Disclaimer: All Naruto characters are the copyright of Masashi Kishimoto. I'm just borrowing them to write up a story with no intention of making any money. This is for fun. That's all. :) No copying of my story is allowed. That's stealing if anyone copies my story into his/her own story. Write your own story without taking others' works! (angry glare)

A/N: Once more this chapter has not been beta-read, etc., so there will be spelling and grammar mistakes.

If sentences are all bold like this, this means it's being told in 1st person in a book.

Spoken sentences in brackets ("I told you so.") means the person is speaking through a radio.

Story rating: M (R)(for adult themes, sexual and blood)
Written: April 2009 - Present

Summary: By surviving the Uchiha Massacre, one woman changed the path of destiny.

The Matriarch of Destiny
Chapter 7 – Judgment of the Matriarch
By JuPMod (aka JPMod)

("This is Cyclops. Are you three in your positions?")

("Night Storm here. I'm in position.")

("This is Blossom. I'm in position.")

("Kitsune here. I'm in position.") … ("Can we kill it?")

("That'll make our mission a failure, Dobe.")

("Not to mention having the Fire Daimyo's wife wanting our hides! Listen to Night Storm, baka!")

("Aw, man! Can we kill it just once? It has nine lives anyway.")

("As much as I understand your frustrations, Kitsune, killing the target will not help the mission, especially given it only has one life.") … ("When you three are ready, commence operation.")

("HAI!") Three voices spoke as one.

Suddenly the operation was underway as Kitsune sprang into action. The sounds of a small, startled animal was heard, and soon after, Night Storm joined in the fray as he too frightened the animal toward a particular area. It was not long before the animal was startled again and gave a huge hiss.

("She got away from me! She's heading back toward you, Night Storm, Kitsune!")

("That does it! I'm not going to stand to experience the same thing as the last two times! Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!")

Not long after, feline hisses and meows were heard in the forest. It was clear from the sounds, that the target has been captured.

Sprinting toward the animal sounds, Night Storm and Blossom came toward their blonde teammate, who held up a fishing net with an angry cat inside while several Kage Bunshin were around him. "Mission accomplished!" he grinned. "This cat is bagged once again!" The boy turned to give an evil grin at his captive, close-up. "You're caught once more, Tora!"

Tora's response was to rapidly slash at her tormentor's face, causing him to cry out in pain. Yet before the feline could hit the dirt upon the blond releasing him, the sole female member of the team caught her.

Naruto and his clones glowered at the tubby cat, which was out of the net and now calm in Sakura's arms. "I still say we should kill it."

Feminine green eyes rolled heavenward. "Will you ever stop with the notion of killing Tora? It's not her fault for being good in outmaneuver you at times."


After letting out a breath over his teammates' antics, Sasuke pressed the microphone on his radio collar. "Night Storm to Cyclops. Mission accomplished," he reported at the same time Naruto dispelled his clones.

("Good work, you three. Let us return to the Tower now. Cyclops out.")

As the three genin began the trek back to the Hokage Tower to return a reluctant Tora to her owner, a frustrated Naruto spoke to his adopted brother as the pair trailed Sakura several paces back and out of hearing range. "Want to bet that Kakashi-sensei will not bother training us today… Again?"

Sasuke frowned. "I'm not taking a sucker's bet. I wonder whether we can convince the Hokage to allow Mother to be our sensei instead."

"Yeah," the whiskered boy agreed. "Least Kaa-chan will teach us something."

The Uchiha Heir nodded in concurrence. Since they had became a team two weeks ago, all they ever done were doing these worthless D-rank missions. There was no doubt some of them required good teamwork in order to get the job done, like this Tora Retrieval mission, which was the third time for the team. Yet at the same time, was it Hatake's job to train his team to become better? The silver-haired jounin has yet to give any training exercises what so ever. It made Sasuke wondered how the Copy Nin ever was allowed to become a jounin-sensei to begin with.

Sakura sighed. As she walked through the throng of people in the village's business district, the girl wondered what were all these D-rank missions about. Thus far, all her team done was chores that most civilians could handle on their own. Some no doubt required teamwork and other skills, like the Tora Retrieval mission done for the third time yesterday, but it was driving her crazy to think that these missions were so important to hire genin ninjas to accomplish.

Sighing again, the pinkette's thoughts led to her personal goal in snaring Sasuke. The boy kept shooting down her advances, making her think maybe he was gay or not interested in a relationship for the time being. It was frustrating. Before graduation, she had dreamt of being on the Uchiha heir's team, allowing her the opportunities to snag the boy for herself without Ino and the rest of the fangirls interfering. Yet even with her finally on Sasuke's team, she still was going nowhere with catching her prize, no more than she was able at the Academy.

"Well, it does not matter!" Sakura mentally said. "I'll keep trying, until I win!"

"SHA! THAT'S RIGHT!" encouraged Inner Sakura. "WE'LL BAG SASUKE-KUN YET!"

The rookie kunoichi was so self-absorbed on herself that she didn't notice approaching a particular flower shop. That was until a familiar condensing voice snapped her out of it. "Well, well. I haven't seen you, since we've been placed in our teams two weeks ago, Forehead."

Jade eyes quickly locked onto the blond girl wearing her purple kunoichi outfit with a work apron over it. Sakura quickly matched the smirking expression. "Well, well, if it isn't Ino-pig. Having fun being part of the new Ino-Shika-Cho team?"

Holding a broom to sweep in front of her family store, Ino scowled a bit. "They may not be much, but least they're good teammates. Just I once more wish I was the one place on Team 7 and not you."

Sakura's smirk broadened with a hand on a hip. "Oh, just too bad, Piggy. I'm the one who will get Sasuke-kun, since I'm on his team."

Light-blue eyes blinked. "Are you saying you haven't yet gotten Sasuke-kun?"

Her eyes going wide, Sakura realized her mistake, but she did not had any time to make a comeback when her rival pounced with a wicked grin. "Oh, ho! There's still a chance for me yet! Face it, Forehead! If you have not gotten Sasuke-kun in two weeks of being the only female teammate on his team, you are not likely to get him ever!"

"Not true!" Haruno fought back. "Just you wait! I'll nab him! Even if I have to go to his home to do so, I'll do it!" With that said, Team 7's kunoichi walked away, heading home with determination to accomplish her goal.

Yet as the pinkette strolled away, she was not aware of the knowing smirk on Ino's face. "Go to his home? Boy, Forehead, have you forgotten how much Mikoto-sama does not want us near her home?"

As a member of the Sasuke Fan Club, the Yamanaka remembered well how the Uchiha Matriarch had dealt with all the girls, whom stalked Sasuke and the area around the Uchiha residence. The female clan head had caught each of them, no matter how much each girl had tried to hide, and told each in a 'kind and sweet' way to not ever bother her son within a certain distance from the Uchiha compound. All the girls of the club had immediately heeded Mikoto-sama's words, for they did not want to find out what the older kunoichi would do to them the next time any of them were caught.

As Ino returned to sweeping the area in front of her family business, she hummed happily, thinking Sakura would likely meet a terrible fate for breaking Uchiha-sama's rule. Oh, the blonde knew her rival would not die, but nevertheless, it was clear Sasuke's mother has a low tolerance for fan girls bothering her son.

Fidgeting with nerves, Sakura wondered whether this was a good idea. She had boasted to Ino yesterday that she would nab Sasuke-kun even if she had to go to his home to do it. Yet, after she had gotten home, her memories reminded her how much Mikoto-sama did not tolerate any of Sasuke's fangirls near the Uchiha compound. Gah! Why did her emotions mostly lead her before her rational side kicks in?

Now, here she was with Naruto and Sasuke again after yet another day of having done D-ranks. As usual, their sensei high-tailed out of the Hokage Tower, via Shunshin, once the final mission was completed without giving any of his students a chance to speak to him. Of course, this irked her two teammates with Naruto grumbling about lazy, good-for-nothing, perverted jounins, while Sasuke simply grunted in agreement with narrowed eyes. They kept their angry expressions as the three of them left the Mission Office and walked down the hallway toward the outside staircase, which led down to street level.

