Author's Corner: I've noticed that there are at least two stories going around with the title 'Hakumei' or something really similar, and all of them have the idea of Naruto forming a team called 'Hakumei'. This is slightly annoying. Especially when I got a PM from someone calling me all sorts of names for copying the idea of a story called 'Hakumei' that was written after mine came out.
I have not copied. I am the original. Check the publish date. While there were some stories called 'Hakumei', this is the first one with that idea.
I have got to say right now, the manga has lately rocked. I mean, there were some Arcs that I just found boring (for some reason I just am not as fond of Shikamaru as other people) but this one and the Itachi Arc both have really been great. Although I did think that the Be a Sage in Two Weeks or Less or Your Money Back was a little farfetched.
At any rate, anyone who said Naruto is one of the weaker characters has now got to revise their opinion. He's more like the character with the most restrictions on him. I'm even happier because for the first time ever I'm actually supporting the hero. (I have a tendency to want the villain to win or actually be the protagonist.) I don't think Sasuke will die though.
Random story: Ok I'm home, and, my mom calls me in the other room for something and I respond "Hn?"
I'M STARTING TO TALK LIKE AN UCHIHA!
As always, thanks to Ibby-kun (MegaB) for betaing for me.
Disclaimer: Pryotra is not being paid for this work nor is she ever going to be paid for anything baring the word 'Naruto' on it.
Here's the list.
Shippuu no Naruto-Taiki
Arashi no Sasuke-Masaru
Sabaku no Gaara-Shinta
Rasen no Neji-Haru
Nisshoku no Sakura-Emi
Gesshoku no Hinata-Rei
Hara no Haku-Ryou
Shin'en no Sai-Hideaki
Haka no Kimimaro-Yuuma
80% of the final exam will be based on the one lecture you missed and the one book you didn't read.
Konohamaru harassed Naruto to train him most the day, and it was only when he had followed Naruto to where he was meeting Zabuza, and he had made one of his 'subtle' comments, that he finally ran off. Not one to be deterred, he showed up the a little later, demanding to be trained. This time he made the mistake of referring to Haku as a girl. Haku had resigned himself to adults making the confusion, but he at least got to freak Konohamaru out enough so that he didn't make that mistake again.
Naruto had other things to think about anyways.
The morning of the Chuunin Exams dawned clear, cloudless, and absolutely perfect. Naruto had plenty of time to watch the sun come up since he couldn't sleep.
Even though it wasn't something that he should be worried about, he was worried that he would give himself away by being simply too powerful. Or someone would notice his cursed whiskers and know what they meant.
Blast Fuzzy Wuzzy and his oh-so-obvious signs. Couldn't the demon Kitsune have been a bit more subtle? Even Gaara's wasn't quite so blatant. Almost, but not quite.
"Can't sleep?" Gaara asked.
"Nope," Naruto sighed.
"I know how you feel,"
Naruto sighed and rolled over, "I don't even know why I'm so worried. It's not like we really have anything to worry about."
"At least, not in the Exams," Gaara pointed out.
"Yeah, that," Naruto sighed, "ok, that's something to worry about."
"Well, you're not the only one," Gaara told him, "Everyone else has been off and on all night. Wave was nothing compared to this. We're actually…"
Naruto nodded, looking out the window. The morning sun was creeping into the room, and already everyone was stirring. They had a lot to get ready for. They had no idea what the Exams would be like, but they did all know something. The man who was heading the first exam was a complete sadist.
They hadn't caught the name during the talks of Kinen, but from what he had been hearing, he loved to torment the participants and leave them emotional wrecks. Hayate had mentioned that the last year that he was up, one of the participants had returned to his village unable to continue his career as a ninja due to his newly developed extreme nervous condition.
They might not be mere Genin, but still, Naruto knew that psychological warfare was at least half of a war, and victory. This Exam would test Naruto against not Genin, but also fully fledged Jounin.
Well, worrying about it wasn't going to help at all.
"Alright, everyone," Naruto sighed, "Up and at 'em. You're all awake, so let's just do some extra training or something."
"Sounds good," Sasuke said, opening both eyes. He seemed to be in a better mood than last night, but Naruto still wanted to know who he had met.
"Do you want to wake up the girls?" Haku asked.
"They're awake," Kimimaro said, not opening his eyes, "I've been hearing them whispering together for a while now. Whatever it is, they've been giggling for quite a while."
The boys exchanged nervous looks with one another. Sometimes their giggling was a completely innocent thing, and other times it was a calm before a storm of some kind. No one could think of any reason for vengeance, but that didn't mean much.
"Let's hope that they're giggling over their respective crushes," Sai said.
"They have crushes?" Kimimaro asked, "I thought that they were only female on a technicality, like Tsunade."
