A/N: Here's the Final Chapter of the Introduction Arc's Second Exam Mini-Arc... I think. The only reason I say 'I think' is because this mini-arc was supposed to end THREE CHAPTERS AGO! That's it, that's done, it's a wrap, send it to print, and all of those other frilly phrases that directors use to say that they are done with filming some scene in a movie, but nooooo... I get stuck with the proverbial 'Never Ending Story' of mini-arcs. *sighs while looking dejectedly at the computer screen* Sometimes I really hate my overly-active imagination.

1. Speech/Thoughts Key:

"So, are you planning on ending this mini-arc any time soon or are you planning on making it the entire story?" - Zanpaktou Spirit/Biiju/Summoned Creature Speech

"Shut up you. No one asked you what you thought about the story, did they?" - Human Speech

Well, if they had, I would have told a certain someone to have the main character rip the heads off of the bad guys and be done with it. - Zanpaktou Spirit/Biiju/Summoned Creature Thoughts

Well, now everyone's a critic. Why don't you at least leave a review then and REALLY let me know what you think! - Human Thoughts

2. So, now that my mini-rant and arugument with Tensuga are over... please read, review, ask questions, and above all else...Enjoy!


The Second Exam: Acceptance


Tier

The world around Tier froze and faded to shades of gray as she watched the spirit of her zanpaktou walk towards her in human form accompanied by what appeared to be a female samurai with wild black hair that fell past her shoulder blades, a timeless and beautiful face, a traditional black-over-white samurai shihakusho under white Edo armor, and her most striking feature: her eyes; the woman had the same void black eyes that featured the silver six bladed stars of the Ryuugami Tengan as Kenshin. The look that the armor wearing woman was giving her sent a chill down Tier's spine, it was a look of pure 'I am a hairs' breadth away from killing you in very imaginative ways because I am so pissed off at you right now' look, and Tier had a very good idea of the reason for that anger.

She watched with trepidation as the two obviously zanpaktou spirits approached her. The two women stopped directly in front of Tier and looked down at her as the armor wearing woman said in a flat voice, "We need to talk. Now."

Tier didn't have any say in the matter as Tiburon placed a hand on the shoulder of the armor wearing woman's shoulder and the other on Tier's shoulder and she felt the very familiar twisting sensation in her gut as she was pulled into her inner world and all she saw was darkness...


Kakashi

Kakashi looked at Tier as her eyelids slid shut and then looked back at where Kenshin was now stalking towards where he and the others were at on the far side of the clearing from where he had been fighting, correction: obliterating the blue-haired samurai and his team while giving in completely into his bloodlust in his rage at the condition in which they had found Tier and her team. As he began calculating the possibility of maybe talking Kenshin down, any thought of that was dashed as he heard Kenshin inquire in the same unhinged and petulant voice as earlier, "Are you the ones that made Tia-chan not happy?"

Kakashi, his voice uncertain, said, "No, why?"

He watched as Kenshin gave him the same childlike psychotic smile that he had given the blue-haired samurai earlier, his voice managing to be both matter-of-factly and childlike as he said, "Because if you were the ones who made Tia-chan sad then I would have to kill you."

Kakashi thought, shit! Shitshitshitshit! This is so not good, he is completely gone OFF the deep end. What are we go-, his train of thought was broken as he saw Kenshin's eyes go past him to where Tier was and he saw the process with which Kenshin took in Tier's current state. Kakashi suddenly felt as if a weight the size of the Hokage Monument was thrown on top of him as he saw the smile disappear from Kenshin's face accompanied by a massive explosion of black fire-like reiatsu that seemed to turn into a massive inferno centered around Kenshin as his voice went from childlike and psychotic to completely calm and wrathful as the reiatsu was crushing Kakashi and the others, "So instead of making her sad, you hurt her. I trusted you as a friend Kakashi and you hurt her."...


Tier

Tier was screwed and she knew it. As soon as they had reached her inner world, the coral reefs and crystal blue water that was Tiburon's home within her soul, Tier had been set upon by the woman wearing the white Edo armor who was using a pair of pure black zetsurin-style katana that featured white over black hilts, forcing her to defend herself. After deflecting another vicious attack from the white armored woman she asked, "Why are you attacking me instead of trying to help Kenshin?"

