Well, here's the 3rd chapter to A Sealed Memory.

A/N: Seeing as I am using Japanese names for jutsus, if there is a non-cannon jutsus (meaning I most likely can't find the Japanese name on Narutopedia), I'll most likely use Google Translate to do the translation. Hopefully this isn't too bad and doesn't upset too many people.

Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own Naruto.

Posted: 4/30/13


Chapter 3: Catching Up

Today was a day for the record books. Hatake Kakashi, renowned throughout Konoha as being notoriously late to just about everything not A-rank or above, arrived at Training Ground 7 at 8:00am sharp, the same time he had arranged for his own team to meet. However, when he got there, he was the only one waiting.

"You know, it's not polite to leave someone waiting" said Kakashi before departed the training grounds to go search for his AWOL team. A few quick checks at both Naruto's and Sakura's apartments revealed that neither of them were there. Kakashi sent a clone back to the training ground to dispel and notify him if either of them showed up, but was soon notified when another clone dispelled, providing him with the location of his mission team as he dashed to where they were.

A few moments later, Kakashi arrived on top of the head of the Yondaime Hokage to see Naruto resting back against one of the stone spikes that was the Yondaime's hair with Sakura resting back against him and Naruto's arms wrapped around her waist. "You know, I've been wondering what was going to happen between those two ever since that seal was removed" said Kakashi quietly. His question had just been answered. "It seems like they've been here all night. Oh well…"

"Sution: Shitsureina Mezame no Jutsu (Water-style: Rude Awakening Jutsu)" called out Kakashi as he dowsed the newly formed couple with a blast of freezing water.

Their reactions were priceless, even if Sakura almost took off his head with a punch. Naruto was now perched on the very tip of one of the Yondaime's spikes with his back arched and body shaking like a cat that had just gotten dumped into a pool of water.

"What the hell was that for Kakashi-sensei?!" yelled Sakura. Despite it being on a large piece of stone, that was probably the most comfortable night of sleep both Naruto and Sakura had had in a long time.

"You two are aware its rude for me to actually be on time and everyone else to be late" chuckled Kakashi. "But seeing as how comfortable you two were together, I'll let it slide this once. Go get ready and meet at the training grounds in an hour."

With that, Kakashi shunshined away, leaving the blonde and pinkette on top of the rock head. "Naruto-kun, did we really sleep through the night up here?" asked Sakura.

"I don't remember going home, so yeah I think so. Why?" replied Naruto.

"Nothing was just wondering. It was actually one of the best nights I've had in a long time, so thank you for that" said Sakura. "Well, I'm going to go and get ready for the day, perhaps we can get some ramen latter tonight if you want?"

"That sounds great Sakura-chan. I'll see you in a little bit" waved Naruto before they went their separate directions to their own apartments, which coincidentally weren't that far away from each other. Hell, Naruto could actually see Sakura's apartment from his balcony and was now wondering if Ino had a hand in it. She probably did.


An hour later, both genin appeared at Training Ground 7 with their usually-late sensei following closely behind.

"So Sensei, does this mean you're not going to be late from now on?" asked Sakura.

"It's as you said, enough time's already been wasted" said Kakashi. "I'll be here at 8 this month, I do promise you that."

"So Kakashi-sensei, any word on who our new teammate is?" asked Naruto.

Kakashi shook his head. "No, and I asked not to be given a new member for at least another three weeks. We'll work on your individual skills now and then we'll bring in the new member and take a week to get the three of you working together." Kakashi pulled out a few scrolls and handed them to his students. "Those are the jutsu scrolls I promised you. You can work on them in the afternoons as most of our time will be spent working on your guys taijutsu, physical conditioning, chakra control, and I'll be teaching you guys some elemental manipulation that will help with your jutsu. If you need any help with them, just ask me and I can stay around to help you guys a little."

"Thanks Kakashi-sensei" chirped both Naruto and Sakura.

"Now, those jutsu you have. Sakura, yours is Doton: Doryuheki (Earth-style: Mud Wall). It's one of the more basic jutsus that creates a wall out of earth. Despite being one of the more basic ones, it's got considerable defensive abilities and seeing as you have a good brain in that head of yours, I believe it will prove effective in strategically maneuvering and cornering your opponents" said Kakashi. "I also picked up one more I felt you would be good at and I picked it out just for you. It's a genjutsu known as Ninpo: Sakura Fubuki (Ninja Art: Cherry Blossom Blizzard). It's a genjutsu that shrouds your movements in what appears to be a mass of swirling cherry blossoms, and can easily create an opening for you to strike."

