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Chapter 9: The Chunin Exams Part 2-The Forest of DeathEdit

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The Forest of Death was really only one section of the massive swamp that surrounded the Village Hidden in the Leaves, but Naruto knew from his transformed shadow clones' exploration the night before, that it was as nasty and vile a piece of swamp as had ever besmirched the face of earth. There was a reason nobody strayed from the road on their way into the village, and little green patches of hell like this one were it.

"Now before we begin this test, I have something to hand out to you all," Anko announced as she pulled a stack of papers from an inside pocket of her coat, "It's just a standard consent form." There were a number of questioning looks throughout the crowd as she continued, "Before the test, all of you are going to have to read over this form and then sign it." "What's it for?" one of the contestants asked. Anko grinned, "Well, some of you might not come back from this test, and I have to get your consent to that risk, otherwise it would be my responsibility," she laughed.

There was a wave of concerned muttering as Anko went on, "Now I'll announce what you'll be doing in this test." She handed the forms to Naruto who was near the front, "Here, pass these out." As the forms started going around she announced, "The first thing you need to know is that this test will tax every one of your survival skills." She unfurled a small map to show them, "First I'll give you a description of the terrain in the testing ground. The Forty Fourth Battle Training Ground has forty four locked entrance gates. There are rivers and a forest inside. In the center is a locked tower located ten kilometers from each gate. It's in this confined area that you'll undergo the survival test."

She tucked the map away into her coat, "The test consists of an anything goes battle, to get your hands on these scrolls." She held up two scrolls, one blue, one white, and Sasuke asked, "Both of them?" "Yes," Anko replied, "You will be fighting to obtain both a Heaven scroll and an Earth Scroll. All in all twenty six teams will be participating in this test, so half of those teams will be going after the Heaven scroll, and the other half will be going after the Earth Scroll. I'll hand over one kind of scroll to each team, and that's what you'll be vying for."

"Ok, so how do we pass the test?" Sasuke asked. "Your entire squad must bring both a Heaven and Earth scroll to the tower," Anko declared. "So at most only half the teams can pass," Sakura said. "No one ever said it would be easy," Anko replied, "Oh and one more thing, the test has a time limit. You must finish within five days."

"Five days out there?!" Ino exclaimed. "What are we supposed to do for food?!" Choji exclaimed. "Just look around," Anko replied, "The forest is full of things to eat! There's plenty to feed all of you." "Yeah," Kabuto smirked, "But that's not all the forest has plenty of, there are man-eating beasts and poisonous plants in there." "Aw man!" Choji exclaimed. "Quiet down," Ino scolded him, "This is why it's called survival training you know."

"With those circumstances," Neji muttered to Lee and Tenten, "There's no way even half the teams will finish." "With the days getting longer and the nights getting shorter we'll have less time to recover," Lee agreed with a grin, "It is a challenge indeed!" "Surrounded by enemies, there won't be any time to rest. We'll have to keep a constant watch," Sasuke said to himself. "Right," Anko replied having somehow heard all three, "This test also measures endurance behind enemy lines. This is designed to be a grueling test, and I'm sure some of you won't be up to the challenge."

Shikamaru raised his hand, "So, um, let's say mid-exam. Can we quit?" "Of course not!" Anko replied, "In the middle of a battle you can't say 'sorry I quit!'" Then she smiled, "Well I guess you could, but it's probably gonna getcha killed!" "Oh just great," Shikamaru drawled, "This is gonna be a drag."

Anko turned back to the majority of the contestants, "There are also some ways you can get disqualified. The first is simple, if all three members of a team can't make it to the tower with both scrolls within five days. Number two, if a team loses a member or if a member becomes incapacitated and cannot continue. But most importantly, none of you, absolutely none of you may look at the contents of the scrolls until you reach the tower. There are times when a ninja will be asked to carry secret documents. The scroll rule is to test your integrity."

"Ok," she smiled, "We're done. Each team take your consent forms and exchange them over there for your scrolls." She pointed to a booth over by the gate, "After that, each team pick a gate and you'll be let inside." She sighed, "Oh and I have one more word of advice, just don't die!"

