The day of the Chunin Exam finals was, well, very excitable, as one would expect. Merchants were up early, shouting out their wares in the hopes of gaining a profit before the event. People from all over the Elemental Nations were present, eager to see the strength of the genin from different villages, and there was a massive betting pool on various things: who would go to the semi-finals or finals, who would win the competition, and who would be the genin in the special event that was on the registers handed out by Chunin and the event organizers.
However the senior shinobi were more concerned for the pending invasion that would be taking place after the finals. Over the past week, the ANBU core and Jounin had been made aware of the situation, and they had been shoring up their weak spots. They had even been donating small amounts of chakra each, each day, to improve the effectiveness of the Detection/Shield Field. It was now able to stand a Tailed Beast Bomb from the Yonbi, and although it stopped people shunshining or using seals to get in, people were able to walk through it completely fine. As such, the Konoha forces would only have to worry about ninjas running through the city on foot, allowing them to control the flow of the soon-to-be battle.
Naruto, Sai and Ino gathered in front of the Exam stadium an hour and a half early, and exchanged greetings.
'Hey Ino, Sai!' Naruto called, waving at the two of them.
'Hello Naruto,' Sai greeted, distractedly, as he was drawing. Naruto didn't bother to try and reproach him, knowing that if he was putting drawing over greeting, then it must be important.
'So, ready to be revealed to the world Angel?' Ino asked, smiling. She had made especially sure to bring a camera to catch the faces of some of the crowd.
'To be honest, I'm not sure; it'll be good to be able to finally reveal my status, but I don't think I am going to particularly like the respect they'll give me. I am also not looking forward to trying and explain all of it to the teme,' Naruto grimaced.
The two of them looked over at what Sai was drawing, wondering if they could figure out why it was so important, but what they saw left them shocked.
'Three angels bearing shinobi weapons?' Ino asked, getting an inkling of where Sai was going.
'Yeah, I thought that we should have a jutsu that combines this team together. I think I shall call it Guardian Angels,' Sai nodded as he drew in kunai holsters and seals on the three angels depicted.
'You know they might start relating this team to angels; I mean, I have my wings, Ino has an angel on her trench coat and now you have this,' Naruto commented, envisioning their team being taught in the academy like the Sennin. Ino turned to Naruto.
'You're ready to go up against Neji first?' She asked
'Yeah' Naruto replied vacantly as he remembered getting the match draws after that meeting with the Hokage.
Naruto sighed as he opened the door to his apartment, ignoring the shouts of the Wave children behind him. As he pushed the door inwards he became aware of a note on the floor, having obviously been pushed under the door. He picked it up cautiously; after all, it hadn't been the first time that someone had put a bomb in the mail for him, before realizing what it was.
Uzumaki Naruto vs Hyuuga Neji
Sabaku no Gaia vs Omoi
Sabaku no Kankuro vs Sai
Nara Shikamaru vs Sabaku no Temari
Yamanaka Ino vs Samui
Aburame Shino vs Nii Yugito
This is round one; a free-for-all tournament, however round two will be team against team comprising of Konoha Team 7, the Suna team and Kumo team in one battle
Naruto nodded, it seemed that he would be going up against the Hyuuga Prodigy straight up, and then his second match would most likely be against Gaia unless Omoi manages to pull something out of the hat. Naruto, believe it or not, liked his lineup simply for the first two matches alone; his first would be a chance to show his true strength to Konoha, and his second would allow him to get close to Gaia and see what is happening with Shukaku, as he should be able to restrain her with Mokuton if necessary. After the first two matches he knew that he would have strong opponents as they were able to get this far, and the secondary round sounded very interesting, it meant that a team had to be able to hold off two other teams at the same time and come out on top.
"And then after that I will have the 'Special Event'," Naruto thought grimly, as he hadn't not been told anything of the requirements or his opponents.
'The question is, will we be able to qualify for the second round? Will anyone?' Naruto asked quietly as the three of them moved into the competitors box and picking their seats, being the first to arrive.
'Well, due to my lineup, I have no reason not to, but it is you two that have the tough jobs,' Sai commented, not looking up from his drawing.
'Yes, I have tough opponents in the form of Samui and Yugito, and then you and Naruto, if I make it that far, while Naruto's problem is going to be maintaining his chakra amount, as Gaia has the same sort of stubbornness that he does,' Ino said.
'Hey,' Naruto couldn't help but whine.
'And we have the invasion afterwards as well,' Sai said, stopping his brush as the other competitors began to file into the box.
In the Kage Box
'Ah, Raikage-dono, Kazekage-dono, I am glad that you could make it,' Hiruzen said as he stood and shook hands with the leaders of two others of the Five Great Shinobi Nations.
'Well, I couldn't not attend, especially since all three of my genin are in the final, and they were trained by my brother. Perhaps he should spend his time training genin when he's in Kumo rather than coming up with stupid raps,' the Raikage, A, said, causing B, who was his bodyguard along with Darui, to start shouting about not dissing on raps.
