New and slightly - improved spacing for ... someone ... anyway:
AN: Yes, Yes, I know ... it's been forever and a day. I'll save the big authors note for at the bottom
Warnings: Not Beta-ed ... I wanted to get this out ASAP as soon as my muse came back.
Anko looked over the hall with hollowed eyes.
Her minions had done an excellent job in their role as enemy nin in her exam - some might say too good of a job. Only four teams remained: two from Konoha and one each from Suna an Kumo. But there were still too many to continue straight to the third round; there'd have to be an elimination.
This is where she would let Hayate take over.
"Shut up gakis!" Her voice echoed across the tower room, bringing silence in its wake. "I see that a few of you have managed to make it past my minions. Even more of you completely ignored my warning at the beginning and went off and died on us." She scowled at the redhead from Suna, knowing he was the cause of many unnecessary deaths. "If you are good enough to have made it this far, I suppose I can let you pass. Hayate!" Anko turned and called for the perpetually sick joinin. "It's your turn to play baby sitter. I've got to see a pervert about a pedophile." And with that she was gone, leaving many blinking and considerably concerned shinobi in her wake.
Kakashi had taken to pacing the hallways. He'd begin in the intensive care ward and then wander toward operating rooms 3 and 5. Each time he passed the doors that blocked him from his genin - his children - he'd glower at the door, hoping to prove some theorems on spontaneous combustion. Every time he failed to do so, his visage would darken and he'd whip around to march off to the next room.
It had been hours since Team Seven had appeared, clinging to each other in attempts to remain upright and dragging behind them what appeared to be a dead body. Naruto was the worst off - blood trailing from his feet and hands, staining his hair auburn and running across his face. The other two were barely alive; barely breathing; barely moving. Yet somehow they had managed to drag themselves into tower at the center of the Forest of Death. They'd even managed to bring the skin of a certain pedophile snake for show-and-tell.
His team and the lengths they would go for each other had never ceased to amaze Kakashi. But it wasn't until now that he was able to fully grasp and appreciate the bond between the sudo siblings. He prayed to God, Kami and any other deity he could think of that he'd never have to come to such a revelation again.
Konoha was secretly in pandemonium. Somehow, the most infamous traitor in their history had infiltrated the exams. He would have gotten away with it too, were it not for the stupidly heroic actions of young Team Seven. Well, he still got away with it - but not without gaining an appreciation for the pinkettes mean left hook and several other injuries ranging in severity and creativity.
The Third Hokage was officially too old for this. He clenched his empty pipe between his teeth, watching his ANBU scramble about. Three bodies had turned up in the Memorial Cemetery - the genin from Grass. There were still more scattered throughout the Forbidden Forest - children who had gotten caught in the crosshairs of the wild, desperate fight that had just taken place.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kakashi storm by like a thundercloud, sending the medics scattering. He couldn't blame the boy. If he wasn't the Hokage he'd have done the same. As it was, he was needed to stay in one spot so that all reports could reach him as quickly as possible.
Suddenly, the hospitals alarms were blaring.
With speeds that only fellow shinobi stood a chance of following, the elderly Hokage took off toward the source of the noise. He'd half been expecting his wayward student or trouble from another village. What he saw, however, made him freeze mid motion. Behind him he could hear squeals and heavy footsteps as his subordinates came to a comic halt, doing everything in their power not to hit their leader.
All humor of the situation was drained by the sight of Naruto, fighting his way out of the ICU. The bandages that covered his torso were slowly turning scarlet. His legs were shaking so hard that it was a miracle he was standing at all.
"Aniki," The blonde murmured, trying to push past the myriad of nurses. "Onii-chan." He collapsed mid step.
Before anyone could think to move the blonde container was in the arms of his silver haired guardian.
"I've got you Naruto," Kakashi murmured. Carefully, and very gently, he picked the genin up bridal style.
All the while the blonde was asking insistently about his team; the medics were insisting that he get back in bed; and the shinobi wanted to know what had happened.
Flash-back no jutsu
Team Seven stood in front of Anko, their clothes thoroughly shredded and covered in cobwebs and gore. A strange, liquid sand clung to their lower legs - impeding their movements. Over all, they were a mess and severely unhappy with their sensei.