After cracking a yawn, Naruto stretched his arms up. "Man, I'll be glad to get home, eat, and do some good training before sleeping like a rock."

"You always sleep like a rock," quipped Sasuke. "Yet rocks don't snore."

"Hey! I don't snore!" countered the blonde with an irritated face.

One corner of the Uchiha Heir's lips curled upward. "Yes, you do, or have you forgotten that audio tape Mother produced of you snoring loudly? Thank, Kami, we have privacy seals placed in each bedroom, or else Mother and I would had endured your loud racket." Sakura giggled as Naruto scowled with crossed arms.

After watching Sakura cast her eyes downward again, Naruto locked eyes with his adopted brother before gesturing with his head toward their female teammate. Sasuke sighed and nodded in understanding in what he needed to do.

"Sakura," Sasuke began as they reached and stopped at the open exit where the staircase began. "Mother told us to tell you that you're invited to dinner at our home tonight. After nearly a month together as a team, she wants to meet you."

Sakura blinked, blinked, and blinked some more as her brain wrapped around what she just heard. When she finally spoke, her mouth was not in synch with her mind. "You… I… Dinner…"

Inner Sakura, however, was cheering with fingers in victory signs. "OH, YEAH! DINNER WITH SASUKE-KUN! SCOOOORE!"

Sasuke sighed in frustration at Sakura's babbling. "Yes, Sakura, you are invited to dinner by my mother." His shoulders produced a shrug. "That is unless you don't want to come."

"Of course, I'll come!" the pinkette immediately nearly shouted, her brain back to working order thanks to the shock of Sasuke thinking she was going to refuse Mikoto-sama's invitation. "I'll be there dress-up and all!"

"Whoa, calm down, Sakura-chan," Naruto held up his hands in a calming gesture. "This is just dinner. Kaa-chan said you could come in what you're wearing now. No need to get fancy."

Nodding rapidly in excitement, Sakura grinned happily. "Of course, of course. I'll be there at six." She brushed past the boys to descend the stairs. "I'll see you then, guys!" she called over her shoulders.

As Mikoto's two sons observed their female teammate reached the bottom and headed toward the courtyard's exit, Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Do you think Kaa-chan's plan will work?"

"It better," Sasuke replied, "or else, she will keep her promise to find another teammate for us."

With that said, the young Uchiha used the Shunshin to teleported back home. A moment later, his adopted brother followed suit.

Opening the front gate, Mikoto grinned in greeting to the pink-haired girl she was expecting. "Evening to you, Sakura."

"Evening to you too, Uchiha-sama," Sakura replied back with a grin and a short courteous bow. Her green eyes took in the older woman's appearance in housewife's clothes and an apron. It was not what she expected to see regarding the beautiful clan head, but since this was just a regular informal dinner, the girl understood Sasuke's mother would wear something ordinary.

Remembering what she was holding in her hands, Team 7's kunoichi presented a wrapped package to the matriarch. "My mom baked some cookies for dessert."

"Thank you, Sakura," Mikoto said as she took the offering. "That's kind of you." With a gesture of her hand, she guided the young girl across the threshold before closing the gate and escorting the rest of the way to the kitchen inside. There, Sakura met her two teammates already seated across from each other at the kitchen's low table.

"Hi there, Sakura-chan!" greeted Naruto with his typical wide grin.

"Evening to you, Sakura," followed Sasuke politely.

"Good evening, Sasuke-kun!" she chirped happily before giving a simple grin to the other boy. "You too, Naruto."

Mikoto hand-gestured toward the cushion right in front of Sakura. "Please, sit down, Sakura. I'll just put away your cookies to be consume after dinner." As the Uchiha Head placed away the cookies, the pinkette knelt on the cushion and spread her legs to sit down as all women did compared to the men, who sat cross-legged.

After the brunette older woman returned, she sat down and prepared rice in bowls for everyone. Once everything was set, all said "Itadakimasu" before they began eating the prepared dinner.

Silence reigned in the room for a few minutes, until Mikoto decided to break it. As much as her sons told her that Sakura was quite a chatterbox at times, it seemed the girl was shy in her presence.

"Sakura, from what I know, your parents own a bookstore, correct?"

"That's right, Uchiha-sama," Sakura grinned, grateful for Sasuke's mom to break the ice. "They've first opened it a few years before I was born."

"You do not have to be so formal, Sakura," Mikoto reassured with a small grin. "You can call me by my given name."

"Of course… Mikoto-sama," the young kunoichi replied, feeling not entirely comfortable with the idea just yet.

Mikoto returned back to the topic at hand. "So, do your family's bookstore carry a lot of titles?"

After swallowing some rice she had placed in her mouth, Sakura answered. "We carry many varieties, although not as much as the library though," she chuckled, causing Naruto to snickered, Mikoto to smiled amusingly, and Sasuke to simply grunted. "Yet given my mother's morals, we do not sell any of the mature titles though."

Naruto picked up what his teammate was talking about. "You're talking about those books Kakashi-sensei reads?"

Sakura closed her eyes as she did her best to control her right eye from ticking so much. "Yes, those books we do not sell. We do not sell any porn, Naruto." She went back to eating her rice, trying to calm herself down.

The Uchiha Matriarch held back a chuckle as her eyes held firm with green ones. "From what I know of the books Kakashi reads, those are big best sellers. I do give your parents credit for sticking by their morals in the face of making a lot of money though."

This time, the pinkette sighed. "It's my mother's idea though. Despite my father many times begged Mom to purchase the series to sell, my mother kept firm. I personally had not ever laid eyes on any of those books, until I saw the ones Kakashi-sensei reads in public."

Mikoto half frowned and half grinned in amusement. "Well, I personally think he shouldn't be reading those books in public." She closed her eyes and let out a breath in disapproval. "Yet, your teacher has his vices like everyone else. Although, his habits are more tame compare to the vices of some jounins I'm aware in the village."

Opening her eyes to eat some more rice, the brunette woman immediately came aware of three sets of curious eyes blinking at her. The Uchiha head shook her head and chuckled, knowing what the three 12-year-olds were non-verbally asking. "You'll meet these people eventually. Trust me, when you do, you'll understand Kakashi-kun's reading of porn is indeed tame despite the morals of reading such material in public." With that said, Mikoto returned to consuming her meal, inwardly giggling from the three wondering expressions on what other jounins could possibly be worst than Kakashi.

So for the rest of the meal, conversation went back and forth. It was mostly between Mikoto and Sakura with Naruto occasionally joining. Sasuke was mostly silent and only joined, when he was asked a question. He was grateful that his kunoichi teammate did not badger him with questions that would be embarrassing, figuring the company of his mother kept Sakura to be polite.

The Uchiha Matriarch has to admit that she was impressed with Sakura's knowledge. Her records had shown her academics scores were high, but it was one thing to pass a written test, it was another to actually recall such information in details to another person. Mikoto saw this girl has potential, but it remained to be seen on what she has in mind next for the young lady.

"Those were great cookies, Sakura-chan," praised Naruto as he finished off a sixth cookie.

"It's okay," added Sasuke as he finished eating just one cookie prior to wiping his hands on a napkin to get rid of the crumbs on his fingers.

"Thanks, Naruto, Sasuke-kun," Sakura glowed. Inside however,, she was disappointed to learn Sasuke did not like sweets overall. He had taken just one cookie, showing he did not mind eating them though.

Finishing off her own few cookies and downing them with her tea, Mikoto simply smiled. "They were good. Thank you for bringing them, Sakura." The pinkette once more beamed with pride, especially given the compliment came from the Head of the Uchiha Clan.

Getting up on his feet, Naruto stretched his arms over his head. "Now that I have a full stomach, it's time to get in some training!"

Sasuke stood up as well with a small smirk on his face. "You got that right, Dobe." His blond brother smiled widely, knowing how much they agreed when it came to improving their shinobi skills.

Sakura blinked in astonishment. "It's nearly dark now," she pointed to the kitchen window, showing sunlight getting dimmer as the sun drew closer to the horizon.

