The Biggest Chuunin Exam Ever
Chapter One: Welcome to Kumogakure
Disclaimer: Naruto is copyright 199something-2009 (well, until it ends, actually) Kishimoto. It's published in Jump and I have no idea who puts out the Tankoban. Viz does the official English translation? I don't know. I guess what I'm getting at is what I, personally, am doing is fanfiction that is created without profit or the intent to profit.
This story is a sequel to "Spying no Jutsu." I heartily recommend reading that first ( story ID is 2859078), although I suppose you don't have to.
I I I
"Welcome to the Village Hidden in the Clouds." Ebisu said, pushing his glasses up his nose.
Konohamaru smiled, hopping up to bounce off the side of a pole and then swarm up the side a building, before taking in the panorama. "So cool!" He enthused.
Kumogakure was built into the mountains, hollowed out so that each one was a patchwork of lights from the apartments and offices carved into them, with agricultural fields and training grounds scattered across the slopes and valleys between them.
"Get down." Hanabi scoffed. "You're making us look like idiots."
"Ah, go easy on him, Hanabi-chan." Naruto said lightly. "After all, this is a first time in another village for you guys."
Sai smiled his plastic smile. ANBU rarely operated outside of the Fire Country, and when they did it was almost invariably the elite who did so. Sai was not a member of that elite group.
Moegi giggled at her team-mates antics, and Udon just shook his head.
Yamato made eye contact with Ebisu, and the other jounin simply shrugged, as if to say, 'I can't control everything they do.'
"Konohamaru!" Ebisu said. "Get down here. You need to be briefed before the mission."
"Hai!" The boy said, and then leapt, scarf streaming behind him as he lightly landed next to his team-mates.
Ebisu cleared his throat, glancing at Yamato for permission. When the other man nodded, he spoke. "As you know, this year Konoha has been invited to the chuunin exam being hosted by Kumogakure. Our allies the Hidden Sand have been invited as well. Cloud's allies, Stone and Mist, will also be returning this year." Ebisu paused. "You might not realize this, but this marks the first chuunin exam in the history of the village system that will be attended by all five major villages."
"This is, without exaggeration, the biggest chuunin exam ever." Ebisu continued. "As such it represents an unprecedented opportunity for everyone involved. This is the first time since the last Secret War that ninja from all five villages will compete against each other. And this will be in public, with nobles and wealthy merchants and other customers watching. The village that performs best during this exam will earn a huge amount of prestige."
"Don't worry!" Konohamaru shouted. "We'll blow everyone away!"
Ebisu grunted with long-suffering tolerance at his student's antics, before continuing. "For that reason, every village has sent their strongest genin, the elite of the next generation. And I am very proud of you three for being selected as the strongest genin squad in Konoha. Although my teaching made it possible, it is the long dedication to missions and training that made Team Six stand above all other genin squads in Konoha. Whatever happens, I'm very proud of you three."
"Which brings me to my briefing." Yamato said. "Hyuuga Hanabi, you are considered the most talented genin of your generation; that is why you are being allowed to test early. Sai was raised within the ANBU and probably has more field experience than any of you…" Yamato paused. "Except, perhaps, you, Naruto."
He glanced at his three. "You three are not a genin squad. You have been assembled as a trump card to secure glory for Hidden Leaf. I expect you to act like the professionals you are and secure prestige for our village."
Ebisu nodded. "Yes. This is an important opportunity for us. Your behavior here will reflect on the whole village. Conduct yourself admirably so everyone will see how great Konoha ninja are!"
"That goes double for you, Naruto-niisan!" Konohamaru said, getting a dig in on the one he admired.
"Oye!" Naruto said, smiling. "Don't get cocky just because we're testing together. I'm still going to blow everyone away with my super-amazing jutsu!"
Hanabi crossed her arms, frowning. The short trip had done nothing to endear the exceedingly loud orange ninja to her, and he brought similar behavior out of Konohamaru, making his confidence bleed into something like overblown arrogance. She didn't like Naruto and she didn't like how he made Konohamaru act.
