Key

Normal – Self-explanatory
Italics – Thinking, emphasis and/or flashbacks/chapter names.
Bold –Techniques, Demons/Summons, Inner Sakura and/or title

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto still. Bummer.

A/N: It's been a while, folks! I know I have been gone for a while. Might be a little shocking but, I actually finished this a while back. Yeah... While I wrote this a while ago, updating and putting this chapter on my story has been a hassle... I'll explain later on at the end of the chapter.

In any case, if you're worried, I'm not going to split every match in the Chūnin Exams to each chapter I do. I'll have multiple fights in one chapter. Don't worry. This chapter has two fights in it, and after Shino vs Kankurō in the next chapter, I will start the next round. It won't be too long until the Invasion Of The Leaf arc actually starts. In two more chapters more than likely. This is pretty damn long.

Anyway, I don't own Naruto and please, enjoy.


Kiba looked over at the damage Lee caused with a wan expression. Lee's bloodied face, Temari's broken and anguished body – all because of one technique. One deadly last attack. Using bindings on his arms that Kiba took before as normal bandages, Lee wrapped Temari up tightly with them, and drove her down to battle with a pile-driver. After they hit the ground, Lee and his opponent from Sunagakure made a noticeable-sized hole in the ground. The results were shocking.

Not only Temari was unconscious, but so was Lee. Lee's match started off not in his favor and it looked grim when Temari used that tornado technique on him. He was like the many in the audience who thought Lee wasn't going to make it. There seemed like nothing Lee could do, nothing he could do to defeat his opponent. Temari had him superior range, and the female kunoichi had numbers of techniques that could keep Lee at a disadvantage. However, the taijutsu expert shocked everyone with defeating Temari with one attack!

'Forget shocking – that was the scariest shit I have ever seen in my life!' Kiba remarked to himself. Lee captured Temari with the bindings on his hand, cocooned her so she could not escape, turned her upside down and slammed her into the ground, in one of the most incredible moves he have seen in his life!

But how?

Hinata was the quietest during the match, not saying anything, just observing. Lee impressed her with his comeback attack, winning the match and defeating the strong Temari. She was curious about the technique Rock Lee had used against the wind release user to defeat him. She would ask his teammate Tenten about it, but she felt fine not asking at all.

Ino had a different reaction than anybody else. She was totally engrossed in the match, not getting up one second for anything. She was cheering the loudest for the taijutsu expert. Then when Rock Lee was declared the winning, she jumped up and applauded him. She couldn't believe how the older genin took down Temari but Ino seen the damage it had caused. Once she realized that Lee had not only hurt Temari badly but himself as well, the blond-haired girl started to ask questions. Knowing the only person who could have answers would have to be Lee himself or his teammates, she turned to Tenten. Ironically, when speaking up, her question mirrored thoughts that both Hinata and Kiba had in their heads. "What the hell was Lee's last attack, Tenten?"

Tenten didn't turn to Ino. Instead her eyes were still on the battlefield. She had a triumphant smile on her face. In a teasing tone, Tenten uttered, "I'm surprised, Ino. I thought you of all people would be happy about Temari's defeat."

Ino looked flustered. "Yeah, I wanted her to lose but what Lee did... He either put Temari in a coma, or made her a paraplegic with that pile-driver technique!"

"I seen that first move before but not the second one. He did the Kage Buyō and then drove her to the ground with a pile-driver. What the heck was that?" Kiba joined in the conversation.

"You seen the Kage Buyō before, but not the newer technique Lee used. It's the Omote Renge. It's a high-level taijutsu technique that involves uses the first gate." Tenten tried to explain.

"'First gate'? What are you talking about?" Kiba asked again.

"It's a technique that involves taping into one of the Eight Gates. The Eight Gates are eight major points on the Chakra Pathway System. Their purpose are to limit the body's flow of chakra. Without that limit, our bodies would overflow with chakra and we would burn up."

"What do you mean by that 'burn up', Tenten?" Ino asked, feeling queasy.

Not batting an eyelash, Tenten bluntly said after, "What do you think?" Tenten shook her head. 'We're ninja – I think we should all be comfortable enough to talk about death.'

"Okay, so the Eight Gates. What is that about?" Kiba's interest was held at the Eight Gates and how it pertained to Lee.

Tenten nodded, "Oh yes. So back to what I was saying. Yes, the Eight Gates limit your flow of chakra, keeping the body intact and such. However, some ninjas have figure out how to tap into the Eight Gates, increasing their abilities by exponential heights. Speed, raw strength and durability are increased incredibly, giving the user abilities like a Kage!"

'Amazing.' Hinata looked at Tenten with surprise. 'And Lee-san knows this technique?'

"What?! How, how is that possible?!" Kiba's eyes widened in shock, yelling loudly at Tenten's bold claim. "You're meaning to tell me that Lee has the ability to kick the Hokage's ass?"

Tenten shook her head. "Not at all; I didn't mean to imply that he can beat the Hokage. No, his control over the Gates isn't great enough for that, and only the last gate give you abilities like a Kage. Lee only tapped into the first gate. Besides, the gates are dangerous to use if you use all of them."

"What do you mean?" Ino questioned.

"Through intense training, anyone can learn how to use the gates. Having all of them open gives you the strength to defeat a single Kage. However, it doesn't come without a grave price. The price would be death." Tenten frowned.

"Death?!" Ino yelled out this time, jumping out her seat, starling some of the spectators around them. "What? Why?! Something like that sounds too dangerous for Lee to know!"

"The Eight Gates naturally are purposed to limit the body from all that chakra. When you perform a technique, we tap into our chakra and use it. Once you use all of your chakra, you could die from it. That's because of the gates. If we didn't have limits, we would have access to so much chakra. Chakra that we couldn't possibly handle it. The Eight Gates, although makes our body naturally weak, helps us from expiring too quickly. That's where opening the Eight Gates comes in. When you break that limit, you have access to immense chakra, but at the cost of damaging your body. While it's possible to die from chakra exhaustion, it's also very possible to die from a chakra overload. It doesn't happen often because most techniques usually drain you of chakra, not give you abilities to unlimited amounts of chakra and power. However the Eight Gates is an exception. If you tap into the Eight Gates, you're breaking all the limits of your body. Once you tap into the final gate, you are more than likely to die."

"If that's a high-level technique, why does Lee know it? Matter of fact, why is Lee using something that can potentially kill him?" Ino questioned strongly, albeit in a hushed tone. "I'm having a hard time understanding why anyone would know something like that."

Tenten quickly became irritated. Why was Ino getting so excited? Lee wasn't stupid – headstrong and stubborn, but not stupid. He wouldn't tap into the fifth gate unless there was trouble. If he knew how to tap into all eight of the gates, he wouldn't do it. Not without Gai-sensei's consent. Gai surely wasn't a stupid man either. He knew the dangerous of the technique and he would not let one of his students use something like that. He waited a full year until his team was truly ready for the Chūnin Exams; he wouldn't be stupid enough to let Lee use the gates to show off or in any situation. Temari had a ranged advantage and was strong enough to deal with him and his taijutsu. He had to use of one the gates to fight her. Why was Ino so worried about Lee's safety?

Tenten tried her best to hid away her ill feelings and talked calmly to her friends. "It was taught by Gai-sensei to give Lee an edge, since he has no abilities in ninjutsu or genjutsu. I seen it first on one of our missions."

"A mission?" Kiba asked. "How long ago was this? What was this mission?"

"About three months now to this day." Tenten thought back to the time with a finger on her chin. "Our mission was going swimmingly for the first few days until it went bad and we came in contact with a few missing-nin and their leader. A squad of four ninja. Gai-sensei said the ninja were genin to chūnin-level and their leader was a jōnin. Apparently these Iwa nin were still spiteful about the Third Shinobi War. We found out that they were targeting ninjas from Konohagakure and killing them."

The weapon mistress frowned slightly. "It was supposed to be an escort mission of sorts. Get the client back to his village Kusagakure, something simple but we came in contact with these ninja. The man we were hired to escort back was really a missing-nin apart this band and we were lead to a trap. While Gai-sensei was taking care of the leader, we were having trouble with the others. We looked like we about to die but Lee caught one of them by surprise, tapping into the First Gate and used that technique that he used on Temari. To be fair, she should be dead. You want to know why he didn't kill her?"

"Why's that?" Kiba asked curiously.

"Because he didn't spin as fast." Tenten said, folding her arms and with her brown eyes closed.

"Huh? Why would spinning fast be bad anyway?"

The brown-haired girl stared at her Inuzuka friend. "Because Kiba, that makes him go down faster with the attack. He spins at a ferocious speed, like your Tsūga almost. More height and speed, and Temari would definitely be killed. Lee just did enough to incapacitate her. Pretty kind of him, actually."

"Kind? I wouldn't call breaking her neck 'kind', Tenten." Ino commented frowning as she shivered. "I would never like to be hit by that kind of attack."

With a laugh, Tenten stated, "Don't worry Ino. Lee wouldn't try it on you normally. He had to use it to win." 'It's not like Lee's going to attack anyone normally with that move. That Iwa ninja had had it coming... and Temari.'

Tenten cleared her throat. "Well yeah, Lee's got some tricks up his sleeves. He hasn't even used up all of them." Tenten smirked at her two flabbergasted friends. "And you want to know the best part of it all?"

"What's that?" Kiba asked.

"The Omote Renge isn't even his best technique..." Tenten smiled mysteriously.


Stop The Future

Chapter 24, Chūnin Exams Rumble! Part 3


In the Kage Booth, sat the Hokage and the Kazekage next to each other. To Hiruzen Sarutob, sitting there was unlike any feeling in the world. We have the two best seats in the house, Sarutobi remarked with a smile. Of course, it was always business before pleasure. He had to act like a cool, unsuspecting Hokage, ignorant to the fact that a major conflict was about to happen. Sarutobi smiled, clapping his hands. "A grand match before, yes Kazekage-dono?"

"Of course. It's grand, seeing all this young talent unfold in front of us." The Kazekage calmly stated. "What match shall be next?"

"I do believe it will be Sakura Haruno vs Shikamaru Nara."

"Two of your own, it seems."

"Yes," Sarutobi nodded. "Two young genin who have made it far in these exams, isn't that right, Raidō-kun?"

The Hokage's scarred personal guard, Raidō hummed quietly. "Yes, Hokage-sama. Both competitors done well in this tournament."

"Indeed they did. And so did Rock Lee and Temari. If I could say myself, young Temari even had skills belonging to a chūnin. It's a pity your daughter lost her match, Kazekage-dono." Sarutobi evenly looked over to the man next to him who posed as the Kazekage. He knew Orochimaru wasn't interested in the last match. Orochimaru didn't quite pay attention to the first match, saying nothing or remarking on Lee or Temari's techniques.

"It's unfortunate but she fought well." The veiled Orochimaru quickly said, trying to cover up any ill-feelings. While it was interesting that Rock Lee could tap into one of the Eight Gates, the traitorous snake sannin wasn't very entertained. 'I don't care for these insects. I'm looking forward to Sasuke-kun and Gaara-kun's eventual match.' The disguised sannin looked impassively at the battlefield. "A match well-worth my time."

