"Are you sure?" Iruka-sensei asked one last time. "Keep in mind that, although extras are allowed to retake the final academy year along with those who are failed by their Jounin sensei, they can only do this in the first year after academy, because of the requirement that academy students may not be older than one year past the standard graduating age. Since you both entered the final year, already being graduating age, next year you will be kicked out on your birthdays, before having the chance to graduate."
That was news. Not that I had really been planning to repeat the year. After all, the taboo of repeating the year and stealing from the year below wouldn't just disappear because I was an extra instead of a failed. Surely, I could accomplish something with this situation? The Genin corps may be hard to escape, but they weren't impossible. I would have to join the hopefuls aspiring for an apprentice slot. "Yes, I volunteer" I confirmed, looking up to meet my teacher's eyes. Iruka-sensei gave me a sympathetic, yet understanding look in return.
"Very well then. I commend you for volunteering your chance as a mission-side ninja. If you wish, you can join the class to find out the placements for your classmates, but you no longer have an obligation to do so." He paused to pull a slip of paper the size of a business card from his desk and handed it to me. "This is the office you need to report to, at 9am the day after tomorrow. There, you'll be officially drafted into the Genin corps and given your placement. You will need identification, but nothing else."
"Why in three days? Don't the others meet their instructors today?"
"Oh, it's later because they don't want new members filtering in over the next few days. They want you all registered at once, so they need to give Jounin instructors enough time to test and judge their squad. You will be joined with any classmates who fail that portion."
"Okay, I understand." I tried to keep the glumness out of my voice.
Iruka patted my shoulder. "I'm sorry things didn't work out quite like you wanted. But don't worry, there is always apprenticeship or medical corps. I know why you're volunteering, and it's unfortunate that I can't really reward your sacrifice. So if you ever need my reference, don't hesitate to ask, alright?"
I smiled, still sad, but appreciative of his words. I wasn't sure what he was talking about with 'reference' but I supposed I would find out. Maybe it was part of the process for applying for the apprenticeship spot? We were both excused from the office so that Iruka-sensei could sort things out before announcing the placements.
The second the door closed, Cerelia hugged me fiercely. "Oh thank you, thank you so much! This means the world to me, truly! I thought my life was over there for a moment!" Cerelia was nearly in tears with joy. I chuckled lightly, shrugging her off. At least she was appreciative now. The Cerelia of months ago would probably have taken it as a given, something already owed to her. "Aura, are you going to watch the placements?"
I considered it. "Uhm, probably. I want to tell Naruto about what happened anyways, or I'll just be bummed out when he comes by asking why he didn't hear my placement. And I'm a little curious where everyone's going to end up." Cerelia hummed in agreement, as we entered the classroom together and for the last time.
I scanned the room immediately. Since no one wanted to miss team placements, and it was just about to start, everyone should be here. Sure enough, even Naruto and Kiba were here, and the two of them were perpetually late. There were several unfamiliar faces as well- I assumed from the other class of this grade, since classes were small it made sense to announce squad placements together. The only missing one from our class was that Rika. I supposed she really did flunk out then. Wait, Yuki was here? I never talked to him, but everyone knew he didn't really want to be a ninja because he was too gentle and pacifist about things. But there was the forehead protector around his head. Maybe he had a change of heart?
I made to sit beside Naruto, but it was difficult. There was some big commotion with a bunch of the classmates. Sasuke and Naruto making loud retching sounds, and most of the girls were crowded around angrily. Beside me, Cerelia gasped tragically. "I can't believe I missed that! Aw, I was looking forward to it all year, I bet it would have been twice as funny to see in person." I was mystified at her mild disappointment, but left it at that. It couldn't have been anything serious. Why was he sitting at the same bench as Sasuke anyways? Well, Sakura was between them, but still.
When the group dispersed somewhat, I managed to slip in the outermost spot. I took the very edge since they were really meant to be three-to-a-bench, although we were all still smaller than adults so there was enough room. Naruto greeted me with a smile as soon as he tore his eyes off of the two on his left. I wasn't sure how he could manage to switch between a blushing smile and an annoyed scowl so fluidly.
