I. Hate. Everything.

Even more than last time.

But whatever. Let's get a move on.

Uchiha Sasuke was still many things.

Angry was one of them. Perhaps the most important at this moment. "Why didn't HE get anything!?" he said, pouting.

"Mostly? Cuteness," Sakura remarked, stretching a little, now free of her largest teammate's weight on her. Strong though she might be, she had limits, and carrying both her teammates was uncomfortable as all hell. It wasn't a weight she was used to. Even if she felt entirely smug about being the only one of her teammates who could walk by this point. "You look like a genin caught peeping in the hotsprings. Naruto just looks like a little kid you dragged along with you. And I'm a girl, so of course I got away without any form of punishment whatsoever. Girls can't be perverts, after all," Sakura said, smugly.

"... That's bull," Sasuke said, frowning.

"Of course it is, but hypocrites are everywhere," Sakura said, still smug. "Now, we seriously need to report."

At this, Sasuke grimaced. "But who's going to believe us? Maybe if Naruto was awake, but..."

The blond had collapsed into unconsciousness shortly after arriving. Sasuke hadn't noticed, what with being surrounded by the enticing forms of naked females everywhere, but Sakura had and she'd been able to fish Naruto out of the springs before he drowned. Then she'd sat down to watch Sasuke get lectured for being a pervert. Well, lecture was an understatement, and he would probably sport quite a few bruises, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.

Best not to dwell on how much she liked seeing Sasuke in pain, though.

"We'll just have to try. Kakashi-sensei's probably worried sick..."

"... I believe you," the Hokage said, "because I know of that mirror. I'd thought that the cave and its guardian would be enough to dissuade any from taking it but... Regardless, at the very least, we can call off the search for you now. Kakashi will be glad."

"Training's going to be torture tomorrow, isn't it?" Sasuke asked.

"Yes. Yes it will," a lazy drawl said.

Well... at least they got to see something they never thought they would. Hatake Kakashi appeared to have lost sleep, his hair was actually frayed and looking like he hadn't properly washed it in weeks, and his hands were twitching.

Even if they were going to die... it was a pretty funny sight.

"Leave Naruto to me. I'll get a medic to look him over," Sarutobi said.

Kakashi nodded. "You guys... I'm glad to see you're safe," he said, absent mindedly. "Tomorrow. Six AM sharp."

"... Never change, sensei," Sakura said, smiling widely at him. "We love you just the way you are."

The jounin was surprised, but he nodded nonetheless.

Sarutobi chuckled. "I wish my students had been as honest as yours. If Tsunade ever said something like that, I think I'd have a heart attack," he said, a somewhat amused smirk on his face. "Nonetheless... I am glad to see that our missing genin have returned. We'll speak of this later... For now, I am sure you wish to rest."

Emotionally and physically exhausted, caught up with the stress of their situation, Team Kakashi agreed.

Each departed to their home.

Sasuke was received with a hug from his parents. The cover story was simple. To fool your enemies, first you must fool your allies. And so when Team 7 had their first undercover mission, nobody was told of it and thus they were believed MIA by most. It was bullshit, but... it smoothed out the situation. Sasuke's heart ached when his parents, even his father, expressed how proud they were of him, for taking such a painful duty into himself.

They might've been shocked by how tightly Sasuke held onto them. Itachi didn't know what it was that prompted Sasuke to punch him and tell him to never, ever, do something drastic without consulting with him first, but he loved his little brother enough to forgive him when Sasuke clung to him as he had to their parents.

Sasuke himself finally crashed and just went to sleep, crying to himself, almost unable to believe how much he'd missed this place.

Sakura was no different when she arrived to her own home. Well, with the exception of having no big brother to scold. Her parents had been worried sick, but she assuaged their worries. What she herself had done was nothing dangerous, or so she claimed anyway, and that her biggest regret was having to fool her parents so that her cover worked.

Even if she lied to their faces, her tears were real, and the cause was, as well. But Sakura was a kunoichi, and lying was part of who she was, so nobody would raise an eyebrow if the truth didn't quite match up to what she'd said.

