The crowd was restless, excited by the surprising end of the last fight. The last Uchiha was spectacular, but he lost anyway. Everyone was wondering how it would all end. There were only four contestants left –the Aburame heir, Uzumaki Naruto and two Sand siblings.
Then the proctor appeared in the arena. "Ladies and gentlemen, the exam will continue! The next match is Aburame Shino against Temari of the Sand!"
The crowd roared in approval.
"Good luck," Naruto smiled at Shino.
"Thank you." Shino replied in even tone, moving away. Temari had done the same thing as before the fight against Shikmamru, she just flew into the fighting area on her fan.
Gaara gave Naruto a hard, intense stare. Naruto winked at him and looked away, secretly thinking hard on the ways to ge rid of the crazy bastard before he was sandballed to death.
Then it hit him, seeing the proctor vanish from the arena! It was awesome!
Temari gritted her teeth, unleashing another wind attack upon the coward hiding in the same spot where that Nara bastard used to be as well. What was with these Konoha guys? Couldn't they take her on like real men?!
The worst was, she was in the worse sitiaution thean in the previous match. While the Nara guy had limited offensive and nearly unbeatable defense, it was less so with this guy.
The insects of the Aburame clan were infamous for their chakra devouring capacity. It was unwise to let them land anywhere near you.
And this guy was fast on his feet too. He had attacked with explosive kunai and insect clouds, to buy himself some time and then he hid himself, using his allies to harras her the whole time by remote.
Temari had to fend off his damned bugs, using her fan attacks to disperse them as they flew around her, trying to catch her by surprise. The damned things were smart too, always spreading wide to let her attacks phase through, while their boss just controlled them from his hiding spot.
And she was damned sure some of the buggers were sneaking upon her on the ground, even when she didn't see them. She hadn't forgotten how they suddenly appeared in that Oto idiot's arms.
She had also other things to consider. It galled her to do this, but the situation demanded it. "All right, you cowardly bastard! I give up! I wasted too much chakra on your asshole friend in the previous match!"
Aburame Shino recalled his allies, emerging from behind the tree he was using as shield. "A wise move, since I was just about to drain you of chakra."
Temari paled when she saw an entire patch of sand near her darken, turning into a writhing mass of insects. They were moving towards the boy with sunglasses, disappearing in his shadow. She shivered, knowing it was an illusion – those things lived inside his body.
"Man, Shino sure can be scary sometimes!" Kiba smiled, showing his fangs proudly. "But at least he had shown that our team wasn't a joke after all."
"Hai, Kiba-kun." Hinata smiled, sharing his pride in their teammate.
"He did well," Shikamaru shrugged, sitting behind them with Choji. "My tactic was an obvious choice, and he had better tools than me."
"I wonder how will naruto deal with her crazy brother?" Choji asked, making all four shiver slightly. That Gaara guy seemed unbeatable.
"Maybe he'll make him laugh himself to death?" Kiba joked feebly.
"Nice moves," Asuma said, nodding towards Kurenai. "You taught that kid pretty well."
Kurenai shook her head in negative response. "That wasn't my doing. Shino-kun is very smart and hasn't needed much of my guidance. It was obvious he'd exploit the only weakness the girl had – long ranged fight. She was unable to close in, because she feared his traps. She was right, naturally. That girl will be promoted as well."
The other jounin agreed, if only silently. Kurenai had spoken true, rendering other comments unnecessary.
The atmosphere in the Kage box was relaxed, even if it was just pretense. Sarutobi chuckled jovially, watching the man to his left through his half closed eyes. "Kazekage-dono, your daughter is most impressive. She sent those boys running for a place to hide all too quickly. A pity she was unsuited to the long ranged combat."
The man pretending to the Kazekage shrugged. "She will learn to be better. Still, she had shown remarkable tactical acumen and prudence. She was right to stay away from her opponent at all times. Unfortunately, her lack of experience had cost her victory this time."
"True, so, will you promote her?"
"I think so. Maybe another exam might do her well in a long term."
Sarutobi nodded, now serious. "The Uchiha boy certainly will have to retake it. He was impressive, but too careless. Hopefully, this day will teach him caution. He was lucky to stay alive against your son."
"Some would think it was a lesson already learned," Kazekage said.
"I always believed in repetition and constant training as good tools," Sandaime shot back, hiding his annoyance. Was Orochimaru really so enamored of his target that he'd vie for his promotion? Hardly possible, he was merely needling him. So, the charade was coming to an inevitable end.
