Disclaimer: Too tired...can't come up with something witty to say about not owning Naruto...zzzzzzzzzzz...
Author's Note: Hey guys! :) I was hoping to get this out sooner, but I've been kinda busy recently. As mentioned in my other story's author note, my girlfriend just graduated high school last week, and I had a job interview last Friday and I got my job back from last summer. So yeah...kinda busy! But I finished this chapter as fast as I could! I'm not going to hold you all back any longer! Here's chapter twenty-four! Enjoy :)
Twenty-nine days since the preliminary exam. The day of the third exam!
Naruto woke up early in the morning and stretched before getting out of bed. Normally, the blonde would walk slowly, still tired from waking up, to his calendar. Today, Naruto was not tired after waking up and he certainly did not need to check the calendar to see what day it was.
"Today's the day!" He declared happily.
The blonde rushed to take a shower. After finishing, he brushed his teeth and ran back to his room to get changed. He put on the news clothes that Anko had given him the night before and proceeded to look into the mirror.
"Heh, I look so badass!" He told himself with a grin. He flexed his right arm. "I need to find out where Anko-sensei found this. I'd love to get more clothes like this!"
After getting dressed, Naruto ate a quick breakfast and then gathered the rest of his things that he would need for the exam. The blonde then opened the door to his apartment and was about to walk off towards the exam. Just as he was about to leave, though, he saw a note attached to the door of his apartment.
"Hmm?" The blonde gave a strange look at the note. He pulled it off and started to read it.
Hey kid, how are you doing? Doing good I hope! Today's your big day in the third exam, and you need to be in tip-top, ass-kicking shape. So I expect nothing less than that!
Sorry for not coming by this month, by the way. I was actually hoping to stop by and meet you finally and maybe even help out with your training for the third exam. But alas, the old monkey we call Hokage decided he needed me. There's a lot of stuff going in Konoha and I'm doing my best to make sure everything turns out okay here. Once all of this is over, though, we need to meet up and do something! Maybe a trip? Or just a dinner and agree to meet up and train every once in a while? I don't really know. We can work out the details a little later!
I'll be at the third exam though today. I've got important things to do, but I'll be paying attention to the matches. I'll especially be paying attention to you. You can do this kid. Earn your promotion! Speaking from personal experience, once you become chūnin, some the civilian ladies will be all over you for the first few days after your promotion. Hehehehe, take advantage of that kid!
I really don't want to keep you long, so I'll wrap this up here I guess. I'm watching the exams. Do well for me, will ya? I'm actually gonna put a lot of money on you in a few bets. Maybe if you make me a lot of money, I'll split the profit with you. Something to keep in mind…
But regardless how things go, I'm proud of you and I'm excited to meet you sometime after the exams. Good luck today!
Sincerely, The Gallant Toad Sage"
Naruto reread the letter a second time. After his second reading, the boy gave the letter another confused look.
"Who the hell wrote this? Who's 'The Gallant Toad Sage'? And how does he even know me?" Naruto mumbled to himself, trying to think of anyone that he knew that went by the title 'Gallant Toad Sage'.
A few minutes passed before the Uzumaki simply put the letter away in his pants' back-pocket with a shrug. He then started to rush down the way towards the third exam.
'Well, whoever he is, he'll be watching the exams today and he believes that I can win! So I guess I'll do my part to make sure his belief was warranted!' Naruto mentally told himself.
The true third exam was taking place in a large stadium. The stadium was packed with many different visitors as well as shinobi of Konoha. Everyone who entered found their seats and waited for the third exam to start.
At the top of the stadium, there was a raised sitting-area where the kage would sit to observe the exams. The Hokage and the Tsuchikage were there, sitting down. They had bodyguards standing to the side of them.
Soon, a third kage walked into the sitting area. The man was wearing white and green robes and was also wearing a white mask that covered his face. He also had on a green hat on his head that had the kanji for 'wind' printed on it. This man was also flanked by two bodyguards.
'Orochimaru…' Hiruzen realized immediately who the man was. After hearing of Suna's involvement in the upcoming invasion, he had wondered how Orochimaru had managed to influence the village into deciding to invade. Now, seeing the man in front of him and studying him intently, he could sense Orochimaru's dark, sinister chakra and bloodlust from him. '…so this is how you did it. You killed the Kazekage and you're acting as the Kazekage in his place.'
The Hokage knew he couldn't act against the man just yet. Therefore, he put on a smile and greeted the man politely. "Kazekage-sama, it is nice to see you. I hope your travel went well!"
"It was fine, thank you. It is nice to see you Hokage-sama." The 'Kazekage' replied. The man then turned to Ōnoki. "It is a pleasure to see you as well Tsuchikage-sama. I had not expected you would send a team to a Konoha exam."
"Hmph. I can do whatever I want. Hope I'm not an inconvenience to you." Ōnoki rolled his eyes in response.
"Forgive me. I wasn't trying to be hostile with my response. I was just trying to express my surprise." The 'Kazekage' replied apologetically.
"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." The Sandaime Tsuchikage shrugged in response. He then turned his attention to the Sandaime Hokage. "Hey, Hiruzen, are we starting this thing already? Now that we have all the kage here, we can start this now."