The armor clad woman's face twisted from a unreadable mask into a sneer that carried all of the malevolence of an angry goddess as she spat at Tier, "Don't you dare use his name. You have been nothing but a source of pain for my samurai partner. You are the reason that he is in the state he is right now! You caused this. You getting hurt because you weren't strong enough caused him to get like this. Do you have any idea what this is doing to him right now?"

Tier wasn't allowed to answer as she had to deflect one of the woman's swords with her own and suddenly felt the familiar brush of metal against her flank as she failed to account for the other sword in the woman's hands. As she used shunpo to separate from the woman so that she could get some space, Tier spat back, "Well, if he would have pushed me harder when we were training then maybe I wouldn't have been in the situation in the first place! Also, I don't even see how our relationship is any of your business!"

As soon as she said it, Tier felt the temperature of the water around her begin to rise as the water around the armor-clad woman began to boil, forming a steam layer that outlined and defined every detail of the woman and the currents around the three of them, yes Tiburon was still there, though the shark bitch wasn't helping much at this point, became incredibly violent. The woman's voice became flat calm as she retorted, "So you blame him for your shortcomings as a samurai and you don't think that the emotional well being of my samurai partner is any of my concern. You are so not winning any points with me right now."

Tier narrowed her eyes at the armor-clad woman and said, "Still don't care about fucking winning points with a zanpaktou spirit that is more interested in trying to kick my ass instead of helping her partner. So yeah, you can go fuck yourself."

At that point, Tier heard Tiburon's voice chime in, amusement coloring her words, "So, you have an angry zanpaktou spirit before you who is literally causing the water to boil around her and who, by the way, is the Empress of Heaven, wants to kill you where you float, and you decide to tell her to 'go fuck herself'. Really smart move Tia."

Tia's eyes flickered over to where Tiburon was floating, "Well, it's not like her being here to beat me up is doing anything to help the situation, so yeah, she can go fuck herself with her own swords for all I care."

She watched as Tiburon face-palmed, "Really great, Tia, just continue to antagonize the woman who is literally steaming right now. Why am I stuck with the samurai who likes to poke angry dragons in the eye?"

Tier said, "Still don't care what she thinks about mine and Kenshin's relationship," she paused for a moment as she turned her attention back to the armor-clad woman that was her opponent, "and yes, I will use his name because, despite what you may think, and I really don't give a damn about that, by the way, I do care for him, deeply."

She watched as the armor-clad woman scoffed at her, "Obviously not deeply enough or you would have done something to bring him back to himself before now," she paused as her face took on an angry sneer, "you speak of caring for him, yet as soon as you see him at his most vulnerable, you do nothing. You just lay against the base of a tree and feel sorry for yourself as he loses himself to the bloodlust to the point where he no longer recognizes friend from foe. How the fuck is that caring for someone?"

Tier was at a loss for words as she realized what this whole fight was about: it wasn't about her getting beaten up or cut up for the amusement of some zanpaktou spirit, it was for her to realize her mistake in her inaction about stopping Kenshin's rampage. As she reflected on all of her interactions with Kenshin, Tier saw all of the times that she could have let him know that he meant more to her than just a training partner or comrade-in-arms, that she had deeper feelings for him, and that she was afraid that he would reject those feelings as a silly crush and tell her to turn her attention elsewhere to someone who was worth her time. Her train of thought was broken as the armor-clad woman spoke again, "Now do you see how your fear at admitting how you feel about him has left him unbalanced emotionally?"

Tier, not trusting herself to speak, nodded silently. She watched as the armor-clad woman, seriously she was going to have to learn the woman's name, continued, "Do you know the names of the two blades that Kenshin carries?"

Tier shook her head, "No, I don't. How could I know the names of the swords he carries if I've never seen them before?"

The armor-clad woman gave Tier a stern look, "They are named Honor and Sacrifice. The blades represent Kenshin's will to be strong enough to sacrifice everything he has to protect those he holds dear, even if it leads to the loss of his own humanity. For Kenshin, sacrificing himself in such a manner is the height of honor, as it should be for all samurai."