"It's perfect for you Sakura-chan" commented Naruto, seeing exactly why Kakashi had chosen it for Sakura.

"Naruto, you've got a wind jutsu by the name of Fuuton: Daitoppa (Wind-style: Great Breakthrough). It's an offensive wind jutsu that is basically a massive gust of wind, but if given enough power, that gust of wind can even uproot large trees" said Kakashi. "Your other one is one I picked especially for you, considering you already know it's parent jutsu, the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu. The Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu) is a heavily offensive jutsu that creates up to hundreds of shadow clones of projectiles. It can be highly effective and deadly if you can learn to time it correctly."

"Awesome! I'll have this down in no time and then I'll be kicking everyone's ass! –ttebayo!" declared Naruto.

"Naruto, you should know that jutsu is an A-rank jutsu that was invented by the Sandaime. I'm sure that is one technique he would have wanted you to have" said Kakashi, giving Naruto an eye smile.

"Now, how about some warm-up exercises. I want 100 laps around the training ground" said Kakashi.

"What?!" shouted Naruto and Sakura. "You can't be serious, Kakashi-sensei!"

"I am. If the two of you are so dedicated on improving, then you'll have to push yourselves harder and harder each day. In fact, I've got something that will help you" said Kakashi as he threw down a pair of weighted bands. "Training weights. They're not as bulky as the ones Lee wears, thanks to the seals on them, but they will help to drastically improve your own speed and stamina."

Naruto and Sakura thought back to the preliminaries and how fast Lee was moving against Gaara. That kind of speed was nothing short of amazing and the two realized that Kakashi was right. They would have to use whatever there was to help them improve.

"I also want to say that I've met with the other jonin and we've all decided that we're going to be entering you in the next chunin exams" announced Kakashi.

"Really? When are those?" asked Sakura.

"The chunin exams in Iwa just finished, so the next ones will be five months from now, held in Suna" said Kakashi.

"Wait, so why didn't you enter us in the Iwa exams?" asked Naruto with a questioning look.

"It's because the relationship between Iwa and Konoha has been rather tense ever since the Third Shinobi War" said Kakashi. "And because their hatred towards sensei would most certainly lead them to target Naruto." "Seeing as Suna is an ally and we've worked out the whole invasion deal, that would probably be the best exams for the two of you to be promoted in, unless you want to wait another 2 years for them to return to Konoha. Unlike last time, I'm actually aiming for you guys to do very well, and I think if you work hard over these next few months, then there's no doubt in my mind you'd be ready for the rank of chunin."

"What do you mean you're actually hoping for us to do well this time? Does that mean you didn't believe in us last time?" asked a questioning Naruto.

"Oh look at the time, you two better get running if you want time to work on those jutsu" said Kakashi, completely avoiding the subject.

Once they stopped running, Kakashi had the two spar each other while he evaluated their taijutsu. Naruto had been backed up to against one of the training posts and ducked underneath one of Sakura's punches as it hit the log, leaving a huge dent and causing the pinkette to wince at how hard she had almost hit Naruto there. Seeing the reaction of his girlfriend, Naruto spoke.

"Sakura-chan, it's okay. You're not trying to hit me to get me out of your face because I'm 'annoying', you're trying to hit me so that we both get better. Believe me when I say I can take one of your hits and I don't care. If it will help us both improve and we're sparring, then I don't care what you do" said Naruto.

"But still…" said Sakura.

"No 'but's. You can't hold back Sakura-chan! It's the only way we're going to get stronger" said Naruto. "If you hit me and we're training or I've done something to deserve it, then I'm fine with that. You're not the Sakura who used to hit me needlessly back in the academy, you're the Sakura-chan that promised to get stronger with me many years ago! Now don't hold back and hit me!"

"Naruto's right. As much as I don't want to, he's right. I can't hold back and we both Need to improve" thought Sakura as she regained her composure and the two were back to sparring. That is until Naruto took a fist to the gut, sending him flying back into a tree, with Sakura running after him.

"See, I told you I could take a punch" coughed Naruto.

"You're still such a baka" replied Sakura as she helped him up and hugged just grinned at this as Kakashi hopped down from his observation point in the tree.

"Now that the domestic issues at home are settled and you two are past the beat each other senseless phase and onto the make-up phase, how about we go over what I saw" said Kakashi, getting a blush out of the two.

"Sakura, you still use the academy style, which is fine…if you just graduated this past month. Your taijutsu's not going to go any further with just the academy style" said Kakashi. "You already have superior chakra control that is even on par with many medical ninja, and you've managed to figure out how to use that control to greatly increase your own strength. But that in itself does not flow well with what you're trying to do with your chakra control."

