Summary:What if Naruto was accidentally given the Jounin exam and passed at the age of twelve?
Author'sNote: A couple questions answered here. Sasuke never meeting Orochimaru, well Orochimaru will get his big reveal later but the one thing that stays cannon is Sasuke's nerves were already frayed by the time the second part of the Chuunin exam was over. He was a ticking time bomb that took hundreds of chapters to erupt. In this storyline he blew up sooner instead of later.
Chapter 5: Let's all Breathe
(Outside the Tower)
Grabbing the other scroll needed for the Exam was easy, too easy, child's play. Yet trying to find the Last Uchiha proved difficult. No campfires burning into the night sky. No mess left from afternoon mealtimes. His plan was flawless! Every beginner always got their tails handed to them in the Forest of Death. All he had to do was wait and conveniently come to the rescue. Everyone likes the nice guy, so it's easy to earn someone's trust with a friendly smile.
Problem is he wasted nearly five whole days trying to find a prodigy pipsqueak and his genin squad of clowns.
"Orochimaru-sama would like to have a word with you Yakushi," Yoroi growled, Kabuto needed to make his daily report. Secretly he hated Konoha and some of its less than wonderful inhabitants. He considered himself a simple opportunist with no need for fame and glory . . . a nothin' . . . an orphan . . . a nobody.
. . . Could life be that more simple?
"I've written down all the results from the second test," Kabuto told his boss. He waved that card tantalizingly in the air like a dog bone over a dingo, "You want this right?"
Golden eyes lit up aglow within a pallid long face. His mouth snaking across in jagged tooth grin, with that long tongue licking its chops in anticipation. He grabbed the card carefully in his hand. The man's face lit up from the results than frowned. That concentrating face could be a fifty/fifty chance of either good news or missing fingers.
"Heh heh, so you are that interested. . . " Kabuto asked cautiously
Orochimaru was glaring holes through the card.
"Something is missing." Orochimaru grunted.
Kabuto's chatter stopped short. Him? Missing any information? Caution being a forte of his, Kabuto straightened up his glasses and eyed him coldly.
"Which information do you mean, Orochimaru-sama?" Kabuto inquired, hoping he knew more than the legendary sannin or otherwise if he appeared one bit more useless than it would be him on the dissection table.
"As I was saying," Komugi grouched, around a mouthful of instant noodles, "That Kyuubi Brat doesn't seem like a demon fox. Everyone knows that demon foxes are intelligent beings whose supernatural abilities just get better with age and experience."
Komugi, being one year older than both Inaho and Gennai tended to be the unspoken leader of the group. His flop of shaggy black hair above his weathered Hitai-ate tended to add years to his face. Crow's feet on eithier side of his eyes from squinting for trouble. He only recently grew out his small beard after it was singed off last year.
"Your point?" Gennai admitted.
Gennai's close cropped hair and turtleneck were an earthy color scheme to match the sash around his chest. . . Usually the calm and collected one of the group. He had enough excitability for three people if given the right incentive. His teammates' safety being one of them.
"Have you ever noticed how many more people have taken an interest into this year's Team 7?" Komugi confided.
Of course who wouldn't take an interest. Ever since that Kyuubi brat opened his trap. Everyone and their dog wanted to kill him. Rude rookie genin were not welcome during the chunin exams. Lately however the political dark horse of a Jounin canidate was gaining popularity quickly and Team 7's other two squadmates faded into obscurity as soon as the second test started.
"Who wouldn't," Gennai admitted, "Inaho's on their team. Naruto made Jonin. Not to mention the last Uchiha didn't take the wheel this time. Have you noticed what happened to Kabuto?"
Komugi shook his head. Tonight was poor man's feast night around the campfire. Usually to celebrate a teammate moving forward in an exam they'd eat out but Genin pay being what it is (cheaper than dirt). A night of microwavable noodles under the stars became Inaho's idea of adding romance to the sharing of TV Dinners. This was before Inaho stopped being girly altogether.
