The sun was rising over the cylindrical buildings of the village but its light was unable to fully penetrate the thick clouds of mist suspended in the air. The rays dispersed after hitting the water particles, enveloping the settlement in a beautiful glowing haze that would increase in intensity as the day passed.

Well. He thought it was beautiful, but then again he did have the best view from his office.

The villagers living on the lower floors would perhaps think differently since their views were shadowed by the rest of the village. All they saw from their perspective was cracking concrete and mossy, damp vegetation spreading from within the buildings and the roads. They would feel the humidity more intensely too, seeing as the tall buildings prevented any winds from ventilating the lower atmosphere. The unlucky few that lived in the basements or the ground floor would frequently experience flooding and would struggle to keep up the pricey maintenance of soggy walls and rotting doorways.

Those that were forced to live in those conditions were the families of the fourth caste - the lowest level of the social system put into place since the founding of their village. There were originally only three levels, but immigrants from the rural parts of the Land of Water had been plentiful enough recently to take over the third caste, pushing the families of villages forcefully recruited after invasion by Kirigakure to the fourth.

Awful living conditions were the least of the fourth caste's worries however. As they had no choice in joining Kirigakure, they were the most likely to revolt and so any shinobi within this social group was usually employed as cannon fodder. They were sent to the front lines in times of war and given the most dangerous missions in order to keep their numbers down and prevent them from rebelling. The civilians were underpaid to stop them from gaining any economic leverage.

It was a rather crude and outdated system, and the Fourth Mizukage had been considering making changes. He would have been willing to show them mercy... had he not received intelligence that there were whispers of a sizeable revolt.

A cold sneer crossed his face in displeasure at the thought. While he was willing to work with his people to build a better village, anyone that entertained the idea of going against it... Treason was the worst crime anyone could commit and Yagura Karatachi detested traitors more than anything.

"I suspect they will utilise the public event, so prepare to eradicate them quickly without causing too much fuss." he had told his few loyal jōnin, the familiar roll of angry, hot chakra brimming below his skin as he smiled. "It really is lovely of them to be so... predictable."

Yagura's magenta irises flickered to the lists that lay on his desk, each stamped with a different village's insignia. This event was going to be an international affair on a scale that Kiri had never seen before. He hoped that it would bear fruit on the same scale in the form of wealthy civilians interested in the strength and efficiency of Kirigakure shinobi.

His village was not doing well financially after the reputation of a Bloody Mist had spread throughout the Four Elemental Nations during his... compromised state, and he was keen to reverse that. While feared shinobi attracted customer interest to a certain extent, it seemed they had overdone it and ended up scaring all the customers away.

Yagura was also keen to have closer look at the level of other villages' genin and compare them to his own. Of course, his village's infamous Academy graduation exams had had its uses, but the village needed to grow, and culling trained students until there was only one per year was rather detrimental to this goal. It was one of the things that he had changed after he was returned to his senses a few years ago.

The khaki haired Kage sat down at his desk, picking up his own village's list of genin participating in the exams. There were thirty in total and they were a decent batch that should serve his purpose of seeing how they compared to the other villages. The skill range was fairly large, with his trump being one of the best that his village had ever produced. He had already been sent on several jōnin level missions, and had not only survived, but successfully completed them in a respectable time.

Yagura hadn't officially promoted him because he hadn't really seen the advantages of the rank system except for Academy graduate and jōnin. His village also hadn't utilised the three man team training system Konoha was so fond of - after graduation, squadrons of Kiri shinobi would be sent on missions (bigger groups for the more difficult ones), and if someone couldn't keep up they would simply be left behind. Those who survived were sent on more missions, and so age and number of missions was enough of a factor on whether or not the shinobi was reliable. He did see how the system could be made to run more efficiently, however.

Konoha had the most opposition in terms of mindset to Kiri, stressing the importance of teamwork, regulations and comradeship. It seemed they had decided on quality over quantity this time, having sent a sizable batch to Iwagakure during the last international exams. While Kirigakure hadn't participated, the Mizukage had received intel that an Uchiha, and a medic at that, had won the finals. The politest 'Fuck You' Konoha could have given to both the host, Iwagakure, and their main adversary, Kumogakure.

Enemies they had in common.

