Hi there and welcome to another chapter of Nidaime no Sairin.
Before anyone wonders, I won't be describing each and every preliminary fight, just two.
Now, let us proceed.
Nidaime no Sairin
Chapter 14 – Preliminaries and Training
It was already well past midnight, and the second exams were well under way with the teams already finishing the second phase.
In most situations, the Chunin hopefuls were battling amongst each other for the scrolls, but this exam just got some serious situations occurring that made one Mitarashi Anko rubbing a strange looking mark on her shoulder. She was currently inside a room filled with monitors together with two Chunin proctors as well as the Sandaime Hokage. No sooner had she reported what happened to the village leader, he had met her and quickly added some new layers of protection around the three shaped seal on her shoulder. Still, it was not enough to fully erase the pain as she kept on rubbing on it to go away.
"Is it better?" The Jounin proctor released a slight curse before covering her shoulder with her trench coat.
"A bit better now, thank you Hokage-sama." The Elder leader grunted, before puffing some smoke from his pipe.
"Is there anything else you can tell me about why he had decided to infiltrate these exams, Anko-chan?" The mere mention of that name was enough to make her snarl, before the memory of her pathetic display was brought to surface.
To believe that after all this time, that man merely toyed with her…still, the only intel she could remember was what the S-ranked missing-nin and probably Konoha's worst criminal, Orochimaru, said to her.
"He mentioned having an interest in the last heir of the Uchiha Clan, Uchiha Sasuke." Hiruzen Sarutobi really couldn't be surprised. From the knowledge he had on his former student, it was obvious that the man desired the Sharingan. The dojutsu, that once fully evolved, can literally copy genjutsu, ninjutsu, taijutsu and kenjutsu moves, pretty much all of the shinobi arts opened up to a Sharingan user by sight alone. Anko and the Chunin looked at their leader in suspense for a while, wondering what he was thinking. Orochimaru was one of the Sannin, a team personally tutored by the very Sandaime Hokage into greatness, perhaps the strongest shinobi of Konoha after the Hokage himself. And for this person to be here right now when Konoha's gates became open for the exams…the snake knew what he was doing by revealing himself like this.
He wanted to cause panic.
And right now, Hiruzen couldn't anticipate everything his former student is capable of doing.
"Anko-san..." The group turned to one of the monitors as one of the Chunin gave her a message. "The second exam is over, and twenty one contesters managed to pass. As for the third exam, according to the regulations of the Chunin exams, preliminaries are planned for the first time in five years."
After the message was delivered, the monitor was turned off and the Hokage turned to Anko and the other Chunin.
"For now, continue the exam as it is, while keeping an eye on his movements." The tension in the room was palpable and Anko was more in favor of calling off the exams, but she knew the responsibilities of hosting these exams. Calling it off would have been the sensitive decision to make, but she knew the damage it would do to Konoha's reputation if the Hokage made that decision. The hidden villages were at best in a civil war with each other, competing amongst each other for clients and revenues. Doing so would drive many of Konoha's clients to other villages.
Inside the tower, everyone that pertained to the Chunin exam was there: the Genin who managed to pass the exams, the Chunin proctors, Anko, the Jounin responsible for the Genin who passed and finally the Hokage.
Despite fulfilling her promise to at least cut the Genin candidates by half, Anko firmly believed that fewer Genin would finish this exam, which proved the contestant's skills to have come this far. Certainly, the Hokage thought amongst the same lines as he turned to the three Jounin of the rookie teams, now understanding why they advocated so fiercely for their respective teams. The Genin, for their part, looked at each other. Naruto's team was perhaps the exception from the Konoha teams, since none of them suffered too much to get to the tower. The others, though, had suffered plenty, that much he could tell based on the rugged and bloodied outfits. Also, he could tell by their chakra capacities, that some could barely stand. His focus, however, was mostly on Team Seven.
Sakura's hair was shorter than he remembered, and her red dress was ripped in multiple places. Kiba's dog Akamaru was whimpering inside Kiba's jacket and his outfit was in shambles as well.
Sasuke, however, Naruto could tell, was the worst of the three. Naruto could tell that his chakra was in complete disarray and Sasuke was also holding his shoulder the entire time.
'Just what happened out there to make them like this…'
As a matter of fact, Naruto wasn't the only one focusing on Sasuke as certainly Sakura and Kiba were looking at him in concern as they had witnessed what happened in the forest. How Sasuke was manhandled by the Kusa Genin who turned out to be a man named Orochimaru. Sasuke had put up a tough fight with his two-tomoe Sharingan and with his expertise in fire ninjutsu, but the enemy was far too powerful for him alone to deal with. In the end, Orochimaru had done something to Sasuke, biting him and giving him that strange mark on his shoulder. Kiba and Sakura still trembled at the memory of seeing the dark and malevolent purple energy that came out of Sasuke when the team from Sound attacked. The others were also looking at Sasuke, mainly Anko, Ibiki and the Hokage.
More precisely, the fact that Orochimaru had given Sasuke the same seal that he gave Anko.
"So it's true then..." Ibiki and Anko nodded at the Hokage's assessment.
"We should remove him from the exams and isolate him with Anbu bodyguards on him." Before, the Hokage could give his assessment, Kakashi approached them with an aloof smile on his face.
"Well, he's not really the type to just obey like that…he is of the Uchiha clan after all." Anko snarled immediately at the scarecrow Jounin.
