Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, if I did, I wouldn't have to go through college. Wait I don't have to right now because of the epidemy. Every character belongs to Kishimoto unless they are my own OCs.
AN: Normally I try to answer to some of the reviews directly via the messaging system, but I think it will benefit everyone if answered here. It was about making Naruto strong but not overly op. I will play devil's advocate with that one. It's hard to do it, I struggle every time a bigger training session appears in the story to not make Naruto absurdly strong. I seriously dread the 3-year time skip in the canon seeing how strong my Naruto is already. Anyway, let's begin the story.
"Let's rock these exams." Naruto said stretching his arms and sending an aura of seriousness around the team.
They entered the building and felt a pang of nostalgia. So many hours have been spent within these walls becoming the next batch of protectors of Konoha. The circle of learning has closed on them finally. At least one of them would enter these exams as a wet behind the ears shinobi and exit them ascending in ranks.
Hitai-ates from different countries were shining in the sun entering through the windows in the hallway. Suna, Ame, Kusa were the most abundant. One team was sporting the sign of a newly made village.
It was time to move to the designed class where the first part would be going on. Anko has spilled some secrets since they were constantly on a mission to confine and now protect Sasuke in case Orochimaru decided to catch a pair of Sharingan eyes before anyone could do anything about it.
Going up two flights of stairs they have seen a group of wannabes trying to enter the class with the sign 303 on it. They were only on the second floor, no matter how stupid you were counting the number of stairs you went up was something a toddler could do. Add insult to injury, they were from Konoha. They were supposed to know this place like the insides of their kunai holsters.
Sasuke wanted to prove his superiority by calling the bluff. That was halted by Ino putting a claw next to his neck. "You utter one word and I will cut your vocal cords." The ravenette could only nod his head in compliance. Naruto on the other hand needed to smack Anko on the head for rubbing on the girl so much. Or not, he would have done the same if she hasn't been quicker to act.
Finally, the real 303 class was before them. The door was closed right now, and all the candidates were shooting KI at each other. It was at most pathetic according to Naruto and Ino seeing that they were subjected to it for almost two months from jonins and kages.
They turned around when they have heard some footsteps coming their way. Team 10 and 8 were coming their way. "The circle has closed for all of us I see. Such a drag." Said Shikamaru even if he was much happier than before. Certainly, by having a new female teammate who was pulling her weight and then some.
"The gang is full!" shouted a boisterous boy with a grey vest and a small dog sprawled on his head.
"Kiba you might want to tone it down a peg or two." Said Naruto "Can't you feel the mood?"
Another genin with silvery hair has come their way "You might want to listen to your friend. Everyone is ready to kill you here if they feel they can. Take it from me a veteran of these exams."
"A veteran? Is that your second time?" asked Kiba.
"Actually, it's my seventh…" the older teen answered slightly embarrassed.
"Seven times? You must suck." Laughed the feral Inuzuka boy.
"Or these exams are much harder than we expect" said Shikamaru.
"Whatever… As a show of good will, I will give you the info I gathered about the contestants. Tell me who do you want to know about. Though first we should change the spot, everybody is trying to blast their KI at us. It's making me uncomfortable"
Naruto wasn't buying it. He could sense that the teen had jonin level reserves and his mannerism wasn't that of a genin or even a chunin. There was a sense of dread around him that he already felt once but couldn't pinpoint it.
"You call that KI… what's your name?" he asked
"Kabuto, Yakushi Kabuto."
"You call that KI Kabuto-san?" he said clearly mocking the teen almost calling his bluff. He stood in front of the hall with a bored face looking at the contestants. It was time to show them what real life was about.
"Kurama help me showing these dimwits what a real KI is like." He said to his tenant whom gleefully obliged. They opened the floods of death. The KI was almost palpable in the room. The air was unbreathable, some contestants fell to their knees and other began crying.
This action had two goals. The first one was to shut the competition up. The second was to put in them the fear of Kami so they don't try to target the Konoha teams. A certain redhead in the hall was ecstatic about seeing all of that, the blonde would truthfully prove his existence.
"Now we have a relative peace. So, Kabuto-san what can you tell us about this year's competition? Let's see I want you to tell me about the redhead in the corner over there." Naruto said
"And tell me what you can about Naruto Uzumaki." Sasuke butted in watching over his teammate.
"No name that will be fun and a name no fun at all. First come first served. The redhead's name is Gaara. He's a genin from Suna with his teammates being his siblings Temari and Kankuro. 13 D-ranks, 5 C-ranks and 3 B-ranks. Phewwww apparently, he came from every one of them without any scratch. That's impressive. Now secondly Naruto Uzumaki, genin of Konoha. Teammates are Ino Yamanka and yourself. Not very trusting, are you? He graduated early and not much is known about his time between the academy and when he became team 7 member. Highly proficient in kenjutsu and what would seem a bloodline. What the fuck is that record?! Over 50 completed A-ranks? That must be a mistake." Kabuto said checking his card a few times.
