" You've all done exceptionally well getting this far." said the Hokage, puffing on his trademark pipe. The twenty one genin that had passed were assembled in the arena for the third exam. " You all possess great skill and determination, two things that will serve you well as a ninja."

" But, up until now, you have always had your teammates to help you. In this exam, you will fight one on one with an opponent. Teamwork, the ability to become more powerful with your allies, is the most critical ability for a ninja, but you often are forced to fight alone in the real world. Only the ten victors of this round go on to the final."

" That's less than half! And someone has to fight twice!" exclaimed Sakura, counting quickly. There were twenty one genin.

" Correct. Think of this as a war and they are the casualties." said the Hokage with a smirk. " The matches will be decided by computer…" he pointed to a black display board above, which lit up and names began to whir. " Good luck."

After several tense seconds, it stopped on Kabuto and Temari.

" I wanted to be first." said Lee, sounding disappointed.

" Me too." sighed Naruto.

" Everyone else, go to the balconies." said the new examiner, Hayate. The unselected went up the stairs as Temari confidently leaned on the large fan.

" Looks like I'm going to lose again." sighed Kabuto, adjusting his glasses.

" Really? That unconfident in yourself?" asked Temari with a smirk.

" No, more like I know your abilities from my info cards and know I can't win." said Kabuto, drawing one orange backed card. " Temari of the Sand. Daughter of the Kazekage, wields a fan made by the legendary Chiyo. Uses it for long range wind techniques and as short range club."

" That's some pretty good information there." said Temari, unfurling the fan fully. " Looks like I don't get to play with you before winning."

" I don't have a chance." said Kabuto with a sigh. " I'm a short range fighter and not a very good one. My focus is on medical jutsu. My only real chance was to go against someone weak."

" Your giving up? Figures." said Temari, sounding disappointed.

" Not yet." said Kabuto, hurling the card like a shuriken. Temari swung her fan, knocking it from the air. Kabuto began to run forward to close range, but Temari blasted him back into the wall with a powerful jutsu.

" Kabuto!" cried Naruto from above. He liked the guy, and didn't want to see him go down like that. " Are you alright?"

" M-mostly." said the genin, falling to his knees. " Looks like I was right. Sorry, but I forfeit."

" What?" shouted Naruto, mouth agape. " Don't give up! You got this far! You just started fighting!"

" I can't go any farther." sighed the boy, getting to his feet. " This is the worst possible type of opponent for me. I'm just going to get beat up, so I might as well stop."

" Winner, Temari." said Hayate, signaling the fight was over. The blonde kunochi shut the fan and gave a smug harumph before rejoining her brothers. Kabuto walked to the door, then turned and looked at the other leaf genin. " Good luck." he said, giving them a thumbs up.

" Thanks!" shouted Naruto, waving.

" Yosh!" said Lee as the board began to light up. " This is surely my turn!"

" Sasuke and Tenten!" read the examiner before coughing. Lee sighed, slumping dejectedly.

" Go Sasuke-kun!" cheered Ino and Sakura as the dark haired boy walked down the stairs.

" Hiya, pretty boy." said Tenten, summoning a kunai.

" Hn." said Sasuke coolly, facing her with his hands still in his pockets.

" So, you don't seem to interested in pinky and the pig up there." said Tenten glancing to Sakura and Ino, who began to yell out death threats. " What happened, did you lose 'them' on a mission or something? Or you just looking for someone hotter?" she said, winking at him.

" Hands off my Sasuke-kun!' shouted Sakura. Kakashi was having to hold onto her to keep her from leaping into the arena.

"…." Sasuke made no noise, continuing to stare at her emotionlessly.

" Begin the match!" announced Hayate

" Well, sorry pretty boy, but I'm probably going to mess up your face." said Tenten smugly, beginning to throw weapons. Sasuke activated his Sharingan and lazily began to deflect them with a kunai.

" I can see every weapons trajectory." said Sasuke, sounding relaxed. " I know where they will be, when they will be there, and how to avoid them. You'll need to do better than that."

Tenten scowled, then summoned a large two handed broadsword and raced forward. She swung towards Sasuke's neck, but he simply rolled his head to the side and dodged it hit. He leapt over the next swipe, landing behind Tenten.

" With my Sharingan I can predict everything you are going to do." he said as she turned around. " You're a weapon user who focuses on picking enemies off while her teammates engage them. You're a powerful individual, but a bad match for my eyes."

"Sharingan aren't flawless." said Tenten, throwing the sword, prompting Sasuke to step to the side to avoid it. She took out her scroll and unrolled it. " You are still limited by your bodies speed. Lets see how much you can handle."

