Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 4 Chapter 5

The Relationship Between Them 

With just one glance, Haruna Sakura knew that this gift was The One. This is it, she thought, there’s no better wedding gift than this!

She had been browsing for gifts inside her favourite fashion-conscious store when her eyes landed on a marvel: a one-of-a-kind photo frame.

The colour, the shape, even the tiny details carved into the design, everything about it fit Sakura’s tastes perfectly. It almost made her feel like the frame had come into existence just so it could be bought by her.

Sakura was the type who absolutely had to buy one-of-a-kind items. She’d decided that it wouldn’t do if she bought a gift that she wouldn’t have wanted for herself. If you didn’t like the gift you were buying yourself, you couldn’t really be confident in giving it to others, could you?

Ahh, if I could, I really would like to decorate my room with this. She couldn’t help but think, If I had something pretty like this in my room, I’d look forward to coming home every day…

But honestly, the biggest reason Sakura had liked the photo frame was because it was one-of-a-kind. There were no other duplicates. It was the only one in the world, something nobody else would have.

It was a wedding gift after all, so it’d be disastrous if anyone else bought the same thing as her. But as long as she bought this one-of-a-kind photo frame, she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone else buying the same gift.

Even if someone else did happen to give the couple another photo frame, it wouldn’t be the same design as this one, and her gift would still be superior in its uniqueness.

On that note, as far as she knew, nobody else was thinking about buying a photo frame for the couple.

Captain Yamato, for example, had the hobby of reading books about architectural design and construction.

“Furniture to match their new home…” Yamato had mumbled with his usual blank expression on his face, “Or, no, maybe it’s the new home itself that I should…”

Then there was Sai, who had a talent for art. He’d been unusually enthusiastic, talking about how he spent his nights staying up to paint the couple a wedding gift.

She’d actually run into Sai this morning. She happened to catch sight of him standing absolutely still in the middle of the street, staring in numb, dumbfounded horror at the white scroll in his hands. His art had disappeared entirely.

“Sakura…” Sai had dazedly said. “The bird flew away…into the sky…”

How in the world had his chakra ended up spilling over into his ink? Sai had been a bit too enthusiastic, if you asked Sakura.

Anyway, at the end of the day everyone was gathering gifts that reflected their own hobbies or skills. So Sakura herself decided to buy a stylish momento as a gift, something that would suit her feminine nature. And thus, her eyes had come to rest on the aforementioned photo frame.

A photo frame was perfect. It was a gift that would definitely become a treasured momento, something that couldn’t possibly be left unused. On top of that, you wouldn’t even have to make a choice about the most important part of the photo frame: the photo that would be displayed inside. That choice was left up to the recipients.

Sakura imagined the photo frame standing proudly in a corner of Naruto and Hinata’s room. They could put frame their wedding photo in the frame, or maybe one day a photo of their newborn child. Either way, it would be lovely.

The happy memories preserved in the photo frame would watch over their future happy life. The couple would be smiling in their photo, and smiling in real life whenever they looked at that photo.

For some reason, just thinking about that made Sakura feel happy as well. Her cheeks curved with a smile.

This was definitely the one. It would be the best wedding gift.

Sakura reached out for the photo frame, and–

Found another hand had landed on the other side of the photo frame.

Sakura abruptly tried to pull the frame out of the other person’s hands with a great heave. However, the other party had tried to do the very same thing at the very same time.

The photo frame trembled between them, not moving from the equal but opposite directions of force.

Sakura’s eyes followed the interloper’s hand to look into the face of its owner.

Her eyes met Yamanaka Ino’s.

“Ino, let go of that…!” Sakura grit out, pulling with all her might/

“You let go, Sakura…!” Ino was pulling with all her might as well.

Sakura and Ino were very close friends. Every since they were children, they had been friends, and they had been rivals.

Just the other day, they’d been put on a mission as a team. It had been a very sudden assignment, but they’d worked together perfectly, with flawless cooperation. They practically breathed in sync.

But to think that they’d come to the same store at the same time, and reached out for the same item in the same instant…it was like fate was pulling a prank on them. They couldn’t have pulled off the timing better if they’d planned it before hand.

Maybe they really were breathing in sync.

If they’d been a man and a woman, they might very well have fallen in love. Maybe tiny hearts would’ve been popping and flailing around them.

