A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Written Exam Arc, Chuunin Selection Exam

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: I know, I know. I'm horribly late this time. My only defense is that I didn't have access to my files for days.

I copped out. The Chuunin Exam Arc is the Exam arc, only it will be spilt into three parts. It'll go from Exam I to Exam II and end at Exam III. I couldn't name it anything else without giving anything away or spoiling my plans so... meh. ALSO! If you didn't know and were curious, I've posted two new pictures of Sora on my Deviantart account MissNanamiChan. One of Sora and my first attempt at drawing Terra, and then my current favorite picture Sora hugging on her dear Neko~ I really love it.

Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the cannon characters! Nor do I own any ballroom gowns... what the heck?

WARNING! RATED M! For mentions of blood and death. Sora's life isn't all rainbows and puppies.

Written Exam Arc,

Chapter Twenty-Five: "Chuunin Selection Exam"

"Change is inevitable-Except from a vending machine." -Yuno Hoo

Perspective:

空 (Sky)

I stared at the articles of clothing laid out on the bed before me. I'd known that I didn't have much for selection before but... this was just sad now that I was looking at it.

My usual attire consisted of mesh under-armor with my soft blue long sleeve that was made of shinobi-grade materials that served as an loose over-shirt that I've used every day I'm on active duty, washing and taking care of it religiously. Besides that, I had a couple pairs of dark standard kunoichi pants that tucked into my boots. All that was laid on the bed alongside some other shirts, -most of which could be considered rags at best- a couple pairs of shorts, my one cotton dress and my black high-collared jacket I wore when off-duty. My wardrobe options were truly pathetic.

Why did this matter? Well, it's been three days since Team Seven's encounter with the Sand Siblings and I figure we were more than likely going to be avoiding giant man-eating snakes and S-ranked sociopaths in the most dangerous game of hide-and-seek ever.

Sigh.

Hmm? Weren't there other giant killer species indigenous to the Forest of Death? Whatever I wear is totally going to get trashed, that's just a fact. So, what here is expendable because I certainly wasn't going to risk my favorite shirt getting shredded to bits.

I absently noticed that Bright and Breezy let itself into my apartment and was right on the other side of my bedroom door. The door handle turned and I reacted.

"C'mon, Sora-chan! We gotta meet Sasuke at the-" I picked up the nearest object and threw it at rude person who entered my room without knocking.

"Oi! What was-Sora!?-AHHH! WHY DON'T YOU HAVE ANY CLOTHES ON!?" a retreating blonde cried while covering his eyes and stumbling backwards back out. The door shut just as quickly as it opened and I glared at it, crossing my arms over my still-covered chest.

That was a bit of an over-reaction on his part. It wasn't as if I was standing in the middle of my room stark naked. I still had on a sports bra and chest bindings, my underwear even went down to my thighs. Some of the things Naruko wears is far more revealing. That's even if she wears anything at all.

Have you no modesty? My other half wondered.

'I spent over a year sharing a common sleeping room and one bathroom with twenty-three other children, Naruto included. Most of the time I was the one making sure they were bathed as well! The girls and the boys! Not to mention I occasionally visit the hot springs.' I huffed inwardly. 'I've become somewhat immune to people seeing my skin.'

Terra scoffed, Suuuuure you are. I rolled my eyes at no one before turning my attention back to my current dilemma.

Dilemma.

Kami, this is such a stupid problem. I bet the boys don't have to deal with crap like this, they just throw on whatever they have and that's it. Naruto's just like me, he only has the one outfit that he adores and it has to be constantly repaired. Why do I have to care so much about a stupid shirt?

Oh, right. Because I'm emotionally attached to this stupid shirt.

I thought back to the cherry-red face of chibi-Hinata handing me the fabric and my heart melts all over again. Haah... stupid sentimentality. I looked back at the clothes laid out and had the sudden and irrational urge to cry.

