Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 31 ( Chapter 41 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: This should be interesting. Even I'm not sure how one of the fights will go between some of the 'cast of extras' among the genin -- my own notes say 'toss a coin' once. I guess we'll see. I was informed I made a mistake about making Konohamaru the Third's son, not grandson like I should have. Oops -- silly mistake on my part -- I knew that and had what I've often heard called a 'brain fart' when I was typing that line. I may fix it at some point, but not immediately. (Thankfully, I didn't have two dozen seperate reviews telling me I made that mistake, this time, the same as I once did when I had Anko admit to being Naruto's 'father,' which was also, likewise, a 'brain fart.' I'm relieved that I don't have to go through that again, this time) I also apparently, once, referred to Inari as Konohamaru -- or perhaps it was visa versa, the review wasn't very clear -- but I can't find that mistake to correct it. I recieved one rather long and complex review regarding my dialog style, and how it makes all the characters sound a bit off their true characterization. I honestly agree, although the problem is a result of my trying to apply some of my original fiction standards of dialog to fanfiction. It is something I COULD, in theory, fix, if I wanted to go back to the beginning of the fic and rewrite ALL of the dialog into something more consciously resembling the 'true' character's speech patterns... but I would be defeating one of my own purposes in writing this fanfic if I were to do so (which is to practice writing for future original work). Does that mean the characterization of these people I'm borrowing from Kishimoto is off? Eh, perhaps. Some of that may be, though, that I made certain guesses about how certain characters have changed between Part 1 and Part 2 of the manga. Some of those guesses have already proven false, but some have proven true as well, and the jury is still out on a lot of them. At any rate, it's much too late to do anything about it, now, unless I want to undertake that rewrite (which would be so much work, at this point, that I would probably just scrap the whole fic instead. I think that would annoy the majority of people who have been enjoying this fic, so I think not). So... I suppose I must ask you to bear with it.
Chapter 31
"Aw, come on, Naruto! Why do I have to fight an extra round! I thought we were friends!" Konohamaru protested, looking at the brackets for the tournament. He'd come knocking on Naruto's door at dawn the day of the tournament, hoping to get answers... and he'd gotten them. He just wasn't so happy with what they were.
"I do like you, Konohamaru-chan," Naruto replied, grinning. "You're like my little brother. But you aren't getting out of the extra fight."
"Aw, man," he sighed. "And just why do I have to fight a girl, anyway?"
"That 'girl,' as you called her, might have the greatest potential of any Hyuuga ever," Naruto pointed out. "The only possible rival is Neji, who I think may be a little better, but it's so close that I don't think we'll ever know for certain given how much older and more experienced Neji will always be. You're the son of a former hokage, you were the top of your class, and you've had an elite teacher working with you for years. It's a good match."
"Then you should have organized it so that we met in the finals, not so one of us goes out in the first round!" he protested.
"Nah," Naruto replied. "I have a pretty good idea of where the two of you are. What I want to know is if anyone else could beat one of the two of you. I put the best of everyone else in the other half of the bracket, and the 'dark horses' on your side. Unless someone is unexpectedly strong among those unknowns, though, I'm hoping that whichever of you is better will face someone just about your equal in the finals."
The younger boy grinned, recognizing the compliment. "Oh. Well, when you put it that way, I suppose having to fight Hanabi-chan in a preliminary match isn't that bad of an idea, after all."
"Naruto!" a voice called from behind the older boy. "Did I just hear you admit you've rigged this tournament?"
Naruto stiffened slightly. "What was that, Sakura-chan?"
The pink-haired girl came up behind him, dressed in a robe that was only revealing enough to show that she was wearing at least a flannel pajama shiirt underneath, and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I asked you if you were admitting you rigged the tournament."
"Of course I did," Naruto admitted, visibly relaxed by the kiss. "I didn't say they would be picked at random. I arranged for them to pair off against each other in the order I'd most like to see them fight, and not leave it to random chance. It would make sense to have it random if this was just a competition and we were trying to be fair to everyone, but that's not the case this time. We're trying to see who would be the best chuunin. So, I'm making what I feel are the best match-ups for that, instead."
