Ch.69 - The Chunin Exams: The Second Trial!

[Day1: Hunt or Be Hunted: The Forest of Death]

- Inside Shi no Mori -

The moment Anko signaled the beginning of the second exam, a palpable tension filled the air. Each team sprang into action, vanishing into the dense foliage of the forest. They fanned out, seeking the perfect spot to begin their hunt. Knowledge of their standings drove their strategies; they knew very well who they should be targeting. The only thing they needed to do was track them down.

"Oi... Do you think we should also go after Team 10?..." a voice asked, slicing through the hushed atmosphere of the trees.

"Nah... Screw the red scroll. Pretty sure lots of people would be going after them anyway," a different voice responded, dismissive and confident.

"So?... What now?..." the voice inquired, impatience creeping in.

"For now, we'll just target the other teams... And I know just who to target, hehe..." the voice said, followed by a pause as his teammate asked who they were going after.

"Earlier, I saw this team pick the gate next to ours. Not only that, but they also have a fat bozzo on their team," the voice explained, eliciting a chuckle from his teammates.

"Haha, great idea, Ren! Lardo and his teammates won't even know what hit them," the voice responded, laughter mingling with the rustling leaves.

- With Team 8 -

The forest was dense and oppressive, the air heavy with the scent of damp earth and moss. The trio of ninja moved cautiously through the underbrush; each step muffled by the thick carpet of fallen leaves. The silence was broken only by the incessant crunching of chips.

"Oi, Choji... Do you really have to be eating right now?..." Kiba asked, his voice laced with irritation.

"Why?.. You want some?..." Choji offered, his tone nonchalant as he held out the bag.

"For the last time, no... I don't want any," Kiba snapped, his patience wearing thin.

Choji shrugged and continued munching, oblivious to Kiba's growing annoyance. But the sound of relentless chewing finally broke Kiba's resolve.

"Give me that!" he exclaimed, snatching the bag of chips from Choji's grasp. "You should at least pay attention to our surroundings or, at the very least, chew quietly!"

Choji nodded, seemingly unfazed. He reached into his vest and pulled out another bag of chips, ready to tear it open. Kiba stared in disbelief, wondering just how much food Choji was carrying. Before he could voice his amazement, something else caught his attention.

"Choji, look out!" Kiba shouted, swiftly producing a shuriken from his pouch and hurling it towards the ground near Choji's right foot.

Startled, Choji jumped back, his eyes widening as he saw a disgusting creature oozing blood on the forest floor. Kiba's shuriken had found its mark.

"What the heck is that?!" Choji exclaimed, his face contorted in disgust.

"How the hell should I know?!" Kiba retorted, equally repulsed.

"Both of you, be quiet," Sakura's voice cut through the tension, causing the boys to fall silent. She stepped forward, her expression calm and authoritative. "What Kiba just killed is one of many creatures that live here,"

"It's a tobihiru (flying leech)," Sakura explained. "It can sense body temperature and perspiration. It only takes one leech to draw blood from its prey, and the entire colony would follow suit."

"Gross..." Choji muttered, and Kiba nodded in agreement.

"Would you eat one, Choji?..." Kiba teased, a sly grin spreading across his face.

"Wha— No way!" Choji responded, horrified at the suggestion.

"Heh, I thought so... It must've sensed how sweaty you are, Choji, because you're—" Kiba was cut off by a menacing glare from Choji.

"Because I'm what?..." Choji said in an intimidating tone

Kiba gulped, backtracking quickly. "Because you're wearing too many layers of clothing, yeah, that's it..."

Choji narrowed his eyes but decided to let it slide. He stepped back, Kiba sighed out of relief but then suddenly he sensed something amiss. He sniffed the air, his senses picking up something unusual.

"Oi, there's a group coming towards us... I think we should just get out of here," Kiba suggested. Choji nodded in agreement, but Sakura was intently observing the fallen tobihiru.

"I think we should stay and deal with the other group. It's our chance to earn more points," Sakura stated firmly.

"Huh?... You want us to fight in a leech-infested area?... Are you out of your mind, Sakura?..." Kiba protested, earning a swift smack from the pink-haired kunoichi.

"Let me explain first, you mutt!" Sakura snapped. Akamaru barked in defense of his master, but Sakura's glare silenced the dog, causing him to whimper.

"As I was saying," Sakura continued, "I think we can use these leeches to our advantage."

Choji and Kiba exchanged curious looks, intrigued by Sakura's sudden strategy.

- Somewhere in Shi no Mori -

"Found them yet?..." a voice asked, cutting through the tense silence.

"Yeah, we're close... I sensed three chakra signatures nearby not too long ago. They've got to be here somewhere," Ren replied, his tone confident.

Moments later, their teammate—a girl with pink hair—spotted something from among the tree branches above them.

"OVER THERE!" she pointed out, her voice sharp and urgent. The other two nodded and grinned, their eyes gleaming with anticipation.

