Hello and welcome to another exciting chapter of Together of Alone!
PLEASE FORGIVE ME! FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!
I've been working hard on schoolwork for a long time and haven't had the time to write, so now when I have the time, I'm writing. I meant to have this up a lot earlier.
FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!
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Chapter 23: The Second Exam
"What the Fuck!" Anko had a Kunai out and on guard, signaling to the chuunin. "There's no way a genin can pull of a B-rank ninjutsu and not break a sweat. Who are you?"
"Damn it…" Sasuke groaned as Naruto had a deer in the headlights look, and Hinata was seemingly too preoccupied by the demon to notice.
Kakashi lounged in the Jounin common room with the other Konoha jounin senseis. Kurenai looked the most nervous, despite the fact that she was trying to show that she was calm. She was tense, and looked like she wanted to check on her Genin team. The veteran jounin around her could understand her worries, as she was a rookie jounin, and despite the amount of effort she put into her team, there was always room for doubt to creep into her thoughts.
Kakashi turned the page of his book to find…nothing. The rest of the pages were blank. Startled, he yanked up his forehead protector to examine the book with his sharingan to see if there were any genjutsu on the book. There were none.
"Find something you like Kakashi?" Asuma jokingly asked.
Gathering himself together, he stood and put his book into his pouch. "It seems that I need to have a chat with a certain blonde genin before he starts the second exam." Without another explanation, he shunshined from the room and appeared in the midst of his Genin team.
"I'll ask again! Who are you! Answer!" Anko threatened Team 7 and Hinata. She layered them with a large amount of her killing intent, but it didn't seem to phase the genin. A poof of smoke interrupted her and Kakashi appeared in the middle of his team.
"Ma, ma. What's going on here?" Kakashi asked. "Do jounin get to go after the genin now? That sounds like a fun exam!"
"Only you and Naruto would think that was fun, Kakashi-baka." Sasuke growled. "By the way, Anko-san thinks that we are imposters."
"Oh, that's nice." Kakashi waved the situation off as if it was nothing. "Right now I have more important things to deal with. Naruto!"
Said blonde jumped slightly before grinning foxily at Kakashi. "What would that be sensei?" He asked emphasizing the fact that Kakashi was supposed to be his sensei.
"What did you do to my book!" The Copy-nin demanded, pulling out his Icha Icha Paradise from his pouch and opened it, showing the blank pages.
"Nothing to much…why, you can't figure it out?" Naruto grinned evilly, sending chills down the other rookie genin's spines.
"It's not genjutsu." Kakashi replied.
"'Course it isn't." Sasuke snorted with amusement. "Subtlety isn't the Dobe's strong suit."
"Are you telling me it's a seal?" Kakashi glared at Naruto who only grinned more. "It is a seal! You bastard! How dare you ruin my precious book with a seal! It was a signed first edition!"
"So?" Naruto grinned. "I thought minors weren't supposed to look at this book, and you're showing it to us right now. Are you trying to pervert us?"
"Um…no?" Kakashi hear the sound of knuckles cracking behind him. Before he could turn, Hinata and Sakura were pummeling him into the ground. Hell hath no fury like women on a mission, namely to kill or permanently cripple all perverts, ie Hatake Kakashi.
While the drama was unfolding, Anko got more and more confused. Four Genin were bantering with Hatake Kakashi as if he was an equal. No Jounin sensei let their teams get away with such disrespect, but here, Kakashi was letting them. Then it hit her, he must have trained them up to the point where they could take on Jouin. Kakashi might be lazy, but his code about never abandoning comrades must have meant to him that he had to train his team to perfection. Training his team seriously meant that he didn't leave them to fend for, and train themselves. Instead they were now able to handle whatever was thrown at them, and in that regard he would never abandon them.
Sighing, Anko put away her kunai and motioned for the chuuin with her to stand down. "What are you doing here Kakashi?" She asked, crouching down next to the smear ground into the dirt. A poof of smoke and a log later, Kakashi rose from the ground unharmed as he had escaped with a Doton: Shinjuu Zanshu no Jutsu (Earth Release: Inner Decapitation).
