"Naruto" is the intellectual property of Kishimoto Masashi. "Slayers" is the creation of Kanzaka Hajime.
Warning: This story has spoilers for certain content of Slayers, NEXT, and TRY. (Spoilers for Slayers and NEXT, minor TRY and movie/OAV references in this chapter.)
Update: 1) blond/blonde fix, minor addition to scene where Team Seven and Team Gai meet, fixed the name of one of Lee's techniques during his fight with Sasuke, 2) removed 'Arashi' which I didn't intend to use in the first place but slipped in by accident
A Different Voice
Chapter 4: Pressure! The Chuunin Exams Begin!
Updated: 7/23/2007, 8/31/2007
Sakura cracked an eye open and the bright sunlight slanting through her bedroom window made her cringe. She pulled the white bed sheets over her head and tried to bury herself in the goose down pillow. Lina said something about breakfast but Sakura was able to ignore her other self in her half-asleep state.
A light tapping on her bedroom door went unheeded also. Her mother bursting into her room was more difficult to ignore.
"Good morning, sleepy head!" Momoka chirped. Sakura tightened her grip on the sheets and protectively curled them around herself. The older pink-haired woman reached across her to push the window drapes fully open. Mid-morning sunlight poured into Sakura's bedroom. Neither closed eyelids nor the thin white sheets wrapped around her head did much to prevent the glare from reaching Sakura's green eyes.
"It's Saturday," Sakura mumbled in a vain effort to avoid being dragged from her comfortable bed.
"Hatake-san is downstairs."
"Kakashi-sensei?" the younger Haruno questioned drowsily.
"That's right. You should get dressed. But don't worry; I'll keep him entertained until you get downstairs." Momoka patted the prone girl's head before leaving the room.
Sakura lay in her bed for another minute as her mind slowly awakened. Entertained?! she thought in sudden dismay. There's no telling what she's planning but it'll definitely be embarrassing for me!
The pink-haired girl scrambled from her bed and quickly changed from her nightgown. She raced downstairs, now wearing a red pair of slacks and a pale yellow t-shirt with a drawing of an eye in red on the front. She finished adjusting the hitai-ate on top of her head as she entered the living room. Her mother and her sensei were calmly drinking tea, despite the fact that Kakashi's facemask was still in place. "You're right, I absolutely must invite all of you over for dinner soon," her mother said.
She was wrong; it was not an embarrassment, it was a disaster in the making.
Kakashi was sitting on the ugly purple paisley couch and her mother on the plain-looking brown recliner. The cherry wood coffee table in front of them held a pair of saucers and her mother's silver tea service. Kakashi gave her his usual smile upon seeing her.
I wonder why he's here, Lina said.
Sakura grit her teeth and attempted to smile in return. "You need to talk to me, Kakashi-sensei?"
"Yes, but I think we have time for me to finish my tea before we leave," he replied.
Quick! Help me think of some way to end this! Sakura pleaded with Lina.
We need a way to embarrass Kakashi.
In front of my mother? Sakura said dubiously. Ah-ha! she mentally cried in victory. The pink-haired girl walked over to the couch and sat on the end nearest her mother. "Of course," she said in a too-friendly voice, "you two have so much in common."
Momoka looked at her curiously. Her jounin instructor watched her warily, obviously picking up on her inflection.
"Like romance novels."
Momoka squealed in glee and sent a barrage of questions toward Kakashi. "Have you read the latest by Murasaki? Isn't it simply divine?!"
Kakashi's expression changed to one of horror. "My, look at the time." He rapidly scanned the room for a clock but did not find one. The jounin did not wear a watch either. Ignoring the lack of timepiece for reference, he sat his teacup down and grabbed Sakura's arm. "We really must be going."
Sakura found herself swiftly ushered outside, barely having enough time to slide her sandals on. She smiled triumphantly.
It had rained at some point during the night and the streets were still damp. The cool spring air had done little to evaporate the rainwater and Sakura dodged around puddles as she followed Kakashi away from her house.
"What is this about, anyway?" Sakura asked with some annoyance as she caught up with the jounin. "You said we wouldn't be meeting until Wednesday."
Kakashi nodded. "Hokage-sama wants to talk to you about your… memories," he said. Sakura cringed slightly and the silver-haired man looked at her. "Surely you knew this would happen."
We should have come up with some other explanation, she thought grumpily. Lina shrugged in her mind. The two of them had discussed many alternatives but the partial truth they had given to the rest of Team Seven was still the best option.
Sakura sighed despondently. "I didn't think it would be so soon. We just got back from Wave Country," she complained.
Kakashi shrugged by way of an apology.
Lina decided that it was not enough. She pointed at a restaurant that they were passing and said, "I didn't get to eat breakfast yet so you're going to pay." The restaurant had a large banner in the window which proudly proclaimed 'All You Can Eat.' In small print below that it read 'Akimichi clan members excluded.'
"We honestly don't have much time," Kakashi warned.
"It won't take long," Lina said with a smirk as she entered the eatery.
When they left the restaurant fifteen minutes later, a rotund man in a cook's hat and apron could be seen through the window, crying liberally as he ripped the banner down.
Kakashi looked down at the short girl beside him. "I don't think I've ever seen someone eat that much."
I know I haven't! Sakura said internally. Where do you put it all?!
Lina smiled and contentedly patted her stomach.
The Hokage's office was not as dark as Sakura had imagined it to be. There was a large bay window behind his desk which gave an impressive view of the village but did not seem very defensible. Then again, perhaps that was part of the point – if this was where he met with other political figures, the inviting window would tell of his confidence in his guards' abilities as well as his own.
There were a large number of shelves along the walls of the room, as she expected, holding a variety of scrolls. The room smelled of ink and pipe smoke.
A single leather desk chair was in front of the desk; it matched the one that the Hokage himself was sitting in.
Kakashi led Sakura forward. She stopped in front of the desk and gave the Sandaime a deep bow. "Good morning, Hokage-sama."
The Third Hokage gave her a smile and took the pipe out of his mouth. "Please have a seat, Sakura," he said and gestured toward the chair with the stem of his pipe.
Sakura settled nervously into the chair, the leather squeaking from even her slight weight. The pink-haired genin placed her hands in her lap. Kakashi stood to her left and slightly behind her, just out of her vision when she looked straight at the Hokage.
Sakura began fidgeting almost immediately.
Want me to take over? Lina asked.
No! responded Sakura. She had noticed during their internal conversations that the other girl rarely showed any respect. You're so rude at times. I don't want you calling Hokage-sama something like 'old man' the way that Naruto does.
I'm not rude! Lina protested. I'm just… direct.
Sakura nearly snorted at that but kept herself from reacting visibly.
The Sandaime smiled kindly at her again and removed his four-cornered hat. Without the traditional hat of the Hokage resting on his head, the man looked much older. His hairline had receded to the point where most of his hair was on the back of his head. "Sakura, there's no need for you to be scared."
Sakura flushed, realizing just how obvious her nervousness was. Then again, her anxiety was partly their doing. The Hokage's actions were obviously meant to make her more at ease. At the same time Kakashi was in her blind spot and she could feel his eye on her even if she could not see it. She looked up at the silver-haired jounin. "Is this some sort of 'good cop, bad cop' routine?"
Kakashi smiled at her and the Hokage chuckled. "Not exactly," the Sandaime answered her. "You must admit that your… claim of having previous memories is very unusual."
Feeling resigned, Sakura nodded.
The Hokage rested his elbows on his desk and clasped his hands together under his chin as he leaned forward. His face was set in a serious expression. "We have looked for information on the country that you mentioned to Kakashi," he said. "The name 'Zefielia' does not appear in any of our records, though I must admit our geographic records are quite incomplete."
"Incomplete? Why is that?" Sakura asked curiously.
"When the Elemental Nations were formed, the Daimyo of the countries chose to be very isolationist in regards to anything from outside the Elemental Nations," the Hokage explained. "There are a few examples of overseas knowledge and influence that survived, such as how we use the English designators 'A,' 'B,' and 'C' for our mission ranks, but our knowledge is very limited in the here-and-now."
"Shouldn't we, as shinobi, know more about the world?" The lack of information did not make any sense to Sakura, especially since one of the primary duties of ninja was to gather information.
"Who do you think has the responsibility of keeping such 'foreign' knowledge from spreading? We are in an awkward position of having to police ourselves." The leader of Konoha leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak. "Regrettably, to my mind, we have become quite proficient at it and it has become difficult for even us to learn of anything that occurs outside the Elemental Nations."
'Forbidden knowledge,' is it? Lina murmured. I'm certainly no stranger to the concept but this is on a huge scale.
"I don't remember hearing anything like this in the academy," Sakura mentioned.
"We do not hide it completely but we certainly do not draw attention to it," the Hokage said. "We teach young ninja about the surrounding nations and the other ninja villages. We tell them that these are who we must be concerned about, that these are our friends and enemies, that the rest of the world is not important to shinobi."
"But you don't actually agree with this, do you?"
"I do not," agreed the Sandaime. "That is one reason that I wish to talk to you: to learn what you know." He paused and looked deeply into Sakura's eyes. "I also must make sure you are still loyal to Konoha."
Sakura felt a jolt of fright run through her body. Her apprehension had diminished since the start of the conversation but now it came back in full force. "Of course I am!" she insisted.
But I can't say that I am, Lina said.
Sakura had not thought of that before. She trusted Lina but the sorceress was not a ninja of the Hidden Leaf.
If I have to choose between doing what I think is right and what we've been ordered… Lina did not finish the thought but she did not have to.
Sakura was still uncomfortable with that dilemma herself and did not know how to respond to her other self.
"You can understand my predicament, do you not?" the Hokage asked.
Sakura nodded miserably. "Am I going to be removed from Team Seven?" A graduate of the ninja academy was considered to be loyal unless the jounin instructors had a reason to believe otherwise. Now, after all her hard work, they did have a reason to doubt her. Perhaps even a valid reason.
"No," the Hokage quickly replied. "What would be most helpful is if you would agree to teach Kakashi your majutsu."
Sakura blinked at the unexpected request.
"It may very well be true that teaching Sasuke and Naruto wouldn't work well at their stage in training but the same does not apply to me," Kakashi stated. Sakura looked up at him over her shoulder but his expression was as bland as it ever was.
"And if – no, more accurate to say 'when' – your abilities become known it will be much easier to allay any fears that the village council might have if you are sharing these techniques," the Hokage explained.
Okay, my turn, Lina said. Sakura started to protest. Don't worry, I'll be respectful, Lina added.
"I can teach Kakashi-sensei," Lina said to the Hokage, being careful to identify the jounin instructor the same way that Sakura did. "But I want an exchange of information."
Real respectful, Lina, Sakura muttered in her mind.
"Exchange? What is it that you want to know?" the Hokage cautiously queried.
"Do you know about the demon sealed inside Naruto?" Lina asked.
The balding man's eyes opened wide in shock and Kakashi became unnaturally silent as he stopped breathing for a moment.
"How do you know about that?" was the quiet question from the Hokage.
