AN: Eh...So finally got another chapter done. Let's just say my life is very veeerrry busy, and I have trouble finding time in which I feel the urge to write. Do not worry even if it takes me years I will finish this. Note this story ends at where Naruto ended, just before time skip. Now if I do the time skip... that is another story, and so undecided at this time. Believe it or not I have put many many other ideas on hold to make sure this is finished. I also had a few people point out something on the last chapter, from 'its kinda choppy, disjointed, etc...' WooHoo! That is what it was supposed to feel like, as you will see in this next chapter, at least from the non-genin pov, we have some people in shock. The choppiness was supposed to give a feel from different POV's.
Also of note... I have had 90% of chapter done for over a month. The beginning, end and the start of middle... and a BIG GAPING HOLE that still is not gone...Any who, sorry for the lateness... But here is another chapter, which is 'Un-Beta'd'
"It is an equal failing to trust everybody, and to trust nobody."
Chapter 6: Decisions during uncertainty...
Part 1: Trust...
"Think that's it?" TenTen asked, even as she landed in front of the tower.
Sasuke and Neji glanced over at Naruto and TenTen, even as Naruto softly sat on the ground to stare up at the solid tower in front of them. It was easily twice the height of the Hokage Tower, its width appeared the same size from bottom to what they could see of the top, which hovered several feet higher than the forest itself. They glanced at the ledges and windows decorating the side, noting the armaments on it. It was easy to see that this was one of the six battle towers that guarded Konoha. Possibly a last stand tower for retreat to, considering its location. The tower doors themselves were unlocked and one door slightly open, to allow people in.
"Hope so, if we have another challenge inside Naruto and Sakura will be a liability," Sasuke said even as he turned to watch as Lee and Sakura landed behind them.
Sakura was pale and sweaty, her arm around Lee's shoulder as he tried to help balance her without pulling on her damaged ribs. Sakura lifted her arm from around her stomach and flipped him off.
"Still doing better than Naruto, I bet," she muttered.
"Hey, I resemble that remark," Naruto's voice was weak and you could hear the pain in him as he spoke. Neji was standing close to him watching to see if he needed to catch the blond as he tried to stand back up.
"Take it easy, the test was to get to the tower with the scrolls, we should at least be good for 20 or so hours. After all the cut off is tomorrow. May I suggest we go inside and check in, see if they will allow medical treatment?" Neji butted in.
Not waiting for a response, the Hyuuga moved forward subtly pushing Naruto towards Sasuke and moved to open the doors a touch wider. The entrance way was a huge room with a plaque on the wall.
"'If you lack Heaven, seek wisdom and be prepared'," TenTen spoke up, "'If you lack Earth, run in the fields and seek advantages'. I know this, it's the Chuunin Motto. So the Heaven and Earth scroll are the next step. Neji ideas?"
"Open the scrolls."
Everyone turned to look at the Uchiha, "We were told not to open the scrolls in the forest. They never said not to open them here. I bet you they have the next clue along with the Chuunin Motto," he said as he leaned against a wall.
Neji and TenTen looked at each other and moved forward a scroll in each hand. Sakura moved forward along with Naruto pulling out a scroll. As each team opened their scrolls, smoke stared to escape.
"Summoning jutsu," TenTen called as four genin jumped backwards.
"Congratulations," two voices spoke out from the smoke. "You have successfully made it through the-"
The two chuunin who stood before them stopped as they made out the teams in front of them, one looked towards Naruto and Sasuke noticing their injuries and started talking into an ear piece.
"Your Maito Gai and Hatake Kakashi's teams!" the other one stuttered out, before moving forward to check them out. "Did anything unusual happen in the forest, how did you get these injuries," kneeling down to look at Naruto's arm even as he questioned them.
"Team Hatake met up with Orochimaru in the forest, Uchiha and Uzumaki were injured. Also the team from Oto attacked them claiming on orders from Orochimaru, in which Haruno took several injuries," Neji stepped forward to give a fast report, knowing Team 7 was too injured to report clearly. "Uchiha-san has a partial Seal injected by a bite on his shoulder, it is attempting to integrate with his chakra system, so I have been trying to keep the chakra network sealed around the wound. Uzumaki-san has a damaged arm, from a partial seal being burned out and a poisoned blade slice. Haruno-san is sporting several cracked ribs, possible internal bleeding due to the fight with the Oto team, and from the fast pace we took to get to the tower."