"What are you talking nonsense for…I'll make him stop by force if necessary. The curse mark responds even when one's just building up chakra and attempts to forcibly extract his strength!" Anko even rubbed her shoulders, revealing her own cursed seal, as she finished. "It's a prohibited jutsu that eats into the body of the one who uses a jutsu. It's a wonder that this kid's even enduring it! He should really be dead." Anko then turned to the Hokage who was busy focusing on Sasuke, who was apparently having an argument with Sakura about something.
"I'll allow his participation for now Anko, but Kakashi, you know what to do afterward." Kakashi nodded and then returned to the Jounin's line, before Anko turned to the Genin.
"Okay everyone, shut the hell up and listen as we'll now proceed with the explanation of the third exam from Lord Hokage, so listen carefully!" Anko then turned to Hokage and saw his nod, before taking a step forward to address the Genin himself.
"Before explaining the rules of the third phase, I have just one thing to explain to you all. It's regarding the true purpose of these exams. Why do you all believe nations conduct the exams on a conjoint basis? Raising the levels of the shinobi amongst the nations…it won't do to have the wrong idea of the true meaning of that statement. The exams are so to speak…a microcosm of battle between the nations. Back in history, every shinobi nation battled with each other for power. But in order to avoid a futile crushing of each other's military strength, the nations mutually selected a place to battle and that's how the Chunin Exams originally began."
There were some murmurs amongst the Genin and Naruto took the time to briefly wonder about the time of the Nidaime Hokage.
"It's true that these exams serve for us to select possible Chunin candidates, but these exams also provide a venue for shinobi who carry their nation's pride on their backs to fight for their lives. Many feudal lords and those of prominence from many nations who request shinobi for work are invited to this third exam as guests. They come here to watch the battles and see the village's military prowess displayed. The nations who manages to impress the feudal lords and clients will thus gain more revenue and exercise pressure on the other nations." As expected, this one was met with more complaints as the Genin now wondered why they were battling for their lives just to perform for the feudal lords and other visitors. Still, it made sense if one were to pay attention. The strength of the village is closely linked to the strength of its shinobi.
It's a precarious system for sure. It's a delicate balance between nations, going as far as to measure one's military might by the number of missions this village is hired to perform.
"Now, with that out of the way, I shall now explain the third exam…" The Hokage stopped talking as soon as a Jounin morphed in front of Hiruzen wearing the standard uniform and a blue bandana on his head.
"Lord Hokage, please allow me, Hayate Gekko, to explain…" Hiruzen nodded, before the man in question got up from kneeling and turned to the assembled Genin. Before turning to explain, though, the man named Hayate started coughing.
"Okay then, everyone,…I'd like you all to do something before the third exam and that is a preliminary to the third exam." From the Genin in attendance, it was Shikamaru who voiced his complaint.
"Oi, what is this about preliminaries…shouldn't we just go straight to the third exam?" Hayate released a sigh at having to explain himself more than necessary, which ended up forcing his throat and lung capacity down.
"Cough…cough…whether the first phases were too easy or the quality of this year's Genin has improved, the fact remains that there are too many applicants. Because of this, according to the exam's rules, preliminary matches are necessary to reduce the number of Genin advancing." Those that suffered the most in the exams – and Shikamaru – were clearly against the idea, but Hayate ignored them. "As Hokage-sama explained, many guests shall attend the third phase, so we can't have long and pointless matches. Not to mention that our time is limited as well. Therefore, those of you not in top physical condition are free to…cough…cough…" Hayate had to stop talking once the coughing became too much and made some Genin worried about the Jounin's health. "Sorry about that…well, those of you who wish to drop out, please speak up now. The preliminary matches will begin immediately."
"Oi, what the hell…we just spent five days in this forest…getting our asses kicked." Kiba truly looked like he had described it just now.
"It's your decision from here on out…so please raise your hands and drop out if you don't feel like continuing." To this, the Genin started murmuring amongst each other and Sasuke looked around, wondering who would quit now, when the pain on his shoulder erupted once more. His hand unconsciously reached towards the injury as the level of pain became too much to bear. Sakura, behind him, became worried about the Uchiha's chances to continue. Sakura knew how his pride would be diminished if she suggested for him to forfeit, but she was worried about his health.
"Sasuke-kun, you need to forfeit and get it checked out." To this, both Kiba and Sasuke looked at their teammate in incredulity. Kiba did understand Sakura's pained voice after what they had to face in the forest. Sasuke, though…
"Shut up Sakura…stay away from this." Sakura, though, instead of being more worried about him, now became angry at such stubbornness.
"No, I won't stay away, you're our teammate. If you don't forfeit, then I'll inform them of your condition." Sasuke was baffled at her narrowed expression. And he could see that she was about to raise her hand.
"Sakura, be quiet!" The pink-haired Genin, though, wasn't fazed by Sasuke's angry visage and kept on raising her hand. Before she could fully raise, however, everyone was surprised when Kabuto beat her to the punch, with an unguarded smile.
"Excuse me, I'll quit."
His revelation brought about question marks from everyone present, considering how Kabuto presented himself to them at the beginning. If this was his seventh exam, then it would seem that he was at least the most experienced Genin from Konoha in these exams. Kiba, Sakura and Sasuke looked even more incredulous, considering how helpful was the silver-haired Genin in the second phase. It was thanks to him that the team passed at all. The higher-ups, for their chance, looked at this with narrowed eyes, considering the Genin's history, or at least his folder. Hayate, though, merely looked at the spreadsheet in his hands and accepted his withdrawal from the exams. As he walked away, however, Kabuto had simply adjusted his glasses with an evil smile on his face. Because of Kabuto's withdrawal, Sakura had simply forgotten about her desire to inform of Sasuke's illness.
