Disclaimer: Naruto is Kishimoto's toy. I'm just playing with it.
I sat on the rails, my feet dangling over the edge. Kakashi was leaning against the wall behind me. Naruto and the others were beside me. The next match was about to be decided.
My hands gripped the handrails tightly, my stomach still felt unsettled from Hinata's match. I was beside myself with worry, but I knew Kakashi was right. I couldn't do anything now; I wasn't allowed to leave. Besides… she was in good hands now. Professional hands, at least.
Still didn't stop me from feeling anxious.
As the monitor whirled, randomly selecting names, Gaara dissolved into sand.
My eyes followed him as he reappeared below. He knew just as well as I did that it was his turn.
"Good luck, Lee-san," I said, turning my head and giving him a small smile. My legs continued to dangle and swing in the open air.
"Yosh! I will do my youthful best, Sakura-chan!" Lee exclaimed, jumping off into the air, somersaulting, only to land in front of Gaara.
I stared down after him, then I looked up at Gaara.
I tried not to squeal at him, my anxieties over Hinata momentarily replaced with complete fangirlism.
Is that even a word?
Well it is now! Look at him! He's so kawaii.
Don't start speaking Japanese!
What did I just say?
Gaara looks like a grumpy panda cup who's just woken from a nap. He looks like he needs a hug and a glomp and to be smothered in affection.
Lee looks… like Lee. I can't even properly compare him to anything because it simply would not do. I could compare him to Gai, but…
Speaking of Lee and Gai… are they like… father / son?
No, but they might as well be.
I wonder how Hinata-chan is doing now…
Aw shit… don't go all depressed now. Sasuke is the only emo allowed on the show! Look, a distraction!
…They're starting the match.
Sure enough, Hayate now said the magic words for the match to begin.
Lee wasted no time in running forward towards Gaara. He jumped into the air, spinning in the same motion and bringing out his right leg. "Leaf Hurricane!"
Before Lee's kick could even connect with Gaara, sand rushed up from out of Gaara's gourd and formed a wall between Gaara and Lee. Gaara didn't even flinch when Lee's kick connected with the sand. The sand rushed to grab hold of Lee, but Lee disengaged from battle, jumping out of range.
The sand retracted into Gaara's gourd.
Don't forget spandex boy.
Oh, sorry. Go, Lee!
Lee ran forward again, and Gaara's sand poured out once more. Lee kicked and punched like a pro, but all he ever hit was sand. The sand began to swamp around Lee, forcing Lee back a few steps to fight off the aggressive sand. He disengaged from battle again.
Beside me, everyone shifted uneasily.
"Lee's fast attacks aren't working at all," Naruto said, staring down with a mix of wonder and horror in his face. "What's going on?"
"Physical attacks have no effect on Panda-kun," I said nonchalantly. "Regardless of Panda-kun's will, the sand will shield and protect him. It's why no has ever—as of yet—physically hurt him."
I sighed dreamily.
"You certainly seem to know a lot about Lee's opponent, most youthful student of Kakashi," Gai said, glancing over at me.
"Of course. I am a fan girl of his," I said, my voice sounding oddly cheerful.
Naruto snorted. "You've only met him once, Sakura-chan!"
"Call me crazy, but I feel like I've known him my whole life," I said, allowing myself a tiny secret smile.
Don't smile like that, people will think you stalk him or something.
Nonetheless I dropped my smile, choosing instead to mold an indifferent face.
The sand rushed forward, far too fast for Lee to react. The sand grabbed hold of Lee's leg before lifting him up in the air only to throw him against a concrete wall on the other side of the room. Lee landed with a sickening thud before he dropped to the floor.
He barely had enough time to roll out of the way before the next rush of sand launched itself at him. Lee rolled up onto his feet, running towards Gaara and swinging his limbs out to punch and kick him. Not once did he land a successful hit that time. Gaara's sand easily deflected all of the hits.
