Disclaimer: I do not own the anime/manga series Naruto. All rights go to the brilliant mind of Masashi Kishimoto-san.

A/N: Yes I know GASP! She's alive! I got a lot of reviews for the last chapter... good reviews!!! --jumps up and down hyperly before sitting down to enjoy strawberries and strawberry ice cream with said reviewers-- Thank you so much!!! You really don't know how much they mean to me. I'm so very sorry for putting off updating for so long, it scares me just thinking how long it's been. Well, I'll spare you the excuses. Long story short a lot has gone on that has prevented me from updating. Enjoy~

NOTICE: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - I fixed the previous 5 chapters. The spelling and grammar have been all redone and I added a couple things, so please reread. XD With as long as it's been, I'm sure some of you will have to just to remember what's happened! lol Also, I keep a little Update list on my profile now, so I will keep posting story status as I go.


.::Chapter Six::.

"But Most of All..."


'Get to the tower, get to the tower, be alert, keep moving.'

Sakura, Ino and Hinata stood outside the doors of the tower before being let in by a guard. Sakura had, for the most part, tried to burry the memories of her horrid dream far into the depths of her mind by thinking only about the Jonin exams, being alert, and just about any thought possible to keep it all vivid. Eventually she only remembered what scared her the most, the rest being blurred images rather than a clear vision of hell.

"He said to go to floor five, room twelve." Hinata said, pointing down the hall to another set of stairs once reaching the fourth floor.

Following the soft spoken girl until they reached the door, Ino gulped quietly. "So... what do you suppose is on the other side of the door?"

"Who knows," Sakura sighed, glaring at the golden number hanging on the said looming door. "They did say that there would be 'tasks' in the exam."

"But what is it exactly, is what I mean. It's not like they'd booby trap it or something... right?" Ino asked with mild concern.

"Only one way to find out." Sakura took a deep breath and held it before pushing the heavy doors open. There was one window high up on the wall directly in front of them, the sunlight from it shining down on a table with five notes in a line. It seemed others had beat them to the tower already.

Cautiously, they walked to the number of which gate they had gone through. Sakura read the note aloud. "As you already know only ten of you may, or may not pass this exam. To narrow the numbers for the needed amount of new recruits, we've set up a small mission for you: You must open the card with your letter that contains the name of the proctor who holds a scroll you must retrieve at all costs-- minus the proctors life. If the use of ninjutsu, genjutsu, a kekkei genkai or weapons are noted during the bout you fail from the exam. Exceptions are senbon and taijutsu only. You will have exactly one hour to accomplish this task. The time begins when you find your proctor. We wish you the best of luck and for you to remember-- keep all possible options open."

Ino and Hinata skimmed over their letter with the same notion. "So," Ino sighed. "is it one proctor or two?"

"Who knows, I guess just open the card to find out." Sakura picked hers up, before opening it completely, "Oh no..." Sakura groaned in dread of the name printed neatly on the folded card. The other two girls didn't seem as displeased with their proctor.

"Great, they marked out half of our chances to win! Our only option is taijutsu and Hinata-chan is the only one who specializes in it the most!" Ino groaned.

Hinata laughed nervously. "Ah, w-well it wont work as well without the Byakugan but I guess I'm still the only one who specializes in that area."

They turned to leave the room, following the directions to wait until they had permission to leave the forest when enough people arrived.

Hours later the girls were sitting in front of the tower still waiting for permission to leave. They barely made it here with the glass orbs still intact. Just a half mile from the tower they were attacked. Two teams had joined together, forming a six against three battle. They thought for sure they were going to lose when two of the nin's used an earth style jutsu and made the ground to wrap around Ino's foot, breaking her ankle in several different places.

If it wasn't for a... near by hungry giant tiger, they would have lost all the orbs.

Ino winced when she accidentally moved her leg the wrong way. The other two girls were too low on chakra to heal it. Ino would just have to tough it out and wait until they got back.

Sakura sighed with back against the concrete wall. She was looking out at the forest watching the trees sway in the wind, being thankful for finally being out in the sunlight again. "I can't believe this exam. Either the Hokage thought this would be funny or it was rigged, I'll never know."

Two low but slightly annoyed groans of agreement soon followed the statement. When they turned in their scroll's and orb's they ended up receiving another scroll of instructions. They will have to find a proctor who they are assigned to and retrieve a key. That key will open a box in an office inside the village. The name of who they will face in the final Jonin exams will be in the box. But of course, the proctor wont just willingly hand over the key; they will have to fight them for it. Tricky part was how they planned to go against the proctor without the use of ninjutsu, genjutsu, or weapons.

