Howdy Everyone. Here is the first chapter of the sequesl to Kissing the Wind. You'll notice this second "book" as I'll call it is from a first person point of view. I'm curious to see how it works out, so please comment and review!

Sakura Season

From the Training Journal of Haruno Sakura -Forward

Dear Sakura,

I congratulate you on passing my little test with your team mates Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha. Each of you will receive a logbook to make notes and document your training as we develop you to the next level. Do not document B rank missions or above due to their classified nature, but use these wisely to review what you have learned. I find the more detailed the better. Sometimes it may be helpful to share the contents with me or your other teachers, but overall this is for your personal use the same way you would use a normal diary. Good luck!

- Kakashi Sensei

From the Training Journal of Haruno Sakura, 28 March 112th Year of the Leaf

Its sakura season. My season. It is also my birthday. My parents had something special

planned for me today, but that didn't mean a day off from the new training I've been involved in for the last four months. My Master is fair, but she's not always that kind. That's why I admire her so much. She knows I can't afford to slow down. Not now. Not at the rate Naruto and Sasuke are gaining strength.

The spring brings new life and new promises. Early in the morning I set out, and as I crossed the bridge of the Konoha river, our old meeting place back when we were team seven, the wind blows fresh sakura petals in my direction. The orchard that lines the river is in full bloom, and I consider it a good omen as I pause for a moment to consider my reflection in the water. My head protector gleams in the first light of day, highlighting my distinctive pink hair. It was my father that chose to name me for the blossoms that match that color. That seems strange considering its my mother who I get my love and knowledge of flowers from.

I used to wink at my reflection. It was a childish game when I used to care more about how I looked than how I fought. Somehow I like how I look much better with experience behind my deep green eyes and confidence behind the small features of my round face. My forehead doesn't seem quite so large anymore either. Instead of winking, I promise myself that today I will become stronger.

My promise complete, I hurry to training ground five. It's the place where I last saw him. It was a portion of his energy in the form of a shadow clone to be more precise, but details like that didn't matter in the end. I know the memory of that event will never leave me. Not a day has gone by, perhaps not even a moment in the last five weeks when I have not thought of him, Naruto Uzumaki. I'll never forget that wonderful night in the hospital, or even what the last words that he said to me were.

"I love you, Sakura. Become stronger, so when I get back we can finally put an end to all our troubles."

I can't wait to show him how much stronger I have become, but I know I still have a long way to go before I'm ready.

The training ground is deserted, just like it was that morning last fall. The rays of the sun filter through healthy trees full of green leaves, and the warmth the light brings to my face erases the rest of my sleepiness. The fact that I'm alone doesn't surprise me. Lady Tsunade is very busy as a hokage, and though she trains me when she can, she can't always afford to be around. Besides, she insists most of my training is something I have to do on my own. So I take out a scroll from my pouch and I begin to train again in earnest.

I hate biting my own thumb. It just seems so unsanitary to a medical ninja like me. Instead, I prefer to prick it with a Kunai blade while the scroll unfurls in the air. I've gotten quite good at the timing of doing a summon this way. I just wish I had Naruto's wealth of chakra for something like this, because today my first slug is no larger than it has been for the last two months.

It's a deep navy blue one with a white line down her back. She's about three feet in length. Her feelers are short and stocky and she emits a greenish slime as she crawls slowly away from me. This one calls herself Chimochi. I remember being so excited the first time I summoned one this big. I was progressing rapidly at that point.

"Slugs like this are excellent for healing minor battlefield injuries." My master explained. "Some slugs use a corrosive acid, while others like Chimochi here have healing and

regenerative enzymes. Summon a few of these, and they can get to work healing cuts and abrasions so you can conserve chakra for more serious injuries. Don't forget they can multiply into smaller versions of themselves if you need them to. I once kept seventeen ninja from bleeding to death this way."

"Oh hello, Sakura!" Chimochi says cheerfully. "Training again I see?"

"That's right." I tell her with a nod and a smile. "Please excuse me if I bring you out a few times today, I'm going to try and go larger again."

"You'll call my big sister this time for sure!" she says with gleeful optimism.

I give the slug one more smile before I dismiss her. I still can't get over talking to slugs this way. I won't ever question them in front of my master again though. I was lucky to escape without a scratch at my first lesson.

"But master, why does it have to be slugs? Couldn't it be something cute and furry like bunnies or squirrels or maybe even . . ."

Tsunade-sama shot me a glare that would have made Ochimaru shed another skin.

"Don't take this blood contract you are about to enter into lightly, Sakura. You must trust me when I say these animal spirits suit you best. If you feel you're not ready . . ."

"I'm ready master," I said. "Please forgive me."

Four hours later I fell to my knees, panting. It was another summon of the same size. In fact, it was Chimochi again. She had appeared eight times already. My hands were bloodied from countless punctures, and the sweat stung my eyes as my hair lay matted to my face.

"It just no use," I whimpered pathetically.

For all my skill at chakra control I just couldn't input enough of it in one explosive burst to move to the next level. I felt like I was at my limit. That's when she decided to show up.

