Another chapter is here!


The Cursed Seal markings hadn't even finished etching themselves across the Sound shinobi's skin, taking on a burning crimson hue as his flesh was dyed orange, before the chamber exploded into conflict and set the tone of the battle. The stout shinobi extended his hand towards Kiba, who had cut off his attempt to get through to wherever the door behind him led, and the ground beneath the latter erupted in response. It was a seal-less offensive technique that caused stone lances to sprout from beneath Kiba and gouged out his heart.

Or would have, if his ears that hadn't been one of the senses sharpened to the limit through his clan's hidden technique. The moment he heard the earth shifting beneath his feet due to the Rock Pillar Spears technique, he'd moved. It was done in haste, a messy side-roll while cradling Akamaru tucked inside his clothes, and Kiba was left sucking in a sharp breath as pain registered in the form of stinging heat running across his chest as he came out of the roll.

Scraps of torn cloth and blood marked the space traveled. The bloodied tip had gotten a decent scrape in, piercing the outer-layer of skin as he moved. It drew a rough line in his exposed flesh and had nearly gotten Akamaru too.

The near-kill within a second left him grimacing as Rock Lee got to the earth-user's backside, his feet off the ground with one chambered to deliver a devastating aerial kick. The blow came around hard and fast. It struck the back of the skull with what should have been enough force to at least bring him to his knees, if not cave in his skull.

Yet, the kick did nothing as the now demonic-looking shinobi twisted his upper-body with his elbow extended faster than his size would leave one to believe possible. Bringing both his arms up to act as a shield, Lee was still left wide-eyed and gritting his teeth as it drove him across the room. He barely managed to brace himself before he ended up hitting the wall and landing in a crouch.

Then Hinata nearly got crushed as Jirobo grabbed a flat slab of stone he'd raised from the ground with a stomp to stop her from reaching Naruto. Digging his fingers into the solid stone, he swung it around his body to force her to back off and then flung it towards her as though it were a tile. There was a thunderous crash as stone dust obscured the Hyuuga Heiress from view until she stumbled out, her pale skin nursing slight lacerations from where shrapnel from the collision tore at it.

Anger tamped down on whatever fear or hesitation could be found in the Inuzuka as his lips pulled back to reveal lengthened canines. Chakra rolled off his body as he went into his Four Legs technique, making it so that his body could move at full effectiveness on all fours. Then that chakra sank into his body as they went on the offense. "Let's go, Akamaru!"

With a bark, Akamaru clamored to the top of his head and synchronized the chakra within his tiny body to Kiba's, allowing the latter to shape it through the Tiger seal. With a puff of smoke and displacement, the former took on the latter's shape. The Transformed hound then jumped off his back to the left while Kiba darted to the right, circling around and closing the distance with super-human bounds.

Elongated nails turned into claws and then flashed from the right and left as the Inuzuka pair unleashed their pincer attack. One pair to tear out the throat. One pair to disemboweled. Both fell short within centimeters of ripping Naruto apart as the Sound shinobi held his unconscious body out to stop them before he slammed his other hand into the ground and twisted it.

The sound of shifting earth drove both to move or die once more. The pair pushed off the ground to the left and right, spiraling to the walls and clinging to the vertical surface using chakra on their hands and feet as a booming crash was followed by a spray of gravel. They'd barely made it in time to avoid the snare that he'd turned the ground beneath them into, two halves of an earthen maw with jagged teeth slamming shut hard enough that it would have crushed them into a stain that mixed with the crumbled stone heap left behind.

Soft, quick footsteps reached Kiba's ears before Hinata came into view amidst the falling gravel. Now recovered, she had her palm chambered and was getting ready to deliver a Gentle Fist strike through his unguarded back and straight to the heart. However, the killing blow never reached as Jirobo twisted his body and used Naruto as a tool once more, literally swinging him like a bludgeon to knock her down.

"One down." Jirobo's burly fist then came down with the intention crushing her, a killing blow that she was only spared from by the presence of the Rock Lee. Having tossed her out of the way with one hand, he took the blow with his left forearm braced above his head in defense. "Tough one, aren't you?"

"You have… no idea," Lee said through gritted his teeth as the force backing it was enough to rattle his bones and crater the ground beneath his firmly planted feet as it transferred through. He then twisted his raised arm, grabbing the Sound shinobi's arm before he could pull back, and then delivered the other fist into the Sound shinobi's chin. The crashing of bone-on-bone was loud enough that Kiba could hear it even if he didn't have sharpened senses, evidence that the blow had been a magnitude stronger than the last one—he'd opened one or two of his Eight Gates then.