"Hey, what were you called out for?" I opened my mouth, but was interrupted by Iruka-sensei walking in, ready to begin. Instead, I promised an explanation after, when Iruka-sensei began to speak congratulating the group. He immediately talked about the squads, and I was taken aback by the surprise voiced by much of the class. How did they not know this? Even disregarding shaky future knowledge of Naruto being on a team, I had read about Konoha's unique practice long ago. While putting new ninja on teams was nothing special, Konoha was the best known example of grouping Genin with a single Jounin instructor in order to speed up their learning. The disadvantage of course was that it really sucked up the village's most useful ninja. Konoha was big enough that its resources were not too drained by shackling some of their Jounin to weaklings to increase the weakling's potential.
Finally, Iruka began naming teams, starting with the other class. That made sense, that he would not team up people from different classes. It was probably to speed up good teamwork by making sure everyone was already familiar with each other. Across the aisle from me, Cerelia was grinning madly. Then Iruka started on our class. "Squad Seven: Naruto Uzumaki.." Her eyes brightened. "..Sakura Haruno.." She sat back in surprise. "...and Sasuke Uchiha." Cerelia straightened even further in anticipation. "Squad Eight. Hinata Hyuuga..."
Cerelia flinched back in surprise. "But, that can't be!" She nearly hissed under her breath. I tilted me head, somehow not surprised. Cerelia had been talking like she knew exactly where she was going to be placed. She thought for sure she would be on the team that her future focused on. I hadn't given it too much thought, but it made sense that she would expect it, just like she used to expect that Sasuke plan to work. I just hoped she didn't worry too much about being placed with others. Regardless of team, Cerelia should remain close to the others, they would be running similar missions.
"..and Shino Aburame." I missed the second person in the team, but by the increasingly fretful looks Cerelia was now giving the teacher, I gathered it wasn't her. There was only one team that I knew she didn't want to be on, and that was with Yuki and Manami. Those two plus Rika were the only ones in the class that Cerelia outright dismissed, probably because they never appeared in her story. "Squad nine: Yuki Riketsu.." I frowned when I realized Cerelia was crossing her fingers, whispering "not here" to herself over and over again. "...Manami Mizumiya.." Iruka-sensei gave Cerelia a disapproving look that she didn't catch, before smiling almost evilly. I had never seen that level of mischief on a teacher's face before. "..and Cerelia Aukess."
So that was why. Iruka-sensei pretended to not hear Cerelia falling out of her bench with a shriek of surprise. I would have been embarrassed by the scene she was making, but Naruto and Sakura had already reacted as badly. Cerelia sat back in her seat with an air of intense gloom, enough that I heard it reflecting off of her chakra pattern. Finally, I took my eyes off of Cerelia to watch Iruka assign Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji to squad 10, then dismiss class until after lunch, when they were to meet with their Jounin teacher.
I put Cerelia out of my mind for now. I understood her distress, even though I thought it was a bit silly since from the beginning there was nothing that said she'd be put with Sasuke and Naruto. Instead, I turned to Naruto, who was about to go after Sakura, who had gone after Sasuke who had fled at the earliest moment he could. "Oh yeah, Kita!", Naruto shouted as soon as he noticed my presence again. "I didn't hear where you got put? I wasn't paying much attention. Man, it stinks that I'm stuck with Sasuke, but at least I have Sakura!"
I gave him a wry grin. "Well, at least you have a team. That's what Iruka called me and Cere out for. One of us had to give up being in a team."
Naruto gave me a skeptical look. "But Iruka just said that we all have to be on teams. How come you aren't?"
"Well you see everyone's in a group of three, right? That leaves one person left over. It had to be me or Cere, and since she wanted a group really badly, I volunteered."
"Oh, okay. So... what does that mean, then? Do you just go on your own missions or something?" Naruto speculated. "That sounds kind of cool, actually."
I couldn't help snorting in amusement. "No, I wish. I get sent to the Genin corps instead."
