UPDATED: 7/2/12 (almost Independence Day! Hurrah for America!)

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto© , it belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. I get absolutely no profit from writing this fanfic. It's a hobby.

Shino lay battered, his bugs frazzling about worriedly around him. The moment the referee had started the match, Sakura had gone straight for him, moving quickly and hitting hard. Shino was good with taijutsu himself, but soon he began to tire of Sakura's hard punches. He tried sending his bugs out, but Sakura had him moving too much on the defensive to let his bugs crawl over her. What's more, he soon realized that Sakura kept a thin, protective layer of chakra around her body, shielding her from his attacks and from his bugs. An impressive display of chakra control. After fierce, thirty minute hand to hand combat, Sakura thought she had displayed enough of her stamina and skill, and so lured him onto a trap and blew him up.

It was a sad battle. Especially because Shino had mistook her hesitation to hit him as a chance to overpower her, and had quickly urged his bugs onward. As soon as the majority of the bugs were buzzing in the air, the ground underneath him had exploded, taking him out and many of his flying friends.

But Shino surprised Sakura. He had managed to sense at the barest of moments the sudden surge of chakra beneath his feet, and had quickly made a bug clone of himself. It had pained him to sacrifice many of his precious friends, but it had to be done.

Alas, the moment he rematerialized on the other side of the field, Sakura had already predicted this outcome, and had her fist up his chin in a second. Shino flew across the field, hitting the stadium wall, then sliding to the ground, motionless.

Sarutobi nodded at the impressive battle. Both had done well, but Sakura's excellent hand to hand combat skills caught his eye, as well as her ability to predict. In the last battle Naruto had impressed him greatly, with skillful manipulation of his opponent. And a great deal of knowledge in seals.

By the time Sakura walked up to the second floor waiting area, all the boys were staring at her in fear, while Temari looked appreciative.

"Umm, that was fast. Even though it was slow." Naruto commented.

Sasuke sighed. "You're being ambiguous again Naruto. Stop talking in oxymorons."

Naruto pointed at his only female teammate. "Sakura's an oxymoron. She's tiny in size, but big in strength!"

Sakura smirked. She personally liked Shino for his coolheadedness, and she felt sorry for beating him up the way she had, but hey, being a Chuunin meant no more D rank missions! "Who's next?"

"Shikamaru and that dude from the Sand." Sasuke answered. He pointed. "The one who has paint on his face. The big ugly burly guy."

Kankuro frowned. "I can hear you just fine you know."

"Hmm, though now that I look more closely, his paint...looks quite well thought out.." Ignoring the putters from Kankuro, Naruto stroked his imaginary beard as he tried to imagine the beautiful abstractness of Kankuro's purple battle paints.

Sasuke just bopped him on the head and told him to shut up. All while Sakura was down fighting, he had been the one to keep Naruto under control and relatively not-so-annoying- to the other competitors, which had been a feat, in and of itself. It had drained him considerably too. Why couldn't have his match come before the babysitting? Sasuke mourned internally, but decided not to let it affect him too much.

On the other hand, the members of the team from Sand looked troubled. Two victories already, and to the leaf! Everything was progressing too slowly. Gaara had to be up front, by the time the signal came! Temari looked at Kankuro, and Kankuro nodded.

"Um, examiner," Kankuro raised his hand. "May I forfeit?"

Genma looked up. His eyes narrowed for the tiniest fraction. Few nights ago, there had been an emergency meeting of all Jounin and Anbu, summoned by the Hokage. Hayate had been found dead, most likely from a wind technique. There were around four wind users in the village proficient enough to cast such wounds onto a Jounin such as Hayate, and three of them were devout Konoha ninja. That left one suspect: Baki, the Jounin from Suna.

Of course, nothing was proven yet, and with the alliance between the two villages so strained, the Hokage hadn't wanted to worsen their relationship further by accusing straight up. But now, this sand Genin was forfeiting...for what reason? Shikamaru didn't look very scary, nor was he very threatening. That Kankuro boy didn't look tired, nor sick, nor hurt.

