A/N: Received lots of reviews pointing out that the last chapter had too much of 'Chinese xianxia vibes'. Wasn't really my intention to write it that way, though I must confess I have been voraciously devouring one of them for the past month or so. That might have contributed to the previous chapter's writing style. 'Reverend Insanity' is what I've been reading recently and it's really, really good, so I do recommend checking it out if you are into xianxia novels.
Another frequent comment was on Hinata's personality that she was acting like a typical 'young master', and acting way too OOC from her original personality. What I had been trying to convey was after Shinji and Hinata's dinner date, her confidence had skyrocketed even further, resulting in an even further departure from her original character.
But this I will acknowledge as a valid criticism. It has been admittedly difficult balancing between how she is supposed to behave versus how I want to be quote unquote original with how I portray her. I think that in my desire to portray her in away that is different from what we usually perceive her in other stories, I might have overcorrected and thus written her in a way that strayed too far from what more of us are familiar with. This is something I will work on, so message received.
Also surprisingly only a handful of reviewers revealed dislike for a chapter with such a long fight scene. I can only come to two conclusions: a) fight scenes with established characters of the Naruverse are generally much more well received or b) those who have made it this far in the story are mostly those who are into the long fight scenes that this story is known for. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Shinji pushed open the door, revealing the room where the first stage of the chuunin exam would be held. Inside, there were already a good number of teams inside – roughly seventy or so individual genin from a cursory count, give or take.
Cautious and piercing gazes from a large majority of the situated genin in the room slammed against Hinata and Shino, an unmistakeable tension filled the air, the result of a mixture of nervousness and stress from the other shinobi. Though they were skilled shinobi for their age, the two of them did not usually encounter such large numbers of shinobi packed in a single room together exuding tremendous pressure.
Needless to say, Shinji faced no such pressure. The [Gamer's Mind] skill ensured that he would never be influenced mentally, especially not from such feeble glares sent by even more inept genin. One had to understand that a large majority of the genin gathered here were not exactly the cream of the crop of their respective hidden villages. Only a few were nurtured talents with actual potential to climb the ranks, the rest just fodder sent to fill the numbers.
As such, Shinji had more than enough confidence to return those piercing gazes with his own defiant eyes, as though inviting the probing looks from them since it would make no difference anyway.
Although he could have also pretended to have been cowed by their glares, he did not find it necessary to act like a weakling. None of the gathered genin, save a rare particular few, posed any sort of danger to him. This was not conceit, but an objective estimation made from the previous reconnaissance he did when the foreign genin had been arriving at Konoha. If he was being fully honest, however, there also a certain degree of arrogance.
Shinji was fully aware of his own strength. This tended to happen when your entire being was quantified into numbers by the Gamer System. And when these numbers were put next to the rest of the genin in this room and compared objectively, it was simply a case of the strong bullying the weak.
He understood the intent of these looks. Ultimately, Team Ten looked too young!
In the context of the chuunin exam where only a lucky or skilled few could enter the final round, the competition for those precious few spots was intense. As a result, Shinji's team which looked so young and green was deemed as easy prey by the ambitious chuunin hopefuls.
Yet, despite their appearances, such thoughts were actually too naïve. Age, while a decent indicator of experience, could never be the sole measurement of actual strength. Just take a look at Gaara, for instance. He was young, and had a particularly small physique because he did not train his body. However, the Suna genin would still be able to slaughter this entire room full of weak genin with ease.
Of course, that was only because Gaara was the jinchuuriki for the Ichibi. But either way, those who underestimated him because of his age and size would be making an absolutely fatal mistake.
Which was also why most of the genin gathered in this room were only wannabe chuunin hopefuls, and not chuunin candidates with an actual, realistic chance of receiving a promotion.
The other participants thought it strange that this young, greenhorn genin could look so fearless when faced with so much pressure. Even stranger was the evaluative stare he returned them that also seemed as though he could see through all of their secrets.
Mentally, some of them changed their previous designation of Team Ten from 'easy prey' to 'need more info'. Of course, the rest were still foolish enough to judge a book by its cover, only looking at the surface without pondering what might lie deeper.
Shinji casted [Observe] on a large scale, taking in their information while standing upright in open confrontation of their calculative gazes. Gaara's team had arrived even earlier than his, located in a corner of the room with his siblings. They held little to no interest in his team, not even sparing a glance at their arrival.
However, there was one individual that had Shinji's blood freeze when he saw him.
Shiore Lv 35
Shiore is a genin from Kusagakure.
He has no opinion of you.
Shiore is weaker than you.
On the surface, the status of this Kusa genin was normal, albeit a little sparse in its data. And had Shinji not recognized the identity of this person, he would have thought little of him. But he did recognize him, and only solely from his memory of who this person actually was.
Orochimaru, the Snake Sannin.
His disguise was so perfect that even a MAX level [Observe] showed nothing out of the ordinary, with only the lack of a more complete profile being something unusual. The status even claimed that Shinji was stronger than him. What a joke.