Sakura sighed. Once again, her seal-induced fan-girlism had hindered her own growth. But wait, wasn't it the jonin sensei's job to help them branch out from the academy style? Before she had a chance to say anything, Kakashi had already begun pointing out the faults in Naruto's style.

"Naruto, you on the other hand really don't have a taijutsu style. At best, it's very brawler-ish. You also use your clones a lot which could actually prove useful if you can find and adapt an actually style to using them" commented Kakashi. "Hmm…okay I think I see. Starting tomorrow, I'll work one-on-one with each of you, improving your taijutsu while the other one works on chakra control and manipulation exercises."

The morning proceeded with the duo moving to a few basic chakra control exercises, which involved a combination of the basic tree climbing and water walking with Kakashi adding a few extra elements to the mix. It didn't help Sakura's control much, seeing as her chakra control as already highly advanced, but it did get her to use her chakra coils more which would help with her overall chakra reserves. She still only had genin level reserves and Kakashi felt that she would need at least mid-chunin level to even be able to make just two or three shadow clones. Kakashi figured that if he really pushed her reserves over this month that there was a chance she could be there and ready to learn that jutsu by then, even if the jutsu required jonin-level chakra reserves. Her control would be able to eliminate the chakra normally wasted and she would probably be able to get away with mid-chunin level reserves.

For Naruto, more chakra was the last thing he needed and the exercises were already showing to improve his control as it had been ever since Naruto had learned them. Still, he had a long way to go to get his chakra control to the point where it should be.

Elemental manipulation exercises consisted of leaf cutting for Naruto and compressing a handful of dirt into a compact sphere for Sakura. Naruto already had about 50 clones running through the leaf exercise and Kakashi was confident the blonde would have the first step down in a few weeks rather than the six months that it should normally take him. Sakura was different in that her superior control was proving to be a huge asset. Add that to the fact that earth was one of the easier elements to learn, he figured it wouldn't be too long before she had the first nature manipulation exercise down. Once that happened, they would be able to start on their elemental jutsu.

Finally, the morning came to an end and both genin could feel the effects of a real workout throughout their entire bodies. Having a near endless amount of energy, Naruto was already making a recovery, but Sakura was another story. Kakashi had driven her to the point of near chakra exhaustion with the chakra exercises and the pinkette found herself unable to pick herself off the ground.

"Naruto-kun, I don't think…" said Sakura, in-between heavy breaths. "…I don't think I can get up."

"Yeah, Kakashi-sensei's workout was actually hard today" commented Naruto, helping Sakura to her uneasy feet. Sakura took a slight step forward, only for her legs to give out and she fell forward, only to land on Naruto's back as he began carrying her away from the training ground and off to get some lunch, Sakura resting her chin on Naruto's shoulder and the side of her head against Naruto's head.

The two came to a tea and dango shop to get lunch and were about to go in until Naruto suddenly turned and walked away at a frantic pace. "Naruto-kun, why didn't you go in there? I thought this was where we were going to go for lunch?"

"Can't talk, gotta get away from…" Naruto stopped dead in his tracks a cold steel sliced against the cheek that Sakura was not resting against and warm red blood began to trickle down his cheek.

"And where do you think you're going, huh?" called out the familiar voice of Mitarashi Anko. Before Naruto could do anything, Anko's head was over his other shoulder, licking the trickle of blood coming from the cut on Naruto's cheek. "Oh and who's this?" Anko said pointing over at Sakura. "What's the matter? Isn't Anko good enough for you?"

"Anko, leave them alone."

"Hmph, do you really have to ruin my fun Inoichi?" called out Anki, eyeing the mentalist.

"If you want fun, there's a pair of foreign ninja that we caught spying today in holding cell 2" called out Inoichi.

"Sorry kiddies, but some worthless scum's awaiting. Now don't have too much fun while I'm gone" laughed Anko as she shunshined back to the T&I holding facility.

"I tell you, that creepy snake lady's weird" commented Naruto.

"Yeah, she gives me the creeps" replied Sakura. "Anyways, thanks for your help, Inoichi-san."

"Don't worry about Anko. She doesn't bite, so long as you don't get her to riled up…on second thought, yeah you'd better watch out for her" said Inoichi.

After their lunch at the now Anko-free teahouse, the pair had to part their separate ways. Naruto had to find Iruka-sensei and get help on that sealing stuff, while Sakura said that there was something she still had to do yet, assuring Naruto that she'd tell him about it over ramen that night.