But what could he say? "Fine. Nara Shikamaru becomes automatic winner of third round." A chorus of ehhs came from the crowd. "Though the Winner of the third round was naturally supposed to have a full rotation of rest in preparation for his next fight, since he didn't fight at all let us move directly to the fourth battle. Nara Shikamaru vs. Temari."

"Eeeehhh?" Shikamaru complained. "I thought I get more time to sleep."

Naruto ehhed too. "Why does he get to win?"

Temari gritted her teeth. The Konoha ninja were up to something, she knew. And even if they didn't, in order to keep up appearances, she would have to fight. She pulled out her fan and jumped down to the field.

Shikamaru sighed. "Why do I have to fight a woman? They're ruthless, naggy, and scary. Man, what a drag."

Temari glared up at Shikamaru. "Hurry up and get down here you lazy ingrate! Not afraid to face me are you?" She swished open her fan with fanfare and began whipping it back and forth, creating intimidating air currents all over the stage. Shikamaru, while trying to step down onto the field was hit by a gust straight in the face, which blew him several meters backward -"oomph!"- his breath knocked out of him.

Naruto and the others on the standby balcony laughed at the poor boy's predicament. Shikamaru grumbled and repeated something that sounded suspiciously like "scarier than mom". Before he could brush himself off and hop down though, Naruto's impatient personality took control of the situation.
"Hurry up you lazy ass! I wanna see you fight! Hahaha!" Naruto cackled. Grinning he pushed Shikamaru right off the balcony. Unceremoniously, Shikamaru fell a story and a half before landing onto the dirt. People booed and threw stuff at his face. It was all very very troublesome. With a peek through all the trash flinging about, he saw the shadow of the agitated Suna girl who was about to smash some heavy fan metal into his face. Very very very troublesome...

Far outside the Hidden Leaf Village, men dressed in tight leggings that showed off every curve of their legs and dalmatian print tops gathered to focus their chakra into the seal drawn onto the dirt ground. With eyes closed in concentration, the foreign ninja pushed forth their energies, calling their teammates from miles away. Across countries, the rest of the Sound forces answered the call, disappearing in a poof of smoke. They appeared in the center of the sealing design. As more people joined them, they broke off into respective divisions and began their march down to Konoha..!

After Shikamaru and Temari's battle, Sasuke eyed Gaara over the corner of his eyes. So it's my turn, he thought. Finally. Naruto and Sakura were having too much fun. I'll take care of this guy and show just who it is that's coming out on top!

Gaara was eyeing Sasuke as well. Only his thoughts were a bit more macabre. Kill...kill...

The proctor motioned the two boys down. Sasuke jumped, landing with his usual flair, while Gaara disappeared in a whirl of sand and reappeared in the middle of the field.

"GOOOOO Sasuke!" Naruto whooped. "Sasuke! I meant to tell you this ages ago, but I guess I was a bit preoccupied with making fun of other people. You know how much I like annoying people and pissing them off!" He shouted down to the field.

Sasuke had a tick mark on his face, as did Genma. The match was about to start, so what the hell was the kid doing?

Sasuke yelled, "You idiot! Hurry up and tell me so we can get on with the match!" Naruto smiled happily down at his friend.

"Okay, Sasuke! The thing is, I actually know Gaara's weakness! It's...it's...!"

"What, what?" Sasuke was pretty excited now. A weakness? That could work so well to his benefit!

"It's...!" Naruto paused dramatically. "Water! Sand is clogged by water! Haha isn't that great? Now all you have to do is pop our your resident water dragon and beat him up! Yeah!"

Sasuke felt a throbbing vein threatening to burst. IDIOT! I can't use water techniques! What the hell do you mean my 'resident water dragon?' Heck lot of help that was...Ugh next time I'm carrying a sealed tankful of water around with me at all times.

