I do not own Naruto, it belongs to Kishimoto.



/Inner Sakura


A/N: Rating is subject to change.

A Roll of the Dice

The sun slowly rose over the horizon shining light on the village of Konoha. All over light shown through windows into homes and businesses.

One place the light hit was an apartment complex on the eastern side of the village. The light filtered strongly through the blinds of one particular tenant of the building.

Feeling the light on his face a man stirred throwing one of his arms over his face to block the sun. He groaned for a few seconds before letting his hand fall from his face and sitting up.

A sigh escaped the lips of one Hatake Kakashi as he rubbed his face trying to shake off sleep.

Kakashi was not looking forward to today.

If he had his way he would much rather lay back down, go to sleep for a couple more hours, wake back up, spend a few hours at the memorial stone and spend the rest of the day reading the latest Icha Icha.

Instead he was expected to pick up a team of fresh genin and get to know them before testing them on their readiness to be ninja.

While he was happy at the prospect of seeing sensei's son after so many years, it didn't change the fact he had to test him and his two classmates on possibly becoming his students.

And frankly, Kakashi wasn't interested in teaching anyone even sensei's legacy. After the loss of his teammates and his sensei getting close to anyone just didn't seem like a good idea, especially considering the profession of ninjas where one mission could be the end of those you cared about.

After his sensei and his wife's death he had emotionally checked out. Not to say he wasn't well on his way there after losing Obito and Rin but the last family he had ever known had been ripped away from him. They had kept him afloat when all he had wanted to do was drown.

But with them gone he had thrown himself wholeheartedly into Anbu, to serve the village and nothing else. Kakashi had known about sensei's son and the burden he carried. Yet, his emotional state at that time had made it a bad idea for him to try and raise the boy. Not to mention the fact he wasn't nearly old enough to raise him nor did he have any clue about how to do it.

All he could offer Naruto was protecting and watching over him as an Anbu, and occasionally offering comfort, when he wasn't sent outside the village on missions.

He truly dreaded when Naruto would figure out the connection he had to his father. The boy would no doubt wonder why he hadn't stepped in to take care of him growing up. He could give a thousand excuses, some of them valid, but he would always feel guilty for how terrible life had been for Naruto so far and that he hadn't been there to properly help him through it.

Kakashi had no doubt if he acquired a team he would become emotionally attached to them, thus making it all the worst when something tragic happened to them. He would end up blaming himself and be consumed by his despair. No amount of therapy would be able to help him overcome such a thing twice.

Sighing Kakashi threw off his covers before slipping out of bed onto his feet. Stretching with a yawn he left the bedroom out into the hallway towards the bathroom to get ready for the day.

Twenty minutes later he emerged with a towel wrapped around his waist having shaved, showered and brushed his teeth.

Entering the bedroom Kakashi opened the closet to pick out one of the many identical uniforms he wore on a daily basis. Quickly dressing and strapping on his gear he walked out into the living room/kitchen set up at the front of his apartment.

He was greeted with the sight of his ninken sprawled all over the living room floor and furniture. At his entrance most of them briefly opened their eyes to acknowledge his presence before going back to sleep while the rest gave him a nod.

He waved back as he headed into the kitchen to fix some coffee. As he waited for it to brew he sat down at the kitchen table where several files were spread out that he had been looking over for the past few days.

The files of Haruno Sakura, Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto, the proposed Team 7. If he could describe this team from their files in one word, it would be: disaster.

The team was an accident waiting to happen. While it somewhat followed the age old tradition in Konoha of setting up the graduating classes two best students with the worst student. As far as things went this set up showed that while such a thing looked good on paper it would probably be a disaster in execution; barring a few exceptions.

Though Kakashi was more than positive that nothing would have changed anyway even if Yamanaka Ino, the top kunoichi of the class, had been put on the team like she was supposed to be. Yet, the council had wanted the Ino-Shika-Cho formation that had been made infamous by the children's' parents.

Where to start with what was wrong with this team?

For one their skills overall were lacking but that was the same as every team he had been handed since the Kyuubi attack. Really it was past time for the academy to be both reviewed and reformed to improve the quality of ninja graduating because this was just pathetic.

All these kids seemed to know was the bare basics. The henge, bushin, replacement, basic shurikenjutsu, survival, escape and stealth training and taijutsu. That was it. Most of those things took only a year to learn, yet these kids had been there for four years and it was all they had to show. He had learned that much and more during his brief time at the academy, his prior training before entering aside.

No other ninjutsu had been taught to the students meaning aside from clan children the rest knew only three jutsu which just wasn't good for a beginning genin's survival. Then there was the fact they didn't know any genjutsu or even the method to dispel them. Truly there was something wrong with the current curriculum.

Then there were the files on the three genin themselves.

Haruno was lauded as a genius at least intelligence wise. She had the highest ever written score in academy history, her scores only matched by one Uchiha Itachi. She was very proficient at ninjutsu with perfect chakra control and being able to perform the three basic jutsu on the first try. There was also mention that she would be great at seeing through and using genjutsu though she had been taught none. Aside from those things the rest of her skills were poor. Her taijutsu and strength were below average while everything else was just average. The best he could describe her was as diamond in the ruff. If put under enough pressure or rather training she could be a real gem or strong ninja as it were.

Uchiha was praised as a genius as well though in all areas. His intelligence was only slightly behind Haruno's, his skill in taijutsu, shurikenjutsu, ninjutsu and other training was the very best in the class. There wasn't anything he didn't excel. Literally there were no negative marks on any of his skills. Which was a little suspicious in a way. No one was good at everything, every time. Still the Uchiha's record was very impressive making him the kind of student every sensei wished they had. Though Kakashi would judge that for himself.

Uzumaki Naruto. Trying to find any accurate, non biased information in his files was a waste of time. The only information he got that had truth in it was from his latest teacher, Umino Iruka. Even so that information wasn't very promising especially since it was remarked the student skipped class often. He had the very lowest score in all his skills except escape, stealth and trap making. Kakashi was disgusted by how most of his instructors described Naruto. Son of the late Yondaime or not, no one had the right look down on or treat a child in such a way. It was just another case for why the academy needed to be reformed.

And last was their psychological profiles.

Sakura could basically be summed up in one word. Fangirl. According to her file her sole interest seemed to be Sasuke Uchiha and nothing else. There wasn't any mentions of goals or dreams for the kunoichi that didn't involve the Uchiha. The girl was obsessed in the worse way if her file was to be believed. Though he would reserve judgment until he met the girl. Aside from that there wasn't much wrong with the girl except for a lack of self confidence and direction.

Sasuke's profile was suspect. For someone who experienced the destruction of his clan first hand his file made it seem like it hadn't affected him at all. All reports presented a boy of sound mind and body who while traumatized by what happened to his family had fully gotten over it. Kakashi called bullshit. While there was a chance for someone to get over such an event in time with no lasting effects it was very slim. To get over such a thing in a few short years, impossible. He would have to keep a close eye on the Uchiha to get the real scope on his mental state because there was definitely favoritism and bias in his reports. A lot of it having to do with Sasuke being the last Uchiha and no one wanting to be responsible for possibly holding him back from a ninja career.