For Tsunade, today was a good day. Today was one of those days where there wasn't much paperwork besides the daily mission reports and the Godaime Hokage was able to kick back a little. As Tsunade took a sip of her tea, there was a knock on her door. "Come it!" As the door opened, a young girl Tsunade recognized as Haruno Sakura stepped through. To Tsunade, she looked rather beaten and dirty. "Looks like Kakashi has finally picked up the training on her and the Gaki." "What is it?"

"Tsunade-sama, I need to become stronger so I can be there for my friends and my team when they need me, which is why I'm asking you to please…make me your apprentice!" begged Sakura.

"That look in her eyes, she's not kidding around anymore. She's got a strong spirit, it's a shame that seal held her back from realizing her true potential earlier, but there is still hope for her. The Gaki mentioned that she used to be driven back before the Academy and from what Kakashi said, she was still driven even while under the effects of the seal, most likely her way of resisting its influences" thought Tsunade. "She's troubled as well. She doesn't want to lose him again."

"Haruno Sakura, I've heard about your intelligence and potential from Kakashi. And it's good to see that your drive is back in gear. Very well, I'll make you my apprentice, but realize that I won't go easy on you. If this is truly what you want, then I'll drill everything I know into your head and then some, shaping you into the best medical ninja you can be" spoke Tsunade.

"I understand, I won't disappoint you, Tsunade-sama, or should I say Tsunade-shisho" addressed Sakura. "I can't let you down, I can't let Naruto-kun down, and most importantly I can't let myself down anymore!"

"Good. You are to meet me every day after your training with your team and Kakashi" said Tsunade as she stood up and walked over to her book shelf. "But first, I'll start you off with a little light reading. Let's see, there's anatomy…physiology…botany…biology…"

"This is what she calls light reading?" gulped Sakura as Tsunade piled about a dozen thick textbooks into her arms. Yeah, those shadow clones Kakashi was talking about when her chakra reserves increased were definitely going to help.


Classes for the day had just been let out at the Academy and Iruka was sitting at his desk looking over the day's quizzes. "Iruka-sensei!" shouted an orange blur as it barreled through the door.

"Naruto?" asked Iruka in question. "What are you doing here? I thought you were never coming back here again and the only way I'd find you is if I came to Ichiraku?"

"I actually have a favor to ask you" said Naruto. "You see, Ero-Sennin gave me these books on fuinjutsu and I…"

"Let me guess, your writing could use some work" said Iruka, getting a nod out of Naruto. "You know, you really shouldn't have skipped classes then."

"Even if I didn't would the teachers really have helped me out? I mean, none of them paid any attention to me until you came along, and that was only for the last year-and-a-half of the academy" said Naruto, causing Iruka to sigh.

"Yeah, I suppose you're right. Alright, I'll help you out" said Iruka as he and Naruto took a seat at one of the desks and Iruka proceeded to give his favorite ex-student remedial writing lessons.


It had been just over two weeks since the Sasuke Retrieval Squad had returned from their failed mission, Naruto had nearly died at the hands of the traitorous Uchiha, and a certain seal placed on one Haruno Sakura had finally cracked, returning the happy memories of a childhood friendship and crush that she had with a certain foxy blonde boy while also revealing the painful betrayal by her own parents.

It had been two weeks since Konoha's newest couple had their first date and their relationship was already off to a great start. It had also been around that time since their jonin sensei had kicked their training into full gear and then some, driving the couple to the point of exhaustion in the morning while they parted ways for the afternoon to work on their own skills.

Kakashi's normal training regimen consisted of a physical workout that left Sakura barely crawling back to the finish line. Naruto, who had bundles of energy, was more sore than just plain exhausted as Kakashi had been focusing more on his physical strength, agility, and reflexes. Still, despite the boot camp-like regimen, Naruto and Sakura were already starting to feel the benefits. For Sakura, the constant strain that her underwhelming chakra coils were experiencing had caused them to grow at a rate that even Kakashi was surprised by. After just two weeks, they had gone from low-genin to high-genin, something that usually takes months to do. One theory Kakashi had was that Tsunade, Sakura's newest teacher, was assisting in the recovery process or even showing Sakura some techniques to help grow them even more. If this kept up, then she might actually be at the point where Kakashi would consider teaching her the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu in order to help her catch up in some areas of jutsu knowledge. As for Naruto, Kakashi noticed the great improvement on the blonde's own physical coordination and agility. He also noticed an increase in Naruto's chakra control and had just recently asked Naruto to work on perfecting the chakra manipulation of his strongest technique, the Rasengan. Of course one thing that greatly helped Naruto in improving his own chakra control was the use of his shadow clones, which he would normally use a few dozen every time to work on basic chakra exercises. Kakashi felt that if Naruto kept going at this pace, he'd be able to perform a one-handed Rasengan by the end of the month.