"She likes Jiraiya," Gaara pointed out.
"Oh yeah, I forget sometimes…I hope neither of them like me…"
"Don't worry about that, Kimimaro," Sakura said, walking in, "We weren't giggling about you."
"Well, there's nothing I need to worry about then," Kimimaro smirked.
"We have about two hours until we need to really get ready for the Exams," Hinata said, "Do you want to go over everything again?"
"There's nothing to go over," Naruto shrugged, "Loyalty to Hakumei as a whole comes before teams, Anko told us what the second Exam would be, and as long as we just target other people and eliminate as many teams as we can, we'll pass the Exam as good, but somewhat ruthless, Genin."
"You want to take out Konoha Genin too?" Sasuke asked.
"We take out whoever gets in our way," Naruto replied, "Konoha or not."
The first Exam was held in the Academy. Even though there were no classes that day, Naruto found himself plagued with memories. He had never thought that he would miss this place so much. It wasn't like he had ever really been happy there.
Yes, he had had Iruka, but other than that, he had been so alone. The other students, who had parents who knew what Naruto was, had always told their children to avoid Naruto, and in time, the loathing had passed on. Kiba, Shikamaru, Chouji and he had only gotten together out of mutual disdain for school. Naruto doubted that he had been missed much.
Yet, it somehow felt really good to be back and even better to be with everyone as well. Now he wanted to go back to those days, with everyone. Rewrite the past. But this was enough. He had the present, and the future.
That was better.
"Don't you think it's kind of cheesy to have the Exam in a school?" Neji asked.
"I'd say that it's very cliché," Sai agreed.
"Well, where else do you think it would be?" Sakura asked.
"I'd rather if it was somewhere more pleasant," Hinata said, "I didn't really enjoy my time here."
"Me neither," Sakura agreed.
"I always had hoped to never set foot in a school again," Sasuke admitted.
"Why?" Naruto asked, "You always had perfect grades and all the teachers liked you."
Without a word, Sasuke jabbed one thumb behind him, not even turning around.
Naruto, Kimimaro and Sai turned around to see a small group of girls following them, or rather Sasuke, with what could almost have been hearts fluttering above their heads. The girls jumped behind one of the classroom doors the second that they turned around.
"I'm not sure whether I should feel jealous or sympathetic," Sai told Sasuke, "Those are probably the most predatory looking women that I've ever seen."
"I'd make sure they couldn't find the hotel," Kimimaro said, "and lock all doors and windows."
"Thanks for your unending support," Sasuke sighed.
The group reached the second floor to see a large crowd of what looked like Genin encircled around a door with a room reading 301, the room where the Exam was being held. Two Genin stood with their arms crossed, blocking the entrance and smirking.
"None of you are good enough to be Chuunin," one of them, with a band across his face, sneered, "Get lost."
Naruto noticed on the spot that these two greatly resembled a pair of Chuunin that Naruto had seen at the meeting but had never actually managed to catch the names of. From what he had seen, they were close friends who seemed to usually be paired together in assignments. He doubted that either was married, and neither of them was old enough to have a kid that age, unless they had been married at around thirteen and had a kid right from the get go.
There was a Genjutsu.
Sakura coughed and looked at the sign. The others looked at it, and for a minute, Naruto didn't have a clue what she was getting that, then he almost started to laugh.
This was the second floor, not the third floor.
This was just a part of the test, and these people they were delaying would fail.
"You guys saw it?" A female voice asked.
Everyone turned around to see a Genin that looked a little older than them standing close by. She was a little taller than Naruto, like everyone, and her brown hair was put up into two buns on either side of her head. She was smiling in a somewhat friendly, somewhat dangerous way.
"My team already figured it out, but I hung around since I wanted to know who else would get it," she smirked a little, "So far, you're the only ones who have. And to think you're Grass nin."
Were all Konoha Genin this annoying?
Oh, wait, there was also Shino…he was just disturbing.
"Well," Neji said in a slightly dismissive tone, "you might find that you've underestimated those 'minor villages'. It looks to me like Konoha might be powerful, but its Genin haven't learned the single most important rule of a ninja: to improvise and think on their feet."
"Don't be too overconfident, Grass nin," the girl replied, "Konoha is the most powerful nation in the world for a really good reason."
Naruto could almost see sparks flying between the two.
"Well," Neji said softly, "we'll see just who is better, won't we?"
He walked past her, and looked behind at the others as if to say, 'well?' Naruto shrugged and followed him along with the others. The girl's eyes followed Neji the entire way until they disappeared from her sight. When they were gone, she leaned against the wall and lowered her eyes. The only sound she made was a small sigh.
"That wasn't too bright," Sai commented as they walked up the stairs.
