Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
Author's Note: Hola everybody. Look, the dead author lives! I know, shocking right? Well, I am back and I supremely apologize for leaving and not updating for what…10 months now? I suck, I know, and I got people asking for an update. So, here it is. I will let you know it was a combination of procrastination, bad memory, a lot of other stuff going on, and writing my own original idea that kept this update unwritten. But last Saturday I was like, alright, time to make some people happy! So…I hope this made you happy J
P.S. - No, the Chunnin exams will not be as long as the Wave trip. Even I think that dragged on a bit and may go back and revise that. But this just means the Chunnin exam chapters will just have that much more packed into them! I'm guessing…maybe 8? Is that too much? Let me know! Though I will tell you, I think I've got some pretty kick-ass stuff planned for the Chunnin exams though, and I am quite excited to write it.
Now without further ado, the latest installment to Fire Fox Legacy…
He shook the troubling thoughts away. He himself did not see a problem with sharing a bit about himself with his team. It actually felt…good, knowing that it was one less thing he had to hide from them. But he did have an interest in staying alive…
He just hoped his opinion wouldn't get him killed.
One week later…
Naruto stood alone on the empty back street, leaning against the wooden fence behind him. His arms were crossed across his chest and his head tilted back, his blank cerulean eyes lazily watching the clouds roll in the sky. He sighed, the muscles in his shoulder tense. Today was a big day…the first day of the Chunnin exams.
The blonde didn't have much fear that the exams would be too trying for him - after 8 years with Itachi, not many things presented to him were as difficult as they would've been had he stayed here. But he knew that Itachi was going to finally tell him the long in progress plan for exacting revenge on Konaha sometime around the Chunnin exams.
What if Itachi saw him and his team mates together? After the past week of almost non-stop training, he would even admit that they had gotten closer. He had grown fond of their childish antics, the way that in a pinch they could pull out strength he couldn't imagine when they were sitting at the ramen stand after the day's work.
If Itachi witnessed any of this…the scene in the shed would be like another afternoon nap.
He shuddered at the thought, the wave of anxiety rippling down his spine. He'd just have to be on his toes from now on, really search for Itachi's chakra, so then he'd be prepared.
A hand touched his shoulder and he jumped, twisting away from the touch, pulling a kunai from his back pocket. Sakura stared back at him with wide eyes, her hand frozen in mid-reach.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you." she exclaimed apologetically. Naruto relaxed, twirling the kunai on his finger before shoving it back in the holster on his thigh.
"Sorry to scare you…it was a reflex." he said. Sakura nodded, but in her mind, worry grew. She had grown to know Naruto very well in the past couple of days, now that he was opening up more and more every time they saw each other. So she knew that he shouldn't have been taken off guard by her - he would've sensed her before she even turned on the same street as him.
He only got this way when something heavy was pressing on his mind.
"Let's go meet Sasuke, Kakashi said we've got to get to the community center early." the blonde said, turning towards the exit of the alley, watching her over his shoulder. Sakura nodded in agreement, falling in beside him and they started walking.
The two entered the town center, weaving through the people as they made their way towards the Uchiha complex. Naruto ignored the mixed waves of fear and hostility he felt from numerous people as they walked, trying to focus on the words coming out of Sakura's mouth. She was talking about one of the group techniques they had been working on, about a way to make it more fluid.
Suddenly, a presence flared up on his radar and he stopped short, his breath coming in slow, his shoulders rising with tension. Sakura paused, stopping to look back at her team mate. Naruto's head turned sharply to look at a dark, shadowed alley to their right and a flash of movement from within in melted into the wall. His eyes narrowed and his hand clenched into a fist.
"Naruto?" Sakura's voice broke through his consciousness and he glanced back at her. She was looking at him with a look of concern, worry and fear. "Are you ok?"
Naruto tried to calm himself, if only to make her feel better. He took in a deep breath, forcing a small smirk onto his face.
"Yea…I'm fine." he stated. He glanced one last time at the alleyway before continuing walking, taking it a bit slower until Sakura had joined him at his side. They walked a few minutes in silence, Sakura searching for something to say, while Naruto was buried in his own thoughts. It was when they almost reached the Uchiha complex that the blonde finally spoke.
