Finally, after such a long wait for you, the update for the "Pyro" story is here! Enjoy!

* Review response:
Impstar, we're talking about a world where some split their body into paper butterflies. So, as far as I am concerned, tangible fire is not outside the realm of "normal".
Awsomeness7, not sure. Especially since I don't really plan on him encountering it again in the foreseeable future.
Grand-Lord-Of-Khaotic-Bullshit, Ccebling, OBSERVER01, Elemental Dragon Swordman, jgreek, Collin Oshea, blasterdog, Tombs456, thank you for your reviews, folks!
ogihcI ikasoruK, well, she didn't have as much power as in her CS2 at first, but now... who knows...
Wyrtha, hehe, but Kishimoto disagrees with your ideas, and I don't know anyone who can realistically write them up for us.

* Jutsu list:
(A-rank) Dimensional shift - Naruto's personal jutsu he learned from Kyuubi. As the jutsu's name suggests, the jutsu transports user to the location he chooses (has range limitations though...)
Kawarimi - (E-rank) Substitution technique - user replaces himself with a nearby object.
Shunshin - (D-rank) Body flicker - 'teleportation' jutsu.
Katon: housenka no jutsu - (C-rank) Fire style: mystical fire phoenix technique - user exhales a multitude of small fireballs.
Magen: shigai bakuchou - (C-rank) Demonic illusion: corpse binding tune - sound-based illusion that makes the target think that it's being held in place by an army of zombies. Additional effects are possible.
Kuchiyose no jutsu - (A-rank) Summoning technique - user brings forth an animal or object (one or more) he or she has a contract for. In Anko's case, these would be snakes.
Machou: taiatari - (low B-rank) Demonic tune: ram - a power gust of wind that does a lot of blunt damage.
Chouompa tate - (A rank) ultrasound shield - defensive technique that uses sound waves of extreme frequency. The greatest downsides of this jutsu are significant amount of chakra needed to power it and a need to use a metallic medium that will be destroyed after the jutsu is activated.

Disclaimer: still don't own 'Naruto' or any of it's characters...

"speaking of higher beings / Naruto while using Kyuubi's power / jutsus / Sasuke under the effects of cursed seal"
'thinking of higher beings / Kyuubi talking to Naruto through mental link'

This chapter is NOT beta-read

chapter 17: Promotion

"So, princess, ready to show me what you can do?" Anko asked, making a tick mark appear on Tayuya's forehead – no one was allowed to call her that in such a tone.

"The question is, are you ready for this, snake bitch." The dark-skinned redhead replied, while assuming a loose fighting stance that she'd become so comfortable in her role as Naruto's support. Of course, this was not what one should say to the purple-haired special jounin to her face, but somehow Anko managed not to kill her offender right away...

"Care to repeat this, tart?" The older kunoichi hissed dangerously as she glared daggers at her opponent. But before the things could escalate any further, Tsunade decided to remind the two that they were there to fight each other and not to trade insults:

"Girls!" Upon hearing the blond sannin, Tayuya swallowed whatever she wanted to tell Anko next, while the said special jounin shrugged and got into a fighting stance of her own.

"Chill out, Hokage-sama." The purple-haired kunoichi said. "We're getting started." Then she turned to face her opponent. "Ready, princess?" And not waiting for the redhead to reply, Anko attacked her with one of her taijutsu moves. Of course, these weren't enough to beat Tayuya as the dark-skinned redhead weaved between her proctor's strikes with relative ease, which appeared to be rather frustrating for Anko, who soon jumped back to put some distance between them and flashed through some handseals: "Katon: housenka no jutsu!" The purple-haired special jounin 'announced' as she breathed out a multitude of small fireballs towards her opponent. This didn't work as intended either as the red-haired girl simply jumped to the side, avoiding the attack altogether. And as she did that, Tayuya pulled her flute from her pouch and brought it to her lips.

