I awoke with a start, groaning loudly as I rubbed my eyes, Today is the day we are going to be assessed on our techniques...Father is obsessed with making sure the weaklings are kicked out of the academy. I spent hours last night studying the different hand signs for jutsu and didn't get to sleep until two in the morning, after having getting eye strain from trying to read a scroll in a dim light. It's now seven in the morning and I feel like a zombie, Don't worry Akemi. We still have four years until we do the real thing. But I couldn't help stressing. I wanted to make Father proud for once. I wanted to show I have the ability to become Korikage. To be honest, a simple hug or pat on the back would be rewarding enough for me.
"Morning Akemi-chan!" Mother chimed as I headed downstairs and into the kitchen for breakfast.
She was already toasting bread for me, as she turned around and gave me her usual closed eyed smile. Father and Taichi were already at the bar, but neither of them acknowledged my entry, as per usual, apart from the quite snort from Taichi, before he pushed himself away from the bar and immediately heading for the back door.
"See you later." he muttered, adjusting his headband and opening the door. He was quick enough to flash me a glare before he whisked himself out the door and slamming it shut behind him.
I fiddled with my fingers and shifted my weight from foot to foot, looking at the ground
"Hmph." Father muttered, flicking a page in the newspaper, "He still has so much to learn."
"Oh, come off it dear, he's thirteen years old. He's going to have the odd mood swing here and there." Mother retorted, trying to make a joke out of it.
But of course Father didn't see the funny side, "And that's what's holding him back. Mood swings are a weakness."
Mother chose to ignore that remark, "Ah, breakfast!" she immediately whipped her head round and caught my toast as soon as it popped out the toaster, "We have jam today, Akemi-chan, if you want to try it? Come sit down and I'll put some on your toast."
Jam? That's a rarity. Where did we get that from? Our food is rather rationed, since we don't get much of it anymore, so having the odd confectionery, such as jam and honey is quite a treat. To us it could be compared to liquid gold.
I sat down as instructed and Mother placed the plate down in front of me. Hmm...I hope this is strawberry jam. I'm not so keen on the blackcurrant stuff. It looks light enough to be strawberry. Cautiously I picked up a slice and bit into the corner, Ok that is definitely not strawberry. But it's still good.
"Do you like it Akemi-chan?" Mother asked, and when I nodded she giggled, "That's raspberry jam. I don't believe we've had it before."
"Oh honestly! Don't you think we have more important things to be talking about than confectionery? Like the exam that is coming up today?" Father snapped, slamming down his newspaper.
I jumped in my seat, dropping my slice of toast on the table, coughing loudly.
"Could you at least try and make sure Akemi finishes her breakfast before scaring her half to death?!" Mother answered back, hitting my back, trying to get my food down the right way in my throat.
"Trust me there are scarier things out there than loud noises. She needs to stop being so jumpy."
"She's eight years old, give her a break!"
"There are shinobi out there who graduated the Academy when they were eight years old. None of them so much as flinch when they hear a loud noise!"
"So what? Akemi is not one of them! And Akemi, I'll have you know, was up until the early hours of this morning studying for the poxy exam you have set."
"She should be!"
This is how a lot of days are. Mother and Father argue over how my lifestyle should be. Father says I should be strong willed, determined and fearless, while Mother thinks I should just go with the flow and I'll be ready in my own time. Father makes me angry. He doesn't acknowledge how determined I actually am. He never listens to what Akuma-sensei has to say about me. He thinks I shouldn't be in the Academy and out in the open as a Genin now, but Father stills sees weakness in me and disbelieves him.
That's why the other students in my year don't like me. Mai and Tsuyoshi and I are the only people in my age group since the birth rate in the village is so low. But you cans say we don't all see eye to eye. Akuma always sees me as the star student, the prize student since I study all the time and get good test scores every term. Mai and Tsuyoshi are, I don't mean to sound rude, very obnoxious individuals who like the sound of their own voice and like to rank themselves top of the popularity hierarchy, leaving me at the bottom, seeing as I don't have any friends.
Our assessment began as soon as we entered the classroom, Mai and Tsuyoshi being late as usual.
"Morning Ake-freak!" Mai smiled maliciously at me, strutting past my desk and to the back row.
"Hmph!" Tsuyoshi sneered, flashing me a cold glare and following her.
"Good to see you joining us at last." Akuma appeared in a puff of smoke, standing behind his podium, "I could have marks knocked off your final grade for being late, you know? And you say how determined you two are to try and beat Akemi's score? You're not convincing anyone."
Both comrades flushed a pink colour, contrasting with their pale skin.
"Anyway, as you are aware our exam is today, but I don't really agree with it being an exam, because I can't imagine any of you being that bad you are going to be kicked out." Akuma explained.
"I think Ake-freak should be kicked out for being too good." Tsuyoshi whispered to Mai, making her snigger not very subtly. I could feel my face going red.
"Our first exam is target practise, so we'll go to the gym." Akuma declared.
"Go Ake-freak!" Tsuyoshi boomed, slapping me on the back so hard I gasped and launched my kunai directly in the air.
Both he and Mai chortled loudly as I watched my kunai embed it's way into a tree, narrowly missing a bird. My face began to heat up with frustration as I felt the energy in my veins come to life. But then I immediately realised the mistake I was making and calmed down, thinking of something to take my mind of the prank, Well, it can't have been as bad as the time I tripped over my own hair trying to do a run up to tackle the sand bag. Yeah that did not go so well. I don't cut my hair very often, so It reaches my knees and I have tripped over it a few times. Oh what a treat for Mai and Tsuyoshi.
