Finding Your Voice
Chapter One: Finding Your New Classmate
The summer holidays had come to an end, giving way to the beginning of a new school term at Konoha High School. Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino wandered into the classroom early as they usually did, taking their seats at the front of the class and placing their beady eyes on the doorway, ready to pass judgement on all who entered. Who had lost or gained weight? Who was sporting a new hairstyle? Who had the latest cell phone charms hanging off their phones?
As the first bell began to ring, their classmates slowly trickled into the room in twos and threes, chatting amicably amongst themselves about their holiday exploits. Tenten was the first to enter, and sweat drops rolled simultaneously down the blonde and pink haired girl's cheeks as they realized that she hadn't changed her look at all during summer break. Dressed in the standard summer uniform, perfectly pressed and as pristine as the day it was bought, Tenten was one of those students the senseis told the misbehaving ones to emulate. Her hair was still tied in two perfect buns on top of her head in the classic oriental fashion, but she was one of the few people who could pull it off. Tenten had maintained her wiry yet feminine figure as expected; she was the top female athlete of their year and trained everyday like clockwork. She waved cheerily at the two girls seated in the front row, and when they waved back, headed towards the middle of the classroom with Hyuuga Hinata in tow, who had shyly hidden behind her as they entered the room.
Now Hinata had changed her look, and the unofficial fashion police were proud to say it was an improvement. All through elementary school, middle school and the first year of high school, Hinata had kept the same short hime cut ('princess cut': painstakingly straightened hair, straight side locks up to the cheeks or chin coupled with a perfectly level frontal fringe) with two side locks framing her face down to her chin and the princess fringe. Now, while her dark blue hair was still styled in the hime cut, she had grown out her hair until it reached her waist, and her side locks were now shoulder level.
All in all, it made her look more elegant and befitting of the royalty-like status enjoyed by those of the Hyuuga family. Hinata was one of the more modest girls who found the knee length skirt far too revealing, instead choosing to wear the full length skirt reserved for winter months all year round. While she did it because she was embarrassed about her body (when she really shouldn't be), her style choice made her look more elegant and refined, giving her the attractive look that girls who showed no skin could only pull off with the right personality. Taking her demure, 'kawaii' shy personality into account, it wasn't a surprise that she was a hit with the loud boys. Unfortunately, those were the kind of boys she was deathly afraid of.
Sakura noticed with some degree of envy that Hinata had somehow developed an even more womanly figure, even though she'd been the first in their age group to develop a decent pair of breasts when puberty first struck. She glanced down at her own chest and sighed ruefully. She still had a long way to go before she could compete with Hinata, even though she'd been regularly drinking milk and performing certain... exercises... she had discovered on the Internet.
The pinkette shook her head to rid herself of her depressing thoughts before her eyes could be drawn towards Ino, who was arguably just as well-endowed as Hinata. The girl she had been trying to avoid peeking at then nudged her roughly and pointed excitedly at the door. Sakura blushed as the boys of their class walked in, laughing loudly and tossing a tennis ball between them. Her eyes were drawn to Sasuke first, as any normal girl's eyes would, taking in his toned, muscled arms and perfectly styled hair. While some of the boys had likened it to a duck's bottom (they were obviously jealous and rightly so), Sakura, Ino and any girl who had ever laid eyes on him thought it was perfect. It looked so soft too, though no girl had ever gotten close enough to touch it. He wore his uniform like most of the boys: sloppy and careless, yet somehow, he made it look cool. Casual was probably a better word to describe it, since Kiba definitely wore his uniform sloppily. Shirt hanging out, pants barely clinging to his waist and his tie loosely knotted around his collar with the top button undone. At least Sasuke chose not to wear a tie at all, which made him look more presentable in the long run.
Lee and Sai strolled in next, Lee in his usual dark green sports track suit with his hair styled similarly to Guy-sensei's weird bowl cut hairdo and Sai dressed impeccably in the winter uniform, blazer, long pants and all. When asked about it, Sai would smile an awkward smile and talk about one of his extremely well drawn sketches, clearly changing the subject.
