Title: Look at Me Now

Rating: M

Summary: Strange old people in caves are generally to be avoided in the fairy-tales Sakura has grown up reading. But the offer of training from one old lady in a cave in the Land of the Waves not only makes Sakura throw caution to the wind, but teaches her that power comes to those who seize it.

Words: 6270

AN: This is the rewritten version of Look at Me Now, rewritten for added clarity, details, and just to be a better story altogether. At the original time of writing, we were just being introduced to Ootsutsuki Hagoromo in the manga, so many of the later details we have learned, especially those introduced to us in movies and Boruto, have been discarded. (because I'm forever salty)

Chapter I: The Lady in the Cave

The forest behind Tazuna's house in the Land of Waves was for once filled with the noise of shinobi. The lone girl amongst them, Sakura, looked down at the two boys who had yet to come close to the tree tops, while she sat on a branch a mere meter away from touching the sky. Despite the praise her sensei had given her, the young ninja could sense he had done so to motivate her teammates rather than compliment her. Pouting slightly, she leaned back against the tree and caught her breath. She'd run up the trees several times now, and now her chakra felt depleted, unlike Sasuke and Naruto who made no progress but were still going.

Sakura wasn't stupid; she knew one of the reasons she had good chakra control was because her lacking chakra reserves. Her father had said himself when he attempted to drill the Academy basics into her. It wasn't like Haruno Kizashi had been mean about it, just honest. Honesty was something the pink-haired chuunin respected, Sakura had come to learn from being raised by him and her mother. Both were shinobi, but her mother had practically retired to raise Sakura and Kizashi going on missions was pretty rare these days.

Given that honesty was valued amongst her parents, Sakura did have the ability to be honest with herself. And the truth was that Sakura was steadily slipping behind. Perhaps the boys hadn't noticed the gap these past few months (they were always busy squabbling), but Sakura had since the first day. Naruto had at least attempted to fight; Sakura was out from one genjutsu.

When they were attacked by those chuunin, Sakura jumped in front of their client and protect him, out of pure instinct. And even as Naruto froze up, Sakura still subconsciously knew that she was very little protection to Tazuna indeed. When that frightening man Zabuza had attacked them, Sakura had slammed Naruto into the ground in case a repeat of his earlier performance happened, but there was nothing else she could do besides that one moment of unnoticed heroism. All she did was watch the backs of Sasuke and Naruto as they worked together to free Kakakshi, worrying on the inside that Zabuza could carve through her like a hot knife through butter and she didn't have any way to stop him from doing so.

The gap, Sakura felt, was wide, and there was little idea of how to breach it. Every time she asked her mother to help her train, the woman shrugged and changed the subject. It really left a girl to her own devices.

That's why when Naruto came up to her asking for help, Sakura smiled on the inside. At least in this she was ahead and on top. And if she could get them to keep coming back to her, her comrades, maybe then perhaps there'd be no gap to speak of.

Sakura had never seen poverty before. The sight of it settled uncomfortably in her stomach as she met the gazes of hungry faces. Dirty children played in ruined streets that looked neglected and misused. It wasn't that Konohagakure was free of the poor, it had its slums of course. The young kunoichi had even ended up lost in the Red Light district before, a small area consisting of a couple connected alleys. But the misery of it all never exactly hit you in the face, like here. She'd already given a couple of sweets to some large-eyed rugrat who'd begged her for some with dirty, outstretched hands.

'And that brat better be thankful, we don't have much left!' chimed in a familiar voice, one Sakura referred to as 'Inner', an internal conscious that voiced thoughts Sakura usually didn't agree with. It occurred to her that others didn't have an 'Inner', or perhaps they weren't spoken of, but Inner's presence within her mind was well-established.

'Not like I really needed them anyway, Inner.'

Sakura couldn't have said no to the kid. The same uncomfortable feeling she had through this walk rose up into her throat and made it harder to swallow when she thought of the little boy. The old man had said that the bridge was being built to rekindle courage in the people of Nami no Kuni, but what good was courage when there were empty stomachs?