"YOU'RE OURS!" one of the voices yelled as they rushed towards Sakura. The pink-haired kunoichi looked behind her and saw two genin (low/junior ninja) from Sunagakure (Hidden Sound Village) barreling towards her.

Sakura's eyes widened in shock at having been found so easily. She was about to flee, but it was too late. The attackers were already mere feet away. They threw shurikens at her, only to watch in dismay as the projectiles passed through her. The realization hit them hard—it was an illusion.

"Damnit... It was just a clone," Ren muttered, frustration seeping into his voice.

"They couldn't have gotten too far away," his teammate replied, and the three nodded in agreement, deciding to leave the area and continue their search. But suddenly, they found themselves unable to move.

"What the?!... I can't move!" Ren exclaimed, panic rising in his voice.

"Neither can I!" the second voice yelled.

"What the hell's going on?!" their third teammate cried out.

"The Kanashibari no Jutsu's (Temporary Paralysis Technique) a success!" Sakura thought to herself.

From afar, they heard a booming voice, "HIJUTSU: NIKUDAN SENSHA! (Hidden Jutsu: Human Bullet Tank)" Choji yelled as he rolled towards the tree their assailants were perched on. His rotund form slammed against the trunk with a powerful force, shaking the tree violently. A multitude of tobihirus fell from above, some landing on their pursuers.

"What the fuck are these?!" Ren yelled; his voice tinged with fear.

"OW! It fucking bit me!" his teammate cried out.

"Get 'em off of me! Get 'em off of me!" their third teammate screamed.

The bites of the tobihirus drew blood, and soon the entire colony was swarming them, drawn to the scent. They fell upon the genin, biting and sucking blood with voracious hunger.

"Now, Kiba!" Sakura shouted.

Kiba grinned, his eyes flashing with determination. "Come on, Akamaru! Let's show these punks how we do things in the Leaf!" he said, eliciting a yip from his loyal companion.

"Hijutsu: Gatenga! (Hidden Jutsu: Fang Rotating Fang)" Kiba yelled as he and Akamaru launched towards the Sunagakure genin. The duo spun rapidly in mid-air like a saw, aiming not for their enemies but for the tree branch they stood on. They sliced through the wooden branch effortlessly, causing it to separate from the tree.

Gravity took hold, and the three Sunagakure genin fell to the forest floor with a thud. They groaned in pain, further aggravated by the relentless bites of the leeches sucking their blood.

As they slowly regained their bearings, Ren felt something tug at his foot. He looked down and saw his foot entangled in ninja wire, laid out in a precise pattern.

"Crap..." he muttered. The bed of ninja wires quickly formed into a net, ensnaring all three of them. The net was pulled upwards, leaving them dangling a few feet above the ground. Their anguished yells echoed through the forest, reaching even the distant spot where Anko was.

- With Team 7 and Team 10 -

The two teams raced through the dense forest; their every step hounded by a growing number of pursuers. Word had spread rapidly that Team 7 held the second-highest number of points, making them and their allies prime targets. The knowledge of this 1500-point bounty drew every ambitious genin like moths to a flame.

Despite the advantage of having two sensors, Hinata and Shino, who adeptly tracked their enemies' movements, the relentless onslaught from the other teams showed no signs of abating.

A sudden barrage of projectiles whizzed through the air, coming from both behind and above. Reacting swiftly, Naruto and Sasuke sprang into action, unleashing their jutsus to counter the attack.

"Fūton: Reppūshō! (Wind Release: Gale Palm)" Naruto shouted, releasing a powerful gust of wind that deflected the lethal projectiles.

"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu! (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)" Sasuke intoned, expelling a torrent of flames that not only blocked but melted some of the incoming shuriken and kunai.

"Shikamaru! Any time now!" Naruto yelled, urgency in his voice.

"Give me a sec, you can't expect me to come up with a plan when you're rushing me, Naruto... Mendokuse..." Shikamaru muttered, his mind racing for a solution.

"S-Sasuke-kun! A-Above you!" Hinata's warning brought Sasuke's gaze skyward, where he saw another wave of enemies approaching.

"Tch... They just keep on coming," Sasuke thought,

Forming a series of hand seals. "Katon: Hōusenka no Jutsu! (Fire Release: Phoenix Flower Technique)" He released a flurry of small fireballs, but their agile opponents dodged them with ease. One attacker, kunai in hand, rushed towards Sasuke. He met the charge, drawing his own kunai, and the two clashed, metal against metal, sparks flying from the collision.

They flew past each other, but the assailant wasn't finished. He threw several kunai at Sasuke, who quickly ducked behind a tree branch, avoiding the projectiles. Realizing too late that the kunai were rigged with explosive tags, Sasuke felt the blast rip through the air, sending him falling from a high elevation.

Naruto, seeing Sasuke in peril, reacted instinctively. Despite their differences, he knew he had to help. But before he could move, two genin blocked his path, clearly teammates of Sasuke's previous opponent.