"Thank you, we will need your team to report as well, in the meantime let's get everyone down to medical and check out the seal damage. You will also have to decide whether you wish to continue, due to the rules of the Chuunin Exam medical assistance can be considered interference. "
"You're shitting me," Naruto slurred out. "After all that we could be dropped from the exam if we are treated?"
"It depends on conditions that occur between now and when the second exam takes place, we can in the meantime take certain measures," the chuunin answered as he picked up Naruto and turned to the other members of Team 7. "Can you move on your own or do you need assistance? The medical unit is not far from here."
"Sakura needs assistance, I should be okay to walk," Sasuke muttered moving forward slowly, he glared at Sakura before she could argue, and watched her accept the other chuunin's assistance.
"Here," Neji moved forward and pulled Sasuke's arm over his shoulder.
"Zabuza, Hatake," Haku ran into the room. "They arrived and are being taken to medical."
Both men shot up and stared moving at a fast pace, "I take it they were the target?"
"Hai, we already knew it from when Anko was found by ANBU. Apparently she caught up to Orochimaru and got her ass kicked. He was able to activate the seal on her and crippled her temporarily so he could get away. Before he left he mentioned Sasuke-Kun and Naru-chan. He seems to be after the Uchiha but was very interested in Naruto. Sadaime has requested you hurry, apparently a partial Seal was placed on Sasuke-kun," Kakashi stopped and started moving faster.
"Partial seal?" he asked tightly.
"I don't have all the details, just that Sasuke has a Partial Seal and that Naruto and Sakura are badly injured."
Reaching the end of the hallway they moved in tangent out the window and starting running through the roofs towards the entrance to training ground 44. Reaching the gate they moved to enter the third bunker. Nodding to the gate guard, Hatake opened a trapdoor on the floor. Nodding for Zabuza to follow him, he jumped into the underground tunnel and led the way to the tower. A few twist and turns, and they finally reached a solid steel door. Hatake placed his hand on the door, and a small part of the wall opened up.
"After you," Kakashi said, motioning for Zabuza and Haku to enter.
"Nice short cut," Zabuza muttered.
"Yeah, we try not to tell the chuunin or Jonin who took the exam here until needed," Kakashi said with a tight smirk.
"Wonder why?" Haku gave a forced giggle.
As they neared the medical floor, both Jonin took deep breaths, before entering. A quick glance showed Gai's team standing to the side, giving a report to Ibiki, the Sadaime and a few other higher ups. Sakura was being scanned medically and her face showed the signs of returning color. Sasuke was on the bed, apparently uninjured, but Hyuuga Sayori was staring at him and taking notes with the Byukugan. Naruto lay in the next bed. Several Medical nin scanning his arm, and setting up an IV, but not attaching it to the blond, who kept waving them off.
"Sir?" Kakashi asked loudly.
Sadaime looked up and moved over to join them, he motioned for the both of them to follow. Outside the hallway he stared at the both of them, finally turning and leading them to a side room.
"I must say that this is troubling, Sasuke appears to have half of the same curse seal Anko has. Though much more detailed, which leaves me to believe that hers was a prototype. As it is, we have no idea what to do with a partial seal," Sarutobi moved to sit down at the table. "Young Neji seemed to have noticed that the seal was trying to tap into Sasuke's chakra network and slowed the process even more by closing the chakra points around the wound. Really quiet ingenious. Unfortunately that is not a permanent solution. But I believe if you were to use the Fūja Hōin on it, it should take quite well, and we can re-awaken his chakra points. Since the seal has not managed to integrate with his chakra network, it should not cause him any problems unless Orochimaru is right next to him," Saidame leaned forward resting on the table and sighed deeply.
"Sakura appears to just have some a few broken ribs and internal bruising. No dangerous bleeds, but she will be black and blue in her torso for a bit. The one that concerns me is Naruto. It seems that even Kyuubi's accelerated healing has limits."
"What happened?" Kakashi asked.