"…Sakura?" he muttered, his voice almost lost in the clamor of the sounds of the village. The pinkette looked over to her partner and he was staring at her with his intense blue eyes, an unknown look lurking in them. A slight shiver ran down her spine - whenever she saw that gaze on him before, the tremor would be of fear…but now it was something else, something she couldn't put her finger on…
"Yeah?" she answered, trying to control her voice, so it wouldn't shake. Naruto sighed, running a hand through his hair. Whatever was on his mind, it certainly had him in a state.
"Just…be careful. Keep your senses open." he stated, looking away from her. Sakura's brow furrowed; was there something Naruto was worried about? Or maybe…someone?
"Is there something you're not telling me Naruto?" she asked, her tone inquisitive. She could only recall one time she had seen Naruto so on edge, never even in a battle. It was that time in the Wave, after what had happened in the shed at Tsunami's house…
"Naruto, is it the man who injured you back in the Wave?" Naruto clenched his jaw and his eyes flashed to the rooftops, skimming the edges.
"I don't know." Sakura felt a wave of worry wash over her. She remembered the gruesome sight of Naruto crumpled on the floor of the shed, blood oozing from his head and arms, the bruises on his neck. What if he attacked again? What if they didn't find Naruto this time?
"Don't go jumping to conclusions. Remember, shinobi from all over are coming in for the Chunnin exams. Some of them might be triggering my senses…just be careful all the same." Naruto assured, adding a small smile to boot. But Sakura could tell that he didn't really feel 100% sure about the words he was saying…and neither did she.
Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura walked in through the double doors of the Konaha Community Center, the sounds of gargling voices hitting them immediately.
"Well, it seems like the party's started without us." Sasuke commented, his hands in his pockets. The din of voices grew louder.
"Sounds more like a riot if you ask me." Naruto stated, angry voices echoing in the hallway. The trio turned a corner and sure enough, a mass of enraged students were swarming, two lone Chunnin shinobi trying to hold them back from the door behind them. Sasuke glanced at the number above the door and he raised an eyebrow.
"I thought we were testing in Room 315?"
"We are." Sakura answered. Sasuke looked back at the sign above the door, and motioned at it with a nod of his head.
"Then why is there a mob in front of room 215?" the Uchiha asked. Naruto and Sakura looked at where he was motioning, and sure enough, the sign above the door read 'Room 215'. Naruto walked over to the nearest of students, who was quietly standing back from her team mates, who were trying to get at the Chunnin.
"What's going on here?" Naruto asked, his voice sounding confused. Sakura had to hold back a chuckle and Sasuke barely kept the smirk off his face. Say what you want about Naruto, but the kid was a good actor. The shinobi, her forehead protector bearing the symbol of the Rain, turned to look at Naruto.
"We're all trying to get into the room where the first exam is supposed to be held, but they won't let us in." she answered, her voice smooth.
"I thought it was in Room 315?" Naruto asked. The girl rolled her eyes, a look of annoyance flickering across her face.
"Can't you read? That's what the sign says, 315." she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. Naruto nodded, looking thoughtful before turning back towards his team mates. The instant his back was turned on the Rain shinobi, his façade fell, a look of irritation replacing it.
"It must be a Genjutsu." Sasuke said after Naruto explained what the girl had said. He glanced back at the door, and the ever growing crowd of people in front of it. "Must be a decent one, if it's catching all these people."
"Guess this means less competition for us." Naruto stated, pushing his way past the clump of ninja and making his way down the hallway with Sakura and Sasuke not far behind.
They emerged on a balcony overlooking a large area that looking like it could be a sparing arena. The team headed down the stairs, towards the open door and the sunlight that spilled from it.
"I wonder how many of ours got caught up in that trick." Sakura wondered aloud, her voice mingling with the echo of their footsteps.
"You can bet we did." a chilled voice from behind sounded, causing the three to stop. They turned and saw another team wearing the Leaf symbol standing at the top of the hang over they had just come from. Naruto didn't recognize them, which meant they hadn't been in the class he had entered upon his return to the village.
Which also meant they had no idea who he was…or what he was capable of.
Naruto bit back the smirk he felt threatening to rise on his face, and he masked his chakra just a bit more. Sakura and Sasuke shot him a look but he just shook his head, a small smile working its way onto his face.
The one who had spoken had bushy eyebrows, a gleaming bowl cut and of course, just to complete the look, a green spandex suit. His eyes glowed with an intense fire behind them, and he noticed that his gaze had landed on…Sakura.