Sarutobi easily caught the snake summoner's lie, but did not comment on it. "Yes, but I'm sure she will do better next time. I was impressed by her high-level ninjutsu in battle. Six months from here, I'm sure she will even become a chūnin. However, for now, this Chūnin Exams is just starting. I look forward for the next fight." The old man brought forth his pipe to his mouth. "It should be an excellent match."

"I can only hope so." The man simply stated. 'Or my body will rot from boredom.' Orochimaru finished in his head, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

Up in the box reserved for the fighters, Gaara, Shino, Shikamaru, Neji, Sakura and Kankurō stood. Much like many of the audience in the general crowd, most of them were impressed by the last match. In particular, Sakura, Shino and Shikamaru were speaking about the winner positively.

"Incredible. I had no idea Lee was that strong..." Sakura whispered to Shino.

"Yes. Very strong." The Aburame teen next to Sakura nodded. 'I'm guess Naruto-san, Gaara-san, and the Hyūga aren't the only ones who will challenge me in the Chūnin Exams.'

"I'm surprised as well. That makes Lee even more dangerous than he was before. Oh joy." Shikamaru groaned. "More things to worry about in this tournament."

"Remember Shikamaru. You're still fighting against me. You got enough to worry about..." Sakura said with a devious smirk.

Shikamaru sighed again. "How could I forget? Me and my big mouth..." He muttered the last part of his words.

Annoyance settled in on Gaara's pale face, as he scowled. The suna's jinchūriki closed his green eyes and folded his arms. "Pathetic. She was defeated by an one-trick pony," Gaara sneered. "A boring match."

"To be fair, Gaara, Temari was captured in that guy's last attack. She couldn't escape in time." Kankurō nervously defended their sister. 'She did good, dammit. What more can you want?'

"She could have dodged that attack. Instead she was too busy taunting her enemy." Gaara glared at Kankurō. "Don't defend her weakness. It's putrid. I better not see you go down like her, Kankurō."

'Great, I managed to piss him off. ' Kankurō started to sweat profusely. "Y-yes Gaara. I won't."

Shikamaru looked over them with narrowed eyes. 'Is Gaara so powerful he's got his older brother afraid of him? As if I don't have enough problems today. If I win, I really don't want to fight this guy.'

"Gaara, man... I didn't mean to-" Kankurō backed from his brother terrified but he was saved by an unexpected voice.

He turned and immediately seen yellow and black. "Hey, did I miss the match already? Crap."

Naruto cheerfully entered the fighter's box. Sakura turned around, as her blond-haired friend finally arrived. "Hey Sakura-chan, Shikamaru, Shino. Sorry if I was late."

"Naruto..." Sakura gave the blond a surprised look. "You're here." She inspected his attire. Naruto had a newer completely black jacket on, and matching black pants that weren't the baggy ones she was used to him wearing. His jacket was open with a black t-shirt under it. A tantō sat on his back, in a red scabbard, a sword that was different from the one Naruto originally brought. His headband was no longer the blue one given to everyone after graduating from the Ninja Academy but a black headband/bandanna combination. He even looked like his hair grown a little. The black headband was enough to keep his hair together.

She had to admit, Naruto looked much better than what she remembered him having on in the Academy. "Nice look. You went shopping today or something? Explains why you were late."

Naruto rubbed his head, smiling brightly at his friend. "Not at all. Heh."

"Pfft. You finally decided to show up." Shikamaru smirked at Naruto. He gave the boy a handshake. "Wasn't sure if you would chicken out."

"Me? Chicken out? Never!" Naruto grinned and pointed to himself. "Naruto Uzumaki doesn't chicken out!"

"Mn, guess not." The lazy genius agreed.

"Isn't chickening out your type of thing anyway, Shika?" Naruto grinned playfully.

Shikamaru sent an "annoyed" glare to his peer, but couldn't help grinning back at Naruto. "I chicken out much better than anyone else, dead-last."

"Naruto-san." Shino quietly acknowledged him. He nodded at his cheerful teammate. "You look to be in good spirits today."

"Shino! What's up, buddy? Had your match against, uh, whoever?" Naruto scratched his head in confusion and looked sheepish. "Who are you fighting against again?"

"I am-" Shino started but was quickly cut off by a loud voice near the guard rails of the stands.

"He's fighting me, you dunce! And no, we haven't had our match or you would see only one of us here! Besides, aren't you fighting before us anyway?!" Kankurō sent the Uzumaki an annoyed look. "Heh, you hear this idiot, Gaara? You're so going to kick his a-" He was interrupted when Gaara pushed past him roughly. "H-Hey!"

Gaara stood in front of Naruto, glaring at the blond. "Naruto Uzumaki."

"Sabaku no Gaara." Naruto looked back at the boy, the grin still on his face. "You know, you're not as scary as I thought you would be. In fact, you're pretty adorable!"

Kankurō sputtered immediately after Naruto's jest. "Wh-What?!" 'I-Is this guy for real?! Adorable?! Gaara's not 'adorable'!' He was surprised even more by Gaara's next comment.

"And you're louder than I expected. Also, stupider." Gaara retorted back with a chilling smirk of his own. "I'm going to enjoy killing you, Uzumaki."

Sakura gasped. "K-Kill?!" She started to tug at Naruto's jacket lightly, "Naruto, what in the hell are you doing...?"

Naruto had an air of confidence with him. Not paying attention to Sakura's tugging, he was unfazed by Gaara's murderous words. "You think you're going to kill me? I fought tougher looking guys than you before. More terrifying also. Make-up and tattoos aren't going to scare me. Speaking of which," Naruto grinned so widely that he closed his eyes. "How much did you pay to get that 'Love' tattoo on your forehead?"

Gaara's response was a snarl. Sand started pouring from the gourd on his back and started to creep on the floor. Everybody move far away from him. Some jumped on the railing of the fighter's stand, and some clung onto nearby walls. Naruto stood still, ignoring the danger he was in. He opened his blue eyes and glared at Gaara. "Is this supposed to scare me? Save it for our match!" The sand was clinging on his legs. "You'll risk everything if you try to kill me now. You might get the satisfaction of killing me, but then you won't be able to fight more opponents. You'll be disqualified. You're not supposed to fight in this area of the stadium."

"Naruto, are you insane?!" Sakura hissed, from her spot on top of the rail.

Neji shook his head in disbelief, observing from the wall. 'He's going to be crushed into paste.'

'What the hell, Naruto? You show up and cause trouble every time I see you!' Shikamaru thought furiously, standing next to Shino on a rail. 'Worse, you cause trouble with the creepiest guy here!'

'He's going to get himself thrown out of the exams like this... and then he's gonna kill me!' Kankurō panicked in his head. 'Why did that little blond crap-stain have to open his big mouth?! Shut up already!'

Instead of Gaara immediately attacking the blond-haired male ninja, the redhead just chuckled. He folded his arms, and narrowed his eyes. Slowly, the sand slithered away from Naruto and back into Gaara's tan gourd. "Perhaps this won't be a boring fight after all with you, Uzumaki. You're right, I earn nothing with killing you now. Why kill you quickly here, when I can crush you slowly in front of thousands of people?" He turned and walked to a corner in the room. "Don't run away before our match, Uzumaki. If you do, I'll find you anyway. You will die by my hand."

Naruto laughed confidently. "I'm not going to run away, Gaara. I'm looking forward for our match."

Naruto was about to throw out another witty comment before being yanked by his jacket collar. He turned around as Sakura pulled him away. The teen gave her a confused look. "Oh hey, Sakura! What's up?"

"I'll tell you what's up, you idiot! You managed to piss off that psycho. Are you trying to get yourself killed?!" She yelled in his face.

The Uzumaki pariah blinked. "Who, Gaara? Nah! That guy's just a little teddy bear!"

"Wh-What?!" Sakura sputtered. "You're crazy!"

Shikamaru sighed. "Boy, Naruto. You are looking at quite the death sentence..."

"Hehe. I'm just saying that he's not that scary! Come on, I got worse problems in my toilet bowl." Naruto crudely said, with a easy smile. "Besides, it's not like he could fight me outside the arena. The proctors will stop him."

"And what do you think he'll do to you when he gets out there, you big idiot?!" The pink-haired kunoichi thumped Naruto over his head. "Baka! You're acting just like Kiba."

Naruto laughed at his friend. 'Same old Sakura-chan. She never changes.' "I'm not afraid. I'll kick his butt, you'll see!"

"Do you always talk so much?" A male's voice softly said from Naruto's right side. Uninvited, Neji butted into the conversation. "It seems every time I see you, you proclaim you're going to win against someone."

Sakura turned to the Hyūga and glared daggers at him. "Why are you talking to us? No one was talking to you and no one asked for your opinion," Sakura growled out.

Neji ignored the girl, and kept his eyes on Naruto. He walked up to Naruto, sneering. "You show up late, and make so much noise. You sound like a clown. Did you stay at home all this time so you could work on your material?"

Unlike Sakura, Naruto ignored the Hyūga's attitude and just waved at him in a friendly manner. "Oh hey, Neji! You're still around, huh?"

"I haven't had my match yet and my opponent still isn't here." Neji chuckled. "I wasn't sure you were going to show up, dead-last."

Naruto frowned at the "dead-last" comment. Naruto hated that phrase. Shikamaru's earlier comment was joking around and he knew it. Neji was looking to piss him off instead. "Still a prick, I see. Don't think I forgot about you, Neji. After I'm finished with Gaara, I'll be going for you next."

Gaara growled from his corner. "You are a fool."

"I agree." The Byakugan user yawned. "Fate has already decided your match with Sabaku no Gaara, Uzumaki. You were a dead-last before in the Ninja Academy – I don't think you are worthy to be in the Chūnin Exams."

"Naruto passed his graduation test with flying colors, Neji!" Sakura kept glaring at Neji. "When he graduated, he didn't graduate as a dead-last."

"And how long did he take him to actually graduate, Haruno?" The berating Neji did not wait for a response from anyone. "I've seen him around when I was in the Ninja Academy. He was one of the failures who couldn't do even the Bunshin no Jutsu. A disgrace."

"To my knowledge, Rock Lee couldn't do the Bunshin no Jutsu either. However, we have seen his match. He won. Lee-san is a strong ninja. How well you do in the Academy doesn't define how the rest of your life." Shino coolly stated. "Your statement is invalid."

"Lee is still a dead-last. He will never change." The brown haired Hyūga coldly declared. "You're either born for greatness or born for failure. Once a weakling, always a weakling."

"You've got a lot of nerve to talk about someone who's your teammate!" Sakura furiously yelled. Her emerald eyes brimmed with rage. 'Oh god, let me get this guy after my fight with Shikamaru! Cha!'

"And as his teammate, I know everything about him." Neji shot back to the fierce kunochi. "You may think highly of his abilities but I'm the one who always defeats him. I'm the one who always wins against him. He's still a failure. How he won his match was luck. That technique would never had worked on anyone who-"

"Neji, let me tell you something." Naruto interrupted. He put his hand on Sakura's shoulder. It barely kept Sakura from attacking Neji. "The only disgrace I see here is you." Naruto narrowed his cerulean eyes. 'Neji was never this much of a prick – even in my old time line. What the hell is wrong with him?'