"Uggghhhrrrraaaa... he's late again." the grouchy blonde groaned. I glanced up from my Revival Seal drafts to see Naruto looking quite annoyed. Sensei is always late, he should really know better by now.

"When has he ever been on time." Duckie asked rhetorically. He looked calm but his chakra was swirling with annoyance as well.

Naruto spun on his heel to face Sasuke and began to alleviate his boredom by starting an argument with the other boy. I smiled at both of them, ever amused with their special kind of 'friendship'.

Then I ignored them as I tried to run the logic of the Yin chakra transfer and application to dying cells in the subject's body. With the current theory, my Revival seal works as a sort of refresh button on the chakra network. If someone were unconscious or under the influence of foreign chakra -a Genjutsu for example- then when activated, this seal would filter out the chakra applied turning it into positive Yin chakra and flush out any abnormalities in the system. The Yin chakra flushing through body also refreshes any organs or state of awareness, or lack of. Such as being unconscious. Now if I could find a way to direct the chakra in a more focused effort-

"-Morning people!" the voice of our eternally tardy sensei chirped, pulling me from my musings. "Today I got lost on the road of life."

"YEAH RIGHT! YOU LI-" Naruto cut himself off and narrowed his eyes at the man. "Heeey..." Then he looked at me, suspicion in his baby blues. "that's that same thing you said."

I shrugged, grinning as I sealed my formulas back into my storage book and came to stand beside him and Duckie. Scarecrow gave us an odd look but decided not to ask further, hopping down from the red gate to stand in front of us.

"Well, anyways, this is sudden but... I've nominated you guys for the Chuunin selection exam." he reached into his tools bag and pulled out three papers, holding them out to us. "Here are your applications."

Ah. So it's official now.

...yay.

I glanced over the small paper in my Sensei's hand. It was a fairly simple form with Kakashi's handwriting saying something along the lines of "I, Hatake Kakashi, nominate 'so-and-so' for the opportunity to enter the Chuunin selection exams on the 26th of May blah-blah-blah..." it went on to list the date and location of the entrance where we were to turn the applications in, even the estimated overall duration of the Exams.

The Chuunin Exams would start in three days and officially end on July 1st.

We had less than thirty-six days until the Village get invaded and all hell breaks loose. I used to have years and now I only had weeks.

Deep breath.

...where did all the time go?

Naruto glomped to Scarecrow's side before anyone had time to react.

"KAKASHI-SENSEI, I LOVE YOU DATTEBAYO!"

Said elite ex-ANBU was flailing a bit with receiving the unexpected physical affection. "H-Hey, stop! Let go of me..." he said as he gently pried the blonde off of him.

Scarecrow handed us the papers and the Hero was giggling as he looked over the form in his hands with sparkly eyes. Duckie scanned the contents of the page calmly, but I could see the new glint in his dark gaze.

I just took the form and placed it in between the pages of my storage book for later, not giving it another glance. Scarecrow narrowed his eye at me but didn't say anything about my reaction.

"Though, this is just a nomination." Kakashi stressed, returning to the point. "Whether to take the exam is up to each of you. Those who wish to take it should sign those papers and turn them in at room 301 by four p.m. in three days. That's all." and then he shunshined away, without even blowing smoke into our faces.

Naruto couldn't stop giggling as we headed back to town, chanting 'Chuunin exam' over and over. His excitement was pretty infectious. I smiled softly at the sight but couldn't push away the feeling of dread settling in the pit of my stomach.

I was out of time.

"There should be lots of strong guys in this thing, right?" the Hero asked with a grin. Then his eyes landed on Sasuke and he scowled and glared at the other boy. Duckie shot him a glare in return but was quick to dismiss him. Thankfully Naruto was going through his emotions quick today because as soon as he looked back down at the paper in his hands he giggling with joy again.

I became a bit alarmed when Sasuke's chakra beside me spiked with excitement and a special kind of joy of his own. It reminded a bit like our Sensei's special kind of dark amusement. I glanced to the side at the dark-haired boy and he had something of a pleased smirk on his face.

