Natsyourlord: Well, we're back again.

LordXwee: And I'm free again! WOOOOT!!

Natsyourlord: That can be changed.

LordXwee: Meep.

Natsyourlord: Now, then. On to the chapter. This will be one of the first action-y chapters we've had in a while, so everybody better review on it in case our battle skills are a bit rusty.

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Natsyourlord: The amount of hits on the story (2700 at the time we're typing this) tells us nothing except that the summary is intriguing. But the quality of the actual story, now that is what you have to tell us via review.

LordXwee: So be sure to review!!

Natsyourlord: LordXwee, do the honors.

LordXwee: Huzzah! ONWARDS!


Genin teams flooded the gates the instant they opened, some charging up the mountain and others searching behind every rock and tree for a flag. Of course, the mountain was massive - not to mention steep - so the teams rushing up found themselves losing stamina five minutes in. And the teams searching relentlessly were discouraged when they realized that the mountain contained thousands of potential hiding spots. The sad part was, not a lot of teams stopped to consider an alternative plan.

However, the squad from Kumogakure was not one of those teams.

"Aoi," Kyojiro said once the team was a few hundred meters up the mountain face, "I have a battle plan."

Aoi glanced over at his teammate. He tried to avoid looking at her as much as possible - she was a great fighter, but she was also completely insane. Not to mention the fact that her robe was always dangerously close to splitting open from the waist down, and he never wanted to accidentally look at her when it was wide open.

"What is it, Kyojiro?" he finally said.

The girl's black-painted lips spread into a demonic grin. "We slaughter them all."

Aoi flinched.

"What? It'll be fun! Imagine, all their bodies spliced open, watching their hearts throb against their ribs, thier lungs gasp for their final breaths, all the blood..." She frowned for a moment. "Wait. If we killed them all, there would be no competition for later. We need to keep some of them alive. But still, I call anyone under ten years of age!"

"Kyojiro!" Rikkia scolded, rolling his brown eyes, "We are not doing that." He glanced over at Aoi, who was clutching at his stomach, looking slightly green.

"But we can kill and get away with it."

"That's out of the question," retorted Rikkia. "I noticed during the first exam, that girl - Grosoi? Gosay? Well, the one with the whiny voice - she and her team looked weak enough. And while we were in there, I happened to be sitting near her - I managed to get this." He held up a strand of red-gold hair, pinched between his finger and thumb. "We have her scent."

"Where's the fun in that, Rikkia? A weak team?" Kyojiro absentmindedly traced the small scars on her thumbs. "We should fight someone better. The weaklings don't deserve us."

Aoi sighed. "Kyojiro, you have to understand that some squads taking this exam surpass us. We don't want to be beaten ourselves."

Rikkia nodded. "Now, then. We don't even know if they have a flag or not. In fact, it's not likely. It's probably best to just take them out, then search them. Though I doubt they'll even have found one; from the way those proctors were talking, they're probably hidden throughout the mountain, and on varying levels. It will probably be several days before we come across a flag or someone with one."

"Well, we have seven days," said Aoi. "It said so on the roster. So it must be possible for at least a few teams to get a flag and make it to the top in seven days."

"But the more teams we take out," included Rikkia, "The more likely it is that we pass."

Kyojiro, who had zoned out until that point, perked up. "You mean, we get to fight?" she asked excitedly. "Can I dispose of the bodies?"

"Fine, whatever," Rikkia muttered. Kyojiro whooped and fingered her kunai pouch. Aoi grabbed his stomach again.

"But first we need to actually find another team," Rikkia said pointedly. "You know, and take them down. And make sure their clothes don't get too bloody until we have the chance to search them."

"But then I dispose of the bodies?" Kyojiro asked pleadingly.

"You can dispose of them if and only if we get our hands on a flag."

"You're no fun," Kyojiro mumbled. She glanced at the sword on her hip. "It's okay, we'll get to cause some poor saps some pain," she said, directing her words at the sword. Aoi and Rikkia glanced at each other. Their teammate seemed to get weirder by the day.


"Wow Gosai!" Bijin exclaimed as loud as always, "I can't believe you found a flag already! You, of all people!"

Gosai grinned and proudly held up the bright yellow flag. The team had gone slowly up the mountain. When Gosai had climbed halfway up a tree she spotted it stuck to the trunk.

"Don't be so loud," Shani muttered under her breath. She hated when they acted dumb. Still, she didn't want to cause conflict.

"Did you say something Shani?" Gosai asked. Shani sighed and shook her head, returning her gaze to its usual place; the ground.

"Let's kill them," Kyojiro hissed, not far away from the Iwa team. Kyojiro, Aoi, and Rikkia were hiding behind bushes. "They're right there."

"Wait," Aoi whispered, "Let's figure out how to attack- we need a strategy."

