Chapter 21 : Chunin Exams - Preliminaries End

After cleaning up what little was left of Kabuto the arena was restored with a simple earth manipulation by an ANBU with a bear mask, Naruto remembered the man as one of the Hebi-teme's experiments named Tenzo or as he liked to be called, Yamato.

While this had been going one Kyu was finally able to make contact with Nibi via one of Naruto's Sage arts based off the Yamanaka jutsu and the mental link created between mates, it was known as Sage Arts - Mind Soul Link. It could be used as a temporary link or with a special seal, could be applied for a longer period for silent communication.

Kyuubi gasped a bit as she found herself in Yugito's mindscape. She could still feel Naruto's presence and strangely two others. To her eternal shock, Naruto, Minato and Kushina appeared in the mindscape as well.

"N-Naruto-kun...how!" She asked a bit stunned.

Naruto smirked. "I replaced myself with a Shadow Clone I had waiting in the shadows when I noticed what you were doing. Mom and Pops...it's kind of a recent development but they can now come and go freely within my soul and mind scape, a gift from Shinigami and Kami for killing the Hebi-teme. I asked pops to come along so we could both inspect the seal and cursed seal and see if we could help Yugito-chan." Naruto explained.

While he was explaining this, Kushina had glomped onto Kyuubi and began mumbling about wanting grand babies soon...causing the vixen to flush. Minato just chuckled and gave her a wave; there was no animosity between them as Kyuubi saw her sealing as a blessing in disguise. In a way, so did Naruto's parents, they might not be among the living anymore but they now had eternity to be with their son and his soon to be large family.

"Alright son, let's go find Nibi and see if we can help her out, if memory serves, she was one of the few Bijuu that weren't bloodthirsty monsters." Minato said.

Kyu nodded. "She's really nice, a bit on the independent and flirty side...basically Ino-chan but a Cat-Girl."

Naruto nearly cringed and stuffed down a perverted though...who didn't think cat-girls weren't sexy or cute?

Following the maze of tunnels, with only small torches lighting the darkness on the walls, they eventually came to a large central chamber. To their disgust Nibi's cage was warped from the cursed seal and she was held up in chains stuck in her Hanyou form. Thankfully she wasn't in any pain at the moment.

Like Kyu, she was very attractive and seemingly the picture of female perfection. She had long black hair with a odd royal purple sheen to it and a set of beautiful deep purple cat-like eyes and a set of whisker marks on her cheeks. Her cat ears were on her head like Kyu's fox ears, at the sides but leaning more towards the top. The ears had purple tips and light purple hair in them. Her two long and sleek tails swayed behind her. Had that damn seal not strung her up, she would have looked much better.

"Nibi-chan!" Kyu shouted and bounded over to the cat-girl with Kushina right behind her.

"K-Kyuubi-chan! Thank Kami...I thought I'd never see you again Nee-chan!" Nibi said as a look of happy relief began washing over her features.

"Don't worry, Nibi-chan, my mate and his father came too, we're going to fix the seal and get rid of that damn cursed seal." Kyu said.

Nibi then noticed the two blonde men come up. The older looking one joined the cute redhead and put his arm around her while the other one, whom had nine tails, cautiously began examining the seals.

"Milord, I am sorry that I am unable to bow to you." Nibi said looking at Naruto.

The others looked at her in surprise but Naruto just arched an eyebrow.

"There is no need to bow to me, Nibi-chan, I come here as a friend and to help free my mates precious psuedo sister. I may have nine tails, but I am a Hanyou...more importantly...I have little use for that sort of thing." He replied humbly causing both Kyu and Nibi to smile and his parents to look at him with pride.

"Pops, this seal is a combination of a demon suppressor and a Mind-Body Slave Seal with an array of minor bridging runes connecting to a standard Demon Containment Seal and a Master Seal...hmm...I think there is also a Five Prong Seal there as well." Naruto said looking over the seals.

Minato stepped up and looked closely. "You're right, son, good job spotting the Five Prong Seal, its well hidden by the Master Seal over it and the Demon Containment Seal under it. Tell me, does Yugito-san have Chakra Control problems?" Minato asked.

"No...not until recently. That Five Prong Seal actually didn't become active until Kuroto-teme placed the cursed seals and bridged them to my containment seals." Nibi answered.

"That old bastard is still in power?" Minato asked and Nibi nodded.

