Chapter 17

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It was strange, really.

How all the romance stories she ever read talked about how their hand trembled at the touch of the doorknob, or how their heart was pounding loudly, or their blood roaring in their ears.

The truth was, she didn't feel any of that.

When she opened the door, a big smile graced her features as she stepped confidently inside the decorated ballroom. No one knew she was Sakura Haruno. No one could know, except for the person who sent her this dress.

Good.

From the moment she stepped in, she could feel every gaze upon her and her new self. Gone was the girl who stumbled to make a life for herself. Gone was the girl who only ever knew servitude.

This girl, right here, was royal.

Her long pink hair cascaded down her shoulders, stopping right below them. The dress itself was perfection, hugging her slim figure. Silver earrings shaped like raindrops hung from her ears as her lucky necklace, her sakura necklace, shone proudly on her neckline. Her lips bright with a dark red lipstick, her usually dull green eyes sparkling with happiness and mischief and humor with mascara and lashes poking out.

Now, it wasn't like those tales where silence fell over as the main protagonist stepped onto the stage. It wasn't like that at all.

In fact, the buzzing of voices only got louder as Sakura stepped in.

She wasn't the only one gathering attention. Ino stood behind her, her moonlight-blonde hair twisted up in a bun that left strands of her hair in front of her face, swaying. Her gown was a little over-the-top, the velvet silk twisting from the waistline to reveal part of the leg, but since Ino was wearing it- it looked perfect.

Tenten and Rin were ladies to be reckoned with, as well. Rin had her dress on from the first shopping day, with its lavender wrinkles and pearls and sparkles setting off her eyes and curling smile. Tenten was dressed in an adorable gown that stopped right above her ankles, an intricate pattern dotting to wrap around her shoulder and trailing down her hem.

Hinata stepped right next to her, her lips curling in a bright smile. "Go out there," whispered Sakura. "Feel powerful. Be the girl you are." Hinata smiled, the usual blush on her face gone and replaced with a shining grin. "You too, Sakura-chan." With that, Hinata vanished into the crowd.

Sakura searched for an empty seat until she found one, next to a man with a suit with a white mask, two holes inside for the eyes which were in an interesting shape. "Hello," she greeted him. "Mind if I sit here?"

His onyx eyes widened as he said smoothly, "Not at all."

She sat, smiling at him. "This is one heck of a party, huh?" The corners of his mouth twitched as he replied, "It sure is. Uchiha did do a wonderful job, didn't he?"

She nodded. "He really did. You know, I sometimes think that he's overworking himself." The man snorted as he said, "I don't think so. I'm pretty sure he knows his limits."

Sakura smiled as she said softly, "So what do you do? I know that it is a masquerade party and all, but I want to know who you are." He smiled and shook his head as he said, "I don't think I should tell. But let's have a little fun- guess who I am."

Her lips curled into a smile as she said, "You're on."

"I lived here for as long as I can remember. People tend to judge me for who I am before really knowing me. I know... almost everything that goes on in this castle."

"Oh, I wouldn't really call this place a castle," teased Sakura. "A manor, maybe. Or a fortress."

"You've got me there," chuckled the man. Sakura leaned forward. "Please, can you tell me who you are?"

"Miss, this is a masquerade party for a reason. We aren't supposed to know each other's identities," he chuckled. "For example, would you like it if I knew who you were?" Sakura considered it. "I wouldn't mind it... it would just depend on who you are," she said finally.

He leaned back into his chair. "Good answer."

She got up. "I thank you for accompanying me- I'll go get food," she told him. He smiled. "No, thank you."

Who was that man...

Normally, Sakura wouldn't be so bold. Normally, she would try to find a seat by herself. But this Sakura wasn't normal. This Sakura had the confidence of a princess.

Is it the dress that I'm wearing? The jewels that I hold? What is it that makes me different today? she asked herself as she grabbed some punch.

"Hey, Sakura!" Even with masks on, they still recognized each other. "Naruto," she said, smiling. The blonde had combed his hair, worn some nice clothes, and even had a flower in his lapel. "Wow. You look... different," said Naruto.

Sakura smirked. "Thanks. I know." The effect that she had on people was different, too. Naruto scratched his head. "So, uh, I was thinking..."

"What is it, Naruto?"

Suddenly, her hand was in his palm. "Let's go dance," said Naruto as he dragged her over. "Hey! Hold on! Wait- you know what, never mind," she grumbled soon after protesting. "You look decent today, so I guess I'll have one dance with you."

"You look far from decent, though," commented Naruto. Sakura's eye twitched as she punched him in the arm. "OW! What was that for? I was complimenting you!" complained Naruto as he rubbed his arm. "'Far from decent' is definitely far from a compliment!" shrieked Sakura.

Now, was she imagining it when she saw him blushing? "No, I meant... you look nice today," he said. Nice?

"Fine. You look beautiful."

Heat rose to her cheeks as she mumbled, "Thanks," before grabbing his shoulder. "Whoa! What are you doing? I know you love me and all, but isn't this going a little too fast?" winked Naruto. Sakura snorted. "Ew. I thought we were going to dance, blonde boy."

"Oh yeah, we were- you're actually dancing with me?!" he yelped. Sakura face-palmed. "Yes, I am. Come on!"

"Happy" was on, by Pharrell Williams. "My favorite song!" whooped Naruto as he began to sing, "It might seems crazy, what I'm about say..."

"Gross!" Sakura laughed as she slapped his arm, then began singing it too.

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say

Sunshine she's here, you can take away

I'm a hot air balloon, I could go to space

With the air, like I don't care baby by the way

Naruto started making silly faces at this point, making Sakura laugh.

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I'm happy

Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

And the thing was...

Sakura really was happy here.

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Hello guys!

How was your Thanksgiving? Happy is actually one of my favorite songs because it's so catchy, and I know it's old but it seems like the type of song that Naruto would enjoy, don'tcha think?

And who was that mysterious man? Special shout-out to anyone who guesses correctly!

I'll see you next chapter!

-Storywriter-

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