Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 32 ( Chapter 42 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: I am well aware that Konohamaru was the Third's grandson. I goof, sometimes (brain farts, like I said), but I am aware of that. I don't THINK I ever said he was the 'son' of the Third, last chapter, although I apparently did the chapter before (which was what my notes last chapter said... although that might have confused some into thinking I was saying that I'd made the mistake the other way around). I just can't find the occurance in a quick glance-through, so any correction will have to wait until I've got the time to make one.
Chapter 32
As Konohamaru was being helped off the field, a distressed Moegi following the stretcher, Naruto voiced a question that had just popped into his head. "Hm... what is the legal age for marriage in Konoha?"
Sakura blinked. "Um, I don't remember. Mom told me, once, but it's been a long time... I think twelve is the lower limit. Why?"
Naruto smirked. "Just a thought. Moegi's quite devoted, and I happen to know Konohamaru likes her -- even if he isn't quite sure how to deal with her. Maybe we could make 'arrangements' for them or something...."
"Arranged marriages are rarely very pleasant," Inari chirped from their side.
Adaha shifted again. "I... I am arranged to be married, but I'm not sure what to think about it myself."
"Oh? You never told me that," Inari complained. "Is it to anyone I know?"
"Uh," Adaha hesitated. "Yes?"
He was saved from having to answer by Ebisu stepping forward and making an announcement. "The next match is about to begin. Inuzuka Futaba will face Gekkou Udon. Begin!"
Udon looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but there, yet he strode forth as well as he could. He was sluggish, compared to his teammates, and to make matters worse his allergies were acting up more then usual. Still, he went forward with enough courage. He bowed politely to Futaba, who nodded back, and took up a rather poorly formed defensive stance. Futaba watched him for a moment, grinning. She felt fairly confident about this fight, obviously, as she had left Gonta on the sidelines, but there was just enough hint of caution in her that she obviously was trying not to be overconfident. Nevertheless, she charged in on the attack.
"Tsuuga!" she cried, leaping into the whirlwind attack of her clan. She ran face-first into a series of explosions.
Suddenly, Udon was no-where to be seen, but a series of wires and explosive tags encased Futaba's position. Somehow, without her -- or most of the others in the audience -- seeing, Udon had laid a series of traps the likes of which she had never imagined... and, of course, she had blundered right into the middle of them. She was entangled -- in wire, which was worse then netting since the netting a ninja used was designed for safe capture, whereas the wire was designed to cut. She stopped moving, and started considering her options carefully.
The trap she had literally run into was very effective, but it had its flaws. Udon couldn't approach her safely, which gave her time to think and plan, and she did some come mobility which she might be able to exploit. A typical person would have only one choice in order to escape -- use a kunai, or other sharp blade, and cut through the steel cables which trapped her. It would take ages, but it would be doable. It wouldn't be a very good idea, though, if there was the threat that the trapper -- Udon, in this case -- was around. Making that sort of move would open her up to shuriken attack, which was a rather embarrassing way for any ninja who had passed their initial test (typically known, in Konoha, as the 'Bell Test') to go. Her dog could have helped her out, but she -- trying too hard to show that she was on the same elite level as Hanabi and Konohamaru -- had decided to try her luck without him. It might prove her downfall... but not because of this.
Any trap had a release button, in case of accidents. All she had to do was find it... and it didn't take her very long to do so. With a quick motion, she threw a kunai at a point where four of the wires met. Before it could reach, however, a hidden hand reached out and caught it.
"You won't win that easily," Udon muttered through his sniffles.
Futaba hesitated. "I would drop that, if I were you."
It was that moment that the explosive tag she intended to actually break the wires she wasn't sure her kunai could cut went off, knocking the sickly ninja into his own trap. More explosive tags went off, with varying degrees of power, until finally the entire trap was demolished... and Udon was lying on the ground. He coughed. "Uh... that was my best shot, and it failed. And I'm already hurt. And I didn't really want to do this, anyway, so is it okay if I quite now?"
Ebisu shook his head. There were some people who really shouldn't be ninjas, regardless of their skill level or family background, in his opinion. "Winner, Inuzuka Futaba."
Sitting in the stands, Inari snorted. "Man, that fight was stupid! It was so short, and he fell into his own traps. What an idiot!"
Naruto grimmaced. "Inari, that was probably a lot better of a fight then you realize."