She kept that question to herself as they walked along the famous Wave mangroves to Tazuna's house. Along the way something caught her eye. In the distance, on the shore, she could see something glinting in a cave partially hidden by beach rocks. Curiosity piqued, she stared until she could make out something, no, someone. A figure of silver? She couldn't tell for sure.

And in that moment, Haruno Sakura made a very foolhardy decision.


"Yes, Haruno-chan?" the old man replied. He was kindly to her, despite the attitude he gave Naruto. Sakura assumed it had to do with her being a girl and thus the most approachable of her squad.

"We're almost to your house now. Do you mind if I drop you off and go, umm, scouting?"

Tazuna shrugged.

"Makes no difference to me, as long as I get home in one piece. Don't stay out too long though, girl, my daughter's making dinner." said the old man gruffly.

Sakura nodded and quickened their walking pace. Within two minutes they were setting their bags down at the house, before Sakura sprinted back to the shore.

"Where's she going?" asked Kakashi, not looking up from his book while lying down on the futon provided to him by the family. Tazuna shrugged.

"Said something about scouting."

Outside the cave facing the shore, Sakura briefly thought that this wasn't the best of her ideas. She was usually a by-the-book kind of girl, and something was telling her this was a very reckless idea.

'Maybe I should really go back and tell sensei I saw something.' She thought.

'Are you going to wuss out again?' Inner spoke up. 'You're so boring, Naruto would have been in there by now. Sasuke-kun isn't afraid of anything either. Come on, scaredy cat, experienced ninja like Zabuza wouldn't have set up camp here anyway.'

'Don't call me a wuss, I just think it's better to be-'

"I can tell you're out there. Come in."

Sakura jumped an inch into the air at the sudden disruption of her thoughts. As she gathered her wits about her, she noticed that an old woman was peeking out of the cave and at her. The woman had very long grey hair and was wearing a formal looking kimono. She beckoned her in with a gesture of her hand and Sakura, suddenly feeling very nervous, followed her into the mouth of the cave.

The cave was roomier than expected, with cushions and long pieces of fabric spread around tastefully, and a futon laid out close to a small fire. The woman sat down on a cushion and picked up a blackened stick to tend to the dim flames.

Unsure of what to do, Sakura stood still in the mouth of the cave with a sheepish expression on her face until the woman pointed to a cushion opposite of her. The young kunoichi suddenly remembered her manners and sat down to observe the woman.

On second glance, she didn't look that old to be honest, just the hair, but she had a refined and wise air to her regardless of her age. Sakura turned a little red, feeling more embarrassed than she had been earlier. The lady didn't seem like a ninja and Sakura was probably disturbing her.

"I'm so sorry, Ma'am, I just saw something shiny and thought perhaps you were a ninja!" The apology burst out of her abruptly and Sakura shamefully lowered her face.

The woman finally made eye contact and Sakura saw that she had a very beautiful, smooth, and pallid face, with pupil-less golden eyes. Sakura couldn't exactly tell what expression she was making but something in her gut said the old(?) woman was sizing her up.

"It's alright, kunoichi-san. Shinobi, by their very nature, are curious people. Yet, you are here, so you may as well share some tea with me for it is not often that I receive company."

Not wanting to be impolite, Sakura nodded and adjusted her posture to be as proper as she could get it. The cave wasn't very pretty, but the genin had a feeling that the lady was someone to be impressed, maybe just by how she properly spoke. Her speech and mannerisms spoke of fine-breeding, of nobility. How odd that a noblewoman would be in little cave like this.

For the first time she noticed that near the woman was a teapot and beside that a mortar and pestle. The woman set the teapot on over the fire on some sort of iron grill.

"How did you know that I'm a kunoichi?" Sakura asked, watching the flames lick the bottom of the teapot.