"And I'm sure you're going to admit that to all the genin, right?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Naruto asked. "I don't think they'd believe me if I lied to them, anyway. Konohamaru, what's wrong?"
The genin's mouth was opening and closing like a fish as he pointed, seemingly shocked beyond words, at Sakura. The girl noticed and checked her robes. "What? Is something the matter? Nothing's slipped, has it?"
"You... you're living here?" Konohamaru finally sputtered out, astonished.
She laughed. "I've been living here for quite some time, off and on. I could have sworn you knew that!"
"I knew the two of you were dating, but... but..."
"There's a second bedroom," Naruto commented dryly.
Konohamaru looked from him to Sakura and back. "So, you two haven't...."
"Not yet," Naruto replied.
If anything, the boy looked even more put out. "Why the hell not? I mean, she's here, isn't she? Don't you two want to--"
"Konohamaru!" Sakura interrupted with a shout. Then she blushed so brightly she was almost red. "We... um, well... yes, but...."
Naruto shrugged, taking his queue from her. "Yeah, we do. But we're not going to until we're good and ready, and we aren't ready yet."
"Well... it's your life, I guess," Konohamaru sighed. "Guess I've still got a shot on that betting pool, anyway."
"Betting pool?" Sakura asked dangerously.
"Um," Konohamaru panicked. "Look, the tournament is starting in about an hour and I need to go do some warm-ups really quick, so I'd better get going, okay? I'll see you soon!"
"Wait right there!" the pink haired girl ordered, flickers of chakra manifesting itself around her.
"Urk!" Konohamaru gasped, freezing in place.
She walked up to the boy, and leaned over to whisper in his ear. First, he paled... then turned green. Naruto watched in confusion -- normally, when Sakura wanted to punish someone, it was done very loudly and very physically, but it seemed that she was treating Konohamaru with, well, kid gloves. It astounded him... and he was absolutely terrified she'd try whatever whispering technique she was using on him, considering how the boy looked.
Finally, she let him go. First, Konohamaru stared up at her with something akin to awe in his face. "R... really?" he finally asked, barely able to keep his voice from breaking.
"Yeah," Sakura replied. "I think so."
"Wow," he answered, still stunned.
"Now... didn't you have to go do some warm-ups?"
"Uh... right!" Konohamaru replied, backing into the front door with his eyes on the girl before remembering to open it. Once he was out the door, he practically vanished with how fast he'd run off.
Naruto shook his head, looking at the dust where the boy had been still floating in the air. "Should I even ask what you said to him?"
"I'm pretty sure you'll find out some time," she replied, grinning. "Come on -- let's go see to this tournament you're putting on."
* * * * *
Ebisu had picked the short straw when they were deciding who would referee the tournament, and so he stood in the middle of the amphitheatre waiting for everyone to get ready. He wasn't exactly looking forward to the job. Especially not since the very first match was supposed to feature both his star pupil on one side and the head of her class on the other. This was bound to be the sort of match the referee would have to get involved in, which was exactly why most people didn't like to be a referee in ninja-style tournaments to begin with. In fact, he hated being the referee.
The first examinee to arrive had been Konohamaru. He was blushing rather fiercely when he arrived, and in answer to Ebisu's question only explained his embarrassment with the words, "Sakura-chan told me her possible birthday plans." Considering that the pink-haired chuunin had last had a birthday only about four months earlier, this only added to the jounin's confusion. However, he didn't have long before he was distracted by the arrival of others.
Said pink-haired chuunin arrived, attached to her boyfriend, a few minutes later. As she had in recent weeks, she dressed in a way that exposed the kyuubi seal on her belly. Ebisu was still coming to grips with that. After having been exposed to the boy -- and keeping a careful eye on him whenever he and Konohamaru were together -- he had grown to realize that Naruto could handle the presence of the demon inside him. He wasn't quite so sure about the girl, however -- he didn't know her very well, and wasn't sure what to make of the fact that she was now as much a container for the kyuubi as Naruto himself was.
