A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Dark Forest Arc, Life-risking Battles

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: Ahhh… it would've been so much easier and faster if I'd done the canon matches, huh? Oh well, guess you'll just have to suffer through my attempted version of events, even if they took twice as long to write. Even gave me writer's block for a week. My mind just decided, nope. This wasn't happening. But I got this done finally! Hope you like them, guys! Brief warning though, you might hate me by the end of this chapter... enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the cannon characters! Really. Don't you know this by now?

WARNING! RATED M! I'm not even going to dignify this with a response. We're at the prelims. What do you think is going to happen?! They're all going to decide the rest of the matches with hugs and cuddles!?

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Thirty-Seven: "Life-risking Battles"

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." -Anon E. muss

I rolled my shoulders back, testing the range of movement. I felt the uncomfortable pull of the stitches and ignored the dull ache that rose up, focusing on the task in front of me. Kinuta Dosu. One of that Orochimaru's subordinates and one of the guys that tried to kill us the other day. I don't know whether it's my good luck, or his bad luck.

The sleeve was covering his arm was broken, I was sure. I could also see the limp in his leg from when Sor-from when his leg was cut. Looking at him, I had the feeling he was grinning at me from under those bandages. "Well, here we are again, Sasuke-kun. And sooner than I could've hoped, too..."

I raised an eyebrow, "Are you that eager to get your ass kicked again? If I remember correctly, things didn't end so well for you last time." His grin dropped after I said that. Briefly, his eyes darted up to the second floor. That annoyed me.

I'm the one he should be worried about.

"Are, -cough, cough- are you both ready?" the referee asked. We both nodded, he stepped back. "Then, begin!"

He made the first move, trying to close the distance between us and I jumped backwards to stay away from that gauntlet still on his arm. I channeled chakra into my eyes and activated the Sharingan, he continued moving forward and I reached into my pouch, pulling out a handful of shuriken and throwing them. He raised the gauntlet and deflected them, the moment his sleeve fell down I could see the dented piece of junk on his obviously broken arm. The fact he's using it despite that means his fighting style must mostly revolve around that tool.

I leapt backwards again, flipping and weaving my hands into seals, mixing my chakra, changing it. I predicted his movements with the Sharingan and fired consecutive fireballs in his path. He dodged the first two by leaping to the side but he wouldn't be fast enough to avoid the third. His body was engulfed in the flames-the fire exploded outwards!? It burst back upwards and away from him, dispersing. He was standing still with his gauntlet upraised, chakra swirling through it. Did he do that with just his attack?

He ran towards me again, chakra still pumping through the gauntlet as he held it out. I pulled out two kunai from my holster and threw them forward. He twisted his body, not fully dodging. One tore across his shoulder and he raised his gauntlet to deflect the other one. The moment my weapon impacted against the gauntlet there was an ear-piercing screech that rung out. I cringed, hand instinctively going to my ear to protect it. He took advantage of that, breaking past my left and-ARGH! I choked on the sudden flare of pain. He had lodged his fist into my left shoulder, in the middle of my injury. I lurched forward and spun on my heel, my hands flying into seals again. I felt the heat licking my throat before I opened my mouth and released it, breathing a line of fire. He jumped, landing four meters away and tearing off his smoldering sleeve, discarding it.

I felt warmth running down the side of my face and lifted my hand to touch my ears, when I pulled it back my fingers were bloody. I felt faintly nauseous but other than that I was fine, I wasn't collapsing like Naruto and Lee had. I glanced up to see his ears were bleeding, too. So Lee had broken it the other day with his attack. Now he can't use it without taking damage himself. As useful as that is to know, that didn't help me. I had gotten a day's rest but that didn't mean I was near my best. As I am now, I won't do well in a stamina battle, my injuries are holding me back too much. I can already feel the wear on the stitches in my back. I'm lucky that his last punch didn't open up anything. He's going to continue to come afer me and make this a close-combat fight, if that's the case then I need to end this quickly. To do that I-in that instant, a memory of Lee's voice rang through my mind.

