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In the month since the Land of Waves mission, Sakura has taken to wearing a black version of Gai and Lee's jumpsuit under her armor. It has been a very productive month and Teams Kakashi, Kurenai and Asuma have all improved dramatically.

Chapter 7-A New Chapter BeginsEdit

A Month LaterEdit

"Why did you mention her forehead?!" Naruto shouted at Konohamaru as they ran from a livid Sakura who had unfortunately just gotten the last little bit of her strength back. Even with the fox's chakra increasing his speed, Konohamaru was still airborn next to him from where Sakura's boot had connected with his rear, and Naruto could tell she was about to BOOM! Naruto's feet lifted off the ground as Sakura's foot connected with his rear, propelling him an additional twenty feet forward through the air at double time.

He hit the ground running and he and Konohamaru turned a corner, "GANGWAY!" "Okay Konohamaru! I got a new one for ya! Straight from my grandpa! Watch close and do exactly what I DOE!" An arm suddenly clothes lined Naruto and pulled him into a one armed hug as a hand suddenly ground a knuckle into his head, "Hi Naruto! Did you miss us?" Konohamaru, his friends and Sakura all skidded to a halt, turning to see the beautiful young blonde woman clad in light armor the color of sand, cheerfully holding Naruto badly off balance in a stranglehold, and her friend in black with purple face paint grinning at the two of them with just a hint of nervousness.

"TEMARI?!" Naruto exclaimed, "What are you doing here?! I GIVE! I GIVE!" Temari promptly turned loose and set him up right with a grin, "You know you love it." Naruto rubbed his head, "Oww..." Temari kissed him on the cheek, "Good to see you again." Sakura's jaw dropped along with Konohamaru's, Moegi's and Udon's, as Naruto's eyes widened. He looked at Temari, "Erm, did you guys get my last letter?" Temari drew very close to him and laid her index finger on his chest, "You mean the one that said you had passed your graduation test to Genin, or the one before it that said you were seeing someone now? Yeah, we got it." She suddenly flicked the rest of her fingers and blasted Naruto through the nearest fence.

"I was a little upset," Temari said with a cheerful smile as she held her thumb and forefinger about a centimeter apart. Kankuro scratched his head, "Little? I haven't seen a sandstorm like that since the last time you and Gaara got into it!" As Temari turned and smiled daggers at him, he took a step back, his eyes widening, raising his hands in a peaceful gesture, "You're right just a little. Blew right over. Didn't bother you hardly at all!" Temari smiled, reached down, grabbed Naruto's foot, lifted him off the ground upside down and held him there with one hand, "But don't worry Naruto, I'm completely over it." DROP

Even Sasuke, who had only just now dared to poke his head around the corner winced. Temari turned to Sakura, Konohamaru, Moegi, Udon and Sasuke, "Is this your team Naruto?" She extended a hand to Sakura, "I'm Temari from the Sand Village, and this is my brother Kankuro. We're old friends of Naruto's. You must be Hinata," She said as Sakura shook her hand. Sakura immediately gasped in pain as Temari's grip threatened to break every bone in her hand, "NO! I'M...SAKURA!!!"

Temari's grip immediately relaxed, "Oh sorry," she apologized with that cheerful innocent smile, "My mistake. I was certain Hinata would be beautiful and probably on Naruto's team if Naruto had anything to say about it." Sakura massaged her throbbing hand, "Well, thank you. No, Hinata's actually on a different team, this is our third teammate, my boyfriend Sasuke." Sasuke waved, not quite daring to risk shaking Temari's hand, "Sasuke Uchiha, nice to meet you. So you guys are from the Sand Village? What are you doing in the Hidden Leaf?"

