Wow, this has been on hold for a long time. Sorry, but vacation, work and what-not has been, quite successfully, pulling me away from continuing my fanfics (skipping the fact that recent developments has made me QUIT reading "Naruto" altogether... honestly, the instant Sasuke and the revived Hokage made a decision of joining the battle is the exact moment I literally stopped following the manga, so I have absolutely NO IDEA what has transpired in the last 20 chapters or so)... so, to answer questions some of you gave during my absence: no, this story will not be dealing with such revelations.

Actually, as I wrote in the first, few chapters of this fic, this story was planned out at the time Sai was introduced and anything that took place after that event in the manga shouldn't be considered cannon... and the Great Shinobi War happening now never took place in NNGverse, simply because most characters taking part in it had very different fates assigned to them (one example: Neji still lives).

Either way: I apologize for not answering your reviews for last time... after such a long absence it just didn't feel right to bother you with them. Naturally, I'll do better now and will address your reviews from here on out, so if you do have questions, do not hesitate to ask.

With that said... well, best get right to it:

Chapter #156: Clashing Cousins

Title Page: Horamaru with his arms outstretched to the sides, fingers connected with his steel strings

"Lets go all out!" Hari yelled, drawing quick symbols with her blood on the ground. In a flash she slammed both palms to the surface, making the spots erupted with a cloud of white smoke covering the kunoichi. Meanwhile Torune finished her technique as well and brought her arms down, forcing the tornadoes surrounding the other blonde to bend, each going for the cloud.

"This is just like Getsuuga!" Tsume noted with her eyes widen, while Uramaru growled at the predicament. As the winds smacked the dust, explosion erupted in the air, lifting up a new cloud in place of the first one. Once that cleared, most people widen their eyes at the sight of Hari, who now covered her face in her arms.

But her position was not the thing that shocked most spectators; in stead it was the fact that her back, which seemed to take most of the impact, was now covered in a thick shell that spread down her spine. Joints reached from the edges, attaching to the girl's arms and legs, further protecting her body, while her head got hidden is some sort of a solid 'hood' that strangely resembled a creature with a beak, the latter forming a dome over the blonde's face.

"Using Kamenoko already?" Torune rather stated then ask while her cousin straightened herself up, ready to resume the match. "I will admit that its shell will be somewhat a bother, but don't forget – wind has a tendency to squeeze through the narrowest of spaces..."

"Noted" the other sand-nin responded with a smirk as she flipped the fingers of her right hand. Seeing this, Torune widen her eyes as she quickly looked around, only to see various, puppet parts floating in the air above her, each pointing a blade at her. Instantly the objects descended, aiming to pierce her vitals, yet the blonde immediately went through another set of seals and creating a powerful draft from the back, literally pushed herself out of the way, making the projectiles dig into the ground.

Coming to a sliding stop, she watched as the parts flew back, constructing a human-sized doll with an annoying, clicking sound. A doll she knew all too well: "So Karasu as well... you really are giving it your all, ain't ya?"

"Have I not warned you earlier?" Hari teased her cousin, retreating her puppet to her side while the armor on her body detached itself as well, creating another doll, roughly half the size of the first, but also humanoid in shape, only hunchbacked, resembling a cross between a normal person and a tortoise. "There will be no holding back..."

"At her age, she's able to use two puppets simultaneously?" Naruto raised his eyebrow, visibly impressed by the feat. "You've really outdone yourself, Kankuro. That girl's even better then you were back in the day!"

"What, you thought she's gotten this far just be tossing senbon?" the Sand puppet master teased with a smirk, but Temari remained calm at the predicament: "That is quite an ability, but even so... Torune is far from being done for..." she announced as a memory of few nights back echoed in her mind...

-Few days earlier, Nara compound-

"Bothering people in the middle of a night... you're still just as troublesome as you always were" Shikamaru whined in a usual manner as he yawned, scratching the back of his head. His eyes lazily gazed at the girl standing besides Temari, one he would recognized, though not just from the eliminations: "And you even brought... Torune, was it?"

"Don't play that with me, slacker" the Sand jounin warned him sternly; over the years she did get accustomed to the man's behavior, but this, particular situation was different and she was not about to let such attitude slide. "You know why we're here... we discussed this just after me and Kankuro came to Konoha."

"So we did" the head of the Nara nodded slowly, shifting his attention towards the girl. "Do you know why you are here?" he asked, receiving a shake of the head from the gennin. Certainly it was confusing to say the least with the final exam merely few days away. Torune would imagine she should train, not go on field trips, especially to visit an instructor of the opposing ninja. "So explanation befalls on me?" Shikamaru sighed, noting a stern gaze from Temari. After a short silence,, he sighed again; in a way, that was only fair: "Okay, best to say that straight out; I would appreciate you not making too much of a ruckus at the news, but it was decided it's time you learn this... Torune... I am your father."

