Finding Your Voice
Chapter Two: Finding Your Ghost of Class 2-B
"Who?" asked a bemused Sakura. Shion's eyes widened with surprise. They didn't know who Naruto was? How couldn't they? Everyone saw him when he walked in late during homeroom. Realization struck her then, sending a shiver up her spine. She'd seen an anime like this, where no one could see the strange girl sitting in the last seat of the row next to the window, the same seat that Naruto sat in. In that anime, only the main character could see the girl...
...Because she was a ghost.
'Was I speaking with a dead guy?' Shion shuddered, drawing confused looks from her companions. She fearfully opened her mouth to ask her next question, not sure if she was going to like the answer. "D-Do you guys know someone called Uzumaki N-Naruto?"
Ino, Sakura and Tenten shared a look between them, while Hinata kept her eyes on her feet. After a pause, Ino finally spoke up. "She needs to know, we might as well tell her."
"Are you sure? We don't know what she might do." replied Sakura, concern evident on her features.
''We don't know what she might do'? What do they mean by that?!' Shion was quietly panicking now, her anxiety not being eased by her new friends' secrecy.
"Look, she's getting scared now. Ino, you tell her." said Tenten, motioning for her to do the honours.
Ino sighed and nodded, turning to face Shion with barely concealed apprehension. "Yes, we do know a boy named Uzumaki Naruto." she whispered his name before glancing around, evidently worried that someone or something was listening to their conversation. "He is..."
'Please don't say dead, please don't say dead!' Shion thought, repeating it like a prayer with her eyes screwed shut.
"... the blonde kid who sits next to you in class right?"
'Huh?' thought Shion. "WHAT?!" she exclaimed out loud.
"Hey, hey, not so loud!" said Sakura, placing a calming hand on Shion's arm.
"You mean he's just an ordinary boy?!" Shion asked disbelievingly. What the hell had they been thinking by winding her up like that? Then again, it was her overactive imagination that gave her the idea in the first place...
"Well, yes and no." said Tenten, instantly putting Shion back on edge.
"Is... Is he a ghost?" Shion asked fearfully, once again falling prey to her imagination's influence.
The girls took one look at Shion's expression and laughed out loud. Even Hinata was giggling behind her hand, making Shion feel rather foolish.
"Well, yes and no." repeated Ino as she dabbed at the tears of mirth in her eyes, careful not to smudge her mascara.
"What do you mean 'yes and no'? Which one is it?" Shion asked exasperatedly. She was getting tired of this little game the others were playing with her.
"S-Sorry Shion-san," Hinata said quietly. "We didn't mean to keep you in the dark. But Uzumaki-kun is... A special case."
"Yeah," said Ino, taking over the conversation. "You see, in all the years we've been together as a class, not once have we heard him speak."
"I-I've known him since preschool, and though I can't remember it, he used to be quite talkative and friendly. My mother had some pictures where he looked completely different from how he is now. Then s-something happened to him during the holidays before our first year of e-elementary school and he never spoke or smiled again. He was even hospitalised, though we didn't learn of this until his nurse came into class one day to check on him. When he learned to write, he began c-carrying around that notepad of his, otherwise he c-communicated only through nods and head s-shakes." Hinata managed to get through most of her little speech without too much stuttering, which was a relief for Shion. She had nothing against Hinata, but she was far too impatient to wait for someone to stutter out what they had to say. She used to have a teacher in her school in Oni no Kuni that couldn't say a single word without a stutter or two. The worst part of his lessons though was that he liked to dictate his notes, so classes were a living hell for poor Shion.
"Do you know what happened to him?" asked Shion, shelving her stuttering issues for the moment.
Tenten chose to enter the conversation with: "Unfortunately not. As you know, he's a little tight lipped (understatement!) and he vanishes from school for days if people make fun of him even if it's a joke, or if we ask him about his past. However, we know that he lived in an orphanage after that incident (Kiba followed him home one day) and then two years ago he started living on his own in an apartment in the shabbier side of town."