The brunette Hyūga was undaunted, addressing Naruto with another sneer. "Unbelievable. Trash defends trash, it seems..."

The blond shinobi shook his head at him. "You spew a lot of crap but you're the only trash I see here. Lee is a shinobi who trained hard to get where he's today. He paid for it in blood, sweat and tears. Even more than I have. I didn't see the match but I'm sure Lee earned the right to win."

Neji gave Naruto a dry look. "He fought an opponent who underestimated his meager abilities. If it was anyone else, he would have lost. Do you know why? That's because nobody was fated to win against him – no one but me. He will lose. It's his fate." The Hyūga prodigy insisted. He chuckled at the passionate blond boy in front of him. "But tell me something, Uzumaki. If you win – and I doubt that – you'll be fighting against me. Do you really think you'll stand a chance against someone with natural genius?"

Naruto laughed at Neji, and nodded. "Of course I believe so. Because you'll be going up against someone who's been fighting for his entire life."


Genma shook his head at the blood on both Lee and Temari's faces and on the ground, sighing. "These tournaments are always so messy." He watched as the medic team carried out Temari and Lee. Lee would have recovered before the next fight or forfeit. He could tell that wouldn't be a problem. Somehow, Genma suspected Lee would be back up soon enough. 'Gai must be one hell of a slave driver. He taught this boy to open at least one of the Eight Gates. Even one causes immediate exhaustion. Lee's also cut up from that tornado attack. He should be down for a hour or two. Hopefully, he'll be up for his next match.'

He shouted to the crowd, "Up next: Sakura Haruno vs Shikamaru Nara!" A wild applause greet the two next fighters come onto the battlefield.

The Haruno glared at Shikamaru, who edged away from her. If looks could kill, the Nara would be dead already. "Come on, Shikamaru. Let's get to it."

The ponytail-ed boy groaned. "Oh why did I have to piss her off? Now I'm going have to work extra hard in this match. I should have just lost to Tenten in the preliminaries..."

Up in the stands, Tenten was bouncing in her seat and yelling louder than anyone else around them. "Go get him, Sakura! Kick his butt!"

"Tenten! Settle down already." The Inuzuka shouted over the girl's noises around them. "You're just embarrassing yourself."

"Ah, let her cheer, Kiba." Ino smiled. "This is the most excited I seen her so far today."

"I still feel bad for Shikamaru. Here's to hoping Sakura won't knock his block off..." Kiba trailed off, shaking his head slowly.

"I'm sure Sakura will go easy on him. They are friends now." Ino grinned to the Inuzuka. "Would you rather let your girlfriend lose instead?"

"Don't start that crap up again!" The dog user barked at his now laughing friend. He hid away his small rosing cheeks.

Genma glanced over at the two fighters. The pink haired girl was clencing her fists and the Nara was looking nervous. He could almost feel the killer intent rolling off. 'What got her mad? Probably her opponent. I don't know whether to laugh or feel sorry.' The proctor raised his arm and yelled out, "Alright! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the second battle! Sakura Haruno vs Shikamaru Nara!" The crowd cheered loudly. "Ready?" Genma asked the competitors.

"Yes!" Sakura growled aggressively, entering a fighting stance, still glaring over at her opponent.

"No!" Shikamaru said back to the jōnin. "But it looks like I have no choice. My mom will kill me if I quit now..." He trailed off with anxious laughter. He shifted uncomfortably under her deadly glare.

"Fight!" Genma yelled and jumped back.

Naruto and Shino stood next to each other watching the match intensely. Naturally, Shino was silent and observing. However, instead of commentating the match out loud, Naruto watched quietly with a keen eye. 'Let's see how much you've learned, Sakura.'

Sakura made the first move, launching herself at the Nara. Shikamaru barely dodged the pink fury's first strike, aimed at his face. He maneuvered back from her, reached inside his pouch and chucked some shuriken at her. With ease, Sakura dodged the hasty attack and rushed towards the retreating strategist. She was faster than before – perhaps even faster than Shikamaru.

Up in the stands, Naruto also noticed Sakura's increased speed.

'Sakura-chan's been training! She's even faster than she was during the preliminaries..' The blond ninja thought with astonishment, impressed by Sakura's newer improvement. Naruto could already see the glimmers of the deadly kunoichi he knew from the past. He followed the girl's movements, as she sped towards Shikamaru. Shikamaru was not expecting or ready for such a fast attack.

Sakura closed the distance between them again, and threw another attack at Shikamaru. Shikamaru grunted, failing to dodge her strike, as she slammed a punch to his gut. With wide eyes and fast pants of pain, Shikamaru staggering away. The Nara once again failed to dodge, and Sakura snapped a kick to his side.

Shikamaru skidded on the ground away from Sakura, his elbows scrapping grooves in the dirt. Rolling and holding himself up on his right knee for a few moments, he tried to pull himself back to his feet, attempting to work through the pain. However, he could not stand. He still was shaking in pain from Sakura's attack. Still on one knee, he thought to himself, 'Two blows – she landed two blows on me and I feel like this. So... this is the full brunt of her anger...'

"Come on now. I thought you had more fight in you." Sakura taunted him with a smirk.

"What... what did you hit me with?" He watched, gasping in pain as Sakura slowly walked towards him.

"Just taijutsu laced with a bit of my chakra. Enough to increase the power of my punches and kicks. I'm a novice at this though." The girl grinned at him cockily. "My advice, Shika? Don't get hit by me again." Suddenly she noticed that his hands were up in a rat hand seal and jumped back from a moving shadow. "Okay, I'll stop gloating now. It seems you recovered since you were about to use the Kagemane no Jutsu on me. Nice try though."

'Crap.' Shikamaru released the hand seal, and gingerly stood up. The shadow that was starting branch out to Sakura disappeared. "Contrary to what you believe, I am taking this seriously."

"Oh?" The pink-haired girl gave her opponent a dry look.

Shikamaru grinned, "Yeah I am!" Lightning quick, he threw a kunai to Sakura, although it just landed a few feet away from her.

"I thought you were taking this seriously." Sakura chuckled.

"I am." Shikamaru asserted with a smirk. "Look at the kunai again."

"Hmm?" Sakura looked down and with a gasp, seen a tan ball on the kunai with the kanji "" ("Light") on it. "That's not good-"The ball exploded, releasing a blinding flash, disorientating the once confident Haruno girl. She tried to squeeze her eyes closed and put her hands in front of her face but it didn't help. She yelped in pain as her eyes burned from the light. Finally, the light disappeared and she could open her eyes. By the time she could see through the spot in her eyes, she was already in the grasp of Shikamaru's technique, immobilized.

The Nara muttered, watching his shadow extend out to Sakura. "Kagemane no Jutsu, success." He smiled at Sakura. "Still think I'm playing around?"

Sakura laughed mirthfully. "Yes, I think you are. You didn't even notice that I'm a clone, didn't you?"

"Wait, what?" Shikamaru narrowed his eyes. 'She's right, this "Sakura" doesn't have a shadow and I don't feel like my technique is holding anyone.' Shikamaru quickly canceled his Kagemane. Desperately, he started looking around for the pink-haired shinobi. "When did you make a clone?"

'Sakura' only smiled, before she exploded. In a cloud of smoke, the clone disappeared. Suddenly, a shower of fiery needles came forth from the fire clone's position, rushing straight towards Shikamaru.

"Crap!" The boy barely had enough time to dodge. The fiery projectiles peppered the ground he just stood on. Quickly reaching into his pocket and grabbing a kunai, the Nara kept searching for Sakura. 'Where the heck is she?'

"Shaaannaro!" A yell came from above Shikamaru, as the pink haired ninja fell from sky with another chakra-laced punch. With barely having enough time, Shikamaru rolled out of the way, as Sakura punched the ground, leaving a small hole in the ground. Thinking what could have happened to him if he stood there and took the hit, Shikamaru distanced himself again from Sakura.

Standing up, Sakura glared over at her opponent and retook her fighting stance. As Sakura moved towards him again, Shikamaru reached into his pouch, grabbed a few shuriken and threw it at her. Sakura was hit by a couple of them, but that didn't stop her.

Shikamaru watched again as Sakura again came close to him, and landed a blow to his leg, striking hard. He flinched, giving Sakura enough time to landing a kick to Shikamaru's chest. The kick was also laced with chakra, making it even more painful.

After seeing the move connect, Naruto winced in the crowd. He could almost feel that from here. 'That... looked like it hurt. Sakura-chan's looking pretty good right now against Shikamaru.' He smiled and cheering in his head. 'Go, Sakura, go!'

Sakura again started to advance towards the Nara with clenched fists. Things were not looking good for Shikamaru and all of his tactics weren't working. The kunoichi was faster, stronger, and just as aware as her surroundings as her opponent. Not to mention, Sakura was just as clever and resourceful as Shikamaru. That clone technique really came out of the blue and if Shikamaru had been any slower, Naruto was sure the lazy genius would have been done for.

However, Shikamaru wasn't finished yet. He still has a few more things he could do to win this match against Sakura, Naruto thought to himself. 'I won't count him out until I actually see it myself.'

"I'm getting tired of this." Shikamaru stood up and discarded his jacket onto the ground in frustration. He tried calming down again and prepared his next strategy. He reached inside his back pouch once more and grabbed another fistful of shuriken into his hand. Throwing them at Sakura, he wasn't surprised when she dodged them all. He chased after her, sending more projectiles at her feet. When those missed, he threw more shuriken.

Sakura scoffed, deflecting two of the shuriken coming to her chest with two of her own kunai. "This is your strategy, Shikamaru? You're expecting to magically hit me?"

"Tch." Shikamaru tried his best to ignore the mocking and kept throwing several shuriken at her direction. Much to his distaste, he threw them poorly and Sakura either deflected it or dodge them entirely. 'I'm getting nowhere fast.'

He took out the last pair of shuriken from his pouch and threw it at his opponent's direction. The Nara watched as the two shuriken sailed over Sakura's head, sticking in the ground stiffly. Sakura grinned at Shikamaru, "It looks like you're out of things to throw at me..."

"You think that, don't you?" Shikamaru gave her a confident smile. "What's your next move Sakura?"

"Let's see you dodge this one, Shika!" Sakura declared as she brought her hand up in several hand seals.

The girl had gotten better with hand seals, moving at a speed that Shikamaru could barely follow. 'Boar, do- no, bird... wait, tiger at the end? That's a fire release technique...' Shikamaru widened his eyes, recognizing the last hand seal.

Quickly finishing the hand seals again, Sakura screamed out the newer technique. "Katon: Hijouro!" A volley of flying needles of fire flew out of Sakura's mouth. Pour a large amount into the technique made more needles than usual, which made it harder to dodge the technique.

Shikamaru knew it was too many needles to simply block or dodge, so he quickly did some hand seals. "Kawirimi no Jutsu!" He replaced himself with the discarded jacket on the floor. There were no other nearby objects he could have used the academy technique on. The jacket was just outside the path of Sakura's attack as well.