"Well the reason Sasuke has only a partial seal is that Naruto appears to have been trying to push him out of the way. As a result of bad timing for himself, and good timing for Sasuke, he took the other half of the seal on his arm. From Sakura's account of what happened next, and our own knowledge the Kyuubi appears to have seen the seal as a threat. It literally burned away any infected flesh. It appears to have taken several hours of extreme exposure to Kyuubi's chakra, which in itself is not a very healthy thing for Naruto. When his arm finally started to re-grow the flesh back, he hit the next snag."
Sarutobi pulled out his pipe and took a few smoke filled breaths to calm his own thoughts. "A team of Oto genin, under Orochimaru's orders attacked them while the two boys were out. Sakura held them off till aid arrived in the form of Rock Lee. Naruto woke up then, but he took a slash from a poisoned blade right on the injured arm, in fact right on the newly forming flesh. With his body as stressed as it is, Kyuubi couldn't fight off the poison as well as usual. Luckily TenTen and Sakura managed to piece together an quasi-antidote, but he has a slight fever we're worried about. The arm itself still shows signs of regeneration of tissue occurring."
Sarutobi smiled slightly, "They are also requesting to be able to continue, currently we have 17 more hours to go, and right now if even one more team shows up we have a preliminary. If that happens, we can't treat until after the prelims, or they are dropped," the Sadiame gave a small laugh, "in the words of Naruto, 'after all that shit, I want to see this to the end' I can't say I disagree. They want to continue, but I am leaving it up to you to decide whether you want to pull them."
The aged Hokage stood up slowly. "I'll let you speak to them, before you decide," with that he walked out of the room.
Kakashi and Zabuza stared at each other.
"So by any chance were you assigned the 'cursed' team number every village has?" Zabuza asked leaning against the wall.
Team Seven looked up as the door swung open loudly. They watched as Kakashi and Zabuza walked in and headed towards them. Sasuke glanced at Naruto and Sakura, as they also returned the look. Each remained silent to see what their sensei's would say.
"So, I here you managed to find all the fun in the forest," Zabuza began, even as Kakashi leaned back against the wall between Sakura and Naruto's bed.
Naruto and Sasuke snorted, only for Sakura to curl slightly in pain, when a giggle escaped her mouth.
"Well we knew that you wouldn't want us to go the easy route," Sakura finally got out.
"Oh, sarcasm, much better pinky," the former Mist-Nin snarked back.
"So, the Sadaime gave us the run down, and once we decide on a few thing we will probably want you to re-report to us. But for now, you listen," Kakashi stated. "At the rate this exam is going to many teams will have passed the second round. That means we will most likely have a preliminary round. That means you will be randomly paired out with different genin and have to fight against an opponent. Not team competing, purely individual skill, which is what this exam will be from now on. Even further though you have technically passed this round, you cannot be treated till the clock runs out on all, without being disqualified. If even one of you thinks they can continue, none of you can get treated until after time on Phase two is up. Then you can make this decision to individually withdraw."
Seeing the confusion, he continued. "Technically if say Sakura was to get treated, she wouldn't be able to go through the prelims and so would be dropped, and so would Sasuke and Naruto, who would be unable to continue as they only are two man team. You see at this point, if a prelim is called you get the chance to drop only when all teams stand before the proctors and are offered the chance to withdraw."
"What if no prelim is called?" Sakura asked quietly.
Zabuza answered this time, "Well if you want to hold off treatment until the end of this round, you can pray that no more teams come in," he looked to the wall where he checked a clock, "You have 16 and a half hours before the time goes off. If you think that all three of you can hold out and see if no more teams come in. I do have to warn you, we have reports of at least two more teams nearing the tower. If they make it in, we will have a preliminary. If you think that even one of you can make it through the prelims, and you all want to make that possible, you have to wait. Once the time end, then you can drop out. Kakashi a I discussed it, we are letting you make the choice."
Sasuke who was very silent, finally spoke, "What is our status?"
Kakashi sighed before moving forward to talk, "Well Sakura appears to be the least worse off. She has internal bruising and a few broken ribs. They are making your lungs strain, but you are mostly just feeling the massive bruises in the torso. Now if you decide not to continue we can get you in to the hospital and have you healed up in no time, though you will be on light duty for a while. If you decide to continue you run the risk of taking a hit and getting severe damage."
