I do not own Naruto, it belongs to Kishimoto.



/Inner Sakura/


A Roll of the Dice

Sakura once again touched her forehead protector not quite believing that she was now a ninja. A genin kunoichi. The last six years of her life had been dedicated to the ninja arts and now those skills and knowledge would be put to real use.

In all honesty the thought truly scared her. Now that she was an active ninja the chances of her dying had now significantly increased. It was no longer something that wouldn't happen till years later. She could no longer put it off.

All this time I've been putting off the inevitable. Am I really prepared to be a ninja?

/Hell yeah! Of course we are! We're so gonna kick ass!/

Sakura smiled slightly at Inner's response as she walked home. Inner always knew how to lift her spirits and give her confidence. Yet, at this moment she didn't feel completely comforted by Inner's words.

Sakura took a moment to look around as she walked down the village's main road. This was one of the reasons she enjoyed the walk home. As she walked she could look at all the shops and restaurants lining the road. Today the streets were packed, mostly with graduating students and their parents out celebrating.

Seeing all the happy students and their parents made her sigh. Her own parents had to go out of town on important clan business so they couldn't make it to her graduation. they had promised to make it up to her when they got back, and she knew the trip was important. The Haruno Clan was one of the wealthiest merchant clans in the Elemental Nations.

Still she couldn't help but wish they could've been there. Slightly picking up the pace so she could get home before dark, her thoughts returned to their previous subject.

Was she prepared to be a ninja?

Despite Inner's words Sakura both knew and felt the answer was no. While her test scores were the highest in academy history, only matched by a former academy student, her physical abilities were very poor in comparison; almost near the very bottom in fact.

While her ninjutsu skill was flawless, on par with Sasuke, it was very limited since she only knew the academy jutsu. Most of her classmates had their family jutsu to add to their repertoire. The only thing she had over everyone else was her perfect chakra control.

God what had she been doing all this time?

Sakura felt embarrassment come over her. She knew what she had been doing. Foolishly chasing after Sasuke. Ever since she had decided to become rivals with Ino over Sasuke's affection she had stopped completely focusing on being a great ninja.

Breaking off from her thoughts momentarily, Sakura stopped to open the door to her home. Walking in she took off her shoes by the door then trudged upstairs. Her home was modest and very well decorated instead of being huge and lavish as others of her family's station would usually live in. Despite their wealth the Haruno family was advocators of frugality and didn't believe in needlessly spending money. It was a belief that deeply resonated with her.

Opening the door to her room she went straight towards her bed and flopped down on it. Heaving a sigh she stared up at the ceiling.

Why had she even thought that was a good idea? She remembered it was to prove to Ino that she was her equal. But surely she could have picked them being rivals over who was the better kunoichi. That would have been more worthwhile. At least then she would have had a chance at being the class' top kunoichi instead of Ino.

Once more she couldn't even remember if she really liked Sasuke or was it just because Ino and almost every other girl did? Sure he was handsome and talented but even she couldn't ignore that he had a horrible attitude. He was cold and looked down on everyone, nor did he show any interest in anything. Yet, all her free time had been devoted to chasing him. She couldn't even recall the last time she had done something for herself or without him in mind. What were her likes and hobbies?

Sakura growled in frustration. The more she thought about it the more it pissed her off. She needed a change. And the first thing she had to do was find out who she was and what she really wanted. No more imitating others and taking her cues from them.

Second, was to throw herself wholeheartedly into being a better ninja and not just a good one, but a great one. She had never settled for anything less intellectually, so why start now with her ninja skills. Third and last was to start acting the part of a ninja. No more chasing after Sasuke and letting her emotions get the best of her.

Resolved to start implementing her goals as soon as possible, Sakura felt lighter than she had in a long while. Getting up she started to prepare for bed. After bathing, brushing her teeth and getting in her pajamas she settled down for bed.

Tomorrow was a new chapter in the life of Sakura Haruno.