"Wait." Naruto put a finger to his chin. "I've heard of the Genin corps from somewhere." As he came to realization, he gaped in horror. "Ah, isn't the Genin corps the place where crappy Genin go? The Genin who can't do any missions so they're all assigned boring guard duties?"
I turned my hand back and forth in a "so-so" motion. "Close enough, I guess. People who are Genin for long enough, and are judged poorly enough can get demoted there, or new Genin that fail their Jounin sensei's test get put there, too."
Naruto completely ignored my comment about the test, although I was fairly certain he didn't know about it. I don't think anyone in their group did, based on their surprise at the very concept of the Jounin/Genin squad. "That's horrible! You're way too good for that place, why didn't you put your sister there!? She's way crappier than you!"
I sighed. "Like I told you already, she really wanted to have a squad. After all, it's the only way you can do missions and advance in rank. I wanted it too, but it's not the same, she wanted it from the very beginning. I only wanted to be a ninja to help people."
My words barely registered to Naruto, who started swinging an arm as if preparing for a strike. "Why, I'll show Iruka-sensei a thing or two for letting you get stuck in the corps! Or maybe I'll just beat up your sister instead, and make her switch with you." I pulled sharply on Naruto's jump suit, dragging him back down to the bench.
"Don't do that, I already made my decision. Besides, there's always the chance I could get out of there. I don't think I could go the medic corps route, since I can't control that much chakra, but there's always apprenticeship."
"What the heck is apprenticeship? You mean like for woodworking and pottery and stuff?"
"I guess it's kind of similar to apprenticeships for civilian trades. Basically, there's some application process, and if you're accepted you become an apprentice. After that, you can join other Genin squads on missions where they might want another person. If you go on enough missions as an apprentice, and a space opens, you can join a formal squad."
"Oh." Naruto answered, but he didn't seem to really be grasping it. "So... you need to do a thing and become an apprentice so you can do missions?" I nodded. "And you said you could join other groups after that?" I nodded again. "Wait, that means once you're an apprenticeship, you could go on a mission with my group!"
I shrugged. "If your Jounin teacher allowed it, yeah. I don't know I need to become an apprentice yet, that's what I want to look into."
"Yeah, you definitely need to become an apprentice! I don't know who I got for a teacher, but I'll definitely convince them to bring you on a bunch of really cool missions, believe it!" I laughed at his loud agreement.
"Alright, it's a plan then. You should go track down your team mates or something. I have to go research that, now." Both of us stood up, I allowed Naruto to run off first, shouting about Sakura. Everyone else was long gone, so I closed the door behind me. The best place to learn more about apprenticeship was probably the Genin office that Iruka-sensei gave me the address to, so that was where I decided to go first.
Then, only a short ways away from the academy, he hearing was assaulted by team Guy's chakra, missing Neji's. They were approaching, probably to ask me about my team, though Neji seemed to have finally gotten out of it. I was conflicted in seeing them, not wanting to admit that I got stuck in Genin corps before I even had the chance to show myself. But they wouldn't be here except to seek me out, and it would be rude to avoid them.
"Kita, how are your new weights?" Lee shouted cheerfully once they were within range. I grinned despite my worries, gesturing proudly to where they hung below my knees.
"They're great! Still getting used to them." Which was true. I was also a little confused that no one mentioned them, even though I had been wearing them constantly since I received the present. Although, now that I thought about it, Iruka-sensei may have raised his eyebrows at them this morning.
"Well, what team are you?" Tenten asked, for once able to get a word in before both of her more exuberant team mates could say something about youth.
Lee and Guy-sensei both nodded enthusiastically at the question. I gave myself a self-deprecating smile. "Sorry, I didn't get to be in a Genin team. There was one extra this year, and since me and my sister were the new ones, it had to be one of us. I knew my sister wanted it really bad, so I let her get the team placement." I braced myself for the waterworks, which did not disappoint.
"Oh, such self sacrifice! Kita, you are truly another embodiment of youth and generosity!"
"That's terrible, but pretty selfless of you, I guess. So it's the Genin graveyard for you, then?" Tenten clarified.