Genma coughed. "If we're done, then let's get on with the match." He raised a hand into the air and brought it down, "Gaara vs. Uchiha Sasuke, begin!"

Instantly Sasuke jumped far away, and good thing too. Gaara's sand had appeared out of nowhere and tried to clump down on him. He was quickly on the move again, as Gaara began hammering bullets of sand at him at sonic speeds. Dancing about, Sasuke quickly ran some ideas in his head. Fire wouldn't work...probably. Unless it was some ridiculously strong and hot fire that would melt his sand away. Could he even manage that level of technique? Well..he did sort of have his newfound kekkei genkai ability. A power he aptly named 'Enton'- Blaze Release. It did blaze like mad once he let it loose, but for him it was so easy to control it, despite its seeming volatility. Since fire no longer hurt him at all (and he recently got himself some more excellent fireproof clothes including underwear and shoes, which he happened to be wearing right at that moment) he often liked to set his surroundings on fire and see how it fried all of Naruto's clones in a flash without backfiring on him..but this Gaara would need a very concentrated, dense attack, not a wide and spread out one.

Could he manage such an attack? Or would he have to get up close and personal? He did train for speed, and he had the Sharingan on his side, plus the seals on the ground. But he didn't want to end up like Lee. But he did have many other things Lee didn't. Like ninjutsu and super awesome eyes.

With that last thought, Sasuke stopped dodging and sprung into action, surprising everyone with his unpredicted burst of speed. Eyes blazing red and spinning, Sasuke jumped right into Gaara's defense, and in the next split second punched a fist filled with brilliant dark red flame and heavy-set with weight seals into Gaara's face. The crowd gushed as Gaara, his sand not moving fast enough to intercept Sasuke's speedy punch, flew to the surrounding walls and left a crater in his wake.

Gaara coughed, in shock, and began moving himself upright, his sand fretting around his form, trying to fix the huge cracks in his sand armor. But speedy Sasuke didn't give him an opportunity to stand, as Sasuke flashed to crouch right under Gaara's hunching form and smashed another charged fist into his opponent's lower jaw. Gaara went flying like a bullet from a pistol gun. The crowd oohed as Sasuke disappeared after Gaara, highly concentrated fire propelling him forward from his feet, keeping him afloat in the air.

Gaara, coming to terms with himself in the air, felt a sudden surge of bloodlust rush through him. It was wonderful! He had never been thrashed so badly before, let alone have anyone really punch him multiple times with easy grace! His sand armor was nonexistent now. Feeling a feral grin ripping his face into two, he called on his sand to protect him just as a foot nearly connected with his torso.

Thinking he blocked the attack, Gaara grinned savagely, his sand darting out rapidly to grab onto the offending leg and up to Sasuke's shoulders, ready to crush him to meaty pieces, when his opponent erupted in fire.

Civilians oohed and ninjas were spellbound as they watched Uchiha Sasuke literally set himself on fire, shooting hot glittering flames out of his hands and pushing out with the energy, creating a barrier of flame that repelled the sand globules. Just as quickly as it appeared, the fire suddenly coalesced from a surrounding barrier to a compressed ball of fire between his open palms, the energy growing more and more volatile as the densely concentrated fireball rippled, unable to hold onto its circular surface. Still in midair, Sasuke yelled a great yell and lashed out with a solid white beam from his hand, the fireball having been powered and compressed to pure white flame, headed directly for the Suna ninja.

As Gaara fell through the air after having his sand thrown away violently, his eyes widened and his bloodthirsty look faltered when he saw the supercharged, superfast beam of fire headed directly for him. Using all his energy and skill, he mentally screamed at his sand to come forth, feeling his instincts shriek at the sight of the attack. His 'mother' screamed bloody murder and sand rushed from his gourd and the stadium floor to protect their master. Gaara landed with a great crash as the beam crushed its way to him.

