Notes: Well...there goes the promise of not leaving you guys hanging for years. To all those who have been around for a while, thank you for being so patient with me. I am trying my best to stay focus, but I know you're tired of me saying that and never following through with my promise of completing it. I am doing my best to focus on just a few projects at a time, so I am aiming to make progress -if not full completion- of the fic this year.
To new readers, welcome! If you read the message above, I am pleading for patience.
Also, don't let the title fool you. This won't be the same old 'rehash' of the original Chuunin exam. Different things happen that will change the course of this story, so trust me it is important.
Side Note: Italics= flashback
Chunnin Exams -Part 1-
"Thank you" the cheerful grocer said with a bright smile and a slight flush to her cheeks. Itachi Uchiha, while not her most frequent customer or biggest buyer, had to be her favorite patron. Mostly because he was very easy on the eyes.
'If only my husband knew...' the woman thought, blush growing a deeper hue of red. After bagging the ingredients for...dango she guessed, the woman handed them over to the young man. He seemed distracted for a moment.
"Uchiha-san?" she inquired. Dark eyes blinked and he was back to his senses. Silently, Itachi took the grocery bag from her then turned to leave the store.
"Ah...if only I was twenty years younger," the grocer said with a small sigh before moving to help the next customer in line.
'He's after me.'
Itachi had felt it from the moment he walked up to the grocer's counter to pay. He felt a touch annoyed, maybe even paranoid. He wouldn't dare think of attacking him inside a store. It would cause too much destruction and too many civilians would be caught in the middle. Luckily, the stalker didn't appear until he was halfway home. From the corner of his eye, Itachi saw something move. Fast. But...
He dropped the plastic bag and held out an arm to catch the shorter person in the gut with his fist.
"Not fast enough, Sasuke."
Winded but not defeated, Sasuke glared up at his brother, eyes red with the Sharingan.
'Impressive, he can already call on it at will. However, it's too early in the game to bring out his trump card,' Itachi analyzed. For although Sasuke was excelling quickly with the Sharingan under his and Kakashi's teachings, the boy still didn't have enough chakra control or stamina to keep it going for a long period of time.
To prove his point, Itachi unleashed a barrage of attacks with the intention of wearing his younger brother down until either the Sharingan faded or he collapsed from exhaustion. The bag forgotten, the Genin and ANBU disappeared into the trees.
The clang of metal resounded as weapons flew yet weren't aimed to harm. Both Uchiha knew the other could see the spray of kunai or shower of shuriken, so instead they took advantage of the gleam of metal in the sun, the time it took to dodge or deflect, and the recovery period to attack.
If a civilian had watched this fight, they would have assumed the brothers were evenly matched and it was an interesting fight. However, anyone trained in the shinobi arts would have become bored quickly. They would have picked up on the fact that Itachi was holding back. Had he come at Sasuke with even half his strength this fight would have been over in a matter of seconds.
This wasn't about him kicking his little brother's ass. This was about training him for the tough road ahead. Itachi hadn't wanted his younger brother to take the Chuunin exam yet. In his honest opinion, Sasuke was far from ready. He was too cocky, lacked proper chakra control and impatient to the point he'd pass out from pushing beyond physical limits. Itachi didn't want to throw his younger brother to the lions, to put him in front a more seasoned shinobi so they could sharpen their claws on him.
But Kakashi had forced his hand. On the other hand, Itachi didn't have time to devote to training his younger brother. Since the Genin teams were off missions until after the first half of the Chuunin exams, Itachi was once again the sole breadwinner. Between missions and sleep, Itachi instructed his brother to come at him at full force. Wherever and whenever-which is why he worried about being attacked in the grocery store because Sasuke tended to take things literally.
The fight between the Uchiha brothers was fast-paced to the human eye, but when one could read the other's movements with just their eyes it was almost like a casual stroll to Itachi. He almost wished Sasuke would do something flashy or unexpected to break off the exchanges of physical attacks and weapon tossing.
Then, it happened. Itachi got his wish in a most unexpected way. It started as a small tug of resistance against the back of his right ankle. Too late, Itachi realized the pressure was a trap wire. He veered left, out of the way as a heavy and stout log came rocketing up from the limbs below him. Branches cracked and fell so if the log hadn't gotten him then he would have had to get out of the way of the falling limbs. This would give Sasuke an opening for attack, which the boy took advantage of anyway despite the fact he saw his brother dodge the trap.