Sakura was, perhaps, a little less restrained than Sasuke. That was why, unlike him, she could actually do what she wished to do. Neither of her parents begrudged her request to let her sleep with them, just as she had when she'd had nightmares, not so long ago.

"Are you healthy enough?"

Sarutobi's voice held a hint of warmth and familiarity, but was still the commanding voice of the village's kage.

Naruto simply nodded, not looking too affected.

"That is good to hear. I will expect a full report of the situation whenever you are able," the Hokage said, nodding, before he pulled a book from behind his back. It was orange. "Here," he said, "he's been driving himself crazy trying to find you, you know."

It was odd to see Naruto's usually expressionless face twist into the grimace it had. He was never one to express distaste at anything. Nevertheless, he took the offered book.

The office felt stiffling, suffocating even. "Well... I should be about done with work for today. Give me a minute, and I'll escort you home so you can sleep for the night. Tomorrow will be a busy day for you. Kakashi will give you details later. Your first assignment is still a priority."

Naruto nodded. Then he went to one of the corners of the room and sat down, back against the wall, bringing the orange book, open on the first page, up, putting it right in front of his face.

Naruto watched the Hokage's retreating back, before closing the door behind him. An empty apartment greeted him. Naruto simply walked to his room before undressing and laying on his bed. His book was once more in front of him, his eyes tracing every character on the pages even in the penumbra of the unlit room.

Outside, he heard some dogs bark a little before others began to join in, a man scream in protest and the telltale sounds of a fight occurring on the alley right next to the building.

"Because, clearly, I need to teach you children that it's not okay to investigate everything you come across, I've decided that for this day, we're going to be doing physical conditioning, as I'm sure you didn't have the chance to properly keep up with your training during your undercover mission," Kakashi said, looking much better than he had the day prior.

"Should I be terrified?" Sasuke asked, turning to Sakura.

"You will be," she said, nodding seriously, "you will be."

"Now now, my cute little genin, it's time to begin. First, we'll run to the training ground we're going to use, since this is not appropriate. Now, follow me, I'll lead you to Training Ground 44," he said. "Last one there'll be punished, so hop to it!"

"So many legs... WHY DOES IT HAVE SO MANY LEGS!?"

"The leeches... the leeches... they're everywhere! They're eating the centipede! And then they're going to eat me!"

"What is that!? What even IS that!?"

"Eww... At least clean the bug guts from your hair, Naruto!"



"Uh... Sakura, that's not a tree..."


Mad, cackling laughter sounded across the forest, interrupted only by massive explosions that caused tremors all over Konoha.

The entire week that followed their arrival was quite hectic. Loads of people expressed their sympathy, and Team Kakashi wondered at the speed rumors spread at.

Sasuke and Sakura'd had plenty of fun when Naruto had found himself nearly asphyxiated when they visited Ichiraku's ramen stand, as the man's daughter had leapt onto and glomped Naruto as if to make up for the lost time, clearly expressing her worry about how long he'd been missing.

Maybe they'd been a lot more receptive to the people of Konoha's goodwill if it didn't come after an entire day spent with Kakashi, who seemed to take his duty as their teacher more seriously than ever, practically torturing them with training every chance he got. On the flipside, Sakura was now definitely certain that she could kill a giant tiger with one hand tied behind her back.

Kakashi smiled to himself. "I missed you guys," he said, patting his exhausted students on their heads, ignoring their weak attempts at revenge. "Anyway, now that you've been sufficiently punished for making your beloved sensei worry for your worthless hides, I believe you're ready for this."

He was holding three long sheets of paper that had dotted lines at the bottom.

"These are your forms for the chunin exam. Basically, sign at the bottom with your names, and then go submit these tomorrow, over in the academy building. You'll receive further instructions once you're there."

He was feeling smug for the rest of the day, seeing how much it brightened up their day.

Team Kakashi met up with Team Asuma and Team Kurenai in the big room that the academy used for school-wide events that required all the students to hear some sort of announcement at the same time. "Man... everyone was so worried about you guys, and then it turns out you were all in some sort of super important mission? I'm jealous, forehead," Ino said, crossing her arms as she looked at Sakura.

