An: Wow this chapter is long. It's over nine thousand words *throws up*. This story just broke 500 reviews so thanks to everyone who helped me get this far. It's my goal to see if I can get this shitbucket all the way to 1000 so if you want to make a pathetic man happy, all you have to do is pretend that you care about me for a little bit. I don't really know what to say about this chapter except that it was easily the funnest for me to write thus far. I was out of my tiny mind when I wrote this thing so there are references to things all over the place. I also want to say that near the end of this chapter I blatantly (underline blatantly) rip off a scene from Hellsing. If you like Hellsing you'll probably like the end of this. Or you'll think I'm a no talent hack which is also barrels of fun. Little bit of bad news though; I won't be updating this story for a little while. I need to get some school things out of the way first, but don't worry I'm not going to disappear for 2 years again. Also bad news but not quite as bad; I'm posting this chapter without proofreading it first. I'll get to it eventually, but if I don't post this thing tonight it's going to be about three weeks before I get it up. Hope you understand.
The final day of the exams passed without incident. Which was nothing short of amazing considering just how many jinchuuriki were packed into a relatively small space. For the most part, the demon hosts seemed all too happy to avoid one another. Naruto, honor bound as he was, felt there was little purpose in speaking with his eight-tailed counterpart since the man was content to speak in nothing but riddles; something which caused the boy's already dwindling patience with his current predicament to be only further exacerbated. He knew it was a mistake to accept a challenge from the man.
It wasn't that he was afraid that he was going to lose; in fact his heart pounded fervently within his chest at the prospect of the fiery, agonizing death that awaited the both of them when they inevitably clashed on the battlefield. His soul, every fiber of his being, cried out in rapture when he imagined the feel of his bones breaking beneath the other man's blows. Screamed in ecstasy at the thought of his body being slashed to ribbons by those razor sharp blades the man carried on his back. And wept in pleasure at the taste of the man's flesh and blood as his fang-filled jaws slammed shut around the neck of his fellow jinchuuriki. No, he was afraid that he'd end up disgracing his good name by going back on their agreement and fighting Killer-Bee before the designated time.
The boy was sinking every ounce of his waning focus into finding some way to distract himself from the ever more appealing option of simply saying 'fuck the rules I have money' and setting off a cannonade doppelganger as he passed the other man in the hallway. As it was, the demon child contented himself by messing with the Yamanaka girl, A hobby that he was quickly finding to be far more enjoyable then he'd originally perceived it to be.
Loathe as he was to admit it, the impossible had happened and the little Uchiha just didn't entertain him like he used to. The spark had gone out of their relationship, and somewhere along the way Naruto had realized that, while he still loved to beat the stuffing out of the uppity sharingan wielder, it wasn't in the same crane-kickingly good way that it had used to be. With Ino though, it was an entirely different story.
He wasn't lying when he'd said that she was cute. She was. Adorable in fact. Especially when her face would pale to that almost corpse-like shade of whitish grey when he held her in an overly familiar fashion. To everyone else she was loud and boisterous and bossy; a proud kunoichi of the Leaf who wasn't afraid to kick ass and take names if you pissed her off. But with him all the fire would seep out of her words and she'd shrink up like a delicate flower; scarcely daring to breathe for fear of upsetting him.
It was all too clear why she was so nervous around him. And honestly that thought was the furthest thing from his from his mind. He was crazy but even he had his limits. However, she and the others didn't need to know that.
"How does it feel Ino-chan?" he whispered as he continued to comb his fingers through her hair.
"I-it feels very nice Uzumaki-sama." She replied with a timid squeak, her whole body as stiff as a board.
He lowered his nose to her hair and took in her scent, an action which caused her no small amount of dismay if her shivering had anything to say about it. "Good." He purred as he nuzzled against her. Even without his acute hearing it would have been hard not to hear her heart thundering within her chest.
As he continued to play his little game he absently wondered if he could get her to faint again, like she'd done when he had first introduced himself to their little team. Probably not. The more likely scenario was that she'd be stabbing him in the face. Or perhaps a smaller more sensitive area.
A predatory grin crossed his face as he began to nibble at her ponytail. 'Oh well. Ya never know tell you try.'
The fifteen genin found themselves in a large underground arena unlike any they'd ever seen. The vast majority of the room, or non-room as it was, consisted of a giant central pit that dropped down some three hundred feet. According to the acoustics of the room the pit was actually far deeper than this, but only those whose eyes were enhanced by demonic chakra and Neji with the aid of his byakugan were able to tell how far down it really went. On either side of the arena were two big metal freight elevators whose purpose could only be to ferry their unfortunate guests into the yawning darkness that lay below.
Shikamaru was the first to devise the purpose of the room. The implications alone were enough to make the normally laid-back genin break out into an uneasy sweat. And when the jinchuuriki shared a round of knowing laughter he only began to feel worse. Slowly the other genin came to the same conclusion as their resident genius and no one, not even the rambunctious Lee, could find the heart to act confident now.
They were in demon country.
This entire area was designed in hopes that the massive amount of distance between the combatants and the observers would somehow help to negate the damage that the battle between four jinchuuriki would inevitably bring. Here they were outsiders, unwelcome distractions that would only serve to draw the ire of a foe that they couldn't possibly stand against.
Neji turned to his teammates. "If any of us get paired against one of the ninja from Cloud, or against the red-head from Suna or Naruto, we forfeit immediately. Understood?"
The bun-haired weapon mistress was only too quick to nod.
