Beta-reader: Terror-Of-The-Crimson-Night

Chapter: Three – Test One: Potential To Be A Shinigami

Type: Story – Incomplete

Word Count: 5,564

Disclaimer: If you've heard of it before, then it's obviously not mine.

..:Xx0o0xX:..

I sighed. So basically they're going to put me through some tests to figure out where I stand in terms of abilities then go from there. Fun, no? Tch, yeah, just loads of fun. Note the sarcasm? Good. Ever since the chunin exams I haven't been all too fond of tests, but that's just reasonable. I mean what with Orochimaru appearing in the chunin exams and placing the curse seal on Sasuke which– Damn it! I'm doing it again. I've got to stop that, I made the right choice for me so I need to stop living in the past. Any way, from what I can understand, the first test is to make me a shinigami. Then to test my abilities, and then go from there. At least that's what Yamamoto Captain-Commander told me.

Speaking of the guy, I don't know what I expected the person in charge of all the divisions to be like, but that's definitely not it. He's so strict and no-nonsense that remind me of an uptight Shishou. …Seriously? How long is it going to take all these comparisons out of my head? Hopefully less than a month, it'll drive me insane otherwise. But basically this is how our conversation of sorts happened.

Less Than an Hour Ago

First Division's Captain-Commander's Office

After entering, I suddenly found myself very nervous. Who in their right mind wouldn't be? I'm just a jonin, albeit the Godaime Hokage's apprentice, and I'm going to be meeting the strongest shinigami here who also has the most authority. I believe that calls for being even slightly nervous. I'm not shaking or anything, at least I don't think I am, but I really just want to get this over with because it's starting to weigh on me. And my stress level is high enough.

I hadn't expected to find someone so old looking, yeah I expected something like Third-Hokage-old, but definitely not beard-reaching-the-ground-and-has-a-cane old. But the second I was before him, he looked up as if he was just waiting for me to situate myself in his courters. Never had I felt so nervous to be in someone else's domain and the idea just added to my previous want-to-make-a-good-first-impression nervousness. Not good for the brain, or heart.

"Hello" I started timidly not sure what else to do after such weighing silence. I could hear the quiet nervousness in my voice and really hated it but couldn't seem to change it.

He seemed to be analyzing me and I suddenly felt a lot like a lab rat. That's what beside my self-anger at being so shy started to rile my confidence. I don't really like authority right now and understandably so and his treating of me is getting under my skin fast. It's one of the few things I can't stand. It reminds me too much of those damn nosy elders that really could just learn to sit back and shut their mouths once in a while especially when they don't even know the whole story. But he seems different from them. Like he takes the time to know all the players in the game and not underestimate them so that when he makes a choice it really does work out accordingly.

"Who are you?"

It's been a long time since I have been asked that. And the pride at that thought made me straighten a little more, squaring my slightly hunched shoulders. "Haruno, Sakura. I came from Konohagakure no Sato." I decided against adding my rank, I have a feeling it will mean little to him.

He nodded once, "Then why are you here?" just like my feeling on the rank I also had the gut instinct that he already knew. And again the lab rat sensation reared its ugly head. It took a bit to control that.

"Captain Hitsugaya and Lieutenant Matsumoto brought me here. They said I had the ability to be a shinigami." I'd chosen to answer in my no-nonsense medic voice to hide the emotions that he was undoubtedly effortlessly causing. I tried not to think about that thought though because it just made my blood boil at the thought of being guided like a puppet, if that was what he was intending to do. Which it probably wasn't. Alright, Sakura, stop thinking about it, you're only riling yourself up and you don't even know if that's what his intention is.

Again he nodded curtly, "Is that what you want, human?"

I paused. I came here because I wanted away from home. Because Konoha will always be home. But I also came because it was an opportunity to get stronger. I need that. So I nodded in turn. "Yes."

"Why?"

That through me off. How do I explain? If I say that I think I'm weak then what incentive will he have for keeping me? I'm sure he could just as easily send me back. If I say I wish to get stronger then it'll be as much as admitting that not only am I weak but power hungry. Saying that I wish to start life anew then it'll still accomplish making me look weak but also like a coward for being unable to face my own reality. I took a deep breath and a leap. "Because it is an opportunity for me and hopefully a chance for answers." Hopefully that was the right response. I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping against hope.

