A/N: Here's another chapter for all of you to enjoy. Hope you enjoy it.
This is the first time I used Dragon Dictation to type up my chapter. I believe I caught most mistakes but I might have missed a few.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Never have. Never will.
Chapter 37: Fated Battle
As the battle between the Neji and Naruto began, the Jinchuuriki was preparing to lunch at Neji when his father's next words made him pause.
'Before you get started on beating up the Hyuuga as promised, I have a surprise for you,' Minato stated.
Naruto frowned in confusion. Was this really any time to give him a surprise?
'I would have given it to you earlier if you only woken up faster,' Minato explained. 'I want everyone to see this. On the inner side of your jacket you'll find a seal. It's created an undetectable Henge. Remove it.'
'All right,' Naruto agreed with the nonchalant shrug.
"Is there a reason you're just standing there like an idiot?" Neji queried. He had tried to take advantage of Naruto's distraction only to get repelled by the wind.
Naruto smirked "We'll just have to see won't we?"he responded. He lunged forward and at the same time, he removed the seal.
He was immediately enveloped in a large puff of smoke, obscuring Neji's vision and allowing Naruto to man a powerful sucker punch to the pretty boy's face.
However, it wasn't that the Dead Last of Konohahad managed to hit one of Konoha's great geniuses that shocked the crowd… it was his clothing.
Naruto's look had completely changed.
Gone was the horrible orange jumpsuit. Instead, Naruto wore standard black shinobi pants with one sharp distinction: the base of the pants were decorated with red flames. He also wore a sleeveless black shirt with the Uzumaki swirl on the back. Coming from the symbol were nine orange streaks that spiraled around. Even his hitai-ite was different. The band was now long and black with the tails dangling below towards Naruto's neck.
The inference is quite clear.
'Bold move, Naruto,' the Sandaime thought with a shake of his head. Naruto's clothes both represented the Yondaime Hokage and the Kyuubi. Just what was he thinking? The Hokage had fought so hard to ensure that Naruto could have as normal a life as he could, was Naruto really going to risk all that?
"What an interesting boy…" the Kazekage mused beside him. To emulate both Konoha's greatest Savior and Konoha's worst nightmare together in such a way, he is either very brave or very foolish."
Sarutobi was beginning to wonder that as well but he also had faith in Naruto. The boy would it take such a risk blindly. It was only a stroke of luck, however, that the Tsuchikage had not been able to make it to see the Exams…
Shikamaru's eyes nearly bugged out as he took in the sight of Naruto in his new outfit.
Without the baggy jumpsuit in the way, Naruto's developing physiquewas easily noticeable, much to the appreciation of Naruto's growing number of admirers.
"I knew we picked out of the outfit," Sakura commented, amused to see how much Shikamaru was enjoying Naruto's new look.
Shikamaru turned to look at Sakura with raised eyebrows. "You played a part in this?"
Sakura nodded. "Ino-chan and Gaara-kun did too."
"You did a good job," Shikamaru complimented "I have a feeling that Naruto's not going to win any friends with what his clothes infer though."
"While I'm not certain exactly widen these designs mean so much to him, I think Naruto mentioned he wanted to prove to everyone that he wasn't ashamed of who he was. He says he wants to prove to everyone that he's a lot more than they think he is," Sakura explained.
"Is that so?" Shikamaru queried as a proud smile appeared on his face. "He just might achieve that."
Daichi scoffed from where he was observing the battle. From this standpoint, the message Naruto was making was entirely different.
Naruto was telling him that no matter how much Daichi threatened him, he wouldn't break and bend to his will. He'd keep on fighting.
Oddly enough, Daichi wanted to see that…
Kankurou and Temari were gawking as they came across another realization.
They already knew about Kyuubi, so with that knowledge, the flames were no mystery to them.
They turned to Gaara.
"He's…" Temari began but Gaara raised a hand to silence her before nodding.
Kankurou swore. "Holy hell, that Hyuuga kid doesn't stand a chance."
"This is sensei's doing, isn't it?" Kakashi whispered to Jiraiya. The Sannin nodded.
"With some feminine assistance, of course," Jiraiya smiled. "Gaara and I were there simply for moral support."
Kakashi laughed. "This isn't going to get him a lot of attention, both good and bad.I hope he's ready for the storm that comes with it."
Jiraiya smirked. "I'm sure they will be."
Naruto took a second to look over his new clothes and fascination.
' Does this mean I can ditch the façade?' Naruto query before amending the statement. 'Well… What's left of it, anyways.'