"I've come across those in your profession before. And you are wearing a headband." Sakura blushed at the answer before frowning. The woman, and the cave, it seemed like something out of a fairytale, like the ones of youkai who'd take on the forms of human beings to fool them and lure them into danger.

'Maybe she is a youkai, and we're going to be eaten! She could be an onibaba and when we aren't looking, she'll open her mouth and swallow us whole!' Inner shouted with fear in her mind.

'Don't be ridiculous,' Sakura thought back nervously. 'Onibaba don't exist.'

A high-pitched whistle alerted her to the fact that the teapot was boiling, puffs of steam rising out of its spout. The woman grabbed the teapot by the handle and off the fire, took a cup that matched the teapot and poured hot, steaming tea for Sakura as the girl ran through the steps of traditional tea ceremonies in her head. The proper way to conduct oneself in tea ceremonies was taught at the Academy, but Sakura had never thought she'd need them as a genin.

"Thank you." said Sakura, taking the cup with both hands and sipping, trained not to be bothered by hot surfaces. The woman simply observed her, neither smiling nor frowning, just calculating.

"From where do you come from, child?"

The tea was hot, bitter, with an unusual taste.

'Not unpleasant,' thought Sakura. 'Just some strange herbal blend.'

She set down the cup and pointed to her headband with her thumb.

"Konohagakure no Sato, Hi no Kuni. I'm here on a mission with my team."

The woman drank her from her tea cup, closing her eyes for a second as if to contemplate what to say next.

"Please call me Takehana. I am too a traveler to these islands with a mission of my own. Do you have a name, child?"

"My name is Sakura, Haruno Sakura."

Takehana's golden yellow eyes met Sakura's green ones once more. This time a shiver passed through the twelve-year old's frame as those shrewd, clear eyes looked her up and done. Sakura broke eye contact and drank her tea quickly, not sure what she should say to the woman so clearly scrutinizing her. To Sakura's surprise, Takehana gave her a small smile.

"That is a powerful name, Haruno Sakura-san. Do take care of it; it speaks of many adventures ahead. But as a ninja, you already know of adventure, yes?"

The statement preceding the question confusing her, Sakura shook her head, the embarrassed blush back on her face.

"This is our first trip outside our village…And while something did happen earlier, I don't know if it's very adventurous." Sakura paused to drink some more tea before quietly muttering, "I'm lucky to be alive." Takehana gave no indication she heard the last part of Sakura's answer.

With every minute that passed, Sakura felt more and more at ease in the cave with the strange woman. Even Inner was quieter now that the woman showed no ill intentions. She barely kept track of the time, preoccupied with the warmth spreading through her body from consuming tea.

"Every battle is a lesson to be learned from. You should say thanks that you have another day to learn from your fights, for it is rare that one lives long in your profession, Sakura-san. Only the truly strong survive."

"I know that," Sakura began, the words flowing out of her. "Yet, it's hard when you only see the backs of your comrades."

Embarrassed of how easily she just revealed some of her deepest insecurities to a complete stranger, Sakura shrunk in on herself for a moment before noticing that Takehana had refilled her cup of tea. Soft, red light filling the cave informed her that the sun was setting.

"I see," Takehana said, putting away the teapot before placing her hands on her lap. "Sakura-san, what does one do if one has the will to get ahead but not power?"

Feeling that this was a rhetorical question, Sakura just continued drinking the tea in silence, unsure of the answer herself.

"You take it. By force if need be." The small, knowing smile on Takehana's face widened to show teeth. It did not illuminate or beautify her features, rather just made Sakura's spine feel cold. The tea was so soothing, so comforting, but underneath that calming atmosphere it caused were Sakura's muted instincts that Takehana was powerful, and not to be treated lightly.


Sakura broke out of her reverie when Takehana addressed her.

"Ah, yes! Sorry, I've been a little absent-minded recently." Sakura laughed anxiously, squirming on the cushion. "You were saying?"

