AN: Alright, let's start this chapter off to a start! However, let's get answer some anonymous reviews first.
Fanficbrowser: No offense, but the Gormen seem a bit on the Sue-ish side. Not enough to really be a problem, but it's there. And the Harem bit still really annoys me. Not because I have a problem with the idea itself, per say, (I do, but that's just my own personal beliefs), but because every other crappy Naruto, or Harry Potter, or what-have-you fic has that thrown in there. And it sucks every time. You seem to be handling it pretty well, though, so 'grats. Might want to think of shortening the list a little though (Fem-Shukaku? What?). All that aside, good chapter.
You can tell that when a review starts with 'no offense,' you're about to get dissed. Okay, first off, my Gormim are not Sues. Overpowered, certainly. It's part of their design and I will wholeheartedly admit it. However, that does not make them Sues. Second, while I will admit that it's hard to pull off a decent harem story, putting down the whole genre as a whole will not score you any points with me. Thirdly, shorten the list? Really? WHAT DO YOU THINK I'VE BEEN DOING IN THE LAST FEW CHAPTERS?! Seriously, take a look at the previous chapters, and then the last one: there is a marked difference in harem-size. The girls listed (without 'Maybe' attached to them) are there to stay.
A Fan: I had Fuu drop out of the exams earlier because that was only her cameo. She will make a proper appearance later. The other harem stuff will also happen gradually, it's just that Naruto ended up with Hinata first.
Guest: ...Aaaargh! *headdesk* Okay, I totally get why everyone's asking this, but frankly, no. Those of you who have follow me know this: I update very slowly. This is simply due to the fact that I often go long periods without an opportunity to concentrate on writing. Also CoG: NOT is, as far as I've planned it, going to be a very long fic. Would you rather I take forever to write this entirely and then spend that same amount of time writing ANKoM? Or would you guys rather I just say 'fuck it' and write both at once? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Prototype. I do, however, own this fic and the concept of the Gormim.
Inner Being to Outer Being
Chapter 29: Prelims Part 2, In Which There Is Danger
Once more the names on the board blurred through a cycle before settling on a pair.
"Whoo! I'm up!" cheered Kiba, Akamaru yapping happily, "Let's do this!"
"Cool," muttered Samui as she descended the stairs.
Alex took his place between the contestants as they faced off. Slowly, he raised his hand, glancing between their faces. "Samui and Inuzuka Kiba: FIGHT!"
Instantly both Kiba and his dog jumped back. "Shikyaku no Jutsu!" (Four Legs techniques) he cried. Instantly, his nails and canine teeth lengthened, his pupils becoming slit as his features took on a more bestial overtone. "Come and get it, bitch!" he growled, getting on his hands. Then he sprang forward, Akamaru leaping behind him. With a twist, he began whirling at high speed, quickly transforming into a gray tornado of claws. "Tsuga!" (Tunneling Fang)
Samui, however, didn't seem too impressed as she silently completed her hand seals and slapped her hand down on the ground. "Raiton: Jou Arashikabe." (Lightning Release: Imperial Storm Wall) she intoned evenly, thrusting her overlapping palms in front of her. Lightning erupted from her hands, but instead of flying forward, it shot out to the sides and spread, forming a glowing, crackling web before the Kumo-nin.
Kiba, having already left the ground and being in the middle of the jutsu, could not stop in time to see what she'd done and crashed headlong into the web. The resulting yelp of pain brought a wince from the Konoha viewers, while Akamaru skidded to a stop and yipped at him anxiously. The dog user was lying on the ground a few feet from Samui, twitching and cursing from where he lay. Eventually though, he managed to shakily push himself up onto his feet. "Is…is that all you got?" he wheezed, trying desperately to breath fully.
"No," said the busty blonde flatly. Her hands, meanwhile, finished making another set of seals. "Raiton: Jou Raiden," (Lightning Release: Imperial Thunder and Lightning) she stated. From her joined hands came a flash of light, so bright it seemed to engulf the whole arena. Wincing, everybody covered their eyes to avoid being blinded, apart from the Jonin, who only closed their own eyes. However, those in attendance quickly switched from their eyes to their ears, as the flash was almost immediately followed by a thunderous (literally) crash, which pounded against their temples like a hammer. Much swearing ensued, though no one else could hear.
Hinata quickly checked her own ears for bleeding, remembering how the Kunoichi had caught her in the forest, while Naruto bent over the railing and swore quietly and venomously.
When the spots finally left people's vision, they looked back at the arena.
Samui stood exactly where she had started, looking rather bored. Kiba, on the other hand, lay limply on the floor, foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the ears himself.
Rubbing his eyes, Alex ambled over to the downed dog boy and bent down to examine him. Finding him insensate, he straightened up and proclaimed (more loudly than usual), "Winner by Incapacitation: Samui!"
"Cool," muttered Samui, turning to go back to the stands.