Lee on the other hand looked like he was going to be ill. Surrender wasn't a part of his vocabulary. As a genius of hard work, he'd spent his entire life playing the role of the underdog. No one ever expected anything of him, and he had to claw his way to victory every step of the way. To give up without even trying was nothing short of a mortal sin to the green-clad genin. It went against literally everything he believed in.
"Lee." Tenten said.
He looked at her.
"I want you to promise me that you won't fight them. Please Lee, they'll kill you if you get in their way."
The boy let out a defeated sigh. "Alright Tenten. I promise, on the fires of my youth, that I won't fight them." The words tasted so bitter when he said them. She could tell that it was truly difficult for him to say those things.
She put her hand on his shoulder. "Thanks Lee."
He nodded silently.
Around the stadium he could see many of the other teams discussing the same matter. He couldn't help but glare at the form of Naruto who currently stood directly across from him on the other side of the pit. The boy's eyes twinkled darkly, no doubt having heard what his teammate had said about him, and beckoned to Lee in a sort of 'come and get' type gesture.
The staring mach was interrupted as series of flood lights suddenly blazed to life around the arena.
"Don't let him get to you Lee." The boy whipped around to see the grinning image of his sensei striking a 'good guy' pose. "Your fires of youth burn hotter than his ever will."
For his part, the taijutsu specialist was more than happy to fall into this cheerful routine. "Yosh Guy-sensei! I didn't even notice that you snuck up on me. As punishment, after the exams I shall do one thousand kicks and one thousand punches!"
The Jonin's grin somehow got impossibly wider and Neji could almost hear the 'ping' that the teeth of his eccentric teacher made. "That's the spirit Lee!"
The pair embraced as the scene of a crashing wave during the fiery light of the dying sun played behind them. Most of the teams shared a confused look at the scene before them. Gaara however, voiced the feelings of the jinchuuriki who were present.
"Pretty sunset." He murmured in a far off manner.
"Fool! Ya fool!"
The rest of the sensei's entered the arena and took their places next to their respective teams.
"You guys ready for this?" Jiraiya questioned his students before sending a look across the way to Ino. "These preliminary matches can be brutal. I've seen people die in these things before. If you think you're outmatched there's no pride to be lost in surrendering."
"Hey Jiraiya-sensei, you know what's also brutal?" Kiba questioned abruptly.
The man winced inwardly; no doubt his students had suffered quite an ordeal out in the forest. "What?"
"Trekking through a god forsaken jungle for two days with the craziest motherfucker I've ever met. You know what the high point of that experience was? The walk in. You wanna know the second high point? Getting my ass kicked off a tree by stretch-legs M'gee and having to drag Sasuke-sadsack through the forest all by myself while your godson bounces rocks off my head!"
"They were teeth goddamn you." Naruto corrected as he sauntered casually over to the group. "You call yourself a ninja; pay attention."
Kiba threw his hands up in an exaggerated matter. "Oh I'm sorry! They were teeth! Hey Naruto-sama look at all the fucks I give!"
"Huh? But you're not holding up any fing- Oh I see what you did." The boy clicked his tongue before promptly head butting the startled Inuzuka with enough force to knock him to the ground.
"So how are you doing Godfather dearest?"
"Oh you know. My students are whiney ingrates and my godson acting unruly again. Maybe I should take a vacation."
"Maybe you should be quiet Jiraiya-chan." The voice of his teacher rang out from his place on an observation deck located above the balcony that the genin were currently standing on.
The toad Sannin then looked around and realized that everyone present had seen his team's juvenile exchange. Ino, her face buried in her hands, looked particularly ashamed to say that she knew them at the moment. The man at least had the good graces to rub his head in embarrassment.
Naruto on the other hand didn't have the good graces of a drunken gorilla and was perfectly happy to voice his feelings.
"Oh come on old man." He whined childishly. "I had the best comeback in the world set up for him and you ruined it!"
Kiba rubbed his head as he stood up. "A head butt isn't a comeback." He muttered under his breath.
The demon child apparently didn't believe him and the Inuzuka once again found himself thrown to the ground by the other boy's unnaturally dense head. "Shows what you know fuck-face."
"Fuck-face… I like that one Errol. I'll have to remember that one the next time I'm climbing off your mum." The boy only stopped talking after his blond teammate had made it physically impossible to do otherwise by planting his booted foot squarely in the boy's mouth. Unbeknownst to his teacher, Kiba had apparently not only inherited a sliver Naruto's powers, but had also inherited the boy's uncanny ability to never let a personal insult go. Oh wheee. What fun Jiraiya was going to have now that he had two braying jackasses for students. It was all that he'd ever wanted.
Naruto turned back to the Hokage. "Can we please move this along? We all know why we're here; can't we just start kicking the crap out of each other?" His lurid crimson eyes fell first to Killer-Bee then to Gaara, who was already releasing a steady cloud of sand from the gourd on his back. "I'm just so giddy to play my part for the village that I might go maaaaad." He all but sang the last part.
The Sandaime rubbed his face tiredly, an act that he'd found himself doing quite a lot these days. He'd had a speech prepared about the friendship and camaraderie that the Chunin exams fostered between villages. But seeing as how his village was about to be invaded by the Sound, Sand, and Cloud it meant literally less than nothing, because it would only serve as a self contradiction.
"Hayate-san. If you please."
