I groaned when I heard a knock on the door. Well, more like banging. I turned my head towards the door, eyes narrowed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kureiga standing up, muttering a few words as he sat up. I then glanced at Sasuke, who was not amused by the noise.
"Come on guys, wake up!" a voice said as the banging continued. It took me a moment before I recognized Sakura's voice. "We have to be down in the kitchen."
"WE'RE UP ALREADY!" Kureiga yelled out.
"Someone better be dying," Sasuke said in a quiet, yet vehement tone. I internally agreed with him while Kureiga grunted.
The three of us took us some time to change into our uniforms before we made our way out of the room. As we made our way down the stairs, I looked towards Kureiga before speaking.
"Hey Kureiga," I said. Kureiga's dark eyes looked towards me. "You finished that tree-climbing exercise quickly. What did you get out of it?"
Kureiga kept his eyes on me for a few moments. He then smiled slightly before looking forward. I blinked at him before bringing my head forward.
"Fine, be that way," I said half-jokingly. Kureiga merely scoffed before we reached down the floor. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sasuke smirk briefly before he returned to his default expression. We turned the corner to see Sakura, sitting at the table with a glass of water in her hand. I couldn't help but noticed the uncomfortable look on her face. Kureiga didn't notice, or just didn't care, because he stepped forward, not happy about being woken up in such a way.
"You better have a good reason for waking us up this morning!" he said with a decent amount of heat.
"As a matter of fact she does," a voice said behind us. We all turned to see Kakashi-sensei standing without the use of his crutches. I couldn't help but smile.
"You're well," I said. Kureiga laughed with glee.
"Awesome," the black-clad nin commented. Sasuke however, palmed his face with his right hand.
"You, idiots," he said, shaking his head in his palm.
"Oh, thanks, Sasuke," Kureiga shot back. "You really know how to encourage a person."
"Don't you get it?" Sasuke's head shot up, looking straight at Kureiga. "If he's able to stand right now, then so is Zabuza!"
Kureiga scoffed, shrugging his shoulders. "And your point is? We know all of Zabuza's tricks now and -"
"We still don't know what his companion can do. For all we know, he can kill us all."
"Obviously she isn't if she was just sitting off on the sidelines!"
"Or maybe she's just a trump card!"
"He does have a point," Sakura said, standing up. She opened her mouth to say something else, but Kureiga was quicker to say something.
"Oh, you would say that!" Kureiga shot back.
"Enough!" Kakashi said before rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Kureiga, they do have a point. Zabuza, as powerful as he is, wouldn't choose someone like her as a partner if she wasn't very powerful. As such, we're going to do everything we can to prepare. We still got a few days, but we're going to use as much time as possible to be ready. Naruto and Sasuke, make it a priority to complete your training as soon as possible. Sakura, you're taking guard duty. Kureiga, you've worked with Tenten before, right?"
"Yeah," he said.
"Think you can handle checking over our weapons for any defects?"
"Good. Keep your afternoon open. But for now, I think you might need to take a walk." The way he said it and the accompanying glare lead me to believe that Kureiga didn't have a choice in the matter. Kureiga pressed his lips together before nodding. At this time, Sakura stuck her tongue out him. Kureiga looked at her for a moment. He then turned away and walked towards the door. I looked back at Sakura as she smiled, seemingly satisfied with herself. The smile vanished as she scowled. I looked back at Kureiga just in time to see him withdraw his middle finger as he stepped out the house. Sasuke walked away and walked towards the sink as if the argument never happened as Sakura stalked towards the stairs before ascending them. I looked back at Kakashi-sensei as he huffed out a breath.
"Are Kureiga and Sakura always like this?" I asked. Kakashi shook his head.
"It's complicated," he said. I narrowed my eyes at the door.
"Do you think they like each other?" I said. I felt a subtle amount of anger in my chest. Kakashi merely chuckled.
"I can assure you one thing; those two will NEVER be a couple."
And they never did.
After a quick breakfast, I was back at the tree again. Even though I didn't say anything, I knew I was catching up to Sasuke. Every now and again, I saw him steal a glance towards me. And during those few times, I could see the look on his face; the look of surprise and disbelief. I hated being looked down upon, so I couldn't help but feel joy from knowing that Sasuke was looking over his shoulder.
