Frigid water poured burst onto Sakura's still sleep ridden form. It shocked her awake faster than any cup of tea. She had abandoned any hope of taking a warm bath while under Tsunade's tutelage, it grossed her out to no end going to bed dripping with sweat. But her mind and body were often too weak to even consider the extra effort of drawing a bath.
"A warm bath huh?" Sakura frowned against the water as it splashed down on her face. It was either getting warmer or she was getting used to the temperature. The daydream of Naruto drawing her a bath was still fresh in her mind, she felt refreshed like it had really happened.
She was clean enough once the water was finally just about to become comfortably warm. She debated spending an extra minute in the shower, just enough to feel the warmth. But her day needed every precious minute she could get.
Sakura stared at the path towards the Hokage's tower, the first tendrils light from the risings sun just barely illuminated the stone faces of the Hokage. They would begin work on putting her master's face up there by the end of the month.
With a slight stretch, Sakura began her early morning run towards the Hokage's tower. Tsunade wouldn't be awake for another few hours, but Shizune would be up soon enough. Besides she had a lot of reading to do.
Konoha was a vastly different place in the early morning. It was just as lively as it was during the day, but it was a different kind of life, filled with ninja's of all ranks milling about getting ready for various missions, or starting with their training.
"Good morning Kakashi's youthful student!" Might Gai shot past her. On his hands. Backwards.
"Good morning Sakura! You're as beautiful as ever!" Lee followed in his beloved sensei's steps with just as much vigor.
Sakura could only shake her head as the pair ran down the main street of Konoha, already far out of earshot. She had to admit what those two could do was impressive. Even if their methods were a bit extreme.
"Guys! Wait up!" Sakura turned to see a sweat soaked Tenten come running up to her side. The poor girl looked ready to collapse at any second. Tenten fell into stride beside Sakura taking deep even breaths.
It irritated her slightly that Tenten's resting pace matched her training speed. Still, it was her own fault, she felt every time she put off training with each step. "Decided to join them this morning Tenten?"
The girl looked at her in disbelief. "I join them every morning! This is just the first time I've been able to keep up with them."
"I know the feeling." Sakura muttered in between ragged breaths. Tenten must have heard the bitterness and regret that seeped out with those words, as she stepped away from Sakura.
"Anyway's, I better get going or I'll lose them again, good luck on your training with Tsunade." Sakura frowned as Tenten sped past her desperate to keep up with her own teammates.
The window was positioned perfectly to catch and disperse the early morning sun so that it's biting glare was now a comfortable light, ideal for reading. Two tranquil pools of water flanked either side of a massive desk. The walls were lined with book upon book upon book of medical knowledge.
This was her master's sanctuary, a place for study and preparation. Only three people had unrestricted access to this room, Tsunade, Shizune and herself. She had three years to read every book in the room.
She dragged her fingers along the spine of each book until she reached the last book she read. A volume detailing the various poisons found in and around the desert. The next few were likely filled with procedures and cures on the poisons as well as their practical uses in small doses.
Resolving herself to get at least two books completed by the time she went to find Tsunade for training Sakura went to work.
She absorbed the information ravenously, for once grateful for her massive forehead and her bookworm nature. "Who knew being a nerd would be useful."
The final page turn of the book marked her time to seek her master for more direct training. Her muscles were still sore from yesterday. Actually, she was fairly certain they were still sore from her first training session with Tsunade everything else just added onto it until her every muscle twinged with a dull ache.
Slapping some resolve into her cheeks Sakura stood up and returned the book to its spot, doing her best not to look at the entire wall, instead she focused on the next book in line. "Remember the goal, but focus on what's in front of you."
She opened the door and came face to face with her Master. The closeness was such that Sakura nearly fell over backward to avoid actually hitting her master. Not that Tsunade would have budged at Sakura crashing into her.
"Ahh there you are Sakura, how goes the reading?" Tsunade's heels clicked on the stone floor like the thunder of an approaching storm.
Sakura winced as she prepared herself for the no doubt grueling training Tsunade had in store for her. "Yes, I managed to finish the first volume of the desert poison case studies."
"I see," Tsunade mumbled and walked over grabbing the volume off the shelf. "And what did you think of the case with the Nerium Oleander?"