The light chirping of birds was the first thing Sakura heard when she woke up. Blearily rubbing her eyes, she looked at the clock on her nightstand to see it was 5:25 a.m. Normally she would just go back to sleep but she didn't feel like it today.

Yesterday's thoughts and her resolution lay heavily on her mind. Sakura knew she had to make a change. Getting up at an earlier time would be a nice start to helping cement her resolve. She could use this extra time to be doing something more productive.

Rolling out of bed she went about performing her morning routine. As she was about to get dressed she stopped to stare at her red dress. While she liked the dress it really wasn't practical for training or missions even with the shorts. Also, it didn't help she mostly wore it only to impress Sasuke.

Frowning Sakura slipped on the shorts and dress before making her way downstairs. Entering the kitchen she contemplated whether she should cook breakfast or simply grab something quick to eat. Opening the fridge she saw it was packed full of food.

Making a decision she gathered a bunch ingredients and started preparing to make a huge omelet. Another thing to add to her list: no more ridiculous diets. As long as she trained hard she wouldn't get fat. Besides with all the training she planned to do she would need the calories.

Twenty minutes later she was sitting at the table with everything prepared. A nice big omelet with two pieces of toast and a bowl of mixed fruit with a glass of milk. Quietly eating her breakfast she wondered where she should start her training. She wasn't very strong or skilled in taijutsu so that seemed like as good a place as any to start. Her skill with ninja tools were okay but could be improved. Her ninjutsu of course could definitely use improvement since she only knew three jutsu. Though she would really need to increase her chakra reserves for that to be of any use. Also, further fine tuning her control couldn't hurt either.

Finishing her breakfast she washed her dishes then went upstairs to strap on her ninja gear. Locking the front door behind her she looked up at the sky. It still slightly dark outside with the moon still visible in the sky with the sun slowly rising.

So what could she work on now? Maybe her speed and stamina? A run to the Hokage Monument maybe?

No, it would be a challenge but not one that would push her to her very limits. Any training she did had to push her to the edge so she would see better results. The village was pretty huge though. Running around that would be really challenging.

Gearing herself up for the task ahead of her, Sakura started a light jog to the edge of the village near her home. Since it was pretty early most of the streets she passed were deserted. Only the occasional civilian was seen and of course there were ninja traveling by rooftop.

Soon enough she reached the village wall. Taking a deep breath and mentally preparing, Sakura got in a ready position. Counting down in her head...1...2...3.

Sakura shot off, starting off at her full speed, riding her adrenaline high till she felt it start to fade. Setting a pace that conserved energy but was slightly taxing Sakura took time to admire the village while running. Konoha really was a beautiful place. The abundant nature, the Hokage Monument, the architecture and many other things.

The sun rose higher in the sky further illuminating the village.

As fatigue started to set in halfway around the village Sakura had to dig deep within herself to continue. Finally seeing the point where she started, Sakura felt a sudden burst of energy and managed to sprint the rest of the way. Coming to a stop she collapsed to the ground taking deep breaths. She got strange looks from the people walking by but ignored them.

After catching her breath she stood up. Now, time to practice her aim and speed with shuriken and kunai. Taking off toward the training grounds she checked the time on a nearby clock and saw it was almost nine. She had started her run a little before seven so it had taken her two hours to make it around the village at her pace.

She would cut that time down everyday by minutes and add a lap every week to help increase her speed and stamina.

Arriving at the training grounds she decided to use one near the back so as not to be the disturbed. As she went deeper into the training grounds she could hear the sounds of a fierce fight going on. Curious she walked towards the sounds of the skirmish.

Moving closer she came across a small clearing. Within she saw four people, three males and a female shinobi. Three of them were attacking one in sync with each other.

One had long brown hair and pale eyes wearing a cream colored vest and charcoal shorts. He was obviously a Hyuga and had his Byakugan activated while using his clan's Gentle Fist technique. The only girl had traditional Chinese buns with brown eyes and was wearing a pink sleeveless vest with the standard shinobi pants. The last boy looked like a clone of the man all of them were fighting, with a bowl cut, green spandex suit with orange leg warmers and bushy eyebrows. The only difference between he and the man besides size, age, and facial features was the standard chunin vest the man wore.