Unfortunately, the only thing Sakura and Ino were giving off in this moment were flames and sparks of an imminent war.

It only took one glance at Sakura’s face to realise that her intentions were the same as her own. Women were good at noticing those sort of things. Ino had likely realised it too.

We both want to buy this as a wedding present…!

Each woman understood the others intention immediately, and a fierce struggle began.

“I- found it- first…!” Ino said through clenched teeth.

“I was- quicker- thank you…!” Sakura retorted, putting all the strength she had into pulling.

Whenever she and Ino got like this, she couldn’t help but feel the fierce competition from their childhood friendship flaming to life.

The photo frame started to quake between them from the pressure of the equally fierce strength being exerted on either side.

But, I grabbed it with my right hand! Sakura thought to herself, inwardly cackling in glee.

The chances of victory were hinging on their positions. Sakura had grabbed the frame with her right hand, and Ino had grabbed it with her left.

There’s no way the frail grip of Ino’s left hand can withstand the overwhelming power of my right hand!

“Shannaro!” Sakura yelled, and put all her force into her right hand. The photo frame slid out of Ino’s grip in one smooth movement.

“Ahh! Wh- what’re you doing?! Give that back!” Ino fiercely protested.

But Sakura was a grown woman. She ignored Ino’s shrilly complaints with an air of mature composure.

Talk of them being rivals or anything was long past now. Now, Sakura had surpassed Ino in everything. Sakura held the photo frame in her hands and felt the glow of victory swell up in her chest.

“You’re such a brute!” Ino said, “An idiot with brute strength!

“Who are you calling an idiot?!” Sakura was incensed, unconsciously clenching her hands around the photo frame in her hands.

Ssakura tried to regain her composure and act like a cool-headed, mature, grown woman.

“H- haha. Ino, you do know that I’m the best medical-nin in the entire village, right? The high-grade medical jutsu I use require very precise chakra control. To call me an idiot would be a little off…it’s because I excel so much in chakra control that I can bring out a strength superior to others. My strength proves just how much of a terribly excellent medical-nin I am. But well, Ino, I suppose that even if you used shintenshin jutsu and entered my body, you’d never be able to pull that level of chakra control off, huh?”

“Ugh…” Ino took one step back, making an angry sound in the back of her throat.

I win. Sakura thought, That’s right Ino, it’s best for you to retreat now.

Sakura turned her back on Ino to head for the cash register, and in that moment–

“Oh, by the way, Sakura, you’re surely not thinking about giving that photo frame to Naruto and Hinata as a wedding gift, now, are you?” Ino called out with a terribly sarcastic tone. “You’re not, right? You couldn’t possibly think of giving them such a lame gift.”

“Wha-?!” Sakura stopped in her tracks, turning back to stare at Ino without thinking.

But, the minute she saw the sly grin on Ino’s face, Sakura saw through her completely.

Ah, how naive, Ino.

Sakura was familiar with Ino’s usual tactics. She was degrading the photo frame so sakura would decide against buying it. Ino had seen she couldn’t win against Sakura’s brute strength, so now she was trying to win with words.

However, that move wasn’t going to work.

“What’re you saying?” Sakura retorted. “You were desperate to buy this just a minute ago!”

“Eugh…th-that’s…”

Weak. Really weak, Ino. You’re always like that, if someone points out the smallest flaw in what you’ve said, you get all flustered straight away.

“That’s some awful fashion sense you have there, trying to desperately buy something you thought was lame.” Sakura said, giving the final blow.

Ino had miserably gotten stuck in a trap of her own making.

“I- I didn’t particularly say I was going to buy it…!” Ino protested.

“Then why were you holding onto it so frantically?”

“Th- that’s…trash, yeah, trash. I thought it was something someone had thrown away and wanted to throw it away!”

“What a see-through excuse! Please, as if there would be trash on a shelf in the middle of a store?!”

Sakura suddenly became aware of a store employee coming between them.

“Uhm, honoured customers,” The employee spoke politely, “I’m very sorry, but you’re disturbing the other customers…”

Ack, somehow she’d raised her voice without realising. Sakura quickly turned to apologise to the employee

“I- I’m so sorry…” Sakura poked Ino’s side with her elbow. “Come on, Ino, you apologise too. Thanks to you, we’ve been a bother…”

“Excuse me? It’s your fault for raising a ruckus and shouting, isn’t it?!£ Ino shoved Sakura back. “Watch what you say!”