"I have come to this land to search for my...grandchildren and to take care of some…duties. So far my efforts at locating my family have been unfruitful, yet I do believe our meeting was a most fortuitous occurrence."

"Huh?" queried Sakura, quite confused.

Takehana spread her arms wide, the sleeves of her kimono billowing out.

"This," and she gestured to the cave, "was all fated. Our paths were supposed to cross here."

"Why d-do you think so, Takehana-san?" The young kunoichi asked with little certainty in her voice.

The woman lowered her hands and took hold of her teacup again.

"You seem to be in need of...guidance and polishing. I am in need of companionship. So, young one, how about you make a deal with me? You shall visit me daily as your mission allows and I teach you something that might help you fight a few more battles."

In the light from the last minutes of sunset, Takehana looked almost ethereal, and the shadows on her regal-looking face oscillated between menacing and entrancing. The fire crackled loudly for a couple of seconds before the woman extended a hand to the young girl. Unlike her other features, Takehana's nails were long and showed wear.

'What harm could come from this?' thought Sakura. 'She just seems lonely and if I learn something cool I could show up Naruto and Sasuke-kun!' Inner, again, was silent.

And so, Sakura took the plunge and shook Takehana's hand. For a brief moment, as skin touched skin, Sakura felt Takehana's hand and it felt, well, not like a hand should feel, slightly squishy. But that brief moment passed in less than a second and Takehana's hand soon felt like the hand of a woman unaccustomed to hard work; soft.

"Then it is settled. Come tomorrow and I'll show you something." Takehana let go of Sakura's hand.

Sakura took this as a cue for her to leave, surprised at how her teacup managed to get to Takehana's side so quickly.

"Thank you for the tea, Takehana-san." Sakura bowed to the woman after standing up. An idea came to her and she stuck her hand into her pouch, removing a wrapped sweet, and handed it to Takehana. The woman palmed it, staring at it as if she had never seen a candy before.

"It's a sweet I had left over, from Konoha." A gift, Sakura wanted to say, for believing in me.

Takehana nodded, dropping it on her lap.

Waving goodbye, Sakura exited the cave and headed for Tazuna's house, wondering if she should mention Takehana to Kakashi-sensei. A kunoichi who did as she was told would have, but Sakura wasn't sure she wanted to be that kunoichi anymore. She wouldn't tell the boys either. Takehana was her own secret, after all.

The world seemed a clearer place when she met Takehana the next day after finishing up with Tazuna. She was waiting for Sakura in front of the cave, barefoot on the rocky sand. It struck Sakura that the woman was very tall, taller than most women she'd seen, something she hadn't noticed back in the cave. Tall, with ornate kimono skirting the beach, Takehana cut an imposing figure.

Sakura took a deep breath in to steady herself as she approached. Obviously some of the nervousness she had felt last night had carried over to the next day.

"Takehana-san!" She called out, approaching the woman. A breeze wafted through the shore, causing both women's hair to whip around them as a light sea spray followed the wind. Takehana merely swept strands out her face as she glanced at Sakura.

"Sakura-san. You have returned."

Struggling with getting her bangs out of her face, Sakura nodded.

"I did agree to a deal…"

"As did I. Come," Takehana gestured to the shoreline. "Let us discuss what I can teach you."

A cool mist from the sea accompanied them on their walk as Takehana led Sakura away from the cave and down to a more secluded area, harder to spot from the other shore line.

"My knowledge," Takehana spoke up as they began their walk, causing Sakura to perk up. "Is not that of a shinobi, for I have never had any 'proper' training in your arts, yet I can offer you more than words, though they are a boon themselves."

Sakura frowned as this little detail of Takehana's life was given to her. No proper training in the shinobi arts, but that left room for some knowledge, at least. But it confirmed she was civilian, like Sakura suspected her to be.

"It will be subtler things that I shall impart to you, child, than ninjutsu or genjutsu. In some areas, your shinobi arts will save your life, but in some instances what I give to you will as well. Yet, a tree will only bloom if it roots well, so you and I must first lay the foundations of your education. You are familiar with chakra, of course."

