Above Dark Days
With a mighty kick, the blade soared towards me. I noticed at the last second as the realization reached my face. But, my guard was dropped, it was too late…
… Or so he thought.
The blade embedded into the log, dropping with a heavy thud, as I sequentially reappeared behind the second intruder, knife positioned against his jugular vein. “Don’t move a muscle,” I warned. “One movement and you’re dead.”
The threatened man didn’t react the way I hoped. He gave an exhausted sigh. “You shouldn’t have done that cheap shot,” he told the man tied up. “You could have seriously hurt her.”
A thought instantaneously entered my mind. Why did the voice sound so familiar?
I used my will-power to focus on the man in front of me, despite the overwhelming fatigue. The knife shook in my hand. I went too far with that last substitution, performing the technique more times than I could handle. I was barely capable of standing.
He was in a typical shinobi uniform. His hair was brown and pulled into a ponytail. I suddenly recognized his voice from the time he yelled at Leda and myself for fighting at the Academy and lectured about public safety.
“I was just returning the favor,” the man tied to the tree suggested. “Besides, you told me you wanted to test her.”
“Test me? What’s going on? Iruka-Sensei, who is this man,” I slurred.
“Quorra, it’s alright. You can put your knife away.”
I hesitantly followed his orders as it stayed idle by my side.
“Maybe she wouldn’t be doomed after all,” Iruka-Sensei said under his breath.
“Excuse me?” I served him a plate full of attitude despite being light-headed— was not feeling the secrecy.
“Go to Lord Hokage’s office. He will explain everything to you there.”
“Wait!” I yelled, but it was too late, Iruka disappeared without ever turning to meet my gaze. The rope around the tree slacked as the other guy vanished as well.
Words couldn’t even begin to comprehend what just happened as I crumbled to the ground, both from mental and physical exhaustion.
“What the actual fuck.”
By the time I gathered enough strength to drag myself to the Hokage’s office, it was almost nightfall.
“Come in,” the Hokage called as I opened the door. By nature, there was a stack of papers on his desk as he worked diligently.
“What can I help you with, Quorra? For once, I didn’t summon you,” he softly smiled at the joke.
I wish I knew why myself. “Iruka-Sensei sent me. At least, I think it was Iruka. Someone was trying to kidnap Konohamaru but then he’s all like ‘I’m here for you my dear’.”
My voice rose from the built up of anxiety and confusion. “And he attacked me! But I tied him to a tree! And I was like Ha-Ha take that bitc-! Oh-oh Sir, I mean sir. Take that sir! Then Iruka-Sensei popped out of nowhere and was like ‘go to the Hokage’.” I mimicked his demanding voice.
“I didn’t know what was happening. Why Iruka-Sensei was talking to the guy who attacked me!” Breaths turned into huffs from going through word vomit. “I’m so confused Hokage-Sama,” I mumbled in defeat.
The Third scratched his small pointed beard, pondering. “I see. Well, thank you for reporting this, Quorra. Shinobi rule number seven is to report any and all possible threats after all.”
“Actually, Hokage-sama, sir. That’s rule number fourteen. Rule number seven is to follow orders to the end no matter what.” I shifted uncomfortably in my spot.
I should learn to keep my big mouth shut. Don’t correct the Hokage, you dumby!
The Hokage didn’t take offense. “That’s right. This old mind must be playing tricks on me again.” He rose from his desk and walked over to the windows, admiring his village. “Tell me about the attacker?” I explained in details about our brawl.
“Did he use any techniques?” he asked.
Shaking my head, “No, but he shot one of his knuckle blades at me with his foot.”
The Hokage looked confused. “How’d he do that?”
“He molded chakra to the bottom of his foot so he could ‘grasp’ the blade, so to speak.”
“I see,” he said. “Hmm, must be pretty strong then.”
“It just means he was able to extract physical energy from his cells and spiritual energy from his consciousness and mix them together within his body.” I gave Hokage-sama a weird stare.
“Right. Any shinobi can do that.”
“Well, not everyone, Hokage-sama. If a shinobi creates too much or too little chakra for a given technique, the chakra could be used inefficiently and the technique or jutsu wouldn’t work. Hokage-sama, are you feeling—”
“What techniques did you use, Quorra?” he impeded.
