Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor The Gamer. I own nothing, really.

Chapter 41

'Come on,' I thought to myself, impatiently tapping my foot against the ground. 'Come on!'

After my talk with Sasuke, I went out and chatted with Naruto and Sakura. I was very relieved that, at least, Orochimaru hadn't gotten to mess with my brother's seal. Small mercies and all that. That meant that they were mostly fine, even if, after the attack, the two of them had had to carry Sasuke almost the whole way through the forest and fight for their scroll.

The two had decided to follow the Uchiha's example and just rest for the rest of the day, since the Second Test would be done the next day. Anko herself had had to go to appease foreign ninja that could suspect foul play. There were probably ways for us to get away with it, but it wasn't worth the political trouble that could follow.

'Where the hell are you guys?' I called out in my mind as I grew nervous. Team Ten was still nowhere in sight and it was starting to get to me. Every time I closed my eyes I would remember that Gaara had killed people inside the Forest. How many others had done so too? After all, they could do so without consequences, with the waivers and all…

Granted, there probably weren't many people around like the Suna Jinchuriki who would risk killing Clan heirs and bringing the anger of Konoha on them and their countries. But, evidently, there were exceptions to every rule. And that meant that they could be-

'They are fine,' I told myself, screwing my eyes shut for a moment.

"Been waiting for a while, huh?" My eyes snapped open to see a smirking Shikamaru come out of the Forest, closely followed by Ino and Chouji. The three of them looked terrible, I wasn't even gonna sugarcoat that. But they were standing, there were no visible wounds and-

"What happened?" I asked, my eyes locked onto Chouji's form. The boy looked fine… at first sight and if you didn't know him though. He was standing straight, making his big body look pretty imposing, and his eyes looked straight ahead, unflinching.

But that wasn't Chouji. Chouji never stood so… stiffly. He was always relaxed, like he was a breath away from taking a snack from somewhere and starting eating, which was often the case. His eyes were never so cold either, they were always warm and inviting. The guy hadn't even said anything to me. He looked like a soldier.

"Yeah..." Shika sighed as he continued walking. "Let us finish this… we have to talk."

I nodded as I walked next to them, keeping my worries in as I waited for them to be done so they could tell me what the hell happened in the woods. A part of my mind scolded me, telling me that I was being overprotective again. That I should calm down. But this was serious. Maybe once things calmed down, once there wasn't any more danger on the horizon. Like during the three years timeskip, if it even happened to begin with. Very little happened during that, which meant that I could relax.

But now, in the middle of the Forest of Death, with one of the most dangerous Missing Nin roaming around and messing with everything, with all five of the big Elemental Nations having teams in the village and who knew what else that I probably wasn't aware of… I could do nothing but worry. Especially when my friends looked like they had been put through the wringer and one of them looked nothing like he normally would.

Their sensei appeared in a cloud of smoke and, after giving the speech about them passing with a bored tone, took one look at his team and said:

"You look like shit," Both Shika and I rolled our eyes at Asuma's very subtle wording. "Right, the three of you, straight to the infirmary," I nodded appreciatively. At least he clearly cared. His eyes found mine and I stared right back at him, raising an eyebrow. I was sure he wouldn't, but I still dared him to tell me to go away or something. "So, you are the one these three won't shut up about?"

"Asuma-sensei!" Ino all but screeched indignantly. Shikamaru just sighed tiredly, head and shoulders slumping down. Chouji's reaction though, a twitch of his lips that almost became a smile, relieved me a little. My friend was in there somewhere. Now I just needed to pull him out.

"Eiji Satou," I nodded at the Jounin.

"Asuma Sarutobi," He introduced himself. "Their minder, you could say."

"So, we have the same job, huh?" I shot back with a half-smile that he returned.

"You two," I heard Asuma gulp at the same time I did when we turned to the blonde in Team Ten. 'No teasing, got it,' I thought to myself.

"Can I..." Everyone went silent as the Akimichi opened his mouth for the first time. "Can I speak with Eiji?" The boy finished his question. His voice didn't betray any emotion, which was more telling than anything else could have, to me at least.