"Ah, don't be like that, Hanabi-chan!" Naruto said, laughing. He danced forward, somehow getting inside her guard to ruffle her hair. "We can still have fun while looking super-cool." He paused, before grinning again. "Well, I guess looking cool and having fun are kinda exclusive with the image the Hyuuga maintain, but whatever!"
"Hey!" Konohamaru said. "Hanabi-chan is cool even when she's having fun!"
"Shut up." Hanabi hissed at Konohamaru.
Naruto guffawed. "Is there… is there something going on with you two?"
"No." Hanabi announced.
"Yeah." Udon spoke up at the same time.
Hanabi glared daggers at the shy boy, and Naruto began laughing uproariously. Hanabi, embarrassed, lashed out, punching Naruto in the stomach.
Naruto looked down, hunched over from the blow to the gut. "I'm about to get into trouble." He observed, and then poofed into smoke.
Konohamaru was the first to speak. "A Kage Bunshin?" He said, having realized what had happened.
"Damn right, you're in trouble." Yamato growled. Naruto sneaking off like that annoyed him, but not as much as doing it without Yamato noticing. That offended his pride as a jounin.
I I I
Naruto paused as he walked up along the street that wound around the mountain like the threads cut into a screw. "Huh." He said. "I guess my clone got popped…" He shrugged. His childhood had given him a casual disregard for authority. Travelling with Jiraiya gave him casual contempt. Sometimes he thought it ironic that he was so obnoxious to all his authority figures when he wanted to be Hokage.
But right now Naruto was thinking about Ramen. He'd traded a few letters with Yugito, and she made it sound like there was this really great place somewhere around here. So he was looking for Ichisaku Ramen. He could tell it would be great just from the name.
I I I
Yugito stared down into the bowl of noodles, frowning. Her eyes had been bigger than her stomach; sure, she could put this third bowl away, but she wasn't really that hungry.
She sighed, playing with her noodles. Eating alone wasn't very fun, but she wasn't really close enough to anyone to go out and eat with them. It was ironic, she thought, that when she was alone, she never felt lonely, but when out and about, she most keenly felt the isolation.
Yugito knew that Kumo had a relatively… enlightened attitude towards their jinchuuriki, thanks in large part to the efforts of the previous Raikage, for the sake of his brother. Still… even if they were polite, no one would ever allow themselves to forget that she was a jinchuuriki. Rather than rudeness, people were in awe and somewhat… wary.
Hands reached forward on either side of her head and closed over her eyes. She reached for a kunai at the same time a voice whispered in her ear, "Guess who."
She felt a smile come to her face. "Naruto." His hands pulled away, and she turned to look at him over her shoulder. Before she get could get a look at him, though, she heard the distinctive sound of a Kage Bunshin dispelling.
She paused, wondering what he was playing at, when she felt a breath in her other ear. "Over here," he whispered, and she jumped, twisting around and nearly jumping off her stool.
Again, the bunshin popped.
She stared at the dissipating cloud of smoke. "Naruto…" she growled, beginning to feel annoyed. She heard the sound of her bowl of ramen being dragged across the counter, very deliberately scraping the counter.
She lashed out without looking, catching his wrist in her hand. Relatively certain she finally had him, she finally turned to look.
His smile was still incredibly open and warm, smile lines radiating from the corners of his eyes and drawing back his cheeks so his teeth were shining out. He still wore his forehead protector correctly on his forehead, and his face had… sharpened, losing the roundness and taking on a more mature, adult shape. Combined with the black shouldering of his new (but still orange) jumpsuit, he looked very mature and, in Yugito's opinion, quite masculine.
"Naruto." She said again, and she realized she was smiling back.
"Yugito." His smile changed, becoming something mischievous. "Yugito-chan." He tried to pull his hand back, but she kept her grip firm. "Can I have my hand back?"
