Chapter Five: Books
Sasuke let out a deep sigh and pulled out a book from his bag. He believed being early was being on time—something his mother had instilled in him—but waiting around for their teacher was boring.
Especially considering the fact that class should have started ten minutes earlier. Iruka-sensei wasn’t usually this late unless he was dealing with a Naruto or Kiba issue.
What could that moron have done now?
Sasuke tried to focus on his novel but he couldn’t block out the giggling from the row behind him. He glared at his book, not caring if he was reading the same sentence for the fourth time now.
Sasuke was used to a certain routine by now. He would come to class early to beat Sakura whom he was in a small competition with to see who would get to class first every day. Sasuke prefered to sleep in and he lived further away from the Academy than Sakura, but it was worth it to see her look of frustration. The way Sakura’s cheeks would puff out and her face turning as pink as her hair was sort of—
Sasuke cringed when he heard the dreamy voice of his desk mate. He chanced a peek from the corner of his eye. He held back from groaning in annoyance.
Naruto just had to sit next to him again.
The two of them didn’t hang out in class. They were always fighting considering the fact that Sasuke was the top student and Naruto—for all the brilliance of his Hokage father—was sitting at the bottom of the class roster when it came to grades. It always amazed him how Naruto could have parents that were famed for their ninjutsu and still perform pitifully.
But then again, Aunt Kushina doesn’t really care about Naruto’s grades…
Sasuke’s eye began to twitch at the creepy giggling coming from his right.
“Nothing you would care about,” Naruto grumbled. He turned back around to face the front. “Not like you’re into girls.”
Before Sasuke could even think of retorting a notebook smacked Naruto on the side of the head.
“Shut up Naruto!” The shrill cry of Yamanaka Ino had Sasuke turning his attention to the row behind him.
The outburst from Ino was expected. She was the loudest girl Sasuke had ever met in his life. What he hadn’t expected was the person to have thrown the notebook to have been Sakura.
“Why are you always so rough with me Sakura-chan?” Naruto whined.
“Why are you always such a rude idiot?” Sakura scoffed. “Apologize to Sasuke-kun.”
“Like hell I’m going to apologize to this asshole,” Naruto grumbled and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He squinted up his face into an ugly pout.
Sasuke had witnessed Sakura fuming in class whenever she was placed in a group with Naruto in teamwork drills. Naruto didn’t do so well when it came to teamwork and most of Sakura’s strategies relied on everyone working as a unit.
It was no wonder she thought he was a brat.
Sasuke picked up the notebook from where it had slipped onto the floor. He straightened the crumpled pages and handed it back to Sakura who smiled softly at him and thanked him.
Well, that’s a complete one-eighty…
Sakura flipped open the notebook and went back to taking notes from one of her books. Every time she came across something that interested her she would flash it to Ino who would either nod enthusiastically or shake her head. Occasionally Ino would get a thoughtful expression on her face and pause in the middle of braiding Sakura’s hair to tap at her chin.
“We can check that spot, you know the place.” She would snap her fingers and Sakura would nod and write down a note.
Sakura was in the middle of jotting down notes when Ino and Sasuke caught each other’s eyes. Sasuke waited for the usual attempt at a flirtatious smile or cooing but didn’t receive any. Ino merely gave him a sly grin and wrapped her arms around Sakura’s shoulders.
“Hey Sakura. Wanna help me again with that thing after class?”
Sasuke shot Ino a glare. For the past week Sakura had been skipping out on their training sessions to spend time with Ino.
What could be possibly be more important than getting stronger? Especially something with Ino?
“I kind of had plans today…”
“Aww, really Sakura-chan?” Naruto recovered from earlier. “I thought maybe we could—“
“No!” Both Ino and Sakura responded.
“You don’t even know what I was going to ask!” Naruto whined.
Probably about going to go get ramen. Again. Sasuke rolled his eyes. His cousin Obito was always taking Naruto out to get ramen and trying to drag him along.
“I bet it was about ramen.” Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest and rolled her eyes. “And then Uzumaki-san will get upset that you’ve ruined your appetite by eating out and drag you by the ear across the village. Again.”
“Do you have any idea how much sodium and carbs are in ramen?” Ino wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Looks like you need the carbs,” Naruto shot back.
The two blondes continued to bicker. Sasuke watched Sakura as she rubbed her temple with both of her hands as she tried to block them out. It wasn’t new for her to be caught in one of Ino’s shouting matches whenever something irritated her.