Tenten swiped a bloody thumb across several seals and there was a blast of smoke. Before it dissipated a literal storm of shuriken flew out, arcing towards Sasuke. He finally got serious, gracefully dodging though them. Tenten raced out, holding what looked like an ocean mine, and threw it at Sasuke. He dodged, spotting the explosive tag on the back. It exploded a moment later, ending a number of spikes though the air. As he dodged Tenten tossed a pair of kunai. Sasuke deflected them with his kunai as he moved though an opening in the hail of needles to safety.

" Sasuke-kun is amazing!" cheered Sakura. No matter how many weapons Tenten threw or what weapons, the Uchiha dodged, circling around her as the floor became littered with blades of all types. Sasuke landed a short distance from Tenten, who was beginning to look frustrated.

" No way I'm losing to some rookie like you." she said angrily, throwing both scrolls into the air so that they unfurled.

" She's using 'it'?" said Lee in alarm. Naruto watched closely. If Lee's surprised, thought Naruto, it's probably her big attack. I better figure it out, just in case.

Tenten leapt into the air to the height the scrolls had stopped at, seeming to hang in the air. Two pillars of smoke rose from the bottom of the scrolls, circling around the scrolls and Tenten as they took on the shape of dragons. Weapons began to summon and fly up to Tenten's hands and she hurled the weapons even faster than before, raining down blades upon Sasuke.

However, Sasuke's eyes didn't fail him. He dodged and avoided the attacks at full speed, pressed by the attack. For nearly a minute countless weapons embedded themselves in the floor until it became nearly impossible to walk. Tenten's jutsu ended and she landed gracefully, despite the fact she was puffing hard from exertion.

" Damn…you avoided all that?" she asked, standing up. The now blank scrolls landed by her, discarded since every one of her weapons were now out. Tenten suddenly waved her arm and a katana sprung from the ground behind Sasuke, whirling at him. He barely ducked as Tenten began to twitch her fingers, kunai and shuriken rising from the ground and launching themselves at Sasuke.

" What the hell is going on?" demanded Sakura. " How is she doing that?"

" Chakra strings." said Kakashi, watching closely.

" Chakra whats?" asked Naruto.

" Tiny lines of chakra going from her fingers to the weapons." Kakashi replied as Sasuke deflected several shuriken. " It lets her reuse weapons she already threw. it's a good move."

" Wow." said Sakura, watching Tenten's fingers move. Even the taijutsu types have more chakra techniques than I do. I didn't realize I was this weak.

" Why can't I hit you?" Tenten shouted as Sasuke rolled between two katanas that that tried to catch him in a pincer movement.

" My Sharingan sees everything." said Sasuke, leaping towards her. She directly grabbed a sword and charged, swinging wildly. " I can see the chakra you attach to the weapons, so I know where the attack will come from." he said calmly, parrying with a kunai. " I can see how you move your fingers and decode the attack pattern. I can even see the taijutsu form you are using against me and learn it's weaknesses and strengths instantly."

Tenten gasped as he disarmed her, then caught her by the throat with his empty hand. With his other arm he held his kunai to her neck, signaling he had beaten her.

" Sasuke wins." announced Hayate.

" Sasuke-kun is the best!" cheered Sakura as Sasuke released Tenten, who growled angrily as she began to collect her weapons.

" I can't believe she lost." said Lee, eyes wide.

" The Uchiha is going to be tough." said Dosu. " My techniques might work, but I'd rather not face him at close range. You'd be the better match."

" Yeah." said Zaku, flexing his arms. " One shot at full power and he's down. Even with those eyes, he couldn't dodge that."

" He'll be fun." said Temari, smirking. Sasuke looked up to her as he walked up the stairs and nodded. " Ooh, and he wants to fight too. Finally." she said with a sigh. Gaara usually kills the good ones, so maybe….just once I get to beat up someone worthwhile.

" All right! It better be my turn!" Naruto yelled as the scoreboard began. An angry Tenten paced past them towards her teammates while an obviously elated (though he tried to hide it) Sasuke took position by the loud blonde and worried looking Sakura.

" Neji Hyuuga against Hinata Hyuuga!" announced Hayate as the board stopped.

" Crap." muttered Kiba. He turned to Hinata, who seemed to be shrinking in fear. " Drop out. I don't want to see you get beat up."

" Aw, come on. Hinata didn't come this far just to quit!" said Naruto loudly, looking towards the diminutive girl. " Kick his ass, Hinata!"

He believes in me! thought Hinata, sprits soaring. Naruto-kun believes in me!

" I will!" she said to Naruto without stuttering. She ran down the stairs as Neji walked towards them coolly.