"Sure thing, big guy," I reassured, putting a hand on his shoulder and bringing him into a one-armed hug. Like that, I steered him towards the infirmary. "We'll have you checked just in case and then we'll talk as much as you want."

"Thanks," He whispered, low enough that I wasn't sure he had wanted me to hear him.

"Think nothing of it, brother," I gave his shoulder a squeeze. My eyes moved to the rest of the team. Ino gave me two thumbs up with an encouraging smile, even if her eyes looked worriedly at Chouji. Shikamaru's expression didn't change much, but his eyes were begging me. 'As if you needed to ask such a thing.'

Asuma… I wasn't sure what I had expected from him, to be honest. But what I recieved was a pair of narrowed eyes as he looked between us. A moment later, he gave me a grateful nod before he started pushing the rest of his Team towards the infirmary too.

[}-o-{]

"I… I thought it would be easier," Was the first thing Chouji said after he was done telling me what happened in the Forest. His wounds had been treated already and we were both sitting at the top of the tower, looking off at the forest and the horizon. "Ninja talk about it all the time. I should have been ready for it."

"Chouji," I started, before he could spiral out of control with his words. I got the gist of it with those two sentences anyway. "Have you ever seen such a thing?"

"No, but-"

"Then you couldn't have been ready," I told him, giving him a sad smile. I had much time to ponder on the subject after the Swords mission. I didn't consider myself an expert, but I thought I had a much better idea at that moment than when it first happened. "Knowing that something will happen and actually seeing it happen are different things. I knew I would have to kill someday too, but you saw how I was after actually doing it."

Him, and all of our friends for that matter, had grown up inside the village. And Konoha was many things but, for the most part, it could almost pass as a normal city. Children grew up knowing that the world was a lot darker than what they saw, yes. However, that didn't make them immune to that darkness. It just prepared them for it, so that they wouldn't crumble as someone from my world might have.

"But… But you were a civilian before. You didn't have a shinobi family to-" He stopped there, a grimace taking over his face. "Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"Don't worry," I kept my smile in place. It wasn't difficult. I hadn't had much of a problem with being an orphan to begin with. I hadn't actually lived through that childhood, after all. "We are the only two that have actually killed someone, Chouji," I saw his hands twitch at my words, but I continued. "And I can promise you, that everyone else will be affected too when it's their turn."

"Sasuke-"

"Witnessed things that no one should," I nodded, expecting that point from the beginning. "But the point stands. He hasn't killed anyone yet. And that means he will react in some way. I don't think anyone can just… shrug it off, you know. Everyone feels something when they take a life. Or… that's what I want to believe. It's something that shouldn't leave anyone indifferent."

"..." He sat next to me in silence for a moment after that, taking those words in. "Does how I took it make me a bad ninja?"

"I don't believe so," I denied, trying not to sound too reassuring. I wanted him to believe what I was saying, not to think I was just comforting him. "I would be more worried if you had been happy or something of the sort," He shuddered at the idea. "You did what you did, Chouji, and then you squared your shoulders and kept going. You did well."

"I… I did?" He asked, his voice shaking. That's when I knew that I had said something right.

"Chouji, I will ask you something and I want you to think about it, ok?" I told him, and he turned his eyes to me before giving me a nervous nod. "If you were there again, what would you do? Would you fight again and risk the same happening, or would you run away?"

He didn't answer right away, but I didn't expect him to. Instead, I sat there looking as the sun continued his way down the sky. Chouji, next to me, would occasionally mutter something unintelligible or sigh, his hands gripping his shorts tightly. And then, he broke the silence.

"I would fight," Was his answer, grim but resolute.

"Why?" I asked this time, my voice not betraying anything.

"Because they were attacking us… it's what I had to do. For Shikamaru and Ino… running wouldn't have stopped then… or maybe it wouldn't have even worked..."

"You are a great brother, Chouji," I turned to him then, smiling widely. "And I'm very proud of you."

"I- But-"

"You are willing to fight… to kill for those you care about. And I know you, Chouji. I know you are a kind person. You didn't even want to fight when we first met, remember? And here you are… putting that aside for your friends."

