When Jutsu Go Wrong
Chapter Five: A Battle for the Ages
(A/N: Hello all, sorry for the very long wait, but I sincerely hope you find this extra-long chapter well worth the wait! Now, we left the adventures of Hikaru Namikaze last time just as the first battle of the preliminaries was announced. Now we go straight to that battle. Enjoy!)
Yoroi Akadō swaggered arrogantly down into the arena, and Hikaru remembered the masked nin from his own time backing up Amachi in the Land of the Sea, and beating up Isaribi.
Privately, he hoped that Kankurō killed the nin here and now.
Kankurō smirked, "You're free to back out now if you wish."
Yoroi's only response was to drop into a taijutsu stance.
Kankurō sighed, "Your funeral." In a great flourish, he tugged off the bandages covering his puppet.
Hayate, realizing that if he wasn't quick they'd start without him, jumped backwards with a shout of "Hajime!"
Everybody watched as Kankurō's puppet flew forwards.
Kin was sitting in her room inside the ANBU T&I Headquarters, thinking. She had been provided with a grey prison shift and had wrapped her blankets around her, but she was still cold.
Lying down and pulling the blanket tighter around her frame, she smiled to herself as she thought about Hikaru Namikaze's offer. It was truly more than she could have hoped for. Instead of having her tortured for information and killed, he had allowed her to tell him everything of her own accord and then made her an offer for her own protection; being released after the invasion was dealt with and permitted to become a Konoha kunoichi.
As she closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift off into sleep, she allowed a real smile to cross her lips.
Hikaru watched with a satisfied smirk barely held back from crossing his lips as Hayate poked the motionless Yoroi with his foot and declared Kankurō the winner in the face of his opponent's demise.
As Yoroi's body was dragged off, Kankurō cast an apologetic look up at Hikaru. The blond jōnin just shrugged and drew one finger across his headband before forming a hebi seal.
Kankurō understood what he was saying, "It doesn't matter; he was one of Orochimaru's."
The board flashed and scrolled through names before coming up with two:
Sakura beamed over at Sasuke, "Don't worry Sasuke-kun, I'll impress you with how easily I defeat this bun-haired loser!"
A tic-mark appeared on Tenten's forehead and Kurenai frowned, "Sakura, what have I told you about that?"
Sakura smiled at her sensei, "Don't worry sensei, I just have to get her in my new genjutsu and she's done for! Sasuke-kun will be mine!"
Hikaru bent down, "Do you think she knows you're dating Haku-chan?"
Sasuke sighed, "No… if it were that easy she'd have given up on me already, what will it take?"
For no real reason both looked up at Kurenai. There was a glint of mischief in the woman's eyes. "Nai-chan…" said Hikaru slowly, "Don't do it, please."
Kurenai gave a slightly twisted giggle, "I can't help it; you've rubbed off on me, Hikaru-kun."
Sasuke elbowed his sensei in the gut as Kurenai turned to her pink-haired student in the arena and shouted, "Sakura! If you win this bout I'll set you up on a date with Sasuke!"
Sasuke dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands as everybody standing around was partially deafened by Sakura's squeal. "CHA! I'LL BEAT HER FOR SASUKE-KUN!"
Kurenai leaned over to her blond colleague as he tried to comfort his despairing raven-haired student, "If she loses, you're taking me on a date."
Hikaru stared at her, "And you say I rubbed off on you? I think you're channelling Anko-chan more than me!"
Kurenai simply smiled and turned to face the arena again.
Hayate looked between them, "Are you both ready?"
Tenten nodded, Sakura just smirked, "Just start the match; I'll take down this bitch in one move!"
Hayate nodded and brought down his hand, "Haj- *cough* -ime!"
Tenten brought her weapon scrolls into her hands and swung them through the air, unfurling them as they moved.
Sakura had started flashing through handseals, but instead found a barrage of weapons flying at her before she could react. Using a Kawarimi, she successfully managed to get off a genjutsu and was just about to celebrate when a long chain with a weight on the end swung out from Tenten's body and wrapped around her several times before pulling taut and sending the pinkette crashing to the floor. She managed to roll over in time to hear, "Nighty-night," and see the end of a wooden tonfa approaching her face at high speed before everything went black.
Hayate poked Sakura with the same stick he had poked Yoroi with earlier before saying, "Shōsha, Tenten Takeshi!
The medic-nins carried Sakura off as Hikaru turned to Kurenai, "Tomorrow night alright for you?"
Kurenai beamed, "That'll be great. Thank you, Hikaru-kun. Are we going anywhere special?"
Hikaru shook his head, "I don't think so. After the picnic incident I'm not too keen on going elsewhere for food."
Realizing what he meant, she nodded, "Tomorrow night at your house then?"
Hikaru smiled, "Got it. Now let's watch the next match."
The board flashed, finally coming up with…
Sabaku no Temari
Ino snorted, "I'll do better than the forehead, and then Sasuke-kun will be mine!"
Kurenai smirked, "Ino, I- mmph!" but was interrupted as Hikaru saw Sasuke's panicky look and clapped a hand over the red-eyed jōnin's mouth before she could finish her offer. Sasuke cast him a relieved look.
"Let's not do that again, please." Hikaru whispered into her ear.
Kurenai mmph-ed in consent and Hikaru released her with a gentle sigh.
Ino snorted, "I'll take you out in one move!" She formed the seal for her standard mind jutsu, but Temari swept her fan up and in one movement blasted Ino across the room into the wall.
As soon as the platinum blonde had slid, unconscious, to the foot of the wall, Temari sweatdropped, "Was that it? I expected more."
Hayate walked over and poked the girl. Satisfied that she wasn't getting up, he raised a hand, "Shōsha, Sabaku no Temari!"
The board flashed and finally came up with two names that Hikaru had been hoping he didn't see this time around.
Neji smirked at Hinata before walking down to the arena. Hikaru bent to whisper in Hinata's ear, "Don't be afraid. Remember what I've taught you, use your jutsu as we've drilled and you'll be fine. Remember, this is a fellow Hyūga so you already have the measure of his abilities, and he won't be expecting you to know jutsu outside of the Jyūken."
Hinata gave a shaky nod and received a comforting hug from Naruto before steeling herself and walking down the stairs to the arena.
Hayate glanced between the two fighters for a few seconds before he said, "Hajime!" and jumped back.
Just as he had done back in Hikaru's own time, Neji started off the match by telling Hinata she was worthless and should forfeit at once. Her response was to settle into her custom Jyūken stance and prepare to battle.
Neji made the first move, Hinata's stoic silence setting him off on a rant about her being foolish for attempting to deny her fate and causing him to make the first move. In three seconds Hinata had him pinned face-down on the ground with her sitting on his back, his arms twisted up behind him in one hand and her mashing his face into the floor with the other.
"Who's the failure here?" she said irritably as Neji tried to buck her off his back.
"You are!" hissed Neji.
Hinata twisted his arms a little further and there was a dull pop from Neji's shoulder, "Wrong answer." She flicked her wrist once, sending her sai into her hand. Spinning it in her hand, she slammed the blunt end of the weapon against the back of Neji's neck, knocking him unconscious.
Hayate poked the incapacitated Hyūga before saying, "Shōsha, Hinata Hyūga!"
"Hmm," said Hinata in an surprised tone as she climbed off her cousin and allowed the med-nins to carry him off, "That didn't take anywhere near as long as I thought it would." Shrugging, she returned her sai to its seal and moved up to the balcony again.
Naruto gave her a kiss in congratulations when she arrived, and Hikaru suddenly noticed a slightly envious aura emanating from Tenten, standing nearby with Gai and Lee. A small smirk appeared on his face; Tenten seemed to like his student.
The board started cycling again. All eyes were fixed on it and as the board slowed to a stop there was a cry of, "YOSH!"
"Hmm, this could be interesting; two taijutsu-users facing off against each other," Hikaru commented.
"Indeed," said Kurenai.
"AHHH! MY EYES!" wailed Kiba's voice behind them.
Hikaru turned around and instinctively covered Kurenai's eyes as he beheld the sunset genjutsu surrounding Gai and Lee.
Naruto picked up a stone and skipped it across the water in the genjutsu, "That's really realistic."
Sasuke meanwhile was frantically attempting to dispel the genjutsu, "Kai! Kai kai! Kai kai kai kai kai kai! Dammit why won't it work?"
Hinata had her Byakugan active, "I can't see any chakra threads, what kind of genjutsu is this?"
"GAI!" Hikaru roared at the top of his voice, "DROP THE GENJUTSU THIS SECOND OR I'M DOING TO SHAVE OFF ALL YOUR HAIR WHILE YOU SLEEP AND DYE ALL YOUR SPANDEX NEON PINK, I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING!"
The genjutsu dropped and Gai gave Hikaru a disappointed look, "That is a most unyouthful thing to say, Hikaru-san!"
Hikaru shrugged, "You're holding up the preliminaries; two of my genin haven't fought yet! Now where's Kiba?" He looked down, "Kiba?"
Kiba was lying on the floor, foaming at the mouth and twitching occasionally. Hikaru nudged him with one foot before turning and yelling down to Hayate, "You might want to get the med-nins up here and call the match in Lee's favour; I think Kiba's suffering from an overdose of youth."
Hayate nodded and raised his hand, "Shōsha, Rock Lee!"
Asuma chuckled, "I must admit, I think that's the first time somebody has ever won a fight in the Chūnin Exams without even fighting."
Hikaru grinned, "You know, if we could work out how to do that in combat then we could be an unstoppable force in the Elemental Nations."
Naruto grinned and held his arms out to Hinata, "Hinata-chan!"
"DON'T YOU DARE!" Hikaru roared, leaping over to where Naruto stood and hit him hard on the top of the head.
Hinata held out her own arms, "Naruto-kun!" then she gave Hikaru a puppy-dog look, causing his fist to stop dead a foot above her head.
As his hand dropped back to his side he growled, "I'm your sensei, I'm not supposed to be whipped by my own students!"
The board had cycled while they were talking, so when Kurenai suddenly tugged on Hikaru's sleeve he was momentarily surprised to see Gaara and Misumi Tsurugi standing in the arena. Gaara briefly raised his head to look up at Hikaru. Hikaru made a hebi seal and held it up so that Gaara could see it.
Gaara nodded once and returned to gazing impassively at Misumi.
Misumi made the first move after Hayate started the fight, moving behind Gaara and attempting to wrap his body around the redheaded genin. It didn't work; Gaara's sand shield appeared, wrapping around Misumi and drowning him in sand.
Hikaru watched impassively as Gaara extracted his sand from Misumi's various orifices and picked up the body with the sand, "Where shall I put this?"
Hayate simply stared at the boy for a long moment before he said, "Just… just place it in one of the rooms off the main hall."
Gaara nodded and wandered off to the doors. After he had returned, the board cycled again.
"Hell yeah!" Naruto yelled as he kissed Hinata for luck and hurdled the railing, landing on the ground and scampering over to where Hayate was standing.
Shino moved down to where Hayate stood and waited.
Hayate raised his hand, "Hajime!"
Shino's bugs swarmed from his sleeves, flying at Naruto and latching onto his body. Naruto just looked down, "This should faze me but for some reason it just doesn't."
He cracked his knuckles, "Care for a spar, Shino?"
Shino pushed his glasses up, "Alright then." He dropped into a taijutsu stance. Naruto, still covered in vast amounts of beetles, dropped into his own stance.
Naruto threw the first blow, pivoting sharply on his rear right foot and swinging his left foot up in a spinning kick. Shino blocked with his left forearm and threw a counter-punch with his right fist.
Naruto was able to pull back around and block the strike with his elbow before swinging his other fist around at Shino's head. Shino ducked and threw a crippling snap kick at Naruto's knee. Naruto stepped backwards before leaping into the air and bringing down an axe kick.
Hikaru grinned, "Ahhh, I love that move. I call it "Plunging Heel". The move increases in lethality when chakra is channelled through the leg used to perform the move."
Gai scratched his chin, "Interesting. Did you create that style yourself?"
Hikaru nodded, "Yes, a few years before I came to Konoha. It relies on the ability to be very unpredictable, and having the imagination to improvise on the fly. It isn't really a set style, one time you might use a snap kick followed by a left jab to the eye but the next time you use a flying kick followed by an elbow to the sternum. It's a difficult style to get down but Naruto's very good at it. I call it the Ransūken, or Random Fist."
Gai frowned, "Would you and Naruto-kun consent to another taijutsu match between us?"
Hikaru smiled, "Of course, after the Chūnin Exams. Until the finals I'll be running these three into the ground as hard as I can."
Kurenai smiled, "That is assuming that Naruto wins against Shino and Sasuke wins against his opponent."
Hikaru grinned, "You just wait and see. This battle is almost as good as over."
Shino was becoming steadily more perturbed by the second. After he had dodged Naruto's axe kick (and being relieved he had when it cratered the floor where he had been standing) his hive had started to depart from Naruto's body, glutted with chakra. The blond male hadn't even seemed to notice.
Naruto had indeed not noticed. Sure he had noticed the beetles coming off his body and returning to Shino, but he just assumed that Shino had instructed them to return to him. As he threw a high kick at Shino's head and followed it up with a low sweep that almost took the bug-user's legs from beneath him but was evaded by a timely jump, he began planning for what Hikaru had nicknamed a "finisher".