"A good strategy," said Shino, "As an Inuzuka, Kiba's senses are much higher than a normal human's. Why did he pass out so quickly? Most likely the technique is worse at close range, and Kiba's hearing was overwhelmed by the sudden sound, so soon after losing his sight from the flash."
Shikamaru deadpanned at him. "Yeah, I think we got that. No need to explain all the troublesome details."
The bug user merely adjusted the bridge of his sunglasses and said primly, "Nevertheless…"
"Damn, that was intense," Naruto said appreciatively, "I mean, it only lasted about a fucking minute, but it was awesome."
"Well, in a perfect world, that's how a battle between Shinobi should be," Kakashi told him lightly, but with a hint of seriousness, "Short, to the point and unambiguously one-sided."
"Short, to the point and…" the blond repeated to himself slowly, nodding minutely. Then he grinned. "Heh. I like that. That's a good saying, sensei. Although, there're quite a lot of battles that get pretty drawn out, right?"
"Maa, that's true," the silver-haired man admitted, eye-smiling, "Though one would point out that this isn't anywhere near a perfect world."
As he spoke, Alex gave the signal to choose the next match. The board whirred for a second, then stopped.
Dosu cursed quietly, but walked towards the stairway. Damn it. That 'secret weapon' is gonna wipe the floor with me. Ah well, it's not like I'll just lay down for him.
Gaara in the meantime vanished in a whirl of sand, reappearing on the main floor, wearing his usual expression of angry boredom.
As with Len and Tenten's fight, Alex warily eyed both combatants, who both looked ready to kill each other. Slowly, almost torturously, he raised his hand. "Kinuta Dosu and Gaara…FIGHT!"
He shot backward out of range as the cork of Gaara's gourd shot out with a low pop. Sand gushed out and curled around in midair, landing to form a ring at Gaara's feet, all without the redhead moving a muscle.
Dosu crouched, holding out his gauntleted arm defensively, fingers curled. Okay, so what do I know about this kid? That sand of his is supposed to be some sort of automatic shield. Even if he doesn't recognize the danger, it'll protect him from any angle. No physical attack can get through it. Little did he realize but this was no longer, strictly speaking, true. So I'll have to let him keep thinking that, he finished, clenching a fist. He channeled chakra into the metal gauntlet, causing the air within to vibrate and in turn stimulating the metal to ring faintly. He charged, fist cocked back. "Kyoumeisen!" he cried as he approached.
Predictably, Gaara stood completely still, eyeing his opponent without trepidation. Then, as Dosu was only feet away, he suddenly struck. The sand in front of him leaped up with all the speed of a striking snake. With a shout of surprise Dosu wildly threw his punch, only to hit the grainy tendril, which instantly coiled around his gauntlet and held him fast. "Did you really think I would fall for a frontal attack?" asked Gaara, his raspy monotone tinged with irritation. However, his eyes widened as the sand holding the other boy's arm began…bubbling? The surface of the 'tendril' was bulging and bursting at random, grains raining down on the floor as the air pressure in the gauntlet blasted through it, until finally Dosu pulled his arm free of the weakened sand.
"Let's try that again!" he cried, running forward again.
Once more, Gaara merely stood still as the Oto-nin raced towards him. As Dosu swung his arm again, the sand at his feet sprang up in an instant, forming a wall that his fist sank into. This time, ripples spread out from the gauntlet as the sound contained in it was released. Gaara's eye twitched and he grunted in pain, putting a hand to his head.
Dosu smirked under his bandages. "Heh. How's that? I guess the ultimate defense isn't so-" He was cut off with a cry of pain as the sand suddenly swarmed him, quickly trapping him from head to foot.
"Sabaku Kyū," growled the redhead, his pale green eyes narrowed. While his overall expression did not change that much, the intent behind it was moreso; the spectators shifted and backed up slightly as bloodlust began to permeate the air. "For trying to fight back…you will pay with your blood."
So I guess it ends here, Dosu thought, struggling futilely to escape the cocoon, "Damn it!"
Gaara's fist clenched. "Sabaku Sōsō!"
Dosu vanished into the sand with a loud squelch, blood exploding from the mound that held him and raining down on the arena. Quite a few Genin looked ill at the sight, while other cursed quietly. The Jonin were all stony-faced at the ruthless carnage that the Suna-nin wrought.
"Winner by Fatality!" called Alex loudly, getting everyone's attention, "Gaara!" The Blacklight had no need to check what was left of Dosu to confirm that. "Now, let's have a break while someone cleans this mess up."
"No need," rasped Gaara. As the sense of bloodlust ebbed away, all of the sand rose into the air and flowed back into his gourd, taking the blood with it. Mother…forgive the poor quality of blood. I promise, I'll give you the good stuff.
"Never mind, then," said Alex, seemingly unshaken. Once the sand user had left, the man raised his arm. "Now, on to the next fight! Roll it!"