Sakura looked down and nodded her face set but her eyes reflecting deep thoughts.
"Sasuke, your biggest problem is that partial seal in your shoulder. It is trying to integrate itself into your chakra network. Currently you have Neji to thank as he shut down your chakra system around the bite, but you can't have it activated till we can put another seal on top of it trapping it away from your system. That means you are on limited to next to no chakra when fighting. You will also have to ask Neji to make sure the chakra stays shut down. We can't help with that without being considered interference. He, as another genin in the exams, can provide assistance. I will tell you if we see any signs of the seal trying to activate we will remove you from the competition. We have one person in Konoha with a prototype and we can't even begin to understand how bad yours could be," Kakashi watched the impact of his words on the genin.
Sasuke looked up with narrowed eyes, "Can I ask what the purpose of the seal is?"
Kakashi shook his head slightly, "I wish I could tell you, I do know we have seen signs from the prototype that those infected get massive chakra boost but it damages your system and causes dangerous physical damage to your body. We also know that in your case from Neji's report, it is interested in integrating with your eyes' kekkai genkai. We also know that Orochimaru is obsessed with blood limits, and that his primary obsession is the Sharingan. It does cause mental changes by hyping up the drives of ambition, blood thirst and violence in a person," he looked away and turned back with dead serious eyes. "Orochimaru came to mark you specifically, he wants you and from the reports I saw he implied the seal will make you his."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed and his forehead furrowed. Seeing that Sasuke was taking this serious he turned to Naruto.
"You, my dear Naruto, have finally managed to find the limit to your healing ability. You system in now suffering from overdose. You have some small signs of chakra poisoning, and a high fever that on any other person would put them in a coma. The problem is other then treating your fever and assisting you body in self healing we can't do much. You arm though is a liability in a fight. You can't take much more damage until you have fully repaired it. The flesh is inflamed, and needs to heal. Your system could take anywhere from a few hours to even a week to reset itself."
"Heh," Naruto reached up to scratch the back of his head with the uninjured arm. "Well Zabuza-sensei did say that once injured they all go for the same spot."
The two Jonin pushed off from the walls they were leaning against. They turned to leave, "Well leave you all to decide."
The three genin were silent as they stared at each other. They were all afraid to speak first, and lost in thoughts about their own condition, as well as there teammates. A slight scuffle to the side had them all turning to look. Standing staring at them was Lee, TenTen and Neji. All three watching them with worried eyes.
"Hey," Ten-Ten spoke softly, "Want company?"
Naruto grinned at them and motioned with one hand, "How are you guys?"
"Not too bad, they just wanted to question us, what about you three?" Ten-Ten moved to sit on the edge of Naruto's bed. "They going to let you continue?"
"Hn," Sasuke grunted still trying to work things out in his head.
"What the bastard means, is that they left it to us, we each have to decide if we want to go forth, apparently they have to many teams making it to the tower," Naruto answered with a glare at Sasuke.
"So what does that mean, Naruto-kun?" Lee asked moving forward to lean against Sakura's bad rail.
"Preliminaries to knock our numbers in half," Sakura answered for him. Seeing the three turn to look at her she continued.
"Apparently they have a max amount of genin aloud to go into the third round. They will have randomly selected fights to see whose left. People who made it to the tower will have the option to drop, we have to decide if we are to be part of the dropped. They can't treat us till we remove ourselves from the competition," Sasuke spoke softly for the team.
"That sucks," Ten-ten huffed. "So how bad is the damage?"
Neji looked up as Sakura swallowed a few times. "I am curious as well," he finally spoke into the silence.
"Ah, Sakura," Naruto finally spoke up, "I think you understood it all better?" he looked at her pleadingly.
She nodded back and cleared her throat.
"I have internal bruising and some broken ribs, the question for me is if I think I can make it through another fight. If I take too much damage it could be bad, but if I get an easy fight, I can get through. The physical is the problem for me. Naruto apparently pushed his speed healing past its point. He has to not use his bad arm till it is healed and is fighting a severe fever. Sasuke has to fight with restricted chakra. In fact if he continues he needs to have Neji keep sealing his shoulder. They can't do anything for that till he is withdrawn."