"Yeah. Jealous," Sakura said. "Trust me, you shouldn't be. It wasn't anywhere near as glamorous or cool as it sounds, trust me," she said, shaking her head. Sure, there were moments that could be called good, but... well, if she weren't a shinobi, she'd probably have been traumatized by the experience. She silently thanked the stress management classes she'd received at the academy.

"I can imagine," Ino said, nodding seriously. "You okay?" she asked.

Sakura nodded. "I was with the boys, so... I at least had someone," she said, "but..."

"Speaking about that... you were all alone with Sasuke-kun! You lucky bitch!"

Sighing, Sakura rolled her eyes, before shaking her head and laughing a little. She couldn't tell Ino that she'd been around not one but two copies of Sasuke, that would probably cause an aneurysm. Fun thought it should be, she had much more important things to do, like catch up with Ino. "Anyway, what have you guys been doing? I mean, you must have had some serious training if you're here..."

With 'here' being 'surrounded by hostile ninja in the middle of the chunin exams'. "Like crazy! Asuma-sensei seemed to kick his training into overdrive after you guys went missing! At the time, I thought he was worried, but if you guys went on some sort of super secret mission... maybe he was worried he'd fall too far behind? I mean, we weren't even training as much as Team 8, so..."

Sakura smiled. Apparently, hers wasn't the only teacher who cared about his team. Even if Kakashi showed it in decidedly odd ways. "So you're a lot stronger, then?"

"You bet!" Ino said, patting her bicep. "You'll see, I'm gonna kick your ass, Forehead!"

"Bring it on, you pig!" Sakura said.

"Well, it's good to see you guys are excited, but... you might want to call a little less attention to yourselves, hm?" a calm, collected and soft voice spoke.

It made Sakura flinch. "You're good," she said, turning to the intruder upon the conversation. "Didn't even feel you there."

"Eheh," the newcomer seemed somewhat embarrassed, blushing slightly, "I'm not very good in direct combat, what with being a medic and all, so I'm used to sneaking up on people," he admitted.

Sakura's eyes checked his forehead protector, and she observed it was from Konoha. She also noted that it was perfectly polished, but that was irrelevant. He was a young man, not a boy, definitely, of some fifteen or sixteen years of age. He had odd colored hair, as silver wasn't common by any stretch of the word unless you were related to Kakashi, which the young man probably wasn't. He was also wearing round and thin glasses, so he probably wore them for reasons other than poor eyesight. He was also wearing a lot of purple, which made Sakura run a quick comparison to Ino... and found them more of a match the more she did. The young man even had long hair! "You're a medic? Hm... I wonder... How do you enter the med nin program? I've got a friend that I think would be somewhat interested."

"Ah... it's a complicated process that consists of submitting a form at the hospital... and that's pretty much it," the boy said, smiling widely at his little joke, even if it wasn't all that funny, "your friend would have to submit the form and wait two days to a week, whereupon he'd be contacted and then a few tests would be done to see if he's got the right mindset and affinity for medical techniques. Not everyone can become a medic ninja, you know? It takes a lot of dedication and work. So much so that it really takes away from your other training. Can't really be both a combatant or a medic unless you're really talented."

"I bet Sasuke-kun could do it," Ino said, simply.

"He might," the boy said, simply, "from what I've heard, he is rather talented."

"Anyway... I feel kinda rude, but, who are you? You didn't introduce yourself," Sakura interrupted, looking oddly at the interloper.

"Oh, how rude of me, my apologies. I am Yakushi Kabuto," he introduced himself, pushing his glasses up so they rested a bit further up on his nose than they did before.

"I'm Yamanaka Ino, and this is Haruno Sakura," Ino introduced, smiling at him.

"Nice to meet you," he said, bowing slightly. "Anyway, I really should tell you to keep it down a bit. This room's full of shinobi that are all willing and able to kill rookies like you, so you should try to sneak by without bringing much trouble to yourselves."

"You sound like you talk from experience," Sakura said, frowning a little.

