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1)So in this story Naruto is a girl named Naruko (not that Naruko).
The only other swap is that Hinata is a boy although there maybe more later.
2)ALMOST ALL CANON SHIPS WILL BE DESTROYED. Although Romance is not the primary focus of this story.
3)And while this will follow all the canon arcs there will be deviations.
4)Characters may seem a little out of character at first.

_________________________

"Naruko Uzumaki."

"Sakura Haruno."

Please not jerk uchiha.
Please not-

"Sasuke Uchiha."

Naruko groaned out loud. Beside her she felt Sakura slump, Naruko was sure she wanted to be in the same team as the Hyuuga heir, her crush on him was anything but subtle.

It was one of the reasons Naruko actually tried to make an attempt to be friends with Sakura, she wasn't part of the whole Sasuke fan girl group but had something of a competition with her best friend over who could win the quiet Hyuuga's heart.

Not like Naruko would actually mind being friends with anyone. She'd accept a Sasuke fangirls offer at friendship in a heartbeat but taking into account that Naruko had time and time again announced her distaste and hatred for the raven haired Uchiha those offers were not exactly a common thing.

"Iruka Sensei!" Naruko started,"Why does an outstanding ninja like me have to be on the same team as that emotionless bum?"

It wasn't exactly a mystery who Naruko was referring to as an emotionless bum but she still made an effort to clear things up, just in case by pointing at Sasuke who sat next to her.

Her Sensei sighed,"We have to balance the teams Naruko. Sasuke was the first among the academy graduates while you were last."

Naruko turned red and dropped her finger.

"Tch." Sasuke said,"Just don't get in my way, dead last."

Naruko's eyes narrowed as she slammed her palms on the desk and turned to face Sasuke,"What did you call me?"

Sasuke turned to face her smirking,"Dead last."

"Why you-"

Before Naruko could finish Sakura beside her had stood up suddenly frustrated,"Will the both of you-"

She broke off when she took in the sight before her.

When Sakura had stood up she'd accidentally pushed Naruko towards Sasuke. Both of them had already been facing each other and when Naruko suddenly moved forward they ended up... well Naruko ended up kissing Sasuke.

Both Naruko and Sasuke stayed like that for a moment, their lips touching, wide eyed and horrified before they broke off and moved away from each other wretching.

"Eeeeeewww." Naruko moaned as Sasuke gagged.

Sakura sat back down in her chair her head in her hands, This is going to be a nightmare, Shannaroo!

"Well...Your Jounin teachers will be here soon enough."Iruka Sensei started with an awkward laugh,"You have a break till then."

He then quickly made a beeline for the door leaving the newly graduated ninjas to take in what had just taken occurred.
__________________________

Lunch break was a nightmare.
Running from Sasuke's fan girls was quite a challenge especially when they were out for Naruko's blood.

It's not like she wanted to kiss him, dattebayo.

She finally found some peace and quiet on the roof. Naruko was used to eating lunch alone, she was usually ignored whenever she approached any of the students but being chased after with kunai's was another experience all together.

From her vantage point she could see most of the Academy grounds. She'd wanted to ask if Sakura wanted have lunch with her but before she could say anything the fangirl army had already started their hunt.

Maybe she would have said yes this time, they were in the same team now, Naruko hopefully mused, Maybe she'd invite her to have lunch with Ino Yamanaka too. Maybe-

She spotted Sasuke leaning against the window sill and Naruko's temper rose. It was all his fault that she'd lost her chance to eat lunch with Sakura and her friends.

His guard seemed to be down as Naruko quickly assessed the best possible course of action to get her revenge.

And then she leaped at him.
_____________

Sasuke Uchiha strolled through the gardens.
It was a pleasant day he supposed and he almost allowed a grin to take over his features but then quickly smothered it behind a blank expression.

After all an emotionless bum like him would never smile just because it was a nice day, the stick up his ass was far too uncomfortable for that.

"Ooh Sasuke-Kun!"

Sasuke nearly froze and then realised the fangirl army posed no harm to him, after all he was their idol.

So Sasuke turned around to start face the horde of girls who'd lined up behind him. Jeez, being good looking seriously made so much of a difference, dattebayo.

The plan was perfect. He'd behave like the asshole he really was and all of his followers would be gone in an instant.

That would show him to call her dead last, dattebayo.

"Hello rand-" Sasuke started but then suddenly stopped. Vomit rose to the back of his throat and suddenly he heaved.

"Ooh Sasuke-kun must be sick after that annoying freak kissed him." One of the girls supplied.

Annoying freak?

"Sasuke Kun!" Another one called out as he took off running as fast as he could with his hand on his mouth.

Dark hair gave away to bright golden tied into two ponytails just as the figure rounded the corner. The blue t-shirt turned into a loud orange and white outfit that couldn't be mistaken for anything but Naruko's pathetic taste in fashion.

Naruko barely had time to contemplate on her failure as she ran forward.
She nearly bumped into Sakura but rushed past her before the pink haired girl could say anything. After all Naruko was sure Sakura wouldn't be all too keen to be friends with her if she puked all over her shoes.

_________________________________

The real Sasuke on the other hand was lying tied up.

Naruko of all people had taken him by surprise and had tied him up.
This was a really bad day for him.

He struggled for some time but he got rid of the ropes fairly easily. Now to find that idiot.

He made his way to the garden where a crowd of girls were gathered murmuring.

"Ooh Sasuke-kun!" One of the girls waved as she spotted him,"You're back!"

Sasuke raised an eyebrow although he already had an inkling of what was going on.

He simply sighed and asked,"Have you seen Naruko anywhere? It's time to go."

One of the girls scrunched her nose,"Naruko? Who cares about her?"

"Yeah." Another one agreed as Sasuke started moving ahead,"All she does is pick fights with you, Sasuke-kun."

"And then she's got the audacity to kiss you."

These people are extremely irritating.

"It's probably because of her upbringing." Another girl concluded,"Mostly because she doesn't have parents."

Sasuke stopped turning around.

Naruko didn't have parents?
So that meant she was an orphan..... like him.

"Yeah she's so lucky that way, she's all alone." The first girl supplied,"No parents getting on her case. Maybe that's why she thinks she can do whatever-"

"All alone." Sasuke muttered.

The girl stopped confused,"Huh?"

Sasuke looked at the whole bunch of them his gaze cold.

"The sadness of having a parent yell at you is nowhere near what she feels." He seethed.

"I-I didn't-" one girl stuttered but Sasuke cut her off with his icy glare.

"Get lost." He said before turning around and walking away leaving them behind.

What did they know about not having parents? He thought walking ahead towards class. He didn't particularly like Naruko's idiocy but he'd prefer it to people who made ignorant remarks carelessly.

"Oh Sasuke!" Sakura called out to him as she made her way towards him,"Have you seen Naruko? She looked pretty sick the last I saw her and I realised I had some medicine that would help."

Sasuke sighed, Naruko was a disaster.
But... she was all alone.
Like him.

Sasuke nodded at Sakura,"Let's go find her."

 

Chapter Text

This chapter is UNEDITED. 

"You should definitely aim to be a medic Sakura." Naruko announced.

Sakura blushed at the compliment casting a side glance at Hinata Hyuuga who stood quietly in the corner, his lavender eyes downcast. He was a handsome boy indeed, shy perhaps but he'd managed to capture her her heart since day one. 

I'm going to marry him one day and show Ino-pig, Shannaro.

"I didn't do much." Sakura said modestly but inner Sakura was basking in the compliments Naruko was showering her with,"I just gave you the medicine."

"But you knew exactly which medicine I needed." Naruko supplied,"And I stopped vomiting right away. That's some skill, dattebayo."

"If I'd found you sooner I could have helped more." Sakura said trying to sound as professional as possible, inner Sakura was keeping a keen eye on Hinata-kun's reaction,"Where were you anyway? You weren't in the bathroom."

Naruko cast a side glance at Sasuke who now had an amused look on his face as he watched the exchange.

That bastard better not open his mouth.

"Well errr I was just somewhere." Naruko said vaguely,"Vomiting in the bushes."

In truth, Naruko had been in a bathroom heaving into a toilet before Sasuke found her. The bathroom happened to be the men's one.

In Naruko's defence she'd hardly had the time to notice the sign when she'd been on the verge of spilling contents of her stomach on to the floor. Sasuke had already made fun of her all the way he'd led her back to Sakura but had strangely stopped when they'd arrived.

Hmmm must be one of his evil plans.

They'd been waiting for quite sometime now and even the Hyuuga group had left. Naruko could feel Sakura getting impatient without the passive Hyuuga to admire.

She peeked out into the hallway,"Why is team seven's Sensei so late?"

Sakura nodded,"This way I won't even get to see Hinata-Kun soon."

"Hmm." Naruko said taking the duster in his hands,"Shouldn't we punish our Sensei for being late?"

She then stood on a chair and placed the duster between the door so that when their new Sensei did enter it would fall straight on his head.

"Not bad Naruko-chan." Sakura admired out loud, of course never make the mistake of doing this around Hinata-kun but since there was only Naruko and Sasuke (both of whom had zero affiliation to the Hyuuga) around, she let inner Sakura's thoughts to the surface.

Sasuke snorted,"As if a jounin would fall for that stupid trick like that."

As if on queue the door opened and the duster fell on a spiky mop of whitish grey hair.

Naruko laughed in triumph while Sakura tried her hardest to hide her giggle around her Sensei. Sasuke on the other hand was wondering what kind of jounin they'd be assigned that he'd fallen for a stupid trick.

The white haired man looked at them through the single eye that wasn't covered,"Hmm how can I say this? My first impression is... I don't like you guys."
______________________________


It was not a bad day to be on the roof, Naruko had been forced to eat lunch there under worse circumstances, shivering in the cold all alone and away from her classmates.

This time though she was not alone.
That was a proud moment in itself, granted that her company consisted of the jerk Uchiha and their weird Sensei but at least she had Sakura-chan with her.

"So introduce yourselves." Kakashi announced,"Your likes, dislikes, hobbies and your dreams for the future."

"Why don't you introduce yourself first?" Naruko shot back.

"Yeah..." Sakura agreed,"You look suspicious."

"Well my name is Hatake Kakashi and I have no interest in telling you my likes and dislikes." He said,"As for my dreams...... I have plenty of hobbies."

Sakura looked at Naruko,"So all he really told us was his name."

Before Naruko could reply Kakashi cut her off,"Now it's your turn."

"Oh me!" Naruko enthusiastically raised her hand,"Let me go first."

Kakashi nodded as Naruko started,"Well, my name is Uzumaki Naruko. I like cup ramen! What I like even more is the ramen in the restaurant which Iruka Sensei often takes me too. I dislike waiting the three minutes it takes for cup ramen to be cooked."

Kakashi couldn't help but sigh, this girl didn't think of anything but ramen.

"And I want to be the First Lady Hokage of this town." She said all the mirth draining out of her voice replacing it with a sort of determined fire,"So that everyone will have to acknowledge my existence."

Well Kakashi couldn't deny that she had indeed grown up in a rather interesting way.

"And I suppose my hobbies are pulling pranks." Naruko finished.

It was Sasuke's turn next. Stoic as ever he sat inbetween the two girls,his face a picture of focus.

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke." He started,"There are many things I dislike but I don't like anything. I don't want to use the word dream but I do have an ambition. The resurrection of my clan and to kill a certain man."

Both Naruko and Sakura looked at their male team member both mirroring expressions of shock although Sakura looked the slightest bit intrigued.

As for Kakashi, he wasn't surprised as he was well aware of the details surrounding the Uchiha massacre and the only survivors ambition to get revenge was to be expected.

It was Sakura's turn.

"I'm Haruno Sakura." She started,"The thing I like- well there is a person I like."

A dreamy far off expression took over her features,"I like the colour of lilac, not the harsh and overly bright ones but the soft gentle one like his eyes. And my dream for the future....."

She trailed of clearly lost in her fantasy and Kakashi had to clear his throat which made her shake her head and continue,"I dislike anybody who thinks that they have the right to steal him from me especially certain insufferable pigs."

Naruko gulped and made a promise to herself that she wouldn't even look at the Hyuuga the wrong way.

Kakashi on the other hand didn't know what to make of the the third member of the team.

He was never very good with girls and he'd been handed the only team of graduates with not one but two aspiring kunoichi's which was a rare thing in its own right.

Naruko was a special case among the girls he supposed, her motivation stemmed from the fact she was shunned by everybody in the village and her support system had been practically non-existent but Sakura like most other girls her age was clearly interested in love more than ninjutsu.

"Tomorrow there will be survival training at five in the morning." Kakashi announced,"Its a test really. Out of the twenty seven graduates only nine will be selected, the rest will be sent back to the Academy."

"WHAT?!" Naruko jumped up her blonde pigtails flailing around,"But that's not fair!"

Kakashi simply shrugged clocking in Sasuke's slightly irritated expression and Sakura's shocked one. Naruko had obviously taken her surprise to another level entirely but Kakashi was starting to learn that was just who she was.

She'd grown up in an interesting way, indeed.

"I suggests you don't eat and come." Kakashi suggested,"After all things could messy."

__________________________________________


Naruko had routine in which she went home and cried everyday. Sometimes it would last an hour, other days it would be over in a couple of minutes.

It was a necessary part of her day though, unless she cried and vented out her frustrations, she'd never be able to keep up her upbeat bright facade and forget about they way the villagers looked at her.

Annoying freak.

That's what they'd called her, that's what she'd always be in the eyes of the villagers, the outsider. They saw her as a monster, not the lonely little girl she really was.

Sometimes she wanted to scream, I DIDN'T ASK FOR THIS!
The demon inside her was something that had been shoved in without her permission by the fourth hokage, who was probably even a bigger bastard than Sasuke. What had given him the right to ruin her life? Why her?

But in the end it made her all the more determined.
She knew she wasn't the smartest or the most talented, but she was Naruko Uzumaki and she would work harder than anybody else to become the First Lady Hokage and win everybodies approval.

She'd show them that she wasn't a monster.
She'd show them she wasn't just some helpless little girl.
She'd show them that she could not only become a ninja but she would become one of the greatest ninjas, dattebayo.

So that day she didn't cry.
Instead she went straight to Iruka-Sensei and asked him to help her train. He had an odd look on his face when he heard her Jounin Sensei's name but none the less he was eager to help. After all Iruka Sensei was the closest thing she had to family, no he was family and he was her friend.

Her only friend.
For now.

_____________________

By the time she arrived at the training grounds Sasuke and Sakura were already there.

"Morning Sakura-chan!" Naruko said brightly and Sakura smiled politely back,"Morning Naruko-chan."

Naruko couldn't help but beam. Naruko-chan, she'd never heard anybody add the suffix with her name. It was something that was inbetween close friends only and well Naruko had never had any friends to get close to.

"Bastard." Naruko regarded Sasuke. It kind of pissed her off how he could look so good even though the sun had barely risen. Even the usually well kept Sakura looked a little haggard which was normal considering they'd had to wake up early in the morning and trudge all the way here with no breakfast.

"Idiot." Sasuke replied back coolly without bothering to even look at her.

Sakura beside her opened a thick book and Naruko leaned over and peered at it,"Ne Sakura-chan what is that?"

Sakura looked at her,"Oh Naruko, I took your advice about the medical jutsu. This a book about some basics. It's a little advanced for me at this stage but it surely is interesting."

"Wow Sakura-chan! That's awesome!" Naruko enthusiastically replied,"I'm sure Hinata will be impressed, dattebayo."

Sakura's eyes shone brightly as she went back to reading.

Naruko aimlessly twirled one of her pigtails as she thought about yesterday's training session with Iruka-Sensei. It had been hard work but she'd finally got a new trick up her sleeve.

"Oh Sasuke." Sakura called out to the raven boy who was practicing with a kunai and a few shuriken,"Can you please help me? I can't understand a term."

