I don't own Naruto.

Both boys were interrupted from their respective thoughts by the sound of a long, terror-filled scream they could identify as Sakura's. Moments later it was accompanied by an outraged yell form Sasuke.

They immediately sped in the direction that voices had emerged from with no thought to the consequences that would be brought by their actions.

Sparks flew as Sakura grated her kunai against the one creepy-beetle-man was forcing towards her. She focused her chakra into her arms and with great effort managed to push him backwards, avoiding what would have been a fatal blow. The smirk that had been stretched across her face faded when the man disappeared in an odd swirling motion.

She swore loudly, in a manner that would have made Naruto proud had he been there to witness it. She hurriedly formed a dispel seal with her hands, and swore again when nothing happened. Concentrating on her chakra, she willed it with all her might to stop flowing for the briefest of moments.

The effect was instantaneous. The gloomy surroundings of unfamiliar and dodgy looking plants disappeared and Sakura found her self on what appeared to be a sort of overhang in the river. A roaring noise behind her jerked her consciousness to notice the dangers of her surroundings.

'He tried to drive me off a fucking waterfall!' she yelled mentally, too flabbergasted to actually display her thoughts vocally. She was standing waist deep in the middle of the current! If she had taken any more steps back, she would be dead! She thanked god that she had noticed before taking any more steps backwards.

"You managed to dispel it? Damn, I was hoping to use your body for my experiments"

Sakura froze and felt her eyebrow beginning to twitch; Oh, she was definitely going to castrate this guy! Not only had his illusion caused her to loose track of Sasuke (never mind Naruto), he had stolen her chakra and her illusion, and he had almost forced her off the top of a waterfall! The man was officially at the top of the personal blacklist that would come with the bingo book when she finally bought one! Right at the top!

'If I don't die first at any rate ...'

Sakura screamed as the creepy-beetle-man swerved towards here, flinging several shuriken dripping with something Sakura only knew would not be good for her health. She somehow dodged the attack and stared at a nearby tree, which had to begun to bubble and his angrily where one of the dripping shuriken had pierced its bark.

'This guy is a freaking schizo! What the hell was that?!' Sakura hid in some nearby foliage that did not seem especially deadly. She pulled out several shuriken of her own with one hand whilst the other formed a one handed seal.

It was much harder than using both hands to form her chakra, but she needed her dominant hand to defend herself should it be required (which it most likely would be). She thanked the gods she had looked over that extra scroll on illusions before heading to the academy.

Sakura watched with bated breath as her illusion took shape. Another version of herself burst from the bushes of her own location. Sakura watched as the fake version of herself yelled at the man for stealing her chakra, and after feeling satisfied he was distracted enough, she took the opportunity to head back towards the last place she had seen Sasuke.

She was halfway back when the creepy-bug-man swirled up out of nowhere. Sakura screeched in surprise and threw a mass of shuriken as she jumped backwards from the man. Much to her surprise, one of the shuriken actually scratched his cheek.

'It... Actually worked? It actually worked! Hell Yeah!'

"I must admit, for a Genin your chakra control and illusion skills are extraordinary" creepy-bug-man said toughing the tips of his fingers to his cheek, and examining the blood now present on the digits.

"You would be a phenomenal opponent in the future should you pursue it and become a medical ninja. Unfortunately for you, that is why I'll have to make sure that doesn't happen" he finished with a maliciously eager look and lunged towards her.

Sakura made to dodge but found herself frozen to the ground. After a millisecond of concentration, she could feel an unfamiliar chakra covering her entire body.
'Is he keeping me immobile with his chakra? That's impossible! The control needed alone would be phenomenal!'

Sakura struggled to find a solution for her predicament as creepy-bug-man quickly advanced in her direction. She tried forcing her own chakra out through her fingers like the Hyuuga Jyuuken, but only succeeded in bursting the ends of her fingers open painfully.

Creepy-bug-man gave an appraising smirk as he began to get close to what she would call too close. Sakura tried forcing her body to move again. Her physical strength was, to be blunt, pathetic but it was still worth a try.