As the board once again shuffled names, Naruto muttered, "There can't be that many fights left. When will our turns come, eh?"
"I-I don't know," Hinata replied, "But you're right, there are only three possible fights remaining."
"Hope we don't have to fight each other," the blond said half-jokingly, "That'd be the worst."
She nodded silently in agreement only to freeze, face paling as the board finally stopped.
Hinata looked around fearfully and caught her cousin's eye. The older Hyuuga smirked at her, clearly anticipating this fight wholeheartedly. She began to shake, images flying through her head of Neji beating her easily, humiliating her in front of Naruto. A hand squeezing her shoulder made her look up into said boy's face. Naruto had an expression of sympathy on his face, like he knew what was going through her mind. "Just do your best," he murmured, "Do your best and aim for winning." He kissed her on the forehead and let go. Blushing, she nodded in response and walked over to the stairs.
Neji had already descended and was waiting across from her on the arena floor. Trembling, Hinata took her place, hands together and looking much more nervous than a few seconds ago.
Just as Alex raised his arm to start the match, the brown-haired boy spoke up. "Proctor. Before you start the match, may I say something?"
Alex paused, clearly considering it, eyeing Neji suspiciously. Then he sighed and nodded.
"Hinata-sama…you should surrender," Neji said without preamble.
Hinata flinched as if struck. "W-what?" she asked.
"It's clear that you have no chance whatsoever at winning this…match," continued the older Hyuuga, affecting a condescending sort of wisdom, "That you even got here at all is major accomplishment in itself. As you are now, you have no chance of defeating me, nor will you ever."
With each word, the blue-haired girl seemed to fall in on herself, her head drooping in depression. All of the assembled Shinobi, with few exceptions, were glaring down at the Hyuuga genius. While words used to demoralize the opponent were a valid weapon for a ninja, the sincere venom behind Neji's words made him all the more dislikeable.
"N…no," Hinata whispered, head hanging, "You're…I'm not the same as I was before, Neji-nii-san."
"Nonsense," sniffed Neji, dismissing her argument out of hand, "You have always been a weak, spoiled princess, and you are no different now. My eyes can see everything about you."
Naruto's eye twitched. "Well, keep those eyes off of her, ya pervert!" he called, drawing a few surprised laughs from the rest of the audience, "And you!" he shouted to Alex, "Why the hell haven't you started yet?"
While Alex apologized and scratched the back of his neck, Hinata finally raised her face. Her pale lavender eyes, normally full of warmth and kindness, were hard and unyielding. "If you have nothing to say that I haven't heard for all of my life, Neji-nii-san…then I have nothing to say in return. I will show you how much I've changed!"
Hell yeah! cheered Kina, Go, Hina-chan! Fight!
Neji's smug smile slipped and became a dark glare. "Proctor…stop the match at your discretion, before she dies."
"Hyuuga Hinata and Hyuuga Neji!" barked Alex, not outwardly acknowledging the remark and dropping his hand, "FIGHT!"
Quickly, both combatants activated their Byakugan and leaped forward to engage. Neji, with his angular, precise, normal Jyuuken was a blur, his hands jabbing out like ice-picks. Hinata, however, swayed and dodged the hits easily, her body bending at wince-worthy angles with ease. Her own hands whipped out, fingertips splayed out, but each time they were batted aside by her cousin with little concern.
"Wow," said Kurenai, pleasantly surprised, "I've seen Hinata fight like this in spars, but never against an opponent.
"Is that such a big deal?" asked Ino, "Their attacks look so…wimpy."
Naruto couldn't resist remarking, "Like you're a good judge on wimpy attacks."
"Anyway!" Gai interrupted, before Ino could tear into the taller blond, "While the attacks look light, they are anything but. The Hyuuga Clan's Jyuuken is one of the most dangerous Taijutsu styles in this village. The Hyuuga, with their Byakugan, use their hits to inject chakra into the target and cause internal damage. Even the lightest touch can be devastating. That's why it's called Jyuuken (Gentle Fist)."
Meanwhile, Neji was starting to get frustrated. While he had been steadily been closing off the Tenketsu in his weaker cousin's arms for the past while, her movements did not once slow. He could not land a more solid blow, however. No matter how much quickly he struck, she could slip right out of it like an eel. Nor could he target her legs, as they were in motion too, carrying the girl around him in a strange, unpredictable dance. "Gh!" Neji grunted reflexively as a dainty hand, fingers curled like claws, suddenly raked down his right thigh, tracing lines of fiery pain through his leg muscles. As his right leg buckled in his surprise, Hinata somehow twisted over to his other side, slipped her foot under his and kicked upwards. With a cry of astonishment, Neji pitched spectacularly onto his back.