The look of surprise that dawned on the stout shinobi's face as his head jerked back from the blow was short-lived as the second strike came from the same fist driving itself into his gut, leaving him to half-buckle under it. Before a third blow could catch him off-guard, he tensed the muscles in his Cursed Seal-reinforced body. Flesh that buckled before had become a wall that could weather the hit as he then tore his arm free of the grip Lee had and thrust out his palm to smash in his skull.

Lee avoided by sliding his foot out and twisting his body, bringing his leg up to deliver a Leaf Crescent kick. The side of his foot slammed into the side of Jirobo's face, before he followed up with a Snap Kick using that same foot. The heel of it was driven into the earth-user's throat hard and fast, leaving him to jump back while clutching it.

Those kicks should have snapped his neck and collapsed his trachea, Kiba couldn't help but think as the earth-user extended his hand again and the subtle sound of shaping stone was followed by earthen spines jutting out of the ground as Lee lunged for him in another attempt to grab Naruto. Reflexive training saved him as he then spun in the air until his legs were facing forward, spreading wide to brace against the necks beneath the stone tips and then anchoring himself with chakra to bring his forward momentum to a stop before jumping back to where Hinata was. Just how tough is he?

"I hate using this many techniques since they make me hungry," Jirobo said before he dropped Naruto to the ground and made the Rat seal, which caused the earth to encapsulate him in a horizontal coffin of stone that dragged him down into the ground. That made retrieving Naruto and getting away now an impossibility until they could dig him out.

On the other hand, it meant now they could go all out without the risk of killing him in the crossfire. "Now, Akamaru!"

Kiba and Akamaru both lunged from their perch. Throwing themselves into a spin, they used their chakra as a propellant to increase their rotational speed as they cut through the air from the right and left. Bearing claws sharpened to the limit, the passing fangs drew a cross as they intersected against the broad bulk of the Sound shinobi and tore him apart—


Yet, all that resulted was a shrill and deafening screech. Rather than being torn asunder, Jirobo's flesh had turned impenetrable somehow. The sharp claws couldn't cut through it before he lashed out with his thick arms and batted them both aside with contemptuous ease.

Kiba's world flashed and his consciousness flickered as he was knocked out of his spin and sent head-first towards a wall. The only thing sparing him from a fatal collision was the fact that Rock Lee had gotten behind him and grabbed him while Hinata had done the same for Akamaru, who'd been knocked out of his Transformation. He brought his hand to his head where he found pain pounding at his skull as blood ran down from it as well. "We had him just now, so what the hell happened!?"

"It appears that his skin has changed somehow," Lee said before Hinata shouted out a warning and he pulled Kiba out of the way as more Rock Pillar Spears erupted from the ground like oversized weeds that would run them through and hang the corpses from their edges. "Look at how the light reflects off it."

Kiba fought against the swimming feeling that encompassed his head and wiped the blood from his eyes to see that Jirobo's skin had gained edges and picked up a somewhat glass-like appearance. Almost like the flesh had hardened to being gemstone. The scent he could pick up over the blood was more like stone as well, like he'd blended in with the floor.

"He's doing something with Earth Chakra," Hinata explained as she cradled the unconscious ninja pup in her arms and jumped into the air in a bid to escape as the ground beneath her turned into a bog. "He's cycling it from his body into the ground and then back into him. I think he's copying the properties of the ground around him, refining it, and then applying it to his outer skin—AHH!"

Kiba shouted as her words turned into an abrupt scream when hands formed out of the mire and stretched out to grab her legs, pulling her down into it and below the surface along with Akamaru. "NO!"

"Release them!" Lee demanded before leaping towards the one responsible. He spun in the air to build momentum and then brought his leg around for a vicious Leaf Whirlwind right against the Sound shinobi's head, hard enough to take it off his shoulders. The blow was only deflected on impact, sliding off without making him flinch.

Undeterred, Lee then unleashed a barrage of kicks and punches from the different angles that continued to do nothing against the Rock Armor until Jirobo slammed his fist into the ground and forced up a flat slab of earth even faster than before between them. He then punched it and the slab exploded outwards in a rain of rough chunks and stone dust. Lee jumped back to avoid the debris spray, only to see that he was about to be overtaken by Jirobo, who'd catapulted himself forward by having an angled wedge of earth launch him shoulder-first into Lee.