"Giving up for today already, Sakura?" Tsunade-sama said from behind me.

Of course I had to act like I knew she was there all along, though it was probably a moot point because I'm sure she saw my back stiffen in surprise. What did she mean, "already"? I was exhausted. I pushed myself to my feet with trembling arms. I turned to face her, wiping the matted hair from my cheeks. I started to bow in greeting, but all I saw was a flicker of movement where my master's green and gray-clad silhouette had just been. I barely got my arms crossed in front of my face and loaded with chakra in time as the Hokage's fist slammed into me like an avalanche, knocking me backward about fifty feet. I flipped in mid-air and somehow landed on my feet, my arms throbbed with pain, but I had gotten sufficient chakra flowing through them to avoid any broken bones.

I had no time to process what was happening as instinct took over. I ducked another punch, sidestepped a knife-handed thrust, and then cartwheeled over her right shoulder to avoid the final strike in a triple combo. Any one of those strikes would have knocked me out instantly.

If I made even the slightest mistake she might even kill me. My master was attacking for real again. It is a testament to the trust she has in my abilities, but I hate it when she does that!

This time her attack had come without warning, and as I desperately tried to gain distance from her, all I could do was wonder why. Did she think I needed more evasion training? Surely there were better ways to build my conditioning?

My master's long blond hair whipped behind her as the speed she moved at created a jet stream behind her. I leapt to safety again, and some poor tree became timber and toothpicks.

"Master!" I cried desperately. "I wasn't giving up! It was just a moment of frust - aaah!"

The woman elder Chiyo had called "Slug Princess" had created a canyon beneath my feet by punching the ground just as I landed. I fell right in, and would have been stuck there had I not punched the ground myself as I fell, widening the gap and sending a wave of crumple earth back at my master. I almost didn't jump free in time. Tsunade crashed down where I had just been with a powerful kick, creating a shockwave that rattled my bones and jarred my teeth. Chunks of rock tore into my back like shrapnel.

"There's only two ways to stop me, Sakura!" Tsunade yelled as she turned to renew her attack. Her brown eyes narrowed with dangerous intent as she spoke her next words. "Either defeat me on your own or summon a slug capable of holding me off!"

My heart was racing. So that's what this was about! My master and I both knew I was no match for her. She may be an unlucky gambler, but I would not bet on my chances against her. This meant there was really only one choice.

I looked at my hands as I leapt up into a tree. They were stained with dried blood and trembling with fatigue. The momentary inattention nearly put me in the hospital. Tsunade punched through the tree and caught me in the right side of my abdomen. I gasped as all the air rushed from my lungs. I hit the ground hard, and bounced twice before coming to rest up against a wall of rock.

Tsunade had told me this new landmark had been created for Naruto's training by Captain Yamato. It was quite impressive. It even had a large, long pond of water in front of it where a waterfall nearly the width of the cliff had cascaded for three full days.

I now found that my master had me cornered between this moat and the wall, and I wished for all the world that the tall cliff would disappear back into the forest from which it was born. I struggled to my feet by pressing my back against the wall of rock and looked up, kunai clutched in a two handed grip. My master's silhouette blocked out the sun, her leg was raise high in preparation for a final devastating blow. There was no way to avoid such a blast of power in time, and there was nowhere to run. I knew it was now or never.

"Summoning justu!" I called as I punctured my thumb and spread a scroll on the ground. At the same time, a let all the chakra I could muster flow from me in one explosive burst into the appropriate place on the scroll. A huge plume of white smoke shot into the sky.

The Hokage never touched the ground. I looked up in amazement as she sat atop a fifty meter tall white slug with blue markings. It was bigger than the cliff I was pinned against. It was

her, the matriarch of all slugs, Katsuya. I had done it. My master looked down on me from on high with pride. I smiled weakly, trying to hide my shock at what I had accomplished.

"That will do, Sakura!" Tsunade called down to me. I sensed laughter in her voice. Maybe it was a little more than she expected, too. "That will do!"

Smiling weakly, I rolled over onto my back and passed out.

I came to a few minutes later to find my master holding a steaming tin cup of warm tea for me. I took it gladly and noticed we were still in the shadow of the ninja-made cliff, and

Katsuya's massive bulk still eclipsed the late afternoon sun. The Slug Queen spoke to me in a very light and childlike soprano voice. I found her tone soothing.

"Its such a pleasure to meet you, Sakura Haruno. Are you feeling better?"

"Y-yes," I said tentatively. I wondered if I should address her with some title, but I simply said. "I'm glad to meet you too." I doubted she knew exactly how glad. I favored my right side as I sipped a tea that tasted of tangy citrus. There was going to be a bad bruise on that side of my abdomen. My clothes were badly torn, and I had several abrasions and cuts. Tsunade-sama noticed my self-examination.

"I hated to resort to Jiraiya's teaching method's like that," my master commented as she shifted from her knees to sit cross-legged in front of me. She removed a tan camping bag from her shoulder and let it rest on the ground next to her. "But sometimes it takes a life or death situation to prove to yourself what you are capable of."