Naruto. There was little to nothing on his profile and what was there was useless. It seemed no one had bothered to examine his mental state. Though Kakashi wasn't really surprised considering how the villagers felt about him. Still this news was more than troubling. He was once again reminded that he hadn't been around for Naruto's childhood and seeing the lack of care for his mental state made the guilt he felt even more palpable.

If this team ended up passing his test he would definitely have to set them up with sessions with a psychologist to work through whatever issues they had, preferably a trustworthy Yamanaka. He knew from experience that whatever demons they had could come back to really haunt them later in life.

A beeping sounded through the apartment cutting through Kakashi's thoughts. The coffee was finally ready. Getting up from the table he turned off the maker before pouring himself a cup. Sitting back down at the table he took a long sip of the coffee savoring its strong flavor.

Sighing Kakashi roved a lazy eye over the files scattered all over the table.

He needed to start thinking up a training regimen for this team in case they passed. Part of him was tempted to not really do anything about their training. It wasn't his choice over these last years to be put up for taking a team. The only reason he did it was because it was what the Hokage ordered. Though he wondered if after failing this team the old man would finally release him out of the obligation.

There was a lot of pressure to pass this team, well to pass the Uchiha really. It never failed to annoy and anger him the types of things the council held in priority. Well most of the council anyway.

However, of one thing Kakashi was certain. If they didn't pass the bell test through the use of teamwork, there was no way in hell he was passing them.

The council be damned.

Once again Sakura was jolted awake by the sound of her alarm clock at exactly four a.m. Too tired to even make a sound she simply turned off the alarm and groggily went about dressing for her morning run. It would defeat the purpose to bathe and then go for her run so she would do it afterwards.

Donned in a pair of black shorts, a red tank top, and her weights Sakura set off from her home towards the village wall.

She kept up a light jog the entire way hoping to wake up her body and mind. It was definitely working since her muscles still hurt for yesterday's strenuous training and the weights weren't helping any.

Reaching the wall she took a deep breath before preparing herself to run.

Alright. Ready...Set...Go!

Sakura took off at a much faster running pace than yesterday, somewhat accustomed to the weights on her legs and arms. As she ran she tried to think of something to occupy her mind from the task at hand.

Today was orientation. She would find out who her teammates and sensei are, and hopefully find out what she had to do to really become a genin. Either way this was her chance to prove she had changed. That she was ready to fully take on the life of a ninja in earnest.

"Hello my youthful student!"

Sakura snapped out of her thoughts to see Gai-sensei running beside.

"Good morning Gai-sensei. Completing your morning run?" She returned Gai's bright smile.

"Yes, it's best to get it done in the mornings. It's quiet and allows one to gather their thoughts. Yes?"

Sakura nodded in agreement. Being up so early before everyone else was very peaceful. Idly she noticed she had just started her second lap.

"I'm glad to see you took the initiative," said Gai with a serious expression.

"Huh. What do you mean?" asked Sakura in confusion.

"For you to truly become strong you have to do more than want it. You have to be willing to do what it takes to become stronger." As he said this he looked over at her. "Today was actually a test, to see if you would take the initiative to do the training I gave you yesterday without my urging." Dropping his serious expression he gave a proud smile. "Needless to say you passed."

Sakura couldn't help but grin back at Gai. She was glad she had passed his test. Though she hadn't even thought about him coming to get her this morning to make sure she did her laps.

"Well I'll leave you to your training. Don't forget to let me know what you sensei says about me continuing to train you. I'll seek you out in a couple days for the answer since my team and I have an escort mission that starts this morning. Lee overdid it yesterday which is why he isn't out here this morning. He needs to save his energy for the mission."

Sakura nodded in understanding, she had just been about to ask him where Lee was. "Alright. I'll make sure to ask my sensei. Good luck on your mission." Sakura waved at Gai as he took off ahead of her.

"Thank you! And stay youthful my young student!"

Sakura shook her head as she grinned. She wondered if she would ever get used to his and Lee's exuberant behavior. Thoughts of her future helped carry her through her last three laps.

Once finished she headed home at a leisurely walk, regretting not taking a bottle of water with her. She was so thirsty! Sakura's muscles felt as strained as they did yesterday but she didn't feel as bone tired with the need to immediately drop to the ground out of pure exhaustion.

Reaching home the first thing she did was head straight to the fridge to gulp down as much water as she could stand. Thirst quenched she went upstairs to the bathroom and stripped down before stepping into the shower. Sakura sighed in bliss as she washed the grime off her body and relished in the hot water beating down on her soothing her muscles.

Fifteen minutes later she stepped out wrapped in towel and brushed her teeth before entering the bedroom. Finding the scroll containing her purchases she unsealed it.

Organizing everything into appropriate piles she took note of everything she had bought.

Ok I've got my kunai, shuriken, ninja wire, exploding tags, smoke bombs, bandages, soldier pills, food pills, blood replenishing pills, sleeping bag, tent, iodine, first aid kit sealed in a scroll, boots, clothes, and a bingo book. I wonder will I need all this stuff today. OH SHIT! What time is it!?

Sakura checked the time and saw she only had 20 minutes to get to class on time. Quickly she dressed in her new clothes before applying her guards and equipping most of the ninja gear she had bought including the bingo book.

She completed the look by hurriedly brushing and braiding her hair before tying on her hitaiate. Slipping on her boots Sakura took a moment to observe herself in the mirror.

She definitely looked different, fiercer if she said so herself. Sakura grinned at her reflection.

Now I just need the skills to go with the look.

Checking the time she saw she had ten minutes left. Double checking that she had everything she would need Sakura left her bedroom grabbing something quick to eat on her way to orientation.

Grabbing an apple, two oranges and bottle of water she set off to the academy.

It was bright and sunny today with hardly a cloud in the sky. Sakura idly munched on her apple as she walked; occasionally waving at a vendor or store owner as they opened their business for the day.

Just as she threw away her finished apple and started on an orange, she spotted Ino Yamanaka exiting the flower shop her family owned.

As per usual the moment the two saw each other they entered a stare down waiting for one of them to break their gaze or the silence. Whichever came first. It was Ino who spoke first.

"Good morning, Sakura."

"Good morning, Ino."

With the obligatory greeting out the way Sakura continued on her way to the academy. As she walked by Ino fell into step beside her.

"I can't believe you graduated," Ino mocked. "Also, I hope you don't think a change in wardrobe will make you a better ninja. Or catch Sasuke's attention either."

Sakura resisted the urge to roll her eyes or get angry, and instead responded, "The past doesn't matter anymore. Starting today we are both ninja." She wouldn't get into an argument with Ino. Today was all about starting fresh, a new chapter in her life.

Feeling that she had said her piece she began to walk a little faster to put distance between them. She was annoyed to find Ino simply walked faster to get ahead of her. Putting on more speed she did the same only for Ino to repeat the process, till soon enough they were racing side by side towards the academy.

Well that didn't last long.

Minutes later they practically burst through the classroom door.


They shouted at the same time before panting and trying to catch their breath.

"Looks like I win Forehead," boasted Ino.

Sakura growled. "Are you kidding me? My toe was like a tenth of an inch ahead of yours."

They were about to argue further when a voice caught their attention.


Looking around for the source of the voice Sakura saw a grinning Naruto standing and waving at her. Walking away from an indignant Ino, Sakura walked over to Naruto.