Unable to dodge before he touched down, Lee attempted to shield himself with both arms again. But the moment it connected he was plowed through the wall. It broke upon his body before burying him beneath the rubble as Jirobo then stepped away, leaving Kiba to stare at the motionless hand that was left visible as the Sound shinobi turned to him next.

Then his rage broke. "YOU BASTARD!"

He shouted with raw hatred as broke into a sprint before throwing himself into another Fang Over and launching towards Jirobo once more. It was nothing more than futile and desperate attempt at lashing out. Pain blossomed as he was swatted like a fly and hit the floor hard, left cradling his ribs and struggling to get back up.

"You weaklings were more trouble that you were worth." Jirobo reached down and grabbed the Inuzuka by the throat with his bare palms, the only unhardened place on his body, before lifting him into the air with a single arm and holding him there. "Now for a snack before I hit the road."

The moment he said that, Kiba felt something ripping the chakra out of him. Painfully. Tearing it out of him in such an agonizing way that it felt like countless thorns were being pulled from his insides through his throat and into his assailant. Suppressing his desire to scream from the pain, losing what little air he still had in his lungs, he gritted his teeth with hot tears streaming down his face as clawed at Jirobo's face in a frenzy.

Again, it did nothing to change what was happening.

Am I going to die like this? Strength left his body from his chakra being devoured. His lungs burned from the lack of air. And seething disgust bubbled in his gut—at both his enemy and himself. Am I going to die without being able to do anything again?

It was no different than the time with Kabuto. Not only had he been unable to stop the traitor, but he'd been unable to do anything to harm him. Since then he and Akamaru had practiced non-stop to get stronger—increasing their rotational speed, matching their timing, working on their combination technique—and yet, he couldn't even scratch the enemy in front of him.

"Let him go!" The declaration was followed by a burst of chakra and a jerking motion as the arm holding him buckled. The drain of chakra ceased for a single moment. It was long enough for Kiba to lash out with his foot and kick himself free once more.

The Inuzuka gasped like a buried man breaching the surface of the ground as he landed on his hands and knees, panting. When he looked up, he found Hinata standing in front of him in a Gentle Fist stance. Akamaru was pressed against her chest with the other arm, and relief flooded Kiba's body. If he had to guess, she'd forced her chakra out violently to displace the bog around her and then propelled them out of it.

Jirobo looked confused more than anything as he stared at his arm. "You got through my Rock Armor?"

"Even if you've hardened your body, it's only because you're using Earth Chakra to anchor those changes," she said. "If I force my chakra into you then I can knock it out of place and your body will go back to normal."

"Just because you got in a lucky shot doesn't mean you're going get another one." Jirobo's arm hardened to become unyielding like crystal once more. "I'm going to enjoy draining every last drop of chakra you've got in you for making me work up an appetite."

Kiba tried to move to stop him. He couldn't let her fight that behemoth on his own, especially not while having to hold onto Akamaru. Not after watching her nearly die.

But having his chakra drained had left him unable to muster the strength. He needed to mold more chakra. Enough so that he could fight again. Enough for a decisive attack to kill the monster of an enemy in front of them.

Before he could kill them.


Kidomaru bit down a swear as he tilted his head to the side, narrowly avoiding having his third eye blinded by the viper-like, two-fingered strike that came for it. His eyes and mouth were now the only unprotected part of his head. The rest of his body was nestled safely behind a hardened layer of Sticky Gold that was tethered to his skin by the adhesive underside, allowing him to move freely.

If there was a weakness, it'd be that the exterior layer was thin, not even an inch in thickness. But he didn't need it to be able to stop a hit hard enough to shatter stone. After all, Neji wasn't stronger than Kidomaru with the boons of the Cursed Seal.

Yes, he was much faster in terms of both speed and reflexes. That proved deadly when combined with a precise and efficient combat-style like the Gentle Fist. But if the chakra couldn't get through, then what?

Abandoning brute strength for the sake of speed was fine. But only if every hit managed to strike the skin and damage the organs beneath it. Against substances like his Sticky Gold, it was futile.

Regardless, Kidomaru was forced to acknowledge that the match was still decidedly against him and wanted nothing more than to retreat for two primary reasons. First, close-combat wasn't his specialty. Not that he couldn't handle himself at close-range since six arms proved to be better than two any day of the week. But it wasn't where he specialized compared to the others.