'Indeed, it shall be interesting to see how my genin are against those of other villages, although I have heard that you have Konoha's Deathly Angel in the exams,' the Kazekage said from behind his facemask. He was very interested to see if Gaia had become an effective weapon, but even if she hadn't then she would still wreck havoc upon Konoha, allowing Suna to regain its funding.
'Yes, well, he is actually still a genin, he did those missions while in the academy due to certain circumstances, and I suspect that he shall have several surprises in store for us. It shall be a very exciting tournament,' Hiruzen said, almost laughing at the thought of the faces of the other two Kage.
Most of the spectators had taken their seats, among them the injured Lee and Sasuke, who had recently began his rehabilitation after several months under the care of Tsunade. As he took his seat with the other rookies who didn't make it to the finals, he was deeply surprised when Sakura did not start to fawn over him. He didn't know what had changed, and frankly he didn't really care either, they were finally off his back. But he glared down at the competitors box when he saw all three of his should-be-team members down there, although it did take a while for him to identify Ino, who seemed to have finally gotten over him.
"Why does the dobe have so much power? I deserve that power as the last Uchiha," he thought bitterly, remembering the pure strength of Naruto's punches vividly.
Hiruzen stood, and made his way to the lectern in front of the Kage box:
'Let the Chunin Exam Finals begin!'
And the crowd roared in approval.
With Genma Shiranui
Genma muttered as he walked up to the competitors box to organize the genin and make sure they were aware of the match order. He walked through the door:
'Alright, you should be aware that the first round is the free-for-all tournament; there is no exceptions to fighting teammates unless you forfeit. The secondary round will be a team battle between Konoha Team 7, the Sand Siblings and Kumo Team 3; you will face off against the other two teams at the same time, so I suggest that in between battles of round one you try and come up with a strategy. The special event at the end will pit Uzumaki Naruto against Konoha specialist in Kenjutsu, Ninjutsu and Taijutsu, but also against all of you at the end,' Genma announced, shocking the hell out of Naruto and the others.
"Shit, that means I going to have to try and conserve as much chakra as possible, but thankfully I brought chakra pills, so I should be able to give a moderately good show against Neji rather than just speed behind him and knock him out," Naruto thought, relieved at his wariness.
'Anyway the first match is Uzumaki Naruto vs Hyuuga Neji, so if those two could descend into the arena and wait as I write up the other matches on the board here so people can be ready to go as I call their matches,' Genma said, writing up the match list.
Neji and Naruto rose calmly from their seats before walking down the stairs to the arena, both deep in thought.
"This will be a tough battle for me to win, as I have never won against Naruto before, and he knows my fighting style. In fact I may have to pull out my trump cards early to just get through, but even if I do, then I would have to face Gaia, who is just as dangerous," Neji thought, aware that it was unlikely he would win.
"Hm, well to put on a good show I would need to face Neji using only Taijutsu, but that would demean him unnecessarily, and could also bore the crowd, as only Taijutsu masters like Gai, Lee or the Kage would be able to see me, so I should try and use a mix. It will be interesting to see what he has learnt over the month break," Naruto thought, face completely blank, showing no emotion.
The two of them walked into the arena and spaced themselves, twenty paces in between the two of them, both emotionless as the crowd psyched itself up. All of the genin watching felt as if there was a sort of peace in the arena that, with the slightest movement, would shatter, as the two down in the arena made no movement. They just watched each other, everything else fading out of concentration as neither showed the slightest hint of doubt or backing down.
'Man, I like the look of these two already; it takes a lot to stare unblinkingly towards the certain pain that is to come,' A said as he leaned forward in his seat, eager to see the match.
'I get the feeling that this will primarily be a Taijutsu battle between the two, and I'm not certain who will take the most hits, but I suspect that it will be the Hyuuga,' Hiruzen commented as he watched the two.
'But it is almost suicidal to face a Hyuuga in Taijutsu, they are almost built for it with their Byakugan and Gentle Fist combination,' the Kazekage refuted.
Genma looked on anxiously from his position in between the two prodigies, before bringing his arm up.
'Hajime!' He shouted before jumping out of the arena in case the start of the match was explosive. The crowd quieted as they didn't move, and the tension began to rack up slowly. Neji activated his Byakugan, knowing that he needed it now more than ever; he was going up against someone who could match his sensei Gai, a Taijutsu master, in speed and strength, if not surpass him. Indeed, Gai spoke often of Naruto, and Neji and his team had witnessed a spar between the two once.
Neji, Tenten and Lee watched quietly as Gai and Naruto took off their weights and leaped back into their spar. Neji had activated his Byakugan back at the very start of the fight to just keep track of the two, but now they were just after images and blurs, and all they could see was the dust being flung into the air and craters and trees collapsing from the strikes of the two.