"I don't think so." She responded archly. "Your hand seems to be gripping a bowl of ramen that doesn't belong to you."
"Well you certainly weren't eating it." He protested. "I watched for like, five minutes."
"You were watching me eat?" Yugito said.
"I was watching you not eat." Naruto pointlessly corrected. "I was looking for this place, 'cause you mentioned it was good, and then I came up and I saw you through the curtain, and I just kinda, stopped, you know."
"No, I don't know." Yugito replied. "But please, do tell."
"Well, see, I was just walking along, minding my own business, and bam! I saw you out of the corner of my eye, and immediately turned to look. And then like, five minutes passed."
Yugito smiled again. Despite being inarticulate, Naruto could be very sweet. She let go of his wrist. "Why don't you have some ramen?" She asked.
"My treat." She dryly added, as he cheered and started eating her noodles.
She watched him for a minute. He ate quickly, almost shoveling it in. Despite that, not a single drop of broth fell. She wondered if he was doing it with chakra or something. Usually, it was necessary to lean forward and eat over the bowl, but he was sitting up pretty straight, holding the bowl with his left hand while he deftly lifted noodles with his right.
He paused, and made eye contact, raising an eye brow. He swallowed, and spoke. "Something on my face?"
She reached out on impulse, and ran her finger down his cheek. The whisker-like indentations on his face were very slight to touch. "Nothing that isn't always on your face." She replied.
He shrugged uncertainly, and went back to eating.
"So, what brings you to Kumo?" she asked.
He pushed back the bowl, and turned to face her, casually leaning one elbow on the counter. "Well, I'm here for the chuunin exam, actually."
Yugito nodded. "Everyone is talking about it. We've got practically every nation in the elemental countries represented, so it's a huge group."
He nodded. "Yeah, the old lady wouldn't let up on the whole thing. She thinks I'm gonna cause a scene or something." He chuckled at that.
"You remember when we met?" She said lightly.
"That wasn't my fault!" He protested. "It's not like I asked four S-class missing-nin to show up!"
"No." She allowed. "You just fought with them to protect the people you were supposed to be spying on."
Naruto shrugged. "Well, you know. I couldn't let them take you. What Village you're from doesn't matter, you're someone precious to me." He glanced to the side, and the proprietor of the stand caught his eye. He stood, and she followed, opening her wallet to lay down some bills for the food.
"Hey, I can cover my bowl." He began, but she shook her head. "Nah, I was picking at it first. And anyway, I already said it was my treat." She glanced up at him. "You can pay next time."
"It's a date." He agreed, ignoring the surprised look he got from the stand proprietor for flirting with a jinchuriki. Yugito hesitated an instant before finishing counting out the money.
The two set off, ambling down the street.
"So the chuunin exam?" Yugito prompted.
Naruto grinned. "Yeah, it's gonna be great. I'm really excited to see who all's gonna be there."
Yugito nodded. "Speaking of, remember Kamome?"
Naruto frowned, and then his eyes lit up. "Oh yeah! She was pretty cool. I was really impressed by those gauntlet things that made her raiton so awesome."
"That was Raiko." Yugito corrected. "Kamome was the other one."
Naruto frowned, hand going to his chin in almost a parody of an 'I'm thinking' expression. Finally, he snapped his fingers. "Oh! You mean the kuudere with the tight pants and all those swords."
"Kuudere?" Yugito began, before shaking her head. "No, it doesn't matter. More importantly, you're still thinking of the wrong person. That's Kirema. She's the commander of Raikage-sama's Sword Squads. Kamome is the other-other one."
Naruto nodded. "Ah! The awesome lady with the bears!"
Yugito shook her head. "Ursura-sama is the Tsuchikage, Naruto. She's not even from this village. And I can play the straight man for as long as you can play stupid, I'm not going to take the bait."
He paused. "You're awesome." Naruto said, with great conviction.
She couldn't see the expression on his face; they both were squinting as they walked out on to a great causeway that connected two sides of a ravine. As they walked out onto the great arched bridge, they came out of the shadow of the mountain and into the slanting afternoon sunlight.