Something wasn’t right here. Why is he asking such odd questions?
“The Body Replacement Technique,” I responded, hesitant. “I was taught it at the Academy.”
“What are the signs?”
“Tiger, Boar, Ox, Dog, Snake.”
“What do they represe—”
“Protection, bravery, strength, loyalty, secrecy” I rattled off. “Hokage-sama, what’s going on? You’re asking strange questions when I was attacked here! Who knows where that guy could be now?!”
The Hokage looked shocked by my out-of-line outburst but then looked pleased. “Quorra, my child. There is nothing to worry about. No one is after you.”
“What do you mean?” I blinked wit befuddlement. “He used a paper bomb on me!”
The Hokage nodded at the door. “Alright, everyone. You can enter now.”
I turn to see a yellow-headed ninja opening the door and rushing in. “Wahoo! Did Quorra do it, Old Man!?” Naruto jumped with glee.
“Keep it down you idiot!” Sakura quieted with a shove.
“Cool it, Naruto,” Sasuke groaned, dragging his feet into the room.
Mae and Leda followed in after. “Hi, Quorra,” Mae smiled and gave a small wave.
Leda gave greet-filled dirty look. “Sup, Quarter.”
To further my confusion, Kiba and Akamaru were even here. The energetic pup leapt into my arms. Kiba was happy to see me too. “Long time no see!”
Last to enter was Kakashi. He was silent as he closed and joined the group. Everyone was smiling like they had a secret. Well, except Kakashi, known for being expressionless.
“What’s going on?” No longer taking this. “Why is everyone here?”
“Let me explain,” the Hokage began. “During the nomination ceremony for the Chunin Examination, Kakashi nominated his team, which was shocking enough, but he also thought you should be nominated.”
Kakashi did what? “But I’m not even a genin,” I interrupted.
Lord Hokage rose his hand to silence me. “Kakashi thought it wasn’t fair that you weren’t properly tested to become a genin because of, erm, circumstances.”
The reminder still left a sour taste in my mouth. The secret that wasn’t so much of a secret anymore left everyone in the room with mixed emotions. Kiba’s face twisted with anger.
“So… You—” I began.
“We tested you,” came from a voice behind me.
I turned to see it was, “Iruka-Sensei?” Akamaru, who was still in my arms, growled.
“Let me explain.” Iruka said. “When Kakashi and the other Sensei told Lord Hokage that they wanted to nominate their students into the Chunin exams, I thought that there was no way. I’ve had all the rookies as my students and didn’t think they were experienced enough.”
“And so you tested us through a disguise and we kicked your ass, believe it!” Naruto exclaimed. Sakura gave a blow to the top of his head to shut him up.
Iruka-Sensei continued. “I told them you, most of all, weren’t qualified to the Chunin exams. I thought you were too immature, let alone not being a graduate, but Kakashi and Lord Hokage saw something in you, something they didn’t want to ignore so I tested you as well and I got to admit,” Iruka scratched his forehead, looking ashamed. “I was too quick to off you. You show great promise. I shouldn’t have judged you so harshly.”
The confession hit me like a ton of bricks. “What about Mae and Leda?”
“Same goes to them,” Iruka answered. “Their Sensei thought they were ready as well and were secretly tested.”
“So the attack from before was…”
“A test, to see whether you were ready to become a genin,” Iruka concluded.
I turned to the Hokage. “So the weird questions you were asking before were for the test?”
“Yes,” the Hokage confirmed. “And I’m very pleased with the results so far.”
Naruto and the others celebrated, Kiba being the loudest. Sasuke managed a slow clap, but Kakashi was silent.
“So, does that mean I pass or something?” I asked.
“Almost. In order to graduate from the Academy and have a genin status, not only do you have to have outstanding hand-to-hand combat and extended knowledge about chakra use and shinobi life, it’s important to be capable to use this knowledge and perform precise chakra flow. Every student has to create at least one single, functioning shadow clone in order to pass.”
“So all I need to do is make a shadow clone, that’s it?” I asked.
“That is all,” The Third confirmed.
“You can do it, Quorra!” Kiba cheered.
“Yeah, believe it!” Naruto added.
