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Tightrope 16

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Chapter 16 – Genin Starting Line

Sasuke shifted in bed. The blankets were tangled around his legs from the tossing and turning he did during the night. Haunting images ran through his dreamscape and he fought to wake up. His breathing hastened and then with a sharp intake of air his eyes flew open. They were red. In each eye, three tomoe spun around like a pinwheel caught in a storm gale.

He lay there panting on his bed. Cold sweat coated his face, neck, and back. Outside the birds have yet to wake and blue light shone in through the window, illuminating his room in a cold light. He pushed himself into a sitting position and cradled his head as he tried to regain his bearings. Knowing there would not be any strenuous activity planned for the day, Sasuke had taken a new dose of poison the day before. The active nightmare was probably a side effect of the poison.

Sasuke scrubbed a hand down his face. His eyes bleeding back to black. He probably sweated out most of the poison overnight. That was good. Grabbing a towel, he trudged into the bathroom to go through his morning ablutions.

After a long, hot shower, Sasuke got dressed in his new clothes. To mark his passage from a student to a ninja he had gotten a new wardrobe of clothes. Gone were the whites of childhood and the traditional high collars of the Uchiha clan. In its place was a short sleeved black tunic trimmed in white. The tunic wrapped around his front like a yukata and was belted at the waist with a length of deep red silk. Through the v-neckline of the tunic, a hint of the mesh undershirt he wore could be seen. For bottoms he wore simple black shorts. He switched out the blue cloth of the forehead protector for a black one and also bought black ninja sandals to match everything. Finally he wrapped his arms and legs with bandages for stability and it also helped to hide the weights he wore.

Sasuke looked at himself in the mirror. The sun was just beginning to rise and cast his room in a warmer glow, but the boy before the mirror was a somber image. Sasuke combed his hair quickly and pulled his long black locks up into a high ponytail instead of his usual low tail. His bangs came forward to frame his face. His hair was now just long enough to cover the Uchiha emblem sewed onto the back of his clothing. He knew long hair could become a liability for a ninja, but it was like a memento from his past life. He had long black hair then too. If the time came when he must cut his hair then he would do so without hesitation, but for now he wanted to keep the blanket of comfort.

Sunlight continued to seep in, highlighting his face in the mirror, and for a moment his skin and facial scar was awash in the same color, camouflaging the scar.

If Sasuke tilted his head forward then his bangs would be able to hide his scar, but there really was no need to hide away the scar. It was both a mark of pride and a reminder to him. Sasuke was proud of it because it was a scar he got protecting someone important to him, but it was also a reminder that he only got it in the first place because he wasn’t strong enough to fight off the missing-nin and had to use his body as a meat shield instead. Everyday, looking into the mirror and seeing that scar was a reminder that he had to get stronger to protect everyone dear to him.

Today was the day of the team assignments. Naruto had failed despite Sasuke’s tutoring. Naruto probably failed less horribly than he would have in the original storyline. Sasuke would never know, but he liked to think that his tutelage made a positive difference. He had heard the alarm bells go off last night and could only pray that it was Naruto who stole the Scroll of Forbidden Techniques and not Mizuki. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach and he knew they would not settle until he saw Naruto in the classroom, sporting a forehead protector.

When Sasuke entered the classroom, Naruto was not present yet. With his stomach still in knots, Sasuke found his seat by the window and waited. As he walked pass, nosebleeds erupted and a few fangirls fainted from his image change. He supposed he should have anticipated that, but even after all these years he still wasn’t used to having fangirls. Mostly, he pretended they didn’t exist.

“Sasuke-kun, good morning.”

“Ah, Sakura. Morning.”

“May I sit here?”

He nodded. Sakura took the seat beside him. She had changed out the blue cloth of her forehead protector for a green one and switched her old sandals for a new pair of green ones. Asides from that she still wore the same red qipao dress and green leggings. Sasuke thought the green looked nice on her. It brought out her eyes and made them more emerald than olive. He told her so, and she flushed a brilliant shade of red that had Sasuke chuckling and Sakura going even redder.

Finally, Naruto burst into the room with a rowdy greeting, flashing his shiny new forehead protector for all to see. Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief.

“Sasuke!” Naruto bounded up the steps to Sasuke and clambered onto the desk to present his forehead protector to Sasuke.


“I passed, dattebayo!”