Sasuke, managing to stay afloat using the propulsion of fire from the soles of his feet, watched as his ultimate Enton attack hit Gaara dead on. He hoped this would end things, without him having to reveal anything else, but his eyes told him there was a strange formation of chakra on the stadium floor. He debated between continuing to fly vs. landing and conserving chakra, but he decided to stay in the air for better visuals. The stadium was thick with dust after the crash. The spectators, tense on their seats, waved the dust away, waiting for what was to come next.

Eventually, the dust cloud cleared. Sasuke's keen eyes narrowed as they examined the tight sphere of sand down in the center of a huge crater at the bottom of the stadium. Laced thickly with chakra, the hard shell protectively covering the Sand ninja glittered in the harsh sunlight. Just be looking at it, Sasuke could tell his fire techniques won't work anymore.

At least I dealt him some damage. He couldn't have escaped that last attack completely unfazed. Sasuke thought. Before he could think more, a roar issued from the shell, vibrating the stadium. "Uchihaaa! I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna make sure you die for making me bleed!" Gaara screamed as his mind went haywire with the foreign feeling of pain shooting up his abdomen and bruised limbs. Blood dripped from his side, skin having ripped open from the impact of hitting the ground. Though the sand had protected him from most of the attack, it had left his backside bare in an attempt to hold off the superpowered jutsu. The technique had left a glassy mark on the sand shell, and an ugly, smoldering black and red burn on his stomach.

Gaara continued to scream and the sand surrounding him slowly began to morph to their master's wishes. Blinking, Sasuke took in the huge sand claws that formed to slash at him. The claws didn't reach quite far enough, but Gaara continued to swish the giant hand in the air, desperate to crush the Uchiha.

Sasuke stayed calm. True, the shell was an absolute defense. True, the shell looked ridiculously hard. True, he might juuuust have an attack that could pierce through it...but,

There was one other trump card that he had. One he had been hoping to maximize its potential by trapping Gaara onto the ground using aerial attacks. Grinning, Sasuke brought his right hand up to his face in a half ram seal. "Kaboom!" He whispered.

Inside his protective shell, Gaara saw the glow of seals from around his feet. He stopped screaming and looked confused for a second, until he and his shell imploded from an attack from the inside.

Temari was horrified. What just happened? How could Gaara's ultimate defense crumble so easily? What would happen to the plan now? Was Gaara alright?

Shards and bits of compact sand flew into the audience, ensuing some screams and some gasps. Fortunately, they disintegrated to harmless sand before it hurt anyone. The smoke cleared, and everyone saw the motionless body lying on the field. Genma moved over to check the downed ninja. He stood up, and raised a hand to Uchiha Sasuke, who landed onto the field. "Winner, Uchiha Sasuke."

Everything was quiet, and then, the stadium burst into cheers. "YEAH! GO UCHIHA!" The spectators were overjoyed that the scion of the Uchiha clan put on such a good show. The daimyos from respective countries all looked very impressed while one Kazekage up on the box was shivering with delight.

Ooh, Sasuke-kun...Orochimaru licked his lips. That was so beautiful I couldn't stop staring at your glorious body...your glorious eyes, your glorious hot sexy fire, your glorious combat ability, your glorious Sharingan. It was so glorious I couldn't order my minions to start the plan until your match was over...But the time is up, now.

With a small signal, Kabuto, disguised as ANBU, spread a genjutsu over the entire stadium. Suddenly seeing feathers fall from the sky, civilians grew sleepy, unable to recognize or release the illusion being cast upon them. Ninja quickly dispelled the threat, rallying with nearby comrades. The Third Hokage had warned them of this.

Up on the balcony for the fighters, Temari and Kankuro started as they understood what the genjutsu meant: beginning of the plan! They both dashed over to their fallen brother and picked him up. Sasuke frowned. "Hey, what's going on? What are you two doing? What is this genjutsu?" Being an illusion type himself, he easily batted away the illusion. Genma frowned at the Suna shinobi as well.