Naruto summed it up in the shortest and clearest way. "I dislike you."
Anko's response - throwing back her head and cackling delightedly - was expected. What wasn't expected were the three sealing scrolls she tossed to the siblings.
The dark haired Uchiha, already sufficiently paranoid from his short time spent in the Forest of Death, saw the slight movement of her hand. Panic and instinct set in and he ran toward his sister. "Get Down!" Sasuke screamed as he tackled the pinkette. Not a few moments later, the clatter of scrolls echoed across the hall as they struck the paved floor.
"What the hell was that!" Naruto began to scream as soon as it became apparent that the things Anko had thrown were in fact scrolls and not the sharp knives they were use to. "You'll take a hit for Sakura, but not for me? Thanks bro, I can just feel the love."
"Love is subjective," the Uchiha heir pushed himself up. "Besides, the fuzz ball would give you the secret to time travel before he let himself die." He turned to give his sister a hand up, but she was already standing and grumbling about how he should lay off the tomatoes. (1)
"I dislike you." Naruto informed both of his siblings
Throwing up his hands in frustration, his brother exclaimed, "Its standard procedure! Protect the medic so she can heal your sorry ass." He glared pointedly.
"Whoa!" Both boys flinched at the tone in their sister's voice. "Are you implying that I need to be protected?" KI began to leak throughout the room, causing Anko to cackle again.
Naruto began to stutter and would have inevitable dug them into a deeper hole when Sasuke intervened. "There is no good way to answer that."
His answer just caused the killing intent to spike. Kami knows what would have happened if Anko had not intervened. She pointed out the state of their current clothing and then demanded that they change into the clothes sealed away within the scrolls.
Sasuke frowned at the folded clothes laid out before him. He knew the uniform well. It was something that they had seen Kakashi dressed in many times before he disappeared on long term missions.
A pair of black shinobi sandals and matching pants. There was also a skin-tight black mesh shirt worn under a fitted sleeveless turtleneck. Fingerless gloves rested atop a pile of dull bandages and next to them was the standard - issue ANBU armor. But it was the porcelain mask that held his attention - painted such a deep shade of black that it could be qualified as blue and in the unique likeness of a raven's head.
Sakura, it seemed, was the last of her team to assemble in the tower room Anko had specified. She noticed immediately that her youngest brother was in a foul mood - as he was unnaturally quiet. Actually, neither of her brothers seemed to be acting normal; but, seeing as Sasuke was, by nature, a brooder, she decided that her sisterly attention would be best spent on the blonde.
Walking up to him, she gently nudged him in the side. "So why exactly are you imitating Sasuke?"
Said boy scowled deeply as Naruto blinked at her. "What do you mean?"
The blonde container bristled slightly. "I am not!"
"Liar!" Both of his siblings shot back.
Sakura shook her head and continued, "Cut the act outoto. We've been stuck with you for too long. You can't hide from us."
It took a long time for Naruto to reply. When he did, his voice was soft and the tone carefully measured. "I don't understand why Kakashi-sensei wouldn't sign us up for the exams."
His statement took his teammates and adoptive siblings by surprise. They had long since known that they were part of a guinea pig program designed to feed off of their strange allegiance to one another. All three of them had discussed it at great length - including some of the sacrifices it entailed.
"I'm not sure I get where you're coming from." Sakura said slowly. "He's given us his reasons on multiple occasions."
Shaking his head, Naruto stated clearly, "I know why he did it, but I just don't understand."
"It's the price we pay for the Hokage granting us so many different senseis." The lone Uchiha's voice filtered across the room.
All further talk was discouraged by the arrival of Anko. "All right gaki's, I'm low on time so listen closely." She began, sitting down and carefully rolling up a banner proclaiming her name and awesomeness. "As you know, I was chosen as the examiner for the second phase of the Chunin Exams. And, as you also know, you are not permitted to compete in these exams."
"Thank you for reminding us," Naruto mumbled bitterly. "Exactly what we needed." He unsealed a well worn book on fuuinjutsu and flipped it open, completely intent on ignoring the rest of the non-informing information. He didn't know if it was the exams, the Arctic Fox mask hanging from his belt or their ill hidden watchers, but something was really pissing him off.