Sasuke smiled. “So I see, congratulations.”

“What happened? I thought you failed the exam yesterday, Naruto.” Sakura said.

“Heh heh, I took down a rogue ninja and got a field promotion!”

“How did that happen?”

Before Naruto could answer her, the boy behind Naruto elbowed the blond in the butt as he shifted backwards and then Naruto was flailing his arms as he tipped forward.

Sasuke’s eyes widened in disbelief and didn’t react quickly enough to dodge the lips that plastered onto his. He had completely forgotten about this moment in the original timeline and only just now remembered it. Honestly, what were the chances of it happening? The fates must be laughing.

They didn’t immediately jump away from each other. Probably because they didn’t hate each other’s guts so the kiss wasn’t as offensive as it could’ve been. Naruto regained his balance and rocked back onto his hunches.

“Sorry, sorry,” the kid apologized for pushing Naruto accidentally.

“Sasuke?” Naruto’s face was beet red. Sakura was speechless with shock, her mouth hanging open.

“Naruto!” The girls screeched. “How dare you steal Sasuke-kun’s precious first kiss like that?!” They advanced menacingly.

“Hieee!” Naruto jumped off the table and started backing away.

“It’s okay,” Sasuke said, unperturbed. “I’ve already had my first kiss.”

The fangirls froze at this.

“Wh- what?!” Naruto was the first to stammer out, followed by screeches from the fangirls.

Sasuke raised an eyebrow. “Is there a problem?”

“Who was it?” The fangirls demanded.

“I have no obligation to broadcast my personal life.”

This shut the girls up, although they didn’t look happy about it.

Naruto looked conflicted, but before Sasuke could ask him what was wrong, Iruka came into the room to announce the teams.

Sasuke breathed another sigh of relief when Team Seven was announced. It stayed the same. He snuck a glance at his new teammates who were conveniently sitting in the same row as him. Both Sakura and Naruto’s rankings have gone up. Sakura was not only the top kunoichi in academics – closely followed by Hinata and Ino – but also her taijutsu ranking was above average. Sasuke had an inkling about why that may be. Not that he was complaining. But he was concerned that the change in scores might affect the team placements.

In retrospect, scores wasn’t the only thing that determined team placements. Individual temperament and other factors also mattered. When Sasuke thought about it a little more, it was probably a given that he and Naruto would end up on Kakashi’s team. Kakashi was the only ninja left in Konoha with a Sharingan, so logically he was the only one that could teach Sasuke how to utilize the dojutsu. As for Naruto, he was Minato’s son and carrier of the kyuubi. Kakashi had close ties with Minato, and he was competent enough to handle the situation should anything go awry with the kyuubi. It was Sakura’s placement that he was uncertain about.

Despite all this reasoning, Sasuke still wasn’t assured until the teams were announced, but now that they were he could rest a little easier. Upon realizing his relief at the situation, Sasuke had to wonder again, why was he so desperate to have Naruto and Sakura on his team? He had grown closer to them both during his time in the Academy, but Sasuke was confident in his ability to work with a wide range of people. After all, he had the patience and experience of someone beyond his years.

There was a lecture on genin protocols and then the class broke for lunch. In the afternoon they would meet with their jonin sensei.

As per usual, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura left the classroom to find a spot to eat together. After the first time they had lunch together, Sakura had been looking for another opportunity to get close to Sasuke, and Naruto presented the perfect opportunity by inviting her to eat with them the next day, and the next, and the next, and then it just became routine. It also helped that Sakura always brought a little extra to fed Naruto’s cavernous stomach.

Sasuke had tolerated Sakura’s company because he thought that Naruto was crushing on the pink-haired girl and she was polite enough to the blond, but when she proved to be less fanatical towards him than canon portrayed her to be, he relaxed and gradually accepted her addition into the group. The fact that she seemed to be taking her ninja training more seriously did nothing but add to her appeal and Sasuke found his respect for her growing. Eventually he started to call her by her given name and at Naruto’s prompting had dropped all honorifics, much to Sakura’s joy.

Sasuke wasn’t sure what caused the change in Sakura, since he did not actively do anything to help her change, but he sure wasn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth.

After lunch, the genin reassembled in the classroom to meet their jonin sensei. Soon Team Seven was the only one left. Half an hour passed and their sensei still did not arrive.

