Title: What Counts Out There
Author: Killaurey
Summary/Note: Ino and Sakura have a disagreement over marks when the midterm exam results are posted. Set about a year before they graduate. Unbeta'd.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Kishimoto does. This was done for Solitare3 on livejournal.

Rubbing her eyes sleepily Ino approached the Academy. She liked school - really she did - but she didn't see why they had to be there at six in the morning five days a week. Her mother had told her that the non-shinobi schools didn't start until nine.

Ino thought that that was totally unfair.

When she had complained to Iruka-sensei though he'd told her that it was training. Shinobi had to be able to function on less than optimal sleep. So it made sense. But, as she walked up the steps and into the Academy, she thought that nobody had said anything about liking it.

Turning down the hall where her classroom was located Ino came to a stop and blinked. Then rubbing at her eyes again, took in the sight of a crowd of her peers looking eagerly at the bulletin board just across from their class.

She walked forward curiously - Ino couldn't remember Iruka-sensei saying anything about putting up a notice... and it was the wrong time of the year for any of the survival camp sign-ups. There was nothing for it she thought with a shrug, she'd have to check it out herself.

Elbowing her way through the crowd and ignoring the protests Ino pushed her way to the front and gazed up at the board. The mid-term marks were up! She was surprised, they'd only taken them last week.

Her eyes tracked up the chart, Uzumaki was the lowest as always, then Shikamaru, Chouji was right in the middle. Huh, Sakura made sixth overall. She beamed when she saw her name - she was second overall and first for the girls. And Sasuke-kun was the first.

Still beaming brightly she shoved her way out of the crowd and slipped into the classroom. Suddenly, her day was a lot brighter. Second place was nothing to sneeze at.

She sat wearily on one of the swings in the playground - Iruka-sensei had started them on chakra control and she was exhausted. Her father had taught her the basics of it before, but her sensei had had them doing it for hours as they practised Kawarimi no Jutsu and she wasn't used to that yet. It was fun however, switching with things at the last moment, and though she was tired Ino was also pleased. She had gotten it right before most of her class.

"Ino-pig." Sakura stood glaring at her, hands on her hips and pink hair in disarray.

Ino sighed and looked down at the ground, Sakura had been acting funny around her all day. "Hey. Why don't you take a seat?"

There was silence long enough that Ino looked up puzzled and realized that Sakura was studying her with narrowed eyes.

"What?" Ino asked irritably, "I haven't done anything for you to be mad about."

"I don't see how you beat me. My marks are higher than yours."

"On theory tests, yes." Ino conceded fighting against her rising temper. She'd gotten second on her own merits. "But on practical I always kick your ass."

Sakura huffed, sitting herself on the ground furiously, "I don't see why practical counts for so much more than the theory. They should be even - both are important to being a shinobi."

Ino stared at her incredulously for a moment then laughed, "Use your giant brain, forehead-girl! It's obvious why."

"It's important to know all of the theory." Sakura insisted with a toss of her head, "What if you messed up a mission because you didn't know the proper protocols?"

"You're serious aren't you?" Ino asked biting back her laughter rather than giving into this time, "You really think that a bunch of theory is the most important thing to becoming a shinobi? I'll give you that it is important, but not the most important. No way."

"I didn't say that!" Sakura objected, "I just meant that I thought that they should be judged equally. Only thirty percent for theory seems a bit low. Like it doesn't matter."

Ino stood and stretched, deciding that she'd heard enough of this nonsense to last her a good long while. "Sakura, it's obvious why they mark it that way," she told her again, "out in the real world they'd rather you come back alive, than know all three hundred something shinobi sayings. That's why practical is rated so much higher than theory. Out there it's more useful."

"I still think they should be the same." Sakura told her stubbornly climbing to her feet and dusting her outfit off. Taking a step forward she continued, "Hokage-sama wouldn't want missions lost because of ignorant shinobi."

"Oh? I think Hokage-sama would rather living shinobi than a bunch of corpses, forehead-girl. He wants shinobi that can survive, not merely those that can spout information. And that," She turned away, letting her hair slap Sakura in the face, "Is why I'm better than you."

Ino walked off, leaving Sakura fuming behind her. She hummed the whole way home.

R&R, please.