Okay. I actually finished this chapter a while ago, but forgot to upload it. Er, yeah.

Chapter V- The Egos Collide


Neji shot forwards like a cork out of a bottle, his right hand being brought back to deliver his palm strike.

It was all about the timing.

Naruto's right hand grabbed Neji's arm. He spun around into Neji, slamming his left elbow into the older boy's side before he could strike with his other hand. With both hands, Naruto took hold of Neji's arm and flipped him over his shoulder.

The Hyuuga landed on his back, but Naruto didn't wait for him to get up. He crouched, and started pummelling Neji's face with both hands, but only for the Hyuuga to quickly cover his head. Naruto moved on to start punching his chest, but Neji countered quickly enough, swinging his legs and kicking Naruto away.

Naruto staggered back, but quickly shifted back into his stance as Neji rose, with an ugly look on his face. There was a bruise starting to form on the side of his face, very noticeable due to his pale skin.

"What happened to that single move stuff Neji?" Naruto asked. "I don't think getting flipped onto your arse was what fate told you."

Neji rubbed his bruise with a knuckle, before he took up a different stance. He said nothing, choosing to silently glare at Naruto. This time, he was going to be serious.

Sakura and Ino were watching the fight with the upmost shock upon their faces, while Kiba and Hinata were in the row behind them, equally stunned. Sure, Naruto was regarded as the number one most surprising ninja, but this was something else. He was managing to fend off Neji, who up until this point, had been viewed as the strongest genin from Konoha in the competition.

"What's going on?" Ino said. "When was Naruto some sort of taijutsu expert?"

"Gai-sensei said he'd been practising with him."

The genin looked back to see Lee hobbling on his crutches, Tenten following worriedly behind him. She'd spotted him from her seat and wanted to help him out, but he refused to let her help support him.

Lee took a seat in the row behind them. "As I said, Gai-sensei told me yesterday that Naruto-kun asked him to help him prepare by sparring with him."

"Wait, Naruto asked that?" said Sakura.

Lee nodded. "But I've been trained by Gai-sensei for years, and I've never managed to even come close to beating Neji," he said, his gaze forlorn as he watched the two fight in the stadium.

"Well, if it helps, no one else had ever come close to Neji before either," said Tenten.

"But Naruto's not using your Iron Fist, is he?" said Sakura, vaguely recalling what Lee's attacks looked like from the occasions she had seen him fight.

"No, he appears to be using a hybrid of styles," said Lee. "But that is the mystery."

"Mind explaining what you're talking about?" Ino asked.

"To be able to use a hybrid of styles, Naruto-kun would obviously require extensive knowledge of several taijutsu styles," said Lee. "Maybe not full mastery, but he'd have to know them well. But the only way that could be possible would be if he'd been training for years, maybe ten or even twenty. But that would be impossible, considering both Naruto-kun's age and the fact he displayed no skill in taijutsu before this fight."

"What about when he beat Kiba?" Sakura asked.

Lee thought back to the preliminaries. "That's true. But even so, his taijutsu was nowhere as advanced as it is now, and before that, I recall defeating him with a single move when I challenged Sasuke."

"So what, are you saying that's an imposter?" asked Ino, casting a suspicious look down at Naruto.

"I don't see how," said Lee. "Neji would at least, have seen through any genjutsu and his attacks would've broken through a Transformation Jutsu."

"Oh my god!" Ino shrieked. "Then that must be Naruto's evil twin down there!"

Sakura gave Ino a look.

"Well, even if Naruto has an evil twin," said Tenten slowly, "there's still no way he can beat Neji. Neji still hasn't shown off his most powerful techniques."

Neji was shaking with fatigue as he and Naruto broke away from each other. How on earth had the fool gotten so strong over such a short period of time?

"A little out of breath, are we?" Naruto said, grinning. A trickle of blood ran down his lip, and he wiped it away with his thumb. His hands formed the seal of the jutsu he was so well known for.

Neji caught his breath. He'd originally thought that Naruto's Shadow Clones would be of no consequence; he'd easily be able to defend himself from a horde of brawlers with little fighting skill, but an army of capable-

The Shadow Clones came out sheet white and lying on the ground. Naruto was suddenly sporting an incredibly fixed looking grin as one of the Clones tried to climb to its feet.

Neji quickly deduced the poor chakra moulding that had failed the jutsu had something to do with the stench of liquor that hung around Naruto as well as the way he kept holding his head as though it pained him. And as the failed Clones dispelled, Neji attacked, hoping to seize an advantage while Naruto had not put up a stance. But still, Naruto weaved around his palm thrusts.