Shino was highly surprised when Naruto suddenly ducked his next attack and kicked him between the legs. The second he doubled over in pain Naruto turned away from him, crouched and grabbed hold of his neck, bringing Shino's head close against his shoulder.
Hikaru's grin widened; he knew exactly what Naruto was about to do.
Before Shino could do anything but blink, Naruto suddenly kicked his legs out from under him and crashed into a sitting position on the floor. The impact reverberated through Naruto's body and hit Shino full on. His face powered into Naruto's shoulder with the kinetic motion, instantly knocking him unconscious. Naruto let go of him and allowed the unconscious Aburame to slide off his shoulder onto the floor.
(A/N: Most wrestling fans will recognize this move. The first person to correctly identify it will be awarded a cookie. Ace6151 is ineligible to win the cookie because he originally gave me the idea for the finishing move, and provided me with YouTube videos for numerous finishers so that I could take my pick.)
Hayate poked Shino with a stick, getting no response from him, so he raised a hand and said, "Shōsha, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze!"
The medic-nins carried Shino off as Naruto returned to his team on the balcony. "Nice work, kid!" said Hikaru, ruffling his younger self's hair.
Naruto grinned, turning to Sasuke, "Now win your match, or Kami help you you'll never hear the end of it!"
Sasuke smirked, looking up at the board which now read:
Sasuke took up a position in front of Hayate and unsealed his sansetsukon, settling into a taijutsu stance. Further along the balcony Tenten automatically began analyzing him, "Hmm, his stance is a little wider than usual for that weapon, but that only helps lower his centre of gravity so that it's harder to knock him over. Bent knees also contributes to that, and holding his weapon in both hands like that is also wise because it means that he can easily release it into its separate components with haste. You've taught him well, Namikaze-sensei."
Hikaru grinned, "Thanks. It's nice to be complimented on my weapons teachings by a weapons mistress." Tenten smiled, acknowledging the praise as she concentrated on the arena.
Chōji began the fight by enlarging his hand and throwing an open-handed slap at Sasuke, who leapt backwards and began to spin the sansetsukon through an ornate dervish of movements.
"Hmm," pondered Tenten, again analyzing Sasuke's performance, "He's learnt to use that very well. But…" There was a faint gasp of pain from below as one of the blades nicked the outside of Sasuke's leg, causing a reddish stain to begin spreading around his black legwarmer, "…he still has a lot to learn. If you are agreeable, I could ask my tou-san if he'd be willing to give a few pointers after the Chūnin Exams?"
Hikaru smiled, "Thank you, that'd be very nice."
Sasuke cursed as he shifted his leg slightly and winced at the pain. After a second he quickly analyzed his injury. "Let's see, it hurts even to tense my leg so I would assume I nicked the muscle there. Gotta do this without moving if possible." He flicked his wrist, returning his sansetsukon to its seal before grinning at Chōji, "Sorry man, but I'm going to have to cut this short."
Chōji grinned, "You're wounded. I would have the advantage if I wanted it. As it is, you're a better option to get into the finals than I am, so… proctor, I forfeit!"
Sasuke blinked, "What? But, you can't…!"
Chōji grinned, "It's ok, as I said you're a better choice to compete in the finals than I am."
Hayate nodded and raised his hand, "Shōsha, Sasuke Uchiha!"
Chōji helped Sasuke limp over to the medic-nins, who quickly healed him and sent him back up to the stands. Hayate glanced towards the board before saying, "Shikamaru Nara, as the only contestant without an available opponent, will be given a bye straight to the finals."
Shikamaru tutted, "How troublesome."
Hayate coughed wetly before saying, "Will all the victors of their matches please come down into the arena?"
The assortment of genin who had won their matches walked downstairs. Once they were lined up in front of Hayate, he produced a small square box with a number of small pieces of wood in it. "Each of you will take one piece from this container. The numbers on the pieces will decide who you fight in the third phase."
Once all of them had nodded he extended the box to Hinata, who stood at the left end of the line with Naruto on her right. She took a piece, and he moved on to the blond male.
Once everyone had taken a piece of wood he said, "Now read out your numbers."
Hinata started, "Three."
And finally Temari, "Eight."
Hayate nodded before gesturing towards the screen above. It now read:
Match 1: Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze vs. Tenten Takeshi
Match 2: Hinata Hyūga vs. Rock Lee
Match 3: Shikamaru Nara vs. Sabaku no Kankurō
Match 4: Sasuke Uchiha vs. Sabaku no Temari
Match 5: Winner of Match 4 vs. Sabaku no Gaara
Match 6: Winner of Match 1 vs. Winner of Match 2
Match 7: Winner of Match 3 vs. Winner of Match 5
Match 8: Winner of Match 6 vs. Winner of Match 7
"YOSH!" bellowed Lee in a voice that deafened Tenten and Shikamaru, who stood on either side of him, "It looks as though I will be testing my flames of youth against the youthful cousin of my unyouthful teammate! I look forward to testing my youth against you, Hyūga-san!"
Hikaru growled, "Don't inflict your youthfulness on my genin or my threat from earlier still applies, am I clear?"
The pair ignored him, so Hikaru made an irritable huffing noise and returned his attention to Hayate, who coughed and continued with what he was saying, "The third phase will take place a month from now, to allow all the many nobles, daimyos, etc that will be attending the third phase time to arrive in Konoha and get settled in before the tournament. Each of you will use the month to train yourselves for your matches in the third phase. You are dismissed, chūnin will guide you out…" he was cut off as there was a flash of yellow light and the four members of Team Hikaru vanished, "…of the forest."
Hikaru grinned as he and his genin landed in the dining room of the Namikaze house, "Damn, I love that jutsu. Now, all of you sit down."
Once all three were seated Hikaru grinned, "Now, I have already made arrangements for your training this month. I will be out of the village on several errands, but I will leave Kage Bunshin to tutor each of you. You'll also all have other tutors. Naruto, you'll be working with an old friend of mine that I will be finding and beating until he consents to help you for this month. Hinata, you will be working with your father on your Jyūken. Sasuke, you were originally supposed to be having one tutor as well but thanks to the events in the forest, I ended up having to get you another on short notice. First, you'll be having a jōnin by the name of Kakashi Hatake, also known as the Copy-Ninja. He's famous because of a certain asset he keeps behind his headband; an implanted and fully-developed Sharingan, and he will be working on helping you develop your Sharingan."
Sasuke grinned, "Brilliant. Who's the other one?"
Hikaru beamed, "You know that lovely little female I turned up at the start of the second exam with? Anko Mitarashi?"
Sasuke frowned, "Yes… what about her?"
Hikaru smirked, "Back when she was a kid, Anko was the apprentice of the man who attacked you three in the Forest. After a while he marked her with a mark like that that one that Naruto ended up with on his arm before Kyūbi broke it and abandoned her. She's hated him ever since; the mark was a blight on her soul until I destroyed it. He did allow her to sign the snake contract however, which means she is the ideal person to teach you to use what you inadvertently obtained from Orochimaru: the Hebi taijutsu style, your summons… which from your report you seem to have already established a rather friendly rapport with. What you should also know is that usually when it comes to summons, the summoner will usually have one particular snake that they are especially friendly with, their familiar if you will. It'll usually be the first one you actually ever summon."
Sasuke nodded, "I did summon a small snake before Manda made an appearance, but I didn't get his name." Almost as the last word dropped from his lips he vanished in a puff of smoke.
Hikaru smirked, "Damn, I'm good."
Hinata blinked, "Where'd he go?"
Hikaru grinned, "The thing is, summoning contracts like the toads, snakes, etc work both ways. You can summon them, and they can summon you. I would hazard a fair guess that our little Uchiha boy just got reverse summoned."
Hikaru would never know exactly how true his words were. Sasuke had found himself standing on top of a sand dune between a towering cliff-face and a deep ocean. "Wha… where the hell am I?"
"You are on the Hebiyama, the Serpent Mountain," said a muffled voice from out of the sand below his feet, "And to be totally specific, you're standing on my exit from my den. Now shift your feet before I chew them off from below."
Sasuke jumped sideways and overbalanced on the smooth side of the dune, toppling over and rolling down to the sand below. A few seconds later there was a soft sound as a snake emerged from the dune where he had been standing and slithered down to him, moving in a rather unique sideways movement. Finally it reached him and raised its head to look down at him, "So you're the new summoner Manda-sama and Kurotama-hime were talking about, then? You don't look a bit like I expected."
Sasuke pulled himself upright and bent over to empty sand out of his shirt, "I'm not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult."
The snake gave a grin which looked somewhat less friendly than it should have done considering that two fangs each about two inches long were exposed by the movement, "Considering our last summoner? Compliment."
Sasuke nodded, straightening and shaking sand out of one of his gloves, "So what am I doing here?"
"You were summoned," said a rumbling voice behind him, "Because you are our new summoner and must take our mark."
Sasuke turned around to see Manda approaching him. Beyond, he could see the mighty snake boss's tail sliding slowly out of a dark cave at ground level. He swallowed, "Mark?"
Manda nodded, "Indeed. My daughter Kurotama tells me you would make an excellent new Snake Sennin."
Sasuke frowned, "Kurotama? But I've only met one snake before you…"
"…That would be me," said a voice, and Sasuke looked down to see the small black snake he had summoned in the Forest of Death curled up beside his feet. It grinned up at him in exactly the same fashion that the sidewinder had done a few minutes before, "Thanks for looking after him until me and tou-san arrived, Dokusuna-san. You can go now."
The sidewinder nodded its head once, "Very well then, Kurotama-hime. It was my honour. Now I'm going back to sleep. It was nice to meet you, new summoner." It slithered off and burrowed back into the dune.
Sasuke swallowed, "So, you mentioned some kind of mark?"
Manda nodded, "Yes. You see unlike the toads and slugs, which are content with a little blood from their summoners for their summonings, we of the snakes insist on a little more. If you are serious about becoming our summoner, you will carry our mark. If you consent to take our mark, you will have the full backing of the snakes for the rest of your life, until you hand down the scroll to your children."
Sasuke swallowed, "Didn't… didn't Orochimaru take your mark?"
Kurotama, who had by this point slithered up Sasuke's body to his shoulder and draped herself around his neck, stuck her tongue out, "Nope. He opted for our clause that a prospective summoner can choose to do battle with tou-san to win our respect."
Sasuke stared, "That paedophile kicked your ass?"
Manda gave an irritable hiss, "He had a can of pepper spray in his pocket and got me in the face with it so I couldn't see or taste anything well enough to find him. None of the snakes had any respect for him because he pulled that off, ever."
Sasuke winced, "Ouch. So, when do I take this mark?"
Manda gazed down at him, "Right now. Follow me."
Sasuke nodded, but then a thought crossed his mind, "My team will get worried…"
Manda grinned, exposing his three-metre-long fangs, "Already taken care of. Kurotama?"
Kurotama nodded once, "See ya later, Sasuke-nii." The snake vanished in a small puff of smoke.
Back in the Namikaze house, Hikaru jumped as a puff of smoke appeared on the table and a black snake appeared, "Greetings, I am Kurotama, the princess of the snakes and daughter of Manda."
Hikaru leaned forwards, "Where is my genin? Where is Sasuke?"
The small snake nodded to him, "That's why I'm here. He is currently undergoing a rite of initiation with my people. Once it is concluded, he will be returned to you."
Hikaru nodded, sitting down in a chair as Naruto and Hinata entered from Naruto showing Hinata where everything was in their home. "I would like to ask one quick question; I know for a fact that traditionally, summoners have one particular summons they have a special relationship with. Who will Sasuke's be?"
Kurotama nodded, "I understand your question. As I was the first to be summoned by Sasuke-nii, I will most likely be his familiar. I can also say with complete confidence that Sasuke-nii has my tou-san's favour and respect, which our previous summoner never had. We have heard stories of the Uchiha; now they will be famous for having the snakes' favour as well."
Hikaru nodded, satisfied with the explanation, "Alright. However I do want to know how long until I can get my genin back?"
Kurotama inspected the clock on the wall, "Only a little while. The ceremony should only last about thirty minutes."
Kurotama's prediction was fully correct. Half an hour later she suddenly bit her tail and wiped some blood on the table, causing a large puff of smoke. A moment later, it cleared to show Sasuke sitting on the table and rubbing his forearms.
"You alright there, Sasuke?" Hikaru asked.
Sasuke nodded, "Yeah, I'm fine." He rolled up his sleeves, revealing sinuous tattooed snakes wrapping around his arms, inked into the flesh. Kurotama raised her head and straightened up somewhat, "There you go. You are now officially the new Snake Sage. And as summoning tradition dictates, I was the first member of my people that you summoned, so I am therefore to be your personal familiar."
Sasuke nodded before holding out a hand and laying it flat on the table so that Kurotama could crawl up his arm, whereupon she curled around his upper arm and rested her head upon his shoulder.
"So then, sensei…" Sasuke said, flexing his hand as he withdrew it and slipped it into his pocket, "What'll we be doing this month?"
Hikaru rubbed his hands together and gave a terrible grin, "During this month I intend to work you three to the bone. By the time the third phase comes around; you, Hinata and Naruto are going to hate my guts."
An evil cackle issued from the older blond's lips, "Let's begin."
