AN: Guess where I'm typing this, you guys.
Yes, it's in my new laptop! OMG OMG OMG! We have a new laptop!
But whatever. I'm just happy to finally get out of a long while of inactivity with another fanfic. SasuSaku, as usual! This particular is based on the second ED of the Naruto Shippuuden anime, "To You All" by Aluto. Though… you don't necessarily have to watch it to get what's happening, but it helps. That ED is so inspiring! I promised myself I would never write an AU, yet here I am. Like I said – inspiring.
This fic is special – it represents so many things for me. It's my first AU high school fic, my first first-person POV fic, my first song fic, my first two-shot and the first fic I've ever worked on with my laptop. So y'all had better make it more special by reading and reviewing!
As usual, SasuSaku and NaruHina are the main pairings. And there's a huge boiling hint of NejiTen.
Remember That Name!
By: Tenshi no Hana-chan
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, or the song "To You All." Thanks to Dattebayo fansubs for the lyrics and translations.
Part 1: Goodbye To Normality
Daitai itsumo doori ni,
Just as usual,
I thought it would be another dull day in the Academy, the day that guy came.
Not that school wasn't exciting at all. Quite the contrary, really. In fact, there are moments of either pure hilarity or pure chaos, all because of the clashing personalities – and that was in our class alone. Imagine the pandemonium if all the classes in all the years came together in one big brawl.
But whatever – that's not my point. What I'm trying to say is, school was relatively quiet in the few weeks before he came. The teachers aren't probably aware of it (except maybe Kakashi-sensei, our homeroom adviser, because he was a part of it once, in his high school days), but the school had just come out of an underground war of sorts. The gangs in the school – quite a rough school we go to, you see – had just finished beating each other up, and one gang had emerged to rule them all – the Gori-Tai, as we call them behind their backs. The Gorilla Squad. It's really hard not to, seeing as they're such big brutes. But as long as no one opposed them, things would be calm and quiet.
(Not that I condone with what's happening, of course. I hate having to watch my every step so as not to arouse their unwanted attention.)
Things were about to change, though, when he walked in with his gangster attitude and long black trench coat on.
That day, we were in the middle of Kakashi-sensei's lecture, when he barged into our room. Sensei's eye (the one not hidden under his hair, anyway), twitched irritably, but he managed to say in a relatively cheerful voice, "Uzumaki, we have a policy in school that latecomers must not be tolerated. But let's assume you didn't know this and give you a chance to improve you behavior."
All of us in class giggled or snickered. We knew for a fact that Kakashi-sensei only tolerated lateness because he was often late himself.
"Yeah, yeah," Uzumaki said impatiently. I could imagine Sensei's mouth curling into a frown behind his cough mask. "Let's get on with business already." Kakashi-sensei chose (wisely, in my opinion) to ignore this behavior and handed him chalk so he could write his name down on the board for us to see. As he wrote in huge characters, I noticed that the entire class (except for a few who just didn't care) was transfixed on him. Beside me in the back row, my friend Yamanaka Ino was frowning thoughtfully, as though trying to place this guy's stereotype. In front of her sat Aburame Shino, whose expression I couldn't make out as his eyes were hidden behind dark glasses, but by the way he had sat up straight when Uzumaki arrived told me he was attentive.
In front of him was Akimichi Chouji, who had stopped sneaking chips in his mouth long enough to stare. In front of him, on the front row, sat Inuzuka Kiba, glaring a little irritably, though what for I don't know. Beside him, Nara Shikamaru had raised his head from his desk – the noise on the chalkboard must have been enough to wake him up from his usual first period nap. He was now staring rather dubiously at the new arrival.
But nothing could beat Hyuuga Hinata's expression as she stared at the blond neophyte. Hinata sat with Chouji to her right and a window to her left, but she paid attention to neither. She looked absolutely fascinated by him. I thought then that I understood Kiba's scowl, just looking at her face.
But like I said, there were a few faces that just didn't seem to care. The most prominent one was that of Uchiha Sasuke's.
Sasuke's arms were crossed against his chest as he leaned back on the chair, and he was staring out of the window beside him, from under a hooded gaze. He had always been impassive, a lone wolf, often sitting in the farthest corner near the window. From what I knew for all the years I've been his schoolmate (which is, admittedly, seven years of adoring him but being ignored), nothing seemed to faze him. All the girls (well, most, anyway) had tried to get a date with him, one way or the other, and nearly all the boys had a reason to begrudge him. He had everything a guy age could ever hope for – good looks, cool demeanor, and excellence in everything, from academics to street fighting. He would've been in the Gori-Tai if he wasn't such a genius.
Probably the reason why nothing could surprise him was that he experienced tragedy at a young age. It was a rumor around town (probably exaggerated) that his brother had gone crazy and slaughtered everyone in their family compound, save for his mother, who was now in a mental asylum, and Sasuke himself.
I've always admired him from afar, but I obviously didn't stand a chance with him. Girls prettier and with more personality than I had have gotten rejected by him. I didn't even care to try, or to even declare my feelings, not even to Ino or Hinata. Just thinking about how low I am on the female food chain… well, let's just say I'd better be contented with watching from afar.
By the by, Uzumaki had finished writing his name and had turned to face us with that arrogant grin spread on his face, and his arms crossed against his proud chest. The stance was so proud that even Sasuke must have felt its arrogance and turned to look.
"The name's Uzumaki Naruto!" he yelled (and startled poor Hinata). "Remember that name – it'll go down in history one day! And then you can brag to everyone you were classmates with – hey!"
