Chapter One: Run Like Hell
Her panties were white.
Carter grinned broadly as he spotted the quick glimpse of white underneath Sara's skirt as she crossed one leg over the other. It was brief, but Carter savored the moment, replaying it over and over again in his mind with a dreamy smile on his face. Quickly, but not too quickly, Carter leaned back in his chair and shifted his eyes to the front of the classroom where Instructor Shizune was giving a lecture about healing herbs. Or that was what he thought she was teaching anyway.
Looking up skirts, peeking down blouses, or surreptitiously getting an eye full down a girl's too tight pants was Carter's calling in high school, one which he took quite seriously. Anyone could be a pervert, but not getting caught and branded as one; that was the true art, one which Carter wished to perfect. It required a level of stealth, precision, and determination that only a ninja could ever dream of attaining.
And that was him. Carter Kendo. Ninja in training.
"So what color were they?"
Carter looked over at the boy sitting next to him. He had red hair that spiked in every which direction and was clad in a long, black overcoat that was so baggy it almost resembled a dress. The boy stared at him eagerly.
"White." Carter whispered. The boy's name was Kyo Takeda, friend at Koon Academy, and fellow peeking tom. He was good at it, but was far from the level of mastership that Carter possessed. At the moment, Carter had taken him on as his apprentice.
"White?" The boy asked, his eyes narrowing. "Are you sure?"
Kyo flipped open a notebook he had been concealing under the notes he had been taking and jotted down their findings. "I've found a problem in our statistics."
"Really?" Carter asked with concern. He leaned over to his friends' desk so that he could take a look at their records. His eyes widened. "Wow, you're right!"
"Today is Monday. According to our two months of observation, she should be wearing pink panties." Kyo muttered. "It's always been white on Wednesday and Thursday, blue on Friday and Tuesday, and pink on Monday."
"You think she's on to us? You know, messing with our findings?" Carter wondered. The idea seemed possible, but quite unlikely. Especially since Sara certainly wasn't supposed to know he was regularly peeking up her skirt during class in the first place.
"I don't know," Kyo said irritably. "Why don't you go ask her?"
"Shut up," Carter laughed.
Kyo threw the notebook back into his backpack. "Well there goes two months of hard work." He sighed disappointedly, frowning, but then his eyes perked back up. "So who do you want to target this month? Holly?"
Carter glanced into the crowd of students dedicatedly taking notes. It was easy to spot Holly Henderson, a petite, pretty girl with short black hair. She was attractive enough, but was incredibly shy. Several times Carter had spoken to her in the lunch line or on the rare occasion they were partnered up for something, but it always ended up to be a very one sided conversation. Either Holly would find an excuse to get away from Carter, or she would stammer out monosyllabic replies until he gave up. Still, while she might not be much of a talker, Carter had to admit Holly had a killer body.
"No." Carter finally replied. The peeking-tom business did not leave much room for morals, but he would make an exception in this case. There was something about Holly, something so sweet and innocent about her that made peeking on her seem unforgivably wrong.
"Terri? Tenten? Mitsuko?" Kyo asked, reeling off names on their unofficial "Hotties of Koon High" list. "Asoka? Kasumi? Avanti? Erika?"
Carter shook his head. Quietly, he said, "I was thinking of sticking with Sara for a little bit longer."
Kyo grinned when he noticed his friend blushing, a sly twinkle in his eye "Yeah I bet you do."
"Shut up!" Someone hissed. Carter looked down the row of desks, and expected, it was him. Dressed in a blue shirt bearing the crest of the Utica clan and white shorts, it was him. With his sleekly, long, black hair and brown eyes it was him.
It was Jake Utica, sole heir of the Utica clan, and Carter could not stand him. It wasn't so much because Jake acted like a complete jerk all the time –Carter got along with people like that all the time; in fact, some would say Carter was one of those people –but it was because the pompous prick was goddamn perfect. And that was what infuriated Carter the most about the young Utica. His academic performance was beyond flawless, prodigious even, a fact which earned him the love of all the instructors at Koon High the moment he walked through the doors.
Actually, it earned him the love of more than just the teachers. And that really pissed Carter off. The girls loved Jake and worshipped him more reverently than any god. Jake ignored their subtle and occasionally not so subtle advances with his characteristic cold, almost borderline rude, demeanor, but far from dissuading the girls of Koon high, it emboldened them to the point where there were more love letters stuffed in Jake's locker than books.
It made no sense to Carter, of course, why the girls like Jake so much. Sure he was a genius, and sure he looked like he just stepped out of a modeling magazine, but that was really trivial anyhow. Carter could only attribute Jake's roaring popularity to his rudeness because, after all, girls loved jerks for some completely nonsensical reason. Everyone knew that.
Carter rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he watched Jake take notes. This of course could not explain why the girls still staunchly rejected Carter when he tried to act like a jerk. It was all quite confusing, and not for the first time Carter wished he had an older brother to consult about the raging battle for the affection of the finer sex. He had once contemplated seeking out one of his instructors for advice, but then remembered that all of his instructors' success with girls was nothing short of dismal. Dante's love life included cheesy romance novels, and Carter still had nightmares about the time he spotted the Perverted Hermit trying to pick up loose women outside of adult movie theaters. Suffice to say, the idea was short lived.
