Konoha, Forest of Death Tower

"What he said…is it true?" Naruto asked quietly while staring at the Hokage.

There was a long moment of awkward silence.

"I had wanted to wait until you became a chuunin before telling you…but yes, it is true, Naruto-kun," the Hokage responded with a sigh. "But now that you know…I suppose I'll tell you the rest of it then." The aged Hokage stood and held his hands behind his back, walking towards a window.

Jiraiya stayed silent.

"Your father, Minato Namikaze was a prodigy unlike any other in history. As you already know, he was known around the world as the Yellow Flash, the man who decimated an army of ninja from Iwa during the Third Shinobi World War in an instant. With his Flying Thunder God Jutsu and special Flying Thunder God Kunai marked with seals, he could defeat any enemy he faced with ease. And because he also loved this village very much…I decided to make him my successor as Hokage. For a while, all was well. He married your mother and the two decided to have a child. But then…on the day of your birth, the Nine-Tails struck. This was an enemy that he couldn't quite fully defeat. You see, the chakra constructs known as the Tailed Beasts cannot be killed; only destroyed temporarily and they would reform later. Another problem was the sheer power of the Nine-Tails. It is the strongest of the Tailed Beasts, wielding vastly more power than even the Eight-Tails." Hiruzen turned around and walked closer to Naruto. He puffed some smoke from his pipe before continuing. "It is commonly assumed that the number of tails a Tailed Beast has is proportional to its strength, but this is not quite true. From what we have observed, it seems the Nine-Tails has vastly greater chakra than what one might expect from an additional tail, if it were proportional.

"Thus, he decided that the only way to defeat it was to use a forbidden technique, the Dead Demon Consuming Seal. This jutsu summons a death god to help seal something. In return, the user would die and have their soul locked away in the stomach of the death god to battle for all eternity. I saw the tears on his face as he performed the sealing. But as a Hokage, he could not possibly ask another family to give up a baby. And…this would also help protect you in the future. Your mother had died from complications during birth." Hiruzen paused. He deliberately left out some details that Naruto probably wasn't ready to hear yet, which Jiraiya would be able to explain later when the time was right. "But the power of the Nine-Tails would be mixed with your chakra through his seal, and thus protect you from harm. The result was what happened to you earlier, during your fight with Orochimaru," Hiruzen finished his long story. He noticed that Naruto's head was lowered.

He took out something from a pocket.

"Almost everything your parents owned was destroyed in the Nine-Tails' attack, and they were a rather frugal lot to begin with, but we were able to save this," he handed a picture to Naruto. It showed Minato holding hands with Kushina, whose stomach was protruding slightly as if pregnant, and both of them smiling.

"For many years, I imagined myself to be the son of the Fourth Hokage," Naruto began, his expression unreadable as he stared at the picture he held in his hand. "I had thought to myself, 'We look so much alike! It would be so cool if we were related…'. But I brushed it aside as wishful thinking. If it were true, then why did nobody know? Why did I not share his last name? Why was I hated? And when I finally found out I was the container of the Nine-Tails, it only added to my suspicion. I can understand keeping the Nine-Tails a secret, but why my heritage too?"

"To protect you, from the many enemies your father made. You must have realized this already, right?" The Hokage responded.

"I did think of that," Naruto affirmed as he looked up, into the soft eyes of the Third. "But that's not the whole story, is it? You already had me watched all the time, by elite members of the ANBU, to protect me from those who held a grudge against me for the Nine-Tails. What difference would a few more assassins make? If anything, the revelation of my heritage would have evened it all out, as the villagers would not have hated me so much."

"Perhaps, it was a mistake on my part. I had hoped you would have a normal life, if neither piece of information was known to the younger generation." The Third Hokage admitted. He walked slowly back to his seat and took off his hat, placing it on his desk. "I have made many mistakes in my life, but never so many as these past twelve years. The sooner you can take this hat from me, the sooner this old man's mistakes can stop." The Hokage ended his regretful speech with a smile.

Naruto forced a smile back.

"What about my mother?"

This time it was Jiraiya who answered him, and with a grin. "Your mother was one of Konoha's best kunoichi, and also a master at sealing. In fact, one of the seals on your stomach right now is something that she taught Minato."

The Four Symbols Seal from the Uzumaki clan…It's a little strange though, as it seems to have eight symbols rather than four.

Jiraiya continued, "I'll tell you more after I teach you some of those seals."

