This chapter was brought to you by Team Outback (Razamataz22 and Kakarot Son).
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Hinata cowered slightly under the stern gaze of their proctor. The man wasn't staring at her in particular, but the iron stare he gave everyone was nerve wracking. Ibiki had just given the premise for the final question. He stated that anybody who took the question risked remaining as Genin for the rest of their careers, something that would undeniably be detrimental to their ninja careers.
One by one people dropped out of the exam, too frightened of the stipulation the proctor had given. They decided to simply try to gain a promotion in the next exam. Hinata momentarily thought of raising her hand; like many others, she too was scared of the prospect of never being able to take the Chunin exams again. But just as she was about to, she wondered what Naruto would do in this situation. A small smile graced her lips as she imagined him doing something reckless that would increase the courage of everybody in the classroom, preventing anybody else from chickening out of the question. And that was whether or not they had the ability to answer the question correctly.
Glancing around to the others within the room, Hinata was surprised to see even Shikamaru looking worried. He wasn't sweating per se, but it was clear that the young boy was tense. A quick glance to her right informed her that Shino wasn't unfazed by the premise either.
Her eyes focused on Ibiki as she swallowed down the last of her nerves. It didn't matter how many people dropped out of this part of the exam, she would not be one of them. Naruto had put his trust in her. As Genin began to leave left, right and centre, forfeiting their chance to graduate, Hinata sat merely watching.
For Naruto, she would tackle this final question without fail.
Naruto eyed the large clearing that Kakashi had brought him to carefully. It wasn't the one that they usually trained in, but it wasn't dissimilar either. It was only slightly larger in radius to the one that Team 7 held their routine trainings in. The masked man had slumped against a tree trunk soon after they had arrived but Naruto hadn't paid much mind even as his sensei began to pull out his favourite orange book.
He was quite curious to find out what exactly Kakashi would have him do, especially since it involved stealth and reconnaissance. But, he couldn't help but feel a little worried at the same time. Tree climbing, something which he'd taught the whole team had been difficult, so Naruto wasn't exactly looking forward to something that Kakashi needed to teach him individually. However, since he had only realised that the first exam was about cheating afterwards, Naruto couldn't help but think that a bit more stealth practice was in order because even if he had realised the true purpose of the test he hadn't had any way to cheat.
Glancing around to the edges of the circular clearing, Naruto noticed that the shrubbery soon evolved into thick branches and millions of leaves. Short of the path they had entered from, there wasn't anywhere else that he could go. So, Kakashi probably wouldn't have anything 'hiding' related in store for him. Attempting to be patient and not forcing himself to let out a frustrated sigh at the inactivity of the man in front of him, Naruto sat down on the ground. As he began to ponder on the many happenings of the day, he heard Kakashi's book clap shut with an audible thud.
"Good, you're not as impatient as I expected you to be," said Kakashi with an almost aloof tone to his voice. "Now, the training that I'm about to have you do won't be anything quite like what you've experienced before in the academy, but it's important that you actually attempt it."
"What do you mean?" Naruto scratched his head in confusion as he looked up towards his sensei.
"There won't be any bells," explained Kakashi. "There won't be any chakra control this time either, you'll have one task."
"Which is?" asked Naruto as he eagerly awaited the man's answer.
"To catch me," declared Kakashi as he brought his hands together before flashing through a few hand seals. "Kirigakure no Jutsu!"
Almost suddenly a large wall of mist sprang forward and consumed everything that Naruto could see, he found it difficult to even see his hand in front of his face, let alone the landscape around him. "Kakashi sensei, where are you?" shouted Naruto.
"You're not understanding the concept of this exercise Naruto," came Kakashi's voice, Naruto couldn't tell from where though. "Your objective is to find me in this mist without making a sound. You have to use all your resources to track me down without me knowing you are coming. If you fail to find me in the hour... do you remember what happened that day when you Sasuke and Sakura became a team, when you tried to take me on alone?"