The other element to Kakashi's training was the two jutsus he had given them. Both of them had already gotten one of their jutsus completed, Sakura completing her Sakura Fubuki genjutsu and Naruto completing his Shuriken Kage Bunshin no Jutsu amd were progressing rather rapidly on their elemental manipulation to the point where Kakashi figured that they'd have the first step of their elemental manipulation exercises down. While they had not quite mastered their jutsus, they had done much more than Kakashi had expected in learning them in a matter of a few weeks, along with all the other stuff that was piled on top of them.

Sakura had personally asked Tsuande herself to become an apprenticed medical ninja, something that Kakashi was glad she had deciding on. The first week had consisted primarily of Tsunade shoving as much knowledge of medicine and the human body as possible into Sakura's head, which was something that the pink-haired genin picked up on rather fast, surprising even Tsunade. If there was one thing Tsunade was glad that hadn't been held back by that mental seal, it was Sakura's intelligence. That intelligence of the girl's had already prompted Tsunade to begin the process of fine tuning Sakura's already advanced chakra control to perfect chakra control, something that was an absolute must to be a medical ninja.

Naruto's extra training was a bit different in that he had asked his former Academy sensei for some remedial handwriting lessons in order to be able to make effective seals. By the end of two weeks, it wasn't perfect, but it was a drastic improvement to the point where Naruto could actually start to make some basic seals without too much difficulty. Iruka had quickly realized that Naruto had knack for fuinjutsus when the blonde began to try making his first few seals. To Iruka's amazement, they worked better than most seals the scar-faced chunin had seen. Iruka had been the first person to realize that Naruto wasn't the 'dobe' that a lot of people saw him as and he figured that if someone had only encouraged him earlier or actually offered the blonde some help, that Naruto could have easily been near the top of the class.

Even though the past two weeks were long and harsh for the genin couple, Naruto and Sakura usually found some time of the day to spend together, or should I say evening. Most of the time, their dates involved simply meeting for dinner or going for an evening walk, but to them they were spending time with one another, something that they both felt that they were four years behind on. If anyone couldn't believe their relationship was actually happening, it was Naruto. After years of having his advances brutally rejected, the blonde was still slightly dumbfounded by just how open Sakura was being with him. Of course, he knew the reason behind Sakura's real personality being suppressed was because of that seal, but to him, this was practically a dream, one he didn't want to wake up from.


To both Naruto and Sakura's delight, this was one day that they had been given completely off as kind of a reward for their hard work. Still, this didn't mean that their work was completely done. Rumors had been spreading amongst the members of the Konoha 11 and Naruto, Sakura, and Ino found that it would be best to tell the group as a whole the entire story behind Sakura's sealed past.

As it stood, Sakura had just finished explaining to everyone gathered at Training Ground 11 the story of the past four years. How she had met Naruto as a young girl, how they quickly became friends, how Ino was soon included into their little group, Sakura's parents unhappy with Sakura's new friend and them having her memories sealed and then the point of Naruto returning from the Sasuke Retrieval mission, in a state of near-death, triggering Sakura's sealed emotions to break free of the influence of the seal.

To everyone there, it sounded like some silly excuse to explain just why Sakura had been beating on Naruto for the past five years, yet with Ino backing her up and a few of the other members of the Konoha 11 recalling the reasons why their parents were so pissed off at the Haruno's, they quickly realized that it was no story. The story ended with the entire Konoha 11 left speechless, with Shikamaru being the first one to speak.

"And I thought mothers were controlling, but even this is pushing it, troublesome" said the lazy chunin, recalling own mother. From a few people, this earned a little laugh.

"So you're telling me the reason Sakura here obsessed over Sasuke and beat on Naruto all four years of the academy was because of a stupid seal?" asked Kiba.

"This wasn't just a stupid seal, Dog-Boy" replied Ino. "My family had it forbidden for reasons. It was a powerful memory alteration seal that suppressed whatever part of the individual's personality the one applying the seal desired, in this case any memory of Naruto, and imposed a new personality, the Sasuke-fawning, Naruto beating fangirl. From what I understand, while it's possible to resist to some extent, the seal will only break when the person who was sealed experiences some kind of extreme emotional trauma, such as Naruto coming into the hospital with a hole in his chest. That's why Sakura fell into a coma, because her own personality was fighting against the imposed personality."