"Indeed. I guess it is time!" Hiruzen noted with a chuckle. He got out of his seat and walked forward to the edge of the seating area. He was standing in a place where everyone in the arena could see him.
"Ladies and gentlemen, visitors and residents of Konohagakure no Sato, thank you all for coming today." The Hokage spoke loudly, getting the attention of everyone in the arena. "It is now time for the final part of this year's chūnin exams! The matches will begin in a few minutes. I hope you enjoy the matches and have a good day. Now, without further ado, I present to you our exam proctor as well as the eleven genin who qualified for the final part of the exam!"
After the Hokage spoke, the eleven genin that qualified for the third exam walked forward into the arena. They stood in the battlefield for the third exam. Each genin received a loud applause from the audience in the arena stands.
Shortly after everyone arrived, a man entered the arena. He had brown shoulder-length hair and wore a Konoha forehead protector as a bandana over his hair. He wore the standard jōnin uniform and had a senbon in his mouth.
"My name is Shiranui Genma and I will be the proctor of the third exam." The man, Genma, introduced himself to everyone.
"…huh?" Kurotsuchi blinked in confusion. "Not to be rude or anything, sir, but we had a different proctor for the preliminaries. What happened to him?"
"Yes we did. What happened to Hayate-san?" Lee asked in concern.
"…that doesn't concern you all." Genma answered dismissively.
The members of Team Three, who went to Hayate's funeral, knew exactly what the new-proctor was talking about. Naruto and Hinata frowned at the thought of Hayate's death while Shikamaru looked deep in thought.
"Anyway, I suppose you all remember the order of the fights, correct?" Genma questioned. Seeing everyone nod caused him to continue to talk. "Then we can just get started. The first match will be between Kurogane Risho and Uzumaki Naruto. You two, remain here in battlefield. Everyone else, head on up to the waiting area where you will be able to watch the matches."
The remaining nine genin nodded in understanding. They then started to walk away from the arena.
"Naruto-kun…good luck!" Hinata told her crush with a smile on her face. "I know you can do it!"
"Hehe, thanks. I'll do my best!" Naruto answered. The boy actually had a slight blush on his cheeks.
"Looking red Naruto." Shikamaru noted with a teasing grin.
"…huh?" Naruto seemed to become aware of his blush. He then glared at the Nara. "Sh-Shut up Shikamaru!"
"Meh." The Nara shrugged. He then gave the blonde a thumbs up. "As Hinata, said, good luck out there."
Naruto replied with by giving him a thumbs up as well.
Hinata and Shikamaru then turned around to join the other genin that had qualified for the exam. Soon, Risho and Naruto were left alone on the battlefield.
"Hmm…that asshole is fighting first." Kiba growled at the sight of Risho.
Inuzuka Kiba, Akamaru, and Haruno Sakura were sitting together in the arena stands. Kiba had many bandages covering his body from all the cuts he received in his fight with Risho. The bandages were especially thick on his stomach, where Risho had landed his deepest cuts.
"You think he'll lose?" Sakura asked as she glared at the Iwa boy.
"Eventually, he has to. But I don't know right now." The Inuzuka sighed. "Naruto's obviously gotten better, cause he actually made it to the finals. But that Iwa punk…he's tough. He's like a monster. I don't know if Naruto can stand a chance."
Sakura frowned at that. Naruto had always annoyed her at the academy, but she had never thought that he was an awful person or anything. If anything, she now recognized that he was a really kind person who always wanted tried to be nice to her.
"Poor Naruto…I hope he doesn't have to get taken to the hospital afterwards…" She said.
"He doesn't deserve that." Kiba nodded with a growl again. "But who knows, maybe he'll surprise us. I'd personally love to see that asshole Iwa punk get his butt kicked sooner than later!"
Akamaru barked loudly in agreement with his partner.
Sitting in a section of the stands by themselves were the Iwagakure visitors, including Yowamusi Roto, Han, Rōshi, and Kusari. They were all paying great attention to the fight about to start.
"How did Risho's training go, Kusari-san?" Han queried. "You were probably able to help him better than I was in improving in his kenjutsu and his bloodline."
"…for a Kurogane, he could probably be considered mediocre at best. But to Konoha standards, that's probably jōnin-level." Kusari said with a smug grin. "Risho will win this fight in approximately thirty seconds. Anything longer would be an insult to our clan."
'…my God, his whole clan is filled with assholes.' Roto noted in shock.
"So that's Naruto, huh? The Kyūbi boy…" Rōshi noted with a smirk. "Heh, I've been looking forward to seeing that brat in action! This'll be good!"
"I personally know Naruto well, and I am Risho's sensei. I feel confident in saying this will be an interesting match." Han commented in a seemingly-neutral voice.
"…but you're rooting for Naruto, right Han-sensei?" Roto questioned, openly rooting against his teammate.
"I am rooting for both to impress and make chūnin." Han stated. "…that being said, I do feel as if Risho has a few lessons he could learn from losing a match like this, so if he were to lose and learn these lessons, then I'd feel he would win in the grand scheme of things."
"Heh, so you are rooting for Naruto as well then!" Roto laughed.