Mikoto grinned reassuringly at the girl. "It's okay. We have outside lights. Besides, as shinobi, one should know how to use your skills at night. Very rarely combat takes place after sunset, but when they do occur, they tend to tax one's abilities to their limits. Those with good night-time senses, like smell, hearing, and sight, are the ones to be careful when it comes to night fighting."

Knowing the more experienced kunoichi was right, Team 7's female ninja simply nodded in understanding. Besides, not only would the cover of darkness test one's fighting skills but also one's stealth abilities as well. It was known that traveling at night was the best to try avoid enemy watchdogs and other threats.

As Sasuke joined Naruto as they left the kitchen to the outside training area around the swimming pond/pool, Sakura had stayed behind to offer Mikoto help with cleaning up, but the former housewife reassured the teenager she could take care of things. So with a slight shooing motion, the 39-year-old mother encouraged Sakura to follow the boys.

After 15 minutes, any leftovers were placed in the refrigerator, and the dishwater was doing its job. Only then did Mikoto wiped her hands on her apron and left the kitchen to the living room across the hall, and from there, she proceeded outside. She saw Sakura standing on the wooden walkway as she watched Sasuke and Naruto spar with taijutsu only. The older kunoichi joined the younger one in observing the fight, and given the boys' current skill level, it was not surprising that they would exchange blows high in the air at times.

Mikoto grinned a bit upon seeing Sakura's awe expression before eying her two sons again. "Have you ever saw Naruto and Sasuke train, Sakura?"

The pink-haired girl shook her head. "Not like this. Sometimes, we will meet in Training Ground 7, and when I arrive, they would be doing minor warm-ups or some ninjutsu training, like Naruto using twenty Kage Bunshin to finish cutting a leaf with his wind chakra. He's making great progress from what I saw."

The Uchiha Matriarch was glad her blond child was heeding her words to not make so many Kage Bunshin while training. As much as Naruto has the charka capacity to make hundreds of clones, the memories and mental stress from the duplicates would have been overwhelming for him to handle, causing him to collapse. They had found this out the first time he had used this training technique at home with close to two hundred Kage Bunshin. From that point onward, she had recommended twenty clones maximum in order for him to still remain standing and conscious after dispelling the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu.

"What about you, Sakura?" Mikoto asked. "Have you done any special training?"

All she heard was silence, and once she eyed the rookie kunoichi, the clan head saw she was looking down with almost a glum look. "I… I… " Sakura swallowed and spoke the truth. "I have not been getting any training at all, Mikoto-sama."

Mikoto raised an eyebrow, even though she already knew this from what her sons told her. "Oh? Why have you not been training?"

Raising her head to face the older woman, Sakura felt shame that she was not likely good enough for the Sasuke's mother. "Kakashi-sensei has not taught me anything yet. Every time I, Sasuke, or Naruto tried to talk to him after doing a mission, he just disappears using that Shunshin jutsu."

Doing her best not to show her feelings, the Uchiha Matriarch felt disappointment and anger at Kakashi's actions even more. She knew from Naruto and Sasuke about the jounin's laziness in training them, but to hear Sakura's lowly voice, it was clear the young girl knew how weak she was compare to her sons. This made Mikoto saw Kakashi even in a lower light.

Inwardly sighing, Mikoto had a good hunch to why Kakashi was acting this way and would want to teach him a lesson. However, the first thing she needed to do was regarding this young kunoichi next to her.

Giving a reassuring grin, the brunette placed a hand on the younger girl's shoulder. "Well, how about getting your first lesson right here?"

Sakura whipped her head up in surprise so fast that Mikoto swore the teenager might end up with a case of whiplash. "Really?" the 12-year-old asked in amazement.

After giving a nod as an answer, Mikoto faced her dueling children. "Boys!"

Sasuke and Naruto stopped at the same time and turned their heads toward their parent. "Yes, Kaa-chan/Mother?" both spoke in unison; causing Sakura to clapped a hand over her mouth to suppress a giggle while Mikoto chuckled.

"Naruto, spar with Sakura," the female jounin ordered.

Team 7's sole female member went wide-eyed at this. "But… But… I'm no match for Naruto."

Naruto gave an encouraging grin. "It's a just a spar, Sakura-chan. It's not like we're in a fight to the death. Just give me your best shot."

Despite his words, Sakura was not so sure about this. After a gentle nudge from Mikoto's hand to push her forward, the pinkette stepped off the wooden walkway onto the grassy field and faced her blond teammate, who once more gave her a grin of encouragement.

"Okay now," the Uchiha Head said seriously. "Naruto, you are only to use taijutsu and stay on the ground. You can use a kunai to defend yourself against thrown projectiles. Sakura, you can use anything in your arsenal. This spar will begin, when you make the first move."

Once more, the only child of the Haruno family was not sure whether she could even win this match, despite Naruto was given a major disadvantage. Yet, after swallowing hard, the young girl knew it would be an insult to Mikoto-sama, if she did not do her best.

With determination, Sakura quickly began with several thrown kunai at her opponent before immediately followed by running toward him to hope catch him at the moment he was busy defending against the projectiles. Yet, she was surprised, even though she shouldn't, by Naruto whipping out a kunai so fast and deflecting the airborne kunai just a fast that by the time she reached him to aim a punch, he was now ready to defend against her follow-up attack.

Naruto simply blocked her thrown fist before giving a light kick in her stomach, sending her flying to the ground onto her back. Sakura winced a bit from the hit, but she got up, her resolve not to loose.

Again, she ran toward him, but this time, her hands flew into several seals. The result was that her body seemed to disappear with the wind blowing cherry blossoms around the blond boy.

As for the whiskered boy, he knew this had to be a genjutsu. He may not be good as Sasuke or even Kaa-chan when it came to art of illusions, but Naruto could sense Sakura had cast only a low level technique that even he could detect. So he waited until the right moment before slapping his hands together in the well-known cancellation seal. "Kai!"

Sakura's form shimmered into view right next to her opponent. Naruto immediately grabbed the arm that has a kunai about to approach his throat, and before the pinkette could do or say anything, he used his strength to swing her in an arc prior to letting her go to send her sailing into the swimming pond/pool with a large splash.

Surfacing from the water, Sakura smoothed back her long wet mane before pointing an accusing finger at a grinning Uzumaki. "That's cheating, Naruto!" she shouted as she dog paddled to keep her head above the waterline.

"On the contrary, Sakura," Mikoto spoke out, "it was within the rules for him to throw you into the pool. If this had been a mission and Naruto was fighting someone who did not know how to water-walk, he would have a major advantage over his opponent by throwing the person into a large body of water."

To verify what his guardian was referring, Naruto ran over the water and quickly knelt to pose a kunai at the throat of a startled Sakura, who couldn't defend herself while her hands and feet were busy keeping her afloat. "You're dead, Sakura-chan," he declared. After a moment or two, he withdrew the weapon and gave his teammate a gentle smile before walking back to dry land.

"I don't understand," said Sakura as she swam toward shore, feeling stunned and humiliated she lost to Naruto, even though she knew he was better skilled than her. "What's the whole point of this?"

As the young kunoichi finally came close enough in order for her feet to touch the pool's bottom thus allowing her to stand up, Mikoto came forward to stand at the pond's rim to gaze down at the soaked girl. "This was all planned, and the boys were aware of it. I'd invited you to dinner tonight in order to put together this spar between you and Naruto. The whole point is to convey to you that you need training to improve yourself as a kunoichi, thus you have to stop chasing my son."

Emerald eyes went wide as they became moist from the sudden emotions flooding her. She gazed at Sasuke, who stood there with his usual air of indifference. "But… But…" she choked, unable to form a sentence.

Mikoto sighed. "Sakura," she said to regain the teen's attention. "I'm not saying to stop any feelings you have for Sasuke. I'm saying that you need to focus on becoming stronger and better, not just for your sake, but also for the sake of the entire team. You're the weakest link, and as this spar had demonstrated, you're quite vulnerable. Sasuke and Naruto are strong enough for genins as they currently are, but this does not mean they or your sensei will be there always to help protect you. If you do not take your training seriously and become stronger, you will die. That is the way in the shinobi world."