"Don't try to stop us," Temari hissed. "You have no idea the power struggle that is going to come into play." She and her brothers leaped over the stadium walls and disappeared. Genma moved to intercept, but Baki appeared out of nowhere and slashed with his wind blade.

"You won't follow them anywhere, Konoha ninja," Baki faced off with Genma while Sasuke jumped up the balcony to see Naruto and Sakura.

Sakura was fine, having dispelled the jutsu on her own, but Naruto put a hand on his forehead and swayed. "Oh dear, I feel sleepy.." Before he could thump to the ground Sakura broke Naruto out of the illusion.

"Snap out of it Naruto! The village is being attacked!" Sakura cried. "We have to do something, but what?"

"I think we should go after Gaara. That Suna trio looked incriminating," Sasuke replied. "Or we can stay and fight off these invading higher level ninja."

"Hmmmm, I think...I think we shouldn't chase after Gaara," Naruto patted his imaginary beard. "Or at least, only one or two of us is needed to track them down and take them on. Sasuke already fried Gaara, which was awesome by the way-" (Sasuke grunted) "and from what I can see, Kankuro and Temari don't really have abilities that would be too much of a challenge for us. Especially for Sasuke, who's a fire elemental."

"You don't mean for us to split up?" Sakura asked worriedly. "We need each other's strengths right now." Sasuke and Sakura, looked unconvinced.

"The village is in danger. Not to overestimate ourselves or anything but I think we're much more powerful than the ordinary Genin. We can do it." Naruto's unusually serious face steadied his teammates. "If you guys are really not too sure about what to do, then stay here. Since Kakashi-sensei is nowhere to be seen I'll go ask old man Hokage."

Sasuke and Sakura agreed. A few minutes after Naruto flitted out the balcony and towards the Kage terrace two Sound ninja rushed in followed by Kakashi, hot on their trail. Kakashi yelled, "Sakura Sasuke watch out!" But they were already on it. Sasuke easily dispatched his opponent with a slash of a kunai, and Sakura punched the other into smithereens. "Uh, never mind. Looks you guys have it under control. Where's Naruto?"

"To the Hokage to ask for orders. We were debating how exactly we could contribute to stopping this invasion. You were nowhere to be found." Sakura beat up another ninja that hopped through the balcony. "Let's get out more into the open and kick these guys' asses."

Kakashi and Sasuke followed Sakura out to the rest of the stadium, defeating enemies as they went, but Kakashi's attention tugged to the sudden ominous dark energy emanating from the Kage terrace. A barrier?

"It's been a while, Sarutobi-sensei." Orochimaru purred. "I don't think time has been kind to you." He looked mighty proud of himself as he pulled off the skin of the man he was impersonating. The venerable Third Hokage, trapped within his former student's grip, grimaced.

"So it was you, Orochimaru. What is your purpose here?" He silently hoped that in the inevitable clash, no one else would be hurt. His hopes were answered as four of Orochimaru's goons erected a barrier on top of the building. Watching from the corner of his eyes, he contemplated killing one of them to diffuse the barrier and let reinforcements in..but such thoughts were put to a halt as the goons erected another barrier to cage him and Orochimaru in, and themselves out of harm's way.

Sarutobi shook his head in remorse. "What have you become, Orochimaru? Should I really have put an end to you back then? Is this recompense for my hesitation?"

Orochimaru chuckled. "I suppose it could be, sensei. I intend to kill you and destroy this village, but I know that taking down the God of Shinobi would be hard task even for me, even if the famed Professor is a wrinkled old man. Which is why-!" He made hand seals, and caskets sprung up from the rooftop. "These will aid me in my quest!"

No! Sarutobi deduced from the kanji on the caskets exactly who Orochimaru was about to unleash. I can't let him summon them! He leapt away from Orochimaru, and frantically ran through some hand seals for a counter-sealing technique, but luckily the third casket failed to be summoned and was taken back to the underworld. The first two however, stood tall in front of Orochimaru, and Sarutobi felt a deep seated fear flash across his chest.