Godomaru Kuroto was the Third Raikage and a rather unpleasant bastard to boot. He was the one that facilitated the Hyuga's attempted kidnapping. He ruled Kumogakure with an iron fist and was thirsty for anyone with a bloodline so they could experiment and breed super soldiers for Kumo. The man was a excellent fighter in both Taijutsu and Ninjutsu but his true skill lay in Seals. He had a fancy for making special seals to place on those who might be more powerful then himself ensuring their totally loyalty and sub-service to him...unless they wished to die a most painful death.

"Any clue why the jackass did this to you and your container?" Kushina asked.

Nibi sighed. "Yes, he did this so Yugito-chan would be his weapon and personal toy, weather she liked it or not. Her good friend, a young man named Kirabi is the container for the Hachibi, to ensure her cooperation...he was imprisoned with some of Kuroto-teme's worst torture seals placed on him...should she not obey him...he will be tortured and killed. Her mission here was to secure the Byakugan if possible, but her main objective is the Omnigan, she's to obtain that at any cost."

"Has the Hachibi no Orochi been purified by the seal or is he still a overbearing bastard?" Naruto asked, he didn't want to have to fight that friggin thing again, though last time it was because Akatsuki had sicked it on him.

"Hachibi-san is fine, though if he is exposed to those seals for too long they could corrupt him...as far as I know though, he's an ally and is on good terms with Kirabi-san." The Neko-onna said tilting her head cutely.

"Shit...so, Akatsuki was the reason Hachibi attacked me the last time, not my position. That won't happen this time; I won't let Madara-teme twist anymore of the Bijuu. It's bad enough Shukaku is a nut, but as soon as I reap the soul of that damnable nut-case of a priest stuck in there with him, he should calm down enough for me to talk some sense into him...if not, I can always knock it into him." Naruto thought.

"Kuroto-teme always was an over confident and arrogant bastard. The moron would have better luck trying to convince Ero-sennin to be Orochimaru's butt buddy than get my son's doujutsu." Minato snorted.

Naruto's eyebrow twitched. "Bad visualization there pops."

The three females in the mindscape giggled finding the father and sons antics to be rather amusing. Though it was true, anyone stupid enough to try would have to be suicidal...not to mention utterly stupid. If by chance Naruto's eyes were removed they would just turn to dust while he regenerated new ones...and he could use his Jagan to see while they regenerated. The Jagan was impossible to remove; anyone who tried would be killed before they could do it since only Naruto could control that power.

"All joking aside, I can only remove part of the seal array from in here but that would be too dangerous to attempt. If the cursed seals somehow got overloaded they might kill Yugito and disrupting the bridging links would cause a significant amount of pain. Nibi...I need you to have Yugito seek me out after the preliminaries, I'll be at the Namikaze compound, just follow Kyu-chan's scent and signature or mine if you can. Tell her that I will aid her in removing the bad seals and fix the one containing you to allow you freedom and her Hanyou status is she wishes. We can work out some more details later...right now I need to get back since Chouji just lost his match to that guy under Yugito...Hatsu I think his name was." Naruto said.

Nibi nodded. "I will be sure to talk to her, she might not be so trusting though."

"Good...that means she takes being a Kunoichi seriously. If it's a sign of good faith she needs, then tell her I will cover her expenses for her stay here in Konoha, hers only, not her teams." Naruto said.

"Understood...thank you, Naruto-dono...this means a lot to me and it will Kitten as well."

Naruto nodded, gave a quick wave and faded from the mindscape with his parents in tow. Kyuubi also said her farewells and vanished soon after. Nibi, despite being chained up in her seal cage, smiled. For the first time in almost sixteen years something was going to go right for her and her kitten.

Rock Lee Vs. Gaara Sebaku

Naruto looked out of the corner of his eye as Lee excitedly made his way down to the arena. Gaara followed as well but not before giving a slight nod to Naruto ensuring him that he remembered well the warning. Shukaku may have been an outright crack-pot but not even he was insane enough to try to fight someone of Naruto's caliber. There was a difference between insane and suicidal, after all.

"Hnn...it's going to be a long month until the finals." Naruto mused silently. "If Gaara doesn't horribly injure Lee, then I'll fix his seal sooner. The invasion is pretty much a bust now with Orochimaru and Kabuto out of the picture, though Suna may still try something since the Kazekage is an ass."

