Story: Lady Luck
Chapter: Prologue - This is a newly revised chapter, please reread for better understanding.
Beta: Proclaimed Penguin Princess
Pairing: Uchiha Itachi & Haruno Sakura
Updated: October 2018
Disclaimers: See next chapter for full disclaimer, but unfortunately I do not own anything Naruto related.
The Hokage Tower.
The passing of the Sandaime Hokage still lingered in his heart as Kakashi stood in the office of the Godaime Hokage. He had only met Konoha's Slug Princess and Legendary Sannin Tsunade-hime once previously.
"Your record is impressive Hatake Kakashi," she said with an even tone. While stack of folders sat on her desk, she had only one file open. He could see his photo clipped to the top of the page. He knew it detailed every single one of his missions and exams. He had the same feeling of apprehension once before, facing his former sensei, Minato Namikaze.
"Son of Hatake Sakumo, Graduated Academy at age 5. Student of Namikaze. Passed your chunin exam at age 6. Passed your jounin exam at age 12. Assigned to ANBU after the deaths of your genin teammates." Each statement was true, but it hurt all the while. "The Third eventually relieved you of your ANBU service to which you decided to become a jounin instructor, is all that correct Kakashi-san?"
Kakashi dipped his head once indicating his affirmative answer.
"Is there anything else you would like to add to this file? Anything else I should be aware of in your record."
Luckily his mask hid the smirk. "Nothing that Jiraiya-sama probably has not already told you, personally."
The acknowledged toad sannin did expel a laugh. He stood, well more like leaned against a window looking out into the distance.
Tsunade's assistant Shizune was also there holding a small pig. At the moment he was unsure of to whom the pig belonged, yet knew that this woman soon be put to work helping not only in the hospital, but as the Hokage's assistant. Tsunade was very selective to whom she taught her own particular skills.
Explosive skills. Therefore while this woman behind her seemed meek, Kakashi knew there was no such thing as a tame kunoichi.
Tsunade shot a glance at her friend and teammate before continuing with the purpose of this meeting. "Kakashi-san why do you think we are meeting today?"
He had a faint idea but did not voice it. "You wish to familiarize yourself with your shinobi Hokage-sama."
"I can do that by just looking at their files." Tsunade waived. "Jiraiya had spoken so highly of you Kakashi."
The tease was hanging in the air. Oh, she is good.
"You wish to discuss my genin team. Team Seven."
Tsunade interlaced her fingers in front of her face."Why would I want to discuss them?"
"While they did not pass their first chunin exams, they are quite an impressive team." He could not help but brag, his visible eye crinkling in the corner.
Tsunade just raised an eyebrow. He was trying her patience.
With a sigh, Kakashi returned to the serious tone."Orochimaru's attentions are also a liability to the entire team."
"To the entire village." Tsunade extended. "Do you know why he has a particular interest in Uchiha Sasuke?"
Fed up with this slow progression of questioning, Jiraiya cut in. "Orochimaru has already attempted to relieve Uchiha Itachi of his Sharingan. He obviously thinks Sasuke is a more appropriate target."
Tsunade took a moment to pause, staring intently at the jounin before her. After the dramatic moment had been establish she leaned back in her chair. "Curiously enough, Uchiha-sama showed up at my office two days on the job requesting his son be reassigned to a different teacher." She said.
Kakashi blinked. He took pride in his job as a shinobi; made sure to take special interest in developing Sasuke's other skills and not just his reliance his bloodline limit. No doubt Fugaku was blind to that fact, he could only see the achievements his elder son had made in terms of skill and rank. Sasuke's training was different and Kakashi felt that Sasuke would eventually come to pass his older brother in skill and endurance.
Itachi would always have a deadlier mind though. Itachi always saw the larger picture.
"What was your response?" Kakashi asked.
"He left in a state of ambiguity." Tsunade had carefully chosen her words. "From the reports I have been collecting Sasuke has done well under you. But I cannot deny my concern for him, and the two others on the team."
Ah yes, Naruto and Sakura. If Kakashi dared to be a little honest with himself, he would admit that he favored Sasuke; but not because of his skill and potential. Kakashi saw a lot of himself in the angsty boy and did not want Sasuke to repeat Kakashi's own experiences. Which is why he drilled teamwork into their heads. Teamwork, not individual skill would keep them safe. It was that concept that Sasuke lacked. Naruto needed a skill to harness while Sakura's mind and chakra control were developing normally. To him, they did not need as much attention as much as training; which was something they would also need to find the drive to do.
That was, if he wanted to be honest with himself.
"Understood Hokage-sama." Kakashi stated.
This time, it was Jiraiya who spoke. "I do not think you do Kakashi." His tone had changed dramatically.
Tsunade continued. "If Orochimaru will continuously come after Sasuke, then your entire team needs to be prepared. Not just Sasuke."
Oh, Kakashi's heart sank. They were taking his team away.
"Jiraiya has requested to take Naruto away from the village to train him." Tsunade stated firmly. "And I am going to let him."
