Lionheart: Sorry I didn't get this up sooner, but this week I had to worry about 3 projects (in other words, research papers), so they had priority. I'd like to thank everybody who stuck to reading this story, and now I'm determined to get it finished. Please bear with me; I'm looking at maybe two more months for this to be completed.

Now, let's begin the story.

Summary: After holding off the otonin sound ninja, the leaf shinobi present got a close up view of Naruto's terrifying power that was enabled by the mixture of the Kyuubi's power and Orochimaru's cursed seal. Luckily, Sasuke awoke in time to prevent massive destruction to the sound ninja and possible to the forest itself. Meanwhile, Sakura gains some strength of mind with the assistance of Rock Lee, and team seven finds themselves on the way.

Finally Here! The Third Exam

"Upstream!" "No, Sasuke, you teme, it was right here!" The Uchiha crossed his arms, determined that if he had to argue all day he would, "Nope, upstream dobe." "Right here," countered Naruto, equally determined. Sasuke shook his head, "upstream, Naruto." Naruto narrowed his eyes and imitated Sasuke in crossing his arms, "Nope, teme, its right here." Sasuke, beginning to get irritated, began to speak louder, "Upstream Naruto…" "SHUT UP!"

Naruto and Sasuke jumped at Sakura's sudden exclamation. Both Genin glanced at each other, before looking at Sakura, who, for some reason, seemed to suddenly tower over them. "Uh…uh, sorry, Sakura-chan," stuttered Naruto, while inching backwards. Sasuke gently sidestepped, leaving Naruto to Sakura's wrath.

The Uchiha winced at Naruto's yells and screams, which were surprisingly high-pitched and watched Naruto, who was experiencing a bit of pain from being pounded by Sakura's onslaught of punches. When the kunoichi was finished, she dropped Naruto's bruised body into the water, "Hmph! Now…Sasuke," she said, sweetly, making Sasuke sweat drop, "let's go upstream shall we?"

Sasuke shrugged, as Naruto surfaced, "Fine, you guys go, but you'll be sorry, ha-ha. Hahahahahaha." Naruto's obsessive laughter was cut short, as Sakura beat him back into the water, "NARUTO! SHUT UP!" When the blonde next resurfaced, he was dizzy, stumbling around before finally stopping next to Sasuke, "Hehe, okay! Let's go!" Sasuke shook his head, while Sakura glared at him. Unaware of the tense moment, Naruto began walking upstream.

"I told the dobe it was upstream," whispered Sasuke to himself. Hearing him, Sakura wrapped her arms around him, "Aww, just forget him Sasuke-kun, and let's go together." Sasuke twitched, while Sakura smiled brightly. 'Damn, she always doing that,' thought Sasuke, as he inconspicuously slipped away. Sakura continued to daydream, imagining that she was still holding Sasuke's arm. It wasn't until the two boys were fifty feet away did she suddenly snap her eyes open.

"Hey," she shouted, "Sasuke-kun, come back!" The Uchiha sighed as he turned around, "Hey, wait up for Sakura, dobe." It was at this moment, Kyuubi's presence floated into their heads, "Hey, brats…I go get some shut eye for a few seconds and I come back to mass confusion. Why are you guys going west, back towards the gate?"

Sasuke and Naruto exchanged a startled glance. "W-west," they both thought, "but that's the wrong way." At this moment, Sakura caught up to them, and noticing their confused looks, immediately got suspicious. "What?" Sasuke and Naruto smiled, "Uh, actually Sakura, we just realized the right direction was downstream. They braced themselves for Sakura's explosion, though it never came.

Instead, the kunoichi narrowed her eyes and glanced at them suspiciously. "Hey…you guys are doing that again…what's going on?" Naruto jumped at Sakura's voice, and began to breathe heavily, while sweating in guilt, "wha…ugh…uh…what are you talking about Sakura-chan?"

A vein bulged in Sakura's forehead, and she grabbed Naruto by the throat, "You guys are doing that again…I can't explain it, but it's like you two can communicate through thoughts or something. Don't you remember yesterday; the two of you were arguing over directions, and suddenly …bang, you agreed on a totally different direction."