"Yeah! It's one of the first things we're taught about." Takehana kept on walking.

"There is not a living thing in this world that lacks chakra. Old stories tell of a time when this was not the case, when chakra was more a dream than reality, but our world has been reformed time and time again by it, so that even the earth scarcely remembers such a time. All your shinobi arts are mere manipulations of chakra, and so for mastery of them, one needs to master chakra."

"Master…chakra? You mean chakra control?" Sakura asked.

"Yes, you shinobi gauge your mastery by 'chakra control'. How easily you are able to call forth and shape it, with no waste. Without this fundamental skill, the more advanced parts of your craft are useless to you. As you know the term for it, I presume you'd had some instruction in controlling your chakra?"

Sakura nodded before shrugging, putting her hands in her pockets. "I, well, we did some exercises in the Academy and Kakashi, ah, that's my jounin sensei, he had us learn tree-walking this week." Sakura bit her lip before hesitantly adding, "I was the only one who got in one try." It was a small boast but there was something there, and Sakura wanted just one person to be genuinely impressed by that feat instead of using it as a motivator – Kakashi – or ignoring it altogether.

Takehana hummed, acknowledging she heard her. "Perhaps you have a particular aptitude. Is that the extent of your chakra mastery training?"

Sakura nodded as her companion slowed her pace and they stopped walking, mere feet away from the water.

"Very well then," Takehana said, sweeping a hand over the expanse of the water in front of them. "Today will be the day you learn to walk on water."

Sakura's breath caught in her throat as she gave the sea a wary look. Being on the shore meant that the water was shallow, however she knew it soon grew deep enough for barges to cross it, having seen one as they boated to the island.

"Is it just like tree-walking?"

"It is a similar process to walking up trees, but unlike the tree, which is steady and unyielding, the water flows and crashes. The chakra then must be consistent, as well neither too strong or light, and maintaining it must be second nature. Temperature matters as well, but we will work with the cold waves of this land. I trust you can swim if something happens."

Sakura nodded anxiously and when a minute of silence went by that meant Takehana was waiting on her, she trepidly approached the water. The leaf kunoichi lifted her foot up and focused her chakra into the soles of her feet, imagining some flat surface made of chakra and then repelled the water with it. She let out a gasp as she saw that her foot met not water but something solid. A minute later Sakura was about several feet from the beach. She turned around to grin at the old woman.

"Yeah! I did it!" Sakura let out, before remembering her inside voice and covering her mouth. She gave a sheepish smile towards Takehana, who nodded. And just as she turned to walk farther out, Sakura felt her control slip as a large wave crashed into her back. She fell into the water and swam back to shore, her earlier elation now replaced with irritation. How was she going to explain wet clothes to the others? She took Takehana's hand and pulled herself up, huffing as she squeezed water out of her hair.

Takehana poked her head and pointed to ships not far from them as Sakura tried to dry herself.

"As you must have noticed, this island is under a blockade. Which means that crossing sea to get to Hi no Kuni is a dangerous undertaking. However, I have a mission for you which requires just that. Practice around the shoreline until you can run across water. When that happens, whether today or not, I want you to make yourself as inconspicuous as possible before running across to get to the other shore and retrieving some items on that side of the shore." She handed the pink-haired kunoichi a small scroll.

"The items listed will come in handy in our other training."

Sakura frowned, briefly looking inside the scroll. The names of plants and their descriptions were written out in very neat kanji. Takehana took the scroll back and waved her hand to show that Sakura should continue with her training.

Being early May, the days were getting much longer and warmer, especially in the humid and warm Land of Waves. By the last few rays of sunlight, Sakura could zip around the shoreline, and she figured out a trick to getting herself steady during incoming waves. If the waves were small, she'd steady her feet with just a tiny bit of chakra. If it was a wave of several feet, she'd pour chakra into knees as well and her lower legs would then repel the water away from her.

