Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or Naruto.


Crimson Edge

Chapter 2


"Changes in the flash of the blade."


Hayate, the jounin examiner coughed, staring at the crowd of leftover genin.

"Well then... let's begin the preliminary..." he stared at the genin apathetically "It will consist on one-on-one battles fought like a live confrontation...

Naruto focused on explanation, doing his best to forget the strange, ominous feeling that he felt. Which proved futile in next few minutes.

"First match: Akado Yoroi versus Uchiha Sasuke."

Naruto blinked.

'What the...?' he frowned before freezing.

It was unmistakable.

'That feeling...'

His head snapped to Sasuke, but his teammate looked normal, if excited.

'So why is that...' He gritted his teeth, concentrating 'No doubt about it... it's THAT feeling. Muted but...' he grimaced, feeling the spike of vile stench 'Stronger somehow... As if there was more of it. But Sasuke doesn't have the weird marks on him. So why...?'

The blond followed Sakura to the balcony, trying to ignore the nervous tightening of his stomach. He didn't know why, but he had a really bad feeling about this. A really, really bad feeling.

He couldn't help the fact that it was getting worse with each passing second.


Naruto unclenched his hand from Benihime's handle only to wince in pain and shake his palm.

The fight lasted several minutes at best but he felt as if he aged years.

'That stuck-up idiot... What is he thinking?!' Naruto scowled 'He nearly gave me the heart attack there, the bastard!'

The blond stared at Sasuke's exhausted form, sighing heavily.

He was happy that Sasuke won, of course, but...

Naruto threw a quick look at Lee. The spandex clad taijutsu expert was frowning, nearly scowling. He didn't know much about Lee, but he knew that it was rare.

'Well no wonder... Sasuke basically stole his taijutsu. I would be kind of pissed of too, I guess...'

Hayate coughed.

"Abumi Zaku... Aburame Shino. Step down to the arena."

'Huh? The sound guy...' Naruto's eyebrows shot up 'He's gonna fight with broken arms? Against Shino? Is he an idiot?'

True, he didn't know much about the Aburame boy since Shino was quiet as hell, but he had heard of Aburame Clan's reputation. Most in Konoha did, since it was as effective as it was disgusting.

'Bugs inside of you... ugh.' Naruto grimaced 'Not that I have any place to talk...' He thought somberly, putting hand on his stomach.

A warm breath and ephemeral feeling of warm hands embracing him tightly brought him back from his funk.

'Thanks, Benihime...' He thought closing his eyes.

They were only together for a day... and he already wondered how he managed without her before. Her comforting presence chased all worries away as if by magic.

'And her edge can cut like nobody's business.' he smirked.

The hilt vibrated slightly and he could have sworn that Benihime was laughing as he felt a warm cheek nuzzling his neck.


"Well damn..." Naruto whistled watching the Aburama calmly walking away from the arena as medic-nins picked Zaku's arm from the floor. 'I suspected he was going to win but...' Naruto shook his head in amazement "Who would have guessed that this guy is that strong?"

"I always thought he was bit... creepy," Sakura said in odd voice "But... He is strong." She whispered, as if to herself

Naruto looked at his pink haired teammate with surprise.

'What's with her?'

He opened his mouth, only to pause as familiar presence appeared behind him.

"Yo!" Kakashi saluted in his normal, careless manner.

"What do you mean 'YO'?!" Sakura was back to her normal self "Sasuke-kun, how is he...?

Naruto sighed.

'Well, at least she isn't all weird anymore...'

Naruto stared.

'Damn... Does EVERYONE have some weird-ass techniques in this exam?!' He scowled 'First that guy just stretches, all rubbery-like... And now this guys fights using a doll... What next, poking people with 'death fingers of doom' ?!' Doesn't anybody fight like normal people anymore?!'

"Shit.. there is bunch of weirdoes in this exam!" Naruto scowled

Kakashi quirked an eyebrow.

'Like you're the one to talk.' He thought before stopping as he looked at the board 'Well what do you know... this just got interesting.'

"Naruto." The Jounin said pointing at the board "Heads up."

"Huh?" The blonde turned, following the gesture.

Uzumaki Naruto versus Tenten.

His eyes slowly ventured to the brown haired girl who was grinning at him, like that time in the forest.

'Let's meet again, Naruto-san'

'I'm sure we'll have much to talk about so don't lose okay?'

Naruto smiled, the smile turning into wide grin before he laughed.

'Sure, Tenten-san... I' won't lose to anybody!' He thought gleefully, jumping down without bothering to use something as mundane as stairs.

Kakashi stared.

'What's with him?' He thought dumbfounded 'Is he an idiot? That girl... She is Gai's pupil and master of weapons. She is probably the worst kind of opponent for him save maybe the Hyuuga prodigy. And he's laughing? Is he... a total moron?'

Kakashi sighed shaking his head.

"Well, at least he is in high spirits..." he muttered leaning on the wall. "Not that it will help him much."

"No."

The jounin froze, before looking at Sakura curiously.

"What?"

"No. Naruto is.. Naruto is...strong." Her voice was full of conviction, despite first word being shaky.

Kakashi's only visible eye widened slightly.