Sasuke sweat dropped; as his mind raced back one day. He remembered, 'Oh yeah, we were trying to find the direction to the river, and then Kyuubi pointed us in the right direction.' "Hey, teme, do you think we should tell her? I mean…she doesn't look like she's going to let this go…" "No dobe," interrupted Sasuke, "how do you think she'd take that information…nope it's best if we keep that quiet. We already told Kakashi, and look how he took it. Tell you what, leave the talking to me."

"Uh…sure," said Naruto, shrugging. Sasuke turned back to Sakura, "It doesn't matter really, right Sakura," said Sasuke throwing an arm around Sakura, "hehe, right." Sasuke winked at Naruto, whose mouth was agape. "Uh…uh…S-Sasuke-kun, OF COURSE," said Sakura suddenly throwing herself at Sasuke, who involuntarily tensed and stepped back, as Sakura's arms were around him.

Naruto, seeing Sasuke's dilemma proceeded to laughing, and Sasuke found the opportunity to escape. "Hey, Sakura, the dobe's laughing at me…" Sakura took the hint and released Sasuke, and watched amusingly as the Uchiha threw Naruto into the water.

Half Hour Later (Downstream)

"Teeemmme," whined Naruto, as he pulled up three more fish (one in his mouth), "that's already six fish. It's not exactly easy to move around in the water you know…and then add the fact you have to grab them…" Sasuke looked up from a junior version of Icha Icha Tactics, meant for young teens, "Hm? Oh, okay, why don't you flail around one more time? Then when the fish jump up, I'll help out and use my kunai," he said, before looking back down into his book.

Before Naruto could come up with a reply, Sakura walked up to them, "Sasuke-kun, I've finished setting up the sticks and kindling. Could you please light it with your Gokakyu fireball?" Sasuke turned from Sakura, to Naruto, "never mind dobe…hurry and get dressed so we can eat." Naruto muttered something, while his face darkened, though he quickly leapt from the water to his towel.

'Sizzle…' Sasuke lifted up a burned fish, "eat up," said Sasuke, "we need to get moving. Since this is the fourth day already, that means we have less than twenty four hours to get a scroll." "A lot of teams are probably done already," said Naruto, "Damn, teme, why can't we just go and get another scroll. It should be easy…" "What about Kabuto you idiot? Just calm down until we meet up with him…remember we're supposed to follow the past as much as possible. Not that it really matter anymore…after all the screw ups we've made…but still. It's time to get back on track again."

Naruto didn't reply, and proceeded to sloppily eating a fish. On a normal day, Sakura may have reprimanded him for it, but she seemed to be deep in thought. "What's wrong, Sakura," asked Sasuke, concernedly. "Well," began Sakura, pausing, "I'm kind of worried there might not be any more heaven scrolls left. I mean…the second exam is only due to last five days…and four have already elapsed…in other words eighty percent of the time. And within the forest, there are twenty-six teams of three competing…with only thirteen each of a heaven scroll and earth scroll. Since both scrolls are needed, only thirteen maximum teams can pass."

Sasuke nodded, "right, and since Orochimaru burned our original heaven scroll, which means the maximum amount of teams that can pass is automatically decreased to twelve." Surprised at Sasuke's intelligence, Sakura nodded, "yeah, and we also don't know if the other twenty five scrolls survived or not. If one scroll is destroyed or rendered useless, then one scroll of the other type becomes useless too. So in other words…the next enemy we meet may be the last with a heaven scroll."

Sasuke nodded, "that's true. But don't worry Sakura," said Sasuke, who noticed the kunoichi's anxiety, "We shouldn't have a problem getting a heaven scroll. By tonight we'll have one, I guarantee it." Sakura glanced at Sasuke, uncertainly, but when she saw the grin on his face, she nodded, "Hai."

Sasuke eyes suddenly shifted to the right, "Relax, Naruto. If you attack him now, then it'll be trouble. You'll have your chance, but you have to wait…and besides, do you think you'll really be able to beat him without use of your Ninjutsu, Genjutsu, or Kyuubi's attacks?" Naruto grunted, "Whatever, Taijutsu alone is enough…but whatever, get going then," said Naruto, "he doesn't look like he's coming out, so I'll just pretend to try and open the scroll."

"Good idea, brat," said Kyuubi, who suddenly came into their minds, "I also did some searching and that rain ninja you met before is back." "Perfect, remember Naruto, you don't have access to your chakra right now, so if you pick a fight…" replied Sasuke, standing up. "Ugh," said Sasuke, looking at Sakura's confused face, "I'm getting some water."