"I've had a bad experience or two," Kabuto said, nodding. "The second time I tried out for this exam, my team, well, they couldn't shut up about how awesome they were and they angered a team from Iwa, who then hunted us down and knocked us out of the exam first thing. It was kind of humiliating how easy they beat us," he admitted, his sheepish smile at odds with the tale he told. Sakura supposed it was more of an embarrassment to himself than he let on.

"You must have a lot of experience, then," Ino surmised.

"As a matter of fact, I'd say I do! This is my seventh try on the exam, after all," Kabuto admitted, nodding at her. "And I'm not the only one. Lots of teams have to try over and over again, and most don't even try until they're already adults anyway."

"Really?" Ino asked, her eyes shining. "We're so cool, then! We got here fresh off the academy!"

"Well, rookies aren't a common sight, I'll confirm that much," Kabuto said, smiling at Ino's enthusiasm. "Just... take care, okay? Tell you what, I can even give you a hand. Lots of ninja here are ninja I've seen before, and I've compiled a lot of information on any team that might be noteworthy. I've written it all down on my ninja info cards," he said, pulling out a deck of cards. So, if you have any niggling doubts... You could compare yourself to some of the other teams here."

"Oh, oh, do you have anything on me?" Ino asked.

"Sure I do! Information on the Konoha genin comes really easy, since the registry for us is public access for any ninja," Kabuto admitted, giving Ino a kind smile. "Let's see..." he began to shuffle his cards before pulling one out with a flourish, seemingly without looking at it. It was blank. "See how it's blank? It just takes a little application of my chakra..." and then data began to fill it up, "here we go, Yamanaka Ino... Hm, it says here your taijutsu's below average, but that you displayed talent with your family's jutsu. You're part of this generation's Ino Shika Cho team, right? So you're probably very dangerous with your team, but not so much of a threat on your own."

Ino frowned. "That's outdated! My taijutsu's improved a lot lately!" she said, huffing.

"I checked the Genin Registry just last week, though," Kabuto admitted, apologetically. "If it makes you feel better, your taijutsu was ranked as atrocious before, and if I recall correctly, there was a note about your marked improvement."

"A-A-Atrocious?!" Ino nearly shrieked.

"Well, Ino... you sucked. Badly," Sakura admitted. "I mean, we were equals, and I know I was horrible before Sasuke and Naruto started to teach me."

"And you, Haruno Sakura... You're rather impressive, aren't you? Your taijutsu is marked as well above average, though your ninjutsu and genjutsu are only average. You seem to have prodigious strength. Perhaps you're aiming to be our generation's Tsunade-sama?" Kabuto asked with a green. "With your nearly perfect chakra control, you'd be a shoe in for the medical ninja program."

Sakura blushed a little at the praise. "Maybe, but... I don't really care about being a medic. I mean, Sasuke's a lot more interested than I am, and I think I'm not really well suited for medicine anyway. Not with my temperament," she remarked. "I don't think I'd be able to restrain myself from wacking an unruly patient or two."

"I know the feeling," Kabuto said, nodding. "And I agree, if you feel that way, you most likely shouldn't sign up for it," he admitted. "Still, you may wish to see how you stack up to some of the other genin here."

"I've seen a couple noteworthy genin here or there," Sakura said, simply. "But I don't have names or anything. There was a team from Suna, and the two older team members were obviously afraid of the little one... so that got me thinking."

"Hm... there are a couple teams from Suna here, but I think I know who you mean. I don't have cards on them, I haven't gotten around to making those yet," Kabuto admitted sheepishly, "but I have some information. They're the Kazekage's children, and if the rumors from the Suna teams are to be believed, then the redhead boy is some kind of monster..."

"A jinchuuriki, then," Sakura said, simply. "It's the only thing that fits."

"I fear so, myself," Kabuto admitted. "Suna is supposed to have the Ichibi, and it'd only make sense that it be sealed in the Kazekage's son."

"Suna sent a Jinchuuriki here!?" Ino asked, looking somewhat terrified.

"Relax. They had to have had it cleared with Hokage-sama," Kabuto explained, "and it's an allied nation, so I doubt we have much to fear from him, but I still recommend steering clear."

"But... but..." Ino stammered, not quite sure how to explain to those two that Jinchuuriki were bad news no matter whose side they were on.

