Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome…to the twelfth chapter of The Demon's Blessing! Tis' be the author speaking!

Yes, my peeps, this is the twelfth chapter in the saga (not including the prologue chapter) and I must say it feels good to get this out.

I'm going to reiterate my words from last chapter:




Do I need to make myself anymore clear?

Pertaining to the poll, as I write this, Fu and Mei are winning (1st and 2nd place respectively). I won't say how many votes they have (it's a blind poll for a reason), but if you don't want those two in the harem, you better vote!

I am flattered that you guys didn't mind the last chapter. I had one reviewer tell me that they hadn't even realized it was a filler chapter until they read my A/N that it was, and another supported me for writing it and made me realize a very good point.

Not all chapters can be filled with action. If you ever write a story, there will be fillers in it, because fillers help explain the background some. That last chapter showed that there is extreme tension between Naruto and Sasuke, the Sound team, and Orochimaru. It also helped show that Naruto actually has a brain that he puts to use outside of battles (because Kishimoto doesn't seem to believe that).

Speaking of Orochimaru, I'm surprised somebody didn't get it. That Grass genin that is extremely powerful is Orochimaru in disguise, just like in canon. He DOES see that Naruto has the Rinnegan-that's why his eyes widened and then gained a hungry gleam. He hadn't known, but he saw it for himself…and now Roachy wants.

Later in the chapter, I'm going to mentioning things like "emotional training." Before anyone comes to me wondering why something of that nature is part of the "curriculum," let me just say that this type of training is not the same type of training Danzo and the ROOT undergo. Whereas ROOT agents have their emotions locked away and suppressed at all times and, thus, are little more than robots, the regular ninjas retain their emotions but have to undergo training so they can reel it in when needed. After all, if hostile ninja can read your emotions, they can tell what you're thinking. You wouldn't want surprise, fear, or pain showing.

With that explained, I think we'll go onto the chapter, shall we?


There was a great rush filling the exam room as genin from several different villages scrambled to get in line for their number. Naruto and his friends, however, took their time getting in line, not particularly worried about the First Exam. After all, it was only a written test, and with their combined intellect and empathy link ability, they would be able to pass with no problem.

As he came closer and closer to the front of the line, Naruto couldn't help but replay a single moment in his head several times. The point in time where the Kusa kunoichi had stared at him so hungrily unsettled him.

Naruto Uzumaki could not recall the last time he had been unsettled.

Naturally, this feeling of unease around this Kusa ninja only increased his suspicions that she was actually Orochimaru in disguise. Of course, that did not help his unease either.

He contemplated on what Orochimaru could possibly be doing within the village. Nothing good for Konoha's sake was going to come out of it, obviously, so that left a few choices. He was either scouting out Konoha (the most unlikely choice, as he could have spies like Kabuto to do it), he was looking for something (or someone), or he was going to lead an enemy force in an attempt to destroy Konoha. Those were the three greatest possibilities, though Naruto almost wanted to narrow it down to the final two. If Orochimaru was SCOUTING the village, that meant he was working for somebody else. If Orochimaru was working for somebody else, that meant that his boss had to be stronger than Orochimaru. Naruto shuddered to think of people stronger the snake Sannin, and as such almost completely disregarded the first possibility.

He was shaken out of his thoughts when one of the Chunin handed him a random seat number. Glancing down at the ticket, he figured that his seat was seven rows from the back of the room and three seats in from the left side. Making his way towards the destination, he looked over his neighbors and noticed that the cold blonde from Kumo would be sitting on his left and a Rain ninja on his right. Directly behind him, Kabuto sat with a small smirk. Directly in the front of him, some Konoha genin who he did no recognize sat with absolutely no emotion on his face, though every few seconds or so he would glance at one of the Chunin in the room and they would exchange smirks. That action caused Naruto to raise an eyebrow.