"Good morning, Naruto-kun.

"Today's finally the day, eh Sakura-chan! We get to become ninja who go out on cool missions. Aren't you excited?"

"Of course I am. I can't wait to meet my new sensei."

"Right! By the way you look great!"

Sakura smiled feeling confident. "Thanks. You look great yourself."

Naruto blushed in embarrassment. "Thanks Sakura-chan."

As she and Naruto chatted over what they did yesterday Sakura couldn't help but feel people's eyes on them. She admitted it probably seemed pretty surreal to them that she was calmly talking to Naruto instead of hitting him like she used to be wont to do. For now she decided to ignore them. Tried being the operative word.

Just as Naruto asked her to sit with him, Ino decided to interject herself into the conversation.

"Hey Forehead what are you doing talking to Naruto? Are you two friends now or something?"

"Yeah, what of it!?' challenged Naruto.

Ino scoffed. "Well it just figures two losers like you would hang out together."

"Shut up, Ino-pig" retorted Sakura.

Though she looked slightly annoyed on the outside Sakura couldn't deny that inside Ino's words hurt. After they had stopped being friends Ino had started acting less kind towards her. Though she knew she had brought this on herself, Sakura still wondered if there was a chance for them to be friends again now that she had decided to give up on Sasuke.

Speaking of Sasuke, Sakura looked over Naruto's shoulder to see him sitting with his chin resting on his interlocked hands staring straight ahead. She felt that familiar flutter come over her as she looked at him before shaking head.

Gotta get a grip. Remember Sakura. Training to get stronger. Can't focus on Sasuke.

As she looked away to tune back in to the ongoing argument between Ino and Naruto she didn't notice Sasuke turn his head to look at her, quietly appraising her new look.

"Could the two of you just cool it? If Iruka-sensei sees us arguing he'll be highly upset." Sakura tried to reason.

"Whatever. It's not like you guys are worth the trouble anyway." Ino flipped her hair as she looked away from them.

"Psh. Yeah, yeah whatever you say Ino," groused Naruto. "Come on Sakura-chan you can sit with me."

"Sure." She wanted them to stop arguing before Iruka-sensei yelled at them using that Big Head jutsu of his. Just as Naruto moved to let her into the row Ino spotted Sasuke. And things went downhill from there.

"Hey, Sasuke-kun!"

Sasuke briefly turned to look at them before resuming his staring contest with the wall.

"Oh Sasuke's so cute," gushed Ino, "And the seat next to him is open!"

As if realizing something she suddenly looked at Sakura with a knowing smirk.

"Oh I see your game Forehead. You almost won but you just weren't quite quick enough."

Sakura frowned in confusion. What the hell was Ino talking about?

Seeing her look Ino scoffed. "Don't play dumb with me. Sucking up to Naruto so you can snatch the seat by Sasuke. It's the only way you suddenly being nice to Naruto makes any sense. Too bad it failed."

Naruto looked between Ino and her looking hurt and confused.

"Shut up Ino. That's far from the truth. Me sitting with Naruto had nothing to do with Sasuke!" yelled Sakura finally losing her patience.

The nerve of her! Even if she had wanted to sit next to Sasuke, she wouldn't have used Naruto to do it. That would just be cruel.

Ino scoffed. "Sure whatever you say Sakura, but either way I'll be the one sitting with Sasuke today."

And cue Sasuke's fangirls.

"What are you talking about. If anyone's sitting with Sasuke it's me. I was here before you guys," shouted a girl approaching them down the aisle.

"Hey! I was here before you so I get to sit with him!"

"No I get to sit by Sasuke!"

"No me!"

"Sasuke likes me best. So the rest of you can just back off."

Sakura quietly watched as just about every girl in the class converged on their position arguing over who would sit with Sasuke, practically pushing Naruto down the stairs. All the while Sasuke didn't even look their way but they were too busy screaming at each other to notice.

That would've been me a couple days ago. Vying for the affections of someone who didn't even care either way.

Shaking her head at them she turned to help Naruto up only to see that he wasn't there. Puzzled she looked around only to see him sitting on top of a desk having a staring contest with Sasuke.

"Naruto! What are you doing?"

Naruto turned to look at her with a frown on his face before continuing his stare down with Sasuke.

Apparently her voice had been loud enough for it had drawn the attention of all the girls to Naruto and Sasuke.

"Naruto! Get the hell away from Sasuke," screeched Ino.

"Yeah stop getting in his face!"

"Kick his ass Sasuke!"

Practically the entire class was now drawn to them. And that's when IT happened.

The boy behind Naruto accidently bumped him. Sakura watched almost in slow motion as Naruto fell forward and his lips landed smack dab on Sasuke's.

At that moment you could hear a pin drop. Everyone stared transfixed as the two of them practically smooched each other. And then not a moment later the silence was broken as both boys broke apart, grabbing their throats spluttering and spitting while cursing each other.

As they did this Sakura stood frozen in disbelief.

Did I just see Naruto and Sasuke...kiss?

Sakura wasn't sure how she should feel about what she had just seen. Sad, angry, confused, or disappointed? However, it was none of those things as she felt an itch crawled up her throat followed by the shaking of her body.

Thinking she was about to cough Sakura moved to cover her mouth but before she could a giggle escaped her mouth. Then another. And another before she completely dissolved in a fit of laughter.

Unable to contain herself she covered her mouth with one hand while using the other to clutch her left side as a stitch started to form. Luckily for her the noise the girls were making as they beat the snot out of Naruto covered most of her laughter. Unluckily for Naruto. Though out the corner of her eye she saw Shikamaru giving her an odd look.

As Iruka-sensei came into the classroom and proceeded to break up the one sided fight, Sakura managed to get her laughter under control before she sat between Naruto and Sasuke. Sasuke simply stared out the window trying to pretend nothing else existed while Naruto nursed his multiple bruises.

"Alright class settle down and pay attention," ordered Iruka-sensei. Satisfied that he had everyone's attention Iruka continued.

"Starting today, you are all official ninjas, but you all are still new genins. It's going to get harder from here on out. You will all be in a group of three, where you will accomplish missions under a jonin sensei."

Sakura idly listened as Iruka-sensei gave a speech about responsibility and the new dangers that awaited them as new licensed ninja. She was anxious for him to announce the teams so she would know who would be on hers. Frankly, she was surprised by how surprised some people were to find out they would be on teams. Hadn't they seen other genin with their teams before?

Not a moment too soon he finally started to call out the team assignments. She raptly listened as he called out the names of various classmates to be put into teams. Till finally he got to hers.

"And that's Team 6. Team 7...Uzumaki Naruto...Haruno Sakura...and Uchiha Sasuke.

Sakura saw Naruto practically jump out of his seat in joy at being on the same team as her before plopping down in dejection when Sasuke's name was announced. Sasuke gave no outward sign of his opinion of the matter.

Sakura simply mulled over her new team. She was paired with both Naruto and Sasuke, that was going to be a problem. Naruto and Sasuke could hardly stand each other. Not to mention she had been completely enamored with Sasuke only two days ago. It was going to be hard to keep her resolve to be more serious about her ninja career with him around.