Hikaru's own prediction proved itself to be ever so true; the three genin quickly proved that they utterly hated him after their training began. Hikaru ran them into the ground time and again.
Sasuke had started working on collaborations with Kurotama, who had begun teaching him various snake jutsu with Anko's help. He had also been training with his sansetsukon.
Hinata had been practicing her Jyūken and trying to improve on the capabilities of her Byakugan. She also worked with her sais and was now capable of fighting her father and many of the other Main House Hyūga on even grounds seeing as Hikaru had also impressed on her the fact that honour held no meaning for ninja. That meant that crotch strikes and low blows were perfect weapons for ninja. Oftentimes during these spars, it was common for the Branch Hyūga to turn out en masse to watch Hinata taking on numerous Main House Hyūga and sending them whimpering for the hills.
Naruto had been having the most interesting time. Hikaru had taken him along to the hot springs on the edge of town, where they came across a man with very long white hair who was peeking through a hole in the fence and giggling.
Hikaru had gestured for Naruto to stand very far back while he walked forwards and yelled, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU FILTHY PERVERT?" before shunshining out of range.
One feminine-fury-empowered beating later, Hikaru and Naruto approached the battered pervert to find him lying seemingly half-dead on the ground. "What…" groaned the pervert, rolling over to reveal a face almost unrecognizable due to the large amount of bruising, "…was that for?"
Hikaru bent over and grinned, "I see the years haven't changed you as much as they should have done."
The man frowned, "I don't think I know you…" He looked up and his blackened eyes widened in shock.
Hikaru smiled, "Yes, my cousin told me a great amount about his perverted sensei. I'm honoured to meet you, Jiraiya of the Sannin. I'm Hikaru Namikaze, cousin to Minato Namikaze, Yondaime Hokage and the Yellow Flash of Konoha."
Jiraiya straightened up, "Minato never mentioned you."
Hikaru gave him a blithe smile, "You never asked, did you?"
Jiraiya sighed, "I guess I didn't. Now who's the gaki?"
Hikaru drew Naruto close and ruffled his hair, "This is my second cousin, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze… and my dear cousin's sprog."
Jiraiya frowned, "He's Minato's…"
Hikaru grinned, "Yep. He's my cousin's kid. Which means that unless you want Kushi-chan to kick your ass when you die, it's your job to do right by her and Minato and train Naruto."
Jiraiya snorted, "I have better things to do. Research to do, information on Konoha's enemies to gather and spies to meet." He walked away.
"Alright then, evidently this is going to be like Kakashi. Time to bring out my trump card."
Hikaru raised his voice, "Oh, so you'll just spit on your most precious student's memory, just like that? I expected more from you, Jiraiya. Ever so much more." He slashed one hand towards the ground, "Would the toad sages want you to spit on his memory like that?"
Jiraiya went totally rigid and slowly turned to face the two blonds. An uncharacteristic snarl was on his face, "Watch what you say boy. I am too far out of your league for you to even think about challenging me."
Hikaru grinned, closing his eyes for the briefest second before opening them again. Jiraiya froze, seeing gold irises and bar pupils. "Impossible! He's using Sage Mode to a level I'm not capable of… that nobody has ever achieved before!"
Hikaru smirked, "Still think you're on a level above me? I have all of Minato's skill with both the Hiraishin and the Rasengan, the latter of which I have even completed. I have fully mastered Sage Mode. The only drawback I am currently suffering is that most of my current techniques are far more destructive than I'm given credit for. We could put it to a trial by combat; if I win you train Naruto and if you win I train him alone, but since I don't have the time for that at all I just want to say; allow us both to sign the Toad Contract and I will trouble you no more. I have my own work to do during this month before the third phase, not least of which is I have to set up enough sealing arrays to repel a small-scale invasion, keep an eye out for Orochimaru's tricks and transport the Yondaime Kazekage here using my cousin's jutsu."
Jiraiya frowned, "You can both sign the Toad contract, but then I'm going to leave a Kage Bunshin here with your student to teach him to summon while I have a word with you and my sensei. There are some questions I desperately need answered." He flashed through seals and dropped to one knee, pressing his hand against the floor.
A scroll was quickly produced, Hikaru's and Naruto's signatures were placed within, and it was returned to the toad who carried it. Finally, Jiraiya and Hikaru each created a shadow clone before running from the area to talk to the Hokage.
Back in town, another conversation was talking place. Anko, Yūgao and Kurenai were all sitting in Yūgao's sitting room.
The purple-haired ANBU dropped heavily into her chair as Anko said, "So, why did you need us here, Yū-chan?"
Yūgao leaned forwards, "I needed you here because there's something I need to tell the both of you about Hikaru-kun."
Kurenai leaned forwards, "What? What about Hikaru-kun?"
Yūgao took a breath, "Hikaru-kun isn't actually who we believe he is. He's actually…" she took another breath to steady herself, "He's actually from the future. He ended up back here thanks to some kind of jutsu."
There was a pause and then Anko burst out laughing, "Haa, good one Yū-chan. I didn't really take you for the jokey type though."
Yūgao gave her a long look, "I am not joking, Anko-chan. How do you think he knew about your Curse Mark?"
Anko reflexively clamped a hand over her shoulder where the Mark used to be, "He saw it. That's what he said; my trench coat fell open and he saw it through the mesh!"
Yūgao frowned, "You woke up lying on your back; you told me that. In that position he'd have never seen it unless he knew it was there."
Anko frowned. Her friend was actually right, but she still had her misgivings, "He might have heard about it from the Hokage…"
Yūgao shook her head, "I've been on guard in his office ever since Hikaru-kun made his first appearance; never once have they discussed you since the first time you fought him. On that occasion, he simply said your name, as well as those of Kakashi, Gai, Asuma and Nai-chan. Not once did he mention your mark."
Kurenai frowned, "He said that his cousin had been sending him letters about his life in Konoha though."
Yūgao stared at her, "Why would he specifically write about Anko-chan's Cursed Seal in a letter?"
Kurenai blushed, "I don't know. I just made the suggestion."
Yūgao pushed herself upright in her chair before standing and leaning on the crutch she had been provided with, "You might not believe me, but ask the Hokage, ask my fellow ANBU who helps protect the Hokage; they can both verify his origins."
Anko frowned, "I'd prefer to ask him about this myself."
Yūgao nodded, "He thought you might want to ask this for yourself; I was the one who originally asked if I could tell you since I do not like lying to my friends."
Kurenai smiled, "Thank you, Yū-chan. Very thoughtful of you. Now, shall we discuss our plans for the month?"
Three weeks before the third phase.
Hikaru dropped into a clearing and took a deep breath. He had been travelling north, trying to track down Tsunade Senju. Unfortunately he had no idea where she was, since he only knew where she would be after the invasion.
Straightening up, he suddenly became aware of chakra signatures around him. After a brief pause he drew his katana and said, "I know you're there. There isn't any point in hiding any longer."
Two dozen figures appeared from the trees and bushes, each wearing nondescript ANBU gear and a completely white mask. Hikaru settled into a ready stance, "Am I to understand then, that Danzō has sent you all to dispose of me?"
One of them stepped forwards, "That is correct. We will follow Danzō-sama's orders even if it costs us our lives."
Hikaru raised his katana, "Thus will your lives this mission cost, for I will not fall here and not to any of you."
Twenty-four tantō knives slid from their sheaths as the ROOT settled into ready stances. Hikaru drew a Hiraishin kunai into his other hand, a barely-visible bending of the light for about two feet above the middle point of the weapon showing that a blade of wind chakra was extending from it. Raising the hand holding the kunai, he crooked his index finger, "Bring it."
As one, the ROOT shinobi charged.
Tsunade Senju was a woman known for being a member of the Legendary Sannin, as well as the Slug Princess and "Legendary Sucker", even if now she was only known as an alcoholic gambler. Despite these years of running from her own issues however, her skills had not suffered as much of a decline as most believed them to.
Even so, when she heard Shizune gasp and saw the buildings around her be lit up by a flash of yellow light, her first instinct was that she was dreaming. When she turned around and saw a tall male in a white coat with flame-like patterns along the base, his blond hair swaying gently in the breeze and cerulean eyes sparkling with mirth, her assumption that she was dreaming was almost reaffirmed.
"Y-Yondaime-sama!" stammered Shizune, a blush crossing her face.
Tsunade looked closer, only now noticing the slight differences in this person's face. This person had odd whisker-like marks on his cheeks and his features were more rounded than the Yondaime Hokage. She straightened up and hissed, "Imposter!"
The man sighed, "I really wish people would stop mistaking me for my cousin; it's very annoying."
"Wait…" muttered Shizune, "…Cousin?"
The man smiled and bowed, "It's nice to meet you, Tsunade-sama, Shizune-sama. I am Hikaru Namikaze, cousin of Minato Namikaze and here on behalf of the Sandaime Kazekage."
Tsunade looked puzzled, "Kazekage?"
Hikaru shook his head, "Dammit, I'm getting confused. I meant Hokage."
Tsunade frowned, "I'm not interested in whatever you have to say. I'm done with Konoha; it's a hellhole filled with bad memories." She turned and walked away.
In one movement, Hikaru moved in front of her, "So that's it then? You lost two people you loved and suddenly nobody understands your pain, is that right?"
Tsunade's eyes narrowed; "Don't think you know anything about me."
Hikaru folded his arms, "You want to know pain? Try living my cousin's life! He was hated by the entire village before I turned up. Hell, the night I arrived one of his teachers in the Academy tried to kill him." He smirked, "But that's alright isn't it? After all it isn't like he hasn't ever had anybody in his life before me."
Shizune had covered her mouth, but Tsunade still looked mulish. Hikaru sighed, "Evidently trying to pluck her heartstrings didn't work. Guess I'll have to make a bet with her then."
He smirked, "Tell you what, Tsunade-sama. Let's have a bet. If I win, you return to Konoha. If you win, I give you all of my money and return to Konoha, whereupon I will ask the Hokage to cease sending people to find you."
Tsunade blinked once as Shizune groaned inwardly. She knew that this Namikaze had her sensei on a hook and was reeling her in. "What's the bet then?"
Hikaru's smirk widened, "I bet that you can't drink me under the table."
Tsunade's eyes widened, "You really think you're a better drinker than me, brat? I was drinking before you were born!"
Hikaru smirked, "I'm known for having a titanium liver. Bring it, baa-chan."
Shizune's hands flew to cover her mouth in horror. If there was one thing that must never be done when dealing with Tsunade Senju, it was commenting on her age.
Tsunade gave a hiss of rage before turning, "Very well. Come with me!"
They entered a bar and sat down. Tsunade yelled, "Bartender! Bring your strongest sake, I intend on winning this contest quickly!"
The word "contest" seemed to draw everyone's attention as people gathered around. The bartender approached and set down two saucers and a large bottle of sake.
Hikaru grinned, "If you want to surrender now…"
Tsunade scowled, "Never!"
Hikaru picked up the bottle, only for it to be plucked from his hand by the bartender, who explained, "Here in Otafuku-Gai, drinking contests are an officially recognized form of settling disputes. By the rules neither contestant is allowed to handle the bottle in case they might find a way to sabotage it without sabotaging themselves."
Hikaru nodded and held up the saucer, "Then I'll take first drink."
The bartender poured some sake into the saucer and Hikaru raised the saucer, looking directly into Tsunade's eyes, "To your health, Tsunade-sama," and drained it in one swig.
Two hours later, Tsunade was barely able to sit upright while Hikaru was sitting in his chair with a benign smile on his face, about ten empty sake bottles littering the table in front of him. Most of the people watching their contest were staring at him in shock, unable to believe that he had just drunk enough alcohol to kill any normal person without being reduced to a cadaver (albeit one that needn't be embalmed).
"So," said Hikaru, leaning forwards and giving Tsunade a happy smile, "Surrender yet?"
Tsunade raised her head and gave him a shaky grin, "No! How… how can you be doing this?"
Hikaru laughed, "Lady, I've been kicking ass in drinking contests for years. There's nothing you can do that I cannot do better. Now, by the rules I've just been availed of while I was drinking you under the table, you've lost the contest."
The bartender spoke up, "Technically she hasn't lost until she…" there was a thud behind him as Tsunade fell sideways in her seat and went limp, "…passes out. Never mind."
Hikaru stood up and took a court bow before turning to Shizune, "Would you like me to help carry Tsunade-sama back to her room, Shizu-chan?"
Shizune blushed at the epithet before saying, "Thank you, I need to pick up all our belongings if we are about to return to Konoha."
Hikaru bent down and lifted Tsunade into his arms. She was surprisingly light.
Following Shizune, he left the bar, leaving money for the sake they had drunk on the table and carrying Tsunade in his arms.
Tsunade woke up the next morning with a hangover that felt like somebody had been driving six-inch nails through her head with a hammer. Raising her head and wincing as she did, she saw Shizune bending over her holding a hangover cure.
Taking it and swallowing the contents, she grimaced at the taste before looking up at her apprentice, "What happened last night?"
Shizune frowned, "You lost the bet. I have already packed all our things and was waiting for you to wake before we made a move."
Tsunade frowned, "Where is he?"
Shizune looked towards the door, "Waiting outside. He arrived half an hour ago. You need to shower, dress and otherwise be ready to move in about fifteen minutes."
