Hello there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.
Not much to comment before hand, so let's get to it.
Nidaime no Sairin
Chapter 13 – Chunin Exams Part II
As instructed by Anko, Naruto and his team had met with Asuma after the exam and received the location of where to be for the Second Exam. The bearded Jounin had then congratulated his team on passing the first barrier. Since Asuma couldn't tell much about the second part, the only thing he could say was a pep talk about trusting each other and acting as a team. After their brief encounter, to which Asuma had left saying he needed to meet the Hokage for something, Naruto then received an invitation by Kurenai to join her, Hinata and Yakumo for dinner in her house. Shikamaru was invited as well, but like Kurenai's own team, he preferred to go home and rest for tomorrow.
So, after stocking up on some general supplies through the swift use of genjutsu, Naruto had knocked on Kurenai's door for the first time. Her apartment was just one of the many similar two room apartments in a building reserved for shinobi.
Though, as he stepped on the floor of her apartment, Naruto couldn't help but compare with his own building. The hallway only had one light and it barely worked, probably due to poor maintenance.
'Well, perhaps her home is better-looking than this…'
No sooner had he knocked, Kurenai had already opened the door, inviting him inside. The Jounin-sensei's casual clothes were composed of short beige pants barely covering her knees, long black shirt worn beneath a loose red fabric.
"Ah welcome Naruto-kun, we were having a bet to see if you would be late…come in…come in." Naruto greeted the sensei with a wave as he got inside the apartment and like he guessed, it was way better than the creepy hallway.
"Hi Kurenai-sensei, I just wanted to stock up on supplies for the second part tomorrow. Is Hinata here already?"
The sensei ushered him inside, before closing the door behind him.
"Yes, she is helping me and Yakumo prepare dinner, please make yourself at home, Naruto-kun. Dinner will be right up." The Genin acknowledged the hospitality and observed as the sensei went back to the kitchen. As soon as Naruto took a seat on her couch, Hinata's neck surged through the kitchen door as she saw her senpai take a seat by Kurenai's couch.
"Good evening Naruto-kun, you came." Naruto was busy looking around the living room and even peeking on some of Kurenai's library when he looked at Hinata.
"Oh hi Hinata, yeah, sorry I took so long, just that I needed to restock some." The reserved Hyuga simply acknowledged with a fond smile as she took a seat on the chair opposite the couch where Naruto was sitting.
"You don't need to apologize Naruto-kun, you're right on time. So…what did you buy? Anything I should get as well?" Naruto chuckled as Hinata placed her hands on her knees while sitting. While she had evolved from her shyness, it was still there.
"Well, Asuma-sensei was of course quite vague about the exams tomorrow, so I just bought the usual…shuriken, kunai, fuinjutsu kit, plus some general supplies. Did Kurenai-sensei say something about it?"
"Now why would I do that Naruto-kun, that would be cheating, wouldn't it." Kurenai walked in the living room carrying the dinner trays together with Yakumo, who for her turn greeted Naruto and Naruto greeted back, before smirking towards the sensei.
"Yeah, it would…though if you said anything, it would be to your team, not us." Kurenai and the rest laughed at his comment. "Plus, Anko-san happens to be your best friend, so clearly you would know something."
Yakumo and Hinata just looked at each other and smiled as Naruto and Kurenai talked to each other. The jounin, for her part, ushered everyone to take a sit by the table, while addressing Naruto.
"Forget it Naruto-kun, Anko is tight-lipped about it and even if she did, I would never betray her trust with this. Now, dig up everyone!" The three Genin did as instructed as the four occupants chatted amicably with each other, about a great range of topics. Most of them were about the first test and how Naruto and Hinata had managed to survive Morino Ibiki's psychological warfare disguised in a ten-question written test. While Hinata using Byakugan was pretty much guessed by Kurenai and Yakumo, both illusion users were surprised when Naruto said that he used the very craft to get by. It came as a surprise to Hinata as well, since the team had yet to talk much about what each did to pass by, though Hinata knew that Shikamaru was too much of a genius to need any kind of subterfuge.
