke did not reply, just turned his back and walked to where he left Taka. His common sense made him decide to go back to the hunting party. He had responsibilities, and Itachi relied on him, and by going after his own head and finding ways to separate from the group surely did not help the Uchiha interests. He made a mental note that was he about to meet Naruto again, he should not let himself engage in a conversation with him.

Sasuke was riding towards the spot he knew the other hunters would be at, however, by the time he arrived they had started to ride back to the lodge. He met Shikamaru on his way.

“Where were you, Uchiha?” Shikamaru asked when he noticed Sasuke riding towards him.

“I was hunting on a different spot.”

Shikamaru sighed.

“And did you manage to shoot something?”

“No,” and he also noticed that Shikamaru carried no game with him. “What about you?”

“No. Kiba got two pheasants. We barely found any animals, it’s like they sensed we were hunting them today. Shino said it’s going to rain soon and that’s why the animals are hiding. Many hunters did what you tried, they went off the path, I wonder if they had any luck.”

“Hn, maybe.”

They continued their ride in silence back to the lodge, where the tables were set for tea and luncheon. The hunters were slowly returning, Sasuke and Shikamaru were among the first, Hyuuga Neji was among the last. He was leading his horse, walking side by side with Naruto. Everybody looked at the approaching couple like it was an unexpected sensation, both men were seemingly enjoying a friendly conversation. Neji was always considered cold and hard like a stone that cannot be weathered by anything, yet he enjoyed the company of someone who did not even have their own horse. Upon their arrival at the garden of the lodge, both men stopped where Hinata was sitting, under a birch tree in the cool shadows. Sasuke did not notice that he stared, far longer than anyone else.

“Hinata-sama really seems to like Naruto-kun,” said Sakura, gently and carefully placing her palm on Sasuke’s arm. It was an intimate move, something only married women did, and Sasuke snapped by the touch. He did not move his arm so as not to embarrass Sakura, but he much preferred it if he was the one offering his arm. This way it seemed like they were very close to each other, and he believed it was a gesture to urge Sasuke towards a proposal Sakura was hoping for. Sasuke still has not settled his thoughts and he was not about to do today. “How was the hunt?” Sakura asked.

“Well,” Sasuke averted his eyes from the Hyuugas. “I always enjoy riding Taka. It gives me a sense of freedom. And power,” he said honestly.

Sakura giggled at the statement and Sasuke raised his eyebrows slightly.

“Don’t you feel, Lord Uchiha, that you have all the freedom and power in your life?”

The question was legitimate. Did not Sasuke have everything? He glanced at Naruto in the distance, who was getting a cigarette out of his pocket. Still in the company of the Hyuugas. Gentlemen would never smoke a cigarette in the company of a lady, only cigars or some would smoke pipes. It was common knowledge that ladies, for some reason, considered cigarettes cheap and common and they never approved of gentlemen smoking it in their presence. Sasuke saw how Neji did not approve of the move, either.

Sakura followed Sasuke’s eyes.

“Oh,” she sighed. “The Hyuugas, that is what you mean.”

“Hm?” Sasuke looked back at Sakura, puzzled.

“I understand you, Sasuke-san. I often wish I was like Hinata-sama. Beautiful, smart, powerful…” Sakura whispered and looked at Sasuke as if she was awaiting a certain response to that, the only acceptable response. Sasuke, however, misunderstood.

“I do not wish to be like Hyuuga Neji. To be an Uchiha is a privilege in itself,” he claimed and decided that it was time for him to leave the party and thank Yamanaka-san for the hunt. Sakura was disappointed.

After saying goodbye to everyone among his rank, he carefully approached the Hyuuga-Namikaze trio. Neji was above him in rank, Hinata was the dream girl no one could have, and Naruto was, in their terms, no one remarkable. Thus, he said his goodbye accordingly, bowing to all of them and wishing them a happy rest of the day. Neji reciprocated his goodbye coldly and Hinata sent her regards to Itachi.

“You sure are not leaving already, Uchiha-san?” Naruto asked, just like Sasuke asked of him last week.

“Well, I have just said my farewell, and I have matters to attend to, so excuse me for my departure.”

The Hyuugas nodded, but not Naruto.