Gaara's sand once again switched to the offensive side, forcing Lee back. This time, though, Lee slipped on some sand that had forced its way underneath Lee's feet. He fell backwards, only to find a wave of sand preparing to crash down on him in the same instance.
Faster than what my eyes could follow, the sand crashed down in the same spot Lee was in. But, Lee was no longer there, instead he was flipping through the air to land high above everyone else, on the top finger of the statue that rested in the front of the room.
"Lee! Take them off!" Gai shouted, holding out a thumbs up in the process.
Lee glanced over at his idol, moving his hand to salute him. He shouted back, "But, Gai-sensei, I thought that was only permitted when protecting many important people."
"I don't care. I will allow it!" Gai responded.
Lee gave a happy smile before he began to pull off his weights.
I stared at them.
Damn… I feel incredibly stupid right now.
What? What did you do this time?
It's not what I did… it's what I didn't do. Damn! I really feel like an idiot now.
What are you..? Oh.
Yeah. I can't believe I didn't think about using weights for training… at all. That's it. After the matches are over, I have to get some weights.
Lee finished pulling off his weights, grinning hugely. He dropped them.
They landed with a very loud thud, leaving large craters in the ground where they rested. The force was enough to lift up a large cover of dust and debris. Not to mention it had nearly everyone gaping at how much those weights must have weighed.
"Nice," I said appreciatively.
"Go, Lee!" Gai said, his voice almost coming out as commanding.
"Yessir!" Lee said, excitement and energy bursting through him. He lurched up into the air, only a green blur to my eyes now.
He had thrown a punch at Gaara, the sand just barely reacting in time. The sand didn't have enough time to properly form a solid wall. His punch broke through, though it still wasn't enough to connect to Gaara himself. He was gone again in an instant, only to reappear with a kick, having the same affect. Gone again, reappearing again. He was all over the place, and Gaara couldn't react fast enough.
Gaara's eyes were wide with shock and as he tried to follow Lee's movements. Lee's attacks were getting close and closer to reaching Gaara.
He managed to kick Gaara on the top of the head, forcing Gaara to almost bow to Lee from the kick. The attacks didn't stop there. After a few more close calls, Lee managed a solid punch against Gaara's cheek, sending the Shukaku host flying.
Gaara stood up slowly, sand slowly pooling out from his gourd.
"Uh-oh," I murmured.
"What do you mean uh-oh? Lee's kicking ass," Naruto said.
"Not really. He's only touched Gaara's sand armor," I said. At that, everyone's eyes snapped down to Gaara before snapping back up to me.
Gaara now stood, grinning crazily at Lee. A layer of sand now falling away from his skin.
"Sand covering his entire body, acting as a permanent shield against nearly all taijutsu attacks," I sighed appreciatively. "Lee might have shocked him, but Gaara is virtually unharmed. Physically, at least."
Sand around Gaara moved to replace and reimburse Gaara's crumbling defense.
"That's too much," Chōji breathed. "First his sand defense… and now a sand shield? Does this guy have any weak points?"
"The sand shield is full of weak points," I said. At this everyone glanced up at me. "Since it's not done automatically, it consumes a massive amount of chakra. And its defense is inferior to the shield of sand. Since the sand is stuck right to his body, he uses up more strength," I explained.
"Still," Shikamaru muttered.
Lee gave a firm nod before he began to partially unwrap his bandages on his arms. Then, he threw himself at Gaara, only to run quickly around him, becoming a sort of green blur of a circle around Gaara.
He then rushed out to Gaara, surpassing Gaara's sand defense with his speed and landing a solid kick against Gaara's chin. He proceeded to beat Gaara into the air with his kicks, still out speeding the sand that followed slowly behind them.
Lee then grabbed Gaara from behind, position him so Gaara and Lee were facing head first to the floor before he began to spin rapidly. He released his secondary Lotus stage, slamming both him and Gaara into the ground with a tremendous amount of force.
Lee jumped back from the crater, where Gaara laid still. Cracks covered Gaara's entire body his eyes stared wide and unseeing above. He was in shock.