"Anyway, there are some other teams you ought to watch out for. Kumo and Kiri have chosen to send teams this year, and they're all relatively strong teams. Some of the smaller vilages, as well, have sent teams. Usually, they're not much to worry about, as smaller villages can hardly compete on even terms with the major villages, but I'd be careful nonetheless. What they might lack in power and training, they could very well make up for in cleverness."

"Thank you, you've helped us a lot," Sakura said, offering Kabuto a genuine smile. "I wish I could do something to repay you, though..."

"Don't worry about it, just make sure the other rookies know what I told you. I'd hate to see you guys' careers being cut down before you could achieve your potential," Kabuto said, nodding firmly.

Ino smiled and blushed slightly. "You think I have a lot of potential?" she asked.

"Of course I do. You've made a really big improvement in a really short time! I'm sure that if you put your mind to it, you could be great one day," Kabuto said, offering her a smile that would've looked patronizing if he weren't so sincere about it. "I'll see you guys latter, I'll go around and try to eavesdrop on a conversation or two. See if I can get some interesting info."

"See you later," Sakura said, waving at him as he began to weave into the mass of genin that were gathered in all sorts of small groups, the room beginning to feel slightly cramped.

"He was cool," Ino noted, a slight blush on her face. "Maybe not as cool as Sasuke-kun, but very cool nonetheless! Man, he even said I have a lot of potential, too!"

Sakura smiled. "He's right, you know? If you could pull your head out of that fat pig ass of yours," Sakura challenged.

"Oh, you're on! You'll see! When I first get a chance, I'm so stomping all over that huge forehead of yours!" Ino countered.

Sasuke groaned. "Kiba, I will punch you in the nuts if you don't stop bothering me," Sasuke said.

"But dude, the least you could do is at least give us something! I mean, we had to go out looking for you guys," Kiba said. "And even if you tried, I'm loads stronger now! I bet I could beat you up really easily!"

"Kiba. You shouldn't keep asking about that. Why? Because it's clearly a secret that Sasuke cannot tell you about," Shino said, simply, adjusting his sunglasses. "Besides, I also believe you should not boast. Why? Because you have not been able to defeat me, yet."

"Shino, man, I've told you time and time a gain. Clear. Concise. Short. It's not that hard, dude!" Kiba said, groaning at Shino's overly lengthy sentences.

"I didn't have a good day yesterday, and I'm kind of tense because today hasn't gone any better, now you'll either help me find Naruto in this room, or I will knock you out and go find him myself," Sasuke said, his voice brooking no arguments from Kiba. "Now, find him!"

"Oh, him? Well, he's right over there with Hinata, Shikamaru and Chouji," Kiba said, gesturing behind him, but there was only a mass of other genin there. "Well, past those guys, anyway," he amended.

"That's all I wanted," Sasuke said, simply, as he started to head in that direction, only to be stopped by Kiba.

"Hey, man! You still haven't answered! Are you willing to make that bet or not?" he asked.

"Sure," Sasuke said, rolling his eyes. "If you can beat me, I'll be your maid for a week, whatever. I won't lose anyway," he said, shrugging.

Kiba grinned. "It's gonna be one sweet week!"

At that, however, Shino seemed somewhat perturbed. "I am beginning to fear you, Kiba. Why? Because your excitement at the thought of seeing Sasuke in a maid's outfit is creepy."

"W-What!? No, no, don't go reading too deep, man! It's not like that, I swear!" Kiba said, gesticulating wildly with his hands, almost as if he were trying to disperse a cloud of smoke.

"And that's why we don't socialize with Konoha," someone nearby said. "They're all a bunch of freaks and weirdos."

"Dammit! It's not like that!" Kiba protested once more.

"What are you doing here?" Sasuke asked, as Naruto turned to greet him.

Naruto merely raised an eyebrow, not removing his eyes from the book he was reading, seated behind Chouji and Shikamaru, who were seemingly napping, and beside Hinata, who seemed to be nervously twiddling her thumbs.