“I’m pretty sure he’s just afraid his perfect porcelain skin will get sunburnt after spending all morning under the sun”, Naruto told Hinata in a hushed voice, not even looking at Sasuke, but he surely meant for him to hear it, as well as Neji. “And other things, you know,” he waved his hand as if trying to wave away a thought. Hinata blushed.

“Other things?” Sasuke questioned, though he did not want to legitimise his fear about sunburnt, either.

“Yeah, I could not help but notice how little you danced at last week’s ball,” Naruto now turned to Sasuke. “You must be a terrible dancer. And Neji-san said y’all have a soirée later. I bet you are afraid, that’s why you are leaving now.”

Neji tensed upon hearing his name, he probably did not want to get mixed into Naruto’s blabbering. Hinata looked around and saw that several people were watching them, clearly overhearing the conversation.

Sasuke glared at the smiling blond with all the glare he had in him. He will not have rumours going around about him being a bad dancer.

“I have matters to attend to, but I do want to rejoin the party in the evening, freshened,” he said, nearly gritting his teeth. Of course he did not want to come back to the soirée. He tried to keep his cool, because that is what Itachi would do, and not pay any cents to the words of this moron.

“Oh, my bad then,” Naruto bowed. “Again, my apologies.”

Sasuke was about turn his back on them and leave but he stopped. He will not let himself be made a fool by a mere low-life no-name idiot in front of the whole company. He will not have his reputation destroyed.

“Namikaze-san, I hope to see you at the soirée and continue our conversation,” he said out loud.

The soirées were private evenings and while Yamanaka Ino might have extended an invitation to Naruto for a hunt, she surely has not done for the soirée. He knew Naruto would not be invited and having everyone hear that would be embarrassing for the blond. And it seemed to hit a soft spot for Naruto.

“Oh, well, actually, I did not receive an invitation…” Naruto mumbled and turned red in front of the Hyuugas. Success.

“In that case, maybe in our next ball. Until then,” Sasuke finally said his goodbyes, leaving an embarrassed Naruto behind. There is nothing more humiliating in this ton than not receiving an invitation to where everyone else is going to be.


At home, Itachi was sitting in his private study, writing vigorously when Sasuke entered after a short knock. He removed is leather gloves and threw them on the armchair that stood in front of his brother’s desk.

“How was the hunt, otouto?” Itachi did not even look up from his work.

Sasuke shrugged because he knew his brother would not see it.

“It was alright. It was nice to ride Taka. I will be going back to the soirée later.”

“Oh?” Itachi was still working on his document. “You seem to socialize more nowadays.”

Sasuke shrugged again, but this time Itachi noticed it without even looking.

“Stop that. It’s such a childish behaviour. Gentlemen don’t shrug. And don’t put their hands in their pocket.”

Sasuke was just about to do that. He remembered how Naruto always seemed to walk with his fists in his pockets. He would have liked to see Itachi trying to teach Naruto some manners. It would really be a battle worth watching.

“Any luck with Hyuuga Hinata?” Itachi signed his document and immediately started working on another one.

“I was with Sakura today.”

“The Haruno lady?”


“So, you are committed to her.”

Sasuke fought his urge to shrug. It was his home where he could really be himself, yet Itachi always expected him to act as elegant as he would with strangers.

“She is beautiful, respectful, the jewel of the crown. I might propose to her tonight,” Sasuke thought about it for long but he still was not sure about it. He said this only to piss Itachi off, even if just a little.

But his brother still did not find it a topic worth enough to even look at Sasuke.

“Do you feel like you’ve explored all your options?”

“I don’t want to explore. There is a perfect lady, I want nothing more.”

“Hyuuga Hinata sounds perfect, too-“

“You don’t even know them, Itachi.”

“Why, you do?”

“Certainly better than you. But if you are so curious, why don’t you come to the soirée just once? It would be nice to represent the family together, if nothing else.”

Itachi sighed and put his pen down.

“I represent the family in other places. I have matters to attend to tonight, I cannot participate, unfortunately.”

“Bullsh*t,” Sasuke blurted out without even thinking. Naruto came to his mind, how naturally it sounded from his lips, but Sasuke has never talked to his brother with such disrespect. Spending just a little time with the blond made Sasuke lose the manners he was so proud of.