Tier wasn't even given a moment to process what the armor-clad woman had said before she was being attacked again. She brought her sword up and deflected the descending blade that the armor-clad woman was bringing down in a powerful overhead slash, but as she deflected the blade, Tier felt the woman's other sword bite into the skin on her flank just over her rib cage. As she spun to counter, Tier caught a powerful kick in the stomach that blasted the air from her lungs and sent her flying backwards into a coral formation, the coral opening several small cuts all over her back as it tore through her clothing as it crumpled beneath her before she was stopped by the hard stone at the base of the formation. Tier was about to attempt to extract herself from the coral when the tip of one of the armor-clad woman's black swords stopped mere inches from her throat, close enough for Tier to feel the heat radiating from the sword. When her eyes followed the sword back along it's blade to the person holding it, she found a familiar unreadable mask fitted over her attacker's face as she said in the same calm, even tone that she had used at the beginning of their fight, well not really a fight so much as her beating Tier down, "So, you have to ask yourself: Could you sacrifice yourself to keep him safe, or are you a spoiled little bitch that doesn't know what it means to be in a relationship?"...


A Few Hours Later

Kakashi

Kakashi, his team, and the badly injured team three arrived at the tower in the center of the forest just as the moon began to rise in the east. As they entered the corridor that led to the rooms set aside for the teams that made it through the forest, the group noticed several medic-nin and medically trained samurai from the hospital on standby, including none other than the Slug Sannin and Commander of the Hospital Corps, Lady Tsunade Senju and her co-commander, Taichou Retsu Shihoin. The medics immediately took the members of team three away, escorted by their own mentor, Retsu-taichou, as well as Lady Tsunade herself, who spared a glance at the unconscious form of Kenshin, who was lying across Kakashi's back, and inquired, "What's wrong with Kenshin?"

Kakashi opened his mouth to speak, but before he could answer, a deep growling voice answered from directly behind Kakashi as he felt Kenshin's unconscious weight being lifted off of his back, "Nothing that requires your tender care, Tsunade-sama."

Kakashi and the rest of team seventy-eight spun to see the massive figure of the proctor of the second exam himself, Kenpachi Shihoin, who had slung the unconscious form of Kenshin over his shoulder before continuing, "In fact, it's probably best that the rest of you go into the room designated for you so that you can open your scrolls while I see to my son's needs for now. I will let you know when it is safe to be around Kenshin."

Kakashi heard Asuma ask from beside him, "Does that mean that he completed the second exam as well, or was he disqualified?"

All of them heard Kenpachi's growling chuckle, "No, he passed with the rest of you, but due to his current state, my son is not fit to be around the lot of you runts, unless all of you want to end up dead?"

As he had finished that last sentence, Kakashi and the others had felt the killer intent that began rolling off of Kenpachi-taichou. Kakashi was quick to answer for the group, "No, Kenpachi-taichou, we are very much attached to our lives as they are and would truly wish to avoid any situation that would involve us being disfigured or maimed in anyway, shape, or form, including death. We just ask out of concern for our friend."

Kakashi watched as Kenpachi-taichou chuckled at the lot of them, "Good, now let me go see to my son while you runts go open the scrolls that you are carrying. Your room is the fourth door on the left."

Hatake caught the two scrolls that Kenpachi-taichou had tossed to him, the very same scrolls that had been in Kenshin's equipment pouch, as he and the rest of team seventy-eight watched as Kenpachi-taichou disappeared in shunpo with their friend slung over his shoulder still.

Once the three of them were in the designated room, which had really been the eighth door on the right, as there had been a written sign with their team number on it hanging on said door, Kakashi pulled the two scrolls out of one of his equipment pouches, opened both scrolls and laid them on the floor with the Earth scroll under the Heaven scroll. As soon as he stepped back, there was a poof of white smoke and when the smoke cleared, both Inoichi-and Minato-sensei were standing in front of Kenshin and his team, both wearing big smiles.

Minato-sensei was the first to speak, "Congratulations to the four of you for making it through the first two exams. Also, congratulations for being the team to make it through the fastest," just then Kakashi watched as Minato-sensei looked them over, "wait, where's Kenshin?"