"Really? That's awesome!" Naruto exclaimed. That this was precisely what he had been looking for with regards to his plans to help Zabuza.

"Now then, why don't you run along now, Naruto-kun? You should rest up," the Hokage suggested with a chuckle.

As he was escorted back to Team 7's temporary room, he heard some voices.

"…really okay?"

"I told you, I'm fine. Kakashi said he sealed it, so it won't bother me anymore."

What's Sasuke talking about?

Opening the door, he noticed Sakura's worried look toward Sasuke and Sasuke's clear irritation before they both turned to Naruto.

"Hey guys, what was that all about? Did something happen to you Sasuke?" Naruto inquired as he approached his two teammates.

"I'm fine. There's nothing wrong. And shouldn't we be asking you that? Why did you see the Hokage for?" Sasuke responded with a suspicious glare. Beside him, Sakura also looked like she wanted to say something, but stayed silent. If Naruto were to guess, she probably did not want to be hypocritical for keeping Sasuke's little secret while demanding Naruto to reveal his.

However, this is a good time as any to reveal the fox…

"It's a long story, but I will tell you now," Naruto answered with a sigh as he sat down on a bed. Sasuke and Sakura likewise sat down, curious to hear the answer.

Naruto looked at his two teammates who stared at him expectantly.

"Before I say anything, I must tell you that the following information is an S-Rank secret, the revelation of which by anyone without the proper clearance is punishable by death, by the Third Hokage's law. Are you ready to hear it, even knowing this?" Naruto demanded solemnly.

The looks on Sasuke and Sakura's faces showed disbelief. "An S-Rank secret? Enough joking around, dead-last!" Sasuke growled.

"It is no joke. If you don't believe me, then don't blame me for not warning you," Naruto asserted. He had expected a response like this.

"I…I want to know, Naruto. We are a team, after all, and shouldn't keep secrets from each other," Sakura stated while glancing at Sasuke, almost accusingly.

"Fine. Say what you want," Sasuke relented.

"Do you remember when my birthday is?" Naruto asked.

Sakura answered, "It's …October 10th, right?" She seemed confused by the apparent change of topic.

"Thirteen years ago, on October 10th, a tragedy befell our village," Naruto continued.

"The Nine-Tails Attack," Sasuke recalled.

"We were taught that the Fourth Hokage heroically killed the Nine-Tails at the cost of his own life. That is a lie," Naruto revealed.

"Wha-?" Sakura was shocked.

"The Tailed Beasts are chakra constructs that would simply reform after some time if they are destroyed. They cannot be killed. But, the Nine-Tails' power is the greatest of all the Tailed Beasts, and had too much power to be sealed into any inanimate object, as it would simply be overwhelmed. Therefore, the Fourth sealed it into a newborn child, who, unlike an adult, would be able to adjust to the demonic chakra of the Nine-Tails, creating a living container that would imprison the fox until death, a Power of the Human Sacrifice: Jinchuuriki," Naruto explained.

Sasuke and Sakura's eyes went wide. They were too shocked to even say anything.

"I was the newborn child chosen for that purpose," Naruto ended sadly. His cloak opened, showing him lifting his jacket to reveal the skin around his stomach, on which a complicated seal slowly materialized.

His teammates stared at the proof of his status as a Jinchuuriki in a mixture of awe and horror.

"You…you…that's…" Sakura whispered.

"So then…in the forest, that red chakra…" Sasuke began deducing.

"Correct. That was the chakra of the Nine-Tails, reacting to my heightened negative emotions and despair after being stabbed. As for why I met with the Hokage, that was because Orochimaru put a seal on top of my existing seal to disrupt its function and inhibit my access to chakra. This, as you can understand, became a matter of village security."

"Hn," Sasuke finally replied, and went to his bed to rest, not saying anything more.

"Naruto…" Sakura didn't know what to say.

"Are you scared of what I am?" Naruto questioned.

"I…I don't know…" Sakura's face showed the conflicting emotions she was wrestling with.

"Hmm, that's okay. Sometimes I'm scared of myself too," Naruto said with a sheepish grin. They said no more after that.

Naruto, Mindscape

The sound of dripping water echoed from every direction. Darkness covered the sky of this wretched world, where perfectly reflective water covered the ground up to Naruto's ankles.

It was strange however, this place that looked so much like dank sewers smelled of nothing.