Next to the disguised Orochimaru, the other two unfortunate Kusa genin had also been replaced with his men. Both were chuunin level Oto shinobi, as was revealed by [Observe]. It was apparent that their disguise wasn't as flawless as the Snake Sannin since [Observe] actually showed their real names and levels, not to mention pointing out the fact that they were currently in the service of Orochimaru.
It took every sheer ounce of Shinji's willpower and acting ability to conceal the deep seated fear and panic that erupted upon recognizing Orochimaru. Though it was only for a moment as [Gamer's Mind] immediately erased the extreme terror in his mind.
His fear was not unfounded. In a room full of genin stood a genuine Kage-level monster in human form, and that would be an understated, yet literal description of the fiend. And Shinji had too many secrets within his body Orochimaru would kill to get his hands on.
Unfortunately for him, however, at that moment Orochimaru glanced right at him.
'Fuck! Play it cool... Goddamn it me, act normal… Shit, what the fuck is normal!?' Shinji reminded himself, trying his best to feign nonchalance. Though his fear may have been expunged by [Gamer's Mind], he still found it difficult to pretend like the monster that was going to kill the Sandaime in the near future wasn't casually standing around in the same room as him.
The Snake Sannin's cold gaze took on a glint of interest upon catching sight of the raven haired boy a short distance away from him.
'Fufu, so that's the boy who killed Mizuki. Rookie of the Year who surpassed even the supposed last Uchiha? Interesting, interesting, interesting…' Orochimaru mused, appraising the boy with his keen eyes.
'Reports indicate that he is talented. For a civilian born orphan, that is. Good physique. Impressive, in fact, for his age. He might make for an adequate… vessel. Temporarily of course, until Sasuke-kun comes of age. Well, we shall see.'
Decades of experience allowed Orochimaru to immediately evaluate every single aspect of Shinji's existence with but a glance. He took note of the fact that there were no calluses on Shinji's palm, despite him being praised as a genius – an indication of a naturally talented but lazy shinobi. Yet reports indicate otherwise; that he was hard working as well. Though his proficiency in medical ninjutsu might be an answer to his lacking any scars and calluses that came with hard work and effort.
He also recognized Gai's green body suit that occasionally peaked out of Shinji's sleeves. He didn't hear that the boy was acquainted with that man, perhaps the genin look-alike then. Shinobi pouch strapped to the right side of his thigh and another one on the small of his back – right handed. Feigning indifference but clearly on edge. Oddly lacking in confidence even though he was recognized as the Rookie of the Year. How adorable.
Orochimaru wasn't a natural sensor, but he was comfortable enough in recognizing the approximate size of another's chakra capacity through other indicators, a skill he picked up from the years of experience in his chosen profession.
A sizable reserve, he observed. But absolutely dwarfed by the most interesting genin in the room as of now. At that, the Snake Sannin turned his attention back to a certain red-headed Suna shinobi, brooding silently in a corner.
Shinji could feel cold sweat damp against the green bodysuit he wore under his clothes as he silently and nondescriptly breathed out a sigh of relief when he noticed Orochimaru no longer staring at him. He could finally swallow the lump in his throat, suddenly noticing how dry his mouth felt.
How long might he be able to resist, Shinji wondered, if Orochimaru noticed something and decided to strike right then and there?
'A solid five minutes probably… if Orochimaru decided to play with his prey. Otherwise? I would be dead before I could even blink.' He helplessly conceded.
After being in this world for so many years, and despite being an official genin for just six months, Shinji already understood the massive distance between himself and the Snake Sannin. Being titled a Kage-level existence meant something – it was a symbol of dominance, of invincibility in the eyes of the weak. And currently, when compared to those monsters, Shinji was weak. A helpless mouse shivering in terror within the gaping maw of a titanic serpent that was Orochimaru.
'But that will change. The chuunin exams will be my turning point. This will be where I make the leap from being just a weakling to someone with the strength to resist against these monsters.' Shinji firmly resolved in his head.
With the immense pressure stemming from Orochimaru's gaze momentarily allayed, Shinji gestured to Hinata and Shino before making his way away from the door. Of the three Rookie 9 teams, his was the earliest to arrive. Though Team Eight followed not long after, consisting of Ino, Kiba and Chouji.
They exchanged boisterous greetings, celebrating their reunion with Ino immediately approaching Shinji with a bright smile.
"Shinji-kun! Oh my god, have we really not met since we graduated? How cruel of you to leave me alone with those two idiots for so long!" Ino remarked excitedly, while gesturing to an annoyed looking Kiba and Choji who was indifferent to the blatant slight. Clearly they were already used to the blonde's more abrasive but harmless ways.
As their two teams conversed, Shinji noticed that Ino was notably more subdued than how she behaved back in the Academy. While she still held on to a degree of her fangirl past when talking to him, it was definitely a lot more toned down than when they last met. Kurenai must have been a much needed positive influence on the girl, Shinji deduced, ridding her of her naïve and frankly silly behaviors.
