Chapter 14: Falling Down The Rabbit Hole

A few soft raps on the door told me that my shadow clone was finished with his chores. I let him in on the spot since I recognized the pattern. He was mimicking a song from an old game I used to play so it would have been weird if anyone else used it.

"Hey, boss. Something happened while I was out."

I raised an eyebrow in question as I moved out of the doorway. He only assured me that it was good news, but didn't go into detail as we both walked towards the dining area. The bags and leftover money were set onto the counter before he turned around and said, "Have fun tomorrow boss!" Then he popped out of existence with a two fingered salute.

"Cheeky little shit," I said with a smirk as I pocketed my money and began sorting through his memories. With a snort I realized that insulting the clone was like insulting myself, but I figured it was an honest assessment at least. I was almost finished reviewing his memories by the time I stored my books in my bag and tucked the groceries away.

"Nothing too exciting happened at the market... Wait, Anko's back already? Great, then I'll get to see her soon."

Now there's actually something to look forwards to after school tomorrow. The prospect of simply spending time around someone, who actually wants to be in my presence, left me in a good mood for the rest of the evening. A thought came to me hours later as I was lying in bed.

"I managed to keep my promise after all."

I fell asleep with a smile.

XxXxX

The next morning I jolted myself awake and slowly got ready on autopilot. I didn't sleep very well despite how quickly I first passed out. I'm certain I was dealing with nightmares, though my memories of last night are muddled. As I continued my routine a slight headache remained that didn't let up at all to my frustration.

Once I was finished I couldn't help but give a longing look towards my bed. The question 'Should I skip or not?' was bouncing around my head in temptation until I came to a decision. A sigh was released when I decided that I should still go in. If I straight up skipped then I'd most likely be hunted down by a teacher (Iruka) and then get treated to a lecture (definitely from Iruka) that I could live without.

"Especially not when I still have this damn headache. Maybe I'll try to on a different day when I don't feel like complete shit. Then it might even be fun."

I briefly thought about using a shadow clone in my place, but I can't chance having him pop when he's at school. No matter how unlikely that is. My tentative plans still rest on the fact that everyone thinks I'm completely incompetent in that field. That didn't mean that I wouldn't make one for something else though.

Most jutsu are pretty versatile with how they can be used, and this one is no exception. Before I left I formed the ram sign and created a single shadow clone. A few tasks were issued to him before I turned back to the door.

"Lucky bastard. Wish I could stay home..."

I stumbled out of my apartment with a yawn and continued towards the Academy at a sluggish pace. About ten minutes into my walk I noticed that I left earlier than I should have. Even with my slow gait I'd still make it with ninety minutes to spare before class. My alarm won't go off for another hour yet.

"I can't believe I didn't look at the time before I left."

Now I know why it's so hard to keep my eyes open even though I've been walking around for a while. The idea of going back to bed for a few more hours felt more than a little tempting. In fact, it was quickly turning into my newest life goal. My common sense eventually took over and settled my inner battle.

"Fuck it. Sleep is for the weak, and I'm already over halfway to the school. I'll just pick a seat and rest my eyes once I sit down."

The doors to the Academy were unlocked by the time I made it to them, so I walked in and dropped off what I didn't need at my locker. Then I slowly walked towards my classroom and went inside. I randomly chose the middle seat of a table on the left side of the room. That way I had a nice view from outside, and it wouldn't feel like I was boxed in from the wall. I figured it didn't matter where I sat since there wasn't an assigned seating arrangement in the class.

"There's extra seats in the room so it's not like I'd be splitting anyone up. And it's not like anyone would willingly choose to sit next to me anyways."

With that in mind, I placed my books in front of me and laid my head on top of my arms. My awareness faded after I turned my head towards the window.

XxXxX

The sound of children loudly talking eventually brought me out of my dreamless sleep. My eyes cracked open and started adjusting to the light. The first thing I took note of were dark eyes staring straight back at me. "What? Why is he-" It took a moment for me to process what happened while I slept.

Sasuke was sitting next to me for some reason. He was in his usual pose with his head leaning on his left hand, but he obviously wasn't turned towards the window. "He usually comes to class pretty early, so it's not like he was forced to sit next to me."