The pinkette groaned and she slid so she was hiding behind Naruto.
"Oh no." she moaned, crouching so her small form hid behind Naruto's.
"What, the jumper too much for you?" Naruto muttered, a chuckle bordering in his voice. Sakura sent him a half-hearted glare, which of course had no effect.
"That's Rock Lee. He's had a crush on me for the past two years. Ever since we ran into each other in-between classes at the Academy." Naruto couldn't help the snicker that escaped past his lips. Sakura punched him lightly in the back, effectively cutting him off.
Lee jumped down from the balcony, his two team mates following his lead. On the left, a girl with twin buns and a light pink shirt with a panda bear landed with light feet, her chakra sense rather small for a shinobi supposedly a year older than them.
On his right, it was a different story. He had long brown hair, held together at the bottom by a rubber band. His eyes were milk white, his pupils almost blending in with the rest of his eye - Naruto recognized immediately that it must mean he had some special skill. No one's eyes were that color by chance. There had to be a purpose…
But what stood out was the chakra surging through him. The boy didn't bother to hide any of it, so Naruto could feel the power flowing throughout his body. This kid could be of some interest. Though he was sure a couple other shinobi here felt the same way.
Lee took a step towards the group and Naruto felt Sakura cringe behind him.
"I regret to tell you that I am not here for you today, Sakura-chan." the bushy-browed ninja said. His eyes slid over to Sasuke, and the Uchiha grew rigid under his gaze. Lee's brow furrowed.
"I've come here to challenge you to a fight, right here and now." Lee stated, his voice echoing in the silent and otherwise empty room. Sasuke smirked and his chakra spiked, if only a little.
"I haven't had a good fight in a while." he commented, his muscles tensing in preparation. Naruto turned his gaze from his team mate to the boy who had challenged him and narrowed his eyes. The boy on Lee's right glanced at Naruto and his eyes also narrowed, a guarded look rising in the milky whites.
Sasuke took a step towards Lee but a strong, "No." split the air, making Sakura and the girl on Lee's left jump. Everyone turned towards Naruto, who was standing still, his arms crossed. "Don't fight him Sasuke."
A grimace grew on the Uchiha's face. "Why shouldn't I?". Naruto took a step forward, his eyes still resting on Lee.
"Because, you need to save your strength for the exams. Don't let your want to prove yourself overcome your sense of logic." Naruto said, his voice smooth. Sasuke glanced back towards Lee and for a moment, it looked like he would go ahead with the fight anyway. But amazingly enough, a few seconds later, he nodded his head and fell back, coming to stand next to Sakura.
Lee turned his attention on Naruto, who was still staring at him with a scrutinizing look.
"Are you amazed by my youthfulness?" Lee exclaimed, flashing a peace sign. Naruto bit back the laugh that was building in his chest, trying to maintain nonchalant. Just because his team had gained access to him, doesn't mean everyone else did.
"Not exactly. But I am interested in how a shinobi has gotten this far without knowing any jutsu at all." Lee's eyes widened, the girl's jaw dropped and even the stoic boy looked a little surprised.
"H-how did you know I have not learned a single jutsu?" Lee stuttered, his voice high with surprise. Naruto started pacing, walking a small, slow circle around Lee, his eyes examining.
"You're tall and lean, but it's all muscle, not a pinch of unnecessary fat. This would be because of the endless hours of training you've done, consisting completely of body strengthening exercises. Now why would a shinobi spend all his time perfecting his body instead of learning powerful jutsu? Even though been fit is a critical point, why be that meticulous? Well, if tai-jutsu was your only form of combat, a strong core and iron muscles is just as important as the air you breath. This combined with the fact that your chakra is very weak, puts the puzzle pieces together." Naruto explained, completing his circle, ending back up next to his team mates.
The three other Leaf ninja still looked awe-stricken, and Lee's face took on an expression of interest.
"Maybe I should have challenged you instead…" he thought out loud. Sasuke's jaw clenched and Naruto shook his head.
"No, no. Sasuke would've made a much more interesting fight, believe me." the blond commented, waving the boy's thought away. The boy on the right's brow furrowed, and for once, he spoke.