Sitting down with a nod to both of his neighbors, Naruto looked for the rest of his group of friends. Shino was at the very front of the room, sitting next to the Oto kunoichi, much to both of the ninjas' chagrin. In stark contrast, Hinata was in the right corner seat at the very back of the room. Shikamaru was sitting directly behind Kabuto and two rows above Naruto, while Choji sat in the same row as Naruto but on the other end, directly next to Rock Lee, who gave the Akimichi both a brilliant smile and a thumb up. Kiba was in the fourth row from the front, sitting next to a Konoha genin Naruto did not know of. Ino was also in the very last row, but she held the corner left seat.

He took note of other seated competitors as well. Gaara was sitting next to Sakura in the second row, and the pink-haired waste of space looked ready to piss her panties because of the emotionless and almost psychotic look he was giving her. Sasuke sat next to the Oto kunoichi sitting next to Shino, putting the Uchiha in the middle of the row and right in front of Ibiki. The Nibi Jinchuriki whose name Naruto still had not found out was four rows above him and off to his left, while the Grass genin Naruto believed to be Orochimaru was in the second to last row. Though he couldn't get a good glimpse of the snake from his angle, Naruto could, for all intents and purposes, feel the traitor's eyes staring into the back of his head.

Sighing, Naruto turned his attention back to the front of the room. If it weren't for his ninja training that made him show almost no emotion when startled, he would've jumped ten feet in the air because at that exact moment, a voice that didn't belong to him or Kyuubi rang out within his head.

'Man, this is such a drag.'

'…Shikamaru?' Naruto asked while grabbing the part of his arm where he knew Shikamaru's name was located.

'Who else? Don't tell me you forgot about the empathy links already.'


'Really, Naruto?'

'Look, Shika, that's not the point. With the empathy links, we can all work together and do the test!'

'Yes, I've already figured that out. I can connect to somebody else, and you can connect to a different person, and then the two other people we connect can connect with the two that aren't connected with anybody. Works out well, doesn't it?'

'It does. So, you'll grab Kiba and I'll take Shino?'

'Ugh, I'd rather have Shino. Explaining things to Kiba is such a drag.'

'Alright, then you keep this connection and open a separate one while I start the second with Kiba.'


Naruto's body and mind moved in a trancelike state. His fingers, which had been touching the place on his arm that had Shikamaru's name written into it, split so two were touching Shikamaru's name and three were resting on Kiba's. At the same time, his focus split in a 60-40 manner; he was focusing more on getting Kiba than maintaining contact with Shikamaru, though he made sure that he was focusing enough on that so that the link didn't fade.


Unfortunately, Kiba was not as advanced in emotional training as Naruto was. This meant that he, in fact, tried to leap out of his seat. By jumping so rapidly, he banged his knees against the desk in front of him painfully, and Akamaru went sailing through the air, yipping angrily at his partner. The dog slammed into the back of Sakura's head, slamming the girl's overly large forehead into the wood table and effectively knocking her out and slightly concussing her. (A/N: Sakura bashing is fun to write lol)

After apologizing to Ibiki and the administrators, glaring at everybody who stared at him when he had his episode, and watching amusedly as Akamaru used Sakura's head as a springboard to hop back to him, Kiba finally realized what Naruto had done.

'What the fuck, Naruto! I was so unprepared for that!'

'We're ninja, Kiba. We're supposed to be prepared for anything and everything at all times.'

'And that apparently includes hearing voices in your head?'

'A lot of genjutsu techniques work that way. You could be under a genjutsu right now and not even know it.'

'…I'm not, am I?'

'No, Kiba, you're not. I'm using our empathy links.'

'Oh! This is the first time we've used them, right?'

'First time you've used it, I suppose. I sometimes talk to Shika and Hinata when we're on missions or training with it.'


'You know, this conversation has been fun and all, but I contacted you to tell you that we're going to use the links in order to set up a ring so that all of us can get the answers. I need you to get either Hinata or Choji for me, so I can send the answers to you and then you can send them to either one of them.'

'No problem, I'll let Hinata know.'