Kakashi-sensei had put two hands on his shoulders and pushed him toward the aisle leading to the only empty seat, which, I'm sorry to say, was just on my right. "If you don't mind, Uzumaki," he said cheerfully – a bad omen. "I'd like to continue where I left off."
The class laughed uneasily as Naruto dragged himself to his seat, grumbling to himself. As Sensei resumed his lecture on leeks and their traditional medicinal usage, he dumped his drawstring bag onto the seat and plopped himself down, looking as proud as a king on his throne.
Maybe it was a mistake to stare at him, dumbfounded, my mouth slightly open, because he seemed to sense the stare and turned to me with a grin. "Ossu," he said simply, giving me a small salute.
True to my class rep self, I gave him my most welcoming smile. "Hi, I'm Haruno Sakura, class 2B's representative. If you have any problems adjusting, you can count on me to help."
My wording, I realized later, was a big mistake. He leaned closer to me and waggled his eyebrows. "I'm having trouble adjusting my clothes. Mind if you helped me with them?"
Ooh, is he going to get it! I seethed to myself while my warm class rep smile turned cold. "I'm a class rep," I said icily, "not a seamstress." With that, I turned from his gaze and forced myself to focus on the lecture. I would punch him in the nose, but it would create too much of a ruckus. I settled for giving him a chance and reporting him if he does it again. The nerve of that perv!
That's my life in a nutshell. Get good grades, be a good class rep, not expecting anything from others. I kept to myself most of the time, not speaking till needed. I've never shown my true emotions in public, because it wouldn't speak well of my self-control. That was why whatever reaction I had to any situation (it's not outwardly obvious, but I have a lot), I kept to myself.
But like I said, things were changing, now that Uzumaki Naruto had come. No matter how much we deny it, no matter how much we try to resist, the changes would encompass us all. We just didn't know it yet.
I turned my attention to Kakashi-sensei. He's not my favorite teacher, but he would definitely make top 5 in my list. From appearance alone, Sensei was striking – with silver-blond hair and his perpetual cough mask on his face. But his teaching methods were the weirdest, and believe me, I have had a lot of weird teachers. He would make us memorize names and dates while walking around in the classroom with a book on our heads – that sort of thing. He also manages to keep up with the times, though it's an annoying habit of his to read his favorite porn novel while someone was reciting in front of the class.
Above his quirks, Kakashi-sensei was sympathetic to students. I have never met a teacher so concerned about what was happening in the student world – normally, our lives were almost completely detached from the teachers' world, only converging in the classroom. That's why Kakashi-sensei was the best adviser any student could ask for.
Three classes later, there were no other disturbances from Naruto. I thought I had been rid of such a nuisance – but as has been happening often, I was wrong.
"Let's do lunch, Forehead," Ino called to me after retouching her make-up. (Ooh, how I hated that nickname.) "C'mon, Hinata-chan," she added to our midnight-haired friend.
Ah, Hinata-chan and Ino-pig. They are two who have had such an impact on me. Ino was the most popular girl in class – vivacious, charming, and alluring. She knew exactly how to use her looks, not only to get what she wanted, but also whatever she needed. I could ask the boys in class to cooperate for some class project, but it would be Ino who eventually would be able to convince them wholly. It wasn't just her looks, either, but her strong personality as well. I can't begin to describe how great Ino's power of persuasion and coercion is. She knew what to say or do to make people do what she wanted them to do. I think the only person who could still resist her charms was Sasuke.
Sometimes, I wonder whether or not it would've been better if Ino was the class rep. I only got the job because no one else wanted it. Not that I volunteered, but it really is a lot easier to give it to someone who had the brains but not the backbone to refuse. Like me.
Hinata-chan, on the other hand, was the sweet, shy girl whose quiet presence was rarely seen nor heard, but always felt. I don't know anyone kinder and more patient than Hinata. She made sure everyone was happy and that every activity was fair, and in the rare occasion she gave a firm word, everyone couldn't help but agree with her. There wasn't anyone in class who felt anything against her, and if they did, it dissolved quickly once she smiled. Hinata was truly the conscience of the class.
You would probably tell me that Hinata had a lesser kind of presence and impact than most, because of her shyness. But honestly, who would you remember more – the shy but sweet girl who tried to be kind to everyone despite their misdeeds, or the person who talks of things irrelevant to personal interest, like an upcoming project to clean up the Tokyo Bay?
I gathered my things, arranging them according to necessity, and followed Ino out of the classroom. I had almost gotten there when I noticed someone was following. I turned around – it was Naruto again.
I easily flush because I'm a redhead (or a pinkhead, whatever), and it happens for various reasons, like when I'm embarrassed, pleased, or irritated. A lot of people mistake my blushes to be romantic in nature, and I only get more irritated by this. I didn't expect Naruto to get this, though. "Look," I began as calmly as I knew how, "I don't mind that you're trying to make your presence felt by everyone, but please stop practicing on me. It gets pretty irritating."
Naruto made a face. "Aw, Sakura-chan, I thought you liked me!"
Sakura-chan? Sakura-CHAN?!? The nerve! I have barely spoken five sentences to him and already he has the gall to call me that to my face? By that time, I had bypassed red and gone on to maroon. Behind me, Ino snickered. She probably knew I was annoyed, and she would take that as prerogative for her to tease me relentlessly later. I turned around and gave her my worst look. That was when I noticed something.
Hinata-chan, sweet Hinata-chan, was looking at Naruto with something akin to fascination. She had covered half of her face with her hands so that only her eyes and blushing cheeks peeked out. I suddenly had an idea. Our precious Hinata-chan, after all, had finally found someone to look at with those adoring white-lavender eyes.