So they do know about it. Lina folded her arms over her chest. "I fought a number of demons in my previous life," she said. "I know what I felt on the bridge in the Land of Waves. Some of the demon's power escaped from whatever seal Naruto has."
The Hokage straightened in his chair and his visage became sterner. "And you want to know about the demon?"
"That's not my first question," Lina said with a shake of her head. "Does Naruto know?" the sorceress asked.
"He does," the Sandaime answered. His face softened and he briefly closed his eyes. "For better or for worse, he does." When he opened his eyes, the old man was smiling warmly. "I'm glad to see your concern about your teammate."
Inside her mind Sakura blushed slightly but Lina simply grinned at the complement. "So how much do you know about the demon?"
"As much as anyone," the Hokage responded. "I would rather you not know any more about the demon," he added quickly. His gaze on her became speculative. "Perhaps if you talked to Naruto about it."
Why would Hokage-sama suggest such a round-about method? Sakura wondered.
The demon is obviously considered a secret, Lina replied. Naruto probably doesn't have anyone to talk to about it.
Sakura briefly imagined what it would be like to know that a demon was inside her body. I wonder if he would want to talk about it.
Lina dismissed the conjecture for the moment. "Then can you tell me about the seal?"
"What about it?" the Hokage asked in surprise.
"I've not heard of a seal that partially breaks," Lina said. "It's either whole or it's broken. But Naruto was completely normal after the demon's power stopped flowing."
"The seal is designed to allow the demon's chakra to merge with Naruto's."
"Chakra," Lina quietly muttered. I guess you could call it chakra.
Demons don't have chakra? Sakura asked.
I'll explain later, Lina answered her. "You're saying that the seal is supposed to do that?" she incredulously asked. "That sounds a bit dangerous."
"It was created by the greatest seal master that has ever lived in the Elemental Nations." The Third Hokage's voice had a note of sadness as he softy said this. "He created the seal to protect Naruto as well as possible."
"The seal was done by a human?" Lina asked doubtfully.
"Yes," the Hokage replied. Lina noticed a slight hesitation in his voice. "Why do you ask?"
"I encountered a seal like Naruto's… in my past life," Lina said, "but it was created by… a god, one of the Shinzoku." Rezo's seal and the six others like it had been created by Flare Dragon Ceipheed – not just any Shinzoku but the most powerful of the gods – and the result had been Ceipheed's destruction. It seemed unlikely to Lina that a human could seal a powerful Mazoku with any degree of success.
The Sandaime picked up his pipe and dug around in his robes, finally producing a long match. He turned his head away at an angle, relit his pipe, and took several slow, deep puffs. The tobacco smell grew in intensity as the elderly ninja continued to blow the pipe smoke into the room.
Lina realized that he was staring at something on the wall and she followed his gaze to a set of photographs of the four Hokage.
The Hokage suddenly sat down his pipe and stood. Lina started to rise from her chair but the Hokage waved her back down. "I will return momentarily," he said and left the room.
Lina looked up at Kakashi but the creasing of the jounin's visible eyebrow betrayed his own confusion.
When the Hokage returned a minute later he was carrying a thin bundle of papers. They were sheets of paper rolled up and tied with twine rather than a scroll which Sakura found odd as all official documents were done on scrolls.
"You are not the first ninja in Konoha to speak of 'majutsu,'" the Hokage said as he sat down.
"What?" Lina said in completely shock. Sakura felt even more surprised than the sorceress.
The Hokage picked apart the knot holding the pages as he continued, "The man who created Naruto's seal once told me that he studied sorcery. However, he was very secretive about the subject. He did leave behind his notes but …" The knot came undone and the sheets of paper unrolled in the Sandaime's hand. He paused for several seconds before laying the documents down and pushing them toward Lina.
Lina choked as she got a look at the notes. "This is written in one of the Ryuuzoku languages," the sorceress gasped out.
"Dragon race?" Lina nodded at the Hokage's question. "I have never found anyone who could identify the language let alone read it," he said.
"Specifically, it's the language used by the priests of the dragon race," Lina said. The language of the Shinzoku, she said internally. "I can't read all of it; whoever wrote this knew much more of the language than I do. I really only picked up scraps from Filia and some of the other golden dragons at their temple," the sorceress said distractedly as she scanned the pages.
"What can you read?" the Hokage asked curiously.
Lina frowned as she read one section. Much of the technicalities of the spell – the 'how' and 'why' – escaped her understanding but she believed she understood most of the results. Her frown remained in place when she looked up from reading the notes.
Hey! complained Sakura. Don't frown like that at Hokage-sama!
"This does create a seal but it requires human sacrifice," Lina said, causing Sakura's complaints to die.
"The sacrifice is the person who performs the jutsu." At that moment the Hokage looked much older. The sadness on his face made his wrinkles seem much deeper and there was tiredness in his eyes that Lina had not noticed previously.
"Oh," Lina said simply, uncertain how to respond to that revelation. "You called it a jutsu. Sorcerers usually use the term 'spell' for our techniques," she said to change topics.
"What the… man showed me was a chakra-based technique. Though he said that he developed it during his studies of sorcery."
Why would he make a jutsu instead of a spell? Lina wondered.
Maybe he was better with chakra than magic, Sakura suggested.
"If you understand this jutsu then you know that it summons a god," Lina supposed.
"That more than anything convinces me that you can read those pages," the Hokage said.
Is this all part of a test? Lina thought with a slight grimace. How much does this old man actually know about majutsu?
"That piece of information is only known to two living people," the Hokage continued. "Well, four now," he added with a nod toward Sakura and Kakashi.
Not even Kakashi knows about this jutsu, Sakura thought in amazement.
Lina slapped the pages down on the Hokage's desk. "Anyway," she said dismissively much to Sakura's annoyance, "this isn't meant to be used on a demon. This separates the target's spirit from their body. Demons don't have bodies."
"What do you mean? The… demon certainly had a physical form," the Hokage argued.
So he saw it physically appear, Lina noted.
"Perhaps I should say that their spirits and bodies are not separate like a human's," Lina explained. "Their power is not separate either. Spiritual energy, physical energy, chakra – whatever you want to call it – it's all the same."
That's what you meant earlier, Sakura said in comprehension.
"I have seen the remains of demons," the Hokage said. Something in his voice told Lina that he was choosing his words carefully.
He didn't say he saw the remains of the demon sealed in Naruto, Sakura observed.
"Some types of lesser demons have bodies," Lina acknowledged. "The power I felt coming from Naruto was not that of a lesser demon. Mazoku, greater demons," Lina noticed the Hokage stiffen at her words, "do not truly have a physical form." The sorceress considered how to explain. "Did you fight the demon sealed in Naruto?"
The Sandaime sighed deeply. "It seems as if you are going to determine the identity of the demon regardless of my wishes," he grumbled.
Something that was fought? Sakura pondered. Something I might recognize? The only one is… Kyuubi no Kitsune.
"The Kyuubi? The Tailed Beast?" Lina asked, remembering something Sakura had told her before.
"Correct," the old man admitted.
Sakura shuddered within her mind.
"A Mazoku's appearance is a projection of their power into the physical plane." Lina thought for a moment what it would have been like for a village of ninja to fight against a Mazoku. "Chakra has physical energy mixed in," she murmured. "A physical component from the beginning. Ninjutsu would be useless against a Mazoku just like elemental magic."
"I shoved a Chidori through its paw. And that's all it did… went through… I couldn't see any effect." Kakashi had been quiet since the beginning of the conversation. His voice startled Lina and she looked at him over her shoulder. He was staring through the window behind the Hokage. Lina had seen that sort of look before and knew that he was not seeing anything in the present.
"It ended when the Fourth used the Shiki Fuujin. It summons the Shinigami, who reaches through the user's soul to grasp the opponent's. Both souls are drawn into the Death God's stomach and trapped there for eternity," the Hokage said, bringing her attention back to him. He sounded exhausted and his words were emotionless.
So the Fourth Hokage was a sorcerer, Lina thought in amazement. "Except a Shinzoku couldn't possibly trap a Mazoku that way," she said quietly.
The Hokage nodded. "Instead it was sealed within Naruto."
"So the jutsu the Fourth used on the Kyuubi was different than the original he created." Lina looked at the papers lying on the desk. "The summoned god does the actual dividing of body and spirit not the jutsu. That would explain why it could affect a Mazoku. Perhaps it split the portion of the Mazoku in the astral plane from the portion protruding into the physical realm. The astral side would be sealed and the physical side…" Lina tapped her chin as she contemplated the issue. "If the Mazoku's consciousness was sealed then the power in the physical plane would disperse. The surrounding area would have been contaminated."
"It is now called the 'Forest of Death.'" The Hokage's voice did not seem as strained now that they were discussing something other than the sealing jutsu itself. "The animals inhabiting the forest have become more aggressive, larger, and stronger. We have not seen any effect on humans, aside from a certain amount of unnatural tension while within the area."
"A Forest of Death," Lina said thoughtfully. She continued to encounter parallels between her life and Sakura's. The fact that they were not exactly the same made them even more peculiar to her. "A human would be protected from corruption by their will. How big an area is it?"
"Nearly twenty kilometers in diameter," the Hokage answered her.
Lina's eyes widened. I was right, it is a high-level Mazoku! she thought. Lina pondered where the Kyuubi fit in the Mazoku hierarchy. An area that large and the effects still present would mean at least a general or priest in terms of strength. Chaos Dragon and Hellmaster were ruined, leaving the priests and generals of Beastmaster, Deep Sea, and Dynast.
The 'Tailed Beasts' certainly made her think that they could be Beastmaster Zelas-Metallium's underlings but Xelloss was the only one of that level. Could the Beastmaster – the Juu-ou – have gained enough power to create more Mazoku of that strength? Could it be the Beastmaster herself? Lina knew that Zelas-Metallium was said to take a canine form at times but a giant fox was not what she would have imagined. She also knew better than to leap to conclusions when it involved Mazoku, many of them were incredibly deceptive.
A more chilling thought occurred to her. Could Shabranigdo have resurrected and gained enough power to create more Greater Mazoku?
Could it be Shabranigdo? Sakura asked, shuddering again.
No, I would have recognized his power, Lina replied. We just don't have enough information to reach a conclusion.
"I wish I knew how long it has been," Lina said aloud.
"Perhaps if you were to give us some idea of the history of your land," the Hokage said. He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out some paper and a pen. "You might also draw a map." He passed the pen and blank pages to Lina. "The more we know, the easier it will be to match against what knowledge we do have."
"The most well-known historical events… Ceipheed and Shabranigdo fought each other around five thousand years ago." Lina saw no sign of recognition of the names in the Hokage's eyes. "The greatest Shinzoku and the greatest Mazoku," she clarified, though the only reaction was a slight narrowing of the Hokage's eyes.
Lina shrugged and began drawing her map. The land was roughly triangular with a point in the northwest, another in the northeast slightly south of the first, and the last in the southeast slightly west of the second point. She wrote 'Desert of Destruction' across the eastern edge of the triangle. "Then the War of the Demon King about a thousand years ago," she said. Zefielia was in the northeast corner and Lina also marked the city of the same name.