"Don't ask the asshole, Sakura-chan!" Naruko offered,"I'll help!"

Sakura looked at her apologetically,"I'm sorry Naruko-chan but I don't think you'll understand any of these terms."

Naruko turned red with embarrassment and looked down. She didn't dare to look at Sasuke's face he'd probably have some sort of smirk commenting on how she was an idiot.

Naruko knew she wasn't the smartest in her classes nor was she the prettiest and most of the time she didn't care. She didn't need to be any of those things, she just had to be a great ninja.

And that she would be.
That she already was, she just had to become even greater and show everybody else.

So Naruko looked away busying herself with the surroundings as Sasuke helped Sakura. When she became Hokage the first thing she'd do was put Sasuke in his place.

Everybody thought that he was so great while she was just an annoying freak. She'd show them that she was much better than the Uchiha once she became Hokage and everybody learned to appreciate her coolness.

Oh and she'd give a national holiday and dedicate that entire day to ramen.

When Kakashi finally arrived it was nearly ten 'o' clock.

"You're late!" Naruko and Sakura accused as Kakashi simply shrugged.

He put down a clock and announced,"The timer is set for noon." He then dangled two bells in front of front of the three of them,"You have to take these from me by then. Those who don't manage to get the bells will be tied to the posts without lunch."

The three of them blanched.
So this why he'd told them not to eat breakfast.

"There are only two so one of you will be sent to the Academy regardless." Kakashi finished,"Make sure to use your shurikens and kunai you won't succeed unless you come at me with the intent to kill."

"But you'll get hurt." Sakura blurted out.

"Yeah." Naruko agreed,"You couldn't even dodge an eraser. We'll end up killing you."

"In the real world those without real talent are often the ones that bark the loudest." Kakashi stated,"And since you were dead last in the Academy I suppose you should just give up already."

Naruko fumed, dead last. Give up?
He asked for it.

Naruko attacked with her kunai without thinking twice.

One moment she was about to slash at her Sensei with her kunai the other she was standing facing the other way her hand bent backwards the tip of the kunai pressed against the back of her throat.

What the hell is this kind of speed?

Kakashi pushed her away,"Slow down, I haven't even say start yet."

The three graduates looked at him stunned, the level of his speed was unprecedented for them, so much so that none of them had even seen his movements. Sasuke allowed a smirk to grace his lips, So this was the level of a jounin.

"Well it seems like you've finally started to acknowledge me." Kakashi said,"Hmm... I'm finally starting to like you guys."

There was a pause before he announced,"START!"

And then the test began.

_________

Naruko didn't hide like Sasuke and Sakura she simply stood in front of Kakashi her hands on her hips.

"Come fight me!" She announced loudly. She wasn't some coward who had to run and hide from the silver haired man. She was a ninja, a proper Academy graduate at that. She wasn't some helpless little girl either, after all when the other kunoichi's were busy in class arranging flowers Naruko had always skipped it and crashed the boys training.

She was rejected, bullied and unwanted but that never stopped her from going back.

So Naruko wouldn't back down or hide from the challenge.

While this all made sense to Naruko, Sasuke and Kakashi both thought this was plain idiotic. Sasuke had expected as much, the girl was the definition of an idiot according to the Uchiha but Kakashi hadn't expected her to be so.... off.

When Kakashi said so out loud Naruko simply huffed.

"The only thing off is your haircut." She remarked before she proceeded to attack.

Although Iruka Sensei had tried to drill it into her that going head first into a battle wasn't the smartest move she still barelled straight for Kakashi but had the sense to abruptly stop when Kakashi reached into his pack her eyes cautiously fixed on his hand wondering what weapon he was going to pull out,

"Ninja fighting lesson one: Taijutsu." Kakashi announced,"Hand to hand combat."

And then he whipped his hand out of his pack to reveal a-

A book.
A book.

"Why do you have a book?" Naruko asked confused.

"Isn't it obvious?" Kakashi had already opened the book and started reading,"I want to know what happens next. Don't worry about it, this won't make any difference against you guys."

Naruko fumed, no difference, was that how little he thought of her? There was no way she was holding back now.

Naruko was a flurry of kicks and punches as she attacked Kakashi. Naruko would have probably claimed that this was easily her best performance to date had Kakashi not dodged every single one of them.

While reading a book.

Naruko didn't give up though, her kicks and punches got angrier, faster until she found herself precariously standing at the edge of the river with Kakashi nowhere in sight.

Suddenly she froze as she felt his presence behind her.

"Never let an enemy get behind you." He simply stated and with the use of one finger he poked the back of Naruko's head but it was enough to make her lose her balance and send her plunging into the icy river.

The water dulled her senses and for a minute she was groggy. Was she truly so weak? Was she-

Suddenly Iruka Sensei's face came into her mind.
It's not about being weak or being strong, Naruko. It's about fighting for what you want and doing anything to get it.

She wanted to be Hokage.
She wanted everybodies approval.
And she would not give up.

Naruko emerged from the water spluttering.

Kakashi simply raised an eyebrow,"Haven't you had enough?"

"I am not giving up!" She announced as half a dozen shadow clones emerged from the water all of them wearing the same determined expression on the same face as Naruko.

Kakashi didn't even have time to be impressed as all. Seven Naruko's' launched themselves at him.

"That won't be enough-"

And suddenly there was an eight one. The other seven managed to pin his limbs his place as the final one which had crawled from behind him was sent to deliver the blow. 

And somehow Kakashi disappeared before her fist could make contact and instead it hit a clone of hers which popped and vanished.

"What the-" and before Naruko, the real one could say anything more she suddenly found a rope slip around her ankle and jerk her upwards the momentary shock breaking her shadow clone jutsu.

Kakashi then proceeded to tie her hands too in a quick flash making he unable to use any kind of jutsu to free herself.

"Let me out!" She yelled.

Before Kakashi could respond with a resounding no! Sasuke saw this opportunity and attacked leading Kakashi out of the clearing and away from Naruko.

Who was still hanging upside down from a tree.

Ugh!

She tried to free herself but to no avail. Naruko didn't know how much time had passed until Sakura came running back into the clearing her face pale and shaken.

"H-H-Hinata-k-Kun b-bleeding-" she started stammering and Naruko looked at her blabbering teammate.

Why would Hinata Hyuuga be here? 

"Sakura-chan snap out of it!" She called,"It must be a trick! Genjutsu!"

Sakura's eyes widened and then she closed her eyes and murmured,"Kai!"

When she opened them all she saw was her teammate hanging upside down from the tree all the bloody images of a wounded Hinata-Kun gone.

"Sakura-chan can you help me?"

Sakura instantly heeded the request by cutting the ropes that held Naruko captive which deposited her to the ground with a thump. Sakura had to admit that she'd been pretty impressed with Naruko's clone technique earlier and when she suggested that they should find Kakashi before noon Naruko quickly nodded and ran into the cluster of trees with her.

Only to find Sasuke.
Well at least Sasuke's head.

"What happened to you?" Sakura asked wearily thinking that this probably was another genjutsu.

"Ninjutsu. He buried my body in the ground." He sighed,"Can you help me?"

Before Sakura could offer a response Naruko beside her burst out laughing. She doubled over as she pointed and laughed at the body-less Sasuke who looked grumpy to say the least.

"Well you weren't looking so fine yourself hanging upside down from that rope, pigtails." Sasuke said drily.

"This is coming from the persons whose head is the only thing above ground." Naruko shot back,"Duck-butt."

Sakura was starting to see a pattern here.

Naruko and Sasuke were from two ends of the spectrum, not only with her shiny blonde hair and sky blue eyes in comparison to Sasuke's dark hair and even darker eyes but in personality too.

Headstrong, extroverted, Naruko couldn't have been more different than Sasuke who was as calculating as they came.

But Sakura could swear that the second both of them started talking to each other they sounded almost exactly the same, childish and immature.

While this wasn't a particularly unusual thing to see when it came to Naruko, Sakura was surprised to see Sasuke behave like that. It was a side only Naruko could bring out, the blonde did have a knack to piss him off in a way that no one else did Sakura had seen it first hand yesterday after Sasuke had arrived with a pale Naruko in toe both bickering over something.

None the less with both her teammates acting like two year olds Sakura naturally became the moderator between them.

So she simply rolled her eyes as Naruko continued to laugh at Sasuke whilst the Uchiha struggled to get out. Sakura helped Sasuke in the end of course, she had to do her role as referee between the both of them justice but she didn't call foul when the first thing the raven haired boy did after getting out was aim his clans fireball technique straight at the blonde.

Naruko barely managed to dodge it and it singed the end of one her pigtails which lead her to leap at Sasuke who gracefully dodged and almost sent her careening into the hole he'd come out from.

Of course Naruko didn't give up there as she attacked him again and Sasuke again dodged leading to an endless cycle. Sakura quietly watched, giggles escaping her ever so often, after all moderator or not their fights were extremely entertaining with Naruko hopelessly flailing around and Sasuke gracefully dodging.

In fact the three of them might as well have forgotten why they were in the training grounds in the first place and when the bell rang their eyes widened realisation dawning on them.

"Shit!" Naruko said as all three of them took off.
______________________

Kakashi was already there when they reached. He had the bentos in his hand and all three of them were lustfully eying the food their stomachs growling in sync.

"Well all of you failed." Kakashi announced,"Mostly because you're failures as ninjas."

"I am not a failure as a ninja!" Naruko asserted loudly.

Kakashi raised an eyebrow,"Then tell me why none of you have been able to answer the true purpose of the test?"

"The true purpose?" Sakura asked confused,"What's that supposed to mean?"

Kakashi sighed,"If I tell you the answer what's the point? But here's the deal I'll still give you the bentos, it's up to you three to decide who gets to eat it and who doesn't and then after lunch you three can come take me on, together. And if you share...." Kakashi cracked his knuckles threateningly,"I don't have to tell you there will be consequences."

And then he simply vanished.

The three of them turned to look at the two bento boxes.

"Sakura-chan should get one." Naruko said firmly,"She helped both of us."

"You both are girls." Sasuke offered gruffly,"Eat it, I'll manage."

As if just to prove him wrong his stomach growled.
Both the girls giggled, Naruko was just louder.

Naruko may have been a girl wasn't exactly delicate. She'd been shunned, chased around, battered, bruised and bullied far too many times. She didn't need Sasuke's pity just because she wasn't a boy and she sure as hell wasn't going to accept it either.

Personally Sasuke felt that Sakura deserved the bento the least out of all three of them, she may have helped Naruko and helped him get out of the ground but being a ninja meant more than just being support.

But the determination in Naruko's eyes made Sasuke falter before he could say it out loud. He'd noticed Naruko's incessant need to seek approval from their pink haired teammate but he'd never known just how far it extended.

"We should fight for it." Naruko told Sasuke matter of factly.

"That's simply stupid." Sasuke said drily,"Because not only will you lose but also waste both our chakra's in the process, dead last."

Naruko instantly started shouting," Get ready to eat dust bastard. You're so full of-"

"Or we could just share." Sasuke cut her off curtly.

Naruko looked at him like he was stupid,"What? You heard that we weren't allowed to do that."

Sasuke sighed, opening the bento box,"He's not here anymore. Besides we can't hope to defeat him alone. That's why he put emphasis on together. He wants us to work as a team and to be fairly honest that's our only shot at getting the bells which is why I can't have you fainting on me."

Naruko was the definition of an idiot but her shadow clone jutsu was a powerful asset and Sasuke knew that. Sakura was smart yes, but in the end it was Naruko's combat ability that really mattered.

"I won't faint, I'm not even hungry!" Naruko said. Her stomach growled right on schedule which earned her a smirk.

"Well what makes you think that I'm going to work with you?" Naruko huffed,"You look down on me because I'm a girl and think I'm weaker than you just because you beat me in a couple of tests by fluke."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her,"You must be smart enough to know that you can't become Hokage if you don't even qualify to become a genin. Even you can't be that much of an idiot, idiot."

Naruko would have replied to that but Sasuke added,"Oh and I beat you in all the tests, dead last."

Naruko would probably attempted to start a fight again had Sakura not marched upto them and put her bento box there and stood in the middle of the both of them before Naruko could leap at Sasuke.

"Sasuke is right. We have to become genin and we can't face Sensei alone. " she said,"We have to do this together we have no choice."

Out of all three of them Sakura knew she was at a disadvantage. She'd not missed the glance that Sasuke had given her but she had been surprised when he didn't say it out loud and chose to keep quiet about it probably because of Naruko's generous offer.

Sasuke was on a league of his own and while Sakura was leaps and bounds smarter than Naruko, she didn't have the hyper unpredictable energy that the blonde girl seemed to posses along with her ability to produce clones.

It was one of the main reasons she'd chosen to work together. Worst comes to worst after they'd subdued their Sensei together it would be first come first serve thing as to who'd get their hands on the bell.

And if Sakura wasn't one of them, well then she would outsmart either of them and snatch it from them if need be.

It was cheap dirty trick but Sakura would do it if she had to. Hinata-Kun's group would definitely pass and so would Ino's. She would not, could not be left behind.

She would become a shinobi worthy to marry the Hyuuga heir. Fancy clan or not she had something to prove here and she wasn't going to back down now.

Naruko still looked puzzled but she none the less nodded.

"There isn't a third pair of chopsticks." Sakura said with a start.

Naruko beamed, this was a perfect opportunity to practice what she'd trained with Iruka-Sensei last night,"Oh don't worry, I've got it!"

She closed her eyes and made an unfamiliar gesture and suddenly there was poof and another Naruko appeared beside her. The real one didn't open her eyes though and after another moment there was another poof and the clone Naruko had vanished and in her place were a pair of chopsticks.

The real Naruko opened her eyes and happily picked up the chopsticks to start eating. Both Sasuke and Sakura stared on, Sasuke wasn't too impressed, he figured if she could do a shadow clone jutsu at their level transforming them into objects couldn't be that hard. He was appalled though at her sheer idiocy of washing chakra on a pair of chopsticks.

Sakura on the other hand was shocked. While she'd had no real enemity against the blonde girl and Sakura did find her weird and annoyingly hyperactive at times but all in all Naruko was nice she supposed. Nice or not it was unsaid notion for Sakura to believe that Naruko was simply headstrong and aggressive, which gave her an upper hand in combat and if it came to a battle of wits and ninjutsu Sakura would win.

But now Sakura had realised that her spot in the trio was definitely right at the bottom. Because those clones, not only were they real but Naruko somehow had the chakra after all the fighting and no food to transform the clones.

For the first time Sakura was jealous of Naruko.

Naruko didn't notice this turmoil of course and started eating with Sasuke and Sakura soon following suit, their hunger overpowering everything else. Although on edge their ravenous hunger didn't allow the three of them to notice Kakashi's presence until he appeared right in front of them the wind blowing furiously and the sky growing followed by Kakashi's appearance.

He might have said something, Sakura assumed he'd have told them that they'd probably failed but before he could say anything Naruko moved. It was a miracle in itself managing to move with that overwhelming pressure of power that Kakashi brought with him but what was more surprising is that she'd moved to throw her chopsticks at Kakashi.

Sasuke was stunned for a moment. He hadn't expected the short blonde girl to have so much fire in her. Sasuke had known her to be stupid, clumsy and absolutely reckless but that sort of determination in her eyes gave a clear message,I am not giving up.
So Sasuke wants going to either.

Midway through the air the chopsticks reverted back into a flying blonde girl whose legs were precisely in position to kick Kakashi's face. He dodged sending Naruko's clone off with a poof and almost instantly Sasuke leaped engaging Kakashi in combat.

It lasted only a handful of seconds before Sasuke was thrown back to his teammates but it was enough for Naruko to summon around half a dozen clones and transform them.

