The Cultivation of Two Ninja

Started 10-23-08
Finished 12-25-08

Summary: One-Shot. Sakura sees Naruto being denied access to the library. Assuming that it is because of a prank, she takes pity on him, and gets him some scrolls. This is the story of what happens because of that. Actual word count: 8219
Pairings: None, unless you count friendship.
Other Authors Notes: This is written assuming you have seen/read Naruto from the beginning to the start of the search for Tsunade. I deliberately did not write anything from canon that hadn't changed.


Sakura stopped walking as she heard the librarian yell. "You brat! You know you aren't allowed in here. A henge isn't going to fool me!" That was followed by the familiar sound of Naruto yelling in pain. She peeked around the corner of the bookshelf and watched as the retired Chunin forcefully shoved Naruto out the door.

"Sheesh, that must have been a horrible prank to get him banned from the library." She thought, and then made a split second decision to run after him.

Once she caught up to him, she asked him why he was at the library. He told her it had been Kakashi's suggestion when he had asked for some techniques to learn. Sakura sighed in exasperation, and wondered out loud why Naruto hadn't told Kakashi he was banned. Then, without waiting for a response told him she would go grab a book or two for him, and ran back to the library.

When she got there, she realized that she hadn't asked what he wanted. So she picked up the books she had gotten originally, and started wandering the library looking for something that would help Naruto. When she saw a book on clones, she remembered the troubles that Naruto had with the regular Academy Clone technique. Flipping through the book, she saw a paragraph that mentioned how some bloodline limits had been known to interfere with the chakra control required for the technique. It suggested that the Ninja reading find some control exercises to help. With that suggestion, Sakura found a beginner and intermediate chakra control book for Naruto to learn from.

A few minutes later, she found Naruto where she had left him, and gave him the books. Naruto gave her a big grin and loudly said thanks, and then asked her out on a date. Sakura humphed at him, and with a punch told him to be sure to return the books to her within the next two weeks.

For the past three days Team Seven had been treated to a new form of entertainment. The first day, Naruto had crouched on the railing of the bridge muttering to himself while reading. The second day, they had been treated to him failing to make a regular clone until Sakura conked him on the head and told him to work on chakra control. The third day was less entertaining because he had simply sat on the bridge and read, no muttering anymore due to Sakura's yelling about it the first day. The fourth day they were treated to the sight of Naruto walking up, while staring intently at the leaf sitting in the palm of his hand.

Once he got to the middle of the bridge he just stood there with his face screwed up in concentration staring at the leaf. After an hour had passed, he threw up his arms in frustration and screamed. "I don't get it!" Sakura and Sasuke both jumped and had kunai out in startlement. Naruto looked over at them with a pleading look on his face. "Sakura-chan, help?"

She sighed in exasperation, but figured that since she had gotten the books for him, she might as well see what if she could help. It wasn't like Sasuke was paying attention to her anyway.

"You got it, Sakura-chan! No smoke!" Naruto yelled.

Sakura grinned, it felt good to know she was improving. For the past week since she helped him on the bridge with the leaf floating exercise, Sakura and Naruto had been training together with the chakra control exercises in the books she had checked out for him. For the first couple days, they had tried to do it before the D-ranked missions Kakashi got them, but that didn't work because they ran out of energy too fast, and Kakashi was very inconsistent in how late he would get there. So they had started training after the missions were done. Sasuke had joined them once, but after seeing what they were working on he never came again.

Sakura had been able to get the leaf floating exercise down pat within the first day. The second day she had had six leaves floating above her fingers. To her surprise, Naruto had worked hard at it all night long, and had caught up with her the third day. By that time she had read through the first book. The book mentioned that one of the signs of excess chakra was the smoke that would erupt from different techniques. It suggested practicing the Replacement Technique until it was smokeless to improve control.

To get to that point, she had mastered the floating exercise to the point that she could keep leaves a precise distance from any point on her forearms at any time. She also barely had to think in order to preform the Replacement technique. Naruto also had advanced a long ways, he had quit using seals to do the technique, and only the barest hints of smoke appeared. After some experimenting, they decided that not using hand seals used more chakra, which meant less smoke for Naruto.

Sakura had also been surprised to find that training with Naruto was lots of fun. He had come up with the crazy idea of trying to take leaves from each other to help with the leaf exercise. And then for Replacement practice, he turned it into a game of tag. Needless to say, both became very proficient at it.

Sasuke glared at both Naruto and Sakura as they stood upside down on the branches of their respective trees. Team 7 was on their first mission outside of Konoha. It has been ranked C, but had rapidly risen to a B-rank, and then A-rank.

Kakashi, after informing them that the A-rank missing ninja Zabuza was still alive, had decided that his three little genin needed some special training to help against the missing ninja when he attacked again. He also, unbeknownst to Naruto and Sakura, had noticed the two's extra training. And, in fact, had been about to give them some help when the C-rank mission had come up.

What had Sasuke glaring was the fact that Kakashi had decided to have Sakura and Naruto demonstrate what he wanted Sasuke to learn. Which was tree walking, without hands.