"Flow like water," Naruto murmured, before aiming a kick at Neji's knee.

Neji darted back, knowing better than to try and guard a low kick at this range when Naruto would simply take advantage of the lowered guard.

"Your taijutsu is impressive, Neji, but there's quite a bit of unnecessary movement. And you don't put enough power into your palm strikes and compensate by focusing too much on hitting the tenketsu point."

"Are you trying to instruct me?" Neji's voice came as a low hiss.

Hinata had made Neji lose control in her fight with him, but she'd paid the price and nearly gotten killed for it. Naruto was playing dangerously here, at the end of things; he'd still only trained his taijutsu for a couple of weeks whereas Neji had been training his style since he'd been old enough to start.

"Of course I am," said Naruto. He shifted into a stance that Neji recognised all too well. It was his stance.

Neji clenched his fists. This was an insult he could not possibly stand. "As expected of the student of the Copy-nin," he said, and he matched the stance. "Then let me instruct you on how to use it."

The Hyuuga jumped forwards, delivering a flurry of palm strikes. Naruto matched each and every one of them, loudly criticising Neji's technique as he did so.

"Your arm is too rigid."

"You should only make rapid multiple attacks while my guard is down otherwise you waste energy."

"You're still not putting enough power into it."

"You can't hit my tenketsu while I'm blocking you like this, you have to adapt and think of a new strategy."

Neji growled, and managed to finally slip past Naruto's guard with pure speed, his palm smashing into Naruto's chin. Before he could take advantage, Naruto fell back, rotating around in the air. He landed on his hands, and propelled himself off the ground, his feet on target for Neji's chest.

Neji's palms connected with the soles of Naruto's sandals, and pushed forwards, to cause Naruto to roll backwards and put some distance between them.

Was it possible that this person was an imposter? But his Byakugan had not noticed anything. And no imposter with the brains to fool the Byakugan would act and fight so differently. But surely no one could become a taijutsu master in a month-

That was, assuming he really was a master. He'd managed to hit Naruto in the jaw mere moments ago. Naruto had recovered admirably, but even so, a hit was a hit. It meant he was still faster than Naruto, and the reason Naruto was stopping his attacks was because he somehow knew how to counter his clan taijutsu-

Then it came to him.

Neji smiled as he moved into the same stance he had started the fight with.

"Oh, not that ridiculous single move stuff again," said Naruto.

Neji rushed forwards; once again, his right hand brought back to deliver his palm strike. Naruto smiled, readying himself to counter it-

But the smirk quickly faded from Naruto's face as Neji moved at the last second, delivering a kick square into Naruto's chest.

The blonde staggered back, gasping for air, and Neji seized his chance, attacking with quick jabs to seal his tenketsu. While Naruto managed to weakly fend off most of his attacks, Neji still hit several.

And then Neji completely broke through Naruto's guard with the sheer number of palm strikes he was delivering. He landed constant hit after hit, abandoning all attempts at finesse and going straight for brutality.

Naruto's battered arms went up, grabbing Neji's head with his fingers, his thumbs stabbing at his eyes.

Neji shrieked with pain, his eyelids having snapped shut as reflex, before he retained his senses and delivered a double palm strike to Naruto's chest, sending his attacker crashing back several metres.

As Naruto climbed up to his feet, Neji said nothing, but it was clear he quaked with anger. Trying to damage the eyes of a Hyuuga was an insult that made copying their taijutsu look trivial.

The blonde shook his head as he wiped some blood away that was leaking from his nostrils- the result of one too many strikes to the face. "Well you know, anything goes," he said, his grin reappearing. "I figured that'd get you to stop. So, did you see it, Neji?"

Neji ignored him. "Surrender now. I've hit enough of your tenketsu- and if we continue, I'll pay you back for trying to harm my eyes. You're nothing more than a dropout, and although you may have gotten a few lucky hits on me, you've had no chance since the moment it was decided you would be my opponent."

"You didn't answer me," said Naruto. "Didn't you realise? The moment you stopped rigidly obeying your clan's taijutsu, you started winning. What could that mean? Maybe sometimes rules-"

"Don't waste my time. Surrender or die."

"Well, I'm afraid I'm not too keen on those options," said Naruto. "I'm quite keen on winning myself, would you like to surrender?"

Neji's frown told him all he needed to know.