Naruto wasn't having it anymore, he scanned everything he could about the silverette. From his eyes that seemed perfectly fine since his glasses had fake lenses to his feet. That was until he sensed his chakra. It had the same markers that the hooded man with Orochimaru when they ran. He would need to contact the Hokage about it.
You must surely be asking yourself why Naruto let the boy spill these secrets. It was simple, he let him speak to give himself some time to scan everything as well as his stats would serve as additional deterrent for any team to try to come after him and his team. He needed to protect Sasuke from any potential threat in the next part.
Before he could do anything a set of what he assumed to be examiners came and unlocked the class. They made the genin hopefuls stand in beeline assigning them seats by numbers. Naruto watched his number, it was 69. Nice.
He sat himself on the chair letting the scar-head known as Morino Ibiki finish his speech about the rules that Naruto didn't care about. He has already known what this test was about from Anko. As soon as the papers were distributed, he lifted his hand.
"What do you want?" said one of the scrutineers
"I need to use the toilet" he said bluntly making the people inside snicker.
The examiner was going to go with the boy outside when Ibiki has seen the sign for traitor among ranks shown by Naruto's hand. He told the rest of the room that he would go with the boy. Once outside he turned to Naruto and asked.
"What is going on Uzumaki?"
"There is a traitor in the class, Kabuto Yakushi. I need to go see the Hokage about what I should do."
Ibiki didn't waste any time and Shunshinned them both to the office where Tsunade was pulling her hair out seeing the mountain of paperwork on her desk. Maybe one day he would trade the clone secret.
"Naruto what's going on? What are you two doing here?" she asked seeing that Naruto had his ANBU face on.
"Remember the hooded man that was with Orochimaru in Tanzaku Gai? Turns out I wasn't the only high-level ninja posing as genin in these exams. He's here as well, the name is Kabuto Yakushi."
Tsunade swiftly found the offender's file. Naruto got on one knee in the traditional ANBU awaiting for orders pose. "What are your orders Hokage-sama?"
Tsunade pondered her options for the moment. If they killed Orochimaru's man right now they could have tipped of the villain. If they did nothing the spy would stay in the village making the invading process easier for Orochimaru. Hokage's job was too stressful sometimes. She put her head on her hands and thought it through.
"Ushi you will be given a second scroll for your team in the second part. No need to keep you in there for too long or Orochimaru will come to surely visit you. No need for that to happen. Anko will have instructions to set your gates next to each other. Kill the roach, Orochimaru won't do anything about it anyway." She said and dismissed the duo back to the exam room.
Ibiki and Naruto entered the classroom. Everybody was looking at them, what were they doing there for almost thirty minutes. Naruto and Ibiki decided to ignore the looks. It was almost time for the tenth question anyway.
At the 45min mark Ibiki roared to make everyone drop their pencils. It was time to make sure they understood what they were trying to achieve.
"Listen to me you maggots. It's not the time to congratulate yourselves. There is one more question that you need to take to pass this part of the exam. You can choose to either answer that question or not. However, if you don't take it you will be forced out of this exam"
"Then of course we will take it!" shouted a genin lambda in the back
"Shut up and let me finish you idiot. If you decide to answer this question and you are wrong, you will be forever barred from taking a chunin exam."
Students began crumbling hearing the ultimatum they were given. They were in times of relative peace; field rank ups were rare because of that. You would need a huge miscalculated mission to earn the right to be promoted.
Some hands began shooting up one after another, the class becoming emptier every minute. Cries were heard from outside the door. Didn't matter they were young, and another exam would be happening in six months.
Ibiki was proud of himself and thankful to Naruto and his blond teammate for not spoiling his fun. Weak links had to be eradicated, no need to send them into a man-eating forest if they couldn't risk their lives on their current mission. Some maybe have caught to the bluff seeing that he didn't have enough power to force them out of the exams for life.
When enough were weeded out Ibiki began undoing his bandana showing ugly scars that were most probably from torture he was subjected to. "For all of you who have risked their careers for this chance to be promoted I only have to say two words. You pass!"
Eyes as big as saucers were watching him, asking him nonverbally what was going on since they were too scared of the scar-face in front of them. "This test was made to test two parts of your shinobi training. Intelligence gathering but your willpower as well. Sometimes your mission will be under classed because of a lying client. Or the information you have got was tampered with. Will you continue the mission for the sake of the village? Or will you crumble like the ones that have left?" he said giving his audience a good look at his bald head showing what could happen if the shit hit the fan.
"You continue the mission! You are a soldier to your village; your life will always be in danger in this line of work. If you don't want to assume the consequences of your choices, you are not qualified to become a chunin!" he shouted making everybody inside question their decisions.
He wanted to scare the genins a bit more until a ball of cloth entered through a window. A closed window. Sending shrapnel at everyone inside. The ball of cloth was deployed with the help of kunais. The banner was now in full display showing "Sexy and Single examiner. Mitarashi Anko."
"Anko-nee I think you are a tad too early. Ibiki wanted to play with us a bit longer." Said Naruto waving to his sister who had a bashful look on her face.