"It will take a long time." He started. "Dedication and obedience are required every step of the way."

I nodded, knowing that being a ninja was much the same. "I can and will do so."

Now he zeroed in on me, but still hadn't opened his eyes to actually look at me. He didn't need to, I knew that instinctively. Again I felt like a lab rat, being analyzed and picked apart, reactions being noted every time a new one occurred. Then after a long moment and weighing silence that made feel like I was I about to burst he nodded. "We shall see what you can do. The tests start today. First we will make you into a shinigami and then test your capabilities."

Present

Somewhere in the Seireitei

I was still excited about being accepted. Sure it was just the first step, but that's always the hardest right? Now I just need to keep it up and prove I can live up to and surpass his expectations. That I can do this. Because even if I'm not strong, I am not weak either. And I definitely have a strong will. So I can do this.

While I was telling myself that though, I ran into something. A wall most likely, though I haven't the slightest clue how. I'm sure I would have seen something so big and stretching like the style of the Seireitei's walls. But then again how else was what I ran into so hard and sturdy enough to make me stumble backwards and fall on my ass? Unless I ran into an unforeseen pole... That would just be plain out embarrassing, even if no one was stopping to observe.

Deciding I could do away with all the wondering by just looking up, I found myself looking at a tall, burly man. He wore his clothing so that his broad and undoubtedly taut torso could be seen. His hair was black and spiky sticking out at odd angles and longer than Naruto's and I could only count eleven of them. He had a long scar running vertically from his hairline to his powerful jaw, it also intercepted with his left eye and near the corner of his mouth while his other eye was covered by a black eye patch. The next thing that got my attention was that he was wearing a white haori like the one Captain Hitsugaya had except his didn't have sleeves. Which meant he was a captain too. I didn't doubt that, I could feel the power coming off of him in waves, it was almost unnerving.

I couldn't help but wonder for a brief moment that if he unnerved me, did I seem weak in turn to him? Then I pushed the thought away because the only person I should be trying to prove myself to is Yamamoto Captain-Commander. With that notion in mind, I climbed to my feet and bowed my head. "My apologies, I wasn't paying attention to where I was going." It was suitable and polite considering he wasn't even making an effort to help me out. I didn't expect it because of his demeanor though; it would have seemed out of place and contradictory. Not that I wasn't myself.

He cocked his head slightly to the side. "What kind of sissy gets knocked down and then says sorry for it?"

I frowned immediately, bristling at both the implication and the straightforward insult he'd just dealt me. So question is, do I defend myself or exploit him just as condescendingly as he'd done to me? Upon deciding, I pursed my lips and tilted my head to the side, an action that would have sent anyone who knew me backing off and looking nervous. But since he didn't, that would be his problem for thinking me weak. "What kind of guy knocks a sissy down, doesn't help her out, and then insults her?" My own voice was slightly acidic while his had been condescending and faintly annoyed.

Now though, that changed. A grin started in on his features, obviously he hadn't expected me to retort and instead do as the term 'sissy' implied and apologize for my feebleness. And a younger me would have. She would've bowed her head and apologized profusely hoping all the while he didn't hurt her. And she wouldn't even have paused to consider the reality and details of the situation. Not even after the confrontation was over, she'd merely shove it to the recesses of her mind and try to forget about the whole thing. But that's not me anymore. I don't work that way. I'll be civil and polite until you provoke me then you'll get to see the claws that aren't always just for show.

He chuckled. "You and me I suppose. Sissy Girl."

I felt my anger spike a bit, but instead I gave him a saccharine sweet smile. "Sissy Girl. Can't say I've ever been called that. So what does that make you? Brute Guy."

Now he really laughed. "Name's Zaraki, Kenpachi. If you fight as well as you argue then we will have to sometime." I got the strange feeling that I was just accepted as 'okay' in his book. Not friend or comrade, just uncaring if I was around or not.

