A/N: Hello everyone its been a long while since I put up anything for this story. For returning readers, I have rewritten the first half of chapter one to realign the story to the final chapter.
And here it is, the final chapter of 'Brothers of the Sand.'
The Journey Home – Part 2: Broken binds
The Hokages have had a tenuous relationship with their village since its inception. Rival clans were barely more loyal to the Kage than they were to their own clan. Men and women who lived by war alone had been split into two groups; those who seemed reluctant to change their ways, and those who were ready to embrace the stability peace could offer. Generations later, the two factions eventually blended together. Many of the latest generations have never known the mistrust the elders know. This distinction has been the conflict that has caused Danzo to loath to face the newest Hokage. Danzo was announced as a guest to the room before being admitted inside.
Tsunade raised her hand to the man. "Just a moment please Danzo. I say we approve the permits. Konoha has been expanding recently and the current commerce district is just not big enough to handle the influx. A new area should be cleared with in the walls for another commercial zone."
"I agree, but I would rather have some people give up a little of their land, so we may keep the forest inside the walls untouched." Danzo gave an impatient clearing of his throat.
Tsunade closed her folder. When she noticed her former teacher had done the same, she nodded at the man to speak. Both Hokage's had been expecting a conversation with Danzo since Sarutobi decided that Konoha would have two hokage's.
"What is it Danzo?" She looked over the old man. He wore simple robes and a sling that held his weak arm. While he was the Sandaime's former teammate and thus the same age, Danzo had not faired as well as Sarutobi in the field and it showed with the slow gait and the reliance on a walking cane.
Danzo looked carefully at the two before stating his inquiry. "I have recently spoken to a representative of Wind Country's Daimyo…" Danzo paused gauging their reactions. Finally he asked, "Why is the youngest genin team in our roster participating in the Chuunin Exam's?"
Tsunade and Sarutobi exchanged glances. This was news to them. This was not the conversation they were expecting. Danzo looked at the two Kages with narrowed eyes. It was Sarutobi who answered. "I would believe that this would likely be linked to Uzumaki Naruto's friendship with Gaara of the desert."
Danzo waited for more. Tsunade had already started to draft a letter to Kakashi. After waiting a moment, Danzo finally decided to say his peace. "I told you that Hatake was unreliable for such a role. This will require a full hearing with the council as to why there is a rouge team with him in it, deviating from their mission and how. We will also want answers to why they left for another country." Danzo slowly turned away. It was the last moment glance at Sarutobi that Danzo finally realized the older kage had orchestrated the current events.
When Danzo had left the building, he silently applauded his former friend. You should take more risks like this Sarutobi. They work well when you know how to plan them.
Gaara looked into the bright light as the gates to the exit opened. Behind him his team followed him out of the tunnels. The red haired boy sighed as dust fell into his line of vision. His clothing was singed and well worn and his hair was caked in dust. Once outside he looked to his left and saw Naruto set a glare focused on his teammate.
"Naruto, it is better if she just laughs aloud." Immediately Hinata burst out laughing at Gaara's face.
Naruto dusted off the caked dust from his body creating a large cloud. At the few protests from his friends, Sasuke and Hinata started to do the same. The dust cloud filled the exit room from the cave and the examiner yelled at them to get out of the receiving chamber. The group laughed. It was a laugh as much to relieve tension from completing a hard objective as it was to be happy they were out of the tunnels.
One examiner coughed at the dust but quickly said, "Before you leave, the announcement for the final exam will be at five tonight at the enclosed gardens south of the Kazekage tower." The two teams nodded. As they were leaving Sasuke looked over his shoulder to the door the group walked out of moments before.
"Sasuke?" Sasuke glanced at Hinata before following her out.
"We never confirmed how many teams have passed."
Naruto Sasuke and Hinata stood together pleased with the results of the second exam. Of the forty-two teams that had enrolled, three teams would enter the third exam. While this was not normally such a surprise, many chuunin exams had the same results by the third exam, what was surprising was the number of teams that were forced to retire through a coordinated effort of two teams.
Gaara had briefed Team Kakashi while waiting for the final five minutes of the second exam. Gaara was very pleased with both Tsumi and Rina. He told the girls as much and both teammates were positively glowing from the short terse praise their little master had given them. Both teams stood next to the third team that had passed.
Gaara turned to his left as Hinata slapped her hand over Naruto's mouth before he divulged too much information about their team. Gaara shook his head worried about his brother. The son of the Kazekage was told by a proctor that the Rock team passed with an extremely fast time, and had been in the barracks waiting for the end of the exams. Gaara hmm'ed over the information before he was brought out of his thoughts.
The Kazekage looked at the group before him. "Congratulations. You passed the second exam." The Kage looked at his son. The boy nodded in acceptance of the praise. "The final exam is a simple tournament. The fights will be one on one with each winner able to appeal to the judges for another chance to prove there are ready to be granted the rank Chuunin. The third exam will begin in one week. Rest well and recover."
The three teams were dismissed. Sasuke and Hinata both called out to Naruto to come along. The blonde was faster than they expected and was already chatting with the other team they would be fighting. "Really?" Naruto laughed aloud at some story he was told.
"Naruto move it or you don't get any ramen!" Naruto gasped before bowing his good byes to the team from Rock. When Naruto caught up to Gaara and his team he pouted. "That was very mean! I just wanted to know more about their village."
Gaara smiled. "That is usually fine but make sure one of us is there with you so we can stop you from blurting out something that should not be told to foreigners." Naruto's pout deepened with his arms now crossing in front of his chest.
"Hey if I ask about stuff like what their village is like, it's only fair that I give them answers too!"
Kakashi quietly read out side the ramen shop. The place inside was too noisy and dark for him to properly enjoy the shenanigans of Yuno in Icha Icha Paradise. Kakashi heard a familiar cry from an ANBU messenger bird and immediately put away the book. He found the bird and raised his arm. The bird circled and then continued on.
The Team 7 leader lowered his one uncovered eye. There should be no other Konoha Jounin in Suna. Kakashi raised his headband from his scarred eye and moved to a higher location on a roof to properly get a focus on the birds' eye to confuse it. Kakashi raised his arm out and the bird flew to him. The instructor changed gloves from his fingerless gloves to a pair of completely covered gloves to take the letter. Kakashi recognized the seal used to destroy a captured letter and reversed engineered the flow of chakra in the seal using his sharingan as a guide. The seal opened and Kakashi looked at the encoded letter.