"I agree with Naruto-kun," Sakura replied to no-one's surprise. "We learned quite a lot about Udon in that fight."
"Like what -- he gives up too easily?"
"Yes," Naruto replied, nodding. "That is one thing. The other is that he's actually pretty good as a ninja. I was more impressed with him then with Futaba-chan in that fight -- although that's only because I didn't really get to see much of what the puppy girl could do. He does give up too quickly -- we'll have to get the closet pervert to work with him on that, so that he'll be better prepared for the next chuunin exam -- but he was actually in control of that fight from the very beginning. He made one small mistake and it cost him dearly, but he should have tried to recover anyway."
"His techniques in camouflage were quite good," Sakura pointed out. "And he was able to set out a series of traps in seconds, right before our eyes, without any of us noticing."
"Almost any of us," Adaha muttered from his seat.
"It caught Futaba-chan from the start, and he would easily have won if he'd just deflected that kunai away instead of caught it in his hand. The best Futaba-chan could have hoped for was a draw, if he was standing between her and her only chance of being released from her trap," the pink-haired kunoichi continued.
Inari looked dubious. "Are you really sure about that? I mean... he looked pretty pathetic out there, to me."
"Oh, he's not ready for the test, yet," Naruto snorted. "He is a bit pathetic. But he has some potential, there -- untapped potential, probably because the closet pervert never noticed it. His reports always seemed to ignore the boy for the most part."
"I think I might start teaching him a few of the combat techniques Tsunade-shishou taught me," Sakura mused. "He could use a few more weapons in his arsenal."
Both ninja had walked off under their own power, and the field had been cleared fairly easily once the dust had settled, so Ebisu's call for the next match prevented further discussion. "Next match... Hikigaeru Matsuri versus Hyakushou Nobori. Begin!"
Matsuri and Nobori stared across at one another, neither willing to move just yet. Finally, Nobori smiled sadly and shook his head.
"Matsuri-chan, I'm not going to fight you. You know why."
"Oh, come on!" she complained. "Just because we're dating doesn't mean we can't spar. Just treat this as a sparring match, at least!"
"But I don't want to hurt you--"
"Tough!" Matsuri snapped. "You've got two choices. You can fight me here... or you can just forget about ever going on another date with me. Got it?"
"Aw, Matsuri-chan..."
"You've got five seconds to attack me, Nobori-kun, or else we're through!"
The boy sighed. "If you insist, Matsuri-chan."
In less than a moment, he was in motion, tearing across the field so quickly he was leaving a dust cloud. Slipping under her attack, he tried to chop the girl on the back of the neck with electically-charged chakra. Sakura recognized the technique -- Tsunade had taught it to her -- but wasn't sure where the boy could have learned it. It was a medical ninjitsu whose purpose was to disrupt the nervous system and temporarily disable an opponent. It didn't hurt said opponent, but it would allow for a fairly safe follow-up to victory. It was a technique primarily used -- in combat -- to capture a target alive and intact... but in a tournament like this, it could also be used to essentially insure victory. Assuming it landed.
The panicked screams let her know right away that something horrible had gone wrong with the technique, as both genin were quite vocally shouting out about their distress. It took a few seconds for her to see why. Matsuri had, silently, applied the needle hair technique to herself before the battle started... and obviously, Nobori hadn't realized it soon enough. His arm was impaled on her hair, blood dripping from several places. Matsuri, tears in her eyes, was screaming apologies to her boyfriend while Nobori was simply screaming in pain. Truthfully, niether one was demonstrating the mental discipline a ninja should -- a little wound like an impaled arm occured quite frequently in combat missions, and so they should have been trained to block out the pain. Sakura recalled the briefing she had been given prior to heading for Blossom all those months ago -- both of these genin were on a team which would not have qualified under normal circumstances in Konoha. The files she had read while helping Naruto in his job running the village said more -- they had not been designed as a combat-oriented team. Instead, they were to be used mostly for class D missions and those rare C-class reconnaisance missions. Therefore, certain things such as an education in tolerating pain had never been given to them... which meant they were well out of their league in this tournament. And it also meant that a little wound like the one Nobori had could send him into shock, if something wasn't done about it.
