It was a day like any other. My alarm woke me up, I turned off my alarm, fell back asleep, and then slept through my exam review, because apparently getting up before noon is impossible for me. I spent the rest of the day sitting in front of my computer, drawing sketches of my dumb OCs instead of preparing for finals and surviving off chips and soda, because it was cold outside and I didn’t want to take the one-block trip to the grocery store. At 1AM, I realized I hadn’t even started my philosophy essay yet. Hell, I hadn’t even done all my readings. So, of course I decided that the best thing to do with my time was to absently scroll down my infinite dashboard with cute animal videos and art that’s too good to be true.
During said endless scrolling, one of those writing prompts came up.
Imagine if you woke up in your favourite series’ universe. You ask around about the main character, trying to figure out where you are in the story, but it seems like nobody has ever heard about them. You soon realize that you have to play the role of the main character.
I can't remember exactly who posted it or what the exact words were, but that was the gist of it, and I thought the idea was pretty cool.
Until it actually happened.
When I realized I was running, I didn’t think much of it at first. I had a lot of dreams where I was running to or from something. Except, normally, when I run in dreams, it feels like I’m wading through water. This time, however, it actually felt like I was running. My feet pushed off the ground instead of sliding around like that stupid QWOP game that I still can’t beat, and my lungs were starting to burn for air.
I thought that maybe, finally, I was lucid dreaming, which got me excited, but then I remembered that one of the things about lucid dreaming is that if you get too excited, you might wake up, so I immediately diverted my attention to the spectacularly plain, dirt road that I was currently running on. From there, I began to take in my surroundings, and the more I saw, the more I realized that maybe this wasn’t a lucid dream after all.
The buildings were mostly made of wood and metal – hardly any concrete, or none that I could tell. There were no cars or paved roads, or anything else that made this place look remotely like the downtown area of a big city. What stood out the most, however, was the giant carvings in the side of the mountain that loomed over the entire place.
My focus went from the giant heads to the tinier ones – ones that were actually attached to bodies – that were chasing me down the dirt road. Headbands glistened in the sunlight, which only further confirmed the dreaded truth that I was facing.
The realization fell upon me like a barrel of moist bread, because that’s how incredibly gross I felt when I registered what was going on.
Please don’t tell me I just landed my sorry ass into a manga series.
And to make matters worse…
I decided to let myself grasp at the microscopic sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t completely right about my current predicament.
“You’re not going to get away with this anymore!”
I can’t believe this actually happens.
At that point, I realized just how fast I was running. All the adrenaline from thinking this was a lucid dream, to realizing where I was, to realizing that I was being chased – it almost made me forget how pathetically unfit I was. Once I remembered, though, it wasn’t long before my body responded by appropriately collapsing into heaving fits. It was a good thing I had a strong stomach, or I might have thrown up just then.
“What do you think you’re doing during class?!”
The familiar voice of one Umino Iruka rang in my ears, which really didn’t help with the whole Look-I-Just-Ran-What-Felt-Like-A-Marathon-Can-You-Please-Just-Chill thing. It also tore away any hope I had of all this not being my absolute worst nightmare-that-was-actually-my-current-reality.
I guess that’s that, then. I really am--
…Okay, not the name I was going for, but I guess that sounds enough like… like…
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt true terror.
Whatever the chuunin was yelling about, it was going in one ear and right out the other, because whatever the name of the actual main character of this series was…I couldn’t remember it.
And I’ve written fanfiction about these dumb ninjas, too.
“I’m taking you back to class right now!”
I couldn’t reply, mostly because I was too busy internally screaming at the fact that I was now the main character of some huge manga franchise about ninjas, but also because I’m a terrible runner and I will never ever catch my breath again, ever.
Geez, I’m not even gonna last until tomorrow at this rate. Worst. Protagonist. Ever.
“Oi, Satoko! You’d better be listening!” Iruka yelled, and I glanced up just enough to acknowledge his presence.
Satoko… Satoko… Where’ve I heard that-- oh, right. Isn’t that the chick from Higurashi?