"Does he have a job? And what happened to his parents?" Shion was now extremely curious about her voiceless classmate. Who knew his life had been so tough?
"We don't know. He doesn't open up to anyone," said Sakura. "Hinata once asked him what his favorite colour was and he wrote orange. That's all we know about him really."
"That's kinda sad." said Shion, feeling a little empathetic for the blonde boy.
"What? That he likes the colour orange? That's a little harsh." said Sakura, frowning slightly.
A sweat drop rolled down Shion's cheek. Was the pinkette being a smart ass or was she a few noodles short of a bowl of ramen? "Uh, no. I mean it's sad that you only know his favourite colour despite being in the same class with him for years."
"Well, what can we do?" said Tenten. "He won't speak to us, and we aren't sure what topics are off limits. It's easier just to leave him be, that way he'll still come to school at the very least."
Shion couldn't not believe what she was hearing. "Are you kidding me? How is that right in any way? You can't just act like he doesn't exist!" she though back to their conversation (if her speaking and his writing could be called a conversation) during second break. "He's a person with feelings just like you and me."
The girls looked rather uncomfortable during Shion's spiel. Surprisingly it was Hinata who broke the awkward silence that had fallen between them. "Um, Shion-san, if I may, what were you talking about with Naruto-san? I've never seen him hold a conversation with someone for so long."
Shion eyed her suspiciously, then decided that what he'd said hadn't been that confidential. She took it as point in Hinata's favour that she was willing to ask about him. "Well, first I got him to introduce himself, through writing obviously but it broke the ice. Then I asked him about his interests and he said he liked reading manga and listening to music. Oh, he said his favourite food was ramen and that he knew a good ramen restaurant but he didn't want to tell me. He thought I was seriously annoyed with him when I pouted and pretended to be angry and apologized to me. Also, he seemed rather touched when I said he could address me by my first name, but I get it now. Not many people take the time to acknowledge him do they?" she hadn't meant for her last sentence to sound so accusing, but the girls squirmed uncomfortably nonetheless.
Hinata seemed rather stunned that Naruto had shared so much with Shion. Evidently, he was a man of complete secrecy. So what made Shion special? "Well then Shion-san, we leave Uzumaki to you!" said Ino cheerfully, shaking off her awkwardness.
"Huh?" Shion replied eloquently.
"You've established a solid rapport with him, so maybe you can draw him out of his shell!" she grinned and flicked her long half fringe out of her eyes.
'Draw him out of his shell... Hmm, I suppose I could...' Shion thought to herself. No one else was willing to do it, and she really wanted to help him now that she knew a little about him. Plus, he was still shrouded in mystery and she figured if people took the time to understand him, he could make friends with the rest of their class. Hinata seemed like she'd be willing to befriend him, now all she needed to do was to get Naruto to open up. Getting him to speak would be pretty useful too, but she'd take it one step at a time. "I suppose so..." she muttered, then glancing at her new friends with a glint of determination in her eyes she said "Yeah, leave it to me!"
"Great! Now can we get back on track? If we stand here any longer, the good shops will close." said Ino, pulling on Tenten's sleeve and gesturing to the shopping mall down the road.
"R-Right! Let's get moving!" said Hinata, grabbing Shion's and Sakura's hands and dragging them along.
'What have I gotten myself into?' wondered Shion, both about befriending these overly energetic girls and about being put in charge of 'Naruto Duty'.
As Shion stumbled blearily into the classroom the next morning, she noticed that Naruto was already in his seat, wearing his massive headphones and staring out the window. At the front row sat Ino and Sakura, who smiled and waved, then shot her knowing looks and winks. Shion raised a hand and nodded once, not needing their exaggerated head gestures towards Naruto to get what they were saying.
"Idiots." she muttered good naturedly, before yawning widely and practically falling into her seat. She placed her bag on the hook on her desk and began mentally preparing herself. She had already decided not to ask about his past or anything overly personal until he was more comfortable with her. Shion turned to face Naruto and tapped his shoulder. By now, she was expecting him to jump violently and was not disappointed.