"Yeah, I'm looking into the apprenticeship system, though. I'm not sure what it requires, but I've heard it's very hard to get into." I explained again, although Tenten was much more knowledgeable than Naruto, so I didn't need to repeat myself so much. She agreed, admitting that she didn't know anything about apprenticeship either.
"Guy-sensei, what's apprenticeship?" Lee enquired, and I opened my mouth to explain, only to be cut off.
"That's right, apprenticeship!" Guy-sensei exclaimed. "Once you get that, even we could take you on missions!" He mused to himself. "It won't be any trouble, I know how much potential you have to be an amazing ninja."
Hope sparked inside me. "Guy-sensei, do you know what the requirements are?"
"Of course. All you need to be accepted into the apprenticeship system are seven references. Two Jounin to vouch for your potential, at least one of which must agree formally to take you on a mission. Two Chunin, to vouch for your behaviour as an academy student. Finally, three Genin to vouch for your character as a peer." I blanched at that. So that was why it was so hard to become an apprentice. The Chunin and Genin were probably not very difficult, you could farm them from teachers and classmates. But the Jounin? I was lucky enough to know Guy-sensei, but even I didn't know two Jounin. Plus, one of them had to want to take you on a mission.
But, Guy-sensei didn't look worried in the slightest. He had to know that those references were nearly impossible. Then again, maybe not. I only needed to find one Jounin, right? "Okay, from my classmates, I could find the Genin references, and I already know Iruka-sensei will do it for me, so I can probably find another Chunin teacher. But even assuming you'll reference me, I still need to find another Jounin."
Guy-sensei waved his hand in dismissal. "Don't worry about a thing. I will get one of my many Jounin friends to help. Maybe even.. of course, I'll ask my eternal rival! All you need to do is find the other five."
Before I could speak from my surprise, Lee rejoined the conversation. "So that's all Kita needs to join us? I will gladly act as reference, as I'm sure Tenten and Neji will as well!"
"I definitely will," Tenten answered, "But I don't know about Neji. He might just whine about fate or something. Sensei might be able to wear him down, though."
"No, that's fine. Naruto will reference me for sure." I answered automatically, not having to worry about that. The hope inside of me had filled to bursting. Not an hour after finding those terrible circumstances, things were already turning around. "Thanks so much, you guys. I don't know what I'd do without your help!" I exclaimed sincerely. I don't know what in the world would have happened to me if I hadn't searched them down back then to ask for training. I might not have even been an official Konoha Kunoichi, and even if I still had, I would definitely be doomed to the graveyard.
Guy-sensei and Lee predictably posed. "Do not thank me, it is natural for a teacher to help his student!"
"And it is natural for a friend to help his friend!" Lee added. My cheeks hurt already from smiling, but I couldn't stop. "Yeah!" I agreed.
The next few hours after that were a bit hectic. First, I went to Iruka sensei, who looked wholly unsurprised that I had something worked out so soon. "I may not know Might Guy very well, but I remember when you told me you were getting his help. I suspected he wouldn't leave someone he personally trained to the Genin Corps. Now, you need to find one other Chunin to reference, am I right?"
"Yeah, I was going to ask around the academy. I don't really know many instructors, but I thought I might ask Mizuki-sensei. I haven't seen him lately, though." It was a little weird that I hadn't sensed him around the academy, but I didn't know him well enough to pinpoint his location from all of Konoha. Unexpectedly, Iruka-sensei's expression darkened.
"Sorry, Mizuki doesn't work here, anymore. It's a shame you were only here for one year, you wouldn't have met other instructors, which will make things difficult. How about this, I'll ask one of my work friends. It should still count as a reference, because they know me and can vouch for my choices."
Needless to say, I thanked him profusely, while putting the subject if Mizuki-sensei far from my mind. It didn't sound like anything good, and to be honest I wasn't very fond of him to begin with.
Next was the Genin office. As suspected, they had the forms for apprenticeship under the desk, all I had to do was ask the secretary. "Thanks, and can I ask one other thing?" I thought of another good question. The secretary gave me a bland stare that I took as consent. "How soon can I hand this in? Do I have to wait until after I am registered?"