'Is Sakura... supporting Naruto?' He thought incredulously 'Faith in your teammates is a good thing but...'

"Sakura... Naruto can't win this." Kakashi said, trying to use his lecturing, reasonable tone "That girl... With her long range weapons she is probably the worst kind of enemy Naruto might face as he is now. Naruto's kage bushin won't help him here and she won't let him get close for any taijutsu. And he lacks speed to get out of the way. I'm sorry but he can't win this."

"You are wrong, Kakashi-sensei. Naruto... You haven't been there with us in the Forest of Death or you'd know." she said, her eyes far away despite looking at the arena "He is not the same person anymore. He won't lose to her no matter what." She said with absolute certainty, her eyes focused on the blond.

Kakashi stared at his pink haired student in astonishment.

'Just what had happened there during that exam?'


"Naruto-san." Tenten smiled

"Hiya, Tenten!" Naruto grinned back at her happily "Meeting like this...It's kinda weird, huh?"

The girl nodded.

"Yes... But I'm really glad, Naruto-san." She said, not fighting the widening smile "To fight you like that... It's really lucky for me." The weapon mistress looked at him for a moment before her eyes wandered to Benihime's handle hanging from his back upside down. Her smile widened, eyes alight with excitement "So you have her with you."

Naruto looked at Benihime before unhooking the impromptu holster on his back held in place by wire and taking blade into his hand.

"Yeah. I'm not leaving her out of my sight even for a moment." He said patting the handle happily.

Tenten nodded with understanding, before giving him a shy look.

"Could you..." she swallowed "Could you... unveil her?"

Naruto blinked, before shrugging.

"Sure!" He said tugging at the bandage and letting it fall to the floor. Benihime's edge gleamed as the cloth unraveled with a flourish.

Naruto couldn't help but grin like a loon at the sight of supremely beautiful if deadly looking edge.

Tenten gazed at the sword before sighing longingly.

"She is even more beautiful than I remember, Naruto-san." She said with sincere appreciation as her eyes devoured the exquisite weapon in front of her.

"Yup!" Naruto nodded proudly "She's great, ain't she?"

Hayate coughed.

"Um... you know.. We're kinda of having a match here? Shouldn't you be, you know, fighting...?" He almost yelped as Tenten's eyes turned to him, nearly alight with furious blaze.

"We're having a moment here, examiner-san..." She said with honeyed voice. As sweet as steel clad in silk can be, anyway. "If you would Be. So. Kind."

Hayate blinked.

'Damn... That's one... odd girl.' He thought backing away slowly.

Naruto blinked owlishly.

'Making a Jounin back away with just a look... This is just... cool.' He thought with sincere admiration

Tenten glared at the Jounin who interrupted her admiration of the masterpiece before sighing and turning to Naruto.

"Now as much as I hate to admit it... We do have a fight to go to. "She took out a scroll and unraveled it. "This is not a technique. I just need to bring something...?" The girl looked at Naruto in askance

"Sure! Knock yourself out." Naruto waved carelessly, excited and curious.

Tenten nodded, performing the seals.


Up in the stands Kakashi palmed his face.

'Letting the opponent bring out a possible advantage and not doing anything about it... Naruto you moron. And here I thought Sakura has been on to something.'

Rest of the Jounin just chuckled watching the copycat nin with looks that ranged from amusement to outright pity.

The only person who didn't do so was Gai and his team. The bowl-cut Jounin's face was as if carved of stone as his eyes watched the arena with an almost unreal focus.

Lee's eyes widened and even Neji lost his impassive look.

"Gai-sensei... Is that...?" Lee asked incrediosly.

The Jounin nodded gravely.

"Yes. It's that scroll. For her to use IT in a battle like that..." he shook his head slowly 'Why, Tenten...? What is so important to you about this battle to go so far as to unseal 'that'...?'

Neji's eyes narrowed.

"Even footing."

Gai looked at his pupil sharply.

"She wants to fight him like an equal." Neji said slowly "That's why."

"But... but this is..." Lee said with disbelief

"Neji, my youthful pupil... There is no sense in your words." Gai said with a frown. "I don't want to insult young Naruto's youthfulness but our Tenten already outmatches him in combat, let alone in expertise with weapons."

"Does she, now...?" Neji muttered giving his full attention to the Arena. "With weapons, maybe... But does she with swords?

"Do you know something, Neji?" Gai asked seriously

"I don't know. Yet." The Hyuuga prodigy frowned 'But I will.' He thought confidently. 'It doesn't matter what you do... Those eyes of mine will see right through it. It is how things are.'


He dismissed the strange, ominous feeling that went through him as he thought that.

Naruto's eyes widened as the smoke cleared.

"Youshin. This blade is the best work to come out of my grandfather's forge until now. This is the best sword in the Fire Country." Tenten said proudly pulling it from the scabbard.

Naruto nodded slowly. He could believe that.

The hilt was plain, as was the tsuba but the blade itself was a gleaming work of art shining like a polished mirror. This was no mere sword. This was a masterpiece that comes once a few decades, if that.

Before the Forest of Death he would call it the best, most beautiful and cool looking sword he had ever seen without a hesitation.

But...

