As I Wake

Dragon Scales

Just as I promised, for the following week, I paid my dues in detention. During that time, Leda and I warmed up to each other. Yes, I still thought she was one crazy ass bitch, but she had a few redeeming qualities.

“Would you rather become suddenly blind or deaf?” Leda asked as she lit her second cigarette in detention. For example, she often asked strange and random but profound questions.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Being blind would suck.”

“True, but then I could trip you and get away with it.” Smoke clouded her as she spoke.

But, like I said, she was a crazy bitch.

She rambled on as I stared hopelessly at the clock. Just because I said I was going to pay for my consequences, didn’t mean I was going to like it.

The minute hand ticked so slowly, I thought time was going backwards. I groaned in frustration and laid my head on the desk in defeat.

“What’s wrong, Quorra-line.” She had a knack for nicknames, too. “Bored at our little detention?”

“It’s not the highlight of my day. I’ll give you that,” I muttered in my arms.

“Then let’s go,” Leda said, as if it was as simple as that.

“We can’t just get up and leave.”

“Why not,” she said, more as a statement than a question.

Before I could give her a proper reason, she was at the window, opening it. “Come on. Slow poke.”

I stared at her with disbelief. After being stuffed in this room with a chimney for a week, I was going to bail on the last day. For what, to get into trouble and start this bull crap all over again? The non-broken clock ticked a measly minute.

Thoughts wandered to what Iruka-Sensei would think and I instantly felt bad. We caused him enough trouble as it was. Having him go off on a goose chase to find and drag us back wasn’t exactly on my ‘Goods Deeds for the Day’ list.

But then my thoughts moseyed onto what Shiri-Sensei’s reaction would be. His black demonic eyes staring at me with unrequited love. Which led to me not giving a shit what he thought. Which then, ultimately, led me to say, “Fuck it, I’m coming.”

Leda smiled as she threw her legs out the window. “’Atta girl.” She hopped out and I followed.

Leda took me, apparently, to her favorite hiding spot. We climbed the ladder rungs to the rooftop to some kind of weaponry shop. “I like to come here when I want to get away.”

“Get away from what?”

She shrugged as we reached the rooftop. “You know, life or home.”

“I don’t know, actually. I have no memory of them.” I spoke with a bitter taste.

I was in search of my life and home, not escaping it. My mind couldn’t wrap around the reason to escape something that was so secure and relevant like family. The things I would do to get just a glimmer at that kind of life.

Leda looked back with an almost jealous look. “You’re not missing much.”

We walked onto the rooftop and I could see why she liked it so much. It was the perfect view of the shopping street, but we were also just high enough to see the various training grounds. Beyond that, the village wall and the endless forest.

It made you feel small, puny. You thought you knew your surroundings, but in reality, you had no clue what was beyond your sight of vision. We were a meager drop in the sea of mystery. It was beautiful, yet daunting at the same time.

We sat atop the highest point on the roof, some kind of storage unit. A flock of birds flew in the distance. Their wings beat in unison as they have been doing their entire life. It was second nature to them.

“I envy them,” Leda said.

“You wish to fly like them?” I asked, assuming that was what she meant.

Leda shook her head. “I envy the way they fly. The leadership of the front bird and the loyalty of the last. They were a pact, something I never had.”

With this newly found interpretation, the way the birds portrayed themselves was totally different. The front bird flew with confidence, without a stutter. The last bird flew chaotic, not in rhythm with the rest of the group. He often trailed behind, but that little guy flapped and caught up with his group, his family. Loyalty.

“They fly together through thick and thin,” she continued.

I understood now. Leda never had that leadership and loyalty in her life. She didn’t feel like she had a family.

“Each of them knows their rightful place in the group,” I answered.

Leda nodded in agreement. Sadness was written all over her face. She didn’t want it to consume her as she avoided eye contact with me. She stared at the birds hopelessly. It was disheartening seeing her like this. Even if she was a scary, crazy girl.

“I didn’t think you were the scenic type,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood.

That stifled a laugh from Leda. “Yeah? What type did you think I was?”

I thought about this for a minute. I wanted to say the irrational, impulsive type but didn’t want to turn this moment sour.