"Shino!" Naruto yelled, pointing to Sasuke's falling form.

Shino, ever the cool-headed strategist, directed a swarm of kikaichū (parasitic destruction insects) towards Sasuke. The beetles caught Sasuke in mid-air, cushioning his fall and carrying him safely back to the team.

"It's insulting that you're not paying attention to us!" one of the genin yelled, swinging a tanto at Naruto.

Naruto blocked the incoming blade with his trusty kunai, the clash of steel echoing through the forest. Ino, seeing Naruto in trouble, quickly launched shuriken at the attacker, forcing him to retreat and deflect her projectiles.

Gaining more space, Naruto got low and performed a double leg sweep, successfully tripping one of the two genins in front of him. However, the genin quickly recovered, and both backed off, regrouping with Sasuke's previous opponent.

Meanwhile, Sasuke regained his bearings from the earlier explosion, though his ears still rang from the blast's proximity.

Luckily for them, Shikamaru had formulated a plan that would handle most, if not all, of their opponents.

"Hinata!" Shikamaru commanded, prompting the Hyuga girl to scan their surroundings once more.

Hinata's Byakugan (All Seeing White Eye) activated, revealing their dire situation that they were surrounded, two teams coming from the northeast and northwest, one team from the south, one team from above, and another team each on both flanks.

Outnumbered six to eighteen, Shikamaru knew their plan had to succeed or they would be overwhelmed.

"Shino, create a protective barrier around us. You know what to do," Shikamaru instructed. Shino nodded, preparing the necessary hand seals.

"Naruto, make as many clones as you can and spread them out. I'll give you the signal," Shikamaru continued. Naruto grinned and nodded, ready to act.

"Ino, Sasuke, once Naruto and I finish our part, that's when you strike," Shikamaru said. Both the Yamanaka and the Uchiha nodded in understanding.

Shikamaru took out soldier pills from his pouch and swallowed a few, steeling himself for what was to come.

"We better hope this works, Shino!" Shikamaru shouted. Shino finished his jutsu, his hands forming the final seal.

"Doton: Tsuchi Kairō! (Earth Release: Earth Corridor)" Shino exclaimed, slamming his palm into the ground. The earth trembled as a wall of rock began to rise, forming a protective dome around them.

"Not on my watch!" one of their assailants yelled.

"Back off! They're ours!" another shouted.

"Let's just see about that!" another one retorted.

A majority of their assailants performed their own jutsus, aiming to break through Shino's earth barrier.

"Kunai Kage Bunshin no Jutsu! (Kunai Shadow Clone Technique)" a voice exclaimed.

"Katon: Endan Toki! (Fire Release: Flaming Bullet Time)" another voice intoned.

"Raiton: Raishin! (Lightning Release: Lightning Senbons)" a different voice yelled.

A barrage of projectiles rained down on the earthen dome, fiery and electric, striking with formidable force. The dome, crafted by Shino's earth jutsu, absorbed the impact, but the onslaught was too much. Kunai embedded themselves in the dome, exploding violently and sending shockwaves through the area. Dust and debris filled the air, obscuring their surroundings in a thick haze.

When the dust settled, all that remained was rubble and broken terrain. Team 7 and Team 8 had vanished without a trace.

Confusion reigned among their opponents. They glared at each other, each accusing the other of allowing their prey to escape. Amidst the chaos, Team 7 and Team 8 seized the opportunity to strike.

Puffs of smoke materialized, revealing Shikamaru and Naruto, drawing the attention of their adversaries.

"NOW!" Shikamaru bellowed.

"Taju Kage Bunshin no Jutsu! (Multiple Shadow Clone Techique)" Naruto cried, creating a multitude of clones that scattered across the area.

Initially, their opponents believed Naruto intended to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. But Shikamaru had a different plan in mind.

"Hijutsu: Kagemane no Jutsu (Hidden Technique: Shadow Imitation Technique)," Shikamaru intoned, extending his shadow and utilizing the shadows of Naruto's clones to amplify its range. He connected his shadow to their opponents', immobilizing them completely.

"Damnit... I can't move!" some of their adversaries complained.

"What the hell?!" another cried out.

More puffs of smoke erupted, revealing Ino, Sasuke, Shino, and Hinata. They surged forward, capitalizing on their opponents' immobilization.

Ino hurled laced senbons with precision, finding their targets among their paralyzed foes. She made a mental note to refine her accuracy through practice.

Shino engaged in basic taijutsu maneuvers, exploiting the advantage of his opponents' inability to move.

Hinata, with her Byakugan (All Seeing White Eye) activated, employed her clan's exclusive taijutsu style, juken (gentle fist). She struck her adversaries' tenketsu (chakra points), disrupting their chakra flow and rendering them powerless.

Sasuke unleashed his trusted jutsu, "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu! (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)," launching a devastating fireball at a cluster of their adversaries.