The applicants split off into their teams and began discussing what they were going to do to get an edge. Squad 7 gathered by a nearby boulder, "Everything set?" Sasuke asked. Naruto grinned, "You know it. This is gonna be a cake walk." Sakura shook her head with a smile, "I still have a hard time wrapping my head around you being this good." Naruto grinned, "Well I do have big shoes to fill you know." Sakura snorted with laughter, "And there's the dad card." Naruto shrugged, "It's an important one."

"One question though," Sasuke asked, "Why is one of your shadowclones riding in Hinata's pocket disguised as a tiny fox?" Naruto raised an eyebrow, "Because I love her and want to be able to help her if she needs me to. You'd do the same for Sakura." Sasuke nodded, "Point." Sakura smiled and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Are we ready then?" Naruto asked.

Sasuke nodded, "I think so." Naruto pushed off from where he had been leaned against the rock, "Then let's go."

Half an Hour LaterEdit

The chunin manning the gate unlocked it and let them in. They hurried in and in a few minutes later paused. "Have you acquired a target yet?" Sasuke asked. Naruto grinned, "Yep. You remember that Kabuto guy?" "Should we really go after him?" Sakura asked, "He did at least try to help us." Naruto shrugged, "Normally I'd let him off for that, and if his team can fight off my shadow clones we'll go after somebody else, but I don't like him. This is his seventh time, and his teams have made it to the finals every time. He always backs out before he can risk being promoted to Chunin. Something smells fishy about that to me." Sakura and Sasuke stared, "He backs out every time?"

Naruto nodded, "don't know why, don't much care. If he's just going to back out anyway, he can afford to donate his scroll to us." Sakura and Sasuke nodded. Naruto grinned, "And there's one of my clones back. Kabuto's team didn't stand a chance against the ambush. My clones are headed this way with the scroll now." Sasuke and Sakura blinked, they had known Naruto had sent clones after Kabuto's team, but they hadn't expected them to work that fast.

Naruto fished a scroll from inside his coat, "No reason we can't hurry them along though." He opened it and an instant later two Naruto clones popped out of it, both of them with two tails instead of the usual one. One handed over a blue scroll with a grin and then both dissipated in puffs of smoke as Naruto rolled the summoning scroll back up. "Just out of curiosity, how did you beat them?" Sasuke asked.

Naruto grinned as his tail waved behind him, "You know how powerful my Thunder Release is when I use my hands? I've been practicing, and if I use it with two tails instead of two hands it's fifty times as powerful. I had half a dozen shadow clones use my Twin Tail Thunder Cannon on Kabuto and his team all at once. They probably won't be moving much for a couple of days." He straightened up, "I've got the other three clones I sent hauling them out. I'm not heartless, they won't get eaten." He handed the scroll to Sakura, "Would you hold onto this? You're the best of us in close. If anyone gets close enough to you to take a scroll off you you'll break them into pieces."

Sakura accepted the scroll with a smile, "Thanks." "Let's head for the tower," Naruto grinned.

An Hour LaterEdit

Squad 7 pushed through their designated door into the large empty room on the other side. Naruto looked around, "Huh. I didn't think we were that early." Sakura pointed, "No look! Those must be the instructions. If qualities of heaven are what you desire, acquire wisdom to take your mind higher. If earthly qualities are what you lack, train your body and prepare to attack. When Heaven and Earth are opened together the perilous path shall become righteous forever, this, something, is the secret way that guides us from this place today."

"This what?" Naruto asked, "Or is that a secret too?" Sakura shook her head, "It's like there's a word missing, but it's about the scrolls. I think we're supposed to open them now." She pulled one from inside her armor and handed it to Sasuke. She held onto the other one and the three of them swapped nervous glances before nodding. Sakura and Sasuke laid down the scrolls and cautiously broke the seals on them.

They edged them open cautiously and then Naruto reached over and caught Sakura and Sasuke's hands before they could open the scrolls any further as he saw the start of what was written on them, "Hold it, that's a summoning jutsu. We need to back up before we open them all the way." Sasuke and Sakura looked at him and then heeded his advice, setting the scrolls down before nudging them the rest of the way open with their toes.

