I'm a bit late with this chappie, so without delays, the story continues:

IMPORTANT NOTE: the changes in this chapter include scrapping character profiles; most of them dealt with the characters from the manga anyway, so you can just check the internet for those. On another note, I've decided to make a gennin list starting now (the original run had it waaaaaay later) in the spirit of N:NG, which will hopefully help you get acquainted/reacquainted with everybody. Naturally, characters will be added to the list as they make their debut. Also, this chapter marks the beginning of the new rooster of the challengers.

And now on with the story:

Chapter #3: Silence before the Storm

Four people dressed in jet black robes and forehead protectors with a skull on them headed towards the Rain Country. While they were speeding through the heavy downpour, the one leading them, easily the oldest among the group, froze, giving the others a signal to do the same.

The other three stopped immediately as a storm of lighting dropped from the skies, forming bars before them as the electricity burnt the ground just inches before the quartet. The man looked around with his red eyes and after a longer while he spotted another group of four, standing near the place the deadly light show was initiated.

"I guess you're the ones to blame for this" he announced, glaring at the quartet. "Just what the hell do you want? We do not have time to play with some, nameless shinobi such as yourselves."

"Fine then, I'll get right to the point: you're heading to the Rain Country in order to participate in the Tiger Challenge, aren't you?" replied the man in a black hood. His face was completely covered by it and the only thing that the red-eyed ninja could see were two pupils, shining purple from under the shadows. "You're the only team from Kaimeigakure, right? If so, I'd like to ask you for your forehead protectors. If you'll give them peacefully, no-one will get hurt."

"What the hell is this supposed to be?" asked the red-eyes angrily. "You plan on taking our place?"

"That is exactly our intention" responded the hooded man calmly, without any trace of emotion in his voice. "You see, there will be people who… present a special interest to me and my comrades. Unfortunately, we do not come from any village and thus we're not allowed to participate. But you're the only team from Kaimei in this year's tournament; if we were to take your place, no-one would even notice. But enough chit-chat - will you give us those forehead protectors or do you rather die trying to keep them?"

"You're underestimating us, butt head!" replied the red-eyes, his face twisted by fury. "It's four on four and I'm an elite jounin from the Kaimeigakure. If you think that the four of you can defeat us, you're welcome to give it a shot!"

"Oh, I do not intend to fight with you" announced the hooded man, rising his arms in a calming manner. "Why waste the energy? I'll allow one of my subordinates to deal with you however" at this point he nodded towards one of his three comrades to step forward.

The one to do so has taken off his hood, thus revealing a boy around fourteen years of age with white, spiky hair and completely black eyes. His hands, as well as his mouth and most of his body from feet to neck were covered in bandages, only partly hidden by the robe. His figure was surprisingly skinny, while the teen was incredibly pale, like all blood was drained from his body.

"You send a gennin to fight jounin and three others?" the red-eyed man was not amused, keeping a close watch on the hooded figure. "You're a terrible leader; the kid won't even last a minute! Look at him - he took so much damage, it's surprising he's still alive! Frankly, he looks like he's about to topple over!"

The boy didn't respond, he just stood there, not moving an inch.

Then, suddenly, he jumped right at the Kaimei jounin, not bothering to even grab any weapon. The red-eyed man reacted immediately however and took out his kunai, stabbing the white-haired gennin in a chest. The boy felt to the ground motionless, blood quickly staining the bandages beneath his robe.

"I hate cowards who make others fight their battles" announced the Kaimei jounin, shifting his red eyes at the hooded man. "Now it's your turn!" he proclaimed, lunging straight at the purple-eyed assailant.

But before he was able to reach him, the white-haired boy, who he just stabbed a moment ago, appeared between them, no trace of fatigue in sight. And, as the night was getting darker, the forest was soon filled with human screams...

-two days later, Rain Country shore-

Konoha gennin arrived at their destination four days after they left the Leaf; the port in which they were supposed to get on a ship wasn't anything special - located in a small village with few, wooden huts, it merely housed three tiers, most of which were not suited for docking galleons. The whole town was soaked in the smell of fish and that kinda annoyed Naruto, though Chouji was delighted with it. Fukamaru, on the other hand, didn't seemed to care at all. There weren't any boats in the port at the moment, which surprised Sakura a bit, but she didn't pay too much attention to that fact.

"So, where's that ship that we're supposed to get on, Jiraiya-sensei?" Tenten asked with respect, after she looked around for any vessels, but spotted none.

