The next year went by without a flaw. Choji, Shikamaru and Maria were now great friends and Maria was fitting in well at the Academy, quickly becoming one of the best. Maria had quickly made friends with Kaze Hatake, a kind young girl with flaming red hair and a right eye the brightest blue and a left eye white as snow. Kaze was also the equal-best student in the class. The two girls were rarely out of each others company.
Shikaku, Shikamaru and Maria were working hard in their spare time, trying to figure out who Maria's parents had been. It turned out that the year they had died, a lot of others had died as well, so it was taking time.
Graduation time came eventually. It was time to decide who would graduate and become a Genin.
"Okay, everybody, listen up!" Iruka spoke from the front of the class. Everybody, who had been chatting merrily until that point, fell silent immediately. "When I call your name, follow me into the next room, got it?" Everybody murmured their assent. "Okay, then. First up: Akimichi, Choji!"
So it begun. Kids were called one by one into the nest room.
"Hatake, Kaze!" Came Iruka's voice from the doorway. Kaze, sitting next to Maria, jumped up. Maria gave her a thumbs-up and Kaze grinned and followed Iruka. A few minutes later, Kaze emerged, looking triumphant, with a satisfied little smirk on her face and a Konoha headband in her hand. She went and sat down next to Maria again.
"Too easy." Kaze told her, earning her a high-five.
"What do you do?" Maria asked. Kaze just grinned as Maria's name was called.
Maria followed Iruka into the next room over from theirs. Maria stood in the middle of the room while Iruka sat down next to another man, Mizuki.
"Okay, Maria." Iruka began. "You ready?"
Maria nodded, slightly nervously.
Mizuki continued. "We need you to do a successful cloning jutsu."
Maria nodded again, no longer nervous. She got into her stance and made the hand sign, focusing her chakra. "Clone jutsu!" She said. She looked up at Iruka and Mizuki, who were smiling.
"Two successful clones." Mizuki commented. "Well done."
"Indeed." Iruka said, taking a note. He looked up and held out a blue headband with the silver plate on it, bearing the Konoha symbol. "Congratulations, you've graduated!"
Maria grinned. "Thank you!" She collected her headband and began to quickly walk out of the room.
"Hold on a sec," Iruka said. Maria turned. His kind smile had been replaced with a look of worry. "You've only had one year at the Academy. Are you ready to become a Genin?" he asked.
Maria grinned again. "Don't worry about me, Iruka-sensei." She said. "I know I'll be fine." With that she turned and left. She returned to her seat next to Kaze, who's face broke into a wide grin when she saw Maria.
"Alright!" She said, giving her friend a high-five. "We're both Genin now!"
"That we are." Maria said. "How cool would it be if we're on a squad together?"
Kaze laughed. "That would be too good to be true." Maria laughed as well.
"Uchiha, Sasuke!" Sasuke rose from his seat next to a girl named Aya a few rows back from the girls, his expression blank, as always.
Iruka calling Sasuke's name was greeted with a loud "Woo! Go Sasuke!" and all things similar from - nearly - all the girls in the class.
Reika Oshiro, who was sitting next to Kiba Inuzuka in the back row, imitated them weirdly. "Woo! Go Sasuke!' she cried. She then gave a loud "Bleh!" with a finger in her mouth, imitating being sick. Kiba leant back in his seat, roaring with laughter.
Sasuke returned a few minutes later with a Konoha headband on his forehead. He returned to his seat next to Aya. Kaze and Maria had long since returned to their chatting and admiring their headbands.
"Look, it's that kid, Naruto."
"I heard he's the only person who didn't graduate!"
"Good thing, too."
"Yeah, imagine what it would be like if he became a Shinobi!"
"What a loser."
Maria glared at the gossipers and looked questioningly at Kaze. "Why do people hate Naruto so much?" she asked her.
Kaze tugged Maria's arm and led her around to the side of the Academy. "Have you ever heard of the 'Nine-Tailed Demon Fox'?" she muttered.
Maria nodded. "Isn't that the thing that tried to destroy the village twelve years ago?"
Kaze nodded. "Well, Kakashi told me that the Fourth Hokage sealed the Nine Tails inside of Naruto."