Tsunade frowned and stood up quietly. Shizune hovered around her, waiting to catch her should she show any sign of having an impaired ability to move in a straight line.
Moving slowly so as not to aggravate her headache; the blonde Sannin moved into the bathroom and began to have her shower.
As soon as Tsunade had showered and changed, she and Shizune met Hikaru outside the hotel where the two women had been staying. Hikaru created a Kage Bunshin and directed Tsunade to climb onto his back while Shizune climbed on the clone's.
Tsunade predictably called him on it, so he explained that to use his Hiraishin effectively he needed to be able to use both hands so he couldn't carry them bridal-style.
Before the woman could shout at him about it any further, he shut her down with one simple sentence, "Alright then, would you prefer to be carried over my shoulder or under my arm?"
Tsunade shut her mouth and climbed onto Hikaru's back. The two identical shinobi crouched slightly before hurling their Hiraishin kunai as far as they could before vanishing.
Two days later.
Tsunade stretched as she stood on the balcony of her room at the front of the Namikaze estate that Hikaru had had set up for her. It had a beautiful view across the village towards the Hokage Monument, which glowed a thick golden hue as the last rays of the sun played over its carven faces.
A sound off to her right drew her attention, and she saw Hikaru Namikaze leaning on the fence looking up at the sky, which was just starting to show stars as the sun sank towards the horizon. He looked oddly pensive as he glanced over to her and said, "This is one of the things I love most about this house. In the mornings and evenings I like to sit here and watch the stars come out in the company of the moon, or the sun rising and bringing a new day."
Tsunade frowned, "You strike me as more a down-to-earth shinobi, not one who sits and watches tiny lights in the sky."
Hikaru laughed, "Even the most down-to-earth shinobi must look skywards at some point. It is the only way to proceed, watching the sky and knowing the only way to go is up."
Tsunade nodded as she leaned backwards herself to see the sky, "So? You mentioned something about an invasion?"
Hikaru nodded and turned to face her directly, "On the day of the Chūnin Exam Finals, Orochimaru intends to lead a force of missing-ninja under the guise of "The Village Hidden in the Sound" into Konoha and raze it to the ground."
Tsunade frowned, "I understand. So what are we doing to stop him?"
Hikaru grinned, "I intend to spring a trap on him. I got to Suna before he did, thinking he could turn our allies against us. I gave them an ultimatum; stick with Konoha and aid us in repelling the invasion, after which we would try to avert some of the problems that have beset Suna lately; or join forces with Orochimaru, and experience the wrath of the Yellow Flash for themselves. They wisely chose the former option, so now we have the Kazekage's backing. There is also the fact that I repaired the seal on his son Gaara, the jinchūriki of the Ichibi no Shukaku. He was very grateful to me when I did that."
Tsunade nodded, "So what's my part in this invasion then? I'm not inclined to believe you wanted me back in the village just because Sarutobi-sensei wanted me here."
Hikaru smiled, "Our med-nins will have enough trouble during the invasion getting injured shinobi to the hospital without having to worry about healing them. If we have you and Shizune in the hospital in combination with our most skilled medic-nin besides you two and a large number of soldier pills, we should be able to keep up with people coming in."
Tsunade nodded, seeing the wisdom in this plan, "What will you be doing?"
Hikaru smirked, "We have reason to believe that Orochimaru intends to perform some form of forbidden jutsu to destroy Konoha. I along with the Hokage and Kazekage will be taking him on in an attempt to stop him using said jutsu."
Tsunade frowned, "Pardon me, but I have my suspicions about you Namikaze-san. Minato-san never mentioned you to me, and neither did his wife. There's also the fact that you have the same markings on your cheeks as his son, and your appearance is far too close to Minato's own for you to be a cousin, since his son's appearance I can understand. I get the feeling that there is something you have not told either me or Shizune, and I am not letting you go until you tell me exactly what that thing is."
Hikaru laughed, "Exactly the attitude I remember!"
Before Tsunade could ask him what he meant he turned to walk back into the room, "Come downstairs and bring Shizune. There's something I need to talk to the pair of you about and at first, it might be hard to believe."
Eleven days before the third phase.
Offence. Defence. Tactics. Poise. These were the words that swirled around Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze's head as he spun through a ferocious spar with his sensei, their separate uses of the Ransūken simultaneously clashing and choreographed.
Hikaru grinned as he spun on his rear foot and threw out his other leg in a swing that would have hit Naruto in the side of the head had he not blocked with his forearm. As soon as his kick was halted Hikaru switched feet, his rear foot rising to strike at Naruto's abdomen even as his other foot dropped to support his weight on the floor.
Naruto leapt backwards to avoid the kick to the sternum, allowing his sensei to press his advantage. Hikaru spun back to a standing position and attacked head-on, driving a barrage of attacks towards Naruto who blocked or dodged them as best he could.
It was to the sight of this scene that Sasuke and Hinata re-entered the clearing, accompanied by the Kage Bunshin that Hikaru had made after seeing that it was Naruto's turn on their daily rota to be taught by him. The two Kage Bunshin exchanged a glance before dispelling, causing a slight deviation in Hikaru's attacks which Naruto took full advantage of as soon as he saw it. So intent was he on regaining the advantage, he didn't notice Hikaru's fist approaching from the right-hand side until it slammed into the blind spot just above his right ear, momentarily stunning him and giving Hikaru the opportunity he needed to sweep the boy's legs from under him and bodyslam him on the ground.
"You did well today, Naruto," said Hikaru as he dragged the smaller blond back to his feet, "But you still need to work a little. You did excellently in taking advantage of the distraction caused by my Kage Bunshin dispelling, but after I recovered you had already concentrated too hard on trying to take me down and thus did not notice my final attack coming from the side. Constant vigilance, remember?"
Naruto nodded and spat a little bit of blood onto the floor.
"So," said Hikaru, once Naruto had indicated that the tooth Hikaru had broken earlier with a savage spinning kick had repaired itself thanks to Kyūbi, "What did you two learn today?" He had of course received the memories from the clones, but preferred to hear it from the horse's mouth.
Sasuke smirked, producing his sansetsukon and spinning it around his head. There was an audible thwack as one of the ends detached and hit him in the back of the head, causing everybody else to howl with laughter.
"Anyway," said Hikaru once Hinata had healed Sasuke's head wound received from the impact, "Since it's just over a week until the third phase, we can start winding down a little from our previous schedule… There's no need to look so relieved. I wasn't that hard on you."
Sasuke gave him a sardonic look, "Sensei, I don't think I've ever seen the three of us bleed as much as we have been these past three weeks at any point. Hell, I don't think I've seen anybody bleed as much as we've done over the last three weeks. At this point I wouldn't be surprised to find out you've been drilling us harder than Gai-sensei does."
Hikaru grinned, "That's because I just have to threaten you three with the sunset genjutsu to get you to work, whereas his students have become used to it."
He sat down against a tree-trunk, "Now, you three will be training exclusively with my Kage Bunshin for the next four days, since I have to leave the village again."
Hinata frowned, "Hikaru-sensei?"
Hikaru looked down at the pale-eyed girl, "Yes, Hinata?"
She bit her lip, "You seem to have been leaving the village a lot lately. Then there's all those meetings with the Hokage you keep going to, and I'm sure that my father has become somewhat secretive of late. I'm wondering if there's something you aren't telling us…"
Hikaru sighed, "I knew I couldn't hide it from you three forever. Come back to the Namikaze house, there's something important I need to share with you."
He held out an arm to the genin, who caught hold. He closed his eyes and the four of them vanished.
They landed in the dining room of the Namikaze estate and quickly sat down around the table. Hikaru cleared his throat, "Let me start by explaining an interesting little tale to you…"
The next day.
The Kazekage and his guards were standing by the gates of Suna when a kunai shot out of the air and landed in front of them, a yellow flash heralding the arrival of Hikaru Namikaze a split second later, "Greetings, Kazekage-sama."
"Namikaze-sama," said the Kazekage, "I assume you are here to escort me to Konoha then?"
At Hikaru's nod he said, "Very well. Shall we set off?"
Hikaru nodded, creating three clones to escort the Kazekage and his guards while he drew three extra Hiraishin kunai into his hands and prepared to hurl them out of the gates.
As soon as the three clones had a firm grip on their charges, Hikaru drew back his hands and threw the kunai as hard as he could.
Hikaru's suspicions about Orochimaru ambushing the Kazekage proved correct as they were approaching the border between Hi no Kuni and Kaze no Kuni. A subtle burst of chakra off to one side drew his attention and he substituted with the clone carrying one of the Kazekage's guards along with its charge before drawing his katana and settling into a blocking stance. Tiny bullets made of bone pinged off the metal.
"Kukukuku, most impressive reflexes…"
Hikaru raised the katana so that his eyes were level with the blade as he glared at the two people standing nearby, one of them with his hands still raised from his jutsu, "Orochimaru and a member of the Kaguya clan. I assume you are here for the Kazekage."
Orochimaru smiled unpleasantly, "Correct."
"Then understand that my task here is to escort the Kazekage safely to Konoha. I will not allow you to harm him."
Orochimaru chuckled, "Against Kimimaro here, you may not have that option available."
Hikaru smirked, "We'll see. Boys, take the Kazekage and his guards to Konoha. I'll hold these two right here."
The clones nodded and shot off with their charges as Hikaru took his left hand off his katana and drew a Hiraishin kunai into his hand.
He smiled at Kimimaro, "I've heard of your "Dance of the Camellia" and whatnot. Care to demonstrate?"
Kimimaro frowned, stepping forwards and creating a bone sword from his forearm, "I will defeat this trash in your name, Orochimaru-sama."
Orochimaru nodded, "You do that, Kimimaro. I will take down the Kazekage."
Hikaru chuckled, "Good luck with that. Just because they're Kage Bunshin doesn't mean they aren't as good as me!"
Hikaru turned his attention back to Kimimaro, "Ready, Kaguya?"
He threw the kunai… and vanished.
Five minutes later.
Orochimaru sprinted after the clones, desperate to get to them before they could reach Konoha. Thankfully they seemed to have stopped using the Hiraishin, though he was still hard-pressed to keep up with them even when they were just using shunshin.
Behind him he heard a deafening explosion and saw something fly past him and hit a tree twenty feet in front of him and off to his right. As it came back to its feet it was revealed to be Kimimaro, looking somewhat blackened and singed as he produced another sword from his forearm and went back to the way he'd come.
"That was odd," thought Orochimaru as he returned to the chase, "I don't recall ever seeing such a smile on Kimimaro's face before."
Five minutes before.
"Tell me, Kimimaro…" said Hikaru cheerfully as he blocked Kimimaro's swipe with his own weapon, "…Why are you so fanatical about serving Orochimaru?"
Kimimaro scowled as his fifteenth attempt to strike the blond down was thwarted, "Don't believe you can understand what drives me, trash."
Hikaru frowned as he blocked another stab and took a swipe of his own which Kimimaro dodged, "Oh, ok. Because I just wanted you to know… I know you're dying of your lung disease. I know your friend Jūgo has that weird dark part of his personality which tries to kill everything in the vicinity despite his being very gentle normally. I know a lot about the both of you, and I know what I can do to deal with it."
Kimimaro stopped dead in the middle of a flurry of attacks and stared at him, "Excuse me?"
Hikaru pointed at the mark on Kimimaro's breastbone, "I can break that. Tsunade of the Sannin is in Konoha, and she can help come up with a remedy for your lung illness. Hell, I can even put a seal on Jūgo which allows him to either control or entirely suppress the dark part of his personality. All I want to know is are there any people in Orochimaru's base that you really care about?"
Kimimaro stared at him, "…What in blazes are you talking about?"
Hikaru grinned, "Well, my genin team caught a girl by the name of Kin Tsuchi in the Forest of Death, and she named you as being the only male in Oto who ever treated her with any respect at all during my initial questioning of her. When I asked her if she had anybody in Oto she wanted me to get out for her, she named only three people. Two twins named Tayuya and Karin, and you."
Kimimaro blinked, "What?"
Hikaru nodded, "Kin asked that I try to get you out as well. If I have to get Jūgo out; and I will because I know that he doesn't like fighting in any way, shape or form; in order to fulfil that promise to Kin, I will do it."
Kimimaro stared at him for a long minute before his shoulders slumped slightly and he held up the sword which shrank back into his forearm. "I submit, do what you need to do."
Hikaru produced fūinjutsu supplies and began making a seal tag using the design he had initially used on Anko's own Cursed Seal. Once it was done, he slapped it on Kimimaro's body and flashed through a few seals.
Kimimaro gave a grunt of pain before Hikaru ripped off the seal tag again, revealing flawless skin no longer marred by the mark that had previously adorned it. Kimimaro cracked his neck, "Oh, that's a weight off my mind. Thanks!"
Hikaru gave an evil grin as he said, "Anyway, I think you should make a layer of bone under your skin now."
Kimimaro looked puzzled, "Why?"
Hikaru's evil grin widened as he created a Kage Bunshin and dispelled it again, "Well we still need to make it sound good, so Orochimaru suspects nothing. After we've fought a little more, double around the side to Konoha while I go to fight Orochimaru to delay him. My clones won't attack you."
