"You pass."

Through all the blood, sweat, and tears of hopelessness. They made it. Shizuko had a bright smile on her face, while Haruya hid his excitement with a neutral face.

For once throughout the entire battle, Haruya and Shizuko had a conversation that didn't involve verbal bashes at each other. For Sakura that was an absolute win.

"Hey, how about we go and grab some food? It's on me." Shizuko immediately brightened after Maelstrom's comment. "Yeah! How about some BBQ, I have a friend from the Akimichi clan and they have a restaurant!"

"Why not." Haruya shrugged, but from faraway Sakura could tell he was extremely excited underneath the neutral facade. She also immediately noticed their injuries but said nothing of it.

The three had decided to leave the accursed forest, while Sakura sat by the sidelines underneath a low-hanging tree, already treating her wounds.

With a pop of smoke, Naruto appeared standing on the underside of a tree branch. He had taken off his mask which made Sakura acknowledge the fact that there was a clone with the other two. She was so used to having his face so close to hers that she wasn't even perturbed about it anymore.

"Why are you still here?"

"I'm treating my injuries." Sakura took out a vial and poured the liquid on her largest wound.

"Why?" He said innocently.

How many questions was he going to ask even though he already knew the answer for them?

"Because you poisoned your weapon. And honestly, I'm not planning on going to the hospital again for a while."

Naruto smirked.

Sakura tightened her hold on the vial.

"And this is why you're my favorite student, Sakura."

"You're sick."

Sakura saw in the distance Haruya and Shizuko collapse just before reaching the only exit and the shadow clone poofed away.

"You were never planning on keeping them alive, now were you?"

"Mm, not really. Also, I really–" Naruto dragged out the word like a toddler, "–did not want to pay for the food. Do you know how expensive the meals are over there? But that's to be expected when you eat in a restaurant created by the Akimichi clan." Sakura's eyes narrowed as Naruto continued his rant, trying to figure out his true motive.

"They find any opportunity they can get to cheat the system with greed. And all 'Lord' Minato and Hiruzen just happen to say about it is, 'Oh! They're the Akimichi clan and they need food for their power! So I'm just going to let them cheat their way through because why not.' It's bullshit."

Her voice reached a near growl, again, tightening her grip on the vial. "I hope what you're saying isn't referencing your plan from years ago, Naruto. I don't want to be involved with that."

"Either way, you wouldn't have a choice." Naruto hardened his stare. "Your soul is bound to me, and so are your actions. And I can control them to do my bidding and you won't be able to do anything about it."

"You're just lucky that my plan isn't going into place just yet."

Sakura bit her lower lip, eyes softening as they turned to the collapsed bodies on the ground ahead of her. "... Are they dead?"

"Mmm, probably."

"What do you mean, probably? It's either they're dead or not."

"Check for yourself."

"Oh my God, You're so stubborn."

When she arrived at the bodies she checked their pulse and heaved a sigh. "They're alive." Naruto walked over towards her, making eye contact, "Just unconscious."

(And even then, that outcome still isn't good.)

As if he read her mind, Naruto sighed. "It's not like it's my fault. They should have checked over their wounds after battle instead of celebrating. If I used lethal poison instead they would be dead."

Sakura lifted Haruya by placing his arm around her shoulder and walking past the exit, Naruto did the same with Shizuko.

"...Is the all-you-can-eat still an option?"

"No."

"Asshole. Jounin can get up to 150,000 to 300,000 ryō in an A-rank Mission and I know you have more than that." Sakura stated matter-of-factly, recalling the first thing she learned from her time in the academy.

"I do, but I'm not taking my chances."

Sakura sighed in defeat.

— Konoha, The Undercity —

To be honest, Naruto could have chosen to live in his family home, having been born there. But it only gave him bad memories. Naruto's jaw clenched at the thought, his fists clenching.

His choice on moving to the poorer parts of Konoha gave him new eyesight of how people were treated and how they treated their surroundings.

Despite it being a poorer area, the people were kind towards him but not because of his heritage.

When he first moved here people were not accepting, most people didn't like Minato because of his negligence of the Undercity and the people who lived there. But also because of that, they were the first part of Konoha to be investigated for Minato and Kushina's death.