Asuma answered from Kakashi's right, "He was taken away by his dad as soon as we got to the tower."

Inoichi-sensei spoke, "And we don't mean just the fastest of this group of genin, we mean ever."

Rangiku spoke up from where she was sitting on one of the cots, "Well, you can thank Asuma for that; he drove us mercilessly from the time we fought against that team of Kumo samurai to the time that we arrived here."

Asuma looked over at her, "It wasn't really that hard of a pace, was it?"

Kakashi shook his head as he was sitting on one of the cots across the room from Rangiku, "No, it wasn't that difficult of a pace to keep up with. At least, I didn't think it was."

Rangiku stared daggers at Kakashi, "Weren't you the one who was crying for a break a couple of hours ago? At least, that's what I heard, how about you Asuma?"

Asuma smiled, "Yep, Kakashi was the only one asking for a break at all."

Kakashi turned to look at Asuma, who was sitting on the cot to his left, and narrowed his eyes as a scowl took shape across his features, "Aren't you supposed to be on my side?"

Asuma replied with false innocence, "I am on the side of truth, Kakashi-san. So in this case, I will not lie."

Rangiku watched as it was Kakashi's turn to stare daggers at Asuma, "'In this case', some friend you turned out to be."

Asuma replied with false indignation in his voice, "Why, Kakashi-san, I am your friend. I would be wounded if you were to think that I was not."

Just then, the doors at the opposite end of the room, the same doors that Kakashi and his team, minus Kenshin, had entered through, opened and the rest of their teammates came into the room…


Rin

Rin followed the others into the room where Kakashi and the others were going to be staying until the time limit was up in four and a half days. As the others greeted the four of them, Rin's eyes were focused only on Kakashi as she moved around the gathering group to arrive at Kakashi's side, threading her hand and fingers in with his own. She felt him give her hand a squeeze as they focused on the conversation developing as Asuma, Rangiku, and Kenshin told the rest of their combined teams about the first two exams. Rin felt that everything was right with the world, Kakashi had made it through the first two exams safe and unharmed, and now she got to spend the rest of the time until the time limit expired on the second exam. She frowned for a moment as she felt someone's eyes on her and the feeling that those eyes were giving her was nothing short of sinister...


Obito

Obito Uchiha saw how easy it was for Rin to move over next to Kakashi and take his hand as if the two of them did that all the time. Of course, based on what he had heard around the village, Rin and Kakashi had started dating a few weeks ago. All he could feel was anger towards the other male shinobi on his team for stealing and beguiling his Rin Nohara. Obito couldn't understand how someone so cold as Kakashi could have made such an impression on Rin. His thoughts turned along those same lines, madness threatening his sanity, haven't I done everything for her. Who was always there for Rin when Kakashi would just simply walk away after training? Me. Who always helped her on our missions? Me. Who truly loves her? Me! So why the hell was I ignored in favor for that cold, black eyed bastard of a traitor! I am the better shinobi by far! I should have been the one in the exams and not him!

As Obito's mind continued down that same line of thinking, he turned and walked out of the room; his mind already beginning to plot all kinds of ways for him to get back at the silver haired shinobi on his team for taking his Rin away from him...


A Couple of Hours Later

Kenshin

Kenshin regained consciousness seemingly in stages. The first thing that he noticed was the fact that every part of his body hurt as if he had gone ten rounds with Soi Fon while she was using Shunko (Flash Cry), Minato-sensei, Urahara-sensei, Hiashi-sensei, his Kaa-san, and his Tou-san, all at the same time and had been on the receiving end of an all-too-thorough beat down. The second thing that he notice was, on top of the whole body physical pain, he had a tenryuu-sized headache building and a dull ache in the back of his neck, as if he had recently been hit there hard enough to render him unconscious. The next he noticed was the sound of multiple voices talking near where he was lying on his stomach upon what felt vaguely like a cot with some standard-issue blankets tossed on it, he could tell they were the standard-issue blankets without seeing them because they were made of the most damned uncomfortable wool that the supply department of the Konohagakure forces could find, but the voices were muffled as if he was hearing them through a wall or something. That set of alarm bells in his head for a moment until Kenshin realized that he recognized all of the chakra and reiatsu signatures coming from the next room as well as the massive one that was in very close proximity to where he was lying on the cot.