It looked to be a variant of the ANBU code he has used on his own missions. After ten minutes of staring at the code with both his normal and sharingan eye, he finally started to see the patterns in the letter. After the patterns were discovered Kakashi made short work of decoding the letter. He looked around and felt nervous still holding the bird for so long but refused to let the bird go.
Kakashi narrowed his eyes at the contents. Quickly, the teacher rolled up the scroll and replaced the seal with the same one he deconstructed. Kakashi let the bird go to find its target and silently followed after it. He needed to find the target the bird was looking for.
The bird flew for another twenty minutes before he found his delivery target. The bird trilled and landed on the arm of a Konoha ninja. Kakashi looked at the genin it was sent to. It was a ninja from konoha team Kakashi and his team investigated. Kakashi remembered Hinata stating the brown haired teen's name was Ayutarou.
Kakashi began to understand what was going on with that team. Someone who was not the Hokage realized that there was something wrong with the genin Kabuto and placed a teammate in his group to observe him. Kakashi would not leave it at that. The contents of the letter could not be ignored, and the suggestion there was something deeper going on made him uncomfortable. It's time to round up my team.
Naruto was annoyed the party broke up so early, but understood the urgency in Kakashi's voice. Sasuke sat down next to the blonde and asked, "Sensei what happened?"
Kakashi looked at the three genin. "I just intercepted a letter from Konoha." Sasuke immediately saw the problem with that statement.
"Who received the letter Kakashi-sensei?" Sasuke glanced at Hinata who asked the question first.
"It was not addressed to the only Konoha Jounin in Suna. I intercepted the letter and gained four vital bits of information. One, there is a Konoha organization running independent from the Hokage. Two, a ninja has infiltrated the other genin team to watch the Kabuto genin we have observed. The third fact is Konoha officially knows we are here taking the exams. And finally most important, a group of ANBU will be here within the time the final exam will begin. They are to detain team Kakashi and prevent my genin squad from participating in the finals."
Naruto scratched his head before finally stating. "We have expected someone would be sent to order our return to Konoha. But to be detained is a little…"
Hinata finished for him. "Messed up. But I can still see how it is justified Naruto. We are the ones that deviated from our mission. That is grounds for being labeled traitors to the village."
Kakashi smiled at the girl. "This is out of character for both of our Hokages. Whoever sent the letter either is sending their own squad of ANBU or the squad being sent to detain us was at the urge of someone who has some influence in the military." Kakashi immediately thought of the three advisors who acted as liaisons to the village.
"Now that we know that the ANBU is coming, we can be prepared to take the exam and find a way to avoid being captured before you three take the exam to attempt to become Chuunin." Team Kakashi nodded. The three looked at him waiting to see if there was anything else that needed to be said. Kakashi sighed. "There is one more thing we need to do before the ANBU team gets here…"
Three hours before sunlight would break the sky, Team Kakashi stood on a roof. The group peered into the window of the second Konoha team. It bothered the team they would need to apprehend another Konoha ninja, much less three.
Sasuke had his hands in front of him and used his fingers to frame the window. His sharingan eyes locked onto the window before he finally nodded. "I have everything set. Let's go."
Naruto jumped down to the alley. "Oi! Konoha team! We need help!" Kabuto cautiously looked out the window. Naruto scowled at the young teen. "Don't just stand there! Move it, we got a problem. We got a letter from Konoha." Naruto already jumped to the roof. The three genin that had all eventually looked out the window prepared to follow the young boy. Naruto jumped past Sasuke.
The Uchiha's pinwheel pupils spun. His blood limit locked onto his three targets while they were in mid air. All three crashed onto the roof, trapped in an illusion. Sasuke followed the three with his eyes. "I have all three of them Kakashi-sensei."
"Good." Next to Sasuke, Kakashi had one hand in a seal to focus his chakra and his lone sharingan targeted the fake genin who he identified was the recipient of the letter. Kakashi and Sasuke remained focus on the genin team while Hinata and Naruto searched the hotel room the group had left. Both gave a signal that the place was clean of traps and found no potential information. Kakashi squatted in front of the observer ninja of the group.
"Sasuke observe my chakra flow. I want you to practice this interrogation technique on Kabuto." Sasuke nodded at his teacher before Kakashi spoke. "Ayutarou, what is your mission?"
The interrogation started slowly first. Kakashi explained quietly what he was looking for for Hinata's and Naruto's benefit. There never was any physical contact with the ninja they questioned. When ever a question was asked, the targets eye lids would flutter recalling the information they needed. Much of the information was what the group had surmised. The ninja was not able to speak of his organization. He was only able to utter the name root. Once the questions were done Kakashi closed his eye and looked at his team. "This will be the difficult part. Naruto. Hinata. I want you to hold the ninja as he recovers. Move your chakra around his wrists to slow the flow to his arms. He needs to be lucid for the next phase of questioning, but we can't allow him to have signs he had been detained." Naruto and Hinata both pushed the ninja to a standing position and focused their chakra to disrupt the chakra circulation.
"Sasuke I want you to do the questioning. I will observe, but I will not interfere unless you three are in danger." Kakashi stepped back before he disappeared into the shadows. Sasuke stood in front of the ninja. He thought of what he could say to the teen before the teen began to stir.
"Hello Mr. Root." The ninja felt his body ripple with a moment of tension before he released it. The captured ninja looked to his left and right and noticed the two children disrupting his chakra. "Unfortunately we were not able to find much in your mind that is not sealed away." Sasuke black eyes stared at the ninja. "Lucky for you, we can not afford to have any evidence that we detained you. We have enough problems with Konoha ANBU on its way here now." The ninja stared back but there was a slight twitch at the information Sasuke should not have known. "We have narrowed down the leader of Root down to two people. Have you met the leader of Root before?"
Sasuke noted the slight strain in the captive's eyes. The ninja realized he was some how not marshaling his reactions well enough and simply looked forward and tried to focus on nothing. Sasuke's sharingan forced Ayutarou to look at the boy. "That makes my next question easier: Is the leader a man or a woman?" That got a definite reaction as the teen tensed the muscle attached to his clavicle bone.
"Is there a point to this confrontation Uchiha Sasuke?"
Naruto immediately whispered into his ear. "We have to assess if Root is a threat to Konoha."