Kiba did not change much, still the same loud mouthed kid who had ample confidence. Akamaru as well seemed to have not grown at all in the six months since Shinji last saw him. He mused what Kiba might have fed him during the future time skip for the ninken to have grown to such an unbelievable wolf like proportion.
The Inuzuka was at first glad to see familiar faces amidst a sea of hostile genin who saw them as competitors, but then turned angry.
"I heard your team have been training with Naruto's team. What the hell, Shinji! Why didn't you invite us!?"
Shinji blinked, feeling awkward at being called out. Though Team Ten and Team Seven regularly trained together, he intentionally left Team Eight out of those sessions. There were no complicated or malicious reasons for doing so. Because the only reason he trained with Team Seven was because Naruto and Sasuke were in it. Shinji helped Naruto because and he wanted to make up for letting the blonde fail Academy, while Sasuke was both a convenient way for him to access the Uchiha Clan Repository as well as someone he developed somewhat of a sense of kinship with.
He abashedly scratched the back of his head, "My bad, it wasn't personal or anything. It's just that I always used to train with Sasuke when we were academy students, so when we became genin it just became more convenient for our teams to train together instead. Y'know, since we both had rather different schedules. And we thought having to arrange two teams schedule for inter team training was already tough enough, adding a third would have been too complicated. Sorry!"
Kiba harrumphed and folded his arms, "Well, I guess that makes sense… but next time invite us first, damn it!"
Shinji stuck out his tongue mischievously, before laughing and agreed.
The Inuzuka continued, "And my sister told me that if I saw you during the chuunin exams to tell you, 'You think your training's over? You're ten years too early to graduate from my training'... is what she said."
"Eh? Did she sound pissed?" Shinji asked, not wanting to spoil his relationship with who he considered to be his first real sensei.
Kiba shrugged, "More annoyed maybe. I think she misses you or something. Not that she would ever tell me about it. But if I were you, I'd go find her after the exams are over. You don't know this because she usually acts different when you're around, but she can get real scary. And trust me, you won't want to get on her bad side."
Shinji laughed it off, though inwardly wondering if there were some truth to what his friend was saying. Hana was the equivalent of a sexual awakening for his young body in this new world. He had his first arousal in her presence, after all. So there was definitely some lingering affection within him for the Inuzuka girl.
Just then, the door to the room swung open once more and Team Seven appeared, consisting of Naruto, Sasuke and Shikamaru. And just like the other members of their rookie generation, they were also slammed with the immense pressure from an entire room of high strung genin glaring and appraising them. An overwhelming majority of them being older and by extension more familiar with the dangerous lifestyle of being a shinobi.
Unlike in the original canon, Kakashi did not appear in right before they entered to reveal that in order for any genin team to formally register in the chuunin exams, they had to register together as a team. In other words, he had chosen not to test them – instead casually revealing the 'secret' from the get-go as if it was no big deal. That was because the current Team Seven and the original Team Seven was vastly different!
The original Team Seven was extremely problematic. Naruto and Sasuke had a rivalry, but even so, to call it a rivalry would also be misleading. Naruto had a one sided fondness for the Uchiha, looking at him like the brother he never had. One could even go so far as to label it an unhealthy fixation on a brotherhood that never truly existed between them. But even then, there were also specks of envy when he compared himself to the more famous, popular and talented Uchiha.
On the other hand, Sasuke also fiercely competed with Naruto, but his motivations were completely divorced from a sincere friendship. Naruto had always been a reminder to himself that his talent was too inferior to catch up to Itachi. Because if the supposed deadlast could grow stronger so quickly before his very eyes, then his own growth which had stagnated deeply for so long was something to curse at.
As a result, while on the surface Sasuke and Naruto had a friendly rivalry that occasionally got too intense, in reality this relationship was far from healthy even if there were genuine moments of friendship that were few and far between.
And the final member of the original Team Seven was even worse. Putting aside Sakura's obvious bias towards the Uchiha and blatant distant for the Uzumaki which resulted in screwed up team dynamics, the sole kunoichi of their team had a shaky foundation in the shinobi arts, to the point of being a heavy burden on the team.
With such a team, canon Kakashi had no choice but to test their teamwork, resolve and commitment to the chuunin exams by omitting the crucial criteria for their participation in the chuunin exams.
The current Team Seven had no such issues. The deadweight had been replaced with a genius strategist who could hold his own even in a one on one combat situation. Sasuke's psyche was way healthier than in the original series, and Naruto's relationship with the aforementioned Uchiha was also less obsessive since he had bonded with the other genin of their generation as well. Theirs was a more professional and truth be told a more sincere friendship and rivalry in comparison.
All of them were also more confident in their own skills. One had to remember that Sasuke and Naruto had defeated Gozu and Mezu in single combat respectively. That is to say, they both faced and won against chuunin level opponents. Even if the Demon Brothers had lower than average combat ability, they were still full fledged chuunin with the cunning and experienced that came with the titled. So taking them down was a feat that did not go unnoticed by neither Kakashi nor the village leaders, much less they themselves.