Shikamaru and Choji were the last to enter, one barely keeping his eyes open while the other could barely keep his hands out of his chip bag. Choji, despite all his eating had not gained anymore weight, while Shikamaru looked like he had just crawled out of bed. Grass stains on his shirt and leaves stuck to his pineapple haircut quickly told anyone who knew him that he'd been lying on the hill near the sports field, the best place to view the clouds other than the roof.
The rest of the class filed in, with Ami and her two hench(wo)men bringing up the rear. In the past, Ami had been a physical bully to many but in recent years had settled down to standard high school girl bitchiness. If there was a girl getting too close to Sasuke and causing trouble, she'd be the one to deal with it. The girls of class 2-B had an agreement that Sasuke was everyone's idol to be viewed from afar, but occasionally the odd smitten girl would try her luck to win over Sasuke, which was when Ami would corner them and giving them a good lecture and/or threat to kill them socially.
Ten minutes after the final bell rang for the start of homeroom, Class 2-B's sensei wandered in, his nose buried in a small orange book. The usual chorus of "You're late!" forced Kakashi to raise his hands placatingly and give the class his weird little eye smile. He wore a dark blue mask over half of his face for reasons unknown, though the rumour mill was bursting with theories. His silver hair covered his left eye, and likewise, no one had actually seen his left eye, throwing its existence into question.
"Sorry, sorry. I got a little waylaid by the groundskeeper who had somehow lost his... pet cat..." even Kakashi seemed to realize how lame his excuse sounded without seeing the dubious looks on his student's faces. He made a mental note to plan out his excuse beforehand, rather than trying to make one up on the fly. "Uh, before we take attendance, we have a new student joining us."
Immediately chatter broke out amongst the class, the girls wondering if the person was a girl who would have to be taught the 'Sasuke Rules' as soon as possible, while the boys simply prayed out loud for a cute girl. The hubbub subside the moment a girl walked into the room, save for the male student's fist pumping and whispering "Yosh!" at each other.
Kakashi welcomed her to the front of the class, then grabbed a piece of chalk and scrawled her name down the centre of the blackboard. Once he was done, he spun around and introduced the new girl. "This here is Fujimura Shion. She has come all the way from Oni no Kuni (Land of Demons) and is new to Hi no Kuni (Land of Fire). Let's all make her feel welcome."
The girl with shimmering light blonde hair stepped forward to introduce herself as was customary. "My name is Fujimura Shion. Like Kakashi-sensei said, I am new to this country so I'll be in your care. I would be honoured to get to know you all and hope that you'll show me around this beautiful town. Let's all work hard and get along well together!" she smiled and bowed to tumultuous applause, most of it from Kiba and Lee. While her introduction had been far from original, the new girl had the smile of an angel. Kami had answered the boys' prayers and then some.
"Ah, Uzumaki. Glad you could join us." muttered Kakashi, giving the boy who had just walked in and frozen at the doorway a sheepish grin when he realized he'd spoken too loudly.
The class turned as one to ogle the late arrival. While Uzumaki Naruto turning up to class wasn't anything special, the fact that he was later than Kakashi was definitely something. Usually the blonde boy was the first one already in his seat when the other students arrived.
Clearly uncomfortable by all the attention, he simply nodded to his sensei and ducked his head as he made his way to the window seat at the very back. He made no attempt to make eye contact with his classmates, nor did they try to greet him.
After all, in all their years together as a class, not once had they heard him speak.
Some speculated that he was mute, while others thought he was just suffocatingly shy. Kiba had once joked about him having a high pitched girly voice that he must have been ashamed of when Naruto had been nearby, and they didn't see the blonde boy for the next two days.
So the class left him to his own devices, and he minded his own business. It was a simple agreement that had been going on for years. Unfortunately Shion did not know of this deal, being the new girl and all.
As he was about to walk past Shion, she reached out and gently placed her hand on his arm to get his attention. Naruto jumped violently at her touch and turned to face her with a blank expression on his face. The lack of emotion he showed was a little off putting, but Shion gave him an encouraging smile and introduced herself.