There was silence for a while before Ibiki broke it.

"Alright shitheads, listen up!"

'This must be the person that taught Anko-sensei how to talk.' Naruto thought dryly to himself.

"As I said earlier, my name is Ibiki Morino, and I will be the head administrator for this portion of the exams. Surrounding you are thirty chunin who will be helping me make sure that none of you greenhorns try anything funny."

At this, all of the chunin flashed menacing grins towards the contestants. Many shuddered, but a few stared back at the administrating staff with impassiveness, and even a few (Gaara, Kankuro, Kiba, and Zaku) with grins on their faces.

"The First Exam is, as you all know, a written exam to test how much knowledge of the ninja world you have and whether you can apply the knowledge you do or do not have under pressure…"

Here, Naruto frowned. 'I don't know about you two, but that last bit seems off. You can't test whether or not we can apply knowledge under pressure like this. Being under time pressure and being under battle pressure are two different scenarios; everybody acts differently under each course. Something here's amiss.'

'Agreed.' Shikamaru responded. Kiba made no response of any kind, leaving Naruto to grit his teeth in annoyance. Kiba was an attentive person, and the only thing Naruto knew that could keep his full attention span was talking to Hinata. Naruto wasn't exactly sure why he was so bothered with Kiba talking to Hinata as opposed to Shikamaru, Choji, or Shino (A/N: But you all should know…), but he simply shrugged it off as the Inuzuka being inattentive in one of the most important moments where he needed to be his usual self.

"The rules are simple. There are ten questions on the test. You have an hour to answer them. If you get caught cheating, you lose two points. If you get caught cheating five times, you are thrown out of the exams. And as a reminder, the Chunin Exams are a team-based competition through the first two sections, so if one of you gets thrown out, the entire team loses! The same applies for all other situations; if the three team members have been caught cheating five times altogether, they are automatically ejected. The scores are also team-based so all three teammates will have to do well in order for you all to pass. A team needs twenty points to advance."

'What a drag…but there is something wrong in this speech. Only two points if you get caught cheating? That's extremely light, considering that these exams are for a promotion.' Shikamaru's voice sounded.

'And they are trying to test us under time pressure, but we have an hour to answer ten questions? That's a lot of time for a simple test. If we combine that with the light cheating penalties…' Naruto connected.

'Then we can deduce that the questions are extremely hard or long, and that cheating will more than likely be necessary.' Shikamaru finished with a sigh.

"Any questions?" Ibiki finished, looking around the room. Ino raised her hand politely, to which Ibiki nodded at her in response.

"I noticed that neither you nor your assistants are carrying papers." Ino paused, carefully choosing her next words after seeing the assisting chunin glare at her for referring to them as mere assistants. "Where are our tests?"

Her question seemed to snap many of the genin out of some reverie. All around the room, the genin looked down at the space they were sitting at or around the room, expecting something crazy to happen.

Ibiki grinned (which effectively distorted his already scarred features) and made a hand symbol. As his chakra washed over all the genin, the papers appeared in front of them face down.

"Any more questions?" He asked. When nobody moved or spoke, he continued. "Begin!"

There was a flurry of motion as everybody turned their tests over and drew their writing utensils.

Then there was an odd silence.

'What in the hell?' Kiba said to Naruto.

'If you had been paying attention, Kiba, this wouldn't surprise you as much as it does. Shikamaru, you know the answers to any of these questions?' Naruto said, scanning the test. All of the questions were easily above a special jonin's knowledge, and while Naruto knew some of the terms scattered in the questions, the applications were always used in ways Naruto had never heard of. Long story short, he couldn't answer any of the questions any better than Akamaru could.

'Oh man, this is such a drag…I can answer one, maybe two questions, but I doubt that I'll get any of them right.'

'Then it's official. They want us to cheat. Soft penalties for cheating, extreme amounts of time for small amounts of questions and extremely hard questions add up to the test-takers being forced to cheat.' Naruto thought.