When he glanced over and saw Shion smiling at him, he made that odd facial expression of his (trying to whistle with his mouth closed) and took off his headphones. "Good morning Naruto-san." she said cheerfully.
Naruto simply nodded in return and waited quietly for what she had to say. 'I know why he doesn't speak, but simply being nodded at feels like a rude dismissal. He could at least write something.' thought Shion, masking her faint irritation with her angelic smile. "How are you today?"
He pulled out his notepad from his pocket and began to scrawl out a reply.
I am fine.
Now it was Shion's turn to wait expectantly for the next part of the conversation. She stared into Naruto's eyes and he stared back unblinkingly. A long moment passed with nothing but their staring match taking place. Shion sighed and shook her head, almost missing the little blush that crept across his cheeks as he turned away from her. 'Did I just see what I thought I saw?'
Shion decided to ask about it later, instead reaching over to Naruto's desk and picking up his writing pad with her slender fingers. He almost raised a hand to stop her, and then settled for watching her next move nervously.
She took hold of the pen dangling off the pad and scrawled a message under his. She then handed the notepad back to him, noticing how he was careful not to let his fingers come in contact with hers.
I am fine
It's common courtesy to ask the person who asked you 'How are you?' the same question!
Naruto read her message slowly, then tore off the top page and stuffed it in his pocket. He took more time writing his reply, obviously impressed by the almost artistic neatness of her handwriting. Still, when he showed her what he wrote, it still looked like typically messy boyish handwriting.
How are you?
Shion gave him a big smile, hoping to encourage his first foray into proper social etiquette. "I'm good thanks! So, what did you get up to yesterday?"
Naruto seemed to have an internal debate over how to answer that question, finally putting pen to paper after a good deal of thinking and pen flipping.
I was working.
Shion realized that she had made a breakthrough. Now if she could just get him to open up... "You have a job? That's pretty cool. Where do you work?" something in Naruto's demeanour changed and she realized she'd pushed too far. 'Take it slow, it's only day two.' she thought. Naruto had stiffened when she asked her question, but after realizing that she wouldn't press him for answers, slowly shook his head.
"You can't tell me? That's alright, we only just met." Shion cast her eyes about the room, thinking about what she should say next. Ah, she should probably tell him about her trip with the girls to the mall.
"You know what I did yesterday? I went to the mall with Sakura-san, Ino-san, Tenten-san and Hinata-san!" as she began to tell him about the various shops they dragged her into, Naruto gave her every bit of his attention. He tilted his head to the side to show he was listening and he barely blinked throughout her tale. Shion honestly felt rather good about having someone being so focused on her, hanging on to her every word... She really needed to make sure this didn't go straight to her ego. And to be honest, he was watching her so expressionlessly that it was kind of disconcerting, since she didn't know if he was bored by her retelling of the previous day's events.
Finally, her story came to an end, and Naruto moved quicker than she'd ever seen him move before to grab his notepad and begin writing. As he wrote, Shion became aware of the fact that their classmates had entered the classroom during her tale, and were waiting impatiently at their desks for Kakashi to show up.
That sounds like fun. It's good to see you making friends so quickly.
Shion smiled at him. "Yeah, it's great that everyone is so friendly here. I've already made friends with Hinata-san and Tenten-san and the rest. And you of course." she added quickly.
Naruto dropped his notepad with a loud clatter, staring at her while his jaw nearly hit the floor. Shion realized that was probably the first proper emotion she'd seen on his face. Still, it was a little saddening to see how much of a reaction he'd had to those words. Most people took them for granted after all, herself included.
He shakily picked up his notepad and quickly wrote down a reply.
I think I misheard you.
"No you didn't, unless you didn't hear me say I made friends with Hinata-san, Tenten-san, Ino-san, Sakura-san and you, Uzumaki Naruto-san!" she grinned at him cheekily, enjoying the mixture of shock and awe on his face. It was kind of cute how innocent and lost he seemed.
You want to be friends with me?