As soon as Sasuke went out of sight, Naruto, sighed, 'Damn, teme, sealing my chakra, and Kyuubi's chakra. What's he playing at?' He then picked up the scroll with a chuckle, "Hey…hey," he said, whispering to Sakura. Sakura looked up at Naruto, "Naruto…what are you doing?" "There's another way to get a heaven scroll and we don't even have to throw a punch." Sakura blinked, trying to make sense of what she had just been told, "W-wha…how?" Naruto chuckled, and dug into his bag.

He pulled out four blank scrolls and let them drop to the ground. Sakura stared at them for a moment, before she realized what Naruto intended, "N-no way!" "Yes…" said Naruto, mischievously, "this way."

As Sakura gulped, Naruto began to thoroughly explain his plan, "If it's scrolls they want, I have a million of 'em. Ninjutsu manuals, recipes for poison, Genjutsu and Taijutsu instructions, blank scrolls for notes; you name it. A few brush strokes here, some decoration there and one of these can pass for a heaven scroll in no time!"

"W-wait a minute," shouted Sakura, waving her arms, "even if you could make the outside look the same, we have no idea what the inside of the scroll looks like, or what's written inside them! The minute they open it, we'll get busted, baka!" Naruto shrugged, "Well…usually these type of things have some kind of cryptic password written in them that doesn't make sense until both pieces are brought together. We probably need some kind of password to even enter the tower at the end of the exam."

Sakura sighed, and dropped her head into her hand, "So what? We never saw the inside of the heaven scroll when we had it, so god knows what was inside. Face it, Naruto; it's no use trying to make a fake." Naruto, beginning to get a little frustrated, waved the earth scroll in front of Sakura, "So…what if we use what we 'do' have to deduce the contents then?" Naruto grinned and lifted up the earth scroll, "this earth scroll…in other words."

"N-no…" began Sakura, stuttering, "don't even say it." "It holds the secret…let's open it," said Naruto, as Sakura gulped in fear and curiosity. "Alright, I'm going to do it," said Naruto, slowly inching his hands toward the scroll. "NOOO," yelled Sakura, punching Naruto in the face, "baka, have you forgotten the rules? We were told never to look inside the scrolls. Not for any reason. Not until we reach the tower." "We're in deep dung as it is," said Naruto, who seemed unfazed by Sakura's punch, "why not just try?" Sakura's face softened, as she thought about the consequences and possible benefits, "f-fine," she said at last, "but if Sasuke-kun complains it wasn't my idea!" Naruto smirked, "sure."

However, as Naruto began to slightly peel the scroll, Sakura's curiosity got the best of her, and she stood over Naruto's shoulder to watch, "CHA! Hurry and open it!" Naruto began to unroll the scroll slowly, 'Alright, Kabuto…now!' Right on cue, Naruto felt a hand on his wrist. He also heard Sakura's, 'EEP,' and smirked, "it's you…Kabuto right?"

"Hn, I'm surprised you remember me," replied Kabuto, "and…I wouldn't do that if I were you." Kabuto was about to speak again, when Sakura yelled, "Sasuke-kun!" "Kabuto, eh? What are you doing here," asked Sasuke, ignoring Sakura's call. Inwardly, Kabuto frowned, 'so he's the Uchiha is he? Hm…something's not quite right about him…' "I was just stopping your teammates here from making a … foolish mistake."

Sasuke sighed, "Let me guess, dobe, you tried to open the scroll." Naruto blinked at Sasuke, and then, remembering he should be acting sorry, dropped his head, "oops." "I can't turn my back on you for one second, can I," said Sasuke, shaking his head, "but in any case, why are you wandering around by yourself, Kabuto? Not looking for a scroll are you?"

Kabuto smirked, "Actually, I got separated from my team, so I'm on my way to the tower to join up with them. And, we already have a set of scrolls, so if you were implying that I was trying to steal yours, you were wrong." Sasuke shrugged, "I see…it wouldn't have been difficult, considering Naruto was entirely off guard; you could have just stolen it form him."

