Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
-A Testament of Things that Never Will-
Naruto gazed upon the Academy and had never thought that he would ever enter the building again since his graduation and team placements. Seeing the building brought back many memories, both good and bad, and he shook his head slightly to dispel them. It was not the time to be reminiscing.
Sakura shuddered and Naruto looked to his left at her and asked, "You okay?"
She hugged herself and said, "I'm not sure. I don't want to go in there only to hold you guys back. You two are stronger than me in an all out fight so that makes me the weakest of the group." She looked at him, her light green eyes wide with uncertainty and stress. "I don't want to be the one to prevent you guys from becoming Chunin."
Before Naruto could respond, a huff from his right signaled that Sasuke had something to say. The Uchiha walked around Naruto and looked right at the pinkette. "You, hold us back?" he questioned. He shook his head and said, "That thought has never crossed my mind. If anything, it is us who will hold you back."
Sasuke held up his hand and continued, "You are the only one on this team and quite possibly the only Genin in this exam that has medic-nin training. That makes you invaluable and if anyone will hold this team back it will either Naruto or me. Never think that you are the weakest one on this team. There is no strongest, no weakest. Each one of us have things that we are good at and together we are strong."
Naruto nodded. "If you aren't sure about this exam then none of us will enter. I don't feel comfortable entering this exam with our teams most important member not feeling ready for it."
Sakura bowed her head and smiled slightly. "You two are idiot," she muttered. She looked up and said confidently, "Let's go then. We have an exam to pass."
Naruto smiled and looked to Sasuke who had a grin on his face. The trio entered the building and followed the instructions on their papers. They walked by a large group of Genin arguing with each other in front of a door and Sasuke was quick to inform Naruto and Sakura that there was a genjutsu over the number above the door.
He looked to Naruto, his eyes questioning, and Naruto shook his head. "Let them be. I have no doubt there are some Chunin mixed in that group attempting to make the Genin who aren't ready for the exams fail. It wouldn't help us or them if we said anything."
Sasuke nodded slowly.
The trio stuck close to the wall opposite the door and got through the group without incident. They had to go past the group to get to the stairs that lead to the room that was listed on their papers and Naruto sighed in relief that none of the other Genin had said anything to them.
They exited the hallway and entered into an open area. The wall to the outside was nothing more than pillars and they stood on a second floor walkway. The tiled floor on the first floor was white and stairs to the right lead down to it. Naruto turned to the left but before he and his team could get to the stairs someone shouted behind them.
"Hold on," an enthusiastic voice called.
Naruto glanced over his shoulder, his left hand palming a kunai, and say a boy standing outside the hallway he had just been in with his hand raised with the palm facing them. The boy had black bowl cut hair, was slightly taller than Naruto, and had on an interesting green jumpsuit. The most prominent feature about the boy however was the large eyebrows that dominated the top of his head.
"Did you need something?" Naruto asked and he sensed Sasuke tense, ready for whatever the boy might do.
The green clad Genin nodded. "Yes," he answered. "I would like to have a fight with you. I am Rock Lee and I wish to fight against the prodigy of the Uchiha clan." He pointed at Sasuke.
Sasuke turned fully around and, in doing so, revealed Sakura to the boy. Lee's face changed from a mask of determination to one of affection and sudden love.
"Who is that lovely flower?" the strange Genin asked and placed his hand above his eyes as if he was blocking the sun to see better.
Sakura sighed and said, "Sakura Haruno. Mind telling me why you want to fight my teammate?"
"Yosh!" Lee said. "I will defeat Sasuke and you will become my girlfriend. As for why I wish to fight him, the reason is simple. I am not a gifted shinobi and have to work hard for my skills. I wish to test my skills against a prodigy to show the world that hard work can overcome natural ability."
Sasuke smirked and said, "I'm honored that you wish to fight me and hold me in such high regard but I have an exam to get to and If I fight you then I will hold up my team. Tell you what, if we don't get to fight in this exam, we can spar after it is over."
Lee stared at Sasuke for a few seconds and then pumped his fists and yelled, "You are so full of youth! To care so much for your teammates, it makes my flames of youth burn stronger than ever. I look forward to our future spar."