"Hey Kakashi, I hope you told your student to stay alive no matter what." Asuma said to his friend who was now watching how his blonde student was facing the mad Suna weapon.
"I didn't think itwas needed. Naruto can take care of himself, trust me." Kakashi sounded relaxed.
"Well, if you say so. The other one got himself caught pretty naively." Asuma's voice was now full of doubt. It was understandeable, Sasuke's headlong rush into the dome of sand where his target was hidden seemed very foolish.
Kakashi said nothing. His cool facade was on, but he was worried for Naruto. He hadn't believed that Naruto could beat Neji, not at the level he was at a month ago. He'd have to have a nice, long chat with Ebisu later. Kage Bunshin and shields, that was a fine trick indeed. It must've been one of Naruto's bursts of uncanny brilliance he was so blessed with.
Hopefully, the boy would see that Gaara was beyond his level, completely. Naruto just lacked the speed needed to break through the sand shield.
Naruto knew that the key to survival was to keep Gaara distracted, until he could deliver his true attack. He sent a small army of clones and multiplied shuriken at the crazy genin, while watching out for the sand.
His clones roared, forming attack waves and broke themselves on gaara's sand, that simply stood in their way, never letting anything go past them.
"Uzumaki, you bore me with this. Show me your true self!" Gaara screamed the last and waved his sand forth.
The onlookers gasped when the massive wave of sand rushed forward, intent to simply reach for the blonde genin and drown him under it's multi-ton mass.
For a few seconds, it seemed to happen just so. The the sand flattened, but no blood was present. Everyone was surprised, save for the ninja who knew that tha kid had substituted himself with a clone.
The counter came in a surprising manner, as befitting the so called 'most unpredictable ninja in Konoha'. Naruto had sprang from the ground behind Gaara, whose sand was still mostly away, save for the amount necessary to provide him with his automated shield.
But Naruto was too fast this once. He shunshinned inside the defensive zone, hoping that Gaara's phsical response would be subpar. He seemed not really the guy who relied on physical combat too much.
He was right. Gaara was too slow and Naruto had materialised behind him, with enough time to deliver a devastating righ hook to his surprised face, sending the genin flying from the force. He followed, maintaining his presence inside the shield's zone, pummeling the redhead without mercy.
The sand grabbed at him, but he flared his chakra in a vilent visible burst, freeing himself for the last, desperate gambit.
"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" was what everyone heard, much to their shock. The strangest thing was, Naruto was pointing his palm towards Gaara!
There was a mssive smoke and loud sound, anouncing the arrival of something big. Most ninja in the viewer stands tensed visibly, wondering what was summoned.
"Impossible!" Kakashi breathed, seeing the massive toad with armour slam into the surprised Suna genin with tremendous speed, as obviously Naruto had planned. He had used his summoning jutsu to hit Gaara with several hundreds of kilograms of flesh, at a decent speed.
"Way to go, kid!" Asuma pumped his fist in the air.
Naruto grinned, seeing the toad he had summoned slam into Gaara, bowling the redhead over and trapping him under his weight. "Yeah, Gakai! Get him out of there, fast!"
The toad saluted, then returned to it's realm, taking Gaara with him.
The proctor with senbon appeared after a few seconds, looking around with wild eyes. "Kid, did you just do what I think you did?"
Naruto blinked at him. "Er, if you think I sent him to the realm of toads, then yeah."
"Fucking unbelievable..." Genma muttered to himself. Then he shrugged. The other guy was far away, effectively made unable to continue fighting. The rules were clear on the matter. He chuckled to the grinning kid and turned to the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, the victory goes to Uzumaki Naruto!"
Gaara trashed wildly under the giant toad creature, and his fear was palpable. He was in some strange place, that was barren and several big toads were gathered around him.
His sand was flying wildly as well, his Mother screaming to be let out.
And then something stabbed his arm, making him scream in pain and his sand fell dead on the ground.
A small toad was standing there, it had short white goatee, thick white eyebrows and hair shaped in mohawk style. It held the black rod in in it's hand. "Be calm, little one. I just disrupted your chakra network. You will be unable to call upon your biju for some time, until our summoner decides he wants you back."
Gaara glared hatefully at him, missing the voice of his Mother in his mind. "Where am I?"