Looking down, Sakura sniffed as few tears rolled down her cheeks. Mikoto-sama was right. She was pathetic when compared to Naruto or Sasuke. Not only she could get herself killed, but she was a potential danger to her team as well.

"But…" she choked, allowing her tears to flow freely now. "But how can I become stronger if no one teaches me?" Sakura raised her head to face the Uchiha Matriarch squared in the eyes. "My parents are not shinobi! I don't know what I need to do to become stronger! How can I improve myself, if no one shows me the way?"

Closing her eyes for a moment, Mikoto seethed inside, knowing who really was at fault for this. "You're right, Sakura," she said with sympathy as her eyelids slid up. "Believe me, I'm going to deal with your current sensei in regards to not bothering teaching his students anything after two weeks since you became a team."

Her lips then flowed into a reassuring grin. "You have great potential, young lady," the brunette mother claimed, causing Sakura's eyes to go wide as she gasped at the compliment. "You just need to train to draw out that potential. Believe me, you'll go far, if you put that smart mind to use."

"R-R-Really?" Sakura stuttered, still stunned that the head of a well-known clan was telling her she has aptitude as a kunoichi.

Mikoto nodded. "Your knowledge is vast for your age, and your chakra control is superb from what I read in your records. If you hone your skills, you will likely even one day surpass Konoha's greatest kunoichi."

Sakura sucked in another gasp. She knew which kunoichi Mikoto-sama was referring. To even think of surpassing her was beyond anything she ever imagined.

The heartening grin on the matriarch's face dwindled a bit. "That is if you truly focus on your training and stop pestering Sasuke for dates, young lady. By now, after 4 years, you should already know that he has no interest in dating any girls. He appreciates you being his friend than a girl out to score with him."

Mikoto's words made the teenage kunoichi felt demoralized. She looked at Sasuke, who appeared indifferent as he always had. Yet what he said next surprised her.

"Mother is right, Sakura," sighed Sasuke. "I will not be your boyfriend, but I can be your friend. As a member of Team 7, you should focus on training to become strong in order to help the team."

"Yeah, you can do it, Sakura-chan!" Naruto grinned at her. "As Kaa-chan said, you're smart! If you train hard as you do with doing those written tests, you can become a great kunoichi! You can be a great asset to the team!"

Mikoto grinned at her adopted child before gazing at Team 7's female member. The small grin on the girl's face and the shine in her eyes told the Uchiah Matriarch that Naruto's words had affected her.

Sakura nearly broke down in tears, but she controlled herself to let out a few escaped. Sasuke wouldn't mind being a friend to her, and even though she would not gain his heart, at least she would have his friendship. Furthermore, Naruto's words of encouragement made her realized that Mikoto-sama was right. She couldn't just stand aside and let Naruto and Sasuke did all the work. She too was a shinobi and like Hell was she going to remain weak forever!


Brushing aside her tears, Sakura gave a determine grin. "You're right, Naruto, Sasuke-kun. I want to help you, and to do it, I need to become stronger. I promised you and Mikoto-sama that I'll train the best I can! I won't let you down!"

"Alright!" yelled Naruto with a pumped fist. Meantime, Sasuke gave a small smirk and nod to his female teammate in approval.

"That's good to hear, Sakura," Mikoto voiced her own approval of the girl's change. If she kept her promise and work hard has she claimed, Sakura definitely would travel far in her career.

Just then the pinkette let out a sneeze, bringing out the 39-year-old mother's instincts. "Let's get you inside, young lady," she said, gesturing for the soaked girl to get out of the pool before gently pushing her toward the house. "I'll have your clothes dry in the dryer. You can take a warm bath in the meantime, and when you finish, I'll have a nice warm robe that'll fit you." Mikoto looked over her shoulder at her sons. "Boys, continue your training, while I look after your teammate."

Sakura nodded and thanked the older woman. The sun was nearly setting now, and being totally wet in soaked clothes was not comfortable, especially with the temperature beginning to drop. A nice warm bath sounded just what she needed now to prevent from catching a cold.

Just as the two females stepped onto the wooden walkway, Naruto spoke out. "Kaa-chan?" They stopped to look back at the blond boy. "What exactly are you going to do about Kakashi-sensei? You said you're going to deal with him."

A small, sly smirk slowly spread across the Uchiha Clan Head's face. A smirk that sent shivers down the spines of the three genin. "I have a plan to deal with him. I'm sorry, but this time, you boys will be out of the loop in order for this plan to work. Trust me, he will learn his lesson, or else, I'll personally see to it that the three of you are assigned another sensei." With that said, her expression went back to a kind one as she escorted Sakura inside toward the main bath, leaving Sasuke and Naruto to their training.

Yet, Mikoto's words made the three young shinobi wondered what was in store for their jounin-sensei. As much as they loved to see the man get what he deserved, they hoped it did not end with the silver-haired man staying in the hospital for a long period of time or worst, losing a limb or two.

Naruto frowned. "This is the most boring C-rank I ever been on!"

"Dobe, this is our first C-rank mission," Sasuke pointed out. "How can you say it's the most boring, when we have not ever been on a C-rank before? Least we're out of the village. Something you always said you wanted to do one day."

"Yeah, Naruto," berated Sakura. "Despite we're just delivering a small package to the capital, I'm excited, due that this is the first time I ever been outside the village. I can't see why you're bored."

"Maybe because this C-rank is really just a D-rank chore?" whined the whiskered genin.

Sakura's left eyebrow ticked a few times, before she faced her complaining teammate. "If you remember, Naruto, any D-rank style mission outside the village is given a C-rank status due being outside the defenses of the village! Just stop your whining! Gee, we're on our first ever C-rank, and you have been complaining none stop ever since we left Konoha!"

"Sakura," began Kakashi, "I appreciate you teaching Naruto a lesson, but you do not need to shout so loud in my ear."

Having forgotten where she was, namely riding piggy-back on her sensei's back, Sakura blushed sheepishly as she turned her head back to the silver-haired man. "Sorry, Kakashi-sensei."

Kakashi sighed. It had came as a surprise to the entire team, when the Sandiame had given them a small package, which could fit in the pocket of a chuunin/jounin green flack jacket, and told them to deliver it to a family in the capital. The client paid for a C-rank delivery, and since it was just a trip to Fire Country's capital city, the Third had thought Team 7 could gain some experience doing this simple C-rank.

Not that Kakashi complained, since he had shrugged and agreed that the mission would gain the team some experience. Just he had realized at the main gate that he had forgotten Sakura did not know how to tree-climb, which was essential in learning how to tree-hop. Thus instead of slowing the entire team down, the jounin opted to carry Sakura for the entire trip knowing Sasuke and Naruto could tree-hop. Least the journey would last just a few hours using the shinobi method of transportation instead of mere walking.

Yet for Hatake, he knew he better start training his genin soon. The boys were very skilled for their age, thanks to their mother, but their lone kunoichi has a major disadvantage of being so green that it threw the team dynamics out of balance. He knew there was no way Sakura would ever catch up skill-wise to Naruto and Sasuke, but Kakashi figured it was best to get the girl to tree-climb, tree-hop, and water-walk for her sake and safety on future missions.

Suddenly, all his thoughts about his students' training were cast aside as Kakashi's instincts warned him to dodge a hail of kunai from above. Ignoring Sakura's shriek, the 26-year-old jounin did just that and landed on the forest floor below. He was relieved Naruto and Sasuke also out-maneuvered the attack and landed on either side of him.

Looking up in the direction of the attack, Team 7 saw five individuals landed on the tree branches in front of them. They were all covered in black cloaks with hoods, so their faces were hidden. Yet it was easy to see that two of the five strangers were adults, while the other three were smaller in height, thus they were likely teenagers. It was possible this was a genin team being led by a jounin, but it did not explain the extra adult.

Before anyone on Team 7 could say anything, one of the cloaked adults pointed a gloved finger at the Konoha group. "Go!" was all the person said, the voice indicating it was a woman. She and the rest of her group swiftly jumped down and began attacking, causing Kakashi to separate from Naruto and Sasuke due to having the two adult attackers on his tail.

