Child of the Curse
Chapter 5: Forging Friendships
During the following months, Naru and Tenten grew close to each other. They were almost inseparable. At first, Naru had been confused by the young brunette because of how excited she could get, but became more accepting when she saw the girl calm down. Despite her young age, Tenten had a passion for weapons. Naru quickly learned that if she wanted to have a normal conversation with her new friend, she had to avoid the topic like the plague.
The two girls continued to meet up, first at the weapons shop. Atsui and Sayuri would take her there several times a week so the kids could talk and play. Naru's parents trusted Yutaka enough to leave Naru under his supervision, though there was always an ANBU nearby, just in case. When they would come to pick Naru up, they would usually find her in the back room, receiving lessons from Tenten on various weapons, mainly shuriken and kunai.
Yutaka always made sure they were blunted, much to Tenten's annoyance.
After a month of meeting up, Atsui suggested that Naru invite Tenten to the Sarutobi compound. Naru hadn't thought of that, but liked the idea. It soon became a pattern of switching off where they would meet. One day it would be at the blacksmith's, the next it would be at the Hokage's home.
Neither of the two kids really talked about their lives until they had been meeting for about two months. Up until then, they had simply discussed things they liked to do, nothing that was too personal. The first to open up was Tenten.
Another kunai hit the bullseye of the target.
"You're amazing, Tenten-chan!" Naru announced. She looked over to her own target. Two kunai had hit the outer ring, but the rest were lodged in various places on the wall where the target was hung.
Tenten smiled back. "I've been practicing for a long time. You'll get better soon! At least you hit the target today!" She pointed to the two kunai. "See! You're already getting better!"
Naru sighed. "It's still not as good as you," she mumbled.
"Hey," Tenten said, earning Naru's attention. "Nothing is free. You have to work to get it!"
Naru nodded. "You mean like how it takes a while to learn how to cook and paint?" she asked.
The brunette quirked her head in confusion.
"You haven't learned how to cook?" Naru asked.
Tenten shook her head slowly.
"How come?" the blonde asked obliviously.
Tenten lowered her head and moved to collect the kunai. Naru followed after her.
"What's wrong, Tenten-chan?" she asked.
"Nothing," the young girl replied, pulling a kunai out of the wall.
"Something's wrong," Naru said matter-of-factly. "Kaa-san says that when—"
"Just leave me alone!" Tenten snapped and turned to face Naru.
It was only then that the young blonde realized her friend was crying.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, reaching out to the other girl. Tenten slapped her hand away, and ran over to the staircase. She climbed up the stairs as fast as she could and was out of Naru's sight before the blonde could fully comprehend what had just happened. Naru stood there, stunned.
She knew that Tenten and her father lived upstairs in the weaponry. She also knew that she was allowed to go to Tenten's room because she had been invited there many times before.
Within moments, Naru took off after her friend, wondering what had caused her to react like that. Had she said something bad? If so, she hadn't meant to.
She sprinted up the stairs and walked down the hallway until she came upon Tenten's bedroom. It was smaller than hers, but definitely looked comfortable. She saw her friend lying on the bed, curled up into a ball.
She walked over to the crying girl and placed a hand on Tenten's arm. The brunette jerked in surprise, causing Naru to recoil as well. Naru mentally berated herself for not making her presence known beforehand. She remembered her family talking about how "sneaky" she could be, even though she didn't realize it.
"I'm sorry," she apologized again, both for the surprise and for what had happened earlier.
Tenten met her eyes for a moment, and then looked away. "It's fine," she muttered into a pillow she was hugging.
"What did I do wrong?" Naru asked, desperately wanting to know. She hated it when she hurt the people she loved. While she didn't "love" Tenten as a family member, she was the first friend Naru had ever made. She didn't want to lose that friendship.
Tenten turned to face her again and sat up. She patted the spot next to herself, so Naru jumped up on the bed to sit by her. The blonde kept her eyes on her the whole time, her gaze anxious.
Tenten pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.
"It's not your fault," she said quietly. "You didn't know."
"Know what?" Naru inquired. "What's wrong? How come crying?"
Tenten would have corrected her had it been any other situation.
"When I was five, my kaa-san… passed away," Tenten explained, hugging her knees tightly. "Tou-san can't cook very well—kaa-san did that—so I never really learned how to do things like that. All I really know about are weapons."
