Author's Notes: Haha, I had a three day weekend today, so you get an update.
The assembled genin teams stood before the massive fence which surrounded the Forest of Death. Once again, the examiner for the second part of the chuunin exam was Mitarashi Anko. Naruto guessed there were forty teams that made it to this stage. The previous exam was not exactly something he expected in such a supposedly high level elimination trial. In the crowd he noticed the recent academy graduate who challenged Sasuke the day before. A wave of jealousy washed over him at the memory. "Everybody wants to know the abilities of the elite Uchiha," he muttered to himself. Nobody ever cared, or even heard of the Uzumaki clan. His thoughts drifted to Hinata for an instant, but he reminded himself that she would be fine.
The voice of the examiner snapped him back to reality. She was going over again what she had already said in the beginning. Impatience was taking a hold of him. The really young genins were having a hard time believing there would be deaths in this part of the exam. Finally, he grew tired of waiting and yelled out "Hey, old woman, can you hurry up? We don't have all day."
"Oh," Anko replied turning her head towards him, "You're still as spirited as last time."
This time he saw the kunai speed towards his head without any problem. He let it get closer, and closer until it was only a few inches away from his head. "Shit, she was aiming for my eye!" he realized too late. Dodging was out of the question, so he did what came natural to him now. Chakra poured into his Inner Coils system and covered the skin of his face just in time for the knife to rebound uselessly against his defense. In one smooth motion he caught the falling kunai in has hand and aimed it right back at the teacher who was not there anymore…
"Behind me!" he remembered from previous exam. It was too late to stop himself mid-motion but he followed through and spun around on himself with his kunai outstretched.
Right into Anko's waiting kunai who was right where he expected her to be.
"You've lost your touch, old woman," he said with a smirk.
"And you got better," she replied sweetly. To the rest of the group she announced, "Now go and read the forms you received. When you turn them in, you will receive your team's scroll. Go to your assigned gate and wait until the appointed time."
"And that should give everybody a slight feel of my abilities," Naruto thought to himself. He did not know if that was for better or for worse. Either way, he was going to have fun with this portion of the exam.
There was still another thirty minutes until the start. So far, neither Sasuke nor Sakura had said a word, though he could tell that they wanted to. He could already hear Sakura's voice in his head, "Naruto, you're always doing something stupid. Why can't you be more like Sasuke?" The thought of it almost made him laugh.
"Naruto," the pink-haired girl rebuked, "You're always doing something stupid. Why can't you be more like Sasuke?"
Naruto withheld a sigh; it was going to be the longest five days of his life.
At the appropriate time, the guards opened the gates and the second stage of the Chuunin Selection Exam was officially underway. Hands rested snugly in his pockets, Naruto calmly strolled into what, at one time, was like a second home.
"Hey," Sasuke called out, "Why aren't we moving faster?"
"There's no hurry," the other boy nearly mumbled, as if lost in thought.
"But we'll get attacked if we don't move around quickly," Sakura said in a worried voice.
"All the better…" was his reply. Meanwhile, within the depths of his consciousness, the demon was growing restless.
"You know this forest better than anybody," it growled, "Why will you not go hunt the others?"
"I don't see what the point is if we're going to be attacked anyway."
"There is no point in waiting either, all the better to make it swift."
"You seem pretty confident in my abilities," Naruto thought with a mental chuckle.
Even though there was no response, he could still feel the presence of the Nine-tails demon floating around in his mind. At this stage of the relationship, it was now a familiar sensation and carried some reassurance with it. But this was not a time to dwell on such thoughts as the trio was right on the edge of a clearing in the thick foliage. Upon entering it, Naruto casually reached for a shuriken and sent it flying into a tree trunk. As if on queue, a rain of kunais fell down only a few meters in front of them.
Sasuke's eyebrows raised for a little bit, but nothing ever really phased him anymore. Sakura's eyes widened slightly, but she kept silent.
