Chapter 8: No Loose Ends
As it was the first day of a new term, most of Class 3-As lessons were purely supplemental. It would take weeks before they transitioned into learning something new, so the day ended as it had started, with most of the students only pretending to pay attention while one of their Senseis droned on about the greatness of Lord Hashirama, the First Hokage.
With a series of synthetic chimes announcing the end of the school day, the Chunin instructor silenced the growing clamor, shouting, “Good job on your first day back at the Academy! I expect everyone to continue giving it their all for the remainder of the year! Dismissed…!”
Now that they were officially free to leave, the aura of boredom that had permeated the classroom abruptly disappeared. Children that had been on the verge of passing out moments prior were now full of energy, Kaia being almost the most enthusiastic as she turned to Wu and asked, “Want to come over and play!”
Not expecting anyone to invite him over on his first day, the cogs in Wus mind kicked into overdrive as he considered the positives and negatives of the situation. Fortunately, he didnt have respond as Kiba interjected to retort, “Are you an idiot You have to assist Ane-san with Kotodomas new pups. You know outsiders arent allowed into the kennels.”
Deflating like a balloon, Kaia ended up drawing circles on the floor until Wu said, “Its no big deal. I might not be able to come by today, but that doesnt mean I cant visit in the future. Just be sure to ask your parents in advance. I dont want to intrude.”
Bouncing back to her feet, Kaia balled her tiny hands into fists, staring at Wu with stars in her eyes as she replied, “Youre so smart, Aniki! If I can get Tsume-samas and Kotodama-sans permission, we may even be able to play with her puppies together…!”
Curbing some of Kaias vigor, Kiba gave the slightly shorter girl a light knock to the head as he said, “Stop being so forceful.” Then, as he also had responsibilities back at the Clan compound, he turned to Wu, adding, “Thanks for looking after Kaia today. As the future leader of the Inuzuka, I owe you one.”
Extending his first, Kiba waited for Wu to reciprocate the gesture before grabbing Kaias wrist and dragging her away. The petite Inuzuka offered no resistance to Kibas somewhat forceful actions, but she waved to Wu until they had exited the classroom.
Feeling as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, a genuine smile graced Wus face before promptly transitioning into his usual mask as Sakura tentatively approached him. She became noticeably tenser as the distance between them closed, but she managed an awkward smile once they were enough to converse, initiating the conversation by saying, “Sorry to bother you, Wu-kun, but I couldnt stop thinking about what you said earlier…”
As he had said many things, Wu raised his brows, remarking, “Not to be rude, Sakura, but can you be a little more specific I was pretty nervous at the time, so I cant fully recall what was said.”
Though her brows furrowed slightly at Wus informal way of addressing her, Sakura managed to overcome her discomfort, explaining, “The part about you being new to the village. I can imagine Lord Hokage gave you something to prepare, but if you have any questions about the theoretical aspects of our lessons, I should be able to answer them…”
Seeing Sakura avert her eyes near the end, Wu briefly narrowed his own before smiling radiantly as he replied, “Thanks, Sakura. Ill be sure to keep that in mind. In exchange, feel free to rely on me as well.”
Seizing the opportunity, Sakuras nervousness appeared to disappear as she gained a genuine smile and revealed, “Ino, myself, and the others all wanted to know what you were discussing with Sasuke-kun. He doesnt really talk to anyone else, so we wanted to know if there was any trick to getting him to open up.”
Unsurprised by the pinkettes request, the corners of Wus smile curled upward as he replied, “Its pretty simple, really. Uchiha-san has a strong desire to grow stronger. If you or the other girls could keep up with him or had access to knowledge and skills he deemed useful, he would probably approach you on his own. The only reason he spurns you and the others is because he views you as hindrances to his growth.”
Taken aback by Wus candid analysis, Sakura could only stare at him in a daze, her mouth slightly agape. It was true that Sasuke had often referred to them ashindrances, but they hadnt taken his words to heart. As far as his fans were concerned, that was just how Sasuke spoke.
As Wus words settled within her, Sakura lowered her head and fell silent. She had spent the past seven months saving her allowance to purchase cute outfits and some beginner beauty products, but Sasuke hadnt even batted an eye at her. Well, he did, but the only emotion visible in his gaze had been annoyance…
Since Sakura was technically preventing him from leaving, Wu suppressed the urge to roll his eyes, asking, “Whats wrong Half of the reason youre at the Academy is to improve your strength enough to become a capable Kunoichi. It only took me four years to obtain this level of strength. If you apply yourself and take your training seriously, theres no reason you cant become much stronger than you are now.”
Raising her face, Sakuras pale green eyes glistened with hope as she inquired, “Do you think I can become strong enough to gain Sasukes attention…”
Shrugging his shoulders, Wu asserted, “How strong a person becomes depends on their will. Talent and resources help, but even the greatest of geniuses will hit a wall if they never exert themselves. In other words, it doesnt matter what I think. The only person who can decide your limits is you.”
