Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto...
Update Note: Here's chapter 3! Editing this is not as hard as I thought it would be. I was pretty meticulous when it came to grammar and descriptions. There was a little bit of confusion at the beginning, but I fixed it. Yay!
Note: 'Italics' are thoughts.
Chapter 3: "Contrary to popular belief, I don't bite."
One word could describe how Haruno Sakura was feeling at that moment: confliction.
Sakura sat with her back against her door. Her chin was resting on her knees and her face was buried in her rumpled dress. She didn't know why she was crying. Neji was 100 right about her clothing. She had been caught in dangerous situations in the past because of her dress and hair. All he did was forcefully point it out to her, no harm done. Now she was on her floor, crying like a baby just because she didn't take him seriously. It was her fault that he humiliated her. If she had taken off the dress herself, she wouldn't be feeling so violated and confused. It's not like she had anything more reveling underneath, but she still felt dirty.
'Why did it make such a big difference when he did it? Why did it make such a big difference when he slipped my vest off of my shoulders? Why did it make such a big difference when he slowly unzipped my dress? Why do I still feel his touch on my skin? Why do I still feel the trail he made down my arms? Why? Argh!'
She buried her face deeper into her dress as she cried harder. She was surprised when she felt something hard graze her cheek. She pulled the article away from her face and let the dress unravel. That's when the scroll that Neji gave her dropped out of the tangled mess and rolled across the floor.
"Right- the scroll."
She forgot all about the dress and her tantrum and crawled across the ground on her hands and knees and picked up the rolling document.
'Read it, understand it, bring it tomorrow.'
She really didn't have to return it. She could just destroy it now and not go through six weeks of hell. She could stay a lower ranked Chuunin with unsatisfactory ratings. She could… but she wouldn't.
'I don't care what Kakashi has said. I don't care what Neji has said. I want to become more. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I can do this!'
She tossed the scroll on the table, quickly changed into something more comfortable and put her teakettle on the hot plate. She stood over the boiling water, letting the heat warm up her neck and face. Her brow slowly smoothed itself out and the damp, dark trails of tears and mascara dried and a damp perspiration caused by the hot water replaced it. She stayed like that for a few minutes, letting her muscles relax.Like clockwork, the kettle howled. She hurriedly prepared her tea and looked towards the small living area, sizing up her tiny paper opponent.
The rolled up scroll wasn't supposed to be scary. It represented change, but change that she would have to achieve alone. No Team 7. Or did she?
'This is something I can't do by myself, guys.'
She stopped by her windowsill and grabbed her most prized possession- her Team 7 photo. Placing it on the table and sitting down, Sakura rolled up her sleeves and unrolled the scroll.
Sakura woke up minutes before her alarm went off. It was just as well. She hadn't slept much last night. During those waking hours, she was immersed in thought.
Reading over the scroll gave her a better understanding of what tasks she needed to complete:Ninjutsu, Genjutsu, Taijutsu, weapons, healing and a written test. The written test would be a piece of cake, but the other few were pushing it. She had training in each one, but she had no specialty. She knew a thing here and there and that was it. That wouldn't be good enough for Neji.
"If I work hard then I have nothing to worry about," she said to herself, turning towards her closed closet door.
Well, almost nothing…
"I gotta find clothes!"
The now frantic and disheveled pink haired Chuunin threw open her closet doors, pushing the hangers back and forth in their cramped enclosure.
"This is bad," she sighed, "I have nothing to wear."
Sakura started her trek to Neji's training grounds a bit earlier than she should have. Her early departure was due to the fact that the land was not familiar to her yet. To her surprise, she didn't get lost and arrived fifteen minutes early. Instead of taking that last jump down to the grass below, she sat in a tree. She looked out on to the grassy field. Neji was in the middle standing still with a light blue aura of chakra visible around his body.
In a split second, he began to punch and kick an imaginary target with a fury she hadn't seen in years. She didn't want to blink, but the gentle breeze that came off of his fury passed her green eyes and she was forced to blink. When she opened her eyes, the breeze stopped and Neji was nowhere to be seen.
"It's not polite to stare, Sakura-chan."
She immediately looked up to where she heard his voice. When she did, she lost her footing and began to fall. She shut her eyes tightly, but never hit the ground. Instead, she felt a pressure around her wrist. Her bright eyes opened and looked up to see Neji dangling upside down from the branch above the one she was just on, hanging on by his legs.
He brought his free hand down and steadied it on the branch she was just on, unhooked his legs and he swung down.
"I'm going to let go."