"We're few minutes early" replied the toad hermit, looking at the watch on his hand. "But it should appear soon. At any rate, you guys wait here for it and I'll go to town to… gather some material…"

"Yeah, right!" Naruto yelled, pointing his finger accusingly at the man. "You're going to peep on girls again! Dammit, you're supposed to be guiding us, ero-sennin!"

"Jiraiya-sensei, how will we know which ship are we supposed to get on?" Ino asked, slightly concerned, especially by the blond's comment, but decided to give the man the benefit of a doubt... for now.

"Don't worry" the man responded in a dismissive manner. "You'll know" and with that he was gone, receiving various reactions – Naruto was annoyed, much like Kiba and Ino. Tenten only sweat dropped, but this could've been caused by Lee's statement, which said something about 'spirit of youth' and 'prideful endeavors'. Shikamaru couldn't care less for most part.

And so the leaf-nins waited for the ship to arrive; during that time more and more shinobi from different villages started gathering, most not bothering to interact with anyone who carried a different hitae-ate. After a few minutes, the chatter between the Konoha gennin was broken by a familiar voice: "Uzumaki Naruto… good to see you again."

The blond turned around to see a short boy with spiky, red hair, carrying a gourd on his back. He was dressed completely black in a robe, making his attire very different from what the Kyuubi vessel remembered. Some features remained in tact, however, like his green eyes and a kanji for 'love' on the forehead.

Right next to him stood a girl with long, blonde hair, clipped into four, spiky ponytails. Fukamaru spotted a giant fan attached to her back, but also few strange-looking, wavy blades tied to her belt. Similarly to Hinata, she wore her headband around the neck, sporting a symbol of an hourglass.

Behind them walked a guy dressed in black with purple tattoos on his face and three scrolls attached to his back. His head gave the swordsman an impression of a cat, while a red and white circle on the chest made the whole costume look somewhat silly, at least for the young Nadare's taste.

"Gaara, how've you been?" Naruto jumped to his feet in an instant at the sight and walked closer to the sand-nin with a wide smirk plastered on his face: "Killed anyone lately?" he joked, not realizing how inappropriate such a question was.

"No, I have not" the Shukaku vessel replied calmly with his usual, emotionless expression. "But do not think I've become weak just because of that... after all, we came here to wipe the floor with you" he teased, though it was hard to tell with his indifferent exterior.

"Hey, lazy butt, how was life treating you?" Temari gave Shikamaru a smack on the head, greeting the only chuunin in the bunch.

"Until you gave me that hit on the head, I was enjoying life, actually" replied the boy, rubbing his aching spot. "So, you guys will participate in the tournament as well, huh? How troublesome; I don't wanna fight any of you..."

"Though luck, kid" announced Kankurou with a smirk, crossing his arms. "Coz we plan on winning this event."

"Yeah, well, over my dead boy!" Naruto proclaimed loudly, per usual. "I won't lose to you!"

"So, who exactly are those guys?" Fukamaru asked Kiba, only mildly interested in the whole scene. The dog ninja replied in a whisper, almost as if he wasn't sure he wanted the trio to hear him: "They're Kazekage's kids... well, former Kazekage's actually; we met them during the Chuunin Exam. They're pretty scary, especially that small one with the gourd on his back..."

"I see" the swordsman nodded with understanding, scanning Gaara closely: "Well, the fact is that that red-head's aura is quite strong… I wonder…" but his thoughts were interrupted by another voice that came out of nowhere:

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Leaf shinobi. And would you look at that, even the dope came" Naruto recognized the voice immediately, as did Sakura. They both turned around to see a raven-haired boy, wearing a dark blue shirt with fan symbols and white pants. He was carrying a huge halberd on his back and a sound hitae-ate on his head.

"Sasuke" the Kyuubi vessel said silently, narrowing his eyes. It took him a moment to spot two, other sound-nins that accompanied the Sharingan master; the first one was a girl with long, red hair, dressed in tight black outfit, which showed her curves quite nicely. The kunoichi wore an eye-patch on her left eye, while her mouth was covered with a mask, similar in fashion to Kakashi's.

The other was a huge boy, full of muscles, with messy, short, brown hair, dressed in a green t-shirt and black, baggy pants, carrying a huge drum on his back and a pair of maracas at the hips. Unlike his companions, he tied his headband as a belt, while his blue eyes shown he had no interest in what was about to transpire.

"I see you're all here" Sasuke continued with a smirk, looking around. "Pity that we're the only team from the Oto that'll participate in this year's event... but still, the Sound will crush the Leaf."

"And you even dare talk to us?" Neji asked, crossing his arms, not paying much attention to the sound-nins. "You betrayed us, so unless you want me to end your life here and now... go away."