After Iwagakure had thrown their alliance in the dust, having worked with Kumo behind his back, Yagura was in a bit of a dilemma. Mist needed to change, and while an alliance would help with that, the only viable option seemed with Konohagakure. While the two villages had never directly opposed each other in conflict, they had very differing values and the Fourth Mizukage wasn't sure it would work. Regarding the other main village, Sunagakure, they were not currently even supporting themselves financially, but he'd keep an eye on how they fared in these exams.

Yagura gazed once more at the list with a small smile.

He was looking forward to it.

"This needs to stop. Or move somewhere else. Or something."

At her brother's deadpan voice Amaterasu finished titrating the last drop of the brewing plant mixture she was distilling. The clear, colourless and albeit very concentrated liquid she had in her last test tube was, if her calculations were correct, formic acid that she had obtained from stinging nettles.

She stared at it, a feeling of glee spreading throughout her body as she tried valiantly to contain her excitement. It had taken five years to obtain the equipment she wanted ever since she had started asking around during her time at the Academy.

She started by tracking down glass blowers, and once she finally found one in the Land of Fire, she had to gain permission to go there, and once she got there she had to plead to get them to make what she wanted, exactly as she described.

This first success at isolating a chemical compound - something that had been childplay in her old world - had taken an excruciatingly long time and a lot of effort. Scanning the equipment in front of her - a distilling flask, makeshift condenser using the kitchen tap and some rubber tubes, conical flask, multiple test tubes, an actual mini fire - she was ecstatic she had finally managed to make one of her ideas work in real life.


She was not going to let her brother ruin this moment.

"This is a no-fire apartment. You're going to get us kicked out."

And it was ruined.

Amaterasu sighed, chucking sand over the fire to snuff it out and turning off the tap all the while carefully holding her test tube containing her precious substance. Formic acid wasn't all that harmful compared to some of the acids out there, but considering it was starting to fume and cause her eyes and throat to burn probably meant she had managed to distill a pretty high concentration of it.

She coughed, holding it away from her and added some water to dilute it.

"All good." she choked, waving a hand to get rid of any lingering fumes. She caught her brother's unimpressed eye and surveyed the picture he had just walked in on.

Piles of a variety of different plants clumped with soil and the like littered the floor, and the desk had been propped up against the kitchen counter for her equipment to stand on. The room was filled with smoke, and wherever there was a space empty of plants, there were piles of paper with her notes and calculations scribbled all over them.

"I left you alone for an afternoon."

She grinned sheepishly at him, gesturing to her tiny amount of solution.

"Definitely worth it." she nodded in what she hoped was a convincing manner (she instead succeeded at making her brother sag even further).

She ended up giving it to Mikoto to use as a food preservative rather than anything shinobi related as it was quite a high concentration which meant - to her utmost displeasure - that its volatility was likewise too high. By the time she got back from training a few hours later there was only half left.

They also did end up moving out of the apartment (despite Shisui's irritation, she didn't believe that her stunts had caused them to actually be kicked out), and to her surprise, ended up moving into a large house very close to the border of the compound with an elderly Uchiha woman who owned a taiyaki stall on the main street. She was a quiet lady, but her dark, blank eyes and the emptiness and number of unused rooms in the house spoke volumes.

Shisui told her not to speak too much with the lady as she was elderly and was frequently fatigued from her work, but Amaterasu thought it was strange how there was a table full of delicious dishes to greet them every morning and evening, as well as a neatly packed bento box that they were instructed to take for lunch. Shisui was very tight-lipped about the matter and Amaterasu had little time to ask him or even think about it once it was formally announced that they were participating in the next exams.

All she could do was say a sincere thank you either in person or via note at least once a day, and she also tried to leave occasional little presents such as flowers or fresh snacks on the kitchen counter. They never stayed there longer than a day, so she hoped the woman was enjoying them.

Preparation for the exams was brutal.

Amaterasu was forced to pause her internship in the Intelligence Division, instead training rigorously day in day out with her brother, Itachi and her teammates. Shisui's stress showed and he became colder, harsher and less forgiving. Itachi was solemner still, staying till the end for a daily healing session to speed up their muscle repairing processes so they were ready to give it their all again the next day. The seriousness of the exams was therefore not lost on the other two boys and they quietly struggled through the twelve hour days, the opportunities for joking quips dwindling rapidly.

