A blade is masked by a sheath,
the stars are hidden at first dawn.
A butterfly is born from a caterpillar,
and fire will explode from a bomb.
Something different is hidden inside.
Uzumaki Naruto cackled wildly after successfully transforming into something that was definitely not Iruka-sensei. The rest of the class was either shouting at him, laughing, or still asleep.
"Why, you," Iruka-sensei growled at the boy. He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them and glared at Naruto. "Maybe Sakura can show you how to do a proper transformation," he ground out through clenched teeth.
After a nod from Iruka-sensei, a small girl with dirty pink hair pulled back into a low ponytail walked to the front. She transformed into the class's sensei without a word.
"That is how you transform!" the teacher exclaimed in exasperation to Naruto. He wasn't listening, and Iruka-sensei hauled him back to his desk. The girl named Haruno Sakura shared a shy smile with Hyūga Hinata.
A day later, Sakura walked into the Academy examination room.
"You did well on the written part, Sakura. For the last part of your exam, I need you to make two clones." The chūnin who was sitting next to Iruka-sensei smiled at her. She stared at them, surprised. That was it?
They didn't look like they were joking, so Sakura formed the seals for the clone jutsu. She steeled herself against the horrible drain of chakra and the rush of lightheadedness and nausea. Once that was over, two perfect clones stood next to her.
"Good job, you've graduated." Iruka grinned at her.
"Thank you, sensei," she replied quietly. She bowed to him and took the blue hitai-ate he handed to her, but she knew her test wasn't over yet.
Sakura walked out of the classroom and crossed the academy grounds over to her uncle, who was waiting near the other parents. She stopped in front of him and bowed again.
"Sakura," Uncle Shin said coldly. "It seems that idiot Iruka thinks you can act like a true shinobi instead of just a brat playing ninja. I will decide for myself."
Sakura cleared her face of any emotion. Her uncle turned and strode back towards the Haruno training yard.
When they reached their home, Uncle Shin's test was as brutal as Sakura had expected. Each time she blocked one of his hits two more were behind it, twice as fast and twice as unyielding. For hours, he tested her physical strength, jutsu, and reflexes.
"Weak," he sneered at her collapsed form long after the moon had risen. "You aren't worthy of the title of shinobi, nor of that headband you earned." He turned his back on Sakura and walked towards the Haruno house. Sakura gritted her teeth.
"Uncle, wait, I-"
Shin turned back to stare at her small body trembling, trying to stand in a defensive position. He smirked and grabbed a handful of rocks from the potted plant on the deck of his house.
He started tossing them at the pink-haired brat before him. She dodged the first few, and then Shin began to throw them with more force and accuracy. His aim wasn't perfect because of the spar earlier, but it was good enough for now.
One small stone hit the brat's shoulder. She flinched with enough force to make her fall to her knees again. Shin used another to knock the new hitai-ate off her head with a crack. Perhaps that would make her understand.
She fell backward and lay there, motionless. Shin sighed and walked toward her. "Sakura, can't you see it? All your enemy needs is a handful of rocks to defeat you." He shook his head. "You're pitiful. A failure doesn't deserve to wear the leaf of Konoha."
Shin used his foot to grind her headband into the ground, then he laughed. "You're lucky. At least you'll know that you're weak and useless before you go get yourself killed on a mission you weren't ready for, like your parents. My brother," he spat. Shin turned his back on the trembling girl, heading inside to clean up before his next mission started.
Sakura reached for the hitai-ate now half-buried in the yard, but it was still too far away.
She closed her eyes. Tears ran down her cheeks, mixing with the dirt and blood and leaving behind trails of mud on her face.
She should've expected this.