Fanfiction Online will be sunsetting on September 15th. Read more ×
A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Finals Arc, SNAFU

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!


"A Song for Them"

A/N: This took too long. It was a pain. but I made it through with the support of all of your that have kept reading and my friends. T_T I am so happy. Here's the next part of this damn arc.

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing, and nothing is a very sweet thing. Nothing is always around me. Nothing is in me. Nothing is me. I. Am. Nothing.

WARNING! RATED M! Because of tween vs tween murder machine violence, blood, gore. *hard and unapologetic shrug*

Finals Arc,

Chapter Fifty-Five: "SNAFU"

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." -Anon E. Muss

匿名 (anonymous)

Yet another unexpected turn of events. Sasuke-kun was actually able to harm Gaara, and using an A-Rank ninjutsu no less. That was quite the skill level to jump in only a few weeks. He truly was something impressive.

It was no wonder Orochimaru-sama desires him so.

With the Genjutsu fully blanketing the non-combatants, our men had begun the attack on the stadium. There were a number already engaged with forces from the Leaf in the stands. While it had been unfortunate that Gaara went off mission and accelerated the timeline, the situation was still salvageable - nothing about our plans were meant to be foolproof in the first place, especially in regards to depending on Gaara's erratic and psychotic behavior - not to mention… it would be rather embarrassing to call ourselves Shinobi if we couldn't adapt to something as inane as a preemptive launch. Besides, Orochimaru-sama seems not to have minded the change in program.

I glanced up just in time to see the Sound Four activate their barrier-ninjutsu, isolating Orochimaru-sama with the Hokage within its walls. And by the sounds coming from the east, it's safe to assume that the third squad was successful in summoning Mamu-dono and they were currently drawing most of the Leaf's forces.

All things considered, our plans were coming together rather well in spite of the bumps we've encountered along the way.

My eyes caught on a brightly-colored figure jumping into the arena, followed closely behind by another as they easily avoided the fight taking place between Baki-san and the Leaf Proctor. The pair scaled the stadium walls before leaping over the same direction that Sasuke-kun had gone after Gaara and his brother minutes ago.

I smiled behind my stolen mask in amusement.

Sora-kun was off to interfere again. Though, I fear she might be rather obstructive to our plans this time. Not that she hasn't been already, but Gaara had a rather big part to play in today's events and Orochimaru-sama still has designs on obtaining Sasuke-kun.

We were intending to take him in the midst of the chaos created by Gaara's transformation, but we would just have to make a slight change to that plan. With how the situation is now, it's probably best to just send a few men to subdue Sasuke-kun and relocate him somewhere Orochimaru-sama can apply the Seal of Heaven to him. Preferably our base just over the border so we can observe if Sasuke-kun's body accepts the seal. But, if I were to do that now then there would be little doubt that Sora-kun would go out of her way to try and prevent that from happening.

A number of scenarios arise from that problem. In addition to whatever capabilities her companion in green possesses, from the display she made during her battle she could prove to be quite annoying with that barrier ninjutsu of hers. It wouldn't be wise to underestimate either Sora-kun or Sasuke-kun. Those barriers seemed quite resilient and if the unfortunate happens and she secludes herself and Sasuke-kun away, then there would be little chance of any one I send to have the wherewithal to counter a technique like that.

Not unless I went myself.

I shook my head, quickly dismissing that idea. I had to remain to oversee the events here and give Orochimaru-sama the signal to withdraw if it appears that our forces are going to be overwhelmed. If we are to secure Sasuke-kun with little interference then really, it would be simplest to just kill Sora-kun before she could reach Sasuke-kun.


I signaled the captain of the second cell over, once beside me I turned to him, "Your new mission is to capture Uchiha Sasuke alive and take him out of the village. Kill anyone else you encounter on route to him." I ordered as I reached for my Info Cards, pulling the ones for Sasuke-kun and a freshly updated profile. Sora-kun's registration photo smiled at me from the glossy surface. "Oh, and if you encounter this girl make sure not to take her lightly because of her appearance. A sensor, but it's her ninjutsu that makes her problematic."

Yō-san took the card and scoffed at the picture, standing. He directed his squad and headed off towards the northeast. I watched them leap over the wall before turning my whole attention to the rest of the conflict. Our forces and Sand had the upper hand for now, but like Konoha, Fortune is swift to cast her favor towards another once they no longer suit her needs.

Well, whatever happens, it's certain to be interesting.

蕾 (bud)

What was happening?

There was fighting, I could see people attacking in the distance—the sounds of weapons clashing, metal shrieking. There had been a sound like an explosion a building over—my eyes darted around, finding slouched forms everywhere around me. It was impossible, everyone was asleep! I don't understand what's happening. Just a second ago I was cheering on Sasuke-kun and then—then I felt something strange come over me, like a wave of intense exhaustion. I-I did a quick self-diagnose of my chakra and now so much was happening. There were strangely-clothed shinobi fighting ours, but why would they? Wouldn't that mean…

I slid out of my seat and dropped to the floor, hands and knees hitting the cool stone. The realization hit me, sinking down into my stomach like a bag of rocks.

We were under attack.

