The Last Prayer @graefoxx
31Memories of Tomorrow

Hey friends. I hope you're all staying safe and calm.

Just a reminder of the tournament: Kankurō VS Shino, Temari VS Shikamaru, Neji VS Hinata, Kiba VS Sasuke, Gaara VS Naruto.

Thank you to my amazing Patrons! Your support only fuels my inexhaustible drive to create! Just a heads up. I decided to finish the Chūnin/invasion arc before jumping back to From Ruin. But I'm also very very eager to write another original novel. I got struck with this absolutely phenomenal idea that I just have to publish. So, I'll keep you informed with my next updates or feel free to hit me up on my or Reddit under GraeFoxx_

WARNING: Lemon light(That is to say that the lemons won't be very detailed), Course Language

26K Long. A new record for me.

I offer a moment of respite from the craziness of the world. Please enjoy :)

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Konoha's towering gates were open for the color and luxurious palanquins of nobles, lords, dignitaries, and industry moguls to pass through to the delighted cheers of a gathered village. It was a bright sunny day over Konoha and all, from villagers to ninja, cheered for every high-class coterie traveling directly to the main arena. In the distance, standing atop the tallest of the three viewing towers of the coliseum where the final exam will be taking place, Konoha's Third Hokage, Sarutobi Hiruzen gazes upon the multitude of people, domestic, foreign, common, or elite, as they slowly fill the three large viewing towers.

The amphitheater isn't the largest in the world, however, it can hold nearly five thousand people. Of the three eminent viewing towers overlooking the lightly forested battlefield, the tallest seating in the center tower is for the Kages viewing. The next level down for all three towers are luxury viewpoints for the nobles and capitalists and the remaining seats are for the villagers, veteran shinobi, and most shinobi from every discipline able to attend. Should those in the farthest seats be unable to see, there are a few small screens with decent picture quality from which they can view the action.

The fateful day of the Chūnin final exam feels unforgiving to Hiruzen. He's been too busy reading mountains of reports to oversee the security of this final event; from court proceedings to nominations for vacant positions and foreign policy incident reports. He's also writing reports for each of his departments, setting priorities for the councils, regulating missions and compensation, and ratifying agreements with his Daimyō. With so much to read and do in a single day, Hiruzen was grateful to Jiraiya for spearheading the security measures for the final exam. With Chūnin and Jōnin stationed like a net at many crucial points around the many entry points and levels of the arena, Hiruzen was impressed by his pupil's forethought.

Hiruzen is standing in front of his seat, scanning the throng of people for the arrival of the Kazekage. It wasn't until a small bug landed on the shoulder of one of the Anbu bodyguards, that he finally took his seat, softly voicing, "finally." Ten minutes later, the Kazekage, flanked by his bodyguards, walks toward his seat. Turning to his younger peer, Hiruzen smiles as he calls upon the taller man, "well, well, Kazakage-dono. I'm glad you could make it. We're moments away." In full view of the audience, an announcer walks to the center of the grass and dirt field as Hiruzen comments, "you must be tired from the journey."

"Not at all," a hard voice replies from under the Kazekage's white mask. "It's better it's held here this time. Were it in Kumo, I fear the trip may be too much for you, Hokage-sama. Maybe it's time to select a Godaime Hokage?"

"Haha, I still have time left, I feel. But I've witnessed much hope for our future," Hiruzen replied. He then stands and addresses the excited masses. After welcoming everyone to Hidden Leaf's Chūnin Exam, he officially begins the main tournament and presents Shiranui Genma to introduce the ten participants who made it through the preliminary round. The crowd booms in confetti, streamers, and excitement.

From the noble's floor in the right tower, a tall, athletically slender woman with long auburn-haired is being treated like a precious and rare jewel by the upper echelon of social class, each flabby or frail man eager to have her by their side like a status trophy. When a seductive woman appears the type to strap a man down and whip him into submission, infiltrating the upper-class of society is rather mundane. Their security are certainly suspicious, however, the gullible minds of the rich always wave them away.

Though the pompous and frail men ignore the Hokage's speech, Mei does not. She's close enough to the Kages to wonder if she should or shouldn't allow the invasion to play out. Spying on the Suna and Leaf leaders, Mei feels the tingle of intrigue in the pit of her toned stomach. After her conversation with Naruto two nights ago, she can't help but wonder what the blond has up his bright orange sleeve.

MEI

Mei was glad she didn't have to wait long before Naruto left the Cloud-nin's tiny studio. Suppressing her chakra, she follows him the entire way to the Hokage monument. They were the only two atop of the high monument, overlooking the bright village under the starry night sky, and if she weren't bringing dire news—and Naruto was a little taller than her—this enchanting view would be the setting of a romantic fantasy she'd love to turn into reality. Mei makes herself known when she casually leans on the railing next to him, turning his head and striking him with her alluring presence. It's a look she's seen often and still enjoyed after so many years.

Mei was a late bloomer; gangly with knobby knees, a small face, and large teeth. It took her many years and a lot of training to grow into the beauty she is today. Model tall with a large bust, athletically slender with captivating hips that add a curvaceous sway to her apple-bottom. She wore a blue, long-sleeved crop-top with mesh insert. It was a bodice dress, the hem of which reaches above her knees and is double-slit up to her hips so her legs were unrestrained even if her mesh-legging thighs were enticingly visible. Contrasting the blue of her outfit was her white, high-heel, knee-length sandals with shin-guards and white belt.

Her most noticeable feature, however, was her long auburn hair that went past her round butt and accented with a top-knot. Long gone were the days her richly dignified hair was roughly and unevenly cut nearly to the scalp. She had two bangs that frame her model face and another that falls to the side, covering her whole right eye and leaving the left eye visible. With fair, unblemished skin, seductive green eyes, the woman grew to be seductively stunning. At twenty, she couldn't turn a head, now at twenty-six, she knows men have murdered to win a beauty like her.

Alone atop Konoha's famed monument, she enjoyed why he'd be surprised by her close proximity to him. And if Mei is honest, her looks never hurt when she's negotiating for something she needs.

"I bet a lot on you," the woman casually said from beside him.

Looking around to be certain she's talking to him, he sounded, "uhh, who are you?"

With her sultry voice, she answered, "my name is Mei."

"Oh," he answered. "You shouldn't gamble, Mei."

"I know," Mei girlishly bemoaned, before defending herself. "But the odds are fifty to one on you beating Gaara. Winning the tournament is a hundred to one, and making Chūnin is an astounding five hundred to one."

Chuckling weakly, Naruto grumbled, "haha… that doesn't surprise me. So you actually bet on me?"

"How could I not," she answered, thinking, 'especially with how much I know about your abilities.' As they watch the bright city under the night sky, Mei orates, "the whole world is in the mind, you know. Any decision you make can be the death of you."

Wondering if this is a pep-talk so she doesn't lose her bet, he asked, "uh, you mean in the arena?"

"I mean in shogi," she winningly answered. "…as in life. That Hitai-ate on your forehead, for example. It's the symbol of your life as a shinobi and demands total concentration or the very worst is allowed to happen. Have you been forced to the brink of certain death?"

"Uh, yeah," he casually answered, all the while eying her skeptically. In his mind, except for Mabui and Samui, beautiful women don't just enter his life for no reason and he asked as much. "Is there a reason why you're here?"

Broadening her charming moist-red lips into a smile, Mei returned, "do I need a reason to?"

"It's just, I've never seen you before," he replied.

"That's because I'm not from Konoha," she easily explained before continuing with her death-related inquiry. "Did you change after being brought so close to death, or were you the same as before?"

Dissatisfied with how lost he is, he asked to know, "where are you from?"

"Kirigakure," Mei readily answered.

His eyes widen as his brows heighten in mild shock. Naruto quickly asked, "really? What are you doing out here?"

With pouty red lips, Mei laments responding, "I'd hoped to meet the man of my dreams but I fear I may have been stood up." It didn't tell him much and she asked, "so, were you?"

"About the death thing?" With her nod, he answered, "I… well, yeah, I stayed the same, more or less."

Lightly taken aback, she leans forward slightly over the waist-high rails and twists to look at him as she asked, "truly?"

Naruto tried not to stare at the way her full breasts sway with her forward movement while he answered, "y-yeah. But I wasn't fighting just to fight. I had something to prove."

Still leaning forward with part of auburn hair falling over her bare shoulder and seemingly oblivious to the allure her gently swaying breasts is affecting him, she continued asking, "and did you? Prove it?"

Pink in the cheeks, he replied, "I think so. It worked out well."

Leaning back with perfect posture again, she admitted, "I met death early in life, as many of us in Kiri have," and she felt Naruto pay more attention to her. "Constant violence, competition, and deceit have an unparalleled way of shaping a boy or girl graduating the Academy, but in doing so, that person's heart, mind, and soul are on the same page; the most direct route to power. It's on their quest for dominion that they adopt the worst and most callous actions, because in Kiri, only the strong survive, and worst yet, only the strongest lead."

She can tell he's not sure what to make of her as he deflects by asking, "uh, were you supposed to meet this guy here? I can help with directions if you need."

Turning around, Mei leans on the railing, straightening her posture so her chest juts out more as she asked with playful concern, "ara, I'm not being a bother, am I?"

"No, no," Naruto tries to reassure her. "No bother. I like meeting new people. I met a couple from Kiri too. One's my best friend."

"A best friend from Kiri… that's uplifting to hear," Mei admits with a sweet smile. She suddenly felt different then. Unless he's a spectacular liar, she can tell he's being honest. It makes her want to be a little more open as she orates, "you know, strength and power may move a man in the physical world but I believe Karma is the law of the spiritual world. When you inevitably cross into the eternal lands, I don't believe you can absolve your sins in this life by claiming, 'I was ordered to do that,' or, 'they threatened to kill me if I didn't,' or, 'being virtuous was inconvenient.' Your actions, and thus, your soul is in your keeping and yours alone. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, I do," Naruto thoughtfully answered. "I mean, I never put it as well as that but, yeah, that makes sense."

"What a pleasant feeling," Mei sounded with content. "To know there are others who can understand that, even if we're not from the same country."

"I don't think we're as alone as we think we are," Naruto tells her with a mental smile for Naru-nii and Kurama. "There are a lot of friends out there from places you'd never expected to make them. I'm sure a nee-chan as pretty as you will meet loads who'll understand you."

"Mmn, how sweet of you to say," Mei remarks with a sultry tone and seductive eyes that bluntly stunned Naruto into recalling how captivating this woman is. "Sadly, I fear the position of leadership is a lonely road." Looking at her ring finger, she bemoaned, "even though I long for the ring… for my country, I must choose the hat."

Thinking it odd to bring up wardrobe challenges, Naruto simply suggests, "I know I just met you, but as long as you're not hurting anybody, I don't see anything wrong with wearing a ring with a hat."

Rather than pointing out she meant the Kage's hat, Mei simply laughs silently to herself; incidentally jiggling her chest and shoulders for Naruto's visual benefit. Even if she cleared the confusion, she has little doubt his response would change. "Having already met Kiri-nin, I'm certain you can see how villainous they can seem, especially with a nickname like the Bloody Mist."

"Haku's weird, sure, but he's not bad, like at all," Naruto tells her. "And Zabuza… well, he's not all bad," he tries without completely believing it.

Standing upright again and turning to the Hidden Leaf village, Mei proclaims, "that you would admit as much confirms what I've longed believed. Kiri can be saved. It's why I chose, unlike many of my countrymen, to fight senseless violence, corruption, and betrayal; to be an agent of life and order rather than death and destruction. So, I suppose I'm fighting to prove something as well, Uzumaki-dono; to end the dark days of my village."

His suspicion grows enough to be alarming and asks, "…are you really in Konoha to meet someone or this a trick?"

"No, no," Mei asserts with a slight shake of her head, swaying her beautiful auburn bangs. "No trick. It wouldn't do to spoil what could be between us by starting our first meeting with deceit. However, I am guilty of omission." With a sensual grin that makes him wish he hadn't left Mabui and Samui, Mei admitted, "the person I'm here to meet… is you."

With flat lines for eyes, Naruto plainly states, "I'm going to need you to start making sense here or I'm jumping down to Hokage Tower and telling them you're from Kiri."

Secure in herself, she answered with a confident smile, "as you wish, Uzumaki-dono. I originally came here to purchase Kubikiribōchō, then I spoke with Zabuza and Haku, and now I'm standing here overlooking your enchanting home because you're someone that I simply had to meet."

"Why?"

"In a word: diplomacy," she answered. "As citizens of Kiri, I'd like Haku and Zabuza to help me quell the large-scale and on-going violence in our village, but, as they are both in your employ—which I must admit is very impressive for one so young—I cannot do that without your help."

Taken aback by the information, Naruto asked with disbelief, "you want to take Haku back to Kiri?"

She duly noted, "I realize how much you mean to each other, and I understand I'm asking a lot of you but I don't mean to take without giving."

"…What do you mean?"

"I truly mean to negotiate an arrangement we can both agree to," Mei honestly stated. Peering down the cliff's edge to the spiky stone hair of the Yondaime and the Hokage Tower below that, Mei turned to Naruto and admitted, "and as a show of good faith, I'm certain we have ample time to meet with your Hokage."

In all her years as a leader of battle-hardened shinobi, it would be impossible for Mei to be in the high position she is without the skill to debate with many stern, wrathful, or outdated figures of power, which meant maneuvering Naruto was no challenge at all. She wasn't surprised when he curiously asked, "what for?"

"So you can warn him of an imminent attack," Mei offered with her smile.

Drawing his brows together, he returned, "what are you talking about?"

'Perhaps I'm leading too much,' she thought before explaining, "I came across information that heavily suggests Konoha is about to be attacked by Otogakure and your ally, Sunagakure. I realize that may be difficult to believe, but if we can speak with your Hokage, I can show him the location of the Sound garrison hidden just beyond your village's kekkaijutsu." Mei understands the positive image that'll give Naruto and explained, "you'll look like a hero to your peers and leaders and all I ask in return is that we have a discussion about the various ways you'd allow Haku and Zabuza to assist me in Kiri."

Naruto seems skeptical about her intel but Mei knew that so long as he believed even a small degree of her claims, she can't imagine he'd refuse. It's not as if she's asking for much, to begin with, but Mei became confused when he responded, "no, that's okay. I don't mind talking later but all that extra stuff's unnecessary."

Mei couldn't know her show of good faith would get in the way of Naruto's plan, and though he's not reacting as she'd expected, feeling less strength in her position doesn't mean she's one to panic. She assured him, "I'm not lying, Uzumaki-dono. I wouldn't do so when the ultimate goal is for mutual trust."

"You can call me Naruto," the blond offered with a broad smile. "And I know you're not. That's not what this is about, but I can't explain it to you. So… sorry."

Taking less than a second to think, she countered, "do you mean to say Konoha is already aware? …And they're allowing it?" Naruto's silence seems enough for her to say, "I see. I hadn't expected Hokage-dono to risk the lives of his villagers like this-"

"That's not what's happening," Naruto assured her with stern eyes. "Look, I really can't explain it, and more than that, I don't know you. You have my word we can talk about Haku and your village later but we can't right now. You should leave the village for tomorrow, or stay with the villagers. You'll be safe with them."

If he hadn't said that, Mei might suspect he's in the process of betraying his village, especially when she considered how many nights he's been spending with those kunoichi from Kumo. Though she doesn't like the fact Naruto would sell out his home, such an outcome would be to her benefit. Still, it's all highly unlikely. Everything she can see about him says he's not the type to betray others, or Zabuza would never have given Haku up to Naruto.

"How about I remain with Haku instead," she proposed. "I assure you I can take care of myself and it would be in my best interest if he remained safe as well."

Returning his attention to the seductive Mei, Naruto warily answers her proposition. "…I guess that's fine," before warning her, "just so you know, this would be a real show of faith. If you try anything-"

"I won't," she insisted, happily turning to overlook the village. "You have my word, because, among equals, our word is our only bond," she tells him before leaving him to his peace.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

With a small microphone by his mouth, Genma welcomes the viewing masses before establishing the very limited rules; the match continues until submission, the moderator calls it, or death. "I'll now bring out our Genin candidates by order of match. First, from Sunagakure: Kankurō." With his hands in his pockets and a long toothpick in his mouth, the Jōnin doesn't look to his right from which the Kazakage's second-born son enters.