I quickly turned around, and in an agile move, pushed Hinata in front of Naruto. She let out a squeak and pressed her hands closer to her face. Naruto stared at her with curious blue eyes.
"Here," I said as the two stared at each other. "This is Hyuuga Hinata. She'd very much like to be acquainted with you, even more than me."
Naruto had a curious, mildly awed expression on his face. "Hey," he breathed.
Hinata went "Nnnngggghhh!" and promptly went to hide behind Ino.
"Oi!" a voice behind Naruto exclaimed. It was Kiba, and he looked as pissed as hell. "Move out of the doorway!" Naruto scowled, but Kiba caught an eyeful of the beet-red Hinata. "Hinata! Is this guy bothering you?!"
Kiba is a nice guy, really, once you get over his rough exterior. He's the overprotective type; it's virtually impossible to be Hinata's suitor with him around. He's been friends with Hinata for a long time (since diapers, I think) that he's become a sort-of big brother to her. I suppose seeing Hinata actually get interested in a guy discomfited him. After what happened to Hana, his big sister, I guess he wasn't willing to let any guy near Hinata if said guy had the potential to hurt her. That was Kiba – always the suspicious protector. It wasn't just Hinata, either; by extension, his protection encompassed me and Ino, much to Ino's peevishness.
"N-no, K-kiba-kun!" Hinata exclaimed. "I j-just-"
Did I forget to mention that Kiba also rarely thinks before he acts?
I winced as Naruto flew from the room in the hallway (Ino gracefully sidestepped as he flew past her), a bruise forming on his cheek. It was only then that I realized things had gone too far. Naruto snarled, getting back on his feet, and launched himself onto Kiba before anyone could stop him. Soon, all the girls were screaming and the boys trying to tear them apart as they threw punches at each other.
A lone figure elbowed his way in through the crowd, and calmly went, "Hey."
It was enough to make them stop and stare. Shino stared back at them from behind his dark glasses.
Perhaps what's scary about angering Shino was that you could never really tell when you could start running away with his expression hidden all the time. Since time immemorial, he's been sporting those glasses. No one has seen him without them, not even Kiba. It was a rumor that he had an eye condition that he needed to protect with glasses, but I've always thought that he does it for kicks. (Not that I'd ever say that out loud, though.)
But Shino was always calm, no matter what that situation was. He could get complete pandemonium to stop with one calm word. No one had seen him angry yet, and no one was stupid enough to want to be the first. You know what they say – the quieter the person, the scarier the anger. This was probably how he kept his best friend at bay.
Said best friend dropped Naruto's collar. "Shino, this guy started it," he protested.
"Whadaya mean I started it?!" Naruto exclaimed, just as pissed. "You were the one who punched me for no reason!"
"You were making Hinata uncomfortable!" Kiba retorted. "And I saw you bothering Sakura, too!"
Naruto opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Finally, he managed to say, "To protect them, huh?"
"Well, yeah!" Kiba said indignantly. "They're girls, and Hinata's like my little sis. Got a problem?"
"Naw," Naruto said, his hackles slowly lowering. "It's… pretty cool, actually."
Kiba blinked at him in confusion, as did the rest of us. But he was the first to recover, grinning widely. "You got a pretty solid right hook yourself," he said, rubbing his sore jaw.
I don't think anyone saw it coming, but soon enough, Kiba and Naruto had slapped hands and clapped backs like old friends would. Kiba led Naruto away, talking about one thing or the other, as if they'd never had that fight. Shino trailed after them silently, probably contented at the outcome.
Whoever said women were hard to understand never tried to understand men.
A teacher had come to see what was going on, but we all chorused "Nothing at all," and soon, the class broke into groups, discussing this new development. As Ino pulled me off, I couldn't help but look at the corner seat nearest to the back window.
Sasuke had been watching, though as impassivelyas ever.
"So," Ino said, swirling her sashimi in the soy sauce, "what do you think?"
"What do I think about what?" I asked innocently, though I knew what she meant.
"Stop being an idiot and act like the Forehead Girl that you are," Ino retorted. "Now come on, what do you think?"
I glared at her and swallowed my piece of onigiri. "I won't say anything till you guys tell me what you think."
Ino rolled her eyes. "Well, it's obvious what this girl thinks-" She pointed her thumb at Hinata, who colored again, "-and as for me, well, I think it's very interesting and all that. But you, Sakura, have so much more to tell." She narrowed her blue eyes at me. "You were right in the middle of it!"
"I… don't really know," I said, half-truthfully. "I guess that Naruto kid is kinda intere-"
"Don't use the word 'interesting,'" Ino interrupted. "I already said that. I'm sure you have some other comment besides ones that I already said."
This demanding little bitch. I have no idea why we decided that we'd be best friends forever. Probably because Hinata was the only sane one among the three of us. I sighed, playing with the grass we were sitting on as we ate lunch. "Oh, all right. I thought he was way annoying. But I also thought…"
"Yes?" Ino asked eagerly.
What did I think of him? Annoying, yes, that was for sure. But how could I put into words that feeling he stirred in me? It's not romantic, certainly, but… when he made his presence known to the entire class, it was like… something awakened. Something that craved for a missing… thing. It wasn't anything that I could describe accurately.
I think the best way I could describe that feeling is to describe how one tells a story. When a dull teacher tells her class a story, it is in a droning, monotonous voice, and the class ends up not visualizing the story properly, particularly because half of them are asleep. But when an exciting teacher tells her class a story, with variations in how she reads, and maybe actions to better tell the story, the class becomes more animated. Everyone gets the feeling that they were there, watching the story unfold. Like they were part of something huge.