"You are a guest at the , the home of the Toad Clan. I am Fukasaku, one of the Toad Sages. We were asked by our summoner to keep you restrained so he could win the match with you." Fukasaku explained. "When Naruto calls, we will send you back."
Gaara wasn't happy aboit that. "He promised me the fight that would prove my existence! I want to go back now!"
"We have no idea of what you're talking about, so be a nice boy and stay calm. Gakai, keep him pinned down until Naruto-chan calls you back. I'm going back to my cave. Shima has cooked me a fine lunch,I don't wish to miss it."
"Understood, Fukasaku-sama." Gakai grunted, settling himself on the spot for a wait. He ignored the angry humanunder his webbed foot, the sand wielder was temporarily harmless.
Fukasaku had dosed him with some nature energy to disrupt his power. It was an advanced skill that only he had.
Yakushi Kabuto nearly missed the signal to start off the invasion, he too was really shocked by the sudden development in the aren. That Uzumaki kid had just ruined all of Orochimaru's carefully laid schemes!
Without Gaara, the damage to Konoha will be so much less.
Then the explosion was heard from above and he smiled grimly. The invasion was just a distraction anyway. Suna will have to cope without their crazy weapon. He cast his genjutsu and ran.
Naruto was startled when the genjutsu was cast, but the proctor by his side acted instantly, touching his shoulder, disrupting the sleep inducing illusion for him. "Thanks, proctor-san!"
Genma shrugged. "No problem kid. Be ready, his teammates are coming."
In the background, the whole stadium was in chaos. Ninja were fighting like crazy, casting weaons and jutsu, while civilians were running away for their lives. Screams and explosions were deafening.
And Gaara's siblings showed up, led by their half-masked sensei. The cloth coverd half of his face, vertically. He was a tall, dark tanned dude with menacing air about him.
"What did you do to Gaara?!" Temari yelled as soon as she and her brother arrived to the scene.
"I sent him away, because I wasn't willing to fight him here." Naruto explained with smug tone.
"You'll bring him back." said the Suna jounin harshly.
"I think not." Genma shot back, chewing on his senbon idly,while watching the carnage around them. "Why would we want to give you back your weapon? I think that your little invasion is going to end quite badly for you."
"Oh? Why is that?"
Genma shrugged. "First of all, you were stupid enough to work with Orochimaru. He's going to betray you the first chance he gets. And the second mistake was even worse – did you really believe we were defenseless?" After saying that, Genma looked to Naruto. "Uzumaki, by the authority of Sandaime Hokage I'm giving you permission to engage the enemy with full force. You may use Kyuubi's chakra as well. In fact, I order you to. Show no mercy towards these invaders."
Naruto nodded, looking grim. He had learned to draw on Kyuubi with Jiraiya's assisstance (meaning he was dropped into a deadly chasm and was so scared for his life that he had contacted his biju) and it was his hidden ace.
The fox was nasty, unwilling to play along, but it liked to show off it's power. So when the order came and he asked for it's power, Naruto could see it's demonic smile andthen his world became tinted red for a brief moment.
Everything became crystal clear to him a second later, the sounds, the sights and the smell. His nose twitched as he smelled blood, fear, pain and rage. It was like becoming attuned to these things and his body felt electrified, as if it were indestructible.
It was an illusion, as Jiraiya had demonstrated in several days of intense combat training. The only difference was that his body could take enormous beating and still work, healing the injuries in minutes and seconds, depending on their severity.
The final point of the training was to cut down his incresed dumbness in that state. Jiraiya had brutally forced him to adjust to his heightened agressiveness and start thinking as ninja again.
The sight of the bloodless faces of Gaara's siblings helped a lot – they were terrified beyond reason of him. He didn't like it. He knew that the people would be scared of him after he used Kyuubi's power, but he had no choice. He had to protect his precious ones, no mattter what.
Baki was used to terror caused by Gaara. In fact, he wasn't really all that scared of the crazy kid lately. Gaara's rages have subsided in recent years, given the fact he was being sent on missions where he could kill Suna's enemies instead of Suna nin.
Baki's job was mostly to point him into the right direction. It worked.
But now, he was afraid a bit. The blonde kid had changed in front of his eyes, and his smiling face was even scarier than Gaara's. How could someone produce such foul chakra, such killing intent and smile?
