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

Chapter 59

[Shino Aburame]

He shared a look with Chouji, who was sitting on one side, the Akimichi grinning back, clearly happy with his teammate's victory. Shino himself shared the sentiment, even if he was less obvious about expressing it. That was one of their friends that had just won her match in the Chuunin Exams, after all.

"Do you know what she did?" Shino asked then, frowning as he tried to decipher what Ino had done in her match. He hadn't witnessed her preliminary match, but from what he had been told it had gone like this one. Stalling while her opponent fell to pieces in front of her.

"Nope," Chouji shook his head. "She really didn't want us to know this time. Kind of annoying, really. I know she must have used the Poison Jutsu she used in her preliminary match, but there must have been something new there, because it worked much faster this time and her opponent looked out of it," He mused and Shino hummed to himself.

"Now's Shikamaru's turn, isn't it?" The Aburame asked, eyeing the entrances waiting for the next pair to appear. "Who was his opponent again?"

"The Suna girl, she fought Sakura in the preliminaries and..." Chouji grimaced. "It didn't go well for her."

Shino refrained from commenting how that outcome was hardly a surprise. The Haruno might have changed from the fangirl she had been initially, but she had hardly improved her work ethic regarding actual combat. If Shino had to guess, he expected her to drift off towards one of the shinobi branches that didn't specialize in combat, like the Cryptanalysis Team.

"And how do you think Shikamaru will do against her?" Shino asked then, just as the Nara and his opponent stepped into the arena. The bug user's eyes moved towards the girl's weapon of choice, a giant iron fan.

"He should have a good chance," Chouji replied without hesitation and the Aburame took a moment to appreciate the absolute confidence the Akimichi had in his teammate and best friend. After years of being friends, it still amazed him, if he was honest. "If he doesn't give up, that is."

There was the honest part though, Shino realized. After all, everyone that knew Shikamaru also knew that the boy couldn't care less for something such as this. The only way for the Nara to act with a modicum of seriousness was when there was something of actual importance on the line.

"Wait," Shino turned towards Chouji at that, only to see the other boy scowling at his best friend. "Something's up," He muttered, and the Aburame turned to regard his shadow-using friend.

Chouji was right, he found, there was something going on there, that was for sure. Shikamaru wasn't slumped forward, instead walking straight and with purpose. Shino had half expected the boy to have to be dragged by someone else into the arena, so this was a surprise to say the least.

For the long moment it took the participants to take their places, neither of them spoke, both of them wondering what was going on for their lazy friend to act like that. Shikamaru had told them of what he'd noticed from his parents and Eiji, naturally, but he'd continued acting like usual even then. So, for him to behave like this…

"Eiji confirmed something," Shino deduced, getting a nod from the other boy.

"Begin," They heard the proctor announce. It was a wonder the sound reached them, what with how dead the man had sounded during the preliminaries, or so he'd been told at least.

Both Genin snapped into action, which was another surprise, considering one of them was Shikamaru. While the girl opened her fan, the boy ran through a couple of hand seals. Then, they unleashed their attacks.

The Sand ninja's eyes widened when a ball of fire came her way, only getting stronger and growing in size as it passed through the wind current she had sent Shikamaru's way. That her attack lost pretty much all her strength only added to her problems, really. Now it was obvious why Chouji was so sure of his best friend's victory, he had the elemental advantage in this match up. Shino took a moment to think how weird it was for someone like Shikamaru to use that particular element. Of all the elements, it was one that one would least expect from someone like him.

The girl barely had enough time to push herself away from her position with another use of her fan as the fireball hit the place she had been standing on, leaving a batch of scorched earth on the arena. If that scared the Suna nin, she didn't show it, because she sent another attack immediately afterwards.

Shikamaru for his part, was slightly slower, since he had to go through hand seals once more while she only had to wield her weapon for her technique. That didn't bode well for their lazy friend. Just as the events started repeating themselves, the kunoichi jumped away immediately after dodging. The reason? A shadow tendril that had been reaching for hers.