With Shikamaru's plan executed flawlessly, Team 7 and Team 8 swiftly dispatched their incapacitated foes, their coordinated efforts overwhelming their opponents. After the encounter, both teams gathered the scrolls of their adversaries, securing a total of 70 points—2 white scrolls and 4 black scrolls. Recognizing their collective effort, both teams agreed to split the points evenly, with each team receiving 35 points. Although the additional points were welcomed, both teams knew they didn't necessarily need them.

"Is everyone good?..." Shikamaru's voice cut through the aftermath of the skirmish, drawing nods of confirmation from his companions.

Sasuke's movements were swift and practiced as he retrieved his kunai from a fallen foe, deftly wiping away the blood before returning it to its holster. His eyes flickered briefly to Naruto, engaged in conversation with Ino. A silent determination settled over him, the need to measure his own growth against his rival burning fiercely.

"Damn, this wouldn't have happened if that psycho of a proctor didn't put the spotlight on us..." Naruto muttered; his frustration palpable.

"Yeah, well what're you gonna do about it anyway?..." Ino's retort was sharp, a challenge to Naruto's bravado.

"I totally would have won back there," Naruto boasted, earning a scoff from Ino.

"Sure, whatever floats your boat Naruto," Ino remarked, pressing on his cheek wound with playful mockery.

"OW! Hey! What'd you do that for?!" Naruto protested, rubbing at the stinging sensation.

"Uh huh, the wound on your cheek is a clear sign that you would've owned her," Ino said sarcastically.

"N-Naruto-kun..." Hinata's voice interrupted their banter, drawing the attention of both blondes.

Hinata approached, holding out a small container. "H-Here... You can use some of my ointment... I-It'll help heal your w-wounds, N-Naruto-kun," she offered shyly.

"Gee... Thanks, Hinata! Don't mind if I do!" Naruto accepted with a foxy grin, while Ino watched the exchange with interest.

She continued to observe as Hinata explained the healing properties of her clan's secret ointment, a moment of connection amidst the chaos of battle.

In the midst of their exchange, a subtle unease settled within Ino, a gnawing sensation she couldn't quite place. A hollow feeling grew within her, tugging at the edges of her consciousness. She brushed it aside, attributing it to hunger—a mere consequence of skipping meals and a light breakfast before departing her home.

"Whoa! It doesn't sting anymore! Thanks, Hinata! It worked like a charm-tebayo!" Naruto said with a smile.

As Naruto's gratitude washed over her, Hinata's cheeks flushed a delicate shade of crimson, her bashfulness palpable. She stammered out a modest response, insisting it was nothing and offering more ointment should he require it. Naruto accepted with his usual enthusiasm, and Hinata's heart fluttered at his simple gratitude.

"Alright," Shikamaru's voice cut through the moment, drawing their attention back to the task at hand.

Naruto's gaze shifted to Shikamaru, who had taken it upon himself to sketch a crude map on the forest floor. His brows furrowed in curiosity as he surveyed Shikamaru's handiwork, marveling at his friend's attention to detail.

"Dang, you remembered all of that, Shikamaru?..." Naruto's inquiry hung in the air, laden with admiration.

"Kinda had to remember it... It's a drag, but it needed to be done..." Shikamaru's response was laced with his trademark nonchalance, though a hint of pride lingered beneath the surface.

With a simple X marking their current location, Shikamaru outlined their path toward their objective—the tower at the center of the diagram. His strategic mind worked methodically, considering their options and the risks involved.

"Since we're pretty much covered in terms of points, I'm gonna assume that none of us would want to risk things by getting more points from other teams then?..." Shikamaru's question was met with unanimous agreement.

"Okay, since we're all on the same page... Does anyone have ideas regarding where we should set up camp?..." Shikamaru's query redirected their focus to the practicalities of their situation, a reminder of the challenges that lay ahead.

As the group deliberated their camping spot, tension simmered under the surface like a pot on the verge of boiling over. Shino's suggestion hung in the air, a tentative offer dangling amidst the weighty silence of uncertainty.

"Perhaps we can camp near the tower..." His voice was a soft ripple in the dense atmosphere, a suggestion seeking refuge from the storm of doubt.

Shikamaru, ever the strategist, pondered the proposal with the weight of his intellect. "Hmmm... I don't think that's a good idea... Call me paranoid but I think that's what our enemies want... People tend to pick the path of least resistance, I'm guilty of it. So why waste energy hunting down other teams when you can simply wait for them to come to you..." His words were a calculated revelation, a glimpse into the labyrinth of his mind.

Sasuke's inner disdain simmered as Shikamaru spoke of his preference for the path of least resistance, though begrudgingly he acknowledged the validity of the Nara's caution. The possibility of ambush loomed large in his mind, a reminder of the dangers that lurked in every shadow.

"How about here?..." Ino's voice sliced through the tension, a beacon of hope amidst the fog of uncertainty, as she pointed to a spot embraced by two rivers.