"You used genjutsu, Naruto-kun? How interesting, tell us." Naruto nodded at Kurenai's ponder as he turned to Yakumo and Hinata.
"Well, yeah, I'll admit I was stuck otherwise. Many of the skills I have are more battle oriented. Elemental ninjutsu would be useless…any wind jutsu would simply blow all of the tests on the ground, including mine. So, I saw that one of the chunin was focusing on me the entire time. That gave me the opportunity to disrupt his senses so to speak…make him see me doing something else other than checking on Sasuke's answers, who by the way was using his Sharingan to copy the answers from someone else." To Hinata, the concept was still foreign, but Yakumo and Kurenai both nodded in acknowledgement, knowing what the blond genin did. The Jounin-sensei finished gathering the plates from the table with everyone's help.
"I can see you improved then…when you first showed it to me, you couldn't maintain the illusion for more than half a minute." Naruto scratched the back of his head in acknowledgement of his limit. His fast scribbling based on fuinjutsu did the rest.
"Yeah, I had that timeframe window to write as many answers as possible, before the illusion faded." Kurenai chuckled at that.
"Well, good work. Now stay put you three, I will bring us some tea for the night." Naruto then hung out with Yakumo and Hinata. Naruto, then, turned to the Kurama heir.
"So Yakumo, why didn't you apply for the Exams?"
"I wanted to, but there was no team with a third member short." Naruto and Hinata observed as Kurenai came and gave everyone some herbal tea. "I had already placed my name to Hokage-sama for the next exams, though. Perhaps, one of the genin from your classroom can be promoted and that would open a spot for me to join. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if you were promoted Naruto." The sudden praise was met with surprise by the blond genin, though no one, Hinata, Kurenai or even Yakumo, had much doubt that Naruto had enough skill to be eligible for the promotion, if his team passes the Second and Third Steps of the Exams, that is. Naruto then remembered his talk with Asuma and how he was viewed by his peers. He also saw recognition from Kurenai's tender eyes at him, though the Jounin recognized doubt in Naruto's.
As the night progressed, Hinata and Yakumo shifted to their own conversation, so Naruto and Kurenai turned to talk to each other.
"Is there something you wish to ask, Naruto-kun?" The look of doubt became transparent once more and someone with a keen eye for details picked up immediately. Naruto had lots of secrets in his life, but he could at least be open about his concerns, just like he had with Asuma before the exams.
"Just wondering about what Yakumo said about me having what it takes to be a Chunin." Kurenai nodded as she crossed her legs with an open posture while holding her cup of tea. "Asuma-sensei had explained that a Chunin are squad leaders, being responsible for the lives of my team. I only wonder if I truly have what it takes, you know." The Jounin did remember the time when she had this conversation, when she was in Naruto's position. Even now, being a recently promoted Jounin, she constantly feels the weight of leading her genin team and sometimes having to choose between the safety of her team, which is a must, and finishing the mission. Now looking at him, Kurenai could offer some encouragement moving forward. Though like Asuma, she had faith that Naruto would do just fine.
"I see…well, truly it's something to ponder about as we all move forward." Naruto was looking down and then focused on his senior for her words of wisdom. "Moving from Genin to Chunin is not only about skill as I trust Asuma had explained to you. And being a leader is quite a complex skill to develop. It's bad enough that we have to figure this out in the middle of a mission, though I don't believe that the Hokage would give you a mission above C-ranked to lead right off the bat." Naruto looked uncertain still and Kurenai smiled at it. "Everything is going to be okay Naruto...being a leader above all is to have the respect of those who follow you. And I can see as everyone does that your peers respect you. You always go out of your way to help most of them and look how much you helped both Hinata and Yakumo already. Even Sakura and Sasuke from what I hear from Kakashi."
Kurenai was now more thrilled to see the light coming back from Naruto's light cerulean eyes at her words and she realized to herself that she enjoyed seeing that gleam in his eyes. Such drive added by such an exponential growth is quite rare to see.