It almost seemed as if somebody had set this team up for disaster. But no way would they do that. Maybe she was missing something they had seen in them to decide to make them a team?

It was a good thing she had already started to strike up a friendship with Naruto since it seemed they would be on the same team for quite a while. Sasuke was a different story.

Being on a team with him is really going to test my resolve.

She hoped she was up to the task. Though this would be a good opportunity for her to get to really know Sasuke.

Sakura silently observed as Iruka-sensei called out the last of the teams. No sooner had he finished than Naruto took the opportunity to voice his displeasure at being put on the same team as Sasuke. She tried in vain to get him to be quiet but it was all for naught. Worst of all Naruto ended up being embarrassed by not only Iruka-sensei but also Sasuke in front of the entire class.

Great. Already our team is starting off on the wrong foot with my two teammates at each other's throats.

And judging by Naruto's expression he wouldn't soon forget Sasuke's condescending words.

After once again calling the class to order, Iruka continued. "Alright class. Your jonin senseis will be here in about an hour to pick you up so you're dismissed for lunch. Try to use this time to get to know your new teammates. Dismissed."

With that the room started to clear out as everyone headed off to lunch.

"Isn't this awesome Sakura-chan? We're on the same team!" Naruto grinned at as they stood up to leave.

"Yeah it is." Sakura smiled at Naruto. She turned to see what Sasuke's thoughts were on them being on the same team only to see that he was nowhere to be found.

"Man! This would be perfect if we weren't on the same team as Sasuke-teme!"

Sakura sighed. Well this was a great way to start things. One had run off without even talking to his team and the other was already insulting him.

She turned to look at Naruto, fixing him with a stern look. "Naruto, you're going to have to learn to get along with Sasuke. We're going to be on the same team for who knows how long."

Naruto pouted while crossing his arms. "But Sakura-chan! Do I really have to? He's such an asshole! He's always looking down on people, thinking he's so superior," groused Naruto.

"Yes, you have to be civil! And I promise I'll do my best to try and get him to be civil too."

Though depending on our sensei, they'll probably make sure their at least civil to each other.

"I'll think about it," conceded Naruto. "Though the moment he says something I won't hold back in telling him off!"

"Don't worry I won't stop you from defending yourself nor will I hold back in telling him off myself," promised Sakura.

"Fair enough. Hey do you wanna get lunch together?"

"Sure. There's this new curry place that just opened up."

"Aww, you don't want ramen?"

"Naruto we had ramen yesterday," Sakura said in exasperation.

"Hey! Everyday's a good day for ramen. It's the food of the Kami."

"Well we're not having the food of the Kami today. Today we're trying a restaurant that serves curry." Sakura asserted with finality.

Naruto let out of a huff. "Fine. Stupid curry it is."

Settled on the subject they were the last to leave the classroom as they made their way towards the restaurant while speculating on what their sensei would be like.

Three man teams.

How could he have forgotten about that?

A young raven haired boy leaned against the open window of his apartment as he ate his lunch. Uchiha Sasuke stared indifferently out the window while munching on a onigiri.

He was annoyed with himself.

Many times he had seen jonin-senseis and their teams either around the village or at the training grounds. Yet, when Iruka had announced they would be put in teams he had been caught off guard.

He would be lying if he didn't admit that part of him had expected for something different. At least something different for him.

He was the last of his clan, the Uchiha. Why should he be put under a team when instead he could be apprenticing under a strong ninja with no one to drag him down. Maybe if he had made a request before team assignments for an apprenticeship it would have been accepted?

It was probably too late for that now. Now he was stuck with the dobe and the fangirl. Quite possibly the worst two people to end up being teamed with out of anyone in the class. Well, except maybe out of the Inuzuka and Yamanaka.

Either way there wasn't much talent between the two.

Naruto was the dead last with the poorest, if not lowest scores in just about everything. He was a loud, obnoxious idiot who had no respect for authority and didn't know when to quit. The fact that he thought they were rivals was laughable not to mention pathetic. As if he could stand a chance against him.

Then there was Sakura. He could sum her up in one word: annoying. While she wasn't as annoying as the dobe, having her always stalking him and trying to get a date was almost just as bad. She was very intelligent, he would give her that since she always got a perfect score on the written exams, beating even him no matter how hard he studied. Still, aside from her intelligence she didn't really have much else to offer. She was the weakest link of the team.

Though he had to admit that her and Naruto had surprised him today with their change in appearance. Sakura was actually wearing an outfit suitable for training that wasn't totally girly, while Naruto was finally wearing clothes that didn't make him and other ninjas instantly cringe at the bright colors. Sasuke was glad to finally see the end of that obnoxious orange jumpsuit.

He'd also been surprised at how nice the two had been to each other. Even going so far as to sit and talk with one another civilly. That had shocked him more than anything. Not three days ago Sakura had barely tolerated Naruto, going so far as to punch him whenever he tried to sit near her or did something stupid while she was around.

Well whatever was going on between them he'd find out soon enough.

Sasuke took another bite of his onigiri, munching on it agitatedly as he looked out the window. Idly he spotted Team 10 on a roof adjacent to him having lunch together. He could hear Ino loudly dictating to her team that they were to follow her lead.

Sasuke scoffed. He wished Choji and Shikamaru all the luck in the world in dealing with that girl.

Turning away from them he checked the clock on the wall of his living room. He had 30 minutes until it was a time to meet back at the classroom to meet his new sensei.

Finishing the last of his onigiri Sasuke drank the last of his water before putting the trash away. Taking a look around his apartment to make sure everything was in place, he closed the door behind him and locked it.

Walking back to the academy he decided to take the long route to kill some time. As he walked Sasuke pondered on who his or rather their sensei would be.

He hoped it was one was one of the strongest jonin the village had to offer. Only a strong and powerful sensei would be able to give him the power he needed to achieve his goal and nothing would stand in his way. If he found that he/she wasn't at least halfway competent he would take it upon himself to petition for a new sensei, a new team too if he had to.

First, he would see how things went and make further plans from there.

Seeing the academy within sight Sasuke entered before making his way towards the classroom. Satisfied to see there was no one there yet, he took a seat on the second row near an aisle.

Settling in he waited for the rest of the class to arrive. Sasuke hoped he didn't have to wait too long. The closer he got to his goal of killing his brother the better.

The classroom gradually started to fill back up with students as they finished their lunch break. Some of the students entered with their team, happily chatting away with each other; while other teams entered either arguing with each other or avoiding talking to one another. The rest came in by themselves ignoring their team and everyone else.

One of the last people to enter were Sakura and Naruto. The two smiling and talking about the lunch they had eaten as they moved towards an empty row.

"That curry place was actually pretty good Sakura-chan. I wouldn't mind going back there again."

"See I told you," Sakura smirked triumphantly. "Ramen's great but it won't hurt to try and eat different foods. You might find something you like."

Naruto nodded in agreement. "No, it won't but ramen is still the best food there is. Nothing will convince me different." To prove his point Naruto folded his arms in defiance with his head turned.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Yeah yeah I hear you. Ramen will now and always be your first true love." She sat down at an empty desk with Naruto sliding in after her.

Naruto nodded emphatically. "That's right. Ramen is a beautiful and kind mistress who can turn any frown upside down and cheer up anyone who is sad. She is delicious, loyal and will never hurt you," he said with his eyes closed, chest puffed out and a finger in the air as he dictated the qualities of ramen.