"Kamome was the one with the big birds and the poofy clothes, right?" He continued.
"That would be her, yes." Yugito said. "She was assigned a genin team shortly before we met. They're taking this exam."
Naruto chuckled. "Kamome was pretty cool, but she always sounded a little bit like she was on stage. I can see it now." Abruptly, he jumped up, twisting about and creating a pair of Kage Bunshin mid-air. The trio landed on the chain-link fence that prevented people from plummeting to a messy death. Many shinobi could take such a fall with ease, and Yugito believed that Naruto was one of them. But she still felt a slither of worry.
Then they struck poses like a transforming hero team. "Soaring across the sky like a whole mess of storm clouds, we're the genin trio of the great Asagiri Kamome!" Then one lept up and across the speaker's shoulder, arms straight out as he kept his body straight. "I'm a spear." It added in an aside.
Passerby stopped, and stared at the orange genin making a spectacle of himself.
Three of those staring were a trio, two boys and a girl, each about fourteen years old.
The tallest, wearing the standard issue jumpsuit of a Kumo-nin, with a cloth vest that reminded Naruto of Jiraiya, stepped forward, frowning underneath his slightly slanted forehead protector. He kicked the fence, and the Narutos wobbled precariously.
"That's for mocking sensei." He declared.
Naruto (the one holding Naruto-the-spear) chuckled. What a coincidence. Unfortunately he was still attempting to keep his balance, so he ended up falling backwards. Naruto-the-spear flailed, trying to help him balance, but really only making it worse.
Naruto fell. Naruto-the-spare tried to catch him, but only managed to get dragged off the side fence and plummet with the other two. All of this happened in less than a second.
Everyone started in shock for an instant.
"Naruto!" Yugito cried, jumping onto the fence and looking down, prepared to plunge after him to the rescue.
"I didn't mean to kill him!" The genin cried.
"I appreciate that." Naruto said behind him, badly startling the boy.
"Naruto!" Yugito cried in relief, jumping down. "Are you okay?" He obviously was, so she immediately moved on. "Then, what was…?" She said, looking over her shoulder.
Naruto shrugged. "Whenever I create Kage Bunshin, I'm in the habit of creating a spare or two, you know. Just in case." He glanced meaningfully at the boy next to him. "It's saved my butt a time or two."
Moving quickly from mortified fear to mortified anger, the boy swatted at him. "Well it's your fault for making fun of sensei!" He accused.
"Let it go, Gonta." His female teammate sighed. She stepped forward, and bowed to Naruto. She had a broad skirt, tied with a bow over a pair of pants tied shut just below the knee and a kimono-like shirt loosely folded shut over some kind of combat vest. Her forehead protector was tied around her right bicep.
"I apologize for my teammate." She said. "He has a teacher complex, you see."
"Obei!" The boy, identified as Gonta, protested her words, blushing. "That's not something you say to a stranger!" He swiveled around and swung a punch at a laughing Naruto, who dodged. "And you shut up!" He added.
"I don't think it's something you say at all." The last teammate commented. He was wearing a long-sleeved kimono tied shut over a ninja jumpsuit, and his forehead protector was attached to the front of the bucket-like hat that was cinched around his head. "Even if Gonta's a teachercon, you shouldn't say it."
"Not you too, Yasuke!" Gonta sputtered.
"Is this really any way to act in front of a foreign ninja?" Yugito accused. "He's here for the chuunin exams, you know."
Gonta eyed Naruto. Then he made eye contact with his teammates Obei and Yasuke, both of whom were evaluating the orange ninja before them in a new light.
"It's true!" Naruto said. Then he smiled widely, eyes shut as he put his hands behind his head.
Yugito shook her head. "You better hope he's not the one chosen as your proctor."
"Foreign nin can't proctor our chuunin exam!" Gonta protested.
