“You have the fire element?”
“Wow, you’re so lucky!”
“I’m only going to be a Medic…”
Never once in my life had I considered myself lucky.
Because this little flame destroyed everything in my life.
“Mama, look what I can do!”
When I was younger, I never really knew that I wasn’t supposed to show my power to anyone. But it wasn’t like I asked for it. I was just… born with it.
And when I’d showed my mother, I expected her to smile and say, “Wow, good job, Sakura! Will you show me again?”
But to this day, I clearly remembered what she’d said.
She slapped me across the face and shoved me in my room, locking the door on me as well. At that age, I never understood. That I was a freak. I thought that my power was pretty cool, I could make fire come out of my hands! At that age, I never understood that people like me were considered as outcasts.
The next day, when I deemed it safe for me to come out, I went to my mother’s bedroom and didn’t find her there. She’d left, leaving me under the care of my older brother.
All because of my power.
Of course, I didn’t understand that as well. I spent that whole day bawling my eyes out because I didn’t know why my mother had left. I thought that she would’ve enjoyed the little bursts of warmth coming from my hands, but instead, she had abandoned me because of it.
I was pretty sure then that my brother hated me too. I had just left him motherless and in charge of a child because of me. But the way he didn’t blame me, the way he told me that everything would be alright made the guilt inside eat away at me even more.
After that, I learned not to show anyone my power. If my own mother had despised me because of it, who knew what my neighbors and total strangers would do? They’d probably be looking to kill me if they knew. So I kept my powers hidden deep inside, hoping that they’d never surface again.
But how impossible that was. I couldn’t control my power. I had only been eight at the time! Every emotional outburst I had released it. Every time I was angry, sad, happy, excited, it would come out. It was like a non-stop storm. Only when I was with my brother, could I control them.
Because he was concerned for my safety and others, my brother decided to homeschool me instead. He didn’t want people to find out and tell the adults at home about me. So he dropped the both of us out of school and taught me at home.
He was ten years my senior, so being eighteen and all, he didn’t really miss a really critical time in his education. If he did continue, all he would’ve done was graduate and then find a job. “This way, I can work and be with my cute little sister,” he had told me.
At first, it was a little frustrating. I really missed my friends, and I still didn’t understand why I was being kept away from people. I think my brother had explained it to me countless times before I got it, but my frustrations just got in the way.
But when I really, truly did understand why, learning from him got much easier. In the mornings, he would go out to his part-time job and then come home and teach me in the afternoons. That way, we had plenty of money for the two of us, and he didn’t have to pay for my education. “We could go on like this forever!” He said to me one day.
That never happened.
I should’ve been more careful, I should’ve thought better of myself. But curiosity got the better of me, and I paid the price. When I was about thirteen, I was sitting in my room, waiting for my brother to come back. By then, I understood why I was being kept from all the other kids, and why he was homeschooling me. But then, I thought I could finally control my power. I thought that I knew what it took to control that flame and let it loose.
I had never made a bigger mistake in my entire life.
The flame went out of control, burning everything around me. It scorched the walls of my room and burned my possessions to a crisp. By the time it had died down, my room was unrecognizable. The walls and ceiling were covered in soot and everything around me were just piles of ashes. When my brother came home, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t yell at me for not being able to control it at all. Instead, he looked at my room and then hugged me, telling me how relieved he was that I was unharmed. Then he had a serious expression on his face and told me that I should never release any flame of that size and strength ever again. I didn’t talk back. I totally agreed.
But one thing that I hadn’t known was that one of my neighbors had watched everything happen out my bedroom window while I was totally unaware. Soon, word got around pretty fast, and everyone was knocking on our door, demanding that they be able to see the inside of my room after my brother had blocked the view on my window with wooden planks. During that time, it was difficult to learn with my brother with all the noise going on. Every day, I wanted to go outside and burn them all to a crisp. My brother would always be bombarded with questions as soon as he stepped outside to go to work. “We’ll get through this,” he had said.
We never did.
At least, one of us didn’t.