"Best sword in the Fire Country... huh?" Naruto said with a smile "Sorry, Tenten. Not buying it. Because I have the best sword in the world in my hand!" He said with glee

Tenten responded with equally gleeful, a touch maniacal smirk.

"We'll see about that." She said taking an aggressive stance, tip of the blade pointing at his face "Shall we?"

"Heh... Let's do it!" Naruto gripped Benihime tighter before lunging at his opponent with a loud cry.


The diagonal cut reverberated. Sparks flew.

Back step. Parry. Counter.

'And here we go again.'

Blood pumped.

Sparks flew yet again as two blades briefly fought for dominance.

'HELL YEAH!'

Stab.

Lunge. Duck and weave and spin...

And counter blooming into parallel stab.

'Niiiiiiice! bat what are you gong to do about...THIS!'

Blade dances, air sings. Wind howls as the parallel moon is drawn, reversing and striking low in last possible minute.

Sparks again.

'How does she DO it?!'

"Good... But TOO SLOW!"

Twist, duck and it goes straight up.

'Sheesh! An inch lower and she'd have given me a fucking haircut!'

Parry. Parry, parry, and parry again.

The sparks jump yet again as swords and eyes meet over the blades, one pair brown, the other cerulean.

'Damn... She doesn't look it but she's STRONG!'

Swords break away for a brief moment. And a second later, the dance begins yet anew.

The blade cuts a crazy, seemingly impossible pattern.

Chaotic and wild meets it savagely.

Cut. Air shrieks. Steel moans.

A stab goes low.

'Toofasttoofastotoofast!'

Sparks fly.

'Now THAT was way too close! Eat EDGE!'

An uppercut with a sword? Why not.

Both hands work as arm twists with full power of the knees behind it.

'Ah damn...! Shame I...WHOA!'

Twist and dance.

Edge screams and Benihime trembles under the assault.

'Now...that...just...figures... Pulling something like that... is she fucking CRAZY?!'


Kakashi stared.

It was hard to believe that one of the warriors meeting their blades in shower of sparks was Naruto.

Naruto who, while still wild and as unpredictable and as unorthodox as ever, was moving fast. And for all of seeming randomness, each of the moves proved to have some purpose behind it, some kind of a goal.

As he watched the two genin duke it out, The Copycat was sorely tempted to uncover his sharingan to see if the orange clad shinobi was really the hyperactive, clumsy runt that he knew as his student and not some chuunin in a henge.

His only visible eye widened as Naruto deflected a particularly difficult strike turning the simple deflection into a rapid counter that almost crushed Tenten's guard.

'Fast... Way too fast... I would expect something like that of Sasuke, not Naruto. He had never shown such speed before. ' He thought, subconsciously analyzing and pulling apart the patterns he saw Naruto using.

His eye narrowed as he saw the strong diagonal cut followed by seemingly wild but obviously well thought out combo that forced Tenten into a difficult position.

This wasn't something you learned overnight. It required diligent practice and, unlike jutsu, couldn't be 'cheated' by overpowering it with chakra. It took diligent, regular training and a good teacher for that level of skill. It took even more practice to use that sort of skill in actual combat.

And since it wasn't taught at the academy and he most certainly didn't teach him that...

Kakashi's eye went hard.

Somebody was training his student. His soldier. Without his knowledge.

And Naruto not only never told him about it but actively hid his skill. This wasn't something you could learn during weekends in a month or two. Naruto must have been training even before he came under Kakashi's command to be that good.

The blond more or less lied to him. He had concealed vital information not only from his teacher but also from his commander, endangering his whole team. Ninja used to get court marshaled for far less during war time.

Has the bell test taught the hyperactive blond nothing? Teamwork was essential shinobi tool, the cornerstone of a succeseful unit. What Naruto did wasn't just sselfish - it was dangerous.

'We will have words, Naruto.' Kakashi thought darkly, looking at his blond student. 'You can count on that.'


Naruto stood, panting and gripping Benihime tightly as he grinned.

He had never fought with swords before and now he wondered why. The fight was too exhilarating for words. The howl of displaced air, the whine of steel, the sparks, the sheer, raw ENERGY as the cogs in his mind whirled like crazy to avoid being cut and trying to cut, his body pushed to the maximum and adrenaline surged... This wasn't taijutsu - here one small mistake could be fatal.

Naruto was loving it.

In his not so humble opinion this was next best thing since Benihime and invention of delicacy that was ramen.

Naruto just found his new crack and discovered new favorite hobby.

'Heh heh... This is GREAT!' He twirled Benihime absently, looking at his opponent.

As her edge cut the air Naruto could feel the hilt vibrating. Benihime was laughing, her warm breath in his ears, a husky, hungry whisper in his mind.

He stopped, looking at Tenten.

'Why is she...?'

Tenten stood, sword gripped in her hand, knuckles almost white. Her head was lowered and she was...trembling?

"Uh... Tenten...? Yo, Tenten... You all right?" Naruto asked hesitantly

"Why...W...Why..." Tenten's hand holding the katana shook slightly "Why aren't you..." she raised her head and Naruto took an involuntary step back.

Her face was a mask of utter fury, brown eyes dark with barely restrained rage, lips twisted into a grimace that bared her teeth in animalistic fashion.

"Why aren't you TAKING ME SERIOUSLY?!" she snarled.