A moment later and I thought I found the answer. "I'm a living wall right now, aren't I?"

I gave a mumbled "Hey," and quickly tried to stretch out the kinks in my back. He responded with a solid "Hn," like the amazing conversationalist that he is, and then turned to look out of the window afterwards. With my question answered I became even more aware of my stiff neck and back. It turns out that the table wasn't the most comfortable thing to sleep on. Surprising, I know.

As I twisted to the left I got a good look at the students behind us. A sulking Sakura, Ino, and the newly dubbed 'Sparkles' met my vision. It's either that, or potentially Mary Sue. She had waist length light blue hair with dark purple tips, and a large frilly yellow bow settled on top that's heavily covered in glitter. She looked comically out of place for a potential ninja. Her eyes were staring dejectedly at the desk before her. Eyes that were in fact two colors: One gold and the other silver. Both somehow looked like they were faintly shining in the light.

She's almost a walking color palette with the sheer variety of shades she's sporting. Despite her outward appearance and more than a few stares from the guys in our class I didn't want to judge her too harshly yet. I didn't remember her at all, and Naruto's memories weren't helping either. Since she's an unknown 'Sparkles' is the moniker I'm sticking with for now. Unless someone says her full name out loud I doubt it'll be changing soon.

Sparkles' eyes suddenly sharpened as she turned to look at Ino and muttered something back to her. The three girls seemed to be bickering with each other now. Their words were too soft to hear, but I had a feeing it was due to their seating arrangement. I slowly turned away from their grumbling and looked to my right in curiosity. If it wasn't the main fangirls, then who managed to snag the seat to my right? The person I saw made my eyebrows raise up in surprise.

Instead of a pissed off fangirl I was sitting next to a tired looking Hinata. Dark bags were under her eyes, but other than that she looked the part of the next heir to her clan. Calm expression, perfect posture, and not a hair was out of place. She covered a small yawn with her hand before smiling sweetly at me.

"H-hello Naruto. I-t's good to see you have the r-right books today."

"Oh god. Don't give in..."

It took all of my focus to resist the temptation of yawning. Just reading the word 'yawn' was enough to force me to do so in the past. It might be childish, but I refused to let it get the better of me like it has so often before. I'm pretty sure that at least one eye was twitching from the effort of keeping it in. I pushed the feeling that was still building in my chest down enough so I could answer her.

"Hey, Hinata. Yeah, Iruka-sensei noticed I didn't have them during class yesterday so he gave me a list during our lunch break." I broke off into a huge yawn immediately after I finished speaking.

"Damnit, I failed again."

I brought up my hand to wipe the tears from my eyes as Hinata responded. "O-oh. That was nice of h-him. I'm glad you weren't i-in trouble." Our small talk continued on for a few minutes before Iruka and Mizuki arrived.

My eyes immediately followed his movements once he entered the room. I knew I should have expected to see him eventually since he was a teacher here, but I still wasn't prepared. Our recent conversation about his latest fault made it even harder for me to reel in my emotions. My face was kept calm, but I couldn't stop myself from clenching both of my hands into fists underneath the table.

It was difficult to do nothing when I knew just what Mizuki will try to accomplish in the not-so-distant future. The memory of Iruka's back getting impaled by a large weapon from his supposed friend came to mind. That same man is in the room right now, and I already know what his views on me and Kurama are.

"We're one and the same to that bastard."

I was having a harder time than I thought to keep myself from spilling his secrets. Even if it was just to tell everyone that he's a lying piece of shit. Too many questions would arise from that simple sentence that I can't answer yet.

"Remember the plot. I don't want to fuck up the plot this early on. If he gets away because of me that could screw things over beyond comprehension."

The fact that I didn't have jack shit to back up any of my potential accusations helped to shut me down. There wasn't anything I could do right now seeing as my main dirt on him hasn't even happened yet. Unfortunately, the fact that he's working for Orochimaru and that he plans to pin the Forbidden Scroll's theft on me can't be proven until the end of the school year.

I reminded myself of my plan, in which he plays a large part of later. No matter how much I dislike his very existence, I know that I need him. I resigned myself to keeping up my fa├žade and tried not to glare at the smug fuck with all I had.