The genin all sat in silence.
"Sakura-chan you do have your chakra and excellent genjutsu, perhaps you can start working on strategies that will not require physical?" Lee said loudly. "As for Naruto-kun, from my understanding you are the prank master of Konoha, surely who can find away to win without an arm?"
"Also, you don't really need full us of both arms for your jutsu's," Sakura muttered. Seeing Team Ten's look, "His best jutsu's he doesn't even use all the seal to get them working."
"Hack," Ten-Ten and Naji stated at the same time.
Lee frowned in confusion, and turned to Sakura questioningly, "Yeah, Naruto takes forever to learn a jutsu, but once he does he rarely needs to run through the full sequence of signs. He usually shortens it. Shinobi call that hacking the jutsu."
Neji stared and raised one eyebrow, "That is rare you know?"
"Eh, I'm just lazy so I go for the shortcuts."
Neji looked at Sasuke, and they seemed to share some silent conversation before turning to watch Naruto look through all his remaining scrolls.
"I will help if you wish to continue," Neji finally said his face stiff and looking slightly to the side. "It would be a shame for you not to continue," he ended before glaring at anyone looking at him.
Sasuke looked at him and then nodded his head silently in thanks, turning back to his own team who were watching him
Naruto smirked, "Yeah, and Sasuke," he pulled the arm guard for his injured arm completely off, weapon included and tossed it to Sasuke. Then he twisted out of the second one and also passed it over. "Here, I have enough chakra to be able to fight with jutsu and enough scroll traps that can still be used," he smirked.
Sasuke smirked before pulling the arm bands on, readjusting them for the difference in size. "True."
Outside in the hall two Jonin looked at each other and sighed. "After the preliminaries, and after they are healed, we need to explain that continuing, lost them points."
"Sadly, Hatake, it is a double edge sword, they could lose points for not knowing when to quit, but they could also loose points for not going forward."
Another sigh, "True."
Six genin moved slowly though the hallways. The movements were in tuned with each other so perfectly, those watching could not tell who was in the worse shape. The six genin, released from the medics, were searching the tower in hopes of finding other teams, food, or a place to rest.
"Anko-sama," A chuunin's voice came through the Security Monitor, "The test is now complete! We have confirmed twenty one have passed the second test. The Elders have confirmed, that in accordance with the Five Nations Chuunin Exam Rules, we will have to start preparations for a preliminary before the third test. Apparently this will be the first time in about five years, sempai."
Everyone in the room looked to Anko, only to see her staring at someone else. As one they turned to see the Hokage at the door way smoking his pipe.
"Well let's continue the exam as planned. We will keep our eyes on Orochimaru's movements," With that Sarutobi nodded for Anko to take over.
Grabbing a headset, she turned around and started issuing orders to the chuunin setting up one of the larger training rooms. Others in the office began grabbing equipment and heading out in groups. Cameras, wires, and med kits for the arena. In barely thirty minutes the room was empty of all but Anko and the Hokage. The agitated Jonin turned to lead the way down to the practice area, that the genin were even now be herded into, the Hokage following her calmly.
"What about Kakashi's team," Anko asked silently of the aged Hokage.
"We shall see, Kakashi is allowing them to decide."
Seven rows of three genin had been lined up and stood at attention, they all were watching as several chuunin and Jonin entered into room. Seven Jonin instructors moved to stand behind the Hokage, while the other people moved to line up in front of the Hokage awaiting Anko. They each seemed to glance subtly through the chuunin hopeful, noticing those that simply were exhausted, those that tried to hide their excitement behind bored faces, and those that could barely contain their excitement.
"First off, we want to congratulate you all on passing," Anko said loudly trying to ignore a few of the Konoha Jonin arguing behind her. "The Hokage will be explaining the third test to everyone so listen carefully."
She moved back slowly allowing the aged leader to step forward, moving his gaze to note all the genin.