"Uzumaki is right. You ruined the mood Anko. Anyway, for those that have stayed, good luck, you will need it." Said Ibiki coming from behind of the banner.
"Alright you maggots follow me to the next portion of the exams. If you are too late you fail." She said and jumped out of the window. Soon everyone followed suit rushing behind the female. Naruto grabbed Ino and sped up to Anko in front.
"Anko-nee did you get the info from the Hokage?" he asked to which Anko nodded and Ino looked for more information.
"Kabuto is the man that was with Orochimaru when we were looking for Tsunade-sama. We will be getting an almost free pass in this test. No need to look for the additional scrolls. Instead of that we will kill Kabuto in the forest, if possible, interrogate. After a few meters I will knock out Sasuke and we will rush for our target." He said and Ino nodded deploying her claws giving her a feral look.
When everyone arrived Anko pointed out a few genins who were too late. The group was chatting nervously, and nobody was doing anything to shut them up. They only had to wait for a few minutes until a shriek was heard inside the forest.
"Welcome to the training ground number forty-four, cutely nicknamed Forest of death. Your mission will be simple. You will be given one of these scrolls. You will have five days to gather one of each and come to the tower in the center of the forest. First, I need you to sign these forms though." She said and distributed a large pack of forms to the genins.
"What are they for?"
"An insurance in case you die in there nobody will go for my ass or Konoha's." she replied with a sickly grin.
Chatter began anew between the contestants. What will they eat for five days? Will they be eaten? How many will survive?
Naruto didn't even listen and stood first in line to get their scroll with a sealing tag that contained another one. Checking the entrance number, he was given it was a map with every team in his vicinity. It was the time to eliminate a mole that served Orochimaru.
Ino, Naruto and even Sasuke looked in front with determination towards the gate they were assigned. Little did Sasuke know about the plan and fifty meters in the forest he felt a blunt force knocking him out.
"Now that he's out, our mission will be easier. Let's go Ino I can sense our target one kilometer away thirty degrees east." He said and they moved to the meeting point.
They were high in the trees when they noticed a certain silver mop of hair with his teammates. Ino didn't even have the time too blink when Naruto shot three Yang Lasers punching the hearts of the target's teammates and completely severing Kabuto's leg.
Jumping down they could see him squirming on the ground from the pain and the blood loss. That was until he began growing his leg back in a matter of seconds.
"My, my Naruto-kun. Who would've thought that you would be the first one to notice my true identity? Sadly, it won't help you." Kabuto lunged at Naruto with his Chakra no Mesu ready to cut the boy down.
Ino decided to show him how it's done. She invoked her own metal cutting nails and blocked Kabuto's strike, severing his right hand in the process.
Kabuto didn't like what was happening. These kids have already wasted his chakra by forcing him to regenerate full body parts. He wasn't liking his spot at all right now.
Naruto decided that the secondary mission objective would be too hard to attain. They would need to drag this battle long enough for Kabuto to stop regenerating. He would kill the teen in such a gruesome way that his body wouldn't be able to regenerate.
He took out his sword from the sheaths and got into a stance where the blade was parallel to himself. Building up the chakra he deployed his Bijuu Legs and calmly said "Sixteenth stance: Sakura"
He marched toward the spy until they were four meters apart. Suddenly he was one meter behind. He flashed all around the boy, looking as if many copies of himself were attacking faster and faster. The blade was only seen by flashes white and rose light making it look as if sakura's petals were floating in the air.
The onslaught was finished and for the first time in long time Ino lost a tone or two from her face. The boy was no more. There was only a splash of blood with Naruto being perfectly clean even after the dance he performed. It was the show of his mastery over his technique.
"Mission cleared. Let's go to the tower now." He said with a smile to Ino who nodded. Just before jumping off Naruto sensed a powerful presence and they needed to dodge a huge fireball coming their way.
On a branch was sitting no one other but one of the greatest traitors of Konoha. Itachi Uchiha clad in a black cloak with red clouds.
"Itachi, isn't it a bit early for your group to try to chase me down?" asked Naruto. Ino's eyes widened and she got into her own stance throwing Sasuke away ready to help her teammate. Naruto did the same deploying every booster he had.
"Ino-chan if you see that we lose you won't look back and abandon me here. I can fight him until help comes, but I won't be able to go all out if I need to protect you two as well. It's nonnegotiable, it's an order." He barked.
Ino wanted to argue, but she understood the gravity of the situation. Even after training for so long she wasn't strong enough to support her beloved. She understood that he was a special case, yet still it irked her.
The trio launched themselves at each other armed to the nail, Mangekyo spinning madly in Itachi's eyes seeing that Naruto was much stronger than expected and the girl looked like she was going to be a pain in the butt as well.
Around 15 minutes before the encounter
Orochimaru was nearing the fence ready to pay a visit to his future protegee. When he felt two people behind him. He knew instantly who they were, the only question was what were they doing here?
Itachi and Kisame were ready to fight the traitor to their organization. Samehada was out of the bandages and posted on Kisame's shoulder. Itachi's Sharingan was spinning.