"Shut up," Neji rolled his eyes.
"I think he was trying to impress her," Sakura whispered to Hinata.
"It does seem like it," Hinata whispered back.
Zabuza was not a happy person.
It appeared that it was somewhat customary for the Senseis of all the participants to sit around and complain to one another about what a pain their students were. While Zabuza was more than happy to tell the kids to their faces that they were hellions, deserved to be cut limb from limb, and say all kinds of insulting things about them and their mothers, it seemed kind of stupid to complain about them to a bunch of strangers.
Particularly ones that were all searching for loose tongues to tell them their students' weaknesses.
He was sitting next to a person named Baki, who was a Sand Jounin, and was listening to Asuma, a member of Kinen who Zabuza had been told about, complain about his squad.
"-and there's the way that Sora kid looks at me," he was said, "Honestly, you'd think I was an enemy nin or something!"
"What about you, Honda-san?" Kurenai, a crimson eyed woman who was also in Kinen, asked, "What are your students like?"
Zabuza looked around, but everyone was staring at him, probably because he hadn't said anything yet. Baki was looking at him with a sort of greedy look on his face, and Zabuza was sure what he was thinking or hoping.
"They're the most annoying brats on the face of the earth," Zabuza snarled, "All of them are too powerful for their own good, think they're immortal, and are as manipulative as you can get. I guess that's what you get. They have this weird little partnership that I've never seen before."
"So they won't fight amongst themselves?" Baki asked, "All students have bickering."
"Oh, they fight amongst themselves," Zabuza said, actually all he had ever seen between them was mocking and teasing, "They have this weird unity that only comes out when they're in a life threatening situation."
He was lying through his teeth. It was funny. It didn't benefit him in the slightest to protect them. In fact, he might have made things worse for himself. If they stayed alive, they would always know a lot about who he was and what kinds of attacks he used. Yet, they all reminded him of something that he wasn't sure he wanted to remember. Something that he had suppressed a long time ago and would cause trouble if it was brought to light now.
It was coming of its own accord.
He had seen a group like that once. He had been a member of it. The Seven Swordsmen had had that close unity. They were the only ones who had survived graduation, and they had blocked those memories by becoming as close-knit as possible. The only woman in the troop had once told him that she would never love any of them as lovers because she saw that love as weaker than the bond they shared.
But he had loved her. A long time ago, before the current Mizukage took control.
Somewhere, he had never forgotten that bond. He had been such a fool back then, and had thought that it would last forever. Just like those kids, particularly that one, Haku. In a way, the boy reminded him of himself at that time, only Haku was not as bloodstained. Zabuza had joined when he was thirteen, nothing more than a child drenched in unwanted blood, and there he had found people like him.
Hakumei was the same and yet different. It was composed not of murderers, but of victims. Every single one of them had faced some kind of merciless persecution. They were too free with their stories, and he had guessed what the Jinchuuriki were on sight. It was like looking at a slightly changed reflection.
Maybe…in a way…he didn't want to see them share his fate. It would probably kill Haku. He was too dependent on the others. Sasuke would dedicate his life to getting revenge on the one who did it, and live on as an empty shell. Gaara might just snap the way he seemed to be always threatening to do. Sai would retreat into himself. Kimimaro would throw himself into the next group who would have him. Hinata might actually join Sasuke. Sakura would be broken and embittered. Naruto…that kid would probably always live in the past. Or just continue on, never really trusting anyone.
Did he actually kind of like them?
No, that was impossible. He had lost that feeling on that day.
I'm becoming a sap, Zabuza thought to himself, I've been listening to that Haku brat talk about 'precious people' too long.
"Sounds like a lot of teams," Baki sounded disappointed, "My genin have a tendency to gang up on the youngest girl. It's annoying to hear."
Zabuza nodded absently, his thoughts were a little off, but he had long since learned how to act like he was paying attention.
The door to the room where the Jornin were lounging around opened, and Zabuza turned to face the newcomer.
His eyes widened fractionally.
Naruto opened the door to room number 301. The hall was deserted, which was kind of strange after the crowd on the floor below. For a moment, a vague fear of the room number being wrong came to mind, but one look in the room told him that he was in the right place.
There were foreign ninja everywhere.
Naruto hadn't ever seen so many different hitai-ites in one place in his life. Even some ninja from countries that weren't really fond of Konoha like Rain were there. Iwa, which was now under Konoha's dictate, had made an appearance, but the Genin they had sent were peaky looking.
A bunch of dark glares greeted Hakumei as they appeared, and one person sneered a little bit.
"Oh, great, more weak Genin," he, a Waterfall nin, said to his friends, "This Exam'll be easy."
"…why are you dragging me over here, Ino?" a tired, bored voice asked to Naruto's left.