After he felt like he had gotten as much information as he was going to with his eyes shut, and he really wished that those people in the next room, friends/family though they may be, would really keep their fucking voices down and stop making his 'a fucking dragon is playing hackey-sack with my head' headache worse, Kenshin took a deep breath and cracked his eyes open, instantly regretting the decision to do so as his senses were assaulted by the unrelenting artificial light flooding the room from the ceiling-mounted fixtures. Okay, his eyes were item one-fifty-one on the 'things that hurt on my body' list. He waited a moment or two to allow his eyes to adjust to the unforgiving artificial light before fully opening them to take in his surroundings, well the wall that was only a few inches from his face anyway.

The Shihoin heir slowly turned over to where he was lying on his back, instantly recognizing with another momentary alarm going off in his head, that Tensuga was no longer strapped to his back and that he was no longer wearing his duster, armor, or boots. Great, so wherever he was, his own family and friends, if he could call them that, had decided to take away his weapons in case he was still on his bloodlust kick, didn't anyone trust him at all? After all, he was in an unmarked room in a structure that he didn't recog-...wait a sec, why the hell was he in a room and where the fuck was this building? The last thing he remembered...

At this realization, Kenshin bolted upright into a seating position on the cot, instantly regretting doing so as his vision started spinning while the contents of his stomach were staging an all out assault on his throat in an attempt to see the light of day again. As he was valiantly fighting what could end up being a losing battle with his previously consumed meal, whenever the hell that was, Kenshin heard a sound that he would recognize anywhere: a small bell ringing. Kenshin froze for a moment before turning his attention towards the only other occupant of the room, a man whose stature and appearance were matched by his reputation: his father, Kenpachi Shihoin...


Kenpachi

As soon as Kenpachi had heard what had happened in the forest from the combined team seventy-eight and the two members of team three that were still ambulatory, as well as taking in the sight of an unconscious Kenshin being supported by Kakashi and Asuma, he knew what he had to do to take of his son, whose reiatsu still bore signs of the Ryuu no Chiyokubō, even though he was unconscious at the moment. He and Retsu, after she had made sure that Shizune was receiving the proper medical attention, had set about removing their son's armor and weapons and handing all of them, save his sheathed zanpaktou, over to Minato for safe keeping while Kenshin recovered. Kenpachi had immediately asked Minato, Inoichi, and his wife, Retsu take the rest of their teams into the room next to the one where they may wait until he gave them the okay. Not that he thought that Retsu couldn't handle it, after all she had been there for him when he had fallen into the same condition over the years, but she hadn't been there for the first time that he had fallen to the Ryuu no Chiyokubō, that had been the responsibility of his father to get him through the 'hangover' that followed his first fall.

The hangover effect that occurs after a member of the clan fell into the Ryuu no Chiyokubō increased exponentially based on two factors: first, how long were they using the added power; and second, how deeply did that member give into the bloodlust. From what the others had told Kenpachi, his son had fallen so deeply into the Ryuu no Chiyokubō that he no longer recognized friend from foe and had been in that state for over ten minutes before being rendered unconscious by the combined efforts of his teammates. Simple translation: this hangover was going to be a bitch for his son. Fortunately, Kenpachi had thought ahead and had some habu sake brought to the room that he was now sitting in with his unconscious son.

As he sat vigil over Kenshin, Kenpachi considered what course of action to take in regards to his son's condition. The first possibility was to have his son perform meditation exercises for the next day or two, but where was the fun in that? Kenpachi would much rather take option B, beat the living crap out of his son in a sparring match until Kenshin had his head on straight again...


