Yes, my friends, it's been quite a while, I know. I AGONIZED over this chapter, literally to the point where it brought me to a serious writers' block! The last few months have been a few words here, a paragraph, there. Writing fight scenes is MUCH harder than I thought it would be! A HUGE thank you to Ihateheroes, Sabaku Ookami, Unlimited Blade Works and Magenkyo Sharingan for the tips and the advice that they gave to me that really gave me some much needed direction.
So, this is my first ever fight scene; I hope I did well on it. I would like as much feedback as you can give me on this – I really want constructive or objective criticism so that I can improve this aspect of my writing. Telling me where I went wrong and offering solutions to the problem would be ideal, but if you can only tell me where I went wrong, then please feel free to tell me where I went wrong. I'll probably come back to you with a bunch of questions as to how to fix it so that I can get more specific, tailored feedback from you. But any feedback at all, and any reviews at all, are always appreciated! Thanks so much, guys!
Again, apologies for the wait on this chapter – hopefully, the next chapter will be easier to write, as it will be an even bigger fight scene (all the more reason to review and tell me where I went wrong, so that I can make some corrections when I write the next chapter).
Disclaimer: Standard, but I don't own any music from DBZ, either.
Previously…in "To Really Know Someone":
"Referee Naruto Namikaze will now explain the rules to the participants!"
Naruto waved to the crowd as his name was announced to the spectators. He began to explain, "For the first match, Kurenai Yuhi may use any art, skill or jutsu available to her, except Genjutsu! The other participants may use any skills they wish!"
Receiving nods from all parties, Naruto continued, "The match ends for any participant when they are incapacitated, or when I step in and end their participation in the match! Are there any questions?"
Receiving negatives all around, Naruto smiled and spoke up, "Very well, then. Kurenai vs. …all of them!" A few laughs came from the stands at his introduction, "FIGHT!"
And now, Chapter 15: The Main Event – Round 1
As the participants all got into stance, Naruto suddenly remembered something as he waved his hands, "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!"
All of the participants looked at him as though he'd grown a second head, while the crowd seemed to sweat-drop all at once.
"Baby, the rule was no genjutsu…drop the transformation," Naruto quickly instructed Kurenai.
Kurenai looked down and then back up, responding somewhat sheepishly, "Oops, silly me; you are right, honey," and with that, she put her hands into a Ram hand seal and shouted, "Release!"
The image of porcelain-skinned Kurenai in her white bandage-style dress disappeared in a puff of smoke. When the smoke cleared, gasps could be heard as the woman beneath the transformation could now be seen. She was quite the sight to behold!
(BGM: DBZ Soundtrack – Pikkon's Theme)
There was Kurenai, but not the Kurenai that they all knew. Where before, her skin was pale, it now had a healthy-looking tan. Her hair, while still mostly brownish-black, now had natural highlights of dark blonde. It was clear that she'd been spending time in the sun tanning. She was also wearing a brilliant red sleeveless haori with orange and black flames at the bottom that seemed to billow in the wind. It looked almost like a female version of Naruto's sage cloak. She wore the haori over a skin-tight black spandex bodysuit that had one red spandex sleeve sewn onto the right shoulder, the other shoulder left bare. The legs of the bodysuit only extended about three inches below the seat of the suit, showing off a lot of Kurenai's tanned, and rather toned and muscular legs. On Kurenai's bare arm, she wore a solid red armband that had several seals covering it. The armband extended from her wrist and ended halfway up her forearm.
Coming back up to the musculature that covered the rest of her body, it was clear to those present that she'd been training hard. There was so much muscular definition that wasn't there before, centered around the healthy six-pack that was her abdominal wall. Despite the newfound muscle mass, she was still quite feminine, and her conditioning only seemed to enhance her already-spectacular womanly beauty as her muscles seemed to push her curves out from her body, giving her figure even more of an hourglass shape than it had before. This gave her an air of grace and allure, while at the same time made her a very intimidating figure to behold. High-heeled black ninja sandals adorned her feet, while she wore her headband around her waist much the same way Guy did. Her ruby orbs also possessed a fierceness that had not been present before, her face set in grim determination. This woman, there was no doubt – she was physically quite strong.
Naruto smirked as Kurenai's opponents seemed apprehensive at taking this new Kurenai on before he announced, "Okay, now you can begin! FIGHT!"
"So what do you say, boys and girl?" Kurenai taunted, "Should we start this off with Taijutsu only?"
"Sure, why not?" Kakashi responded nonchalantly.
At this, all of Kurenai's opponents began to charge her. Kurenai took a defensive stance and awaited her opponents. They surrounded her and started throwing flurries of punches and kicks her way. Despite the fact that she was outnumbered six-to-one, Kurenai gracefully and efficiently dodged most of the strikes that came at her, successfully blocking the rest. She made it look easy…at times it even seemed as though she was floating or gliding across the arena floor. Through various acts of tumbling and acrobatics, and shifting her weight between her legs and her hands, she was a whirlwind of motion. After a few minutes of this, it became clear to the attackers that they were going to have to kick their game up a notch.