This was the first time Itachi looked up at his brother.

“Beg your pardon?”

“I’m just saying,” here goes the childish explanation, he knew, but he could not stop his lips from moving. “What matters? What business? You keep saying that, but everybody was at the ball. At the hunt. At the club. Who are you doing business with, then? Yourself? That’s hardly beneficial for the family.”

Itachi leaned back in his armchair and observed his brother curiously.

“What are you suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting anything. I’m saying you are not doing business. You just find excuses to diss me. Everybody who counts was at the ball last week. So, who did you do business with?”

Everybody?” echoed Itachi. “Who is everybody? Remind me.”

The conversation was spiralling into a verbal battle Sasuke knew he could never win. Itachi always outsmarted everyone, was one step ahead of his debate partner, yet Sasuke wanted so hard to believe he was not inferior to his elder brother.

“Hyuuga, Nara, Yamanaka, Akamichi, Inuzuka, Sabaku, Haruno, all the families.”

“Those are hardly all the families.”

“They are the ones who count. Even that low-life Namikaze was there.”


Sasuke was getting more and more childish by the minute, he realized, yet he could not stop the flow of his emotions. He knew he would regret it later.

“That idiot Namikaze Naruto.”

“Naruto, you say?” That seemed to have caught Itachi’s attention as he slightly pulled his brows together.

Sasuke became curious.

“Do you know him?”

Itachi did not reply. He weakly shook his head after thinking a bit, then looked back down on his papers.

“So you want me there tonight to represent the Uchiha family with you. And to help you decide who you should marry.”

“Yes,” Sasuke answered reluctantly. He did sound childish.

“Sorry Sasuke, maybe next time.”

And he buried himself in his papers again and Sasuke knew the door was shut, he could press Itachi no longer.

“If you let me help you-” he started in a weak attempt, though he was sure it was futile.

“Sasuke,” Itachi stopped him. “Dress up for the soirée and propose to Sakura if you really wish to marry her.”

Sasuke left without a second thought. He even forgot his gloves in Itachi’s office.

He was furious. Ever since their parents died, Itachi acted as if he was a ten-year-old kid. He never let Sasuke help with the business, even though Sasuke often asked to be involved. Itachi always reminded him that he was the heir, the older one, he should be the one shouldering the stress and the duty. Sasuke should feel young, free, careless, and he made sure Sasuke would never have to worry about anything. Yet, all Sasuke could think of was that Itachi did not want to share the power, the wealth, but rather kept Sasuke on a leash where he could spend all the money he needed for personal entertainment as long as he didn’t interfere with Itachi’s business. Sasuke was only supposed to represent the family in social circles, a task he genuinely hated, while Itachi was handling business, not even considering marriage and other burdens.

If only Sasuke was the older one. He was sure he could lead the Uchiha family to glory. He could manage all the Uchiha properties, he could travel around all year long, and if he joined assets with the Hyuugas, theirs would be the most powerful family in the Land of Fire. He was sure he would even be capable of overthrowing the Otsutsukis, the royal family.

But Itachi remained silent about his affairs and Sasuke had no sight of the family wealth and investments. Itachi would always give him money, but never trusted Sasuke enough to lend him inside knowledge or power. One of which entailed leading Konoha’s military and police force.

Itachi was right about encouraging Sasuke to explore marriage ideas with Hinata, he knew. All the Haruno family could do was provide assets and money while the Hyuugas meant political power. However, Sasuke found it hard to even have a conversation with Hinata. At least, the Haruno girl tried. How would they manage a life together?

He also did not understand what Hinata might see in a commoner like Naruto. A friend. Nothing else. That in itself is scandalous to befriend someone as low in rank as Namikaze, yet she enjoyed the man’s company, even Neji seemed to, and it infuriated Sasuke.

Neji did not like Sasuke, he was sure of it, though Neji did not seem to enjoy anyone’s company. He most probably saw everyone as they were: money hunters for the Hyuuga assets. Yet he did not notice that Naruto was doing the same. Maybe Sasuke should just inform Neji about the disrespectful proposition Naruto told Hinata. That would put a quick end to the uncommon friendship.

But the simple thought made his stomach hurl. He was not fond of the idea of being a snitch, however stupid it sounded.


