Tsuyoshi obviously breezed through the first exam like me and Mai, and he swaggered into the room with a hearty smile on his face.
He snorted when he took a seat next to Mai, "Hmph, I hope they actually give us a challenge now."
Mai nodded, her confidence returning to her face. She had a rough five minutes with me, while Tsuyoshi was gone. All the confidence drained out of her face when he left the room and she remained shifting further from me in her seat until it was that noticeable it made me sneer at her. She refused to speak, so I buried myself in my book again.
Akuma arrived with Father after around ten minutes of those two babbling away again, and me reading and trying my hardest to block out their petty conversations.
Akuma took to the podium again, "I would like to say well done on passing your first exam, but I don't want to get your hopes up about graduating. This only makes up approximately 5% of your final score. You still have to impress us in two more exams, and these ones are going to be much tougher than this low rated exam."
5%?! That's tiny! Jeez these next exams must be hard if they make this exam worthless...I thought, my fingers covering my lips as I concentrated. I heard Mai muttering to Tsuyoshi.
"Our next task is target practise. This exam is worth the second highest percentage towards your final grade, with it making up 45%." Akuma continued.
He stepped away from the podium, allowed Father to bow to us and leave the room, before following him out. He beckoned us to follow, so we trailed behind the two adults.
Now 45% sounds more like it...At least this one will actually be worth something, Okami muttered to me, And I can help you with target practise...not that you would really need it...
Oh? I responded, looking down at the floor, so it doesn't look obvious that I was concentrating more on my conscience rather than reality. I then grinned slightly, before flicking my head back up as we continued to walk to the gym.
"This is where we shall participate in our second exam. Each of you will stand in the middle of the room, one at a time, and at random, targets will appear in the room. They can be anywhere, front, back, behind, above, anywhere. We will be assessing on your accuracy, precision, observance and timing." Akuma explained, "Oh, and these targets are designed in a way to resemble an enemy who wants to kill you...so expect a lot of movement...quick movement." he smirked, amused by is rather sadistic warning, before he and Father took their seats.
"Mai. You're up first." Father called out the name on the list and placed it down in front of him. He and Father picked up a pen and started scribbling stuff down.
Mai froze in her spot next to Tsuyoshi and gulped loudly. It took a gentle nudge from Tsuyoshi to encourage her to step into the red taped square in the middle of the gym. There were a lot of kunai in the square with her, and with shaky hands, she picked up two and positioned herself into a battle stance.
"The remaining students must stand in the safe zone behind you." Akuma added, pointing to behind me and Tsuyoshi. There was a blue taped zone.
That way none of the targets can hit us....they really are going to appear anywhere...I was never aware this room was so tech-ed out... I thought, watching the room carefully.
There was a lever next to where Father was sitting, and once everyone was in their allocated spots, he called out, "begin." and pulled it.
There was a clanging and whirring noises coming all around us. It just about blocked out Mai's whimpering, as her battle stance began to flaw.
Suddenly, from behind, a target appeared from the ground and began to move side to side. It was round and had the colours of a normal target, starting with black on the outside, then white, blue, red and the centre was yellow. Mai let out a yelp and launched a kunai at the target. It embedded it's way in the red zone and then the target recoiled back into it's original position. Just as she hit that one, another appeared above her.
Throughout her absence, Tsuyoshi began gloating to me about his pride and confidence in Mai, and how she is strong and will pass the exam in flying colours. I had to agree with him there, much to my disgust. Mai is agile and witty. But even though she lacks in organisation, I don't think that would get in the way of her graduating.
And it continued for nearly two minutes, before all the whirring stopped and all the targets stopped moving. Mai was left alone in the large room again, panting. Her eyes were narrowed in determination, but I could see right through her and could tell that was a new experience for her.
"And final scores..." Akuma looked down his list, "Mai. You have passed the second exam."
Mai froze on the spot, dropping the remaining kunai in her hand. Her mouth dropped open dramatically and she let out a squeal so high pitched I bet Okami was recoiling within me.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you Akuma-sensei!" Mai smiled sickly at him, but he took no notice and continued to scribble notes down on the paper in front of him.
"Akemi. You're up." Father called out, not looking in our direction, but like Akuma, at the notes in front of him.
Jeez, what are they writing down? I thought, taking my position in the middle of the room.
In some ways I could understand why Mai was acting as she was, but the nerves I was feeling converted into adrenaline. I was so ready for this! I hopped on the spot for a while, waiting for Father to call out.
Akemi, prepare yourself. Take a few kunai and hold them between the gaps in your fingers. That way, you will waste less time picking up more weapons. Okami explained, And use the sight I have given you.