"Okay then, since no one else will quit, we shall continue. The matches will happen in one-on-one. There are now exactly twenty people, so we will conduct ten battles overall. The winners shall attend the third exam. There are no rules for this combat, so you'll fight until someone dies, collapses, or admit defeat. In other words, please admits defeat right away if you don't have a death wish. I can interrupt the match at any time if I see a clear victor. Now, please everyone clear the area and move to the upper platforms as the fights shall begin. The names shall be randomly selected on the board up there."
As instructed, everyone went up to the upper platforms, while the names appeared on the board.
The first names on the board were Nara Shikamaru from the Leaf versus Kin Tsuchi from the Sound Village.
The lazy genius released a sigh at his name being mentioned and casually walked down the stairs followed by his opponent, a woman from the looks of it, which further annoyed the Nara heir. The two combatants were then standing face to face with Hayate as the referee. When the match started, Shikamaru had immediately begun with his shadow binding technique. Kin saw the shadow beam charging at her and evaded. She then released a couple of senbon with bells attached. Shikamaru dodged the incoming projectile and observed as the senbon lodged at the wall behind him. A couple more senbon and this time Shikamaru blocked it with a kunai, before closing the distance. Before he went within close range, though, he heard the distinguished noises of the bells and turned to see it. Kin took the opportunity of the distraction and threw more senbon at the Nara.
However, after facing Naruto so many times, despite Shikamaru's complaints, his agility had improved by leaps and bounds, allowing him ample time to dodge and use his shadow bind once more.
Only this time, instead of the usual shadow beam, Kin was surprised when the shadow had split up in smaller tendrils as each charged in different directions. Kin cursed having to dodge from multiple directions and chose the only venue she could dodge. As soon as she placed her right foot to go backwards, Shikamaru smiled and joined his shadow to one single beam that captured the sound Genin. Naruto and Hinata both smiled at the clever plan from the team's strategist. Shikamaru had forced Kin to make that move and the moment that she dashed backwards; she had lost her footing for a few seconds. That was enough for Shikamaru to move for the checkmate. Naruto had almost fell victim for that strategy in one of their spars one time, by using a Kage Bunshin to be captured in this place.
"Huh, Kagemane no Jutsu, success." Shikamaru had even casually walked towards Kin and Kin moved against her will, shortening the distance. Shikamaru had a kunai on his hand and when they stood face to face, Shikamaru's kunai became inches from her neck, positioning himself for the win as per Hayate's decree.
Next up was Inuzuka Kiba from the Leaf versus Sabaku no Kankuro from the Sand Village. As usual, Kiba underestimated the enemy and heavily paid the price. Kankuro's use of chakra strings was enough to trap Akamaru and the Inuzuka heir lost his trump card right away. And since his fighting style revolved around fighting with his canine partner and despite Kiba being a heavy close-range fighter, he lacked the necessary skill to take on Kankuro's puppets. Kakashi, up in the stands, couldn't help but sigh in dismay for his student as Kiba had simply forgotten to take this fight seriously.
Next up was Aburame Shino from the Leaf versus Zaku Abumi from the Sound Village with the Aburame heir being the victor.
The battles progressed with Sabaku no Temari from the Sand winning against Tenten of the Leaf. Naruto keenly observed the use of wind jutsu aided by fans. Haruno Sakura from the Leaf had defeated Yamanaka Ino also from the Leaf quite easily, expertly mixing taijutsu, shurikenjutsu and genjutsu, much to Naruto's applause. He had even openly praised Sakura for her skills, to which she accepted, basking in the praise from her senpai. Sakura had trained a lot under Naruto's guidance, and she dedicated her win to him, even more than Kakashi-sensei. Akimichi Chouji was up against another Genin from the Sound, named Kinuta Dosu. The match was rather pathetic, though, with Chouji using his clan's technique to expand his body and rolling towards Dosu. Dosu, though, had simply sidestepped, forcing Choji to hit the wall pretty hard and lose consciousness.
Naruto and Asuma had to sweat drop at Kurenai heavily rubbing her forehead at the display.
The genjutsu user was already frowning at Ino's poor showing against Sakura, but she couldn't help but wonder if she should have focused more on Chouji's training. At least Shino had managed to advance.
When the next names appeared, though, Hinata gasped and Naruto was by her side immediately, giving her courage. The reserved main branch Hyuga couldn't help but look at her cousin, who was simply crossing his arms, while focusing on the board. The two Hyuga then walked together downstairs, before standing face to face. Their facial expressions varied…Neji looked angry at her and she looked saddened by it.
"I never thought I would have to fight you Hinata-sama" Hinata had evolved a great deal from the timid girl she used to be, but she couldn't help but revert to that state upon hearing the anger at how he had addressed her.
Still, now was not the time to dwell on these problems. Hinata wished she could have faced another adversary, but Neji was her opponent.
"I didn't want to face you as well Neji-Nisan, but I guess fate has chosen for us."
If Hinata had one word that Neji had absolutely loathed above all else it was that: fate.
"Yes, indeed fate has placed us to face each other Hinata-sama. And fate has smiled at me with the opportunity to face you without the clan doing anything against me." Hinata stood there facing her cousin. She knew what he was talking about, of course. She had seen it happening one time too many to understand the depth of his anger towards her. Well, towards her would be wrong, rather towards the main branch family. But right now, Hinata may very well be the face of the main branch in his eyes. Aside from truly wishing to become stronger, she wished to rid her cousin of this hatred.