Sasuke stared coldly at the teen. "We found what we were looking for. Sleep and forget." Sasuke's eyes flared red and the teen slumped to the floor. Naruto and Hinata released the older teen.
Sasuke swallowed the lump in his throat. "Kabuto. I know you are awake." Kabuto immediately jumped into the air before his ankle was caught by a hand and his back was thrust into the roof. Kabuto wheezed from the blow to his lungs. "Thank you Naruto." Immediately sand surrounded Kabuto's wrists, waist and neck. Sasuke closed his eyes to give them a rest.
Naruto sighed. "I think it's our turn Hinata. Don't worry about making mistakes, you can damage him. The fact is we found two potentially dangerous entities working inside Konoha."
Hinata nodded. "I know. We just need to find evidence." The veins around the girl's eyes bulged and the pupils that covered her entire eyes contracted to refocus. Hinata repeated the same hand signals Sasuke used and followed the same lesson the team observed while Sasuke performed the technique. Kabuto's eyes did not waiver and his eyes stared straight. Seven minutes passed and Hinata finally ended the jutsu disappointed with herself.
Naruto and Sasuke exchanged glances. Sasuke gave her shoulder a warm nudge. "Don't worry about it Hinata. This guy was likely brainwashed to shut down his mind completely to anything that probed uncomfortable questions related to who trained him." Hinata nodded but still growled in frustration.
Naruto moved his neck, back and shoulders. Each made popping noises from the release of tension in his muscles. "Hinata, Sasuke, I am going to try one more thing before we hand him over. I need you both to hold him while I let my sand release him. I need all my chakra control for this to make sure no one else is feeling it."
Filled with curiosity, Sasuke and Hinata moved to hold the older teen. After a moment of Kabuto resisted, Hinata weakened his body with chakra bursts into his muscles, forcing Kabuto to his knees.
Naruto let the sand drop from his body and exhaled. "Ok guys, don't look at me. You will get caught in the intent too."
Sasuke gripped Kabuto already understanding. Sasuke looked at Hinata already sweating from nervousness. "Hinata. Just look at me. Until Naruto tells us it's safe, we look at each other. It's the safest way." Hinata gave a nod in agreement.
Naruto walked in front of Kabuto and held the teens' face with his hands. "Kabuto. Do you remember when you got angry? We watched your eyes turn red from the blood rushing through your body. Your behavior was really different then." Kabuto stayed silent. "Well I am going to force that out of you again. Try not to be too scared. The first few seconds are rough."
Naruto closed his eyes and channeled his chakra. The blue chakra ran like a river through his body and sped over a single spot. Chakra pooled over the seal placed on his belly. Naruto forced chakra through the seal and felt the responding red chakra from his prisoner filter through. Naruto quickly felt anger completely foreign to him grip his mind. Naruto immediately rechanneled the rage and opened his eyes.
Kabuto gasped in silent horror and felt he wanted instinctively try to curl his body for protection. Kabuto felt himself standing in an open black field. The teen cried in momentary relief.
You are relaxing too soon.
Kabuto looked around to see Naruto and instantly something so much greater than Naruto or himself stood before him. The nine tailed fox leveled its furious gaze on Kabuto. Kyuubi howled at the teen blurring chakra around them both. Kabuto screamed but his own voice was drowned out by the Kyuubi. Pressured chakra ripped at the teenagers' body. Horrible burns started at every part of exposed skin. After a second, everything was over and Kabuto felt his knees pressed against cool hard concrete. The horrible feeling of being burned froze him in the cold desert air. Kabuto tried to hunch over to catch his breath but was still held in place by two genin who never looked away from each other.
"You must be the real Kabuto we saw on the first day. Thank you Hinata, Sasuke for trusting me." Sand immediately took control of the joints on Kabuto's body allowing for Team 7 to release their prisoner.
Hinata and Sasuke had a real look at the differences between the prisoner before the technique and the differences afterwards. The Kabuto before had a rigid posture and clinical look in his eye as if he was trying to find weaknesses to exploit. This new Kabuto smirked at him through eyes with bulging red veins. He was easily more blood thirsty than the old Kabuto. "What is your purpose?" Naruto asked. The blonde watched the teen wearily.
Kabuto breathed hard and felt his body shake with fatigue, finally he looked around and saw himself surrounded by three ninja. After a moment Kabuto answered between pants. "To watch. To observe Konoha."
"What do you want from us Kabuto?" Asked Sasuke as he pulled out a Kunai. Hinata already had one kunai pointed at the teen's neck.
"Release me. I need to fulfill my mission."
Naruto thought a moment. "You need to fulfill your mission to watch us-."
"Yes." Kabuto interrupted with a grin. His head turned to one side and he exhaled a slight laugh. "For me to prove that it is all worth it. I need to watch Konoha." Team Seven wondered what that statement meant.
Naruto squatted in front of Kabuto. "What will happen if you are discovered or killed during this mission?"
"Everything will start sooner. MUCH sooner." Kabuto sat back content that he had given the ultimatum. Sasuke grabbed Kabuto by the hair and forced the teen to look at him in the eye. A moment later Kabuto was unconscious.
Kakashi walked forward from the shadows of the roof. "Good job Team Seven." The team silently thought about what they learned. "I think we are going to have to ask for a favor from the Kazekage."
Naruto nodded. "I'll get him now. I don't think we should chance either of them safe enough to be let loose."
Kakashi nodded. "Go Naruto, bring their ANBU here then request the presence of the Kazekage. Be polite." Naruto grinned before disappearing in a gust of sand. "Hinata. Sasuke. Bind Kabuto and the Root. I will see about the third member and see if he knew of any of this."
The night was long and exhausting. ANBU was present within a minute and they held the two prisoners. Kakashi sifted through the memories of the third member of the ill fated team but his interrogation techniques did not signal a single red flag. This Konoha ninja was just placed in a bad situation. The Kazekage arrived within ten minutes and talked grimly to Kakashi.
Not a single member of team seven noticed it was dawn until the sun broke over the first dunes. With the sunlight, a single messenger hawk was sent to Konoha. It was trained to fly at high altitudes to avoid detection and it quickly arrived in Konoha. The messenger receiver looked at the scroll to see Kakashi's seal as a jounin on the scroll. It was opened and a summoning seal released itself from the scroll. A small pug dog with a blue coat and Konoha headband gave a happy pant at the messenger and relayed its instruction to speak with the Hokage. An hour later, both Hokages sat silently before both agreeing with the suggestions given by Team Seven about the situation.