Naruto obviously sensed it as well. "Go," was all he needed to say, and she was leaping to the field. Ebisu started to protest, but then realized that niether of the two genin would want to continue their fight after this. With gentle effort, Sakura removed the arm from he hair and patched it up. Naruto noticed there was no true medical ninjitsu being applied, although Sakura seemed to be demonstrating seals to Nobori as she talked with him in low tones.
Matsuri looked stricken, but Sakura soon grabbed her and lead both genin out of the stadium. Naruto sighed -- he'd enjoyed having Sakura in his lap (despite the initial discomfort -- or rather, awkward comfort -- of her settling into it) and knew this would be robbing some of their time together from him. Well, they'd had plenty of time with each other over the previous few weeks, so maybe they could afford it.
"That must have hurt," Inari noted. Adaha just nodded silently in agreement.
"Yeah, it does. I've had worse, but it hurts like hell. A ninja isn't supposed to scream like that, though...."
"Even when we're being hurt like that?" Adaha asked cautiously. "I'm not sure I could help myself."
Naruto smirked. "Well... you'll be trained to deal with pain like that. You should be able to deal with it. If I can handle having my lung impaled by my best friend, you guys should be able to deal with a little set of pinpricks like that."
"Er... just how are we going to be trained to deal with that?" Inari asked, incredulously. Naruto just cackled in response.
Sakura returned, stopping by Ebisu to whisper something in his ear before leaping back to Naruto's side. "Winner," the jounin announced. "Hikigaeru Matsuri. Next match... Haisha Kouji versus Akimichi Moegi. Begin!"
Kouji was less then pleased at his match-up. He would rather have faced Hanabi then this girl -- at least, he would now, when Moegi was clearly irrationally angry and likely to destroy anything that got in the way between her and her 'vengeance.' Considering he was 'in the way,' he wasn't exactly feeling very confident at the moment. Still, he wasn't a quitter, so he'd go ahead and fight, anyway. He just figured he didn't have much of a chance of winning.
"I'm really sorry about this, Kouji-kun," Moegi said, taking a stance facing the boy. "But you're in the way of my vengeance for Konohamaru-chan, so I'm afraid I can't afford to let you look good, this time."
"Hey, I don't need you to let me look good," Kouji protested, getting a bit angry. Yeah, sure, she'd probably kick his ass... but not because she was really that much better then he was. After all, he'd been training for months, and he had improved so greatly that he'd felt he actually stood a shot at winning a slot in the chuunin exam. Now, he wasn't so sure about that -- not after having witnessed the fight between Hanabi and Konohamaru and realizing that he would be fighting for the third slot -- but he was definitely no pushover. "Kage bushin no jutsu!"
Up in the stands, Naruto frowned. Sakura noticed right away. "What's wrong?"
"Two things. First of all, he shouldn't know the kage bushin -- I sure as hell never taught it to him, and there aren't many others around here who could do it," Naruto explained. "Second... that's not a proper kage bushin."
"It isn't?" Sakura exclaimed, then looked at the field again. There were half a dozen more Kouji's standing in a circle around Moegi, just as there should be with a successful kage bushin. "It looks like it worked, though."
"That's because it's a varient," another voice said from behind them. Naruto and Sakura both blinked up as Ino walked down the steps to greet them. "Hi, guys -- sorry I'm late. I overslept after that dinner with the daimyo's staff last night."
"No problem," Naruto replied. "We've seen a few interesting matches, so far, though. But what's this about Kouji knowing a varient of my kage bushin?"
"It's actually a varient of my Naruto bushin," Ino replied with a smirk. The blond boy winced -- he'd always been rather embarrassed by that name. "I spent a few days dealing with that kid after... um, a certain incident that affected my job as liason to the daimyo." Everyone knew she was talking about the mission that resulted in the death of Genma. "I felt sorry for him because he said it felt as if he had nothing he could ever hope to use to protect the people around him, since even 'that silly girl' on his team could fight more effectively then he could, so I decided I'd give him that technique. It breaks some of the connections between the clones and the original that your ordinary kage bushin creates, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The clones can't fight as well, together, if they get seperated, but there's also less chance of battlefield confusion from too many sensory inputs. I probably should have given it a different name, but I couldn't think of one... and they are all shadow clones, after all, just created with a different method."
Naruto's eyes narrowed. "I think I want to know a bit more about your changes, Ino-chan, before I can decide if it needs its own name or not. I--"
"Wow!" Inari exclaimed, drawing the attention back to the battlefield. "That's cool!"