Knowing he couldn't fight with Sakura on his back, Kakashi quickly did a Shunshin, appearing next to a large tree. "Sakura," he said as he lowered the kunoichi down on her feet, "stay here and out of sight. Sasuke, Naruto, and I will deal with this."

"Okay, Kakashi-sensei," Sakura replied with some fear in her voice. This was the type situation Mikoto-sama explained to her two days ago might happened, and now it was happening, the pink-haired girl felt totally useless and vulnerable.

After giving an encouraging eye-grin to his female charge, the elite jounin ran off in the direction of the sounds of battle, where he met up with the two adult enemies and began to engage them.

When the whole fight had begun, Naruto ended up with an opponent that that was mostly using taijutsu, thus why he, at first, tried to defeat the guy using Kaa-chan's taijutsu style. Yet, his style did not seem to faze this attacker. Only then did the blond take it up a notch to start using ninjutsu.

Nearby, Sasuke, in the meanwhile, also had engaged in taijutsu with one of the foes. Yet the fighting style of this enemy seemed familiar to the boy, yet he couldn't place a finger as to why. A few minutes into the battle, the Uchiha heir gotten his first real clue, when the stranger simply jabbed several points on his arms, catching him unaware.

After giving a grunt, the dark-haired genin leaped backwards to put some distance between him and his hooded rival. His arms felt like sharp, hot needles pricking him along the entire length. He now remembered someone else who had done a similar thing to him, but the results were less painful.

"Sasuke!" cried out Naruto, catching the brunet's attention prior to his blond 'brother' landing besides him with two dozens Kage Bunshin engaging Sasuke's adversary. Dark eyes quickly noticed another two-dozen Narutos were keeping Naruto's challenger busy, even though it was clear the hooded enemy was quickly dispersing the clones fast. "Are you okay?"

Sasuke shook his head. "This guy did something to my arms. They feel wrong." Deciding to use a fire jutsu at his attacker, he began to mold chakra and forming the hand signs, but he quickly stopped with wide eyes. "My chakra…. I can't feel it in my arms!"

"WHAT?" Naruto yelled before making another four-dozen clones, realizing the two foes were nearly done with the first batch of Kage Bunshin. With the fresh batch engaging the two enemies, the whiskered boy addressed the issue at hand. "How can you no longer feel chakra in your arms?"

The Heir of the Uchiha frowned. "Remember the times we sparred with Hinata at the Academy? This is exactly like her Jyuken, which is the ability to close a shinobi's tenketsu points, rendering the person unable to mold chakra." Onyx eyes narrowed at the hooded foe. "He's a Hyuuga."

Before Naruto could say anything, the hooded fighter snorted. "This is correct," he said, before jumping away to a branch above to look down at Sasuke and Naruto. "It's Fate that you will eventually loose to me, Uchiha, as well as that pathetic looser next to you. I still do not see what Hinata-sama saw in befriending such a looser."

Both boys immediately knew who they were dealing with now, especially Naruto, whose left eye began to tick in anger. Yet the voice of the other enemy spoke up.

"I disagree!" Sasuke and Naruto whipped their heads to the opposite side to see the second hooded foe also had taken to the trees. "Their hard work over the years had made their Fires of Youth a blazing inferno!" The foe clenched one of his bandaged hands. "It's quite an honor to be facing them one-on-one!"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes, while Naruto and his clones all were baffled to what in blazes was going on here?

Naruto's question was exactly on Kakashi's mind. Within only a minute or two into his fight, the silver-haired shinobi knew immediately who was one of his opponents. He recognized that taijutsu form anywhere.

Furthermore, when he managed to get in close to the other foe after she had swung a katana at him, he was shocked to see two Sharingan eyes looking back at him. Once more, he knew whom he was facing. Why was she doing this?

His brain was doing circles as he did his best to dodge the sword strikes, which was coming at him at amazing speeds. He thanked Kami that Obito's eye gave him the ability to avoid being hit. Yet, even he knew he was no match against a true wielder of the Uchiha bloodline, especially one who was an experienced ninja.

Just then, a loud, frightful feminine scream was heard, making Kakashi's eyes to go wide. "SAKURA!"

Ignoring his two enemies, he turned with amazing speed toward the area where he heard his kunoichi student. The elite jounin ran into a small clearing to suddenly see Naruto and Sasuke facing two of the other hooded strangers. It was clear to Kakashi that the boys also had heard Sakura's fearful cry and was about to go to her aid, when the two foes blocked their path.

Before the Copy Nin could even addressed the situation, the two adult enemies suddenly blurred next to their two younger members. The four hooded strangers formed a wall between the Konoha male shinobi and their kunoichi teammate.

"You're not allow to interfere, until it is over," said the female adult.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes, while Sasuke and Naruto went wide-eyed in shock over hearing the voice. It just couldn't be who they thought it was. Yet there was no mistaking that voice. The question on the boys' minds was a simple "Why?"

Sakura ran. She ran as fast as her two legs could muster. Yet even she knew it was not enough to outrun the hooded girl out to get her. She just couldn't understand why she was being targeted.

Just several minutes ago, she had been safe after Kakashi-sensei had left. That feeling of security was short-lived, for only three minutes had passed before a hail of kunai poured out of the sky right at her. She had managed to get out of the way, but not without a few shallow cuts to her arms and legs.

Then her opponent landed before her with an opened scroll in hands. Sakura couldn't see the other person's face, but when the enemy said, "I'm sorry I have to do this," the pinkette knew from the voice that she was dealing with another kunoichi around her age. After that, the other girl attacked her with more thrown projectiles summoned out of the scroll.

Knowing she would become a dead pincushion by staying still, Sakura had tried going on the offense by attacking the other girl head-on with the taijutsu form she learned at the Academy. Yet, the hooded kunoichi easily brushed off her attack by blocking and dodging before kicking her in the stomach to send her flying backwards several meters. Only then, did Haruno know she was no match and decided to flee. However, retreating did not stop the enemy from finding her, even when the pink-haired girl used Henge or Kawarimi in hope to confuse her pursuer.

Now with cuts all over her body and feeling like she already ran a marathon despite the short time, Sakura, with tears running down her cheeks, was trying to find her team. She knew they would be busy with the other four enemy shinobi, but it was clear they were her only hope for survival.

"Why now? WHY NOW?" she cried out in her mind. "Mikoto-sama had warned me two days ago that I could easily be killed, if I do not get the skills to survive! Yet before I could get those skills, I'm going to be killed, and on my first C-rank! This is NOT FAIR!"

A sudden appearance of a shadow on the ground growing larger made Sakura whirled around and up to see the enemy kunoichi come straight down at her with a katana pose to stab her. The pinkette screamed as she toppled backward onto the ground by the force of her foe's body hitting her. Yet, the katana narrowly missed her, imbedding in the ground just to the left of her chest.

Immediately after being nearly skewered, two male voices, which Sakura recognized, called out her name. "SAKURA!"

"Sasuke-kun! Naruto!" mentally called out Team 7's kunoichi, realizing they must have heard her scream. With hope renewed in her soul, she forcefully pushed off her attacker with her right foot prior to running in the direction of where she had heard her two male peers.

A few moments later, the rookie female ninja burst through some shrubs, only to be facing the backs of the other four mystery enemies, who all turned their heads toward her. Beyond the four foes, her eyes spotted her team.

"Sakura-chan!" called out Naruto in relief upon seeing her, making the pinkette grinned in return.

Yet before she could say something or move, Sakura felt an arm quickly wrapped around her front and before she knew it, the girl felt the blade of a katana posed at her throat. Her attacker had caught up with her and now was in position to eliminate her.

"SAKURA-CHAN!" shouted Naruto in alarm, while Kakashi and Sasuke narrowed their eyes in anger.

Frightened that she was going to die, Sakura closed her eyes and let her tears flowed. "Mom, Dad, I love you. I'm so sorry, Ino. Our rivalry over Sasuken-kun was quite silly." She felt the edge of the blade on her skin and knew this was the end. "Naruto, thank you."