Unfortunately for them, Kurenai decided to go on the offensive, herself. She blurred out of their vision and began to appear in front of each of her opponents faster than most of them could keep up. Upon seeing this, Kakashi pulled his headband up off of his left eye, bringing out his Sharingan. It wasn't enough to keep him from getting brained, though, as Kurenai appeared in front of him, delivering a vicious spinning backhand to the right side of his face, sending him careening backwards a good thirty feet, dazing him and taking him out of the fight for a few seconds at least.
Kurenai didn't stop there. She blurred in front of Aoba and knocked the wind out of him with a strong side-kick, sending him flying backwards into the arena wall causing it to fracture. Aoba slumped forward onto his hands and knees and, like Kakashi, started to shake his head in an effort to recover from the daze that Kurenai had placed him in.
She then blurred right behind Genma and gave him a spinning kick to the right side of his face from the back, spinning him around. When he was facing her, she sent a flurry of jabs towards his face before sending a very powerful strike to his jaw from a squatting position, springing upwards on one leg, while kicking him with the other. Genma was knocked forty feet into the air and landed on the ground, out cold.
Naruto stepped to Genma, scooped him over his shoulder and flashed out of the ring before immediately flashing back…sans Genma. Genma was out of the fight.
The next thing Yamato knew, Kurenai delivered a hand-springing one-legged mule-kick to his midsection, putting him on his back, the lack of ability to breathe keeping him there for the time being.
Hinata, still confused about what was happening even with her Byakugan activated, suddenly felt a powerful force thrust into her gut. She immediately doubled over, coughing up a little blood from the force of the hit before collapsing to the ground in the fetal position, her hands over her solar plexus, waiting for her ability to breathe to return to her.
"Sorry about that Hinata, but I want this next part of the fight to be distraction-free," Kurenai said to her in apology, unballing the fist she had just used to knock the wind out of the young Hyuuga heiress.
In the stands, the rest of Naruto's friends were all sitting together. All of them were surprised at Kurenai's abilities, even Neji, Tenten and Sakura, who had been spending their afternoons at Naruto's home.
"What the hell?" Ino exclaimed in genuine shock, "Just what has Naruto been training her in?"
"Wow!" a very pregnant Tenten exclaimed, just as surprised as Ino, "Well, I can tell you this – even with what Neji and I have seen her do in training, we never imagined that she'd progressed to this degree…and if this is only her taijutsu…let's just say we're in for even more of a show when ninjutsu and fuinjutsu start coming into play!"
All of them gaped at Tenten's declaration, unable to picture how Kurenai could amaze them all even more than she already had.
Iruka turned to regard his wife, "Anko, I'm not even sure what to think about what I'm seeing right now. I mean…look at how Kurenai's transformed!"
"No kidding," Anko replied, an expression of mild surprise covering her face, "I knew she had untapped potential, but even so, I wasn't expecting anything like this."
Anko's face morphed into a sly grin, "So honey…" she turned to her husband with a leer, "…would you like it if I had the same tan Kurenai has?"
"Well, I think you're perfect the way you are…" Iruka answered carefully while smiling nervously, "…but I wouldn't object if you had that kind of tan, either."
Anko's smile softened into a genuine one, "You're the best hubby ever, you know that?"
"Thank you, sweetie…" Iruka answered, "…and I couldn't ask for a better wife, either."
Both of them smiled at each other before returning their attention to the match…until Anko whispered in his ear, "You know she has no tan lines…"
Iruka pondered that for a moment…before holding his nose and preventing himself from being rocketed back by a giant nosebleed at the thought of Anko sunbathing in the nude.
With a few moments of brief reprieve from the rest of them, Kurenai charged Might Guy, who took a defensive stance. The two of them started exchanging furious blows with each other, blocking and being blocked as they tried to counterstrike. The force of the blows they exchanged could actually be felt by the audience as invisible ripples seemed to reverberate throughout the stadium as each blow connected. Suddenly, Guy's experience as a Taijutsu master shined through, as he managed to land a solid right to Kurenai's left cheek, knocking her off-balance.
Guy pressed his advantage and jumped into the air to strike at Kurenai from above. As he descended upon Kurenai, he shouted his next attack, "Severe Leaf Hurricane."
Kurenai looked up and saw Guy descending. She grabbed the leg that he used to throw a powerful spinning kick her way with and threw him aside.
"Alright, then…" Kurenai began with a playful smile, "…I think I'll have some fun with this and take a page out of Naruto's book."
Before Guy landed, Kurenai was upon him. Kurenai put her hands in a cross-shaped hand seal, and three shadow clones suddenly appeared.
The three shadow clones ran towards Guy's position, while the original jumped high into the air.