To the cheer of the crowd, Kankurō enters the arena in his black baggy puppeteer's costume, hood with cat-like ears, and his wrapped puppet on his back. Walking into the open dirt and grass field, Kankurō observes the battlefield with every step, memorizing the terrain for any possible advantage until he reaches the spot Genma indicates he stand on. Looking up at the Kage's balcony, Kankurō wonders why his father didn't meet them earlier in the morning as they planned on; even Baki couldn't explain the delay. As Kankurō wonders why his father is wearing a white veil cloth over most of his face, Genma's voice is broadcasted throughout the festive arena.

"His opponent," Genma casual speaks. "From Konohagakure: Aburame Shino."

Leaving the wide access tunnel all the other opposition wait in, wearing his dark sunglasses, light gray jacket with a high, upturned collar, Shino walks out onto the spacious field. He ignores the ovation to recite his sensei and clan's battle strategy in his mind, though he does spare some thought to where Naruto might be. After his display during the preliminaries and his sensei's explanation of having two chakras, he's been on all the rookies' minds. Standing a few paces away from Kankurō, Genma continues with the participants of the following match-up.

"With our second contest," Genma orates. "From Sunagakure: Temari," and along with whistling cat-calls, the crowd cheers for the beautiful Sand princess.

However, Temari ignores the adulation. Having never felt so torn, Temari has come to dread this day. Turning around, the sandy-blond kunoichi feels great concern for her little brother and the absent Naruto. Observing how on edge a disturbed Gaara is, it's her hope Naruto ran away, because no matter how cowardly that would make him, at least he'll still be alive. With a strong intake of air, she says a small prayer for a fortunate outcome—no matter how that might look—before exiting the tall cement access hallway toward the center of the makeshift landscape. With her every step, her mind recalls with vibrant detail the past two weeks of her mission surrounding, 'Naruto.'

TEMARI

After Temari assured him that nine spouses or concubines would allow him and future Uzumakis to marry and produce more heirs and clan members without the fear of genetic deformities, Naruto still seemed confused by her proposition. Whether it's due to her unexpectedly quick turn-around on polyamory or the possibility he sensed her disapproval of what she simply labels as consensual infidelity, she couldn't say, however, her research is sound and she offered it to show him as well her amendment to their Omiai.

Naruto instead responded with, "fine, but I want to meet Gaara."

To get him back on board, she acquiesced, "fine." Turning around she called, "follow me."

Surprised, he asked, "wait, really? Now?"

Turning to him, she asked, "you have somewhere to be?"

"Actually, yeah," Naruto honestly admitted. Her mind immediately makes plans for later in the day when he responds, "but I can start it with clones and catch up later. Let's go."

After making a clone, Temari takes him straight to their suite at one of Konoha's fanciest hotels, all the while he explains how a three or four-member polycule was more his train of thought. Naruto is amazed by the opulence of the rooms as Temari explained nine members is simply the lowest number necessary to avoid deformities or weaknesses should he want his clan's blood to remain as pure as possible. As she led him to Gaara's room, he replied how little something like that mattered to him. Without preamble, she knocks sharply on the heavy door.

A slow hissing, like running sand, could be heard behind the door and instantly Temari reacted with agitated alertness. The door opened slowly and with the darkness of the room behind him contrasting with his pale skin, blood-red hair, and light-green eyes rimmed by dark sleepless lines, he appeared as if out of a nightmare. With his short-sleeved black body-suit and white sash across his chest, Gaara was silent as he stared at them.

With tremendous effort, Temari clears her throat and introduced the boys. "Gaara, this is Uzumaki Naruto, my fiancé-"

Surprised, Naruto shook his head as he repeated, "f-f-f-fiancé?"

Temari hastened to get this over with and finished, "Naruto, my little brother Gaara."

"Yo," he merrily called out, surprising Temari to hold her breath. When Naruto extended his fist for a bump, she was sure Gaara would take that as a sign of aggression and engage them, but he simply stared at the fist as Naruto finished, "how's it going?"

Turning his icy green eyes on Naruto, Gaara only asked, "do you feel it?"

Tilting his blond head, Naruto curiously asked, "feel what?"

Nearly snarling, he answered, "love."

"Oh," Naruto hummed before answering, "yeah, I do."

Internally, Temari was shocked to hear that. Externally she was still holding her breath. Her technically-accurate-fiancé just claimed to love her in front of her brother and somehow it suddenly felt more substantial. The hallway seems hotter to her and she pondered whether that made her happy or sad to hear.

"The best way to destroy a person is to fill them with love, then take it away," Gaara professed. With wide, hungry eyes, her homicidal little brother declared, "next we meet, I'm going to relish mixing your still warm blood with the endless sand; proving my existence to the world."

Before Naruto could say anymore, Gaara slammed the door behind on them. Her blond target tried to yell through the door but Temari convinced him to save it for another day. She then took him to her suite on the opposite side of the top level. The one question Temari wanted to ask Naruto in the privacy of her suite was at what point did he fall in love with her when it suddenly dawned on her.

She claps her hand over her forehead for her lapse in logic when she voiced, "of course… you meant your love for this other woman, didn't you?"

Momentarily distracted by the gold and navy blue layout, tall curtained windows, and opulent furnishing of the beautiful room, Naruto hummed, "huh?" Then realized, "oh, yeah. I have a lot of important people in my life, but yeah, I love her."

Feeling rejected, the daughter of the Kazekage hotly contested, "and somehow, you actually believe you could love me too? Equally?"

"It's not like it's a competition," Naruto assured her. "If you met her… well, it's like being introduced to another person you could love just as much as you could love me. The three of us would just love each other and we could build something together, but, it's super important to be honest with each other. If that's something you think you can do, great, but if not, we can still be best of friends-"

"Then let's be honest," Temari interrupted, eager to stop feeling rejected as a woman or a failure as a kunoichi. With stern determination, Temari brings it down to reality, callously citing, "before sister-wives, marriages, engagements, or even girlfriends; before any of that very challenging concept, I'm- …I'm scared you're going to die. How's that for honesty? I'm truly terrified that my little brother is going to kill you."

Almost with a bored face, Naruto assured her, "he's not going to kill me."

"You don't know that," she heatedly argues, asking with aggravation, "how many people have you killed?"

"Uh, maybe two or three, but I wasn't trying to kill them-"

It wasn't a stretch of the imagination for Temari to guess, "you were trying to incapacitate them, right? I can easily imagine those two or three shinobi you killed likely died from their injuries and not because you maliciously ripped them apart to bathe in their blood?"

"…Well, yeah," a horrified Naruto eventually agreed.

"Gaara has killed scores of men and he doesn't do it to incapacitate." She tries desperately to make him realize, "he butchers them for fun. As much as we like to predict what might happen, no one knows the future! You or I could die any day, but between the two of us, you're the one that has to face my brother, which means the chances that's it's you is exponentially higher." In that moment, it's strangely sinking in. What was ordered of her was suddenly feeling like an outcome she doesn't want. "…we're two weeks away from the exam and I'm only now realizing he could very well kill you-"

"Hey," he called, standing closer to her, filling her vision with his whiskered face. "He's not going to kill me," he reiterated, but the look on her face read she didn't believe him. "Let's be honest, then. I like you Temari, you're wicked smart and beautiful and fun and I like your family too. Even the one that wears makeup-"

"You know his name," Temari accused with a dry grin.

Chuckling, Naruto smiled as he nodded before continuing, "I know you think I'm crazy for trying to reach out to Gaara but I know we're alike. Hell, I could've been just like him… which also means he could be like me… if he had someone like I did. I just have to show him that and he won't be that crazy murderer you're afraid of. He could be someone great. Someone amazing. Maybe your Kazekage one day."

That, more than anything else shook her to her core. For her village, that's lived in such fear of him for so long, to somehow get over that to accept him as a person and Kazekage… The clarity and faith in Naruto's eyes were unwavering and Temari can't help but gasp before slowly asking, "…you really think that, don't you?"

With his cocky smile, he asserted, "damn right I do," and Temari kissed him then and there.

The energy in her kiss was made of bountiful gratitude and a bit of hope, as if she wanted to believe him. He kissed her back with just as much energy, and for some reason, he felt honest, comforting, and trusting, which then slowed them down. Their locked lips suddenly became gentle, patient, softer as their faces relaxed against one another. She felt her heart pounding in her ears, and placing her hand on his chest, she could feel his heart thundering as well. The feel of his hot chest was more doubt that one day his beating heart would stop and her brother would be the cause. In that singular moment, without her village in mind, Temari felt like she didn't want Naruto to die. Her roused body wanted him alive and she snatched his white collar, pulling him in for a much deeper kiss.

Cupping her jawline while snagging her waist, Naruto's matured passion pulled her in like gravity she couldn't withstand, connecting them at the waist as her soft breasts pressed against his hard chest. She matched his passion, if not his experience, and they made out for several minutes. He led her head tilts and shifts and she happily followed as their hot saliva-covered tongues caress each other, muffled by locked lips.

The way he kissed her felt as if he wanted something honest and real with her but that only made her heart ache more. To detract from her mission of deception, Temari unzips his jacket, snaked her hands under his shirt and caressed his hot skin while pulling him desperately to her bedroom. His own hands were massaging the back of her elegant neck and the arch of her lower back and the blonds were only escalating as they neared her large soft bed, but Naruto also felt the danger.

Temari was ready to give herself to him and feel anything but the gnawing ache in her heart but she couldn't know that Naruto wouldn't allow her to sacrifice that ultimate line on a lie. It wouldn't be right, so as much as Temari was ready to commit to his sexual gratification in any position he desired, Naruto pulled away.

Breathing heavily, she was shocked and didn't understand why he stopped. She remembered thinking, 'is he rejecting me again?'

Catching his breath, Naruto huffed, "after." Her curious eyes made him elaborate, "I'd be happy to go all the way with you after the finals." Before Temari can repeat her same point of contention, he told her, "and if Gaara kills me, then at least you can experience your first time with someone lucky enough to be loved by you."

That struck Temari as more mature than he lets on. It's highly unlikely that other boys or men would pass up such an opportunity with her and yet, this loud and enthusiastic blond is showing restraint and integrity well beyond his years; as if he had no rush to lose his virginity. It's astounding to her that this boy she mistook for a complete buffoon seems to genuinely care for her brother and her virtue. From an emotional place within her, Temari was burning to respond, "…you're lucky enough… If you really mean that-"

"Of course I mean it," he responded, adding with a cocky smirk, "look who you're talking to."

A blushing Temari wanted to believe he's lying; as a shinobi couldn't be this good. But her teal-colored eyes are telling her he's not, making her genuinely express, "I don't want to regret… not being with you any more than I already-"

"Temari," Naruto huffs, softly caressing her rosy cheek and elegant neck. "Just because I won't go all the way right now, doesn't mean we can't do other stuff." Naruto bent his knees enough so his hands could take a firm grip of her round rear-end and rhythmically paw the strong cheeks together, thoroughly stunting her thought process. She blushes furiously at his boldness as he massages her strong malleable posterior, telling her, "after the exams, we can explore more, but for now, we can do everything else… if you want, I mean."

His hands move to remove her red sash, followed by her long-sleeved purple tactical blouse. Though he told her to say when she'd like to stop, she never did. Soon enough, she was in her black, lace underwear and suddenly wished she thought to put on something sexier; luckily, his enamored eyes and dopey grin seemed to say he doesn't mind. Temari blushed furiously. Maintaining eye contact, he easily lifts her by her butt and lets her fall back on the fluffy queen-sized bed.

Temari couldn't know that Naruto was doing what he and Kurenai always had a problem practicing: foreplay. The teacher and student had done many activities that preceded sex, but once they were ready mentally as much as physically, Kurenai and Naruto always indulged in deep interior stuffing. With Temari, there's a limited border by which she and Naruto could play in but he was confident he could make her feel good. Of everything Kurenai taught him, Naruto gave Temari the very best experience from combination play and he loved exploring her body.

He found she responded well to the common erogenous zones, her lips, neck—especially around the base of her skull—her B-cup breasts, her strong round glutes, her thighs, behind her knees, her calves, and her slippery sex. He learned she loves light nail-scratching of her sensitive scalp so much it makes her left leg kick; a good finisher, he noted. He learned how excitable she became when he played with her asshole; a good stimulant, he tallied.

Armed with a good finisher and stimulant, Naruto played Temari's sensitive zones like a fiddle, arousing her most stimulating sexual responses with practiced hands and stoking a passionate fire in her she never knew existed. Temari didn't know. She didn't know how much she would respond to his nimble fingers, strong hands, and rough tongue. She didn't even know she had so many areas that could cull so much stimulation. Her heart rate sped up when he began massaging her feet or head because she knows he's going to make his way to her wet center. Her breast swelled when he expertly massaged and played with her nipples. Her toes curled when he massaged her inner thigh or above her crotch where her hips hinge toward her sex.

And when he first ate her out, rubbing the rich nerve endings of her pubic mound whilst licking and sucking on her labia, clitoris, and beyond with his strong course tongue, she didn't know he could make her reach her peak frequently. When his plunging fingers found her g-spot as his tongue slide up and down her sensitive love bud, Temari ripped the sheets her clenched grip from her explosive orgasm. Nearly every day after, he would bring her to ecstasy seven or eight times in one session and Temari felt her body belonged to his skill. He especially enjoyed when she tried to fight the steady building of pleasure. The challenge always made him want to make her beg for it by denying her orgasms just before eruption.

For two weeks, they'd hung-out and converse around all the heavy foreplay. He'd thoroughly satisfy her with his hands, mouth, played with her ass, used a toy vibrator and his Fūinjutsu Ero-tags. He's seen her completely nude, made her cum dozens of times, even took a nap together, yet they've never had sex.

In the beginning, she imagined he would break at some point, but he never did, and when she attempted to push him into it, he would always pull away. He'd remind her that the best time for them to go all the way was when it was their choice and not because she's scared he'll die. With the few days they had left, Temari just couldn't argue against that.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Though Temari was supposed to stand next to Shino in the wide-open area, she stands beside her little brother. For someone as confident and as intelligent as her, she was having difficulty determining if she succeeded or failed in her mission. It nearly felt as if she didn't deserve the boisterous adoration of the crowd. Still, the day of reckoning is here and she made decisions she will have to find a way to live with. Looking up at her father's oddly covered face, she thought, 'today's the end.'

Genma didn't care enough about where Temari stood to make a stink about it, and instead introduces, "her opponent, from Konohagakure: Nara Shikamaru."

Wearing his short-sleeved gray jacket over his wire-mesh shirt and brown pants, the bored Nara genius leaves the darker hallway for the wide-open and sunny field ahead. He pays more attention to the clouds moving at a snail's pace above than the annoying loud shouting from the stands or his opponent as he takes his spot beside Shino.

Sitting between Chōji and Sakura, Ino watches her teammate take the dirt stage. Though she's worried about the lazy pineapple-head, she can't help but think he'll be alright. Of all the contestants in this tournament, the only one that causes her any fear is Sabaku no Gaara. From behind them, Chōji, Ino, and Sakura can also hear villagers jabbering about things they don't understand.

They hear, "I'm looking forward to seeing Uchiha Sasuke win the finals. I put fifty thousand on him."

"What? No way," a second villager calls out. "Not over Hyūga Neji. You should've just given your ryō to me."

"Hey, hey," a third villager announces. "Did you two forget Sabaku no Gaara is the Kazekage's son. He's definitely been receiving Kage level training all his life! Don't be surprised if he kills it today!"

Ino's heart hardens and her lungs feel like they're drowning in poisonous gas. For comfort, she takes Sakura's hand and fondly recalls her night with Naruto to settle her rising trepidation.

