Chapter 1 :Yellow, black and pink.
Weekdays were slow business days because most people have their day offs on weekends. But it wasn’t a major problem for entrepreneurs. In fact, entertainment focused business such as cinemas, karaoke and gaming centers, bowling alleys and restaurants offered services and products at discounted prices from Monday to Friday. For Sasuke going out during weekdays means less people to annoy him, and the discounted prices of movie tickets was icing on his cake.
He was wearing his new sneakers today, the ones he bought months ago, the first time he went for an outing alone in the city. He was fifteen and could well be alone on his own. He bought the sneakers with his own money, they were black sneakers with red streaks. He admired them for a second before stepping onto the carpeted floor of the cinema. As he entered he could feel the chill of the cinema air conditioning which kept the premise constantly in low temperatures. It was too cold for him so he snuck his hands inside his jean’s pocket. His jeans was black, and so were his jacket and the t-shirt he wore inside. Sasuke always wore layers because people kept saying that he was too thin even he was actually bulking up.
Sasuke watched the overhead LCD monitor for today’s movie schedule. He glanced at his watch, the time was 11.00 am and realized that his birthday had arrived. Every July 23rd for the past year, the teen had been spent his birthdays in relative peace at the barracks, but this year his teammates had insisted on a 'surprise' party for him. Actually his comrades have started planning birthday surprises since a few years ago, and now it has became the norm. Parties meant unhealthy food and drinks, dancing to music, and also stupid party games which everything a teenager needed to endure. Though Sasuke was the exclusion. When Shikamaru lazily asked Sasuke what he wanted for his party, Sasuke said he did not need anything. But when Shikamaru asked Sasuke what he he didn’t want for his party, Sasuke made a long list of don’t in a night and emailed it to Shikamaru. That memory caused Sasuke to smirk as he looked at the movie schedule.
Troublesome, Shikamaru had said when he looked at the list. But Sasuke knew the party was still going to happen anyway.
Sasuke continued to shortlist his choice of movie and . He was about to walk into the queue lane when four girls materialised out of nowhere and rushed before him He paused as he saw them snaking towards the counter. They giggled happily while confirming with each other of their chosen movie.
A gust of air conditioner wind blew Sasuke's bangs to cover his eyes. Sasuke rubbed his nose and then brushed his bangs aside while shuddering at the coldness. He zipped his jacket up halfway and approached the ticket counter. At that point he noticed that two of the girls were gazing intently at him, so he tilted his head slightly at them. Usually that move would make anyone look away but one girl giggled while the other blushed. Then both turned away at their friends.
Sasuke was now getting used to being checked out by girls. These girls only ever looked at him but they never approached him. He was actually gratedul that they never approached him since he wouldn't know what to do if they actually approached him. Do they change phone numbers or just say hi?
The girls finally arrived at the only opening ticket counter to proceed with their purchases. Sasuke made an observation, usually the second cashier counter opens around 12.00 noon to accommodate the incoming shopping mall patron. And the second cashier should appear about… now!
A second cashier appeared beside the first cashier as they high fived each other. He tracked the cashier’s movements as she took the COUNTER CLOSED signage away and started receiving cinemagoers.
"GOOD MORNING PATRONS!" the cashier hollered.
The cashier gestured for Sasuke to approach her counter. Sasuke watched as the cashier speedily logged onto her cash register all while flashing him a welcoming smile. He wondered whether he will ever work as a cashier in his lifetime, the smiling seems a little tiring though.
"What movie would you like to watch sir?"
Sasuke made a show of thinking while observing the cashier. She was so chirpy.
"The Dinosaur Walk, 12.30," he requested while making eye contact with her. She was blonde and blue eyed. Actually her hair's colouring was more yellow than actual blond, he wondered why people call it blonde. She was also wearing spectacles which had no lens in it, he wondered what was the purpose of it. So superficial, he thought.
"How many tickets?"
"One dinosaur movie coming up. I'm a big fan of the Tyrannosaurus Rex sir, if only I could have one I will surely ride it to work. But maybe no, maybe I'll sell it for a million bucks to any zoo or a private zoo and buy myself a cinema and hire some workers. So that way I can watch movie anytime I want. Ok, the price is 6 dollars today,"
Sasuke, smirked at the cashier and nodded while handing a 10 dollar bill and waited for his balance and ticket. He looked at the cashier’s hair as she processed his payment. Her hair was gathered into a single side braid tied with a colourful elastic. He found her toothy smile infectious as she handed him his balance and ticket. Sasuke’s mind was entranced before realizing that he felt an urge to smile back, but before he could, he took his ticket and moved away.
"Have a nice day sir," the cashier called out.
"Hnn" Sasuke replied.