Suddenly Naruto let out a shout. "KAA-CHAN! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"

Emerald eyes snapped open in shock. She only knew of one woman that Naruto calls that name.

The hooded female adult raised a hand. "Team Gai, stand down." With that command, the other four relaxed as the katana was withdrawn from Sakura's neck. Only then did the leader pulled back her hood to reveal the Sharingan-eyed and reassuring grinning face of Uchiha Mikoto.

The other four 'enemies' also pulled away their hoods. The adult male, who also gave a reassuring grin, wore his black hair in a bowl cut, while the younger boy besides him was like mirror image of the man. The third boy was obviously a Hyuuga, recognizable to Team 7's three genin. Finally, green eyes turned to the girl, who wore her brown hair in two buns. Yet what surprised Sakura the most was the Leaf symbol on the other kunoichi's hiate-tei.

"You're a Konoha shinobi," Sakura blinked up at the apologetic grinning face.

"Yeah, I am. As I said before, I'm sorry I had to do this, but this was under Uchiha-sama's orders," said the brunette girl.

Before anyone else could speak, Sasuke spoke out. "Mother… I'm guessing that this was the plan you had in mind to deal with Kakashi-sensei?"

As her eyes faded back to normal black, Mikoto nodded at her youngest son. "Yes, this was the plan. The whole purpose was to show Kakashi," her eyesight locked onto the silver-haired jounin, "that he better start taking his role as sensei seriously and begin training his team, especially Sakura."

Kakashi sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he eye-smiled. "Well, I did notice from the start of this mission that Sakura definitely needed training, Mikoto-sama. I was planning to start her training tomorrow."

Mikoto crossed her arms and slightly smirked. "And if this mission was not given, would you have even on your own started her training?" Kakashi dropped his eye-smile as he shook his head. "I thought so. You saw how vulnerable Sakura was during this mock attack. If this had been a real attack from real enemy shinobi, there is no doubt she would have died."

"I say," Sakura agreed with a shudder. "There were times I thought I was going to die, especially with that sword on my throat." She locked her green eyes with the brown ones of her kunoichi peer. "I'm glad you missed me though."

The bun-haired girl rubbed the back of her neck. "Well, I did miss you on purpose," she admitted a bit sheepishly. "Believe me, I would have easily met my mark, if you were an enemy I have to kill."

Sakura blinked in mild shock and understanding. "Are you saying all these mild cuts, you gave me, were on purpose and not by accident in trying to hit me?"

The older girl nodded an affirmative before launching a shuriken straight up, and when it came down, she flung a kunai at it. The ninja knife caught the shuriken through its hole before imbedding into a tree. The ninja star spun a few times around the kunai before coming to a stop to hang on the blade.

"Wow," Team 7's sole female member said in astonishment at the girl's accuracy. It was clear this girl has quite an eagle's eye.

Smiling proudly at her demonstration, the brown-haired kunoichi turned back to Sakura with a friendly face. "My name is Takehashi Tenten."

"Haruno Sakura," she smiled back, feeling more at ease.

Tenten nodded before thumbing toward the bowl-cut man, who had taken off his cloak to show he was wearing a green spandex suit and jounin vest. "This is my team's sensei."

The man stood tall as he smiled widely at Kakashi's three genin. "Let me introduce myself, youthful students of my eternal rival! I'm Konoha's Sublime Green Beast of Prey! Taijutsu Master, and sensei to my beloved students of Team 9! I'm Maito Gai!" With that, he gave a thumb-up as his teeth shined with a 'ping'.

Team 7's genin all blinked in bewilderment. "Is this guy for a real?" they all asked mentally, while further wondering whether it was a joke that this jounin was Kakashi-sensei's 'eternal rival'.

A grinning Gai turned to face his silver-haired rival. "I'm sure that once you're set on the right path, Kakashi, you'll inject your students with the Flames of Youth that will make them as bright as I do with my students."

Kakashi suddenly blinked, like he was in daze. "Did you say something, Gai?"

"AAAAAAHHHH!" screamed Gai with hands clenching his hair. "Again with that hip attitude of yours, Kakashi!" He lowered his hands but kept one clenched in a fist. "Your coolness knows no bounds for me to one day overcome. That's why you're my rival." Once more, he smiled with a shining 'ping'.

Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura all narrowed their eyes. "What a freak!" they exclaimed in their heads, while Mikoto and Tenten sweatdropped with the younger kunoichi embarrassed at her sensei's display.

Suddenly, the bowl-cut male genin raised his hand enthusiastically. "Me next! Me next!" he called out while jumping up-and-down a bit before stopping. "Let me introduce myself! I'm

Rock Lee! Beautiful Green Wild Beast of Konoha! I will one day become a taijutsu master like Gai-sensei, and I'll show everyone I can do so through hard work!" He clenched a fist before eying Naruto.

"Naruto-kun," Lee continued, "your brief fight with me has shown the rumors I heard were true. You are skillful and Genius of Hard Work, like me!"

Blinking, Naruto pointed to himself. "Genius of Hard Work?"

"That's right!" Lee proclaimed. "You've worked hard to get the skills you have without a bloodline or anything to give you an advantage. I admire people who can rise through hard work to be better."

The whiskered blond simply chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. He liked this guy.

"Lee is right!" Gai spoke out just as loud as his student. "Through hard work and dedication, one's Flames of Youth can become a firestorm!"

"Oh, Gai-sensei!" Lee faced his teacher with twin rivers of happy tears. "You're an inspiration to all!"

"As well as you, my student! Together, we can overcome all obstacles!"

The pair together spun and raised their fists as they suddenly appeared on a beach with crashing waves of water. "TOGETHER!" they yelled out with twin 'pings' from their shining teeth.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes in bafflement, while Naruto blinked at the strange sight. Sakura's left eyebrow was twitching as she raised her hands into the 'kai' sign, but Tenten's headshake stopped her. "It's not a genjutsu," the weapons-barring kunoichi stated.

"It's not?" the pinkette asked, not believing such an 'illusion.' Her green eyes once more turned to the strange phenomenon. "Unbelievable!"

The so-called beach and waves suddenly vanished upon hearing a loud throat clearing. The two Green Beasts turned to face a ticked off Uchiha Matriarch, who was glaring at them with crossed arms and a tapping left foot.

A sweatdropping Gai and Lee nervously chuckled as they rubbed the back of the heads. "Sorry, Mikoto-sama," apologized the taijutsu master.

Letting go of her glower, Mikoto sighed as she shook her head a bit. As long as she knew Gai, since he was a genin, the man has always been quite eccentric. It was strange enough that he had chosen Kakashi to be his 'eternal rival,' especially given the two were polar opposites in personalities, but it was now really crazy Gai has created a Mini-Me out of Lee. The 39-year-old mother admitted that Lee has done remarkably well under Gai's tutelage, but she wondered if the child would have been better off from adopting his teacher's wardrobe habits.

After giving a sigh of her own with an embarrassing chuckle, Tenten turned back to her fellow kunoichi. "Anyway," she grinned at Sakura before pointing to the last member of Team Gai, "the last member of my team is—"

"Hyuuga Neji," Naruto interrupted with a slight sneer at the silver-eyed boy. Even after more than a year since meeting him, Hinata's cousin still pissed him off. There had a been a few more times he had seen Neji, and each time, the boy still carried that air of superiority. That has not changed one bit as blue eyes saw how much the older boy now still looked like he thought everyone else was inferior to him.

Tenten blinked. "Do you know each other?"

Sakura slightly frowned, recalling well the incident between Neji and Naruto in the Academy courtyard. Even today, she didn't approve of how the Hyuuga boy was so cruel to his cousin. "Being his classmate, you should remember the incident nearly two years ago regarding a misconception that Naruto was coming on to Hinata, Neji's cousin?"

The bun-haired girl's memories suddenly clicked for her. "Oh, I remember now. It was the talk of the village then." She gave a sheepish grin to Naruto. "Not to mention, you did mention it to me as well, Naruto." The blond boy gave an amused smirk at that.