"Well, Naruto modified my precious so that I couldn't read it, so I came to see him reverse it before the second exam started." Kakashi explained the situation as if it was perfectly normal for him to interrupt the Chuunin Exams in the manner that he had.
"You might have a little trouble with that, Kakashi-sensei." Naruto grinned. "I combined a illusion seal with the seals on an explosive note. If you try to remove the illusion seal or the explosive note's guts, it will blow. Figure out a way around it." Naruto smiled innocently at the baffled Jounin. "And if you get Ero-sannin to work on it, it's set to blow when his chakra get's with half a meter of the book. Same for Jiji!"
"Damn it!" Kakashi swore, angry that he wouldn't get help from the two better seal experts in Konoha. He'd have to do it himself, and that would require a lot of research. His lazy nature was polar opposite of studying.
"If you have nothing more to do here, leave and go fuck yourself." Anko growled, making Kakashi weary of her and disappear faster than he could say Icha Icha.
"Right, now that that's done, we can start! You now have three minutes to get your forms in and to your gate!" All the genin sans the Suna team and Team 7 stampeded to the booth the chuunin manned to turn their forms.
Team 7 arrived at their assigned gate with seconds to spare before the alarm sounded and the gates opened. They proceeded into the Forest of Death with about as much caution as a fox in a chicken coop, taking to the trees as soon as they entered the forest proper.
"Plan of action?" Sasuke initiated the team plan as they leaped from limb to limb high above the forest floor.
"Meet up with Team 8 first." Sakura stated the basic plan the two teams had established before entering.
"Then we take every scroll that we can find and burn all but a couple of extras." Naruto grinned. "We take out as much competition as we can. The only teams left after our little excursions into the art of capture the scroll should be Suna team, Team 8, and us.
Sasuke signaled a stop after five minutes of running. Below them were a Kiri and Iwa team fighting to the death over their scrolls. Silently Team 7 communicated while the genin below fought.
'We wait until they're both exhausted or one is defeated before going in.' Sasuke signaled.
'Mind if I drop in first and scare them?' Naruto asked grinning. Sakura and Sasuke immediately know he was planning something by the way his smile stretched from ear to ear.
'What are you planning?' Sakura demanded.
'A little of this…a little of that…you know…' Naruto signed back.
'Nothing lethal.' Sasuke ordered. 'We might need to get some info from them.'
'Sure thing!' Naruto was gone, having stepped off the limb.
"Idiot…" Sasuke grumbed but re-focused his attention on the fight below him. The older Iwa squad was pounding the Mizu team into the ground, but still they were barely chunin level, nothing for Team 7 to worry about.
Naruto dropped directly in front of the Iwa squad leader, startling him to no end as the blonde jinchuurikki was suppressing his chakra to barely anything. To the weaker shinobi, it was as if the blonde had simply teleported into the middle of the fray. There was no chakra spike usually associated with a shunshin, and a quick check revealed that he couldn't sense the konoha shinobi's chakra.
"Wha—?" He didn't get a chance to finish his word as a kunai entered his skull via his chin. In the time it took his body to fall limply to the ground, Naruto flashed to each of the other genin and slashed at various vital points with the kunai he had first used.
Sakura couldn't help but feel sick as she watched Naruto kill—no, slaughter—the genin below her. Naruto! Goofy funny Naruto! Killing with no remorse, with a finesse that only came with practice and familiarity with the action. She looked to Sasuke for some sort of reaction. There was none, only a stoney, emotionless gaze that she scared her.
In the moment that Naruto was slashing below her, she was paralyzed. She couldn't even find her voice; something that her teammates would tell you was a rare occurrence. And then that moment was over, and Naruto was standing in the middle of his six victims. Two were still breathing, and gasping in pain as they fell to the ground and tried to defend themselves, but they were too wounded to put up any significant resistance.
Sasuke dropped down from his perch and landed next to Naruto. "I was sure you were only going to let one live."
"One from each team." Naruto replied. "Better information and Sakura wouldn't beat me up as bad." Naruto gave Sakura a goofy grin, which only further froze her.