I shook my head. I couldn't get distracted. I needed to go prepare, I only had three days to get everything ready. I stepped forward and turned towards the boys.

'I have to go and restock on supplies but come by my place so you can pick up some paper bombs and storage seals. I have plenty of spares.' I signed to Duckie. It went without saying that the Hero would come.

"Eh? But we're just going to the Academy, right? Why do we need that kind of stuff 'ttebayo?" the blonde asked with tilt of his head.

"Just because it starts at the Academy doesn't mean that it'll end there." Sasuke explained, then he gave Naruto a withering look. "If you'd bothered to read it, he application says that the Exams will last more than a month. They could have us do anything in that time. It would be smart to bring an overnight bag along. Not that I'm suggesting that you actually be smart for once." he drawled with a condescending smirk.

Before Naruto could retaliate I snapped my fingers to regain their fleeting attention span and waited for an answer to my invitation. Duckie hesitated a moment but nodded without a word and began walking off to do whatever Duckie's do.

I ruffled the Hero's blonde hair affectionately before I set off to do some shopping on my own, making a list in my head as I traveled down the stone path. Passing by three goggled kids running towards my friend with excited grins on their faces.

I stared at the man that had Iruka-sensei's chakra yet looked nothing like my old teacher. The evening crowds shifted seamlessly around us on their way home to dinner or out for a night on the town. With the setting sun the bars would be opening to welcome the shinobi and civilian workers getting off from their long shifts at work.

The light-haired man in front of me was smiling pleasantly.

He also just asked me to follow him into a dark alley under the guise of requiring assistance with something that I've already forgotten because he just asked me to follow him into a dark alley.

What to do... what to do...?

I was eighty-six percent sure that this was my ponytailed teacher and he meant no harm to me whatsoever yet... it brings me back to the question of why he wanted to lead me into a dark alley? His familiar chakra held no malice or ill intent for me, if anything his chakra was telling me that he was worried about me. Chakra doesn't lie. But it was still strange, he was the one trying to lead me down into a dark alley.

I just can't seem to get over that for some reason.

"So, do you think you can help me, Kunoichi-san? It's just around the corner." he asked with a voice that I did not recognize as my former teacher's.

I tilted my head at him, feeling my bangs brush over my forehead. Trying to figure out why my gentle and caring teacher wanted to lead a fourteen year-old girl carrying groceries into a darkened alleyway out of sight and away from any witnesses. What exactly brought this strangeness on? Why did Iruka-sensei suddenly-Oh, I get it!

The ANBU are punking me, aren't they?

This is revenge for interfering with their surveillance on the Sand siblings the other day. When I approached and then escorted the foreign shinobi around the Village. Man, those guys are so touchy about that stuff. ANBU Kuma has had it out for me ever since the 'Glitter Incident' all those years ago. And now they've got poor Iruka-sensei involved in this too! Those guys...

I walked forward and handed my disguised teacher one armful of my groceries, he took them with a sound of surprise and I reached for my notepad. Using his chest as support I wrote then showed the pad to him.

"Is someone putting you up to this, Iruka-sensei?"

His eyes went wide, and then he dispelled the henge with a sigh and a resigned smile. "Haah... As perceptive as ever, Sora-kun."

I raised a questioning brow at him and gestured for my old teacher to follow me. He can walk-and-talk just fine, my green tea ice cream was currently melting in my bag. He kept pace with me as I walked back to the northern residential housing district, back towards my apartment.

'Information Requested' I signed one-handed in Konoha Standard.

"I suppose I should explain myself..." he mumbled. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly with his free hand. "You've already received the Chuunin nomination from your Sensei, correct?"

I nodded in confirmation. Still wondering what this had to do with Iruka-sensei disguising himself and trying to lead me into a dark alley. Was this not about an ANBU revenge scheme?