The first Kurenai on the ground reached Guy and threw a three-hundred-sixty-degree spinning kick into Guy's midsection, and shouted, "Kuh!"
The second Kurenai threw a spinning kick on the opposite direction, once again connecting at Guy's solar plexus, shouting, "Reh!"
The third Kurenai threw a spinning kick in the same direction as the first, but this time connecting with Guy's jaw and shouting, "Nai!"
The three shadow clones, having finished their task, dispelled, while the original was still high in the sky, now rapidly descending towards Guy's position. As she drew nearer to a stunned Guy, she twisted her body and sent a bone-crushing double fisted punch to Guy's solar plexus, driving him to the ground with the force of her blow, shouting, "Namikaze Barrage!" to finish her attack.
Guy hit the ground so hard that a crater formed where he landed. Down but not out, he took a few seconds to recover while the others were starting to get up and recover.
"Kurenai Namikaze Barrage, huh?" Naruto asked with a smirk and a laugh.
"Well, it might be a little premature," Kurenai responded with a smile, "But it was fun! Besides, it has a nicer ring to it than Kurenai Yuhi Barrage, don't you think?"
Naruto chuckled, "I suppose it does, at that. You do realize that I wouldn't be caught dead using that today, right?"
"Of course I do…as I said, it was fun, that's all," Kurenai retorted, sticking her tongue out at her fiancé before turned back to her opponents, giving them a chance to recover.
"Well," Kurenai began, "That was fun, but let's bring our other skills to the table now, what do you say? Hinata…" Kurenai turned to her former student, "…I'd like to fight you last, if I could. Could you please stay back until we're done here?"
Hinata, confused at such a request, but feeling that such a request would enable her to have the fight with Kurenai that she wanted to have, nodded in acquiescence. She stepped back in order to stay out of the way.
"Cocky to think that you'll be able to fight Hinata after beating all of us, aren't you?" Kakashi mused sarcastically as he staggered to his feet
"I think I've just shown that I have reason to be confident, Kakashi," Kurenai replied matter-of-factly.
Once the others were recovered, the battle resumed.
"Get clear!" Kakashi called out before he went through some hand seals and shouted, "Fire Style: Fireball Jutsu," as a huge fireball escaped his lips towards Kurenai's direction, the others jumping clear of the jutsu's path.
As Kakashi was doing this, Kurenai released one of the seals on her forearm, and out popped a shadow clone of Kurenai. The clone dispelled as soon as it was released. Kurenai made a few hand seals and shouted, "Water Style: Water Wall".
The air around Kurenai coalesced into a wall of water that stopped Kakashi's fireball in its tracks.
Gasps and murmurs of astonishment went through the audience at such a display of water-style mastery. Not since the Second Hokage had such control over water been documented! To be able to use water-style ninjutsu without a nearby source of water was an otherwise unheard-of feat! So how was Kurenai able to pull it off?
Mei and Tsunade were in the Kage booth, watching the action. Both of them had already been quite impressed with Kurenai's ability to manhandle her opponents with Taijutsu alone, but to see her capable of pulling a feat of such magnitude off using just water chakra and the moisture in the air was simply exceptional!
"Just what else has the brat left out of his reports about Kurenai's abilities, I wonder?" Tsunade asked, flabbergasted at the display before them.
"Tsunade…" Mei began, "…based on what we're seeing here, I think a change of plan might be in order."
"I think you're right," Tsunade agreed, "Okay, then, here's what we'll do for round two…"
Once the Water Wall had collapsed, there was Kurenai, unharmed and unwinded. When they all took a look at her, they saw that her eyes had changed! The area around her eyelids was a reddish-orange color, while the irises in her eyes were golden! What really shocked them all was when they saw her pupils – they were shaped like a horizontal bar! Kurenai was in Naruto's Sage Mode!
She immediately went through a short series of hand seals while speaking, "Kakashi, you might recognize this one!"
Once her hand seal sequence was complete, she shouted, "Fire Style: Searing Migraine".
Kakashi's eyes widened at the name of the jutsu. He remembered just how powerful the jutsu was when Kakuzu of the Akatsuki had used it.
"Everyone, get back!" he yelled to his comrades, all of whom immediately jumped back as far as they could go. Kurenai breathed out onto the arena floor, covering almost all of it in flames. They were so hot and so great in quantity that the audience all began to sweat at the sweltering heat.
"She's mastered Sage training, as well?" asked a stunned Tsunade, now grateful that Mei had suggested what she had for a change in the Second Round.
"Apparently! And that jutsu…I wonder if she'd be interested in trading jutsu with me before I leave?" Mei commented, further impressed with Kurenai's abilities.
"Who knows? She might be…" Tsunade answered in an intrigued manner while keeping her eyes glued to the fight below her.
