Chapter 9 – Academy Line
Kimimaro, Karin, and Juugo were finally off probation with sparkling clean records. Well, asides from that one time Kimimaro nearly boned a merchant for hovering too close to Sasuke. Then there was the time that Juugo broke a training field. He literally broke it – into pieces. Good thing no one was hurt. Then there was the time when Karin- okay, the point has been made. Their record was good enough and that’s all that mattered. Now they were finally off probation and could do more in the village, namely, like applying to the Ninja Academy. Just in time for the new term this spring. They all passed of course.
Story by Vanilla Muse.
Based on skills and age group, Karin was seeded into the year above Sasuke. Both Kimimaro and Juugo were older than Karin, and Kimimaro was definitely much more skilled and controlled, but they were also placed into the same year as Karin. It probably worked out like that so that the instructors could observe all three of them at once, and this ensured that they spend a good enough length of time in the Academy – two years – to foster their loyalty for Konoha before becoming official Konoha ninja.
Sasuke was just glad that all the initial tedious procedures of inducting his friends into the village were over and done with. He suspected the Elders were very happy when Kimimaro’s Bloodline Limit came to light. Though Sasuke would rather Konoha not know about his family and friend’s special talents, lest they’re taken advantage of, Kimimaro’s ability was impossible to hide due to it being his signature fighting style. Sasuke had to be thankful for other small miracles. Karin’s unique healing technique was still under wraps, Juugo did not once go berserk within the village proper, and Ranmaru played the quiet child in public lest he revealed his peculiar abilities.
On the first day of classes, Umino Iruka walked into Sasuke’s classroom with Mizuki.
“Iruka-sensei will be working with our class as an assistant instructor. Don’t haze him now just because he is new, he might be your official instructor next year.”
Iruka introduced himself to the class and the class drone back a response. A few of the girls thought Iruka was kind of cute. Just like that Iruka joined the class seamlessly. The first minor hiccup came in the form of Uchiha Sasuke.
The class was on their way out for recess, and Sasuke was the last one to leave the classroom, preferring not to fight the throngs of student eager for fresh air. When Sasuke passed by Iruka, who was erasing the board, he stiffened and halted.
“Is something the matter, Sasuke-kun?”
Sasuke took a step closer and sniffed. Then he shook his head and walked outside to join his year mates. Iruka watched his student thoughtfully until he was out of sight, then he went back to tidying up the classroom for the next lesson.
The next day, Sasuke came into class with his hair in a high ponytail. Just like Iruka’s ponytail. He gave Iruka a deliberate look that had the assistant instructor blinking with confusion. Was this a form of hazing? This continued for a full week, until Iruka came in one day with his hair down because he was running late. He was harassed by the girls in class and by his fellow female co-workers (some male) who kept telling him how cute he looked. Sasuke took pity on him and gave him his hair tie during lunch, and ended up suffering the same harassment that Iruka did, except that Sasuke had a better time fending off the attention since it was more acceptable for a student to be rude. The next day Sasuke came into class with his usual low ponytail, and Iruka made sure to always carry extra hair ties with him.
There were no more hiccups after that. At least concerning Sasuke that was. Now, Uzumaki Naruto, from the other class that Iruka was assisting with was a whole different can of worms.
The next school year, Iruka did indeed become their class’s official instructor. He was just as effective if not more so than Mizuki as an instructor and the class welcomed the change, which meant they heeded his teachings, but some students still tried to prank him, and failed spectacularly.
This was the year that Karin, Juugo, and Kimimaro would take the graduation exams. Sasuke had no doubts of their success. Sasuke himself still had two more years to go at the Academy before graduation, but it felt like time was running short, and despite his unchallenged position as top student, he couldn’t help feeling like he wasn’t doing enough.
“You’ve been staring at Sasuke-kun a lot,” Ino teased as she nudged her best friend, Sakura.
Sakura blushed. “So what?”
“Whoa, no need to bite my head off. It was just an observation. Say, since when did you become interested in my Sasuke-kun? I thought you didn’t care for him.”
“I never said that,” Sakura protested hotly.
“No, but you tried so hard to act nonchalant when I bring him up that I thought you were trying to prove a point.”