With a puff of smoke they are no longer clones of the blonde girl with pigtails but instead they were wide array of beautiful grown naked women with mist covering their, ahem, ahem delicate bits.

Kakashi's jaw dropped.


It was not only because of the naked women surrounding him were drop dead gorgeous or that he'd probably have to have a talk with the Third regarding Naruko's creative ideas but Kakashi was shocked because of the girl who lead the pack. 

A tall brunette who was the exact replica of the woman on the cover of Kakashi's Icha-Icha Paradise.

Naruko had been observant enough to not only see the face of the heroine on the cover of his book but also had the time to understand and recreate her exact body structure. 

It was a talent that was almost unprecedented.

Kakashi had never truly been caught off guard but the twelve year olds thinking had made him mildly surprised and that's all the opening Sasuke really needed.

In that split second of distraction Sasuke swiped at Kakashi with his Kunai but Kakashi was gone by the time Sasuke could do any real damage and there was a log in his place.

A substitution jutsu. The same one he'd used earlier on Naruko. 

And yet somehow the Uchiha looked triumphant.

Although he'd not been able to get the bells he'd managed to cut off Kakashi's pack which had fallen to the ground along with the log.For a second there even Kakashi was puzzled at Uchiha's grin at the blonde fox. They surely didn't think that they'd cut off his supply of weapons with just that pack, did they?

Another look at Naruko and Sasuke instantly started making the seals for what looked like his clans fireball jutsu.

Kakashi dodged it but was once again impressed at the size of it.He suppose he shouldn't have underestimated these young ninjas.

The fireball abruptly stopped and Kakashi was once again surprised to see that it had served as merely a tool of distraction for their real plan.

Because while Sasuke had obscured Kakashi's view Naruko had once again transformed her clones into dozens of copies of Icha-Icha Paradise lying on the ground jumbling the real one taken from his bag with them.

Ah, a hostage situation.

Kakashi picked up the one closest to him, while the cover and the back was copied to a tee, which was another very, very impressive feat on Naruko's part the inside of the book was blank.

Kakashi dropped it and the fake book disappeared with a poof.

"We'd like to trade the real book for the bells." Sasuke announced smugly.

This time Kakashi was truly stunned. He'd never expected them to think so much through. He'd heard their conversation before and he knew that they hadn't discussed any of this, they simply worked together seamlessly making up the plan as they went,

But Kakashi wasn't a prodigy for no reason. Within seconds and in a speed which none of them could keep a track of he'd sorted through all the copies of the book and he returned to his position with the real book in his hand already opened to the page where he'd left off.

The three of them looked at him their faces filled with disbelief and disappointment. They'd failed to get the bells after all.

"Oh don't worry you passed." Kakashi decided to put them out of their misery.

The three young ninja blinked at him.

"Eh? Really?" Unsurprisingly it Naruko who responded first with a big smile spreading over face,"I'm a genin now dattebayo!"

Sakura looked at her Sensei confused,"But why? We didn't manage to get the bells from you and on top of that we broke the rules and shared the food with each other."

"You guys were the first to break the rules." Kakashi answered,"Mainly because everybody else dumbly followed the rules and gave up. Those who break the rules of the ninja world are called trash but those who don't take care of their comrades are lower than trash. Therefore you guys officially pass. Starting tomorrow Team 7 will begin with their duties."

"Yes!" Naruko pumped her fist into the air because now she was one step closer to her dream.

Chapter Text

Note: Since I've not added the disclaimer before here goes:
I don't own NARUTO it belongs purely to Masashi Kishimoto.

 

UNEDITED


Sakura had never really paid attention to Sasuke Uchiha even though it had been almost been impossible to do so with him in the fore front of everything during her Academy days. In Sakura's eyes only Hinata-kun existed. Though Sasuke was good looking in his own way she'd prefer the gentle Hyuuga any day.

Ino had once said that had she not seen Hinata-Kun first she'd probably have fallen in love with Sasuke. Sakura had simply scoffed and told her that, that very statement was why Sakura clearly deserved the Hyuuga boy more.

But it was true. Sakura had always put the value of behaviour over looks. Sasuke Uchiha was a looker, yes, maybe even more than Sakura's crush but he was rude and absolutely unmannered.

She did feel sorry for him having his entire clan murdered at such a young age was undoubtedly hard and yet in Sakura's mind the Uchiha had always been somewhat unattainable and cold, nothing like her precious Hinata-kun. But more than all of that Sakura was the tiniest bit afraid of Sasuke.

Maybe it was because of the intensity with which he did everything. Maybe it was because Sakura couldn't wrap her head around how anybody could see their entire clan murdered and remain sane.

But now after three consecutive D-rank missions chasing some ladies cat in the woods she'd started changing her view about him. Of course Hinata-kun was her one and only but she'd become tentative friends with him bonding over Naruko's antics and often having to work as a team to make sure that Naruko didn't get in a fight with the cat.

Well at least she saw him as a friend. Sasuke probably thought of her as a person he'd been force to do-operate with being on the same team.

Sasuke was a jerk mostly but sometimes and only sometimes Sakura felt that it was needed to handle their third teammate. Naruko was nice to everybody. Well... at least she tried to be. Naruko could be extremely blunt by saying whatever was on her mind but that was mostly because she was ignorant in the matter of demonstrating self control and not because she wanted to hurt somebody.

But if someone offended her, Naruko's smiling demeanour would go out of the window replaced by someone who would make sure to give her opponent a piece of her mind. In short, Naruko wore her heart on her sleeve. There was nothing that was a secret about her according to Sakura whatever the blonde girl felt she showed. 

Sakura was well aware that Sasuke's subtle changes were Naruko's doing. Her personality was just as loud as her bright hair (although Sakura was the last person to judge someone based on the colour of their hair) and Naruko had the rare ability to pry even the aloof Uchiha out of his own world because she simply could not be ignored.

Sakura had a grudging sort of respect for both of them in her own way but she couldn't help feeling bitter that she was the one who had the least to contribute in the group. Kakashi-Sensei clearly didn't know how to handle Sakura and frankly she didn't know how to interact with him either.

Sakura supposed he didn't know how to handle girls that well in general, Naruko could hardly be fit into the category of other girls which is why Naruko's standing with Kakashi and the group was higher than Sakura's.

So Sakura had started reading up on various types of medical jutsus along with first aid and medicinal plants. What had started as a hobby thanks to Naruko's off hand suggestion had turned very important for her. The jutsu's were still advanced for her so she'd just have to wait to find someone to officially train, she was waiting for the right moment to ask Kakashi-Sensei but none the less she'd learned to patch up small scratches and bruises that Naruko almost always had and studied thoroughly about poisons.

It had taken her months to get to that point of course (learning real medical jutsu needed actual guidance) but it made her feel surprisingly validated to be able to do something, anything to help he group to actually show that yes, team seven didn't just consist of the hyperactive fox girl and the young prodigy but also had a pink haired kunoichi who contributed something to the team of oddballs.

Granted now her contributions were only being done in stupid D-rank missions where they were stuck chasing cats but at least it was something.

"How wide is her forehead?"

Sakura froze. She was on her way back from the library and it was early evening when all the kids were out to play. She'd been teased about the size of her unusually wide forehead more than often and as kids she'd been bullied a whole lot because of it. Sakura had tried to ignore them, tried to blend into the crowd but with her pink hair it was almost impossible to do so.

"Sakura-chan!" Sakura looked up to see a flash of orange with two blonde pigtails trailing behind her. Naruko on the other hand instead of blending into the crowd wanted to stand out of it and be noticed if her orange and white outfit was any testament to that.

Naruko stopped in front of her grinning, no matter what Naruko was always smiling unless she was dealing with Sasuke.

"Hi Sakura-chan!" Naruko said brightly,"Need help with the books?"

"Hey it's the fox freak!" Someone called out,"She even looks like one with those marks and that uniform."

"Too had she'll never be as smart as one!"

Naruko was almost immediate to respond to the kids who had hidden themselves while occasionally throwing insults,"Come out and fight me you cowards!"

Of course nobody did but none the less Naruko got her response when an egg was thrown at her. It splattered against Naruko's bright orange jacket and Sakura was ashamed to say that she shrieked when a few drops landed on her.

Naruko took it silently bot even surprised, simply turning around in the direction glaring at the kids who were up on the roof of one of the shops and pointing and laughing.

"Why you-!" Naruko started but they simply giggled and ran away.

Naruko could have probably given them a chase but instead she chose not to. Sakura found that to be quite curious considering Naruko's usual character.

"Aah I'm sorry Sakura-chan that's my fault. I wanted to help but I'm going to have to clean up." Naruko said looking sheepish,"I'll deal with those irritating kids later for dirtying you."

Sakura didn't pay much attention to Naruko's apology because she was busy wiping the drops that had landed on her and making sure that none of it reached her hair.

"Oh I almost forgot." Naruko carefully took out a scroll from her bag, delicately as to not dirty it as she handed it over to Sakura,"This was some paperwork we had to fill out for the mission."

And with that she took off running waving as she said a loud,"Goodbye Sakura-chan!"

By the time Sakura could even think about thanking her she'd long disappeared. Sakura sighed and opened the scroll only to find another similar scroll rolled up inside with it.

Naruko must have given her copy to Sakura by mistake too and considering the importance of the scroll and Naruko's speed with paperwork Sakura had to give it back to her today or she'd never complete it.

Sakura knew where Naruko lived, it had come up during one of Naruko's non stop monologues with her and thankfully it was at a time when Sakura had actually paid attention.

It was a small apartment complex and for a second Sakura wondered what it must have been like for Naruko to come home everyday to an empty house. It was probably the same for Sasuke too. Sakura had learnt from early on that family was a sore topic for the both of them and she steered clear of it.

When Sakura finally found the apartment she raised her hand to knock on the door but stopped when she heard a muffled sniffle from the other side.

Sakura froze.
Was.... Naruko.....crying?

To anybody else they might have thought that it was simply some sort of random noise but Sakura had enough practice hiding her crying as well as dealing with Ino's crying fits. There was no doubt, Naruko was crying.

Happy go lucky always smiling Naruko was crying.

Sakura shook her head, of course she would cry, who wouldn't if eggs were thrown at them and they were called a freak? Sakura herself had cried for far less.

But Naruko had taken it so casually that Sakura hadn't reacted at all. In fact looking back at it now she remembered how the adults had watched with a smug look on their faces doing nothing.

Was this how her town treated a twelve year old girl?


Sakura recalled vaguely how the adults had warned their kids to stay away from Naruko. Although Sakura's parents were hardly qualified to be even called ninjas so she'd never received a formal warning as such from them but Ino had told her how her dad had told her strictly to stay away from Naruko Uzumaki.

But.... she was just a twelve year old girl. The same age as Sakura. What could have she have possibly done wrong for the entire town to hate her? For kids to throw eggs at her?

So that day as Sakura stood still outside Naruko's door, the scrolls clutched to her chest hearing the blonde girl on the other side cry, Sakura made a decision.
_______________

"What's wrong with you?" Sasuke asked the next day. His question was directed towards Naruko who was leaning listlessly over the side of the bridge where they were waiting for Kakashi.

Sakura was also late which was unusual for her but Sasuke didn't have time to ponder much on that because he had his hands occupied with a strangely quiet Naruko. When she wasn't talking Sasuke actually found her shockingly tolerable but he couldn't shake off how strange it felt not to mention her weird behaviour could quite possibly ruin whatever mission they went on.

When Naruko didn't bother to respond to him Sasuke shoved her which caused her to to lose her balance and tip off the ledge right into the water below the bridge. She fell with an almighty splash.

"What the hell you bastard!" She cried out surfacing her hands flailing about,"I'm going to kill you!"

And she was back.

_________________________

By the time Sakura had reached the bridge she wasn't surprised to see both Sasuke and Naruko sporting several colourful bruises. In addition to all of that Naruko was dripping wet, her usual blonde bouncy pigtails hanging limply on either side.

"What happened here?" She asked.

"It was the bastards fault." Naruko complained,"He pushed me off the bridge."

Sakura glanced at Sasuke waiting for his excuse but all she got was a simple shrug. Sakura sighed, there was no point in inquiring further it wouldn't solve anything. 

"Oh! Naruko chan!" Sakura said digging into her bag and taking out the scroll,"Here you go."

Naruko accepted it beaming. She opened it and gasped drawing both her teammates attention.

"But th-this paperwork is complete." Naruko stated wide eyed.

Sakura smiled and winked at Naruko,"I had some extra time so I decided to do both of ours together.This is our little secret, okay?"

Naruko stared at her gape mouthed. And then she leaped and hugged Sakura tightly,"Thank you Sakura-chan!"

"Eh-Naruko-chan you're making me wet." She said awkwardly trapped in Naruko's hug.

"I'm sorry." Naruko immediately stepped back,"Thank you sooo much Sakura-chan. I'll pay back this favour, dattebayo."

Sakura nodded,"Well you can treat me to ramen in that place you're always going on about."

Naruko looked like she was going to burst with happiness,"Really?"

"Yup." Sakura nodded,"And Sasuke will be coming too."

Sasuke gave her a dry look,"No way."

"It will be a great team building exercise." Sakura said,"Besides I want to do something together that's not chasing after a cat."

That both Sasuke and Naruko could agree to.

"Say, why don't we convince the Hokage to give us better mission.' Naruko suggested,"I'm sure if we whine enough we can get the old man to give us something better than a D-Rank."

"Hn." Was Sasuke's response. By now both Sakura and Naruko had learned to decipher Sasuke's various monosyllabic responses and they knew that his nonchalant Hn was a yes.

They then proceeded, well they being mainly Naruko , to come up with a plan to ask the Hokage to give them better missions. Sakura hadn't found Naruko's plan a sure fire hit considering it consisted Naruko of making googly eyes and emotionally blackmailing the Hokage but she none the less decided to go along with it. Anything was better than cats.

When Kakashi finally arrived it was midday.

"I won't be able to join you for training today." Kakashi said, he'd sent a clone they supposed,"I'm sorry. Take the day off and meet me at the Hokage's office tomorrow morning."

And with a poof he vanished.

Sakura sighed. Figures, only their jounin teacher would make them wait for half a day and then tell them that it was a holiday.

"So how about that ramen?" Naruko suggested.

__________________

Sasuke had been dragged along by Sakura and Naruko. In the end he'd agreed because they wouldn't have let him go anyway and he had trained for an extra two hours that morning so he could afford to eat.

They walked through the town market with Naruko talking as usual. Sasuke was quiet through out the exchange least bothered about what she was saying and chose to survey his surroundings. He hadn't always been a cautious person, there was a time when he'd walked carefree through the streets just like his bubbly blonde teammate.

But things had drastically changed for him after his clans massacre.

Every step he took was calculated, every thing he did was so that he could achieve his goal. So that he could kill him.

After the massacre Sasuke had learned to live with the looks of pity that were directed his way but walking with Naruko he'd realised that the blonde girl was hated in a way that was almost unexplainable. 

The looks that she received were ones of fear and disguise and yet she somehow had the ability to remain ignorant of all that. 

At least that's what Sasuke had thought of at first. Lately he'd realised that Naruko simply chose to appear ignorant and she was more conscious of it than she let on. 

"The fox freak is back!" One of the kids taunted as they made their way to Ichiraku's.

Naruko didn't hesitate as she marched up to the the boy and picked him up by the collar so that they were face to face, the little brown haired boy on his tippy toes.

"Hey squirt back off." She glared at him.

"Let go fox freak! You don't deserve to be a ninja." The boy struggled. She sighed and let him go and almost immediately the boy attacked attempting to kick the blonde kunoichi.

Naruko caught his kick without batting an eye and easily blocked the punch he'd thrown her way by catching it in her palm and then clenching her fingers around his hand making him unable to escape.

