I do not own Naruto. All rights remain that of Kishimoto.
It's Part 2 of the Chunin exams!
"The forest of death." Hinata breathed as the seal-reinforced fence came into view. "Anko-san told me quite a bit about it while we were scouting out Gato's mansion. There are a large number of dangerous animals and plants in there."
"Then since you know more than we do, you have command while we are in there." Naruto said, then he looked at Kiba, who nodded.
"I can smell the things in there, but it'll take me a day or so to identify enough of it to let me help guide us. Hinata has my vote."
Akamaru yipped and Kiba nodded. "Akamaru's too."
Hinata looked at her team-mates, then sighed. "If you are both certain, then I shall do my best."
"We know." Naruto smiled, then he looked round. "Hey, is that Zabuza standing over there?"
Kiba and Hinata spun round and their shocked gazes came to rest on none other than Momochi Zabuza who was talking to Mitarashi Anko while three Mist genin stood nearby, each with a different weapon on their backs.
"It… is…" Kiba swallowed nervously. "But… how?"
"I have a different question." Hinata said slowly. "Why is the hunter-nin from Wave with him?"
"Let's find out." Kiba said and he stalked towards the swordsman with Hinata and Naruto following closely. Zabuza saw them coming.
"What the…? You got three of the invisible kid?"
Anko glanced over and started to laugh. "Nah, the other two decided to dress like the Toton gaki. Means their enemies have no clue as to which one they are facing and since they can Kawarimi with each other without warning, even when they have been identified, they can still switch."
"Very clever." Zabuza nodded in approval, then he waved over the three Kiri genin.
"Haku, Suigetsu, Chojuro, get over here!"
The three genin moved forwards and Naruto cocked his head. Although two of them were obviously boys, the white-haired one with the odd double-weapon and the one with the two-handled sword on his back, the third one…
"You a boy or girl?" Kiba blurted out, causing both Hinata and Naruto to facepalm. The dark-haired genin simply smiled and remained quiet.
"We could ask the same of you." The white-haired one stated and Kiba growled at him before Naruto placed a warning hand on his shoulder.
"You're masked, remember?"
"So." Zabuza asked as he leant against a tree, "Which of you is the invisible one who Haku almost killed by accident?"
Naruto sent a chakra pulse to warn his clones to be ready, then he stepped forwards.
"Brats, if you find yourself going up against him, fall back." Zabuza said. "He's got an invisibility trick better than me in my mist plus he can move his entire group out of harm's way in under a second. Still haven't worked out how."
"Yes, Zabuza-sensei." Haku said as Chojuro nodded. Suigetsu simply sneered.
"You mean this is the genin that caused you to… erk!"
Everyone around gasped in shock as Zabuza impaled Suigetsu on his blade, but Suigetsu simply walked forwards to get off the blade and then turned to face his sensei.
"Look, just because I can turn into water and back doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt!"
"I know. Now shut up and learn." Zabuza growled. "Their sensei is the Godaime Hokage-to-be, the Mangekyo-user who took me down with a single glance within seconds of his full Dojutsu manifesting. You really think the genin assigned to a shinobi like that would be weak?"
Suigetsu frowned, then his shoulders slumped. "Fuck."
"Yeah." Zabuza said. "Take anyone else out but not them because they'll hand you all your asses, and the Mizukage wouldn't like it if you don't reach the finals."
"Yeah, she's scary when she's angry." Chojuro half-whispered and Zabuza nodded with a distant expression before he brought himself back to reality.
"So. We never got introduced at Wave."
Hinata removed her mask and bowed. "I am Hyuuga Hinata. My team-mates are Inuzuka Kiba, his ninken Akamaru and my fiancée…"
"…Namikaze-Uzumake Naruto, also known as Yurei Ruto." Zabuza interrupted. "I don't think there's a single Shinobi in the Elemental Lands who doesn't know who he is."
"Damn." Naruto swore under his breath.
"You got that right, kid. You're already almost as famous as your old man."
"…you mean the rumour is true?" A new voice said and Naruto looked round to see Ino staring at him. "Wow, I thought it was just another silly story like the one about the Uchiha having a plan to revolt against Konoha, but you're really the son of the Yondaime? No wonder the Hyuuga are letting you marry Hinata!"