Naruto shivered as he rubbed his rear, remembering the pain that Kakashi's technique had delivered. He made a mental note to shut up at this stage and do his best to find Kakashi. There was no way he was going to suffer the same pain more than once, especially when said pain involved having something shoved up his posterior.
He squinted slightly as he attempted to see through the mist, only to discover that the mist was far too thick to see through. He stood there for several seconds, still trying to peer through the mist but to no avail. Thankfully, nobody could see him at this stage. His reactions were quite humorous as he attempted to rip out his blonde locks of hair. 'Damn it,' he cursed internally. 'If I can't use my eyes how the hell am I meant to find someone?'
Taking a step forward, he felt a small tug of a single wire against his leg and pondered what that feeling was. The next moment, a large explosion occurred directly underneath him, sending him flying several metres before he hit the ground. "I forgot to mention," said Kakashi once more from deep within the mist, "You'll have to do your best to avoid the booby traps that I set up."
"Kakashi-sensei!" shouted Naruto in anger as he got to his feet. The blast hadn't done too much damage to him, either that or his adrenaline was pumping so much that he didn't notice the pain. Grumbling under his breath, he stood still momentarily as he contemplated his options. Without the use of sight he effectively had no way of seeing where he was going or if he was running straight into any traps. A brilliant idea sparked and Naruto put his fingers into a patented cross before a Shadow Clone was summoned next to him. Yet it only remained alive for several seconds before a kunai zipped through the mist and caught it in the chest, instantly dispelling it.
"Sorry, for this exercise there will be no Shadow Clones," said Kakashi once more.
"Damn it Kakashi-sensei," grumbled Naruto. Now what was he supposed to do?
Naruto quickly ran through the jutsu that he knew but soon realised that anything remotely useful within his rather small inventory had to do with either Shadow Clones or Transformation techniques, the latter rendered useless due to the heavy mist covering everything within sight.
He couldn't see, he couldn't use Shadow Clones and he also had to avoid hitting booby traps meaning that running blindly and hoping for the best was not an option. Relying on his other senses wouldn't exactly work out either because Kakashi was a trained assassin. As silent as a pin drop, the thick-chakra like smell of the mist concealed Kakashi's scent and touching random things wasn't exactly an option given that he didn't want to be sent flying ten metres into the air courtesy of an explosion.
Naruto reached into his back pocket and pulled out the small arsenal he carried on him. There were a handful of shuriken, two kunai, some ninja wire and a small explosive he had made earlier in the day incase he needed some way to obstruct his fellow Genin on their path to becoming Chunin. While it wasn't a grandiose arsenal it was at least something, the shuriken would help with any random projectiles Kakashi sent his way, provided he could sense them coming, while the kunai would be handy for cutting any wires linked to explosives that he could find. As for the explosive he possessed, he was well versed in the uses backyard explosions, having used many of them in the various pranks that he'd performed over the years.
The only problem was that none of those things would help him find Kakashi.
Rubbing his eyes, Naruto could already envision the pain that would befall his rear in sixty minutes time, and he was not looking forward to it.
"So where should we go next?" asked Sakura as she nervously looked to Sasuke for an answer. They had visited Naruto's apartment but there was nothing but dirty dishes and packets of instant ramen to be found.
"In here," said Sasuke, pointing towards the building they were standing opposite of. Sakura looked towards the old looking building, having been in there many times before but couldn't quite understand why they would come here of all places.
"What are we going to find in the library?" asked Sakura as the two of them walked towards the front door.
"This place also keeps copies of records that occur through Konoha, incase the original copies get misplaced or destroyed," said Sasuke as he pushed open the door. "Just follow my lead."
"Okay," said Sakura as she composed herself. She wasn't quite sure what Sasuke had planned but she would do her best not to freak out.
"How can I help you?" asked the Librarian as she saw the two of them make their way towards the counter. "I'll just let you know we are shutting up in twenty minutes."