"Bah!" Kusari rolled his eyes at the words of his fellow Iwa-shinobi.
Anko, due to the fact that all three of her students had made it into the third exam, was not allowed to sit next to any of them. As a result, she opted to sit next to her friends Ibiki and Kurenai.
"Heh, so I guess it's time to see how you guys worked with Naruto!" Anko exclaimed. "I'm really excited to see what you guys were able to do with the kid."
"I think we made a lot of progress!" Kurenai told her friend with a smile. "Naruto-kun's the kind of student anyone would pay money to have. He throws himself head-first into the training and doesn't stop trying until he accomplishes what he's trying to do!"
"I have to admit, he is a good student. You got lucky with him Anko." Ibiki stated.
"Hmm? Even Ibiki's complimenting him?" The snake summoner blinked in surprise before a grin developed on her face. "Did he grow on you Biki-kun?"
Ibiki responded to Anko's question with a growl and an eye roll. Anko laughed, taking his response as an affirmation.
"But I have to admit, I am excited to see him as well. I think he will do great today." Kurenai commented as her eyes focused towards the center.
"This'll be interesting, to say the very least." Ibiki nodded in agreement.
"Well it's about to start, so we'll see!" Anko declared excitedly. 'Come on Naruto! You got everyone's attention…show us all what you got!'
"Hiruzen, your blonde kid…who is that?" Ōnoki questioned, his eyes focused on the boy.
"That is Uzumaki Naruto. He is rather headstrong and confrontational at times, but he has a lot of heart. And honestly, I think he may be one of Konoha's strongest shinobi in the future." Hiruzen answered with a smile.
"…Uzumaki…" Ōnoki repeated the last name with a frown.
The Sandaime Tsuchikage couldn't help but focus on the blonde. The blonde looked familiar to him. He resembled another Konoha shinobi that he had the displeasure of knowing. The very sight of Naruto bothered Ōnoki.
"…does he have any relatives?" He asked quietly. "He resembles your Yondaime greatly."
Hiruzen actually frowned in response. "Naruto-kun is an orphan, having lost his family years ago. The boy, sadly, has no family." The Sandaime Hokage then gave the Tsuchikage a strange look. "You think he resembles my deceased successor? Strange…I don't see it."
Ōnoki blinked in surprise. "You don't see it?"
"No. Naruto-kun has the blonde hair, but nothing else reminds me of Minato." Hiruzen responded.
"…" Ōnoki stared at the Hokage intently, looking for any signs of deception. A few seconds passed before he sighed and turned his attention back to the genin. "Whatever. It was just a passing thought."
"Just to let you both know, I think the fight is about to begin." The 'Kazekage' commented.
The Hokage and Tsuchikage nodded as they waited to see the fight between the two genin.
Naruto and Risho were facing each other in the middle of the battlefield. The two were staring at each other intently, glaring at the other.
"You know, I've been looking forward to this ever since the mission to Tenchi Bridge." Naruto told the Iwa genin.
"Oh?" Risho rolled his eyes in response.
"You were an asshole to me and my team. Hell, you were an asshole to Roto as well for being a civilian-born shinobi. Your superiority complex has pissed me off for far too long, and I'm more than glad to finally get the opportunity to take you down!" Naruto exclaimed as he cracked his knuckles.
"…hmph. It's funny: you think I give a damn what some clan-less orphan from Konoha thinks." Risho scoffed.
"Ugh, you just hate everything and it's so damn annoying and confusing. I don't get you at all. And I don't know if I even want to." The Uzumaki rolled his eyes as he got into a fighting stance.
"You don't have to get me. I don't care." The Kurogane replied as his hands went to his side. Naruto then noticed that Risho had a second scabbard attached to his pants, meaning that he had a second sword. "All I want to do is fight and show everyone here how a true shinobi, one of the Kurogane, fights."
"Kurogane clan this. Kurogane clan that. That's all you ever talk about and I'm sick of it!" Naruto rolled his eyes. "You wanna show how strong you are? Then bring it!"
Genma eyed the two genin before he raised his right hand into the air. "The match between Uzumaki Naruto and Kurogane Risho…begin!"
Risho drew both swords from his scabbards. Naruto responded by jumping backwards to put distance between the two. The blonde then made his trademark hand sign.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Fifteen clones appeared next to the blonde. After appearing, they then charged at Risho. Each of them had their fists ready and tried to land a hit on him. Risho responded by sidestepping out of the way of the first shadow clone and then swiping the sword in his right hand through the clone, causing it to disappear immediately. He then used his other sword to cut into another clone, destroying it upon impact.
Naruto's clones tried to land a hit on the Iwa genin, but none of them managed to land a single attack. Risho avoided all of their attempts and managed to cut through each and every one of them. A few seconds passed and all the shadow clones were destroyed, leaving the original Naruto alone in his original position at a distance.
"Hiding behind your clones? Fight me face-to-face you coward!" Risho taunted with a smug grin on his face as he pointed one of his swords at the blonde.
"Coward? As if! I was just using my clones to see exactly how you fight for a sec. And honestly, not that impressed." Naruto responded with a grin of his own.
"Hmph!" Risho scoffed in anger before he charged at the blonde.