"You think you'd be able to do that, Hyuuga?" Sasuke responded, widening his smirk and then, suddenly, he jumped right at Neji, picking out his halberd. The white-eyed teen instantly went into the gentle fist style stance, ready to go into a spin, but before he could take any action, the Sharingan master's halberd was stopped by another blade.

As the former leaf-nin looked to his right, he spotted a certain Konoha shinobi, holding the sword that blocked his weapon... a shinobi he did not knew: "And you are?" he demanded calmly, curious of the boy who had an expression similar to his own.

"Nadare Fukamaru" the swordsman replied simply, holding his katana with a single hand. "And this is not a place or the time for something like this..."

"I have to agree with him, Sasuke-kun" came another, familiar voice and soon after a certain, silver-haired shinobi with glasses on his nose and the sound forehead protector on his head appeared: "You'll have plenty of time for that during the tournament."

"While I don't particularly approve of his actions, I believe you should be able to understand Sasuke-san's feelings in this matter, Kabuto-sensei" the boy with the drum stated simply with a bored expression; certainly the outcome of the ordeal made no difference to him, but Shikamaru noted his arm went for the belt, ready to grab the pair of maracas.

"That's not what we're here for, Gunko. Do not forget that" the glassed guy replied, slightly annoyed; those brats never listened: "Besides… our ride's already here" with those words he pointed at a ship that was now boarding the docks. All gennin glanced at the vessel, some of them widening their eyes at the sight.

The ship was huge, almost as big as a village with five, large masts climbing towards the sky. Each of the sails was decorated with the drawing of a golden tiger, while the front was made to look like the wild cat's head. Golden markings spread on the sides, while the deck towered over the warehouses occupying the docks. Once the boat stopped moving, all the shinobi started to get aboard.

"We should go as well" Kabuto announced, readjusting his glasses, before turning towards the blond: "Naruto-kun, I wish you luck in the tournament. You'll certainly need it" he added and with those words began walking to the ship, making the boy named Gunko follow without delay.

"We'll finish this later" Sasuke stated strongly as he put away his weapon and walked after his sensei, not giving the new Leaf ninja a second glance.

"You should watch out" the female sound-nin whispered into Fukamaru's ear once she walked past the boy: "Sasuke-kun is quite strong and anyone who gets in his way, ends up in a rather unpleasant manner" she proclaimed before running after her teammates.

"So that was the Uchiha prodigy, eh?" Fukamaru asked, glancing after the quarter while he put his katana away. "He does have a freaky aura to him, but being honest, he didn't seemed to be anything special…"

"And who are you to talk like that, Fukamaru?" came a new voice, making his eyes widen.

The Konoha shinobi, along with the Sand siblings, turned in the direction the voice came from and saw three ninja from the Kirigakure walking their way. The boy in front was their age; he had spiky, blond hair, only a bit longer then Naruto, left ear pierced with many, golden earrings and was carrying a long sword with a massive blade on his back. He wore a black shirt with a yellow waistcoat on it and long, gray pants. What caught the leaf-nins' attention most though, was a cross scar on his left cheek.

The girl that stood next to him, only a bit further, had short, blonde hair and blue eyes. Wearing very short, black skirt, high, black boots and a black, sleeveless top, she made everyone aware of her stunning figure, leaving much skin uncovered. Her hitae-ate was used as a belt with the Kiri symbol tilted to her left hip

The last one of the three was a boy with long, blue hair, clipped in a ponytail and eyes in the same color. He was wearing a black shirt with a blue kanji symbol for water on its back and white pants, sporting four, straight, blue lines going down their trouser legs. Naruto also spotted a trio of small bottles of water attached to his belt.

"What a coincidence seeing you here, Fukamaru" the girl said, sending him a glare: "And with a Konoha forehead protector no less… have you really left the Mist for good?" she questioned, making Naruto widen his eyes at the realization.

"So that's what he meant back then, on the roof!" he thought to himself, glancing at his comrade. "He's a mist-nin!"

"And what is it to you, Renge?" Fukamaru replied defensively, narrowing his eyes.

"Is that any way to talk to old friends?" asked the blond, mist-nin in a somewhat teasing manner. "You know, we're still bond together; after all, you still have that scar I gave you" and with those words he pointed to the cut that came through Fukamaru's eye.

"Yeah, I do" the boy nodded, managing to regain his calm exterior: "So? You still carry the scar I left you too" he shoot back, shifting eyes towards the other swordsman's cheek.

"Say, Fukamaru, old buddy" Kiba interrupted their little contest, not sensing the atmosphere at all, leaning on the former mist-nin's shoulder with a devilish smirk. "Who's the chick?" he asked, pointing at the blonde girl with a flip of his eyebrow.