"Because I want to see the competition," a female voice replied.
Naruto turned towards the voices and almost had a heart attack.
Standing there, looking bored and a little annoyed, was Nara Shikamaru. He didn't look like he had changed a day, other than the uniform that he was wearing. His hair was still tied back in the ponytail, and his face still had that uninterested look. Naruto made sure his face was one that didn't show anything. He had seen just how smart that guy was before.
The girl in the group had long blonde hair that she kept in a high ponytail and what seemed to be pupil-less blue eyes. She was also wearing the uniform, but had tried to make it look as flattering as she could, using her hitai-ite as a belt. She was looking at all of the guys in an appraising way and she seemed to be counting the number of girls. Naruto had a very vague recollection of her, but he couldn't think of her name.
The other boy, who was overweight and seemed to be wearing…underwear…with his hitai-ite on it, was someone that Naruto knew right at the beginning. It was Chouji, another one of the dead lasts that Naruto had used to hang around with. Usually they would sit around in the gym and read manga or complain about school. Chouji had always been eating, and Naruto remembered hearing that he was teased a lot about his weight and was really sensitive about it.
"Wow, Kusa's sending a lot of people this year," Chouji remarked, "You're some of the few who are our age too. This your first Exam?"
That was strange, Naruto thought, Chouji didn't seem that different than he was before. He had been fairly friendly to people, even if he had only hung around Naruto because of convenience. He had never made all that much fun of him.
"Yeah," Kimimaro said, "We all entered together. The three of us waited since we want to get promoted together."
"Really?" Chouji asked. "That's different."
"Well, we grew up together and well...it would be nice to celebrate on the same footing," Gaara told him.
Shikamaru nodded, and Naruto noticed with a queasy feeling in his stomach that he was looking right at him. Naruto prayed that Shikamaru wasn't thinking what Naruto thought he was thinking.
The girl wasn't really listening, she had learned over to Hinata and Sakura, but Naruto could hear the conversation.
"Hey, you two," she hissed, "I have some interrogation for you."
"What?" Hinata asked, looking a little surprised.
"Do hot guys grow on trees in Kusa or what?" she asked, "all I have are Dog-breath, Bug-boy, the-Laziest-Guy-on Earth, Chouji, and…well, them,"
She pointed over to a small trio consisting of two guys and one girl. The only person who really stood out in Naruto's memory was a guy with short, light greenish blueish hair. For some reason when he looked at him, he felt the Kyuubi's seal burn a little. The guy turned around and noticed Naruto looking at him.
He walked over and glared.
"Do you have some sort of problem?" he sneered.
"Not really," Naruto said.
"Then you had better not make eye contact with me unless you want to die," he said, "I'm Sora, the toughest Genin here. I can kill any one of you, and if you look at me like an equal again I'll-"
"HEY GUYS," Naruto yelled for the whole room to hear, "THIS GUY SAYS HE CAN BEAT ALL OF US TOGETHER!"
That caught everyone's attention. The whole room went dead silent as everyone slowly turned around to face Sora. The killer intent could have been cut with a knife and even the arrogant boy backed down a little bit. Naruto grinned at him evilly.
"You're dead in the Exams, loser," Sora hissed as the other Genin began to inch towards him. "I'd sleep with one eye open if I were you."
"Now, now," a soft, polite voice said, "Sora-kun, it's not a good idea to go picking fights with the foreign ninja."
A young man who looked to be around seventeen or eighteen walked into view. He was pale, with white hair, black eyes, and glasses. He was smiling a little, but Naruto had a slight nagging feeling that he was more dangerous than he looked.
Sora made a huffing, sneering sound.
"Who asked you, Kabuto?" he glowered, "This is your eighth time in the Exam right? Kinda pathetic."
The other Genin were slowly advancing but when he retreated they seemed to think better of whatever they were planning. At least, they seemed to decide to save the fate they were planning for a time when he didn't have any friends that could help them.
Kabuto looked at Naruto and smiled a little.
"I'm sorry about him," he said, "Sora is a little...proud. He has been trained personally by Danzou-sama, and has some trouble getting along with people."
Naruto watched his retreating figure and raised an eyebrow in a very Sasuke-ish way.
"I suppose it would be prying to ask what the Godaime Hokage sees in that guy," Naruto said.
"I don't really know myself," Kabuto told him, "there are plenty of rumors, but I don't know what's true and what's not."
Naruto knew that even if Kabuto did know something, he wasn't going to tell. However, the fact that he was being friendly was kind of strange. He was probably trying to make Naruto feel comfortable. Well, this was one of the better plans.
"Kusa's sending in a tremendous amount of Genin this year isn't it?" Kabuto asked, "Not only you and your friends, but the other team that came a few weeks before."
