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Determined

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Determination

 

Chapter One:

Childhood Lessons

 

Himari had expected the Academy to be both difficult and easy. She knew a lot of the general subjects that First Years studied, after all, and she adored History so she knew a good deal about various Clans and their Beginnings and Present-Day habits or customs. She liked that sort of information, so she collected it and hoarded it and memorized as much as she could. You could tell a lot about a place by their culture and customs and Konoha was no different.

She was expecting it to be difficult because, even though she used to be Maude, she was Himari, and Himari was five. No level of intelligence, either inherited from a past life or gained through study, could make a Civilian born-and-raised five-year-old as physically capable as Shinobi-Clan kids. Maybe if she had been from a Farming family in this life, but she wasn't. So, during physical training, she was far behind a good chunk of her class, which, again, she had expected. She'd also expected to be behind in Chakra, as both a Civilian and a girl, although they wouldn't learn until their third month at the Academy how to unlock and access their Chakra (again, Shinobi-Clan kids were the exception, not the norm here).

Something she hadn't expected? Bullies. As in young children trying to bully and push and mock her and those around her. That's what she found herself dealing with on her third day at the Academy, a quartet of other five-year-old girls sneering and jeering and calling her names like know-it-all, dummy, and the ever-impressive Stupid-Chan. Staring at them in disbelief, Himari slowly closed her book on the Warring Clans Era, setting it on the grass beside her as she stared. The girls were still mockingly singing Stupid-Chan, Stupid-Chan~ as they pointed at her and laughed meanly.

Himari is five-years-old, yes. But she is also Maude, and Maude was seventy-three with multiple siblings, children, and relatives. And she had been raised in a time where any woman who wasn't barefoot in the kitchen or who dared to put her job over being home for her husband every night was seen as something shameful. Rising to her feet, she crossed her tiny arms over her chest, idly noting the slowly sitting up form of Nara Shikamaru nearby, his dark eyes narrowed and considering, as well as the sharp eyes of Taro-Sensei in the distance, both ready to come to her aid if she needed it.

Cute.

"You're all idiots,"� she told the girls calmly, making them abruptly stop chanting her apparent nickname. "How have I been stupid at all in the last three days? I have more practice in writing, reading, and speaking than the four of you together, with facts and notes to back up everything that comes from my mouth. I do my research, I study, and I focus on my work. I am working to be a good Shinobi for my Village." She eyed them all and arched a brow, something she'd learned from both Maude and her Touchan. "How do you contribute to class? Definitely not creatively if your nicknames are an example of your intelligence,"� she drawled, rolling her eyes after a few moments at the wide-eyed, uncertain looks she was getting. No doubt she'd once again spoken outside the comprehension level of her peers...

Sighing through her nose, Himari shook her head, reached down for her book, and dusted it off while giving the girls a bland look.

"Listen,"� she told them mildly. "I get it, you don't like that I'm smarter than you. You don't like me because of it, and that's okay. It's okay to not like someone. But, if you're going to try and be mean? Pick something to be mean about, and make sure it's something good. And please, please come up with a better nickname."� Her piece said, Himari bowed shallowly to them and walked away, leaving them shifting uncertainly and looking at one another in confusion as she made her way over to the slouching form of Nara Shikamaru. "May I read next to you, Shikamaru-Kun?"� she asked him; the boy stared at her through slit eyes, then grunted, flopping backwards to once more doze, watching the clouds as he did.

"Troublesome,"� he muttered after she'd settled down and re-opened her book. "You okay?"� Himari blinked, glancing over at him.

"Yes,"� she told him easily. "The lack of creativity bothered me more than the actual so-called confrontation."� Shikamaru grunted, glancing at her before re-focusing on the clouds.

"If you say so,"� he muttered; Himari hummed, and the two fell silent as they returned to their preferred hobby.

The rest of lunch break was peaceful and quiet.

 

()()()()()()()()()()()

 

The first month of the Academy passed in a series of routines that slowly rose in difficulty. So did the second month. And then the third, with only the added Chakra Unlocking and the exercises it added to their days changing. The fourth month, however, found Himari facing yet another unexpected encounter. This one in the form of a meeting between each student and their Senseis and the Village Elders about their future Careers.

Apparently, the Elders were given summaries of each student's capabilities and, twice a year, they do what seems to be some sort of Review and Councilor meeting. Everything was one-on-one, and it was only about ten-minutes a piece at the longest. Still, Himari thought dubiously as Taro-Sensei called her into the meeting room, she didn't like that their lessons were being interrupted by it.