It was only right. Jiraiya had trained Naruto's father, and in a way a little bit of Kakashi himself. It was only right that the great Sannin would also train Minato's son.
"It is for the best." Kakashi agreed.
Tsunade was not done. "You will continue basic training with Sasuke, Kakashi. However, I have asked Mitarashi Anko to provide additional instruction. Her experience with Orochimaru and his cursed seals will be invaluable to his future development as a shinobi. She too, has requested to take Sasuke out of the village. He will also be gone for extensive periods of time."
Again he could only nod in agreement. Kakashi knew that Sasuke would not particularly enjoy his time with Anko but Tsunade did have a point. It was going to be for the best if Sasuke was going to learn to control the cursed seal.
There was a silence that hung in the air. A question that was left.
"What about Sakura?"
Tsunade again looked at Jiraiya and then back to Kakashi. "Sakura has approached me and asked to be taught medical ninjutsu. I have agreed to teach her."
"Have you had any sessions with her yet?" Kakashi asked surprised that Sakura was bold enough to approach Tsunade.
"No." Tsunade said curtly but then with a raised eyebrow asked, "Why?"
"Haruno Sakura's chakra control is currently at the level of an advanced chunin level." Kakashi gave his assessment. "In her individual fight with Yamanaka, she was able to expel the clan's mind takeover jutsu. On an intellectual level, she correctly answered many of the advanced questions presented during Ibiki's first exam without cheating. I recommend you take her on as a student. She will work hard for you."
Tsunade stared at Kakashi, understanding the implication: train her to be like you.
"Shizune," Tsunade barked over her shoulder.
"Send a messenger to fetch Maito Gai."
If possible Kakashi turned even paler than he normally was. "Tsunade at least let me-"
"Forgive me Kakashi, but were you the one to teach that young man with bushy eyebrows with no chakra abilities to keep up with Gaara of the Sand?"
"Then would it not be advantageous for her to learn taijutsu from the man who did?"
Letting out a breath she examined the shinobi, his perfectly straight posture slumped a little bit with each bitter piece of news he just received. It was obvious he cared about his team but was not happy about these orders.
"You will continue your training with her. You will focus will be genjutsu and combating the Sharingan. She will need those skills just as much."
"Don't you think that is too much for her to handle?"
"What she can and cannot handle will be up to her Kakashi." Tsunade said very detached. "Coddling her will not do any good. From your record, I don't have to tell you that the shinobi world is harsh. " She had picked up his file to indicate she knew of his experiences.
That took him aback. He did not shelter his only kunoichi. Did he? Jiraiya was looking at him, leaning with his arms crossed. It was obvious she was not as advanced. Replaying their missions, few as they were, Naruto and Sasuke would thoughtlessly throw themselves into harm's way to keep her safe. He did the same.
He could only nod. He just seemed to fail everyone.
"That will be all." Tsunade said putting aside Hatake's folder. "Jiraiya you may see yourself out."
The older, white haired man made a show of stretching back, groaning and eyeing the busty blonde to his side. Tsunade or the bright red Shizune made no effort to acknowledge his lethargic movements.
"Well," Jiraiya shrugged in defeat. "Let's not disappoint the ladies, shall we Kakashi?"
The toad master slug an arm around Kakashi as the two left the room. While surprised by the older man's proximity and familiarity, Kakashi made no effort to shy away.
"Pay the old bat no mind son," the playfulness gone from his voice. "She won't admit it but you have done well with them. Minato would be proud."
Kakashi remained silent.
"You took three vastly different children and fused them together. Asuma got it easy with the InoShikaCho trio. They all grew up together, even before the academy. Nah you got the hard job."
"He looks just like him." Kakashi's voice trailed off thinking of another blonde ninja.
Jiraiya nodded, "Yes, but with his mother's fire. The Uchiha boy will be a good balance for him. If he can get his head out of his ass, his clan will try to sink their claws into him and drag him back in after this."
"You seeded the bonds that will keep them strong. It is those bonds that tie us all together. You, Kakashi, will have to keep those bonds strong. They will need you when their training comes to an end. To remind them of their bonds, to protect their bond, and then encourage them to find new bonds to welcome into their lives. Your role is not over Kakashi."
The younger man smiled, eyes crinkling at the elder man. After a moment of understanding between the too he asked, "How is the new book coming?"
Bellowing laughter could be heard down the hallway.
The Uchiha Compound - Main House Rooftop.
Itachi could not sleep. Instead he chose to lay outside, looking up at the stars. He felt less confined by the weight while he was looking up at the stars. The world was so much wider than anyone actually realized. Selfish acts, by selfish people caused the pain and anguish. Selfish acts like those of Orochimaru. All he kept picturing was that discussing…humanoid leering, watching his brother during the exams, waiting to attack from the distance.
The same brother he swore he would protect at all costs the day the village was attacked. The same brother he shielded and pushed away from the clan so he was not corrupted by them. The anger flared within him, Sharingan spinning around, scanning, and searching the woods for any trace of anyone even faintly associated with this Sound Village. Pathetic excuses for individuals.