"I think she's not going to like what we have to tell her." Sasuke stated in a slightly hushed voice.
"You want to come clean with her?" Naruto asked, fairly surprised. "I thought that we weren't going to tell her anything."
"She's smarter than we give her credit for, and you just showed how good you were." Sasuke replied. "She's scared of us and how we aren't acting like this is a new experience."
"We should wait for Hinata to tell her." Naruto replied. "It's her secret as much as ours."
"Agreed." Sasuke finished their hushed conversation. "Sakura, you can come down now."
Sakura did so, but shied away from her teammates as she stayed towards the edge of the clearing.
"Who…who the fuck are you?" The weak voice came from the pile of genin.
"Konoha's Team 7." Sasuke replied coldly. "And you're going to tell us a few things…"
Half an hour later, two interrogations, and a couple of scrolls later, Team 7 was done with their excursion with the Kiri and Iwa Teams and jumping from tree to tree as they headed towards where they felt Team 8's chakra.
"Sakura…" Sasuke spoke up without looking towards where the girl was jumping five meters to the right of him. "We need to explain a few things to you, and it is better that we do it with Hinata with us. Please understand that we have some secrets that no one knows."
"That's right!" Naruto was trying to stay positive and act like it wasn't a huge deal to help the pink-haired girl cope with what was about to he told. "We're doing this because we recognize the fact that you are smart enough and deserve to know a few things about our past."
Sakura didn't reply and continued on as if on auto pilot, concerning her teammates. Normaly she was cheerful, alert and eager to learn new things. The fact that she was withdrawn sent up warning flags in the boys' mind. Team 7 continued on in silence and kept a pace that most chunin would be hard-pressed to keep up with. Speed and knowledge of the terrain helped Sasuke guide his team through the Forest of Death without meeting another team as they headed towards Team 8.
"Oi! Hinata, where are we going?" Kiba demanded. "We've passed like ten teams so far, what's going on?"
"I believe we are meeting with Team 7." Shino stated loud enough to be heard above their movements.
"Shino-kun is right." Hinata replied to Kiba's question. "We are going to work with Team 7 to increase our chances of getting through the Forest with risk and the best chance of completing any tasks that will follow."
"You want to eliminate the competition." Shino stated. It was a logical and reasonable strategy if you were strong enough, to eliminate the other teams to increase your odds.
"That's not very sporting!" Kiba protested. "What about the other Konoha teams?"
"We are Shinobi, not Samurai, so being sporting means nothing to us." Hinata replied coldly. "Should we meet our friends we will either aid them or let them join us. If we do not know them, then they are hostile and possible enemies."
"That's harsh," Kiba protested, Akamaru barked in agreement.
"It's life." Hinata replied before motioning for her teammates to stop. "Kyu-chan, time to come out."
"Kyu-chan?" Kiba was confused until he saw a fox unwrap itself from Hinata's neck. He was positive that it hadn't been there before, as he couldn't smell it, neither could Akamaru. Whatever it was, it wasn't a real animal.
"!" Shino's eyebrows shot up from behind his sunglasses.
"Kyu-chan is Naruto's personal summon." Hinata explained. "He lent her to me to help keep us safe. She's been shielding our presence since we entered the forest, which helped us evade the other teams. She basically spreads out the chakra we emit so thinly that it feels like plant life."
"And you can see her do that with your Byakugan?" Kiba asked.
"Yes, but it is hard to do." Hinata replied. "I can sense her do it better than I can see."
"So why did Naruto lend her to you really?" Kiba asked. "We're the strongest team here!"
"Team 7 is stronger." Hinata replied. "Thus they can part with her abilities and not be significantly hurt power wise."
"I know Sasuke's strong, but Sakura and Naruto are practically dead weights in a fight." Kiba replied confused. "Is Sasuke really that strong?"
"Idiot." Hinata sighed. "Naruto is stronger than all the Konoha genins in the exam combined. If you had any abilities sensing chakra, then you'd know that two whole teams faded into nothing next to Naruto in an about a half second."