At that, a sickly looking chunin appeared in a flourish of leaves. The man appeared about to speak when he was suddenly beset by a coughing fit. Most of the chunin hopefuls were anything but relieved that this was the man who would be proctoring the jinchuuriki battle royale. "The rules for the preliminary match of the exam are exactly as stated in the paperwork that you all signed before entering the exams." Another coughing fit. "If anyone wants to back out now, all you have to do is raise your hand."
There were no surprised faces in the room when Chouji raised his non-dominant hand. Courtesy of Naruto, the boy's arm was pretty well injured. It wasn't drastic enough to force him to retire as a ninja. Most likely he would be fine in a couple weeks, but a few sessions of medical jutsu on a two day old injury weren't nearly enough to repair the damage that had been caused.
Hayate merely nodded before crossing his name off his list and motioning to some unseen figure on the Kage's observation deck. "Anyone else?" Nobody else raised their hands. "Alright, if you'll direct your attention to the board we can get this underway."
They did so and names began to rapidly flash across the screen.
No small amount of sweating, praying, and nail biting took place in the brief interval before the participants of the first match were decided. Simple math told the genin that they had about a 40% chance of losing their match before it had even began. Even for a non-ninja, that was far too much uncertainty to make a person feel secure.
The names on the board finally stopped and a rush of excited whispers filled the air.
Uchiha Sasuke vs. Hyuuga Neji
"Oh this oughtta be good. Hey Sasuke, I bet you wish that you'd let me teach you kenjutsu right about now."
The boy only grunted in response at his sensei's dig, but inwardly he did wish that he'd at least learned the basics. Even if he was armed with just a stick it would've done wonders for his survivability. Against the Hyuuga's juuken, blocking a strike was the same as letting them hit you in the first place. Guess he'd better not let himself get hit then.
His sharingan spun to life and he began to stare down the calmly smirking byakugan user as they made their ways to the elevators.
"Don't let him smack you in your smug prick face Sasuke!" Kiba added unhelpfully after he'd once again managed to stand up.
"Or let him poke you in the eye." Naruto shoehorned in. "That would be just dreadful."
"C'mon Neji!" his bun-haired teammate yelled. "Poke him in the eye! Juuken style: one thousand years of death!"
The pearl eyed boy simply shook his head, his arrogant smirk still firmly in place, as he stepped off the elevator.
"The fates are most unkind to you, Uchiha Sasuke." The veins around his eyes bulged signaling that he'd activated his byakugan. "From the moment that you were named as my opponent you'd already lost. Today everyone will see just which doujutsu is the strongest."
Sasuke's sharingan rotated slowly as he mirrored the look of superiority on the other shinobi's face. "Yes. They will."
Above them the screen crackled to life, projecting an image of what was happening in the arena below.
Hayate walked over to the two boys who were busy trying to use their most prized possessions to set each other on fire. "This is a competition; not a death match. If either of you become too injured to continue fighting I will end the match. If you kill an opponent who has given up you will be stripped of your ninja rank and executed for the crimes of murder and treason. Do I make myself quite clear?"
Both combatants nodded.
No sooner had the chunin jumped clear when a blinding flash erupted between the pair. Shortly thereafter two more flashes went off around the Hyuuga. Neji, now fully aware of his opponent's plan, was quick to go on the defensive. It was an interesting maneuver, blinding the supposed all seeing eye by taking advantage of the fact that it would continue working whether or not he closed his eyes in time to counter the flash bomb. Interesting but not unexpected. He'd managed to instinctively deactivate his bloodline halfway though the first flash.
Neji, not entirely blind, barely managed to redirect the boy's killing blow into his shoulder. White hot pain lanced through the Hyuuga's arm as the knife no doubt found its way to his radial nerve, but he grit his teeth and lashed out with his good hand. His fingers struck Sasuke in the wrist, forcing the boy to drop his kunai, and then followed with a series of lightning quick jabs to his midsection. The Uchiha fell to the ground, coughing up blood, before evaporating in a cloud of smoke.
It was only thanks to his sharingan and some quick thinking that kept Sasuke from ending up like his shadow clone. This was bad though. He'd used up most of his flash bombs and about a third of his chakra on that single shadow clone alone. He'd meant to end this fight in a single blow. But now, with his wrist still tingling painfully and Neji closing in at remarkable speeds; it looked as though he'd have to deal with fabled gentle fist style head on until he could find an opportunity to gain distance.
The Hyuuga reactivated his byakugan upon reaching his target and snapped off a flurry of blows, each one just barely missing their target as he continued to press his advantage and slowly back the Uchiha across the arena.
Sasuke could do little more then dodge strike after countless strike as his opponent continued to gain ground on him. The boy landed two sharp jabs on his legs and another to his left shoulder leaving painful numbness in their wake. Sasuke faltered again in his footing, his muscles not working properly, and was rewarded with a hard kick to the inside of his ankle. The action had him unbalanced for just a moment before he was once again in motion but in that time three more blows struck home, the last of which had him coughing up blood.
A flinch of pain due to Sasuke's earlier attack and barely a second of hesitation in Neji's onslaught was all it took for the wounded Uchiha to turn the tables. He read the path of the blow with his sharingan and redirected it before retaliating with his own version of a juuken strike as he drove his fingers into wound of Neji's injured shoulder. He twisted, kicking out his opponent's legs as he went, and then used the airborne genin like a springboard as drove the Hyuuga into the ground with a vicious flip kick that created some much need breathing room between them.