His keen ears picked up a different conversation. Between his father and his mother. Sasuke was not home. He had said he was going to train with Kakashi.
"It is very obvious Sasuke is not receiving the proper training under Hatake-san." His father said. Itachi could hear the disapproval in his voice.
The sweet melody of his mother's voice was attempting to calm his father. "Sasuke will not grow as a shinobi if he consistently trains with his brother and cousins."
"Both Shisui and Itachi were far above Sasuke in skill at his age."
"You pushed Itachi since the day he could walk. You promised me it would not be the same with Sasuke." Mikoto pleaded. "Let him develop with the others in his age group."
"That snake Orochimaru targeted our son because he was perceived as weak." Fugaku cursed.
Itachi cursed as well. He knew his father was wrong. The bonds Sasuke was forming with that unruly team would be the best thing that had ever happened to him. They could give him the support he needed, and challenge him far more than any of his cousins could.
The night was calm despite all of the events that had happened as of late. He was wary of his new Hokage. He was sure the Sandaime had left notes of their previous interactions. What had almost occurred.
What Itachi almost had to do.
Rage burned inside of him again.
Orochimaru threatened his village, threatened his brother. He could not be allowed to live.
It was at that moment he felt a familiar chakra. Shisui announcing himself before the very same man landed soundlessly on the roof. "Hokage wants to see Crow."
A mission. ANBU. Crow was the codename for their team; led by him, Raven.
For once, he dared to hope the new Hokage would call in their team to eliminate the snake. Contrary to one's belief, Itachi did not like to kill unless absolutely necessary. He understood though, that sometimes it was to keep a larger peace. And therefore he would gladly plunge his weapon into Orochimaru's heart.
He slipped into his bedroom without disturbing the continuing fight below, dawned his ANBU uniform before following his cousins over rooftops towards the Hokage tower. His eyes picked up elevated chakra levels around the village, there was a stillness but also an urgency he was sensing. Something was wrong.
His new Hokage stood before their four man team. She looked younger than her age would indicate. His Sharingan told him she was storing a massive amount of chakra in the diamond on her forehead. She probably used a little of the chakra to keep her youthful appearance. Arms crossed, deep in contemplation and thought.
Konoha's Slug Princess and Legendary Sannin Tsunade-hime. His father was not happy that another Senju was chosen as Hokage. "It was a disgrace to their name and their duty to the village." Fugaku stated within the same clan meeting, Itachi remembered the look of agreement among the clan elders.
Itachi knew there were worse options. While Itachi had never met her, he knew of her reputation and of her fellow sannin, what they sacrificed for the name of the village.
"ANBU Team Crow." She spoke, trouble surrounded her voice. "This was not what I had expected for our first meeting. However, I'm coming to understand that nothing about my assertion to Hokage is normal."
His team stood alert.
"It is my understanding that your team is best ANBU team on the active roster." She paused, uncrossing her arms. "A great treason has been committed against our village, by one whom we once called our own. Orochimaru poses a continued threat to our village and our people."
"Therefore, he must be eliminated. Crow, you will track down Orochimaru, also known as the Snake Sannin. You will find his hideout and burn it to the ground. You will end his life, and destroy his body so there is nothing left. You will wipe any trace of that bastard from the face of these lands, do I make myself clear?"
The affirmative response was tandem. Itachi turned to his team, "One hour." He kept his order brief. His team was a well-oiled machine. They knew the plan. They would meet at the front gate to leave. The four turned to leave.
"Uchiha," The strong feminine voice rang out. Both Itachi and Shisui hesitated before Tsunade shooed away Shisui.
"I have read your file."
Itachi did not move.
"I am sure there will be a lot to discuss later. But right now I ask you do this in service to the village. In service to your brother."
"My brother Hokage-sama?"
It was clear to Tsunade that no one had told the younger brat's family what had happened. "Uchiha-san I lament to have to be the one to tell you but your brother has left the village and is heading towards sound." Itachi went to protest and Tsunade held up her hand. "We have sent a recovery team after him. But he is leaving to seek the false power Orochimaru has offered him. A student will have no need of a master that is dead."
Muscles were stiff and tense as he contemplated Tsunade's words. His first reaction was to counter the decision of the Hokage and to send them after Sasuke. The last thing anyone wanted was their bloodline limit getting in the hands of the wrong people. And the Snake Sannin was definitely the wrong person. At the same time he knew how difficult the fight ahead was going to be. And he did not want his brother to fall prey to that animal.
Yes, he would bathe in Orochimaru's blood.
As Time Moved On.
Those next few days were hard on them all.
Kakashi had to watch it all, watch his team in pain as they said their goodbyes.
He watched Naruto go off into the sunset with Jiraiya, not to return but in a few years. He watched Sakura say goodbye to him with tears streaming down her face, as the one person who had never turned his back on her walked away into the sunset.
Sasuke was not there to join them, there were tears but no goodbyes for him. Naruto drug him back to the village after his attempt at running. After his recover, Anko took Sasuke out secretly to learn to control his cursed seal. Kakashi had to deliver the news to the two remaining members. They understood why it was important for Sasuke to remain low.