Naru frowned and wrapped her arms around her friend as best she could. "I'm sorry, Tenten-chan."
Tenten shook her head a bit, but welcomed the embrace. "It's been almost two years now. I wish I could be strong like tou-san," she said, her voice cracking. "He never cries, but I always do." She put her head down. "But I can't help it. I can't stop crying!" A sob escaped her mouth. "I miss her too… much…" She broke down crying. "It's not fair!"
Naru didn't know what to do besides hold her friend tightly. How should she feel? No one close to her had ever died. What did it feel like to lose someone important to you? It was making Tenten cry; it was obviously bad. What had happened to the strong girl she had come to know? Tenten never cried. Not even when she got hurt by falling down or sticking herself with a pointy weapon by accident. She just shrugged it off and carried on as if nothing had happened.
She was a tough girl—it was one of the many things Naru liked about her. Where had that girl gone off to? When had the weeping brunette taken her place? Could she do anything to make the strong girl come back? She didn't know what was going through her friend's mind, so how could she do anything about it? Her mother had died two years ago. That was the thing that was making her cry.
She tried to think of the things her own mother did for her whenever she cried. Would rubbing her back help? What else had her mother done?
Naru's train of thought suddenly paused as something hit her. How would she react if Sayuri suddenly disappeared? What would she do if she never saw her mother again? Could she handle an encounter with death? It would mean that there would be no one to read her to sleep the nights her father was out on a mission. Kari could, but it wouldn't be the same. Her family would help fill the void, but a piece would always be missing.
"Kaa-san can't die!" Naru shrieked, her hands clutching Tenten even harder.
Tenten's head jerked up in surprise, her sadness practically forgotten. Suddenly the roles had been switched, and Naru was the one crying into Tenten's shoulder.
"Naru-chan?" Tenten asked, and slipped an arm out of the girl's grasp. She put a hand on the blonde's back.
Naru looked up, tears still rolling down her face.
Tenten tried her best to smile. "Naru-chan, you still have your kaa-san. It's okay."
"But, but you don't!" she retorted. "It's not fair!"
Tenten shook her head. "No, it's not. But I still have tou-san!" She gave a genuine smile. "You still have both your parents! Don't cry over something that hasn't happened."
"And your grandpa is the Hokage!" Tenten encouraged. It was kind of funny that she was the one who was comforting another, but then remembered that Naru was only five years old. Tenten had recently turned seven—she couldn't expect so much out of Naru. She was happy to know that Naru had wanted to help her, though. It had been awhile since she had someone she could open up to.
Naru paused, but smiled. "Yep!" She thought about ways she could make it up to Tenten. She hadn't meant to make her cry, but she still had.
"Oh!" the blonde announced when an idea hit her. "Wanna come over to my house?" she asked the other girl. "We can cook with Kari-obasan, and paint with ojiisan!"
"Are your parents okay with that?" Tenten asked hesitantly.
"Sure!" Naru said enthusiastically. "But I've never had a friend over before."
Tenten giggled at that. "It's okay, Naru-chan! I'm sure it will all work out! Thank you!"
Found her! Naru grinned. The old Tenten was back.
When Tenten began visiting the Sarutobi compound, she quickly learned she had interests in things other than weapons. While she still wasn't a huge fan of cooking, she took a liking to art immediately.
In part because she was amazing when it came to painting weapons.
Naru tried to get her to paint landscapes, and she would on occasion, but the young brunette's brain was always on sharp and pointy objects. The blonde would always sigh whenever that would happen.
Hiruzen, on the other hand, would always laugh at those interactions that resulted in Naru pouting. He was happy to have another person to paint with, though he would still sometimes go to the balcony without any children if he wanted it to be quiet. Normally, he didn't mind Naru, but she could get loud if something caught her eye.
She'll definitely be a good student if she goes to the Academy, he pondered. The young girl had taken an interest in being a ninja a while back, and if she was committed to that, then they would have to start her training soon.
He never would have guessed that it would start because of Tenten's initiative.
For Naru's sixth birthday, Tenten gave her a book on different types of weapons. Every couple of pages there would be a new section with information on a type of weapon. The book had many pictures, as well, leaving nothing to the imagination. It also gave the most basic of instruction as to how each weapon was used.