Happy that he had given Sasuke some extra motivation, Kakashi tossed the Uchiha a kunai, told him to use it to mark how far he got, and then beckoned Sakura and Naruto to follow him.

Kakashi lead them to a small pond. "Mah, I assume you remember Zabuza and I fighting on top of the lake?" The two genin nodded. "Ah, good, well then, I want you to do the same. It's similar to tree-walking, but you have to constantly emit the correct amount of chakra, now hop too it."

Naruto took him seriously, and literally hopped onto the water. Amazingly enough he actually was able to stay standing for a microsecond. Sakura took it a little slower, just putting one foot on the water and testing how much chakra to use.

Kakashi watched for a few minutes before determining that they would master it quite soon. So he reached into his pouch and pulled out two small scrolls before calling them over. "Here, I made these for you before we started the mission. It looked like you had advanced to the point where the library wasn't going to have much more information that would help you. So as soon as you master water-walking, learning these scrolls."

With that said, Kakashi walked off with his nose in his little orange book.

After being stopped from opening the scrolls early by Sakura, Naruto spoke up. "Neh, Sakura? Remember when I sent that clone to return your jacket the night before we left?"

Sakura gave him a glare when his question distracted her and caused her to get wet. "Yes, I remember. What about it?!"

"Why do you wear pajamas with the Yondaime on them?"

After chasing Naruto around for a few minutes for asking such a question, Sakura sat down and quizzed Naruto about the Shadow Clone technique. To her disgust, all he knew about it was that it took tons of chakra, and the hand seals needed to perform it. So after a little thought, she had him make two clones, and had them go off and read the two scrolls while Naruto and herself continued water-walking. The end result of the exercise was that they figured out that the clones gave their memories to Naruto when they dispelled.

The scrolls were one with some simple C-rank ninjutsu, a water bullet, air bullet, and the earth decapitation technique that Kakashi had used on Sasuke. The second scroll contained the basics of genjutsu, and a single beginning medical technique.

Sakura was at first depressed by the speed that using clones allowed Naruto to learn the ninjutsu, but then they figured out that Naruto had zero talent for genjutsu. He was so bad at it, that even Sakura's first pitiful attempt at the technique that Kakashi had given her utterly fooled him. He went crazy trying to get the spiders off of himself.

Naruto consoled himself for his failure by working on mastering the Shadow Clones. When Zabuza and his fake hunter ninja friend finally attacked them on the bridge, Naruto used a combination of a Shadow Clone and the Replacement technique to rescue Sasuke from the hunter's Ice Mirrors. That didn't help much, though, when the ninja somehow transported the mirrors back around Naruto and Sasuke.

Naruto had better luck against the hired thugs of Gato. When Zabuza charged the evil man, Naruto made a bunch of clones out in the water and proceeded to replace all the thugs attacking Zabuza with them. Amazingly enough this resulted in Zabuza surviving the wounds he received. And Sakura was somehow able to stabilize Haku, fortunately Haku's wounds were only from the shrapnel that had been Zabuza's giant sword. He had blocked Kakashi's assassination technique with it. Raikiri plus sword, equaled exploding shrapnel.

Naruto and Sakura skidded to a stop after rounding the corner. Sakura had been mad at the Konohamaru for calling her ugly after she gave him a good conk on the head for thinking she was Naruto's girlfriend, but her anger quickly dissipated at seeing the kid in standing in front of two unhappy looking foreign ninja.

Naruto reacted instantly on seeing Konohamaru in danger. He quickly created a shadow clone, and replaced the kid with it. So when the Cat Suit guy tried to grab the kid, all he got was a puff of dissipating chakra. Needless to say he was surprised to see the kid standing behind a Sakura with her hands in the final seal for a technique.

Fortunately, or not, depending on your view, they were interrupted by the third member of the ninjas team. A creepy sounding guy with red hair, and gourd on his back. Both the Konoha ninjas were slightly unnerved by this ones casual talk of killing his teammates. But not enough that they forgot to check the foreign ninja for their passes. It turned out that they were Sand ninja in Konoha for the Chunin Exam.

Naruto groaned as he looked at the test in front of him. He HATED taking paper tests. Plus, he was pretty certain that the questions on his had to be harder than everyone else, it wasn't like it hadn't happened before.

Then he started to notice that several of the genin in the testing room were using chakra. Which didn't make sense for the paper test, unless you were cheating. So he thought about it a little more while carefully looking around the room. Soon it hit him, the rules only said that two points would be taken off for each time they were caught cheating, so that meant it was expected that he cheat!

And so, with a secret grin to himself, he seallessly created a shadow clone outside the testing rooms window. The clone was positioned just right so he could see Sakura. The clone transformed itself into Sakura and watched for when she was done with the test. He also observed the other genin looking for ideas for future cheating. So he noticed when Ino used her technique on Sakura to get the answers. As soon as Ino was done, the transformed clone replaced himself with the real Sakura. As soon as the clone had the answers, he did the replacement technique again, and dispelled himself to give Naruto the answers.