Naturally this took out most of her chakra, so a very damp Sakura walked back to the cave, exhausted. Takehana was drinking tea again, looking up after a minute of the young girl's entry.

"I trust you will be able to run across to the other side tomorrow."

Sakura nodded reluctantly. The shore of the land of fire would only be twenty minutes away if she ran from the closest point of the island, however she felt uncomfortable at the idea of running and being caught by Gatou's men. She decided to not voice these fears to Takehana, mainly because as a ninja she should be able to deal with being captured. She hoped.

If Takehana noticed the seeds of doubt on Sakura's face, she didn't mention them, just gesturing to another cup full of hot tea waiting at her side. Sakura noticed the smell was different this time and that the mortar and pestle had been recently used.

"It's a brew I made to help regain strength. You should drink it before you collapse, Sakura-san."

Sakura smelled it curiously before drinking it. The taste was bitterer than yesterday, but with a fruity aftertaste. After a couple of sips of it she felt a little more alert than before in regards to her chakra, something she noted with interest.

"Takehana-san? Does this replenish chakra?"

"Ah, you've noticed. Only a little. My teas are quite special."

Sakura looked into Takehana's clear eyes, once more noting how the woman felt dangerous. Though from their training, the young genin felt that the woman didn't wish to harm her and, unlike Kakashi-sensei, actually gave her personal training. By the time she finished her cup, Sakura felt some of her chakra return and her body felt less sore all over.

"That's why I am going to teach you some of my mixtures."

Sakura felt herself sweatdrop. Teach her to make teas?

'I don't have time for things like that. I wanna kick some ass!' Inner, who had been quiet since training started, spoke up. Sakura quickly shut her down.

"My brews are special, as I have proved. Imagine if you are out of chakra, nearing exhaustion, and need to get out of a tricky situation. A few sips from a flask of the tea you have just drank and you'll be back on your feet in no time – no need for soldier pills. Don't underestimate non-traditional shinobi arts, Sakura-san. I could show you how to make everything from balms that will heal scars to undetectable poisons that can take out an enemy camp. Precisely that's why I need those herbs."

Sakura opened her mouth in awe.

"Those plants…they can do that? And you're going to teach me that?"

Sakura never really considered following into poisons, or medical jutsu. Though she knew had the control for it, iryojutsu always seemed too complicated, too much of a support skill too. The medic-nin she'd encountered in her life were almost certainly confined to the hospital. Combat medics were rare. Sakura, with the little thought she'd ever put into her future as a kunoichi, wasn't sure what her exact career path was to be, but such a sideline like iryojutsu...

Takehana had begun pouring the tea into a bottle, which she wordlessly handed to Sakura, along with the scroll.

"I will teach you if you are willing to learn, child. Make sure to eat and rest up for your task tomorrow, Sakura-san. You'll need your head and energy if you want to get through the blockade unnoticed."

"Yes, Takehana-san."

"Why do you guys have to make even eating a competition?" Sakura yelled at her retching teammates, who kept asking for more food despite the fact they were obviously full.

"Must...train." said Sasuke in between large bites of food.

"Must…beat the…bastard!" rambled Naruto, though seeing him eat with such great gusto and absolute lack of table manners was less surprising than watching Sasuke eat besides himself.

'These two idiots!' huffed Inner.

'Yeah,' thought Sakura. 'But they're my idiot teammates.' It was a fond thought – that the boys and her were part of a team and thus this behavior, undoubtedly stupid as it was, was also excusable.

"Ah, Tsunami-san? May I please have another portion?" asked Sakura, raising her bowl. Kakakshi stared at her with an amused expression.

An encounter with Tazuna's grandson later, Naruto stormed off to go train with Sasuke following close behind, and Sakura looked intently at Kakashi. After hearing the story about Kaiza that Tazuna had told, along her doubts about being able to make it to the shore, as she looked at her empty plate she wondered if there was something she could do to conceal herself. Her dress and hair were not the best things for a misty-

"That's it!" squeaked Sakura out loud before clamping a hand to her mouth in embarrassment.