Naruto worked his ass off to get them to like him, trying to convince them that he was nothing like his father.

Forcing himself to get rid of the thoughts, Naruto locked the door behind him and removed his shoes while setting his bags on the ledge that was the real entrance to his home.

"I'm home." As always, Naruto's house was silent as he set the bags on the table.

"Welcome back." Ah, that voice sounded familiar. A kunai pressed against his neck from behind, Naruto grinned knowingly.

Naruto turned his head ever so slightly to see just a twinge of darkly colored hair in the low light. "Konan."

"Naruto."

It was then Naruto noticed the sound barrier surrounding his house. She wanted to talk.

"Pein-sama has another deal for you." Naruto raised an eyebrow, "What does Akatsuki want with me again?" Nonetheless, he was still curious.

This is why his plan was being ruined, he didn't want the Akatsuki intervening again. But for some reason, he had a feeling that there was another reason for the surprise.

"We'll help you with your plan of destroying Konoha, and, in return. You'll join us."

"You knew about my plan?"

"Duh."

Smartass. Naruto let a small smirk appear on his face.

The blonde snickered. "Being a messenger again I see? What about the others?" She seemed a bit ticked off with the jab but answered.

"They'll be notified soon, they won't attack you if you accept."

"How will I know this isn't a trick? Jiraiya had said you guys are planning on stealing the tailed beasts."

Instantly, Konan pressed the kunai harder in his neck, drawing blood. "So he knows about it already?"

"Duh." He was so damn petty, even with the smallest of things, Naruto always has to respond even when it's not needed.

After a while, Konan sighed and removed the grip on the boy. And as soon as she did he spun around.

"Damn! You got old!" He gasped and looked in horror.

"It's been four years, Naruto." Her jaw clenched.

"Then you really did not get your glow up, what, aren't you now," Naruto paused to count on his fingers. "32!"

"Listen! This isn't any time for bickering. You and Pein-sama both have similar goals if he helps you destroy Konoha. Then you'll have to help him."

"And what will I have to help with?"

"Creating a new world."

Naruto's eyes widened.

"In this new world, there will be no corruption, no evil. A world that will treat people equally. Despite Reputation, Popularity, or Sex. That is what Pein-sama and the Akatsuki are planning on. And with you joining us and the destruction of the Leaf. We will prevail."

"What do you expect me to do?"

"Make sure your team is in the Chunin exams, if you do it gives you a reason to be there."

"Orochimaru is coming back to the Akatsuki, but only because he needs Pein-sama's help, So does Sunagakure who is assisting Orochimaru. We all share the same plan."

"If you want more information, go to Ichiraku."

"Ichiraku? That's the least secretive place in Konoha."

"If you go tonight when it closes in an hour. You'll know who it is when you find them. I have to go now." Konan walked up to Naruto and hugged him. "I missed you."

His eyes darted to the side in embarrassment as he hugged the older woman back. "I missed you too."

Immediately she puffed away, and Naruto sensed the sound barrier vanish.

The room was silent again, and he just now noticed how dark he kept his house.

The cut around his neck started to steam.

Naruto returned to putting away the food, leaving him to his thoughts before there was a rushed and repeated set of knocks on the door.

The blonde swiftly placed on his mask. "What," He grunted, swinging the door open.

The Chunin winced and Naruto rolled his eyes at his reaction. "Ah, well, the Hokage is asking for your presence at the Tower."

"For what, I'm not in the mood for this." Well, that was somewhat true, he wasn't in the mood, but that was because he wanted to figure out why the Akatsuki needed him when they now have Orochimaru on their side.

"I-I heard it's the Genin Nominations for the Chunin exams."

"Right…" He stood there for a minute, "and tell me why you're still here?"

As soon as Naruto said that, The chunin stammered before jumping away from the buildings in a rush.

"I guess the time came quicker than I had thought." Naruto took his keys and placed on his mask before he stepped out of the building.

— Central Konoha, Hokage Tower —

Almost similar to what happened just a few years ago, Naruto and some of the Jounins were called to the Hokage's office.

Naruto's eyes shared over the Jounins that were in the same room as him. Gladly though, he could recognize them to an extent.