Neji, rattled but not unconscious, launched to his feet and began to rapidly close distance with his target. Another flash went off and just as before the Hyuuga deactivated his kekkei genkai. Neji smirked; he was able to see perfectly this time. The Uchiha was running headlong into his own demise. He watched as the boy covered the distance between them in the blink of an eye. Neji was fully prepared to counter the punch that was aimed at his head; at least he had been until it abruptly appeared four inches lower than it previously was.
He took the hit full in the neck and felt his windpipe bow in the most excruciating manner just before taking second and third punch to the solar plexus which sent him to his knees in a fit of coughing. Neji looked up just in time to see Sasuke getting ready to drop kick him, and rolled to the side. But again the Uchiha's body seemed to teleport in mid-flight and again he took the full brunt of the attack. He heard a loud crack as his jaw broke from the force of the kick and then Neji was airborne.
He activated his byakugan to cover his blind spots and suddenly it all made sense. 'Genjutsu.' He'd made eye contact with the Uchiha's sharingan after having deactivated his bloodline limit due to his opponent's attempt to blind him. Though they didn't truly see though genjutsu, his eyes allowed him to realize when he'd been placed under the sway of one. After reactivating it, breaking the illusion was child's play. But Sasuke didn't need to know the last part.
Neji braced himself for blow as he watched the Uchiha seemingly teleport through the air to intercept him. The punishing fist against his back had stars flying in front of his pale eyes, but the Hyuuga was willing to endure a bit of pain in order to enact his plan.
He spun, catching his opponent off guard with his unpredicted burst of speed, and struck like coiled viper. Two blows, one to the stomach and one to the left pectoral. Then two more to the center of the Uchiha's body. He dropped low and stuck the next four points in the sequence, left knee, left thigh, abdomen and…right hand?
That wasn't right…
Neji watched with no small amount of dismay as his opponent began to mimic him perfectly, the Uchiha's now three tomoed sharingan eye blazing wildly as it tracked his super fast blows. The next eight strikes all missed their intended targets, instead striking Sasuke's incredibly numb hands. As did the next sixteen, followed by the final thirty two. The sharingan wielder had copied his motions perfectly throughout the full set of the eight trigrams: sixty four palms. And though his hands might never recover from the nerve damage, the Uchiha was still standing.
And he was pissed.
Neji's eyes went wide as the Uchiha slammed his skull against the boy's nose, causing blood to fountain from it as it broke. His neck, being one of the few places on his body that still retained feeling after Hyuuga's juuken assault, didn't leave Sasuke with many options to work with. He could barely stand, let alone chase after Neji as he groggily crawled away.
Similar thoughts were racing through the mind of the Hyuuga prodigy. His wound from the beginning of the match was bleeding heavily now and after taking a drop kick right to the head his vision was waaaay past the point of where it could be described as jumbled and disorienting. With his three hundred and sixty degree telescopic vision he was fighting a losing battle against the nausea welling up within him, but he didn't dare deactivate it for fear of getting snared in a genjutsu again. Needless to say, he no longer had the precision required to effectively use the juuken fighting style.
He had only one option left. If this next technique didn't kill him then Guy most certainly would. But what did he expect when he tried to teach secret techniques around a Hyuuga?
"Eight inner gates." He rasped as his eyes burned holes into the Uchiha. "Gate of Opening…kai!"
Sasuke, not to mention the entirety of team Guy, watched in mute horror as the Hyuuga's normally lithe form went rigid as his muscles strained against their limits.
Up on the balcony Asuma let the cigarette fall from between his lips. "Guy you didn't."
Guy's eyes danced with rage and his voice trembled with barely restrained fury when he spoke. "No. I didn't."
His eyes went to Lee whose face was a picture of betrayal and alarm. He knew that Neji's body hadn't undergone the proper conditioning before using this technique. Even if he won the match it would be unlikely that he'd be strong enough to fight during the finals. Actually it would be unlikely that he'd ever be able to fight again.
"Gate of Healing…kai!" A wave of pressure exploded outward from the boy, and the ground beneath him began to crack.
And then he heard something that turned his rapidly heating blood to ice.
"Eight inner gates! Gate of Opening…Kai!"
His eyes flew to Sasuke whose muscles were also bulging unnaturally as held his supposedly injured hands in front of him in a sloppy tiger seal.
His copy eye locked with Neji's gaze. "Gate of Healing…Kai!" The ground around the Uchiha shattered. He flexed his hands as the feeling rushed back into them.
Both combatants spoke as one. "Gate of Life…Kai!" Rubble from the previous blast waves began to float upwards with nothing but raw chakra propelling it. The skin of both Sasuke and Neji took on a distinctive reddish hue as their veins surged with blood.
The pair vanished in a burst of speed that even the jonin sensei had trouble following. At this point Jiraiya had vaulted the rail and was flying toward the arena floor.
Both genin traded multiple blows, each time only appearing for a fraction of a second before their extreme speed once again rendered them invisible. Neji saw an opening and moved to end it, but the sharingan saw through his technique and its wielder beat him to it.
Sasuke roared in pain as he launched kick after bone shattering kick into the Hyuuga, driving the duo into the air. He then torqued his body and locked the other boy's arms behind his back as they began to spiral and rocket violently towards the ground.
The screams of team Guy were drowned out by the resounding crash of breaking stone. Dust flew high into the air with the impact of the lotus and for a few horrible seconds no one dared to breathe. At least no one except the jinchuuriki.