Minato nodded. 'I was waiting for you to awaken for everybody to bear witness to this. After all, this is your moment to shine. You are more than Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki and more than just my son. It's time people see that for themselves. Now make me proud.'
Naruto smirked, almost ferally, feeding off of the pride pouring off of his father.
It was time to show everyone just to Uzumaki Naruto was.
"Kai," he whispered as he released the gravity seal holding him down. He had a feeling he would need all of the speed he could get against Neji. He was confident in his ability to come out victorious but it wasn't going to be easy.
Neji burst forward, aiming to close Naruto's Tenketsu points and put an end to this farce of a battle as quickly as possible. He had better things to do than to humor the delusions of a fated loser. He wasn't able to get in range, however, as Naruto phased out of the way.
"Your Juuken is certainly a deadly tool but it doesn't do you any good against an opponent you cannot touch," Naruto whispered in Neji's ear from behind.
Neji nearly jumped and struck out behind him only to hit air.
'He's gotten a lot faster in this last month,' Neji realized with a scowl. This would be far more frustrating than he'd originally imagined.
For those who are watching and those who were old enough to remember, the scene in front of them was far too familiar.
A Hyuuga viciously attacking a tiny blonde using full force only to meet thin air time and time again.
The last time they had borne witness to this was over twenty years ago when Namikaze Minato battled Hyuuga Hiashi during their own Chuunin exam. He had fought with the same determination as Naruto to avenge a certain redhead Uzumaki, who had suffered a humiliating loss at Hiashi's hands only a few hours before.
Witnessing the past repeating itself made many spectators start to doubt their choices in the betting pool. If things progress the way they had before, no matter how talented he the Neji was, he would fall against the unrelenting force of Naruto's attacks.
Shikaku observed all of this with great amusement. It was barely five minutes into the battle and Naruto was already making waves in the crowd. He did his name proud.
"He's… Just like them," he mused to himself. "They'd be proud."
Neji was getting angrier by the second as he kept failing and laying even a finger on Naruto.
"Stop trying to make a fool of me!" Neji exclaimed irately.
"I think you're succeeding in doing that all on your own," Naruto pointed out, voice filled with mirth before his eyes turned to ice. "I will make you pay for every drop of Hinata's blood you spilled. You had no right or reason to hurt her or hate her."
"I have every reason to hate her!" Neji yelled, was filled with hate. "Her and the rest of the Main Branch of the Hyuuga. It's because of them that we - the Side Branch of the Hyuuga - are forced to bear this horrid seal on our foreheads. We are made beneath him and forced into their servitude. How can I not hate them? More than that, it's because of them that my father is dead!"
Naruto just stared at Neji, no shock in his eyes, only pity. Not for his loss, but for his way of thinking.
"Hinata-chan is guiltless in all of this. It's wrong to blame her for this. She aims to remedy all of the problems within the Hyuuga, including the Caged Bird Seal once she becomes the Head of the clan."
Neji let out a loud, derisive laugh. "She'll never be the Clan Head. She's too weak. She can defy her fate, and neither can you. Who are you to tell me that it's wrong to feel how I feel? You have no idea what it's like to bear such a burdensome seal upon your body."
Naruto's eyes fell dead. "But… is where you are wrong."
It was then that the blonde finally took the offense, going at Neji with wind claws.
Now, it was Naruto's turn to be surprised.
"Kaiten!" Neji cried as he began to turn in rapid circles, creating a powerful chakra force field.
Naruto's wind claws grinded against the force field but were incapable of piercing through it.
Naruto leaped back, cradling his injured right hand to his chest.
'Let me help you with that,' Kyuubi declared as she used her chakra to heal the injury. She knew that with the impending invasion, Naruto would need to be in top shape to deal with it.
'Thanks,' Naruto responded. 'I thought only the main branch could use the Kaiten.'
'It looks like he strives to push himself beyond the limits of a normal Side Branch member,' Minato commented.
Naruto couldn't help but chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Neji frowned when he stopped his Kaiten.
"For someone who claims he can't defy your fate, you sure fight against a lot," Naruto pointed out.
"What are you going on about?" the Hyuuga frowned.
"You claim that your helpless against your fate, that you're stuck as a mere Branch member but then you go learn a move meant for the Main Branch and act the way you do towards Hinata-chan. If you are truly subservient to your fate, you would be so antagonistic. You wouldn't work so hard to prove your own worth," Naruto pointed out.
"You don't know anything about me, Uzumaki. Don't you dare assume anything," an incensed Neji snarled and he attacked again. "You're in range! Hakke Rokujuuyon Sho!"
