"Naruto vs. Super Sentai"
Chapter 8: "Daybreak Shinobi vs. Zero Warrior"
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, Shonen Jump, and VIZ Media. Super Sentai belongs to Toei and TV Asahi. I make no money from the use of either property or their related characters in this story. This is solely for fun.
Author's note: Sorry for taking so long with the next chapter of this story, it's a habit with me, no matter how hard I try. Lucky for you, I was inspired by watching an episode of Power Rangers Samurai to get started on this story again. This time, I'll skip right to the good stuff, and I'll be bringing you Naruto vs. Neji! Now, one might be thinking that Naruto is gonna have a pretty easy time because he inherited Abarekiller's powers, but Neji is still a damned skilled fighter in his own right . . . and what if he's inherited Sentai Warrior powers of his own – powers equal and opposite to Naruto's? You wanna see how it turns out? Let's go on!
Naruto walked into the arena where the Chunin Exam finals were being held with an expression of cold purpose on his face. The training under Asuma had paid off, with Naruto learning a lot about how to enhance his barehanded strikes or sword slashes with wind. He'd also made the acquaintance of one so-called "Super Pervert" by the moniker of "Jiraiya the Toad Sage," who'd taught him something as well.
As he entered, he saw his fellow competitors looking at him strangely. Those others were Temari, Kankuro, and Gaara of the Sand, Shino Aburame, Shikamaru Nara, Sakura Haruno, and Neji Hyuga. Naruto noticed that Sakura and Neji were dressed differently from the last time he'd seen either of them. Sakura now wore a green version of her usual combat dress with a shorter pair of shorts underneath, taller shinobi boots with armor on the shins . . . and her hair was in a braid resembling a chameleon's tail. Neji wore a white-and-blue combat robe over dark pants, and the sleeves of his robe were long enough to hide his hands.
"Where's Sasuke?" Naruto asked.
"Why worry about him?" Neji asked. "It's not as though your destiny goes much farther than this round."
Naruto just glared at him. "I'm going to enjoy kicking your ass, Neji."
Just then, Hayate Gekko interrupted their standoff with a cough. "Please take your places. You are proud shinobi and future chunin. Act like it."
The eight genin present assembled, Naruto taking the opportunity to adjust his white coat, which he wore open over a black chainmail shirt and white shinobi pants with armored shinobi boots. Soon enough, the first match was announced to begin, and that match was between Naruto Uzumaki and Neji Hyuga. From the bleachers, Hinata Hyuga, dressed in a heavy white-and-blue jacket that she wore closed, stared worriedly at them.
Naruto . . . she thought. Please don't kill him . . .
"What the hell was the point of trying to kill Hinata?" Naruto asked Neji. "What could she have done to you?"
"Why do you care?" Neji sneered.
"Because until recently, she was the only one who cared about me," Naruto whispered. "The only one who didn't think I was a freak or a menace . . . and you damn near killed her. For what?"
"It doesn't matter to someone like you," Neji retorted.
Naruto raised his left arm, revealing the Dino Minder from his coat sleeve. "I'll beat it out of you, then. Bakuryu Change."
In a whirlwind of green-gold light, Naruto transformed and charged at Neji with a high-speed punch, taking him by surprise. "What the . . . ?"
Most of the audience was shocked, too, with panicked whispers going through the crowd concerning where Naruto had gained his new power. "The armor's to protect me from your Gentle Fist," Naruto explained briefly. "Among other advantages . . ."
Neji wiped off his bloody lip and beckoned Naruto for another attack. "Is that all you can do?"
"No," Naruto whispered coldly, and charged Neji for another high-speed blitz attack. This time, Neji reacted with a special technique.
Immediately, chakra unleashed itself from every node in Neji's body as he spun like a tornado, the chakra spinning with him to form a shield that knocked Naruto away from Neji and into a wall. "Damn . . . that was a Main House Hyuga technique . . . How . . . ?"
Hiashi Hyuga was just as surprised, but not for long. "He must have reverse-engineered it after seeing a Main House member perform that move. Truly, Neji is the best to come from the Branch House . . ."
"What about that boy in white?" Hanabi Hyuga, Hiashi's younger daughter, asked. "Do you think he will be trouble for Neji?"