Naruto's ears pricked up. This was interesting. He had been told that the communication had stopped. There shouldn't have been another team.
"Really, where are they?" Naruto asked, "We didn't get to see the other Genin too much since most of them were older, and our sensei hates socializing."
"Ah, so you're not really familiar with the other Genin?" Kabuto asked curiously.
"Nah, I guess we're as antisocial as our sensei," Naruto laughed, but felt a little uneasy. He felt like the answer was very important. There was a slight feeling of tension in the air, but as Naruto spoke he felt the pressure disappearing.
"That makes sense," Kabuto nodded, "I'm sorry if I sound inquisitive, but while we are taught about the tactics of our neighbors, we don't learn too much about their society."
"Hey, Taiki," Sai called, "Chouji here says that he can eat thirty bowls of ramen in one shot."
Naruto turned around, while he was at twenty-six, he knew who the undisputed champ really was.
Naruto grinned, "Alright, then tell him to go up against Rei."
Hinata smiled a little at that. Everyone knew that she could eat an amazing amount of food. She had won the first and only eating contest that Hakumei had ever had.
By a landslide.
Chouji looked over at Hinata, who was a very dainty looking girl really and narrowed his eyes.
"I now have no trust in appearances anymore," was all he said.
Hinata giggled, "The guys were pretty surprised when I managed thirty-five and Taiki almost managed twenty-seven. I did feel a little sick after that though..."
The blonde girl stared at Hinata with an open mouth, "I'm not sure if I'm jealous or just shocked."
"It was really weird," Sakura shrugged, "So, you're..."
"Oh," the girl slapped her forehead, "I'm so rude, I'm Yamanaka Ino, this is Nara Shikamaru and Akimichi Chouji. We're Team Eight. It's really nice to meet you."
"I'm Emi," Sakura said with a bright, winning smile, "This is Taiki, Masaru, Rei, Ryou, Shinta, Haru, Yuuma and Hideaki. It's great to meet you."
There were some polite mutterings, but the real interesting introduction was Sai.
"It's very nice to meet you, Miss Gorgeous," Sai said, for the first time in his life giving someone a flattering nickname.
"Dattebayo," Naruto said, with very wide eyes. Sai had actually said that? Seriously? And Ino was blushing?
Sakura (Hag) and Hinata (Boring) both began to sneak up on him, probably to do some horrible deed that would haunt Sai at night for the next couple years.
Whatever they were going to do was interrupted by a very load voice.
"Alright, you brats, shut up," the voice was very harsh and something about it sent a shiver up Naruto's spine, "The first Exam begins now!"
Naruto turned to see tall man with a long coat and a bandanna over his head. He was very tan and his eyes were very hard and something about him radiated a sinister power that made everyone, even the more violent of the Genin stop what they were doing and listen.
"My name is Ibiki, and that's all you need to know about me other than that I'm going to be your head examiner during this Exam. If you manage to pass this test, then you get to go under the power of another Jounin. They might be nice...but I doubt it. Since all of you are taking this Exam, it means one thing: for one reason or another, your Sensei thinks you've got what it takes to be a Chunnin. Well, we're going to see about that. All of you follow me into the next room and take a seat with someone who isn't your teammate, friend, or lover. You heard me."
Naruto noticed for the first time that there was another exit from the room the one that he had entered through. Jiraiya would have killed him for not noticing it. Then again, it was kind of hard to see anything with the crowd. He filed through the double doors with the rest of the students. The next room was big, with a lot of individual desks and seats that faced the desks all around the windows. Naruto sat close to the front. He was joined by Shikamaru.
"So...how ya doing...Naruto?" he asked in a very quiet voice.
"Eh?" Naruto asked, trying to look innocent.
"Troublesome," Shikamaru sighed, "Come on, you know me from when we were kids, Naruto...do I have to ask again...it's a real drag..."
"Look, I don't know-"
Shikamaru rolled his eyes.
"You're the only guy with whiskers and you're the only human being who uses the word 'dattebayo'," he said, "Just give it up..."
Naruto knew there was no way around this.
"Just act like you made a mistake; I'll tell you what I'm doing here later,"
"I think I know what you're doing here. I just want to tell you that you can trust Chouji, Ino, and I," Shikamaru's tone, never lost his bored edge. It was perfect. No one would listen in, "Memory is never completely forgotten."
That was one of the ways that some members of Kinen distinguished themselves.
"And old wrongs are always remembered," Naruto nodded.
"Yeah," Shikamaru said, a little louder, "I thought that all villages had similar structures, it would be kind of weird otherwise."
Naruto nodded, as if they had been talking about his the entire time, "Yeah, some things stay the same I guess."