Naruto ever so slowly set himself into the opening stance of his personal Taijutsu style, Fists of the Hurricane, never taking his eyes off Neji as he did so. They stayed like that for a few more minutes, the crowd growing ever more restless, before Naruto, in a flash, brought his fist up and smashed into the ground, causing a massive crater to develop and a huge cloud of dust to be thrown up. The crowd, especially the civilians, were shocked at the feat reminiscent of Tsunade's strength, but when the dust settled, not many of the shinobi were surprised to see that Naruto was nowhere in sight.
'Man, Naruto is going fast,' Kanako spoke as she watched the battle with her Sharingan.
'Where is he Kanako?' Anko asked, turning to the non-Uchiha Sharingan bearer.
'He is using pure speed to maintain his position on the wall. He is literally running on the wall of the arena without using chakra, just speed,' Kanako answered, causing those nearby to start muttering.
'Only Naruto would be able to do that,' Anko replied, smiling at Naruto's ever growing abilities.
Naruto ran, and after he had gained enough speed, jumped off the wall and launched himself at Neji at such speeds that his eyes couldn't follow. He kicked Neji in the back, launching him into the wall opposite the two of them. The resultant dust cloud obscured the vision of all watching, but it revealed Neji standing in a dome-like hole in the arena wall.
'You truly are a genius Neji, to be able to use the Kaiten, even though it is a Main House technique, and to use it in such a way,' Naruto commented as he watched Neji walk towards him.
'Why haven't you finished this match yet? We both know that you are more than capable of doing so, after all, fate is with you today,' Neji asked, feeling slightly put off.
'You need to stop with the fate crap, Neji. Let me put it this way, if someone without the help of fate trained until they dropped, they would win against someone with fate on their side. It can be seen in you, after all you trained like mad when you were younger to get where you are today, but if you didn't you wouldn't be here. It was your decision to train, therefore fate has no say in your life,' Naruto said, watching Neji for his reaction.
'It is my fate to forever be a servant to the Main House, I have no choice, due to my Cage-Bird Seal,' Neji said.
'So you resign yourself to it without searching for a way out?' Naruto asked, studying his nails.
'There is no way out! Do you think we like being slaves!' Neji shouted, beginning to give into his rage.
'In Fuuinjutsu, there is a counter to everything, one just has to find it, I would know, being the best sealing master in the Elemental Nations. Fuuinjutsu is like a language, one has to find the proper combination,' Naruto said, looking at Neji once more. Neji didn't respond, just glared at Naruto, who sighed before setting himself into his stance once more. Neji charged, despite knowing that he would lose if he did so, it was better than losing with attacking at least once.
'You are in range of my field of divination, Eight Trigrams Sixty Four Palms!' Neji spoke, shocking the members of the Hyuuga Clan.
"To think that he would be able to perform both Kaiten and Eight Trigrams Sixty Four Palms, he has unrivalled potential in the Clan. Such a genius is wasted in the Branch family," Hiashi, Hinata's father and Hyuuga Clan Head thought, thinking of how proud his brother would be. Behind him the Hyuuga Council was conferring, wondering if Neji had stolen such techniques from the Main House.
Down in the arena Naruto was dodging the first of Neji's strikes, but as he went higher in terms of number of strikes, he started to speed up, hitting a scattering of Naruto's tenkutsu, causing Naruto to collapse. The sheer pain he was feeling at having several of his tenkutsu forcibly closed was immense, but he had felt a lot worse in his childhood, so he had very few impairments caused by the pain. Neji's eyes widened as he turned when he heard Naruto getting back up, having turned away and told the proctor that the match was over after Naruto had fallen.
'How? The pain alone should render you almost unconscious,' Neji asked as Naruto stood up.
'I have been hurt a lot worse before, believe me, along with the fact that you sealing my chakra points does almost nothing, as my muscles can operate fully without chakra, and I can just reopen them,' Naruto shrugged.
'What do you mean reopen them? That's not possible,' Neji was getting more confused by the second, but he knew that if Naruto could do what he said, then he had no way to win this match.
'Like this,' was all Naruto said before red chakra covered his body and reopened his closed tenkutsu. To those who could sense chakra or had the Byakugan or Sharingan, it seemed as if Naruto's chakra exploded to well above what seemed possible, and it was already above Kage level before. There was a mix of blue, black and red flames of chakra coming off him, which intrigued most shinobi. Blue chakra was normal, the red they were confused by, as red chakra was Kyuubi's chakra, but they felt no malice from it, and only Hiruzen, Jiraiya, Yamato and Kanako knew what the correlation to the black flames were. Naruto grinned before the chakra died down to its normal level once more before he disappeared, reappearing behind the Hyuuga, who was temporarily blinded due to the chakra and knocking him out.