“Because Ino-chan likes Sasuke-kun, so I didn’t…”
Ino made her own deductions, “Oh? Are you saying you like Sasuke-kun more than me now, is that it?” She ribbed.
Sakura flushed. “It’s different!”
Ino shrugged and said flippantly, “As long as you know that he’s my man then I don’t mind if you crush on him. All the other girls in class do too.”
Sakura looked gobsmacked, and that was when Ino knew the joke went too far.
“Ino-chan… I don’t like him the way you or the other girls in class do. I like Sasuke-kun,” Sakura grounded out, and it sounded like it took a lot of effort for her to admit it out loud. “I’m willing to fight for him. I won’t give him up, not even to my best friend. Especially, not for the reasons that you like him.” Her knuckles were white as she clenched her hands together.
“Uh, so what are you saying?”
Sakura took a deep breath, her body was shaking, and Ino marveled at the courage Sakura was mustering. When Sakura opened her mouth to talk, her voice was steady, “I’m saying I’m going to be with Sasuke-kun in the future, and I’ll win him over fair and square.”
“Hoooh?” Ino made a sound of surprise. Then she smirked, a challenge sparking in her eyes. “Sasuke-kun is currently at the top of the class, the only one who can measure up to him is the top kunoichi of the class.”
Sakura nodded in agreement, a grim smile on her face.
“Then… may the best kunoichi win.” Ino flicked Sakura on the forehead, a playful smile on her lips. Sakura covered her forehead and glowered at Ino, but it was a look filled with determination.
Ino quite enjoyed that spark of fire. Her little cherry blossom was finally starting to bloom.
This would be a fun challenge.
Naruto was bummed.
The Hokage had pulled strings for him when he had said he wanted to be a genin as soon as possible. He entered the Academy early and took classes with kids older than him. Despite everything, he just found it so hard to concentrate on theoretical work, and had flunked his exams twice already. This year would be his third attempt. Naruto sighed as he trudged into his new classroom. This year, he would be attending classes with those his age. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they be crueler or nicer than his previous classmates?
He was the last one to arrive. When he entered the room, he scanned the classroom layout and the occupants quickly. He hoped there’s an open seat by the windows. No such luck. Should have arrived earlier. Then he spotted a person glowing in white and Naruto’s mouth dropped open.
“Pork Bun Ghost!” He pointed at the child dressed in white. The child was older now and there was a scar along the child’s jaw, but the angel was as beautiful as Naruto remembered. Or was it a ghost? Naruto wasn’t sure anymore.
“What did you call Sasuke-kun?” Two-thirds of the girls in class shrieked.
Naruto had just enough time to utter an “uh oh” before they dog piled him.
“What is this nonsense?” Iruka demanded when he entered the room. The girls paid him no mind and he had to physically pull them away from the pile. Some of them jumped right back in.
“Everyone,” the voice was young, but sharp and reprimanding. The girls stilled. “This is unsightly behavior and you’re disrupting the class.”
The girls apologized – although it was hard to tell if the apology was directed at Iruka or at Sasuke, definitely not at Naruto – and clambered back to their seats.
“Thank you, Sasuke. And…” Iruka studied the boy curled up on the floor and immediately recognized the blond hair of their resident prankster. “Naruto? Would you like to go to the nurse’s office?”
“I’m fine!” Naruto jumped to his feet.
Trusting in Naruto’s resilience Iruka just sighed and said, “All right then… Please take a seat. Class will now begin.” Then he began to do roll call.
Naruto climbed the steps to find an empty seat near the back. Sasuke, the Pork Bun Ghost, was seated in the back corner by the windows. He watched as Sasuke put away the scroll he was reading and pulled out supplies for class. When he looked up he made eye contact with Naruto.
Naruto blinked a few times, still not believing his eyes. After all this time, he was finally reunited with the Pork Bun Ghost. Sasuke caught his bewildered look and smiled softly in amusement. Yeah, that was the smile. He’d remember it anywhere. Naruto grinned and took a seat. He might actually like this class.
Author’s Note: There is a reason behind Sasuke’s initial “hazing” of Iruka, which won’t be revealed until much later on. But it’s only a minor detail for now, so don’t be bothered by it.