"So then the Sakura that we have now is the non-fangirl Sakura?" asked Chouji.

"Right, and please don't mention anything regarding that other me. It's disgusting to even that I could like that stuck-up bastard" said Sakura.

"So Naruto, why'd you do it?" asked Kiba, earning a look from Naruto. "I saw the way she treated you back in the academy and even I would have just given up on her then and there."

"It's because I knew that Sakura back in the academy wasn't the real Sakura. She was honestly the first friend I had and I wasn't about to lose her that easily. I knew something was wrong with her and I wasn't going to stop until I found out what it was and saved her" said Naruto. "I mean, think about it if that was Akamaru, wouldn't you do anything and put up with any punishment just to get him back?"

"Are you comparing me to a dog, Naruto?" glared Sakura.

"N-no no, Sakura-chan. I'm just saying that the bond Kiba and Akamaru has is as strong as the one I feel we have and that's why I would do anything to save it" said Naruto.

"You know, I think I understand" said Kiba.

Overall, the reactions of the Konoha 11 were ones of accepting and forgiveness towards Sakura. They had understood that the seal was controlling her personality and with a little convincing from Naruto and Ino that even when influenced Sakura was trying to resist the seal, they held nothing regarding her actions over her. And then came the announcement that Sakura and Naruto were in a relationship…

"Naruto-kun, you are truly a rival in youthful love for winning the fair heart of Sakura!" said Lee with tears streaming down his eyes. "But I shall double, no triple my efforts to win over Sakura-san's heart for hopes that she will one day be mine!" Naruto sweat dropped at this, and so did just about everyone else.

Lee wasn't the only one who wasn't fully accepting of the fact that Naruto and Sakura were now in a relationship. Yes, that's right, Hyuga Hinata, the one who had admired Naruto since the early years of the academy was also shaken by this revelation. The young Hyuga was desperately wishing that was her that Naruto was calling his girlfriend. However, she knew what Naruto and Ino were referring to the day back at the hospital, with regards to the seal on Sakura breaking.

Still, it didn't help the current situation. Naruto was now officially in a relationship with Sakura, although he hadn't put a ring on her finger yet, but that most likely wasn't going to be happening to any girl in the Konoha 11 for a quite a few years yet.

Despite the fact that Sakura had just taken HER Naruto, she couldn't help but feel sorry for the pinkette as the seal that had been placed on and controlling Sakura was, in a sense, the same thing her clan was doing to her 'brother', Neji. While the concept of hatred was all but foreign to the sweet and innocent Hinata, there was one thing she could honestly say she hated and that was using seals to control people or force them into some form of servitude.

Hinata thought back to the pre-academy days, when Naruto, Sakura, and Ino would normally just hang out together. She knew THAT Sakura had actually cared for Naruto, but the Sakura that came to the academy was a completely different story. In just the time span of a night, Sakura had gone from someone Hinata actually had respected for actually being there for Naruto and someone she would have liked to gotten to know better, to the brutish Naruto-murdering monster that appeared at the Academy on the first day. It did serve to comfort her a little that if the Sakura there was the pre-Academy Sakura, then Naruto had another person who truly did care for him.

At the clearing, Kiba looked over to his left to see his one female teammate tart to slink back away from the group. He could tell that she was depressed by the revelation that Naruto and Sakura were now in a full-blown relationship and he felt he needed to do something or else any shred of confidence she had gained since they were placed on a team together would be gone. He heard a whimper come from the top of his head.

"I know boy, I know" said Kiba, comforting his small canine partner. As people began to leave to go and take care of their own things, Kiba approached Naruto who was now talking to Sakura.

"Oi, Naruto" called out Kiba. "Look, I was wondering if I could ask you to do something for me…"

"I know, you want me to talk to Hinata, don't you?" asked Naruto.

"So you knew?" asked Kiba.

"Did you really think I was THAT oblivious?" replied Naruto. Before Kiba was about to reply, Naruto responded. "Don't answer that. Yeah, I knew she's been crushing on me and it honestly makes me glad that there is someone else out there who cares for me, but my heart's always belonged to Sakura-chan…"

"Aww…" aww-ed Sakura.

"I mean, yes Hinata's nice and everything, but I've never been able to look at her the same way she looks at me. Besides, I know her clan would never accept me for one reason or another" said Naruto. "I'll talk with her and see if I can get her to move on, don't worry. Who knows, maybe she'll find someone who cares for her much more than I ever could." Naruto sent a knowing look at Kiba.

