A/N: This story is my own, but I based the culture and traditions off of Naruto. Other than that, it is completely my own story.



always running

so fast, stumbling, tripping, tree branches whipping the face, fallen logs and bushes tripping the feet...but always running, never stopping

trees are gone now, long gone, feet pound into hard-packed dirt, under a blazing sun, heat blistering skin and drying out the tongue

but still, feet skim over the ground, still sprinting, lungs heaving, mouth open, gasping for air that doesn't seem to exist

tall grasses now, swishing as legs rush through them, parting them to make a path, as the sky darkens and rain pours down, drenching everything

still running, sprinting, charging, stumbling, no sense of feeling, no sense of direction, nothing in the mind but the knowledge to keep going, on and on until more trees reach out from ahead to grip and grab and hold tight and then the rain stops and feet cannot run no more and everything swirls away into darkness

Behind the tall, impenetrable walls, the large village is full of whispers. First it starts with the guards on the walls, who watch the surrounding forest with a careful, wary gaze/

"Did you hear...?"

"Yeah, the patrol found someone in the forest."

"They say it's just some kid..."

"...and what a mess!"

And then it spread to the families of the guards, mainly the wives.

"Poor thing! My husband says he was barely alive when they found him, you know..."

"Really? My husband says he was dead!"

"...just a child - how sad, really."

And from the wives, it was passed on to the children of the village.

"...and they said he was so torn up, you couldn't tell he was a human being."

"You're so full of it! I've heard that he doesn't even have a scratch."

"You're both wrong! He was a she!"

Soon, everyone knew of the stranger found in the forest, although what they 'knew' was mostly wrong, anyway. Only the patrol who had found him, the doctors, and the leader of the village, Maka Rei, knew the truth.

It was boy, about sixteen years of age, with lightly tanned skin, unruly black hair, and strange, bright green eyes that had golden flecks. When he had been found, his clothes were tattered rags, and he was bruised, with sever deep cuts and scratches. There was a deep wound on his skull, which bled a lot, and his bare feet were raw, open sores.

And most intriguing of all, the boy did not speak. It was like he knew nothing, like his mind was totally empty. Like a newborn baby. But he wasn't stupid, the doctors saw. He watched them with those intense green eyes, alert to every sound, sight, and smell.

The doctors looked after him for a month before he was completely healed. Then the boy (they gave him the name of Sai) became a quest of what to do with him. Maka Rei suggested enrolling the boy in the Academy that every boy and girl went to from ages twelve to sixteen.

It would be in the last year, but at least it would keep the boy taken care of. Although, they had their worries. They were a village of warriors, and their children were trained in the art of fighting. Once they graduated at the age of sixteen, they were divided into three-man teams under a Seni (senior, veteran warrior). Would Sai, the boy who knew nothing and could not speak, be able to survive in this school. There was only way to find out.

Reimi stood in front of the class. Thirty-four students, all eager for the first day of their last year. Thirty-four, soon to be thirty-five. He wasn't so sure about the Maka's decision to put Sai into this class. But it was the Maka (the village leader) who made the decision, and as the teacher, he would follow it.

He took a deep breath, and smiled at the class. He spoke loudly, so that he could be heard over the excited murmurs.

"Welcome, students. I am Reimi, and I will be your instructor for this year. And before you start asking questions, let me reassure you. Yes, I know I don't look much older than you, but I am older - by about eight years. I'm twenty-four, and perfectly certified to teach you." He fell silent, keeping a small smile on his face. The first thing he did was let them know his age. Most adults didn't feel comfortable letting on such information, but it served Reimi two purposes. First, it let the students know a little about him, and make them a bit more comfortable around him. Second, it gave proof that he was older than him. He was a thin, baby-faced man with shaggy brown hair and woeful brown eyes. Most people often mistook him for a teen, and it annoyed him to no end.