For a moment, nobody said anything. But then Ano spoke up, "What's with broody jr?" Her only answer was a shrug and a shake of Sasuke's head. "Right, well anyway we're moving on. Since all the other rookie teams have been signed up for this years exam," she pointedly ignored the growl emitted from the whiskered blonde. "The Hokage and his … advisors … have decided that it is time to test Team Seven as well - given the special resources you have received."
Her sudden seriousness unnerved the teens more than they would have liked. Silence once again stretched across the room for a long period of time as each personally digested the information. They knew that their sensei was watching them closely, the only hint that their 'test' had already begun.
Naruto raised his book higher, covering his face as he once again reclined against the rail. So that explains our watchers, he thought to himself. Bloody brilliant.
Sasuke uncrossed his arms and made sure that his hands were carefully tucked away into his pockets. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught his brother tapping his fingers against the worn, leather bound novel. He was almost entirely positive he had seen Naruto with that book before - something that was an extremely rare occurrence.
Sakura caught the movement of both of the boys and instantly knew something was up. Information was being passed along, but she couldn't quite catch it. When Naruto's eyes met hers over the book he was pretending to read, she knew that whatever it was required the technique they had the most practice in. Bright blue eyes returned to the page in front of their nose and she took this as her sign to begin.
"Wait!" Her voice cracked through the room as she held up her hand in an imitation of her academy days. "Let me get this straight. This is a test?"
Anko, catching what her student's signal and guessing what they were up to, smirked. "Right o!" She sang as, in her head, she gave the finger to the Ne guards she sensed placed around the room. The Old War Hawk would have to do better than this if he wanted to know the full range of Team Seven's power and Saritobi's plans for them.
While her inner voice was being snide, the girl in front of her had continued on in an almost defining frequency. "But we're not even in the chunin exams," Sakura pointed/whine out. "How can we participate if we're not in them?"
"I'm confused!" Naruto yelled from his corner, lowering his book again. "What does our test have to do with the Chunin exams?"
"If you put that book down for five minutes and pay attention," his brother scoffed, "You would have inferred the answer by now.
"But I think I've almost got it!" The Kyuubi's container also raised the pitch of his voice.
"Naruto, you've been reading that book since we got out of the prison… er… I mean academy." Sakura winced at the slip up, throwing a look at their sensei before continuing. "It's the longest I've ever seen you read one book."
"I've read others!" The blond protested. "I just keep re-reading this one…"
Sasuke grabbed the book, ignoring the protest of the owner, and put it in his weapons pouch. "You'll get it back after the test."
"Wait!" Naruto panicked. "What test? There is a test? I thought she was just joking around!"
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "This is exactly why you were dead last. Would it kill you to pay attention?"
"Cool it boys," Anko ordered over the blonde's answer of "Yes, yes it will," and told them that: "the test is simple… I want you to make the chunin examines fail."
(insert cricket noise)
This time Naruto was the one to raise his hand, although he did so slowly, almost hesitantly. "You want to run that by me again?"
Sakura shook her head to clear it and tried to catch up with the thread of the conversation. "Excuse me?" She asked, not really wanting the answer but the time to decode her brother's statements. Sometimes she really hated how creative her otouto could get.
"He asked if I wanted to run it by him again," Anko shrugged. "And I don't want to." It appeared that Naruto had caught on to their silent watchers. The question was if his team also got the message.
Team Seven shared a look.
Yes, she decided. They understood. Now, where they prepared?
"Oookay…" Sasuke tried after another moment's hesitation. "Would you explain it to us?"
The purple haired kunoichi pouted. "Aww… do I have to?"
"That would be nice…" The Uchiha muttered, wanting to know exactly what they were up against. He made a mental note to change the team's code talk to something less headache inducing.
Thankfully, their sensei caught the message. No, they were not prepared. They required more information if they wanted to stand a chance of keeping their cover. "Fine… but keep up cause I'm not going back over it." Anko walked to the railing, looking out over the ridiculously large forest. "I have this bet going with the other examiners – that I can eliminate more teams/people then both of them combined."