"Don't be nervous, Yamamoto-Chan,"� Taro-Sensei told her kindly as he gestured to the lonely seat across from the three Elders. "This won't take long, and you haven't done anything wrong, alright?"� Himari hummed in agreement, cautiously taking her seat and eying the three Elders warily. Taro-Sensei quickly introduced the three Elders and her to one another during her staring. Shimura-Sama was dark-eyed and bandaged, no doubt forced into retirement due to injuries, something Himari had no doubt had made the man shrewd and bitter Mitokado-Sama was bespectacled and bland-seeming, but it was in her experience that uninteresting people could be the most dangerous, especially in the Shinobi line of work. Finally, Utatane-Sama, the lone Kunoichi, was severe-faced and stiffly proper, and, considering the way Kunoichi were treated now compared to when the Elder had been a Genin? Himari couldn't blame her.

Sometimes, Professionalism was the greatest shield you could wield in any battlefield.

"Now, we're going to review your work over the last few months,"� Taro-Sensei informed her simply as he took his seat, separated from the Elders, a copy of Himari's folder set before each of them. "I've noticed that your physical work could use some more training,"� he started, and Himari nodded calmly.

"I need to work on my stamina and speed,"� she told him simply. "Strength can wait, or I risk permanently damaging my tendons, muscles, or even my growth. And, as I am smaller already than a lot of my classmates, especially the Clan children, I believe I should focus on those two things, as dodging will be very helpful when we start sparring in a few days."� Taro-Sensei smiled at her warmly.

"That's very well-thought out, Yamamoto-Chan,"� he told her; Himari blinked,

"Actually, its more practical than thought out," she replied with a half-shrug. "I am smaller and slower, so, since I can't get bigger, I have to get faster. Simple logic." The Elders shifted as Taro-Sensei chuckled a little.

"And is there anything else you believe you should work on, Yamamoto-Chan?"� Utatane-Sama asked her calmly; Himari blinked again.

"I will need to practice more on my Chakra exercises,"� she informed the Elder simply. "I currently have similarly-sized reserves as my Civilian-born Classmates, especially my fellow Kunoichi, and its unlikely I will ever deepen it to the same level as my Shinobi Classmates, especially those from Clans, but I should still work on it, because even a drop more than is expected of my gender is a drop more I can use in battle or on a mission. No weapon should ever be dismissed out of hand," she added firmly, nodding. "Which is another thing I need to work on,"� she mused. "My aim is rather... Lacking, at the moment,"� she winced, grimacing a little before shaking her head.

"Thankfully," she continued, straightening as she did. "I am ahead of the class in theoretical and informative studies, and am able to use that knowledge to self-study some at home, although it's difficult, to be honest,"� she added reluctantly.

"How so?" the female Elder asked, and Himari idly noted that, although silent, the two other Elders were watching her just as keenly, Shimura-Sama's dark eye sharp like steel behind a mild expression.

"My parents, as stated, are Civilians," she informed the Elders easily. "And they are from a family of Civilians. My closest Shinobi relative would be my third-cousin's wife, and therefore not a blood-relation. As a result, my parents seem to be under the impression that I am going through a 'Phase',"� Himari couldn't resist the air-quotes she added, voice dry as a desert as she did so. "because of this, they chide me for any sort of Academy work I try to do at home unless it's my worksheets. As a result, I have to go 'play Ninja', and either return here to use the Training Grounds, which are usually being used by the Upper-Years, or locate a few of my yearmates to train with, of which a majority are either Clan children who prefer to Train at home and want to relax outside of it, or are Civilian boys, whose idea of training with girls is to sneer, tell me I have something called 'cooties', and declare that I can't play with them because then they'd lose."� Himari rolled her eyes without a thought. "The closest to a training partner I've gotten is Shikamaru-Kun and, well..."�

"He's a Nara,"� Taro-Sensei offered easily; Himari nodded.

"He does help me with Scenarios, though,"� she added quickly. "Those are fun, and we don't have to stop Cloud-Watching to do it, either."�

"Scenarios?"� Mitokado-Sama asked; Himari bobbed her head.

"He offers me different Scenarios to consider, with a goal in mind and a Mission to work with," she told them. "Like, say I have a Mission to take a scroll from here to... Tanzaku Gai,"� she decided on. "It's a C-Rank Mission, with myself, two other Genin, and my Jounin-Sensei. He then gives me what sort of Specialties each has, what kind of opposition we're supposed to face, and then will throw something extra in occasionally, like one of the Bandits that attack is actually a low-level Nuke-Nin who specializes in narcoleptic poisons. And my hypothetical Sensei, a Taijutsu user, gets poisoned, leaving myself and my teammates, all mildly injured, alone against this Nuke-Nin and whatever Bandits are left, with a scroll to deliver and a Sensei to try and help."� She blinked at them, shrugging again at the mildly surprised stares of Utatane-Sama and Mitokado-Sama. "He's really good at coming up with interesting twists,"� she told them. "Sometimes, my Team loses because of it, which is good as well."�

"And why is it good?" Utatane-Sama asked; Himari blinked at her.