In all, it was Naru's favorite birthday present. She began reading it that very night… well, more like skimmed it, since she didn't know all of the terms. Tenten promised she would show Naru any weapons she wanted to see the next time she came to their house.
Naru couldn't have been more excited.
When she first flipped through the guide, she was really only looking at the pictures. Some caught her eye, and she would read a bit about them, but would soon continue on. When she finished flipping through it, she thought about everything she had seen.
Only one weapon really stood out to her.
She jumped off the bed and ran out the bedroom to where she knew her father still was. Atsui and her grandfather were still talking in the living room, and gave Naru a surprised look when they saw her at the door.
"Naru?" Atsui asked. "It's midnight, shouldn't you be asleep?"
The blonde ignored the question, and instead held up the book that was opened to the page on the weapon she had become so fascinated with. Atsui reached over and took it from her, while Hiruzen raised a brow in question.
"Bow and arrow?" Atsui inquired. A small smile appeared on his face. "So, you have an interest in archery?"
"It's been a while since I've seen an archer in Konoha," her grandfather commented. "Not many of our ninja specialize in a particular weapon. And when they do, they usually choose something like swordsmanship."
Atsui looked to Hiruzen. "Doesn't mean it's not an effective skill." He paused, looking down at the picture in the guide. "You just have to be very proficient in it for it to be useful. If you can't work quickly, it's not effective because you wind up leaving your guard down while you're pulling out another arrow."
"True," Hiruzen agreed. "But we all know one woman that was able to make it work."
"My sensei?" Atsui chuckled. "The Gennin days were horrible," he said with a shiver. "Whenever she was mad at us, she light one on fire. Crazy woman."
Hiruzen couldn't help but laugh at that one.
Naru looked confused. "Who was your sensei?" She saw her two family members freeze for a moment, but tried to ignore it when they carried on casually.
"She was the Yondaime's wife, Namikaze Kushina," Atsui explained. "I'll tell you more about the old days some other time, but my point with all that is she taught me a bit about using a bow and arrow. I could help you learn if you're interested."
Naru's concern was immediately forgotten and she was soon bouncing up and down. "Yes, please, tou-san!" she said excitedly.
Atsui chuckled and looked to Hiruzen. "I'll pick up a decurve bow from Yutaka next time I stop by. He should have a few." The older man nodded.
Naru quirked her head. "What's a decurve bow?"
"It's not really meant to be used for battle," Atsui explained. "Most people use them for practice, especially for younger children, because they shoot the arrow at a slower speed. It'll help to get you started in archery. If you still like it later on, we'll get you a better bow."
Naru grinned and jumped up in her father's lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Thank you so much, tou-san!"
He looked a bit surprised, but wrapped an arm around her. "You're very welcome, Naru."
Hiruzen couldn't help but smile at the scene before him. Naru had come a long way in the year she had been with the family. He still remembered the scared four-year-old that had come into his office the previous September. She hadn't wanted to let go of Sayuri at all. He couldn't think of another time when he had seen a child so frightened inside Konoha. Most four-year-olds didn't have a care in the world; it wasn't fair that Naru had to suffer at such a young age.
At least she has a family now, he thought with a smile.
Shortly after Naru's birthday, Atsui and Sayuri began training their daughter. It wasn't anything too serious; it was just meant to give her a feel for what training was. Technically, she had started training the day she first picked up a shuriken at the weaponry, but that had mainly been for fun. Her parents were more serious about their lessons.
Atsui began by explaining the concept of chakra to Naru. It was complicated, but he tried to break it down as best he could. Naru finally understood that she needed to look for something inside herself. She wasn't exactly sure what that thing was, but according to her father, she would know it when she found it.
He also showed her a method that would aid her in the process. It was something called "meditation." Atsui thanked Kami that the young girl was able to sit quietly in one place for a long time. She could have a lot of energy, and was like Tenten in more ways than one, but she also knew that there were times when she had to be calm. It made Atsui's job a lot easier.
While meditating, her father told her to try and feel a sort of "spark," some kind of energy flowing through her. He guided her through the process for almost half an hour with no luck. Naru looked disappointed, but Atsui told her he would have been highly surprised if she had managed to find her chakra that quickly.