"Hello Uzumaki-san, my name is Fujimura Shion. Today is my first day at this school, and I'm looking forward to becoming good friends with everyone." her light purple eyes locked with his own, and she was surprised to find his eyes were a gorgeous shade of blue. While spiky delinquent blonde hair generally didn't fit anyone, it somehow looked right on Naruto. Maybe it was his natural hair colour, though it was a very different shade from her own and the platinum blonde girl in front row seated next to the girl with pink hair.
Naruto simply watched her for a few long seconds, like he was reading something written in her eyes. Then he nodded slowly, gave her an odd looking facial expression and hastily wrenched his arm free of her grip, shouldering his bag and hurrying to his seat at the back.
She noticed that his bag wasn't the same as hers and the other students. While they all carried the standard black rectangular book bag with a shoulder strap, Naruto had an old orange backpack, the colour faded with age. It was covered in patches of various colours and was in dire need of replacement. As she watched, Naruto placed his bag by his feet (since it wouldn't fit on the hook built on the side of the desk) and gazed out the window. Shion also noticed the girl with long dark hair and white eyes in the seat in front of his glancing back at him furtively, obviously wanting to say something then changing her mind at the last moment.
"Fujimura, you can take that empty seat next to Uzumaki." said Kakashi, tapping her on the shoulder to get her attention.
"Oh, thank you sensei." she bowed politely and made her way to her seat in the back row, returning the smiles and waves she got from her fellow students. As she took her seat, Kakashi called for silence as he began the first lesson of the day. As she reached for her books, she noticed a small spiral writing pad with a small pen tied to it lying next to Naruto's notebook on his desk. She glanced at it curiously but resolved to ask him about it during their first break.
"Hey, what was Oni no Kuni like?"
"My name is Yamanaka Ino, pleased to meet you!"
"So what are your interests? If you're the athletic type, you could join one of our sports clubs, we need as many members as we can get if we want to compete in the inter-school sports carnival!"
Shion smiled uneasily as she was surrounded by girls introducing themselves and attacking her with a verbal barrage of questions. She glanced off to the side, hiding her darkening face and irritated scowl. 'Annoying...' she thought before facing the girls crowded around her desk with her angelic smile in place. She did her best to answer the multitude of questions while trying to glance over the top of Tenten's head to spot that Uzumaki guy, but was foiled by her massive twin buns (that last part could interpreted two ways couldn't it?).
She sighed and resigned herself to fifteen minutes of explaining her home country's various traditions and colourful history. When would this interrogation be over?
As the girls finally dispersed after extracting several promises from Shion to join them after school, Shion looked over to her left, ready to ask Naruto about his little notebook. It was a good way to start a conversation at the very least, since he didn't seem like the talkative type.
Too bad the boy had vanished from his seat during her conversation with the girls of their class. She sighed and pulled out her morning tea, noting that she had five minutes to finish off her snack before the next block of lessons.
Unfortunately it appeared that her snack would have to wait, once she became aware of a figure standing uncomfortably close to her desk. She looked up and squinted, blinded by a bright light. That light happened to be sunlight reflecting off a pair of perfect pearly whites. Then the figure angled their head to speak and she was able to see the mystery person's face.
A boy in a dark green jumpsuit bowed to her, then straightened up and jabbed his thumb enthusiastically into his chest. "Hello Fujimura-san! My name is Rock Lee! It's a pleasure to meet you!" he flashed his blinding grin once more, and Shion actually had to raise her hand to block the glare.
"L-Likewise." she jumped slightly when Lee was roughly pushed out of the way, his spot taken by a boy with red markings painted on his face.
"Hey there! My name's Kiba but I'm known throughout the town as 'Red Dog'! Feel free to ask me anything and everything there is to know about this place. Questions about good food joints, fun places to visit, when I'm free for a date, feel free to ask away!"
"..." a sweat drop rolled down her cheek as Kiba's overbearing presence nearly suffocated her. "Uh, thanks. It's a pleasure to meet you." she remembered in time to flash a smile at him, fighting to keep it from turning into a smirk when she saw the 'Red Dog' melt like putty under her feminine charms.