The secretary looked at me like I was crazy. "There isn't any reason why not. The apprenticeship program has a different database to register in since they are more like mission ninja than corps ninja. Normally they will switch you over, but you could just bring your ID and completed reference form, then go straight into apprenticeship." She explained, all the while giving me a sceptical gaze that clearly thought I was an idiot to entertain the possibility of escaping the corps so quickly. I ignored it and thanked her.
Guy-sensei promised me he'd bring a Jounin friend sometime later tomorrow, so I didn't need to seek him out. Iruka-sensei told me to stop by the school tomorrow right after it let out for his contribution. All that left were the Genin references. I elected to find Tenten and Lee tomorrow if they weren't with Guy-sensei, and get Naruto's when he came back from his team meeting.
I treated myself to a vendor snack, elated at things working out. What were the chances? Then again, that might be the point of those herculean reference requirements. They were very hard for the average person, but very easy to someone with a network. And somehow along the way, I had developed a network of my own. It was such an alien concept for the old me, back in my home world. But here, I couldn't deny my connections.
Cerelia was already home when I finally got there, which I found weird, since I could smell that Naruto was still at the academy. "How was the team meeting?"
Cerelia sighed dramatically. "I'm still grateful for what you did, don't get me wrong, but I still can't believe I got stuck with the non-canons. Even our teacher isn't canon!"
"Why does that matter?" I ask curiously. "I mean, you're still on a team, you can still take missions and things, right? Who is your Jounin instructor, anyways?"
"His name is Kanamaru Yonken And it does matter, because if they aren't canon, it's because they suck too much to appear in-story." I frown at her, and she throws up her hands. "Well, it's true! Even if you don't take that into account, Manami is a total airhead fan girl, and Yuki is a huge wimp. They're both pathetic." I disagreed, but didn't say anything else. Manami did have a fair mean streak, but she wasn't a total idiot. Yuki I didn't know, but I did know that Cerelia wasn't about to give either of them a fair chance.
"Well, just remember you need to work together well enough to pass your instructor's test. It would suck to get this far, and fail, right?"
She laughed. "Yeah, that would be terrible, after all that effort.. oh, oops, sorry." I just reminded her that I wouldn't have mentioned it if I were sore about it. Although, I probably would have still been sore about it if I didn't have a solution so soon. It sounded bad, but I didn't feel like telling Cerelia about my success just yet. Maybe it was a bit of revenge for her sounding so disappointed after I sacrificed my spot- after all, I would have been just as pleased to team with Yuki and Manami as any of the other students. Well not quite, obviously I'd have been extra pleased to team with Naruto, and not quite as pleased to team with Sasuke. Maybe it was good that they were both on the same team so balance each other out.
I decided to tell her only after I secured an apprenticeship slot. I didn't want her to immediately forget what I did just because it was resolving itself, after all, I hadn't known that at the time. Alternatively, I didn't want to With that in mind, I relaxed in the bedroom, keeping my smelling sense in focus until Naruto finally left the academy.
His apartment was only a block away from mine, so I waited until after he was home for a few minutes before running over. Naruto pouted as soon as he saw me. "Hey, Kita. I bet you knew there was a second test. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I did, when I was talking to you earlier. But you weren't paying attention. Who's your instructor?" I knew he hadn't listened before, but I didn't blame him. His tendency to let his mind run a mile a minute was part of what made him such an interesting person.
"Oh, it's this dopey guy called Kakashi Hatake. He was really, really late. He didn't even dodge the chalkboard eraser I put in the doorway when I got too bored." I thought about the name for a minute. I felt like I'd heard the name before several times, but I couldn't place it.
"Well, maybe he will turn out to be better the more you get to know him. Do you know what your test will be?"
"Yeah, he says it's a survival test. Says it's going to be so hard that we'll throw up if we eat breakfast!"
I frowned. "That sounds pretty brutal. Is he even allowed to give you a test that hard of a test? I mean, there has to be some kind of regulation of what he's supposed to test."