She worked on mastering the jutsu she had already started on, and was pushed more on her strategies and utilising her skills to the maximum while complementing the other two. It was her genjutsu that had made leaps and bounds recently, and her intensive work on the sharingan had definitely borne fruit too.

Chen's basics were drilled into him to no avail and he spent much more time in the training fields practicing than the others. Sparring helped him work on implementing the strategies he had in mind by buying time through distraction tactics. On top of this he had started some work on the basics of sealing, and while he was far from making anything of his own design he had made multiple trips to the weapons shop to buy, use and occasionally modify pre-made ones.

Kabuto showed the most consistency out of the three in terms of his own skills, but also struggled the most with communicating any ideas he had to the rest of the team. His offensive medical techniques were slow on the development front, but the ones he had mastered were brutal - Amaterasu did not want to imagine being on the receiving end of his chakra scalpels when he actually wanted to do crippling damage.

Around a month before their departure, Shisui stopped them in the middle of the morning and Amaterasu soon found herself comfortably perched on one of the tables in the back row of one of her old Academy classrooms, blinking curiously at the group of shinobi currently assembled there. She hadn't expected the Chūnin Exam meeting to be unlike a mission briefing- but in hindsight it did make sense, seeing as they were taking young, relatively inexperienced shinobi to another military village to be subjected to tests of their choosing. Her memories of the Chūnin Exams had been warped by the fact that they had been run by Konoha.

Looking around however, the genin didn't actually seem that young. Amaterasu suspected that war field promotions and the first chūnin exams held earlier this year in Iwagakure meant most of the competent batch had already been promoted. Seeing that only five teams, including hers, were being sent this round, coupled with how there was a significant age gap between her team and the rest, showed that Minato was being exceedingly careful about who he sent to these exams.

Her eyes narrowed a fraction. Did he expect something to happen?

" will be participating in these exams in three man squads, but you must remember that this is a multi-team mission. Everybody here is your teammate and you must look out for one another from the moment you step out of the village gates." Minato spoke in his Hokage voice: soft, but demanding attention. "Kirigakure shinobi are known for their brutality so not only do I expect the exam to be difficult, you will be facing international genin that have survived at least one war and therefore will likely have skills befitting a chūnin, if not more. Do not underestimate them. Many of the Kirigakure genin will have also graduated in line with their recently changed graduation exam, and I trust you are all aware of what it was before. Be alert, and be a team."

As he went on to introduce the various sensei, Amaterasu was pleased to see that she recognised three out of five of the jōnin: Shisui, Mikoto and... Inoichi.

While seeing him when she entered the room made her stiffen and her heart jump, a warm, albeit slightly hot presence at the back of her mind flared and she was able to relax and greet him with a thin smile. She hadn't seen him since her forced mind-reading four or so years back, but a lot had changed since then. He wouldn't be able to do anything with her newfound control over her mental realm, not to mention the presence of Kurama. She didn't have to worry, she kept telling herself. They weren't suspicious.

"...and Hizashi Hyūga."

Amaterasu's gaze snapped up at that name to meet eerily blank, pale irises. Ah. So she knew of four of the five jōnin. This man's survival... was the reason why there had been an entire war. She wondered how his son was doing.

Her head twinged.

"I hope you understand that your performance in these examinations will reflect our village's military standing. Do your best and show them what we can do! Please stick together. I will see you all in a month and a half." their blond Hokage stressed despite the sweet smile gracing his features.

He took one brief sweep of the genin with his eyes, and once he was sure the 'don't die' message was clear, he promptly disappeared with the jōnin. Amaterasu took the slight pause before everyone started moving to jump off the table and give a cheery grin and wave to the group.

"Hello everyone, I'm Amaterasu Uchiha and I'm super excited to be going to Kiri with all of you!" she chirped loudly, watching how each of the other twelve genin reacted to her through her eyesmile. She ignored the slam of Chen's head hitting the table behind her, pinching the closest of her two teammates purposefully.

Amaterasu knew that the Rookie Nine had been younger than the average genin when they first took the exam, so she estimated the normal exam-taking age to be around fifteen. The fact that most of the genin here looked older than that really hit home that Minato was very worried about sending anyone off to Kiri, so she was going to increase their chances of survival by trying to build some sort of team rapport before they left.