He was the sniper. Hidden out of sight and lurking in the distant shadows, he read the movements of his targets and awaited the perfect moment to strike. Kidomaru would then hit his mark without fail, regardless of how fast they were.

Second, he was on a timer. The objective had been completed on his end. The Jinchuuriki was captured. He needed to escape before reinforcements arrived, and so he was only looking to make an opening before that happened. To that end, two arms lashed out with hastily-constructed Sticky Gold weapons to occupy Neji long enough to finish using his other four to make the hand-seals necessary for a pair of Summonings.

Kidomaru then slammed his hands on his shoulders so that the summoning script scrawled across the makeshift armor as he leapt back, spitting out a tethered Web Flower that bloomed into a sprawling net to capture him. The Hyuuga moved to cut down the Web Flower with a slash of his two fingers, chakra dancing on the tips that was sharpened to a point, only to instead dodge with a roll the moment he noticed that the webbing had electricity coursing through it like a conduit. His Byakugan eyes then focused on the fist-sized spiders that now rode on the top of Kidomaru's shoulders.

One had a black body and yellow stripes, with four green eyes that illuminated as sparks danced from the hairs covering its body. The other was a deep reddish color that had a black mark on its abdomen that looked wavering like a flame, with matching eyes. Both had a developed chakra network and possessed already converted chakra within them—lightning in the first and fire in the second.

"Time to burn!" Kidomaru's cheeks then swelled before spitting out a larger glob of spider silk from his mouth like a cannon ball. At the same time, the Red Spider spat out a venomous-looking fluid that slammed into the mass. Fire bloomed the moment it touched the webbing, spreading over the expanding web to become a sticky and burning death trap.

Neji used a Body Flicker, a burst of speed necessary to escape it. He reappeared on the vertical trunk of a nearby tree that he clung to with one hand and foot laced with chakra. Then he had to move again as the Yellow Spider turned its rear towards where he'd gone and then began to use its hind legs to launch uricating hairs that carried an electrical charge towards him. The moment they touched the section of bark he'd been on, the scent of ozone and flickers of electricity made it clear getting hit by one would be debilitating.

Neji was forced to take refuge behind the tree, his frown deepening as he watched Kidomaru try to flee again. That was when a living black cloud blotted out the light of the sun from above. A whirling maelstrom of parasitic insects filled the air with endless buzzing, forming a perimeter that wouldn't allow for the sniper to escape. The swarm circled around him and closed in to form a dome, within which they began to consume him utterly. "…You're late."

"My apologies," Shino said with a slight incline of the head as he landed next to the Hyuuga. "It took me a moment to get rid of the golem and hatch enough kikaichu, but the two are being escorted to safety as planned while the others are making arrangements should he get past us. Though I am concerned that Hinata will do something rash in her current emotional state before we can retrieve her group…"

He trailed off as flames came to life, blinding heat forcing Neji to close his eyes and peer through his eyelids. It blazed out in a circle that surrounded them, incinerating the swarm that had closed in. Even the tree they were hiding behind was consumed by the flames, forcing them to abandon cover as the Red Spider from before was now much larger.

It had donned the flames like armor molded in its shape. Expanded to where it towered over them as the air around it combusted to immolate everything within range. The only exception was the sniper and Yellow Spider, hidden beneath it in a cocoon of solidified, golden webbing.

"Focus on the enemy in front of us," Neji told him as he focused on the Red Spider nestled within the flaming exoskeleton's core. "If he gets away then it'll all be for nothing."

With a shriek, the Red Spider lunged for the flies trapped in its parlor of flames. Then its core was shot out mid-flight by a vacuum shell of chakra that smashed through the flaming exoskeleton. Its body met with the unyielding trunk of a scorched tree and painted it with visceral fluids before its remains sank to the ground behind the tongues of flames.

"Besides," Neji continued, lowering his hand that was wracked with a pins-and-needles sensation from the Vacuum Palm. "The others will be fine with Lee looking after them."


Lee's consciousness slowly came back to find that a fog had settled into place within his mind. His thoughts were blurred, and he felt a heavy weight pressing down on his body. Am I buried under something?

A rumble shifted some of the rubble, causing a lance of pain to stem from his arms. It shot straight into his mind and caused the fog to evaporate. Right, I was fighting that person who kidnapped Naruto and I….