"Alright, maggots," Ibiki said, sneering at all of them. He had taken a place at the front of the room and the large blackboard that stood there. "I'm going to explain the rules one time, so listen up. You're going to be handed one sheet of paper with nine questions on it. You have to answer them. If you get more than three wrong, you fail. If you get caught cheating more than three times, your team fails. To make sure you don't cheat, the chairs that you see will be filled with Chuunin. You have one hour."
One of the many Chuunin who were now filing through two doors on either side of the blackboard had a large stack of papers that Naruto assumed were the tests. He was ready to hit his head on the desk repeatedly now. Naruto reeked at written tests. It just seemed to be some kind of mental block he had. Even if he did nothing but study, the second that he looked at the test, Naruto's mind would go completely blank. He hadn't even had any chance to study for this either.
This was not looking good.
The paper was set in front of Naruto, and he flipped it over, hoping that it was something that he would be able to know. He had no such luck.
Perhaps Sakura, who was really smart, or Gaara, who had a weird way of figuring things out, would have been able to do it without a problem, but there was no way that he could.
Out of the corner of his eye, Naruto noticed that Shikamaru was leaning over the paper, scribbling fast. If only he would move his arm, just a little tiny bit...but then the Chuunin would probably notice that he was looking. That was kind of strange...
After all, cheating was usually a huge deal, why was it that you had to get caught three times before you were thrown out? It almost sounded like...they wanted him to cheat. Of course, they weren't testing them on the test; they were testing them on how they could get information without getting caught.
That made so much more sense, but there was one problem. Tsunade had never trained him much on information gathering. That had never been his specialization. He was supposed to just make a Kage Bunshin and sneak into where ever he needed, but...now he would be noticed.
Naruto fought the urge to hit his head on the desk.
He was in deep kimchi.
Sakura was having no trouble at all with her answers; all of them were difficult, but not impossible. The real problem she was having was that her ink kept on disappearing. For a while she hadn't noticed, but by the time, she was half way done, she began to see the ink fading on the top of her page, other than her name.
After a brief moment of panic, she noticed the ink that she was writing with and almost gave a sigh of relief.
Sai was a sneaky little twit, but she was glad it was him.
He had apparently switched everyone's ink with some of his ninja ink. Vaguely, Sakura wondered just what had inspired his foresight. At any rate, her answers were being absorbed and would reappear once he was done copying them.
That was fine with her...
Sasuke took roughly three minutes to figure out what he needed to do, but how to do it... If anyone noticed what he was doing, they might recognize it. That would cause a lot of unwanted questions. Any attempt to make his eyes unseen would really bring attention to him. Activating the Sharingan might be the best way to cheat, but it had some real problems with it.
Recognition being the most notable.
Slowly he looked around, trying to see where the others were. They were all scattered around, and for the first time, he noticed that he was sitting next to Shino of all people. The chair next to him was empty and no one else seemed to be looking his way. Shino turned his head away from Sasuke, and seemed to be far more interested in his questions.
Well, he wasn't looking...
Carefully, keeping his head down so that there was a shadow over his eyes that looked like he was looking down at his test, Sasuke activated the Sharingan. The effect was immediate. It was like someone was putting strings on his hand. He was writing down the answers without hesitation.
If all the exams were like this, this was going to be a piece of cake.
Hinata was more worried for Naruto more than for herself.
With the Tenshi Byakugan active under the Genjustu, she could see everything around her without a problem, including Naruto's worried face. She was sure that he had figured out what he needed to do, but his powers were'nt specified for anything like this. Making Kage Bunshin made a lot of noise, and they always appeared right next to him. There was no way he could just summon one right in the middle of the Exam.
What was he going to do?
Hinata knew that Naruto wasn't perfect, and that he had limits. There were things even he couldn't do. He had brought a strange miracle into her life, in the form of her being able to become the strong Kunoichi that she had always wanted to be, but could he do this?
She noticed Sai smile a little bit as two flies flew out from his paper and almost sighed in relief. The things that Naruto couldn't do, he had friends to help with.
Neji was not having as easy a time as his cousin.
Activating the normal Byakugan was painfully obvious. After all there were huge veins that came out of his head. There had to be a way to cheat without having to face that problem. Neji stared at his paper, and frowned at the over obvious Chakra signature from someone close by him. Honestly, the way that some people cheated, he could practically see the words he was writing...wait...
Neji had trained himself to not only use the Byakugan but to be able to sense people's Chakra and what it was doing even with it closed. While Neji couldn't see just what was being written, he could sense the movements of the hands. That might be enough.