"Magen: shigai bakuchou!" While to the onlookers, like it often was with the illusions, nothing changed, Anko found herself in red-tinted world and before she could properly react, several zombies rose from the ground and restrained her rather effectively by grabbing her ankles and her hands. And while this genjutsu might have been quite good against someone with less experience, the snake-using kunoichi had fought her share of strong enemies and so she had learned how to deal with nuisances such as this illusion quickly. So, with a powerful burst of her chakra Anko destroyed the fake world she was placed into, and she did this right in time to avoid Tayuya placing her kunai to her neck and, thus, winning this fight.

"Not bad, princess." The special jounin commented. "But if you want to win, you'll have to do better." With those words she pushed the redhead back roughly, before throwing a couple of kunai with explosive tags attached to them at her. But all that Anko succeeded in was charring a log that the 'princess' used for her substitution technique. And even worse, the purple-haired kunoichi couldn't see her opponent anymore, which never was a good thing in shinobi fights... Thus, needing to find the redhead posthaste, Anko had resort to unleashing one of her greater techniques: "Kuchiyose no jutsu!" In a poof of white smoke several regularly-sized summoned snakes appeared. A moment later the serpents, tasked with finding and, maybe, disabling their mistress' target, slithered away in all directions.

For about a minute nothing seemingly as happening, but then one of the summoned snakes got dispelled at the edge of the small forest that was there on the training ground, telling Anko that it managed to find her opponent. Smirking, the purple-haired kunoichi shunshin'ed to where she thought Tayuya was, but, alas, the redhead no longer was there. And it also looked like she was expecting this kind of a move from the snake user as moments later Anko found herself in another binding illusion. It took her some effort but the special jounin broke through this genjutsu. And, as it was sound-based as well, she also managed to pinpoint location where Tayuya was hiding, and this time the redhead had no time to escape to a different hiding spot.

"Found you, princess!" The purple-haired kunoichi exclaimed, while unleashing one of her signature techniques – a swarm of venomous snakes came from her trench-coat's sleeves. This made the dark-skinned beauty use substitution once again and the snakes ended up sinking their fangs into a log. "Not bad, but if you want to win, you'll have to do better." Anko commented, readying herself to unleash her next attack. She had to change her immediate plans though, when she saw Tayuya bring her flute to her lips.

"Machou: taiatari!" This technique appeared to be something similar to fuuton: daitoppa, maybe with a bit less slashing power but dealing some more blunt damage to compensate for that... Not wanting to be hit by what was at least C-rank ninjutsu, Anko had to use a substitution of her own. The redhead appeared to be ready for this and sent another such jutsu to where she saw her proctor reappear. The purple-haired kunoichi dodged it with relative ease this time, and then she counterattacked. With a rather weak fire technique that had a huge area of effect Anko forced Tayuya on defensive and, using this advantage to the fullest, she followed up with her hidden snakes to her opponent's front while creating earthen spikes behind her opponent's back, thus seemingly forcing the redhead to choose which technique she wanted to be hit with as there was nothing she could substitute herself with close enough.

"Take this, princess!" Tayuya didn't reply and, instead, returned her flute to her pouch, while getting two metallic cylinders from it. Taking a moment to charge them up with her chakra till they were glowing faint blue, the dark-skinned beauty hit the cylinders against each other lightly. The result of this, though, was quite devastating:

"Chouompa tate!" A visible ripple of the air surrounded the redhead for a brief moment, crushing and ripping apart anything that was too close to her. It even shattered the very metal that produced it in the first place... Unfortunately, it also looked like this technique wasn't easy on Tayuya as now she had to catch her breath a bit before she could continue fighting. And Anko wasn't about to let these moments that could ensure her victory go waste... Shunshin'ing behind the redhead, the snake mistress of Konoha pressed her kunai to her opponent's neck lightly.

"I win, princess." She whispered fake-sweetly into Tayuya's ear.

"No, it's a draw." The dark-skinned kunoichi replied as calmly as she could, while Anko felt a blade previously hidden under the clothes on the redhead's forearm, poke into her stomach. And had it been a real fight, the purple-haired special jounin had no doubts that this blade would have been poisoned. So, this was, indeed, a draw...