"So, what would you like to know?" he asked with a grin, stepping to the side to block a few boys who had been slowly edging towards them.
Shion gave him her best cutesy innocent smile and asked "Can you tell me about the guy who sits there?" while pointing to Naruto's desk. The confident grin slipped off Kiba's face instantaneously, like someone had flicked a switch. Shion had just noticed the silence that had filled the classroom after she had spoken when the bell rang, almost deafening in the noiseless room.
"Ah, there's the bell. I'll be heading to my seat now." Kiba muttered hastily before backing away to the other side of the classroom where his desk was.
'Huh. Weird.' thought Shion. 'Ah, here he comes!' Naruto had slipped into the classroom through the backdoor, sneaking quietly past Kiba, who acted like he wasn't there. As he ghosted past Ami's table, she leaned back and stretched, nearly smacking Naruto in the face. He just barely dodged her and continued on like nothing had happened, passing Shion without looking at her.
As he took his seat, she noticed that he had a large pair of black headphones around his neck, a thin blue cord leading down from it to his trouser pocket. The headphones were as battered as his bag, the numerous scratches on the glossy surface indicating heavy usage.
Shion glanced towards the front of the room, and upon verifying Kakashi-sensei's absence, touched Naruto gently on the shoulder. Once again, he flinched violently, facing her almost fearfully though his face was devoid of expression. No, that wasn't quite true. He looked almost... sad. Like his face had a sort of gloomy and dark feeling to it, despite his shimmering bright blue eyes glittering with vitality.
"H-Hi!" she stuttered, before remembering her smile and predetermined set of ice breaking questions. "I wanted to speak to you earlier but you vanished during the break. Where did you go?"
Naruto gave her a puzzled look before shaking his head. 'What's that supposed to mean?' she wondered, feeling slightly snubbed. Was he ignoring her?
Naruto reached slowly into his pocket and pulled out the small notepad and pen she'd noticed before. He quickly scrawled something on the top page and presented the notepad to her.
She read the message then gave him an odd look. "Ah, I see. I wanted to ask you earlier about your notepad when I saw it on your desk but I guess I got my answer." Naruto nodded once, letting their unusual conversation fall into awkward silence. It wasn't that Shion had nothing to say; she desperately wanted to know about the notepad but wasn't quite sure how to ask about it. Would it be rude of her to ask why he wasn't speaking?
As she continued to deliberate, Naruto decided that the conversation was over, announcing his decision by turning away to look out the window. Just as Shion was about to reach out and tap his shoulder to get his attention again, Kakashi picked that moment to stroll into the room, tucking his little orange book halfway into his back pocket. He immediately grabbed a piece of chalk and began writing notes on the blackboard, ignoring the grumbles of the students as they muttered about him being fifteen minutes late. With his back facing the class, his little book looked like a little orange beacon sticking out of his pants, bobbing side to side as he wrote out a massive block of text.
Shion placed a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle, unaware of the brief look Naruto sent her way before he resumed copying down what was being written on the board.
As the bell rang and signaled the end of the second block of classes, the students of Class 2-B let out relieved sighs and shook out their cramped fingers. Kakashi had spent nearly the entire double writing notes on the board, forcing them to write at breakneck (or is it breakfinger?) speed, trying to keep up as he erased the old sentences almost immediately to make space for new ones.
Shion flexed her aching fingers, breathing a sigh of relief. She glanced down at her notebook and frowned, unhappy with how messy her writing looked. She fished out her little bottle of white out and began to blot out and rewrite the messier sentences until she was satisfied with the level of neatness.
Her stomach was gnawing at her insides, the result of being unable to eat her morning tea. Fortunately, it seemed everyone else was too hungry to come over and introduce themselves, or in some people's case, badger her with unnecessary questions. She understood that her home country was far from here, but who the hell would ask if the toilets looked different?!
She shook her head disapprovingly and reached for the wrapped bento she had kept carefully inside her desk. Her mother didn't usually have time to make her bento, but she made the effort to cook for her daughter on her first day at Konoha High School.