"So where do we fit into this?" Naruto asked warily, wondering if it was too late to request early retirement. The Ne operatives scattered about the room were making his life more difficult than it needed to be. Silently, he sent up a prayer that his siblings had gotten his message, otherwise this was going to be troublesome.
"You, my dear ones," tall three genin flinched at the term, "Are going to help me." Anko turned around and offered them her savage grin.
Five, Sakura decided. There were five people watching them. If she had to guess, two for each of her brothers and one for herself. "Why did I have a feeling you would say that?" She let her annoyance slip into her tone and promised herself to lose the idiot as soon as she got the change … then maybe she'd kill him for good measure.
"Isn't that… oh.. I don't know.. Cheating?" Naruto ducked as his sensei sent a kuni flying at his head. "Is it sad that I saw that coming?" His shit-eating grin was back - the only sign that he knew/guessed and approved of his sister's plan.
"No, that was good reflexes." Sasuke clarified. "What's sad is that you knew it was going to happen but kept talking anyway."
"Boys!" Sakura stopped her otouto from killing Sasuke. "Focus! Now… once again… Our mission-"
"Test." Anko interrupted, mentally applauding her pupils. She'd never praise them out loud of course, but they were pretty damn good - at least teamwork wise.
"Fine! Our test is to eliminate as many possible genin-attempting-to-become-chunin as possible." She summed up.
Their sensei nodded. "Sounds about right."
"You just said possible twice." Naruto snickered like a small child…. Apparently it was funny.
"Are you on crack?" Anko challenged, her wicked grin returning.
The siblings each had mirroring looks of confusion.
"Do I want to know…?" Sasuke ventured.
After a minute of contemplation his sensei answered him. "Just… if anyone offer you anything called crack, don't take it. It's bad."
"I will take that as a 'no Sasuke you really don't want to know what crack is' then."
Having finally grown frustrated at the overly-complicated means of communication Sakura growled out, "Stay on target!"
"Did you just growl?" Naruto blinked and then started snickering again.
An Uchiha I'm-so-much-better-than-you-because-I-have-a-hot-sexy-smirk-and-you-don't smirk curled at the corners of Sasuke's lips. "I think she did."
"Stay on target!" Their sister protested again.
Naruto shook his head in amazement. "Seriously… Who growls?"
"The Inuzuka." Was the matter of Fact answer from the final teammate.
"Actually… growling is pretty sexy." Anko started to explain a little about the birds and the bees.
"STAY ON TARGET!" Sakura used the Ōkina Atama no jutsu (Big Head Jutsu).
"Alright already!" Naruto rubbed his ear, trying to regain his hearing. "No need to shout."
Sasuke nodded sagely. "Seriously sis, stress is a killer these days."
With a feral roar, Sakura charged her brothers, intent on beating them into a pulp and forcibly changing their means of communication.
Two black eyes, a split lip and a broken nose later- Anko decided to intervene. "As much as I would like to watch pinky over here beat the snot out of you two," She pointedly glared at the injured brothers. "But you're about to bring the building down on us. And this is the target for my exam… well… in a sense. But then again… it would mean that they all could fail." She looked thoughtful. "But on the other hand… they could make me think up another test."
Sasuke sighed, ignoring her rambling and pressed a more important issue. "Any restrictions?"
"Um…" The crazy woman tapped her chin. "No killing. Oh! And you will each operate individually!"
"Awww man! But why?" The only blonde present sulked.
"Because I said so." His sense dead panned. "Now, we will divide the forest into three sections. Should any of you cross the border into your teammates section you will fail. And failure means being Team Guy's punching bag for the next month."
"So, not an option then." The boys nodded at their sisters statement. "But how do we make them fail?"
"By collecting these," the snake witch held up two scrolls, one with the kanji for heaven and the other for hell. "Participants will enter the forest with one and must retrieve the other from a different team. Once they have both scrolls, they have to make it to the tower. All of this must occur within five days."
"Wouldn't it just be easier to head straight to the tower and set up traps?" Sasuke asked. "With that kind of time limit, you can't really afford to be wandering around this place."