Southwest of Zefielia, near the center of the map, were Saillune and its capital. Lina smiled a little, remembering the hyper, justice-loving Princess Amelia. "One of Shabranigdo's seven seals was broken and the Mazoku Barrier was created." On the west coast Lina marked the locations of Atlas City and Sairaag. The first brought a larger smile as she remembered meeting Gourry while she was traveling toward the city. The latter brought a grimace at the thought of the annihilated capital of the Lyzeille Empire. "The Aqualord, one of Ceipheed's fragments, was ruined at the end of the war."
Lina switched to another piece of paper. "The first map is the region where I grew up. This one will be of the world." On this she drew two large landmasses, one to the east and one to the west, which looked roughly like crescents with their horns touching. The circular area in the middle she labeled 'The Demon Sea.' Around the northern tip of the east continent she drew a diamond. "This is where the Mazoku Barrier was, surrounding the area shown on the first map. The barrier was destroyed a little less than a year ago," Lina said with a small smirk. "I never paid much attention to politics but any historical reference should include those events."
Not that I'm likely to have been credited for bringing down the Mazoku Barrier, Lina thought ruefully.
The Hokage pulled the pages Lina had written on toward him, as well as the Fourth's notes which she eyed covetously. "I think perhaps this has been enough for one day," the Hokage said.
Lina enthusiastically nodded her agreement.
"Meet me Monday at the training grounds at nine," Kakashi said. "You can begin instructing me in magic then." The jounin's eye crinkled up in his usual smile.
Lina groaned in annoyance. You ready to take control? she asked Sakura.
No, came the subdued reply. Just take us back home.
The sorceress frowned, wondering what was wrong with the other girl. She shook her head to help clear her thoughts. She was suffering from a slight case of information overload and assumed that Sakura was feeling worse since she had been learning from Lina as well as the Hokage.
Lina stood and gave the Hokage as polite a bow as she could manage before leaving the room.
Kakashi's eye followed Sakura as she left the Hokage's office. As soon as the pink-haired genin had closed the door behind, he turned to the older man behind the desk.
"She mentioned a barrier," Kakashi said. "Do you think we should have told her more?"
Sarutobi kneaded his forehead as if to drive away a headache. "Not at the moment." He looked down at the drawings that the girl had made. "I do not see anything on these maps that is recognizable. I do not want to take any chances, however."
"It's always difficult to read the more intelligent ones. We train them well," Kakashi said blandly which evoked a brief smile from Sarutobi. "But I've seen enough to know that she is loyal to her teammates."
The older man nodded in agreement.
"What about Sensei's other notes?"
Sarutobi shook his head forcefully. "Not yet. We must move cautiously. Her being on the same team as Naruto may very well be for the best but the council is already breathing down my neck in regards to Team Seven. The smallest thing could upset the agreements they have made."
Kakashi hesitated for a few moments. "Does history repeat itself?" he wondered.
The Third Hokage chuckled at the unanswerable question. He slightly shifted the papers in front of him to completely uncover the world map that Sakura had drawn. "How much time must have passed for the continents to change so drastically?" he mused.
Sakura continued to be withdrawn, leaving Lina in control of their shared body. The sorceress felt odd interacting with Sakura's teasing mother and reclusive father. Momoka quickly noticed that her 'daughter' was not reacting as much to her jibes and began crying about how her 'little baby' was growing up.
The worst part, however, had to be looking in the mirror. Lina had always loved her fiery orange mane; she had thought it to be one of her more attractive features. Now she was having to deal with Sakura's pink monstrosity when she brushed her hair. Her eyes were not much better. Her ruby eyes had always struck fear in the hearts of bandits with a glance. How was she supposed to scare anyone with a pair of sparkling emeralds?
Monday morning rolled around with Sakura still brooding despite Lina's prodding. Lina flopped down on the grass at the training grounds where they had done the bell test. She lazily watched the small white clouds drift across the blue sky and listened to the birds sing. Wildflowers dotted the open area around the Memorial Stone and buzzing bees darted from one bloom to the next. Close to noon, Kakashi finally arrived.
Lina started by giving Kakashi the same explanation of spells that she had given to Sakura and the jounin soon produced a Lighting with a silvery-blue tint. Lina noticed a light sweat beading on his brow.
"You were right, I am forming chakra," Kakashi commented. "It's rather difficult to overcome a lifetime's worth of training."
"How do I stop the… spell?" Kakashi asked. He waved his hand around and the ball of light followed it perfectly, hovering over his palm.
"You can will it away," the sorceress answered. "Or close your hand, which is just a physical act to help focus your will."
The glowing orb vanished from Kakashi's hand and Lina smiled in approval.
"Before we continue, you must first listen to beautiful young genius sorceress… Sakura's explanation of types of magic!"
Kakashi's visible eye rolled, causing Lina to smirk.
Ha! I can get a reaction from him after all! Lina thought with satisfaction. "The first category is white magic. White magic uses power only coming from the sorcerer. White spells include healing and utility spells such as Lighting."
"Power only from the sorcerer?" the jounin questioned.
"That leads to the second type of magic: shamanism. Shamanistic magic calls on the nature spirits, the seirei, to create an elemental-based spell."
Kakashi rubbed his chin in thought. "That's quite a bit different from ninjutsu."
Lina nodded as she continued, "The five shamanistic elements are Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and Spirit."
"What about Lightning?" Kakashi asked.
"That's either Air or a mix of Air and Earth," Lina replied. "Build a charge in the air and then either create a path for it or build an opposite charge in the ground."
"And the other difference is Spirit… as an element?"
"Pure Spirit spells are the most difficult and the most potentially powerful in shamanism," Lina said. "I suspect that one reason ninja have developed seals to the extent that they have is to make up for the lack of being able to manipulate pure Spirit which is needed to combat Mazoku."
"Because demons don't have physical bodies you have to attack on them on a spiritual level?" Kakashi said. "I understand. So what's the difference between white magic and Spirit shamanism?"
"First, some high level Spirit spells call on elementally neutral seirei."
"And?" Kakashi prompted when Lina paused in her explanation.
"I was trying to keep my description simple to avoid confusion. Oh, well," Lina said with a shrug. "To affect the physical plane, spiritual energy requires another energy to act as a medium."
"Which is why shamanism calls on power from the nature spirits."
"Right," Lina confirmed. "White magic, on the other hand, uses what sorcerers call 'life force.' Shinobi call it-"
"Physical energy," Kakashi said with a small groan.
"Bingo!" Lina said with a cheeky grin. "The energies aren't combined like chakra but you can see why I didn't mention it at first. Masters of white magic can even take the life force of other organisms for their spells. And that's the introduction to types of magic," Lina finished. I'm not going to discuss black magic just yet, the sorceress told herself.
What is black magic? Sakura asked.
Oh-ho! You're speaking! Sakura mentally snorted at Lina's taunt. Black magic draws power from Mazoku to produce stronger spells than shamanistic magic allows.
You use demonic power? Sakura apprehensive asked.
In a very controlled fashion, yes.
No wonder you aren't concerned about the Kyuubi! Sakura exclaimed.
What? the sorceress replied in confusion.
"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura said, "do you think Naruto is dangerous?"
The jounin looked at Sakura, his face betraying nothing. "What do you think? You seem to know more about demons than anyone I've met."
"I…" Sakura was not sure what she could say in response. You don't think Naruto is dangerous?
You're asking me now? We're going to look pretty silly after asking a question like that.
Sakura flushed in embarrassment. But it's the Kyuubi sealed in him! she exclaimed. Its attack was the worst disaster that Konoha has ever faced.
I'm not worried as long as the seal remains intact, Lina said. What we've learned of the seal is quite impressive. Its flexibility should make it more difficult to break.
What if it does break?
Don't get hung up on worst-case scenarios, Lina chided. The question is what you asked first: do you think Naruto is dangerous to us because he can draw on the Kyuubi's power?
Sakura remembered Naruto's appearance on the bridge in Wave Country as the Kyuubi's power exuded from his body. He had looked more feral and more dangerous but even then she had not been afraid of him. Even though the blond had been incredibly angry, he had remained in control of himself. Nothing had changed since then, except for her knowledge of the demon inside him.
"I guess not," Sakura said.
"The Fourth was my jounin instructor when I was a genin," Kakashi stated. "I have faith in his seal and in Naruto. As far as Naruto being dangerous… well, any ninja should be."
Kakashi's bland tone as he said the last part caused Sakura to giggle.
"What's the next step in my majutsu training?" Kakashi asked.
"Continue practicing the Lighting spell until you're sure you aren't creating chakra," Lina answered. "Then I'll start teaching you some basic shamanistic spells."
The first mission that Team Seven was given after returning from the Land of Waves was a D-rank mission to weed a fairly large vegetable garden owned by an old woman.
Lina took to the assignment with relish.
"Flare Arrow!" the sorceress called, not for the first time. A small red bolt of energy formed at her fingertip and flew through the air. The spell flew straight and then veered downward at a mental command from Lina to land on a weed and burn its way down to the roots. The stem and leaves of the undesired plant shriveled from the heat.
"Why are you doing that?" said an annoyed voice.
Lina turned to look at the speaker, Uchiha Sasuke. The black-haired genin stood with his dirt-stained hands at his side as he stared at her. Naruto was behind him, squatting low and tugging at a weed, and Kakashi stood off to the side with his habitual book in hand.
Sasuke-kun is talking to me! Sakura squealed.
Lina relinquished control before rolling her eyes.
"I'm practicing," Sakura said with a smile.
"Why practice a weak jutsu?" Sasuke scoffed.
"It's about increasing my control," Sakura replied uncertainly. Her uncertainty was not because of her answer but because she did not know why Sasuke would be concerned; he had never paid attention to her training before. "And releasing small amounts of power at a time allows me to practice longer."
Sasuke frowned and turned away from Sakura.
The pink-haired girl was about to ask him if he knew a better method of training when she saw his hands make a series of seals.
"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu!" Sasuke said and spat a small ball of fire from his mouth. The boy had wisely chosen a target away from any other plants. The flame, which had lost much of its form as it traveled, exploded on contact with the soil. The weed was turned to ash and the dirt around its location cracked and blackened. He grunted at the outcome and performed the technique again to much to the same effect.
"No fair! Teach me a Fire jutsu too!" Naruto yelled.
Sakura glanced at the blond-haired genin and saw that he was pointing his finger at Kakashi.
"I didn't teach Sasuke or Sakura," their jounin instructor replied.
"But I don't have any ninjutsu attacks," Naruto complained. The short boy crossed his arms and pouted.
"You can perform the Kage Bunshin, which is a jounin-level technique," Kakashi said.
"Naruto's got a point," Lina said. "Shadow clones aren't really a replacement for techniques."
Do you really want to get involved in one of Naruto's arguments? Sakura asked.