The girl's eyes widen at the information, yet she remained surprisingly quiet, despite the news. She glanced confused at her sensei, but the expression on her mother's face told her all she needed – what she just heard was the truth. Noticing her behavior, the lazy jounin went on, his voice a little shaky, compared to the usual monotone: "You're probably wondering why you weren't told or why you are informed now... suffice to say the situation is a bit... complicated..."

"Konoha and Suna may be allies, but these sort of arrangements are still... unusual" Temari joined the conversation, kneeling down as she placed her hand gently on top of the girl's face. "Once I learned I was pregnant, the lazy bump and I knew that may pose a problem, since we both have a rather high status in our, respective villages. Despite friendship between Leaf and Sand, there would have been friction concerning your upbringing and we did not wish to have you got through that."

"So you hid the truth?" the gennin accused her, visibly angry.

"Politics cannot be separated from shinobi's life" Shikamaru defended the woman. "As a child, you really didn't had a lot of say in the matter and while Gaara certainly is an... influential leader, even he has limits to his power. Besides, having a close relative of the Kazekage being involved with a ninja from another village could stir other countries to take action in order to prevent such a union, especially since we're talking about two of the Great Villages..."

"It's still not fair!" Torune shoot back, feeling tears gather in her eyes.

"No, it is not" the Suna jounin agreed. "Just like forcing you to pretend you still do not know who your father is" she went on, putting an even greater weight on the young ninja. "But that is what must be done, at least for the time being. I know that this may not be what you needed before the final exam, but it was high time you learn the details... and there are a few, trusted friends that know of this fact as well, so you're not alone in this..."

"It's not fair" the girl repeated, much quieter. The two adults exchanged glances; Temari was certainly not good with consoling people and she did not know how to respond, despite an overwhelming urge to do something. Luckily, Shikamaru shown less problem with this predicament: "Crying will not change the situation... I know it's troublesome... painful even... but there is one thing you shouldn't forget – with this, you're carrying the reputation and future of two, great villages within you! You're special! The question is: are you capable of rising to that responsibility?"

The question ranged in Torune's head; her sobbing died down instantly as she started at the ground. Ironic as that may be, the man was right – she was raised as a warrior... a survival and, as such, she was not about to let something so small shaken her resolve. No; if anything, she will become stronger for it: "Of course I am!" she replied with a smirk, facing him.

Temari also smiled under her nose: ridiculous as it might have seemed, this did remind her why she has fallen for such a lazy idiot in the first place...

-flashback end-

"As you wish... Hari-nee" Torune stated, going through a quick set of seals. "No holding back! Fuuton: Kaze Bougu!" she called as as powerful, wind currents rose around her. Within moments the scope of the cyclone tightened, forming an armor of air that violently circled the sand-nin's body.

The other blonde remained confident as she directed Karasu to separate again and attack from all sides, only to have all its parts blasted back upon impact. Widening her eyes, the puppeteer retreated her doll, quickly putting Kamenoko out front, having it transform into a wide shield. Just in time too as Torune charged forward, swinging her arm at Kankuro's daughter.

In a flash the tornado surrounding her arm expanded, slashing at the blockade and, while the shield held, long cuts decorated its shell. With another swing, Hari was pushed back by the force, adding more scars to her puppet as Kamenoko shook at the attack.

"Holy crap, her entire body's a weapon now!" Kai noted impressed. "There's no way that puppet girl could break through this now!"

"That is not necessary true" Horohoro disagreed, carefully watching the match. "In general, the basic is not that different from Hyuuga's Gentle Fist; perfect defense and devastating offense... at first a fearful combination, but as that moon-nin earlier proved, even a Jyuken prodigy can be brought to her knees... every technique has its weakness, one just needs to find and exploit it."

"To execute, fuuton doesn't require much chakra, so it can be use rather easily" Dekai announced, making Kai jump at the sudden voice: "When the hell did this guy wake up?" he wondered, eying the swordsman suspiciously.

"That much is certain, since Ibuki is capable of using it and she was never much of a chakra type to begin with" Kumiko agreed, recalling her teammate's match against Sabure. And then, realization hit: "But keeping fuuton techniques in check is a different story; especially if you attempt to hold it together in a confide space, such as a thin layer around the body..."

