Naruto had never been the best at studying. Or learning… or paying attention to anything school related really. He never knew the cause for this or why he was the only one to suffer like he did. Sure, Kiba could get rowdy when he wasn’t supposed to, but he still got average marks. He didn’t just barely pass. The boy figured it would be like that all his life, and he accepted that. There just seemed to be no way around this flaw.
That is, until he had his first fuuinjutsu unit.
He had expected to find it boring. They were just seals, after all! What could possibly make them interesting. That mindset changed when Iruka began explaining the uses of fuuinjutsu. It was still much easier to stare out the window and watch the squirrels chase each other outside and- wait. What did Iruka-sensei just say?
Tuning his ear back into the teacher’s words Naruto realized he was explaining some of the history behind fuuinjutsu. Even Sakura-chan seemed bored! Then the word that caught the boy’s ear was spoken again. “Uzu-nin were taught to be masters in the sealing arts. They taught it in academies as we teach henges and bunshins.” Iruka lectured. Uzu. Naruto had never heard anything else that sounded like his ‘clan name’. He hesitated at calling it that as he had never met anyone else with that bared the name.
Naruto noticed some of his classmates sneaking glances at him. Sakura (who was now paying very close attention) raised her hand politely, and Iruka called on the girl. “Um… Iruka-sensei, how come we’ve never been taught about Uzushiogakure in any of our other history lessons? I’ve never actually heard of it at all.” The question seemed to trigger something in Iruka as his eyes widened. Whispers erupted in the class but the Uzumaki could barely pay attention, his head spinning.
“A-ah, right, I’m afraid I went into more detail than i should have without even realizing. There is a very good reason that you will find out about when you all get older.” Iruka explained with a nervous smile. Nervous? Why nervous? The children in the class looked skeptical but didn’t ask anymore. Well… except for Naruto. He raised his hand high and saw Iruka-sensei’s eyes stare the opposite way. He simply grimaced and continued his explanation, saying they would be given paper, ink, and pens to practice their calligraphy before they could start to paint the seals.
The blonde, however, just stubbornly kept his hand up. He even shook it a little. It wasn’t until he began to let out small whining noises that annoyed the people next to him that Iruka gave a small sigh and looked straight at him. “Yes, Naruto?” Iruka asked, not unkindly. The boy took an uncharacteristically nervous breath before speaking. “Ne, Iruka-sensei, would Uzushiogakure have anything to do with… uh, ya know, Uzumakis?” His teacher’s eyes filled with an odd kind of regret and said, “I'm afraid I can't answer that question, Naruto-kun, for the same reason as I told Sakura.”
Naruto frowned at that. “But Iruka-sensei! You didn’t give Sakura-chan a reason! You just told her we had to wait until we get older, ‘ttebayo!” Iruka wasn’t at all phased at the student’s outburst. “The same applies to your own question Naruto-kun. I don’t have permission to give you an answer to that question.” A couple of student’s eyes narrowed at the phrasing but they shook it off quickly. The usually hyperactive boy dimmed at that. He could feel eyes on his back (a familiar feeling, but these eyes didn’t exude hate and fear, some held pity or others even understanding). The rest of the class passed in an unusual blur.
The Uzumaki hadn’t even noticed he had the best penmanship in the class.
If one was going to try to find Uzumaki Naruto, they would first stop at Ichiraku’s. Then they might stroll the streets looking for a blurb of orange with angry civilians and shinobi alike chasing after it. If not there… well Naruto didn’t actually spend his time doing the widest variety of things.
The point being! The blonde was at neither of these places. He was, in fact, in the last place you may check to find him. The library.
Normally, Naruto wouldn't be allowed into the library even if he wanted to go, but he had snuck past trained ninjas before, he could sneak past a bored civilian. The boy grinned when he was able to do just that and he began navigating the shelves. This continued for a couple minutes before he realised he had no idea how to find what he was looking for. And the library was really big . He could, of course, just wander aimlessly until he found some sort of section that sounded like “Uzu” but instead his gaze landed upon a certain pink haired girl.
“Sakura-chan!” Naruto narrowly managed to watch his volume and the call ended up sounding more like “SAKUra-chan”, but oh well. The girl looked up confused, “Naruto?” she whispered (much quieter than Naruto had managed). “No offense, but what are you doing here? Also watch your volume unless you want to get kicked out.” She seemed to add that as an afterthought.
“Haha right, sorry.” He grinned sheepishly, “I’m actually here because of what Iruka-sensei was talking about in class today. I’ve never heard anyone talk about my clan or where it came from, y’know?” Sakura looked significantly less annoyed at his lowered volume and then at his reason itself. She nodded her head thoughtfully. “I do know what you mean. I’ve never heard of it either. I was actually going to see what I could find later after I read these,” she gestured at the stack of books in front of her “but… if you wanted I could help you right now?”
Naruto’s eyes lit up “You really mean it? I can’t ask the desk lady for where to find the books but having you help would be much better than looking around on my own!” he whisper yelled. Sakura looked troubled at his words and moved to stand up, speaking along the way. “Say, Naruto-kun, why can’t you ask the librarian for directions. It is her job, you wouldn’t be bothering her or anything.” The blonde actually looked uncomfortable at the question. “Actually most adults don’t like me talking to them. Or being near them in general. I don’t know why it’s just always been that way.”