"Because it's logistically improbable for someone to always win,"� she told her simply. "Even if the Mission is completed, it could result in the death of the whole squad, or demotion, or forced-retirement due to serious injury, or maybe even a sever loss of reputation for myself, my Sensei, or the Village as a whole. There are consequences in every action, Utatane-Sama,"� she pointed out calmly. "It's impossible to counter every possible encounter one might have, and one should be prepared to adapt at a moment's notice and improvise otherwise. It's also far better to learn that in this way in hypothetical situations with hypothetical people, than out on the field with real lives and real consequences."� The Elders stared and Taro-Sensei chuckled.

"And that's a fine example of this class's Top Kunoichi,"� he told them fondly; Himari blinked, startled, because the Exam they'd taken two days previously hadn't had its results posted yet, and last she'd checked, an Uchiha girl in her class named Ayame had been Top Kunoichi because of her physical scores... "Ah, don't worry, Yamamoto-Chan,"� her Sensei told her, obviously catching onto her confusion. "Uchiha-Chan scored better in both Physical and Aim, true, however you have the highest scoring academic scores of your year, by quite a margin, as well as a higher maturity than Uchiha-Chan. Work on your aim and physical issues, and the only thing that would keep you from being Rookie of the Year is your Chakra, which is sadly expected because of your upbringing and gender, as you said."� Thoughtfully, Himari nodded, already making a mental list of exercises she'd need to work on and noting that she would probably see Uchiha Ayame in the sparring circle a lot, because Uchiha's were nothing if not competitive to an insane degree.

"Thank you for informing me, Sensei,"� she told him calmly. "I'll keep this to myself, so I can properly prepare for the backlash once scores are posted."� Immediately, something alarmed crossed his face. "I have no doubt Ayame-Chan will want to spar with me, upon realizing I beat her out of the Top spot,"� she informed the Sensei and Elders calmly. "I am now prepared for that, so I won't be caught flat-footed in the Sparring Circle. I appreciate the heads-up."�

"You're, ah, welcome, Yamamoto-Chan," Taro-Sensei told her, sounding both bemused and sheepish. Himari didn't think he'd considered the ramifications of a Civilian-Born Kunoichi beating out a Clan-Born Kunoichi, let alone being the Academic Rookie of the Year, as he'd stated. No doubt the Clans would be watching her to see if she could be brought into their families later in life, if she continued to rise through the ranks like this. Absently, she made a mental note to keep an eye for any Shinobi approaching her family's stores out of character, just in case someone tries to get her parents to agree to a "play-date"� or something.

"While it is nice to know that a young Kunoichi is taking her Career so seriously,"� Mitokado-Sama spoke quietly, "we are, unfortunately, on a schedule. If we could perhaps continue with the meeting?"� Once Taro-Sensei nodded with a quiet, sheepish apology for his distraction, the Elder inclined his head towards Himari with a mild smile. "What Specialty were you hoping to get into, Yamamoto-Chan?" Himari blinked.

"I thought it was obvious?"� She asked, uncertainly. "I am a Kunoichi, which means my reserves will likely never get high enough for a Ninjutsu expert, and I don't have the physical capabilities, and likely never will, for being a Taijutsu expert unless I allow my other studies to fall behind and focus solely on that. While Genjutsu or Iryo-jutsu would be typically acceptable for both my gender and reserves, neither interest me personally out of understanding and utilizing the basics of both for my future Teammates. I will never be pretty enough to be a member of Seduction, if taking my parents and female relatives' physical aesthetics into account, I will only every be the sort of blandly pretty that most Civilians can get to. And I'm too physically invested to be a Cipher or Intelligence member, and Torture and Intelligence, while a very valuable team, isn't something I know I could psychologically handle for a long period of time. Perhaps as a moonlighter, or part-time, job, yes,"� she mused, getting distracted as she considered. "But not full-time. I also lack the qualifications of a Tracker, Hunter, or Sensor, so that's those three out as well..."� She nodded her head firmly. "So, yes, there's really only one track I can see myself fully specializing in, really."�

"And what track," Shimura-Sama said, voice deep and almost-harsh sounding, "would that be?"� Something about his face, blank and stiff, made Himari think that he knew what track she meant, and something almost pleased edged around the dark eye staring at her beneath his heavy brow. Staring back, Himari blinked once, and then offered the four adults the same mild, polite smile that Maude had given her In-Laws and disgruntled parents during meetings, that her Kaachan and Touchan gave customers they didn't particularly like but whose money they wanted.

Himari gave them this same, mild smile, and let her eyes go just that slight bit darker, colder, until it was Maude looking out of her gaze to meet that grimly-pleased stare of the crippled Elder. She knew that, that old gaze on her young, smiling face was singularly unsettling, and was morbidly pleased to see Taro-Sensei lean back instinctively, and the other two Elders stiffen slightly.

"Why, Assassination, of course,"� she replied easily, sweetly, and the lines around Shimura-Sama's eye, the ones that denoted how pleased he was, deepened.

And Himari just continued to smile back.