Kabuto shrugged, "true, but anyway, I need to be off… see ya!" Kabuto turned to leave, but stopped when he felt the tips of two kunai on his back, 'Geez, they're fast,' thought the sound spy. Sakura gasped, "N-Naruto…S-Sasuke-kun, WH-what are you doing?" "So…we're in need of a heaven scroll," said Naruto, "how about you give us yours?" "Yeah," agreed Sasuke, "it makes searching so much easier."

Kabuto didn't turn, but his eyes suddenly became serious, 'It's a good thing I don't have the scrolls on me…or this could have turned ugly. I was right…there's something not quite right with these two, I'll need to keep an eye on them." Kabuto chuckled, "Hehe, tough luck guys, I don't have the scrolls with me… they're with my teammates. Besides," said Kabuto, "there's another way to get a scroll. Let me show you the path you should tread."

Sakura blinked, while Naruto and Sasuke shared a knowing glance. "Let's move while we discuss it," said Kabuto; his eyes shifting towards the rain ninja in the bushes, "the smoke from your fire and the aroma of those fish you roasted can be smelled for quite a distance. By now, every wild animal or enemy in the area must be moving in on us."

"Right," agreed Sasuke, "then let's go," he said, before leaping away. Naruto followed suit, with Sakura and Kabuto trailing them. "Hey, Kabuto," said Sakura, as the group headed for the tower. Kabuto turned his head to regard the kunoichi, "Hm?" "I was wondering…are they're still even any enemies left this late?" Kabuto blinked, "sure…lots of 'em. If you guys had been more alert, you would have noticed it, too?"

This time it was Sakura's turn to blink, "what do you mean?" "It takes intelligence to win battles in territory like a jungle or forest," replied Kabuto, seriously, "and do you know what the intelligent thing is to do?" "Umm," mumbled Sakura, slowly, trying to stall for time, while her mind raced through ideas." Chuckling slightly, Kabuto decided to give a hint, "We all share a common goal, right?"

"The tower," shouted Sakura immediately. Kabuto nodded, "right… the tower in the center, remember? So, the closer we get to the end of the exam, the more people will be carrying scrolls to the finish line…making the tower and its vicinity the likeliest place to find them." Sakura grinned, "Oh, I get it…you're talking about an ambush! We make our target…someone who both scrolls or just the heaven scroll we need and take them away."

Kabuto nodded slowly, "Well, you got one-third of it right." "Huh, what? There's a catch?" "Well, first of all, you won't be the only ones who've figured that out." Sasuke and Naruto grinned at each other. "So," said Sakura, paling slightly, "there's going to be other desperate ninja setting snares for the unwary around that tower."

Kabuto nodded, "but those types aren't the only problem. This type of exam brings out another sort of enemy… I call them the collectors." "Collectors," asked Sakura. "Yeah," replied Kabuto, "even while you're standing in front of the tower door, with both scrolls… don't drop your guard for a second. Because the collectors… they're the ones who may not be good enough to beat every team they find, so they try to get their hands on as many extra sets of scrolls as they can to buy safe passage from anyone they can't face or won't face fairly."

"I see," said Sakura, "and they can also steal scrolls and keep them for ninja from their village that might not have fared as well. That sucks." Kabuto nodded, "and then…some of them just want your life." Sasuke and Naruto's faces darkened, while Sakura's thoughts immediately jumped to Orochimaru, "y-yeah…" Kabuto noticed the sudden mood change, and stared at Sakura, "Hey, you look a little pale, what's wrong?" Sakura scratched her head hurriedly, "Huh, oh, it's nothing!"

Kabuto raised an eyebrow, "right. Well, anyway… as you can probably guess, most of these shrewd and ruthless teams never make the mistake of getting complacent or letting their own guard down. Those guys are the deadliest and the worst!" 'Yeah,' thought Sakura, 'that's definitely true…' "So, is that why you tagged along with us," asked Naruto, "safety in number eh? You're vulnerable too!" Kabuto's eyes gleamed behind his tinted glasses, "right."


"Finally," said Sakura landing on a branch, wiping her brow, "we're finally here." "Yes," agreed Kabuto, "we're in view of the tower. Here's where the fun really begins." The ninja were interrupted by a popping sound behind them. Kabuto, Sasuke, and Sakura whirled around with kunais drawn, but they were greeted by a gruesome sight.