Kyojiro frowned. "Simple. I attack the flag-holder. Aoi goes for the baby and Rikkia the other one." Before either teammate could protest, Kyojiro stepped into the open.

"Give me your flag," she spat, drawing a kunai. Automatically Shani and Bijin jumped away, leaving Gosai alone. Surprisingly, the redhead grinned.

"No," she replied. Shani and Bijin had pulled out kunai too, in case Kyojiro came for them. Kyojiro shrugged and sliced her kunai through the air, splicing Gosai's arm. The fresh wound dripped blood. However, Gosai didn't flinch. Instead she grinned and pressed her hands in the Ne position.

"Aka Soujuu," Gosai said, grinning even wider, "Scarlet Manipulation."

The dripping blood began to move around Kyojiro's ankles. She let out a shriek as it tightened, cutting into her skin. Normally she would have enjoyed the sensation, but she knew she was stuck.

Rikkia emerged, drawing his katana slowly. He ran toward Bijinn, blade raised, but Aoi's voice stopped him.

"Rikkia, no! You can't spill any blood, she'll manipulate it!"

Rikkia nodded and went for Gosai instead. Pointing the katana at her neck, he snarled. "Let her go or I'll kill you and your teammates, right now." Despite the threat, Gosai still stayed firmly in position. Kyojiro let out another shriek of pain.

"I told you not to underestimate them," Aoi shouted.

"Release her," Rikkia demanded, gripping the handle of his weapon tighter. Gosai didn't move.

"You wouldn't cut me," she smirked. "I would remove her feet. Suck to be you!" Rikkia looked over at Aoi, mouthing "help!" Aoir nodded.

"Tatsu I-Tori Uma Saru," Aoi said under his breath, forming the matching hand seals, "Mizu Gokusha- Water Prison." The brown-haired ninja thrust out his hands. A ball of water rose from a nearby creek and flew at Bijinn. Bijin managed to sidestep the attack, but it made contact with Shani. The water molded around her torso, restraining her arms to her sides. Her body was totally coated with water.

"Bijinn!" Shani shrieked through the water, probably being the loudest thing she had ever said. "Aah!" Bijinn stared helplessly at her teammate. Aoi noticed this.

"She's afraid of water," Aoi guessed, correctly, "I could drown her- but I won't if you let Kyojiro go."

"Is that all you want?" Gosai asked, her voice regaining its nasally quality.

"No," Aoi answered, "You have to hand over your flag to Rikkia."

The clearing seemed silent other than Shani's muffled whimpers. After a moment, Aoi clenched his fist and the water around Shani's head.

"It's your choice."


In another part of the mountain, the only surviving team from Suna crouched in a small cavern. Shinobu and Chinatsu appeared comfortable enough, but Miyako was complaining.

"It's so wet in here," she mumbled, just loud enough for the others to hear. "And dark. And cold."

Chinatsu glared at her teammate. "Miyako?"

"Yeah?"

"Shut up."

Miyako opened her mouth to snap back at her friend, but decided against it. They didn't really need conflict right now. She pulled her knees to her chest and sat in angry silence as Shinobu began to draw a diagram in the dirt with his finger.

He drew a circle first. "This is the mountain," he said, drawing a second circle around the first, "And these are the gates. We were given our card keys at the northern point-" he made a mark at one point of the circle "-and we were gate number twelve. So if the gates started at one, one being at the top and there being fifty gates in all, we entered about here." He made an X along the circle about eighty-five degrees from the starting point.

Chinatsu nodded. She admired Shinobu a lot. Though he wasn't the most combative, and he liked to shave his head - she found that a little weird; most people in Suna had shoulder-length hair to keep the sand and sun out of their faces - the kid was obviously intelligent. And he was fantastic at strategy, which made him a great teammate. With Chinatsu's own taijutsu, Miyako's genjutsu, and Shinobu's tessen war fans, the three made a perfect trio.

Shinobu glanced up at her. "Are you paying attention?"

Blinking, Chinatsu nodded her blond head. "'Course. Keep going."

"Okay, then." He pointed to a certain point on the circle. "We were traveling uphill at about eight miles per hour, stopping after thirty minutes. So we're approximately four miles up. And based on the proportions of the mountain, I'd say we're about... here." He pointed to a point about six inches from the X.

"But... wait a minute." Chinatsu interrupted. "Did you count in the time we had to spend getting around that boulder?" A little while ago, the squad had run into an enormous boulder, too big to climb over. They'd wasted about five minutes going around. "So we should be about here." She pointed to a point a half an inch closer to the circumference of the inner circle.

"You're right, Chinatsu," said Shinobu sheepishly. "My mistake. Good thing you caught it."

Miyako groaned, the first sound she had made since Shinobu had started drawing.

"Is there an issue?" asked Chinatsu pointedly.

"Well..."Miyako looked up. "What exactly are you trying to accomplish by mapping this out? I mean, the important thing is that we get a flag and get to the summit, right?"