A red haired boy with a tremendous gourd on his back walked up quietly and helped Naruto up. Naruto whispered to him, "Gaara, did Temari have a crush on me?" "You're just now figuring that out?" Gaara asked dryly. Temari's expression warned everyone who could see it to back up. Unfortunately Naruto and Gaara couldn't see it until Temari rounded on them, her face beet red, "IT TOOK ME KNOCKING YOU THROUGH A FENCE BECAUSE YOU'RE SEEING SOMEONE ELSE TO FIGURE THAT OUT?! HOW DUMB ARE YOU NARUTO?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE SMART!"

Temari seemed twelve feet tall, Naruto felt about an inch high and even Gaara backed away from him, trying to get out of Temari's firing line as she seethed at Naruto. Naruto blinked and scratched his head, a puzzled look on his face, "Gee Temari, I never really thought about it. I heard you liked tall guys with dark hair, and that you were seeing somebody else already."

Temari's expression was surprised, then puzzled, then annoyed, then she rounded on Kankuro, "KANKUROOO!!!" Kankuro was already over a fence and gone.

Temari was so mad her chakra was almost visibly combusting around her as the wind whipped in furious little eddies around her, "When I get my hands on him..." Naruto looked at Gaara while Temari picked out in her head the exact horrid things she was going to do to Kankuro for telling Naruto that she wasn't interested, something only he would've dared to do, "It's great to see you all, but why are you here? Did something happen in Sand?"

Gaara shook his head, "No, but something's about to happen in Leaf. The Chunin Exams are being held here in a week." Naruto stared, "They are? I just got back from a mission, I've been a little out of the loop. Who all's attending?" Gaara ticked off the names on his fingers, "Sand, Grass, Rain, Waterfall, and a new village called Sound from the Land of Rice Paddies sent a squad as well. Are you up for promotion?" Naruto scratched his head, "I dunno, like I said, we just got back from a mission and haven't heard anything about it."

Gaara hmm-ed, "Well surely you will be up for advancement. In the mean time, it's been what, six months since we heard from you?" "Eight," Temari growled, still glaring at the spot where Kankuro had been. Naruto cringed, "Sorry guys, I've been really busy. I meant to write, I just kept getting distracted." "Either way," Gaara said peaceably before Temari could fire up again, "We should catch up. Sasori-sensei has given us the day off. You can introduce us to your team and tell us what you've been up to. Oh, before I forget," He turned to Sakura and Sasuke, "Hello, I am Gaara of the desert."

Sakura bowed slightly, "It's nice to meet you Gaara." Sasuke waved, "Hi. Sasuke Uchiha and my girlfriend Sakura Haruno. You apparently know Naruto already." Gaara nodded, "Yes, we have been friends for six years." "Seven last Tuesday," Temari corrected. Gaara blinked and thought for a moment, "Yes, that's right." Sakura blinked, "You all remember the day you met?" Gaara nodded, "Yes, Naruto was the first friend I ever had outside my family."

All present who didn't know the story blinked, "Really? Why?" Gaara shrugged, "I'm a Jinchuriki. There's a Tailed Beast in my head. People were scared. Naruto was the first Jinchuriki I had ever met, and the first person to sympathize. When the other kids saw that he wasn't afraid of me, they got braver too. Now I'm a fun happy person." It wasn't what Gaara was saying that set them off, it was the utterly deadpan delivery. Gaara smiled slightly as Sasuke, Sakura, Konohamaru, Udon, and Moegi all doubled up laughing, "See? I'm loads of fun."

A Little While LaterEdit

Team Kurenai walked into the restaurant where Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, Gaara and Temari were eating and talking. Konohamaru and company had gone off to practice the Transparent Escape Technique Naruto had taught them. Naruto gulped as he wondered what Temari was going to do, but he waved them over anyway and everyone scooted further into the booth, subtly making sure to get as many people between Hinata and Temari as possible.