Dripping in a large and brown insect's blood, Naruto stared at them, emotionlessly. "Sorry," he said shrugging, "that thing's been 'bugging' me, you know?" Sasuke chuckled at Naruto's joke, while Sakura and Kabuto stared at the centipede, "Wow," said Kabuto, adjusting his glasses for a better view, "that's one giant centipede." "Eew," moaned Sakura, "that's totally gross."

"C'mon, let's get going," said Sasuke, "we're too exposed in this clearing." Kabuto nodded, "He's right…and while were at it, let's keep quiet from this point on. Our objective is to not announce our arrival to everyone in the area, so let's keep talking to a minimum from here on out." Naruto nodded, "right," before following Sasuke into the trees.

One Hour Later

"Ugh," groaned Sakura, as she fell on her knees, "sorry, I can't go on anymore." "Something's odd," said Sasuke, "no matter how far we move, the tower never seems to get any closer." Kabuto smirked, "it seems we've already experienced someone's welcome party." "Look," announced Naruto, pointing behind them, "that should explain everything."

The other shinobi turned, and gaped at the sight. "Well," began Kabuto slowly, "this isn't good." "No way," said Sakura, "it's that bug…the one Naruto killed almost an hour ago." "Looks like Genjutsu…and we fell for it hook, line, and sinker," said Sasuke, "Hn." Sakura's head dropped and she groaned loudly, "you've got to be kidding, right?"

"Nope," said Kabuto, "Sasuke's right. This looks like a Genjutsu, alright. We've been very cautiously running around in circles." "And undoubtedly being watched," finished Naruto, "not to mention wearing ourselves out." Kabuto nodded, "They wait for us to tire, and then move in and take us down… it's a standard trick." Sasuke inwardly grinned, almost unable to contain his excitement, "so…they must realize our strength is fading." "Yes," said Kabuto, failing to notice Sasuke's lack of anxiety or fear, "They'll make their move soon." Sasuke smirked, as he detected a surge of chakra energy, "right."

As if on cue, figures began to emerge from the surrounding trees and branches. "Sasuke-teme, you better leave these bastards to me. Don't even think of helping." Sasuke sighed, "Just don't hurt yourself dobe…you haven't fully recovered from your last injuries, especially since I've sealed locked away your chakra powers. You're like a normal human now."

"Hm, lookie what we've got here," said a rain ninja, "Konoha Genin." Sasuke folded his arms as he quickly counted all the clones, "Well, there are quite a few of them…" "Yeah, not to mention they're all clones," said Kabuto. The rain Genin, overhearing their words, snickered, "you're all trapped like rats."

"Ah, shut up," exclaimed Sakura throwing a kunai. The weapon punctured right through the clone's arm, and Sakura grinned, "Ha! Couldn't take it could you?" She was soon surprised as the clone's whole arm turned to what look like mud, before reassembling itself again, "huh, what the heck? What's going on?" The kunoichi was about to charge forward, but Naruto gently held her back, "Let me at them, Sakura."

Sakura saw the angry look in Naruto's eyes, and she was immediately reminded of when Naruto had turned into a monster, "B-but Naruto…you're injuries…maybe…" "No," interrupted Naruto, who was now smiling. "I'm alright now…just trust me." Sakura hesitated unsure what to say, when she felt a hand on her shoulder, "Let him go, Sakura, if anyone can handle these guys, its Naruto. Don't worry so much."

Reassured, Sakura nodded, "Hai…" As Naruto smirked and turned, Sakura grabbed his shoulder, "You better kick their ass, Naruto….or else," she threatened. Naruto cringed, "Y-yes…Sakura-chan," he said slowly. He then turned to face the mass of clones, 'Hmph…this will be easy…nabbing a scroll from these guys. But first…let's see about these clones.'

As the Genin readied himself, more clones began to materialize, causing him to sigh, "Hey, Sasuke, I don't feel like doing this one at a time. Personally I find this too funny, there's no room for me to get angry…" "NO!" It wasn't Sasuke that interrupted but Kyuubi. "No brat," repeated the fox sternly, "we wait until Sasuke removes the seal." Naruto sighed mentally again, cursing his bad luck, "Fine…fine…whatever."