I couldn't decide if I should be angry that I was just tested on my will to not back down or be proud that I'd just gained a probable and most likely wanted alley. Then I figured a little of both would be good. So I nodded, "Haruno, Sakura. And I'd very much like that; I could use a sparring partner so that my skills don't dull out." I frowned then. "Any chance you could tell me where I am and how to get to the shinigami academy is?" I wasn't sure if there was an academy I just didn't know where the hell I was supposed to go. After all, Yamamoto Captain-Commander hadn't specified and Captain Hitsugaya and Ran were probably back in Konoha by now, resuming their mission. Which left me lost and confused.

He raised an eyebrow, "You're an academy student?" The term itself made me feel like a beginner and nearly made me blush. "You've got a lot of spunk to be making a Captain you're 'sparring partner' then."

I shrugged. "Well no. I was told that I needed to go through a test to become a shinigami and all…" I trailed off the vast difference in rank suddenly becoming blatantly obvious and weighing on me. I was starting to feel like a fool. "And since no one has been courteous enough to tell me where the hell I'm supposed to go, I figured the academy would be a good place to start."

The eyebrow went up another notch. "You're not even an academy student? Then how did you get in here?"

I paused. "Captain Hitsugaya of the tenth division and Lieutenant Matsumoto" – because I didn't know if it would be appropriate to call her by a nick name of her fist name before another captain – "brought me here from my world. I'm a shinobi of the hidden leaf." I held back my rank because I still didn't think it'd matter much despite what Ran had said.

He seemed to scrutinize me if only for a moment before shrugging like he really couldn't care less, and I have no doubt that such a notion is true. "A shinobi, eh? Can't say I've fought one of those before." Then grinning he reached out clamped a hand on my shoulder, it was big enough to make the body part seem small, then he proceeded to drag me off towards the buildings I was passing without noticing. I hadn't paid attention though because I was pretty darn sure it wasn't the academy I was looking for. "This is the 11th division, I'm it's captain. I'm sure we can work something out for you, Sissy Girl."

I huffed with half-hearted exasperation. "I can't believe that's my new nickname. Then again I guess it's almost as bad as being called a flower."

He raised an eyebrow once more and shook his head. "Ha. Like I'd ever be caught calling someone a 'flower'"

I snorted "because 'Sissy Girl' is so much better."

"And 'Brute Guy' is very creative?" Definitely a good arguing partner, I don't think he would take offense if I was ever in the mood.

"No." I retorted crossing my arms and trying to looking as un-childish as possible. But of course my natural tendencies kicked in a whole lot faster than they ever had before. Which could only mean… "But I was just trying to come up with a come back." I had to resist the urge to stick my tongue out at him. I haven't done such a thing in over two months and there is no way I'm going to does to a complete stranger.

He laughed, presumably at my behavior.

..:Xx0o0xX:..

I found myself on a wide open field between two captains. I recognized neither, granted I'd only been here for all of one hour and have met a grand total of three captains. One was female the other male, both though stood tall with an obvious elegance and grace that was both natural and practiced. The woman had black hair and serene but sharp blue eyes. Her posture all but screamed both her ease as well as her alertness, curiosity just barely visible to the shinobi eye was written in the non-existent lines of her forehead. She had that motherly feel to her; gentle but strong, understanding but protective. She wore her haori with long sleeves and an over the shoulder strap that presumably held the katana I could see bits of over her shoulder.

Did everyone have them? Of course, they were zanpakuto…whatever that was. Ran hadn't exactly explain, merely told me that ever shinigami had one. I had to wonder if they had anything like jutsus, but if they had something like chakra – spiritual energy or reiatsu if I'm not mistaken which I rarely am anymore, a fact I'm sure won't change to dramatically – then it'd only make sense that they did.