"Maybe," Hiashi admitted. "But Neji has not come this far for nothing. He will not lose to someone like Naruto Uzumaki."
Hanabi, seemingly reassured by that statement from Hiashi, turned back to watch the fight, as Naruto straightened to his feet, thankful that his armor had absorbed most of the impact. "Thanks," Naruto remarked, cracking the joints in his neck. "My turn."
He went into another high-speed attack on Neji, striking from so many angles even Neji's Byakugan was hard-pressed to detect his motions. Neji retaliated with Gentle Fist strikes, but each blow was merely absorbed by Naruto's white armor. Naruto's own retaliation was to hit him with as many Needle Fist strikes as possible, interspersed with Scalpel Fist strikes to cut certain nerve endings. By the time he was finished, Neji's entire right side was numb and useless.
"You . . . how?" Neji asked.
"Medical ninjutsu repurposed for combat," Naruto replied with a smirk beneath his helmet. "I'm a surprisingly good doctor when I wanna be."
Neji glared at Naruto. "How did you get this strong?"
"I bled for it," Naruto answered. "And I had some good teachers."
Neji straightened up and lifted his left arm, revealing a very familiar bracer. The Brace Throttle! Mikoto uttered in shock.
Brace what? Naruto asked.
The changer used by Dekabreak, Mikoto replied. I had no idea this guy was Tetsu's incarnation.
"Change Standby!" Neji called out, forcing his right arm to move. "Emergency, Dekabreak!" Flipping open the lid of the speedometer built into his changer, Neji unleashed glowing liquid metal that wrapped around his body and hardened into a white suit with a blue left sleeve, blue collar, and blue down his entire left side. The suit was distinguished by a golden Roman numeral VI on his chest, the "I" going down his leg as well. A golden belt with "SPD" engraved into the buckle wrapped around his hips, and a gold bar with the same inscription rested on his left breast. His face was wholly concealed by a white helmet with six notches above a black visor and a dog-styled golden badge on the forehead.
This shocked the audience even more. Now Neji was wearing a white suit, too!
"What a drag . . ." Shikamaru muttered from his position in the competitors' waiting booth.
"What's with those suits?" Kankuro wondered.
"Those suits didn't appear until they used those devices on their wrists," Temari remarked. "It could be some kind of transformation."
Neji flexed his white-gloved fingers before raising his left fist and unlocking the throttle on his changer. With a few quick twists, he activated one of its special modes.
"Kousoku-ken! Lightning Fist!"
His left arm practically blurred into invisibility, so fast were the strikes he was making with it. Even Naruto found it hard to defend himself against the speed and force of the Lightning Fist technique. In the end, he found himself crashing into the arena wall, propelled by the sheer power of Neji's Lightning Fist. He landed on one knee, holding his armored chest tightly, even through that, the blows had hurt.
"Even with that white suit of yours, you are still nothing more than a failure and a loser, Naruto," Neji sneered. "Just like that unworthy heir of the Main House."
Naruto let out a low growl, his countenance furious beneath the red visor of Abarekiller as he began to rise. "I'll show you who the real failure is," he vowed, as he whirled into another high-speed barrage on Neji.
"Cho Kousoku-ken! Super Lightning Fist!"
With the powered-up Lightning Fist technique, Neji's arm was a blur of motion blocking every one of Naruto's strikes. The final motion by Neji was a brutal punch that again sent Naruto crashing hard into the arena wall. This time, he landed on his front, lifting himself up with aid from the Wing Pentact in sword form. "I'm not out yet . . ." he snarled.
"Why don't you just accept you've lost?" Neji taunted. "Even with your new powers, you were never a match for me, and now that I have this kind of power added to my own skills . . . you're not even in the same league as me."
Asuma looked down at the battle with concern. "Naruto . . . remember what you learned. Don't give up so easily."
Back in the arena, TopGaler was speaking to Naruto through his Dino Minder. "Human, change tactics. You are not going to win like this."
"I know, Top," Naruto muttered. "I know." He flipped the Wing Pentact around and began slashing the air with the "beak" on its hilt, drawing arrows out of light that he fired at Neji with a final swipe of his blade. The arrows flew at Neji, only to be deflected by another Rotation from Neji, the arrows bouncing off his shield of whirling chakra and blowing up when they crashed into random parts of the arena, creating small craters where they fell.