Closing his eyes, Neji felt for the over-worked Chakra signature he had felt before. It seemed to come from the person who had tried to pick a fight with Naruto, Sora. Well, this guy did have a great deal of Chakra, and it felt strangely similar to Naruto's. Perhaps they were somehow related. He had acted a lot like Naruto had before he had met them; randomly shouting things out without thinking about the consequences.
Slowly and very carefully, Neji began to write without depending on the Byakugan and became, to him, a true genius.
After all, what genius is dependent on anything but his own mind?
Gaara was debating with himself on how best to use his sand to cheat, and trying to ignore 'Sandy Wandy's' screams about killing, blood, total annihilation, and sugar. Gaara feared to eat anything sweet with that thing in his head.
He couldn't think of a single way that he could use his sand to gain this kind of information that didn't involve his using his sand to move around and look. That was a very obvious technique, and one that would deduct him at least two points just because.
One of the Sand nin, Gaara realized it was his brother, Kankuro, raised his hand.
"Um, Mr. Protractor, I have to go to the bathroom," he said.
There were some snickers in the class at the word 'Protractor', and the fact that he had to go.
"Couldn't hold the fact that he's about to wet his pants in any longer," Someone, Gaara couldn't tell who, sneered, "and he can't even say Proctor."
Kankuro rolled his eyes, but he didn't say anything in reply.
"Alright, alright," Ibiki snarled, looking over at a Chuunin, "You, take him to the bathroom and keep an eye on him."
Gaara suddenly had a very interesting idea. If he could get just a little sand on him, it could settle on the paper of his brother, who was obviously using a puppet to help him, and could absorb a little of the ink. That way, it could just settle on his paper in the same position, and stick there, with the results on them.
Gaara smiled a little, ignoring the howls of fury in his head. Apparently, Sandy Wandy had wanted him to fail. Well, it looked like Sandy Wandy was going to face another disappointment in a long line of disappointments.
Maybe he shouldn't get his hopes up so often...
Kimimaro was not pleased. He had figured out what he needed to do fairly quickly, but still, what was he going to do about it. His Kekkei Genkai wasn't really made for this kind of thing, and he had spent almost all his time learning how to use it, and not really focusing on much else.
Someone must hate him.
Kimimaro was going to have to improvise and do it fast.
There had to be some way that he could do this. Hinata and Neji could use the Byakugan for spying by just looking at the papers. Sasuke could copy the motions. Wait a second...why couldn't he try that?
After all, the human body was made up of bones, and why would he be limited to only his own bone structure? He had even managed to manipulate his bones outside of his body once, so maybe...just maybe, he could make his bones copy the movements of the bones of people around him... At any rate it was worth a shot.
Kimimaro didn't bother to close his eyes; he focused on the back of the person in front of him, a red haired girl whose hitei-ite he hadn't managed to get a good look at, and attempted to feel what her bones were doing.
There was a weak, very weak, feeling of the motion, and Kimimaro increased his attention. She was writing, Kimimaro could tell because of the periodic motions of her hand bones. This just might work...
Carefully, copying the placement and motion of her hands, Kimimaro began to write himself. The things that came out of the writing looked like they were probably answers. They were a little shaky, but Kimimaro supposed that that could be mistaken for nerves.
He had done it!
Haku was working with a very, very complicated system of ice mirrors that had to be set in just the right places to reflect a paper with the answers on them. It was a very complex way to do things, but it was working. The problem was that he had to know how to adjust the mirrors just right. They were all in small inconspicuous parts of the room, and they were all being carefully manipulated so that they reflected the next mirror perfectly. As carefully as he could, Haku was freezing water in the air and making it aim for Sakura's paper.
Finally, he caught the reflection that he wanted and smiled, just a little.
This Exam was easier than he thought it would have been.
Naruto was almost about to die from horror. He had no idea what to do, and no skill that would help him. Also, there was a fly buzzing around his head and if he swatted at it, he would probably be marked off for an absolutely terrible attempt at cheating.
The thing even had the audacity to land on his paper and start rubbing its hands together.
It was mocking him!
Naruto's eye twitched.
The stupid little thing began to walk up the paper to where he should have written something and stopped. Then it turned around until it was facing him, and Naruto almost attacked it with a cry of rage. Blast it, he was going to fail a stupid little written test and that bug had to smirk at him about it. There was just something wrong with the whole thing.
At that point, Naruto noticed that it was sinking into his paper to be replaced by words...in his handwriting.
Naruto almost would have been willing to take back every mean thing that he had ever said about him, other than the fact that they were still all true. Naruto breathed a sigh of relief as all the other bugs began to fly in. Of course, he had forgotten one of the concepts that Tsunade had drilled mercilessly into them in his panic.