The paper bulged and white smoke billowed out as they backed up. A few moments later a familiar voice bellowed, "NARUTOOOOO! YOU WERE TOLD NOT TO OPEN THE-wait a minute..." Iruka stepped out of the smoke, "you're here already?!" He looked down and stared in shock as he saw both a Heaven and Earth scroll, "You passed the second stage that quickly?" He looked up at them, "That's incredible!"

"Hi Iruka sensei," Naruto said with a belated wave, "How ya doin?" Iruka blinked and then grinned, "Great! My students just destroyed the record for this test!" "What's the record?" Sakura asked. "Five and a half hours," Iruka replied with a grin as he adjusted his forehead protector, "It's only been one and a half since you guys started!" Naruto turned and raised his hands to Sakura and Sasuke for high fives which were quickly given.

Then they turned back to Iruka, "So what's up with the flashy entrance Iruka sensei?" Iruka smiled, "At the end of the second test we Chunin are supposed to welcome the test takers back and well, it was just good luck that I happened to be assigned the important task of being the messenger for you guys. Congratulations, you've passed the second exam. To celebrate I'd love to treat you all to some Ichiraku ramen," "That would be truly excellent," Naruto declared.

Iruka smiled, "Yes it would, but sadly you have to wait here until the end of the exam." A small noise of disapproval escaped Naruto as Iruka continued, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the instructions that had told them to open the scrolls, "And if you haven't figured out the writing on the wall, I'm supposed to explain that too." Naruto scratched his head for a moment, "Mmm...isn't that Lord Hokage's thing about training your weak spots? Heaven being your mind and earth your body?" Iruka nodded, "That's the one."

Iruka grinned, "Well, that was all I was supposed to do. Good luck with the third exam, and try not to go stir crazy cooped up in here for the next five days. See you soon!" With a quick hand sign and a burst of smoke he disappeared. Naruto's shoulders sagged slightly, "Five days? Ooogh..." he said with a slight shudder. "So what now?" Sasuke asked. Naruto's face suddenly split in a grin, "Now we go wait to congratulate Squad 8. The shadow clone I sent with Hinata just came back, they're right outside."

Twenty Minutes LaterEdit

"Hi guys! You made it early too?" Temari called. Teams 7 and 8 turned and saw the Sand Siblings walking up. Kankuro's left arm was in a sling and the right side of his face was solid purple as opposed to the usual pattern. Apparently Temari had been very serious about making him pay, Naruto thought, quietly hoping that she didn't bear any animosity towards Hinata like that. "Yeah, I didn't think it was going to be that easy," Kiba replied cheerfully, "Three chumps tried to ambush us, but we saw em comin and Shino fed em to some leeches."

An expression of disgust flitted across Temari's face, "Leeches?" "Yes," Shino replied, "Not unlike the one you have on the back of your leg." Temari's expression went from shocked to panicked instantly as she twisted and tried to see it, brushing her hands over the backs of her legs, "GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!! GET IT OFF!!!" Shino laid a hand on her shoulder, "Calm down and hold still." He reached down and pulled something black and slimy off the back of her upper leg. Temari backed away quickly in disgust and horror as she got a look at the disgusting bloated thing. Once she felt she was a safe distance from it she twisted and tried to get a look at the spot where it had been.

"Gaara look at it, is it bad?" Gaara crouched down, "There's a hole in your stocking, it looks very red, and it is bleeding a bit, but you've had worse." "I can't feel it," Temari said with a note of urgency in her voice. "I'm not surprised," Shino replied, "Judging by its size, this leech has been on you for nearly an hour. I'm amazed you're still up walking around. A normal person would have to have been carried in. As is, you all need to check yourselves soon to make sure there aren't more."

Several hearts skipped a beat as Temari started sloughing off her outer layer of clothes immediately. They were slightly disappointed when they saw she had on a light black tank top and shorts on under her outer clothes, along with a form fitting black mesh suit under that, but it hugged her form tightly enough that they weren't too disappointed as she hurriedly started twisting and craning her neck to look at every part of her body she could, "Gaara, there aren't any on my back are there?" Gaara looked at her back calmly, "No, that seems to have been the only one."