After he escaped Sakura's fire release technique, he winced at the damage done to his favorite jacket. 'Damn, going to need a newer one.'

"Cha!" Tearing him out of his thoughts, Sakura rushed towards him with chakra empowering her taijutsu again. The lazy genius was getting desperate, trying to dodge every strike Sakura could throw at him but couldn't avoid several of her punches. Again, Shikamaru tried to get away, only to get grabbed by his mesh t-shirt by Sakura and was smashed twice in the face. Shikamaru stumbled back from the attacks, disorientated by the pain. He held his face in pain, more specifically his nose.

'Damn, she's really wailing on Shikamaru. He won't last very long like this.'

Naruto observed, folding his arms. 'She looks so scary like that.'

Inside Sakura's head, Inner Sakura was cheering her head off. 'That's right, oh yeah! We're totally kicking his ass!'

'Y-Yeah! We're doing it! We're actually could win this.' The pink-haired girl thought. Sakura couldn't believe it. A few months back before she would never even dreamed about being able to fight anyone, not after that mortifying training session with Naruto's team. Before, she could barely hit someone. Now, she was able to do a couple of fire release techniques, had good chakra control and was outmaneuvering Shikamaru, one of the smartest shinobi she knew from her class. 'We're going to win.'

The voice inside her head scoffed. 'Of course we are. We should cool it with those fire release techniques though. We know only one low chakra-consuming technique. The rest take larger amounts of chakra like the Katon: Hijouro, so we can't keep spamming it. It will easily drain away our chakra. Take one more shot at Shikamaru-baka with another fire release technique and finish this, shannaro!' The Haruno backpedaled to a part of the stadium, out of the reach of Shikamaru's shadows, but close enough for her distance techniques to still be effective. As she was almost finished with her hand seals for the next technique she was about to use, Shikamaru tagged her cleanly in her leg with a kunai. She growled, and pulled it out, before moving again. Despite the kunai catching her in the leg before, she still moved fast enough to dodge more of his projectiles. She could tell that Shikamaru was losing focus from exhaustion. 'Looks like I got this one in the bag.'

She looked around at the literred battlefield, filled with Shikamaru's projectiles, shaking her head. 'He threw so much crap Shikamaru at me. Most of it missed too. What the heck was he thinking?'

However as she stood to walk away from the scattered area where shuriken and kunai laid, she stopped in her tracks frozen. "Wh-what? Why can't I move?" She tried budging but she didn't move an inch. "Wait, did he get me? How? He's nowhere near me!"

She tried her best to look around for his shadow, knowing it involved gluing his shadow to the opponent's to keep them in place, but Shikamaru's shadow was still nowhere to be seen. 'So how did he get me?'

"What's wrong, Sakura? Cat got your tongue or rather... my shadows got you." Shikamaru approached her with a cocky smirk.

"How did you get me? You weren't even near me!" Sakura was stumped. 'I got away from his shadow before, I didn't go under any shadows. How could I have been caught?'

Seeing confusion on Sakura's face, Team 10's laziest member spoke up again. "Come on, Sakura. It can't be that hard to figure out. You're one of the smartest kunoichi in our class, right? Look, I'll give you a hint. Look around y- well, I guess you can't technically look around yourself right? Okay, well, do you remember when you backed up a few seconds ago?"

'Yeah, I remember. I backed up to recuperate and think of a newer strategy against you...' She frowned, trying to figure out everything. 'I made sure I walk towards an area with the least amount of shadows. There's no shadow here long enough for Shikamaru's technique to work. All there was around me was all that shuriken you threw at me before, so... wait... Shuriken... Could he have tagged his shadow onto these shuriken to stop me? No, he couldn't have. He's not using his Kagemane.' Without having any ability to move her head, she looked down at the ground with her worried green eyes and seen two shuriken at her feet, with their shadows extended out to hers. 'No way. They're sticking to my feet... but he's not using Kagemane no Jutsu! How in the hell does he have me?!'

"Alright, alright. I see that you're having problems solving the mystery." The kunoichi growled at her opponent's relaxed attitude. Shikamaru ignored it however and continued to talk. "The major technique every ninja knows in my clan is the Kagemane no Jutsu. The technique is a great tool in battle, however it suffers from a lot of drawbacks, one being that I need to be near you in order to use it. So to compensate for that, my father has come up with a technique that can overcome the weaknesses of the technique."

"Your father?"

"Yes. Him. Thanks to him, I was able to get you in a technique that can keep you in hold without me necessarily doing the Kagemane. He named it the Kage Hōrudo Shuriken no Jutsu and you've been caught in it." Sakura's eyes widened. "I know you either was too busy dodging or chiding me because of my shitty aim from before but I'm sure you wasn't paying attention to one of these shuriken."

Casually, Shikamaru sauntered up to the frozen Haruno with a smirk still on his face. He reached down and plucked two nearby shuriken, He then walked up to Sakura's face and showed her them. The shuriken on the left was a normal, ordinary shuriken with a dull sheen, and the one on the right was painted crudely with white kanji, with the word "" ("hold") on it. "These shuriken are how my technique works. Notice the difference between these two?"

Sakura growled in frustration, realizing what Shikamaru was saying. "That's kanji on the right shuriken. I've seen this before; this is fūinjutsu!"

"Correct." Shikamaru nodded, throwing the shuriken back to Sakura's feet, making sure to keep the hold on her completely. She flinched. "You know when I was throwing shuriken at you like a madman? I missed on purpose. It looked random, but I needed to get my shuriken around from my technique."

"How is that possible? How could your shuriken have the same abilities as your Kagemane?" She pondered.

"Chakra flow. Based on what I seen my father do, whenever a Nara applies chakra flow to an object, the object gains the abilities of our paralyzing techniques. That chakra my father applied to the shuriken isn't any exception."

"I thought I was careful. You outfoxed me still." Sakura sighed in disappointment.

"You were careful – just not very observant. You got impatient when I kept away from you, and you kept rushing in on me even when you weren't supposed to. You wanted to change up your strategy a lot so I didn't know what to do to you next. Unlike you though, I thrive on repetition. 'Keep doing whatever you're doing until you can't anymore – so as long as it works', my dad says." The teen frowned and immediately pulled out a kunai once again. "I used a good amount of chakra. All those techniques must also have taken a lot out of you. Me? I'm tired. Fighting you any longer will just make me lose. I don't think I got enough in the tank to continue on even in this tournament, so after I win, I'm planning to forfeit any other matches I get next."

He started to walk towards Sakura with a kunai. "It's been fun."

After Shikamaru's explanation of his technique, the Hokage smiled in his booth. He was pleased with the match so far. 'Impressive display there, Shikamaru-kun – staying a few steps ahead Sakura. You confused your opponent and allowed her to think she had the upper hand before you struck. When your opponent is stronger, and faster than you, brain can beat brawn.' He laughed a little. 'Even though Sakura-chan has physical abilities that are going towards a chūnin, your quick thinking, tenacity, excellent chakra control and tricky tactics are the shining example of a chūnin, Shikamaru-kun. Not to say Sakura-chan isn't doing well for herself.'

The leader of Konohagakure watched as the immobilized girl stood in front of her capturer. 'She has picked up extraordinary number of fire release techniques, c-rank and above. She has amazing chakra control for her age, is tenacious, resourceful and has surprised even me in the match. That fire clone technique was quite interesting. Not to mention she managed to dodge your tricks twice, Shikamaru. I wonder if she can get herself out this bind. There is more than one way to escape this, Sakura-chan. Let us see if you can find your way out.'

Meanwhile Sakura was panicking. 'Dammit! I can't lose this battle. I came so far! He's just going to make us lose.'

'Cha! And we're not going to. Shannaro!' Sakura's inner side claimed loudly. Inner Sakura hissed at her dominate side. 'Don't worry. I'll get us right out of this mess!'

"Alright Sakura, it's been fun but I think it's time I end this. Now, forf-", he stopped his sentence when he seen Sakura's arm shaking out of the control of the shuriken. "Wait, no! How could she be moving?"

He started to back away in shock as Sakura slowly pulled out of the shuriken's pinning shadows more and more until she was no longer caught. She growled at him.

The once cool and collected genius started to sweat again in nervousness, once again going on the defensive. 'Just like that match back with that Temari chick and Ino in the preliminaries. My technique can be overpowered. This isn't good...'

"You know, instead of talking and explaining everything... you should just knocked me out!" Sakura let out a war cry, running towards him and punching at him, only to find her hand phasing through. She immediately knew what happened. "Crap, a clone! He replaced himself with one. When did he make a clone?"

Unfortunately, she could not get an answer as Shikamaru's shadow stopped her from moving. "N-No, the Kagemane! I totally forgot about it!"

Shikamaru sighed. "You almost got me, you know? Damn, that was quick."

Sakura sighed as she staggered. 'That's it, I'm done. That's it, I'm done. I'm too tired to do anything else and I am almost out of chakra. '

She was surprised however when her paralysis stopped. Shikamaru sighed, and slumped, breathing hard. "You know what? I'm done."

"What? What do you mean?" Sakura looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Why did you release me?"

Shikamaru gave his opponent an irritated look. "Because I can't go further against you. I know when I'm beaten. I'm almost out of chakra, so my Kagemane won't hold you for long. So... I'm done, simple as that." He grinned at the girl as he walked towards her. "And I know you're tired too. I'm not like you though. I can accept defeat. I did well and I came far in the exams. I got nothing to defeat you with. So, you win."

"..." Sakura was speechless, watching Shikamaru walk past her and up to the proctor. 'What just happened?'

"Shikamaru, what are you doing?!" Ino yelled, grabbing onto the arm of her chair tightly. Ignoring Tenten's chuckles, she started shouting in the air. "You lazy son of a bitch! You had Sakura, why did you quit?!"

Meanwhile down on the field, Shikamaru waved towards Genma to come over to him. The older man obliged and slowly walked over. "Need something, kid?"

"Yeah, I'm done. I'm forfeiting." Shikamaru asserted.

"You sure you want to do that? You were doing very well so far." Genma chewed on his senbon.

"Yep, I'm content on how well I did." Shikamaru pointed towards the still shocked Sakura. "She did better than me however. I can't beat her. So, I'm finished."

"That's fine, Nara-san. You seem sure and you fought well. You're not too bad, kid." The proctor nodded at the teen. He gave Shikamaru a gaze that was mixed with amusement and respect. "Alright! This match is over! The winner of the match is-"

"Wait!" Sakura ran up to the pair of ninja. "Shiranui-san, I forfeit as well."

"Hmm?" Shikamaru looked at Sakura in confusion. "But I'm giving you the win."

"But I don't need it." Sakura smiled at her peer. "You're right. I barely got enough chakra to continue in this tournament. If I won anyway, I would have to fight Lee and god knows I would lose that battle horribly."

"So you're giving up like me, huh?" Shikamaru grinned.

"Not because I want to, mind you. It's just because I know my limits." Sakura laughed weakly. "I'm tired and I'm happy I gotten this far. Besides, there's more than just winning a match in this tournament."

"Really? Care to tell me why, Sakura?" The lazy genius gave the intelligent Sakura a look of amusement.