"Let's see...I need to fix Yugito-chan's seal and remove that abomination from her as well so she and Nibi don't have anymore problems. The chakra crystal cores I've been cultivating should be ready in a little over a week, so I can get back to work in the forge...I'll need to fly out to Kyu-chan's old den though for the adamant ore for Kakashi-sensei's Chakra Fang. I'm also going to look into some more seals and tinker with a couple of medical jutsu and see if I can fix his Sharingan. A bit of Yokai and medical chakra fused into the right places and I might be able to fix it so he can turn it off if he wants, if not I could always make a Chakra Capacity Storage Seal and apply it to his forehead, a few minor adjustments and a Outer Chakra Absorption Seal and Kakashi won't have to keep it covered up all the time and not have to worry about it draining so much Chakra."

"I should also think about that Chidori variant I promised to make for Kakashi too. It shouldn't be too hard as it only has the Ox, Hare and Monkey seals. Ox and Hare ensure that a protective layer of chakra covers his hand and arm while Monkey sparks the electrical energy. It's a bit unstable though. Perhaps for stability I should add Dog, Cat, Bird and then add Snake for extra power, then Dragon for a flow...that's it! Ox, Hare, Dog, Cat, Monkey, Bird, Snake, Dragon and Monkey. That would not only allow the protection but add power and a flow to the Lightning. I think Lightning Release - Chidori Flowing Current sounds pretty good and it would allow mid to long range attacks instead of short range."

Naruto continued going over various seal formulas and sets in his mind while calculating the ratio of chakra to element alignment to control output as Gaara and Lee continued to face off in a well demonstrated Taijutsu match. To Baki, Temari and Kankuro's surprise he hadn't used his sand once and was showing a fair amount of skill in Suna's Rapid Wind Fist, Taijutsu style.

Kyuubi had listened to Naruto's inner calculations with a touch of bemusement, never in all her centuries of life had she seen someone capable of just inventing new jutsu like Naruto could. He was obviously a prodigy in it and he did spend a fair amount of time brain storming...if the mountains of scrolls in his den filled with his notes and ideas were anything to go by. Still, he seemed to enjoy it, no matter the jutsu, he always had a thing for tinkering with them. It helped that his knowledge of Chakra control and manipulation, Fuuinjutsu and Hand Seals was immense.

She smirked slightly as she noticed his eyes darting about as Gaara and Lee continued to pound on each other, both oddly grinning like mad men. While most may think that Naruto would be to occupied with his thoughts she knew well enough that Naruto could split his focus several ways, it came from years of using Shadow Clones and traveling.

The fight between Lee and Gaara came to an abrupt end when Lee over shot a haymaker at Gaara who leaned back and lashed out with his foot intending to kick Lee in the solar plexus...unfortunately for the young Green Beast...he misjudged his leg length a bit and...landed a solid blow to Rock Lee's...ehem...stones.

"M-m-most...Un-Youthful!" Lee squeaked out before falling over and clutching the twins...a tiny bit of foam coming out of his mouth. "I think they touched my brain..." He half mumbled, half squeaked.

Gaara just looked down and blinked, a slight sweat drop forming behind him.

"...oops." He deadpanned.

As Hyate declared Gaara the winner there were bouts of barely concealed snorts and snickers floating through the air...on in Anko and Zabuza's case...outright belly laughs.

Gai just stood next to his fallen student with tears streaming down his face.

"The path of a Ninja is truly fraught with Un-Youthful perils!" He exclaimed as to chuckling medics carted Lee off with Gai heading back up to the stands.

Calmly, Sarutobi excused himself for a moment. As soon as the oak door to his sitting platform shut a loud echoing and cackling belly laugh sounded from behind it.

Kin blinked and looked at Kyuubi a bit surprised at the Kage's behavior.

She smiled. "You'll get used to it, interesting things often happen around here...at least you'll never be bored!" Kyu grinned foxily.

Kin could only nod torn between shock and amusement while most the Leaf Jounin let out quiet snorts. After the laughter died off, the Hokage re-entered the arena looking as if nothing had happened and motioned for Hyate to continue.

Tenten Kaziyama Vs. Temari Sebaku

After getting a good luck kiss, a bit of tongue and a groap from Tenten, she practically bounced down the stairs followed by Temari who had a slight pout at being left out of the fun. Kiba just snickered while thinking about getting with a couple of civilian girls he'd had his eyes on...make no mistake, Kunoichi were sexy in his mind but civilian girls were loads easier to handle and less moody. His perverted giggle was stifled by a Jyuuken class brain duster from Hinata who looked nonchalant. The tiniest movements from Shino's shoulders told them he was silently chuckling in amusement for his perverted teammate's misfortune.

