19 Sep 2020 No Comments
Excerpt of Chapter 47 — The Odd Ones:
Sakura’s chakra came easily. It always had. But that was the problem. She thought everyone could just open their eyes and there it was, glowing and ready, without any effort. She knew now they didn’t.
At academy, she learned it worked differently for everyone else. Chakra didn’t just fall off of them like it did for her. Ino focused hers in a triangle, Shikamaru slid his into a shadow, Choji held his breath and blew up his belly. TenTen pushed hers into her weapons, and Shino combined his with his bugs to create massive waves of them on command.
After several months, even with all her concentration and visualizing, she could tighten hers closer to her hand, but that was about it. Now instead of holding it in her hand like water scooped from a bucket, she tried to visualize keeping it on one side. Like pressing her hand into wet paint.
It worked. Sort of.
She could activate it when she held the grip of a dummy wooden weapon, just like she saw everyone else do, but she only succeeded in making it glow. She wasn’t connected to it at a deeper level like Iruka told her she should be. When she removed her hand, the chakra ran off like water, fading away between her skin and the wood.
It wasn’t until a field medic came to speak to the class about healing and chakra that she began to see it differently.
Iruka spoke to the black-haired woman at the edge of the class. He was pointing out students, and lingered on Ino, Sakura and a group of Hyuuga of girls. The woman’s eye landed on Sakura, and she smiled, nodding at her while Iruka spoke, and Sakura was sure he was telling her about her strange chakra—
The woman came to the front of the class and introduced herself as Aki from the Hyuuga clan. She too had come through academy, but her abilities were better suited for medical work. So she stayed in the village to help heal.
They instantly understood. She was one of the ones who came through the academy but didn’t graduate to become a shinobi. At least, not the kind that left the village.
But she was pretty and kind, and nodded deferentially to the other Hyuuga students in the class, and so they all instantly liked her.
“Iruka asked me to come speak about chakra, about healing, and about different things you can do with it than just throwing weapons.” She never looked at Sakura but Sakura still shifted uncomfortably in her seat, feeling like she was speaking just to her.
“Hinata-san, could you come up and give a demonstration please?”
Sakura turned to see the girl named Hinata — another pretty pale-eyed, dark-haired Hyuuga girl — who was looking around in surprise.
Aki nodded encouragingly.
Sakura didn’t know Hinata. She was very quiet and kept to her own clan, of which there were many in the school. But Sakura thought, at the moment, Hinata looked very much the way she felt. She was glad it wasn’t her being forced to go up there.
Hinata went to the front and held out her hand, palm forward, to the class. Aki turned to the rest of the students. “Hyuugas have a unique chakra signature which makes it good for healing. See if you can figure out what it is—“ She nodded at Hinata to continue.
Hinata concentrated on her fingertips and slowly they were engulfed in a blue flame. It hovered and licked at her palm, growing brighter and surrounding her wrist, then back up her forearm.
“Fire,” was echoed softly several times around the classroom.
Aki nodded. “That’s right. Fire.”
“This translates very well to healing. That’s why many Hyuuga opt for a career in the healing arts rather than the shinobi arts.” They all nodded.
“But that doesn’t mean you can use it as a shinobi. To heal yourself, or your teammates. Or just to increase your control.” This time, she glanced at Sakura. Sakura nodded, certain that Iruka had told her of her problems.
“Hinata may I demonstrate on you?” Hinata nodded, happier to be helping instead of the focus of attention.
“This is the basic healing form. The chakra glove.” She raised her hand to show that it was cloaked in a thin blue light, like a luminous glove. “Now everyone give it a try.”
Sakura’s lifted her hand, lighting it up without even trying. She pictured it as a glove. To her amazement, it responded. It looked like a giant green mitten, but it was a start.
After a few moments, all the students had copied her more or less precisely.
Aki nodded at them all. “Good. Just watch now,” she said. She took her blue hand and softly pressed it onto Hinata’s forearm, letting the blue light wrap around the back like a glowing cuff.
Hinata smiled, surprised. “It feels warm!”