Team Seven was able to get six hours of sleep before being woken up by their sensei. Sand ninja had spotted the Konoha ANBU enter Wind country. Naruto immediately decided that the team needed to be introduced to the Diamyo of Wind Country. Naruto led his team in meeting the cultural elite with names like mustache-san, giggly-chan, and diamyo-kun. Hinata and Sasuke had worked along side security of Fire Country's Diamyo and cringed when Naruto loudly smacked the Diamyo's son hard on the back nearly pushing the twenty year old flat on his face.
Kakashi smiled while nodding at the Kazekage that evening. The Kage's children stood rigidly next to him. "Kazekage-dono. Thank you for your hospitality and patience with my team. It seems I truly have no skills in troop discipline."
The Kazekage gave a gruff laugh. "I have had the boy in my village for some time Kakashi. I don't think anyone can silent his spirit. I heard that the Diamyo has requested your team stay with him and his estate in the village."
Kakashi marveled at how well Naruto could talk circles with the nobility. The blonde had guaranteed that they would not be disturbed by Konoha ANBU until they were free of the Wind Diamyo's attention. "Yes, I thank you for the housing you have given us until now, but I believe the Diamyo wishes us to stay with his party until the start of the exams. I also would like to add he would like to speak with your son Gaara-kun as well." The Kazekage gave a glance to his son who had the decency to look abashed.
"Go children, you have been at your father's side enough that all three of you are bored." Kankuro, and Temari bowed in thanks. Gaara gave a slight nod of his head before walking towards his friend. The Kage spared a side glance, Kakashi's sad eyes followed Gaara. "Have the rumors of my relationship with my son been spread so far as Konoha, Kakashi?"
Kakashi eye's softened at the sight of the children before bowing his head. "Forgive me Kazekage-dono. I meant no disrespect."
"It is fine son of the white fang. As a child ninja yourself, I can understand you value attachments more than most ninja. From someone who has had to reattach themselves to their village… What is your impression of Gaara?"
Kakashi thought a moment before answering. Team Sevens' leader looked at the children. Gaara was silent but had a smile for a moment when Naruto wrapped his arms around Temari in a momentary glomp that was followed by the laughter of the nobility. "He is firmly attached to this village. What ever his aspirations are, he will find a way to fulfill them. For his serious demeanor, he is far more childish than Naruto."
The Kage exhaled a half bark that sounded like a laugh. "And far more stubborn. Thank you Kakashi. It is good that I hear that from another voice." Kakashi spoke with the Kazekage for the rest of the evening until the party dispersed. Kakashi began to make his own connections with the politician's of the group and found the stay with the nobility informative.
The morning of the exam arrived.
Team Seven stood in front of the nobility that housed them for the past few days. "Thank you Diamyo-kun!" shouted Naruto.
The blonde's head was pushed forward by Hinata in a forced bow. "Thank you Sir. The last few days were a positive experience for us." Sasuke remained silent but smiled at the ground before rising from his bow.
The group felt the security of the noble's procession leave behind them before each nodded at each other and disappeared.
Naruto dashed through alleys. He pressed the small communicator in his ear. "Naruto. Checking in." Naruto heard his ear piece state back.
"Hinata. Checking in."
"Sasuke. Checking in."
"Kakashi. Checking in. Remember avoid the ANBU at all costs until you are called for your match. If you get caught before being tested a lot of the work we accomplished will be discredited." All three children clenched their jaws.
Gaara looked at the audience seating around the arena he stood in. He had first draw against Maki the male rock ninja. Naruto said Maki was suspicious of Naruto from the moment he talked to the rock team.
Gaara stared at his opponent. The ninja was very cautious and moved closer to him very slowly. A second later the red haired boy thrust his hand out at the teen ninja which was accompanied by a wave of sand. His target dodged the attack and Gaara let the Rock Ninja have the true opening move. Gaara jumped high into the air to give himself room just as Maki unlatched a scroll that was strapped to his thigh. Three large lances burst from the first scroll flying towards Gaara.
Gaara's sand knocked the three lances deep into the earth shaking the ground. Sounds of sifting sand echoed in the stadium as cheers wailed into the air.
Sasuke was not surprised that the Konoha ninja made no effort to conceal himself. The ANBU simply placed a hand on his shoulder effectively stopping Sasuke's movement. "Mr. ANBU, you are really hasty." Sasuke looked over his shoulder looking at the man in the eye. "Can't we stay long enough to participate in the exams?"
The ANBU gave an annoyed humph before placing his free hand into a seal. When nothing happened he looked at the boy he restrained. The boy suddenly turned to sand statue. He tried to let go but felt himself unable to. Five seconds of analyzing the situation stopped when he felt two fingers press against his temple and the words "KAI!" hit him like a cold bath of water. Both ANBU double checked to confirm neither of them were still in a genjutsu.
Simultaneously, both ANBU exhaled and looked at each other. "We better move in pairs." Two other ANBU on the roof above them nodded before they disappeared.
The cheers of the crowd finally died. Gaara waved his hands to the crowd and discretely moved his sand to cover the open scrolls his opponent used. The young boy rolled them quickly while Maki was still recovering his breath. "You fight well Maki-san. Your spatial awareness is good. I hope you become a chuunin with this showing of effort."
Maki looked at the boy uncomprehendingly. "Thank you for covering my scrolls while I passed out."
"I would like to believe you used your best abilities in this fight, it would be tragic if someone in the crowd was able to view those seals to copy them." Maki felt embarrassed and a flush burned his cheeks. The Rock Ninja stood and thanked the boy again with a bow. The crowds cheered again.
The Exam Proctor waited until both examinees were off the field. "The next two opponents please come to the ring. Uchiha Sasuke and Komosubi Rina!"
Sasuke immediately appeared in swirl of leaves. Rina jumped from the examinee booth and got a good look at the boy. He was breathing hard and had a heavy sweat on his face. She did not know exactly was going on with Team 7 from the leaf, but knew Gaara's orders. Don't go easy on Team 7.
As soon as the proctor's hand dropped, Rina dashed towards the young boy. Sasuke only had time to raise his arms in a guard blocking the first three attacks squarely before pushing the girl to give him room. The Uchiha closed one of his eyes and performed several hand seals. Fire element: Grand Fire Ball. Fire burst from his mouth rolling at Rina. Rina clasps her hands together before slamming them into the ground. Earth surrounded her in a dome.