Sakura's mother showed up a few moments afterwards. She was the only person in the entire village of Blossom with any experience as a tournament referee, even if said tournament was an exhibition and not a competition. She was the one who should have had this job. However, as she was retired from active duty, she had the right to refuse the assignment... and she had. She'd said something about wanting to sit in the stands with her daughter and future son-in-law (in Ebisu's mind, while it was obvious to just about everyone that Naruto was in love with Sakura, it seemed unlikely that he'd ever get around to marrying the girl. Haruno, however, seemed rather certain about it) and therefore couldn't perform. She'd finally (albeit reluctantly) agreed to help in the final judgement for the slot on the chuunin exam team (it wasn't exactly a secret that two of the competitors -- Konohamaru and Hanabi -- were already going to be sent to take the exam, should they want to go) as a panel jurist, but that didn't help Ebisu get out of the job.
Then the slow trickle of people turned into a stream, and it became difficult to say who came in when. Kakashi was late -- as most people expected -- although not as late as Ebisu had feared he would be (Later, he discovered that Naruto had purposely told Kakashi that the tournament was starting an hour earlier then it really was supposed to, which probably helped), and was the last to arrive. By then, all nine genin were standing in the amphitheatre stretching and performing other warm-up exercises while they waited for the tournament to start. The other jounin -- including the five who had accompanied Kakashi on the Sasuke hunt -- were all taking places of honor in the stands, as was Jiraiya.
There were also some of the new brothel's employees -- not all of whom were prostitutes, as they required some people to do their paperwork and accounting as well -- including the young woman that everyone knew was Naruto's 'friend.' Just what that particular 'friendship' entailed, however, was something of an area of speculation among much of the village. Sakura the kunoichi's confidence in her relationship with Naruto was so obvious that most people found themselves hoping that he was, in fact, just friends with the prostitute. A few of the more pessimistic minds felt a great deal of sympathy for the girl, for they saw her as no competition for the affections of a professional. Ebisu's own thoughts on the matter were a bit more favorable to the former viewpoint, but he saw much merit in the later as well.
The prostitute in question was carrying an odd book in her hands -- the sort of book one might see a young child reading in Konoha, but which would be hard to find outside of a ninja village. It was a manual on the very basics of chakra use, the sort of thing even the families in Konoha who weren't of the ninja clans would have their children knowing by the time they were five, just so that they could fit in with ninja society. In Blossom, where said knowledge was a bit rarer, it was rather unusual to see the book at all... there had been no births, as of yet, to any of the ninja in the new village, and no children outside of the genin brought in, so there was no-one to be raised with such knowledge. Even the children at the Academy were starting with something more advanced, making it a rather unusual find in Blossom. An even more curious thing was that he knew that only one person had brought a copy of that book into Blossom when they moved... and that was the older Haruno woman. Was was the connection between this prostitute and the mother of the child who was allegedly her greatest competition in an affair of the heart? Ebisu spent some of his spare time trying -- and failing -- to puzzle that one out.
Ebisu took the time, also, to survey the genin who were about to begin this test. There was Konohamaru, of course, now seemingly recovered from whatever fright it was that had sent him to the stadium early and looking quite ready to compete. However, now he was looking vaguely embarrassed for an entirely different reason -- Moegi was, as usual, plying him with her attentions. It wasn't that she was... unwelcome, for the boy, it was just he had no idea what to do with her. He was quite plainly fond of the girl, but she was already physically maturing while he was still a pre-adolescent (although just barely), despite the fact that they were within a few months of the same age... Konohamaru being the older of the two. This difference had him occasionally bewildered by Moegi, when she offered him certain things he wasn't ready for -- or, in other words, he freaked out every time she even kissed him on the cheek. Considering the boy had mastered the 'sexy no jutsu' (or rather, a false sexy no jutsu, since he now understood there was more to the technique then a simple henge such as the one Konohamaru performed) at the tender age of nine, it was a bit surprising how completely he fell apart when he gained the attention of a real girl... but, perhaps, it was only Moegi who caused him such problems. Ebisu had never seen the boy have any difficulties dealing with other girls his age -- or even older -- yet he always seemed so flustered around his female teammate when she decided to 'turn on the charm.'