"I refuse to be killed by a creepy-chakra-stealing-bug-man!" she yelled, focusing her chakra in her muscles as bug-creep grew closer still.

"I wish we'd camped closer to the river..." Ino grumbled to herself as she edged around one of the nastier plants in the forest.

"It'd save a whole lot of trouble and we'd have a good indication as to the direction of the tower" Ino crawled along the underside of a thick tree branch to avoid the slithery tentacle the plan was using to search for a tasty morsel.

"I wish I knew who planted these things; I'd love to wring their freaking neck..." Ino stabbed a stray tentacle that had come too close for comfort. The tendril seemed to cringe away and retreat to a safer area and Ino breathed a sigh of relief. She jumped across onto another branch before climbing down the trunk it grew from.

She landed unceremoniously on her behind and hissed from the sudden pain. She was getting clumsy from the lack of food. She was loosing her strength. She had used a whole load of chakra with the Mind-Body Disturbance getting a heaven scroll from some creepy Iwa ninja too.

"I hope Shikamaru doesn't let his morals get in the way of dinner..." she grumbled as she picked herself up and dusted of the back of her skirt.

Trudging through the forest in her search for water, her thoughts strayed back to Naruto. She could not help but think about the strange reaction he and that creepy sand kid had when they shook hands.

Their chakra had responded to similarities they shared. That was odd; it was only experienced through drastically similar emotions or experiences. The only instances she knew of had been between her father and her aunt Yoshino. They were twins, though not identical, and had had formed a close mental connection through that.

Naruto had never been out of the village before the disastrous mission to wave country. He had never met that... Gaara person before. He should never have had such a strong reaction to him upon their first meeting. Even weirder, had been both their reaction afterwards.

"You… You're like me?"
"They don't run from you? Why? Don't they know you're dangerous?"

How did he know about the Kyuubi? What did Naruto mean? Did that sand kid have something stuck inside him too or was she just being paranoid?
'Naruto had that face on when he said that… The one he uses when people talk about the Kyuubi'

Ino was wondering whether she should ask Naruto about the incident when she felt it; it was vile.

She could feel the bloodlust, the desire for the feel of flesh being ripped form bone, to feel bones crunching, the pure evil. It mad her feel cold all over, but it was anything but a cold malevolency. It was a ferocious burning one; it prickled her skin, nibbling as if to see if she was worth eating. She felt sick. She wanted to run.
Every bone of her survival instinct was raging and screaming 'run'.

Ino did not know how she knew that was not an option.
Abandoning her search for water, she headed in the direction that the brutal unforgiving chakra came from/

'Please don't be Naruto...' she prayed internally.

"You Bastard! What the hell did you do to him?!"

Sakura found her remaining reserves of chakra to be pitifully low. It only lasted a moment before she was forced to stop trying to force herself free from the statuesque situation. Bug-Man stopped a few meters away from her (20 meters was too close, this was way beyond that where bug-creep was concerned) and pulled three of those shuriken leaking god knows what from his holster.

She barley saw them being thrown. She found she was able to close her eyes, and scrunched them closed as tightly as she could, waiting for the impact. All of a sudden, she felt something crash into her side sensed the whirling motion of those unnatural shuriken flying over her head. A new surge of chakra entered that of creepy-bug-man's and it disappeared.

She opened her eyes and sat up to find Sasuke standing next to her. Any previous ideas she had had about not showing her fear to that creep were gone as she shrew herself onto him.

"Sasuke! That, I was so scared! He kept making illusions, and I couldn't find you! I couldn't move, and the tree! It bubbled! I couldn't get his chakra off me and..." anything else she had to say was drowned out by the sound of her sobs.

Ignoring any sort of pride he had, he put his arms around her in a comforting gesture, however his own shaking hand suggested his time had not been particularly enjoyable either.

He said nothing for a while before he said: "Everyone... They had been... they were dead! Naruto, Ino, my family, Shikamaru, you, everyone! They were ripped to pieces… I don't even remember how I dispelled it…"

"What about Naruto? Where is he? Did you see him?" she asked, still sniffling into his shirt.
"I don't know... we have to find him, get away from this freak..." Sasuke said pulling her with him as he stood up.