But as Sakura watched Naruto's orange form fade into the dying light, there was nobody there to comfort her. Nobody there to support her. She was all alone.
Sasuke would not return to the village until Orochimaru was confirmed dead months later. The seal would never fully go away but it could be managed. The report was that ANBU had left no trace that Orochimaru ever existed. Kakashi had no doubt that the elder Uchiha brother was the one who took Orochimaru on himself. He was not in the village long before he left again with Anko for more extensive training.
Watching Sakura almost broke his heart. She who had depended so much on both Sasuke and Naruto previously was left alone to fend for herself. Now he had to sit back and help train her until she almost physically could not walk home herself.
Her mornings started with taijutsu lessons from Gai and Rock Lee. They insisted she wear a lucious green spandex suit which she vigorously refused. Afterwards, she shadowed Shizune learning the basics of medical ninjutsu. Afternoon training with Tsunade to work on chakra control, followed by evening shifts and either the hospital, or on her days off, training with Kakashi.
She had never experienced what it was like to have every single muscle in her body to be sore all at the same time. The pulsing blood pounding through her veins as she lay in bed. Shizune had showed her an herbal tea remedy to help easy muscles. Both her and Tsunade refused to show her how to heal exhausted muscles until her body became physically stronger.
After about 3 months of crying and torture, her body strengthened. The routine came easier. Her mind, ever sharp as it was, was expanding as she learned from strong women. She became more confident in her abilities. More importantly, she learned to pull her own weight.
After 1 year of isolation, Sasuke returned. He had not enjoyed his time with Anko but he was wise enough to realize the value of her instruction. They never spoke much but the anger that was inside of him was calmed. Anko took him away for smaller periods of time after and on missions. He returned to regular training regiments with Kakashi. But those had to be separate from Sakura. Kakashi would have liked to have Sasuke learn from her taijutsu and her from his Sharingan but her schedule was packed, they both knew there would be plenty of time for that later. Additionally, Sasuke spent some time working with the police force, his cousins, training on the subtle differences of the Sharingan. But Kakashi taught him the theory behind it. Too many Uchiha's relied on their eyes as their greatest source. It was also their greatest weakness. What would happen if they did not have it? What were the different levels? When was it appropriate to use?
As time drew on, Sasuke's relationship with his family unit became strained, he spent more time with Sakura. Even being more reckless in missions to land himself in the hospital. More than once Kakashi returned from a mission to find a sleeping Uchiha outside his door. Kakashi eventually showed both his students how to access his apartment if they needed. Sakura seemed to be one of the only constants in his life. She did care for him, deeper than just the childhood crush she held for him. And he began to learn more about what life could be like outside of a clan through her. She was sharp, witty, and quick to point out his flaws. She had grown more confident in herself in their year apart. Which only brought them closer as he came to trust her with his own life. Through Sasuke, Sakura was introduced to the intricate clan politics, especially of the Uchiha clan. She had been Sasuke's guest to more than one clan function and Mikoto was always happy to have her around. It annoyed Sasuke.
Sasuke was particularly annoyed when he had to introduce Sakura to his older brother. As Sasuke grew, his relationship with the famed Uchiha Itachi became strained a complicated. He began to resent his once beloved older brother.
On the outside, Itachi seemed so perfect, always did exactly what the clan wanted of him. His silent complacency infuriated Sasuke. The same with his older cousin Shisui. All that bastard would say is, "Someday you will understand the sacrifices Itachi makes for you Sasuke."
Sasuke doubted he ever would.
Sakura was all in flusters when she first met Uchiha Itachi. She had heard the fangirls calling Itachi's name just as much as they called after Sasuke. Something about those sharp angles and smoldering dark eyes. Due to her new position as assistant to the Hokage, she had peered into his file once or twice. Uchiha Itachi was possibly one of the best shinobi in the village, absolutely lethal. Every inch of him trained from birth to be a perfect warrior. Coiled energy, keen eyes, sharp intelligence. Sakura felt uncomfortable sitting in the same room as the man, let alone speaking to him.
She soon learned he was a man of little words, and that she would never want to be the center of his attention.
She was perfectly okay with the younger Uchiha. He had enough edge already. Itachi had some sort of secret, dark, aura that circled him, along with the the whole 'air to the clan' thing. Sakura knew she never wanted anything to do with that.
Itachi on the other hand was generally unimpressed by his brother's teammate. She had a bubbly personality to match her unusual hair color. She exuberated such energy he wondered if she would burn it all talking to his mother before she entered the field. Objectively, she was rather attractive; with exotic looking features and those bright emerald eyes. Then again most kunoichi were not bad looking. One that would lure shinobi in before they pounced. From what he had heard, she had been hand chosen to be trained by the Hokage herself due to her chakra control. Itachi decided that he would reevaluate her in time to make his final judgement then.