Those red slitted eyes were inhuman all right. The teeth and clawed fingers were another sign, plus the thickened birthmarks on the boy's...no, jinchuriiki's face.
The worst was, it was not even a tailed state!
Genma kept his cool with aplomb, studiously ignoring the sudden change in Uzumaki. It was powerful, alien and he made certain not to look at the kid. He felt air shift, and he moved to intercept the Suna jounin who looked scared shitless. Yet he had tried to stop Uzumaki. Brave asshole, but asshole all the same. He owed that guy for Hayate.
Naruto moved, marveling again at his speed, bowling over Gaara's brother and sister. He sent them bouncing like pinballs, flashing up to each and punched their lights out. Two down, hundreds more to go!
He focused hard again and tamed the raging fire in his veins, studiously ignoring the way his nails looked like claws now. "Kage Bunshin no jutsu!"
A few hundred of his clones erupted into existence, moving after chosen targets instantly, their red eyes and elongated teeth mimicking his own perfectly. These clones were strong, sturdier and deadlier than his usual ones. They were less restrained in terms of violence as well.
One group moved and flanked a few Oto ninja fighting Konoha Anbu, distracting these by suicidal shunshin attacks, hurting these ninja for long enough that they could be killed easire by the Anbu agents.
Some simply picked their targets and combined wind and fire jutsu in order to create deadly firestorms that simply burned their way through the eenmy ranks without stopping.
One group of clones attacked a jounin from Suna, who dispatched them all with elegant wind chakra blades, only to be killed by the last one who exploded into a massive fireball, taking him out.
Naruto couldn't usually detonate his clones, but Kyuubified clones were different.
Another group of twenty had assaulted the strong squadron of combined Oto-Suna chunin, distracting them greatly, allowing the team of Konoah nin to ambush the bastards and finish them off.
It was a war of a single overpowered genin turned into a small army that was slowly tipping the scales in Konoha's favor.
"Kami, is that really Naruto?!" Yamanaka Ino stared at the war zone, covering the retreating civilians along with her team and the rest of Rookies, as ordered by their jounin sensei.
"Shit, I didn't know he was that strong!" Kiba growled, clenching his kunai harder. "Was he playing with us all this time?"
Ino looked at pale Sakura. "Well, Forehead? Did you know about this?"
Sakura looked at her blonde friend and rival, her face showing slight confusion. "I didn't, not really! I mean, I felt something like that in the Waves and during our fight against Orochimaru in the Forrest of Death, but it wasn't for long. It's like he gets stronger when he's angry and it doesn't last long."
"Maybe he had learned how to control it," Shikamaru said. In his mind, he was sure that it was something completely else.
Everyone took it on the face value, because it was a simple, acceptable explanation.
Kakashi mowed down two enemies with a simple feint and double strike, ducking an unfortunate soul that met Gai's kick and exited the arena through solid wall, leaving blood on the edges of the newly formed hole.
His Sharingan had tracked multiple Naruto's automatically as they swarmed the stadium like deranged suicidal minions of some demon lord, while the original seemed satisfied spamming more of them when their numbers went too low.
He was amazed at the progress Naruto had made under Jiraiya. The man was a master trainer if he had managed to bring out Naruto's potential to this level in just a month.
He winced when he saw one of the clones claw at the Oto nin's balls, leaving the bastard to scream his sould out in pain, crumpled on the ground and bleeding from the crotch area. Nasty.
Naruto's copies weren't so much into killing, as long as they got to the enemy, distracted them and left in worse shape than before, leaving the killing to Konoha's troops that swooped at the wounded and distracted ninja like carrion eaters following the hunter.
It was remarkably efficient display of teamwork. He didn't fail to notice that Iruka was among these, grim and fierce, often leading the charge after Naruto. That man was truly loyal.
Jiraiya of the Sannin watched grimly as his masive summons dropped on the enemy troops, flattening most of them and the rest became prey of Anbu.
He had already taken care of the massive tri headed snake Orochimaru had sent to Konoha's walls, leaving Ibiki there to take care of the defenses.
He was now looking for the Kazekage, worried about the man's no show. What was that guy planning?
At least Naruto was keeping the enemy busy at the stadium, so that the war didn't spread too wide from it. He had to give the kid points for sheer creativity – sending his opponents to Mount Myoboku, just to contain the opponent who could destroy half of the village.
