As I Wake

I Hate Carnivals

We signed our forms, handed them in, and proceeded to the designated room. There to greet us was Kakashi and Gachero-Sensei.

“I’m glad everyone came for your team’s sakes,” Kakashi said. “Now you all can take the Chunin exam.”

“What do you mean?” Sakura asked.

“You see, only groups of three are allowed to apply and take the exam. That’s the way it’s always been.”

“But I thought the decision to take the exam was up to the individual,” Mae stated.

“That’s right,” Gachero-Sensei answered. “It’s an individual decision, but it effects all of you.”

“I didn’t tell you this before because I didn’t want your fellow teammates to pressure you. It was a decision that I wanted everyone to come to on their own free will,” Kakashi added.

“You mean if the others showed up and I didn’t, they couldn’t compete?” I asked.

“Yes, Quorra. That would be the end of the line for Mae and Leda as well,” Gachero-Sensei concluded.

Leda was shocked by the news, understanding clearly now that if she gave up, Mae and I would’ve been forced to give up as well. Nudging Leda, I gave a small smirk. We all depended on each other.

“But everyone is here so we can begin,” Kakashi said. “Sakura, Naruto, Sasuke,” he stared affectionately at each of his unique students. “I’m proud of you. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Team Seven smiled at each other, or smirked in Sasuke’s case. Either way, their faces wore excitement and they were interested in getting this shindig started.

“I’m proud of my team, too,” Gachero-Sensei said. “I wouldn’t want any other team but this one.”

“That’s because you went on your knees,” Leda muttered, not so quietly. “And sucked someone’s –”

“Leda,” I hissed, elbowing her roughly.

Our sensei wore a puzzled look, not sure what the commotion was about. “What was that, Leda?” He rose a finely shaped brow.

“I said—”

“She wanted to know why us. Why is this team so special?” I interrupted, giving Leda the evil eye.

Whatever look of concern he wore before flashed from his deep blue eyes. “It’s no secret that I was intrigued when I heard of this group. There was lots of controversy over you girls forming into a team from the very beginning.”

I knew when he said controversy, he was referring to me. That I, the girl with no memories, past and nightmares, was still a problem for some in this village. Even though it doesn’t happen often, people would give me odd looks from time to time. Kakashi tried to reassure me that the citizens have experienced times when unfortunate circumstances came of out the wood works -- from things that could have been avoided if the citizens had prior knowledge. People were scared of things they didn’t know. People don’t want to give power or status to those they feared.

“But I believe in giving individuals a chance they deserve. And I truly am proud of you three and hope you believe in yourselves as much as I do.” Gachero’s eyes shined, glistening with promise.

It made sense why sensei was so “sketchy”. How could I have ever doubted him? Leda snorted but even she knew she had no reason not to trust him. It was still bothersome; however, that I felt like mentoring me has become some kind of noble deed— a community service project.

“Thank you, sensei,” Mae said, sincerely, bowing respectfully. I followed her led.

Leda did too, relentlessly. “Yeah, whatever. Thanks, I guess.”

Sensei smiled even with the lack of sincerity. “You must be off. Good luck in there.” Gachero-Sensei and Kakashi stepped off to the side, leaving the door accessible.

“I believe in you guys— all of you,” Kakashi said.

“We won’t let you down sensei, believe it,” Naruto cheered. His positivity helped fuel my insecurity of being here.

Sakura and Sasuke each pushed one of the double doors and the six of us entered.

Before I fully entered the exam room, Kakashi grabbed my wrist. “Hold on, Quorra.”

Kakashi didn’t keep me long as I reunited the five. I wished I was better prepared for the number of shinobi that were held inside. Hordes of shinobi crowded eagerly, all ranging in shapes and sizes. Different headbands were worn, symbolizing the vastness of this world and my lack of knowledge in it.

“Holy fuck.”

“Nice of you to join us,” Mae joked. A bit of anxiousness seeped from her features. “There’s… a lot of people here.”

“Yeah, too many for my liking.” Leda said, sourly.

Naruto looked as lost as I felt while Sakura was too busy brooding over Sasuke’s latest fan girl.

“Sasuke, where have you been?” Ino giggled, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I missed those good looks of yours.”

“Hey! Back off you Porker.” Steam blew from Sakura’s ears. If there was one thing I didn’t have to worry about with Sasuke, it was other girls when Sakura was around. “He’s mine!”