"It's not like that!" Hinata protested, then she paused. "Well, a bit like that, but only a bit."
"Settle down, brats!" Anko shouted and everyone turned to look at her.
"You all have a scroll," Anko said with a wicked grin," But you need two to finish the next stage. Go to one of the desks and show your scroll, then fill in the forms. After all, we don't want your deaths to be blamed on Konoha. Once you've filled out the forms, head for the gate you are assigned to and then wait for the signal to enter the forest. To pass, you need an Earth scroll and a Heaven scroll and then your entire team needs to make it to the tower in the middle. You will have exactly five days before the test ends. If you die, your team is out. Leave the forest before the end of the test, you fail. Got it? Good, now get going!"
Behind their masks, all three genin of Team 7 smirked.
"We'll present our Earth scroll." Naruto said quietly. "There's a free desk over there, let's move."
"And once we get in?" Kiba asked quietly.
"We head straight for the tower." Naruto replied just as quietly. "We move as fast as we can. With luck, we won't meet anyone on the way."
"I agree." Hinata whispered, then she giggled. "It'll mean more time with my snuggly."
Kiba almost choked as he tried not to laugh.
"ONE MINUTE UNTIL THE START OF THE TEST!" Anko's voice echoed through the loudspeakers. "THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO QUIT, UNLESS YOU WANT TO DIE! Mwa-ha-hahaha-hahahaha!"
"She does a good evil laugh." Kiba said admiringly. "I gotta learn how to do that, it'll really freak out my enemies."
"Indeed." Naruto laughed. "Hey, if we both learn to do it the same way, we can freak people out even more."
"I like it!" Kiba agreed with a wicked grin. "What do you think, Hinata?"
Hinata sighed. "I can see how it could be useful, but it does seem a bit childish."
"Whatever works." Kiba shrugged. "Ruto… once we get in, could you send loads of clones ahead? That way, all we need to do is get within Kawarimi range of the tower and…"
"My clones can jump us the rest of the way." Naruto finished. "Nice."
"THIRTY SECONDS TO DECIDE TO LEAVE AND LIVE, VICTIMS!"
"Anko is enjoying that a little too much." Naruto sighed and his team-mates nodded in agreement, then Naruto frowned. "Kiba, how come you couldn't tell Haku's gender? I thought your sense of smell allowed you to know things like that?
Kiba looked embarrassed. "It should, but… I swear that Haku uses something to hide… his? her? gender. I couldn't tell, it's never happened to me before."
"I… could use my Byakugan to find out." Hinata offered and Naruto shrugged.
"It probably isn't all that important."
"TEN SECONDS! IF YOU STAY, YOU'RE GONNA DIE!"
"Ready?" Naruto asked. "Good. Hinata, team 7 is under your command."
"Get ready." Hinata said as she briefly activated her Byakugan.
"AND GO!" Anko's voice echoed as the gate in front of them slid open. Hinata dashed into the Forest of Death, flanked by her team-mates.
"Mitarashi-san!" One of the chunin shouted as Anko hit the button that re-closed the gates. "We may have a problem with one of the teams!"
Anko turned, one eyebrow raised in query as the chunin skidded to a halt. "Problem?"
"Team 7 of Konoha, ma'am." The chunin explained. "We just finished cross-referencing and they managed to do three missions!"
Anko blinked. "You mean…?"
"Yes, ma'am. They have three scrolls, two Earth and a Heaven. We think they'll head straight for the central tower."
Anko paused, then she sighed. "Ibiki will never let me hear the end of this. I guess we should have gone with his ten-questions test instead…. Wait. Team 7… Hinata-chan's group?"
"…Hyuuga Hinata is one of the members of Team 7." The chunin said slowly and Anko grinned.
"Heh. I worked with them in Wave. Brats are damned good. Should have known they'd pull something like this, I taught them well. Okay… they know Branch Leaping, they've got Ruto, who has so much stamina that he can carry the team if needed… they need to cover ten kilometres… I'd say about twenty minutes. Heh, better get moving."
The chunin frowned. "But… shouldn't we do something? Didn't they cheat?"
"No such thing as cheating." Anko countered. "We're ninja, we do whatever it takes to get the mission done. Pure and simple. They simply did something we didn't predict and more power to them. You got a problem with that?"