At one point, I dropped to the ground after making another mark on the tree. I straightened myself, looking up at the tree for a few moments. A soft thud sounded a few feet away from me, telling that Sasuke landed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him give me a look. I turned towards Sasuke, who narrowed his eyes at me.
"I've come a long way, huh teme?" I asked. I then gave him a half smiled that exposed once of my slightly long canines as I furrowed my eyebrows slightly. This caused Sasuke's eyes to narrow even more as lines started to form on his face. I then turned towards my tree again before getting back to the training. By the time lunch rolled around, Sasuke and I were just over three thirds of the way up, and I was only five slashes behind.
At the lunch table, Kureiga finally came back from his long walk. Gone were the bandages on his face, showing that his face was mostly healed, showing only a few small scabs. However, his right hand was now wrapped in linen, forcing him to eat with his left hand. Naturally, it was a slow process for him. While this was going on, I caught another look from Sasuke. This look wasn't as hateful as the last look I received. It still made me uncomfortable, and I couldn't help but glare back at him. I then winced slightly when I felt something hit my temple. I brought my left hand up against it and wiped it, I felt something against my palm, so I pinched it in between my two fingers. I brought it front of my face to see that it was a rice kernel. I looked over to my left to see Sakura giving me warning glare.
Needless to say, a lot of glares were given to each other.
The table was silent for the most part, with the exception of the bottom of glasses hitting the surface of the wooden table. Tazuna, being Tazuna, wouldn't let the silence go on for too long.
"So… how's everything?" he asked.
Everybody remained quiet. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kakashi eyeing every single last one of us. And for good reason. Things were tensed at the table as we focused on eating our lunch. Inari, the kid from a few days earlier shifted in his seat.
"It would probably be best to let them enjoy this lunch," he said. "It's going to be one of their last ones."
Kureiga furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at the young child.
"What's that supposed to mean?" the black-clad nin demanded.
"Leave him alone," Sakura interjected.
Kureiga looked over at Sakura and stared daggers into her. The look was immediately returned and I could see Kakashi back his seat up, getting ready to intervene. But before things could combust between them, Inari continued.
"I mean what I said. You all are going to die soon."
That was the second time he said it. And it was even more unnerving as the first time. I pressed my lips together as I felt another welling of anger in my chest. It was more intense then last time. I placed my hands underneath the table before I balled them up into fists as I resisted the urge to toss the table aside and give him the same beating I gave the Hokage's grandson.
"Your concern for our lives is greatly appreciated, but unnecessary," Kureiga quipped sarcastically before returning to his lunch. He gave a Sakura another look. This was less angry and more annoyed. Sakura merely sighed before returned to her lunch as well. I took in a deep breath to calm myself down before I brought my hands up above the table again. I looked over at Kakashi, who grimaced at me through his mask.
Yeah, that lunch time wasn't tense at all.
Needless to say, I couldn't wait for it to be over. After I was done, I stood up and exited to the back area that overlooked the sea. I saw three different piles of weapons, each with a piece of a paper bearing a name on it. I pressed my lips together as I removed by back pack and let it hung from my right hand. I then walked over to the nearest pile (Sasuke's) before kneeling down.
Kunai were my favorite of the rudimentary weapons. They were more versatile then shuriken, which were meant to be thrown and thrown only. With kunai, you can throw and used them a melee weapons. They were durable, and a kunai that is good condition is enough to stand up to the largest of blades, as Kakashi showed when he took on Zabuza.
But the thing was, as durable as kunai are, it degrades like any other weapon. So, that meant taking care of them looking over each and making sure there no cracks or nicks in the blade itself, and making sure they were not dull. So, as I opened my back pack and reached in for my whetstone and black rag, I made sure I was comfortable. I then tied the black rag around the bottom half of my face before getting started.
It was a long process, to say the least. I myself usually spent at least five minutes on a blade. If there was something wrong with the blade, then the process could take a lot longer, maybe twenty minutes. Given the time, I blew through Sasuke's blades, only sharpening a few. This didn't surprise me. Even before the academy, I imagined that his clan training involving imprinting the importance of tool maintenance. Had I not grew close with Tenten, I doubt I would have placed tool maintenance in high regard. I was about to go to Sakura's pile, but I decided to go to Naruto's pile instead, still somewhat angry with Sakura.
I think an hour passed, and I was halfway done when I heard footsteps behind me. I looked behind me to see Kakashi walking up behind me. I pressed my lips together before bringing my attention back to my task.