Naruto, who had finished his mental calculations, just sweat dropped at the whole thing. He remembered the last time and the Chunin Exams had been much less light hearted...though Lee getting his twins busted was funny, especially compared to what had happened to him the first time around. The look on Gaara's face was interesting too...it looked like a mix of embarrassment and humor.

Hyate signaled for the two Kunoichi to begin but instead of attacking at first they stood there for a second as if sizing the other up...Temari was warily eyeing Ifrit in Tenten's hands, as it seemed to occasionally let off a flicker of fire.

"Heya, Temari-san, what do you say we show these boys what true Kunoichi are capable of!" Tenten asked excitedly but with a kind smile she was known for.

Temari loosened up and gave a smaller but no less kinder smile in return as some of her tension left her.

"Sure...no killing or permanently crippling blows though, okay?" Temari agreed trying for a more peaceful setting due to her being one of the handsome blonde Hanyou's girls.

"Okay! Let's go!" Tenten cheered.

Temari brought out her metal battle fan and charged with mid to high Chunin level speeds. Fan and Sword-Spear clashed with a loud clang before the two lashed out with a kick and punch that blocked the others blow. Finding the situation a stalemate the two leapt back.

Opening her fan, Temari unleashed her attack. "Wind Release - Great Breakthrough!"

Tenten grinned and smacked the butt of Ifrit on the ground. "Earth Release - Earth Encampment Wall!"

The wall of rock held steady only for Tenten to shove the blade of Ifrit into it. "Ignite!" She called out causing it to burst into flaming Magma.

Temari cringed and swung her fan again calling out. "Wind Release - Razor Tempest!"

"Not that easy!" Tenten yelled. "Magma Release - Burning Kunai Barrage!"

Blades of wind and lava in the form of Kunai clashed in a large explosion causing a large amount of smoke to fill the arena. As the smoke cleared the crowd saw that both Kunoichi were standing next to one another with a Kunai at the others throat and large grins on their faces.

"Damn this isn't getting me anywhere." Temari mumbled. "I can't risk pissing off her fiancé or Gaara will never get his seal fixed and she's way more skilled than I had assumed she would be...I've never heard of Magma Release jutsu before."

As they continued to trade jutsu, Temari continued to ponder her possibilities. The girl, Tenten, was very skilled in all ranges and even if she disarmed her, the brunette seemed to be able to summon her damned weapon back to her. Temari knew she was one of the most skilled Kunoichi of her generation in Suna but apparently Konoha was teaching their ninja more than they had been told. Then again...the whole plan and invasion was shot all to hell now anyways since the blonde fox-boy killed Orochimaru, the Sound Team and Kabuto...and he scared Gaara, that was enough for the rest of her team to know that they should side with Konoha should Suna still decide to attack. None of them had a death wish.

Temari's thoughts were brought to a halt as Tenten slammed the butt of her weapon into the ground channeling a fair amount of chakra into it.

"This is the end! Magma Release - Great Lava Prison!" Tenten called out.

The bits of magma in the arena swiftly swirled around Temari and shot up making a very hot and crude looking cage out of lava rock that was still burning in places, like it had been taken out of a volcano and formed.

Temari sighed. "Proctor...I give up." She said.

Hyate nodded. "Winner, Tenten Kaziyama!"

Tenten released her jutsu causing the lava to retreat and fade into harmless dirt. After shaking hands with Temari in a show of good sportsmanship, both Kunoichi went back up to the stands feeling that they showed others well enough that women could be just as good a ninja as a man could.

There wasn't a following match as the names Hatsu Mitsuga Vs. Chouji Akimichi was displayed and Chouji forfeited quickly in fear. Apparently Team 10 had watched the Kumo Team during their time in the Forest of Death and Hatsu proved to be one of the more bloodthirsty, cruel and ruthless Genin in the exams as he slaughtered a team from Amegakure...but not before raping the Kunoichi on the team in front of her crippled teammates and then slit their throats, leaving them for the creatures of the forest to feast on as their died a slow and painful death.

Hatsu smirked at Chouji as he walked cockily back up to his place in the stands.

"Wise choice, butterball, a weakling like you offers no challenge. Without a challenge the thrill of the kill, the taste of the blood is lost...unless it's a bitch, then I could get a good fuck before I kill." Hatsu sneered and ignored the killing intent being let off by several ninja. Though he did pause long enough to give Naruto a sneering smirk as he eyed up his ladies for but a second.