"Why'd he have to be my proctor for this?" Sakura whined, her head falling back against the wall with a frown.

"W-Who did you get again, Sakura-chan?"

Her frown only deepened. "The one and only, Shiranui Genma."

Ino grinned a little at the pink haired kunoichi's dislike of the situation. "Who knows, if you play teachers pet he just might give you the key without a fight!"

Sakura literally choked on air. "What?!"

Ino laughed weakly, holding her hands up in defense. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding!" she looked over to Hinata. "So, who'd you get?"

"Um," Hinata pulled the scroll out and read over the name again. "... Kamizuki Izumo."

Sakura huffed. "Least you didn't get--"

"Yeah, yeah we got it already, you don't like him." Ino rolled her eyes.

Sakura pouted. "Ok then pig who'd you get, hm?"

"Hagane Kotetsu."

"... Damn it." Sakura muttered, hoping it was someone else. It was obvious to her platinum blonde friend it was her intention that she got someone that would irritate her. It only pissed Sakura off all the more at the faint grin on Ino's face because of it. "So when do we have to do this?"

Hinata looked back to the scroll in her hands. "Not until one p.m. We have until Midnight."

Sakura looked up to the sky, it was just a little passed eight a.m. "Okay then, we still have enough time to go see Tsunade-sensei and grab some lunch before we finish this."

There was a long pause. Barely any sounds were heard aside from chirping birds and Ino near growling at her ankle for being such a nuisance. A Konoha shinobi walked around the corner of the tower. "Hey, you the kunoichi from gates twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three?"

"Yes?" Sakura said with a raised eyebrow. "Something wrong?"

"No. The last of the contestants just arrived, you can leave the forest now."

"Um... so we can pretty much do what we want until the end of the next task, right?" Sakura asked, making sure they'd at least be able to make a few stops to prepare themselves for the final task.

"Yes," he looked at them seriously. "By the way, this isn't the end of this exam just yet. If you haven't noticed-- you still have to leave the forest. Even if some of the contestants didn't submit an orb, they are still able to take one of the scrolls that you just received and carry out the exam. Most usually don't even bother with the orb and go straight for who's leaving. So be careful. Until you pass by Anko-san at the gate, you're still prey wandering out there." With that, he turned and walked back into the tower.

Sakura and Hinata looked worriedly at Ino, who was scowling at her ankle. "You sure you can make it that far, Ino?" Sakura began. "If you don't think you can then--"

"I can make it to the gate." Ino snapped. With the help of Hinata, she was able to stand up on her good leg. "Well forehead... I just thought of something. If you don't like Shiranui that much, I have the perfect idea if you can make it until the next test, of course." she grinned.

Sakura smiled unconsciously at the mischievous look in her blue eyes. "What do you have in mind?


Naruto was pacing in front of Ichiraku while talking to himself. He was acting a little fidgety. "Hey! I was wondering if... um..." he paused and scratched his head. "No, no. Uhh, ah I got it! Maybe after the exams we could..." Naruto was officially losing his mind trying to figure out the best approach of asking Sakura out-- again. "Arrgh!! I can't take this anymore it's driving me nuts!!" He shouted to no one in particular, not really paying attention to the people who stopped and stared oddly at him for the outbursts.

"Naruto, what are you doing..."

The said hyperactive blonde looked over his shoulder at the source of the lazy voice and frowned. "Oh... It's only you, Shikamaru." stretching, he crossed his arms behind his head. "What's up?"

Shikamaru refrained from rolling his eyes at the idiot. "The Hokage wanted me to find you, she said it's important... What were you doing?"

Naruto grinned sheepishly. "Oh, I was thinking how I'm gonna ask Sakura-chan out when she finishes her exam today."

He raised an eyebrow. "Today? I thought the exam for the Jonin was next week."

"Um, nope it's today."

"Well then Sakura must have missed it, 'cause she and Ino left for a mission."

Naruto tilted his head to the side, curiosity plainly obvious on his features when his eyes squinted together. "What do you mean on a mission? Sakura-chan and Ino should be in the forest of death. I walked both of them to the Academy yesterday morning." he affirmed with a nod.

There was a slight pause. "My bad, must've gotten the days mixed up. Anyway, don't forget to see the Hokage."