"Not really. If we can find out where we are, we can also estimate about where the other teams are, and we can ambush them," explained Shinobu patiently. "We can also deduce where there might be flags by exploring terrain. They're likely not going to be easy to find, you know."

"Plus, this way we can figure out how close we are to the summit," added Chinatsu, "Which gives us an idea of how long it'll take us to reach it over the course of seven days. If we can regulate how long we need to travel in relation to the size of the mountain, we can figure out at which point we should have a flag by."

Miyako glared. "I didn't exactly need that huge explanation. I'm not stupid, you know."

"I never said you were," argued Chinatsu, but already Miyako was looking away, hurt.

Geez, she thought, What's wrong with her?

"Well," said Shinobu, standing. "I suppose that we should get going. We don't want to stay in one place for too long - someone could ambush us." He swept out his foot, turning the diagram into a smudge in the dirt. "We know where we are now. And based on the number of teams remaining and the number of gates, there's a pretty good chance that someone will come across this place soon. We want to be long gone by then. Remember: we need to get to the flag and get to the top. If we can, we're going to preserve our energy for the third part of the exam."

"Right." Both girls stood and swept the dirt off their pants, or in Miyako's case, skort. Shinobu beckoned for them to follow him out of the cave. He and Miyako walked outside, but something caught Chinatsu's eye. She froze, looking at the patch of rock just above the cave entrance.

"Um," she mumbled, "Was that there when we came in?"

"Was what where?" asked Shinobu.

"That flag." She pointed. The bald boy, curious, walked back into the cavern and glanced up.

"God," he said under his breath. "How the heck did we miss that?"

Sure enough, directly above the enryway to the cave, there was a red flag with a black kanji on it. It was dark in the cavern, but not so dark that they couldn't see the flag.

Chinatsu closed her blue-gray eyes and sighed. "That was dumb of us." Opening her eyes again, she focused her chakra to the soles of her feet, then walked up the side of the cave wall and peeled the flag off, tossing it to a waiting Shinobu.

"Fantastic!" he exclaimed. "Now all we need to do is reach the summit!"

"Yeah!" Chinatsu agreed. "Let's go, Miyako." She walked proudly out of the cave.

"Uh... Miyako?"

But her teammate was nowhere to be found.

Instantly a cold feeling formed in the pit of her stomach. Miyako had disappeared just after they had found a flag... a flag that thirteen other teams were looking for...

"Chinatsu! Look out!"

On instinct the girl yanked a kunai from its pouch and whipped around - just in time. A boy wearing a gray jacket with a Konoha forehead protector came flying at her, his own kunai in hand. Chinatsu used her knife to block him, bending her elbows to absorb the blow, then shoved him violently off of her. He somersaulted in the air, landing on his feet.

"I would think about giving up that flag if I were you," he said. "See, we have something that you want, and you have something that we want." He glanced up at a ledge about fifty feet above the cave. "Kaeri, show 'em."

A blonde girl in a black jumpsuit appeared on the ledge, holding Miyako tightly. Their teammate had the familiar glow of chakra bonds around her wrists and ankles, and a kunai to her throat. "Good work, Tokoro," called the blonde girl.

"Not so bad yourself," the boy - Tokoro - replied. "So?" he asked, directing his words at Chinatsu and Shinobu. "You wanna just give us that flag? We don't really want anyone to get hurt, but unless you give it to us, someone will."

"Yeah," said Shinobu, "And that person is you." He grinned and flicked his wrist, the war fan in it, and Tokoro went suddenly toppling backwards. He obviously had no idea what had just happened.

"What the heck just happened?" he yelped.

Shinobu was standing over him in a flash. "Sorry, kid," he said, "But if you want this flag, you're gonna have to fight for it, and there's no way that you can beat us. Not in this fight. We're too good."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," said Tokoro. He rolled over before Shinobu could react, jumped onto his feet, and drew back his kunai in preparation to strike. Quickly Shinobu snapped one of his fans shut and used its metal casing to stop Tokoro's blow. The reddish-brown haired boy used his momentum to try to lash out a kick, but Shinobu flicked his other wrist, and Tokoro's foot went off aim by a few centimeters. The sudden change in movement caused him to lose his balance, and he toppled to the ground.

Shinobu smirked. "Like I said," he told the Konoha ninja, "We're too good. You won't be able to beat us."

Tokoro grit his teeth. "Just wait - I'll have you on the ground in no time."

"We'll see about that."


LordXwee: Woo! This chapter got completed. Natsyourlord is now at camp. Sadly this camp is not SuperCamp, so she doesn't have internet access. I printed the chapter, sent it to her, she edited, and sent it back. Please don't eat me if the next part of WWTBAN doesn't come out soon.

-LordXwee & the spirit of Natsyourlord