Chapter 10: Mokutan (Charcoal)

It felt like he was moving through water, or maybe syrup. Much better if it could have been ramen broth, he would'ave drunk it all up then, and he would have been free.

But it wasn't ramen broth nor syrup nor water.

It was himself, he realized as he opened his eyes. Whoa, bright. Or not, it just seemed to be to his own eyes, how long had he been sleeping? It felt like molasses around him, and he would know molasses, he's used them before.

"Ugh..." His throat was dry, parched, and he felt like even walking was a chore.

What had happened? He remembered Orochimaru, he remembered fighting the snake user and... and...

~Flashback~

"Can't have you getting uppity on me now, can we, boy? Pity you're useless to me, but I'll take care of you right now. Gogyo Fuuin (Five Elements Seal)!"

A hand on his stomach, where he knew something important was placed. No, he couldn't!

Then... PAIN.

~End Flashback~

No wonder he had been fucked up seven ways to sunday... He might not know much about seals, but he knew that unless they were made in very specific ways, interacting seals tend to mess the whole thing up.

"Aargh! No, please, stop!" A voice came from the outside and Naruto sighed. Never a moment's rest, what is he, some superhero guy? It would be cool if they gave some suits too, but nooo, wearing spandex is considered 'tacky' and 'disgusting'.

Making his peace with his apparent fate of not being allowed a day to sleep in (the sun is an evil bastard like that and his bedroom's window faces east), he got up and shambled outwards.

Well, he wasn't expecting this, exactly. No, nothing like it at all. Sakura cowering to the side, her hair looked very good cut short, Rock Lee had been almost unconscious, Chouji and Shikamaru were panting, Ino was unconscious, weird though, she had no wound... But, there were three foreign guys, a scared witless girl, a hunchback bandage-covered guy looking with a horrified single eye and another guy screaming in pain as Sasuke seemed to be pulling his arms back, as if to break them.

Obviously, Naruto did the logical thing; he went behind Sasuke and punched him on the head.

"Ow!"

"Oh, shut up mister Uchiha 'I'm-gods'-gift-to-existence' Sasuke. Seriously, what's wrong with you dude, breaking arms? I mean, really, breaking arms? Either break the neck or knock the weakling out."

"They hurt Sakura."

"Ah. Well, that changes things. So, you get the arms, I get the legs? Or are you thinking about something more... finessed? Like, skinning or poisons! Give me an hour and some water, I'll make you some neurotoxins. Oh, and don't forget we need to water the pretties!" He suddenly cried out. Really, having everyone freak out with just a few words was too much fun, would they ever realize he was just messing around with them? Well, his pretties were pretty darn important to him, more than the Hat in fact, but he did know when to speak about them or not. Heh, messing around with that Kabuto guy sure was fun. Ibiki and Anko too!

The poor boy made to sputter, but at least the black tattoos that had crawled up his face seemed to start burning like flames, weird they looked like flames too, and receded quickly.

The three sound ninja made to quietly leave while everyone was looking at Naruto, but were quickly stopped. "Oh no, no, that won't do! Why are you leaving, not even giving us a little present for letting you keep your arms?" Naruto asked them rather pleasantly, were it not for the red-glowing mushrooms in his head that seemed to be emiting a cloud shaped like a skull over them. "Do we really have to do this?" The skull seemed to grin evilly.

The hunchback, later Naruto would learn he was called Kinuta Dosu, quickly realized that just as the blonde had pulled the crazed Uchiha back, it would have been just as easy to set him loose again, so he did the smart thing; he dropped his team's scroll and quickly left. Not like he couldn't get another anyway.

"Well, that settles that! Anyone up for some tea?" The pleasant grin was back, only this time the mushrooms were normal instead of glowing.

"N-Naruto... Are... are you alright?" Sakura asked, worried. Sure he seemed fine, but she knew her team-mate quite well. She could tell he wasn't fine. "Y-You and Sasuke-kun were burning up, not ten minutes ago and... and... and you were so... you were in a coma Naruto, Sasuke-kun! You can't go exerting yourselves! You should sit down and gather your strength!" She insisted taking up her role as the team's medic.

"And how long has it been since you slept?" Naruto asked with sudden clarity and seriousness, not stopping his preparations for a hand-made mushroom soup. Even Sasuke had taken a seat, leaning back against a tree, looking at his hands, or just brooding. "You have circles under your eyes and you have not combed your hair, nice haircut by the way, but it needs a bit of trimming around the edges. But, you haven't slept for at least a day, have you, Sakura-chan?"

The pinkette sighed. How could he always be so... so insistenti on taking the attention off him? For an orange-obsessed, loudmouthed idiot, he could sure evade questions when he wanted to. "It's... It's been three days actually... You... You and Sasuke-kun have been in a dreadful state ever... ever since that guy..."

"Orochimaru." Naruto corrected her somberly. "Not guy, I doubt he even qualifies as human any more, didn't you feel it? His ki was... His chakra was... It was unreal... If I were to put it to colors, our chakra's blue, his was a sick purple... Not like Ino-chan likes either, no offence, eh?" He sent a smile at the girl, who was too stunned looking at the class dobe act like... like a normal human being, a serious one at that too. "Now come, let's have a bit of brunch, lunch, whatever, I don't even know what time it is. You too, teme, get off your ass."

While Chouji tried to convince his team that yes, they should have some food and Lee gushed over the plate offered to him by Sakura, only Naruto paid enough attention to the boy in question.

He had not moved at all. While not strange for the boy to keep immobile for long amounts of time, he had just sort of collapsed there and was deep in concentration. So, Naruto sat down next to him, a steaming hot bowl of mushroom soup in each hand.

"Eat while it's hot or tell me what's wrong. Just don't brood like you're five again, man, you're stronger than that."

"Strong... I'm not strong... I was pathetic... He... He destroyed me... Us..." Was the reply before a short sip of the sour-tasting concoction. It sure tasted... different. But it was hot and he could feel the slightly viscous broth slowly trickle down his esophagus, reaching his stomach and spread from there.

"Yeah, not like he has fifty fucking years of experience over us, not like he was considered a genius and a prodigy since when he was a brat, not that he's on the top three most wanted men list. You only care that he owned our asses. Sorry to break it to ya, mate, but he could have taken on Zabuza and Kakashi at the same time and not break a sweat probably. We managed to survive, we managed to get the fuck away from him and we survived longer than most chuunin would."

"No... we lost... He was... He was toying with us... All this training! All this hard work! All this supposed talent and skill and... And it was pointless!" Sasuke ranted. "He... he was so strong... He was so strong I stood in awe, I found it... I found it beautiful!"

"What are you, a masochist? Beyond I already thought you were anyway." And cue an interruption by a smirking Naruto. "Yeah, he was cool, and creepy as hell though, don't forget that. But, we're still gennin, we're twelve, he's over sixty, it was a given that we'd get our asses handed to us. At least we lived to see another day."

"No... We ran, like dogs," He spat out with disgust. "He had so much power and... and all we could do was hope to survive! Like rats! All we've done is only fit for rats!" The bowl was tossed away, spilling on the ground while Sasuke got up and left the clearing, leaving a sad Naruto behind.

For his part, Naruto could understand, he supposed. Sasuke had been obsessed with power for so long, giving his all for a personnal vendetta, a goal he had taken up as his drive in life, the only reason he was alive.

Pretty much like Naruto himself; only where Sasuke wanted to bring his brother to justice, Naruto wanted to be acknowledged by everyone.