I blinked at my friends thinking how unfair I’ve treated them. I thought that I could solve my problems on my own, but they were the solution all along. They were all the family I would ever need. If I did so happen to have people out there, looking for me, they weren’t there for me now. Whereas the people in this room had been there and had faith in me since the first day I’ve met them.
My eyes scanned to Kakashi. He stood tall among his students— arms crossed, stare mimicking mine. Kakashi was by my side before anyone else. He was the one who saved me and convinced me to stay in the village. The least I could do was prove to him I was worth it.
“Alright then, what are we waiting for?” I said, eagerly.
Placing the young pup down, I threw my hands into the first hand sign. My chakra level was still low from the fight, but that wasn’t going to stop me, not when I was so close. My lungs took a deep breath and then performed the rest of the signs. “Shadow clone jutsu.”
A strong wave of fatigue hit as I felt vertiginous, swaying where I stood. Luckily, a helping hand kept me on my feet.
“You did it!” Naruto yelled.
Everyone was celebrating as I thanked my clone for keeping me upright and she disappeared.
The Hokage looked impressed. “Congratulations, Quorra. As the leader of the Leaf village, I would be honored if you accept this headband protector and help defend this village.”
Mae and Sakura carried the protector out on a pillow which made the ceremony suddenly more grandiose, giving me an exhausted smile. Sakura tied the headband around my head. “I figured you would rather want a black strap instead of the standard blue,” Sakura whispered.
Good ol’ Sakura and our multiple shopping trips. “You know me too well,” I whispered back.
Sakura stepped back when she finished securing it in place. I was beaming with rays of light so bright that it felt impossible for darkness to ever penetrate.
“I, Hirizen Sarutobi, Third among the Hokages of the Fire Country announce you an official kunoichi of the Leaf village.”
“Thank you, Hokage-sama,” I bowed to show my respect, but Sakura must have not tightened the headband protector enough as it slipped over my left eye. Everyone giggled, including myself as I tried to reorient it. “Hokage-sama. When will I meet my teammates?”
Before he could respectfully answer, someone interrupted him. “You’re looking at them,” Leda said cockily, pointing at herself.
Mannerism went right out the window. “Really!? No way!”
Leda, Mae, and I jumped into a group hug. We screeched like little girls from pre-school. I never in the world thought that I would become a shinobi anytime soon, let alone be on the same team as my closest friends. This being a dream come true was an understatement, this was an honor. Our formality in the Hokage’s office was long forgotten—well, until Kakashi cleared his throat and we snapped into line in front of our leader.
The Third didn’t comment as he continued. “You three were placed together as you were found to be the most compatible for each other. Mae, you had the highest score in the class.”
Mae stiffened but bowed. “Thank you, Hokage-sama.”
“Leda, you had the lowest.”
Leda was about to make a snarky remark until I elbowed her. “Thank you,” she mumbled, bowing half-assed.
“But you show potential. You show loyalty— a beneficial quality that’s necessary for a team,” he said. This caused Leda’s annoyed face to untwist some.
“And Quorra,” I tensed at the call of my name. “You show the most passion and potential to protect your village and will be the glue that solidifies this team. You have been called a hero by some, but I believe you will win the hearts of many more. I have no doubt you will do wonders for this team and for the village.”
It was a shock to be spoken so highly of. I came to this village as an outsider and now I could comfortably call this place my home. There were people who believed in me, even when I didn’t completely believe in myself— an unspoken trust.
“I won’t let you down, Hokage-sama,” I said with a bow.
Leda gave me a smirk, Mae didn't. I couldn't put my finger on Mae's look as her face twisted with discomfort but didn't think twice about it.
“I am proud to announce that these three kunoichi will become Team Thirteen of Konoha,” the Third finished.
We jumped with happiness as everyone celebrated in their own way. Naruto and Kiba yelled, Sakura and Sasuke clapped—Sakura cheerfully, Sasuke slowly while Kakashi and Iruka stood professionally.
Everything was perfect, but there was one thing that was left unanswered. “Wait, if we’re Team Thirteen, who’s our Sensei?”
As soon as I said it, Mae and Leda exchanged glances. “About that,” Mae said.
Before I could reply, someone poof into the room. He had dark, golden skin, blue eyes and an unforgettable smile that flashed the room.
“You!” I yelled, pointing at him.
“We met again,” he smiled.
“You attacked me!”