'Shousa Uzumaki Naruto!' Genma shouted, leaving the audience stunned into quiet before several people, many of them Jounins, started to clap and cheer for Naruto, having heard of his abilities and betted on him to win. Needless to say, many civilians lost a lot of money due to Naruto winning, so they weren't in the mood to congratulate him right now. Naruto grabbed the unconscious Hyuuga before he shunshined in front Hyuuga Hiashi, and set Neji on a seat next to Hinata before turning and whispering into Hiashi's ear:
'It might be time that you told him the truth of that night, Hiashi-sama. Also if you want your clan to be free from the prison that your council has built, there is a slip of paper inside the top right pocket of his vest.' Naruto shunshined away before the clan head could reply.
Gaia vs Omoi
'The next match is Sabaku no Gaia vs Omoi of Kumo!' Genma announced as the crowd was discussing the first match, wanting to get this show on the road. Gaia arrived in a Sand shunshin, spraying the leftover sand everywhere, while Omoi appeared in a Lightning shunshin. The two sized each other up, with Omoi just showing a hint of strain, knowing that Gaia wouldn't hesitate to kill him if she wanted. Then his eyes hardened, he wasn't going to make this easy for the female Jinchuuriki.
"The key to being able to make this a fair match is speed, which is why I worked on that primarily over the month, the question is; will it be enough?" Omoi thought, as he withdrew his katana. Everyone looked on as he channeled Lightning chakra into the blade, causing a field of Lightning to appear around it.
Gaia immediately went on the offensive, as waves of sand sped towards the Kumo genin, who was forced to cut his way though the sand with his katana in order to not be captured by the sand and crushed. Omoi, as soon as he could, withdrew and began a Ninjutsu combination
'Lightning Style: Lightning Surge!'
A wave of lightning issued forth from Omoi along the ground, splintering and cracking it, and crashing into the wave of Gaia's sand, immobilizing it and continuing on towards Gaia, but dissipated before it could reach her. But Omoi had channeled Lightning into his recently redrawn katana and gone after the wave of lightning, reaching Gaia without having to dodge her sand defenses. He brought the katana down on her sand defenses, and broke through her sand shield, surprising Gaia, who managed to move just in time before shunshining away from Omoi, wary now of his Lightning techniques which seemed to break through her defenses with ease.
She attacked with the sand that was behind him, catching him off guard and smashing his left leg. With her opponent unable to escape she sent a wave of sand to crush Omoi, but as the wave came down on top of him she didn't see Naruto zoom underneath with his hood up. The sand crashed down, and tried to crush the genin but failed so she drew it back for a second go, revealing a shield of blue chakra that surrounded Omoi and another shinobi like a bubble, extending from two wings of chakra that sprouted from the unknown shinobi's back.
'That was unnecessary,' the shinobi commented before picking up Omoi and carrying him over to the medics that had rushed onto the field.
'Shousa Sabaku no Gaia!' The announcement didn't surprise too many people, but they admired Omoi's determination to fight even though he knew he was outmatched.
Sabaku no Kankuro vs Sai
'Proctor! I forfeit!' Kankuro shouted from the competitors' box, unwilling to fight before the invasion, although he would have to fight in the second round and special event.
'What, afraid of having the crap beaten out of you?' Ino asked Kankuro while Sai sat back down with a huff, bored out of his mind.
'Take that back girly!' Kankuro shouted, face red with anger.
'I will once you fight Sai,' Ino said, smirking.
'Ah! Fine! Proctor, I withdraw my forfeit!' Kankuro shouted before he turned back to the ginning Ino and Sai.
'Well, I suppose I can ignore the fact that to forfeit is irrevocable, as he revoked his forfeiture around 30 seconds after he made the initial decision,' Genma muttered, thankful that he had hesitated in calling the next match.
Up in the stands, Kankuro got the feeling that he was not going to enjoy this match, as he glanced at Sai and saw an icy cold smile on his face.
The two of them stood across from one another, although Kankuro had revealed his puppet Crow, causing a stir amongst the spectators; it had been a long time since they had seen a Suna puppet user fight in a Chunin Exam finals.
'As this seems to be a battle of puppets, I request permission to unseal my own equivalent,' Sai said, shocking the Suna shinobi watching.
'That's a bluff! Only Suna knows the puppet techniques and construction,' Kankuro shouted.
'That's why I said my equivalent, it's not a true puppet in the technical sense,' Sai replied in a bored tone.
'Can you bring it out in the middle of battle?' Genma asked, interrupting their argument.
'Yes,' Sai replied, having already learned the answer from his question.
'Well, then you can do it then,' Genma ordered, before bringing his arm up. 'Hajime!'
Kankuro immediately sent his puppet after Sai, remembering the lightning panther from the preliminaries, and concluded that this puppet equivalent he was speaking of was probably even more annoying to deal with. Sai flipped end over end, dodging the senbons launched by Crow neatly before backing off and hurriedly adding chakra to several of his drawings to buy him time. A pair of wolves burst forth, forcing Kankuro to withdraw his puppet in order to defend himself of risk losing the match or his life. Sai quickly drew back as well, knowing that the faster he did this the more he could avoid having to dodge the attacks of Kankuro's puppet.