“The type who wears dragon scales. One who doesn’t let anything penetrate their skin; the kind who sees and acts on what they want to believe, not necessarily what is right,” I said, honestly. “Hence why you decked me when you didn’t want to apologize to that poor boy. You refuse to believe you are wrong, ever.”

Leda smirked. “That does sound like me doesn’t it? I sound like a fucking cunt when you put it that way.” She lit a new cigarette, red angry ambers flew into the wind to be carried elsewhere.

I stared out onto the horizon. “But, I think there’s more to you than you want to lead on.”

“Like what?” she asked, in a non-believing tone.

She didn’t want to believe so, but I did think there was something deeper down. I’d been in close quarters with her for the past week. Through conversations, insults, and debates, I sensed a softer interior under that reptile skin. Under very, very thick skin but none-the-less there.

“You are a thinker” I told her. “You wear armor to protect your thoughts and feelings.”

Leda was silent for several moments. I was afraid I went too far. Opened my big mouth and said something that struck a nerve. “I…”

“I rather be deaf but being blind would be way more beneficial to me,” Leda interrupted.

“What?” I didn’t know where that was coming from until I recalled one of her random questions she asked before.

“If I lacked vision, I wouldn’t be obsessed with appearance. I wouldn’t be materialistic. I wouldn’t cry while looking in the mirror. Wouldn’t judge people based off of their looks. I’d be more grateful. And, I’d be stronger.”

I let Leda’s words sink in. They marinated into my thoughts. Her words, her sadness. She tucked and folded her emotions, her insecurities until there were hardly anything left. But they will always be there. Thoughts were immortal.

What I said next came straight from my heart and my own immortal thoughts. “But then you can’t see the beauty you would be putting into this world.”

Leda snorted in disgust, “You don’t actually believe that.”

“Yeah,” I said, more confident. “I actually do.”

That shut her up. Her mouth twisted, like she didn’t know what to come back with. Eyes penetrated into mine, trying to find an answer to no question.

“Come on, Quorra-bee,” she said as she hopped down. “Let’s go grab something to eat. I’m fucking starving.”

We headed towards a barbeque restaurant since, according to Leda, sneaking out brought that much of an appetite that we had to go to an All-you-can-eat. Before we arrived, Mae bumped into us.

“Hey, Quorra,” she said, giving Leda a welcoming smile. Leda paid no mind. “Aren’t you supposed to be in detention? Did Iruka-Sensei let you out early?”

Leda smirked.

“Well, actually…” I began to explain my latest naughty deed when someone interrupted.

“Quorra! There you are!” I knew the voice belonged to Kiba. I waved as he headed towards us.

“Who’s that?” Mae whispered.

“Him?” I replied. “That’s Kiba. I’ve mentioned him before.”

Mae stared Kiba up and down as he approached, eagerly. “He’s hot,” she concluded.

I was shocked by the sudden declaration. Mae wasn’t the kind of girl would ogled over many boys.

I tried to look at one of my closest guy friends through Mae’s eyes. Kiba walked clumsily, too energetic. His eyes were bright and his toothy grin smiled even brighter.

Kiba wasn’t a bad looking guy. I could understand why Mae was so attracted to him. But, I knew Kiba more than her. I got the full blast of his short temper and huge dose of stubbornness. Our constant arguments and pranks on each other rested my case.

I knew all about his clumsy falls into bushes and holes. The time he got a ramen noodle stuck up his nose. His accidental ass grab to an elderly woman at the market and made me swore not to tell anyone. Ultimately, Kiba was just my friend. I saw him as my super close, silly friend. So with that, my reaction to Mae’s declaration, the one word before Kiba got within hearing distance was:


“Hey, Quorra.” Kiba said as Akamaru hopped off his head into my arms.

“Hey, Kiba. Hi, Akamaru,” I laughed as the puppy did his notorious licks and slobber.

Before I had a chance to introduce her, Mae gave me a small nudge. “Oh, Kiba. These are my friends, Mae and Leda. Guys, this is Kiba and his puppy, Akamaru.”