Kakashi was ultimately impressed by how Sakura balanced both her training with various sensei's along with her support of Sasuke. He saw them grow close and supportive, in the constructive way. She had taken and gotten over her childhood crush on the younger Uchiha, but was still there for him in a emotional way. It was a relationship that Sasuke needed, and that Kakashi was sure he would never find with someone else.
Both Sakura and Sasuke were pressured to take the chunin exams, picking up a random genin who had not passed in previous years. Sasuke pressured by his father and the clan elders. Sakura pressured by almost everyone else in the village. Yes, she was a little older for a genin, and most were shocked to realize that they were being treated by one. It was true, both could easily be chunin at their level.
They refused, holding fast to their resolve. Team Seven made a promise as a family that they would do this together. They were getting stronger together, even if Naruto was far away. No way were they going to compete without their whole team. So they waited patiently for the day their unruly orange fox friend would return. After they passed the chunin exams, they would train together until they were able to go for their jounin exams, together.
After almost three years, since they were first torn apart, that day had come.
Naruto returned. By that time Sakura had become a close confidant of Tsunade and Shizune. The village run by women some whispered. She was well respected and blossoming into a beauty. Sasuke, while still a genin, was respected for his intellect and skill among his fellow cousins. Relations with his father and clan elders still strained.
Sakura was running a frivolous errand for her Shishou when she saw that blonde head bobbing in the distance. The unmistakable fox-like grin on his face. He had grow, taller and put on muscle. More than Sasuke who was leaner. He smiled at her, pearly whites standing out against that obnoxious orange.
All thoughts of her task vanished. She had knew the day was coming but did not think it would be today. Her feet carried her towards him and (surprisingly) muscular arms embraced her, easily picking up her weight, and swinging her around.
"Let's go." He took her head and began to lead her towards the village.
Her heart paused for a moment, returning to the trivial task that she now realized was nothing more then a set up. He smiled, still as keen as ever, able to read her like a book. "Baa-chan said you have the day off, don't waste it."
"Naruto-kun." Sakura smiled, vision blurry behind tears. It was like they had just seen each other yesterday.
Selfishly, Naruto kept her to himself for a little while. Arriving at his favorite ramen stand he entered into the entire tale and every detail of his past training. His enthusiasm, sparkling blue eyes and wide smile never ceased to amaze her. He talked about the lands he saw as he traveled with Jiraiya-sama, he talked about the hours upon hours he spent making air spin inside water. He went to a place where he met a lot of toads who tried to teach him but it was hard to concentrate. He learned about the Nine Tailed Fox demon, and about what had happened that day it attack Konoha.
And despite all of that he returned to the village with a smile on his face proclaiming he was on his way to becoming Hokage; believe it.
"How was your training with baa-chan!?" His enthusiasm did not end with just his story.
Sakura gave a half smile. "You should not call her that." And then more seriously, "It was hard Naruto. Just like yours was with Jiraiya-sama. I woke up everyday to work on my taijutsu with Gai and Lee. I learned the foundations of medical ninjutsu with Shizune. I learned chakra control directly from Tsunade-sama and then either worked at the hospital or trained with Kakashi-sensei. My body hurt for months straight."
"Wow Sakura-chan," he exclaimed loudly returning to his meal. "I am glad you still had Teme to help you."
She gave him a weak smile. "Sasuke-kun left with Anko-san around the same time you did, remember?"
Her answer seemed to confuse him. He stopped shoving his ramen in his mouth for a moment. Bit off what he was in the middle of, chewed and swallowed.
His once exuberant voice turned serious. "Yeah but he wasn't gone long was he?" Naruto questioned.
"He came back briefly when Orochimaru was dead but then he left again for a year." Sakura confessed to him.
"You were alone. He left you alone." He demanded.
"I had Kakashi-sensei." Sakura tried to reassure him.
"You did not mention him in your training."
Naruto continued. His crystal blue eyes filled with a melting pot of compassion and rage. "You trained with Gai, with Lee, with Baa-chan and Shizune. You trained with Kakashi and worked at the hospital. That is what you said, right Sakura?"
Pursing her lips, she nodded in the affirmative.
"Sasuke was not in there."
Naruto did not finish his ramen. "I'm going to beat the living snot out of that bastard."
Sakura immediately put a hand on his arm. "No, Naruto!"
"Because that is what we do Sakura. That is what our family does! They don't just run away when things get tough."
"You did too."
Cool air passed between their connected stares.
Sakura never blamed Sasuke or Naruto for leaving. Yes it was hard to be on her own after having them there by her side. There were plenty of nights she cried herself asleep because of the loneliness. She isolated herself, poured every ounce of her being into her training.
She did not want to have to remind him. But she could not deny it either.
"You left me alone too Naruto. Not a letter or a postcard to let me know you were okay."
The blonde turned his head away in shame. "I know Sakura-chan. I'm sorry."
A creamy hand snapped the blonde head back to attention. Sakura stood, looming over the seated fox boy. "Don't. You. Dare. Naruto."
"Sakura-chan?" He whined and rubbed his face. "What was that for?"