If there had been anything that would show Naruto he would never have a chance at his dream, then yeah, he would have reacted badly to it too. Or if he had found he actually came from a clan and nobody told him about it. Yeah, that'd piss him off pretty badly too.

So he let his friend, his almost-brother, go. He'd need some time to sort his feelings, maybe he could get him a plant to keep him company as well? That'd work, right?

No sense in letting perfectly good soup go to waste though, so he took out his sealing scroll, a very nice gift from Kakashi-sensei, and sat down next to a still-eating Sakura.

The girl was eating almost as ravenously as Chouji!

Making small talk, he learned more than a few things. Lee was going solo into the woods, seeing if he could take out a team or at least give directions to his partners. Ino and her own team had been looking to set a trap at some team when they found out about Team Seven being damaged and had, at Ino's insistence, come to help. Lastly, Sakura had spent three days in vigil, looking over both Naruto and Sasuke and taking care of them as best as she could, though nothing she had used had been effective. It seems she had been so devoted to them she had barely had something to eat, having feeling someone watching over her hiding place for three days, she hadn't dared leave to forage.

Eventually Sasuke came back, forcing a smile and 'I'm fine, drop it' line, sitting next to them and taking some soup, but only after his stomach roared. It had given them all a few laughs (or giggles in the case of the girls), though he seemed even more brooding, or sulken, than usual. Naruto though just assumed he would get over it in time. He trusted Sasuke; he wasn't weak.

Ino then asked a question that had been bugging her for a long time (ever since she saw him at the first part, really). "Naruto... are... are you just acting like you're crazy?"

"My dear Ino-chan," He said, grinning at her and his eyes glinting with something the girl couldn't recognize. "we're all crazy. Some of us just enjoy the ride!"

That earned a laugh from Shikamaru, who was smart enough to get the point, and surprising Sasuke, who was crazy enough to do the same thing.

Funny that, if you think about it; crazy and smart can mean the same thing sometimes, eh?

But, in the end, it was time to move on and, while Ino and Sakura both advocated that their teams stick together, Shikamaru didn't consider it tactically wise and Sasuke wasn't in the mood for it. Chouji and Naruto's opinion apparently didn't matter, but it wasn't like they minded any.

What really worried Naruto, besides Sasuke's constant state of anger and sulking, was that they had to move quickly. The Tower wasn't exactly far, but his clones hadn't been exactly accurate in their Mori Yuurei transportation. If anything, they had sent them off to a completely different quadrant. They'd have to be more careful about roving teams right now, not to mention the snake bastard himself. At best it would take them a whole day to get to the tower and it was already the fourth day, he couldn't even use the Mori Yuurei a second time, he was lucky to be standing if what he felt about his chakra system was right. He could feel his reserver return, but slower than they ever had and it was still weird. What had snake-eyes done to him anyway? Maybe he should ask Old Man Sarutobi.

Soon, Team Seven was leaping again in triangle formation, Sasuke in the lead. He had insisted they do that, even though Naruto had to constantly leap next to him to notify him of a detour. Their leader had almost attacked once or twice anyway, a show of agression they had rarely seen from him, but the blonde managed to convince him to save it for the third part and any campers outside the tower; they weren't out of it yet.

At last, with thankfully little trouble except for a stubborn bear, the group made it to the Tower. Just like Naruto remembered it, a spire jutting out from the ground, worn stone and scratched doors. Over them a sign; "If you have Heaven, then scour the world for the Earth. If you have Earth, gaze up to the sky to see the Heaven. The Balance Is The Key." It was rather cryptic in its meaning, but it got along another point finely enough. They had two scrolls, right? A Heaven and Earth. Obviously the sign told them they needed both, but for what?

"Let's open them. The proctor said not to open them unless we got here. Guess... guess we need them both and be here before we can use them." Suggested Sasuke, already taking out the scroll he had taken from the Oto ninja, thankfully it was a pair to the one Naruto held. Still, it was a reminder that he had actually failed as a team leader, he had quickly surrendered their first scroll to that Orochimaru guy...

He was a failure, a failure that desired, no needed, strength. And he had found it, for just a few moments after awakening from his coma, up until Naruto stopped him, he had found power. A little jealous voice in his head asked him, maybe Naruto stopped him so he wouldn't get too powerful.

He shook his head. Naruto would never do something like that, it wasn't his thing. Naruto may be a crazy, bat-shit loco, obstinate idiot, but he was also a friend and a dependable one at that. He would never, never, do something like that... right?

"Dunno, Sasuke... But I guess, we don't have much choice, do we? Alright, let's do it." The blonde replied, retrieving his own and, with a look at Sasuke, opened it at the same time.

Smoke began to erupt from the scrolls and they seemed to draw themselves onto each other so Naruto and Sasuke, knowing that seals should really be left to do what they do unless you know how to mess with them, tossed them and leapt back to Sakura. The girl had already taken out a few kunai and was readying herself to replace with a log behind the scrolls. After all, judging by the shape and movement of the smoke and the patterns of the scribblings...

"It's summoning something..." Sasuke whispered, complementing Sakura's thoughts. He peered hard into it and tried to activate his Sharingan, but he stopped immidiately, feeling a searing pain over his left shoulder and what little chakra he had amounted vanish quickly. 'I can't use my Sharingan? What am I... How could someone... How dare they take my rightful power from me!' He raged internally, hopping from wondering to terrified to aggressive and back again, all in the space of a second.

Namely the second it took for the smoke to clear and the figure inside it become identifiable, one Umino Iruka.

Said chuunin teacher was quickly glomped to the ground by a happy Naruto, laughing all the way and rubbing the blonde's head. "Haha, I'm glad to see you too, Naruto. It's been quite a bit of time, hasn't it? How have you three been doing? Nothing too bad I hope, or should I have you writing lines again?" He joked, earning a giggle from Sakura, a somewhat forced smirk from Sasuke and a scared look from Naruto. Ah, good days, good days.

"No! Naruto is a good boy!" Naruto squeaked and leaped off the man, looking innocent. Everyone laughed at that, even a recovering Sasuke, though his lasted the shortest.

"Good to know you'll be behaving, brat." Iruka used the usual insult as a term of affection. "Now come, I bet you're all exhausted. Get inside, I'll get you something to eat and drink, it's not over yet."

The chuunin's words were prophetic, or at least well-informed. After a small brunch of sandwitches, several for each member in fact, and some water, every ninja in the tower was called down for debriefing. It was there they found why it wasn't over yet; there were just too many of them, even if most were Konoha gennin. Kabuto's team had finished along Lee's and the other three Konoha rookie teams. The Oto ninja had also managed to recover, despite their near-death experience, and were looking hatefully at Team Seven from their place next to the Sabaku siblings of Suna. All in all, seven teams of three, 21 applicants.

The Hokage, ignoring Naruto's squeals of 'Hiii jii-chan!', then informed them that they would be having a small tournament to narrow down the numbers of the third part of the exam. It was then that a sickly jounin, named Gekko Hayate, took over and told them that their matches would be random and asked everyone to go up the stairs to an overlooking veranda of sorts.

Sasuke's match was the first, something that relieved a worried Kakashi. He had seen the mark on the boy's neck and he had hoped it would be so, he'd get him out of there as soon as he ended the fight. He was glad that his opponent was another Konoha gennin, one Akado Yoroi, surely the other gennin wouldn't go too rough on him.