"I see. Thank you for the tip." Lee said, then he began to untie the bandages from around his arms. "Then this needs to be resolved as quickly as possible."

I remember every movement in perfect clarity. He'd called it... Primary Lotus.

"Haah… this much damage even on softened ground... what a terrifying technique." he lifted he arm and his sleeve fell away to show his gauntlet. "But now it's my turn."

I wonder... I focused on the images and the Sharingan spun in my skull. I could see Lee's movements in my head as clearly as I had that day, every twist and angle.

I moved and then I was below Dosu, right palm on the ground. Not nearly as fast as Lee had done. Thrusting my leg up, my foot connected solidly with his jaw, his eyes widened in recognition as he flew into the air. It was too late though. I pushed off the ground after him, aligning my body parallel with his. I lifted my hand to his back and pushed, twisting my body mid-air to gain momentum. I swung my leg, aiming for his ribs. He tried to block my attack, crying out when he foolishly used his broken arm. That didn't stop me. I spun my upper body again, feeling the burn of my injuries as I did, swinging my fist and bringing it down on his face. Hard. He began his rapid descent through the air and I followed up with another punch to the solar plexus as I was still spinning with my own momentum, sending him falling towards the ground even faster.

-he pulled his leg back and kicked him in the head. Naruto went down and his body rolled across the mud. He didn't get back up again.

"A weakling like you shouldn't mess with guys like us." he sneered.

I bared my teeth and swung my leg, bringing my foot down on his stomach a final time.

"Tiger Blitz!"

His body bounced off the now-cracked stone, the bandages around his face staining red. I clumsily landed on the floor, barely managing to land on my feet instead of tumbling. My breathing was heavy as the referee went to check on the Sound nin. There was no point, he was out cold. I grit my jaw, still seeing the images of Lee's fight in my mind even as my eyes stopped spinning. I wasn't nearly as fast as he'd been. My every one of my muscles burned in what I recognized as overuse. That technique isn't one I'll be able to rely on very much if it leaves me like this. I need to work on it more if I'm going to use it again. Name could use some work, too.

The referee stood, raising his arm. "I'm stopping the fight here, -cough- and thus the winner is: Uchiha Sasuke!"

"YEAH!" the Idiot shouted immediately, "Sasuke! Hahaha! You... you! You're so lame for getting all beat up!"

I scoffed, catching my breath. "That damn... total moron. He shouldn't sound so happy trying to insult me."

Before I could turn and head back up the stairs one of what looked like the medical team called out to me. Behind him the were moving Dosu onto a stretcher, his jonin-sensei standing nearby. "Uchiha Sasuke. Let the medical team treat your injuries now."

I frowned and rolled my shoulder back, feeling the pull of each of my stitches. That's good. I don't think any of them broke thankfully so I can probably put off going with the medics and watch the rest of the matches. That is, unless... I glanced up at Kakashi out of the corner of my eye. He glanced down at us from his book and waved them off. "You guys aren't needed. I'll take him straight to the hospital if he needs it."

The Iryo-nin frowned in obvious disapproval, giving me a scrutinizing look that I ignored in favor of turning back to the stairs leading to the upper floor. Making it back to the top I got the feeling that there was... something off. Like there was more tension in the air than before. Kakashi looked like he was reading his book, but... it was just a feeling.

He caught my stare and eye-smiled. "Interesting finishing move." he commented casually.

I shrugged my good shoulder, replying equally as casual. "Needs work."

He hummed, turning his attention back to the illicit novel in his hands as Naruto began getting worked up about his turn to fight. I frowned, second guessing myself. Maybe it's just my imagination. Moving back to my previous spot near the railing my eyes glanced over Sora -still unconscious and slumped against the back wall. Hinata was kneeling beside her, applying some kind of ointment to the senbon wounds- for a moment before Ino was in my face, loudly.

"KYAA! Sasuke-kun~ You did amazingly! That guy really didn't stand a chance against someone as strong as Sasuke-kun!"

Naruto scoffed, "Whatever! I could've taken that guy in half the time it took you, bastard."