'Did he...plan this ahead?' How did he know I would head to this particular forest path and have the time to plan a trap in advance?' Itachi wondered as he jumped down from the tree to fight on the ground.
It seemed almost too impossible to believe. Not that Sasuke wasn't shrewd. The boy had set up rather ingenious traps before, often to bedevil his blond-haired teammate according to Kakashi. None of this added up though. In order for Sasuke to create a 'sling-shot' trap it would take more time and calculation than a split second change in direction would allow for. Also Sasuke would have had to know the lay out of this patch of forest and they had never trained in this area before
Itachi always changed up his routine so nothing was ever predictable or traceable. He never arrived home at the same time, took the same worn pathways, never trained in the same location and never took Sasuke to the same places to spar.
'So how...' it dawned on Itachi quickly, his arm blocking a kick aimed to hit his head. Sasuke glared, but jumped back. He wasn't given a chance to recover because Itachi came at him, punches hit air pockets above, below, to right and left of their faces. Sasuke didn't like this change up. Itachi often went on the defensive when they fought because he was holding back with him.
Not this time though. 'Something's wrong.' Dark gray eyes widened as he realized Itachi was forcing him backwards towards the forest entrance - right into the final trap.
'Shit.' Quickly, Sasuke feinted and tried to run to Itachi's left in order to lead him deeper into the forest. Itachi didn't fall for it though. Instead of following he didn't even allow Sasuke to get very far, because his hand grabbed the twelve year old boy by the scruff of his shirt collar and tossed him forward. Sasuke skidded against the dirt, arms raised up to protect his eyes. Coughing from the dust in his mouth, Sasuke slowly sat up and had hands on the ground to push himself up. Itachi didn't allow him to stand, instead he launched a kunai to pin Sasuke's right shirt sleeve to the ground.
Instantly, Sasuke yanked it away. Before he could stand though Itachi was standing over him, a sandal down on his younger sibling's chest.
"Someone is helping you," Itachi accused while looking down at his brother. Sasuke uttered a 'tch', "No. Maybe you're just upset that I almost got you with that trap."
Itachi tilted his head, "Right. That's exactly it," was said in a very dry tone. Almost sarcastic even, which threw off Sasuke since he had never heard Itachi talk like that. "So, you booby trapped this whole patch of forest. Rather impressive, if you honestly did it all by yourself under the assumption that out of all the forests inside Konohagakure I would pick this place."
Itachi pulled out another kunai, "However, I really doubt you did it all by yourself. So tell me Sasuke," he paused to put the blade of the kunai to a nearly invisible trap wire netted around the tree to his right, "what will happen when I trip this wire?"
Sasuke visibly hesitated, but not wanting to be caught in his lie gave a shrug he hoped look casual and indifferent. "Why don't you trip the wire and find out?"
The kunai was held against the net-wire, inching closer and closer as if prepared to cut. Then, Itachi suddenly tossed it upward. Sasuke's eyes went wide as the flying weapon flushed out the true master mind behind the traps as she jumped from the hiding spot above the trap and to another tree. To most it was just a mild rustle of leaves, possibly the wind. To Itachi and Sasuke though they had seen the girl move.
Itachi lifted his foot off Sasuke then turned to 'talk to the tree'. "You can come out, Hinata," the elder Uchiha said. A pause, yet nothing emerged from the tree.
Sasuke sat up, "It's alright. We've been caught," the boy grumbled obviously not happy at having his master plan foiled. It started with the rustle of leaves followed by a slow emergence of pale eyes and the girl appeared in the flesh. To anyone but an Uchiha it was as if she had emerged from the tree itself and had done so flawlessly. However, the two below the tree spotted the flaws in her disguise easily, still Hinata had put up a valiant effort to fool them.
'Kurenai is teaching her genjutsu?' Itachi wondered. He had never heard of a Hyuuga using illusions to their advantage before. In fact, he had long thought they 'could not' use genjutsu. Then again, he thought; what else did Hinata have going for her? Her family's signature jutsu were sealed away from her, because the Hyuuga had exiled themselves to Grass country years ago. He knew Neji was trying to teach her the finer points of Byakugan. Due to how impatient and easily frustrated the boy became, Itachi gathered she wasn't learning much from Neji.
'So she has some genjutsu and apparently tracking skills and trap crafting in her training.' Itachi thought, mentally jotting down how the female Hyuuga was coping with her lack of physical prowess. It didn't seem like much and the elder Uchiha had doubts she would thrive in active combat. Yet, Kurenai choose her team to go on to the Chuunin exams anyway.