Naruto could only shrug. "Well, that's what he told us, anyways. I don't want to talk about him or his stupid test anyways."
Luckily, I had just the topic to change to. I told him about the references I needed, and with a simple "Seriously? That's it!? Awesome!" I had my first reference completed. I was lucky it was so simple, only requiring two lines to establish that he knew me, and a dated signature. I wasn't sure what I'd do if it required much more than that. After that, I left to go home, as he wanted to prepare his supper. I did the same with Cerelia, and settled into a night of anticipation.
I decided to sleep in that morning, something that was unusual. Even Cerelia seemed surprised when she was the first one out of bed for once. I simply waved her off as she prepared to meet her team for their test. Eventually when I did get up properly, I made myself lunch and then located Tenten and Lee. It must have been a day off for them, as they were not together.
First, I caught Tenten in the market, grocery shopping just like she had been the first time I had a full conversation with her. After grabbing her signature, I went to Lee, who for the first time was not training when I found him. He was reading something that probably was training related based on what I knew of him, but I didn't check in the hope that it wasn't. He really needed to take it easy sometimes. I got his reference and we chatted for a while, actually having a normal conversation. He would always be exuberant, much like Naruto would always be a little hyper, but he wasn't nearly as single minded when separated from his team.
A funny, familiar scent passed through my nose. I paused in our conversation, realizing it was Naruto. Usually, I could only smell chakra when I concentrated on it, since this was a hidden village, and thus had tons of people with strong chakra scents. I focused on it, realizing that there was a sharp lightness to it. Only recently had I started being able to recognize faint emotions, but that definitely smelled like joy to me. He must have just passed his test. I knew he had it in him, and I was sure he would tell me all about it later.
"Kita, what just happened?" Lee enquired, tilting his head slightly. "You look like you just noticed something good happen."
He knew about my chakra smelling and hearing, so I simply replied, "I just noticed my friend Naruto. He seems happier than normal, so I'm pretty sure he passed his instructor's test." I knew that Lee didn't need any more context than that, and sure enough, he smiled broadly.
"Really, that's great! Congratulate him for me! Oh, I should meet Naruto sometime soon then, since he is now a fully fledged Genin, just like I am."
I agreed. "Sounds good. Sometime I'll introduce you two, you'd probably get along. I was going to leave him be for now though, let him celebrate with his teammates. I might visit him later though, to ask how it went.
"That's a great idea! I will meet him another time, then! Perhaps both of our teams can meet and have a friendly spar." I agreed, though personally the idea of Sakura participating in a voluntary spar seemed pretty far fetched.
We talked for a little longer before I excused myself. It was around the agreed-to time, so I stopped by the academy. There, I collected signatures from both Iruka-sensei and a teacher I'd never met, but was perfectly fine with referencing me. I thanked them both again and set off to the library. I was still waiting on Guy-sensei and his friend after all, and I didn't really want them to come to my apartment. For one, it was too cluttered and crowded for someone like Guy-sensei, and for another Cerelia was always weird around him because of the eccentricities. He said he was going to bring his 'eternal rival', and I could only imagine the rival of Guy-sensei had to be just as enthusiastically insane.
Not to mention, corps or no corps, I could finally check out the Genin section of the library. After gesturing proudly to the Genin guard I knew and getting a congrats for my troubles, that's where I spent my time. I didn't worry about being hard to find, since being a Jounin meant that there wasn't any way Guy-sensei couldn't track me down in seconds.
Of course, as I was absorbed in a more advanced volume of chakra exercises, I realized I hadn't been thinking of the right things to worry about. One of them being the concept of Might Guy and indoor voice being in the same sentence. He got us kicked out before he even had the chance to introduce his silver haired, masked companion. Of course, then Guy-sensei just did his introduction on the library steps.
"My rival, allow me to introduce you to my youthful student, Aurora Aukess, who goes by the nickname of Kita! Kita, this is my great, eternal rival, Kakashi Hatake!" Well, that was a surprise. Suddenly, I remembered- that was where I heard his name. Guy-sensei had mentioned his rival's name a few times, but it didn't seem significant so I never paid it much heed.
