People have always laughed at me.

They pointed at me with mirth and scorn, chuckling at their cruel jokes and sadistic sense of humor. They found me funny- my looks, my abilities (or, should I say, disabilities), my philosophies, my very essence. Something about me just made them laugh.

People would giggle at my looks even if I was the greatest ninja in the world. It isn't my fault that I look the way I do- it's my parents. From my pudding-bowl haircut down to my splayed toes, I'm nothing like them. They are petite and perfectly muscled, not too chiseled and not too thin. Me? I'm tall and gangly, with long limbs and a head that looks two sizes too big for my body. That's what people first notice.

Then it's my eyebrows. People point and gape at my big, bushy eyebrows everywhere I go. I remember a boy from my academy class bullying me and saying "Your eyebrows look like big, squiggly, fat, ugly caterpillars"! That hurt me deep.

And it is the rest of me, too. People used to make fun of my hair- which, I will add, was thick and rich and healthy. My body shape, my eyes (which do not look like a doll's eyes), my ambitions and dreams- they were just all some big joke to my classmates.

They didn't stop with my looks- they tore apart every part of me. The horrible fact that I couldn't do successful genjutsu and few ninjutsu didn't help my situation. I still don't understand why, though. I did all the hand katas just as well, if not better, than my classmates, you nothing would happen. I visited a doctor, and he said something able my chakra passages being blocked around my spirit energy areas, but I think that was just a load of shit.

No one stuck with me. No one would acknowledge my accomplishments and dreams. My classmates all thought I was just stupid. I had not a single friend in the world at the academy.

Well, actually... there was this one girl at one point. I can only remember her if I am really sad, the rest of the time she sinks away into the depths of my memory. But I can remember her now, when I close my eyes tight and think about how lonely I was.

I remember now... she had this lovely light brown hair that was long enough to tickle the backs of her knees. Her eyes were black, but not cold like that Uchiha Sasuke's- they were a soft, gentle black. They were warm and comforting. She wasn't as tall as me, but if she stood on her tip-toes she would be able to look me in the eyes. She always wore these white bandages on her arms. I never asked why, though.

I think her name was Ume, I believe. Yes, Ume. She was my only friend. I was happy when I was with her. Kids would pick on me and push me, but she would always yell at them for being so mean in that high- pitched voice of hers and help me up.

She wasn't a popular child, kind of like me. I had seen a few girls talk to her and invite her to a party where they were going to talk about the boys in class and why that hate or love them (I think Sasuke was the main star there), but Ume just stuck her nose and walked away, saying that she "didn't like doing that." She was my hero. But she wasn't just unpopular because of that.

I heard from a group of academy students one day that she wore those bandages on her arms to hide the scars. I didn't know what they were talking about at the time, do I asked her one day. She got really angry at me and slapped my face, and I expected her to run away. But she just fell back onto the grass, hugging her knees to her chest and crying. I asked what was wrong- she was my only friend, I was worried. When she replied, she said words that will always inspire and haunt me.

"Lee-kun, never give up. Don't let anything those other kids say ever hurt you again. You are special, Lee-kun. You can't use magic techniques because you are better than that- you don't need those silly powers to beat enemies. You can't use mind control or deception techniques because you are too honest for that- you know that it isn't right to trick people. You can only use your body to fight, and you need to honor that. Use your body to make wonderful things, Lee-kun." She took my hands in hers, tracing her finger along the lifeline and crevices in the flesh.

"Use these hand to make beautiful creations. Your hands are a wonderful blessing, Lee-kun. They will become calloused and rough from fighting, but will always remain soft and gentle enough to keep even the most delicate of eggs safe from harm. Your hands will defeat bad guys with amazing strength, but will be careful and swift enough to protect the people that are important to you, careful enough to cradle your wife's head in them while you kiss her forehead." She looked at me with teary eyes.

"Lee-kun, I want so badly to be like you. I wanted to be strong, like you, but I am weak. That is why I wear these bandages on my arms- because I failed in trying to be like you." She took of the bandages from her arms, gently placing them in my hands. I was too polite and surprised at what had lain in hiding beneath the fabric. Deep, pale scars and gashes ran along Ume's soft, white forearms. The skin was damp and wrinkled from both the burns and the months of being protected from the sunlight by their sheltering bandages. Ume started crying again and hugged me tightly, not bothering to stand on her tip-toes to look at me properly.