Naruto was reminded of the first time he'd seen a demonstration of Rock Lee's speed, seeing the streaks of afterimage which marked where Moegi was as she destroyed the clones encircling her. The real Kouji just barely avoided being hit as she streaked by... and this appeared to be her natural speed. There was no indication of any lotus techniques being used, at any rate.
"How..." Kouji asked, astonished, once Moegi decided to pause her attack for a moment.
"You might notice that I'm a rather slender girl," Moegi pointed out, preening slightly. "I'm the thinnest girl in my clan for the last several generations. My clan typically puts on a lot of wieght, but I decided long ago to remain a sexy girl despite my heritage. By being born an Akimichi, I've had a few things I needed to overcome in order to maintain my figure, however. My clan has to eat ten times the amount of food a normal person typically eats, just to keep from starving... but instead of letting all of that food stay on me like the rest of my family, I started looking for alternatives. You might notice I'm more 'developed' then some girls my age -- well, that's where I'm letting what fat I can't get rid of go, but if that was all I did then I'd be bigger then the hokage in my chest... which would look a bit grotesque on a figure like this, no? Turns out that I can convert that extra fat into muscle and chakra. Which means I'm stronger and more energetic then just about anyone else in my clan... but that's not the only thing I've got.
"See, all that extra wieght would make the other members of my clan move too slow and sluggishly to be effective ninja, typically. So, we developed secret techniques to boost our speed using our chakra... techniques which, unlike the forbidden lotus techniques of the Maito clan, don't harm us in the long run. It's good enough to make an overwieght person move as fast as your average ninja... or to make a lightwieght person such as myself move with exceptional speed."
Kouji swallowed. He always had problem sparring with faster opponents, but he wasn't going to let that stop him. "So, is that all you can do? Move fast?"
Moegi grinned. In less then a second, she was inside his guard, snapping what appeared to be a powerful crescent kick at his head... only it really went over it. His mouth gaped open, seeing her hold her (bare) leg right over his head for several seconds. In fact, her leg was so high over his head that it was flashing her fishnet-style panties at him under her skirt. That little bit of 'peekaboo' wasn't that surprising -- she was reputedly a likely early-entry candidate into the courtesan training program, assuming she didn't get married before she turned the minimum age of sixteen, and she was known to try and 'anticipate' some of the lighter training when dealing with guys. Part of that included wearing clothing which seemed fairly conservative, but during a fight would occasionally reveal something... distracting. Konohamaru, upon seeing the matchups the previous day, had warned the boy of this -- apparently, she was even more agressive about it when fighting him... or rather, she didn't actually use anything but those courtesan-training style techniques when sparring with the former hokage's grandson. She winked at Kouji, giving him just enough warning that he could (barely) manage to roll out of the way before the leg started coming back down into an axe kick. He leapt to the side to avoid the descending foot, landing on his back... only to go flying as the ground around him exploded.
Seeing the crater that the kick managed to leave in its wake, Naruto shook his head. "Sakura-chan... you haven't been teaching Moegi-chan, too, have you?"
"No... that's all her own technique," Sakura replied, sounding slightly dazed. "Which might grow to be stronger then Tsunade-shishou's and my own, if she keeps building her strength like that. And might land a bit more often when she grows up enough for those legs to really distract the guys."
"No," Moegi said to Kouji, down on the field. "Of course that's not all I can do. But if you think I'm going to show off everything before I have my shot at Hanabi... well, you've got another thing coming. I am, however, going to let her see just how fast and strong I am... just so that she knows what she's in for. Now, let's end this, shall we?"
Kouji's eyes widened, and he shook his head. "I quit!" he called before she could do anything. "I... well, I don't think I've got much of a shot. I knew you were more experienced and better trained then I was in special techniques. I thought I might be able to manage something with taijutsu... but I don't stand a shot against someone with that much speed and strength. In a real fight, I'd know by now I was overmatched and have to either retreat or prepare to sacrifice myself in some futile battle for a nobler purpose -- like giving my friends a chance to retreat. This is just a friendly tournament, however. I can't run away, and I don't think fighting to the death has any meaning here... so like I said, I quit."
Moegi smirked at him, bowing slightly. "Why thank you, Kouji-kun. I guess I won't have to reveal any more of my techniques, will I?"