Moegi, herself, was trying to charm him by having him help her stretch. There was something wrong about having a twelve year old girl coming on to a thirteen year old boy by showing him she could lift her leg over her own head (or rather, over Konohamaru's own head, as she was using him as a substitute for a wall while she stretched), but there wasn't anything Ebisu could say about it... at least, not right now, he couldn't.
Udon, as he stretched, was wheezing as he usually did. The poor boy had terrible allergies, and if it weren't for the fact he was an absolutely brilliant genius he probably would have flunked out of ninja school years before. Ebisu had always been reluctant about teaching him, afraid he would get hurt, but Konohamaru had insisted. To the jounin's great relief, Udon had proven his worth time and time again... and recently had taken up some training as a field medic -- not the skills required of a full-fledged medi-nin, but at least enough to render first aid in an emergency. It was something his team was sadly lacking, and so Ebisu found he was glad to have him. However, his skills were not in combat but rather in stealth, subterfuge, and survivalism. He was also the team's expert on crafting custom weapons, making explosive charms, and so forth. However... as a combat style ninja, he was rather pathetic, and the other two typically had to protect him.
Hanabi looked rather determined. He knew that she had initially intended not to participate, but she'd surprised them all when she came up to him the next day (when he'd been officially declared the referee) and warned him that she was participating, after all. No-one besides her and possibly (though it didn't seem likely, as everyone knew they hated each other) Naruto knew why, but she had. Now, she seemed to be pretty sure of herself. She had the right to be -- she was the favorite to win the tournament, and had already gained the pass to the chuunin exam unless she really screwed up here.
Futaba was playing with her dog, Gonta. She seemed utterly unconcerned about this tournament, but then again she was a rather care-free sort as far as Ebisu could tell. The one thing he couldn't tell was if she even really wanted the promotion in the first place -- she seemed quite satisfied with her current job, after all.
Daichi sat meditating, gathering chakra for his upcoming round. Ebisu felt sorry for the boy -- he was from a re-discovered wing of the elder Aburame clan, from back before they had made their deal with the insects, and should have had all of the bloodline abilities and techniques that clan had once held before sacrificing them in said deal. Unfortunately, there was no-one to teach him how to access those techniques, as they had been lost in time with only a few very ancient -- and badly worn -- scrolls remaining to tell of their special skills. This boy, he knew, had done his best with them... but most of those surviving scrolls were illegible or untranslatable. He claimed that there was at least one he still could decifer, but that he lacked the chakra capacity to perform that technique. He did his best with only the basics, but considering his first match would be against the winner of Konohamaru and Hanabi's... well, it didn't look good for him.
The remaining trio of genin were the true dark horses of the tournament. Of everyone, they had seen the least combat, had the least training, and were generally regarded as the weakest of the teams in Blossom. He had heard that Nobori had taken an apprenticeship with Sakura in the hospital, but that had only started recently -- Aoba had made the arrangements some time after Kakashi had returned -- and was only for her medical talents. The enhanced strength and medical combat techniques she knew were she had apparently refused to teach until he had mastered the basics of medical ninjitsu. He had also heard that Kouji had been seen hanging around Konohamaru and, when he was gone, Futaba, recently, but whether that was for simple comraderie or for training he didn't know. He suspected that the later was more of a crush then anything else, although what he was doing with Konohamaru, well... somehow they had escaped his supervision, so apparently they were trying to hide something.
The final genin, Matsuri, was perhaps the only member of that team who had any real special talents -- at least, she was the only one who had any when her team had been formed. She came from the same clan as Jiraiya, and knew one or two of his more basic family techniques, but her skills were rather limited. Her branch of the family had offended the toads, eliminating her line from recieving that clan's greatest strengths. The toads seemed to be gravitating towards the Uzumaki clan, instead, anyway -- they were only demanding of Naruto the same amount of chakra as they required of Jiraiya, he believed, whereas they had been demanding almost a thousand times more when he must have first started summoning toads. Assuming the Uzumaki continued on past Naruto, it was entirely possible that the entire clan Jiraiya belonged to would drift away from that alliance.
Ebisu considered the nine candidates for the genin exam. He supposed he had his favorite to win the third spot... but he couldn't even try and think of who that was, since it would possibly bias him in the competition. He couldn't afford to be biased, since he was the referee. He really, really hated being the referee.