"I'm sure you figured it out, but the point of the Chūnin Exams is to see who's got the skills to be a chūnin, not who can win the most matches or fight the best." Sakura nodded. "There's no shame in losing in this tournament, or knowing when you need to give up and retreat. That's the point of being a chūnin, knowing your limits, being mature about it, and eventually overcoming them as time passes by."

"That's how I figured it." Shikamaru grinned. "That and the fact that I want to take a nap."

"You lazy bastard." Sakura shook her head in amusement.

She and Shikamaru nodded at each other and shook each other's hands. Turning to the proctor, they both rose their arms at the same time. "Proctor-san, we concede!"

Genma had a happy smile on his face. 'Both of these kids' got the potential to be chūnin. I hope the judges see that.' "This match has ended in a draw! Both fighters have forfeited, ending in double disqualification!" The immediate reaction from the crowd was a mixed response. While some cheered for the match, most also jeered in distaste. Genma rolled his eyes. 'People, pfft.'

"Huh? Why would Sakura just give up like that?" Ino wondered, in confusion. "She had the match. She could have just let Shikamaru quit." She was still annoyed that Shikamaru, after all the trouble he went through in the fight with Sakura, he gave up.

"Because she was running low on chakra and she knew it." Sakura performed excellently in Kiba's eyes. She had Shikamaru struggling all through the match, and he was very happy with her performance, despite her quitting too. "I couldn't be prouder."

Sakura looked up at the jōnin proctor. "Excuse me, Shiranui-san, but now that we have both lost, do we have to leave the stadium or something?"

"Not at all." Genma shook his head. "You are allowed to stay. You can either go to the audience's stands and watch the next matches there or if you really feel like it, you can go home."

Before Sakura could say anything, Shikamaru voiced his opinion. "Good. I think I'll just rest here for a while before going home. I had enough fighting today."

Genma sweatdropped. 'Wow really? The Nara are so laaaazy. I know I'm laid-back but those guys rather go play shōgi instead of fight.'

Sakura sighed. 'How did I lose to this guy? I think my budding respect for Shikamaru has died.'

Without much else of a word, Shikamaru left to go upstairs with a slight limp. No doubt to sit and rest in the crowd. Sakura nodded at the tournament's proctor and followed after.

Genma watched their retreating forms and shook his head, as he brought out a paper from his pocket. Unfolding it, he spoke out loud to himself. "This tournament is quite the interesting one." He then smirked, looking at the next match on his sheet of paper. "Oh yeah, this will be an interesting tournament."

He rose his microphone to announce the next match.


Naruto looked over the railing with a grin.

Unlike a few in the audience and some in the fighting stands that look disgruntled about the outcome of the last match's results, he was pleased. Both opponents had admirable skills, and both had shown tricks he had never seen from them. Especially Shikamaru. His strategy to pin Sakura with shadows from his shuriken was reminiscent of his days when he fought Hidan. And even when that failed, Shikamaru pinned his shadow to nearby shuriken and kunai to get to Sakura. In the end, both ended up forfeiting, showing not only that they were

They won't be the only chūnin today, he thought with a grin. He focused on his match and who he was going up against.

He was going against the redhead, Gaara, who impassively watched the last match. The Sasuke and Neji battle would definitely be the most hyped up match of the tournament. It was already anyway. Rumors, and whispers ruled the crowds, especially this day. If he wasn't so focused on the invasion, he would be excited about that match too. He had more pressing matters on his mind.

Naruto was up next. He couldn't wipe the excited grin off his face. It would be a fun match with Gaara. Hopefully not deadly though.

"Next match up: Naruto Uzumaki vs Gaara Of The Desert!" Genma projected his voice with a microphone. "Both fighters, please come down to the middle of the battlefield."

"Ah, the Uzumaki child against my Gaara. This shall be very interesting indeed." The snake sannin behind the veil held back a sneer.

"Interesting indeed, Kazekage-dono." Sarutobi evenly said back. 'Let see how much you have grown, Naruto-kun.'

Gaara immediately disappeared from his spot in the fighter's stand, inciting some surprise from Shino, Neji and Kankurō. He reappeared in the arena, staring down the hallway Naruto would walk down to get to where he was now. A light smirk splayed on his face as he felt the blond near with everyone of his steps. That faint, heavy heartbeat in his chest immediately came, as the blood lust started to haze red in his skull. Mother craved blood, and she will get it. The blood of the blond would be hers. Uzumaki would validate his existence today, one way or another.

Down in the arena, Naruto had a torrent of feelings unleash in him. 'Gaara, my friend. I gotta snap you out of this.' The antagonistic Gaara grinned evilly at Naruto. He frowned at the redhead. 'I'll need you by my side when the time comes. You, 'Kurō and Temari-chan. I won't let you go down a dark path. I'll kill Orochimaru.' Disregarding Gaara's heated stare, Naruto clenched his fists and bared his teeth.

The newer announcer Genma Shiranui, coolly walked up to the middle of the arena. He looked over at Gaara for a second, before looking at Naruto. "You ready to fight?"

"Yeah. I'm ready." Naruto kept his stormy blue eyes on Gaara.

Genma stepped closer to Naruto. "Kid, as a friend of a friend, I wanna thank you for what you did before." He said this as lowly as he could, but not enough so anybody could become suspicious of what he was saying. Before Naruto could send him a confused look, Genma dashed it all with one name. "Hayate."

Naruto immediately knew what he was talking about. Hayate was saved, and had friends up in higher places. And when he realized the real identity of his savior thanks to the Hokage who held no punches back, Hayate spread it around some of his peers. Couldn't be helped. Genma was one of his friends. Genma was giving him advice about this, and as he remembered, the man was an elite guard of the Hokage himself. Powerful. "But that was now, and this is then. If you can't handle it, we will step in and stop Gaara – no matter what. However, truly try your best in this one and don't give up. Consider this a... well, this already is a test, but consider this a bonus part of the test."

"What do you mean?" Naruto sent the older man a confused gaze. "Why are you telling me all of this?"

"You know what's going to happened today. You helped us prepare a lot. Do well, and the reward will be big. Trust me in this." Genma gave him a small smile and turned back to the crowd, content on not answering Naruto anymore. "Ladies and gentlemen, the third match is about to begin! This match will be Gaara of the Sand vs Naruto Uzumaki of the Leaf!"

The crowd roared to life, clapping it up as the two prepared himself. One had a bloodthirsty smirk on his face, and the other had a look of determination on his face. Naruto slipped into a stance, while Gaara stood there as stagnant as ever with his arms folded. Genma smirked again and shouted, "Fighters ready? Go!"

Naruto immediately jumped back, while making his signature hand-seal and sent a clone to Gaara. The boy did not move at all, and let the clone come toward him. Immediately, the sand shot up to block the opponent's fist and crush it until the clone crumpled in pain. Then the sand wrapped around the clone's neck and crushed his windpipe until the clone was dead.

Naruto wasn't very surprised, and Gaara looked at him with an expression that practically begged him to try that again – only with his own body. To top it off, he snickered evilly at the yellow-haired boy. Despite it, Naruto smirked back at the boy and dislodged a kunai to the boy. Almost with a lazy look, Gaara willed his sand as it jumped up again and caught the kunai. Like bone, the metal snapped easily to the sand into shrapnel. The remains Gaara "spat" out to him, only Naruto was not there.

Gaara looked slightly surprised, sensing Uzumaki behind him. The boy threw a punch his way, to when the sand captured him quickly. "Sabaku Kyū." Sand enveloping Naruto from head to toe, Gaara looked at him with a bored look. "Is this your best, Uzumaki? Mother will be displeased."

"Nah, this isn't my best, not even close. I got a lot of tricks up my sleeves..." All it did was make Gaara's sand grip against his neck tighter. Naruto continued his flippant remarks, "...But squeeze me harder and find out what happens next." Naruto grinned deviously to Gaara.

Gaara grinned back, "Sabaku Sōsō!" After he crushed the 'Naruto' in the sand, he immediately regretted it, as a light built up in front of his eyes.

The explosion of the clone was massive in the stadium, enough to wake up anyone who was sleeping in the stands.

It just so happened Shikamaru was indeed sleeping and the explosion woke him up. In fact, he was the first one in the seats above them all, screaming, "What the hell, Naruto?!" as the explosion rocked them all.

"Holy shit! What the hell just happened?!" Ino yelled out as the explosion was still taking place.

"I have no damn clue! First Gaara catches Naruto and then this!" Sakura coughed through the billowing smoke that blew in their row.

Shino was glad that his sunglasses protected him from most of the grim and smoke that kicked up in that explosion, "Naruto-san is quite trouble some sometimes."

"Oh shit!" Kankurō cursed out loud foully, gripping the metal bars in front of him tightly. 'Did he just kill Gaara?!' He calmed down, taking his hands off the rail. 'No, of course not – Gaara won't die from that.' He gritted his teeth. 'Gaara's still got to be careful.'

Sarutobi looked at the battlefield with a trained eye, as the brown sooty dust gave up. A good-sized crater was left in the middle of the battlefield. Everything else was safe in the stadium, including the two combatants. Naruto, like the sly and crafty ninja he was, first sent a clone to test Gaara's sand out and then sent another one to get that close to Gaara to use the Bunshin Daibakuha. To which he was surprised at. 'Did Jiraiya teach him that technique?'

The Hokage smiled, pleased. 'An excellent show of skill, Naruto-kun.' Quickly, the Third Hokage was becoming impressed by Naruto's tactics involving the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu.

Naruto's levelheadedness in the battle was greatly showing. He never approached Gaara's deadly sand head on, never charged in without knowing what he was dealing with. It was incredibly smart to do, especially when the clones gave him information every time they were dispelled. He was learning about his opponent fast.

Finishing the match quickly and as cleanly as he could was something the judges were looking for. If he did great today, whether or not he actually made it to the top, he was sure Naruto would become a chūnin after the exams. 'Based on what I seen today, I think a lot people are ready to become chūnin.'

Gaara survived the impact of the attack by swapping himself with a clone made of sand. As the clone was destroyed, he teleported and escaped the radius of the explosion. Much to his surprise, he felt invigorated. He could actually laugh in joy, in which he did. After cackling manically at Naruto, he smirked. "Very interesting... You are interesting, Naruto Uzumaki."

"Oh?" Naruto disappeared from the sand ninja's vision. "Don't tell me you're so awed by that, you stopped fighting now." Gaara could practically feel the grin radiating off the boy's face.

Gaara didn't turn around, as he sent the sand went to attack at Naruto once again. Expertly, Naruto dodged the billowing sand attack and ran away from Gaara. Gaara's eyes watched Naruto intensely, as his sand tried striking out to Naruto. Staying perfectly as he folded his arms, his expression was quickly turning from excitement to annoyance. The boy skillfully dodged all the attacks he threw at him so far, so far only using clones. For all he knew, this could be another clone. "Only one way to find out." Gaara muttered to himself, wetting his lips.