Kiba looked at Gaara and Temari, "So who are these guys?" Naruto smiled as Hinata kissed him on the cheek, "Hinata, Kiba, Shino, these are Gaara and Temari. They're old friends of mine from the Village Hidden in the Sand." Temari leaned forward smiling pleasantly, "So you're Hinata. Naruto sent us a letter that said you two were together. I must confess, I'm a little jealous." Kiba and Shino looked at her like she was out of her mind as Hinata blushed crimson in shock.

Then Hinata wrapped her arms around Naruto and said bluntly, "MINE!" Her expression was so fiercely determined that Temari actually recoiled a little with a blink. To Gaara, Sakura and Sasuke, it looked like a mouse telling a lioness to back off. It took about ten seconds for it to sink in. Temari's mouth twitched, and then she and everyone else burst out laughing. Except Naruto, who just smiled as his tail coiled around Hinata protectively.

Temari finally managed to stop laughing after a few moments. She wiped a tear from her eye, "It's alright Hinata. I don't blame you. It's totally Kankuro's fault and he's going to pay for it when I catch him, but I don't blame you. Who wouldn't want Naruto?"

Kiba, Shino, Sakura and Sasuke had only just managed to stop laughing when she said it. Kiba nearly fell out of the booth he was laughing so hard, even Akamaru was wagging his tail and smiling as though it were the funniest thing he had ever heard. Hinata, Temari and Gaara all frowned, Hinata in annoyance and Gaara and Temari in confusion.

"What's so funny?" Temari asked. "Who, who wouldn't want..." Sasuke was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe and couldn't finish. Temari looked at him, "What?" Naruto sighed, "I wasn't exactly Mr. Popular at the Academy. That was Sasuke. I had some problems being a Jinchuriki too. A lot of our generation never knew about it, and didn't until I told them, but their parents knew. They didn't know why their parents didn't like me, but they could tell they didn't and they didn't know anything about me to help them get past that, so they weren't my biggest fans either. I did make some friends though, and Hinata was the very first."

"Oh," Temari said, "Well that explains why you picked her over me." She poked Sasuke, who was still laughing, "And for the record, Naruto is tremendously popular in Sand. He'd have mobs of girls after him if I wasn't." All eyes except Gaara's widened in shock, "HE WOULD?" "He would?" Hinata asked in surprise, her voice sounding very small. "I would?" Naruto asked in surprise. "You would," Gaara replied, "Being the Kazekage's daughter gives Temari a bit of precedence and authority to throw around, so everyone very wisely backed off once word got around that she wanted you. Really, we're very surprised it's not the same here."

Naruto smiled, "Well, most people don't know who my dad was, and there's the Jinchuriki thing, so a lot of people don't see me the way you guys do." Shino looked across the table at Naruto, "Is your father someone we would know?" "Naruto's dad was the Fourth Hokage," Hinata told him. Kiba and Shino stared, both looking as though they had just been told Akamaru was actually a dragon.

The Next DayEdit

Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke waited on the bridge where they always met with Kakashi. Sakura groaned, "Why does he always set the time so early when he knows he's going to be late?" Naruto shrugged, "Training for dealing with future unpleasant clients?" Sakura paused mid fume and looked at him, "Really?" Naruto shrugged, "Dunno but it's the excuse I'd use." Sakura cast him a mild glare.

Kakashi suddenly appeared on top of one of the arches over the bridge, "Hello everybody. Sorry I'm late, I got lost on the path of life." He leapt down, "I know it's rather sudden, but I've nominated you for the Chunin Exams." He held out three sheets of paper, "These are the application forms." "Application forms?" Sakura asked. "You're repeating me Sakura," Kakashi said, "This is all completely voluntary. If you don't feel ready for it yet, you can wait until next year. If you do want to participate, sign these application forms and come to room 301 at the Academy. It's at three PM, five days from now. That's it."

"Awesome!" Naruto declared. He looked at Sasuke and Sakura, "I think we're all in. You?" They nodded with a smile, and Kakashi smiled behind his mask, "Alright then. See you there." He promptly disappeared.