They were in what seemed to be a well-hidden area of thicket, and Sasuke pulled his team-mate along behind him as he forced his way through the thick and eerie undergrowth. He looked around frantically, senses tightened to a point of snapping at any minute event. She could see the famed bloodline in his eyes swirling, looking for anything that posed a threat just as frantically. They seemed different from normal...

"Sasuke! Something's wrong with your Sharingan! It looks different!" Sakura cried.

Sasuke froze and turned to her stunned.
"What do you mean? My eyes feel fine"

"The design around the pupil is different..." she said taking a closer look at the swirling formation. "There are two of those dot thingies..."

Sasuke blinked at her before giving a sigh of relief.
"Finally! That explains how I got rid of that sick illusion earlier..." he said to himself.

He noticed Sakura's questioning look and smirked, regaining a small amount of his pride.
"It's nothing to worry about, it just advanced is all," he said reassuringly.

Sakura smiled, giving a small sigh of relief.

"I wouldn't relax so soon kids" a familiar voice hissed, eerily amused by their small display of reassurance.

Both team-mates stood back to back, trying to find the location of the bug-creep. Sakura used what little chakra she had recovered to disguise their location with another illusion. It would be weak, but it would give them a chance to run.

That was their best option.

Sasuke was searching with his newly evolved eyes for the freaks chakra, but it was like it didn't even exist! Maybe his eyes weren't up to it yet? The guy was obviously far more advanced than they were; maybe he needed to advance his Sharingan to the third level to see it properly. It wouldn't surprise him for the freak to have some sort of drug to hide his chakra altogether either.

Sakura screamed then, and he felt her moving away from him. Turning around, he saw her running towards the body of their third team-mate. Sasuke immediately followed suit, rushing past the girl. He could see Naruto's chest rising up and down. He was still breathing! As he grew closer he noticed that the edges of Naruto's body seemed to flicker, moving against each other.

'This is like that illusion earlier!' he realised their mistake as Sakura joined him.

Her grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back ignoring her protests.
"What are you doing?! That's Naruto! Let go!" she tried to pull his hand of her arm with her free hand.

They struggled for a while before Sasuke realised it would probably be easier to just tell her the truth.
"Sakura, that's not real! It's a trap!" he yelled. Sakura's eyes widened before narrowing.

She swirled around glaring up at the canopy.
"You... you sick bastard!" she hissed in a growling voice.

Sasuke could feel her chakra growing in the fist he couldn't see. She was obviously planning some form of retribution, but that wasn't the best idea for them. The best idea would be getting the fuck away form this guy as fast as possible. But that would only be successful if the knew which direction to avoid. They had no idea where this guy was!

"Sakura, calm down!" he hissed over his shoulder. They were somehow standing back to back again. "We have to get away from this creep! There's no way we can fight him!"

Sakura stared over her shoulder for a moment in astonishment, before apparently regaining her senses and nodding.

"It's a little late for running; you should have fled instead of chatting"

Heads swerved, searching for the man's voice. Sasuke looked up to see the man actually flying! He was sprouting bug wings!
'What the hell is this creep?!'

The man seemed to be aiming for Sakura with one of those vials he had been throwing around earlier. More concerned with his team-mate's safety than his own, he pushed her to the side with enough force as possible, forcing her further from the man and whatever sickening concoction was contained within the hypodermic. The force was enough to render her unconscious as she hit the ground.

Sasuke hurriedly formed the seals for the fireball technique, gathering as much chakra as he could. Before he reached the last seal, he felt his body freeze.

'Shit! He was waiting for this!' he struggled to force his body into action, refusing to admit it was a futile effort.

Sasuke stared as the man grew closer, needle outstretched towards him glinting gleefully. Sasuke braced himself for the impact. Whatever was in that thing he would not let it win him over. If Naruto could keep the Kyuubi in line (most of the time at any rate) then surely he could handle a puny little drug?

