It was the following day as I sat in class. Yesterday was the most traumatizing string of events endured in a single day. Between Shiri-Sensei asking me out, Kiba along with the others seeing me without a towel, and me head-butting a man's crotch-- I was ready to hide under a rock for all eternity.
Shiri-Sensei was droning on about something but for the life of me couldn't concentrate on what. How was I supposed to survive until graduation?
Leda finally came back to the Academy today; figuring since my luck was so shitty - class couldn’t be too bad. She wasn't paying much attention either as she slept in her signature feet-up, arms-crossed pose.
I just needed to be optimistic. That was all yesterday's news. Slide under the radar until I graduate. Besides it can't get worse than this, could it?
“Quorra!” Shiri-Sensei yelled. His outburst woke Leda up from her slumber.
“Wha-? What happened?” Leda mumbled, a fogged glare hovered over her eyes and a bit of drool hung from her open jaw.
“The answer to the question, Quorra?” Sensei asked impatiently.
“Huh, right,” I said. “What was the question?”
The students giggled among their friends. Shiri-Sensei's eye twitched, trying to control his temper which, even his Anger Management class have prayed for, will never happen.
“Quorra, you need to pay attention.”
“Sorry,” I said, guiltily.
This was when he lost his temper. “Sorry doesn't cut it!” He yelled, slamming his chalkboard eraser on the board with each syllable.
Leda gave me a ‘you’re-in-deep-shit’ look.
“You're in no position to “zone out” with your recent evaluation score!” He air quoted zone out. “Now pay attention!”
Everyone stared at me in silence as I slowly slumped into my chair, trying to hide from the world.
“Dude, I thought you said your evaluation went well,” Leda whispered.
Mae gave a confused look from across the room.
“Do I make myself clear?” Sensei asked.
I was about to reply, but was cut off when someone charged into the room.
“You! What kind of sensei are you?” Kiba pointed. Akamaru was barking madly.
“Excuse me?” Shiri-Sensei said, not at all amused.
“You heard me!” Kiba growled. “What kind of sensei asks his student on a date!? You sick pervert!”
I shot out of my chair and ran down the aisle. “Shut up!”
“No! I won't! This is fucked up! He's like 50!”
“42!” Shiri-Sensei corrected, like that was the worst of his worries.
“Why, you!” Kiba was about to tackle him, but I'd managed to make it to him before he could.
“Stop, Kiba!” I said, with hands out between him and sensei. “You need to calm down!”
“I'm going to send him to his grave!” he bared his sharp canines.
Okay, not the answer I was looking for.
“He talked to you about flowers and favorite colors and butterflies and rainbows instead of testing your shinobi skills! And then this perverted baka has the balls to ask you out on a date! I would have ran away screaming too!” Kiba spilled in one breath.
“Shut your mouth or I’ll send you to the graves!” I argued, adrenaline icing my veins.
“No! I'm going to make this low life sack of Siberian sheep shit wish he was never born!” Trying charge at Shiri-Sensei, I struggled to hold him back. His arms pin-wheeled, screaming, “Let me at him! Let me at him!”
Akamaru jumped off Kiba's head and proceeded to chomp down on sensei’s ankle leaving sensei howling in pain.
The classroom was in an uproar. No one knew what to do. I didn't know what to do! As the unstoppable inferno seemed to go on forever, the only force that could quiet everyone entered the room. The last person I expected to be here.
Everyone froze in their tracks, including Kiba’s turbine limbs, as Kakashi stepped into the room. Kakashi was wordless as he approached Shiri-sensei’s desk who was silent as well, even with sharp puppy teeth chomping on his ankle. Sensei looked apprehensive, I was apprehensive.
Staring him down with one visible eye, Kakashi grabbed the stem of the Blue Ribbon/ half-dead plant and ripped it out of its pot. A web of roots and clumped dirt along with it.
“My jasmine!” Shiri-Sensei sobbed as Kakashi threw it on the ground and casually walked out of the classroom.