"They're involved this year." Yugito scolded. "They're not in any position of authority, but select foreign ninja are asked to participate in a specific way for this one."
"Actually, uh, I'm not proctoring the exam." Naruto said.
Yugito paused. "You're right." She said. "I'm sorry, I just assumed since you said you were here for the chuunin exams, that…"
Naruto shrugged. "It's okay. Actually, I--"
"Back up." Yasuke interrupted. "What was that about him being our proctor?"
Obei and Yasuke traded looks.
"What?" Gonta said. "Did I miss something?"
Gonta startled. "What's with everybody sneaking up behind me today!" He shouted, turning. He paused, and smiled brightly. "Sensei!"
"Good Afternoon, Gonta." She said, smiling down at her student. "I trust that you have not burdened Yasuke and Obei this afternoon?"
"Sensei…" Gonta protested.
"Not too much." Obei said. "He almost killed this blond guy, though."
Kamome turned, and bowed to the foreign-nin. "Good Afternoon, Naruto-san. Let me extend the hospitality of Kumogakure; I'm glad that we are meeting under more auspicious conditions this time."
Naruto blinked. "Yeah, thanks. It's really good to see you, too."
"You still haven't answered my question." Yasuke complained.
Kamome drew herself up formally. "I would like your attention, please, my students." She swept her gaze across her three genin. "As of noon today, Raikage-sama has accepted, under the name Asagiri Kamome, the nomination of Team K for the upcoming chuunin exam."
With a flourish, he held out three envelopes. "Your tickets of admission to the exam."
Yasuke took his with reverence, and Obei smiled brightly.
"Sensei!" Gonta shouted, flinging his arms around Kamome. "You're totally the best!"
"He is a teachercon." Naruto muttered to himself, as Gonta pulled back.
"So… you hadn't told them yet?" Yugito said.
"I had intended to surprise them when we met today." Kamome replied.
"I'm sorry I ruined your surprise." Yugito said.
"Nii Yugito, I accept your apology." Kamome said. Then she turned to Naruto. "I understand that you're also here for the chuunin exams, Naruto-san?"
"Yeah!" Naruto replied, smiling.
Kamome nodded. "I see. It makes sense that such an important ninja such as yourself would be sent by the Hokage to observe the tournament and connect with the others attending."
"Uh, actually—" Naruto began.
"Wait wait wait!" Gonta said. "This guy is supposed to be all that, but he totally fell off the fence like a fool!"
"Actually," Yasuke began, "he rather masterfully played us into thinking that, but none of those clones were actually him."
Obei nodded. "Yeah Gonta. He was never in any danger from you."
"Let that be a lesson to you." Kamome said severely. "Kumo doesn't know much about Naruto-san, but a jounin with as much skill in genjutsu such as himself will rarely be as he appears."
"Actually," Naruto said loudly, "I'm a genin. I'm here to participate in the chuunin exam."
"I don't believe you." Yugito finally said.
"I'm serious!" Naruto said, still smiling. It was odd, but nice, he thought. That these people recognized his strength already, that they didn't believe he could be merely genin rank. It was different, it was nice to have his strength be recognized.
"I find it very hard to believe you have not successfully passed a chuunin exam, Naruto-san." Kamome diplomatically said, supporting Yugito's statement.
"Well I only took the one, and we kinda got invaded." He said, looking away. "And after that it was pretty crazy with all the stuff going on, like that mission I met you guys at, and then the crazy old pervert dragged me all over the continent for training, and basically… well, I just never got the chance to take another one."
"I think I need to take you to see the Raikage." Yugito finally said.
"Why?" Naruto reponded.
"Because… it'll be easier for the Raikage to explain it." Yugito gestured hesitantly with her hands.
"Okay." Naruto said. "Let's go."
Kamome and her genin watched them leave.
"So… is he a genin or what?" Gonta finally asked.
"I don't know." Kamome admitted. "But… I would advise against fighting him. I'm proud of you three, but you're simply no match for him."