"Oh no you don't!"

Sasuke's eyes widened at the familiar voice. Shikamaru pushed his frozen body to the side as the needle came within inches of him. Too late to stop his movement, the newly dubbed beetle-head plunged the needle directly into Shikamaru's chest, injecting its contents into the boy's blood stream.

Sasuke took barley a second to regain his bearings, but the sight of Shikamaru drooped over bug-man's shoulder - still full of metallic injection - made his blood run cold.

Naruto watched with disbelieving eyes as Shikamaru pushed Sasuke out of harms way, throwing himself into it. His eyes narrowed as he watched the boy slump over glasses-head's shoulder, needle still lodged dangerously close to his heart. His eyes turned a malicious red when glasses scoffed, giving Shikamaru a distasteful look, before hurling from his person into a tree trunk.

Shikamaru seemed to be breathing, but the noises he was making told him it was strained. Whatever glasses had done to him was seriously messing with his insides. The gave a gut wrenching scream, voicing whatever agony he was experiencing, and began to writhe on the floor of the forest.

Glasses-Head stared at him or a moment, a surprised look on his face, before breaking into a bout of insane hysterics. Cold, cruel laughter echoed through the area, and he noticed Sasuke also flinched at the sound.

"Well, this isn't what I was expecting, but I think this will prove much more interesting…" he chuckled to himself. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be another vial of what he has infected Shikamaru with, before turning to Sasuke.

"It makes me wonder what effect it would have on one of the Sharingan bearers" he leered at Sasuke, leaping towards him, manic laughter issuing from his lips.

- - - - - - - - - -

Sasuke tried pushing his own chakra out through his pres, pushing against the madman's own holding him in place.

Then everything turned red. Naruto appeared from nowhere, growling and feral in appearance, and smashing into the creep. Then Sasuke felt the chakra. He knew what it was; it was the Kyuubi's chakra. It felt evil, twisted, malicious, and generally unpleasant. Those words did not give the feeling of it any justice.

He could see it bubbling over Naruto's skin, and biting at their attacker's skin as the boy punched him in the face. He lunged at Naruto, who dodged the blow and appeared behind him, clawed hand poised for striking.

Bug man (he really needed to find what this freaks name was, bug man did not exactly sound intimidating) dodged and Naruto's hand bit into the earth instead of the man's head. He growled and turned on the man bearing his elongated canines

"Well, this is a new development" the stranger noted, an eerie smile spreading across his lips. Sasuke felt his finger twitch as he continued struggling against the chakra bind.

"You forced me into retracting some of my chakra from your team-mate, not even the illusion girl managed that"

Naruto let out a low ominous growl, poised on al fours like an animal. Sasuke was finding moving easier now, though he still could not get his feet to move. After the freak had taken his chakra back - was that even possible? - he'd found overpowering the remains with his own to be successful, albeit infuriatingly slow.

He could hear the man laughing at them, and Ino's voice echoing through the woods as she seemingly drew nearer.

Naruto lunged at their enemy once again as he drew another vial from his shuriken pouch. Naruto saw the action and moved to avoid it, only for the man to disappear in a flicker. Naruto stiffened then, and fell to the ground clawing at his stomach, screaming, any influences of the Kyuubi completely gone.

The air behind him wavered and the exhausted looking freak warped back to reality. Illusions! He hadn't even noticed, even with his new Sharingan. Just how strong was this man with the art of illusion?! For a Sharingan to be duped was unheard of!

"You are quite interesting," the man noted, watching the boy writhing on the ground. "I haven't had to use that technique in a long time. That chakra of yours… it reminds me of that belonging to a certain demonic fox"

Sasuke's eyes widened. It was one thing for the guy to fight Naruto in Kyuubi form, but to know about the fox was an entirely different matter! It was supposed to an S-Class secret, known only to higher ranked Jonin and above unless Naruto himself informed them.

Did that mean this guy was from Konoha? Was he a renegade? If he was then why hadn't the hunter-nins caught this guy?! He was clearly a menace!