Up on the balcony Team Gai froze.

"Oh..." Lee whispered edging from the railing.

Neji, his face a little less impassive than usual took a small step back.

Without a word, Gai followed his student's prudent example.

Angery tenten meant Tenten with a lot of pointy kunai flying fast enough to give Neji a workout.

He was youthfully exuberant, not suicidical.


Naruto blinked.

"Huh?" He said eloquently.

"You... YOU..." her eyes narrowed, her voice choked. "I thought... I thought I had finally..." she swallowed, eyes narrowing "I wanted to fight with you so much... I wanted us to be EQUALS...I unsealed my grandfather's sword... FOR YOU!" She lowered her head again, whispering "And you SPAT on it... Am I such a joke to you...? Am I so worthless... so worthless you won't fight me seriously...?"

Naruto looked at her incredulously.

"What the HELL are you talking about? I'm fighting you with all I GOT!!" He shouted.

"LIAR!" Tenten shouted fiercely "I saw you in the Forest of Death! Do you think I'm STUPID or BLIND?! I SAW! WHY?! Why won't you go all out?!" she shrieked "WHY?! Is it because I am a woman?! Because you think I'm so WEAK that I'm WORTHLESS?! Am I really such TRASH to you?!

"I TOLD you I'm going ALL OUT you crazy girl!" he said with exasperation.

She laughed mirthlessly.

It was an odd, hollow and cold thing that sent shivers down Naruto's spine, and not good ones either.

It felt like someone just walked over his grave.

"Lies...All lies..." her voice was calm, quiet but it carried an odd note of madness that crept Naruto more than her previous screams and accusations

"But it is fine. It's fine... If you don't want to... I will MAKE YOU!" Tenten snarled, reaching for the scroll on her back and cutting her finger and marking both the scroll and the sword with blood.


"Oh...no..." Gai's eyes widened.

The scrolls hit the ground.

"Kakashi...!" he started turning to his rival knowing it was too late.


She let the scroll fall down and kicked it open before stabbing the bloodied blade into it and making a quick series of seals.

She could hear Gai-sensei screaming something, but it didn't matter.

Nothing mattered except that...that utter FUCKER in front of her, his lies and her own crushed and stomped heart.

She saw red and black and white of bloodied scroll, of anger hate and humiliation.

The Youshin was her most precious possession, the greatest sword her grandfather created. His masterpiece. The crown and jewel of his life's work as a sword smith and a whim of sorts. It wasn't the ninjato or even kodachi, so typical in current times. It was a full sized, full fledged katana - a rarity.

The old man liked doing swords for ninja well enough, but Youshin was his dream. The greatest weapon for the greatest swordsman. But it was a weapon that never felt battle or hand of the worthy master.

Nobody used the true katana anymore.

Old fashioned. Obsolete. Cumbersome.

Chakra swords, fancy ninjato geared for channeling jutsu, chakra-storing kodachi...

Those were the tools of the age. All bright, shiny, exotic and flashy. Nobody valued the TRUE sword anymore. Nobody saw the need for the simple, ascetic beauty of efficient blade.

Nobody but her.

Her life revolved around Youshin since she was old enough to walk. She spent countless hours as a small child simply admiring the weapon. She could still spend whole day transfixed by its exquisite edge alone. She never used it. She wanted to use it only when she found a true use for the sword. Not some d-class gardening mission, training or even c-class drags.

A true battle.

One where Youshin could finally show its true strength. One that would allow it to shine.

In the Forest of Death, he impressed her with his skill. Then he impressed her with his sword, as unique and beautiful weapon as she had ever seen. and with pure affection, even love that he gazed with at the weapon he called Benihime.

She felt almost giddy right then.

After so long she had finally found a kindred spirit. A person she could talk with who would connect with her on the same level. Person who wouldn't find her the 'odd tomboy with steel fixation'. The 'brutish knife weirdo'. The 'freak with kunai fetish'.

Oh she knew she wasn't normal. No normal four year old girl plays with knives instead of dolls and collects shuriken instead of flowers - even in a ninja village. It only got worse as she got older.

But here she had a person who had the very same gleam she saw in the mirror, the proud, heartfelt affection for a weapon.

When the board called out their names... She was ecstatic.

She had a chance to fight like she wanted. One-on-one. With blades in place of words. Sword against sword. Edge against edge. Steel against steel. Skill against skill. One exquisite, loved weapon against another exquisite, cherished weapon.

She gave him her all. Unsealed her dearest possession for him. Shown her innermost feeling openly and without reservation... and he spat on them. Crushed them. Ridiculed them.

He dared to hold back. As if she was unworthy of his skill, of his trust. As if she was some gutter trash.

She grabbed two more scrolls and marked them with blood.

Well she'd show him gutter trash.

She let loose the seals holding the scrolls closed.

And if he didn't want to go out... she would force him to even if it killed him.

She glared at Naruto with utter loathing in her eyes.

"Sai Dai Kyu Soushuryu: Youshin Zansatsu Yomi." She spat hatefully trough gritted teeth.

The dragons rose, dark grey instead of white.

Naruto's eyes got very wide.

All hell broke loose.


Naruto breathed in the rosy scent and shivered as he felt the warm curves pressing to his back.