Kiba took a few steps away from Naruto who was cackling softly to himself and muttering in some language that made his hair stand on end. The kid from Suna looked equally unstable, having crushed part of the guard railing with a tendril of sand that had snaked out from the gourd on his back as he giggled and rocked back and forth. The pair from Kumo seemed to be faring a little better against their bloodlust, but only barely. Bee's face was contorted into a mad grin as he shredded his notebook with the pencil clenched in his fist. Even Yugito, who was normally calm and collected, had a wicked sneer splayed across her face.
As the dust cleared their looks dissolved into disappointment (in the case of the two most sane demon vessels) and rage (in the case of the other two).
Against all odds Jiraiya had managed to intercept attack just before it touched down, an action which saved Neji from certain death. However, the Sannin had hardly escaped from the attack unscathed. His arms were both broken, shattered by the incredible compressional forces of the dive-bomb attack, along with his right leg which was now positioned awkwardly beneath him. Hayate quickly rushed over to help the toad sage as the man collapsed with the two genin in hand. Both were unconscious and badly injured.
"Get a medic!" Jiraiya shouted as he quickly began to fashion his vest into a makeshift tourniquet to try and staunch the torrent of blood that was gushing from Neji's arm. Somewhere along the way, either during the high speed taijutsu match or from the intense centrifugal force of the primary lotus, the Hyuuga's arm had nearly been torn from the boy's torso. His student wasn't faring any better. The strain from opening three of the eight gates had caused his already compromised internal organs to tear open, and large ugly bruises were rapidly forming under the boy's skin.
He could hear screaming above him as the medics rushed over. Tenten was hysterical. The only thing that was keeping her from vaulting the rail as Jiraiya had done was the bear hug that Lee currently held her in. Guy on the other hand had no such obstacle. He hit the ground with a crash and raced over to Neji.
"Guy he's bleeding out! Cauterize the wound!"
The man whipped out a kunai and began to heat it with a fire jutsu until the metal glowed red hot. It hissed when it met with the remains of Neji's severed artery and the smell of burning meat filled the air. Their first aid was crude but it was the only thing that kept the Hyuuga from dying right then and there. Both men scrambled, or crawled in Jiraiya's case, out of the way as a horde of medics descended on to the injured pair and began to perform diagnostic jutsu and prepare blood transfusions.
Another trio of medics appeared and quickly began to work on the toad sage's broken limbs. Having been teammates with the legendary Tsunade, Jiraiya knew just how effective medical ninjutsu could be. Physical trauma was easy to deal with especially when the time between the injury and the treatment was as short as it had been. His broken bones would be mended within the week if he received medical care daily. Sasuke and Neji on the other hand would take significantly longer to recover. With the quick patch job out of the way, the Hyuuga's life was no longer in immediate danger. His ninja career was an entirely different matter though.
The reason that Tsunade was hailed as the greatest medic-nin of all time wasn't due to the fact that she could reattach arms and legs and heal internal organs. Any well trained medic could do these things if they were given enough time and had enough chakra. No, what set the slug Sannin apart from other medics was the fact that she was able to almost perfectly replicate the damaged tissue that she was healing all the way down to the chakra network itself. Without the woman's superb chakra control, the likelihood that Sasuke and Neji (and even Jiraiya to a very lesser extent) would be unable to properly mold chakra was much higher.
He stifled a grunt as one of the medics finished splinting his leg and waved them off as he began to hobble toward one of the lifts.
"Jiraiya-sama." One of the medics addressed him. "It is highly ill advised to remain active after receiving treatment. You should be resting. Not watching matches."
"I've done much more with much worse than this. I'll be fine for a little while. And I should be here for my students." His eyes trialed to Naruto who was presently glaring daggers down at him. He pushed the lever and the lift groaned to life. "If I leave I'm certain that I'll regret it."
A long elevator ride later found the toad sage face to face with his scowling godson.
"Why did you stop the match godfather? It was getting interesting at the end. I was rather irritated," he said the word with gritted teeth. "When I found out that Hyuuga pate was suddenly taken off the menu."
Jiraiya stumbled as they walked and was surprised to find that the boy had caught him before he fell. He hadn't done that before. The man made a point of ignoring the act lest he accidently anger the demon child before replying.
"I wouldn't be a very good teacher if I let one of my students die. My pride as a shinobi of the Leaf wouldn't allow me to let a comrade die."
"Said the man who put a rasengan through my head." The boy no doubt understood that his godfather's words were a nod towards his own prideful behavior but he didn't allow his face to show it.
Names had once again started to flash across the screen as the pair arrived at team seven's designated spot. Strangely Naruto had stopped paying attention to the board. There was only a moment of confusion on Jiraiya's part before a strong wave of killing intent chased the feeling out of him.
Its source was Gaara of the desert, who was no doubt also angry that he'd prevented the gruesome conclusion of the last match. Small wisps of crimson light swirled around the boy as he stared at Jiraiya. He looked as though he was about to take a step in the man's direction but was suddenly rebuked by a wave of killing intent so strong that the air itself seemed to ripple.
The Sannin watched with a mixture of pride and fear as his godson moved between him and Gaara; shielding him from the other jinchuuriki. He was beyond happy that the boy was attached to him enough to defend him while he was injured, but at the same time he was very worried about what Naruto was about to do.
He'd never seen him like this before. The boy was mad. Mad beyond words. He could feel it in the way that ground trembled ever so slightly beneath them. He could see it in the red sparks that began leap from the boy's body. Naruto stood there calmly, quietly, and entirely livid as he stared down the Sand-nin.
The match below had concluded itself quickly. Tenten wasn't even paying attention to her fight and was soundly defeated by the blonde from Suna.