"But… there are missions… they would ask me to..." He struggled before giving up and looking down, frustrated.

"You can choose your missions," I replied to that, blatantly ignoring how I had been forced on a mission. I wanted to believe, maybe willfully, that the Swords mission had been an exception. "You can choose to never take a mission that could involve killing. I wouldn't think any less of you for that."

I had seen those missions too. Danzo had given me a folder or two on such things. It had made me understand them a little better. Some of them were jobs issued by third parties, jobs that were only for money. Those were only accepted if they wouldn't negatively affect Konoha though. And there were some others that were issued by Konoha itself. Assasination of people that either worked against the village, or the nation, or were otherwise having a similar effect on them. There were even some that were done solely because they would benefit Konoha.

I was sure I would never take one of the first ones. And as for the third… I doubted it. The seconds though… I could see myself taking those. Which… I wasn't sure how to take that, at the moment.

"I… Thank you… Thank you for listening and… everything else," Chouji said, still looking down, but his voice alone sounded much calmer at that moment.

"I hope I helped."

"You did," He nodded and he was almost smiling. He wasn't quite there yet, but I would take what I could. With that said, the boy started standing up.

"You should talk with your sensei, he'll have better advice than me," I told him as I joined him walking back inside the tower. "And your parents, once we are done here."

"I will," He nodded. I was pleased to see that his shoulders weren't as tense anymore. "I just… I wanted to talk with you first. It's less weird, I guess," He explained hesitantly as he scratched his cheek with his finger.

"Well, if you ever need to talk, you know I'll listen. I don't promise the advice will be good though."

He chuckled lightly and I let out a soft breath.

Chouji would be alright.

[}-o-{]

I couldn't help but smirk a bit once the Second Test was officially over. The very next morning everyone was taken to where the preliminaries would be held and of course, Raidou did Anko's part and gave a little speech, followed by the Hokage. The reason for my grin was simple enough. He had just got done telling us that the Exams were 'a war in miniature between the nations.'

'Couldn't have said it better myself, Hiruzen,' I thought to myself as my eyes looked over the remaining teams. There was at least one from each major village, with four teams from Konoha. That was bound to annoy the others, that's for sure. I could see the representatives from Kumo and Iwa looking around with frowns, as if searching for more of their people.

I took a specially good look at the Iwa team though. Not because of anything related to my little encounter with the Princess and her team though. I was concerned they would have learned about Team Ten's clash with one of their teams and the result of it. The last thing I needed was one of my friends getting killed during one of the duels because of an unfortunate mistake.

As Hayate Gekko made his appearance and explained to us the preliminary part of the Third Test, I prepared myself mentally for what was to follow, if it happened. I had no guarantees, of course, canon had flown out the window a long time ago, I knew that much. But, there was a distinct possibility that certain parts would remain.

And sure enough…

"Sorry, Eiji, Yoroi," Kabuto said, raising his hand when Gekko asked if anyone wanted to quit. I idly noticed that one of the Kumo nin was leaving too. "That… encounter with the giant snake hit me pretty hard… I thought I had recovered enough, but the rest of the exam took a lot of chakra out of me. My reserves were never great to begin with," He explained bitterly.

Meanwhile, I was fighting a battle with myself in order not to grin from ear to ear and laugh out loud. 'I got you, son of a bitch,' I thought to myself. Why? Very simple. I could now make a few very understandable comments here and there about how it was suspicious that my teammate quit the exam, having days to recover his chakra and not really having faced that much of a problem in the forest.

To anyone else, those excuses would have been enough. Small chakra reserves were a thing, yeah, but I had observed the guy pretty closely after we were introduced. And I knew medical jutsu too, so I knew that there was no way he had used that much in the forest. The only unknown to me was what happened after we got separated due to the snake summons, but Anko and Raidou had talked to my team, which meant that they had gotten a look at them. And thus, they had most probably seen that Kabuto wasn't that affected by the whole event.

'Man, it's like I want to mess up canon, at this point,' I thought to myself. It didn't matter anyway. The plot was never going to be the same regardless of what I did at that point. So, if I could help avoid the Crush altogether, then why wouldn't I?