I couldn't very well describe it like that to Ino, though. I merely said, "I also thought he was pretty noisy. That's it."
Ino gave me a dry, exasperated look. "I can't believe you, Sakura. How could you stay so apathetic to something totally fascinating? That Uzumaki Naruto – well, he's going to make some waves in school. I'm certain of it. You, Sakura, on the other hand… well, no one's going to pay attention to you if you don't start voicing out your opinions."
"What if I don't want attention?" I wanted to throw back. "I just want to get through high school without any trouble, get to a good college, graduate and get a job, and live out the rest of my life in peace. Is that really something bad?"
But just as Ino said, I never found the voice to say what I think. I merely turned pink again; I never expected to get so riled up about what Ino said. But there it was – something was changing in me, slowly but surely. This entire thing was affecting me, but I denied it to myself.
Besides, the words I wanted to throw back didn't really seem so true, now that I thought about it.
Ino had turned her attention to Hinata, teasing her about her reaction to Uzumaki Naruto. I was thankful that I wasn't the butt of Ino's jokes today – it would be too much for me. The day hadn't even ended yet and I already found myself emotionally exhausted. My hands needed something to do. I reached for a bag of chips in Ino's bag (I wondered vaguely what it was doing there – Ino doesn't like junk food) and tore it open.
Ino let out a startled scream, and Hinata toppled over. As fast as 200 pounds could possibly be, something (or someone) leapt from the other side of the bushes and grabbed the bag of chips I held in my hand. I was too surprised to change my openmouthed, wide-eyed expression.
When I recovered, I saw Chouji glaring at me, his pudgy hands holding the potato chips protectively to his chest. "My chips," he said again, almost feral.
If you judged Chouji by his… uh… body mass index and normally cheery manner, you'd think he would be the type who could be easily bullied. But that wasn't the case at all. He was good-natured most of the time, yes, but make a jab at his weight or take away his precious barbeque chips, you had better dig a hole and hide your head in it. Chouji didn't stand for either of these things. Shikamaru would say that doing either was taboo.
Not that food was the only thing Chouji cared about. He was a very loyal friend to Shikamaru, and to Ino, both of who are kids of his father's best friends. And you could always count on his help for anything at all. I liked him a lot – he really is a lovable giant most of the time. Despite his size and defensiveness of it, our class has grown to love him and his culinary skills.
Right now, however, he was anything but huggable. "I'm sorry!" I cried again and again, bowing repeatedly. "I thought it was Ino's… I didn't know what I was thinking! I didn't even ask Ino because I wasn't thinking at all! I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry!"
Chouji's fierce look eventually softened. "Oh, it's fine, Sakura," he said, back to his cheery self. (Thank goodness – I had another day to live.) "If it was a mistake, then it's okay. It's not Ino's, by the way. I only asked her to put it in her bag for a while."
Ino flipped her long blonde hair, looking miffed. "As if I can stand eating those greasy things! Really, Sakura!"
"Geez," Shikamaru drawled, stepping into the clearing where Ino, Hinata and I usually ate. "You oughta know by now that Ino doesn't eat that stuff. Why'd you think it was hers, anyway?"
Shikamaru is the epitome of sarcasm. I'm telling you, he is. Like all of my friends, he's a pretty nice guy, too, but it takes a while to get over his sarcastic attitude and his chronic laziness. Shikamaru is talented, but it's not obvious, particularly because he thinks it's too troublesome to show whatever skill he has. He's a genius – it makes me uncomfortable to think that though he never listens in class, he usually beats me in stuff like Logic, Math, or whatever analytic subject we have. He would've topped the class if he wasn't just so lazy.
I was certain, though, that Shikamaru had other skills we didn't know about. He just hid it well, that's all, particularly because he never bothers to show it. That's Shikamaru for you, I guess. He never shows whatever he's got unless it's absolutely, terribly necessary.
"I said I was sorry," I said ruefully, pouting.
"Anyway, I heard you talking about that new kid, Uzumaki," Shikamaru said. "Pretty weird guy, isn't he?"
"I'll say," Ino piped up. "Though I'm betting something big is going to happen with him around."
"He smells like trouble to me," Chouji interjected, munching on his chips. "After what happened between him and Kiba…"
"They ended up being friends, though," Hinata said, her voice as soft as ever. "Isn't that a good thing?"
"You haven't said anything, Sakura," Shikamaru said, looking at me from the corner of his eye.
"I… well," I began, at a loss for words at being asked for my opinion. As you might think, it doesn't happen often. "He's noisy."
Everyone stared at me, expecting something more, but they eventually got tired of it. "I just heard something about him from Shino, actually," Shikamaru shared. "He was mouthing off just awhile ago at some member of the Gori-Tai – oops, I mean, the Awesomely Notorious Brotherhood of Urashi-" We all laughed, as this was the ridiculously long actual name of the Gori-Tai, which was ANBU for short, "-and that member swore that Uzumaki would get his, one way or the other. In short, he pretty much angered the Gori-Tai and they'll get restless again. There goes the peace."
Everyone took in his words with varied expressions of apprehension. Then-
"Is he stupid or something?!? What the hell was he thinking!?"
You might be surprised as my friends were when I tell you that it was I who blurted that out.
I covered my mouth when I realized I had said it out loud, and the others were staring at me again, but this time as if I'd grown a second head. I couldn't help it – it was a terrible thing to upset simple minds, like the ones in the Gori-Tai. When one member was upset, they all got upset, and they often took out their anger on everyone. We would have to watch our backs more than ever.