"No ma'am!" The chunin half-shouted as Anko released her Killer Intent at him for a brief second.
"Kiba, calm down!" Naruto snapped. "We left them behind us."
Kiba glanced at Naruto, his eyes wide in shock. "But… they were GIANT FUCKING TIGERS!"
"Kiba! Language, please." Hinata said sternly before her tone softened. "They were on the ground and we were able to outpace them through the trees. We're going to be fine."
Kiba's hyperventilation slowed and he nodded unwillingly. "Yeah, okay. Sorry, it's just… I'm an Inuzuka and we don't like cats that much, especially ones that big."
"I wonder if we could tame them?" Hinata mused and Naruto shook his head.
"Unless we tied them down or had super-strength to wrestle them into submission, I don't think it would be a good idea to try."
Hinata sighed. The fur of the giant tigers had looked very soft and she wondered what it would have been like to snuggle against one or to ride one.
"Hey, is that the tower?" Kiba suddenly asked, causing Hinata to abandon her musings and quickly activate her Byakugan.
"It is, and we're clear." She said with a smile. "I don't see anyone in a position to intercept us."
"Damn, we're good." Kiba grinned and Akamaru yipped in agreement.
"Well, let's get moving." Hinata laughed and Kiba stared at her.
"But… we already are…"
"Never mind." Hinata sighed. "There's the tower and lots of doors."
The team landed on the cleared area around the tower and Naruto sent two clones forwards to open the doors in front of them. When no traps or ambushes materialised, he gave Hinata a questioning glance.
"It looks clear inside, let's move."
Quickly darting through the door, they closed it behind them and looked round at the room they were in.
"Hey, there's something written there." Kiba said, pointing to a sign hung on the wall opposite the door. Hinata looked at it curiously.
"If qualities of heaven are your desire, acquire wisdom to take your mind higher.
"If earthly qualities are what you lack, train your body and prepare to attack.
"When heaven and earth are opened together, the perilous path will become righteous forever.
"This something is the secret way, that guides us from this place today."
For a long moment, they all stared at the painted sign, then Kiba broke the silence.
"Lame." He deadpanned. "Whoever wrote that wasn't a poet."
"It's a riddle." Naruto realised. "Heaven must mean the mind while earth means body… if you can't think your way through things you need to study while if you aren't strong or fast enough, you need to train. Only by honing both you mind and your body can you succeed."
"When heaven and earth…" Hinata mused, then she nodded. "We need the Heaven scroll and one of the Earth Scrolls. We open them together…"
"My clones open them together. We wait by the door." Naruto corrected. Kiba nodded and the clones took the scrolls to under the sign while Team 7 retreated. The clones opened the scrolls, then they quickly put them on the ground across each other before dispelling.
"What…?" Kiba asked as Naruto gasped.
"The scrolls form a summoning array!"
A cloud of smoke billowed up from the crossed scrolls, dissipating to reveal the form of Sarutobi Asuma.
"Asuma-sensei!" Naruto laughed as the bearded man smiled at them.
"Well, it's good to see… ummm, why are there three of you, Ruto, and what happened to your team-mates?"
Hinata and Kiba pulled off their masks and Asuma's eyebrows rose. "Nice tactic. So, back to business. You set a new record, well done. I assume you read and understood the sign behind me?"
All three genin nodded and Asuma pulled out a cigarette. "Excellent. Let's get a bunkroom for you, then I think Anko wants to congratulate you."
"Any chance of some food?" Kiba asked and Asuma chuckled.
"Sure, this place has a commissary. Free food for all genin, although it may be wiped out if Choji gets here. Akamichi's and free food…"
Asuma broke off with a shrug as Hinata giggled.
"So, come on."
Anko finished off the stick of Dango and hurled the wooden skewer sideways. Glancing across, she looked at the perfect Konoha leaf she'd made from the skewers and smirked.
Anko blinked, then turned round. "Hey, Asuma! You still treating 'nai-chan good? If I hear that you've upset her…"
Asuma swallowed as Anko licked the edge of the kunai that had somehow materialised in her hand. "I… you wanted to talk to these three?"
A bark sounded and Asuma sighed. "Alright. Four."
"Oh, the gakis with the scrolls!" Anko laughed. "Sure, send them in."