INO

Three days before the Chūnin exam, rather than spend the recreational hour in Sakura's room in the Yamanaka home, or her room in her parent's house, or the cave at the waterfall, or Naruto's room at Iruka's, Naruto was messaged to meet Sakura in Ino's room. And Sakura wasn't alone. Ino was there as well, at her desk.

Without turning around, Ino casually called out, "hey."

Confused, Naruto looked at Sakura curiously as she puts away her scrolls and materials, and returned, "hey?"

Standing, Sakura stretches her arms outward, announcing to the room, "I'm going to get us some drinks." As Sakura left the room, Ino packed away her study materials as well.

Lost, Naruto asked, "what's going on?"

"Judging by the way she specifically demanded I be here," Ino began to answer. "I'm guessing she's trying to set us up."

With a quirked brow, he asked, "really?"

Nodding in amused disbelief, Ino answered, "for a smart girl, she can be pretty simple sometimes," and Naruto snickered.

Ino wasn't sure how she felt about Sakura's plan. She loves Naruto and wants to be with him, but the stigma of what she did makes her feel criminal, guilty, and unworthy. If she gave him her everything and he eventually realized that she wasn't worth as much as she boasted, she's certain it would break her. She loves being confident and gaining the admiration behind it, but with someone as good as Naruto, she can still worry. In her mind, it all came down to, 'I made horrible mistakes, he's a good guy, so how could it ever work?'

As things stand, he was her first, she met a mentor in Kurenai because of him, and he still wants to be friends. Though that should be enough for Ino, Sakura is springing this horribly thought out opportunity and in her heart of hearts, she wants so desperately to take it. Feeling her mind give her probabilities as she playfully asked, "do you want to do something fun?"

Her cocksure eyes makes him observe her with a mix of wary amusement. He walked to her bed and sits before cautiously inquiring, "like what?"

Grinning that he didn't outright dismiss her, she pointed out, "she still thinks I'm a virgin."

"…Okay," Naruto sounded before asking, "are you going to tell her?"

"One day," Ino answered with a shrug. She scanned her door before visually mapping a trajectory to the seated Naruto. As part of her plan, she gripped his shoulders and moved the confused boy closer to the halfway point of her bed as she explained, "right now that doesn't really matter. What does is this plan of hers that I'd absolutely love to turn on its head if you're game." His suspicious look is all the question she needed before answering, "I bet you anything she'll lose it if I watch you guys."

Something like that might've raised his blond eyebrows before, but after Mabui and Samui, Naruto simply hums aloud, feigning deep thought before playfully guessing, "it sounds more like you just want to watch."

Without even denying it, Ino quickly replied, "of course I want to watch, but hand-to-heart, I assure you that has almost nothing to do with it…"

Not at all convinced, Naruto sounded, "uh-huh."

"Knowing her, I'm sure she'd get off on it," Ino continued. "She's kinkier than she lets on,"

Steamy memories of eight or so sessions with his teammate, Naruto nodded vehemently as he agreed, "Oh, I know! Talk about a shocker. It's like there's another girl in there sometimes."

Grinning, Ino buoyantly asked, "so, you in?"

Naruto can't help but feed off of Ino's mischievous personality. Looking at her, it's as if she has no doubt she'll have her way. So much so he'd almost be scared if she set her eyes on becoming Hokage. Smiling, Naruto said, "I'd be willing to play with the idea, but, if she's not-"

Knowing her sister, Ino confidently interrupted, "she will."

When Sakura returned, she set the tray down as Ino sat next to Naruto and poured two cups of green tea while explaining, "I hate to leave you both but I forgot I had to do something with kaa-san." Ino and Naruto's blue eyes connect for a split second as Sakura continued. "I know I made you come all the way here so maybe you and Ino can chat. We've all been so busy training, it's almost impossible to see each other. You guys should definitely use this opportunity to catch up."

Playfully acting concerned, Ino asked, "what about your recreational time? I wouldn't want to get in the way."

"It's fine, it's fine," Sakura replied waving her concern away. "This close to the finals, it's for the best if Naruto rests his body."

"Really," Naruto asked.

"Of course," she answered. "Planned rest, a.k.a. the Art of Tapering. Due to your training, your body and chakra are used to a certain level of activity and fatigue, so, before any physically demanding event, you can optimize your performance by resting for a day or two. As you taper and rest before the event, the mind, body, and chakra become restless and you feel more energy than you know what to do with."

"Hmm, good to know," Naruto remarked with a smile. His mind reasoned it would give him extra time to plant stacks of seals around the village.

"Still, that's two days away and Naruto tends to have way more energy to begin with," Ino pointed out. Turning to Sakura, she added with a thoughtful hum, "I wouldn't feel right about taking your time."

"It's no problem, Ino," Sakura stated. "Just keep him company for me and I'll be happy with that."

With a cute pose, Ino returned, "you'd do that for me?"

"Well, I'm not really doing much, but of course," the pink-haired girl remarked, warmly adding, "we're sisters after all."

"Aww, I think it's great you two are so close," Naruto couldn't help but say, knowing full well Ino's smiling on the inside. "I've missed talking to you, Ino… but I feel bad for backing out of Sakura's time."

"Guys really, it's okay."

"No," Ino retorts. "It's not."

"Maybe we could just hang-out; the three of us," Naruto suggested, and Ino hums internally with delight.

"Yeah," Ino boasted. "That'd be much better. Come on Sakura. I see you around but it's usually in passing and you're always busy training and studying, you barely eat with us."

"We should definitely take a small break," Naruto included.

"Well, um… okay," Sakura eventually decided.

"Perfect," Ino called. Hopping to her feet, Ino takes Sakura's hand and rushes back to the bed. She'd already timed and aimed so that the pair of beauties crashed perfectly into Naruto, making Sakura yelp, "Ino!" Ino landed on Naruto's left, pulling her pink-haired friend to land flat on his right as his hands smoothly snake around both of their backs. Catching them, they settle on the bed.

"Moh, Ino," Sakura bemoaned, pressed snugly against Naruto. "What are you-"

Sakura is interrupted when Ino began kissing Naruto, widening her green eyes. It stunned her to be inches away from their heated make out. With effort, Ino pulled away to turn to a blushing Sakura and innocently asked, "are you okay?" Ino's hand slides down to his crotch and began rubbing him over his clothes as they wait for Sakura's reply.

The calm way they're acting and with half of her body is laying on Naruto, Sakura had to ask, "wha…what are you two doing?"

Tilting her head curiously, Ino sweetly asked, "what do you mean? I'm getting my boyfriend ready for my sister." Sakura suddenly felt very hot.

Rubbing her ass with his hand, Naruto asked, "weren't you the one who wanted to have sex with me even if Ino was my girlfriend?"

"…So big," Ino hummed before nibbling on Naruto's whiskered cheek.

"How could I not be with two gorgeous kunoichis in my arms," Naruto replied.

Ino watched him knead and massage Sakura's round ass cheeks over her white short-shorts, making the girl spread her legs a little more every so often. With her eyes closed, Sakura was silent while Ino stroked Naruto, looking from the blonds to his popped out groin and deep in thought. With minimal strength, Naruto easily slides Sakura over him, straddling his hard-on while he continued to massage her bubble-butt.

"I can tell you want it… you're soaking for it," he added when his fingers felt her dampness soak her white shorts as he slowly thrusts up, drawing out the weighted soft-on-hard contact.

Sliding into a position behind Sakura, both girls are straddling his aroused groin and strong thighs as Ino singed, "she likes it rough, right?" Ino knows—likely as Naruto learned—Sakura's body quite well. The beautiful blond unbuttons Sakura's shorts before sliding her hand down her panties and their pink-haired plaything leans forward, resting her hand on Naruto's chest with eyes clenched closed. "I bet she's going to cum all over my bed," Ino assured Naruto, fingering her horny sister as Naruto massaged her pert breasts while lightly bumping his restrained hardness against Sakura's soaked pussy. Ino whispered in her ear, "this is where I sleep Sakura. Is a pretty little cum-slut like you going to gush all over my bed?"

Ino surprised Sakura by kissing her. As Naruto watched them making-out, he knew this wasn't going to be like Mabui and Samui. Ino would need to confess to Sakura that's she's not a virgin, and likely the circumstances around it. So when Naruto commanded Sakura to unzip him, he knew his pink-haired teammate was going to be the only one partaking, but Ino would contribute heavily.

From behind, Ino played with Sakura's breast and nipple as she stroked Sakura's mound. She slid in two fingers breaking Sakura's concentration as she attempted to remove Naruto's pants. Ino remembered exactly where Sakura felt the juiciest pleasure and curls her fingers around her sensitive folds and grooves. Between the two blonds, Sakura is mindlessly aroused and wet, exciting Ino so much she shoves Sakura to her side, her back on the bed before she slides the pinkette's white shorts down enough to comfortably returning to her gushing center.

Feeling her walls twitch, Ino moans beside her ear, "are you going to cum already, Sakura?"

Naruto removed Sakura's shorts and panties before bringing her hot legs vertically against his chest. He's massaging her inner thighs as Ino inches her closer to her first orgasm.

"WaiT- AhnnMmnn… I-Ino…. Ahn, Na-Naruto," Sakura moaned. When Ino sucked on her nipple and rubbed her clit, Sakura broke, moaning, "AH!mmmmnnnnHAA!"

"There's my girl," Ino whispered proudly. "She's ready for you," she told Naruto before kissing the moaning Sakura once again. Rock-hard, Naruto eagerly slides his head in before gripping her hips then thrusts just as hard as Sakura likes it, reaching her dripping cervix in the first thrust.

"AAHHHH!" Sakura moans before rupturing in bouts of spasms from the vibrating ecstasy. "Wa- Wait! I'm- Ahh… st-still- Ahhn! Mmmnnn… sensi-sitive!"

"My boyfriend hasn't even gotten started, sis," Ino whispered. "Show me that beautiful O-face, Sakura. Let me see how much you love it."

Naruto humped her spread vanilla legs, pounding her tight pink richness with everything he has. Ino then straddles Sakura's stomach, giving Naruto an arousing view of her kissing and kneading his teammate's sensitive breasts to Sakura's second orgasm. Her soaked love muscle clenched him tightly as she quakes and spasms erotically under Ino. Her juices dribble onto the bed and floor as she settled enough for Naruto to begin again. With Ino on top of her, rocking with his thrusts, Sakura is wrecked with two more massive orgasms before Naruto finally empties his balls deep inside her.

They flip her around and for the remainder of the hour, Ino helped Sakura topple over her pleasure peak nearly twice as much as normal. Sakura was so aroused by receiving double the amount of attention from people who knew her body, she reached her fevered O early and often. Naruto didn't even need to go hard, and by the end, Sakura is naked, faced down, and twitching on the bed as she revels in the pleasant aftermath of reaching her bliss so many times.

As it was all about Sakura, Ino never had to take her top and shorts off, but still followed Naruto into the bathroom when he said he needed to clean up. Watching Sakura nap on her bed before closing the bathroom door, Ino asked him, "that didn't go like she planned, did it?"

Chuckling, he answered, "I don't think she minds." He splashes his face with water before turning to her. She was happy to note he looked her over. She couldn't exactly blame him. After all of that intense and arousing assisting, Ino was left incredibly horny. She recalled her womanhood being pushed by his thrust and pushing back herself as he fucked Sakura. Her heart was pumping blood to her sensitive body and she was feeling dizzy with want.

Observing her curiously, Naruto cautiously asked, "Ino, are you alright?"

"Honestly," Ino heaved, swallowing before shaking her head. "…I'm not. But I don't want to ruin anything by asking…" They're alone now and she wants him.

Moving closer to her did not make her feel better as he asked, "are you… excited?" Squeezing her eyes shut was the only way she can resist her urges, but her body nodded. He moved just inches from her as he explained, "I really do feel like we've come a long way…" That was consent enough for her and she's ready to take off her honey-soaked clothes until he said, "but, there's something I have to tell you and I don't think you're going to like it."

Gaining a bit of apprehensive clarity, Ino realized what he meant. What she thought about their chances was accurate after all. 'Of course, he'd be too good for a manipulator like me,' her mind screamed as she tried to put on a brave face. "I- no, I understand," she struggled to say. "I wouldn't date me after what I did either-"

"Ino, stop it," Naruto vehemently proclaimed. "That's not it at all! I have such strong feelings for you… and I can't call it like it is because the way I think about love changed. What's important to me is our trust in each other, our friendship, and our honesty and it's because you mean so much to me that I have to be honest… I have to tell you… I… I'm p-polyamorous, which, I know how selfish that sounds-"

"Wait," Ino called, shaking her head as if to try and make sense of it. Half of her arousal forgotten, Ino's mind begs for more information. 'He can't mean what I think he means,' her mind tried to reason as she asked, "you're… you want to be in multiple relationships?"

"No," Naruto quickly replied. "I want to be in one. It just happens to have more than two people in it."

Thrown for an unstable loop, a dizzy Ino gasped as she asked in sheer disbelief, "more than two… how's that even work?"

"Honestly, I have no idea," Naruto emphatically stated with wide eyes. She wanted to demand, 'how could you not know about such an outrageous thing,' when he pointed out with his chin toward her occupied bed, "it's like whatever happened in that room." He shrugged as he said, "it just is. Believe me, I'd be happy with a normal two-person relationship, but, if, for example, you and I were a couple and you wanted more with Sakura-"

"We can have more of that without the three of being in one relationship," Ino tried to protest.

"And how honest would that be," Naruto returned. He scrunched his brow to ask, "if we were a couple, how fair would that be to Sakura's love life? How fair would it be to hold her back like that or hell, put that on- …on anyone she dates."

"You mean Sasuke," she guessed out loud.

"She still has feelings for him," Naruto told her. "And it feels wrong to hide things that make us happy. If you want something, you say it out loud, and if you can't, then… maybe it's not good."

"Sasuke's no good," Ino returned.

"Ino…"

"No," she hotly called. "He tried to kill you! He's too… Until he has a major breakthrough in his life, he's a danger in my eyes and Sakura would be infinitely better without him."

"I'm working on it," Naruto said with a small grin. "For now, if you and I were in a relationship, I'd be more than happy to share our love—our everyday life together—with Sakura and receive her love as well. But it's not something to be ashamed of where were keep it a secret." He takes a step back and scratches the back of her neck as he confesses, "because that's what this means to me… more love from people we love."

Aside from being angry and horny, Ino didn't know how she felt about his shocking revelation. Though she doesn't know much about the lifestyle, with her family, she's heard of the social study. Polyamorous relationships come across as something unpractical, unrealistic, taboo, and selfish. She can easily think about the number of men who have cheated on a girl simply because the opportunity arose. It's not something to condone… 'but can this be considered any of that? It's not like Naruto is the average guy?'

She looks at his nervous and apprehensive face, red with perspiration from sex with Sakura and she listened to what he said. 'He doesn't know how he's polyamorous,' she thought. He only knows he's happy to be her boyfriend as well as have sex with Sakura… 'as any man would,' she thought. 'But it's not like I'm against him having sex with her either.' Ino felt deep in her heart she was fine with Naruto and Sakura having sex, even if she were Naruto's girlfriend. 'Wouldn't that mean I'm also polyamorous,' Ino's mind questioned. She knows she's not trying to cheat on Naruto by also being with Sakura. In Ino's mind, her relationship with both of them feels acceptable because, to put it simply, it's Naruto and Sakura. Naruto seems to be taking the brave step of just admitting it aloud. 'Braver than me,' she thought.

"I'll just leave you-"

Before Naruto could leave or finish his sentence, Ino grabbed his sleeve and asked, "if I were fine with that… what would your honest feelings toward me be?"

"I can say I love you, Ino," Naruto effortlessly admitted, and Ino's knees weakened. His eyes were so compassionate, if she wasn't leaning against the door, she's certain she would've buckled. 'He loves me,' her mind sings as her chest swell. Ino would cry if she didn't think it would make her look overly emotional. Naruto then explained, "but because I love you, I can't ask you to be something you're not."

