Sakura barely restrained from rolling her eyes at the obvious statement. The fact that her ass had gone numb two hours into the four that they had been sitting in the stuffy classroom had made her usual bubbly attitude deteriorate to more closely reflect Inner's brash sarcasm.
The rattle of the door made her head snap up. The sight of the blond teetering on a footstool made her groan internally.
"What're you doing, Naruto?!" she snapped.
She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Sasuke had glanced over as well to see what the idiot was up to.
"It'll be his fault because he's late," snickered Naruto from his precarious position.
She tried in vain to ignore Inner's maniacal laughter when she noticed that he had, in usual Naruto fashion, decided to wedge one of the chalkboard erasers in between the door and the frame in an clearly juvenile attempt at pranking their jonin sensei when he finally decided to show up.
I like this punk! Serves the asshole right for making us wait all this damn time! Crowed Inner with a fist-pump.
"Jeeze, you're really asking for it," she signed.
Naruto had, for better or worse, developed a reputation for having no regard for higher authority and a ridiculously convenient ability to avoid getting caught when pulling pranks. She was positive Kami-sama's favor would wear out eventually.
"A jonin wouldn't get caught in a such a week booby trap," Sasuke scoffed.
She nearly gave herself whiplash when she snapped her head back around to her other teammate, her long pink hair slapping her cheek in the process. So he's finally decided socialize now, has he? She thought with a faint eye twitch.
The Uchiha had spent his time scowling out the window and apparently trying to test if he could incinerate squirrels with the ferocity of his glare. Though she knew his clan was notorious for its katon jutsu she was unsurprised when his attempts proved unsuccessful and the bushy tailed creatures continued to chase each other around the courtyard.
She tried to contain her satisfaction at his failure, given that he was the Top Rookie and obviously the most desirable teammate out of their graduating class, but he had never giving more than a disinterested hn at her attempts to draw him into conversation since the room had emptied.
However… Sasuke did have a valid point. Jonin were the strongest shinobi their village had to offer. It was inconceivable that someone with years of experience would fall for such child's pla-
Sakura's train of thought was brought to a screeching halt by the sight of a silver head poking through the doorway, surrounded by a small halo of… caulk dust?
Naruto was crouched on the ground, choking on his own laughter while the man, who she assumed to be their all powerful and all knowing sensei, stared incredulously at the eraser on the floor that had dared add white filth to his already ridiculous hair.
What the hell…? She was almost positive Sasuke was wearing the same slack-jawed, horrified expression she was. Not only did they make an absolutely phenomenal first impression, but it was massively comforting to know that the man that was tasked with training them to be competent ninja was fooled by a student barely out of the academy.
And dead last to boot, she thought appalled.
"S-sumimasen, sensei," she stuttered. "We tried to stop him, but Naruto did it anyway…"
The tall jonin dusted the chalk out of his hair and gazed contemplatively at the three of them. Even with the majority of his face covered by his mask and hitaiate, the tired dropping of his visible eye gave her the sneaking suspicion they didn't come anywhere close to meeting his standards.
"Ah, how can I put this?" He sighed. "As for my first impression of you guys…? Well, I hate you."
Shit, sometimes I hate being right.
That was fun, Sakura thought sarcastically as she sank into the bath that evening. The steaming water helped ease the tension in her shoulders that had developed when Kakashi-sensei announced their "mission" for the next day. Sakura leaned her head back against the edge of tub and exhaled slowly.
She had worked hard, dammit, to pass the academy and it left a bitter taste in her mouth to consider being shipped back.
Not that she was disillusioned to the possibility that her current team was destined to become anything greater than a shit-show. The combination of Sasuke, with his determination to step out of his older brother's long shadow, Naruto, with his dreams of Hokageship, and Kakashi's… whatever the hell his non-answers meant, was bound to get them all killed on their first mission out past the village gates.
You've got room to talk, snorted Inner. You've spent the past how many years trailing after that Uchiha brat? Like a goddamn lost puppy.
Sakura sighed and stared down at the tiny ripples on the water's surface.