'So we have to cheat without being caught? As if that wasn't hard enough, how are we supposed to cheat? If none of us can answer the questions, then I doubt anybody else taking the tests can, and that means that we don't have anybody to cheat off of!' Kiba rattled off, which impressed Naruto. Logic was never a strong subject of Kiba's, but he had his moments.

On the other hand, he could hear the bulbs click inside Shikamaru's head. 'Wait a minute. The test is purposely designed to be hard enough so that nobody can answer, so that makes us cheat. But we can't cheat if there's nobody to cheat off of, and the administrators know that as well. The only logical answer is that there is one or more planted chunin taking the test with us. Let's wait this out and see if anybody can start answering the questions.'

Shikamaru was right in his predictions. After about five minutes of silence, the sound of five pencils hitting the papers rang throughout the room, startling almost everyone. Glancing about, Naruto, Kiba, and Shikamaru figured out that the ones who had started were Sakura (who had been treated for her injuries earlier), Kabuto, that Kusa genin (Orochimaru would know the answer to the questions, Naruto snorted to himself), and two non-descript genin from their own village.

'How did they…?' Kiba thought to Naruto. Here, Naruto remembered that Kiba wouldn't know of Shikamaru's plan, as Kiba couldn't hear Shikamaru.

'I don't know why Sakura knows the answers to the test, but she was always a living, breathing encyclopedia, so that could be it. I have reason to think that the Kusa genin is Orochimaru-'

'I knew that scent was familiar! Both Mizuki and Kabuto reeked of it, but her…his…that person's smell is so much stronger!' Kiba interrupted.

'-So I wouldn't put it past him to know these answers. Kabuto, since he smells of snakes and had classified information on people he's never seen in the Chunin Exams before, is a spy for Orochimaru, so I also wouldn't put it past him to know the answers. That leaves those two Konoha "genin," the one next to Kiba and the one conveniently next to the Uchiha.' Naruto thought with a sigh. He wistfully thought of taking a few days off so he could catch up on sleep.

'Does Kiba have a way to cheat without getting caught?' Shikamaru asked.

Three seconds later, a kunai knife landed directly in front of Kiba.

"Two points taken from Team Ten due to Kiba Inuzuka attempting to cheat." One of the chunin said with a smirk. A second chunin sitting next to Ibiki nodded and wrote something on his clipboard.

'I'll take that as a no.' Shikamaru answered himself, agitation leaking into his voice.

'Kiba, you understand Akamaru, correct? Why don't you tell him to read the answers of the chunin next to you and then tell them to you?' Naruto asked, wondering why Kiba hadn't done that first.

'Believe me, that's what I originally intended. But Akamaru has been trained only to recognize verbal commands, not written language. He won't be able to understand the words, much less tell me what they are.' Kiba said with a sigh.

'And, of course, if Akamaru can't understand written language, then the same goes for Shino's insects. That leaves it all up to Hinata.' Naruto concluded.

'She says that she won't use her Byakugan to cheat. She doesn't believe that we have to cheat in order to pass, but won't explain why not.' Kiba reported.

'So, we're fucked?' Naruto asked bluntly. Neither Kiba nor Shikamaru responded, so Naruto just groaned and held his head in his hands.

'Oh, the irony…we, ninjas, the supposed masters of stealth, can't find a way to copy off others without being caught…'

Glancing about, Naruto looked at how the others were getting their answers. Neji had his Byakugan activated; Tenten had some mirrors set up in the lights (how she did that, Naruto had not been sure) and was reading the answers via reflections (presumably; since their angles were different, Naruto was not seeing what she saw); and Lee had removed his headband from his waist and tied it around his forehead while looking at the mirrors, so he was more than likely manipulating the light as well. Gaara had covered an eye with one of his hands, which was strange, but Naruto assumed it was some weird jutsu, as he noted a chakra constructed eye (that coincidentally was the same color as Gaara's) floating around the room; Kankuro had left earlier in the test for a bathroom, so Naruto wasn't exactly sure what he was doing; and a wind gust had sent the papers flying earlier, so Naruto assumed Temari had been at work. He had obviously missed how the Kumo genin had gotten their answers, as they were sitting back contently. Naruto was sorely tempted to take a look at the completed paper next to him…

Then, a miracle happened, and Naruto was fortunate enough to catch it all.