"That one confused me, Nerium Oleander causes cardiac arrest true, but it does not cause lung paralysis or motor weakness." That got Tsunade's interest. It even brought a smile to her master's face, unwilling to lose her momentum Sakura continued, grabbing the poisonous plant book. "I think that the report meant to mention Aconitum it's symptoms include heart and lung paralysis, which could cause a cardiac arrest given certain conditions."
She presented the book to Tsunade pointing to the entry on Aconitum.
"Impressive," Tsunade smiled and placed the book back into its spot. "But what if I told you that the person writing did indeed think that the poison was from the Nerium Oleander?"
Sakura frowned and placed a finger to her lip. "Then, they probably got the wrong diagnosis, had they checked if it was Aconitum toxin the patient likely would have survived."
A dark gleam appeared in Tsunade's eyes that sent a shiver up Sakura's spine. "And what if I told you that I was the one to write that report?"
"Then," Sakura trailed off. Could she really say that her Master was wrong? That the person that taught her had made such an oversight? No, she could. If she was going to surpass Tsunade then she needed to correct the mistakes her master made. "Then I still believe that you made an incorrect diagnosis."
Tsunade let out a kind laugh and smiled at Sakura. "Good, you have the backbone, but it'd be pointless for me to teach you if you couldn't think for yourself."
"Well if you did everything I told you without thinking for yourself you'd be just like me, making my same mistakes." Tsunade walked to her desk, trailing her hands along its wooden surface. "Good medics do what they're told and how they're told. Great ones think for themselves."
Sakura felt her cheeks burn at the statement. "So you think I'll become a great medic then?"
Her master's look said all that could be said on the matter. Tsunade reached into her desk and pulled out an inkwell and a brush. "Now then I believe that it is time for you to learn my ultimate Jutsu."
"Wait, what?" Sakura ran forward stopping right in front of Tsunade. Her heart was pounding from the praise and now from the revelation that she was going to learn some ultimate technique. "Are you serious? We've barely gone over the mystic palm technique."
"Oh this isn't like that," Tsunade smiled and tapped the end of the brush against the diamond that was in the middle of her head. "Today you'll be starting a long journey that requires absolute perfect chakra control, the end result will be the Strength of a Hundred Technique."
Sakura felt her throat run dry. The seal was the source of Tsunade's great physical strength. "Okay, what do I have to do?"
"First you hold still." Tsunade dipped the brush into the ink.
The ink was colder than she thought it would be as it was placed directly in the center of her forehead. Laced with Tsunade's chakra the simple stroke formed a perfect diamond. From there she began to draw thick a straight line down Sakura's cheek. "The three rules that govern medical ninja are."
The words hammered into Sakura's being as though the chakra laced lines of ink where staining her very skin with them. "The First Clause: No medic ninja shall ever stop medical treatment until the lives of their party members have come to an end."
She finished the first line just above Sakura's collar. "The Second Clause: No medic shall ever stand on the front lines "
"The third clause," Tsunade mirrored the first line. "No medic ninja shall ever die until they are the last of their platoon."
Sakura felt the brush leave her skin and Tsunade's hand on her shoulder. "The fourth and hidden clause: Only those medic ninja who has mastered the Strength of a Hundred Technique of the ninja art creation rebirth are permitted to discard the above-mentioned laws."
A shiver ran down Sakura's spine. She had heard the first three laws numerous times, they're repeated on the front page of nearly every medical textbook. They made her question her path; she wanted Naruto and Sakura to stare at her back, not sit on the sidelines waiting for them to get injured.
But that final clause gave her a new goal. Master the Strength of a Hundred Technique. "Now what?"
The jutsu to activate the seal was a simple one. Simply a string of three hand signs to direct the flow of chakra. "Now, adjust the levels so that seventy-five percent of your chakra is being pushed into the seal, and hold that directing your chakra as it regenerates into the seal."
It sounded simple enough. Moving the chakra was the easy part, but being at one-quarter of her regular reserves was painful. Like she was trying to draw breath through a straw after running ten miles. "How long do I have to do this?"
"Three years." Tsunade's reply was so nonchalant Sakura nearly let her concentration slip.
"Give or take a few days, there's a reason why Shizune was unable to perform this Jutsu, I suggest you meditate in here until you can maintain that flow without thinking."
With that, her master left her. Sakura couldn't help but let out a whine. How on earth could she be like this for three years? What if something happened and they needed her help, she could barely breathe in this state let alone fight.
"Remember the goal, but focus on what's in front of you."