"Kukuku, what a reunion. I'm sorry, but I won't be able to entertain you two." He tried to jump away from the duo into the forest. He was soon stopped thanks to Kisame's Suiton: Goshokuzame.
"You aren't going anywhere Orochimaru" said Kisame grinning at the pale man "Itachi, go find the brat and leave the snake to me."
Back to Naruto
Naruto was just launched into a tree thanks to Itachi's strike. They were losing hard against the Nuke-nin. They landed some hits on him and in return they received many more. He looked at the clearly bruised Ino. No need to make her suffer any more.
"Ino-chan you need to run. Help will surely come in some time. I need you to flee and not look back.". The girl knew when was the time to argue and when to listen to her higher ups. Now was the time to do the latter. She wasn't stupid, she couldn't help anymore and now she would only hinder Naruto's efforts.
She bolted to Sasuke's body and ran away screaming "I will resurrect you to just kill you again if you don't come back Naruto-kun."
Naruto smiled at the childishness of his soon to be girlfriend. It gave him more strength and mental peace knowing she was out of immediate danger.
"You should stop resisting Naruto-kun. We both know that you won't be able to beat me."
"We will have to see then." Naruto decided to play his trump card, a five minutes boost at most, that was more time than what his rescue party was supposed to be coming in. Even one minute should be enough.
He began exuding inhuman amounts of chakra. His eyes began turning whitish golden without any pupil, every visible hair on his head became ethereal flame. It was his Bijuu Armor Overdrive. A double-edged sword, it forced his chakra gates to enlarge without being lethal, still leaving him in a despicable state afterwards.
He could feel that every breath he took some chakra was escaping with the air he exhaled. It didn't matter he had more than enough of that. He was just praying that the rescue party with Tsunade on the head would come fast enough.
He didn't have time to dwell on such things, if he would die today, it would've been his fate long time ago as well. He launched himself at Itachi who couldn't even react with his fully matured Sharingan. He could feel his ribcage being obliterated into puzzle sized pieces when a punch connected.
He was sent into the foliage with a shockwave obliterating everything in a cone of ten meters from Naruto's punch. Naruto himself was slowly walking to the downed nin. More and more chakra escaping his mouth letting him look as if he was breathing pure fire.
It was time for another hit. Barely registering it Itachi evaded it still being hit in the forearm which bent full one eighty degrees in the wrong direction, his hand touching his shoulder.
Naruto was starting to feel the pain from using his technique. How many more strikes would he have before his own body couldn't support him anymore? Three? Four? He wasn't sure, they just needed to connect.
Luckily for Itachi Naruto's rescue party came just in time. Yes, luckily for Itachi or he might have been in a much worse shape than what he was already in. He received a quick message from Kisame through the voice com telling him to run because the Hokage was coming here.
When Tsunade jumped in front of the buddha like Naruto, Itachi chose to flee as his partner told him to. The crisis was halted, and Naruto regained his normal looks, if you call a white as sheet face and ready to puke normal.
"Naruto why is that always you when there are problems around? What did he want?" asked Tsunade scanning the blondie mid pukes.
"They decided to see how much of a threat I pose to their organization. Apparently by beating him too hard I just painted a huge bull's eye on my butt." He said and wretched once again feeling that his stomach emptied out. At least since he only used this mode for so short there was no blood coming from his mouth and anus. It would've been hard to explain to Ino why he had a stain of blood over his ass.
"Are you good enough to continue? The exams just started like two hours ago. How about your mission?" asked Tsunade
"Yeah, I'm okay enough, a good rest in the tower should be enough. Couldn't apprehend him, he was regenerating limbs and we needed to finish it as fast as possible in case his master came with help." Naruto said drinking some water.
"Good enough seeing your mission parameters. Itachi and his accomplice has helped us by making it harder for Orochimaru to know who killed his subordinate. Good Job Ushi, yours and Ino's pay will be accounted immediately after I come back to the office. Now go to your princess." She finished making the ANBU squad with her snicker.
Naruto grumbled and blown a raspberry at the people in the clearing he made. He stood up with unsteady legs and began walking until he was good enough to run to the place where Ino was hiding.
"Naruto-kun! Thank goodness, are you okay? What happened out there? I just sensed the huge amount of chakra in the air and then it disappeared quickly." She wanted to ask more questions until Naruto shushed her.
"I'm okay taking in account what has just happened. I will answer all of your questions in the tower. We need to go fast." He said and took Sasuke on his shoulder. They had at least five kilometers left to the tower. It seemed a lot, but for a ninja it was a twenty-minute trek.
They entered the tower. Apparently, they were the second team to come to the tower, the first one being Gaara's. They dumped Sasuke in one of the rooms and went to the infirmary where they were greeted by Tsunade, Hiruzen and Jiraiya as well.
"I always said that the blondes gathered all of the trouble in the world." Joked Jiraiya which earned him a glare from the three blondes present in the room. They couldn't argue though, trouble was sticking to them worse than shit to the sole of a boot.