"Many people don't find it until they're eight or nine," he said. She countered by saying that people like Kakashi had found it when they were even younger than her. He said that there were always exceptions, but all she could do was try her best.
"And besides, you don't need chakra to use a bow and arrow." That brightened her up immediately, and Atsui pulled out a large case.
He opened it and presented her with the contents: a somewhat small bow, several arrows in a makeshift quiver, an armguard, and a finger tab. He went through the equipment slowly, making sure that Naru understood him and what each part was used for. She almost had a hard time following because of how stunned she was at how quickly her father had bought the weapon.
When he finished explaining, he looked her in the eye with a serious expression.
"Before we begin, I want you to understand that you are not allowed to use this without Sayuri, Kazuhito, Hiruzen, or me watching you," he said. "Alright?"
Naru nodded. "Like the kunai and shuriken practice with Tenten?"
"Exactly," he replied. He then broke into a grin. "Let's get started."
Naru groaned as she flopped onto her bed. She had just finished another training session with her mother, and was dead tired. Recently, her parents decided to bring her training up a notch, resulting in many days where all Naru wanted to do was sleep. She felt like she was just beginning to understand what being a ninja really meant.
Naru still firmly held onto the idea that she would become a ninja one day. She wanted to protect her family from bad people, and though she never told anyone, she wanted to find out who had given her father that "cursed seal," as he called it. She didn't really know what she would do when she found him, but she knew she would be angry. That person had caused her father a lot of pain as a child.
Sure, she had had to grow up in an orphanage where she was made fun of, but why had her father had to experience the same thing? All because someone marked him with something. She would figure it one day.
"Naru!" a voice called from the first floor. The blonde recognized it as her mother's. "Want me to help you get ready?"
Ready? Naru wondered. Ready for what? And then it hit her like a ton of bricks. How could she forget the New Year's Festival was today? She had promised Tenten she would meet up with her. The training session must have made her forget.
"Yes, please!" she called back to Sayuri.
Her mother came up the stairs and quickly began assisting her. Despite Naru's protests, Sayuri forced her to take a shower, saying she needed to be clean for such an event. While the blonde was washing up, Sayuri began to prepare the kimono Naru was going to wear. She was already dressed up in hers. She set out the light purple kimono on the bed. They had offered to get Naru another one, but the little girl loved the light purple one too much. She would have to get another one for other events at some point, but not yet—she was still just a child.
Naru came out of the shower shortly after and was quickly dressed by her mother. Sayuri asked Naru how she wanted to style her hair, and was expecting the girl to say the odango one.
"Can I leave my hair down?" she asked. Sayuri was caught a little off guard by this. Naru always liked it when her hair was up.
"If that's what you want, then alright," the brunette said with a smile. Naru smiled back up at her mother.
In all honesty, it had to do with the fact that Tenten wore her hair like that all the time. Naru thought it might be a little odd if they both had the same hairstyle, and besides, she liked it when her hair was down. She thought she looked prettier that way.
"Are you girls ready?" Atsui asked from downstairs.
"Yep!" Sayuri called back. "We're coming!"
As they came down the stairs, they saw Hiruzen standing next to the others. Sayuri and Naru brightened up. New Year's was different from the Day of Heroes. There was no remembrance speech that needed to me made, nothing that would require the Hokage's presence. For once, he could actually enjoy the evening with his family.
"Let's go, then," Kazuhito said, carrying Konohamaru over to the door. They all followed after him.
"Hey, Tenten-chan!" Naru greeted as she ran over to her friend's house, her family in tow.
Tenten had been sitting by the entrance to the shop with her father, looking around. "Naru-chan!" she welcomed with a grin of her own.
"Taka!" Atsui teased.
Said man twitched. "Atsui. Good to see you, too." He then looked them over. "Brought everyone, didn't you?" he chuckled.
"Yep!" Naru answered, even though the question wasn't directed at her. "Kari-obasan stayed behind, though. I don't think she likes festivals," she mumbled.
Hiruzen nodded. "But don't let her absence take the fun out of this."
Naru and Tenten grinned. "So can we go play some games now?" the young brunette asked eagerly.
"Sure," Yutaka shrugged. "Just don't leave us in the dust."
The two young girls laughed as they ran off toward the center of the village, which really wasn't more than a couple streets away.