As soon as Neji came out of the Rotation, he had barely enough time to raise his Brace Throttle-bearing arm to block Naruto's punch. "A facile distraction," Neji sneered, before folding out the throttle and twisting it with his other hand.
"Dengeki-ken! Electro Fist!"
The electrical aura generated by the new Brace Throttle technique forced Naruto off Neji, and Neji punched Naruto with that selfsame lightning-charged fist, causing sparks and electricity to explode off his suit on impact.
"Electro Fist, huh?" Naruto remarked, as whirling wind chakra began to form around his body, taking on a golden hue due to his Dino Guts. "That's nice. See how you like this fist!" The whirling, grinding wind concentrated itself at Naruto's fist and he hit Neji with a screw punch that almost literally funneled the spiraling wind aura through Neji for an impact that knocked him into the arena wall this time.
"Where the hell did that come from?" Genma Shiranui exclaimed in sheer shock at the power used by Naruto to floor Neji.
Asuma just smiled as his cigarette dangled from his mouth. "Me."
"You?" Genma asked.
"Kakashi asked me and Kurenai to do him a solid and help Naruto and Sakura train for the Chunin Exam finals," Asuma replied. "He had to give Sasuke his undivided attention but he didn't want to leave Naruto and Sakura in the lurch. That's where Kurenai and I came in. Sakura had an aptitude for genjutsu and was able to throw off Ino's Mind Transfer Technique, so Kurenai could help her grow that into a serious asset. Naruto was good with a sword and his elemental affinity was wind, so I taught him some wind techniques that could work well with a sword. Didn't know he was gonna modify them to work on his own body, but hell, that kid isn't the most unpredictable ninja we've got for nothing."
Inside the arena, Neji was rising to his feet. "You surprised me," he admitted. "I wasn't expecting you to pull off a technique like that. But it's not going to help you one damned bit. Not against me."
"You still want to go?" Naruto asked. "Well, come on. Let's go." The whirling, grinding aura of wind chakra began to form around Naruto's body again, again tinted gold with the added power of Dino Guts as his red visor glowed like firelight.
"Tatsumaki-ken! Tornado Fist!"
Neji and Naruto charged at each other, their fists engulfed with the power of wind to strike each other. The shockwave from their colliding fists emanated throughout the arena and beyond, creating a powerful gust that nearly knocked everyone off-balance. "How are they doing this?" Ino shouted in panic from the audience stands.
Tenten looked at Neji and Naruto in awe. "Their power is like nothing I've ever seen before," she murmured. "Even with all the time I spent training with Neji, I had no idea he was capable of this . . . and Naruto . . . I don't think I'll underestimate him again anytime soon."
In the end, the white-clad Rangers' clashing powers generated such an intense flurry that it exploded into a vacuum that blasted both of them into the arena walls . . . and left a lot of disheveled audience members staring in shock at what had just happened. In fact, the force of their colliding powers had been so great that it overloaded their changers, forcibly dispelling their armors to reveal two battered teenagers.
Naruto Uzumaki immediately began to rise to his feet, bruises visible on his face and scorch marks staining the white fabric of his coat and pants. Neji Hyuga also rose to his feet, his own white-and-blue robes marred with scorch marks and his almost femininely handsome face similarly marred with bruises. Neither combatant looked ready to quit in the slightest, no matter how much they would have preferred it if the other would quit.
"Why do you persist?" Neji asked.
"It's what I do," Naruto replied. "My way of the ninja . . . never go back on my word, never back down from anything or anyone."
"I remember Hinata saying something like that," Neji commented idly, almost mockingly. "She learned it from you, didn't she? And like the blind following the blind, she attempted to echo your example . . . and look where she is now. A loser – once, always, and forever. That is how fate works, and none of us escape that."
"Fate, huh?" Naruto remarked, as if tasting the word in his mouth. "Is that what you think? That fate decreed you the victor of this battle? And what happens if you lose? Is that fate, too?"