"Thank you, but we're actually looking for something more specific," said Sasuke. "The Hokage's asked us if we could go over some of the old records concerning the location of graffiti, vandalism and things like that so we can construct a report on where security should be increased."
"This seems like something that should be done by somebody a little older than a couple of young teenagers," said the Librarian suspiciously.
"The thing is though, the two of us were the top of our class - grades wise - and the Hokage gave this task to us to see how our information gathering skills are, as well as our analytic knowledge in a given situation," explained Sasuke.
"This is probably just a test of some kind," said Sakura decided to chime in. "If we can manage to write up a decent report, you might find other Genin coming in and doing similar research."
"If you think about it, if we didn't have these skills out on a mission, incorrect knowledge and analysis could prove to be fatal," said Sasuke, putting emphasis on the final word.
"Alright, I understand," said the Librarian, accepting what the two Genin were saying, though they seemed to have an awful lot of reasons for why the Hokage had assigned them a research task. "Since these are to be kept on premises at all times, I cannot allow you to rent out the documents for the night but you two seem trustworthy enough so I'll be willing to let you stay in here an extra couple of hours."
"You're too kind," said Sakura appreciatively with a light bow.
"So where about can we find this information?" asked Sasuke.
"All those sorts of files can be found on the second floor in the Eastern Wing," explained the Librarian as she pointed towards the designated area. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to see the report once it is completed. Seeing young people study in the library is one of those things that bring me joy, seeing the fruits of your hard work would be most appreciated."
Sasuke groaned slightly, wondering what it was with this woman, but thankfully his small movements went unnoticed. "Well this research isn't going to be... researched," he said as his mind failed him momentarily since the Librarian had gathered a nearby book and had hugged it passionately for some strange reason.
"I'll be sure to make a copy of our report for you," said Sakura, covering for her teammate's blunder. "C'mon Sasuke, let's get started while we still have some daylight," she finished as she grabbed his hand and lead him away. It took her several seconds for her to realise that she was holding Sasuke's hand and nervously let go as a crimson blush adorned her face, thankfully since she was in front of her crush he didn't see the red blush upon her cheeks.
"Why'd you stop?" asked Sasuke, wondering why his teammate had frozen in place so suddenly.
"Thought I was going to sneeze," said Sakura, lying through her teeth as she started walking again, not wanting to make eye contact with the last Uchiha. It didn't take the two of them long to traverse the stairs and find the correct shelf... finding the right lot of documents however was not so easy.
"Where is it?" grumbled Sasuke as he put back the files he had pulled out, this one being the details on the number of visitors who came through the gates of Konoha every week. While all this information would be useful (he had always feared being stuck on guard duty with one of his fan girls) it was not what they were after.
"I think I've got it," said Sakura as she blew dust of a bundle of papers within her hands. "Accounts of Vandalism on the Bo... no wait, that's not it."
Sasuke sighed heavily, "Maybe we should just go back and ask that old lady to find it for us?"
"I doubt she'll do it," answered Sakura duly, "she'll probably say something about young children having to learn how to conduct research themselves if she doesn't stick with us for the next two hours."
"Doesn't sound too helpful," Sasuke groaned. "For the love of god, why are there so many damn documents?"
Naruto threw himself to the ground as an explosion behind him shook everything in its immediate vicinity. He hadn't had much luck at all with catching Kakashi-sensei, the closest he had gotten so far was the man's footsteps, never mind a visual of his entire body. He supposed that wouldn't do much good either because of the mist which literally caked everything around him. "Only fifteen minutes left Naruto," whispered Kakashi's voice eerily, making the hair on Naruto's neck stand on end.
"Damn it," grumbled Naruto as he felt like tearing out his hair. It was all because of Kakashi's rules that he couldn't do anything that would really be to his advantage. It was then that a little spark seemed to ignite and an ingenious idea, or at least the best one he could think of, seemed to appear. Putting his hands into his patented seal, a single shadow clone was created directly in front of him. Barely a second had passed for the clone to be in existence before a kunai pierced through the mist and caught the clone. Naruto however wasn't phased by that but watched as the clone was pushed to the left ever so slightly before it puffed out of existence. The entire process had only lasted about two seconds but that was all the time Naruto needed as he whipped out his shuriken and tossed them towards his right.