The male stood very tall and reminded me of Sasuke in some ways. But the more I looked, the less similarities I saw. At first glance, I saw he had black hair and dark colored eyes. Then as I analyzed the details of his posture I realized that his eyes though distant weren't cold. They were slate grey and calculating, I couldn't see the gears turning, but I couldn't see the well hidden anger and emptiness either. Sasuke's black eyes had been lifeless, the ones before me were only guarded, albeit very well and securely, but most certainly not lifeless. His black hair seemed silky and soft with the way it shined in the light; it was obviously well taken care of. Though I couldn't figure out what the five similar trinkets in his upper back length hair were and I suddenly felt the urge to ask. I stifled that though, it didn't seem appropriate at the moment so I made a mental note to ask later. He also wore a light blue scarf around his neck with matching wristbands that looked as protectors for his hands. Why I have no idea, but I'm sure it wouldn't be to costly to figure out. His haori was worn sleeveless like Captain Zaraki's. There was definitely a difference, and the biggest one I could find was that while the woman made me cautious, he made me edgy and doubting my ability to win; something I'd never felt around Sasuke.

But I was beginning to realize that it wasn't just skill or strength or intelligence that got these captains their rank. No, Captain Hitsugaya's quite personality that demanded his orders be obeyed and Captain Zaraki radiated power that made one feel inferior just by being in his wild presence. Yamamoto Captain-Commander was calculating and could easily make you think he was guiding your hand and your emotions before you realized that he was speaking and you were following of your own volition. These two made me want to tread very lightly and still be hesitant where I stepped, they made me feel uneasy and nervous, unsure of what was to come. And they had yet to even speak.

It made me wonder just how they were going to go about making me into a shinigami and just what this test entailed. I had assumed I'd be placed through a series of both physical and written tests to assess my capabilities and then I'd be given a zanpkuto thus naming me a shinigami. Then they'd test my abilities with a sword in an actual life threatening fight. I have the feeling though that these initially ideas were either wrong or flip-flopped.

But I still didn't dare to ask, I'd find out eventually I'm sure. It's just a thought, but I'm sure Captains have more to do then watch some pink-haired girl who is so obviously out of place. Me being said girl of course. Besides, being aware of my surroundings instead of my situation seems a lot more reasonable, if my eleven years of beings a shinobi – four if you want to be technical – have taught me anything at all.

And after the continued wearying silence I was proven correct. The man moved at a speed that would caught any civilian off guard and unable to track. Experience had given me the ability to hold my ground, not keep up mind you, I can't move that fast but training with Lee had its perks. I'd have to thank him one day, but now is most certainly not the time to be thinking about that.

Quickly I fell into combat mood. Sometimes it really did feel like something I could turn off and on at will. More easily on than off. Fighting always got me high on adrenaline, well except when my opponent gave no resistance. Then that was no fun.

I fell away, moving backward on instinct to dodge the blade aimed for my shoulder. That single fact told me that he didn't intend to kill, merely gage my ability to react. If I was hit, it wouldn't be fatal and therefore the easiest route to take if you weren't trying to permanently incapacitate your opponent but were trying to show you were serious. At least I hope he was. If he wasn't, he wasn't going to simply breeze through this. I don't know how much resistance he'll meet, but if a jonin is on par with a seated officer, and seated officer's are pretty strong then there is no way I won't be a problem for him.

A few things became obvious after I side stepped and ducked at least five more direct attacks. One, that playing defense was getting me nowhere fast. And two, either he preferred a direct approach or thought I was too weak or incompetent to handle anything more than that. The latter made my blood boil and without stopping to consider that it could be the former I yanked two kunai from my pouch. I put one in my mouth for later actions and the other was put to use by blocking his next attack head on.

But there wasn't a metal-against-metal clank that'd become a sort of music to me over the years. Instead he'd pulled back to a relatively close distance, no more then ten feet away. I sank into a stance that was good for both defense and offense. As a medic, I knew it to be the best way to protect my torso and as a kunoichi I found it the best way to still be able to use all four limbs at the ready. It was actually a variation of a stance Shishou had taught me when I first became her apprentice. Those years had not been easy. My body ached still at remembering all the hell she'd put me through. But now wasn't the time to be dwelling on the past.

Because he was already attacking again.

I couldn't help a passing thought of the woman not to far from me who was standing exactly as she had been before the man had begun his advance. Why wasn't she attacking?