"What was going on out there?" asked a perplexed Ino.
"The simple answer is a full-blown shitstorm. The long one is… well longer. Sit down and let Tsunade-hime heal you. Apparently not only Itachi was present today, his accomplice was Kisame Hoshigaki. And not only they came, Orochimaru decided to draft little Sasuke into his ranks by giving him a hickey. Thankfully, the presence of his old partners has caused him to forgo his plan for the moment. About the other two, they are from a group called Akatsuki. They are trying to… catch people like Naruto. And I don't know why. Naruto saying that they came to measure his threat level gives me hope that they aren't that close to begin their plans." Said Jiraiya
Tsunade finished healing Ino and began healing the other blonde. She put her hands on him and her eyes scrunched. "Naruto take off your shirt." She ordered.
He obliged and everyone could see that his state was much worse than what he let them see. He had huge bruises getting larger and larger in real time. "Naruto, I don't know how you did it, your muscles ripped themselves apart. The bruises are from the blood flowing freely between your muscles and skin." She said healing him from the infinite number of rips in his body. "You won't use it anymore unless there is a good reason, right?" she said in a voice that promised pain if he didn't listen.
"If fighting an S-class nuke-nin that killed his entire family in one night isn't a good reason than what is, baa-chan?" he asked rolling his eyes.
Tsunade couldn't find anything else than fighting a Bijuu or an enraged jinchuuriki. She settled on lightly swatting Naruto's head for disrespect. "When will you stop calling me baa-chan when you aren't in ANBU mode?"
"When my hair turns green, baa-chan" he didn't know how much he would hate his stupid mouth in a very foreseeable future.
After being patched up the duo went to their own room. No need for two. They entered and as soon as the lock clicked a dam broke inside of Ino. "You stupid teddy bear, do you know how much I was afraid when you told me to run? How much grief I was feeling? How useless I felt unable to help you?" she cried in his chest hitting him lightly with her fists.
Naruto felt depressed hearing that. He wanted to save her so much that he was ready to put his life on the line. He… He loved her. He knew what he had to do to stop Ino from crying. He pushed her a few centimeters away and bent his head. Slowly he approached her mouth and gave her a small kiss.
"I'm sorry Ino-chan. I never wanted you to feel that way. I wanted to protect you with everything I had. I couldn't lose you. I will never lose you. Now stop crying it doesn't suit the strong girl I love." He finally said it. He bent his head once again giving her a new kiss.
Ino's brain was forced into a reboot. She dreamed of this day for so long. Surely, it wasn't as she imagined, sitting on the Hokage mountain watching the sunset, but she would take it. He said that he loved her. She cried even harder, this time not out of grief, but from happiness.
"I love you too, Naruto-kun. My teddy bear." She closed the minimal distance by squeezing him even harder. Wiping off her tears of joy she looked into his eyes with a smile "That means we are official now, aren't we?" she asked
"Yes, yes we are." He answered with the most beautiful smile she has ever seen him do. This time she was the one to stand on her toes to kiss him on his mouth.
"We will tell Anko, later. Let's go to bed, I think we deserve some rest." She said dragging him to the bed, barely leaving him time to take off his shoes.
The sleep would take the newly made couple to a shared dreamscape, favor from Kurama who was giggling inside.
Time skip end of part two
A few days happened, five to be exact. Sasuke had to be told a story about an ambush that knocked him out, which made him furious.
Anko on the other side was full of glee. Her bets were spot on, give or take seven days, closely followed by Asuma. The rest of the people that placed bets had to accept their defeat. Now though wasn't the time to cheer as the deadline for the second part of the exams was in five minutes.
Two minutes before the end some very vulgar tongue snapped at someone. "I told you, you sucker to get the scroll from the first team we encountered. We almost fucking came too late."
Naruto and Ino smirked knowing that team 10 has just made it, their eyes confirming the presence of a redhead with two boys coming to the hall. With them there were seven other teams inside.
Miraculously all Konoha rookies were here. Another team from Konoha was present with a guy that had a stick up his butt and another that looked as if he had worms up his own. He was constantly moving around the place as if he was sightseeing.
Another team was from Oto, the village founded by Orochimaru. In any case possible they had to be treated as hostile. No one appeared to know about their skill sets and that's what made them dangerous.
Lastly there was a team from Ame that came in only thirty minutes ago. They looked the worst from the bunch. One of them was missing and arm, clearly having received the injury in the forest judging by his pained face and the blood seeping through the bandages.
The teams that qualified were gathered in what looked like an arena. Tsunade came before them with the Sandaime who was serving as advisor until the end of the invasion when he would finally retire for, hopefully, good this time.
"Let me congratulate all of you who have passed through the forest. I know it wasn't easy and remember my words, your life will only get harder from this point. Qualified for promotion or not, you've proven your value to your villages. You will no longer be on the lowest level of hierarchy. I know most of you don't like history and politics, but please indulge me this once, and listen closely to what I say." Said Tsunade in a voice that carried the power of the village's leader.
