Chanyeol was anxiously waiting in the academy hallway, shiny new headband clutched in the palm of his hand. Passing the genin test had been more than easy for him, but then again learning and using ninjutsu had come naturally for him. But for his friend Jongdae? He needed to practice a little harder, and Chanyeol was worried that he might barely fail.
Just then the door to the classroom opens, Jongdae walking out looking stricken. Chanyeol’s heart drops, and he’s about to offer words of encouragement when Jongdae lets out a whoop, holding up his own headband proudly in front of the taller boy’s face.
“You passed! Jongdae, alright, we both did it!” Chanyeol’s grin was wide and blinding, yanking the shorter boy into a tight hug.
“We’re both officially genin, and done with the academy. Can you believe it? Finally we can be true Konoha shinobi!” Jongdae crowed, breaking the hug so he could tie the headband proudly across his forehead.
At this Chanyeol did the same, tying it tightly behind his head. He could feel that his ears were sticking out but it didn’t matter, he was still happy and proud of himself for coming this far. Now he could really make his dreams come true, of being a great shinobi of Konoha and making his family proud.
“Come on, let’s go celebrate and tell our parents before we have to be back to find out which team we’ll be on. Hopefully we’ll be on the same one,” Jongdae’s voice was loud, and getting louder, from how clearly excited he was.
It was making Chanyeol’s own excitement spike, and he easily followed along with his friend down the hallway, listening absentmindedly to the loud chatter. His attention was caught by two other boys walking down the hallway, both short and he only knew one by name. There was Baekhyun, who clearly had passed and had his arm around a boy shorter than him, who Chanyeol could barely remember the name of. Kyungja? Maybe? He didn’t know, but he knew those wide eyes anywhere. There was a look of quiet elation on his face, and once Chanyeol saw the headband clutched in his hand he knew that the boy had passed as well.
But all thoughts of that pair were pulled quickly from Chanyeol’s mind once he made it outside, the sunlight and obnoxious cheers from his family blinding him to anything else but his own happiness.
“I can’t do it, Baek. Maybe I should have never tried to be a ninja.” Kyungsoo sighed out, sitting down dejectedly and leaning back against one of the wooden posts in the training field.
“Don’t give up now, Kyungja! So what if you can’t use ninjutsu? You’d lay anyone out flat with your taijutsu skills. You’ve always been the best at that!” At this Baekhyun spun around and then kicked his leg up, whooping obnoxiously.
Kyungsoo appreciated the sentiment, but he still wasn’t feeling quite up to par. It had always been difficult, nearly impossible, for him to do any kind of ninjutsu. He could feel his chakra pulsing through him, but he’d never been able to channel it into anything other than putting extra force behind his punches and kicks. That particular skill was why he was able to become a genin, but that was about it.
He didn’t have a chakra nature, not like his teammate Sehun, who excelled in wind based jutsu. Or like Baekhyun, who had a clan ability that dealt with light. Kyungsoo compensated by working tirelessly on his taijutsu, and his speed, but it never felt like enough to him.
“Kyungsoo, you’re valuable to our team. No one is faster than you, not even our sensei Ryeowook. Neither me or Baekhyun can do taijutsu as good as you. We need you.” Sehun supplied helpfully, holding out his canteen of water towards Kyungsoo.
With a sigh he took the canteen, gulping from it tiredly and then handing it back to the youngest member of their squad. “I guess you’re right. It’s just that--”
“Nuh uh. Do Kyungsoo, you’re awesome! The best taijutsu I’ve ever seen and we’re so lucky to have you! Now come on, it’s late. Even Ryeowook already went home. Let’s go.” Baekhyun held out a hand, hauling Kyungsoo back up onto his feet.
Kyungsoo dusted off his training shorts, tugging at the tight material a bit as his cheeks tinged pink, shy but pleased by his friends’ encouraging words. Whenever he felt down they were always there to pick him back up, especially Baekhyun.
“Thanks you guys, I appreciate it. You’re the best.” Kyungsoo slung his arms over Sehun and Baekhyun’s shoulders, pushing up a bit on his toes to do so. “Want to come over? I’m going to be helping my mom cook tonight.”
“As if we would ever say no to that!” Sehun chirped happily, steering the three of them off the training field and into the familiar direction of Kyungsoo’s home.
“Taijutsu master and a chef, Kyungja, you’re really something else.” Baekhyun pretended to wipe a tear, sniffling for dramatic effect.
Kyungsoo just laughed, elbowing Baekhyun in the ribs none too gently, bright smile on his lips.
It was getting impossible to catch the damn cat. Even with Jongin’s (shaky) teleportation jutsu, they just could not sneak up on it. Jongdae was always too noisy, crashing through the bushes and screeching whenever he saw the feline. Jongin stepped on it’s tail one too many times and was now relegated to just notifying them if he had seen the cat. Chanyeol? He was just trying his best.
“Chanyeol, I think you’re headed in the right path towards the cat. It darted down the alley up ahead but then I lost it,” Jongin’s voice sounded tinny and scratchy through the old headset Chanyeol wore, but he was grateful to have it.