He looked over the class - roughly half were boys and the other half girls. Most were smiling at him, which was a good sign. Reimi glanced at the clock on the far wall. Anytime now, and Sai would be brought to his class. He figured that he'd better warn his students.

"Before we begin, I must tell you about a student who will be arriving shortly. I'm sure you've all heard about him; he's the boy the patrol found a month ago."

Almost at once, whispers arose as the students discussed this one with one another. Reimi had to call out for them to calm down. "His name is Sai; and he doesn't speak. But he does understand some of what you are saying, and is quick to catch on. I expect he'll give you some competition for rookie of the year, Aerto." Reimi smiled, looking over at a certain dark-haired, dark-eyed broody student in the back. The class tittered nervously, slightly afraid of angering Aerto.

Although he kept to himself and rarely spoke, he was very skilled and powerful. He was said to be one of the geniuses, and none of the students wanted to get on his bad side. If he had one.

At that moment, there was a soft knock on the door. At once, the classroom hushed. With a faint sigh, Reimi went to answer it.

A young woman stood their, a hand resting on the shoulder of a young boy. Sai. The boy looked up at Reimi with careful eyes. Reimi gave him an encouraging smile.

"Hello, Sai."

The boy didn't answer, but he blinked. Other than that, there was no indication that he'd even heard. The woman frowned at Reimi.

"Take care of him, Reimi. I'm holding you responsible."

"Y-yes, Keuri," Reimi gulped. She may have been petite, and fragile looking, but she was well-known for beating up men twice her size. She gave him a curt nod, and strode off down the hall.

"Come in, Sai," Reimi stepped aside, and gestured for the boy to go in. For a moment, Sai hesitated, then he stepped inside cautiously. Reimi came in after him, and closed the door. "Class," he said, "This is Sai."

Thirty-four pairs of eyes were on Sai, taking him in, evaluating him.

Sai was of an average height, with spiky black hair, and brilliant green eyes that were guarded and alert at the same time. Interestingly enough, a single white lock of hair stood out in his shock of black hair in a vivid contrast. It was a result of a scar that had healed on his scalp, and the hair that grew back was pure white. Sai was dressed in simple, loose clothing that was black.

The students couldn't find much by just looking at him. Sai's face revealed absolutely nothing; his face had no expression, and his eyes were guarded and unreadable.

"Sai," Reimi lifted a hand and pointed to an empty seat next to a brunette girl, "you can sit next to Kaymy." Without a word, Sai walked to the back of the room, and sat next to the girl. She looked at him with big hazel eyes, and gave him a hesitant, shy smile.

Sai blinked at her, then faced straight ahead, as Reimi began to speak once more.

I can feel their stares, even when they try to hide it. The stares are not unfriendly, not exactly. While they aren't hostile, they give me a sense that I don't belong here.

Perhaps I don't.

But how would I know? When I woke up in that white, small room, surrounded by people in white clothing, I know nothing. My mind was a vast void that was completely empty. Even when those people spoke to me, I did not understand. They were speaking some language that sounded harsh, sharp and unfamiliar to my ears. Was it a different language?

Or was it that I no longer knew anything at all?

I do not know. All I know is that I am in some kind of school, and that I can understand only a little of what is being said. I only get a few of the words of what this teacher, Reimi, is saying.

He talks on and on, using many words that sound like they are twisted upon themselves. I do not understand. Everyone else can understand him; some are nodding in understanding, a few watch him intently, and others are trying to keep awake. It hurts my head to try and understand.

Why am I here? Where is here? Where do I come from? Who am I?

All these questions and more flood the blank void that is my mind. I cannot answer any of them, and I am afraid.

The girl beside me gives a soft sound, and I look up at her. Her hazel eyes are confused, and questioning. She's about to say something, but I already know what she's going to say.

I give a slight shake of the head, and turn my attention to the front of the class. If I focus hard enough, perhaps I can piece together what Reimi is saying. And maybe, if I can learn this strange language, I can answer one of those questions that keep floating through the void.