It only made her all the more excited to just sit back and observe his growth as a shinobi and now as a person.
"Thank you, Kurenai-sensei…" Her smile was so exuberant that he couldn't help but confide with her and perhaps even open up fully to her about everything in the future.
"For now, the focus shall be on passing the Exams, but should you receive the promotion, your growth will rise exponentially. And us Jounin-sensei will always be here for you to talk to, if need be."
"Yeah, it's no use worrying about something while the exams are still in play. And I appreciate the help, Kurenai-sensei, truly. I just hope that I can help you as well, someday." Once more, he surprised her with that tenacity of his. It was a Jounin's obligation to help the next generation of shinobi. But above all else, for her especially, it was considered a privilege to have this opportunity. Plus, she could see how attentive he was to her every word, not only in genjutsu training, but also when she offered her wisdom in personal matters.
"Throughout our lives, there will be situations when I will help you Naruto-kun and in others, you will help me. Work hard, become a Chunin and…who knows, perhaps we can go together on missions in the future and we can have each other's backs."
The thought became so vivid that Naruto was engrossed in imagining them fighting side by side just like they did when they rescued Yakumo.
"I certainly look forward to when this day arrives, Kurenai-sensei." The comment brought about a comfortable nod from the sensei, knowing, or rather hoping, that Naruto will keep surprising her every time.
Soon, Naruto and Hinata said their goodbye, since they needed to rest for tomorrow. He then walked together with Hinata towards the Hyuga Compound and then to his house.
The next day, the seventeen Genin teams were gathered around in a clearing while waiting for the second exam proctor Mitarashi Anko to explain this part. The woman, with her beige overcoat, just stood there with her arms crossed while observing everyone, talking with each other. She could feel, though, the general mood and shivered in anticipation for what was to come soon for them. The fact that neither of them even knew what awaits brought a sense of excitement that made her tingle all over. The thought of the perils…the pain…the hardship that these poor souls will suffer soon enough, after the start of the exam. The woman was exuding such a bloodthirsty aura that for those who knew her, began to shiver at the sight of the woman practically salivating.
True enough, the Chunin that aided her with the exam knew about her reputation and couldn't help but take an unconscious step-back.
"Okay everyone, gather around, because I won't be repeating myself here." Her announcement brought everyone's attention, before Anko uncrossed her arms and placed her hands on her waist. "As you know, this is the site of the second exam, Training Field number 44…" The woman was a fan of the theatrics and the suspense, so she just smiled mischievously at everyone, before finishing. "…also known as the Forest of Death." The wind picked up and all the Genin stood at attention as they now took a good look at the huge forest that began just behind the fences. Just by seeing the tall trees and the fact that the tree's roots alone toppled the fence, brought great shivers to the uninitiated. The Genin could see the warning signs of 'do not enter' all over the fences, filled with giant locks.
Plus, the fact that giant centipedes and snakes could be seen crawling around the tree logs feasting on the unsuspected prey sufficed for an explanation.
The sense of dread was clear to everyone and only a fool would not heed the warnings in this place.
"Before we start, though, there's something important I must pass out to you all…" Anko then reached inside her overcoat and pulled a pile of written papers. "This is a consent form, before you can take part in the test, you all have to sign this."
"Consent forms…what for?" Anko turned to see Kakashi's genin Kiba asking and smirked.
"Well, from here on out, corpses are going to come out…from here on out, there is the possibility of you guys dying, so that would be on my responsibility. I can't have that, you know…so you will need to sign, waiving Konoha of the responsibility."
The fact that Anko started laughing after that was even more scary and Naruto was starting to wonder which psycho was the worst…Anko or Ibiki. The beige overcoat kunoichi may be friends with Kurenai-sensei, but Naruto knew bits and pieces about the woman who played with snakes…needless to say, he never wanted to be on her bad side. Not her nor Ibiki for that matter. As the consent forms were passed along by the Genin, which needed to be signed and delivered to the Chunin in the tent next to Anko, the proctor now began the real explanation.