"Right, thanks. See ya later Shikamaru!" Naruto turned to run down a street, nearly knocking someone over in the process.

"Right..." Shikamaru sighed. "Troublesome. Why'd Ino lie about going on a mission?" He asked himself. This was something he'd have to ask the others about. Why on earth would Ino try to take the exam without training? It made no sense. Surely she was on the mission... right?


The girls made it to the gate and were on the way back home to eat and take a break before the next test, neither of them saying a word to each other as they left. They only ran into one problem on the way back, but they were able to fight off the nin's. After finding out one of them was a medical ninja, Ino had enough chakra to use her Mind Body Switch technique and used the other nin's chakra to heal all of them, but she had to act quickly.

But that wasn't why they didn't speak when they turned down different streets.

Sakura was looking down at her sandals as she walked, being able to avoid people as she did so. 'I had no idea...' Her mind was still spinning a little at the argument she and Ino had in the forest. Her mind kept going back to it.


Sakura smirked at one of the nin's trying to challenge them. "You know pig, you're team would be pretty impressed if you managed to knock at least three of these guys out with a broken ankle."

Hinata's eyes widened a little. Ino simply returned the same look at one of the shinobi, several kunai and shuriken in hand. "I'm sure they would be... if they knew I was here." she mumbled.

Sakura looked back at Ino over her shoulder, about to ask what she meant.

"Perfect!" One of the nin's jumped up in attack mode about to slash Sakura with a kunai before she turned around. He would have wounded her badly if Hinata hadn't of thrown two kunai at him, one lodging it's way deep into his shoulder blade as he fell to the ground.

The three girls were standing in a close circle with their backs to each other, watching closely as more nin's and what appeared to be their clones surrounded them. Sakura turned her head towards Ino, eyes still watching the shinobi this time."What did you mean by 'If they knew?'" she asked curiously.

If Ino had told Hinata, then she might as well. "They don't know that I'm taking the exam. I told Shikamaru that I was going to be on a mission for a while."

Before Sakura could say anything in return a few shinobi lunged forwards. All of them were clones, but the katana's they had were very real. Doing a quick back flip, Sakura kicked one of their wrists, knocking the katana into her hands when she landed on her feet. Only being able to stand up quick enough to sidestep one of the two remaining clones she was fighting, she ran the sword through him, making him vanish in a cloud of ninjutsu smoke.

Hinata was trying her best to defend herself against other shinobi with their clones and watch Ino's back at the same time. Ino never moved from her spot, only spinning and ducking on one foot, barely using the injured one to keep her balance as she threw and dodged kunai, senbon and shuriken. Catching what weapon she could flying through the air, she'd throw back just as quickly. If it wasn't for her training as a ninja, she wouldn't have been able to keep her balance on one foot like she was. Even though to the other nin's, it looked like she was just merely standing there with both feet planted firmly to the ground.

If they had known she broken her ankle before they left the tower, they'd be in even bigger trouble.

Even in the middle of a fight, it didn't stop her curiosity."Why the heck didn't you tell you're team you were taking the exams?!" Sakura shouted over the clash of metal on metal.

"Just lay off it already and focus!" Ino retorted angrily, catching a senbon and flinging it as hard as she could at a clone near Hinata, sticking him in the eye with it as he fell over screaming in pain.

Oh, wait... guess he wasn't a clone after all.

"You should listen to the girl there, you might not wanna lose you're head!!"

After Sakura had killed off the clones, the actual nin jumped out, trying to aim at cutting her head off with a katana. Only to be jabbed in the abdomen with the blade she had. "CHA! Stay outta this, this is between me and Ino-pig got that!" she kicked him off the blade, turning around quickly she pointed it to Ino, not caring she was flinging blood around. "What's the big deal huh, and why didn't you even tell me?!"

The kunai Ino threw missed and she ended up punching the nin, being able to grab another kunai with her free hand she slashed at him, causing him to jump back to hold the wound on his chest. "Because I failed the first Jonin exam all right! Happy now!?" Ino growled back, throwing the kunai into the nin's neck. Hinata winced at how it imbedded it's self almost half way up the handle in his neck. Blood began to squirt out as he choked and grabbed at his throat before falling over.

"Do what! What do you mean first exam!" Sakura shouted, grabbing onto the katana with both hands she ran it through another clone.

Ino huffed to blow her bangs out of her eye as she scowled, trying to count how many were left. "I took the exam last year."

"What! Without telling me, why?!" Sakura gaped.

