I imagine you're here on account of a person named Naruto Uzumaki who saved not only the Hidden Leaf Village but the entire freaking planet from some crazy Alien Shinobi Godmother. I imagine you're here on account of Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno, Kakashi Hatake and Might Guy, Lady Tsunade and Gaara of the Sand and a slew of other heroes past and present. Well, you've come to the right place. I'm Saki Kureji...You know, Saki Kureji...What, you haven't heard of me? What do you mean you haven't heard of me? I was there the whole freaking time! Don't tell me they cut me out of the story...really….all of it?! Not even the fillers?! Motherfucker.
I suppose I'm not entirely surprised, on account of me not technically being a ninja and all. My mom and stepdad own a bar in Konohagakure; they're not ninjas either. My grandma was a prostitute. My grandpa might have been a ninja. Depending on what day you ask, my grandpa was either The Third Hokage or Jiraiya of the Sannin, although she wasn't even telling those stories until after she injured her head. It really could have been anyone, because, ya know, prostitute.
This is the part where I'm supposed to say that being a normal person in a ninja village is hard, and I felt so left out boo hoo bla bla bla...but I'm not, because that's not true at all. I freaking love the Hidden Leaf. It's as much my home as it is the shinobis'. I went to a normal school where I learned normal things with other normal kids, called "nonchaks" by the ninja kids because we had no chakra. I guess that's supposed to be a derogatory term, but I'm cool with it, because it's true. Why get all bent out of shape over something that's true? Anyways, I really think I got the better end of the deal, because ninjas had to deal with all kinds of crazy things: running all over the world, risking their lives, training day in and day out, eww. Just give me a good romance novel, a cup of ramen, and a little bit of wine. Okay, more than a little bit. I freaking love wine.
Typically ninjas and nonchaks don't hang out together. We coexist peacefully most of the time, but we stick to our own kind. We have what's called a mutually symbiotic relationship. The ninjas protect us from all the psycho baddies, and we provide them with services such as restaurants, making clothes, building houses, etc., because I guess while they were busy using their powers to spit fire and shit at each other, nobody ever thought to use chakra for practical things like cooking and cleaning. Like seriously? That is the FIRST thing I would try to use chakra for if I had any. But shhh...if anyone ever figured that out, we'd all be out of jobs.
So how did a nonchak become friends with people like Naruto and Sakura? It started when I was really young, like seven or so. I was waiting for my parents outside of our apartment/bar when this group of ninja girls came running past. They were chasing a pretty little pink-haired girl, calling her "billboard brow." I thought that was hella stupid, so I threw a rocks at them.
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" they whined.
"What's your problem, nonchak?" said the leader of the bullies.
"My problem is you're being stupid bitches," I said.
"WOAH! That's not a nice word! You apologize," they whined.
"I'll apologize when you stop being bitches."
"We could beat you up with our ninjutsu, you know!" boasted the leader.
"HATE CRIME! HATE CRIME!" I shouted.
They all ran away after that. The little pink-haired girl was crouched down in the middle of the road, crying. I pulled her up and invited her to sit next to me.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"They call me that because I have a big forehead," she sobbed.
"A big forehead?" I repeated in disbelief. "That's seriously the best they can come up with?"
Her eyes grew wide. "What? What would you call me?"
"Your name, if I knew it," I replied. "I'm Saki."
"My name's Sakura."
"Aww, like the cherry blossom? That's so much better than being named after alcohol." I was young. I don't share the same sentiment now.
"Nevermind. Listen. The reason those girls call you that is because you're way prettier than them."
"No I'm not. You're just being nice."
"I'm not. Look. You ninjafolk have those nindos, right? Your 'ninja ways'? Well, Saki Kureji always keeps it real. That's my nonchak way. So you can trust that when I say something, it's legit. And it's painfully obvious that they're jealous of you. Are you a natural pink?" She nodded. "I'm so freaking jealous," I said. My own hair was black like an Uchiha's. Hmm...could I be an Uchiha?...I made a mental note to ask grandma later. I heard my stepdad call for me from around the corner. "Well, Sakura," I said, "if you ever need a break from that noise, you can come talk to me. I live in the apartment over the bar here."
She smiled for the first time since I'd met her. "Okay! I'd like that."
"Me too. See ya, Cherry Blossom."