"Don't you dare sit there and apologize to me for leaving to train with Jiraiya-sama. It was one of the best things for you. Yes I was lonely! But you two babied me too much in the field. Being on my own gave me grounds to fend for myself. I pushed myself Naruto and I became stronger for it. Just like you did. Just like Sasuke did."
Naruto stared, awestruck at the woman before him. The Sakura that blossomed out of the dirt and grime of the last chunin exams to a strong woman before him. "I promise Sakura-chan. I will never leave you like that again. From now on we train together. We are a team, a family; you, me, teme, and Kakashi-sensei. Nothing can tear us apart."
His trademark foxy grin spread across his face. "Believe it!"
She did, and returned his smile.
Kakashi did not have much time with them before their second Chunin Exams. Jiraya's words echoed in the back of his mind so long ago. They will need you when their training comes to an end. To remind them of their bonds, to protect their bond.
They traveled to Suna alone. Preferring not to go with the caravan of other genin testing this year. They wanted their time together as a team. He knew they needed the time to relearn who they were to each other.
Before they arrived in Suna, Kakashi turned to address them."I want to say I am proud of you, each of you. You have pushed yourselves to grow individually yet have reunited as a team as if you have never spent a day apart."
Sasuke did not say a word, just stood proud and strong.
Sakura smiled, adjusting her gloves. "Thanks Kakashi-sensei."
"Don't worry Kakashi-sensei. Just because we were away from each other doesn't mean we are not a team. We got stronger for each other. We're going to blow everyone out of the… well sand!" Leave it to Naruto to give the moving speech.
Kakashi smiled, eyes visibly crinkling.
They arrived in Suna, greeted by their own shinobi giving directions to the team quarters, appropriate training grounds, and will registration will occur the next day. All were happy to hear that the new Kazekage had taken power with minimal resistance. Naruto was first shocked, slightly jealous, then happy that his friend would also be a kage with him when he became Hokage. Gaara had grown a lot in the last few years. Temari and Kankuro sought out the team to pass along the sentiments. Gaara, obviously, could not show preference.
The next day was met with silence. They said very little, but exchanged warm nods of encouragement. With pride, Kakashi observed as his sweet, albeit, deadly team of genin took hands and walked wordlessly into the registration center.
While the Kazekage, Gaara of the Sand, was kind enough to provide coverage for the arena, the day was still blistering hot. Uchiha Itachi and two other guards, Kotetsu Hagane and Izumo Kamizuki, stood behind the Hokage in their designated viewing booth. Itachi longed for his standard black ANBU uniform.
Tsunade had so kindly told him that his father made the point to the elders that these exams were meant to showcase the talent of ninjas. It would not do politics any good to send unmasked ANBU. The elders agreed.
Itachi saw through his father. He wanted the world to know that his son, another Uchiha was hand picked by the Hokage for her personal guard to the exams and gathering of Kages.
"I am glad to see Naruto-kun has returned," the young Kazekage offered to Tsunade.
Itachi remembered the destructive power Gaara of the Sand wrecked on the first exams. He was a jinchuriki just like his younger brother's teammate. While the fox boy held the nine tailed beast that rampaged through the village so long ago, the Kazekage held the one tail. He understood why Suna made this one their Kazekage. Itachi could feel the power coming off of him, although it was not as menacing as before. His two siblings stood behind him. The one had a fan and the other with a wicker basket. Everyone knew better than to trust a puppeteer's basket. The siblings were just as dangerous as their jinchuuriki brother.
Tsunade nodded generously towards her comrade, "Yes, he has completed his training. The rest of his team trained and waited to participate in the exams until he returned."
Yes, his stubborn little brother seemed to enjoy challenging their father as he refused to participate in the prior year's exams, declaring he would not participate without Uzumaki Naruto. His relationship with their father, and the clan was strained to put things lightly. Sasuke seemed to only return home when he needed a change of clothes now. Any official gathering he brought Haruno too for support. His father seemed to think this team of Sasuke's was nothing more than a crutch. Therefore Fugaku turned his head of the clan/fatherly wrath on his oldest son and heir. Encouraging Itachi to talk 'sense' into his younger brother.
That is when the dreaded: "Itachi we will discuss your ascension to clan leader" talk happened.
Itachi's blood boiled just thinking about the conversation. He knew it was just the first of many. He was told since he was a child that he would grow to be a great shinobi. He would honor the clan. He would find a suitable wife. He would take over the clan. He would have sons to succeed him as his heir.
He scoffed. There was more to life than the clan. If only he could make his father see that. A futile effort. Changing his father's mind was like trying to change the phases of the moon. Everything was constant.
So he would give his father want he wanted. The perfect son, the perfect heir, falling on the kunai of expectations to shield his younger brother from the torment. He would integrate himself in their dealings so when it came time to take over the clan, he could make the changes necessary.
Unfortunately, he would need to marry. If he wanted his plan to work; he would need to marry outside of the clan. If his family arranged his marriage inside the clan he would be spending his life tied to a woman who had no opinion. One who would submit to him like his mother seemed to do with his father. He needed a stronger woman than that, a woman that had a backbone. But that also meant subjecting her to the clan, which was the unfortunate part about his plan.
