Chapter Three: Written Exam
Sasuke paused, watching as one of his teammates dramatically wept, crouched on his knees, hands clawing beseechingly in the air toward the female member of team 7.
"Stop doing that!" The pink-haired one shrieked, kicking the blond in the head.
"B,but I don't even know her! She'll go back to Suna and never be seen again... Truly, she is not the one that I-"
"Naruto." Sakura spoke with chilling calm. Her usual approach was clearly inadequate, hence, when her Inner self started demanding she use her big brain once in a while and understand why Naruto was better than Sasuke, she actually took part of the suggestion to heart. The wrong part. "If you really want to become Hokage, which wife is more likely to help you achieve it? A clanless kunoichi or a political marriage to Konoha's only ally among the Five?" Not that she actually knew, or anything, but appealing to his sense of duty was a pretty sure way to drive him off. In realty having ties with another village is not something a kage wants quite as close to them as a spouse. The best place to put a spy or assassin was directly in their target's bed after all. "And how do you think Suna would take it if our Hokage once scorned a bride they offered? She's probably the equivalent of a princess, the daughter of their kage. Did you even think about that?"
Of course, there was no plausible way the daughter of a kage would be engaged to a weirdo like Naruto on the street like that. That was about as likely as heavy handed foreshadowing suddenly popping up and whacking everyone over the head with the fact that the improbably big fox from the prologue created earthquakes and tsunamis simply by waving its tails around.
Everyone paused as a sudden and profound visualization of how the kyuubi must have looked when it made those legendary shock waves flitted across their mind's eye.
Naruto wept silently as his face hardened into a stoic mask. Sakura-chan was right, of course. Even if the link was so tendentious and inescapable as a political alliance marriage, there was no reason for it to be loveless and resentful as well. Perhaps, one day, he could truly love the fan-wearing Suna kunoichi... perhaps. But to even have a chance, did he truly have to give up on is love for Sakura-chan? Was he even capable of that? Oh the agony of-
Like the heartless bastard we all know he is, and certainly not like the slightly curious and concerned teammate he was pretending to be, Sasuke interrupted.
"What are you two doing?" Yes, behind the bemused, slightly annoyed face the sadistic, vile Uchiha was almost certainly smirking at fooling these pathetic weaklings into believing he was their friend even though he had no possible motive for doing so. Almost certainly.
"Naruto got engaged to a Suna kunoichi." Sakura chirped happily, Inner Sakura cursing her every step of the way.
Sasuke puzzled over that for a second. His blond teammate was frighteningly competent in combat, but not the most intelligent person outside of it. There was only one explanation the Uchiha could see given his long history with fangirls, it was a trap! Naturally he had to open his mouth to make his teammates see what idiots they were. "Did either of you even consider that they might want to steal Naruto's bloodline from Konoha?" He pointed out in one of those 'doesn't appear to be a sneer, but since he's an Uchiha you know it is' sneers.
"Bloodline?" Naruto questioned blankly, tilting his head with one hand on his chin, the other crossed beneath in a dramatic thinking pose.
"You can move instantly from point A to point B, launch some kind of chakra projectile without handsigns and got a zanbato to bounce off your skin. Nobody else I've ever seen or heard of can do any of those things, except the Yon... daime's..." Sasuke's mind whirled to a halt. But no, the Yondaime's instant movement jutsu included a bright flash of light and his pure chakra attack was suppose to be close range. And he never deflected blades with his skin. He must really be getting paranoid if he even considered Naruto being related to the Yondaime or rediscovering his jutsu. Just because they were the only two blonds of that shade and both of them have similar features didn't mean they're related.
"Except what, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked, hanging from the last Uchiha's every word.
"Except a kekkei genkai." He covered his trailing off quickly. Kakashi had all but confessed to Naruto having a kekkei genkai, so it was the obvious conclusion. Against a clanless dropout he could have never accepted any indication of their rivalry being valid, yet with just a few words from Kakashi he could easily see himself on the same level. Two kekkei genkai users with nothing but old scraps of paper to train them. Yes, his pride could accept that. Of course, once he got his Sharingan, he'd leave his rival in the dust but until then...
"But that was just soru, rankyaku and tekkai..." Naruto countered with his eyes closed, a look of pseudo-deep thought on his face.