“Iruka-sensei, you should go home and rest now. We can wait for our new sensei by ourselves,” Naruto said.

Iruka looked unsure, but at Naruto’s prompting he relented with a relieved sigh. Sasuke studied Iruka as he left the room. It was hard to tell, but from the way that Iruka moved, Sasuke deduced that Iruka was injured and it looked like a pretty serious injury, too. It was impressive the way Iruka was able to withstand the pain to be present for team assignments today. Of course, the medic-nin should have healed him, but his injury was still new and he should’ve been relegated to at least a day of bed rest.

Sasuke’s eyes widened and then narrowed into a glare, but the one he was angry at was himself. He can’t believe he had forgotten about Iruka getting hurt by Mizuki. It was one of those details that you didn’t quite forget, but it also didn’t linger at the forefront of your mind, so it needed some trigger to stimulate the memory.

Another hour passed with no jonin showing up. During lunch Naruto had regaled Sasuke and Sakura with the story of his field promotion, smoothly editing out the bit about the kyuubi, and now there was nothing left to talk about. They were on good terms with each other at this point so they didn’t need to break the ice either. All that was left to do was to wait.

Finally, Naruto got so fed up that he took up a chalkboard eraser.

“Naruto, wait.”

“But Sasuke,” Naruto whined.

Sasuke motioned for the eraser and Naruto handed it over with a pout. Sasuke couldn’t help himself. Being around Naruto had made him a bit of a prankster, too. He sprinkled a bit of white powder onto the eraser and then handed it back to Naruto. “Careful with that,” he warned.

Sakura watched the duo with fascinated horror.

Naruto gave him a foxy grin and went to prop the eraser up between the door and doorframe. Half an hour later, Kakashi walked into the room and the trap fell right on top of him. Sasuke wondered if he was humoring them to get them to let down their guard. Well it certainly seemed to work on Naruto, who was busting a gut laughing, and Sakura, who was flabbergasted with disbelief that their jonin sensei had fallen for such an elementary trick. Sasuke couldn’t help the smile on his face, but he hid it behind interlaced fingers. No doubt the jonin would make Naruto and Sasuke regret that little prank tomorrow. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Kakashi had poked Naruto in the butthole in the original timeline. Sasuke wondered if he would have to guard his butt, too. But for today, it was worth the fun.

“Hmm… my first impression of you all is that I hate you,” Kakashi said, managing to sound both deadpanned and cheerful at the same time. That was an art form in and of itself. “Meet me on the roof in five minutes.” Then Kakashi disappeared with a poof.

Sasuke wasn’t sure what made him do what he did next. He was probably riding high on the successful eraser prank or maybe it was paranoia caused by the poison talking. It was a spur of the moment decision and in hindsight, a completely logical course of action for someone who wasn’t supposed to know what their jonin-sensei looked like.

“Naruto, Sakura, wait.”

His teammates paused on their way to the door.

“We don’t know who that strange ninja is,” Sasuke spoke in a low and urgent voice that immediately had Naruto and Sakura on alert.

“Isn’t he our jonin-sensei?” Sakura asked; her voice pitched to match Sasuke’s low tone.

“That’s a logical leap of deduction, but we can’t be too sure. Our jonin-sensei was supposed to show up three hours ago. Perhaps he or she was attacked by an enemy ninja and that enemy ninja is now posing as our jonin-sensei.”

“What?” Sakura exclaimed in a harsh whisper, disturbed by the idea.

“It’s hard, but it’s happened before, enemy ninja slipping into our village and making off with unsuspecting ninja children.”

Naruto’s face was unusually solemn. He had heard the tale of Sasuke’s kidnapping from the adopted Uchihas. He never got the full story, because Sasuke refused to divulge his full version of the events, but Naruto was able to put enough facts together to figure out the picture.

“Sasuke’s right. We should be careful,” Naruto said.

“What should we do?” Sakura questioned.

Sasuke looked between the two of them, a haphazard plan forming in his mind.

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Author’s Note: OC!Sasuke doesn’t know this, but in my mind, Naruto actually racked up enough points to pass the genin exam this time around. But Mizuki failed him anyways based on a bias technicality, or maybe he messed with the scores of the written exam, and then he approached Naruto afterwards with the “secret test.” Since there’s no way to work this tidbit of information smoothly into the story I thought I’d add it here as a fun fyi.

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