He never expected to marry for love. No, that was a gift he wanted to give Sasuke. But he at least wanted to like the girl and almost dared to hope for more.
What was he thinking? Lady Luck was never on his side.
Laughter from the Tsuchikage brought Itachi back into the room with the Hokage.
"Yes they definitely already demonstrated their achievements." The Raikage stated, "This Team Seven is the only whole team that has made it this far into the exams since you and your siblings Kazekage."
With the advancements of technology they were able to view some of the highlights from the first and second trials. It was very obvious that their skills as individual shinobi easily qualified as chunin but their wordless, daring teamwork was unrivaled by any other team. They flowed together like water, reading each other, complimenting each other's weaknesses and strengths.
The Tsuchikage agreed. "You should be very proud such remarkable ninja hail from the land of Fire."
Tsunade could not help but smile. She was waiting for this moment for a long time. Fugaku had been a thorn in her side attempting to get her to change the rigorous training regiment she had constructed for his son. This was the moment they demonstrated why they made a phenomenal team. They fueled each other. They needed each other. They defended and protected each other fiercely. Nothing would tear them apart. They are the embodiment of the Will of Fire.
The current match ended as one genin fell over from chakra exhaustion. The sand shinobi had a particularly deadly set of puppets. Attendants helped the fallen shinobi to the medical tent as others began setting the field again. The next match, and its participants were announced.
"The kunoichi from Konohagakure, Haruo Sakura, is your appearance is she not?" The Mizukage asked, eyebrow raised.
Protégée was more like it, but Tsunade would never say that outloud. She simply nodded. Tsunade had not seen another ninja with such a natural talent for chakra control. Even more precise than Shizune. In fact, Tsunade had begun to teach Sakura how to gather chakra to create the Strength of a Hundred Seal.
She was strictly forbidden to use it here. It was not finished gathering chakra. And she really did not want to have to pay Suna for any damages.
Itachi's ears perked at the information. It was most interesting, he made a mental note. His little brother studied in the skills of the Snake Sannin, the jinchuriki studied in the ways of the Toad Sannin, and their kunoichi in the ways of the Slug Sannin. Fascinating, he thought. No wonder Tsunade wanted to keep them together and Kakashi drilled their teamwork. They could be another great trio like the Hokage's team had once been.
That was before he gladly ripped Orochimaru's heart and tongue from his lifeless body.
Still he questioned if the meek yet enthusiastic, pink haired kunoichi his younger brother had brought home to family dinners was capable of much more than medical ninjutsu. But one did not train under the Slug Princess to only learn medical ninjutsu.
This would certainly prove to be an entertaining match.
Her opponent was a male genin from Kumogakure. He was younger than her with long, thinning, pale, yellow hair hung around his head. He stood slightly hunched and looked at her with a hunger that made her want to spit at him. This was her moment to shine without Naruto and Sasuke. To show everyone what she could do. The instructor sounded to begin the fight and Sakura shifted into a defensive stance, waiting for her opponent to make the first move.
He did, using a jutsu of some sort that began to fill the entire stadium with a strange fog. Soon her sight was obscured and she had to rely on her other senses. She could not hear his footsteps or his breathing but she felt the chakra release from his body. He was moving quickly, fluid like water. He must have a jutsu that would allow his body to shift quickly over quick distances. It was like his body had turned to some incorporeal form of clouds and just shifted from location to location. Sakura frowned. This was the worst type of opponent she could face.
His first attack came to her right side, she was able to release a substitution jutsu quick enough for the log to take the impact.
He moves through the mist she thought. Yet if she was blinded by the clouds then he must be too. How was he tracking her. Immediately Sakura locked in her chakra, moving silently around the arena. Her legs burned from the sprinting but she had all but confirmed that was how he was tracking her like this. She stopped and released enough chakra to let her opponent know where she was in the arena.
Preparing herself, she did the genjutsu quick, catching his body hanging somewhere among the fog. She just imagined that the had to make him appear. She had created the scenario where the sun was beating down relentless and the heat would force him out. Something subtle enough to fall for and he did. Literally falling to the ground, when he did much of the fog disappeared too.
Sakura charged him ready to unleash her taijutsu techniques. The younger boy could hardly keep up as she threw punches at him. He was fast, but she was faster, she had not even started to break a sweat. He reacted with enough time to dodge the first few punches and pulled out a kunai. Sakura reached into her pouch and pulled out her own before the two collided together in battle. She caught him many times with the blade and he did get a few nicks on her.
This battle has gone on long enough, time for me to end it, she thought. That was her own secret goal. Naruto's fight happened before her own. He faced another genin from mist who had a talent for water clones. Sasuke's fight was after her.
But she could hear both of them cheering for her in the stands. Naruto constantly narrating everything while Sasuke interjected his occasional single word commands.
Then her fist collided with air, causing her to lose balance slightly, enough for a blade to make contact with her shoulder. Sakura rolled away as more fog began to appear around the arena.