Sai hurriedly drew a few additions to his drawing that would allow it to better combat the machination of wood and metal, before calling out his technique.
'Ink Style: Guardian Angel!'
Everyone leaned forward, none having seen it before, to see an angel of ink the was two times the size of a man and bearing a huge zanbatou in his right hand. His wings fluttered slightly before his head moved smoothly towards Sai and queried.
'Orders?' The bland dull tone caused Kankuro to shiver as he beheld the huge monstrosity before him.
'Force him to surrender, if necessary destroy the puppet,' Sai said as he indicated towards Kankuro, who was busy trying to come up with a plan. The colossus nodded in assent before he started to thunder towards the puppet and its master.
'Holy shit!' Kankuro cursed as he barely managed to dodge out of the way in time to avoid being struck with the flat of the massive zanbatou.
Up in the stands many of the shinobi were talking of Sai's replication of puppets through different techniques.
'Now that Sai has brought out such a monstrosity, Kankuro will be forced on the defensive, and will be more focused on that Ink construct than Sai himself,' Naruto said to the other competitors as they watched the match.
'Yes, well the kid is an A-rank shinobi, so Kankuro knew it was unlikely he would win,' Temari said outwardly, but was inwardly very worried as Kankuro was forced to duck under the massive ink blade.
'What the hell have you been teaching your genin Kanako?' Asuma asked in surprise as the Jounin watched the match.
'Ah, well, Sai has always been able to manipulate ink like so, but this is actually less complicated to do than the Lightning Ink Panther he set loose in the prelims. It just takes more time to draw is all, along with a lot more chakra, but none of it is elemental chakra, so its pretty easy, relatively speaking,' Kanako said, not turning to face the Sarutobi.
'Wait, you said he was always able to do this?' Asuma asked, eyes widening in shock and curiosity.
'Yeah, most of our training was focused on Ino, which is why she's almost low-Jounin level in some areas,' Kanako said, surprising the man further.
Kankuro sighed as he finally got a breather from constantly dodging, having finally managed to connect his chakra strings to Crow and good now manage to have it annoy the monstrosity across from him. Scanning for Sai hurriedly, his thoughts froze when he realized that he couldn't see him. All of a sudden there was a flash of metal in front of him, and Kankuro felt his chakra strings be cut, stopping his connection with Crow, before he saw Sai in front of him with his tanto held at his throat.
'When? How?' Kankuro asked, staggered at the speed of Sai's movements.
'Well, I shunshined almost immediately after you stopped moving, and waited as you came to the realization that there was only a few places I could be. As for how I was able to cut your chakra strings, my tanto is made of chakra metal, and has a number of seals on it that allow it to disrupt chakra on contact,' Sai said conversationally, before the proctor called the match in his favor.
'Oh, and I spared your puppet, as it was a creation of yours, and creations should be respected when they fit their purpose, though I wouldn't rely on them so much if I were you,' Sai said, showing that the ink angel was gone.
'Thanks,' Kankuro said grudgingly as he walked over to his puppet.
'Never really did like the idea of puppets; they remind me too much of dolls,' Sai said to himself before he shunshined back to the competitors box.
Nara Shikamaru vs Sabaku no Temari
Shikamaru was considering forfeiting his match; it was really too troublesome to go out and fight a girl in front of a huge crowd.
"Then again, if I do forfeit, my mother, Sakura and Ino would never let me hear the end of it, and that may be even more troublesome," he thought regrettably. Ino, as if she had heard his thoughts shook her head before walking over to where he was standing at the railing.
'Shikamaru, you aren't thinking of forfeiting this match before you even got down there, are you?' She asked in a sweet tone, too sweet. Shikamaru paled.
'No,' he said before he could stop himself. Ino smiled.
'Good,' she said briefly before grabbing the back of his shirt and throwing him over the railing and into the arena while all the other competitors watched, most with amusement.
'Ino, was that really necessary?' Naruto asked as he walked over to the railing and looked down, seeing that Shikamaru had stabbed a pair of kunai into the wall to slow his descent.
'Yes,' Ino replied unabashedly, causing Naruto to face-palm.
Temari watched in annoyance as the Konoha genin refused to come down when their match was called, although this transformed into amusement when she witnessed Ino throwing him over the edge. Shikamaru walked over to the center of the arena, head down in sheer laziness.
'Why do I have to fight a girl? It's so troublesome,' Shikamaru moaned quietly, but it still managed to reach the ears of Temari.
'What the hell was that?' Temari asked rhetorically, already determined to give this guy a beating.
'Hajime!' Genma couldn't stop the sweatdrop as he leapt away from the two; all Naras seem to have inherent laziness.
Temari immediately brought out her fan and began throwing Wind jutsus at Shikamaru, full of feminine fury, forcing Shikamaru to try and dodge. Shikamaru, knowing that he had to retreat, distracted the Suna kunoichi by throwing several kunai and paper bombs at her, before fleeing to the shelter of the nearby group of trees.
