Chapter 41

Everyone was glued to the fight. It was an intense fight that awed the villagers and visitors. The clashing of blades made everyone flinch as it was loud and came at various times. Even the blows the two were throwing could be heard. The excitement grew in the crowd while the tension grew on the field.

Kakashi looked on as his student and former student went at it. His fist clenched as he saw Sasuke get hit with another blow. This was not how the fight was supposed to go. Sasuke was supposed to dominate. He trained Sasuke in ANBU tactics, style and jutsu. He should have been winning this fight by a clear margin but he wasn't. Naruto was able to keep up with him. He used trickery and strategy to get blows in on his student. What really concerned Kakashi was the longer the match went, the more that it was in Naruto's favor.

Kakashi began to wonder who trained Naruto. He wanted to know just who made Naruto into the ninja he was seeing.

"Well, you look concerned about something." a voice said. Kakashi turned toward the voice. His eye widen at who it was.

"Lord Jiraiya? What are you doing here?" Kakashi asked with surprise.

"Oh, I'm very interested in this fight and it looks like things are about to pick up." Jiraiya said. Kakashi turned his attention back to the fight.

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Sasuke charged forward, his kunai ready. He stabbed at Naruto and followed up with a slash. Naruto dodged both before backhanding him. Sasuke spun out of it and continued his assault. He was the aggressor, stabbing and slashing at Naruto. Naruto either blocked or countered each of Sasuke's attacks with his own kunai. Naruto parried one of Sasuke's attacks and countered. Sasuke was quick to counter his counter and slashed Naruto across the chest with his second kunai. Lucky for Naruto, he wore his armored mesh shirt under his clothes. Sasuke caught him with a spinning hook kick and prepared to stab him.

Naruto recovered quickly from the kick and caught the attack. He twisted Sasuke's arm and wrist, making him drop one of his kunai. Naruto transitioned the hold into a shoulder throw. Sasuke was tossed across the field. Naruto quickly did some hand seals.

"Fire Style: Burning Snake!" Naruto shouted and slammed his hand on the ground. Fire burst out of the ground and leapfrogged toward Sasuke. Sasuke was quick to move but was shocked that the flame chased him. He then did hand seals of his own.

"Earth Style: Mud Wall!" Sasuke shouted and put his hands on the ground. A wall raised in front of him in time as the jutsu hit. The wall nearly crumbled by the fire jutsu. Sasuke then heard footsteps and spun around to block Naruto's punch. He twisted his wrist and slammed his head into the wall hard. This, however, turned on Sasuke as Naruto exploded into flames. Sasuke quickly dropped to the ground and rolled around to put the flames out. He he got back to his feet, his Sharingan glared at Naruto who stood there waiting for him.

Sasuke was breathing hard and ignored the sting of the burns. Sasuke was angrier than he had even been in his life. He couldn't comprehend how angry he was. Naruto shouldn't be beating him. He should have been dominating Naruto. He should be crushing Naruto. He should be winning! Sasuke let out a roar that stunned everyone silent before he charged at Naruto.

Naruto barely blocked Sasuke slashes. Sasuke opened Naruto's defense and chopped him in the neck. Naruto was stunned but suddenly gasped when Sasuke drove his knee into his kidney. Sasuke disarmed Naruto before grabbing him by the face and slamming him to the ground. He twirled his kunai and thrust it down. Acting quickly, Naruto used the palm of his hand to stop and redirect the kunai's direction. The two glared at each other before Naruto kicked Sasuke in the face. Sasuke was sent back as Naruto quickly got to his feet.

Naruto removed the kunai from his palm, wincing in pain. He tossed it away and faced Sasuke who had just gotten back to his feet. Sasuke glared at the blond who was still keeping that calm facade on him. Sasuke decided to finish this match and crossed his fingers.

"Shadow Clone Jutsu!" two clones appeared and rushed Naruto. They both attacked Naruto but were not in sync. This made it easy for Naruto to dodge and counter the two clones. Naruto ducked a punch and pushed the clone away. The other clone attempted a kick but it was caught and Naruto whipped the clone's leg, sending him twisting in the air. Naruto was back to his feet and did a seal. This created two explosions that destroyed the clones. Naruto looked around for Sasuke when he was caught by another clone in a full nelson maneuver. Naruto tried to break the hold when he was suddenly distracted by the sound of chirping birds.

Naruto looked up to see Sasuke on the wall, his hand covered in lightning. Naruto knew what this was because Jiraiya told him about it. Sasuke smirked at the blond and showed the power of his jutsu before rushing down the wall at fast speeds. Naruto acted quickly and used his hands held above him to create seals.

"Needle Jizo!" the clone and Sasuke were surprised when Naruto's hair grew quickly. It wrapped around the clone and Naruto before the blond added more chakra, sharpening his spiky hair. The clone was dispelled but Sasuke was still coming. Naruto quickly did more seals for another jutsu. Sasuke saw with the Sharingan that it was an earth style. Sasuke increased his speed, knowing his attack would go through any defense. He kept going just as Naruto called out his jutsu.

"Earth Style: Dark Swamp!" Sasuke was surprised as his momentum began to sink. He looked around to see that he was waist deep in a dark looking bog. Sasuke was so surprised that he didn't realize that he was still sinking into the bog. He looked across to see Naruto standing on the surface. It looked like he was using the Tree Climbing exercise to stay on the surface. Sasuke attempted to do the same but he was very low on chakra. It was so low, his Sharingan deactivated.