As heartless as it sounded, Itachi knew he had been neglectful in helping the girl as much as he helped Sasuke. Feeling she would only be an additional burden, Itachi left the girl's advancement in the hands of her sensei, her teammates, and now her cousin. It seemed to have worked so far, but Itachi was alarmed when he saw Sasuke help the girl down from the tree.
Hinata could clearly get herself down if she got there in the first place. Yet, Sasuke was wasting time needlessly helping her. He was leaving himself wide open to attack and their fight wasn't over. Red eyes narrowed, something had to be done about this.
"That was great."
Hinata blinked at first, unsure what she was hearing, and then her face molted from a pale shade to a deep red hue. "T-thank you" she muttered. It was rare when she was complimented. And even rarer for Sasuke to be the one complimenting her. Yet as flustered as his compliment made her, Hinata felt slightly uncomfortable as to how he held on a second too long.
Both teens wouldn't look at each other when they finally broke away, which left Itachi an opening. The Hyuuga gasped as the elder brother roughly pinned his sibling to a tree.
"Never," he tossed Sasuke aside, "leave yourself open to an enemy." After a rough landing Sasuke scrambled to stand, barely missing a kunai aimed to injury his kneecap. "What was that about...?"
"No talking," Itachi said in a strict yet low tone. He never raised his voice at them, rather Itachi added emphasis, elongated, or rested on certain words to make his displeasure known. Sasuke felt a chill go down his spine. Itachi wasn't going to hold back this time and he was actually afraid, though not of death. His brother would never seriously injure him. Instead, Sasuke was afraid he would be injured just enough to keep him from the Chuunin exam.
'It would be something Itachi would do, if he thought it was for my own good' Sasuke realized with dread. He didn't want to forfeit the exam. He'd never hear the end of it from Naruto. Naruto. He would look better in Hinata's eyes because he wasn't stupid enough to get injured by a sparring partner that he couldn't take part in the Chuunin exam.
No. Sasuke decided he wouldn't let himself be beaten. Not by Itachi or Naruto. With that in mind he took the kunai that nearly pierced his knee and took off running.
Hinata paused against a tree trunk, all but collapsing against it. She had been trying to follow the path the Uchiha brother's blazed in their three hour flight-and-fight. At first, the girl tried to watch from a distance with her Byakugan since the only way she could even see them was by the faint chakra map inside both Uchiha. Yet she could only keep the chakra flow going for so long and her eyes only endure so much strain. Now it was almost night fall and she was blindly following the echoes of grating metal against metal, curses and shouts from Sasuke.
Taking a deep breath Hinata could feel her body trembling. She was scared. Why she didn't know, but Hinata had a feeling Itachi was...angry at her. Or rather angry at Sasuke's treatment of her. What she didn't know was why. What had Sasuke done? What had she done? In the end Hinata had more questions than answer.
She finally came upon the two brothers. Sasuke was lying back on the ground so still and silent that Hinata wondered for a moment if Itachi had gone too far.
'No. No he wouldn't' Hinata thought with a shake of her head. Quickly she approached the two brothers in the clearing, kneeling next to Sasuke without a thought. "Sasuke-nii...are you alright?"
He opened his eyes, but didn't look at Hinata. Instead, he was looking up at Itachi. Hinata reached to help him up off the ground only to have her hand slapped away.
"I'm fine." Sasuke gritted out although he was still on the ground. "I don't need your help"
"O-okay," she whispered. Hinata knew it was stupid to feel hurt. Sasuke was very stubborn and didn't like it when she fussed over him- like he did to her. Still, it'd be a lie to say him pushing her away hadn't hurt.
He pushed himself up to stand and didn't even look Hinata's way. A tense silence fell over the clearing. Hinata for one felt hopelessly lost as to what to say. It was obvious that Sasuke lost the fight and he was in no mood to be consoled. And what about Itachi? She looked to him next, yet her gaze wasn't met. Itachi seemed busy picking up weapons, yet he was aware of her staring enough to make an offer.
"Since my dango ingredients have probably been carried off by some animal by now, why don't we have take out for dinner tonight?"
Hinata didn't need to be directly told that the dinner errand was hers. The tension between the brothers had to be sorted out. Without her around. Hinata felt a tinge of resentment. Wasn't she part of this family too?