Both of the teachers were standing in their assigned spots by the time I calmed myself down. Iruka was standing behind his podium in the center while Mizuki was leaning against the back wall on my side of the room. "Okay, it's time to settle down students. Please take out your core book and open it to page fifty-five."

As I reached for my book I took a glance at the silver haired prick that I unfortunately have to call my teacher. The slight smirk that he was wearing fell into a noticeable frown when he looked at me. His features were schooled into a neutral expression almost immediately after, but it was too late for me to not notice.

"He probably thought I wouldn't have my text books for at least another day or two."

I focused on my current task and tried to ignore his continuous stare. Unfortunately, I was only partially successful with my endeavor. I didn't show any outward emotion towards the attention, but it still bothered me to the point that it affected my work ethic.

The theory class crawled by at a snail's pace despite my interest in the topic. I tried my best to stay on track and follow along with the rest of the students. However, it was kind of hard to focus on survival training when I knew I was being glared at by an enemy of the village. It was a given that the lecture for today wasn't going to be remembered all that well after it was over.

"Jesus, how didn't I notice him constantly staring at me before? Was I so used to getting negative attention that it didn't seem important? And why is he even here right now when he's not teaching us a damn thing? I'm pretty sure we have a teacher's lounge."

I was overjoyed when the lesson was finished and we were finally told why the other teacher was present. He was here to help oversee our training when we took the class outside. Which happens to start right now. We were then ushered to the school's practice grounds with some being more excited than others.

The students were split up so Iruka and Mizuki would be teaching half of our class in different stations. I was, thankfully, placed in Iruka's group for the day. My half would be focusing on running laps for stamina training.

We all lined up and prepared to run the thirty laps around the fairly large grounds. Everyone was silent on our side since Iruka was moments away from giving us the signal to go. Our group started to run at our teacher's command while Mizuki was still pairing his students for some one-on-one training in the sparring circle.

We broke off into a sprint, or in my case a jog, while the first two students were pitted against each other further away. I wasn't able to see the fight very well from my position, but we could clearly hear when it concluded. The excited yells that came from Mizuki's group made that pretty obvious.

Minutes passed without much happening on our end. I kept up a steady pace and slowly noticed a change in my rank. I was basically in last place when we first started out, but I've been steadily gaining and eventually passing most of my fellow classmates. Almost everyone was completely out of breath by the time we finished running. Save for me, and unsurprisingly our resident Nara. Since the rest of the group was focused on speed they lost their drive early on. Shikamaru, who was originally in last place, and I both placed in the top five without a problem.

At the end of the lesson both groups converged in front of the doorway without much fuss. Lunch was a welcome affair that all of the students were looking forward to at this point. I lazily made my way outside with the others to find the situation the same as last time. Sasuke started up a game of where's Waldo with most of the girls joining in on the fun while the rest of the students grouped up nearby.

Needless to say that I was the odd one out once again. Or maybe I wasn't. I started to walk away from everyone else when someone stopped me.

"Hey, Naruto. Do you want to have lunch with us?"

XxXxX

AN: Hey, I'm alive! I didn't realize that it's been so long since my last update. This chapter never felt done to me, and the last four days especially have been spent with me changing things around and adding more to it. I've finally worked through my indecision and hope you enjoyed the finished product.

- Also in case you're interested I'll be editing previous chapters to get them up to par. Chapter 6 was the last one to be updated.

XxXxX

- Right now I'm trying to set up what more or less happens at school. I'll do a time skip or two soon, but some things need to be shown before we blow past the initial pre-series stage.

- Thanks for keeping the reviews coming! I'll happily clear some things up.

The scene with Teuchi and Ayame didn't happen exactly like Naruto thought it did. Yes, Choji is a boy, and they weren't actually getting shipped together at the restaurant. The two chefs merely thought it was cute how hard Naruto was working to make Choji his friend.

That was the first kid Naruto brought in that was his own age, and it looked like they got along pretty well. Naruto only heard the last part of their conversation, and pieced what he heard together with his more mature mind. They just wanted to help him out in their own way like they always do.