"Yes, tell us, Fukamaru-kun!" Lee joined his friend, enthusiasm written all over his face.

"Come on, don't be like that, answer" Chouji begged, elbowing him lightly.

Fukamaru's eye twitched at the sudden interest; boiling inside, he replied, barely holding back his rage: "She's my sister…"

Hearing that, all three Leaf shinobi backed away, sensing an urge to kill blooming inside the swordsman. Survival instincts were still in tact, at least.

"How rude of you, Fukamaru" announced the female mist-nin, putting hands on her hips as she made a playful, hurt expression: "Why won't you introduce us to your new friends?"

"Fine" the swordsman frowned, turning towards the Leaf gennin as he began pointing at the trio: "That girl over there is my twin sister, Nadare Renge... the guy with the scar on his cheek is my old time rival, Arashi Shinkou and the one with blue hair" he paused, taking another look at the boy and then raised an eyebrow: "Okay, I'm pretty sure we never met before" he said, looking at the third mist-nin curiously.

"The name's Oomizu Hisen" replied the blue-haired teen with a hiss. "And it seems that it's my lucky day, I'll get to fight the heir of Nadare… almost a dream come true" he announced, reaching for his bottles.

"No you won't, Hisen" said the one called Shinkou with an ordering tone. "We're not here for Fukamaru, though it is convenient that he'll be participating in the event as well. We are here to win the Tiger Challenge. That's our main goal and do not forget that. Tetsu-sensei will not be pleased if you screw this up for something so trivial; you're still on her blacklist for Metal Country, do not forget that."

"Yeah, and besides, I'm Nadare heir now" the girl, Renge, added.

"You sure are confident" Naruto noted, slightly agitated. "But I'll give you a piece of advice: do not underestimate us! We're stronger then you think!"

"Perhaps" Shinkou replied, obviously not impressed. "Guess we'll find out during the tournament" and with that he turned to the swordsman: "I wish you luck, Fukamaru. I'm really looking forward to a rematch. Only this time, I don't think anyone will interfere. Especially since HE is not among the living anymore… but then, you know that even better then I do..."

"Shinkou-kun!" Renge raised her voice, visibly angry. "I've asked you not to speak of HIM when I'm around!"

"You're right" the blond mist-nin nodded calmly. "Sorry… anyway, I believe we should get going now. I'll see you at the tournament, Fukamaru" and with those words the three mist-nins headed towards the ship.

"What did he mean by that?" Shino inquired once the trio were far enough.

"I do not think this is of any of your concern" the swordsman responded harshly, keeping his eyes on the Kirigakure shinobi. "Let's just say that it's something that should've been finished for a long time..."

"I see that we'll have many, strong opponents this time" Gaara stated calmly, turning to the leaf-nins. "But I guess that is to be expected from an event that gathers gennin from around the Elemental Nations. Claiming victory may not be as easy as one expected."

"Ummm… Gaara-san" Hinata began shyly looking at the redhead: "Are the other, Hidden Sand teams as strong as yours?" she asked, slightly nervous as the Shukaku vessel settled his eyes on her. After a moment of hesitation, the short gennin replied, in his normal monotone: "I don't know much about other, Suna squads… but there is one that you should be on a look out for…"

"What do you mean?" Naruto demanded curiously.

"Don't get so excited, brat!" Temari ordered, a little annoyed at the blond's lack of respect. "It's not like we have any, specific information about them, but there's this cell lead by a guy with long, black hair who wears a jet black robe. We don't know anything about their abilities, but I've heard that up till now they completed tens of missions… most of them B rank!"

Some of the Konoha gennin shivered hearing this, others widen their eyes in shock, but Shikamaru only yawed: "How troublesome… can you at least give us some information to go on here?"

"The guy's name is Dakatsu" Temari responded. "And he's a psycho..."

"Well, unless you guys expect any more, old friends to show up, maybe we can just get on that damn ship?" Kankurou purposed, getting a bit impatient.

"Fine, fine" Naruto replied dismissively as he headed towards the boat.

"Sasuke-kun" the pinkette thought to herself, staring at the ground as she felt an overwhelming urge to cry. "So you really decided to betray us?"

"S-Sakura-chan, are you okay?" Hinata asked concerned, putting a hand on pink-haired kunoichi's shoulder. "You look like you're worried by something."