The disbelief on his face was a terrible reminder of how lonely he was. Well, Shion would see to that in due time. "Of course! I like you Naruto-san, you're an interesting guy." it seemed that Naruto was unused to praise, and wasn't sure how to respond to it. He ended up staring at the notepad in his hands, not daring to look up at her face. He'd had jokes similar to this played on him before, and was hoping against hope that this wasn't another one of those times.
Shion realized she'd have to erase every possible doubt in his mind to get him to accept her offer of friendship. "Or do you not like me? You don't think of me as a friend Naruto-san?" his head shot up like a cork from a sake bottle, and upon seeing her sad puppy dog look quickly found a fresh page in his notepad and scribbled away.
I do like you! I'd be honoured to call you a friend.
Shion grinned. He'd been ensnared by it hook, line and sinker just like everyone else who'd seen her puppy dog eyes. They truly were a force to be reckoned with. "Well that settles it then! Now Naruto, I have something to ask you." she waited for him to nod and continued. "Earlier when I asked you how you were and you replied and we had our little staring match, I noticed that you were blushing. Why were you blushing?"
Shion struggled to keep a straight face as the blonde boy embarrassedly looked out the window. He then tore off the top page of his notepad and wrote down his answer.
"Oh really?" Shion said with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Well then, since you were looking at me when you blushed, I'm going to assume you were thinking something perverted about me, and I'm going to be very disappointed in you."
Naruto face was the very picture of panic and desperation as he shook his head earnestly. He then grabbed for his writing pad and scribbled out a response.
I wasn't! Believe me Shion-san, I wouldn't do that!
"Oh I'm sure you're just like every other healthy teenage boy Naruto-san!" she shook her disapprovingly and then leaned towards him. "Alright then, I'll give you a chance to prove your innocence (in more ways than one), if you tell me exactly what you were thinking."
Naruto's blush fully coloured his cheeks this time, and he took a while to write down his next response.
When I was looking at you, I couldn't help but notice how pretty your smile was.
After reading the message, Shion suddenly had the urge to yell out 'Kawaii!'. Naruto was staring intently out the window, trying to hide his pink cheeks. He was just so innocent, it was utterly adorable. "Alright Naruto-san, I believe you. Thank you for being honest, that was a very sweet thing to say… uh write."
He glanced back at her and saw her smiling at him. He nodded and began to put his notepad back in his pocket when Shion placed her hand on his, making him flinch. "Could I keep that?" she asked, giving him her angelic smile once again. He nodded again and gently tore off the top piece of paper from his notepad. He handed it to her carefully and placed his headphones back over his ears, evidently finished with the conversation for the moment. Still, he had made great progress today with his interactions and display of emotions. It looked like he was on the right track.
Shion looked down at the piece of paper in her hand and felt a blush of her own creeping up her cheeks. Sure, she'd heard that line from hundreds of other boys, but from an innocent untalkative one like Naruto, it seemed to carry a lot more meaning.
As Shion walked home alone, she thought back over the events of the day. She hadn't had a chance to talk to Naruto during the breaks since Lee and Kiba had come and asked her various questions about herself. During those times, Naruto simply vanished from the room, almost like a ghost (let's not bring that up again!). He would sneak back in as the bell rang, and they had a substitute teacher for their lessons that day who made it a point to come on time (Kakashi could learn from this guy), taking away her chances to speak with him.
She sighed loudly, placing her hands in her skirt's pockets. One hand pressed against something that crinkled, and she pulled a small slip of paper out of her pocket. She smiled as she reread his little admission. He was a strange one, that much was certain. There weren't many boys who would say what he had with innocent intentions, let along admit it openly when pressured.
Yes, Uzumaki Naruto was a strange boy, but that only meant that Shion had never met a guy like him before.
And she was definitely looking forward to getting to know him better.
Hello Readers! It seems that people like this OOC Naruto and Shion pairing, so I'll be writing more chapters. Considering that this was meant to be a one shot, this story probably won't be all that long. But then again, you wouldn't want the story to drag on too much right? Thanks for reading! Oh, if you were wondering what the anime Shion was referring to was, it's the extremely creepy anime called Another!