As he strode forward through the water, ripples spread out endlessly with interference patterns. The unending waves would be a hint to the keen observer that this world was not real; at least not in the usual sense.

Slowly, gigantic steel bars revealed themselves before him. Enormous red, glowing eyes manifested from within the darkness. Even though this was not the first time he had been here, it was no less suffocating. The massive hate of the Nine-Tails seemed to float through the air like poison.

"What do you want, you puny sack of flesh?" the Nine-Tails' voice blasted.

"To talk," Naruto responded simply.

"To talk? I have no desire to engage in conversation with the likes of you," the red eyes glared, seemingly glowing even brighter.

"I'm sorry for threatening you for your chakra last time. But there was no time to waste, unfortunately. But you saved my life when I thought I had died, so thank you," Naruto continued.

"You want to thank me? Then FREE ME!" The Nine-Tails demanded as its full face came into view.

"If I do that, what would happen to me?" Naruto asked curiously. Of course, he had no intention of doing it, regardless of the answer, but it was an interesting question.

"In your current state, you would perish. And if you do not, I would devour you."

"…Come on, you could at least make it more worthwhile if you're going to ask me such a thing…"

"Worthwhile? Then I will obliterate this pathetic village and devour every soul within it, including all those who have made your life miserable!"

Naruto sighed. This was more difficult than he had imagined. He had hoped the fox would be at least somewhat reasonable. There were many things he wanted to know, and the fox likely held that information. On the other hand, that the fox had not yet expelled him back to reality could be a good sign, as he remembered that he had no conscious intent to return the first time he had come here before he re-awoke to the battle.

"What do you mean, in my current state? Is there some way I could survive?"

"…" The Nine-Tails paused for a moment. It narrowed its eyes in suspicion. Nonetheless, it decided to answer.

"The strength of your life force is the strength of your yang chakra. You are an Uzumaki, a clan that possesses immense vitality. Match your mother, and you will survive as she did, if only temporarily. Exceed her, and you will survive permanently."

Naruto's eyes widened in shock. What the fox was implying was unimaginable.

"My mother…survived? She was a Jinchuuriki?!" Naruto sputtered.

"No. As I stated, that was temporary, you fool. But perhaps she would have survived permanently had she not just given birth to you." The fox sneered.

"B-but why? Why was she a Jinchuuriki?" Naruto demanded.

"Because your wonderful village wanted my power, and only an Uzumaki would live through the sealing! So of course, your loving Third demanded a hostage to keep the ridiculous farce of an alliance which they quickly betrayed." The Nine-Tails boomed.

No way…

"Then how did you get sealed in the first place?" Naruto asked, fearful of the answer.

The fox did not answer him. "I've had enough of you today. All you humans are two-faced scheming vermin. Get out, naïve little boy."

Stay calm. Stay calm. It can't be true. The fox is just messing with me. How could it possibly even know that anyway? It's not like it can observe the world outside the seal, can it?

However much he told himself that, Naruto simply could not shake off his growing sense of dread.

He needed to review the facts.

According to the scroll he found a while back, Mito Uzumaki sealed the Nine-Tails into herself, helping Hashirama defeat Madara.

According to Konoha history, Hashirama and Madara fought alone, and Hashirama came out victorious. Mito Uzumaki is not even mentioned. That was certainly strange because Uzushio's alliance with Konoha was apparently respected even now, going by the swirl symbol still on their ninja uniforms.

According to the scroll, Mito Uzumaki had been given to Hashirama in marriage to establish their alliance, close to Konoha's founding.

According to Konoha history, Hashirama's Wood Element could seal and control all the Tailed Beasts, to the extent that he gathered them and gave them out to other villages as peace offerings. All except the Nine-Tails.

According to the Third Hokage, the Nine-Tails was vastly stronger than any other Tailed Beast.

According to the Nine-Tails, nobody but the Uzumaki could contain it.

What did all this imply? What was true and what was false?

With the destruction of Whirlpool and the abandonment of the name Uzumaki, no one would ever be able to seal the Nine-Tails again, unless they found someone that somehow had as much life force as an Uzumaki. Hashirama Senju was the only man in the world to ever wield the Wood Element. This effectively meant that, with his death, no village but Konoha could ever have access to the Nine-Tails' power, since Konoha would be the only village in the world with known Uzumaki blood in its ranks.

At this point, Naruto could not leap to any conclusions without several more pieces of key information.