* * * * *
"Naruto-sensei!" a voice called from the top of the steps. He turned to see two of his students -- Inari and Adaha -- standing at the top of the steps. "Any chance you could arrange a seat for us down where we could actually see the action?"
"Sure thing, Inari!" Naruto called back. He glanced around and noticed that there was almost enough space left on his bench for one of them. Maybe he could squeeze over to the side, a bit, but what about the other boy? Then, he had an idea. "Come on down. You can have Sakura-chan's seat!"
Sakura blinked. "He can? Then where am I going to sit?"
Grinning, he picked her up and placed her in his lap. "How about here?"
She wriggled about until she was in a more settled position -- intentionally ignoring the discomfort on Naruto's face -- and finally nodded. "I guess I can work with this."
"Erm, yeah," Naruto replied reluctantly. He had been in a rather playful mood, before, but right now he was in danger of losing control of certain parts of his psyche. He ruthlessly stamped them down, again, as she finally stopped moving -- the greatest fear he had, with regards to maintaining control around Sakura, was that if he ever lost control he'd never get it back... which would have him pressuring her to advance things faster then she was ready for. Something he had sworn not to do... and so he had to maintain that fine balance of enough playfulness to prove he was interested in her, sexually, without pushing it so far that he went over the edge, himself. The feel of Sakura's rather cute derriere wriggling on his lap was a bit much for him, he decided, when he was already 'in the mood.' He would have to avoid such encounters in the future, if he could.
"Thank you, Naruto-sensei, Sakura-sensei," Adaha remarked politely as he and Inari took their seats. "While I have learned much from Hanabi-kun, I have yet to discover a method of 'zooming in' with my vision. I would have needed binoculars or opera glasses, if you had not allowed us to sit here."
"Well," Inari said, rather embarrased. "He may have needed to come here for that reason. I just wanted a better look at Hanabi-chan."
"Well," Sakura said, pointing to the field. "I think that her first fight is just about to begin."
"This tournament is about to begin," Ebisu called to the crowd. The loud chatting which had been taking place came to a halt as he'd stepped forward to make the announcement, but he still could barely be heard in the top row -- human beings made great insulators against the echoes of sounds, even when they were quiet. "I understand Kakashi-sama would have liked to make a few final instructions before we begin, but he has been delayed. Perhaps Naruto-dono would be willing to make them in his absence?"
It wasn't the first time one of the jounin referred to Naruto with the 'dono' since Kakashi's return, but it was the first time one did it in a professional capacity. It spoke volumes that no-one else even batted an eye. In fact, the only reaction to the announcement (outside of a huff from Sakura as she had to leave her favorite seat so that he could stand up) were a few gruff mumbles of what seemed to be people wishing that Kakashi had stayed gone.
"My final instructions are simple," Naruto said. This was a prepared speech -- he had been counting on Kakashi being late, and wanted to say this instead of letting the jounin-oyabun have the chance. That was why he had told Kakashi that the tournament started one hour earlier then it really did and not two. "There have been times that one genin has had to kill another during the chuunin exam. This is not a chuunin exam, however -- this is simply a qualifier. While a ninja should always fight with the 'intent to kill,' I ask that you not take that rule to heart in this competition. Blossom is a small town -- we cannot afford to be killing ourselves off. Thank you, and good luck to all of you."
He took his seat again, and once more had to endure Sakura's enchanting rear end as it took that seat back. Ebisu returned to the limelight to start the matches. "The first match pits Sarutobi Konohamaru against Hyuuga Hanabi. It begins... now."
* * * * *
Konohamaru was talented. Konohamaru was tough. Konohamaru was experienced. Konohamaru was the most intensely trained ninja of his generation.
Konohamaru was in more trouble then he had been at any point in his life, as he was going up against a Hyuuga. He knew of them, and had even seen members of their clan fight on occasion. They were worthy of their reputation, to his mind, and he just happened to get the girl first thing in the tournament. The knowledge that he would get a berth in the chuunin exam, regardless of the outcome, did little to put his mind at ease. He was going up against not just a Hyuuga, but a Hyuuga of the main line. He was facing an opponent who, in all honesty, was out of his league.