And then… the Gaara that Lee had thrown into the ground slowly cracked and shattered, revealing to be nothing more than a hollowed-out shell of Gaara.
"When did they switch out?" Gai said, his eyes wide.
Yay! More praises from Kakashi.
"When you were closing your eyes and praying. Lee cringed from the pain of using the Lotus, Gaara took that tiny opening. Oops, I mean Panda-kun," I said.
I glanced over at Kakashi who gave me a slight nod.
Gaara then reappeared behind Lee, smirking and laughing quietly. His eyes taken a crazed light to them. Gaara's sand rushed forward, overpowering Lee and sending the spandex Genin flying. Before Lee had time to react, Gaara began his brutal and vicious beat down with waves of sand.
Lee, suffering from the after effects of using the Lotus, could do nothing more but endurance through them.
Panda-kun looks like a rabid panda now.
Let me guess, now you want to hug him even more?
How'd you guess?
But… you know… it's getting very close to that moment.
What are you going to do when that happens?
I don't know. I don't really want to see Lee get hurt like… that… but what can I do?
I guess I'll show go along with whatever instinct I take when it happens.
After a while of getting beat down, Lee finished his flashbacks of his life before and the struggles he had faced as a student. He began dodging Gaara's attacks, determined once again to win.
"Let me guess," I said, glancing over at Gai. "The lotus blooms twice, yes?"
Gai's eyes widened briefly before he grinned at me. Kakashi glanced sharply at Gai and me.
"Primary Lotus… the Eight Gates, am I right?" I asked.
"You didn't, did you?" Kakashi asked, his voice coming out sharply. "There's a reason the Primary Lotus is a forbidden move. Tell me you didn't teach that to your Genin student."
"I'm guessing he did," I chirped. "So, Gai-san… how many gates is Lee-san able to open?"
"Five," Gai said.
"What are you guys talking about?" Naruto asked, glancing between us. The others were also giving us curious looks.
"The Eight Gates is a preparation of taking the restraints or limiters off to use Primary Lotus," I said.
"You certainly seem well informed, Sakura-kun," Gai said, eying me.
"Sakura is a very shrewd child," Kakashi responded before I could.
Shrewd or a complete Narutard. Either or…
"Restraints?" Naruto asked.
"Yes," I said. "In the chakra network there are gates in each part of the body. From the top they are…"
"Open Gate, Energy Gate, Life Gate, Wound Gate, Forest Gate, View Gate, Insanity Gate and Death Gate," Kakashi finished for me.
I nodded my head. "Those are eight places in the body where chakra holes are concentrated at. These eight gates constantly control the chakra that flow in your body. But the Lotus unfastens those controls with force and grants the user more than ten times more power. That is its power source."
"Very good," Gai said, grinning.
I shrugged. "I've read about the gates and the lotus in some of my medical books."
Which was true… I just had earlier knowledge about them from being a Narutard…
"Secondary Lotus is a move that opens the first gate. It unfastens control from the brain and enables a person to use his muscles at their limit. Primary Lotus opens the second gate and increases one's strength forcefully, and after opening the third gate, the Primary Lotus is carried out," Gai said.
"Cool," Naruto said.
"They come at risks, of course. Secondary Lotus alone pushes the user's body to its limit. Opening anymore and you're pretty much effing up your own body," I said.
And that's about when the conversation had no need for explanation and Kakashi scolded Gai about how dangerous it was and whatnot. Gai scolded Kakashi saying he didn't know Lee and yada yada yada…
Lee unlocked his third gate, his skin turning to a stark red as chakra rushed through him. The force of the opening alone was enough to send a strong 'wind' to nearly knock me off my sitting spot.
This is a long fight.
It certainly seems like it.
Lee lunged forward, kicking Gaara into the air and cracking Gaara's sand shield. Lee kicked Gaara towards the ground before reappearing right behind him and kicking him back up in the air. It was an airborne game of Ping-Pong, a complete one-sided smack down on Lee's part.