Awestruck, I unfroze from my mid-defensive pose and followed after Kakashi. I caught up as Kiba, Leda, Mae, and Akamaru were not far behind.
“Did that really happen?” Mae asked. Not sure if she meant sensei asking me out or the whole shit show just now.
“Yeah, that's fucking happened and he's going to pay for it.” Kiba was still heated up.
“I knew sensei was a class-A slime ball but I didn't think he would actually try something. I thought he was one of those closeted school girl porn readers.” Leda said.
“He's gone too far!” Kiba said, harshly.
“I can never show my face anywhere near the Academy again,” I moaned, hanging my head in defeat.
Kiba kept throwing a fit as Mae tried to calm him.
I upped my step to catch up to Kakashi. “Kakashi, why were you at the Academy? I didn't even know Team Seven came back from their mission in the Land of the Waves.”
“We just came back this morning,” Kakashi explained. “I was just checking up on you and overheard what happened.”
Who couldn’t have heard Kiba spilling my secrets? He couldn’t have been louder if he had a megaphone. But the autotrophic act that caused a sickening cry from Shiri-Sensei touched my heart. Who knew how it would have ended if Kakashi didn't intervene.
“Thank you,” I murmured, feeling stupid that the situation even got down to that.
Kakashi gave me a sideway glance with his visible eye. “Anytime.”
We made our way to the courtyard while Kiba still made threats. “I'm going to chop his head off and shit down his neck!”
“Kiba! That's really not necessary,” Mae scolded.
Kiba ignored her. “What are we going to do now? Tell the Hokage? Leave a stink bomb at that bastard’s doorstep?”
Giving Leda a desperate look, she understood. “Come on, Dog boy,” Leda grabbed the crook of Kiba’s arm. “Let's cool you down.”
Kiba, however, didn't. “Wait! No! Let go with me! That bastard must pay! Quorra! Quorra!!” He screamed and kicked as Leda dragged him, roughly, in the dirt. A prisoner would have been treated more lightly.
“Be careful with him!” Mae yelled as she followed the dust trail.
Akamaru stood at my feet. His head was cocked with concern but, as always, a happy little guy.
“Go ahead boy. I'm fine.”
With that, Akamaru yipped with joy and dashed away towards his boisterous owner.
Kakashi and I met up with Team Seven. Apparently since getting back from the Land of the Waves, they had a few D-ranked missions around the village to do.
“They should be finishing up now,” Kakashi said.
I was excited to see the trio again given it had been weeks since I've seen them last. Especially after everything that's happened recently, it will be nice to be around stable people. When I finally saw them, Sasuke and Sakura were assisting Naruto to walk. Naruto was covered in bruises and soot.
“I thought they were doing D-ranked missions?” I asked Kakashi, skeptically. He gave a shrug.
Either way, I was glad to see them and ran to greet them.
“Look at you, Naruto. You're hopeless,” Sakura said.
“You're just one big problem,” Sasuke smirked.
“Hey guys! Long time no see!” I waved cheerfully.
Naruto was pissed at his teammates. He ripped out of their grasps, grunting. “Sasuke!”
He was about to lunge at his teammate, but Sakura put an arm out to stop him. “If you keep this up, I'll finish you off myself!” She threatened.
“And besides,” Sakura added. “You're the one who took the dog into an active mine field!”
“The dog dragged me there, okay!” Naruto fought back.
Kakashi sighed in defeat. “I guess we're not making a lot of progress on the whole teamwork thing.”
“That's right,” Naruto said with his fist out. “Our teamwork is all messed up and it's all because of you, Sasuke! You think you're better than everyone else.”
“Not everyone,” Sasuke said with a smirk. “Just you. Face it, I'm better and stronger than you are. It's a fact unless you can prove me wrong.”
Sasuke and Naruto stood at a standoff. Naruto was growling like a rabid dog while Sasuke remained calm with his hands in his pockets.
Sakura tugged on her long, pink hair with frustration. “They're actually getting along worse than before, if that's possible.”
I dropped my hand that was still in mid-wave.
“Did something happen at the Land of the Waves?” I asked Sakura.
