Chapter 13- The Memorial
"I wouldn't have offered if I wasn't willing to listen." Iruka smiled at her. "Come on. It always helps to talk."
"Well, it's silly really. I feel like Raido's avoiding me all of sudden and everyone knows about it but me." She felt really silly and immature now. She hadn't seen him in twenty four hours and she was whining already. Now she knew why he didn't want a girlfriend.
"I'm sure he's not avoiding you. You'll see."
"I guess. It's just when I ask, everyone gets very uncomfortable and seems like their making excuses for him. And on top of that, I got lost going home last night, and Kakashi had to help me get home. How embarrassing! And he said something because Sakura came and picked me up this morning."
"Don't be embarrassed. Konoha's a confusing village and it's easy to get lost. I should have walked you home."
She laughed, "It's my fault for turning you down."
The rest of the day had gone quickly and when the kids had gone and they'd cleaned up Iruka said, "Did you want me to walk you home?" She could hear the teasing in his voice and she laughed with him but before she could answer she heard Genma speak up.
"Actually I was hoping to do that today, Iruka. I'll fight you for the chance."
Iruka laughed, "You're too good for me, Genma. No point in starting a fight I know I'd lose."
Genma said, "Then I guess I get the honor." He smiled at her and continued, "I wondered if you wanted tea on the way home?"
Kiyoko wasn't sure what to do with this man. Last night he couldn't get away fast enough now he was asking her out for tea. "I have tea at my place if you'd prefer."
Iruka yelled after them as they left "Genma, behave yourself!"
"What does he mean by that?"
"Nothing. He's just teasing me. There's a lot of that."
"I'd noticed." She wondered if it was due to the dangerous nature of their jobs that they were so hard on each other.
They were walking along the road towards her apartment, both deep in thought.
"What are you thinking about?" Genma asked as he watched emotions play across her face.
She blushed, she'd been thinking about the kiss Raido had given her and how much she'd like another one but she wasn't about to say that to Genma.
"Just how much a few days and a few Konoha shinobi have changed my life. Not even a week ago I was sold as a slave to two of the most disgusting men I've ever seen in my life and today I'm walking down the street, a free woman, with a job, an apartment and a handsome shinobi next to me."
Genma grinned at her, she was so sweet and innocent, he understood why Raido had asked him to look after her.
She was blushing and mortified, "That sounded like flirting! I wasn't flirting!"
"Nah. I have that effect on women. I'm used to it. And I know you have your eye on Raido anyway."
Yes, she thought, but does he have his eye on me? "Yeah, well if he avoids me it won't matter will it?" She groaned, she hadn't meant to say that out loud.
Genma stopped in the road and turned to face her, "Kiyoko."
She'd done it now, put her foot in her mouth. If her fate hadn't been sealed it would be after this. "Yes?"
"Raido is not avoiding you." He turned back to the road and kept walking. "Come on. I want to show you something."
She walked beside him in silence for a while thinking about what he'd said, Raido's not avoiding you. Well, if he wasn't avoiding her then what was he doing? Just avoiding her, maybe Genma was supposed to distract her in the hopes that she would forget or move on. She sighed, she'd messed this one up, or rather Fumio and Kin, that stupid slave trader, what was his name, Yori, and her stupid step-mother, they'd messed it, and her, up. She wondered if life would ever get back to normal.
Genma walked beside her watching her face. She'd had the worst few weeks anyone could imagine. He heard her sigh. "That was a big sigh. Want to talk?"
She smirked, "Everyone keeps saying that to me. Even Sakura. She said this morning that if I wanted to talk to someone she was willing to listen. As if I could tell a girl her age what's happened to me! She'd have nightmares for weeks. And talking about it is why..." she trailed off, she was going to say that talking had led to the kiss and that had led to Raido avoiding her, but she didn't want to say it again. And she didn't know if Genma even knew about the kiss.
They'd arrived at what looked like a monument carved out of black stone with names etched into it.