Lina ignored Sakura's question and continued to stare at Kakashi. Sasuke turned his attention toward the jounin, also waiting to see the answer. Kakashi looked at the three genin and sighed. "Alright, if you finish this up quickly, I'll teach each of you a new jutsu."
Me too? Sakura smiled at the thought of learning a jutsu aside from the standard three taught at the academy.
"Yes!" shouted Naruto. He brought his hands together and made his usual cross seal. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Sakura counted three dozen shadow clones before the group started moving, making it impossible for her to tell exactly how many there were. Naruto's clones rushed through the garden and their sandals kicked up dirt as they spread out in search of weeds.
"Naruto! Don't run around like that!" Sakura yelled. "You're making a mess!"
"We'd better make sure he's only pulling weeds," Sasuke commented as he walked toward a trio of clones that were arguing about a particular plant.
Sakura blew out a breath of frustration and began her own patrol of the overactive clones.
Half an hour later the three genin gathered around Kakashi. "The first step is to determine your elemental affinity," the jounin said. He reached into one of the pouches on his hip and pulled out four small pieces of paper. He handed one of the slips to each of his students and held the last between two fingers. "These are made from a special type of paper that reacts to chakra." The piece that the jounin held suddenly crinkled. "It reacts differently for each affinity. Mine happens to be Lightning."
Sakura held up her paper and sent her chakra into her fingers. The card burst into flame at the same time as Sasuke's. The pink-haired girl yelped in surprise and dropped the paper, watching as it quickly turned to fine ash. Naruto's piece had not dramatically reacted like Sasuke's and hers but when she looked more closely Sakura saw that it had split down the middle.
"Two fire affinities and one wind," Kakashi remarked.
"Wind loses to Fire," Sasuke said as he smirked at Naruto.
Naruto growled at Sasuke and lunged toward the black-haired genin but Sakura caught his jacket collar. "Stop it, Naruto," Sakura ordered.
It's not solely Naruto's fault, Lina said to her.
Sakura frowned and let go of the blond when he stopped struggling against her hold.
Kakashi pulled two tightly-rolled scrolls from one of his vest pockets and a third scroll from a different pocket. He tossed one to Sasuke. "It isn't a Fire technique but you should be able to handle it. That Lightning jutsu will give you a non-lethal option which you are lacking." The Uchiha genin grunted and opened the scroll.
Kakashi pitched the next scroll to Naruto, who grinned widely and quickly unrolled it. "The Fuuton jutsu described there will give you another ranged option since your throwing accuracy is low," Kakashi said. Seeing that Naruto was too busy reading to respond, he quickly turned to Sakura and threw her the final scroll.
"Sakura, I've given you something different," the tall jounin said. "Your potential for genjutsu was noted by the academy instructors so I've given you the technique I used on you during the bell test." Sakura winced, remembering the appearance of the illusionary Sasuke and how easily she had succumbed to the jutsu. "Remember, though, that genjutsu isn't like ninjutsu, to be most effective the illusions must be significantly altered depending on circumstances. The best genjutsu are made-"
"When you know personal details about your opponent," Lina interrupted. Kakashi nodded.
You know about genjutsu? Sakura asked.
I know about illusions, Lina corrected. But I've never studied them in depth.
They're pointless against bandits and useless against Mazoku, Lina explained.
But genjutsu will work well if I memorize information about potential opponents in advance. Lina mentally shrugged. Wait! Kakashi-sensei already had these scrolls prepared! Sakura belatedly realized as her suspense about affinities and new jutsu lessened. She looked at her instructor with annoyance and noticed Sasuke glaring suspiciously at Kakashi as well; Naruto was still busy reading his scroll.
Maybe he was waiting for one of you to ask, Lina suggested.
Another one of his lessons? Sakura wondered. Or is he just being lazy?
"Have fun," Kakashi said with a smile and then he vanished in a swirl of leaves.
Naruto rolled up his scroll and stuffed it into the pocket of his orange jacket. He slowly made several seals and then yelled out: "Fuuton: Kuudan!" He took a breath and blew out a wind that caused some plants several meters away to bend slightly. The most spectacular result, however, was Naruto being blown off his feet. He landed on his back about a meter from where he had been standing.
"Don't practice here, you'll damage the garden!" Sakura shouted.
The blue-eyed genin sat up and chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his head.
Sakura sighed at the sight of the blond sitting on the dirt. "You might use your chakra to stick to the ground until you've learned the jutsu better," the pink-haired girl recommended.
Naruto blinked. "Oh, that'll work on the ground too," he said in comprehension. "That's great!" The blond smiled happily.
Sakura barely resisted the urge to slap the idiot upside his head.
He does miss the obvious at times, Lina thought with an internal snicker.
Sasuke began to leave, his scroll tightly clenched in one hand.
"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura called. The black-haired boy stopped and turn toward her. "Do you want to train together?"
Sasuke gave her an odd look. His expression changed to another smirk, this time directed towards his pink-haired teammate. "Genjutsu doesn't work against the Sharingan," he stated.
"That's… that's good," Sakura said hesitantly. What's wrong now? she wondered.
The corners of Sasuke's mouth turned downward and he walked away. Sakura bit at her lip as she watched him depart.
He sees everyone as competition, Lina said.
"You wanna train with me instead?" Naruto asked hopefully.
"No," Sakura said in a dull voice.
Sakura left the weeded garden also, not looking back to see Naruto's shoulders slump.
During the next couple of months Kakashi quickly learned to control his spirit separate from his chakra. The jounin turned out to be as lazy at learning as he was at teaching, however, so Lina only taught him a handful of spells. Sakura also continued practicing the Lighting spell but her grasp of magic progressed slowly. Lina did her own studying of chakra but mostly she spent the time Sakura allowed her to be in control practicing spells to increase her spiritual energy.
As far as missions went Team Seven was experiencing a similar situation as before their mission to Wave Country. The biggest difference that Sakura noticed was that Sasuke attempted to goad her as well as Naruto into competing with him. The pink-haired genin tried to avoid confrontations with Sasuke but it was difficult to ignore Lina when the sorceress knew a spell that made their tedious assignments easier.
After one such mission, Kakashi and Sasuke both quickly disappeared, leaving Sakura alone with Naruto which was an increasingly frequent and annoying situation. Three goggle-wearing kids popping out from under a box painted to look like a rock did nothing to improve her mood.
"You said you'd play ninja with us today!" the black-haired boy that seemed to be leading them shouted at Naruto.
"Why would a ninja 'play' ninja?" Sakura questioned in a tired voice.
Naruto scrubbed the back of his head and laughed nervously.
"Never mind," Lina said as she took control. "I'll play too."
What?! Sakura thought indignantly. I don't want to be seen playing with Naruto and these kids!
You've been getting grumpy lately, Lina told the kunoichi. So it's time for a change of pace.
Playing ninja is not going to make me less grumpy, Sakura grumbled.
You never know until you try, Lina replied. "So what are your names? And how do we play ninja?"
All three kids struck poses. "I'm Moegi, the sexiest kunoichi!" the girl with light brown hair said.
"I love algebra! Call me Udon!" The boy with the runny nose sneezed after making his declaration.
"And I'm the village's number-one ninja! Konohamaru!" the black-haired boy enthusiastically shouted. "Together, we are…"
"The Konohamaru Ninja Corps!" the three shouted simultaneously.
Lina broke down and began laughing so hard that she nearly fell over. The sorceress grabbed Naruto's sleeve to keep herself upright. She kept imagining the three kids wearing spandex and armor painted in primary colors. She could not remember meeting people who dressed that way but the image would not go away.
You're really strange at times, you know that? Sakura said privately.
"It's supposed to be impressive not funny," Konohamaru said petulantly.
"Are you okay, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked.
"Yeah," Lina answered. She straightened and let go of Naruto. "I needed a good laugh."
She wiped the tears of mirth that had begun forming from her eyes.
Naruto smiled uncertainly at her while the three younger ninja sulked.
"That gave me an idea for a game," Lina said. She darted forward and grabbed Moegi around the waist, lifting the girl with her right arm. "I am the evil sorceress Naga the White Serpent! I have kidnapped the sexy member of the Konohamaru Corps!" she grandly proclaimed.
The two younger boys looked surprised for a moment before catching on. They grinned at Lina and then gasped in mock horror.
Naruto looked confused. "I thought you said your name was Lina-"
Lina hit the blond's head with her free hand. "It's someone else!" she yelled. "Wind which blows across eternity," Lina whispered. "Grant me thy freedom. Levitation." Blue light limned the bodies of the two girls for a moment before fading. Lina and Moegi floated off the ground and the sorceress used the spell to drag them a couple of meters into the air, eliciting a gasp from the girl under her arm. The three boys on the ground stared upward in surprise.
You can fly? Sakura asked in an astonished tone.
Several Air spells allow flight, Lina replied. "You'll have to try hard to rescue her! Ohohohoho!" Lina's laugh caused Naruto and the Konohamaru Corps to shiver.
"Save me, Konohamaru-kun!" Moegi called in encouragement.
Naruto gathered the other two boys in a huddle and quietly issued some orders with much gesturing. With my current abilities, casting another spell while Levitation is going won't be easy, Lina contemplated, but if it's another Air spell… Lina prepared herself to use a small lightning spell to surprise Naruto with.
Lina floated a little higher and backwards, toward where the street that the boys stood on intersected with another. She heard but ignored a gasp of surprise beneath her. Sakura, on the other hand, noticed Sasuke sitting on a limb of a nearby tree. The Uchiha boy was studying the flying girl intently.
"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura called out.
Sakura, you idiot! Lina internally shouted.
Sakura suddenly noticed that Lina's flight spell had ended when she had taken control and that she and Moegi were falling. She twisted to protect the smaller girl but luckily landed on something relatively soft.
"Get off me!" a male voice yelled.
Sakura scrambled off, pulling Moegi with her. She had landed on a young man who looked to be a year or two older than her. He wore dark, loose-fitting clothing. His face was decorated with triangles at his cheeks, chin, and forehead and more paint wound around his eyes and down his nose.
A blonde girl with her hair tied in four short stiff-looking ponytails was next to him. She was about the same height as the boy and was dressed in light clothing over fishnet. The girl was looking at Sakura curiously.
Both teens wore forehead protectors with the symbol for the Hidden Sand, the boy on his forehead and the girl around her neck.
"Sorry about that," Sakura apologized. She gave the boy a slight bow.
The boy stood and snarled angrily. "Are you looking for a fight?"
"No," Lina responded immediately, "are you?"
Lina, Sakura whined. I was trying to calm him down.
Hmph, the sorceress responded.
Naruto, Konohamaru, and Udon came running up, the boys on the other side of the Sand ninja as the two Konoha kunoichi. The foreign boy removed the long, bandage-wrapped bundle from his back and rested it on the ground, with his right hand on top. "Don't mess with me, girl," he said threateningly. Moegi hid behind Sakura's legs.
"Kankurou," the female Suna ninja said in a warning tone.
"Don't you dare hurt Sakura-chan!" Naruto shouted and charged toward the older boy.