Sakura and Ino glared at each other, and in the next instant, they had both lunged at each other. Their hands grabbed and pulled at each other, hair and clothes alike as they struggled.

“In the first place, things turned out like this because you butted in!”

“I keep telling you, I found it first!”

“Honoured customers!” The panicked employee tried to come between them. “Please, desist, honoured customers!”

Ironically, this was the only moment where Sakura and Ino got along.

“SHUT UP!” They both shrieked at the employee, fierce, demon-like expressions on their faces.

A deathly silence fell on the store. It felt like time had stopped.

The employee who’d tried to interfere between them had dropped their jaw.

But in the next instant, her features hardened.

By the time Ino and Sakura came to their senses and apologised to her in very small voices, it was already late.

Both of them were thrown out of the store.

But…just because they were thrown out, that didn’t mean their arguing had stopped.

“Look at what you did! I can’t believe I actually got thrown out of the store!”

“Look at what you did! Even though I’d finally found a good wedding gift!”

Sakura and Ino were arguing with raised voices in the middle of the street, uncaring of any curious eyes who’d stop to see what the fuss was about.

“Found?” Ino scoffed, “Oh, that’s a nice way to put snatching something out of someone’s hands with your brute strength! In the first place Sakura, you can never compromise on anything! You don’t have a heart or willingness to compromise, just that brute strength and nothing else! There’s really no helping you!”

“Excuse me?! Having a heart has nothing to do with this! Do me a favour and stop saying random things just because I exceed you at everything!”

“Excuse me?! What do you mean, you exceed me at everything? When it comes to which one of us is more feminine, I’m definitely the one who exceeds you!”

“Femininity?” Sakura scoffed. “Where? You’re just gaudy and flashy!”

“Ah, what a sore loser!” Ino crowed. “When it comes to looks, fashion sense, flower arrangement, and cooking, I’m better at everything single one of those things! Oh, but when it comes to having inhuman strength, that’s certainly your victory.”

Ino, you pig…!

A vein was throbbing in Sakura’s forehead. But, she hadn’t lost yet.

“Oh? I can cook just fine, you know? And when it comes to things like looks or fashion sense, those’re stupid things to concern yourself with. You know, it’s because stuff like that is all you think about that you’re not good.” Sakura gave an exaggerated, dramatic sigh, shaking her head in faux-disappointment. “Just because people will never look at you and see an intelligent woman like they do with me, that doesn’t mean you should lash out at me.”

Ino didn’t so much as flinch.

“Ahh, actually Sakura, come to think of it, I just had this thought today. Someone who’s got a big head when their only redeeming feature is brute strength, that kind of woman will never get proposed to, right? That’s so pitiful…”

“Never get proposed to?! That’s what I should be telling you!”

“Eh? Oh, I’m sorry, Sakura. I didn’t say that about you in particular, but I guess I accidentally hit the bullseye, huh? I’ll apologise if I hurt your feelings~”

“You…”

Maybe Ino had brought up such an incredibly sensitive matter since their argument was originally about wedding gifts, but that was just too far. It was a low blow.

“But well,” Ino continued. “I guess it is kinda obvious that just a good head and brute strength aren’t enough to guarantee you’ll be a bride.”

What are you, a master of sarcasm? Sakura thought, but replied without cowering.

“I keep telling you that I can cook! And my cooking is sure to be at least better than yours, Ino.”

“Pardon? Sakura, you don’t seriously think someone like you can beat me at cooking, do you?”

“Obviously I do. I’m confident I couldn’t possibly lose to you!”

“Fine then. Let’s see who’s really better!”

Ino and Sakua glared at each other.

Somehow, the outcome of their pride and stubbornness had turned into a cooking competition.

Wedding presents, the photo frame, everything else had been thrown out the window and forgotten completely. Neither cared about how things had come to this.

The only thing that fueled both women was to do everything in their power to wipe that smug smirk off of their rival’s face.

Sakura and Ino.

The cooking showdown that would put both their womanly prides on the line had now begun.

The star dish of the showdown: soldier pills.

Soldier pills were small, transportable masses of preserved food that shinobi liked to use.

Foods with high nutrient balances were kneaded and dehydrated into round balls. They were very well known and widely used in all parts of the shinobi world as a standard military ration.

