Being reborn wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be. True, I got reincarnated in a dystopian hellhole. Human rights weren’t a thing and entertainment nonexistent. Shockingly enough, it was the last part that bothered me the most. Things could be so boring. Extremely boring. No Netflix, no fanfiction and no watching cute cat videos anymore.
As for the dystopian part? As long as you kept your head down and did nothing too illegal, you were good. Of course, my mother and I failed the second part. Miserably.
“Did you get the supplies?”
My mother looked up from the sink as I rushed inside the room.
“Is she already here?”
She nodded. I handed her the bag with herbs and walked inside the small dining room. Our unofficial operating room. We didn’t use it as a dining room much. At all. On the floor, a young girl was lying on a cot. I could see a fearful glimpse in her dark eyes. I kneeled down next to her and grabbed her hand.
“Hey, you don’t have to worry about anything. Mum used to be a nurse at the hospital. The shinobi department. She has done this so many times. She knows what she is doing. Okay?”
My voice was soft and soothing. When you did this often enough, you knew the right ways to calm someone down. It was necessary. We didn’t want the shinobi force stumbling on something illegal. A swift death was the best thing you could hope for in that situation. The girl nodded her head. A shaky whimper left her throat.
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Akira. My name is-”
“Sora, you work at the library. I’ve seen you there before.”
Her eyes told the rest of the story. That wasn’t where she knew me from. We were infamous in certain circles. My mum used to work as an ER nurse during the wars. But when the wars ended, they didn’t need civilian nurses anymore. The female ones at least. They needed new soldiers. A new generation. As a young divorced single mother there weren’t a lot of viable options for her, so she turned back to her old profession. Midwifery. But on the side, she became a family doctor for those unable to afford the hospitals. But next to that she also offered female patients some extra services. If they required it. They looked down upon us for offering these services. Yet, they all showed up here. Same old story. Every time.
The creaking of the door interrupted my thoughts. My mother kneeled next to me. A serious look appeared on her face. It was time.
I scrubbed the blood of my hands.
“You were late today.”
I looked up. My mother's dark eyes glanced curiously at me from across the room.
“It was busy at the store. I wasn’t able to get everything. I have to go back to get the rest when we are done.”
She nodded her head. “Go already. I can finish things around here.”
“Yes.” She raked her fingers through my hair and tutted. “Your hair is a mess. You should fix it before you leave.”
My mouth curved into a smile and I kissed her on her cheek. “I will buy donburi and maybe something sweet on the way back.”
Lost in thought I walked back home. Ducking under the ivy curtain of a low-lying footbridge, I took a shortcut through the thinning streets. I glanced at the dingy alley next to me. My heart pounded in my chest and my gut twisted. He couldn’t be possibly doing what I thought he was doing. In the alley, I saw a blonde kid, dressed in too large clothes, playing with what appeared a kunai in his hands. From his clumsy movements, I was sure he wasn’t a clan kiddie.
“Hey kid, what are you doing? Drop that! That is not a toy!”
Clear blue eyes in a chubby whiskered face looked in my direction. The kunai in his hands dropped to the floor. He let a little hiss through his teeth and lifted his hand to his chest.
My body froze. That was Uzumaki Naruto. I fought back the tears in my eyes. A multitude of emotions rushed through me. This surprised me. I had never seen him before, but I didn’t think I would react so intensely. Konoha was not as small as the stories depicted. That had really surprised me as a casual fan. I took a step forward. He looked up. The color drained out of his face. Slowly I inched forward. His expression dulled.
“Hey kid, are you hurt? Do you mind if I look at that?”
I kept my voice soft and gentle. I didn’t want to scare him off. He extended his shaking hand to me and I saw blood droplets on his hand. There was no wound. I softened my face and dropped the grocery bags on the floor. From the pocket of my skirt, I grabbed a tissue and slowly I reached for his hand. In my hand, I felt his small hand tense up. But I deliberately ignored it.
“You are brave, you know. If this was any other kid, they would have been screaming and crying. You are as brave as any ninja in the village I've seen.”
“You really believe that?” his soft voice asked me.
I looked up and nodded. This was not the moment to burst out in tears.
“Yes, sweetheart. I do. Let me tell you a secret. I know a lot of children. I work at the library, you see, and all of those snotty brats would have screamed their way into a meltdown. To be honest, so would the adults.”
His mouth twitched.
“You find that funny, don’t you?”
I grinned, reached for his hand and pressed a kiss on it. An impulsive move. Yet, I didn’t regret it. He honestly looked like he needed it one.
“There, now it is all better.”
I looked up and the smile on my face faded. His eyes were round.
“I hope you didn’t mind that. My kaa-san… She always kissed my pain away.”
Both of them did. I ignored the burning in my throat.
Slowly a beaming smile appeared on his face. I stood up and dusted my skirt.
“Is everything okay, little man? What's your name anyway?”
“Well, pleasure to meet you Naruto. I am Sora.”
With steady fingers, I grabbed the kunai and dumped it in the trash can. Afterwards, I plucked my grocery bags from the floor. My face contorted in disgust. There was nothing I could do about the dirt on the bags. Awkwardly I looked around. What do I do now? I couldn’t see them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if anyone was observing us. I didn’t dare to look up and focused on Naruto instead.
“Promise me you will not play with ninja weapons. Unless it is with your teachers.” I cocked my head.
Dazed, he nodded.
“I still have a lot to do. It was nice meeting you. Perhaps we'll see each other again?”
I forced a smile on my face and took a step forward. The loud rumbling of a stomach stopped my movement. I turned around and saw Naruto clasping his rumbling stomach with a flushed face.
“Are you hungry?”
He shook his head. Another sound escaped from his stomach. The flush on his face turned brighter.
“Could you grab the yellow take out box in my blue bag? My hands are full.”
I waved my grocery bags in the air. Slowly he took a few steps closer. His hands froze above the bag.
I bended my knees and leaned sideways. He grabbed it and held it before me.
“You open it and eat it. I hope you like donbori.”
My mother put the take out boxes on the table while I grabbed a bottle of juice from the fridge.
“No, I bought extra. But I gave it away. To Uzumaki Naruto.”
A surprised look appeared on her face. I leaned back against the wall.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I thought you didn’t want to involve yourself.”
She didn’t finish her sentence, but I knew what she wanted to say. I thought you didn’t want to involve yourself with the main characters. And she was right.
“I don’t. He was all alone playing with a kunai in a dingy backstreet. No one was watching him. It wasn’t safe.”
“Someone was probably monitoring him.” she pointed out.
“I didn’t know it was him.”
“I see. If you say so.”
“Mum, don’t be like that. It was nothing.” I sighed. “I just…”
“How did you feel? This was a big moment for you.”
“Sad.” I answered honestly. “Not because of the past, but because of him. You should have seen him. The way he reacted was heart wrenching. It made it all too real, you know.”
Tears filled my eyes.
“The village doesn’t know how to treat sensitive cases like these.”
In her tone I could hear her alluding to more. I snorted. That was one way to put it. But in a village like this it was smart to not talk openly about ‘sensitive cases’. You never knew who was listening. Probably no one. But the idea that there was someone listening in, kept most silent.
“Did I do the right thing?”
“Honey, I’m glad you helped him. You shouldn’t be afraid to live your life. Don’t let the past hold you back. Also I raised you better than that. I would have been disappointed if you left him alone there.”