Quickly she assessed herself, hands glowing with her chakra. There was scant traces of poison, a low grade entering her bloodstream. Not entirely toxic but it would keep her body from creating a clot so she would continue to bleed out. Quickly she isolated the posing, making sure to keep her feet moving around the arena. She was able to isolate the poison drawing it out of her bloodstream but she did not have time to seal the wound. Blood started to stain her shirt.
She may not finish this in record time but she would finish it. She had a thought, but did not know if it would work. Her feet carried her, hands still glowing with chakra holding the poison to the edge of the arena. There she stood and did a simple fire release she had learned from Sasuke, heating the area followed by a water release jutsu holding the hand with the poison spraying it into the air.
Just as she thought, the boy had dodged her fire but she was not aiming for him. The poison evaporated to the clouds. The boy appeared immediately, kunai in hand aiming for Sakura's chest. He froze as he breathed in, falling right into her trap. Holding her breath, Sakura reversed their positions and put all of her weight into a chakra filled punch to the boys side.
Sakura watched with pride and a little bit of concern, due to her her medical training, as the boy flew the 10 feet distance to the edge of the arena, and continued through the wall. The entire audience went silent as Sakura moved, trying to get away from the poison, but still keeping an eye on her opponent.
Tsunade had warned her not to show off her strength unless absolutely needed. Repairs would only delay the games.
But if there was ever a moment to demonstrate her perfect chakra control it was right then.
The silence was broken by her knucklehead fox friend. "That's my girl Sakura-chan. You punched that guy straight into tomorrow! He's not getting up from that!"
Sasuke following with his sarcastic, "I thought they told you not to blow out a wall. But you just had to go ahead and do it anyway didn't you."
Naruto was right. The boy was not moving. She looked over to the instructor who was assessing the boy. She knew she did not kill him but she knew she cracked a few ribs. The older shinobi rose and nodded in Sakura's direction.
There was a cheer erupting from the crowd. She did not care.
She moved towards them quickly. She wanted to celebrate and because she needed to breathe and get away from the poisonous air. She walked straight up the wall to them. One black arm, and one orange arm welcomed her into a giant, bloody hug before they lifted her up on their shoulders.
Sakura again looked at the damage to the wall, feeling slightly more concerned and humble than she did a moment ago. Gaara would not mind; if he did, she had a feeling she would be able to make it up to him later.
A smile creeped upon her face as she closed her eyes and took in the moment. She knew right then she had made the rank of chunin. Naruto did, and there was no doubt Sasuke would.
All was right with the world. Nothing could take away from the happiness and love she felt in that moment.
Sasuke did win his match and all three members advanced to the semi-finals with one sand genin. The first round was Naruto vs Sasuke. The battle became so intense that Gaara had to encase the entire arena in a protective coating of sand as some rogue rasengans or fireballs missed their target, threatening the crowd.
The match was called a draw. Naruto and Sasuke had beaten each other within an inch of their lives-again. After the match was called nothing could stop Sakura from vaulting over the railing and dashing towards the two. Furious, but not surprised. They both had waited for this match since Naruto had come back. With one hand on each she quickly assessed the damage. She did not know which one to start with first.
"Get teme, Sakura," Naruto was able to squeak out. "Kurma won't let me die."
Sakura laughed as she fought back the tears, collecting herself and focused on healing Sasuke. Naruto was right. His liver was badly damaged and he was bleeding internally.
"You both are idiots."
"Hn." was all that Sasuke managed as his head rolled to the side.
"You stay with me Sasuke Uchiha." She commanded right as his eyes began to roll back. "That's an order. You will stay here, just don't fall asleep on me."
She rounded on Naruto yelling a little louder. "That means you too Naruto! Look at me and stay awake!"
Tsunade could only look on with pride as she watched her student assessing her two teammates, then making the correct determination that Sasuke needed more immediate attention. She was not the only one.
Uchiha Itachi looked upon the pink haired kunoichi he once judged uninteresting. That was not the case now. The kunoichi did not care that instructors were yelling at her to get out of the ring or that she would be disqualified from her own match. She cared that her teammates were safe and healed. It was more of a test for the medic nin than any final battle. With her medical ninjutsu and that chakra control the ninja she was up against did not stand a chance.
"What is your student's name again Tsunade-sama?" The Raikage asked, appreciation in his own eyes.
"Haruno Sakura." Tsunade answered.
"Sakura-san will be a great asset to Konoha," the Kazekage stated. "I look forward to any diplomatic medical exchanges between Leaf and Sand."
There was a general nod of approval from the room.
Itachi watched as Sakura remained, literally on top of, his brother, the glow of chakra steady coming from her hands. While she was correcting technique of other medical ninja working on the jinchuriki. She was steadfast, determined, devoted, unyielding, stubborn and skilled. Furthermore she looked good with a little blood on her; fierce, wild, untameable.
Haruno Sakura, Itachi thought, smirking to himself; My how you have grown.
Thanks for reading.
I am not the best at combat scenes as you might already know/will read in the future. I ask that you lead me a bit of your imagination.
Leave a review and let me know what you think.