Sayuri sighed. "They have way too much energy."
"Ah, to be young again." Hiruzen shook his head.
"Let's get going if we don't want to lose them." Yutaka sighed as well.
Kazuhito rubbed his chin in thought. "You know, it'd be a lot less hectic if—"
Sayuri whacked him over the head before he could finish.
They haven't changed at all, Hiruzen thought with a chuckle.
"What about that game?" Naru suggested as they passed another stall, looking for some entertainment. She was pointing at a place that wasn't too far away. Their parents could still see them, so it would be okay.
"Now that is my kind of game!" Tenten grinned as she watched a person there throw a ball, knocking down a small stack of blocks in the process.
Naru looked excited as well. I wonder if that target practice will help me with this! Naru then checked how much money they had. They had been playing quite a few games, so they had used up most of it.
"Hey, Tenten-chan?" Naru asked.
The brunette turned to her. "Yeah? What's wrong?"
"Well, we kinda used up all the ryo," the blonde explained. "You go on ahead. I'll go ask kaa-san for some more."
Tenten nodded, all too eager to go play the game. It must have been a while since she had been to a festival, Naru thought. She then turned and wandered back to her family as her friend took off toward the stall.
"Need some more?" Sayuri asked when she came up to them, practically reading her mind.
"Yes, please!" Naru grinned.
Sayuri laughed. "Slow down a bit. That's the last I can spare you for tonight. We're going to need the rest to pay for dinner."
"Okay," Naru nodded.
Atsui leaned over. "We'll be over by the sushi bar," he said, pointing in the general direction. It was only ten stalls or so away from the game they wanted to play. "Kazu has a friend there, so if you need us, you know where we'll be."
"And let me know if anyone starts giving you a hard time," Sayuri whispered.
Naru bit her lip. She still remembered the man at the dango shop. Several instances like that had happened since then, and it always bothered her, no matter how many times her parents said to ignore it.
"Got it," she replied quietly.
Her mother then patted her back. "But most of all, have fun."
Naru then ran off toward her friend, waving back at her family. She was still nervous about running into the mean people. No matter how many times she encountered them, she always felt just as scared. It never got any better, just worse. Why couldn't they understand that she had no control over what they were afraid of? Why did they have to take it all out on her?
"People can be stupid."
Atsui voice echoed in her mind. She could almost remember the entire explanation he had given her, but it all came down to those four simple words. They were true, but it didn't serve to comfort her at all. It didn't stop the glares from coming her way. It didn't stop the name-calling. It didn't stop anything.
It's not fair!
That was when her face had a harsh meeting with the dirt below her.
"Ow," an unfamiliar voice mumbled.
"Ah! I'm sorry!" Naru yelped when she realized what had happened. "I wasn't looking where I was going," she explained as she got up. She offered a hand to the other person. "I'm really sorry."
The other person turned out to be a young boy. "It's fine," he shook his head and took the offered hand.
Naru pulled him up and rubbed the back of her head. She looked at the young boy before her. His hair was black, with an odd tint of blue to it, while his eyes were a dark onyx color. His outfit was dark blue in color, with several spots of white. She noticed a sort of fan shaped crest as well. It looked familiar, like something one of her parents had shown her.
He seemed to be sizing her up as well, at least, until it was interrupted.
"Sasuke-kun, are you alright?" a feminine voice asked. Naru looked up to meet the concerned eyes of a woman with hair as dark as that of the boy she ran into. She was a little hesitant around the woman. What if she glared at her once she realized who she was?
"I'm okay, kaa-san," he said, smiling a little up at his mother.
The woman looked over to Naru. "I'm terribly sorry, dear! Look at what has happened to your clothing. Did Sasuke apologize?"
Sasuke gave his mother a look of disbelief, while Naru blushed and waved her hands. Any concern Naru had about the woman was instantly gone.
"I was the one that knocked Sasuke-san over," she explained.
"Oh," the woman said. "Well, it's all right. Sasuke-kun looks fine." She paused in thought. "Why don't you two go play together? Sasuke hasn't been doing anything. He needs to make some friends. I mean, if you're not busy."
Naru shrugged. "I was just going to meet my friend Tenten-chan," she explained. She scratched the back of her head again and looked to Sasuke. "You can play with us if you want to," she offered.
