AN: First fanfic! To be perfectly honest, this fic will have a lot of inconsistencies because of Naruto's vague timeline (Kishimoto, why?), but I tried to be as accurate as possible, so hope you guys enjoy it nonetheless!
Kirimoto Eri was not a genius. Highly skilled, yes, but not a prodigy by any means. Which explained why she lay sprawled on the tiny training grounds that the orphanage provided for its ninja-in-training. But really, they said it was a "training ground" when in actuality it was really just a few square yards of grass plus a small lake (puddle) on which the children could practice their kata. Eri could feel herself bristling at the thought of it. The clan kids, heck, even the civilian students received better accommodations. They had miles of barren grounds that were perfect for training with huge lakes while she—
Anyhow, she was exhausted. She had been training since noon, and it was currently past sunset. She wasn't. Able. To. Move. It was highly unlikely that anyone would come and get her too, because hardly any of the orphans used the training grounds, deeming it a lost cause.
Eri sighed. She wasn't a genius, but the Academy thought she was, and she was scheduled to take her graduation exam tomorrow. A eight year old taking the exam wasn't too unusual nowadays. Wartime made it crucial for more and more shinobi to join the ranks.
Eri sighed. The lack of movement made her thoughts wander when she probably should have been trying to get herself in the orphanage in preparation for the next day. How could she have been so reckless? If she didn't make it the next day, then her chance would have been lost. She would be stuck in the orphanage for who knows how long. She had nothing to lose.
This renewed her determination. She screwed her eyes shut and reached out for a little chakra, just enough to complete this task. She silently cheered when she succeeded. She let the chakra escape her small fingers as a thin thread and attached it to a large boulder a few feet away, pulling herself up. She then carefully withdrew the chakra thread. Her limbs still felt like jelly, but she managed to limp the 10 yards into the orphanage back door.
The door opened slowly with a loud creak. Twenty seven pairs of eyes narrowed in its direction, focused on the small girl who stepped out. A black strip of fabric with a metal plate hung by her side. The ten year olds in the room groaned.
"Seriously?" Eri heard a blue-haired girl hiss. The former tugged at her own long, black hair self-consciously.
"She's two years younger than us, but..."
"Did you hear?"
"She's joining a pre-existing genin team."
"What a jerk!"
"She looks so stuck up!"
"She doesn't deserve it."
Eri's mouth drew into a straight line. She knew that the other Academy students resented her, both because of her early graduation and her often aloof expressions. It didn't hurt any less to be reminded of it, though.
Yamada, an Academy teacher, poked his head out the door. "Oh, and Eri-chan! You'll be meeting up with your team early, since you won't be with anyone from this year's graduating class. You can go meet up with them right now, in fact! Training Ground Forty Seven, he said."
Glad for an excuse to hightail it out of there, Eri bobbed her head politely, deep blue eyes flashing with something indecipherable. Unnerved, the teacher nodded back.
Fifteen minutes later, Eri was standing motionless in the middle of the aforementioned training ground. Another ten minutes passed, she was sitting on the ground. She was inspecting her nails apathetically five minutes after that when she felt a sudden gust of wind, interrupting the otherwise sticky, hot day. She looked up to see a tall figure blur into sight, two smaller figures standing back to back with the former. Eri's eyebrows furrowed. Was this her new genin team?
"We're your new genin team," the taller figure, shown to be a handsome young man dressed in a green jonin jacket announced. Another gust of wind appeared out of absolutely nowhere, rustling his sandy hair attractively.
In addition to having a flair for dramatics, he could read minds as well. Okay, then.
"I'm Yukihara Yuki," the man continued. "Call me Yuki Sensei! Nice to meet you!"
"'Kay, Yuki-Yuki," one of the smaller figures, a boy who looked to be around Eri's own age with tousled black hair and similarly colored eyes snickered. The last figure, a taller boy with grey hair and brown eyes who was maybe a year or two older coughed, trying and failing to hide his amusement.
Yuki rolled his eyes. "Gosh, you guys are even annoying when we're welcoming a new teammate!" His words were harsh, but his voice was teasing. "Can you please introduce yourselves?"
The taller boy looked up with an small smile still pasted on his face and said, "Hey, I'm Ikeda Takashi. Good luck with this team. You'll need it."
Yuki huffed amusedly. "At least you know how much pain you cause."
The younger boy composed himself with no small amount of effort and straightened himself. "I'm Shisui. Uchiha Shisui. It's great that we finally have our last team member!"
Eri cocked her head in confusion. "I'm Kirimoto Eri. Call me Eri. And what do you mean by that? Aren't I a replacement member?"
Shisui looked scandalized. "Even if we had a fourth member before you, don't call yourself a replacement. And we actually didn't have a full team before, so ha."
When it looked as if Shisui wouldn't be elaborating, Takashi explained, "We graduated two years ago, and there was an odd number of graduates, so we were officially labelled as Yuki Sensei's apprentices instead of students. It had its benefits, but it also meant that we weren't able to take the Chunin Exams."
"Two years ago?" Eri felt faint. They looked to be around her own age! "How old are you guys?"
"Shisui's eight, same as you, and Takashi is a year older," Yuki said proudly.
"And…" Eri hesitated. "Isn't there supposed to be some sort of, um, test for me to actually join this team?"
Yuki shrugged. "Well, wartime protocol doesn't exactly make time for that kind of thing. Being Rookie of the Year proves your skill, and as long as you're not on the WOLPS, you'll be fine, and you're not. On the WOLPS, that is."
"WOLPS?" Eri parroted.
"Seriously? You don't know it? Shisui and Takashi didn't know what it was at first, too..."
"So… what is it?" Eri beckoned for Yuki to continue.
Watchout List for Psychotic Shinobi. What in the world does the Academy teach these days? Enough about WOLPS, though. Who wants lunch? My treat!"
Standing in the cloud of dust that the other two members of their team left behind in their mad dash to town, Eri snorted, bemused. "What was even the point of meeting in the training ground if we weren't even going to, you know, train?"
Yuki stared at her as if her words had been in some foreign language. "Good point," he said distantly.