Sasuke cut the jutsu as soon as he lost sight of the girl. He jumped back before Rina tried to grab his ankle from underground. Sasuke looked at the girl who was half submerged in the ground. He pulled out a kunai to defend himself just as Rina moved forward. Her body began to completely submerge into the ground leaving a trail of dirt flying into the air before she went deep enough that there was no visible signs on the surface that she was moving.
Sasuke closed his eyes and focused on the vibrations in the earth preparing for the girls next attack. He side stepped a burst of earth that thrust at him but misjudged the kind of attack. The dirt quickly formed into a ring and moved vertically towards him gripping his waist. Sasuke pulled out a Kunai and charged it with chakra to break apart the ring and gain more distance. The child jumped and stood against the wall of the stadium looking for any disturbances of earth. Several ninja stars flew from the shadows. Sasuke danced around the stars as they landed against the wall. The Uchiha kept to the wall looking for some sign of weakness.
Sasuke tried to slow his deep breathing. The genjutsu he performed to escape ANBU was one of his most chakra draining techniques since it required his sharingan.
Uchiha Sasuke took a gamble and closed his right eye and opened his left revealing his sharingan. He saw the stars coming from a mound of dirt that was disturbed in such a way he would not be able to see the origin when he stared straight at it.
Sasuke dropped from the wall and sprinted using chakra with every step towards the ninja' star's origin. Spikes of earth burst from the ground. Sasuke dodged them easily now that he could see the gathering of chakra on the ground before the spikes tried to hit him. The boy slid to the entrance and performed the same technique he had used at the start of the match into the hole. Fire element: Grand Fire Ball. The sound of a vacuum rushed through the ground as fire quickly burned through the tunnels in the earth. Rina jumped out of the ground. Fire licked her legs as she left the tunnels she burrowed. She landed and her feet shook slightly.
Sasuke did not give her time to recover. With both eyes closed Sasuke did the same hand signs. Fire element: Grand Fire Ball.
Rina felt her legs weakened from the last attack and only had time to create her earth dome. When the fireball hit her dome she was prepared to drop the dome and try to counter attack but the crowd cheered at something. She immediately strengthened her dome. And something else hit her earth shield. Hard.
As soon as Sasuke felt the technique form and leave his hands, he opened his left eye. His sharingan began to spin rapidly and with just moving his hand to his mouth he started his next jutsu. Replay: Grand Fireball. Sasuke felt the technique finish, and quickly closed his left eye and opened his right. Replay: Grand Fireball. Three loud cracks hit the earth dome. The third fireball broke Rina's defenses.
Rina had the presence of mind to move as much raw chakra to the front of her body to shield herself from the fire. When the fire ball died Rina stood panting. She pulled out a kunai and unsteadily held it in her hand. The sand ninja prepared herself for another attack.
Immediately Sasuke sighed. "It looks like my time is up. I Uchiha Sasuke forfeit the match." The crowd gave a disappointed aw, but the proctor accepted the defeat.
Rina and Sasuke walked up to each other and gave the other a slap on the back. Both were pleased with their fight. They got off the field and Sasuke raised his arms. "I surrender. I won't fight anymore." Two ANBU places hands on his shoulders.
"Forgive us for not believing you. But I think I will need to blind fold you to ensure you don't try again."
Sasuke glared at the man. "I ran out of chakra, you could see that in my fight. I am not going to struggle. But I DO want to see my friends' matches."
"You may watch the end of the tournament. But we will be damned if we let your teammates participate in the exams."
He stopped when the Proctor called for Hinata and Aeko from the Rock Village. Two ANBU next to Sasuke scanned for the girl. Sasuke smirked at them before saying, "Sensing chakra isn't going to help you find her." A second after he made the comment several popping noises echoed in the stadium. The ANBU quickly turned to the arena entrance seeing a small figure flare her chakra from none existent to her normal fighting level.
Hinata sat casually in the stadium seating. The young girl wrapped her self in traditional Sand Village wardrobe with a long piece of cloth wrapping around her hair. She had pulled in nearly all of her chakra into her body to keep her self hidden. Hinata cheered for Gaara and Sasuke and only made an effort to move to the stadium floor when her opponent was on the ground waiting.
A sifting sound of wind and dispersed sand announced her presence. "Start the match!" Hinata shouted already trying to raise her chakra to her normal levels as quickly and safely as possible. The proctor, while surprised, did as was asked and started the fight.
Hinata sighed in relief to know that the ANBU would not interfere now. But she was also faced with the problem with her chakra needed more time to raise itself to the needed levels to fight the way she wanted to.
Aeko was surprised by the abrupt beginning of the match but quickly shook it off and launched her attack. She focuses mainly on hand to hand combat and was surprised at the difference of being larger than her opponent affected her fighting style.
Hinata dodged several attacks swiftly. The sound of popping bursts of chakra accompanied her moves. I need more time.
Aeko finally began to adjust to the size difference and with one missed attack, she quickly drew a hidden kunai from her fore arm and let it swing to her hand. The sudden change of length Hinata needed to dodge caught her. Hinata bit back a grunt of pain. The younger girl jumped back several yards and took off her jacket. She looked at the clean slice on her arm.
Hinata saw smudges of something along the cut and pulled out her own kunai to cut another slice along Aeko's cut. The rock ninja moved forward in an attempt to force Hinata to concentrate on her, instead of removing the poison.
The Hyuuga already felt herself burst into a fever while she dodged Aeko's hand to hand attacks. Hinata landed a pounding kick to the girls' kidneys before jumping back and squeezing the poison out thoroughly. She tied the wound with the bandana she used to hide her distinctive hair. It was just enough time so she could pull a kunai to defend herself against Aeko's next attack.
"Aeko-san…" The older girl looked at Hinata's smile. "You didn't finish me off in time, I collected enough chakra now." Aeko jumped back just before she heard hundreds of popping sounds come from the girl.
Hinata dashed at the teenager. Her hands were alive with blue chakra. When both girls made physical contact, Aeko felt her forearm being pierced with chakra that penetrated her muscles. Aeko groaned out in pain as several more blocks were rewarded with painful pulses of chakra to her arms.
Aeko made room between her and the dangerous little girl. She moved her hands together and Hinata felt the arena go black.