"I wish I could stay, but my presence here has become known" he spoke to Naruto. "But I hope you'll enjoy my little present.

Naruto seemed to manage a momentary glare before whatever pain he was experiencing had him twisting and jerking once again. The man sprouted those creepy bug wings from his back once again and took the air; Sasuke felt the man's chakra disappear completely and he rushed to Naruto's side.

"Oi! Idiot, don't you dare die on me!" he ordered, trying to pick up anything out of the ordinary on him. He couldn't see anything… He opened up his jacket and pushed up Naruto's shirt to examine the seal. Kakashi had made them all study it whilst they recovered at Tazuna's house before returning to the village.

He was by no means an expert, but the Sharingan might be able to pick up something. He pushed aside Naruto's shirt and sucked in his breath. Something was moving underneath the skin of the seal mark, bubbling almost, and the seal itself was an angry brownish-red.

"What the hell did you do to them? Who are you?!" he roared at the man, now some distance above their heads. He pulled out two kunai and flung them at him, aiming for his wings. The man dodged easily.

"I just left them a little present, Sasuke"

Sasuke stiffened. He sure as hell had not told the man his name.

"Who the hell are you?!" he yelled again

The man gave another of those eerie smiles.


Sakura groaned as she awoke, feeling like one of the barrels on the spice traders' street had hit her. She remembered that creep coming towards her with one of his vile mixtures and Sasuke pushing her out of the way…

She jerked into a sitting position only to be hit by a wave of vertigo
"Whoa! Not so fast billboard!" Ino took hold of one of her arms, steadying her. Sakura reached a hand up to the back of her head and winced at the contact.

"You hit your head pretty well" Ino gave a half-hearted grin
"What happened?" Sakura asked, looking around.

The landscape looked withered, burned, and dead. A familiar malignant feeling was present in the area.
"This is the Kyuubi chakra!" She gasped "Ino, what happened while I was out?!"

Ino frowned, and avoided Sakura's gaze as she replied.

"To be honest I'm not sure, Shikamaru got injected with something, and he's burning up, but I couldn't find anything else wrong with him. Naruto… Sasuke says that Kabuto guy hit him with something that's messing with his seal, and he wouldn't stop yelling for ages…" Sakura softened at the worry present in her friend's voice, but instantly felt her own creeping up on her.

Looking around she could see Shikamaru leaning against a tree, seemingly having trouble breathing. Sweat was pouring of him, and Sakura summarised he it was taking all his self-control not to scream from the pain he was experiencing. He also looked like something had exploded all over him.

Sasuke was hovering beside a similarly sticky lump of orange, not bothering to disguise the concern on his face with his usual frown. Sakura could hear the blonde boy mumbling incomprehensible growls and snarls to himself, twitching occasionally.

Sakura vowed that when they got out of this forest, she would make sure Kakashi was watching when they burned his precious porn.

"Ino, we should get going; Choji's probably going crazy by now" Shikamaru said, pointing to the almost inky black sky.
"No! I cannot leave Naruto here when he's like this! And you're in no condition to move!" she objected loudly and strongly.

What the hell was the stupid Nara thinking?!

"Sasuke and Sakura can take care of him Ino, and they have more experience with the Kyuubi stuff than we do. We'll only get in the way so what's the point in staying?"
"And helping is the only way we'll get experience Shikamaru!" she replied hotly. "I'll contact Choji while you rest and-"

"Damn it Ino, you think Naruto'll be happy if you fail this exam because of his freaky shit?! You are acting like a lovesick bimbo right now! You know Naruto would tell you the same thing!" in turned to stare at Sasuke, before her eyes dropped to the ground.

He was right; she was acting like those foolish girls who had stalked Sasuke instead of focusing on becoming proper female ninja who could kick serious ass. Naruto would be disgusted to see her acting like this, especially because of his 'freaky shit'.

He'd murder her if she didn't do her best to get through this exam, whether she had wanted to take part in the first place was a null point; she had chosen to take part of her own free will. If she really did not want to take part, she could have told Asuma-Sensei when he told them he was signing them up.