Squad Seven watched the strangest Genin they had ever met disappear back down the hall. Sasuke turned around and asked, "What was that?"
Naruto smirked and said, "Looks like you have an admirer."
Sasuke shook his head.
They didn't run into anyone else until they reached the door that led to the proper room. To their surprise, Kakashi was leaned against the wall opposite the door and gave a short wave when they say him.
"It is good to see all three of you," he said as he pushed himself from the wall.
"I thought we weren't going to see you until this was over?" Naruto questioned.
Kakashi shrugged and said, "I just wanted to make sure you three made it here alright. You are my first team and it is very rare for a team as fresh as you guys to enter the Chunin Exams. I just wanted to let you three know that, regardless of what happens, I am proud of each one of you. I don't care if you become Chunin, I just want you three to promise that you will do everything you can to survive. Death is a very real possibility in these exams."
The three Genin promised and the silver-haired Jonin nodded. "I won't keep you anymore. Enter that door and prepare yourselves for anything and everything."
The Jonin vanished and the three Genin opened the door. Naruto was the first to enter and immediately felt the attention of all the serious Genin turn to him, size him up, make their conclusions, and then dismiss him. He didn't let anything phase him and sent everyone in the room and equally unimpressed and dismissive look.
"Yo!" called a familiar voice and Naruto looked to his left to see Kiba and the rest of the rookie Genin come walking toward him.
-A Testament of Things that Never Will-
Seventy-four Genin. That was how many turned their attention to the team that just walked in. Black eyes scanned the crowd. Looked to the team as well. Blonde-hair and Konoha hitae-ate on the right bicep. Naruto Uzumaki. A strong shinobi. The strongest of the rookies.
Naruto sent a dismissive glance around the room. It said that he acknowledge their attention and wasn't impressed. Impressive and effective. It said little of his overall skills. None could know if he was just arrogant or truly skilled.
Behind the blond came the black haired Uchiha. Stoic face. Relaxed. He gave off the same impression as Naruto. The final member of of the squad came in and Shikamaru was surprised. Sakura had changed much since last he saw her. Clothes, expression, stance, all of it changed. She looked like a true kunoichi. Looked like she belonged with the other two. Very impressive squad.
The Nara noted that Squad Eight and his teammates started to walk over to Squad Seven. He waited. He watched. Wanted to know who would go to who. Kiba went to Sakura, lust and wanting hurried his steps. Not surprising, the Inuzuka acted similar to their canine companions sometimes and Sakura made a desirable mate with her new change. Shino nodded to Naruto and then stood between the Uzumaki and Uchiha. He didn't talk. Never did. Hinata went to Sasuke. Interesting. He had thought she would go to Naruto but the Uchiha had spent a lot of time with Squad Eight as of late.
He pushed off the wall. Hands in pockets. Kept everyone around him on edge. Effective to keep the nerves high. He walked with a lazy stride. Confident. Unconcerned. He had no interest in speaking to Sasuke. They trained together just the other day. Sakura, changed a lot but not enough for him to talk to her giving the situation. He knew that Ino would go and talk to the pinkette. Choji would talk with Sasuke as those two had developed a friendship out of hard work.
He stopped in front of his target. The blonde had changed slightly since the Wave mission. He was more confident. More relaxed. More mature. He looked more like a Jonin than a Genin.
"Morning, Shikamaru," Naruto greeted.
He nodded back. "Morning," he said.
"Is your team ready for this?"
Shikamaru thought about it. Compared his information to everything he had seen of the others gathered. "We have a chance on teamwork based tests," he concluded.
Naruto nodded. "And as individuals?"
"Ino should forfeit. Choji could win if he got in close."
"I'll be fine," he answered.
Naruto looked back to the Nara's teammates and asked, "Have they changed at all since the Wave mission?"
"They have both gotten much stronger," Shikamaru said.
"And you?" Naruto asked.
He shrugged. Sure he had but he saw no point in saying anything. Too many ears. Too many unknowns. He saw the others move toward a more secluded corner. He followed with Naruto. No point in drawing unnecessary attention.