'Get out here you coward!' Temari roared angrily as she sent more Wind jutsus after him, buffeting the trees this way and that. Shikamaru didn't reply, sighing at Temari's ferocity.
"Why are women so damn troublesome? In fact, why am I even bothering with this fight at all? Oh yeah, that's right, Ino," He thought before going into what Asuma liked to call his 'Thinking Position'.
'Oh, finally, he's actually getting serious,' Asuma said, leaning back and rolling his eyes while the other Jounin looked at him curiously.
'What do you mean Asuma?' Kurenai asked. Kurenai was the one amongst the three Ice Queens of Konoha that was most able to deal with the Sarutobi, as Kanako and Anko were frosty towards him at best.
'That position he's in shows that he is actually focusing on the match rather than whining about it,' Asuma said, bringing a lighter up to the new cigarette that he had just placed between his teeth. All of the others, excepting Gai, who was watching the match intently and didn't notice, moved back hurriedly as he breathed in deeply before the smoke came out of his mouth.
'Well, he is a Nara, so it should prove interesting to see how he adapts,' Kanako said, turning back to the match after she and the other nearby females had given Asuma a death stare.
Shikamaru meanwhile was rapidly going through different strategies, knocking them off if they had a small likelihood of success or were plain stupid. This left him with a list of around forty different paths that the current situation could take.
"Ah, if I don't at least show that I could win this match mom and Ino would beat the crap out of me, but at the same time it would be really annoying to go up against Sai, who I know I can't win against, in the next round," Shikamaru thought.
His lips curled up at one corner briefly before he began to move.
Shikamaru reappeared on one side of the stadium as Temari was taking a break from tossing Wind jutsus with the sun behind him, but Temari caught onto his plan immediately.
"He's planning to use the sun to be able to lengthen his shadow abilities from before," she thought, remembering that she had started on that side originally.
Shikamaru threw a couple of smoke bombs, causing Temari to think that he was trying to use the smoke cast to initially lengthen his shadow, before a few kunai came shooting out of the smoke. Not bothering to use a Wind jutsu to deflect them, she merely dodged the knife-like objects before casting a Wind jutsu to disperse the smoke. However as she was about to launch said jutsu, she felt her body unable to move and was forced to drop her fan and walk closer to the smoke. Shikamaru walked out of the smoke.
'Shadow Possession Jutsu, success!'
'How did he manage that?' Karui asked from her spot next to Omoi and Samui, having accompanied the Raikage and his entourage to the finals. Naruto cut in, hearing the question.
'When he threw the smoke bombs down, he did it with the primary intention of masking his movements. He probably did the jutsu, connected it to the kunai he threw at Temari, allowing him to gain about half a meter of extra length. To make sure he also threw a few kunai upwards to cast shadows in front of the sun, in case it was necessary. His shadow jumped from kunai to kunai before threading back through all of them back to him, allowing him to connect to Temari's shadow,' Naruto explained, admiring the concentration Shikamaru must have needed to perform such a tactic. All around him the others were mentally applauding Shikamaru for even coming up with the idea, let alone performing it. Down in the arena Shikamaru was doing the same thing, amazing the crowd and enraging Temari, who was beginning to get pissed off by his tone of voice. Then he did something that amazed the crowd even more, while at the same time perplexing them.
'I quit,' he said, causing Temari to blow her top.
'What did you say? If this is about me being a girl!' Temari shouted, but was interrupted by Shikamaru before she could say anything more.
'No it's more about the fact that I am almost out of chakra, which means I may as well forfeit in the next round, while you still have quite a bit of chakra left,' Shikamaru said, infuriating Temari even more. The Chunin and Jounin who were watching in the stands shook their heads in exasperation, as quite a few of their number were sensors, and could tell quite easily that the boy was lying, but thankfully for him the judges didn't.
'It seems that the Nara laziness is present once more,' Anko laughed at Asuma, who was holding his head in exasperation at his student's actions.
'You know, I should have known that he would do something like that rather than bother to go through the tournament. Then again, there is still the second round,' Asuma commented before going off to meet the lazy genin.
'I swear to Kami that I am going to beat the crap out of that lazy slacker,' Ino growled, knowing full well of what Shikamaru had just done. Naruto just backed away from her slowly as she exhibited rage, but calmed down once she seemed to regain control, remembering that her match was next.
Yamanaka Ino vs Samui
The two blondes regarded each other quietly before the both leaped over the railing, not wanting to bother with walking all the way down. The crowd murmured softly; many of them had heard mentions of both kunoichi from various shinobi, and both were said to be very skilled for genin. Apparently the young Yamanaka had been personally trained by the legendary Deathly Angel and Panther duo, while Samui was known to be the strongest genin in Kumo by far.
'Well, this should be an interesting match,' Tenten commented to Chouji and Sakura, unaware that Sasuke was listening in from the row behind, who was wondering what all the fuss was about.