Flushed with triumph, Hinata planted the offending foot on his chest and looked down at him, one hand out behind her ear and one thrust out in front of her, fingers curled. Chakra coated each finger, giving it a flaming appearance. "Jyuu no Mai: Shishi Tsume!" (Gentle Dance: Lion Claw) she proclaimed proudly.
Naruto whooped and clapped his hands. "Way to go, Hina-chan!" he called proudly.
"When did she come up with that technique?" asked Shino, clearly surprised, "She never mentioned a name like that in our spars."
"W-wow!" said Ino, surprised, "Who knew Hinata could kick so much ass?"
"I wasn't talking to you, Naruto!" she snapped.
Meanwhile, Neji glared up at Hinata as she stood panting over him. "Jyuu no Mai? There are no such techniques in the Hyuuga clan. What disrespect have you brought to the style now?"
"None," Hinata said flatly, though her voice shook minutely at the insult, "My body has never been good at the conventional Jyuuken techniques, so Naruto-kun helped me make a style that worked. I thought you'd be happy, Nii-san." A tinge of bitterness entered her voice. "I finally acknowledged that our family's 'perfect' style is beyond me. Isn't that what you wanted me to admit? That I can never get better?"
"Is such insolence really what they teach in the Main Branch?" Neji sneered back, "However, you might as well finish this battle now…if you can."
Hinata blinked and looked at her hands. The chakra coating them had vanished. "W-what? Ah!"
Ruthlessly, Neji jabbed both hands into her calf, rupturing the muscle with his own chakra. As she stumbled off, he pulled himself upright easily and stepped forward, limping slightly. Roughly, he grabbed her wrist and pulled up her sleeve, causing her eyes to widen. Her entire forearm was covered in tiny red dot-like marks.
"…Impossible," she breathed, "Since when were your eyes that good?" He had closed all of the major Tenketsu in her arms. It must have been that exchange at the beginning…
The older boy snorted, his blue-white eyes narrowed in cold amusement. "Such a thing should be easy for any competent Hyuuga."
Even as that statement echoed numbly in Hinata's head, Neji suddenly struck. His palm slammed full on into her chest, chakra blasting through her heart and lungs with a bright flash. The blue-haired girl was thrown backwards with a strangled cry of pain, crumpling to the floor. Her body quivered as she tried to scream, the agony burning through her, but she remained silent.
"Hmph. That's that," said the older Hyuuga coldly, turning away, "I suggest you hurry up, or she might-"
He stopped dead. Those up in the stands could clearly make out the expression on his face, which was one of complete shock. Behind him, Hinata slowly pushed herself up. A small trickle of blood ran down from her mouth and her eyes were slightly unfocused, but she steadily rose up. Her right leg shook as it took her weight, but she managed to prop herself up on her knees. She coughed harshly, blood spattering onto the floor.
"I…haven't…lost…yet," she forced out.
Neji turned and stared at her in horror. Then, suddenly, anger stole over his features and he ran forward. Hinata didn't even have a chance to move before his fist struck hard across her cheek, sending her spinning to the floor again. However, within seconds she stirred and climbed laboriously back up.
"What are you doing?!" asked Neji furiously, "There's no way you can win! Why are you standing back up?"
It took a second for her to reply as her body was racked by more coughing. "Because…I'm different from before. I have a reason to not lose."
"What reason?" he snarled, "You can't win! These eyes can see your whole body; it's taking all you have just to stand. You can't possibly do anything now!"
As if it were taking a supreme effort, Hinata gave a small, sad smile. "Yes, Nii-san. I guess your eyes really do see everything…but you still don't understand a thing. Not about me, about my strength, or even your own pain. Neji-nii-san…ever since that day, you're the one who hasn't changed a bit."
Now it was Neji's turn to flinch, a complicated expression flickering across his face. But then it was quickly buried, only to be replaced by pure rage. "Don't get you get cocky with me, Hinata-sama!" he yelled, hurling himself forward to strike down his cousin again. Suddenly, a shadow fell over him and a large image appeared in the vision of his Byakugan.
"I've heard enough out of you!"
Instinctively the older Hyuuga threw himself to the right, and not a moment too soon as an orange figure crashed into the ground where he stood. The ground cracked deeply and a cloud of dust exploded outward. Even as Neji hit the ground, unbalanced by the sudden dodge, there came the whoosh of something heavy swinging up through the air. The sound was followed immediately by the sight of an enormous black and green blade, which struck the floor between Neji's legs with enough force to once again crack the stone grievously.
The dust cloud finally cleared to show the orange-clad form of Uzumaki Naruto, who was gripping the hilt of Kubikiri Bochō with his right hand so hard that his knuckles were white. The majority of his face was shaded by his hood, but from under the shadow glowed two malevolently red eyes. "Sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all, "I meant to aim a bit further, but my arms are too short. Mind scooting up a bit so I can chop you in half more easily?"
Nobody in the audience laughed. They were all too busy wondering how this guy had jumped all the way from the balcony to the other side of the room.