He let go of her and she landed easily on her feet. He followed a second later.
Sakura looked up at him for a moment with a face of astonishment and then it changed to anger. She hit him hard on the back, "What'cha doing scaring people like that? I could have broken my neck!"
"But you didn't so it doesn't matter. Why are you here so early?"
"I'm always early."
"Next time don't hide in the bushes. Announce yourself properly."
"But I didn't want to interrupt you or piss you off or anything."
He crossed his arms over his chest, "Contrary to popular belief, I don't bite."
"Could have fooled me," she said under her breath.
He looked at her then, trying to study her face. That's when he noticed she was make-up free and her hair was mostly out of her face. Her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail with a few chuck framing her face because of its cut. Her forehead protector was in its usual spot, probably holding back even more loose hairs. He stepped back a bit to survey the rest of her. She was wearing the proper Chuunin vest with the same black mesh top and navy mid-drift she had the day before. Her hands were bear and wrists to forearms were covered with brown leather wrist sheaths. He made his way down and noticed the wide brown belt around her waist. On her belt hung a small shuriken pouch and another pouch to hold her kunai. She wore slightly oversized navy shorts that came to her knee and on top of the pants was a mauve handkerchief decorated with brown swirls. Her knees were covered with kneepads and her feet were adorned with standard Konoha sandals.
"Your attire is satisfactory."
"What? This old thing?" she did a twirl, "It's just something I had laying around."
He took her arm in his hand and turned them so her wrist sheaths were facing the sky revealing thin metal weapons, "Poison needles?"
"Contrary to popular belief, I don't poison my tutors."
"I'd love to see you try," he smiled.
She countered his smile with one of her own. She knew he was serious, but it sounded too much like humor to pass up a smile, "You would."
"What's in the bag?"
She beamed now, holding the bag straight out in front of her, "Our lunch!"
His eyes widened for a second, "Our?"
"No one told you to make me lunch."
"No one told me not to."
"Very well. Leave it over there in the shade. I want to discuss a few things."
She dropped the bag under a tree and followed after him, jogging a bit to keep up, "What kinds of things?"
"Things," he sat down and she sat across from him, "Did you bring your scroll?"
"I did," she reached into one of her many pockets and pulled out the scroll, "Here you go!"
He took the scroll from her hand and unrolled it on the grass between them, "Do you have any questions?"
"No, I don't."
She searched her vest pockets until she found her only pen, "Here."
Neji looked at the writing instrument with disgust, "Pink?"
"I like pink and it's the only one I have," she smirked, "And correct me if I'm wrong, it's one more pen than you have."
He scowled at the bright pink writing instrument in her little hand and snatched it away from her. He quickly signed his name to the document and looked at it for a second. His scowl turned into a frown, "The ink has sparkles in it."
"Isn't it nice? I'm sure the Hokage will like it."
"Whatever," he handed the pen over, "Sign it."
She turned the scroll around and did so without hesitation. When her pen took its last stroke, the scroll disappeared, "Stupid Jounin parlor tricks," she said under her breath.
"I'm sorry, did you say something?" He looked at her knowingly.
She gave him a genuine smile in return, "Nope!"
"Good," he stood up and motioned her to do the same, "Let's get started. Walk away from me until I tell you to stop."
She nodded and did so.
"Stop! Face me."
She turned around to face her tutor. She squinted slightly, the mid-morning sun in her eyes.
"Spread your legs a hip length apart. Then holds yours arms out away from your body."
"You're not gonna frisk me, are you?"
"Not exactly," he waited for her to say something, but she didn't, "Byakugan."
"Hey, wait a second," she held up her hands in self-defense, "I'm not prepared for this! Come on, Neji!"
"Silence! I'm not going to hurt you just yet. I just want to evaluate your chakra control so I know if my itinerary will be sufficient."
"I don't understand."
He huffed in frustration, "I want to know if you can keep up with what I have planned."
She mouthed the word, "Oh," took her previous position and activated her chakra.
He watched the blue energy glowing throughout her body. It moved slowly along its wire-like path, "Left hand."
It took her a second to realize what he wanted. She channeled her chakra to her left hand.
"Right hand. Left leg. Right leg. Nose. Left ear. Right ear. Right pinkie finger. Left knee. Tongue. Third vertebrae. Eyes. Left elbow. Right elbow. Left ankle. Right pinkie toe. Excellent!"
"Yes- your reaction time is immaculate. Your channeling is perfect."
"Did the Great Hyuuga Neji just compliment little old me?" she brought her hand dramatically to her chest.