It all started when Sakura triumphantly put her pencil down and leaned back into her chair. Approximately ten seconds later, a thudding sound was heard. Looking back, everyone saw that Ino had "fallen asleep" over her test. Nearly twenty seconds after that, Sakura's head also hit the table audibly. A few minutes later, Ino picked her head back up and wrote down her answers as if she had knew them all along. Sakura awoke at around the same time, though she seemed rather dazed and confused.

When Ino finished writing, she gazed around and spotted Kiba struggling over his test. With a little sigh, she made a small hand sign and promptly "fainted" again. About half a minute later, Kiba appeared to do the same. Unlike last time, however, he recovered in about five seconds, while Ino remained motionless.

Then Kiba started to write.

'…Kiba?' Naruto asked slowly. Kiba jumped (again), sending Akamaru flying (again) into Sakura (again), more then likely concussing her (…again :P). Akamaru gave another angry bark and walked back to his human counterpart, this time settling himself under Kiba's chair.

'Naruto?' Kiba responded in a feminine voice.

'Ino? How am I talking to you?'

'I don't know! Do you have any sort of mental communication links with Kiba?'




'Well, that explains this situation. I'm using a family jutsu where I transfer my consciousness to the other person's body and hijack it. If that person has a mental link with somebody else, it won't pick up on the fact that somebody else's mind has entered the person's body, so that would allow the mind in control- whether it be the intruder or the person- to utilize the mental link.'

'You know a lot about the mind and how it interacts with the body.'

'My dad is both the head of the Interrogation half of the Torture and Interrogation ANBU Division and the leader of the Yamanaka clan- the clan of the mind-walkers, as we are known outside of Konoha. As such, I've been studying about every aspect of the mind since I was little, and I've been undergoing advanced studies after the talk with Kurenai-sensei. Since I'm the heiress of the clan, I have to know more than a lot of the others have to. I neglected my studies earlier in life, and my dad wasn't going to push me unless I showed dedication to it, so now I have to work harder to catch up to where I should be. It stinks, but this entire situation is my fault, so I can't complain.'

'…I see.' Naruto's respect for Ino rose as a result of hearing her owning up to her duties, even after having put herself in a hole that would be far too deep for many to even attempt to get out of. 'That's interesting and admirable. But onto the main topic…I assume you invaded Kiba to help him with the test? Because I did see you take over Sakura, whom I know for a fact had the answers, before you did your test, and after you finished, you seemed to take pity on Kiba before you entered his mind.'

'Yes,' Ino admitted, 'I wanted to help him. He looked like he needed it, anyway.'

'Well, I don't suppose you could help me as well?'

'You need help?'

'I do. I have mental links with Kiba, Shikamaru, Shino, Hinata, and Choji, but Shikamaru is too lazy to answer the questions, Kiba and Shino can't use their animals to cheat because they don't understand written words, Choji just doesn't know the answers, and Hinata refuses to cheat. I myself do not know the answers, though I recognize a lot of the terms.'

'Well, in that case, the answers are…'

And within a few minutes, the six other genin had the answers to the questions. Putting his pencil down, Naruto spoke to Ino (still in Kiba's body).

'Thanks, Ino.'

'Anytime, Naruto. I have a request, though…'

'If it's reasonable, then I probably will do it.'

'Can you make a empathy link between myself and everyone else?'