"Hmmm... It is somewhat secluded, but I think it'll be difficult for to defend the area. The moment our location's compromised, we'd have no other choice but to flee. But in order to do so, we'd have to leave the forest and enter a clearing, cross a river, enter yet another clearing and back into another forest. By then, we'd be totally exposed..." Shikamaru's analysis dissected the proposal with surgical precision, laying bare its vulnerabilities.

"We need to find a place that's easily defendable, has access to water, and is close to the main tower..." His conclusion hung in the air like a verdict waiting to be delivered.

Sasuke's intervention was swift, a kunai slicing through the air to mark a precise spot on Shikamaru's diagram. "There," he proposed, his tone confident.

Shikamaru then scrutinized the designated spot with a discerning eye. It lay in close proximity to the main tower, its access to water a lifeline amidst the wilderness, yet its perilous location within the forest cast a shadow of doubt over its suitability. The danger zone, a label synonymous with peril, whispered cautionary tales of the untamed wilderness that lurked within.

"Didn't you see the label-" Naruto's protest was cut short by Sasuke's assertion, a demand for attention amidst the tumultuous exchange.

"Let me explain first, you dobe..." Sasuke's tone brooked no argument, his gaze piercing through Naruto's defiance with the cold precision of a blade. And Naruto, ever the spirited rival, glared at Sasuke but begrudgingly acquiesced, his curiosity outweighing his indignation.

"I know that area's dangerous but that's exactly why we should set up camp there... If others know it's a dangerous place, then most of them would actively avoid it... All we have to do is just keep safe and lay low for the next couple of days..." Sasuke's rationale was a beacon of clarity amidst the murky waters of uncertainty.

Despite the interruption, Naruto couldn't deny the validity in Sasuke's proposal. For once, their paths aligned in a rare moment of accord, like two stars converging in the vast expanse of the night sky.

"Then it's settled, we'll be setting up camp there... Though we should get moving if we want to get there before nightfall," Shikamaru said to which all of them agreed.

- Somewhere in Shi no Mori -

"Heh, that's another one... Let's see what type of scroll you guys got..." Kiba's voice carried a hint of excitement as he scavenged through the belongings of their fallen adversary.

Moments later, Kiba's keen senses led him to the hidden scroll, his grin widening as he retrieved it, revealing its cyan hue. "Lucky! That's another twenty points!" he exclaimed; his enthusiasm infectious.

With a casual toss, Kiba passed the scroll to Sakura, who deftly caught it and secured it in her pouch.

"How many points do we have now?..." Kiba inquired eagerly.

"190 points," Sakura replied, her tone tinged with satisfaction.

"Nice, looks like we're ahead of schedule," Kiba remarked, his confidence evident.

"How many points do we need again?..." Choji's voice carried a note of absent-mindedness as he munched on his chips.

"*sigh* 200 points, Choji... We need 200 points, only ten more points to go..." Sakura's patience wore thin as she reiterated the goal.

"Ahhh, I see..." Choji's response was muffled by another mouthful of chips, his attention momentarily diverted. After finishing the bag of chips, he simply left the empty bag on the forest floor though Sakura took notice of it.

"Don't leave that there or else another team would be able to track us down..." Sakura's admonishment prompted Choji to swiftly rectify his oversight, a sheepish grin crossing his lips as he complied.

"I swear... Sometimes I think this guy only knows how to eat..." Kiba's inner monologue betrayed a hint of exasperation.

But as Team 8 prepared to depart, Kiba's senses pricked at the air, detecting the presence of multiple scents nearby.

"Wait a sec... *sniff* *sniff*," Kiba's brows furrowed in concentration.

"What's the matter?... Is someone following us?..." Sakura's concern mirrored Kiba's own.

"*sniff* They're close..." Kiba's assessment was confirmed by the affirmative yip from his faithful companion, Akamaru.

"So, what is it?..." Sakura's curiosity spurred Kiba into action.

Standing tall, Kiba brushed himself off, his senses sharp as he scanned the surroundings. "I sensed two teams that way, and there's this scent I recognize..." Kiba said as he suggested the idea of getting the last ten points that their team needed.

Kiba's proposal hung in the air, a daring plan to seize the opportunity presented by the approaching rivals. With silent agreement, Sakura and Choji nodded in unison, their determination mirrored in their eyes. Following Kiba's lead, they set off towards the source of the scent, their footsteps echoing with purpose as they ventured into the unknown.

- Moments Later -

"We're getting close... The scent's getting stronger!" Kiba's excitement was palpable, his senses honed in on the trail ahead.

"Slow down, Kiba!" Sakura's voice cut through the air, a gentle reminder of their need for caution as they struggled to keep pace with the eager Inuzuka.

Eventually, Kiba came to a sudden halt, his attention snapping back to his teammates with urgency.

"Get down or else they'll notice us..." Kiba's command was terse as he gestured for his companions to take cover.