“Got it, I’m almost there. Thanks Jongin! Keep looking by the markets, Jongdae. Just in case,” Chanyeol replied, quickening his pace until he was right at the mouth of the alley between two restaurants.
Once there he slowed down in order not to disturb or frighten the cat away, lightening his steps until you couldn’t hear them anymore. Chanyeol creeped around the corner, looking down the alley as stealthily as he could.
Just around the corner was a boy, short and slightly pudgy, eyes round in either shock or fright. Chanyeol briefly took a moment to recognize him as familiar, before he noticed the fluffy white cat nestled happily and purring in the boy’s arms.
“Hey! That’s the cat I’m trying to catch!” Chanyeol’s voice boomed out, cracking at the end.
The boy didn’t seem to notice that, blinking his rounded eyes before they shifted down to the cat, petite shoulders shrugging up. “He came up to me meowing and begging for attention. You can have him…?”
The stranger’s voice was soft, still higher pitched in youth as he offered the feline out to Chanyeol. At this point he was studying the other more carefully, knowing they had been to the academy together but forgetting his name. He was frequently hanging out with that loudmouth Baekhyun, they were probably on the same team.
“Yes, thanks! I’m Chanyeol, I know we went to the academy together.” Chanyeol flashed all of his teeth at the shorter boy, carefully cradling the cat in his arms, the feline seeming to have resigned itself to his fate. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
The annoying voices of Jongdae and Jongin crackled through his ears, making Chanyeol scrunch his nose as he listened to what they said. It was best if they met back up to complete the mission officially, tell Donghae they were done, and go home for the day.
“Sorry, I have to meet up with my team. But thanks again for the help, Kyungja! I’ll see you!” Chanyeol really had no idea if that was the boy’s name (it probably wasn’t, if his paling expression was anything to go by) but it was what he always heard Baekhyun calling him.
“You’re welcome, see you around,” the boy answered meekly, the sight of him bowing his head the last thing Chanyeol saw before he sped off.
He had seemed nice enough, and Chanyeol was definitely grateful he had been able to help out by essentially catching the cat for him. But he didn’t want his team or Donghae to know he hadn’t done it on his own, so he decided to keep that bit of info to himself. Vaguely knowing the other from the academy, Chanyeol had a feeling he wouldn’t be telling anyone anything either.
The chatter of the crowd was loud in the air, the stadium packed as everyone was eagerly waiting to see the last match of the chunin exams. Despite having failed himself, Kyungsoo was excited too. There was still a lingering sense of disappointment, but Baekhyun and Sehun (whom had both passed) had bolstered up his self esteem and assured him he would do better next time.
“The final match is about to begin! Chanyeol, a Konoha shinobi, versus Yifan, a Suna shinobi,” the loud voice of the proctor boomed through the speakers around the stadium, a deafening cheer going up among the spectators.
Kyungsoo’s gaze dropped down to the ring, watching as Chanyeol’s tall and intimidating figure stepped into it, looking every bit as confident and skilled as he actually was. It was well earned, Chanyeol was a force to be reckoned with and had easily breezed his way through the exams, which was something that Kyungsoo had admired.
Another figure strode into the ring then, taller than Chanyeol and no less intimidating, the sun glinting off the Suna headband that stretched across his forehead. Yifan, who had gotten through the exams nearly as easily as Chanyeol had. His team had gotten into a scuffle with Kyungsoo’s in the Forest of Death, a moment he had been sure would have been the end of their journey. But the Suna shinobi had been surprisingly kind, letting them go after finding out Kyungsoo’s team had the same scroll that they did.
He’s pulled from his thoughts when a buzzer rings through the stadium, signaling the beginning of the match. Kyungsoo was nearly sat at the edge of his seat, watching with a wide eyed gaze as the two boys went at it. Kyungsoo’s fingers grasped at Baekhyun’s arm beside him, in awe over the speed with which the two males moved and used their ninjutsu against each other, some of the fastest work he had seen through all the tournament.
It was hard to keep up, with Chanyeol’s fire jutsus making the air swim with heat, smoke filtering through it as well. But there was just enough visibility for Kyungsoo to see that despite how closely they were matched, Chanyeol had the edge over Yifan.
And then it was over, just as quickly as it had started. Yifan was down on the ground, Chanyeol standing with his foot pressed between the fallen male’s shoulder blades, sharpened tip of a kunai pressing into the back of Yifan’s head. There was a triumphant and wide grin on Chanyeol’s lips, the stadium exploding into cheers. Kyungsoo himself had jumped out of his seat when he realized what happened, clapping and whooping with excitement alongside Baekhyun.
The moment was a game changer for Kyungsoo, who felt a determination swelling through his body as he stood there and cheered. Watching Chanyeol like this, seeing the taller boy succeed, had lit a fire in Kyungsoo. If one of his classmates could do this so flawlessly, so easily, then he could too. All Kyungsoo had to do was work harder, train more, and he could climb the ranks with the rest of his classmates and friends.
Chanyeol looked so tall, and glowing, standing there victorious in the ring, Kyungsoo couldn’t help but admire him. He was someone that Kyungsoo could look up to, aspire to work as hard as, and catch up to him some day. It didn’t hurt either that he was nice to look at.