"I'm going to be Hokage one day." Naruko declared proudly,"And I'm the best ninja ever. You can't beat me."

The small huffed,"I'm going to become Hokage. A girl like you will never become Hokage."

"What? Are you underestimating me just because I'm a girl?" Naruko glared icily at the boy, an expression Sakura never thought that Naruko could make. She guessed that Sasuke's influence on the blonde had been far greater than what Sakura had previously assumed.

"I'll become Konoha's First Lady Hokage. And I'll show you what it's like to be a real ninja."

One of his friends, a younger boy held by glared at the blonde girl least bothered by her inspirational claims,"Let him go, don't you know that's Konohamaru Sarutobi the Hokage's grandson?"

Sasuke had figured as much. Although he'd noticed how the village had treated Naruko, they'd never been very open about their insults simply choosing to convey their feelings through isolating Naruko as much as possible. He supposed it had something to do with the Hokage's orders, the same ones were probably given for him. Which meant the little boy who was so openly displaying his antagonism against the blonde girl could only be someone who had the guts to defy the Hokage.

Naruko puffed not letting go of the Hokage's grandson,"You think I give a damn? You need to learn some manners squirt. My name is Uzumaki Naruko not fox freak. And throwing eggs is not cool, people are starving and you're wasting food like some idiot. You want to be Hokage? Then earn it instead of thinking you're entitled to it. And once you become a real ninja, come find me."

With that she left his shirt and marched ahead leaving the boy gaping in shock at her back.

Sasuke and Sakura who were watching the entire exchange mirroring the young Konohamaru Sarutobi's surprise. Sakura was surprised by how firmly Naruko had reprimanded the smaller boy, taking on the attitude of a big sister rather than her usual carefree airhead way of life.

Sasuke on the other hand was just appalled to realise that there was someone in this world who Naruko of all people could call an idiot.

The two of them followed after their blonde haired teammate all the way till Ichiraku's until Naruko finally lost it and turned around.

"Why are you following me?" Naruko turned around and glared at the little boy who'd followed the three of them to Ichiraku.

"Naruko-Senpai!" The boy looked at her, his eyes filled with determination ,"I want to be your apprentice, teach me!"

Naruko blinked.
Sakura blinked.
Sasuke simply walked ahead and ordered the food.

"What?" Even though the shock was dominant on her face the look in her wide eyes couldn't hide the hope that had blossomed.

Acceptance.

Was she finally being accepted?

"You're the first person who hasn't treated me differently once you heard who I was." The boy said fiercely,"And you blocked my kick and punch with no effort at all. You're a great ninja, Senpai!"

Naruko grinned, clearly flattered by the compliments,"I like you!"

"Me too Senpai!" The boy launched himself at the blonde,"I love you!"

The boy hugged her tightly latching his arms around her waist his head buried in the her chest , granted that a twelve year old girl didn't really have a chest to boast of but the entire breach of private space by a strange seven year old boy coupled with the fact that Naruko had only ever been hugged by Iruka Sensei once before caused Naruko to push him away.

"Get off me!" Naruko shrieked and hit the boy on the head.

"But senpai!" Konohamaru whined,"I love-"

"Go-"

"Dobe! Stop getting hair in my food-"

"Senpai!"

"Let go of-"

"All of you shut up, shannaro!" Sakura shouted halting everybody. It was a peculiar scene as the three of them froze.

Sasuke was holding one end of Naruko's twintail up while Konohamaru still had his arms around Naruko. The blonde girl in question on the other hand had both hands frozen one against Konohamaru's forehead in the process of pushing him away and the other trying to bat Sasuke's hand from her hair.

"All of you stop acting so immature!" Sakura continued,"You!"She was pointing at the smaller boy,"You can't go hugging girls around in public especially ones that you've thrown eggs at. Have you even apologised to her? It-"

Before Sakura could finish her rant a man had arrived in the scene and jerked Konohamaru from Naruko.

"Konohamaru-Sama you can't be seen with this kind of people!" The man repraminded and then threw a dirty look Naruko's way,"You should stay away from the likes of her."

Sakura's mouth dropped. Had this man's mother not taught him basic courtesy or kindness. Even Sasuke was nicer than this asshole Shannaro!

"Let go!" Konohamaru pouted and then called out,"Naruko Senpai!"

"Hey!" Naruko cried out,"You can't do that, you cant treat him like that."

The man simply glared at her and dragged the boy away. Naruko would have probably followed them and Sasuke was sure that he'd have to break up the fight that followed which meant that he'd be left with the responsibility of draging a beat up Naruko to the hovel she called home due to Sakura's incessant nagging about how girls should be treated.

So before Naruko could even think of following them Sasuke tugged on one of her pigtails pulling her back and said,"Naruko you're ramen is getting cold."

Naruko simply shrugged and turned. She'd only hesitated for a second looking at disappearing figures before she turned her attention to her one true love.

Ramen.
Not Sasuke.

Not that the clarification was required.

______________________________________________

The next day in the Hokage's office team seven were determined to get a mission that did not involve cats.

"Oh come on Oji-chan, the lady should just let the cat go." Naruko whined,"Plus I think she's losing it on purpose nowadays just to flirt with Kakashi-Sensei."

Kakashi looked up from his Icha-Icha Paradise book,"I heard my name."

Sakura rolled her eyes. She was sure that her Sensei had being paying attention the whole time.

"Please Oji-chan?" Naruko pouted,"It would be nice to go somewhere and do a more advanced mission. Returning home to a cold and empty apartment..... It would be nice to travel."

Naruko's tone towards the end had become pitifully wistful her eyes wide. She was no longer trying to guilt trip the Sandaime but had truly let slip what she wished for.

"Oh come on Oji-chan!" Naruko whined again and the Hokage's expression softened.

"Kakashi do you think they are ready for more long term missions?"

All eyes turned to to their masked Sensei.

Kakashi had to admit his team was advancing at an alarming rate.

Sasuke was every bit the prodigy that the Academy had promised if not more, he trained tirelessly everyday and was becoming even better by the hour that be honest.

And Naruko was hot on his heels. Of course she had a long way to go but she was developing by leaps and bounds.

Kakashi wasn't used to a kunoichi with her level of determination, Rin had been far more docile and Sakura reminded Kakashi of her at times, with her wholehearted dedication to the Hyuuga boy in Kurenai's team and her interest and aptitude for medical jutsu.

Naruko on the other hand was a headstrong fighter through and through and her level of determination to achieve her goals was something that could give Sasuke a run for his money.

She'd shown up at Kakashi's apartment, banging on his door demanding that he train her to do the Body Switching jutsu. The jutsu had been taught in the Academy, but Naruko had made him sit and recite all the rules, asked about a billion questions and then had given him several scenarios and then asked him whether it could be demonstrated in those cases or not.

Kakashi had truly been taken aback by the girl's potential and her way of thinking. Although her fighting style was head on and rather crude for a ninja in its own way it was unpredictable. She was far more intelligent than she appeared to be and even though her optimism was unparalleled she was well versed as to how the entire shinobi system was not only against her but was rather tough on kunoichi's in general.

None the less Naruko trudged on. Her fights with Sasuke, nine out of ten times she would lose. But she wouldn't give up and tire the prodigy out to the very end before pulling off some sort of unpredictable trick that no one could see coming.

She obviously retained her childish flair and immature pranks but that didn't take away anything from her potential to actually achieve what she was so tirelessly striving for.

"I think they can take on tougher challenges." Kakashi informed the Hokage. Of course Sandaime was well aware of both Naruko and Sasuke's progress so whatever answer Kakashi would give didn't really matter.

"Fine then." The Hokage announced,"I'll give you a C rank mission. It's the protection of a certain indivdual."

"Who? Who?" Naruko asked excitedly,"A handsome lord? A princess?"

"Calm down, I'll introduce you all to him." The Hokage said,"Tazuna-San you can come in."

All three genin turned to look at the man who'd just entered the room.

Elderly, with a bottle of sake in his hand and hair that stuck up in angles that made Sasuke's hair look normal, this man was definitely no handsome lord.

While outer Sakura remained pleasant enough, Inner Sakura was throwing a string of insults and judgements about the mans clear disregard for hygenine and his obvious drinking habits.

The disappointed and confused expression on Naruko's face mirrored exactly what she was thinking and although Sasuke remained passive as ever, his eye twitched slightly that made it clear that he was just as happy about it like the rest of his teammates.

"They all look like a bunch of brats." Tazuna commented,"Especially the short dumb looking girl. She looks like she should be off playing with dolls somewhere else."

"Dolls? I'll show you old man!" Naruko screached,"I'll kill you!"

Sasuke caught the end of Naruko's pigtails just in time and pulled her back.

Kakashi sighed at the struggling girl,"Killing the person we are supposed to protect isn't very smart Naruko."

"But-"

"Naruko. Stop picking fights." Sakura hissed trying to calm her teammate down.

"But he called me short and stupid looking. It's rude!"

"But you are short and stupid looking." Sasuke pointed out.

Naruko glared at Sasuke,"Am not!"

"Tch."

"I said I'm not!" Naruko shrieked.

"Midget."

"Duck butt."

"Idiot."

"Basta-"

Sakura simultaneously moved forward to shut the both of them up, by slapping her hand on top of their mouths. While she made contact with Naruko Sasuke dodged but he understood the message loud and clear and didn't say anything afterwards.

This was going to be a very long mission.

_________

Naruko was bursting to the brim with excitement. They'd been travelling for two days now and the excitement had still not worn off. Wave country was quite some distance away but Naruko enjoyed the travelling. She had never been outside Konoha before and there was a strange sense of freedom that came with every step she took going further away from the village she grew up in.

As a kid she'd often entertained the thought of running away from the town where the people hated her but her sheer stubbornness had prevented her from doing so. She'd vowed that running away was for cowards and staying to prove them all wrong was much more her style.

She skipped along as Sakura talked to their client and Sasuke grumpily stalked opposite to Naruko in the formation while Kakashi brought up the rear his orange porn book in his hand.

While walking Naruko looked down for the billionth time since the start of the trip Naruko to admire her new shoes.

After the briefing with the Hokage on her way home her sandals had broken. Sakura had offered to take her shopping and help her pick up new shoes on the condition that she'd behave better and stop picking fights with Sasuke so that their mission went along smoothly.

Naruko had tried to argue that it was all the bastards fault but then her pink haired friend had proceeded to hit her on the head and glared at her till Naruko had finally grumbled out something of an agreement.

It had been worth it though. She'd got an opportunity to go shopping with Sakura-chan just like most girls did with their friends. It was an entirely new and exhilarating experience and Naruko would trade it for nothing.

She had a friend now.
She'd value them with her-

Naruko nearly stepped into a puddle but smoothly dodged leaping over it.

Ha! As if she'd let a puddle ruin the shiny new shoes which she'd bought with her friend.

Naruko paused looking at puddle puzzled. Had it rained recently?
No it definitely hadn't. She'd wanted instant ramen yesterday and to get the water she'd had to go all the way up to the river which had been half dried.

"Kakashi Sensei there is something weir-" Before she could finish something shot out at her from the water.

A whoosh of air and suddenly she was hurled backwards and in her place Kakashi stood the chains wrapping around him and then- blood-

"No!" Sakura screamed.

Naruko froze as a second ninja ran for her. She was still on the ground unable to move trying to come with the terms that she-she'd been the reason their Sensei had- had died.

This time it was Sasuke that protected her, deflecting the chain with his Kunai simultaneously pining it to a tree to restrict the attackers movement. He leaped over hero kicking both ninjas in the head sending them tumbling back as Sasuke proceeded to stand in front of Naruko in a protective stance.

H-how was he not afraid? How was he so calm?

One of them slipped past and headed straight for the builder. Sakura acted this time taking her kunai and standing in front of the builder. She knew that it wouldn't do much, her hands that were shaking were a testament to that but she would go down fighting.

And then finally Naruko acted.
She couldn't, no she wouldn't let anybody else die.
So she did he only thing she could.

A body switching jutsu.

Sakura felt a pop and suddenly she was in Naruko's position behind Sasuke who was keeping one of the ninjas busy and Naruko was in hers, in front of the builder facing the clawed ninja with a small kunai trembling in her hands.

Naruko barely had time to react but Sakura immediately threw the kunai in her hands at the ninja who barely managed to swipe at Naruko drawing blood from her hands that she'd been holding in front of her as if the protect herself. Sakura's kunai embedded itself on the ninjas shoulder and he jerked back and thankfully away from Naruko.

Naruko stood there shaking unable to move and the ninja even injured easily grabbed her wrist with his bloody hand and yanked her forward right towards his gleaming claws.

Was this the end?

Suddenly there was a flash of white and the claws stopped inches from Naruko's stomach. Kakashi had managed to stop the ninjas hand and then with one strong kick on the other the rogue ninjas grip on Naruko loosed and she crumpled into a heap onto the ground.

"Sensei!" Sakura breathed a sigh of relief as Kakashi made quick work of the clawed ninja as well as the one that Sasuke had more or less subdued.

Kakashi had used a substitution jutsu.

"Naruko I'm sorry you got hurt." Kakashi said,"I just assumed when you did the body switching jutsu you had a plan rather than just freezing up like that. Anyway Sasuke good job, you too Sakura."

Naruko's small form was hunched on to the ground her eyes averted.She was still shaking and Kakashi felt bad that he was so harsh on her but it was needed. Naruko had behaved recklessly without a plan and nearly got herself killed in the process. Kakashi knew Sakura wouldn't have handled the situation any better, she was hardly a close combat fighter and perhaps Naruko move of

Sasuke marched up to her his eyes narrowed,"That was really stupid you idiot."

Naruko didn't look at him though her eyes firmly fixed on the bleeding gash at the back of her hand.

"Back off." Sakura said firmly to Sasuke,"Naruko-chan thank you for saving me."

There was a tinge of bitterness in her voice, that wanted to say that she didn't need saving but Sakura was grateful none the less. Seeing Naruko trembling with the kunai in her hand,Sakura was sure she'd been like that too and she'd have probably gone down just as fast had Naruko not switched places with her. She was glad she'd saved her from the humiliation in a way.

Sasuke snorted,"Saving you? All she did was freeze up while trying to act like some sort of hero. I'm sure you could have handled yourself better than what she did."

Sakura blinked. Did he really have that much confidence in her or was he just angry that Naruko had recklessly put herself in danger when he'd tried to protect her by shielding her from the ninjas. Maybe Sakura had misjudged her place in the group both and the others had respected her far more than she'd previously thought.

"Why the hell are you acting like a jerk?" Sakura yelled. To hell with what they thought of her, Naruko had saved her if Sakura didn't stand up for the blonde girl then she wouldn't be able to live with herself,"Not everyone can just jump into action like you can, Shannaro!"

Sasuke's eyes narrowed,"Then why the hell does she want to be a ninja in the first place if she plans on freezing up and being nothing more than a scared little girl."

Naruko's suddenly shot up tipping her head up and grabbing the front of his shirt so she was looking directly at Sasuke.

"I am not scared. And I am not USELESS." Naruko yelled. Angry tears were glistening in her eyes and for a second Sasuke wavered.

And then he glanced down at the bleeding hand that held his shirt and his eyes hardened again,"Keep telling yourself that, scaredy cat."

"I was not scared!" Naruko yelled. She knew she was lying but she could not, would not bow down in front of the smug Uchiha.

"Then prove it the next time by beating me." Sasuke responded coolly.

Sakura was almost sure that Naruko would have punched him but instead she let him go and turned around.

"Tazuna-San." Kakashi started in a quiet voice,"Would you like to explain what's going on? These are chunnin from the Hidden Mist. I was under the impression that we were simply supposed to protect you from ordinary bandits."

Tazuna looked real guilty as he began to explain his predicament. He was currently in charge of building a bridge much to the chagrin of a businessman who ruled over his land ruthlessly. Being poor he couldn't afford to pay higher than a C-rank mission. 