“Miss Forehead Girl, they let you in? Still got those frown lines on your big billboard brow, I see.”

“Leave my forehead out of it!”

Ino stuck her tongue out, mockingly.

“I knew this would be troublesome,” said a boy. “But I didn’t think it would be this troublesome.”

The boy had hair that looked like it was struck by lightning, black and stuck up in a ponytail. He wore a grey short-sleeved jacket under a mesh shirt. Another boy stood next to him eating a bag of chips, satisfied.

“That’s Shikamaru Nara,” Naruto informed me. “Always complaining, never does anything about it. He’s the laziest boy I know. And the muncher,” pointing to the boy next to Shikamaru with a forehead protector that allowed two tufts of hair to poke out at each side. “That’s Choji Akimichi, or rather, Akimunchy. I bet he would eat his own head if he could.”

“Hey, you know what pip-squeak,” Shikamaru threatened. “Ah, forget it. You’re a waste of time.”

Naruto shrugged his cocky shoulders. “What’d I tell you? Too lazy to even argue back. Them plus Ino Yamanaka makes the marvelous Team Ten,” he said, full of sarcasm.

Shikamaru’s narrow brown eyes shot daggers. Choji continued to eat, making the swirl patterns on his cheeks move furiously up and down. Ino was too engulfed with marking her territory and pissing off Sakura to even notice.

“They sure are something,” I said to Naruto.

He snorted. “Yeah, something alright. Like circus clowns.”

“Hey, watch it,” Shikamaru pointed. “Don’t underestimate us.” Naruto ignored his threat with a laugh.

“Well, well, what do you know? It looks like everyone decided to show up,” called Kiba, waltzing up with his teammates all smug.

“Hey, Kiba!” Mae called.

“Hello, Naruto,” Kiba’s shy teammate, Hinata, said.

Naruto gave a puzzled look like he couldn’t hear her which was a strong possibility on the account that Hinata talked barely higher than a whisper. The quiet Hyuuga turned shades of red.

Kiba smiled in my direction. “Glad you made it, Quorra!”

“Guess we are all here then,” Leda said with little enthusiasm.

“The twelve rookies!” Mae beamed. “Isn’t that right, Kiba?”

“Hell yeah!” Kiba replied making Mae’s cheeks flush.

“We’re still going to kick your ass,” I added with a sneer.

“Woah, woah, woah,” Kiba put his hands up. “Your team is going to kick my team’s ass? I think you got it turned around.” Compared to this other teammates who preferred to keep quiet, Kiba was a big time instigator.

“A little overconfident are you?” I replied enjoying a little competition.

“We’ve been training like crazy,” Kiba said. “We’re going to blow you all away.”

“You guys must have grown stronger with all that training!” Mae blurted.

“Do you even know what training means, Dog-boy?” Leda asked, picking her nails with boredom.

“I’m s-sure Kiba didn’t mean it-it like that,” Hinata said.

Leda didn’t care. “Zip it, Mute.”

“Hey, you guys. You might want to try keeping it down a little,” called a guy who I didn’t recognized. “I mean no offense but you’re the twelve rookies, right? I wouldn’t go make a spectacle of yourselves,” he warned, pushing his overly round glasses up his nose. “This isn’t a class field trip you know.”

“Who asked you? Who are you?” Ino snapped.

“I’m with BB here,” Leda added.

“BB?” Mae asked.

“Yeah,” Leda spoke louder. “BB. Blonde Bimbo.”

“Hey!” Ino yelled.

The new guy ignored the girls’ quarrel. “I’m Kabuto Yakushi. But really, look around you. You are making quite the impression.”

We all stared at the mob of eyes that glared at us with power and greed. All from different lands but all with the same goal, to become a chunin. By the looks of it, they were willing to do anything to claim that title. They’re not afraid to get their hands stained with the inexperienced.

In the crowd, I spotted sea foam green eyes. In the seas of darkness, the Loch ness Monster’s eyes glow. Distinctive chills ran down my spine despite all this time since I saw him last. He glared at me. His teammates stood beside him still intact, at least for now. Hatred and power radiated off him, warmer than the rays of Hades. I still didn’t recognize him. I felt no recollection, but I needed to find out for sure.

An ominous presence even stronger broke my concentration on Gaara. Three sound genin— two boys, one girl, glared at myself and my fellow rookies. They looked young themselves with, unlike Gaara, hatred towards us. We were ambitious and rowdy, to say the least, but it felt they had a vendetta against us. I should have warned the others but I kept it to myself, for now. I needed to keep an eye on them.

