So one of the reasons this took so long?
Another of the reasons?
I lost my notes, and legitimatelly cannot remember what the hell the original second task was, so I had to rewrite a great deal of the future of the plot, and I was too lazy to do that.
But mainly, it's because the ending of Naruto was so... blargh. It kinda made me burn out on any kind of inspiration for it.
Okay, I lie, it's mostly because I've been playing Fate Grand Order and reading, and writing, Worm. Blame DelightWorks and Wildbow.
Anyway... Let's get this shit on the road, compadre, because while I have grown to believe in my heart that this series ended at Pain, this fic did not end with the first part of the Chunin Exams!
And waited some more, just to be safe.
Only after he had waited enough, did he allow himself to admit he was getting increasingly more frustrated and bored.
"Very well, enough time has passed... All of you who are present will now answer the final question of this exam. It is a simple one. Are you willing to continue on?"
They all wrote down the answer. Sasuke imagined that his answer was the same as most of the rest of the class, with probably differences only in the way it was written and not the real content of it.
"All of you who wrote yes, or some affirmative in some way, you pass. The rest... well, your stupidity will be remembered in legend. For a couple of days anyway, we have more important shit to talk about."
And that was that.
How utterly anticlimactic.
"So how did you guys do?" Asuma asked, taking a sip from a mug that he insisted had coffee.
Kakashi's nose was sharp enough to smell the chocolate from a mile away, though - and it was primarily chocolate.
Kurenai sighed. "All clear," she said. "Had a bit of a close call with Kiba, he got caught four times, Hinata twice. Shino was able to pass without being noticed even once, though if I had to guess, he likely knew the answers."
"Kiba was using his dog to give him the answers, wasn't he? I'm surprised he's got the pooch trained well enough not to disrupt the test at all."
They all knew that the Inuzuka were prone to getting thrown out because of their ninken when their discipline wasn't up to the task. "I know how hard that can get," Kakashi said. "Props on him. I'm surprised your Hyuuga girl got caught twice. Figured she would've needed only one use for the answers."
"She checked them over and they caught her when she did," Kurenai said. "I'm still working on getting her to be less overly cautious."
Gai nodded. "My own students performed similarly!" he boasted. "Lee-kun was not caught cheating, but he had points deducted for his answers," which was code for him getting the answers wrong, "Tenten-kun was caught three times, though the fact that she was able to cheat as obviously as she did and only be caught three times is indeed impressive, and Neji-kun was not caught at all, as expected of one of his abilities."
Kurenai nodded. She had actually gotten a look at the mirror system the girl in Gai's team had employed - and the Genjutsu layer that was superimposed over it. Not one to hide it, but one to convince the proctors it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. A better choice, Kurenai mused, as the chunin proctoring the exam were likely looking for concealing Genjutsu, not genjutsu that screwed with their own perception.
"And speaking about genjutsu," Asuma said, "Ino managed to hypnotize one of the plants to write her name on his test. That was pretty impressive," he admitted. "She got caught - but the proctor accepted it anyway. Poor Kurota - that's the plant's name - will get roasted for this for the rest of eternity."
"Why though?" Kakashi asked. "She's a Yamanaka, that's what they do. It'd be like roasting Kurenai because she can't go toe to toe with Itachi on Genjutsu."
"Fuck you I totally can," Kurenai said. "If he doesn't use his stupid bullshit eyes."
Kakashi chuckled. That was an easy and quick way to rile her up. After all, she was always quite annoyed at the Uchiha clan's ability to bypass training with use of their eye for basic and even sometimes high level illusions.
Gai shook his head. "How unyouthful of you, my eternally hip rival," he quipped.
"Okay, a more apt comparison would be like someone trying to beat Gai at a weightlifting contest. There, better?"
"Better," Gai said. "I AM INVINCIBLE BECAUSE MY YOUTH BURNS BRIGHTER THAN THE VERY SUN! AND IF I CAN'T SHINE-"
"Dial it down, Gai," Asuma said, waving his free hand and then taking another sip of his cooling chocolate. He huffed and spat a small gout of fire into it, warming it back up. "Anyway, Shikamaru answered the questions, I'm pretty sure, by reasoning them out. Left just enough blank to get a passing score. Cheeky," he said. "Chouji just barely scrapped a passing grade. Neither was caught cheating."