But my friends didn't seem to get that. Instead, they were gaping at me like goldfish. "What?" I asked, squirming.
"Sakura actually reacted," Ino said, awed. "Reacted!"
I turned umber.
"That's nothing new," I said, defending myself feebly. "I react. Sometimes. A bit. Um. In my mind."
Nothing was wiping those amazed looks on their faces, though, so I stammered, "W-well! We'd better watch our step now that the Gori-Tai is looking for blood again!"
That jolted them back to the topic at hand. "How long do you think Uzumaki's going to hold up?" Chouji asked.
"I'm giving him three days at least," Ino declared. "Then he'd probably end up in the hospital, or move back to juvvie hall or wherever he came from."
"That's terrible!" Hinata exclaimed, covering her mouth, looking horrified.
"Three days is too long," Shikamaru said. "Twenty-four hours, at least. He looks like he can hold up with torture for about that long." Hinata let out a squeak. I could imagine that it was too much for her to imagine.
"Well, whatever the time limit," Chouji commented, "I don't think Uzumaki is going to stay out of trouble for too long."
That was what I thought too, but I stayed quiet about what I thought. If just voicing out an opinion is going to shock people like that, then I'd better not do it at all.
Trouble came sooner than anyone expected. But I suppose that with Uzumaki Naruto, we should've expected the unexpected.
Classes were let out that afternoon, and we students proceeded to our respective clubs. Ino was in the flower arrangement club, which held its meetings right beside the student council office, where I went to attend meetings with Kakashi-sensei, the council adviser, and the rest of the student council. Next door was a karate dojo, where Hinata's older cousin, Hyuuga Neji, captained the karate team.
Hinata, on the other hand, was in the arts and crafts club across the courtyard, while Kiba was close by in the animal protection club. Shikamaru, I knew, was lounging just outside the culinary club's meeting place, where Chouji was, in what we often called the going home club, which only meant that Shikamaru (that lazy-ass) had not joined any school-approved organization. He was only waiting for Chouji to get done so they could go home together.
From what I knew, Sasuke didn't have a club, either. He was courted rather often by the judo, kendo, chemistry, and bird-watching clubs, but he just wasn't interested. I'm not sure if anyone else knows, but I do know that he sits on the rooftop after class, sometimes well into the evening, because I see him there when we're walking home. It must be lonely to be him. But I suppose if loneliness is all you've known, you wouldn't crave for happiness. Still… Sasuke must have been happy, once.
That got me to thinking, as our boring student council president yammered on about some ongoing project, about what sort of club Naruto would join. The karate club would never accept him, I thought, particularly because Neji was a strict disciplinarian, and Naruto was the very picture of an undisciplined barbarian. Since the karate club was the only fighting club in the school, I couldn't think of any other place where his fiery nature would be accepted wholly.
"So I think," our president said, adjusting his bottle-cap glasses (he didn't catch Kakashi-sensei dozing off in the corner), "that we ought to have a collection of fees so we can fund the expansion of the herbal garden. I hope no one objects to my suggestion."
Sono kado wo nagareba,
When I turn that corner,
"YOU BASTARD! Y'THINK YOU CAN TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!?"
Kakashi-sensei started, as did the rest of us. "What's going on?" he asked, instantly alert.
"There's something going on outside!" one of the other members exclaimed.
"As student council members, it's our job to keep the peace!" the president said. "Let's go, people!" He went to the source of the commotion with the other members, though I was sure they'd only end up watching.
They passed into the hall, taking the long way out, but I had a better idea. I opened the window (thankfully no one was watching) and climbed out of it, rushing to the scene. I could see that Ino's club had already converged in one side, and Neji's team had gone up the second floor to get top box seats to the spectacle. Kakashi-sensei was the only teacher not panicking, choosing instead to watch how things would turn out. "What's going on?" I asked Ino.
Her eyes were narrowed in seriousness. "We were right about Uzumaki, all right," was all she said.
Her explanation didn't satisfy me, and I inched my way into the crowd. I managed to crawl into a space between a couple of people, and finally, I got to my very own ringside seat. I could see Hinata and Chouji from across me, both looking worried, while Kiba looked quite excited. Shikamaru merely looked mildly incredulous. And in the middle of the ring-
"I'll talk to you any way I want!" Uzumaki Naruto yelled to the leader of the Gori-Tai, who was a good two heads taller than him. In fact, all the members of the Gori-Tai had some kind of physical advantage over Naruto – whether in height or in weight. I could not fathom how he could keep that arrogant smirk he had on his face, now that he was confronted by the entire bunch of brutes. "I'm worth twenty of you, Urashi! I could hand you your ass any time of day!"
Urashi was the self-styled leader of the Gori-Tai – oh, excuse me, the ANBU. "You little rat-faced shithead!" he roared, swinging a fist at Naruto. The crowd gasped as a single collective, but I was too much on tenterhooks to let out a sound. Hinata hid her face into Chouji's shirt, and even Kiba scrunched up his face. A punch that huge wouldn't leave Naruto alive. I braced myself for the impact.
The ground shook a little, but it wasn't Naruto who landed on it. I opened my eyes, and saw that the leader had tripped over his own feet when Naruto dodged his heavy-handed punch.
The Gori-Tai's leader looked more pissed than ever and got up quickly, running towards Naruto with his fist aloft. The blond gangster merely dodged to his right, pushed Urashi's punching arm downwards, and aimed a kick at the guy's cranium. Urashi fell to the ground, bleeding in the head, unconscious.