"Well, I..." he grimaced slightly, pausing as he looked for the right words. He sighed and gave me a slightly apologetic look. "I think that it's much too soon for you kids to be entering the Exams and your jonin-sensei disagrees with me." he said bluntly.

I nodded, a bit warmed by hearing about Scarecrow's confidence in our abilities. But I don't blame Iruka-sensei for his worry he's always been quite protective of us students. It's not like I wasn't worried out of my mind. We were more unprepared than my former teacher fully realized.

So this was just a test to see if I was ready for the exams? It was a bit simple. But I suppose if the news of me being too trusting of complete strangers and their intentions got around then it could be raised as a concern to those that didn't have the same information as I did. It might look like I was a complete idiot.

He blinked owlishly at me, "You agree with me?" he asked incredulously. I stopped walking under a lamppost and set the bags in my hand on a nearby bench, pulling out my notepad.

"Maybe we're not ready. Maybe we'll end up getting out hides handed to us and get beaten." he cringed almost imperceptibly as he read that part. "It doesn't matter because my team is going to enter anyway and I won't let them down by backing out. We might not be ready but if we don't continue to challenge ourselves then we'll never be ready for the things that are coming out way."

Now how many times have you given yourself that same speech? Terra asked.

'Too many.' I said honestly.

There was a good couple minutes of stunned silence as my former teacher processed my words. Then he smiled warmly.

"Have you always been this wise, Sora-kun?"

I nodded with a straight face. He chuckled in response.

"All right," he handed me my bag and nodded, "I'll leave it to you then. Stay on guard, Sora-kun, the Exams will be your most difficult challenge yet." and with that warning he started heading down the street, melting into the crowds.

I gathered up all my bags and continued my path home. Idly thinking over his parting words. 'Most difficult challenge yet', he said. You have no idea, sensei.

"Sora-chan..." mumbled the Hyuuga princess. I glanced over at her strangely tense form as we walked down the paved street towards the Academy.

I'd run into the navy-haired girl by chance when I was on my way to the Ninja Tool Emporium to browse for some spare scrolls for various purposes. When she told me she was on her way to pick up Hanabi-chan from class I'd decided to keep her company on the way there.

She pressed her fingers together in her bad habit and was staring resolutely at the ground. "Uhm... b-by chance, have you seen Iruka-sensei lately?" she asked softly.

Oh, did he test Mouse too? I nodded in confirmation and raised my hands. 'He wanted to see if I was ready for the Exams.'

And like flipping a switch all the tension drained from Mouse's shoulders and she let out a small breath, "So your team is going to be attending the Chuunin Exams as well? I was worried that we'd be the only ones."

'I'm pretty sure Team Ten will be attending too.' I was confident that nothing had changed on that front. Though I have no idea why Shikamaru and them chose to attend in the first place. They weren't really the types to try and over achieve, at least at this age.

Hinata nodded with a small, relieved smile. "...so all of us will be there."

Her steps slowed down until she was standing still in the middle of the road. I stopped beside her, I became confused when her smile fell away and her brows pinched together.

"Do you..." she whispered. "Do you think I have what it takes to compete in the Chuunin Exams?"

A span of thoughts flew through my mind, of all the things I could possibly say.

I could tell her no.

I could tell her that I didn't think she was up to it and save her the trouble of nearly dying during the preliminary fight. Stop her from fighting her stuck-up cousin and then she wouldn't end up bloody and beaten in the hospital with a damaged heart.

Hinata holds my opinion in high regard. She trusts me implicitly, I can feel it in her chakra. A simple no and she would take my word for it and not enter those damned exams. She'd be safe and far away from the dangers.

Hinata, one of my most precious people was waiting for my answer. The silence stretched out and she lowered her head, despair sinking into her chakra. I reached out and grabbed her shoulders. Her head snapped up in surprise. I smiled as warm as possible and nodded confidently.