Kimimaro gulped at the evil smirk and wisely created the bone layer, only for a soft hiss to draw his attention. As he looked down and saw an exploding tag burning down on his chest he muttered, "Shit."
There was an explosion, and Kimimaro caught a glimpse of Orochimaru as he was flung backwards into a tree.
Producing a sword from his forearm, he permitted himself a single grin before drawing a sword from his forearm and heading back towards Hikaru.
Orochimaru was just closing with the Kage Bunshin escorting the Kazekage when there was a flash right in front of him and Hikaru Namikaze stepped out of the air and gave him an unpleasant smile, "Enjoying yourself, Roachy?"
Ignoring the epithet, Orochimaru bared his prominent canines, "You again! Where's Kimimaro?"
Hikaru drew his katana, "Right now? I'd think he's lying on the forest floor bleeding out through a slice in his neck."
Orochimaru's eyes widened, "Impossible! The Shikotsumyaku cannot be beaten by any normal shinobi!"
Hikaru spun a Hiraishin kunai around his finger before flipping it into his free hand, "Son, I'm Hikaru Namikaze… savvy?"
Hikaru's Kage Bunshin were just starting to see the walls of Konoha above the trees when a figure appeared out of the trees ahead of them.
The clone on point stopped and said, "So you're the one who changed sides then?"
Kimimaro nodded, "Yes."
The clone nodded, "Alright, you will place yourself under our authority until we reach Konoha, is that clear?"
Kimimaro nodded and took up position walking in front of them as they proceeded back towards Konoha a little slower.
Hikaru blocked a swing of Orochimaru's Kusanagi, leaping backwards as he raised a hand and yelled, "Fūton: Kaze no Yaiba!"
Orochimaru weaved away from the wind blade as it shot past him and bisected a tree, causing the trunk to topple onto the floor with a crash.
Hikaru's mind was working fifteen to the dozen processing the battle as they exchanged blows, "This weapon he's using… I remember from last time it was the Kusanagi, the Grass-Cutter characteristic to the Snake Sannin. That he still has it must mean that there's something like the scroll toads of Mt. Myōboku; the creature in question dwells within the body of its contractor. I need to get that snake out… unless it can be reverse summoned back to the Hebiyama…"
Almost as if Hikaru's thoughts were prophetic, back on the Hebiyama, Manda was reviewing the attendance scrolls following the coronation of Sasuke Uchiha as the newest Snake Sage.
"Hmm…" he muttered, scrutinizing one particular name, "It looks as though Hebiken is still out there… we'll need to summon him back for a debrief before sending him out to the current Snake Sage."
Hitting his tail against the floor, he activated the reverse summoning.
Orochimaru was just moving to block Hikaru's next stab when the Kusanagi suddenly vanished from his hand. Its movement thus unimpeded, Hikaru's katana sank deep into Orochimaru's shoulder.
Orochimaru cursed as he leapt backwards and pressed a hand over his shoulder. Hikaru simply flicked the blood from his blade and sheathed it, "As much as I dislike you Roachy, I'm in no mood to attack an unarmed man with a sword. Therefore I'm going to do this…"
He flashed through seals and pressed his hands to the ground, "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
Two plumes of chakra smoke on his shoulders heralded the appearance of the Toad Sages. "What… who are you?" said Fukasaku when he saw Hikaru, "I don't recognize you…"
Hikaru grinned, "Nice to see you too, Geezer Toad, but right now I don't actually have the time to explain who I am or where I come from. After I kick this guy's ass, I'll explain everything alright?"
Fukasaku didn't respond, but he did mutter something like, "When I catch up with Jiraiya-boy he's going to get it for this…" as he placed his hands together to fuse onto Hikaru's shoulders with Shima, who cast Hikaru a curious look before doing the same herself.
Hikaru closed his eyes for a brief second before reopening them and grinning across at Orochimaru, who suppressed the urge to gulp as he saw gold irises, bar pupils and orange pigment around the eyes. It was a look which he had seen numerous times during the last war, and one that he harboured no small amount of fear of even though Jiraiya's version was incomplete. From what he had learned back when he still worked with his ex-teammates, this was what the complete version of Sage Mode was supposed to look like.
Hikaru chuckled, "I feel pretty good now, Roachy. Care to give it a go?"
Orochimaru swallowed, but settled into his Hebi stance as Hikaru dropped into the stance for the Frog kata and prepared to attack.
The Kage Bunshin were almost within sight of the gates, so they let the Kazekage and his guards down so they could walk into the village themselves. Two of the clones escorted Kimimaro away to the T&I Division where he could be questioned about Orochimaru's resources and another clone headed off to the hospital to find Tsunade. The rest of the clones started to escort the Kazekage towards the Hokage's office.
Orochimaru swore as he dodged another powerful punch from Hikaru yet still received a sharp blow to the sternum which knocked the wind out of him.
As he somersaulted away from the attack and threw some kunai in an attempt to buy some time, he saw two Kage Bunshin appear seamlessly on either side of the Namikaze as the original raised one hand above his head and formed a Rasengan.
Orochimaru's eyes widened comically as the Rasengan suddenly expanded and formed revolving blades like a shuriken, a deafening screeching howl filling the air even as Hikaru dispelled the clones and drew the huge chakra shuriken backwards, "I applaud you on making me use my ultimate jutsu, Orochimaru. Let this be the final jutsu you ever see… Fūton: Rasenshuriken!"
Orochimaru was forced to leap into the air as the Rasenshuriken flew under him and exploded in the distance, taking out a massive ring of trees.
As Orochimaru turned and began flashing through seals, he suddenly noticed that Hikaru was looking towards Konoha and not even paying attention to him.
After a second, Hikaru turned back to him and said, "Sorry, Roachy, but I'm gonna have to cut this short. The Kazekage just got to Konoha and I'm needed over there, so ta-ta for now!"
Before Orochimaru could respond, Hikaru vanished.
Orochimaru continued to stare at the spot where Hikaru had been standing for a full minute before it occurred to him that the blond had just tossed a spanner into the works of yet another plan. His reaction to this was thus rather understandable.
"DAMN YOU, HIKARU NAMIKAZEEEEEEEEEEE!"
Hikaru dropped out of the Hiraishin next to one of his clones, who grinned and dispelled as the blond Namikaze straightened up. Fukasaku drew his attention by tweaking his ear, "Now that we're out of there, I want an explanation!"
Hikaru smirked and moved into another Hiraishin which dropped him in the Namikaze household's dining room. As he dropped into a chair and the toads leapt off his shoulders onto the table, Fukasaku said, "Right, now I want my explanation."
Hikaru leaned back in his chair, "Alright, this all started ten years ago…"
The next day.
Naruto, Hinata and Sasuke arrived on their training ground the next day to find Hikaru sleeping under a tree. Naruto moved to poke Hikaru, with his toes, only to have his foot grabbed and twisted, sending the smaller blond crashing nose-down into the dirt.
"Nice try," grunted Hikaru as he raised his head and opened his eyes, "But you'll have to try so much harder than that to pull anything on me, Naruto-nii."
Naruto rolled over and pulled himself up as Hikaru also climbed to his feet and smirked at them, "My mission was completed without a hitch, and I shouldn't have to leave again until the Chūnin Exams officially take off. That means I still get to work you three to the bone over the next week and two days."
Their looks of dismay drew a chuckle before Hikaru waved a hand and said, "Relax, I was actually going to let you lot rest for a bit. After all what with the invasion coming up you're going to need all the power you can get."
Naruto opened his mouth to reply, but then a puff of smoke went up next to them and Kurotama appeared with another snake patterned with emerald green diamonds down its back, "Hey Sasuke-nii. Got someone for you to meet here…"
Sasuke sat down and crossed his legs, "Okay…"
Kurotama jabbed her tail at the snake by her side, "This is Hebiken, the keeper of the Grass-Cutter, the Kusanagi."
Hikaru interrupted, "Oh, so that's what happened during my fight with Orochimaru the other day… You guys summoned him back, didn't you?"
Kurotama bobbed her head in a passable attempt at a nod, "Yeah, tou-san discovered that Hebiken was still with the last Snake Sage despite his lack of the contract so he summoned him back. Did we really summon him in the middle of a fight?"
At Hikaru's nod she gave a hissing laugh, "Serves him right! Did you hurt him badly?"
Hikaru grinned, "A little."
Kurotama bobbed her head again, "Anyway, as the new Snake Sage you need to have the Kusanagi, Sasuke-nii."
Sasuke swallowed, "Right…"
Kurotama grinned, "Don't worry, you don't have to carry it like he did since I'm sure you value your gag reflex."
Sasuke went visibly pale as Hebiken shuddered, "Please do not remind me of that, Kurotama-hime. I had to shed four skins before I felt clean again."
Hikaru had to sit down and lean back against the tree because he was laughing so hard at the expression on Sasuke's face.
Kurotama continued, "Anyway, since Hebiken keeps the Kusanagi in his stomach all he needs to do is wrap around your wrist and he can immediately place the Kusanagi into your hand."
"Only one problem…" said Sasuke quietly, glancing over at Hikaru with a guilty look on his face, "…I can't use a sword."
Hikaru's face fell into a grim expression; he knew exactly what was eating Sasuke. After his explanation of his past and true origins, Sasuke had spent the rest of the evening on a guilt trip over the pain "he" had caused his sensei back in his sensei's own time.
Hikaru frowned, "It's ok Sasuke. You're not him and you never will be."
Kurotama looked puzzled (if that's possible for a snake), "Sorry? Not who?"
Thinking on his feet, Hikaru replied, "His brother. Killed their entire clan in one night; I think Sasuke's worried that he might flip out and do something similar."
Kurotama blinked up at Sasuke for a few moments before she nodded once, "You need not use the Kusanagi if you do not wish to, but we of the Hebi tribe would like you to carry it all the same. We cannot have you being disarmed of your sansetsukon and finding yourself defenceless, can we?"
Sasuke nodded, "I guess not, but…"
Whatever Sasuke was intending to say was drowned out by an angry shout of, "SASUKE!"
The four members of Team Hikaru and the two snakes whirled around to see Haku striding onto the training ground looking utterly livid.
"Er, Sasuke?" said Hikaru as the ice-user approached like a lioness stalking her prey, "Did you actually go see Haku like I asked you to during the month?"
Sasuke gulped, "No… I was so busy training I forgot…"
Hikaru grinned nervously, "Well, it's your problem then… I'll just escort Naruto and Hinata home…" He took two steps only for his feet to suddenly freeze to the ground.
Looking up, he suppressed a gulp as he saw Haku's brown eyes glittering at him with malice, "Were you working Sasuke-kun so hard he couldn't come and see me? Or did you forget to remind him to come and visit?"
Naruto and Hinata couldn't remember ever seeing their sensei quaking like a little girl, but somehow Haku managed to make him do it as Sasuke's own feet also suddenly froze to the ground.
"Hey, Hikaru-nii?" said Naruto.
"Yeah?" Hikaru responded.
"Catch you later; I'm going to go take Hinata-chan on a date."
"Traitor!" Hikaru yelled as his younger self caught hold of Hinata's arm and shunshined out of the clearing.
Haku gave an evil smile as she formed some senbon between her fingers and drew back her arm to throw.
Half an hour later, Sasuke was looking down at the twitching form of his sensei, who lay on the ground riddled with ice senbon.
Haku approached and hugged his arm, "Now will you take me on a date, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke nodded, momentarily too frightened of the girl to speak, as she towed him away towards the village.
It was another fifteen minutes before Hikaru was able to summon the presence of mind to feel for the Hiraishin seal he had placed in the dining room of the Namikaze estate and activate the jutsu to carry him home.
Training the next day was uneventful, though Sasuke and Naruto seemed incapable of stopping themselves smiling, and Hinata was whistling cheerfully as she ran through her Jyūken.
Hikaru seemed abnormally twitchy, and when Hinata threw a senbon past him he ran to hide behind a tree,
Finally they called it a day, and were heading back to Konoha when from behind them they heard a voice say, "That's strange, I thought the Yondaime Hokage died…"
Hikaru turned to see a series of figures a few feet behind them, and was startled to notice that he recognized a lot of them.
First was the most obvious, a towering muscle-bound man with dark skin and white hair, beard and moustache, wearing white and yellow robes with the kanji for lightning on the hat. Hikaru knew this was A, the Raikage.
He smiled and bowed, "My apologies, Raikage-sama, but you have mistaken me for someone else. My name is Hikaru Namikaze, the Yondaime's cousin."
A nodded, "I see. Anyway, I am here to see the third phase of the Chūnin Exams…"
Hikaru nodded, "I see. If you will permit me, I will escort you to the Hokage's office. Your companions are…?"
A turned to his bodyguards, "My tag-team partner and brother, Killer Bee… his team comprising Samui Nii, Karui and Omoi Yotsuki, and Samui's sister Yugito."
Hikaru nodded once to Bee, smiled at the trio standing behind Bee, and finally locked eyes with Yugito.
As he stared into the dark slanted eyes, a memory rose to the forefront of his mind…
Naruto rolled out of the way of a plume of fire from the female jinchūriki he was fighting and flung a kunai at her, which she dodged.
As she turned to attack again Naruto kicked off the ground and slammed both his feet into her sternum, knocking her on her back. Before she could move to get up he pounced on her and pinned her hands down on either side of her head, "Let's get rid of that tag, lady…"
He created a sealless clone, which made a Rasengan and slammed it into the jinchūriki's head. The control seal destroyed, her head reformed and she blinked up at him, "Why are you lying on top of me?"