As for Shikamaru, well, he was never a shinobi that relied on strength to overcome challenges in the first place. For someone like him, participating in the chuunin exams hosted by Konoha was absolutely perfect.
When the various jounin instructors of the Rookie 9 entered their respective teams into the chuunin exams this year, a major factor that influenced their decision to do so was the fact that Konoha was the hosting village for the exam.
Largely because a) Konoha was their territory. No matter what happened, the Konoha genin who entered the chuunin exams would at least have the home field advantage as well as relative safety within the familiar walls of their village. And also b) compared to other hidden villages and how they ran their chuunin exams, Konoha actually placed less of an emphasis on combat ability!
Previous chuunin exams held by other villages would almost always feature stages that placed a heavy emphasis on fighting ability in one form or another. Whereas Konoha usually took a more holistic view towards what they considered to be important criteria for chuunin ranked shinobi.
Thus, jounin squad instructors were fully aware that not only would their genin have a relatively safer experience in the exams hosted by Konoha, their fighting ability which they would usually have a disadvantage against more experienced genin from foreign villages would be mitigated to a certain extent. Furthermore, their genin would also have the opportunity to gain exposure towards these particular traits Konoha, and by extension themselves, found valuable in shinobi from their village.
For Team Seven, their teamwork had already been tested time and again, be it against Team Ten in their regular inter team trainings or during the Wave mission. As a result, Kakashi's confidence in his team were multitudes higher than in the original series.
"Ohhoh, even Naruto could join the chuunin exam? If that's the case then I have nothing to worry about since I've obviously greatly underestimated the difficulty of this event." Kiba immediately mockingly remarked upon seeing Team Seven's entrance.
"What did you say, dog breath!? Just you wait, I'll show you how super strong I've become!" Naruto predictably responded right away to the provocation.
Shinji glanced at Kiba, having already figured out what the Inuzuka was trying to do. Team Eight and Team Seven have had little contact in the months that followed after their graduation. Only Shikamaru was close to Ino and Choji, and that was because of their clan relationships as well as his close personal friendship with the Akimichi.
Kiba's provocation was meant as a probe, to test how much Naruto and by extension Team Seven had changed since they last met. Meaning that he was already thinking of Naruto and his team as competition rather than comrades. Though brash and loud, Kiba was still a scion of a famed shinobi clan and had been raised with certain lessons in mind. Shinji mused that it seemed Inuzuka Tsume, the matriarch of the Inuzuka clan had indeed taught her son well.
The only problem was that he was doing it too early and too openly, infront of potentially hostile foreign shinobi and towards a fellow Konoha genin. It was clever to be cautious towards your competitors, even if they were from the same village. But it was even more important to keep in the mind the reputation of your village, as well as the fact that they should first defeat the foreign shinobi before fighting amongst themselves.
Something like that was a necessary common sense for chuunin ranked shinobi, and something the village would be looking out for as well. That was because the status of a chuunin was very different from the lowly rank of genin. Being a chuunin meant taking on certain responsibilities. Being a proper representative of the village's will as well as having to lead lower ranked shinobi was just a few of them. This also meant that chuunin had greater restrictions on what they could say and do in front of foreign eyes and ears.
Calling out and antagonizing a fellow Konoha shinobi for no good reason simultaneously revealed information about both himself and Naruto, something a good ninja tended to avoid doing in front of foreign agents. So although Shinji could understand where Kiba was coming from, by showing off to himself his ability to probe who he assumed to be an easy target, his actions would have been a minus had any village higher-ups been watching their interaction.
Kiba laughed in response to Naruto's proclamation, "Don't make me laugh. I don't know about you, but we have gotten really strong. Even if you have been training with Shinji, it's nothing compared to what we've been through."
Shinji had to quirk an eyebrow at those claims. Comparing Naruto to when he was in the academy, those two versions were worlds apart. Not only did the boisterous blonde now have the Kage Bunshin in his repertoire, but he had also been exposed to the shadow clone training method a lot earlier than in canon. This allowed the Jinchuuriki to greatly solidify his foundations tremendously and rapidly increased his battle strength to boot.
He could only conclude that if Kiba foolishly assumed Naruto was still the same person as he was six months before, the Inuzuka was going to be in for a rude awakening.
"Sheesh, talk about troublesome." Shikamaru immediately commented out loud before yawning and digging his ear with his pinky, easing the tension between the rookie genin.
Kiba chuckled at that, "You find everything troublesome, Shika."
In Shinji's opinion, that was an early indicator of the Nara's leadership abilities. Subtly preventing what might have led to an unproductive and frankly foolish argument by interjecting with a bit of humour and without harming the pride of either parties.
The Nara was still young and inexperienced, but Shinji could understand why the village leaders saw Shikamaru as being the only person of the original Rookie 9 suitable to receive a promotion on his first attempt at the chuunin exams. Not just an overwhelming display of intelligence during the chuunin exam finals or his great performance during the war itself. Rather, it was the small but notable moments that would have been noticed accumulating into a conclusively impressive profile for the young genin.