He'd been won over. Overpowered while under the influence of the Gate of Healing. Few in their age group could claim to have done so and the earth-user had to be only a few years older at best.

Lee tensed the muscles in his arms and recognized the extent of the damage from the type of pain. He'd fractured the bone from where he'd taken that hit, but none had broken. He then forced himself to move despite the mild ache that permeated his body from opening the Second Gate, pulling himself out of the rubble to see that Hinata was fighting alone while Kiba was on the ground, face scrunched in concentration and eyes screwed shut.

As she darted around and tried to get to his back, only to retreat several hops back before earthen spines jutted out of the ground to chase after her, Lee observed that it was a poor match up for her. She was doing admirably, but he was simply able to control the battlefield better. That meant she was constantly on the defensive and was ultimately unable to do enough raw damage fast enough to get through his guard.

Knowing that, he reached deep and re-opened the first two Gates, along with the Gate of Life. It felt like he'd opened a sluicegate holding back boiling water that rushed throughout his body and washed against his muscles, bones, and skin. His heart raced, the languor brought about by unconsciousness melting as blood coursed through his body at an accelerated rate, dyeing his skin its hue.

Lee then kicked off the ground that cratered from the force as it rocketed him forward, whereupon he reinserted himself into the battle with a Dynamic Entry. The extended foot caught Jirobo in the face, knocking him to the side and stopping him from grabbing Hinata. Landing in front of the stout shinobi wearing hardened skin as armor, he told Hinata to fall back. "Leave this to me!"

"Still alive, huh?" Jirobo tilted his head side-to-side with an audible crack. "Good, I hate wasting food."

So, even three gates isn't enough to deal with him. In light of that conclusion, Lee wrenched open the Gate of Pain. Its namesake flooded his body and chakra started to bleed out as it oversaturated everything it possibly could. He gritted his teeth to bear with it and balled his right fist before he closed the distance.

"You're telegraphing now!" Jirobo crossed his arms to block the incoming hit and prepared to counter. Then there was a crashing sound as the air itself trembled from the impact, displaced from the sheer force as unbreakable skin met with pure power and muscle. The solitary blow knocked him off his feet and his Rock Armor fractured, hardened skin sporting fissures that ran all the way down to his elbows. "What!?"

Whatever arrogance he'd displayed previously was wiped off his face as Lee then delivered a second hit with his leg to the side of Jirobo's head. The world flashed as he was knocked off to the side, bouncing off the ground once before he dug his fingers into it to slow himself and regain control. He came to a stop on top of his own bog and was left coughing blood.

What incredible durability, Lee couldn't help but think as he lowered his leg. The throbbing pain from where he'd struck was evidence of that. It seemed that he needed to push himself to the limit if he was going to break through that Rock Armor entirely, so he tensed his body and prepared to unlock the Gate of Limit.

Fear crossed the Sound shinobi's face as he watched the air around Lee start to waver and the ground cracked, leaving him to make the Bird seal. The mire that made up the bog came to life under the Earth Flow Spears technique, oozing earth shaping into tendrils that wove around Jirobo with serpentine motions before spreading out. They cut through the air as they condensed at the tips and hardened into stone spears that would impale him from different angles.

Then the sound of slithering earth was replaced with a roaring gale as Lee forced open the Fifth Gate and was greeted by the unforgettable pain of hard work. The ache of needles piercing from the inside of his muscles as they threatened to tear themselves apart. The familiar taste of saliva turning into steam that slipped through his teeth as it left his mouth. The unyielding burning from the inside out by the Flames of Youth.

Chakra was no longer contained to his body, instead forcefully billowing out as a spiral. It mixed with the aura of green vapor that loosely shrouded his figure, the sweat evaporating from his rising body heat. Straining the muscles in his legs as the sinuous spears neared, the ground around Lee caved in entirely as he disappeared from view. Then the tendrils all came apart in an instant and Lee abruptly stood at the side of his opponent, fist chambered.

The Sound shinobi's face tightened as he thrust his own massive fist out to intercept when Lee's cocked fist shot forward. The Strong Fist, backed by more than half of the Eight Gates, met with an Arhat Fist, backed by a Cursed Seal's Second Stage and Rock Armor. The air quaked and a fearsome shockwave rippled out, forcefully displacing the remaining mud and loose earth as the hardened layer of outer skin on Jirobo's arm was blasted away, while the sleeve of Lee's shirt was ripped asunder.