" Hey." said Kiba, grabbing his shoulder. Neji turned to look at him. " Don't…don't hurt her too badly." Without a reply Neji tugged away and continued down. Kiba looked worried and Shino began to pace.

" What's going on?" asked Naruto, confused.

" Neji's much stronger than Hinata." said Kiba, peering down to where the two Hyuuga were preparing to fight. " And he hates her a lot."

" He hates Hinata?" asked Sakura, who had been listening.

" Her families in charge of his." said Kiba with a nod. " Sometimes she comes to practice beat up because her father made her fight him. She won't say anything about it, but Shino found out what was going on with some bugs."

" I did not expect to fight you, Hinata-sama." said Neji with a bow as he faced her. " It would be best if you quit."

"I-I won't." said the pale eyed girl, arms held in their usual tapping position.

" You are holding your arms in such a way to create a barrier between us." said Neji, sounding annoyed. " And I can see fear in your eyes. You know you are a weak failure and have no chance."

" Don't call her a failure!" shouted Naruto. He didn't really know Hinata, but he hated people calling people failures. The teachers, Sasuke-teme…why does everyone say that about people?

He…he doesn't think I'm a failure? thought Hinata, looking to Naruto in amazement. Naruto-kun…thank you! Hinata took a combat pose, prompting Neji to do the same.

" Begin!" shouted Hayate.

Instantly the two activated their Byakugan and raced at each other. Neji made the first move, jabbing forward. Hinata deflected the attack with a slap, dissipating the chakra before countering. They began to test each other, looking for new weaknesses. Neji had a number of small burns from Sasuke's fire jutsu that were slowing his right arm, while Hinata was virtually unharmed.

" What are they doing?" asked Naruto, watching the slap fight.

" You see that chakra?" said Sasuke, pointing to the energy that released when the attacks were deflected. " That's from their clans jutsu, Jyuuken. It drives a blade of chakra into you, cutting your internal organs."

" Why not just use punches?" asked Naruto.

" You can't train your insides to get stronger." said Kakashi in his bored tone. " It's a lot easier to cut someone's heart apart then beat them to death."

" They're trying to kill each other?" said Naruto in alarm.

" No. They can also shut the points of your body that chakra moves though, preventing the use of jutsu. Whichever one shuts the others points first wins." continued Kakashi. " It's more like a fight between their families houses."

Below, Hinata was though testing Neji's defenses. Making her first move, she drove forward a feint, making Neji block and opening him to a Jyuuken jab into his shoulder, shutting one chakra point. However, Hinata realized she had left a opening as she did this and he pressed forward, shutting ten of hers in rapid succession. She fell back, trying to defend herself as the onslaught continued.

" Crap." said Kiba with a sigh. " Once Neji starts hitting, he doesn't stop. She's not going to be able to defend."

" Really?" asked Naruto, watching. Hinata was being forced backwards, managing to block less and less as the attacks got though. " Hey Hinata!" yelled Naruto. " If he's gonna hit you anyways, don't try to defend! Kick his ass!"


" Did…she…" said Sakura, blinking.

" She did." said Kurenai, stifling a giggle.

Hinata, at Naruto suggestion, had completely abandoned defense, getting stuck several times but catching Neji off guard. She had rolled past him and come up in with a vicious boot to the butt. Neji stumbled forward, as he could never have been prepared for such a move. There weren't any vital spots in the posterior, so the Hyuuga usually ignored it in combat.

Thank you Naruto-kun! thought Hinata, rolling to her feet and lunging. As Neji turned she hit the center of the back of his spine where the most vital chakra point was, cutting his flow down dramatically. Since he is better at our clans techniques, I won't use them! What would Naruto-kun do next? She focused for a instant, drawing inspiration from the blondes unpredictability.


Neji had reentered his form when Hinata jabbed forward with both arms. He had caught her hands, but then she had head butted him with full force. His head snapped back for a second, stars dancing in his vision.


" Yosh." whispered Lee with a hidden arm pump as Neji went still, Byakugan nearly popping out of their sockets. Hinata had made her final move, bringing her knee up into Neji's crotch. Hinata gave him a tiny push and he fell over, still locked in position. Feeling triumphant, Hinata looked up.

Every male, Hokage included, had backed away one step.

" Hinata wins." said Hayate quickly, waving to the medics. They rushed over and put Neji on a stretcher, carrying him off the recovery ward. Sore and blushing from her finishing attack, she walked up the stairs to where the other Leaf genin were standing.

" Way to go!" cheered Ino.

" Good move." said Sakura with a smirk. Hinata blushed deeper.