"Yeah, that's why Teikiatsugan was so hard to master!" Kai nodded, happy that he, finally, understood something without full explanation.

"That's my Kumiko-chan!" Kusari praised, making another attempt to hug the girl... only to come out with the same outcome. Rubbing his soaring nose, he glanced back at the stadium, where Torune pressed on: "Anyways, with her current level and chakra reserves, I doubt she could hold that armor longer then few moments..."

"Then all will be resolved shortly" Takai stated while Torune threw a straight punch, launching a tornado right at the center of Kamenoko. The hit pushed Hari back, smacking her back against the wall. She was cornered.

"Forfeit" the wind mistress said in an ordering tone, yet to her surprise her cousin merely smirked at the demand, returning her shield to its original form – a humanoid tortoise: "And just why would I do that, Torune-nee? Now that I finally got you where I wanted?"

Hearing this, the other blonde raised her eyebrow, only to widen her eyes a moment later at the sensation; but alas, it was too late. Biting on the chakra strings, Hari pulled hard, making walls rise from below ground, trapping the two in a small cylinder. With another motion of her arms, the puppeteer put the tube in motion, making it spin wildly around the duo.

Immediately the wind armor of her adversary started fading, the air moving upwards without Torune's consent: "As a fuuton user, you should know what happens to air when you decompress a confide space!" Hari yelled over the horrific noise of the blowing wind. "Even a jounin would have a hard time executing techniques in this predicament!"

"So when she summoned those dolls, simultaneously set a trap" Saiken analyzed quickly. "I was wondering why she used her puppets in such childish manner; it was all a smokescreen to lure the opponent into that, particular ambush. A wind user is put an a tremendous disadvantage under these circumstances, since he cannot properly control his own techniques... it's like someone who has little, chakra control would try to materialize it. Clever... very clever indeed."

"And, for the record!" Hari went on, this time flipping her toes between her sandals. "I can use three puppets already!" she announced as her left leg slid back.

Torune only noticed a shadow growing larger beneath her feet. Glancing up, she saw a new marionette, neither Karasu nor Kamenoko, dropping from above. Again humanoid in shape, this one had claws in stead of fingers and two, massive blades growing from its elbows. Spikes covered its back, while feet were pointy. The thing's mouth was also formed into a hard jaw, filled with fangs, able to snap anything in two.

But the girl took little note of that; what was important, was that the puppet went straight for her and she couldn't dodge...

-the tables turn!-

And so this chapter ends. Frankly the happenings in it were originally planned for two chappies with Hari showing off some more puppet use, but I ultimately decided that this would be better, coz puppet theater didn't seem as exciting to me. So I shortened that part of this match and can only hope that it was the right decision. Do tell me what you think.

Fuuton: Kaze Bougu (Wind Release: Wind Armor)

Konoha #7 (Naruto): Murasakki Kumiko, Tanken Ibuki, Gekido Takaru, Hagane Kusari, Haisha Kai

Konoha #3 (Shikamaru): Konpaku Rei, Rikoteki Kogane, Amagasa Toku, Debano Kitsune, Gusoku Hanamaru

Konoha #4 (Hinata): Igaku Mikka, Inuzuka Tsume, Benda Kokoro, Hatake Senkou, Kobushi Galu

Konoha (Shino): Manako Akira, Tanken Funbo, Horohoro

Suna #1 (Temari): Torune, Honemaru, Tarakudo, Takai

Suna #2 (Kankuro): Sabaku no Sabure, Hari, Dekai, Karame

Kusa (none): Hokku Tobane, Kanraku Nezumi (currently in medical wing for treatment), Kuchibashi Taka, Kyohaku Tokame, Wanabi Hizoku

Tsuki (Hinami Hoshiru): Junsei Teela, Kihako Tasuki, Chishio Kumo, Chishio Nobu

Kane (unknown): Futatsu

Kumori (Tategamaru): Saiken Tenma

Fight 14: Torune (27) vs. Hari (28)

Fight 15: Amagasa Toku (29) vs. Kyohaku Tokame (30)

Fight 16: Kobushi Galu (31) vs. Karame (32)

Fight 17: Takai vs. Wanabi Hizoku

Fight 18: Tanken Funbo vs. Gekido Takaru

Fight 19: Benda Kokoro vs. Tarakudo

Fight 20: Manako Akira (automatic win)

Fight 21: Sabaku no Sabure vs. Debano Kitsune

Fight 22: Kanraku Nezumi vs. Horohoro

And this concludes chapter 156... wow, I've been writing this a loooooooooong time, even skipping the hiatus portions ^^' Thanks for reading and especially reviewing. Take care and until next time!