Everyone' attention was focused on the female leader, no one was daring to make a sound. Seeing that, she continued "When I was slightly older than you war was raging through our continent, nations battling to show their dominance over each other. Nowadays we achieved what you could call peace in the ninja world. No open battles are happening as of right now and our clients don't know which village to choose when submitting a mission. This is where you come in, the open war was replaced by a controlled competition where young hopefuls would represent their nations showing the future potential of each village. That's why I need to announce that too many of you passed the second test. We need to cut down your numbers to make it enjoyable to our future customers. I will let the proctor of the preliminary fights explain everything." She said leaving the stage to a new man.
Naruto shook his head. Too many of his friends were involved as proctors in these exams. Someone higher up must've pulled some strings. Hayate looked around and with a cough he gathered the attention of everyone.
"The preliminary round will happen in one versus one fights. If anyone wants to withdraw, now is your chance, your teammates won't be penalized for it." The injured genin from Ame lifted his remaining hand to show that he didn't want to compete anymore.
"The rules are simple, the fight continues until one of the contestants is knocked out, dead or has forfeited. I ask everyone of you to join your senseis on the balcony until the first pair is drawn." He said and everyone listened to the order.
Names were rapidly changing on a screen until it stopped, showing Sasuke and one of the Ame genins that remained. Naruto didn't care about it one bit; he had enough faith in Sasuke to beat the teen. It wouldn't be too difficult. He decided to greet his jonin friends and announce officially his status with Ino to those that haven't heard about it yet.
Fights were going on and Naruto and Ino still didn't care until the green clad genin was supposed to fight Gaara. Quickly they marched to Gai and poked him on the shoulder.
"Gai-sensei, just in case get ready to interfere. Gaara will try to kill your student or in the worst case finish his career early. I know looking at his knuckles that he strived for very long to achieve his level of taijutsu."
"Don't worry Naruto-kun, Lee is perfectly strong enough to win this fight." Gai said with his trademark shining grin.
It didn't sit right with Naruto. This man was putting this boy with lots of potential in grave danger. The blond decided to act harshly, he pulled Gai by his clothes down to whisper in his ear.
"I don't think you understand the situation here Gai-sensei. The redhead is a jinchuuriki, and not a stable one like me. His only goal in life is to prove his existence by killing strong people. If Lee proves to be a good challenge Gaara will pull out all stops. Do you understand now?" he whispered harshly.
Gai's eyes widened at this revelation. "Thank you Naruto-kun. I will stop the fight if it goes too far." He told without his youthful demeanor anymore, his muscles tensing ready to spring into action.
"Lee take them off!" he shouted to which Lee jumped on the statue in the arena and took off some leg weights. Nobody was taking it seriously until they dropped to the ground. The stone beneath them shattered and Lee's speed quintupled making him visible only during strikes.
Naruto had to give Lee the respect due. "That's why specialists are often compared to monsters when they reach their peak. They are forces to be reckoned with. And here we are, witnesses to a birth of such monster."
Normally, Gai wouldn't like such a word directed at his student, but he felt that it was a compliment coming from an undercover ANBU where words like monster, freak or abnormality were used as such.
"He is my first protegee, I trained him even before the beginning of the academy. Thank you for respecting his nindo Naruto-kun."
Naruto only nodded and continued watching the fight. Ino was marveled by what she was seeing, even her boyfriend wasn't moving that fast all the time and he had to use chakra for doing so. Yet this genin was using only the power of his muscles.
The predictions made by the blond were right. Once Lee began opening more and more chakra gates the more Gaara was getting giddy about killing the green clad genin to prove his existence. It came to the point where Lee tried to open the fourth gate.
Gai has seen enough, the faster Lee was getting the more strain his body was taking. He taught the boy how to open them and now he had to stop him before he either disintegrated his muscles or Gaara would crush him in his sand. Before Lee could force the Shomon to open, Gai broke the fight making Lee lose by default.
He hugged the boy, infuriating Gaara by taking the opportunity to prove his existence. Gai didn't notice that Lee was already out. For the last ten minutes his mind has shut down letting his body do all the fighting. He was standing there unconscious up by only sheer will power.
A few matches continued until it was time for Ino to fight against Tayuya. It was what Kurenai would later describe as the true kunoichi fight. Each of their skillsets was made to amplify the use of their slender bodies.
Both girls looked at each other on the arena, none of them wanted to enter a straight up fight. They weren't suited for it, one of them was proficient in genjutsu and the other in healing and assassination. They were made for ambush, but the rules were set to measure their abilities to decimate an opponent.
It was the complete opposite of Gaara versus Lee match. While the two boys tried to gain the upper hand or fist by power or speed, the two girls were fighting a battle of attrition, trying to force their opponent into a mistake.
It was beautiful to the onlookers, the fight resembled more and more a dance than a true fight. Tayuya was casting her genjutsu light enough to give herself a few seconds of respite with Ino running at her trying to disable the girl using her blades from any part of her body.