To this day, I don’t even know how it had happened, but our house was demolished, blown up by some unknown force with me and my brother almost being swept away by the debris. I was knocked unconscious by the blast, but I didn’t know what had happened to my brother.
“Sa… kura…” I heard my brother’s feeble voice as soon as it was clear that who had done this had left. My eyes were wide, unbelieving as I saw the hilt of a knife protruding from his back, blood seeping into his clothes and trickling out of the corner of his mouth. He had thrown himself over me, protecting me from that dagger that I would’ve gotten.
I couldn’t believe it. My brother had died, to save me. He was dead, all because of me. And the most unbelieving thing was what he said to me right before he died.
“Find your own happiness, Sakura.”
I now went to a special training base for kids that were just like me. Turned out the government had a use for people like us. After many years of research even before I was born, they found a way to teach us how to control our powers and use them for good.
They called people like me Demons, the reasoning being that we had to have been demons to be able to control things that only God himself could have. This label began when an extreme right-wing geezer in the government went on a rant about the whole lot of us, spitting out curses against us and accusing us of being the servants of the devil. The name was used over and over again in his rampant speeches that eventually, the name stuck.
After even more research, they found that there were only five main types of “elements.” Fire, wind, earth, lightning, and water. There was a sixth type, but that was only “reinforcement.” Basically, if a Demon got tired from using too much of their power, another person with the “reinforcement” power could give them some of their energy, and they could keep going. Those people were just referred to as Medics.
Since I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and anywhere was better than being left homeless, I decided, why not, and joined the base. It turned out that a lot of the kids there my age had gone through what I had. Who cared if they were their parents, even mothers and fathers were human as well, conforming to society’s standards of labeling people like me as irregular.
At first, as I listened to people’s stories of how they had been left alone, some abandoned in the middle of night, some even told right to their faces that they had to be left on their own, I felt resentment build up inside of me. At least I’d had an older brother to take care of me when my mother left. Most of the children I’d talked to were only children, left to take care of themselves. As a parent, as a person who had sworn to live for the child and love the child, how could they just leave so easily in the dead of night?
As new recruits filed in, it became a sort of tradition for the seniors to listen to the stories of how the newbies managed to end up in the base, all huddled around a single coffee table in a single dorm room, usually one room per dorm building. We all expected the usual: they used their power accidentally, their parents got mad, and then they left them. They’d cry, and we’d sympathize with them, telling them how it was the same for all of us.
Then the little ones began to come in, and as we saw them, we were outraged. These were kids who were nine, ten years old! By that time, I was already well into my sixteenth year, and I was already used to the sob stories of abandonment. But as we asked them before going to bed, what had happened, they just looked up and said, “My mom sent me here. She said she would come visit soon.”
We all wanted to laugh at that because from what we had all experienced, there was no way that there was a parent who cared enough to send their kids to the camp, let alone visit them. We had told them in the nicest way we could to spare them from building their hope up too much, but they didn’t listen. “Whatever. She’s going to come.”
And to our collective surprise, they did. All the little ones were visited by their parents as frequently as every week. All the upperclassmen were stunned, what was this abrupt change in the attitude towards the people like us? We had expected decades to go by without a change in our situation, but here it was without warning, raising our hopes of being treated like a normal human being.
I had asked a teacher about the sudden events and what his thoughts were on the country’s new outlook on us. He was also a Demon, surprisingly one of the few who taught at the camp. The moment the question left my lips, he slammed his fists down onto his desk, saying loudly, “You think that’s what’s going to happen, but trust me kid, they’ll never treat us fairly. As long as we’re fated to be the villains of the story, this country and its government will string us up and use us for their own benefits!”
The next day, he disappeared, and no one ever saw him again.
Despite the absence of a teacher, training went on as usual. One day, towards the end of my stay, however, instead of being herded out into the training sites, we were seated down in desks with sheets of paper presented to us. Because of the growth in trainees whose parents were still sticking around, we had to fill out documents about our home life. I didn’t even bother picking up the pencil. I was an orphan, after all.
Many others were in the same boat that I was in, sitting back and looking around or sleeping right away with their heads on their desks without even reading through the papers. I recognized a few of them from all the story time gatherings in the dorm rooms we’d had. My eyes wandered some more when they noticed something: Uchiha Sasuke wasn’t writing anything down either.