And she understood then. Naruto's intention can't be measured by other men. She knows who he is, she loves who he is, and even though she also loves Sakura, she explained to him, "I need some time, but, however I land on all of that… I'll think about it after."

Curious, he asked, "after-"

Ino kissed him deeply, and like a sponge soaking in water, her womanhood absorbed him; his scent, his feel, his heat, his strength, his love. Her legs tightened as she pulled him to press her flat against the door. Ino felt cushy soft and gushing with ecstasy. Its been so long, like falling off the wagon, she was rapidly falling for her drug of choice.

When they finally pull away after seven breathless minutes of making out, he asked, "are you sure? I don't want to-"

"Just shut up and fuck me," she demanded in a trance before grabbing his face and taking his lips again.

When his strong unyielding hand ripped open the flimsy material of her shorts and panties, Naruto was out of his pants with his shapely knob pressed against her soaking entrance a second later. She had that second to feel everything; pressed against the door, the dead silence of the world around them, soaking around his thick crown, overly sensitive with vivid memories of always succumbing to the pleasure of his thick member.

His cock slams her wet depth with one thrust, shooting her head up as she moaned, "MMMMNNNNnnn… Kami, it's been too long!" Her entire hormonal body is like a twitching vice around his throbbing rod and she can feel him twitch up to her mouth.

Pressing his head to the side of hers as he groans, "oouuuuuuhhhh, this is the sweet pussy I've missed." Naruto then kissed her—kissed her like he loves her—and Ino's mind white-washes as bliss drowns her. "I've missed you Ino. So much…"

Ino felt like a run-on of many miniature orgasms as he continued fucking her into the door, but somehow, her gushing body also builds to a massive orgasm. Naruto gripped her fleshy ass as he slammed into her hot wet depth repeatedly, taking her higher and higher to that massive drop. His teeth nibbled at her neck before kissing her and sucking on her tongue, slamming balls deep into her until he finally unloaded an enormous quantity of thick semen in her womb. Ino saw white before her massive orgasm shattered her soft and sweaty body, drowning her in trembling ecstasy for never-ending minutes.

With Sakura likely to wake up any moment, they couldn't go for more than one session, but it was the sweetest reunion for them.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Ino still isn't comfortable with everything being a polyamorist means; to her friends, her family, and village, but she can't deny she loves both Naruto and Sakura. She also can't deny she would love to share a home—a bed—between them. She admires how much guts it took him to admit as much to her, despite how that would make him look and what he could lose because of it. Ultimately, Ino is of the opinion that she needs more research and more conversations with him before she makes any decisions. Sakura tightened her grip on Ino's hand, interrupting Ino's train of thought. The stressed blond absorbs Sakura's warm comfort, bringing a smile to her face and a desire to see her as happy as she can be.

Returning her smile, Sakura recalls her time with the other blond staple in her life.

SAKURA

The very next day after Naruto agreed to help with her stress and fatigue relief, he was nervous and concerned when they met again. Alone in her silent room, they both were, with reason. Sex with a friend and teammate while Sakura has confusing feelings about their other teammate had great potential to go very badly and neither one of them wanted that. When Naruto simply offered a full-body deep-tissue massage, she accepted, thinking they can ease into anything else if it felt right. However, Sakura had forgotten how effective his hands were and her body readily remembered the feeling he brought out in her the night they had sex and was dripping of arousal after thirty-minutes.

It still amazed Sakura that of all the men in the village she could have a consensual sexual relationship with, Uzumaki Naruto is the one deep dicking her to her repeated and prolonged satisfaction. Her mind questioned it often and it took some mental gymnastics to be teammates out of the bedroom, but sex bunnies as soon as the door was closed. But she couldn't deny how much she gripped him tightly when he pumped into her, that she wanted more, or that she loved the feeling of his thick load pooling heavy and hot in her womb.

Not only was it exciting how hard he could give it to her, how talented he seemed to be at stoking the sexual fire within her, but to know Ino loves Naruto, and he might feel the same, added a surreal thrill to it all. Sakura was fucking the man Ino loves, her sister's love, and she couldn't help demanding more. The pinkette wanted to do everything with him because she wanted it nearly as much as she wasn't supposed to. It was like there was another part of her that loved to be this wanton.

She was also his first love and Sakura felt some of those lingering feelings are still there. Sometimes he enjoyed squeezing and kneading her rump and massaging her B-cup breasts far more than needed. He enjoyed going down on her, servicing her pink slit with his rough tongue and lapping up the overflow of her sweet essence. Sakura was one of those girls that creates an inordinate amount of lubrication. Add to that her tight, hot, cushy cock-socket and Naruto is always able to stuff her with more brimming meat than she can take. No matter how tight her wet folds clung to his veiny meat-pole, she was so slick he could pound away as hard and as fast as she wanted without concern of tearing or pulling.

From their first time together, Sakura had an inclination that she loved it rough and their time together only validated that hypothesis. She was very vocal when they grease glands, often yelling, "harder!" or, "break me!" "Come on, Naruto, pound the shit out of me!"

As Sakura didn't know his sexual history, she couldn't know she was more enthusiastic in bed than any of the girls he's been with. Ino and Mabui were overly sensitive to him and crumbled without much effort. Samui was very submissive, and as Mabui explained to him, her sexual needs didn't extend past her dom's will. Kurenai was a mixture of all of them; she had her moments when she'd like it soft or submissive but other times when they were so aroused, she wanted it hard and dominating.

Naruto not only learned that Sakura wanted her whole body to rock as he pounded her into the mattress but she has a unique preference for arousal. In the beginning, it was difficult for Naruto to understand why she wanted it so rough, so dominating. Guided by his training with Kurenai, he naturally asked Sakura for open communication. "Is this a fetish or a fantasy? Can you tell me more about what you want me to do?"

Sakura was as much surprised by his candid thoughtfulness as she was embarrassed. She didn't even want to share, but yet again, to her surprise, he can be more mature than he lets on, reassuring her repeatedly that she had his respect, his discretion, and his empathy. For thirty minutes he explained that there was nothing wrong with her or her sexual preferences because he knows who she is and the hour was nearly up before a blushing Sakura agreed to open up to him.

Extremely shyly, Sakura hesitated to admit, "it's not like I want to be treated badly or humiliated… but… I don't know! I just get so turned-on b-by… fighting you t-to dominate me or being treated like your property, or- or… being c-called a… w-whore- WHICH I'M NOT!"

Without Sakura's knowledge, Naruto had little information about the workings of this sexual preference, other than learning sex-talk with Kurenai. Unable to talk with Kurenai, he asked Mabui during their Fūinjutsu study time why a strong-minded girl like Samui might be submissive or ask to be demeaned.

Setting down her fine-tipped brush, the gorgeous psychologist took several moments to gather her thoughts before answering, "being submissive to a man can be a major turn-on, not to say they have to be docile or submissive outside the bedroom. Think about it like this: outside of the bedroom, a strong-willed woman has to be self-disciplined, responsible, and or perfect to succeed in a male-dominated world. She has goals and works hard every single minute of the day to be taken seriously. Inside the bedroom, that same strong-willed woman can feel sexually powerful when they opt to lose their image, their responsibilities, their 'power.' They feel a certain thrill to lose everything that makes them who they are to be something so debased. So it has less to do with degrading them and more to do with shedding the stressful veneer of their day-to-day."

"So, to people who don't know that…" Naruto takes a moment to think about what it appears to be, eventually adding, "submissive sex looks like an excuse for a woman like Samui to be treated like crap because she sees herself like crap, like she's insecure or something?"

"Exactly, and that couldn't be further from the truth," Mabui explained to him. "Samui is quite strong, but at its roots, the desire to be forcibly 'taken' or, 'dominated' is actually about having the highest form of a trigger over a man. Being held down or thrown in bed can make a girl feel like her partner can't control his desire for her; that is to say, she's so sexy and desirable that he can't help but ravage her."

Without Sakura having to explain more about what she liked or why she liked it, by the very next session Naruto just seemed to get it. He somehow seemed to know she wanted to feel like she had that much control over a man that his lust would overtake him and he'd dominate her.

After they came to a clear understanding that it's all consensual in addition to a safe word, he ravaged her and it didn't take much for her to respond. He'd whisper in her ear how she drives him insane as he pounded her into the wall; he'd call her his whore near the peak of her climax and it was so wrong, so contradictory, that it would set her off with mind-numbing orgasms; he'd cum on her face and hair or—to their mutual surprise—slap her in the face with his throbbing manhood. It was surreal abject detraction for them both, but for ten recreational hours spanning across two weeks, Sakura found it easier and easier to be dominated her blond-haired teammate to a disheveled and shuddering mess.

By the end, she felt heavenly snuggled up against him, with her clumped pink hair matted to her sweaty skin, lightly bouncing her perfect breasts with heavy breathing, arching her spine with thick cum leaking out of the apex of her flushed legs as she micro-spasms from the aftermath of a destructive orgasm. Despite this new 'identity' about her self, at the end of every hour together, Naruto would softly and gently kiss her goodnight, as if to signal the end of their masochistic sex and that made her feel more under control. It was like he was balancing her unorthodox preference with her orthodox way of being, and she appreciated him for it.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

"For the third match," Genma calls. "From Konohagakure: Hyūga Neji," and there's an explosive boom of cheers and excitement from the stands in nearly equal measure from women as much as men. Though Neji had hoped to learn more about Naruto—as he expects the final fight to be between them—the loud blond still hadn't joined them in the hallway. Wearing his customary beige-colored shirt, dark brown shorts, and wrapped bandages around his right arm, chest, and right leg, the Hyūga prodigy leaves the wide entry hallway.

From beside Haku, Tenten watches her fair-skinned, long-haired teammate take the field and can feel her attitude toward him was odd now as opposed to two weeks ago. Thinking about the past two weeks, she understands, more or less, what Haku has been pushing her toward and it's not something the Academy is particularly good training for.

TENTEN

Naruto's clone met Tenten at her apartment like they've been doing for nearly two weeks. Massaging Tenten twice a day started as innocently as can be and never required more than a clone to manage but it escalated sharply in the thirteen days since they started.

In their first session on Tenten's bed, she wore leggings and a sports bra and despite the awkwardness of a boy in her room touching her, it went well. She enjoyed it when he massaged her arms and was especially sensitive when he massaged her hands. She felt better after the innocent massage—neither hating or regretting it—and they laughed when they realized how simple of a thing the physical activity can be.

Four days and eight sessions later and Tenten is in her underwear, and with more oiled skin contact, came more sensuality. She tried not to moan, but when she truly couldn't stop it from escaping her throat, Naruto made sure she didn't feel mocked or embarrassed. "It's okay Tenten. You can be as vocal as you like. I'm not going to judge or anything."

And he didn't, no matter how much she moaned, though, it soon started feeling erotic. Hot, oiled, strong hands caressing, stroking, and kneading her body's sensitive muscles; Tenten was moaning or mewling more consistently without even realizing it. Naruto seemed to know what made her feel good, focusing on her hands, neck, scalp, trapezius, B-cup breasts, hip muscles and inner taper, lower back, her annular butt, back and inner thighs, calves, and feet. Like Kurenai taught him, he kept the flow of energy moving within her, and she couldn't help lending airy moans to her constant tingling of teasing pleasure.

Another four days, sixteen total sessions later, Tenten was naked under a small towel. Though she was pink in the face, Naruto didn't bring up her options again. Having mentioned them so many times, she knows she can stop whenever she likes. She simply prefers not to.

'And why would I,' she thought. 'It feels good and it's not like we're having sex.'

Though, Tenten frets about how often she's been touching herself lately. In the privacy of her shower, she'd often fiddle with her love bud and a finger until she came. In their physical intimacy, Tenten isn't sure how much of it was Naruto, how much of it was this whole situation of being his tool, or how much of it was just her growing curiosity as a young woman that made her want to explore more.

Tenten couldn't know about his experience and how nearly all of the massages Kurenai taught Naruto often led to sex, so he's heard women who enjoy his ministrations ask, "can you… focus… more there?"

His strong hot hands rubbed her oiled thighs just under her bubble butt, focusing on the direction and squeezing of her reactive muscle fibers. Naruto's familiarity with Tenten's energy flow came down to the heat of her skin and the relaxation of her muscles. It's how he knew she was growing aroused by his thorough rubdown. She wanted more and his clone obliged.

Another four days, twenty-four total sessions since they started, there was no longer a towel and Naruto focused heavily on her nimble hands and fingers, pert breasts, round ass, and pink slit. She couldn't believe it when she asked him to focus more on her pooling slit. His fingers and his attention to her reactions surprised her as much as the pleasure he seemed to flare out of her hot and soaking sex.

Feeling his thick fingers pumping inside of her, coated with her buttery juices as he curled around her sex-roaring spots, Naruto got her to the very edge before he'd rub her hooded clitoris and knocked her over the edge. Her body ripped and roared in euphoric waves crashing her every nerve-endings to gushing happiness. And when he made her cum once, it was absurdly easy to make her fogged mind climax again. In their final session before his planned tapering, he even sucked on her nipples as he brought her to toe-curling, body-shocking orgasm. The foreign feeling of having her nipples sucked and lightly bitten by a boy she wasn't in love with was so taboo she couldn't help her growing sensitivity and came multiple times.

They've never had sex—it was never about the sex—it was about maturity. Walking with her team, or coming across other kunoichi her age in the halls of Hokage Tower, she felt different; older. The first boy to ever touch her—the first boy she'll likely have sex with—was someone she doesn't love and the world wasn't coming to an end. It was grounding when no one even seemed to notice a difference in her, as if that rose-colored view she had of the world lost its magic and all that's left is something harder, darker, real.

In light of such a separation, it meant she wasn't as she was and made her want to take things a little more seriously… though she almost regretted it. Once Haku realized that Guy's training method was more than adequate to condition her body, he effectively changed to teaching Tenten beneficial techniques in addition to spontaneously attacking her throughout her day with an ice clone. Haku even set traps and used silent killing techniques to catch Tenten unawares. When Tenten wasn't with her team or busy with a customer, she was on high alert, and thus far, she's "died" thirty-seven times in two weeks.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Tenten holds in her breath as she imagines Hinata fighting Neji. Tenten will admit she hasn't gained much in the way of strength in two weeks but she's gained more perspective, enough to know her teammate may not have the control to hold back against a main house member. Though she'd never really visualized Hinata as anything more than a main house member, Tenten felt differently about the Hyūga heiress now and it didn't take much either.

After helping Neji all morning with his defense, he leaves for the stadium rather than help her collect the dozens of weapons she deployed from her scrolls. Though she understood he needed to be in the arena, it wasn't for another hour and a half. He could've stayed and helped a little; locate some of the harder to spot weapons or pick up a few in the clearing. Instead, with a single-minded focus, he leaves. A few weeks ago, the bun-haired beauty would be upset with him for not helping. Now, she's more upset with herself for not securing his help beforehand.

It was while Tenten gathered her weapons that she heard, "do you need some help?"

The soft question from the Hyūga heiress startled her, and turning on her heel, Tenten is approached by Hinata, Kiba, and Shino. Though Kiba claimed there wasn't enough time to pick up all the weapons and Shino claimed it would look poorly on their sensei and clans if they were late, Hinata shook her head and told them, "it won't take much time if we all help."

With unexpected appreciation, Tenten replied, "you don't have to."

However, Hinata explained, "you're Neji-niisan's teammate." Moving to pick up a few daggers and shurikens, she added, "of course I want to help."

It was odd that someone would be so touching after everything Tenten has been through. Aside from Naruto, no one knows how close to death she came or the quasi-beneficial servitude she now lives. Watching Hinata and her teammates help collect her gear, Tenten can't help but feel those events gave her a better appreciation.

From beside her, watching Neji settle next to the other genin, Haku gravely voices, "stay ready, Tenten," bringing her back to the present.

Tenten eyed him a moment before asking, "what do you mean?"

"Exactly that," Haku answers. Recalling last night's conversation with Naruto, he adds, "remain ready for anything."