However, the world of soldier pills was unexpectedly deep.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there was the numbers of different types of soldier pill were equal to the number of people who made them. This was because the ingredients used in the solder pills, as well as their size, varied from maker to maker.

For example, there were those who made soldier pills using ingredients listed in a secret recipe that had been handed down in their clan for generations. And there were also those who make them so big that they were about the size of a rice ball. And then there were those who made soldier pills for animal consumption, not humans.

Soldier pills were a type of food whose contents were changed by many, many factors. The family tradition for the recipe, preferences, physical condition, tactics, mission length, weather conditions…all these factors went into the making of a single soldier pill.

That was why Ino and Sakura had decided the the soldier pill would be the dish for their cook-off.

It was quick to make, and easy to eat. The wide range of its recipe also allowed both Sakura and Ino to display their different personalities and skills, and quickly and easily determine which was superior.

Sakura had bought her ingredients, gone home, and immediately gotten to work on creating her soldier pill.

She’d poured all her ingredients bowls, and put all her concentration into mashing them with a wooden pestle. First, there was sesame seeds, almonds and walnuts. All ingredients that were commonly used in Konoha.

“Just you wait and see!” She muttered as she grinded the ingredients to powdered dust. “I’ll show you that when it comes to cooking, my ability is definitely higher!”

All the ingredients used in soldier pills were generally prepared the same way: grinding them until they’d become a powdered dust.

Sakura added in more often-used ingredients, honey and rock candy, continuing her work. As she grinded the ingredients together, her thoughts went back to her Academy days.

The academy’s Kunoichi Classes including teaching the young kunoichi about things like flower arrangement and tea ceremony. You had to learn a wide range of information about culture and behaviour. The classes existed so that kunoichi could easily infiltrate enemy territory undetected, so their behaviour and knowledge wouldn’t betray their inner nature. You couldn’t grow to be a successful kunoichi if you didn’t know how to act like a normal woman.

And those many Kunoichi Classes had, of course, included cooking.

Ino had shined brilliantly within cooking class, always carrying out her recipes to the letter.

Sakura, on the other hand, couldn’t follow them as easily.

Back then, Sakura had looked with yearning aspiration at the ever-popular Ino.

But now, things are different.

As a kunoichi, and as a woman, Sakura had continued to grow and improve her skills. The person she used to admire from behind then became someone she could face head on, side by side. And now, Sakura had taken one step after another to move forwards, further than Ino had.

“Ino…in cooking, and in whatever else that comes my way, get ready to take a good look at my back!” Sakura furiously said, full of fighting spirit as she grinded away with the wooden pestle.

Ino had said she’d never become a bride- well, Sakura wasn’t about to take that lying down. She absolutely could not afford to lose in this battle.  In the first place, Ino was just getting carried away in the the bliss of getting along well with Sai lately. Sakura wasn’t going to lose against that fickle bliss.

You’re going to get a good taste of a blossoming woman’s wrath! Sakura darkly thought.

Cooking might’ve been a little different than the actual matter that had sparked her rage, but either way it was a win. And Sakura had prepared a plan that would guarantee her victory.

“Fufufu…this is it.” Sakura let a wicked grin creep up her face, holding up the ingredient that was key to her success.

The ingredient in question was pudding.

Sakura had associated with Ino since childhood. She knew all about Ino’s great love for pudding. In fact, she knew all of Ino’s likes and dislikes.

For shinobi, information was everything. It wasn’t arrogant for Sakura to think she’d win when she had perfect knowledge of Ino’s tastes.

Brimming with overconfidence, Sakura threw the pudding into her soldier pill paste. Cackling, she mixed it in with a gleeful grin.

“With, this my victory is guaranteed!”

All that was left after this was to mould the paste into a suitably sized ball and dehydrate it.

In a short time, Sakura’s special pudding-flavoured sweet soldier pill was complete.

Some time later, nearby the general store they’d been kicked out of…

Ino was already standing at the place they’d promised to meet on one of Konoha’s main streets.

Sakura’s eyes met Ino’s, and Ino let out a wide grin.

“So you showed up after all, Sakura.” Ino said, “And here I was beginning to think you’d realised you were no match for me and ran away.”

I’ll bet anything she purposely showed up early just so she could say that line to me…! Sakura inwardly thought, clicking her tongue.