Naruto and Kurenai eyed each other from the upper grounds, knowing the mountain that Hinata now had to climb on her own, before both turned back to the fight.
"Neji-Nisan, I don't believe words will change what happened in the past. All I can do right now is face you head on." Neji, for his part, smiled as both fell into the traditional fighting position.
"I would be remiss if I didn't say one more thing beforehand…withdraw Hinata-sama." Although, by the look in his eyes, he didn't want her to…he wanted her to fight and she knew that.
Naruto knew bits and pieces about what happened to Hinata's cousin from Hinata. How Neji's father ended up taking Hiashi-sama's place to serve as sacrifice to stop a war against Kumo, even though it was Kumo who decided to kidnap Hinata that day. He knew about the Hyuuga Clan's seal on Neji's forehead that is used by the main branch to force loyalty and that Hiashi had already used it on Neji once. Because of what he knew, he could feel Neji's chakra spiking to dangerous levels and without a doubt was aimed at Hinata. Neji's killing intent was clear towards Hinata. He knew that his teammate wouldn't back down, though. And while a part of him truly believed that it would be best for her to withdraw, this was also her opportunity to truly gauge her own growth as he knew she can do this.
"I won't Neji-nissan, so don't bother." Hinata stated resolutely, accepting his anger.
As soon as Hayate authorized the fight, both byakugan activated at the same time as they exchanged chakra thrusts with each other, going toe to toe. Neji had more experience, but Hinata had trained extensively with Naruto. Plus, she learned from her teammate how to avoid the powerful chakra thrusts that could block the chakra points. Her eyes were focused on Neji's hands while using both her own diverting style and Naruto's evasion technique. Still, she could feel some of Neji's blows land even if barely. Overloading her chakra circuits hurt like hell, but it helped overcome Neji's blows. What surprised the older Hyuuga was that Hinata landed some hits as well.
And it irritated him to no end.
Her footing and movement had both grace and agility the likes of which Neji had never seen before.
Soon it became a dangerous dance of strength versus grace. And while Hinata managed to face her cousin, Naruto was on her mind the entire time. She remembered their fights together just as she was battling against Neji now.
She could see his deep cerulean eyes and confident smile directed at her from the upper platforms.
'Please watch me Naruto-kun'
When Hinata tried to attack Neji, though, she had made the fatal mistake. Her style revolves around counter attacking. When Neji landed a powerful chakra thrust at her chest, Hinata felt it right away as she spilled blood. Still, Neji was surprised when her counterattack landed an equally powerful strike on his stomach. Naruto squeezed both hands on the rail as he looked in anticipation for the injuries she sustained. A hit like that from the jyuuken was quite deadly. Back to the fight, both Hyuuga were on the ground panting from the pain, though Hinata's was worse. She desperately wanted to get up and fight, but the blood kept on dripping from her mouth and she could feel her stamina leaving her body.
She felt weak, but as she looked up to Neji, she realized that she had done that to him.
She…the timid girl…the one to whom the clan looked down upon…the girl whose own father looked down and said that she would never amount to much. She, Hyuuga Hinata, had sent the clan's prodigy to the ground, panting. And based on the look in Neji's eyes, he was just as surprised at she was. Best of all, was that Hinata had seen something else in his eyes…recognition, acknowledgement…finally looking at her like a worthy adversary. Then she looked up and saw him. She saw him smiling at her. That was enough for her…she has proven to both him and herself that she was capable. And truly they was enough. Both Naruto and Kurenai had shunshined down next to her, just as Hayate called the match in Neji's favor. The medics were approaching and Hinata opened her eyes to look at the two most special people in her life.
"Kurenai-sensei, Naruto-kun…how was I?" The blond smiled and grabbed her hand.
"You were excellent Hinata. I knew you could do it. You showed him."
"You were indeed Hinata-Chan, now please rest." The girl smiled sweetly at both and gently closed her eyes, feeling lighter than ever, filled with enough confidence that she could take on every possible challenge from here on out.
The medics took both Neji and Hinata away, as Naruto and Kurenai returned to the stands, none of them bothering to look at the others's surprised looks, namely Anko, Kakashi, Shikamaru and Asuma. Their surprise was more regarding the fact that Kurenai and Naruto practically moved at the same time in clear concern for Hinata and that spoke volumes. Asuma, though, couldn't help but smile at this. He knew that Kurenai cared for Hinata like her own daughter and Naruto had greatly helped her grow out of her shell.
The board then sprang into action once more and it stopped on two quite interesting names.
When Naruto's name appeared next to Sasuke, the blond Genin couldn't help but sigh in dismay. He didn't even need to see Sasuke to know that he was looking forward to this fight.
He saw Sasuke coming down the stairs and was about to follow him when Sakura stopped him.
"Naruto-senpai…there is something wrong with Sasuke-kun." Sakura just couldn't talk about what happened from fear of Sasuke losing confidence in her, but she could at least ask her senpai to better handle Sasuke with care.
"What happened, Sakura?" He could see that she was tense when speaking.
"Sorry, but explaining everything would take too long…but…"
"Is it about that strange seal on his neck?" Sakura looked surprised at that while Naruto turned to look at his opponent down below waiting for him. "I can sense that his chakra is in disarray, though I don't know why. I can't promise that I won't take this seriously, though. Just like him, I want to advance." Sakura nodded anyhow.