"Well between you and me some Grass nin ratted him out for cheating. He was forced to fail the third exam and the last Uchiha sided with the Grass Nin." Gennai admitted, "Well I don't know about Uchiha, he never sides with anyone but that Yakushi group is getting desperate. HA! And just think how chaotic it would've been if Naruto was on the team instead of Shy Little Inaho."
(Three days earlier, In the Tower)
Sakura was secretly ecstatic that Sasuke leaned on her for support as they walked through the entrance. It was almost like they were on a DATE except for the bugs. That one episode involving leeches. The fact Gaara happened to be a homicidal psycho (no wonder Kankuro was so afraid), and the fact that Inaho being there tended to ruin the romance much like a parental escort would. Naruto wasn't there to depend upon anymore, it was kind of sad to not notice a good thing until it's gone.
"I miss Naruto," Sakura spoke out loud.
Inaho registered Sakura's voice with surprise. Sasuke's eyes competed with the size of dinner plates as he shied away, v-er-y slowly. Did the Sasuke-kun fan-girl say what he thought he heard? Did the princess of love sickness suffer from a bout of competency again?
"Well I really miss Naruto," Sakura admitted her inner self screamed with dismay when she let Sasuke go, "He's stupid, he's stubborn but he's the hardest worker of our team. He's our Naruto. The Number one Hyperactive Knuckleheaded Ninja."
"Um well, I don't know about Naruto being stupid but the title fits," Inaho nervously giggled, 'Good grief Naruto is literally the thing that held Team Dysfunction together.'
"You're right," Sasuke sighed, the display of weakness left a rotten taste in his mouth, "I miss him too. At least he had more dependability than you did."
"What?" Sakura fumed.
"You heard me, Naruto has the least skill but at least he had creativity," Sasuke mused, he didn't know what to think of this new Sakura but it was fun to rile her up a bit despite Inaho's panicky words of warning.
"Well . . . Naruto was a bucket of sunshine compared to you. Hell would've froze over before you even talked to me." Sakura argued.
"What. Did. You. Say?" Sasuke growled with a glare. His eye did this wonderful twitch.
"The day Naruto qualified for the Jounin exam was the day Hell froze over so there!" Sakura teased and blew a raspberry straight in his face. Which for Naruto him making hell freeze over sounded plausible. Heck he'd do it given enough dry ice.
Inaho looked on in horror at the scariness known as the twelve year old child. Without Naruto to focus on. The team used each other as a vent. Bad idea, Kakashi didn't find a point to tell them when friendly competition went a bit too far. The argument escalated before Inaho had enough. A blood vessel pounded upon her head.
She grabbed each kid by the ear and banged their heads together. Sakura clutched her noggin, looked ready to cry. She'd never been on the receiving end of a Fury Swipe. Sasuke rubbed his head and glared at Inaho with the same force that could melt Ricotta Cheese. Inaho on that same point affectionately ruffled her teammates' hair. Her smile belying the fact she'd do the same thing again if those two continued arguing.
"Hey, look at that!" Sakura pointed out the poster high above the wall. It said as follows . . .
[If you lack . . . seek wisdom, be prepared, . . . If you lack . . . run in the fields, seek advantages]
"How many darn riddles does a test have to have," Inaho sighed, "Can any of you make out what that thing says because somewhere in this test there's always a goofy booby trap."
"I think it means it's safe to open the scrolls," spoke Sakura.
A hand placed on either scroll. Inaho's knuckles whitened in anticipation and abject fear. What if a giant slathering fox leaped out of the scroll? What if Sasuke started giggling and singing show tunes? What if the worst thing she could possibly imagine happens multiplied by six? Both scrolls unfurled, Sasuke recognized the seals immediately.
"Summoning Jutsu get back!" he cried.
The smoking scrolls flung to the floor. Tendrils of smoke coalesced into a twister of smoke. The fog slowly dissipated revealing a tanned skin man whose blush did nothing but attract attention to the scar across his nose. Inaho recognized him immediately.