Because that was Orochimaru's goal – destruction, death, causalties to the populace on alarge scale. He wanted carnage. He didn't get it, all because of one crazy kid. Minato would have been rolling on the ground from laughter.
He decided to see how were things gong with Sarutobi-sensei and his ex teammate.
Naruto rushed at the duo of Oto nin trying to kill some Konoha chunin who were wounded. He was in front of them in an eyeblink, kicking one in the nuts and leaving him to whimper on the ground.
The other was fater and Naruto's swipe at his face missed. Or so it seemed. The red chakra cloak extended from his skin and large clawed shape caught the guy, crushing his throat.
Naruto stared at his hand, making it flex and move. It was weird, feeling this chakra move as he wished. He grinned at the sight and blurred away, to test out his new abiltity.
The Konoha chunin looked at each other. The guy with a ponytail simply shrugged and stabbed the downed Oto nin Naruto hadn't killed. His friend helped him walk away to find shelter.
Kyuubi had seen it all, since it was made of it's chakra. It was chakra and Naruto was using copiuos amounts of it.
It was interesting to watch his hosts thinking as he fought, while he found crevices in those feelings and thoughts to make more 'room' for himself outside the damned seal.
It piggybacked on Naruto's darker emotions, bringin forth the killer inside the boy who didn't even flinch at the number of lives he had taken. It was only natural, his mind was in greter sync with the biju who had no such qualms against killing and destroying. Kyuubi wasn't human after all.
The creature had played hard to convince into helping his host for one simple reson. It didn't want Naruto too suspicious of his gift. In time, the boy will rely on more of his power, thus weakening the seal eventually.
For now, it was satisfied with the way things were.
Naruto slammed himself into one guy from Suna, taking stabs in stride, slashing the guy's stomach with his extendeable chakra claws. He turned around and was hit in the face by a strong arm, then multiple opponents dogpiled on him, stabbing, cursing and generally making him afraid and mad.
Red power erupted from him gain, stronger than ever and he screamed into them, sending forth his rage and pain.
It hit them like a physical blow, sending them flying and bleeding. He was upon them in an instant, his wounds closing while he slashed and hit, breaking bones and opening terrible wounds on their skin and flesh.
He shook himself out of his rage, then whirled around when someone landed next to him. It was Jiraiya and he looked worried. "Hey kid, all you all right in there?"
Naruto felt shamed at his loss of control then and managed to nod, forcing himself to breathe and he made the power around him subside, pulling it under his skin. "I am, now. What's going on Ero-Sennin?"
"I wanted to see how is Sarutobi-sensei doing. Wanna come along?"
"Shouldn't we be fighting the enemies?" Naruto was puzzled.
"Leave that to our men for now. Let's see the Third." Jiraiya commanded.
Naruto followed his new sensei, more out of worry for the Old Man Sandaime than from obedience. They shunshinned to the top of the stadium's structure, on the tiled roof where a few Anbu were watching helplessly as their Hokage was fighting against his predecessors inside the flaming purple barrier help up by Orochimaru's cronies.
"Anbu, report." Jiraiya took control of the situation immediately.
The dove masked man nodde. "We tried to breach the barrier, but it burns everything we thre on it. Our barrier team isn't ready for this. It seems that Orochimaru had summoned the first twoHokage to kill Sandaime-sama who is still holding his own."
Jiraiya seemed grim. "Any contact with the Kazekage?"
The Anbu shook his head. "None. It seems he's not here."
Naruto had wandered to the barrier, throwing his kunai at it. It melted as soon as it touched it. The disfigured girl sneered at him from within, holding her hands up in the Ram sign. "Give up, trash. This thing is impenetrable! Just watch the old geezer die at the hands of his own teachers!"
Naruto scowled, doubling his killing intent instantly. He hated people who told him he was trash and that he should quit. He also took it rather personally when the bitch laughed at the thought of his precious person dying.
He extended the cloak from his hand ans tried to breech the purple barrier, but it didn't work. At least his own hand wasn't burned.
"Huh, nice trick trash!" the girl with horns and strange skin chuckled. "But I told you, nothing goes through this."
Naruto thought furiously, then he remembered one thing. The Oto ninja liked using sound based attacks. He remembered how that guy took down kabuto. He didn't even touch him. He did the same to Bushy Brows.
He drew on more power from within, until he saw red again. And screamed as hard as he could.
They were standing on the roof , watching over the village. Smoke and fires were being visible in distance, as well as the men trying to put them out.