The Sand shinobi stretched out his left hand and curled his fingers, causing Naruto to slip. "I hate weak, bratty midgets," he sneered.
Chakra strings, Sakura noted. And Naruto still isn't using his chakra properly. "Put chakra in your feet and legs when you attack that way, Naruto," she chided her teammate. "He shouldn't have been able to trip you with just chakra strings."
The foreign ninja returned his attention to Sakura. "And I really, really hate flat-chested know-it-alls," he said.
The kunoichi next to him buried her face in her hands.
Lina felt her old anger at the familiar insult. I am not flat! she fumed. "Mono Volt!" the sorceress shouted angrily and pointed at the boy. A bright yellow glow appeared at her fingertip. An instant later a jagged yellow line of lightning leapt from her fingertip with a loud crackle. The spell hit the Sand shinobi's right forearm, causing his arm and hand to spasm. The odd bundle dropped to the ground.
Was that really necessary? Sakura questioned.
That remark didn't make you angry? Lina asked in turn.
Sakura was not sure how to respond.
"That's enough," a cold voice said. Sakura looked toward the source of the voice and saw a short, red-haired boy with a gourd on his back standing upside down on a limb in the same tree that Sasuke sat in. He had dark circles around his eyes and an expressionless face. A hitai-ate marking him as another Suna ninja was wrapped around a long sash he wore.
"She started it!" the older Sand shinobi argued. Naruto growled at the Sand boy as he stood up.
"I don't care," the redhead said. "I'll kill you."
His tone was still cold and Sakura could detect no anger in his voice, but his statement made the two Sand ninja on the ground shudder. Konohamaru and Udon slid behind Naruto, using him as cover as they peaked around his legs warily.
"Sorry," the older boy said in a placating voice. He moved slowly to his wrapped package, picked it up, and replaced it on his back.
The girl spoke also, "Me too, I'm really sorry."
The boy in the three disappeared from his position in the tree in a swirl of sand. He reappeared between the two other Sand ninja. His face still unchanged, he stared at Sakura. "What's your name?" he asked her. Sakura could feel Moegi pressing harder against her legs.
"Li-" Lina coughed to interrupt herself. "Haruno Sakura," she said.
You almost said 'Lina Inverse!' Sakura thought accusingly. That's it; I'll handle the rest of this conversation. Lina grumbled but complied.
"Pleased to meet you," Sakura said and gave the red-haired boy a slight bow.
The short Sand shinobi continued to look at her.
Creepy, Sakura thought.
Something about him… Lina did not finish her thought.
"Will you be entering the chuunin exam also?" the emotionless boy asked.
"I'm not sure. Our jounin instructor hasn't mentioned it," Sakura admitted. "Is that why you are here in Konoha?"
"Seems like you don't know much after all," the taller boy from Suna said.
Sakura discovered that the boy's actions had indeed made her nearly as angry as Lina. "Shut up, you!" she shouted and pointed her finger at him. The Sand shinobi flinched from her, giving Sakura a satisfied feeling. Lina laughed in her mind.
"Perhaps we will meet again," the redhead said and began striding away. "Come," he ordered and the other two Sand ninja were quick to follow him.
Sasuke swiftly dropped down out of the tree. "Wait," the black-haired genin called. "What's your name?"
The redhead gave him a glance but said nothing as he and the other Sand genin jumped away.
Sasuke's face tightened in anger. He looked at Sakura and then leapt in another direction. Sakura sighed in despair.
"That was amazing!" Moegi chimed.
Sakura looked down at the girl to see the kunoichi-in-training gazing back adoringly. "Uh… thanks," she said.
"Can you teach me to fly and shoot lightning?" the younger girl asked eagerly.
Sakura smiled at her enthusiasm. "Not yet," she answered which caused Moegi to pout.
You aren't so grumpy now, Lina observed. I knew it would work.
What part do you think worked?! Sakura questioned the sorceress. Falling on top of a stranger or maybe nearly getting into a fight with him? No, it must have been meeting a creepy redhead, she said sarcastically.
All of it, was Lina's mischievous reply.
Sakura rolled her eyes. Somehow her mood had been improved even though Lina had dragged her into a tense situation.
"What do you think, Konohamaru? Should I enter that chuunin exam thing?" Naruto asked in an excited voice.
"Yeah!" the younger shinobi exclaimed. "You and Sakura-san will be unbeatable!"
Sakura turned a glare on the two excited boys but they ignored her. "I guess we can find out about it from Kakashi-sensei tomorrow," she said.
Sakura walked happily down one of the many streets of Konoha, arm-in-arm with her One True Love, Uchiha Sasuke. The black-haired boy had a small smile on his face that made Sakura blush every time she looked at him.
Everything was peaceful and calm until they turned a corner and saw Yamanaka Ino standing in the middle of the street. Her rival had an angry scowl on her face.
Sakura turned her head toward Sasuke to ask him if they could go a different way but he was no longer next to her. Instead of having his arm linked with her own, as it should have been, he was standing at the side of the street. He was holding a small white flag with a green Hidden Leaf symbol.
Sasuke waved the flag back and forth slowly. "Yay," he said in a bored voice.
Sakura looked back at Ino and found something truly disturbing. Her friend was no longer wearing the normal purple outfit with wrappings that she normally did. Instead, she was wearing a dark purple bikini. Her… assets had increased to ridiculous portions, straining at the thin material of her top. She also wore high-heeled purple boots. Purple shoulder-guards with massive spikes and a black cloak completed what could only loosely be called her clothes.
Ino pointed at her imperiously. "At last I have found you, my greatest rival!" She took a step toward Sakura and her chest… bounced. The blonde flung a hand into the air and shouted, "Mega Vraimer!"
Everything shook as a loud rumble occurred. Some movement caught Sakura's attention and she looked toward the Hokage Monument. Small pieces of stone were falling from the carved face of the Fourth Hokage. Suddenly, a pair of arms erupted from the stone ears. The chin exploded in a shower of rock also and two legs appeared. The arms and legs were spindly-looking appendages, not at all proportional to the rest of the carving.
"Ohohoho!" laughed Ino. Sakura recognized the laughter as something similar to what she had heard Lina make. But Lina's was a pale comparison. This laughter set all her nerves on edge in an instant and made her shiver uncontrollably.
The arms and legs on the Hokage's face flailed around for a few seconds. Then they bent backward and pushed against the cliff. More stones fell from around the carved face as it slowly pushed itself away from the rest of the monument. The Fourth's face broke completely free and then fell. It tumbled end over end as it came back in contract with the cliff. The monstrosity quickly reached ground level and continued to roll. Its path took it into the village where it crashed through various buildings, sending wood and stone flying into the air.
Ino's laughter increased in volume as she walked toward Sakura, each step causing the blonde-haired girl to… bounce.
Shock set in and Sakura found herself unable to move.
"Yaaah!" the pink-haired girl shouted as she violently threw her sheets off and sat up in her bed.
What the hell was that?! Sakura thought. She was panting heavily from fright.
A nightmare, Lina said, made from a mixture of your memories and my own.
Your friend Ino was dressed and acting like my ex-partner Naga, Lina explained.
Sakura shuddered. That laugh…
It's worse when a dozen clones of her are doing it at the same time, Lina said.
I don't want to know any more! Sakura declared. The pink-haired girl got out of her bed and tidied it, smoothing out the sheets and pulling the comforter back into place. She suddenly gasped aloud. You and your stupid memories! Today is the chuunin exam! A flurry of activity followed as she dressed.
Sakura met with the other two genin of Team Seven and they made their way to the ninja academy. They had not been back to the familiar building in months but Kakashi had told them to bring their applications to Room 301.
When they entered the building they immediately found a conflict. Two older teenagers were blocking the other genin from entering a room that had a sign reading '301.' Sakura immediately recognized the genjutsu on the sign for what it was.
One of the teens backhanded a girl with black hair tied up in two buns. "We're doing this for your benefit," he said. "If you can't get by us then you're definitely not ready for this test. If you take it when you are unprepared then you may end up quitting as shinobi… you may even die."
Sasuke stepped forward. "I agree but you will remove the genjutsu and let me pass," the black-haired Uchiha stated while glaring at the two older genin.
There's something odd about those two, Sakura thought.
"So you noticed," commented the same teen who had knocked the girl down. "But you still have to get by me." The teen dropped to the floor in a spinning motion and braced himself with his hands. His right leg came around in a kick aimed at Sasuke.
Sasuke began his own kick in retaliation but both kicks were caught and stopped by a boy with a bowl haircut who had been on the ground a moment earlier.
He's very fast, Lina noted.
"What happened to our plan of not attracting attention?" a boy with pale eyes asked the genin who had caught the kicks.
The bowl-haired boy ignored the question and walked up to Sakura. Sakura noticed the girl that seemed to be with them shake her head in annoyance.
"My name is Rock Lee!" the boy proclaimed. "What's yours?"
"Haruno Sakura," Sakura answered with mounting trepidation.
"You're cute! Let's go on a date. I'll protect you until I die, Sakura-san!" Lee gave her a thumbs up and his teeth sparkled as he smiled at her.
Isn't that nice? You've picked up another admirer, Lina said in what Sakura considered to be a sadistic manner.
His incredibly thick eyebrows, his hair cut, his green spandex outfit, and even the way that his Leaf forehead protector was tied around his waist like a belt: Sakura found everything about his looks to be repellent. "No way. You're lame," she told him. Lee sagged in defeat and Naruto chuckled.
"And I don't need protection," Lina added.
Lee's eyes widened beyond than their normal roundness. "Yosh!" he shouted. "You truly burn with the fires of youth!"
"Er… Thanks?" Sakura said.
"I must prove myself in battle to the lovely and fiery Sakura-san!"
Naruto cocked his head at the green-clad genin's declaration and frowned thoughtfully.
"Enough flirting, Lee," Lee's female teammate said.
The pale-eyed boy moved toward Sasuke. "You," he said, "what's your name?"
Sasuke smirked at the older genin. "Uchiha Sasuke. And yours?"
"Hyuuga Neji," the other boy responded. "Uchiha, is it?" He turned away from Sasuke. "It will be interesting to see your fate," Neji commented as he strode down the hallway. His two teammates joined him.
As the other team walked away Sakura noticed that the two boys who had been blocking the doorway were gone and their genjutsu had been released. The room's real number of '201' was now clearly visible.
Naruto scowled at Neji's back until the other team turned a corner and they were no longer visible.
"Hyuuga Neji," Sasuke said in contemplation. "He's nothing like Hinata." A small grin on his face showed the black-eyed boy's excitement.
Team Seven moved down the passage. The hallway led to a large room with a two-story high ceiling. Stairs at either end of the room led up to a walkway giving access to the third floor.
Lee was waiting from them, looking down from the third floor walkway. "Fight me, Uchiha Sasuke," the older genin demanded. He jumped down, landing lightly on the wood planks of the second floor. "I want to test my techniques against the renowned Uchiha clan and prove myself to Sakura-san." He took a fighting stance with his left side leading.
See what you've done now, Sakura internally commented. Lina snorted in reply.