Still, she wasn't one to confront or argue, so Hinata meekly bowed her head and walked away to leave the forest.
"You'll have to pull away, Sasuke. Push her out of your life if you must."
Itachi's words haunted him. Sasuke wanted to ask what was wrong with him caring for Hinata. Other than Itachi, she was the only other person he would call 'family'. The only rationale Sasuke was given to push Hinata away was that she would be a danger, a liability to him and herself if the girl didn't stand on her own two feet.
"You can motivate yourself to be stronger by wanting to protect her, Sasuke. But, what happens to Hinata if she depends on you to save her and you are not there"
"That won't happen! I'll always protect her," Sasuke had responded, lunging to catch his brother with a kunai. Predictably, Itachi side stepped it and then grabbed Sasuke's ducked head to stop the force of his charge and trap him in a headlock.
"Will you follow her to every mission then? Or better yet, would you sacrifice your teammates, your Hokage, your honor...all to protect her?"
Sasuke was about to boldly say that of course he would, but Itachi cut him to the quick with, "What if she doesn't feel the same about you? What if Hinata won't make those same sacrifices or rather she isn't able to. Would you still do all of that only to find her in the arms of another?"
He hesitated for a moment and that's all Itachi needed to strike Sasuke from behind and bring the boy to his knees.
Eyes watering and the world spinning underneath him, Sasuke grunted as Itachi's hand roughly yanked his hair to pull him to look up.
"This isn't a fairytale, Sasuke. You won't always be able to save the princess. Hinata has to grow and fight for her own. She can't if you're always doing needless things and encouraging her when in fact she made many, many mistakes.' Itachi pushed him down to the ground and Sasuke was too weak to fight it or even sit up.
'You are going to have to let her go.'
Sasuke was shaken out of his memories and brought around to the present as he heard the clatter of weapons being collected into a heap. His arms moved almost on auto-pilot since the boy was still unfocused as he put the kunai and shuriken back inside the weapon pouches.
Then, somehow, Itachi's warning of him pushing Hinata out of his life led Sasuke to a different train of though. Looking around, although he knew they were alone; Sasuke still asked in a low tone- not quite a whisper but wasn't the normal force of his voice either.
"How's your research going?"
Itachi paused in his own weapon-gathering. Slowly, he turned his head to face Sasuke. Unknown to Sasuke, the elder brother was fighting an internal-struggle as to how much he should tell. When he first started 'researching' who had killed their clan, Sasuke had been too young to be privy to the information.
Yet, Sasuke had grown up into a boy with sharp instincts and a bit too nosy for his own good. Once he raided Itachi's room to find journals, letters, anything that would prove he was looking into what happened to the Uchiha clan. At age ten, Sasuke confronted him in anger and near tears. Asking...no demanding if Itachi even cared about what happened since he didn't seem interested in finding out what happened to their parents. Their clan.
It was then Itachi revealed to his younger brother that he was looking around, investigating, and even borrowed a few of Kakashi's nin dogs- a debt the Scarecrow never failed to remind him of- in desperate hopes they'd find something in the abandoned district. Nothing. So far. That had been a complete lie.
The older man shook his head, "I haven't found much. In fact, I've been running into dead ends for a couple years now."
Sasuke stared at him for a moment. Itachi wondered if the boy was smart enough to pick apart the lies and create a true picture just yet. Probably not because it wasn't long before his brother looked away.
"If you need help looking..." the Genin's voice cut off when Itachi leaned over and poked him in the forehead.
"Thank you for the offer, Sasuke. I have it under control though. Besides," his hand lifted off Sasuke's forehead, who sulked a little but it wasn't quite the childish pout he once had. "I have access to more information and can move more freely because of my rank. If you start asking questions or start snooping around, you might wind up in trouble."
For now, that was as far as Itachi would admit to knowing the enemies of the Uchiha clan were living among them. One day he would tell Sasuke about what Konoha wanted him to do in the name of peace.
Just not today.
Realizing she had been sent to get dinner, but hadn't been given specifics; Hinata was torn between a few food stalls. She knew what Itachi and Sasuke both liked, but their tastes often collided with one another so it would be difficult finding something that would keep them both happy.
The girl turned upon hearing someone call her name and nearly collided right into Naruto, who had ran up to greet her.
"N-Naruto-kun" she gasp having to take a deep breath to steady herself. Seemingly oblivious as to how flustered Hinata looked the boy grinned, "Glad I could catch up to you! Hey, does this mean you're free for dinner?"