In a secluded clearing ahead, they observed the figures Kiba had detected—a dark-clad individual with striking makeup, accompanied by a blonde girl and a red-haired boy, locked in a tense standoff with fellow genin from their own village, who appeared significantly older.

"What're they saying?..." Choji's curiosity bubbled forth, his eyes darting between the opposing parties.

"Shhh... I'm trying to listen..." Kiba's hushed response held an edge of concentration as he strained to catch the words exchanged amidst the tension-filled atmosphere.

- (Naruto OST: Gaara's Theme) -

"Hand over your scroll..." the kid with red hair demanded, his tone laced with authority.

"Ha?!... And just who do you think you are, punk?!" a genin from Konoha (Hidden Leaf) retorted, his bravado masking the tension in the air.

"Yeah! Don't mess with us!" his teammate chimed in, attempting to bolster their defiance. However, the unyielding gaze of the red-haired kid silenced them, his demeanor exuding an aura of danger.

"I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation you three found yourselves in..." the kid with red hair spoke; his words cutting through the bravado like a knife.

"Tch... You think you're a bigshot, huh?! I'll make you eat your own words, you punk!" the genin's defiance wavered, his bravado slipping in the face of the looming threat.

"That's enough from you..." Gaara's voice was calm yet chilling, his presence commanding attention.

"Oi, Gaara... Don't we have enough points already?... Unnecessary battles are-" a voice attempted to reason, but Gaara's interruption halted any further discussion.

"It doesn't matter, Kankuro..." Gaara's tone brooked no argument, his resolve unwavering, much to the surprise of the three genin from Konoha who exchanged nervous glances.

"If their eyes meet with mine..." Gaara's words trailed off ominously, hanging in the air like a silent warning.

"-̸̨̢̬͕̲̭͇͙͗͐ͅ-̸̡͉͙̋̍̀̀̿̌͜ͅ-̴͈̗̾͛͂́̕͝ͅ-̵̛͉̫̻͔̦̋͐́̑-̷̢̧̺̤̫͔̟̯̍̉̈́͐̒̋̔͠-̵͕̰̰͌̃̐̉̍̿̕͠-̵̝̜̳̏̇̇̍̆̾-̵̧̪̟̪̙̯̞̭̜̉͒̋̚-̸͚͎̺̩͔̆ͅ-̵̜́-̴̨̙̖̤̘͓̲̔͂͐̒̔-̴̙͕̗͖͈̯͕̼̋͑̿͑͜͠-̶̧̫̹̗͌̈́̏̋-̶͈̔̄-̵̧̛̭̼͔̰̒̒͂ I'll kill them all...-̸̨̢̬͕̲̭͇͙͗͐ͅ-̸̡͉͙̋̍̀̀̿̌͜ͅ-̴͈̗̾͛͂́̕͝ͅ-̵̛͉̫̻͔̦̋͐́̑-̷̢̧̺̤̫͔̟̯̍̉̈́͐̒̋̔͠-̵͕̰̰͌̃̐̉̍̿̕͠-̵̝̜̳̏̇̇̍̆̾-̵̧̪̟̪̙̯̞̭̜̉͒̋̚-̸͚͎̺̩͔̆ͅ-̵̜́-̴̨̙̖̤̘͓̲̔͂͐̒̔-̴̙͕̗͖͈̯͕̼̋͑̿͑͜͠-̶̧̫̹̗͌̈́̏̋-̶͈̔̄-̵̧̛̭̼͔̰̒̒͂"

The tension in the clearing thickened to a suffocating degree as Gaara's warning hung in the air like a tangible force, freezing the scene in place.

"Tsss... That's why I don't want to be with this guy..." Kankuro's silent thought echoed in the silence, a testament to the unease simmering beneath the surface.

"Let's just see about that..." The genin's defiant words shattered the stillness, his hand instinctively gravitating towards the hilt of the sword strapped to his back, a glint of determination flashing in his eyes.

- (Naruto OST: Bad Situation) -

"Sentaro, do it!" Haru's command echoed through the clearing; his eyes locked on Gaara with fierce determination.

"On it, Haru!" Sentaro's response was swift, his resolve matching that of his teammate.

"Suiton: Kyodai Suikyu! (Water Release: Giant Waterball)" Sentaro's voice rang out as he expelled a torrent of water towards Gaara, his aim true. However, Gaara reacted with lightning speed, conjuring a shield of sand to intercept the oncoming attack. The collision resulted in a resounding explosion, scattering mud and water in its wake.

As the aftermath settled, puddles of water dotted the battlefield, a testament to the ferocity of the clash.

"Suiton: Mizu Bunshin no Jutsu! (Water Release: Water Clone Technique)" Haru's voice cut through the chaos as he molded water into clones of himself.

Positioning themselves strategically around Gaara, Haru and his clones launched a coordinated assault, their blades flashing with deadly intent.