Finally, it came to a halt when Ino was able to cut Tayuya's flute in half. The redhead decided to give Ino the win. She could still fight, but without her flute she would only play time until she was forced to take a disabling injury. No need to endanger your whole career when you earned your freedom already.
Two more fights happened until last match contestants were chosen. Naruto and Kiba were descending the stairs, while passing next to Kurenai she quietly told Naruto to not damage her student too hard. She already had Hinata to look after because of her cousin trying to kill her.
They met on the arena with Kiba boasting about an easy win, remembering Naruto from the old times when they were beginning the academy. Naruto didn't have much patience for the boy, the longer they were fighting the longer he was away from his new official girlfriend who wanted to cuddle right now.
Hayate screamed "Hajime!" and jumped away from the combatants. Kiba was sprinting on his four members adopting a dog like posture. Naruto only outstretched his hand with two fingers pointing at Kiba and his partner.
"Yang Pistol" he said calmly shooting two bullets hitting both of them right between the eyes. The match was over already, and Naruto blew on his fingers as if smoke was coming out of them. What an anticlimactic end to the murderous test.
"Don't worry he's just knocked out. He should be back in a few minutes."
When Kiba woke up he has seen that everyone was taking a slip of paper from an urn held by the Hokage. He didn't even know what happened to him.
Below numbers were said one after another dictating the order of the fights that would happen in one month. It would be the end of Naruto's mission of surveying the lone Uchiha.
The order was as such:
Naruto vs Neji
Shikamaru vs Temari
Shino vs Ino
Dosu vs Kankuro
Sasuke vs Gaara
"Young shinobi remember what I told you before this round, you will be allowed a one-month break to train and let the dignitaries arrive. Represent your countries well." Tsunade said dismissing everyone inside.
Naruto woke up with Ino cuddling cutely next to him. Since they became a couple the girl would always cuddle him almost to death. He wouldn't whine though; he would never reject the feeling of being loved by someone he loved as well.
He woke her up by planting a small kiss on her neck. He could see a small quiver run through her body and the girl stretched out like a cat. It was perfect seeing her feline pajamas. "Good morning sleepy head."
"Good morning Naruto-kun. Why did you wake me up?"
"It's already noon and you wanted to announce that we are dating to your parents."
He dreaded the day it would come to this. Inoichi was overly protective of the girl, maybe with some luck he wouldn't finish dead.
"Yes, yes, yes let's go!" she jumped out of the bed and almost began changing forgetting about Naruto still in the room. They both turned beet red and turned around allowing themselves for some privacy.
An hour later they would be found on the porch of Ino's house. With a deep breath Naruto knocked on the door. Ino tightened her grip on her lover's hand, an action that he did so many times already to calm her down. Thankfully the one to open the door was Saki who eyed the pair holding their hands.
"Ara, ara did something happen between you two? Come in, come in." she asked loud enough to make sure that Inoichi heard her. Naruto blushed a bit seeing the scrutinizing eyes of the older woman.
Inoichi felt that day would come sooner or later, they were after all the subject of many bets in one of the jonin communities. Even if he liked Naruto, he would still scare the boy. Naruto for the first time in a long time felt a lack of courage. He could battle an S-rank nuke-nin, but handling the father of his girlfriend? This was too much.
"Tou-chan, Kaa-chan we came here to tell you that we began dating." Blurted Ino trying to end this awkward situation already.
Saki was overjoyed, she liked the boy. She heard and have seen the implication of Naruto in her daughter's development. Inoichi would still protect his little princess.
"Before I pass my judgement, do you want to tell us how it happened?" said Inoichi. The judgement was already more than stellar though making the boy sweat gave him some amount of fatherly pride.
"Well it began when we became a team…" Naruto began the tale of their budding love and friendship with Ino interjecting every time she needed to. That was until she decided to finish it when she recalled the most recent events in the forest of death. "… and when he has seen that we couldn't win, he told me to run, possibly sacrificing himself in the process has the Hokage not came."
Inoichi couldn't say no to it anymore. If battling Itachi Uchiha to save his daughter wasn't enough to allow them to explore their feelings, then even he himself didn't know what was.
Naruto stood before Inoichi and with a deep bow he formally asked "Inoichi-san, will you please let me court your daughter?"
"I will allow it, but if you make my daughter cry out of anything else than joy…" he didn't finish the phrase only showing the international sign for you are dead.
The heavy atmosphere lifted up and Saki invited Naruto for some tee and coffee which he accepted. They still had time until their training with their respective teachers for the month. Saki was talking most of the time remembering how she and Inoichi began dating and tried to show Naruto the photos from Ino's youth. It was all fun and games until a photo of baby Ino being changed appeared which Ino quickly snapped away and began running away from her mother.
The heartwarming scene finished when the youngsters had to go meet their teachers. With a quick kiss they separated and went their ways. Jiraiya told Naruto to take the day off since he had to make a new training schedule.
Naruto was slowly strolling, taking the sights in, unconsciously preparing for the invasion. That was until his tenant decided to wake up from her slumber or catching a rabbit.