Kakashi, not wanting to use the Chidori in an exhibition, began to gather chakra into his hand, forming a Rasengan. Once Kurenai had ceased the output of her own jutsu, having given herself some space, she started preparing a Rasengan of her own, though hers was red in color. Kakashi began to charge Kurenai the moment his Rasengan was ready, while Kurenai did the same. Kakashi's eyes widened as he noticed her red Rasengan, but he was already committed to his attack. All he could do was channel more chakra into his own Rasengan and hope that it would overpower Kurenai's.
As they approached each other, they both drew their hands back, shouting the names of their attacks.
"Rasengan," Kakashi shouted.
"Fire Style: Rasengan," Kurenai shouted at the exact same time as Kakashi, again surprising everyone in the audience – even more so that she had done it without the use of a shadow clone.
As their attacks collided, Kurenai's fire-enhanced Rasengan tore through Kakashi's Rasengan, causing his arm to smolder and his sleeve to burn away. Kakashi's thoughts were racing as he witnessed the attack, 'Kurenai can add her element to the Rasengan, too? And she can do it without a clone?'
As Kurenai's red ball tore through Kakashi's blue ball and connected to his arm, Kakashi jumped away from her, clutching at his arm in pain, while Kurenai knocked him out with a chop to the back of the neck. Naruto came around to Kakashi and flashed away with him, immediately flashing back…alone. Now Kakashi was out of the fight – to everyone's further surprise, it was rather quickly, too.
"Fire Style: Rasengan?" Tenten asked in shock.
"We probably shouldn't be surprised, Tenten," Neji responded, "After all, the world's strongest man has been giving her his undivided personal attention for the last nine months."
Kurenai didn't even stop to rest; she immediately charged across the ring with such speed that she was leaving after-images…or was she literally teleporting her way across the field? Her speed was such that they couldn't tell.
"Yamato, Aoba, I need you two to distract her!" Guy immediately shouted, "I need a few seconds to get my Celestial Gates open!"
Both Yamato and Aoba nodded and proceeded to attack Kurenai two on one, this time not underestimating her speed.
"First Gate: Gate of Opening – Release!" Guy shouted, charging up and preparing for a massive taijutsu assault on Kurenai.
"Wood Style Jutsu," Yamato shouted as he sent hundreds of vines Kurenai's way from his arm. Kurenai jumped on top of the vine formation and ran on top of it, speeding her way towards Yamato, before immediately jumping into the air as Aoba attacked.
"Second Gate: Gate of Rest - Release!" Guy shouted once more as another surge of power was felt within the arena.
"Fire Style: Dragon Flame Bomb," Aoba shouted, breathing a white hot jet of flame at Kurenai, who was twisting this way and that, avoiding it while she landed. Once she had landed, she decided to take a different approach. She immediately backed off, jumping into the air once more as she prepared another Fire Style: Rasengan, but this time, her Rasengan grew steadily larger, becoming almost the size of Naruto's own Wind Style: Rasenshuriken. Kurenai waited until she had crested in the air as she shouted her attack while releasing it.
"Third Gate: Gate of Life – Open!" Guy bellowed out, more loudly this time, as yet another surge of power was felt by all present, his skin beginning to turn red with the increased blood flow.
"Fire Style: Heaven's Wrath," Kurenai shouted. Many in the audience noticed that Naruto was now smirking. Kurenai allowed herself to sail back down to earth, while her huge ball of flame stayed where it was…before it immediately started spewing out fireballs in all downward directions as though it was raining down! Not one of the fireballs went stray or towards the direction of the spectators.
Yamato, Aoba, Guy and Hinata could only dodge the hundreds of fireballs that were shooting at them, with no sign of letting up. Hinata used the Eight Trigrams: Rotation to repel the fireballs as they rained down. Kurenai suddenly vanished into thin air and immediately appeared above Aoba. She had rematerialized in a kicking position, her foot in contact with Aoba's face. Aoba's body whipped around by the apparent force of the kick as he was sent spinning back to earth at such speed that he whistled through the air and marked his landing with a crater even bigger than the one she'd made with Guy. Naruto flashed over to Aoba and removed his unconscious form from the field.
"I still need time, Yamato!" Guy instructed, prompting a nod from the wood style user. Yamato wove his hands together in a series of fast hand signs and shouted his next jutsu, "Wood Style: Wood Armor".
Yamato's body was covered with wood that looked both incredibly hard and incredibly flexible, leaving only a space for his eyes so that he could see. He immediately went through another series of hand seals and shouted, "Wood Style: Domed Wall Jutsu".
Gai could be heard shouting, "Fourth Gate: Gate of Pain - Open!"
Guy was immediately hidden as arcing planks of wood rose from the ground in front of him in a quarter-sphere, meeting at the apex and protecting him from the fireballs still raining down while he was opening his celestial gates. Yamato sped off towards Kurenai and prepared to face off against her in Taijutsu to buy Guy some time. His hopes of that were dashed as Kurenai simply pulled her fist back and connected to Yamato's chakra-strengthened Wood Armor…smashing it to pieces and sending Yamato speeding backwards towards the arena wall like a cannonball. He hit so hard that an indent of his body was created in a stone with cracks protruding out of it. Gravity peeled him out of the crater in the wall, causing him to slump to the ground unconscious.