"That's... actually pretty impressive. Your boys are pretty smart," Kurenai admitted. "You got lucky. Honestly your entire team did pretty well, pretty good use of their skills altogether."
"As they damn well should be," Asuma said. "Their team doesn't work unless they use their abilities intelligently."
"You're the only one left," Kurenai said.
"Indeed, my eternal rival. How did your students do?" Gai asked.
"Three for three," he drawled lazily, closing his one exposed eye. "Sasuke got two points deducted because he was caught with his Sharingan. Naruto had no points deducted, but he answered two questions wrong."
Gai nodded, as well.
"Don't you have a third student?" Kurenai asked. "How'd she do?"
Kakashi laughed. "The last one of my students I expected to do this, wound up being the one to do it," he said. "She turned her test in blank."
The other three laughed as well. "I wonder how many figured that one out..."
Itachi smiled. "Six people," he said, putting down the report that he was reading. "Two from Konoha, though one was likely an accident. It appears as if we have a genin who is exceptionally dumb and exceptionally lucky."
"It happens every year," Sarutobi replied. "Don't worry, the second phase will either knock him... her?" he asked.
"Both females, this time around," Itachi supplied.
"Her, then," Sarutobi said, letting out a small puff of smoke. "The second phase will knock her out of the exam, or discourage her from continuing," he said. "Is everything in place? The last thing I want is to need to scramble at the last minute."
"Everything should be ready for phase two. Though I still protest this course of action," Itachi said. "I've already given you my report and the reasons why-"
The old man coughed and then cleared his throat. "Can you honestly say you wouldn't be biased towards Sasuke if you were proctoring this exam?" Sarutobi asked.
"Yes," Itachi said. "He has to stand with his own two feet."
"And therein lies the problem. I already know he can stand on his own two feet, Itachi, and I need him rested and healthy for the third phase. Your brother has a very important role to play. You would be more concerned with his wellbeing than you would be with his role."
Itachi frowned, but then shook his head and sighed. "I know, ninja," he said, "but we could just confront the Kazekage directly."
"Bah, this upstart thinks he's got business pulling something like this on me, of all people," Sarutobi said, chuckling. "No, I think a subtle lesson is called for here, Itachi-kun. Consider it a lesson from the Professor. We're not looking to get even here, and never will be," he said. "We're going to show that upstart why he should not be screwing with this old man and his village, and this time, the lesson's going to stick."
"This time? Have you fought the Kazekage before?" Itachi asked.
"After a fashion. We weren't always allies, and I dare say, we are not allies as of that report. Of course, he was younger and more idealistic then. Just as much of an idiot, mind, but younger, so more excusable. Well, my own folly certainly was not, so I am not going to repeat it."
Itachi nodded. "Very well, then. If that will be all, I believe my family expects me for dinner, and I would prefer to hear from Sasuke himself rather than read a report written by a bored genin instead of the Chunin we assigned to do it."
"That's your fault," Sarutobi said. "You shouldn't let the chunin push their work off on the genin. It creates resentment."
"It does - but I am testing this particular genin. I'm fairly certain he will find a place in the managerial staff soon enough - and I need to know that he's got what it takes before then."
The Hokage nodded and then emptied his pipe on a waste basket. "Don't overwork him, just in case. Either way, dismissed, Itachi. Tell your mom I said hi, and your father that he still can't play Shogi worth shit. That's from Shikaku, not me, by the by."
Itachi smiled. "Will do."
And he did. His father just said something about annoying deer.
Sasuke loosened himself up.
"Everything's in order?" he asked.
"Yes. My equipment is ready and secure, I've done my stretches and I'm still the top scorer in Konoha," Sakura said, grinning cheekily.
Sasuke frowned. "Yes, I get it Sakura, you figured out the exam, you don't need to keep telling me."
It really was more embarrassing that he didn't see it in hindsight. It was pretty much outright pointed out - the score in the exam had never meant anything, he now realized. The fact that Sakura had figured it out right at the exam start and then promptly not answered any questions, hadn't stressed herself and had passed anyway... Well, sometimes he had to admit, Sakura's brain was quite impressive when she was using it, and other times she could be downright scary smart.
Naruto blinked, almost as if surprised. Then he opened his jacket a bit and looked down behind the zipper. Nodding, he turned to Sasuke and nodded again.
"Cool," Sasuke said. "Okay, so, we're in position where they said we should expect the Proctor. Just gotta wait."