"And where did you learn them?" Sasuke shot back quickly, perhaps eager to be proven right, perhaps wanting to believe his team was just so awesome it had two rare bloodlines. Or perhaps seeing a means of getting the pink haired lamprey to latch onto a new target.
"One day, long ago, I, Naruto the Orange, happened upon a tome of ancient knowledge..." Naruto narrated, taking an odd, flashy stance in preparation.
"That makes sense, all my clan techniques w- are on old scrolls in the Uchiha library. I suppose whenever the Uzumaki clan migrated here they had to transcribe it down to book form to make it safer and easier to move without anyone questioning what it was." Sasuke quickly cut off the story, knowing how bad it could get well in advance.
"But..." Naruto began, uncertain of how to refute that claim despite knowing it was false.
"You're so clever Sasuke." Sakura chirped, happily. "Aren't you glad you have something left from your family?" She added, turning her attention to Naruto briefly.
Naruto knew the series of events that could have led him to a trashcan where a copy of his clan's techniques was unlikely bordering on impossible. But, it would be nice to believe and no one else had ever performed any of the abilities had they? Maybe, just for a little while, he could pretend it was true. "Yoi-yoi! Of course is it, Sakura-chan!"
"We still have a problem here, there's no way we can allow another village, especially another major one, to steal your kekkei genkai from Konoha, allies or not. We have to either come up with a stronger claim than whatever this kunoichi has or drive her away somehow. If we flat out refuse without justification there could be very real political fall out against whatever standing your clan had and your desire to become Hokage..." The Uchiha trailed off, suddenly realizing that on some level he had just validated his rival's desire to ascend to the highest seat of ninjadom currently available in the world. Nothing could stop the waxing exposition that was to follow.
Nothing except a sudden scene change.
Saturobi was not a happy Hokage.
Typically when he wanted someone dead, especially someone within his own village, all he had to do was sign a single form. While he may disagree with his advisers and Danzo as far as everyone was concerned, including the other involved parties, there were still uses that made them more valuable as they were than they would be dead of 'natural causes'. For all the reckless, cut-throat aggression Danzo had he lacked the subtly and guile to avoid the Sandaime's manipulations, let alone conceal his activities.
The ROOT were, much as he protested its methods in public, a necessary utility. They did tasks that kept the village safe, yet clean of the harsh reputation deserved from that same level of security. Not only that, but once the time came they would be the decisive weapon, the hidden, poisoned senbon to the much more obvious, gleaming katana of the main ninja force.
Oh, Danzo didn't intend for them to have such a use, true, but then Danzo didn't know any of the hidden facets of the seals he'd used upon them, or the numerous measure to... encourage loyalty in ANBU known to be spies or traitors.
Honestly, at times it felt like he was the last real ninja left, even old rivals like Danzo had long forgotten that the shadows were a ninja's truest ally and pulling strings unseen was a far better task than leveling a castle with a boss summons.
Well, Danzo hadn't forgotten, exactly. It was more like he believed that just because his opponent acted like he didn't notice him, he was undetected. A poor and senile view for any ninja to ever risk having for a moment, let alone the years the war hawk had carried on.
Still, he had his uses.
Sasuke Uchiha, however, did not.
Well that might be a bit too harsh. Compared to his brother, Sasuke Uchiha did not.
Sadly in order to regain said brother, the Uchiha genin had to die. And not just die in any old way, but die in such a way that the top former ANBU captain who knew every method of assassination and 'accident' causing would have no hesitation in accepting that it was an unforeseen and unpreventable event with no involvement or interference from his office at the least. Seeing as the former ANBU captain had used, planned or drilled in every method Konohagakure had conceived of and no one nearly as proficient had advanced the art further, a rare few barely catching up at best...
His hands were bound tight. He could only rarely set up the sort of incidents that might kill the target but leave Naruto alive, meaning that in many ways the request he was looking at in his hands was a kami-send.
Why the Kazekage would specifically ask that Sasuke Uchiha fight his youngest son and jinchuriki, Gaara was unimportant. To him, it was simply a convenient way set up the death of three birds with a single stone. Sasuke's death would regain Itachi as Konohagakure's loyal Uchiha, the event itself would doubtlessly bring Orochimaru to observe it and with a reverse summons seal beneath the stadium, powered by enough jounin, any evidence of Sasuke's highly unlikely survival, Orochimaru and the Ichibi were erased from their world in a single sweep.