"Right, so you're not going to surrender. So that means if I want to win, I'd have to beat the shit out of you. Is that okay? My options now are surrendering, dying, or beating the shit out of you. Hmm…tricky choices, but I think I'm gonna go with Option C and beat the shit out of you."

Naruto rolled up the sleeves on his jacket and raised his fists again.

"Go on, Naruto's evil twin!" Ino and Kiba cheered.

"For God's sake Ino," said Sakura, her face in her hands as people started staring at them.

"Why Naruto and not Neji?" Tenten asked.

"He's not as good as I thought," said Lee.

"Who, Neji?" Sakura asked.

"No. Naruto-kun," said Lee. "I didn't see it at first, but Naruto's not quite as skilled as I thought. There's many flaws in his movements, a lot of clumsiness, it's like he thinks he's working at a different height some times. The only reason Neji hasn't capitalised on it yet is because he's unfamiliar with Naruto's taijutsu."

"So that means-"

"If Naruto-kun doesn't win soon Neji will eventually see through him," Lee said, "The longer this fight goes on, the greater chance Neji has at winning."

"Hey, pipe down in front," said Kiba. "I'm trying to watch these two beat the crap out of each other."

"Well, anyway, I think Neji-" Tenten started, only to be cut off by Sakura.

"Do you not have anything to talk about apart from Neji? Why can't you even talk about yourself or something? It's like you exist solely to fill up the third person slot in their team."

"Ah, Sakura-chan," Lee said, throwing a nervous glance towards Tenten. "You shouldn't-"

Tenten burst into tears, causing even more people to start looking at them.

In the stadium, the two genin continued to fight. It was becoming increasingly clear to the spectators to how this fight was working, Naruto had the upper edge when Neji used his taijutsu style because he somehow knew how it worked, which forced Neji to incorporate more unorthodox moves and attacks, which although would work temporarily, were eventually countered or withstood by Naruto due to Neji's own lack of familiarity with them.

The two had broken away, both bloodied and sweating. It was clear the fight had to end soon. The question was whether there'd even be a victor at this point, or whether the two would just exhaust themselves.

In silent, mutual consent, the two stepped back further, both looking away from their opponent. Naruto shook his legs off, before stretching them again, while Neji stretched his arms.

But as his arms went behind his head, Neji felt a blunt impact collide with his chest, sending him staggering back. He brought his arms down to shield and counter against the rest of Naruto's blows, but Naruto had already darted back.

"You're slowing down, Neji," Naruto grinned.

"It's over," said Neji. "I will not hold back on you any longer."

"Yeah, you keep saying stuff like that, but then when you have to actually come to putting your words into actions, you don't seem to succeed."

"Oh?" said Neji, stepping forwards. "You are in range of my divination."

The last thing Naruto thought before Neji relentlessly set upon him with the Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms technique was that members of the Branch House were not supposed to know that technique, according to his father's memories.

Maybe that changed.

Naruto's right arm hung limply by his side, almost completely useless. His left was still useable, barely. He'd managed to try and avoid some of the hits, but not enough, Neji was simply too fast and powerful.

"It's over," said Neji. Despite himself, he was still shocked that Naruto was still capable of standing.

Naruto managed to laugh. By the struggling rasping sound it came out as, it was clear that doing so was hurting him. "Heh. I guess it was just too ridiculous to spend a couple of weeks training taijutsu and hoping I could bring down someone who'd trained all their life."

"That should've been obvious," said Neji. "But just one question. How did you get so much stronger in that short time period?"

"Well, I've got the knowledge of the Yondaime Hokage in my head," said Naruto.

Neji scoffed. "If you're going to tell me such nonsense, you may as well have just stayed silent."

'Come on, there has to be a way out of this. I won't let that month have been wasted effort', Naruto thought, just about making the fingers on his left hand tremble. There were his trump cards, the Kyuubi's chakra, the Tornado Fist- but they weren't worth wasting on a Chuunin Exam. Especially not against an opponent who wasn't even out to kill him, and would probably settle for humiliating him.

"Surrender. Or I beat you bloody."

Naruto grinned. He finally had it. An idea that just might work. "Go ahead."

Neji moved so fluidly it was as though he had expected it. As smoothly as a wound-up spring being released again.

His target moved; turning a little- and that was it.

The blow sent Naruto crashing back, and he nearly fell over, instead, going down onto one knee. He climbed back up, but Neji realised what he had done.

"You still took the hit," said Neji. "But you moved just by that fraction to prevent it from hitting your pressure point, knocking you out and losing the match."

Naruto grinned.