After all the genin left, Ibiki Morino was puzzled. He looked at Naruto's test and found that it was exactly the same as Sakura's. And none of the chunin proctors had noticed Naruto or Sakura do anything. Ibiki could see why Ino's answers were the same as Sakura's considering that he saw her use her family's technique on Sakura, but how Naruto had gotten the same answers he had no clue.

Ibiki shook his head. "What a kid..."

Sakura grinned inwardly as the board lit up with her and Ino's names. A one on one fight with her rival was just what she needed.

In the forest, she had been unable to fully show her skills. First they were attacked by Orochimaru, and Sakura was smart enough to stay back to support Naruto and Sasuke as they fought against that level of power. Her second fight was against the team from Sound. Unfortunately she had been exhausted from holding up a "Nothing of Interest Here" genjutsu all night long to conceal her injured teammates. The genjutsu's usefulness had been ruined by the strange bite mark Orochimaru had given Sasuke. It had started leaking chakra at just the wrong time.

The resulting fight consisted of Sakura using her Replacement Technique skills to fight them as best she could. Then, just when the girl had caused Sakura to cut her hair, Sasuke woke up and decimated the Sound genin. Sakura had only just been able to calm him down before he killed them.

Their final fight in the forest had been against three Rain genin. It hadn't lasted long. The instant they entered the large genjutsu, Sakura detected it. She informed the guys about it, and then Naruto used his Release Wave anti-genjutsu technique to dispel the enemies illusion. As soon as that was gone, the Rain genin were revealed, and Sasuke and Naruto gave them a nice beat down.

Through it all, Sakura had been regulated to fighting at less than her best, or else acting as support for the guys. As much as she would deny it, Sakura didn't like that. She had found that she enjoyed being in the thick of a fight while sparring with Naruto. So, a one on one fight with Ino, who had been only slightly stronger than Sakura before, was just the kind of fight Sakura knew she would enjoy.

All this went through Sakura's head in the time it took her to reach the floor. Looking at her rival for Sasuke's affections, she decided to set things straight. "Ino, get this straight, this fight isn't about Sasuke. This is a fight to show who the better kunoichi is, fighting over some boy isn't something that should be in a Chunin Exam."

Ino scoffed. "Ha! The crybaby cuts her hair and thinks she can beat me. I'll just have to show you how pathetic you are."

With that, the Ninja judging the match slashed his hand down and yelled, "Start!"

Sakura immediately attacked Ino with taijutsu, the two girls traded blows for a few seconds before jumping back to gain some room. Sakura sighed inside her mind, apparently the spars she had had with Naruto hadn't been enough to improve her taijutsu beyond Ino's abilities. With that thought Sakura quickly went through her options. Her mediocre genjutsu were out, Ino would be able to detect them the instant they were cast. Her ninjutsu were also iffy, earth and water were out since the rock of the arena was too dense for her small chakra reserves to manipulate, and there was not water around. Thus, that left fire and air. And that gave Sakura her plan.

She grinned at Ino. "Better get ready, pig, 'cause you are about to lose!" That said she launched her attack by creating two academy clones, making sure to use just enough chakra that the smoke obscured her long enough to change places with one. Then she and her clones circled around Ino trying to get closer.

Ino didn't let the sudden appearance of three Sakura's phase her and threw three throwing stars at them. The Sakura's successfully dodged the first salvo, but the second succeeded in in dispelling the two clones. Sakura herself was forced to throw a kunai to deflect the star coming towards her. But by that time she was close enough to implement her plan.

Sakura started the handseals for her technique as soon as the kunai left her hand, five handseals later Ino was starting to throw a punch at Sakura's undefended body, but Sakura had ended her sequence. As she thrust her palms towards Ino, Sakura intoned, "Wind Style, Burst Blast!"

Just as Ino's punch was about to connect, a burst of wind erupted from Sakura's hands and slammed into Ino's stomach with the force of a kick multiplied by ten. Ino went flying through the air and slammed into the wall. But Sakura had made a mistake in how she was supposed to release the chakra formed by the handseals, and was also blown backwards.

As both girls struggled to their feet and walked towards each other, Ino growled. "Looks like that big forehead messed you up little crybaby. Trying to use a technique you aren't ready for shows how stupid you really are, thinking that a little haircut will help you so much. Guess I'll just have to show you how it is done!"

With that Ino stopped and pulled out a kunai, Sakura stopped as well so she could better prepare a counter. But then stared in amazement as Ino cut her long ponytail off and threw it across the arena.

"What the heck do you think that will do, Ino-pig! You're just showing off!"

Ino just grinned and stepped forward onto the hair. Sakura immediately sensed the chakra shoot from Ino's feet into the hair and across the arena to Sakura. In the few seconds it took her to realize that something was wrong, Sakura was caught. Ino had used the hair as a way to bind Sakura in place.

"There! You've lost Sakura. You really thought I would just show off! Maybe a smaller forehead would help your brain work better!" Ino crowed.