Shinji himself, being a fully grown man mentally, would likely have done something similar to Shikamaru since he had the maturity and forethought to think so far ahead. But right now, he didn't want to bring too much attention to himself, especially with Orochimaru present in the same room who was now paying close attention to their little gathering – mainly due to Sasuke being part of their group, but still.
He already realized his mistake when he noticed the Snake Sannin evaluating him during his little moment of open defiance against the pressure of the room when he first entered. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he had cursed at himself. It was utterly foolish in trying to attract even more attention to himself after what his doppelganger had seen using the [Clairvoyance] ability from Glass Eye of the Prophet.
The other members of the Rookie 9 carried on conversing and exchanging greetings with one another, with Shinji remaining quieter than he usually was, until a certain individual called out to them.
"Hey you guys!"
The curious genin turned to see just who was it who called out to them, including Shinji though he already knew this would happen in advance as well as who that person was. Not the false disguise that person donned, but the true identity of that man. He turned to glance at him, casting [Observe] at the same time.
Yakushi Kabuto Lv 28/45/61/93
Kabuto has spent most of his life as a spy working for many different individuals and organizations and has taken on so many different identities that he suffers an ongoing identity crisis. To the extent that he has many contradictions in his personality and often shifts between different personalities and identities. After putting on layers after layers of false personas, he has already forgotten who he originally used to be. Currently, he is working as Orochimaru's trusted lieutenant, though for how long is uncertain.
He is slightly interested in you.
Kabuto is weaker/stronger than you.
Yakushi Kabuto – the man who would eventually become one of the major players in the Fourth Shinobi World War, who right now at least, took up more than a few different identities with allegiances or false allegiances to more than a few masters.
And as if corresponding to his history, his status screen changed repeatedly, shifting from one level to another. It went from level 28 to level 45 and then occasionally his true skill level would appear as well. On the surface, Shinji initially didn't understand what was causing this phenomenon. Until he read Kabuto's description, realizing that his apparent identity crisis was the cause of his constantly shifting level.
But his HP and CP could not avoid [Observe]'s detection abilities. It was a true reflection of how strong he really was. And even then it was only a surface level analysis. What made Kabuto truly dangerous was the myriad number of skills he had picked up over the course of his extensive espionage career. He had the foundation of a genuine elite jounin-level shinobi, as well as medical ninjutsu that was acknowledged even by Tsunade herself.
It was no exaggeration to compare him with Hatake Kakashi, one of the strongest members of Konoha. And that was before his extensive body modifications in the future where his strength would rise up to S-ranked levels, even going up to Kage level when he mastered Senjutsu and could even enter Sage Mode indefinitely.
Immediately, Shinji raised his guard up, taking on an extremely vigilant mentality at the approaching man. However, he also relaxed right away as well. Kabuto was an experienced spy, nay, a very experienced spy. An expert in the subtleties of the human body language. Shinji's current vigilance was the result of his knowledge of the future, and definitely would not be perceived by Kabuto as a normal, cautious reaction to an apparently friendly stranger.
Thus, to avoid raising any suspicions, Shinji violently suppressed his gut reaction at Kabuto's appearance, utilizing every shred of acting talent he had in his body to play the role of the wary but still unguarded genin he was supposed to be.
"You should be a little quieter." Kabuto cautioned as he approached the Rookie 9. His Konoha forehead protector glinted against the artificial lighting in the room, significantly lowering the guards of the gathered genin. "You guys are the 'Rookie 9'… fresh out of the academy, right? Carrying on with cute faces like that, sheesh. This isn't a field trip."
Ino furrowed her brows, "Who do you think you are, acting so haughty!"
"I'm Yakushi Kabuto. And take a good look around you."
The Rookie 9 followed his direction and glanced around the room, only to be met with hostile glares from a majority of the genin, both local and foreign.
"Everyone's tense before the exams. I thought I'd warn you guys before you get your ass kicked for offending the wrong people." He continued, "I guess it can't be helped. You're rookie who don't know left from right. You remind me of my old self."
Shinji kept his composure. When everyone was looking around the room, he was instead looking at his fellow Rookie 9 genin. Taking in how they were behaving, what their facial expressions were like. All so that he could imitate to the best of his abilities how a rookie genin like himself was supposed to act like.
"Kabuto-san, is that right? Then, is this your second time taking the chuunin exam?" Shinji spoke up, putting on the façade of a curious genin.
"Nope. It's my seventh." The silver-haired 'genin' responded nonchalantly to the surprise of all those who heard him. Well, not all of them.
"That right? Wow, that must mean you're a real veteran huh, Kabuto-san. You must know a lot about these exams too, right?" Shinji praised, though inwardly he was slightly cringing at acting like his age for the first time in awhile.
"Seven times? Is the chuunin exams the high of a hurdle? Man, this is getting seriously troublesome." Shikamaru commented, rolling his eyes at the thought of putting in so much effort.
"Then maybe I'll give a little help to my cute kouhai." Kabuto fished out a deck of cards from his pockets, "With these Ninja Info Cards."