"Thanks, Naruto" replied Kiba.

"No problems" said Naruto as Kiba and Akamaru left to go do whatever Kiba and Akamaru did.

"Sakura-chan, I'm sorry but I'm going to go talk with Hinata. I'll meet up with you for ramen later?" asked Naruto.

"Definitely. I'll see you later." Sakura gave Naruto a quick peck before running off to go and do Sakura-stuff.


A depressed Hinata Hyuga was slowly making her way back to her home. Despite all her own attempts to swallow the fact that Naruto had been taken, she still couldn't manage to pull her out of her depression. The only one she knew who would be able to so that was…

"Hey, Hinata!"

Hinata's head shot up at the voice that was calling her name and she turned around to a blonde and orange figure running towards her. "N-naruto-k-kun? W-what a-are you d-doing here?"

"Look, I just figured that I should at least say thank you for believing in me all these past years" said Naruto.

"Y-you d-d-on't n-need to do t-that" stuttered Hinata.

"No, I do. You were one of only a few people who did believe in me back then and for that I can't thank you enough, which is why I at least owe you an explanation as to why I chose Sakura-chan" said Naruto. "You've heard the story already, so you know that it wasn't her fault and I'll be honest that there were points in the Academy where I honestly was about ready to give up and just accept that she was completely lost to Teme, but every time I was about to, I saw something in her that showed me that she was resisting that seal, whether it be a slight smile at one of my pranks or a punch that she didn't hit me with. It was moments like those that I knew deep down, that the Sakura-chan I knew was still in there somewhere and I wasn't about to give her up" said Naruto. "She was the first person, besides Jiji, who even acknowledged me, who put in the effort to get to know me. That's why I wasn't going to give up on her."

"I-I k-know. T-that's w-what makes you y-you" said Hinata.

"I am hoping you can understand that I do think of you as one of my close friends, but I am afraid that's all I see you as" said Naruto.

"I-I s-see" said Hinata, lowering her head.

"But know this, you're strong and I know it" said Naruto, regaining Hinata's attention. "You don't need me, you've never needed me. You've just gotta believe in yourself and I know you'll be surprised at just who you really are."

"Do you…D-do you really t-think so?" asked Hinata.

"Trust me, I know so" said Naruto. "Again, thank you for believing in me and I hope you can understand."

"I do" said Hinata without a stutter this time. "And thank you Naruto-kun. If you ever need something I'll be here for you."

With that, Naruto departed, leaving the Huyga heiress to herself…and the dog-ninja walking down the street towards her.

"Hey Hinata, you going to be okay?" asked a concerned Kiba.

"K-kiba-kun?" said a startled Hinata, not expecting Kiba to be there. "Yes, I-I'm be just f-fine. T-thank you, Kiba-kun."

Kiba smiled as a warm smile appeared on Hinata's face and Akamaru let out a joyful 'arf'.


"So how'd it go?" asked Sakura, sitting next to Naruto enjoying an evening bowl of ramen with her blonde boyfriend.

"I think she'll be okay. I saw Kiba walking towards her as I left and I trust Kiba to be there for her" said Naruto.

"Still, I can't actually believe we're trying to hook Dog-breath with Hinata" replied Ino, who had also joined her two best friends for dinner and was sitting on Naruto's other side.

"Well yeah, but even I know Kiba has a little crush on Hinata and he's not as bad as some people make him out to be" replied Naruto.

"He still smells like wet dog though, but I will admit. Those two could make for almost as cute a couple as you two" added Ino. "So anyways, how have things been going with you guys? I haven't really seen you around since you two apparently kicked your training into high gear."

Sakura cringed at the pain filled weeks of training with Kakashi-sensei and Tsunade-shisho. "Harsh, but I honestly feel as if I'm getting stronger. Kakashi-sensei's taught me a nice genjutsu and he's got us working on another jutsu."

"Man, I wish Asuma-sensei would teach us some cool jutsus or something. But I had to be stuck with the laziest person in this village and all Chouji ever thinks about is food. It doesn't help that Asuma-sensei's rather laid back as well" sighed Ino. "I mean we actually do make a good team, but I just wish Asuma-sensei would teach us some more things besides using our clan techniques."

"Oh, I'm sure you'll find something. After all, you don't want to be falling behind me now do ya? Ino-pig?" teased Sakura.

"What?! Me behind you? As if, Forehead" replied Ino.

"After all this training with Kakashi-sensei and Tsunade-shisho, I'm sure I could beat you now if we had a little rematch" bragged Sakura.