She had to put her all into this, and she was not doing that right now! Even if she did not really want to enter these exams, she wanted to show him just how much she could do!

"Shikamaru, get on my back! I'll carry you! There's no way in hell you're walking in that condition!" she said loudly, marching over to a stunned Nara.
"What?! No! I can walk by my sel- Let go of me you pain-in-the-ass woman! Leggo!" he frantically tried to pull himself free of Ino's grasp as she manhandled him onto her back.

"Ino will you put me down! I am not a freaking invalid! I can walk! This is so humiliating damns it!" he yelled as Ino marched out of the clearing, ignoring his protests.

Sasuke and Sakura simply stared at the no less than odd scene that was being preformed in front of them.

"Damn it woman, are you listening to me?! I can fucking walk! Let me down!"
"Shikamaru shut your trap before I make you shut it! And do not think I won't, because I will! You are not walking when you can barley breathe!"

"Do I sound like I can barley breathe?!"
"Still not walking!"
"You are the most troublesome woman I have ever met! You hear me?!"
"Yeah, I hear you Cuz, I think everyone one in the forest can hear you!"

Choji gawped as Ino stomped back into their camp with an irritated and slimy Shikamaru on her back.

"I don't think they'll hear us now," Ino panted, falling onto her knees.

Shikamaru slumped off her back, almost instantly seeming breathless. His body wracked itself with pain and he finally let out the scream he had been withholding, one hand clutching the area that had been penetrated by the needle.

"Ino, I think you'd better tell me what happened…" Choji stated, in shock, before rummaging around in his equipment pouch for the basic field aid kit.

Ino considered lying for a few moments, but decided it would not be fair; Shikamaru and Choji were cousins of each other as much as they were hers, and they were almost as close as Naruto and Sasuke. Choji deserved the truth, or as much of it as she knew.

"Alright, but make yourself comfortable and be prepared for a lot of headache-y feelings" she stated, handing him a washcloth from her own supplies.

Sasuke stared at the small piece of chakra-reactive paper in his hand and sighed.

They had taken shelter under the large root network of a non-lethal looking tree several hours ago. Naruto had since stopped yelling and mumbling, but his temperature had just increased. The seal seemed to be back to normal, but has willing to bet there would be repercussions for that later on.

Sakura was quietly snoring, her head laid on his shoulder. Normally he would have shoved her off without a care, but after that incident with that Kabuto creep, he did not really have the heart to do so; she deserved the rest at the very least for her efforts.

He looked back at the small square of paper in his hand. It was covered in the complex black ink of a warning seal. He could barley make out the strange symbols on it. Unlike what Iruka had taught them, this particular seal used a completely different style of writing; it was impossible to understand it.

It reminded him of Naruto's. The boy had a strange habit of adding his own symbols to the kanji when he made his own exploding tags, and for some reason they always packed more of a punch than his own.

He had always thought that was to make up for his language inadequacies, but thinking back to his encounter with Karin before this mess of an exam had started clicked both instances into place.

- - - - -

"Take this" the redhead said, handing him a small square of paper covered in strange inky writing.

Sasuke gave Naruto's supposed cousin a look of confusion; Shikamaru was staring at the strange writing forms bug-eyed, earning confusion from his companion. Sasuke supposed this was because the girl had whipped up a fairly complex seal in the space of two minuets in front of their noses. He presumed she must be competent in the art to be able to accomplish such a feat; his own seals left a lot to be desired. The manufactured ones made them seem as if a toddler had created them instead.

"That's the Namikaze rune style!" Shikamaru gasped, staring closely at the scribbling on the paper.
"Rune Style?"

Sasuke was perplexed. He was adequate enough with seals to make his own exploding tags and such (badly) but anything beyond that was too much for his comprehension. His father had stated he was not surprised; very few Uchihas had ever progressed with the art (even Itachi was only of a mediocre level), their thinking process was usually too linear for a subject requiring a flexible thinking.