"So, what can you say about your opponent, Anko-chan?" Sarutobi asked, once the two kunoichi had rejoined the rest of the 'crowd'. The snake mistress looked at Tayuya, who now could be seen in Naruto's arms, for a moment, before returning her whole attention to her Hokage.

"Well, I'm not exactly sure that she is strong enough to really be a tokubetsu jounin – you know that I specialize in assassination and not in straight-forward combat, Sarutobi-sama – but she's definitely well above the level of a chuunin." Anko replied, before adding. "And let me tell you that those illusions of hers are quite nasty... I feel like I need a shower." This made the aged Hokage chuckle.

"I see..." Then he looked at the rest of the jounin (and one ANBU) that were there. "Anybody wants to add something, before I pass my own judgment?" He asked them.

"If I may, Hokage-sama?" Neko asked and, upon Sarutobi's nod, she continued: "As we all know from the files submitted, Tayuya-san is a support-type shinobi with some medical skills. Thus, I believe that the fighting skills she had shown us just now were, while not especially great, acceptable. So, I think that, depending on the results of her knowledge test, Tayuya-san may be granted her promotion to the rank of special jounin." The aged village leader nodded, before turning to his student, assistant and likely successor, Tsunade. The blond sannin thought about what was said for a few seconds.

"While I mostly agree with what Neko said, I still would like to administer an additional test to see just how proficient Tayuya-san is with medical techniques. To me, her promotion will significantly depend on how well she'll do there, and until we're done with this test, I'll reserve my judgment." Sarutobi nodded – there was a point in what the kunoichi had said, and he agreed that a good medic sometimes was far more valuable that another fighter.

"Very well, Tsunade-dono, I don't think that the hospital will mind hosting your testing Tayuya-san. So, go ahead. As for my own opinion, I mostly agree with Neko: Tayuya-san performed at passable level during her test."

"Thank you, Hokage-sama." Naruto said, still holding his dark-skinned red-haired lover in his arms. Then, as the two co-Hokage of Konoha were dismissing the jounin that administered their tests, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki leaned forward a bit and whispered into his partner's ear: "Go with Tsunade-baa-chan now. I'll start looking into where our tomorrow's test will be held." The golden-eyed redhead nodded and, extracting herself form Naruto's – there was no word that could precisely describe what exactly he was to her – arms, walked to where the blond sannin was standing waiting for her.

"I'm ready for your test, Hokage-sama." She said, trying to sound confident. Looking at her lover, she saw the young pyromancer give her a wave with his hand, before disappearing from the training ground via his dimensional shift technique...

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Finding any clues about where the second part of their jounin exams will be taking place turned out to be quite a bit harder than Naruto had though – but then again, these exams weren't supposed to be easy.
And by the time happy to have passed Tsunade's test Tayuya rejoined him an hour and a half later, he had uncovered only a single clue about where the two of them were supposed to appear tomorrow: the guys who organized this test were quite good at what they were doing, the Kyuubi jinchuuriki thought as he did his best to get any information about the place where the test will be held.

Still by the dinner time, Naruto, not without Tayuya's help, managed to narrow the location of their examination auditory down to a single floor in just one wing of the ANBU headquarters. Since he could check every room there in five minutes even without clones' help, the blonde decided that there was no sense in trying to get more precise information anymore. And since he really had no idea what kind of questions he and Tayuya will be asked, the young pyromancer also saw no real reason to rehearse for the exam as well. So, all in all, they could do whatever they wanted for the rest of the evening...

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The next morning the two lovers arrived to the ANBU headquarters fifteen minutes before the final part of their jounin examination was to begin. And as it turned out, they actually had worried too much about finding out where the said examination will be held, as one of the lover-level ANBU officers actually guided them there all the way from the front desk... Well, Naruto supposed, information, right or not, was just as great weapon in the world of shinobi as any kunai or sword was.

The exam itself lasted three hours and consisted thirty questions on various topics he was supposed to give detailed but still rather brief answers to. Tayuya was facing a similar task, but, of course, her questions were different form his own. The questions themselves, though... Some seemed to be perfectly normal for such an exam, while some other looked entirely out of place, but the blond pyromancer supposed that they all had some purpose here, even if sometimes he could only try guessing what it was...