Ino bit her lip. One of the nin's jumped down and was ready to attack her. Her head was down, making her eyes become shadowed. "Because..." he had already jumped back up and held the katana high in the air. "Because I... I'm tired of my teammates talking about me behind my back and comparing me to you!!" She snapped, holding three shuriken between her fingers in a fist. Ino swiped them quickly across the ninja's throat faster then their eyes could follow. Before he could drop the sword she threw the shuriken at his chest and he fell over.

Sakura's eyes went wide, she couldn't see Ino's face because her back was towards her, but could see how her shoulders tensed up. "Ino, I--"

"Aside from basic ninja abilities I only know three jutsu and it's only ninjutsu. I'm not skilled in genjutsu or taijutsu at all. I'm barely skilled at ninjutsu and I have to have my team in order for them to work! I'm sick of it! That's why I've been training harder, that's why I've been taking the exam without anyone knowing, if they know I failed the first one then how is that gonna look on me?! I'm tired of staying around here while everyone else is out there surpassing me!!" Ino yelled. The anger and hurt in her voice was evident enough.

Sakura and Hinata both looked away a bit sadly. Out of all the people they'd never guess Ino would have those thoughts, they've always thought of her as a strong kunoichi even in the academy days, one that never backs down, but... apparently she didn't feel the same way about it.

Ino was staring at the ground, strange blue eyes narrowed in hurt. Her voice was barely audible this time. "But most of all... I can't stand it when one of my own teammates tells me I'm weak."


Sakura opened the front door of her home. After finding something to eat she went upstairs to take a quick shower and rest for an hour or two to replenish chakra. 'I wonder which one she was talking about when she said that.' she wondered to herself. 'Hm. Well, it couldn't have been Choji. He'd probably be too scared to ever say anything like that to her. And I doubt Asuma would say something like that, at least not in that harsh of a manner. The only one who'd be able to say something like that to Ino and actually hurt her could only be...' Sakura sighed. 'Shikamaru. Of course, he's the only one blunt enough to say something like that to her and have it bother her so deeply. And knowing him, he probably said it like it wasn't a big deal. But that couldn't have been all he said. I've never seen Ino act like that. Whatever he said to her must've been extremely bad for her to react this way.'



Hinata bit her lip, looking towards the ground in thought. "Um, I-Ino-chan?"

After taking a deep breath and sighing, Ino glanced over towards the shorter girl. "Yeah?"

"Oh, well, um... Are you sure you're okay? I mean it still looks like your ankle is bothering you."

Ino was still limping a little. It didn't hurt as badly, but too much pressure made it feel uncomfortable. "I just wasn't able to heal it all the way, so it's still sore. Don't worry I'll ask my mom to heal it, I know she has to be home still."

"Alright then. Don't forget to meet us in four hours, that should give us enough time to rest."

Ino walked up to the front door of the flower shop. The only reason Hinata walked with her was because she had to pass by here on her way home as a shortcut. "I wont, see ya then. And make sure you wrap up your hand when you get home." Hinata had a few senbon go through her hand before they left the forest that she never tended to. After waving, Ino walked inside only to stop halfway at the bored voice speaking.

"Hey, so how was that mission to the forest of death."

Ino froze. Looking up she saw Shikamaru leaning against the counter. Ino tried to smile. "What are you talking about? Why are you here anyway, shouldn't you be out cloud watching or something?"

Shikamaru scowled. "Funny thing really, I happened to run into Naruto and he said he walked you and Sakura to the academy for the Jonin exams. I thought you said you had a mission to go on." Ino bit the inside of her lip at being caught. Shikamaru noticed how worn out she looked, beside the fact she walked in limping with dried blood on her. It wasn't until then he saw the torn clothing and missing fishnets. "I'm guessing you just got back from the forest, right."

Ino forced herself not to glare. She hated it when he sounded like he was analyzing every detail and was so sure of everything. She put her hands on her hips, shifting her weight from her half injured ankle. "So I took the exam, what's the big deal."

Shikamaru crossed his arms. "The big deal is you didn't tell any of us. You haven't even been training for the exam so how--"

"And how would you know if I've been training or not! For your information I passed the forest of death portion and now I just have one more test before the final exam!" Shikamaru looked a little taken aback by the way she was glaring at him. Before he could say anything she continued. "I don't know why you even bothered to come here anyway..."

What the hell was her problem? She's been acting strangely around him lately and he didn't really know why. "Because for one we're still part of a team and you didn't even tell Choji or Asuma-sensei. Why'd you take the exam by yourself for, Ino?"