Meanwhile, high in the tree tops, Mubi and his team watched the scene below them. "Just one kid…he can't be serious of taking on all the clones." "Whatever," Mubi replied, "Attack!" At his word, the clones below sprung towards Naruto, who set himself into a stance. Sasuke smirked, "Good choice Naruto…"

As the clones approach, Naruto's arms seemed to vanish as they rapidly punched the mass of clones. "What's that attack," asked Kabuto, interested. "Naruto calls it the bursting machine gun punch….he sends a barrage of rapid punches usually to drive back a large group of enemies…or in this case clones." "Impressive," noted Kabuto, as he observed the clones slowly getting torn apart, by the sheer force and speed of Naruto's attack.

In the trees, Mubi clasped his hands together, "Damn, looks like we need more numbers." "Nah," said a sudden voice, behind him, that made him freeze, "you just need to get stronger." Mubi slowly turned, just in time to see a fist connect with his face, knocking him to the ground below. Naruto jumped down and stood over Mubi's unconscious body, grinning like mad, "Ha! See that Sakura, I already got him."

"Naruto you baka," shouted Sakura, pointing above him, "Watch out." Naruto smirked, without turning, 'yeah, I know… I already got them.' Above him, two small explosions went off, knocking the two remaining Rain Genin into nearby trees, unconscious. The remaining clones simultaneously vanished, leaving the small clearing as quiet as it was before the attack.

Kabuto walked over and observed the bodies, taking in the damage. "I see… exploding tags, right Naruto-kun? When did you place it on them?" "Right before I punched the guy here silly," replied Naruto jerking his head towards Mubi. "Oh WOW," exclaimed Sakura, "look! It's a heaven scroll," she said, raising the scroll proudly.

Sasuke folded his arms, "Good work Naruto. Thanks for helping out, Kabuto." Kabuto nodded, "No, I should say good job to you guys… well done indeed." Kabuto turned to nod, towards Naruto, who was bouncing around the scroll, when he noticed the mark on the Genin's neck. 'That mark…so that's why Naruto is only using Taijutsu attacks. And yet…the fact that he is so well taught in the physical arts astounds me, when my records show he relies mostly on Ninjutsu."

"Something wrong, Kabuto," asked Sasuke, noticing his stares. Kabuto shook his head, "Nah, but anyway, it's almost morning. We should head for the tower quickly, before somebody else comes along." Sasuke nodded, "Right… Sakura, Naruto, c'mon, we're going now."

Next Morning

"Well, here's where I leave you guys," said Kabuto. Sakura nodded, "thanks for all your help. We wouldn't have done it without you." Kabuto nodded, "No, you guys earned that scroll. The way you pulled through at the end was truly amazing Naruto. We'll, looks like my teams here, so I'll catch up with you later."

As Kabuto walked away, Naruto exchanged a glance with Sasuke. "Should I take him out, teme?" Sasuke sighed, "Do I really need to answer that question? C'mon…let's go in." Naruto groaned like a kid, before following his teammates through a red set of double doors.

Inside, the three Konoha shinobi found themselves in an empty room. "There's no one here," noted Sakura. Sasuke folded his arms, "Hm…" "Hey, look," said Naruto, pointing at a rather large scroll, posted on the wall. Both Sasuke and Sakura looked up, and the latter began reading.

If qualities of heaven are your desire,

Acquire wisdom and knowledge to take your mind higher.

If earthly qualities are what you lack,

Train your body in the fields and prepare to attack.

When both heaven and earth are opened together,

The path of peril will revert to the righteous path forever.

This " "is the secret way…

That guides us from this place today.

"Okay," said Sakura, "that doesn't make any sense? Is it referring to the scrolls…the heaven and earth scrolls?" "Yeah," agreed Sasuke, "I think we should open both the scrolls at the same time. That should do it." Sakura nodded, and pulled both scrolls out. Gulping, she and Naruto unraveled them both.

"Huh," exclaimed Sakura, glancing at the figures, "Human? Mankind? What the heck is this?" At that moment, both scrolls began to let off smoke. "Ugh, Sakura… Naruto, that's a summoning scroll; drop them…, NOW!" Without any delay, Naruto and Sakura flung the scrolls away, just as a loud poof could be heard, and a figure could be made out in the smoke. "Who is it," asked Sakura, slowly, backing up. Naruto and Sasuke both grinned, and whispered, "Hey, Sensei."

When it cleared, Sakura gasped, "Iruka-Sensei?!" Iruka grinned, "Hey kids. It's been awhile, huh?" Sakura, with her mouth agape, pointed at him, "What? I don't understand." Iruka chuckled, "you three look like you've been through a lot." "Why are you popping out of scrolls, though," asked Sakura. The kunoichi repeatedly looked back and forth from the scroll to Iruka, as if she did not believe what she was seeing.