Still, the three hours he had spent carefully writing down the answers to these question turned out to be more tiring than even those long fights he used to have with Jiraya when the white-haired self-proclaimed super-pervert was trying to show him what to expect form the S-ranked opponents. This time though, the tiredness cam not from the physical aspect of his being, but from the mental one, once again proving that every ninja needed a good balance between 'heaven' and 'earth' to be successful...

Anyway, since the exam results won't be ready until tomorrow afternoon, Naruto and Tayuya, once escorted out of the ANBU headquarters, were allowed to have the rest of the day off, and the duo already had in their minds what they will do to occupy their free time.

Much like Naruto and Tayuya were promised, the results of the written part of the their examination, as well as the final results, were ready a little past lunchtime the next day. And once they were informed about this by some random chuunin that was unlucky to be Hokage's errand boy today, the duo swiftly dimensional shifted to the Hokage tower's entrance. From there another chuunin on duty guided them to one of the small small briefing rooms that the Kyuubi jinchuuriki wasn't even aware of, where Sarutobi, along with a couple of full-fledged jounin was already waiting for them.

The promotion itself – in the end, both Naruto and Tayuya had successfully passed their tests – was rather anticlimactic: they were given new identification cards that had their new rank printed on them, as well as their jounin vests, though, as they weren't obliged to wear them, neither of the two would deviate from their normal clothes.

And once this ceremony – if one could even call it that – was finished, the two newly-promoted jounin were given another couple of day offs, before being dismissed... And as he was walking towards the exit from the tower, the blond pyromancer thought about what he was going to do in these free days he had: Konoha wasn't really a place that he would call his home without a moment of hesitation. No, don't take it wrong, even after what happened to him there, he was still loyal to the village itself, but at the same time there was little that could hold him within the village walls for long. And while it might be nice to meet his old classmates, Iruka-sensei, Konohamaru and his friends, Teuchi and Ayame, he wasn't sure that they would be available in the village before his departure, nor he even was sure that all of them would want to meet him... Well, Iruka was likely to be both available and willing to trade some stories with him as they sat in some bar drinking sake for the 'good' times – same with Ichiraku's – but the Kyuubi jinchuuriki wasn't sure that the same was applicable to the others... In the end, he decided that he should meet those he was sure about, while at the same time letting Chance to decide what it will be with the others...

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The next day for Naruto started with such a mundane task as shopping. Indeed, by now he and Tayuya had mostly finished the food they had bought when they had just returned to the village. This, and as they would be leaving quite soon again, they needed to stock up on kunai, shuriken, metal wire, empty scrolls and other necessities of shinobi life and duty. And while he himself headed to the weapon smith's, the task of buying the groceries lay on his red-haired partner's shoulders. Not that she seemed to mind this one bit, especially with how he promised to make it up to her for this tonight...

As Tayuya was navigating through the market place, looking for the best goods to buy, she almost ran into a Hyuuga girl of about her 'master's' age at the stand that sold various fruits and vegetables. But as no damage was done, the two kunoichi went on their separate ways without exchanging a single word. Still, the dark-skinned redhead had a feeling that this girl might be more important than she appeared to be, though she couldn't put her finger on why – the Hyuuga was wearing a kimono that signified that she off the Konoha shinobi roster, nor she looked like someone who had been and well-known kunoichi sometime in the recent past.

Meanwhile, Hinata, was making her way back to the Hyuuga compound and to a relatively small house there that she shared with her husband, Kou. Sure, their marriage was an arranged one, but it could have been much worse – at least Kou was a honorable and kind man, even if he tended to keep all of his emotions under slightly stricter than necessary control. This made him appear a bit dispassionate to everything around him, which actually was far from truth, as within next six months Hinata was expecting their firstborn, and it definitely was a child of their love and not just of their duty to the clan.

Still, the ex-heiress of the Hyuuga clan couldn't help but feel a rather painful sting of jealousy when some sixth sense that all females seemed to possess told her that the dark-skinned red-haired kunoichi she had met earlier at the market place occupied the spot in Naruto's heart that she had been wanting for herself in the past...

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