"Almost got her," Chouji commented with a grin. "Keep it up, Shika."

And keep it up he did. Fire kept raining on top of the Suna nin, but that was concerning for Shino. Not because the situation didn't look favorable for Shikamaru, but because the boy was spending too much chakra. It wasn't a secret that he was probably the one with the smallest chakra reserves in their group, and that meant that he couldn't afford to continue like that for much longer.

'You are planning something, right Shikamaru?' Shino thought to himself, mostly because that's how the Nara operated. There was always a plan going on, he wouldn't content himself with just overpowering his opponent and taking advantage of their respective elements. No, there was something else going on there, he was sure.

And there was.

This was shown when, after one of many Fireballs, the girl didn't jump anymore, she didn't so much as twitch, really. Until slowly, mechanically, the Sand kunoichi's stance changed. Before another second passed, she started walking forward, towards Shikamaru.

On the other side of the Arena, Shikamaru was doing exactly the same.

A look at their shadows revealed why and how. They were connected, not by a long tendril of darkness, but by a thin thread. Shikamaru had, apparently and while everyone was paying attention to the flashy fire and wind attacks, thrown kunai here and there in the arena, all of them connected by ninja wire. It wasn't much, but it was just enough for him to use his technique unnoticed until the last second, where the kunoichi wouldn't have time to react.

"And that's that," Chouji summarized and Shino could only agree. The match was done. Still, both of them stared straight at their friend as he approached his opponent, pulling a kunai from his pouch that he would likely use to threaten her until she surrendered.

"Shino Aburame," The boy stiffened at the familiar voice until, a second later, he recognized it and relaxed, if only a bit. More than a little apprehensive, he turned his head to look at the eight blue eyes of Shirakumo, Eiji's summon friend.

The whole group had been introduced to the little white arachnid, and that was as much as the boy had revealed to them, stating that all other members of the Spider Clan would be a surprise. Shino, and his own crawling/flying companions, hadn't been fans, but he had reluctantly put up with them when he'd gotten a promise that they wouldn't eat his bugs.

"Shirakumo," He nodded tightly. From the corner of his eye, he saw Chouji pick up on the new presence and narrow his eyes. "What can I do for you?"

"Eiji and the others have a plan for what's to come," The Spider replied and if they had been paying attention before, now they were hanging on her every word. Shirakumo gave her weird, arachnid nod when she noticed and continued. "Here's what will happen..."

[}-o-{]

[Hinata Hyuuga]

"The members of your group are doing remarkably well," Her father commented. In the past, Hinata would have thought, probably being right, that the words were out of disappointment in her. After all, her team had been taken out in the Second Test. Now, however, Hiashi Hyuuga seemed contemplative, even pleased by how the Exams were going.

"They are," Hinata nodded, curiously peering at her father from the corner of her eyes. She had to wonder if he wasn't angry at her because the one that had been poisoned was Kiba and not herself, or if it was due to how increasingly… happy her father had been with her development since she joined Naruto's group. One way or another, she was glad that he had eased on the pressure he had put on her ever since she was a child. Which in turn made her even happier that she had been allowed to be part of her friends' group.

Still, she was disappointed in herself, Hinata had to admit. She had been progressing so much since all that time ago. She had learned so much, trained so much, improved so much, and in the end… she still found herself wanting. She was still that girl that hid behind corners and watched others do things. She was never the one to do those things.

Even now, as she sat in the private room on the arena, watching and celebrating (internally, but still) as her friends won their matches, she could only think how she should be there too. She wasn't jealous of them though, she only wished she could stand next to them. Maybe then, she would feel worthy of all that they had given her.

Then, the next match was announced and as everyone waited for the participants to step on the arena, Hinata couldn't help but be torn. She would, obviously, cheer for both of them. However… she couldn't help but wonder who she really wanted to win the fight.