Lee unlocked the fifth gate and slammed his fist into Gaara's stomach, knocking him into the ground. And explosion of dust and debris forced me off the rail, my arms snapped up to cover my face.
Before I could crash into the wall or the ground, a warm arm wrapped around my shoulders, keeping me steady as I braced myself from the attack.
Damn, I knew it was a strong move, but I didn't think I'd get knocked off my spot from it.
When the force passed away I blinked my eyes to see Kakashi had braced me.
"Thanks," I mumbled, blushing, and dropping my arms away. He gave a slight nod, not even looking at me. His eyes were focused on Lee who was rolling away from Gaara.
Gaara rested in a crater, breathing heavily. Sand wrapped underneath him, providing him with a safe cushion.
My eyes widened in small shock as I realized what was going to happen next.
My stomach dropped and already I swung myself off from the balcony, lurching forward at Lee.
Gaara raised his hand shakily, forcing a wave of sand to rush towards Lee. Lee struggle to move, to crawl… to do anything to escape, but it was hopeless.
I was flying through the air when the sand rushed forward.
Before the sand could touch him, I slammed into Lee, knocking him away.
We rolled, the force of my kick off a little too strong. It forced us to slam against the wall. Well me, actually. Lee ended using me as a cushion. When I glanced down at my arms, Lee was unconscious.
The sand was still coming towards us.
Fuck. I didn't think this through.
That's what you get for acting on instinct, praise-whore.
"Lee's unconscious," I said, my voice ringing loudly through the large room. "The match is over, Gaara-san."
The sand still came to us. Only when Gai appeared between the sand and us, did it stop. Gaara cringed away.
"Why… Why did you help him?" Gaara asked, shaking slightly.
I sat up, moving Lee's body off mine and placing a hand over his forehead.
Gai gave Gaara a hardened look. Though Gaara's eyes locked with mine, he looked away when Gai spoke. "He's an important student I love."
Gaara appeared taken back. In the same instance, Hayate had moved as well, he was now kneeling before us. He nodded.
"The match is over, Gaara is the winner," Hayate said.
I stood up from Lee, running over to Gaara. I stopped before him, stretching out my hand. He stared at it, incomprehension on his face.
"Do you need help?" I asked.
Gaara didn't respond. He stood up, the sand reforming into his gourd and staggered away. I glanced behind me, seeing the medical unit coming in and Gai stood beside Lee. Lee was lifted onto the stretcher, Gai placed a hand on his shoulder.
Slowly, I walked towards them, frowning slightly.
Gai dropped his hand away from Lee as they carried Lee out. I looked up at Gai and gave a sheepish grin. "Sorry… I kind of reacted on instinct. I didn't want Lee to get caught in Gaara's sand coffin…"
"I know," Gai said, looking over at me and smiling.
"You do?" I asked, bewildered.
Gai laughed loudly. "Of course I do."
"… You don't actually know, do you?"
Gai stopped laughing. "…How youthful of you to spot my youthful bluff."
"Indeed… Well… Gaara's sand coffin would have broken every bone in Lee's body had that sand so much as connected with Lee. And seeing how Lee was unable to escape… well…" I gave another sheepish grin.
Gai's eyes widened momentarily before taking a hardened light to them. "I see. Then I suppose I must thank you for your timely reaction. Kakashi, you have raised a fine student."
"She is a fine student indeed," Kakashi said.
I whirled around, my eyes wide. "When in the hell did you show up?"
"Right after you offered Gaara your hand," Kakashi said lazily. "I'm mainly here though because it's time for the next match and you two need to evacuate the area."
"Oh," I said dumbly. "Right. That might be a good idea."
I turned to leave, but Gai's hand on my shoulder stopped me. I looked back at him. He gave me a flash grin. "I am in debt to you for saving my student. If there's anything you need, don't hesitate to ask."
"Oh," I said uncomfortably, shifting away from the energetic Jōnin. "Uh… I'm actually quite alright… Uh… how I get back to you on that?"
And by that I mean I'll probably never bring it up again and let it die.