He talked with the blonde a little more and then listened to the other's conversations. They were nervous. It was obvious. They had every right to be. Any intelligent person would be. Despite that, there were a few that didn't look bothered at all. Sasuke, Sakura, Naruto, Shino, and himself. They weren't foolish. They knew that the exam was serious. They were serious. They also knew that showing nerves was a sign of weakness and so they acted like it was nothing. Didn't want to look weak nor overconfident. They were ready.
He looked out at the other Genin in the large room. He knew he could beat at least half of them in one-on-one combat without even trying. A simple jutsu, a casually thrown kunai. Another dead Genin in the world. Shikamaru didn't like killing but he would do it if necessary. Even not killing his opponents, he knew he could still win. With the information he had he guessed that he was in the top twenty Genin. Not the best position. Made him a target.
Grey hair caught his eyes. A teenager. Older than Shikamaru. Taller too. Longer reach. Black rimmed glasses, a purple shirt with a high collar, and a casual walk that was out of place in the tension filled room. Shikamaru was immediately suspicious of the man. He was no coward, far from it, but he often found that his subconscious worked faster than his conscious mind and something in the back of his mind was screaming at him to run like hell. He ignored it. No choice, nowhere to run.
"You all are rookies aren't you?" the boy asked.
Shikamaru didn't answer, to give out such information would be beyond stupid. Instead, he turned a little so that the man would get the hint that he wasn't wanted in the conversation.
"Sure are, only became Genin six months ago," Kiba answered, bounding over from Sakura who looked slightly relieved that his attention wasn't on her anymore.
Shikamaru sent the Inuzuka an annoyed look and was wasn't the only one as all of Squad Seven did the same, again proving that they were the only full squad ready for the upcoming exam. He turned toward the newcomer, since he wouldn't be leaving due to the Inuzuka, and watched his interactions with the boy.
"Well," he said, "I'm Kabuto Yakushi, I've taken this exam for the past seven years and I've got to say that they are pretty tough. It's pretty surprising to see three new squads taking part so soon after forming. Maybe I can interest you in some information about the competition?"
The silver-haired man pulled out a deck of cards and explained, "These are my ninja-info cards. I have a lot of information on the others gathered here and would be happy to tell you about any of them."
"Why help us?" Naruto questioned suspiciously.
Shikamaru smirked. Good question. He would have asked it if no one else did. It would seem that Naruto only got more and more surprising as time went on.
"Because we are all Konoha shinobi," Kabuto answered. "Even if we are competing against each other in this exam we can still help each other out a little here and there."
Made sense but it sounded almost bittersweet coming from the man. Like wormwood laced candy.
"No thanks," the blond said. "I don't trust you and because of that I don't trust your information so there is no point in you telling it to me."
"I have no reason to lie to you," Kabuto said as he started to shuffle his cards. "Besides, I'm a guy who can be trusted."
"It's not you," Naruto replied. "It takes a little while to gain my trust is all. If there is any information to be obtained then I will get it myself or from those I trust."
The boy shrugged his shoulders and put his cards away. "Have it your way," he said and walked away with a pleasant smile on his face.
"Naruto," Kiba said, anger and disbelief staining his voice. "We could have used that information."
"The guy failed seven times before," Ino said, "what information could he have possibly had?"
Before anyone else could say anything a stern voice called above the noise of the room, "Listen up, maggots!"
Shikamaru turned and saw a familiar man. Black bandana on his head, Trench coat over a grey suit. Ibiki Morino. Shikamaru had seen him several times in his life. His father had been part of the Konoha Torture and Interrogation Force and the scar faced man had come to the Nara residence a few times to speak about gathered information. The man was intimidating and was very skilled at psychological torture. To have him as a part of this exam spoke volumes of how difficult they would be.
The room quieted instantly and then a rush of killing intent flooded off Ibiki. Having gone through some serious killing intent training, Squad Seven was unaffected and Shikamaru shrugged it off with ease but the others were taken by surprise and suffered for it. Racing hearts, short breaths, they would panic if pushed slightly harder.
Naruto took a subtly step toward Shikamaru, nothing that would draw attention from the rest of the room, but enough for the Konoha Genin to notice. The simple distraction was enough to break the spell and they each seemed to relax slightly.