That Evening at SundownEdit

Naruto perched on a rooftop with Sasuke, Sakura, and Teams Kurenai and Asuma, "Here they come," he said as a small flood of ninja advanced through the village gates in clumps of three in the fading light. Hinata gasped suddenly and pointed, "Look!" They all looked and Teams Kakashi and Kurenai caught their breath as they recognized the masked figure advancing through the gates with over a dozen shinobi behind him, "It's that guy from the bridge," Naruto said, "Is he a genin?!"

Sakura shook her head, "No way! He's got to be one of the Jonin instructors!" There was a sound like water flowing behind them, "Wrong on both counts." They turned and saw a young man with white hair materialize next to them out of a puddle of water, "That's Hattori Hanzo, the head of the Rain Village." He stood, "So you're the Leaf Village's candidates huh? You won't stand a chance against our squads." "We'll see about that!" Kiba barked.

Sakura gave the water ninja a piercing glare, "Why would the head of a hidden village run around at the order of another village head?" He grinned and flipped something massive up out of the puddle he had been standing in. It glinted in the fading light, "Might've had something to do with this." He planted the blade of Zabuza's sword on the rooftop, pulled a bottle from his side and drank deeply as Teams Kakashi and Kurenai stared at the weapon and how easily the foreigner handled it. He leaned on the sword and continued, "The Mizukage and Lord Hattori go way back, so Lord Hattori's helping him get settled in as the new boss, but he's still the Master of Hidden Rain, and his former teammates are two of the Jonin instructors for the Hidden Rain's teams. He wouldn't have missed this for the world."

He took another drink, "Name's Suigetsu. Hattori told me I should come have a look at you since you were the team that took down Zabuza's squad." He sheathed his sword on his back, "Zabuza must've had some real losers working for him if you guys beat them." Before anyone could reply he leapt down to the street laughing, liquefying momentarily before rematerializing and walking over to the man he had declared the head of the Hidden Rain Village talking nonstop.

Sakura, Sasuke and Kiba were all varying degrees of livid. Naruto allowed a spark of irritated electricity to play around his fingers, "I wonder if he's taking the exam? I'd love to see what electricity does to that water body of his." "Agreed," Sakura and Sasuke growled in unison.

Five Days LaterEdit

Squad 7 met up outside the Academy and headed in, Sasuke leading the way as Sakura and Naruto's eyes flickered about, taking in and analyzing everything. As they walked along the second floor, they saw Lee get punched back into a crowd of spectators. Naruto raised an eyebrow, that was way too slow to have even come close to Lee, he thought. Then he heard Tenten begging to be let through and then get punched as well, and he realized what was up as one of the two thugs blocking the door laughed about how they were nice by comparison. He sighed, "Sasuke, Sakura, would one of you like to tell them or should I?"

The small group of spectators being blocked turned around to look at him; he hadn't said it quietly. "I think I'll let Sakura explain," Sasuke said with a smug smile. Sakura grinned, "We're on the second floor people, those two put up a genjutsu to mess with you." One of the thugs grinned as the air rippled slighty around the sign that said 301, revealing it to actually say 201, "So you saw through the genjutsu huh? Well, aren't we the smart ones? Well let's see you deal with this!" He promptly leapt forward and his leg came up for a kick.

Lee moved with his usual speed and caught his leg with one hand before any of Squad 7 even had to move, "I think that is quite enough." The bully lost his balance and fell, gasping in pain even after Lee released his grip. Neji and Tenten walked over as the bully and his friend made tracks while the rest of the competitors headed for the next floor, "What happened to the plan Lee? You were the one who said to keep a low profile and not let anyone see our skill level." Lee sighed, "I know, but..." "Never mind," Tenten said, "It's over, forget it." Lee sighed, "Hello Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto, it is good to see you again. I had heard you were all taking the exams too. I know you shall be ferocious competitors!"