This time it was Sakura's turn to blink in confusion. "Do you know each other?" she repeated Tenten's earlier question.

The weapons-wielding kunoichi nodded once with a grin. "Yeah, we know each other. Uchiha-sama, Sasuke, and Naruto shop for weapons at my family's weapons shop - Takehashi's Weapons. Four years ago, they had stopped by to check us out, and they've been coming to us ever since." Sakura bobbed her head once in understanding.

Mikoto gave a slight warm grin at Tenten's explanation. In truth, the reason behind the story was the Uchiha's usual weapons supplier had been quite bias against Naruto and had refused to serve him. So, after cutting ties with her clan's old dealer, Mikoto and her sons had searched for a new store to do business with. They had happened to come across the Takehashi family's shop, and after seeing how Naruto was treated like a normal human being, the Uchiha Matriarch had decided to make the Takehashi's their new supplier from that point onward.

Neji narrowed his eyes a bit at his female teammate. "You do business with the Uchiha's?"

Tenten frowned a bit at his attitude, hearing the hidden meaning behind the question. "Yes, my family does business with them. They're good people, Neji. Just because your clan does not associate much with their clan, does not mean every clan and family in Konoha will not associate with them." The Hyuuga simply shook his head and turned back to face Naruto and Sasuke, making the brown-haired girl rolled her eyes at his manners.

Just then, Sakura winced as she felt a sting on one of her many cuts. Seeing this, Tenten took out a scroll and unsealed a first-aid kit. "Let me bandaged your wounds," she offered. "Least I made good they were just nicks and not deep gashes." The pinkette was thankful for that as well as the help in dressing up her injuries.

As Team Gai's kunoichi assisted Team Kakashi's kunoichi, Naruto once again narrowed his eyes at Hinata's family member. "You're still the same jerk."

Neji simply scoffed in reply. "A looser is still a looser. I'm better than you, and Fate has deem me to be the winner, if you ever fight me." Eyelids closed as he shook his head. "I really do not see what Hinata-sama sees in you. Yet it fits that a weak person like her would be friends with a person like you."

Naruto lowly growled as he clenched his hands. He very much wanted to smack this arrogant guy for insulting Hinata like that.

Hyuuga pearl eyes turned so slightly to focus on the Uchiha Heir. "You are a genius, like me, and being a genius, I deem you a worthy opponent. Yet, even you fell before me just moments ago."

Sasuke snorted with a small smirk. "That's only because I didn't knew who I was fighting against. I wouldn't call that fight exactly fair in order to pass judgment that you won. How about you actually fight me one day, and we'll see who is the better fighter."

"We will see," replied Neji, accepting the challenge with a tiny smirk of his own.

With a slight frown, Mikoto addressed the young Hyuuga. "Young man, I'm sure your sensei has taught you to not ever underestimate your opponents, especially when you do not know them well enough to determine their strengths and weaknesses. You may deem Naruto as weak, but can you really be so sure, especially given you do not know everything about him?"

Neji did not hesitate in answering. "It does not matter. Fate says he is weaker than me, thus I will defeat him in a fight nevertheless." The raven-haired woman frowned even more, while Gai sighed and shook his head slightly in disappointment.

Mikoto knew a good percentage of the Hyuuga have a superiority complex, thinking their clan was better than everyone else. Yet even she knew most of them, including Hiashi, were not so blind to underestimate an enemy in battle. To do so was a folly that would get one killed. It was clear that Neji would not ever get promoted to Chuunin with such an outlook, compared to the many Hyuuga chuunin and jounin, who knew better.

Deep down, the Uchiha mother knew the reason behind Neji's cold personality. It left her feeling nothing but pity and sorrow for him, wondering whether he would feel happiness ever again.

Putting aside such feelings, the sole Uchiha kunoichi addressed everyone. "Anyway, I'd personally paid for the missions of both teams," she smiled knowingly at her sons, "so yes, boys, you will get paid for this, even though it was not technically a real mission." Her head turned to face Kakashi. "And before you ask, Kakashi, yes, Hokage-sama is aware of this. When I told him of you neglecting training your team, he'd approved of this lesson plan for you."

After crossing her arms, Mikoto continued her lecture. "I always believe that prior to a genin team getting their first C-rank mission, they need to be better in skills and knowledge than they were during the Academy. Other words, they need to know tree-climbing, water-walking, tree-hopping, etc. After all, since the team is venturing outside the village for the first time, they would need to know such skills in order to survive, just in case their jounin-sensei can't help them."

Kakashi bowed his head and nodded in understanding upon hearing the emphasized word. It was clear he has a lot to make up for.

Upon seeing Tenten has finished dressing up Sakura's wounds, Mikoto grinned kindly to Gai. "Gai, lead both teams back to Konoha. I need to speak to Kakashi alone now. We'll catch up, when we're finish."

"Hai, Mikoto-sama!" Gai agreed with a single thumbs-up, before he spoke to the six genin. "Let us get going! We'll back it back by dinner to fill in your youthful bellies!"

"Well, someone has to carry me then!" whined Sakura. "I do not know how to tree-hop…" She cast a glare at her jounin-sensei. "Yet!" Kakashi sheepishly rubbed the back of his head and gave a nervous chuckle. If looks could kill, the pinkette's sure would do it.

Suddenly, Lee was kneeling on the ground right in front of Sakura, startling both her and Tenten in the process. He was so fast; they didn't even notice his approach. "Oh, beautiful Sakura-chan! Let me carry you! I'll be your shining knight and will protect you from all dangers!"

Neji has closed his eyes, trying not to twitch. Sasuke raised an eyebrow. Naruto was snickering, and Tenten blinked in amazement, seeing this was the first time her teammate has shown any interest in a girl.

Sakura, in the meantime, was twitching her left eye in fright as she gazed into dark eyes that had suddenly turned into hearts of love. Not to mention how creepy those giant eyebrows of his were. Unable to help herself, she suddenly screamed, "AAAAAAAHHHHH!" Before anyone knew it, she had punched Lee on the top of the head so hard; he slammed down into the ground face first.

Everyone blinked at the scene of Lee's legs hanging out in the air with one leg twitching, except Neji, who his usual self, and Naruto, who was laughing so hard.

"Sorry, Lee-san," Sakura apologized with a sheepish grin. "You startled me, and I have to decline your offer. We've just met, and you're a stranger to me, despite being Leaf comrades."

A still-blinking Kakashi leaned over to whisper to Mikoto. "And you said she's not ready?"

Mikoto, still blinking herself, was amazed how much power Sakura has wield in that one punch. Yet she quickly dismissed it as a quick adrenaline rush upon being startled by Lee. After all, she has seen almost similar events done by civilian women.

A grinning Lee speedily stood up straight and tall, looking like he was okay. "Ah, you are right, Sakura-san. I apologize to you. Let I meant it before, that I'll be there to help protect you when needed."

"Ummm… Thanks," Sakura warily accepted at the same time Tenten was rolling her eyes. The bun-haired girl knew Lee was laying it on too thick.

Knowing she would need someone to give her a ride, Sakura ruled out Gai-sensei, given how much the man was like Lee and vice-versa. Neji was out due to his cold nature. Naruto she could trust, but she was not in the mood to hear any jokes from him. That left Tenten and… "Oh, Sasuke-kun, can you give me a lift?"

Sasuke sighed, knowing it was best to carry her back. So, he strolled over and bent down to allow his female teammate to climb onto this back. With his hands holding her thighs and her arms around his chest, the living heir of the Uchiha Clan rose up again. "Do not read anything into this, Sakura, got it? I'm just helping a friend."

"I understand," Sakura nodded, remembering her promise to stop pursuing the boy and try to be friends with him instead.


Sakura immediately squashed such perverted thoughts from her mind. Yet, she couldn't help but feel a tad satisfying in finally getting this close to Sasuke,

With all the genin ready, Gai leaped into the trees, heading toward the direction of Konoha. Neji followed, and Sasuke, with Sakura, was behind the Hyuuga.