The touching story didn't particularly melt Kakashi or Sasuke's heart but the girls were clearly eating it up, their eyes wide and sighed.

Kakashi simply sighed,"Before making any decision we should get Naruko back to Konoha, their claws were poisoned."

Sakura examined Naruko's wound carefully, tilting it towards the light and proceeding to examine the tips of the claws of the unconscious tied up mist shinobi.

"I recognise the poison." Sakura announced,"It can be treated.The best method is to drain some of the blood from the wound first and make sure that the poison doesn't spread. That's-"

"I think it's best we go back." Kakashi interrupted.

"No!" Naruko protested loudly,"We aren't going back!"

"Are you questioning my skills Sensei?" Sakura's eyes narrowed. It was clear who Sakura sided with in this argument perhaps she felt guilty because Naruko had willingly taken her place and she was getting all the flak from the other two.

"No." Kakashi quickly said,"But draining the poison out can be quite a challenge."

"It's not." Naruko said stubbornly,"I can do it on my own."

I am not some weak helpless girl.
I don't need protecting.
I will never ever freeze up again.

Naruko repeated the mantra over and over again and then with that determination she took one of her kunai and stabbed into the wound.

"Naruko what the hell?" Sakura hissed but Naruko ignored her and looked straight at Sasuke, her profusely bloody hand held up.

"I am not a coward and I am not stupid." Her eyes were strangely glassy, but the fire and determination in them were unquestionable,"I swear I'm never ever going to back down from a fight and I'm not going to freeze up like that ever again. I won't need anybodies protection. So we are continuing the mission and I'll be the one to protect the old man."

For a second the effect of Naruko's fierce declaration had rendered all of her companions speechless but Kakashi recovered quickly enough.

"That's all well and good Naruko." He sighed,"But you just made it worse."

"What he means is that the poison might have drained out but you may die due to blood loss." Sakura clarified.

"I'm going to die?" Naruko shrieked jumping in panic her hand flailing around,"I'm too young! Shit! I'm loosing too much blood. I can't die here! I still need to become Hokage!"

"Tch, idiot."
Nobody noticed the small smile on Sasuke's lips.

AUTHORS NOTE
I know Sakura is totally OoC but the way Kishimoto had written Genin Sakura always bothered me. She had the greatest potential because unlike everybody else in the rookie 9 she had no powers which sadly meant she was useless but she had the greatest chance for growth. I always felt that her ignorance towards Naruto's troubles was because of her absolute devotion to Sasuke and nothing else.

She's still like that but her feelings are directed towards Hinata which is why she can see Instead of Sakura and Naruto's rather abusive relationship that was depicted in the Anime I'll be taking the route where both are actually very good friends as well as protective of each other, kind of like sisters. Bits of the teasing will obviously still be there,

So now Sakura will help Naruko with girly things while Naruko will inspire her to become a better ninja. Sakura won't be a rabid fangirl and she'll be a more balanced person this way. And even though Sakura doesn't have a fancy Kekkai genkai she'll be a lot more level headed.

Oh and Konohamaru has a crush on Naruko. Lol.
Please review and tell me if you like it.

 

 

 

Chapter Text



"Wow!" Naruko exclaimed,"The bridge is huge." 

True to the statement the bridge that loomed over the boat was massive. Bigger than anything that either of the Konoha genin had seen they all looked at the enormous structure with varying degrees of surprise. 

Naruko's excitement was barely contained and there was point where Sasuke had to pull her back by her pigtails just so that she didn't tip the boat by leaning over the edge to touch the bridge. 

"Idiot." Sasuke stated. Naruko simply glared at the boy and brushed his hand away with her bandaged one before continuing to marvel at the bridge. 

When they finally reached wave country Naruko was particularly jumpy as they walked ahead and she was determined to not fall behind Sasuke again. She'd show him that she was a great ninja by taking out then enemy before he could even blink. 

A rustle in the bushes and Naruko reacted by throwing a shuriken with a loud,"Hiyaah!"

She rushed over expecting to see some super tough ninja lying crumbled on the ground but instead there was a bunny paralysed with fear as the shuriken had missed it's head by inches. 

"Naruko!" Sakura scolded,"Stop being so jumpy you're scaring everybody and look what you did to the poor rabbit."

"I'm sorry rabbit." Naruko cradled the small animal in her hands burying her cheek in its fur,"I didn't mean too. You're so cute too and pure white! We only see brown coloured snow rabbits in Konoha."

Kakashi  had already realised the strangeness of the snow rabbit whose fur was pure white. Konoha's climate was suspended almost in an eternal spring and the few times it did snow, rabbits were rarely seen. Spring meant a brown shade of fur for snow rabbits and while Naruko didn't know the meaning of her observation it was currently spring in  the land of waves which meant that the rabbit that Naruko had almost killed was brought here specifically for substitution purposes. 

Sakura on the other hand caught on quickly and was about to open her mouth to point it out when Kakashi yelled.

"Get down!"

Sasuke tackled both the girls to the ground while Kakashi did the same to their client just as a huge sword went spinning by their heads. The sword embedded itself on the tree, the mist around them thickening. 

It obscured their vision as all three genin cautiously rose up kunai in hand, eyes flitting around for the source of the attack.

Sasuke was the was the first to spot the threatening figure amongst the three of them but it was Sakura who pointed at him.

"On the sword!" She exclaimed making Naruko whirl around and throw her kunai instinctively in that direction.

Ha! this was her chance to prove to everyone that she was better than Sasuke.

She wasn't going to lose to him.

The figure dodged her kunai easily, landing on the ground, his sword now back in his hands. The mist cleared and the genin' s finally got a better look at their attacker.

"You must be Hidden Mist's Missing-Nin Momoichi Zabusa." Kakashi announced.

Zabusa looked as daunting as ninjas could be, tall and imposing with corded muscles. Half of his face was covered and it only gave them a glimpse at the deadly glint in his eyes. His dangerous aura made even Sasuke step back instinctively.

"You appear to be Kakashi of the Sharingan." The man announced staring at their Jounin sensei,"Sorry bout the old man is mine."

While Sakura could vaguely remember hearing the word Sharingan somewhere Naruko had no idea what it meant. Sasuke on the other hand was a different story.

"Surround Tazuna-San and protect him." Kakashi commanded,"And do not enter this fight Understand?"

Sakura and Naruko stepped back slowly following the command but Sasuke remained ahead of them almost as if he was frozen.

"Zabusa you will first fight me." Kakashi announced raising his headband up to reveal his other eye.

Sakura shivered involuntarily as the Sharingan first came to view, the three tomoe spinning wildly against the red background.

Naruko on the other hand had her mouth open in a sort of fascination that was typical of the blonde haired kunoichi but it quickly faded as she turned to see Sasuke's expression who'd stilled completely, his face losing all colour.

It was a shock seeing Sasuke like that made Naruko actually think out loud,"What is that eye?"

Sasuke replied without taking his eyes off Kakashi, his voice strangely hollow,"It's said to have the ability to read and defeat most types of ninjutsu, taijutsu and genjutsu."

"But that's not the only thing the Sharingan has." Kakashi said.

"Exactly." Zabusa continued,"It has the ability to copy your opponents techniques once you see them. Kakashi the Sharingan's name is in the bingo book where it's said that he's copied over a thousand jutsus."

Both of the young kunoichi couldn't help but grudgingly admire their sensei who they'd previously labelled as a lazy pervert but Sasuke was still apprehensive.

The Sharingan only appeared in a few select member of the Uchiha clan and for Kakashi to have it....

But that thought quickly faded away as Zabusa leaped all of a sudden. Kakashi was just as fast though and managed to stop him from reaching Tazuna and the three genin who surrounded him.

Zabusa instantly disappeared reappearing on the water performing some sort of jutsu.

The Konoha team was plunged into a deep mist hiding the enemy nin completely from their sight.

Without visibility they were at a severe disadvantage and Sasuke couldn't help but shiver at the sudden drop in temperature.

Suddenly something touched the back of Sasuke's hand and he turned to the side to see Naruko had unconsciously reached for both his and Sakura's hands.

On an ordinary day Sasuke would have snapped at Naruko for being so stupid and letting her guard down so carelessly but he couldn't quite voice his opinion this time.

Somehow Naruko's hand which was wrapped around his, gave him a sort of reassurance that he hadn't known he'd needed.

And yet something in Sasuke sunk even further. Naruko and Sakura's lives were also in danger and his fear was crippling him, preventing him from doing anything just like all those years back.

The mist around them was getting thicker so much so that even Kakashi who stood a few feet away could barely be seen.

"Eight options." Zabusa's voice echoed through the mist and Naruko's grip on his hand tightened,"Liver, lungs, spine, clavical vein, neck, brain, kidneys and heart."

Instinctively Sasuke's hand curled aeound Naruko's holding it just as tightly.

"Which one should I choose?"

The mist became even thicker shrouding Kakashi almost completely from their view filling the air with a dangerous aura that almost made Sasuke's knees buckle.

The Mist Jounin's very presence weighed in the air and even if Sasuke would never admit it to himself Naruko's hand in his was the only thing stopping him from going crazy and turning the kunai he was holding with his free shaky hand towards himself.

He wanted to move, needed to move but he couldn't. He couldn't do anything. Just like all those years back he would fail once again.

Naruko and Sakura would die in front of him and he'd still be just as helpless he was when....

"I will not let my comrades die Sasuke." Kakashi's voice carried through the clearing as if he'd read the Uchiha's thoughts,"I'll protect you guys even if it kills me."

Zabusa's malice was clear in his voice as he replied,"We'll see about that." 

Behind them! 

The genin barely had time to react when Zabusa appeared in the middle of their formation swinging his sword. 

The formation broke and Sakura's hand left Naruko's as Kakashi pushed her onto their client making her tackle him to the ground so that they missed Zabusa's blade. Kakashi caught the handle of Zabusa's blade and Naruko just barely managed to dodge the sharp end, it's edge slicing a few of her long blonde strands. This was enough to jerk Sasuke into action and he pulled Naruko to the ground causing them to roll away from the jounin's fight.

Kakashi was a blur and his fight with Zabusa was nothing short of amazing. By using water clones Kakashi managed to pin kunai to Zabusa's throat so fast that Naruko couldn't even begin to understand what had happened.

But Zabusa was smarter and he caught Kakashi by surprise kicking the genins sensei into the water and trapping him in a spherical water prison.

"Now that I have you in my special water prison I'll take care of them." Zabusa announced creating a water clone.

The water clone leisurely strolled back onto the land away from the real Zabusa next to Kakashi's prison.

"Hehe, you guys aren't good enough to be called ninjas. Just because you have a forehead protector it doesn't make you worthy to become a part of my handbook." The clone gloated.

And then suddenly he disappeared.

Naruko must have barely blinked before a strong kick to her stomach sent her flying back away from the group. Her headband fell off and she coughed spitting out blood onto the ground her vision blurry and her body aching and broken.

"Naruko!" Sakura's panicked voice made her look up and her vision cleared a little. Blonde hair spilled on to her face without the headband as she watched Zabusa clone slowly advancing towards her, the broad sword in his hands.

And Naruko could just stare ahead her fear paralyzing her.

I'm really going to die.

"Idiot get up!" This time it was Sasuke who called to her. He wouldn't reach her in time so he threw the lone kunai in his hand in an attempt to deter the Zabusa clone.

It didn't work and the clone dodged. Sakura was smart though she'd predicted this and thrown her kunai parallely to Sasuke's in an attempt to pin the clone down when he dodged.

If it was perhaps a slower and less experienced ninja the method would have worked but Zabusa batted away both kunai's with ease as if he was swatting a couple of flies.

"NARUKO GET UP!" This time there was nothing composed about Sasuke voice as he yelled at his blonde teammate. He bounded forward knowing there was no use but he had to try.

He couldn't let there be a repeat of what had happened all those years back.

Naruko's eyes focused onto Sasuke and her senses returned making her fall back. She cried out in pain as she fell on her bad hand and with a start she remembered her declaration. 

And then Zabusa made the mistake of stepping on her headband.

Iruka sensei's face flashed in front of Naruko's eyes as he proudly talked about the importance of headband.

I'm a ninja Iruka had said One day you'll wear it and be able to say the same. 

It was her turn to be a ninja.
A ninja like Iruka-sensei.

A brave ninja worthy of the title of Hokage.

Without hesitating Naruko got up running straight towards the clone. Surprised the clone kicked her away on instinct and she went flying back.

Sasuke barely managed to catch her before she hit the tree sending both of them tumbling to the ground once again.

"You idiot." He hissed at the blonde girl hauling her up,"What the hell is wrong with you?" 

She was bloody and bruised, her lip cut and her one eye half shut but she looked determined as ever. The fire in her eyes were unmistakable and just like that moment in Kakashi's bell test Sasuke felt his wits snap back at the sight of Naruko's sheer resilience. 

"I'm a ninja." She said tying her head band proudly and staring Zabusa straight in the eye,"And I will not give up."

Sakura stood up a little straighter unknowingly her confidence returning with Naruko's declaration, her hand no longer shaking as she gripped took out a kunai. Staying alert she made sure Tazuna was behind her. She may not have Sasuke's talent or Naruko's clones but she would protect Tazuna with her life. 

"Hey eyebrow less freak who doesn't even own a shirt." Naruko pointed at the man,"Naruko Uzumaki. Put my name in your stupid bingo book because I'm going to be the First Lady Hokage." 

Sakura nearly face palmed at that but one look at Sasuke and Sakura knew that no matter how idiotically cheesy that entire speech had been it was what both Sasuke and Sakura had needed. Sakura was sure that looking at the blonde's determination even Tazuna wouldn't be able to call her useless.

"RUN AWAY!" Kakashi yelled from inside his prison,"His clones can't follow you far. You have to protect Tazuna-san that's your duty."

Naruko smirk faltered as she turned around to look at Tazuna.

Tazuna simply shrugged,"I'm not going to stop you. Fight as much as you want."

Sasuke smirked stepping forward to stand next to Naruko,"You hear that?"

Naruko smiled,"I did."

"STOP BEING FOOLISH!" Kakashi yelled.

Naruko started,"Sakura-chan I forgot what Kakashi sensei told us on the day of the bell rest. Can you remind me?"

Sakura smiled her grip on the kunai tightening, her stance ready for the upcoming fight,"Gladly. Those who don't follow the rules are trash but those who abandon their teammates are worse than trash."

And that's when Kakashi knew that the team he'd assumed to be a mix of a bunch of misfits who'd never get along were far deadlier than he'd ever imagine.

They were the team his could have been.

"Sasuke I have a plan." Naruko announced. 

The Uchiha would have replied but he was suddenly thrown to the ground one of Zabusa's clones landing a hard kick straight in his stomach. Sasuke spat out blood as the water clones feet pressed into his back. 

"SASUKE!" Sakura screamed and at the same time Naruko yelled,"DON'T TOUCH HIM!"

Naruko's hands quickly formed the seals and about a dozen of her clones materialised. If Zabusa had eyebrows he would have probably raised them at the sheer number of shadow clones the small genin had managed to form. 

Without hesitating the whole army of clones attacked pouncing on the water clone that had subdued Sasuke. One tugged on Sasuke's wrist who rolled out of the way as the Naruko's ensued her barrage. 

Despite the numbers Naruko's clones were no match for Zabusa's clone and one by one they popped until the real Naruko was thrown back. But that was okay she'd already taken advantage of the confusion and put her plan into action. 

Now it was all up to Sasuke. 

Naruko threw the folded demon shuriken at Sasuke who caught it easily. 

"Chopsticks." Was all the explanation she gave him. 

Sakura looked at the pair confused for that moment, chopsticks

Sasuke had understood perfectly though. He smirked and not wasting a moment he'd already unfolded it.