I realized too late that that one split second of not being completely focused had been a mistake. The gleaming silver blade tore into my arm rendering it useless and was swiftly yanked back a bloody crimson because of my blood. And again he was ten feet away.

I grunted with a wince and backed up as well. The knife I'd been holding with that arm slipped from my grasp, but I didn't move to heal or even comfort my wound. Instead I sunk into a completely defensive stance and willed my mind to move lightning fast, puzzling out how to not turn my back on the woman but keep my undivided attention on the man. I didn't need another damaging wound. And after sorting out all the scenarios I found the best one and decided to play it out.

I shifted, turned fully to him and left my back wide open for a surprise attack. I wanted to know if she'd take it. Then I settled in to wait for him to come to me. I didn't have to wait long, he darted forth quickly, this time his blade was aimed for my legs and I presumed that he intended to finish this spar of ours. But it's been a long time since I was taken down so easily, superior or not. And I wasn't about to start now. I forced myself to stay still; he could after all be changing tactics.

And I was right at the last second he switched to my side, his hilt now on a collision course for the small of my back. If hit correctly that could paralyze my spine and therefore just as easily win.

But it wasn't going to end like that. I swooped down and grabbed my knife once more and quickly flicked it at the shoulder that was connected to the arm wielding his weapon. I didn't wait to see if it hit, I was moving forward quickly aiming to put distance between not only us but the woman and myself as well. When I was satisfied I quickly skidded to a halt and whipped around, grabbing the kunai still in my mouth and parried his attack. As predicted I hadn't hit him earlier.

I knew that he was stronger than me so unless I used my chakra, he'd quickly overpower me into submission and that simply wouldn't do either. I had just succeeded in completing my plan and now I could fight him without worrying about her all too much since I had peripheral vision of her now. Not undivided, but pretty damn close and hopefully that'd be enough. Still I could feel the effects of blood loss setting in and again tried to puzzle out a new strategy. How to end this quickly without getting my ass handed to me because I was going to lose, by how much was up to me. And I'd be damned if I let him widen the gap without trying. Shishou had taught me better than that.

I grunted when he'd managed to put in enough force and knock me off me feet, my kunai knocked some amount of feet away from me. I hadn't expected him to suddenly do such a thing, but that didn't mean he had gotten any advantage. I'd quickly pulled up a shield just above the layer of my skin so that I wouldn't be cut and the damaging blows would be even less so. It was a useful technique, but required too much chakra to always have at hand, especially while fighting. I flipped myself to avoid any would be attacks and found myself back at square one. Dodging.

I frowned aggravated and not really seeing anyway around him to get either kunai knife and still in the position I want to be in. Which meant it was time to start using my fists. The first hit I land will be the most important because he won't expect the bone-crushing force of it. So I should aim wisely, nowhere vital but vulnerable enough that it'll give me the chance to pin him down. The idea of actually winning sparked hope but I knew better than to get cocky.

I kept up pretty damn well too, I mean he is fast, if civilians thought that shinobi could fly then they would think he could teleport. Literally. Most ninja can't even maintain the speed he's using right now for very long. But he doesn't even seem to have broken a sweat. So this is what facing a captain is like. I wonder if they all have they're own unique traits and if so, is his speed? The contemplation of the stray thought through me off slightly. Just enough though that his blade was once more able to make another flesh wound. Same arm, but the shoulder this time.

The pain caused me to cringe and grunt once more. But this time I didn't scurry to get out of his reach temporarily. This time I took the hit in exchange for my own. I aimed a fist for his gut which he easily slid to the side to dodge. But I wasn't done. Next I balanced myself on my left foot and tried for his right side, again he evaded my advance. And my fist made contact with the shoulder I'd tried to hit with a kunai earlier. I knew I only landed a hit because I'd used the arm that was supposed to be rendered useless from two damaging attacks. That's another advantage of being a medical nin. I can manipulate the nerves in my arm so that I don't feel the pain and then coat the wounded portion so that it doesn't register immediately with my body that I'd just used the limb. Or in a lot fewer words move otherwise hindering limbs.

He quickly pulled back, but not enough to avoid the full impact which caused the sickening crack of his shoulder blade breaking.