“See those guys?” Kabuto continued. “They’re very touchy, they all are. This exam makes everyone tense and you don’t want to rub them the wrong way.” His voice was deep, dense like fog over a prairie.

But the fog lifted with a gestured smile. “But you can't help it. I mean, how could you know how things work? You’re just rookies. You remind me of myself a while back.”

“This isn’t the first time you have taken the exams?” Sakura asked.

“No it’s…my seventh.”

The rookies and I stared at Kabuto like he was a lost puppy.

“Well, the exam is held twice a year,” Kabuto explained. “Making this my fourth year.”

“You must be an expert by now,” Mae exclaimed, fascinated by Kabuto’s wisdom and experience.

“Yeah, sort of.”

“Cool! You can give us the inside tips,” Naruto said.

“Yeah, some expert. He’s never passed,” Sasuke dissed.

“Well, they say seventh time’s the charm,” Kabuto rubbed his grey ponytail head with embarrassment.

“So it’s true what they say about the exams being tough. Oh, man. I knew this was going to be a drag,” Shikamaru complained.

“Hold on. Don’t give up yet,” Kabuto reassured. “Maybe I could help you kids out a little— with my ninja information cards.” He took a stack of cards out of his pouch and fanning them in his hands.

“What the heck are those?” Sakura asked.

“These cards are chakra encoded with everything I have learned in the past four years. I’ve got more than 200 of them. So you see, I haven’t been completely wasting my time.” Kabuto placed his thick pile of cards on the ground. “They might not look like much to the naked eye,” he said flipping the card over, revealing it to be blank. “But if I infuse my chakra into the cards.” He spun the card with his finger. “It will reveal their secrets.”

“It’s a map,” I said. The card revealed the map of the world and all their nations. Even though the card was small, seeing all those unknown territories made me feel even smaller.

“Correct,” Kabuto confirmed. “It shows the geographic distribution of all the candidates who come to take the Chunin exam, what village they come from, and how many from each village. Now, why do you think they come here and take the exams at the same time?” Everyone looked around clueless.

“To make things fair,” Mae explained, pushing her glasses up to examine the card closely.

“Exactly. It’s the foster friendship between nations. International brotherhood and whatnot.”

“Nice one, Mae! I had no clue,” Kiba condoled.

Mae looked shocked from the sudden admiration. “Oh, it-it was nothing.”

“But there’s another reason,” Sasuke said.

“Yeah. Also, this way, they can regulate the total number of shinobi that end up in each village; therefore, maintaining the balance of power.”

“Oh, right. Balance of power, believe it.” Naruto nodded, but knowing him, he had no clue what Kabuto was talking about.

“Balance of power. Big deal. It’s all a drag,” said Shikamaru.

“If the balance isn’t maintained, one nation could end up with many more shinobi than its neighbors and could be tempted to attack them. So they try to maintain the status quo. Makes sense, I suppose,” Kabuto concluded.

Mae's fascination grew with each syllable. Any reason to learn and she was on it like it's her gateway drug. Sasuke continued asking questions about certain people and what Kabuto had on them.

“I don’t trust four eyes,” Leda muttered to me. “Why does he want to help a bunch of rookies?”

I didn’t scold Leda on her rudeness for once because, truth be told, she had a point. Her extreme dislike for anyone and everyone made sense this time. Why would Kabuto want to help us kids? What does he gain in doing so?

“Maybe he’s just trying to be a good guy. You know, good karma.” I said, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Leda snorted with disbelief. “There’s no such thing as good people. Only lesser of two evils.” Mae shushed her as she was trying to concentrate on Kabuto’s wisdom.

I was prepared to fall back into Kabuto’s encyclopedia mind as a whistle blew. It wasn’t an actual whistle but a human whistle sung in an affectionate tune. I soon figured out, it was for Leda.

“Hey, Sweet Ass, over here,” called a boy with pastel pink and blue hair— looking like he belonged in a carnival. He perched on top of a desk with his two teammates, who joined him on the fun.

Leda, like she was Akamaru, growled. She was about to say something as I once again stopped her. “Ignore them. They are just trying to rile you up.” She surprisingly obeyed as the trio continued their harassment with yips and calls.

“Let me take a good chunk of that ass,” he called, using his hands for emphasis.