"I did, but we are not finished."
"Oh, of course not," she blushed slightly.
"I want you to make a replica of yourself and deliver a right hook."
She preformed the appropriate seals, "Bunshin," and a pink haired replica of herself stood before her. She brought her arm back and landed her fist on the copy's jaw, causing it to disappear. She found Neji through the smoke and he didn't look too happy.
"You made a perfect replica, but your punch had nothing behind it. Do it again, this time let your chakra travel through your arm as it comes closer to your target. Right before it hits, send your chakra to your fist."
She nodded, formed the same seals and did what he told her to do. Instead of instantly disappearing, her replica was thrown back and when she hit the ground, she vanished.
"That's better, but your form is wrong."
"But did you see it? I send it flying!"
"You did, but you could have easily hurt yourself with that sloppy form."
"Oh yeah? Show me then," she produced another clone and stepped a few feet aside.
"Oh no you don't," in one swift movement he had a hold of Sakura by her shoulders. Her back was up against his front and they both stood with their right sides facing the clone, "I am going to instruct you on what to do. It should be just a review for you, but please pay attention. Understood?"
"Sakura," his gloved hands tighten on her shoulders, "You're not going to accomplish anything with that attitude."
"You're right," she turned her head to look at him and was surprised to see his face so close to hers; closer than she had expected, "I-I'm ready when you are."
He heard the nervousness in her voice. Not only that, his Byakugan could pick up on her discomfort easily. He wasn't sure what she was so nervous about so he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, let's just get thr-"
"No, something's wrong and you can not lie. I have been instructed to form a bond of trust with you."
She turned around to face him, "What makes you so sure I am lying?"
He simply pointed to his eyes and frowned.
"Isn't that an invasion of privacy?"
"Unintended, of course."
Sakura turned back around and huffed, "It's nothing. Just second day jitters. Can we continue?"
Without conformation, Neji put his hands gently on her hips and forced her flush against his body, "Your legs are to be a shoulder length apart."
She was going to follow his direction, but she felt his right foot against hers, nudging it on the proper place. He did the same with the left foot.
"Your knees must be bent," he gently pushed on the back of her knees with the front of his until they were properly bent.
"Put your weight on the balls of your feet," he momentarily put pressure on her hips and relieved that pressure a few seconds later.
"The top of your forearm should be facing your opponent, as well as the back of your hand. Your hand shouldn't move above your eye level," he snaked his hand around to the front of her body and took hold of her right wrist, turning her arm and hand the correct way.
"Curl your finger into your palm and cover the tips with your thumb," he tucked her fingers into her palm and positioned her thumb.
"And when you connect," he brought her hand out away from her body and lightly tapped the clone with her fist, "Do it with the index and middle knuckles. Got it?"
He stepped back, but she could still feel the brush of his chest when he inhaled and the short gusts of air when he exhaled, "Y-yes."
"Good- just remember not to aim at your opponent's face. Your target is beyond it. And don't forget about your chakra. Now try it."
She assured her position with her legs apart and bent. She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip. She bent her arm at her side and made the proper fist. Then with lightning fast movement, she twisted her wrist, extended her arm and pushed her chakra into her fist with a loud grunt.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Neji standing before her and the clone was gone, "Very good."
She jumped a few feet in the air and squealed, "I did it!"
In a flash he had his hand gently around her neck, "Don't celebrate. It gives the enemy an opening. Just because you are training, doesn't mean you can take everything lightly."
He looked at the fear in her eyes and felt her erratic breath under his hand. She was terrified of him, 'Interesting,' he let go and deactivated the Byakugan.
She caught her breath and collected her thoughts, "S-sorry."
He sat down on the grass, "Come, sit."
She plopped down carefully in front of him, keeping a fair amount of distance between them, "B-but I did do good?"
"I told you how you did. I don't give compliments easily and never more than once. Don't pry."
"Of course, sorry," she looked at him with curiosity, "What now?"
"I am required by the Hokage to tell you what to expect."
"Isn't that what the scroll was for?"
"Ideally, but a specific schedule for both you and Godaime are required."
"There is so much paperwork," she stated absently.
"Tell me about it," he pulled two scrolls out from behind his back. One was the scroll containing her records; the other was a brand new one.
"What's the new one for?"
"This week we will continue with the material you should already know. If improvements are needed, we'll work on it some more during the sixth week. The weeks that follow will be specifically tailored to Genjutsu, Taijutsu and Ninjutsu. Do you understand so far?"