"Ninja Info Cards?" Naruto repeated in confusion.
"Simply put, they're cards that have information burned into them and coded with chakra. I spent four whole years gathering information for this exam." He placed them on the floor and flipped one face up, "They are pure white to the eye, but once I inject some of my chakra into them… then the information within them is revealed."
The other members of the Rookie 9 began asking Kabuto questions about his Ninja Info Cards, while off to the back, Shinji took the opportunity to pull Hinata aside.
Putting his arm around her shoulder, he turned the both of them away from the group before lowering his head to whisper in her ear, "Hinata, use your Byakuugan to check out his chakra reserves."
The Hyuuga princess, who had already reddened from the physical contact, nearly fainted when she felt Shinji's warm breath and almost titillating whisper in her ear.
"S-sorry, can you repeat that?" She drawled, blankly looking at Shinji, having not absorbed a single thing he said.
He nearly rolled his eyes, slightly annoyed but also chiding himself for not expecting something like this, "Use your Byakuugan to check out his chakra reserves."
Instead of questioning why, Hinata just did as he said. A part of her obedience stemmed from the massive crush she had on the boy, but there was also a certain deference established within their team in regard to Shinji's authority. He was the de facto leader of their trio, the one who usually made the decisions. At a certain point, both Hinata and Shino had learned to follow his orders without asking too many questions because Shinji didn't often make illogical requests.
She activated her Byakuugan silently and covertly and took a moment to scan Kabuto's chakra system.
"There's… nothing special. He has an average chakra capacity, maybe even slightly lower than average for a genin. Those Oto genin on the other hand, two of them have odd implants in their arms. They look dangerous." Hinata whispered back, slightly confused as to why Shinji asked about Kabuto specifically when he was about as average as they came.
'Just as I suspected. An expert spy like Kabuto would definitely have their methods to conceal the true size of their chakra capacity. It may not be enough to fool my [Observe] skill but it was enough to fool a Hyuuga. Is it just chakra control or a secret technique? Whatever it is, I have to learn it. It will undoubtedly be useful in tricking enemies.' Shinji thought to himself before nodding in satisfaction at Hinata.
"I see. Thanks, I just wanted to confirm something."
"N-no problem, Shinji-kun! I would do anything for-"
Before she finished speaking, Shinji was already walking back to the group. Just in time for Kiba to turn around and grin, "What about this guy here. What do you have on Shinji?"
Shinji realized that Kabuto had been showing off his Ninja Info Cards, revealing information on certain individuals who the group had asked him about. And now, for some reason, Kiba was asking about him. To which Shinji thought was kind of a dick move.
Sasuke's eyes shifted to Shinji. He was confident that amongst everyone here, he was the person who knew Shinji the best. After all, he was the only person who knew Shinji was actually an Uchiha. But even then, he also occasionally had the nagging feeling that despite that, he still didn't know Shinji that well. He felt like his cousin still had some secrets left unspoken between them, which he didn't really mind since all ninjas had their own secrets. But he would be lying if he claimed he wasn't curious about it too.
Kabuto glanced up, as though having not noticed Shinji's absence in their earlier exchange, "Hmm, let me see…"
The elite jounin in disguise flipped open a card face up and injected his chakra into it, revealing the information hidden on it. On it was his picture as well as a radar chart that displayed an estimation of his strengths and weaknesses.
"Shinji Ikari – graduated the academy the same year as you guys, Rookie of the Year. His mission experience, twenty eight D-ranks and three C-ranks. Jounin squad leader is Sarutobi Asuma, teammates are Hyuuga Hinata and Aburame Shino. His skills are… impressively balanced. Ninjutsu, taijutsu, genjutsu, kenjutsu, and even medical ninjutsu, wow! He has consistently received high praise from his squad leader, and even his mission reports record impressive achievements. For example, he even took down an elite chuunin rogue shinobi from Tanigakure in single combat during a C-ranked mission."
Kabuto looked up, staring at Shinji with an expression of awe, "Looks like you're someone we definitely need to look out for."
Their conversation was definitely overheard by many of the foreign genin gathered in the room because they all had similar reactions of incredulity and doubt.
"So Konoha is sending in a ringer to their own chuunin exams. Tsk, hypocrites."
"Nah, there's no fucking way that's true. It's just mind games man, they're trying to psych us out. If you ask me, that punk brat might be the weakest one of them all if he needs to pull something like this."
"An elite chuunin? Bull-fucking-shit!"
Shinji heard a couple of them curse out loud but ignored it. A lion need not concern himself with the opinions of sheep. But standing out like this was so far away from his original plan on staying low key that he wanted to knock out one of Kiba's teeth for putting him in this position.
"A rookie genin who has the potential to be one of the contenders to win it all. It just goes to show that you can't underestimate anyone who have come to take the chuunin exams. Every genin here are exceptional, the best of the best in their village. Well, maybe except the Hidden Sound village. It's just a village of a small nation that sprang up in recent years, so there isn't much information on them."