Still with one hand in his pocket, Naruto strode on. With a flick of his wrist, he sent another shuriken to trigger another trap. He paid little attention to the discarded weapons planted into the ground as he made his way to the center of the clearing.
"Naruto," he heard Sakura say, "How did you know about those traps."
"This used to be my favorite sleeping spot, of course I'm going to know if something was changed," he answered like it was obvious.
"But…" she started, only to be interrupted.
"Oi, come and show yourselves, there's no point hiding anymore." As if to press the point, he sent three kunais in separate directions.
"There's no need to waste your weapons like that," Sasuke muttered.
Three cloaked figures dropped to the ground several feet away from the trio. Their headbands gave them away as shinobi from the Hidden Cloud village. All three were masked with only their eyes visible. Even though, just a few minutes ago, their traps were discovered without any problem, they posture bespoke confidence.
Neither group said anything for several minutes. Each sizing the other up, probing for weaknesses. The leaves rustled quietly in the gentle wind. The tension of the situation overflowed and the supposed leader of the Cloud trio spoke up first.
"We have the Heaven scroll," a girl's voice said with a thick accent.
"Is that so…" Naruto responded with a slight grin, "How unlucky then." He could almost feel the relaxing of muscles as he finished. Knowing it would be a lie he continued, "We have the Heaven scroll as well." Behind him, his teammates looked at each other, wondering why he would do such a thing.
"I see," the leader of the other group responded, "Then it seems that we have no more reason to remain."
"Well, I wouldn't be too hasty," Naruto said good naturedly. Chakra collected at his feet and in a blur he stood before the girl Cloud-nin. He ducked as her reflexes kicked in and he side-stepped her attack. A twist of his hips and a shift of balance sent him towards the other two. With the ridge of his hand he whipped himself around and caught one of them square on the temple. The cloaked shinobi fell down, unconscious, without being able to react. The third one pulled out a kunai but was too late. The last thing he saw before his vision faded was a set of eyes framed by blond hair filled with bloodlust.
"Please!" the girl leader exclaimed, "Please don't hurt them anymore." Reaching into her pouch she withdrew the scroll and held it in front of her. "Take it," she begged.
Eyeing her warily, Naruto stepped clear of the unconscious bodies. In a burst of speed he ran forward and thrust his palm near her heart, temporarily cutting off the flow of one of the arteries. The Cloud-nin crumpled into his arms but he let her fall to the ground. Holding the Heaven scroll in his hand, Naruto made a face, "Man, all that work just for a scroll," he complained with a sigh.
"Idiot," Sasuke said with a shake of his head, "We just completed this part of the Exam."
"Yea, but that was boring, let's go have some fun."
"Umm, Naruto, it's only been an hour," she interceded, "We should just head back to the tower." But her words were met with deaf ears as the blond genin ventured further into the thick forest.
It was late in the afternoon when the report of the first team to make it to the tower reached Anko. Instead of waiting outside of the forest gates like she usually did, she was with Kakashi and Asuma. The chuunin who brought the news played the tape on a nearby T.V. as was customary. "That's the team that made it first?" Anko asked in surprise. The team did not look like anything extraordinary. They were from the Hidden Grass village, a place not known for producing outstanding shinobi. Kakashi motioned to the young chuunin and asked, "Have there been any other teams to get to the tower?"
"Not since I've left to bring my report, sir."
"Oi, Kakashi, you don't think your brats would complete Anko's exam this fast, do you?" Asuma said while laughing.
"No, it's not that," Kakashi responded slowly, "That's not what I'm afraid of."
At the same time, in the Forest of Death, Naruto and his teammates were organizing their scrolls. In the short span of a few hours they had encountered two more teams and took their scrolls without much resistance. Both Sasuke and Sakura knew there was no point in taking so many scrolls unless…
"I don't understand," Sakura said in exasperation, "Why did you want another set of scrolls?" In truth, she could only guess, but there were only so many reasons, especially with his behavior.