In the evening, as he was about to leave, he stopped at his brother’s office again. He was not there. He did this all the time, disappeared, just to reappear again the next day morning, constantly reading papers. Sasuke sometimes tried to look around the office, but all the important papers and books were gone with Itachi, or locked away somewhere. Sasuke was disappointed. He always believed his brother cared for him, loved him, but all his action screamed he did not trust his otouto.

Otouto. A name from before a time their parents died.

Sasuke left for the soirée all alone but when he arrived, Sakura found him immediately, as if she was hunting for him.

The Yamanaka estate was decorated with thousands of flowers, ivies were running up the columns, the stairs were made of pure white marble, the walls were crowded with paintings. Sasuke felt like this home could be a museum. He loved art, but the sheer number of flowers made him wish his future wife would never commit a crime like this in their own home. The Uchiha villa was simply decorated, well-lit and spacey. This was… cluttered. And Sakura seemed to like every piece of it, judging by her constant admiration towards every bouquet of flowers or every miniature painting they passed by.

A soirée was less formal than a ball. There were no cards to register your dance partners, there was no grandiose dinner, just a few acquaintances spending a delightful night together. The same people who were hunting today, except for one.

Sasuke noticed Hinata, wearing an elegant, simple yet gorgeous long violet dress alongside her cousin who also looked sophisticated. Although Sasuke did not like Hinata much, he could not help but think what a magnificent addition she would be if the Hyuuga and Uchiha clans joined together. They share the same principles, values, taste, but of course the Hyuugas were a more ancient and more powerful family, close to the Otsutsuki monarch. Sasuke had no reason to belittle his own clan, though.

He asked Sakura for the first dance to which she kindly agreed. Sasuke was glad to see Shikamaru dancing with Ino who seemed to have recovered from her reputation loss. During the dance, Sakura kept asking personal questions from Sasuke, about his hobbies, his favourite books, generally wanting to get to know the Uchiha more. Sasuke tried to answer honestly and politely. As the music ended, Shino asked Sakura for her next dance and Sasuke was thankful to him. He started to feel like he was being interviewed.

Sasuke was not planning to dance anymore that night. However, seeing that Hinata was standing by her cousin like a caged animal made him wonder if he should give it another chance. He started to walk towards the cousins when he also saw from the corner of his eyes Naruto’s approaching body. It was hard to miss the vibrant blond hair, the half-buttoned white shirt and the ridiculously low bow he gave to the Hyuugas.

“Naruto-kun,” said Neji and Hinata both.

Sasuke froze in his steps but he was already too close to just walk back, they addressed him as well.

“Uchiha-san,” Neji greeted him coldly and Naruto turned to look at Sasuke as well.

“Oh, Uchiha-san, what a pleasure to see you again,” he sounded anything but excited. “And what a nice dance with Sakura-san.”

Sasuke nodded as a form of thanks. He was sure he would not get into a verbal fight with this man again.

“I’m glad you did receive an invitation. Enjoy the night. Hinata-san, Neji-san,” he bowed to them and left. He tried to look for any of his friends yet all seemed to be occupied with a lady.

Sasuke did not dance again. He walked up to people, chatted with them, drank some wine or watched the dancing couples. It was boring. He did not enjoy soirées, especially without having someone to talk to. Sakura asked him if he would dance again, but he politely said “maybe later”. Naruto, however, danced with almost all the ladies: Hinata, Ino, even Sakura did not refuse a waltz with him.

Sasuke thought about Itachi, and how he must have hated these soirées as well when his family was still alive. He felt envious and wished he could do any kind of work with his brother, rather than being here, forced to small talk.

Sasuke was standing in the corner, looking for someone who was worth to talk to, but his eyes kept wandering to Naruto. He has been flirting his way through all the ladies, though most of them seemed to get rid of him as soon as possible. The blond did not seem to mind, though, and he eventually returned to Hinata. She seemed to be radiant in his company.

“Uchiha-san,” Neji approached Sasuke.

Sasuke was surprised the Hyuuga addressed him, but did not want to show it. He wanted to seem cold and proud to Neji to look equal to him.

“How is Itachi-san? I’ve not seen him for a long time but I wished I could talk to him today.”