"You here to check up on my handy work, or are you here to chastise me for arguing with Sakura?" I asked. I then sighed as I bowed my head. "Sorry for the disrespect."
"I see you're still angry," he said as he took a seat next to me.
"I'll get over it." I picked up another kunai before banging it against the ground. It didn't break, which prompted me to look over the blade and glide my index across it. "What's the deal with that Inari kid, anyway?"
"He has his reasons," Kakashi said. He said nothing more as he looked out to horizon.
"Oh really?" I quipped.
"Just don't do anything that'll get us in trouble," he said. "You should watch that temper of yours."
"I don't have a temper problem," I said with an annoyed tone. "'Sides, Naruto's the person you need to watch. You know he punched out Konohamaru in front of the Hokage?" I couldn't help but smile slightly when I heard a short chuckle of amusement sound from Kakashi's masked lips.
"So I heard. Naruto could be unpredictable. But the fact still remains. I couldn't help but notice that you have an antagonistic relationship with Sakura. I understand that you two have your differences. But, honestly, whether you like it or not, you two have to coexist. You managed to coexist with Sasuke."
"That's because Sasuke doesn't even talk to me unless he has some ulterior motive. And while I hate that, I'd take Sasuke's silence over Sakura's mouth any day of the week, twice on the ones ending in the letter 'y'."
I pulled another blade, knowing full well that Kakashi was rolling his eyes.
"Why do you dislike Sakura so much, anyway?" he asked. That got me to pause. I then looked back at Kakashi, wondering if he was serious.
"Do I really need me to answer that? The girl's a hypocrite. She's quick to hit me or Naruto for doing something she deems as stupid. But I can bet a stack of ryo that she would just look at Sasuke all freaking googly-eyed if he did the same thing. Plus… she's a bitch!"
"Watch it," Kakashi said in a clipped tone. I took in a deep breath before releasing it.
"I'm not irritable," I said.
"Kureiga, you're not exactly the most agreeable person to be around," he said. "Matter of fact, I can list the many flaws in your character that quite a few people would find less than desirable. I'm not saying that to put you down. And I'm not saying that to defend Sakura. I'm saying that you shouldn't be so irritable around her. Remember what I said to Sasuke?" I nodded slowly. "The same applies to you. Whether you two like it or not, you're going to be stuck together for a long time. Deal with it."
And with that, he stood up, leaving to my thoughts. I paused for a moment before I continued.
"I'm not irritable," I whispered to myself. At that point, I didn't even know who I was trying to convince.
I sat out front, looking out to the ocean as I tried to clear my head. Usually, at this point, I would be marveling at the beauty of the ocean. I don't much chances to see the ocean back in the Fire Country. The docks and beach was located quite a ways from Konoha, and prior to this mission, I never took a boat anywhere outside of the country.
Problem was, I wasn't exactly having the best day. And of course, Kureiga was the reason behind it. We were at odds with each other, and had been since that incident in the restaurant. We argued a lot about that incident for a while after. I was angry with him for his temper and how he trashed part of the venue. He was angry with me because I didn't even bother to try and defend Naruto. But could one blame me? Naruto was a known prankster, so no doubt he did something to warrant those actions. Granted, Naruto did pay for the food, and the food did come back horrible. But even under those circumstances, Kureiga couldn't expect Naruto to do the things he does without suffering retribution.
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly fond of Kureiga. I just think he is nothing but a person who thinks his reasons justified his actions, even if the reasons themselves were rather questionable in and of themselves.
I was broken out of my thoughts when I heard footsteps behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see Kakashi-sensei approaching me. I looked back out at the ocean, seeing that it took on a golden glow. Within moments, he took a seat right next to me.
"It's a Beautiful sight, isn't it?" he said. I nodded in agreement. Prior to this mission, I didn't spend that much time outside of the village. When I did, I merely entered one of the surrounding forests that gave Konoha its name. So, seeing an ocean wasn't exactly an everyday occurrence for me. I didn't take that much time to gaze at the scenery. It was kind of hard to when you have to protect a bridge builder from a missing-nin that was way above our pay grade. This was my first time actually enjoying the sight of it since I came to the Wave Country.
"It is," I replied, allowing a smile to grace my face. I knew that smile wasn't going to last long. Nothing against Kakashi-sensei, but he wasn't exactly a hanging out type. He wanted to talk about something important.