Neji's face was pale and sweating, but he quickly regained his composure, along with his smirk. "Interfering, are we? What happened to believing in her?"
Calmly, Naruto let go of the handle, walked around it, bent down and unceremoniously lifted the brown-haired older boy by the front of his shirt, dragging him closer. "Oh, I definitely believed in her. But it doesn't take a Dōjutsu to see that you were aiming to kill her. I absolutely will not allow that."
The force of his words, as well as the stony, resolute expression on his face, drew another flinch from Neji.
Just then, another hand gripped Naruto's wrist and pried him off of Neji. It was Alex. He too did not look happy at what had transpired, but he only said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Due to interference on her behalf, Hyuuga Hinata is considered Incapacitated. Winner by Default: Hyuuga Neji!"
Hinata, who was still somehow managing to stand, felt her legs finally give out at the announcement. With a sigh, she slumped to the floor, coughing so hard that it felt like her lungs were permanently crumpled. Her chest was filled with such pain that her vision became tinged with red. Sightless, her body went limp. However, before her head could hit the unforgiving stone, she felt a pair of arms wrap around her, keeping her upright. Naruto…kun? She tried to voice the question, but blood bubbled up in her throat, causing her to retch violently.
"Shit, she's got major internal damage, maybe even to the heart!" hissed a worried voice. It might have been Alex, but she was feeling too dizzy to know for sure. "Medics! We got an emergency over here! Get her to the Intensive Care unit quickly!"
"Hinata!" cried Naruto's voice. His she could recognize instantly. The Hyuuga girl tried to lift her head, tried to look around for him, but all she could see was a large, bright orange blob. Shakily, she moved her arm, trying to get his attention, even as numerous other arms lifted and moved her.
Naruto, who was trembling at the sight of the girl's body lying lifelessly on the floor, jerked in surprise as he felt a tiny tug on his jacket. Looking down, he saw Hinata's hand gripping the orange material lightly. He leaned towards her. "W-what is it, Hinata?" In his panic, he couldn't even use an honorific.
Another tug, which prompted him to lean closer to her face. He could feel her breathing on his ear, warm and damp with blood. Then, faintly, he heard a shallow, shaky whisper.
"Did I…change…after all?"
He heard Kina give a mournful sound inside his head, and felt tears well up in his own eyes. Keeping his voice even, he said, "Yeah. Barely recognized you."
As her eyes drifted shut she gave a smile that, even flecked with her own blood, was still radiant with joy.
The medics gently moved her onto the stretcher and hightailed it out of there. Naruto watched them go, numb with a combination of fear and helplessness. I can come up with a crap-ton of ways to break things, but I can't heal them. There's no way Biomass could heal something like that, he thought. His vision swam and blurred; he remained crouched on the ground, letting tears trickle down his face.
A hand patted him on the shoulder, and he looked up to see Alex with a look of understanding on his face. "C'mon, kid," he said quietly, "We gotta do the next fight, now."
"…Yeah." Naruto pulled his hood lower over his face, hiding the wetness left by his tears, and stood up jerkily. He walked over to where he'd left Mido/Kubikiri Bochō and, with a massive grinding sound, hauled it out of the ground with one hand and slung it over his shoulder. Then he turned and silently strode back to the stairs, just as the board started running through the names. Since there were only four now, it only took a few seconds.
"Naruto!" Naruto looked up at the hiss to see Sakura standing at the top of the stairs, shooing him away, "You're next!"
"Mm." The blond only acknowledged the information with a disturbingly Sasuke-like grunt, turned around (somehow not gouging the walls with his sword) and walked back down.
Sakura stared at Naruto's back, worried. "Do you think Naruto will be alright, sensei?" she asked Kakashi.
The silver-haired man actually snapped his book closed and turned a lazy-looking eye towards the arena. "Well, I don't doubt that he's got the power for it. After what just happened, though, I don't know how his mental state is…"
The pink-haired girl spared a glare at Neji, who had long since returned to his team. Both Lee and Gai were giving him the cold shoulder, with the latter angrily telling Neji about some promise he'd apparently made. Neji, however, didn't seem to care all that much and had returned to his smug stoicism.
Across the room, on the other balcony, Karui readied to go down to her own fight.
"Careful with him, Karui," cautioned Samui, "Judging from how easily he can lift that thing, he's definitely strong. Underestimating him will definitely be uncool."
The redhead rolled her eyes. "You and your 'cool' phase…gotcha, sensei. Don't worry, I'll try to watch my steps around your more attractive twin. Sage knows he's better looking than Atsui."
"Leaving my uncool brother aside," sighed the busty blond, "I'll admit that your Jutsu will probably be effective. Considering that most of the Konoha-nin don't seem that prepared for surprises, you'll be able to get an advantage over him."