Lee, however, lingered behind for a minute or two as he raised a fist with fire blazing in his eyes. "I will pursue the lovely Sakura-san! My Flames of Youth sings for her!" With that said, he took to the trees to follow the others.

Walking up to stand besides Team Gai's kunoichi as she finished storing away her first-aid kit in a scroll, Naruto chuckled. "Well, you weren't kidding, when you said your teammates were quite eccentric."

"Yeah," an amused Tenten admitted with a shrug. "Yet, they're skillful and know what they're doing. I'm used to them now, even though their eccentric personalities still make me roll my eyes at times." Naruto laughed with her.

After her giggles died down, the brunette, teen kunoichi continued. "So… What about you? I had a hunch you and Sasuke would be teamed up, but what can you tell me about Sakura?" She leaped into the trees, followed by Naruto.

"Well, it's like this…" the blonde's voice gradually trailed off as he and Tenten grew further apart in distance from Hatake and the Uchiha Clan Head.

Kakashi eye-smiled at the interaction between Naruto and Gai's female student. "Well, that was a surprise to me. I never knew Naruto and Sasuke knew about Tenten." He let out a sigh with a defeated look. "Knowing Gai, he'll likely offer to have our teams train together, now that he knows of the link between the boys and his kunoichi student."

Mikoto giggled at Kakashi's expression. As far as she was concerned, it might not be a bad idea for genin teams to cross-train with each other, for the jounin-sensei of one team might be more ideal suited to teach certain skills.

As for Tenten, the Uchiha Matriarch couldn't have a better example out of her sons' generation of what the mindset of a kunoichi should be. Her boys respected the bun-haired ninja as a fighter, and being around the weapons-loving girl might be a good benefit to Sakura as well.

Crossing her arms, the 39-year-old sighed, before giving the younger man a serious yet soft expression. "Kakashi-kun… You have to move on. I know how much Obito's death has affected you, but now that you finally have a genin team under your wings, you have to take their training seriously. Stop with constantly mourning in front of the Memorial Stone. "

"I know," the silver-haired jounin sighed. "I thought I could wait, until they've developed their teamwork first."

A dark feminine eyebrow rose on that. "And what good is teamwork with one member being way underdeveloped compare to the other two?" Kakashi grimaced. "Uh, huh, now you know. I'm not saying that Sakura should be pushed so hard to catch up with the boys. That's impossible. Yet, as you stated before, you realized her skills should be brought up to a reasonable level, so she would not be so vulnerable on her own."

Taking the few steps to stand before him, Mikoto placed a hand on Kakashi's shoulder as she looked up into his face, him being taller than her despite her being older than him. The matured woman grinned kindly. "Kakashi-kun, did Minato ever neglect any of his students?"

A real grin came to the Copy Ninja's face, while his mind recalled the memories. "No, he didn't," he acknowledged with a trace of sadness. "Despite the war, Minato-sensei did his best to train each of us equally. He had never neglected us."

"Precisely," Mikoto warmly grinned. "Knowing Minato, he definitely would agree with me that you should get off your ass and take your role as a teacher seriously."

Kakashi rubbed the back of his head as he gave his eye-smile. "Well, knowing Kushina-sama, she definitely would kick my ass."

Mikoto laughed out loud, and when her amusement died down a bit, she nodded with a knowing smirk. "Oh, yes. Kushina definitely would literally kick your ass for being such a lazy teacher, especially when it comes to her son."

Feeling the comfortable silence between them and knowing he was going to fulfill his role as a sensei from now on, the raven-haired mother took a step back. She broke the stillness with a reassuring grin. "I know you'll do okay as a teacher, Kakashi-kun. Presently, Naruto is trying to master his wind chakra, and Sasuke maybe ready to learn a second element. Sakura will definitely need your help, not only in learning new skills but also to find her niche as a kunoichi."

The elite jounin nodded in understanding. "Since her parents are not shinobi, she didn't have the benefits of any training through out the Academy. As for what type of kunoichi she would become, I have to see what she is good at."

"She is quite a blank slate," agreed Mikoto. "It was clear to me when I had started training Sasuke and Naruto that the boys would become front-line combat specialists, specialty in ninjutsu with taijutsu and some kenjutsu. Sakura have some genjutsu and have great chakra control from the records I read; yet it's not clear whether she would or should become a genjutsu specialist as Kurenai-chan. If she is to become an effective member of the team, she has to offer some sort of support for Naruto and Sasuke."

"That means she will have to learn combat skills that will help Naruto and Sasuke," Kakahi pointed out. "Maybe taijutsu will suit her."

"Possible," the experienced kunoichi said before a knowing grin appeared on her face. "Yet given her chakra control, there is one specialty that might suit her."

After raising a curious eyebrow, Kakashi thought about it before suddenly realizing what Mikoto meant. "Do you really think Sakura's suited for that?"

Mikoto shrugged but still kept her smile. "I did said, 'might', Kakashi-kun. She has the control and the smarts, but it is up to you to figure out where Sakura fits." The Copy Nin gave a single nod in acknowledgment.

"Anyway," the Uchiha Matriarch mentioned, feeling things were now going to be all right, "let us catch up to the others." With that said, she shot up into the trees, followed by Kakashi. The two of them tree-hopped with speed toward Gai, the two genin teams, and home.

For a young, fledging ninja, he or she would be influenced and molded into the type of warrior he or she would eventually come. A single student would be shaped by one person or by several people.

It was clear that Uchiha Mikoto has played a major role in shaping the lives of Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto, yet she also was the source in molding other lives as well. Haruno Sakura had said in her diaries that she had two role models she respected and looked up too. She sited the Uchiha Matriarch as one, stating if it weren't for Mikoto she would have perhaps had taken longer to realize the seriousness of shinobi life or worse, been killed in action at a very young age.

That night, when she was tossed into the pond, was the starting point for Haruno. She would walk on the path that would lead her to become a legend to match that of her teammates. A legend of one of the strongest and smartest kunoichi in all of known history...

The Legend of the Firestorm Blossom.

TBC (End of Chapter 7)


1) I can already hear some of you are saying that Neji and Lee couldn't be on equal level to Sasuke and Naruto in their brief fight. Well, if you had paid attention, Mikoto and Team Gai were under cloaks and hoods, thus Team Kakashi did not know who their opponents were. Sasuke was not aware he was fighting a Hyuuga until Neji closed off his chakra points. Lee's sensei happens to be a taijutsu master, thus the fighting form Mikoto taught Sasuke and Naruto was good, but only good enough to least make the boys even with Lee, who uses solely taijutsu, while the boys was trained in other things besides taijutsu.

Of course, there was the brief fight Kakashi had, and that was a no brainer, given how much Gai knows his rival's abilities. Not to mention, Kakashi simply can't match a real Sharingan user in Mikoto.

Oh… I'm sure no one is complaining how much I had Tenten trounced Sakura. Tenten has a year of experience and skills, while Sakura has yet to even start on tree-climbing and water-walking. Poor, poor Sakura.

2) I like to be on record that Mikoto's opinions, regarding how much a genin team should be trained before going on their first C-rank outside the village, are pretty much my own. I was absolutely amazed that Team 7 in canon did not know how to tree-climb or water-walk until after they were in deep in a C-rank mission turned deadly A-rank. Like should a genin team be properly trained before venturing out on their first C-rank?

So, I had Mikoto taught Kakashi a lesson to start training his team and be serious about it. Naruto and Sasuke may already have the skills to handle a C-rank without problems, but Sakura was the weakest link. If she does not get some good skills in order to survive on her own, she's good as dead. A matter of fact, during the Wave arc in canon, she could have easily been killed if it weren't for her male teammates protecting her. Go figure. (roll eyes)

3) Last, this is a message to all of you waiting for the final chapter (Chapter 18) of "Unexpected Love" to come out.

I'd finished the chapter at the end of July but decided to delay posting it. I have a 'gift' for everyone in the form of an art I'd commissioned for this chapter of UL. Once the art is finished, I'll post the chapter with the link/URL to the art. Trust me, I'm sure it will be worth the wait once you see the art. :)

Next Chapter: A Shinobi's First Flight