Neji narrowed his eyes as the Byakugan manifested in them, veins bulging around those hateful white eyes. "It doesn't matter what you believe. What matters is that our paths are predetermined and there is nothing to change that. You walk the path of the failure, the reject, and no matter how hard you try to walk a different path, that is still the path you are destined to travel."
"And what does that mean?" Naruto asked. "That you walk the path of victory, of triumph, of success? Who are you to decide what path I walk? Who are you to decide what path anyone walks? Hinata came into the Chunin Exams because she wanted to change her path! She believed that she could change herself if she strived hard enough, and I still believe she can! I believe any of us can walk our own path, make our own destiny . . . if we are willing to fight for it!" As he spoke, his voice growing more impassioned, golden energy wisped from his body and began to take the shape of a three-toed dinosaur claw. "You can go on believing you're the puppet of fate if you want, but all that makes you is a filthy coward, someone who isn't fit to wear that changer on your wrist!"
"You don't know a damned thing!" Neji snarled. "What would a piece of motherless trash like you know about me?"
"I know enough to know you're a damned coward!" Naruto shouted back indignantly as he charged Neji, ready to finish him off.
"And right in my path of divination . . ." Neji growled, as a yin-yang symbol manifested under his feet with ripples extending from it and ensnaring Naruto. His stance had shifted, his body to one side, his right arm extended backward and his left arm hung low but extended forward.
This is gonna hurt, Naruto thought.
As your kind would say, "No shit," human, TopGaler remarked from the Dino Minder.
"Gentle Fist Art: Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four Palms," Neji whispered menacingly. "Two strikes!" He hit Naruto with two Gentle Fist strikes. "Four strikes!" He hit him with two more Gentle Fist strikes to make four. "Eight strikes!" Four more strikes came Naruto's way to make eight. "Sixteen strikes!" Eight more strikes made a not-very-sweet sixteen for Naruto. "Thirty-two strikes!" Sixteen more stabs in Naruto's chakra nodes came from Neji's not-so-gentle strikes. "And sixty-four strikes!" Thirty-two more strikes from Neji rained down on Naruto like deadly wasp stings, all sixty-four together knocking him back with each point of contact and leaving him on the ground with no chakra to speak of.
Hiashi and Hanabi Hyuga were both absolutely floored by what they had just seen. A child of the Branch House had successfully defeated his foe with a replication of a technique that was supposed to be only for the Main House to learn. Not for the first time, but even stronger now, Hiashi Hyuga was filled with regret and self-loathing. "But for a quirk of fate, you could have been everything the Main House would ever want," he murmured to himself.
"That's enough out of you," Neji murmured to the downed Naruto. "I have cut off your chakra. There is no way you will be able to continue fighting. You might as well surrender now, or I won't be culpable for the fate you've bestowed upon yourself."
"Fate this, fate that . . ." Naruto muttered. "I'm getting sick of hearing about you and this bitch called Fate. For someone who hates Fate so much, you sure don't mind talking as though she's the be-all and end-all of your universe. So what's the deal? Go on a bad date, and still obsessed over her even today?"
The words "bad date" echoed in Neji's brain. There was indeed a bad date, but it wasn't the kind that simpleton of a foe was thinking of. It was the date he'd learned just what he really meant to his so-called family, what his role was supposed to be. "You want to know . . ." he whispered ominously. "I'll show you, the mark of the Hyuga clan's enduring curse of hatred." He pulled off his headband, revealing a green manji symbol etched onto his forehead with a wavy line flowing from either side.
A seal . . . Mikoto realized.
"This is the seal the Main House of the Hyuga family uses to keep those from the Branch Houses under their thumb," Neji explained, cold fury in his tone and eyes. "This seal binds us of the Branch Houses to do the will of those of the Main House, lest we be cursed with brain-splitting agony intense enough to kill us! And my father, Hizashi Hyuga, twin of the Hyuga clan head Hiashi, was a member of the Branch House . . . all because he was born second and Hiashi was born first. When Hinata and I were young, this village was in the middle of forming an alliance with Cloud Village, but it was a ruse on the part of Cloud to steal the Byakugan from our clan.
