He knew she would come.
In fact, he was surprised she didn't come to stop him when he was still at his house. Hn. Silly girl. It seems like he really did sometimes underestimate her. She was far more stupid than he thought, wandering the streets all alone when there are people who could easily kill her. Silly girl, annoying as always. But still, she was out of Sakura's league when it came to bothering him. She was easier to take, far more mature when you look at her from another angle. She was – to Sasuke's utmost surprise – emotionally stronger than her pink haired friend. The blonde Yamanaka, who seemed so shallow and stupid; was actually the one who didn't live up to his expectations, in a good way. So maybe, he wasn't really that surprised to see her standing there. Ino, who took this as her task,– and he of all people knew how determined she was, even willing to die so her goal can be accomplished, or willing to die trying to accomplish it. Her mission: to bring him home, to make him stay.
Uchiha Sasuke smiled, lightly, as that thought crossed his mind.
Ino…if only she knew.
He stopped in front of her, not even two steps away. She studied his face for a moment, cold as always, so cold that it didn't even bother her. But Sasuke, he was surprised to see her face.
Ino was at the edge, at the verge of crying, he could tell by the tears that danced in her eyes, tears he could see even in the darkness of the night. She was softly chewing the inside of her lower lip, a habit she did only when they were losing their battle, or when she was too upset from fighting with her pink haired friend, Sakura. Ino…Ino never did that when it came to him, or Naruto, or even their sensei. Her hair wasn't tied in her usual ponytail, which he came to notice just now, when he actually looked at her, it was falling gracefully over her back, a blonde cascade. He couldn't remember the time he saw her without the ponytail, like this was a whole new Ino. He noticed that she wasn't dressed in her usual purple clothes and bandages over her belly. She wore a simple orange shirt and green shorts, the simplest she could find. There was no trace of Ino he saw every day, Ino who cared about her appearance and the way he saw her, the way she presented herself in front of his eyes, this girl he saw here…she was Ino without her mask.
He saw how she took a deep breath, clutching her fists and shaking her head, before she smiled at him, as warmly as she could, like they were here to say a pleasant goodbye, like he won't be her enemy once he walks out of this village, away from her and memories they shared. She smiled as if she was saying that things between them will never change, whatever he chooses to do, whichever path he goes. He was taken aback by her actions, but managed to hide it, always burying things inside himself, leaving that cold mask of his.
He – smirk appeared on his lips – had no time for this. She had to know. He had to let her know, he thought as that smirk spread across his face.
He had to let her know, that once he leaves, nothing will ever be the same.
“What are you doing here?” his voice asked, ringing through the silence, leaving her expression unchanged. “You came to stop me?”
Ino smiled, sadly, with bitterness. “„Iie.” she let out, her voice shaking at some points. “I am well aware that nothing I say will ever make you change your mind.”
Good, he thought, ready to make his way past her when her voice reached him, far more powerful than a second before:
“You intend to leave…to have your revenge.” she began, her voice holding him down in one place, just forcing him to listen to her until the end. “I know it's none of my business, it's something I learned through the time I spent with you, that you always wanted me to mind my own business and I never listened. But now, I'll listen, and I won't ask you anything about it. It's your choice and you have your reasons, so I am going to respect that. I always should've.” she swallowed, almost choking upon her words. Her gaze grew stronger, seemed more powerful on his face. Again, it turned out he was wrong about her. She didn't come to stop him. She has learned from her mistakes. That girl…
“Sasuke-kun” she said, shaking her head. “„Iie. Sasuke.” she corrected herself, making his eyes widen slightly, not enough for her to notice, anyway. “I came here to tell you, that, no matter how hard it becomes for me and Naruto, we'll never go awry. We'll fight you, no matter what, for our friends, for Konoha, for you. We'll train. We'll train so hard to become stronger and…once we become stronger, we'll sure bring you back, I promise you that.” Tears began to fall down her cheeks and the moment she noticed them, she immediately wiped them away, as if she'll hide her weakness. Sasuke simply watched her, as if he wasn't in wonder.
Yamanaka fought with her tears for a while, but managed to get a hold of herself. “Sasuke…I…”she uttered, clearing her throat. Her voice regained its strength. “I believe in you. I always did. I believed…there's a light inside of you, and I swear to you, here, with who I am, that I will bring it back to you. Your light."
He stared at the small girl who stood before him as if she had just said something so normal, something she said every day. She knew he was emotionless, knew he didn't care what she had to say, but she promised to herself that she was going to say it. It wasn't a gesture to show him her feelings, no; it was something she said to him as her friend, her teammate. Her brother. Ino knew he never liked her, in fact, Ino knew every feeling he ever felt for her was nothing but annoyance and anger. Of course, they were teammates, he was supposed to care for her in a way he did, like a teammate, not friend or anything else. He made it clear in the very beginning, but she was too blind to notice. She was silly, stupid, and yet, she never came to regret her feelings, only her actions that sometimes went over the limit. She wished she could change some things she did now and then, maybe even some things she said, but she didn't wish to change her feelings for this boy who stood before her. For Yamanaka Ino believed that those feelings were exactly what made her stronger.
Sasuke simply couldn't avert his gaze away from her face. Not because she was crying or anything similar, he was just…he couldn't recall a moment someone said something like that to him. So sincere, so…stupid, he didn't need her silly words or her silly promises. All he wanted was to simply leave, not caring for her or anyone else. He was alone his whole life. He didn't need her or anyone else. He didn't. He just didn't. Not her. Not Naruto, or anyone.
Hah…light inside him. No. She was talking nonsense, what did she know, anyway? She was just another girl who fancied him, being plainly annoying. This was just a proof. She didn't know him. Not at all…
He passed her by.
She stood there, still as a stone, determined not to break. He could feel it, but he didn't care. She sobbed and he knew she was shaking, but he simply didn't care. Sasuke made his way down the street, blocking the memories that simply popped in his head with every step he took. It was because of her stupid words, he assured himself. He tried to assure himself…
Uchiha Sasuke stopped. At the very end of his path he stopped, staring at the ground.
She was still there, wasn't crying, but he knew she was there. He could hear her breathing. Shallow. And upset.
He turned his head to look over his shoulder and saw her standing there. Shaking. Ino…
“Your loyalty to your…friends, goes that far that you're willing to risk your own life for them?” he asked. Ino stirred for a second, and then turned, swiftly, to face him.
“Hai, Sasuke.” she nodded, seeming as if she expected something like that from him, such words. She knew that once he leaves he won't ever stop to think twice when it comes to killing her, or anyone else. “I consider you my friend, even if you would never say the same thing for me. Since I consider you a friend, I would fail miserably at fulfilling my role if I wasn't ready for something like that to save you, or anyone else. I would be ashamed…"
“Nonsense,” he thought, as he turned fully towards her.
“Then, be ready, I have chosen this path, Ino. There is no light for me. And I would fail miserably,” he said, with mock in his voice. “At fulfilling my destiny if I wouldn't fight any of you who dare to step on my way. It goes for you, and everyone else who dares to do so." He turned his back on her, staring at the way before him. “Do not ever feel special, because I won't spare you. Not you or Naruto."
“I know,” Ino whispered, knowing he couldn't hear her. But, she was wrong. Sasuke heard her, even though he was far away, still leaving, he heard her; and whispered into the wind, “I hope you'll never know."
Uchiha Sasuke left the village on that same night, leaving everyone behind. Yamanaka Ino spent that night wandering the streets of Konoha, until she found her way home.
Her eyes shot open in a second, as she sat up, looking at the picture that still rested on her commode even after two and a half years.
“Sasuke…” fifteen year old Ino Yamanaka whispered into the night.