I edged away from Ino, going to stand between Lee and Naruto and leaned my arms on the railing. "Tch. You wish, loser."

"Sasuke-kun!" I glanced over at Lee, his fists were clenched at his sides, eyes hard. He was giving me that same look he did on the first day.

I smirked, turning to look up at the next match-up.

I'm looking forward to that fight you owe me, Rock Lee.

"Will the next participants please, -cough, cough- come down?"

Aburame Shino vs. Temari

Shino, huh? And that girl from Sand... I don't know how strong Shino is in terms of skill but it'll be interesting to see what he can do. With a quiet wish of luck from Hinata, Shino descended the stairs and stood across from the girl from Sand, Temari.

"Begin!"

Neither of them moved first. The girl shifted her posture, jutting her hip out and crossing her arms over her chest. It looks like she's not taking this seriously. She's cocky. "Are you going to wait to see what I do first?" she called out.

"I would advise not underestimating me." he said calmly, hands in his pockets and looking collected.

She scoffed.

It was right after that we heard the buzzing. My eyes widened when I noticed the ground at her feet start to turn black. "What the-!?" her smirk was gone now as her head whipped around.

"These guys are called Kikaichū. They attack their prey in groups and consume it's chakra." Shino explained, "If I attack you with this many, then the match will be over."

That was all the motivation she needed to move. Temari's face twisted as her foot slid back, "Oh-Gross!" she shouted, unfolding the fan on her back and swinging. "Wind Style: Wind Scythe!"

In the next moment there was a torrent of wind so strong I had to hold on to the railing, Naruto slipped and rolled backwards with a shout. The bugs surrounding her flew off in all directions. Shino attempted to use his bugs as a shield but they were blown away as well, he was hit head on with the attack and slammed into the wall below us, leaving a small crater in it. He didn't get back up.

"Winner of the fourth match, Temari!"

Shino was carried away on a stretcher after that and the girl from Sand climbed back up the stairs with a disgusted expression on her face. Wind justu is her specialty then, and she has skill with it if she was able to take down her opponent in one move. Probably a long-range fighter. If it comes to it and I end up facing her then I should try and get in close, see how she handles hand-to-hand, but... she wasn't who I wanted to fight.

My eyes moved to her teammate, Gaara.

The names changed on the board.

Hyuuga Neji vs. Hyuuga Hinata

Strength

I took a deep breath, trying to calm my racing heart.

"You are not suited to being a ninja, Hinata-sama. Forfeit now."

Neji-niisan is telling me to forfeit. Kiba had told me to do the same thing before I came down here. It... hurt to hear him tell me that, but I know that he is just worried about me. And it's not as if he doesn't have a reason to be either.

It was Neji-niisan who I was facing after all.

Now Neji-niisan is telling me that I only entered the Exams because Kiba-kun and Shino-kun needed me to. But... that wasn't true. I entered because I... I wanted a chance to prove to myself that I was strong. That I am getting stronger every day... right? I-yes. Right. I-I may not be as strong as the others or improving as fast but... but I am getting stronger along with everyone else. I know I am. I closed my eyes briefly, remembering Naruto-kun's words from the other day. How he was able to not back down even when faced with such a difficult decision. Just earlier I saw how Sora-chan stood up and continued to fight even though her chakra network was in such turmoil, a smile on her face as she gave it her all.

How could I do any less than either of them?

"N-Ne-" I stopped, feeling my stutter spring up once again. Remember what Sora-chan taught you, r-remember. I squared my shoulders and breathed in through my nose deeply, thinking of my happy place.

Under the plum tree in the gardens. The sky is blue and the air smells like Hahaue's favorite perfume. Everything is quiet.

In...

…out.

I locked gazes with Neji-niisan, moving into the beginning stance and activating my Byakugan. I... I wasn't going to run. Not from him, because... there is something that I needed to do.

"Neji-niisan. I apologize, but I will not withdraw."

We began. But unlike all the other times we've sparred in the past, Neji-niisan wasn't holding back against me. He was pushing me like he never has before. In no time I was struggling for breaths as my muscles burned with effort. My heart picked up in speed when I spotted an opening in his guard!