Lee winked at Sakura, making her scream and throw her hands up in an effort to ward off the freakish vibes.
"No way!" Naruto shouted. "I'll take you on instead."
"I have no desire to fight you," Lee said with a frown. "It is Uchiha that interests me."
"I don't care about that!" Naruto charged straight at Lee and Sakura sighed. His speed made it obvious that he still was not using his chakra to boost his muscle strength.
Naruto swung his right fist forward in a wide arc. Lee deflected it easily with his leading hand, sending Naruto's strike toward the floor. The blond genin slapped his hands against the floor and swung his left leg around in a reverse kick. "Konoha Reppuu," the green-clad boy called as he ducked under Naruto's kick with a spinning movement and swept through blond's support. Naruto was sent tumbling across the room.
Sakura winced as the blue-eyed genin collided with the wall. This guy is strong, she thought.
Not just strong, Lina said in response.
Lee returned to his ready stance, holding his left hand behind his back. "You cannot defeat me; I am the strongest genin of the Hidden Leaf."
Naruto groaned in pain from his awkward position against the wall.
"Sounds fun," Sasuke said and immediately darted forward.
"Konoha Senpuu!" Lee yelled, jumping into a reverse kick. Sasuke avoided the high kick by crouching but the other genin continued his spin and sent another kick. Sasuke moved his arms to block. Lee's kick connected despite Sasuke's attempt to block and the young Uchiha flew through the air.
"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura said in concern as her teammate crashed into the floorboards. What's going on? The pink-haired genin wondered. That should have been blocked.
Lee is just too fast for him, Lina commented.
What do you mean? Sakura asked.
Sasuke rose, a trickle of blood flowing from his lips and Sharingan tomoe slowly spinning in his red eyes.
Now Sasuke-kun will show him what he can really do! Sakura thought excitedly.
You think so?
Sasuke's second charge was met by a strong kick that sent him flying into the air. Sakura gasped in shock.
Lee bent his knees and leapt after Sasuke. "Kage Buyou," he called as he aligned his body directly underneath Sasuke's. "Even if you can read my movements with your Sharingan your body is not trained enough to keep up. There's no trick to my techniques, they're simply taijutsu."
We still have a long way to go to match up to the faster ninja, Lina observed.
The bandages around Lee's arms began to unwind and trail behind him. "Now I'll prove that hard work can defeat even a genius."
Sakura heard a whistling sound like a kunai moving through the air. Her hands reacted immediately. She did not have her holster that she wore during missions but she was a kunoichi of the Hidden Leaf and never completely unarmed. Her right hand darted behind her back, through the slit in her long top, and removed a small kunai from its sheath at her waist. She tossed it with smooth precision and intercepted…
"A pinwheel?" Sakura asked in confusion. She was momentarily distracted from the overhead battle by the sight of her kunai pinning the toy to a wall.
"Yosh!" shouted an exuberant voice directly behind Sakura, causing her to jump in surprise.
Lee also reacted to the voice; his arms flailed in panic and he accidentally sent Sasuke and himself tumbling uncontrollably toward the ground. Sakura moved to catch her teammate but both he and Lee suddenly disappeared from their mid-air positions. Before she could blink a man appeared in front of her, holding Lee and Sasuke by the backs of their clothes.
Even faster than Kakashi, Lina thought in amazement.
The man looked like an enlarged version of Lee with even thicker eyebrows. His clothes were nearly identical aside from the vest he wore like all higher-ranked ninja. On a boy close to Sakura's age the outfit was bad enough but on an adult man it looked even worse.
"I've never seen anything like him before," Naruto said in astonishment as he stood.
I've seen worse, Lina said, but not by much. Sakura shook her head, deciding not to ask the sorceress what she meant.
"You must be Kakashi's students!" the man said loudly. He dropped the two boys he was holding. Sasuke looked annoyed while Lee was still on the verge of panicking. The older ninja looked at Sakura appraisingly. "I wonder how you would fair against our own dear Tenten."
Sasuke climbed to his feet and distanced himself from the two spandex-wearing ninja.
"You know Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked.
"People refer to us as 'The Eternal Rivals!' I've won fifty times to Kakashi's forty-nine." The man smiled widely and his teeth glinted. "I'm stronger than he is."
"Isn't Gai-sensei great!" Lee shouted enthusiastically.
"It's wonderful to hear my lovely student praise me," Gai said. "But, Lee…" The tall jounin stuck his student suddenly, sending the boy to the ground. Sakura and her teammates watched in shock as tears flowed down Gai's cheeks as he knelt next to where Lee fell. "You almost broke my rules. The chuunin exam must take precedence; therefore your punishment will occur afterward."
Lee looked up at Gai, his own tears falling steadily. "Sensei… I…"
"I understand! Youth knows no boundaries!"
Teacher and student hugged each other tightly, making Team Seven openly gape.
Okay, this might be worse than that guy who dressed like Naga, Lina admitted.
Now there's a mental image I didn't need right now, Sakura said crossly.
Gai released his embrace and stood up. "You should all go to the testing room now." He handed Sakura's kunai back to her, causing the pink-haired girl wonder when he had retrieved it. "Good luck!" he said and gave them another twinkling smile before vanishing.
Team Seven was still recovering from their first encounter with Gai when Lee rose to his feet. "I lied before," the boy with the bowl-cut confessed as he retied the wrappings around his arms. "The strongest Leaf genin is someone else on my team. But I aim to defeat him and you," he said to Sasuke, "so be prepared." Lee jumped back up to the third floor walkway and was quickly out of sight.
"I guess being a top-of-the-class genius isn't everything, huh?" Naruto said scathingly.
"Naruto!" Sakura said in rebuke.
You can apply all the names you want to a person but it won't change who they are, Lina said.
Sakura frowned slightly; Lina's comment seemed to have many different levels to it and she did not understand it as well as the sorceress' usual remarks.
"Shut up," Sasuke growled, his face set in a scowl. "I'll beat him next time."
"Sure you will," Naruto responded sarcastically. "You saw his hands also, didn't you?" he asked in a more quiet tone. "He must have trained a lot harder than you."
Sasuke was quiet for a few seconds. A smirk appeared on his face. "This is becoming interesting," the dark-eyes boy said.
Naruto chuckled and Sakura smiled at seeing Sasuke's morale improve.
"Let's go," Sasuke said.
Kakashi was standing outside Room 301, waiting for Team Seven to arrive. "So all three of you did come."
"Does it matter?" Sakura asked.
"The exam is actually taken as a team," the silver-haired jounin explained. "Telling genin it is an individual choice is part of the test. But I expected all of you to show up. Remember that you're Team Seven and stand proud. Good luck."
The three genin of Team Seven smiled at Kakashi and walked through the doors to the room where their chuunin exam would be. It was a normal-sized classroom and packed with genin of various ages and from various hidden villages. Many of them turned to look at Team Seven as they entered the room.
"Sasuke-kun!" Ino yelled as she jumped on the Uchiha from behind. "I've been waiting for you!" The other two members of Team Ten, Akimichi Chouji and Nara Shikamaru, watched her antics in resignation.
"Ino-pig!" Sakura shouted.
"Just wait for it," Lina said calmly.
Why are you breaking in?! Sakura privately demanded.
I didn't mean to say that out loud, was Lina internal answer.
Shikamaru as well as Ino looked at Sakura curiously. Chouji continued munching on his bag of chips.
"Wait for what?" the blonde-haired girl questioned.
"Great, now what?" Sakura tried to think. She could feel blood rush to her cheeks as embarrassment and anger rose. What is going on?!
Wish I knew, Lina responded.
"Are you feeling well, Forehead Girl?" Ino asked with a slight frown.
Sakura was considering how to respond when she noticed what Lina had been trying to communicate. Not trusting herself to speak at the moment, she caught Ino's eye and tried to discretely flick a finger toward Sasuke's face. Ino, still hanging from the black-eyed genin's neck, did not understand immediately and Sakura tried again to redirect her attention.
"Get. Off. Me. Ino," Sasuke growled, his face set in a severe frown.
Ino slid from Sasuke's back but quickly latched onto his arm. The black-haired Uchiha glared at the appendage but said nothing else.
The three members of Team Eight approached the small gathering. "So all nine of us rookies are here," Inuzuka Kiba said. The small, white dog on top of his head barked and Kiba sniffed at the air. "What happened to you, Sakura?" he asked in his usual loud voice.
Sakura felt her eye twitch in irritation. "What do you mean by that?!" she asked indignantly.
"All of us have changed but Akamaru says you smell a hell of a lot more dangerous!" Akamaru barked as if to emphasize the point and the young Inuzuka glared at her.
Now I smell dangerous, Sakura thought in annoyance.
I guess ninja-trained animals have good senses, Lina thought smugly.
"My kikai bugs have also informed me of a divergence," Aburame Shino quietly added.
"That's because-!" Sakura slapped a hand over Naruto's mouth to prevent him from continuing.
Sasuke chuckled, which earned the Uchiha some looks even odder than the ones the rookies were giving Sakura. "I wonder if you'll be able to keep up with us?" Sasuke mockingly asked.
"We've done a lot of training!" Kiba shouted in return. "We won't lose to you!"
"You rookies really should calm down," an older boy said as he walked toward the three teams. He had grey hair tied in a ponytail below the strap of his Leaf headband and wore a pair of wire-frame glasses. He had a small grin on his face that Lina instantly disliked.
"Who are you?" Ino asked suspiciously.
"My name is Kabuto. But more importantly, most of the participants are nervous and your noise is going to attract the wrong sort of attention."
"Why should we listen to you?" demanded Naruto.
"This is my seventh time taking the exam, so you could say I've got a bit of experience." He paused and studied the younger ninja. "I can share some information with you if you like, using these nin-info cards." Kabuto pulled a deck of cards marked with the 'Nin' character from a belt pouch. He squatted and placed one of the cards on the floor. The face of the card was blank until the older genin sent some chakra through his finger into the card. "I have over two hundred cards; this one, for example, shows how many genin are taking the chuunin exam by country of origin." The nine rookies crowded around to look at the older genin's card. A map of the Elemental Nations appeared with a bar chart and numbers identifying the participants from each of the shinobi villages.
An interesting use of genjutsu, Sakura noted. Lina's attention was still focused on the teen himself; his grin had not altered in the slightest during his speech. Sakura felt her fist move into a cocked position and she forced it back down. What are you trying to do?!
I don't like him, Lina responded.
"Do you have information on individuals?" Sasuke asked the grey-haired boy.
"Sizing up the competition, are you? Naturally, I have cards for all the examinees." Kabuto's cocky attitude was a little annoying but Sakura could tell that it really was just the way he was smiling that irritated the sorceress. "Who is it you want to know about?"
"Rock Lee and Hyuuga Neji from the Leaf," Sasuke said.
The older genin swiftly pulled two cards from the deck. He sat them down and applied his chakra. "Teammates under Maito Gai. The third one on their team is Tenten. Twenty D-rank missions and twelve C-rank. Rock Lee's taijutsu has improved greatly in the last year, nothing else impressive. Hyuuga Neji is a genius in all categories, though his weapon skill is slightly less than the rest of his abilities."