The Kurogane reached Naruto and swung at the blond with the sword in his right hand. Naruto avoided the attack. Risho proceeded to try and cut the boy with the sword in his left hand, but the Uzumaki dodged it as well.
Risho stayed on the offensive, trying to land a cut on the Uzumaki. Naruto stayed on the defensive, avoiding Risho's swords. They continued in the same manner for a few seconds until Risho started to get annoyed. His movements and his sword swinging became faster and more aggressive. Naruto did his best to avoid the attacks.
After realizing that Naruto was going to be avoiding his swords, Risho changed tactics. He got in close to Naruto and did a sweeping kick. The Uzumaki was knocked off his feet and fell to the ground.
"Heh, gotcha!" Risho smirked as he raised his swords.
The Kurogane attempted to attack Naruto using both of his swords. Naruto, however, made a hand sign and disappeared in a poof of smoke.
"What the-" Risho blinked in surprise as he turned around.
Naruto had used the shunshin to avoid Risho's attack. The blonde was now directly behind Risho. He delivered a punch to the Iwa genin's face, knocking him backwards slightly. Naruto then quickly made hand signs.
"Wind Style: Great Breakthrough!"
Naruto released a large gust of wind from his mouth towards Risho, who was recovering Naruto's surprise attack. Realizing that he had no time to avoid the jutsu, Risho made a hand sign of his own.
"Iron Style: Armor of Iron!"
Risho's body was covered in a silver-greyish armor. The now-encased Iwa genin received the gust of wind head-on, but he was not fazed in the slightest. Once Naruto's wind jutsu ended, the armor disappeared from Risho's body. The Kurogane's body showed no scratches or evidence of being hit from Naruto's attack.
"And there's that damn armor." Naruto noted as he shook his head in annoyance.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Risho asked with a smirk that contained elements of smugness and pride. "You're gonna have to try a lot harder if you want to even scratch my armor!"
"Oh, I'll do better than that! You keep using that armor to hide from my attacks; I'm just gonna end up ripping it off your body!" Naruto exclaimed as he cracked his knuckles.
Risho rolled his eyes in response. The Iwa genin charged at Naruto, gripping his swords tightly in his hands. Naruto, seeing the Iwa genin coming for him, made quick hand signs before bringing his hands to his mouth.
"Wind Style: Wind Release Stream!"
Naruto released a small stream of wind from his mouth towards Risho. The Kurogane, seeing the wind jutsu heading for him, moved out of the way. Naruto, after seeing that the wind was not going to hit the Iwa genin, changed directions of the wind and aimed at the ground. The ground released a giant dust cloud that covered the area surrounding Naruto.
Risho stopped moving at the sight of the large dust cloud and stared at it intently. 'What are you trying to do?'
The dust cloud remained in the arena for a few seconds. It soon cleared up, revealing twenty different Naruto clones, all of them ready to charge at Risho. The Iwa genin actually laughed at the sight of the clones.
"Are you seriously trying that shadow clone bullshit again? I'll just cut straight through your clones again!" Risho smirked loudly.
The clones all glared at the boy. They then proceeded to run around the Iwa genin and surround him. After he was surrounded, the twenty clones all charged and attacked in unison.
"Oh, you all think you can actually hit me if you attack at once? Funny!" The swordsman taunted as he brought his swords together. "Kurogane Kenjutsu Style: Intercepting Blade!"
As the clones moved forward to attack, Risho spun in place in a circular fashion. His swords, along with his body, were moving at a rapid speed. The hilts collided with the fists of Naruto's clones, blocking their attacks. Upon intercepting the fists, Risho would then turn his swords around to deliver a cut on the clones of Naruto. As Naruto's clones continued to attack the Kurogane, Risho continued to block and counterattack. Seconds passed before all Naruto clones were destroyed. Upon cutting through the last clone, Risho was left alone. This caused the boy's eyes to widen as they started to scan the stadium fighting grounds.
'What the…where the hell did he go?' Risho asked himself.
The ground underneath Risho started to crack, answering Risho's question. Naruto jumped out of the ground directly under Risho and delivered a punch to the boy's jaw. Risho was knocked upward, coughing up blood. Naruto then delivered a kick to the boy's stomach, knocking him backwards. The Kurogane hit the ground hard.
"Looking for me?" Naruto taunted with a smirk on his face.
"Bastard…" Risho growled as he pulled himself off the ground, his hands still gripping his swords.
"Using the Wind Release Stream to create a dust cloud for him to hide in so he can create more shadow clones…that was all a distraction. He really used that dust cloud to use the Headhunter Jutsu and make Risho not know where he was!" Anko had a large grin on her face as she watched the fight. "I've never seen Naruto fight like this! It's exciting!"
"Looks like he really did learn a few things from our lessons, eh Ibiki-san?" Kurenai commented, nudging her fellow exam proctor.
"…hmm." Ibiki nodded, a smile of his own on his face. "If he continues to develop what we taught him, Uzumaki Naruto will make a great tactician. And in doing so, he may become an unstoppable force like no one the shinobi nations have seen before."
In the waiting area for the genin participants, all nine genin were standing at the rails watching the match. Hinata, Shikamaru, and Kurotsuchi were all standing side-by-side, watching the match with wide eyes.