“Don’t think you won’t get punished for this!”
After recovering enough to straighten up, I finally managed to say something, albeit between deep breaths because shit I am so unfit for this job (pun intended).
“I wanna go home.”
Iruka fell silent, but I could feel the rage boiling within him, and damn, those crazy manga-anime effects were not exaggerating when it came to his anger.
“What makes you think I’ll let you go home after this?! I’m not letting you off that easy today!”
Dear Original Main Character: heck you for being the most annoying little shit ever.
* * *
I don't know why I thought being unfit was going to be the worst of my problems.
I was in a world full of ninjas. And you know what’s in a world of ninjas?
And you know what ninjas use?
And you know what I had no fracking clue how to use?
“Time for a review test on the Transformation Technique!” Iruka shouted as the entire class protested at once. “Transform perfectly into me!”
I was officially fucked in more ways than you can cook a potato.
As the students lined up at the front of the class, I did my best to ignore the scowls coming my way. Honestly, of all the protagonists I had to be, it was that one orphaned kid that was hated by the entire village.
Well, at least I’m not attacking titans, I guess.
If that were the case, I would actually literally die the first day on the job.
“Uzumaki Satoko!” Iruka yelled, and I held my breath.
“This is all your fault,” the student behind me muttered, but I was too busy trying to figure out how the hell I was supposed to get myself through the situation to acknowledge them.
Alrighty, here we go – what did Sakura say during the tree-climbing exercise about chakra? Something about physical and spiritual energy or something…
Honestly, all I could remember was that damned abridged series and the damned abridged explanation of the whole deal, which wasn’t helping me at all.
“Sa-to-ko!” Iruka shouted again. “We don’t have all day!”
“Y…Yes, sir.” I sighed and dragged myself forward.
I took a moment to remember what the hand seal looked like and at least tried to look like I knew what I was doing when I brought my hands together.
Oh my god.
The sheer ridiculousness and obscurity of this entire situation sunk in completely right at that moment.
I can’t believe I’m seriously making a hand seal in a totally serious attempt at freaking ninjutsu. My weebness has officially reached maximum velocity. There’s no way I can be any more of a weaboo than I am at this very moment in time and space. Are you proud of me now, mother?
Speaking of my mother, I still haven’t gotten around to contemplating what the hell was going to happen now that I was here and not there. You know, in the real world. Where I belonged.
“Satoko…” Iruka’s voice was a low growl this time and the rage was slowly beginning to return.
“Right!” I answered quickly and widen my stance. “Right. Transformation Technique. No problem.”
I took a deep breath and cleared my head of all distracting thoughts. Contemplating what lies ahead can wait until later, I decided. At that moment, I made myself focus on the chuunin’s appearance and what I really hope was chakra and not nervous gas. That wasn’t supposed to happen until the Chuunin Exams.
A few moments of silence passed. Other than the feeling of every pair of eyes focused on me, I felt nothing.
“What an idiot,” a student whispered, “she can’t even perform such a basic technique!”
I couldn’t stay true to the level of athleticism that the original main character (who, from this point on, shall be referred to as Protagonist) had, but at least I was staying true to his idiocy, even if it wasn’t exactly intentional. Actually, it might be even worse.
“Satoko!” Iruka bellowed. I was starting to get tired of hearing that name. “Even you should be able to perform this technique by now! I’ve seen you do it before!”
“Well, it’s been a long day…” I answered meekly.
The chuunin fumed silently, but this time, he swallowed his rage and sighed deeply.
“Forget it, I’ll deal with you later.” He said and addressed the rest of the class. “That’s it for today, class dismissed!”
Even if I knew how to get home, I wouldn’t have been able to leave because once the students were scurrying to grab their things and leave, Iruka grabbed my shoulder. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised.
“Not you, though!”
I was really tired, though, and I needed some proper time to take in this new reality, so I really just wanted to get away from any of the actual cast for a while.