Pair of slender, pale arms hugged him, drawing him close.

"The girl is right you know..."

He shivered as the warm lips left a feather light trail on his neck.

"Fear... Nothing can be born from that. And you are afraid." She breathed into his ear.

"What are you..?!" he started to turn but the deceptively ethereal arms held him in place as if made of steel cords covered in silky smooth covering.

"Fear takes many faces, beloved... Fear of death... Fear of harm... Fear of injuring another..." She sighed, nuzzling his neck "Why do you fear so?"

Naruto slumped.

"I'm fighting with all I got... You know that." He muttered

"No you aren't." She said ruffling his hair "Skill wise... Maybe you do. But you still hesitate. Like in the Forest of Death... Only more so. You had a chance of a crippling blow to her arm at least twice. Yet you didn't. Why?"

"I don't wanna hurt her... Fighting is okay but..." His fists clenched "This ain't taijutsu, you know... She won't walk away with a burise or two! If I cut her... I Don't WANT to! She's a friend! It's not right!"

She laughed.

"Presumptious, aren't you?" she said with amusement "But by doing so you insult her... And you insult me as well." She gripped him tightly, and Naruto yelped as she bit his ear playfully. "She gave her all to you. She opened her heart completely. I could feel that in her cuts, you know. Her heart is crying." Benihime whispered gently. "She unveiled all of her feelings, all of her spirit in that fight... By not doing the same you do her a great wrong."

Naruto winced, guilt worming into his heart.

"And let me tell you... Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Benihime smirked "Which you should do well to remember in the future or it will land you in the situations like this!"

Naruto's eyes widened as suddenly his vision was swarmed with rain of steel from Tenten's jutsu for a brief second.

He yelped, but the steel rain vanished as if it was never there.

"See? You should have called me forth."

Naruto twisted his head, staring into crimson eyes with incomprehension.

"Between knowing and not knowing a name... calling it forth or not... There is a great difference in that." She explained patiently "As I am now, there is very little I can do to help you." She sighed, pouting "And here you go, putting yourself into a bind like that... Cutting and fighting... And you won't even alow me to have some fun. So inconsiderate of my feelings... Girl can get offended, you know!"

Naruto blinked owlishly.

She was probably the weirdest woman he'd ever met. Period. And not just because she was the coolest, most deadly sword he had ever seen.

Benihime glomped him with a squeal.

"Such a sweet boy you are, beloved!" She cooed, happily nuzzling his cheek "You flatterer you! You're making me blush!"

'Somehow I don't see it...' He thought trying not to get smothered to death.

"Now... As much as I'd like to keep you here more and all to myself, we don't exactly have time." She said, her ruby eyes turning serious "Without awakening there is very little I can do to help you... But I'm not exactly powerless either." she released him and grasped his head in between her pale palms. "I will give you what I can but it won't be much. You have one, single cut. You MUST make it count. What you will do after is up to you." She touched her forehead to his "Do not be afraid, my beloved. I am with you. Always. Step forward with no fear and you shall be truly invincible." She kissed him gently. "Remember... Nothing can be born from fear."

The world dissolved into scream of crimson.


Naruto blinked.

The reain of shuriken, knives, daggers, kamas and too many weapons to name was closing in fast.

He felt a brief stab of panic.

'Remember... Nothing can be born from fear.'

He frowned, his eyes scanning the rapidly closing mass of steel with almost inhuman focus.

'There!'

He raised the blade.

The first shuriken closed in so fast he could feel them cuting the air.

'Step forward with no fear and you shall be truly invincible.'

He brought the blade down in a blurring arc.

He could feel something deep inside rising up to the call, half forgotten, familiar feeling...

'YES!'

The trail of faint red exploded from Benihime's edge.

Faint, but more than enough.

Tenten's eyes widened as... something passed her, nearly invisible traces of crimson biting into the wall on her left.

The concrete whined nearly inaudubly, opening a hairline fracture with a quiet protest.


Up in the stands, Kakashi's eyes widened.

'What the...?' He thought numbly

Sakura smiled.

'I told you, sensei... Naruto is strong.' She thought with satisfaction.

'HELL YEAH!' Inner Sakura pumped her fists with glee 'Naruto KICKS ASS! Take THAT you porn loving cyclops!'


Gai's stood, his eyes wide.

'..Impossible...' He thought, 'Point blank... My god... Kakashi... What are you TEACHING this kid?!'


Kiba was, for once, imitating Shino to perfection with the utter silence and frozen posture.

'No...way...' He thought dumbly 'There is no... fucking...way that dobe can be THAT strong... How...?'


Hinata just smiled, her Byakugan not missing even the tiniest part of the fight.

Kurenai, her face impassive, just looked on.

Only her eyes, the crimson deeper, almost burgundy, betrayed that there was some unrest behind her emotionless mask.


Hokage's brows furrowed.

Sarutobi didn't like this development. He didn't like it at all.

He was happy for Naruto's new skill, of course. Kakashi had taught him well. His fight with Tenten was a magnificent show of his huge progress as a ninja and he was proud of the boy but... There were too many questions here. That kind of leap in skill was almost unnatural if you weren't an Uchiha who could simply copy the techniques. And even Uchiha wouldn't be able to do more than just copy. Combat style was something that had to be learned through sweat and blood during training and through experience.