Sasuke was a gloomy fellow whose expression and mood were always the same no matter what he did. Black hair spiked up towards the back of his head while long bangs covered nearly half his frowning face. He hardly ever spoke a word, and if he did, he was always snapping or muttering something under his breath. He was also the heartthrob of the base, and many of the girls had what I saw as unreasonable crushes on him. I never understood, but they all found his foul and gloomy attitude, as well as the hair that always covered his face, attractive.
I did admit at some point that the features of his face weren’t bad; he was actually very attractive, if only he could get rid of his stupid attitude that said that his life was the worst of the worst.
And there was Uzumaki Naruto, skipping through some portions and quickly scribbling things down. He was the only continuous friend I had at the base. He also was motherless, but his father took care of him. He had spiky blonde hair that seemed to stick up no matter what he did, and his blue eyes were always happy, no matter the situation. He was loud, the classic optimist of the group, complained openly in front of the teachers, and then always got his ass handed to him. He didn’t seem to mind the whole Demon thing and was actually really fascinated by others and their abilities.
I could hear some of the older kids whispering amongst themselves, wondering why on earth we were required to do this if we were going to leave pretty soon.
Ah, that was right.
We were going back to the real world now.
Five years of training was all that we needed. Seemed coincidental because eighteen was when my brother had left his education, sort of like what I would be doing in a little while.
Nobody was perfectly the same age. There were people a few years older than me and a few that were younger than me. But we were all around the same age group, about a maximum of a five year gap. It turned out that Naruto was a year older than me and so was Sasuke. When I first found this out, it felt awkward, like these were my potential older brothers who were in the same “class” as me.
At the “graduation,” they explained what would happen with us. It was simple: we’d be put into teams of five (one to two medics and three to four Demons) and we’d accept jobs from the government and earn a living that way. It didn’t seem bad. It didn’t seem bad at all.
They went by last name, so it took a while before I was called up. I responded, stepped up, received a katana, and stepped back to where I was standing in the row.
It was weird, receiving a katana in this day and age. Guns were the more popular item of warfare and all sorts of projectile weapons were used by countries everywhere. But these were special katana, they had told us. Another thing that scientists had found out was that they could make a metal in which we could channel our powers. I could release my power and the blade would be engulfed in flames, ready for me to use as a dangerous weapon and just basically an extension of the flames on my hands.
The thing I hadn’t known was that the knife that had killed my brother had been made from the same material. Its hilt was fairly standard, not too bad, but also not the best of the best, and the blade had an intricate dragon carved into both sides. When I had been fiddling with it one night in the dorms, it suddenly burst into flame. This meant only two things: the people who were after me were also Demons and saw me as a potential threat, or it was just pure coincidence that they had that type of metal.
I’d never intended to keep the knife for very long. After my brother died, I swore revenge and kept it, hoping to run into the assholes again. But I remembered his last words to me: “Find your own happiness, Sakura.” I kept the knife, to only be reminded of him now and then. After all, that was all I had left of my beloved brother.
“And the next team…” So far, my name hadn’t been called for teams yet. Naruto’s hadn’t been either, which meant that there was a better chance for us to be on the same team.
“Haruno Sakura.” I looked up at the sound of my name. Who would be my teammates?
“Uzumaki Naruto.” A big grin found its way to my lips and I turned around to see the excitement in his eyes.
“Uzumaki Karin.” Uzumaki? Was she related to Naruto in any way? Seeing Naruto shrug and shake his head, I turned back to the front for the rest of my teammates’ names.
“Inuzuka Kiba.” Ah, Kiba. I knew him. He seemed like a pretty nice kid.
“And Uchiha Sasuke. You five will be deployed in the center at Kyoto.” My eyes widened at the last name that had been called. Sasuke? Sasuke was in our group? The same Sasuke who saw everything as a pain? That Sasuke?
I looked over at him, only to find him with a bored and annoyed expression to his face. Sighing, I turned back to the front. Sure, he was he was pretty skilled, but he was a complete jerk, wasn’t he?