"I understand…just don't go overboard on him ok?"
"Huh, I make no promises." Naruto stated with a wink and Sakura couldn't help but smile, before Naruto using shunshin to stand right in front of the smirking Sasuke.
Naruto stood face to face with Sasuke and he could see that Sasuke was itching for another fight with him. In the beginning of their training sessions, Naruto had enjoyed them, but then with time, Sasuke started demanding more and more time to fight him, every time. In some of those demands, Naruto caved, but in other times he had other priorities like joining his team for training or helping Sakura or even hanging out with Kurenai and Yakumo for genjutsu practice. Naruto had even distanced himself from the Uchiha when he wanted to train some of the hidden skills he had yet to reveal to the public.
"You have been blowing me off for a while, Naruto. But now you can't avoid fighting me." Naruto sighed as he felt the sudden spike in Sasuke's chakra followed by the Uchiha's flinching in pain.
"It would be best if you withdraw Sasuke. I can see that you're in pain. If it's a fight you want, then we can do it once you recovered." He owed Sakura to at least try, though he was certain that Uchiha wouldn't back down.
"Worry about yourself, let's do this!"
"And yet you still wonder why I avoid facing you sometimes, when you're like this, acting like everyone needs to do your bidding. I can see though that mere words will not suffice." Despite the obvious jab, the Uchiha was unconcerned. What mattered the most to him was to have fights like this and surpass him. By surpassing him, Sasuke could see himself surpassing his brother in the future. The rest of the audience looked at this fight right now in great anticipation. Despite some of the Jounin knowing about Sasuke's current disadvantage, he was still an Uchiha and could give Naruto trouble. The Hokage puffed smoke from his pipe and looked straight at Naruto, since this happens to be the first time he has seen the kid in action.
The other Jounin were also eager to see who would prevail.
Naruto had quickly unleashed his ninjato and fell into position with a reverse grip. Sasuke used a kunai on his hand and both vanished as soon as Hayate authorized the fight. The Genin widened their eyes at the sheer speed displayed by these two, before they met in the middle grinding weapons. Sasuke snarled at the strength required to normally parry Naruto added by the pain of the seal. Naruto appeared to be tranquil as he observed Sasuke or rather his onyx eyes.
"Aren't you using your Sharingan, Sasuke? Without it, you won't last long." Sasuke quickly redirected Naruto's sword and attempted a flip kick to which Naruto easily sidestepped and closed in on Sasuke, making a faint slash on Sasuke's torso. The Uchiha used agility to evade, but his shirt was slightly torn, before he took some distance away from the blond. Naruto's sensor capabilities could feel Sasuke's chakra flow battling as if there was a presence inside of him, trying to take over.
Sasuke charged at Naruto and he saw it too late when Naruto's free hand shifted into a half ram seal. From up the platforms, Kurenai smirked as Naruto began. Sasuke had attacked the Naruto that he saw in front of him, but the real Naruto was a couple of centimeters to the right of his actual position, easily sidestepping Sasuke's attack and grazing the Uchiha's arm with his sword. The Uchiha grunted in pain and charged once more, with the same thing happening, only this time it was the other arm. There was no way that Naruto could be this fast. It was like he was disappearing for a single second and appearing right next to him. Asuma and Shikamaru looked on in surprise at this and the bearded Jounin turned to the smirking Kurenai.
"He is using genjutsu?" The woman looked at him briefly and nodded still with a proud smile.
"It's a style he devised in our genjutsu training. Sasuke could have seen it with the Sharingan, but since he is not using it, he is clueless about what is going on, mistaking it for Naruto's agility instead."
Asuma and Shikamaru then looked back at the fight to see Sasuke's shirt completely torn, from Naruto's sword.
"How the hell are you doing this?" the Uchiha had enough speed to rival most adversaries, but he just couldn't follow Naruto's attacks.
"Use your Sharingan, Sasuke. Or else you'll be finished quite quickly. Truly, I expected better from you." If Naruto wanted to push his buttons, he had truly succeeded. Up from the stands, the Jounin from Sound – Orochimaru in disguise – was focusing on this Uzumaki Naruto attentively. True, that Sasuke couldn't use the Sharingan because of the seal, but facing an Uchiha in close combat even without the dojutsu was surprising. Plus, Orochimaru saw a genius mix of genjutsu and kenjutsu, the likes of which ninja nowadays don't favor much. For this fact alone, Naruto spiked Orochimaru's interest.
Back to Sasuke, he figured that keeping like this was not to his advantage. He was bleeding in multiple places and he was clueless. Naruto was barely winded and Sasuke was panting. He couldn't keep up like this!
Kakashi narrowed his eyebrows the minute that Sasuke activated his Sharingan. Naruto had pushed him into doing this.
Sasuke ignored the sudden pain as he eyed Naruto now with his two-tomoe Sharingan. This time, Naruto stopped his previous strategy and faced Sasuke head on using his own speed. The fight became even as despite Sasuke anticipating Naruto's movements, his body just wasn't trained to follow. Up from the stands, Gai and Lee looked in approval at the blond for his agility. Lee was faster than this, but still it was quite impressive to see a Genin from the first year this fast. Sasuke smirked despite the pain, managing to even the playing field, but still he was nowhere near turning the tides of the battle. Despite not receiving anymore injuries, he was now merely parrying Naruto's strikes. The blond, then, surprised him with a distance and went through hand seals.