One week later, Sakura knocked on my door. She was crying again. Without missing a beat, I pulled her into my bedroom and closed the door.
"Alright, Cherry Blossom, what's up?" I asked, feeling like a therapist.
"Saki…" she started.
"Will you be my new best friend?" She was staring at the floor.
Thinking about that now, it's totally funny, but when you're seven, best friends is serious business. Your best friend could make or break you, and not having one was literally the end of the world. This was a commitment not to be taken lightly, and I should have asked more questions, but I was so honored to be asked, by a kunoichi no less, that I didn't hesitate in saying yes. That simple "yes" would forever alter the course of my life.
She looked up at me and smiled through her tears. I handed her my kitty-shaped tissue dispenser box. "Sit down, girl. We've gotta stop meeting like this. What happened?"
"Do you know…" she stuttered, "Sasuke Uchiha?" Her skin turned full cherry red as she said his name.
"Uchiha...OH! The emo kid!"
"You know, emo. Always brooding and talking about death."
"What? Did he do something to you? I'll beat him up."
"NO! Don't...uhhhh….did you just say you'd beat him up?...he's an…"
"Yeah, yeah, ninja, nonchak, got it. But I totes would. That's what best friends do. I don't care how dangerous it'd be."
"You're crazy," she laughed. I smiled. "And you shouldn't call yourself a nonchak. It's not nice," she admonished.
"Well, what would you call me?"
"The way I see it, it's not what the word is; it's how you use it. I'm not ashamed to be chakra-less, so I say it. You can say it too. I don't care. But back to Sasuke." She looked at the floor and turned into a cherry again. "Oh no…" I said. "You like him?"
"HOW'D YOU KNOW?"
"Because you can't say his name without blushing. Look, I get it, he's got that dark and mysterious thing going. Frankly, I think the kid's a little unstable. I guess I get it. You're both always crying. It works."
"Alright, so you like Sasuke. Let's go get him!"
"Well, there's no point in sitting around here just crying over him."
"I'm not crying over him."
"Then what are you crying over?"
"I'm crying because my best-my former best friend Ino Yamanaka likes him too, and she's the prettiest most popular girl in school, so there's no way…" I ripped the kitty tissue box from her hand and smacked her across the face with it. "OW!...Saki, why…"
"Are you telling me that you and this Ino chick ended your friendship over this Sasuke kid?"
"Well, of course! We can't be best friends and love rivals too."
This time I actually laughed out loud, because that was hella stupid. "Best friends don't stop being best friends because of some guy. Sounds like this Ino chick seriously has her priorities screwed up. But I'm willing to refrain judgment because I actually hate seeing friendships broken, especially over stupid things. Let's go find this Sasuke and find out what he thinks of Miss Ino Yamanaka."
"You think she's the prettiest most popular girl in school. But if Sasuke doesn't, then you don't have a problem, right? And then both of you can move on with your lives and pursue guys who might actually reciprocate your feelings."
"There's plenty of fish in the sea, Sakura. This is the Hidden Leaf village! There are hot ninja guys everywhere! Trust me. It's like ripping off a band-aid. It hurts at first, but then it saves a lot of pain in the long run. Let's go." I pulled Sakura off the bed, out the door and onto the streets.
"What are you going to do?!" she cried.
"I'm not going to do anything. You're asking Sasuke on a date."
"Just because, okay! I want him to ask me...I want it to be romantic…"
The kitty tissue box was still in my hand, so I smacked her with it again. "Guys don't care about romance, especially guys our age. Look, he's an orphan, right? Even if he wanted to ask a girl out, he's probably self-conscious.
"You think? He seems really confident at school."
"It's an act. Has he ever asked a girl out before?"
"See? Okay, so I usually hate when girls do this, but since you're you, and we're best friends, I'll talk to him first and get a feel for the situation."
"You'd do that for me?"
"What are you going to say?"
We were interrupted by the goofiest looking kid I'd ever seen. Like I thought we were being pranked, because he didn't even look real. His eyes were just perfectly round and black, and his hair was all slicked back, but what really set him apart were his ginormous freaking eyebrows. It literally looked like two fuzzy caterpillars were glued to his face.
He was shaking and had some flowers in his hand. "S-sakura?"
"Hi, Lee," she said. "How are you?"
"Sakura, I...I saw these flowers, and they reminded me of you because they're pretty, and you're pretty, so please accept them Sakura!" He shoved the flowers into her face.