"Just like what you guys are thinking, the Chunin exams are approaching. So that means that there is a chance that your team could be promoted to Chunin if they show the proper amount of skills for promotion."

Naruto noticed the Jounins' postures stiffen, and he couldn't blame them. This is where your team's hard work and training would need to pay off if they wanted to become Chunin.

And nothing is more embarrassing when you realize your team is the only one that hasn't had anyone get promoted in their year.

"Yūhi Kurenai," The Third Hokage's eyes darted over to the woman, who took a step forward at her name.

"Do you nominate your team to participate in the Upcoming Chunin Exams?"

Kurenai took a stance, "Yes, I nominate Team 8."

Well, that wasn't completely shocking, seeing as her team is filled with students from very important clans. So do half of the Jounins in the office. But especially in Kurenai's situation.

He almost felt sorry for Kurenai, she has the Inuzuka clan and the Hyūga clan competing over each other. The Inuzuka clan says they are self-proclaimed rivals in tracking, which meant that she had to go through pressure from both clans to put their predecessors in the exams just for a stupid rivalry, it doesn't matter if they suck or not.

And for as long as the Hyuga and Inuzuka clans will exist, their rivalry isn't showing any time of ending.

Iruka wrote it down in a file, which Naruto suspected was where the nominating teams would be in. Hiruzen continued down the list of Jounins, so far receiving a couple of no's and yes's.

"Maito Gai," The green-clad jounin stepped forward. "Do you nominate your team for the Upcoming Chunin exams?"

"Yosh! I nominate Team 9 to the Chunin Exams!"

His extremely enthusiastic voice shook the office and Hiruzen let out a heavy exhale.

From what Naruto could remember, Gai had held back his team a year for them to train, so technically Team 9 is the same year as his, which is Team 5.

Haruya and Shizuko should know who's on Team 9, and maybe they had a past acquaintance with them?

Naruto let out a small sigh, maybe that thought was a bit too far-fetched.

"Sarutobi Asuma," The man stepped forward, taking a deep breath as he did. "Do you nominate your team for the upcoming Chunin exams?"

"Yes, I do nominate team 10 to the Chunin exams."

Hiruzen once again continued down the list of Jounin before he got to one that caught Naruto's attention.

"Hatake Kakashi." His eyes turned to the man of the moment. Kakashi looked unenthusiastically at the Hokage, and Hiruzen had a knowing look in his eyes.

"Do you nominate your team for the upcoming Chunin exams?" Everyone in the room awaited Kakashi's answer; he had already had a reputation for failing their teams to become genin, but what about now that he finally has a team?

Now If Naruto recalled, Team 7 had members Manazashi Goza, Uzuki Menma, And Uchiha Sasuke.

Kakashi took a step forward, and everyone sweated in anticipation. He rubbed the back of his neck and gave the Hokage an eye smile.

"Hah… I guess I will nominate Team 7 for the Chunin exams."

There was silence in the office, but everyone reacted to the response in their head.

Hiruzen leaned back in his seat, showing a bit of shock in his expression before he cleared his throat.

"Well, that's the rest of the list, if you have any questions, please talk to the receptionist down the hall to speak with me."

That was when the Jounins started to leave, but most started bombarding Kakashi with questions as soon as they left the office. and just as Naruto was about to leave, Hiruzen's voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Naruto, I want to speak to you privately."

Naruto let out a sigh, and once everyone left the room Hiruzen started to talk.

"Why did I receive a notice from one of the nurses that two-thirds of your team was placed in the hospital and your only healthy one said that they were poisoned. By you." Hiruzen deadpanned.

"Well actually–"

"You know what; whatever. I'll leave you off with a slap on the wrist for now. That was just a nomination, but if your team wants permission to appear at the location. You'll need this," Hiruzen gave Naruto three thin pieces of paper. "Here are the slips, be sure to make your team hand it in before the due date."

Naruto nodded. And he was excused from the office.

"Just a slap on the wrist, huh? If it wasn't for your parents you would have been demoted. But this is also the reason why we're doing this."

— Konoha, Land of Fire Hospital —

"How dare he poison us!" Haruya growled from his bed, and despite being ready to fight Maelstrom. He was paralyzed from the waist down for a day.