Shinobi were flying all over, seeking last pockets of invading forces to destroy or capture them.
It was a mess, but far smaller than expected.
The sun was still high in the sky, providing plenty of light for the watchers to see it all in a grand vista sprawling around them.
One Anbu shunshinned before the trio of ninja, kneeling. "Hokage-sama, I regret to infrom you that Orochimaru has escaped sucessfully. We lost his trail just outside our security perimeter."
Sarutobi nodded tiredly, he wasn't surprised. "Understood. Return to the village and maintain constant security over our walls. We're still at war standing, Commander."
"Yes, sir!" said the agent and left the roof to do as he was told.
"You never expected him to be found," Jiraiya remarked lightly to his teacher, standing at his right. "Man, this was a real mess! We're lucky, our casualties were pretty low, all things considered."
"You are right. Have you seen the Kazekage, or anyone else for that matter?" Sarutobi asked, looking at his pupil. He still had his armour on, except for his helmet.
"Haven't seen a single blip of him," Jiraiya shrugged. "If you ask me, he's dead somewhere. Orochimaru must've killed him and took over his village for a short while. That takes guts."
"I'm fearing you are right, again. Suna's reputation will take a terrible blow after this fiasco."
"They damn well deserve it!" Jiraiya scoffed. "What did they think to gain from this betrayal? I hope you'll make it plain we won't take this lightly."
"Let me worry about them and focus on our security," Sarutobi replied, his voice hard now. "The other nations will look at us hard. They will look for weaknesses."
"They will find none. You're still alive and our enemies are defeated." Jiraiya said, smiling. "Kami bless that kid, eh?"
Sarutobi shared his mood at that. "Naruto-kun has certainly shown he can think outside of the box. I cannot believe you've managed to train him so much in a month. How did you manage to make him control Kyuubi's power so well?"
Jiraiya shrugged. "Luck, I guess. Besides, I'm not sure that the creature has helped us out of good will. Too bad I'm good enough at sealing to make sure it can't escape. Naruto's description of his mental state when he channels it's chakra is very useful. It looks like their minds go into some sort of sync, where Kyuubi hitches a ride on his mental state to escape the confines of the seal. Naruto's negative emotions are the key here."
"And what does happen to him?"Sarutobi was worried.
"He becomes darker, more agressive. He has shown remarkable lessening of hesitancy for killing in his Kyuubi state. He has described it as becoming less human, in his mind. It looks like Kyuubi's mental patterns overlap with his own, supressing his human patterns."
"You mean to say that Kyuubi's instincts overwhelm his own, and that makes him deadlier." Sandaime mulled over it. "How is he feeling afterwards? How is he now?"
"He is tired, mentally and physically. Kyuubi's chakra and mental attitude are strong, they put great strain on him overall. I'm surprised he was able to go home on his own." Jiraiya sighed. "You were right that he wasn't ready before now. Channeling that creature's power demands extreme mental fortitude. Naruto is naturally blessed with strong will and body. He had lost it for a brief period, but he got back in control fast."
"I'll talk to him later, thank him in person for his actions." Sarutobi decided then. "He deserved his promition certainly."
"He'll be happy to hear that." Jiraiya grinned.
Sarutobi returned the gesture, then went serious again. "Onto other matters then. I need Tsunade back."
"Just for a while, that's all. Her return might prove galvanizing for the troops, and she will bring up our medical corps to better condition in no time. Her presence will also deter some people from thinking about testing our defenses as well. In short, we need her to appear strong. I will be sending our ninja on missions like crazy to keep up the illusion of being unharmed. That will be my main priority now." Sandaime stated. "Tell her it's only temporary. She owes me that much. I left her alone for years when some other person would have labeled her as missing nin. She knows it."
"That will take some time. She is moving constantly, you know. I'd like to take Naruto along, so I can teach him on the way. I think he's earned the opportunity to learn Rasengan." Jiraiya anounced his intentions.
"All right. If Kakashi could teach young Uchiha that jutsu, I don't see why Naruto shouldn't learn yours."
"You stole the words right out of my mouth, sensei."
Uchiha Sasuke was lying in his bed, pretending to because he wanted to, but he didn't want to suffer his fangirls fawning over him and driving him nuts with their stupidity.
Ino was there with Sakura who had refused to leave his room, much to his dismay. And he had to lie still, hoping that they wouldn't try something perverted on him. He wouldn't put it past them, they were crazy.