At Least she hadn't had any weird daydreams yet.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Being forced abruptly into existence against her will Sakura glared at Naruto. The sun was high in the sky and they were in the same spot he had summoned her yesterday. At Least she thought it was yesterday. The last thing she remembered was the bath Naruto had made for her.
Now the blond was smiling at her like an idiot.
"What do you want Naruto?" She let the venom drip off of her words so that Naruto could hear them. Being at Naruto's beck and call was already draining on her soul, and it had only been a single day.
She wasn't entirely certain if existing was really worth it.
"Hi, Sakura!" Naruto either didn't notice the contempt she had for him or simply chose to ignore it. It was probably fifty-fifty. "Jiraiya told me to take a break while he does his research today, so I wanted to know if you wanted to hang out or something."
It wasn't like she had a choice. It was either this or not exist until Naruto needed another clone to do something. Sakura looked down at her clothing, she was still wearing Naruto's outfit. It was loose in places and tight in others. "You have money?"
"Yea," Naruto nodded his head eagerly quickly pulling out his frog wallet. It was as plump as she ever saw it. "I made sure to take my whole savings with me on this trip just in case I needed something."
Sakura glared at him for a moment. Her eyes drawn to his wallet. "Sure, but you're going to buy me some real clothes so I'm not wearing yours."
Naruto frowned at his wallet before he smiled at Sakura. "Yea, okay!"
Sakura examined herself in the mirror. Nothing about her was different than she remembered, her hair was the same length and her entire body, giant forehead and all was still how her she remembered it, sure her muscles were a bit more defined maybe. But nothing out of the ordinary.
"Hey, what's taking so long?" Naruto whined from outside the changing room.
"Hold your horses!" Sakura barked and began to put on the few pieces of clothing that were both cute and in her size, a pair of shorts and a red tank top with flowers on it. It wasn't shinobi gear by any standard, but it was better than any of Naruto's clothes.
To her delight, she actually looked cute in the outfit. Especially with Naruto's green gemstone necklace around her neck. She had seen the necklace around Naruto's neck before but had never given them much thought, writing them off as just some cheap jewelry Naruto got to try and look cool.
But it was actually a lovely gemstone. And it felt important to like the necklace had a history that was great. Almost like she had learned about it as a great treasure or something. She walked out from the changing room still examining the stone. "Hey, Naruto where."
She had to stop when Naruto looked at her his mouth slightly opened and a blush was on his cheeks. "Wow! You look great Sakura!"
"Cha! Tell me something I don't know!" Her bravado suppressed the blush that threatened to worm its way up onto her cheeks. Naruto if nothing else was a boon to her wavering ego.
"Uhh," Naruto's face twisted in confusion as he tried to think about something. "Oh I know, the Rasengan was made by the fourth Hokage!"
"Are you really trying to tell me something I didn't know?" Naruto nodded his head pleased with his random fact. "And I already knew that."
She didn't really.
"Anyways," Sakura held up the necklace so that Naruto could see it. "What's with this? Where'd you get it?"
Naruto smiled and pulled out his own necklace, the original. "The Old Lady gave this to me."
"Master gave this to you?" Sakura asked as she inspected the original in more detail Her's was nearly identical to Naruto's in terms of appearance, but Naruto's had something to, a quality that couldn't be measured or identified.
"Master?" Naruto asked. "Who's your master?"
Sakura froze. Did she really say, master? It just came out that way. "What? I didn't say, master, I said Lady Tsunade you're just hearing things."
Naruto frowned at her.
"Anyways," Sakura began letting Naruto's necklace drop, and backed away from Naruto, intent on hiding her blush. "You said Lady Tsunade gave it to you? What for?"
"Oh, yeah. She gave it to me after I won the bet for learning the final stage of the Rasengan in a week. She said that she only gave it to people she believed would become Hokage one day. So I'm going to keep it on until I become Hokage."
Sakura smiled as they exited the store, folding her arms behind her back. "Sure does seem like you have a bunch of people rooting for you to become Hokage."
"Yea." Naruto scratched the back of his head. "It feels good."
Sakura drew herself tall and squared her shoulders. "Well if you want to become Hokage you're going to have to go through me."
It was a joke, of course, there was no way that she would ever become Hokage even if she wanted to.
"What? You want to become Hokage too?" Naruto stumbled backward and stared at Sakura wide-eyed.