It was standard Hakumei practice; know your teammate's weakness and cover for them. Everyone has at least one, and in a group that big, at least one of them would always have a strength in the same area. Naruto wasn't going to be able to create a Kage Bunshin to gather information right under Ibiki's nose, and everyone knew that. Therefore, Sai, who had the best information gathering skill for that situation had helped out. Hakumei was what the teams were really supposed to be; only most of them somehow had gotten caught up in stupid little rivalries to ever work together.
Naruto watched the answers appear, but still felt a little disappointed. He would have liked to have been able to do it on his own, but he shook the feeling off as fast as he could. This wasn't the time for feeling sorry for himself like that. He had other areas where he was better than Sai, and it was stupid to try to be prefect at everything. Even the Hokage had to have people around him who were supposed to help him.
"Yo, maggots," the grating voice of Ibiki cut through the classroom, "put down your pens. If you didn't get the answers by now, you're never going to get them."
There was a shuffling as pencils and pens were put away and mutterings were heard.
"Alright, worms, guess what?" Ibiki asked, not waiting for an answer, "I'm not in a great mood today, so the tenth question is going to have a twist. It's going to be passed out, and if you fail to answer it, not only do you and your team all fail the Exam, but you'll all be forbidden to ever enter another Exam as long as you live."
Omake: Ino's Cheating Method
Ino scanned the room for likely victims of her Jutsu. The pink haired Grass girl looked like good choice; she hadn't even looked up and started writing from the beginning. The Blond Grass guy was cute, but it didn't look like he knew what strategy he was going to use yet. Shikamaru was probably asleep on his desk.
There was a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye, and she noticed the red haired Grass guy writing away. He was in a better position than Emi, the pink haired girl, and that was everything. He was a little more out of the Chuunin's direct line of vision, and Ino didn't want any hints to what she was doing.
Placing her hands in the position that her father had told her, she whispered the name in a breath, and felt the pull that accompanied it.
The guy's mind was a nightmare. There was a very hysterical voice screaming about blood, death, destruction, world catastrophe and...Sugar? Then there was the strangest and most uncomfortable feeling that she would ever feel in her life.
Something was gnawing on his mind!
Immediately, Ino withdrew and suppressed a shudder. That guy was either an absolute homicidal maniac, or he had the world's best defense over his mind.
At any rate, Ino was going to attempt possessing someone else in hopes of more normalcy...maybe Emi would be a better choice...or maybe that blond kid, he seemed ok...
On second thought, Ino decided to take her chances with her partner...
Mudslinging: Even if Konoha is a superpower, I don't think that the foreign ninja would be forbidden from a few insults. It seems like a natural part of competing in these things.
Tenten: So, how was she? She's a really minor character, so I don't have too much to work with, and I'm trying to make her a little more deep. She's really having some trouble, as you'll see in later chapters.
Teammates: I'm being a little lazy as you can see. I didn't really want to give a bunch of names and faces to completely unimportant characters that will probably get killed or just never feature much. Yumi was a bit of an exception, but I totally hate putting OCs into fanfiction. They always end up being too important...and it really annoys me when people give Western names to Naruto OCs.
Kabuto: Ok, the manga kind of annoyed me as far as he was concerned. During part 1, he seemed to be a really interesting antagonist and even had the potential of being a protagonist. This kind of character really, really interests me. But during the later chapters, he kind of lost the more interesting aspects of his personality. I'm going to try to do him some justice, and even explain some aspects of him.
Sora: Yes, this is Sora from the filler, and yes, I know that Sora should have been less emotional, but Danzou had less time to work on him than even on the other academy students. After all, he had to get the kid, make him trust him, and then start to train him, so right now, he's simply fanatically loyal to Danzou. I apologize to any Sora fans who exist. I really need someone to be an antagonist for Naruto, and he's the best choice out there.
The Exam: I've seen some people who have changed this test, and some people who haven't. I didn't simply because I didn't see a reason to. Ibiki's test is really stressful enough. Also, how were my cheating methods? I tried to be somewhat logical with this.
Kimchi: A dish of fermented vegetables. People would bury the veggies and spices for roughly ten years (maybe longer) at about twenty feet deep, and then dig them up for serving to people. The results are very...potent.
Cheating: I know I was a little short, but most of their methods didn't need too much description. Also, I know that some of you may be slightly disappointed about Naruto, but I really don't see why, as his powers are really made for something like what Ibiki had placed him into, and none of the ideas that I had really fit as well as this one. I still want him to struggle, and even sometimes to fail. Since for one thing, a hero who never fails is really boring, and for another, Naruto is a bit of a loner naturally, and I think it's good for him to have to depend on others.
Random note: I have a new blog. If you actually care about my rantings and some occasional hints to future things in Hakumei check it out. It's only got two posts right now though, so don't expect too much.
Thanks for reading!