She was smiling sweetly, and acting like we were just together on some picnic. I felt a vein in my forehead pulse slightly. Keep cool. I told myself. Keep cool. Keep cool.

"Don't pawn your training method's off on that old pervert!" I chided loudly, shaking my fist. "I was almost at my limit! Do you have any idea how close you came to kill . . ."

I stopped, remembering my place as my Master's eyes lowered in true sadness. I knew she was thinking about Jiraiya-sama, and I immediately felt guilty about my words. I wondered what exactly it was she had lost when he died. Was he more than her good friend? I thought about Naruto. If I ever lost him . . .

"Oh my!" said Katsuya's sweetly. "She has such a temper. She really is much like you Tsunade."

The Hokage snapped out of whatever memories were haunting her, and smiled up at her old ally. "Oh, she'll be even stronger than me someday, old friend."

Abruptly my Master's attention shifted to somewhere behind me.

"Have you been watching, Kurunai?"

"I was almost late thanks to Shikamaru taking his time coming over to babysit," said a familiar voice. "But I caught the important part. Very impressive, Sakura."

What is it with teachers and their habit of wanting to make a dramatic entrance like this, anyway? At least Gai-Sensei will admit his love of theatrics. I thanked and greeted Kurunai-Sensei as this thought worked its way through my mind. She wore a combat kimono not unlike

the one I was used to seeing her in for years, but it was now as black as her long, wild hair. Her strange ruby spiral-pattern eyes regarded me with interest.

"Well it seems you have more business to attend to," said Katsuya. "If you need nothing further from me, Sakura-san . ."

It occurred to me for the first time that it was I who could dismiss her. Still, she probably was just being polite. Its not like a creature such as her really had to do what I said.

"Oh! Yes . . . I mean no, thank you!" I said hurriedly. "Please be on your way."

"Until we meet again then," said the giant slug just before disappearing with a loud pop and a monstrous cloud of white smoke.

"I must say I did not expect to see her today," said Kurunai-sensei.

"Yes, it even surprised me," beamed my master. "Well done Sakura."

"But don't get too comfortable with your success," the dark haired kunoichi warned me. "Now that you've mastered summoning, your training with me begins."

I felt the color drain from my face, and I tried to hide my apprehension by taking a long sip of tea. During this pause Kurunai-Sensei knelt down beside me on her knees and locked gazes with my master. Dimly it occurred to me they were both the same. They had both lost so much, but especially Kurunai-Sensei. She had lost the father of her child. Asuma-Sensei was part of a growing list of losses in the battle against the Akatsuki. I think the two teachers found comfort in each other at that moment, but at the same time they were both hiding their pain.

"I look forward to it, sensei." I said at last.

"Meet me at the Nara clan dojo at zero eight hundred hours tomorrow," my new teacher said with a gleam in her eye. "And get plenty of sleep. You're going to need it."

"Yes Mam!" I said smartly as I stood up. The tea had restored some of my strength. I made a mental note to get this recipe from the Hokage the first chance I got. The sky was getting dark. The sun had almost set. I needed to get home in time for . . .

"Oh, and Sakura." My master said in a serious tone.

What now? I wondered.

"Happy Birthday!"

My master was grinning broadly and holding out a box wrapped in blue paper with a green ribbon. The warm wind blew as she held it out to me, bringing with it some wayward

Sakura blossoms. I took the present gladly with a bow. When I just stood there dumbly, Tsunade urged me to open it as Kurunai-Sensei looked on.

It was a beautiful new combat kimono, and a Special-Jonin flak jacket. Everything was styled to my tastes. The pants were a deep scarlet, and they were loose and flexible in the same style as my master's. The top was a pale pink rose color and was designed to wrap around my chest and back like a bandage, holding my breasts securely while looking quite fashionable. This left my stomach and lower back exposed, but I agree with Tsunade's belief that it can be an advantage for a kunoichi to maintain a certain sexyness when facing male opponents.

The rose color was also special in that it was photo-effective material and would turn dull gray at night. The ensemble was completed with a light-weight jacket much like the Hokage's.

Mine was scarlet instead of green, and was adorned with my chosen symbol, a white circle for unity and purity in the back. This would be worn over the flak-jacket during missions. The deep scarlet, like the rose, would absorb light in the darkness. I would appear as a formless, shapeless entity to the enemy if I was spotted at all. Tsunade said it would be more durable than my old kimonos. I loved it. Also, the flak jacket meant . . .

"Congratulations, Sakura." Tsunade confirmed. "You're a Special-Jonin now. If you can excel at Kurunai's training, I'll consider testing you for Jonin."

I nodded my understanding. I wouldn't let them down.

The sun slipped below the horizon, and I suddenly realized I was going to be late for dinner with my parents.

"Excuse me master, Kurunai-sensei," I said hurriedly. "I need to get home."

"Understood Sakura," the Hokage said. "I'm sorry for keeping you."

I leapt from the training area as fast as my ability would allow. I hoped my parents would be understanding.