“C’mon, Iruka-sensei.” I groaned, hoping to play into the sympathetic side of his character. “I promise I’ll train once I get home!”
If there was one thing about me that might help me survive this world, it was that I was a pretty fast learner. Being a hobbyist dancer and a musician, muscle memory was one of the few things I could take pride in.
“I’m sure you will,” he smiled, and I was na´ve enough to let myself get tricked by the brief warmth he displayed before his glowering returned, “but not until you clean up the Hokage Monument!”
Ah, shit. I forgot about that.
* * *
As tedious as it was, at least washing off the graffiti gave me some time to think. There was so much to think about, though, it was hard to figure out where to start. I decided that going over the basics was probably the best way to go about this whole thing.
Okay. So, I’m in the Protagonist-verse, and I’ve appeared to have replaced Protagonist, which is probably why I can’t remember his name anymore.
I could remember everything else about him, though – his backstory, his role, his personality, and his end game – everything but his name, which I suppose made sense. If I was the main character, and this world was actually a franchise, then it would probably be known as Satoko in the real world.
Since I’m the main character now, I can’t back out that easily, either… Besides, maybe if I stick around long enough, I can find a way back to my world. Until then, though, I’ll have to take on Protagonist’s role. I scowled to myself, though Iruka probably thought it was because I was upset about having to clean up the mess. Stupid prompt.
Which led me to my next train of thought.
If I’m supposed to play the role of the main character, does that mean I have to be as obnoxious and as big of a moron as Protagonist was? I supposed that was the best way to make sure the story played out as it should, but… I don’t really wanna end up being stabbed by dozens of needles…or fight Gaara…or lose an arm…
I frowned and nearly shuddered at the thought.
Being a main character is way too much work, and I don’t think I have the energy or the pain tolerance –especially the pain tolerance, oh god – to live up to proper Main Character standards.
Despite that, my best bet was probably to act close enough to how Protagonist was. It was trickling in little by little, but small snippets of his memories were becoming my own. It was helping me understand the way he acted and what his reasons were for acting that way, which helped, but it wasn’t like my own personality was going to make a sudden one-eighty.
Besides, keeping up Protagonist’s energetic character was going to be hard to maintain. It would be easier to slowly shift his character to my own personality. Maybe if I just made the same decisions as him, but with a little less yelling, it would be okay. Besides, it was mostly about getting through to people while using my backstory as a weapon of empathy. I usually didn’t agree with this mindset, but in this case, it was all about the ends.
At least I have the Power of Friendship on my side. Now it’s just a matter of being able to use it. I frowned. Yeah, okay, that’s probably doable. I’ve made fun of its redundancy enough to know how it goes.
Too bad it never worked on Sasuke. Which reminded me of another cruel fact.
I’m the one who has to deal with that motherfucker.
Don’t get me wrong, though. By the end of the series, I could’ve written an entire essay about why Sasuke ended up being one of my favourite characters. It’s all about looking underneath the underneath (hah), but it still doesn’t change the fact that throughout the entire series, he was always trying to kill somebody, and I wrote that one crack-fic about Kakashi being fed up with dealing with Sasuke’s (and everybody else’s) shit because I could only imagine how tiring it was to actually be involved.
Well, I won’t have to imagine for much longer.
For anybody out there who thinks it would be super cool to be a main character – you’re wrong, you’ve always been wrong, and you’ll always be wrong.
After spending way too much time contemplating all the future agony I would probably have to endure and miraculously survive, I tried to focus on the bright side of things, like getting to meet my favourite characters.
Even though a lot of them are the ones who are gonna try to kill me…
Damn it. That’s not the only pro, though. Everybody dreams of being able to change the storyline as they see fit, right?
I wondered how much I had to stay true to the canon universe. One thing I liked to do while writing fanfiction was being able to give more credit and attention to the characters who I thought never got enough. The idea of making a few changes was appealing, like making Sakura even just a tad bit less of a shrieking fangirl in the first part. Hell, maybe I could even befriend her somehow.