" Hinata!" said Lee loudly, appearing by her. " I wish to congratulate you on your defeat of Neji! The fires of your youth burn most powerfully!"

" Thank you, Lee." said Hinata with a small smile.

" Yeah!" said Naruto with a wide smile, slapping her on the back. " He's gonna feel that ….." Naruto trailed off as Hinata went rigid, face blushing a intense pink. " Sorry, did I do it too hard?" he asked, pulling his hand back. Hinata let out a little happy squeal before melting and falling to the ground.

" Dude!" said Kiba catching her. " What did you do?"

" I don't know!" said Naruto in a panic. Everyone was eyeing him evilly.

" Isn't it obvious?" sighed Sasuke. Everyone turned to him. " She blushes anytime Naruto's near. She stutters more when talking to him."

" What does that have to do with this?" said Ino, confused.

" Here." sighed Sasuke. " I'll show you." Sasuke stepped once pace to the side so that he was nearly face to face with Sakura.

"S-Sasuke-k-kun!" said Sakura, face turning a shade that matched her hair.

" All girls do that when a boy they like is nearby." said Sasuke, moving back to his spot he watched the matches from. Everyone else was suddenly floored by the revelation.

" And what does that have to do with anything?" asked Naruto, not getting it.

" Naruto?" said Sakura, eye twitching.

" She likes Naruto?" said Kiba in disbelief. Nobody could see because he had turned away, but tears were streaming down Shino's cheeks.

" She what?" said Naruto.

" She...likes you." said Sakura, the thought still processing. " As in she'd like to date you?"

" Why?" asked Naruto, scratching the back of his head.

" Are they for real?" said Temari, sweat dropping as the soap opera unfolded across the chamber from her.

" I'll be back." said Kankuro, walking away from his brother and sister.

" Where are you going?" asked Temari.

" To do some reconnaissance." said Kankuro with a smile.

" But we've never even talked or anything!" said Naruto defensively. He was as shocked as the rest of them. Kurenai had moved the motionless Hinata to the side, grimacing. The girl was impossibly shy, so when she awoke and found out what had happened, she'd most likely faint again from embarrassment. She smiled as she looked down at her student, however. She's come a long way.

" Hey." said Kankuro, walking up. " What's going on?"

" Apparently the baka here has a girlfriend." said Sakura, looking to Naruto.

" Good going." said Kankuro, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. These guy's are morons! Why are they talking about this now?

" But I don't even know her!" whined Naruto.

" For the COUGH fifteenth COUGH time, Naruto and Shino, get down here!" shouted Hayate.

" Oh yeah!" said Naruto, leaping from the balcony to the ground below. Crap…I came to talk with him. He seems like the dumbest, so it'd be easiest to get information from him. thought Kankuro, leaning against the wall.

" Hit him a few times for me." Kiba whispered to Shino. Shino nodded before disappearing in a cloud of bugs.

" Finally!" said Naruto, stretching his right arm behind his head as Shino appeared in the arena. " I've been looking forwards to showing off how awesome I've gotten to everyone!"

" I am going to beat you most heinously." said Shino in a deadpan voice.

" Woah. He's pissed." said Shikamaru. " Naruto's in trouble."

" Yeah." said Kiba with a laugh. " All Naruto has is chakra, which is useless against Shino."

" Begin the match!" said Hayate. Naruto, not needing a second command, created a group of shadow clones which charged. Shino, not feeling like holding back, released a full swarm of his bugs which flew as a cloud, enveloping the clones and draining their reserves quickly.

" What the hell?" said Naruto as the bugs devoured the clones.

" My insects eat chakra." said Shino, walking forward and cracking his knuckles. " Your clone technique is useless against me."

" Yeah right!" said Naruto, jamming the jutsu together again. Forty more clones appeared and charged, getting caught in the haze.

" That's a lot of shadow clones." said Kankuro, whistling.

" That's only a fraction of what he can produce." said Lee, walking over to the puppet user. I can get a feel for this ugly guy's personality now, which will be useful if I have to fight him later. he schemed.

" Really?" replied Kankuro. I can use this freak for my recon. he thought, smiling as the strange looking ninja took a spot on the wall by him.

Below, Naruto growled as more clones were consumed by the ravenous bugs.

" They will never be sated." said Shino, slowly advancing on the real Naruto as the bugs whirled around him like a evil cloud. " No matter how many clones you make, they will eat them."

" I'll believe that when I see it!" shouted Naruto.

Everyone gasped as they felt the chakra pull into the jutsu. No way he can do that! thought Kurenai, watching the cloud begin to form. Hinata picked a hell of a boyfriend. Stamina like that…. She blushed slightly at her thought.