She could do it. It doesn't matter if she'll get hurt doing it. What she'll gain standing up for herself is worth so much more than my selfish reasons for wanting her safe and sound. She'll get hurt but I know she'll be better for it. I believed in her.

Hinata is so incredibly amazing and talented and kind and I find it hilariously ironic that the girl with all-seeing eyes can't see that in herself. It was times like this that I wished I still had a voice so I could tell her all these things.

So instead I just wrote it out.

She blushed tomato-red and her stutter returned in full force as she tried to refute all my flowery praises.

Grinning, I slung my arm around her shoulders and continued our walk to the Academy. It was just as we approached the fenced yard that a stream of kiddies came rushing through the door. Among the aspiring ninja-to-be was short, pale-eyed girl with messy brown hair.

"Nee-sama! And Sora-neesan!" Hanabi-chan shouted as she ran forward, barreling into her sister's open arms.

"Hello, Imouto." Hinata murmured with a soft smile reserved only for her little sister. The little Firecracker looked up at me with a face-splitting grin and I reached down to ruffle her perpetually messy hair. So cute.

Behind us there was a gasp, then a whispered, "Hey! It's her!" then someone was tugging on the back of my blue shirt. Curious, I turned around and saw three goggle-wearing kiddies standing me.

Konohamaru released his hold in my shirt when I turned, he pointed small finger up at me. "You're good friends with the Boss, ey?"

'The Boss' meaning Naruto, then yes. I nodded with an amused smile on my lips. The brown-haired boy placed his fists on his sides and gave me a gap-toothed grin and in the next second Hanabi-chan was clinging to my arm and glaring at the boy. That's an interesting reaction.

"What do you want with Sora-neesan?" she just about growled?

In reaction, Konohamaru scowled and the boy with glasses behind him sighed while the pigtailed girl rolled her eyes at them. I'm sensing a history. As sparks practically began to fly between their heated glares I looked at Hinata for information, unfortunately she looked just as lost as I was.

"Imouto... who is this?" she asked quietly. Hanabi-chan grimaced cutely, though I'm sure that wasn't the look she was going for.

"He's annoying." she said coldly.

Konohamaru's jaw dropped.

I slapped a hand to my mouth to smother a startled laugh. I've never seen the little Firecracker act this way with anyone but Neji! And to treat Konohamaru of all people this way!

Hinata gasped, astonished by her baby sister's attitude. "Imouto!" Hanabi-chan at least had enough sense to look apologetic, releasing her endearingly possessive hold on my arm.

"...sorry." she mumbled, not really sorry at all.

I was still trying not to laugh at the offended look on Konohamaru's face. He was like, two years older than the Firecracker.

"...don't encourage her! This isn't funny, Sora-chan." Mouse whispered semi-reproachfully to me.

'You're right, this isn't funny. It's adorable.' I signed to Hinata, I enjoyed the look of exasperation she gave me. She then said something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like 'Of course you would think so.' I raised a brow at her and she blushed, realizing I'd heard her.

The cheek.

"Hey! Hey!" the Little Leaf called my attention back to him. All three of the goggled kiddies were looking at me with wide eyes. "You know the Boss's secret hand code too! Hey, can you teach us that?"

Naruto's what now?

Konohamaru's request was followed by excited agreements from the other two beside him. When even Hanabi-chan looked up at me with sparkles in her pale eyes I held in a sigh. I really didn't have the free time needed for teaching sign language. It'd be really nice to but I'm going to be completely swamped with the Exams that are starting tomorrow.

Even if I fail in the preliminary matches I'll still be over-my-head busy trying to prepare for the Konoha Crush. The kiddies were still looking up at me with expectant and sparkly eyes.

Agh.

...so cute!

You have no willpower when it comes to cute things do you? Terra remarked dryly.

I almost rolled my eyes, 'Careful, the pure irony in that statement might kill me.' my other half scoffed.

I can't do nothing. I also can't make the time but maybe... maybe I could make a manual for learning sign language?