Genma turned to her, "Kiyoko, shinobi grow up fast here. Sakura has already seen battle and had one of her teammates run off with a criminal. She wouldn't have nightmares from your story. I'm not telling you to tell it to her, just saying that you'll have to try harder than slave trading to frighten her."
Kiyoko was stunned. "But she's so young."
"I know. That's the price of being a shinobi. And she wouldn't have it any other way. Here, this is what I wanted to show you. This is the memorial for our fallen shinobi. This is how we remember our loved ones."
Kiyoko walked up to the memorial and reached out to touch it but then pulled her hand back, unsure.
"You can touch it, if you want to. We keep this here so that their memory stays with us."
"Do you know anyone on this monument then?" She was tracing the names with her fingers.
"More than I'd care to admit. But..." He was interrupted by someone behind them.
"We're lucky enough to have new friends and new teammates to fill the emptiness that their loss has left behind." Kakashi finished Genma's sentence.
"Right. Hi there Kakashi. How are you?" Genma turned to greet Kakashi.
"I'm good, thank you. Hello Kiyoko, I hope you aren't lost today. Genma can be unreliable."
He was deadpan in his delivery but Kiyoko was pretty sure he was poking fun at Genma, not her so she laughed. "Not lost today."
"I was just showing Kiyoko around the village a little. She hasn't had a lot of experience with ninja, so..."
"So you thought you acquaint her with the dead ones first? An interesting choice. And Kiyoko, what Genma said about Sakura is right. She is a strong shinobi, don't worry about frightening her."
"Have you fought with her then? As her sensei?"
"I have. And I would accept her as my teammate anyday. She is," he paused, as if looking for the right words, "formidable and tenacious."
Genma snorted, he'd seen Sakura fight recently and Kakashi hadn't. He was in for a surprise if he expected the same little girl he'd recommended for the chunin exams a few years ago.
"Do you disagree, Genma?"
"Oh no. Not at all. She's a fighter." Genma was sincere in his praise of Sakura, she had grown a lot.
Kiyoko remembered the training she'd witnessed and agreed. She would trust the pink haired ninja with her life if asked to.
"Well. I have to go. I think Lady Tsunade wanted me in her office about an hour ago." And Kakashi walked away.
Kiyoko looked at Genma. "Thank you for bringing me here. I don't know if I'll ever understand ninja and the lifestyle but I think I understand it a little more now."
"I know it's a sad thing to you, and it is to us also, but it reminds us that they are always with us in spirit. And we can feel encouraged by their bravery and live to fulfill the dream that we all have and that they sacrificed their lives for."
"When you put it that way it's easier to understand."
"Shall we go now?"
They wandered back out to the road and turned in the direction of her apartment. Kiyoko sighed again. She wished it was Raido walking next to her. Genma was nice but Raido offered her a comfort that she didn't feel with Genma. Was that because she liked him or because he'd rescued her? She didn't know.
They had walked in silence to her house. She opened the door and invited Genma in, "Do you still want tea?"
"I wouldn't miss it for anything. I hope the monument didn't make you sad."
"Oh no. It's just that I can't keep my thoughts straight. I think it's because so much has happened so quickly."
"Like I said, if you want to talk."
"Honestly! If one more person asks me if I want to talk I think I might lose it! Do I look like I need therapy?! I'M FINE!" Kiyoko sat down on the couch, head in her hands, and started to cry. "I'm fine. Nothing that won't heal itself eventually."
Genma wasn't surprised that she was crying but he didn't really know what to do. He looked over his shoulder in the hopes that someone who did know was there but there wasn't. Well he at least knew what not to say. Tucking his senbon pin away he sat down on the couch next to her and put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her over to him so that her head would rest on his shoulder.
"It will be ok, Kiyoko. You're safe now and things will get better. I know it sounds silly and trite now but time heals all wounds. The memories of the slave trader and those two guys will fade as you make friends and new memories here."
"I'm not crying because of the slave trader Genma."
"Then why are you crying?"
"Never mind. I'll make some tea."
Genma was pretty sure he'd never understand girls. "Sure. That would be nice."