"Try it asshole and I'll rip out your tongue through your ass after I use your innards for a jump rope." Naruto growled letting off his own killing intent.

Hatsu ignored him for the most part but if you looked closely you could see the arrogant upstart had broken out in a cold sweat. "You can try, Demon, but father did give me the means to destroy you and the Neko-teme tool if I so choose it. After all...no demon can withstand the power of Ixion's Staff. After I pluck those eyes of yours out...I'll fuck your bitches into submission, make you listen to their screams before I slit your throat and bathe them in your blood." Hatsu thought with a sick grin.

Naruto frowned as his eyes narrowed.

"Something is off about Mitsuga-teme...something vile and twisted but I can't quite tell if it's demonic yet. He would be dangerous for the others to fight...he's got High Jounin level Chakra and one can see by his walk that he's very skilled in combat."

Final Round, Hinata Hyuga Vs. Neji Hyuga

Naruto wasn't too surprised at this...what did surprise him however was when Neji broke out in a cold sweat and grew pale while Hinata was more than a little cheerful. Several people sweat dropped when Neji actually hid behind Gai muttering "Fate sucks..."

"What's got into him all of a sudden...oh...I forgot." Naruto thought sheepishly. "Ever since Haku-chan has been teaching Hinata-chan Ice manipulation, she's been incorporating it into her Jyuuken and Tonfa-Jyuuken. Tenten-chan told me that she's been using Neji-san as a test dummy...err...training partner. Heh, guess he don't like the cold."

The others watched as Hinata walked down to the arena with a soft smile while twirling her tonfa, Neji a few steps behind muttering about rotten luck and overly excitable cousins. Hyate didn't really know weather to laugh or pity the boy since Hinata and Haku were noted as the twin Ice Princesses of Konoha.

This was because, with Haku's help and a bit from Naruto too, Hinata could use ice, water and wind on a level par with Elite Jounin, her affinities were exceptionally strong, bordering on Kekkei Genkai level. The only thing she couldn't do was make Demonic Ice Mirrors as those were unique to Haku just like Flowing Blizzard, Gentle Fist was unique to Hinata...it was her adapted Jyuuken style.

"Don't worry, Neji-nii-san, this'll be just like our sparring matches." Hinata said with a smile.

"That's what I'm afraid of..." Neji muttered with a slight whimper...his uncle wouldn't even spar against her when she used her element manipulations. Closing a Tenketsu stings like hell, Freezing or ripping them using her style hurts worse than salt on open wounds as she can destroy Tenketsu.

The resulting fight did show a fair amount of skill between both Hyuga Clan members. But unlike the last time, Hinata's skill levels were much higher and many attributed it to Naruto's support and training along with Haku helping her with Ice element jutsu. Hinata's self created Hyojyuuken or Icy Gentle Fist, was by far more dangerous than even the upper levels of normal Jyuuken since she implemented Wind and Ice attacks mixed in with a couple of medical based attacks. That and her 9 Trigrams - 200 Freezing Palm Strike was extremely powerful and deadly if she put enough chakra into it.

Neji had done admirable, deflecting most of her strikes with the Kaiten. But that all ended when Hinata brought out her Tonfa and channeled chakra into them only to swat Neji, with his Kaiten still activated, across the arena. He hit the wall quite hard and the extra speed his rotation had gained from the blow had left him very dizzy and cursing the fact that Hinata had become so damn proficient in chakra manipulation and Tonfajutsu.

He surrendered after Hinata came up behind him and placed one of her Tonfa next to his jugular, a blade of ice formed on the end of it. After she had been declared the winner, she smiled at Neji and put her weapons up and began healing him with a few medical jutsu. Neji just chuckled at his cousin, shaking his head, she was still as gentle and kind as ever...truly a iron fist clothed in a silken glove.

He had to attribute this to his friend, Naruto. He had given all the Hyuga a new breath of life and hope with his special seal. Though the elders were still very displeased with it, especially since there wasn't any division in the clan anymore, he couldn't be happier. Naruto had taught him that while life can kick you in the ass at times, fate is nothing but a cowards excuse to explain their misfortunes and that it can be fought and conquered.

The preliminaries had ended and the remaining Genin picked numbers to see who would fight whom in the Finals.