Hiruzen Sarutobi, Third Hokage of Konohagakure, died during the Invasion. I would do my best to avoid that. First of all, because the death of our leader in front of people from all Nations could be a disaster for the entire village. Second, because he was Naruto's grandfather in all but name and also, probably, the first person to look out for the blonde. I needed to repay that. And third… because I had grown fond of the old man, slowly, during rare visits and long talks, we had gotten close.

'So, thank you, Kabuto,' I thought to myself, my eyes following my 'teammate' as he left the room. 'I very much appreciate you giving me a hand here. You are a true teammate, indeed.'

"Eiji?" Yoroi asked and I turned to him, noticing that a smirk had appeared on my face without me even noticing.

"I'm just excited," I lied through my teeth, making a show of signaling the other teams. "Have you seen these people? This is going to be fun."

I hadn't even finished the statement, when we were hit with a wave of killing intent. 'Bloodlust,' I called in my mind and my eyes moved to lock with Gaara's. Next to me, I saw Yoroi tense up, although I wasn't even sure what he would have done if something happened.

"Yeah yeah," Anko said as one of her hands grabbed my shoulder and guided me towards the balcony where we would expectate. "You can have your fun in a bit, Eiji."

"Sakura vs. Temari," Gekko announced and I grimaced.

"Welp, everyone knows how this is gonna go," I commented somewhat dejectedly.

"Wow, such a show of support to the village, huh, Eiji?" Ino asked sarcastically, her team on one side of mine. I raised an eyebrow at her, asking if she seriously expected something else from the fight. Lazily, I leaned on the railing.

"I mean, not to bash on Sakura or anything… but she is the weakest of all of us," I pointed out neutrally. I really didn't have anything against Sakura but… she wasn't very serious about her training, and it showed. "Not only did she start training with us very late, but she took to it… rather lazily, and that's saying something when I have Shikamaru as a friend."

"I mean, she does work a lot," Ino tried to defend.

"She studies a lot," Shikamaru joined, leaning forward just like me on the blonde's other side. "But she didn't train much for fights. Unless she did better in team training?" He asked, voicing the only hole in our logic.

"She… didn't..." Naruto forced out, clearly not waiting to speak badly of his teammate but also trying to avoid lying.

"Did she ever decide between Genjutsu and Iryoujutsu?" I asked out loud as both fighters looked at each other. Poor Sakura looked very nervous, while Temari… looked like a predator would a particularly easy prey.

"Not really," Kakashi answered from behind us, leaning against the wall. "She leaned more towards Iryoujutsu with time though."

"So, not enough to make any of the two count much for a fight..." I reasoned with a grimace. "Yeah, this'll be a quick one."

"Hey, that chick could be weak too," Naruto tried but I gave a half-smile with no mirth in it as a response.

"If she is anything like her teammate, this will be over really fast," I replied.

"Teammate?" Sasuke asked, suddenly much more invested in the conversation.

"The redhead," I said, my eyes focusing on Gaara, who was still looking straight at me. "I crossed paths with the guy in the Forest… he is… I wouldn't want to face him here… or ever."

The message had the desired effect. All my friends reacted to that. Some faces paled, some shoulders tensed, some eyes widened. Even the teachers snapped their eyes to me. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit proud of them making such a big deal of my words.

I wasn't afraid of Gaara though, not really. I had been thinking over strategies for everyone that passed the Second Test, in case I had to go against them, when I wasn't worrying. And I could at the very least survive the guy. Winning a fight was still to be determined, but I was probably around Lee's speed without my weights, and if I used the Lightning Flicker I was even faster. There was no way the Jinchuriki could get me with his sand. The problem was getting past his defenses.

I had Nuibari, yes. I was almost positive the Needle could pierce through his sand. The problem was that revealing the Legendary Sword was a problem in itself. Nobody had told me that I couldn't use the sword, that much was true, but I was still reluctant to do so. I had been keeping it a secret for a reason, after all.

Regardless of that though, I needed everyone else to be wary of that guy. With any luck, he would face one of the other village's ninja. Maybe it was wrong for me to think like that, mostly because whoever faced him had a very good chance of dying. But I would take that option over one of my friends any day.