The Akatsuki would have to spend years, perhaps even decades randomly summoning beasts and demons from other worlds and subduing them in hopes of eventually bringing the One Tails back. Once all those ends were dealt with, removing the few remaining threats that required ROOT's existence would take less than five years, allowing him to dispose of it and Danzo with them.
And then, perhaps, there could be true peace for a time...
That was a foolish dream, of course. Another enemy or emergency would surely arise from beyond the horizons, rattling its saber. But an old man could hope on behalf of others and an old man could dream of the future he'd been ushering in for so long.
"Yo." Kakashi muttered, not looking up from his book. Instead of declarations of his tardiness, there was whispered murmurs and replies.
"Kakashi-sensei, how would you go about stopping a political marriage without starting a war?" Sakura chirped suddenly, standing upright from the team's huddle.
The scarecrow shrugged, flipping through I For Icha Icha. "Depends on who's involved and how important their clan or house is."
"Well, say it was someone with an almost extinct kekkei genkai, without a clan to back them, to the daughter of the Kazekage?" Sakura pressed anxiously as her teammates flanked her position, just as eager to hear the answer. She wasn't quite sure just where the idea of that poorly-groomed tomboy being the Kazekage's daughter had gotten involved, she had such messy hair and didn't even wear make-up!
Kakashi immediately surmised what had happened, his team had bumped into the suna genin here for the chunin exam and the kunoichi had instantly fallen for Sasuke... Leading to Sakura's fearful question. Poor little fangirl... But this made the perfect motivation. "Well, if they're a genin I'd expect that with the proper threats and treaties involved, they might be assigned a 'diplomatic negotiation' and 'clan restoration' mission to Sunagakure as a means of strengthening the alliance between our two villages." He lied through his teeth, already knowing how Konoha felt about the Sharingan would never allow such a splitting of loyalty and risk of betrayal from its wielders. "If they were a chunin or higher, however, the request could be actively declined with neither side losing face as their value to the village went so far beyond what would be offered outside of the daimyo's direct order or an incident involving a conditional surrender."
"So as chunin..." Sasuke muttered just loud enough to be heard, seeming to muse at what such a promotion would avail him.
"As it happens, I've nominated team 7 for the Konoha exam starting next week. You'll need to fill these out and take them to the Academy by Friday in order to compete as a team. I also might have placed a bet on how well my team will do, so I certainly hope my entire team will make it to the finals. Think about it very carefully before you decide what to do. As a team. Goodbye, team." Kakashi passed out a few forms and unsubtly stressed the work team each time he spammed it before disappearing in a swirl of leaves.
"He just ditched us didn't he?" The pinkette didn't so much ask as state.
"He's not important." Sasuke confirmed. "The important thing is we need to get Naruto through those exams." The last Uchihha declared in what sounded heroic and self-sacrificing to those who didn't know him and therefore realize his true intention of getting his team through the exams so that he could compete in the finals himself, riding all their hard work towards his own greater glory. Yes, somewhere behind the thoughts of keeping Naruto's non-existent kekkei genkai secret was hidden the desire to show off how powerful the Uchiha were, even when limited to one person. Just a little deeper and to the left of the crippling fear of his brother.
"S,so Gaara." Temari flinched as her younger brother's dull eyes turned upon her. But she worked up the courage and persevered. "W,what was it exactly that made you decide to marry me off. I,if you d,don't mind me asking."
Gaara seemed to weight her with his eyes for a moment, appearing to muse over if it would be more convenient to simply squash her arms and legs so she couldn't flee than it would to explain himself. You didn't have to be fully functional and uncoerced to get married, after all. But for now mother was silent and contented and the sight and smell of blood might awaken her again. Best to try and use words, at least.
"Long ago mother fought a group of ninja like the blond... She fought them many times and probably killed many of them. When the blond is around, mother is happy and nostalgic. ...And quiet..." The redhead struggled to explain through his inexperience with communication and clues within a tanuki's drunken rambles.
For the briefest instant as her youngest brother uttered the last word, Temari saw him. Not the terror inducing monster or the emotionally deadened body, but the friendless, lonely youth that had to struggle not to kill everything he saw. A child grasping at straws to stave off even another second against a super-natural horror she could only barely comprehend.