Squad 7 smiled, "You guys too," Naruto replied, "This year's finals are gonna be one heck of a show! My friends from Sand are here too. I can't believe they're still genin, but I have a feeling they won't be for long." Tenten smiled, "you'll have to introduce us."

Kakashi and Gai met them upstairs and after a quick pep talk from their mentors, the two teams went into the room. They found every eye in the room turning to look at them as they stepped into the crowded room. Naruto stumbled slightly as Hinata pounced him, "Naruto!" She gave him a quick kiss and hugged him as Shino, Kiba, Shikamaru, Ino and Choji walked up. "Well, looks like the gang's all here!" Kiba said with a grin.

Suddenly a voice interrupted the cheerful greetings, "Hey guys, you might want to keep it down," A young man with white hair and glasses walked up, "You guys are the nine rookies right? Fresh out of the Academy? I wouldn't go making a spectacle of yourselves. Just cool it, this isn't a class field trip." "Well who asked you?" Ino barked, "Who are you?" "I am Kabuto Yakushi, but really. Look around you. You've made quite an impression." They all looked around and saw several dozen sets of eyes pointed in their direction.

Kabuto indicated one particularly nasty looking group, "See those guys? They're from the Rain Village, very touchy." He indicated the rest of the crowd with a tilt of his head, "They all are, this exam makes everyone tense, and you don't want to rub them the wrong way right now. How could you not though? Nobody could expect you to know how things work here, you're just rookies. You remind me of myself awhile back." Neji and Tenten were on the verge of spontaneous combustion at being called rookies.

"Kabuto right?" Sakura asked, "This isn't your first time taking the exam?" Kabuto smiled, "No, actually it's my seventh." Everyone raised an eyebrow as he continued, "Well they're held twice a year, so this is my fourth year." "So you're a veteran," Sakura said, "You must be an expert by now." "Yeah, sort of," Kabuto replied. "So you can give us all the tips eh?" Naruto asked with a grin. "Some expert," Shikamaru grumbled, "He's never passed!" Kabuto scratched his head embarrassed, "Well you know what they say, seventh time's the charm!"

Shikamaru sighed, "Guess that means all those rumors about the exam being tough are true then huh? What a drag." "Well don't give up hope yet," Kabuto said with a grin, "Maybe I could help you kids out a little." He fished a thick stack of cards from his pocket, "With my ninja info cards." Sakura raised an eyebrow, "What are those?" Kabuto spread them out, "Well it's hard to explain. These are chakra coded with everything I've learned over the past four years. I've got more than two hundred of them," he said as he knelt down and laid the large stack on the ground, "So you see, I haven't been completely wasting my time."

"They may not look like much to the naked eye," he continued as he turned one over, revealing it to be blank, "In fact they appear blank. Don't want just anyone knowing what's on them." He spun the card with his finger, "Like this." When he finished spinning it, they saw it had a map on it. "Cool," Naruto said, "What is it?" "The geographical distributions of all the ninjas taking the exams. The regions they come from and how many from each village."

He looked up at them, "Why do you think they all come here to take the exam together at the same time?" Nobody answered so Kabuto answered his own question, "It's to foster friendship between nations, international brotherhood and all that, and it's true enough as far as it goes." "But there's another reason," Sasuke said. "Yep," Kabuto said, "This way they can carefully regulate the number of shinobi that end up being in each village, thereby maintaining the balance of power. They all nodded, and Shikamaru declared it to all be a drag.

Kabuto promptly wiped the card and Sasuke asked, "Do those cards of yours have any information on the other candiates? Individually?" "They might," Kabuto replied with a grin, "You have someone special in mind?" "I might," Sasuke replied. "Well I can't promise my information is complete or perfect, but I've got something on just about everyone," Kabuto said as he lined his cards back up.