"Lee-kun, I tried training hard like you do, but I only hurt myself. I am weak in spirit, unlike you. You have the willpower and determination it takes to fight back when kids bully you, I do not. Lee-kun, I tried training like you do, but I fell. I was training in my house and tripped. I fell into the fireplace and hurt my arms. My arms will never be strong like your, Lee-kun. But I will try to be strong like you, because we are the same where it counts." Ume pulled away from me about them and placed her palm over the left side of my chest. "We understand each other here, where it really matters."

I never saw her after that. I heard from the teacher that a ninja raid took place that night, and Ume and her father were killed fighting. She went into detail- A few jounin missing-nin broke into their house and threatened Ume and her mom, but Ume's dad faught them off as best he could until they killed him. Ume went crazy, the teacher said. They said that she pulled a shuriken from her father's body and held it wrong in her hands, digging the blade into her skin, and rushed the ninja. She actually killed herself- the ninja only kicked her away, but she held the shuriken poorly enough that the blade slipped and slit her wrist. She bled to death.

But I don't remember her much, only in times like these when I feel nostalgic. After she died, I felt a little stronger. It still didn't make much a difference, but I had a little more fire in my heart. Maybe Gai- sensei felt sorry for me, but he was really nice to me. He was nice to me in a way Ume was not, Ume had been shy and comforting, Gai is tough and determined and a little pushy. Shame on me for saying that he is a little pushy.

Ume would have liked Gai-sensei. Sure, people laugh at us still, but at least we get laughed at together. Gai-sensei doesn't care what people think either. But he's taught me more about my body than anyone else. He put the words Ume said to used, he brought it to life.

He can't use normal jutsus either, so we're exactly the same. I even cut my hair to look like his, and wear the special body suit he wanted the team to wear. I admire him that much.

Neji and Tenten both think we are crazy, but you can see it in them- Gai- sensei is the best teacher they could ever hope for. He;s taught them that a ninja isn't just in their magic and deception abilities, but also in the body. Hyuuga Neji wouldn't know nearly as much about a body's "inner coils" if Gai-sensei hadn't taught him. That arrogant bastard wouldn't know nearly as much about his "gentle fist" technique if he didn't know where to strike, but Gai-sensei helped him.

Tenten, too. You wouldn't think that she'd have gained much help, girls seem better at genjutsu and shuriken throwing. But that would be a lie if I said that she didn't benefit at all. When she first became a genin, she was trying to do the calculations of throwing a shuriken in her head, and Gai-sensei totally insulted her and said that she was doing it wrong. He said that math is useful, but foolish to use in shuriken throwing. He taught her how to sense how her muscles felt, how to see how the enemy's muscles were moving. He taught her how to almost immediately calculate how the enemy was going to move and how she should throw the shuriken. He went into a lot of detail explaining about what muscles will move first and how to access people's movements with that single muscle movement.

Gai-sensei didn't help me all the way, though. I got a little more help.

Haruno Sakura-san helped me along, too. When Ume said that I would use my hands to protect the people important to me, I didn't know the true meaning of what she said until the second part of the Chuunin exam, when Team Seven was under siege from a group of Sound-nin. When I saw her crouched there, roughed up and struggling, I knew what Ume meant.

I never thought that I could feel as determined as I did at that moment. I love Sakura-san, and I knew that those freaks would kill her. Her traps had failed, her teammates were beaten, and she was about to join them in the realms of unconsciousness. But I tried my hardest, and I like to think that I helped her out. Sure, I wasn't able to defeat the Sound-nin, but I'll pretend that I almost did.

Sakura-san said that I helped her that day, that I made her a little stronger. I could say the same to her. I had never been in a previous situation where the people I love were in such danger, but I knew then what was at risk. She taught me that in such a situation, there is no room to be weak.

I'm thinking of all of this right before my fight with this 'Gaara' kid. If you ask me, he looks like a panda. But who am I to judge looks? Maybe he will put a up a real good fight- but I cannot lose to him.

But I'm fighting this one for you, Ume, Gai-sensei, and Sakura-san. This one of for the people important to me.