She sighed angrily. “Don't ask.”
I didn't as Naruto and Sasuke still stood face-to-face. Naruto was impulsive and a loose cannon but that's the ordinary. Sasuke, however, looked tense. He was trying to keep his cool demeanor but something was eating at him.
Kakashi wasn't paying any mind as he stared nonchalantly at an eagle in the sky while holding his book that was always glued to him.
That's strange, I thought, staring at the bird of prey.
“Alright guys,” Kakashi said, tired. “Let's just call it a day. You can beat each other to a pulp some other time. Anyway, I have to file my reports on this mission.”
With that, Kakashi disappeared.
“Whatever, I'm out of here,” Sasuke said as he walked away.
“Sasuke, wait!” Sakura dashed after him. “We should –,” she stumbled. “We should, huh, let's do something more personal. I mean to improve our teamwork that is.”
She wore a huge smile, Sasuke did not. “I swear you are worse than Naruto. Instead of flirting, why don't you practice your jutsu to make the team stronger?”
I stood by Naruto, shaking my head in disappointment. I swear, that kid is awful at times.
Naruto didn’t approve Sasuke’s comment either. “Don't worry about Sakura. We can develop our teamwork all day!”
And Naruto doesn't make it any better.
A shifting sound caught my attention when a horribly disguised rock shuffled towards us.
“A rock?” Naruto gave it a questioning look as he scratched his head, not sure what to make of it. After a few moments to comprehend his thoughts, “That's the worst disguise of all time! Rocks aren't square!”
I bestowed him a look of disbelief. That's what made you think it was fake? The rock has eye holes! I facepalmed appropriately.
“You saw through my disguise again! You’re slick Boss, just like I would expect from my greatest rival.”
The fake rock talked...
The disguise disappeared as three kids popped out, coughing. “I think we used too much gunpowder,” Konohamaru said through coughs.
Soon enough the other two introduced themselves. The girl with the red, high pigtails was Moegi and the shy, snot-nosed boy was Udon.
“We’re the greatest shinobi in preschool!” They declared.
Naruto placed his hands behind his head nonchalantly. “Yeah, I knew as you Konohamaru.”
I called him out on his BS. “You did not.”
“Did too!” Naruto yelled. I swear I don't know whose worse, Kiba or Naruto.
Konohamaru recognized me. “Hey! You’re Quorra. Guys this is the girl who saved me from that mean bully. She’s my hero!”
I smiled at the rambunctious boy. “It was no problem, Konohamaru. She was being a big meany.”
Konohamaru kept bragging. “She was so cool! She punched the girl right here,” pointing to his cheek, “and she went flying!”
I rubbed the back of my head with guilt. “Well, it didn't exactly happen like that...”
“I saved all the Hidden Mist villagers from a crazy assassin,” Naruto said, jealously. “I was a huge hero. They even named the bridge they were building after me!”
“Naruto, do you always have to pretend to be better than everyone else when you're not?” Sakura asked. She approached us with her head down and shoulders slumped, still hurt by Sasuke’s harsh words. I patted her back with sympathy, giving Sasuke a dirty look. He shrugged, unconcerned.
“Hey, Boss,” Konohamaru asked. “What's the big forehead girl’s problem?”
Sakura jolted under my helping hand, staring at the boy with demon eyes. Her teeth grinding worse than a beaver gnawing on wood.
“Oh, Sakura?” Naruto asked, giddily. He laughed awkwardly, trying to find the right words. “She’s my, I mean. She's well, huh, you see-.”
Konohamaru, the eight-year-old, drew his own conclusion. “Oh, I see.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “She's your girlfriend.”
That made situation with Sakura even worse.
Naruto laughed as if agreeing. “You can tell she's really crazy about me.”
Sakura couldn’t take it anymore. All the sadness from rejection and anger built up. “I'm going to skin you both.”
“Bad big forehead lady!” Moegi said pointing at the crazed Sakura.
“Yeah, Boss. Tell your girlfriend to cool it.”
“That's it!” Sakura yelled.