They weren't the only ones. Two dozen ninja in total, eight teams, were there. Sasuke knew that on the other side of the training grounds, there was another twenty one ninja, and there was a handful more teams around on the smaller gate he knew was to the south.
"ATTENTION!" someone shouted, and in a puff of smoke, a trio of Ninja appeared. Two of them were from Konoha, one of them had a different headband. Grass, if Sasuke's knowledge served him.
He turned to Sakura. She nodded, then he turned to Naruto, who nodded as well.
"This test is just as simple as the previous one. Your objective, however, is a secret. Each of your teams will be given a scroll. The scroll has a seal on it that will open in five days. When the scroll opens, you will learn what your objective is. Each scroll has a different objective abscribed to it. You will need to bring a scroll along with proof of completion of the mission that it assigns you."
So this test was twofold. It began with a test of survival, for five days, in what was arguably Konoha's most dangerous Training Ground, filled with extremely dangerous animals, many of which were poisonous, quite a few were venomous, and almost all of them were carnivorous.
It was also a training ground that Team 7 actually knew.
"Fucking landsharks," Sasuke muttered, mostly to himself.
"Form up!" one of the Konoha ninja in full Chunin gear shouted, "Triple line, two meters distance between teams."
Most Ninja fell into line almost immediately. A few scrambled into position.
Sasuke once more jumped a bit in place as the frontmost team was given a scroll and was ushered into the forest, loosening his muscles and keeping himself slightly warmed up, moving on the balls of his feet, shifting his weight with every little hop. Three teams ahead of them, their entrance staggered by six minutes each.
There was a scuffle as the third team entered. Apparently the second team had thought it clever to wait near the entrance to try to knock off their opposition.
"Idiots," the grass ninja muttered. "That could've gotten all six of them killed."
One of the Konoha ninja chuckled. "It's their prerogative. Okay, Konoha Team 7, under Kakashi Hatake," he said. He looked hard at them, then looked at the table beside the other Konoha ninja, upon which the scrolls rested.
That other ninja looked upon them for a moment. Sasuke frowned. That was an Uchiha. He couldn't say exactly who it was, which was probably bad as he was slated to lead the clan in the future, but he knew that was an Uchiha even if he had died his hair.
The Grass Ninja approached the table. "Oh yeah right," she said, chuckling a bit herself. "Konoha Team, right, right," she said, grabbing a scroll seemingly at random, "can't have allegations of favoritism," she added. "Okay, boys," she said, looking over the team.
"I'm a girl," Sakura said, dryly.
The grass ninja rolled her eyes. "Genin," she amended, "here have this," she said, handing Sakura the scroll. "Good luck. Try not to die."
"Remember, you rep Konoha out there," one of the Konoha ninja stated.
Nodding, Sakura stuck the scroll in her pouch. "Affirmative."
"Aaaand... go in... now!"
The metallic doors in front of them, of the same alloy that the wire fence keeping the training ground sealed off, opened. Deciding that they didn't want to chance traps or ambushes, Team 7 passed the gates and immediately exploded into motion, heading up the nearest thicket of trees. That one was full of leeches, they knew, but the leeches were generally easy to dodge if you knew where they were.
Training Ground 42, also known as 'That Fucking Forest', was big.
It was probably more accurate to say that it was fuckhuge. It was fuckhuge, and everything in it was fuckhuge. Most immediately visible was the forest itself, the trees that composed it. The tallest one was the Giant Fire Oak. Rumored to have been struck by lightning sixteen times, set on fire each and every time. It was VERY impressive, standing at roughly a hundred feet of height. Quite likely the single biggest tree in the world, it was so big that even though it was that big, the extremely huge trees below it still got sunlight.
It was also full of holes, everywhere, and it was extremely easy to climb with chakra.
It was undoubtedly the current base of at least three teams. Sasuke knew this because Sakura, perched on a branch of one of the tall, but not too tall, trees that let her just barely peek beyond the canopy of the forest to glimpse the Giant Fire Oak behind it, had told him so. She was not on lookout, that time, it had really been luck that resulted in her seeing three teams climb it and hide in the holes.
It was a good idea. Sure, it had giant fucking worms infesting it, but the worms generally stayed closer to the core of the supermassive tree, and didn't tend to go out of their own holes. The worms weren't dangerous anyway, so they usually stayed away from most other living things.