Sasuke never remembered any of the cinema's employees faces or name. All he ever noticed about the cashiers were that they were a bunch of smiley and customer friendly people. However this particular cashier gained his attention as she was the cheeriest of them all. However he was not sure if he would remember her later, he knew he would not as he never needed to remember people that were not as important in his life.
So far Sasuke had come to this cinema for seven times now, for seven Tuesdays. This cinema is the one and only cinema in Konoha which frequently shows documentaries, as often as other cinema shows romantic comedies. He was not into fictions, although documentaries are sometimes a rendition of reality by the producers, take the case of dinosaurs as no living human had ever seen an actual dinosaur. Still Sasuke prefer his movies with a healthy dose of information instead of pure entertainment.
Sasuke had been hopping from one hobby to another. Before this he spent 5 weeks playing video games with Kiba, before that three weeks of planet watching and prior to that two weeks of trying to learn how to draw - which he seriously failed. He goes from one leisure activity to another leisure activity, until movie watching caught his interest for the time being. Sasuke is very meticulous.
He checked at his watch, now it is only half an hour before the show starts. He parked himself against the wall in between the movie posters, deciding to enter the cinema a few minutes before the movie starts. He did not want to be spending more minutes in cold, less people means freezer worthy cinema hall. In the meantime, he decided to copy Shikamaru and did the least troublesome activity, people watching. Really not troublesome.
Sasuke was in the movie hall now. He bought the ticket for the most centre seat, 4 rows from the back. The last of the advertisements were rolling now, before the message to silence your mobile phone came up. Sasuke let out a n Aaah and spread his hands onto the headrests of the seats to his left and right. Just heavenly he thought, a huge screen, awesome audio and people sitting far away from him. It almost feels like being alone, the other three people sitting farther away from him. A few more lights went off and the hall darkened signalling that the documentary was about to start.
Someone walked inside the cinema and sat a row behind Sasuke.
"Hey, it's me again," a voice whispered.
Sasuke did not heed the voice. He knew it was someone he did not recognize so when he/she didn't continue he let it slide.
The huge screen showed a sole Tyrannosaurus walking on two legs on a grassy plain, far far away smaller dinosaurs shuddered when they noticed the T-Rex's appearance.
"I wonder on which street would they be able to walk with that size of a butt should they exist today. Hell big lizards right. Luckily the Komodo dragons live that far away from me. I shudder to think one ambling behind my yard."
Sasuke tilted his head to the sound of the apparently female voice but decided to just ignore it.
A Stegosaurus ambling towards its mate, the two rows of bony plates on its back moving with each step.
"Wow, such impressive armour. Eh I googled about them once, the bony plates are sold on ebay you now."
Sasuke let out a small shushhh.
Sasuke did not hear that because the audio of the T-Rex fighting with the smaller but noisy Triceratops cancelled the additional sound effect.
The Tyrannosaurus bit down on a baby dinosaur.
"Hey don't do that!"
"Now, that's what I call a movie," loudly and annoyingly.
Sasuke was just about to turn around and hush the person making the constant commentaries when he heard her continuing.
"Well my break is over, see you later alligator."
Then he heard the person shuffle towards the exit in a few quick movement, opening the door, shutting it and letting light inside the hall for a few seconds. He glared in the darkness and voiced his words in a hushed tone "Is this a cinema or a zoo?"
Months ago Naruko was still going to school, waking up at 7.00 am and do some basic housekeeping duties. By the time she was 14 there were no more little ones at her house as they have all been adopted. She was the only one left there so she only had herself to fuss over during the late years she was still at Iwa. It was only months ago when she arrived at Iruka’s house to start her episode of her new life. It was only three months when she stepped into the house for the first time.
Flashback to three months ago
Iruka, unlocked the door and gestured for Naruko to enter the house. She walked in, stopped and looked around, it was a two bedroom house with a television set, a red sofabed in the living room and a small table beside it. There were two brown doors beside the table, closed. But if you open them, they will reveal the bedrooms. No pictures on the wall or curtains on the windows. Just bare white walls.
They stood side by side at the entrance for a moment before Iruka decided to close the door. He went out and closed the outer door grill while leaving the inner wooden door open. It was his first time having a visitor staying in his house and he was indeed nervous.
Walking towards the couch he paused and turned to Naruko "Please have a seat". Iruka's throat felt dry so he went to his mini fridge in the kitchen and took out two cans of soda. He opened one and handed it to Naruko and opened the other for himself. He leaned backwards on the wall next to the television, sipping the sweet drink. He started "Miss Uzumaki."
"Yes Mr Umino?"
"Errr.. call me Iruka."
"I need to tell you something."
Naruko who was now sitting on the sofa, set her drink on the table and smoothed her long black skirt while looking at Iruka.
"First of all, I want to be honest with you. I can only provide basic necessities, I mean daily meals, a roof and a private space for you here."