To to the naked eye, it appeared as if Neji's attacks had all hit but to those with the Byakugan and those within Naurot and Minato's fold, they saw things differently.
Neji saw spurts of golden chakra shield Naruto's Tenketsu points the same pace as his strikes.
To Kakashi and the others, they saw Minato blocking the blows.
"I see Naruto no longer has any problem with utilizing his power," Kakashi mused.
"He was put into Naruto for a reason. Not utilizing his power would be stupid," Jiraiya whispered back. "Those two are no longer completely separate individuals. It is time they learn how to use the situation to their fullest advantage."
"I suppose that's true," the Copy Nin conceded the point.
"How is this possible?" Neji frowned, not sure whether or not he could believe what he'd seen. Did Naruto really have a guardian angel?
Naruto didn't respond for a moment before he finally spoke: "Playtime is over. Let's finish this, Neji."
'We'll crush all of his thoughts about fate,' Minato agreed as he began to model Naruto's movements as had become natural in the last month. 'Are you sure you want to do this again, Naruto?'
Minato was wary of the synchronization technique, given what had happened before.
'Trust me, Tou-san… This will work. This time… I have nothing holding me back,' Naruto's voice was brimming with certainty.
Minato chuckled. He should never have doubted his son. 'Then let's do this…'
As Neji had his Byakugan activated, he witnessed the odd activity in Naruto's chakra coils.
He watched with complete disbelief as an odd golden energy began to intermix with Naruto's blue chakra until the two chakras were so meshed together Neji could no longer be sure where one ended and the other began.
Hearing the gasps of surprise, Neji tuned out of the Byakugan. His eyes widened at the sight of his opponent.
"What did you do?" He couldn't help but ask.
Naruto looked older, but few years at least. All of the remaining babies that had vanished and his features had sharpened, giving Neji a glimpse of the man Naruto would one day become.
Naruto looked initially with his now gold rimmed eyes. "I don't have time to tell you," he answered before he vanished from Neji's sight.
Neji frantically tried to cut side of when narco was but not even his Byakugan could keep up with the blonde's speed.
He stumbled forward as he took a hard blow to the back and then another to the front.
The blows kept on coming from every direction until Neji stumbled into the center of the battle arena where a series of seals activated, creating a large flash which blinded Neji right before he took a major hit to the chin. He skidded on the ground. When he finally came to a stop, Neji didn't get up.
Genma waited the allotted period of time before raising a hand up into the air.
"Winner: Uzumaki Naruto," he called out.
The entire arena was silent for a few moments before they all broke into applause.
Naruto couldn't help but smile, glad to finally received the acknowledgment he'd worked so hard to achieve.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at Genma curiously.
"You did good kid," the proctor complimented.
Naruto smiled at the man, pleased with acknowledgment.
"Thanks," he responded before his expression hardened as he approached Neji.
"I told you before, Neji, fate determines nothing. You control your own life. Nobody's path is set in stone, it is forged by the choices you make. You're not a bad guy, Neji, but you need to let go of all your rage and hatred. It will bring you nothing but pain. You make your own destiny, fate be damned. That's what I've been doing and it's worked pretty well so far."
Neji stared up into Naruto's eyes, looking puzzled. "You should hate me for what I've done to Hinata-sama, yet you give me advice on the hopes that I will better myself. Why?"
Naruto smiled. "It's not in me to hate anyone," he replied. "Besides, you got a lot of potential. I'd hate to see it lost. Konoha will need shinobi like you in the future."
"You are in an enigma, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto grinned and winked. "So I've been told. Thanks for an awesome battle, Neji, perhaps we can have rematch one day."
"I'd like that…"
"It looks like Naruto did it again," Shikamaru mused to Chouji.
"He seems to have a knack for winning over the hearts of people who were technically enemies," the larger Genin agreed. "It's like some sort of superpower."
Daichi scoffed. He doubted that. He wouldn't let this "superpower" influence him. Uzumaki – no, Namikaze – Naruto was the enemy in that was what he would always be.
"No!" Fate shrieked in rage as she observed how her champion fell against the blasted Jinchuuriki. Neji was meant to win and to crush Naruto's spirit so that he would fall under her control once more. Naruto wasn't meant to defeat him.
The Namikaze duo were getting dangerous. At this rate, all of her designs would be utterly obliterated. Naruto even managed to make Neji turn away from her, something that she had never expected to happen.
"You should give up, Fate. You will not succeed," the Shinigami entered her premises once more.
Fate glared. "That will never happen," she hissed. "I'll get the upper hand one day, you'll see."
The Shinigami sighed. Fate could never stand being wrong. He only hoped she would learn to back down sooner than later.