Her voice was musical, with a faint purr to it that drew Naruto's attention easily.
"Kabuto," muttered Naruto, "resurrected you and put a control seal on you which made you want to follow his orders. The reason I'm sitting on you is to stop you frying me with one of those fire jutsu before I could destroy the control seal in your head."
The girl nodded, "Right… can you let me up?"
Naruto got off her and allowed her to stand before saying, "Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, jinchūriki of the Kyūbi."
The girl smiled and took his hand, "Yugito Nii, jinchūriki of the Nibi. Well… former jinchūriki… I really hate those two immortal guys."
Naruto smirked, "Hidan and Kakuzu? I killed Kakuzu a couple of years back and Hidan died about the same time, my friend Shikamaru dealt with him."
Yugito's eyebrows went up, "Oh? I'll have to thank him."
Naruto's smile vanished, "He was killed last week. Ambush by the guy in charge of Akatsuki."
Yugito frowned, "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
Naruto shrugged, "It's okay. Losing Hinata-chan towards the start of the war sort of inured me to it…"
Yugito's frown deepened, "Hinata-chan?"
Naruto shook his head, "I don't want to talk about it, please."
Yugito nodded, before she looked around, "I think we should get out of here. This building's going to come down in a few seconds."
Naruto nodded and caught her arm as he shunshined them out of the building, the roar of collapsing materials ringing in their ears as the structure gave in to the call of gravity and caved in upon itself.
Hikaru blinked momentarily, before another memory surfaced…
They were on the battlefield, fighting Kabuto a month later. In that time he and Yugito had got to know each other very well, and the pain he felt from Hinata's death had started to fade as a prospective romance began to show its colours like a shaft of sunlight breaking through storm clouds so thick that it was like night.
Kabuto grinned maliciously as he laid eyes on Yugito, "Well, well, one of my own summons, returned to life! Have you been enjoying her, Naruto-kun? Well I do believe that you've had long enough together now so… Kai!"
Yugito suddenly staggered, pressing a hand to her head as something like dust and ash began to fall from her body. A split second later she collapsed, Naruto catching her as she coughed, more ash pouring from her body as she whispered, "Na… Naru… Naruto… -kun…"
"No…" whispered Naruto, tears springing to his eyes as yet another person who could have understood the pain he felt all his life died in front of him with him helpless to do anything.
Yugito raised a hand shedding ash with every inch it moved and stroked his whiskered cheek, "Thank you, Naruto-kun… it was nice to know someone who really understood me before I died again…"
Tears formed in Naruto's eyes, "Yugito…"
She closed her eyes and the last of the ash crumbled away, leaving only an unfamiliar shinobi in his arms.
Naruto whispered, "No…" before dropping the shinobi and allowing golden chakra to light up all across his body as he flung himself on Kabuto and surrendered to the Kyūbi's bloodlust.
Hikaru blinked a single tear away before he suddenly recalled a third memory…
Naruto came back to his senses a long time later, lying on his back on the ground. As he raised his head and looked around, his eyes widened slightly.
He was lying in the midst of a field of utter carnage. Blood was sprayed everywhere, interspersed with occasional patches where white scales added some little colour to the sanguine ground. Lying nearby, his eyes stabbed out and mouth wrenched so far open that his chin was practically touching the nape of his neck, lay Kabuto's head.
Naruto simply stared at it in shock before he felt his gorge rising and vomited at what he knew he had done. The body of the shinobi Kabuto had used to resurrect Yugito lay nearby, on the only clean area of ground left within what looked to be a twenty five metre radius circle of vitae-soaked earth.
Naruto gazed at the shinobi's empty eyes for a long moment before he closed his eyes and broke down completely, tears splashing onto the bloody dirt as yet another fount of pain welled up in Naruto's chest at loss of yet another person who he knew could have been the one for him; the one who could understand.
Hikaru broke eye-contact with Yugito and took a deep breath to steady himself before he smiled, "Charmed, Yugito-san."
Yugito gave him a curious look before nodding, "Likewise, Namikaze-san."
Hikaru smiled before turning to the Raikage, "If you'll follow me, Raikage-sama, I will escort you to the Hokage's office."
A rather emotionless voice spoke up at that moment from behind the Raikage's party, "May we follow as well?"
Hikaru looked around the group to see who had spoken and was startled by what he saw; a man in Kage robes just like A's, except the yellow parts were blue and the hat was adorned with the kanji for water.
Yagura… the Yondaime Mizukage, and jinchūriki of the Sanbi no Kyōdaigame.
Hikaru recovered quickly, "Sorry, Mizukage-sama but one Kage turning up at our gates is enough of a coincidence. I hope you do not mind a quick scan to verify that you are who you claim?"
Yagura simply nodded, so Hikaru nudged Hinata and she activated her Byakugan.
A few seconds passed while she scrutinized each individual person in the vicinity before she turned to Hikaru and said, "I see no evidence of henges on any of them. The only thing I saw out of place was a chakra signature around the Mizukage's brain, which I think is a genjutsu…"
Hikaru nodded and approached the Mizukage, "Mizukage-sama, I believe there is some kind of genjutsu on your mind and if you would be so kind as to sit down I will break it for you."
Yagura didn't respond, but Hikaru caught a brief flash of something in his eyes as he signalled Izumo and Kotetsu, watching from the booth by the gate, that he might require assistance at any moment.
Yagura slowly removed his hat… then whipped the odd hook-blade on his back over his head and brought it down on Hikaru, who was barely able to draw his katana to stop it.
In the second that it took the two Kiri shinobi to draw their weapons as well, four other people moved.
One of the Kiri shinobi was just bringing his katana around when he suddenly went rigid and collapsed, Hinata standing over him with her Byakugan active and fingers glowing with chakra, having just sealed off most of the tenketsu in the man's body.
At the same time his friend was tackled by a blonde-haired jinchūriki woman who rolled him over and twisted his arms behind his back, making sure to keep his hands apart so that he couldn't perform jutsu.
Yagura himself was disarmed and tackled by A and Bee, who pinned him down as A said, "Break it, now!"
Hikaru swiftly slapped a seal tag on Yagura's forehead and began writing at top speed, using his other hand to hold down the man's head. Finally he withdrew his hand and flashed through seals, "Kai!"
Almost immediately, Yagura's eyes cleared and he stopped struggling. "Why am I lying on the ground?"
Hikaru bowed, "My apologies, Mizukage-sama, but you had a genjutsu on your mind which caused you to attack when I suggested I remove it, so Raikage-sama and his bodyguard were kind enough to restrain you long enough for me to neutralize the genjutsu. Thank you, Raikage-sama and Bee-san."
Bee grinned and jumped up, "Hey, it's him you should be smacking, since it was you he was attacking!"
Hikaru suppressed a sudden urge for his eye to twitch, and silently resolved to make sure that this man never met Gai and Lee. Kami only knew what might occur if they did.
Far above, an unspeakably perfect woman suddenly stopped in the middle of her conversation with a tall blond man and shuddered, prompting him to ask what was wrong.
Shaking off the feeling, she returned to the conversation.
Yagura had stood up as soon as A and Bee let him go, but he stumbled almost immediately, only for Hikaru to catch his arm, "You'll feel a little faint for a while since your mind had become accustomed to the genjutsu, so I wouldn't exert yourself too much."
Yagura nodded before he blinked and said, "It seems I am in your debt, Namikaze-san."
Hikaru frowned, "Why?"
Yagura nodded more to himself than Hikaru, "When I return to my own country, I will need to do a lot of work to rectify what that genjutsu did to me…" He noticed the Kiri shinobi who had been hit with Jyūken pointing his katana at Hinata, "What in Kami's name are you doing?"
The Kiri shinobi looked puzzled, "…She has a bloodline, sir. Didn't you declare all bloodlines…?"
Yagura's eyes narrowed, "When we return to Kiri, you are getting demoted. That whole anti-bloodline crap was the product of the genjutsu on me, and I refuse to let it continue. I will need to attempt to make peace with the resistance as well, before my country plunges even further into civil war."
Hikaru raised a hand, "Mizukage-sama, I do not mean to tell you your business but would the easiest way to repair relations with the resistance be to step down and allow their leader to take the seat of Mizukage? You can still implement the changes in your country from an advisory capacity, and since I believe your people would be disinclined to believe that the "anti-bloodline" Yondaime Mizukage has reformed, placing a new Mizukage in charge would be the best possible solution."
Yagura scrutinized him, "Have you done this before?"
Hikaru gave him a benevolent smile, "No. I have simply been travelling for a long time before I returned to Konoha, and I know that the leader of the resistance is a woman named Mei Terumī, who has two bloodlines and thus would be the perfect face for change in your country. A woman such as her, who won the hearts and minds of a portion of the people for her cause, would be perfect for the position."
Yagura nodded, "I see. It is something to consider for when I return to Kiri, but now may I see the Hokage?"
Hikaru nodded, "Of course! Right this way Mizukage-sama, Raikage-sama."
He set off down the road, grinning at Izumo and Kotetsu on the way past.
Behind him, a pair of dark, slanted eyes was fixed on his back, catlike curiosity sparkling in their depths.
Yugito couldn't sleep. Ever since the first time she had met Hikaru Namikaze she had been curious about him. It was like he had been lost in memories the first time he saw her, and she was sure she had seen a tear in his eye as he looked away.
Giving up, she wrote a quick note saying where she'd gone and climbed out of the window, taking a moment to look at the ANBU standing in front of her on the lawn when she landed, "I would like to speak with Hikaru Namikaze, if that is alright. Can you tell me where he lives?"
Behind the dragon mask, one of Tenzō's eyebrows went up. "It's seriously not enough that he has my co-worker, one of his fellow jōnin-sensei and a member of the T&I liking him, but he seriously has foreign kunoichi after him too? I might as well take her over there; he can defend himself well enough if he needs to."
Out loud he said, "Of course. It's this way."
Tenzō summoned another ANBU to take his place before he led Yugito through the village, keeping a close eye on her just in case. Finally they stopped outside a large building and Tenzō nodded at it, "There."
Yugito nodded and moved towards the door, but before she could knock she heard a voice say, "I'm over here."
Turning, she saw a mess of blond hair through the long grass. Allowing herself a small smile, she stepped over to where Hikaru lay and sat down beside him, "Hello."
Hikaru turned his head to look at her, "Hello, Yugito-san."
Yugito gazed up at the starlit sky for a second before she said, "Why?"
Hikaru cracked one eye open, "Why what?"
Yugito looked down at the single blue eye she could see, "Why did you react like you did when I met you? You seemed to be lost in memories, then seemed to be trying not to cry when you looked away. Hell, I'm sure I saw a tear…"
Hikaru sighed, "Years ago, I fell in love with a girl. She wasn't even real; she was the resurrected spirit of somebody I'd never met, being controlled by an evil man who had it out for me. I broke his hold on her, but just as our relationship was getting off the ground he killed her."
Yugito looked puzzled, "But what does that have to do with me?"
Hikaru turned his head to look at her, "Because she looked almost exactly like you. When I saw you, I saw her, and those memories came back. That's why I had such a reaction."
Yugito gazed down at him for a moment before she nodded, "I see. Well that's all I really wanted to ask so goodnight."
She stood up, smiled down at him and walked off through the gate and down the street with Tenzō following quietly behind her.
Hikaru's eyes followed her until she was swallowed by the darkness, before his gaze returned to contemplating the heavens.
The day of the third phase dawned bright and warm. Hikaru woke Naruto and walked with him over to the Hyūga compound to collect Hinata before they headed on to the Uchiha compound. They were puzzled to find Sasuke gone, at least until Naruto found a note which said that Kakashi had taken him off for some last-minute training.
Hikaru made a silent promise to, if Kakashi made Sasuke late for the Chūnin Exams, find the one-eyed jōnin and beat the snot out of him until he begged for mercy.
They arrived at the field early, so they had a brief spree of bets with each other about who would win what fight. Finally the other genin started filtering into the arena, at which point Naruto posed the question, "Who's going to be the proctor for this phase?"
Hikaru smirked, "Me! Hokage-sama gave me special permission!"
Naruto gulped at the evil look on his cousin's face, before he smirked himself, "I'll just have to make sure I win then!"
Hikaru grinned, "We'll see about that, little man."
Once everybody was seated in the stands and the genin were all in a line in front of Hikaru (except Sasuke, he noticed in faint irritation), he folded his arms and said, "Alright you 'orrible lot. The rules are these; I can end fights at any time if I think one of the contestants is unable to continue. Otherwise the fights will continue until one of you is dead, unconscious or otherwise incapable of continuing the battle. Fights will be one-on-one. Leaving the arena will result in a forfeit, as will any outside interference on either side. Other than that, there are no limitations. Do you understand these rules?"
At their nods he said, "Right then, will all but Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze and Tenten Takeshi move to the contestants' box?"
As all the genin and their sensei except for Naruto and Tenten proceeded over to the stairs, Hikaru raised his voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, shinobi and kunoichi, kages and daimyōs, I am your host Hikaru Namikaze and I am pleased to present the third phase of the Chūnin Exams!"