One of the things he had learned from his hero-worship of Naruto, however, was not to give up, whatever the odds. So, he had to figure out how to win... and do it quickly, as she appeared to be moving faster then he could. It would only be a matter of time before he could dodge her no longer, and once she caught up with him it would be too late. He would lose the ability to use most of his techniques once she started applying the techniques her clan knew to alter their opponents chakra, and once that happened he was toast. Unlike Naruto, he couldn't call upon a second supply of chakra to replenish his own if he lost it.
He couldn't afford any close-in attacks... which was a shame, because those were his best ones. Nor did he think the 'sexy no jutsu' or the 'harem no jutsu' would work on the girl, eliminating the two 'cheap but easy' methods he had for combatting friendly opponents. He could always try shuriken techniques, but those rarely worked against an opponent of any skill -- they were best used as distractions, or for traps... although he had heard of a ninja managing to use one effectively in close-range taijutsu on occasion. He was trying to avoid hand-to-hand, however, so perhaps that wasn't a good idea.
That eliminated most of his better techniques... but not all of them. Like just about everyone else in Konoha -- even many of the civilian population -- he knew the kawarimi, the henge, and the basic bushin techniques. That gave him a fighting chance, since all three techniques could easily be used in defence against the girl's attacks... although her byakugan made using any of them rather problematic. He had one final technique which could easily prove useful, however. It was his best technique, and he probably should save it for a matter of last resort... but, then again, he was unlikely to face competition as stiff as this girl later in the tournament, so perhaps this moment was the moment of 'last resort' he needed it for.
He bit his thumb, then spread the resulting blood among all ten of his fingers. "Kuchiyose no jutsu!" he cried, slamming both hands down upon the ground.
Illusory seals spread out from each point his fingers touched, spelling out the elaborate language of the contract he had signed almost as a toddler for just this sort of a move. It was fairly draining of his chakra, but this was pretty much his best hope of defeating a Hyuuga -- any Hyuuga. Hopefully, he would have enough rest time to restore enough of his chakra to fight the others effectively once he was done, but it didn't matter -- this was pretty much just a game to him, after all... winning and losing didn't matter, in the long run, and all that was at stake was his pride. He would take his best shot, and if that failed so be it.
Along the ground where his fingers touched, an army appeared. The outer two were very small monkeys, both relatively indistinct save for the Konoha-style forehead protectors both wore. The next six were great apes -- large, powerful, and heavily armored, all also wearing Konoha head protectors. The final two were fierce baboons, bearing their teeth, although they wore no armor at all. The alliance of the Sarutobi clan to the simians was long and loyal, and relatively little chakra was demanded whenever a summoning was performed between the two. The same amount of chakra required to summon a single infantile creature for those allied to the five great animal ninja clans -- the toads, serpents, slugs, birds, and spiders -- allowed a Sarutobi to summon a great ape, according to Ebisu. There was one particular great ape, however, that Konohamaru had yet to summon, despite his many attempts to over the years -- and that was his grandfather's greatest ally, the Ape-Lord Enma. Heck, he'd even settle for being able to summon the other legendary Ape-Lord, the trickster Son Goku, although Goku was notoriously difficult to command. However, as he could not, he chose quantity over quality, and thus had a small army of highly skilled -- if, perhaps, not human -- ninja at his side for this competition.
"Attack!" he called, pointing at the girl. That was all he needed to say to launch said small army into action.
Hanabi was momentarily distressed at the sudden increase in numbers. She had techniques designed against multiple opponents, yes, but she wasn't trained to call upon them at a moment's notice, yet. She paused, trying to call up the necessary mindset to engage in this kind of fight, and that was her downfall. Within moments, all six great apes had her secured, two on her arms, two on her legs, and two more forcing her knees and elbows locked to prevent any of the counters she might know from coming out. The two monkeys looked ready to come in at a moment's notice, and the two baboons were behind her, ready to knock her down if she somehow worked her way free. Konohamaru was charging in, hand outstretched, ready to strike at her gut, knocking the wind out of her and forcing her to yield with the single blow.