"Okay then, now I shall explain…in a word, the limits of your survival will be challenged. First, allow me to explain about the terrain." Anko then opened up a map. "Training field 44 is surrounded by 44 locked entrance gates, there is a river and a forest and a tower in the middle of the field. The distance to the tower is about 10 kilometers from the gates. In this confined area, you will go through a certain survival program. In other words, pretty much anything goes beyond these gates, a scroll battle." Once more, the shiver returned as the Genin looked at each other, most of them knowing what that meant.
Permission to kill.
"Essentially, I want you to fight for two scrolls, the Heaven Scroll and the Earth Scroll. There are 17 teams here, so 9 teams shall receive the Heaven Scroll and 8 will receive the Earth Scroll. The objective, as you may have figured out, is for the Genin team to reach the tower…but the team will only pass if they manage to bring in both scrolls." In essence, it's expected that at least half of the genin teams will fail or even worse. Shikamaru had to release a sigh, wondering if it's still time to make a quick getaway and cloud-gaze. "One more thing, there is a time-limit to this exam." Once more, Shikamaru sighed.
Of course, there is a time-limit…troublesome.
"For this second exam, the time limit shall be 120 hours. You all will have precisely five days to reach the tower." At this, both Ino and Chouji protested, of course, for different reasons.
"What do we do about food?"
Anko merely smiled at that.
"Well, this is a forest filled with flora and fauna of various species. You can all hunt and drink, this is a survival course. There are plenty of animals in there for you all to hunt if needed, though sometimes the animals and even some plants may see you all as prey, so I would threat carefully if I were you…or not!" Chouji and Ino both shivered as the woman showed quite the devious smile. "Now, all there is to explain are the rules for qualification. First, like I said before, the team must all reach the tower within the time frame. If one or two members are injured or dead, then the team fails. Also, absolutely do not look at the contents of the scrolls at least until you have reached the tower! So, please do not try to find out, I'm serious here. There are times when a Chunin must deal with super-secret text. It serves to test your reliability."
There were a few murmurs amongst the genin as they heard the explanation.
"Okay, that's enough for the explanations. All it's left is to exchange the consent forms with the scroll your team will receive. So, go to that tent over there and do that. After that, you are to reach the designated gate."
The Genin had a ten minute break to go over the consent forms while the Chunin organized the tent to initiate the exam. Naruto, Shikamaru and Hinata had all chosen different spots to go over the terms of the consent form, but most of what Anko had explained was already in there, so the time was mostly spent in making the conscious choice of going forward with it despite the warnings and risks. After that, the teams went inside the tent one by one, until all of the teams received their respective scrolls. All that was left was to go to the designated gate and start the exam.
===Training Ground 44===
No sooner had the gates opened, Naruto, Hinata and Shikamaru quickly ran inside the Forest of Death and stopped before running for five minutes and finding a secure location for planning purposes. They had found a tall enough tree which roots grew above the ground, allowing them to crawl inside. The team got the Earth Scroll, which meant that they needed to find the Heaven Scroll and then march straight to the tower. Right now, Hinata was activating her byakugan in short intervals for threats and Naruto was abusing his sensor capabilities for both enemy teams and dangerous fauna and flora in this place. A few minutes ago, the team had passed a giant snake feasting itself with some rabbits. This snake was large enough to eat them if it wanted to, so…neither of them could afford to relax.
"Okay then Shikamaru, it's time for you to shine here. What's the plan?" The Nara's eyebrow twitched at his blond friend.
"Why do I have to come up with a strategy, here?" This time, Naruto's eyebrow twitched, but he did respond with patience.
"Oh I don't know…perhaps it's because you had already come up with dozens of possible scenarios in your head about how to proceed. You're the team strategist Shika…I don't think I need to stress that point and I know Hinata concurs with me."
Shikamaru looked at his Hyuga teammate and saw her nod with a content smile, directed mostly at him.