HAKU

The night before the Chūnin Exam, in Ten Out of Ten by the check-out desk, Haku is balancing the day's numbers before subtracting the day's profit when Naruto's clone walks from the back of the store. He was pink in the cheeks and Haku recalled hearing moaning.

Smiling, he asked, "how's Tenten?"

"She doesn't hate us yet," Naruto groans as if it's only an inevitability. "So I want to say okay?"

"If she develops any hatred toward someone," Haku began to reply. "It'll be me, Naruto-sama… with reason, might I add."

"Well, I don't want her to hate either of us," Naruto returned, tilting over to look at the numbers.

"She knows she can stop anytime," Haku voiced, continuing his calculations. "She needed something to get her going and now that she has that mental progress, this really has become her show."

Turning to Haku, Naruto said, "before I go, I wanted to ask you about Kabuto."

Without hesitation, Haku swiftly puts down his pen and asked, "what would you like to know?"

"I haven't seen him around, and I doubt I would," Naruto commented. "Do you know anything about him or maybe something he wants? I don't want to pry but this could be important."

Quirking a brow, Haku asked, "how so?"

"…I was told Kabuto's a spy for Orochimaru," Naruto replied, stunning Haku even if he doesn't look it. He added, "and his boss likes to kidnap all sorts of talented shinobi, so I thought he might try to take you too."

"I see," Haku voiced, taking the moment to recall his last interaction with the silver-haired glasses boy. "Kabuto-san snuck into my room three nights ago and warned me to be on high alert during the finals." Haku wasn't sure how much of this would be beneficial to Naruto, but he nearly hesitated to add, "he also said… he'd be there for me."

"He's not the only one," Naruto retorted, making Haku smile. He still has a hard time grasping how he can be loved by others; it always fills him with peaceful joy. "In that case," Naruto continued, warning him as seriously as he's ever seen the blond. "I really want you to be on guard during the exams. We can't be sure what to expect."

Haku inquired, "what would you like me to do?"

With his usual smile, he answered, "stay safe, protect the innocent."

"As you wish," Haku stated.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

After Neji takes his place beside Shikamaru, Genma's casual voice booms directly to the exhilarated fans through the many speakers in the coliseum. "His opponent, from Konohagakure: Hyūga Hinata."

Despite the cheers from the present villagers, Hiashi's eyes hardened at the observation of his first-born walking to the center of the arena. Regardless of his feelings for his daughters, he must place the clan's well-being above them. It's why he disinherited Hinata, it's why he pushes Hanabi to be the best, it's why he made his stipulation with Kurenai-sensei and gave her this deadline for any changes. It's why he ultimately decided to assist Hinata in her tutelage. Not necessarily because he believed in her, but because it would serve the Hyūga clan in the eyes of the village if his daughter performed admirably even in certain defeat. Turning his attention on his youngest, the dutiful Hanabi, by his side, he's certain he made the right decision, regardless of his feelings.

Watching from her post by the railing, Kurenai also remembers the arrangement she made with the Hyūga clan Head. Though she's nervous for all of her students, Hinata in particular, she's proud of her team's progress. She's invited her team to her home many times to assist their strategies, so Kurenai knows Hinata has worked hard to learn her clan's proprietary techniques.

In addition to the confidence training, Kurenai had never seen Hinata so poised. There's still some reservation, but it feels more like quiet peace rather than timidness. Training with Naruto has turned this nearly detrimentally shy girl into a more composed and open kunoichi. Hinata had drive now and that was due to his influence on her… which almost makes her body recall his effect on her. Even now, she can't help but wonder if she made the right decision in opening up to him… in ending it with him.

KURENAI

After Naruto palmed the Fūin security with a chakra-covered hand, Kurenai called for him from the kitchen. He gazed fondly up the stairs leading to her bedroom before walking through her warm living room to her warmly lit kitchen, all the while missing the steady comfort she became for him. Moisture prickled his eyes when he saw her turn around, as if the world slowed down to the sight of her. Naruto smiled often, but he never felt dumbfounded to look upon someone he deeply cared about and connected with.

Kurenai's return smile was not as wide or happy and she could tell that caused Naruto great concern. His smile faltered under her tepid consternation. They hadn't spoken much in the past three weeks and if it wasn't for all the preparation going into the security for this exam, she'd likely be feeling more loneliness and heartache after the first week of no contact.

"Hey," Naruto softly started.

"Hi," Kurenai responded, trying to move quickly through this. Like ripping off a band-aid, she continued, "sorry, but, I don't have a lot of time." He finally noticed her tactical gear is spread out on the kitchen island and there are several chairs spread out in the room. The kettle is also on the stove with teacups near each chair. "The security team is meeting here to rehearse and further prepare for tomorrow," she explained.

Nodding as he takes a seat across from her in front of the kitchen island, he assured her, "I didn't think I'd hear from you at all so it's cool. I'm glad you did though."

"Sorry," she apologized again. "I know I've been distant for the past… wow, three weeks. Time flies when you're busy."

Her dry laugh lacked any humor but Naruto nods anyway as he responded, "yeah, I get it. I've been preparing too; damn near had a factory of clones making Fūinjutsu tags. So, what's up?"

She hesitated to start and had to shake her head which sashays her shiny black hair before explaining, "I know it's been a while and I probably should've done this sooner…" Feeling an emotional boulder lodged in her throat, Kurenai pauses to cough.

She clears her throat a few times before a concerned Naruto asked, "Nai-chan?"

Feeling an intimate pull at the nickname, her eyes already moisten as she sadly advised, "I think it's for the best if you stop calling me that." Her nose felt hot as she dourly admitted, "there's a reason why I needed a break from us, and I'll be honest with you… I grew confused about us and what we could mean for one another. And trust me, I know I'm the one always talking about no feelings and remaining purely platonic in our intimacy, but… it hasn't… I haven't…"

With her deep sigh, Naruto bravely guessed, "do you… have feelings for me?"

Her widened eyes and drawn in brows answered everything for him, and at Naruto's great big smile, Kurenai immediately urges him to, "listen! Just listen, please." Nodding, he pressed his lips together to try and hide his smile but it went away on its own when she confessed, "before you and I met—before our arrangement—I was in love with a man. Who he is isn't important, but, at that time, I very much felt I was going to marry him, raise a child with him, die of old age with him."

With a strained face, Naruto's heart clenched so hard he couldn't breathe as he tried to convey, "Oh… I didn't… Well, I'm… sure you'll- you'll both be very happy toge-"

"Wait," she called, putting her palm up. "Just, let me finish." After his nod and a deep breath, she continued. "The views by which he and I lived our lives got in the way of that dream. Then you barged into my life—very much to my great delight—and I've been in this holding pattern ever since." She sighed, grumbling to herself, "Kami, this is difficult."

"Nai-chan, no matter what you say, you mean so much to me, I'm always going to be here for you." Thinking about everything in store for the exam, Naruto assuredly promised, "I don't ever want to lose you."

"You won't," she returned with her voice as much as her eyes. "What I feel for you every day is far more…" but her tentative words halt there. She's certain the hesitation is clear on her face, and how troubled she is by this. After a sigh, she continued saying, "after you and I made our arrangement, I didn't have to think about him, or our ruined dreams, or my faults—plus, you were an exceptional student I enjoyed teaching—and that was enough… until I started feeling more… lo- love for you…" Naruto's eyes widen in clear surprise and shock. Flushed, a brave and embarrassed Kurenai forced herself to continue. "But as much as I put our breakup on him, part of the reason that man and I didn't work out was because I wasn't ready; not truly. The truth is, a small part of me always felt hesitant committing completely to him, and you, when the moment came… but I never knew why until recently."

His flabbergasted expression would've made her laugh if she weren't about to break his heart. With wide eyes and a look of disbelief, Naruto could only think to ask, "what happened?"

Mournfully, Kurenai answered, "a dear friend of mine lost the person she loves."

"Oh, I'm sorry," he instantly replied.

She nodded her thanks before continuing, "it shocked me to my core and not because I was surprised, but because I always knew that's what awaits us. When I was young, my father died." Kurenai's throat constricted again and she took her time to add, "he was the world to me and I loved him more than anything, even my own mother. Of course, I knew people died, but before his death, I never truly believed my father would be one of them. My mind accepted, like the sun, that he was simply too strong or important to die."

Kurenai scoffs humorously as she plays in the memories of her youth, recounting lightheartedly, but also sadly, "he wanted me to make him proud—told me all the time—and I felt the strongest drive to do that for him like nothing else mattered. I remember wanting him to watch me become a strong and proud kunoichi… dreamed of him walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, and one day, holding his first grandchild in his arms… he would've been so so happy." As quickly as her brightness came, she just as easily became dour as she flatly stated, "but he died. He left me. And I couldn't make him proud, or have him walk me down the aisle, or give him his first grandchild… no dreams, no nothing. My sun died."

The tears in her eyes were all but pouring down her face when he stood to hug her, voicing, "…Nai-chan-"

She puts her palm up to stop him. "I'm saying all of this because I want you to understand why I can't be with you, or anyone for that matter. Whether it's you or any man, until I come to terms with this, my heart will always feel this fear." Wiping her beautiful crimson eyes clear of tears, she added, "I'll still help you whenever I'm able, but I can't give you more than that. It simply wouldn't be fair to either of us."

Dozens of silent seconds pass in the still room, the kettle nearly to boiling when Naruto finally managed, "I don't know what to say. That's a lot I didn't know about you."

"Don't rush. Like anything else, take it in a bit at a time," she casually instructed.

Smiling, Naruto jests, "ever the sensei," bringing out a lovely grin she eventually smothering it by pressing her lips to a dejected line. "I'll take my time with this," he told her, however his smile returned when he admitted, "but to be honest, I'm just pretty stoked I can be someone that important to you."

With a dry huff, she told him, "Naruto, stop. You're the most amazing man I've ever… fallen for." Kurenai can't believe she's admitting all this only to break up with him. It feels polarizing and backward, yet, a part of her feels relief knowing she won't be decimated in the future, as she was when her father died. However, another part of her hates herself for hurting someone she's in love with. Her heart aches, her head and neck are prickling hot, and it's hard to breathe.

With a smile that shouldn't be on his face, Naruto walked around the kitchen island as he asked, "fallen for? Like, you've fallen in love with me?"

"Naruto," Kurenai groans in amusement as she matched stepping away with his every patient approach. Having gone without him for so long, it's like going through withdrawals for Kurenai and she swears he can feel the strong gravity of her desire for him. Whether fortunate or not, she sensed Asuma land in the backyard while some of the team landed in the front of her home. Asuma looked through the window and knocked. Kurenai raised a palm to indicate she'll be with him in a second.

"Times up," she told Naruto as Asuma moved away to smoke one last cigarette. She walked to the kitchen door to let Naruto out as she griped, "and by the way, your Godfather is running us ragged with all his unnecessary security protocols."

Naruto assured her, "it's not unnecessary," to which she turned to him curiously as he added, "stay ready."

Growing suspicious, she asked, "Naruto? What do you know?"

But for their plan tomorrow, he simply answered with a smile, "I know I won't let you down." Fortunately, Asuma's attention is turned as he smokes and Naruto had no hang-ups about confessing to this astonishing beauty, "and I know I won't let anything bad happen to you because I love you too, Nai-chan." Though her immediate concern is smoking with his back to them, her stomach flutters and her heart beats fast. Completely vulnerable to one another, they gaze tenderly and honestly at the feelings they share.

He then said with a great big smile, "sorry I never said it before, but you did sort of say I wasn't allowed to."

Unable to say much more with Asuma in the backyard nearby just outside her kitchen, Kurenai sniffed as she wished him, "good luck tomorrow."

He simply winked before exiting her home.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

From Kurenai's place by the railing of arena seating section A, she can see Asuma leave his post out of the corner of her eye and approach her. They were partnered for this section so he's soon next to her to ask, "Kurenai-"

However, she won't have this discussion now and interrupts him with, "now's not the time, Asuma. Please return to your post and remain vigilant." She didn't know how he put it together but she's certain Naurto's blissful smile couldn't have helped.

"We will talk about this," he firmly promises before returning to his post. His face was stern and hyper-focused on her. With his hunched neck and squared shoulders, she knows he's in clear distress, but she can't satisfy his curiosity now. Kurenai then focuses all her attention on her student, who's practically a daughter to her, walks to the center of the field with confidence.

Standing beside her cousin Neji, Hinata was focused. After all, she conquered her most difficult challenge yet just that morning. She couldn't do so in practice with Kurenai-sensei, but she somehow managed with the real Naruto.

HINATA

Hinata was supposed to meet her team at Training Ground 3 before walking to the arena together, however, she came early. Her mind felt like it was going to explode with anxiety and her fears only stem from one place; disappointing those who believe in her. From her father to her sister, to Neji and her teammates… to Kurenai-sensei and Naruto-kun; she didn't want to disappoint them the most. She trained so hard not to, but Neji is a genius who works hard every day. Against that type of opponent, wouldn't she ultimately embarrass herself?

It's when she spotted him. The embodiment of her love and admiration, her warm and constant sun, was sitting cross-legged on the top of the middle stump. He was as still and strong as the nature around him, yet deep in thought. He hadn't even noticed her approach and that concerned her. Unlike Neji, Gaara has a blood-lust; she's seen first-hand how his sand destroys a human body. 'And Naruto has to face that,' Hinata thought. 'Would he be okay?'

Her worry for his well-being urged her to softly voice, "Naruto-kun?"

Snapping out of it before looking down toward the sweet voice below, Naruto smiled as he greets, "hey, Hinata." Hopping down from the tall stump, Naruto is quick to encourage her with, "good luck today. I know you'll do great!"

"I… don't know," Hinata honestly admitted to the person she admires the most.

Like the abundance of confidence he exhumes, he assured her, "well, I do." Fist over his chest, he added, "trust me, I think you're really strong."

Even still, reality is forcing her to admit, "…but I may lose," and it pained her to see Naruto hum and nod dejectedly. She almost feels like she broke him, however, Hinata couldn't know how much was relying on him, how many lives he currently held in his hands. To many, it's about a tournament to become Chūnin. To him, it's a battle to keep everyone from dying. Because only Jiraiya and the toads know about the wager he's going to make with the Kazekage.

Glumly, he admitted, "you know, I feel like that too sometimes. Like, what happens if I lose…" 'someone… everyone,' Naruto mentally finished. 'Because I know about the invasion, their deaths will be my fault. I'd be a failure.' Feeling just as he did on the stump, Naruto hated looking so uncool in front of anyone, especially Hinata, but he can't help it.

"B-but you don't give up," Hinata bravely pointed out. 'No,' her mind called. 'I have to fix this.' "I think we can change, even a little, when the right person shows us the way. So- so… w-when I look at you, I feel like- like I can be a little stronger… than before… and t-that makes me like myself more."

His expressionless face made her hold her breath until he finally smiled a little then asked, "do you think so? I mean, I don't know so much and I'm not that smart and I mess up a lot… do you really think I can do it even if I'm not ready?"

"Mnn," Hinata sternly hummed. It's practically her nature affinity to recall all of Naruto's many virtues and strengths, helping her to proclaim, "because even when you mess up, you're never ashamed of it… and moments like that… impacts my heart the most. It's your strength to rise that always inspires me because that's what I think true strength is."

It's the clearest Hinata's ever spoken to him, with such conviction and she couldn't be happier with herself. She's progressed so much, from the days she could only blush and pass out, to being able to speak her mind so clearly without suffocating nervousness. It meant everything to see his bright smile again as he happily relayed, "thanks Hinata." Stretching off the rust of depression, Naruto jovially explained, "I was feeling pretty heavy-hearted, but now I feel like myself again. You're a life-saver."

He turned to walk away when Hinata felt it… the moment she'd been training for.

Despite her stuttering, "N-N-Na- Naruto!" As if her limbs were made of lead, she struggles to outstretch her arms. She shut her eyes as her crunched and blushing face couldn't say anything but he didn't need her to. He knew exactly what she worked hard for. Quicker than she can react, Naruto takes Hinata in his arms and gives her a firm but gentle hug. Even better than his words, hugging him gave her a sense of tranquility that comforted her troubled mind. She felt warm and soft against him, but more than anything, she admires herself more than ever, making her believe her dreams can come true.