"Ngh!" Lee winced as a shooting pain ran through the knuckles of his fist and down his forearm as they regained their footing on the solid ground. He could feel the bones beginning to fracture. But he ignored the pain as he reeled it back and brought his left leg around for a kick towards his opponent's head.

Jirobo guarded his head with his right arm tucked against it, still covered in the Rock Armor. The sound of shattering stone mixed with the snapping of bones as the impact with Lee's shin broke through the hardening, scattering fragments of it in the process. His face contorted in pain as he then retaliated with his left knee, intending on caving in Lee's chest before his foot even finished coming down.

Instead of crushing Lee's heart through his ribcage, the knee met with Lee's left forearm as he hastily used it to guard from the fatal blow. Blood slipped out of his mouth as the force still shot through the limb, snapping the bone, and into his abdomen. The pain was so intense that he wanted to scream out, but the Green Beast bit down on his own lips to the point of bleeding so that not even a peep escaped as he balled up his right fist up again as tightly as possible and brought it to bear against his enemy with all his might.

The air ruptured as the punch was driven directly into the Sound shinobi's abdomen, shattering the Rock Armor as the fissures spread through the rest of it covering his body while his eyes went blank and his mouth was left gaping wide. Then the momentum launched him into the rock face opposite them, hitting it hard enough that the entire room shook. It came crumbling down on top of him and the stone dust obscured their enemy from view while what looked to slivers of light pierced the veil.

"Nnhh…" Lee's fingers quivered as the gates closed and the fist he'd been holding came undone. Blood seeped through the rips in his flesh along the knuckles, pain from the muscles that had torn under the force of his own strike leaving him barely able to stand.

"He's not down yet!" Hinata shouted abruptly from far behind him. Then Lee felt himself being grabbed moments before stone lances speared out to impale him where he'd stood. Kiba had barely managed to pull him to safety near the wall where Hinata and a roused Akamaru were as the silhouette in the stone dust wavered on the opposite end.

Jirobo was still alive. Still standing, but not unharmed. He was huffing, with blood spilling down from the corners of his mouth as what was left of his Rock Armor crumbled down onto the ground. His right arm was destroyed, broken bones jutting out of the orange flesh as it hung limp.

The Sound shinobi gave them a final, hateful look before he slammed his remaining fist into the ground hard enough that it was upturned. The entire room quaked and tremored as a slab of earth that stretched the length of the room shot upwards and crashed into the high ceiling above. Just like that, they were split off from the other side of the room that continued to shake with fissures spreading out.

"He's raised the coffin Naruto was sealed in," Hinata warned. "It looks like he's going to run with him through the opening and leave us to be crushed on this side of the chamber as it comes down!"

"Like Hell he's getting away!" Kiba declared as Akamaru climbed onto his head once more and there was a plume of smoke that washed over them. Before it could even dissipate, a two-headed wolf that towered above them by thrice their height emerged with its lips peeled back and saliva running from parted fangs that were long like swords.

Its coarse fur bristled. It howled with a bone-shaking roar before spinning violently enough that the wind threatened to blow Lee away as the wolf shot towards the bulwark. The massive drill of fangs and claws then met with the solid earthen wall in a thunderous crash, exacerbating the shaking as dust filled the room and threatened to choke them.

"This way!" Hinata shouted as she grabbed his arm and pulled him straight ahead while the ceiling began to come down on top of them. Rubble fell from above while Lee was effectively blind, relying on her to guide him. Then she flung him ahead of her and there was a rush of fresh air.

Lee hit the ground and opened his eyes to see that untamed woodlands was around him. The sight of trees that rose tall beneath the sky filled his view. Their roots hale and hearty as they dug into the surrounding dirt.

The only exception was a furrow that had been drilled into the ground. It ran in a straight line, carved out by that last attack until the pair's combination technique split and they were left were panting to the right and left of where it came to a stop. There, at the base of an overturned tree that was now part of a mound of dirt and shredded wood, was what was left of their opponent. Dead.

Hinata then broke through the opening, gasping as she stumbled out with Naruto in her arms. Lee's body shot up at that moment to catch her before she fell and lowered them both to the ground gently. Dust billowed out of the hole that Kiba had made as the chamber they'd been in finished collapsing in on itself.

Fighting for breath as exhaustion and pain began to ravage his body, Lee struggled to get the words out. "Is… is he…"

"He's just out of chakra," she said, looking down at Naruto's unconscious face as her eyes went back to normal. "But we did it. We saved him."