He looked around the strange room with nigh a thought in his brain. It was as though he had achieved the meditative state of zero thoughts, free from errant thoughts of worldly desire and the hundred things to worry about... or, as in his case, no thoughts at all.
His eyes wandered around the lecture hall with a pitched floor and tiered seating, so those in the rear were seated higher than those in the front, allowing them to see the lecturer— a man standing behind a podium, facing the blackboard, writing in chalk that made tapping sounds every time the hard chalk stick hit the coarse surface. Given that there was a teacher in the classroom, it was natural there were students as well, sitting at their tables, and he sat alongside them. They looked young— he couldn't tell how young from the back of their heads.
He was quite far and above the blackboard, sitting near the back. He didn't know if he was part of the backbenchers, for he didn't know what was behind him; his neck didn't seem to work, nor did he want to turn back to see. Only his eyes moved, allowing him to perceive the strangeness and unfamiliarity in front of him.
Shuffle. There was a movement beside him caught in his periphery. His body as a whole twitched as he jumped in his spot on the long sitting bench. And that seemingly released the lock that was binding his body; suddenly, he felt his clammy palms, the clothes sticking to his soaked back, the back of the head where the hair felt drenched, and his legs were shaking as if hell-bent on causing an earthquake. It was thanks to the sturdy furniture that no one noticed. His heart seemed to take inspiration from his legs as it then thumped like a junky on adrenaline. And when he raised his hand to wipe a sweat drop trickling down his brow, he noticed the labored breathing on his palm.
The mind followed the body, and suddenly the dam opened, and hundreds of thoughts rushed in. Where was he? How did he get there? Why couldn't he remember how he got here, where it was? Who were all these people? He seemed to be in a classroom, so why couldn't he recognize anyone? Where was he before this? Why couldn't he remember?!
His breathing hitched in the back of his windpipe as the question pushed through all the others.
...Who was he?
He felt hot like he was set on fire; his head felt heavy, and his eyes burned. Sitting straight felt uncomfortable, leaning against the chair's backrest felt even worse, and putting his head down on the table made breathing difficult. The large classroom felt small and congested, and all he wanted to do was to run outside and get some fresh air.
The voice cut through the ringing in his ear, and suddenly everything torturing vanished like it never existed. He looked up and saw the teacher looking in his direction... no, the teacher was looking at him. He realized that the teacher was speaking to him. What did he call him by?
Takuma— that sounded familiar. That was his name, wasn't it?
Takuma... Takuma... Takuma...
NO! That wasn't his name. That most definitely wasn't his name— then why sounded so... natural. Why?
Then the curtain was pulled back, and everything hidden behind it was revealed. The memories came rolling in. He knew who he was. The horror of remembering anything receded— and yet, the fear of the unknown still loomed over his neck like a sharpened guillotine ready to lop his head off. He wasn't supposed to be here, where his current location was supposed to be.
Finally, he reacted and jumped up and stood straight. "Yes," he said. He didn't know why, but the name instinctually made him respond, even though it wasn't his name.
The teacher stood frowning with his lips pressed into an unhappy white line. He could feel and see the eyes of other students on him; some were snickering as if his situation was humorous, while others just observed the show.
"Were you sleeping in the class, Takuma?" said the teacher, not pleased.
A voice inside his head whispered: 'Kibe-sensei.' That was the teacher's name, he knew instinctively.
"No, I was not," he said. Wait a second, he thought. The sound— the words— that came out of his mouth wasn't correct; he knew two languages, but the one he spoke was neither. He gulped and could acutely feel the tongue in his mouth that had formed the words with such ease and natural form, without a hint of awkwardness, as he was a native.
"Then you won't mind coming here and solving this question," Kibe said, slapping the backboard lightly beside the problem written in pink chalk.
There was something that was forcing-guiding-propelling him from within, something just at the edge of his attention, there but out of reach. Stopping him from giving up the pretense and giving into the bubbling pit of sheer force of emotions building in the space between his heart and stomach. He couldn't put his finger on it as his gaze went to the writing on the blackboard for the first time. For a split second, he didn't recognize the characters, but before the panic could set in, suddenly, he knew what everything on the board meant— well, there were a couple of characters he was doubtful about, but they were resolved through context. The characters on the board weren't alphabets; they were ideograms— another thing foreign to him, yet it seemed so familiar. He stepped out of his desk and began climbing down the steps on the pitched floor. Thankfully he was sitting on the corner and didn't have to face the awkwardness of pseudo-asking the person-or many- on the long table's edge to step out so he could move out.