After they separated—having held her breath the entire time—Naruto told her, "I can't wait to see you kick Neji's ass."

She's a mixture of extreme excitement and embarrassment and can do nothing more than nod, but her lilac pupil-less eyes were as strong as she was starting to feel.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Though Hinata expected Naruto in the large cement access hallway with the rest of them, she has faith he'll be here because she knows he doesn't ever run from a fight.

Genma announces, "for your fourth contest, from Konohagakure: Inuzuka Kiba."

With Akamaru in his jacket, Kiba waves happily to the crowds and along with cheers, there's also a lot of dogs howling.

"His opponent," Genma continues. "From Konohagakure: Uchiha Sasuke."

After eying the red-haired Suna-nin, Sasuke vaguely wonders where Naruto is. Wearing his black one-piece outfit with belts wrapped around his left arm, Sasuke turns toward the arena and the battles that await. Recalling last night, he wonders about his decision. Gaining his vengeance on Itachi is all that matters, but his choices in the present must be the one that gets him to his brother the fastest.

SASUKE

In the training yard of his clan's mansion, an exhausted and sweating Sasuke smashed a fifth Chidori against a half-destroyed eight-feet tall boulder. He landed on balanced feet but dropped to his knee as his vision began to blur. Pushing himself past Kakashi's warnings, he wondered, 'how much more do I need?' To ruin Naruto, to annihilate his brother, all he wanted was more power.

Nothing else mattered and irregardless of the number of times Kakashi has told him to abandon his quest for revenge—to put his life on a that won't end the Uchiha clan for good—Sasuke knows in his heart of hearts, he's nothing and no one until Itachi is dead. It didn't matter how much Kakashi or anyone understood his pain. He won't stop until his clan has been avenged and Itachi felt abominable pain before dying by his hand.

Pondering pushing past his exhaustion, he's not surprised to hear a scratchy voice ask, "what is your purpose, Sasuke-kun?"

He could picture the cruel smile before he even turned to spot the legendary Snake-nin behind him. Leaning against a column, he's hidden in the shadow of the outdoor walkway and smiling as Sasuke asked, "how did you get-"

"There isn't a place in Konoha that could deny me entry," he mused with his wide grin. "Don't worry. Your caretakers are sleeping. I wouldn't want Hiruzen to remove you from tomorrow's festivities, after all." Stepping off the elevated walkway to the training ground, Orochimaru proclaimed, "I've come for your answer. What is your purpose?"

Sasuke didn't need weeks or days to answer, "power."

"I can give you more power than this comfortable home environment ever can," Orochimaru assured him and Sasuke couldn't doubt it. "Enough to kill your blond teammate and take your revenge on Itachi," his slithery voice added, walking around Sasuke. "All you need do is ask yourself; are you like them or not? I imagine the answer to that question is as clear to you as it is to me."

Thinking about Kakashi and Sakura, Sasuke confirmed, "I'm not like them and I'll never be, because I'm only alive to kill Itachi." Annoyed at the crushing thought of Naruto, he confessed, "we have different paths and I know the steps I must take. After I destroy Naruto tomorrow, I'll cut ties with this sham of a life and you will teach me everything you know. You will give me the power you promised."

"Splendid," Orochimaru sings. "I'm certain you've made the right decision, and after the exams, you'll be certain as well."

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Sasuke didn't know what that meant but he knew if he couldn't even beat the Dobe in a match, then he'll never be a match for Itachi. Walking the open battleground, Sasuke ignores the wild clamoring from the mindless villagers and stands beside Kiba.

"For our final match-up of the first round," Genma communicates. "I introduce to you from Sunagakure: Sabaku no Gaara."

The Kazekage stands from his seat and walks closer to the railing to inspect the red-headed Jinchūriki many meters below, all the while recalling the unique wager he made less than an hour ago.

ONE HOUR EARLIER

Jiraiya and the Kazekage—followed by two Suna bodyguards and the Konoha security-escort team Jiraiya assembled—cleared the Leaf's large gate. Naruto is standing several yards away from them off to the side of the wide walkway, and for the briefest moment, he wondered if the Kage and the entire group, including his cousin, are fakes. The legendary Snake-nin is certainly capable of that kind of deception, however, he doubts very highly Orochimaru could avoid Karin's sensing ability on top of an informed Jiraiya.

Naruto smiled at the winded Karin—wearing a lavender jacket with the Uzumaki swirl over her heart, black shorts and thigh high stockings. She's catching her breath beside her personal protection detail, Kurenai and Asuma, and Naruto recalled how nervous he felt when Jiraiya recommended to Ji-chan that Karin join the escort team. It was worrying enough knowing Kurenai was going but Karin couldn't fight as well as the Jōnins. If Jiraiya hadn't promised her complete safety, Naruto wouldn't have agreed. His relief for her safety has him make a clone to escort her to the arena.

The entire time Naruto was waiting, Jiraiya had been talking to the Kazekage in private, requesting a private audience on Naruto's behalf. The stern Sand leader in his white robe and hat turned to Naruto, observing the young blond a moment before ordering his guards to stay. His godfather then orders the security team to stay as well—confusing Kurenai and Asuma—before Rasa and Jiraiya walked several yards toward Naruto.

Naruto felt anxiousness facing the ruthless and strict Kage since he only had Temari's short description to go on. Naru-nii never met him and only knew that he died around the Chūnin exam, though he wasn't sure when. It was Jiraiya who thought they should try to stop however Orochimaru planned on killing him, thus preventing the snake-nin from being close to Ji-chan in the first place. For the Narutos, helping Gaara and his siblings keep their father was reason enough.

The Kazekage had a hard appearance; stern small eyes under furrowed brows and short auburn hair. His jaw was clenched tight and even his posture seem intimidating in the generally soothing attire of a Kage. To the blond genin, the imposing man in the Kage's white robe looked as if he's never had children, family, or even felt love before. Desperate to break the tension, Naruto couldn't help but smile and wave at Gaara and Temari's father.

Well away from the Jōnin escorts, Rasa asked Jiraiya while glaring at Naruto, "this boy is who you wish for me to speak to."

Casually, Jiraiya rotated his shoulders as he plainly answered, "you mean in return for saving your life today? Yeah, that's him." Seeing his Godfather relaxed as he talked to the village leader, also helped Naruto relax.

Tilting his head, Rasa sternly commanded of the legendary sennin, "don't act as if you know the outcome-"

"With all due respect, Kazekage," Jiraiya nonchalantly interjected. "You may not have sensed the ambush before they were on you but we did. And if I'm a challenge for you by myself, Orochimaru and his kill-squad most definitely are."

"Four masked youths," Rasa corrected with murderous eyes and Naruto wondered if Rasa meant the Sound Four or not. Jiraiya had assumed any ambush meant for a Kage would have to be a feint for a second more discreet attack because it didn't make sense to him for Orochimaru to kill a Kage so easily and then make it to Konoha to fight Ji-chan in the same morning.

Additionally, no Kage is allowed to simply walk into another country's hidden village whenever they like. Rasa would've had to give prior notice when he'd arrive so Konoha can prepare for him. Jiraiya assumed in transit would be the best opportunity to ambush the Kage, because a brilliantly placed trap has the capacity to take down anyone not expecting it. It's why Karin's sensing ability was so crucial. She'd be able to sense them without being sensed herself and alert Jiraiya.

An adamant Rasa continued, "as much as you'd like me to accept those four were somehow connected to Orochimaru, you lack any evidence to do so. Next time capture one."

Unfazed, Jiraiya returned, "believe what you like, Kazekage. You're an astute and practical man, so I understand if you don't want to admit to wrongdoing, but, we don't need you to. We already know the truth."

Clearly annoyed by the renowned sage, Rasa nearly snarls as he demanded to know, "and precisely how is this boy involved?"

"For starters, his name is Uzumaki Naruto and he's essentially engaged to your daughter," Jiraiya answered with an abundance of blushing amusement.

Naruto thought he looked angry before, Rasa was positively glaring as he warned the blond, "you're playing a very dangerous game, Uzumaki."

Despite Rasa's stern countenance, his Godfather's casual presence—and his talk with Hinata—allowed Naruto to feel more like himself. Comfortably, he quirks his brow in confusion before asking, "how? You're the ones invading us today."

Pausing a beat, Rasa then retorted, "and if that were true, you're allowing it."

"Only to prove to you we are more than allies; we're friends," Naruto responded, gaining more and more conviction by the second, even wondering why he was so nervous, to begin with.

"I fail to see how you-"

"Gaara," Naruto cuts him off.

Rasa's nostrils flare as he hotly contested, "don't you dare interrupt me!"

"I get it," Naruto interrupted again. He knows it's not a smart move with someone like this—and he's seen plenty of angry people in his time to know the look—however, at the moment, he only needed to say his piece. "You're the Kazekage and I respect that, really—I'm going to be Hokage myself someday—which is why I know this is more important than that. You're Gaara's father and he's the key to all of this, which is why you're going to lose today." Rasa's silence enables Naruto to continue proclaiming, "for all his life you guys treated him like he's broken or a weapon, or both. You're family yet Temari and Kankurō are scared of him, and you tried to kill him-"

"What right do you have to meddle in our affairs?"

"I'm his friend!" Though he feels it in his heart, it's not quite reality, forcing him to add, "even if he doesn't know it yet."

"We could've told Hokage-sama about your plans with Sound," Jiraiya inserted. "We could've let Orochimaru and his men kill you and your bodyguards but we didn't."

"How do I know this isn't a trick of the Sandaime," Rasa voiced in a slightly calmer voice. "This could very well be a manipulative trap."

"I'm the Jinchūriki of the Nine-Tails Demon Fox," Naruto honestly admitted to the Sand leader, making him blink widely in surprise. "So I know Gaara is the Jinchūriki of the One-Tail and we're even more alike than that. It's illegal to discuss what's in me with anyone but I wouldn't have told you if I was trying to trick you."

"You have my word on everything I hold dear," Jiraiya begins with a slight but respectful bow that Naruto then imitated. "Naruto and I are the only ones who know about your plans with Orochimaru."

Rasa is silently pensive, observing their respectful bows before abruptly contending, "despite your unproven accusation, I'm obliged to ask why?"

"Like I said, because we're friends," Naruto returned turning his attention to the Kage once again. "Even if you can't, I can see it just beyond today. We're doing all this to prove it to you."

"How?"

"By beating Gaara and fighting back," Naruto answered. "It's the best way for Konoha and Suna to understand each other; through our fists," he added, raising his unyielding fist.

"…I see." Turning to Jiraiya, Rasa inquired, "this is the wager you wanted me to hear." After Jiraiya nods, Rasa returned his attention to Naruto and pointed out, "shouldn't it be easier for you as the Jinchūriki of the Nine-Tails to defeat Gaara-"

"I won't be using the Kyūbi's power against Gaara," Naruto assured the stern Kage. "My own strength's more than enough."

Cynically, Rasa probes, "and if Gaara transforms? Will your strength be enough to handle the monstrous might of the One-Tail?"

"Yup," Naruto confidently affirmed. "Even if he transforms, I won't use the Kyūbi's chakra against him. I'll stop Gaara no matter what he does to me, just like Konoha will stop this invasion no matter what you and Sound do to us."

Still staring angrily, Rasa paused before asking, "…And after?"

"That's a diplomatic bridge we'll cross when our villages are, hopefully, more enlightened," Jiraiya proposed.

"So give us everything you got," Naruto demanded of the strong and stern leader. "We can take it."

Gazing at the arena and the Hokage Monument in the far distance, Rasa turned to Naruto and explained, "no matter what happens today, I will alert your Hokage of your prior knowledge and most reckless gamble."

"Pfffft, I'm not doing anything I'm ashamed of," the blond nimbly announced. "You can be in the room when I tell him myself."

"If there were such an invasion, how will your naive foolishness explain to your Hokage all the Konoha deaths you've allowed in order to prove this 'friendship' to me?" Rasa squares his shoulders as he antagonistically verbalized, "with every death tallied today, your culpability increases as well. It would make you a disgrace to your Hitai-ate, your village, and your leader."

"Hey, now," Jiraiya called, standing next to Naruto, reminding the Kage of his presence. "Let's not forget whose invasion this belongs to in the first place, Kazekage-dono. This is unorthodox, sure. It takes a lot of guts to think way outside the box here, but it's for your benefit; it's for all our benefit."

"It's fine," Naruto told Jiraiya. "He's right. I'm from Konoha and these are my people I'm risking. Walking around the village, everywhere I looked people were doing something for themselves, for someone they love, or for the good of the village; living life like they expect to see into tomorrow. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I might be taking their tomorrows away, all to prove something to you and Suna. It wasn't an easy thing to carry and I agonized over it."

Without the girls for two days, Naruto had ample time to think about all of his decisions and plans when he wasn't talking with Naru-nii. Their plans certainly felt necessary, but weren't without risks, and worst yet, he couldn't take those risks on all by himself. He could do his best to mitigate the threat to others but if he wasn't perfect, then someone would die, and if someone died, that would be on him. He wasn't sure he could accept being the cause of that but he wasn't alone. Hinata believes in him, Naru-nii believes in him, and Jiraiya believes in him enough to help.

'This is for everyone,' Naruto thought, and with fearless blue eyes, he hotly declared with deafening conviction, "I have a brother in all this and he always reminds me of the most important thing. This is for the future—our future… and though the price could be high, I won't let anyone die! Not today! Not by Suna-nin! No one! And you can bet your ass that's the promise of a lifetime!"

They stare at each other for a long time, time enough to make the group of shinobi off to the side concerned, but armed with his convictions and friends, Naruto has zero doubt and that's all he's ever needed.

"…We shall see," Rasa replied before signaling his bodyguards over.

As the security team and Suna guards fall in a protective formation around the Kazekage before walking to the arena, a grinning Jiraiya gave Naruto a big thumbs up before tossing him his first of many gifts. Naruto caught the folded white garment as Kurenai stepped away from her detail and walked over to her blond ex. Rather than unfold his very first gift from his Godfather, Naruto's mind immediately recalled last night and the raven-haired beauty's amazing confession to him.

'Nai-chan,' he thought, watching her walk over to him and making his heart pump extremely fast. Fresh and vibrant memories from last night poured into the forefront of his mind and he smiled broadly.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

Pulling off his veil, the ever stern Rasa looks down at his hard-hearted son and wonders with a measure of innocent curiosity if Uzumaki could be right. As the leader of their declining village, it's a measure of doubt he shouldn't allow in his mind or his decisions. Even if he knows Orochimaru tried to betray him, he always knew that risk was there and it's not as if he wasn't planning on killing him later anyway. For the moment, Suna cannot take Konoha without Oto, but after the Leaf's destruction, Rasa will kill Orochimaru himself and claim Otogakure's resources as well.

"Your youngest is quite strong," Hiruzen compliments.

"…He's his mother's son," Rasa sternly responds.

"I've been meaning to speak with you over your daughter's Omiai with Naruto-kun," Hiruzen naturally brings up, though it causes him much anxiety to think about. He didn't like the proposal from the beginning however, he couldn't see any sensible reason to decline it, nor did Naruto seem too opposed to the idea.

Retaking his seat, Rasa simply responds, "after, Hokage-dono."

"As you wish," Hiruzen concedes.

As Genma begins to announce the final candidate, Kurenai can feel Asuma observing her for any reaction. Her mask has been up since meeting Naruto at the gate and her ex-boyfriend has been eying her intently ever since. If they weren't on duty, she's certain he'd be demanding to know everything.

"His opponent," Genma continues. "From Konohagakure: Uzumaki Naruto."

Sitting beside the alert Samui—in an ash-gray sweater with a low neckline and short black skirt—and the abysmally dour Atsui, Mabui—in her gray, double-slitted pencil skirt and long-sleeve, athletic-fit, high-collar sweater—feels physically assured to finally hear his name called, having waited for too long. Naruto rested for two nights before the exam and Mabui has grown eager to see him. Two nights of having to go without being brought to climax by him, without snuggling with him, without being struck by his intelligence, left her feeling deeply anxious and irritable.