You'd think that the other gang members would've backed off by now, seeing as their leader was down. But they all roared and rushed Naruto as a single entity.
The crowd was screaming and cheering. I could hear Ino yelling from the fringes of the crowd, "What's happening?!? Is Uzumaki okay? What's going on out there!?" Neji, on the other hand, was observing disapprovingly – I knew that Naruto's style was far from what the karate club taught, and Neji probably couldn't stand the fact that it was successful, though messily coordinated. Behind me, Kakashi-sensei looked on with a rather sheepish look on his face, as though debating whether or not he should step in, but I knew, from the look in his visible eye, that he was enjoying it too much to put a stop to it.
Across me, Hinata had stopped looking horrified and had regained that blushing admiration she was giving Naruto. Chouji was munching on some pastry they had made in the culinary club, no doubt enjoying the spectacle as much as everyone else did. Kiba was grinning, as though he had not seen anything cooler, while Shikamaru still looked rather doubtful. He was probably at a loss at the lack of logic in the entire thing. I have to admit, though it looks cool, fighting for no reason at all just seemed… irrational.
Unless, of course, Naruto was not telling us something.
Naruto was making quick work of the remaining gang members. A roundhouse kick here, a well-placed punch there, and a few smirks everywhere – and so soon enough, he had made a clean sweep of the Gori-Tai, nursing only a few injuries himself.
Naruto was an idiot, I thought then, but he was an awesomely cool idiot, nevertheless.
Hitonami ni magirekomi
I merge into a sea of people,
The crowd hushed as Naruto dusted his hands and picked up his drawstring. Without a word, he turned towards the gate, the crowd parting for him, his trench coat fluttering in the wind. It was like something from out of those old Japanese films, where dramatic music played as the hero silently walked away from the scene of the carnage. Or those Western ones where the hero rode into the beautiful sunset.
That was probably it. Naruto had become a hero of sorts.
The crowd broke into a loud chatter after what had happened. Ino elbowed her way towards me. "Tell me what you saw," she demanded.
"He beat them up, and walked away," I said, watching Naruto's retreating back. "Just that."
"They looked awed," Ino informed me, scanning my face for a reaction, but gave up when she didn't find any. "Was it really that amazing?"
"I guess," I said, shrugging. Ino stood beside me silently, watching as Naruto grew smaller in the distance.
Then, she said, "I wish we could've traded places in the crowd, Sakura. At least I'd have some kind of reaction because I saw it all."
I didn't reply. I was used to those kinds of comments. Only, this time, something in me stirred again. Why did I act so indifferent to it all, when indifference was anything but what I felt?
He said, just that morning, that we would be remembering his name. Was it coincidence, or did he really plan for his name to be remembered this way? Did he think that this was the road to fame best suited for him? Why did he want to be remembered, anyway? I had a lot of questions, but I didn't know how to ask them.
I glanced up at the roof. Sasuke was looking down on the proceedings, looking mildly interested, which was plenty interested when it's Sasuke we're talking about. I've never seen his attention get captured by anything for more than a minute.
Tokete kiete iku.
And melt away into nothing.
Uzumaki Naruto was quickly making his mark, and his influence was reaching even the most apathetic of hearts.
When I arrived in school the next day, I was greeted by applause.
My first thought was, Did I do something right? I could not remember any instance when I had been applauded by the class without the teacher's coaxing. I had never done anything quite extraordinary to other people in my life.
Then I realized that it wasn't for me, and it was silly for me to hope so. No, it was actually for the person behind me.
"Hey, Naruto!" Kiba yelled from his seat. "Great job cleaning up yesterday!"
"Yeah!" another student said. "That was pretty cool, Uzumaki-kun!"
"Better watch out for their revenge," Shikamaru advised. "They'll be plotting right about now."
"Who cares about them?" Naruto said, grinning mischievously. "I can take whatever they throw at me!"
I really could not believe how Naruto was so at home with being recognized. He was basking in the limelight, not at all blinded by the shining praise. The way he was craving the attention, it was like he couldn't live without it. What was wrong with him? Why go through so much trouble to get attention? If I wanted attention, I certainly wouldn't want to get the way he did – angering a very powerful gang, that is. I just wasn't that type of person.
But what type of person are you? a small voice in me said. He looks as though he's certain of what type of person he is. Why aren't you?
I realized then what type of person I was – the type who didn't even know herself well at all. I knew neither my strengths nor my weaknesses, and in turn, I couldn't show my true self to anyone. I was always hiding behind a veil of a model student, but it was an empty façade, nothing that would stamp into hearts or minds. I wasn't making an impression on anyone, because I was always just part of the dull background, obscured by the foreground filled with brightly colorful people like Ino and Hinata and Kiba… and Naruto. I was an unnoticed speck of dust compared to them.
I don't know when or how I began hiding my feelings. All I knew was that I've been doing it for most of my conscious life. I was always subconsciously afraid of showing my true self, particularly because I didn't know how people would take to it. In the rare moments I do show what I truly feel, people look at me strangely – it's as if they've always expected me not to react to anything. I've become, to my acquaintances and friends, the type of person who remained apathetic at all times. I know I'm not what they think I am, but then again, I don't know what I am, either.
Was this a challenge to myself, then? Was it time for me to move out of my shell? I could not see myself doing it. I clung on to the belief that I could not change, still worried what people – especially my friends – might think. I was tied and bound to how I viewed myself at the present, not acknowledging that it was not too late to show my true colors, nor was it anything bad to do.
I'm not a very brave person.