There was a short pause before they both burst out laughing at his ridiculous statement. Their laughter drew a few eyes though they eventually turned away when they couldn't figure out what was so funny.

Naruto and Sakura simply grinned at each other. Their lunch had been full of fun and laughter as they got to really know one another. Sakura told Naruto about her childhood and what it was like being part of a clan. Sakura had been more than a little flattered by how rapt his attention was on her story. She honestly hadn't thought her childhood was that interesting.

However, when they got to Naruto telling his childhood there was a lot of blanks. He seemed to focus more on certain events like the times he spent with the Hokage, meeting Teuchi and Ayame, and meeting Iruka-sensei while skimming over just about everything else. Of course, plenty of his storytelling was dedicated to all the pranks he's pulled with detailed descriptions of how he did them.

Sakura hadn't been too surprised by his behavior. It hadn't escaped her notice how badly the villagers treated him, even though she had chosen to ignore it along with him.

She had no doubt their actions and behavior had affected him in some way. How much or how little she didn't know really know. Sakura hadn't really expected him to spill his life story or reveal all his secrets, they didn't know each other that well. Yet, she knew it would take time before he opened up about certain things in his life, if ever.

Though after the brief time they had spent together before today and yesterday she was looking forward to really getting to know the real Naruto and not just the idiot he pretended to be. Sometimes, Sakura couldn't help but feel ashamed of her treatment of Naruto over the years as she got to really know him. While he had been annoying that had been no excuse for her to be violent towards him. She knew her parents would be disappointed in her if they were to ever find out, they had raised her better than that.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught Sasuke's eye as he briefly looked in their direction before turning away.

Sakura inwardly sighed. She had hoped he would approach them to get to know his new team or at least greet them. It was the least he could do after disappearing the moment the class was dismissed, but no such luck.

She turned her focus back towards Naruto who was in the process of telling her about the time he pranked a team of jonin and tricked each of them into thinking a teammate was responsible for it instead of him. His reasoning for pranking them was because they had literally kicked him off of a training ground because they wanted to use it instead of finding another one or asking him nicely.

"So I sneaked into the team leader's place and put this orange dye in his shampoo. His traps were easy to dismantle and put back together. After that I went to the next guys house and put itching powder on his kunai and shuriken. Getting into his apartment was easy since he lives in the same complex that I do. The other two had houses and they weren't easy to get into so I had to get them while they were out so..."

Sakura listened as Naruto described how he pranked the whole team for a week which eventually resulted in a free for all fight between all four members at a training ground that had to be broken up by another team before they all ended up killing each other. Through it all Naruto had been a silent puppeteer who got to watch the fruits of his labor without any repercussions. At least that's what Naruto said.

While the whole situation seemed kind of mean since the team nearly ended up destroying each other, she couldn't deny the hilarity of the pranks he played. She thought the one where he put super glue in one of the guys sandals after he had been caught in the rain was the best. The guy went the whole day without knowing his feet were stuck to his sandals, simply thinking the wetness he felt when he put them on in morning was leftover rain from the day before. That assumption was violently shattered when he tried to take them off and had to go to the hospital to get them removed.

Sakura was just about to tell an eager Naruto about a trick she had played on Ino when Iruka-sensei entered the classroom and made his presence known.

"Alright everyone I hope you had a great lunch break and enough time to get somewhat acquainted with your new teammates. In a moment the senseis will be coming to pick up their teams, so make sure you pay attention and listen for your team being called."

No sooner had he finished speaking when there was knock on the classroom door and a man with black hair, sunglasses, and a forest green trench coat stepped in. If Sakura didn't know any better she could swear she was looking at a grown up version of Shino except with black hair.

Iruka-sensei seemed to be frozen for a moment before he straightened and gave a warm smile. "Ahh, here's a sensei now. What team are you looking for Aburame-san?"

Aha! So I wasn't too far off the mark. The guy's a relative of Shino's. A cousin maybe?

The Aburame's all had a tendency to wear sunglasses and large coats. She had no idea why but most clans had some quirk or other that all members shared in one form or another.

"I'm here for Team 5," Aburame-san said in a quiet but strong voice.

Sakura watched as the members of the team made their way to their new sensei. They seemed both nervous and excited at meeting him. When they were finally in front of him he simply nodded, told them to follow him and made his way out of the classroom with them trailing behind.

A hush had fallen over the entire class the moment the sensei showed up but as soon as the team was gone the quiet was broken as people talked either about the team or what their own sensei would be like.

However, this didn't last long as more and more senseis arrived to pick up their students. She watched as the Hokage's son came and collected Ino's team and a woman with black hair, red eyes and a red dress wrapped in bandages came and got Team 8 consisting of Shino, Kiba and Hinata.

Little by little the room started to empty as team after team left till only Team 7 remained. Naruto and Sakura were waiting in intense excitement for their sensei to show up but so far had been disappointed each time the door opened only to reveal someone else's sensei. Sasuke had remained as stoic as ever to the situation.

Naruto finally not able to hold it any longer addressed Iruka. "Iruka-sensei! When is our new sensei going to show up! Everyone else has left already!"

"Sorry Naruto I can't answer that. All the senseis knew what time to come and pick up their students. Yours may just be running late."

While Sakura could see that he was truly apologetic it didn't cover up the fact there seemed to be a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.

Naruto only gave a huff at the explanation. "Well he better hurry up. I can hardly stand the suspense of it all."

"Sorry again but there's nothing I can do about it." Iruka checked his watch then began gathering his things.

"Where are you going Iruka-sensei," asked Sakura.

Iruka gave another apologetic smile. "It's past the time, I was only supposed to stay here for an hour so I'm going home." He finished gathering his things before making his way to the door.

"YOU'RE GOING HOME! Why can't you stay until our sensei gets here! Or better yet go track him down and tell him to hurry up and get here!" shouted Naruto angrily.

"Like I said your sensei knew what time to be here so there's nothing I can do if their late. Also, I have things I need to do. Just cause your class graduated doesn't mean I don't have papers to grade. But let me know how things went with you sensei when you get the chance." Iruka flashed them a smile then hurried out of the classroom leaving them on their own.

"Aww man! I hope this guy shows up soon," said Naruto.

Sakura couldn't help but silently agree.

Two hours later and their sensei still hadn't shown up. Meaning they had been waiting a total of three hours.

Sasuke could barely contain his rage, Naruto was wearing a hole in the floor with his pacing while muttering obscenities under his breath and Sakura was simply putting her anger to better use by thinking of ways she could get payback on their tardy sensei.

During the time they had been 'graciously' waiting for their sensei to show up, Sakura had been looking through the bingo book she had brought with her. While it wasn't her first choice in reading material it was an interesting read nonetheless.

The book listed criminals alphabetically by country to village affiliation. She had started with Fire Country first and was almost finished. Sakura never would of thought her country had so many wanted criminals let alone Konoha having so missing-nins.