As applause and cheering came from the stands he gestured towards Naruto, "In this corner we have the blond maelstrom of Konoha, the prankster king extraordinaire and the unofficial ramen-eating champion of the world, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze!"
Naruto stared at him blankly as the audience applauded, before Hikaru continued, "In the other corner we have, weighing in at…" he ducked as a kunai passed through the space his head had previous occupied, "She's the bun-haired beauty, Konoha's latest weapons mistress and the queen of all things that disembowel, Tenten Takeshi!"
In the Kages' box, Sarutobi palmed his face as he felt the gazes of his three equals from separate villages burning holes in the side of his head, "Sorry, Hikaru tends to get a little overexcited…"
A chuckled, "I think I need to find this guy after the third phase and ask if he's interested in a spar. He seems like the type to enjoy a good fight."
Sarutobi looked up, "Yes, he does."
Yagura held up a hand, "Let's just watch and see how the fights go…"
Naruto drew his ninjatō as Tenten produced a katana from her weapons scroll and settled into a ready stance as Hikaru looked back and forth between them, "Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, are you ready?"
At Naruto's nod, he turned to Tenten, "Tenten Takeshi, are you ready?"
She nodded as well, so he raised a hand in the air and sliced it down, "HAJIME!" before leaping out of range.
The two genin paced around each other for a full minute before Naruto's natural impatience won out. Creating three Kage Bunshin he shot towards Tenten at top speed, bringing down his ninjatō in a downwards slash which she parried before jumping over the horizontal swings of the Kage Bunshin, allowing them to connect with each other.
As she brought her katana down in a diagonal slash that Naruto diverted with the edge of his ninjatō, she noticed the two Kage Bunshin were approaching at high speed. Flipping over the stab from one, she got under his guard and sliced him across the chest, forcing him to dispel.
This proved a mistake, since the second one used the cloud of chakra smoke to get the drop on her. She was forced to use a Kawarimi to avoid getting spitted, a fate the log was less able to avoid, and thus was able to stab the clone in the back while it was trying to free its weapon.
Naruto allowed himself a slight frown as his clones were dispelled by Tenten, before he grinned and plunged back into combat.
Tenten took a slight nick across one cheek as Naruto surprised her with a kunai thrown from his free left hand, but paid him back in full (and then some) a few seconds later with a slash across the chest, slicing his shirt in half and leaving his chest bare.
A reflexive parry sent Tenten momentarily off balance as she realized too late that Naruto had left that hole in his defence so that he could take advantage of her attack. A brief puff of chakra smoke later and she realized that Naruto had had another Kage Bunshin hidden somewhere as it substituted with her katana and then dispelled, leaving her defenceless. Even as she leapt back and tried to draw her weapons scroll to summon another weapon, loops of ninja wire sprang from Naruto's sleeves (the remnants of his shirt still barely hanging off his frame) and coiled tight around her wrists. One tug and a deft bit of knotting later, Tenten found herself lying on her side on the sand with her arms and legs bound up behind her in what felt like a comfortably tight hogtie.
Hikaru grinned as he grabbed Naruto's arm and held it up in the air, "Shōsha, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze!"
Naruto picked up Tenten, slung her over his shoulder and carried her towards the stairs as Hinata and Rock Lee started down to the field (Hinata giving Naruto a kiss on the way past).
Once each of them were standing in front of him he announced, "And now, standing in this corner we have the princess of the Hyūga clan, the girl who can render a pervert impotent with but a single jab, the queen of the Jyūken, Hinata Hyūga!"
As cheering echoed from the stands (Naruto being one of the loudest), Hikaru gestured towards Lee, "And in the other corner we have Konoha's Beautiful Green Beast himself, the self-proclaimed Handsome Devil of the Hidden Leaf Village and unofficial second-place winner of the Bushiest-Brows competition, only losing out to his sensei… if you use that genjutsu or that infernal teeth ping Lee I will beat you myself, rules be damned… ROCK LEE!"
Lee's bellow of "YOSH!" was lost in the applause for both contestants as Hikaru raised his hand and slashed it back down.
The two taijutsu-users were on each other like wildcats, jabbing and punching as hard and fast as they could.
Hinata ducked a leg swing from Lee and jabbed her index and middle fingers up into the back of his knee, causing his ankle to go limp before he swung back around and was able to catch her with a glancing blow on the side of the head.
Hinata staggered and blinked the stars from her eyes, but wasn't fast enough to dodge a second time as Lee's fist powered into her abdomen and sent her sprawling.
Hikaru walked over to her, "You okay, Hinata?"
Hinata coughed, "I'm… fine. I think I'll forfeit though."
Hikaru nodded, grabbing Lee's arm and pulling it into the air, "Shōsha, Rock Lee!"
Lee's second roar of "YOSH!" drowned out the crowd's applause by a fair degree.
Hinata healed her bruised stomach enough to walk, so she and Lee walked back to the contestant's box while Kankurō moved to walk down.
Shikamaru tutted, "This is so troublesome… can't I just forfeit?"
Naruto and Hinata exchanged a look. As one they nodded, grabbed Shikamaru by a shoulder each and threw him over the railing.
Hikaru was just in time to catch the pineapple-headed shadow user before he plowed headfirst into the sand. After he had set Shikamaru on his feet, the boy cast an irritated look up at the only members of Team 7 currently present in the box, who were grinning back at him, "Troublesome people."
Hikaru hit him across the back of the head, "Shut up and stop griping; you've got a match to fight."
Shikamaru tutted as Kankurō came to a halt in front of him and Hikaru started his introductory spiel, "In this corner we have the slothful shadow-user himself, the Shika of the second generation Ino-Shika-Chō trio and probably the smartest brat alive under that attitude, SHIKAMARU NARA!"
Shikamaru facepalmed as Hikaru turned his attention to Kankurō, who was giving him a look which plainly said, "Say anything embarrassing and I will do something ghastly to you jōnin or not."
"In the other corner we have a puppet-master of Suna who could potentially get as good as Sasori but hopefully won't get his head as far up his ass…" There was laughter from the Suna-nins in the crowd who had come to see the third phase, "…He's the Kazekage's elder son, and hopefully as good as his old man, he's Sabaku no Kankurō!"
The Kazekage and Hokage simultaneously facepalmed as the Raikage and Mizukage threatened to laugh themselves sick.
Kankurō scowled at Hikaru before producing Karasu and preparing to fight.
Shikamaru tutted slightly before saying, "Troublesome…" and throwing a kunai at Kankurō, who fired a kunai from Karasu to knock it away. That seemed to have been Shikamaru's plan, since his hands flew to the rat seal for his Kagemane no Jutsu (Shadow Imitation Technique); his shadow springing to first one kunai, then the next before successfully capturing the puppet.
Hikaru watched with raised eyebrows, his mind cataloguing the tactic, "Interesting. He tricked Kankurō into giving him the perfect opportunity to capture his main source of attack. However the plan stops there, since I think Shikamaru forgot that chakra threads cast no shadows."
His assumption was true; Shikamaru was quietly cursing to himself as he tried to find a way to use his control over the puppet to gain an advantage. He moved into his thinking pose (causing an unfortunate change in the puppet's posture which drew laughs from the crowd and causing Kankurō to wince as he severed the chakra threads and caused the puppet to go limp.
Shikamaru suddenly noticed that a single bandage that must've been left from when the puppet was wrapped up trailed from the puppet's leg back towards Kankurō, coming to an end about a foot from Kankurō's left foot.
Kankurō's eyes followed the path of Shikamaru's own gaze and came to a stop on the end of the bandage. Even as his eyes widened and he moved to leap away, Shikamaru's shadow flew from the tip of the bandage and latched onto his own foot.
Hikaru moved towards them, starting to develop a feeling of déjà vu as he turned to Shikamaru and said, "You're going to forfeit, aren't you?"
Shikamaru gave him a look before nodding once, "Yes. I forfeit."
Hikaru nodded as the shadow retracted, "Shōsha, Sabaku no Kankurō!"
There was applause and Kankurō collected his puppet again.
As they left the arena, Hikaru shunshined up to Sarutobi and said, "Sasuke isn't here. I know he's with Kakashi but I need time to track them down."
Sarutobi nodded, "Okay. Go."
Hikaru shunshined straight back into the arena, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to take a five-minute interval while one of our next contestants is found! Please take the time to buy a snack or something before returning to your seat for more action!"
He shot out of the arena before anybody could respond.
Five minutes later, Hikaru returned to the arena with Sasuke holding onto his right arm and his left hand holding Kakashi by the ear. "WHAT DID I SAY?" he yelled, drawing the attention of the audience as he twisted Kakashi's ear, "MAKE SASUKE LATE FOR HIS BOUT AND I PUT YOU IN THE DOGHOUSE WITH A LEAD AND COLLAR!"
Kakashi winced, "Ow! Ow! Ow! I'm sorry; I was going to bring him along five minutes after you came along to get him!"
Sasuke nodded, "It's true… he actually did say the words "another five minutes and I'll take you down"."
Hikaru scowled, "Be that as it may, but his bout should've started five minutes ago. Ten minutes late for that bout is still late!"
Kakashi winced, "Alright! I'll make it up afterwards, ok?"
Hikaru switched moods, causing everybody listening in (in other words, the entire audience) to sweatdrop, "What a great idea, Kakashi! Now be a good boy and go sit in the stands."
Kakashi nodded and shot off towards the stand as Temari flew down on her fan.
Hikaru stepped backwards, "Ladies and gentlemen, the third phase will now continue! In this corner we have the Lord of the Copy Wheel Eye, the latest Snake Sage, the raven-haired avenger himself, SASUKE UCHIHA!"
The cheering was deafening as the civilians of Konoha clamoured to support the man they saw as being the pinnacle of Konoha's protectors and the daimyōs prepared to see the power of the Sharingan in action.
Hikaru swept out his other arm towards Temari, "In the other corner we have the fairest wind mistress in the land, the only daughter of the Kazekage and probably in need of a date…" Temari went brick red and swung her fan at him while the Kazekage fell off his chair laughing at her expression, "…SABAKU NO TEMARI!"
Hikaru raised his hand and slashed it down, "Hajime!"
Temari's first reaction was to swing her fan through the air, sending a blast of wind at Sasuke who unsealed his weapon and swiped the fire-bladed end up in front of him, perfectly bisecting the blast and causing the halves to pass harmlessly on either side of him.
Even as Temari refolded her fan, Sasuke was on her in barely a second. She was forced to block the blow with her weapon, but was shocked a second later by the strength of the blow as the fan shuddered in her hands. For such a frail-looking tool, the staff weapon the Uchiha was now spinning around his body was a powerful weapon.
Temari was quick to discover that she might just have a serious problem on her hands. Every gust of wind she sent at the Uchiha was neutralized by his fire affinity, and his physical attacks themselves were just as worrisome. Then he suddenly separated the staff into three sections and began using it like a pair of spears.
Temari was forced to forfeit following that little shock, leaving Sasuke facing Gaara.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Hikaru yelled with barely restrained glee, "Now we will witness the fifth and final match of the Chūnin Exam quarter finals! In one corner we have the previous warrior, Sasuke Uchiha!"
He waited for the applause to die down before saying, "And in the other corner we have a new challenger! Allow me to introduce the terror of the Hidden Sand, the raging sandstorm and the Kazekage's youngest, SABAKU NO GAARA!"
Gaara appeared in a swirl of sand to a roar of applause from the crowds. Hikaru grinned, "Ready… FIGHT!"
Sasuke flashed through seals, "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"
As the fireball flew towards Gaara and a sand wall flew up to deflect it, Sasuke himself unsealed his sansetsukon and ran at Gaara as fast as he could.
He found his legs being whipped out from under him fifteen feet from Gaara, but was able to circulate lightning chakra through his legs in order to blast the sand off.
Hikaru's and A's eyebrows ratcheted up a notch each.
Sasuke hit the sand and tried to stand up, only to fall back down, "Damn it! I can't move my legs, they're completely numb!"
Hikaru took a step forwards, but Sasuke waved him off, "I'm fine, sensei!" Hikaru frowned, but stepped away and allowed his student to continue.
Sasuke pushed himself into a kneeling position and began channelling more lightning chakra through his legs, causing them to be sheathed in a blue glow.
A's eyes widened and he leapt to his feet, startling Bee and Yugito who were standing behind him, "Impossible! A genin could not already have that level of nature manipulation down!"
Sarutobi smiled, "That would normally be true, but the genin of Team 7 are by no means at genin level. I would estimate that Sasuke and Hinata, the Hyūga who fought in the second fight, are both about chūnin level themselves."
Yagura picked up on the missing student, "What of the third?"
Sarutobi's smile widened into a full grin, "Naruto, the blond who fought first today, is easily jōnin-level."
Yugito leaned forwards, "It's because he's a jinchūriki, isn't he?"
They all stared at her. She blushed, "I can smell its yōki on him. Kyūbi, is it not?"
Sarutobi sighed, "Yes. The Yondaime sealed the Kyūbi inside Naruto at the cost of his own life."
The Kazekage smiled, "I would assume that is why his sensei repaired my son's seal, is it not? Because he had a student who had a similar issue and thus was an obvious template for how Gaara should have been?"