Punctuating his statement, Wu gave Sakuras oversized forehead a gentle poke before slipping past her and swaggering away with his hands in his pockets. The person he actually wanted to speak with had slipped out of the classroom while they were chatting, so he wanted to catch up to them before they left the building.
Recovering from her momentary stupor, Sakura reached up to touch her forehead before turning around to follow Wus departure. She had never met a boy her age who acted even remotely similar to Wu, and while nothing could replace Sasuke in her heart, Sakura couldnt help noticing he was kind of cute…
“Yo, chibi, wait up…!”
Though she wasnt sure the voice was calling out to her, Hinata turned around to find Wu jogging over to her. His presence made her coil back a bit, but, recalling hishelp during lunch, Hinata forced herself to stand her ground, asking, “Is there something I can help you, Sarutobi-san…”
Ignoring the fact that Hinata was uncomfortable, Wu shamelessly invaded her personal space, nearly compelling her to back into the wall behind her as he leaned forward to ask, “Whats the deal with Naruto…” in a hushed, nearly inaudible tone.
Hearing Wus question, Hinata suppressed her growing urge to retaliate with her Clans specialized Taijutsu, the Gentle Fist. She hated harming others, but she wasnt completely incapable of defending herself.
Forcing a smile onto her face, Hinata asked, “What do you mean Is there something wrong with Naruto-kun…”
Furrowing his brows, just a bit, Wu asserted, “You know what Im talking about. Why are most of the civilian students in our class so hostile toward him As far as I can tell, hes a fairly likable kid. It doesnt make sense for so many people to hate him. Is it his hair…”
Shaking her head a little too enthusiastically, Hinata managed to whip Wu in the face with one of her fringe bangs as she asserted, “Theres nothing wrong with Naruto-kuns hair!”
Resisting the urge to pick Hinata up by her fringe, Wu waitedpatiently for the young heiress to calm down. When she did, her expression became gloomy and slightly resentful as she admitted, “I dont really know why so many people hate Naruto-kun. When I tried asking my father, he just told me it was a secret and that Id learn about it once I became a Jonin…”
Gaining quite a bit from Hinatas response, Wu mused, “Hoooo…so its a secret only the most powerful and trusted within the village are allowed to know Thats interesting…”
Having gotten what he came for, Wu backed away from Hinata, regaining his usual smile as he scratched the back of his head, saying, “I appreciate you answering my questions, Hinata. Also, sorry for approaching you in such a…direct manner. It just bothered me seeing so many people looking at Naruto as if he was some kind of monster.”
Feeling significantly less tense now that Wu had given her some space, Hinata managed a marginally sincere smile as she assured, “Its okay…I was just a little startled, thats all. I…I know you didnt mean any harm…”
Nodding his head as if to affirm the statement, Wu responded, “Thanks for understanding.” Then, as he had much better things to be doing, he half-turned, indicating his intention to leave as he added, “Ill be sure to let you know if I learn anything. See you tomorrow, Hinata.”
Without waiting for the befuddled girls response, Wu turned around fully, quickly making his way toward the front entrance. The time he spent at the Academy hadnt been very fruitful, so he planned to run back to the manor and get in a few hours of intense training before supper. There was no way in hell he was letting a brooding brat like Sasuke catch up to him…
“So, how was your first day at school Make any friends…”
Putting a stopper in Wus plans, Hiruzen appeared shortly after the former arrived at the estate grounds. This left the former feeling a little annoyed, but it didnt show as he adopted a toothy grin and replied, “Of course. The first two were a boy and girl from the Inuzuka Clan. After that, I managed to exhibit my strength against two of my classmates, Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke. The latter stormed off after realizing the difference in our strength, but I was able to make amends with him at lunch.”
Though he could tell that Wu had more to say, the mention of Naruto caused Hiruzens eyes to glisten. Once the boy reached a natural pause in his account, Hiruzen interrupted, his expression softening as he muttered, “Ah, Uzumaki Naruto…like you, I also view him as my grandson. I trust the two of you were able to get along”
Surprising Hiruzen, Wus expression briefly became one of disbelief. He quickly fixed it, but Hiruzen had already taken an interest, asking, “Whats wrong Naruto is a good kid. If you were able to make up with the young heir of the Uchiha, you shouldnt have any trouble with Naruto.”
Shaking his head, Wu revealed, “It isnt that…Naruto and I actually got along really well. We even ate lunch together alongside two of our other classmates, Hyuga Hinata and Inuzuka Kaia.”
Even more confused, Hiruzen asked, “Then what seems to be the issue, my boy Speak freely.”
Though he would prefer to save his response until he had sorted out all the details in his mind, Wu took a steadying breath before staring into Hiruzens silvery-grey eyes and recounting everything he had witnessed during his first day at the Academy. This included details about how his classmates viewed Naruto, the fact he hadnt brought a lunch, and, most damning of all, the way most of the Chunin instructors either ignored him or found the blonde-haired boys situation amusing…