Akamaru yipped, his way of greeting. Mae smiled goofy at Kiba while Leda had her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. It was obvious she could care less about Kiba and Mae’s fascination and just wanted to eat.

“It’s nice to meet you, Kiba,” Mae said, rosy cheeked.

“Yeah, totally,” Kiba blew her off. “I was looking for you everywhere, Quorra.”

Mae gave me with a weird look, but I ignored it. “Me?” I asked. “Why? Is something wrong?”

Kiba took Akamaru back and placed him back upon his head. “Well for one thing, Iruka-Sensei bumped into me. He’s looking for you and did not look happy. Something about skipping out on detention.”

“Shit,” I muttered. Of course, Iruka-Sensei would not let it go.

“Wait, you two skipped?,Mae asked, wide-eyed.

“We didn’t skip,” Leda interrupted, defensively. “We just excused ourselves early.”

“So you snuck out,” Mae was now the defensive one, crossing her arms.

“We were in detention long enough,” Leda spat. Her temper was obviously on a short fuse.

“It’s wrong,” Mae argued back, not looking Leda in the eyes. “Aren’t they wrong, Kiba?”

Kiba was shocked from the sudden change in direction. “Huh,” Kiba scratched the back of his head, guiltily. “I’m not the one you should ask that. I used to skip detention all together.” He laughed, uncomfortably.

“It’s still wrong.” Mae said to me. “It’s not right.”

I sighed. The guilt was getting to me. “You’re right,” I admitted. “It was wrong of us.”

Leda snorted and whipped her head in the other direction. Her bright red ponytail following after.

We were wrong,” I pressed. “I’m sorry, Mae.” Her features softened but she still looked mad.

“I’ll go find Iruka-Sensei.” I told Kiba.

“Well, that’s the thing. Iruka-Sensei doesn’t want to see you. It’s the Hokage who does.”

“What?!” Mae and Leda said, simultaneously. Leda’s head whipped back faster than before. I thought it was going to fly off.

I groaned. “Fuck. Not again.”

“Again?” Mae asked, appalled. “You’ve been requested before?”

Leda looked intrigued as well. She stared at me owl-eyed. “Wow, I didn’t know you were that much of a troublemaker.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose and tried to clear my mind. “I’m not.” I replied, releasing the pressure. “I’m the Hokage’s, erm, regular, you could say.”

“Iruka-Sensei found me and said if I found you to send you to the Hokage’s office right away.” Kiba said, giving me a look. “I told you not to-”

“I know!” I lashed at him. “But I didn’t listen, alright? I’m going! Leda, your place is on the way, isn’t it? I’ll walk you home.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Leda grumbled, walking ahead without waiting.

“I have to go anyway,” Mae said. “Dinner is probably ready.” I knew Mae was mad at me but I also knew what would coax her into forgiving me.

“Kiba,” I said, overly sweet. “Do you mind walking Mae home? It’s starting to get dark. She shouldn’t be out on her own.” Mae looked at me like a deer in lights. She tried hard to conceal her smile. She failed.

“Oh, huh, sure. Yeah, sure of course,” Kiba said, flustered.

Kiba, Akamaru and Mae walked away. “See you later,” Kiba said, looking back.

“You bet,” I smiled, hoping the Hokage doesn’t kill me first. With that, I caught up with Leda.

Within minutes, Leda and I arrived in front of her house. I walked Leda home after detention before, but never stepped foot inside.

The house looked cold and empty. All the lights were off even though it was almost night. She explained to me that she only lived with her father. I never dared to ask what happened to her mother, or anyone else for that matter. Standing in front of the house left an ominous presence. Something felt wrong but I pushed the issue aside.

“Here you go. Sorry we couldn’t do dinner. Rain check?” I said, cheerfully. Well, as cheerful as I could muster.

“Yeah, fine. See you later,” Leda quickly dismissed as she rushed to the door.

I watched Leda reach for the knob as the front door swung open. Standing before her was a middle-aged man who looked like he had been through a few battles. His eyes were black and sleepless. Hair hung to his shoulders, straggly. And finally, a liquor bottle was held tightly in his grasps.

“Where have you been?” he asked, angrily.

“Nowhere,” Leda shot back, bumping, assuming her father, aside as she walked in.