The questions stumped Naruto. He supposed it wasn't entirely out of the question. Ino's alignment, which had been the default "Light," had quickly dropped into the "Dark" realm once she started talking to Naruto and his friends. He knew that alignments and chakras were separate. If one had a Dark alignment, it meant that they had a better chance of having Dark chakra and, thus, being evil. If one had a Light alignment, it meant that they had a better chance of having Light chakra and, of course, being good. Life choices could affect your alignment; by Ino deciding to associate with them, it made her shift towards the Dark alignment.

Yet there were so many things to consider. The empathy links had come about once everybody had hit a certain experience level (fifteen, to be precise). If she truly wanted one, she would most likely have to endure the Shadow Realm. Naruto knew that Ino's techniques revolved around the mind, but that wouldn't work in the Shadow Realm.

Then there was the fact that Naruto couldn't craft an empathy link, only the randomness of the Shadow Realm could. Ino could reach level fifteen and still not get the empathy links. She could get an empathy link to a few people but not the whole group. Or she could get empathy links with everybody, but there was no telling if her version would be the same as theirs; if it was not, they wouldn't be able to tell her how to activate it.

Still, Naruto mulled over, it did have the chance of working, and since there was no harm in failing (even dying in the Shadow Realm simply meant an ejection for a period of time, with that time varying and dependent on how the person died), he decided he would give it a go. Besides, if it worked, the group would have another person on hand that had knowledge and abilities none of the current six had.

'We'll see, Ino. To get the empathy links, the six of us had to visit a different realm, battle various creatures and beings, and gain experience. You might have to do the same in order for it to work.'

At first, Ino was completely silent, and Naruto was sure he had stunned her speechless when he said that there was another realm to explore. But when that silence stretched, Naruto was a little worried that Ino was too scared to take that step.


'I'll do it.' She said. It was obvious to Naruto that she was trying not to show her fear, but he could hear the quiver in her voice. He let it slide, though.

'All right Ino, we'll do it as soon as the exams are over, or if we get a long enough break in between. Deal?'


Naruto felt her presence leave his mind, and a few moments later, Kiba's head dropped. A second later, the Inuzuka's head snapped back up, and the boy looked around bewilderedly. Naruto shook his head; knowing Kiba was back in control, he leaned back in his chair and took a gander at the rest of the room in a subtle manner.

The kunoichi next to Naruto was looking at him out of the corners of her eyes, which Naruto noted with some amusement. Elsewhere in the room, Sasuke appeared to be ready to blow a gasket as he held his head in his hands and stared at his paper, which lead Naruto to believe the Uchiha was either taking the no-cheating rule seriously or he hadn't unlocked the Sharingan in order to copy the hand movements of the chunin next to him. Kabuto had been staring at him intensely until Naruto had looked in his direction, which made the spectacle-wearing spy grin at him and wave. The Kusa genin Naruto thought to be Orochimaru, meanwhile, kept alternating his glances between Sasuke and Naruto, though Naruto had also caught him looking at several others every once in a while, most notably Hinata, Neji, and the Kumo genin. Gaara was looking directly at him, not even bothering to turn away when Naruto returned the stare. Other than that, everybody else were either writing answers, staring at their tests in frustration, or leaning back, content with their answers.

Turning his paper over, leaning back and kicking his feet up on top of the paper, Naruto closed his eyes, waiting for the test to end.

"All right maggots, pencils down and eyes open!" Ibiki shouted, aiming the last part directly at Shikamaru and Naruto, the only two peaceful enough (or, in Shikamaru's case, uncaring enough) to have been able to sleep. Instead of getting the desired reaction (which was anything from a sharp motion and a shout to falling out the chair), Ibiki only received two yawns as the two Konoha genin woke from their slumber.

"It is time to administer the tenth and final question!"

Here, Naruto froze. 'The tenth question…wasn't on the paper…so then that means this must be the win or go home problem…Hinata knew that, that's why she didn't cheat…'

Naruto resisted the urge to set fire to the building and refocused his attention on Ibiki.

"Before I do give the question, though, I give you the option of either backing out now or proceeding to answer." Ibiki said, which confirmed Naruto's thoughts.