I slid my foot back, pushing myself forward faster as I swung for his exposed torso. He lurched backwards and I'm not sure whether my attack landed. He came at me again but I did not relent, returning every one of his attacks with my own. I lunged forward. My attack never connected. I felt him strike my chest. I coughed, spitting up blood. One of his hands had struck my left lung, the other blocked the tenketsu to my right arm. I could feel my chakra halting, it was going numb. With my left arm I knocked his hand away from my chest, continuing to attack. He grabbed it, releasing my other arm he blocked the left arm, too. Unrelenting, I thrust my right hand forward again. I saw his eyes widen before he struck my chest again, pushing me away and to the ground. I fell to my hands and knees, gasping for air that wouldn't stay in my lungs.

"Withdraw." he said, voice cold. "This fight is already over."

I was panting on the floor, my chest ached from his attacks and my arms were tingling from numbness. All I could taste in my mouth was blood, I could even feel it running down my chin to my neck... but I... I wasn't done yet. Not yet.

"I... I won't forfeit. B-Because I..." I began to push myself up off the floor. I met his eyes again, "I promised myself something, Neji-siisan."

His eyes narrowed sharply at me.

"Do... do you think that it can really happen?" I asked quietly, carefully placing my newest treasure in my lap. Sora-chan looked down at me and tilted her head curiously with a funny look on her face as she scrunched up her nose. I laughed, knowing that she was thinking too literally again. "No, no! Not actual animals, Sora-chan." I traced my finger over the ink writing on the spine of the book, "But, can someone weak really be of any help to someone so strong?"

I hadn't thought so. I used to think that only those born strong could be strong, just like Neji-niisan. It used to hurt to believe that.

One corner of her mouth had lifted in a smile.

'Strength isn't simply about who is the fastest or who can hit the hardest. There are many types of strength, and you-' she tapped her finger over my heart, it felt like it wanted to burst in my chest. '-have one of the rarest strengths of them all. Hinata, your heart makes you one of the strongest people I know.'

Neji-niisan has always been hurting for as long as I can remember. If I... if I can show him that even someone like me can overcome my fate then maybe... maybe I'll be able to help heal his heart. I wanted to help him more than anything else. iI know that Sora-chan often gets upset with Neji-niisan for how unfriendly he acts sometimes but she didn't know him when we were younger. She wouldn't understand. I remember... when we were younger, just how kind he was. How he still is. Neji-niisan still has a kind heart, even if it's buried a bit deeper than everyone else's.

"If you continue this foolish course, then I won't be responsible for what happens. Stop acting like a spoiled brat and withdraw. You've lost."

I stood on wobbly legs, "I... won't."

His face darkened, he was beginning to get angry. "You have reached the limit of your abilities. This is as far as-"

-"PPPPPPPPWWWWHHHEEE!" There was a loud whistle that rang through the room. My eyes darted up to the second floor to see-it was Sora-chan! Sora-chan was grinning down at me, one arm around Naruto-kun's neck as he helped her to stand, he was also grinning so brightly as he looked at me.

"YOU CAN DO IT, HINATAAA!" he cheered at the top of his lungs.

"HINATA! KICK HIS ASS!" Kiba-kun shouted from above, I also heard Akamaru's cheerful barking.

My eyesight began to blur with hot tears that I refused to let fall. All of my friends were here. They are all watching me, cheering me on. I... I won't let them down! I locked eyes with Neji-niisan once more and lifted my hands, forcing my trembling lips to smile. "I... I don't go back on my word! That is... also my ninja way!"

I will help you, Neji-niisan. You are my family and I have learned from my precious friends how there are no limits a person will go to for the people they love. Shino-kun, Kiba-kun, Naruto-kun. Sora-chan... all of my precious friends...

Thank you.

Neji-niisan's expression thundered darkly, he raised his hands and assumed a fighting stance.

"Come."

I moved once more.

I wasn't as fast as I had been at the start but I did not stop. Neji-niisan did not seem fazed in the least as I continued to strike at him, deflecting each of my attacks to the side. I was too slow and he struck, slamming his palm under my chin and sending me back onto the ground.