Was Mito Uzumaki truly present at the battle at the Valley of the End, or was that a lie Konoha told Uzushio? Why would Hashirama require Mito Uzumaki's help if he could control the Tailed Beasts with the Wood Element? When did Hashirama give out the Tailed Beasts - before or after Konoha gained a Jinchuuriki for the Nine-Tails, which would effectively be their ace in the hole? Is it true that only an Uzumaki could contain the Nine-Tails' power?

He didn't know enough. There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this. But the answer that seemed to him most obvious...yet craziest...an answer where everything he knew about Konoha would be turned upside down...where all his Hokage heroes were...were...

What if everything he knew about the man he saw as a grandfather was a lie? Could he really have done something so horrendous as demanding a hostage and betraying his ally at an opportune time to rid the world of competition? And if he did, what did that mean for his father? Why did he die if Mito Uzumaki could seal the Nine-Tails into herself and live? And just who got sacrificed to seal the Nine-Tails into his mother, if anyone?

It was all so unfathomable. And yet, he too had tricked everyone around him into believing that he was a fool, all to grow his power uninhibited. Couldn't the man the world called the God of Shinobi do the same, hiding his darkness behind fake smiles for the sake of power?

No, he could not believe that. That would be a truth too depressing to bear. To think that his life was manipulated like that…that his family was used to create the ultimate living weapon…


He stared at the dark ceiling above. The silence of the night never felt more ominous.

Naruto glanced about the arena. The five days were up, and his team had been called down to the first floor where there was a large arena. This floor was quite high as well, as there was a giant statue of a hand seal as well as a long balcony circling the whole arena.

The Hokage was standing in front of the small group of genin. Naruto noticed that there were six teams present. His own, the Sand team, Shikamaru's team, the Sound team, Rock Lee and Neji Hyuuga's team, and Kabuto's team.

Shikamaru, Ino, and Chouji still had dirt all over them; they probably were the last to arrive.

Naruto was slightly uncomfortable as he felt Gaara's gaze on him.

So…two of the three rookie teams made it. I hope Shino, Hinata, and Kiba are alright… They should be a pretty strong team to have been able to get two scrolls already when I encountered them …but with so few teams and so few scrolls, it would've been hard to get another two scrolls after losing their original and the one they earned in that run-in with Gaara. But how the heck is the Sound team here? Don't tell me they had extras beside the Earth scroll we got from them?

The Hokage was explaining something about the true nature of the exam. Apparently, it was a replacement for war. Then somebody who seemed really sick and called himself Gekkou Hayate started to speak.

There would be preliminary matches happening immediately because there were too many genin still remaining. And it would be in the form of one on one matches with no rules and the loser would be eliminated. He then asked if anybody wanted to quit right then.

Yeah right…there's no way—

Kabuto's hand went up and he announced that he would quit.

Naruto was surprised and watched him walk away. The guy did not seem tired or injured in any way. This was really suspicious: why give up after failing 7 previous exams? Although, Naruto mused that this may have been the reason he failed those exams.

"Now then…if there's nobody else, we will be starting the first match. This electronic screen will show the pairings." He pointed to the screen on the wall behind him.

There was a brief flash from the screen before names appeared. The first match was between Sasuke Uchiha and somebody called Akado Yoroi.

"Everybody except those two please go up to the balconies."

Naruto stood beside Sakura and Kakashi, watching the first match begin.

As soon as Gekkou said begin, the Akado guy ran forward at Sasuke. Sasuke threw some shuriken before running through some hand seals. Akado dodged the shuriken easily, but was unprepared for the mass of fire that shot at him.

'Did I kill him already?' Sasuke wondered as he watched his opponent get consumed by the flames from his Great Fireball Jutsu.

The flames cleared to reveal Akado holding his arms to his face in a blocking position, and his clothes severely burned, but otherwise he appeared to be fine. He continued to rush forward at Sasuke. This time, Sasuke engaged him in a taijutsu battle. He got the upper hand on Sasuke for a slight moment and pushed Sasuke down to the ground and grabbed the rookie's head.

Then Sasuke felt energy leaving him…as if his chakra was being sucked out.

He quickly kicked the guy away and got up. He got an idea for a good way to defeat him.

In the next moment, his Sharingan eyes were active and he started rushing forward. Akado rushed forward as well.

Then, Sasuke disappeared from view and suddenly Akado found himself being kicked up into the air.

"Shadow Leaf Dance!"