And no matter how much he trained in the past few months Naruto wouldn't be able to reach such an easy profciency. Moreover, he knew of each and every sword style practiced in Konoha - which wasn't much of a feat since there were all of five of them, six if you included what was taught to ANBU members.

What Naruto was showing didn't look like any of them. Which meant nobody in Konoha could have taught him.

Sarutobi really didn't like the implications of that.

That sword was even more worrisome. Magnificently crafted, it was obviously as expensive as it was beautiful. The hilt itself must have cost a small fortune. Worth of the blade... Sarutobi didn't even want to try to appraise that. Samurai and Shinobi alike would kill for a weapon of that quality without batting an eye.

It wasn't just the quality. It was clearly a chakra weapon - its almost unnatural sharpness and what he saw now a blatant proof of that fact.

He knew Youshin well. Kotaro was an old friend and a master swordsmith of the highest caliber. Every one of his weapons was a deadly work of art, but Youshin was the pinnacle of his work. Any lesser sword that met this blade would be at least nicked, most probably cut.

Despite that, Naruto's blade was pristine and gleamed with the same magnificent shine, not even a scratch marring the edge.

Ordinary steel, even reinforced by chakra (and Sarutobi doubted Naruto knew how to do that) wouldn't be able to stand such punishment with no mark to show for it.

That meant it was a chakra blade of sorts. A powerful one at that, as the latest stunt indicated. It wasn't so much the technique, as powerful as it was, but the fact that he felt nearly no chakra from it. Which was ridiculous since something like that obviously required plenty of power. Naruto simply didn't have such fine tuned control - even most medic nin didn't have it. Which meant that the sword was masking the chakra it released.

He never heard of a chakra blade with that sort of ability and that worried him. Even more worrisome was the question just how Naruto, of all people, managed to get his hand on such a weapon. High powered chakra weapons, which the sword obviously was, were rare and few villages, aside from Mist, had more than a handful of them at any given time. And since any chakra blade in Konoha was known and accounted for...

Sarutobi's brows furrowed even further.

An unknown chakra blade, capable of masking released chakra and with crimson color scheme...

He sighed tiredly, feeling the weight of each and every of his past days on his old shoulders.

'This isn't going to end well...'


Shikamaru was the only genin to look beyond Naruto's form and instead turn to Tenten.

His eyes narrowed as he noticed the thin line of cut concrete.

'I knew it...'

The Nara heir scowled.

He didn't know why, but he had a feeling situation just got very troublesome somehow.


Naruto caught the air greedily, gasping for each and every shred he could inhale.

'That was cool... but damn tiresome...' He thought, catching his breath and rising his lowered head.

His eyes widened as he took the scattered weapons all around him.

'Damn... How much of pointy, stabby things does that girl HAVE?!' He thought incredously looking around 'Kama, kusari, shurken, fuuma shurken, kunai, dagger, some kind of weird hook thingy, mace, morningstar, katar... gods... Some of those things I can't even name!' the blond shook his head 'Now that... is just impressive.'

His eyes wandered through the collection strewn on the arena floor before comming upon a section that was distinctively different from the others.

Different meaning it was basically cut in half in single line. Line that stretchd through each and every weapon up to Tenten.

Naruto blinked owlishly.

'If that is Benihime's little...' He thought dumbly.

It was that momment he decided that no matter how much she loved him, pissing her off was just damn bad idea.

'I wonder if she likes flowers... Though giving them to her would be kinda problematic...' Naruto mused before shaking his head 'Well, that's not the girl I need to calm down now...'

He looked to Tenten who was just staring dumbly at her neatly cut up weapons.

"Sorry..." Naruto said sheepisly "Kinda didn't have a choice here..."

Tenten raised her eyes at him, giving him an incredulous look.

"Sorry...he says..." she muttered dazedly before her fury rekindled "You bastard... you CUT my WEAPONS!"


Gai looked oddly at his two pupils.

"Neji... Lee... Just what are you doing?" He asked carefuly, looking at Hyuuga's bowed head, pose mirrored by his spandex clad teammate.

Neji and Lee stopped for a few seconds and looked at each other before looking at their teacher.

Both had the same incredulous expression, which looked incredibly weird on their faces.

"Gai-sensei... Have you ever seen what happens if somebody so much as scratches something from Tenten's collection?" Neji said slowly

Gai blinked.

"Ah." The jounin nodded slowly in understanding "I think I shall join you, if you don't mind?" He said lowering his head and clasping hands in prayer for the poor soul whose youth was to be so viciously and inevitably interrupted.

Thus 3/4's of Team Gai reached a new level of teamwork as they prayed for the poor and soon-to-be-mincemeat's tragic passing.


"What I was supposed to do do?! Get myself turned into sashimi?!" Naruto shouted ducking under shuriken and swatting the senbon aimed for his head.

"YES!" Tenten sent another volley of shuriken, her eyes blazing in fury.

'Damn... that's one SCARY girl!' Naruto thought desperately dodging the deadly projectiles 'She's almost as scary as Sakura when she's mad!'