Match 1 - Hinata Hyuga Vs. Hatsu Mitsuga

Match 2 - Kankuro Sebaku Vs. Shino Aburame

Match 3 - Kiba Inuzuka Vs. Shikamaru Nara

Match 4 - Naruto Uzumaki Vs. Gaara Sebaku

Match 5 - Tenten Kaziyama Vs. Sakura Haruno

The ten Chunin hopefuls had exactly one month to train themselves for the Chunin Exam finals, which would take place in the Grand Leaf Arena so people from all around could come watch the fights. After the Hokage gave his speech to the finalists, they were dismissed.

Hatsu practically strutted out of the tower with an ever-present smug look on his features. His blonde Jounin sensei however glanced subtly at Naruto and Kyu and gave the slightest of nods. Naruto returned the silent gesture and Kyu winked.

Hinata, Tenten and Sakura remained by Naruto who went over to Sarutobi to hammer out the details of Kin's status. She would be staying in the Namikaze-Uzumaki compound and be put on a brief probation under Zabuza and Haku before she would be given her leaf headband, she was more than happy to comply, especially since she would become the third member of Team 7.

"Ladies, why don't you head back to the compound and show Kin-chan the way there. I have a promise to keep to Gaara...he passed my test."

"Sure Naruto-kun, Hanabi-chan will be coming by later so don't be too late." Hinata said before pecking him on the cheek.

The other two ladies followed suit, Kin hesitated for a moment but also kissed his cheek making her blush brightly. As they left, with Anko and Kyu deciding to follow them out. Naruto bade goodbye to Sarutobi, Hyate and Kakashi and left to meet up with the Suna team, who were just getting ready to leave themselves.

Kankuro nearly jumped out of his cat suit when Naruto appeared next to them in a swirl of burning feathers. Temari flushed a bit at being so close to such a strong ninja, rank be damned, it also helped that he was one of the most handsome devils she'd ever laid eyes on...pun intended.

"Well, Gaara-san, it seems you have passed my test. So I will keep my word and fix your seal. I will also have to remove the soul of that insane priest sealed up with Shukaku. While that sand ridden Tanuki was always a few kunai short of a set, it was never as bloodthirsty as it is now. Once I get rid of the priest driving Shukaku insane, it should calm down and work with you." Naruto said with a small smile as the Suna team looked at him hopeful.

"However..." He began in a darker tone. "Orochimaru and his little meat sheath are dead, gone...terminated. The planned attack on Konoha between Oto and Suna is now pointless. If they should still try to press the attack, so long as none of you participate, I will assure your lives and safety...if you side with that moron Kazekage of yours, though, I will be forced to end you, understood?"

"Y-yes, sir. " Baki stuttered...this kid was scarier than Gaara!

"Excellent, I would much rather have you guys as friends then enemies." Naruto said in a lighter tone.

"You...would have me as a friend?" Gaara asked a bit confused.

Naruto gave him a kind smile, his eyes showing all that he had felt over the years. To Gaara it was almost like looking into the mirror, his eyes told no lies and spoke of knowledge of true pain and suffering. To the others, they cringed at the look in his eyes, the look of someone who has seen more horrors and wrongs in their life than anyone, even a ninja, should. But also swirling there within the pain was strength like no other, the will to protect all that he deems worthy and power to crush all that stand against him or his cause. He held the eyes of a seasoned warrior many times his perceived age, yet held within them the power of a person far beyond human limits. He could become their greatest friend and ally or their worst enemy and nightmare...the choice was theirs.

"Yeah...I too was once a Jinchuuriki. I was hated here...still am by the more ignorant villagers. But if there is one thing I've learned it's that everyone needs a friend and a chance. It doesn't matter who or what they might be." Naruto said sagely.

"But...how...how did you not break under it all?" The red head asked needing the answers.

"My friends and loved ones...those few precious people who have, as of late, grown in number. They are the source of my true power. One can only gain true strength and power when protecting those precious to them. This power is called love. While hate and anger can be strong, in the end it will never match the power of someone's love, someone who would sacrifice anything and everything to protect their loved ones with all their power."

"There was a time, Gaara-san, that I nearly lost myself to the darkness of my heart. But a few special people helped me keep my sanity when I was otherwise alone, without a family and a pariah. It is for them that I rose above the hate and anger, shunned it, ignored it and used all I had to become a protector. Now you have that choice and I would be honored to be amongst the first of your precious friends along with your siblings and Sensei who care for you deeply. So my friend...my brother...does that answer your question?" Naruto asked extending his hand.