Ino started walking again, intending to walk by him and going up to her room, even if she had to take fifteen minutes to limp her way up the stairs one at a time. "Teammates would help each other out. I've tried asking you five times since last year. I wanted help training for the exams, but you blew me off each time I tried. So if you want to be my teammate now, then just leave me alone so I can get ready for the final test tonight."

The lazy shinobi could only stare at the kunoichi as she walked around the counter and through the back doorway. It wasn't long until he found himself caught between confusion, irritation, and some other emotion he couldn't identify from what she said. Was Ino mad at him? What the hell did he do to receive such a cold reply? When Shikamaru walked into the small shop earlier that day he thought for sure upon seeing the girl she'd gloat about how well she did during the exams and brag on how she wanted it to be a surprise upon discovering he was aware of her lying to him.

After walking out of the shop to nowhere in particular, he couldn't help but think about how Ino not only lied to him, but she was angry at him, too.

Damn, he wished he was twenty-one right about now.


Sakura scowled as they were drawing near where the final proctor would be. Ino and Hinata managed to get their scroll with the plan they came up with. It shocked Sakura at first but then she liked the plan. Now she regretted it. The final proctor was her proctor. Sakura was about to call out to Ino to ask her something, but an irritated groan interrupted her from nearby on the rooftop they'd landed on.

A girl with short light brown hair and blue eyes had her arms crossed, glaring in one direction. She had a Sunagakure headband.

"Um, excuse me." Sakura asked. "Is... there something wrong?"

She put her hands on her hips, not looking away from the direction she was staring in. "I'm trying to take the Jonin exams here, but.. Err, I can't do this! This is absolutely frustrating!"

Ino blinked. "Well what are those odds. We're taking the exam, too."

She turned around to face the three. "Yes but... If your in the same portion of the exam as I am in, then you should understand, I specialize in genjutsu only! I'm horrible at taijutsu and now I can't use weapons! I can't do this!" She shouted exasperatedly, eye twitching at the thought.

Sakura chuckled, eye also twitching. "Yes, we know the feeling. But why aren't you taking the exam in your village?"

"Oh, well." she walked up to them, crossing her arms again. "I had planned to take our exam next week, but Kazekage-sama said for me to take the exam here. I don't know why a week difference mattered, he only said that it was for the best to go here."

Sakura smiled. It was still odd to hear him being called by that. "From what I heard, he was trying to change the method of your Genin and Jonin exams, so he's probably just sending everyone to Konoha, since our exams aren't as... bad." Brutally violent, to be exact. But from what Ino had probably done it would have compared.

"I see... So how do we go about getting our scrolls, then? I've been trying ever since this morning and I can't think of anything."

An idea came to Ino. "'--keep all possible options open.'" she repeated from the letter in the tower. A new plan began to formulate.

"By the way, name my is Haruno Sakura, and this is Hyuga Hinata and Yamanaka Ino." Sakura smiled.

"Oh," she bowed politely. "my name is Mitsukoshi Misuzu. It's nice to meet you." she paused when she stood straight again. "If you don't mind me asking, how old are you three? You seem to be quite young."

Sakura smiled again. "Sixteen."

"F-fifteen and a half."

"Almost Sixteen."

"Oh wow," Misuzu blinked in surprise. "your trying to become a Jonin already?"

Sakura shrugged in a it's-not-really-a-big-deal way. "Don't see why not. My sensei as a Genin became a Jonin when he was thirteen."

"I see... I just turned twenty-three."

"I got it!" Ino shouted, startling the others. "I think I figured out the perfect way to complete this half of the exam." It was similar to what she had previously planned-- only this time, it was better.

Sakura raised a brow. "How so?"


Genma was standing on a random rooftop. Bored out of his mind. 'First they drag Kakashi into this, now me. Are they short handed or something?' He thought idly. Genma was about tempted to just say fuck it and go home. 'Having to deal with Chunin coming at me with taijutsu all day isn't the highlight of my day.'

Looking over the many roofs, everything seemed calm. The sun was out shining, the wind was blowing, the giggling was-- wait, giggling?

Genma turned around curiously to see a girl with short brown hair, Konoha headband holding her hair into place. Bright blue eyes shining in the sunlight. Smiling politely, she asked softly. "Excuse me, but why are you standing up here?"

"Depends, are you one of the Chunin taking the exam."