This must be a jonin sensei and his genin team.

It made her wonder if this is what training with her own sensei would be like.

The jonin took on his students with ease, movements fluid. If she had to guess he was probably a master at hand-to-hand combat.

Sakura continued to watch them awed by how well the team worked to together and their strength. They were impressive. The Hyuga with his use of Gentle Fist kept up a steady and fast offense while being backed by his teammates. The girl was using a wide arsenal of weapons summoned from scrolls attacking whenever one of her teammates was pushed away by their sensei. The kid in spandex using a style of taijutsu she had never seen before attacking at the same time as the Hyuga utilizing powerful strikes.

Watching them she couldn't help but feel envious of their skill. I wouldn't be able to contribute much of anything to this fight. All she was was a paper ninja at this point. Put a problem in front of her and she could come up with a way to solve it. But ask her to apply it in this type of situation and there wasn't much she could do to make it happen.

So caught up in her thoughts she barely noticed that they had stopped. Turning her attention back to them she heard the jonin talking to his team.

"Excellent teamwork you three. The flames of youth were shining brightly in your every move."

Sakura felt an eyebrow twitch. Flames of youth?

The jonin continued on, "Tenten you need to keep working on your speed and accuracy but otherwise very good timing. Tenten, the female ninja, nodded her head with determination.

"Neji," he said addressing the Hyuga, "Excellent offensive strategy to keep me on the defensive and your speed has improved. However, some of your next moves were predictable." Neji nodded in understanding. Finally he turned to his mini clone. "Lee, great form, speed and determination, but you need to be more observant of your surroundings and teammates. There were a couple of times you got in the way of them attacking, almost causing them to injure you."

"Hai, Gai-sensei! I will work on improving this or I will run 50 laps around the village while blindfolded!" exclaimed Lee with enthusiasm and determination. His two teammates made noises of exasperation.

Well he's awfully enthusiastic. Though his energy was off putting she could hear the sincere promise in his voice to do what he said.

"That's the spirit Lee!" Gai said with a gleaming smile while striking a pose. After a moment his face turned serious. "Now before I dismiss you all, why doesn't whoever's spying on us come out now," he remarked before turning to look in her direction.

Sakura gave a start. She didn't think they would notice. Though she probably should've known better with a jonin around and she hadn't really tried to conceal herself. Seeing them all now looking in her direction, Sakura heaved a sigh before moving her from her place behind a tree.

Walking into the clearing she saw Tenten and Lee all had curious expressions on their faces while the Hyuga looked on indifferent. Their sensei had a questioning look on his face.

Sakura nervously ran a hand through her hair. "Ehh...sorry I wasn't trying to spy on you. I just heard you guys training and got curious about what was going on," she explained sheepishly.

"Ahh, that's quite alright. It's youthful to be curious. Though one must be careful in their curiosity," Gai said with a stern but kind smile. Sakura nodded in understanding, grateful they weren't upset.

She turned to his students to see Lee and Tenten giving her welcoming smiles. Neji only gave a small hmph before looking at his sensei. "Are we free to leave?"

Gai nodded. "Yes we're done for the day. Your all dismissed." The Hyuga nodded before turning to leave without so much as a goodbye. What a cold guy. Kind of reminds me of Sasuke with his attitude.

Turning back to look at the others she saw them looking at her. Feeling self-conscious she gave a nervous smile. "Hi, my name is Sakura."

"Nice to meet you Sakura. My name is Tenten," replied Tenten with warm smile. She was about to open her mouth, probably to introduce her teammates, but was interrupted by Lee.

Moving faster than her eye could see suddenly he was in front of Sakura. Sakura gave a startled gasp as he appeared right in front of her. He gave a beaming smile, "Hello, my name is Rock Lee!" He struck a pose similar to that of his sensei earlier. Slightly put off by his actions Sakura gave a strained smile not wanting to be impolite.