Oooh! Just like how I made the Fuinjutsu for Dummies book for Naruto! Granted, he never used it, it was a good idea. That's what I'll do then. I smacked my fist in my open palm, startling the kiddies and Hinata. I pulled out my pen and pad and wrote.

"I don't have the time to teach you personally but give me some time and I'll have something for you guys." I promised with a grin.

I tied my hitai-ate securely around my neck and spun around in front of the mirror once more to check my reflection. it was a good thing Hinata and Hanabi-chan had come along with me when I went shopping, they helped me pick out my new outfit.

I'd chosen to keep it simple with a black sports bra and left out the chest wrappings, the stupid bra was uncomfortably tight as it is. I wondered that maybe I should've bought a bigger one yesterday? Then I would've had to buy a C-cup. It'd be like admitting defeat and resigning myself to being top-heavy.

Maybe I should go on a die-yeah, I can't even finish that thought seriously. I can't go on a diet! Not only would I be depriving my very active body of nutrients and protein it desperately needs but my Uzumaki metabolism would straight up rebel against me.

Anyways, dark sports bra, a mesh under armor top that went to my elbows and bottoms that went to my knees. It was nearly the height of summer in Fire country and who knows how humid it'll be in TG-44. So the only thing I had left was some of those dark spandex kunoichi shorts most my classmates used to wear and a black sleeveless tunic with my kunoichi boots. All of it shinobi grade materials.

I stopped and placed my hand on my hips, satisfied with my outfit. It'll probably be trashed a couple days from now but at least it wouldn't be my blue shirt ruined beyond repair.

I withheld a frown at overall dark pallet but reminded myself that dark colors camouflage better in the forested surroundings, also... blood stains don't really show up on black.

You are scarily pragmatic sometimes. Terra chimed in, caution lacing her voice. It's when you start being sensible that I have to worry, Sky-girl.

I rolled my eyes, 'And what have you been doing lately? You've been unusually quiet these past few weeks.' I asked the voice in my head. I got the impression the she shrugged in response.

A bit of cleaning. Some sunbathing. Working out the details of some of the more insane 'plans'. Locking dark and scary things away in 'The Box' and burying said box. Maintaining your loose sanity. Y'know... the usual.

I nodded, knowing the effect was entirely pointless. For all her snide comments and criticisms, Terra is my primary coping mechanism when it comes to the more extremes elements of this second life.

Seven years ago when I first witnessed the impossible realities of my current world, I broke. Unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Even before that night, when it was just me and Kaa-chan I was barely functioning on a daily basis. Whenever I would even think about my first life I would shut down mentally and physically until my Kaa-chan coaxed me back out of my shell.

I created Terra as I was dying again that night, when I found out everything I knew was wrong, when I was laying on the cold ground drowning in my own blood because a shinobi had slit-My-THROAT-

Deep breaths. Terra reminded me.

In...

...out.

Two chakra signatures entered through the front door. "Sora-chan! The bastard's here!"

I unclench my fists and grimace at the red crescent pattern left behind on my palms. Did I have any gloves?

I gathered my weapons pouch and tools bag before I headed into the main room. I think I had a pair of gloves in the kitchen for when I cut peppers. Entering the room I see Naruto has already made himself comfortable at the cluttered kitchen table while Sasuke was standing awkwardly at the entrance still.

Both sets of eyes landed on me when I entered, the Hero cocked his head to the side as he took in my new appearance. "Eh? You got new clothes?"

I nodded and raised my hands. 'For the Exam. It'll probably be rough and I don't want to ruin my favorite shirt.'

"'Ya really think so, Sora-chan?"

I nodded again as I laid down my pouches and went over the table and began sorting out the seals. I waved Sasuke over as Naruto excitedly leaned over the table trying to see what I was giving him. When he tried to reach for some of the specialized paper bombs I slapped his hand away, he made a small noise of disappointment in response but I was unmoved. The memory of him nearly blowing himself up was still fresh in my mind.