I I I
Naruto cringed as Yugito brought him to the hallway outside the Raikage's office. Waiting was the rest of his team that he'd ditched as well as Konohamaru and his gang.
"Glad you could join us." Yamato said. "If you weren't here to pick up your exam ticket the Raikage could immediately disqualify you." He loomed over Naruto, face underlit with intense shadowing to emphasize his anger. "It would be you head, but I don't want that associated with me."
"I'm sorry." Naruto said.
"I guess you have no balls to go with having no dick." Sai added.
Naruto snarled, and Yugito paused. "…what?" she finally asked.
"Dickless." Sai said, indicating Naruto as he smiled. He felt his smile was getting more natural.
Yugito nodded, off-balance. "I… huh."
"Don't worry about it!" the irrepressible Konohamaru replied. "Sai's just trying to get along, but he's really, really bad at nicknames!"
"I'm practicing getting along smoothly with others." Sai explained. "Dickless and Shorty have been very helpful."
This time Konohamaru also snarled at what Sai said.
"Enough." Yamato said. "Naruto, I don't think you understand. First impressions are very important. You can't just go wandering off. If you get in a fight it could even lead to a war between Kumo and Konoha. You have to be on your best behavior when you're in another village to take the chuunin exam."
"The first time I met Kankuro he almost killed Konohamaru." Naruto replied. "If Sakura-chan and me hadn't been there he would've been in a lot of trouble."
"I would have been fine!" Konohamaru insisted. "I had Udon and Moegi to watch my back!"
"Dude, Kankuro would totally have killed you." Naruto said.
"I would have." Kankuro said from behind Konohamaru.
Without missing a beat, Konohamaru spun around and pointed. "Nobody asked a painted lady like you!"
Kankuro frowned. "Now I remember why I wanted to in the first place. Anyway." He grinned, stepping forward and slapping Naruto on the arm. "Good to see you, man."
"Kankuro!" Naruto enthused. "It's great to see you!" He said, returning the slap. Kankuro still wore the thick layer of make-up, although he had changed the pattern since Naruto had last seen him and had finally lost the cat-eared hood. "What are you doing here, man?"
"Ah, you know." Kankuro shrugged. "I've been helping some genin with their puppets, you know, like a study group, and Gaara said they were ready, so I'm here as their jounin-sensei for the exam."
"You got promoted?" Naruto said. "Congratulations!"
"Thanks." Kankuro replied. "Mostly I was sick of Temari being insufferable about outranking me."
"So where are your tykes, anyway?" Naruto said, completely oblivious to the fact that the 'tykes' could very easily be his own age, or even a few years older.
"Ah, I cut 'em loose and told 'em not to get into any more trouble than they could cover up." Kankuro said. "I just dropped by to pick up their exam tickets."
Naruto turned to Yamato, who just sighed. "Never mind."
"So anyway, who's this cutie?" Kankuro said, indicating Yugito.
"Oh!" Naruto said. "I guess I should do some introductions… Kankuro's the guy in the paint, and he's a ninja-puppeteer, which is totally not as lame as it sounds, and this is Yugito, she's a jounin from Kumo." The two nodded, although Kankuro grimaced as Naruto had never yet failed to knock his chosen art whenever he got the chance.
"Anyway," Naruto continued, "the dude wearing half a shirt is Sai, and the tiny princess is Hanabi." He leaned close, ignoring Hanabi's huff and Sai's oblivious wave and smile and whispered "Hanabi is a Hyuuga, you know," like it was a secret and not something either of his foreign jounin friends could tell just by looking.
"Our jounin commander is this Yamato guy, who's totally awesome and an ANBU captain, which is so totally great, only I'm not supposed to say." He blithely ignored Yamato's frustrated eye-roll.
"Then we have: Team Six! Super cool!" Naruto announced. "Despite having that stiff guy Ebisu—ooh, he's doing that push-his-glasses-up-his-nose-thing—for a jounin-sensei, they're actually pretty awesome." He pointed at the one in the scarf. "Konohamaru is my favorite, but that's probably just because he's the most shameless about copying my style."