Sasuke obviously overlooked the entire situation and walked away without a goodbye.
As the chase commenced, I followed Sasuke and left the kids and Naruto to Sakura’s wrath. I'm too wrapped up in my own shit to deal with this today.
It was easy to catch up with Sasuke. He had a signature cool and collective walk. I, however, thought it was turtle speed. “So much for wanting to be around stable people,” I grumbled, unsatisfied.
Sasuke ignored my statement and kept walking.
“Hey, what's the matter?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Sasuke said.
“Cut the bullshit. Your brooding meter is off the charts. Something’s eatin’ you.”
Sasuke grunted. “Must you be annoying too?”
“That's my job,” I said with a smirk. “Now spill it.”
He sighed. “Fine. I developed the first stage of Sharingan while fighting on my last mission.”
Sasuke had told me about his Sharingan, a kekkei genkai of the Uchiha clan. The bloodline trait that turned his dark onyx irises to red. There were three stages, each representing an additional tomoe that swam in his sea of red.
The ability allowed an Uchiha to read an opponent’s chakra and predict their movements before they had a chance to perform it. It gave an Uchiha the upper hand, a step in front. It made them a mage.
His family would have been proud of him even though Sasuke was adamant, believing they held high expectations. He told me his brother activated his sharingan at the age of six. His parents thought his brother was the protégée in the family. Too bad they would never see their son’s next milestone as a shinobi.
His parents, along with the rest of the Uchiha clan, were murdered in a grand massacre. It happened long ago, before I was around. Sasuke was very young, too young to have witnessed something like that. He was the only Uchiha to survive solely because he was late to dinner. Too busy practicing his shuriken throwing.
That was all he had told me. As much as I itched to know more, I knew asking questions was pointless. He told me all that willingly as it was.
It was fucked up. So fucked up. Twisted. When he confessed one random afternoon subsequently after a particularly good sparring match, I finally understood why he was glooming all the time and what he meant by wanting revenge. Even if I still didn’t know on who.
I didn’t know why Sasuke talked about his past with me, even to this day. He doesn’t to anyone else. But, if I had to guess, it was because of what we had in common, Sasuke and I. We were both family-less.
“That’s great,” I congratulated.
“Is it?” Sasuke asked, more angrily than questioningly.
“Of course. That means you’re getting stronger.”
“But I need to be stronger than this. I’m supposed to be processed farther than this.” Sasuke’s eyebrows furrowed, his fists clenched.
“You are strong. And you’re growing stronger every day… But you need to stop insulting Naruto and Sakura,” I said sternly.
“They’re weak, annoying, and troublesome.”
“They’re your teammates, Sasuke. You work together. We all work to grow stronger together. Didn’t you learn anything from Kakashi?” I tried to keep my temper at bay.
Sasuke snorted. He didn’t believe me.
We heard girls screaming Sasuke’s name in the distance and instinctively held hands. We still vouched our deal, our one-on-one practice time in exchange of me holding his hand whenever any hint of muliebrity approached. But based on the fluentness of our actions, maybe we’re just so used to it, the deal didn’t matter. It became second nature to us.
“I wish my teammates were more like you, Quorra. Your dedication to improve even when you had nothing. All Naruto does is brag and Sakura just follows me like a lost puppy.”
I understood what Sasuke meant. Naruto… well Naruto was Naruto. A hyperactive, knuckleheaded ninja. Sakura had the problem of putting love over training. Both have flaws but, they were both gifted and special… even if they were deeply hidden. “Sometimes the troublesome ones are the ones you have to look out for,” I warned with a friendly punch.
Sasuke didn’t answer, but instead stopped in his tracks. “Something’s wrong.”
“What is-,” but before I could finish, Sasuke pulled my hand and we vanished…
…atop of a tree branch.
“…it…” I finished.
We sat on the branch overlooking Sakura, Naruto, and the kids, but two others were there as well. One was a girl with four blonde pigtails. She wore a wrapped dress with fishnet on the shoulders and thighs. The other was a guy in all black. He had a weird cat-eared looking hood with even weirder purple facial markings. They weren’t from around here as they didn’t possess the leaf village insignia. Their engravings depicted an hourglass shaped “i”. It was something I have never seen before. Where did they come from?