"Well, if I remember that Ino girl was nothing more than a fangirl, so logically that Samui girl should win, and rather easily too. How did that fangirl even get to the finals?" Sasuke thought, unknowing of Ino's rapid growth in skill and ability.
'Hajime!' Genma called before jumping out of the way of the two potential Chunin.
At the call neither girl moved, assessing each other, letting the initial roar of the crowd fade into utter silence, before Ino drew her chokuto from her scabbard slowly, the sound clear to all. In response Samui drew her tanto, before deciding that if Ino were to go on the offensive with Kenjutsu she wouldn't have much of a chance, and thus leapt forward, speeding through hand signs at a fast rate as she did so. Ino watched as two Lightning Bunshins sprang up on either side of Samui, breaking off to try and flank her. Ino grinned, before creating a Kage Bunshin behind her to guard her back, and charged forward, the sound of her chokuto colliding with Samui's tanto reverberating throughout the arena, causing the crowd to roar. The two fought back and forth, swapping from offensive to defensive, while Ino's Kage Bunshin faced off against the two Lightning Bunshins, slipping between their attacks, but not allowing them to go after its creator.
Ino, glancing behind her quickly at the three Bunshins while Samui was struggling to hold her chokuto away from her, maintained her pressure on the Kumo genin with one hand while drawing kunai with explosive seals on them with the other. She flicked them hurriedly while spinning away from Samui, the kunai thudding into the ground at the feet of the two Lightning Bunshins, who didn't notice, being preoccupied with her Kage Bunshin, who did. The Kage Bunshin moved back quickly before jumping and back flipping into the air, out of range of the explosives, which went off as she did so. The Lightning Bunshins were demolished, their Lightning chakra dissipating into the ground harmlessly, and the Kage Bunshin landed in a crouch, sword to one side, looking at the torn up ground before standing and turning.
Samui cursed as the Kage Bunshin shunshined behind her, trying to box her in between Ino and the Kage Bunshin, before she copied Ino's tactic and shunshined out of the trap. The two just looked at her, waiting to see her next tactic, but their eyes widened as they felt a massive surge of chakra suddenly rise from Samui, the chakra visibly emanating from all over her body. Through the Jounin-senseis and the genin there were many similar thoughts as their brains raced through possible theories as to the chakra containment method that Samui had used.
"Well, I know that Samui isn't a Jinchuuriki, as Akatsuki keeps tags on all of them, and I already know the two from Kumo, being Yugito and B, so the most likely method for her having that much chakra is she had some form of containment, like a chakra storage seal. However if she had that much chakra in said seal, than she has obviously been using it for some time. Either way, this match just got a lot more difficult for Ino," Naruto thought, keeping his thoughts from showing on his face.
"Interesting, she seems to have been holding a lot of chakra back in reserve for when it was necessary, but how is she going to use it?" Kanako thought leaning forward in her seat along with a few of the other Jounin.
"Good idea, keeping a majority of one's strength in reserve, but it's so troublesome," Shikamaru thought as he analyzed the fight through lazy eyes.
Samui smiled icily before bringing forth around 25 Lightning Bunshins, causing the eyes of all watching to expand in momentary shock. Ino grinned suddenly, before creating four other Kage Bunshins. She and the Bunshins then proceeded to charge at the larger force, causing many in the crowd to wonder if she was mad, but even as they were charging they were throwing kunai with explosive tags, effectively halving the number of Lightning Bunshins. Ino herself ran straight through the explosions to reach Samui and engage her once more before she could slip away and plan a strategy, while her Kage Bunshin split the enemy force amongst themselves, each facing 3 using pure Kenjutsu.
Samui cursed as Ino came straight for her once more.
"Does this girl ever stop hunting you? She's damn persistent!" She thought internally while maintaining her icy façade. She then began to flash through hand seals.
'Lightning Style: Lightning Spears!'
Yellow spears of Lightning chakra formed, around five, before launching at the oncoming Yamanaka. Ino, seeing the flying spears, quickly jumped to one side, allowing the spears to rush by her and fly between the groups of battling Bunshin, and continued her rush towards the Kumo genin. Samui cursed, withdrawing her tanto with her left hand and holding a kunai in backhanded in her right, knowing that even with it she would be hard pressed to beat the Yamanaka in Kenjutsu.
Meanwhile the Kage Bunshin were fighting off the trios of Lightning Bunshin, ducking, weaving and flipping around their attacks, before all of a sudden they repeated the tactic Ino had executed with the original Kage Bunshin. However this time the Lightning Bunshins realized the danger, but it brought the Kage Bunshin time to regroup and hid them from the view of their opposing Bunshin momentarily, which was all they needed. Seeing that the Kage Bunshin had disappeared from their view after the smoke had cleared, the Lightning Bunshins grouped together, ready to make a stand, as they had formed a circle with them all facing outwards. Suddenly four of the Bunshin fell over to the ground and dissipated, and the remaining Kage Bunshin revealed that they had shunshined to the center of the circle. As shunshin was a form of high-speed travel, it meant that they must have used to Kage Bunshin, one from either side, to break through the ring of Lightning Bunshin, sacrificing themselves but eliminating four more Lightning Bunshin and piercing the ring. As such, it was now three Kage Bunshin against eleven Lightning Bunshin, there was just one problem; they were surrounded.