It was a sight she both pitied and admired, but after that brief glimpse, less than a single flicker, the emotionless husk that housed the Ichibi was back, staring at her with lifeless, dulled eyes. For a while she mused at just how far gone her family was.
She'd been too young to understand how a personality was forged, formed from their experiences and relationships. By the time she grasped that she had had an influence on the determination that held back Sunagakure's second worse nightmare, it was already too late to get close enough to make a difference.
The worst nightmare, puppets of dead jounin and kage mounted on exploding clay birds attacking en mass, was so far beyond her ability to change that the lost chance of helping against the Ichibi weighted at her every moment she wasn't utterly terrified of getting crushed to a pulp by the Ichibi.
What a cowardly young girl she was.
"I suppose he's as good as any other suitor." Temari allowed submissively, watching in fearful bemusement as Gaara took this as acceptance and nodded, slumping into a more relaxed posture as he closed his eyes to meditate.
Content with the perceived victory, the kunoichi assumed. A perceived victory that she'd inevitably turn into an actual victory once the shock of him being so calm and vulnerable for even a heartbeat faded away and the encroaching, creeping menace of the tanuki returned. Once the heavy, dry presence of it returned, choking her where she stood with killing intent so vastly beyond human capacities that she'd obey with only the slightest hesitation.
It was luck that the one instance she hadn't been guarded and subservient he was so comparatively passive.
The shock combined with the thought of him seizing her future in such a way had prompted her to react... badly before her mind caught up. And really, disregarding the vibrant safety orange suit and overgrown mass of hair that looked shiny and healthy enough to make her a little jealous, coming from a desert where her own hair became dried and brittle no matter what she...
Ahem, aside from those, tiny factors, it really was about the same as any suitor she could expect her father to come up with in the coming years. She wasn't actually just going along simply because she feared her brother enough to let him ruin her life, right? Besides, even though he looked a lot like an idiot, she might be perfectly happy married to him...
What a cowardly young woman she would become.
"Yo-yoi!" The blond genin exclaimed suddenly, grabbing both his teammates on their designated maiden grabbing areas. That is to say, their upper arms, instantly rendering Sakura helpless as she was a female, this was a shonen action setting and having a villain hold a woman hostage was pretty much inevitable, so if all their powers and strength didn't poof away when grabbed by the upper arm it'd really ruin the drama when she used one of her well established superpowers to one-shot the idiot before he could offer his ultimatum. Oh sure, they might claim they used genjutsu or drugs or some similar plot device but everyone knew the truth in the back of their minds.
...Now where were we?
"Yo-yoi!" The blond genin exclaimed suddenly, grabbing both his teammates by their upper arms. "It has suddenly just become clear to me. As ninja, are we not to sneak in unseen, concealed from the eyes of both friend and foe?"
Sasuke paused, gazing at the nearby structure sitting so innocently, possibly in thought but more likely struggling to contain his murderous, illogical rage before he killed his teammate for daring to touch him. If he wasn't an Uchiha it would probably be noted he contained the questionably existent killing intent very well, without displaying an ounce of it outwardly. After a moment the raven-haired youth inclined his head. "So you think the tests' already started and anyone who just walks in the front door will get disqualified?"
"Hmph." Naruto nodded once, a dutiful grimace on his face for dramatic impact, releasing his hold.
"Naruto!" Bam. Sakura's fist smoked as she claimed revenge for him accidentally reminding her how completely defenseless genre conventions left her so long as there was semi-persistent pressure on her bi and tricep simultaneously. It was bad enough subconsciously knowing that as a female fighter in a shonen action setting she was eye candy at best and a completely dead-weigh piece of emotional baggage that dragged all her allies down at worst.
Hell, she'd be better off in a shonen harem environment as a few to every single woman in those had some kind of awesome superpower that outstripped and intimidated the male lead.
As it was, suddenly being powerless, unable to break free or fight back, incapable of even shouting in distress because a hand from some unnoticed, unknown person had closed around her upper arm... While no one consciously noticed, not even Sakura herself as understanding the conventions that runs one's own life drives one mad from the revelation, it would still be there, in the back of her mind as a nightmare for years to come. And because it was Naruto this time and unconsciousness brought her closer together with her inner-self, her wet dreams too.