"Keep dreaming…keep dreaming" waved Ino.

Poor Naruto was trying to enjoy his ramen, but found himself in the middle of Ino and Sakura's argument.

"You know, I always wanted a rivalry with you, I just didn't want it to be over a stupid boy" said Ino.

"Yeah I'll agree with you there" replied Sakura. "Tell you what. Kakashi-sensei mentioned the chunin exams in a few months. How about we promise to train as hard as we can and we'll settle this for real in the next chunin exams?"

"Heh, you're on Sakura!" accepted Ino. "But wait, what sort of guarantee is there that we'll meet?"

"Ya know, I'd hate to take a page from Neji's book, but I'll let it slide this once. It has been fated" said Naruto in a monotonous, Neji-like voice, causing Sakura and Ino to burst out laughing at Naruto's impersonation of the Hyuga genius.


The Hyuga compound,

"Achoo!"

"N-neji-niisan, are you okay?" asked Hinata.


"I am, thank you Hinata-sama. I get the feeling thought that someone is talking about me" replied Neji.

Another week had passed, making it three weeks since Team 7 had been given their vacation. Today was the day that Team Kakashi was supposed to get its new third member and both Naruto and Sakura had been speculating on what this new person was going to be like.

As Naruto and Sakura approached Training Ground 7, the couple was ambushed by a trio of lion-like beasts, charging straight towards them. "Doton: Doryuheki!" Called out Sakura as she slammed her hands into the ground to create an earthen barrier using the technique she had just managed to get down a few days ago. The beasts couldn't stop themselves and instead ran into the wall, splattering and covering the wall with…ink?

"What the hell were those?" asked Naruto.

"I don't know…Up there!" shouted Sakura, pointing to a tree branch where a pale boy with black hair and a short jacket that only covered the upper half of his torso.

"Right, I got him. Taju Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" shouted Naruto, making a dozen of himself and charging the pale attacker.

"Ninpo: Choju Giga" called out the attacker as he made a few brush strokes on the scroll he had in front of him. As he said his jutsu, more of those lion-beasts emerged from the scroll and engaged the clones. As Naruto's clones were fighting off the lions, Naruto drew a kunai and made his way towards the attacker.

As Naruto swung with his kunai, the pale boy pulled the tanto from his back and used it to block Naruto's attack. "Who the hell are you?!" demanded Naruto.

"You're fairly weak aren't you" stated the attacker. "Do you have any balls at all?"

"WHAT?!" shouted a flustered Naruto. Sakura caught what Sai had just said and began to blush at the mention of Naruto's…manhood.

As the pale attacker and Naruto jumped back away from each other to ready for another attack, an explosion of smoke went off between them, their one-eyed jonin sensei standing between them.

"Yo!" waved Kakashi.

"Kakashi-sensei quick, this guy just attacked us out of the blue!" shouted Naruto.

"Ah, I see you've already met" commented Kakashi.

"No time to talk, we've gotta capture him and hand him over to the T&I squad and wait…what do you mean by already met?" asked Naruto.

"Naruto, Sakura, this is Sai. He's going to be the newest member of our squad" said Kakashi, jesturing to Sai.

"Hello" said Sai with a kind of creepy smile on his face.

"You can't be serious" whispered Naruto to Sakura as they both sighed.

"Well, I see this is certainly going to be an interesting time" thought Kakashi. "Well, let's get started shall we? We've got one week left before you're cleared for active missions again and I think we could all use some teamwork exercises to get better acquainted with one another."


Jutsu

Ninpo: Sakura Fubuki (c-rank): A lower level genjutsu that makes the victim appear as if they are surrounded by a blizzard of cherry blossoms, disguising the attacker's movements and allowing an opening to be created for them to strike


Author Notes

Well, there's the third chapter. I know it's slightly on the shorter side, but it's within the range I like my chapters (7-10k words). This concludes the introduction to this story and I'll be starting on the first mission arc here in the next chapter. I know this chapter breezed through a month's time rather quickly, but in all honesty it was mainly just a lot of training with Naruto and Sakura trying to get to the level where they should be at. Also, Sakura has begun apprenticeship under Tsunade and Naruto can make some simple seals at this point.

Now that Sakura's starting to catch up, the idea that she was sealed will bear a bit less of a weight on her, but that wound will never quite heal for some time.

Other than that, nothing really too special with this chapter except for the small introduction of Sai.

Let me know how this story's started off. Please REVIEW! (Don't make me have Akamaru lick you to death…or worse).