Temari, Kankuro and Baki were shocked to see a lone tear slide down Gaara's cheek as a small but happy smile made it's way to his face before he accepted Naruto's hand.

As he did so, a warm gold and silver glow surrounded them both. A writhing, vile black tendril of energy, screaming and wailing curses seeped from Gaara's mouth and ears. The soul of the insane priest cursed and screamed one last time before being sucked into a small portal leading to the deepest pits of hell.

Naruto then sent a gentle surge of chakra from himself into Gaara. He had seen his seal in his past life and at his level, he no longer needed to use special inks and such to add, fix or place seals. Soon the glow faded and the others noticed that Gaara looked much more relaxed and calm then before...and the damage done from eleven years of no sleep had vanished without a trace.

"It is done, Gaara, you no longer need fear Shukaku. I used my chakra to inscribe several special seals on you and you can have a seal master look them over to ensure I speak the truth. The sand is now yours to control and will become a part of your bloodline; you will have total mastery over it. Shukaku has been put into a deep stasis sleep within his fixed seal. It will never bother you again when you sleep. You are free now, my friend...it is your life now, don't let anyone decide your path anymore. I will see you four around." Naruto said kindly and then vanished in another flash of fire.

"Gaara...how do you feel?" Temari asked hopeful.

"Much better, Nee-chan...but I'm really sleepy." He yawned.

Temari looked ready to weep in happiness that her little brother had called her sister and what was more, his monotone was now warmer...it held a hint of peach and joy within it.

"Sensei...Nee-chan...Nii-san...I...am...yawn...sorry for all...the trouble...I've...caused...zzzzz..." Gaara mumbled as he slumped into Kankuro's arms sleeping with a small smile still on his face.

"I...never thought I'd get to see this day." Baki said with a small smile hidden by his sand veil. "It looks as if we owe, Naruto-dono, much...he has given Gaara back his humanity. Come now, let us get back to our hotel room and let Gaara get some much needed and deserved sleep."

Kankuro nodded with a grin and followed his sensei out of the tower with Gaara sleeping soundly in his arms. Temari just stood there for a moment willing with all her might that this be not a dream. Pinching herself, she realized it was real...their lives had changed for the better and all due to a blonde who was supposed to be an enemy.

"Naruto-kun...thank you...thank you for giving me my little brother back. I don't know how, but some how, some way...I will repay you for this gift of kindness." She thought before following her team out and smiling as she thought of how their lives were going to be from now on.

Yugito sighed as she sat down on the roof of the motel she and her team were staying at. Somehow the target had figured out what was going on. That arrogant ass Godomaru Kuroto had even sent his adopted son/personal weapon/puppet to ensure she would get the job done. She hated that man and that little bastard Hatsu too. But with all the seals placed on her, she couldn't do anything more than talk to Nibi and that was only if she really concentrated.

The only bright spot in this whole mess was that their target had gotten into contact with Nibi; apparently he was her new lord. Yugito noticed that Nibi seemed to trust this young man named Naruto who was obviously a Hanyou...a very powerful one at that.

"I'm still not sure about this, Nibi-nee-chan. I mean, what if we end up in more trouble then we are now. I know you want to trust him because he's your new lord...the new Kyuubi, but if things go sour, Kirabi-san and Haruhiko-dono will pay for it." Yugito thought to her Bijuu companion.

"Nothing worthwhile is without risk, Kitten...you know that. But I believe that Naruto-sama will save us both and help us free Kumogakure from Godomaru-teme. Kyu-nee assures me he is the real deal and she is deeply in love with him...not an easy feet considering how Bijuu females are picky about their mates. Though I must admit...Naruto-sama is very cute with those tails, that muscular build and nice tight ass..." Nibi giggled perversely.

Yugito was flushed as she listened to Nibi and she did have to agree that Naruto was very handsome and there was something about him that seemed to draw females to him, not all females, but certain ones. Perhaps it was part of being a Bijuu Hanyou, Nibi had once mentioned that Bijuu let off pheromones sometimes to attract mates...but only if they were an Alpha, which Naruto obviously was.

"I guess we can go see Naruto-san tomorrow. If he can really get rid of those damnable seals on me maybe I'll start to feel a bit more trusting." Yugito thought to her tenant.

Nibi remained quiet, happy that her container and friend was considering this. Both of them were in need of help, in need of a hero...perhaps Naruto would be the answer to their plight.