"Oh. Right," Sasuke said. "It's probably hard to read with the constant murmurs over there," he mused to himself. "Well, I'm sure Sakura can find us," he said, sitting on Naruto's other side and pulling out his own copy of the book. True to something written by an expert ninja who was quite possibly one of the strongest shinobi ever, anything written in Icha Icha that had to do with combat, a surprising amount for a book series that had started as pointless smut, was entirely trustworthy. Sasuke had actually gotten quite a few tips for a lot of his techniques, chakra control and several exercises from the book. Whether it be the protagonist himself training to go rescue a damsel in distress, after which she'd reward him with sex, or the protagonist adapting ninja techniques for every day use, up to and including bedroom use, just about everything could be replicated with a little work, and it served as excellent training.

Sasuke was impressed about how useful a lot of the tips that Jiraiya had inadvertently written down were. From simple things like the correct way to mold your chakra for different kinds of jutsu to something more complex like how variations in the composition of molded chakra, between the physical and spiritual parts, could have different effects on jutsu.

It was a testament to Jiraiya's own immense skill as a shinobi and as a writer that he managed to work in such pointless tangents and detours without boring the reader. Something that other writers could only somewhat aspire to. Maybe it was the porn. Sasuke had heard that sex tends to sell a lot, so maybe that was it.

So lost was Sasuke in his book that he almost didn't manage to hear the call to step into formation, as all the teams began to stand in rows. He absent mindedly fell into line with Naruto and Sakura, not bothering to ask when she'd gotten there, and looked up at the raised platform that was set on an already high up balcony. A large man covered in black and with each inch of his exposed skin having a layer or two of scars on it had appeared. And he seemed amused.

"Alright, you brats! Listen up, because I'm only going to explain this once! This is the official start of Konohagakure no Sato's Chunin Exams! All those of you who are here, congratulations, you've passed the very first test, that is, showing up on time. A lack of punctuality is unforgivable. The doors have been locked to prevent both escape as well as unauthorized entry. I will explain to you the second test now. You will be separated into the building's many different classrooms, and a proctor will report to each of those rooms. Your task will be to complete the written test that will be handled to you."

There were soft murmurs for a moment before the scarred man slammed his hand into the wooden railing in front of him, silencing absolutely everyone in the room instantly.

"You may quit at any time, instantaneously failing the exam. If you're caught cheating, two points will be deducted from your score. If you are caught cheating five times, regardless of your score, you and your team will be disqualified. If you speak up or disrupt the test in any way, you and your team will be disqualified. If you attack anyone, for any reason, you and your team will be disqualified and you will be charged with the appropriate charges depending on the gravity of your transgression."

There was only the shuffle of movement to interrupt the silence as he paused for a moment. Sasuke could see the tops of heads moving around, so he assumed that there was somebody handing something to the students. Possibly a slip of paper with the number of the classroom they ought to report to. Sasuke got confirmation when a chunin handed him a slip with the floor and number of his classroom.

"Further details about the test will be provided as they become relevant," the man said, finally, his dark eyes sweeping over the entirety of the crowd as he seemed to judge each and every one of them, finding them lacking. "We of Konoha reserve the right to apply whatever amount of force we feel is necessary in order to subdue and erradicate any and all that we consider a theat to our village, our ninja or our citizens."

Sasuke nodded to himself. A clear warning to all the foreigners that they were under watch. Konoha had most likely already cleared it with the governments and leaderships of the other villages and nations.

"With this, the second test has officially begun. You have one hour, both to find your assigned classroom as well as complete the test!"

There was a mad scramble for the doors, as soon as they were unlocked, as everyone wanted to have as much time as possible to complete the test.

Sasuke sighed. "Windows?" he asked.

"Windows," Sakura confirmed.

They had classrooms in different floors, but they were in the third floor, Sasuke was in the first and Sakura in the second. Naruto was in the second floor with Sakura, but on another classroom.

They'd all be fine.

"So..." Kakashi began, leaning back on his chair in the lounge provided for Konoha's jounin sensei to watch on the three dozen screens, each connected to a different camera in each classroom.

"So," Asuma said.

"Yes," Kurenai replied, nodding. "Are you all willing to make it a bet?"