Sasuke smirked as he copied Lee's taijutsu maneuvers. 'Now, the rest is all original.'

His face grew fierce as he proceeded to twist and elbow Akado in the stomach. Then he continued spinning and kicked Akado in the same spot. He further spun and used his other arm to crash into Akado once more. And finally, he ended it by slamming his heel down at Akado just as they reached the ground, and he slid back from the force he used.

Rock Lee and his sensei Gai were both shocked to see Sasuke copy their technique after witnessing it just once.

The Sharingan is powerful…sigh…I guess I can't say it's unfair, considering my Shadow Clones…

Naruto watched as Sasuke jumped back to the balcony just as Gekko announced his victory.

"Good job, you bastard," Naruto complimented with a smirk.

"That was awesome, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura complimented as well, with her hands fisted in front of her chest and with a big smile.

The screen then showed Kankuro vs. Misumi Tsurugi.

This fight was very short. When the battle started, the Misumi guy rushed at Kankuro and started strangling him with a seriously messed up body that was ridiculously flexible, before Kankuro could unleash whatever it was he had all bandaged up. Then the guy threatened to kill Kankuro unless Kankuro forfeited, and Kankuro refused so Misumi broke his neck…or so everybody thought. Then the "Kankuro" that was being strangled suddenly became some sort of wooden puppet armed with various weapons that grabbed onto Misumi, while the bandaged thing exploded to reveal the real Kankuro.

Kankuro was announced the winner.

The next fight was between Sakura and Ino.

"You can do it, Sakura!" Naruto cheered as she smiled back at him.

The two fighters walked down the stairs to meet each other.


"Sakura…I never thought I'd be fighting you," Ino muttered.

Sakura unwrapped her forehead protector and wrapped it around her forehead. She recalled an incident in the Flower Arrangement class. Back then, Sakura had felt herself weak compared to Ino, who knew so much of flowers and poisons, and even fought off Sakura's bullies by using the flowers as if they were kunai.

As Ino explained the nature of the main flower Cosmos and the often supplementary Fujibakama, the Sakura at the time could only think that she would be the Fujibakama to Ino's Cosmos. However, Ino responded by saying that Sakura was not even a flower, that she was a bud, but could one day grow to be a beautiful flower.

'I don't want you to underestimate me, Ino. Today, I am no longer a bud,' Sakura thought to herself.

Up on the balconies, both Ino's and Sakura's teams looked concerned about the rivalry between the two kunoichi.

"Right now, I have no interest in fighting over Sasuke-kun with you," Sakura declared.

"What was that!" Ino exclaimed. Naruto looked surprised. Sakura seemed different. Then his eyes widened in realization.

What! How did I not notice until now? When the heck did she cut her hair short? What really happened when I was unconscious?

"You and Sasuke don't go together anyway. And I'm completely stronger than you, I don't even need to be concerned with you," Sakura taunted with a smirk.

"Sakura, who do you think you're talking to? Don't get ahead of yourself, crybaby Sakura," Ino retorted angrily.

"Is that really Sakura? I didn't think she'd be one to trash talk," Naruto commented with an eyebrow raised.

"Hmmm. You're right, Naruto. It's strange how rivalries work. She just doesn't want Ino not to take her seriously, or go easy on her. To her, this battle is more important than just a preliminary for the finals," Kakashi answered.

Sasuke watched the battle without saying anything.

"Man…I hope she doesn't fall for the taunts…" Shikamaru lamented. "Is Ino going to be alright?" Chouji asked.

Their sensei, Asuma Sarutobi, watched closely too. "Ino's an exceptional ninja, but can she fight against Sakura?"

'Unless I really surpass you, this fight is meaningless…that's why this needs to be an all-out battle,' Sakura thought. Opposite her, Ino smiled as she finally understood. They had promised that when they put their forehead protectors on their forehead, then it was time to show that they would not lose to the other. So she too, took her protector from her waist and wrapped it around her forehead.

The two fighters stood ready and both charged. One Sakura multiplied into three.

"This isn't the Academy, you think you can beat me with a jutsu like that?" Ino shouted.

She observed closely for the real one. Opposite her, Sakura smirked and held the Ram seal to push chakra to her feet.

Ino's was shocked as Sakura moved as a blur and hit her with a punch to the face, sending Ino flying to the ground. "Come on, get serious Ino, or you'll get hurt!" Sakura shouted back.