"Hmm, that so?" Kakashi lazily waved his hand. I stared silently for a few minutes, trying to place the comments Naruto had made to this new person.
"Naruto's Jounin teacher is Guy-sensei's rival?" Was the only thing I could think to say. Kakashi raised his only visible eyebrow, but otherwise didn't respond.
"Your friend is in his team?" Guy exclaimed. "How coincidental! Our squads must meet sometime soon, and perhaps have a friendly spar!" I laughed lightly at hearing the same words from Lee earlier.
"Ah, that probably won't be necessary. My little Genin need some more team building before anything like that." Kakashi noted. I could definitely see it. Immediately I felt bad for him, being stuck with Naruto as he acted around Sasuke, Sakura as she acted around the both of them, and Sasuke just in general. Although, based on what I've seen, he might just be able to handle it. He seemed pretty laid back, and if he stayed level headed it wouldn't be too hard to separate squabbles before they went very far.
Come to think of it, how did he end up being Guy-sensei's rival? From my first two minutes of meeting him, Kakashi seemed like the last type of person to be anywhere in the same vicinity as Guy-sensei. Glancing to my teacher, I realized that maybe this rivalry was somewhat one sided. But they did have to be some form of friends; I couldn't imagine him agreeing to this otherwise.
My mind snapped back to the whole reason the two Jounin had come to me in the first place. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Mr. Hatake. Thanks for helping me out." I pulled the nearly filled paper, presenting it to the mostly unfamiliar shinobi.
He shrugged his slumped shoulders as he took the offered form. "I don't mind. If you're friends with Naruto, I may see you later." He handed it back to me, disappearing the next moment. I blinked. How did he sign it so fast? And how did he do it without a hard surface? I peeked down at the paper to see the new writing there. It didn't even look rushed. I decided not to worry about it, allowing Guy-sensei to write into the last slot.
"Alright, now you just need to hand this in right away! Our mission is tomorrow, and you can join us at dawn for our pre-mission warm up!"
My jaw dropped. "I get to go on a mission tomorrow? That's so soon!" In fact, it exactly replaced when I was originally to register in the Genin corps. Guy-sensei correctly interpreted my surprise as a happy one, and started laughing.
"Of course! It won't be a hard mission, so there's no reason not to start as soon as possible! I included in my statement the exact mission, so don't worry about informing the right people." I couldn't help it, I joined in the laughter as well.
"I can't wait, then!"
Being in high spirits, I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings when I got home. I had successfully handed in my reference form, and true enough they registered me as an apprentice right then and there, since I had thought to bring my identification papers. I had faced the Genin corps, and almost completely squeaked out of it's grasp before I was even truly in it. I was so pleased at everything working out that I wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted me in the apartment.
Cerelia, draped across the table with her head in her arms, piles of tissues piled around her. Only one thing could have done this to her, and thus only one thought crossed my mind. Cerelia failed.
She lifted her head, eyes rimmed with red puffy skin glanced to mine before glancing down again. "It's obvious, isn't it?" She croaked. I didn't answer that, instead creeping hesitantly to the opposite side of the table. I felt horrible about it, but a miserable Cerelia was extremely unstable. I was glad she didn't yet know of my good news. I wasn't sure how she would take it, and preferred to avoid finding out.
"Tell me about it?" I ventured. That seemed like a safe response. Cerelia heaved a great sigh, letting out half a sob as she exhaled.
"There isn't much to tell. His test was to avoid as many of his traps as we could, and get from one end of the field to the other within a time limit." She stopped to wipe her already raw nose. "I knew it was going to be about teamwork, I knew it! But I was still tricked. It's not like I left them to die, I just thought it would be better if one of us got there early, rather than all of us late. But then I got caught too, and he said that all of the traps were single-victim, so we should have been able so succeed by keeping each other in sight and stopping to free anyone who got caught."
I patted her hand from across the table. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I know how much you wanted it." I scolded the part of me that laughed. The same part that wanted me to claim the team spot thought this was just karma coming around. Because I knew she would have a very hard time finding those Jounin references if she also wanted apprenticeship. I couldn't really help her, either. At least some of the connections should be her own.