"Die, you punk! Konoha-Ryū: Hagane no Hakiri! (Leaf-Style: Steel Leaf Cutter)" Haru's battle cry filled the air as he and his clones closed in on Gaara, their strikes swift and precise.

Yet, Gaara was a master of defense, his sand once again serving as an impenetrable barrier against their onslaught. The blades met sand with a dull thud, their attacks rendered futile.

Undeterred, Haru shifted tactics, reappearing above Gaara with a gravity-enhanced strike. "Not yet! Konoha-Ryū: Hagane no Tosshin! (Leaf-Style: Steel Thrust)" Haru's voice reverberated as he unleashed the full force of his attack.

The impact was met with resistance, Gaara's sand proving to be a formidable opponent. Haru's shock was evident as he watched the sand creep up his sword, threatening to engulf it entirely.

Realizing the futility of his efforts, Haru made a split-second decision, releasing his grip on his sword.

Haru then backed off and jumped in the air, hurling multiple kunai at Gaara, each one intercepted by Gaara's swift manipulation of sand. Landing on a nearby tree branch, he swiftly performed a series of hand seals.

"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu! (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique)" Haru intoned, releasing a massive fireball towards Gaara. His third teammate then aided Haru by adding a wind-style jutsu to the mix.

"Futon: Fujin no Toiki! (Wind Release: Fujin's Exhale)" Haru's teammate's voice joined the fray, the gust of wind fueling the flames and increasing their speed.

Gaara reacted with characteristic calmness, gesturing with his hand. Sand swirled around him, forming a protective barrier that halted the fireball's advance. The resulting explosion sent hot wind rippling through the area, scattering debris in its wake.

Haru gritted his teeth at the sight of his attacks being effortlessly thwarted.

"Is that it?..." Gaara's low voice cut through the chaos, his demeanor unflappable.

"I'm just getting started!" Haru's determination flared; his resolve unbroken. From his sleeve, he produced a kunai, his grip firm as he rushed towards Gaara with renewed vigor.

But Gaara was prepared. With a simple gesture, he invoked his sand jutsu.

"Sabaku Kyū (Sand Binding Coffin)," Gaara uttered, causing a massive hand made of sand to emerge from the ground, latching onto Haru's leg and halting him in his tracks. Despite Haru's struggles, the sand encased him completely, leaving him helpless and at Gaara's mercy.

"*groan* G-Get this sand... Off of me!" Haru's demands rang out, desperate and futile against the relentless grip of Gaara's sand.

"What did you say earlier?... You said you'll make me eat my words?..." Gaara's voice cut through the air, his tone laced with a chilling calmness that sent shivers down Haru's spine.

Defiance flashed in Haru's eyes, but before he could respond, Gaara's sand surged into action.

"Maybe I'll do just that..." Gaara's words were ominous as he manipulated the sand to form a pair of hands that forcibly held Haru's mouth wide open. Despite Haru's struggles, the sand proved unyielding, overpowering his resistance with ease.

With grim determination, Gaara proceeded to force-feed Haru sand, filling his body with the suffocating grains. Shock and horror gripped Kiba, Choji, and Sakura as they watched helplessly from afar, their voices rendered mute by the unfolding nightmare.

Even Gaara's own teammates stood frozen, taken aback by the severity of their leader's actions.

After a tense moment, Gaara halted his assault, satisfied that Haru's body was filled with enough sand. Ignoring the muffled sounds emanating from the trapped genin, Gaara swiftly erected a protective shelter of sand over himself and his team.

"Earlier, you kept bragging how tough you and your teammates are... Let's find out what you're really made of..." Gaara's voice held a cold edge as he gestured with both hands, eliciting panicked whimpers from Haru.

With a final glare, Gaara raised Haru's sand-filled body high into the air, his intentions clear. "Sabaku Hakai (Sand Rupture)," Gaara intoned, his voice carrying the weight of impending doom as he unleashed his devastating sand technique.

In an instant, the sand inside Haru's body began to tear him apart from within, a gruesome spectacle that rained blood and innards upon the horrified onlookers. The sheer brutality of Gaara's attack sent shockwaves through the battlefield, a chilling reminder of his terrifying power.

Sakura and Choji's bodies convulsed with the force of their nausea, each retch a silent testament to the horror they bore witness to. They fought to stifle their gagging, keenly aware that any noise could draw unwanted attention to their plight.

Meanwhile, Kiba struggled to contain his own roiling stomach, his hand pressed firmly against his mouth in a desperate bid to suppress the urge to vomit. Whereas Akamaru simply whimpered and hid inside Kiba's jacket.

Sentaro and his teammate stood frozen in shock, their bodies coated in a macabre mixture of blood and sand. Sentaro's heart pounded in his chest as he watched the gruesome scene unfold before him. His eyes widened in horror as Haru's severed head rolled to a stop at his feet, the vacant stare of the lifeless eyes sending a chill down his spine.