"He's right. We should treat this as an actual mission. Find out which window is room 308 and keep yours eyes open for any traps or observers." Sasuke ordered, having carefully considered how much of a show off this would make him.
"Eh? But we are to voyage to room…"
"Security will be lightest on the inside and on windows to unimportant rooms. Breaking in on the same floor means we also don't have to deal with multiple layers of defense or risk of reinforcements gathering to the target before we get there. In contrast, the front entrance and the windows directly on that side of the building will be the most heavily guarded." Sakura recited dutifully. "Tactically speaking, it's a waste of forces to protect every potential entry point, so only the most direct and obvious ones will have any serious guards aside from an alarm."
Sasuke almost managed to look both stoic and smug at the same time. After a moments reflection, or silent gloating since he was an Uchiha, he leapt into action.
Following the Uchiha's lead the three broke off and scrambled into the trees, approaching from a vector perpendicular to the official entrance and their destination.
"Intruders sir." A chunin subordinate warned suddenly, appearing beside his temporary commander.
Ibiki's eyebrow-less eyebrow rose skeptically as the eye below that same eyebrow-less eyebrow eyed the genin team stealthily disappear into one of the unused classrooms of the academy, clearly attempting to remain... unseen. Uneyed isn't a word, after all.
While he only got a glimpse, he recognized the flash of apocalypse pink anywhere. A Haruno, no other ninja would be so brazen, except for Uzumaki and his piratanical orange suit and that was a completely different sort of insult.
That meant they were from Konoha. But why would, ah! The Uchiha's teammate was a Haruno wasn't she? And they were suppose to be in the exams but hadn't actually been eyed… Ahem, seen yet. Perhaps they figured the first test was a stealth exercise?
That would make for an interesting test, wouldn't it? But for now the best thing to do with this was turn it into a test for the chunin they already had and see how it played out.
"Get two others and form a team to rebuff them. If they manage to reach the waiting room we won't be able to deal with them directly without it being an international incident. Non-lethal only, I want them brought to me immediately when caught."
"Yessir." The chunin complied obediently and without question, poofing away.
Sasuke frowned thoughtfully as his team turned the corner and prepared to enter the exam room. This was too easy, there hadn't been a single trap or observer of any kind once they got inside. If this was suppose to be an actual representation of a mission then shouldn't there be-
"Ah, I see you all decided to take the exams then. You see Sasuke, if either of your teammates had felt they weren't ready and backed down then you couldn't compete." Kakashi pandered from a window that had been closed less than a second ago, prompting Uchiha brooding behavior.
"Hn." The raven-haired genin hned in half-interested annoyance.
"And you two, I'm very proud to see you standing by your teammate in his time of need. Just remember, Sasuke needs to actually make chunin to avoid marrying Temari, so, see you once the exams are through." With a poof and some swirling leaves the jounin disappeared.
"Temari? Wait, he thinks the suna-nin's after Sasuke?" Sakura quickly pieced everything together.
"Hn." Sasuke hned in confirmation, turning the door-handle.
"Hold it right there!" A trio of chunin appeared at the far end of the hall.
The genin collectively blinked.
Naruto stepped forward, between the chunin and his team. "Yoyoi! You two must press on, I shall-"
Bam. "Baka. They can't do anything once we're in the room. It's the finish line." Sakura explained, punching the blond before hauling him into the room by the collar of his suit.
The door closed, the chunin froze halfway to the door. "Well… this is embarrassing…"
"Excuse me, you're blocking the hall." A girl in a pink china-dress with bunned hair said, brushing past them as they stepped aside. "That was some pretty good acting back there Lee. How many fell for it?"
"Slightly over half fell for the genjutsu, but the rest wished for the weak to accompany us as little as we do. Almost all believed us to be as weak as we appeared, though there were three individuals spread across two teams that viewed us with suspicion. We would be wise to be watchful of them." Her byakuganed teammate answered stoically, completely ignoring the chunin.
"Yosh! You need only point them…" The green-clad one's voice faded as the team entered the same door the other genin had.
"…So, who's telling Ibiki about this?" One of the chunin asked aloud, bringing what they were all fearfully thinking of into unfortunately sharp focus.
"Hey, Sasuke!" A loud, white-coated, puppy-hooded shinobi shouted as he approached the door with one of his teammates, the other one nowhere to be seen. "Looks like all the rookies are in this year, since you guys finally showed up. Are we awesome or what?"