The worst she had come across so far was an S-class missing-nin named Orochimaru. The man had been a former student of the Sandaime and one of the legendary Sanin. He had been charged with crimes against humanity for experimenting not only on enemy ninja and comrades but also on villagers, adults and children alike. Yet, the things he was wanted for didn't end there, the descriptions of some of the things he had done made her slightly sick. Thank Kami she had such a strong stomach and her teammates were too wrapped up in themselves to notice when her face had turned pale.

Sakura hoped she would never have to run into that guy ever. Human experimentation aside, the fact that he liked to regurgitate things like swords out of his mouth, used his tongue for a weapon and could summon snakes was more than enough to gross her out and give her the willies.


Sakura momentarily turned away from the book to see Naruto tugging on the ends of his hair in frustration.

"Naruto, why don't you sit down? You're only getting yourself worked up more by pacing around," she suggested.

"Ahh! By why isn't he here? Everyone else's sensei has picked them up already and Iruka-sensei has already gone home. It's not fair that he keeps us waiting like this!"

"I know," Sakura sighed, "But there's nothing we can do about it since we don't even know who he or she is."


Seeing that Naruto was pacified for the moment she looked back down at the bingo book.

However, it wasn't a minute later she looked up again to see Naruto dragging a small table over towards the door with an eraser in his hand.

"Naruto! What are you doing?"

"Setting up a little payback for our sensei. If they want to come late, fine! But they have to pay the price for it." Naruto smugly replied as he set up an eraser to fall the moment someone moved the door.

Sasuke scoffed. "As if a jonin would fall for such a stupid trick."

Naruto glared at Sasuke as he jumped off the table and moved it back to its original spot. "Who asked for your opinion anyway teme!"

Sasuke glared right back at Naruto starting a glaring contest between the two.

Sakura simply looked back and forth between the two before shaking her head. While on some level she agreed with Sasuke, it was unlikely a jonin would fall for the eraser in the door trick. She also agreed with Naruto, their sensei whoever he or she was deserved to be pranked, and pranks work best when a person isn't expecting it.

Just as she was about to say something to diffuse the tension before it came to blows, a hand grabbed the door about to move it aside.

Immediately, they all turned to stare at the door waiting in anticipation to see if the jonin would fall for the trick.

The door opened and the eraser fell right on the head of silver headed man. For a second they all just stared at him until Naruto burst out laughing.

"Hahaha! I got you so good! I can't believe you feel for it!"

"Sensei I'm so sorry, I tried to stop him!" Sakura tried to mitigate the situation.

/Cha! That was so awesome! He got what was coming to him!/

Sasuke had his head bowed under his entwined fingers. Is this guy for real? How could a jonin fall for such a trick, thought Sasuke.

Sakura marked the page in her book, mentally making a note to finish reading it later before tucking the book away and walking towards Naruto and their sensei.

He had wild gravity defying silver hair that was held back by his hitaiate which was tied to his forehead, crookedly covering one of his eyes and he had a mask covering most of his face. He had on the standard jonin attire and there was slouch in his stance.

"Hmm...my first impression of you all is...I hate you," the man uttered.

Sakura felt not only herself but her fellow teammates spirits fall at these words.

Without much ado he told them to meet him on the roof in five minutes and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Less than three minutes later they made it to the top of the roof to see their sensei waiting for them, leaning against the railing. He gestured for them to sit down in front of him and waited until they were seated before he spoke.

"Alright, now that we're all here. Why don't you introduce yourselves?"

Sakura frowned. "Well what should we say sensei? Also, you didn't introduce yourself first."

"Yeah what Sakura-chan said," parroted Naruto.

Kakashi extended his hands out while shrugging. "You know things like your likes, dislikes, hobbies or dream. And since you've pointed out that I haven't introduced myself I'll go first."

"I'm Hatake Kakashi. My likes and dislikes are none of your concern. As for my dream... I have few hobbies."

They all waited to see if he would say something else but he didn't make a move to say more.

Sakura couldn't help but feel disappointed. "So all we learned was his name," she said as she turned to look at her teammates. Naruto nodded in agreement while Sasuke said nothing.

"Okay now it's your turn. You first," Kakashi gestured at Naruto.

"I'm Uzumaki Naruto. I like ramen especially the ramen at Ichiraku's, training, hanging out with Sakura-chan and playing pranks. I dislike the three minutes I have to wait after putting in the hot water for cup ramen. My hobby is to eat and compare new ramen. And my dream is to become the greatest Hokage, better than all the rest so the villagers will have to stop looking down on me and acknowledge me."

Well he grew up in an interesting way, thought Kakashi.

"Okay, who's next?"

Sakura decided to get it over with. "I'm Haruno Sakura. I like my family and clan, sweet and spicy food, reading and having fun. My dislikes are anything sour, those who are disloyal, perverts and boredom. My hobbies are reading and training. And my dream currently is to become a strong and great shinobi that serves and protects the village."

Well that was certainly a surprise. I thought for sure she would mention something about liking the Uchiha. Maybe she's gotten a grasp on hiding her feelings? I'll find out soon enough, pondered Kakashi.

"You're time to shine now," Kakashi nodded towards Sasuke.

Not even moving his hands from in front of his face, Sasuke spoke, "My name is Uchiha Sasuke. There are many things I hate and there aren't a lot of things I like. Also, I have an ambition that won't remain just a dream. The revival of my clan and...to kill a certain man."

Sakura stared at Sasuke feeling a little disturbed by what he said. She was sure a lot of it had to do with the fact she was more than positive she knew who Sasuke was talking about. She had heard more than once adults mention the name of the man who had murdered Sasuke's clan.

Has that been his goal ever since the massacre?

Naruto stared at Sasuke feeling a slight tinge of fear. I hope he's not talking about me!

Kakashi simply looked at Sasuke indifferently. I figured as much. That boy is gonna be a lot of work.

"Well, you three are certainly unique in your own way. I like that but now that introductions are out of the way we can begin. Our first mission will be starting tomorrow."

"Oh what kind of mission sensei? Is it rescuing a princess or fighting off a group of bandits?" asked Naruto eagerly.

Kakashi waved his hands. "No, nothing that advanced yet. No, what we're doing is something that all four of us can easily do."

"What, what, what, what!" urged Naruto, bouncing in excitement.

Sakura leaned forward in anticipation.

"Survival training," Kakashi simply stated.

Sakura felt both disappointment and confusion. "What do you mean survival training? Didn't we already go through that in the academy?"

"Yeah, we had plenty of training in the academy," said Naruto.

"This no ordinary training," replied Kakashi.

"Then what kind of training is it?" Naruto impatiently asked.

Kakashi then began to chuckle seemingly laughing at a joke he only knew.

Sakura started to get slightly irritated. What the hell was so funny? Only one way to find out.

"What's so funny Kakashi-sensei?"

He stopped laughing to speak, though amusement still clouded his voice. "Well if I say this, then I'm sure you three are going to be surprised is all."

"Tell us what?" Naruto asked in irritation. Even he was starting to get annoyed by their sensei.

Kakashi suddenly became serious and with a piercing stare said, "Out of the 27 graduates, only 9 will definitely become genin. The other 18 will be sent back to the academy. Meaning this training is a very hard test with 66.6% chance for failure."

Naruto started to splutter indignantly, unable to form a proper sentence in his shock. Sasuke made no sound but there was a definite clenching of his hands and a frown on his face.