"He's right Lee. Sasuke's chakra is incredible, an immense amount for a shinobi his age, and only a few months after graduating the Academy. He, on the other hand," he motioned to Naruto, "has barely any at all, his chakra falling well below even that of Ten Ten's." the boy said, the girl on Lee's left, who had to be assumed as Ten Ten, nodding along with him.
Lee fell silent, his face overcome with thought. Naruto smirked and turned, motioning Sakura and Sasuke to join him. They continued their walk, heading for the open door, when Lee called after them.
"What's your secret?" Naruto turned back over his shoulder, meeting Lee's intense gaze. "How did you know all that, upon meeting me, by just looking me over." Naruto's face remained blank, revealing none of the conflicting emotions and thoughts running through his head as he answered.
"Let's just say…I had a very good teacher."
After the arena was long behind them, the team walked up the final set of stairs and finally reached the third floor, and at the end of the hallway was the room where their first test would take place. As they made their way towards the door, a figure leaning against the wall in the shadow from the window looked up, and his mask crinkled up in a hidden smile.
"Well if it isn't my lovely team? And right on time as well!" Kakashi said cheerfully, pushing himself off the wall and meeting them just a few feet away from the closed double doors.
"We would've been here sooner but we…ran into a few obstacles." Sakura answered, a sheepish smile edging across her face. Kakashi's eyes clouded over in confusion, but he waved it away - he would find out about it later.
"This is your first test. I won't see you until after the second, so I've come here to give you some encouraging words." His three students stayed silent, so Kakashi continued on, knowing his minutes were limited.
"The Chunnin in this village operate as a team, always working together, always working as one instead of four. The idea of the exam is to weed out the ones that can already recognize this and put them to the test - because realization is just the beginning. Execution is the deciding factor."
"Sasuke, remember, you have a team behind you, so don't let your emotions and your past get ahead of you. Think about the overall outcome, not just for you, but for Naruto and Sakura as well."
"Sakura, keep in mind that you are just as important to the team as both Sasuke and Naruto, and with you medical skills, even the small ones, you will be vital if one of them gets injured. Proving yourself as a strong shinobi is not the point here, being able to become one is."
"And Naruto…your team is the closest thing us shinobi have as family. We spend countless hours together, we grow bonds that no one else in the world could ever have. Even when you think you're alone in the world, your team is always there, to pick you up and help you along. Remember, they are your precious people. Keep them close, keep them safe. Work with them, instead of trying to fight it out alone."
The three Genin each soaked in what Kakashi had said, Naruto's mind reeling with how close it had hit home. He could feel the burning sensation of tears behind his eyes, but he refused to let them surface - that would be his downfall for sure.
"I'll see you all soon. I believe in you guys…I wouldn't have entered you if I didn't think you were ready." Kakashi said, starting to walk down the hall. Sasuke, Naruto and Sakura watched him go, their heart rates increasing as the thought finally dawned on them.
This was it.
Sakura turned forward first, Sasuke and Naruto following shortly after. They all exchanged a glance and Sakura reached out, grasping the door handle. Sasuke placed his hand just on top of hers, grabbing the door handle with a firm grasp. Naruto hesitated, his mind every where, yet here all at once. He grabbed the last small piece of the door handle about Sasuke's hand, all three of their hands now holding onto the door knob.
"From here on out, we are a team…we are a family." Sasuke muttered, starting to pull on the door. Sakura and Naruto nodded, and followed after him, pulling the heavy doors open.
Behind the doors, revealed a room packed with shinobi from all over the world, all of which turned to see the newest arrivals. No one spoke as the three entered the room, the oak doors closing with a muffled bang behind them. They moved forward, trying to get away from the doors incase someone else came through - one of those doors to the back would not feel pleasant.
"Sasuke!" a high-pitched voice squealed from the crowd and the Uchiha groaned just as a blonde blur tackled him from the side, wrapping him in a bear hug. Ino nestled her cheek against the boy's shoulder, smiling from ear to ear.
Naruto lowered his head, trying to muffle the chuckles making their way past his lips. Suddenly, the same presence from the alleyway flared up again, somewhere on the other side of the room. Naruto's head snapped up and his hands clenched immediately, his eyes scouring the room for the chakra sense, but nothing was adding up. The presence remained for a few seconds, but then diminished again, disappearing as it had before.