" This will be troublesome." said Shikamaru as clones began to pour forth. The kikai bugs began to feast and destroy them, but they just continued to appear, quickly filling the arena. Hayate and the Hokage leapt onto the stature for safety as Shino sank beneath the clones, struggling to get to the surface.

" Shit." said Kiba flatly. Akamaru barked something equally rude, but nobody understood it.

" How they hell can he do that?" Temari's jaw was agape as Gaara looked on excitedly. He…mother, this one is worth killing. thought the half crazed demon host, feeling his bloodlust rise.

There was a explosion from below the clones, destroying a number of them. Shino struggled into the void as the clones collapsed inwards, the bugs pouring into the hole first. More kikai began to pour from him, creating a black wall. Every clone that came in contact with it was instantly consumed and their numbers rapidly diminished. However, the real Naruto burst through, landing in the center of the chaos.

" Man…those things are like Choji!" said Naruto, picking one out of his hair and flicking it away. Outside of the black wall the clones continued their hopeless but constant assault.

" You forced me to use my entire hive." said Shino, facing Naruto. " I've never had to do that before."

" I've never had to use all my chakra in one jutsu before either." said Naruto with a broad grin.

" You are an impressive individual, Naruto." said Shino. " You could make Hokage with abilities like that."

" Damn rig…"

" If you weren't a incompetent, half witted joke of a shinobi." said Shino, a hint of rage in his voice. He was still ticked about Hinata bestowing her favor on Naruto instead of him. " Without your chakra you are nothing, since you have poor taijutsu and no planning abilities. I'm going to enjoy ruining you."

" Same here!" snarled Naruto, lunging forward and punching at Shino. Shino blocked with his arm, quickly spinning and driving a elbow into Naruto's stomach. He spun, hefting Naruto over his shoulder and smashing him into the ground. Naruto didn't pause a moment, flipping his legs up and wrapping his feet around Shino's head. He rolled, carrying the taller boy off balance and making him fall to the ground. Naruto unhooked his feet and leapt up, Shino doing the same. There was barely a moment of pause as they drew kunai, slicing at each other and meeting their blades in a hail of sparks.

" They're going all out." said Ino, watching closely.

" Naruto is not." corrected Lee. " He hasn't activated his secondary chakra."

" Secondary?" said Choji in alarm. " He has more?"

That…that sounds like trouble. thought Kankuro.

" Once Naruto does, it is over." said Lee, leaning onto the railing. He was watching closely for a clue on how to win against the two dangerous fighters.

" Shino'll wipe the floor with Naruto when he get serious." said Kiba.

" He's not already?" said Sakura in shock as Naruto barely parried a swipe at his jugular.

Bug boys better than I thought! Naruto thought as he leaned backwards, avoiding a fast stab. He back flipped, drawing a throwing several shuriken. Shino caught them and threw them back. Naruto didn't avoid in time and was struck in the arms and legs, making him fall to the ground.

" And so you lose." said Shino as Naruto struggled to stand. " It is best you suffer this defeat now so you learn your place."

" I'm…going to be Hokage." said Naruto, pulling a shurkien out of his right arm.

" You will not." said Shino. " The lowly worker may wish to rise in the hive's hierarchy, but cannot. Your position has been decided." I've wanted to say that to him forever. thought Shino with hidden glee. The fools ambition had always annoyed him. Naruto has little emotional control…if I can get him angry, he'll just rush forward and attack blindly. How will I do that…..

" I will be Hokage!" shouted Naruto, getting to his feet shakily. He was bleeding heavily, but fought off the pain.

" No matter what Iruka-sensei may have told you at those pity parties he threw for you at the ramen stand, you will not." said Shino. " He may be willing to turn a blind eye to your massive faults, but others are not."

" Here we go." said Lee excitedly, leaning out so far her nearly fell from the balcony. Sasuke activated his Sharingan, not wasting a chance to see the red chakra in action. Everyone else, concerned by the interest of the only two with firsthand knowledge of Naruto's ability, began to get worried.

" Take that back!" shouted Naruto angrily, the shuriken popping from him and his blood instantly replenishing itself.

" Unless he is stupid enough to believe you can accomplish your dream."

" Ooh." cringed Lee as the red chakra poured from Naruto, swirling around the room violently. Naruto lunged forward, grasping for Shino's throat. " Bad move."

" Don't insult Iruka-sensei!" he screamed in a unearthly tone. His hands were nearly to their target when something pierced his lung. A foot long spike had shot out of Shino's palm and he hand driven it into Naruto's chest, knocking him back. Naruto landed on all fours with a growl as the kikai, having finished off the clones, returned to Shino, who held his arms his arms up as a second spike burst from his other palm.