"Naru-chan. Now that I think of it, I never gave you a birthday gift." She told him and he rushed to his house where he could safely come into his mindscape. And not look like a pervert seeing that he was next to a park with children.
Appearing in Kyuubi's house, Kurama was sitting next to a table with a scroll unrolled.
"Welcome Naru-chan. Come sit next to me. This is my gift for your birthday. Remember when I told you about my old friends that your Bijuu armor will show when it's complete? This is the scroll to become their summoner. I don't guarantee that they will help you, they are a grumpy bunch."
Naruto looked at the scroll and did the same as with the toad scroll. Posing his bloodied fingers on it sealing the contract, he did the required hand signs and planted his palm on the ground. With a puff of smoke, he disappeared from the room.
He found himself in a luscious forest with a staircase leading to a temple. The sky was painted in shades of grey, black and deep purple with a few lightnings roaring high in the clouds. It was the famous calm before the storm. A storm that would never arrive.
He didn't have any other idea, so he climbed the stairs until he found a small temple that seemed unoccupied. Nearing the entrance, with a bolt of lightning a huge guardian lion blocked his path. He had to admit that the beast was majestic with its jade green mane and the same aura that Kurama had.
"What are you doing here human?" it roared with might and power that almost blew Naruto away.
"I have acquired the scroll needed to summon you. Yet when I tried to do so I was transported here."
"Insolence, we gave our scroll to only one being eons ago. How could a human child have it?" the lion was clearly losing its patience.
"I'm sorry if I have insulted you. A dear friend of mine gave it to me, her name's Kurama known as Kyuubi no Yoko."
The lion clearly relaxed hearing this name "Kurama… I haven't heard that name in at least one hundred years. Come human child, you will explain this situation to Moshi-sama."
Naruto followed the lion into the temple, complying to the power shown by the beast. Inside there was another lion, much larger than the first he has seen.
"Doshi, why have you brought this human child here?" it asked
"He claims to know of Kurama." The now named Doshi said making Moshi look over Naruto.
"Child what is your name?"
"I'm Naruto Uzumaki, Moshi-sama." Naruto said with a deep bow trying not to anger the being in front of him.
"Maelstrom, huh? Now tell me what do you know of Kurama? She hasn't visited in over a hundred years."
"It's a long story, at least for my kind Moshi-sama. It all began when the ninja villages were founded…" Naruto told the tale of Hashirama and Madara, the sealing of Kurama and other Bijuu in human vessels ending the line with himself"… right now Kurama is sealed inside of me because of some events that happened during my birth." To prove his point Naruto summoned Kurama from his stomach, making the woman appear in front of the beast.
"Long time no see, Moshi."
"That's what happened to you Kurama? I shall free you at this instant from being subjected to your prison." Said Moshi, lifting his claw and channeling futon through it ready to kill Naruto. He would have succeed if Kurama has not came before Naruto.
"Stoooop! You will not harm him. Even if I am sealed inside him, Naruto is different. He showed me that the faith that my father taught us to have in humans wasn't for vain." She glared at Moshi who calmed down.
"I will comply… for now. Tell me young Naruto, why do you seek our power?"
"To tell the truth I'm not sure myself Moshi-sama. For a long time, I was seeking power just for the sake of getting stronger. That was until I met a few people who have seen me for myself and not for Kurama that was sealed inside of me. I would do anything to make sure they see another sunrise. I seek the power to make sure that those few people are alive."
"Good answer, human child. We are the guardian lions; our power is meant to protect not to destroy everything in our wake. Sadly, we cannot help you as much as other summons. Our kind decided to stop fighting in wars that weren't ours. I cannot risk losing any of my clansmen, there are only thirteen of us left in this world. What I can offer you is training in our ways in order to protect the people that are so dear to you."
"I gladly accept your offer Moshi-sama." Naruto said with another bow
"You've taught him good manners Kurama."
"Of course, I did." She said with a mock glare.
"Begone for now. Come to this land in two days, don't worry about the toads we will resolve all the matters with them directly. We will speak then." Said Moshi and with a wave of his paw he sent the newcomers back to their land.
Naruto was sweating profusely; these beasts were as scary as Kurama if he was right.
"Don't worry Naru-chan. They will warm up to you, give it some time. They are just very protective of their own." She said.
"After all, they are GUARDIAN lions." Joked Naruto
"Yes, they are. What you need to know is that they highly regard hierarchy. They are considered almost deities that protect and guide people. What they offered you is a huge gift. They haven't trained anyone for over three thousand years."
"I will remember that. Thank you Kura-nee!" he said
Naruto punched his fist into his other hand. He was shown during the fight against Itachi how weak he was. He would never miss such an opportunity. Not now that he vowed to himself to protect his friends and most importantly Ino. Even if he knew that the girl didn't want nor needed to be protected.
End chapter 8
AN: I hope you liked that one. I didn't write all of the fights during the preliminary round. They often feel like filler to me that just boosts the word count of a chapter. What I hope is that I don't make Naruto op or godlike too early. Thank you for reading and leave a review if want to.