"We came this far and went through nine of the questions already, why would we back out?" Kiba shouted.

Ibiki blasted killing intent on the Inuzuka, causing him to slouch back into his chair and Akamaru to whine and climb up and into Kiba's sweater.

"Maybe if I finished explaining, it would make more sense…ain't that right, maggot?" Ibiki said in a deadly whisper. Kiba whimpered in response, to which Ibiki grinned sadistically.

"As I was saying, if you choose to back out now, you and your squad will be disqualified from the Exams. However, if you choose to stay and get the question wrong, you will be banished from these Exams and all future ones!" Ibiki shouted.

While the scarred interrogator's display of killer intent had managed to subdue the room full of genin, it had no effect on the uproar of chaos and disarray that occurred once he finished the last line.

"How is that fair? There are plenty of people that have taken these Exams several times before!" The redheaded Kumo kunoichi said angrily. Ibiki grinned at her.

"Sorry girlie, but this part of the exam is under my jurisdiction. Whatever I say goes."

Now, Naruto and his friends all knew intellectually that the Chunin Exam was not the only way for one to become a chunin, because if it was, then only two genin a year would be promoted to chunin across ALL the villages (meaning that, at most, two villages would get one new chunin and all the rest would have none). But, Naruto mused, applying knowledge to a pressurized situation was different than having the general knowledge, as he saw clearly in the written portion. Thus, he saw a few things across the room that didn't surprise him.

For one, the three kunoichi of the Rookie Nine- Hinata, Ino, and Sakura- were all visibly nervous. Sakura kept glancing at her precious Uchiha, Ino was twirling her hair around one of her fingers (which was a sign, as Ino had been known to take great caution in protecting her hairstyle), and Hinata was pushing her index fingers together.

Sakura's nervousness was instantly killed off as the Uchiha gave her a poisonous glare that more or less demanded she not give up. Hinata glanced at Naruto, who gave her a thumbs-up in support. The shy Hyuuga glanced back down at the table in front of her, but Naruto could see both the flush adorning her face and the determination that appeared in her eyes. Ino actually pushed aside her own nervousness after seeing that everyone else she knew was going to go ahead with the question, which was commendable, as the other two kunoichi needed personal reassurance.

Elsewhere among the room, hands were raising and team names flying as dozens of warm bodies made their way out of the room, secure in the fact that while they had failed this Chunin Exams, another six months of training under their jonin-sensei would prepare them for the next one. As they left, some looked angrily at their teammates that had given up and disqualified the entire team; some sent the teammate understanding looks; others looked at those that chose to remain with something akin to disbelief; and still others had their heads bowed, feeling guilty that because of their personal weakness, their teammates couldn't advance. Naruto watched all of this and more as the numbers slowly dwindled- from nearly 250 competitors (A/N: Picking a random number, sue me {please don't}) to a round total of sixty, or exactly twenty teams.

Ibiki looked around, scanning the room to see who had stayed in the room. While unsurprised that the blond-haired kid and his team had remained (they remained largely unaffected by all of his tactics), he was slightly surprised to see all nine rookies from the Leaf still in the room, alongside the three second year (or first full-length year) genin from Konoha that were taking the exams for the first time as well. The Kazekage's children were lounging about, as well as two teams from Kumo, a few teams from Grass, a few teams from Rain, a few more from Konoha, and one from Sound.

"Are all of you really going to take the chance that you may be a genin for the rest of your life?"

"Such a drag, man. But we are shinobi, after all. If we can't sit through a simple question, then we can't say we're deserving of a more prominent role in our village's defense and overall schematics." Shikamaru said, sighing at the end. Ibiki once more scanned the room and saw that Shikamaru's explanation had bolstered anyone's faltering confidence.

"Well then…congratulations on passing the first part of the Chunin Exams!" Ibiki said with a small smirk.