"Understood!" Gai said grinning even bigger. I shifted away from him.
Shit, what did I get myself into?
The last match didn't hold my attention. I shamelessly admit I completely zoned out for the entire thing.
It was Chōji versus Dosu, and Dosu won. End of story.
Instead, what did hold my attention was Gaara. And for whatever reason, I held Gaara's attention through some of it. His eyes kept flickering back to me, morbid curiosity apparent in them.
Naturally having a psychotic panda looking at you like a scientist staring down through a microscope would make you a little uncomfortable.
So instead I found myself either meeting his gaze or trying to distract myself by talking with Naruto, Kakashi or Inner.
Maybe he likes you.
I'm not a Mary-Sue. This isn't a fanfiction. Gaara does not know or understand love at all in this point of the story. Though I am his fan girl, and I'm sure some part of me is thrilled at the attention, I do not feel completely safe.
… That's true. Maybe he'll sneak into your room at night and suffocate you with sand instead of Lee.
… Shit you're giving me nightmares.
Or maybe he'll wait outside for you and then kidnap you then bury you alive in sand.
Stop. Bad Inner, bad.
No, better yet he'll crush you in his sand tomb to compensate for interfering with Lee.
STOP! So not helping! Oh, shit I'm so going to have nightmares tonight.
And yet you're still his fan girl.
Are you a masochist?
What? No, of course not. The prospect of my own pain does not turn me on.
How else do you explain your dedication to a crazed killer?
He won't always be crazed. Besides, that's what fan girls are for. We stick through our idols even on their bad days… or bad months… I'm just staying faithful…
That or you're just staying stupid.
"That concludes the Third Exam's preliminary matches," Hayate said after Chōji was escorted out.
All of us (all of us meaning the winners) now headed down to the pretty much destroyed floor to stand before the proctors.
"To those who have made it to the main matches of the Chūnin Exam's Third Exam, congratulations," Hayate said.
"I will now begin to explain the Third Exam," the Hokage said. "Your main match fights will be shown in front of everyone. We wish for all of you to show off your abilities as your country's representative power. Therefore, the main matches will begin in one month."
"A month?" Naruto asked.
"The one month is a time to conduct appropriate preparations," the Hokage answered.
"What do you mean?" Neji asked.
"In other words, we are going to announce to the feudal lords and head ninja of individual countries that the preliminary matches have ended. And time is needed to gather those people for the main matches. This is also preparation time for you candidates."
"I still don't understand. Explain," Kankuro said.
"This time is used so you can know your enemy and yourself better. It is a time to analyze the information you have gathered during the preliminary matches. The battles we had were just like real combat situations. It has been done where both parties knew nothing of each other. But, the main matches will not be like that. There are those who have revealed everything to their rivals."
At this, I couldn't help, but feel a small satisfaction. I didn't reveal anything in my fight.
But, you revealed quite a bit outside of the fight.
"…To make things fair, work hard and improve yourselves on your own in the next month."
The Hokage cleared his throat. "So I want to let you guys go, but… There is something important we must do before the main matches. Take a piece from the box that Anko is holding."
Anko stepped forward, walking forward to each of us. One by one we reached inside of the box and pulled out a slip of paper. When everyone had one, she stepped back and Ibiki spoke.
"Everyone got one?" He said, his voice booming. "Now, tell me what number you got, st arting from the left."
(Which made Sasuke four)
"We will now match you up for the tournament.
Neji Vs. Naruto.
Gaara Vs. Sasuke.
Kankuro Vs. Shino.
Temari Vs. Shikamaru.
Dosu Vs. Me.
Looks like things were going exactly like the series. Damn, I was hoping for at least a chance to become a Chūnin this time around.
While I sulked, the Hokage explained how exactly to become a Chūnin.
Finally, at long last, we were dismissed. I turned on my heel and sprinted out of there.
Will Sakura ever become a Chūnin the first time around? Time will tell...
Up next comes a Pervy-Sage. :)
Reviews are love.
See you Friday/Tuesday.