"It's nice to meet you Tenten and Lee," Sakura responded while leaning around Lee to look at Tenten. She turned toward their sensei. "And what's you name jonin-san?" She already knew his name but it was just polite to introduce one's self.

"Why my name is Maito Gai, Konoha's Sublime Green Beast of Prey!" he shouted with a smile while striking once again, what Sakura would now call the 'nice guy' pose. Tenten gave an exasperated sigh while face palming.

"Yosh! That's right! I'm known as Konoha's Beautiful Green Wild Beast!" exclaimed Lee with a gleaming smile holding his thumbs up.

Sakura couldn't help but smile. Master and student were so alike. Also, Lee reminded her of Naruto with his boundless energy and enthusiasm.

"So Sakura," Tenten asked. "Are you an academy student?"

Turing away from Lee to face Tenten Sakura answered. "No, I actually graduated yesterday."

"Oh congratulations!" Tenten replied. "You must be so excited to have a chance at being a genin."

"Yes," said Lee, "It is an amazing feeling to graduate and be able to start protecting your precious people and the village."

"Thank you. I am both excited and scared to now be a ninja, but am prepared to do my duty to the village." Sakura nervously replied.

"It's normal to be scared when just becoming a ninja," remarked Gai with a comforting smile. "Just remember you have your sensei and team to look out for you and to help you grow."

Sakura nodded in gratitude at his attempt to comfort her. She was about to ask them a question about being on a genin team when what Tenten said finally occurred to her.

"Hey Tenten."

"Yes?" she questioned kindly.

"What did you mean by having a chance at being a genin? Aren't you a genin after you graduate?" Sakura wondered with furrowed brows.

Tenten frowned for a moment before replying, "No, you have to..."

"Tenten," interrupted Gai. "It's supposed to be a secret remember," he said with a hand covering the side of his mouth while raising his eyebrows. Sakura though curious couldn't help but be amused by the jonin's behavior.

"Oh right, sorry," said Tenten sheepishly rubbing the back of her head.

"A secret," Sakura wondered out loud.

"But Gai-sensei, why can't we tell her about it," protested Lee.

"It's a Konoha tradition Lee and traditions must be observed," Gai remarked solemnly.

"Can't you give me a hint about this tradition?" Sakura pleaded with imploring eyes.

"Nope. Sorry Haruno-san but you will find out soon enough when go back to the academy for your jonin sensei and team assignments."

Sakura pouted slightly along with Lee. Tenten giggled at their expressions.

"Well alright you guys I have to go home and sharpen my weapons. I'll see you later." Taking out a scroll Tenten used some type of jutsu and was able to recall her weapons before sealing them in the scroll. Sakura watched in fascination wondering how the sealing worked. Tenten waved goodbye to them as they all said their goodbyes.

"Sakura-san," called Lee. "What was it you were going to training grounds for?"

"Oh. Well...I...I was going to practice on my speed and aim with kunai and shuriken," she embarrassingly told them.

Noticing her embarrassment, Gai commented, "Training to get stronger is nothing to be embarrassed by Haruno-san. Even great ninja have to practice."

"That's right! Results can only be achieved through hard work," interjected Lee.

Sakura gave a weak smile at their words of encouragement. "I know this but..."

"But what Sakura-san?" asked Lee curiously. Gai also had an inquiring look.

"Well..." Sakura didn't know whether or not to tell these people who were practical strangers about what weighed heavily on her mind. It was really a pitiful thing that she had wasted so much of her time in the academy neglecting her ninja skills. Already she could feel her resolve cracking, wondering if it was too late to make a true difference. She knew she needed to talk to someone and since her parents were out of town...

"I wasted my time in the academy," she blurted out. Sakura flushed in embarrassment at her statement.

Lee tilted his head to the side in a questioning look while Gai raised an eyebrow in question.

"I...I didn't practice my ninja skills as much as I should have and now I feel like I've fallen too far behind to catch up. I spent all my time trying to fit in and chase after some stupid guy!" Sakura shouted out in frustration, then immediately flushed in embarrassment. She probably shouldn't have added that last part.