"I want to talk to you about Kureiga," he said. And just like that, my smile faded away. It was replaced with a scowl and a frown.
"What about him?" I said dismissively. I didn't want to have this conversation with him. I didn't want to talk about him at all.
"Your antagonistic relationship with him, to be specific." I pressed my lips together.
"I don't like him and he doesn't like me. It's as simple as that."
"Why don't you like him?" he pressed on. I then turned my head away from the ocean and towards Kakashi, who looked back at me with his one exposed eye.
"You mean other than the fact that he just seems to be argue with me just for the sake of it? Other than the fact he thinks he's justified in doing stuff that is looked down upon? Other than the fact that he likes to curse a lot for no reason? Other than the fact that he gets angry over trivial things? No reason."
"Sakura… you do realize that you're not exactly the easiest person to deal with, right?" Kakashi said pointedly. "I'm not going to act as if Kureiga doesn't have his flaws, because he has quite a bit. But, honestly, you're not exactly helping things either." I raised an eyebrow at that one.
"You do treat Kureiga and Naruto unfairly. Especially when compared to Sasuke. As a matter of fact, I think you'd let Sasuke get away with stuff you tend to pound on Kureiga and Naruto " Kakashi then sat up as I thought about that for a moment. "What I said to Sasuke back during the bell test applies to you. You and Kureiga are going to be around each other for a long time. I'm not asking you to be friends. But remember that you are part of a team. Your actions and his actions could have detrimental effects on that team. Just something that you should think about."
As he walked off, I looked back into the ocean, thinking about what he said. I then looked back towards the house. I then got up and walked towards it. After some minutes, I was inside and on my way towards the top floor. I didn't stop until I reached the door of the boys' bedroom. I brought my hand up before I used it to rap the wooden service three times.
"Kureiga, are you in there?" I asked.
"Yeah, I am," he yelled out from behind the door.
"Can I come in?"
"Can you promise you won't hit me?"
I heard a sarcastic chuckle from behind the door.
"Fine, come in. But tie the hitai-ate around your mouth and nose before. I don't I need to tell you what inhaling steel shavings can do to your day, do I?"
"Nope!" I untied my forehead protector from around my head. I then grabbed the corners of it and let it unravel before I tied it around the bottom half of my face. I then twisted the door knob before opening the door. I saw Kureiga on his knees, sharpening a blade before bringing it up to his eyes, examining it. "So, are you the team's ironsmith now?"
"I guess," he said. "But I guess that's what happens when you tell your sensei that you like to work with Tenten from time to time." He paused for a moment before tossing the blade in large pile. "And, that's, as they say, is that." He looked back at me. "You really know how to keep your weapons in great shape."
"Thanks," I said. "Something I learned from the academy."
"Yeah?" he mused. "Well, Tenten taught me that. Or, more like threaten to skewer me if I ever trained with her with shoddy weaponry again."
I then scoffed. I then sighed "Hey, Kureiga, you got a minute."
"Not according to Inari," he said bitterly.
"Are you still bothered by what he said?" He didn't say anything at first. He stood up and walked towards the door.
"Walk with me, I'm going to grab a broom and a dustpan," he said. I nodded as he opened the door. As he walked through, I followed him out. "I don't need some kid telling me that my days are numbered." He kept on walking until he reached a door. He opened it before bending over, searching around it.
"Kureiga," I said sternly. He's just a kid.
"Yeah, I know," he said as he stood up, dustpan and broom in hand. "So what's on your mind?"
"Look, I know we haven't exactly gotten along…" I paused for a moment. I noticed the corner of his mouth twitched. However, he didn't say anything, as if he was trying to hold back. I then continued. "But, considering that we are a part of a team, I think it would be best if we try to at least be…"
"Civil?" Kureiga said. I then nodded.
"Civil," I repeated. "I know we probably won't be friends or anything like that. But, we can at least try and get along."
Kureiga paused for a moment. He then nodded.
"Okay," he muttered. He then spoke. "Okay." I smiled at him from underneath my mask. I didn't I saw one his cheeks swell a bit, showing that he was half-smiling.
"I'm gonna go clean up my mess now," he said before walking away. I smiled to myself, thinking that everything was going to go smoothly for the rest of the night. But, as per usual during this mission, things didn't go as I thought they would.
Later that night, we were in the kitchen for dinner, dining with Tazuna and his family. Once again, the table was in silence. However, this silence was a little more comfortable. After a while, Kakashi spoke.