On one side, there was Naruto, and he was…

Hinata felt her cheeks heat up and had to stop herself from poking her fingers together.

On the other, there was Eiji… and she knew that he was the reason for all the changes in her life. He had been the one to invite her to their group, even when she wasn't really close to any of them, or even an acquaintance. He'd been the one that brought her to the group of people that changed her life so much.

If it wasn't for Eiji, maybe their group wouldn't have trained so much. If they hadn't trained, then they wouldn't have impressed her father. If they hadn't impressed her father, then she would still be the disappointing daughter, never enough and always in the background.

If it wasn't for Eiji, maybe the group wouldn't even have formed in the first place.

Now that she was looking at him though, Hinata couldn't help but be reminded of something that had been the talk of the group whenever the Satou wasn't around: How awfully stressed he looked. She didn't need to use her Byakugan to see that. From where she sat, she could easily see his sickly pale complexion and the dark circles around her eyes. That should be telling enough of how obvious it was, nevermind how he'd been acting as of late, always distracted when he wasn't training, as if there was something in his mind that just wouldn't leave him alone.

She had to wonder, though, after how Shikamaru had acted in his match...

"How do you think they'll do?" Hinata heard her father ask, breaking her from her thoughts. She could clearly see how he focused mainly on Eiji, easily dismissing Naruto because the Satou was much more notorious among the higher ups. She couldn't even be angry about that, Eiji had a talent to gather attention on himself.

"It could go either way," She replied, not even having to lie. That was, as far as she knew, the truth. Hinata could tell that her answer, and the honesty behind it, had surprised her father. She could almost see how his opinion of Naruto changed, turning from dismissal to interest.

"Oh?" He exclaimed interested. "Why do you say so?"

"Eiji is a better combatant," Hinata admitted easily. "He excels in everything he does, be it Taijutsu, Kenjutsu, Ninjutsu."

"And Genjutsu, or so I hear," Her father commented, drawing a frown from her. She hadn't heard of that. Had that been one of Eiji's preparations for the Finals and he hadn't told them? Likely.

"But so does Naruto, with traps, schemes and, more importantly, Fuinjutsu," Hinata continued, filing the information her father had given for later and carrying on.

"Hm," Hiashi hummed. "Fuinjutsu should never be underestimated. Those who have the talent for it have always stood out."

'And so does Naruto,' Hinata added in her mind, pleased that her father seemed to be changing his views on more of her friends with the Exams, much as they frustrated her. Before them though, all her father seemed to care about was Eiji and her, as if everyone else was just average. They were showing him how wrong he was now though, and Hinata felt more than a little proud of being part of such an amazing group.

"Regardless, it seems almost certain that at least a few of them will be Chuunin," Hiashi continued, catching Hinata off guard. She'd thought he was done speaking, honestly, much more interested in seeing how the battle would go. "Maybe that will free some time for them, once they aren't part of a team anymore. Hanabi has been quite upset that she can't spend time with your group due to the schedule differences."

"Father!" Hinata's sister grumbled, which might as well have been an indignant scream for her. Meanwhile, the older sister held back a smile at Hanabi's reaction.

It had been unfortunate that they'd had little time to introduce the younger Hyuuga to the group. Her father had made the request right before their last year in the Academy, which had been more hectic than what they had expected, with the amounts of training and studying that they'd had to do. It hadn't left much time for them to bring someone that would feel left out being the only one doing something different, really.

Which isn't to say that they hadn't invited Hanabi at all, her sister had actually joined for more than one afternoon at Eiji and Naruto's house. She had even gotten along with them. The problem had been that they just didn't have enough time, sadly. Hinata lamented this a lot, she would have enjoyed spending some more time with her sister that didn't involve them competing against each other.

It had gotten worse after they had graduated, what with each team having different schedules. They had difficulties making time for the group per se, let alone her sister, who wasn't actually in the group, not really. Maybe her father was right though, and it'd get easier once they became Chuunin. After all, then they would be able to decide their own schedules.

