So, Ideal Countenance is finished.
I feel a smidge of happiness at its completion, though I'm not the type of person to get overly excited by anything. This is a step to show me that I have it in me to write at least novella-length stories with substance. This was also a strong exercise for me in planning and execution. As found in the middle of the story with the event that upset most of the readers, there are sometimes good ideas that are not executed as well as they could be.
As with that experience and all of the other ideas and constructive criticism that was given to me during the course of the story, I would like to extend a big, big thank you. I'm a person who thrives on positive reinforcement of any kind. Not to mention, the sheer power that a review or even just a thank you would lend to boosting my motivation. There were some amazingly thoughtful reviews in the course of the story, people who seriously took some time to think about the story and the effect it had on them. I am still humbled by your appreciation and the energy you expended just because you thought it was worth it.
For the story itself, I wanted to write a story where Sakura gets everything she wants, including an attentive, obliging, affectionate Sasuke. However, not only do I have a hard time writing happy stories that come across as hopelessly sappy and unrealistic, but I don't think that Sakura and Sasuke will ever have a happy end. I love Sakura- from the first time I watched the series she has been my favorite character. I once loved Sasuke, but I actually hate him. The hard part is that I understand his motivations and intentions, but I think slaving himself to them makes him one of the most blindly selfish characters I have encountered in fiction.
So I also wanted to write a story where he would die and fulfill my own desire to see it. Also, I wanted to write a partial NaruSaku. I don't think either pairing will happen by the end of the story because this is shonen manga, but I honestly can't see Sakura just giving up on Sasuke. If he tries to kill her and she still loves him? Yeah, that's... something.
But the story wanted to be written, and I learned a lot from the experience so thank you all for your assistance and encouragement over the months, especially that nine month long hiatus while I returned to uni. I have no plans at this point to write a sequel. The ending is intentional because life is neither simple nor neat, but I think the ending is a hopeful, happy one. Chris Nolan would probably like it, anyway.
A very special thanks to those whose first language is not English, who took even greater pains to leave a review for me. I hope the story was understandable and still had an impact on you.
So, thank you all again for your help and encouragement. Hope to see you in the future!