"Ah…fine…" Naruto 'hummed' and Hinata giggled, before Shikamaru briefly closed his eyes, took a long breath, and got into strategy mode. "I don't feel like remaining in this troublesome forest any more than necessary. Aside from facing enemies and whatever it is in these woods, having to worry about food and sleeping just isn't a safe course of action to take." Naruto and Hinata looked at each other and neither found much to object to the basic principle. Which meant that Shikamaru wanted to reach the tower today.
"It's fine by me, though we still have to find a way to reach the tower, Shikamaru. It's not like we have a map with us." Shikamaru already knew that, hence he had opted for one of the possible ways to figure out.
"Hinata, can you see the tower with your byakugan?" The girl from the team, though, negated as she had already attempted that when she first activated the eyes to see close threats.
"Ah, Anko-san said that the tower is 10 kilometers from here. Though some in my clan can extend their reach to 10 kilometer long, I can only see 1 kilometer."
Shikamaru acknowledged that with a 'hmm' as he then looked right and left for a while.
"That's fine, I have other means of finding the right path, but we have to take advantage of sunlight as much as possible. I don't care much for food and water. So as we proceed, Naruto shall use your sensor skills to pick up a couple of teams that we can face fast without much trouble. I believe you know the teams to steer away from, don't you?" Naruto nodded at that, marveling at the speed of analysis from his teammate. Naruto could be strong on the field and face most opponents in a fight, but Shikamaru had plans in spades. If anyone could be spotted as a future leader in missions, he would point at the lazy Nara without much doubt. The only negative was his laziness.
"Yeah, one of the Genin from Suna. He has red-hair and carries a gourd on his back. Plus, that Kabuto we talked to early in the first phase was hiding something. So, yeah, I would pick these two teams to steer clear from if we wish to reach the tower today."
"Okay, noted. Now, let us proceed. Naruto, can you get us some Kage Bunshin and follow us using henge. Hinata keep activating the byakugan to help Naruto's sensor skills pick up our enemies."
Naruto and Hinata did as instructed, before the team charged forward. Shikamaru already had a map in his mind of this place memorized. It was a clear-rounded territory, so choosing a straight path was out of the question. First, they could get lost along the way and face more opposition both from the forest and from the enemies. And Naruto and Hinata were perfect for figuring the right path ahead. Despite her saying that her reach was limited, her byakugan helped out a great deal in changing course slightly. Plus, every now and then, Shikamaru would ask Naruto to climb the tallest tree he could find and try to see the tower from up there. Of course, Naruto had to choose the very tree where he had to battle giant centipedes with his sword, but he could tell Shikamaru that their path was taking them closer to the tower.
As soon as he dropped and reached his teammates on the ground, Shikamaru and Hinata were dragged away by Naruto's Kage Bunshin envoy to protect them from a rain of projectiles, while the real one blocked a couple of incoming shuriken.
His sensor abilities picked up on the usage of chakra as soon as he reached the ground and his clones worked fast in protecting his peers. Still, based on the projectile's trajectory, Naruto pinpointed the enemy's location, while turning to Hinata and Shikamaru. This time, he would take the lead as a fight ensued.
"Hinata, can you see them?" Her byakugan was activated before Naruto asked her as she nodded and pointed to a few branches upward. As soon as she did so, a team of Iwagakure ninja appeared from thin air, charging the Konoha team with a kunai. Their image was still distorted, though, forcing Naruto and Hinata to take the initiative, Hinata with her Byakugan and Naruto with his sensor skills. The Bunshin stood close to Shikamaru, who had already grabbed some shuriken to act as support for his teammates. Still, he had only his own teammates to work with, as he could not see the opponents. They only knew they were from Iwa, because Shikamaru could see one of the headbands briefly.
Still, Shikamaru observed that Naruto and Hinata were handling them just fine from close range.
Naruto was facing two on one and Hinata the third, allowing Shikamaru to observe and wait for the opportunity to strike.