"Sasuke-kun! I knew you'd be here sooner or later. Those idiots you had to team with didn't slow you down did they?" Ino flounced up and pandered, latching onto Sasuke.
"Back off Ino-pig, he's my teammate!" Sakura responded as one might have predicted, imitating her rival with the Uchiha's opposite arm.
"Hn." Sasuke let his displeasure be known in a way that neither of the girls understood.
"Yoyoi! Truly we are as awesome as any ninja shall ever be. Eh? Weren't we suppose to be three man teams?" Naruto replied to Kiba, suddenly noticing the fact that Hinata wasn't there.
"I... I'm h,here..." A soft feminine voice informed him as a timid, blushing Hyuuga kunoichi materialized between and behind her teammates. All who noticed simply assumed they'd overlooked her and there were very few who noticed her sudden appearance in the first place.
"Yoi, it is nice to see you once more, Hinata." The questionably sane genin greeting loudly, making both Hinata and Sakura flinch, one from shock and love-stricken fantasy, the other from embarrassment and a shrieking inner-voice.
Surprisingly both stemmed from the same fact.
'He remembered my name. ~Swoon.'
'He remembered her name! Fuck, let go of Sasuke and grab Naruto right now or so help me!'
To most remembering a name is an insignificant thing, but for Hinata Hyuuga, who spent most of her time hiding under an impervious, high-powered stealth illusion based off the henge... Well, let's just say that she was rarely seen and much more easily referred to as Hyuuga-san due to her eyes and leave it at that.
"You rookies should really keep it down. Tensions a bit high at these exams and nobody likes a loud ninja." A gray-haired shinobi said as he approached the group, immediately and permanently earning Kiba's, Naruto's, Ino's, Hinata's and Inner-Sakura's ire for the rest of his life, three because they thought the insult was towards them, two because they knew the insult was for their love interest.
"Who are you?" Sasuke demanded lightly, muscle tensing slightly just in case. Naruto insisting they break in had driven him to think of this like a real mission and the chunin appearing to stop them only cemented that. And in a real mission if someone walks up while obviously pretending to be friendly they were automatically a threat.
Even an arrogant Uchiha, believing everyone loved them on sight knew that. After all, upon first seeing an Uchiha anyone without ninja training would be overwhelmed by their presence and unable to approach. Not saying Sasuke was that kind of Uchiha, just heavily implying it.
"Oh just another hopeful genin. Actually I've taken this exam seven times already." The gray-haired shinobi responded, raising untold red-flags.
Seven times meant taking the exam since at least three and a half years ago. In turn that meant six of those times were probably in other villages and when the exam was in other villages those competing, except the home village, only sent their absolute best. Ninjas capable enough to be selected didn't have luck bad enough to lose by chance that many times, that much bad luck killed in the field.
So either he was lying or he had intentionally failed each of those times. Both implied a hidden agenda and if there was anything Sasuke had experience with as a ninja and a person it was bastards with an agenda trying to dictate his life. He hated that more than fangirls.
"Whoa, you must suck." Kiba laughed at the intruder's alleged ill-fortune.
When he brushed it off Sasuke confirmed this guy was up to something.
"Anyway, since I've taken the exam so many times, I ended up making some nin info-cards on most of the major competitors. Will you be quiet if I let you see some?"
"Troublesome. How are we suppose to know who to ask about? Some of the strongest ninja only work by hiding themselves..." A lazy pineapple-headed shinobi threw in from where he sat against the wall, watching his blonde teammate try to molest the Uchiha.
"W,well..." Sakura started, trailing off as all eyes went to her. "I mean, um. I'd like to see the ones on Temari and, uh... Gaara if you have them."
"Hear that? Looks like your fiance's girlfriend is getting a little jealous." A sorry excuse of a ninja in a cat-eared hood teased his elder sister.
"...Temari of the Sands. Eldest child and only daughter of the current Kazekage..."
"Shut up idiot." Temari hissed back angrily. Just because she had to didn't mean she'd like it. Regardless she watched closely as the pink-haired girl gaped like a fish.
"...Twenty-two D-Rank, nine C-Rank, two B-Rank and one A-Rank..."