Gai looked at her surprisingly with an understanding expression. Rock Lee however just looked confused.

"Sakura-san..." Lee hesitantly said.

"If you realize this now then that's good," said Gai. Sakura looked at him wondering what he meant. Gai elaborated, "Just because you graduated the academy doesn't mean it's too late to become a better ninja. If anything you have all the time now to hone your skills. However, realizing your mistakes and weaknesses is the first step into becoming a great ninja. All you have to do now is stick with your determination to become a better ninja and it'll happen."

Sakura couldn't help looking at him in awe. He hadn't reprimanded her for wasting time in the academy but instead encouraged her to do better now that she was out of the academy and realized what she had done wrong.

Feeling tears well up in her she uttered, "Thank you, Gai-sensei."

He gave her a beaming smile. "No problem."

At this point, finally having caught on Lee perked up. "Yes, Gai-sensei is right. All you need to do is have determination. I was the dead last in my year but now I'm on my way to being a taijutsu master!"

"That's right. Lee can't use ninjutsu or genjutsu but I've been teaching him to be a great ninja that only uses taijutsu," Gai said with pride.

Wow. A ninja that can only use taijutsu. I've never heard such a thing, it almost seems impossible. Yet...

Sakura could see that both Gai and Lee believed it possible and seemed to have no intention of giving up. She felt inspired just hearing such a thing. It also gave her an idea. It was a long shot but worth the risk.

Sakura turned away from her thoughts to see Gai and Lee embracing in some weird man hug, crying with a sunset behind them.

What the hell. Is that a genjutsu? I think I'm going to have a new nightmare.

"Gai-san?" Sakura called to get his attention.

Hearing her call him, Gai broke off from his man hug with Lee which ended the weird sunset background. Turning towards her he asked, "Yes, Sakura-san?"

"I was wondering. Would you be willing to teach me taijutsu?"

"Well, I'd never turn down a student willing to learn but won't you be getting a sensei soon? I think he or she would want to teach you instead."

Sakura felt slightly discouraged but trudged on anyway. "I know I'll have a sensei soon but I want to start improving now." Stopping she paused a second before continuing, "Plus I don't know if my sensei will have the same ability as you. You look to be a master at taijutsu. You are right? If you teaching Lee how to use only taijutsu."

Gai nodded. "It's true. I am a master at taijutsu. Also, I can understand the need to get started on something right away to strengthen your resolve." The jonin stopped for a moment to contemplate things. "Hmm. I tell you what. I'll start training you today and tomorrow. If after you get you jonin you get permission to learn taijutsu under me, I'll continue to teach you."

"Really?," Sakura gushed with excitement. She could hardly believe he had agreed.

"Yes really," Gai struck a nice guy pose as if to show his seriousness. "A ninja always keeps his promises. It is the only youthful thing to do."

Lee who had been silent the entire time nodded his head in agreement. "Yes! That is the ninja way and Gai-sensei keeps his promises. You can count on him!"

Sakura smiled in gratitude. "Thank you, Gai-sensei."

"You're welcome. Now if you're going to be my student first I need to see what your current skills in taijutsu are. So prepare yourself." Gai got into a ready position with a hand behind his back and one in front stretched out with the palm up.

Slightly surprised by his sudden change Sakura quickly get into the academy's taijutsu style. There was a brief moment of silence as Gai and she stared each other down as if waiting for the other to move. Without warning he said, "Defend," and attacked.

Sakura raised her arms up to block an axe and kick and almost buckled under the weight. Pushing the leg back she barely blocked the fist aimed for her stomach. Jumping back to get some distance, she was caught by a blow that grazed her shoulder. Though she knew he was severely holding back, every area he landed a blow ached badly. She knew if she looked there would be bruises in those places.

Attacking again she managed to dodge out of the way of a roundhouse to the face but got caught by a glancing blow on her arm. She hissed at the pain but continued to stay focused on her opponent.