Pale eyes blinked, "W-what?" she asked, mouth suddenly as dry as cotton. "Because...I kind of need a small favor" the blue eyed boy said, now looking a touch sheepish.
She offered up a weak smile. Hinata was a sucker for requests to help someone, plus it was Naruto. So of course she couldn't say no.
"Of course..." she fidgeted a little, "what do you need me to do?"
Naruto beamed, "Thought you'd never ask! Hinata-chan, do you want to have dinner with me?"
'Dinner?' She blinked once. 'Have dinner? With Naruto-kun?' Her blush increased, yet for all the heat centered on her cheeks Hinata's hands started to grow cold and clammy.
'Dinner... with Naruto-kun. As in a...d-d-d-date?'
Hinata blinked a second time but remained unresponsive to Naruto's question. Squinting, the boy waved a hand in front of the girl's face. "Hinata-chan?"
She didn't even blink this time; white eyes just stared at him blankly. Naruto shuddered. 'Kind of creepy.' Still he had to figure out a way to get her to respond so he gave her a very light nudge. That nudge turned into a tilt, which led to a fall as gravity took over.
"Wah! Hinata-chan? Are you okay? Speak to me!" Naruto squawked
"I don't think I ordered a side of stupid with my dinner." Sasuke frowned while looking across the table to Naruto.
"Shut up bastard!" Naruto groused in response. "Hinata-chan invited me over to have delicious ramen."
Sasuke's gray eyes cut over to the girl twiddling her fingers. Hinata felt the pointed stare aimed at her and ducked her head before muttering, "T-that's not exactly how it happened."
"What's with that bruise on your cheek?" was Sasuke's next question. Hinata tensed up when Naruto moved to speak. "Well you see Hinata-chan fell down and...mmph" the boy stared bug-eyed as Hinata had skimmed a fish cake off his ramen broth with chopsticks and stuck them in Naruto's mouth to shut him up.
The last thing Hinata wanted was for her brothers to know she fainted in the middle of the street. They already left her out of their training sessions and pretty much left her with the housework. If word got around she was having some 'freaky fainting spells', she would never hear the end of it. Although Naruto had been kept from blabbing, another problem arose as Sasuke pushed away from the table.
"I'm going to my room."
"Ah, but your dinner will get cold..." Hinata said, trying to convince Sasuke to come back to the table. "I don't want that crap" was Sasuke's reply. Naruto scowled, "Ramen isn't crap! Well...maybe the instant stuff compared to fresh, but Ichiraku Ramen is not crap!"
"Whatever, you can have mine then." Sasuke said being strangely generous for once before escaping to his room. "Sweet!" Naruto cheered as he abandoned his now empty bowl and moved on to Sasuke's portion.
To say Hinata was worried was an understatement. Maybe, she thought, this was pushing too hard for Sasuke and Naruto to become friends.
Dark eyes peered through thick leaves as the masked ANBU silently observed the genin students lining up to receive their scrolls. While Hinata and Sasuke had been tirelessly waiting for this day to arrive, Itachi almost wish it hadn't. There were too many gaps in security, mostly because Itachi was worried about internal faction than he was with the visiting shinobi. He had a sinking suspicion that if something happened to Sasuke, it would be the fault of Konohagakure.
It was this all consuming paranoia that drove him to sign up as one of the squad leaders watching over the Chunnin exam. If Sasuke was to be lured away from his team or attacked, it would be here since ANBU were experts in making quick, efficient, and untraceable kills. And the only person who could track an ANBU operative would be one of their own.
Standing on a stout limb, Itachi watched as Naruto held up his team's scroll and was about to brag about the symbol until the pink-haired girl conked him on the head and berated the boy for almost blabbing. Sasuke stood slightly apart from them, looking at something over his shoulder. Itachi didn't have to look or even guess who it was.
Hinata and her teammates had passed, so of course that was Sasuke's focus. 'That girl...' Itachi withheld a sigh, 'is going to get him into a lot of trouble one of these days.' It seemed that anything Itachi did or said to drive those two apart only spurred Sasuke to get closer. The elder brother sincerely hoped this was just Sasuke being a teenager rebelling against him, the parental figure.
"Alright, listen up! On the count of three we'll call out the gates. When the gates open you run. Don't walk. Crawl. Or cry for your mommy. Run as if your life depended on it, because it just might. Oh and don't get yourselves killed, because it's hard enough to deliver a scroll to your Kage without being worm-food on top of that."