"I'm sure that'll be the case," Hinata agreed in the end. "Even if I'll have to keep up my own training for the next Exam."

That made Hinata feel even more disappointed that she hadn't managed to pass the previous tests, actually. She resolved to do better in the next exam, and she knew that her teammates would feel the same. Shino, probably for the same reasons as her, to not get left behind by the others. Kiba, for his part, would do so too, even if only out of sheer competitiveness.

"That's fine," Hanabi replied, and Hinata blinked. That response had come quick. A little too quickly, really… "I can still meet up with Eiji and the others, right?" Was that a faint pink dusting her sister's cheeks.

'Oh...' Hinata realized, and this time a smile did make its way to her face. 'The other's will get a good laugh out of that,' She mused, thinking how the group would react to her sister having what seemed to be a little crush on Eiji. Either that, or her sister had become a bit of a fangirl. 'At least that'll give the others someone else to tease besides me,' Hinata thought to herself, feeling more than a little relieved at that idea.

"Begin," The proctor called out, breaking her from her idle thoughts. The match started much like the previous one, fast. This one though, had a bit more of a bang right from the start.

Naruto, for his part, had started just like Hinata had been told he had in the Preliminaries, bringing up his orange pyramid barrier. On the other side of the arena, Eiji basically disappeared from where he stood, blurring all the way towards the aforementioned shield, seemingly doing… something and then continued until he was past the blonde. 'He didn't use the Flicker though,' Hinata noted to herself.

All that happened in less than a second, and the next? The next, a big explosion covered a quarter of the circle where the participants fought, all centered where Naruto's barrier had been. Evidently, Eiji had set quite a few Exploding Tags there, or a very powerful one.

In any other situation, Hinata would have been worried sick for her friend and not-so-secret crush. This was Eiji though, and if there was ever someone that wouldn't hurt the blonde that was the boy that had basically adopted him as a brother. The Satou brought being protective to a whole new level and everyone in the group knew that, there was no way that he would do something that would do more damage than necessary to any of them, much less Naruto.

'That said,' Hinata thought to herself. 'Naruto won't be able to escape underground this time, it seems.'

She had been part of the group that had helped the blonde perfect his little strategy with the barriers and illusions, after all. It was only a pity that she hadn't been there to see it in action officially at the Preliminaries. It spoke to Naruto's determination that he had learned the Hiding Like A Mole technique when it wasn't even one of his affinities.

He had been stubborn though, which Hinata guessed made sense. Hiding underground gave the blonde a lot of options for his already very imaginative plots. More than his Wind Chakra Nature did, at least, or so he had said.

That said, as the smoke cleared and the blonde stood still inside the barrier untouched, Hinata didn't need her Byakugan to know that it was the real one. He couldn't have had time to scurry underground with how fast Eiji had set those explosions, so he'd had to stay inside the barrier this time.. The Satou seemed to have discovered what he had done in the Preliminaries. That or he had guessed and guessed right.

With how terrifying he could be, Hinata was betting on the first.

To everyone that didn't know, looking at Eiji, who was standing sideways on the wall of the arena with Lightning now cackling at his feet and around, the Satou looked menacing enough for them to figure it out. That became a thousand times worse when she noticed that the boy wasn't smiling, nor was Naruto, for that matter.

'Did something happen?' Hinata had to wonder, now somewhat concerned.

She didn't have much time to ponder on that, however. Eiji snapped into action once more, literally appearing over where Naruto and his barrier were. The Legendary sword he wielded was thrusted forward meeting the defensive seal head on.

"Woah," Hanabi breathed out and Hinata wholeheartedly agreed. Even their father was struck by what happened then and there.

The point of contact between sword and barrier shone brightly, both because of the chakra being used as a shield and because of the lightning that tried to pierce it. It was an impressive display, if nothing else. It reminded her of the shield and spear paradox, actually.