I coughed again, blood splattering against the stone and staining my yellow hoodie. I grit my teeth and forced my arms to push off the ground, getting to my knees.

"Why do you stand...?" he asked, his voice was quieter now. I could finally hear the frustration in his voice. "If you keep pushing yourself, you'll die. Stop doing this to yourself, you can't barely stand as it is. Your struggling is pointless."

"There... there is a point, Neji… niisan." I murmured, feeling lightheaded now as I stood. I was still smiling, -I think- just like Naruto-kun and Sora-chan. Their smiles always make me feel like everything is going to be okay... so, maybe... I thought I could do the same? "I may not be as strong in the same way as you... I know that, but... even someone like me could help someone who is suffering... like you."

Anger. Frustration. Pain. I didn't need my Byakugan to know what he was feeling.

His Byakugan activated and he dashed forward. Before I could move wave of pain erupted from my chest, from my heart, turning my vision white. I choked on blood. I didn't even realize when I fell onto the ground again. Darkness began to cloud at the corners of my vision. I closed my heavy eyes for only what seemed like a second and when I opened them again, I saw salmon-colored hair and periwinkle eyes, and behind her was a head of shaggy brown hair and narrow onyx eyes along with blonde hair and eyes as blue as the sky.

"Hinata! Hinata, hey, talk to me!" Kiba-kun shouted. I could hear Akamaru's whines as well.

Naruto-kun's eyes were so wide, "Hey! Are you alright!? Hinata!?"

Sora-chan had a scary look on her face as she whistled over to somebody on the side. She... was probably going to be upset with Neji-niisan. I smiled up at them, each of their faces fading from my vision.

Did I... do my best?

不安 Unease

"Winner, Hyuuga Neji!" Hayate-sensei called out.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Naruto, Kiba and Sora vault over the railing and down into the arena. I glanced over and saw the usual look of indifference on Sasuke's face. Jeez, didn't anything effect that guy?

"Can't say I didn't see that coming though..." I sighed.

"Too bad for Hinata..." Chōji said beside me. "She looked like she was trying really hard, too."

It was a drag that it turned out this way for her, but she never stood a chance against a guy like that. It just goes to show what kind of guys are entered in this thing. They're monsters.

That Neji guy was still talking to Naruto who moved away from Hinata's side, out of the way of the medics, unlike Kiba who was being forced to step back . "-end, a loser is a loser. They cannot change. She failed to understand that. You would do best to learn that, too, before it gets you killed."

Naruto's mouth twisted into a snarl, "Why you-!" he then spun on his heel and dashed towards him like an idiot, falling for the taunt. Before he could get too far, that guy with the bowl-cut stepped in front of Naruto, stopping his charge.

But neither of them seemed to have noticed Sora getting to her feet because their jaws dropped to the floor as she ran past the both of them. The Hyuuga smirked as Sora fisted her hand and-and then Kakashi-sensei was there and hauling her over his shoulder.

"Not so fast." he drawled, already walking back towards the stairs and ignoring how her legs were still kicking in the air. As he turned she faced Neji again and she began to sign even though I doubt he had any idea what she was saying.

'Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!' her signing became nearly incoherent with how wildly she was waving her hands. '-how dare you-only wanted-I'll' she began to mime choking him. I heard Sasuke sigh from the side, I looked over to see him pinching the bridge of his nose. Eventually Hinata was loaded onto a stretcher taken away. Kurenai-sensei nearly had to restrain Kiba. The arena was cleared and Kakashi-sensei set Sora back against the wall, saying something to her that made her very reluctantly stop glaring holes into the side of the Hyuuga's head and the next match was called without any more excitement.

Kankurō vs. Tenten

The girl from the Hyuuga and bowl-cut's team hopped over the railing and I spotted the guy from Sand that looked like a Kabuki actor start to walk down the stairs.

"GOOD LUCK, TENTEEEEN!" the bowl-cut shouted at the top of his lungs, making me want to cover my ears. Jeez, what a loud guy. Hayate-sensei gave the word and the woman hopped back a few feet, putting a safe distance between them while watching him carefully.