"Winner... Akimichi Moegi," Ebisu called.
As the two left the field -- on their own power -- Naruto shook his head. "I don't blame Kouji -- he didn't have a shot, wasn't really fighting for anything but the experience, and he knew it -- but he should be able to do better then that. He's not always going to be fighting people who he can beat with taijutsu... and I know from experience that, while the kage bushin is a very powerful technique, you need to do more with it then just create a bunch of clones and dogpile your enemy. Yeah, that can work, too... but not very often. You need to use that as a distraction, or just as a tool to assess your opponent's technique, or to misdirect your enemy from--"
"We get it, Naruto," Inari sighed. "Now shut up, the next match is about to begin... and Hanabi-chan's in it, so I'd like to see it."
"...Hyuuga Hanabi versus Mukade Daichi," Ebisu was announcing. "Begin!"
Hanabi sighed, glad she had a bit of a push-over for her opponent. Despite having played it off fairly casually, the match against Konohamaru had exhausted her spare chakra. She had shunted almost all of the energy she'd stored up in anticipation of the tournament into that one kaiten, way more then was needed -- largely because she had lost control when she had been groped -- and was paying for it now. One thing about her family techniques -- they required immense amounts of chakra, yet almost every move could have as much or as little chakra as the user would want to put into them. The one exception was the byakugan -- which she really didn't have the strength to use at the moment -- but that was it. However, regardless of how 'little' chakra she put into her techniques, they would drain her fairly quickly. She was hoping she could win solely with hand-to-hand techniques, and maybe with some rest she would have enough energy stored in order to actually be a match for Moegi during the next round.
Daichi was sweating, he was so nervous. This was Hanabi -- a true legend among the genin from the most legendary clan in all of Konoha, if not all of the ninja world. He'd seen her in action, as well -- he'd been working alongside her for almost a full year, now, and wasn't exactly thrilled about his chances. His family, the Mukade, were once a branch of the Aburame clan long before the deal was struck between the Aburame and the insects to join as one. It was his intention to take the Mukade family notes and re-develop the Aburame techniques, but they were scattered, damaged, and not entirely useful. He had managed to decifer some techniques -- or at least, portions of techniques which he could make educated guesses about the completion of -- from those scrolls, but nothing extraordinary. Well, there was one thing which was sort of unique to his family -- although it wasn't quite as 'unique' as some clans could boast having -- but he had never been able to manage it. Yet, against Hanabi and her Hyuuga clan techniques... what choice did he have? He would have to try any number of things... but now, when his chakra was at its strongest, was the time to make the attempt at that one greater technique he knew. While it normally wasn't supposed to be used as an opening move, he was fairly certain that whatever chance he had to use it would be gone if he waited too long.
He pulled out a kunai, and stabbed his own hand with it. Making sure it was sufficiently covered in his blood, he took aim at Hanabi and threw. Not even bothering to track it in its flight, he started making symbols and slammed his hand down onto the ground. Hanabi dodged the blade, rolling away from it to land in a one-legged split and crouch -- almost a reverse cat stance. It was only then that she realized she had never been in any danger from the shuriken. It hadn't been thrown at her -- it had been thrown past her. Intentionally. She mentally cursed herself for expending so much chakra the previous match, as she would have known right away if she'd been able to afford the use of her byakugan. She wondered what Daichi was doing, however -- he had never thrown a shuriken stained in his own blood in any of the missions they'd previously had alongside each other. Just what was he doing?
She found out moments later, as he performed his technique. It was one she was familiar with, one many people were familiar with, but she'd never seen it performed quite this way.
"Kuchiyose no jutsu!" Daichi called, his voice echoing throughout the arena. It sounded amplified, echoing off of all the walls and the stands so loudly it would have been impossible to determine where his voice was coming from if Hanabi hadn't been staring right at him. A massive cloud of smoke obscured the actual summoning, but whatever it was came into existence between Daichi's hand, still where it was from performing his seals, and the point of that shuriken he had thrown. When the dust settled, the creature was revealed.