"Begin!" Gekko called out and-

Sakura was sent right to a wall.

The wind created by Temari's fan was so strong that there was even a breeze hitting us, and we weren't even that close. I wanted to feel bad for the pinkette, I really did. But it was better this way, for her at least. This would be a very much needed wake up call for her.

With her feet back on the ground, Sakura went through a series of hand seals. I noticed a few things though. First, Temari wasn't throwing a follow up attack after the first, even when she had more than enough time. Second, the Konoha nin's seals were really slow. Or, at least, slow for a ninja.

"Yeah, she is out," I declared mercilessly. Nobody tried to defend her this time. "And she," I continued, my eyes turning to the other kunoichi. "Is toying with her."

"Might work to Sakura's advantage," Kakashi commented with what I assumed was his usual uninterested tone. Naruto had many things to say about that.

"Yeah, no," I shook my head. "If Sakura had an ace up her sleeve, maybe. Does she have that?" The other two parts of Team Seven shook their heads, still looking at the 'fight'.

Temari dispelled whatever Genjutsu Sakura had used on her and by her expression she barely suppressed a roll of her eyes.

"Then no, she is done," I decided. "Again, I'm not trying to insult her. She just has… other strengths," And that much was true. If I needed a brain to pick, Sakura or Shikamaru were the pair that came to mind. Granted, I was closer to the second so he would be the one I would actually ask but the fact that she was on the same level spoke volumes. "These exams don't focus on those points though. These are more about shows of strength and such."

"That's true," Kakashi accepted easily. The guy most probably already knew all these.

"But then… why would you...?" Naruto sputtered at his sensei.

"Because if she didn't come, then you two wouldn't have either," I explained, feeling a bit bitter as I saw Sakura be sent flying again. It was sad, really, that she had been made a participant of these when she was clearly not ready. But it was what it was. If Konoha wanted to make a show of these exams, they needed the last Uchiha in them. Naruto too, although…

My eyes moved towards Kurotsuchi.

'His presence will most likely open a can of worms,' I realized. 'Another thing to worry about with these exams, I guess.'

"Winner, Temari of the Sand," Gekko announced, to the surprise of nobody. Poor Sakura had been knocked unconscious after one of her opponents half-assed wind bursts hit her a bit too hard against a wall.

'Now, who's next...'

"Tenten vs. Sasuke."

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

I want to say, first and foremost, that I'm not trying to bash Sakura, as said during the chapter. This is just how her character turned out in my story, kind of like Kiba did.

I also know that there will be people bitching in the comments about how the kids from Konoha should be ok with killing and all that. Honestly, this is what I think is the most natural reaction for them. As I explained in the chapter, the fact that they know and were taught that killing was part of the ninja life and what not, they haven't experienced that. So, I think it makes sense that it would still affect them, even if it's more muted than it would for someone from our world.

Honestly, it's like you guys want me to make these kids be mini-Zabuzas or something.

With that out of the way, we are finally at the preliminaries. I'm… not too excited for this, not gonna lie. If you guys remember, I'm even less confident than usual when it comes to fight scenes, and these next few chapters will be all about that. I'll do my best and, with some luck, I'll do better than I've done in the past. This fic was all about learning and trying new things from the very beginning. So, at least I'm doing that, I guess.

As always, if you can't wait until next week for next chapter, there's up to three new chapters in my Pa tre on:

P a treon . com (slash) AdrianKing

Fun Fact: I'm actually selecting the fight participants randomly. So, let's see how it goes, shall we?

Random Question: We have exactly ten more matches to go through. Who do you think will pass from the twenty participants remaining? The list goes like this, in case you can't be bothered to remember: Eiji, Yoroi, Naruto, Sasuke, Lee, Tenten, Neji, Shikamaru, Ino, Chouji, Kurotsuchi, Akatsuchi, Nojiko (Iwa OC), Omoi, Karui, Haku, Choujurou, Raijin (Kiri OC), Gaara and Kankuro.

Random Recommendation: "Look at Me" by Luxraye.

See you.