Ino was always the more loud one. Sasuke recalled Sakura to be a crier, always emotional over something. She was still a bit of a crier. She would get teary eyed whenever she struggled with something she had hoped to excel in on her first try. If Sasuke ever acknowledged her tears she would immediately wipe them away and give one last sniffle before pulling her face into a pouty look full of resolve.
Sasuke let her be after that. Even if she got overwhelmed or upset she braced herself and carried on with training. It was hard to stay irritated when she was trying so hard.
Without meaning to Sasuke caught Sakura’s attention. He must have been staring at her longer than appropriate. She felt his eyes on her and lifted her head back up to smile at him.
I have something to show you later, Sakura mouthed to him.
Fighting off the heat that was creeping up the back of his neck, Sasuke nodded and turned around to face the front of the room.
He ignored Naruto’s whispered questions during class of why he looked so pleased.
Sakura couldn’t keep the smug look off of her face. She had worked hard all on her own and finally nailed it.
Sasuke had been helping her with shurikenjutsu. He was the absolute best in the class and there was a tricky move he had done once that she was interested in. She finally figured out how it was that he altered the trajectory of his shuriken and trained beyond their sessions and finally got the hang of it.
She couldn’t help but look so pleased by Sasuke’s slack-jawed expression.
“I didn’t notice it the first few times because of how quick you are but after breaking it down it turns out that you were tossing a second shuriken.”
Sakura quickly flung a shuriken and then a second to swing the first shuriken’s path to the originally awkwardly located target.
“Not so hard now.” Sakura placed her fists on her hips and tossed her hair over her shoulder haughtily. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be better than you one day.”
Sasuke scoffed. She was lucky she was cute.
“Let’s not get carried away.” Sasuke took hold of her hand and adjusted her grip on her shuriken. “And if you flick your wrist more like this you’ll have a more controlled toss.”
There were nicks along the grooves of Sakura’s fingers. Her hands had once looked perfectly smooth and were soft to touch when he helped her adjust her form. The scars were still fresh so the lines were noticeably raised up on her skin.
Sasuke didn’t find the new flaws to her soft hands ugly. They reminded him of his mother’s hands. She was retired but the scars along her fingers remained. When he was younger and held her hand he could feel them against the smoothness of his own fingers.
The friction of their scars was a peculiar feeling but not unpleasant. It made him want to brush their fingers against each other more.
Sasuke dropped Sakura’s hands as if burned by them. Quick to hide how flustered he was, he missed catching the flush of pink that formed high on Sakura’s cheeks.
“I’m almost done with that novel you recommended,” Sasuke changed the topic. Anything as long as it wasn’t about hands.
“Really?” Sakura’s eyes shimmered with excitement. “There’s currently another published book in the series and one that’s being worked on. I tried to get Ino to read the Shinobi Strategist Detective Story but books aren’t her thing.”
“I didn’t expect to like a mystery since I prefer history novels but it’s a page turner.”
Sakura hopped a little when she clapped her hands together. If her bow was still in her hair instead of the twin plaits that Ino had made she would have resembled a rabbit even more.
“There’s a shop by my house that carries copies of the second novel if you want to keep reading it.”
Sasuke’s attention was drawn back to her hands that she was now wringing together. It was an odd habit but he noticed she only did it when she was nervous. She would stand their wringing her hands around the handle of her kunai as she prepared to do whatever drill Sasuke had planned.
“It’s still pretty early,” Sasuke thought aloud. “We can swing by the bookstore. Maybe.”
Sakura beamed and grabbed his wrist. Heat bloomed on Sasuke’s cheeks at the sudden contact.
“Lets go now! I have a book on chakra theory being held for me.”
“Don’t you already have a book on chakra theory?”
“This one’s a newer edition!” Sakura pouted. “And I may or may not have damaged the one at home.”
Sasuke exhaled a laugh through his nose and rolled his eyes.
“So what’s different about this newer edition?”
“There’s an added section just on Tsunade-sama. She’s one of the sannin.”
“Like that creepy guy that lives at the far edge of the village?”
“He’s a sannin, Sasuke-kun!” Sakura scolded him. She looked around before dropping her voice down to a whisper. “But yeah Orochimaru-sama is kind of creepy.”
Sasuke enjoyed talking to Sakura. It was much more peaceful than when he talked to Naruto but just like with Naruto he felt like she was talking to him and not just as one of the Uchiha.
Sasuke followed Sakura into the bookstore. He bowed his head slightly in greeting to the clerk whom Sakura waved at enthusiastically.
Sakura easily navigated the narrow book aisles, clearly knowing exactly where she was going to find what she was looking for.