"As you wish, here I come!" Ino responded as she wiped her mouth with her sleeve and got up.

After that, it was an all-out melee that lasted over ten minutes, complete with shuriken and kunai.

"T-there's no way you could be even with me!" Ino exclaimed.

"Of course, how could I be even with somebody who only cares about growing her hair and looking pretty?" Sakura taunted again.

Ino growled and grabbed a kunai and her hair.

"Aw, come on, don't fall for it…" Shikamaru face-palmed.

"Orraaa! I don't need this!" Ino shouted as she cut off her hair and threw it to the ground. "I'm going to end this right now!" She formed the hand seals for the Mind-Body Transfer. Her team looked on in shock, knowing the weaknesses of that technique.

"I understand your desperation, but that's useless. You can't get me if I keep moving, and if you miss, it'll be my win," Sakura answered as she started to move.

"Ninja Art: Mind Body Transfer!" Ino shouted. Suddenly, both fighters went still, heads dropping.

Then Sakura raised her head, "Too bad, Ino…" Suddenly, she felt her ankle being restricted and looked down to see that the mass of hair had formed into a rope.

"You fell for it!" Ino declared as she too raised her head. "Now you can't avoid it."

"So her snapping was also an act…?" Shikamaru realized.

Oh no…this doesn't look good.

"Ninja Art: Mind body Transfer!" Both fighters went still once more, their heads dropping.

Sakura raised her head again and smirked.. "Too bad…Ino."

The observers were in shock. Suddenly the image of Sakura flickered out of sight and reappear a quarter of a metre away. She walked towards Ino and looked at Gekkou. "Please call the fight, since Ino can't fight back anymore."

"Ah…the winner of this match is Sakura Haruno!"

Genjutsu…good use of what you know.

Asuma glanced at Kakashi, impressed by the battle, before hurrying down to grab his student.


As Sakura reached her team, they congratulated her. "Nice one, Sakura, you were awesome," Naruto gave her a smile.

"I have to say…I'm impressed," Kakashi let her know.

"Hn, good job," Sasuke grunted.

"Thanks, guys!"

The fourth fight was between Rock Lee and Chouji Akimichi.

Naruto watched this fight as closely as he could, trying to learn more about Rock Lee.

The fight started with Chouji using his Multisize Jutsu to turn into a giant ball that rolled at high speed toward Lee. Without any clear weaknesses to exploit, Chouji's rapidly spinning form posed a challenge to Lee who could only use taijutsu. Lee dodged the incoming attacks for several minutes until his sensei Gai yelled out, "Lee, take them off!"

Lee then jumped on top of the statue of the hand seal.

Then there was a short exchange between the student and sensei before Lee proceeded to take what appeared to be weights off his legs. When the weights fell to the ground, they made a giant crashing sound, revealing their incredible mass.

Subsequently, Lee moved at a speed far higher than before and launched himself at the rolling ball that was Chouji. Lee then disappeared in a burst of speed and timed himself to kick Chouji in the face in mid-air, stopping the rolling and sending Chouji flying back into the wall. As Chouji crashed, his Multisize Jutsu wore off. But Lee didn't stop there, and further moved at high speed until he was right in front of Chouji and punched him in the stomach, thus knocking Chouji out and getting declared the winner.

Pure taijutsu…he won with just taijutsu and revealed nothing else…what a guy…And that timing, that is hardly genin-level. Not to mention the enormous power he must've used to counter Chouji's angular momentum. But how? It shouldn't be physically possible…was it enhanced by chakra?

The screen displayed Neji Hyuuga and Kin Tsuchi next.

Both Neji and the female Sound nin walked slowly down to the Arena.

"Fate decrees that you will lose to me today," Neji stated in a bland tone. "You should just give up."

"Yeah, right!" Kin said before getting into a ready position.

Neji responded by doing the same. Then Gekko called for the match to begin.

As soon as he did soon, Kin threw two senbon with bells attached at Neji. Unfazed, Neji simply rushed directly at Kin and swatted aside the two senbon with his bare hands.

Kin looked surprised for a moment before Neji was upon her and was attacking her with open palms and fingers. After a few seconds of the attack, Neji finished with another open palm directly at Kin's heart, sending her back a few metres.

Kin clutched at her chest and coughed up some blood before collapsing on the ground.

Neji was declared the winner.

"What the hell?" Naruto asked out loud.