"And that weird guy from Suna," Naruto mentioned.
"He has red hair and carries a gourd on his back," Sasuke quickly clarified.
"I believe that would be Gaara of the Desert," Kabuto said. A third card joined the two on the floor. The photograph displayed by Kabuto's genjutsu did indeed show the boy that they had encountered. "Eight C-rank and… Oh my, a B-rank mission as a genin. Teammates are Kankurou and Temari. The interesting thing is that he came away from all of his missions without a scratch." Kabuto paused to let that sink in and even Lina was impressed by that piece of information. "Leaf, Sand, Rain, Grass, Waterfall, Sound… Well, Sound is a minor village that has just formed… But basically these villages send only their best genin to chuunin exams held in other countries."
Sakura could almost feel the tension in the air from the other Leaf rookies.
Naruto flung his index finger toward the bulk of ninja in the room. "My name is Uzumaki Naruto! Sakura-chan and I won't lose to any of you bastards!" Naruto shouted at the top of his voice.
Why did he include me?! Sakura mentally complained.
Lina silently laughed in response. To throw aside mental pressure that way took a lot of willpower and it was not often that the sorceress had encountered someone that could match her in that respect. She wondered how large the Hikari no Ken would be in the blond genin's hands. It had created a blade significantly larger for her the one time she had wielded it than it ever had for Gourry, the weapon's owner. The image in her mind of Naruto wielding the Sword of Light brought a surge of longing for Gourry to the sorceress and she sighed.
"Moron, you just made everyone your enemy," said Shikamaru acidly. Most of the genin in the room were staring at Naruto and not in a pleasant manner. The blond-haired Uzumaki folded his arms behind his head and smiled.
Lina snorted. "They were our enemies the moment we entered the room." The sorceress' comment – out of character for Sakura – made several of the rookies study her again.
"Troublesome," Shikamaru muttered.
Sakura noticed movement above her and looked upward. She tracked a boy wearing camouflaged pants who threw two kunai down at Kabuto. The pink-haired kunoichi instantly had a kunai of her own in hand but she stopped herself from throwing it. In the crowded room, a bad deflection could easily cause an injury.
The older Leaf genin did not seem to need her assistance anyway as he dodged backward. Another attacker, this one with a mass of what looked like sand-colored hair on his back, charged forward and swung at Kabuto. The glasses-wearing Leaf ninja dodged again, this time by swaying his upper body.
A moment later the lenses Kabuto's glasses cracked and some small pieces of glass fell to the floor.
"He dodged it completely," Sasuke said, "so why…?"
Kabuto removed his glasses to inspect them and his legs suddenly gave out. The grey-haired genin dropped to his knees and coughed violently, spitting up a small amount of blood.
Naruto rushed to Kabuto's side. "Hey! Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine."
The two ninja that had assaulted Kabuto stood proudly in front of him and a girl had joined them. Sakura saw that all three wore hitai-ate marked with a musical note. "Put this on one of your precious cards: the three Hidden Sound ninja, definite future chuunin," said the boy who had thrown the kunai.
"Alright, everyone settle down!" shouted a commanding voice. Smoke filled the front of the classroom and dissipated to reveal a large number of Konoha ninja.
The head examiner, who introduced himself as Morino Ibiki, began instructing the genin regarding the first exam. Sakura noticed that Kabuto's grin was still firmly in place when he stood up. Sakura took a slip of paper and went to the assigned seat. She was feeling sorry for Naruto until the announcement that the test would be scored by teams. That made her worried. When Ibiki declared that the whole team whole fail if an individual had zero points, she became annoyed.
Sakura noted the extreme difficulty of the questions as she began working out her answers. Lina did not know all of the details that Sakura did but many of the questions required mathematical calculations. Between the two of them those questions were swiftly answered. I hope Naruto is doing alright.
We can help him, Lina said.
What do you mean?
If he can't get the answers then we'll send them to him.
We can't cheat! Sakura forcefully replied.
Of course we can. Lina rolled her eyes. Which is worse: Naruto getting zero points or you getting two subtracted? While Sakura thought about that, Lina continued enticingly, Besides, the examiners will never be able to catch me using magic.
Sakura bit her lip. Okay, what's your plan?
Like how Kabuto used genjutsu for his data! Sakura said in understanding.
Exactly, Lina confirmed.
Sakura finished writing the last answer and surreptitiously glanced at Naruto who was obviously panicking.
Lina took control and rested her hands on either side of the exam paper. The sorceress chanted in a voice that she could barely hear herself. "Light from deep within. Come forth to guide together our minds. Illusion." She felt the connection to Naruto's mind formed and she imagined the answers written down on Sakura's page appearing faintly on top of Naruto's. The blond genin nearly jumped out of his chair. He looked around wildly then bent over his test, surrounding it with his arms.
Lina was worried for a moment but she saw Naruto's pencil moving and assumed that he had caught on to what was happening.
You do realize he probably doesn't have a clue who is doing it? Sakura thought with disdain.
Lina would have replied but the concentration required to keep the spell going was immense. It was not a spell that she had much practice casting. The sorceress felt sweat bead on her brow.
Ino smirked to herself as she watched her rival. The pink-haired girl's pen had stopped writing a minute ago and so it was time to use her jutsu. Sakura had been acting strangely but even if her rival had changed as much as Kiba had implied, there was no way for Sakura to defeat Ino's technique. She made her hand seals as subtly as possible and without uttering 'Shintenshin no Jutsu' she activated the technique, sending her mind through the astral plane and toward her target.
Sakura's body jerked as Ino's mind entered it. Ino noticed a strange tugging, almost as if she were using Sakura's chakra to perform a jutsu. She dismissed the odd feeling and picked up the test in front of her, quickly reading and memorizing the answers that Sakura had written.
How long do you think this will take? a voice that sounded suspiciously like Sakura's asked in annoyance.
Ino blinked. What in the world? she thought.
Wait, you're not Lina, the voice said. Who the hell are you?
Sakura? Ino asked in confusion. You shouldn't be awake!
Something strange is going on, yet another mental voice said. This one was totally unrecognizable to the blonde-haired girl.
Who is that?! Ino wondered in shock.
Ino? Is that you? Sakura asked. What are you doing in my head?!
Ino's view of the testing room swirled into a mix of colors. Ino blinked and found herself looking at a completely different location.
The blonde found herself standing at the top of some cliffs that continued as far as she could see to her right. At the bottom of the cliffs, foaming waves lapped at the rocks. Deep blue water stretched from the rocks to the horizon. A sparse forest of evergreens marched right up to the precipice. To her left as she faced the ocean was something very different.
"Ino!" she heard Sakura say. Ino turned around and saw Sakura standing there looking just as she normally did: red dress, black shorts, and her forehead protector tied on top of her pink hair.
"What's going on, Sakura?" Ino asked.
"I should be asking you that!" Sakura snapped in reply.
"This isn't my mind, it's yours." Ino waved at the scenery. "I've never seen this place before."
"Well neither have I," Sakura stated. "Besides, you haven't explained what you're doing in my head!"
"Ya-ho!" called a voice from above them. Ino looked upward and saw another girl sitting on a tree limb. The girl looked to be a few years older and had long reddish-orange hair and red eyes. She wore a pale yellow tunic, red leather pants, and black gloves and boots. Her shoulders were armored and a black cloak with red lining was attached to the shoulder-guards. When she jumped out of the tree and landed softly, Ino noticed that she was fairly short for her age and had a slim body.
"Is that what you look like, Lina?" Sakura asked the girl.
'Lina' looked down at her clothes and reached a hand over her shoulder to pull her hair forward so she could see it. She smiled at her hair for some reason and flipped it back. "Yup, this is me!" she happily replied.
"Okay, so who are you? And what is this place?" Ino asked in a demanding tone.
Sakura sighed. She held a hand out toward Lina and said: "This is Lina Inverse, my previous incarnation."
Ino blinked in confusion.
"And this place," Lina said, "is the Bay of Death." Lina pointed her finger.
Ino looked again at the oddity in the landscape. A few meters from where she stood, the normal scenery suddenly ended. A perfectly formed bowl had been cut into the land, the midpoint a little ways from the shoreline and the bottom quite a bit deeper than the ocean. The trees on the far side were a bushy blur of green. The obviously artificial bay was filled with the clearest water that Ino had ever seen.
"It's pretty," Sakura said, echoing Ino's thoughts.
Lina rolled her eyes. "It looks that way because nothing can live in it. Not even the smallest organism. And the bodies of dead creatures… dissolve."
"So what happened here?" Ino questioned.
"What do you mean?" Lina said nervously.
"Scenes that get dragged from a person's memories during mind-linking techniques are usually places of importance," the blonde explained.
"Importance?" Lina said in a thoughtful voice.
Ino's vision blurred again. The previous sunny scene was replaced by a dark, oppressive panorama. The sky was filled with thick, black clouds and there was little illumination. She stood near another perfect crater cut into the ground. This time it was in the middle of a city – or what had once been a city. The scattered rubble and remaining ruins indicated that it had been a large town but not a single building was intact. This crater was not nearly as large as the previous one but Ino felt discomfort when she looked at it.
Sakura was gaping at the environment and Lina looked disgruntled.
"What happened to this place?" Sakura whispered.
Lina did not answer.
"And what do you mean by 'previous incarnation?'" Ino inquired.
"She's my reincarnation," Lina said while pointing at the pink-haired girl.
"That doesn't answer my question!" Ino argued.
"Is this where you saved the world?" Sakura quietly asked.
Lina looked surprised for a moment. The fiery-haired girl's visage saddened. "No, this is where I almost destroyed the world to save my friends." Her answer left Ino and Sakura gawking.
Sakura spluttered for a few seconds. "You used that… black magic here?"
A brief surprised look crossed Lina's face again. It was replaced by the most knowing grin that Ino had ever seen. "No, the Giga Slave is far beyond black magic."
Ino shivered and she thought she felt a fourth presence in Sakura's mind, something unknowable and indescribably powerful.
Ino was thrown from Sakura's body and back into her own. She shuddered from the experience. Glancing at the clock, she saw that not as much time had passed as she feared. She still had time to switch to Chouji and Shikamaru and fill in their tests. She decided that she would have to wait until later to think about everything that she had seen and heard in Sakura's mind.
The blue-eyed girl quickly scribbled down the answers that she had memorized.
She found herself staring at what she had written down for the fifth question: 'You who crosses between sky and earth. Gently flowing water. Freeze Arrow.' The blonde kunoichi erased it and wrote the correct answer, wondering where those words had come from.
Sakura's and Lina's minds were a jumble when Ino's intrusion ended. Lina felt the Illusion spell snap and she wondered if Naruto had seen any of her memories as Sakura and Ino had.
Ino is going to be full of questions, Sakura grumbled.
Lina remained silent, not wanting to discuss her memories of Sairaag with the kunoichi.