My mind began to run through all of my years of training from the Academy, and yet… I-I came up with nothing. My mind was completely blank. All those drills, the training, the hypothetical situations we got tested on and here I was. On my knees as I stared at the ground. The stadium was under attack by a foreign shinobi force, maybe even the entire village was under siege right now. What was I even supposed to do against that? What could I do? I was just a medic trainee; I failed my Jōnin test, th-they took back my headband! I'm not even a legitimate genin! What could someone like me do? I don't even, I-I—

Wait, was I panicking right now? I pressed my fingers to my neck, checking my pulse. Heart rate elevated. Breaths were coming in short, shallow gasps—I am panicking.

Okay, first step is to stop panicking. If there's one thing that I learned from those textbooks is that if you panic in a combat zone, then you can get yourself killed. I needed to calm down. Take deep breaths. Analyze the situation. Formulate a plan of attack.

Coming back from the verge of hyperventilating, I swallowed the lump in my throat to maintain what little calm I had left. Cautiously lifting my head just high enough to peer over the unconscious in front of me, I gripped the back of the seats tightly. Metal clashed overhead and with each exchange, I flinched. There weren't many strange shinobi nearby, as most of them were within other pavilions or engaged with our own men. Shakily scanning the rest of the area, I noticed a few fighting above our heads. A number of times a rogue kunai or shuriken came close to hitting those below before it was miraculously deflected.

Okay Sakura, time to think! What can you do in this situation? What can you—I ducked down as another fight went over my head, causing my heart to jump into my throat. What can I do? My knuckles were turning white from my grip, but I couldn't seem to move. Couldn't seem to think. Why can't I think?

A flash of long, shiny blonde hair suddenly caught my eye.


On instinct, I clambered forward without thought. Ducking beneath seats and fumbling across limbs, I made my way to her before I even realized what I had done, grabbing her arms and pulling her down with me. My only thoughts were of Ino: Ino would know what to do. Just get to Ino.

Her hair spilled over the ground and her expression was slack and unresponsive. I stared at her for a moment before gripping her sleeve, timidly tugging and twisting the fabric of her peach shirt. Looking over her face, my grip tightened as I realized that we had not spoken since graduation. In fact, this was the closest we have even been in months… Even when I saw her out on the street, I would go out of my way to avoid her. Too afraid of what she thought of me, what she might say about my failure and hold it over me.

Or worse; that she wouldn't acknowledge me at all.

A pressure built up behind my eyes, my lips twisting as my vision swam and blurred. Everything about this was so frustrating! Our rivalry had become a joke after I had lost my headband. There was just no way I could try and pretend like we were on equal footing anymore. It was just too humiliating. Now… now she was just so far ahead of me there was no chance of ever catching up. I would never—never catch up…

"Sa… Sakura, you-you're squeezing me too tight!"

Wait—Startled, I pulled back and gasped. "Ino!? You're awake!?"

She leaned up onto an elbow and rubbed her arm, right where I had been gripping. "Geez, that's definitely gonna leave a bruise."

"I—I," I stuttered and paused, wide-eyed. I'm so happy to see you. Thank god you're awake. I've missed—all the words I felt like saying got lodged in my throat, stuck there and unwilling to come out. Ino didn't seem to notice my struggle, her blue eyes darting around before she paled in realization of our situation.

I combed my hair back as I watched her. She didn't even hesitate before beginning to scout the surrounding area for what the immediate threat was. Not like I had.

In the seat beside her, Ino reached up and grabbed Chōji's scarf, yanking him down to the floor with us. I blinked, only now noticing he was even here. The hefty boy landed hard, smashing a bag of snacks that was at his feet right before he jolted awake. "Ah! My barbeq—" Ino slapped her hand over his mouth. "Mmhph!"

"Forget about your chips, dumbass! The arena is under attack!" she hissed, head on a swivel as she peered between the seats. Startled, Chōji sat up and began looking around too.

"Where's Shikamaru? Wasn't he just here with Naruto?" he asked. Wait, Naruto and Shikamaru are up here too? But shouldn't they have been with Sora-senpai and the other competitors?

"Keep your head down! Do you want us to get caught!?" she snapped, jerking him back down with a yank of his scarf. "Besides, they've got to still be around here somewhere! The two of them probably fell asleep where they were standing!"

"Ohh yeah," he blinked, looking at Ino with a furrowed brow. "Hey what happened? Why did we fall asleep?"

I opened my mouth ready to answer about the Genjutsu when Ino's eyes went wide, a gasp tearing from her throat. I followed her gaze up — there was a man looking directly at us, one of the enemy shinobi. A cold feeling of dread sunk into my stomach as I instinctively reached for the kunai in my holster to realize that my thigh was bare.

He leapt towards us — Ino grabbed my hand in a painful grip, fingers lacing. Her hair brushed my cheek as she pushed me behind her — only to watch as the man was cut down in a blur of movement. His body landed upside down with a sick crack, arm twisted under his back and head facing the wrong direction.

He was dead. That was a dead body. My stomach rolled and I had to swallow down the bile that rose to my throat.