The next string of matches ended in a similar fashion. Shikamaru was paired against Lee. Lee's taijutsu was simply too fast for his shadows to keep up and boy found himself unconscious before he was able to devise a suitable plan.
Ino struggled only slightly in her fight against Kankuro until she realized that she was fighting the Sand-nin's puppet and not him. With a wide area auditory genjutsu she was able to disorient her opponent long enough for her to reach the real Kankuro on the puppet's back and put a kunai to his throat. He was quick to surrender after that.
The next match was over before it began. Kiba got unlucky enough to be paired against Tee. Against his better judgment, the boy had decided to fight the man anyway. In total the fight lasted less then a second and was concluded with the 'genin's' fist all but demolishing Kiba's face. The boy was wheeled out of the arena on a stretcher, not in any real danger of dying, but with several broken facial bones and more than a few swallowed teeth.
Then things got serious. All the normal combatants were out of the way. This meant that the last two fights were going to demon against demon slugfests. The tension in the air was palpable as the contestants stared at the names on the screen.
Killer Bee vs. Nii Yugito
Naruto's staring contest with his Suna counterpart was abruptly forgotten by the boy. A familiar mad grin stretched across the boy's face as he continued to stare at the words on the board. This would be a battle that these humans would all remember. The images and sounds of this conflict would be forever burned in their memories. The scars that his race would inflict upon the land today would never fade. Everlasting and eternal, they would serve as monuments to the power of the biju. And never again could his kind be ignored. After today, these humans would know their place.
Naruto's thoughts stopped dead in their tracks and his eyes went wide. A flickering single tail was beginning to form behind him as he looked on in disbelief at the Cloud kunoichi who was still raising her hand. His eyes then moved to Killer Bee, who was grinning like a mad man at the boy's reaction. Naruto's anger only intensified.
"What?" he whispered dangerously as the chakra tail continued to thrash behind him.
"I forfeit." She repeated in far more triumphant manner than her words should merit. "Bee would kick my ass. And I don't want to be a chunin anyway; too much paper work."
"Sorry for the let down." Bee apologized half-heartedly. His gaze was still firmly locked with Naruto's; goading him, taunting him. Laughing at him.
The final names appeared on the screen.
Sabaku no Gaara vs. Uzumaki Naruto
A cruel grin appeared on the Sand-nin's face as he looked at his opponent. This was the one who looked down on him. The one who had ignored him. He would prove his existence to this boy; prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that his being was the stronger one when he crushed the life from the other boy and consumed him in the desert sands. Mother would be so proud of him.
"Won't you mother?" He whispered before disappearing in a cloud of sand.
"Jiraiya. Today they will see that I am without equal." His godson's voice was like molten steel. There was so much anger and conviction in his words. "Do not interfere. I will kill you."
Naruto's form was swallowed by flash vermillion light and the blast of a thunderclap.
Both jinchuuriki reappeared on the arena floor. Hayate was about to give them spiel about not killing an opponent who'd given up but was cut off by the blonde jinchuuriki.
"Start the match or I will end you."
The proctor was only too happy to oblige the boy. "Begin!" he shouted before shunshining out of the way.
The stone buckled beneath him as Naruto closed the distance between him and Gaara with such speed that not even Jiraiya could track his movements. A cloud of sand moved to protect the awestruck Suna jinchuuriki but it was far to slow. Naruto reappeared for a split second as his fist slammed into the other boy's chest before again disappearing. Two more flickering images of Naruto appeared on either side of his opponent as he caught Gaara's head between a pair of vice-like kicks. The red head had no time to respond to the latest blows as a series of vicious uppercuts launched him into the air.
He knew that he was in trouble. His first line of defense, the sand shield, was completely useless against such blinding fast opponent and his sand armor was breaking like glass under the horrific strength of the blows. How could the other boy be so fast? Before now he'd never even been touched, now he was struggling to replace his armor quickly enough to soak up the next blow. His jade eyes snapped to the boy on the ground that had just finished weaving hand-seals.
"Fire release: Fire dragon missile jutsu!"
A sea of white flame erupted from the jinchuuriki's gaping jaws and streaked through the air towards Gaara. He roared in pain as the barrier of sand between him and the onrushing conflagration was reduced to molten glass, which clung to his body like napalm. Crimson chakra surged through his body and with a sweep of his hand the wall behind him disintegrated into sand and flew forward to dual with the flames.
Naruto was long gone by the time that the wave of lava reached the ground. Realization of this fact dawned on Gaara in the form of demon child's boot connecting violently with the base of his skull and once again he found himself rocketing through the air. The ground was rushing up to meet him fast, but he would have just enough time to turn floor to sand and cushion his landing. At least he would've been able to if Naruto hadn't chosen that exact moment to slam a kick into his head that seemed to come from three separate sides.
Gaara's vision spun wildly as he corkscrewed through the air. That last trio of blows had come dangerously close to crushing his skull into pulp, but he was still able to feel his opponent on the sand that he'd just made. His hand clenched into a fist.
The sand beneath Naruto's feet wrapped its way up his legs and yanked him down into the rapidly expanding pit so that only his head remained visible. Gaara landed in a cushion of sand with an insane grin splayed across his face. 'I want to see the light die from your eyes!'
"Desert guillotine." The edges of the pit became infused with wind chakra before scything forward. Naruto's head was sliced cleanly from his body in a spray of gore. Then he dissolved into smoke. Gaara's eyes searched wildly for his opponent before finding him on a wall some eighty feet above him.