"I… I'm fine, Hinata" she replied a bit hesitantly. "Let's get on that ship…"

Meanwhile, most of the shinobi were already on board, among them a group carrying Grass forehead protectors, that were looking at the port; the first one was wearing a white t-shirt with blue pants. He had short, messy, brown hair, carried a huge scroll on his back and had strange, black markings all over his body, giving an impression of being a page in a book. His hazel eyes looked dull with the skin around the right one seemed burnt, while his headband was tied around his left arm.

The other member of the squad was a girl with long, brown hair clipped in a ponytail that allowed two, long strands for frame her cute face, also sporting a short fringe. She carried a long katana on her back, had blue eyes and was wearing a white, sleeveless shirt with black waistcoat on it and long, green pants with the left trouser leg ripped off at the top, showing off her slim leg. Using her forehead protector as a belt, the Grass symbol falling to her hip, her right palm was hidden in a snake-skin glove and the figure gave out a very alluring vibe.

The last youth of the quartet was dressed mostly green, wearing a blouse in that color with rolled-up sleeves. His pants were gray, while each arm was wrapped in bandages. He had hazel eyes, medium-length, black hair, made into dreadlocks and was carrying a huge medallion with twelve, golden balls on it around his neck. Unlike his teammates, his hitae-ate was located in its rightful place.

The eldest of the group, a man with medium-length, gray hair that fell freely down his back, sported a beard around his mouth and, while his face was wrinkled, his green eyes were undoubtfully sharp as he carefully observed his surroundings. Keeping his arms within the sleeves of his wide, gray robe, his forehead protector rested around the neck.

As the Leaf and Sand gennin made their way onto the ship, the one with bandages glanced at them curiously, his left hand starting to shiver at the sensation. Seeing this, the girl turned to him, asking with concern in her voice: "Is everything alright, Fugato-san?"

"Yes… it's fine, Ayame" replied the male with a forced smile. "I guess I'm just excited."

"Really?" asked the other boy with his eyes still spaced-out and his voice distant. "Are you sure it wasn't something else?" he pushed, almost as if knowing that was preciously the case.

"Yes, I'm sure" the one called Fugato announced strongly, turning away from the docks. "But that feeling… could it be?" he wondered, while the elder only glanced at the fifteen youths that climbed aboard of the vessel.

Once Naruto and the rest of the leaf-nins entered the ship, another team of four shinobi in black hoods were stopped by a ship guard, giving them suspicious looks: "Who are you?" he demanded sternly, yet none of the arrivals seemed to get the least bit intimidated.

"We are here for the tournament" replied the oldest man, leading the four. "We are the team from Kaimeigakure" and with those words he took off his forehead protector and gave it to the guard. The guard examined it closely and after spotting the skull on it he allowed the four, hooded ninja to enter the boat as he stepped aside.

And as they did so, the eyes of their leader shun purple, while a big smirk appear on his face.

The ship left the port; the Leaf shinobi and the Sand siblings looked at the opened sea with nothing in the distance. The waters were calm, inviting even, but they could also feel a storm was coming. The greatest challenge of their lives has just began...

-welcome to your nightmare-

And that concludes this chapter. Sorry for the lack of action, but very soon the tournament will begin and you'll have tons of it then. As mentioned above, I'll be making a list of "who's who" to make it easier of keeping track with all the Ocs that will be appearing in the event. Some of them are not important and will be here just for the games, but others will play a part even beyond the Tiger Challenge, so don't be too quick to disregard any:

Konoha (Jiraiya): Haruno Sakura, Nadare Fukamaru, Uzumaki Naruto

Konoha (Jiraiya): Hyuuga Hinata, Aburame Shino, Inuzuka Kiba

Konoha (Jiraiya): Yamanaka Ino, Akimichi Chouji, Nara Shikamaru

Konoha (Jiraiya): Tenten, Hyuuga Neji, Rock Lee

Suna (Baki): Temari, Sabaku no Gaara, Kankurou

Kiri (Eimei Tetsu): Nadare Renge (blonde girl, clad in black), Arashi Shinkou (swordsman with the cross scar), Oomizu Hisen (blue-haired boy with water bottles)

Kusa (?): Hitobashira Ayame (the girl with the alluring looks), Juutai Fugato (the boy with bandages on his arms), ? (the boy covered in black markings)

Oto (Yakushi Kabuto): ? (girl with an eye-patch), Shisei Gunko (boy with a drum and maracas), Uchiha Sasuke

Kaimei (?): ?, ?, ? (the boy in bandages)

As some of you noticed, the rooster already has one change from the original and Gunko has been tweaked with a bit too. As the story progress, you'll spot many more differences in the lineup, so I advice you pay attention ;)

And that's really it for this time. Please leave a review with your opinion. Take care and hopefully till the next chapter.