Sakura fiddles with the hem of her red cheongsam as she stares wide-eyed at the dog sitting in front of her.
Ninken, her mind supplies immediately recalling the needed memories, Kakashi-sensei called this one Pakkun last time.
She gulps, feeling uncomfortable with the awkward silence hanging in the air. Since she was a little kid, she's never really been good at confronting people, always too polite and shy to go out of her comfort zone. It's obviously turning into a problem now, one which she has to resolve as soon as possible, or Tsunade-sama might have her head further down her apprenticeship.
"If you want to be a medic-nin, then you must confront people—no second-guesses and takebacks."
Ironically, exactly those words of advice are the reason she's in this awkward predicament in the first place. Since Naruto's departure and the beginning of her tutelage under the Godaime Hokage, Sakura's been conflicted about the other remaining member of Team Seven. Hatake Kakashi has never really been invested in her training as he has been in the boys' training regime but even if that left a bitter taste in her mouth, she couldn't blame him. It's not like she herself has been any more invested in her own training.
("Sasuke-kun! Don't you like my hair? It's gotten really long.")
She scoffs at that memory and shakes her head.
Despite all that, he was still her teacher and she does hold a great deal of respect for him, she still feels bitter—so Sakura decided to track him down and ask him if he plans to dissolve Team 7 just like that without bidding her goodbye. She might not be his favorite student or that likable in his opinion but a goodbye shouldn't be too much, right? Even Sasuke had said his farewells and she knows she’s built an undeniable distance between them through her childish and rude behavior.
She eventually manages to get his address from Gai-sensei when she stumbles upon Tenten in the midst of her search and after she arrives, the ninken greet her at the door, almost as if they are expecting her appearance.
"Um… is Kakashi-sensei available?"
"He isn't at home right now, pup."
There's a faint trace of familiar chakra in the apartment, no residue or anything, she loses track of it the second she feels it.
Ah, she thinks to herself, that's a clear sign, isn't it?
"Then… do inform him please that I dropped by… and that I'll stop by another time."
She probably won't.
The dog nods at her and she waves her hand before turning around. Tsunade-shishou is probably waiting for her.
It takes her one step to understand it. Haruno Sakura walks up the tree without any problems, as if it was as easy as breathing.
She looks at her teacher and he's staring at the boys.
She wonders—would he have paid her any attention if she was better, more focused?
Sakura blinks, confused before recognition fills her. Taking in the familiar chakra signature, she side-steps to let an Anbu through. The one with the turtle mask nods at her, a quick and short sign of gratitude before he leaves the tower, his cloak fluttering behind him. She hums, curiosity building up as she walks the stairs up to her master's office for her daily lessons.
Anbu are everywhere in Konoha and that's common knowledge. Also logical, really. They keep a lookout for their surroundings and report unusual sightings or help anyone in trouble whilst rotating their positions every few hours.
It's not all that strange to see Anbu in and about the village, helping civilians with carrying heavy bags or bringing lost children back home—well, the more social ones at least. Those are also the ones whose chakra signatures Sakura usually could recognize. It's also not that strange to feel watched sometimes, a quick glance at the back of one's head. When Sakura manages to locate one of the more sociable ones, though, they make their presence known through spiking their chakra before their presence becomes invisible again. It's more of a reassurance, after all, all shinobi are paranoid.
So, yes, Anbu are not uncommon. That said, their presence was more or less unimportant to Sakura until she became Tsunade's apprentice. As the Hokage, Anbu flank around her, in view or out of view, always making sure her safety is secure. The daunting realization for Sakura is that she's now constantly being watched when in Tsunade's presence. Every single mistake she makes in a lesson, every time Tsunade absolutely floors the ground with her—it's all under observation. The more logical part of her understands, that those people could care less about her or her progress. The insecure part though bears the shame on her back and prays that she'll improve as soon as possible.
It's why the feeling of awkwardness settles in the pit of her stomach when she stumbles upon Kame. He's one of the Anbu members who spend a lot of time watching over the Hokage. It's also why his chakra signature is so familiar. On a few rare occasions, he made himself known through spiking his chakra and Sakura's keen memory only needed one instance to save it in the archive of her mind, forever engraved in there.
Besides, it's not the first time she's come across Kame. For some reason, he exited the tower by simply waking it down when he lacked a task. She's also seen him in the market streets near her parents' house helping civilians with some tasks. It's difficult to forget his chakra signature too—scorched wood with hints of spices.
She has yet to find out who the shinobi behind the turtle mask is, although it's not for a lack of curiosity from her side or trying. It certainly wouldn't be the first time, considering she knows a few Anbu without their mask simply by deduction and remembering their chakra signature. Of course, she has never walked up to one of them and revealed her knowledge (and she sure as hell isn't planning to do so anytime soon). Her finding out wouldn't count as treason (whilst Anbu are sworn to secrecy about their identity, those rules do not extend to people who find out by chance) but it surely wouldn't be taken with appreciation and would probably be considered as sniffling into a business she shouldn't due to the amount of Anbu whose identity she's deduced at this point. Which might get her into trouble and Sakura wants to avoid that.
Well, she is sniffling into a business she shouldn't, after all.
Kame is a bit difficult to track down in the village and despite being one of Tsunade's more common guards, he's gone a lot of times, indicating he's probably highly requested and sent on missions as shinobi. Now, that leaves the question as to what exactly could require his services that much.
Shaking her head gently, Sakura opens the door to her mentor's office and ignores her budding curiosity about the Anbu. It has become a little game to her at this point. Probably because it's so ridiculously easy to actually find out. A swear on secrecy and porcelain masks seemed to be the only true obstacle to stop people from finding out. And maybe, also the fact that most people don't want to know and don't like anything associated with Anbu—which is slightly confusing to her but she pushes it back with a simple; ”Maybe I'll get it when I have some more experience." For the moment, that is.
(Later, Sakura learns to understand that finding out highly-trained shinobi's true identities really shouldn't be a task considered as a "simple game".)
Tsunade lies the files down with a tired sigh.
“Shizune,” she mutters, leaning back into her chair, “bring me some sake.”
Genin Haruno Sakura was able to effectively break out of Genin Yamanaka Ino’s shintenshin.
“Tsunade-sama? Is something wrong?”
She groans burying her hands in her face.
“Where’s the damn sake?!”
Yamanaka Inochi requests an examination.
What a troublesome apprentice she has found herself.