Mabui had a long forty-eight hours with her memory-inspired fantasies, but at the moment, she had to be careful. The memories of the past two weeks could act like triggers now, beginning with the morning after her first-ever threesome.

MABUI

After Samui returned from her morning training regiment, Mabui had just walked out of the shower with a towel wrapped snug around her firm bodice and feeling like she's twinkling in tingling satisfaction. Her body felt sensitive, elated, and she couldn't help enjoying the brightness of such an amazing day pouring through her small window. In the morning light, Mabui didn't know what to think nor could she read any expression on Samui's face as to what she's thinking but last night was a deep mine of thoughts and revelations.

As Mabui began changing in the small room, Samui stated, "we should return to base and debrief-"

"Sa-ch- …Samui-taichou," Mabui eventually said. Worried about the captain's brother, she expressed, "I think perhaps it would be for the best if we debrief here and then offer Atsui-kun a censored version of last night's events… I mean, he really doesn't need to know more than it worked."

Considering her words with a blank face, Samui proposed, "you wish to spare his feelings because he has affection for you?"

"And you," Mabui added. "You're his sister. Naruto not only had sex with the girl he has a crush on but his sister as well. That's not exactly an easy thing for a man to accept. We should keep his mental state in mind when we speak around him."

"…Thank you," Samui sweetly replied, making Mabui want to hold the busty blond. "You… are knowledgeable."

Mabui felt a tenderness in the air she happily accepted and conveyed, "of course, and… I'd always try to help you in any way I can Samui-taichou. I've come to care about you very much." Samui simply nods then Mabui asked, "how do you feel?"

"Quite content," Samui admitted, taking a deep breath and flexing her fingers. She takes a seat on the tatami floor as she detailed, "medically speaking, I seem to have an excessively positive disposition."

"That's likely the oxytocin that's released during the 'sex-floods' of your post-coital body," Mabui diagnosed, very much feeling the waves of joy swimming inside her. "The oxytocin then increases dopamine which is what ultimately leads an individual to desire more permanent bonds with another person."

"In your professional opinion, will this positive feeling hinder our mission?"

"If we're feeling it, I guarantee you he's feeling it as well," Mabui stated, taking a seat across from her captain once she changed. "So I'd say this is to our benefit."

After a moment of thought, Mabui can't help but find Samui cute when she asked, "what… is the appropriate operating procedure to see him again? Must we wait until tonight? Is the afternoon too early?"

Even though Samui wasn't expressing any emotion on her face, the way her light-blue eyes looked away, tilting her silky blond head as she struggled to chart the difficult path of seduction, the elevated hormones inside of Mabui wanted to kiss Samui right then and there. However, Mabui hasn't forgotten for one second how Samui might react to suddenly being kissed, so instead asked, "Samui-taichou, may I reevaluate your kissing technique? …For the mission?"

Though Mabui would prefer not to drop the keywords on Samui, it's worth it for the slow, nearly submissive, nod of Samui's blank consent. The beautiful women lean forward and Mabui immediately takes her supple pink lips. With the previous night still fresh and tingling in their bodies' muscle memory, the pair of beauties make out for a long time. Mabui dominates Samui's mouth, taking her tongue in her mouth and rubbing it vigorously against her own. It was hot and wet, and Mabui loved leading the willing Samui. They only pulled away when the need for air became too demanding.

"V-very good," a winded Mabui complimented. "Your lips and tongue taste… kissing is definitely another one of your advantages." Rather than respond, Samui just nodded twice, making Mabui want to kiss her again. However, she bites her lower tongue, holding herself back to answer her earlier question. "We should wait until tonight. I'm sure I'll see him at the library and I'll invite him over again. I have no doubt he'll say yes."

"Understood."

"We should also create a cover story for our day together," Mabui suggested.

"Understood," Samui responded before asking, "will you be okay tonight?

Curious, Mabui asked, "how do you mean?"

As blunt as a punch to the face, Samui answered, "you passed out due to excessive stimulation last night."

Painfully humbled by the accurate accusation, Mabui crossed her arms as she tried to defend herself. "I- well, it's not like… who expected him to be that good? He's sixteen! Plus, he knows my weak spots!"

"Precisely what I mean," Samui simply returned. "It's our task to ensnare him with our minds as much as bodies and yours submitted to his completely."

Jaw dropped, Mabui retorted, "I… Don't act like you didn't need to rest!"

Nodding at the recollection of her own performance, Samui admitted, "he did outperform all my previous partners and engagements. I was unaware a man could ejaculate so many times."

Using her experience and medical education, Mabui assured her, "they're not supposed to! That's what I'm saying, he's definitely abnormal… Now that I think about it…" The night was so heavy and eventful, Mabui only now realized, "I don't think he's a virgin." Then it hits her as much as her hand smacking her forehead. "What am I saying? OF COURSE HE'S NOT A VIRGIN! How could I've been so stupid! There's no way someone who's never been with a girl could ever be that good!"

"How could you have missed that?"

"…It's not so much a missed, per se," Mabui grumbled before quick-thinking answered, "t-the lateral orbitofrontal cortex- yes, of course. The lateral orbitofrontal, which is the part of the brain that governs your reason and behavior, actually shuts down during an orgasm… of which, I lost count how many I had. In other words, during a state of post-coital bliss, you might feel emotions that aren't what you think because your ability to reason has been dampened by the release of oxytocin and increase in dopamine."

Nodding before thinking, Samui guessed, "by the night's end, the orgasms I experienced seemed to erupt one after the other so it's difficult to tally… I'd say north of twenty," Casually, she then pointed out, "you, of course, passed out." A huffing Mabui rolled her eyes before Samui asked, "does that suggest we're impaired?"

"Again, if we're feeling it, then he must be feeling it as well."

"This mission is quite a challenge," Samui commented—absent any expression—and Mabui couldn't agree more. Naruto was everything she could want in a man; unfathomably brilliant, strong, handsome, ambitious, hard-working, and a masterful lover. He has everything she could think to want in spades… 'except he lives in the wrong fucking village!'

With a sigh, Mabui asked, "how long do we have?" She was suddenly all too cognizant of her fleeting time with Naruto and wants to spend as much of it with him as possible before their mission deadline.

Samui casually answered, "it wouldn't be smart to take him before the Chūnin exam-"

Taken aback by her response, Mabui's widened as she asked, "take him? What do you mean take him?"

With a blank face, Samui sighs before mumbling, "it seems I'm much more impaired than I thought-"

"Samui-taichou," Mabui called. "Please, explain."

"When command learned the owner of Kubikiribōchō was an Uzumaki," Samui started. "Our team's directive was amended."

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"As you were faltering in your progress with the target, I felt you needed additional support I could not provide. It's why I messaged Dodai-san and Darui-taichou."

For confirmation, Mabui asked, "and Darui told you why he thought I might be hesitating?" With Samui's nod, Mabui then asked, "so why kidnap him?"

"All I know is Uzumakis are high-value targets," Samui confessed. "I sent Atsui to seduce Uzumaki Karin. Sadly, he failed immediately. We'll have to settle with Naruto for the time being."

Curious for more details, Mabui heatedly asked, "that's it? They didn't specify why else?"

"It's unnecessary," Samui assured her. "We have our orders."

"I…" At the time, Mabui wasn't sure how she felt, and after two weeks, the dilemma within her was far worse. Her heart ached at how much she's already lied to him, and continues to do so, but her mind feared failing Samui and her village. Preferring to distract herself, she asked, "how are we supposed to take him?"

"After his match—or matches—in the Chūnin Selection Exam would be best," Samui explained. "Time-release poison was my initial strategy, however, without knowing precisely when his match is to start—whether before or after the others—he may become so hindered during his fight with Sabaku no Gaara, he could die. That would be unacceptable."

"If we want him to come with us, the easiest and most effective way of doing that without alerting Konoha is by convincing him to join us. I've seen the way this village treats him and I'm confident you and I are the best thing that's ever happened to him. If we suggest leaving, he may feel like following us."

"We would have to lure him out of the village—possibly with a vacation stay of some sort to celebrate any achievement he makes in his exam-"

"Or he could escort you 'home,'" Mabui suggested. Samui nodded before Mabui continued. "We can hint at being together often and after reaching a good distance, we can ask."

Both women mull over the plan in the minds before Samui eventually noted, "I feel he's unlikely to support our betrayal,"

"You're right," Mabui easily agreed. "He's an honest man who takes his word seriously and respects others who do so as well."

"What would you suggest?"

Without a good answer, Mabui admitted, "I'll have to give it some serious thought. However, for any strategy we devise to succeed, the three of us will have to be together often…" Mabui felt herself grow warmer with anticipation as she happily added, "every night if need be."

"I'm fully committed," Samui blankly affirmed. "You mentioned he's unlikely a virgin…"

Swallowing excessive saliva, Mabui asked, "you think another woman might keep him from agreeing to come with us?"

"We'll have to learn who she is," Samui noted.

"She may not be in his life anymore," Mabui told her. "He doesn't fit the profile of someone content with emotionless connections, physical or otherwise. Essentially, if she were in his life, we wouldn't be in his. I suggest we initiate a soft probe around pillow-talk. Men answer anything then. If that leads nowhere, we can recon."

"Understood."

Mabui thought they had plenty of opportunities to get answers to their questions but he would come over and it was like a switch was flipped; like Samui and Mabui were starving all day and he brought dinner. There was just little thought for much else. Mabui could be cooking while Samui cleaned. Mabui would wear her boxer-shorts and tank top camisole while Samui would wear a sleeveless tank-top dress with lace trim. The moment he'd knock on the door, Mabui already felt her womanhood begin to heat with buttery slickness.

"Come in," she'd call, and he'd enter.

He should be in their trap, at their mercy, and yet, when he'd walk up behind her, grip her hips and pull her round rump into his semi-hardness with a little teasing thrust, the arousing stimulation within her loins would begin to rev up of its own accord, as if her fetish for geniuses would not allow her any control of her dripping sex. He'd turn her around, kiss her deeply, and her knees would buckle from the pure bliss of their lip-lock. Samui would then walk over, press her large, soft chest against them and wait patiently, obediently for her turn. As he made out with her, all thoughts of cooking vanished from her mind and she'd drop to her knees to take his thick manliness out of his pants. Mabui would need him deep inside of her, regardless of orifice.

He'd take turns churning their insides but no one was left wanting. The faster Mabui helped Samui cum, the faster he could go balls-deep in her again. However, Mabui gained such a thrill from dominating Samui; ruling over her sexual positions and teasing the woman by withholding her orgasms until she commanded she can have them. At times, she'd play with her captain while Naruto simply watched. It was fantastic to her because when he couldn't take it anymore, he'd take out his insane lust on their love tunnels repeatedly. This ensured that both women were spent well before he was.

They'd both suck his thick nut-canon at the same time and quickly learned to work together to make him erupt his milk in their mouths or on their face. Mabui would, of course, lick his genius-juice off of Samui's stunning face before sweetly washing her up. Though Mabui couldn't deep-throat him like Samui effortlessly could, Mabui still felt like her experience and emotional connection with him gave her an edge.

That was until Naruto went from the perfect man to the perfect drug when he created the Fūinjutsu tag he said he'd make. The constricted tag with the Mirror-Touch Synesthesia array at its core took him eight clones and half a day to properly write before receding the Fūin characters into a photo-sized paper.

Mabui was lost climbing the wedded bliss of their heavenly organ grinding when he slaps the tag hard across her honey-colored ass cheek, producing a loud smacking sound and her guttural, 'MMaahhnn!' Her happy yelp was followed by absolute shock. She suddenly felt an additional bundle of pleasure growing erect from her clitoris, but looking down, her love-button is no more distended than before. The influx of a new rippling pleasure network almost feels like the shape of a long thick penis thrusting delectably into a tight, wet, vagina. With her limited brain function, as Naruto kept pounding her into submission, she couldn't understand why a phantom phallus fucking a pussy felt physiologically connected to her own wet genitalia.

So close to a thunderous climax, the moment he voiced his Fūinjutsu synced their physical sensations so she was feeling how amazing his thick dick feels fucking her tight cunt, her pleasure-drowned mind snapped. Mabui's green eyes rolled into the back of her head and her entire body was rocked thunderously with a never-ending cascade of mind-bending orgasms. She saw white as she melted with pure euphoria.

Samui had to handle Naruto alone for the rest of the night and when Mabui awoke the following morning, all her beautiful captain could say was, "that was interesting."

'Which was ridicules,' Mabui's mind would always scream. How can her stoic and strong taichou not realize how absolutely masterful his Fūinjutsu is? How much of a genius Naruto is?

For the rest of the day, Mabui had what could possibly be considered a long-running micro-orgasms. Miniature quakes would rupture from her sensitive quim throughout her whole body whenever she realized experiencing that insane Fūinjutsu sex-tech in combination with his own sexual prowess again was only hours or minutes away. To think he could literally fuck anyone or receive oral from the deep-throating Samui and she would feel the physical pleasure of their sensation in addition to her own! No, Mabui didn't think she could survive Naruto. It scared her how soft and pliable she became by simply thinking about him.

For one more night, she barely survived his Mirror-Touch Tag on her, let alone the second tag that mirrored Samui's sensations. Mabui felt her mind-blowing pleasure, the pleasure Naruto felt as his thick cock fucked her, and Samui's pleasure from his vibration tag on her cushy honeyed hot-hole as he fingered her ass. Mabui could feel it all and it was too much for her sanity, and when she came to, she requested a toned-down version. She was almost glad he explained his need for a couple of nights off before the Chūnin exam.

Of course, the three of them talked, though, more in their second week of hot sex than the first. The first week was like drowning in a small room of hot rutting and mountains of toe-curling orgasms. The second week was when the Kumo women learned he wasn't a virgin and that this other, nameless, woman taught him everything he knows. They also learned that they're not a couple and while he has strong feelings for her, they can't be together. They, of course, took that opportunity to double-team his mind-boggling meat show in an effort to make him feel loved; with the Mirror-Touch Tags so they can feel his pleasure in addition to their own.

They also learned that he wanted them to be on high alert for the Chūnin Exams and he seemed serious enough that Samui authorized arming themselves with daggers to be safe. He wouldn't say why he felt something bad might happen but he was visibly worried about them and that was touching for Mabui to see.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

The crowd reacted with a mixture of boos and cheers to the announcement of Naruto's name, however, the boos won the day and Mabui couldn't accept it. She became angry to hear the man she deeply fears she's in total love with being booed with downed-thumbs all around her and she wasn't the only one. Kurenai, Ino, Sakura, Hinata, Tenten, Samui, and Haku all felt a growing rage at the pit of their stomachs. To do nothing when they wanted to yell and punch back any villager who dares to boo and point their thumbs down at their man was immediately frustrating. The boos did, however, begin to die when the spectators didn't see anyone walking from the same access point all the other candidates came from. A few of them laughed that he was too scared, but the girls knew better and their concern began to grow.

Hiruzen rotated his head a bit and his guard immediately explains no one has seen Naruto. Rasa watches what he cannot hear out the corner of his eye and wonders what the blond was up to and if he should sound the signal to commence the invasion much earlier than planned.

Clearing his throat, Genma repeats louder, "Uzumaki Naruto," and what came next, no one expected.

NARUTO

Watching Nai-chan approach him, Naruto tucked his folded white present under his arm all the while repressing his bubbling urge to smile broadly. She stepped beside him and they watched the Kazekage, bodyguards, and security detail leave for the stadium. Despite watching in silence, Naruto couldn't help grinning like a loon, wide and very loud to anyone who saw him. He couldn't help it; knowing that this absolutely stunning woman next to him has feelings for him. He had the biggest grin on his face; the kind of grin that could only mean genuine feelings of love.

"Will you stop that," Kurenai demanded with a hushed voice.

Far too innocently, a pink-cheeked Naruto asked, "hmm? Stop what?"