The genin filed in and Anko fixed them with the strongest stare she could, before giving up in the face of the trio of masked figures.
"All-right. Listen up, you've set a new record mainly because I screwed up in setting the terms of the previous test. However, you still have another four and a half days to go. Until then, you stay put in the tower and I want you in the basement arena at noon on the final day. Feel free to explore in the meantime."
"Thank you, Anko-san." Hinata said and Anko grinned.
"Will you be staying like that?"
"We brought our normal clothes." Kiba said as he removed his mask. "We dressed like this to stop anyone from trying to target Ruto while we were out there."
"Good decision." Anko agreed. "Now, scoot!"
Naruto paused at the door and Kiba bumped into him.
"Owwww. What did you stop… whoah, babe alert!"
The blond girl at the table glared at him. Ignoring her glower, Kiba sat down opposite her.
"Hey, name's Inuzuka Kiba, and you are?"
After a long moment, the glaring girl finally realised that he wasn't going to take the hint and leave. "Temari no Sabaku. Suna."
"Nice to meet you." Kiba smiled, earning another glare.
"Wow, he's hitting on sis? Better hope Gaara doesn't find out." A new voice said and Naruto turned to find himself face-to-face with a slightly familiar cat-suited genin. "Holy shit! It's you! The ANBU!"
"I am not an ANBU." Naruto said and the boy relaxed slightly. "My name is Yurei Ruto."
"Holy shit!" The boy yelped. "It's you! You're the Yondaime's son! The one those rumours are about!"
Naruto paused for a moment, then he slowly nodded.
"What it is, Kankuro?" The girl growled.
"It's the Yondaime's son! The one who holds the Kyuubi!"
"What?" Temari yelped as she rose from her chair. "He's a Jinchuuriki like Gaara? Get away from him, he's dangerous!"
"You act like he's going to attack for no reason at all." Kiba pointed out and Temari nodded frantically as she backed away.
"It's what Jinchuuriki do!"
"Hey now girl, that's not real nice/ in fact it will not break the ice.
"How could you say that to Mr Nine/ it's something bad, it isn't fine.
"How could you be so full of hate/ I have to ask as Mr Eight."
"Hey, Killa Bee-san." Naruto said in greeting to the large man sat in the corner of the room. "You waiting for your team to arrive?"
"Ya got it right, don'cha know/ I'm waiting for my team to show.
"I chose to write down what I feel/ while sittin' here having a meal."
"Wow, he's good." Kankuro said, earning a sparkling grin in return.
"What?" Temari squeaked, her gaze flicking between Naruto and Bee. "We're trapped between two Jinchuuriki and you focus on his rap?!"
Bee opened his mouth, then he frowned as a new boy entered the room.
The redheaded boy looked dully at them, then started to walk over to the food counter before stopping and staring at Bee.
"Mother says that you are like me."
For a long moment, no-one moved as they considered the statement, then Bee broke the silence.
"Ichibi's ya mom, well that's real whack/ ya gotta get ya sanity back.
"Mr One, meet Eight and Nine/ I hope that we may get on fine."
Gaara gave him a longer, dead-eyed look, then resumed his journey to the food counter.
"That's your brother?" Kiba whispered and Temari nodded.
"That's Gaara, my youngest brother. Be careful around him, he enjoys killing."
Gaara glanced over before walking away with a bowl of food. As he left the room, both Temari and Kankuro slumped in relief. Naruto made and dispelled a clone, earning a confused look from Bee.
"I was warning Hinata." He explained and it was Kiba's turn to frown.
"Why not use your pulses?"
"Takes too long." Naruto shrugged. "If it isn't a pre-determined combat command, it needs to be spelled out and that takes a while. Quicker to clone-message and I have chakra to spare."
"While we're waiting for the next four days/ I can show you several ways.
"To meet your demon, talk face to face/ it lets you have a combat ace.
"I will not lie, it takes some time/ but a demon ally is mighty fine."
Naruto cocked his head quizzically. "I'll consider it, but… why?"
Bee grinned. "You're a container, just like me/ they think that weapons we're meant to be.
"But our burden makes us brothers so/ I'll give my help, show you how to go!"
"…thank you." Naruto finally managed. "I trust you don't mind if I check with my sensei first?"
Bee shrugged and started to write in a small notepad.