"Evil wind shuriken." He announced,"Shadow Windmill."

And then Sasuke threw it.

Zabusa clone laughed and easily dodged only to find out that Sasuke hadn't aimed it had him.

"Oh you're aiming at the real me?" The real Zabusa stated preparing to dodge,"That's not enough."

He was about to move when his eyes widened as he noticed the second shuriken hiding in the blind spot of the first.

Zabusa jumped up dodging both and his tone was grudgingly impressed as he said,"That's still not enough."

But Sasuke didn't look the least bit fazed in fact he smirked.

And then the shuriken behind Zabusa poofed and a blonde haired kunoichi appeared in it's place aiming the kunai straight at the Missing nin.

This time Zabusa had no choice but to move releasing Kakashi from the water prison as the kunai grazed the side of his cheek. He turned back to the sputtering kunoichi in the water raising his sword to kill the pesky little thing once and for all.

But before he could Kakashi stopped his blow pushing Zabusa back.

"Naruko that was a great plan." He smiled kindly at the kunoichi afloat in the water,"You guys have grown up."

"Hmmph." Zabusa snorted,"I got distracted and released the jutsu."

"No." Kakashi corrected,"You were forced to release the jutsu."

And then the real fight started.

"Get out of the water, now!" Sasuke yelled and instantly she made swam to the shore where he hurled her back on land while the river raged under the mutiple water jutsu's being cast by the skilled jounins.

Naruko spluttered and coughed as Sakura gently patted her back. 

Chopsticks huh, Sakura mused.

It was the same method that Naruko had used when Kakashi had appeared during their bell test and Naruko had ended up throwing her transformed shadow clones at him.

How did Sasuke know instantly though? They were always bickering and fighting and yet their teamwork....

Was perfect.

Sakura's attention shifted back to Kakashi and Zabusa's fight which was truly a marvel to look at. Using the Sharingan their sensei looked almost unbeatable as he copied Zabusa's jutsus and simultaneously put him under a genjutsu.

The fight was over soon enough and just as Kakashi was going to land the decisive blow a storm of senbon caught Zabusa in the throat killing him instantly.

"He's dead." The newcomer announced, the ceramic mask hiding his face from the rest.

Kakashi wordlessly bent down to check Zabusa's pulse and announced,"He really is dead."

"Thank you." The masked figured said,"I've been hunting for him for a long time."

"Who are you?" Naruko shouted pointing at the masked figure. The person sounded only a little older than she did and she couldn't quite wrap her head around how easily the kid behind the mask had killed someone as powerful as Zabusa.

"Relax Naruko." Kakashi said putting a hand on her head,"He's not an enemy. In this world there are ninjas who are younger than you and stronger than me. You just have to accept that."

The hunter nin leaped downwards and grabbed Zabusa's limp body,"The battle is now over. I must dispose of the-"

A kunai flew past Kakashi embedding itself inches away from the hunter nins head who'd deflected it with shocking ease.

"No." It was Sakura who spoke up. Her hands were still up from her stance from when she'd thrown the kunai, her eyes fixed on Zabusa's body,"He's not dead."

Before anyone could react to her claim the masked kid and Zabusa vanished in a swirl of thick mist.

"Shit." said Naruko and then turned to Sakura,"Are you sure?"

Sakura nodded her eyebrows scrunched up and worried," That spot on his neck where he hit him is not a vital spot but rather it paralyses the body for a few moments. The pulse may become so faint that it's almost impossible to detect. I couldn't recognise it from so far which is why it took me so long to figure it out."

"Kakashi sensei we have to go-"

But before Naruko could finish Kakashi's knees buckled under him and he fell to the ground causing the two genin kunoichi to cry out.

"Sharingan overuse." He managed to rasp out before passing out completely.

__________

The fact that Zabusa was alive and Kakashi was bedridden hung over all three genin miserably when they ate dinner at Tazuna's house later that evening.

Sakura probably felt the worse for she was the only one who'd been pretty much useless through out the entire fight against Zabusa and had even failed to recognise that he was alive until it was too late.

Naruko obviously had tried to reassure her constantly saying that now that Zabusa had been weakened they'd definitely get him, her bravado fueled by her success earlier.

Sasuke was quiet for his part (no surprises there) but it was clear that he seemed troubled as he kept glancing at the closed door behind which Kakashi lay.

When Kakashi came to he confirmed Sakura's claims.

"We have to be prepared for another attack." Kakashi stated,"Naruko, Sasuke your teamwork was excellent.Sakura thank you helping me. You did well protecting Tazuna-san."

Sakura knew that Kakashi was giving her a concession prize more than anything else but she'd have to accept it.

Next time she'd do better.
She owed that much to her team.

"I'm going to give you all extra training." Kakashi declared,"So that the next time we meet the mist nin you'll be better prepared."

Naruko blinked highly unimpressed the next day when she found out what their extra training was.

Climbing trees.

The whole night Naruko had imagined what it could have been from learning a new jutsu to Kakashi teaching them how to get their very own sharin-thingy.

But it was climbing trees.

"Seriously?" Even Sasuke sounded kind of disgusted while Sakura looked ahead in plain disbelief.

"Controlling your chakra at the soles of your feet is highly challenging." Kakashi stated,"If you can master this then you can use other techniques far better and with much more accuracy without draining too much chakra."

"Cool. This will be easy." Naruko declared bracing herself while Sasuke smirked.

The both of them ran towards the tree Naruko choosing the taller one to prove that she was better than Sasuke.

However she barely took two steps up before she fell down rather ungracefully. Sasuke didnt really fair better and he managed to take around four steps before he too came crashing to the ground.

Both got up, enrage and disbelief sketched on to their faces and when they tried again they faired only marginally better.

Sakura on the other hand just stood there staring at her teammates, Her mouth open. 

"Sakura aren't you going to join them?" Kakashi prodded.

"Are you freaking kidding me?" She deadpanned.

Inner Sakura's words had slipped through Sakura's mouth and if this had been a few days ago she'd have immediately covered her mouth but today she didn't care.

She'd spent the entire night agonising over if she'd actually be able to keep up with the rigorous training and if she'd be able to prove to everybody that she too belonged on the team.

And all of that tossing and turning had been for the most basic of chakra control exercises that even ten year olds aspiring to become medics could do.

This was just insulting.

Without another word brushed past both her struggling teammates climbing up the tree without even blinking. She even hopped for a few feet for dramatic effect and once she reached a branch that was high enough to make everybody look at her wide eyed and shocked she took out a kunai and balanced it's tip on her little finger and then turned her hand upside down so the weapon dangled from her finger with only it's tip touching her skin.

You show 'em, Shannaro! Inner Sakura whooped.

The kunai dangling had been a risk because it was an extremely high level technique that even Sakura had been struggling for the past few days. In fact this was the first time she actually managed to pull it off.

"WOHOOO YOU GO SAKURA-CHAN!" Naruko cheered from down below. Sasuke on the other hand stared at her with an expression that was as close to disbelief as he could get.

In fact he tried climbing up again almost expecting to magically be able to do it this time but he fell down after a couple of steps.

Sakura climbed down her hands on her hips. She stopped in front of their sensei.

"You've done well Sakura." Kakashi acknowledged,"Your chakra control is flawless. Nothing less to be expected from an aspiring medic. I can't teach you anymore."

"No." Sakura corrected,"You can."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow.

"A new jutsu perhaps?" She hoped wide eyed ,"Both Naruko and Sasuke have their signature jutsu's but I have none. I- I come from a civilian background and I-"

She stammered towards the end looking down. It had taken all her courage to admit her weakness in front of her teammates and actually ask for help accepting her spot as the weakest amongst their team.

Kakashi stared at her thoughtfully for a moment and then nodded,"Very well Sakura. For today accompany Tazuna-san around the village and tomorrow I'll think of a new jutsu for you as a reward for excelling in your chakra control training. Meanwhile you two need to perfect this tree climbing exercise."

"YAAAS!" Sakura pumped her fist in the air and Kakashi let out a faint smile as Naruko bounded forward to whine about how it was totally not fair and how jealous she was of the pink haired kunoichi.

He'd been surprised how forthcoming Sakura had been with him and he had no doubt that it was the inevitable effect of having Naruko on the same team as her.

Naruko wasn't a typical kunoichi and seeing how tirelessly she worked to achieve her dream even when she failed constantly inspired the other two almost unconsciously.

In a span of few months Sakura had gone from love sick teenager to a kunoichi who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Her determination to not be a burden to her team and catch up with them was clear and she'd started the process by accepting that she was weaker than Naruko and miles behind Sasuke and had to work really to catch up.

But the most important thing was she'd decided to start now.

Kakashi knew she was at a disadvantage, her chakra reserves were nowhere near Sasuke's large reserves and Naruko's amount of chakra was in par with ungodly amount that all Uzumaki's possessed.

But if Sakura started now she'd surely catch up with her teammates in no time with her high intelligence, flawless chakra control and her new found determination inspired by her teammates.

__________________

In the next two days the entire team was improving slowly and surely.

Sakura was given the task of protecting Tazuna and simultaneously work on her stamina by trying to lift up heavy material at construction site and run around the length of the bridge one hundred times.

She'd been disappointed at first but Kakashi had told her point blankly that she was weak with no muscle which is why she lagged behind Sasuke and Naruko in almost all physical aspects.

After she came back he did though go over some basic genjutsu exercises with her to measure her affinity for making illusions.

She was a genjutsu type and she conquered the weak genjutsu he'd used on her during the bell test in two seconds flat during one of his exercises.

It was a testament to how far she'd come as well as her natural affinity towards making and breaking genjutsu.

Since Kakashi relied heavily on his Sharingan for genjutsu he made a vow to himself that after strengthening her basics he'd request Kurenai or Anko to help her excel furthur in the field.

Naruko and Sasuke on the other hand were struggling with controlling their chakra.

Both their chakras were wildly violent and taming them was no easy task. The Uchiha's had always struggled with chakra control for their shraringan required them to focus chakras in an entirely different way and Sasuke was no exception.

Naruto's chakra on the other hand was clearly disrupted by the presence of the nine tails and controlling it would be a matter of will more than technique and Naruko had plenty of the former.

She'd asked for Sakura's help of course while Sasuke had remained aloof his pride not allowing him to accept advice.

In the end of the day though he buckled and asked Sakura for help directly, unable to bare seeing Naruko catching up to him at an alarming pace.

Kakashi wondered if he'd have been able to do the same when he was a kid and he concluded no.

He supposed this was yet another effect of Naruko's presence in the team.

Without even trying she had the ability to drag the lone Uchiha out if his own world in a way that he was forced to leave behind his highly rigid beliefs.

During the night in Tazuna's house both Naruko and Sakura would engage in a highly emphatic conversation about things both Sasuke and Kakashi couldn't even begin to understand but it would always end with Naruko passing a snide comment on Sasuke, Sasuke retorting back and Naruko proceeding to leap at Sasuke to fight him.

At the end of the night they'd be pulled apart and get a sound lecture from Sakura side about behaving in front of their clients. While Naruko didn't look genuinely apologetic she'd still stop and Sasuke would just stalk away silently.

"Sakura-Chan! Kakashi-sensei!" Naruko waved as they both appeared in the clearing after one of Sakura's more trying genjutsu training. She was improving faster than he'd expected and Kakashi was almost proud to see her determination.

"Look I can climb half way up the tree now!" Naruko exclaimed as she started running up the tree.

Naruko reached halfway and dangled upside down from the high branch grinning and waving at the both of them below.

And then Naruko's concentration slipped. 

Her foot came free from the branch and she was falling to the ground, head first arms flailing while all Sakura could do was watch horrified. 

A quick flash of blue and black with the rustling of fabric Sasuke ran up the tree and jumped off the side and caught Naruko, his one arm underneath her knees while the other supporting her back and landed perfectly on the ground. 

For a moment all Team seven could do was gape at Sasuke, Naruko in his arms staring at him wide eyed. Sakura frankly thought it was cute and she'd love to be in the same position with Hinata-kun but that all faded away as Sasuke abruptly dropped Naruko with his signature,"Tch, idiot."

She landed with a thump glaring at Sasuke and Sakura made no attempt to hide her giggles. 

Naruko rubbed her back and glared at the Uchiha from her position on the ground,"Bastard." 

And despite all the insults they proceeded to throw back and forth with Sakura jumping in to moderate every few seconds there was something about watching the three of them bicker that made Kakashi smile widely underneath his mask.
________________________

Note:
Don't worry Inari will appear soon enough. I'm really enjoying writing this new Sakura and I feel like she's developing well. I mean imagine her potential if Kakashi had actually trained her well.

I feel terrible now that Naruto isn't a girl in canon because Naruko is an absolute delight to write because she can be portrayed as far more real this way with actual vulnerabilities than this happy go lucky boy who can show no real emotions.

Honestly I enjoy writing Sasuke and Naruko together and I've inevitibly put a few more moments to develope their relationship in the next chapter.

Chapter Text

When Sasuke and Naruko finally returned from their training that day the rest were halfway through dinner.

 

Sasuke entered with Naruko sprawled on his back, her arms loosely around his neck, seemingly fast asleep on his shoulder. 

 

If Sakura wasn't so surprised she'd have almost teased Sasuke about giving Naruko a piggy back ride home because she'd half expected the raven haired Uchiha to leave Naruko there. 

 

"She passed out while climbing up." Sasuke said. He looked dead tired as he grumbled and Sakura didn't point out that Sasuke looked just as bad, it was probably only his pride that kept him standing. 

 

"That's a pity." Kakashi said,"There was ramen for dinner."

 

"Ramen!" Naruko jerked awake so fast that it caused Sasuke to lose his balance and the both of them fell on the floor. 

 

"Idiot!" He groaned from the floor. 

 

 Naruko didn't care though she was wide awake now and shot up making a beeline for the food. Sasuke followed clearly not in the best of moods but once he saw the food his usual ingrained Uchiha manners were left behind as he attacked the food with as much vigor as Naruko. 

 

Naruko finished three bowls before she remembered how to breathe and Sasuke was on his fourth.  

 

Within minutes they finished and both of them groaned and clutching their stomach while Sakura who'd barely managed to clean off one bowl even with all her extra training sighed. 

 

"Both of you should know better than to eat that fast. You'll get sick."

 

"But Sakura-chan!" Naruko whined,"I'm so hungry and tired. You made walking on trees look so easy but it's really really hard."

 

"Hn." That was all the agreement Sasuke was going to give. 

 

Sakura beamed. Being acknowledged for something by the both of them had renewed sense of purpose. Her insecurities were still there but they were becoming less significant by the day. She was a part of the team. 

 

"I'll see if I can make something to help you both digest the food." Sakura announced getting up from her seat still beaming over Naruko's comment.

 

"Sakura-chan you're the best!" Naruko grinned,"We'll train even harder tomorrow."

 

"What's the point?"

 

Tazuna's grandson who had just entered was the one who'd spoken. For the majority of the genin’s stay in Tazuna's house the young boy hadn't really interacted with them seemingly avoiding them.

 

Sakura would never say it out loud but to her Inari seemed like a miniature version of Sasuke, always sulking around the house quietly. 

 

Naruko on the other hand had actually said it out loud the other day to Sasuke's face and it had lead to another one of their immature fights.  

 

Sakura thought the younger boy would say more but instead he turned on his heels and marched out of the room without saying anything more.

 

"Does this have something to do with the torn picture on the wall?" Sakura asked.

 

Tazuna sighed and recounted the tale of Inari's brave step father who'd been a symbol of courage for their land but when Gatou put him to death it had broken the spirit of everybody on the small island and turned young Inari cynical and jaded. 

 

Sakura had the strangest urge to cry by the end of the tale but the rest of her teammates didn't seem all too moved with it.