As Naruto's hands came together in the final seal he noticed that his opponent had begun to quickly form seals of his own. "Wind release: Great maelstrom cannon jutsu!"
"Wind release: sandstorm entrenchment jutsu."
The curtain of razor-sharp blades and hurricane force winds crashed against the sand-user's barricade with a cacophonous bang that shook the foundations of the arena. Stone crumbled to dust under the force of the pressure wave and long clean gashes were notched into the walls. Gaara's barrier broke and without its protection the Suna jinchuuriki found himself pummeled into the floor. His Leaf village counterpart had apparently fared no better, having been launched about four hundred feet upward, in multiple pieces, by the air column that the two had generated. Gaara felt a pit of dread form in his stomach as the boy's mutilated body dissolved into smoke.
With so much sand in the air he could easily feel Naruto coming, the only problem was that both he and his sand couldn't move nearly fast enough to launch a retaliatory attack. He could do nothing else but replenish his defenses and wait for the pain to come while desperately trying to find an opening.
A resounding bang echoed through the air and Gaara's eyes went wide as he found himself taken off his feet and carried through the air by a large metal ball. He struck the wall hard enough that it made him cough up blood, and slowly he began to slide to the floor in a crumpled heap. Two more bangs followed and the boy howled in pain as the twin projectiles hammered into his chest, most likely breaking a few ribs in the process.
He was going to die here. That monster hiding in the dust was going to kill him. And he wasn't even going to look at him. His existence meant so little to the other boy that it wasn't worth the effort to watch him die. Gaara's blood roiled at that thought. 'Crush him.' A familiar voice whispered to him. 'Bathe in his blood.' His eyes glowed crimson and demonic energy began arc off of his body. The searing pain in his chest quieted to a dull ache as tendrils of sand began to lift him onto his feet.
Another bang reverberated off the walls signaling that a metal globe was inbound. Gaara's sand, now flashing with light as though it were made of million flaming rubies, leapt up and caught the ball before crushing it like a tin can.
"Is that all you have?" Gaara droned lazily to his opponent as sand began to rapidly accrue across his body. His sand armor took on an ethereal sheen as the sand continued to compress itself, now just bordering on the edge of becoming glass.
The blonde's answer was a bone crushing kick to the chest which had again sent Gaara skyward. Apparently inspired by Sasuke's actions, Naruto flashed into existence in front of his opponent and connected with a merciless barrage of kicks that appeared as little more than a blur. Gaara continued to sail upward as his armor rapidly started coming apart around him.
'How!? How can he be so powerful!?'
His anger took physical form in the shape of a single flaming tail.
'He will die before he hurts me again!'
Naruto allowed himself to plummet back to the ground as he formed hand-seals.
His godfather's eyes went wide as he saw the sequence of hand signs.
"Down!" he screamed as he threw himself against the wall.
The jonin reacted to those words on instinct, grabbing their students and falling prone just as the jutsu went off.
"Wind release: cannonade doppelganger jutsu!"
Reality seemed to shatter as hundreds upon hundreds of supersonic projectiles cut through the sky towards Gaara. They impacted against the sand shield with earth shattering force, propelling the sand swathed genin through the celling on a curtain of metal. Naruto hit the ground, his eyes shining with psychotic glee as he formed a seal with his hands.
The explosion rocked the entire building as fire, earth, and melted slag poured like blood from a wound out of the chasm in the celling. Many jonin were forced to throw up earth jutsu to keep the entire structure from crashing down on them and hidden ANBU flooded the room to help with their efforts. Just as the last fires began to die out a furious roar was heard and Gaara came rocketing out of rubble towards Naruto.
The blonde jinchuuriki's look of surprise quickly morphed into a grin of wild excitement. Wind chakra in the sand to counter the wind chakra on his cannonades. He'd underestimated the little desert rat. Though he wasn't strong enough to pose a threat at the present, it looked as if the boy would grow into a fine monster. Someone worthy of the title 'tailed beast.' Someone worthy of his full power. He shuddered with pleasure at the thought.
Naruto moved to escape the jinchuuriki turned meteorite that was barreling down at him, but found that he couldn't. His legs had been locked in place by the crushing grip of the desert sand. He was about to form a clone and substitute with it but the sand in the air suddenly became as sharp as knives. It whipped itself into a furious vortex that turned his clone back into smoke. The desert abattoir then focused its power on Naruto, pealing the flesh from his bones in long gruesome streamers. He locked his crimson eyes with those of the other jinchuuriki and smiled.
Gaara's right arm formed into a large drill-like protrusion which he plunged into Naruto's head. The appendage ran through the entire length of the boy's body. Anyone else in his position would be unmistakably dead, but Gaara took it upon himself to go one step further.
Spires of sand tore their way out of the blond's motionless body from every direction. The tendrils then doubled back and hooked around his limbs and torso; mummifying the boy. With a loud crunch and a deluge of blood, the sand crushed Naruto into jelly.
For a long time nothing happened. The spectators stood motionless, stunned by the prospect that the demon of Konoha might actually be dead. It was common knowledge for most jonin that Naruto was able to survive decapitation and bisection, but could he really survive when his entire body was a ruined husk? Their attention was drawn by the sing song voice of Killer Bee.
"Nine-tails down? Man don't play a clown. For him that's a love tap…" Light flashed behind his glasses. "Now here comes his bitch-slap."