“I’m Gachero, your Sensei.”
“Sensei!? You tried to blow me up!”
“It’s a pleasure to formally meet you.”
“You kicked your blade at me. You could have killed me!”
“And you kicked me so hard, I doubt I’ll ever reproduce,” he said matter-of-factly. He held out his hand. “Truce?”
Things weren’t starting out on the right foot. It made sense now why Iruka-Sensei sent this Gachero guy after me. It was to test me, but I don’t like being deceived. It did seem; however, that Gachero has thrown the incident under the bridge. So, why shouldn’t I? He was now my Sensei after all.
“Hmph, alright.” I shook his hand. “Truce, but if you ever come after me again, I won’t go easy on you,” I seriously but not too seriously joked.
“I don’t have any doubt in that,” Gachero’s eyes crinkled.
“Gachero has been an important figure in this village. He actually volunteered to guide this team,” Iruka said, placing a heavy hand on his colleague’s shoulder.
“He’s right,” Gachero said. “I saw a lot of myself in this team.”
The three of us exchanged looks. Mae the genius, Leda the hot head, Quorra the underdog. How could he see himself in three adolescent girls?
“Have you decided, Gachero-Sensei?” Iruka asked.
“Decide what?” Leda asked.
"Whether I nominate you three as Team Thirteen into this year's Chunin examination," sensei explained.
“I’m surprised, Iruka,” Kakashi intervened, walking up beside me with hands dug into his pockets. “You’re alright with the possibility of Team Thirteen going into the exams so soon?”
Iruka sighed. “You were right, Kakashi. As much as I would like them to gain more experience, it’s not up to me. They aren’t my students anymore.” He looked saddened by his confession like a parent saying goodbye to his kids who were moving out. “Gachero-Sensei was no only testing Quorra to become a kunoichi, but to decide whether she was ready or not to perform in the examination.”
“I see, well,” Kakashi said. “Have you made your decision?” directing his question towards Gachero.
Without a word, Gachero walked up to the Hokage. “Lord Hokage, I, Gachero Kurosawa, will like to nominate Mae, Leda and Quorra into the Chunin examinations.”
Everything was happening too fast. One minute I became a kunoichi, the next I was nominated into the Chunin exams. Will the Hokage even allow that?
“Very well. Team Thirteen is now registered for the exam,” the Third announced.
Mae, Leda and I radiated with excitement. The others couldn’t hide their excitement either and ran over. Kiba made eye contact with me. His toothy grin spread across his face as he knew how much this meant to me. As he made his way into the crowd towards me, Mae ran to him and gave him a hug, surprising him.
Leda walked up to Sasuke and punched him, maybe a little too hard, in the shoulder. They must have gotten along some since I hid from society as he didn’t seem to mind.
As for me, I ran towards Sakura and Naruto. It felt like it has been too long since I’ve last seen them. We group hugged so tightly, Sakura didn’t even mind that Naruto was rubbing his head against hers.
“I smell an opportunity to celebrate with some ramen!” Naruto yelled.
I swear, this kid as a one-track mind. I thought, but he had a bright idea.“Alright, Naruto. Keep your pants on,” I laughed. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s celebrate!”
The group unanimously agreed with it being dinner time. We were about to head out when the door slammed open.
“Grandfather! Grandfather! Quorra was attacked!” Konohamaru yelled.
Oh shit, I forgot all about Konohamaru.
The boy ran blindly into me. “Hey, hey. I’m okay,” trying to calm his hysteria.
He realized it was me through his tears. “Quorra? But- but- but you were attacked by that scary guy.” He looked around the room, realizing for the first time we weren’t alone. His eyes landed on Gachero. “That’s him! That’s the guy! Grandfather, this man attacked Quorra. I saw him through the tree hole!”
Everyone laughed because Konohamaru missed out on the memo. “What?” He said, flustered. “It’s true!”
I patted his head. “It’s okay, Konohamaru. I’m alright. No one is attacking anyone anymore.”
“But-but-but,” he rambled.
I gave another quick pat as I headed to the door. “Come on, everyone. I’m starving!”
Naruto and the other weren’t hesitant as they waltzed out with me.
“Wait, you guys! W-what happened?” Konohamaru said in defeat as his grandfather stood behind him, smiling. “What did I miss?”