"You're grinning," she huffed with annoyance.

"I can't help it," he cheerfully cried, pinching his cheeks and rocking cutely from side-to-side.

Turning to him, Kurenai demanded to know, "you understand I said I can't be with you, right? As in, can not."

"I heard you tell me about your tou-chan and that you love me," Naruto recites happily. "I didn't hear anything about not being together."

Sulking her head so her beautiful raven hair falls forward, she wearily muttered, "are you going to make me repeat this to you-"

"Sorry, Nai-chan," he happily interrupted. "But I can't stop loving you based on that."

"That," she whirled on him to emphasize. "Isn't something so simple either of us can just ignore. I'm always going to have this gnawing fear that you or any man I love with all my heart is going to die and I'm going to be left alone again. My father's death drove me to who I am today, but in doing so, a part of me also broke and until I fix it, I don't want that to happen again."

Naruto hummed, practically dancing in place and the corner of her red-eye quirked angrily, peeved by his constant grinning. She yelled, "you're still grin- Why the fuck are you still grinning?! I'm being serious here!"

"I know," Naruto hopped back a step, raising his palms in submissive peace and dropping his present from Jiraiya. "I know you are, I do, really, but so am I. I'm super serious when I say I'm in love with you, Nai-chan, and I'm not going anywhere, dying or otherwise, which pretty much solves that problem."

Frustrated and conflicted, Kurenai wanted to say more but felt a familiar shinobi's chakra approach. Instead, she exhaled to calm down while picking up the folded white clothing and returned it to Naruto as the blond called out, "hey Asuma-nii, thanks for watching out for Karin. I really appreciate it."

"No sweat," Asuma responded, adding, "she's a heck a sensor; helped us out back there." He eyes Naruto and Kurenai a moment before asking the blond, "you want to explain what that conversation with the Kazekage was?"

"Sure," Naruto responded, slapping away a bit of dust from his folded gift as he casually explained, "we were mainly talking about Gaara and how Konoha was going to win today. Tell Ji-chan I'll tell him everything later tonight or tomorrow if he wants."

Kurenai wondered out loud, "you actually told the Kazekage that Konoha was going to win today? Over his own children?"

Inspecting the white cloth to satisfaction, he casually answered, "of course."

"It seemed a little more heated than that," Asuma probed aloud. The gruff man watched the blond and Kurenai carefully as he asked, "you sure it didn't involve Temari and the Omiai?"

"Positive," Naruto answered, sliding the white linen in his orange and blue jacket before assuring Asuma, "she didn't come up."

With a single nod, he replied, "copy that." Before Naruto leaps away, the broad-shouldered Jōnin called, "oh, and Naruto." Though hesitant, he eventually asked, "…were you the one who gave Kurenai the Fire Slipper Orchid?"

Though initially taken by the question, he nods, "sure did." Turning to the beautiful genjutsu mistress, Naruto added, "which the Uzumaki clan is still going to honor you for. Stay ready guys. Later!" Naruto leaped away as Asuma turned to Kurenai's expressionless face.

After his talk with Hinata, being open and honest with Rasa, and talking with Nai-chan, Naruto felt full of energy. He sprints from roof-top to roof-top toward the arena until he finds a large water tank he can change under. Snickering in delight, he unseals his new gear from a scroll and quickly puts everything on. He still wore orange pants but the new one isn't as baggy on him as his old one. His orange and blue jacket with the high white collar was gleefully upgraded to an orange and black form-fitting jacket with a black collar that kept his neck warm and snug. The cloth for his forehead protector was also replaced with a black and wider one, pushing his spiky bangs higher. His new sandals were black and higher than his blue ones.

Looking himself over, Naruto was already squealing with overflowing joy. Despite the girlish squeal, he felt more mature and loved how comfortable easy to move in the fitted tactical gear was. He strapped his shuriken holster on his right thigh and his chakra blades in the holster Haku made for him at his lower back. Before slinging on the large scroll for his reverse summoning over his shoulder however, Naruto unfolds the white cloth. Jiraiya said he had it specially made and to not tell Ma since she's making him a red coat.

He raised the sturdy and soft material with both hands gripping the shoulders and it unfolded to reveal a medium-sleeved coat with a red flame pattern at the hem. It looked so unbelievably cool, Naruto had stars for eyes and drooled a little. However, he also felt the threat of tears spilling down his face when he read the words on the back.

Out loud, he reads, "Fourth-" when all too abruptly, Naruto receives a distressing cache of memories from a forcibly destroyed clone… the clone that was escorting Karin to the coliseum.

Amongst the throng of festive villagers, the chatting cousins were nearing the stadium when someone from behind them voiced, "excuse me?"

Stopping beside an alleyway, both Naruto and Karin turn to see a frail-looking old man with half his face bandaged, saggy black hair, an x-shaped scar on his chin, and walking with a cane. The old man in a white shirt under a black robe is flanked by two Anbu in white cloaks and monkey masks creating a wall of men the crowd has to walk around. Within the span of a heartbeat, an Anbu sprints from the space between the buildings and knocks Karin out before pulling her into the alleyway. Naruto hollers as he reaches for Karin but with the opening created by his reaching out, the clone is popped in a puff of smoke.

Bubbling anger Naruto hasn't felt in years consumed him from his gut and his mind quickly grasped the threat. Even though he never met the man, he looked exactly like Naru-nii described; the scar, the bandages, the cane are a dead give-away. 'That was Danzō,' his mind seethed. Naruto knew how dangerous Root was—how dangerous Danzō is—and now they have his only blood relative; 'Danzō has Karin…' Naruto also knew he'd lose her if he didn't get her back right away.

Quick as stretching out each arm, the white robe similar to his father's is on Naruto's form before he grabbed the large scroll. He originally planned on using his clone in Mount Myōboku to feed him more natural energy when he was in a pinch, but this was far more important. Unrolling the scroll with the fūin seals for the reverse summoning jutsu, he slapped a chakra-covered palm on the parchment and yelled, "Gyaku Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"

His sage-infused clone wearing his original orange and blue outfit pops into existence before immediately dispelling. The natural energy gathered and balanced by his clone suddenly permeates and enhances his every infuriated cell. As explained by Pa, Sage Mode is an empowered state and exponentially increases every attribute of his base. His ninjutsu and fūinjutsu become more powerful. His strength, speed, stamina, reflexes, durability, and at this very moment, the most important, his sensory perception, are enhanced significantly.

He knows Karin's chakra signature and immediately he's scouring every inch of Konoha for the feel of her spirit. He can feel the garrisons outside the walls, the cacophony of energy at the stadium—his loved ones among them—Jiraiya inside Konoha's wall near the garrison, and finally, two signatures smoothly moving away from the coliseum, one of which is Karin.

Rather than jumping from the building, he created a senjutsu enhanced clone to grab his hand before launching him like a bolt out of a crossbow. He launched himself nearly a mile in the air. The drag force of the atmosphere deafening his ears did little to impede his ballistic motion, however, when Naruto reached the peak, he created one more clone mid-air to catch and launch him the rest of the distance toward the target. With his heightened sight, he can see the pale-skinned boy in an Anbu mask leaping from building to building carrying Karin over his shoulder.

Though Naruto had never fallen at such a speed from such a height, he was far too angry to consider any injury. In his mind, he felt powerful enough to destroy whatever building he landed on, so by the time the masked boy sensed Naruto, it was too late. Like a chucked war-spear through fragile glass, Naruto landed on the building the kidnapper was going to land on. The astounding force of his speed and mass transferred powerfully from his feet into the building and it was more energy than the concrete and wood could handle, loudly rupturing and destroying most of the roof and floors as he speared through to the street below.

The root kidnapper lost the stability in his run and he tucked Karin into a protective hug before rolling on the fracturing stone and skidding to a halt just before the crumbling edge of the destroyed section of the roof. Heavy jagged concrete breaks easily against him, but he only has attention for his cousin, now two-stories above him on the half-destroyed roof. The masked boy had no sense of what would cause such impactful damage, the noise of which left his ears ringing and the dusty, heated air pressure baked his skin.

He laid the red-haired target down before he attempted to sense what the object that destroyed half the roof was and the moment he turned to peer over the edge, he saw a yellow flash before he's kicked in his masked face. The force of the strike was hard enough to momentarily knock him unconscious, shattering the mask as he skidded off the roof and fell two floors to the alley below.

When the pale, dark-haired boy came to, he immediately felt fractured bones throughout his body on top of pained breathing and an agonizing headache. He was hoisted against the wall and made to look up. Half of his vision is red and blurry, the other half is also blurry, but observed an angered Uzumaki Naruto holding his unconscious cousin against his chest. The dizzy and injured boy couldn't understand why Naruto wore red make-up around his eyes, but he wouldn't have a chance to.

Just before the pale boy passed out, Naruto practically growled, "tell Danzō he just made the biggest mistake of his life."

Naruto sensed three people inside the building and quickly created clones to make sure they're alright and test his accelerated healing fūinjutsu if necessary. Naruto's fairly certain he's late to the arena, but more than anything, he wanted to make sure Karin stayed safe. With Jiraiya around the perimeter and his Sage Mode lasting no longer than a few more minutes, Naruto shunshins to the building top before sprinting to the packed arena. Along the way, Naruto struggled to remain in control. Kurama certainly wanted him to cut loose and wreck, but today wasn't the day to deal with Danzō.

'Soon,' he told Kurama.

Nearing the coliseum, he searches for the person he trusts the most with the last few seconds of his sage chakra when he's struck with relief. Karin regained consciousness.

"…N-NNNaruto?"

"It's okay," he told her. "You're safe now. Just relax. I won't let anyone take you," he promised her and she wrapped her arms around his trapezius, linking her hands at the back of his neck.

THE CHŪNIN EXAM

"Uzumaki Naruto," Genma called and no one expected what happened next.

Bursting through one of the many guest entrances of Section A, a flash of yellow and white stains the air over that section of the crowd. Faster than anyone can react, Naruto lands on the railing next to Kurenai's post, warping the railing from the pressure and heat of transferred kinetic motion, and in that moment, the Genjutsu Mistress of Konoha is as confused as the rest of the ninjas old enough to remember that attire, that hair, and that speed. There isn't enough time for their lagging minds to settle with the idea of the Fourth Hokage being alive, or even be stunned yet.

Kurenai has just enough time to read, 'Fourth-' before the Yondaime lookalike turns around and she notices Karin in Naruto's arms. Kurenai's eyes bulge as her melting mind curses, 'you're fucking shitting me!'

Rather frantically, he tells a dazed Karin, "stay with Kurenai no matter what. No matter what!" He turns to a flabbergasted Kurenai and she can barely think about the red pigmentation around his eyes or the gold irises with horizontal, oblong pupils before he tells her, "please take care of Karin for me. Don't let her go with anyone that's not me or Jiraiya." A beat passes, and Kurenai is embarrassed to be so stunned by this revelation that he needs to repeat, "Kurenai, do you understand?"

Snapping out of it, she takes Karin around the shoulders as she answers, "yes, yes, I- I understand."

"She can fill you in on what happened," Naruto stated as he hops back on the bent metal railing. "I mean it, no one but me or Jiraiya, and definitely no Root or Anbu."

Though that shocked her to hear, nothing shocked her more than when he turns to leap away. She manages to read the back of his coat. "The Fourth Sun," she whispered. A warmth deep within her spreads to every fiber of her being at the metaphorical thought of her sun burning brightly once again. Kurenai felt a longing to cry as she watches Naruto leap to the center of the stage next to his teammate. His landing disperses more energy through the dirt floor than it can tolerate, fracturing radially around him. Letting his coat flap along with his motion, the blond exhales as the last bit of his sage chakra ebbs from his network.

Naruto hopes he can get a clone to gather natural energy without interruption as he calls out, "I'm here! I'm here!"

At the sight of Naruto in a white coat, Genma nearly breaks his toothpick under clenched teeth. From Kurenai and Karin, Asuma, Kakashi, Hiruzen, Rasa, Mei, Mabui, Samui, Atsui, to the other nine Chūnin hopefuls around him and the entire arena at large; everyone is staring at Naruto with a wide mixture of shock, disbelief, anger, fear, longing, and hope. Despite his orange and black two-piece suit, the spiky yellow hair and white coat with the red flames makes it impossible for everyone old enough not to think of the Yellow Flash of Konoha; one of the most feared shinobi in the world and the adored Hokage who sacrificed his life to save the village. For the widely despised orphan, Uzumaki Naruto, to somehow look exactly like their fallen hero is the greatest shock of all.

The bleachers are so silent, Naruto can hear the cicadas clearly as his retarded imagination wonders if he landed in the wrong arena despite his teammate standing right next to him. Rotating around to inspect the ghostly-silent audience gives Genma, the other nine contenders, and anyone with enhanced vision a chance to read the back of Naruto's long coat. Many hundreds of minds echo or whisper the 'Fourth Sun,' written on his back as Naruto walks up to Hinata. Mei, in particular, finds the proverbial significance of his coat extremely telling. Only those versed in Land of Water myth and legend know of the Fourth House of the Sun. To see the Fourth Sun on his back brought back difficult memories of lost ones, making her crack her glass of champagne from the tightened grip of her fingers.

"Ne, Hinata-chan," Naruto groans, looking around from the audience to Temari, Gaara, and the other genin around. "I'm in the right place, right?"

Before recalling the microphone, the entire stadium hears the proctor interject, "you're late." For a moment, he's tempted to say, 'the son of the Yondaime shouldn't be late,' however, he eventually reasons that it's not his place to confirm his parentage so publicly. Still, he walks up to Naruto and inspects the living likeness of Namikaze Minato. Taking the liberty, the melancholy Jōnin latches the drawstring at sternum level from one flap to the other, ensuring the coat remains closed. With a satisfied nod, Genma turns about-face toward the village leaders in the highest seats of the center tower.

"Ho, ho, ho," Hiruzen laughs his slow elderly laugh, enjoying immensely Naruto's stunning entrance.

"Hokage-dono," Rasa gravely calls. "Who is this boy?"

With a smile, Hiruzen doesn't even turn to the Kazekage to answer, "that, is the most surprising ninja you'll ever meet."

Wow, that was a lot of set up. But the pay off is the next chapter will be tons of sweet sweet action!

I've made a couple of changes from canon. Although it was never specified when Rasa, the Kazekage died, we know it was before the finals. Some would say it was even before the Chūnin exam started. It varies because of the panel showing the Kazekage being ambushed and killed by Orochimaru on his was to Konoha, but also another panel that found Rasa's body and says he'd been dead for a while. If he has been dead for a while, Orochimaru would then be disguised as Rasa for over a month(or some idea along that line), being the Kazekage. I decided not to go that route. So in my fic, Rasa was not killed before the Chūnin started.

Also, I looked it up. Judging from the picture of the bodies, it looks like they've been dead for 10-20 days. That's when the body turns purple from active decay and bugs eating away at you. I figure it's possible for Rasa to be killed the day of the Chūnin finals and rot for the length of time it took Konoha to settle negotiations with Suna.

Another thing, in Shippuden, Mei is supposed to be in her mid thirties. I'm aging her down in my fic to mid twenties. She's still the oldest woman in the harem but not by much.

This chapter was a terror to structure. I mean, I must've re-written it like four times before I had something I liked. The issue was the two weeks left before the Chūnin. I still wanted to show that but I really wanted to get to the invasion and stuff. So I was trying all sorts of ways to fit it all in while also including Naruto's meet with Rasa and Mei. This is what I ultimately came up with. I really hope you guys enjoyed it.

For those who would like to support me, I have a /graefoxx is the handle. I also have an original novel on amazon called Belladonna by Grae Foxx. It was originally a modern-setting fanfic of Naruto or Harry Potter. Since I couldn't figure what fandom I wanted it to go to, I just washed the names and tested out the self-publishing waters 😊 As always, thank you thank you thank you to my amazing patrons for your awesome support. You guys make me not want to ever stop writing! Viruses be damned!

Have a great one, and please, please, please stay safe guys. We can beat this thing if we all watch out for each other.

-Grae

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