It was sizzling Leda’s short fuse even shorter. Any minute now and she will erupt into a pit of death and pain— her words, not mine.

In an attempt to stop them, I walked around Leda to block their view. They didn’t appreciate the gesture.

“Move out of the way, Flat Chest,” the boy taunted. His teammates chuckled agreeably.

I felt the tips of my ears sting, knowing they were red. Just ignore them, Quorra, I told myself. No need to make a scene.

“Hey,” he called, louder, cupping his hands around his mouth. “I said, move it, Bitch. You’re blocking the merchandise!”

Leda was loaded weapon, all that was left was to pull the trigger. But I, the one who said to calmly ignore them, beat her to it.

“Are you deaf?! I said—”

“Oh, I’ll give you a view! You Cotton Candy headed little fuck!” I yelled as I charged at him, jumping over desks as if it was my life mission. The boy stared in horror as he was too slow to move out of the way from my rage.

Tackling him, his and my bull-like body topped the desk over— a tangle of kicking legs.

“You wanna add a few more colors to that hair of yours, Buddy?” I sassed, shaking him. Whimpers escaped his throat, his eyes bugged. “I think red will match nicely, don’t you think?”

“Help me! This bitch is crazy!” The boy with color vomit hair whimpered louder. His teammates jumped back. They didn’t help their fallen comrade, afraid they too would be caught in the hell storm.

“Don’t you think?” I asked again, slamming his fragile skull into the hard linoleum.

“Yes! Yes, red! I like red!” he wailed. “Just don’t hurt me!”

“Oh, no,” I reassured. “This won’t hurt a bit.” I pull my arm back, revving for the first punch, as a pair of arms wrapped roughly around my waist.

“Let go of me!” I yelled. “I want to watch him bleed!”

“You’re supposed to be laying low,” Kabuto struggled to talk, trying to pull my resisting body out of the mosh pit.

The boy quickly sat up. His hair astray and tousled just like the look on his face. “Yeah, tell your ugly, flat-chested friend to cool it.”

“Why, you!” I yelled, kicking and trying to rip out of poor Kabuto’s desperate grasps. The boy jumped back, scared I was going to break free and attack.

“Hey!” Leda stood on a chair. “Don’t you dare talk to my teammate like that! Only I can make fun of her mosquito bites!”

Leda and I hurled insults at our opponent as Mae shrieked for us to stop. Kabuto clung for dear life as my limbs kicked and scrambled for an escape.

Kiba yelled something along the lines that I was ‘going to get us killed’ as he yelled back at the troublesome boys that he was ‘going to kill them.’

Naruto jumped on the chair besides Leda. “I’m going to beat every single one of you, believe it!”

“We’re going to kick your scrawny asses!” Leda proved her point by pulling her pants down far enough to expose her bottom, mooning the contestants. Some whistled, entertained. Most were dead quiet— eyeing her.

She laughed as she slapped her ass. “Get a good look at it, bitches. You’re going to see a lot of this backside as we cream you!”

Naruto followed Leda’s led and turned to smack his own bottom. “Believe it!”

“Tell your boyfriend to cut it out before we all get killed,” Ino reprimanded Sakura.

“He is not my boyfriend, you pig,” Sakura snapped which ignited an argument between the Sasuke-loving kunoichi.

“Oh, bother. What a drag,” Shikamaru rolled his eyed.

It was chaos among the rookies. A brawl would have surely broke out if we weren’t stopped.

“That’s enough,” boomed an adult voice which carried throughout the large, crowded room.

Everyone froze in place. Leda's ass out, my hands in Cotton Candy's hair, Kabuto froze has he dropped me. The adult who yelled was a very tall, lean man with a leaf symbol bandanna on this head. Two large, deep scars ran across his face, from brow to jaw.

“I’m Ibiki Morino, your proctor and from this moment on, your worse enemy,” he smiled as if proud to be hated.

He continued to reprimand the crowd. “I’ll say this once so listen up. There will be no combat between candidates. No attacking each other without the permission of your proctor and even then the use of fatal force is strictly prohibited. Anyone who thinks of messing with me will be disqualified immediately, got it?”

No one replied in fear of being kicked out of the exams before they even begin. Some nodded their head, agreeably. Cotton Candy boy and his teammates stood quietly, shaking like a leaf. Others gave a cold stare to the man who determined whether they passed or failed.

Ibiki cleared his throat. “Now, enough with your pettiness. Save it for the exam. It’s time to begin.”

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