After a tiresome wait, Ibiki revealed the tenth question with its own special rules: anyone who did not attempt to answer failed along with their teammates, anyone who answered incorrectly would never be able to take the chuunin exam again.
Can he do that? Lina wondered.
He could probably make the Leaf genin abide by it, Sakura answered. That's all that matters for us. Sakura was confident that she could handle any question that might be asked. Can you cast another Illusion spell on Naruto?
Individuals began raising their hands and quitting. Their teammates followed them out of the room as their numbers were called out.
Sakura hoped that Naruto would not crack under the pressure.
I think you're underestimating his will, Lina said.
Both Lina and Sakura were surprised to see the blond-haired genin slowly raise his hand. When he slammed it down on the desk in front of him, Sakura sighed in relief and Lina laughed.
"Never underestimate me!" Naruto shouted. "I'll take the damn question no matter what! Even if I'm stuck as a genin, I'll become Hokage anyway! You don't scare me!"
Ibiki scowled at the loud blond. "I'll ask you once more. This is your entire life on the line and your last chance to back down."
"I will follow my unbreakable words," Naruto responded, his voice filled with the same determination that it had when he swore to protect Tazuna. "That's my way of the ninja."
Ibiki looked around the room, prompting Sakura to do the same. She could only see the faces of the other genin in the same row but none of them showed the slightest amount of nervousness now.
"Very well," Ibiki said. "Everyone still here… passes the first test!"
"What about the tenth question?" Sakura asked.
"The choice whether to take it or not was the tenth question," the examiner answered with a smile.
"What was the point of the first nine then?!" shouted the Sand kunoichi who Kabuto's information had identified as being named Temari.
"Their purpose was to test your skill at gathering information. Basically, to see how well you could cheat." The man removed the scarf covering his head. Nearly all of his head was scarred from burns and screw holes, obviously from torture. "Information is vital to a shinobi and at times anything will be done to acquire it."
So it was all about cheating, Sakura thought with a little displeasure.
Should have expected there to be some deception involved in any ninja exam, Lina said.
"I still don't understand the final question," Temari complained.
"The tenth question was the true purpose of this test. In real situations you cannot back down from a mission no matter how dangerous it may be. Those pieces of trash who fear an uncertain future do not deserve to become chuunin. Those still here made the proper decision and are ready to face your futures. So, I offer you my congratulations and wish you luck."
"Hell yeah!" Naruto shouted excitedly.
At the same time as Naruto shouted, something came crashing through one of the windows. Spinning black cloth was all that Sakura could make out until kunai tied to the corners of the cloth darted out, pulling it open to reveal a banner. The dark banner had been wrapped around a woman wearing a tan trench coat and short skirt over a fishnet bodysuit.
"This is no time for celebration!" the woman shouted. "I am Mitarashi Anko, the examiner for the second test! Prepare yourselves!" The banner behind her proudly introduced her in the same manner.
The loud entrance immediately reminded Sakura of Naruto. Most of the examinees were left stunned by her actions.
"Twenty six teams left?" Anko asked Ibiki as she finally noticed the number of genin remaining. "Whatever, I'll cut them in half at the very least," she said and licked her lips in a disturbing fashion that made Sakura shudder. "Meet me at Training Area 44 at nine o'clock tomorrow morning for the second part of the chuunin exam! Prepare yourselves as you would for a mission!" Smoke exploded from Anko's position and she vanished, leaving behind a coughing and annoyed-looking Ibiki who was trying to wave the smoke away.
The genin slowly recovered from their Anko-induced shock and began to leave the room. Naruto bounced over to where Sasuke was sitting and began telling the dark-haired boy something in an excited voice and with many hand movements.
Sakura tried to sneak out with the crowd but Ino caught sight of her. Sakura sighed as the blonde girl came toward her. "Not here," the green-eyed kunoichi said and grabbed her rival's arm. She dragged Ino through the hallway and into another classroom which was empty.
"Okay, ask away," Sakura said.
"What exactly is wrong with you?" was the first thing out of her rival's mouth.
Sakura frowned at Ino's phrasing but shrugged dismissively. "I've been remembering my past life. Or something like that. You met Lina."
"So now you've got another personality behind the wide forehead of yours? All the time?!" Ino looked at Sakura as if she did not recognize the girl in front of her.
"She's been there since we were kids," Sakura responded. "You've just never noticed." The blonde's mouth dropped open in surprise. "Recently, she's been helping me in battles."
"Is that why Kiba thinks you're more dangerous?"
Definitely, said the internal redhead.
Ino thought for a minute, hand on her hip and eyes fixed on Sakura. Her concerned look faded at last and she grinned but it made Sakura wary instead of relieved. "I'm not going to lose Sasuke-kun to an insane girl."
"I'm not insane, Ino-pig," Sakura asserted. "Lina has proven a lot of things to me."
"And you've told Sasuke-kun all about your little mental problem?" Ino asked with a small smirk.
Sakura nearly growled at Ino's continued insults. "He knows most of it."
"How do I know I'm even talking to Sakura?" the blue-eyed kunoichi scoffed.
"Oh, I think you'll know when I'm doing the talking, Ino," Lina said with her typical confidence as she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Okay, that definitely wasn't Forehead Girl," Ino admitted, eyeing the pink-haired girl warily.
Sakura returned her body to a more relaxed stance. "Lina does talk sometimes but I seem to have ultimate control over my body. Please don't tell anyone else," she pleaded.
Ino sighed. "Alright but you owe me one. Now I just have to think of the perfect way for you to get Sasuke-kun to go on a date with me!"
Sakura did growl at that but Ino waved jauntily and skipped from the classroom.
Time to go home and prepare, Sakura thought tiredly.
Tomorrow should be fun, Lina said.
With an examiner like Anko, Sakura did not think that 'fun' was the right word, but at the very least the test should give her an opportunity to learn more about what was expected of a chuunin.
End of Chapter 4
RobotPirateNinja re. "How strong is Kyuubi compared to a Mazoku? How does it compare to say, Xellos?" – A few hints here, a couple of chapters from completely being revealed.
Fluffysnowgirl – You missed Naga-Ino. Ohohoho!
CnA Productions re. "The character of the Naruto cast remains true the the original, but succeeds in escaping the same old cliches." – Thanks. I hope I continue to do so.
MockV re. "Has Sakura, at this point, seen the Sexy no Jutsu?" – I suppose she saw it when Naruto used it on Iruka in class. I'm not sure Lina will think about it, though. The Naruto/Gourry angle continues to develop, so we'll see.
zenihua re. "although i'm completely lost as to who the characters from slayers are" – Hmm… I think I'm introducing Lina well and Xelloss will get some introduction soon (although he's meant to be mysterious). Gourry keeps getting mentioned – but I think I'm covering his connection to Lina also. Aside from those, the other mentions are more for humor than anything.
Thanks to everyone else who reviewed also.
I realized that I have been remiss in not thanking some websites that I use for research on spell chants and such (just Google them for links): Slayers Universe 4.1, QP's Slayers Page, and KanzakaDex.
I didn't plan to write a chapter without any real action but it became longer than I expected. So this ended up being a chapter with a lot of humor and next chapter will be full of action.
I'm sure people are really wondering about the Kyuubi at this point. I did not intend to throw so many questions and false trails at the reader at one time. There have been hints and answers will start coming in the next two chapters. I removed what I could from the conversation between Sakura/Lina and Sarutobi but most of it has to be in this chapter. There really is not anywhere else for it to go in the story.
Let me know if you think the map details in that scene are annoying. I am trying to learn what readers find interesting and what they do not.
I noticed in the jutsu elements superiority chart (Water Fire Wind Lightning Earth Water) that Earth and Lightning really should be switched. I'll try to follow Kishimoto's diagram for jutsu but don't expect a Raiton to do anything against an Earth spell. I'll need to figure out exactly what rules to follow because a lightning spell against an Earth jutsu… I'm seriously considering ignoring that diagram, it's giving me headaches. Yet another post-timeskip mess.
White magic – you'll find a different explanation on just about every website you visit. I've given you my variation. All I really know is that it is not the opposite of black, that's divine magic. The only main character in the series that uses divine magic is Filia; it was not even available to people living inside the Mazoku Barrier. Luna might have been an exception but we know so little about her.
Murasaki the romance novelist – a little tip of the hat to Murasaki Shikibu, author of Tale of Genji, not something I actually enjoyed reading but it's considered good literature.
Daimyo – feudal lord
Juu-ou – appears to be the Japanese title for Beastmaster Zelas-Metallium, literally 'Beast-king'
Kikaichuu – destruction bugs
Shiki Fuujin – Death Demon Consuming Seal
Katon: Housenka no Jutsu – Fire Release: Phoenix Immortal Fire Technique
Fuuton: Kuudan – Wind Release: Air Bullet – user blows out a stream of air which forms a fast-moving sphere, targets are thrown aside on contact but causes little direct damage – name derived from Shukaku's Renkuudan
Konoha Renpuu – Leaf Gale
Konoha Senpuu – Leaf Whirlwind
Kage Buyou – Shadow of the Dancing Leaf
Shintenshin no Jutsu – Mind Body Switch Technique
Hikari no Ken – Sword of Light, proper name: Gorun Nova, one of the Dark Star weapons. Gourry's inherited weapon that in its most basic use turns willpower into a blade of energy.
Levitation – shamanistic air spell, slow flight spell, also can affect anything caster is in contact with – my chant, derived from Bram Gush: Wind which blows across eternity / Grant me thy freedom / Levitation!
Mono Volt – shamanistic air spell, basic lightning spell, more for stunning than damage
Illusion – shamanistic spirit spell, manipulates what the target sees and hears, if strong enough the illusion can control their actions, requires continued concentration by caster – my chant: Light from deep within / Come forth to guide together our minds / Illusion!
Freeze Arrow – shamanistic water spell, my chant, derived from Demona Crystal: You who crosses between sky and earth / Gently flowing water / Freeze Arrow!
Omake: What Will Not Happen… tsk.
Neji activated his Byakuugan and stared at the shaking girl in front of him.
"You cannot hide anything from my eyes," he told Hinata. He proceeded to verbally rip into his cousin, causing her shaking to increase.
And suddenly, her trembling ceased.
"Neji-niisan," she said quietly, "you mercilessly attack people and put all the blame on Fate, not even taking responsibility for your own actions."
Hinata looked him directly in the eyes and he saw no more hesitation.
Her voice grew stronger. "In other words you are absolutely, positively evil! In the name of Love, Truth, and Ramen-"
"Go, Hinata!" an annoying blond encouraged from the catwalk.
"Ramen?! What the hell are you talking about?!" shouted Neji.
"Forfeit now or face the Hammer of Justice!"
(Amelia is a character from Slayers that has an appearance and family situation somewhat similar to Hinata but her character is completely different.)
What is black magic? Sakura asked.
Oh-ho! The sleeper has awakened!
(Typed it, debated it, and in the end had to change the wording.)
"Alright, maggots settle down!"
(Ibiki the drill sergeant… hmm…)