Unfortunately, in a course of events no-one could possibly have seen take place, Konohamaru encountered a small problem. The amphitheatre was an open-air stadium, which meant that the conditions on the field weren't exactly perfect -- nature could interfere in the match, if he wasn't paying attention. Sadly, his attention was solely on the girl in front of him, so he failed to spot the muddy patch between him and Hanabi. His foot slipped, and naturally he braced himself. His outstretched hand ran into something, and he grabbed hold as quick as he could to keep from falling.
Momentarily blinded, Konohamaru was confused about that. Goosh? What the hell goes 'goosh,' anyway? He gave it an experimental squeeze, hoping to see what it was.
"Y... you pervert!" Hanabi screamed. It was only then that Konohamaru knew what he was holding.
The characteristics of the Hyuuga clan were fairly well known by all, even if they had a lot of things they kept secret. Everyone knew of their unusual eyes, the fact that they all shared the same hair color, many of the same facial features, and they always were strong -- even when completely untrained. One of the more obscure points of knowledge about them, however, was exclusive to the female Hyuuga -- their chests developed faster (though not necessarily larger) then their counterparts. Hanabi was still growing, but she had enough there that she wouldn't be too unhappy if she never got any bigger. Right now, however, it was a bit of a problem... especially as Konohamaru was still squeezing her.
"Um... oops. I'm, uh, sorry?"
Hanabi's eye twitched. "If you're so sorry... then why aren't you letting go?" she growled. "Kaiten!"
The monkeys, apes, baboons, and Konohamaru didn't stand a chance. She had slammed more chakra into that one kaiten then at any other point in her life -- more then was required, by a long shot, to achieve her goal of ripping out of the grip all of her attackers had on her and sending them flying away. Most of the apes disappeared in puffs of smoke, desperate for a rest after the powerful blows she had thrown, as were the monkeys and baboons. Konohamaru was thrown across the stadium, slamming into a wall and sliding down in painfully. The last remaining ape took one look at the situation and moved to cover the boy as he recovered, but that proved pointless -- by then, Hanabi was already a streak of light in his eyes, slamming a powerful roundhouse kick into Konohamaru's head. The kick was hardly a move taught in the Hyuuga style of jyuuken -- rather, it was a move she had picked up from Inari during the previous couple days worth of training -- but it proved effective enough to knock him out and send him flying. The ape barely caught the unconscious boy, probably saving him from the serious injury that bad of a fall might cause, before Ebisu stepped in.
"Winner," he called. "Hyuuga Hanabi."
Cheers erupted from the crowd -- especially from the two Academy students seated next to Naruto and Sakura in the stands -- but not everyone was pleased. Moegi, who had leapt into the ring the moment the fight had ended to examine Konohamaru, slowly marched up to the victorious Hyuuga girl with her lips pressed together furiously in a line, anger coloring her cheeks red.
"How dare you!" the pig-tailed girl snapped.
"Me?" Hanabi replied, blinking. She knew Moegi, yes, and knew the girl had a crush on Konohamaru... but she'd gone easy on him, after the way he'd groped her like that. Why was she so angry with him? This was a tournament, after all. "What did I do?"
"You... you... manstealer!"
"Man... stealer?" Hanabi repeated slowly. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"I saw you!" Moegi growled. "You... you were trying to tempt my Konohamaru away from me with your... your..."
It took a moment for Hanabi to understand just what the other girl was referring to, largely because she couldn't believe Moegi could possibly believe that she was actually trying to do anything in that set-up. "Hey, he was the one who groped me, Moegi."
"You pushed your chest into his hand!" Moegi accused. "How else could his hand have landed there when he fell?"
This is nuts, Hanabi thought to herself incredulously. "Look, he had his hand on my chest. It might not have been his fault for grabbing me, but it was his fault for squeezing. And it certainly wasn't my fault for being here, since he had his ape friends holding me in place."
"You've been flaunting them since I met you," Moegi growled. "A real ninja would have bound them to keep them out of the way, you know. You just like teasing all the guys... like my Konohamaru-chan."