'He had his Sharingan on, right? That means he could have copied that Mist technique and that means he can teach it to us, well, me. I can use that to hide myself as I go across the water.'

Kakashi looked up from his porn.

"What is it, Sakura?"

"Oh…umm. Hey Kakashi-sensei, you think you can teach me a technique? You know, since I'm beyond tree-walking." Kakashi closed his book in thought, looking at her. Sakura, egged on by Inner, widened her eyes a little, to help the decision along

"Maa, of course. Le-"

"Ah, so you'll show me the Hidden Mist Technique, right, Sensei?" Sakura grinned at her teacher whose lone eye gave her a look of exasperation. He stood up, firmly walking on his crutches and motioned for her to follow him. It was dark already and the sounds of Sasuke and Naruto doing their night training could be heard in the distance as they reached a small creek near Tazuna's house.

"Now, tell me, Sakura-chan, why do you want to learn something like this?"

"Well, you see, Sensei, during the fight I noticed how well the mist hid Zabuza and how useful it would be to remain undetected. So I thought that perhaps if I learn it I can have the element of surprise on my side or I can hide in places with water." Which was true, per se. Sakura wasn't lying about how useful or what she would be using the technique for. She looked into Kakashi's eyes to see if he bought it.

"That's some good uses for the technique. I have a few more you might be interested in. You see, it's lucky that Zabuza hadn't gone up against a Sharingan-user before because otherwise he would have seen that my eye doesn't do well against his mist. Do you know why that is?"

Sakura tapped her foot and thought back. That was the first technique the Mist-nin had used. There was an incredible amount of chakra around him and then the chakra turned into mist, aiding with dispersing killing intent all around them.

"I've got it. It's because your Sharingan can generally only follow chakra and since the mist is the user's chakra, you can't distinguish the user from the outward chakra."

Kakashi's visible eye crinkled upwards.

"That's why you're the top-ranked Kunoichi in your class. Yep, though other doujutsu like the Byakugan would be able to spot him. But as you can see, it is a very deadly technique." He adjusted his crutch and made a seal with his hands.

"The only seal is the tiger seal, so hand seal-wise, it is not difficult. The difficulty you'll have is getting it to work. Now, since you're the brainy-type, I'll explain the concept behind this technique so you know how to use it. Ever heard of Chakra transformation?"

Sakura shook her head.

"When breaking down techniques, there are two processes to creating them. One is chakra shaping and the other is Nature Transformation. Usually when combining the two you can create your own jutsu. Luckily Kirigakure no Jutsu works without Nature transformations if you have water, or else I wouldn't be able to teach you that technique."

Sakura stored the information for later, to look when she could get to their library. She knew that ninjutsu of higher levels generally followed an elemental release; but she didn't exactly know the theory behind it. Considering the fact mist came from water, she could guess that the Hidden Mist jutsu was a Suiton; a Water Release. But Kakashi had said she wouldn't need an understanding of the elements to perform the jutsu. She looked into her sensei's eye quizzically.

"Let's see if your chakra control is good enough for this. Release some."

She made the tiger seal and let out good portion of the chakra she had left. The familiar feeling of her own chakra surrounded her as she opened her eyes again to look at her sensei. Even in crutches he looked so cool, so laid back. He lazily pointed to the water and Sakura began trying to move her chakra to the water. She focused on an image in her mind of carrying the water with her chakra and within a couple of seconds she could feel tendrils of water whirling around her with her chakra. Smirking at being able to do this so quickly she focused on making the chakra-laced water mist around her. Her teacher's wide eye was the last thing she saw before the mist obstructed her view of him.

"Sakura, try spreading it out." He commanded.