The reason she thought that was because Sakura had arrived exactly at their promised time to meet. She had decided she was never going to be a late-arriver like Kakashi-sensei.

What a pointless thing to do…

But, Sakura wasn’t going to be provoked by petty tricks like this. The victory to this match was within the palm of her hands. Ino could boast while she could.

“Victory comes to those who take their time.” Sakura said as she faced Ino. Her composure was magnificent, and she was fully confident in her impending victory.

“Alright then, our match has begun.” Ino serenely said. “So, to make sure the match is fair, let’s take our soldier pills to a third party who’ll judge which one is most delicious.”

“HUH?!” Sakura gaped. “You’re not going to eat it?!”

In a single instant, the victory held in Sakura’s hands had crumbled into dust and rubble.

“Obviously not.” Ino’s eyes were wide in surprise at Sakura’s reaction. “Even if we both ate the other’s dish, there’s a high chance that neither of us would be willing to hand over the victory. That’s why we need an objective third party to be the judge.”

Ino’s reasoning was sound. Sakura had had a blind spot. To think that Ino wouldn’t eat the soldier pill… Going out of her way to buy pudding had been pointless. Going to the trouble of making the soldier pill Ino’s favourite flavour was now completely, utterly pointless.

“Judging by your reaction, Sakura…don’t tell me you…” Ino was fixedly staring at Sakura, a furrow between her brows. “…You didn’t put poison into the soldier pill, did you?”

“As if I’d ever do a thing like that!”

Now that was just too much. How could Ino doubt her own best friend?

“I wonder…” Ino said, “Well, anyway, fine. So anyway, I think we should have Chouji be the judge.”

“W- Wait a minute! Chouji’s your teammate!”

“It’s Chouji, so when it comes to food, he’ll never lie, yknow? He’s not going to skew the facts to take my side. So when it comes to this, Chouji would be the most reliable judge, wouldn’t he?”

Well, when she put it that way, anyone would agree. Sakura found herself coming round to Ino’s reasoning.

“Alright then, I’ll go and bring Chouji. I saw him around here somewhere just a while ago.” Ino said, and disappeared.

Soon enough, Sakura could hear her coming back, most likely with Chouji in tow since she was constantly spouting things like ‘just come on and hurry!’ or ‘this is a chance to eat some nice home-made cooking, yknow!’ and other things.

It sounded like Chouji was putting up some resistance to the position of judge.

Sure enough, Chouji slowly came into Sakura’s field of vision, his giant form being dragged forwards by an insistent Ino. His face looked incredibly gloomy. Ino was definitely forcing him to participate.

“Just wait, Ino.” He was protesting,“I came down down here to eat ice cream.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. You always say you have a separate stomach for desert, don’t you?”

“Yup. That’s why I’m telling that I’ve already eaten dessert…Oh, Sakura.” Chouji’s eyes landed on the other girl, and he immediately began to plead for help. “Ino doesn’t understand me very well. She wants to make me some kind of guinea pig for a soldier pill. Save me, please.”

“So, Ino,” Sakura said, “Which pill do we give him first?”

Sakura had expected Chouji to say something like “Oh shit, you were in on it too!” but instead, he turned meek.

“Oh well, I suppose I’ll have a separate stomach for soldier pills too…” Chouji said such a reliable sounding thing.

Sakura felt reassured. Ino was right. Chouji would definitely be a fair and impartial judge to both of them.

Besides, even if Ino didn’t eat the soldier pill, that didn’t change the fact that the pudding would make it taste sweet and delicious. She’d still be able to win. Sakura clenched her fists tightly.

“Okay so, Chouji, can you eat both pills and tell us which one is more delicious?”

Ino handed Chouji the soldier she’d made, and Sakura did too.

Chouji looked down at the soldier pills he held in both hands, his eyes flickering from one to the other. He raised Sakura’s soldier pill to his mouth first, and took a bite. He was judging, so rather than eating the only thing, he only bit half of it.

“Thi…this is…” Chouji’s eyes had grown wide as dinner plates.

Sakura waited for his reaction and…

“Delicious! This is really delicious! It’s amazingly sweet, and it’s chased away all my fatigue completely!”

Chouji was so delighted, he immediately threw the other uneaten half of the soldier pill into his mouth. He didn’t stop there, even plucking the extra soldier pills Sakura had made from her hands, and gobbling some of them up too.