He lifted one off the top, "So tell me anything about them you know, name, where they're from, anything." "Suigetsu from the Hidden Rain," Sasuke told him. Kabuto frowned, "You mean the Rain Village Head's bodyguard? He's not taking the exam." Naruto sighed, "Guess I won't get to find out what zapping him does after all. How about the Hidden Sound guys? I had never heard of their village before a week ago." "They're small," Kabuto said, "They sprang up recently. Nobody knows anything about them. Those guys are a complete mystery. But I can tell you that if they're anything like all the other villages, they sent extremely skilled candidates. But you get the point, the competition's going to be fierce this year."

"So it would seem," Hinata said. "Do you really think it's going to be tougher this time?" Sakura asked. "Oh yeah," Kabuto said, casting a glance at the crowd, "I've never seen a crop of candidates with as much potential as this bunch. We've got our work cut out for us." As Kabuto stood up, there was a sudden blur through the crowd and a shinobi with spiky hair jumped over everyone's heads, two kunai appearing in his hand. He threw them and Kabuto leapt back out of the way. Then a man in purple with a face covered in bandages materialized in front of them, pulling up his sleeve and swiping at Kabuto. He didn't hit Kabuto, but Kabuto's glasses shattered an instant later anyway.

Kabuto took off his glasses, "I see, it was that kind of attack." Then he suddenly gasped and collapsed to his knees coughing. As Sakura and Naruto rushed to check on him, the third of the Sound genin appeared, a girl with long black hair and the three smiled smugly at Kabuto. "Not such a tough guy after all I guess," the one with bandages said, "Maybe that's why he's on his seventh try." "Write this on your little card punk," the one with spiky hair said, "the genin from the Sound Village will be chunin when this is over! Guaranteed."

Before anyone could say or do anything, a voice yelled from a cloud of smoke that appeared at the other end of the room, "ALRIGHT! Listen up you baby faced degenerates!" The smoke cleared away revealing a man in a headband and black trenchcoat along with a platoon of proctors, "It's time to begin. I am Ibiki Morino, your proctor, and from this moment on, your worst enemy."

I know what you're thinking, "WHAT?! TEMARI AND NARUTO?!" Yes. Temari and Naruto. Naruto was one of the first friends Gaara ever made since after worming the information about the Tailed Beasts and Jinchuriki out of the Third Hokage he went to Sand with Jiraiya to meet Gaara. Once there he helped Gaara make friends, essentially giving Temari and Kankuro their baby brother back. He has since visited Sand many times, and has become very good friends with the Sand Siblings. His pranks and his friendship with the Sand Siblings who were no longer estranged by their peers and instead quite popular due to Gaara no longer being a psycho, led to Naruto sharing in their popularity and having as many girls chasing after him in Sand as Gaara and Kankuro until Temari admitted to her crush on him and all the other girls in Sand immediately decided their health dictated they back off.

Yes, Kankuro was the one who told Naruto Temari was seeing somebody, partially to be an overprotective big brother, and partially to be a teasing big brother. He hadn't intended for Naruto to wind up with Hinata instead of Temari, it had mostly just been a joke for him until that letter came in and Temari was so upset that they needed a new roof after she finally calmed down. Would Naruto have gone out with Temari if Kankuro hadn't told him she wasn't interested? Probably. Would he give up Hinata for Temari? Not a chance.

Yes Temari is very strong. She is as strong or stronger than Sakura. There is a reason for this. Unfortunately you will just have to wait for me to explain it; trust me though, the explanation is well worth the wait.

Yes, Suigetsu has been freed from the Hidden Sound and is now working for Hattori. Yes, Hattori is actually the Head of Hidden Rain, having inherited the position from Hanzo. Why Hanzo left his position and gave it to Hattori is something else you will just have to wait for an explanation on, and Suigetsu explained why Hattori would run a mission for the Mizukage. Yes, we will be seeing a new set of 6 Rain genin under Hattori's old teammates in addition to all the other Rain genin from canon. Hold on to your seats boys and girls, it's OC time!

Next Time: The Exams Begin!Edit