That sentiment was thrown right out the window once the fight started. If anything, Yoroi fought to mock, injure and slowly kill the Uchiha, drawing his chakra out bit by bit every time they touched. Sasuke was on his right knee, and he was getting ready to interfere when Naruto, bless his soul, interferred.

"Get up teme! Are you letting that weakling take you down? You've stood against Zabuza and you let that looser get you on bended knees? Get up, Sasuke, me and Sakura believe in you!"

That had been the little surge of power the boy had needed to get back up and stare down a now cowering Yoroi. Sasuke didn't dare pull out more chakra than he needed to survive, it hurt like a bitch when he tried it to use his favourite fireball jutsu. So, instead, he decided to take a leaf out of Naruto's book and charged his enemy. First step: Unbalance them. Yoroi knew he was dangerous at short range, he had assumed that Sasuke would stay the heck away from him. He assumed wrong. Second step: Skill and knowledge are important, use what you have. What did he have? He was a taijutsu genius. He had seen Lee's movements and, thanks to his Sharingan memorized them. More importantly, he could replicate them as his body was in fact highly conditioned. Yoroi's chin met Sasuke's high kick and he was bodily thrown off the floor, an instant later followed by Sasuke. Third step: Improvise. He hadn't seen Lee's follow-up deadly combo. It didn't matter, he was in an ideal place to attack, so he began his new one.

"Shishi Rendan (Lion Combo)!" And poor Yoroi had his face smashed into the earth by a powerful heel drop from Sasuke after a barrage of other blows.

"Winner by knockout, Uchiha Sasuke."

No sooner had these words been said than Naruto and Sakura whooped in joy, while Kakashi sighed in relief. He was just about to take the boy away when he refused. It wouldn't matter much but...

"Aww, let him stay Kakashi-sensei! He will be good, only watching after all, right? Besides, if we're gonna have a big tournament up next, he's going to need all his knowledge, right?" Naruto begged, getting nods from Sakura. He would have still taken the boy away, especially since Anko was glaring, but Sasuke confirmed that he was alright, and he visibly stood better after his victory. Hm... Interesting. A look at Sandaime-sama also confirmed it, Sasuke would watch the rest of the fights.

Some fights went by, others interesting, others boring, but not one of them more gruesome than Gaara's with Lee. The Sand gennin, after getiting handily beaten to the ground by Lee for a while, managed to ensnare the green-colored blur of fists and kicks, before crushing his right arm and leg.

It was then that Naruto realized what was so familiar about this guy. It wasn't those eyes, so much like his own would have been had he not chosen to forgive. It wasn't the feeling of hate and disgust he himself often felt for the people around him. It was the feeling of malice, deep and old and ancient, that circulated through his chakra and looked out behind his eyes...

Two great, red, slitted eyes look out from the darkness, a huge set of hungry, salivating teeth, hungrily grinning down, darkness, darkness all around, depressing consuming, devouring-

"Naruto, oi, Naruto! Are you even listening!" Sakura yelled at his ear, making him jump. From the look on her face, she had been doing so for quite a bit of time.

"S-Sorry, Sakura-chan. I was... I was thinking."

"Whatever you were thinking must have been terrible... You were trembling and sweating a lot... Anyway, it's my turn to fight now, Ino-buta and I, how poetic." Sakura wanted Naruto to look at her fighting. She wanted him to acknowledge that she had gotten stronger, just like he had improved himself. It wasn't romantic in the slightest, but, if she could get Naruto to admit she had gotten stronger, then, in time,she could also prove it to Sasuke-kun, right?

The fight itself wasn't what Sakura had hoped nor expected. Instead of a straight-out combat, it was a trip down memory lane and her getting over her own past. But, at least she had gotten that chapter of her life closed. It would have been better if she had managed to move on to the next part, but at least she prevented Ino-buta from having that honor. The little voice inside her head, that was coming out more and more often as she spent time near Naruto's insanity, also said that they were the ones least deserving to move on. Compared to any of the gennin there, she and Ino were the weakest.

While she was debating that, another kunoichi, Tenten from Lee's team, was defeated by Sabaku no Temari. This victory, Gaara's victory and Kankuro's earlier one had made the entire Suna delegation advance, much to the chagrin of all Konoha ninja. Quality over quantity they reminded themselves.

And now was Naruto's turn, a fight against an equally loudmouthed gennin, albeit one with a clan; Inuzuka Kiba. The dog-user had always been smug and brash, arrogant as well. Even more so against Naruto, whom he saw as a 'runt', a 'bastard-breed', someone with no clan or family to back him, meaning that he didn't deserve one either. It wasn't his fault as much as the teachings of his tight-knit, pack-like family coupled with the entire village's hate towards the blonde. As the Sandaime had said several times in the past, the adults' hate towards the Uzumaki had tainted the views of the young generation.

That's why, while Kiba was walking down the stairs, he was feeling very smug, almost as if he 'deserved' fighting the 'weakest gennin', the 'dead last'. He conveniently missed Sakura's and Sasuke's glare while Kakashi sighed and wished there was a betting pool going on; he would have made a killing out of the beating he knew would follow.

"Sad to say this, Kakashi, but Naruto has lost. Kiba is the top taijutsu expert and with his dog, he is going to destroy your student. Save some face by stopping the fight." Kurenai, also quite arrogant in her student's coming victory, smug about getting to one-up the perverted jounin.

"Hmm... is that so, little Kurenai..." Kakashi eye-smiled at her, feeling more than a bit vindictive at someone underestimating his brat. "If you're so sure, how about... a bet?"

Being reminded that while he was only a couple of years older than her, Kakashi was considered a legend before she even made gennin, angered Kurenai a lot. So, she accepted his offer. It was even better for Kakashi as Asuma, also an upstart in his opinion, wanting to agree with his future hopefully-girlfriend, also bet quite the sum on Naruto. Even Sarutobi, Anko and Ibiki followed, both betting on Naruto against every chuunin, sans Iruka, who bet against the blonde. The final odds; 5 to 1 in Kiba's favour. Naruto winning would give Kakashi five times the betting money. Oh, this was going to be fun.

"Oi, Naruto!" He yelled over the stands, grinning. "I've bet a few thousand ryo on you. Win and we share fifty-fifty with the team!"

The resulting grin made the entire team grin. Even if he was feeling a bit jealous that no one had bet on him, Sasuke was quite looking forward to the resulting beat-down. Kiba had been most arrogant and insuling these past few days. It was time for someone to show the mutt that he was no alpha.

"Match, START!" Gekkou said and leapt up to bet some on the blonde; the Inuzuka was good, but the blonde had eyes that had seen way more. Eyes of a veteran, even if they were swallowed up by a playfull insanity, or was it insane playfullness?

Kiba however hadn't seen those eyes, nor would he have recognized or even cared about them. In his opinion, the blonde was useless, he had only gotten there riding on the coattails of others. Well, all the better for him, as soon as he would knock him out he would proceed. Shouldn't take more than a punch anyway.

It was a very surprised Kiba that found that his punch had hit nothing. He was stunned in fact to find a great amount of pain on his left kidney as he was tossed away.

In the span of a blink of an eye, Naruto had leaned back, balancing on his left leg, and had snapped a strong kick right into Kiba's left.

"Wachaaaa!" Naruto cried out, in a cheesy voice, moving his eyes like crazy and falling into an exaggerated martial-arts stance

Kiba only got up coughing. What had happened? The blonde had hit him? What the hell, had the blonde looser embarassed him? Vengeance for Zul'jin... err, Vengeance for Embarassment!