"The animals are hard enough to get around," Sakura agreed, her mind whirling with ideas. "But with that many teams gunning for you as well? It's suicide not to just make a beeline for this place."
The elder kunoichi held up a hand, to stall further conversation. "Okay kiddies, let's not discuss how you three would do it. Your job is to stop them remember?" Anko shook her head. "You cannot kill them, you cannot maim them… not anything permanent anyway. Each of you will be restricted to your own section and you can only operate between sunrise and sunset. Got it?" All three of them nodded. "Good, now get some rest. The exam starts in four hours."
"And you couldn't have mentioned that earlier?" Sasuke challenged.
She snorted. "When? Between you falling out of the sky and getting eaten by a giant spider? Or maybe when you were sinking in the chakra-sand." Mentally she added all the time spent creating and deciphering their strange signals. Maybe raising a team together was really the way to go after all. Honestly, Anko was a well trained jounin who had been working with these kids for months and she had only barely gotten that they were passing along information at all.
"Chakra-sand?" Sakura asked. "Don't you mean quick-sand?"
"Na… that's not dangerous enough." Team seven exchanged disbelieving looks. "So we added some seals so that it sucks in your chakra. Now stop interrupting me!"
The siblings cowered under her sharp gaze.
"The exam starts in four hours, and I expect you to be wreaking havoc from the time the gates open until the exam ends. But not after nightfall… remember your restrictions!" And with that, Anko sushined away.
Once again silence reigned over the room. Two of them waiting for the third to give them the exact locations of their watchers. Their signal to move came from Sakura raising a light grey mask in the form of a jungle cat to cover her face.
Within the twinkling of an eye, Team Seven was gone as the shadow clones who had switched places with them during their impromptu sparring match dispelled themselves. Behind them lay the petrified bodies of their would-be pursuers - trapped forever in one of Naruto's deadly fuuinjutsu creations.
Flashback no jutsu Kai!
The Third Hokage frowned as he was more or less being forcibly removed from Naruto's hospital room. Behind him, nurses were scurrying around, making sure to put the blonde in a heavily sedated state. If Sarutobi wanted to hear the rest of the deeply disturbing tale, he'd have to wait until the Kyuubi's chakra broke down the medicine in the boys system and he once more regained consciousness.
In the meantime all he could do was make sure the other members of Team Seven were kept in a comatose state due to the severity of their injuries. He also had plans to send Team Ten, who had not made it through the second round, on a B ranked retrieval mission.
It was time for his wayward students to come home. And, with one of them lurking about the village and the other due to arrive within the month, only Tsunade needed to be forcibly brought.
He had a feeling that her skills would be invaluable in the near future. Besides, Team Seven's fate depended on her swift and immediate return.
He'd give her no alternative.
Alright, time for the giant author's note.
1) slightly related to team tensai by wingwyrm, if you haven't read it you should do so.
A) Yes, I know it's short considering how long I've been gone.
B) No, I will not make you wait that long again. I'm hoping to have the next one up around christmas ... feel free to spam me to get me going on that
C) Yes, it's not beta'ed, I know. I'm planning on rewriting the entire story anyway ... but that will take forever so I'll keep posting chapters to continue the story as I go along.
D) ... did I have a D? I can't remember
E) If I've quoted something I forgot to cite let me know and I'll correct it as quick as I can
AND FINALY: Keep an eye out for my new story, Guardian Dragon. I hope to have a few chapters of that up by New Years ... considering we survive the end of the world that is. It'll be another Team Seven centric fic ... not as out right humorous though. It begins with an OC of mine and she is intertwined throughout the story, but the main focus will be on Team Seven. Here's the main idea:
Sarutobi couldn't stand by and watch a child be abused for something he had no control over. Yamato wasn't the only survivor of Orochimaru's experiments and Itachi refused to leave his brother in the hands of the village that ordered the murder of his family. Enter Ryuk, other wise known as Kida Senju, The Leaf's Cold Fire. What would happen to Team Seven if two of the members were raised by this newcomer? How will this effect Sakura and Kakashi as well? Team Seven centric. Kakashi/OC