Sakura, even though she knew there was test still couldn't contain her shock but it was mostly from hearing the failure rate. How could only 9 people become genin out of the 27 that graduated? Exactly how hard was this test?

"See? I told you that you would be surprised," chuckled Kakashi.

Naruto exploded. "No way! I went through so much just to graduate! What was the graduation test for anyway?!"

"That? That just picks those who are qualified to become genin."


"Anyway, I'm going to determine tomorrow whether you become genin based on if you pass or fail the test. Be at Training Ground 12 with your ninja equipment at 5 a.m. sharp." Kakashi stood up and faced away from them. "Now then, this meeting is over. Oh yeah, don't eat breakfast." At this Kakashi turned his head to face them. "You'll just throw up otherwise." With that he was gone in a puff of smoke leaving them alone.

Sakura momentarily stared at the spot where there sensei once was before getting to her feet.

She needed to prepare for tomorrow. Good thing she got her run in today since she wouldn't be able to tomorrow with how early they had to get up.

And what was he talking about not to eat breakfast because they would throw up. One thing they had been taught was to always eat whenever possible because you never knew when you would be called to go on a mission or if you would get a chance to eat during your mission. And going on a survival mission you needed all the energy you could get.

Maybe telling them not to eat was also a test? Just because you might throw up wasn't a reason to not eat.

Sakura looked over at her teammates and saw once again that Sasuke had already taken off. She gave a huff of frustration. How the hell were they supposed to be a team if he wouldn't stick around long enough to even talk with them.


Sakura looked up at Naruto with questioning eyes.

"Do you wanna go train together? Maybe we can figure out what kind of test Kakashi-sensei is going to give us." Naruto rubbed the back of his head nervously while giving a grin.

Sakura considered the idea. It wouldn't hurt to train with Naruto, after all they would probably be training together a lot now that they were a team. Plus they had a great time at lunch together. Not to mention having some kind of strategy for tomorrow would be best.

"Sure why not," she smiled at Naruto.

He gave a fist pump with a cheer. "Alright!"

Sakura thought for a moment. If she was going train with Naruto then she might as well do all of her training while she was with him.

"Hey, Naruto."


"How about we meet at the training ground entrance in about 30 minutes? I need to stop at home and pick up a couple of things."

Naruto nodded. "No problem I'll see you in a few."

With that they both departed leaving the roof empty. Or so they thought.

A pair of eyes had been observing them, listening in on their conversation.

Hatake Kakashi pulled out his Icha Icha Paradise as he prepared to leave.

Interesting. The boy and girl seemed to be friends now or at least tolerate each other enough to train together.

Naruto definitely seemed to still be infatuated with Sakura that was certain. Though she didn't seem too enamored with him, but was willing to hang out. Not to mention Sakura hadn't even gave one love sick glance the Uchiha's way or give any indication she liked him.

He definitely wondered what had brought on such a drastic change to his students. Well at least in Sakura. He'd have to pay close attention to how they performed and acted tomorrow.

With a swirl of leaves on the wind he was soon gone.

Twenty-five minutes later Sakura arrived at the training grounds loaded with her gear and most importantly the notes with the techniques and jutsu she had found at the library the day before. She'd also brought some water and fruit for her and Naruto to snack on.

Naruto was already waiting for and was standing on top of a stump looking at the clouds. Walking towards him, he looked down and spotted her. Grinning he jumped down and closed the distance between them.

"You ready?" she asked.

"Dattebayo! Of course I am!"

"Well let's go."

Since it was still early in the evening many of the training grounds were already occupied forcing them to go on quite a long search for a free one.

Fifteen minutes later they found a medium sized training ground encircled by trees with a pretty big stream running through the middle.

"This is perfect," Sakura announced.

Naruto nodded. "I've never been to this training ground before, but it's pretty quiet compared to the rest of them. The stream seems like a good place to cool off in too."

"Soo," said Sakura. "What do you want to train in?"

"Uhh, I don't know. We did shuriken training yesterday so probably not that. Maybe a taijutsu spar?"

"That would be great. I haven't practiced any of my kata today so a spar would be good. But let's warm up first."

In agreement about what they were going to do the two ran through their respective warm-ups.

Sakura went through her sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and stretches. She limited herself to 200 reps because she remembered Gai telling her it was good to push herself but not to go overboard to where she could damage her body permanently. He told her until he said otherwise to stick to the 200 reps and he would increase the amount appropriate.

Finished she saw Naruto was still going through his warm up so she started practicing her kata. She was almost through all the moves she knew when Naruto called that he was ready.

They took up their stances, her using the Strong Fist and Naruto using the basic Academy style. Sakura frowned as she noticed that Naruto's stance was off.

"Don't expect me to go easy on you Sakura-chan." Naruto gave her a foxy grin filled with determination.

Sakura smirked. "I was just about to tell you not to, because I definitely won't."

The two stared each other down, waiting for the other to make a move. It went on for several minutes until Sakura feeling confident initiated the first move.

Charging forward she aimed a kick at his chest that he blocked with a cross guard pushing her back in the process. Naruto took a swipe at her head which she dodged then had caught his follow up punch with an open fist that she quickly let go of.

Sakura countered with a elbow strike at his trachea which he dodged but left him open to receive a punch to the gut. Naruto made an 'omph' sound in pain as air rushed out of his lungs. Sakura's elation at landing the first blow was short lived as Naruto quickly recovered sending a punch that connected with her cheek. The blow stung and Sakura had to acknowledge Naruto's strength but it wasn't near as bad as the pain Gai and Lee could deliver with their blows.

Shaking off the pain she moved to counter but had to dodge a flurry of kick and punches from Naruto that put her on the defensive. As they continued to fight Sakura began to notice that many of Naruto's stances were either poor or completely wrong. It was his mistakes that allowed her to easily exploit his openings and land as many hard hits as she could. She'd though about pointing them out in the middle of their fight but decided to save it for after since this was a spar and not a lesson.

While she managed to keep up with him and had less openings to give, his superior strength and speed compared to hers gave him the edge. He could easily break through her guard, attack faster than she could and dodge much quicker.

Though she was getting beat she enjoyed the fight as much as she did with Gai-sensei and Lee. It was an exhilarating experience, feeling the adrenaline coursing through her body and attacking with everything she had. Sakura could see Naruto was enjoying the spar just as much as she was, along with giving the same amount of effort as she did. There was a fiery determination in his gaze.

Breathing heavily Sakura prepared her last assault. She gauged it had been about an hour since they started and she was feeling quite fatigued. While she knew she could go longer, she wanted to stop so she would have enough energy to practice at least a couple of the jutsu and techniques she'd found, and she could see Naruto wasn't tired in the least. While his breathing had gotten a little heavier he wasn't anywhere near as tired as she was. She would have to knock him out to end this in her favor.

Either an uppercut to the chin or a blow to the temple should do it. Or even a well place roundhouse would work.

Sakura weighed her options carefully. She knew knocking out Naruto wouldn't be easy. Many a time he had taken a pounding without going down for the count, but the least she could do was give it a try.

Dodging a kick to the abdomen she grabbed Naruto's leg using the momentum to turn him around. She kicked his exposed back forcing him towards the ground. Sakura moved to deliver a blow to the back of the head, but Naruto apparently sensing this rolled out of the way as he fell to the ground. Quickly scrambling to get back up he clumsily dodged her next attack and those preceding it as she tried to land a hit to his head.