With a roar, Kiba threw himself into a charge, meanwhile activating his bloodnline-limit technique called 'Shikyaku no Jutsu' or 'On All Fours Technique', elongating his nails to claws and giving him an animalistic, lower stance.

When he got in range, he launched into an assault of clawed strikes and kicks, causing Naruto to somersault over him, slamming down a heel drop, which was evaded. Naruto fell on the ground and used what little chakra control he had to create a 'buffer' between his leg and the ground, much like done in water-walking, allowing his spin to continue. Before Kiba had the chance to fully turn around, he had placed his shin on the side of Kiba's head and slammed him down with a sudden exertion of force.

"OOOH! What YOUTH!" Gai cried out, tears in his eyes at the kick. The taijutsu master inside him told him that it dealt more than a bit of damage, as the way it was made placed all the stress into Kiba's neck and, since the shin acted as a lever, it could very well break the spine. "What Youthful Fire!" He kept on yelling.

"Chowaaa!" Naruto grinned. "How do you like my Hook Kick, Kibble-breath?" He taunted as he balanced himself on one foot.

It was time, Kiba decided, to play dirty. So, with a bark, Akamaru attacked from behind Naruto, as he had been discarded.

Unfortunately for the puppy, Naruto had been trained in reflexes so he was quick to leap out of the way of the snarling dog.

"Oi, Kibbles, what the hell are you doing, involving your pet in a real fight? I could have killed him, you know! How would you have liked me bringing my pretties into this, huh?"

"Hah, shows how much you know, looser! Akamaru isn't my pet, he's my-"

"Owner, right, Akamaru? If Akamaru isn't your pet, you're his, eh?"

"What! You damn looser, I'll show you!" Taking the bait, Kiba ignored his friend and charged Naruto. He only had time to wonder why Naruto grinned before the blonde also charged forward and raised a leg to kick.

With legs being longer than arms, Kiba was fast to change from attack to a desperate defence, if he didn't want to get hammered.

"Hacha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha-chaaaa!" Naruto rapid-fired several kicks, mixing low with high and finishing with an aerial spin that brought his shin to meet with Kiba's neck once more.

At least, this time, the gennin proved that a dog can in fact learn more than one trick, raising his arm at the last moment to take the brunt of the flyiing kick.

"Oh, pooh," Naruto mocked. "You saw through my aerial Hook Kick." He had one more he could use, pulling his leg back at the last moment to allow for a powerful heel drop on his target's head, but he wasn't going to be able to use it here. The mutt was catching up, and he wanted to save it as a surprise anyway.

But the fight wasn't over just yet. Being repeatedly one-upped by Naruto had pissed Kiba off. That no-name, no-clan bastard had beaten him down, in front of many people, cute girls too! His pride, honed after years of considering himself superior to everyone else (Sasuke lacked a pack, so even if he was stronger, he was still inferior and he could beat everyone else), simply couldn't bear it.

"That's IT! I'm sick of it! You pathetic little looser, it's time to get serious! Akamaru, get over here!" The puppy leapt at its master's side, just in time to catch a small brown sphere with its teeth and then gulp it. The result was instantaneous; he growled louder, deeper, grew in size, spiked his fur and took on a bright red color. "Let's do this, Akamaru!" Said dog leapt on his back and Kiba quickly placed his hands in a seal. "Juujin Bunshin (Beast-Man Clone)!" He cried out before both of them leaping at a now-worried Naruto. "Gatsuuga (Fang Over Fang)!" Both of them spun in the air like drills and fell onto Naruto, blindisiding him and tossing him over.

Naruto cursed. If that snake-bastard hadn't messed up his chakra, he would have managed to escape, looking cool while doing it too, but it just didn't flow right. At least he could still move and quickly leapt away from another drill attack.

Damn them, it was so annoying, they had really good cooperation, dodging one placed him right into the path of the second while the first one recovered for another round. With a feral growl Naruto decided that taking one of them out would be more important than avoiding getting hit. At least they hadn't used any smoke bombs, or it would have been hard to find out who was who. That and Kiba always charged first, leading his enemy to Akamaru.

So, while dodging yet another attack from Kiba and coming face to face with Akamaru, he decided to change the rules of the game. Not dodging, he identified the direction of the spin and spun himself that way too. At the moment of collision, his leg lashed out and just a little bit into the drill.

His trouser was ripped off at thigh level and there were numerous gashes all the way up, but... A surprised and hurting Kiba was tossed out of his technique, rolling on the ground a bit before reverting to Akamaru.

The real Kiba landed next to his whimpering partner and growled. "You god-damned bastard! You hurt Akamaru! I'm going to KILL YOU!"

Then he was off in a weaker form of the Gatsuuga, the Tsuuga, or Drill Fang. Naruto had barely managed to properly land, still unable to balance properly on his torn leg and thus, unable to defend against Kiba's attack, which sent him rolling away.

"Now stay down, you little bastard!" Kiba snarled, his arrogance returning.

"Sorry to say this Kiba, but I'm going to win. I have some very important people believing in me. I won't loose." He was getting back up again, however shakily, making his enemy bark a laugh at him.

"Can't loose? Because they 'believe in you'? What crap are you spouting, moron?" Sneered Kiba, ever arrogant. "All I see is a looser, a dead-last failure! Anyone who believes in you is just another fucking retard!" He seemed so proud of his insult too.

Up in the stands, Kakashi groaned, Sakura cringed and Sasuke snickered. The raven-haired boy just turned to Kurenai and mockingly stated. "Kurenai-sensei, you may want to interrupt the match if you want your puppy, I mean your student, in functioning condition in less than three months time. Naruto's about to stomp his ass into the curb and then blow the whole thing up."

Meanwhile Naruto seethed alone, his hair hiding his eyes who had began to glow as his chakra raged while he tried to retract it into his body. "Retard... fucking retard... he called them retards..." He mumbled making Kiba laugh and spout even more insults. Then Naruto stilled suddenly and his chakra seemed to die down. Truthfully, that made him scarier but Kiba was only barely beggining to understand that he might have said a few words too many. "Retards you called them, Kiba-kun? All of them are retards? All who believe in me, who give meaning to me, are retards? Idiots, the lot of them? Sakura is a retard? Sasuke is a retard? Kakashi-sensei and Inari and all of Wave are retards? IS SANDAIME A FUCKING RETARD, KIBA?" He roared and then, like a coiled spring, his chakra erupted all around him, bringing its weight onto everyone in the arena. Anko would never admit it, but she found the blonde gennin hot.

More power than he had felt before, ever since the snake-bastard had sealed him anway, coursed in him, reminding him of the power he was used to wielding. So, he commanded it.

It answered. With a familiar placing of his hands, the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, the legendary Shadow Clone Technique, was activated, bringing with it the smoke that accompanied it before dispersing and revealing the result; three clones of Naruto, all seething with rage.

Up in the stands, Sasuke might have been angrily surprised that the blonde was still strong enough to rival him, but he was also relieved in a way; not just because he would have usually used this much chakra to summon a hundred clones, but also because he would be probably sticking to taijutsu; Kiba would live. If Naruto had been really serious, a single Haken blow would have split the arrogant mutt in half. Naruto might suck at kenjutsu, but his jutsu flowed according to his will and so made up for his lack of skill.