"The infiltrator intended to make off with Hinata, but Hiashi saved her, killing the abductor before he could escape the clan grounds with her. And then Cloud had the nerve to demand Hiashi's head, as the man he killed to protect Hinata was the ambassador Cloud had sent to the Leaf Village, and they interpreted the killing as a cause to declare war. To prevent that from happening, they demanded Hiashi's head – but they got my father's head in its place, because it looked just like Hiashi's and the seal placed on him and all other members of the Branch House would activate when he died to prevent Cloud from ever getting the secrets of the Byakugan.
"That is what we of the Branch Houses are good for, to be decoys, to be shields, to be sacrifices for the Main House!" The fury in Neji's voice blazed like hellfire. "That is the fate I cannot change! That is the fate I was born to, while a weakling like Hinata was born the heir to the Main House! Do you understand now, Naruto Uzumaki! There is nothing for us to stand in the way of fate!"
Naruto said nothing for a long time, his eyes closed as though shut to the reality he was facing. Then they opened, with a supremely sad yet resolute expression on his face. "I feel sorry for you, Neji. Losing your father like that . . . but Hinata had nothing to do with that. She was just a child, then, as were you – and you can hate the leaders of your clan for sacrificing your father, but to take it out on Hinata was just low. You don't think she suffers, too, knowing that your father had to die for her father to live? You don't think she still cares about you, even after what you did to her?"
"You wouldn't understand a damned thing about it!" Neji roared. "You weren't marked like I was!"
Naruto let out a low, bitter chuckle. "You think so?" In a flash of white, he'd thrown off his coat and his fishnet shirt, revealing a lean yet well-muscled bare torso with a seal etched into his stomach, framing his navel. "This mark is the mark I've born since the day I was born, the day the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked this village and slew so many good people – so many mothers, so many fathers, so many brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters! This mark reminds me that the day I was born was the same day so many of them died, and that is a burden I will bear every day for the rest of my life! But it is not a burden I will allow to crush me as you allowed yours to crush you!" As he spoke, golden light mixed with red tints began to rise from his body, growing so bright it almost hurt Neji to look at him.
"What is this?" Neji interrogated. "I cut off your chakra! How are you doing this?"
"You want to continue to suffer under 'Fate's' thumb?" Naruto taunted as his golden-red aura continued to rise in brightness and power. "Go ahead and do that, but don't expect the rest of us to be like you! Don't expect me to be like you, because I'm going to become Hokage, and when I do, I'll change your clan's legacy of hatred! Bakuryu Change!"
With that shout, Naruto's Dino Guts – mixed with a bit of Nine-Tailed chakra – exploded from him, and when the explosion cleared, he was charging Neji as Abare Mode Abarekiller. Neji immediately raised his Brace Throttle, shouting, "Emergency, Dekabreak!" to transform into his own Ranger battle suit. With a quick twist of the throttle, he began his own finishing strike.
"Senko-ken! Plasma Fist!"
Neji rushed at Naruto with his Brace Throttle-enhanced fist sparking in readiness to make the finishing blow, and Naruto charged him to make his own final strike, both fighters accelerating to violently collide with each other. Their finishers clashed, and once again, the energies unleashed by them created shockwaves and gusts so intense that it now threatened to shake down the entire arena. "What the hell are those crazy bastards doing?" shouted one unlucky chunin observer.
"My hair!" Ino whined desperately.
"What a drag . . ." Shikamaru groaned from the finalists' viewing area.
Shino just stared impassively down into the battlefield, while Gaara's bloodlust was stoked by the power Naruto and Neji were bringing to bear on each other. Kankuro began to tremble from feeling his little brother's thirst for blood, and Temari allowed herself a brief smirk as she witnessed Naruto's power. Sakura looked down with concern at how much Naruto was pushing himself and amazed at how far he was taking this.
She was also humbled by his revelation; her own father had died on the same day Naruto was born, and perhaps that was why she hadn't taken too kindly to Naruto always pestering her for dates. His existence just felt like a reminder of a ghost she would never get to know for herself, no matter how highly her mother spoke of him, and she'd unfairly taken it out on Naruto. Naruto, who'd been more aware and more torn up inside about this tragic correlation than he'd ever let anyone see before.