Confusion flashed through her eyes before her smile fell back into place. "I am a Chunin, yes, but I'm taking no exam." she laughed softly. "I was asking because I live here." She pointed down to the roof top for emphasis. It was an apartment complex, after all.

He eyed her cautiously. She seemed to be weaker than most of the nin's taking this exam. Plus she looked too relaxed to be intending an attack.

She walked up in front of him. "Are you going to answer my question?" she giggled, tilting her head to the side.

Genma raised an eyebrow, curious to know if she was always this friendly. "Restricted information, Miss."

"I see, but isn't it a bit hot out here to be just standing there?" She had a paper file in her hand, fanning herself with it. She had on an extremely low cut white V-neck sleeveless shirt and a knee length tan skirt.

"So why are you out here then?" Great, he wanted to kick himself for gawking like that...

She simply smiled. "To know why a shinobi with a senbon in his mouth is standing on my roof in ninety-some-odd degree weather." It was hard to keep the humor from her voice.

He sighed, hands in his pockets. "Like I said..." he trailed off.

"Is everything alright?" the young woman asked.

He stopped speaking, eyes looking a bit dazed. Genma felt dizzy, going blank at times, then everything would begin to spin. Losing his balance he dropped to his knees with a hand to his forehead.

"Oh my goodness, are you all right!"

Genma almost lost himself at how much worry and concern was in her eyes. "Yeah, I just... got a little dizzy, I guess."

She smiled sincerely. "See, now what did I say. Your out here in ninety degree weather in full shinobi attire. Your just cooking yourself!" she giggled.

"Uh... Y-Yeah, I guess."

The hell. What was wrong with him? His face started to heat up at her smile... It wasn't that hot out, this shouldn't be happening. And it couldn't have been from her because quite frankly, she wasn't that hot either. Pretty in a sweet, caring way. But no.

She helped him stand back up, still standing close to him. "Why don't you just go inside and cool down?"

The offer sounded tempting when it felt like it got twenty degrees hotter than it already had been. What was going on here? Was it the weather or was it because of the woman? This wasn't like him. His mind was scattered, no one, not even an attractive woman had ever got him this distracted. Something wasn't right but Genma's mind would spin too fast to be able to clearly decipher what it was.

She leaned closer, back of her hand on the side of his face. "Oh! Your burning up! You should really come inside for a while, you could die being out here like this."

Heh, it felt like he was dying, now.

Genma put an arm around her waist, slightly leaning down to eye level with her. "I'm fine."

Her own face turn a pretty shade of pink. "U-Um, I don't think that this is very appro--"

Genma leaned closer. What the hell was he doing? He just met the girl! She started to lean closer also.

"--priate! I-If you don't go inside--" her sentence faded away when their lips made contact.

Suddenly, it felt cooler out. The oven-like temperature left and Genma, finally realizing what he just did, stepped back from her instantly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have--"

She grinned, bright blue eyes full of mischief. The perfect picture of kindness and gentleness fading away with the new expression. "It's all right," she smiled. "know why?"

Genma eyed her oddly at the triumphant giggle, biting harder on the senbon betwixt his teeth. "... why?"

"Because I already got what I needed. Well, we."

What... Genma's eyes widened. Hand unconsciously reaching back to his shuriken pouch, he bit the metal in his mouth harder. "Shit!"

More giggling resounded behind him as he turned around. Ino was grinning, pointing to Sakura who was holding up two scrolls. As it seemed, Misuzu and Sakura both had the same proctor today. "Why Shiranui-san, how kind of you to let us have these!" Ino started giggling when his shock turned into anger.

"So that's what that was, huh. You used a genjutsu didn't you. If so, I'm sorry to say that your all--"

"Oh no." Ino held her own scroll out, using it as a pointer as she spoke. "The letter from the tower stated that, and I quote-- If the use of ninjutsu, genjutsu, a kekkei genkai or weapons are noted during the bout, you fail from the exam. Ours wasn't during the fight, since there never was one. It doesn't state you cannot use one before, though. And it also doesn't say we can't help out other applicants or tag team. So, we cannot be failed if it doesn't state the facts."

Sakura couldn't help but smile a little at Genma's expression.

After a while he looked back to the girl who tricked him as grinned and removed her headband, revealing her Suna one beneath it and tossing the Konoha one back to Hinata. He smirked. "So, you figured out how to work yourselves around the rules... very good. But in any case your right. Follow the scrolls instructions. See you after the exam." Genma formed a few hand signs and poofed away. Of all the people, only eight were left and he ended up getting stuck waiting on two of them to show... Who knew they'd eventually tag team without knowing they were the only ones to be sent to him.