Kankuro scratched his head through his hood with his good arm, "Hey Gaara, we probably need to go check ourselves over too, we all walked through that bog." Gaara nodded, "Yes we should do that." He looked at the others, "I don't suppose you know where a bathroom would be located?" Naruto jerked a thumb over his shoulder, "I think I saw one back that way."

Shino looked at him, "Your team should probably go check yourselves over too Naruto, I kept our team clear of them, but you might've run into some. Also, everyone needs to check for small brown bugs. They're like leeches and they can carry disease, so we need to be sure there aren't any on us, and if there are we need to make sure we get a medic to look at it." He looked at Hinata and Kiba, "I've been exuding pheromones that repel them from our group, so we should be clear, but we should go see if we can find a medic in case anyone needs one, and Temari's leg needs to be checked and examined quickly to prevent any chance of infection."

He called after the others as they stampeded toward the bathrooms, "Be sure you check each other's hair thoroughly! They like to bite your scalp!" Shino sighed, "Am I the only one who bothered to look up what dangers are common to the swamp before I came in?" He sighed again and scratched his head, "I hope they've all had their vaccinations. Swamps breed some seriously nasty diseases." Kiba patted him on the shoulder, "Well for now, let's go find that medic. By the way, great job getting Temari out of her clothes like that, that was awesome." "I'm surprised more people didn't do it," Shino replied, "If I didn't know I was clean I would have done it too."

Three Hours LaterEdit

After an hour and a half of very thorough check overs, from each other and the medics Team 8 brought down, they had all taken showers involving extra thorough scrubbing. Thankfully Temari had been the only one to pick up an unwanted passenger, but they all scratched and shivered periodically as their subconscious minds continued to imagine things crawling on them.

Now they all sat around a table in one of the tower's lounges wrapped in plain white robes while their clothes were washed as Shino set down a tray of tea, "Drink this, you'll feel better afterwards." Temari quickly took a cup and downed it in one swallow, "I hate swamps," she declared. "Of course you do," Shino replied, "Swamps are about as opposite to the deserts you are most familiar with as it gets." Temari nodded, "Yeah. I am starting to feel a little better now, can I have some more?"

Shino nodded and poured her some more as she rubbed the bandage on her leg, "Try to drink a little more slowly this time, if you drink too much too fast you'll throw up." Temari nodded and sipped slower, "That's an odd flavor. What kind of tea is this?" "Wine," Shino replied calmly. Everyone stared, then started laughing, unsure if he was serious or not. Then Kiba sniffed his cup, "Yeah, that's wine."

Temari giggled, "Giving wine to us, you should be ashamed of yourself. It's illegal in the Sand Village." "Wine is one of the Leaf Village's main exports. Everyone drinks it here," Shino replied, "It would be entirely too difficult to enforce a drinking age here. Although if it's your first time drinking, then you should certainly take it slow or you'll be falling over drunk in no time." Temari giggled again, "Oh I'm sure we'll be fine."

The Next DayEdit

Naruto and Sasuke made their way down to the arena aiming to practice, only to find the Sand Siblings there already. Temari was stretching, Kankuro was tinkering with one of his puppets and Gaara was forming up a column of sand to use as a punching bag. He looked over at them as they came in, "Good morning."

"Not good morning!" Kankuro grumbled, "I've never had a headache this bad!" Temari laughed, "What's the matter Kankuro? Can't handle your wine?" Kankuro growled at her and muttered irritably under his breath. Temari grinned as she stretched her shoulders, "You guys here to practice too?" "Yep," Naruto replied before yawning, "Figured we should. The third test is combat, so we need to be ready." Temari smiled winningly, "Wanna spar with us?"

Naruto thought about refusing then smiled, it was Temari, she knew most of his tricks anyway, "Sure." Temari grinned, "Alright, who's fighting who?" "Why not fight as teams? That way we don't give away too many of our solo techniques to each other?" Gaara supplied as Sasuke and Sakura weighed the merit of sparring with potential opponents, "I know we fight very differently as a team than we do one on one."

