„What the hell?", A Genin rumbled in disbelief. The last Exam had just been announced:
A battle royal between everyone who managed to finish the second one.
"We are over twenty Genin!", another one hissed.
"This is madness!", yet another groaned.
From Konoha only Ria, Team 4, and the Nara-boy had managed to finish the exam in time. While for Suna the three siblings would participate. And the other big villages also had at least teams of two, if not three that passed the second one.
That battle Royal was destined to end in total madness and blood.
"How did your team work out?", Nara hummed.
"I electrified myself, and when the idiot tried to attack me from behind he zapped himself out of the Exam.", Raidon snickered, "Idiot."
"My partner thought he could hide in some mist. He knows better than to hide from a Hyuga again.", Hiraku nodded.
"I was paired with Kuma´s cousin. He beat me to a pulp and I was found by her who took me with them.", Ria whispered shame in her voice, "I tagged along after that."
"We got along well. Gaara respected my abilities and listened when I had something to say. He will be a good Jonin one day.", Kuma answered, glancing at her former partner.
"What happened to the Bastard?", Raidon growled, his hair standing up with angry energy.
"I took care of it."
"He dead?", Hiraku frowned.
"She pulled him beneath the earth up to his neck and broke a lot of bones."
"Only those he and his father had broken of me. If he is just a decent ninja he should have been able to get himself out and survive.", she answered tensely.
Talking about it made fear rise in memory of the pain she had endured.
"Kuma, that sounded like half of his bones.", Ria gasped. That had been new info for her, "You were going on for nearly half an hour."
Kuma only shrugged.
"What about your Team?"
"She failed to choose the right door. Was alright, strong, but not very smart.", the boy in question answered with the typical Nara- shrug.
"How do we prepare to fight nearly twenty other Genin at the same time?", Raidon groaned, "Especially with that Sand-demon against us. He alone could probably finish it."
"And how are we going to decide who should win, if we manage to be the last man standing.", Ria added.
"We don´t.", Nara answered, "Every single task was one designed for a team effort. If two or more of us are the last ones standing we should all give up. I am sure that is the only way to win in that situation."
"Sounds like a possibility."
"Let me get that straight. We will fight 20 other Genin, who all would kill us to win, only to give up in the end?", Raidon frowned dumbfounded.
"Pretty much.", Hiraku nodded, "Looks like you did not fry your brain completely yet."
"Alright, who got a plan?"
"Don´t piss off the Sand and stay out of their way. "
"Didn´t you say yourself to stay out of the way of the Sand siblings?", Ria shouted towards the shadow-user.
"I did not plan on that to happen!", he groaned back. One of the Iwa-nin had used an explosive technique that had thrown him right in Temari´s wind blast.
Hadn´t it been for Raidon, who was quick enough to catch him out of the air, he would have landed straight in the Quicksand of Gara.
"At least we are not allowed to kill each other for good! Otherwise, we all would be dead already!", Hiraku groaned, he had just returned from a hand-to-hand battle against a lightning user from Iwagakure, "Next time you take on the lightning user Raidon."
"I would have! But I had to save our Brain! And you with your Wind should be stronger than the Lightning anyways. So stop complaining."
"His zaps were still annoying. At least they did not hurt as much as yours."
"My Pleasure.", Raidon bowed mockingly.
"Stop bickering. We-", Kuma tried to intervene but stopped when she felt something strange beneath her feet. Reacting within a split second, she pushed the rest of her teammates away from where they stood with one big earth wall each. Just before the floor beneath her exploded, engulfing her in flames.
There had not even been time for her to flicker away after she had pushed her friends away.
"KUMA!", every single one of the other Konoha ninjas shouted.
She knelt in the middle of a crater. Still in the posture, she used for her Jutsu. Her clothes were burnt and ripped in multiple places. The braid she had worn had opened and some of her hair was burning.
Miraculously her skin was barely singed and even seemed to shine like it was surrounded by molten metal. But within a blink, the shine was gone and Kuma fell to the ground. Her world had gone black.
"That little bastard is mine.", a cold unknown male voice sneered somewhere in the darkness.
"No.", another unknown male answered with a sigh.
"Don´t tell me who I can and cannot sacrifice!"
"You mean like their target from the second exam? You stalked him for days and only killed him when you were certain her team would encounter them within an hour. You don´t stalk and wait. You usually just kill and don´t care who it is. mhm", a younger unknown male chuckled.
"Did I tell you how to build that stupid wall Firebug? No! So stop talking down on how I treat my bounties.", the first one growled.
"Why are we even here? Orders were clear: Plan, execute, and judge the Exams without being seen. And without interfering. And I for one am hungry.", yet another sighed.
"You are just mad because you weren´t allowed to set sharks loose at the finale.
"You always chose the whores that have the lightest hair. No matter how expensive they are. What a waste of money. If you want to fuck her forget it, Konoha does not take it kindly if someone abuses their young ones. And we don´t need them attacking Ame because you could not control your dick.", the second voice spoke again.
"I do not want to fuck her! Now can you shitheads leave me alone and give me one minute alone with her? I fucking swear she will be in the exact same condition when I leave as she is now.", the first sneered.
A gentle hand played with a small strand of her hair.
"You look so much like Keiko. The same eyes and nose. Her hair was light, almost golden, but yours is more like -", the first man whispered but disappeared mid-sentence when voices sounded from behind a wall.
Who was that? And how did he know her dead mothers' name?
Two days after the finale, Kuma woke up, wondering if she had witnessed that conversation or if she had imagined it.
"Back with the living Pity?", Raidon grinned from her left, "Was about time. We leave tomorrow and I really did not fancy carrying you.
