With one final punch to the cheek, Choji fell onto his back officially K.O.’ed.
I huffed and looked down at him, he had asked me to train with him. And while he had gotten better, he still wasn’t at my level.
“You’re getting there.” I all but snarled, “But you still have a ways to go.”
“Thanks again, Kohaku.” Choji said as he took my hand to get himself up, “I feel I keep getting better sparing with you.”
I smirked, “You are getting better.” I told him, “So don’t give up.”
“Thanks.” He smiled, “So how about we go out for some BBQ, huh?”
“How troublesome.” Shikamaru sighed from behind me, he had been there the entire time watching us spar.
I rolled my eyes at the pineapple head.
“Thanks.” I told the brunette, “But I still have some training I need to get in for the day.”
“Are you sure?” Shikamaru asked, “It’s been a while since we all hung out.”
“Yeah,” Choji added, “We could even get Naruto and Kiba in too.”
I shrugged and shook my head.
“Thanks, but I can’t.” I told them, “Next time?”
“Okay.” They both said in defeat, turning and waving. Leaving me alone on the training grounds.
I waited until they were both out of ear ad eye shot before I took a deep breath and started weaving hand signs for various jutsus. I did that twice, making sure I didn’t run out of chakra. Once I was satisfied with my speed, which was faster than it had been the day before, I took a couple of shurikin out and started aiming at targets while running full pelt.
I continued my cardio and target practice for about an hour, only stopping when my lungs burned like fire with every intake of air. I looked at where my shurikin hit, and was not satisfied by it at all.
I walked forward to gather up my shurikin as I caught my breath. It was sloppy to say the least.
“Oh, Kohaku.” I straightened up at the sound of my name and turned towards who has said it.
Tenten had called out to me. She was entering the training grounds with Neji, Lee and my father.
“Oh, hey.” I said being polite, “You guys training?”
“Yes.” Lee answered, “We’ve just returned from a mission together, but our team work was not up to satisfaction so we are here to work on it. I assume you are here to hone your skills also, Kohaku.”
“That’s the spirit!” My father cheered giving me the thumbs up, “Using every opportunity of youth that you have. And one day you will become a fine shinobi just like ourselves, right Lee?”
“Right, Guy-sensei!” Lee exclaimed.
I rolled my eyes at their antics. How my mother had put up with him enough to date, marry, and eventually have a child with this man was beyond me. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my father, I had too. There were just times when he was too much to handle.
“Would you care to join us for this exercise?” Lee asked me.
I was about to reply, but I was cut off.
“You’re still out here!?”
We all turned to see a pair of canines running up to us.
“Kiba. Akimaru.” I said as they reached us. Akimaru jumping up on my shin and barked, asking for a pet.
I knelt down to pet the puppy as Kiba began to speak.
“You beat Choji again I heard.” He smirked.
“Yeah, he asked to train.” I said, uninterested.
“Cool. But why didn’t you want to get food with us?” He asked sounding genuinely hurt.
I shrugged and stood up, “I still had training I needed to get done. I didn’t have to time to relax.”
“Kohaku!” My father exclaimed in a scolding matter, “While I love your grit in wanting to train to get yourself stronger, you should not put aside your friends to do so! You only have so much youth, so get every special memory of it out while you can!”
“Well put Guy-sensei!” Lee swooned.
“If you still have training you want to do, we can spar?” Kiba offered.
I looked at him with a what the fuck face. Kiba had never offered to help me train before.
“Okay…” I said unsure.
“Great, I’ll race you to the lake.” He yelled and took off.
My father just gave me a thumbs up.
I rolled my eyes and took off after Kiba.
I sighed as I dragged my feet towards home. I had beaten Kiba earlier, he seemed a little too happy about losing to me. He took off, before I could even ask what was going on.
I pushed open the door to the apartment, closing the door behind me.
“I’m home.” I called.
“Welcome home, sweetheart.” The elegant voice of my mother called back to me.
I took off my shoes and proceeded down the hall to the kitchen where she was busy making dinner.
My mother was the polar opposite of my father. She had light brown, almost blonde, hair, creamy brown eyes, pale skin. She was a little more on the curvy side, not fat, but she had prominent curves that were not muscle. She had never been a ninja, she worked at my father’s favorite restaurant and that’s how they met.
I got my dad’s black hair and skin tone, but I got my mother’s eyes and eyebrows. I didn’t have a personality like either of my parents though.
“How was training?” She asked as she stirred a pot.
“Alright.” I told her, “It smells good, what’s for dinner?”
“Curry and rice.” She told me with a smile.
“Do you want any help?”
“No, that’ alright dear.” She smiled, “Why don’t you go relax.”
I nodded and made my way across the living room to my bedroom. I closed the door behind me and sat down, pulling out a scroll on justsus to read while I waited for dinner.
“Keiko, I’m home!” My father called from the front door.