Naruto quietly watched the match and cheered when Hinata recollected all the chakra she had suppressed while hiding. Naruto let his feet swing over the edge of the canopy from where he was viewing the match. The blonde boy had made a few attempts to hide but felt someone follow him for a long time. Naruto had decided at one point there was no real reason to hide with out at least asking the ANBU some questions.
"Mr. ANBU-san can you come out please? I have been curious about some stuff."
The boy felt something shadow him and Naruto immediately lean forward and pivoted his feet along the wall that ended in a pirouette three feet away. Naruto sat back down and looked at the ANBU mask. "Relax. I am not going to run away for a little while, Hinata's fight just started. I did want to ask: who sent you?"
Naruto felt the look from the ANBU and laughed. "I am just curious. I have had Konoha ninja sent to kill be before, so I just wanted to make sure you weren't one of those. But since you haven't really done anything to me yet I supposed that's a no." Naruto smiled at him and turned his attention back to Hinata. The boy gave a vocal 'oh', "Looks like me and Sasuke were right about the girl. She is a genjutsu user."
The ANBU resisted the urge to look. "Was there another question you wanted to ask me?"
Naruto looked up at the woman's voice. "Mmhmm!" Naruto hummed while watching Hinata. "Sorry but this is the good part, Aeko-chan just got the raw end of the stick fighting Hinata. Hinata-chan is strong against genjutsu users."
Hinata felt her body move in complete darkness. While it was not similar to the complete darkness in the caves during the second test, this darkness was not able to be pierced with her blood limit. The girl let chakra flow out of her body in a free floating cloud around her body. When she felt something disrupt the chakra in front of her, Hinata flipped backwards. Her chest hurt from the few seconds of contact but she could not see what had hit her. Hinata started regulating her chakra and the sounds of chakra making popping bursts at her hands slowly moved into her own system to disrupt the genjustu. Immediately the illusion broke apart. Hinata only had enough time to dodge a large mallet her opponent wielded.
Aeko whistled at Hinata's ability to break her strongest illusion. She moved her steel hammer to her left hand and made several seals before slapping her weapon. The weapon started to vibrate until the surface of the head was turning a bright heated red.
Hinata felt the heat from the hammer as it missed her body. Hinata jumped farther away. It was her turn to fight at a distance. Hinata made several seals before the popping sounds finally stopped.
Hinata moved around the girl keeping eye contact before she thrust her hand out at the girl. A thick beam of chakra moved from the young girls' fingertips. Aeko was caught off guard by the speed of the attack and felt the line of chakra ram into her abdomen. Hinata gave a relieved smile that her first attempt was successful.
Aeko looked at the blue chakra cord and suddenly felt many bursts of charka burn into her body. The rock ninja immediately fell to the ground. Hinata approached the girl cautiously and turned the rock ninja over.
"Winner Hyuuga Hinata!"
The crowd cheered at the young girl beating an older opponent. Hinata ignored the cheers and knelt next to Aeko and quietly healed the disrupted chakra coils, and the bruising she had inflicted. Aeko slowly managed to come around and looked at the child in surprise.
"Thank you for the fight Aeko-san. It was fun. I hope the next time we see each other, it will be as friends and not enemies." Hinata bowed to the girl and walked out of the arena. An ANBU officer tapped Hinata's shoulder. Hinata looked at the Konoha ninja and nodded, allowing her self to be escorted away.
Naruto smiled at the declaration that Hinata was the winner. "That was great!" The boy stood up and dusted off his rear and legs. "Thank you. I really wanted to watch the match." The boy started to do a few stretching exercises before he stopped and looked at the adult ANBU. "My question to you was: If I can make the council loose their ability to blackmail the Hokage, would you let me do one round in this exam?"
The ANBU woman stared at the boy. Unsure of her voice, she asked. "Can you really do that?"
Naruto nodded. "It's already started. The town is growing. You know that. It's a big deal in the capital too. Why do you think people are so interested in moving to Konoha?" Naruto smiled at the ANBU. The woman seemed unsure. Naruto pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to the ANBU. Naruto turned to the arena floor. His name was called a second time. "Well?"
The female ANBU read the paper and closed her eyes. With a sigh the woman grunted out, "Please make good on your promise."
Naruto jumped down from the roof shouting out, "of course!" behind him.
A second later, "What the hell did you just do! You had him! We could have prevented one of the brats from taking the exam. How the hell are we going to explain this to the Hokage."
The woman handed him the letter. "This is a merchant permit for Konoha." The second ANBU glared at her. "Look who signed it."
"Uzumaki Naruto? He bought four acres of land inside Konoha. How?"
The woman shook her head but said, "He said he could make the council loose their hold on the Hokages."
The second ANBU took off his mask. "That's a dangerous game the brat's playing."
"So is taking off your mask Anko. Put that back on."
"The mission failed. I don't have to wear it anymore." Anko answered with an annoyed tone.
Naruto looked over to his opponent. "Hey Taka!"
The teenager smiled at the boy. "It's good to finally be able to see what you got Uzumaki!" Taka threw several ninja stars at the boy.
Naruto moved his hands at the stars and sand grasped the projectiles before flinging them back to their owner. Taka raised his hand at the stars and caught one star. Immediately his hand turned into solid metal. He caught the other two and gave an annoyed look to his hands. Naruto giggled at the glare. "You really should learn how to control that Taka." During the many conversations through the exams, Naruto had learned that the teen had a problem controlling his blood limit. The ability to absorb the material that is touched and make the body as strong as that material; provided it was made of some kind of earth.
Naruto and Taka fought, both finding limited success in their stalemate. Finally Taka looked from the sand that covered his body courtesy of the explosion from Naruto. "Naruto please surrender." Naruto noticed the sudden change in Taka's voice. There was no more playing between them.
"Not yet Taka." Taka gave the boy a brief smile. Taka understood Naruto's need to show up his skill to the judges. But Taka felt himself running out of options. His sensei had always ordered him to push his boundaries. It was time to really push one. Taka looked at Naruto in the eyes for a brief moment before he burst into sand. Naruto's eyes widen before he looked to the sifting winds around the arena that kicked up sand. Naruto dodged large burst of sand that took the shape of a wall. Then another that broke the ground breaking the arena into halves. Naruto dodged another burst of sand from the ground that created another wall.
Naruto looked around realized his fighting area was getting progressively smaller. Naruto ran to one of the walls and poured chakra into his sand and made the accumulated sand in his arm change to a large sphere over his fist. The sand hammer broke through one wall and immediately the sand walls all burst throwing sand into the air. Naruto looked around and felt for Taka's chakra. "That's not going to work Naruto, my blood limit is based off my body not my chakra."