"This exam," Ibiki explained unaware of what happened, "will actually be three different tests. I am the proctor of the first test. You will be taken to another room in the building where you will be given a written test. You will fill out this test and if you fail the test you will fail this exam. There are ten questions, you must get six of the questions right. If you cheat you will be kicked out immediately along with the rest of your team. From now until the end of this test there will be no speaking. If you break this rule, you and the rest of your team will fail this test. Any questions?"
A boy raised his hand and asked, "How much time will we have?"
Ibiki studied the boy and asked, "What's your name?"
"Hideo Chim of Suna," he answered.
"You and your team just failed this test," the man said, his voice was threatening and serious. "I said no talking."
The boy and his team were ushered out of the room and when the door closed, Ibiki asked, "Any more questions?"
There were none.
-A Testament of Things that Never Will-
Naruto looked down at the paper test with a mix of amusement and firm determination. The amusement came from the understanding that the questions that were being asked were far above and beyond the knowledge of a typical Genin. This was unsurprising, however, since the Chunin Exam was to see if a Genin was ready to join the ranks of Chunin. If they couldn't answer these questions then they didn't have the right to go on. Of course, these questions were not supposed to be answered by the test takers knowledge alone.
Naruto had noticed that Ibiki had not specified that cheating wasn't allowed and had, in fact, told them the consequence if they were caught. This, combined with the difficulty of the test, meant that the Genin were supposed to cheat which also meant that there must have been some Chunin put into the test who had the answers to the questions. It was up to the Genin to identify the Chunin and steal the answers with all else being unaware.
He smirked. Sakura would have no issue answering the questions. She was smart, scary smart, and a single glance toward her told him that she had the test in the bag. Sasuke, the prodigious Uchiha, would think of someway of answering the questions and Naruto put his trust in the boy. He, on the other hand found that he could answer four of the questions without aid.
He wrote his answers and then contemplated his options. He had to gain two more answers and he had already pegged the three Chunin who were seating in the large group of Genin but he knew that the proctor, Ibiki, and all of his aids would be watching those three like hawks, careful of any foul play. He suspected that there had to be some leeway as there was no way Genin or Chunin level shinobi could do something without the notice of the gathered Jonin but he didn't know how much.
He watched one of the Chunin close to him and picked out several different ways that people were gathering information. Some were rather tricky and others far less subtle than they thought they were but with all the writing that the Jonin watchers were doing he couldn't pin-point which techniques were being marked off as unsatisfactory. No, going after one of the Chunin was not an option.
It was too obvious and he wanted to do something that wasn't obvious at all. Something unsuspected. He could always steal the answers from another Genin in the room but he had to be sure that they were getting the right answer and since he knew very little about the group of Genin he could only go off of the information he had. Of all the Genin, he knew for a fact that Hinata, Shikamaru, and Sakura would get the right answers. Hinata was obvious because of her Byakugan and Shikamaru due to his extreme intelligence. But neither of them were good choices.
Shikamaru would answer enough question to pass but also enough to not draw attention to himself which meant that he would answer about seven of the questions despite having the ability to answer all of them and he was clear across the room from Naruto making the endeavor of gaining answers from him difficult at best. Hinata would be able to use her kekkei genkai to reference all three of the Chunin's answers and gather all of the information she would need but she would be answering all of the answers due to her insecurity and fear that she might have the wrong answer and because she would be answering all of the questions she would also be watched by the Jonin watchers.
That meant that Sakura was the only one he could get answers from. It was a solid idea because he trusted her to get all of the right answers, to not answer all of the questions, and to aid him in his attempt to glean information for him. None of the watchers would suspect that a teammate would cheat off of another and that made her the best option.
He glanced at her, seated a row in front of him and three seats to the left, and saw that she was diligently working on a question all the while keeping an eye out for those who might cheat off of her. That awareness would certainly help him. He mentally took stock of what materials he had to work with and separated out the ones that were useable and the ones that were not. A plan began to form.