Sakura yelled right back as she tried to force her chakra through her feet to free herself from the hair. "What! Have you been pigging out too much? How does holding me still help you?! I'll just block anything you throw at me!"

Then Ino started doing handseals, and Sakura realized what she was up to. After the paper exam Naruto had told Sakura about Ino using some technique to take over her body. Sakura had remembered reading about that in a clan history book. Ino's family specialized in mind techniques, and one of the most used and basic was the Mind Body Switch Technique that allowed the user to take over an enemy's body. It had one fatal flaw, though, it was easily dodged. Hence why Ino had frozen Sakura in place.

By the time Sakura realized what was going on, Ino had completed the seals. Sakura reacted on instinct honed from the hours spent with Naruto, and used the Replacement Technique on the first object that would work. The observers were astonished when, without seals or smoke, Ino's body and Sakura suddenly switched places. The replacement resulted in breaking the holding technique, so Sakura immediately took advantage of her new freedom and charged towards Ino, determined to beat her this time.

Sakura had started moving even before the Mind Body Switch technique was completed. And thus, when Ino got over her disorientation at being back in her own body, it was already too late. She opened her eyes only to receive the vision of Sakura's fist, and then blackness.

The arena was silent for a couple seconds before Naruto started screaming. "Awesome Sakura-chan! You got her! Yay!"

With that, the judge said. "Winner, Sakura Haruno."

Naruto was happy that he had learned to act happy in order to get the goats of various villagers. It enabled him to hide the fact that he was uncharacteristically nervous over his upcoming preliminary match.

Outwardly he was happy and cheerful, cheering on Sasuke and Sakura while they fought, but inwardly, he was trying to figure out how he should fight his match.

At the start of the second exam, Naruto figured that his team would pretty much breeze through. Sasuke was, as much as he hated to admit it, an the best ninja of his year. Sakura had improved while training with him, and he knew that her smarts would help immensely. Naruto, himself, had learned more from working with Sakura than he had in all his years in the Academy, mainly due to the chakra control exercises. Naruto thought that Sasuke would be able to blitz the enemy with his fast taijutsu, Naruto would stand back and use Shadow Clones plus the C-Ranked ninjutsu Kakashi had given him, and Sakura would watch it all and keep the boys from falling into any traps. Unfortunately that plan had fallen apart the instant Naruto was blown away by a wind technique.

Team 7 had only been in the forest for an hour or so when Naruto was hit by that technique. Sasuke and Sakura had avoided it, so the team was split up. When Naruto regained his wits, he found himself facing a giant snake. A quick replacement kept him from being swallowed right away, and a well thrown exploding kunai took care of the snake. Naruto was justifiably confident in his skills when he rejoined his teammates.

He found them fighting one of the Grass Genin. To his astonishment, Sasuke was giving up. Naruto quickly stopped that, and then blitzed the Grass ninja with Shadow Clones and a few of the ninjutsu he had learned. His confidence was quickly shattered as every time he hit the enemy, he would dissolve into mud. This kept up for a couple minutes as the Grass Ninja mocked Naruto and Sasuke. Then, in an instant, the enemy blasted fifty of Naruto's Clones into ether, before he found the real Naruto. Naruto barely had time to react as the Ninja yanked his shirt up and slammed a hand into Naruto's stomach. Naruto just felt a sharp pain, and then fell unconscious.

When he regained consciousness, it was just in time to see Sakura calm Sasuke down from some kind weird berserker state. Apparently the Sound team that was there had made the Uchiha mad. That team left their scroll, which was good, because the Grass Ninja had destroyed the original.

During the next couple days, Team 7 recovered and captured another scroll from some Rain Genin who tried to ambush them. It was during this time that Naruto discovered the reason why he was nervous about fighting. His chakra control had been destroyed. He had found himself having problems tree walking, and so had sent some clones out to practice. The clones quickly found out that he couldn't use the C-rank ninjutsu anymore. They kept fizzling out, or blowing up. Either too little chakra, or too much. The only techniques he could still use reliably were Shadow Clones, and Replacement.

Thus, after seeing how strong the previous winners were, Naruto was nervous that he would get someone beyond his current strength. After all, he thought, if Orochimaru had infiltrated as a genin, who could say that there wouldn't be another super ninja hiding in the exam for some reason?

So it was with great relief that Naruto saw his name light up the board along with Kiba's. Kiba had been something of a buddy for Naruto in the Academy, and the Inuzuka had always being in the middle of the class ranking. Thus, Naruto knew he would be able to beat the guy with just his basics.

The fight was short and to the point. Kiba just taunted Naruto about his dead last status in the academy, and as a result, underestimated Naruto's skills. Naruto realized this, at took every advantage of it he could.

Kiba attacked first with more speed than Naruto was expecting. Naruto reacted on instinct gained from the Shadow Clone equivalent of months of practice, and created a Shadow Clone to replace himself with. Kiba was justifiably caught off guard by the poof of chakra smoke instead of flesh, and thus was completely caught by the sudden attack of Shadow Clones.