"I never knew Naruto was a tactician! This is exciting!" Kurotsuchi exclaimed.
"I didn't either. This must've been what he trained in during the training month." Shikamaru realized. A smirk developed on his face. "So far, he's doing a damn good job. He's always a step ahead of Risho."
"Mhmm. But I know Risho. I'm sure this is pissing him off. And I just know he's going to do something to at least balance the scales a bit." Kurotsuchi commented as her eyes focused on her teammate.
"We'll see." Shikamaru shrugged in response.
Hinata said nothing. She simply stared at Naruto with a slight blush on her face and a large smile on his face.
'Naruto-kun…you've grown so much. I can't wait to see what else you can do!' Hinata thought to herself, looking forward to the rest of the match.
Risho managed to pull himself on the ground. He stared at Naruto intently, his mind running frantically.
'I can't believe it…he's actually landing hits on me. I can't use my armor if he keeps landing these surprise attacks on me! This can't be happening…this was supposed to be my freebie match. This was supposed to show my strength to Kusari! If I actually lose this match…I'll…' Risho shook his head, rejecting the idea. 'I can't! I won't! No holding back, no saving tricks for later: I need to win this NOW!'
With this new determination in mind, Risho charged forward at Naruto. The Uzumaki then jumped backwards again to keep his distance.
"Not happening! I'm not gonna let you keep fighting me from a distance any longer!" Risho shouted loudly, gripping his swords tightly. "Kurogane Kenjutsu Style: Length Increase!"
Risho swung the sword in his right hand at a distance, away from Naruto. As he cut through the air, the sword's length increased at a rapid rate. With its new length, the sword's blade now reached Naruto's distance.
"What the fuck?" Naruto nearly croaked in surprise as he barely avoided the sword.
Risho then swiped forward with the sword in his left hand. This sword also increased in length, reaching Naruto's distance. Naruto reacted slower than the previous time and received a cut in his stomach.
"Shit!" He cursed as he closed his eyes from the pain.
The Uzumaki jumped backwards to get away from the swords. Risho responded by swinging his swords again, the lengths of the blades increasing to match Naruto's new distance. Realizing that he couldn't avoid the swords through distance any more, Naruto made a hand sign. Risho attempted to cut through again, but the boy disappeared in a poof of smoke.
'Shunshin again, huh?' Risho realized. He stopped his jutsu, returning his swords back to normal length. He then then turned around.
As Risho predicted, Naruto was now behind the boy. The blonde tried to deliver a punch to the Iwa genin's face, but Risho responded by blocking the fist with the hilt of one of his swords. Risho then used his other sword and attempted to cut the blonde. Naruto disappeared again, using the shunshin once more.
Using his shunshin, Naruto teleported behind Risho once again. He then quickly made hand signs. Risho turned around to find Naruto, but the blonde managed to finish his hand signs. He then brought his hands together.
"Wind Style: Great Breakthrough!"
"Iron Style: Armor of Iron!"
Naruto released a large gust of wind that collided against Risho's iron armor. Once again, the wind did not faze Risho. His armor prevented him from being blown away or receiving any damage.
'Shit. I really thought my jutsu would have hit him before that armor went up.' Naruto cursed in his head. '…I need to think of something!'
Naruto's eyes wandered away from Risho's armor-covered body. He stared at the ground below Risho and an idea entered his head. 'I know what to do!'
The blonde proceeded to aim the gust of wind from his Great Breakthrough jutsu at the ground. The heavy wind created another large dust cloud surrounding the two shinobi. Naruto then ended his jutsu and jumped backwards out of the dust cloud. He then made another hand sign and sank into the ground using the Headhunter Jutsu.
Now that he was no longer being attacked by the wind, Risho released his armor. He then quickly jumped out of the dust cloud as his eyes began to search the battlefield.
'Damn wind and dust…' Risho grumbled, still looking across the battlefield. 'I don't see him though…meaning that he went back underground!'
Risho continued to look across the battlefield for any sign of Naruto. He then heard a sound: the sound that he heard when Naruto jumped out of the ground earlier.
"Where are you?" Risho shouted as he looked at the ground for any sign of the ground cracking.
There were no visible signs of the ground cracking anywhere. As Risho continued to look, Naruto jumped out of the dust cloud.
Naruto delivered a punch to Risho's face, knocking him out of his thoughts. The Iwa genin was knocked back further than before. He hit the ground hard and rolled on it before coming to a stop.
"What the…" Roto stared back-and-forth between Naruto and Risho in confusion. "We all saw Naruto use the Headhunter Jutsu when he got out of the dust cloud. How did he get back in the dust cloud to attack Risho?"
"Naruto used the jutsu to hide his movements from Risho. Once Risho jumped out of the dust cloud, Naruto returned to it. He knew that Risho would expect an attack from underground, but he also knew that Risho would not expect an attack from the dust cloud, where the two had been prior." Han noted. The Gobi jinchūriki's voice conveyed how impressed he was with Naruto's fighting.
"Honestly, I was not expecting this. From what you said, I thought that Naruto was one of those brats who just charges head-first into things. I'm actually impressed!" Rōshi complimented with a grin. "Heh, when he becomes jōnin, I'd love to take him on. See exactly how that mind of his works!"