"What the hell is that?" Hanabi screeched, unable to believe her eyes. Well, she knew what it was -- it just didn't seem real. After all, how many ten yard long centipedes does one encounter in the wild, anyway? Yes, she knew that it was possible to summon ninja creatures much larger then their 'wild' counterparts could grow to be, but... the sheer scale of the increase in size went beyond her imagination. And it was a bug -- she hated bugs! They were one of the few things which could slip through her byakugan, when they were small enough -- the Aburame clan had always terrified her for that reason, however much she would deny it to anyone who would ask (especially other members of her own family) -- and, well, they just looked creepy. Especially when they were ten yard long centipedes!
Daichi didn't look too pleased, either. He marched right up to... well, Hanabi thought it was the thing's head, although it was kind of hard to tell on a creature like a centipede, and started yelling at it.
"You!" he snapped. "Why aren't you a swarm? I wanted a swarm, and all I got was one single oversized bug that's too large to do the kinds of things I need you to do. Where's the swarm I was promised?"
The creature turned its attention to the boy who'd just summoned it. A series of odd clicks and whistles seemed to come from it -- from where, no-one was quite sure -- that were oddly capable of mimicking a rather rough form of human speech. "Why want swarm?" it asked. "Why summon?"
Daichi sighed in frustration. "I am the first ninja of the Mukade clan in several generations, but in the past my clan has been among the elite. When I chose to become a ninja, I found my family's old scrolls detailing our techniques, and have been teaching myself how my family used to fight in ancient times. Among other things was a scroll detailing how to summon a swarm of your kind... but it said nothing about summoning a great beast like you. So, I say again, why aren't you a swarm, damn it?"
"Don't know," the creature replied, sounding about as purplexed as it could considering the unusual method it had for 'speaking.' "Why summon?"
"I'm engaged in a practice match with a fellow ninja," Daichi explained, his voice calming a bit as he realized he was yelling at something that could flatten him in seconds if it desired. "This was, admittedly, the first time I've ever attempted to summon even one of you in even a practice fight... but my scroll said I would be recieving a swarm of your kind to fight alongside me. I was expecting something a bit less... lethal, since I'm not actually intending to kill the friend I'm training with."
"Can make swarm," the creature explained, "But no smaller."
Daichi blinked, unable to understand what that meant. "I... well, why don't you? Let's see what I can do with you, since I do have you out."
Before everyone's eyes, the centipede seperated into every single part, and each part started growing to match the original creature's size. Soon, the entire floor of the amphitheatre -- as well as some of the unoccupied areas in the stands -- were covered with the creatures. Hanabi blinked. "Um... I may be a bit outmatched, here," she muttered to herself.
"You want to quit, already?" Ebisu asked, standing fairly close to her so that he could avoid being crushed by the great beasts.
"Uh... let me think about that for a bit."
Daichi was suitably impressed. "Wow... so, um, what else can you do?"
"Can spit fire or poison," one of the centipedes -- likely the one which had grown from the original's head segment -- explained. "Can move... fast."
"Right... can you fight a human without killing them?"
"Yes," The centipede replied. "But hard."
"Well... sorry about that, but this is just practice. See that girl, there? I want her knocked out... but not killed, got it?"
"Yes," came a chorus of the creatures as they all suddenly started descending on the Hyuuga girl.
"Shit!" Hanabi cried, then started shouting more and more expletives, in as many languages as she knew, as all of the centipedes started spitting poison at her. She just barely dodged, and began to realize she didn't have much of a chance in this match... unless she used more of her chakra. "I guess I don't have much choice. Byakugan! Kaiten!"
Using her enhanced vision, she started making precision strikes, sending the attacking insects away and using the tornadic motion of her chakra to prevent the poison from splattering on her as she spun to defend from all sides. She was regulating the use of her chakra as best as she could, but it was still draining from her rapidly. Thankfully, Daichi's summoned insects weren't so durable that they could widthstand too many blows, and soon the swarm had dissipated into the cloud of ninja smoke from which it came. She came out of her kaiten breathing heavily, though, and had lost the ability to maintain her byakugan shortly before the end of the fight.
"Not bad, Daichi-kun," Hanabi gasped out. "But I don't think you're going to win unless you've got more tricks up your sleeve I haven't seen yet."
Daichi glanced at her and nodded. "Well, I do... but it might not work. Katon! Goukakyuu no jutsu!"
Startled, Hanabi barely had time to duck before a massive fireball passed over her head, very nearly striking Ebisu behind her. "Fire element techniques? When the hell did you learn fire element techniques, and why haven't you been using them when we've been on a combat mission?"