In the end, their conflagration ended in a massive explosion of wind and light that nearly knocked everyone in the audience down, not to mention made a mess out of a lot of viewers' hair – much to Ino's consternation. As the commotion died down, it was very clearly seen that Neji was still standing, albeit not in such good condition and his suit had powered down. Naruto, on the other hand, was lying on the ground some distance away, seemingly unmoving and unconscious.
Neji smirked bitterly. "Still no match for me, no matter how much you talked." He turned to Hayate. "You might as well declare me winner."
"Actually . . . no," a dreadfully familiar voice spoke from behind Neji, just in time for Neji to turn and get kicked to the ground by none other than Naruto Uzumaki, also powered down but not down for the count.
"How did you . . . ?" Neji asked in surprise from his position on the ground.
"Sleight of hand, misdirection, and the help of a clone and discarded clothes that kept those all-seeing eyes from looking where I didn't need you looking," Naruto replied. "Just so you know, the Clone Technique was my worst back in the Academy. Failed the graduation exams three times because of it, and you know what? I didn't quit. Never even thought of it . . . except once or twice, but the point is that I never quit. And I was the loser. You're the prodigy. If someone like me can become a ninja and still persevere despite everything going against me, you don't have that much of an excuse. And if you're not going to honor Tetsu's memory, you don't need to be wearing his changer."
With that, he turned and began to walk away from Neji, as Hayate declared Naruto the winner of the first match of the Chunin Exam finals. There was silence for a moment, as the audience digested everything they had seen and heard with their own eyes and ears – Naruto Uzumaki, the failure, the loser, the outcast, the bête noire of the Hidden Leaf, had defeated Neji Hyuga, a prodigy possibly even greater than Sasuke Uchiha. Then . . . slowly but surely, they started to clap, and cheer, and it spread like the flu, the cheers eventually cohering into distinct words, and those words were . . .
"NARUTO! NARUTO! NARUTO! NARUTO!"
Repeat ad nauseam.
As Naruto picked up his discarded coat and began to walk back into the finalists' booth, he looked up at the cheering audience, and saw Hinata's brightening expression. That someone as dark and gloomy as she seemed could look so elated for him . . . that made him smile more than the cheers of the audience ever could. That this was the same girl who had seen him and admired him all along, before anyone else ever bothered to . . . made it that much sweeter.
"Thank you, Hinata . . ." he whispered.
"I will admit, that was a touching moment," TopGaler remarked. "Got the admiration you wanted?"
"I already did, Top," Naruto murmured. "She was there all along . . ."
"You did it, Naruto!" Sakura cheered as she saw him, unmindful of his still-bare torso, concealed only partially by his coat draped over his shoulder.
"Yeah, just don't overdo it like that again," Shikamaru grumbled. "It's a total drag."
"I'll try not to," Naruto answered coolly.
Shino just nodded in Naruto's direction, while the Sand trio looked at Naruto with vastly different expressions. Kankuro's eyes were full of worry about the possibility of fighting Naruto, while Gaara's eyes were full of twisted excitement at the thought of being able to fight Naruto. Temari's eyes conveyed predatory desire, as did her licking her lips when she gazed upon him.
Dangerous girls seem to have a habit of falling for you, Mikoto observed. First Anko, now Temari.
Anko was your fault, genius, Naruto retorted. You had to flirt with her while she was trying to freak me out.
She fascinated me, Mikoto answered unrepentantly.
"Wonder who's gonna be up next," Naruto remarked aloud.
Inside the ornate booth reserved for Kages, Hiruzen Sarutobi had greeted the Kazekage. Thanks to Hayate Gekko, Sarutobi was aware of the Sand Village's alliance with the Sound Village, but he had to play it cool – he could not let the Kazekage know he was onto him, and cause the other Kage to act out in a manner that would endanger his villagers. They exchanged the standard pleasantries, with the Kazekage making a jibe at Sarutobi's advanced age.
"It's good the Chunin Exams were here," the younger man remarked. "Otherwise, I doubt you would have been able to make the trip."
Sarutobi forced a chuckle. "I've still got life in these bones for some time yet."
"Yes, but how much time?" the Kazekage wondered aloud. "It would be a good idea to begin looking into a successor before it's too late."
"Rest assured, Lord Kazekage, I will be here for sometime yet," the aged Hokage replied with a taunting smirk. "Or are you in a hurry to see me replaced?"