Samui and Ino both knew of the position that their Bunshin were in, and Ino drew back suddenly before grinning.
'You really think I wouldn't have a chakra storage seal, when my teammate is one of the leading Fuuinjutsu users in the Elemental Nations?' Ino spoke, before releasing said seal, causing her body to light up with bluish-white chakra, before she continued. 'The best part is that my chakra storage seal is a lot more advanced, and I can release portions of the chakra held within, rather than all at once.'
"Shit, I played my hand way too early, the likelihood of me winning is falling with each second this continues. I need to finish this as soon as possible," Samui swore thoughtfully as her eyes narrowed in determination. Ino created around 10 more Kage Bunshin, who flanked the Lightning Bunshin focusing on the three in the center, cutting them down in short order. The Kage Bunshin then focused their attention on Samui, charging her in a mass.
'Lightning Style: Lightning Slicer!' At Samui's cry, she swung her tanto horizontally, causing an arc of Lightning chakra to leap from the end of her blade and rush towards Ino and her Kage Bunshin. Ino having been at the back of the group, managed to shunshin out of the way in time, but the Kage Bunshin had all been eliminated, and Samui sighed in slight satisfaction before her world went dark with the impact of the hilt of Ino's chokuto against her temple.
'Well, that is certainly not what I was expecting; it was a very good display of both strategy and skill from both genin. I will be sure to vote for both of them to be Chunin,' Hiruzen said as Genma announced the match.
'Yes, that Yamanaka seemed to be able to play directly to Samui's weaknesses by dodging or circumventing her attacks and attacking when she wanted. That first move disturbed me slightly, as it seemed to indicate she would be fine sacrificing her teammates in order to win, but obviously it was planned,' A said, nodding in agreement, while the Kazekage kept silent.
'Dammit! We're getting shown up by these other nin so easily,' Karui said as Ino walked over to them carrying Samui.
'Trust me when I tell you that it was not easy. We both have similar minds when it comes to battle; we are both underhanded but efficient,' Ino said, having overheard Karui's comment.
'Well, wish me luck,' Yugito smiled as she heard her name being called along with Shino's.
'Good luck!' Karui and Ino called, both being good friends with the Nibi Jinchuuriki, although Ino wished luck to Shino as well, being the only one of his team in the finals.
Shino knew it was unlikely he would win, due to Yugito being, as far as he knew, a high fire nature, but he refused to back down and forfeit. Also the information he could get from this fight could be invaluable in the future. The two faced each other across the arena, Shino with his bugs swarming around him, creating a buzzing sound, while Yugito just stood there, although her ears twitched occasionally, reminding the spectators oddly of a cat.
Naruto looked at Yugito and imagined her with cat ears and a tail, and almost burst out laughing at the idea, not noticing that the eyes of Ino and Gaia, oddly enough, had narrowed dangerously. And although Sai did, and was about to warn Naruto of their anger, he took another glance at the two, smiled knowingly, and sat back. The two fumed silently for a few moments before they realized what they were doing.
"Stealing his attention, stupid- ah, wait a minute, what the hell am I on about? It's obvious that they're going to get together, I mean, she was shooting looks at him ever since we met in the Land of Waves," Ino thought, avoiding the issue of her liking Naruto.
"Damn it! Just like that, she didn't even doing anything and he is getting closer to her! How can I do something like that? Should I ask her for advice, but that would reveal that I am just a normal girl rather than an emotionless machine," Gaia thought worriedly before mentally asking herself why she is having these thoughts. Shukaku didn't help.
Aburame Shino vs Nii Yugito
'Hajime!' Shino was forced to dodge immediately as Yugito started launching fireballs towards him. The Aburame created a few basic clones; if he had made bug clones they wouldn't have been much use, as Yugito fire techniques would just set them alight. Yugito was able to dispel the clones easily, and knowing that Shino was behind her, used an area fire jutsu, causing him to back off hurriedly unless his bugs be exterminated.
The game of cat and mouse went on for a few minutes, before Shino finally forfeited, knowing that there was no way he could win. His bugs would just be annihilated every time they tried to even approach the Kumo kunoichi, especially after she activated a jutsu that allowed fire to rise up from the ground around her and hit any attacks approaching her.
'The winner of the match is Nii Yugito,' Genma announced, sympathizing with the Aburame's situation.
'We shall have a fifteen minute break before the next round,' Hiruzen said from his lectern.
15 Minutes Later
'It is now time for the second half of the first tournament! Will Sabaku no Gaia and Uzumaki Naruto please make their way down to the arena!'