"What if you don't, though?" mused Omoi, "Then he'd kick your ass all over the place and make us look bad. Well, maybe not us since we already won, but you'd look like a dumbass. Plus he obviously had the hots for that Hyuuga girl who just got beaten, so he's obviously sore and might be looking for someone to take it out on-"
Karui punched him over the head. "First off, I got it. Second, who're you calling a dumbass, you cocky bitch? Third, he's not gonna be the only sore one if you don't shut up."
So saying, she stalked off to the stairs, idly fingering the hilt of her own Kumo-regulation Tantō. "Alright, big boy," she muttered to herself, "Let's see if you and your big sword can take the heat."
Both opponents squared off at the center of the arena, on either side of Alex. Once more the older man raised his hand high, looking at either contestant. "…Uzumaki Naruto and Karui: FIGHT!"
Quickly Karui jumped back to put distance between herself and the massive sword that Naruto was wielding. However, the blond didn't move from his spot, face shaded by his hood.
"Oi!" shouted the black girl, "Blondie! What's your problem? The battle's started already! You can fantasize about your girlfriend after you go join her, alright?"
That definitely got a reaction from Naruto. The hand gripping Kubikiri Bochō turned a pale gray, muscles bulging under the sleeve. Then he sighed, seemingly aggrieved. "Yeah, yeah, calm your tits, copper-top. I'll go when I'm good n' ready."
"Copper-top?" Karui's eye twitched.
Up in the stands, Omoi muttered, "Uh oh."
Glaring angrily, Karui went through five hand-seals and drew out her sword. "Katon: Jou Nenchi!" (Fire Release: Imperial Burning Pitch) She took a deep breath, then spat a gout of oily liquid onto the blade, which almost immediately burst into flames.
"Hm. Cool trick," said Naruto, eyeing the burning sword unconcernedly, "Kinda gross to just spit it out, but cool nonetheless."
The dark-skinned girl's eye twitched. To have one blond obsessed with the word 'cool' was annoying, but for there to be another one... "You…you're messing with me, aren't you?"
"No idea what you're-" but then the blond suddenly bolted forward, raising the sword off his shoulder. "Talking about!" he bellowed, bringing the weapon down with a deceptively fast, one-handing chop.
Karui quickly blocked with her Tantō, only to instantly regret it. The blade, which was a shiny black but laced with marble-like veins of green, struck her burning one with a worrying crash. The raw strength behind the blow, regardless of the weight of the actual Zanbatō, was so much that just that one attack caused her knees to buckle. Holy shit, the force behind this is no joke! Worse, she couldn't use her off-hand to support the blade, as she had set it on fire. "Shit!" She angled the blade to the left, letting the attack slide down and off with a screech. Hopefully, the momentum would cause him to overextend, giving her the opportunity to-
But that plan was quashed as Naruto simply pulled the sword back as it slid off, then thrust, again with one hand.
Again Karui blocked the attack, but this time the force actually caused her to stumble back. The hell are they feeding this guy? she thought. The next attack she dodged by leaping further back. Quickly, she stabbed the tip of her Tantō into the ground and repeated her previous jutsu. "Katon: Jou Nenchi!" This time she spewed forth a greater amount of the oil, covering the ground in front of her with it. Sadly, she'd not gotten Naruto, who had stepped just out of range when she'd started spraying, which was fortunate, as she then retrieved her sword and sliced at the oil, instantly igniting the whole area and cutting off the blond's view of her.
"Ha!" called Karui, "Now what're you gonna do? Actually, hold that thought, I've got another!" She quickly performed seven more hand-seals. "Katon: Jou Neppa!" (Fire Release: Imperial Heat Wave) Instantly the temperature of the room shot up, along with moisture, prompting a large amount of swearing from the audience.
"I swear, does every Kumo-nin have to make it as uncomfortable as possible in this place?" growled Sakura, wiping at her suddenly sweating brow, "This is gonna wreck my hair."
For Naruto, the sudden humidity was even more stifling. Combined with the heat of the flame, it was suddenly all he could do to remain upright. Quickly, his coat dissolved to try and help him cool off, but it only barely help. He stabbed the tip of Kubikiri Bochō into the ground and leaned on it, trying to breathe more easily. "Damn it," he hissed, sweat dripping down his face, "This is some serious heat!" He glared at the field of flames. I need to either clear those somehow or get through them. A tiny clicking sound reached his ear, causing him to look down. Without him realizing it, Mido had changed back into a snake, and was now holding a large (for him) black sphere in his fanged mouth. "…Well, if you're offering, I guess I can't refuse." He plucked the biomass pill out of the serpent's mouth and, taking a moment to wipe any saliva off, placed it in between his sharp teeth. "'ere I come, bitch," he said thickly. He slid his foot forward, leaning over it and letting his arms dangle on either side of him. His suddenly green eyes gazed unblinkingly at the fire, which continued to burn without any sign of stopping soon. Then, without a warning, he charged.