This wasn't a paradox though, and one of them had to give. That was, in the end, the barrier, cracking like a glass and eventually unable to stop the sword any longer. She would have been afraid, if not for the fact that Naruto had enough time to get away from the path of the sword, twisting his body in what little space the pyramid gave him.

As his seal's barrier vanished though, the Uzumaki didn't stay idle. His hands moved fast, setting another tag at his feet. She blinked confusedly when nothing happened afterwards. That is, until she looked at Eiji, who now looked like he was struggling to stay on his feet. His whole body was tense and shaking.

Naruto, taking advantage of the opening, quickly moved forward, punching his surrogate brother right in the gut and sending him flying back. Or he should have, at least. Instead, Eiji fell backwards, hitting the ground like a rock, flat against the ground like his own body was too heavy for him.

'A new seal?' Hinata thought, trying to decipher what was going on there.

Naruto didn't try for another hit though. He seemed, from what she could see, to be trying to get Eiji to give up. Hinata wasn't very confident in many things, but she was sure that the Satou wouldn't give up, he was very much like Naruto in that aspect.

Sure enough, instead of giving up, Eiji used another of his techniques, this time an original one. Wire floated behind Naruto, obviously out of his sight, since he didn't react at all. In a second, it wrapped around the boy's arms and legs. Hinata was sure that if it had been anyone else it would have been his neck too. She could only grimace at what she knew was coming then.

Electricity visibly traveled through the threads, electrocuting Naruto but not incapacitating him. It bought the Satou time though, and that was all that he needed to use another wire and tear apart the seal that had left him unable to move. In the blink of an eye, Eiji was already on Naruto now.

The blonde, with a hand half-way towards his pouch, probably looking for another seal to use, wasn't fast enough. He was engaged in Taijutsu before he could, and that was something that worried Hinata greatly. Taking away Naruto's seals was like taking away one of her arms. Or, at least, that's what she thought.

Evidently, the blonde had some cards up his sleeve, or seal tags in this case. As he traded blows, or, more accurately, desperately tried to fend of Eiji, smoke exploded from him. 'A smoke tag on his body?' Hinata hazarded a guess as she activated her Byakugan to see what happened in the dark.

The smoke proved to not be enough to stop Eiji, which wasn't a surprise, with his second original Jutsu that allowed him to feel his surroundings through his ninja wire. The surprise though, was enough for Naruto to pull a tag from his pouch and-

Wire teared right through the tag before it could be used. Then, before the boy could react, Eiji already held Nuibari to his neck. Hinata let out a breath that she didn't know she was holding then, slumping down on her seat. It was done mostly out of relief though, this was a fight that, while she knew it was important for the boys involved, really wasn't pleasant for her to see.

"Expected," Her father said next to her, while the audience waited for the smoke to clear. Hinata felt a pang of annoyance at Hiashi then, for dismissing Naruto once mor- "Although… the Uzumaki boy did much better than I thought he would. It was an unfavorable match for him, however. He didn't have time to prepare and that, most probably, would have had a much different outcome."

Hinata took back all the things she had been about to think, a small smile tugging at her lips.

"Eiji is awesome!" Hanabi exclaimed, throwing her arms up in the air and earning a chuckle from their father and a giggle from her sister.

Her amusement was broken when she looked down at the back of her hand. There gathered a bunch of bugs and she blinked before her back straightened. Shino had a message for her.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Well… I really, really don't like the Naruto-Eiji fight. Although, I think it's more of a problem with the switch in PoV. And still, I enjoyed using different PoVs too much to change this. Hopefully, my worries are unfounded and it's still good.

In case anyone didn't notice, I seem to have taken a liking to changing PoVs as of late. Let's see how long this lasts, shall we?

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

Random Question: I don't remember if I've asked this before but, are you a cat person or a dog person? I'm more of a dog person, although cats are still pretty cool too, I just like dogs more.

See you.