"Maa, I'll win again," Kakashi said. "I still haven't gotten the full payment from that one, you know?" he asked.

"Not our fault you had urgent responsibilities," Asuma said, clearly not really caring. "Either way, I made the bet, I'll honor it. Kid soaks up what I tell him like a sponge anyway, so it shouldn't be too difficult."

"Same here," Kurenai said, shrugging. "So... let's make it a little less time consuming this time."

"What could it be?" Asuma asked.

"I have no idea," Kakashi said.

"Hm. I know. When I win, you two will have to pay for the party I'll throw my students," Kurenai said, simply.

"Don't you mean 'If' you win, Kurenai?" Asuma asked. "Also, sounds good."

"I know I'll win," Kurenai said, simply.

Kakashi smiled. "You're welcome to your delusions. I think I can think of something sufficiently extravagant and expensive."

"Betting on your genin's results!? How unyouthful!" a rather exuberant voice interrupted.

"Hey Gai," Kakashi said, waving his hand to the tall, imposing figure of the jounin that had appeared behind him. "You in?"

"Your unyouthfulness is appaling! To make such a bet and not invite me..." Gai said, grinning.

"Okay, then. Terms are simplicity itself. Whoever has the most students promoted wins. In case of a tie, Hokage-sama breaks," Kurenai explained. "You in?"

"Of course! I have full confidence that my team is in the very springtime of their youth!"

Sasuke hadn't taken very long to figure out he was supposed to cheat. The fact that three seats to the left and one in front was an Uchiha, an Uchiha that Sasuke knew had become a chunin two years ago, confirmed who he was supposed to cheat from. His Sharingan could very easily track the movement that the man was making, and so Sasuke quickly had a completed set of answers.

Even if the first was probably wrong, as Sasuke hadn't gotten that one, and the second was somewhat incomplete, as it'd taken that long for Sasuke to catch on.

He had no worries about his teammates, and so he just waited until the proctor assigned them the tenth qeustion, which the paper said would be revealed when there were only ten minutes left.

Which happened to be five minutes after Sasuke finished checking over the answers he'd written down, making sure that any characters that he hadn't been able to perfectly imitate with the Sharingan were written correctly.

"Okay, brats, pencils down," the proctor began. Sasuke locked his eyes into her brown ones, because staring at her chest, and the breasts that threatened to spill out of her chunin vest, would probably lead him down the way of distraction. "Now, the tenth question. However, before it comes, I will have to explain something to you guys. See, the tenth question is the most important one of them all, and I must give you the choice. You may choose not to take the tenth question at all, and leave now. You will be promptly disqualified, and your team will follow."

Sasuke thought it was a stupid choice. What kind of idiot would quit at that stage?

"If you choose to take it and answer it correctly, then you will pass this part and the rest will depend on the score on your test. However, if you answer it wrong, you will not be disqualified. No, you will be forever banned from attending a chunin exam ever again."

Her grin was... unsettling. She didn't have a pretty face, and it certainly wasn't helped by the many, many teeth she showed when her gaze scanned over the genin. Still, it was an empty threat, since it was so ridiculously obvious that Konoha would not be able to enforce such a thing.

"And if you don't believe me, brats, well, here's all the proof you need," she said, pulling a scroll from one of her vests' pockets, unrolling it in front of them. "This is a copy of the scroll detailing the particulars of the second test, and the specific condition set upon the tenth question, signed by each and every one of the leaders of the participating villages, along with their corresponding Daimyo. We have your villages' approval to bar you from ever attending another chunin exam. Now you must choose, but... choose wisely. It might be the most important choice of your life!"

Sasuke's blood ran cold. The Hokage's signature was definitely legitimate. Then... that document probably was, as well.

But he couldn't give up. Not now... and he would be lying if he said that the thought didn't excite him, at least a little.

He nodded to himself, even as students began to trickle out of the room. It struck him that, since teams were separated, one wouldn't know whether one's teammates had chickened out until much later. But it didn't matter to him. He had faith in his team. Sasuke patiently sat and waited as slowly, genin after genin left the room.

Whew. Chunin exams!

The first test isn't too different, but I thought it was different enough to at least be worth this speedrun through it.