"…in all honestly, I would be interested in fighting Naruto myself." Han nodded in agreement. "I can only imagine what the boy will be like as a jōnin in a few years."
Kusari ignored the words of the two Iwa jinchūriki and Roto. Instead, his eyes were focused on Risho. The man was glaring at the boy.
'Risho, I thought I made it clear that the clan wants no disappointments.' He growled mentally.
"We're not over yet, are we Risho? I'm just getting started!" Naruto taunted.
"Shut up…" Risho cursed as he pulled himself off the ground.
The Iwa genin pulled himself off the ground and gave Naruto the most hateful, angry look that the blonde had seen. Naruto frowned in response and started to speak.
"No, really, I hope we aren't done yet. All trash talking aside, I'm actually having fun. It's been a long time since I had a fight like this and I'm loving it!" The Uzumaki told the boy.
"For fun…this is all just one giant game to you? Being a shinobi and all that…" Risho's glare intensified on Naruto.
"Of course not! Being a shinobi is the most serious thing to me!" Naruto retaliated, returning Risho's glare with one of his own. "But this is just a fight for the exams! Our lives aren't on the line, so we are able to fight and actually try and learn a few things from it to help us improve as shinobi as whole for future missions! And I'm already learning things about my strengths and weaknesses in this fight. Is it really a bad thing that I'm having a little fun in the process?"
"This is not fun! This is war, and my life IS on the line!" Risho hissed as he gripped his swords tightly.
"What the hell are you talking about? No one's going to kill you if you lose this fight!" Naruto shouted back.
The Iwa genin did not immediately respond. He looked down at the ground. Slowly, the ground underneath him was wet. Risho then looked up at Naruto with angry, tear-filled eyes.
"If I lose…if I embarrass my clan, then I-I'm going to be removed from my clan. And to me, that might as well be death!" Risho shouted at Naruto.
The Uzumaki's eyes widened in shock. "Wh-What?"
"Removed from his clan?" Roto repeated Risho's words in surprise.
"Kusari, explain. Now!" Han demanded in a quiet, emotionless tone of voice.
"…I shouldn't have to explain to you, Han. But if you must know, then I informed Risho that our clan has no place for embarrassments. The Kurogane clan lost too many shinobi in the war and we can't afford any weak, useless shinobi. So if he does in fact embarrass the clan and show his weakness, then I will have him removed from the clan. He will be disowned by the clan head and his family and he will be considered an outsider to the clan." Kusari answered coldly.
"…what…the…fuck!?" Roto shouted. He glared at the elder Kurogane. "I don't like Risho much, but I know how much the Kurogane clan means to him! His pride as a Kurogane is everything to him! Why would you take that away from him?"
"If he's not strong enough, then he doesn't deserve the pride." Kusari replied with a shrug.
"Do you even have the authority to pull this off?" Rōshi questioned with a glare of his own. "I do know for a fact that you are not the clan head. I know the geezer who runs your damn clan!"
"Do not pretend to be an expert on how our clan is run, Rōshi." The Kurogane rolled his eyes in response. "I have plenty of sway in our clan's politics. And again, our clan can't afford to have any weaklings. If Risho fails to meet our standards, then I will personally see him removed."
"You mean 'your' standards." Roto corrected, still glaring at the man in front of him.
"Be quiet, civilian-born trash!" Kusari hissed.
Han closed his eyes. For the first time in years, since the day he lost control of the Gobi, the armor-wearing jōnin felt guilt. '…I made an error in bringing him here. I should've done research on the man. I simply saw that he was your cousin and was an expert in the Kurogane kenjutsu. I am truly sorry Risho…'
"Risho…" Naruto looked at the Iwa genin with a frown on his face.
"I'm not going to lose! I can't afford to lose!" Risho exclaimed loudly.
The Kurogane sheathed his swords. He then reached into the pockets of his pants and pulled out a set of ten iron daggers. He gripped them tightly in his hands as he glared at Naruto, his eyes now free of tears.
"I hope you're ready for this. This is the end!" He growled as he proceeded to toss the daggers at Naruto.
After tossing all ten daggers, Risho made a series of hand signs.
"Iron Style: Iron Dragon Bullets!"
The iron surrounding the daggers started to change shapes. These daggers changed shapes, resembling dragon heads with a small tail at the end of them. All ten iron dragons floated in the air, facing Naruto.
'Wh-What jutsu is this?' Naruto stared at the floating iron dragon heads in awe.
Risho made a pushing gesture with his hands. The iron dragon heads then flew forward towards Naruto. Naruto's eyes widened as he barely avoided the onslaught from the dragon heads. The dragon heads continued forward until they hit the walls at the edge of the arena. Upon making contact, they ricocheted off the surface and headed back to Naruto at a faster speed.
"What the-" Naruto shouted as he jumped out of the way, avoiding the dragon heads again. "Shit, that was close!"
"It's not over yet!" Risho stated as he made another hand gesture.