"I know you are all tired and exhausted, but before I can explain the third test, I must first explain the true reason for the Chuunin Exams," he looked down and then back up with a serious look on his face. "Now I must ask you all to think and ponder, why do we have all the villages taking the exams together, some may say to promote friendship amongst the countries, to raise shinobi awareness," he smirked slightly, "To give our world leaders something to gamble on? Sadly it is not any of those reasons, though we do sometimes hope that occurs."
Looking out at the watching teens, "No the true reason is a replacement of war amongst allied countries. If you go back in time all current allies were once enemies, all are villages who once fought to rule over the world either as clans allied or hired hands for a warlord in the past. In order to avoid wasteful battles, the chuunin exam was chosen to stage battles," He saw the confusion in many eyes. "It is a fact that these exams decide who will be promoted, but it also an exam in which you will also be asked to risk your lives and represent your countries for their prestige and power. Watching the final exam will be leaders and influential members of countries who make up the shinobi worlds cliental. The leaders of these countries will be able to watch each battle, allowing them to see the strengths of each village, through these fights. But," he waited till they all stared straight at him, "They shall also see the villages weaknesses, through your weaknesses."
A few muttered amongst themselves, and the Hokage watched them with a knowing look.
"Your triumphs and losses will signal to all potential enemies, which village has power, and which does not." He stared at them all intently, his eyes flickering to team seven. "The strength of a country, is the strength of its hidden village. The strength of a hidden village," he paused, "Is the strength of its shinobi. And a shinobi's strength is only seen and developed through Life risking battles. So will you be asked to risk your life for your promotions now."
"These exams are a place to see each country's strengths and your own personal strengths as well. All those who came before risked their lives for this and so to, shall you now do the same. Now before we begin, be aware that for the next step, You Will take life risking battle for the prestige of your country. So the last exam shall be-"
A sounding of a wet cough interrupted the Hokage. A shinobi dropped down in a crouch before the Hokage and bowed his head. "Forgive me Hokage, from here on as a referee I ask that you allow me, Gekkou Hayate to continue."
Bowing his head back in understanding, "As you wish."
The shinobi stood and turned to look at each genin. "Hello, I am Hayate, and before we continue, I'd like to do something, and that," he coughed again, "is a preliminary exam to decide who will be allowed to compete in the third exam."
"WHAT!" "WHY" several voices rang out, but surprisingly a few of the Konoha teams remained silent.
"You see it appears the first and second test this year were too easy, we have to many people remaining," he coughed again before standing straighter. "You see as Hokage-sama stated, we will have many guest for the third exam, and unfortunately if we allowed you all to compete the third test would run to long."
He watched as several teams muttered in anger, "So first I ask, any who feel they cannot continue on today, please step forward and withdraw from the exam. Realize that you may withdraw on your own, at this time you will no longer be judged as a team, but purely as individuals. Any who feel they are to injured, tired or just feel they are not ready, step forward."
A hand raised, "I don't have the chakra to continue," a hesitant voice spoke up.
The genin turned to see the older genin, Kabuto stepping forward. In the row that the examiners and assistants were standing many started looking through the reports. A slight chill hit the air, and a few who were about to speak up shivered and stopped.
Hayate spoke up, "You are Yakushi Kabuto, so be it."
Everyone watched as he walked out of the room. Several Jonin and Chuunin turned to glance quickly at Haku who was watching him leave with an intense look on his face. Unseen by some, a few hand signs occurred and a small ice mirror formed reflecting light and in an instance Haku was gone leaving behind an ice clone to watch the fights. Most didn't notice except the higher ranking Jonin and the Hokage.
"Well anyone else," asked Hayate. Seeing the no one moved forward he coughed again. "In that case, the preliminary rounds will consist of one on one matches that will be a real life combat. Fight as if you had met as opponents on a battlefield. As we have twenty of you we have ten fights and the winner of each fight will move forward to the next round. No rules, the fight continues until one is knocked out or admits defeat. I suggest if you don't want to die, admit defeat immediately. If a clear winner is acknowledge we will step in and end the fight, since we don't need unnecessary corpses. Paperwork you know," he coughed with a smirk on his face. "Now to see who our first match is..."
He turned to look at a scoreboard that lit up and started flickering names speedily...
Sorry if this seemed incomplete, I may go back and fix later... but I had to get this out before the chapter killed all desire to ever write this again *mutter* hole of dooommm...