She smiled as she unwrapped the flower patterned cloth around the box. Her mother was a fantastic cook, whose skills Shion hoped to pick up one day, so that she could share them with her own family. Shion dreamed of having a loving family in the future, since she'd had a rocky childhood back in Oni no Kuni. For the first ten years of her life she'd lived in a temple, only seeing her mother every few years or so while she went away on business trips. They had no other close relations so they could only rely on the priests at the temple to look after young Shion. They hadn't treated her badly, but Shion had spent numerous nights praying to be reunited with her mother. Finally she had got her wish, but ended up in a situation where her mother worked long days and left in the morning before Shion woke up and came back home long after her daughter had gone to bed. This had gone on for six years until Shion's mother got herself a new job in a small town in Hi no Kuni, which is why they now lived in Konoha.
Her stomach rumbled quietly, jolting her out of her reverie. She glanced around embarrassedly, hoping no one had noticed. Once she was satisfied that she was in the clear, she quickly pulled the lid off her bento, fighting down the faint blush colouring her cheeks. Ah, her mother knew exactly what to pack, no matter what day it was. Her food always seemed to fit the mood Shion was in at the time, either that or all of her mother's food agreed with every one of Shion's emotions.
Whatever the case might have been, she abandoned all thought and quickly picked up her chopsticks, muttering "Itadakimasu!" as she began to eat. While she scooped up mouthfuls of rice and fried egg, she glanced over towards Naruto's desk when she heard the loud rustling of plastic.
Naruto had reached into his bag and pulled out a couple of convenience store onigiri (rice balls). He unwrapped one and quickly wolfed it down, then reached for the next and finished it in three bites.
Shion watched with a quirked eyebrow as he carefully folded the sheets of plastic into small squares and placed them carefully at the edge of his desk. He washed down his simple meal with a small bottle of green tea, draining it in one gulp. He then gathered up the onigiri wrappers, took a moment to brace himself, then quickly slunk to the front of room, dropping his trash in the bin and hurrying back to his seat, slightly hunched over as if to make his presence smaller. Despite his rather odd mannerisms, no one seemed to comment on his unusual conduct.
In fact, no one seemed to notice him at all.
Even the Hyuuga girl kept her gaze lowered as he walked by, though her regretful glance back at him as he reached his seat spoke volumes. 'Just what is going on with this class and Uzumaki?' Shion thought.
Her stomach chose that moment to threaten her with another low growl since she'd stopped eating to watch the blonde boy's strange antics. She hurriedly grabbed her chopsticks and wolfed down the rest of her lunch.
Soon she was finished, quickly packing away her bento and then glancing at her watch. She still had ten minutes before the end of lunch. She then used her fringe to hide her eyes as she observed her classmates. To her left sat Naruto, on her right was an empty desk and beyond it sat Kiba and Ami. An empty seat was directly in front of her, making her wonder why Kakashi had sent her to the very back of the room. The seat before Naruto's was Hyuuga Hinata's who was chatting quietly with Tenten who had the seat in front of hers.
Good, there was no one to interrupt her this time, and it didn't seem like the boys were going to come after her again since they were too busy stuffing their faces. She kept an eye out for Lee who sat near the front of the class, but it appeared that he had left the room.
She then turned to face Naruto, unaware of Kakashi's eyes on her and Naruto as she tapped the blonde boy's shoulder. He flinched again, but not as violently as before. He pulled his headphones off and let them rest around his neck, looking at Shion expectantly. He didn't seem to be annoyed by her interruption, but then again, he didn't show any expression so how was she to know?
"Uh, hi!" she said lamely, once again whipping out her angelic smile. He shot her an odd look, his mouth twitching strangely and then tilted his head to show that he was listening. "I'd like to get to know you better. Do you mind telling me about yourself?" she wondered briefly why she was trying so hard to speak to this voiceless boy and put it down to simply being extra nice on her first day. She was sure she'd put this much effort into making friends with the other students if they had similar troubles. It was probably because talking to him was difficult that Shion had to go the extra mile when interacting with Naruto. It wasn't like he would introduce himself of his own accord.
Naruto gave her a quizzical look, almost confused, before pulling out his notepad and quickly writing down an answer.
What do you want to know?