"DIE DIE DIE!" Tenten snarled sending another impossibly large stream of pointy steel at him "And STAY DEAD!"

'Screw this! She's scarier than Sakura-chan could ever be!' Naruto thought avoiding pointy death at hair's breath and getting his jacket shredded in the process.

He jumped up, avoiding a stream of shiny death that went too low to dodge and immideatly had to use Benihime to swat several kunai out of the air.

The sword vibrated in his hand, letting out a low, hissing note and he could hear her warm chukle.

'Well you certainly ain't helping here!' He snapped mentally bouncing from the nearby wall hastily as the kunai traced his path.

His eyes widened and he yelped, forcing himself into a ball and going down.

'Using RICOCHETS?!' He thought incredously 'That girl is NUTS!'

"Can't we talk about it?" he shouted desperately, nearly breaking his neck as he slid into a low duck under two fuuma shurken that came out of nowhere.

"NO!" She growled "JUST DIE!"

'Cheery, ain't she?' He thought sarcastically swatting the closest shuriken back at her.

Which proved to an extremely stupid idea as she simply sent two kunai that not only hit it and sent it back at twice the speed but also gave him two more kunai to worry about.

'Note to self - never, EVER, piss off a girl with collection of pointy things and godlike aim EVER AGAIN.' Naruto twirled Benihime quckly, turning her into blurry circle to deflect the barrage.

Tenten snarled and sent even more shuriken.

'Another note to self - appease Tenten by ANY MEANS NECCESARY and NEVER piss her off again!'

Benihime laughed as he dodged another volley.


Hayate stopped standing in his usual lounging slouch long before. His sunken eyes were unusually focused and bright as he tracked the two fighting genin with an eye of the consummate proffesional.

Now this was entertainment!

It wasn't exactly the first time he had been a chuunin exam proctor so he knew what to expect.

Lame tactics. Messy jutsu. Little skill.

Boring.

Most of the genin went for the flashy stuff while ignoring simpler, more direct methods that would work better. And since they lacked power, expereince and control, that flashy stuff often backfired in most stupid, if amusing, ways.

This fight, however... This was something else.

He had heard of Tenten, of course. Any of Konoha's weaponmasters did. It was a small, tight circle and any genin who was so focused and had this much skill and dedication to weapons was bound to make waves.

The Naruto kid however, was a surprise, if a damn fine one.

Hayate quite frankly didn't give a shit that the brat was a Kyuubi container, was hated by good part of the village or if he was troublesome and loud. Any genin with this kind of skill with a sword was worth looking into.

His mind subconsciously analysed the cuts, saw through the parries and catolgued tactics used by both fighters, already finding points where it could be improved.

His eyes widened as the blonde swatted the fuuma shuriken back at the girl only to avoid it and making a lunging upwards stab that took care of it before twirling the sword in an amazing display of dexterity.

Hayate knew that manouver. He had, in fact, a disturbingly similar one inhis arsenal called Getsuiei, though not as sloppy.

And judging by the shaky, chaotic execution, the kid did it on instinct alone.

'Though that follow up was just awful' Hayate winced 'The kid seriously needs a few pointers...' He tsked 'And the footwork REALLY needs some improvement.. Honestly! He's wasting a third of attack power with that! Though that cut right after was quite clever... Never seen it done like that before...'


Naruto stood in the center of the arena, panting and sweating like crazy.

Tenten glared at him, teeth gritted, fists clenched.

'No shuriken left...and THANK THE GODS!' Naruto thought with relief 'I don't think I could do it much longer.'

Then Tenten's hands relaxed, her scowl slowly turned into a nasty smirk.

'Oh I don't like that expression...' Naruto thought with a skinking feeling.

"You think it's over?" She asked with a dark chuckle "It isn't even close. In fact, it's just beginning." She stretched her arms to the sides and somethning glinted. The countless weapons on the arena, evne those in the walls, stirred.

Naruto's eyes became very wide.

'Oh don't tell me...' He traced the glinting lines extending from her fingers to the weapons all around him 'She didn't... She couldn't!'

As she drew her arms to her, the weapons jumped.

'She could and she did.' Naruto sighed 'Well at least I have few seconds so..."

'Heh... Sorry, Tenten.' He smiled Tiredly, before his eyes hardened. "Okiro... Benhime!"

'Well it was about time!' Came the amused female voice 'I think I told you not to piss her off further?'

Naruto's eyebrow twitched.

'Just... Shut up.'

The air around the blade hissed before sending a pulse of power out.

Tenten looked at him warily.

"Hey, Tenten..." He looked at the weapon mistress "You thought I wasn't going full out, huh? Well, I was. But she, " he indicated the sword "wasn't."

STenten scowled.

That bastard... Holding some kind of fancy technique even at this point! He was still taking her lightly!

"Whatever kind of fancy power that chakra blade has..." she spat through gritted her teeth "It won't help you now!" She spread her arms apart and the weapons started their dance of death.

And the bastard had the gall to SMILE.

'That's IT!' She thought furiously, moving her arms in furious pattern "DIE!"

'I told you - Hell hath no fury like the woman scorned, my beloved.' Benihime's amused voice sounded in his ears even as he brough blade up.

'Yeah, yeah. Whatever!' He grumbled. 'Do your stuff!'