Akuma sighed and chose to ignore Tsuyoshi's foolish act, but that didn't stop him writing down some notes, hopefully marking that ugly hulk down...
"Akemi, your second shot." I was going to complain but then he whispered, "I won't take note of your first shot, Ok?" he gave me a warm smile, one that only I receive as I picked up another kunai.
This time, even with Tsuyoshi's loud, dramatic cough, I managed to aim the kunai right at the centre of the target, and then with my third one, split the second one in half and make it reach the same spot of the target.
Akuma scoffed in surprise, "I don't know how, but your accuracy has improved even more from last time." he muttered, writing down more notes.
My comrades also scoffed, but with disgust, rather than surprise or praise.
The day at the academy ended and I was excited about getting home to show everyone my report card. I glided along the smooth ice paths back to my house and clumsily crashed open the door with a beaming smile on my face.
"Akemi! Be careful or you'll bust the door down!" Father cried, rushing to close the door before it let the colder air in.
"I got an A in my exam." I beamed, waving my report card above my head.
Father immediately snatched it out of my hand and read it in his head. He then snorted, "Still not good enough."
I gasped quietly, my brow furrowing, "W...what do you mean, Father?" my lip quivered in disappointment. I failed to impress him...again.
"Look! You still didn't get a perfect score on your written exam!" he pointed at my written paper score, 96/100
"B...but that's not too bad is it? I...I mean, Akuma-sensei said it was down to silly mistakes."
"And you can't afford to make silly mistakes. Imagine this, you are Korikage and we are under attack. We either have the option to attack head on, or attack from our defences. What do you do?" Father asked, cocking his head to one side.
"W...well, I would attack from defences." I answered, fiddling with my hair.
"Wrong! Because otherwise the enemies will know our defences and find ways of overcoming them quicker. You attack head on so they have no time to think about it. And that's what I'm saying. You need to be perfect every time, otherwise you or someone else will be put at risk."
That was when Mother came to the rescue, walking through the door after a day at the hospital, "Ooh, goodness me, we had a right sicky today. Measles he had." she kicked off her shoes and walked over to give me a hug, "And how did my little star do in her exam today, hm?"
"Still room for improvement." Father mumbled, tossing her my report card.
Mother took it and read the top, "An A? You can't get any better than that surely?"
"Of course you can. Her score can still go up."
"But a grade is a grade and you can't get any higher, so why the song and dance?"
"Because she said it was down to silly mistakes. She can't afford to make silly mistakes!"
"At least it was that and not the fact she didn't know the answers! It's not like you haven't made silly mistakes."
"At least I learnt from them and got better."
"And so will she."
Father then sighed and let out a frustrated growl, "Fine. Whatever. We'll speak no more about it." he pulled on his Korikage robe and adjusted his hat, "I've got work to do. Akemi, training grounds in two hours for lessons. I'll be there, don't be late." and to my surprise, he gave me a small smile and whispered, "And I guess I should say well done on your results. I'll have to give you more complex lessons." he closed the door.
Mother sighed, "Honestly, he has a funny way of showing his pride in you."
Pride? In me? "Really?" I asked.
"Of course he is proud of you. He says it all the time when me and him are in bed. He always mentions you before he goes to sleep.
Just having that smile from Dad was a reward enough, but to know he actually mentions his pride in me is even better.
The door burst open again, "Now before you mention Akemi's grade to me, I don't care." It was Taichi, pulling off his headband and waistcoat.
"Well hello to you too Taichi. And why ever not?" Mother snapped, narrowing her eyes at him.
"Because it will always be the same. You giving me a huge lecture on why Akemi is the pride of the family and all. I don't wanna hear it."
"Akemi always wanted to find out your results when you were at the academy."
"And I never wanted her to find out. But she always got a nose at them anyway."
"That's enough Taichi. If you have nothing better to say, I suggest you find somewhere to cool off." Mother walked up to him and put her hands on his shoulders, "Please?"
Taichi hesitated, gazing back at Mother's gorgeous face, before sighing and storming past her, "Whatever." he walked upstairs and I could hear the door slam behind him.
"Don't worry Akemi. He'll be fine later. Just give him time." Mother smiled reassuringly at me.
I couldn't be bothered to answer any more questions, so I too went upstairs to relax and read something fictional for once. As I walked past Taichi's room, I heard mumbling.
"Why? Why are you so cruel? It's because she is capable of way more than what I am. Is that...jealousy? No! I'm not jealous. I just haven't worked hard enough yet. I can still catch up with her. Of course I can." then I heard furious paper rustling and I knew Taichi was studying again.
I gently knocked on the door. I heard Taichi sigh loudly and swing the door open quickly, making me flinch and jump back.
"What?" he asked, glaring directly at me.
"Do you wanna read with me?" I asked, holding my book up to him, "I can't read some of the words on my own."
Taichi's eyes softened quickly, "Really? Why would you want that?"
I smiled my closed eyed smile, "Because you are my big brother and big brother's are supposed to help!"
Taichi bit his lip, closed his eyes and allowed me to pass, "Fine. But just for a few minutes, I have work to do."
I giggled and skipped past him, jumping onto his bed, and he joined me. I snuggled up to him and showed him where I left off. And from there he continued to read the story.
Sensing movement outside, I peeked over and saw Mother smiling in at me and waving. I smiled in response before focussing back on the book. I may not have a bond with Taichi, but this is good enough for me.