I felt a warm sensation in my eyes and my ears. Okami's senses were dominating my body. I could hear more, like the breathing of everyone in the room, even though they were a good five meters from me. I could also hear the late clanging of the targets mechanisms beneath me. My head whipped round cautiously, trying to make out where the mechanism was exactly situated, but I brushed it off and picked up the kunai as Okami told me, so I clenched six altogether. I held them with my arms crossed over my chest and my hands resting on my shoulders. I closed my eyes and focussed.
"Begin!" Father's voice echoed in my mind. Then I heard the sounds of the whirring mechanisms above, beneath, in front and behind.
I heard something spring up.
There! me and Okami shouted in unison. I opened my eyes and they sparked slightly, as I twisted around and launched one kunai from a gap in my finger. It hit the yellow target. Then I heard another click and a target was in front of me. I threw a kunai. One by one the targets appeared all around, some individually, and some together at the same time. Okami's sight and hearing allowed me to pinpoint the exact place the targets appeared and the exam ended up being surprisingly easy. However, I was aware the exam would continue for two minutes before the mechanisms would stop. It felt like forever and non-stop targets kept appearing all over the place.
Okami, this feels like it's taking two hours, not two minutes...I complained as I hit another target above my head.
Finally...the mechanisms ground to a halt and the targets disappeared around me. I, like Mai, was left breathless. My hands collapsed in front of me so they were nearly touching the floor. I looked like I was in some kind of ape position as I continued to breath deeply and swallow the saliva that continuously built up in my mouth.
Goddamn that was hardcore...I muttered to myself, as I felt the sensitivity in my receptors ditch me.
"And final scores." he, unlike with Mai, didn't hesitate for a second, "Akemi, you pass the second exam."
I looked up at the two adults who were looking at me with pleased expressions on their faces. Akuma just kept it with a professional smile, like he did with Mai, before he quickly turned back to his papers again, but Father's smile looked more genuine and he glanced at me slightly longer. If I wasn't so exhausted, I would be smiling two, but instead I flashed a quick grin before heading to the safe zone next to my classmates, who exchanged bitter glances with me.
"Tsuyoshi." Father called to our final classmate.
Mai gave him a firm pat on the shoulder as he stepped forward and stood in the centre of the room. He picked up eight kunai in his large hands and prepared himself.
"Here he goes." Mai leaned closer to me, but continued to gaze at Tsuyoshi.
Why are you talking to me? I wondered, daring to take a quick glance at Mai.
I could see why Tsuyoshi would go for her. She was lucky to have a dusty shade of pink on her cheeks which was completely natural. This allowed her large, light blue eyes to sparkle delicately. They blended really well with the rest of her delicate features, including her rather rounded, high cheek bones and soft curly black hair which sat on her shoulders. She had a beauty spot at the corner of her left eye, but it wasn't very noticeable since it was really small.
She has such a horrid personality which really does not suit the body she possesses. I thought, shaking my head slightly.
Tsuyoshi began his exam. His accuracy and speed could almost match that of mine. With ease he threw one kunai after the other at the targets, sometimes taking out two with a simultaneous throw. He was definitely determined to ace this exam. It was obvious passing this exam meant everything to him.
It seems rather irritating that the time seems to go a lot quicker when somebody else was doing the task. It literally only seemed like two minutes with Tsuyoshi and Mai, but when I was doing it, it seemed to take forever. When the mechanisms stopped, we all looked over at Tsuyoshi. He did not seem tired in the slightest. He just turned around and grunted confidently. But there was something in his eyes that was rather unsettling. He looked hostile for once. He didn't even smile at Mai. Instead he took in deep breaths through his nose and stormed towards us. Even Mai looked shocked when her cheering received no reactions from Tsuyoshi.
"Tsuyoshi. Everyone. You have all passed the second exam. Congratulations." Akuma declared. Everyone remained silent, us because of Tsuyoshi's odd behaviour and the adults because, again, they were looking down at the lousy papers, "You are dismissed for lunch break. We expect you back here in an hour."
All three of us bowed and left the room, Tsuyoshi a lot quicker than me and Mai. She tried to catch up with him but it was hopeless, for he was already gone.
I always go home for lunch since my house is not far away from the academy. But when I arrived, I heard an unsettling groan come from the front room. It sounded familiar.
"Now keep still. This is going to hurt a lot more if you struggle like that." it was Mother who was speaking to the complaining person.
"I don't see why you are making such a fuss." the groaning thing retorted, "It's only a dislocated knuckle. I'll be fine."