The ramen loving ninja's strategy was simple and effective. He simply stood back and willed Shadow Clones into existence exactly where they would deal the most damage to the dog ninja. Naruto just stood a few feet away from the fight holding his hands in the ending seal for the Shadow Clone technique. To the onlookers it looked very one sided. The ending blow came when Naruto made his clones kick Kiba high into the air and then pound him down into the hard floor of the arena. After being pummeled mercilessly for a good few minutes before hand, Kiba was unable to recover, and the Proctor called the match in Naruto's favor.

Kakashi was both proud and frustrated. On one hand, his team had all passed into the third chunin exam on their first try. This was nearly unheard of, and even more rare when there were preliminary fights. Thus, Kakashi was as happy as his apathetic self would allow. On the other hand, he now had to figure out how to train them all for the third part of the exams. It would have been much easier if only one of the genin had passed, in that situation he could just train them all together while focusing on the one who had passed. With two passing, he could have trained one alone and found a better teacher for the other. With all three, though, he wasn't sure what to do.

He couldn't just train them all himself. With both Sasuke and Naruto passing, it was very likely that they would end up fighting each other. If they trained together, it would make things complicated. And Sakura didn't have the stamina to keep up with both of the boys, which would cause her to feel inadequate.

To top all the problems off, the Village Council had asked the Hokage to order Kakashi to train Sasuke alone. Apparently they believed that the Uchiha needed the complete attention of the only other Sharingan user in the village. Especially with Orochimaru's cursed seal affecting Sasuke. Kakashi understood their reasoning, and even agreed with it. But he still wanted to train his other two students. Especially since he knew that Naruto would take it badly if Kakashi didn't train him.

And so, when the Hokage ordered Kakashi to train Sasuke alone, Kakashi responded with the question, "What about Naruto and Sakura?"

Sarutobi asked for clarification and Kakashi explained all this thoughts on the subject, emphasizing Naruto's likely reaction to the situation. The Hokage asked how Kakashi had trained Team 7 before, and Kakashi explained that he had focused on getting them to work together through D-rank missions prior to the Wave mission. And how during the mission to Wave Country, he had made Naruto and Sakura a couple scrolls based on what he thought they were capable of.

"So Naruto and Sakura trained with each other on those scrolls?" The Hokage asked.

"Yes, sometime in the weeks before the mission to Wave, they started practicing together. Chakra Control was one of the things they worked on since they both had already completed Tree Walking. When I noticed them training after our D-ranks, I made up the scrolls. I explained a few C-Rank ninjutsu in Naruto's, and the basics of genjutsu and a medical technique in Sakura's. I was surprised to see Sakura use that Wind Technique against Ino, I hadn't thought that she had the reserves for it." Kakashi replied.

The Hokage looked thoughtful for a few minutes, and then said. "Very well, let me handle their training. Go tell them both to come here to my office. I'll explain why you can't train them right now and give them something to work on while I find a teacher."

Kakashi bowed, "Thank you Hokage-sama."

The Hokage watched as Naruto and Sakura entered his office. Naruto greeted the man with his usual disrespectful "old man" title, while Sakura was obviously nervous. After the required polite greetings, Sarutobi told the genin why they had been summoned. "The reason I had Kakashi send you here was so I could start you on your training. Before you mention it, I have ordered Kakashi to train Sasuke by himself. Due to the Sharingan, Kakashi is the best instructor for Sasuke, and since you may end up fighting him, it is best that you not train together. There are also other reasons that you don't need to know."

Naruto looked unhappy at that, but a look from Sakura calmed him down. The Kage continued. "As for your training, Kakashi and I have observed that you both learn more when working together. Thus, I have prepared some scrolls with both of you in mind." He gestured to a pile of scrolls on his desk. "As for a teacher, I have someone in mind, but he is not available right away. For now, use training area 35. Due to the distance from your homes, you might consider camping. Do you have any questions?"

"Neh! Neh! Who's our teacher?!" Naruto asked while jumping up and down.

The Hokage just smiled. "You'll meet him soon enough. Now get going and train."

With that the two genin head towards the door. When they reached the door Naruto remembered that he was going to ask about what Orochimaru did to his stomach. So he told Sakura he would meet her at her house stayed behind. He explained what happened with Orochimaru and the Hokage examined the seal. Seeing that it was another seal interfering with Naruto's, Sarutobi decided to let someone who was more knowledgeable deal with it, and sent Naruto away.

Jiraiya the Toad Sage was unhappy. He had returned to Konoha in time for the third part of the Chunin Exam as standard procedure, and had been taking advantage of the many hot springs situated in the area for his so called 'research'. What he hadn't been expecting was for the Third Hokage to send an ANBU with orders for him to meet a little ways away from the 35th training ground. It wasn't so much meeting Sarutobi that bothered him, it was the lack of girls to peep on in the area. And thus, Jiraiya was rather bored when Sarutobi finally appeared.