The holes were easily defensible, and because of the thick canopy, actually difficult to see. Hence why the three different teams hadn't even seen each other.
Almost as if to mock them, not six hours after the exam had commenced, rain began blasting down, and I do mean blasting, on them, forcing them to seek refuge. The last thing they could afford was being sick on what was arguably the deadliest place in the Land of Fire, especially when there were assholes out there who thought surviving the forest was a cakewalk and had apparently taken it upon themselves to 'thin out' the competition.
Sakura still felt bad for the Ame team that she had found. Not because they'd been killed in ugly ways, they had been killed with poison after all. It was because they'd apparently been left for the animals to much on.
Sasuke himself had been more concerned with the obviously carnivorous deer that had blood dripping from its jaws, too many teeth looking like too many daggers to him. Luckily, it was clear that it had not taken well to the poison in its meal's veins, as it was clearly sick.
Killing the thing had been more mercy than anything else, and it seemed like good exercise. Even sick the thing had nearly knocked him out, and he'd needed his teammates' assistance to kill the thing.
Naruto leaped into the branch, around six foot thick, that they had chosen as their current refuge. He carried with himself big leaves from the plants that littered the immediate surroundings of the tree's base. Sasuke himself was using wires and rope to hastily put together the leaves as well as sticks and branches that he and Sakura had gathered, attempting to fashion something that maybe resembled a tent. Nothing too fancy, easily concealable within the thick green and brown of the trees. For a moment, Sasuke regretted the choice of Uchiha blue, but Sakura had actually explained that blue blended in pretty well in the night, even in the forest.
There was also a half remembered camouflage lecture in Sasuke's brain telling him that Black was actually not that good for blending in at night, for some reason.
Sakura quickly returned from a quick perimeter check. She carried a couple of small creatures that vaguely resembled tapirs. "Think we can eat these?" she asked.
"Did you find them, or..?" Sasuke wondered.
"They were living and healthy when I found them," Sakura said. "They were munching on some of these," she said, pulling out a bunch of berries. They were edible, for certain.
Sasuke remembered them tasting like ass. Donkey ass at that.
"It's best to save our supplies just in case we actually need them," Sasuke said, nodding. "Good thinking."
"Honestly it's a miracle we have any at all," Sakura muttered.
Apparently, it paid to have basic C rank provisions in mind at all times.
"What do you think, Naruto?" Sasuke asked, turning to their blond teammate. He was sitting inside their 'tent', reading from a somewhat soggy book. He was carefully turning the pages, apparently passing wind chakra through them to dry them out. "Huh, that's clever, didn't think that was possible."
"I've heard it can be done," Sakura said, "didn't think you'd be that good at it."
Naruto looked at her, then shrugged.
"Anyway, so," Sakura said, "I think that's an OK to go ahead. Should we make a fire..?"
"Probably should save chakra," Sasuke said. "Do we do it here..?"
"We can't make a fire pit. It will be visible. We should be on guard," Sakura said. "These things," she added, patting the branch, "are pretty fire retardant, especially when wet."
They knew. Sakura had blown them up and Sasuke had thrown fireballs at them, only resulting in slight charring and blackened spots.
They had a few leftover branches. They were wet, but...
"Can you dry these out?" Sakura asked, handing a pair of branches to Naruto.
He looked at them for a second, then nodded. "Thirty seconds," he said, grabbing them both.
In thirty seconds, the branches were dry as a bone.
"Impressive," Sakura said, looking at the branches. It was clear Naruto hadn't really been too careful, as they were littered with scuff marks and small cuts. But the fact that he'd been able to practically squeeze the water out by running wind chakra through it was nevertheless pretty damn impressive. "I'd even bet you learned this just for books."
"Wouldn't surprise me," Sasuke said, shaking his head. "Come on, I'll make the fire. Sakura, Naruto, hide nearby. If we attract any attention, I want it to be obvious that we're waiting to ambush any attackers."
"You're betting on people being intelligent enough not to attack an obvious ambush?" Sakura asked, chuckling. "Also are you gonna walk out into the rain, or risk setting the tent on fire?"
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "If I burn the tent, I'll make another one myself."
There was no attack that night, nor any other event that was really noteworthy. It only made Sasuke angrier that he had chosen to take first watch and nothing had happened. When both he and Sakura were awakened by Naruto at the end of his watch, however, it was a bright and sunny new day.