"What this?" Duckie asked as he inspected one of the tags from his designated pile.

"Hm? Oh that's one of Sora-chan's Nightlight's. Here," the blonde quickly snatched a tag from his own pile, "it works like this; you hold it like this and you add a little bit of chakra-only a little bit or else you'll hurt your eyes. Annnnd-" a glowing baseball-sized light appeared in the palm of his hand. Even though he added the least amount of chakra he was capable of, it was still pretty bright.

Sasuke's eyes widened at the light before looking at the paper in his own hand. Then I felt his chakra pulse into it and-I flinched away when a ball of blinding white light formed in his palm.

My palms went to my eyes as I tried to rub the spots from my vision. I heard Naruto snicker, "That was more than a little!" he taunted.

Sasuke scowled, embarrassment rising in his chakra. "Whatever. Am I done here?" he asked impatiently.

Blinking away the last spots, I reached out and grabbed a couple Revival seals and pushed the pile towards him. Giving him ten paper bombs, a handful of Taser tags -he eyed those warily- three empty multi-layered storage seals and a flourished storage seal filled with a couple hundred gallons of pressurized water. Just like he asked all those weeks ago.

His eyes traced the 'Water' Kanji in the center of the paper and he gave me a nod, "Thanks." he mumbled before gathering the papers and escaping. I blinked in surprise after his retreating back. I sometimes forget that he was actually raised to have manners befitting a prodigious clan heir.

I swatted the Hero's wandering hand away from the explosives again, giving him a warning look. He pouted at me with his big blue eyes and I proceeded to lecture him on the safety precautions and proper handling of explosive materials again.

The night passed and the morning came too soon for my liking. I rose from a restless sleep with the rising sun.

It was the day.

The three of us met up at our red bridge walked to the Academy together. As we entered the yard I saw that all around us were genin of different nations from all across the Elemental nations. My eyes darted to the different hitai-ates and I could pick out shinobi from each of the Big Five. The sheer amount of refined chakra in a singular place was giving me a headache. No doubt, if I needed to find someone in this mess of people it would be near impossible.

You-know-who is in there, y'know? Terra reminded me. I held in a grimace.

'I know. But maybe if we don't draw too much attention to ourselves then he won't notice me.'

My other-half scoffed, Wishful thinking. Maybe if we'd entered another exam or gone in with anyone other than these two chuckleheads. But, no. He's going to see you and when he does, his face will be hilarious.

I sighed.

The Hero grinned beside me, his excitement was barely contained. Duckie was calmer on the outside but I knew he was just as excited as Naruto was.

"Let's go."

I trailed behind them as we passed the teams doing warm-up stretches in the yard and went inside. The halls were less crowded and we easily made it to the staircase at the end of the hall and went up one floor and noticed that there was a group of the younger shinobi gathered around some commotion.

I recognized the scene.

Reaching out I grabbed Naruto and Sasuke sleeves, getting their attention before they went too far. I raised my hands and signed. 'I think we should avoid drawing attention to ourselves.'

They both frowned at me. One in confusion and one in suspicion.

"Why, Sora-chan?"

Crap. I was hoping they'd just listen to me without asking why. They both waited on my answer expectantly. 'Wouldn't it be better to stay unnoticed and observe our competition? Gather information and get the upper hand.' I tried to reason. My logic was sound... I hoped.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at me. Suspicion rising further in his chakra, he didn't buy it. Naruto grinned at me and slapped a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry 'bout it, Sora-chan! We can take anyone that comes our way, believe it!"

Sasuke didn't verbalize it but he nodded, silently agreeing with Naruto's assumption. Crap. They were actually agreeing on something. So does this mean that they've agreed to ignore me? Sasuke turned around and walked confidently towards the crowd, Naruto grabbed my wrist and pulled me forward after him.

Yes, they were choosing to ignore me.