"I wonder what the girl sees in him. He looks like a total moron." Kankuro continued, ignoring her.
"...Apparently a mid to long range ninjutsu specialist that uses primarily fuuton through her fans..."
"Hey, wouldn't it be great if she threw a tantrum over this. I mean, when the Hokage officiates or something?"
"...She was also held back from missions above B-Rank until put on the same team as her brothers..."
"If she objects, you'll replace him." A raspy, low voice informed him seriously, making him break into a cold sweat.
"...Gaara of the Sands. Youngest child of the current Kazekage..."
"I don't think she'd appreciate that Gaara." Temari shot back.
"...Skills are a blank, but eight C-Rank, two B-Rank and one A-Rank. No Ds..."
"She'll accept. Or..." Gaara's eyes dulled and his pupils shifted slightly.
"...Through the A-Rank without a scratch..."
"...As one would expect from a logia..." The blond in orange declared decisively.
Gaara settled back down, his eyes restored to their usual uninterested gaze. Both his siblings sighed at another crisis averted.
Sasuke smirked suddenly. "What do you have on Naruto Uzumaki?"
"Let's see." Kabuto flipped a few cards around, laying one flat at random. "Naruto Uzumaki. Orphan of unknown lineage. Huh, skills are also a blank except for a notation with a bunch of jutsu I've never heard of before. Sexy jutsu and... Ahem, Sixteen D-Rank, and o...ne. One A-Ranked..."
"Dude, don't you know about your own teammate?" Kiba snickered at him.
Sasuke, like a typical stuck-up Uchiha, ignored him in favor of proving his point. "And just how many of the teams in here did you give information to before we arrived?"
"What? Why would I-"
"But you'll just randomly offer it to us? No you're trying to earn something here, either trust, our good will or some kind of mutual assistance. And if you're offering it to us, the rookies, then you've already either supplied everyone else or been rejected at every turn." Sasuke decried the other shinobi, a skinny girl hanging from him on both sides making the dramatic gestures he'd planned impossible. Naruto was rubbing off on him.
"I... Well..." Kabuto was at a loss. If he denied it he'd never befriend Sasuke. If he accepted it and agreed he'd probably fail as well... "How about some information on the villages that sent their genin this year?"
Sasuke glanced to Naruto, realized the gesture was wasted and instead turned to Sakura, soon realizing that was a waste as well. He'd wanted to convey that in a subtle way Kabuto was revealing he was on Konoha's side regardless, leaving the other villages to suffer. Grunting he finally faced Shikamaru and got the minute understanding signal he'd been looking for. Sasuke nodded.
"Well, to begin with, you might have noticed the two new, tiny villages that are here for the first time this year, Otogakure and Shimagakure. Neither has much of a presence since they only started recently and lack strength for the time being, but..."
Sasuke's eyes flickered to Naruto's and this time the signal was received and acknowledged.
Sasuke leapt in as a trio of attackers descended, kicking the broom-head with a sweeping heel to the back of his head.
"Soru, shigan!" Naruto suddenly appeared in front of the hay-stack, shoving one finger through the sound-genin's metal gauntlet and into his wrist, stopping his arm-swing dead in its tracks.
The third, a long-haired kunoichi, spilled onto her shapely rump as she took a reclined position mid-charge for half a second.
"Troublesome." Shikamaru muttered.
"Alright, settle down you brats!" A huge, scarred man shouted as he appeared in a poof of ninja smoke. "Any more fighting until we tell you to and you automatically fail!"
"Yo-yo-yo." Naruto laughed nervously, trying to get his finger free of the shattered metal and flesh it was embedded in. After a moment he forced it down and put one foot on the gauntlet while pulling away from it.
"Stop! Fuck! That hurts!" Dosu cried piteously.
"Now all of you draw lots to find out where you're sitting." The interrogator demanded, just before Dosu collapsed, finally getting his wrist freed, except for the jagged bits of metal that were once protecting it. "Except you! Disqualified, now get to the hospital to have that looked at."
The sound genin remained frozen long after the rest had filed out, each one considering, and worse, knowing what Orochimaru would do to them for this failure.
Sakura stared at her test. It was a written test, the rules were clearly explained and heavily implied cheating was not just allowed, but intended. It was her strength, her one excellent ability, her specialty. But she couldn't focus on the damn thing to save her life right now!