“Unfortunately, he has matters to attend to,” Sasuke said strictly. Of course, Neji would only be curious about his brother. It was wishful thinking that a Hyuuga would try to discuss anything with Sasuke. They always looked down on people, especially Neji. Do you want to talk to him? Be the heir of an old clan, maybe he will address you, then. Sasuke hoped his frustration was not visible.

“He is a really busy man, I see,” Neji sighed.

“If you have anything particular you’d like to discuss with him, I can help. We are handling family matters together.”

Although it was not true, Sasuke did want to grab onto any chance he would get to learn more about Itachi’s affairs. Neji nodded.

“I do have something I’d like to talk to him about. I would be happy to discuss it with you, given our history of mutual trust,” bullsh*t, and you know it, Sasuke thought. What mutual trust is he talking about? They barely exchanged any word if not about meaningless, casual topics, like the weather or taste of food. “Would you be available for tea at our village mansion tomorrow?”

Sasuke was surprised. It was rare the Hyuugas invited anyone to a private tea, especially someone they did not see beneficial. They only did business with people who had real power, real control, and everybody knew Sasuke had none compared to Itachi.

“Thank you for the invitation, I will be there,” he bowed as a form of thanks.

“Yes, and could you please extend this invitation to your brother?”

What was I thinking? Of course it is about Itachi.

“My brother has a tight schedule; I cannot guarantee that he will be available. If it is anything business related, I can assure you I am happy to assist in his stead.

“I know and I thank you. I will keep this in mind.”

Both of them watched the dancing couples. Sasuke noticed that Neji seemed please at the sight of Hinata and Naruto.

“I wonder how he managed to get an invitation,” Sasuke told more to himself than to Neji.

“I invited him,” was Neji’s immediate reply. Sasuke’s eyes widened.

“Neji-san, excuse my boldness but I hope you did not invite Naruto out of pity.”

“No, I invited him because he is a friend of the family.”

“Is he?” Sasuke sipped a glass of wine he got from one of the servants. Neji looked at Sasuke from the corner of his eyes.

“I have very good eyes, Sasuke-san. Naruto is the only person here who wants nothing to do with Hinata’s wealth. He sees my cousin as a friend, and vica versa. She is open to him, and Naruto-kun is a breath of fresh air after the numerous attempts Hinata gets just because she is a Hyuuga.”

Sasuke almost spat his drink. He was just about to say that Naruto was exactly planning on courting the girl, but he did not want to come off wrong.

“Be careful, Neji-san,” he finally said. “Naruto is lower in rank than all of us-”

“I never cared about that,” he interrupted Sasuke, to his surprise. “All I care about is the character, and the happiness of my cousin. They are great friends.”

Well, that was new. And convincing. Sasuke would not believe a word of it, though. Neji was vain, always making the ton feel inferior to him. He figured there must be something he is missing here because there was no way the Hyuugas had a friendly relationship with the blond just out of the blue.

“Anyway, I will see you tomorrow, Uchiha-san, with your brother.”

Both men bowed and Sasuke wondered why Neji gave his silent approval to Naruto.


Sasuke decided to explore the Yamanaka estate and wandered around to find the library. He longed for a little silence.

The library was small compared to the proportion of the other rooms in the mansion. There were numerous paintings here as well, one could argue there were more pictures than books. How the Yamanaka family managed to maintain their wealth and reputation bewitched Sasuke. He checked the spine of the books: many of them were about gardening, nature, flower arrangement and other themes he considered boring and feminine. The Uchiha library was full of books covering history, geography, war, economics, and maybe some literature.

He finally found a book about horse breeding and sat down on the sofa by the window with a lit candle. He started to comb through the copy, though he doubted it would give him any new information. His family had the best breeds of horses, but it surely proved more entertaining than being outside chit-chatting.

After a while, the door opened and Sasuke looked up, cursing in himself and condemning the idiot that would interrupt his peace. Seeing that of course it was the blond who kept popping up in his life, he felt even more tense.

“Are you following me?” he did not even try to imitate a polite tone anymore.

“Sorry, I was just looking for a place to be alone,” Naruto said. “I had enough of the fake smiles and the false compliments.”