Aki nodded with a smile and turned to the class. “If Hinata had a wound, my chakra would help hers to heal it. It’s thin, just enough to wrap around the surface. You don’t want to use too much, cause it might burn. But just enough to feel the wound under your hand and begin to heal it.” She smiled at Hinata as she removed her hand. “Now…. Who wants to give it a try?”
No one raised their hands. Sakura thought about it, but she was too nervous to do it on her own.
Aki looked as if she expected that. “How about this: Who has any cuts or bruises?”
A bunch of boys enthusiastically shot their hands up. “Oo-oo! I do! I do!”
She waved them down to one side of the class. “Ok, you’ll be on the ‘wounded’ side.”
They were thrilled, jostling each other on the way down and showing off their ‘wounds,’ most of which amounted to nothing more than scraped knees and splinters.
“On the other side we’ll have our ‘healers.’” The rest of the class of boys and girls filed to the other side. She raised her voice above the excited students. “Healers will heal the wounded, then both will switch sides and go to the back of the opposite line. That way everyone has a chance to try out both. Okay?”
The students nodded their understanding. Aki stood in the middle and presided over the first pair, watching each one to make sure they did it right and wouldn’t hurt each other. They all did about as well as was expected, with some of the girls doing a particularly good job getting the chakra to wrap around the arm. Aki gave nods of approval to Sakura, Ino, Hinata and a few other girls.
None of the wounds were healed. But none of the kids were getting chakra burns. So she felt comfortable enough to break them up into pairs all over the classroom, then stepping back to let them figure it out.
Aki and Iruka leaned against the wall, watching and talking, while the kids laughed and interacted. Some had a hard time getting their chakra to bend and wrap. Others took to it naturally. Iruka noticed that even Sasuke had relaxed a little bit to concentrate on this challenge. He tipped his head to speak quietly to Aki while he nodded toward the Uchiha approvingly.
“Ok! Change partners again,” Aki said cheerfully. “Remember, one heals. Then switch!”
A loud “Ow!” sounded in unison from a pair of rowdy boys.
Iruka frowned deeply and went over, saying “Not at the same time, you two! No wonder you burned yourselves!”
Several kids laughed, but a boy on the other side of the room grabbed his arm suddenly and exclaimed, “It’s gone! My cut— It’s gone…. ” He looked up into Sakura’s surprised face. “You healed me! Like, for real!!”
Sakura shrugged, but everyone was hovering around the boy, wanting to see the smooth skin of his arm too.
Sakura didn’t do anything special, just let her chakra slip around his arm, like Aki said. She felt the torn skin in the space under her fingers. In her mind, she simply smoothed it out. It was…easy.
Iruka and Aki came over to inspect it. Aki nodded, then took the boys arm, engulfed it in blue energy — “Oo, it’s warm,” the boy said. “Hers was cool.” — then looked up at Sakura and smiled. “Good job! You healed it!”
The boy pulled his arm free to show it off to the crowd of other students.
Aki laughed at the boy, but turned back to Sakura. “So, did someone teach you?”
Sakura shook her head, bracing herself for the inevitable next question about her upbringing—
But the question never came. “Well then you definitely have a talent for it,” Aki said with a big smile. “Great job!”
Behind Aki’s shoulder, Iruka beamed and gave her a big thumb’s up. Sakura smiled back, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks and giving away just how pleased she really was.
“Mine’s gone too!” Almost immediately, another child chimed in. “Mine too! Well, uh, mostly….”
Aki and the crowd of kids left to go inspect the others. More kids were beginning to have success healing as well, with Ino and Hinata and a few other Hyuuga girls among them.
Sakura was left alone at the back, opening and closing her hand, watching the light come and go like a giant firefly. She smiled, happy to find a technique that seemed to fit her.
From the edge of the classroom, Iruka grinned at the controlled chaos of the whole room. When there was a break, Iruka said to Aki, “Thank you for helping out! This has been so successful, we might want to include it every year!” Aki nodded heartily, before her name was called again to inspect more ‘healed’ arms. A moment later, Iruka darted out to intervene between boys who were trying to inflict new injuries on each other just to be healed again.