"Umino-san!" Inaho greeted enthusiastically, from one adult to another, "Long time no see! How've you been?"
"Ah . . . enlightened . . . Inoue-san," Iruka spoke. He checked the stopwatch in mild surprise, "You got here in two days? With two scrolls? . . . Oh congratulations, Team 7 you've passed the second exam."
A wave of relief lit across everyone's faces. Inaho wanted to rave and cheer but settled for falling to the floor and giggling maniacally. Forty eight hours of stress, forty eight hours of biting her tongue, forty eight hours of keeping together a team she hardly knew and it was worth it. It was worth the fights, near death dramas and finally one chance closer to passing. Sakura collapsed, she just knew Naruto would be bounding all over the room like a monkey on caffeine. Sasuke lowered himself gracefully to the floor. The trio sharing reserved glances and covert congratulations of a job well done.
"It's not that bad," Iruka joked, "It's not like you ran away from some monster."
The three shuddered in moderation. Gaara was much more intimidating than a monster. He was a cardiovascular workout. That was for certain.
"Besides nearly dying, what would've happened if we opened the scrolls early?" Sasuke pointed out.
"Sharp as usual," Iruka chuckled as he knelt to retrieve the scrolls, "If you were to break the rules and opened these scrolls you'd have been put in an unconcious state."
"What a jip!" Inaho grumbled, "I knew it! I knew there was a booby trap somewhere! That summoning jutsu activates regardless of the time! You'd have beat us black and blue anyway Umino-san!"
Iruka glared daggers at the Inaho. Inaho humphed back at the young man. Inaho guessed right. Several of the ninjas that did break the rules were sipping through a straw. Double-crossing an already peeved off Chunin tends to do that to people.
On a change of subject Sakura waved the comment aside and asked Iruka, "What about the poster sensei. What does it say?"
"That would be the other reason I'm here," Iruka spoke, "This is the motto of the Chunin written by the Hokage-sama."
"The Nidaime wrote it, Shodaime adopted it and Sandaime put it into writing," Inaho rambled, she'd been through these tests so many times she adopted this quote to heart, "Earth; body. Heaven; mind."
"If you lack heaven seek wisdom, be prepared," Iruka recited, "Basically if you don't think than you sink."
"Much like Sakura's thinking when she blew up Kankuro and Inaho's thinking when she put Gaara to sleep," Sasuke sagely surmised. Both women squirmed.
"Hey! You agreed to it!" Sakura glared, "And you did less thinking than we did!"
Inaho roughly ruffled their hair and little Mr. Whompers hissed in protest. That snake knew he did good too! Just like his mama Anko taught him!
"Let's not forget the big guy," Inaho pointed out carefully because if Sasuke got snake bit for his disrespect it'd be on Inaho's head. That snake thought it was a ninja. "Sorry Umino-san you were saying?"
"Gain knowledge and prepare yourself for missions, it's obivious you weren't prepared," Iruka surmised, "If you lack Earth . . ."
Sakura stifled a tiny gasp. She knew this applied to her. Stamina wasn't her specialty.
"Run in the fields and seek advantages," Iruka recited.
"If you have both Heaven and Earth. You can succeed the most dangerous mission," Inaho blurted out and clapped a hand to her mouth when Iruka raised his eyebrow at her.
"The missing word from the scrolls is "Person" . . . These rules will guide a person's extremes." Iruka finished blandly.
"Sorry," Inaho begged, "This is the first time I ever helped everyone pass a test early. I'm excited, I'm nervous, and holy cow what was I thinking."
"You weren't thinking anything out of the ordinary," Iruka praised, he was so proud he gave everyone congratulatory pats on the back, "You did such a good job. I'm so proud."
The feeling of guilt pooled in Inaho's stomach leaving a warm hardness weighing her down to the floor. The adrenaline rush finally passed, but the whole event felt like a dream. They passed, they passed early and the test still wasn't over. A preliminary round and a final arena fight. Thousands of people to see her center stage fighting for her life. The other two, being young and restless were bouncing on the balls of their feet.