Hanabi shook her head in dismay. She had tried reasoning with the girl, but she was through playing nice. "Look, I didn't do anything to encourage anybody. If 'your' Konohamaru really meant to grab me, then obviously it's because he's not getting something from you. Quit blaming me for your problems."
Moegi's eyes widened, her nostrils flaring. "You... you bitch! I'm going to tear you apart!"
Ebisu, who had been looking after Konohamaru, finally noticed what was going on nearby and moved to intervene. "Hey, save it for the tournament! No fighting, or you're disqualified... and even if you would otherwise go on to the chuunin exam, you won't after being disqualified. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Hanabi replied. She didn't really want to fight this girl, anyway. Obviously, this odd pig-tailed girl was crazy -- or at least deluded -- and she didn't want anything to do with her if she could avoid it.
"Fine," Moegi shot back. "I'll save it until I meet her in the tournament... but then, bitch, you're going to just wish I'd settled it here... and you're going to regret ever even showing yourself to my Konohamaru-chan."
* * * * *
"That... is absolutely bizarre," Inari commented. "Naruto, Adaha, you're both guys too. Did you see Hanabi doing anything to 'encourage' Konohamaru?"
Naruto shook his head. "No... can't say I did."
"He didn't," Sakura agreed, not allowing the other Academy student to answer. Which was probably a good thing, as Adaha didn't seem to want to answer. In fact, he was crouching down in his seat, flushing oddly.
"Then what the hell was all that about?" Inari asked.
"Simple," the pink-haired medi-nin replied. "As a medical ninja, I've been given the medical records for everyone here -- including those distinct characteristics of the Akimichi clan I was told to watch for in Moegi. The Akamichi clan, I was warned, is very gentle, and has trouble fighting... unless they get angry, in which case they can become something like controlled berserkers. My guess is that even she doesn't believe half of what she said -- she was just using it to get herself good and angry." She grinned fiercely. "Naruto, you made up the schedule. When do they face each other?"
"Um, the semi-finals," Naruto replied. "Assuming they both get that far."
"I think I'm looking forward to that match. It should be quite... interesting."
* * * * *
Notes: I was a bit surprised when the anime and manga of Naruto referred to the great ape that the Third summoned as 'Enma,' and not as 'Son Goku,' as I would have expected... especially since Enma turned into what one might call (translating it into Dragonball terms) the 'power pole,' showing that he WAS supposed to be connected to that legend. I would like to do something about that in this fic, perhaps having 'Enma' and 'Son Goku' (of legend, not of Dragonball) meet... but I don't know if I will. I might manage to push something into the next-gen sequal, however, should Konohamaru ever make an appearance in it. (As said sequel is only less-than-half-plotted at the moment, there is more then enough room to include such a thing, but I'm not sure how just yet) Nevertheless, that is where the 'Enma or even Goku' reference Konohamaru makes comes from. There was initially going to be a bit of toilet humor in the Konohamaru-Hanabi duel. I hate toilet humor, and was loathe to write it, but it seemed to fit in with my other plans. However (and fortunately, in my opinion), it fell flat. Just know that initially, the monkeys had something to do with Konohamaru's slip, and I think you should be able to figure out what was supposed to happen there. Bleh. Next chapter: The tournament continues. FYI, this tournament saga is going to take much longer then I originally intended -- meaning, it already has exceeded my original plan's length, and should have at least two or three more chapters to go. However, when it ends, the volume will be just a short ways away from conclusion (as in, two more of the semi-episodic moments, and then the concluding arc where the whole Kakashi, Gatoh Group, Cloud, Jiraiya's weakness, and Brothel plot points are all wrapped up so that we can concentrate on those things I've been saving for V. 4 -- things such as the resolution of the Hyuuga Civil War, the Sasuke and Yuugao storyline (what, you didn't think that was OVER, did you?), the whole Rock storyline I was hinting at during V. 2 (remember that?), and so forth). Er, and of course certain storylines (such as when Sakura decides to actually marry Naruto, if at all) I don't want to say when they will be resolved. Oh, and the 'concluding arc' is probably going to be several chapters, as well. Anyway, now that I've revealed far more then I intended, I'll just summon up by saying that Volume 4 is coming up soon, so be ready for it.