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An hour after leaving Shizune's room Naruto and Tsunade stood in the training field once again. "Whenever you're ready," Tsunade said as she climbed into the tree next to her so she could watch from a safer vantage point.
Naruto nodded. "Yeah." The chakra glowed around him again. It reached the same height as before, only this time it stayed stable for a little longer before Naruto stopped. A very small pulse escaped his body, but nothing Tsunade needed to worry about.
Tsunade smiled. "Much better.... Again!"
Sakura sat on the front steps of her home. She was lost in thought. Sasuke had warmed up to her considerably since Naruto brought him back to the Leaf, but he still wouldn't respond to her advances. "What if he never accepts me?" she thought in despair. She put her head in her arms in sadness.
"Sakura-san?" said a familiar male voice.
Sakura looked up to see Rock Lee looking down at her with a concerned face. "Hi, Lee-kun."
"Are you okay?"
"Nothing you can help with," Sakura said as she wiped away the tears she hadn't realized were there.
Lee frowned. He knew exactly what was bothering her. "Damn you, Sasuke. Why must you make my goddess cry?" He suddenly felt the need to do at least something. He put a firm, yet loving, hand on Sakura's shoulder. "Sakura-san. Wait here. I'll be right back!" he said as he disappeared.
Sakura stared at the spot he had previously occupied in confusion. "What the....?"
Lee jumped from rooftop to rooftop, looking for his quarry. "Even if this hurts me, I must help her." he thought with determination.
Sasuke kicked the tree for the fiftieth time. Each time his inspiration for the kick alternated between Orochimaru and Itachi's faces. The tree was beginning to groan under the strain as the base became thinner and thinner with each kick. Suddenly, there was a green blur and his kick was stopped in mid-air.
"Uchiha Sasuke. I must speak with you," Lee said with a glare as he dropped Sasuke's foot.
Sasuke glared back. Not because Lee was glaring, but because his training was interrupted. "What is it, Rock? I don't have time for this."
"It's about Sakura-san."
Sasuke sighed and lowered his head. "Fine...talk."
"Do you know she loves you?" Lee asked.
"Of course I do. And she told me as much before I left," Sasuke said as he sat down with his back against the tree.
"Why do you push her away then? Do you understand how lucky you are to have such a wonderful girl want you?" Lee lowered his eyes. "I only wish I was that lucky," he said sadly.
Sasuke sighed in frustration. "You want the truth? I don't want anyone right now. Until I kill Itachi, a relationship just wouldn't be worth it, because I don't care if I die fighting him. And besides that...I could never see her that way. She's just a good friend. But if I tell her that, it will kill her."
"She needs to know the truth," Lee said firmly.
Sasuke shook his head. "I think right now it's best if she thinks she still has a chance with me, until she finds someone else. It's less painful that way."
"So...you don't mind if I pursue her then?" Lee asked carefully.
Sasuke smirked ruefully. "Do as you like."
A bush behind the two boys rustled. Just as they looked behind them a splash of pink disappeared through the trees. They looked at each other. "Sakura..." they said in unison before running off after her.
"Sakura! " Sasuke called.
"Sakura-san! Stop!" Lee yelled. "Damn it. She's already got a four-second head start! Which way did she go?" he thought as he turned his head in different directions, looking for her.
Sakura ignored the stinging of the whip-like branches as they made red marks across her face. She couldn't think. She just had to get away.
"Sakura-san, please!" Lee yelled with desperation while fumbled with his leg warmers as he ran, trying to get them off so he could remove his weights.
Sakura could hear nothing but the pounding of the blood in her veins. "Stupid. I'm so STUPID!" she screamed inside her mind.
Lee got sick of wasting time. He took out his kunai and sliced off both his legwarmers and his weights, cutting his bodysuit and scratching his skin in the process.
Sasuke had to shield his eyes from the dirt and debris that Lee kicked up as he ran at top speed. "Good luck, Lee," Sasuke thought as he halted his pursuit.
Sakura's head start had only delayed the inevitable. Lee saw her to his right. "There!" he thought. He caught up to her and grabbed her wrist.
"LET ME GO!" Sakura screamed at the black-haired ninja.
"Sakura! Please, calm down!" Lee begged as he grabbed the other wrist to keep her from flailing her arms.
"Leave me alone!" the pink-haired kunoichi raged.
"Please!" Lee said as he lowered his gaze. "I don't want you to hurt yourself!"