Moving with a casual confidence, Naruto reached into his kunai pouch, aware of the eyes of two watchers on him and who knew how many he didn't notice, and pulled out three small metal balls. Meant to be combined with an explosive tag, the shrapnel balls could also be used to trip running shinobi on hard surfaces but he had no intention of using them for that. Instead, he started to roll them in his right hand, careful to not make a single noise. The watchers kept an eye on him for two minutes before looking away, thinking that he was doing it as a means of concentration.
Carefully, he dropped one of the balls in his lap and worked it down his legs till he held the small ball with his feet. He set the ball on the ground and gently nudged it behind him. After a few seconds the metallic ring of metal hitting metal sounded in the room. Several Genin and many watchers looked three rows behind Naruto but he didn't. He kept his eyes on Sakura and when she turned to investigate the noise she looked right into his eyes. He blinked seven times paused and then nine times, hoping that the pinkette would understand his message.
She smirked and turned to look back at her paper but as she turned she tapped her ear, a signal to him to listen. He closed his eyes and focused his hearing in his teammate's direction and picked up on the sound of scribbling. After a full minute, he began to make out a pattern. It wasn't immediately apparent but it was there in the taps and scratches of a pencil. It could only have been Sakura as she was the only one who would have a purpose to make such a pattern.
He wrote out the answer to number seven. It was only the answer with no work whatsoever but that was all that was needed. As he wrote out the answer he sent back his own message, tracing his answer a few times until the pattern that Sakura was sending changed. He smiled to himself and wrote down his final answer and signaled to Sakura that he got it.
Relieved that he had enough answers to pass, Naruto relaxed and focused on the tenth question. Once the Genin had been shipped into the large room, Ibiki had explained that the tenth and final question would be asked when there was only a minute left in the test. The blonde glanced to the clock located just above the proctor's head and saw that there was only three minutes until the tenth question would be asked.
The three minutes passed slowly but time went inevitably on and the trench coated man cleared his throat loudly. "Time for the tenth question. If you get this question wrong then you and your entire team will fail the test and will never be able to take the Chunin Exam again. If you wish to leave then do so now."
Naruto waited and soon enough a number of people stood from their seats, dejected and fearful looks on their faces. He watched as more and more left but he felt that it was for the best. If they didn't have the resolve to answer a single question then they were not ready to become Chunin. He felt slightly bad about it and he knew that if he had been his younger, less mature, self then he would have no doubt said something. But, by doing so he would cause Genin who were not ready to go further into the exam to possibly pass and would most likely die by his attempt to help them. This was a time that they had to help themselves.
Ibiki waited five minutes and when it was clear that the remaining shinobi were not leaving he nodded. Several Jonin proctors stood, gathered the tests, and returned to their seats. A few tense moments of grading and several names being called to leave the room followed. Again, Ibiki waited until the final Jonin nodded to him and he said, "You all-"
Before he could finish a round object crashed into the room from one of the windows. Naruto palmed a kunai but felt foolish when the round object was revealed to be a decorated ball that burst open to display a banner that read, 'The beautiful and lovely second proctor: Anko Mitarashi.'
A woman wearing a tan trench coat appeared in front of the banner and stood up with a smirk on her face. "What's up you brats?" she exclaimed loudly. "I'm your second proctor, Anko Mitarashi."
Everyone look at the woman and Ibiki came from around the banner. "You're early, Anko."
"What?" the purple-haired woman questioned. She looked around the room, unconcerned that all of the attention was on her. She looked back at the man and asked, "Seriously?"
"Yes," Ibiki said in finality. He turned to the remaining Genin and said, "You all pass. There is no tenth question as it was only a way to test your resolve which each of you passed with flying colors. Anko will take over from here."
"You could be a little more lively," the woman said.
The scar-faced man chuckled.
Anko looked around the room and said, "The second test will take place immediately. Follow me."
Naruto stood and met up with his team. He thanked Sakura for her help to which she said that he owed her one. The second proctor was very different from the first as Anko seemed to pass the time during the walk making fun of different Genin. Naruto found that he liked the woman as she was a refreshing experience to the typical serious shinobi. When she came to his team, a playful grin on her face, Naruto took it upon himself to entertain the eccentric kunoichi.
"You three impressed the hell out of Ibiki," she said.
Naruto nodded and was thankful that she took some things seriously as she spoke in a quiet manner that made it near impossible for the other Genin squads to hear.