Iruka's eye lingered at the bedroom door for a second and paused, he looked back to his drink and continues.
"On the positive side, my backdated salary increment will be paid in July," he looked directly at Naruko. " I am very sorry Naruko because for the time being we, err you and I have to live by what I earn in my current position."
They stayed silent for awhile. "Ummm yeahh... Don't worry about me at all . I am happy enough that you decide to… ummm welcome me into your house."
Iruka, finished his drink in one go and looked at his watch. "I have ten minutes before I return to work. Do you have anything to ask about or anything you need? I can swing by the store later after work."
Naruko grinned and shook her head. Iruka quickly moved to the kitchen to throw his can away and fished out his keys. Naruko bounced up to his feet and stood by the door.
As Iruka exited the house, he said "Be sure to secure the doors and windows from inside. The apartment complex is fairly safe but we have some nosy neighbours here and I don't want them to annoy on your first day here."
Naruko stuck a hand to shake his, Iruka awkwardly took the hand and shook it. Then his face turned into a friendly grin. Naruko nodded and watched Iruka walk out of the house.
Just as Iruka left she spent no time closing both grill and wooden door. She secured the inner door latches and retreated back to the sofabed. Switching on the tv, she started channel surfing and settled on a show about ways to clean cluttered homes.
After five minutes she jerked her head up. It looked like she had fallen asleep while watching television, well she was tired. It had been a six hours train ride from the orphanage to Konoha's train station, add another hour wait for Iruka at the train station, and then they went straight for lunch at Kurenai's stall by the roadside. Kurenai, a close friend of Iruka, upon seeing Naruko's ocean blue eyes and blonde hair, promptly congratulated Iruka in shrieks and bear hugged Naruko. The brown haired shop owners then told them that their afternoon lunch was on her and went back inside the kitchen to prepare food. Iruka was as red as a lobster upon hearing Kurenai's words while Naruko just smiled innocently. Iruka wondered whether she understood what Kurenai had implied. Before they left Kurenai had gifted her a thin gold bangle, though Naruko declined saying it was expensive. Kurenai insisted saying that her daughter was too tomboyish to wear gold and pleaded to Naruko to please the wishes of a new friend. Naruko shyly smiled and slipped it onto her thin tan wrist. The bangle glinted against her tan skin.
On the sofa bed, three minutes Naruko yawned again and decided that sleep was the best thing to do for now. Remembering Iruka's words about securing the windows and nosy neighbours, she went to the windows and checked whether they were properly secured. Seeing that they were, she dropped herself onto the sofa bed and curled on it to sleep. She set her phone alarm so it would wake her up two hours later, before Iruka returns from work. She placed the phone next to her unfinished can drink and promptly fell asleep. Naruko had a talent for napping. She can sleep in any position, anywhere.
The corridors were weirdly empty as Sasuke headed for supper. He approached the heavily tinted sliding door of the dining hall and paused. Smiling widely he thought about being older and noted that a few things had changed since a year ago, his sharingan had matured to three tomoes a few months ago and he was also a lot less shy now.
Now he could hear the growing volume of muffled voices behind the cafe door and knew his friends had detected his presence. So as the hall door slid open his smile vanished replaced by an apathetic expression.
"Happy Birthday Sasuke!"
"Happy Birthday Raven!"
"Happy Birthday Bastard!"
'Happy Birthday Sasuke-kun!"
"Happy Birthday Sasuke-san!"
The thunderous wishes met him like the cheers of spectators when their favourite sports team scores a goal. He smirked in amusement, an eyebrow arched.
"It's time to party!" that unmistakable excited voice of Kiba sent the crowd into a cheering frenzy and everyone went to fetch food. Chouji was smiling proudly looking at his party spread, this time all unhealthy food. Neji and Tenten began counting which unhealthy food contains the less preservatives. Sasuke being his usual eagle eye self noticed that Neji who similar to him, never touched anyone casually, had his hand lightly on Tenten's shoulders.
Sakura, Hinata and Kurenai were queuing at the buffet table. Kiba was already digging into his food while Shino was somehow munching on food without unzipping his high collared jacket. Shikamaru was looking boredly at the polite Suna siblings who were here to send their brother, Gaara for training,
Suigetsu and Juugo were busy rolling a huge cake on a trolley into the hall. Sasuke stared at the huge cake when a lazy voice called for him.
"My my my Sasuke, you have grown taller since I last saw you. Happy Sixteenth Birthday. Here's one for your book collection," the silver haired senpai handed him a rectangular wrapped gift and Sasuke could already guess what it was.
Sasuke's polite part beckoned him to speak of three polite words, "Thank you senpai."
The mask moved in what Sasuke thought was a smirk as the senpai's visible eye turned beady with glee. He could already see the book stashed behind some books he will be getting rid of as soon as there's a chance. Suddenly, Sasuke was pulled back and then pushed towards a huge cake.