If Sakura had looked troubled before she definitely sensed something was off now. Naruto’s eyes shifted away at the stare he got back. “I mean, it’s not even that bad or anything! Nothing to worry about. I’m used to it anyway.” The rosette didn’t seem convinced but let it slide anyway. “Right, in that case you can walk up to the librarian with me.” She said in a firm tone. He looked ready to argue but instead nodded.
Sakura grabbed Naruto’s hand and pulled him up to the desk. At the first sight of the boy next to her the old lady let out a sneer. “How did you get in here, demon brat? I thought we told you that you were not welcome.” The boy in question just stood there, still holding hands with Sakura, and let out a very intelligent “Uh…”. However before the librarian could harp him any more the now steaming girl spoke. “Excuse me, miss, but I didn’t think that sort of thing was allowed without good reason. Naruto-kun may be a bit of a jokester but I can’t think of anything that could get him kicked out for life. Anyways, my friend here was looking for books on Uzushio and its clan history.” Both the librarian and the boy’s eyes widened at her strong words. No one had ever called Naruto their “friend” before.
“Right, of course, the books on Uzushiogakure and other smaller villages are over in that section.” The librarian pointed to some shelves in the corner. No one had ever spoken back to her for how what she did to the Uzumaki boy. Hearing such confident words from the usually polite soft spoken girl she was used to seeing had startled her. Sakura gave a tight lipped smile and murmured a quiet come on, Naruto-kun before walking to the shelves of books.
“Do all adults really-”
“Did you really mean it-”
The two spoke up at once as they entered the section. Naruto blushed “Sorry! Sorry Sakura-chan, you go first, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Normally Sakura’s polite instincts that were drilled into her would make her argue back but she was a bit worked up. “Do all adults really act like that Naruto? I understand that you play pranks but they all seem harmless enough? What did you do to warrant getting called ‘demon brat’?” Questions poured out of the concerned girl. Naruto’s eyes just widened, “Wow, um, no one's ever really cared about how the adults treat me. I’ve always been called demon even before the pranks and everything… besides the words aren’t even the worst part!”
She supposed that was meant to be reassuring. It wasn’t.
“Naruto-kun what do you mean by that?” Sakura asked, not really wanting to know he answer. “Well sometimes the men, usually civilians, will kick me and punch me and stuff. But I can protect myself and get away ‘cause I’m super cool, dattebayo!” Naruto saw nothing wrong with the fact adults hit him for no reason. Naruto is hit by adults for no reason. “That’s not ok! Adults shouldn’t ever hit children unless they’re sparring! Naruto you have to- mmph!” She was cut off by a hand over her mouth.
“Sorry Sakura-chan, you were starting to yell. I don’t want you to get kicked out because of me. I know you like reading and stuff.” Sakura gently took the hand off her mouth and sighed. She could take the hint, he didn’t want to talk about this anymore. “Right, let’s find those books then.”
They both were smiling
“Ugh! Sakura we’ve been reading forever. This is all really interesting and I’m finally learning about my clan but you have to do half the reading anyway ‘cause I keep asking you what words mean.” Naruto groaned, rolling around on the carpet. Sakura huffed out a laugh, “You’re rambling Naruto-kun. Also, you know I don’t mind helping with the vocabulary, this is the third time I’ve told you now. But you are right, and the library will close soon. My parents will get worried if I come home too late.”
They hadn’t managed to find a whole ton of books about Uzushio in the pre-genin section of the library. However, Naruto and Sakura managed to find a couple and read them together. They focused mainly on where the city had been but barely went into detail on how it fell and why. They had only managed to find out that Iwagakure and Kirigakure had attacked it during the Third Shinobi War. There was also some stuff about how Konoha and Uzushio were friends because Konoha’s Shodaime married an Uzumaki. Jonin and chunin even wore Uzushio’s symbol on their jackets out of respect!
While Naruto found this all as enthralling as Sakura did, he could still only handle so much reading.
“Ok Sakura-chan!” The blonde said with a sunny smile and he began to pick up the books and scrolls they had pulled out. Sakura helped carry them to the front desk where she said a few hissed words to the librarian that Naruto couldn’t make out. As they walked outside the boy hesitated then asked “Hey, Sakura-chan… would you wanna meet up again sometime? It doesn't have to be at the library if you don’t want and if you’re busy it’s fine! I was just wondering ‘ttebayo.” He smiled nervously.
Sakura only had to think for a second before replying “Of course we can hang out! We’re friends now after all. What kind of friend would I be if I never hung out with you? In fact, how about we go get ramen tomorrow since you worked hard reading today?”
Naruto looked like his parents had just floated down from the heavens, lectured all of Konoha on how to treat their son, and then said villagers had given him the Hokage hat on their knees. Needless to say, it appeared the rosette had spoken some sort of magic words. The boy’s dopey smile hadn’t left his face the entire time he walked home with her, nor did she forget that smile as she said goodbye to him at her doorstep.
She could tell this was the start of a beautiful friendship.