Like a sniper waiting for the target to appear in his aim, Shikamaru's eyes saw the sudden drop of blood emerge from Naruto's sword, before Shikamaru's shuriken travelled at the target. His accuracy proved fatal as the shuriken hit the enemy Genin straight on his chest, forcing the genin to stop the camouflage jutsu he was using. Naruto saw this and capitalized on the opportunity granted by Shikamaru. His sword worked fast and sliced the enemy in many places at once, using the wind element. The genin was down for the count, bleeding badly, but still not dead. The others looked at his teammate bleeding heavily, so Hinata worked fast in using her jyuuken to seal the other two's tenketsus, before they could check on their teammate. Shikamaru was there to bind them with his shadow, while Naruto tied them up, close to the one who was bleeding heavily.
"Huh, now comes the hard part, here." Naruto eyes Shikamaru. Just defeating them wasn't enough, they needed to take their scroll as well and that would involve some coercion. Still, he could at least start out civil.
"I don't suppose you guys could hand in your scroll peacefully, right?"
The three from Iwa were bruised and one was bleeding all over, but none of them would be so stupid as to give the scroll willingly and Naruto could see it in their eyes.
Neither Hinata nor Shikamaru would know how to play the tough guy here.
Hinata has improved sure, but she wouldn't do anything to harm someone after defeating them and Shikamaru's bored look just couldn't threaten them much. So, Naruto took some breaths to clear his head and turned to incorporate the Nidaime Hokage's levelled stare at them. The sudden spike of his chakra and even killing intent surprised his own teammates, while Naruto focused on the downed Iwa team. So far, only one of them was in dire condition, the other two had only their tenketsus closed by Hinata, but that could change as Naruto once more charged wind chakra through his sword. Throughout his life, Naruto had many role models to follow. And these last few days allowed him to study both Ibiki and Anko up close for their methods. He figured that mixing it up…playing with the mind as well as pain would go along well.
"Now, I have a couple of skills I'd like to try on the both of you…but it would save us both sometime and….less blood on your part if you cooperate."
Hinata tried to brace herself because the killing intent wasn't directed at her, but she was scared because she had never seen Naruto like this before. Shikamaru, though, had to help her, because this was necessary for their objective, so he just placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, urging her to trust their teammate. The three from Iwa began to stir from their seats as Naruto approached them with slow steps while holding his wind chakra sword.
"Starting with your bleeding friend here, I could inflict even more pain on him, if you don't hand in the scroll." As proof of his threats, Naruto had touched the Genin's right arm and it caused a small slash, earning more pain. "Or I could perhaps, I don't know…use you guys as practice for a nifty skill I learned recently." Naruto then placed his sword back on the seal where it came from and worked through hand seals, before focusing on their genin's minds. The three enemies from Iwa suddenly saw as giant centipedes crawled from behind them and entrap them using its bodies, earning three frightened screams of fright as they saw the giant insect's fangs about to decapitate them.
"Okay…okay, you win…here is the scroll, now leave us alone!" Naruto, Hinata and Shikamaru just observed when the team from Iwa began to scream at nothing. Hinata and Shikamaru knew that their teammate had a large array of abilities, but to see it being used like this…well, it showed to them that perhaps the Naruto that they knew was barely the tip of the iceberg. Still, Shikamaru grabbed the scroll, which sadly was the same as what they had and the team left once more, towards their path to the tower. They still had to search for another team to take the Heaven Scroll.
As they progressed, Hinata was looking at her blond teammate in fright. The feeling she had when Naruto spiked his chakra and killing intent, plus the way Naruto handled the 'interrogation'…it made her chest hurt at witnessing it.
Naruto then looked briefly at Hinata and saw her hesitance. He sighed, figuring why she was looking hesitant at him.
"Shikamaru, we should stop for a while." The Nara looked at both his teammates and then at Naruto, who nodded at him with a silent request.
"I will check the perimeter for a while, I'll be right back." Hinata and Naruto observed as Shikamaru walked away from them. Right now, Naruto and Hinata were close to a stream and Hinata was seen holding her hands close to her chest, while her eyes tried not to look at her blond companion right now.