"Time to blow your birthday cake," the other boys erupted.
Automatically the whole room broke into teh Happy Birthday song, unsynchronized of course. Meanwhile Sasuke marvelled at the ugliness of the cake, a patchwork of decoration from a row of roses to a 3D marzipan katana and also a depiction of his Sharingan made from icing.
"Blow the candles," Kiba nudged Sasuke towards the cake. Any nearer and Sasuke could taste the icing. So he blew the sixteen large candles and stepped away as everyone clapped. Kiba stuck a hand into the cake and grabbed a chunk of it before announcing "Cake fight!"
Everyone jumped in to chuck a piece of cake on birthday boy. But agile Sasuke rolled from under them and ran behind Neji, Neji was instead plastered with a piece of cake. Next, Sasuke swooped behind Neji and tried to shove his senpai in front of him, the silver haired man conjured a water element jutsu and fired it into a surprised Neji instead of Sasuke. Sasuke saw Sakura looking at him in amusement and he jumped behind her intending to use her as his next shield.
Sakura turned out to be the perfect shield, as the next assailant, Suigetsu, saw Sasuke crouched behind Sakura and just gave up. Suigetsu mumbled apologetically to Sakura as he reluctantly placed his piece of cake back on its plate. But he wasn't done, while headed away Suigetsu mouthed an "I'll get you later" to a smirking Sasuke. The raven turned around to thank Sakura but was instead attacked by a piece of cake, and Sakura had him this time. Though he was surprised, he flicked a finger and tasted the cake which despite its random design was indeed tasty. Sakura ruffled Sasuke's hair and went away to get herself some cake.
Sasuke looked around as Hinata giggled at him before passing him some tissues. Chouji had his head full of cake, while Suigetsu had cake all over his face courtesy of Karin and Juugo. Everyone stopped trying to throw cake at birthday boy but not each other. Sasuke activated his Sharingan to remember this moment, he saw someone shouting from being attacked, in a corner Tenten was busy fussing over a messy haired Neji. His hair was his pride after all no wonder Neji looked the least happy.
"Itachi asked me to pass you this today, I almost forgot," Kiba said.
Sasuke turned to look at him and saw a drawstring bag handed to him. He took it from Kiba's hand and peeked inside it. He saw that Itachi had given him a pair of very stylish sunnies.
"He said he was sorry he couldn't train with you as he had promised. " Kiba said forlornly for Itachi's sake. Sasuke took it upon him to put a hand on Kiba's shoulders as if it was Itachi that he was talking to. Itachi is his 'brother' in blood and skill, they have the same eye enhancement, though Itachi had his upgraded.
"Open ours next," Karin dumped a huge box onto Sasuke's lap. "It's from us girls, including Ino," she gave a two finger peace sign and posed sexily in her long sleeved lavender shirt, her eyes twinkling. Rin-senpai pulled her down to seat and collectively Sakura, Hinata and Tenten rolled their eyes at her.
Sasuke unboxed their gift, a stylish winter jacket in dark blue because black was too mainstream.
Next the boys handed him a palm sized box wrapped in used A4 paper, which contained a very useful army pen knife.
"I saw that Itachi had one like this, so we thought maybe you'd like a similar one," Kiba said while scratching his head hoping Sasuke would love their gift.
"We had your symbol engraved," Chouji added. That made Sasuke smile appreciatively. He traced his finger in the fan shaped indentation.
Juugo and Suigetsu appeared before Sasuke and dumped a full-face street motorcycle helmet on the boy's lap.
"Since we knew you like motorcycles, we thought we'd give you this. A memento from our days as Taka."
Half and hour later.
"Daaaance time!" a sugar high Karin pulled Suigetsu to dance with her as Shino suddenly appeared with dj equipment at the buffet table. Sasuke wondered when did they made the switch from food to groove.
"You want to play Truth or Dare birthday boy?" Kiba waggled his eyebrow at Sasuke while moving his eyes from Sasuke to Sakura thrice in a row.
"No, I am going to bed." Sasuke pushed his trolley of presents back to his room and waved at his senpais who were drinking at the adult's table. They waved back at him.
"Do you want me to walk you to your room?" Karin asked, swiping a freshly opened can of coke from a passing by Shino while pushing Suigetsu away from her. Suigetsu almost stumbled from being pushed, but was caught by a still angry Neji in time.
"No, let him be by himself." Sakura looked sharply at Karin, that stopped the redhead from stepping away.
"If you say so," Karin remarked disappointedly.
Sasuke nodded gratefully to Sakura and began pulling his gifts in a trolley, some remain unopened as the gifters told him to open later when they are not around, towards the dining hall exit.
That wasn't a bad party after all, he thought.