"I-I'm sorry I wasted what you gave me." Cerelia admitted, tearing up again. I assured her it was fine, that she tried her best, even as I wondered how I would have really felt if I were still facing Genin corps. As it was, I barely felt annoyed at all, since things did work out for me in the end, and even if they hadn't, it's not like Cerelia failed on purpose.
Thinking of Cerelia's team, I wondered if maybe it was built to fail. Iruka-sensei claimed that the teams were built to compliment everyone's strengths and weaknesses, but all three of them were actually the very worst at Taijutsu. Plus, both Cerelia and Manami were bad planners, very poor at thinking ahead. Unless Yuki was some kind of strategist, their team didn't make the most sense. Not to mention, they had been given a test that relied on dodging reflexes and a careful strategy, possibly the worst sort of test for them, save for an outright sparring match. Then again, there was a chance that their instructor had allowed for their low skills. I guessed I would never really know for sure.
"It's not the end of the world though, right? You can still do some things in the Genin corps." I knew my comfort fell flat. Cerelia didn't answer, and I didn't really expect her to. I had no idea what to say. Surprisingly, Cerelia fixed that for me.
"What did Iruka-sensei tell you about earlier, something about how to get out of Genin corps?"
Good. This was something I could answer. "Yeah, he said you could get out by joining medic corps, or becoming an apprentice." I gave her a quick rundown of apprenticeship.
Cerelia allowed a small smile. "Really? So many references sounds hard, but there's a way out, truly? I just need to ask around enough." I agreed, reminding her that very few people were able to actually get those references. "Still, it's possible. Things will still work out, and this way I even be that fourth team member that I thought about before!" She smiled more cheerfully now. "When we go out to register tomorrow, I'll grab one of those forms, too. I'll see Iruka-sensei first, since he already offered to do yours, he'll have to do mine."
I nearly flinched back. Right, she still didn't know. I really should tell her. Really. It would be terrible for her to find out from the secretary when I didn't show up. But her temper was fresh in my memory. It wasn't long ago, that she attacked me from an irrational rage. I had no better way of preventing it now than I did back then. I felt bad about it, but ultimately I couldn't help myself.
"Sorry, I won't be walking with you. I have to wake up at dawn tomorrow for something else." Cerelia was obvious even as she nodded in understanding. It was very much a lie of omission.
In the face of self preservation though, the lie was more than worth it.
A/N- Hah, bet you weren't expecting such a quick update. This will probably never happen again, by the way. I just wanted things to be set up before we really start merging into canon plot. Also, I will freely admit that when I was just figuring out where I wanted to place my Ocs, part of the reason this idea won out was the fact that I would get to avoid writing about the freaking bell test. I hate the bell test in SI stories. It's always the exact same. Oc eats breakfast, tries (sometimes fails) to get everyone else to eat. Tries to get the group to work together, usually fails anyways. If success, she gives her bell away, and their arguing of who really deserves the bells gets them a pass. If fail, Kakashi acknowledges her attempts to rally them, but still does the whole 'dont feed Naruto and I'll pass you' thing from canon.
I recognize that there's only so many ways to write it, but nevertheless nothing will cause me to skip a chapter faster than seeing that stupid bell test. Oh, and some people have been commenting on how giving them a choice makes no sense, and that they would have either just gone with Cerelia, or included Naruto. Well for one, all the adults know Naruto's a jinchuuriki. What kind of idiot would condemn a jinchuuriki to genin corps? This isn't failing to become a ninja, this is failing to get the qualification for missions. They know very well that Naruto has some insane potential, I assume that's why he got 3 chances to pass. Assigning a jinchuuriki to eternal guard duty (because there's no way he'd have an easy time with those references. He would get them through the power of protagonist, but the other characters don't know that) would be incredibly wasteful. As for why Cerelia and Aurora are given a choice? Well, they were both very close in grade anyway, and they were both the "intruders". Of course, I never said this was the only logic, just the logic the siblings were given.