For she knew her team was going to fail. Naruto couldn't possibly answer this level of questions; he was barely able to finish the basic academic course at the Academy. Nothing she did mattered! And hoping he'd caught onto to the fact they were suppose to cheat was beyond unlikely.
'So cheat for him, duh.' Inner-Sakura groused, though Outer-Sakura tuned her out without even listening at this point.
What could she do? While she personally could finish this thing without cheating once, well…
'I can't believe you're going to make me say this.' Her inner-aspect added after another moment of motionlessly staring at the page before her.
Hell, he only needed to get one right. It didn't even matter how, Sasuke could easily complete this in one go, he might not even need to cheat as rookie of the year required superb academic skills along with their ninja ones. She could get nine of nine without any real effort, but as long as Naruto scored zero they'd never pass.
'What will Sasuke think when you let our team drop out because you weren't willing to act like a real kunoichi?' Inner-Sakura asked sweetly.
For a moment Sakura started to let it get filtered out when certain keywords added up.
'What did you say!' She demanded harshly internally, one eyebrow twitching in agitation.
'You heard me. We're kunoichi aren't we? Kunoichi don't accept other people's rules, we cheat even when cheating isn't suppose to be possible. It's what ninja do. So why aren't you?' Inner-Sakura roared silently at her external counterpart.
'But, but… Sasuke wouldn't like a girl like that…' Outer-Sakura defended herself, fidgeting.
'Oh come on. They put it in the freaking rules, it's not even cheating when they expect and allow it! Geez, lazy, anorexic and oblivious… Why are you the one in charge.'
'Shut up.' Sakura ordered, picking up her untouched test and carefully reading each question.
Now, how to get it to Naruto without being noticed…
'I'm trying. Give me a moment.'
'Look, they accounted for subtle things. If we just give him our answers that's two points off, but we'll still pass. We don't have any techniques for this kind of thing anyway.'
'…Yes we do!'
'A basic bunshin is just an illusion, so is a basic henge. You can easily stack them on top of each other for a complete answer sheet and then kawarimi the clone onto his lap, or desk or something. Since there's no mass we can put it anywhere we want as it doesn't have to displace anything so distance isn't a factor.'
'Hmm… Let's go with lap. And put off the henge part until after making sure it arrives correctly.'
'Oh? I am you, you know?'
'Kami I hope not.'
A few handsigns later the formerly meditation attempting Naruto discovered Sakura's answer sheet had somehow ended up beside his own. He was about to turn around to tell her when he noticed the little note scribbled on it.
'We're suppose to cheat, baka.'
Eyes widened at this revelation, the blond began copying, snickering all the while.
A few minutes later the tenth question was revealed, decried and argued about until one of the windows exploded, a large black ball bursting through it.
Man for a while there "Hill Of Swords" was being updated every other day and a lot of my computer time when to seeing if it was updated then reading the new chapter once or twice then reading anything else that got updated. Yep, that and staring at a pixelated hourglass waiting for the damn thing to load up enough to do something again.
I always found it kind of odd that in most main stream shonen action series the female characters, while looking extremely cool/sexy, are nearly never able to stand against the same level of opponent as their male counterparts.
The worst part of this is that less serious harem and fan-service oriented series will almost always have female characters that could almost completely blow their male interest out of the water, at least at the beginning of the series, and yet are intended more as eye candy then as combatants.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, why can't we have more series like Kurohime?
Yeah, written exam just wouldn't work out with this Naruto. But then I realized! Sakura could be the hero (sorta), because nothing says you can't cheat for the benefit of an incapable teammate. In the Naruto world there are more than a few ninja that can't do recon well if at all, they're more 'point and unleash' weapons of mass destruction, hence an info specialist would supply knowledge to them and with this in mind it's a valid tactic for the exam.
Shikamaru did for Chouji in canon anyways.
It's strange that people redeem Sakura by making her develop improvable combat skills for a start. Sakura can't fight, so her first moment should here, actually making her brains an asset to her entire team the single time they might have actually been useful in the series instead of providing us, the forth-wall viewers with exposition all the time.
Also, tried to upload this earlier but the sign-in link always went to 'unexpected error occurred while processing your request'. Oh, and the on-site spell-checker claims ne isn't a word even when it's part of a larger word like anyone or nine, ect.