Naruto dodged his sand for a little while, until accelerating towards Gaara in a fast pace. Seeing Naruto's intentions very quickly, Gaara summarized that Naruto was trying to get him to attack himself. Gaara chuckled darkly. "A foolish attempt, Uzumaki!" Gaara let his arms fall to his side and patiently stood waiting for Naruto.

Allowing the stream of sand that was following Naruto to fall and mix with the soil on the ground, Gaara raised his two hands and crushed the soil in front of him. Dirt and sand bended to his will, and although it took a little more out of him, he knew it was well worth it. A sizable pit was what was made at the moment, and the boy didn't even know it was coming. The running boy fell inside before he could stop himself from doing such. The Uzumaki looked up at him with a surprised look.

Gaara smirked evilly, and raised his hands as he spoke out, "Sabaku Nemuru Horudo, Sabaku Kyū." Sand started to crawl on the boy in the pit, as Gaara squeezed his hands tightly, "And now this is the end! Sabaku Sōsō!" And then the pit closed the boy inside, no doubt filling up with his blood. It was a shame he could not see what it looked like.

Gaara watched heartless as Naruto was liquefied by his attack. Surprised and annoyed that the examiner didn't call for the match, Gaara sent a heated gaze towards him. "Examiner, call the match. Uzumaki is dead."

"Why would I call for the match?" The brown haired jōnin shook his head. "Your opponent isn't dead yet."

Gaara looked at him with a raised brow. 'Not dead? How can he not be dead?' At that second, he realized why and was on his guard again. The boy used clones! Whether to escape techniques, use them to help overwhelm his opponent or to attack his opponent when he didn't want to himself. It annoyed him to no end. Gaara rose his head in a lethargic fashion. 'Where the hell is this pest now? He's not in the air, or not on the ground. I can't find-'

And it was then he realized there was only one place he could hide and his sand could not protect him at that moment. Naruto Uzumaki came from underground, fist high as he launched a textbook-perfect uppercut to Gaara's chin. The Armor Of Sand he put on ages before this match started cracked under the impact of the attack very easily. However, Gaara recovered in the air, prepared his next attack and launched a quick Sunadan to the boy's neck, hoping it would kill him completely.

It only killed the clone Naruto had.

He swore to himself as he realized that a clone like that almost punched through his defenses like that so easily. However, the clone wasn't alone, and as soon as Gaara was back on the ground, was as soon as the ground started rumbling before him.

It was then the crowd came alive once more, as 10, 20, no, 100 of Naruto's shadow clones came out of the ground, all launching attacks at Gaara at one instant! It was a sight to see, and Gaara was both impressive and annoyed that Naruto could get the drop on him like this. How could he have not know? 'He hid his clones underground! When did he do that?! How could he have gotten the drop on me like this?'

His sand did its best to release a sweeping wave of sand to attack the first twenty that tried to attack Gaara. It was difficult moving in the air at this speed, especially when the clones were just as fast as him and could move even faster since they didn't have armor weighing them down. With that, Gaara did his best to let the technique drop from his body as he held back the clones. He landed quickly, and they stood a little in the air, before doing something else that he never expected.

Some of the remaining Naruto clones took their partner clones and actually threw themselves at him, with a barrage of kunai and shuriken. Gaara's sand whip protected him from the flying metal projectiles and then subsequently "killed" them off. If he would be to be hit by that attack, nothing short of completely surrounding himself with the Suna no Tate would help him survive the hit.

These clones kept throwing their partners head first to him, seeming to not have much purpose except distracting him. This would kept happening until the second wave of the Naruto clones were dead. Meanwhile the third came towards him, and attacked with the sword Naruto had upon his back when he first started the exam. All of them had decent ability with the sword and Gaara found it harder to fight these type of attacks. He had to not only move but attack with his sand as he jumped back, left, and right from the sword swipes. It took already a lot to himself to keep pushing through and keep counterattacking the boy. It was said that a jinchūriki was to have more stamina, more chakra, more anything against a normal ninja. However, it just seemed this boy had just as much as he did in the tank and more.

Gaara knew normal ninjas did not have the ability to just use shadow clones like that and then the other moves he pulled before like that so damn easily. The boy had to have just as much chakra as he did. 'Interesting, Uzumaki, but I will win!'

After he picked off some of the sword-using Naruto clones, the other surviving ones opted for taijutsu and ninjutsu. The ones that opted for ninjutsu decided to shoot out even more interesting attacks at him. 'Interesting... but also annoying.' To further increase his annoyance, the four clones all encircled him and used wind release moves. "Fūton: Shikūdan!"

Four medium-sized spears came to life as they launched themselves at him and the clones that could fight with taijutsu came towards him in a flash. Gaara gritted his teeth and stood stagnant again, while making sand come at him all at once. "Suna no Tate!"

The shield came forth, protecting him completely from the wind, as the spheres became nothing but air. Brown hardened spikes of sand came to kill off any of the foolish clones who fought him with taijutsu. It was a good thing too as well. Taijutsu was never his good suit to deal with. The remaining clones was picked off by streams of sand as he stayed inside and performed the Daisan no Me technique. He closed his eyes and watched the outside world, trying to see where the real Naruto was. He didn't have to wait long as Naruto came to him, in front of him, in a flash.

He did not know what was the Uzumaki's next move. Surely he knew exactly that the taijutsu would not work, neither would kenjutsu and any ninjutsu would do anything either. This was his ultimate defense – nothing could shred through it! Now, he had to think of a newer-

Wait, what was that his Daisan no Me picking up?

Naruto stood there for a second, nodding at the sphere of sand before jumping back and preparing himself for a newer attack as he rolled up his sleeves. Suddenly, a blue hue began to glow on his arm and a kanji popped up for a second, saying the word "" ("Water"). Making a quick ram hand seal, Naruto yelled out, "Uzumaki Shin Fūin: Godai Fūin: Mizu Fūin Houshutsu!"

In a instant, a large wave of water splayed out of the seal on Naruto's arm. The water went to rush out to the sand sphere before the yellow-haired Uzumaki. The water clutched to the sand, and some was even enough to drip inside the sphere. Gaara growled, annoyed at the boy. Despite the attack didn't do much to him or the sphere shield at all, he knew he couldn't stay there for long, as the Uzumaki wasn't stupid enough to just go crashing into the sphere. In a few seconds, the sand once again retracted itself into the gourd on Gaara's back. Gaara reopened his eyes, ending the Third Eye technique and turned to glare at the Uzumaki. Around him, water was on the ground, slowing being absorbed into the sand.

"Whatever useless tactic you were trying, it was futile. It all is. You cannot hurt me." Gaara boasted arrogantly to him.

Naruto scoffed it off, "If this is supposed to scare me, try again. All this is, is bravado. A silly way to intimidate me."

"This isn't bravado, fool. You haven't even touched me yet, and you never will!" Gaara flouted Naruto's comment as he willed the sand again to come. Only, he found it hard to even shape the sand into a whip like before. By the time he clumped enough sand together to create a whip, Naruto was gone.

Instead the boy, still very flippant, jumped out of the way of the attack ages ago. "What's wrong? It looks like you're having trouble."

"It's nothing..." Gaara quickly grunted out, not understanding why it was hard to summon a whip of sand. The sand felt too heavy, and it was much harder to control. 'Why is this happening?!'

"Oh, I think you're having some trouble there." Naruto stood with a grin. "It's kind of hard to shape and control the chakra in your sand, right? And every time it starts to shape, some of it even crumbles, huh?"

"Shut up." Gaara muttered, his anger starting to course in his veins. The Uzumaki had pissed him off for far too long. Once he had the chance to kill him, he would surely do so.

"And you don't have anymore skills other than using sand, right? No more of that chakra-infused sand anymore and you can't do much else, right?"

"Shut. Up." Gaara commanded, his patience deteriorating very quickly.

"I mean, being an one-trick pony isn't that great against someone who knows how to combat against you stagnant types." Naruto smirked at the boy. "You got strength and power, but if someone out-muscles you, out-speeds you or even out-wits you, and... well, you crumble like the sand under you-"

Gaara interrupted Naruto with a yell. Naruto recoiled in surprise. Gaara was pissed. Sand exploded from every side of Naruto as Gaara poured almost every amount of his energy into that attack.

Naruto easily moved from the sloppy attack. Gaara was too pissed, too focused on crushing and destroying him. His sand was slower now, and harder to control. Gaara looked for him anxiously for a good few seconds until he felt Naruto's presence again. It was a little too late to block Naruto's knee to his gut. Then he landed a punch to Gaara's face and backed up again, dodging a slow tentacle of sand that managed to form itself. The bloodthirsty redheaded boy tried to recover himself first before summoning more of his sand again. However, he noticed the damp sand was barely clumping together. Wait... damp?!

The water... it made his sand heavier.. It had to! He could do this for hours and not be any sort of tired, but yet, this water was making it so hard for him to fight. Now however, he found it hard to mold and mix the sand with his chakra as the sand kept falling each time he did. More chakra had to be poured in to make it effective at all. Making his supplies of chakra go down even more. Not only this was bad, but it was not much he could do now. The sand absorbed way too much water now, Gaara knew it. It was hard controlling the sand with it now, and Naruto could get in easily, as Gaara was opened up to pain he never truly felt ever in his life.

Gaara felt a fist slam into his gut. Shortly after, he was completely thrown to the ground. Then Uzumaki spoke again, "You wanna know how I gotten that water from? That one-trick pony back then in the preliminaries – thank him for the water. You use sand, and sand is affected by water a whole lot. It makes it weigh more, it makes you waste more energy trying to control and manipulate it. Even with that last attack, you poured a lot of your energy into that move, right? You barely got anything left."

"You're wrong..." Naruto looked at Gaara curiously and then his eyes widened when sand stuck to his feet. "I still can control the unaffected sand below you! This fight isn't over yet." The sand fully then covered Naruto Uzumaki from his neck to his legs.

It didn't seem to faze Naruto, as he had still an aura of confidence around him. "Hahaha, looks like you caught me, Gaara. But like you said, this fight isn't over yet." Naruto declared with a smirk.

"Forget what I said before, Uzumaki." Gaara grinned maliciously. "It's over! Now die! Sabaku Sōsō!" And with a flex of his hand, the once yellow boy was crushed into nothing but bloody paste. Blood was only left.

At seeing the attack, people in the audience panicked. Some ninjas and some civilians. In these types of tournaments, usually most ninja competitors wouldn't kill each other, not like this. Gaara quickly smashed Naruto in a trap and crushed him, not giving him even time to scream. Naruto's peers in the audience also panicked.

"Holy shit! He did it! Gaara actually killed Naruto!" Kiba roared out, fury in his eyes. "That psychotic bastard!"

"Naruto..." Sakura breathed sadly out.

"I-It can't be over, can it?" Ino chocked.

"It's not over yet, Ino-san." Hinata said quietly.

"What the hell are you talking about, Hinata? Naruto just got blasted!" Kiba roared out to the Hyūga.

"There are several signatures underground now as we speak... Naruto's hiding down there. The real one." Hinata nodded quietly, with her Byakugan activated. After a few seconds, she allowed the dōjutsu to drop.

"What?!" Ino and Sakura yelled out in disbelief.

"How... when-?" Kiba twitched his eye.