" Stingers." said Kiba with a smirk as the others looked to him for clarification. " The Aburmae use them when they have to go to close range. He doesn't like them, but he's deadly with them." But using them requires his bugs to keep healing his body with captured chakra, meaning he'll soon get tired. thought Kiba. End it quick, Shino.

" These people aren't ninja." said Kin, watching in horror. " They're monsters." For once, her teammates agreed with her.

Naruto snarled and raced forward, diving towards Shino. The bug user leapt to the side, kikai trailing in his wake and latching onto Naruto. The enraged Kyuubi host didn't even notice, leaping towards Shino again. The Aburmae met this attack, driving one of the spikes into Naruto's shoulder. Naruto howled in pain as he smashed a punch into Shino, who vanished in a cloud of bugs. Naruto spun, spotting the real Shino who had escaped with a bug replacement. The wound in his shoulder healing before the swarm could get in, Naruto leapt into the air, coming down at Shino with a punch. Shino sidestepped before Naruto hit and shattered the ground.

" What's happened to Naruto?" said Ino fearfully. " He's gone completely insane!"

" He's some kind of berserker, right?" asked Kankuro, wide eyed. Shino ducked a kick, sliced open Naruto's leg, rolled around behind and jabbed another spike though Naruto's back. Despite the copious amounts of blood pouring from his wounds Naruto fought on, roaring releasing a wave of chakra that forced Shino back and blew the kikai away. Shino, momentarily off guard, received a punch to the chest, knocking him back into the wall, which cracked under the force of the impact.

Not stopping a moment, the Aburmae dashed forward, leaping and stabbing at Naruto as the boy met his charge. He slashed brutally at Naruto while the blonde dug his claws into Shino's sides, tearing deep gashes. However, the kikai in Shino's body stimulated his healing with the stolen chakra, making the wounds close quickly. They continued, brutally hacking and beating upon each other until they leapt back in unison, panting and glaring at one another as they ravaged bodies recovered from their wounds.

" I'm glad I didn't have to face either of them." said Choji, shuddering.

" Kakashi, that's…." Asuma trailed off as the Copy Ninja nodded, indicating that it was the Kyuubi's chakra to the other jounin. " That's not good."

" Maybe it is." said Guy, joining the jounin. " It is his gift."

" I really…hate you." panted Naruto. " You always act so cool. You never seem to care about anything and use all those really big words just to confuse people."

" A large vocabulary is not a flaw." said Shino, standing up straight. " And if I annoy you, let me assure you that you have annoyed me far worse. You are loud. Idiotic. And proud of it."

" So what if I'm not smart!" roared Naruto. " Being smart isn't everything! I have a dream and I work hard for it! That's way better than being able to do math problems or something! "

" That's exactly what I meant." said Shino, assuming a combat stance. " Without brains, a shinobi is useless. You will be unable to plan for missions and will constantly power your way though them. This will increase the amount of fighting and casualties."

" Just shut up and fight!" roared Naruto, racing forward. Eagerly Shino met his charge. They slammed together, bashing each other to the side but quickly recovering. As Shino assumed a defensive stance Naruto created a five clones, which charged in unison. Be blocked the first punch and destroyed the clone with a stab, parried the seconds kick, but the third caught him with a upwards kick, knocking him into the air. The real Naruto came from above, delivering a downwards kick and knocking Shino to the ground. Shino used the bug replacement to escape again, reappearing a short distance away. His sunglasses hung from his ear, shattered and forgotten. The spikes slowly retracted into his arms as he felt his bugs chakra reserves get low, meaning his healing abilities were nearly gone.

" I'm ready to end this." said Naruto, seeming like he was having trouble standing.

" The same goes for me." said Shino, shakily assuming a taijutsu stance. With mutual understanding that this was the end, the two raced at each other, leaping towards each other with fists raised for the final hits. They swung towards each other, slamming their fists into each others faces and knocking each other back to the ground. Shino fell and stuck the ground hard, going limp from the impact. Naruto, however, flipped in midair and landed on his feet.

" Did he win?" asked Sakura. Hayate walked towards Shino and raised his arm.

" Winner, Naruto Uzamaki."

" Sweet." said Naruto, struggling to stand with the clones aid. He hobbled off with the aid of the clone, arriving back on top of the balcony. The clone vanished as he got close to his team, but Sakura caught him and helped him back against the wall.

He hobbled off with the aid of the clone, arriving back on top of the balcony. The clone vanished as he got close to his team, but Sakura caught him and helped him back against the wall.

" Way to go." she said the a smile. " How are you feeling?"