I cautiously stepped into the front room. My eyes widened as I stepped back again when both people looked up. It was Mother with Tsuyoshi. He was sitting on the sofa while Mother was tending to his hand.
"Ah, Akemi! Welcome back!" she smiled brightly at me, "I was just tending to this young man here."
Tsuyoshi snorted, "That's all I need. Having her seeing me in this situation." he looked rather embarrassed, behind the confident front.
"Now, now Tsuyoshi-kun, you were the one who put yourself in this position, so maybe you should consider the consequences of your actions before you commit them. Then you won't be embarrassed like this." Mother continued to wrap a bandage around Tsuyoshi's hand and tightening it. It made Tsuyoshi flinch, "I have added some oil to the bandage which will secure the knuckle back into it's correct position. Now I just need to..." she curled one hand around Tsuyoshi's fingers and the other around his palm before thrusting them together at an angle. A loud click sounded in his hand making him exclaim out loud and glare at her, "There. Now it's back in the right place, the ointment should work. It will take around twenty minutes."
"Cool twenty minutes. Thanks." Tsuyoshi was about to get up, but Mother pushed him back down.
"I don't think so. I need to keep an eye on your hand...and you. So take a seat, while I give Akemi her lunch. Akemi, keep the patient company." Mother commanded, escorting me to the seat next to Tsuyoshi and sitting me in it.
Both me and Tsuyoshi shuffled as far away from each other as possible. Mother left the room and into the kitchen.
"Ugh! What a pain." Tsuyoshi exclaimed, resting his head in his good hand. Stuck with you for the rest of lunch. Great..."
I rolled my eyes, "Not my fault. So...are you going to tell me what ridiculous stunt you pulled this time."
"Why is that any of your business?" Tsuyoshi retorted, scowling at me.
"Because you are in my house. Being treated by my Mother. Surely I have the rights?"
He sighed, "I just got mad, that's all."
"Uh duh...anyone could see that. Reasons?"
He sighed louder, "Memories. Of that last exam. It reminded me of a couple of years ago. You wouldn't understand, you were locked away."
"Oh, what happened?"
"Forget it..." he looked away.
Mother came back in with my lunch and placed it on the coffee table in front of me, "Enjoy!" she smiled brightly at me then Tsuyoshi before heading for the front door, "I've gotta go check on a patient. Won't be back until after you've left I'm afraid. Good luck you two!" she whisked out of the door.
I took my food into my lap, picked up a rice ball and bit into it, "Have you got no food?" I asked, realizing he had nothing in front of him.
He shook his head, "I was gonna go and buy some, but this happened." he lifted his hand.
I looked down at my food, then back at him. I picked up another rice ball and handed it to him, "Here. You should eat something."
He looked at me cautiously, but, only slightly, his face softened up. He took it from me, "Thanks."
I shrugged, "Help yourself. Mother always makes me too much anyway."
He raised an eyebrow at me as he bit into the rice ball and chewed it slowly.
"So...what happened two years ago?" I asked, refusing to let him avoid the topic.
He remained silent and looked down at the food in his hand, turning it around and around. I could see the sadness in his eyes.
"My brother...he was out on a mission outside Kori no Mura...but he didn't make it back. Like those targets, he was surrounded by rogue ninja...nobody knows who they were or what village they even belonged to, if they belonged to one at all. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was messing with the wrong crowd. They...they..." he was cut off by something I thought I would never see from Tsuyoshi. Tears, "A-all that we f-found was...his mangled body...and n-nothing else."
I listened, really intrigued, rogue ninja of an unknown village? If from any village at all? Is that some kind of organisation?
"What was his mission?" I asked, not really taking into account his emotions.
Tsuyoshi shrugged, "I...I don't know...I think he was supposed to be spying on a particular person...I'm n-not sure..." more tears poured from his eyes. This is completely out of character.
Instinctively, I reached up and put an arm around his shoulder. His body stiffened under my touch, but his shivering stopped.
"I'm sorry..." I whispered, "For your brother and you and the family. I wish I was there to support you at the time." I wish I never said that to an enemy, but I could sense fragility and nobody deserves to suffer alone like this, not even enemies, "Does Mai know?"
He shook his head frantically, "She doesn't need to..."
I nodded, is there some trust issues I am not picking up?
"Akemi?" Tsuyoshi whispered. When I looked up he took in a deep breath, "You're a good person. Thank you for listening to me." he smiled at me with tear stained eyes.
I hid the shock I was sensing and kept everything professional. I smiled politely and said, "Don't mention it. I'm here if you need to chat, Ok?" I looked down at my lunch again, "Now, let's eat before we are late for our next exam."