"You've already lost the match. Just accept it."

Neji moved, even faster. He'd gone around Naruto- and went for a spot on the back of his neck that would temporarily block his windpipe and cause Naruto to pass out from air loss.

Naruto just managed to move again, hopping to the side so that the blow hit him on his right shoulder.

Fortunately that arm was already out of action.

"I'll give you one last chance," said Neji. "Next time will be the last time I try and end it with one blow. After that I'll just go all out on you."

"I'm counting on it," said Naruto, as he turned around to face Neji.

"What do you gain from this?" Neji asked as he raised his hand. "What do you seek to accomplish by fighting on at this point? There will be other chances to be promoted to chuunin. Why do you struggle against your fate when the outcome is clear?"

"What other reason could there be? I want to win."

"How do you intend to do so? You can't beat me in taijutsu. You can't use any ninjutsu. And even if you were skilled enough in genjutsu to wield it at this stage, I'd see through it."

"Interesting," said Naruto. "Before you just seemed to have that attitude of "only an idiot struggles against fate", why are you so interested now?"

"You are not the same person I saw a month ago," said Neji. "That much is clear. No, even then. During the preliminaries, you had already started changing."

Somewhere, inside Naruto's head, he could feel that his father would've smiled with approval. Neji was deserving of that title of prodigy, and in time he would soon be an outstanding shinobi of Konoha. Eventually he'd probably put two and two together and realise Naruto hadn't been joking with that bit about the Yondaime.

'I'm hiding these memories for what?' Despite himself, he found his thoughts straying in the battlefield. 'To protect myself from old enemies from coming after me? In case people won't believe me? Out of some twisted revenge for no one telling me about my parents?'

Naruto let his eyes look up to the box that the Hokage and Kazekage were seated in. 'Forget that. Old man, I'll tell you everything after this.'

"I have seen your taijutsu," said Neji. "You seem to run almost entirely on muscle memory rather than actually thinking about your movements. To have trained yourself so intensively in a month to the point that could be true almost seems unbelievable."

Naruto didn't say anything, content to listen. If anything, he was still impressed by Neji's analytical skills, but then again, the Hyuuga was remarkably skilled with taijutsu himself and happened to train with Konoha's taijutsu expert.

Although Neji hadn't picked up on the slight clumsiness, as a result of…well, height issues. This was why he'd been avoiding most kicks or lunging attacks as he knew he'd probably overbalance himself.

"Your attempts to rile me earlier, criticising and imitating my skills, attacking my eyes- because you knew you still could not defeat me in an equal taijutsu battle. You are clearly intelligent enough to know when you cannot win. As such, you are clearly not a fool."

"Well, the jury's still out on that one," said Naruto. "I'm clearly not intelligent enough to figure out that I've lost this one."

"Indeed. Which is what I find so strange. Why do you fight when you know that will lose when the fight itself is near meaningless?"

"Maybe because I'm trying to prove something to you."

"That you cannot escape your fate no matter how hard you struggle against it?"

Naruto smiled. "Neji, you talk too much. Now, let me tell you something by myself. Maybe I'm still barely capable of standing, with a right arm that won't move. Or maybe, while you were talking, I've just been buying myself some time to start regaining the use of my arms-"

Neji leapt forwards, intent on sealing the fight there.

His right palm was blocked by Naruto's right arm. For Naruto's left hand held his right, raising the arm across his torso as a shield. And then he released it-seizing Neji by the shoulder, pulling him close.

Neji's free hand shot up as Naruto pulled his head back.

Naruto's forehead smashed into Neji's face as Neji's left palm struck Naruto's chest.

They broke away, staggering and swaying.

And then they finally dropped to the ground.

"I'm telling you, I'm okay, I just needed a little rest," Naruto said, trying to convince the med-nin who was trying to stop him getting him out of bed.

The boys had been stretchered out of the arena to thunderous applause. The match had been ruled a draw and thus both genin were out. Naruto was still fairly annoyed but had chosen to blame it all on Jiraiya, whose brilliant idea last night had left him with a hangover so painful he couldn't mould chakra and form his Shadow Clones.

"You were hit by the Jyuuken, you could have internal damage that may only come forwards later-"

"Hey, Neji! Did you give me any internal damage that may come forwards later?"

"No," Neji groaned from his bed. His lack of accelerated healing meant he was still too exhausted to get up.

"There you go," said Naruto.

The med-nin sighed. "Fine, let me just go and consult a doctor first. Wait here."

Naruto hopped out of bed as the med-nin left. "You okay, Neji?"