Sakura smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "Well yea, why not you remember what Kakashi said right? With my chakra control, I was the one closest to becoming Hokage."
"Hey brat There you are!" Before Naruto could respond Jiraiya came running up to them, a desperate look on his face. "Get your stuff we're leaving right now!"
"Huh, Why?" Naruto whined.
"Don't ask questions brat." Jiraiya walked over to Sakura and tapped her forehead.
The last thing she saw was a horde of love struck old ladies swarming down the street after Jiraiya.
She nearly lost control of the chakra flow when the most recent daydream appeared into her mind. But she managed to correct the error with renewed effort. The effect also knocked her out of the deep focus she was feeling for the first time the soreness of sitting on the hard stone all day and the hunger of a missed lunch.
It felt like her mind was suddenly split into two; the conscious part of her that was aware of everything, and the subconscious part of her that was still directing the flow of chakra. Tentatively Sakura withdrew her control of the chakra, ready to seize control of it the moment it slipped again.
It didn't waiver the steady stream flowed in a shallow rut of her mind towards the seal. With a deep breath Sakura stood up, the room was dimly lit now, cast in the shadows of the coming evening.
"Oh, no did I cause you to lose concentration?" Shizune said as she entered the room, a steaming tray of food made Sakura's mouth water. She honestly didn't hear Shizune open the door. "I was just bringing you some food for when you got hungry."
"No, not at all." Sakura shook her head. "I think I got it down."
A look of disbelief appeared on Shizune's face before the polite woman managed to press it down with a concerned smile. "Are you certain? Would you like me to check?"
"Can I eat first?"
Shizune nodded and sat the tray down on Tsunade's desk. With her fingers on Sakura's forehead where the chakra was being gathered and on both of her temples Shizune prodded Sakura's chakra network. A gasp escaped her. "You actually did it, this you're amazing Sakura, it took me weeks of trying to get the flow to continue while I walked, and Tsunade said that it took her days, but you only took a few hours. No wonder my lady has high hopes for you."
Sakura blushed, partly because of Shizune's compliment, but mostly because she realized half the plate was already eaten. "What happened to your mark? If that's okay that is."
Shizune sighed. "Don't worry, I'm not upset about it anymore. I just couldn't keep it up, even after I got the flow going I without needing to hold its hand the slightest change in my chakra would make it go out of control, I nearly lost my life on the second attempt. Since then I decided that the technique simply wasn't for me."
"Oh, I see," Sakura mumbled into another bite of food. There was no way to respond to that without sounding apathetic. "Thanks for the food by the way."
"You're welcome, us apprentices have to stick together." Shizune smiled and gave Sakura a tight shoulder hug. "Now, I should get let Tsunade know about your progress, you're going to have a busy day tomorrow."
Sakura groaned. "You mean I have to train like this?"
"Don't worry the first day of it is the hardest."
Why did she feel like Shizune was lying? "This isn't going to be some kind of a motivational thing where you'll say that the second day is the hardest and then the third and the the fourth until it's day eighty-one and I'm used to it is it?"
"What? No, that's… how'd you know?" Shizune failed to conceal her embarrassment behind flailing hands.
Sakura smiled. "We read the same book, Holes right?"
Shizune frowned and hung her head in shame in much the same way Naruto did when he realized how stupid he was being. Or one of the few moments he actually felt embarrassed by his own actions. "Yea."
"Hey, did Lady Tsunade give Naruto a necklace?" She had been meaning to ask ever since Shizune walked into the room. That daydream felt so real, she knew Naruto had the necklace, but there was no way that her master gave it to him. It was probably just some cheap souvenir.
"She gave him her grandfather's necklace," Shizune said with a small smile. "Partly because he won the bet to complete the Rasengan in a week, but also because she believes he'll become Hokage someday."
Just like in her daydream. Naruto must have told her about it and then she forgot. Yea that was it. "He seems to be getting all kinds of people to believe in him."
Shizune nodded in agreement. "What about you? Do you believe in Naruto?"
"Yea," Sakura said without thinking. "I suppose I do."
Still, the idea of her becoming Hokage was freshly tilled into the fertile soil of her mind.
AN: Look more NARUSAKU!Although this chapter is more about Sakura training with Tsunade than anything else. Also who knows what'll happen to the real clothes that clone Sakura bought! They probably should have thought this through!I feel like this chapter focused to heavily on the training aspect of it, what do you think? Might try to focus on ther relationship more next chapter.