“And that’s it for this year’s trainees. Good luck to you all!”
Yeah, good luck was what I needed at the moment.
“So…” I looked at my new teammates. “Hi?”
I hadn’t expected it to be so awkward. All the other teams had already gotten to know each other, with mine just idly standing by.
“Ok, um, my names Haruno Sakura!” I introduced myself, hoping to get a conversation going. “I’m eighteen years old, and –”
I froze as I heard Sasuke’s cold voice cut me off. I knew that he could be harsh, but not to this extent.
“Hey, what’s your problem?” Naruto asked and grabbed his shoulder. “She’s only trying to get to know you guys since you guys aren’t doing much to help!”
To my right, I could hear Karin sigh. “Boys…”
Kiba only shrugged and crossed his arms, wanting to do nothing with the conflict. “Inuzuka Kiba here, that’s all I’m gonna say.”
“All I’m interested in here is to make money and survive. I don’t do this whole ‘teammate’ shit and I sure don’t need you idiots getting in my way of doing things. Whoever or whatever we go up against, I’ll be enough to take them down.” Glaring at Naruto, Sasuke yanked his arms off and turned away to leave.
Yes, I was going to need a lot of luck.
“Guys, we have to pick out a job…” I sighed as I saw the uncooperativeness of my teammates. “Guys!”
Karin shrugged as Kiba was fawning over a dog (a bear would be more like it; the thing was huge) that he’d found on the streets and declared was going to be called Akamaru.
Naruto was standing beside me, the only one who had been helping me with the group. “Let’s choose an easy one first.” He said, scanning the bulletin board tacked with job flyers, “See how well our teamwork is.”
Sasuke only scoffed and leaned back in the chair he was sitting in. “What, you scared you’ll lose?”
Naruto didn’t react as hotly as he had the other day. “No, I’m just worried that some of us will just run off and do whatever they want and put the whole team in danger.” He stared pointedly at Sasuke, who didn’t say anything back. “Plus, we have two Medics on our team. That means us three Demons will have to protect them if we want them to help us.”
“Correction.” Kiba called out, petting his new dog, Akamaru. “I may be a Medic, but I’m still good with close combat. Plus,” he added, scratching Akamaru behind the ears, “I can train Akamaru to fight too. I might not look like it, but I’m good with dogs.”
Naruto nodded and smiled. “Good, then four combatants, plus a dog. Karin, can you fight?”
She shook her head with a smirk upon her lips. “Nope, you bitches better protect me.”
I groaned, annoyed at hearing her talking like that. “Well, keep in mind that Kiba’s also a medic, so you aren’t always going to be top priority!”
She raised a brow, seeming to question what I’d just said, then smiled. “Oh ho, so little Sakura’s rebelling against her senior, eh?” She walked over to me and whispered, “You know, if you were to get hurt, who’s going to heal the awkward places of your body, me or Kiba?”
My face turned red at the realization of what she had said. “Wh-wha– I, uh… Pffff– Gah–”
She started laughing and put her hand on my top of my head. “Nah, just kidding. I know that I can’t have you guys protect me 24/7 if we want the job to be a success. And Sakura, you’re too easy to mess around with. Cute, sorta like the little sister I never had.”
She turned towards the bulletin board and started looking through all the possible jobs we could take. “But Naruto’s right, we need to take an easy job to see how well we can work together with…” She glanced at Sasuke, “him.”
Kiba sighed and got up from where he was sitting too. “Hey, I’m a part of this team and I get to have a say in what we do.” He walked over to where we were. Naruto and I smiled at each other, glad at the positive change in our teammates.
“Sasuke, you come over here too.” Using her “powers” as the oldest in the team, Karin waved for Sasuke to join us as well.
Groaning, he got up and instead, walked away from us. “You guys take forever. Tell me when you’ve finally one picked out. I’ll be in our room.”
“Asshole.” Karin scoffed and turned back towards the board. “Leave him be, he’s stuck with us so he’ll eventually come around. So then, we still need to find a job…”
“So, can you cook?” Karin asked as soon as we got back to our dorms.