He scowled. Genma had to ask Kakashi if he knew about that little genjutsu trick Sakura used. What was hell was that all about?


Later That Day...

Sakura walked through the streets of Konoha with a scowl in place. The poor people who passed her that said a polite hello got a glare. The ones who bumped into her got a growl, glare and most likely a curse.

Today was just not her day as she thought back to what happened around four that afternoon when she met with Ino and Hinata to finish the last portion of the exam. Okay, so maybe it was only a few hours ago and it turned out well in getting the scrolls through planning and team work. It was what happened after that.

After the mulling over what had transpired, again, Sakura huffed. Her expression mellowed out and she didn't scare as many people she passed from her irritation.

Upon reaching the final task of the exam-- to unlock the box with the name of who she'd be facing in the final matches, Sakura soon realized why people said the Jonin exam could be a pain in the ass.

It was a number... A NUMBER!!! For crying out loud why have people go into the forest of death to find a scroll, to get an orb, to find a letter and card saying to go find another scroll inside Konoha that a proctor carried, to have that one tell them to find a key to unlock a box, to going to the matching numbered box all the way on the other side of the village, JUST TO HAVE ANOTHER DAMN NUMBER IN IT!!! Urrgh, just thinking of it all made her head hurt. The ones who make up the Jonin exams have a cruel and twisted sense of humor.

And to top it off Sakura wouldn't be able to help Naruto. Apparently they change some of the exam every time, meaning a new task and written exam. The only thing that remains the same are the final matches.

And along with the final number of her exam, a note from the Hokage herself along with the glass orb she had found in the forest of death as a memento. The air-like bubbles inside the perfectly shaped orb held colors of reds and pinks. After gazing at the orb again, Sakura skimmed over the note that read,

-- Congratulations on passing this portion of the exams. The number you currently have in your possession is part of a drawing in who you will be facing in the Chunin VS Jonin matches-- Your opponent will be classified as unknown until then. If the selected Jonin draws the matching number to the one you currently hold, that is who you will be facing.

The date for the final exam will be; 8:00 p.m. July 28th 2007. You will have exactly four days to rest and prepare yourself. Please use your time carefully.

Still, even after going back to her apartment to put away the items she had received during the exam everything that had happened the last few days rushed through her mind. It was so hard to keep up with the days and this exam was confusing the hell out of her. It was all nothing but mind, determination and stress exorcizes.

At least she had a few days of rest. Sakura and Ino both had some healing to do in the meantime before having to worry about going against one of Konohagakure's well-to-do Jonin. After taking a few steps out of her apartment, she faltered.

Who was she kidding! They barely made it out of the forest of death with all of their limbs intact by a bunch of other Chunin and they had to fight a Jonin?! What the hell was wrong with these people! If she had the energy to, Sakura would have without a doubt stomped her way up to the Hokage's office and asked what the big idea was, but she was barely able to drag herself down to Ichiraku's to meet with Naruto. As soon as the blonde found out she finished the second half of the exam, he wanted to treat her and Ino both to ramen. Why, she didn't know. Guess he was happy for the attempted change in rank. Sakura frowned again. When she called Ino to ask if she wanted to go, all she did was brush her off and say she was going to sleep the rest of the day upon returning home.

It made Sakura worry again. She smiled to herself, now understanding how they felt about what happened to her months ago. Ino seemed worried about something though. No, it wasn't worry. It was a mix of several different emotions and one of them was conflict. As soon as they and Misuzu went their separate ways Ino decided to go home.

"Heehee, you know you really didn't have to come here if you didn't want to, Sakura-chan." Naruto grinned when he saw the pink haired girl walking up. His grin fell a little at seeing the cuts and bruises covering her and the dark circles under her eyes. "Man, you look exhausted."

Sakura only smiled at her friend. "Don't worry about it, I'll probably end up sleeping all day tomorrow and the next day anyway. I broke my leg when we were in the forest of death and we only managed a temporary quick fix so I could walk on it. If I don't cool it for a while it could break again."

"You don't have to finish the rest of the exam soon like with the Chunin do you?" Naruto asked after they had both ordered something.

Sakura shook her head and gratefully accepted the glass of water set down in front of her on the counter. "We have four days. I'll go get my leg fixed after I rested a little. Besides, we came back to rest for a while after we got back from the forest but I couldn't sleep. If I fell asleep then my muscles would relax and then I'd know the full extend on what I've pulled. I wouldn't have been able to move at all." she yawned.

