• “Three hundred ninety six! Three hundred ninety seven! Three hundred ninety eight! If I can not finish kicking this log five hundred times, its is one thousand squats!”

    Rock Lee was in the training field kicking the all too familiar tree stump that was just a bit taller than he was. Doing so, he thought, would strengthen his tibia as well as his calf muscles. It was also tearing up the skin along his shin. His bones might be toughened, but they were breaking as well. Rock Lee didn't care.

    “One thousand squats! If I can not do them, it is two thousand punches! Seven hundred ninety five! Seven hundred ninety six! Seven hundred ninety seven!”

    By getting stronger through taijutsu, people would realize he didn't need any ninjutsu or genjustu. Lee would someday beat Neji, his eternal rival and teammate. Lee would someday gain the heart of the angel, Sakura. Kicking and punching trees, doing squats, push-ups, situps, jump-roping... all would help him become stronger. Training would make him stronger.

    “Two thousand punches! If I can't do them, it is two thousand jump ropes!”

    Maybe Neji was true born genius. He was born with natural talent. He was the top student in his class. He had a bloodline trait that helped him become stronger. He could use ninjutsu and genjutsu. All the girls had crushes on him. He was a genius.

    “If I can't jump rope two thousand times, it is two thousand five hundred push ups. 1006! 1007! 1008!”

    What is a genius anyway? Even if Lee has no talent, he will surpass a genius with hard work. That is his everything! That is his way of the ninja!

    “1116! 1117! 1118... AHH!”

    Lee's foot had caught in the rope making him trip and fall. But not without his head connecting with the tree stump first. He lay on the ground in pain for a few moments, then gradually propped himself up on his arms, trying to stand and resume his training. It was a bit hard seeing as how the tears kept falling, blocking his vision. The strength in his arms gave out, as he fell back onto the ground again, the tears coming faster and harder.

    “Lee, are you taking a break already?”

    Lee's eyes opened wider as he recognized the voice behind him to be his sensei, Maito Gai. Said ninja came out from the trees to stare sternly with a smile at Lee's back. That is when Lee got up from the ground, dusted himself off, and wiped his tears away with the back of his hand. He resumed his training.

    “Gai-sensei, what do you want? If you want to talk to me about my failure in the last mission...” Lee huffed out between kicks, “You have already received my apology.”

    “Lee, it is true that you are different from Neji. You cannot use ninjutsu or genjutsu, nor are you a genius in taijutsu,” Gai said with a smile, “But, Lee... You are a genius that has the power and potential to exceed Neji.”

    “If you are trying to make me feel better out of pity, please stop.”

    “No, I'm not saying this out of pity at all. Because you are...”

    As Gai paused in his sentence, Lee halted in his kicks. A feeling of pity came onto himself forcing him grip the tree stump in front of him out of frustration.

    “...a genius of hard work.”

    Those words hit Lee like a million kunai, his eyes growing wide again. He gripped the tree even tighter.

    “Is that really true?” Lee's shoulders began to quiver. “I have come to this point believing that if I train two or three times more than Neji, I can become stronger. But recently I started to think that maybe I cannot match up with a real genius... Wondering if hard work really pays off. I wanted to find out, and I challenged Neji to a fight many times, but the outcome has always been the same. I am no match for him at all!” He could no longer hold back the tears as they began to fall yet again. “Even during missions... my legs still shake. I think that no matter how much I try, I can't become any stronger. I am scared of that..”

    He finished while sobbing all the more, shoulders shaking violently, and his grip on the tree so hard the veins in his hands and wrists were popping. Gai listened with a stoic face and his eyes closed.

    “What should I do?”

    Gai looked up to the fragile form of his student, his face now hardened with a frown of concern.

    There is no point in working hard if you do not believe in yourself.”

    Lee's head shot up as he gasped, his sensei's words hitting him once more with a strong force to his heart. Night soon fell, and they went to a clearing in the forest. Sitting on a boulder next to each other, they gazed at the array of stars above them.

    “Lee, you are very similar to me.”

    “Do you mean the eyebrows?”

    “No, it is not only the eyebrows. To be honest, I was a dropout when I was young too.”


    “But now, I am in the lead of my matches against the elite genius, Kakashi, my eternal rival. It is because I worked hard. Even if you can't use ninjutsu or genjutsu, you want to prove that you can still become an excellent ninja, right? That is what your way of the ninja is. It is a good goal. It is a good goal worth working hard for.”

    With the precious words of encouragement from his sensei, Lee's eyes began to water. Only this time it was out of pure content.

    “All you have to do is believe in your path, and run through it. Become a strong man so that I can smile proudly when I watch you. Got that, Lee?” Gai asked as he put a friendly hand on his pupil's head, Lee feeling all the more blessed with the consideration of his instructor.

    “Yes, Sir!”