"How is he, Forehead?" Ino whispered. Sasuke had heard her just fine.
"Fine, Ino-pig!" Sakura hissed angrily. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey, back off! I was worried for him too!" Ino protested.
"I didn't see you coming to him when he was injured during the exam," Sakura shot back in glee.
"I was just loathe to intrude on you guys, you're a team, right?" Ino defended herelf.
Sakura took it well. "Thanks, sorry for being touchy. I just worry about him, you know. But sensei said he'll be fine in a couple of weeks tops."
"That's good news," Ino agreed with pleased tone. "Say, did you see Naruto? After that display in the arena, one would think he would be here suffering from chakra exhaustion."
"He went home to sleep. Sensei told me not to worry, so I'm not. I don't think Naruto can have chakra exhaustion." Sakura joked lightly.
"Really? But he was also badly off in the Forrest of Death, Sakura."
Sakura shook her head. "No, that was orochimaru's fault. Sensei told me later that Naruto had his chakra disrupted then. And he was still able to beat Kiba and use so many Kage Bunshin. Naruto is a lot stronger than he seems. That red power he has..."
"Mmm, it was scary. I never thought I'd be afraid of him, but he had literally turned into an army of one and turend the battle in our favor. He even saved Hokage's life." Ino informed Sakura.
"Who told you that? I heard it was Jiraiya of the Sannin who did it. Once he had shown up, orochimaru had run." Sakura said.
"That's true, but Asuma sensei had heard it from the Hokage himself. Naruto had broken that barrier first, using some strange attack against one of the guys who were holding it up. Then Jiraiya sama swooped in and helped Hokage-sama. Jiraiya had trained Naruto in fact during the month before the invasion."
"Oh, that explains it then. That's how Naruto can summon toads now, like Jiraiya-sama. I wonder what did he do to Gaara? We haven't seen him since Naruto had sent him away."
Ino smiled at that. "Oh, sensei explained it to us. Shhika wanted to know as well. Apparently, Naruto had known he couldn't hold off Gaara for long, so he reverse summoned him to the place where summons hail from. They are keeping Gaara captive."
Sakura chuckled. "Always rely on Naruto to find a way to do something. He won the match, fair and square. I think he'll be promoted."
"Probably. I know Shika will be, much to his displeasure. He doesn't want it, but he can't help being smarter than everybody." Ino said, smugly of course. "So you see, your squad isn't better than mine."
"You're so wrong! We have Sasuke-kun!"
"Ah, you got me there! But I still say my team is just as good. I'm just unlucky to get a lazy boy and a wuss who gets mad only when being insulted for his looks. But we do good." Ino replied, unwilling to have her teammates being underestimated. Team loyalty above all.
"Dream on, Ino-pig! Sasuke-kun is the best and Naruto is almost as great. Team Seven is the best around." Sakura countered heatedly, and the girls eruted into an argument. That was when a nurse came in and forced them to leave Sasuke in peace so he could have some real rest. Sasuke was relieved to hear them go.
But he was also left with many questions. How did that idiot manage to do so many things while he had embarrassed himself thoroughly? Why did Jiraiya train Naruto? What was really Naruto's real power? Was he really so weak that he couldn't beat the same guy Naruto did?
He was angry at himself for showing so little improvement against the blonde who was rapidly straiding ahead, despite being an idiot.
Ayame watched Naruto snore, smoothing his wild hair gently. He was so tired that he wasn't even aware when she unlocked the door and entered his apartment. She had cleaned a bit, read a book and watched him as he slept.
She had heard rumors of his feats and less favorable comments on the hiddenpower he had used as well, but she couldn't cre less. She was just happy that the invasion was over and her dad alive, along with her friends and Naruto.
First time she could, she slipped away and went to visit her favorite blonde. He was naked under sheets, showered and absolutely uninjured. It was an illusion, she knew of his rapid healing. She had seen his injuries from training and it was amazing to watch them fade and vanish overnight. He never had scarrs.
It was the same now. If he had been hurt, it was gone.
Eventually she had undressed and joined him in the bed, spooning at his back and his body just contorted into hers, seeking comfort from her familiar presence. It made her very happy.
She settled by him to sleep, knowing he would be gone soon. His life was getting more hectic as he grew and she knew there would be many days of his absence. She wanted to use whatever time she had with him together.