Inner wasn't wrong. Although she had the highest written scores of their year, that was mostly due to her innate desire to learn and retain information. Her overall marks were not helped by her decision to follow the rest of the sheep in their competition for the romantic attention of her dark haired classmate.
In addition to being the second son of a major clan, Sasuke was one of the most advanced students in terms of taijutsu and ninjutsu and thus considered to be the eligible bachelor of their year. It also didn't hurt that the Uchiha were known for having pretty genes.
So when Kakashi-sensei asked them about their dreams and hobbies she had let lingering silences and faint squeaks eloquently spell out where her brain had been focused.
Ah yes, because twelve year olds should be vying for the privilege of being Mrs. Uchiha, Inner sneered. Please save your sorry excuses for someone who doesn't share your brain cells.
Alright, fine! I should have been putting in more effort into practicing my katas than painting my nails. I get it! Does that satisfy you now that I've admitted my failings?!
Marginally. Inner said with a smug grin.
I'm a reflection of your subconscious - what that hell does that make you? Inner replied sweetly.
Since Sakura was now in the privacy of the her home, she didn't suppress her eyeroll as she pulled the bath plug and grabbed her plush towel off its rack. So her priorities had been a bit screwed up the past few years… that didn't mean she wasn't serious in her quest to become a respectable kunoichi. She'd just have to make up for lost time by any means necessary. She nodded confidently to herself as she pulled on her pajamas.
Yeah, I'll survive sensei's survival exercise tomorrow, cement my position on Team Seven, and then focus on improving my skills.
She flopped down into her bed with a contented hum. How sadistic could the silver-haired man really be?
. _ . _ . _ .
The answer: very.
But now that she thought about it, she was almost certain Kakashi's 'never really thought about my future dream' and 'I have many hobbies' was some sort of secret code meaning 'I have a perverse desire to drive all three of my students to the mental hospital by then end of week so I can go back to doing missions without pre-pubescent leeches hanging off me'.
The good news was she was now five hundred percent more confident in Kakashi-sensei's ability to mold them into competent ninja. The sheer speed, skill, and intelligence he displayed earlier that day made it clear that he was deserving of his title of jonin and the fact that he had done it almost entirely without looking up from his trashy novel had only added to her awe.
The bad news was that she had somehow managed to spend the majority of the duration of the 'survival test' either hiding in the bushes or unconscious.
Even Naruto had shown promise in his ability to at least attempt formulate a plan of attack. And his capability of producing numerous shadow clones certainly seemed to impress Kakashi-sensei. Sasuke had nearly been successful in getting ahold of the damnable bells, not to mention his Katon: Fireball Jutsu had caused a visible expression of shock to cross their sensei's masked face.
Kami-sama help me, she prayed. I'm eternally gratefully to not have to repeat the academy, but at this rate, they'll be lugging my dead body home in a storage scroll if I can't get my shit together.
She leaned back against her bedroom door and groaned as she melted into a useless puddle on the floor. While Kakashi-sensei's test hadn't been physically demanding - at least for her - it had definitely been mentally taxing.
Although she had already started to reevaluate if her childhood obsession with Sasuke had truly been the result of her own desires or provoked by herd mentality, she had still been horrified at the illusion that she was foolish enough to get captured in. And while she knew, retrospectively, that it had not been Sasuke's decapitated head asking for her assistance, the earlier genjutsu-induced trauma had apparently proved too much for her delicate mental state, once again.
Not to mention Kakashi-sensei had them arrive at the training grounds a full three hours before he even bothered to show up. And had instructed them to skip breakfast.
Sakura had the fleeting concern that their jonin sensei had at one time been a member of the Torture & Interrogation Force. The man was certainly capable of making people question their sanity. She shook her head sharply. Now was not the time to be pondering Kakashi-sensei's sadistic nature. There was work to be done.
She dragged herself back to her feet, shed her sweat soaked red dress, and pulled on a long pink sweater over her black undershorts. With a quick splash of water over her face to wake her up, she grabbed her notebook and pen and ran down the stairs. Sakura swiped a granola bar and an apple out of the pantry while yanking on her blue sandals. Calling a hasty goodbye to her mother, she hurried out the front door.