Right next to Haruya, Shizuko flipped to the next page of her book. Relatively calm about the situation. "Just shut up already. It was our fault we got poisoned anyway."

A second later Naruto appeared between the two.

"Where's Sakura?"

"And why would we tell you, You poisoned us!"

"She's probably at the park." Haruya snapped his head to Shizuko with a glare, she only shrugged.

"Right," Naruto searched through his pocket before he pulled out two slips and handed them to them.

"What is this?" Shizuko questioned.

"Read the slip."

Haruya's eyes widened as he read the slip. "Chunin exams?" His face transformed into a grimace and Shizuko had the same look.

The two had shared uneasy glances, having heard of the chunin exams in the academy and heard from other teams of how difficult it was.

Naruto, having noticed their wary looks, opened his mouth to speak.

"Yes, the rumors about the exams are true. But you can choose to join or not. Before you choose you should take your time and give it a thought." Naruto paused before he went into a reassuring tone. "But I think you guys are ready, and I hope you do join."

"And I'll be watching over you three. So try your best."

There was another thing Naruto was good at, and it was being persuasive.

The two were immediately pulled into his clutches, Shizuko being the most gullible and it was easy for her to fall for it and feel guilty.

And Haruya felt more determined to join than ever.

"Well, it's time I go find Sakura. I wish you guys a healthy recovery." And with that, Naruto disappeared again.

— Konoha, Mid Center Park —

Naruto found Sakura resting against a tree. He sighed and cleared his throat.

"Sakura."

She kept snoring.

"Sakura…"

Her snoring paused and then continued again.

"Sakura!"

When it became obvious she wasn't going to wake up. Naruto took the slip and stuffed it in Sakura's hoodie pocket.

"Troublesome…" Naruto didn't need to explain it to Sakura in the first place, he had already expected her knew what to do.

The next day Shizuko and Haruya were both out of the hospital feeling energized as ever. Meaning that Shizuko was the one who felt energized and ready to fight Naruto and Haruya couldn't care less anymore.

"But I thought you said you wanted to kick Naruto's ass when we got out of the hospital?" Shizuko stretched her arms as the duo walked down the road.

"Nah, I'm done with that. We should have checked our wounds as Sakura had done." Shizuko frowned, but let out a long yawn as they turned the corner.

"Hey! Let go of me!" A voice that could only be identified as a screech, came from a child who was being held up by their scarf.

There were about five people there. Three of them looked to be in the academy and the other two looked to be a year or two older than Haruya and Shizuko.

Haruya recognized one of the boys as Konohamaru and quickly widened his eyes. (Konohamaru… Isn't that the Hokage's Grandson!) Shizuko shared a look with Haruya, meaning that she had caught onto that alongside him.

Two other kids gasped in fear, "Let go of Konohamaru, you girly freak!" A girl with two, weirdly heightened ponytails screamed.

"Girly freak!?" The one holding the Konohamaru, who was starting to grow more irritated by the second, shouted back, taking a step forward to intimidate the younger girl even more.

"Moegi!" Another boy scolded, a panic in his voice. He had a very annoying sniffle and nasal voice. "You're only going to make him angrier!"

"Udon! Konohamaru needs help though! And it's true!"

Now that Moegi mentioned it, It looked like he did wear a lot of makeup, despite it being face paint.

"Leave them alone!" Haruya shouted, fists clenching and Shizuko raised an eyebrow at Haruya. Based on the different symbols on his headband, these were foreign nin which meant that they were probably here for the chunin exams.

"And who the hell are you?" The boy's posture straightened, his voice sounded frustrated and his hand reached behind his back that had a large coffin-type shape wrapped in bandages.

"Kankurō!" A voice called from behind Kankurō, revealing a tall, blonde-haired girl.

"No way you're about to pull out Karasu just for a couple of kids! And put that boy down!"

She had a long, black rectangle-type thingy on her back. And now that Shizuko studied it a bit more, it looked like a large fan. Which wasn't unique in Sunagakure, mostly because it's the Land of Wind and it was the most common affinity there.