As the casket opened, two people stepped out, two people everyone in the village knew well, especially an old man like him.

The two former Hokages, Senju Hashirama and Senju Tobirama looked dull and lifeless, but continued to walk forward. "Saru, is that you? You've grown old," the First Hokage remarked lifelessly. "How are we back?"

Sarutobi wiped some tears from his eyes at the sight of his long gone teachers and predecessors. He was sick to the core to think the two honorable leaders' could have been so defiled. He was utterly ashamed and angry at the creature laughing in front of him, and silently vowed to put an end to his existence that very day.

"What's that barrier!" Sakura asked, smashing her fist into some ninja's nose. "It looks terrible."

"Sasuke spared a glance at the dark rectangular barrier that formed over the roof of the terrace. His Sharingan whirled as he took it in. "It looks like a solid condensed projection of chakra, reinforced by seals in the four corners. It's being held in place by four people, with their bodies acting as the conduit for the energy condensation and perpetuation. Which means it's a little harder to break than the average four corner barrier formed by paper seals..." His brow furrowed as he saw another layer of barrier form behind the four figures. "They set up a second barrier. Now that's some control. Just who are they holding captive-"

"I don't think you should look anywhere other than me!" The ninja Sasuke was fighting lunged and slashed with his wakizashi. Sasuke cursed and grabbed his left bicep, feeling a trickle of blood escape the gash on his arm.

"Damn it!" Sakura screamed and wiped out two ninja at once with one furious kick. "Don't you dare hurt our Sasuke!" She pummeled the ninja who was advancing on Sasuke from behind and knocked him unconscious. "Where is Naruto? He's a sensor, he must have felt Kakashi heading towards us. He should have just stopped and come back or something!"

Kakashi, who had been fighting three ninja at once, paused momentarily before disposing of the ninja with one well executed earth technique. Sakura was right. Where did Naruto go?

"Kakashi! There you are!" Gai rushed in to help the three out. "I was looking for you, my eternal rival! It's a most unyouthful situation!"

"What's up Gai?" Kakashi fought off another enemy ninja.

"Hokage-sama has been taken hostage! The Kazekage was Orochimaru in hiding. They are facing off in the barrier up there!" With one massive punch Gai nailed ten different ninja all at once in one big sandwich.

Kakashi and Gai met back to back as they fought. "Hokage-sama? Orochimaru? Crap." Wait a minute...

Gai nodded. "It's very unyouthful, but Hokage-sama has ordered all of us to stand firm and to suppress the invasion. He can handle himself."

...Wait a minute...Kakashi's brain gears clicked and shifted. Then a lightbulb dinged on. Naruto!



"Excuse me, but that person looks mighty like the history books, not that I ever looked at those, of course," a most annoying, and most unexpected voice carried over the rooftop over to the men who were facing off. "Am I supposed to be here? I feel like I just interrupted an entire chapter's worth of drama and seriousness."

Sarutobi, Orochimaru, and the hokages whipped around to see a little blonde genin with whisker marks on his cheeks stroking his imaginary beard. Despite the dire situation, they couldn't help but sweatdrop at the sight.

Sarutobi felt his jaw slacken. "..No Naruto. You're not supposed to be here."

Naruto rubbed the back of his head and laughed. "OOOOopsies!"

So, I know this is terribly late, but for those who saw the note in my profile, my computer was fried for a better part of a year. I'm really sorry for all this, but I finally got around to fixing the stupid (but oh so necessary!) thing and now the new chapter is up.

I had half of the chapter done before the computer went bonkers and it was really hard to write the other half after so long a break.

I struggled a lot just to get this chapter up. I would really appreciate it if every one of you who come to read this new chapter leave a little review. It really does make me feel supported. Since it's been a long time, I want to know what you guys think about the new chapter. It would also give me more motivation to write faster for the next chapter.

Thanks as usual to all the people who have supported this story all the way. I love you guys sooo much.