Sasuke shrugged, so his mother gave him some money. "We'll be right here. Your father is talking to some coworkers. I know you're disappointed that Itachi's not here, but try to lighten up."
Sasuke nodded and turned to Naru. He scratched his head too, not really sure what to do. He thought she looked pretty, but he thought it would be odd if he said it. He hadn't ever really interacted with any girls besides family members. It was a different experience.
"Um… so, what's your name?" she finally asked, breaking the ice.
He was dully aware of his mother watching them. "Uchiha Sasuke," he said simply. So that was why the crest looked familiar! He was from the Uchiha clan. Sayuri had told her about the police force of Konoha once, and the name had come up since the Uchiha essentially ran it. "What's your name?"
"My name's Sarutobi Naru," she said a bit awkwardly. Where was she to go with the conversation now?
"You mean like the Hokage?" Sasuke asked, eyes widening.
"Yeah," she answered, a little embarrassed. "He's my grandpa."
"Really? You're the Hokage's granddaughter?" Not by blood, but she didn't need to bring up the fact that she was adopted. "That's so cool!" he said with an amazed look on his face.
It felt weird to suddenly be the center of attention. So she tried changing the topic. "You said your name is Uchiha?"
"Yep!" he puffed out his chest proudly. "We're in charge of the police 'round these parts!"
Naru giggled in response. Sasuke looked annoyed.
"It's not that funny," he complained.
"Yes, it is," she said. "We're in charge of the police 'round these parts!" she mimicked, puffing out her chest like he had.
Sasuke tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably and broke down laughing with Naru.
"Okay, maybe just a little," he admitted.
"Pfft, maybe just a lot." She rolled her eyes. "Wanna go play a game with me and my friend? She's right over there." Naru pointed to the game stall.
"All right," Sasuke said with a shrug.
Naru smiled and grabbed his hand and led him toward the booth.
For some reason, Sasuke couldn't keep a small blush from creeping up on his face.
"Aren't they cute?" Sasuke's mother cooed, standing next to her husband.
"You realize who that was, right, Mikoto?" the man next to her said with a raised brow.
She scowled. "Of course I do, Fugaku!" She then lowered her voice to a whisper. "Give the girl a break, all right? She's my teammate's daughter. The least we can do is not talk about her behind her back like everyone else does." She motioned toward a couple of people that were whispering as the blonde girl passed by, their son in tow. "Besides, it's not like she hurting anyone."
Fugaku looked surprised by his wife's outburst. She was often much more quiet than that. He sighed and nodded.
"Good," she huffed.
"—and then we played this game where you throw these darts at balloons to try and pop them!" Sasuke explained as he and his parents walked back to the Uchiha compound. His older brother, Itachi, had patrol duty that night, so he hadn't been able to attend the festival.
"It sounds like you had fun with your new friends, Sasuke-kun," Mikoto said with a smile.
"Yeah!" he said enthusiastically. "Tenten-san said she is halfway through her first year at the Academy. She's a year older than Naru-chan and me."
"Naru-chan?" his father teased. Mikoto raised a brow. It had been awhile since Fugaku had shown a sense of humor.
She couldn't help but laugh when a blush spread across Sasuke's face.
"It's okay, son. As long as she doesn't mind. You guys are still kids," she giggled.
"Well, she called me 'Sasuke-kun'," he tried to explain. That only served to fuel the laughter, and this time, even Fugaku couldn't suppress a chuckle.
"Looks like someone has a little crush," he teased lightly, only to have Sasuke stare back at him blankly.
He never saw the whack from Mikoto coming.
A/N: Not much to say. =/
Response to the past few manga chapters: Am I the only one that feels sorry for the Kyuubi? I mean, I can see why it's always angry. Every time it gets freed, someone else comes along and whips it back into place. Poor Kyuu. D: It just can't win. I almost wish Kishimoto would have left it alone. Before, it was always that "evil demon in Naruto's seal" and stuff. It actually seemed a little scary because we never really got to see it. But no, Kishimoto had to drag the poor guy out of his cage for his annual whipping. He hadn't had it in over sixteen years… guess they're making up for lost time.
Anyway, sorry about it taking so long to get this chapter up. Thanks for the reviews! Please review this chapter. :D
Till next time,