Except for Sasuke, the realization a little slow to realize just who decided to have a certain thing for him and it wasn't someone confessing their love. Gaara did decide to kill Sasuke after all.
Sakura paced back and forth frantically worrying about the others. All rookie nine of her class (excluding Naruto) had passed the second exam. She hadn't seen Team Gai and even if a few of those guys did weird her out (Lee in particular) she still couldn't help but worry.
All that pent energy building. Sakura pacing a dirt trail into the floor. Sasuke hiding his rush of blood curlding fear in meditation, eyes squeezed shut. Inaho breathed slowly, still not believing she came this far, this time and had three days to actually breathe. Okay make that two days. Sasuke was still tensing from his encounter with Gaara. Sakura was still a worrywart because her brain wouldn't slow down. Inaho placed a hand on his shoulder. Sasuke bunched his shoulders around his ears, making Mr. Whompers the snake hiss.
"Sasuke," Inaho murmured, the boy scowled at her and turned his head away, "Ah, yeah I know you just realized Gaara's got a murderous crush on you."
"A crush? He wants to kill me!" Sasuke spat in a rare show of emotion he jumped up to rant and rave. "Kakashi-sensei never said anything about it! That monster! A camping trip fit for morons! The first guy not to say he has a man crush on me, WANTS to kill me! The leeches, butt-kissing a stupid-"
Mr. Whompers hissed.
"Oh yeah sure, an arrogantly fantastic Snake! What was the good part in this Chuniin exam!" Sasuke roared. Sakura shut up for once, she never seen Sasuke this angry.
"The pop quiz from hell," Inaho confessed. Sasuke wasn't seething from anger. Oh no, he was mildly furious and now he didn't care who saw him fall apart. "Yeah, I know, I hate the whole reality sucks scenes too but look at this way. Sakura isn't cloying all over you anymore."
Sakura glared at Inaho. She wasn't going crazy over him. That snake had more of a drama queen tendency than she did.
"Sasuke-kun," Sakura quietly peeped, Sasuke sulked, "If it weren't for that snake. We'd probably all be dead already."
Sasuke folded up. The urge to stretch his legs was combating the urge to crawl into a hole and die. His fingers busy prying Mr. Whompers' curious tail from snaking backwards into his arm pit. Thoughts of revenge the least of his worries when reality comes to slap him in the face. Reality being Sakura pulling Sasuke by the arm. Inaho lifting Sasuke to his feet. Sasuke noticed the bags beneath Inaho's eyes, Sakura's eyes were red rimmed with tears.
"It's been a long forty eight hours for everyone Sasuke," Inaho explained gently, "Sakura, why don't you rest here. Sasuke and I are going to the main hall to get something for everyone to eat."
(Three Days ago In the Main Hall)
Anko, ecstatic to see her precious pet, double timed it to the forest of death when she saw Mr. Whompers thanks to the security cameras. Iruka barely dodged out of her way as she flung open the doors. Banners wide behind her. As she marched in yelling.
"Alright bow and be amazed! The great Anko Mitarashi has ARRIVED!"
Sasuke was halfway biting through a sun dried tomato at the table. Sakura sat across from him chatting with Ino. Inaho was so tired she didn't care where she took a nap. That splintery tabletop looked cozy and away she snored. Her head nestled in her arms.
"Is she always this hyper," Ino asked.
"Anko does this every year." Inaho moaned, one cracked opened, she went back to snoozing, "First year she set the chemistry lab on fire. Year after that-zzzzz-filled the men's locker room with mice and ladies locker room with snakes-fuwaaan-pinned Iruka to a tree-zzzz-made Kakashi sniff Gai's stinky boots-mmm-list goes onnn."
"My gosh," Ino gasped, "I'm amazed you're still alive after all that."
"Who said anything about alive," Sakura chittered, "That's what Anko did when she took the Chuunin exam as a genin. Her Jonin-sensei did something horrible to her before that."