With a female lead, say goodbye to the obligatory love triangle.
Well, actually, that’s not completely true, but I wasn’t worried about getting a crush on the twelve-year-old Sakura. I could wait the two-and-a-half years before possibly falling head over heels for her flawless glory.
And I guess there could still be a love triangle if Sasuke ended up crushing on me…
I stopped cleaning the monument and coughed – loudly – to cover my snort.
Oh, man, I really hope me being here instead of Protagonist didn’t mess up the universe that bad.
On the topic of relationships, though…
…What about Hinata?
My brow furrowed at the realization that Hinata’s entire motivation was basically gone now that Protagonist was replaced by a girl. Unless Hinata wasn’t a heterosexual, or unless I could still somehow manage to get her to admire me by giving it my all, or whatever it was Protagonist did to catch her attention.
Shit, now the pressure’s really on.
I liked Hinata’s character, and I didn’t wanna end up messing it up… along with literally everything else that pertains to the canon storyline.
“I won’t let you go home until you clean all of it.” Iruka said, pulling me away from my thoughts.
Whatever expression I was wearing, it probably made him interpret is as annoyance, which technically wouldn’t make him wrong.
What was it that Protagonist said that got him free food?
After all the internal panic I was experiencing, I didn’t realize how hungry I was until now.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not like I have anyone to go home to,” I muttered, because I was pretty sure it was something along those lines.
I scoffed and went back to scrubbing, too hungry to feel bad about taking advantage of his character.
“Satoko…” He started, and I silently basked in victory.
“What now?” I grumbled.
“Well, uh, if you clean all this up, I’ll buy you some ramen for dinner.”
Even though I already knew what was coming, it didn’t make my happiness from the promise of free food any less genuine. I flashed a bright smile and nodded enthusiastically.
“Awesome!” I cheered. “I’ll be done in no time!”
* * *
Seeing how I basically had to teach myself to use chakra overnight if I wanted even a chance at passing the graduation test (which actually didn’t sound all-too different from what already I do for finals), unlike Protagonist, instant noodles wasn’t going to be enough to keep me at it. So, despite my usually small appetite, I made sure to stuff myself as much as I could in order to last me the night.
“Why were you doing that to the monument?” Iruka asked as I reminded myself to eat slowly, despite how starving I was. “Don’t you know who the Hokage are?”
“Of course.” I said after swallowing. “Whoever’s Hokage is basically the strongest shinobi in the village, and the Fourth Hokage was the one who saved the village from the fox demon.”
Which is now sealed inside me, but I don’t think I’m supposed to know that, yet.
“Then why?” The chuunin asked.
I took this as my first chance to subtly change Protagonist’s ambitions to fit my own style.
“One day, I’ll become a Hokage way better than any Hokage that’s ever come before me!” I said firmly, because even if I was going to give my words less volume, the surreal optimism had to be the same. “I can’t stand the villagers treating me the way they do, so if I become the greatest Hokage, they’ll have no choice but to respect me.”
Iruka quirked his head, seemingly intrigued by my answer. Shortly afterwards, however, his borderline-doubtful look became a confident smile.
“Then you’d better keep your promise to train extra hard! I’ve never heard of a Hokage who can’t even use the Transformation Technique.”
“I was just having an off-day today, is all,” I lied while nibbling on one of those weird, spirally rice cake things that came in ramen sometimes. “Just wait until tomorrow. I’ll show you what I’m made of, then!”
Even though it was completely because I didn’t actually have the choice to do otherwise.
“Well then, good luck, Satoko.” He smiled warmly.
It was a genuine smile, and thinking back on the cruel memories of villagers legitimately throwing things at Protagonist – at me – because they didn’t want me around… Well, now I really understood why Protagonist loved this character so much.
“Thanks, Iruka—” I grinned before very quickly adding “—sensei.”
Honourifics were going to take some getting used to.
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Story notes: I'm not quite sure how to categorize this, since TONFA doesn't have an SI section, so I guess I'll group it under OC-centric.