Sasuke believed it would be one of the ninjutsu Naruto knew, but he was surprised to see Naruto vanishing and Itachi dressed in an Anbu uniform looking at Sasuke with his three tomoe Sharingan.
Magen Narakumi no Jutsu (Demonic Ilusion: Hell Viewing Technique)
Sasuke saw red at this point, despite his Sharingan telling the truth, Naruto's technique sprung up the seal from Orochimaru.
And with Sasuke's lack of will power to hold the seal's influence at bay, Naruto was surprised when the seal spread from Sasuke's neck and advanced towards his entire body. Such a use of fuinjutsu, he wasn't even aware of. His genjutsu was released immediately and Naruto parried Sasuke's kunai and he could feel the strength of Sasuke now doubled as well as his speed. Up from the stands, Anko was visibly arguing with the Hokage to stop this fight immediately, but the Hokage had not given the order thus far. Kakashi could see that the Hokage was interested in what Naruto would do next.
Kurenai and Asuma were worried as well, as they could feel the malevolent energy from Sasuke just now.
Naruto, for his chance, realized that right now facing a deranged Sasuke meant that he needed to add chakra into his limbs for added agility. As soon as he did so, aided by the half ram sign, those in attendance's eyes widened at the sudden spike, before Naruto became a mere blur. Hiruzen became surprised on a positive note and right now only the Jounin managed to follow Naruto's movements. Sasuke snarled at the sudden agility and attempted a fire ninjutsu to stop his advance. His Sharingan could see where Naruto is going, but by the time he acts on it, the blond is already gone and charging towards Sasuke. The Uchiha became surprised when Naruto appeared right in front of him and landed a fierce kick on Sasuke's chest, sending him flying towards the wall. The Uchiha slammed his back hard and coughed even more blood.
His anger, though, was off the charts and wiped the blood from his mouth, before charging madly. Sakura, by this point, trembled remembering Sasuke like this in the Forest of Death.
"Kakashi-sensei, we need to stop this. Sasuke is…" Sakura, though, was surprised when Kakashi made a 'hmph' in acknowledgment for what Naruto was planning.
The scarecrow Jounin already knew that Naruto had way more skills than he had shown thus far, but this truly shocked him beyond any doubt. And to believe that so far he had yet to use any elemental ninjutsu.
"Don't worry Sakura, Naruto can handle him. Trust your senpai." Sakura then looked as Naruto dashed backwards while Sasuke charged. Their movement then became only visible to Jounin and above. As soon as Naruto placed a hand on the ground, they saw it. Hiruzen's smirk was quite visible, Orochimaru couldn't help but lick his lips in anticipation. Kakashi, Kurenai, Asuma and Anko displayed surprising looks on their faces. Kurenai may have seen some astounding stuff from this blond enigma, but not nearly this advanced and so soon.
When Sasuke stepped on the place that Naruto placed his hand just seconds after, his body had frozen instantly as black lines spread all over his body as well, crawling up his chest.
Try as he might, Sasuke couldn't rid himself as Naruto unleashed his ninjato with a superior smirk on his face.
"Well, attempting this against kage bunshins only goes so far, but I managed to time your footing and apply the binding seal on the ground."
Sasuke snarled and attempted to break free, but he saw Naruto's ninjato placed inches from Sasuke's jugular, before Hayate called the match in Naruto's favor.
Having secured the victory, Naruto then released the seal on Sasuke's body, though obviously Sasuke's enraged state cared very little about Hayate's word. As he was about to advance against Naruto once more, Kakashi appeared behind him and slammed the back of Sasuke's neck, sending the Uchiha into the sweet land of unconsciousness. Kakashi had only saluted Naruto with a smile, before vanishing with Sasuke towards somewhere else. Naruto, for his chance, merely walked back towards the upper platforms, before joining close to Shikamaru and Asuma, none the wiser that his display had attracted the eyes of the rest of the Genin still in attendance. Beforehand, no one bothered to look at him, but now everyone focused on him, namely one with a sand gourd on his back.
"I hope you understand how troublesome you are right now Naruto…" The blond Genin laughed at Shikamaru's eyebrow tick.
"Well, I didn't wish for Sasuke to steal my ninjutsu with his sharingan, so I shifted strategies." Asuma and Kurenai were amused at the Nara's antics.
"Huh, why do I get the feeling that you have yet to show half of everything you can do…you do irk me you know that!" Naruto could only laugh at the faux accusation. If only he knew…if only they knew…
"You think too much of me, Shika." Asuma chuckled as he knew Shikamaru's brain was functioning like crazy to try and gather the missing pieces of this puzzle.
"Good showing out there, Naruto. I guess I shouldn't be surprised anymore to see a different skill from you. I'm eager to see what will be revealed next." Naruto looked towards the smirking smoking Jounin next to Kurenai.
"Who knows, perhaps a ninjutsu or two." Kurenai frowned and Naruto corrected himself with a sweat drop. "Of course, in between other skills, right." Only when she smiled at him did he realize that he was played.
"Relax Naruto-kun, I was just messing with you. It was a good display out there."
The last two battles progressed as well with two of Kabuto's teammates facing each other until both admitted the lack of chakra and abandoned their match. The last match involved Sabaku no Gaara from the Sand and Rock Lee from the Leaf. Though Lee was a taijutsu beast, going as far as to use a technique that involved the opening of chakra gates to increase his strength and speed, Gaara's prowess with his sand proved to be fatal, going as far as to crush some of Lee's bones, much to his team's shock. The medic-nins had taken him away and Gai followed suit. Naruto's eyes were firm on Gaara as the Suna Genin simply walked back towards the upper platform as if nothing happened.
