Chapter 11 – Walking the Line to You
After school, Naruto and Sasuke walked home together again.
“Hey, Naruto-san. You don’t look too good today. Did you have a late night?”
“Um, yeah, something like that.”
“I apologize about yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” Naruto squeaked. “What yesterday?”
Sasuke looked at Naruto bemused. He was surprised by Naruto’s reaction. “I was not a very good host. I can’t believe I fell asleep after dinner. I hope the others didn’t give you a hard time.”
“Fell asleep? You mean you don’t remember?”
“Why? Did something interesting happen yesterday? I was not informed of such.”
“You were-” Naruto waved his arms around, flustered, “You were like drunk or something.”
Sasuke frowned, offended. “I do not approve of spirits, Naruto-san, and I would never keep such things in my house, let alone consume it myself.”
“Oh… Hey, are you sulking?” Naruto asked. Sasuke continued walking. “You are sulking.”
Sasuke pinned Naruto with a look. Something flashed in Sasuke’s eyes and Naruto stopped pushing the topic. They fell into an awkward silence as they walked. Suddenly two thoughts occurred to Naruto. Sasuke did not know that he specifically could get drunk on a special combination of spices and clams, and Sasuke was a forgetful drunk. Naruto doubted anyone in the Uchiha household informed Sasuke of those tidbits, and Karin would definitely keep something like that a secret to take advantage of the situation.
Naruto wondered if he should be the one to tell Sasuke. It seemed that Sasuke closed himself off to the topic of liquor. It wouldn’t be surprising if no one in his family dared to bring up the subject upon seeing the wounded gazelle look in Sasuke’s eyes. Even Naruto shut up at the look.
“Hey! Ichiraku’s. Let’s go. I promised to treat you.” Naruto took Sasuke by the hand and dragged him towards the main streets.
“Ah, wait, Naruto-san.”
“Teuchi-oji-san and Ayame-nee-chan are like the nicest people ever. You’ll like them. Um, feathers of a flock and all that.”
“You mean birds of a feather?”
“Yeah, that!” Naruto said glibly and grinned.
Sasuke took the peace offering for what it was and allowed himself to be pulled along. It’s hard to stay angry with Naruto for long when the blond was so earnest.
Sakura kicked the wooden training post. She hit it with a palm strike and then followed up with a left hook. Sweat poured down her forehead and plastered her clothing to her skin, but she kept going. She knew she was one of the weaker girls in taijutsu class. Part of it had to do with her having nobody to train her outside of class and part of it had to do with her lack of diligence in the area.
She hadn’t wanted to bulk up too much. That would look really unattractive for a girl. At least that’s what her mother always said. But if she wanted to beat Ino and be the top kunoichi in class then she would have to work on her taijutsu. She punched the pole again. Her knuckles stung. Her stomach rumbled but she ignored it. She was on a diet, so she didn’t eat much before throwing herself into training. She’s been at it for nearly two hours now.
She went in for a straight jab, misjudged the position of the pole and stumbled forward. Huh? Did the pole just move? The world was getting hazy and black spots danced at the corner of her eyes. She felt dizzy and unbalanced. Her head hit the pole and she slumped to the ground.
Her stomach grumbled again. She grimaced. Her head felt fuzzy and her body ached from the training. She wanted everything to stop. She pressed her face onto the cool dirt floor and knew no more.
When she startled awake next it was to find herself in a hospital bed.
“Ah, glad to see you’re awake, Haruno-chan.”
Sakura turned to look at the medic-nin by her bedside. The medic-nin was adjusting a saline drip.
“What happened?” Sakura croaked.
“Here, have some water first.” The medic-nin helped Sakura to a cup of water. “My name is Mina.” Sakura gulped the water hastily. “You fainted due to hunger and fatigue.”
“Oh.” Sakura blushed. She could hear the reprimand in the medic-nin’s voice. A ninja in training who didn’t know how to judge the condition of her own body was pretty embarrassing.
“You’re a student in the Ninja Academy aren’t you?” Mina asked.
“If you’re training to be a ninja then you need to be more conscious of your health.” Mina sighed. “Dieting isn’t good for a ninja.”
“I know. I’ve been there. I was once a young girl in love too, you know?”
Sakura blushed. “You’re still young…”
Mina grinned. “Why thank you. Anyways, there really is no need for you to worry about getting fat. As a ninja you will always burn more calories than a civilian. What you need is a balanced and nutritious diet to aid in your growth and development as a ninja.”
“Here, eat this for now.” Mina handed her an apple. “Fruits and vegetables digest easier, so you should start with those if you’re really hungry. I’ll give you a packet on nutrition when you discharge. It’ll also teach you how to monitor the amount of calories you’ll need based on age, body size, and how vigorous your training regime is.”
Sakura nibbled on the apple. “I want to get stronger, but I don’t want to bulk up too much,” she admitted.
Mina hummed. “That’s a bit contradictory isn’t it? If you train, you will definitely gain muscles, and that’s what makes you stronger.” Mina gave her a thoughtful look, “Is the guy you like a civilian?”
Sakura shook her head. “He’s in the Academy like me.”
Mina held back a snort. “Then is he the type that insists his girl has to be weaker than him? If so, he’s either sexist or has some self-esteem issues, and he doesn’t deserve your attention.”
“Sasuke-kun is not like that!” Sakura protested.
Sakura blushed and nibbled on the apple more vigorously. Mina laughed. Sakura’s jaw dropped. Was the medic-nin making fun of her crush?
“Sasuke-kun, huh? I should’ve guessed. Lots of girls like him.” Sakura flushed. She wanted to protest that she wasn’t like the other girls who like him, but Mina continued, “If it’s Sasuke-kun then you don’t have to worry about bulking up. He’s not that concerned with appearances. In fact, he would probably prefer to have a strong partner.”
“You speak as if you know him.”
“I do. I was his designated nurse when… when he first visited the hospital. He still visits me regularly along with his redheaded friend. Always pestering me to teach them medical ninjutsu.”
“Sasuke-kun and medical ninjutsu?!”
Mina laughed again. “You learn something new everyday. Get some rest now. I’ll have some more food delivered to you. You can be discharged once you’re steady on your feet.”
“I like Sasuke-kun.”
“Yeah, good luck with that kid.” Mina patted her on the shoulder.
“No. I like Sasuke-kun,” Sakura repeated, looking into Mina’s eyes.
Mina gives her a considering look. Then her eyes softened. “If that’s the case then good luck. Not many people see Sasuke-kun. All they see is a pretty boy with a tragic past. To be fair, that was I once, too. But Sasuke-kun is a good kid.”
“I know. He’s a kind person.”
“Well, I have other patients to check on now.” Mina tapped Sakura on the nose with a finger. “Work hard, little ninja.”
“Um, Mina-sensei, just one more thing. How did I get to the hospital?”
Mina gave her a Cheshire grin. “Why, it was Sasuke-kun.”
“Sa- Sa- Sasuke-kun?!”
“He found you unconscious on the training field and brought you in.”
“So- so, he carried me?” Sakura blushed redder than her qipao dress.
Mina laughed and gave her a little finger wave as she left. Sakura’s heart would not still for a long time afterwards.