Naruto felt like he was caught between what to do. He wanted her to rest, but she seemed determined to stay awake for as long as she could. Her head would lull to the side and she'd jump when she leaned too far and almost fell off the stool. They finished their ramen and the blonde shinobi made sure she got home safely.

As soon as Naruto turned around to begin his long trek home, he shrieked at the sight of the silver haired Jonin standing right behind him.

"Gah! K-Kakashi-sensei, what're you doin' sneakin' up on people like that!"

Kakashi shrugged, hands in his pockets. "Didn't mean to startle you. I was just going to ask Sakura a question, but it seems she's already headed off to bed, hasn't she?"

"Yeah, she's really tired."

"Hm." Kakashi eyed the younger ninja in front of him. "Say, Naruto, you were supposed to walk Sakura to the academy, weren't you?" Naruto nodded. "Did Ino go with you too?"

Naruto looked at him strangely. "You know, Shikamaru was askin' me something about that too earlier today. He said that he thought she and Sakura-chan went on a mission. Why'd he think that?"

After walking away from the sleeping kunoichi's apartment, Kakashi sighed and scratched the back of his silver head. "Well, I was speaking with Asuma and Kurenai earlier today and it seems that both Ino and Hinata took the exam without telling anyone. Well, Hinata had told her team. I was just wondering if you knew anything about that."

Naruto frowned. "That's weird. I didn't see Hinata anywhere but Ino seemed pretty psyched about the exam, so I didn't think it was strange."

Kakashi sighed. So much for favors. No sooner he mentioned to Asuma how Ino had done in the first half of the exam, he dropped his cigarette and almost flipped. It didn't really help matters much when Shikamaru came along and asked what was going on after the girl's returned from the forest.

If Kakashi had to guess, he would have to say that Shikamaru and Ino weren't on very good terms because of this. He never saw the lazy genius as irritated as he was today.

Why did all hell have to break loose right when a surprise special edition to Icha Icha Basics came out? With all the secrets and tension in the air over Konoha right now it'd be to suffocating to be able to enjoy his series with a clear mind.

Kakashi looked over his shoulder to Sakura's apartment in the distance, hoping she would be able to summon that crazy strength of hers during the final exams soon.


A/N: (Sorry if something seems out of place here in this chapter, I've been up for the last two almost three days running on very little sleep to get this darn thing posted!) Oh good God I didn't expect this chapter to be as long! I had to cut it in half!!! Well yes, anyway, I'm back! Again thank you so very much for the reviews and I'm very, very sorry for putting off updating for so long! --bows in hope for forgiveness-- It was one thing after another! Life. It's wonderful. Anyway, I'll post the second half of this chapter, which would be chapter 7 shortly. Woo! I'm on a roll!

And to one of the reviews that has been stuck in my head ever since I read it... I can't look at chapter 5 without hearing, "Good... now spit." in the back of my mind! lol

Oh, and if you didn't get the part where Shikamaru wished he was twenty-one. Well, how old is it that you have to be to drink? Of course he was a shinobi and most are actually allowed to, but by his team he isn't. Haha.


--Translation Keys--

-san: This is the most common honorific and is equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms., and Mrs. It is the all-purpose honorific and can be used in any situation where politeness is required.

-sama: This is one level higher than -san. It is used to confer great respect.

-kun: This suffix is used at the end of boys' names to express familiarity or endearment. It is also sometimes used by men among friends, or when addressing someone younger or of a lower status.

-chan: This is used to express endearment, mostly towards girls. It is also used for little boys, pets, and between lovers. It gives a sense of childish cuteness.

Sensei: This title is used for teachers, doctors, or masters of any profession or art. It's literal meaning is, "one who has come before."

-[blank]: This is usually forgotten on these lists, but it's perhaps the most significant difference between Japanese and English. The lack of honorific means that the speaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way. Usually, only family, spouses, or very close friends have this kind of license. Known as yobisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned the intimacy starts to call one by one's name without an honorific. But when that intimacy hasn't been earned, it can also be insulting.

Kunoichi: Female ninja.

Shinobi: Ninja.

Shuriken: A four pointed blade, commonly known as, "Death Star" "Throwing Stars" or "Ninja Stars" here in the West.

Kunai: A blade commonly used among ninja.

Senbon: A needle-like weapon (think acupuncture).