It continued like this for a while with her trying to dodge and block his attacks, while only being mildly successful. She managed to block his attacks more than evade, leaving her with aches all over body except her back. Yet, that was only because she had tried her best to avoid presenting it to him. In the academy that was one of the basic rules they gave about fighting. Don't turn your back on your opponent.

After what felt like an eternity he finally stopped attacking. Taking the opportunity Sakura quickly caught her breath and let her hands fall to her sides. Inspecting her arms and legs she saw bruises slowly starting to form. Panting she looked up to see Gai with a contemplative look on his face. Turning away from him she searched for Lee to see him practicing punches and kicks on a tree, making good progress at stripping off its bark.

So strong.


She turned to see Gai back in his ready pose. Without a thought she slipped back into her own stance. They stared for several moments before Gai barked, "Attack," and obeying Sakura launched herself at him.

She opened a punch to his stomach which he easily dodged and caught the follow up to his chin before releasing her. Determined Sakura tried a barrage of punches and kicks as fast as she could trying to land a hit anywhere. Several times she had to jump up to try to punch and kick at his chest or face, but it was all for naught. Not matter what she tried: attacking him head on, going around him to try and catch his back or being as unpredictable as possible with her moves, he still evaded her.

Growling in frustration she jumped up once again to aim a punch at his chest but he once again caught her fist. However, unlike the calm look he had before there was a flicker of surprise before it disappeared. Landing on her feet feeling heavy and tired but ready to launch another attack he signaled for her to stop.

Panting to catch her breath Sakura sat down on the ground to rest. She looked up awaiting Gai's assessment while the sound of Lee practicing his taijutsu on a tree played in the background.

Finally having gathered his thoughts Gai spoke. "You're form was textbook perfect along with your punches and kicks. You were pretty good at either blocking or evading my attacks. However, you speed and strength were dismal not to mention your attire is unsuitable for fighting."

Sakura nodded understandingly but was disappointed nonetheless. She had expected as much, and while she was surprised at the compliments she did get she was still upset about her weaknesses.

"Yet," continued Gai. Sakura looked up in anticipation. "You're chakra control is exceptional especially if you were able to unconsciously channel it through your punch. It was done unconsciously right?" Gai questioned with curiosity.

Sakura looked at him with a confused expression. Channeled chakra into her punch? Seeing her expression Gai nodded his head in confirmation.

"That last punch you launched. It had chakra behind it thus making your attack stronger. The fact that you were able to do it without even thinking means you have excellent chakra control."

"Well, the teachers at the academy always said I had great chakra control. The only problem is my reserves are below average. Excellent chakra control isn't much use with small reserves." Sakura shrugged with a small frown.

"Nonsense! Any obstacle can be overcome with determination and hard work. The same applies to having low chakra reserves. There are several ways to build up one's chakra reserves."

"Hai. Gai-sensei is right Sakura-san! You just have to work hard and never give up to achieve your dream," added Lee without looking, now doing pull-ups using a tree branch.

"Really? There are different ways to expand my chakra reserves? What are they and can I try all of them?" Sakura asked in excitement.

"Yes, there are three ways a person can increase their chakra reserves. The first is by using your chakra to near exhaustion through techniques which causes one's reserves to grow a little each time. The second way is through intense physical training, honing the body to perfection. Your reserves can grow significantly this way depending on how hard you train. And the third and final way which is the least used, is through intense meditation. It takes a lot of practice and mental concentration that can take years to pull this off but once you have it down your reserves can grow by leaps and bounds."

Wow. I didn't know there was more than one way to increase one's reserves. I'm going to use all three!

"Thank you. This information will be very helpful in increasing my reserves." Sakura bowed to show her gratefulness.

Gai rubbed the back his head with a sheepish grin. "Ahhh. It was nothing."

Sakura nodded realizing he didn't want to make a big deal of it. "So Gai-sensei. When are you going to start my training?"

"Why now of course!"

"What? Right now?!"