Itachi stood back silently and patiently waiting for gate numbers to be called. He was ready when Sasuke's team shot out of their gate. Quickly, Itachi was right behind them. He knew it was at a great risk to himself and his standing with Konohagakure, but Itachi was determined to protect his younger sibling from assassins.
"Phew I peed a lot back there" Naruto bragged. Sasuke was half-tempted to hold Sakura's fist from hitting him, but in the end decided the idiot deserved it for announcing his bathroom habits. However, something seemed off about the blond.
Sakura pulled her fist back and held it; Naruto already had a black eye forming. "Huh?" Sasuke pulled out a kunai and pointed it at the boy. "What's the password?" Sakura giggled, knowing that Naruto wouldn't know it...or at least that's what she originally though.
Needless to say, the pink haired girl was shocked to hear Naruto recite their code flawlessly. "Wow, so you did remember...hey! Sasuke!" the girl yelled as she witnessed Sasuke fly at their teammate.
"What are you doing?" she demanded. "This isn't Naruto" Sasuke announced, "he's too dim to remember that whole phrase." Dark eyes glared into blue ones, "That's why I choose such a complicated password. Since you got it right, you're not Naruto." The tip of the kunai tucked underneath the blond's chin, "Now, show us who you really are"
'Naruto' gave a low chuckle at first. Then it steadily grew louder and shriller. Sasuke jerked away as the other boy's skin started cracking and peeling away.
"You're a smart boy, Sasuke" the intruder into Team 7 said with a smirk that was a mix of his form and that of Naruto's lips. Once all the skin had fallen away, a tall young man emerged wearing a Kusagakure headband on his forehead.
Sakura trembled before asking, "Who are you? What have you done with Naruto?"
The man grinned, "Oh don't worry about your teammate. I'm sure he's quite at home in the belly of my pet."
At that boast, Sakura became weak in the knees, her face draining of color. "You mean he's..."
"Sakura, run away." Green eyes blinked, "W-what?" she asked, a little confused. Sasuke turned his head to glare at her, "Run and take my pack." Then it clicked with her, she had to take the scroll and escape. That would have been the practical thing to do. She should...she had to, but at the same time Sakura couldn't stand leaving Sasuke behind.
"No, we're sticking together!" she exclaimed, holding on tightly to Sasuke's pack but not budging.
"Do you want to die too?" he asked. When Sakura floundered for a response, Sasuke made the mistake of bodily turning away from his opponent and to his hesitant teammate.
"Go! I can handle him..."
"Sasuke-kun look out!" Sakura shrieked. The boy turned his head to look behind him. He only saw it for a second, the man behind them had somehow elongated his neck to the point he could reach out and bite Sasuke. Yet the teeth never sank into his flesh because the snake-man's jaw was pried open and stuck with a kunai.
No one was more surprised than the 'snake-man'. His mouth was bleeding profusely, yet he reached with a trembling hand and extracted the shinobi knife from his own mouth.
"Who the hell threw that?" he asked, then his nostrils flared. His bemused and pissed off expression soon melted into a smug look.
"Of course" he muttered, leaving Sasuke and Sakura in mute horror as his body lengthened and contorted to wrap around a tree.
A man wearing an ANBU mask darted out, inserted himself between Sasuke and the snake-man just before he struck again.
Teeth grated against metal, but the man reached a hand around and knocked the mask away.
It fell to the forest floor with a light 'thud'. Itachi didn't even bother to retrieve it to conceal his identity. He wouldn't leave from defending his brother. And that's what Orochimaru wanted to see. "I should have known" the man chuckle, blood flecks flying from his injured mouth, yet it didn't seem to hinder his speech any.
The man's long neck reached out, head swaying in front of Itachi, "Those eyes. Different than the ones before." A dark chuckle erupted from the 'serpent'. Yellow slitted pupils looked into Itachi's Mangekyo Sharingan.
"I wonder who you had to kill to get those eyes."
Notes: I know someone is going to chew me out for a few things, so let's start with some of the 'highlights'. For starters, yes, I know I skipped a HUGE portion of the Chuunin Exam, but really did you want a rehash of the whole thing? No? I didn't think so either. Secondly, Hinata does not have a very big role in this but that will change by next chapter. Third, look for a side chapter to fill in some gaps. Thanks for waiting so patiently for an update and for reading this fic.