Neji looked up at the ceiling, not answering for a while as he lay in silent thought. "How did you do it?" He finally said. "I was still stronger than you in taijutsu, I attacked you with my Sixty-Four Palms, and yet you still managed to prove yourself to be my equal."

"Oh? Equals now, are we?"

Neji looked over at him, his face stretched into a scowl. "I'd be a fool to think otherwise. Tactics-wise, you had me from the start. If not for my Sixty-Four Palms- hmm, I should've used Kaiten at some point-"

"Hold on," Naruto said. "You know Kaiten too?"

Neji smirked.

Naruto grinned back. "We have to have a rematch some time."

"One month from today," Neji answered immediately, evidently having already thought about it himself. "Seems fair?"

"Deal," Naruto grabbed Neji's hand and enthusiastically shook it. "Hey, I'll give you a palm reading…ah; it says you're fated to lose."

Neji rolled his eyes. "If you could escape your fate today, then I will escape mine."

Naruto smiled to himself, as the med-nin came back to release him. Sure. He probably might not get promoted, but there'd be other chances. And hell. Today had been fun. It almost didn't matter. For he'd learnt something as Neji had- the boy who'd looked down on him a month ago and would've called him worthless, had now today called him an equal and challenged him to a friendly spar- and he himself was beginning to understand his own place in the world and what the memories had shaped him into.

As he left the room, he bumped into the Hyuuga elder Hiashi. Naruto's grin grew as he excused himself, heading towards the stands.

AN: So yeah. Naruto didn't win. Well? I hate stories where Naruto becomes transformed overnight into some unbeatable super-powerful guy. That is a horrible way to write and kills all the drama and conflict. This chapter was more about trying to flesh out a friendship between the two. Something else that bothers me about those typical super Naruto fics is that he never has any "real" friends, only people who are bashed or villainised or people who virtually worship every word that come out of his mouth. So instead, Naruto draws the fight and gains a lot more respect from Neji than he ever did.

But this isn't a lecture on how to write good fics. Anyone who wants one of those, check out the guide I recently wrote.

As for why it's been taking me so long to update as my last big one was back in January, well, I underestimated how much of a bitch uni can be. I have a break coming up and I'll try again, most next chapters are about half-finished at most, so we'll see.

EDIT: Okay, based on a complaint, I better explain a fourth wall joke. Jeez, people complained about me mentioning Kakashi was breaking the fourth wall a few chapters ago, now I need to say so when I do else I run the risk of making people look weird.

Okay, the reason why Sakura makes Tenten burst into tears, is a simple joke based on how Kishimoto has said she was never really given that much depth due to her being created solely to fill up the third slot on Lee and Neji's team. If you noticed, every line of dialogue Tenten had in this chapter was about Neji in some way. I was originally going to make Sakura say something like "talk about yourself, like why you don't have a family name", but I was worried that'd make the joke too obvious. So...yeah. It'll probably never be mentioned again, like the Uzukaze Minruto fiasco.

EDIT...again: Since some people apparently can not bear the idea of Naruto not winning, lemme make a point to you. Canon Naruto still got fucked by Neji till he used the Kyuubi's chakra. He didn't beat Neji on his own. And even though he won, what did that really accomplish? People still made fun of him, he didn't make Chuunin, he didn't move onto the next round. He didn't even really get Neji's respect for a while even though he changed his entire mode of thinking. Also, what really is more ninja-like? Showing off your most powerful attack to beat some kid in a tournament or keeping it hidden and not showing it off to the numerous foreign ninja so you can keep it for when you really need it ?

If you're looking for a fic where Naruto fucks around super-strong beating everyone with ease, no. I don't care what that one guy said, there is no real conflict or drama in such a story. Have you ever read a real life fiction story that's all about this guy who gets superpowers and has no troubles with anything any more because he's so strong there's no threat at all and the drama comes from people who knew him before "reacting to his powers"? What a load.

And Jesus Christ. Do you think that I'm going to have every fight as a draw or a loss from now on? Of course he's still going to win fights. I'm just not gonna tell you which ones because I don't want you to know. You know, it adds a little tension because the reader doesn't know what to expect.

Also, to the guy who complained that this wasn't anything like jbern's fic, well, sadly I have to reply to you here because you've disabled private messaging. Oh yeah, it's not like that Harry ever lost tournament rounds or made mistakes...oh...wait... and besides, that point aside, why the fuck would I want to make this a carbon copy of someone else's fic just set in a different fandom?