Even now, something was off as I tried to give a friendly wave. Her father gave me a dirty look, like I was a contamination and needed to be quarantined as he slammed the door behind him. Again, I pushed the strange feelings aside and headed towards the Hokage’s office.

I knocked the door to the Hokage’s office three times. There was no reply. I pressed my ear against the door and listened, nothing.

Maybe I’m in luck and just missed him. Even the Hokage has to be home for dinner, right?

“Come in,” the Hokage said, muffled behind the door.

“Shit.” I assumed the Hokage wanted to reprimand me for skipping out on detention. But, if that was the case, shouldn’t Leda be here with me? Maybe it was because the Hokage was still uncertain about me staying here in the first place.

“Let’s get this over with.”

I was greeted with the Hokage working diligently at his desk. The Hokage glanced up from his stack of papers. “Ah, Quorra. Come in.”

I nodded, closed the door, and walked towards his desk. “You needed to speak to me, Hokage-sama?”

The Third gave a kind smile. “Yes, I did.”

“That’s her grandfather!” Someone yelled from behind me.

I jumped from the sudden presence and turned to see a small boy sitting on the floor with homework sprawled out in front of him. It was the little boy from school who Leda was picking on. Why was he here? And why did he…

“Grandfather?” I spoke, shell-shocked.

The boy responded, “That’s the girl from my school, grandfather.” He pointed to me, accusative. “The one with the cat eyes!”

“I thought you were talking about Quorra,” The Third said, scratching his goatee. “Her light green eyes are very distinctive.”

Damn my eyes!

“Grandfather…” I sounded like a broken record.

The boy ran next to his grandfather. “Yes, this is my grandson, Konohamaru.” Konohamaru gave a cheesy smile.

I felt the blood leave my face, what did I get myself into? If I knew he was the leader of this village’s grandson, I wouldn’t have gotten involved.

“H-hi” I managed to squeak out.

I’m so screwed.

“Konohamaru explained to me what happened at school,” the Hokage began.

I’m fucked. Fucked. What did Konohamaru tell him? That I hit a fellow classmate in the face? That I caused total chaos during lunch and most likely upset half the school? Man, and I drenched Iruka-Sensei with water. Why the fuck did I do that? The Hokage was going to kill me or exile me! I really buried a hole for myself this time.

“I want to personally…”

“I’m sorry!” I yelled.

“…Thank you,” the Hokage finished.

The blood rushed back into my face. I felt red like a tomato. “Thank me?” I couldn’t hide my shock or utter confusion.

The Hokage nodded. “Yes, I wanted to thank you, personally, for defending my grandson. Fellow classmates can be a bit cruel at times, but you stood up for him.”

“Right!” Konohamaru piped in. “No one ever stops the bullies. But you did!” His smile was blinding. “Thanks, Quorra! You’re my hero!”

My heart swelled. Konohamaru had a tough time in school and still had a high spirit.

I became his hero by pummeling someone… sounds about right.

However, I couldn’t help point out the obvious. “But, I decked Leda in the face…”

The Hokage made an expression, like he ate something sour.

Konohamaru gleamed. “Yeah! That was awesome! You really nailed her!”

Not helping, Konohamaru!

“Konohamaru,” The Third warned.

The boy frowned dramatically. “Sorry.”

The Third continued, “Yes, we don’t condole violence especially in a learning environment. Unfortunately, it sometimes leads to that in order to defend yourself.”

“Right!” Konohamaru nodded, strongly.

“Be we still don’t encourage it. Right?”

Konohamaru stuck out a tongue. “Yes, grandfather.”

“Good,” he said, patting his grandson’s head. “I still wanted to personally thank you, Quorra. For defending my grandson.”

This was too much. “Huh, you’re welcome, Hokage-sama.”

The Third smiled. “That is all. You are free to go.”

I didn’t question him as I bowed and tried not to dash to the door.

“Oh, and Quorra?” he called.

“Yes?” I stopped.

“Spare Iruka-Sensei premature grey hairs and stop skipping out on detention, will you?”

I cringed, knowing it would bite me in the ass. “Will do, Hokage-sama.”

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