He managed to break her offensive by grabbing one of her arms and grappling her over his shoulder where she landed hard on the ground. Dazed by the impact it took her a moment to recognize her surroundings. When her vision finally cleared she saw Naruto standing over her with a worried expression.

"Are you alright Sakura-chan? Did I throw you too hard? Is your head okay?"

Sakura shook her head before slowly rising to a sitting position. Naruto crouched down beside her eyes still full of worry.

"I'm alright Naruto, just a little dazed is all. Nothing to worry about." She gave him a reassuring smile.

Naruto gave a sigh of relief before smiling back at her. Then his brow furrowed, "Do you want to continue the spar or..."

Sakura shook her head as she unsteadily stood up accepting Naruto's help.

"No, that's alright. It's obvious that you had me beat. With you speed, strength and stamina I didn't stand much of a chance."

Naruto shook his head in disagreement. "That's not true you were pretty good! You got in a lot of hits on me and they definitely hurt."

"Thanks, Naruto" Sakura smiled genuinely touched by Naruto's encouragement. "Come on, let's go cool off by the stream. I bought some water and fruit for us to snack on."

Leisurely walking to the stream they took off their shoes before dipping their feet in the water. Sakura cupped a handful of water and splashed it on her face while Naruto dunk his head in the water. Laughing at his antics Sakura took out the water bottles and fruit, handing one to Naruto along with an apple.

They quietly ate and drank while watching the wildlife around them. The fish swimming through the stream, birds chirping and flying around, and squirrels chasing each other around trees. It was both peaceful and relaxing.

Sakura was the first to break the silence.

"Hey, before we talk about what strategies were going to use for the test tomorrow, can I give you some advice?"

Naruto looked apprehensive as he finished he last of his apple. "Umm, yeah sure."

"Now I'm not trying to be a know it all or anything." She waved her hands in a placating gesture. "It's just that a lot of your stances, while we were fighting were wrong."

Naruto frowned, "What do you mean?"

"Well you weren't positioned the right way when in some of your stances. And sometimes you punches or kicks were uncoordinated or sloppy, and you left a lot of openings for me to attack you with. I'm not looking down on you or anything. I'm not a sore loser. It's just those mistakes could really cost you in a real fight. Some of those openings exposed vital organs." Sakura tried to convey her genuine worry and desire to help.

Naruto seemed to think about what she said his face scrunching up into a frown that turned into a grimace as if he was remembering something. After a moment he turned to her with a serious expression.

"Could you show me what I did wrong?"

Sakura nodded determinedly. "Of course."

Standing up she began to demonstrate the stances with him copying her and her correcting him where he was wrong. This went on for so long that Sakura didn't realize it until the sky was already darkening with the sun slowly sinking behind the horizon.

She halted Naruto as he moved to demonstrate a much more coordinated high kick.

"Look it's getting late. I wanted to practice some new jutsu but it's getting too dark for that. So.. Do you wanna discuss strategy over a ramen dinner?" she asked with a mischievous grin. She was pretty sure she knew what the answer would be.

"Ramen? Dattebayo! You got a deal!"

An hour and a half later and Sakura trudged into her home mentally and physically tired. Strategizing with Naruto had been quite the experience.

She had never known how brilliant he was with coming up with crazy but feasible tactics to the hypothetical scenarios they had thought up for tomorrows test. Sakura knew that his stealth was pretty amazing, several times she had seen him outsmart chunin and jonin alike when they chased him around the village because of his pranks.

And if he was to be believed, she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was masterfully skilled at making traps.

While she was skeptical about whether their plans would work or not, they had come up with about 20 different strategies along with making contingencies to include Sasuke if need be.

Sakura wasn't sure if Sasuke would even work with them, though they had to try to see if he would at least. This had brought about much grumbling from Naruto about how much of a bastard Sasuke was and that they didn't need him. It had taken much cajoling from her to get him to agree to at least try and work with Sasuke if they had to.

Entering her room Sakura immediately stripped down to go take a quick shower. She emerged 15 minutes later feeling both clean and sleepy. After brushing her teeth and drying her hair she donned her pajamas and set her alarm before sliding into bed. Soon she drifted off into a peaceful sleep with thoughts of her upcoming test and her parents arriving home.

A/N: First of all, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Years! Second, I want to thank everyone for their support of this story. I never expected such a big response to this story or that so many people would like it.

Thanks to everyone who liked and favorite this story. And special thanks to those who reviewed: lightning king, Jenny693, Beneath innocent eyes, ZilverWolf, unknow98, CosmicSynopsis, BriEva, Cyndal91, fellow, Sakura's Inner, DaRappinKillerBee, moodymel, Toreh, shannaros98, Gremlin Jack, . , Siralia, and ahackwriter.

I have to admit to being a little nervous about writing Kakashi and Sasuke. I hope I did them justice. I already have the path for Sasuke set up but I'm nervous about how to go about writing his perspective the way I want.

Jenny693: Sakura being taught by different jonin senseis is definitely in the plans. In fact you'll be seeing some in the next chapter or the one after that.

BriEva: Whoa! So many great questions. Many of the answers to them will be revealed in the next chapter or the one after. The question about the Hokage knowing of Sakura status as an heir? Yes, he knew. The reason for her still being on Team 7 comes down to two factors. One, Konoha is essentially a military village. Two, Sakura is now or until she fails her test, a ninja of the village; a tool at its disposal. As the Hokage it's up to Hiruzen to make decisions that are in the best interests of the village; and by interests whatever best strengthens the village's military. While Sakura is valuable economic wise, she has no bloodline (that they know of) that further increases her value in a way that matters to them. Bear in mind the civilian part of the council has no say in Konoha's military matters which really tips the scales out of Sakura's favor in terms of support. Especially, since the argument can be made that as a ninja she will in danger no matter what and her failure would only hurt the village economically but not its strength which is what really matters to them.

Her parents were ninja but are retired. Inner is simply Sakura's real personality that got buried under the bullying she suffered through. Eventually Inner will fade away once Sakura grows more confident. I've seen enough stories with Inner being a bloodline, demon, split personality, etc. Decided to just do something different.

Sakura won't get in trouble about spending the money though her parent will inquire about why she spend so much. Remember they are frugal and practical so she didn't really do any frivolous spending, it was for her career and Naruto's. It helps that he's going to be on her team, eh. :) Also, she will eventually visit Naruto's place and he will hers. Sakura getting over Sasuke will take time but not too long. Some of it evidence in this chapter.

And your choice on Akatsuki members is noted. Two had already been considered.

Toreh: You suggestion is duly noted. :)

Gremlin Jack: Thanks for the advice. I wasn't sure what was too much or too little details, just trying to get the right amount of everything to make this story great. Sakura can do that amount repetitions because despite her lack of training she still has some conditioning from being a ninja. Also, I'm kinda employing the method of Hyper Recovery used in the manga Eyeshield 21.

Siralia: I'll definitely consider it. I hadn't thought about Tenten as one of the people Sakura formed a friendship with.

Please Read and Review. Reviews are love and let me know how you feel.

Next Chapter: Training from Hell Part. 1