The thick cotton of her sweater was heavy under the still-scorching summer sun, but it was a welcome comfort when she arrived at her destination a few blocks over. Sakura breathed in the sweet smell of ink and paper as she gratefully stepped into the air condition foyer of the shinobi library. While she had already devoured nearly the entirety of the academy library, and a good portion of the civilian one on the other side of town, she had been restricted from visiting this building until she graduated the academy and received her hitaiate.
Sakura hesitantly approached the suspicious chunin at the circulation desk. She noticed he wore his hitaiate on a bandana instead of the usual headband and that his right eye was completely covered by his thick dark hair. Seems like that would impede his peripheral vision… but I guess Sensei would have the same problem and he's still perfectly capable of kicking ass…
She jumped slightly at the man's brisk tone.
"H-haruno Sakura," she managed to stammer out.
Great, now we're regressing in speech as well as skill, muttered Inner.
She stood a little straighter when the chunin's eye swept her from head to toe. Though she was wearing mostly civilian clothing, she had kept her kunai pouch strapped to her outer thigh and her headband holding back her hair.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I've never seen you around kid, you fresh out of the academy?" He asked.
"Yes," she nodded. "I just graduated yesterday."
The ninja's eyebrow inched even higher on his forehead and he cocked his head to the side.
"Ya know… we don't get many kids in the library on their first week as a genin, much less on their second day."
His visible eye narrowed suddenly. "Who's your jonin-sensei?"
"Hatake Kakashi," Sakura answered stiffly. She didn't appreciate her bookworm status being pointed out so bluntly.
The still un-introduced chunin rocked back in his chair with a wide eye.
"Hatake? Shit kid…" he trailed off and rubbed the back of his head. The creasing of his brow further supported her fear that the gods had not been kind in their decision to deal out the porn-reading ninja as her sensei. Her resolute expression must have made clear that she had no intention of further defending her choice to study in a library while the rest of her team was probably still out enjoying the afternoon, because the brunette finally grumbled and after some shuffling handed her a clipboard to sign in on.
"Just make sure you put the books back on the re-shelving carts. And since you're still a genin, you'll be restricted to the first floor. All books with blue spines are able to be checked out of the library but the rest have to stay in the building."
He eyed her skeptically. "You're limited to ten books or scrolls checked out at one time, so make your selections wisely," he said.
"Hai, thank you Shinobi-san," she replied with a short bow.
His lips finally twitched upward to resemble anything other than a frown. "The name's Kamizuki. Kamizuki Izumo."
Sakura blushed. "Thank you, Kamizuki-san."
"No problem kid," he chuckled and waved his hand toward the west side of the building. "You're probably best off starting on that side - it has the beginner's section and the material gets progressively harder as you move clockwise."
She gave another polite bow and started off toward the end he had gestured to.
. _ . _ . _ .
Izumo flicked his eyes up to acknowledge his partner as Kotetsu strolled in shortly after the pinkette had settled herself at one of the study tables.
"Who's the kid?" The spiky haired chunin asked as he leaned against the counter of the circulation desk, pausing to idly flip through the check-in list. He didn't need to specify which one - she was the only other person in the building besides the pair. Everyone else was out enjoying one of the last pleasant days of summer left in the year.
"Haruno Sakura," Izumo replied. "Fresh out the academy. And one the three brats to have unfortunate pleasure of somehow managing to not fail Hatake's secret test."
"What?!" Kotetsu gasped. "That jackass finally passed a team?!"
Izumo chuckled. "Apparently." He grinned wickedly. "There's gonna be a riot when word gets around HQ. Wonder if we should start a pool on how long it take the kiddies to go crying back to Umino?"
Kotetsu scratched at the bandage on his nose and swiveled to stare at the young girl on the other side of the building. She had her hands buried in her hair as she leaned her elbows on either side of a scroll and appeared to be muttering hand signs under her breath as she struggled to cram the contents into her brain. The air of grim concentration that radiated from her tiny form made him wince in sympathy.
"Definite 'yes' to the pool. Poor kid, he's already making her life miserable."