With the last match done and done, Hayate announced the end of the preliminaries.
As such, those who won stood in front of the Hokage as well as the proctors Ibiki and Anko.
"Okay, now that the preliminaries are finished, I'd like to let you take your leave, but not before explaining about the third round, which will commence in about a month's time from now. First, though, each and every one of you will take a slip of paper from the box that Anko is holding." The Tokubetsu Jounin then walked forward to each one of the Genin and Maito Gai acting in Neji's stead as they grabbed one piece of paper each. Ibiki stood next to the Hokage with a chart in his hand and ordered everyone to tell the number that was on each of the papers.
"Ibiki, show them the pairings…" the head of the interrogation department then flipped the chart and showed the Genin whom they would be facing in one month's time. Naruto looked at his name next to Neji's and already began to think of his strategy.
The chart shown as follows:
1st Match - Naruto x Neji
2nd Match - Shikamaru x Temari
3rd Match - Shino x Kankuro
4th Match - Sakura x Dosu
5th Match – Winner of the 1st Match x Winner of the 2nd Match
6th Match – Winner of the 3rd Match x Winner of the 4th Match
7th Match – Winner of the 5th Match x Winner of the 6th Match
8th Match – Winner of the 7th Match x Gaara
Gaara went straight to the final fight against the best of the eight combatants.
"As you can see, the third round will be a tournament. As to why it will happen in one month's time. As of right now, we are sending invitations to many of feudal lords and high dignitaries to come. The organization will take time. Plus, since you now know your opponent, you will have one month's time to train and come up with a strategy against your opponents. "
"I do have one question." Shikamaru raised his hand and the Hokage allowed it. "It looks like there is only one victor in this tournament. Does that mean that only the victor will be promoted to Chunin?"
"No, on the contrary. The judges of the final round, of which I am one of them, will analyze your skills, your strategy, your decision making and judge whether or not you'd be worthy of the promotion. Unfortunately, Gaara-kun here will only have one opportunity to display whereas the rest will have more, of course, if you are able to beat your opponent that is. Even if someone loses the first round, you can still be eligible for the promotion." Gaara just stood there with his arms crossed, not saying anything and the Hokage just chuckled, finishing it. "Now, we shall meet again in one month's time. Dismissed."
After the tournament explanation and seeing who would be facing whom, the Genin had gathered around with their respective Jounin sensei, well at least those from Konoha did. Sakura looked around and found that her entire team had left her alone there, well, Kakashi had taken Sasuke away for something and Kiba was taken by the medic-nin after his loss to Kankuro. She turned to look for Naruto and saw him talking to his teammates. Seeing him chatting amicably with Shikamaru and Asuma-sensei brought about a smile on her face. The pink-haired Genin truly looked up to him, she reasoned. Ever since the Wave mission, he had helped her in many ways, and she credited her win today to his guidance. His fight against Sasuke only proved how far ahead he was. It was like he was toying with Sasuke the entire time…hell Naruto had even won with Sasuke using the damn cursed seal of his.
Still, instead of depressing her, it only served to inspire her into reaching bigger heights in her career. And her opponent was that Genin from Sound, Kinuta Dosu.
She needed to devise a strategy against him and she needed to talk to Kakashi-sensei. She turned just as the scarecrow Jounin manifested behind her with a grin and a greeting.
"Kakashi-sensei, you're back. What about Sasuke-kun?"
Kakashi released a sigh knowing that Sakura would question that. Truth be told, Kakashi wasn't counting on meeting with the snake Orochimaru when he was performing the sealing around Sasuke's cursed seal. It was actually the second time they met and the same thing happened. Him freezing on the spot and Orochimaru simply walking past him as if nothing happened. Whether that was due to Orochimaru's strong Kanashibari no Jutsu (Temporary Paralysis Technique) or Kakashi being too weak to break free from the Sannin's stare was irrelevant. The only truth that remained was that should the snake desired, Kakashi would be killed in less than a second.
"Truth be told, Sakura, it's up to Sasuke now. I've done all I can, but only he can fight against Orochimaru's seal." Sakura looked downtrodden, but Kakashi simply placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Now now, we can't worry about him for now. As I heard, you'll be facing the Genin from Sound, Dosu. So, we shall focus on your training for this month and we'll come up with a suitable strategy against him. Is there something you wish to improve or learn throughout this month? As I recall, your opponent seems to be rather fond of that metal arm of his that emits sound waves. Also, we will need to focus on your possible opponents afterward, either Shino or Kankuro from the Sand." Sakura was eyeing her sensei in awe as she didn't even look that far ahead.
"Wow sensei, slow down there." Kakashi chuckled at Sakura's groan.
"No time for that, my cute little Genin. We shall get you ready for the third part."
"And what about Sasuke-kun and Kiba…are you ditching them?" Kakashi couldn't be prouder of her for this. If he were to offer this to Sasuke and Kiba, chances were that neither of them would bother thinking of his teammates.
"They can join us if they want to. Sasuke is advancing fine with his Sharingan already and Kiba has his family to train him. This month is about you, Sakura. I will warn you though…I shall up your training severely."
"Well then, bring it on sensei."
Meanwhile, Asuma was having his own chat with Naruto and Shikamaru.