"Of course, there's no time like the present. We must not let our youthfulness go to waste! The sun is hours away from setting meaning we have plenty of time to spar."

Without warning her training soon began. The next six hours were spent first doing exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. The they moved on to stretches designed to stretch her muscles and increase flexibility. Several of the stretches they did she could only stare at them in awe and morbid fascination while trying to contain a blush. Those spandex jumpsuits really left little to the imagination.

Once that was over he started her on practicing the basic forms of his taijutsu style known as the Strong Fist. She picked it up all the stances on the first try prompting Gai to teach her a few more moves beyond the basics. That was one of the greatest gifts she possessed that most people didn't know about. Eidetic Memory. The ability to perfectly recall images, sounds or objects. The ability was a godsend that had both its ups and downs.

Gai pushed her to her limits and beyond. All her training and theirs was done for long periods with short rest breaks, usually only enough time to catch her breath then they would start again as strong as ever. Several times she thought he was going to drive her into the ground ending up having to go to the hospital. Yet, Gai proved he knew a person's physical limitations well, so though she felt like she was going to pass out she never did.

At the end of it all when he finally called an end to her training she fell to the ground in a heap, too tired to move a muscle.

"Very good effort Sakura. You did exceptionally well in keeping up with the exercises and remembering the Strong Fist's basic moves. Tomorrow morning we will start on building your endurance and stamina."

"Hai...Gai-sensei.." Sakura was too tired to even get up to look at Gai.

"Yosh! Great effort Sakura-san! I can't wait to continue training with you tomorrow" exclaimed Lee in excitement.

Sakura smiled. Even though he had done much more strenuous training then her he was still so energetic. Once again he reminded her of Naruto.

Which reminded her. She needed to apologize the next time she saw him. He didn't really deserve the abuse she gave him, even if he could be an idiot sometimes.

Looking up Sakura could see the sun in the process of setting. The blue sky was starting to be tinted in an orange glow. Sighing she pulled herself to her feet ignoring her protesting muscles.

She had come out here to practice her shurikenjutsu and instead ended up with a taijutsu instructor instead. All in all things had gone pretty well.

"Oh before I forget! We need to get you fitted with some weights!" remembered Gai while snapping his fingers.


"Yes, wearing weights on your wrists and ankles will help to increase your speed and strength."

Sakura nodded. That would be good. "So where do we get these weights from?"

"There's a special shop in town that sells them. Come on I'll take you to it." Gai turned to begin walking out of the clearing. Sakura turned to follow him though stopped when she saw Lee wasn't following.

"Aren't you coming Lee-san?"

"No, sorry Sakura-san but I still have more training to do."

Sakura's eyes widened. She knew he was still energized but he still had the energy to keep going? Who knew how many hours he and his teammates had been training before she stumbled upon them and he still wasn't done yet. Lee truly was amazing.

She hoped one day she would have Lee's fortitude to keep going long after everyone else had quit.

Nodding at Lee in understanding she waved him goodbye and hurried to catch after Gai. As they walked through town Sakura became self-conscious of how her sweat soaked dress clung to her skin. She was pretty sure her hair was a mess too. Luckily, since Konoha was a ninja village seeing someone dirty and tired from training wasn't anything too new so she only got a few stares from civilians.

Soon enough they reached a shop almost halfway across town that was nestled between two other buildings. Walking in behind Gai she saw the store exclusively sold ninja gear ranging from weapons, clothes, armor and several kinds of scrolls.

Sakura watched as Gai greeted the owner, a middle-aged man with short brown hair, a thin mustache, light brown eyes and a handsome face that was smiling.

"Gai! Great to see you again!"

"Great to see you again too, Kenji." said Gai with his sparkling smile.

"So, what can I do for you today?" Kenji caught a glimpse of pink and turned to look at Sakura. "Who is this Gai? A new student of yours?"

"Actually yes. This is Haruno Sakura, my new taijutsu student."

Sakura took this opportunity to speak up. "Hello, nice to meet you Kenji-san."