Hinata spoke over him. "His blood clone took the place of the real Naruto the moment the match started."

"Blood clone?" Sakura gave Hinata a confused look. "What's that?"

"It's Naruto-kun's fūinjutsu. Using seals, he can create a corporeal clone that can take massive damage before it is dispelled. The clone is more life-like than his normal shadow clones."

Tenten looked over at Hinata with shock. 'Naruto knows fūinjutsu? How much chakra does that even take to make something like that? No one could even tell the difference at all!'

"A clone? How can you be so sure?" Kiba barked back in disbelief. "You're meaning to tell me Naruto had another clone to help him again? How much chakra does this guy have?"

"Look around you, Kiba. The guy's been using clones and other Bunshin-related jutsu all through the match." Ino defended Hinata. "Hinata maybe be right about this."

"The real Naruto had already been underground the moment the match started..." Hinata said, with a small smile, easily proud of Naruto's underhanded tactics.

Gaara laughed loudly as he could while a deep silence overtook the stadium. "You were a good kill, Uzumaki. You fought well and defined my existence but we both knew who was going to win today." Suddenly, a shadow rose from the ground and jumped high in the sky, as Gaara looked at it with confusion and then great shock.

"THAT WE DO, GAARA!" A yell from above gave out. Everyone from crowd, ninja and civilians alike, turned their eyes to the supposedly dead Naruto Uzumaki and widened their eyes when they seen a powerful amount of chakra build up in his hand.

'Is that... that technique? Something like the Rasengan took Jiraiya some time to learn, but you, Naruto-kun... have learned in a month?' Blue wisps belonging to a mini-typhoon in the hands of young Naruto Uzumaki. Sarutobi sat up there in his seat, near the shocked "Kazekage" and his peers. Sarutobi held in a smile. 'Naruto-kun, you truly never ceased to amaze me.'

Orochimaru was surprised for different reasons than the Hokage. Seeing Naruto's attack reminded him solely of a battle between him and another ninja one month ago in the Forest Of Death. 'Blue... wisps? The Rasengan! It is easily an A-rank technique and it's a blue orb as well... No... could this be the boy who I took on in the forest?' Orochimaru looked on with widening eyes, almost jumping out his seat. 'Impossible! He doesn't even show any resemblance to his appearance or skills. Grr, but maybe he is even better at disguising himself than I thought before. Hm, Naruto-kun has indeed improved.' The traitor calmed down. 'No... No I will have to see. After all, he is his son and Jiraiya is his godfather. It's possible he just taught him that infernal technique... but how many people know the Rasengan?' Sarutobi may be right – the boy may be more than meets the eyes. He would have to see later then. For now, the snake sennin relaxed back in his seat. 'Perhaps this tournament won't be too boring after all.'

"What is that? Why aren't you dead? You won't kill me! Not me, Uzumaki! Not me!" Gaara madly vented, with a copious amount of chakra leaking out of him.

With that, sand begun to pour out the gourd on his back and break down before him. Most of his body was soon covered by the tan sand, and it quickly took control half of his face, and his right arm. Shortly after, a grotesque appendage resembling a tail grew.

Seeing this, Gaara's brother gasped in shock. "No, it can't be! He can't do that here!" Kankurō yelled in the fighter's stands.

Neji looked at his with confusion. "Do what here? What are you talking about?"

Kankurō did not answer the Hyūga at all, swallowing nervously as he started to see the metamorphism of Gaara. 'This isn't good. It's not time for him to do this! And there isn't anything anyone can do about it. Gaara's going to kill that Naruto kid and then kill a bunch of other people in a rampage.'

Shino looked on with raised eyebrows, his eyes widening under his dark sunglasses. 'What's going on? This killing intent... So powerful. I'm all the way up here and I can feel it like I'm there on the battlefield with Naruto and Gaara. Is this what my bugs have been fearing?' He held onto the rail with two shaky hands.

Up in the stands where other flabbergasted and fearful jōnin stood, Baki's mind was in a mess. It was now painfully obvious to a lot of ninja here that Gaara was a jinchūriki. That chakra that they sensed was too powerful and foul to be anything else. 'This is bad. Kazekage-sama and Orochimaru-sama hasn't given the signal yet, so why is Gaara changing? There is truly no way to control Gaara now, now that he's let his anger get the best of him.'

Orochimaru had similar thoughts. He sneered under his veil. 'That damn demon child. Worthless! Now we're going to have to either begin the attack or delay it even more. My men aren't in position yet, and I know Kabuto is still about a hour back, so the attacks going to be delayed! I was hoping Gaara would take out that Uzumaki boy, but it seems like he's having more trouble than I thought. He's also close to blowing our cover. This is going not as good as I thought it would before.' He peered over to the surprised Sarutobi and held back a snort. 'I'll just have to hold out on killing you, old man. Gaara either has to calm down or dealt with Naruto-kun before he goes too crazy.'

'Suna's jinchūriki is more unhinged than I thought! Orochimaru, you complete fool!' The Hokage resisted the urge to strike at the Kazekage next to him. 'It is up to you, Naruto-kun. You must defeat him here now!'

'Shit, kid. You better take him out already!' The proctor Genma chewed nervously on his senbon, wiping away the sweat on his brow. 'That killer intent. I'm sensing reminds me of the Kyūbi. Gaara's definitely a jinchūriki.'

"You will die, Uzumaki. By my hand!" Gaara growled out viciously, as he sent his right arm to Naruto in a long stretch in a great effort to kill the Uzumaki. Signal be damned, he will kill this insufferable mutant that was Naruto Uzumaki!

Much to his further distain for his opponent, he seemed to fly away from the sandy claw Gaara had up, and even had the audacity to run along the damn claw itself! Coming forth with a blue orb in his hand, that he seemed to be ready to pound it into his head, Gaara slammed a punch from his free left hand into the head of Naruto Uzumaki. His strength being ten times better than before he easily torn through the Uzumaki. He was even more irritated to find that it was only the blond boy's shadow clone, once again. He bellowed, "Another clone, Uzumaki?! Why won't you fight me your own self, coward?!"

"Attack! Rasengan Rendan!" Out of the ground came three clones, attacking the arm that was stretched out to amazing lengths, as Gaara yelled in great pain. The attack severally damaged Gaara's demonized arm, punting large holes in the arm... For a moment until Naruto started to see his arm regrow inhumanly.

Gaara roared in fury, baring his fangs at Naruto. "You and your pathetic clones!" He slammed his left arm into one of the clone's stomach, which dispelled it, while bring a kick into the next one's chest and blowing it up in white smoke. With demonic speed, he finally brought back his heavily damaged arm and slammed a ground-shaking chop into the head of the last clone. It screamed in pain, as its jaw was slammed into the ground and it dispelled in white smoke. This did nothing to sate the blood lust of one half-demonic Gaara. To the one-tailed jinchūriki, these clones were becoming annoying. All parlor tricks.

"Blood. I want your blood, UZUMAKI!" Gaara yelled out madly as he searched for the Uzumaki. "Come out, and face me!"

Gaara gotten his wish granted and a grim looking Naruto stared at him, with a fighting stance ready. Gaara sneered, "There you are!"

The blond sent a serious glare to his opponent from Suna. Gaara was moving in quick on him. He prepared himself for the next attack from the half-Shukaku form of Gaara. 'He looks so far gone, like last time. If I can knock him out before he decides to skip all this and turn into the full Shukaku, I can win. He's packing a punch, and his speed beats mine when he's in that form, but he's in blind rage now. That's the only thing that's keeping him from winning this right now. I still got time. If I can take out Gaara, the invasion will never happen!'

Gaara jumped high in the air and slammed his demonized arm into Naruto's direction, trying to hurt him badly right there. Naruto jumped himself, barely dodging the attack, and landed onside his stretched arm. Running up to the surprised Gaara, Naruto punted his head with a incredibly strong kick. The half demon yelled in pain, as Naruto landed another punch to his head. 'How am I losing?! Why am I losing?! I'm suppose to be stronger than him!'

Naruto kept on Gaara, sending out his clone, throwing them at him like he didn't care. Systematically, each clone slammed Rasengan spheres into the demonic Gaara.

Gaara screamed, trying his best to get Naruto's clones off of him, swinging at them wildly like a beast, but to no avail. No matter what, they got in, hitting him with well-trained taijutsu. Gaara's eyes bubbled up with rage. "ENOUGH!"

Exploding with sand, each of Naruto's clones were dispelled in that instant. Gaara growled in frustration, allowing more of the Shukaku to take control, losing more of his own features and taking on his inner demon's. Even now, however, the boy in front of him still was smiling, not at the least fearful or suffering. "Why are you able to challenge me?! Even like this?!"

"I'm the only one who can, Gaara!" Naruto exclaimed, flashing through a set of hand seals. "Fūton: Shippūya!" Many arrow-shaped wind chakra blasts started billowing in Gaara's direction. Naruto discovered how that it was becoming useless as Gaara blocked the technique effortlessly.

"Stop your foolishness! Sunadan!" With insane speed, Gaara threw a condensed small sphere of sand to Naruto. It had been the first time Gaara ever hit Naruto in this match. Naruto groaned in pain, feeling a warm and painful feeling in his chest. Cleanly like a bullet, Naruto's chest was cut through by the attack.

Unsurprised, Naruto watched as the wound repaired itself quickly. Gaara grinned evilly at him, screaming, "Dodge, Uzumaki!", before launching more sand projectiles to his opponent. Ready now for the attack, Naruto pumped some chakra into his legs and tried his best to dodge the projectiles. Some struck his arms, leaving him to stumble before recovering and moving away from the

This was getting out of hand. If the blond couldn't finish this soon, Gaara would go completely in his demonic form and destroy everything around him. Not to mention if he took more shots from that attack again, Gaara could beat him or even incapacitate him long enough to use the Sabaku Sōsō on him.

'More! I need more power! I need to completely transform myself in order to beat him!' Gaara said in his head, surrounding himself in a sand sphere once again.

'Shit! He's going to use his full tailed beast form!' Naruto spotted the sand forming around the red-haired jinchūriki, and quickly prepared his next technique. In a mad dash, Naruto jetted towards his friend. Summoning blue chakra and spinning chakra in his hand feverishly, Naruto completed his technique and yelled out, "Ōdama Rasengan!"

"What?" Kurenai gasped from her place in the stands, watching the big ball of chakra Naruto summoned in his hand. 'Another variant of the Rasengan? Only this technique is larger in scale than the normal one. It looks like can gore through anything against it.' The brunette smiled in pride, watching the slacked jaws of Gai and Asuma. Even Zabuza looked impressed by the attack. 'My student is so strong.'

Naruto charged at Gaara's sphere with breakneck speed, holding the upgraded version of the Rasengan. He would defeat Gaara right here and end this invasion.

Inside, Gaara was scrambling to prepare his next move. 'I need to use it. Forget about this bloody invasion. Naruto Uzumaki will be mine! I will release Mother and she shall destroy him!'

He could see outside his sand, with his Daisan no Me, chuckling as Naruto tried to run at him with another attack. 'Foolish. My sand will gore you to death!'