Emphasis on try, she huffed internally as she gave Kabuto another meaningful pinch.

"...I'm Kabuto." her other teammate grudgingly mumbled after letting out a hiss of pain. Amaterasu then turned to Chen with a sugary smile, making him gulp and shakily introduce himself too.

This was now the moment of truth where the rest either continued the train of introductions, or they all left and made the three look really stupid.

***A few moments later***

"...Well that went well." Kabuto snarked, looking away to probably hide the embarrassed flush spreading across his cheeks.

"We're officially uncool and we haven't even left for Kiri yet." Chen lamented with his head in his hands.

Amaterasu's eye twitched at the mostly empty room, feeling slightly dejected.

"You got that right."

The small Uchiha's gaze flickered over to the other three in the room who she had recognised, quite unexpectedly. The one with dark, spiky hair and a bandage across his face had spoken, looking amusedly at the trio from the other side of the classroom.

"Buuut you're cute so we'll forgive you." he said with a cheeky grin, appearing in front of Amaterasu in a swift, but rather obvious, body flicker. With their team captain being someone who had mastered the technique, the flaws in the genin's attempt had been obvious enough that it failed to make any of them jump.

"Kotetsu, she's a kid. Stop being creepy." droned the one with the bandanna as he walked down with their final, smallest teammate trailing behind him. This was the one that was most interesting to Amaterasu - his brown hair was in a trademark high ponytail and a recognizable deep scar marred his face.

"Hi! I'm Amaterasu." she grinned, holding her hand up to high five the teen crouching in front of her. He looked taken aback, looking confusedly at her hand.

"She wants you to hit her." Kabuto said helpfully.

"Not hard, holy - !" Chen squeaked as he reached over to intercept the hand that shot towards the girl with a firm grab to the wrist. There was a stunned silence at his speed and Amaterasu suppressed a smirk. While her physical training had been decreased in intensity for the past six months, Chen's had been increased tenfold to condition his body and reaction times. And he was just about getting the hang of chakra control. He wasn't a Rock Lee by any means, but he was 'just about acceptable' by Shisui's ridiculous standards. What he lacked in talent he made up for in grit and she was glad his hard work was paying off.

"Like this." she demonstrated by patting Kotetsu's palm with her's, letting out another pleased smile. "It's what friends do!"

"...Right. You're all freaky genin, aren't you?" Bandana sighed. "Here to outshine us once more."

"What do you mean, freaky genin, Izumo-senpai?" asked the third teammate, looking at her team skeptically.

"Well, Iruka-kun, it means they're more capable than they seem. On top of that, this kid's an Uchiha. They're pumping out geniuses non-stop nowadays."

"Ah for fuck's sake. I was hoping this was going to be our time in the limelight." Kotetsu huffed, yanking his hand out of Chen's grip and massaging his wrist as he surveyed them thoughtfully.

"Wait, you can't mean - there's no way any one of them could take either of you!" Iruka said incredulously, eyes flickering between her and the boys-almost-men that were her height even when crouching. Amaterasu remembered them to be career chūnin, but didn't realise they would be taking their exam so … late. She was pretty sure they were at least five years older than Shisui. Iruka was definitely the youngest, and looked like a typical lanky teenage boy, she would guess around sixteen?

"How many times have you taken this exam?" Kabuto asked, probably thinking along the same lines, and the teens shared a sheepish look.

"One international, two within Konoha. It's Iruka's first time though, so we'll be showing him the ropes." Izumo replied in a drawl, clapping the shorter boy on the shoulder.

First time taking the chūnin exam at sixteen? Was that normal? Amaterasu couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that. Iruka was destined to be an Academy teacher she knew, but... his student had lead a war and prevented the end of the world by defeating the creator of chakra at that age.

Amaterasu was not impressed.

Izumo was proving to be a typical wannabe know-it-all however, so Amaterasu was going to use that to her advantage.

"Wow, you've done an international one too? We're kind of worried about traveling so far away from the village with people we don't really know." Amaterasu said, a slight frown gracing her young features. Izumo nodded sagely.

"That's a reasonable worry. Shinobi must know how to work with people they've only just met, but you're right. It can be difficult." he continued, rubbing his chin in what he evidently thought was a wise manner.