He pushed mightily with his leg, flinging him forward with shocking speed. As he neared the fire, it seemed to roar up in greeting. Finally, as his form vanished into the inferno…
A faint shock vibrated through his skull as his teeth bit clean through the pill, breaking it into chunks. With that shock, his body erupted in black vapor, which encased him from head to toe.
Karui flinched at the sudden outcry that went up in the stands. "What is it?" she asked, unable to see through her own flames. A sudden sense of foreboding filled her as an indistinct, wavering dark form appeared in the fire, growing close. She raised her sword just as, with a roar, an armored monster barreled out of the conflagration. With a yelp, she leaped to the side to avoid being run over. A painful sting made her look down in surprise; three long scratches now marred her side.
Naruto shook his head to clear it, grunting in annoyance. While he'd felt his claws snag something, it seemed that he'd just missed his opponent and run headlong into a wall. Fortunately, the impact had barely rattled him, so he turned back around and spotted Karui, who was holding her side gingerly. He growled in satisfaction, flexing the bladelike fingers of his left hand and causing the tips to ring as they scraped each other.
To her credit, while the sight of the stony-armored figure before her made her flinch, the dark-skinned redhead recovered quickly, performing a new set of hand-seals. "Katon: Jou Onibi!" (Fire Release: Imperial Will-O'-Wisp) She exhaled quickly and caused eight small fireballs to coalesce in front of her. "Ha!" With a gesture, she sent them flying towards Naruto, carving bright streaks in the air as they zipped and swerved erratically.
Narrowing his eyes against the bright light, Naruto lowered his head and charged again. The Will-O'-Wisps splashed uselessly against his armor, though he had to cover his eyes before one could hit him in the face. Chakra flowed evenly through the grooves covering the stony carapace, aiding the mobility of his limbs as he ran.
"Ka-Katon: Jou Hitama!" (Fire Release: Imperial Flame Sphere) the field of flames, which had started to burn low, suddenly roared up again and surged around Karui, obscuring her within a sphere of fire.
Naruto only gritted his shark-like teeth and kept going, drawing back his right fist as he did so. The armor cracked, shattered and reformed as the muscle mass beneath expanded, causing the limb to grow even larger. Ignoring the heat, he plunged his fist straight through the flames.
However, even as he attacked, Karui ducked under the reaching arm and rolled out of the sphere, out of his line of sight. She bounced up onto her feet and leaped into the air, her Tantō poised to stab into the less-armored joint in Naruto's neck. "Gotcha, bitch!" she cried. That was her biggest mistake.
The blue light that glowed along the grooves of the armor suddenly flowed into the gap in the neck and flashed brightly. The sword jerked in her hand and her grip loosened in surprise.
In that moment of distraction, Naruto whirled around and his hand came up to fasten around Karui's own neck. Using his enhanced strength, he easily lifted her off the floor.
However, even then the redhead wasn't ready to give up and she swung her still-flaming sword at her opponent. Unfortunately for Karui, the Blacklight was ready for that. Faster than his appearance implied he twisted his head to the side, not looking away from his captive as he snapped his jaw, shattering the Tantō with barely any effort. The steel blade broke easily between his triangular teeth, the flames dying down immediately as the form they covered was lost. Turning to face Karui more fully, he pulled her in more closely. His stone-covered visage filled the entirety of her vision as a deep rumble emanated from his chest, his green eyes almost glowing as he glared at her. Then, to everyone's even bigger shock, he spoke, a guttural growl of a voice exiting through the wide, lipless mouth awkwardly. "Nah, bitch. Got you."
Karui barely had any time to gasp in surprise before he lifted her higher. The next instant, all the breath left her lungs as he whipped her down against the floor with a jarring thud.
Naruto reared back, channeled some chakra into his throat, opened his toothy maw wide and unleashed a howl of fury at his downed opponent. The force of the roar was such that it actually kicked up dust and slammed Karui even further down than she already was, knocking her out even as the sound rang through the entire arena. The other Shinobi, even the Jōnin, actually took a step back at the raw exuberance behind the exclamation.
There was a small clack as Alex, who was suddenly beside him, put a hand under Naruto's jaw and pushed it firmly shut. "That's enough outta you," he muttered, partly annoyed, partly amused. Then he announced to the room at large, "Winner by Knockout: Uzumaki Naruto!"
The armored being relaxed and gave a grunt, but oddly enough did not change back into his normal form. When the medics came to take Karui away, Naruto walked with them, much to the confusion of the observers. Mido, who had been lying curled up as a snake on the floor where Naruto had left him, jumped up as a cat and ran across the room to follow him.
Meanwhile, Alex said to the audience, "As you two are the only ones left, we won't need to use the randomizer. Rock Lee and Olivia Vetra, please come down to the arena floor!"
The head medic, a middle-aged man with graying hair, raised an eyebrow at Naruto's appearance but only asked, "And what's wrong with you?"