Naruto sighed as he got out of the shower, dried off and put on a pair of boxers. He hadn't noticed but his body had been changing again during the preliminaries. His ears were becoming more fox-like and now all nine of his tails remained out, though on a plus side he could now fuse them into one tail and then hide it with a Kitsune Illusion along with his ears making him look like a normal human again. It was honestly easier though to just fuse his tails into one until he wanted to show them, everyone had gotten used to seeing his tail or tails by now.

Another thing he noticed was that he could now easily use his Jagan without entering Reaper form and without limitations. He had talked to Shinigami and his parents about it for a little while and found out that it was his body maturing to better match his mental age. He'd never physically age past his mid-twenties so it really didn't matter and his body already looked like a mix of twelve and sixteen year old...now he just looked sixteen. His ears would continue to change until they became fox ears, like Kyu's. He didn't really mind since he was supposed to have this happen the last time but never quite got to that point, apparently a male Kitsune Hanyou's features show more as they prove their Alpha status and combat strong opponents. Thankfully, his wings wouldn't appear unless he summoned them, no exceptions. That was a relief as he liked sleeping on his back at times and having wings out all the time could be...troublesome.

All in all, he was pleased with the way things had been going. With Sasuke, Orochimaru and Kabuto now dead and under Shinigami and Kami's thumbs he had saved himself a shitload of headaches later. Gaara's seal was fixed and Shukaku shouldn't give him too many more problems...most likely a few demented ramblings but the Tanuki was a bit of a nut-job to begin with...perhaps Gaara could find amusement in it. Yugito and Kumo's appearance was a bit of a surprise but nothing he couldn't handle. Perhaps a proper alliance could be made once he put down Kuroto-teme and helped put a proper leader in power.

The finals would be a cakewalk. He was going to give each of his ladies some special training...all of them...just in case something goes sour. They would also have their own personal training sessions to better master their own personal techniques, Naruto had no doubt that they could all take this exam and win. He had faith that Hinata, Sakura and Tenten would all be Chunin by the end of the finals this time...though he did hope Hinata killed Hatsu, that guy pissed him off and she looked like she wanted to introduce his ass to the sharp end of her Ice Lance jutsu.

As for him...he'd train some to keep his skills sharp and continue forging and constructing weapons for his ladies and allies. He also had a new chunk of land to work with as the Uchiha lands were given to him and Sakura as compensation for their teammates attempted murder of them. His compound was on one side of the Uchiha land and the Hyuga compound was on the other. After talking to Hinata, Hanabi, Neji and Hiashi a bit they decided that it would become an alliance ground between their clans as Naruto had to revive both Namikaze and Uzumaki clans under one name now and the Hyuga branch families could use more space. Other clans that would be welcome within these allied grounds would be the Momichi, Aburame, Hatake, Yamanaka, Haruno, Sarutobi, Inuzuka, Nara, Akimichi and Senju clans.

It was all a precursor to Naruto's future plans for Konoha. A Konoha that had clans totally allied to each other, with full trust and seen as equals no matter skill levels or powers. Once he took the mantle of Hokage, he'd then take the current village council and dismantle it. Two councils would then be created. A civilian council that would only be allowed to handle civilian affairs such as the merchant guilds, they would have no power above that and still answer to the Hokage. The Ninja Council will contain the Clan Leaders from each clan, large or small along with the Hokage. Each would be given a special seal that Naruto was creating and swear an oath of loyalty. With the seal he was making, it would not only ensure total loyalty to the people of Konoha but also stop any cloak and dagger bull shit within the village as once the seal is applied, one could not lie about something or hide information if it was against the best interests of the village. The council would be allowed votes and advisory status but all decisions would ultimately belong to the acting Kage, who in turn must honestly take any ideas or advice into proper consideration. Each of the Ninja council members would also have a special duty to perform as well, such as tactics, intelligence, military status and the like. Naruto wanted to ensure that everyone would feel useful but no one could harm the village purposely by their actions. It would take a while to properly plan all this to completion but he would have much help with Sarutobi, Shikamaru, Hiashi and most likely Jiraiya and Tsunade once they arrived.

As Naruto lay down in his bed...after nudging Kyu and Anko over, he hoped that his plans were the right thing to do. He knew all to well that the path to hell was paved with good intentions...so he would do his best to ensure that this would be a lasting thing that would benefit all, not just ninja or civilian.

But those were thoughts for another time...for now...he just wanted to get some well-deserved rest.