Gaara fell to his knees, exhausted after using so much chakra. He had done it though. The blond was dead. Everyone would know of his existence. As he got to his feet he felt a twinge of fear run down his spine. That was odd. Try as he might, he was unable to ignore the prickling sensation that had his hairs standing on end. In fact it only seemed to grow stronger.
Red chakra began to arc off of the pool of blood in front of him. Gaara's eyes went wide with terror as the scarlet liquid began to ripple and writhe. Cruel laughter filled the air and seemed to echo from all sides as the blood took the rough form of a human. It ignited in a spectacular display of oily garnet flames. Bone began to rapidly form followed shortly by muscle and then skin.
A naked five-tailed Naruto touched down on the ground, roaring with laughter as he looked at the trembling form of Gaara.
"Excellent. Excellent! You truly are monster worthy of my fangs Sabaku no Gaara." His hands came together in a window shaped seal. "Allow me to show you how monstrous I can be!"
An array of complex seals flickered to life on the backs of the boy's palms as he fell into a trance-like state. "Releasing demonic seal: restriction systems three, two…one." The entire room seemed to noticeably darken. "Approval of situation A has been recognized; invoking the rite of nine tails. Demonic chakra restraints have been lifted for limited use, until my enemy has been rendered silent."
A pillar of lurid obsidian flame exploded from jinchuuriki's form, swallowing all light in the room. Sinister crimson lightning snaked hungrily up the length of the hellish beacon; lashing out at odd intervals in its quest to sow destruction and misery. The air began to bleed. Rivulets of scarlet liquid rained down from the sky, evaporating when they struck the ground into thick carpet of eerie red fog. Naruto stepped out of the misty sanguine mire toward the hyperventilating Gaara.
"You have…" Wreathed in shadow and flame, he let his seven blazing tails strike the ground with decisive crack that kicked up a spray of magma. "No future."
Gaara spun around and ran; ran through the darkness as though the devil himself was chasing him. It was probably closer to the truth then he was willing to admit. A bang sounded from behind him. His sand didn't even slow the projectile down. It bit into his leg with such force that the appendage dissolved at the point of impact and the jinchuuriki was tossed to ground screaming pain. He tried to crawl away but another thunderous crack robbed him of his left arm in a torrent of gore. The darkness, laced with killing intent so strong it had him in tears, pressed down from all directions.
"What are you doing!?" demanded the bellowing voice of the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki. "Attack me! Summon your demon! Transform your body!" He reached down and picked up the heap of ruined flesh that used to be Gaara's leg. "Heal your severed limbs and stand!" He took a large bite out piece of meat that he held and swallowed it. "Our glorious battle has only just begun! Hurry! Hurry! Kill me! Hurry!"
"Monster! Mother! Please! Save me from the monster!"
Naruto stopped dead. After a few seconds his eyes went wide in a mixture of disgust and fury.
"You… You're pathetic! Nothing more than a sniveling lump of meat! To call yourself a member of my great and powerful race is the most egregious insult that I can possibly imagine." Naruto held out his hand. His seven tails focused the storm of chakra that blossomed in his palm until he was left holding a sphere of utter darkness. "I would devour your flesh, desert rat, but you are not worthy of becoming my shit. Fade from this earth; I will destroy you so completely that not even your memory will remain."
Gaara's screams were drowned out beneath the explosion of chakra. "Nanabi rasengan!"
Jiraiya and the rest of the spectators had fled the tower via the Toad Sannin's summons as soon as Naruto had released that pillar of chakra. They now watched as the forest of death was enveloped by a light so bright that its ferocity seemed to rival the sun. The brilliant ocean of pearl flame pitched and seethed as it consumed the land, undoing in an instant what had taken hundreds of years to create. He could hear the girl from Suna crying against her brother's shoulder as she mourned the loss of her other sibling.
Ino leaned against him. "A-are…are Sasuke and Kiba and that Hyuuga boy okay?"
Jiraiya put his hand on her shoulder reassuringly. The medics moved quickly so the chances were good that with the time that had passed since their matches they were able to escape. But he couldn't bring himself to lie to her.
"I don't know Ino. I hope so."
The girl began to cry. Above them, storm clouds had formed from the heat of the explosion. Rain fell from the heavens; the land wept for the fallen as well.
The Mizukage looked up from his paperwork. He got up from his desk and stepped out on to the balcony of the Kage tower. Smoke was rising from Konoha. That seemed to happening quite a lot these days.
'Such a sinister chakra. Just like that time in Wave…'
He returned inside and placed his hat and robes in their proper place before leaning his head out the door.
His secretary looked up. "Yes Mizukage-sama?"
"Do you remember where I placed my good hook?"
She sighed. "It's where you always put it Mizukage-sama, on the rack to the left of your desk." How could someone so scatterbrained become the head of a ninja village?
"Right! Of course it is. I was just testing you."
"I understand Mizukage-sama."
She heard a rustling from inside the office followed by a clatter of metal and cursing.
"I'm going for a walk Yukari. Tell Mei to catch up with me when she arrives."
Yukari flinched. When the Mizukage went for a walk bad things had a tendency to happen.
"Where should I tell her that you've gone?"
The sound of the balcony door sliding open reached her ears.
"Konoha. One of their ninja saved me quite a bit of trouble recently. He also happens to be a close personal friend…sort of. He knows a guy who knows a guy. Anyway I get the feeling that he's gotten himself into a bit of trouble. Gonna see if I can't go and get him out of it."
With a rustle of fabric the Mizukage was gone.