Still stunned somewhat by the fact that the village idiot could actually use clones, something he thought he'd never see, much less corporeal ones, judging by the shadows, Inuzuka Kiba was defenceless to the resulting assault.

Feeling his chakra flow strong, if completely irregular, for just a bit more, Naruto rushed Kiba. A few meters before reaching him, he used chakra to slide the last bit while he coiled his entire body under him.

"U!" A mighty kick collided with Kiba's stomach and launched him up.

"Zu! Ma!" Two clones appeared and gave another kick to his sternum.

"Ki!" The last clone appeared to give another push upwards, this time on the chin and making Kiba fly on his back.

The original was used as a leaping vault while he gathered several leaves hidden in his sleeves and tossed them up, aiding with wind-manipulation to get them to proper place.

"Na! Ru! To!" Each sound was accompanied with one of three kicks while the clones all fell into position and made the widely-known seals for the Kawarimi no Jutsu, knowing that with their chakra messed up, they wouldn't be able to do it the normal way.

Finally, the four leaves puffed into smoke, revealing the four Naruto's each spinning for a powerful mule kick. As one they called out their attack, striking simultaneously! "Shikyaku Rendan (Four-kicks Combo)!"

The sound of breaking bone and the meaty thud of a soft dead weight falling to the ground confirmed Naruto's victory over an unconscious Kiba with several broken ribs.

At last he had won, as he stood up just for the announcement to be made and Kakashi-sensei to come down and help him up the stairs, his leg still coudn't function well.

Near them, Gai was weeping rivers of tears, wishing that his beloved student had been there to see this. It was a magnificent combination of a simple D-rank jutsu with a bit of taijutsu to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Hearing Kurenai curse at loosing the bet (from which the green-dressed teacher had abstained as it dampened the Flames of Youth) and wondering how the blonde could have dealt so much damage, Gai turned to her, serious for a change. "This Shikyaku Rendan is a most youthful technique, Kurenai-sensei!" He cried out, getting the attention of everyone sans a smirking Naruto. "The body naturally rolls with blows made against it, it is an instinct, one we hone after hours and hours of youthful training under the foundain of youth! However, Naruto-kun unleashed all four kicks at the same time, removing the body's ability to move with the blow and lessen its impact! Moreover, since the blows were each in a direction opposite to each other, the damage was multiplied as the relative speed, and by extention force, were almost doubled! It truly is a wonderful technique, Naruto-kun! You must tell me how you thought of it!"

Naruto's grin faded quickly, to return just as fast, but Gai and Kakashi caught it, Kurenai missing it due to her glaring at the taijutsu master and Asuma due to looking at the woman of his dreams.

"Err, I'd rather not. A... A taijutsu master must keep his... umm... youthful secrets, secret... to... ah... maintain his... uh... youthful youthfullness?" Naruto tried to speak 'Youth', but was having a hard time. Not that anyone could blame him for not sharing; he had gotten the idea for that technique not only from Sasuke's Shishi Rendan (which he had blatantly and shamelessly copied and would agree to doing so), but also because of how he had learned about removing the body's ability to roll with a blow; by experience.

"Yes! Most youthful of you, Naruto-kun!" Gai realized that there was a story behind this, so he resolved to remove some of the burden of Naruto's shoulders by drawing every eye onto himself. "OOOH! I shall learn this technique! Its youthfullness will revitalize my Springtime Of Youth! I shall learn it in a day! And if I can't, I shall race three times around Konoha on my fingers! And if I can't will make one thousand pushups on my pointer! And if I can't I'll-"

"That's quite enough, Gai. I'm sure you'll learn it in due time." Kakashi tried to calm down his excitable friend. "Besides, the next fight is coming."

In the meantime however, Sasuke had approached Naruto, looking somewhat angry. "Naruto! You..."

"Yeah, I copied your move. It really saved me, Sasuke! Thanks! If you hadn't found out how to do it, I'd have been out for the count, man! You're awesome!"

Sasuke grunted, at least the dobe understood who was the better man here... No, wait, at least he thanked him for helping him get better, that's what he meant. Ugh, such a nasty headache... He had to sit down a bit to calm down.

And he sat down, next to his team, looking at the now-shaking Hinata. Well, she always was a meek one, but he had never seen her so terrified, not to mention the way Kurenai-sensei was biting her lip, she looked very worried.

It only took a bit of recalling to understand why, and he winced in sympathy. Neji was her cousin, but they were Hyuuga first and foremost. A clan that, under the guise of nobility and blood purity, enslaved and tortured the majority of the clan except for the Main Family, which composed of the patriarch and firstborn child. Everyone else, even secondborn children and even twins... They were all sealed by a lethal seal that could kill them with just a handseal and a bit of chakra.

For a so-called 'noble' clan... they sure were barbaric. Even the Uchiha who had no talent as shinobi and couldn't activate the sharingan had a place in his clan; they worked to make sure they all prospered, no one was wasted or enslaved. No, the Uchiha was definitely a much better clan than the Hyuuga.

Then it was what Neji was telling to poor Hinata, even he had to feel pity for the girl. He might not like her, at all, but she was kind and caring to all, she never wanted to hurt a fly. Sure, that made her a bad kunoichi, but to degrade her like this? Even to Sasuke it seemed like a bit too much.

"Do your best Hinata!" A certain loudmouthed blonde shouted all of a sudden. "Make that arrogant ass eat the stick he's shoved up his ass! I believe that you can beat him!"

It had seemed as if the girl drew strength from his words and a resolve to fight, likely a side-effect from her huge crush on the blonde. But Sasuke turned to Naruto questioningly, catching his eye. "Why?"

"Look at her Sasuke..." Said Naruto as the two Hyuuga began fighting, with Hinata loosing badly. "Look at her eyes Sasuke..." Both winced as the girl was tossed back, whimpering in pain and getting unsteadily back on her feet. The two Hyuuga circled each other, finally allowing Sasuke to look at her eyes. "They're so..."

"Familiar... She's... just like... us?" He breathed out, unevenly, shocked.

Naruto ignored Sakura's own shock that he seemed to have more in common with the Hyuuga girl, especially since it wasn't something that Sakura herself could discern, and nodded grimly. "Almost... She's almost had it as bad as us, Sasuke. But she... She never found her strength, her calling, Sasuke... She needs this, she needs to see this through. She needs someone to believe in her, especially since not even her own team and sensei do." He snarled poisonously at Kurenai and the rest of her team. It was a look of pure loathing, hatred and disgust, one that was quickly mirrored in Kakashi's and Sasuke's eyes as they caught on to Naruto's words.

Not once since the girl had gone down, did her team ever give her encouragement; they instead told her to quit and give up.

"Kurenai." Kakashi's voice was ice-cold and made the jounin shiver. "After this, we'll be having a talk about your student. IF she's still going to be yours. You can count on the fact that I will look into this." Kakashi had been known to be an aloof man, and he was so by choice as well as nature. But, these past few months, the company of these three children, had been life-changing for him. He found himself going from hating kids to actually considering them his kids. As such, he was extremely angry at any teacher that didn't do their best to help their student alone, if not in jutsu at least in counceling.

Now Sasuke looked on with more interest, the little Hyuuga hadn't given up. Her cousin, Neji he thought with hate, had cut off all her chakra circulation and was mocking her, taunting her, insulting her.

And she still would not give up! She just stood up again and forewent her clan's fighting style just to try to hit him, one more time!

Her voice, shaky and hurt and wet from the blood that was trickling down her lips, gave Sasuke a new realization, an epiphany;"I will not give up... It is... my ninja way."