“Books have such a nice smell,” she whispered as she flipped the pages of the novel she pulled down.
“A little obsessed with them aren’t we?” Sasuke teased. Sakura flushed pink whenever he did it and it made him think of how he would catch his mother teasing his father or of when Itachi teased him. He understood the appeal when Sakura’s face would warm up and his chest got all airy.
“Well when I was younger I didn’t have any friends and books are one of those things where you don’t need another person…”
Sakura’s face fell for a moment before a shy smile slowly formed.
“But it’s always fun when you can talk about your favorite ones with someone.”
She offered him the novel and he took it in his hands wondering if his mother would give him more ryo to spend so that he could buy all of Sakura’s favorite novels. He usually spent his allowance replacing shuriken he misplaced but he would gladly set aside a bit for something more relaxing. He needed a hobby anyway.
Sakura was busy explaining something she really liked in the first novel when something caught Sasuke’s attention.
There was someone moving in the next aisle over. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at the slow way the person walked, as if they were trying to be quiet and listen in on the conversation.
Through the shelves Sasuke could make out dark hair and taller build than he or Sakura had. He would have mistaken the person for a clan member if it weren’t for the extreme paleness of their skin or the inky black of their eyes.
With a nod of his head, Sasuke gestured to Sakura that it was time to get going.
As Sakura chatted away with the cashier and claimed the book she had on hold, Sasuke was on the lookout for their stalker. Whoever it was seemed to have lost interest in what they were discussing and walked away for Sasuke couldn’t feel any eyes on them.
Narrowing his eyes once more at the aisles, Sasuke chose to forget about the eavesdropper. It was probably just a random browser and he was being paranoid.
We’ll probably never see that guy again.
Ino almost slipped out of her stool when the new patron walked into her family’s shop. The tinkling of the bell over the door drew her attention to the door but nothing had prepared her for Sai to stroll in as if he hadn’t been missing for over a week.
She watched him as he made his way over to the water filled bins that held the cut blooms. Sai hadn’t even noticed that she was sitting at the register!
Ino was stuck between glaring at him and thinking that she should look busy, like she didn’t care that he was there. That she hadn’t acknowledged his absence whatsoever.
But Ino wouldn’t be Ino if she didn’t give him a piece of her mind.
Hoping off of her stool, she swung up the countertop to march right up to him when her path was blocked by a bushel of purple hyacinths.
“Oh?” Ino crossed her arms in front of her chest, blue-green eyes narrowed into slits. “Let me ring you up.”
Ino snatched the flowers out of his hands. As she wrapped them into a presentable bouquet, she watched Sai fidget out of the corner of her eye. He frowned as he watched her nimble fingers wrap the stems in a paper wrapper and tied it off with a ribbon.
“That’ll be one hundred sixty ryo.”
Sai handed over the payment due and took the bundle in his hands only to hold it out in front of him toward Ino.
“What?” Ino’s jaw dropped as Sai stood there holding out the flowers.
“This is the proper flower for apologies, is it not? I read that it was the proper coloring to make my statement clear to the receiver.”
“You don’t give a girl flowers you just bought from her!”
Ino was stuck between being irritated with him and feeling giddy. The only person that had ever given her flowers was her father so this new experience filled her with the urge to giggle and gush.
“I had not calculated you being an employee here.”
“The name Yamanaka Hana wasn’t a big give away?” Ino raised an eyebrow. “My family owns the shop.”
“I still did not expect to see you so soon.” Sai cocked his head to a tilt and observed Ino’s reactions. “I have discovered recently that it is considered rude and inconsiderate to disappear for a long period of time without contacting one’s friends. We are friends right?”
Ino rolled her eyes but nodded anyway. Strange as he may be, Sai was her friend.
“Then I have wronged you and I must apologize.” Sai bowed slightly in her direction. “I should have informed you that I needed to take care of things in my personal life and make arrangements.”
“We really need to do something about how you talk,” Ino mumbled.
“Is this where I explain what I was doing?”
“You don’t need to tell me everything!” Ino huffed in exasperation. She took a calming breath in before she continued. “I was just worried about you. Just give a heads up next time.”
Ino finally took hold of the offered bouquet and cradled it in her arms. They were for an apology but they still made her feel warm inside.
“Did you really read up on flower meanings?”
“Yes. I recently discovered that taking an interest in what your partner likes can be beneficial for your relationship.”
Sai missed the way Ino’s face flushed at his words. She cleared her throat and fidgeted in her spot.
“Where did you learn that from?”