"And have you guys… you know. Did you fight in … the war?" she continued acting, finishing in an awed whisper. She didn't realise someone could imitate a fluffed up peacock quite so accurately, but that is what Izumo did.

"Of course we did! What do you take us for." he huffed. "Only reason we're still taking this exam because there weren't many during war times."

And yet they had still taken it thrice?

"Lucky for you guys, we know everyone going this time round and probably a few of the opposition, so we'll tell you who to watch out for!" Kotetsu cut in with a cheery grin, and Amaterasu only hesitated a moment before brightly beaming back.

"Thank you senpai!" she chirped, ignoring the unimpressed stink-eye from Kabuto as she forced her teammates into a low bow.

Amaterasu returned home that evening and wrote down the information she had gained during the day while eating dinner. Shisui's side of the table was untouched so she assumed he was still out.

Out of the fifteen Konoha genin taking the exam, only two genin other than her team had not taken it before. One was Iruka and the other was apparently some girl called Yugao. It took some mental searching but she eventually remembered that she had existed in canon as a purple-haired ANBU. Kotetsu and Izumo had never properly met her, but knew that she was filling in as the third teammate for their friends Hayate Gekko and Iwashi Tatami. Amaterasu had met those two on several occasions - they were Mikoto's genin. Their third teammate had decided at the beginning of the year to stay a career genin, hence the appearance of Yugao.

From what she remembered about the exam format, she assumed that Minato was hoping for everyone to at least be strong enough to survive the second portion. He was not the type of Hokage who would send students he didn't think had the ability to survive - sure, accidents happened but Amaterasu knew Minato took the responsibility of the lives of his comrades very seriously.

It was when she reached this part of her musings that she heard Shisui return home and gave him a cheery wave as he entered the kitchen.

He looked tired.

"Are you okay?" she asked, setting down her pen to reheat his food and boil water for tea.

"Yes. Don't bother, I'm not hungry." he said with a weary gesture. "Just popped in to say good night."

Amaterasu frowned.

"Are you sure? It won't take long. Tell me about your day, did Minato keep you long after the full group meeting?" she asked. "I can't imagine why. We were talking to Izumo, Kotetsu and Iruka and everyone seems pretty competent. They're all so old though."

This drew a chuckle from the worn boy and he hesitated a moment longer before sitting down at the table. Amaterasu surveyed him with a slight frown. He looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders.

"Hey, we're going to be fine nii-san. Stop worrying." she said quietly, going to wrap her arms around his neck to give him a comforting squeeze.

He was silent for a long while, and Ama just held him.

"You know no one's expecting you three to get past the first stage, right?"

Amaterasu huffed indignantly. "Yeah, well, we'll show them!"

Shisui pulled away and pinned her with a cold enough stare that it stopped her from saying any more.

"Amaterasu. You are going into a situation with worse outcomes than normal battles. You are being put into scenarios that may have been set up to make you fail and failing in the Chūnin Exams usually means you die or if you're lucky, are critically disabled. What's worst is that Kirigakure, where the graduation exam finals were to kill all your classmates or be killed, are going to be writing your exam."

Amaterasu faltered. What she saw in her brother's eyes was not protectiveness or him just being strict, it was fear.

"No matter how much I try and prepare you all, you absolutely cannot go in expecting to flounce through it, face a few battles and turn out fine. The people you met in the classroom today? Some of them will die, some of them will never be shinobi again and some will get such severe PTSD they won't be able to function in normal society again. The opponents you'll be facing will do everything they can to win, and some of them will just kill you for the sake of it." he continued in a flat tone of someone that had evidently witnessed all these things happening. Sometimes, Ama forgot what this boy had gone through.. the things he'd seen.

"Why... do you want to get strong so badly, Amaterasu?" Shisui asked finally. "You have me. You have Itachi, and you'll eventually have Sasuke and Naruto when they grow up a bit more. You don't have to be strong, you'll have us to protect you. You like intel, right? You can get into the intel division as a genin, you know? You can have a career there and be working for the good of the village in that position."

Amaterasu looked back at him solemnly, staying quiet.