“Alright!” Sakura hooted, raising her fist into the air.

Take a good look, Ino. This is a display of my real abilities!

Chouji’s positive reaction had been obviously unexpected. Ino was glaring at him with a horrible look on her face, and Sakura could hear the woman’s molars grinding.

“How about it?” Sakura asked her, “Maybe you should just accept my victory now?”

“Cho-Chouji,” Ino was flustered. “Come on, hurry up and eat mine too.”

Chouji’s cheeks were still stuffed full with Sakura’s soldier pills, but he quickly popped in Ino’s soldier pill as well. He threw in the whole thing, not doing it by halves this time.

He stuffed three, four more of Ino’s extra pills in as well. Maybe it was so he could taste it properly, since some of Sakura’s soldier pills were still in his mouth.

“Yes…yes…yes…!” Chouji’s eyes were wide as saucers, and he was nodding fervently. “Amazing! These ones are really sweet and delicious too!”

Chouji swallowed his cheeks full of soldier pills with a huge gulp. An incredibly satisfied grin drifted across his face.

Ino had gotten incredibly worked up and excited, pressing him for answers.

“So, which one is it? Which one is more delicious? Come on.”

“Hmm…they’re both really sweet and delicious, so it’s really hard to say which one’s better.” Chouji mumbled. He tilted his head to the side in puzzlement, crossing his arms as he chewed.

One after another, more of Ino and Sakura’s spare soldier pills popped into his mouth, being carefully chewed and judged.

“Yeah, I think they’re both great. They’re both sweet and delicious. Yup, really delicious. Delic—geugh.” Chouji’s legs crumpled from underneath him, and he collapsed. Blood was trickling down from his nostrils.

“Oh no!”

“Wh- wait- what’s wrong?!”

Chouji had gone completely limp on the ground, his eyes wide. A single soldier pill spilled out of his limp hand onto the ground, and upon seeing that it was one of Ino’s, Sakura let out a shriek.

“Poison!” She shrieked. “Ino, you! You put poison in it, didn’t you?!”

“As if I’d ever do that! What kind of a person do you think I am?!”

“E-either way, we need to give him medical aid! Chouji, come back to your senses!”

Chouji’s mouth creaked open at the sound of Sakura’s voice.

“Even I got to make…many…great comrades…” He incoherently mumbled, blood leaking down his nose.

“What’s happening?! Is your life flashing before your eyes?!”

“Noooooooooo, Chouji don’t die!” Ino cried, “Sakura, quickly, do something!”

Ino was crying, but Sakura didn’t even understand how Chouji had gotten like this. Examining Chouji, he seemed to be in perfect health. The only possible cause for his state was unmistakably the soldier pills he’d eaten.

“Do…don’t tell me…” Sakura swallowed. “An unknown…poison…?”

Sakura was staring fixedly at Ino with a hair-raising look on her face.

“Why are you suspicious of me?!” Ino shrieked.

“He became like this after eating your soldier pill…”

“It’s possible the effect of your pills just kicked in!”

“But I wouldn’t put in any poison!”

“I have made…so many…comrades…” Chouji deliriously mumbled.

“This is bad! Chouji’s life is flashing before his eyes again!”

“We don’t have time to argue about this…!” Sakura said to herself, and gathered her determination.

She reached out for one of Ino’s soldier pills.

“What’re you gonna do?!”

“I need to figure out what’s in this, and this is the best way to do it,” Sakura said, and carefully pulled the soldier pill closer to press it against her tongue. “If there’s any poison in this, then my tongue would probably go numb…”

Rather than eating it straight away, it was best to taste it and check first.

“I keep telling you I haven’t put any poison in it! Ugh, honestly!” Ino reached out a grabbed a soldier pill too, except this one was Sakura’s. She licked the pill as well.  “It’s possible yours is the one that’s weird!”

Sakura carefully tested the soldier pill, keeping it against her tongue. Cold sweat broke out against her forehead, but she kept the pill in place in earest.

For a while, things were silent.

Sakura carefully broke the soldier pill in her hand to tiny pieces. Seeing her do that, Ino timidly did the same. They both put very small bits of the soldier pill onto their tongues, rolling them around.

“…it’s delicious.”

“…yeah.”

Both of them flung the remainders of the soldiers pills unto their mouths, unable to hold back.