Presently, I sat down on my place, twirling a lock of my long hair around my finger. It was rather interesting that Uzumaki Naruto had gotten me into thinking such things just by being there. I didn't know or care how easily he influenced me to start questioning myself, particularly because I was too engrossed in doing so. I suppose, now that I think of it, Naruto has that kind of aura that makes you look inside yourself and do a bit of self-evaluation. He wasn't Buddha, he wasn't Kami-sama, but he certainly seemed like someone who followed their footsteps, having that power of influence surrounding him.
Or perhaps I just think too highly of him.
Classes proceeded as usual, that day. Once or twice, Kakashi-sensei would catch Naruto sleeping, or else having a laugh with Kiba and Chouji, but what do you expect from a troublemaker like him? It wasn't his job to excel in school, I suppose. (I hoped for his sake that he was smart enough to know what was going on during the lessons, though – Kakashi-sensei was a pretty tough teacher when it came to grades.)
But as the days wore on without any more brawls marring them, I noticed that Naruto seemed to be everywhere, or at least, he seemed to be everywhere around me. When I would look up from my math work, I would catch him staring curiously, though he often grinned at me whenever I did. When I walked through the corridors, whether or not I was with my friends or not, I found him either watching my every movement from afar, or else, following me rather nonchalantly, which was worse. And the worst of everything – I've caught him once or twice looking up my skirt, to which I responded by holding down my skirt, and wearing shorts underneath it since then.
I would have punched him. I really would have.
(I wondered why he never tried to look up Hinata's, or Ino's. I suppose Ino's wrath is a lot worse than mine is, and Hinata, well, Naruto probably liked her too much even then.)
This went on for about a week, and I found that I couldn't stand that kind of attention from him. It almost felt like I was being stalked, though my instincts told me Naruto wasn't that kind of person. Add to that the fact I was constantly in an identity crisis… well, the truth is, I was tired out from feeling and thinking too much. I guess I just wasn't used to it.
That day, I was wetting my face in the water fountain just after an hour in the sun's heat overseeing a class presentation practice, feeling drained, when someone came and stood beside me, washing up as well. "All right, Sakura-san?"
I looked up. It was Rock Lee, captain of the school's soccer team.
The Legendary Brows, as we called him when he was ruling the soccer field, his domain, was a limitless fountain of youth and energy. He said so himself, and no one who has seen him could deny that. He often worked himself and his team to the limit, leading them to win many Interschool Cups. His team was one of the few things our school could be truly proud about. He was extremely strange looking, though – his bowl cut and thick brows don't help in winning him a few female fans, but I don't think he worries about that.
Lee is quite loyal to friends, as well. Neji and Tenten, his two best friends, are lucky to have him. He used to court me (much to my chagrin) with loud proclamations and overt gestures, but things have become calmer between us. We've been good friends since he stopped doing so. Lee is a handy thing to have when work needed to be done, though. Coming from the class above us, he often helped our group of friends with certain projects. I'm quite fond of him for these reasons.
"I'm okay," I said with a bit of a sigh. "Just… tired."
"You look quite haggard," Lee observed. "You need vitamins."
I laughed. "I think I do. But how are you, Lee-san?"
"Getting by," Lee said, grinning his 1000-watt smile. "Say… Isn't that Uzumaki Naruto in your class?"
That name again. And here I thought I would be rid of thoughts of him for the time being. "Yeah, he is," I replied.
"Quite the hotheaded oddball, isn't he?" Lee commented. "I've never seen anyone like him, so full of boiling energy and enthusiasm! He's gotten into so many fights lately. Not that I approve of school violence, of course, but seeing fight like a one-man army does make me wonder how he does it. He could do with channeling his energy into something more positive, though."
"Joining a club, for example. But his fiery spirit, it seems, is being taken the wrong way," Lee continued. "Did you know he tried out for Neji's karate club?"
My eyebrows shot up. "No way!"
"Way," Lee said, nodding. "You can guess what happened."
"He didn't get in?" I asked.
"Naturally," a new voice joined us. I looked behind Lee to see Neji and his pretty girlfriend Tenten walking up to us. "I have never met anyone so barbaric."
Neji, like I mentioned before, was a disciplinarian of the strictest kind. Everything had to be just right. He worked his team just as much as Lee did, being another of the school's esteemed sports teams. He was a most talented martial artist, though I've never seen him use it for anything more than a karate tournament. He was also one of the smartest heads in their class. I don't know how he does it – juggling his academics and the karate club perfectly, that is.
But Neji can be so uptight sometimes, which is what Tenten is for, I suppose. Neji hardly laughed, and Tenten was the ditzy type, who could make anyone laugh whether or not she meant them to. In turn, Neji can manage to set Tenten back to earth with his strict remonstrations. While Neji's strictness often made his team members so exhausted they'd start to think of quitting, Tenten, as the team manager, could cheer them back up with her jokes and gentle teasing, balancing out the amount of stress Neji doled out. I think that's why their relationship works so well.
Like I said, Neji is Hinata's older cousin. Remember when I said it was virtually impossible for Hinata to have suitors when Kiba was around? Well, Kiba isn't around all the time, and Neji acts as his stricter, scarier alternate. He has the most amazing ability to discern good intentions from bad ones, and this has probably saved Hinata and the other people he cared about so many times.
"What did he do, Neji-san?" I asked out of curiosity.
"He barged into the dojo and demanded that I accept him into the club," Neji answered, disdain clear in his voice. "I told him he could only join if he could beat me fair and square in a tournament-style match. Well, he couldn't, because he didn't even know the rules in the first place."