"I'm sorry for what you had to witness, Hinata…" The reserved Hyuuga now had his full attention as he approached her. "It was never my intention to scare you or take things too far. I wouldn't resort to physical pain any more than what I did."
"Ah…it's alright Naruto-kun, I…know it was necessary, but…" Naruto was surprised when he tried to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, and he saw her body flinch at the contact.
"I can't say it was necessary, but I would do that once more if it meant that neither of you two has to." Hinata, this time, had looked at him straight in the eyes for now, wondering what he meant by that. "Asuma-sensei and Kurenai-sensei had talked to me plenty about what it means to be a Chunin, Hinata. Being a leader, being responsible for the mission as well as the lives of my team…I don't know If I already have what it takes. And this exam…I can see that these types of scenarios we are in right now will repeat itself in the future. As a leader, I will have to make choices…choices that may affect the mission…choices that may affect the lives of the team. I stepped up and tried to emulate the other proctors, you know." As well, as you Tobirama-sensei…
"Naruto-kun…" The Genin in question looked at Hinata once more and breathed when he saw that she wasn't scared of him anymore. "I..have no doubt that you will be a great Chunin and I'm sorry for feeling this way."
"There is no need to apologize Hinata, let us move forward towards our goal and then take some rest afterward." Hinata nodded this time more relieved as Shikamaru returned with new coordinates for them to follow.
The same pattern followed once more with the team on the move. As they progressed, this time, they had to face a giant bear that crossed their path. Working as a team, Shikamaru trapped the giant animal with his shadow binding. Hinata used Jyuuken to hit some chakra and pressure points, before Naruto sent the creature to dream land with a swift kick on the back of its neck. After that, Shikamaru cursed seeing the sun was about to set for the day. Hinata ended up being a life-saver for the team as she activated her byakugan.
"Shikamaru, I see the tower a few meters to the right!"
The Nara genin released a sigh in relaxation at the notion that they had managed to locate their destination and in record time no less. The problem was that they were still due to find another team with the scroll they needed to finish the assignment.
"Hinata, Naruto, can you tell if there's another team nearby? We still need to get a Heaven Scroll to get inside the tower."
Hinata then expanded her Byakugan as per Shikamaru's request for a while, before her eyes landed on a team also heading towards the tower from their opposite direction.
Seeing as they were pressed for time, Team 10 ran towards the tower to meet up with the opposite team, hoping that they had the scroll they were looking for, or else they would have to spend the night outside. The sun at this point had already begun to set and they had barely half an hour of sunlight. Because of this, Shikamaru urged Naruto to kick it up a notch and help them get the scroll faster. The blond Genin had already sensed the team he would be up against and knew that they didn't represent much threat. So, he urged Shikamaru and Hinata to stay close to the tower and wait for him to return.
A team from Taki was running in record time, all three of them looking like grownups already.
They had great luck, finding one green team from Kumogakure with the scroll they needed to advance.
Plus, they could see the tower up ahead from their path, meaning that they would be acing this exam and jumping straight to the third and last phase. They were surprised when a blast of wind came barreling in on them. Still, all three genin were experienced enough to stick to the ground with chakra as the wind blast passed through them. Some cuts could be seen on their arms and limbs, but otherwise they were unscathed. All three stood back to back with kunai in their hands while observing where the enemy or enemies would come. Naruto observed the three from atop a tree and went through a sequence of hand seals. This forest was almost damped in humidity, allowing him a great source of water to use from.
Still, he had summoned three kage bunshins to follow up on the attack, as soon as he finished the hand signs, finished by the praying sign.
Suiton Suishouha (Water Release: Water Shockwave Technique)
The three Genin from Taki looked up in surprise as a gigantic water geyser erupted up into the air, before falling down on them like a hammer from the sky. The amount of water was indescribable, and it dragged them together. So unfocused were they from being dragged by the strong water current, that neither of them screamed in pain when three blurs carrying swords descended from the trees and pierced their stomachs. Naruto's Bunshins had then quickly dragged them away from the water current and searched for their possessions to see which one had the scroll.