The sight was too much for Sentaro's teammate, who succumbed to the overwhelming horror, retching violently at the gruesome sight. Sentaro himself felt bile rise in his throat, his hands trembling with fear as he struggled to maintain his composure in the face of such brutality.

The gruesome sight of Haru's lifeless head sent a wave of revulsion coursing through them, their resolve crumbling in the face of such barbarity.

As Sentaro's teammate succumbed to the overwhelming horror, retching violently at the sight of Haru's severed head, Sentaro himself trembled with fear, his gaze fixed on Gaara and his menacing aura.

Gaara's chilling words hung heavy in the air, each syllable dripping with malice as he delivered his grim pronouncement.

"Those who succumb to the might of the desert shall become one with it, bones and all..." Gaara's voice reverberated with menace, sending a shiver down Sentaro's spine.

With trembling hands, Sentaro retrieved their scroll from his pouch, his voice trembling with fear as he hurled it towards Gaara.

"T-There! Just take it and leave us alone!" Sentaro's desperate plea echoed through the clearing.

The scroll rolled to a stop at Gaara's feet, but the Sand Ninja showed no interest in their offering. With a dismissive gesture, he stepped over the scroll, his attention fixed squarely on Sentaro and his teammate.

A sense of impending doom settled over the forest as Gaara raised his hands once more, his intentions clear.


Kankuro approached the discarded scroll, his eyes narrowing as he realized it was merely a black scroll, worth only ten points. The sheer brutality of the massacre for such a trivial prize sent shivers up his spine.

"All that for ten measly points," Kankuro muttered under his breath.

"Can we go now, Gaara?... Let's just bide our time—" he suggested, only to be interrupted once again.

"Shut up, Kankuro..." Gaara snapped, his voice low and menacing.

"It's still... not enough for me." His gaze shifted, fixing on a specific direction.

Team 8, hiding in the underbrush, froze. They quickly dropped to the ground, hoping against hope that they hadn't been spotted.

"Crap... Did he notice us?!" Kiba thought, his heart pounding in his chest.

"Enough's enough, Gaara," Kankuro said, trying to sound firm but his voice wavered. Gaara's glare only hardened in response.

"Don't tell me you're scared, coward?..." Gaara replied coldly.

"Tch... Gaara! I know this is nothing for you, but it's too dangerous for us! Haven't you considered that?! We have enough points already!" Kankuro argued, his frustration boiling over.

"Weaklings don't have the right to order me around," Gaara responded, his words dripping with contempt, angering Kankuro further.

In a fit of rage, Kankuro grabbed Gaara's shirt and pulled him closer. "I said that's enough! For once in your life, listen to what your elder siblings have to say!" he demanded, his voice shaking with emotion.

"I've never thought of you as my siblings... and I'm sure both of you don't see me that way as well," Gaara countered, his voice eerily calm.

"Get in my way... and I won't hesitate to kill you as well." Gaara said as he slapped Kankuro's hand away, breaking his grip on his shirt.

Gaara then raised his hand once more, his intent clear. But Temari quickly intervened, her voice trembling.

"G-Gaara... come on, cut it out, please... don't be so cold towards us," she pleaded, desperation in her eyes.

Gaara ignored her, pointing his hand in the direction where Team 8 was hiding. The members of Team 8 were paralyzed with fear, their hearts racing as they watched Gaara gather sand around his hand.

But then, in an unexpected move, Gaara formed a cork out of the sand and plugged up his gourd.

"Fine..." Gaara muttered, his voice filled with reluctant resignation. The tension in the air slowly dissipated, but the fear lingered, leaving everyone on edge.

- With Team 8 -

With Team Gaara walking away from the clearing, Sakura, Kiba, and Choji remained hidden, their hearts pounding in their chests. The gruesome scene they had just witnessed left them shaken to the core.

Sakura wiped the sweat from her brow, her hand trembling. "That was... too close," she whispered, her voice barely audible.

Kiba, still fighting the urge to vomit, nodded in agreement. "We need to stay away from that guy... he's a monster," he said, his tone filled with a mix of fear and anger.

Choji, pale and visibly shaken, looked at the blood-soaked ground where Haru's remains lay scattered. "Let's just get out of here," he said, his voice quivering.

The three of them slowly stood up, carefully making sure they were not being watched or followed. They moved cautiously through the forest, the image of Gaara's ruthless display of power etched deeply in their minds.

With a shared understanding and a renewed sense of caution, Team 8 pressed on, their minds filled with the hope that they wouldn't have to face Gaara and his siblings anytime soon. They moved through the forest with heightened awareness, each step bringing them closer to their goal and further from the nightmare they had just escaped.

(A/N: I had fun writing this part, especially the Gaara part. Poor Haru, sorry but you had to die in order to show just how ruthless Gaara is. Also, apologies for taking too long, I had to somehow write a scene for Team 7 and Team 8, luckily, I was able to do so just by writing it from a different angle. Anyway, hope y'all liked this one. Take care and cheers!"