Naruto's shoulders grew taut and his teeth clenched. It was a dangerous, feeling he got from whatever this was, an intensely murderous wave berating against his senses. His took in a slow, deep breath and he closed his eyes, trying to search for the presence again.
Sakura was bantering with Ino when she noticed Naruto standing frozen, all his muscles locked, his fists clenched and his eyes closed, his chest rising with his slow breaths. Ino broke off in the middle of her tirade and followed Sakura's line of vision, glancing over at Naruto.
"What's wrong with him? He looks like he's…I dunno, listening for something." Ino commented. Sakura's brow furrowed and she walked away from the blond, approaching Naruto carefully - she hadn't forgotten her lesson from earlier about what happened if you sneak up on Naruto.
"Naruto?" Sakura whispered, trying not to startle the boy from whatever state he was in. He took in a deep breath, his eyes opening, revealing the brilliant cerulean blues. His head rose, but he didn't look at her. Instead, he glanced back towards the far corner of the room, his eyes sweeping the back wall. "Naruto?" Sakura asked again, this time reaching out and grasping his clenched hand.
Naruto jumped slightly at the touch and his revere broke. He glanced down and noticed Sakura's hand resting on his. He relaxed his fist, her fingers entwining in his. He looked back up at her, a small and gentle smile on her face. Naruto smirked, his shoulders dropping and his body falling from its rigid position.
"Sorry…something just made me…on edge." Naruto said, his eyes growing troubled. Sakura glanced around the room, though it's not like it helped - there were hundreds of ninja here she had never seen before. A mere eye swoop would do little to nothing.
"Was it the same thing that had you worried this morning?" she muttered, keeping her voice low. She was aware of Ino's on boring into her back and she assumed that Naruto preferred this conversation not be overheard. Naruto nodded.
"I think so…not the same thing the first time, but the alleyway…" his voice faded off and he shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts from his mind. He gave her a real smile this time and she found it hard to breath when a genuine smile graced his face like that. "It's fine, I promise."
She nodded, her own thoughts starting to tumble in her mind. Just then, she realized that her hand was still in Naruto's and she blushed, slipping her hand out of his. Naruto turned away to look back on the room full of shinobi as if nothing happened, but Sakura couldn't help but notice that her face had grown hot, her heart had speed up and that…she had even liked those few short moments.
She furrowed her brow, her head starting to throb. She loved Sasuke, she know she did…didn't she?
Before anything could get any more confusing, the single door on the right hand wall burst open, revealing a tall, burly man in a black over coat. His boots thundered on the wooden floor as he marched into the room and his bald head gleamed under the florescent lights. He looked up to face them and a long scar going down the right side of his face glared at them, making a few of the girls in the room flinch.
"Hello hopefuls." the man began. "My name is Ibiki and I am your instructor for the first portion of the Chunnin exams." A few murmurs erupted around the room, but a swift glare from Ibiki silenced them effectively.
"You will find that being a Chunnin isn't all fun and games. There's more to it then going out and beating enemy ass." No one dared to laugh. "It involves brains and intelligence, both of which can be tested in a simple way." He held up a thick stack of papers. "It's test time."
Many shinobi groaned around the room - not even Ibiki's threatening looks could silence the frustration of a few select people. Naruto furrowed his brow, his heart sinking. He had never been good in school - Itachi had tried it in the beginning, but quickly learned that Naruto was more of the hands-on kind of guy. He hadn't picked up a book since he was 7, much less read one. And now…his knowledge on these books and school work would be tested.
Of all things he had to come up short on, of all times he had to be confronted with this kind of danger, this kind of setback. This could ruin everything - the exams, and Itachi's plan.
Because of a damn written test.
~Oh boom! How's that for a come back? 14 pages baby! Ok, so here's the problem, and no, it has nothing to deal with this story. So the cable people shut off the cable cause we couldn't afford it, but I can only go to sleep to the sound of the TV. So now we don't have any TV, or at least Disney channel, which is what I always have on before I go to bed. So I'm sitting up on a school night thinking, "Well, shit. I'm not going to bed tonight, am I?". Nope, I probably am not. So, I am going to be freaking dead for school tomorrow…awesome.
Sleep well…you lucky asses can… :P
With love, Kyubbi_Kitsune
P.S. - Not sure when the next update will be, so keep an eye out. Sooner than 10 months though, I promise that much.