After Naruto asked about Hinata to which the bearded shinobi explained that she was duly taken care of and then taken to her family's house to rest, Asuma talked about his Genin's plans for the training month.
"So, now we have reached a kind of impasse. Two of my Genin have progressed to the third round and there is only one of me here. Plus, there is the possibility of you two facing each other, so training together wouldn't be ideal."
Naruto and Shikamaru eyed each other, then turned back to their sensei.
"Sensei, not to sound like Shika needs your help the most, but I believe it's better for me to train on my own for this month." True that Naruto's words ended up helping the impasse, but Asuma was slightly hurt that his Genin was already this dismissive of his help. Not that Asuma really took credit for almost everything that Naruto displayed so far. The truth was that Asuma only taught him how to fine tune his wind techniques.
"Well, Shika has his family to help him, Naruto. You'll be facing Neji first, so we could devise a strategy together." Shikamaru had simply placed his hands behind his head in deep contemplation.
"Tou-san has been rather busy these last few weeks with Hokage-sama for something, so I don't think he will have much time for me, sensei." Asuma knew that to be true, considering Nara Shikaku's role in advising the Hokage. And Naruto had the perfect argument to help assuage Asuma into leaving him alone for what he was thinking of for this month.
"Asuma-sensei, since Shika will face Temari first, he needs to train against her wind techniques. You'd be perfect to help him with that." Asuma though scratched his head as he observed his Genin.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you don't want my help, Naruto." Well, that could be true in a way, saying it like that would be wrong.
"It's not that, I just figured that you would be torn, trying to help us both. Perhaps you can focus on Shika for the three weeks and then we can meet for the last week, then, how's that sound? Besides, I bet that Shika will take that week to sleep anyway."
Shikamaru deadpanned at his teammate for criticizing one of his favorite hobbies.
"You say it like it's a bad thing." Asuma laughed and conceded to Naruto's plan.
"Okay Naruto, we shall meet again in three weeks then. But if you wish to talk to me before, you know where to find me." Naruto nodded, before seeing Asuma and Shikamaru leaving the forest together.
He then saw that Shino and Kurenai had finished their conversation as the Aburame heir had left as well. Kakashi and Sakura had left also and Kurenai was now talking to Anko. As soon as he approached the two, Anko turned to him.
"Hi there gaki, that was a good fight. You mopped the floor with that Uchiha. Felt really good to see, I'll admit." Naruto and Kurenai chuckled at Anko's enthusiasm.
"Thank you, truth be told, it would have been a lot tougher if he was in full strength." Anko snorted at Naruto downplaying his own victory. It was surprising to Kurenai that Naruto was still down to earth despite his display just now.
"That's the Chunin Exams for you…tough luck…these situations happen. Well, not meeting that snake fuck and getting a hickey…but out there on missions, you won't get the chance to face a fight, fully rested." Naruto accepted it and then turned to Kurenai.
"I take it you will be focusing on Shino, right Kurenai-sensei?" She nodded with her arms crossed.
"Yes, though I bet that Shino will also favor some tutoring from his clan as well. Why do you ask…isn't Asuma helping you?"
"Oh, just curious. Asuma-sensei will be training me for the last week. I actually wanted to train on my own for a while. He has to focus on Shikamaru as well."
Kurenai smirked at him knowingly, already guessing he would prefer it this way, though she couldn't help but want to tease him some.
"Another of your side projects, I see…and here I thought you'd come here and ask for my help." Naruto smiled at his second sensei's faux disappointed face. Anko looked at her friend with a lifted eyebrow, surprised to see her at ease with him.
"Nothing like that, I don't plan on learning anything new, just improve on the skills I already know. Come to think about it, do you happen to know anyone willing to give me some pointers in kenjutsu?" Anko and Kurenai looked surprised as he elaborated. "Against the byakugan, genjutsu is pointless, so if I am to face him at close-range, I would need to use kenjtusu from close-range and ninjutsu from long-range." Seeing that Naruto is constantly training with Hinata, it was no surprise that he didn't take long to devise a strategy.
"I may have someone willing to help you, but she is quite busy this time around. I'll ask her." Anko smirked, knowing whom Kurenai was talking about.
"Excellent, now I guess it's high time for some celebratory ramen. See ya Anko-san, Kurenai-sensei." The two women looked at his back, leaving the tower, before Kurenai noticed Anko looking at her with a knowing smirk.
Anko couldn't help but grin. Her friend looked quite cozy when the blond gaki was nearby, but for now, the snake charmer Jounin opted to wait and see, but it was quite entertaining to see where this is heading.
"Oh nothing. Think that she will accept helping him?" Kurenai shrugged it off.
"I bet she will. Not many favors swords these days, it's a blessing to see a young man favoring different branches of the shinobi arts." Anko nodded in acceptance.
"Well, how about some sake and dango, my place. You can call her to join our little pajama party."
"Sure, let's get out of this place. I still don't know why you like coming here so much." Anko smirked as she followed Kurenai out of the tower. It was already night time outside as the training ground's usual inhabitants appeared before them.
Snakes, spiders, tigers, bears, and vicious plants, amongst others.
"What's not to like Kurenai-chan, this is paradise." Kurenai chuckled as both left via shunshin.
Ok that's about it.
Next up shall be his training month as well as the meeting with three new characters. I'm guessing that most of you will figure out, but I`ll leave it be for now.
Thank you everyone for reviewing or adding this story as favorite or following.
Next update: Avalon Bond