 

Sasuke being the heartless bastard he was hadn't even looked up from his food and it almost looked like he had't even heard the story much less get effected by it. Kakashi's lone eye was unreadable as usual.Sakura supposed the both of them were the perfect embodiment of ninjas who were not supposed to show any emotion. 

 

Naruko on the other hand was looking down. For a second Sakura thought Naruko had fallen asleep but the blonde girl suddenly stood up her hair flying about.

 

She turned around abruptly, stumbling towards the door. Limping and clearly exhausted Naruko determinedly took a step forward but halted when Sakura called out. 

 

"Naruko what are you doing?"

 

Naruko turned towards them her face dirty, scratched and bruised with heavy bags under her eyes. Her legs were shaking as if they could barely support her weight but the fire in those blue eyes shone so brightly that Sakura thought that she'd perhaps never seen Naruko stronger.

 

"I'm going to prove that real heroes do exist."

 

Sakura stared at her teammate with admiration. Her tenacity was bullheaded and stupid, yes, but at the same time it was inspiring. Perhaps Sakura would have gotten up determinedly and joined her too but in the very next moment Naruko's legs abruptly gave out beneath her.

 

Kakashi was the one who caught her before her head hit the floor holding her by the collar of her bright orange tracksuit. 

 

Sasuke simply sighed looking at his unconcious teammate,"Idiot."

 

But the hint of grudging admiration in his tone and the somewhat awestruck look on Sakura's face was not missed by their sensei.

___________________ 

Sasuke was shook awake a good three hours before dawn. 

 

"Sakura?" He squinted at the pink haired girl who stood over him,"What-"

 

"Naruko's not here." Sakura stated,"I got up to go to the bathroom and I saw her missing. I was wondering if you knew where she was."

 

Sasuke rolled over pulling the blanket,"I don't really care." 

 

Sakura jabbed him in the back and it took all his self control not to throw a kunai at her. 

 

"What?" He hissed. 

 

"I'm worried." She persisted,"She may have fainted again or fallen asleep out on her own completely defenceless. She may be a ninja but you know how she's like when she's asleep. The world would probably end and she'd still be snoring."

 

Sasuke simply grunted in response not bothering to open his eyes again.  

 

Sakura let out a long sigh,"Yeah you're right. Naruko will be fine despite all those long hours of training. I mean she'd almost drained all her chakra so much so that you had to carry her back, but she'll be fine." 

 

With that Sakura settled back onto her futon closing her eyes. 

 

Sasuke on the other hand was now wide awake. 

 

The possibility of Naruko going out to train after dinner was a high one and the possibility of her falling asleep or fainting half way through was even higher. 

 

How idiotic could she be? 

 

Naruko had been completely drained of chakra so how did she even have the energy to get up? 

 

Sasuke stood up abruptly. 

 

He wasn't going to check up on her, he reasoned to himself as he walked out of the room, he was going just to make sure that Naruko didn't catch up to him. He had a reputation to uphold after all and there was no way he'd let the blonde idiot beat him.

 

Meanwhile Sakura in her spot on the futon smiled. 

 

Boys are so simple, inner Sakura croned. 

 

The real Sakura had to agree. 

_______________________

 

True to Sakura's suspicions he found Naruko fast asleep on the forest floor.

 

It wasn't dawn yet and the air was chilly which is why the small blonde ninja was curled up in a ball in the ground as if she was trying to keep herself warm. 

 

What an idiot

 

Sasuke was about to nudge her awake with his foot but he stopped halfway through his mother's voice echoing in his head,"Sasu-chan, remember you must always treat girls with respect." 

 

In Sasuke's defence there was no way Naruko could really be classified as a girl. She was loud, obnoxious, a complete and total idiot with not even a sliver of common sense and that was just the beginning.

 

Honestly sometimes Sasuke found it difficult to comprehend how someone could be that much of a pain. 

 

Treat with respect? As if

 

But none the less he bent down to shake her roughly awake,"Idiot wake up."

 

She didn't.

 

Obviously, Sakura hadn't being exaggerating when she'd said that Naruko could sleep through anything. 

 

Sasuke didn't know why he'd expected otherwise. 

 

Next he tried pulling on her hair, honestly those ridiculously long twintails she wore were a disaster waiting to happen but reasoning with her would be just stupid on Sasuke's part. 

 

And Uchihas didn't do stupid things.  

 

"Wake up." He tugged on her hair. 

 

This time Naruko stirred. 

 

"Stop it." She whined batting his hand away. She was still clearly asleep as she murmured,"Stop picking on me. Stop-I didn't choose this! Please I'm not a monster. Don't hate me, please."

 

"Idi-"  

 

"Please." She cried and then went still. 

 

And for the longest time Sasuke stood there looking down at her almost as if he was frozen. 

 

Sasu-chan, remember you must always treat girls with respect.

 

And then he bent down laying his palm on her shoulder gently trying to shake her so she would wake. 

 

"Naruko wake up." 

 

Nothing.

 

"Naruko wake up." This time he was firmer.

 

All he managed to was make her turn a little so he got a clear view of her face. She was asleep but unconsciously chewing on the ends of one of her ponytails dreamily murmuring,"Raaaaammeeeen." 

 

He almost laughed. One moment she was crying out and the next she was chewing on her hair.

 

This girl was just weird, he decided, just plain weird. 

 

He then bent down closer to her and said,"I'm going to finish the last bowl of ramen."  

 

"RAMEN!" Naruko shot up so fast that she collided with Sasuke their foreheads bashing with each other. 

 

"Oww you bastard." She whined rubbing the sore spot on her head while simultaneously looking around,"Where's the ramen?" 

 

She abruptly stopped when her eyes fell onto one of the most horrific scenes she'd ever seen her in life. 

 

Sasuke laughing. 

Sasuke actually laughing. 

Laughing out loud

 

Not smirking in that infuriatingly condescending way he always did whenever he looked at Naruko but a genuine to god laugh. It wasn't overly loud or silent but something so utterly natural that Naruko actually rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn't having some weird nightmare. 

 

But when she opened her eyes he was still there and he was still shaking his head and laughing at the absurdity of her actions. 

 

And that's when Naruko's horror turned into fascination for Naruko in all her eyes in the Academy had never truly seen Sasuke laugh. It was quiet and restrained all at once barely a laugh for most people but it somehow seemed fitting on Sasuke almost like he'd forgotten to act as the grumpy jerk with a stick up his ass for a few moments. Curiosity got the better of her and Naruko leaned forward until her face was just inches away from his to try to figure out if he was real to not.

 

The Uchiha abruptly stopped laughing looking at the blonde girl who was just inches away from him peering up at him with her large blue eyes. 

 

"What are-" 

 

And then with her pointer finger she poked him in the forehead.  

 

For a few tense moments nothing happened and then suddenly Sasuke shoved Naruko away so hard that she hit the ground rather painfully. 

 

"What the hell bastard?" She yelled as the Uchiha suddenly got up turning away from her, his hands clenching into fists.

 

"I was just checking to see if you were real because you were acting so weird." She said struggling to get up. 

 

He barely paid attention to her reasoning because that gesture had reminded him of something..... no someone and it had harshly brought him back to reality. 

 

What had he been doing?

Laughing at what? Why?

How could he get so utterly diverted?

 

What was wrong with him? 

He was an avenger before everything else. 

 

An avenger. 

 

 Maybe next time Sasuke. 

Foolish brother....

I have someone I want to kill.

 

He angrily rubbed the spot on his forehead as he marched away from the clearing leaving behind the blonde haired kunoichi yelling a string of curses to his back.

 

And from his spot behind a particularly large tree Haku silently stood and watched the entire exchange. 

 

__________

 

For the next couple of days the tension between Sasuke and Naruko could be cut through with a dull kunai. 

 

Neither talked to each other, Sasuke ignored everybody completely and there was a fierce aura of determination and anger around him that scared Sakura. 

 

Naruko on the other hand was plain annoyed. She glared at Sasuke even more than usual and refused to utter a word to the bastard even if it was to call him bastard. 

 

They'd practice and come back for dinner and an awkward silence would ensue filled with deathly glares from Naruko's part and utter indifference from Sasuke's. 

 

Naruko had developed a habit of sneaking out at night to train and since Sasuke didn't seem to care anymore which is why Sakura was forced to drag a half conscious Naruko back a few hours before dawn every day.

 

In short the team was a mess.

 

"We have to do something about them, Kakashi sensei." Sakura reasoned during their next genjutsu training session. She was getting pretty good at making genjutsu's and breaking them was also getting easier because Inner Sakura always seemed to know whether it was an illusion or not. 

 

"They'll have to sort it out on their own." Kakashi answered,"For now concentrate on your training." 

 

Kakashi's genjutsus had been pretty docile up till now but he was slowly ramping up the level.

 

He was mainly focusing on her strengthening her defense against genjutsu during their short training sessions after her stamina building exercises. 

 

They both did it on the bridge itself so that Kakashi and Sakura could keep a close eye on Tazuna whilst completing her training.

 

Sakura had high chunnin level chakra control but her stamina and amount of chakra was what primarily held her back. Not only did she had a dismal amount compared to the monsters that her teammates were but also being a civilian she barely had genin level chakra. She was slowly but surely building up her reserves but it was a clear handicap.  

 

Her main talent in genjutsu lay in breaking them rather than making them although she wasn't half bad in the latter either. He was still to test the fill limits of her natural flair in genjutsu though. 

 

He raised his headband revealing the Sharingan. Kakashi's talent in genjutsu relied heavily on the Sharingan, as a kid he'd always favoured using ninjutsu and taijutsu. Now with the Uchiha's bloodlimit he could cast genjutsu's that could fool even skilled ninjas like Zabusa. 

 

"Okay Sakura." Kakashi said,"This time I'm going to give you a tougher genjutsu." 

 

Sakura looked at his lone red eye wearily, she'd been there when he'd demonstrated the capability of the eye. 

 

She nodded,"I'm ready."

 

Sakura's progress in the past week had been spectacular when it came to genin level genjutsu. She could cast the basic ones almost flawlessly and breaking out of them had become laughably quick which is why Kakashi had started seeing if she could display the same level of skill when it came to the tougher chunin genjutsu techniques. 

 

Using the Sharingan to cast the genjutsu would add another level of difficulty. It wouldn't quite be the high jounin level type he'd used to defeat Zabusa but it would be rather hard for a genin to break. In fact even Sasuke would have had a hard time breaking it without a Sharingan.

 

Sakura stared at her sensei determined getting ready for the genjutsu, anytime now-

 

"Sakura-chan!" Naruko's loud voice called out bounding on to the half completed bridge,"The bastard was pissing me off so I decided to take a break and see how you were doing." 

 

"Oh." She tried not to bristle at Naruko's pathetic timing,"Kakashi sensei's showing me his Sharingan." 

 

They turned to look at the white haired man who'd covered up his Sharingan staring keenly at the orange book that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. He looked up for a moment and said,"Yo." Before turning his attention back to his book.

 

"Oooh." Naruko chattered excitedly,"That's so cool."

 

Wrong, wrong. Inner muttered her black and white eyebrows scrunched together in anxious confusion. 

 

And that's when Sakura realised that she was no longer seeing Inner Sakura in her head but actually as a figure standing next to Naruko. She was still outlined in black and white a stark contrast to the colourful background but she was standing against.

 

Inner Sakura looked at her firmly,"This is a genjutsu."

 

Then Inner turned and leaped at Kakashi.

 

The entire world took a violent one eighty and suddenly Sakura found herself on her knees panting, Naruko no longer there.

 

Kakashi looked at pink haired kunoichi with disbelief. She'd not released the genjutsu by disturbing her chakra flow but had somehow torn the entire illusion apart and tried to turn it back on Kakashi. 

 

If Kakashi had been a lesser ninja he'd have fallen for Sakura’s attack but with the Sharingan and his natural abilities as an elite jounin he'd managed to evade it. 

 

That black and white figure...

Kakashi should have had full control over that particular genjutsu and yet Sakura had managed to inject something entirely her own something into that should have been purely his illusion. 

 

"Sakura what was that?" Kakashi asked. 

 

The twelve year old girl looked at him confused,"What do you mean?"

 

"That black and white figure she-"

 

"You saw her?" Sakura asked wide eyed,"I always thought she was just a figment of my imagination."

 

"Your imagination?"

 

"Yeah.." Sakura trailed of looking down at her feet,"As a kid I used to get bullied a lot and I was too timid and docile to fight back. So Inner Sakura became kind of like the part of me that was all brave and strong and wasn't afraid of doing what she wanted. She's like another version of me that exists in my head." 

 

Another soul? Kakashi asked to himself, Is that what Sakura had?

 

Each team had been divided carefully making sure that each of the genin team had a particularly specialty despite whatever was told to them.

 

Kurenai's team had clearly been formed for tracking, a Hyuuga, Aburame and Inzuka all three clams whose speciality lay in hunting down their enemy. 

 

Asuma's team was formed of the the tried and tested Ino-Shika-Cho combination whose forte had always been in interrogation and planning. 

 

Even the other teams had had some sort of pattern but Team Seven....

 

Kakashi had found it odd. 

 

Sasuke and Naruto had been assigned to him because he was perhaps the only jounin capable of handling the sharingan user and a jinchiruki housing the most powerful of the tailed beasts.

 

But Sakura..

Sakura had been a weird choice. 

 

She was intelligent definitely, perhaps even enough to rival the Nara boy on some level but other than that her reports had been average. 

 

Her chakra control had been good even back then, enough to place her in the medic team but instead she'd been placed in the most volatile squad of the lot. 

 

Kakashi had always thought it was because he'd have his hands full with the other two that Sakura was given to him to be simply ignored. By the way it seemed despite being intelligent she was a civilian and her career as a ninja would perhaps only last till genin at most. 

 

But now looking at her he realised that perhaps the pink haired kunoichi might have been underestimated entirely and there was a lot more to her than meets the eye. 

 

Shit what kind of team had he gotten?

 

____________________

 

"Ow-ow- Sakura-chan it hurts!" 

 

"Naruko stop whining." Sakura scolded,"I told you that your ankle was in a bad state yet you refused to rest. Trees will always be there to climb." 

 

"But I have to get stronger I can't let the bastard beat-ow!"  

 

Sakura sighed and got up making her way towards Sasuke.

 

"What?" He asked rudely. 

 

"Your hands." Sakura demanded,"If you don't let me clean the scrapes you'll get an infection." 

 

"I'm fine." Sasuke insisted. 

 

"Bastard Sakura-chan is trying to help you." Naruko spoke threateningly getting up "Stop being such-" 

 

Her bad leg gave away and she fell down howling. 

 

"Naruko I told you to shut up and sit. Sasuke where the hell do you think you're going?" Sakura yelled and then yanked Sasuke back glaring at him. 

 

"Sakura let me-" he hissed as she dabbed an alcohol soaked cloth to his scratched up hands. 

 

"Haha what a baby!" Naruko pointed and laughed. 

 

Sasuke poisonously glared at her and Naruko gave him an equally dirty look in response.

 

Originally they would have probably bickered for a few moments before Sakura settling down but seeing them barely being able to look at each other set her on edge. This was not how her team was supposed to be.

 

"ENOUGH THE BOTH OF YOU!" Sakura shouted banging her hand on the table standing up in order to break the unbearable loud silence,"I don't know what's been going on with you with I swear if you don't stop this instant I'll kill the both of you SHANNARO!" 

 

Neither said a word. 

 

"You've been acting like crazy people working yourselves to death. Sasuke you ranked number one in class so naturally I thought you'd be smarter. Do you not remember rule seventeen of the ninja handbook?"

 

Sasuke just blinked at her. 

To be perfectly honest he'd never even opened the ninja rule book finding the entire matter unnecessary. He'd always answered the questions whichever way he'd wanted to and most of them he'd gotten right. 