Kurenai then proceeded towards the wooden dome. A smirk appeared on her face as she punched the ground in front of the dome, causing the ground to quake and form a huge crater, shattering the dome, and interrupting Guy's opening of the Fifth Gate.
"What the?!" Sakura shouted from the stands as Kurenai smashed the ground and the wooden dome in one blow, "Did she somehow learn Tsunade's monster strength technique?!"
"Fifth Ga…" Guy began as he worked to get the gate open.
"Oh, no you don't!" Kurenai yelled exactly as he started to open the Fifth Gate, before going through a series of handseals at blinding speed, pulling out what looked like an explosive tag, and slapping it onto Guy's forehead, shouting, "Sealing Jutsu: Celestial Gates Close and Lock!"
Guy's chakra seemed to fade suddenly before he yelled out in what seemed to be agonizing pain. Kurenai gasped, fearing that she might have somehow injured the man very seriously as he writhed on the ground. Kurenai quickly removed the tag from his head the moment she saw blood begin to leak from his nose and eyes. As the tag was removed, Guy's eyes rolled into the back of his head and closed. He passed out; his breathing became shallow.
Sakura's shock turned to worry as she saw Guy's reaction to Kurenai's seal. The others around her could do naught but gape, while worried murmurs could be heard all around. Suddenly, through the murmurs and chatter, Naruto's voice could be heard projecting, "Sakura, Shizune! Come down here – we need your help!"
Sakura didn't even bother to look for Shizune, she just vanished in a swirl of leaves and reappeared by Guy's body. Shizune materialized a moment afterwards. Both of them began going through handseals before green chakra covered their hands. They moved their hands over Guy's body and started scanning.
After a few moments, Shizune spoke up, "Well, he's not in life-threatening danger, but we need to get him to the hospital so that he can be treated. His first five chakra gates overloaded themselves – there's been some damage to them, but they can be repaired easily."
Kurenai let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. Naruto looked as confused as Kurenai obviously was – her seal shouldn't have caused such a backlash in Guy's body. After Kurenai showed the seal to Naruto, they both went over it with a fine-toothed comb to ensure it wouldn't be harmful to the Taijutsu master.
"Shizune," Naruto began, "Can you tell us what your findings are when you're done with the complete diagnosis? Both Kurenai and I went over this particular seal specifically to prevent something like this from happening; this shouldn't have happened, and I'd like to know how and why it did."
Shizune nodded with a small smile, "Sure, Naruto. Don't worry, he'll be fine. We just need to get him to the hospital so we can fix him up."
Naruto nodded as Shizune and Sakura both vanished in a swirl of leaves with Guy, leaving only Naruto, Kurenai and Hinata in the battle arena.
Naruto quickly turned his attention to the audience and announced, "Don't worry, folks! The medics say Might Guy will be just fine as soon as he's treated!"
Soft applause and some cheering accompanied his announcement. Naruto quickly moved to Yamato in order to remove him from the arena, flashing out with him and flashing back without him. As the applause died down, Naruto announced once more, "Now, let's continue the match!"
Kurenai turned her attention to Hinata and proceeded walking toward her. Hinata, in turn, started to walk in Kurenai's direction. They both stopped at roughly ten paces distance from each other, each of them eyeing the other, neither making the first move.
After a few moments, Kurenai spoke up in a conciliatory manner, "Hinata, I get the impression that you have something to say."
"I have had time to think about what you said to me at my home after your engagement was announced…" Hinata responded, "…and while I may disagree with much of it, I don't believe that your intentions were harmful or malicious. After you and Naruto left, I've spent so much time giving careful thought to what you said to me…about how you're the best possible match for Naruto."
Kurenai nodded, prompting Hinata to continue, "I thought at first that you were insulting me…but I realize that this isn't true. There…have been times where I've seen you and Naruto around the village, and I've had a chance to watch the two of you. I can see that you understand him, and know him, in ways I would never have been able to. I…allowed myself to be blinded by my pain…and my rage. Both are still there. I loved Naruto with all my heart…the truth is that…" Hinata's voice began to break, "…I love him, still. But you also said to me that…if I love him, I'll do what's best for him…even if that means letting him go in my heart."
Kurenai smiled warmly at Hinata, proud of her for showing such courage publicly. Hinata continued, "But I want you to prove to me…right here and now…that you're the best woman for him, Kurenai-sensei."
Kurenai, knowing exactly what Hinata was asking, nodded in acceptance of her request before adopting a steely expression and responding, "Taijutsu only. Hinata, come at me with the intent to kill, or you won't be able to lay a scratch on me."
Hinata, while surprised at such a declaration from her former sensei, kept her expression schooled. She nodded, adopted the Gentle Fist stance, and activated her Byakugan.