"He killed them?" Shino asked.
"Hai, and without chakra either." Hinata replied. "Team 7 is familiar with killing."
"I still don't believe you." Kiba stated. "But I got a question about that fox; why can't we smell it?"
The Kyuubi growled at being called 'it.'
"Shh…Shhh. He's just a dumb boy who doesn't know how to treat a girl." Hinata murmured into the Kyuubi's fur.
"Don't yell, Dobe! Sound carries in this forest." Team 7 had arrived.
"We need to talk to you Hinata." Sasuke stepped forward. "Kyu-chan, can you stay here and guard those two for a few minutes."
"It talks!" Kiba cried pointing at the fox.
"Of course I talk! The nerve!" She huffed. "I'll stay here and won't eat them if they don't piss me off." She smiled showing off her sharp fangs.
"Shino, keep Kiba from doing something stupid." Hinata said before leaving her teammates and followed Team 7. They all stopped in a clearing about 50 meters from where the remainder of Team 8 was waiting.
"So what's up?" Hinata asked.
"We need to tell Sakura." Sasuke stated.
"Tell her what, exactly?" Hinata asked cautiously.
"How I can kill without blinking." Naruto said guiltily, and got a large lump on his head courtesy of Hinata's fist.
"Stupid! Stupid! Idiot!" Hinata ranted, her eyes unconsciously shifting to her Byakugan in her anger.
"We know." Sasuke tried to diffuse the situation. "What's done is done, and we've got to run damage control now."
Hinata sighed. "Alright. I'll explain." She turned to Sakura. "Sakura." The pink-haired girl looked at the Hyuuga heiress.
"We have been trained from before we were in the academy to fight at the highest level. We had tutors from the Hyuuga clan, but Uchiha Itachi was our main sensei who taught most of what we know." Hinata paused to let that much sink in. "Eventually we got bored just training and began to go on missions with Itachi, until we could hold our own against anyone we faced. We are Konagakure's Team Kitsune."
That shocked Team 7's kunoichi. "What!"
"Ojiji sent us to the Academy in order to get better acquainted with other children our age." Naruto stated.
"Oh." For some reason the disrespectful name Naruto called the Sandaime didn't seem so disrespectful when he said it.
"We've had more combat missions than any other team in Konoha's history, and we haven't failed a single one. We've worked hard outside of the academy to keep up with all the mission demands and training. You need to understand that there are only ten or fifteen people in all of Konoha who know who we really are."
"We trust you, Sakura." Sasuke smiled at her. "You probably would have figured it out eventually, but it would not have been plesent to realize that we were keeping secrets from you."
Sakura seemingly retreated into her mind long enough to bore Naruto, which we all know is not a good thing to have on hand. "I think we broke her." Naruto declared as he poked her forehead. "Hey, Hinata-chan, can you fix her with your green ninjutsu stuff?"
"SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!" Hinata punched Naruto into a tree, creating a Naruto-shaped indent. Cowed, the blonde followed the scary female's instructions and quietly sulked under the tree he had hit. "Sakura, you may not be at their level, but Sasuke and Naruto don't care. You are their teammate, and with the amount of training they've put into you, you'll become a chuunin this exam without a doubt.
"It's not like it would be fair to you if we simply left you in the dust and ignored our teammate." Naruto mumbled from the tree. A Byakugan enhanced glare shut him up and kept him from moving.
"Kakashi might be stupid and lazy at times, but he was right when he said that those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash." Sasuke said. "We are all teammates and to leave one behind is a sin that none of us would live with. We would rather die than let someone we cared about suffer when we can stop it."
Sakura didn't even hint that she had heard anything that Team Kitsune was telling her, but somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she heard, and her brain started to re-boot. "You did put a lot of effort into me. You also made it so that Kakashi focused on me for training, rather than you two. He just gave you jutsus to master, but worked me to the bone, and then you two worked me even harder." She wiped a tear from her cheek. "Thank you."
The four Konoha genin came back to find the Kyuubi sitting on top of an unconscious Kiba. "Kyu-chan, what did you do?"