I smiled as I went to get up, only to stop hearing some other voices accompanying him.
“Miss Keiko it smells amazing in here, you’re making your super powered curry are you not?” Lee asked.
“Why yes I am, I knew you guys were going to be coming home from that mission today. I wanted to be prepared.”
“Pardon the intrusion.” I heard Tenten call after him.
“Oh, Tenten.” My mother scolded softly, “You’re always welcome here, never think otherwise.”
“Yes ma’am.” She responded.
“Now everyone go and get washed up, it’s almost ready.”
“Yes, ma’am.” They all replied. before scampering back down the hall to wash their hands.
I stayed in my room, being quiet. I was hoping I could talk to my father today when he got in. But that quickly became apparent it wasn’t going to happen.
I heard some scuffling and then plates clinking together with movement. The scrapping of chairs against the floor and people taking seats around the table.
“It looks delicious, my love.” My father to my mother, “Let’s dig in.”
I heard my father and Lee start to eat.
“Kohaku?” I heard my mother call to me.
“Yes?” I called back.
“Come and get dinner, dear, while it’s still hot.”
“Okay.” I said and stood up with a sigh.
I opened the door to my room and stepped out crossing the living room and taking my seat at the table.
“I would like seconds, please.” My father asked my mother.
“Me too, please.” Lee asked not too far behind my father.
As my mother was filling up their dishes again my father was going on and on about how well Lee had done, and pointing out some places Tenten could improve on.
“Oh, yes, that reminds me.” Lee said after finishing his second plate, “Kohaku, how did you fare against Kiba? I know he can be a formidable adversary when the situation calls for it.”
I paused mid bite of my dinner and shrugged, “It was fine.” I told him, “I need to work on my hand signs though.”
“I’m glad to hear you know where to improve. I just hope that next time you will be able to train with us.”
“Yes it would be quite a site to see my best student against my only son.” My father started, “That would be the ultimate battle of youth!”
“Who do you think would win, sensei?” Lee asked with stars in his eyes.
“It would be a tough battle,” He started, “One so difficult I wouldn’t be able to determine the winner without seeing it myself! But I would have to say it would go to the boy who had the most youth!”
I finished the last mouthful of curry and stood up with my plate in my hands.
“It was good.” I said turning going into the kitchen to place my dish in the sink, “Thank you for the food.”
And without another word I went right back into my room and closed the door.
I blinked a couple of times, holding back some tears that threatened to fall. I took a deep breath and reached up behind my head to take my headband off of my forehead. I ran my hand through my dark hair a couple times, letting my pixie cut move wildly.
I fell forward onto the floor and started doing push ups to stop myself from thinking about it.
I wasn’t jealous of Lee. I was happy he had someone who could guide him through his journey as a shinobi. It just hurt that my father, the man who I am supposed to look up to for guidance and encouragement, wouldn’t even acknowledge me as a shinobi because I, his only child, was a girl.
I had learned early on, while my father wasn’t sexist, he would have prefered a boy. And while I tried everything I could to make him see me as an equal, it never worked. Nothing I ever did seemed good enough for him.
So, to give my father what he wanted, I became the closest thing to a boy I could. I had my hair cut short in a typical boy cut, I used wrappings to keep my breasts, which were still coming in, bound down so they wouldn’t show. I rejected everything feminine that there was. And with a name like Kohaku, it was easy. I knew there were people, like Naruto, Choji, Lee, probably even Kiba, who thought I was always a boy.
I hopped up into a crouch, and then leaned back to start sit ups. I almost hated myself for it, I was either in too deep to start being a girl and rejecting what my father wanted or doing what I wanted, and disappointing him.
I was going for a run around the village, when a familiar bark caught my attention. I paused and looked over to where it came from, I saw Kiba and Akimaru running over to me.
“Hey, Kohaku!” Kiba called.
“Hi.” I said kneeling down and petting Akimaru as he reached me first, “What’s up?”
“I wanted to know if you wanted to get lunch.” He said flashing me a genuine smile, “And don’t say you can’t, Shikamaru can quote you as saying you would next time.”
I rolled my eyes. That damn genius he was.
“Okay.” I gave in, “Just no curry, alright?”
“Wouldn’t think about it.” Kiba grinned and looped his arm in mine, pulling me along down the street.
It felt weird. Kiba thought I was boy. I acted like a boy. Dressed like one. Talked like one. There was nothing feminine about me at all. So, it was either one of two things judging by how he was acting: one, he thought I was a boy and there for liked boys, or two, he knew I was a girl.
More than that, Kiba was only ever physical when it came to things like rough housing and sparring. Something like this was unheard of for him, especially since he wasn’t rough at all, I would venture to say, gentle.
We came to a stop in front of my favorite sushi place in town.
I looked at Kiba in surprise. He was the kind of guy who prefered red meat, and lots of it.