The Sage's day only got worse when he was forced to spy on two genin training. Sure the blond was the Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, and his former students son, but all he could seem to do was make tons of Shadow Clones. All he seemed to be doing with them was water and tree walking. Not all that impressive since he had access to the Kyuubi. And the pink haired girl wasn't much either, she seemed good at genjutsu, but that could have just been the blond being really bad at them. And so, after a few hours of watching them train, he was, again, bored. Fortunately Sarutobi noticed and motioned him away.

"So, old man, what's the deal?"

"It's simple, I want you to train both of them for the Chunin Exam." The Hokage replied.

"What the heck?! No way, I haven't trained anyone since the Fourth, and I ain't starting now. Especially with genin as pathetic as them." Jiraiya retorted.

The Third sighed. "You didn't really watch did you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Naruto was training with the Shadow Clones. Which means he figured out that they increase his experience. Sakura was practicing genjutsu she made up on her own. Kakashi only gave her one simple example technique and the basics of how they worked, and I just gave her some more advanced theory yesterday. I know for a fact she had created a basic concealment illusion before the exam, and as you saw today, she has something more. To top it all off, Orochimaru used a five point seal on top of Naruto's. So all those Clones are from his chakra alone. It's also the reason he is just practicing chakra control, and not the techniques I gave him."

Jiraiya thought about that for while. If Naruto was really able to use the Shadow Clone Technique to its fullest potential, then he would become one of the top ninja in the world. Hardly anyone would be able to take him on. "Fine, Teacher, I'll teach Naruto, but not the girl. I'm not good with anything requiring perfect control. Anyway, they are both in the third part, they shouldn't be training together."

"I'm afraid I must insist that you train both. You haven't watched the long enough to see, but when both are training around each other, they advance much faster."

Jiraiya blinked. "How?"

"I believe that Sakura's presence helps Naruto stay focused on what he is learning. She also is able to explain things that Naruto doesn't understand well enough. Sakura seems to gain determination to go beyond her limits from Naruto. When she is by herself, she only trains until she gets frustrated. Around Naruto, when she gets frustrated, she just helps Naruto or spars with him, and then is usually able to get past her problem. When Naruto is alone, he tends to try to do too much at once, and often gets stuck when something isn't working."

With that explanation, Jiraiya knew that he didn't have a chance of changing his old teachers mind. When the old man got into a theory about something like that, he didn't budge until totally proved wrong.

Naruto and Sakura were relaxing in a hot tub. One of the clones Naruto was experimenting with by keeping it around for a long time came up with the idea of making a hot tub. Basically, he and some other clones, manipulated the Earth Wall technique to create the tub. They left space underneath for a fire pit. Then they filled the tub with a water technique. When the clones told Naruto and Sakura about it, both ninja immediately changed into swimwear and jumped in. They felt that a good hot soak would be great after spending all day training.

Once their small talk got away from complaining about how hard training was, they started talking about how to best win their matches. Both members of Team 7 had learned a lot in the past few weeks training under Jiraiya. That was good, but they hadn't had the chance to fight unknown enemies, and thus were unsure of what tactics to use in their upcoming fights.

Sakura had focused on two things. First was stamina. Both she and Jiraiya knew that her main weakness was a lack of endurance and chakra reserves. Thus, the Sannin had launched her into an intense physical conditioning regimen. The regimen mainly consisted of exercising like she was in a gym, and then he had her running around with weights on dodging weapons for hours a day. This forced her body to gain strength, and it exercised her chakra by forcing her to use it to increase her speed.

The second thing Sakura focused on learning was genjutsu. Before the training, she had created a couple genjutsu techniques that were dependent on the target not noticing. She had learned that genjutsu manipulated the target by overpowering their senses with chakra. Thus, the user had to be careful. If the target had more chakra than the user, then the target would easily be able to break the illusion if they noticed. So the basic use of the illusionary ninja arts was to overpower your targets system with the users chakra. The next method was to be subtle and keep the target from ever knowing they were in an illusion. The final main technique was to use an obvious illusion, and then as soon as it was broken, use a subtle illusion.

Sakura had learned these basics from Kakashi's scroll. But since she had so little chakra during the second part of the Chunin Exam, and had not had enough time to learn the subtle style, she had been unable to effectively use genjutsu. Thus, increasing her chakra reserves was very important. Once she had enough chakra, though, she started practicing both kinds of genjutsu. She also had succeeded in mastering the C-rank ninjutsu from Kakashi.

Naruto's training had, of course, been much more intense and troublesome for the Toad Sage. The man had fixed Naruto's seal right after agreeing to teach the two genin, and then promptly left. Thus the next day when he started training them, he assumed that the Kyuubi's chakra would interfere with Naruto's control, and decided to focus on something that didn't require much chakra control.

So, after making Naruto sign the Toad Contract, he made sure the kid could preform the seals correctly, and told him to gather as much chakra as he could before summoning something.

Two things came into play because of those instructions. First, was the way the seals on Naruto's stomach were designed to allow Naruto access to the Kyuubi's chakra. Second, was Naruto's sheer determination to get things done.