"You know how sealing varies from person to person?"

Sasuke nodded.

"That's because of each persons individual chakra tendencies; chakra tendencies run in families, which is why you and I can't do anything more than the basics. Our chakra has never been suited to seals, especially with our linear thinking patterns." shikamru explained.

Sasuke nodded somewhat hesitantly - it tied in with what his father had explained to him easily enough but…

"That still doesn't tell me what makes a rune style so amazing, or what it is"

"Geez, you have no patience! Certain clans with the mentality and chakra advantages have their own style for the creation of the seals themselves; the paper make up, the type of ink, and the written translation. The Namikazes in particular completely re-worked the translation process in their sealing - they formed a completely new language for it, and a completely different writing style. That incomprehensible scribble is the Namikaze style"

Sasuke was a bit dazed by this information; surely that was taking a bit far?

"Ok, rune style understood. Why is this one so amazing then?"

Shikamaru look a bit stumped with this for a few moments before asking the girl (who seemed to be sniggering at his inadequate seal-knowledge) if he could have an exploding tag. She gave an inquiring look before handing over another piece of paper decorated with the unfathomable scrawl.

"Compared with our own seals and manufactured ones, Namikaze seals are smaller, more secure and they pack more of a punch," he stated.

Shikamaru wrapped the unusually small piece of paper around a kunai handle before handing it to Sasuke.
"Push some chakra into that and try throwing it," he instructed.

Sasuke did as asked and expelled chakra into the seal before hurriedly hurling the kunai several meters away to avoid being blown up. He frowned when nothing happened, and picked up the kunai once again.

'I must not have used enough; Namikazes were supposed to have giant reserves, and if it's handmade, it'll be different from the manufactured ones I use. So…' He forced a great deal more chakra than was usually required - almost enough for a normal clone - into the seal. Before he could finish doing so, a bolt of crackling blue light coursed through his arm.

"Ow!" he yelled, dropping the kunai in shock.
'That thing just electrocuted me!'

"Alright, err, your name's Karin right? Can you do the same thing for me?" Shikamaru asked ignoring Sasuke's reaction.

The girl nodded that irritating grin still on her face. She picked up the same kunai Sasuke had just dropped, but paused before throwing.
"How much chakra did you use the first time?" she inquired.

"The normal amount for a manufactured one" Sasuke replied.

She nodded and followed the process he had just gone through before throwing the kunai; the explosion that followed was twice the size of the ones generated by his manufactured ones.

"Holy…" Sasuke could not even finish the statement of shock.
"You see the difference now? That because of the rune style. The Yamanaka's and Hyuuga's have their own too, but theyre nothing near the level of the Namikaze style." Shikamaru stated.

"How come she didn't get electrocuted?" Sasuke asked.

Shikamaru seemed to be running out of answers by the confused look on his face; apparently, it had something to do with that apparent nonsense wording.

"The basic set up of a Namikaze exploding tag is that it will not work for someone out with the clan, or occasionally for anyone other than the creator." Karin stated, taking over the explanation.

"It dissipates any un-keyed chakra it receives, and if you try to force more in it reacts as if you were an enemy ninja and electrocutes you, though that's dependent on which elemental nature the creator was more inclined to,"

She grinned.
"You're lucky I suck with wind chakra or your hand would have been ripped off too…"

Sasuke paled to a shade significantly lighter than his usual one. He could hear Shikamaru gulp; apparently, this was more than he had expected too.

"And in any case, I'm only a beginner with seals. That shock should have at least paralysed you for a few minuets…I still can't get the defence symbols right for some reason…." she trailed off, seemingly irritated.

Sasuke and Shikamaru both paled several shades with that revelation.

"Anyways, the point is those weird symbols can do twice as much as any of the other styles and it's near impossible to learn. Remember that test on seal translation I the academy?"

Sasuke briefly remembered the mentioned test. Naruto had gloated for months over his poor grade, much to his irritation.
It had been made all the worse since Naruto had come in first place.

"Remember the ninth question?"