From his position, Kakashi dropped to the ground as his instincts kicked in, a couple of shuriken were lodged into the tree he had been standing by while others had pressed further into the mist. Underneath his mask a small smirk crossed his face; Naruto's plan had actually been impressive, using the rules to his advantage. The blonde had known that Shadow Clones were not permitted in this test but summoned one anyway with the knowledge that it would be destroyed. He also had the knowledge to realise that there was a slight delay between the damage taken and the clone being removed from existence so that when the kunai struck, it would knock the clone in the direction that the weapon had been thrown from before vanishing.
"I know where you are Kakashi-sensei!" shouted Naruto as he charged towards the direction the Jounin was in. He barely made a dozen steps before he snagged a small wire, tearing it in two and setting the trap in motion.
Kakashi sighed as he looked away, it seemed as if the small victory had quickly gone to Naruto's head and the blonde had completely forgotten that the land was booby trapped. He made a mental note that he'd have to fix that as well somewhere down the track, knowing when not to fight was as important as knowing when to fight. He almost cringed as he heard several small explosions go off in the area that Naruto had been charging towards before he tutted slightly. This was something that definitely needed to be fixed sometime within the near future.
Hinata washed her face as she looked at herself in the mirror, a smile upon her face, glad that they had been able to return home for the night. Including her team, eleven ones had made it through the first exam after choosing to answer the tenth question. Not only that, but the other two teams from Konoha with Genin roughly their age had managed to make it through and she couldn't help but feel happy that her friends had gotten through. Then they had met the proctor for the second exam, Mitarashi Anko, and she couldn't help but relate the eccentric woman to Naruto and all those happy thoughts had gone straight out the window.
That being said, she prayed that Naruto never decided to wear such revealing clothes in public, just thinking about the fishnet piece that had adorned Anko's body made her flush in embarrassment and she couldn't help but wonder if Naruto would like that kind of thing. As she looked in the mirror, she couldn't help but wonder how she would look wearing something similar to what Anko had worn. She could practically envision it... yet her vision sent her mind into overload and she dropped to her knees as her face felt as if it was on fire.
She prayed that at her birthday several years down the track somebody like Ino didn't decide to get her something similar to that outfit, she didn't know whether or not she could survive such an embarrassment. "Lady Hinata, your father sends word that he expects you at the dinner table shortly," said a voice from outside her room.
"Thank you," replied Hinata, happy that a distraction of some kind had gotten her mind off of such disturbing thoughts. Getting back to her feet, she splashed her face once more with water, knowing that she had to have a calm mind when her father asked her about the first exam. As she stepped out the bathroom, she hoped that she wouldn't disappoint him throughout the course of this exam.
Sasuke smirked victoriously at Sakura's announcement that she had finally found the right documents. They hadn't been looking in the wrong section or anything like that, there had simply been too many scrolls within the large library for them to find anything relevant to their interests.
Unfortunately the results had been somewhat inconclusive. While Sakura had managed to fetch a list of the proctors of the first exam, it hadn't helped all that much as even though they had a list of most accounts of vandalism within Konoha, the victims of the vandalism mentioned in the documents didn't match up with the list of Chunin Sakura had grabbed. She had chimed in by saying that the documents had only recorded major events and that Naruto's pranks were usually low-key. He didn't always paint the Hokage monument a different colour, but they had both been amused to note that said prank had been one of the ones listed.
Sasuke had reasoned afterwards that a mere prank from an academy student on a Chunin wasn't exactly something that would end up on important documents such as the ones they had found in the library. Sakura had only been able to agree, but she had suggested that they look at other things. It'd been a long-shot but she had suggested that since they were at the library, they might as well look at different records of vandalism. While neither Sakura nor Sasuke had the energy to go through another gigantic list, the promise of finding out what exactly smelled so fishy fuelled the two of them enough to go through the documents and find something of use.