'My my... You're no fun when you're grouchy, beloved.' She snickered 'Let me sing a song to cheer you up.'

And sing she did. Song in red torrent of howling power, screaming air and cracking conrete.


Tenten opened her eyes and warily lowered her hands that covered her face with, only to blink.

The arena was a mess. There were several small gouges from her own weapons and one or two broen tiles from Narut's missed swings. But that was nothing compared to the calamity wrought with that one last move.

Tenten stared at the deep, wide gouge where Benihime touched the stone and the shattered floor around it, her weapons with it, in amazement.

'With one...attack...' She thought dumbly 'Unreal...'

She knew that there were jutsu that were even more destructive - like any of the 'dragon' types, but to see something like this from a fellow genin...'Un-fucking-believable...'

A loud pant interrupted her trail of thought

"That was... exhausting" Naruto breathed in deeply, closing his yes for a moment. 'But DAMN if it wasn't cool!' He thought gleefuly as his heavy breathing subsided.

"Hehe... All right!" He looked at Tenten with a smile "So... we're doing it or what?"

"What?" She looked at him blankly

"You know... Swordfighting?" he waved Benihime around few times to make a point. "Trying to cut each other up and stuff?"

She looked at him incredously.

'Is this guy... for real?'

"Well if you didn't notice you kind of destroyed anything I could fight you with." She snapped bitterly.

"No I didn't!" He scowled indignantly pointing at something at her left

Tenten turned a little bit, trying not to lose the sight of her opponent... And her jaw nearly hit the floor.

'I don't believe this...' She looked at Youshin, still stuck into the Arena floor at the very same spot and obviously untouched.

She turned to Naruto so fast she almost got a whiplash.

"You didn't...?" she started in amazement

"OF COURSE I didn't!" he said offended "Whaddaya TAKE me for? It's precious to you and it's a gift from your precious person... I'd never destroy it!" He grumbled before brightning "So... " He gripped Benihime, smiling widely. "Ready?"

Tenten just stared.

'Unreal... He is... just...' She looked at the outrageous orange jumpsuit, ripped and bloody in the places she got him with her shuriken, the face cut slightly, eyes tired but holding that mischeveious, eager spark, Benihime in his hand and wide smile on his face... And she couldn't help it.

She smiled. Then snickered. Then she started laughing.

Tears fell from her eyes as she held her stomach and laughed herself stupid to the point that she nearly hit the floor.

"Well that's just mean..." Naruto muttered with a scowl looking so adorably indignant that she burst out with yet another bout of mad laughter.

E-hehe--Exa-hahaha-Examiner... I give up..." she said, finaly managing to get herself under ctonrol after few moments

Naruto looked at her with eide eyes.

"Bu-b-but!" Naruto sputtered

"I give up, Examiner!" She smiled at Naruto "He defeated me... I won't fight anymore. I'm out."

Hayate nodded.

"But I wanted to fight MORE!" Naruto protested "And Benihime is all up for it, too!" He waved the sword "Come on, Tenten!" he whined

"Tough luck." She said with a smirk

"But...!"

"Now, now... Don't whine." She chided him, putting Youshin into a scabbard "Girls don't like it when guys whine."

"I still say It's not fair..." He muttered with a scowl.

"Life ain't fair. Deal." She smiled beatifically.

Hayate coughed.

"If the teenage drama is over... We have the arena to fix and a match to host so..." He motioned for the stairs, coincidentally only one that weren't shredded by Naruto's blast and Tenten's jutsu.

"I still say that's mean." The blonde grumbled as they walked up the stairs. "And you got me so into it, too..."

"Hmm... So I did." She said patting her chin.

The weapon mistress cocked her head to the side, looking at him.

"Hmm..."

"What?" He siad supsiciously.

"Oh nothing." She smiled innocently "Could you come here for a second?"

Naruto looked at her suspiciously, but walked up to her.

He expected... Well, he didn't know what to expect, to be honest. A slap of rage. A fist to the face. A promise of retribution for her weapons and her loss...

Most certainly.

A kiss, however, was not on the list.

And it was a good kiss, even if not one of the 'hot, steamy and pure sex' variety Benihime introduced him to.

Her lips tasted slightly of blood, she must have either bit them or he injured her somehow during their fight. She also tasted like sesame and steel. Naruto could smell her sweat mixed with delicate jasmine fragrance as she grabbed his head, drawing him to herself.

When she finally let him go, he was left breathless, flushed and confused as hell.

"What was that for?" He asked dazedly

Tenten smiled, that small, all kowing yet mysterious smile that disturbingly reminded him of certain woman in the crimson castle.

"If you have to ask, you'll never know." Then she all but skipped to her team, humming.

'I will never understand women...' Naruto thought touching his lips numbly .

Benihime laughed.

'I like her style.'

Naruto stared at his sword, companion, whatever-the-hell-she-was and sighed, palming his face.

'Of course you do.' He deadpanned, walking back to his team.


TBC...


As always, thanks goes to people on TFF.

Glossary:

Youshin: lit. leaf blade

Sai Dai Kyu: lit. first rate/first class/the greatest

Zansatsu Yomi: massacre composition

Soushuryu: twin rising dragons