The strange boy was holding Konohamaru by the scruff of his neck and scarf. Everyone looked panicky, especially Moegi and Udon. The marked man was pulling his arm back to lay a punch. Naruto was charging to stop him.
“Konohamaru!” I yelled.
In a flash of an eye, something hit the persecutor’s hand causing him to drop Konohamaru. As he growled, grasping his injured hand, I realized what happened. Sasuke.
“You’re a long way from home and you’re way out of your league.” Sasuke juggled a small rock in his hand.
“Sasuke!” Sakura yelled with joy.
Konohamaru recuperated quickly and scurried behind the others.
“And Quorra, too!” Moegi and Udon yelled.
The foreigner rubbed his wrist. “Oh great, another wimp to tick me off.”
“Get lost,” Sasuke warned, using his chakra control to squeeze the rock to dust.
The girls, including the alien girl, swooned over Sasuke’s act of bravery.
“Why can’t you be cool like that?” Konohamaru yelled at Naruto. Naruto’s face instantly turned red.
The boy who looked like he played in purple paint didn’t find it amusing. “Why don’t you come down here? You’re the type of pesky little snot I hate the most. All attitude and nothing to back it up,” he said as he took a wrapped mass off his shoulders.
His accomplice looked shocked by his actions. “What? Are you going to use the Crow for this?”
Whatever she was scared off, it mustn’t be good. I leaned forward on the branch to get a closer look. The mystery object stood chest high with a crop of hair on top. It was heavily wrapped in strips of linen, a mummified bloated cylindrical.
Is that thing human?
But before finding my answer, I lost my balance and fell off the branch. My eyes squeezed shut and braced for an impact but stopped mid-air. Instead of smashing into the ground, Sasuke instinctively grabbed my foot at the last second. I was hanging by a thread, or rather, a foot. The blood was rushing to my head but I managed to give Sasuke a thumbs up. “Thanks for that.”
He welcomed me with a smirk.
“Kankuro, back off,” spoke a voice.
Sasuke and I stared at each other wide-eyed. The source came from someone new, a boy who hung upside down on the opposite side of the tree. His better chakra control allowed him to “stick” to the branch, like a bat.
I didn’t even sense his presence. How long has he been hanging there? Sasuke must be thinking the same thing as his face mimicked mine.
The new guy ignored us and continued to reprimand the boy who he called Kankuro. “You’re an embarrassment to our village.”
“Oh. Hey, Gaara,” Kankuro smiled guilty. He didn’t look right. His smile faulted, his eyes looked scared. Kankuro appeared like a mouse in an open field, preparing for an owl to swoop down.
The predator who hung besides me had short red hair paired with a red outfit. He carried a giant gourd on his back. “Have you forgotten the whole reason why we’re here?”
“I – I – I know,” Kankuro babbled, his tongue failing to make proper speech. “They challenged us. Here’s what happened-.”
“Shut up,” Gaara interrupted. “Or I’ll kill you.”
Everyone was set on edge. Gaara threw his threat to kill with ease even to his own teammates. Empathy for others wasn’t in his manual.
“You’re right. You’re right. I was totally, totally out of line. I’m sorry Gaara.”
Gaara glanced over Kankuro’s pleas. A squire who didn’t bother with his bumbling servant. “I’m sorry for any trouble he might have caused,” Gaara said to Sasuke.
He turned to face my flaying self. He looked young, as young as Sasuke and the others. His porcelain doll skin permeated a tattoo located above his brow bone, where his brows would be with the common theme of red. There was an evil look in his dark lined eyes. His eyes were…
…green. Pupil-less green eyes.
They stared at me with scrutiny; bore into my soul. Pierced the veil of nightmares that haunted me. The thought of the Unknown chilled me to the core. After all of this time, the eyes had a face. The face, a name. But nothing clicked.
Who in the world is he?