"Haketa! Delivery!" Mother called from inside the warm building. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I sprinted inside, grabbing the plastic bag with one hand and my younger sister with the other. I took Kyan with me everywhere. She needed to get out sometimes.

Her small hand lifted to me a piece of paper with an address written on it. My grandfather's sloppy handwriting was scattered about on it, indicating I would be dropping the food off to a friend of my mother's.

"This isn't so bad, is it?" I questioned my sister, knowing I wouldn't receive an audible response. "Couldn't you live the rest of your life making deliveries?" She only nodded, staring up at the academy building.

Pity hit my gut. Because I never made it as a Kunoichi, Mother automatically put down Kyan's dreams of ever making it. Not because she lacked the ability, but because she was mute. I personally believed Mother was afraid.

I took my hand from hers and wiped the sweat off my blouse. Konohagakure was a very hot village. It felt like summer almost all year round, except for the winter months. Once the snow melts away, however, the sun comes back with a fiery vengeance.

"Haketa!" a screeching voice called from behind me. We stopped walking and turned to face Ino, a friend of mine who was running toward us, waving a hand above her head.

My friendship with Ino was often up and down. When I was younger, I had been in a best friend trio with her and Haruno Sakura. Then the Uchiha survivor got in the way and ruined our routine. Sakura and Ino began fighting over him and I, who had no romantic feelings toward Sasuke, was stuck in the middle. Even though I tried my hardest to stay out of their drama, I still occasionally found myself being mad at one or the other for the cruel things they would do and say.

"Hi, Ino," I said, greeting her with a smile. Kyan silently waved her hand.

"Hi, guys," she replied breathlessly. Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to my sister, seeing as I had no free hands available. "Could you give this to your mom? Its from mine."

"Yeah, no problem."

"Ino, hurry up! We're going to be late!" her teammate, Chouji, shouted from down the long pathway we'd been walking on. Chouji was a familiar in my family's restaurant.

"Late for what?" I questioned, exposing my pocket for Kyan to slip the note into.

"Registration," Ino explained when Chouji and her other teammate, Shikamaru, come closer. "Asuma-sensei thinks we should make passing the Chuunin exams our next goal, but of course, he told us late."

"So we'll probably be the last ones registering," Shikamaru added, the normal semi-depressing tone in his voice. "They've practically already started. The Shinobi from the other villages are already arriving."

"Well," I said, tightening my grip on the bag, "you guys should get going, then. Good luck and don't die!"

They each nodded to me and walked back the direction from where they came. I glanced down at Kyan, whose shoulders were slumped in a disheartened way. I ruffled her hair gently.

"Someday, you'll be in their place. I promise."


"Thank you, girls."

"Thank you, ma'am," I responded, almost drooling over the large tip for the delivery she slipped into my hand. Kyan bowed to her slightly before the door shut and we strolled away, smiling like crazed idiots.

On our way back to the restaurant, I wondered if I should donate our money to my grandpa. He loved donations, especially when it involved large sums of money. But we had earned that money ourselves, walking two or three miles in the blazing heat.


I groaned as Kyan took off running at the sound of her best friend's voice. Konohamaru was being beaten to a pulp by Sakura just a few yards away. Naruto was lying on the ground with a bloody nose and I smiled to myself, secretly loving the fact that Sakura was a violent person.

Once Konohamaru had been taken care of, the pink-haired girl huffed and turned her attention toward me while Kyan rushed to his aide. "Oh, Haketa, I didn't see you there," she said innocently. "How are you?"

"Amazing," I answered with an honest grin. "I think I already know what happened here."

"…fire-breathing hag," Konohamaru whispered to Naruto, rubbing a red bump on his forehead. "Is she even a real girl?"

"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Sakura roared, dashing after the terrified boy.

She stopped short, though, when he collided into a large male dressed in a black suit and purple kabuki paint on his face. Tied to his back, he had something that looked like a wrapped mummy. Next to him stood a blonde girl with a gigantic folded fan on her back.

"Watch where you're going!" Konohamaru shouted. Everyone gasped when the man picked him up by the front of his shirt and held him near his face, as if he weighted less than air.