We were lucky that we hadn’t been moved too far from the base camp we lived at for five years (just thinking about the train ride with these people was horrible). Although there were other bases around the country, it was decided that having all the Demons in one place wasn’t a good choice. We were sent to live in government-built apartments and take jobs from time to time and maybe even move out after buying a house with the money earned. But with our current situation, I didn’t think that would be anytime soon.
I shook my head and set the groceries on the kitchen counter. “My older brother made all the meals and then I joined the base.”
Karin sighed and began to take the food and put them in their respective places. “Huh, you’re more hopeless than I thought you would be.”
“Wh-what’s that supposed to mean!?” I cried, my face red. “I mean, I can cook some stuff like hot pockets and ramen and –”
Taking out a frying pan, she place it on the stove and turned the gas on. “Here, I’ll teach you.” She grinned and added, “You know, so that you don’t use all the money we earn on food from restaurants.”
“Dinner’s ready!” Karin called while I was setting the table.
“Man, I’m hungry!” Naruto’s voice could be heard down the hall as he came out of his room. “Wow that looks great!” He cried as he sat down. “Time to eat – !” He was about to dig in when Karin snapped the chopsticks out of his hands.
“Nope, you have to wait for everyone else before eating. Isn’t that what a family does?”
He stuck his lower lip out in a pout and turned away from her. “Fine,” he mumbled.
“Well, something smells good.” Kiba strolled into the kitchen with Akamaru trailing behind him. “Right, Akamaru?”
I thought that being in a small apartment made Akamaru look even bigger. His height came up to Kiba’s waist, and he was almost big enough for someone to ride (how nobody noticed such a dog on the streets, I had no idea). Surprisingly, he was extremely friendly to everyone, even Sasuke. He had white fur that coated his body with floppy ears that hung on the sides of his head. He always seemed to be happy, which could’ve been because of his squinty eyes. Either way, Akamaru was the team pet.
“Sasuke!” Karin yelled down the hallway to our bedrooms, the rest of us seated and waiting. “Come eat with us!”
Still no response.
“That little…” Karin muttered under her breath and disappeared towards his room.
“You think he’ll listen to her?” Kiba asked and I shrugged.
“Maybe. Who knows?”
Naruto grinned and chuckled. “Man it’d be funny if he was afraid of her.” He moved his hands in big motions, imagining Karin socking Sasuke one in the stomach.
“Ow! Let go! I told you that I’m not eating! Ah!”
Surprised by the sudden outburst, we all looked up from the table to see Sasuke being dragged into the kitchen by his ear.
Karin almost threw Sasuke into his chair, resulting in a few elbows being jabbed and utensils being clattered. “Jesus Christ… That hurt!” Sasuke yelled, and Karin smiled.
“That’s why you should’ve listened to me. Then you wouldn’t have had to face the humiliation of me dragging you in by the ear in front of everyone.” She sat down in her seat and began to eat like nothing happened.
Stifling a giggle, I began to dig in when I saw Kiba nudge Sasuke’s elbow. “Hehe… Dragged in by the ear, huh?”
Turning slightly red, Sasuke turned away and was suddenly really concentrated on his food. “Sh-shut up!”
“Ehh, look at him turn red!” Naruto laughed, “So he can be a human after all.”
Sasuke sighed and said nothing more. “I just don’t like people…”
“Huh!?” Kiba cupped his hand and mockingly put it to his ear. “I can’t really hear you!”
“I said that I don’t really like people.”
“I can’t hear you!”
“I said that I don’t really like people!!” Sasuke roared and everyone fell silent, staring at him. “Ah, fuck…” He muttered, face-palming. “Whatever. Just forget it.” He finished the last few bites of his meal and got up to leave. “I’ll be in my room.”
Naruto gave a look back to where he disappeared and made a face. “What was all that?”
Karin shrugged, not wanting to drag him back out again. “Just leave him be. Like I said, he’s stuck with us for the rest of his career so he’ll come around eventually.”
I stared back down at the food on my plate and thought of what Sasuke had said before leaving.
I’ll be in my room.
He really did want us to care.