Sasuke watched Anko help herself to Inaho's plate. Inaho sleepily slid the plate away from her. Anko growled with a mouthful of food. Inaho stabbed her chopsticks, Anko yelped. The sleepy little genin watching Anko through lidded eyes. Anko prepared for battle. Inaho's plate making a tantalizing target.
Inaho, chopsticks ready, stabbed Anko in the leg and tugged. The snap of elastic from her mesh suit, Anko yelped. Inaho guzzled the food down before falling asleep. Sasuke stared blankly nibbling his sun dried tomato. These two women were already in their twenties. He didn't want to comprehend how adults could act like children. Anko stole something off Sasuke's plate. Sasuke glared and stole his tomato back.
"Spoil sport," Anko teased, "You're definitely an Uchiha."
"And what was your first clue?" Sasuke smugly replied. He had the symbol on his shirt. He had the walk down. This was old news.
"How's your man crush," Anko cackled, "The Sand demon?"
"Shut up." Sasuke grumbled, "I'm in a bad mood."
"That's your only mood," Anko warned and flicked his ear, "I want Mr. Whompers back."
The penny of thoughts clinking in Sasuke's brain. Mr. Whompers the snake, grinned in answer to his name. His fangs dislocating from their position. Sasuke felt shivers down his spine. He practically threw the Snake at Anko but it wouldn't let go.
"Now what?" said Sasuke. Mr. Whompers was having a good snuggle with his arm. Anko just threw a fresh chunk of meat on Sakura's plate. Sakura grimaced at the thing. Ino choked a bubblish scream from escaping her lips.
"Feed him." Anko crooned, she was loving this, first pranking Asuma, now teasing this uptight dude? Today was perfect, "Mr. Whompers wants his cookie and he won't let go until you tell him I wub you!"
'This is so wrong.' Sasuke gulped, 'This is insane. When this test is over. I'm never going to look at Dinner the same way ever again.'
"If you want Sasuke I'll feed him," Sakura answered, "That is if you don't mind Anko-sensei."
Sasuke let out a sigh of relief. Ino just had a heart attack and Inaho bolted wide awake. Sakura looked at everyone around the table. She didn't see what the big deal was. After that whole leeches incident. Toads and snakes weren't that bad.
Anko choking on her spit? Priceless.
(In the Room Next Door)
The teams that had arrived and passed the test early had time to lick their wounds so to speak. The sand siblings among them. The unfortunate Chuniin to stop their stopwatch nearly wet his pants upon seeing Gaara. The redhead's murderous intent flooding the room. A few words of concern over the boy clutching his face. It was an ever cautious Kankuro who pushed the man out of the room and locked the door.
"Gaara, you're not really poisoned are you?" Kankuro quietly demanded, he hazarded a guess that Gaara didn't get much venom but the swelling looked awful and ever since he could remember he was afraid to look the twelve year old boy in the eyes. "Well, no more than usual."
Gaara hazarded a growl low in his throat. His automatic sand defense didn't defend against a little snake? Kankuro was the only one still standing. The eldest brother had one of two choices, tend to his puppets or tend to his siblings.
" . . . Baki-sensei owes me for all this," Kankuro muttered giving a painless yank to crow's arm. Temari gasped, at the sudden assault on her ribs. Kankuro blocked her punch, "And look who just woke up. No kisses for your loving brothers Sleeping Beauty?"
"Get . . . off!" Temari demanded, pushing Kankuro aside. She winced as extreme pain coursed through her system.
"If you want me off of you," Kankuro diplomatically declared, "Take this antidote and then we'll talk with or without Baby Brother."
"Gaara?" Temari gulped, "Someone actually made Gaara bleed?"
"More than that," Kankuro grimaced, knowing that tending to Gaara would be a nightmare, "That Uchiha used a fire jutsu and burned Gaara's sand."
"Is his automatic sand defense alright?" She asked.
Kankuro said nothing but dropped a beautiful piece of glass in her hand. If you squinted it almost looked like the Sand Sib's loving deceased mother. Problem is that was all that was left of Gaara's automatic sand defense was a piece of glass. That was it.