The Fourth Hokage had designed the seals with two things in mind. Protection and access to the immense power of the demon. This was accomplished by creating something like an emergency switch in the seal. If Naruto was in deadly danger, the switch would detect it and allow the demon chakra out. If the Jinchuuriki was not in immediate danger, the switch would never open. Thus, the seal had the second method of access. That method treated the demon chakra as a second source of power. All Naruto needed to do was learn to access it by running out of his own chakra. This would force open the channels created by the seal to allow the Naruto access to the demon's.

And so, when Naruto tried to gather as much chakra as he could, he gathered every last bit of his own, and then the sealed was forced to open up for the demons energy to escape. When that happened, Naruto felt a rush of energy like nothing he had felt before. He felt the chakra gathering in his arms and hands start to burn, and he reflexively finished the technique so that he would not injure himself. When the gathered chakra started to leave Naruto, Jiraiya immediately sensed that it was much greater that he had anticipated. It was more than enough to summon a giant toad. Reacting on instinct, he grabbed Sakura leapt away from Naruto in order to avoid being crushed.

Fortunately for Sakura, Jiraiya threw over his shoulder in such a way that she could see Naruto. To her astonishment, the chakra that flowed from Naruto's hands raised him high into the air, and then turned into a giant toad.

When he landed and turned around, Jiraiya was dumbstruck. "The kid summoned the freaking boss his first try?!"

The Toad Boss, Gamabunta, was sufficiently impressed with Naruto's feat, that he agreed to help the Jinchuuriki if he needed it. He also told Naruto that he should practice with some of the smaller toads in order to learn how best to use them.

After that, Naruto spent most of his time forcing Jiraiya to teach him ninjutsu, and practicing summoning. Jiraiya also worked on Naruto's taijutsu to help his clones fight without getting hit so much.

Once the two genin started getting wrinkles, they decided it was time to get out. Plus all the clones heating the tub had run out of chakra. Sakura had figured out what to do, but Naruto was still stuck.

Sakura was facing the Sound genin with the gauntlet. She decided to attack first with illusions, hopefully she would be able to end it quickly that way. If the sound ninja saw through them, then Sakura would resort to the ninjutsu she had learned. If that failed, she would forfeit. Her taijutsu was not good enough to beat the teenager, she couldn't dodge sound waves, and she wasn't fast enough to know him out with one hit.

Naruto on the other had a different problem. With all the ninjutsu that he had learned, he could easily just use a bunch of clones to surround the Hyuuga he was matched up against. Once surrounded, the doujustu user would be unable to dodge all the attacks thrown at him. Even if he was able to use the ultimate defense technique Naruto had heard about, Naruto would likely outlast it. The main problem with that for Naruto was that he didn't want to kill Neji. Overwhelming him with ninjutsu would win for sure, but once the attacks hit, Neji would be toast, or less.

So, Naruto had to figure out how to beat his opponent without killing him. Not an easy thing to do against a ninja as good as Neji.

Naruto and Neji stood facing each other with the proctor standing to the side between them waiting for the battle to start. Before the proctor could signal the start, Naruto raised his right hand in a fist and pointed it at Neji. "I'll repeat what I said last time, for the way you belittled Hinata, I'll crush you!"

Neji examined Naruto. "He's completely confident that he will win." The Hyuuga thought. "What makes you so confident? Hinata was destined to lose to me. Just as you were destined to be the dead last. There is nothing you can do to overcome that weakness, and because of that you will lose to me."

Naruto just glared. "What is it with you and destiny anyway? I'll just have to beat it out of you."

And with that, the Proctor started the fight.

Naruto immediately created five shadow clones and sent them to attack Neji. He had been able to weasel some information out of Jiraiya about the Hyuuga, that they were deadly close range fighters, and about some kind of ultimate defense. With that in mind, Naruto needed to find out how good Neji really was.

Twenty seconds later, Naruto knew that Neji really was deadly in close range combat. His clones had be decimated, and Neji hadn't even started to breath hard. Naruto proceeded to create more clones in an effort to gain more time and knowledge.

Neji on the other hand was getting tired of destroying clones. With his Byakugan, he could see every single attack launched at him with plenty of time to dodge and counterattack. He also was able to decipher which Naruto was the real one. Once he had the real Naruto targeted, he attacked.

Naruto was getting nervous, so far his clones had been totally ineffective. Sure, he hadn't used an Ninjutsu yet, but with the way Neji was reacting, Naruto knew he could some how sense all around himself. And with Neji's fast reflexes, Naruto had to wonder if even his fasted ninjutsu would hit. Thus, when Neji finally counterattacked, Naruto was taken by surprise. It was only his instinctive use of the Replacement technique that saved him from a Gentle Fist strike to the heart.

Following that exchange the two combatants paused to take stock. Neji spoke. "Do you see now? My eyes see all, there is nothing you can do to avoid them. You will lose."

Naruto groaned inside, he was tired of everyone underestimating him. "Teme! If your eyes are so great, then how come you are so blind?! You hide behind your fate and destiny crap, and fail to see true strength. If you'd open your freaking eyes, you'd see how strong Hinata is!"