"I'm going to have some fun, of course," he responded without turning around. Before Sakura could say anything else, he unrolled a Heaven and then an Earth scroll.
Both Sasuke and Sakura knew better than to even try to stop them. Instead, they both moved away to a distance they thought would be safe. Although the last time, the scrolls were prepared to summon a chuunin, or even a jounin, there was no certainty it would be the same now.
Naruto stood waiting. Even though he knew the consequences for opening the scrolls before reaching the tower were dire, he felt confident. Smoke billowed from the scrolls, and a sarcastic voice was heard, "You brats really never learn, do you." A masked figure leapt out and slammed his fist into Naruto's chin, sending him flying off several feet. Even though he saw the punch coming, he preferred to let himself get hit and toy with the ANBU member some more. The only problem was trying to get up. "Shit, I can't move my body," he realized.
"It seems as if you have been infected with a paralyzant," the demon growled.
"Damn it! It wasn't supposed to happen this way. If something happens to those two then I can't go to the next stage."
"Worry not, I can remedy this situation."
Naruto felt the demon's energy flow through him, speeding up his body processed. He physically felt the poison leave his body as he began to sweat profusely. "Not exactly the best way, but I can't really complain," he thought.
"I'm glad you approve," the fox answered with a sneer.
Naruto faultered a little in his step as he got back onto his feet. The improvised remedy left him a little light-headed and incredibly thirsty. He saw both Sasuke and Sakura lying unconscious as the ANBU member placed them side by side. "I'm surprised you are able to stand up at all," he said, "It is quite a potent poison. It is no wonder, now, that I was assigned to you." Turning around, the masked figure stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he saw who faced him.
"It's you," he said in shock, "You're the Nine-tails…" and then his voice drifted off.
"The Nine-tails what?" he demanded, rate beginning to swell inside of him.
The ANBU member ignored him and, instead, removed his mask. "I doubt you would remember me, though you killed my parents before I could give them the message to retreat." Vengeance burned in the eyes of the young man.
"You're a fool," Naruto sneered, but he was cut off.
"Don't you even dare to deny it!" the man yelled, delirious with anger. "I will hear your confession before I kill you,"
As he crossed the distance between him and his prey, he stopped, overcome with fear. The same feeling from fourteen years ago suddenly resurfaced so strong it paralyzed him. In front of him, Naruto, who had his eyes closed, opened them again. When he spoke, it struck horror into the very depths of his soul.
"Yes, I remember your parents," he heard the genin say in a voice not his own. It was deeper than any grown man's, and it felt as if he were growling. A sadistic grin spread on the boy's face as he continued, "I especially took pleasure when I ripped them apart."
"Abomination!" the man gasped.
"It is not often that I am granted control of this body. I shall take great pleasure in killing you."
As the demon advanced on his hapless victim, red chakra poured out his body, whipping around in the shapes of nine tails. His mouth lengthened and his teeth sharpened. Even though it was not possible to completely transform a human body, the small changes would be enough. By this time, the chakra being released caused a tree to uproot itself.
In the wake of the advancing boy, the power of the presence of the Nine-tails demon filled up the man's vision. The fear in him was still as strong as it had been that day. Even as the teeth ripped apart his throat he thought back to how helpless he was back then, and how he still was today. Consciousness blinked to darkness and was no more.
In the Hidden Leaf village, the adults were abuzz with chatter.
"Did you feel that?"
"Yea, feels like way back when."
"Did the seal break?"
"I'll bet it did."
"No way, it's too strong to break."
Amid the excitement, one person remained calm. In the administration building, the Fifth Hokage sat ponderously in her chair, staring at the picture of the First. Ever since Kakashi came to her with his concerns, she knew something like this would happen. "Am I doing the right thing, Grandfather?" Tsunade wondered to herself. No matter the decision, there would be no turning back.
One of her assistants came rushing through the door, "Tsunade-sama," he said with a pause to catch his breath, "There is bad news from the Chuunin Exam."
"So it has begun," she murmured to herself.