In response the Kabuki-guy began to unwrap the bandages around his chest, dropping that thing on his back. He called out to her in a taunting voice, "Are you just gonna stand there all day or do you plan on attacking?"

Her eyes narrowed at the Kabuki-guy, she then reached back into the bag on her hip, pulling out and unfolding a Bō staff. She's going close quarters? She spun it around in her hands, looking like impressive and giving off the idea that she knew how to use it. Kabuki-guy just smirked, unconcerned. She charged forwards and he made no move to dodge. The woman didn't hesitate in her attack, thrusting the staff and-'CRACK!'

And his... his head split open.

She made a hole in the middle of his face, caving it in. The entire hall was silent. Wait, is that-I blinked. Wood. He's a puppet user, duh. The head of the puppet began clicking, spinning around once and eliciting a surprised shout from the woman as it tore the Bō out of her hands with it's sharp-looking teeth, she jumped away before the arms of the puppet could wrap around her.

"So, you like using ninja tools?" she asked, smiling, pulling out a scroll and unfurling it. In a small poof of smoke a heavy, spiked ball appeared and crashed threateningly on the stone floor, the other end of the chain in her hand. Her smile widened. "Me too!"

I swallowed thickly. There's no doubt about it, women are terrifying. Speaking of scary... I glanced behind me, back at the wall. Sora had finally settled down and was slumping against wall, practically radiating depression. Then I glanced at Ino who was chewing on her lip and also glancing backwards. Sora caught Ino glancing and both of them tensed up before awkwardly breaking eye-contact.

I sighed, "...troublesome."

Chōji looked over at me when I moved away from the railing and I nodded towards the back, he understood without me needing to say anything.

Sora didn't meet my eyes as I took a seat next to her.

There were still sounds of wood being smashed followed by cursing. The fight seemed to be going to the woman's favor by the sounds of it.

I yawned widely, liking nothing more than to take a nap. Preferably someplace where sunlight can reach the ground.

Sora yawned, too. Looking like she might fall asleep any second as it is. She finally glanced over at me, briefly. I took that as my cue.

"So... Ino." I start, quietly enough that no one could overhear on accident.

Sora's shoulders rose up defensively, pulling her knees closer to her chest. Because of course she couldn't make this easy for me.

"She feels like shit." I continue.

A pause. Then a skeptical glance.

It's true though, Ino has been feeling like shit ever since the written test. She hasn't said anything, of course, it was still Ino. She still had her pride to maintain. But more than once over the last few days when I was on watch, Ino had woken up from a dead sleep, shaking with tears running down her face. I was as confused as I was worried about it at first until I remembered the first test.

…Ino hasn't realized it yet, but whenever Sora's name is brought up her hand goes up to rub her neck unconsciously. It doesn't take a jonin to figure out what she saw when she was in there.

I rest my arm over my knee, sitting more comfortably. "She knows she shouldn't have done what she did."

Another pause. Then she pulled out her pad and pen, her eyes oddly dull and looking resigned. Why?

"What did she tell you?"

"Nothing." I said honestly, she was even more skeptical than before. I shrugged helplessly, "Usually I can't get Ino to shut up but, she hasn't said a word about what she saw. She didn't even say it was you. I'd guessed."

She made and 'oh' with her mouth, going back to toying with the pockets on the flak jacket and pretending that I wasn't trying to bug her about this thing that no one wants to deal with. I swear, it's like walking through a minefield talking to a girl. One wrong step and things will blow up in your face. I sighed, taking another approach. Distraction. And then if that doesn't work than I'll just ask, directly.

Watching her for her reaction out of the corner of my eye, I spoke. "I can't blame her for not wanting to talk about what she saw. I mean, I've seen what's in your head firsthand and wished I didn't know. It's scary in there."

She deadpanned. "We all swore never to speak of that trip again." she wrote, a reluctant smile attempting to form at the corner of her lips.