 

"And Naruko." Sakura continued turning her glare towards the blonde girl who'd shrunk back. 

 

"I don't understand where your crazy amount of stamina comes from but at least Sasuke has the common sense to rest at night. Every night you go out to practice again and I have to drag you back before dawn when you're half conscious or sleeping in the middle of the forest. Crazy stamina or not you will kill yourself like this." 

 

"But Sakura-chan-"

 

She narrowed her eyes,"What?"

 

Kakashi would have laughed at Sakura's very motherly outburst but to be perfectly honest he was to busy hiding behind his orange book hoping that she wouldn't notice him and decide he was her next target.

 

"I have to try my hardest!" Naruko exclaimed,"I won't lose to this jerk and I certainly won't let anything happen to Tazuna-san. The bastard maybe better at this than me and I have to work harder but you will see I'll get-"

 

"Why do you try so hard?" Inari had entered and interrupted Naruko's monologue causing the entirety of Team Seven to turn their gaze at the small boy.

 

Of course, Inner Sakura groaned, mini Sasuke had to make a dramatic appearance now of all times. 

 

"No matter how hard you train you're still no match for Gatou's men! In the end you'll just killed." 

 

Nobody responded except for Naruko who huffed," I'm not like you." 

 

"I'D HATE TO BE LIKE YOU!" The little boy shouted angry tears dotting his eyes,"YOU'RE IGNORANT YET YOU'RE BEING SO NOSY. YOU'RE ALWAYS JOKING AROUND AND ACTING CHEERFUL LIKE YOU'RE A LITTLE KID WHO DOESN'T KNOW WHAT A HARD LIFE IS! SO STO-" 

 

Naruko slammed her fist on the table,"How do you expect your life to get better if you keep on crying and feeling sorry for your self? You're nothing more than a sissy and a-" 

 

"Naruko enough." Kakashi's voice was quiet but the warning in his tone was clear.

 

Naruko looked absolutely furious, an expression Sakura had never seen her wear. Sure she'd seen Naruko angry but Sakura had never seen the seemingly carefree girl this mad. The fury in her blue eyes was a living thing and the fact that Kakashi could hold her gaze without flinching away was a testament to his skills.

 

For a few tense moments nobody moved and silence prevailed all around them as Inari cowered crying in a corner.

 

"Fine whatever I'm leaving." Naruko looked away and limped out of the door her hair whipping behind her. 

 

"Naruko don't-" Sakura started to follow her but Kakashi shook his head stopping her.

 

“Give her time, she’ll be alright.”

 

While Kakashi’s words sounded reassuring Sakura wasn’t entirely convinced. She glanced over at Sasuke for help but stopped short when she saw the look on his face.

 

Sasuke was staring-no glaring at Inari who was still sobbing. The look on his face was of pure disgust clearly brought about by the young boys words. It had clearly risen out in defence of his blonde teammate and it was potent enough to silence Inari immediately when he looked over.

 

Sasuke held the young boy’s gaze for a few moments before he shook his head and got up. He caught Sakura staring at him who quickly looked away almost feeling embarrassed to have caught Sasuke's eye.

 

And while Sasuke didn't say anything Naruko's defence or go after her Sakura realised that maybe her team was far more put together than she’d previously thought.

________

 

That day Sakura was too tired to wake up in the middle of the night to even notice that Naruko hadn’t come back. Whatever weird genjutsu trick she’d used today had really knocked her out for good.

 

Sasuke on the other hand had noticed the blonde’s absence. Much to his irritation it had taken a fair degree of self control to actually stop himself from getting up in the middle of night to check if his teammate was still alive or as he tried to convince himself that she’d not somehow managed to beat him.

 

Although he didn’t go immediately choosing to sleep for a while longer for he didn’t have the seemingly endless energy Naruko had he still got several hours before his usual time choosing to skip breakfast. He convinced himself that it was purely because he wanted to get a few extra hours of training in and not because he was the tiniest bit concerned.

 

After all he couldn't afford to be concerned.

 

Naruko on the other hand to nobodies surprise had fallen asleep beneath her tree by dawn. She’d made a lot of progress, her anger had driven her even if she was puzzled as to why exactly she was this furious.

 

Seeing Inari act like that had reminded Naruko of herself before, the time in her life where she was always angry, always sad and drowning in self pity. It had taken a lot for her to become the person she was now and focus completely on her goal but sometimes happy, determined Naruko reverted back to her insecure lonely version and Inari’s words had really taken a toll on that part of her.

 

Eventually her anger had given away to utter exhaustion and she’d dropped to the grass fast asleep. She may have had a crazy amount of stamina but she was barely sleeping nowadays and running on the bare minimum amount of chakra.

 

She didn’t even notice the boy with long hair who stood behind the tree watching her the entire time.

 

Haku contemplated whether to wake up the girl or not. He’d seen her every morning in this clearing whenever he came to collect medicinal herbs but by now her pink haired friend should have come to pick her up.

 

Despite his better judgement Haku waited for the friend who must have been running late, standing like a guard for the blonde girl. When it became clear that she wasn’t coming Haku hesitate for a moment before deciding to wake her up. He was well aware that coming into contact with a girl who was Zabusa’s enemy and by extension his wasn’t very smart but he’d grown strangely attached to the girl he’d seen almost every day for the past week, tirelessly striving to climb the same tree.

 

No matter how many times she fell she’d always get back up repeating the progress again and again with perseverance that left even Haku amazed.

 

Perhaps it was seeing her with the pink haired girl or the grumpy black haired boy that left Haku wondering whether if things had been different he would have been like them too and would have had a group of friends, teammates, who cared and protected eachother in their own way.

 

Haku gently tried to shake the blonde girl awake. At first she didn’t wake completely, murmuring,”Five more minutes Sakura-chan.” Before turning around and curling up into a tighter ball.

 

Haku smiled and shook the girl awake more vigorously. Sleeping in the forest unguarded was highly dangerous regardless of how good of a shinobi one was. The girl moaned finally opening her eyes and looking at him blearily.

 

"You're not Sakura-chan." Naruko blinked up at him and then suddenly shot up peering at the Haku,"You're very pretty." 

 

Haku almost blushed. The girl’s eyes were almost impossibly blue, like a cloudless sky where the sun never stopped shining. 

 

"What are you doing here?” Haku asked.

 

The girl beamed proudly,”I’m training.”

 

Haku feigned ignorance,”Are you perhaps a ninja?”

 

The girls eyes went wider than before. It really was breathtaking, in the land of the mist sunshine and bright blue skies were a rare thing and seeing it up so close made Haku wonder if his village was truly missing out on something utterly vital by blocking out the sun with dreary skies and thick mists.

 

“Yes!” She replied excitedly,”I am! I look like one don’t I?”

 

She then pointed to her headband proudly,”I’m a ninja from the village of the hidden leaf and I’m training to become stronger.”

 

“You already seem plenty strong to me.”

 

“Really?” She asked absolutely ecstatic,”I do? Thank you Onee-chan. But I want to become even stronger.”

 

“Why?” Haku asked utterly puzzled by the girl’s unfaltering determination.

 

“I want to become the strongest ninja.” She said,”I want to prove my worth to others and show them that I am a true kunoichi of Konoha, believe it!”

 

Haku looked at Naruko thoughtfully,“I think you become stronger when you have someone to protect.”

 

Naruko nodded remembering how Iruka had taken the giant shuriken to save her. He’d been bloody, pale and shaky yet to Naruko he’d never seemed stronger.

 

“Is there anyone you’d like to protect?” Haku asked softly his thoughts flitting to the time when Zabusa found him.

 

“Iruka sensei!” Naruko answered almost immediately.

 

Perhaps if this question was asked to Naruko a few months ago her response would have ended there. She’d never had enough things to actually have the need to protect but now she had a friend who went shopping for new shoes with her, a sensei who might be a total pervert but would still lay his life on the life for him and a jackass teammate who drove her forward.

 

So she continued,"And I'd like to protect Sakura-chan too. Even Kakashi sensei but he can take care of himself. "

 

Then with some reluctance she added,"And I guess I'll have to add the stupid Uchiha. That's only because I need him to live long enough to see that I become Hokage so he can eat all of his arrogant stupid words." 

 

"Well then it sounds like you’re even stronger than you think.”

 

She beamed,”Maybe I am.”

 

Haku nodded getting up, this girl would make a worthy opponent,”Let us meet again in another place.”

 

Naruko nodded enthusiastically,”I hope we do Onee-chan!”

 

Haku stopped and turned around,”I’m a boy.”

 

And with that he left, walking past Sasuke who’d finally arrived eyeing Haku suspiciously for only a moment before turning his gaze at a stunned Naruko.

________________________

 

"I'm sorry okay?" Naruko yelled out suddenly.

 

They were both currently lying side by side on the grass after what must have been their billionth failed attempt to climb the tree. Chakra control was a hard earned talent and both Sasuke and Naruko undoubtedly sucked at it compared to their pink haired teammate.

 

They were breathing heavily lying on the ground as they stared up at the seemingly unscalable trees when Naruko suddenly burst out with an apology.

 

"I don't know why you're acting like more like a bastard than usual but for whatever I've done I'm sorry!" She said red faced but quickly turned away hoping that he hadn't seen her expression. 

 

Naruko had to swallow every inch of her pride to force the apology out and perhaps if she'd not been a girl who'd had to learn the importance of humility the hard way she'd have kept her mouth shut.

 

But her conversation with the extremely pretty boy had really made her think abut what was important. Thee likelihood of coming face to face with Zabusa was high and right now none of them could afford fracturing their team dynamics. Sure she didn't like Sasuke's guts and thought that he was a massive jerk but no matter how much she tried to convince herself Sasuke was talented.

 

Of course not as talented as her but where Naruko had to work tirelessly for he had talent that came naturally.

 

Although Naruko would have given up eating ramen before admitting that she'd secretly admired Sasuke's skills as a shinobi ever since she was a little kid there was no denying it that he was everything she wanted to be. Smart, popular and naturally talented, everybody liked him while Naruko had been ignored and hated by an entire village for all her life. She'd wished to be like him, Sasuke was everything Naruko wanted to be, everything she worked tirelessly to achieve but somehow she always fell short.

 

Naruko shook her head and turned back to Sasuke who hadn’t responded to her apology.

 

"Reply you jerk. Honestly if anything you should be the one who should be apologising for being such a-" 

 

"Naruko." Sasuke cut her off abruptly,"Shut up." 

 

Perhaps if Naruko hadn't been looking at Sasuke she'd have taken his words in the literal sense and leaped up to pick a fight with him but looking at him, she realised that he didn't want her apology. 

 

Because at that moment Sasuke looked so utterly defeated that all of Naruko’s insults died in her throat. He looked up at the tree with a sort of helplessness in his eyes that was so uncharacteristic that once again Naruko had the strangest urge to poke him to see if he was real. Remembering his violent reaction to the same last time Naruko wisely chose not to instead choosing to remain quiet.

 

Perhaps it was because Naruko was stunned into silence, that for a moment Sasuke forgot that she was there which is probably why he didn't quickly wipe the vulnerability off his face like he normally would have. At that point his goals seemed so far away from him that it was almost overwhelmingly difficult for him to even get up. Just how many times more would he have to get up to repeat the entire process just to be met with disappointment?

 

And that's what made Naruko incredibly angry.

Because the Sasuke she'd secretly looked up to, the Sasuke she'd made it her goal to beat, the one that inspired her to be better had given up just like that.

 

"Fine." She huffed getting up,"If you want to be a wuss and watch me as I beat you to the top then be my guest." 

 

Sasuke didn't respond. 

 

Naruko turned around towards the tree determinedly curling her hand to form a fist.

 

I will show Sasuke that I can surpass him. 

I will show him that no matter how many times I fall, no matter how many people tell me that I can’t do it, I will never give up.

 

I will become Hokage.

I will protect my dream and my team till the very end and never give up.

 

I’ll prove everybody wrong, Believe it. 

 

And then Naruko started running. She zoomed past Sasuke her blonde hair trailing behind her. Her leg was aching but she paid no attention to it charging forward with a single minded determination. She reached her highest mark and…

 

Zoomed right past it.

 

One step became two then three and so on as she continued upwards.

 

Maybe I can reach the top Naruko thought excitedly but the very next moment her leg slipped a little and Naruko knew she'd pushed herself to the limit which is why she took her kunai out and left a mark on the tree as she started descending. The pain in her ankle flared up and she barely managed to land properly stumbling on her feet in front of Sasuke.

 

The Uchiha stared at the panting blonde girl shocked. Naruko had been a good fifteen feet below him but in one swoop she’d caught up to him making their progress more or less equal now.

 

"So? Ready to admit that you're going to lose yet bastard?" Her breathing was shallow and she was barely managing to hold herself upright but the blue fire in her eyes burned hotter than any Katon he'd ever created. In an instant Sasuke had gotten up staring back at her with equal determination.

 

Suddenly things didn't seem do hopeless anymore. His far off goals, his sense of utter failure everytime he thought about how he wasn't even close to his revenge were shoved to the corner of his mind replaced by a new sense of determination to rise up to the blonde girl's challenge.

 

Right now his goal wasn't to become stronger so he could one day kill his brother, but to become stronger so that he could win against the girl with the fiery blue eyes by making it to the top of the tree.

 

"You wish idiot." Sasuke replied with a smirk,"I'll be the first one on top."

 

Naruto returned his challenge with her own smirk,“It’s on jerk.”

 

And just like that they were alright. They were back to being the jerk Uchiha and idiotic Uzumaki who are always competing with each other to become better. 

 

They were back to being teammates.

 

And then they started running.

 

They were neck to neck, for every one large leap Naruko took Sasuke took two quick steps, dodging the branches rushing past the numerous kunai marks that represented their progress. With each passing second they climbed higher and higher surpassing yet another mark, yet another engraving on the tree that documented their handwork through the week until there were no more marks to cross anymore.

 

They raced past their final markings climbing higher and higher pushing themselves to the very limit until...

Until they reached the top.

 

For a moment they stood in stunned silence looking at each other, Naruko's sunny blue eyes clashing against Sasuke's dark onyx gaze.

 

"We did it!" Naruto breathed harshly as if she was having trouble believing it. Her arms and legs had snaked around the tip of the trunk and she rested her cheek on the wood. She was breathing heavily as if she couldn't get enough air but at that moment nothing mattered to her.

 

She'd done it dattebayo!

 

Sasuke stared ahead strangely exhilarated. He was a far way off from his revenge but for now this was enough. For now he'd achieved exactly what he'd wanted. 

For now he'd become stronger on his own terms.

 

"We did it Sasuke!"  Naruko exclaimed excitedly taking her kunai and embedding it on the branch,"We made it to the top!"

 

Sasuke couldn't help but give her a triumphant smile back, meeting her gaze once again."Aa. We did."

 

They'd reached the top, together.

 

____________________

AUTHORS NOTE

 

I'll admit it I'm not the happiest with the writing of this chapter but eh, it's important. I always felt that Naruko and Sasuke's relationship wasn't really developed enough for them to become so close all of a sudden for Sasuke to almost die for Naruto. The thing with this book is that I want to do all of the characters justice and instead of making them extremely overpowered shinobi I want to develop their relationships as well.

Which is why I suppose everyone is a bit OOC but I genuinely feel like that as a girl Naruko would have more tact than Naruto would for her ego would be toned down several notches. Sasuke on the other hand I want to make him seem less like an ice cube and more like a person who can laugh and smile at times but doesn't let himself do it because he feels guilty. And Sakura I want her to be strong and independent but also like in the canon I want her to care for her team above all else.

I truly hope I'll be able to do justice to them because Kishi has written a fantastic story with fantastic characters even though he cheated out on their development at times.

I hope you like it and I can't wait for the fight next chapter so please tell me what you think. It really helps me to write.