There had been written reports and summaries on almost each event on the list, but Sakura had suggested to look for something far more accurate: a graph. They'd come across enough random ones as they had tried to find the initial one anyway, so it was only a matter of time before they came across one relating to the overall state of vandalism or something similar in Konoha.
"Take a look!" she said excitedly as she beckoned Sasuke over to her, basking in the knowledge that she had done something good in front of her crush.
"Vandalism in Konoha Sorted by Suburb..." Sasuke trailed his finger over the words as he murmured the title. "Looks like it's something."
"So where exactly should we start?" Sakura asked as she placed the list of all the Chunin proctors of the first exam besides the graph.
"Well look at the photo of each Chunin as well as the info, it's not that hard to figure out where they'd live." Sasuke said as he gestured to a random one on the sheet at the top of the bundle of documents, "Look here. This one here, Naoya Kamatsu, you can tell by her appearance that she's fairly rich and her description makes her sound like a stuck up snob. She's probably living in one of the wealthier districts."
Sasuke pointed towards the three wealthiest districts on the line-graph that he knew, "But you can pretty much safely say that she's not got much against Naruto because there hasn't been much vandalism in her district. It's a stab in the dark if anything, but it's all we've got." He shrugged slightly as Sakura looked on at the two pieces of paper in interest.
What felt like hours passed rapidly as the two of them rapidly worked their way through the list, cross-referencing it with the graph before Sakura suddenly noticed something askew. "Hey Sasuke..." she said slowly.
"Yeah?" he looked up to meet her eyes, slightly disappointed that she had interrupted him with something that wasn't a breakthrough in the research they were conducting. However that didn't seem to discern the pink-haired girl as she pointed to the highest point on the line graph.
"Look at this district," said Sakura as her voice wavered slightly, despite her nerves she had a feeling that she was onto something. "It's had more vandalism in the past ten years than any of the other districts, in fact it's leagues ahead!"
"What exactly did you expect?" Sasuke asked unimpressed, "it's the Murita District, the place closest to being the slums in all of Konoha."
"Yeah, I know, I know, but why don't we check if any of the Chunin are from there? It'll probably save us time in the long run because this place is so far ahead above the others that if anyone's going to have a grudge against Naruto because of vandalism, it'd be someone from there."
"Already did," said Sasuke grimly. "I can't help but wonder why it's so far ahead of the other districts though... I mean it's the least populated of all."
"I've got a vague idea," Sakura said as a light bulb seemed to go off in her head. "Where does Naruto live again?"
"The Murita District," Sasuke said, snapping up as the dots began to connect. "But why exactly would the district he lives in be the one with the most accounts of vandalism?"
"I guess he needs to practice his pranks somewhere," Sakura sighed, stifling a yawn as she rubbed her head.
"Does Naruto look like a person who would voluntarily practice things to you?" Sasuke asked as Sakura shook her head instantly, "furthermore, he's not the kind to do so on the defenceless and weak. All of his targets, that we know of at least, have been pretty high profile people."
"True," Sakura admitted. "I guess that doesn't help much then... but still why would-"
"Excuse me children," the sharp voice of the librarian cut in. "I'm just about to pack up for the night and library rules are that I can't leave anyone in here unattended."
"Even though we're on a mission from the Hokage?" Sasuke asked, lying skillfully as Sakura bit her lip.
"If you two would scoot along and get a note from the Hokage, I'd open the doors back up as well as offer an apology but for now I'm going to have to escort the two of you out," she said impatiently.
"Can't we have just ten more minutes?" pleaded Sakura, "I promise we'll be quick!"
"Now listen here, I've already done the two of you a favour by letting you stay after hours. I even gave you guys an extra half an hour of research while I sat around twiddling my thumbs and cleaning behind the shelves, but some of us have a family they need to get back to and cook for!" While she seemed to be growing angrier with each passing second that did nothing to deter Sasuke from attempting to negotiate with her.