"That hurt, brat," he mumbled in a deep, intimidating voice. Just before Kyan could begin running to her friend's aide, I swooped her up in my arms, trying to resist her struggling. The man in black turned his attention to us. "Another little monster, huh?"

"Kankuro, stop. You're going to get us in trouble," the girl warned, gazing at a floating bird in a bored fashion.

"I-It was my fault," Sakura stuttered. "I was the one chasing him." To me, she whispered, "Headbands."

They both were wearing them, but they weren't the uniform Konohagakure headband. I couldn't quite remember where I'd seen one like theirs before.

"I'm just going to play with it a little," Kankuro teased, shaking Konohamaru gently. "We have time before he gets here."

"PUT HIM DOWN!" Naruto snapped, running full-speed at him.

Kankuro, with his free hand, moved his fingers in a quick jerking motion, and Naruto slipped off his feet as if he had suddenly ran onto a bank of ice. I couldn't hold Kyan any longer; she jumped out of my arms and hurried to Naruto, who was groaning about his back being in pain. Meanwhile, Kankuro howled in laughter.

"Is that the best Konoha's Genin can do? You guys are wimps!"

I glared at him, doubling my hands into fists. "Put him down, you freak!" I shrieked, taking a step closer. "Or I'll make you!" Kyan gave me a horrified look, knowing I was bluffing. There was no way I could take on an actual Shinobi, but I just prayed he wouldn't call me on it.

"Oh, okay," he said, slowly lowering Konohamaru. "I definitely don't want to make you angry. You could probably kick my ass."

Everyone seemed to sigh in relief and relax a little when the small boy's feet touched the ground. But Kankuro smirked and hoisted him up again, drawing his fist back.

"Just kidding!"

I screamed and covered my eyes when his fist sprung toward Konohamaru's face. All I heard was a rock hit the ground. I allowed my hands to fall to my sides to see that Kankuro was holding his wrist, his eyes narrowed on a figure sitting on a nearby tree branch.

"Sasuke!" Sakura called in pure happiness. I'd never been so thankful to see him in my entire life.

"Another one?" Kankuro breathed. "Come down here, little chipmunk!"

Sasuke only glared at him until Kankuro took the mummy off his back. It seemed to already be unwrapping itself. The girl next to him shook her head, taking a few steps back.

"Kankuro, don't."

The voice made all of us jump. I hadn't noticed it, but on the opposite side of the tree on another branch, a boy had appeared hanging upside down. He had crimson hair and an odd sea foam green eye color. A gourd was strapped securely to his back and I noticed a small symbol on his forehead.

"You're a disgrace to our village," the boy told him. "Its pathetic that you still lose your tempter in a fight with children. Have you already forgotten why we came here?"

"But Gaara, they started it!" Kankuro defended himself, sounding extremely immature. "That little brat slammed into me, and that girl with the black hair threatened me." He pointed an accusing finger in my direction.

"Shut up," Gaara hissed, "or I'll kill you."

Everything fell dead silent then. Kankuro shuddered and I could almost hear my heartbeat in my head. From somewhere in the distance, we heard a woman screaming in laughter.

"R-Right," Kankuro finally said, breaking the silence. "It was my fault. S-Sorry, Gaara. Won't happen again."

Gaara turned his head to look at Sasuke with the same emotionless gaze. "I apologize on his behalf," he said insincerely. A gust of light brown sand engulfed him and transported him to the middle of Kankuro and the blonde girl. "Let's go."

"Wait!" Sakura called. "Judging from your headbands, you three are from Sunagakure. Your village and ours are allies, but according to the treaty, your Shinobi can't enter without authorization! Why are you here?"

"The Chuunin exams," the girl said simply. "Haven't you been told?"

"Kakashi-sensei hasn't said anything about that," Naruto whispered.

Knowing they were distracted by their own conversation, I grabbed my sister firmly so she wouldn't struggle against me and walked past the Suna trio. As I passed Kankuro, we made brief eye contact. Although he was soon behind me, I could feel his gaze on my back.