He smiled as he did his morning stretches as well as a few exercises, mostly lapping around the large tree, in order to warm up and kick his body into gear. After having flexed his muscles both physical and metaphysical, he gestured for Sakura, who had finished her own set of exercises, and Naruto, who if not stopped would put himself through way harsher warm ups than they needed to at the moment, and gathered them on a tree.
"Should we set the tent on fire or something?" Sakura asked.
Sasuke shook his head. "Let's move. Boobytrap it and leave it there."
"Returning to it would be a bad idea," Sakura noted.
Naruto looked at Sasuke with something akin to perplexed surprise.
"Do you two think I'm that dumb?" Sasuke said, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure some idiot will camp near it waiting for us to return and try to ambush us. I'm already giddy just thinking about them waiting for an ambush they'll never get to spring on us," he said, smiling in self satisfaction.
"I think," Sakura said, "that you spend way too much time with Kakashi."
"Maybe I do," Sasuke said. "Either way we're going to move. I was thinking we might be best served by scoping out our competition. See what we have to look out for. I have a suspicion that the scrolls might include stuff like hunting down another team or something like that."
"You think?" Sakura asked. "It really could be anything. Maybe it's something even more dangerous like skinning a hellboar."
"There are no hellboars, that was just an urban legend," Sasuke said. "They can't climb trees. We checked."
"It was huge, I just sort of assumed," Sakura said, shrugging.
Sasuke was about to retort when he felt a tug on his shirt. His mouth closed and he fell silent. The team crouched as a trio.
"What do we have here..? Hm..." a ninja from... was that Sound? Yeah, that was Sound. A Ninja from the sound village had found their little refuge.
They hadn't even been able to boobytrap it!
"Hey, guys, some genin team, probably from Konoha, is probably camping around here!"
He had hair that stood up, was wearing urban camouflage clothing, or civilianwear if you'd prefer, and had a cocky grin on his face. It was clear he saw nothing wrong in shouting at his teammates, trailing behind him. One of them was another boy, mostly covered in gray and white clothes with a camouflage pattern on his jacket, as well as bandages that kept his face hidden. The other was a girl with long, silky hair. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt and carried a jacket that looked soaked behind her. It was clear she was using it as a source of water.
Sakura frowned, then signaled something to Sasuke.
He couldn't quite catch it, so she repeated it. Low to medium threat, she figured, based on attitude.
The big metallic armor on the second boy's arm was a bit of a concern. Ninja don't wear armor or weaponry that bulky unless it's damned effective. At worst, it could conceal something like a multitude of other weapons.
Sasuke nodded. The girl was likely a water user, clever enough to carry water in a non-obvious container. A second look over made it clear she was soaked, in general. It was unlikely that she'd take a dip in a nearby river, especially with all the leeches and murdercarps that the nearest river had in it, so she probably soaked herself with a water jutsu using the river's water. Clever.
He gave her a few signals back. Medium threat, approach with care. Weakpoint is idiot teammate.
Naruto made a signal. Attack?
Sakura and him both signed negative back. No reason to get into fights early. Retreat, Sasuke signed, and they both responded in the affirmative.
Without further ado and without wasting more time, the three left the Sound Genin in peace.
"So, do you think your students are fine?" Kakashi asked.
So did Asuma.
Gai, however, sighed. "No, I think not. If I know my Lee, then right at this time..."
"NO, MY FLAMES OF YOUTH MUST NOT BE SMOTHERED BY SKIPPING LEG DAY!"
Just a short one.
If I am to get back in the rhythm it's gonna take some time. This shouldn't take very long.
In all seriousness, I'm pretty burned out on Naruto in general, and it's pretty hard to write for it nowadays. Hell, this chapter alone took me three freaking months to write. Plus, the fact that it's been so long and I've forgotten so many details, plus my lost notes...
Gimme a shout if there's some big inconsistency, because I'm going to have to try to find a fix to it. I'd like to at least try my hand at fixing things without retcons. After all, can't rightfully chastise Kishimoto for his if I resort to the same thing, that just makes me a hypocrite.
Incidentally, I was actually somewhat planning to google my own penname. I have been told, however, that it's a bad idea. Eh. I suppose I'm not curious enough to chance my fragile feelings getting hurt. I might find something I don't like, and then I'll bitch about it and waste everyone's time, yadda yadda yadda.
(Guzma is the best Team Leader, fite me)