Naruto started a moment looking around. Takas' voice felt as if it was right next to his ear. After thinking about the origin, Naruto felt his body tensed. "Are you in there Taka? In my sand armor?" He was answered with constricting sand surrounding his body. Naruto felt the squeezing compress his ribs. The air in his lungs was suddenly limited and his knees buckled against the pressure of sand making his knees move.
"Surrender Naruto." The controlled sand forced Naruto to raise his arm and the sand around his neck gripped his head forcing it to turn to the proctor.
Naruto suddenly understood all those months Chiharu explained the flaw in his ability to control his sand. Naruto, in this instant, understood the look of sadness the man gave him when he outright refused to find another way to keep himself balanced with himself and not just his teammates.
Naruto felt something sting his eyes and he knew it was not sand. For the first time in years he felt his own tears build in his eyes. The boy felt all his hard work crumble. All the years controlling sand left him blind to possible counters to his skill. Now that he saw an actual method he felt himself think of hundreds of other ways to counter his sand. Both of his teammates could dispel his technique if they had fought all out with him. Why was his predicament such a surprise? All because the simple method he used to control his sand.
"I-Naruto-" Naruto felt his jaw open and he realized Taka's intention. Taka was making his voice sound like his victims to declare a forfeited. No! Naruto closed his eyes and felt the sand loosen from his body and then drop completely from his frame. Naruto jumped away from the sand and gasp from the sudden release that was crushing his ribs. "Good try Taka."
Taka pulled himself out of the sand and felt his body reform it self. He knelt and pulled a kunai from his bag he dropped before bursting into sand. Taka said quietly, "Thank you Naruto. I think I now understand my blood limit a little better now. I am amazed- your sand… is absolute chakra control isn't it?" Naruto nodded sadly. He spared a glance to the observation deck where Gaara would be watching.
Just as quietly as Taka, Naruto stated, "I can't do true jutsus like Gaara does. All I can do is manipulations to look like techniques. But I wanted to try; just for us to be closer."
Taka nodded his understanding. "It's not really needed anymore though is it?" Naruto looked at the teen. A surprised expression was evident on his face. "You talk about your friends and Gaara especially. You are family." Naruto had felt himself smile before it turned into a true grin.
Much louder Naruto laughed out. "Taka you will be a really great leader of your clan. Don't let those old bastards say otherwise."
"I don't think I have to worry about that anymore." Instantly Taka's body turned to the dull black steel that matched the kunai in his hand.
"Thank you Taka. I think you hammered into me what my teachers really couldn't." Naruto changed out of his fighting stance and clasped his hands together. A brief warmth of red chakra flowed through his body. Naruto's eyes burned red for half a second before returning to their deep blue.
Both Taka and Naruto dashed towards and exchanged blows with each other. Naruto reinforced his body of pure chakra made a loud clang when his fist met against Taka's hands. Naruto grabbed Taka's kunai and slammed his free hand against the teen's wrist. With a hard twist Naruto removed the kunai from Taka's hand but was rewarded with metal foot to his sides. A half moment later, Taka lost the metal attributes he had taken from the Kunai. Naruto caught the leg and locked it. He dropped his weight and Taka felt himself forced to drop his hips or risk breaking his knee. Naruto put a foot against the teen's hip making him roll on his stomach. Naruto pulled Taka's leg round and knelt against the small of Taka's back grasping one leg firmly. Suddenly a weight pressed against the older teens body. Hard. Cracks fanned out of the body beneath Naruto.
Taka's face was in the ground. Instantly Taka started laughing. "How the hell did you pin me when you are a third my size?" Naruto laughed with him. After a moment Naruto sighed before letting Taka go. Taka instantly broke free of the last hand on his leg and cleared several meters. The teen looked at Naruto in confusion.
"Proctor!" Naruto shouted at the only other man on the field. "I am disqualified for accidently using non-sanctioned outside sources of chakra." Quietly to Taka Naruto conceded a little more information. "I have a secondary chakra source in my body. I accidently drew from that even though I was told I would be disqualified if I did." Taka took the information at face value. Many ninja have their secrets, and this was one Naruto would not want shared with people he did not trust. Taka felt his friendship with the boy strengthen with the knowledge.
The crowd gave a disappointed cry at the proclamation before the proctor announced Taka the winner. Naruto and Taka gave each other a slap on the back.
Kakashi clapped politely next to the Kazekage. The Anbu were flanking him both keeping a careful eye on their sempai. "I was given confirmation from the Hokages that they agreed with our decision regarding the other konoha team. If you will excuse me Kazekage-dono, I believe I have to go see an old woman about a trial." The Kazekage repressed a laugh.
"When ever your ninja are ready to take them off my hands, I will be prepared. I believe it will be in our best interests for both villages if our contacts are from those who are already aware of the situation." The Kazekage looked at Kakashi. The squad captain understood the request to return to Suna when Konoha would have to pick up the Root member and the spy.
Kakashi walked with his escorts to the viewing deck with the chuunin exam participants. He smiled brightly at his team. "Well that went well." The team laughed. Each was satisfied with their showing. Team seven said one more final good bye to Gaara's team and the team from rock. Each group promised to keep in contact to find who received the promotions.
Tsumi looked around the arena with a bright smile before settling on her opponent. "You know, my first sensei was killed by a ninja from Rock." Tsumi gave a brief smile before bowing. "I want to dedicate this match to his memory as an amazing sensei." The cheers echoed through the city at the proclamation.
Naruto looked over his shoulder at the gates of Suna Village and smiled at the noise. The walk would be long since the ANBU did not want any of them to use chakra, and they had already worn themselves out in their matches and attempts to avoid the ANBU. "Did you ever say good bye to Gaara's siblings?" Kakashi asked over his book.
Sasuke looked over at Naruto. "We actually didn't get much time to speak to them since we were attached to the nobility." That earned an annoyed growl from one of the ANBU. Sasuke laughed with Hinata. "Naruto I know you wandered off last night. Did you talk to them?"
Naruto smiled wistfully. "I said good bye to Temari last night."
Kakashi giggled at the implication as it nearly matched the last few pages of his book. Hinata struck her master in the thigh where she could reach. "Don't be perverted Kakashi-sensei! I think it is sweet Naruto risked getting caught to see Temari." Hinata gave a full blushed smile to Naruto. Sasuke sighed for the sake of giving some kind of input to the conversation.