" I want some ramen." said Naruto sleepily, nodding off a second later.

" He's completely used up." said Sakura in surprise. " Shino must have been really tough."

" Hn." said Sasuke.

Crap…Shino usually beats me. thought Kiba. If Naruto beat him…I really don't have a chance.

" He's not hurt at all." said Ino, leaning over and looking though the many cuts and tears in Naruto's orange uniform.

" When he's using his secondary chakra he heals instantly." said Tenten, rejoining the others. She had finished sulking over her loss.

I get it. thought Kankuro, smirking as everyone checked on the unconscious boy. Don't make him mad. If you don't taunt him like bug boy did, he won't be able to fight. His powers useless unless he gets angry. Kankuro relaxed, knowing how to beat the blonde now.

" Man." said Shikamaru, looking at Naruto in shock. " When did he get so strong?"

" Yeah." said Ino, standing up. " I thought he was a loser."

" Don't say that about Naruto." said Sakura angrily.

" Forehead girl, do you like him too?" said Ino teasingly as the electronic board began to whir.

" No!" said Sakura defensively. " I like Sasuke-kun, Ino-pig! He's just my teammate!"

" Yeah right." said Ino, taunting her short tempered rival.

" Ino Yamanaka and Sakura Haruno."

The two friends looked to the board in shock, reading their names. Hayate motioned for them to come down, so they began to walk towards the stairs in unison, growling at each other.

" What's their problem?" asked Tenten.

" They used to be friends, but now they hate each other." said Shikamaru with a sigh. " They always fight over who loves Sasuke more and troublesome things like that."

" Really?" sighed Tenten. She hated kunochi like that. They should focus on getting stronger rather that going for pretty boy. He doesn't even look at them.

" Begin!" said Hayate, starting the match.

Determinedly, the two kunochi raced towards each other. Sakura used a burst of chakra to launch herself forward, striking at Ino first. The blonde girl blocked the punch and rolled under, flipping Sakura over her. The two landed and immediately leapt back towards each other, attacking and blocking in rapid succession. Sakura dodged away, since Ino was slightly stronger than her in taijutsu, and threw a pair of shuriken. Ino knocked them out of the air with two of her own and threw a kunai towards Sakura, who sidestepped out of the way.

" Boring." sighed Tenten, leaning against the railing.

" Why? They just started." asked Lee.

" They aren't trying to hurt each other." said Sasuke, seeming annoyed. " None of their attacks so far would have caused much damage if they connected."

Below, Sakura ducked a high kick. I don't want to hurt her. thought Sakura, swinging a punch. But I have to if I want to win! Ino blocked with her arm and swung a sweep kick to try to knock Sakura over. Seizing a small opening, she leapt over the attack and punched towards Ino, who tried to dodge. Unfortunately, her foot slid on the tile and she was unable to get out of the way. At the last second Sakura opened her hand so the punch became a slap.

Ino and Sakura stood there in shock, looking to each other. Ino slowly put her hand to her stinging cheek, feeling the red mark.

" This match has no point." sighed Tenten, head in her hands. " Why didn't I get to fight one of these idiots?"

" They need motivation." said Lee, looking though his notebook. " But I am not sure what to say to get them to fight."

" Get who?" asked Naruto, standing up.

" Sakura and Ino. They won't really fight each other." replied Sasuke.

" Hey Sakura!" shouted Naruto. " Don't go easy on her! Remember all the times she pointed out the fact you have a gigantic forehead!"

" Naruto!" shouted Sakura, a vein bulging on her forehead.

" And don't forget that she calls you a pig!" Choji added.

" Yeah!" said Naruto, nodding as the two girls looked to them angrily.

" Just fight." sighed Sasuke.

" Yes, Sasuke-kun!" squealed the girls in unison. They turned to each other, retying their forehead protectors.

" No holding back, forehead girl." said Ino, drawing a kunai.

" What was that? I just heard 'oink oink'." said Sakura, running forward. She formed three illusionary clones and leapt in a group attack like Naruto used.

" Ha!" laughed Ino. " If I know which one is real, that jutsu's useless!" she slashed at the original Sakura, but the blade passed though. Using a burst of chakra Sakura, who had used the replacement technique at the same time as the clone technique to confuse Ino, drove a powerful kick into Ino's stomach. The blonde girl was knocked back, rolling across the tile floor as the clones vanished. Without hesitation Sakura lunged for her friend again, but Ino got up and threw a handful of shuriken. Sakura parried them with a kunai and threw two of her own. The blades arced towards Ino, who dodged, but the moment she shifted her weight Sakura threw the kunai.