"Ohhhh...ummm….thanks, Lee." She gingerly pried the flowers from his sweaty palms. He got more excited the longer her fingers were touching his. Then he just stared at her, waiting for her to say something. She looked awkwardly at the flowers, then to me.
Welp, looks like I have to save the day again, I thought. I smacked him with the tissue box.
"Ow! Ummm...okay, bye!" He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
"Well, that was weird, but cute, maybe?" I asked. "Who was that?"
"Rock Lee. He's a nonchak who's trying to be a ninja." She rolled her eyes. "He's really fast though. That's how he got into the academy."
"No kidding?" I said. "Hmm, well, good for him I guess. A lot of nonchaks think they can just turn themselves into ninjas. I never heard of one actually doing it though."
"He hasn't done it," she said, shaking her head.
"So….you wouldn't date a nonchak, huh?" I teased, knowing she'd take me seriously.
"What? No! I mean yes! I mean…"
"Calm down, calm down, I can see that kid's a hot mess. Come on, where does Sasuke go after school?"
"Ummm...I don't know?"
"So they really just let orphans run the streets and do whatever, huh? You'd think a prestigious ninja village would have more of a system in place...all right...OH! I know how to find Sasuke!"
I grabbed her arm and pulled her through the streets to Ichiraku Ramen.
"NARUTO UZUMAKI!" I shouted upon entering the restaurant. The yellow haired demon kid was always at Ichiraku Ramen after school stuffing his face.
"Saki, what are you?..." Sakura grumbled, clearly terrified.
"Sakura?" said Naruto. "You came here to see me? And you brought a friend?" He turned red. I smacked him with the tissue box.
"Perve, no, that's not why we're here. We're looking for Sasuke Uchiha."
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Saki, nonchak, at your service," I said sarcastically. "Do you know where Sasuke is?"
"Why do you think I know where Sasuke is?"
"Because you're both orphans." This was not my proudest moment. Assuming that all orphans knew everything about each other. Bluntly bringing up personal, emotional truths to an already volatile person who I had never spoken to before. But I got what I wanted.
He stared at me in disbelief. "Well, I see him on the pier a lot."
I pulled Sakura out of the restaurant while Naruto babbled about Sakura and ramen and nonchak not being a nice word. Freaking Naruto Uzumaki.
So, we finally made our way to the pier, and sure enough, there was Sasuke Uchiha brooding over the water.
"Look at that! He's all alone. Go talk to him," I prodded.
"No…" she whined.
"I won't make you ask him out. Just say, 'Hi, how's it going?' And then go on from there. Talk about school. Talk about the pier. Just talk."
She nodded wordlessly. I swelled up with pride as I watched my little pink-haired girl walk down to the pier and sit next to the guy that would one day be her husband, despite literally all of my protests. Like I was her maid of honor, and I still don't believe it was real.
She came back after a whopping minute, red as a cherry. "He asked me why I was there, and I didn't know what to say, so I left."
I dropped my head to my hands. "Okay. Well, it's a start. I'm going to go ask him one question."
"Shhhh! Trust me! I won't even mention your name."
So I walk down to the edge of the pier and plop down next to the heartthrob of the shinobi academy. I guess he had a nice face, but I couldn't get over his stupid hair.
"Who are you?" he asked in an even monotone. Those eyes startled me. They were so cold. They felt like they were looking right through me. Man, this kid was nothing like Naruto, I thought. He's seen some shit.
"Unimportant. I just have one question for you. Who do you think is the prettiest girl in school?"
He continued looking at me and through me. "I don't care."
I don't care. I don't care. I let those words sink in, and then I smiled. "Thank you very much, sir!" I extended my hand, and he shook it awkwardly. Little did he know it was my best friend seal of approval.
Sakura was biting her nails off when I got back. "What happened?!" she gasped.
I smiled. "He doesn't like Ino."
I never told Sakura what I had asked and what he had said, and at the time, I didn't understand the deeper, darker meaning behind Sasuke's words. All I knew was that "I don't care" was an answer I could get behind, because it's how I felt about most things girls made big deals about, too. So, for the time being, I fully supported Sakura in her efforts to woo the elusive Sasuke Uchiha.
Sakura came to see me most days after school, but I didn't hang with her and the other ninjas until much later, when she became a genin and a member of Team 7.