"I just don't understand why you have to make looking after you so difficult. I am trying everything to keep you safe and you're doing everything to expose yourself to more and more dangers. The stronger you get the stronger your opponents will be, and the larger target on your head until someone comes along that I might not be able to protect you from. And then what?"

His voice cracked.

"I... don't think I could deal... No. I won't be able to handle losing you because I wasn't good enough." he whispered. "I've already failed so many times and you've suffered - I can't tell you how sorry I am because of it."

Amaterasu's heart hurt at the rare display of emotion from her brother. She clutched him tighter and felt her shirt get wet and with a start she realised that he was actually crying.

"Shisui." she murmured, stroking his hair and reaching for a napkin to dab at his face. "Hey. I'm trying so hard because I don't want to hold you guys back. Even if someone comes along that you alone won't be able to protect me from, I want to be confident that we'd at least be able to take them together. I want to improve so you won't have to do all this alone, and so I can be someone you can depend on sometimes too."

"And you're taking such good care of me, nii-san. You're not even five years older than me and you're doing the job of two parents. Kin checked in with me yesterday and he was so pleased - I've gained weight, I'm getting such good sleep and am so much healthier and stronger because of everything you're providing. You're doing so well and I can't thank you enough." she continued soothingly.

At his silence, she crouched by him and squeezed his hands.

"We're okay." Amaterasu told him with a convincing smile. "If we think about it rationally, I'm a publicly known jinchūriki. People won't come after me without good reason. Minato is sending five very capable jōnin with us, and Mikoto's students at least I know are very competent and they tolerate me so we can depend on them too."

"I know you're shielding me from dangers I don't even know about, and I can't even imagine how tiring it all is. Whenever you want to talk about it, I'm more than happy to listen and we can face it together, okay?" she finished finally, giving him a hopeful grin.

Her brother returned a wet smile and roughly ruffled her hair, leading to a disgruntled yelp.

"Stop knowing what to say, it's annoying." he grumbled. Amaterasu rolled her eyes before giving him a fond kiss on the head and rising to get the tea and set the table.

"I won't be going with you to Kiri, Amaterasu." he said quietly. Amaterasu's eyes widened in surprise.

"Eh? Why not?"

"You'll be in good hands. Kakashi-senpai will be going in my stead. I have some work to do here, but I'll be part of the Hokage's entourage when he goes to spectate the finals. So just make sure you don't die before then." Shisui murmured gruffly.

Amaterasu set the tea and food on the table and stared at him curiously as he began to eat. What work could he be doing in the village that was so important?

She'd leave it for tonight.

"So spill the details on the rest of the genin." she suggested instead.

"You'll have a tough time even if you go up against another Konoha shinobi, that's for sure. There's an ex-ANBU..."

Yagura watched his genin sparring below him as he sat where he would in a month to observe the exam finals.

"It's a bit overkill to have him taking part in the exams, isn't it?" his right hand said, definitely amused from the way his grin stretched to showcase his small, but very sharp teeth. Kisame couldn't look more Hoshigaki if he tried.

"It is our first exams after all, we do need to make an impression. I agree with Mizukage-sama's decision."

Yagura turned his head slightly to survey the young woman who had spoken to his left. She was the strongest kunoichi in the village and was well-liked throughout the ranks.

"Do you have students participating, Mei?" he asked.

She gracefully shook her head.

"No, Yagura-sama. They are Ao-san's students." she replied. "I will be overseeing the second portion of the exams."

Ao was another respected jōnin. Another loyal one. Those four were the only ones he was able to trust currently.

"I look forward to it. Who is proctoring the other sections?" he asked.

"I'm doing the first one because we need to cull them quickly." Kisame said, scratching the back of his head. "Reckon Ao'll do the last round because of his stupid eye."

"Hm. He may not be allowed to if his genin are participating. Get Zabuza to do it." Yagura ordered.

"I believe Zabuza also has students - "

Mei was cut off by a toe-curling shriek of pain. It seemed as though one of the genin had sliced off another's arm in one smooth swing. Yagura was continually impressed with the boy's kenjutsu and his achievements despite his young age, but it was looking like he was going to be a pain to control.

"...I fear Ao's students may no longer be participating. I will inform him that he will be proctoring the final portion of the exam." Mei sighed before disappearing.

Kisame snorted.