His heartbeat spiked up with every step he took to move closer to the front of the classroom. He kept his gaze focused straight ahead on the blackboard, noticing it was more green than black, in fear that if he made eye contact with anyone, they would realize something was amiss. He also didn't dare look back in fear that all the eyes were on him, looking at him... looking at him with eyes full of suspicion.
The floor pitched up around the front, creating a shallow stage with the podium and the two blackboards making one long one. He arrived at the blackboard as Kibe stepped aside, inviting him to solve the question. Taking a second look at the question on the board, he found one thing he clearly recognized with no accompanying internal conflict. The ideographic language was accompanied by Western-Arabic numerals. It was small, but seeing the digits provided him comfort.
He picked up a white chalk stick from the lipped sill beneath the board and stepped back to study the pink question in its entirety. It was a problem that could be solved by division— it was nothing but simple. Feeling confident for once, he stepped forward and began writing the solution; it was easy enough that with some time, he could solve it mentally, so it was easier to solve in writing. He showed complete work through the long division method as he was in a classroom setting, and 'showing the work' was expected of him... or at least that was the convention taught to him.
"... That is correct," Kibe said as he saw the complete solution, sounding narrowly surprised. "Good work, you may return to your seat."
He gave a quick nod to Kibe and was more than happy to return to his. He turned back and was about to move when he noticed something. It was all automatic, subconsciously out of his control, and before he knew it, his eyes had widened, and he was looking back at Kibe. Kibe wore a green flak jacket with a blue full-sleeved vest with a round neck underneath and similarly colored pants of three-fourth length with a wrapping of bandages covering the rest of the distance to open-toed sandals adorning the feet. But the attire wasn't the thing that attracted his attention; it was the thing of metal attached to Kibe's left sleeve— and on it was an engraving of a leaf— a stylized leaf.
He would've dismissed Kibe's outfit as cosplay; if not for the fact he found himself in a strange place without the memory of getting there, where he could suddenly speak and read an unknown language he previously didn't know and that somehow, without knowing, he knew who exactly Kibe was.
A dreadful thought formed in his mind as he knew what the facts of the situation were pointing towards. He didn't want to look down and check, for he didn't know how he would react if his suspicions were correct.
"Is something wrong, Takuma?" Kibe asked when he continued to stare.
Takuma. Just hearing Kibe address him with that name was like a battering ram against his psyche, trying to force him to accept the situation.
"Can I-I go to the washroom?" he asked, his voice breaking in between.
He thought Kibe's gaze lingered for a moment too long. Was he found out? But then Kibe nonchalantly said, "Go, but return quickly."
He didn't know how he got to the washroom. He just followed his feet, and they walked him through the unknown corridors that seemed familiar to a part of his mind until he stood in front of large mirrors over the sinks. The reflective surface of the mirror showed a sight that he feared.
The reflection showed a young boy with black hair and eyes— and yet again, he felt the awful sensation of his mind split between registering the appearance as familiar and unfamiliar. The boy in the image wasn't him, and yet he knew who it was— Takuma. But who was Takuma? He had no clue.
He turned back, walked to one of the toilet stalls, bent over one before hurling his stomach's content into the bowl, and then did it again the second time, completely emptying whatever was inside his body. He would've sat there beside the toilet in stunned contemplation if not for the smell and the taste of vomit in his mouth. He cleaned up and without thought wandered in the hallways of the buildings, numbly taking in the environment he was in. He came across a large bulletin board with a lot of papers thumbed-tacked upon it. Every paper had messy calligraphy on it as though written by a child.
[ A shinobi must see the hidden meanings within the hidden meanings. ]
[ A shinobi must prepare before it is too late to. ]
[ A shinobi must never show any weakness. ]
[ A shinobi must follow their commander's instructions. ]
He stared at them for a moment before moving on until he somehow made it out of the school building. He found himself staring up into the distance at four faces carved into the side of a large cliff— it was as if the faces were looking over the city and its habitants.
There was no more denying the fact where he was. There were only two places he knew that had faces carved into a mountain, and the faces in front of him were in no form presidents of a certain country— so by the process of elimination, only one place remained.
Konohagakure, the village hidden in the leaves, or simply the Leaf village.
"I'm in Naruto," he said to himself, savoring how wrong the words felt in his mouth. He looked down at the young hands, which already had calluses forming; they were so unlike his own. He recalled the image he had seen in the mirror. "I am Takuma."
He didn't know how or why this was happening to him.
He only knew two things—
He was in Naruto.
His name was... Takuma.