"She didn't find Kiba-kun's statements to her liking and took matters into her own hands." Shino explained as he greeted Hinata and a red-eyed Sakura. Naruto picked up the demon fox and wrapped her around his neck, while Sasuke used some of Kiba's hair and a low-powered katon ninjutsu to create an impromptu smelling salt to revitalize the Inuzuka clan member.
"YOI!" Kiba shot up to his feet and took an aggressive stance. "WHAT GIVES BURNING MY HAIR!"
"You're up." Sasuke replied simply, turning around to talk with the rest of the group.
"Hey! Don't ignore me, dammit!" Kiba growled. "Where's that talking fox? She's going to pay!"
"You want to challenge a summon with the power of several boss summons to a one on one fight?" Naruto looked at Kiba as if he was crazy. "I must admit; I wasn't expecting you to so vastly underestimate Kyu-chan's strength. Aren't Inuzukas supposed to be good trackers and chakra sensors?"
"Aburame and Hyuuga are Konoha's chakra sensor specialists, Naruto." Hinata replied. "Mutts are only good for tracking smells which can be wiped away."
"Hey! No fair, aren't teammates supposed to stick together? Team 8!" Kiba cried out.
"Yes, but if one is out of line, he has to be put back in line." Hinata stated. "Are you out of line?" She asked dangerously, promising pain and torture should he answer wrong.
"Not any more…" Kiba submitted temporarily to Hinata's evil eye stare. Her eyes were just plain freaky man!
"Shall we continue?" Shino prompted the group. "We need to get our scrolls."
"Taken care of." Naruto grinned as he produced an earth and heaven scroll. "We need the earth, do you need the heaven, or do we need to get another earth?"
"Looks like both of our teams have the scrolls we need." Hinata stated. "We should get to the tower."
"Removing ourselves from danger as soon as possible is a logical decision." Shino stated with his ever-monotone voice.
"We'll set up camp around the tower and trap it to kingdom come." Naruto grinned at Sasuke's words. Traps were right up his alley. "If we defend the tower from other teams, we will have less competition later in the tournament, which will only help us."
"That is logical, but will tire us out unnecessarily for whatever is next." Shino replied.
"Not if we let the strong ones through which would take a lot of effort to stop." Naruto amended. "The Suna team are probably mid chuunin level, but the red head is easily giving off jounin amounts of chakra when we were around him."
"So should we take out teams as we go, or focus on trapping the tower?" Sakura asked, hesitant to fight lots of opponents before composing herself better. Emotions could help of hurt a shinobi's ability to perform in combat, hence the rules banning emotions in a shinobi. However, having emotions like anger could help focus her and bring her full potential out. The chaotic mess floating around in her head at the moment would wreck her chakra control and limit how well she could fight. If she could compose herself, then she would be near 100 percent.
"I wanna get trapping!" Naruto raised his hand as if he was in class and Iruka-sensei was ready to throw an eraser at his head. "If I have enough time, no one will be able to get into our minefield. We can leave and easily defended lane where people will have to get past us to get to the tower. That would allow us to control who gets in more easily than making a moat of traps."
"We could let other Konoha teams in." Sakura suggested. "It would make Konoha look better if there were predominantly konoha shinobi in the finals."
"Why bother with the traps?" Kiba asked, grinning. "Akamaru and I can hunt them down and then we take their scrolls." His suggestion was pretty damn ingenious, he thought.
"That would require us to expend energy to find them." Sasuke replied. "It would also allow other teams to slip into the tower behind our backs and beyond our reach. On both counts it is a worse idea than our current plan."
Teams 7 and 8 were jumping from tree to tree with the grace that only a Konoha shinobi could hope to acquire in their forest environment.
"We got incoming!" Sakura shouted, as she sensed a massive chakra signature moving on an intercept course with them. "Four o'clock, twenty seconds!"
"Shit." Sasuke stopped in sync with Naruto. "Orochimaru."
DUN DUN DUN DUUUNNNNN!
The Snake is back! What will happen to the poor ickle genin in the forest? Find out next time!
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