"So, how are things?" he said.
"Civil," Kureiga said. He then looked at me shot a wink. I couldn't help but chuckle as I dug into my rice.
"I'm almost done with my training," Naruto announced. I saw Sasuke look up at him and narrow his eyes at him. He then returned to his food. I started to notice that Sasuke would let off these looks every now and again. It was as if Naruto did something to disturb or surprise him. It had been happening more and more. I wanted to say something, wanting to know if Naruto did something to upset him, but Kakashi chimed in with praise.
"That's very good, Naruto," he said with a smile. "I'm glad you're taking your training seriously."
"He better be," Kureiga said with a smile. "He wouldn't be much use as a punching bag to me."
"As if," Naruto fired back with a grin. "I don't think even Zabuza can stop me!"
"As if Zabuza fears a dobe like you," Sasuke interjected. Sasuke then smiled as Naruto glared at him. Kureiga merely laughed. I then shook my head.
"We keep on forgetting that Sasuke is working hard to," I said. "He may be the one to crush Zabuza, yet." At this, Sasuke's smile widened slightly.
"Huh," Kureiga said, leaning back against his seat with his arms raised. "I forgot we had the great Sasuke in our midst. MY bad." This caused a short chuckle to come out of Sasuke's mouth as almost all of the rest of us were in hysterics.
"HAHAHAHAHA," Tazuna laughed. "Aren't you all confident tonight?"
"I guess we got our confidence back," I said.
For that small moment in time, everything was… okay. Kureiga and I didn't hate each other, and neither did Naruto and Sasuke. We weren't scared of Zabuza or his companion. On the contrary, we were confident. I'd go as far to say that we were looking forward to it. Unfortunately, there was one person we forgot about at the table: Inari. He made his presence known by suddenly standing up in his seat, causing all of us to turn our heads towards him.
"How can you do this?" he said. "How can you all just sit here and laugh when you are all undertaking a suicide mission? You are all going to die and you won't change a single thing that happened here! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
And just like that, things were back to normal. Kureiga set down his chop sticks before he opened his mouth. I looked straight at him, prompting him to look back at me. I shook my head, hoping he would just let it go. He pressed his tongue against his cheek as he huffed out a breath. He then stood up before walking past Inari. Inari took a step back as a spike of killing intent was let off by Kureiga. Instead of acting on it though, Kureiga just exited the house, slamming the door behind him. I looked back at the door, glad that Kureiga was able to rein in his anger.
"What have you done?" I heard a voice say. I turned around to see Naruto giving Inari a look of… I couldn't quite a put a finger on it. I could see the anger, but I also saw annoyance, disdain and… offense?
"What have I done?" Inari replied back.
"What have you done?" I opened my mouth to try and stop Naruto, but he kept on going. "You talk about how nothing's going to change, which tells me that you must have done something to try and change things. So what have you done?" Naruto went silent. I looked back at Inari who just looked back at him in silence. I then glanced back at Tsunami and Tazuna, who looked over at Naruto with a look of surprise. The silence went on for several seconds more as Naruto kept his eyes Inari, waiting for an answer that didn't come. Realizing this, Naruto scoffed. "Nothing… you have done nothing… and yet you want to go around and tell us that we're going to fail."
Inari opened his mouth, as if he was going to refute what Naruto said, but then he closed it, unable to say anything in reply.
"You words mean nothing to me. They mean nothing to us. All you are is a bystander. So why don't you just go cry somewhere else!"
With that said, Naruto stood up before walking past Inari and up the stairs. After that Sasuke stood before looking at Inari.
"Stay out of our way," Sasuke said with a glare before he made his way outside of the door. Inari just stood there, looking down at the ground with a look of surprise. Kakashi shook his head before looking over at Tazuna and Tsunami.
"You have to forgive Naruto," he said in a quiet tone. "He's been through a lot." He then stood up before making his way upstairs, no doubt to talk to Naruto.
I looked down at the table, confused by what Kakashi said about Naruto going through a lot. I thought about what he could have meant. I knew Naruto to be a prankster who wanted to become Hokage. Oh, and he liked ramen. And, from what I've seen lately, a pretty good fighter. But I didn't know much else about Naruto. I looked up at the stairwell. I then stood up before making my way towards the stairs.
I'm not usually for eavesdropping, but something told me that the conversation that our sensei was going to have with Naruto was one I had to listen to.