A few moments passed before Sasuke finally asked what has been bothering him. "No sand Naruto?"
"I have a few bottles at home. I think I am just going to enjoy not having to use my chakra for a while. And I will need to review what Chiharu taught me. It is going to take me years to learn how to fight with out sand. But I will do it when I am not doing a mission."
Hinata smiled. "But you will be using sand until then right?"
Naruto placed his hands behind his head and smiled at the girl. "Yep."
The Third Hokage took off his hat. The heat of the room was not a factor for his composure, but keeping himself collected in a room full of people with entitlement issues was. He stood in the room surrounded by the Clan leaders, and the representatives of the civilian trader's commerce. The later portion of this council had been a grievous error since its inception the day of the Kyuubi attack.
The commerce was more of a council of civilians who wanted to be safe inside Konoha. They would make demands to increase security for policing the town, in place laws that would match other cities rather than a military village. In other ninja villages, any kind of union of commerce to represent them selves to the kage would be non-existent since many would have too many self interests. But Konoha received this unfortunate by-product thanks to the civilian's unanimous demand to remove the demon container Naruto from the village.
The negotiations started with all of the civilian businesses ready to leave Konoha if the Hokage did not do the right thing and kill the demon. Slowly the binds around the Hokage's hands settled with an unbalance of power in favor the commerce which was the blood of the ninja village.
"This is no longer the case." Announced the Third Hokage. "As of now, this commerce has not accepted the new business owners that have moved into Konoha over the past decade. Either this 'commerce' accepts the new businesses with true representation or you are no longer welcome in Konoha."
The out cry had built through the meeting. Realization dawned on a few representatives. They had lost the leverage to remain equals with the Hokage. The commerce representatives swore silently at the new businesses. They had all heard the stories from the capital and how their good little children ninja encouraged people to move to the ninja village, to create families and businesses in Konoha.
The city swelled in numbers since team seven started their mission of undetermined length in the capital. Every civilian and ninja knew who they had to thank for the number of businesses that started in the last year. Naruto had single handedly become the Konoha spokes person in the capital. By the end of the day, the original commerce found themselves marginalized being out numbered by two to one in population. The number of representatives they now needed was over twice as many as the ones currently represented in the meeting.
The Third Hokage put on his hat and left the meeting. His job was done. There would be no more threats to the village or to Naruto from the merchants' demands for protection from the demon.
Three days later an official statement was drafted for the second team that was sent to the chuunin exams. The two members of the second team were reported as being detained by Sand's ANBU for fighting with other chuunin examinee's and were arrested and imprisoned. Tsunade wrote the reports her self and her official seal was placed on each of the seven documents to close the incident.
The file was now closed and before her stood Team Seven. "As unorthodox as your mission was and how it changed with the addition of new information, I give this mission the Rank A. My personal Anbu are investigating the reports of Root and the agenda being used inside Konoha." Sasuske, Hinata and Naruto all resisted the urge to fidget and looked at their Kage.
"Regarding the results of Konoha ninja who had passed the Chuunin exams…" Tsunade nodded to her side and Sarutobi moved a large package from under the desk. Tsunade stood along with Sarutobi who called, "Hyuuga Hinata. With your performance at the exams I grant you the Rank: Chuunin." Hinata received two hugs from the boys and she quickly stood in front of her Kages. Both Hokages waited until Hinata placed on her new chuunin jacket before they bowed to Hinata. Hinata secured her jacket and ran back to her team.
"Uchiha Sasuke, with your performance at the Exams I grant you the Rank: Chuunin." Sasuke got a hug from Hinata and a slap on the back from Naruto. Sasuke slipped on his chuunin jacket and moved his shoulder to get used to the new heavier fabric. He bowed to his Hokages and rushed back in line.
Naruto looked at Tsunade. She looked back before smiling. "Get over here Naruto. There was no question about you passing the exams." Naruto grinned at his teammates before running up the old woman and giving her a hug before jumping down and sliding on his chuunin jacket. "Uzumaki Naruto. With your performance at the exams, I grant you the Rank: Chuunin." Naruto bowed and turned to his team before being bowled over by his teammates.
In the pile Hinata shouted "We did it!" Sasuke and Naruto laughed and the group hugged and tumbled together. Kakashi, Tsunade and Sarutobi laughed at the spectacle.
Gaara stood with his team. Each wore their new jackets with pride. "Kazekage-sama" Gaara said with respect. The adult nodded to Gaara and the boy dismissed his team. The red haired boy watched his team file out before the doors closed. Gaara stood in front of his father.
"Congratulations Gaara. What have you decided for your team's future?" Gaara felt his hands grip behind him thinking about his answer.
"I would like my team to perform guard duty for the length of one year before returning to the mission roster."
The Kazekage nodded at the plan. "Your team in particular has taken a high amount of missions out of the village. You wish to allow your team to recover and retrain?"
Gaara immediately thought of the group who were setting their eyes on all demon containers. "I believe it is time for me to retrain how I handle myself as a ninja. I have become know for my sand. I think I should have something else in my arsenal."
The Kazekage smiled. "Like Naruto?"
Gaara remained silent and bowed. "Is this plan acceptable?"
"You may proceed. Captain." Gaara stood up and placed his hands in his pockets. "Gaara…" The boy turned back to the Kazekage. "If you need to fight someone to get used to the opponents you will eventually face. My door will be open."
Gaara gave a rare smile as he left.
Weeks passed after the famous chuunin exams in the village hidden in the sands. The participants of the final rounds of the exams had, in their own way, made a name for themselves in their young lives. The name of Naruto and Gaara known as the brothers of the sand faded into memory of famous young ninja. However the ties they had to each other, and by extension to their villages remained strong.
Naruto sat on the flattened earth. His legs were crossed and chuunin jacket was folded neatly to his side. The boy had his blond hair untied and was messily forming a halo over his face. He pulled a handful of loose dirt in front of him. "Now just apply a little wind chakra…" Slowly fine grains of dust blew out of his hand.
Naruto smiled at the few specs of dust he recognized as sand.
A/N: Thank you everyone who has stuck with this story after the years of inactivity. I hope everyone is happy with the ending of the story. As for any possible continuations of this story's universe, I may write a few one shots to continue the story. But hopefully (for me) there will be no multi-chapter stories.