The students who showed ability were invited to the hospital to shadow Aki and see what she did there, and the idea of a shared class was hatched. After that, Sakura, Ino and several others spent a few afternoons a week learning some basic field medic techniques, while the other students deepened their weapons skills back at the classroom.
Sakura quickly discovered she was very good at healing. She didn’t have to try at it either, it just worked for her.
But back at academy, she still was faced with the same problem. She may have smiled and told her classmates that she could infuse objects with her chakra just like they did….but it was a lie. She couldn’t.
After learning the most basic healing technique, however — simply thinning her chakra to cover the whole wounded area like a bandage — she thought it might be able to help her on the shinobi side too.
Sakura quietly studied her classmates’ skills with the same methodical attention she’d used at the hospital and that she applied to every new challenge. She watched what they were doing, absorbed everything she could learn, then tried to copy back what she’d seen.
Other students could move their energy through the metal or merge it with shadow, making it come alive for them. But when Sakura tried to push her chakra into these objects, it never worked. They were still just lifeless and dull.
Everyone around her had the hang of it. Even Lee, who was the most like her out of the whole class, was busy trying to unlock the second gate of Guy’s technique in his spare time. They were all working on named techniques with clear-cut steps and levels—
Sakura didn’t have any of that.
She cut her eyes to TenTen. At first she thought they might be similar, with her chakra abilities but no clan to speak of. But now she realized they were different too.
TenTen flung out a scroll, summoned a kunai and gripped it hard. That’s when Sakura saw it: TenTen’s red chakra rippling out at the edge, illuminating the weapon for a moment. One day they would be taught to hide those marks, but right now, Iruka wanted to see them.
Sakura breathed in and tried again. The weapon in her hand was still impenetrable, but this time, instead of pushing her chakra into it, she applied what she’d learned at the hospital.
She breathed out, closed her eyes, pictured the shape in her mind, and stretched her chakra thinner than she ever had, until it completely covered the surface of the kunai. She felt it when it wrapped back around and connected back to itself. It worked.
She opened her eyes. Her chakra glimmered at the edge of the kunai. It didn’t drip off. As long as she concentrated, it held the shape. She smiled, pleased that she’d finally done that at least. It was a first step. She’d get the feel for it later.
Sakura looked up, catching Sasuke Uchiha’s dark eyes as he turned away. Her smile dimmed until she saw Ino striding toward her.
“Sakura-chan you’re doing it! I knew you’d get it eventually!”
“Well…I’m only just starting to get the hang of it—”
“And I’m not the only one who’s noticed how hard you’ve been trying.” Her voice dropped to a sing-song whisper. “Sasuke-kun’s been watching you too!”
Sakura looked over at the boy’s back. “Uh, really?”
“He’s the cutest boy in school,” Ino continued excitedly. “I’ve made a list, and he’s at the top! But you’ll have to fight me for him,” she laughed. “And them too!” The older class girls were looking from Sasuke to Sakura and back again.
Sakura didn’t believe her friend, but from then on, she did notice Sasuke watching her whenever she tried to make her chakra perform the way she saw the others do it.
She told herself that maybe it was like Ino said, that he wanted to help her but he was just painfully shy. Or that he was coming up with ways to talk to her. Ino would gush romantic ideas to Sakura on the playground. Sakura ignored them. But she liked the attention. It made her feel a little set apart, when everyone else seemed so special and amazing to her.
It wasn’t until one afternoon when she caught the black-haired boy watching her that a new realization dawned. He wasn’t admiring her, as Ino always teased. She met his eyes, only for a second. But it was long enough to see the unmistakeable, blood-red glow of a sharingan — the frightening justu that she’d only heard about in whispers — swirling back into blackness. He looked at the glowing green weapon in her hands, then his mouth twisted into a scowl and he turned away.
Sakura swallowed hard. The green faded from the weapon. She wasn’t sure if he’d seen her or not…. She looked at her hand, flickering the green light there. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She was still figuring it out. They all were. Hers was just taking a little longer, that’s all—
Iruka called the class back inside.