"That boy . . . Naruto Uzumaki . . . he's something else, isn't he?" the Kazekage commented.
"That he is," Sarutobi agreed. "The most surprising of our genin . . . and the most promising."
"I thought that would have been Sasuke Uchiha; from what I hear, the boy is a genius," the Kazekage mused.
"Genius is one thing, will is another . . . and I have seen no one else with more will than Naruto Uzumaki," Sarutobi replied. "You may not understand this, Lord Kazekage, but the Will of Fire is something that burns bright in all of us of the Leaf, and it is that will, that indomitable spirit that gives us light even in our darkest hours."
"How poetic," the Kazekage mocked.
"In any event, it seems our vaunted Sasuke Uchiha has yet to make it to the finals, and it is about his time to fight," Sarutobi said. "If he fails to show . . . he'll be disqualified."
"I would suggest waiting a bit longer," the Kazekage remarked. "He is up against Gaara, according to the match arrangements, and I would most enjoy seeing how his abilities stack up against those of my son."
"Your son"? Sarutobi repeated skeptically inside his thoughts. The Kazekage doesn't give a damn about Gaara. The boy is just another weapon to him. What is he playing at?
"And many in this arena came here just to see Sasuke Uchiha fight," the Kazekage added silkily. "Disappointing the people might not bode so well for the Leaf when it comes to future clients, after all."
Sarutobi bit back an angry growl. "Your point is appreciated, Lord Kazekage." He stood up and made his announcement. "We will be postponing the match between Sasuke Uchiha and Gaara of the Sand for the finale of the first round! If Sasuke Uchiha does not show by then, he will be disqualified from the Chunin Exams, no matter the reason! Is that understood?"
The audience gasped and began to clamor in excitement, much to Naruto's mild annoyance. "Sasuke . . . this show's all about him, isn't it?" he remarked sourly as he began to put his jacket back on.
"The Uchiha were a prestigious clan before they were wiped out," Sakura explained. "They were both feared and admired for their skills and prowess on the battlefield, and since they were a founding clan of the Leaf . . . it's got special resonance for a lot of people in the audience to see Sasuke fight."
"A founding clan, the Senju were the other," Naruto replied crossly.
"You're peeved Sasuke's stealing your thunder without even being here to do it to your face," Sakura deduced.
"Doesn't make me any less right," Naruto answered, still cross as he looked out into the arena. "Wonder who'll be up until Sasuke gets his ass out here?"
That was when Hayate made his announcement of the next set of combatants. "Will Sakura Haruno and Temari of the Sand come down to the arena?"
Temari looked at Sakura with a menacing stare, and Sakura gave it back with interest, her own killing intent rising against Temari's. The look in Temari's eyes said, "I'm gonna break you like a twig, little girl." The look in Sakura's eyes retorted with, "We'll see who gets broken, and hint: Not me."
"Women," Shikamaru muttered.
"Just so you remember, whichever one of us wins . . . you have to take on next," Sakura responded in a sickly sweet voice only hinting at the pain she had in store for the shadow-using ninja. Her gaze shifted to Temari as her smirk turned deadly. "Let's go."
Endnotes: My triumphant return to Naruto vs. Super Sentai has only just begun! I truly, deeply, and sincerely apologize for my nearly two-year delay; I had a lot of other stuff, Spidery stuff, on my mind and it caused me to neglect my Naruto crossover fictions. Praise goes to Power Rangers Samurai for giving me back some inspiration, along with the recent Sentai series Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters! Now that I'm back, I'm ready to get back on a roll, introducing new Sentai heroes and heroines to the world of Naruto
Next up, Sakura and Temari are going head-to-head in a girl-on-girl beatdown for the ages! Sakura's learned a lot from Mele and Kurenai, but will any of it be enough to prevent her from getting curb-stomped by the deadly wind mistress Temari of the Sand just as Tenten was? What is the Kazekage's hidden agenda in the Leaf Village . . . if it's even the Kazekage at all? And where the hell is Sasuke Uchiha, and will his new Confrontation Beast-Fist powers be a match for Gaara's absolute defense? For the answers to those questions and others, hang on to your hats, and let's Go-on!