"It was the camping trip from hell." I agreed. "Though, the last few days might give it a run for it's money,"

She scoffed, scowling as she nodded in agreement. So, something bad happened to them out there. Worse then I previously thought if she's acting like this. At first I figured it was just a bad fight going by Sasuke's slight limp and how he was favoring his right but Sora wasn't even paying him any attention. If it was just that then she'd be bugging the hell out of him like she'd do to any of us if we were hurt. Her behavior and the fact Naruto's been practically hovering over her since she got back means that something bad happened to Sora. That something probably has to do with why every inch of her arms were covered in bandages yet now it was only her left bicep that was wrapped up. And probably to do with that ink that appeared on her skin mid-fight. From the right bicep. I know that Fuinjutsu is kind of her thing, but still, I've never seen her use a Fuinjutsu like that before.

My head fell back against the wall.

…why couldn't I be sleeping right now?

"TENTEN! FEEL THE PASSION OF YOUR YOUTH! WE ARE HERE WITH YOU!"

"CHEER HARDER, LEE!"

"YES, GAI-SENSEI!"

Yeah, that's why I wasn't sleeping.

Sora let out a breath, glancing over at me and looking like she needed a nap more than I did. She wrote, "I'll talk to her."

"Thank Kami, now I don't have to try and convince Ino to do it instead. She would've been so much louder about it all."

She snorted a laugh, smiling wryly as she wrote. "Thanks for looking out for us bothersome people, Captain."

"Eh... you're even more bothersome when you're left alone." I shrugged, then frowned as I registered what name she used. "And I thought I was 'Sleepy'?" referring to the nickname she used when we were younger. The thought of it causing me to yawn again. Man, isn't this thing over yet? There was nothing more I wanted right now than my own bed...

She smiled at me, not answering. I eyed her smile cautiously, recognizing it. it was the one she'd get whenever she knew something the rest of us didn't back when we were in the Academy. That usually meant troublesome things.

"Winner of the sixth match, Tenten!" Hayate-sensei called.

I was finally able to relax against the wall, letting my eyes slide shut. Sora bumped her shoulder against mine. I shoved her back, not opening my eyes.

"The, uhm, -cough, cough- the next match up!" I imagine the names on the board changed. Naruto groaned, loudly, causing my eye to crack back open slightly.

"YOSH! It is finally my turn to give it my all in a passionate battle of youth!" The weirdo with the bowl-cut was cheering in excitement, I glanced up at the board to see what he was so happy about, already having a guess.

Rock Lee, huh? I guess he's up next.

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Thirty-Seven: "Life-risking Battles"

END

A/N: I am a horrible, horrible person.

Ugh, I cannot believe I pulled this crap. In my opinion this cliffhanger is worse than the time I kinda-killed Sora in the Formula Arc. I am so done with fight scenes for a good month at the least. Sadly, I still have at least one more chapter of them to do. But after that I'm going to be plying all of you with copious amounts of fluff and other, cute things. Possibly character more development, maybe. Speaking of, Hinata showed up, huh? The little snuggle-wunnie showed up and asked for some spotlight to show off how Sora's effected her, however subtly. And Shikamaru! He took the initiative and nudged Sora into talk to Ino! What a surprise from out lazy bum!

So, fights. They took obscenely long and I had actually planned on doing them all in this chapter but I overwhelmed myself I think. My brain shut off for the last week and I could not write anything even though I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. Even for the others to come. Side note: Did you know that sound waves could extinguish fire? I didn't. It's quite badass to see.

Very reasonable question; is placing 'Character Death' at the warnings on top a thing I should do, if... I dunno… somebody dies? I'm genuinely confused on this point, guys. Would it be a spoiler or a real warning like the blood and gore and stuff? Very reasonable, yes.

Author Question!

"What kind of cult would you like to start? …pfft!"

Okay, this is hilarious and someone asked me and now I have to ask all of you because... really. How could I not at this point?

I would start the cult of the Teddy Bears. Everyone must have one, bear species and stuffing is not a factor. We'd even accept longtime blankie-users under extenuating circumstances. All are welcome.

Aw geez, I wuv yew all! 'Till next time!

-Nanami

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