"Good grief," Temari gasped. Her heart stopped altogether.
No one and absolutely no one had ever made Gaara bleed before, except for he himself. Kankuro had to force Gaara to look him in the eyes in order pull glass out of his swelling nose. Gaara kept turning his head away. Without the sand armor he was quite weak against this kind of touch. Kankuro was not kind, he was doing his job but to hear him whimper and see him bleed. It made his heart shriveled and tight.
A knock on the door ruined Kankuro's concentration.
"Move over I'm coming in," Anko demanded, but no one answered, "Ah screw it."
Gaara was slammed against by a volley of coils. The snakes couldn't bite the boy's neck but they didn't have to. With Gaara, the shock got to him first before the blow. This woman worked fast. She was in she examined the bite, injected something within the nasal cavity's flesh and was out. A fraction of the time faster than it took for Gaara to sense anything. Gaara inhaled rudely, his nose didn't suffer massive damage but the fact he could breath excited him. He didn't even feel the shot he got in his nose.
Kankuro looked out the door but no one was there.
"Who the heck was that! And how was she able to approach Gaara?" Kankuro asked in amazement.
Temari closed her eyes waiting for the antidote's anesthesia to kick in.
"Probably the same woman who proctored the Chunin exams. Konoha Team 7 sent her." Temari conluded, "They got under Gaara's defense because they didn't want to kill him. Gaara has never felt that before. He lashes out at animosity. For that Anko woman it was strictly business."
Gaara was lucky his sand armor didn't totally desintigrate. Otherwise he'd have had worse than a swollen nose.
"This is bad," Kankuro commended, "If everyone found out about how to get past Gaara's defense the invasion Dad planned is done for."
Gaara sighed, he was used to his family treating him like he didn't exist. He'd hole himself up into the darkest corner of the room. The siblings would talk sometimes even argue. He didn't care. He wanted to push them away.
Kankuro startled Gaara with a firm grip on his shoulder. Normally Kankuro avoided Gaara like the plague. He was not someone anyone wanted to mess with, teammates included.
Yet there was another knock on the door or more like the door frame. People walked in to ask if he was all right. They ran out screaming. Soon rumor spread of the sleepless kid in the room beside the main hall.
Kankuro was getting very pensive at little snots poking their noses where it doesn't belong.
"MORNING, AND HOW ARE YOU THIS SPRINGFUL DAY!" Lee sang, prancing into the room without a single clue of the sand threatening to bury him alive. Kankuro rubbed the bridge of his nose. The flash of green. The stupid bowl cut?
'Man and I thought my sister yelled at me for the way I dressed,' Kankuro thought to himself.
"What's wrong with you, do you know what season it is!" Kankuro hissed.
"It's exercise season," Lee protested, "Subaku-san doesn't look like a happy sleeper so I thought I'd help him!"
"And how would you do that?" Kankuro asked, and wished he didn't.
"EXCERCISE!" Lee cheered.
Too bad the constant chucking him out of a ten story window made excellent landing training. Lee kept running up several flights of stairs. Temari chucked him out with all her might. Lee kept coming back to do that training exercise. Again and again and again and again. Meanwhile, Inaho was wondering if it was really safe for Sakura to tell Lee how they got through Gaara's ultimate defense.
(1) Inaho is the name of one of the Genin that failed the first part of the exam. I tried to stay true to character but this Inaho sort of came into her own and veered away more. She looks like a guy but according to the databook she is a girl. So this one happens to have a responsibility streak and a bit of sensitivity about her looks.
FurtherNote: Naruto will get a chapter all to himself after this one. I wanted to get this squared away because I don't think Sasuke would've like a few more chapters babysitting Mr. Whompers the snake. Sakura shows some growth and Inaho is getting a well deserved rest. I feel sorry for Gaara though, Lee is such a loud fellow but just by looking at him it's hard not to smile. I could see him doing that.