If nothing else he looked completely surprised, but I wasn't done yet. I was going to make the most of the only surprise I had left. And on top of that, if I manipulate my arm again it'll far too much later. It won't be worth it and I'm not masochistic enough to try. So I did what came naturally: I pounced. See, the idea was to pin him to the ground and hold an already drawn kunai to his throat. If I had any chance to win, it'd be this one.

Which of course didn't mean I was always going to get it. This is one of those times that I didn't.

I crashed into his chest, knocking him off balance, but what I hadn't even considered was that he could simply switch our positions. And thus I ended up face first in the ground, arm twisted painfully so that my kunai was pressed against my own neck and he was perched on the small of my back. I was effectively trapped.

I sighed. I knew I would lose. "Okay. Fine. I give." There was no way out of it. And besides as a shinobi, I'd learned that a fight wasn't over until the opponent was unconscious or had forfeited. That only applies if it's a spar, though.

After a moment, he let me up and I carefully climbed to my feet allowing all chakra shields that weren't there before the fight to recede. And I couldn't help but wince as the pain set in. And so did the dizziness in full swing. Oh right. Whoops. I'd forgotten about that. Still pride forced me to straighten up, I wasn't going to keel over at any rate. It wasn't fatal and it'd be a while before it became that way. So instead I turned to him "What next?" I honestly expected that I'd be fighting the woman next, if he gave me response at all.

"That was more than we had expected." It was the woman who had spoken and I inclined my head at the compliment, she'd set that up so that she could also criticize me as well. "But that last attack wasn't. It was obvious that you were getting desperate." I wanted to sigh while running a hand through my tussled hair and say that I knew. But the last time I interrupted a lecture on my course of action in a fight, I ended up through three trees and a foot thick stone wall. Courtesy of Senju, Tsunade herself. My back hurt like a son of a bitch for the next week afterwards and caused me to walk funny. No thank you. So I kept my mouth shut and let her reprimand me on every point I went wrong at. "Though for not even being a shinigami, you held up well against a captain."

I inclined my head, "thank you." Then I waited to be told what would be done with me.

Her smile grew, "you will need to learn the basics of being a shinigami I can tell that you're more defense than offense and the way you hold yourself even while attacking suggests that you are a healer first and fighter second."

This didn't take me by surprise, I fought like a medical konuichi and I knew it. "That's correct."

"I would in any case like you on my squad." She continued and now I did nearly blink out of shock. What…? "You are obviously well trained and the methods you use could be quite useful. I have a lot of questions as well. And I think I'll have you demonstrate to answer some of them."

I frowned. "Demonstrate…?"

She nodded. "Yes. Repair the damage to Captain Kuchiki shoulder, if you can."

I pursed my lips, she wasn't just answering questions, she was testing me. So question is, do I lie and say I can't or simply obey? And if I obey, to what extent?

I slid my gaze to the man beside me. Captain Kuchiki. Now I can name four captains. He'd stiffened but held a almost completely veiled curious expression. He wanted to know if I could do it. I paused for only a moment before raising my good arm and allowing my hand to hover over his broken shoulder. I concentrated on bringing enough chakra to my hand to heal the wound but small enough to not make a show of it. I had the bone mended in less than five minutes. That caused me to frown, obviously my skills had dulled. Not to mention the fact that I was slower than usual hadn't been lost on me either. It's a good thing I got out when I did.

I turned back to her but kept my body angled to see both equally and waited for whatever came next.

She hummed in surprise. "Is that what you learned as a ninja?"

I nodded.

"What was your rank?"

"Jonin medic." I answered.

Again she hummed with surprise. "Then you should pick up on our standards quite nicely. Don't you think Captain Kuchiki?"

He nodded still looking at me with a light of curiosity. "That isn't reiatsu, though." I found myself liking his voice. I had been dead on my mark with him, a deep baritone just as I'd been right about the woman's motherly soft tone as well.

Again I frowned, "what's reiatsu?"


Next Chapter: Test Two
Next Update: June - 10

Thanks for reading, review please, criticism is forever welcome.