The former blond's eyes flicked to the side, an awkward look to them, before a small groan leaked out between his teeth. Grudgingly, he opened his mouth wide, giving the medic a look inside.
"Ah, I see," muttered the man, leaning in to take a closer look, "Well, you didn't have to show off like that, did you?"
Naruto growled irritably.
"Alright, alright, hang on a second. I'll get some tweezers and we can just pull them out. Can you heal them alright or will you need any other treatment?"
The Blacklight gave a short, negative grunt.
The medic searched around in a nearby bag and pulled out a pair of small tweezers. "Keep still. These things aren't too strong, and I'd rather keep both my hands."
Shuddering, Naruto whimpered slightly, but knelt on the floor so that the medic would be better able to remove the splinters of metal. In the future, he noted with repeated winces, he'd have to make the inside of his mouth as tough as the outside, in case he ever needed to break a flaming sword with his teeth again.
AN: I actually did want to write the Olivia/Lee fight, but two things stopped me. Firstly, I had no idea how to write the fight without it being completely one-sided. Secondly, when I look at the length of this chapter, I can honestly say that I've written enough. If you guys honestly want to see that fight badly enough, I suppose I could write a one-shot about it some time.
1. I'm actually going to stop bashing Kiba so much. He will eventually get better.
2. Of course, that's not the whole reason why his fight was so short. It's just that Samui had an arsenal that could both counter his Taijutsu and could also use his enhanced senses against him.
3. Once again, thanks to Tesla Wattage for Samui's jutsu set.
4. Kakashi says something about Shinobi warfare that Naruto finds profound. Expect that saying to come back at some point.
5. Yeah, so, Gaara vs. Dosu ended just about as well as you'd expect. But it wasn't just a flawless victory on Gaara's part; Dosu gave it the old college try.
6. Then, of course, we come to my favorite part of the Prelims: Hinata vs. Neji.
7. Neji spouts off his usual pre-match psychological attacks (which, sadly, do not seem to be against the rules) to try and demoralize Hina-chan. 'Cause God knows how much that happens to her.
8. Naruto breaks the tension by calling Neji on his Byakugan's Power Perversion Potential.
9. I hope I did a good job showing off some of Hinata's new skill level. The Jyuu no Mai: Shishi Tsume technique is one that I literally came up with on the spot.
10. …But we all know how that song n' dance is gonna end. Fortunately, Hinata shows a hell of a lot more defiance towards Neji's bullshit.
11. Neji goes in for the kill, but Naruto goes apeshit and tries to Kubikiri him. Fortunately for all involved, he can actually control himself. Unfortunately, that means he's still bottling up his rage.
12. Sweet moment between Naruto and Hinata before she gets carted off. What can I say? I love the ship.
13. And then, of course, Naruto has his match right after his girlfriend got brutalized in front of him. Today is a bad day to be Karui.
14. Karui's jutsu come from Tesla Wattage as well.
15. Naruto shows his proficiency at using the Musclemass power. Considering how huge Kubikiri Bochō is, it's understandable.
16. You know, there were so many ways that this fight could have gone, but I'm pretty happy about how this turned out. What do you guys think?
17. Remember, Naruto's Kubikiri has Mido's snake-head on the end of the hilt. He can eject his biomass pill from that mouth, at the cost of transforming back into his 'pet' animal form.
18. In case I haven't mentioned it before, Naruto needs a biomass pill to use his Armor form. At least, for now.
19. And the fight keeps going downhill for Karui. But what did you expect?
20. Naruto wins, then goes off to get rid of the metal shards in his mouth. That's the problem with being able to shatter swords in your teeth. 9_9
21. In the meantime, we get to see what the final fight would be in the background. Lee vs. Olivia. Taijutsu vs. Glass. How do you think that'll end?
So, that's the chapter. No changes to the harem to report. For the list, see the previous chapter. In other news, some of you might not have noticed it, but I recently started a new fic. It's called CoG: Boundary of Dragon, and it's a crossover of Highschool DxD and Kyoukai no Kanata. If you have not watched KnK, you totally should. And you should read my fic, because it's only got 4 reviews, which is really sad. Be warned, though, chapter 1 spoils the ending of KnK. On the bright side, it's the first ever crossover of its kind, which is awesome.
Also! I am once again planning on starting another fic! Pipe down, gameipedia, I need to do this. It will be a crossover of Naruto and a Manhwa that has quickly imbedded itself in my top 10 series: The Gamer. If you have not read it, what are you waiting for? Check it out. The fic (when it's released) will be called CoG: Create New Character.
So, once again, I ask that if you have any questions, please leave a Review or a PM. If it's a Review, please make sure I can reply to it *looks pointedly at SeanHicks.*
My next update will be either for Boundary of Dragon, ANKoM, or Create New Character.
I believe that is all.
North South out.