Sasuke snorted, "I don't care if they are exceptional or whatever, they still can't compare to an Uchiha." What others might misconstrue as arrogance and self-centeredness was actually pride that Sasuke felt for Shinji. Because Shinji was an Uchiha, so his achievements were also the achievements of the clan. Or so he believed.
Similarly, in his own way, Naruto jumped up and loudly proclaimed, "That's right! I mean, not the Uchiha part. But it doesn't matter if they are the top elite, because my name is Uzumaki Naruto! And I won't lose to any of you! Got it!?"
In response to his declaration, the room full of hostile shinobi glared back quietly and menacingly.
Shikamaru put an exasperated hand on his forehead, "This idiot really just made enemies with everyone in the room. You guys see what I have to deal with every day?"
At that moment, someone from the crowd of genin jumped high up into the air and launched two kunai towards Shinji. The boy, who had already perceived the Oto genin moving through the crowd was shocked that their target was not Kabuto as he had initially thought. Rather, it was himself!
Instinctively, Shinji deflected the two kunai with his [Shinkyoken] enhanced knifehand. Since graduating from the Academy, his [Shinkyoken] skill had levelled up considerably, to the point where he could clash with metallic weapons just with his fingers alone.
The projectiles were followed up with another figure, a heavily bandaged individual who he identified as Dosu, dashing in with one hand holding a handseal while the other forming a fist that swung towards Shinji.
Shinji was well aware of Dosu's abilities which revolved around his ability to manipulate sound waves. The amplifier strapped to his arm utilized these soundwaves that could inflict genjutsu-like effects on his target. As such, the transmigrator had no inclination to test out the effects of Dosu's abilities with his own body.
His leg snapped up, striking Dosu's right bicep, which prevented the fist from achieving its full motion, and thus not letting the soundwaves reach his body. Shinji then twisted his body and landed a spinning back kick on Dosu's bandaged face which sent him flying and crashing to the ground.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!?", Shinji shouted, 'You're targeting the wrong guy!' He wanted to add.
Hinata and Shino immediately ran to back Shinji up, the Hyuuga's Byakuugan activated as she channelled chakra into her finger tips – an indication of her Gentle Fist technique. Whereas Shino's Kikaichuu buzzed restlessly within him, though the Aburame had little facial expressions in response to the unwarranted and sudden attack, unlike Hinata who was glaring murderously.
Dosu picked himself up, joined by his two teammates who stood next to him defensively. Their faces were distorted with shame, frustration and anger. Clearly, the outcome was not what they had been expecting. Next to him, his teammate Zaku tensed both his arms, as though intending to utilize the body modifications implanted in his palms.
As Shinji glared at the trio, he casted [Observe] to take a good look at his opponents. Zaku and Kin were hardly worth mentioning, their levels only slightly above the average genin. Rather, it was Dosu that drew his attention, possessing clear chuunin-level strength.
Dosu Kinuta Lv 40
Dosu is innately cautious, logical and intelligent. He had a rough childhood, being beaten and abused as an orphan living on the streets in the Land of Rice Fields. He was recruited by Orochimaru's organization when he was witnessed fighting back and eventually killing his oppressors. Because of that, he has a deep loyalty towards his master and the Hidden Sound Village. Furthermore, with his innate talent in the shinobi arts, he excelled as a ninja and was thus appointed as the leader of Team Dosu.
He is disdainful of you, and thought that you were a weak, feeble Konoha genin, though that assumption has changed now.
Dosu is weaker than you.
Dosu tilted his head and cracked his neck, "Heh, seems like you do have some skills after all. Not bad, Konoha nin."
Though Dosu put up a tough front, inwardly he was quite glad his face was bandaged up. Otherwise, everyone could see through his act from the cold sweat forming on his face. 'Fast. I couldn't react even if I tried. They say he killed defeated an elite chuunin by himself? Yeah, that seems about right. Shit, I wanted to teach that cocky brat a lesson, make him an example to serve as a warning but what the hell is this situation!'
The leader of Team Dosu was not an impulsive person. He was the opposite, in fact. This attack was not recklessly planned, but one carefully designed to serve a specific purpose. He was fully aware that with their team being the only one from Oto surrounded by dozens of different teams from other villages, it was likely that they would be targeted. Though he himself had chuunin level strength, his teammates did not.
As a result, their pre-emptive strike was meant to serve as a warning and a deterrence to the other shinobi. One that said 'Don't fuck with us'. But he didn't think that it would have backfired to this extent. Shinji was young, just a rookie genin who apparently graduated from the Academy just a few months back. Even if he did have some skills, Dosu didn't think it would amount to much, much less compare to his own. But he was wrong, and that mistake led his team to a dangerous possibility of being humiliated. Not only would they then be targeted even more, worst was their village's reputation was being besmirched.
"Hey, bastards, you really went crazy huh? Attacking a Konoha shinobi in the middle of our village before the exam has even started… you think Konoha is so easily stepped on!?" Shinji immediately invoked his village's name to incite the other Konoha shinobi to get involved. After all, their fellow comrade just got attacked by some foreign ninja from a minor village. If they let that slide, wouldn't other villages just think that they were easy to bully?