"What kind of attack was that? He just pushed her," Sasuke remarked. He regretted not having activated his sharingan before the fight began. It had ended too quickly for him to find a good time to activate it.

"That was the Hyuuga clan's special Gentle Fist style of taijutsu," Kakashi from beside them responded. "It attacks the chakra network directly, and can affect the internal organs."

"That's…unbelievable. What ridiculous chakra control…to be able to send it out that far from the body…" Naruto commented. He could hardly believe the fight was already over, and it seemed like Neji had barely done anything.

But suddenly Gaara was already down at the arena in a flurry of sand. The screen showed Gaara vs. Dosu Kinuta.

The Sound nin whose face was bandaged jumped down to face Gaara.

Naruto was watching this intensely. "Guys…pay attention to this one," he said. Sasuke beside him nodded, turning on the sharingan, and Sakura looked at him before looking back at the match.

"Begin," Gekkou said before moving out of the way.

Then, Dosu ran at Gaara, who didn't move an inch – instead preferring to stand still with his arms crossed. Dosu was about to punch Gaara with his arm when Gaara's sand came out of his gourd and blocked the attack.

Gaara looked troubled for a moment before clutching his left ear as the Sound attack reached him. Then he looked at Dosu with bloodshot eyes before all the sand from his gourd erupted and flew at Dosu at high speed. Dosu was unable to dodge before the sand had grabbed onto his right hand and leg. He tried to pull himself free but Gaara pointed at Dosu with his open right hand and clenched it into a fist.

There was a cry from Dosu as the sand crushed his arm and leg. Then the rest of the sand quickly covered the rest of Dosu's body and lifted him in the air.

"Desert Coffin," Gaara stated monotonously.

Everybody's eyes widened except Naruto's, Temari's, and Kankuro's.

Gekkou started to say something, "This match is—" He was interrupted by his own cough. He tried to continue speaking but before he could say anything, Gaara once again had his right hand in that open manner as if it were clutching at something.

"Desert Funeral." He fisted his hand, and this time the sand completely crushed Dosu's body, spraying blood everywhere.

Many of the mouths of the onlookers fell open in shock.

The examiner looked too shock to move for a moment before declaring, "…over." He finished his previous statement. "Gaara is the winner…"

The sand retreated slowly back into Gaara's gourd. There was no sign of Dosu's body anywhere in sight. Gaara held his hands out as some sand came into it and formed a cork between his fingers. The sand retreated completely back into his gourd and he stuffed the cork back into the gourd's entrance. He turned his head and glared at Naruto, as if daring him to do better.

"He's looking at you…" Sakura whispered to Naruto in a scared voice.

'What the hell is this guy? What happened to the body?' Sasuke wondered, still too shocked to move.

Gaara disappeared in a flurry of sand and reappeared back with his teammates on the balcony, still staring at Naruto. Naruto was uncomfortable and so shifted his eyes to the screen.

It showed Naruto Uzumaki vs. Tenten.

Naruto used the Body Flicker to reappear down at the arena. Tenten jumped down to face him.

"You can do it, Tenten!" Rock Lee cheered while gripping the railing and leaning forward.

"Come on, Naruto, make us proud!" Sakura cheered with her fist in the air.

"Don't lose, dead-last," Sasuke said in a loud voice.

Now then…I'll have to reveal as little as possible while putting on a good show for the Old Man.

"I won't go easy on you, rookie," Tenten said while twirling a kunai and grinning.

"Same to you," Naruto responded with a serious expression.


Naruto stood unmoving, staring at his opponent. Tenten jumped back to maintain a distance suitable for both offense and defense.

Both fighters stared each other down and did nothing.

"Is something…wrong?" Gekkou asked.

The stare down continued.

"Are you waiting for me to make the first move? Hm, fine," Naruto said. He received no response.

Both her teammates, and her sensei have remarkable taijutsu skills. She would likely have such skill too. However, given my recent training and supporting jutsu, I should not be horribly outclassed.

Forming a single hand seal within his cloak, Naruto released his weighting seal.

He dashed towards Tenten, two clones forming around him, in a move reminiscent of Sakura's earlier opening tactic, but with vastly higher speed. Underneath their cloaks, they began rapidly forming hand seals as their skin hardened.

'Fast!' Tenten thought, even as she was surprised that she could not distinguish between the real and the fakes. The three Naruto surrounded her in a triangle formation and began to attack. One clone launched a direct punch to her face, which she parried with a slap, but it went right through him, dispelling the illusion.