She held up her fingers and counted each week, "First week is basics, second week is Genjutsu, third week is Taijutsu, and fourth week is Ninjutsu. What about fifth and sixth? What about weapons training and healing?"
He noticed the giddy glint in her eyes when she mentioned these, "I am sure we can fit those two in on the fifth week."
"And the sixth?"
"You will work on anything you are not sufficient in. The last day of tutoring you will take the physical and written tests. And anytime during the week before your official testing date, I will giving you a surprise examination myself to verify your skills to see if you are ready."
"How are you going to verify my skills?"
A malicious smile appeared on his face, "You'll fight me."
"No way! Six weeks of training will prepare me to beat you," she said, frantic.
"You don't have to beat me, you just have to prove yourself."
She sank back, "Oh."
"Hey, don't look defeated so soon," his produced a fake smile, "It'll be fun. And speaking of fun, I need to fill out this paperwork. While I am doing this, you will practice what I just showed you."
"Do you need my pen back, Neji-kun?" she said in a teasing manner.
"Just gimme the damn thing and go beat something up."
"Only if we eat when you're done."
"Fine," he grabbed the pen and opened the scrolls, "Now go."
She stood up and saluted, "Yes, sir!"
"Is that all you are eating, Sakura?"
"Yes, I'm on a diet."
"Sakura, tell me. What do you usually eat on a daily basis?"
She bounced the pair of chopsticks against her bottom lip, trying to tally up her daily intake, "I usually have a cup of tea and toast for breakfast, something similar to this for lunch and about the same for dinner."
"Yeah, that's it. Why?"
"For the smartest in your graduating class, you are really stupid."
"You heard me," he said, not meeting her gaze.
"I did, but why would you say that?"
"To produce an adequate amount of chakra to perform most jutsus, you need energy. You gain energy from food," he looked up at her, "Get it?"
"I knew that, but I didn't think it made much of a difference."
He shook his head and continued to eat.
He carefully put his bento down and placed his chopstick across the top, "You didn't know how to properly land a punch. You also don't know how to eat correctly. What were you taught?"
"The same things as you."
"No," he stopped. She really left herself wide open to his insults, "Wait, maybe you are right. We were taught the same things, but unlike you I didn't spend my genin years paying attention to other things."
She slammed her chopsticks down on the sheet they were on, "Don't start that again. You don't know enough about me to say how I spent my genin years!"
"And I don't claim to. The only thing I know about you is what was written in the scrolls and from personal experience."
"You can't know too much about me! You ignored me most of the time. And- and where in that scroll tells you what it's like to be a Kunoichi? It doesn't. You don't know what it's like to have to be protected by default just because you are female. You were the number one rookie in your graduating class. You have no idea what it's like to have to struggle to be strong. I lack the seals or the daemons or the unlimited charka supplies or the bloodline traits. I am just me! Everything you see comes from just being Sakura!"
"You think that I am strong because of the Byakugan? That is got me to where I am?"
"I was only born with these damn eyes. That's the only thing I had. No one taught me how to use them. My uncle didn't train me. I did this all myself! I achieved my strength with determination and hard work, same as almost everyone else. You are as strong as you are determined, Sakura. Show me. Show me you are determined and you will be stronger," he took his raging eyes off of her, "Show me and I will respect you."
She was a bit surprised by his statement. Never did she expect to hear encouraging words from him. There were so many sides of Hyuuga Neji that she did not understand and it was a bit overwhelming. She didn't know whether to fear him or trust him, "I- I'll do it. No more doing what I can just to get by."
"Good. Now," he picked up his chopsticks and pointed them at her, "Finish that sorry excuse for a meal. We have the rest of the afternoon to train."
He watched her dejected expression as she stuffed small portions in her mouth.
"Hmm?" she didn't look up.
"This isn't a game to me. I'm being hard on you for a reason. I'm doing it to keep you on your toes. It's hard work to be a ninja and it's even harder to be anything more than a Chuunin. I'm doing this for your own good."
She looked up at him and gave him a genuine Haruno Sakura smile, "I know. It's just that in two days you have pushed me to do more than anyone ever has and you actually believe I can do it. You aren't giving me special treatment or sugar coating anything and it means a lot to me."
He was speechless. When he started this tutoring thing, he intended to break his student until he or she did what he told him to. He wanted his student to fear him. Instead, his student was praising him, 'Where did I go wrong?'
He continued to eat, not wanting to look her in the eyes. Not wanting her to see his bewildered expression, "I'm only doing my job."
"I know and I will do mine."