However, Naruto skillfully dodged the spikes sent his way, twisting and ducking under them impressively. still with the blue chakra in his hand. Gaara scoffed. 'What is he trying? He cannot break my sphere!

Much to Gaara's horror, his sand started collapsing in front of his eyes. 'No, no! Why is my shield failing? It's that chakra sphere again! It's breaking through my defense! How?! No, no, my defense is still too weak. The sand, it's too clumpy. My sand is still too heavy to control!' In dread, Gaara wondered to himself. 'Is my sand still so damp by his water technique?'

Seeing his sand crumble with him inside his sphere, Gaara started yelling in fear. Naruto's blue sphere was in his vision. He watched helplessly as the sphere connected with his abdomen; the Rasengan cut into him with ravaging chakra. "No, no, no!" And all he seen was white.

The explosion shook up the stadium battlefield, as many members of the audience look on with awe. Gasps and yells begun, as the white light cleared up. Naruto stood over the fall form of Gaara, panting slightly as he put his hand right at his side.

Naruto sighed in relief, realizing that most of his attack was stopped by Gaara's Suna no Yoroi technique. The Ōdama Rasengan had enough chakra in it to stop both lines of defense however. Helped by Gaara's lowering chakra and stamina levels, and Naruto easily broke through the sand like he was punching through glass.

He looked over at Gaara, glad to see while some parts of Gaara's outfit had been shredded by the buzz-sawing chakra of the Ōdama Rasengan, and some of his skin had become reddened and sizzling from the attack, Gaara was mostly okay. He was however tied downed by Naruto's attacks and eventually working on low chakra. Shukaku wasn't the Kyūbi – the one-tailed demon did not have regeneration as one of its special abilities or advanced healing. If Gaara took a hit, he would take it.

Naruto however wasn't surprised when he could still hear the red-haired boy breathing. The Sunagakure jinchūriki was still conscious, violently coughing as he laid flatly on the ground on his back.

"H-How? How could you have beaten me?" Gaara weakly said, looking at Naruto with one emerald green eye. "Both of my defenses failed. No one has ever broken them."

"Perseverance, strength, and never giving up on finding a way to defeat you." Naruto grinned, bending down to Gaara. His blue eyes scanned over his fellow jinchūriki for a few seconds. "You okay down there, Gaara?"

"To be beaten by such a mawkish opponent." The Ichibi jinchūriki mocked, coughing up some blood. "Such a sympathetic stare; like salt to the wounds."

He gave the redhead a serious look. "You were a good opponent, Gaara. It took a lot to defeat you. If anyone else fought you, they would have lost."

Gaara wheezed again, trying to swat away his enemy with his demonic arm. He watched helplessly as the sandy arm started crumbling. "And you? W-What made you so capable on defeating me?"

"I been where you are at now. Scrambling on the floor like that. But see, I wasn't going to give up against you, Gaara. I got a lot to fight for. Goals to complete. Maybe that's why I won."

"So, you have defeated me. Kill me." Gaara glared hard at Naruto, igoring the blond's shocked look. "Do it now, before I get up and I kill you."

The usually undaunted Naruto froze when Gaara uttered out his demand. "Wait, what did you say?"

"Isn't that what you're going to do? You have defeated me... the tournament-"

Naruto kicked Gaara in the gut viciously, in the area where he was hit directly by the Ōdama Rasengan. Gaara yelled shortly in pain, but Naruto shut him up by grabbing him by the collar. Gaara stared back at cold ble eyes that looked almost like slits. "Are you stupid or something? No I won't kill you! I avail nothing by killing you here, Gaara!"

Gaara was now the puzzled one. 'Why... Why is he sparing my life? If I am to be defeated like this, I have nothing to live for.'

Naruto chuckled, seeing Gaara's expression. "I don't want to kill you, Gaara. If anything, I want to become friends with-" He was quickly interrupted by Gaara's glare.

Shock leaving his face, the redhead demon vessel sneered. "Friends? Never. I exist only for myself! You were to validate my existence and you failed. You... you are a f-fool. I will get you... Naruto Uzumaki." Gaara stuttered, as his demonic features started to disappear. Rarely did he know defeat – it hurt as much as he thought it would. He could not form techniques, he could not use his sand, he could not hear Mother... Gaara was too hurt to be afraid. 'To be beaten by such an affectionate ninja. I feel sick.'

Panting, Gaara then stated, "You should have... killed me when you had the chance. I'll get my revenge soon. This isn't... over yet..." He trailed off, falling unconscious. His breathing was even, and quiet. Ichibi no Shukaku's influence was completely erased from Gaara's features.

'I know, Gaara. You're just as messed up as you were before.' Naruto stared to the Kage Booth above them with cold blue eyes. 'But I will finish this. Orochimaru will not win. He will die today.'

Seeing Naruto waving over for him, Genma rushed over to him and Gaara. The Tokubetsu Jōnin checked Gaara's pulse and shook his head with a smile. 'Hell of a match, kid.' He raised his arm, "Winner of this match: Naruto Uzumaki!"

The crowd cheered the loudest. Not because of Naruto's grand speech or how he successfully defeated Gaara but on how great the match turned out to be. A great match and a great ending.

End.


A/N: Hope you guys enjoyed the two matches. Took a while to do this all. Up next: Sasuke vs Neji, and Shino vs Kankurō and then finally the start of the next round. For now on until the end of the story, I will start writing the techniques more correctly with the accents on the letters since I now have access to them on my story. For example, I'll be using "fūinjutsu" and "fūton", instead of "fuuinjutsu" and "fuuton". This will also effect words like "doujutsu", "Kankuro", "Hyuuga", "jinchuuriki", "chunnin", "jounin", "Kyuubi" and "Mangekyo". They will be correctly spelled with accents. Chapters before this one will be one day redone to also incorporate this newer idea I have. It will be a little more trouble, but I believe it adds more to the authenticity and helps the story out. I also will not translate the techniques in parentheses anymore during the chapter, until the end of the chapter under the "Technique List!" down at the bottom. The techniques that appear in canon will not be translated either. You can find all these techniques at Naruto wiki anyway.

Now, an explanation for my absence for these past months and the lack of updates. My laptop was finished and I wrote a lot of stuff on it. I managed to secure the chapter but yeah, that cut me down for a week. Then, I decided to just take a break and find a job. I still lack one unfortunately. That's the least of my problems though. My real problem is the lack of a proofreader with me. My beta reader just... stopped keeping in contact with me. I tried getting in contact with him, but he seemed to have disappeared, so... I think it's time for me to just carry on until I can find another one. Good news though: before my beta reader disappeared, we edited most of the chapter and stuff. The parts that he didn't go over me is just really the Naruto-Gaara fight. So yeah, that's what been going on. I hope to update sooner though, perhaps with more smaller but focused chapters.

Whoo, those matches... geez, it took a long time to think up what to write for them and finally, it took a long time to write down for the match. It was a lot more talking and stuff, but me and my former beta reader trimmed it down. I still got more stuff to go for the next chapter too.

Translation List:

Bunshin Daibakuha – Clone Great Explosion
Daisan no Me – Third Eye
Kage Buyō – Shadow Of The Dancing Leaf
Ōdama Rasengan – Big Ball Rasengan
Sabaku Kyū – Sand Binding Coffin
Sabaku Sōsō – Sand Waterfall Funeral
Sunadan – Sand Bullet
Suna no Tate – Shield Of Sand
Suna no Yoroi – Armor Of Sand
Uzumaki Shin Fūin: Godai Fūin: Mizu Fūin Houshutsu – Uzumaki True Seal: Element Seal: Water Seal Release

Technique List!

Flame Needle Clone Technique (Hihari Bunshin no Jutsu) – Infused the idea of the Clone Technique and Fire Release: Flame Shower, Sakura can create a clone that contains her fire chakra inside. When dispelled, the clone will release needles that look like needles from the Fire Release: Flame Shower technique. The clone can only release them facing forwards however, much like its parent technique. Like the regular Clone Technique, it cannot interact with its surroundings, and only is useful when attacked.

Rank: None
Chakra Usage: Medium
Technique Class: Supplementary/Offensive
Type/Classification: Ninjutsu
Range: N/A
Hand Seals: Tiger → Boar → Ox → Dog → Bird → Dragon → Bird → Tiger
Users: Sakura Haruno

Shadow Hold Shuriken Technique (Kage Hōrudo Shuriken no Jutsu) – A precursor to the Shadow Imitation Shuriken Technique. Several shuriken in a Nara's arsenal is infused with shadow chakra. Throwing a shuriken, with white kanji painted on it saying "持" ("hold") to the opponent's shadow, the user must activate the chakra inside with a hand seal. Once activated, the shadow from a shuriken and extends to the opponent's shadow. Because of the chakra inside the shuriken, it acts much like the Shadow Imitation Technique, holding the opponent or opponents in place. This overcomes the weakness of the range of the Shadow Imitation Technique, and the technique is more discrete than the Shadow Imitation Technique. However, there are several weaknesses of the technique.

Like the Shadow Imitation Shuriken Technique, the technique will fail if the shadow of the opponent disappears, if the shuriken is removed from under the shadow or the shuriken is destroyed. The last weakness is how long the shuriken can hold the opponent. The more seconds the opponent is being held, the more chakra drained from the shuriken. Another problem would be the strength of the technique. The stronger the willpower of the opponent, the easier it is to resist the shuriken's shadow chakra, and since there is only enough in a shuriken to hold the opponent for a few seconds, the opponent can resist the shuriken. To compensate these problems, the more shuriken thrown to hold the opponent, the longer and the better the opponent will be held. To make the technique even more effective, the user can mix both the shuriken with the kanji on it, and ordinary shuriken to confused the opponent. The shuriken is already imbued with chakra beforehand. Since Shikamaru does not have the ability to use chakra flow as of yet, his father has loaded up the shuriken with shadow chakra.

Rank: None
Chakra Usage: None (The shuriken already holds chakra inside)
Technique Class: Supplementary
Type/Classification: Hiden/Ninjutsu/Fūinjutsu/Chakra Flow
Hand Seals: Snake
Range: Short to mid-range
Users: Shikamaru Nara, Shikaku Nara

Sand Binding Sleep Hold (Sabaku Nemuru Horudo) – With one flex of his fingers, Gaara crushes the dirt and sandy soil under an enemy, creating a pit to trap enemies inside. This technique is a very subtle technique if the opponent doesn't notice it. If Gaara is in a desert, the technique takes barely any chakra. If there is barely any sand, it takes more chakra to use this technique. This technique can lead to Gaara's other lethal techniques, such as the Sand Binding Coffin and the Sand Binding Waterfall techniques.

Rank: None
Chakra Usage: Depends
Technique Class: Supplementary
Type/Classification: Ninjutsu
Hand Seals: None
Range: Short-range
Users: Gaara

Rasengan Barrage (Rasengan Rendan) – Naruto summons three shadow clones with Rasengan each in their hands. They attack the opponent quickly in a group altogether.

Rank: None
Chakra Usage: Medium
Technique Class: Offensive/Supplementary
Type/Classification: Ninjutsu
Hand Seals: None
Range: Short-range
Users: Naruto Uzumaki