It took several minutes to do so. Though she didn't need to add chakra to the mist, she instantly knew how much the jutsu needed just by feeling; spreading her chakra out took more focus than drawing up the chakra from her admittedly small pool of it. By the time she got the thin layer of mist to spread around her a little more her head was aching and her eyes drooping.

Kakashi clapped his hands together twice, though the sound sounded as blank as his expression. Sakura dispersed the jutsu, rubbing her head from the headache it left her with.

"Focusing that much was hard, huh?"

Sakura nodded. She wasn't sure how many more she could do of those without falling to mental exhaustion – or worse, chakra depletion. Especially since she was supposed to try and attempt it tomorrow along with running across a large body of water. She hid the urge to yawn and looked at her sensei again.

"Okay, let's try it a couple of times, hopefully you have enough chakra to manage it more." And then he went off to sit on a large log, his crutch resting while he absentmindedly flipped through Icha Icha, looking as if he wasn't watching his student train.

But underneath that aloof façade and occasional chuckle from something in the pages, Hatake Kakashi was observing his student. Sakura's aptitude was pretty surprising. From the stats he received from Iruka he knew of her chakra control being exceptionally good for her age. It was a misconception that smaller reserves meant better chakra control – often times they correlated and it was recommended for those with below average reserves to focus on improving control, but in truth good chakra control wasn't caused by small reserves. It was a skill on its own and as if every skill, some were born with talent in it.

But it wasn't her quick prowess with the technique that gave Kakashi pause; it was that she actually asked for help. Generally, genin who passed the exam are self-sufficient to some extent. Many are 'clan brats' and have their families' techniques to help them out. Naruto was an example of a non-ninja raised conscript. More peculiarly, Sakura was raised into a family of ninjas who didn't seem like they wanted to train her. Kakashi only briefly knew Kizashi and Mebuki, they were of Minato-sensei's generation. Kizashi was a chunin and he couldn't really remember anything remarkable about the man's skills. And as for Mebuki, well, she retired. But none of this really explained why Sakura seemed less prepared for shinobi life compared to other children from shinobi families.

"Hai, sensei." Her cheery but strained voice rang out as she tried the Mist technique a few more times. Occasionally she would sneak a peek at her reading sensei, looking for some reaction to her work. After an hour her chakra was near depleted and Sakura could feel the beginning of real exhaustion overtake. But that effort had been rewarded with a less concentrated mist, one that was a little more spread out and could cover her actions as well as the surrounding area. It was far from perfect and Sakura had no idea how she would keep it up and make her way across the water, but for the night…

"You look pretty done for tonight. We should get home before you pass out."

Sakura nodded and stretched herself. Kakashi was already en-route back to house on his crutches and she walked behind him. Something about this trip was dong her good, making her want to train. Maybe it was the unexpected attention from both a stranger and her actual sensei, but Sakura could feel content about her progress that day. It wasn't a normal feeling, coming home to rest knowing you have accomplished something, but it was one Sakura thought to be a feeling she liked.

Right before she was to enter the room she got to herself (she couldn't share with Naruto or Sasuke), her two teammates came back in from after dinner training, heading to their room. The two parts of Team 7 looked each other over, noting how exhausted they all looked and Sasuke gave her an acknowledging nod while Naruto gave her a little weary grin. Sakura mustered up a smile before sliding into her and falling asleep quickly, feeling far more content than she had for a very long time.

Author's Notes Part 2:

Kirigakure no Jutsu - Hiding in the Mist technique. A technique that causes mist to disperse and conceals the user. Drawbacks are the fact it's pretty damn hard to see in it unless you have Byakugan. However, it screws up Sharingan and Rinnegan because those Doujutsu (Eye Techniques) are so finally attuned to chakra they can see it and having a shit load of chakra-mist around is probably sensory overload.

I'm far from done with the re-write, but seeing the old version of this chapter up made me annoyed, so I guess you'll have to deal with the writing style switching up on y'all until I get it all updated. Leave me any questions or comments you have!