“Let’s go in.” He encouraged with a wide grin as he pulled me inside.
We were given a booth and Kiba started looking at the dishes going around on the conveyor belt.
I pulled off a plate with tuna on it before looking over at Kiba. He had this look in his eyes I’d never in him before.
“Okay.” I snarled, “What’s going on?!”
“What are you talking about?” He asked, his face dropped and he looked almost fearful.
“You’ve been acting weird the past couple days.” I hissed, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“You wouldn’t believe me.” He drifted off, staring at the fish going around.
“Try me.” I ordered.
Kiba let out a deep sigh.
“Why did your parents name you Kohaku?” He asked, finally looking at me.
“Because it means amber.” I told him, “It represents fire within a gem. It’s supposed to represent to village.”
“Yeah, I get that.” He half laughed, “But you’re a girl, and Kohaku’s a boy’s name.”
My eyes went wide hearing that.
“How long have you known?” I asked.
“Known what?” He asked dumbfounded.
“I’m a girl.” I replied, “Ever since I could remember I acted, dressed, talked, basically became a boy in every way. Even to the point my parents have started calling me their son. So how long have you known?”
Kiba just laughed, but he didn’t respond. He had this far away look in his eyes.
“Kiba.” I warned.
He looked up at me, with a look I couldn’t place. It was so foreign for him.
“No.” He said, a smile playing on his lips, “You either wouldn’t believe me or hate me for it.”
I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms, “At this point, I just want a straight answer. And you’re probably my best friend, so I couldn’t hate you. I might be peeved at you, but I couldn’t hate you.”
Kiba let out a light sigh, looked out the window behind my head before sighing again and looking me dead in the eye.
“You remember how we first met?” He asked with that far away look in his eyes again.
I nodded, unsure of what he met, “I was skipping rocks on the lake and you wanted me to teach you when we were like, five.”
He leaned forward onto the table, propping his chin up onto his hand.
“I did want to learn how to skip rocks.” He told me, “I’ll admit I thought I was approaching a boy my own age when I saw you from the back, but then you turned around. And I saw those creamy eyes, and those dark freckles. You know that cliché thing all love birds will say, something like, ‘I saw them and I just knew’. I saw you, I knew I was going to love you.”
I just stared at him, but he didn’t stop.
“All your little quirks. You’re determination to prove yourself to your father. You’re ability to analyze people’s emotions in just a moment. The way your eyes say everything when you run out of ginger in your ramen. The way you cross your arms when your annoyed, but not angry. The fact you love thunder and lightning but not rain. I’ve grown to love you, Kohaku. But I never wanted to act on it, since I did think you were a boy.”
“What changed that.” I finally asked, I had managed to find my voice
“You know canines have the ability to smell a change in hormones, right?” He asked.
It dawned on me how he figured it out. The hormones change during puberty, and because I’m a female my hormones smell different than those of our friends.
“Oh.” Was all I could say.
“And now that I’m sure, I wanted you to know. But I also didn’t want you to hate me.” Kiba admitted.
I uncrossed my arms, letting them lay limp against the booth. I thought about what he said. I thought about him. I thought about what we had been through together. I thought about how he made me feel. I thought about my parents. Then, I finally thought about what I wanted.
I looked up, Kiba was just staring down at the table waiting for me to say something, probably afraid I was going to reject him.
I stood up and leaned over the table, Kiba looked up to watch me. I placed a gentle kiss on his nose before sitting back down and picking up chopsticks to start on my finally start on my sushi.
“I think I’ve always had feelings for you too.” I admitted, “I just never really thought about it, because I was too focused on other things.”
I felt Kiba just grin as I shoved the tuna in my mouth.
The sun was just going under the horizon. Kiba and I were sitting together in an open field enjoying eachothers company. Akimaru was asleep on my lap.
“Does my name bother you?” I finally asked, I had been thinking about it since he asked earlier that day.
“No.” He said, not looking at me.
“Then does the fact I’m basically a boy bother you?”
Kiba snorted before full on laughing. He did that for about a minute before he finally calmed down.
“Hell no!” He exclaimed, “Why would I want a girl who’s afraid to get dirty, would rather braid her hair than train, gossiping with her girlfriends and I don’t know, whatever else girls do. You are just my type, Kohaku.”
As he said that he moved closer to me and wrapped his arms around my waist pulling me close to him.
I felt warm and loved. Kiba then nuzzled his nose into my neck.
“Although,” He started, I looked over my shoulder at him to continue, “If you maybe wanna wear a dress every now and again or grow your hair out, I wouldn’t complain. If you want to.”
I leaned back into his embrace a little bit more.
“We’ll see.” I told him rubbing Akimaru’s ears, “I don’t know if I’m gonna be comfortable doing that just yet.”
“Then don’t.” Kiba told me, placing a light kiss on my cheek, “Continue to be one of the boys.”