As Ino leapt into the air, the knife embedded itself into her leg. I guessed right. thought Sakura triumphantly. Her plan had worked perfectly and she had injured Ino without causing serious harm. Ino landed heavily as Sakura drew her last shuriken. If she could get it by Ino's throat and hold her for a moment, she would win.

Unfortunately, Ino was not yet done. She ripped the kunai out of her leg and threw it at Sakura. Sakura ducked and leapt towards Ino, but once she was at point blank range, Ino put her hands together in position for the body switch technique. I can't miss! thought the blonde girl, smiling as Sakura's eyes opened wide with shock. She fired the jutsu as Sakura put together the replacement technique. A log appeared in her place and the Sakura appeared directly behind Ino, who fell still.

" Did it work?" asked Choji.

" I win, Ino-pig." said Sakura, standing over Ino's motionless body.

" Not yet!" said Naruto from above. Everyone looked to him and spotted the kunai he was holding to his neck.

" Ino!" shouted Sakura, wide eyed.

" I missed you, but the baka got hit." said Naruto girlishly. " Quit now out I slit his throat."

" You wouldn't!" shouted Sakura angrily.

" Ino, what the hell…" Shikamaru began, but he was cut off.

" Come on, Saakuura." said Ino, drawing her rivals name out teasingly and pressing the kunai to Naruto's neck just enough to draw a faint line of blood. " Don't want to lose your precious teammate, do you?"

" He'll heal." said Sakura, flipping Ino's body over and holding the shurkien to her throat. " Will you?"

" H-hey!" said Ino, blinking rapidly. " It's a bluff!"

" Let him go." said Sakura. Naruto's hands formed a seal and suddenly he his eyes bulged open.

" Winner Sakura." announced Hayate as the medic's rushed over to Ino, who was standing with Sakura's help.

" I wasn't going to hurt him." said Ino, sitting down onto the stretcher.

" I know." said Sakura with a smile. " But I made it look good for you."

" She was gonna kill me!" said Naruto in a panic. " Sakura, hit her again! She's nuts!"

" Naruto, calm down and quit being troublesome." sighed Shikamaru. " It was a bluff. If Ino had hurt your body, hers would have been affected too."

" I don't care! Ino, you keep the hell away from me!" shouted Naruto, hiding behind Sasuke. The Uchiha looked mildly amused. Sakura recovered her weapons and turned to walk up the stairs as the board began to whir.

" Sakura versus Kin." said Hayate.

" I have to fight again already?" said Sakura, stunned. She was still catching her breath and had used a lot of chakra in the last match.

" Bad luck." said Hayate with a cough. The sound kunochi leapt down and faced Sakura.

" I've seen what you can do and I can tell you that your going down." said Kin with a smile. " You don't have any jutsu other than basic ninjutsu. Your pretty good with them, but they aren't real techniques."

" Begin." said Hayate, cutting off the taunting.

Kin immediately drew a pair of senbon with bells on them and tossed them towards Sakura, who ducked easily. She spotted the wires a second later and tried to roll away, expecting a triggered explosion as Kin yanked the wire. None came, and Sakura stood up, feeling confused.

A moment later the arena disappeared. She was in some sort of dark chamber surrounded by nightmarish monsters. Genjutsu. thought Sakura with certainty. She quickly canceled the jutsu, finding Kin striding over towards her confidently. I'll pretend like it failed. she decided, hurling a kunai in a random direction and acting like she was jumping away from something.

" I win." said Kin, leaping towards Sakura as she landed. There was a puff of smoke as she grabbed the pink haired kunochi's shoulder, revealing a log as it faded away. " A replacement? Your serious?" said Kin with a laugh, dropping the log and spinning around. " I'm impressed that you broke my genjutsu, but that's all you do? Run away?"

" No." said Sakura, holding a kunai to Kin's throat. After Kin turned she released the disguise jutsu she had used to look like a log and captured Kin, who was too shocked to react. " I beat you with academy jutsu. I might not be too good, but your not much either, are you?" Sakura said with a smirk.

" Sakura wins." said Hayate, ending the match. Sakura raced up to where the leaf genin were standing.

" Way to go!" cheered Naruto.

" I got lucky." sighed Sakura. I really shouldn't have passed. I got Ino who is almost as bad as I am and beat her by chance and only beat the Sound girl because she was so overconfident.

" No, you did great, Sakura-chan!" continued Naruto.

At least he still believes in me. thought Sakura with a smile. She could tell the others knew that she had only passed by luck, though they didn't seem to begrudge it to her. As the scoreboard began to whir, Sakura realized she was going to have to train a lot harder before the finals if she wanted to be even able to put up a fight.