"Thank you," Naruto said. "Ibiki-san seems like a hard man to impress."
"Hard to impress?" she questioned. "He has been the proctor of the first test of the exam for the past seven years and I have never seen him watch a single squad longer than he watch yours."
Naruto nodded slowly. He had been unaware that the man was watching them more than other teams and that was unsettling. "Lets hope," he said, "that we can impress you as much as we impressed Ibiki-san."
The kunoichi made small talk with the three Genin until they reached a fenced off section of forest. The fence was tall and Naruto got an ominous feeling from the massive trees that made the forest it contained.
The purple-haired kunoichi walked forward and addressed the large group of Genin. "Ibiki managed to take out a lot of you but after this test at least half will not be here. Twenty teams remain which happens to be perfect for this test. For this test half of you will be escorting a client and the other half will be attempting to take this client from you. Each team will be given a specific client that you must either protect or capture. You will have to follow a specific route that has been made in the Forest of Death as most clients cannot travel like shinobi. The clients that you will be escorting in this test are Jonin volunteers from Konoha so there is no danger in them being harmed but they are under strict orders to not interfere with the test. Any questions?"
She paused a few seconds and when there were none she started to call out the names of Jonin who would be acting the client. The third Jonin she announced took Naruto by complete surprise.
"Yuri Karasu," Anko called and the familiar form of Yuri came from around a large bush. "Konoha Squad Seven, will be escorting you."
Yuri nodded and walked over to the three shocked Genin.
"I thought you said that we wouldn't see you for a week?" Sakura questioned.
"I lied," he answered. "I couldn't give you any hint as to what the exam might be like and so I had to lie to you. I actually had a part in creating this part of the test so I would have been in a fair amount of trouble if I had told you anything."
"So," Sasuke said, his arms folded over his chest, "this is an escort mission?"
Yuri nodded. "Basically. You will have to protect me as we travel to the tower at the middle of the Forest of Death. The route with take about three days and in that period of time another team will be trying to capture me. If they succeed in doing so and bring me to the tower they win."
Sakura put a finger on her cheek and tilted her head slightly, a confused look on her face. "Doesn't that mean that the team who has to capture you has it harder off?"
The black-haired Jonin shook his head. "They have the advantage at the beginning since they will know what route you will be taking and as such they can prepare for you as they will. It is up to you to be ready for an ambush, as you should always be during an escort mission. In the end, the advantages even out."
Naruto nodded his head. It made sense to him and he glanced around at the other teams. It looked like the other Konoha rookie teams had also been assigned a Jonin to escort so at least he didn't have to worry about being attacked by friends.
Thinking about that, he called the other teams over, waving for Shikamaru and calling out to Kiba. The two came and their teams followed behind them.
"You needed something, Naruto?" Kiba asked, an annoyed look on his face.
"I just wanted to say, good luck," the blond said. he looked at each of the Genin in turn and said, "We are all Konoha shinobi and our loyalties transcend this exam. If you guys are in trouble, we will com to your aid, and if we are in trouble I hope you all will do the same. I can't imagine that our ties are so weak that a simple exam would threaten to break us apart. Besides, we have a better chance of succeeding with allies out there."
"How could we possibly help each other?" Kiba questioned. "The lady said that we would all be starting at different points around the forest and none of the paths cross. There is no chance of us seeing each other in there."
"You never know what might happen in battle," Naruto countered. "I'd rather be prepared and not need it than not be ready and need it."
"Agreed," Shikamaru said. "We will do what we can if the opportunity arrises."
Hinata stepped forward and said in a shaky voice, "As will we."
"You each already know my answer," Naruto said. "Thanks, I mean it."
The other teams stepped away, each talking about plans and what to expect and Naruto felt a little better about the upcoming test. If nothing else, at least he knew that he had allies out there.
-A Testament of Things that Never Will-
Sharp eyes watched the Konoha Genin separate and keen ears picked up what had been said. If given time, the Kyuubi container would become a great leader, the man concluded. He studied the blond Genin's team, his eyes lingering on the Uchiha and desire filled him.
To bad he wouldn't survive the test.
-A Testament of Things that Never Will-
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