Naruto looked at Sasuke and Sakura, "We do too." Sasuke finally nodded, "Alright, let's see what you guys can do." Kankuro grinned over his shoulder at them, "Full force anything goes or are we gonna restrict it to taijutsu only?" They all swapped glances, "Taijutsu only I think," Temari said, setting her fan down, "We wouldn't want to demolish the arena before it's even show time." Gaara set his massive sand gourd off onto the ground, "Agreed. This arena isn't nearly big enough for the six of us to have a full on match. Shall we set a timer for three minutes? That should be plenty of time to get our blood pumping." They all nodded and he fished a little device with a dial from his pocket, "I'll set it for four minutes so Kankuro's puppet can get our gear clear."

Naruto grinned as Kankuro's puppet hurriedly moved Temari's fan and Gaara's gourd off to the sidelines with the timer and they all set up with each other. They gave each other some distance and then Naruto cast glances around at everybody, "Ready?" "Set?" Temari asked. "GO," they declared in unison. In an instant Temari leapt forward, a fist pulled back to nail Naruto only for him to fly out of the way as Sakura caught his tail and swung him around her before using the momentum to hurl him spinning at Gaara.

Gaara casually leapt out of the way and struck Naruto's side with the palm of his hand, sending him careering off course towards Kankuro. Kankuro launched himself upwards and almost landed a tremendous drop kick on Naruto, but Naruto stopped spinning just in time to throw his tail up as a shield and catch Kankuro's leg. Naruto twisted and yanked with his tail, slamming Kankuro into the ground before swinging him around to stop Gaara's advance and then spinning and hurling him at Temari who was going toe to toe with Sakura and Sasuke at the same time.

Temari ducked and Kankuro sailed into Sasuke, quickly wrapping around him like a snake and catching him in a wrestling hold. Temari leapt back to her feet and swung her body and elbow at Sakura. Sakura got her hand up to block the punch Temari's body telegraphed, but Temari's hand whiplashed around her blocking arm in a hook from behind where it was supposed to be and the inner edge of her hand connected soundly with Sakura's temple, sending her staggering backwards.

Temari leapt around her and twisted as she landed, driving an uppercut into Sakura that sent her flying backwards towards Sasuke and Kankuro. Sakura despite being slightly winded twisted midair and managed to plant her foot on Kankuro's face, loosening his grip on Sasuke but nearly taking Sasuke down with him. Sakura back flipped off Kankuro's face and managed to bounce off Gaara's back as he came rocketing through the air toward her. Sasuke wasn't quite as quick on the draw and Gaara coiled and kicked him in the chest, knocking him backward and stopping his own momentum on the spot.

Meanwhile Naruto had wrapped Temari in his tail and was struggling to keep her contained. Sakura leapt and slugged her as she broke free. Temari staggered and Naruto swept her feet out from under her with his tail, allowing Sakura to pin her to the ground with one arm pulled behind her back. Sasuke found himself being sat on by Kankuro as Gaara launched himself back at Naruto. Just as they were about to nail each other, the timer went off.

Naruto and Gaara both pulled their punches an inch from the others face and grinned, "Another draw," they said in unison with identical grins. They stepped back and clasped hands, "Good fight." As Sakura and Kankuro let Temari and Sasuke up a voice exclaimed from the doorway, "A most excellent fight indeed that was incredible!" They all turned and saw Lee, Neji and Tenten standing in the doorway bedraggled and worn out but all intact.

"I can't believe they beat us here," Tenten muttered to Neji as Lee rushed to introduce himself to the Sand Siblings. Neji nodded as Naruto introduced Lee to the Sand Siblings, "Guys, this here is Rock Lee and those are his teammates Tenten Shimura and Neji Hyuga. Lee, Tenten, Neji, these are the Shiroihebi siblings, Gaara, Temari and Kankuro." Lee bowed, "It is very nice to meet you." The Sand Siblings smiled and bowed back, "And you as well," Temari replied.

Lee straightened up, "I hate to be rude, but may I ask where we might find a shower? Our opponents put up an excellent fight when we battled for our scroll, and Tenten was hoping for a bath when we got here as she did an unfortunate face plant in the mud." Temari smiled, "Sure, I can show you where it is." "Thanks," Tenten smiled, "I got a lot of the mud out at the river, but I'll feel a lot better after a bath." "I know what you mean, sand I can handle but this swamp just ugh," Temari said with a grin as she led Tenten off down the hall.