"You have no idea of what my fate is, dead last. I see that I will have to explain it to you before I beat you." Neji replied. The Hyuuga then proceeded to pull his head band off and show Naruto the seal that marked him as member of the branch family. Naruto listened to Neji tell his story about how his father died to save Hinata's father.

The story struck a cord inside Naruto. Naruto, too, had a cursed seal that he could never get rid of. Naruto also had lost his parents. Because of that, Naruto's voice was filled with emotion when he replied. "You say I have no idea what your fate is like. But I do! I know exactly what it is like! But you are still wrong! So what if you have had a bad life? So what if Hinata's side of the family is the reason for that life? That still doesn't give you the right to belittle her! She tries her hardest, just like you! And if deserved to be beaten up and belittled by you, why the heck didn't she use the seal on you?! You're nothing but a coward for taking your grudge out on her. And I am going to show you what hard work and a never give attitude can do!"
With that said, Naruto concentrated his chakra and seallessly created thirty shadow clones. They appeared in two rows all around Neji. With a thought Replaced himself with another clone, and had it attack.

Neji was taken off guard by the sudden resumption of battle. The attacking clone was successful in distracting him from the multiple ninjutsu that fifteen of the other clones where preparing. Seconds after dispatching the clone, Neji's eyes detected fifteen balls of chakra enhanced wind bearing down on him from all angles. He reacted just in time to block them with the Hyuuga ultimate defense, Rotation.

Naruto was slightly surprised by that, he had thought that since the Hyuuga was a branch member he wouldn't know that technique. But Naruto didn't let it phase him and immediately had the other clones fire off fifteen balls of fire.

Neji simply continued his Rotation. Naruto's clones continued firing off techniques as long as they had chakra, but Neji outlasted them all. And when he saw the last clone poof out of existence he stopped defending and looked for the real Naruto to attack. To his astonishment there was no orange clad ninja left in the arena. Neji quickly focus his Byakugan under ground just in time time to see Naruto reach out of it and grab his legs. Before Neji could react, he was pulled underground all the way to his neck. Too his shock the ground holding him captive was full of chakra and resisted his attempts to break free by expelling chakra like he was starting Rotation.

"Earth Style. Inner Decapitation Technique. Success." Naruto stated as rose from the ground.

The arena went silent. The proctor walked over to where Neji's head was sticking out of the ground and crouched down. "Can you get out?"

Neji glared at him, knowing that the proctor was wondering why he didn't just use Rotation to get out. "No. The ground is saturated with his chakra. I can't break it."

"Winner. Naruto Uzumaki!" The proctor ended the match.

Sakura sighed as she watched Naruto and Jiraiya walk away. That morning, Kakashi had woken her up to tell her that the two ninja were going on a long mission. So she had gotten up to see them off. Naruto had, of course, promised to get even stronger. And Jiraiya had given her another scroll. Sakura had surprised herself by giving Naruto a hug. It had been completely spontaneous, and it was awkward for a couple minutes until they left.

As she watched them, she wondered why she had done that. A few weeks ago she would never have even considered being good friends with Naruto. But now, with all the time spent training. Sakura realized that Naruto had become a good friend. Sure, he was still annoying, and she still would never go on a date with him. But she would never mock him like she had before.

When she turned around to go find out what the mission office wanted her to do that day, she decided that she was looking forward to when Naruto would get back and they could continue training together.


Author's End Nots:
Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it. I know that I summarized a lot, but I was trying to keep it short and not simply repeat canon. Did that work for you? Also, the Neji vs. Naruto fight was somewhat rushed. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to happen, and it didn't come out quite right. Paritally because I watched the canon fight on Hulu. I realized that that was a much better done fight, and that affected my writing.

Anyway, this is the first fanfic I have completed. Considering how long it took me to just write a one-shot, you can see why I haven't posted anything before. I abhor unfinished tales, and long periods between chapters. The fics that I have started are much larger in scope and thus will likely take me years longer before I complete them. If I finish them.

A couple of the reasons I wrote this was my irritation at fanon characterizations of Kakashi and Sakura. Kakashi is usually portrayed as a bad teach who favors Sasuke. This is not in canon. Canon shows him caring a lot about all his students. And the only reason I can see fanon saying he favors Sasuke, is that he complements Sasuke in the bell test, and trains him for the third exam. Kakashi complements all his students in canon. Naruto is called the most surprising ninja and Sakura is praised for her chakra control. I tried to explain why the whole training Sasuke for the third exam wasn't bad in the story. Hopefully I got my point across. It should be fairly obvious to anyone who thinks about it.

As for Sakura, she is almost always portrayed as a shallow fangirl in the early part of the story. Fanon also tends to say she beat up and just generally treated Naruto bad. Canon shows her cheering for him, and I can't think of a time when she hit him that he hadn't done something stupid beforehand. I also think that she could have grown up faster, which is what I did in my story.

Well, enough of my soap box. Merry Christmas! Remember the reason for the season!