"Gentle Fist Art: Twin Lion Fists!" Hinata yelled as chakra began to envelop her hands, taking on the shape of lions' heads as she balled her fists up.
She then proceeded to adopt another familiar stance as she spread her legs wide and extended her arms in opposing directions while keeping her fists closed, the lions' heads still glowing fiercely.
'This attack is so chakra-intensive that I've only got one shot at it, so I have to make it count,' Hinata thought in determination as she prepared to execute her attack.
"Gentle Fist Secret Art: Eight Trigrams: Sixty Four Lion Fists!" Hinata yelled as she prepared to execute this apparently new technique.
Hiashi's eyes went wide as he heard his eldest daughter identify the technique she was about to use, thinking in shock, 'Hinata…just how far have you come?'
A ghost of a smile crept across his face as he couldn't help but feel immense pride in his estranged daughter.
Hanabi Sarutobi was sitting with Konohamaru near where the rest of Naruto's friends were, unable to keep a smile off of her face, 'I was so wrong about you, before, Hinata. I wish I could go back and do so many things differently. I'm proud of you, big sister; you'll lead the Hyuuga Clan to greatness, I just know it.'
Konohamaru noticed his wife's proud smile and brought his arm around her, bringing her in closer to him. She allowed herself to be drawn in to her husband's embrace…
Hinata charged forward, approaching Kurenai with a speed that almost threw Kurenai off.
"Eight Trigrams: Two Fists!" Hinata yelled as she threw two frightening fast strikes as Kurenai that she blocked with relative ease, though she knew better than to let her guard down.
"Four Fists!" Two more strikes came at her just as quickly, though they were batted aside at the forearm this time.
"Eight Fists!" Four more strikes came. Kurenai was able to deflect them once more with little difficulty.
"Sixteen Fists!" Eight more strikes came. Kurenai blocked and deflected them once more, though she did so with a little more difficulty this time.
'Her strikes are strong,' thought Kurenai as she gritted her teeth slightly, preparing to move faster and use her chakra nullification technique.
"Thirty Two Fists!" Sixteen more punches came in a flurry, most of them blocked and deflected by Kurenai, though a couple had gotten through. Kurenai suffered no internal or chakra-related damage as she had nullified the chakra strikes that connected.
Kurenai, in a moment of clarity, decided to match Hinata blow for blow in the last flurry, knowing that thirty two strikes would be the last salvo of blows to come through. Balling her fists, she reinforced them with chakra, preparing to use a lower-powered version of what appeared to be Tsunade's monster strength technique.
"Eight Trigrams: Sixty Four Lion Fists!" yelled Hinata at the top of her lungs, throwing blow after blow at her former sensei. Kurenai, to Hinata's surprise, met each fist that she threw with one of her own, effectively cancelling out her blows. On the last punch, Hinata threw a feint towards Kurenai, who raised her fist to meet it…until Hinata spun out of the fist's reach and threw her last strike at Kurenai's jaw, connecting hard, much to everyone's surprise.
Kurenai was thrown back at the force of the blow. While not quite enough to knock her over, it was enough to cause her to stumble. Hinata was breathing heavily, apparently out of chakra, as her Byakugan unconsciously turned itself off. Kurenai rose to her feet and wiped some blood away from the corner of her mouth. Kurenai took a moment to steady herself, and once she was, she walked towards Hinata slowly.
Hinata collapsed to her knees in exhaustion, leaning forward and using her hands to hold herself up. Once Kurenai reached Hinata, she knelt down and put her hands on the girls shoulders, prompting Hinata to bring her gaze up to meet her sensei's. The smile on Kurenai's face said so much at that moment, bringing tears to Hinata's eyes.
"You did great, Hinata," Kurenai congratulated her warmly, "That was a magnificent technique, and you managed to draw first blood on me, here, today."
"I'm out of chakra…" she breathed out tiredly, "…why didn't you…take the offensive?"
"Because that wouldn't have proven that I'm the best woman for Naruto, would it?" Kurenai responded warmly and knowingly, "You wanted to see my love, not my battle prowess. You've seen my love for Naruto; I wanted to show you that I still love you…even though we've been estranged from each other for a long time."
Hinata suddenly understood. Kurenai's love to her had never faltered – despite Hinata's distancing herself from everyone. Kurenai had never tried to hurt her, and she hadn't ever hurt her through thoughtlessness, either. She knew her love for Naruto would remain faithful and steadfast – she had done, and would continue to do what Hinata had failed to do. She gave a weak, sad smile and nodded, "You…really are the best…match for him. I…"
"I know, my dear Hinata…" Kurenai interrupted her, pulling her into a warm hug. Hinata allowed herself to be drawn in and began to weep, burying her face into Kurenai's chest, bringing her own arms up around Kurenai's body.