. _ . _ . _ .
An amused cough made her glance up from scribbling notes. She blinked a few time to clear her burry vision and could finally make out Izumo's smirking face. She furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to ask what he needed- her head snapped up to glance at the clock over his shoulder and her eyes widened in horror when she realized that it was now ten minutes until closing time.
"S-sumimasen, Kamizuki-san! I lost track of time reading and I-," she was cut off by his chuckles.
"Relax kid, I just haven't seen anyone this studious in years." He laughed. "Why don't you choose your ten to take home and I'll help you move the rest of this pile to the carts, huh?" He asked, gesturing to the mountain of texts that was making the table grown in protest. She blushed and murmured her thanks as she quickly began to collect her notes and selected sources.
Sakura saw the chunin pause as he picked up a few of the texts that were scattered across the worn surface of the desk.
"Advanced Genjutsu and Applications for Everyday Combat, Simple Techniques for Delivering a Swift and Merciful Death, Strategy: The Key to Besting Your Opponents - shit kid, you're not one for light reading are you?" He asked incredulously.
She twirled her pen between her fingers and shifted the books in her arms. "Ah, well, you see Kamizuki-san, I picked the first book because Kakashi-sensei caught me in a genjutsu during an exercise today." She admitted glancing down at the table. "I wanted to get a theoretical understanding of the technique he used to try and avoid others like it in the future. The second I grabbed because I figured it would have valid points for ending fights quickly, which would be really helpful because my taijutsu sucks. And the third one is because, well… I'm a paper ninja." She bit out with a quick glance up at the man in front of her.
When the skeptical look on Izumo's face didn't falter, she elaborated.
"I've always been good at using my head to win my battles and figured I'd continue to strengthen my best asset. I don't want to let down my team…" she trailed off. Or get myself killed. "The rest," she said waving to the pile, "are an assortment of chakra exercises and low-level jutsu that I thought might come in handy on potential future missions."
Izumo slowly shook his head in exasperation. "Sakura-chan…" He sighed and started again. "I know you're not going to believe me, but the fact your taking the time to put in the effort to improve yourself so soon after a set back is a strong indication that you are nowhere near letting your team down. Just try and take some time to chill and relax, m'kay? If you keep up this pace you'll have read every damn book and scroll we have by the end of the year." He joked. Sakura smiled and nodded her head in agreement and thanked Izumo for his patience before bowing and hurrying out into the night.
As the door to the library closed behind her, the smile slid off her face to be replaced once again by a creased brow.
Kamizuki-san was kind to give words of encouragement…
Psh, that doesn't mean we can afford to slack off, Inner reminded her.
I know, she thought with a grimace. She didn't have time to waste relaxing.
While Iruka-sensei had always praised her written work and even seemed to indicate her scores were the best in the last half-decade, it didn't compensate for her dismal taijutsu and unimpressive chakra reserves, nor for her underwhelming performance during that morning's training with Team Seven.
Not to mention she was from a civilian family.
It wasn't as if she was ashamed of her parents per say, but it certainly made becoming a kunoichi all the more difficult. If she hadn't taken advantage of the academy library or her sensei's after-hours practice exercises, she would have been done for. No one at home would be able help her with the skills she needed to be successful in her chosen career path.
Sakura scowled down a the dust her sandals were kicking up.
She didn't have decades of training, breeding, or specialized techniques to rely upon. She was not a member of an established clan like the Yamanaka, Nara, or Aburame. Nor was she in possession of a powerful kekkei genkai like the Hyūga Byakugan or Uchiha Sharingan.
But Sakura also swore to never let her parent's loving support for their only child be squandered. So she read. She practiced. She took advantage of every opportunity to succeed, but dammit if she hadn't fallen short in her own expectations by fawning over Sasuke and neglecting to push herself to achieve the absolute best. To be the absolute best.
That's all water under the bridge, so unless you plan on jumping off and putting us both out of this misery, I suggest you suck it up and stop moping.
The pinkette's lips twitch upward into a grin at Inner's scathing criticism and her steps quickened as she approached the warm light of home.