"Nice to meet you too Haruno-san." Kenji turned back to Gai. "I'm guessing your here to get her fitted with weights right?"

"Exactly right my youthful friend. Sakura-san has the potential to be great kunoichi!" exclaimed Gai striking his nice guy pose.

Sakura flushed in embarrassment while Kenji simply laughed in amusement, not in the least put off by Gai's demeanor. He must be used to Gai's weird behavior.

"Alright. Come right this way Haruno-san and I'll find you some weights that are a right fit for you in whatever style you wish." Following the shopkeeper they moved toward the back of the store. Stopping in front of a stand there was a large variety of wrist, arm, leg and ankle guards. Gesturing for her to take a seat at a bench nearby Sakura sat down.

He picked up a belt like cuff that had measurements on it like a tape measure. He used it on each of her wrists, arms, legs and ankles to get her measurements while writing them down on a notepad.

"Alright Haruno-san you can pick the type of guards you want. Each one has a special weighted metal attached to it that allows you through chakra use to increase the weight. The highest weight any of them can go up to is 1,000 pounds."

Sakura felt her jaw drop. A thousand pounds. Holy shit that was lot of weight! She turned to Gai who had thus far just silently observed her fitting.

"Umm, which weight should I start with Gai-sensei? Also, I should have told you before but I'll probably need to go home to get the money for these weights." She turned toward Kenji, "How much are they by the way?"

Gai shook his head though she couldn't see it before speaking. "Sakura-san the price of the weights are on me, your my student." He raised a hand to stop her protests. "I insist. And the maximum weight on these is only 100 pounds. You'll only be starting with 5 pounds and gradually work your way up."

Sakura couldn't do anything but nod in gratitude once again while Kenji wrote down Gai's instructions. Resolving to pay Gai back by being an amazing student, Sakura got up to look at the different guards. It was a hard decision. Many of them were designed to be flexible despite wherever you wore them. After several moments she found the perfect set. A pair of flexible shin guards that came down to her calves but were below her knees and a pair of arm guards that extended from wrist to near her elbow. Both items were a blood red with black lining and the silver design of a Bengal tiger. It was perfect.

"I want these," she said pointing to the set of weighted guards.

The shopkeeper nodded. "A good choice. They'll look very nice on you," he complimented with a smile. Sakura couldn't help but smile back. She turned to look at Gai and he gave her a smile with a thumbs up of approval.

Going back to the front counter they waited as Kenji came back with the guards wrapped up in a parcel. He rang up the price and Gai paid while handing the package to her.

"Thank you for your continued business and I hope you find great use in your guards."

"Thank you Kenji."

"Thank you Kenji-san," replied Sakura.

She and Gai waved to Kenji as they left the store. As they stepped outside Gai turned to Sakura.

"Well my new student this is where we part but early tomorrow morning we will start training again."

"What time tomorrow Gai-sensei?" asked Sakura.

Gai put a hand to his chin. "Hmm I say around five in the morning. A nice morning run around the village to showcase our youthfulness."

"Uhh, okay then," Sakura said slightly apprehensive. She would need to set her alarm clock in order to give her time to get ready in the morning.

"Then I'll see you around my youthful student," Gai announced before taking off at a full run down the street to Kami knows where.

Hefting her package up Sakura decided to head home for a soothing bath. She had planned to go to the library but she was just too tired to go right now. She would make it up tomorrow along with her shurikenjutsu after her training with Gai.

Trudging home she entered her home locking the door behind her before going upstairs. Entering her room she placed her package on her desk then went into the bathroom to wash off all the dirt and grime of the day. Stepping out the bathroom a half hour later, Sakura was freshly cleaned and dressed in her pajamas.

Walking back into her bedroom Sakura proceeded to crawl under the covers. Making sure to set her clock to wake her up at four Sakura was fast asleep before her head even hit the pillow.

A/N: This is my first Naruto fanfic so let me know what you think. I'm currently taking the Nanowrimo so new chapters will probably be coming out at a steady pace all this month.

Please read and review! Constructive criticism is welcome!