She blocked a kick swinging in from the right with her knee, but was shocked when her feet were swept from behind, by the third copy which she'd assumed to be an illusion.

Wasting no time as she fell back towards the ground, the first Naruto delivered a vicious knee into her upper back, sending her into the air, while the other grabbed her left arm to pull her back down and turned to swing her at the ground without letting go. Just as she landed face down the first Naruto jumped on top her back and grabbed her right arm with his right arm and used his left hand to point a kunai at her neck, letting it touch slightly.

Clear surprise was written on the faces of all those who had known Naruto before, and Team Gai.

"H-how? Tenten is stronger than that!" Lee exclaimed.

Neji, who had his Byakugan on to watch his teammates' battle, answered, "It was a trick. The first clone was an illusion, but the second was solid. He used his teammate's illusory move in the earlier fight to confuse us." With his Byakugan, he noticed that the first clone had no chakra system, but the other two Narutos both had chakra systems.

Gai gave a piercing look to Kakashi. "Kakashi, you taught the Shadow Clone, a jounin-level technique to genin? I'm surprised he even has the chakra for it."

Audible gasps could be heard from the genin around him. Both of Naruto's teammates were surprised at the level of the technique that Naruto used constantly. "J-jounin level? Naruto? No way!" Ino denied.

"Well…I didn't teach it to him. He already knew it when I gave my test," Kakashi responded sheepishly.

At that, his listeners' mouths dropped open in shock.

"It was a mistake to let me make the first move. You're finished. Surrender," Naruto demanded.

"G-uh—I yield," came the weak response.

"Naruto Uzumaki is the winner!" Gekko announced promptly.

"Way to go, Naruto!" Sakura yelled out.

She was weaker than I expected in Taijutsu…seems like my little surprise was highly effective.

"Since there are ten spots *cough* for the finals, and three remain, the remaining *cough* three, Shikamaru Nara, Temari of the Desert, and Zaku Abumi, *cough* will automatically advance."

Lucky Shikamaru…

Shikamaru breathed a sigh of relief, while Temari and Zaku looked annoyed that they couldn't fight.

"Would everyone *cough* please come down, the preliminaries *cough* are now over."

And so everybody gathered, and Gekkou instructed the winners to walk forward.

"Please pick out a piece of paper from this box," he further instructed as he held out a white box with a hole, wide enough to fit an arm.

After each genin picked out a piece of paper, Gekko stated that the number written on the paper would determine the pairings for a tournament in the finals to be held in a month. The match-ups, in order, were as follows:

Shikamaru Nara vs. Naruto Uzumaki

Gaara of the Desert vs. Neji Hyuuga

Rock Lee vs. Temari of the Desert

Zaku Abumi vs. Sasuke Uchiha

Sakura Haruno vs. Kankuro of the Desert

A Shadowy Room

Kabuto waited for his master's arrival.

"Kabuto…" a voice finally reached him.

Orochimaru appeared in front of him with a devilish smile. "There's been a change of plans. I have new orders for you…"

Edit: Feb. 19, 2013. I had changed the events in this chapter a lot before uploading, and some outdated parts were accidentally left in here. They were removed.

Edit: Feb. 22, 2013. Many of you pointed out that the edit date above "Feb. 29" is in the future. Sorry, that was a typo. It's been fixed.

Taldus, a keen reader and reviewer, noticed something that appeared to be a plot-hole about the conversation with the Nine-Tails. It seems that I really didn't give enough of an explanation of exactly Naruto was thinking, and I've fixed that now. Essentially, Naruto asked the Nine-Tails how it was sealed in the first place, despite apparently already knowing the answer, because if you recall, the scroll he found in the secret room claimed that Mito Uzumaki sealed it to help defeat Hashirama (this is also claimed in canon, and not contested yet), and he relayed this "fact" to his peers during the opening portion of the chuunin exam.

However, as you should be able to understand from the explanation of Naruto's fast-moving thoughts, Naruto asked the question because he now doubts that fact, and wanted to Nine-Tails to confirm it so that his wild theories on Konoha's manipulation can be put to rest. What concerns him is why there is so much contradictory information, and how convenient it was that Uzushio was destroyed only after Konoha extended their Jinchuuriki line.

As such, there is in fact no plot hole. I wonder, were the rest of you able to pick up on that bit without my more detailed explanation, or did you simply forget that Naruto already knew?