His attacks weren't life threatening, though they were bleeding profusely. But, using the suishouha took a lot of control from him and like Shikamaru, Naruto was eager to get inside the tower and be done with this test.
As such, when he found two scrolls, one heaven and one earth, he released a sigh in relaxation, before going back to the place where his teammates were waiting for him.
Hinata and Shikamaru were just resting near the tower on the lookout for Naruto to return. Shikamaru had a feeling that sending in Naruto alone would be faster than them together facing this team. Ever since they graduated, Shikamaru had the feeling that their teammate was hiding his true strength. Throughout their missions together, Shikamaru could see that Naruto would always show a new skill or even display an improved version of the skills he had already shown. But to this day, the Nara genius had yet to truly see everything that Naruto could do.
"Shika-kun, do you think it's wise to send Naruto-kun in alone?" He looked at the clear concerned look from Hinata's eyes and nodded.
"Pretty sure, Hinata. You of all people should know what he is capable of. Plus, I get the feeling that both of us would hold him down." Hinata did know that. She knew that he was stronger than he showed…certainly stronger than all of them, but she couldn't help but worry either way. "You can see him with your byakugan, can't you?" The Hyuga Genin nodded and used her all-seeing eye to see an okay Naruto walking towards their location. She could relax now seeing that his outfit appeared rugged but no visible injury.
"He is coming back." Shikamaru smiled at her happier tone, before the blond emerged from the foliage behind them, throwing both of the scrolls he had collected to Shikamaru.
"Great, now let's get inside the tower and end this troublesome exam."
Quickly opening one of the many double doors, the team walked inside the tower and explored inside until they stood inside an empty hallway with two opposed platforms upward and a board in front of them, with an inscription. Shikamaru couldn't help but groan at the thought of yet another puzzle to solve before truly completing the second phase. Naruto was the one who read it out loud.
"If Heaven does not exist, enrich your knowledge, and prepare for the chance..If Earth does not exist, run the fields and search for an advantage…open the series of Heaven and Earth and the perilous way shall be addressed…this is namely the secret of the one that guides…what does that mean, Shika?"
The Nara genius crossed his arms as he pondered on the phrases. While he could certainly work out the meaning behind them in due time, there was simply no intel he remembered Anko saying about this.
The only item still left unattended would be the scrolls now in their possession.
"I don't know…but perhaps the scrolls have something to do with this. We couldn't open the scrolls before entering the tower, but now that we are inside, perhaps it's time to open them." Naruto and Hinata eyed the scrolls and they nodded to each other before opening them at the same time. The summoning kanji inscribed in both scrolls were clear to the fuinjutsu user as Naruto urged Hinata to throw the scroll on the ground, before both scrolls joined in a cross, before smoke erupted. The blond remembered this summoning scroll design similar to the one the Nidaime taught him to hide the scroll containing the Nidaime's teachings.
When the smoke cleared, it revealed a man wearing a Chunin attire and a blue bandana on his head and eyes that were similar to Hinata's.
"Ko-san, is that you, what are you doing here?" The Hyuga Chunin in question greeted the team with a wave.
"Hello there Hinata-sama…your team was quite fast to reach the tower. While it wasn't the first team to arrive, you were definitely the second. Us chunin were tasked with welcoming the Genin teams who reached the tower and Hiashi-sama asked me personally to be the one to welcome your team here." Hinata ran and gave Ko a hug, to which the chunin returned with a smile on his face. After the greeting, Ko announced to the team congratulations for passing the second phase of the Chunin Exams and explained to them the meaning of the inscription above them, before telling them that they had the rest of the five days to rest while the rest of the teams finished the exam.
Ok that's it for now. At first, I thought about writing the preliminaries as well, but then the chapter would be too long. So, next chapter will be preliminaries and training time.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone who appreciated this story thus far by adding to their favorite/follow stories. Thank you everyone.
A special thanks once more to my beta for taking time out of his schedule to help review my work.
Next update: Fate Shadow Spear