"The idiot must've pissed him off. I feel sorry for the other brats that are actually taking part in this exam because they are royally fucked. It's going to be a massacre." he jeered, evidently pleased.

Yagura sighed and rested his head on his chin as he tried to drown out the teenager's horrified screams.

"Kisame, go shut him up. While you're down there, send the boy up and make sure no other participants get maimed before they're able to represent us in a month." he ordered, feeling himself becoming dangerously close to being irritated.

Yagura closed his eyes as Kisame gave one last chuckle before doing his bidding. He wondered whether it really would be a problem to have this boy in the exams... what if he killed the rest of the participants? It would be a political nightmare.

"Do you have no restraint?" he intoned as he felt another presence join him in the stand.

"I apologise, Mizukage-sama."

"Do you understand what you've done wrong?"

"Yes, Mizukage-sama."

"Be honest with me boy. Do you understand why cutting off your peer's arm was wrong?"

The teenager hesitated.

"... No, Mizukage-sama." he admitted.

"Explain yourself."

"We were sparring and he was too slow to dodge."

Yagura felt his temple throb.

"He is your peer. You know you will all be representing Kirigakure in the exams and yet you went and disabled one of your own team."

"With all due respect, he was not fit to represent Kirigakure if he was so easily disabled, Mizukage-sama." the boy replied quietly.

The Fourth Mizukage was silent for a long while.

"We pit ourselves against each other so the one that rises and survives will be the strongest of themselves they can be, but we must know when to do that and when to work together." he began. "The other nations do things differently than we do here, and in the exam format, they will have different advantages. Their biggest advantage will be their teamwork."

"In which case I will take them all down together so they may perish with teamwork, Mizukage-sama."

Yagura sighed.

"It seems you have much to learn. You are dismissed."

He only hoped the other participants could handle him.

The darkness was his normal.

The space he was enclosed in was all rock. He was in a cave, he knew. He would be taken outside sometimes to do as he was told. It was always to fight. Sometimes it was to kill.

He would just listen, be glad he was needed for something, and then do it.

Then he'd be returned to his … home? Space?

Green eyes briefly flicked up to survey the wooden door that he knew was laden with locking seals to keep him in.

He wasn't entirely sure why.

Perhaps he did something wrong?

His pupils began reacting to the sliver of light that meant someone was approaching and his heart beat faster.

It wasn't food time yet, so it must be another mission. A chance to stretch his legs and act on his instincts.

A heavily tattooed face made its way inside with a sneering grin.

"Oi freak. You're needed."

Those two words made his eyes water and he felt something rise uncomfortably in his chest at those words.

He was needed.

"Hello child."

A woman. He hadn't heard such a soft voice in so long. She was so bright - her clothes were all white and she seemed to light up his entire cell just with her presence. He unknowingly tensed, making himself smaller in the corner.

"I need you to do something for me. Can I trust you to carry out your duty?"

Need. He was being given a duty.

A purpose.

The boy gave a slow, but sure nod, and the woman smiled.

He was going to do whatever it took to complete it.

Hello we are back!

Sorry as always for the delay. Thank you so much for the overwhelming number of people that sent in well wishes from my last A/N, you guys really don't know the effect each one of you had. I am out of hospital and just in lockdown at home due to our dear corona but it just means I've been able to rest up and keep recovering :). I am doing my best to get better so please don't worry!

I really hope you guys are all staying safe and staying home! As always, feel free to PM me if you're bored and want to discuss something to do with the fic or anything! Would be lovely to spend this extra time to connect with you guys.

Very exciting times in the fic at the moment, lots going on in the world that Amaterasu doesn't know about, but we'll find out in due course! Just shows that not everything is centred around what Amaterasu does - she's made some changes and it just proves even a drop can create pretty large ripples. Hopefully she takes it well!

As always with a Chunin exam arc that's not set in Naruto's time, there will be a lot of new characters introduced. Most of them will NOT be OC! Every new character introduced in this chapter exists in the actual anime, so have a quick google search if you're interested! Have done extensive research on ages and characters to limit the number of OC's you guys would have to deal with for no reason.

1) Any idea who the last scene was about?

2) Who was the boy Yagura was talking to?

Sending lots of love and bestest wishes for everyone, I really hope you and your loved ones are staying well.

Lei xx