As soon as she had said that, Neji's eyes had changed from simply hateful to murderous and with another spout about how he was going to kill her, he hesitated only for a second; the second it took Hinata to tell her cousin that she pitied him because he always suffered just as hard as her, going against his own fate.

Sasuke didn't know how he got up or when he was on the rail or even when he had lept, Naruto's unmistakeable presence right next to him, as they both made their way as fast as they could racing against time to stop a murder from occuring.

It was unnecessary, the room's jounin had interfered, even Gai had appeared in front of his student, grasping his hand.

Sasuke had the slight idea that Kakashi had really wanted to hold something to his hand while he grasped Neji from the back of his neck like an unruly cat.

"More protection for the Main House!" Shouted Neji, but only until he realized that there was an unbelievable amount of killer intent aimed towards him.

Sasuke and Naruto stood side-by-side as they glared holes into the boy, their hate making their eyes almost take an unearthly glow. Both of them bringing up memories of their painful childhoods, they were not about to let that annoying bastard insult someone who was so much like them!

Up in the rail, Gaara's eyes widened when he felt a familiar power awaken, so similar to his but also several times more potent and dangerous.

Kakashi was about to release the white-eyed brat he was holding, 'Do not snap his neck, do not stab a kunai through his neck, do not rip his eyes out, I don't want to- oh, hell, I DO want to!', and go to calm his student from doing something that few in the room would regret but would lead to him regretting it, when the spell was broken; Hinata coughed.

Medics had been on their way even as Hinata fell for the last time, examining her while Gai escorted (read; pulled) his student away, and shouting their findings to each other.

"Damn it! Her chakra system's collapsing!"

"Multiple damage to her lungs!"

"Heartrate dropping fast, internal injuries!"

"What's her chakra doing, it's all messed up! It's like her chakra system's turned on itself, it looks like it's cannibalizing itself!"

Hinata had been maybe the Hyuuga to have been struck by the Jyuken style the most ever since its inception. The body's own adaptability, and her own wish to not die, had led to her 'evolving' a natural counter to its damage. But, to activate these countermeasures, it took a large amount of chakra from her, and she never was someone with large reserves in any way. In short, her own body was eating her alive, trying to save itself.

It was only when a medic announced that she seemed to be 'draining his chakra' that Naruto realized that, maybe conventional healing techniques wouldn't suffice. If her body wanted to eat chakra, then maybe that's exactly what they should be doing, right? He could do something about it, but with his chakra so off-kilter... Unless... "Sakura-chan!" He cried to his team-mate who had come down the stairs to all the commotion, wanting to help the medics in any way she could. The girl looked at him curiously and he took a deep breath. "Sakura-chan, remember when I taught you and Sasuke how to infuse chakra to leaves and flowers, without damaging them?" It had taken quite a bit of work to learn how to do it too, but both Sakura and Sasuke had mastered it. She nodded. "Maybe... maybe we need to give her some chakra, maybe that's why her body's draining the doctors' chakra."

"You're right, the body's own immunization system might be taking the chakra but..." Sakura looked sceptical as she had her mind race through a number of scenarios and possibilities. But, in the end, she was just as stumped as the medics. "What can we do though?"

"We... we can give her some of ours." Now the medics and even jounin were looking disbelievingly at the blonde; not only was he a jinchuuriki, but he also knew nothing of healing techniques. What could he do? "I could give her my chakra but... well, it's kind of... poisonous to most people, dunno why." He lied and the jounin sighed in relief that he hid that fact. "Normally, I can screen the toxicity, that's why my jutsu works, I can even enhance plants, as you remember." Now most jounin were looking at each other wondering if the boy actually had the Mokuton. It was wrong, of course, but it was always their hope that someone, anyone, would come forth with that legendary bloodline once more. "But my chakra's all messed up, something that Orochimaru-guy did to me. I can barely get it to flow right, much less infuse something without even a handseal... But you... You can do it, can't you, Sakura-chan? You have the best control out of all of us, so if I channel some of my chakra inside you... you could..."

"...Act as a buffer to your own..." Sakura finished, thinking, before nodding. "Medic-san, please make some room, me and my team might... might be able to help, even a bit." She said as both her and Naruto took position over the unconscious girl, the blonde's hands over her own.

A third set of hands were placed over theirs and they both looked at their dark-haired team mate. "What?" He grunted. "Between the three of us, it should be easy. I'll act as Naruto's first filter while you act as buffer. On three. One... Two..." Sakura's hands clenched to steady them and she closed her eyes to better feel with her chakra, feeling her connection to Sasuke form, a funnel straight into her hands. "Three."

Naruto's chakra didn't flow. It spilled. Like water spills from a glass knocked over, so did his chakra, carelessly gushing out, its flow irregular, and he strained to control it to an at least manageable level.

Sasuke grit his teeth as he felt the raw energy settle on his hands almost like a physical weight, so potent it was, but he quickly channeled as much as he could into Sakura in a steady flow. The rest, what he couldn't safely channel, was absorbed into his body, making up for the occasional 'shortage' of chakra, when the funnel drained just before the next pulse, and filling his own reserves with Naruto's chaotic, shivering almost, energy.

Sakura felt the most. As the one least used to having huge amounts of chakra flow through her body, it felt like she was directly plugged into a transformer plant and doused in water. She had, quite plainly, more power in her hands than she could use! And there was no sign of it stopping or slowing down or even calming! It fell on her hands like a waterfall and she had to transform it into a gentle river, slowly pour it into Hinata's chest and gently nudge it to refill her strained system... Not once could she let it go faster, or swirl or change or do anything other than slowly flow into her.

It didn't last long, it couldn't. But, in those short seconds that it did, Sakura realized that if Naruto could unleash so much chakra into her, after also loosing quite a bit in the transfer... The blonde had so much chakra it was unreal! She was quite aware that she had very little in terms of amount, but what Naruto had was... It was an ocean to her drops!

Huge chakra reserves and poisonous chakra. Both Sakura and Sasuke thought, filing it away in their minds as one more of their team-mate's weird riddles. Riddles they wanted answered.

But for now, Team Seven was content to lie back and bask in the relief that they had helped their classmate, evident through the relief of the working doctors, now stating that her body was recovering at a fast rate, her system no longer cannibalizing itself. Of course the internal injuries were still dangerous and life-threatening, but at least now they could work on them instead of having to fight against her body to get to them.

Sasuke allowed himself a smirk at a happily sighing Sakura, but Naruto wasn't nearly as over. Scooping up some of the blood Hinata had coughed out, he ritually painted his face. A red line over each eye lid, another down his nose and two over his whiskers, ending with a tap on each of his knuckles. He took a few steps towards a scowling Neji and didn't glare. Didn't grin maliciously. Didn't scowl. He simply stated a few words, like the truth they were. "When you and I fight... I will pay you back for her pain. I will crush you, Hyuuga Neji Kinslayer." Then he turned his back and went to his team, leaving a very worried Kakashi behind.

Because Kakashi, and indeed every person in that room that knew about the Uzumaki, knew what Naruto had done. Ritualistically placing blood on himself in this kind of patterns signified a Blood Oath. Naruto hadn't just stated the beatdown that would occur. He had just told everyone that there was a person he was never going to work with, a person that, given half a chance, he would remove from the world.

It was hot-headed, Kakashi agreed, just like Naruto. Just like an Uzumaki. Just like Kushina-sama.