Sasuke did indeed remember the ninth question. It had been utterly incomprehensible gibberish to most of those in the class, and he had not even attempted to answer the question on it though it had been a simple identification. Only Naruto and to a lesser degree Sakura had successfully translated it - though Ino, Shino, and Hinata had given some close attempts.

"It was gibberish," Sasuke stated.

"Exactly; no one but a Namikaze can read those successfully. That seal style is what made Iwagakure hate Konoha so much - if written right, a Namikaze could suppress a full-blown Sharingan in a fight with only a piece of paper."

Sasuke wondered if his blood was perhaps pouring out of some unknown orifice. It must be; there was no other explanation for his rapidly paling face. Suppress the Sharingan? No wonder the Uchihas either hated or respected the tiny clan! They were the only people that could genuinely give them a fight without the advantage of the Sharingan. It boggled his mind somewhat to think that Naruto was part of this clan.

"Can I get to the point now or are you going to turn him to a statue some more?" Karin asked, irritation re-appearing in her voice.
"Go ahead" Shikamaru replied lazily.

Sasuke fought the urge to twitch.

"I can't be watching over Naruto as much as I want to in this exam, so I'm trusting you to do that form me. Even so, I know just what lengths your clansmen will go top to get rid of Naruto. If anything goes wrong, anything - I'm including broken bones and Kyuubi shit in this by the way - then push as much chakra into that seal as you can, and slam it on the ground. My team will be there before you can blink"

Sasuke gave her a curious stare as he took the tiny seal from her.
"You're undercover right? Why are you going to all this trouble to keep Naruto out of harms way when you've never even spoken to him?" he asked.

He could understand family bonds, but he had grown up with his family. This girl had been living god knows where whilst Naruto grew up with substitutes for family instead of his real one. They didn't have that same connection, so why was she going this far?

"One of the Namikaze dogmas is that family comes before everything else, even our village. I have never spoken to him its true, but he is still my family - my cousin. That's enough."

- - - - -

Sasuke frowned at the memory. While it was true that things had gone from insatiably bad to catastrophically worse since they had set foot in the forest, he was still reluctant to use the seal. From what he could tell (and that was nothing - he was using base knowledge from the academy) this seal could only be used once.

Sasuke did not know whether things had gotten so bad that they needed outside aid.

Karin had said she was only a beginner with seals herself, so he doubted she could tell them anything about what Kabuto-creep had done to the seal with his freaky concoction, and Naruto's state of unconsciousness derived from that so he doubted any medical knowledge would be of use.

He was certain that thing were not going to plan (an understatement if ever there was one), but part of him was hoping things would just work themselves out before he had to ask Karin for help. That would be so embarrassing, asking a girl for help.

He would never be able to do that!

What about his male pride? Didn't that get a say in this? How was he supposed to impress the redhead enough so she would consider a… date…? (The word was a foreign language almost) if he was the one asking her for help?

It was simply not conducive to his planning at all!

On the other side of the same coin however, he knew she would be of far more use to Naruto in this situation than he currently was.

Sasuke hated his pride.

Please do not kill me for the long wait!

I've been freaking out over my non-existent personal study for a while. Shakespeare is an awesome writer, and if the guy didn't wear a lace collar and look poncey I'd be a crazy fan girl, but does he have to make his metaphors so disgustingly obscure?

How do I write notes if I don't know what the notes are supposed to be about?! And the internet is useless since no-one wants to make an analysis on Sonnet 120... Anyone have one of those? I have two re-sits to do too, on top of an essay for a book I haven't actually read yet… And exam revision!

Well, with any luck the new chapter won't be too long, but like I said - personal study problems and general freakage in motion. And I've missed loads of work in psychology too… I don remember if its three or four weeks now, but I am so not looking forward to the lecture my tutors going to give me for that…

I have enough problems with my possible insomnia thank you very much!

Ahem. My apologies for the ranting; hopefully there will be updates in the future, but don't hold out for one - I have exams in a few weeks, so I really do need to study for once. Your reviews are greatly appreciated, and I hope you all enjoyed the chapter.