The dragon heads, once again, collided with the walls of the arena and ricocheted off the surface. They were now moving even faster. Naruto attempted to dodge the dragon heads again, but he failed and was hit by one of them in the stomach. The blonde's eyes winced in pain as he coughed up some blood. As Naruto was recovering from the collision, four of the remaining dragon heads attacked Naruto. They pushed the Konoha shinobi backwards to the walls of the arena. Two of the dragon heads used their 'mouths' to pin his heads to the wall while the other two pinned the boy's legs. The remaining six dragon heads remained floating in the air in front of the boy.
"Ugh…" Naruto, upon being pinned against the walls, started to cough up more blood.
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata nearly screamed from her position in the waiting room.
"Shit…this looks bad…" Shikamaru cursed as his fists tightened.
"…" Kurotsuchi said nothing as her eyes focused on Naruto's pinned body.
"…oh my gosh…" Sakura gasped as she saw Naruto get pinned to the wall.
"Damn…damn…" Kiba shook his head in frustration. "Naruto was actually kicking his ass…I guess it's over now…"
Naruto struggled against the dragon heads, trying to free himself. None of his efforts worked. Risho watched Naruto try to free himself and smirked at the sight of him failing. He quickly pulled out his swords from their sheaths once again.
"And that's the end of that!" He informed Naruto as he gripped his swords tightly. "Now, even though I said this was war, I'm not going to try and kill you. This is going to hurt though, and you're definitely going to wake up in the hospital."
After those words, Risho charged forward at Naruto, ready to make one final strike at the boy.
Naruto watched Risho approach him and couldn't help but curse. He was about to brace for the upcoming attack, but then an idea entered his head.
'I'm out of options, so this is really all I can do. I just hope this works…' Naruto closes his eyes and tried to relax himself to the best of his abilities. 'Come on, Kyūbi…I could really use your chakra now…'
Red chakra slowly started to surround Naruto's body. The blonde's features slowly became more foxlike. He then opened his eyes, which now contained a red tint to them. Naruto then started to struggle again against the dragon heads. This time, though, he was able to move his body slightly against his restraints. After struggling for a bit, Naruto managed to release himself from his restraints and pull himself off the wall. The dragon heads that had pinned him to the wall fell to the ground.
Risho, who had been charging at Naruto, couldn't help but stop his charge and stare blankly at Naruto in awe. His eyes were wide open and he couldn't help but mumble to himself in surprise: "How…that's not possible…"
Naruto, now free, channeled the remaining bit of Kyūbi's chakra and made hand signs. "Wind Style: Great Breakthrough!"
Naruto released the largest gust of wind that he had ever released. Risho, seeing the wind approaching him, quickly made a hand sign. "Iron Style: Armor of Iron!"
Risho's body was covered in his silver-greyish armor. Now covered in his armor, Risho was able to resist the wind.
'I can't have this battle last much longer…it needs to end now!' Naruto told himself as he pumped more chakra into his jutsu. 'I need to destroy that armor of his!'
Naruto's gust of wind became even stronger. Even wearing his armor, Risho felt himself being pushed back slightly into the ground. Naruto's wind was also affecting another iron source now, however: Risho's remaining iron dragon heads. The six remaining iron dragon heads that had been floating in front of Naruto were now being pushed backwards. Naruto's wind then knocked the dragon heads backwards. They proceeded to collide against Risho's armor one-by-one. With each subsequent hit, the dragon head crumbled into iron fragments and Risho's armor started to crack. By the sixth dragon head, Risho's armor crumbled to the ground.
'No way…IMPOSSIBLE!' Risho screamed in his head as he felt his defense fall apart. "AHHHHH!"
Risho was now forced to take the impact of Naruto's Great Breakthrough head-on. The Iwa genin was sent flying backwards from the wind as his body was cut from the wind. He screamed in pain until he made contact with the wall at the other end of the arena. Naruto proceeded to end his jutsu. Risho then fell to the ground hard.
Kyūbi's chakra started to fade from Naruto's body. The boy was panting heavily as he continued to stare at Risho's body, waiting for him to get back up.
"Is…that…it?" Naruto asked himself, realizing that Risho was making no noticeable attempts to get up.
Genma, thinking similarly to Naruto, rushed over to check Risho. The Iwa genin was, somehow, still conscious. However, his body was covered in cuts and he was bleeding heavily. Genma assessed the situation easily: Risho was in no condition to continue fighting.
"The match is over. Winner, Uzumaki Naruto!"
The crowd started to applaud and shout after watching the match, cheering for Naruto in congratulations.
"FUCK YEAH!" Kiba shouted loudly. Akamaru barked in approval,
"He actually pulled it off. He tore off that Iwa guy's armor and ended up winning…" Sakura's eyes were wide as she stared at Naruto in surprise. "Naruto…how much better did you become?"
"NARUTO, IF YOU WERE A GIRL, I WOULD KISS YOU!" Kiba screamed again, whistling loudly in approval.
"…Kiba, that's creepy!" Sakura turned her attention to her teammate, who she started to slowly inch away from.
"YEAH! THAT'S MY STUDENT!" Anko screamed in approval.
"Anko, don't scream that loudly. Don't embarrass yourself." Ibiki scolded his partner in the T&I department.
"Ah, shut up Ibiki! I'll scream whenever I want to." Anko rolled her eyes before continuing to shout. "I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT WHISKERS! WAY TO KICK ASS!"