There was silence for a few seconds before the inevitable, collective, and resounding "WHAT?" echoed throughout the room. Ibiki, ever noticing things, saw that some were unsurprised, such as the blond-haired genin from Konoha (A/N: Ibiki had a list of all the competitors in the Chunin Exams, but he doesn't know what they look like), the Hyuuga girl, the genin that had spoken out against him a few minutes before, and the red-haired Suna genin. Even the blond, busty chick from Kumo who had remained emotionless through the entire test appeared startled.

"But what happened to the final question?" The kunoichi from Suna said.

"There never was any final question. It was a guise for a test that we needed to take. I stated that if you failed to answer correctly, you would stay a genin forever, but I also gave the choice to leave and take the next Exams. All those that left are unworthy for the spot of chunin, because as a chunin, you will be caught in situations where you either proceed with a mission without knowing what might happen, or backing off and not taking it. If you don't take it, it shows that you aren't ready for those missions, and thus not ready to be a chunin. As the genin who spoke out against me awhile ago said, if you cannot take the risk on a question, you won't be able to take that risk on a potentially important mission." Ibiki explained.

While the answer sated some people's curiosity, others were not pleased.

"So then what was the point of the first nine questions?" Sakura asked, clearly agitated that all her work had been for naught.

"It was yet another test. We made the questions difficult enough so that you couldn't answer them, unless you spend all your time reading and not training…"

Here, Ibiki looked pointedly at Sakura, who flushed deeply and looked down.

"…And we put such light penalties for cheating. The test was designed for you all to cheat, despite what we said. The catch was to cheat without making it so obvious we had to call it out. Believe me, we caught what most of you were doing, but we didn't point it out because you were cheating like ninjas. We called out those that were blatantly cheating. Again, as a chunin, you will be sent on information-gathering missions. If you can't get that information without being caught, then you will be caught and get killed, kept as prisoner, or tortured for information about your village, or you will fail the mission and show that you aren't chunin material.

"Being a chunin is no laughing matter. You have to take the job very seriously."

With that, Ibiki untied the bandana around his head, revealing his head that was marred with scars and wounds. Almost everyone flinched away from him.

"This," Ibiki said grimly, "is what happened to me when I wasn't careful enough in going about one of my missions. Again, progressing in ninja rank means you have more and more responsibilities, and they're usually dangerous. You have to be serious about moving up a rank, and you all have proven that you are."

The leader of the Torture half of the T&I Division of the ANBU then gave a very rare smile (which, sadly, only marred his features even more) before tying his bandana back around his head.

"Now," said he, his smile disappearing. "The Second Exams-"

Before Ibiki could continue, a black blur flew in the room from the side, busting through one of the front windows and sending glass shards flying through the room. Luckily, the glass didn't hurt anybody except for Sakura, who received a cut on her arm. As the blur unfurled, Naruto instantly recognized who it was that had just entered and immediately placed his head on the desk.

'Oh no…please don't let it be her…tell me it's just a joke, or she has a message, just don't let it be her…'

Unfortunately for Naruto, his pleas went unanswered, as the banner unrolled and displayed a person.

The banner read, "The Stunningly Sexy Proctor of the Second Exam, Anko Mitarashi!"

"Oh, dear." Naruto muttered to himself. "Did it really have to be Anko-sensei?"

That's a wrap on chapter 12!

Honestly, this was a hard chapter to write. The content itself wasn't hard, it was just I was sick at one point when I wrote this. Most of the other parts were written at early points in the morning (two or three). And as I do not have a beta, nobody else but me checks over the chapters, so any and all mistakes are on me.

On another note, the last parts might seem vague for me, because I usually write all details about something. Yet I never described Anko or the mission Ibiki had been on when he got his scars because I don't really keep up with the manga or anime anymore so I forget. Usually I research character appearances to get everything right, but Time Warner Cable screwed up my Internet, so I can't.

Speaking of which, my Internet is messed up, so if you're reading this, then please consider that this chapter is a few days old and would've been out sooner. Also, I've more than likely started on the next chapter already.

Not much else to say, so until next time,

ILove out!