Maria gasped. "Does he know?"
Maria looked away. "So that's why..."
Kaze looked away, too. "Yeah. But it's still no excuse for them to treat him the way they do. It's horrible."
"Maria?" Shikamaru's voice came from the road. Maria looked over. Shikamaru was standing there, waiting.
"Come on," he said. "Let's go." So Maria left Kaze and ran over to him.
The next day...
Maria had taken her usual seat next to Kaze. She had tied her headband onto her right arm. Kaze, on the other hand, had used it as an actual headband, using int to brush her hair out of her face. Her fringe hung over it onto the side of her face and the rest of i was tied up in its usual ponytail.
"Okay, everyone, I'm going to announce the squads." Iruka said from the front of the classroom. He held up a sheet of paper. "Due to odd numbers, two of the teams will have four Genin in them." Maria zoned out until she heard "Kaze Hatake," Kaze looked up, in perfect sync with Maria. "Naruto Uzumaki," who, somehow, had graduated overnight, "Sakura Haruno," (A loud "Yay!" from Naruto and an "Oh, no!" from Sakura) "and Sasuke Uchiha." (A loud "Yes!" from Sakura and a "Dammit!" from Naruto) Maria looked at Kaze, who had a look of resignation on her face.
"Oh, well." She muttered to Maria. "You can't win 'em all."
Once again, they zoned out until they heard "Maria," once again, they both looked up. "Ino Yamanaka," (Maria looked over at Ino, who was smiling at her) "Choji Akimichi," (Choji was also smiling) "and Shikamaru Nara." Maria's stomach was now doing backflips. She couldn't have asked for a better team! Shikamaru's face had brightened when he heard his name on the same team as Maria's.
Maria looked back at Kaze, who had a satisfied smirk on her face. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, Maria had held up her hand in warning.
"Not a word." Maria muttered. "One single word and I'll beat you to a pulp."
Kaze continued to smirk. "Awwww," she whispered, ignoring Maria's warning glare. "Somebody in luuuurve?" Maria shoved her friend's shoulder but could not help smiling.
Meanwhile, Naruto was complaining about being on a team with Sasuke. He and Iruka were arguing back and forth on the subject.
"What do you think about your squad?" Maria asked Kaze, muttering under her breath.
Kaze grimaced. "Well, straight up, Naruto's an idiot, so I'm not sure what I think about him. Sakura and I get along fairly well, even though we're not the best of friends. Sasuke..." she trailed off. Maria noticed that she was wringing her hands underneath the table. "Sasuke and I are best friends, even though we don't act like it. My mother and Sasuke's mother were best friends, too. They introduced us when we were children. We took to each other immediately. We played together, we did a little training together with Itachi." Her eyes flared at the name. "But after the Uchiha massacre, we drifted apart. Sasuke became cold and heartless. I continued as I always had, but Sasuke was never the same." She finished. "So, we get along well, and we fight well together, so I think our squad will be fine."
Maria was shocked. She never knew this much about Kaze. But she smiled despite what she had just heard. "You guys will be great!"
Kaze smiled back. "At least you get the team with 'Formation Ino-Shika-Cho'."
But just then everyone had started rising from their seats and leaving in their squad groups. Kaze ran over to join Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto and maria hurried over to Shikamaru, Choji and Ino.
Choji was munching away on a bag of chips (as usual), Shikamaru was looking very bored (as usual) and Ino looked happy yet sad at the same time.
"What's getting you down?" Maria asked her.
When Ino didn't answer, Shikamaru obliged. "She's just upset that she didn't get on a team with Sasuke." He put his hands behind his head as they started to walk out. "She's another girl with a fangirl crush on Sasuke." Maria saw Ino's face turn pink but she continued to walk out. Maria smirked.
It was going to be an interesting day.
A/N: Sup guys, Willow here! So, I've changed this around a little due to my new SERIES I'm writing. It's got most of my Naruto fanfics, along with a VERY special one from Gaara's Babe called "To Kill an Uchiha". So that's where the extra bits with Aya Reika, Sasuke, Kiba, ect came from.
And to all the people who fan me/my books, thank yo heaps for the encouragement! Special notice to ChelberNo.1 and Gaara's Babe. Luv you all!