"I know that your childhood was far harder than anyone deserves to suffer through. I know you've had to learn so many times…that life just isn't fair…" Hinata's weeps turned into body-wracking sobs at this point, "…and this is the first chance you've ever had to just let it all out, isn't it?"
Hinata nodded as she continued crying out the anger, the hurt, the resentment. Kurenai continued to comfort her through it, "It's alright, now. Forgive yourself. Just let it go…" Kurenai would coo and shush as she held the girl, sometimes strumming her fingers through the younger woman's hair.
Kurenai and Hinata simply stayed there, lost in their own little world. Naruto, on the other hand, noticed that the audience was mostly very quiet. He could hear a few sniffles in the crowd as they all seemed to be able to sympathize with the grieving heiress.
After a few minutes of this, Hinata calmed down and looked at Naruto through tear-filled eyes, "Lord Namikaze…errm…Naruto…" Naruto smiled as she said his name, "…I'm out of chakra. I am unable to continue, and I therefore concede the match." She added mentally, '…and your love; I know you and Kurenai will be very happy with each other.'
Naruto smiled once more in response to Hinata, now hearing that the icy anger and bitterness in her tone was gone. He turned his attention to the audience and announced, "Hinata Hyuuga has conceded the match! The winner of round one is Kurenai Yuhi!"
The crowd erupted into standing ovation and roared in applause at what they had just seen! Kurenai and Hinata both looked up at the crowd, Hinata settling into numb shock, while Kurenai just smiled and waved at the crowd, gesturing to Hinata indicating to them that the girl deserved their applause as well. Naruto walked over to the two of them, and wrapped Hinata into a warm hug of his own. She smiled softly, closed her eyes and brought her own arms around him as well. Kurenai managed to squeeze in between the two and hug them both, each of them wrapping one of their own arms around her in response.
They broke the three-way hug, and Naruto announced, "There will be a three-hour recess for lunch, and the second round will commence at Three PM."
Naruto was about to flash Hinata to the reception area, but she objected, "Actually, I'd like to walk there, if you two could assist me…" Naruto and Kurenai both smiled and nodded, each supporting her from either side. The crowd continued applauding as Naruto, Kurenai and Hinata all left the stadium floor, heading to the reception area reserved for the competitors and VIP's in attendance.
The VIP Reception Hall of the Chunin Exam Stadium was abuzz with conversation about the fights that had just taken place. All of them knew of Kurenai's well-deserved reputation as one of the Leaf's best jounin, but never would anyone have imagined that she would so thoroughly dominate the first round against six more of the Leaf's best, including the great Sharingan Kakashi, who was a Kage-level shinobi in his own right! Everyone present could only wait in anticipation for Naruto and Kurenai to make their appearance.
Even Yamato, Aoba, Genma and Kakashi had been stunned by the thoroughness of Kurenai's trouncing of all of them. Genma was nursing a very sore jaw and back, as was Aoba. Kakashi had his arm wrapped in bandages that seemed saturated with salve to treat his burns, and he was still grimacing slightly in pain. Yamato had regained consciousness and was himself nursing a sore chest where Kurenai had shattered his Wood Armor, and a sore back as well. Only Guy and Hinata were not present, Guy because he was still being treated at the hospital, and Hinata because she was being assisted to the reception hall by Naruto and Kurenai.
The room erupted into applause as Naruto and Kurenai made their entrance, each of them supporting an exhausted Hinata on either side. All three of them smiled at the reception they received, congratulations to both Kurenai and Hinata expressed from all over the room. Naruto and Kurenai guided Hinata to a seat with her name by it at one of the dining tables so that she could sit and rest. She thanked them both for helping her to her seat as they also took their own seats at the very same table, next to Tsunade and Mei. The absence of Guy and Shizune was noted as the other participants in the match were also seated at the table.
A quick blessing was administered over the meal and all present began to eat happily. It wasn't long before conversation about the fight and about Kurenai's abilities came to the fore.
"So, Kurenai…" Kakashi began, "…I'm curious - how did you manage to create an elemental Rasengan without a clone like Naruto?"
"Well…" Kurenai began, "…I was training to build my Fire Style: Rasengan the way that Naruto explained it needed to be done, by first creating the Rasengan and then changing the chakra nature to fire. But I thought, 'What if I were to create the change in chakra nature before I shaped a Rasengan out of it?' So, I tried it, and lo…it worked!"
Naruto picked up, "Yeah…I slapped myself on the forehead at how obvious that solution was. I can create a Wind Style: Rasengan now the same way."
"So then, does Kurenai's Fire Style: Rasengan defeat your Wind Style: Rasengan, Naruto?" Kakashi asked curiously.
"Actually, no…" Kurenai took the liberty to answer on Naruto's behalf, "…even though fire trumps wind, Naruto's chakra seems to have greater density than mine does, and his affinity to wind is also stronger than my affinity to fire, so they actually create a stalemate."