There was a grunt and a sound of an impact and I saw him. My previous thoughts flew out of my head as my heartbeat picked up and I tried not to grin too widely when I saw a boy with glossy black hair styled into a bowl cut wearing a full-body green spandex suit.

It was Rock Lee in person.

This was so awesome!

I tilted my head. Rock Lee looked totally trashed where he was lying on the floor. Rock Lee doesn't get trashed. Something wasn't right with this. Was I forgetting something?

"Please... let us through." a brunette girl pleaded. She was wearing a pink sleeveless qipao and had a couple scroll holsters-and this just had to be Tenten of team Gai. The hair buns really should've been the giveaway.

Tenten's head whipped to the side as she was hit. Hagane-san just hit Tenten, knocking her to the floor. Wait, why were Team Gai even here in the first place?

Was nobody really paying any attention when they went up one flight of stairs? And did no one else here feel the disruption in their chakra systems? The Genjutsu AOE was subtle but it was really nettling me right now, like a bug constantly buzzing around my ears. And another thing! No one here actually recognized Hagane-san and Kamizuki-san?! They were henge'd as themselves for crying out loud!

I know for a fact that we've met them on several occasions already when returning from a mission out of Village. I've had conversations with Hagane-san before! Granted, it was usually as he was forcefully ejecting me from Konoha Barrier Team's building but he was always nice about it.

"-kids like you think you can pass? We are just thinning out those that will fail anyway. What's wrong with that?" Hagane-san sneered convincingly.

Sasuke stepped forward from the crowd but I refused to follow when Naruto gently tugged my wrist. I was trying my best to blend in with all the other nameless genin that I didn't recognize.

Duckie smirked haughtily. "I agree, but... you will let me pass through. And also remove this surrounding created with Genjustu. I'm going to the third floor."

Hagane-san regarded Sasuke carefully. "Ah, so you noticed."

"Sora." Oh, crap. "You were the first realize it, weren't you?" Duckie asked, turning to look at me with a gleam in his eyes. Consequently drawing everyone's attention to me. "Of our team, your-"

"-You!?" hissed a voice from the crowd, cutting off whatever Sasuke was about to say. My heart stilled and my entire body went completely rigid as I recognized that very unwelcome voice.

He noticed me.

Crap, crap, crap, craaaap.

Reluctantly my eyes drifted towards the voice of the short-haired boy standing next to his teammates.

Violet met seething pale.

I raised my hand and smiled weakly at the boy.

Neji Hyuuga was glaring at me, an impressive scowl on his face.

Terra took this moment to burst into cackling laughter. His face IS priceless! He looks ready to burst already!

'I am sooo dead.' I moaned inwardly.

Terra giggled some more. I wished I could slap her.

Ah. At least his hair has grown back some at least. she pointed out optimistically.

I wanted nothing more than to disappear into thin air as the Hyuuga stalked towards me. Cursing Sasuke out in every imaginable way I could think of. Why couldn't he just listen to me?

Written Exam Arc,

Chapter Twenty-Five: "Chuunin Selection Exam"

END

A/N: Haah. So... plot twist? Neji and Sora have history. Bad history. Remember that Hinata-Sora Interlude I mentioned all those weeks ago? Well, guess what's happening next chapter? In regards to last chapter's Author Question. Wow, a surprising amount of people want to see Sora vs. Ino. Don't worry, I've got some plans for that.

As for this chapter, I'm a bit disappointed with how much trouble I had with it and it's overall length or lack thereof. How come when ever I do a super long chapter the next one comes up lacking? Yeesh. Next one will be long because it will hold about seven years worth of friendship in one setting.

Thank you guys for all your input last chapter! You gave me a lot to think about concerning the match-ups!

Author Question!

"Your favorite rivalry? Any fandom or universe is allowed."

I'd have to pick Link and Ganon. It is the most epic of rivalries in my book. They literally go at it again and again for all of known time. If not them then... Kakashi and Gai for obvious reasons.

Wuv yew all! 'Till next time guys!

-Nanami

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