"Or explaining to Genma what happened to you.", Hiraku added.
"He will still ask why almost a quarter of her hair is burned away."
"Maybe, but now she can tell him herself. He is less likely to kill her than us when he hears that it was her Bastard of a Cousin who had somehow managed to enter the Finale."
"Sensei?", she whispered.
"Talking with the Doc right now. How are you feeling?", Hiraku hummed.
"Tired, aching, and hungry. What did I miss?", she groaned, trying to move her muscles.
"You were blown up by your cousin. He got into the exam by being summoned by his friend. Luckily you somehow managed only to lose some of your hair and develop a severe case of chakra exhaustion.", the blond one explained, "Don´t ask me how you did not even get a slight burn on your skin."
"Not even a scratch. Your little walls took the most of the blast. Well, them and you. I am glad you are back.", Daisoku-sensei smiled, "Ready to leave?"
"Yes, please.", Kuma nodded.
"Good. Pack your things and then we can leave home.", the Jonin hummed.
The travel back took a few days longer than the way there, but considering what they went through, it was nothing unusual. As soon as they had entered the land of Fire, did the Senseis allow the Genin to rest and travel less fast.
Whenever Kuma was unable to keep up anymore, the other Genin took turns carrying her. Especially those she had saved during the finale. Still suffering from her Chakra exhaustion, she was in and out of slumber for the first three days of travel.
"Yo Pity. You good back there?", Raidon asked when it was his turn to carry her, he had felt her tense up a while ago.
"Mhm.", she hummed, "I am fine, my scars just hurt."
"You need a break? Medication?", he frowned, turning his head to be able to look at her face. But she hid it against his neck.
"No, it is just worse because I am weak at the moment."
"I want to kill those bastards more and more each day.", he growled turning his head back to face the front.
"The paperwork would be a drag. And don´t get me started on the punishment for starting a war.", the shadow user piped up from behind.
"That is if we get caught.", Hiraku added, "And we are getting trained for infiltration after all."
"Best infiltration is nothing without a foolproof plan.", Ria stated.
"That´s what we have Brain for.", Raidon grinned sending a small wink towards the shadow user.
"I am nothing compared to Shikamaru or Shikaku-sama.", he sighed, "But I guess I am still better than Blondie with planning."
"We will keep our noses open on missions and tell you whatever we find.", the Inuzuka grinned and his ninken barked.
"Are you planning to go after Kuma´s clan,", Daisoku sensei groaned, "Again?!"
"Your team is corrupting ours.", Mamoru-sensei sighed amused, "Never trust a Cougar."
Remembering the comment from when she summoned Khaji the first time, Kuma flickered onto her Sensei´s back, who stumbled a tad when she appears.
"COUGAR! Sensei´s Mask was a Cougar!", she stated, looking hopefully at the blue-haired sensei for assurance, who gave a slight nod. Shocked how the young one knew about their ANBU past.
"Guess it will be Hot Pot for the next five team-dinners.", Hiraku shrugged.
"That´s not fair! With Kuma´s good ears we have a disadvantage.", Raidon grumbled.
"You can still guess which one Mamoru-sensei was.",
"Did you tell them about your Past?", Mamoru-sensei scolded his comrade.
"You did. Sensei. Kuma overheard you telling him off on our way to the exams. She figured it out then. And we made a bet, whoever finds out the call-sign/ mask can decide where we will eat the next 5 times.", Hiraku explained before the questioned man could answer himself.
"Waaaaait, aren´t Cougars female?", Ria mumbled causing the other Jonin to laugh and Daisoku-sensei to let his head hang low defeated.
Just with the last light of the day, the Group entered Konoha through the Main gate, where they were already awaited by the Hokage and their Families. Team 4 had already decided to meet the other day to eat together.
"Looks like you did not mention Kuma´s situation?", Raidon whisper-asked their sensei when he noticed the shocked and angry look on Genma´s face."
"We informed Lady Tsunade but asked it not to be mentioned to anyone of those that are close with her. I am not too sure now that that had been a smart idea.", he answered just as quietly.
"Hand her Genma and run. He and Kakashi will be too occupied with fawning over her to follow you immediately.", Hiraku offered.
" We meet in three days at the usual time and place to celebrate your work at the Exam.", their Sensei stated, "Now let's get the official business over with."
"Welcome back. We were already informed by your Sensei on how it went. Good work anyone. There will be a debrief with each team in three days. Use the time to rest and visit the hospital. I want everyone checked out. Now get to your asses home before I have worried clans on my ass.", Lad Tsunade greeted them, "Jonin, I want a detailed report on my desk in two days."
"Hai!", everyone shouted and the Hokage left.
"I am fine. Just Chakra Exhaustion.", Kuma informed Genma and Kakashi as soon as Sensei had let her off his back.
"Are you sure?", Genma asked, staring into her eyes.
"Yes. Can we go home? I am hungry and tired."
"Fine. But I want you to promise me to tell you if something bothers you."
"Oi, Kuma, what happened with your hair? Wasn´t it longer when you left?", Kakashi asked, lifting a strand of hair up to take a closer look.
"I thought we said we would ease into questioning not slap them in her face!", Genma punched his friend over his head.
"mah mah. Now that you mention it.", the masked man chuckled, "Sorry about that Kuma."
"I- It´s fine. It happened during the battle."
" It will grow back faster than you think. Don´t be sad about it. Do you want to talk about it?", Genma assured her.
"Not yet… What´s for Dinner?"
"Whatever you want. The Pantry is filled to the brim and the Amikishi informed everyone that there are tables reserved for everyone who participated in the Exam."