“What is this…this flavour, it’s incredibly delicious!” Sakura couldn’t even try to hide her surprise as she chewed.

“Mine too, I love this flavour!” Ino couldn’t hide her surprise, either.

There wasn’t any poison at all. Rather, Ino’s soldier pill was Sakura’s favourite flavour: white ball anmitsu. In other words, it was just a sweet, the same as Sakura’s was.

Then, why in the world…?

Just as Sakura was thinking that, Chouji had suddenly gotten back on his feet.

“Chouji, are you okay?!”

“Ahh, that surprised me.” Chouji said, wiping at the blood that had spilled down his nose. “My blood sugar suddenly rose….huh, to think I even got a nosebleed.”

So that’s what it had been: blood sugar. Now that Chouji said it, Sakura understood too.

It was true that both soldier pills were incredibly sweet. And that was just an individual soldier pill. Chouji had eaten large amounts of both, and all at once on top of that. No wonder the sudden sugar in his system had affected him badly.

And he’d mentioned eating ice cream before this, too. No matter how much of a big eater Chouji was, getting far more sugar than he needed all at once was bound to effect him badly.

“Ahhhhh, I’m so glad, so that’s what it was…” Ino let out a huge sigh of relief. Sakura glanced back at her, and the woman looked like the weight of the world had come off her shoulders.

“Yup, that’s all it was. But yknow, after eating those soldier pills, I really feel like I’ve eaten real pudding and white ball anmitsu. Hmm, after this, maybe I’ll go and eat some sweet chestnuts?”

Sakura and Ino stared at Chouji, dumbfounded.

“Chouji, you know you’re gonna kill yourself like that?!”

“It’s fine.” Chouji replied. “The stuff I just ate has already been digested by now.”

“That’s something that wouldn’t normally be possible…” Ino stared at Chouji, stunned. “Chouji, you’re really amazing….”

“But hey, Ino.” Sakura turned to ask the woman. “Why did you go to the trouble of making the soldier pill my favourite flavour?”

Ino was the one who’d said they should make an impartial third party taste the soldier pills to be fair, so what on earth was this about? Sakura was really curious about the answer.

Ino had an uncomfortable look on her face.

“No particular reason…I just thought maybe it’d be good if I gave you some to eat sometime maybe…”

Pff, as if.

Ino had thought along the exact same lines as Sakura, and given the soldier pill the same flavour as her opponent’s favourite food.

So, in the end of the day, their argument that had started from reaching for the same photo frame, had ended up in them plotting the exact same cooking strategy.

Thinking the ludicrous coincidence, Sakura couldn’t help but start laughing.

“Ahahahaha, what’s with that? At the end, you even had the exact same strategy as me.”

Ino got caught up in Sakura’s laughter, and started giggling too.

“Fufu, well, we’ve been hanging out together for a long time after all. Just how many years have we spent together? I think everything you think.”

“We both do.” Sakura added.

They were both facing each other and laughing so hard they were clutching at their sides. Eventually, Sakura calmed down, and wiped her fingers on her trousers.

“Okay then, as someone who thinks the same way you do, can I say something?”

“What?”

“Don’t you think that if we both looked for a wedding present together, we’d be able to find something far better than a photo frame?”

“Naturally. If we combined my fashion sense with yours, nobody could possibly stand a chance!” Ino said, with a wink and a grin.

“Alright!” Sakura threw an energetic fist into the air. “Then let’s both go and find the best wedding present ever!”

Ino smiled at the sight. “Honestly, Sakura…you’ve really become a force to be reckoned with.” She was looking at Sakura with a suddenly wistful and serious look on her face. “You used to be such a crybaby back in the old days…People were always calling you ‘forehead girl’ or ‘forehead revolution’, and you started crying straight away everyt ime…”

“Hold on, Ino!” Sakura exclaimed. “What do you mean ‘forehead revolution’?! Don’t just suddenly make up named that a person was never called! Come to think of it, you just thought that name up now, didn’t you?!”

Ino stuck out a tongue at her.

“Wha- You! Get back here right now!”

“Ahahaha, learn to take a joke!”

Both of their voices mingled and mixed into the chaos of Konoha’s, but they sounded unmistakably happy.

Sakura and Ino.

The two of them would always be rivals. And, always be the very best of friends.

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