Up in the stands, the Sandaime sighed. Seems like Naruto was more like his mother than his father. His aged bones felt brittle when he remembered that one of these days, probably in little over a month from this day, he would be telling the truth to Naruto. He only hoped that the blonde would forgive him, he had done everything he could to protect him but... It had not been enough, not nearly enough. And it was time to pay the geisha, as the saying goes.

The tournament was quickly ended there, rather hastily too, lest 'someone' offed 'someone else'. Hayate came up with a board and some papers, letting everyone who passed choose one of them, each scribbled with a number on it. According to the proctor, there would be several fights, the winner of each going to fight each other until there came a victor. Who won the third part wouldn't matter, but fighting more times meant more chances to show off your skills, and any one of them could get promoted -or none of them at all.

As if Fate herself decided to make up for tossing Naruto into a shithole, the fickle mistress gave him his heart's desire; he would be the first to fight. And he would fight against Hyuuga Neji.

Kakashi reminded himself he would have to come early that day and bet quite the sum on his student. His brat wouldn't rest until Neji was eating through a straw, and he would stop if and only if Hinata asked him to spare his cousin.

Sasuke would fight Gaara as the last match, not that he was too keen on it. Something on the red-head rubbed him the wrong way, something very familiar to both Naruto and Orochimaru. He'd have to take it seriously if he wanted to win. He would win. He was an Uchiha, there was no other way.

After that little announcement, each sensei quietly took their students to one of the many rooms from which they would be escorted out of the Training Grounds in which they had spend almost a week in. But Kakashi first had to do a small ritual, albeit a very painful one.

Written seals seemed to flow into Sasuke's shoulder , coalescing around the tree-tomoe mark on it, a circle of unintelligible, yet powerful at the same time, lines surrounding it. All through that, Sasuke was screaming in agony, almost as great as when he received the mark, and truly a dangerous mark it was as Kakashi told them. A seal by Orochimaru to gain control of whoever carries it, corrupting them to become his servants.

Sasuke swore there and then to not fall to its influence, as weak and almost unconscious as he was.

Naruto on the other hand, decided to poke fun at his friend and ask him if he still retained his masochistic tendencies, then all Oro-pedo would have to do is keep hurting him. Sasuke reacted very maturely and stuck out his tongue at his friend, too tired to argue further.

But Kakashi was sad it wasn't time for further joking, both his students would have serious fights in just thirty days, and his last one would also have to improve herself significantly to be able to enter the next exam. "Sasuke, Sakura, Naruto, we must discuss the upcoming month, especially your study plans. Naruto, anything you have in mind, a strategy against Neji?"

At the boy's name, Naruto's countenance changed to imply barely contained malice and hatred. "Yeah... keep the fuck away from him and pelt the place with explosive tags through my Kage Bunshin. That should get him just fine but... But I don't want him just defeated." He snarled. "I want him destroyed, his pride in ruins, his arrogance shattered, I want him not just beaten, I want him to understand every single bit of pain he caused to Hinata!" He took a short breath to calm himself a bit, but the malicious glint in his eyes didn't abate all that much. "I'm going to kick his ass, sensei. And I'm going to do it from close range. I have a jutsu I'm working on, if I finish it, it will allow anyone to take down a Hyuuga for fun. I'll be researching too, want to learn a few things about seals, see if I can write some on my leaves and deliver them from afar or something like that."

Kakashi hummed and turned to his other student. "Sasuke, you have Gaara, what about you?"

"Beat him, hands down kick his ass. He's strong though and tough... Well, not tough, Lee almost beat him despite his bad match-up. But he has a great defence, it's unbelievable how strong it is, I don't know of any way of breaking through it... I can probably avoid his attacks, but if I can't land a good blow..." His voice trailed off in shame; he wanted to win dammit and his enemy wouldn't be hurt with anything he had!

'Not with anything you have, but someone may have something you can take...'

Sasuke shook his head from the seductive whisper that reminded him of the power Orochimaru used so casually and turned to his teacher. Kakashi was nodding with Sasuke's words, reinforcing his belief of what he should do next. "I thought so, Gaara truly has a powerful defence... Which is why, sorry Naruto, but I will be training Sasuke one-on-one for the next month." He raised a hand to stop any of the resulting complaints, though none came anyway, despite a small accusing glare from Naruto. "You said it yourself Naruto, you can handle Neji for the most part, but Gaara is a whole other mess. Also, Neji probably won't kill you, Gaara will. Besides, it's not if I'll leave you completely helpless; I've been looking for a... friend of mine, he's a much better teacher than I am Naruto, at least when it comes to people like you. You have to admit that I'm more suited to teaching Sasuke, I... I regret this, but I haven't been able to teach yo much." He grinned at Naruto's cries that he had learned plenty, but he shook his head sadly. "No, Naruto, each student is different, you have different needs and different strengths. It just so happens that I am a better teacher for Sasuke than anyone else in the village. I should be able to get your teacher pretty soon too, but until then, I'll see what I can do for you, see if I can train Sasuke and you at the same time with one of the Kage Bunshins you love so much."

"S-sensei? W-what about me?" Sakura asked meekly, they had completely overlooked her, not that she blamed them. She was the weakest member of their team, the only one not to advance...

Kakashi caught on to her thoughts and sighed. "Indeed, what about you, Sakura..." He sighed once more. "If I'm not a good enough teacher for Naruto, I'm probably the worst possible teacher for you. Your actions today proved that the medical pursuits suit you best, but besides some basic first-aid, my talents point at death rather than life." He shrugged as if not caring about it too much. "Truth is, there's not much else I can teach you besides things you learn by doing, Naruto has already taught us all a technique that is more important for healing than anything I've done." He nodded to Naruto, remembering his chakra channeling technique. "I'll see what I can do to set up a few doctors or combat medics to teach you some things, but apart from that... I'm afraid you're on your own Sakura, unless of course Tsunade-sama suddenly decides to come back to Konoha, which I would probably bet against."

When Kakashi deposited them out of his Shunshin no Jutsu, which he still made look cool, carrying three kids on him while doing it, Sasuke and Naruto exchanged a new promise. They would not loose to anyone until they got to fight each other in the final stage. Then, they'd show just how good shinobi they are.

Meanwhile in another office, the aged Hokage of Konoha was talking with one of his jounin, one Yamanaka Inoichi, father of Yamanaka Ino. "So, you noticed that technique Team Seven used to aid Hyuuga Hinata, correct, Inoichi-san?" Sandaime puffed out a bit of smoke and getting a nod. "Is it the same as what you encountered while taking care of Naruto's plants?"

"Yes, Hokage-sama." Inoichi replied, thinking back to that event. "As I told you then, the subject, Uzumaki Naruto, did not make all of his clones at the same time, nor were they equal parts of a whole. Instead, he seemed to create each one individually and give them the vast majority of his chakra while doing so. Normally, that would have meant that the ninja would be unable to function while lacking approximately ninety-percent of their chakra, but the subject's special... condition... allowed him to recover the entirety of their internal energies in the time it took us to seal each clone." Inoichi took a deep breath, before beginning again. "Each time a clone was unsealed, he would spend a few hours taking care of the plants and, though I was often called to help in the physical work that sometimes was included, would end their life not by dispelling, but by channeling the entirety of their remaining chakra, approximately seventy-five-percent of the original, into a single, specific plant. As I told you then, I am a bit of a sensor, though nowhere near a Hyuuga, but I witnessed something most peculiar; not only did the tree seem to absorb the chakra without problems, but it also seemed to spread it equally all over its body, as if it possessed a chakra circulatory system, though not one that can produce chakra. Most of that energy seemed to bedirected to each one of the tree's pollinated flowers and simply... reside there."