This all left Carter in a quandary of uncertainty with little relief in sight. He had hoped that the girls' would conclude that Jake's obvious disinterest meant that he was a homosexual and move on, but that had been all the way back in eighth grade. The girls still chased after Jake, and not once had his sexuality been questioned by anyone except Carter. No one really listened to him anyway.
Instructor Shizune was writing something on the chalk board, and a quick glance confirmed Carter's decision that he didn't understand any of the material. He had been too busy trying to look of Sakura's skirt all lesson long that he hadn't bothered to pay attention. With a sigh, Carter put his head back on the desk and closed his eyes. There was little point in trying to pick up one of Shizune's complicated lessons halfway through. He would just copy someone's notes later in the unlikely event he decided to bother.
"Can someone tell me the answer to number thirteen?" Shizune asked.
Immediately, a dozen hands shot into the air. Unsurprisingly, Carter was not one of them. What caught Carter's attention immediately, however, was that Jake's hand was up. Not that it was surprising. Jake always knew the answers which was why the teachers loved him so much. But his raised hand would draw Shizune's attention towards this area of the classroom which would invariably lead to…
"Carter? How about you?"
Damn you Jake! Cater wasn't sure Jake was really at fault for this unfortunate turn of events. His paper thin logic couldn't even convince himself fully of Jake's guilt. It could have just been a product of bad luck, but it felt good to blame someone else. Frantically, Carter looked at Kyo who kind of shrugged and gave him a better-you-than-me look.
"I'm not sure." Carter answered.
A few people giggled, but Shizune ignored them. "You don't know, Carter?"
"Yes, Instructor. I do not know."
More people laughed, louder this time.
"Carter," Shizune said, not bothering to hide her impatience with him. "What year are you in?"
"And how old are you?"
"Well, don't you think it's time to start paying attention during my class?" A cruel smile crossed Shizune's face, contorting it until it resembled her pet pig she always hung out with. "And not spending all your time looking up Sara's skirts?"
It was like a bomb hit. Everyone started laughing so loudly the room seemed to shake. Smiling feebly, Carter lowered himself into his chair, wishing the ground would swallow him up, but of course, had no luck. He wished he were dead just so that he could escape the humiliation. Groaning loudly, he resigned himself to lying low until the laughter died down.
It took another five minutes before Carter felt confident to emerge again, and by then, the class had more or less returned to normal. Kyo was still laughing, but for the most part, everyone was busy taking notes again while Shizune lectured. Deciding it might not be a bad idea to follow suit to avoid further embarrassment, Carter picked up his pencil and looked at the board. As he did, he noticed two things.
First was that Holly was looking at him, a horrified look on her face as if Carter had walked over there and slapped her. When she spotted him staring, she blushed and quickly turned away. Odd.
The second and, probably more important, was Sara. She was taking notes like everyone else, but her hand was clenched so tightly around her pencil that the wood was splintering beneath her fierce grip. Her teeth were clenched and she kept stabbing at her paper, oblivious to the large gashes in her otherwise immaculate sheet of class notes. Finally, the pencil could take it no longer and yielded under Sakura's might and snapped into two.
Crack! The sound echoed in the room, an ominous portent of terrible things to come.
"Oh great." Carter muttered.
Run, run, run…
Carter walked quickly down the corridor leading away from Shizune's classroom, slow enough to avoid attention, but fast enough to get him away from the impending doom that would soon be exiting the room after him. The moment the bell had rung Carter was out of his seat, his bag half zipped and spilling its contents across the floor as he made a run for the door. Sara would kill him, of that he had absolutely no doubt. Worse than the humiliation he had suffered under Shizune would be the shame if he allowed Sakura to beat the living hell out of him again. It had happened once before during their freshman year in Koon High when he accidentally stumbled into the girl's locker room while Sara had been changing, and years later people still teased him about getting beat up by a girl.
A small grin formed across his face at the memory. The bruises had lasted for a month, but it had been worth it. His only regret was that he had not brought a camera with him that day.
"Walk fast, Carter." Kyo whispered. He was walking behind Carter, glancing behind them at Shizune's classroom every few steps. No sooner had he said that, the door was thrown open hard enough that it cracked the concrete wall behind it. Framed in the doorway, was Sara Hansen.
She had long brown hair and a gorgeous face that Carter had adored from afar for years. Her attire consisted of a white blouse, and of course, the pink skirt that he had dedicated the entire of Shizune's class to peeking up. Carter thought she was singularly the most beautiful girl in the school, though admittedly she did not look so beautiful right now. Her normally comely features were contorted with unbridled rage, and her eyes had been reduced to murderous slits that scanned the hallway, like a serpent searching for her prey.
"Walk faster," Kyo said. "And put on your forehead protector. You might need it."
Carter nodded hastily and reached into his bag for his headband. The forehead protector, a blue strip of cloth with a metal plate bearing the crest of Koon's Hidden Village of the Leaf-a cresent moon with a swirl in the middle, was a ninja's most precious possession. It identified their occupation to the world and in addition related their village affiliation. A ninja was not a ninja without their forehead protector. He slipped it on and tied it tightly.
"Carter!" Sara screamed, a blood curdling sound that resounded down the hallway. Carter began running.
A ninja was trained in all arts of combat. They could fight hand to hand, create illusions to deceive the enemy, and unleash their inner powers in a variety of devastating attacks from fireballs to summoning giant beasts. Some ninjas were better than others in the various schools of combat, but all ninjas knew how to do one thing really well.
Run like hell.