"Hehe, that scrolls was designed so that we Chuunin could greet the applicants at the end of the second exam. It was just good luck that I got to be the messenger for the three of you." "Messenger," asked Sakura? Iruka nodded, pulling out a gold watch, "Yeah…and look, you guys just made it with five minutes to spare."

"Made what," asked Naruto. Iruka's smile broadened, "You three…have just passed the second part of the Chuunin exams. With flying colors I might add. This calls for a celebration…I wish I could take you all out for Ichiraku ramen but…whoa!" Before Iruka could finish, Naruto had dove onto his former sensei, giving him a tight hug. "RAMEN…RAMEN…RAMEN," shouted Naruto, like a little child. Sasuke sweat dropped, "An adult…yet he still acts like a kid." "I'll say," replied Kyuubi, who was chuckling slightly.

"H-hey, Naruto, let me finish, yeah?" Naruto stopped pounding on Iruka, and blinked, remembering where he was. The blonde Genin released Iruka, and scratched his head, "Oh…oops, sorry Iruka-Sensei." Iruka chuckled, "You haven't slowed down a bit, have you Naruto?" Naruto blinked, and quickly chuckled, "Nope, sensei, I've gotten a lot stronger."

Iruka smiled, "Well, that's good to hear…" "Hey Sensei," interrupted Sakura, "I was wondering what you could tell us about that wall scroll. I didn't understand its contents." Iruka nodded, "That is the directive set down by the third hokage for all Chuunin ninja." "Directive," questioned Sakura, while frowning.

"That's right," said Iruka, "In the text, "heaven" refers to the mind, while "earth" refers to the human body. It's imperative you understand that part at least." Sakura nodded, "I think I see now. If qualities of heaven are your desire… in other words if you not so smart academically, then acquire wisdom and knowledge and take your mind higher."

Iruka genuinely smiled, "Wow, Sakura, you're as sharp as ever. Good job…yes that's right, and if earthly qualities are what you lack, train your body in the fields and prepare to attack. And once you access both the qualities of heaven and earth…no mission, however dangerous, will be a wrong path for you. You'll be walking a safe path even in the face of the most perilous of missions…that's it."

"What about that blank space, Iruka-sensei," asked Naruto, pointing to the space in between quotations? "The word that goes there," began Iruka, picking up a scroll, "is a description of what Chuunin should be." Pointing at the symbol on the scroll, Iruka said, "The character that goes in between those quotations is the single character in the interior of the scrolls. Its meaning, "Jin"… means one person or all people. The test you all just underwent was designed to test a Chuunin hopeful's basic abilities. Chuunin are the unit commander class… responsible for leading their teams. They can only do so by a combination of intelligence and strength. I can't emphasize it enough. Learn it… believe it from the bottom of your heart! Keep this directive foremost in your mind as you proceed to the next test. That's it…that's the message."

"YES SIR," saluted Naruto, who was grinning. Iruka smiled at Naruto's enthusiasm, though it soon turned to concern, "You guys…about the third exam…don't overdo it. Especially you Naruto…I'm…" "Hey," interrupted Naruto, frowning. Iruka looked up startled, to see Naruto, who was brimming with determination. "I know you're going to say you're worried Sensei," said Naruto, "but the day I got this headband from you I stopped being a child…this headband is proof of my maturity and you gave it to me Sensei. I'm a full-fledged shinobi now…"

Iruka smiled, "My apologies Naruto."


"If they can't pass… at least let me be the one to break the news to them. I know their skills better than anyone," shouted Iruka, desperately. Anko sighed, flipping through consent forms, "… if it means that much to you…fine then. But why be the bearer of bad news?

Iruka shrugged, "I really appreciate it though." Anko waved her hand, signaling he could leave, "but you know Iruka, those kids are Kakashi's students right? I wouldn't count them out just yet."

End Flashback

'Well Kakashi,' mused Iruka, 'it seems after all… you know them better than I.' "Alright, follow me; you guys are among seven teams that finished the second exam. Congratulations!"

Lionheart: whew, done! Teams that passed will be announced next chapter. "Most of them" are the same hint hint