“You seemed to be doing just fine,” Sasuke returned his gaze to his book. He wished Naruto understood the message and left. He did not. He threw himself on the sofa next to Sasuke, not in an elegant way. And then he shrugged, as if he tried to show he did not care about anything.

“A gentleman should not shrug. That is very common,” Sasuke quoted Itachi.

“I am very common and I will own it.”

Sasuke closed the book.

“How did you get an invitation?”

“Oh, after your kind reminder in front of everyone that I was not invited, Hyuuga Neji felt compelled to extend an invitation to me, as a close friend of the family.”


“That is a very common reply,” Naruto mocked Sasuke.

“I mean, a friend of the family? With the Hyuuga? Do you even know who they are? Do they know who you are?”

Naruto turned his body toward Sasuke.

“Enlighten me, Uchiha-san, who am I?”

Sasuke knew he should control his lips; they became like an enemy to him. He now understood why the Uchihas kept to themselves and were a quiet lot. Once they started speaking, who knew where it might lead to.

“Look. You say my name, Uchiha, and everybody knows who I am. The Uchiha name has a history. It conveys fame, and power, and wealth. A form of privilege. You look at me for the first time and you recognize me by my face, my hair, my style. I don’t need to walk up to people to introduce myself, they already know plenty. And then there’s you. You walk up to people who has never seen you before and you chat with them. But who are you? Who is a Namikaze?”

He stopped, already cursing himself. If Itachi heard this, he would call him a fool. His monologue was not said by an Uchiha. It was said by a child, an arrogant Sasuke. An Uchiha respects everyone, never talks more than what is asked of him, remains stoic like Itachi buried in his work. An Uchiha builds an empire. An Uchiha would never tell off a commoner for being a commoner.

“Just because you don’t know me, Uchiha Sasuke, doesn’t mean I’m nobody.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“That’s exactly what you meant. I knew attending these events would bring this. But at least you tell me what you think instead of hiding behind a fake smile and tolerating me while whishing I just got the hell out of your life. And…” Naruto stopped and seemingly battled if he should continue. He did not look angry at all. “I think you are way more than an Uchiha. Though, I can see that it is an important concept to you. But honestly, I really have no idea who an Uchiha is.”

Naruto was not mocking him. He sounded honest. He sounded like a person who meant what he said.

“Your horse’s name is Taka. A great, majestic bird that hunts, flies great distances, sails the sky freely. It has keen eyes. It likes to be alone. Also pecks a lot,” Naruto smiled. “That defines you more. The name you give is more important than the name you inherited.”

Sasuke listened to every word carefully, and the more Naruto talked, the more he wanted to hear. Being outside, watching the dance, chatting with like-minded people, courting desperate ladies were all a nuisance. Duty, responsibility, rules, mind games, classes, speculations. Those were outside this library. But inside, in this badly lit, rather dark place, was silence, peace and honesty. Even with Naruto present. Sasuke was not condemned for speaking his mind, he could lower his guard. He listened to the blond and found solace in his speech.

Naruto decided to give Sasuke the peace he longed for and stood up to leave. Sasuke, however, grabbed the wrist of Naruto out of reflex and stopped the blond from walking away. They stared at the Uchiha hand that looked as if a drowning man reached for help. After a few seconds, realising the situation, both men moved quickly away from the touch.

Sasuke felt strange. His palm was burning from the touch. His stomach was hurling. His lungs were trying to breathe harder in his chest.

“You never tell me about yourself. Who… are you?” he asked, and he knew he sounded stupid. He did not dare to look Naruto in his eyes, but… he was genuinely curious.

Naruto smiled.

“I think I better enjoy the soirée I was so kindly invited to. Once in a life chance, you know. And I interrupted you in your extremely entertaining reading about… hmm…” Naruto looked over at Sasuke’s lap to check the title of the book. “Horse breeding? Did you know you can do it with humans?”

Sasuke glared at him and Naruto smiled sheepishly. The world finally went back to its normal course after a small hiccup.

“The Uchiha horses are the finest. A lot of our wealth comes from breeding horses, racing and show jumping.”

“Do you attend races?”


“Then I think I better report the animal abuse to the Hokage.”

“Get out of here,” Sasuke ordered.

Naruto grinned and left the library.

Let The World Burn - Chapter 2 - NewTaste (2024)
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