Naruto saw this and let his hair return to normal. He watched as Sasuke continued to struggle, sinking faster into the bog.

"It's over Uchiha. You're not going to get out of this bog." Naruto said.

"I refuse to surrender to you!" Sasuke said and thrust his still active Chidori into the bog. Naruto quickly used the Teleportation jutsu to get onto the dry land. Sasuke growled and continued to struggle to free himself. This only hindered him and he was now up to his neck.

"Damn it! DAMN IT! I will not lose to you! I WILL NOT LOSE TO…" Sasuke shouted only to sink into the bog. It would be a few moments before Hayate stepped in. He reached into the bog to rescue Sasuke. He brought him to the dry area and patted his back to get any water out. Sasuke coughed up some of the muddy water but he was way too weak to continue. Hayate stood and pointed to Naruto.

"Winner of the third match is Naruto Uzumaki." Hayate announce. Naruto released his tension. The crowd were still stunned but Naruto didn't really care. He was the winner and walking off on his on power. As he neared the exit, he suddenly heard clapping. This was followed by more clapping, followed by cheering that surprised the blond. He was so surprised he nearly didn't hear everyone chanting his name.

"Way to go Naruto!"

"That was a great fight!" Naruto couldn't believe that they were actually cheering for him. His shock turned into happiness. Naruto raised his arms, making the crowd cheer louder. Watching from his place on the ground, Sasuke could only growl and clench his fist.

XXX

Hiruzen smiled and leaned back into his seat. He was very happy for his surrogate grandson. It looked like he was starting to win over the villagers. The fight was hard for him to watch at times as Sasuke truly tried to hurt him. However, Naruto toughed it out and pulled out an impressive victory. He couldn't be any more proud of him. Rasa also sat back in his seat. Hiruzen looked at his fellow kage and couldn't really tell what he was thinking.

"It seems that I have won our little wager." he said.

"Yes you did Lord Hokage but I feel that we have both won viewing this fight." Rasa said.

"Oh, what do you mean?" Hiruzen asked.

"With young Uzumaki, it shows that your new path in training your shinobi is correct. With the Uchiha, I was impressed with his passion. That willingness to kill, the fury, he would do well in my own village. He might have allowed it to overtake him but I saw promise." the Kazekage said with amusement.

"You do have a point. Still, we can debate that while we watch the rest of the matches." Hiruzen said. Rasa nodded and the two waited for the next match to start.

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Kakashi just stood there like a statue. He was not pleased that Sasuke lost but he was also not pleased with Sasuke's actions. While he felt slighted by Naruto, he never wanted him to be hurt like that or to be threatened with death. Sasuke did both, twice within the match. The jonin was feeling a huge amount of shame and frustration right now.

"What a match huh?" Kakashi's focus turned toward Jiraiya who was smiling at Naruto. "I was a little worried there but I figured the brat had a plan once he used my Needle Jizo. The bog was a great plan." Jiraiya said.

"I guess you are going to rub this in my face as well? Are you going to tell me that I bet on the wrong horse?" Kakashi asked with an edge.

"What would be the point Kakashi? Even though you're feeling ashamed and frustrated right now, I know that you are going to stick with the Uchiha. I only hope that now, you see just what type of person you are dealing with." Jiraiya said. Kakashi didn't say anything about that and just looked at the field where they took Sasuke off. Jiraiya just sighed at the jonin. "Either way, don't worry about Naruto any more. I'll take care of him." With that, Jiraiya vanished in a puff of smoke. Kakashi just stood there, his mind in turmoil.

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Naruto rejoined his fellow competitors in the box. He immediately went for his friends and gave them high fives. Sakura and Hinata both hugged him before they made their way out of the competitors' box. Lee was immediately in his face and grabbed him in a bone crushing hug.

"Yosh Naruto! Your match was magnificent! You are truly a student of hard work! You are now my rival of hard work!" Lee exclaimed. Naruto struggled to get free of Lee while the others smirked at him. The good mood was disturbed with the arrival of Neji. The genin scoffed at his teammate.

"If you have finally realized that you are not on my level Lee, then you have made a great decision. Losers like you and Uzumaki should stick together." Neji said. Shikamaru just sighed and muttered a troublesome. Neji walked gingerly toward the opening to watch the fight that was about to happen. He ignored everyone who were looking at the wound that was bandaged up. He wanted to see this fight between his cousin and some random girl. He wanted to see just how pathetic the fight would be.

Back in the crowd, Ino was walking with Asuma. She decided to forgo going back to the competitors' box. She knew that if she saw that Sand kunoichi, she would not be responsible for her actions. She also didn't want to heard either of her teammates tell her about her lost. She was happy that Asuma didn't say anything but she knew that he was thinking it.

Ino found a seat so she could see the next match. It would be Sakura against Hinata and she figured that this match would be shorter than hers. Despite whatever training Sakura got from that new guy, she couldn't stand up against a Hyuga, even if it was the shy flower that was Hinata. She couldn't wait to see the look on Sakura's face when she lost.

Neither one of the two would have that smugness on their faces for long. They were in for a great surprise.

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