Kankurō huffed, throwing Konohamaru to the ground, and he immediately scrambled off the ground and towards Moegi. Kankurō kept his hand hovering over the bandaged figure.

"Like I need to worry about a bunch of kids, Temari," Kankurō smirked, trying to get under Haruya's skin.

Haruya gritted his teeth as he glared at the older boy. Shizuko clutched his sleeve, "Haruya, stop. He's doing that on purpose. He's trying to get you upset."

Moegi, Udon, and Konohamaru backed away from the area, growing squeamish with the silence that increased the tension in the situation.

"Okay, I think that's enough." A new voice appeared, and it was Sakura. Standing on top of a tree branch. Sakura lazily leaned against the truck giving them the impression that she wasn't a threat, but her eyes said otherwise.

Kankurō growled under his breath, "What the hell is with all these interruptions!" He fully grabbed the box on his back and stood it up vertically.

"Kankurō! Temari!" Sakura's eyes widened, and a dark aura surrounded the alley, and by this time Udon, Konohamaru and Moegi had run away tripping over each other.

"You're being an embarrassment," Sakura's eyes darted to her side, and on another branch stood a redheaded boy. His arms were folded and Sakura found his appearance weird, he strangely had no eyebrows, and there was a tattoo on his forehead that reads "Love." Not to mention the gourd on his back.

She soon found out that he was the one who was emitting the dark chakra. (It's just like Naruto's chakra!) Her brows furrowed, and Kankurō and Temari quickly apologized, sounding frantic and scared.

"I apologize for the inconvenience." His gaze lazily turned towards the two, who stiffened immediately. "They will be punished later."

"I'm sorry Gaara!" Temari cried, and Haruya raised a brow at her behavior. "I tried to convince him to stop, but he wouldn't listen!"

"G-Gaara! I was just playing around!" Kankurō squeaked embarrassingly. "I was never planning on hurting–!"

He was cut off from Gaara's stoic voice, quickly silencing him.

"Enough of the excuses, before I kill you." Sakura's eyes seemed to flare before they went back to normal. "You guys have been much of an embarrassment today already. Now let's get out of here."

"Y-Yes Gaara." And they left, leaving the genin team to themselves, as the academy students had already left in fear.

"W-What… What the hell was that?" Haruya gaped, still feeling a bit stunned by the sudden menacing aura of the redhead.

Sakura remained silent, shocked like the other two. (His chakra was so similar to Naruto's… I'll have to tell him about this later.)

"I… I don't know, but what I do know is that the chunin exams are coming up and I need to know if you guys are joining."

Once again, Shizuko and Haruya shared a look. Sakura let out a sigh, she didn't know the major importance of joining the chunin exams as soon as she joined the team. And she wasn't too strong on the idea either, seeming as Haruya and Shizuko still are a bit sore about each other.

But there was something in her head that was provoking her to say this, "You guys should probably join, it's the smartest idea. And don't you guys want to catch up with your friends that are probably already chunin?"

It was like it flowed out of her mouth, like when your body sometimes just automatically walks when you think too deeply.

Shizuko seemed to think it over, brows furrowing about something she couldn't quite define.

Haruya went quiet as he glanced at Shizuko in the corner of his eye. Sakura knew that he wanted to participate, but she noticed that Haruya wanted to know her opinion before he would unintentionally pressure her by revealing his choice.

"I want to do it." Shizuko nodded resolutely, her eyes were fierce with confidence despite not being quite strong solely.

Sakura gave her a small smile, she knew what it was like to be weak. And she felt herself relate to Shizuko even more.

Haruya nodded, a determined smirk starting to appear on his features. "We got this because we're Team 5! Nothing could beat us, right?"

"Yeah!"

Sakura let out a sound of agreement.

Team 5 fights for real now!

— Outside of Konoha, ? —

"Well," A tall white-haired man closed his notebook and gazed into the sunset. "That's it for book five. I just need someone to review it So I can publish it."

He couldn't wait till he got back to Konoha, especially because he had to deliver the news to Hiruzen before he made any more steps in finding the Akatsuki's hideout. We

Jiraiya closed his eyes, and then after that, he'll get to see his godson again after 3 years. (I wonder how much he changed.)