"Well, before you tell me anything, it's polite to introduce yourself."
'My name is Uzumaki Naruto. Pleased to meet you.'
Something like that?
"Uh yeah," Shion's brow creased with the slightest of frowns. Was he mocking her? Sarcasm didn't come across well in writing. "What are your interests?" Naruto's eyes widened and she wondered if he'd misheard her question. It wasn't that big of a deal, was it?
I like reading manga and listening to music.
"I see," replied Shion. "And do you play any sports?" Naruto simply shook his head in response. Shion took a few moments to think of her next question, feeling slightly pressured by Naruto's unblinking gaze. "What's your favourite food?" Naruto's mouth twitched again, like he was trying to whistle with his mouth closed. He tore off the top page of his notepad and stuffed into his pocket, scrawling his answer on a fresh page.
He had written the word in large letters, obviously trying to show his enthusiasm for the dish. "Oh really? Is there a good ramen restaurant around here?" Shion asked, glad to have found a topic he was willing to talk... write about.
Naruto took his time answering, flipping the pen around his fingers dexterously as he considered his answer. Finally he settled for nodding his head, which was pretty anticlimactic considering the amount of time it had taken him to perform that simple action.
"... Do you want to tell me what it's called?" Shion asked hesitantly. Naruto took less time than before to shake his head. Shion playfully pouted and crossed her arms over her chest. "Is that so? What, is it your little secret? How rude!"
Naruto seemed taken aback by her change in demeanour, studying her facial expression for a few long moments before writing on his pad once more.
Now it was Shion's turn to be taken aback. Did he actually think she was angry with him? She raised her hands placatingly, not missing the involuntary flinch that shook his body. "I was kidding Uzumaki-kun. Hey, can I call you by your first name? Your last name is a mouthful with the honorifics."
Naruto stared at her in shock, making her wonder once again if he'd misheard her. As he began to shakily write a response, she could have sworn she saw a faint pink tinge on his cheeks.
Yes, that's fine Fujimura-san.
"Great! Well Naruto-san, you can call me Shion. It's only fair."
Thank you Shion-san.
His reply was barely legible since his hand had been shaking as he wrote. Shion had not missed the look of awe on his face, like being allowed to address her in such a familiar fashion was a great honour. She tried not to let that swell her ego as she leaned towards him to ask another question. Unfortunately the bell rang at that moment, and Q&A with Naruto was over.
Shion sighed and pulled out her books as he slipped on his headphones once more. Just when they'd been making progress too.
As promised, Shion found herself walking with Tenten, Hinata, Sakura and Ino down to the local shopping mall. She was happy to have made friends so quickly, but right now, all she wanted was to go home and sleep. She was still jet lagged from the flight from Oni no Kuni, and really wasn't in the mood to keep up with the Konoha gossip girls.
"Did you enjoy your first day?" asked Sakura, the girl with neck length pink hair. 'Now that has to be dyed. Who the hell has pink hair?!' thought Shion. Out loud she said "It was good, I'm lucky to be in a class full of such nice people." as the girls made their usual "Aww, aren't you sweet!" type replies, Shion decided to ask the girls about Naruto. They seemed pretty well informed, seeing as they'd warned and advised her about everyone's various personality quirks.
Except for Naruto's.
"Hey, can you guys tell me what you know about Uzumaki Naruto? Why doesn't he speak?" her question was met with silence. Her companions had stopped dead in their tracks, smiles disappearing faster than they'd recited the 'Sasuke Rules'.
Shion studied their faces, trying to puzzle out the meaning behind each one. Tenten looked rather uncomfortable, while Hinata gazed at her with an expression akin to shock. Ino had raised a sceptical eyebrow and Sakura had switched from initial panic to confusion.
Finally the pinkette spoke up, and Shion had not been expecting what she had to say.
"Who?" she asked confusedly.
Hello Readers! Thanks for reading! If you liked this story so far, please leave a review. This story was meant to be a one shot, but I wasn't sure if people would like Naruto's OOCness. If you guys like this story then I'll keep going with the second chapter, otherwise I'll finish it off and re-upload it as a one shot.