Daichi smiled nervously. "Um... I've never actually tried them, before. I've only read about them, and I'm still not sure I did it right -- my scroll was missing a few parts, and I had to guess at what was missing."
"And you chose me to test them out on," Hanabi sighed. "Just what I didn't need."
A raft of kunai flew her way, forcing her to dodge... just as he launched another fireball that she collided with as she jumped away. She kept her mouth shut, reserving the energy she would use for screaming in pain so that she could still fight, and darted forwards through the flames fist-first. It gave her the victory, as she was able to make contact before he could react to seeing her emerge from the ball of flames -- which, while still hot enough to burn, wasn't apparently as hot as it should have been.
Hanabi struggled to her feet, glancing down at her fallen teammate. "You still able to fight?"
He didn't respond, having been completely knocked out. Ebisu walked over and examined the fallen genin. "Winner... Hanabi," he declared.
Hanabi smiled slightly. "Oh, good. Can I go to the hospital now?"
Up in the stands, Sakura sighed. "Looks like I'm needed again. I'll be right back."
As she jumped down onto the field, Inari and Adaha looked on in concern. Naruto noticed their expressions and smiled at them. "Hey, don't worry. Sakura-chan'll heal them both up, as easy as one, two, three."
Inari looked relieved, but Adaha was not. "Yeah," he said. "But... she still has to face Moegi-san. Will she be fit to fight?"
Naruto looked down at the field, where Sakura was performing some makeshift burn treatment all up and down Hanabi's arms. "Well... we'll just have to see, won't we?"
* * * * *
Notes: Remind me to never write a tournament, again. No, skip that -- tournaments are okay, just not when you're being distracted by a thousand other demands on your time. And I've still got another chapter of this tournament to go... sigh. A technical term -- in martial arts terminology, a 'cat stance' is a sort of extreme back stance, where 90 percent or more of your wieght is placed on your back foot and your front foot just barely touches the ground. To the best of my knowledge, there is no name for the exact opposite of it (at least, none that I was taught in my time studying martial arts), so I used 'reverse cat stance.' If anyone knows of a more accurate technical word for that, please let me know. I lost the paper on which I'd written some of the name translations I did for certain people, which means the significance of their names has been lost to me in some cases. I've been able to reconstruct much of the old list, but I figured that, in order to prevent this from becoming a problem again, I could give some of the translations of the character names introduced here before I forget them. "Hikigaeru" is 'Toad' (as in toad master -- she is part of Jiraiya's clan, after all, even if tangentally). "Gekkou" comes from the character book -- I put him into the same clan as the late Gekkou Hayate, aka the preliminary exam's referee until he was killed. Curiously, it means 'Moonbeam,' although I have no idea what that has to do with that character. "Mukade" means 'centipede,' and the reasons for my giving him that name should be pretty obvious by now. Incidentally, this is the end of the mini-storyline I had involving Daichi and his relearning of the family techniques. He won't be disappearing from the story, exactly, but don't expect his attempts to rebuild his clan to show up again... in this fic. The same is true of some of the others you've seen in the tournament, here, as well. The sequel might be a different matter, considering it is a next-gen fic, but if you were expecting some sort of big, dramatic plot point to come from that... well, sorry, but this is it for now. I've got enough to deal with involving clan histories and that kind of thing between the resurrection of the Uzumaki clan Sakura's contemplating (heh) and the civil war in the Hyuuga clan. Please realize that a few of the 'minor' storyline points aren't exactly significant in this fic, but instead exist because I'm setting up a few things for the sequel to have to deal with. The troubles of some of these less-plot-significant genin and certain Academy students make up a large part of that set-up. Oh, and a definition for some people's clarification (nothing you'd find in a review, but I get e-mails. Some of them actually make sense). A shuriken is NOT a specific type of weapon -- the word refers to any type of throwing knife, including kunai, throwing stars, those big fuuma or 'windmill' shuriken, etc. Any blade designed to be thrown that is not also a hatchet-type or spear-type weapon is a shuriken. So no, I have not been making a mistake by referring to kunai as shuriken on occasion. If I were to refer to a tanto (samurai dagger), kodachi, wakizashi, or katana as a shuriken, that WOULD be a mistake, but calling a kunai a shuriken is not one. Just thought I'd clear that up. Next Chapter: The conclusion of the tournament, and (at least some of) the repercussions thereof.