Sakura suddenly remembered, "Wait! You guys need to get checked over by a medic for swamp bugs!" "Oh right," Temari said over her shoulder, "Ok Tenten, medic first then bath. Come on we'll go see the lady that patched up my leg where that leech got me." She looked at Neji and Lee as she led Tenten back in the other direction, "Are you guys coming?" "We are," Neji replied as he turned and fell in step behind them, Lee hurrying to catch up.

Two Days LaterEdit

"Shikamaru can we please go find something to eat now?" Choji groaned. "We can but only if you stop making me use my Shadow Possession Jutsu to frog march you and walk on your own feet," Shikamaru replied. "Okay!" Choji replied, perking up immediately. He suddenly took off and Shikamaru barely managed to release his Shadow Possession in time to avoid being dragged, "Where was this energy five minutes ago?" he asked Ino irritably. Ino sighed, "You know Choji.

"Hi guys," Sakura said from behind them. They both leapt straight to the ceiling and Ino actually managed to flip and hang there with her chakra. Shikamaru was too drained from frog marching Choji and simply landed. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE BILLBOARD BROW?" Ino barked. Sakura grinned up at her, "Well my team got here the first day, so I've been relaxing and training for the last three and a half days. You should have gotten here earlier Ino, it's been kind of like a party around here."

Ino flushed crimson with fury and embarrassment, Sakura had beaten her there by that much? Shikamaru stared, "You beat the test on the first day?" "Yep," Sakura replied cheerfully, "So did Squad 8 and the team from the Sand Village. Lee, Tenten and Neji all got here the next day, and there are two teams from Hidden Rain here too, but they don't really socialize much. I haven't seen them hardly at all really," she added thoughtfully.

"Anyway," she continued, "Shikamaru you need to go get Choji and drag him to the infirmary to get checked over for parasites. I'll show you where the shower is Ino, you look like you need one," she added with a smirk. As Shikamaru headed down the hallway after Choji, Sakura and Ino headed for the baths. "I know Sasuke and Naruto did all the work," Ino spat out the side of her mouth, "There's no way you could've made it here on the first day alone." "And you probably wouldn't have made it at all without Shikamaru and Choji," Sakura replied and was rewarded by Ino's face turning crimson.

Ino quickly decided that arguing with Sakura in her current state wouldn't work and changed the subject, "It's still weird to think that Naruto's competent." "He's a lot more than that you know," Sakura said, "He did all the work getting our scroll. His Shadow Clones took it from another team and had it to us less than half an hour after the test started. Iruka sensei was so surprised when we got here!"

Ino looked at her, "When did you guys get here?" "An hour and a half after the test started. We set the new record, tied with Squad 8 and the Shiroihebi Siblings." "The who?" "The Shiroihebi siblings, the team from Hidden Sand. They're a lot of fun. Really tough too. I haven't seen their jutsu, but Naruto says they're as tough as anybody else here. He did say something about that one guy from Hidden Rain making his fur stand on end, but now that you're here there's twenty one of us. You probably won't have to fight him.

"You'd still better bring your A-game for the third exam Ino," she continued quietly, "I've been watching everybody. If their nin and genjutsu are anything like their taijutsu, you'll need your A-game to even put up a decent show against most of them. I haven't seen much of the Rain teams, but what I have seen is scary. They're all heavy combat teams judging by their taijutsu, and there's one, the one with the blindfold Naruto pointed out. I saw him sparring with one of his teammates yesterday.

"He's got something, I don't know what. Some kind of dojutsu behind that blindfold maybe, or something, but his hand speed is incredible. His teammate has to be as fast as Lee, but this guy stopped a full body high speed punch from him with one hand like it was nothing. The follow up punch was as strong as any I've ever seen. I'm amazed his teammate could still stand, let alone get up out of the rubble of the wall he was knocked through like it didn't happen, dust himself off and talk about what a weak punch it was."

Ino stared at her, "WEAK?" Sakura nodded as they turned into the baths, "That was our reaction too. I don't know if he was just being macho or if that was actually a light hit for them, but I don't want to find out the hard way either." Ino nodded as they stripped and headed into the baths, which were already steaming. There was someone else in there already, a young woman with waist length dark hair.