"Fucking sound ninja, where do you think you are?"
"Oto? What the fuck is Oto. I have never even heard of it!"
"Pretty ballsy for some country bumpkins from who the fuck cares where."
The incited Konoha genin followed Shinji's lead and immediately started cursing at the trio, the only team from Otogakure who were now facing the angry glares from a hundred Konoha genin.
Dosu growled, mentally taking note of the ones who were making the most noise, 'You punks better pray you don't encounter me outside your shitty village. I will definitely kill you.'
But contrary to his violent thoughts, he did not display any outward aggression. Dosu was rational, calculating and logical, almost like an Aburame except for his more sadistic tendencies. He knew when to advance and more importantly, he knew when to back down when it was needed.
"Hey calm down, friend. It was just a joke. What, Konoha doesn't have a sense of humour?" Dosu chuckled placatively, forcing an expression of joviality that was contradictory to his real feelings.
"What are you saying, Dosu, we-" Zaku interjected furiously, but quieted down upon receiving Dosu's murderous glare to keep his mouth shut. Kin wisely didn't say a word throughout the entire exchange. She was generally smarter than Zaku and could read the atmosphere well enough without being reminded by their team leader.
'Shut the fuck up you moron! You think I would have to endure this humiliation if not for you two burdens holding me down!?' Dosu venomously cursed at his weaker teammate inwardly before turning back to Shinji with a smile, though that expression could only be seen from his one exposed eye.
Shinji scoffed mentally, seeing through the farce easily. But his initial plan to keeping a low profile had not changed, so similar to Dosu, he supressed his true feelings and returned a smile to the Sound nin.
"Ah, so it was a joke. I see, I see. Seems like Oto's sense of humour is quite different from ours. Well, it's alright. Konoha has always being known for our magnanimity, so I will forgive you. Isn't that right, fellas?" Shinji gestured to the other Konoha genin in the room who looked at each other awkwardly before laughing off the perceived offense. Since the one who was attacked was not holding on to any grudges, why should they?
"No hard feelings, right?" Shinji continued, holding a hand out to Dosu.
The Sound genin who was actually quite a distance away from the Konoha genin looked between the two of them, noting the distance and Shinji's disinclination to walk to him.
'This bitch, he wants me to walk to him and shake his hand? Oh just you wait… You are going to regret crossing me when Oto stands victorious upon the bloody ruins of your village!' Dosu violently suppressed every instinct in his body that called for the blood of this cocky prick.
He could feel his face heat up in shame, rage and indignity as he endured the mortifying experience of walking over to the Konoha genin and taking his hand in an apparent show of submission.
"No hard feelings." Dosu answered. 'Shinji Ikari! I will not forget this enmity for the rest of my life!'
"Good." Shinji responded, firmly gripping Dosu's hand. 'Yep, I can tell he hates me with every fibre of his being. That's just great. But I shouldn't forget the reason why all this happened was because of Kiba's big fucking mouth!'
As Shinji and Dosu exchanged smiling faces while metaphorically hiding a dagger behind their back a big plume of smoke appeared at the front of the room while a loud booming voice thundered, "Silence, you degenerates!"
As the smoke cleared, a heavily scarred man in a dark trench coat and bandana with a Konoha forehead protector as well as wearing thick gloves appeared with the rest of his proctor team.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. I am Morino Ibiki, proctor for the first stage of the chuunin exams."
He then looked to the back of the room where Dosu and Shinji were still clasping their hands together and grinned, though it probably looked a lot more feral than he intended it to be what with all the scars on his face which added to the intimidation factor, "Oh, I am heartened to see you genin in the spirit of fostering inter-village cooperation… Now sit your asses down before I kick you out of the room! You punks think this is a place for you to make friends and chit chat!?"
Dosu and Shinji released their grasp on each other and backed off. The Sound genin nodded at Ibiki, "Sorry. It's our first time seeing so many genin from other villages gathered in one place, so we were excited."
"Hmph." Ibiki huffed, "This is a good opportunity, so let me tell you something. In here, I am the only ruler that matters. Anyone who disobeys my words will be immediately disqualified. Got it!?"
"Now then, we will start the first test. The first stage of the chuunin exam will be… a written test!"
A shorter chapter than usual, but I'm trying to keep to the biweekly upload schedule. Didn't expect for the scene before the exam even started to run for so long but somehow it just happened.
Not much to break down this chapter, just a lot of character interactions and some slight worldbuilding to be honest. I think a lot of what I wanted to highlight in this chapter is how abnormal Shinji actually is when he is put next to the average genin, or even the rest of the Rookie 9. But even then he is still nothing compared to Orochimaru and other Kage-level beings.
I've also always been fascinated with Dosu, and I think he is a character worth exploring. Slight teaser for what might come up involving Dosu in the future.
That's about it. Like always, thanks for reading my story and if you liked it, smash that like button and hit subscribe for more content!