Brushing past Konohamaru's protests, he indicated "Moegi, she's well on her way to being a super-kunoichi like Tsunade or Ursura or, like, Tenten or something," and finally "Udon, who's super-shy, or just the silent killer type, I can't really tell. Either way he's definitely reliable."
He smiled at Yugito, who smiled back uncertainly, and Kankuro, who was shaking his head. "I totally don't get how you're still alive with the way you talk about people."
Naruto shrugged. "It's a gift."
The secretary cleared his throat. The group turned, and the man smiled uncertainly up from his desk in front of the door to the village leader's office.
"The Raikage will see you now." He announced.
I I I
Itachi paused, and Kisame groaned. The two were deep in the boonies of the Fire Country, following rumors surrounding the Four-Tails. The Fourth Jinchuuriki had been suspiciously quiet in the last two years, practically going to ground. It was a difficult, annoying job to track him.
But the Leader had summoned and he would not be denied.
So the two sat cross legged on an escarpment overlooking the a tributary that would eventually join the great river and crash over the waterfall at the Valley of the End, and closed their eyes to engage the astral projection jutsu that allowed the Akatsuki to convene nearly instantly.
Kisame opened his eyes, and took in the wavering images of the rest of the group, standing on the fingers of the great sealing statue in their hidden cave.
As soon as the Nine were assembled, Pein spoke.
"Intelligence has just been received that all five major villages will be participating in the chuunin exam at Kumogakure." Pein swept his gaze across his Akatsuki after making his announcement.
"What does this have to do with us?" He asked, voicing the question that was on their minds but had not voiced.
"There is too much danger that the Five Powers will collude at this exam, and interfere with my plan. This cannot be allowed to happen." Pein said. "Some of you will be dispatched to teach the villages the futility of their false peace, that excludes the suffering of the smaller villages and the buffer countries."
Kisame was the one that spoke up. "So we're going to… interrupt their chuunin exam?"
Pein nodded. "Yes. Ironically, all the nobles that are gathered to evaluate the villages based on their chuunin can be shown the true power of this era: We, the Akatsuki."
Kisame nodded. "And who's gonna get stuck with that job?" He said, ignoring the curt 'shut-up' gesture that Itachi was making.
"I'm glad you volunteered, Kisame." Pein said.
Kisame rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah."
Pein turned back to the group, closing his eyes as he spoke. "The primary mission falls to Sasori and Deidara. They will terrorize the exam and drive the whole village into chaos to destabilize the exam and undercut confidence in the villages. Kisame, Itachi; you will support them by acting as a surgical strike force to take out the strongest individual opponents. I leave the details of this to you."
Pein opened his eyes. "You are dismissed."
With a wavering snap, seven disappeared. Pein turned to Konan. Something crossed between them in the silence. "I'm worried." Pein finally admitted.
"About the exam?" Konan asked.
Pein shook his head. "I think I might have moved too fast. Some of the Kage have been spooked and are worried more about us than each other."
Konan considered that. "Does it threaten the Plan?"
Pein shook his head. "The will of God is absolute. But I would prefer to unleash our power between them, not against them as a unified force."
Konan tilted her head to the side. "But won't their despair be more absolute if even united they cannot oppose divine will?"
Pein paused, and nodded. "Yes, but if it happens too quickly the shock will be too great and the true futility of war will not be recognized."
Konan folded her hands. "I believe in you."
"The will of God is absolute." Pein repeated his benediction.
I I I
AN: "Expect "The Biggest Chuunin Exam Ever" in a few weeks." I said that what, frigging March? Now it's September? I guess "a few" is like 30 or something.
So yeah, no guarantees when the next chapter is coming, it could be like August or something. But! I will say this is the fourth independent, unique draft I created for the beginning. Now that I've actually hit my stride instead of slamming into a wall, I expect my productivity will be going more smoothly.