"WHAT IS THAT?!" Ino exclaimed pointing at the woman's back. "It's a scar," the woman replied coldly, "Never seen what happens when someone gets burned?" "Not that," Sakura replied as she walked over, "The leech." The woman turned to look at her wide eyed, "Leech?!" Sakura reached out and yanked the huge slimy thing off her back. The woman yelped and leapt away as she saw it, "WHAT IS THAT?!" Sakura held the disgusting thing against the wall and punched it so hard it exploded.

"That," she said calmly, "Was a leech. We need to check both of you thoroughly to make sure there aren't any more on you, and then we need to get you to a medic to clean and bandage that wound." The woman reached around and started feeling her back frantically, "Wound?!" Then she felt hot blood on her hand and went very pale. Sakura laid a hand on her shoulder, "Calm down, breathe. You're going to be okay. It was small. I don't think it could've been on you long, so you probably haven't lost too much blood. You're going to be okay."

The woman sucked in a breath that was trying to be deep but didn't make it past shallow and held it, trying not to be sick at the sight of her own blood staining Sakura's skin from where the leech had exploded. There was a retching noise and Sakura sighed, "Pull yourself together Ino, that's not helping."

While Ino finished emptying the contents of her stomach onto the shower floor, Sakura instructed the woman to turn around and sit down on one of the benches so she could inspect her hair. "You're from the Sound Village right?" Sakura asked as she combed her fingers through the long black hair. The woman nodded, still stiff as a board. "What's your name?" Sakura asked in a soothing tone. "Kin," she replied tersely, her hands clenched so tight her knuckles were white. Sakura nodded, "Okay, I'm Sakura from the Hidden Leaf Village, and this is my cousin Ino." "Nice to meet you," Kin said nervously as Sakura continued methodically checking through her voluminous black hair. Sakura didn't mention when she picked out and pinched a tiny brown beetle like Shino had warned them about to death, or when she crushed a second smaller leech into oblivion with one hand.

After a few minutes, she ran her fingers through Kin's hair one more time, "Okay, you're all clear. Just finish washing and go talk to a medic. If you wait for me to check Ino over, I'll walk you down there." "Thank you," Kin replied shakily. Sakura smiled, "No problem, we were all freaking out when we found out about those things." Kin nodded, still tense, but slightly calmer as Sakura moved over to Ino and started combing through her hair.

A few minutes later Sakura smiled, "Okay, as soon as you two are done washing we'll head down to the infirmary and then we can go get you two some food. Sound good?" Ino and Kin nodded and Sakura smiled, "Good, I'll see you two outside."

~?~Edit

I'm sure you're wondering about how Naruto knew about Kabuto's history with the Chunin Exams. He knew the same way he knew about the aims of the first exam: He's watched them carefully for the past two years, spying when the tests weren't public.

You're probably also wondering why they had to stay in the tower until the end of the exam. The answer is simple: I wanted to show them interacting with the other teams and have some character development.

I'd guess you're probably also wondering about the last names I've assigned to the Sand Siblings and Tenten. It always bugs me when only half the characters have last names, so I'm assigning them as I see fit. For those of you who speak enough Japanese to understand the last name I assigned the Sand Siblings, if you figure it out, don't spoil it for the other readers.

Yes, Sakura and Ino are cousins now. Sakura's mom is blonde so I say it's possible, and with villages actually being villages in AUDTAI rather than the cities Kishimoto depicted, I think they could very easily be related. So now they are. Also I think it helps explain why they would continue to put up with each other and quarrel almost like siblings.

Yes Sakura did handle herself very well while dealing with Kin's unwanted passengers. This is because she still has potential to be trained as a medic, just like in canon, and I think medics should be able to comport themselves in a calm and appropriate manner and do what needs doing even when they are internally trying hard to keep their breakfast down. This is also a good trait I think for ninjas in general.

And last but not least, I'm sure those of you who noticed it are also wondering about the setting I described at the beginning of the chapter. Yes it is different from Kishimoto's Hidden Leaf Village in many ways. I will provide a more in depth description later as the story rolls along. In the event I make any supplemental material, I'll post it and include a link here. Until then, you'll just have to follow along and use your imagination.

Next Time! Narrowing The Field: Preliminaries To The Third Exam Begin!Edit

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