"You can leave the keys with me and I'll return them to you tomorrow morning, I swear on my name."
"Get out of here before I call security, the two of you can do your research tomorrow like all the other citizens."
Sasuke and Sakura didn't need to be told twice as they quickly packed up the scrolls they had been researching. They then put them back roughly in the same position as where they'd found them. As they walked past the librarian, they bowed politely without saying another word, not wanting to draw her wrath once more. As they stepped outside the library, the doors audibly locking behind them, they were somewhat relieved to see a familiar face walking nearby.
"Hey guys," said Naruto as he waved to his teammates. Sasuke and Sakura turned towards the hyperactive blonde and both of them quickly noticed the difference in the way that he was walking. Both of them had only seen the effects of a single technique which could do something like that once before, and neither of them ever wanted to experience what Naruto had suffered twice now.
"How was your training Naruto?" asked Sakura.
"Brutal," replied Naruto, not wanting to get into any of the horrendous details. "Kakashi-sensei told me to tell you two that we're going to be doing similar training tomorrow and to meet at Training Ground Twelve at eight in the morning."
"Training Ground Twelve," repeated Sasuke. "Why do we have to meet up there? What's wrong with our usual training spot?"
"The landscape here's a bit different and we could do with a change of scenery. Anyways, it's not like we're going to fight someone in the most idealistic landscape every single time," explained Naruto.
"I guess you have a point," said Sakura thinking it through.
"Anyways, I'm going to be there at seven setting up tomorrow so I'll meet you guys whenever you decide to rock up," said Naruto as he started to walk away from the duo towards his unit.
"Why are you going to be there early? You know that Kakashi-sensei probably won't be there for another couple of hours after eight," said Sakura.
"I've got a few things to set up," said Naruto with a chuckle. Sasuke and Sakura saw that mischievous look in his eyes and they couldn't help but feel like they should be sorry for their sensei, undoubtedly the blonde was planning on exacting a bit of revenge upon whatever experience he had just survived through.
"Well before you head off, do you want to get something to eat, a little team bonding?" asked Sakura.
"As good as a bowl of ramen would be, I'm actually going to ice my ass for the next hour or so just so that I can actually sit down within the next few days," said Naruto as he rubbed his ass for emphasis. "I'll see you two in the morning."
"Do you reckon we should be there to help him set up whatever it is that he's got planned?" Sakura asked of Sasuke once Naruto had gotten out of earshot.
"I think this is a bit too personal for me to get involved in," said Sasuke. "I still want to try and keep on Kakashi's good side."
"I guess," said Sakura. "Would you still be interested in getting some dinner now, a bit of team bonding just between the two of us?"
"Actually I'm going to go do a bit of training myself," said Sasuke as he rubbed his jaw, recalling the fight that he had gotten into that morning which had been a humiliating loss against the spandex clad Rock Lee. His movements weren't something that Sasuke could pick up with his Sharingan, which meant that he had to find some way to improve his eyesight and reaction time. He didn't doubt that even if he trained his eyesight alone he'd be able to stop the attacks from assaulting him with the slow speed he fought at at the moment. "I'll see you in the morning Sakura."
And just like that Sakura was left standing outside the library by herself, she felt as if a rain cloud could have formed above her head right at that moment and she wouldn't have been surprised. Placing her hands in her pockets, she decided to take the long route back home, figuring a peaceful walk would do her good.
Unknown to his teammates, as soon as Naruto had gotten out of hearing distance, he had chuckled under his breath. As Kakashi had instructed he had leaked out only minor details that could be misinterpreted, much like how they had been. He would still be there from the early hours of the morning, except the traps he was setting up weren't targeted at his sensei.
After all, tomorrows training exercise was for all of them to participate in.
Kirigakure no Jutsu = Hiding in the Mist Technique.