Kakashi nodded with interest. Tsunade was the next one to express her thoughts, "Kurenai, how did you learn my monster-strength technique?"
"Was that the same technique that you use?" Kurenai asked, "I just pulse my chakra at the end of where I make contact with my target and snap it back like a whip. I discovered it entirely by accident, I assure you."
"I can attest the truth of that claim," Naruto added in his fiancee's defense.
Not too long afterwards, Shizune materialized in the room, with a now-conscious Guy in tow. She assisted him to his seat at the table, while she took her place by Tsunade.
"Guy, it's good to see you're okay," Kurenai offered in greeting.
"But of course," Guy responded in typical "Guy" fashion, "It'll take more than that to extinguish the flames of my youth!" he finished with his tooth-glinting smile. With a sudden fire in his eyes, he exclaimed, "YOSH! Kurenai, you are now my NEW ETERNAL RIVAL!"
The temperature in the room suddenly dropped several degrees. An ominous, dark aura seemed to appear around Kurenai as her hannya mask appeared, her eyes glowing a malicious red.
With a creepy smile, she said in a maliciously sweet tone, "What did you just say, Guy?" uttering every word painstakingly slowly.
"Err…I err…said that, err…you're my…new…eternal…ri…" he began very nervously, breaking out in a cold sweat before he was interrupted by Kurenai.
"I'd better not be," she sang out as her hannya mask suddenly started weeping tears of blood. Guy souldn't nod in agreement fast enough as he sat down. The malevolent air in the room vanished, as though it was never there to begin with. Kurenai's face immediately adopted the friendly, warm expression that had adorned it before Guy made his declaration.
"What…was that?" Tsunade asked, her face pale, and her eyes wide with terror.
"What was what, Mom?" Kurenai asked, innocently.
"THAT?" she yelled, pointing at Kurenai, who simply raised a seemingly-confused eyebrow.
"You're better off not knowing," Naruto answered.
Mei, while as unnerved as everyone else save Naruto at the table, seemed intrigued at the effect that Kurenai had just created, 'I couldn't even create such terror in Ao when I used to threaten to kill him. I'd love to know how she did that, but…I have a feeling I'm better off not asking.'
"So Shizune," Naruto suddenly asked, redirecting the conversation, "What did you find out about what happened to Guy?"
"Well, his Fifth Gate actually suffered more damage than the other four, because that's there the backlash began. I believe what happened was that Kurenai applied her seal at the exact moment where Guy started to open the gate. Opening the gate actually causes a bigger surge of chakra then allowing it to run through the gate, because it takes so much to get it open."
"The Gates themselves usually open within fractions of seconds, though, don't they?" Naruto inquired, to which Shizune nodded.
"Wow! The seal was applied exactly during that small fraction of a second…what are the odds?" Naruto asked in quiet amazement. Kurenai breathed a sigh in relief. There was no flaw with her seal; it was just the timing of its application. Nothing could have been done about it, and it couldn't have been predicted in any way.
Lunch continued, with people asking Kurenai about her Sage Mode. She made sure to keep her answers limited, as she hadn't revealed all of her secrets yet, and there was still another round for her to fight. She didn't want to tip her hand too early, so she revealed that her Sage Mode was similar yet different to Naruto's, in that her own Sage Mode elevated her chakra control far more than it did her reserves, though she was more powerful in Sage Mode than not. Its physical capabilities were similar to Naruto's own, but she chose not to reveal more than that.
Time passed as they all talked, and before they knew it, three o'clock began to roll around. Naruto and Kurenai found themselves once again on the Stadium Floor, listening once more to the thunderous roar of the crowd's applause. The first round participants were all seated in the stands now, all of them in eager anticipation of what the second round would bring, and what else Kurenai would pull out of her hat. Tsunade had told the two of them that the opponent of the second round would introduce themselves so as to keep them in suspense.
As three o'clock hit, Tsunade and Mei both walked out onto the Stadium floor. Kurenai and Naruto both raised an eyebrow at this, wondering what one of them, or both of them, had planned. Tsunade then announced to the crowd, "Given the spectacular display by Kurenai Yuhi in the first round of this exhibition, a change has been implemented for the second round! Kurenai's original opponent for this round was going to be me! But after some discussion with the Mizukage here, we decided that…to give you all the best show we possibly could…Kurenai will be fighting against both the Mizukage AND the Hokage, in a two-on-one…ANYTHING GOES match!"
SO! Who saw THAT coming? How will it end up? Who knows? You'll find out in the next chapter! And how about that? Hinata was not beyond redemption. Anywho, I'm very happy that all of you have stuck it out for this long, and I hope that I've made this chapter worth the LONG wait – it really was VERY hard for me to write. Hopefully this next fight will be a little easier for me, and as always, REVIEWS are very much appreciated, especially if you can give me helpful pointers and tips as to how I can improve my writing a fight scene.
That said, see you next time, my friends, in "The Main Event – Part 2"!