Sarutobi nodded, "I know Hikaru Namikaze's thought patterns not, for that is easily a road to madness…" He allowed himself a wry chuckle, "But I know full well that that man would not be able to sit by and let somebody suffer."
Yagura chuckled, "Well, that's very interesting." He tugged on the Raikage's sleeve, "Sit, Raikage-dono, and let us continue to watch this bout for I believe it is about to get interesting…"
Gaara inspected the raven-haired boy as he straightened up, his legs sheathed to the thighs in blue light. Finally he smirked, "This could be most interesting…"
Sasuke took a step forwards and then vanished. Gaara's sand poured into his shield and blocked Sasuke's kick before it landed. It still left a crater in the shield though, and Gaara's face was sprayed with granules of sand that were shaken off the rear face of the shield.
Sasuke leapt backwards, skidding in the sand and leaving a tiny sheen of glass where his feet were positioned before flying forwards again and throwing himself into a barrage of blows that threatened to destroy Gaara's shield entirely. Gaara heaped more and more chakra-laced sand into the shield, drawing it up from the arena floor until finally he could barely feel Sasuke's kicks on the other side.
Hikaru was watching this impassively from one side, in between making "This had nothing to do with me!" gestures at Sarutobi and glaring at Kakashi, who was making similar gestures back at him, but with more of a "Please don't maim me!" form of desperation to the frantic arm-waving and head-shaking.
Finally he noticed that Sasuke's kicks were slowing, and realized that the chakra sheaths around Sasuke's legs were draining his chakra at a prodigious rate. Finally the chakra fizzled out and Sasuke fell onto the floor as Gaara's sand shield smoothly dissipated.
The med-nins rushed on, and Hikaru could tell by the grim expression of the one scanning Sasuke's legs with a green-glowing hand that it wasn't good news. He intercepted the man as they were carrying the now-unconscious Uchiha away, "What's wrong with him?"
The man looked apologetic, knowing by Hikaru's worried face that this was the patient's sensei, "Whatever he did to his legs burnt out all the nerve endings in them. I'm sorry Namikaze-sama… but chances are that this genin will never walk again."
Hikaru's shoulders visibly slumped. In a suddenly-melancholy mood, he walked over to Gaara and picked up his arm, "Shōsha, Sabaku no Gaara…" before shunshining up to the contestant's box to deliver the bad news to Naruto and Hinata. Hinata rushed off after the medic-nins (leaving the single Kage Bunshin she could create without passing out behind to watch the next matches) while Naruto and Lee headed downstairs to the arena, Gaara appearing out of a swirl of sand a second afterwards and sitting down without saying a single word.
As soon as Hikaru had updated Sarutobi on Sasuke's condition, he headed back down to the arena and prepared for the next match to take place.
"Naruto Uzumaki versus Rock Lee…" he said in a tone far removed from his previous gusto.
A second later one of Naruto's clones backhanded him, "Brighten up! He's not dead and he wouldn't want you to be grouchy because you're worried!"
Hikaru scowled and dispelled the clone with a kunai between the eyes, but then straightened up and boomed, "Ladies and gentlemen! Now begins the semi-finals of the Chūnin Exams! First up, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze versus Rock Lee! Which will triumph, the Ransūken's random strikes, or the Gōken's coordinated brute force? Find out now! Ready… HAJIME!"
Naruto's and Lee's first strikes met, sending out a ripple of pressure that made Hikaru shunshin up to balance on the edge of the contestant's box, watching carefully.
The spinning kicks that followed up the first attack sent a wave of sand across the arena, so Hikaru was forced to shunshin around the arena walls slapping barrier tags every twenty feet to stop the fallout from hitting the audience.
Lee grinned, making Naruto wish for a pair of sunglasses as the two boys danced and spun around one another, each searching for openings to exploit in the other's defence, "You are most youthful, Naruto-kun!"
He skidded to a stop and glanced up at his sensei, who nodded once. Lee reached under his legwarmers and pulled out a series of weight belts, which he tossed onto the sand one by one. The ground shuddered with every one that hit.
Hikaru cursed; he'd forgotten that Lee used weights to slow himself down. He'd need to get Naruto, Sasuke and Hinata working on that after the invasion… no, not Sasuke. The medic-nin had said that he might never walk again.
Naruto swallowed, before glancing over at Hikaru and holding up two fingers.
Hikaru shook his head and held up one.
Naruto said, "Bear with me a minute," and crouched, bringing his hands into a ram seal.
Sarutobi's jaw slackened and dropped as his counterparts from the other villages unwittingly imitated him, eyes fixed on the red chakra cloak that had formed around Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze down on the arena floor.
Lee's eyes widened (a little more than usual) and he glanced up at his own sensei, who glanced at Hikaru.
Hikaru simply shrugged and gave him a "Why not?" look. Gai nodded, turned back to Lee and held up a single finger.
Lee grinned broadly as he said, "Most youthful, Naruto-san! It seems we have been given permission to enhance the experience! First Gate: Gate of Opening, open!"
A pillar of visible chakra shot up around Lee before he and Naruto each took a step forwards and vanished.
The audience blinked, only to grab hold of their seats a second later as explosions started going off all across the arena, showers of sand raining back down as shockwave after shockwave thudded through the stadium.
Finally there was a deafening roar of "FRONT LOTUS!" from above, causing everybody to look up and see Lee with Naruto wrapped in bandages in front of him.
Hikaru reflexively crossed his fingers, and a few seconds later Naruto came through for him. The Kyūbi's chakra ate through the bandages, Naruto grabbed hold of Lee and flipped him over before kicking down to the ground and bodyslamming Lee hard enough for the trees on top of the Hokage Monument to quake.
As soon as the tremors had stopped, Hikaru dropped the barrier and jumped down into the arena.
In the middle of the crater in the middle lay Lee, unconscious. Naruto was sprawled beside him, but still conscious. Grinning, Hikaru picked up the blond genin and held his arm over his head, "Shōsha, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze!"
The crowd applauded as medic-nins came on to take Lee away. They tried to take Naruto too but Hikaru waved them off, citing that the smaller blond only needed a quick rest up in the contestant's box and he'd be fine. They finally conceded and hurried off as Hikaru deposited Naruto in the contestant's box under Hinata-clone's careful ministrations.
Finally, the two Sabaku brothers stood in front of him as Hikaru paced around them, "Ladies and gentlemen! This battle seemingly will be all in the family, as we watch the Kazekage's sons battle it out! Now… HAJIME!"
The battle didn't last long. Gaara, who seemed to have recently developed mean pranking attitude, grabbed Kankurō by the back of his pants with sand and yanked upwards. The puppeteer's girly shriek of pain attested to what had just happened, prompting all the males in the audience (including four Kages, a Sannin, and two jinchūriki) to wince and reflexively cross their legs.
Gaara smirked at his brother, "Forfeit, or I do it again."
Kankurō, knowing full well that his brother would follow up on the threat, immediately forfeited.
Hikaru scratched his jaw as the bandy-legged puppeteer toddled back off to the stairs, "Hmm, you may end up winning by default if Naruto isn't up again by now…"
A second later his knees almost buckled as Naruto jumped out of the stands and stood on his head, "Nah, I'm fine."
Hikaru growled, "Get… off… my head." There was laughter from the crowd as Naruto immediately did a passable impression of a circus gymnast by stretching his arms wide and doing a perfect somersault off his sensei's head.
Hikaru rubbed his scalp, "Brat. Anyway…"
He turned to face the crowd and began to pace around the two genin, "Today… we will witness the most anticipated match in this year's Chūnin Exam… for the prestigious title of chūnin! Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready?"
A cheer came back, and Hikaru repeated himself, "Ladies and gentlemen, are you rrrrready?"
A louder cheer came back, and Hikaru continued, "For the hundreds in attendance, and the thousands watching around the Elemental Nations, from the ninja capital of Hi no Kuni… ladies and gentlemen… LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!"
He leapt into the air and slammed the barrier seals back up, "HAJIME!"
Almost on cue, there was an explosion and everybody looked around as the alarm signifying the activation of the mass-genjutsu-dispelling seals lining the roof of the stadium blared.
Hikaru scowled and shouted down to Naruto, "Naruto, take Hinata and the rest of the rookies and escort the civilians from the stadium! Gaara, take Temari and Kankurō and start defending our borders with the other Sand-nins that came in the last week!"
Gaara nodded and vanished as Naruto leapt up to the contestant's box. Hinata rushed in and dispelled her clone, delivering a gentle kiss to Naruto's cheek before they waved at their sensei and jumped away to escort the civilians. A second later a massive quantity of Kage Bunshin exploded out from Naruto's position to cover all the exits.
Hikaru turned as Sound-nins started appearing in the arena and there was a hollow thud as the Kage's Box was shrouded in smoke. Hikaru took a step forwards and disappeared.
Sarutobi and the other Kages landed on a rooftop and a second later, Orochimaru landed nearby. Sarutobi quietly drew a Hiraishin kunai that Hikaru had given him and tossed it onto the roof nearby.
Orochimaru grinned as the Sound Four landed in a rectangle around the area and the purple barrier flew up, "Four Kages for the price of one? Tsk, let me even the odds. Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei!"
Sarutobi paled, "You perfected that… that sick jutsu?"
Orochimaru laughed as three coffins rose slowly from the ground, "Kukukukuku… what's the matter Sarutobi-sensei? Are you not proud of your student? WHY SO SERIOUS?"
The coffins swung open, revealing three battered-looking figures.
Orochimaru reached out and placed two seal tags in the heads of two of the figures, before placing another tag in the head of the third figure. All three straightened up and looked around as they stepped out of their coffins. The tallest, a man with brown hair, smiled as he looked around him, "Wow, Sarutobi's done good things with our village hasn't he brother?"
The man with silver hair at the other end of the line of coffins nodded, "Yes, indeed. Such a shame that we have no choice but to destroy it today…"
The man in the middle drew himself up and looked directly at Sarutobi, "Where is he, Sarutobi? Where is my son?"
"Minato…" whispered Sarutobi.
Minato Namikaze smiled, his blonde hair and white coat blowing slightly in the breeze as his blue eyes sparkled with life once more, "Nice to see you, Sarutobi. Now where is he?"
"He's fine," said a voice off to one side, and everybody turned to see Hikaru Namikaze stepping out of the air inside the barrier, while four Kage Bunshin appeared at the corners of the barrier with kunai at the necks of the Sound Four, "I wasn't expecting to see you again, cousin Minato?"
Minato remembered what Kami had told him about his son from the future taking on the guise of a cousin in order to avoid suspicion. Smiling, he said, "Nice to see you too, cousin Hikaru."
Hikaru was puzzled, but hid it very well as he grinned, putting his left hand inside his coat and drawing out a Hiraishin kunai by the ring around his middle finger.
Minato mirrored the action as Hikaru turned to the Kage Bunshin n between the barriers, "Kill the males. The girl fits the description of Tayuya that Kin and Kimimaro both gave us, so take her to T&I and ditch her in a room with them. See if they can't reason with her and I'll go there to break her seal as soon as I can."
"What? NO!" shouted Kidōmaru, only to cough and hack as the clone holding him cut his throat.
Sakon, Ukon and Jirōbō died just as quickly, and Tayuya fought like a wildcat as the barrier collapsed and the clone took her away. The last thing they heard as her yelling, "Did I hear Kin's name you cocksuckeeeeeeerrrrr…?"
Minato chuckled, "Such a spirited redhead, she reminds me of my wife."
Hashirama laughed, "Mine too."
Tobirama grinned, "Ahhh, I still remember that day that she thought that you gave me permission to hit on her after you gave me your house-key so I could get something from your office. I remember all I had time to do was hold up the key and say "Hashirama gave me permission…" before she started throwing heavy objects at me."
Hashirama frowned, "Yeah… I was sleeping on the couch for weeks and I had no idea why."
Orochimaru snarled, "Stop this foolish trip down memory lane and kill them!"
Minato frowned, "Sorry cousin… but I can't really avoid the order here…"
Hikaru nodded, "Shall we do it then?"
Minato nodded. Before everybody's eyes, they each drew one arm back and flung the Hiraishin kunai off past where Hashirama stood, disappearing in identical flashes of yellow light.
The greatest battle in the history of Konoha…
…had only just begun.
(A/N: And so ends another thrilling instalment of When Jutsu Go Wrong. (Oh my god, I swear I will never make a chapter this long ever again!) Now, I have a couple of announcements to make.
First, my next thing to work on will be Maelstrom, which will be a rewrite of the disastrous third chapter without the OC, but with a different character that I'm going to try a rather… unique… spin on.
Secondly, The Bijuu Forum is still going to run despite the numerous complaints that it is against the rules. I decided I was going to wait and see if the admins removed it, and I will continue it until then. If they do remove it, I intend to open an account at TONFA and post it there because maybe they will allow it. I will be sure to notify everybody if that happens.
Thirdly; My new system is that I work exclusively on one fic at a time, while putting occasional bits into my other works if I get an idea for how to proceed with them. This means that while Maelstrom will be my next piece to update, you might see something in between now and then.
And fourthly, for those of you following Blade in the Shadows I recently got over the three-to-four-month writer's block and am now returning to writing the story, so keep an eye out for that update in the next future.
Well, I'd better wrap this up; heaven knows it's long enough already. Therefore I will just say enjoy your day and have a nice life. Leonineus, OUT!)