Later That Night

Zabuza

Zabuza had watched out the corner of his eye as Kenshin and his team disappeared into the forest in the direction of the tower at the center of the forest. That had been almost six hours ago and the time had not been wasted in his opinion. After they had disappeared, Zabuza had thought on what Kenshin had said about the whole mission that he and his team had been assigned and had just realized after over five hours of kneeling where he was held by the binding spell that the person that hired his team had to be someone fairly high placed in Konoha and not someone from the Rock Village as they had been led to believe when he heard someone who was practiced in the arts of stealth land on the ground at the edge of the forest and begin to approach him. The figure came into Zabuza's peripheral vision and moved close to Zabuza. He immediately noticed that the person standing over him with a disgusted look on his face was none other than the shinobi that had handed Zabuza the map before his team had entered the forest. The shinobi spoke, his voice dripping with derision, "Go figure a bunch of useless backwater barbarians pretending to be shinobi couldn't take down one little kid when he was all but tied up and served to you on a silver platter. I wonder how Lord Orochimaru will react when I tell him that his little plan failed, as I knew it would."

Zabuza kept silent and still, hopefully leading the Konoha shinobi to believe that he was neither healed enough nor had regained control over his body to do anything about the ninja's presence as the Konoha shinobi, who just wouldn't shut up, continued his rant about how useless outside help was and how, if he had been allowed the honor of executing the kill order, he wouldn't have missed his target the way that the 'Blood Mist Two-bit Hacks' had. Zabuza slowly readied his body for the strike as Mr. Loudmouth continued to talk about how useless it was for someone of Orochimaru-sama's position to rely on outside help to deal with village problems, as he thought, that's it. Don't mind me, I'm just bound here by a kidoh that is also slowly healing me. Oh, and by the way, as soon as this kidoh is weak enough, I'm going to cut you in half, Mr. Loudmouth.

Finally Zabuza felt like he had enough freedom of movement just as the man came unknowingly into his range and said as he rose to his feet and swung his sword, "You talk too much."…


A Little While Later

Loudmouth Shinobi

As he emerged from the forest with the bodies of the mist ninja that had been sent sealed inside of the scrolls that he carried in holsters on his belt, Mr. Loudmouth exited the gate that was held open by another of the chuunin proctors for the exams who looked at him and said, "Hey Mizuke, did you find out what that huge explosion of reiatsu this afternoon was? That shit really freaked me the fuck out. Just the way it felt was terrifying."

The man openly shuddered as he looked to the newly-identified Mizuke for an answer. It took Mizuke a moment to realize that the other shinobi was talking to him, let alone waiting for an answer from him. Mizuke took a moment longer to collect his thoughts before replying, "That reiatsu was the Shihoin heir receiving the true form of his shikai. I watched it happen up close," and personal, he thought as he continued, "as he tore apart two of the Kiri shinobi and a team of Kumo samurai who had tried to rape the members of another of our teams without even breaking a sweat," Mizuke paused for a moment, shaking his head and repressing a shudder as if memories of the black-clad samurai with the twin zetsurin katana carving his way through the Kiri shinobi and Kumo samurai had truly terrified him, though he had added on the Kumo part as a bit of flare because it felt like something Kenshin would do to protect others, "Man, remind me never to get on that kid's bad side; I don't think that I would live through it."

Mizuke watched as his 'buddy' nodded in response before continuing, "Anyway, I need to get back to standing 'Guard Duty' at this gate, so drinks later?"

Mizuke gave the man a winning smile as he said, "Sure and you can regale me with the tales of all of the genin that came out crying for their mommies."

He watched as his 'friend' gave an enthusiastic nod and he almost missed the blush that crossed the man's cheeks at his offer. Okay, he was definitely getting out of here before he had this fag in front of him jump his bones. Mizuke spoke as he started to walk away, "See you around. I have to go write a report on what I saw in there."

He watched as the other shinobi nodded enthusiastically and said brightly, "See you tonight, Mizuke-kun."

Mizuke turned away while repressing a violent shudder at the thought of being in the vicinity of this gay shinobi a moment longer, so not going to see you later, fag. He hurried his steps towards the village gates without making it look like he was in as much of a hurry as he was to get away. As soon as he was out of sight, Mizuke disappeared in Mizu Shunshin and began the long trek out of Fire Country and towards his home in Water Country. When he was certain that he was far enough away from Konohagakure, 'Mizuke' dropped his henge no jutsu (transformation technique) and continued on his way in his true form...


A/N: Sorry for the long wait between updates, but with work and everything else going on... I kind of lost track of time. Next update should come out a lot faster than this one did. 'Til next time.