"I see... Thank you for repeating your report. I'll have to ask Naruto-kun about it sometime later, Inoichi-san." The aged leader puffed some more smoke, considering what Naruto could have possibly been doing. "Though I do not doubt that Naruto-kun has our best interests at heart, it is worrisome what could possibly be a reason to use so much chakra..."

At the same time, in another building, a man with yellow, slitted eyes was glaring at his cowering henchman. "You failed me. Do not do so again, or the results will be much worse than what you experienced this time. Are we clear, Kabuto-kun?"

"Yes... my master..."

A/N: And another one bites the dust. After the previous family-sized chapter of 21.5 Wordpad pages (around forty or more Word, mind you) chapter, I'm winding this one down a bit and prepping for a transition chapter before the exams. Also, there was little room for my regular crack here, though I guess many of you have had some great ideas (if you have one that can be inserted without altering the story, then forward them and I'll probably edit the chapter).

Now, a very important question: What about Naruto's Summoning contract? Should it stay with the Toads? Should I make one with the Gurahl (Whitewolf's Werebears, they're awesome)? Or should I make one with his plant friends (various castes of dryads, Ents, Treants, assasin vines, pixies, animal-like animated bushes...)? I really, really like the last one, as I find the Toads to be overused and generally annoying, but it would take the most time for Naruto to gain and I don't want to mix in too much of Naruto's partnership with nature, it's supposed to be him being just 'that good' rather some sort of bloodline... Ideas/Suggestions? Please, people, otherwise I'll stick with the Toads and they're boring!

Naruto's jutsu are not bloodlines, he's just 'that good'. His semi-bloodline only allows him an instinctive understanding of what plants want and, with enough work, also allow him to 'bio-engineer' them to a point. So, yes, at some point, he is both going to learn more normal jutsu as well as allow others to use his own too, in fact he's already been teaching several people (Kakashi, Sasuke, Sakura and one more I shall keep to myself for now). I will hopefully avoid using his plants too much because, if I also use what I've made for Omakes, he's going to be way overpowered. Not that I mind too much, but I'd like to keep the focus on Naruto rather than anything else.

OMAKE CORNER

Visiting Naruto's Greenhouse Scene Four:

Naruto's most obvious estates are his Greenhouse and Glasshouse. Many know of them, they have seen him walk in there. But only a few know that he also owns a nearby, still inside the Village Walls, tree grove. The trees there have grown thick and tight and it is surrounded by a large, concrete fence. One would have to be desperate to try and find a way inside it.

And Tora the Daimyo's cat, was definitely desperate enough to crawl in through one of the few, tiny mouseholes. The cat looked terrible; its once luxurious orange fur was now charcoal black, bits of its muscles and bones sticking out from the mangled mess it once was. The light in the cat's eyes was rapidly diminishing, but its instinct to 'seek refuge' guided it to one of the few places it knew someone would take care of it, like Yellow-fur, he always left her some milk and bits of meat. The Green ones might also take pity on poor, poor Tora and keep her for a bit.

Better than that crazy Black-fur that tried to... to... He made fire and steel-claws and hurt her, hurt her so bad, so very, very bad...

Tora crawled inside the tree grove, just the few meters it took to reach the smaller of leaf-ponds and dunked her head inside. She didn't know when green-tinged, gentle fingers touched her fur and root-like hands lifted her off.

Curious eyes, some green, others blue and yet some more red, looked at her broken form. Women, with a green tinge to their otherwise perfect skin held her form close, while men, these tall as a building with skin like bark and bodies like bi-rooted trees, provided shade, their deep, resonating voices calling all those that were borne of The Maker to their grove.

Soon, many more came. Women in transparent shawls, crawling vines with leaves the shape of hands and even little humans, big enough to curl up on your palm to sleep, with gossamer wings and cheery laughs. All answered the call of the Wise Ones.

All peered into the form of the poor, hurt, dieing cat. Why would humans do this? Why did humans hurt each other?

Oh, the Green Ones know what it is to forage for food, many of them are mortal enemies in any other time of day, but why would humans use The Great Curse, what The Maker calls 'fire', to hurt something so badly?

The dryads sang with none of their usual joy, the treants boomed annoyed and assassin vines waved their hands angrily, not even bothering to grasp any of the many, buzzing pixies.

The Tora-Cat meowed pathetically, it didn't want to hurt or hunger or run no more. It didn't want to die, it wanted to live. The Green Ones took pity on her and retreated to their meadow to discuss their actions.

Finally, the Wise Ones had come to a decision and their oldest, one that looked like a yew tree with a foot-long white-moss beard looked at all those around him, as he placed the Tora-Cat on a small altair, generously provided by one of the many Ents of the grove, trees related to the Treants in moving and awareness, but unable to uproot themselves.

"Gentletrees and ladyflowers, mushrooms and mosses and bushes too... This is a cat... This is a dieing cat... We can save her. We can remake her. Better, stronger, smarter, faster... Greenborn... we have the power, we have the knowledge and we have the permission from the Maker, though that may be due to his ramen overdose." He muttered the last, but the trixies giggled with the dryads. "Let us go forth and do what no one else has attempted before... Lady Neira, the spores if you please."

Dryad woodshapers sang and made plants grow and wrap around the cat, covering her recovering form with the bulb of a flesh-colored flower.

The majority of the excitement over, and having notoriously short attention spans, the assassin vines tried to catch some of the curious trixies, but the little flower nymphs quickly flew away to hide in the Wise Ones beards.

It was several days later when the flower bud finally bloomed, revealing the new creature that had been housed within.

Tora was now bigger, almost the size of a large wolf. She now had fur made out of moss and soft leaves, alternating a deep emerald and light green color as stripes. Where she once had flesh and bone now she had strong, flexible bark and wood, small roots protruding from her feet to burry into the soft soil, gaining the nutrients she now needed. From her mouth protruded rosethorn teeth and her bright green eyes glowed with The Life.

The Old One looked at their latest creation and smiled slowly, his bark flaking off as it moved. "Go now, Tora... Our work here is done."

"Not Tora, no. I am the protector of flowers and plants everywhere, the mighty GardenCat!"

And so, a new legend arose, of a green cat that ran through meadows and gardens, ready to punish those who cut plants and hurt flowers, by the power of The Green!

So next time you try to cut a flower or step on grass, take a look around, the GardenCat may be close!

Harry Potter And The Origins Of The Whomping Willow

Few ever asked the Whomping Willow why she was so grumpy.

Truth be told, she was alone, so alone for so long, the only Ent left in the world and nobody ever bothered to care about her.

Her passed-down memories, left over from her mother's sap that flowed into her seed while she was still un-rooted, told her that there had been a great person who would have loved her, The Maker.

Not even Albus Dumbledore, in all his infinite wisdom, would ever understand what made the Whomping Willow not attack blond-haired, blue-eyed boys, but anyone with black eyes and hair was in mortal peril within her reach.


Today, on this 9/6/2012, I, Soulblazer87, do hereby leave this site, possibly forever.

I shall not update this, or any other story.

I shall leave them on, however. Should you desire to follow my stories, do so in my new site of residence: www dot yourfanfiction dot com.