"Just leave her be, Ibiki-san." Kurenai chuckled as she watched her friend cheer. "Naruto-kun did, indeed, do a good job. Let her cheer."
"…hmph." Ibiki shook his head. A smile then appeared on his face. "The boy did do good indeed."
"HEAR THAT WHISKERS? EVEN MORINO FUCKING IBIKI IS PRAISING YOU!" Anko screamed, somehow in an even louder voice.
Ibiki face palmed in response to Anko's cheering, which only caused Kurenai to giggle.
Shikamaru whistled in approval after watching the fight. "Son of a bitch…he actually managed to get out of that situation back there."
"WAY TO GO NARUTO-KUN!" Hinata cheered loudly.
"Heh, he did good. Very good." Shikamaru commented with a chuckle, agreeing with his teammate.
'So he can use the Kyūbi's chakra effectively…and he managed to use it to defeat Risho…Naruto, I'm looking forward to our fight greatly!' Kurotsuchi told herself with a grin on her face.
Her eyes then wandered over to Risho's body, which caused her grin to turn into a frown. She remembered what Risho had said earlier in the match about being removed from his clan. Now that Risho had lost, she was hoping that the boy was going to be okay…
"…bah. Pathetic." Kusari cursed. "Worthless brat! Still no better than when he was a little kid."
"…Kusari, please leave." Han spoke up in his neutral tone of voice.
"…and why?" The Kurogane glared at the Gobi jinchūriki.
"I've heard you backtalk my student for too long today. I've learned things about you and your clan that I wish I had never learned. Now, I'm not going to ask you again. Leave." Han ordered.
"Listen here Han-"
"LEAVE!" Han shouted.
Kusari glared at the Gobi jinchūriki for a few seconds before walking off without a word. Han, Rōshi, and Roto were now left alone.
"…with family like that, it's no wonder Risho acts like a dick." Roto shook his head.
"Hopefully your student will be okay when this is all over…I don't think life is going to be very easy for him if Kusari really has that much influence in the Kurogane clan." Rōshi commented to Han.
"...I have to hope that he will be okay." Han shook his head in frustration.
"...he will be. Kurotsuchi and I will be there right by his side to help him if he needs someone." Roto spoke up. "...heh, if he needs a family, I'm sure my family wouldn't mind him living with us for a while. He doesn't have to accept of course. But I'll be there if he needs help!"
"...we'll all be there for him." Han agreed, a small smile crossing his lips underneath his mask.
Naruto couldn't help but grin upon hearing the applause. He looked around at all the different people in the stands clapping and cheering and he gave them all a large, sincere smile.
After enjoying his 'moment in the spotlight', Naruto then rushed over to Risho. The boy was still laying down on the ground, but he was now laying upwards. The Iwa genin was also crying.
"…sniff…what…d-do you want?" Risho questioned between tears. "J-Just rub your s-salt in the wounds and g-get out of my f-face…"
"…" Naruto shook his head at the idea of 'rubbing salt in the wounds'. He then smiled at the Iwa genin. "Your clan would be fools to remove you."
Risho actually stopped crying at that comment. He was now staring at Naruto in complete surprise, not expecting such a comment from the boy.
"I can't even remember the last time I had a fight like that. You did a good job Risho, and if they don't see that, then that's on them: not you. You're tough." Naruto told him.
"…take my words with a grain of salt. After all, I am a clan-less orphan from Konoha. But I think you made your clan proud and pulled off a good fight, and I'd love to spar against you sometime in the future." The blonde told him as he started to walk away. "…provided that you can pull that stick out of your ass and stop being a dick to everyone of course."
Naruto walked away and headed upstairs to the waiting room to meet up with the other genin. Risho remained on the ground until medical shinobi arrived on the scene to escort him to a clinic to heal his wounds. The Iwa genin was deep in thought, reflecting on Naruto's words and praise.
Author's Note: Chapter twenty-four is done! :)
The exams are here...and I hope I opened with a bang! I wanted to make the first match as dynamic and exciting as I could, so I hope I actually managed to do that. Hope you enjoyed it, because I got quite a few more matches I need to write as well :P
So yeah...I broke 900 reviews. The last chapter alone received 100 reviews on it. Oh my goodness...you guys are amazing. I am legitimately stunned. I don't have much to say other than thank you. I'm so happy...just thank you all so much for the continued support! From the bottom of my heart, thank you! ^^
A lot of those reviews were people giving me their thoughts on the snake summoning contract. Thank you all so much for putting the time to tell me what you think and to give me your reasons! A few of the reasons were things I actually never even considered before...and I'm not going to lie, some of you managed to persuade me to give the contract to someone different than I had planned. I'm not going to spoil anything yet, as the snake summoning contract won't be coming up for a bit...but when it does, I hope I manage to please everyone, including the people who preferred it being with someone else. But once again, I really appreciated all the thoughts you all put into your reviews and pms about the subject. Thank you all so much again! ^^
Anyway...I'm kinda really tired, so I'm gonna end my author's note here. Once I wake up tomorrow, I will begin work for chapter twenty-five! I'll see you guys here when I finish it! Until then :)