"Personally, I think you were too harsh," Tenten piped up. "He wouldn't know the rules because you never deigned to teach him."
"I don't want someone so undisciplined in the team," Neji said huffily. "Anyway, he's been attacking me every time he sees me. He probably thinks he only needs to beat me by hook or by crook to get into the club."
"You're going to get tired of that one day," Tenten said cheerfully. "You'll crumple and you'll have to let him in."
"Not on your life," Neji replied with a tone of finality. "And that is that."
"Hey, you guys!" Ino exclaimed, with everyone else in tow, finally finished with their practice. "What are you talking about?"
"Uzumaki Naruto," Lee said. "Quite the interesting fellow, isn't he?"
To my dismay, everyone began to talk about Naruto again. What was it that made him so interesting to them? Did they feel the same way as I did? It couldn't have been that – they didn't have the same crisis with personality as I did. But there it was. He was touching everyone's lives so quickly that it was almost unbelievable. The changes were overwhelming me. The rude awakening that Naruto brought to all of us affected us in different ways, but I seemed to be the only one so confused about it.
I'm used to understanding things pretty quickly, and when I get confused, I only get more and more frustrated. Which was why, amid all the emotions I was feeling, it was frustration that stood above everything else. Frustration and anger are two different things, but sometimes, with me at least, to speak of one is to speak of the other. I was angry at Uzumaki Naruto. I was angry at him for upsetting the careful balance of my life.
We all turned to the source of the sound. Neji made an irritated sound. It was Naruto again.
My anger flared up upon seeing his face. How dare he bring about so many overwhelming changes in my thinking? How dare he frustrate me for weeks on end? It was then that my heart decided that I needed to vent in a physical way. I lost most vestiges of rational thought.
Boku wa michi wo nakushi
I lose myself completely
Naruto came running towards us, and my friends, save for Neji, scampered for cover. But I remained there, uncaring that Neji was staring at me with utter confusion. Naruto must have thought I would dodge, because he never stopped running towards Neji and me. I raised my hand just as Naruto raised his fist to hit Neji. His eyes widened when he realized I would not dodge, and his momentum wouldn't stop.
My palm hit Naruto's cheek hard, so hard that it might have been close to bleeding. Everyone was staring at me with utter disbelief, but at that moment, nothing mattered to me, except that I was seized with a kind of raw triumph – I had finally let my feelings out, at long last.
Who knew that losing control of my emotions felt so exhilarating? It was nothing like I'd ever felt. It was as though I had been holding my breath for a long time, and now, I could breathe as much as I wanted to, finally out of the suffocating grasp that was my own vicious self-control.
But I came back to earth, and I realized exactly what I had done. My hand was still in the air, stationary, and everyone's jaw had dropped at the sight of me actually venting my anger. It was nothing they would ever expect from me. It was nothing I would ever expect from myself. Soon, even I had adopted a shocked expression. It just wasn't me. Not the way I had known myself.
I paled. I couldn't stand the stares they were giving me. It frightened me that I had created a ripple in the pond. I couldn't interpret their expression, but as of the moment, all I knew was that it was too much for me. I turned on my heel and ran away, away from the terrifying weight of their looks, as though they were judging me.
I had never known I was so fragile. I ran away, uncaring of where I was, tears finally springing into my eyes. It may not seem much to you, but that kind of attention directed only to me scared me, because attention is an altogether alien experience for me. How should I describe it? Probably like how one feels when one is facing the dark. It is said that one of the natural fears of man is the unknown, and when facing the dark, one wonders what is in there, and imagines all kinds of horrible things.
That's how I felt at that moment. I had unknowingly tread on a path I'd avoided for so long, just because I couldn't keep my feelings in, and now that I was facing the unknown – that is, experiencing piercing attention for the first time – I didn't know how things would be the next day. I didn't know if it would be a big deal, something to be remembered, or something that would just come to pass.
In truth, I didn't know exactly what to be afraid of. Was I afraid because I was about to experience unwanted attention, or because I thought I had finally tried to make an impression in people's mind, but only to find out the next day I had failed and I would never get the chance again?
I didn't know. I was just a scared little girl, her feelings getting the better of her.
Kotoba sura nakushiteshimau
And can find no words to say.
To Be Continued…
"Rock Lee! I challenge you to a one-on-one soccer match!"
"N-Naruto-kun! Please accept this letter!"
"Uchiha-kun, thanks for listening. I actually feel a little better."
"You freakin' idiot. I'm not going to honor an empty challenge."
"Challenge: We've taken three of your lovely lady friends. If you don't want anything to happen to them, you're going to have to come, alone."
Nokottetta, nokottetta, kimi no koe ga.
Your voice still remains, still remains.
AN: Oh crackersnap. I actually finished the first part. I enjoyed making this. It's hard, but still rather fun, to dig into Sakura's psyche. I was thinking of her having some kind of weird psychological issue of her own, and it only occurred to me that as an Academy student in the canon, she wasn't very extraordinary. What if she had never aimed for attention? It's possible she'd be apprehensive should it be given to her in huge amounts.
It's probably confusing for you. It's too much of a new take to Sakura's character, I think.
But I'll know what you think if you click on that purple button on the bottom left of your screen. Please tell me if I was wasting my time, or if I should write more. Oh, and please give me more than "Wow please continue!" or "It sucks. Go home." At least tell me why I should continue, or why I should go home.
But to be perfectly honest, the exciting stuff is in the second chapter. I'm just saying. If you guys think that the preview looks a bit interesting, then maybe you can tell me if I should continue or what.