C'mon Sakura, don't… just ignore it! You've seen dead bodies before! I told myself. Dead of natural causes, sure, but…

Ino's grip relaxed in mine as she let out a relieved breath, not even looking at the man's body that was sitting right in front of us and smiling up at the one that saved us. "Kakashi-sensei! Thank goodness you're here!"

I pulled my eyes away from the body, looking up at the man perched on the back of a chair. He was tall, wearing a standard Konoha flak jacket and… I blinked numbly. Recognizing the silver-haired cyclops from before, when he was creepily standing in a dark corner in Sora-senpai's hospital room! His eye landed on me and my spine involuntarily straightened.

"Good job on dispelling that Genjutsu, Nurse-san. You know, most genin wouldn't be able to catch that without the proper training." he said, his eye curved upwards and it almost looked like he was smiling? In this situation? "Maa, can I ask you kids a favor and wake up Naruto and Shikamaru? They're at the top of the stairs there. Thanks!"

He gave a salute and leapt away before any of us could answer or even agree. Apparently I was the only one bewildered by his overly casual behavior because Ino only rolled her eyes and began to crawl forward - letting go of my hand, wait - as she moved towards the aisle. Chōji followed her and I was in the back, keeping my eyes up and away from the cooling body not five feet away from me.

Naruto was easy enough to find with his familiar and irritatingly bright orange outfit that always made him stand out. He was passed out, sprawled across the ground and snoring like the world wasn't on fire. Part of me was annoyed that he could look so relaxed at this moment when I had to tie down all my panic.

Willing my hands to stop trembling, I placed them over his temples and did a cursory diagnostic of his chakra and nervous system. He seemed a little roughed up from his fight before but there was no serious damage that I could read, not even a broken bone. It was amazing actually. I could've sworn he would've gotten as least a fracture after all the hits he'd taken—

I shook my head, discarding those pointless thoughts. There wasn't any merit to thinking about that right now. It was a good thing that he wasn't injured badly, we could use his knuckleheaded optimism right about now. I circulated purified chakra through my fingers, targeting the Genjutsu and flushing out the foreign chakra influencing Naruto's basal forebrain.

He woke up immediately, blue eyes flying open to meet mine.

A few emotions flashed over his face as his eyes fluttered. Confusion, surprise, and finally recognition. His mouth opened and I swore he was about to shout my name but that's also when Ino's fist had sunk into Shikamaru's ribs.

"Hrugh!" Shikamaru lurched to the side, groaning in pain.

"You ass!" Ino hissed at him, fisting her hand into his mesh shirt. She began to shake him and I made a mental note to check him for serious damage once she was done. "I can't believe you were faking! Can't you see that we're under attack!?"

"That's exactly why I was keeping my head down!" Shikamaru snapped, trying to pull her off himself. "What do you expect me to do against a foreign enemy force, woman?!"

"Not play dead, that's for sure!" she punched his shoulder, trying to hide her worry.

Chōji tried to make peace between them. "Guys, c'mon. We shouldn't be fighting—"


My heart seized in my chest. What!? Sasuke-kun's in danger?! But — I looked down into the arena but found no trace of Sasuke-kun anywhere. There was just a fight between the proctor and another shinobi. What happened to him when I wasn't looking? Had he been hurt?

Shikamaru rolled his eyes at Naruto. "Take a look around. Sasuke isn't exactly our biggest problem anymore."

"Actually," I gasped as the Jōnin from before reappeared behind me. His hand slipped into his back bag, stowing away a bloodied kunai. "Sasuke is exactly your problem from here on. He chased Gaara and his teammate out of the arena, Sora and Lee followed them."

"What!?" Naruto shouted. "Why would she do that 'ttebayo? Why would she leave without—wait, did something happen to Sasuke?"

"Not sure. That's why Naruto, Shikamaru, Chōji, I'm assigning you three on an A-Rank mission to track them down," the sensei nodded to each of the boys. "Join up and then stop them from engaging with Gaara any further. After that go to a safe place and await orders."

"Wait, what about me?" Ino straightened up, looking between Shikamaru and Kakashi-san. "A squad is usually made up of the fundamental four, right? You're not going to send just these three idiots to back up Sasuke-kun, are you?!"

I chewed my lip, hands twisting into my skirt in anxiety. It was all I could do from shouting along with Ino. I watched silently as Kakashi-san shook his head and cut his thumb, making several hand seals in rapid succession. He laid his hand on the floor and a cloud of smoke erupted from under his palm.

My lips parted in surprise. There was a puppy sitting in between us now. A small pug wearing a headband with a wrinkled and droopy face. He looked up at me with tired eyes and I felt the irrational urge to try and get it to take a nap or something.

"Pakkun will be the fourth member of the squad." Kakashi-san informed us. "He'll track Sasuke and Sora down for you, and keep a check on your surroundings and keep you clear of any unexpected company."

He means enemy shinobi. Adults that were far more experienced than a couple genin that graduated only months ago.

I bit my lip hard, nearly breaking the skin. Looking at Shikamaru and Chōji they seemed to understand the subtext of his words as well, the very real danger of the situation. But then, I looked over at Naruto and—

"Well what are we waitin' for then?" he shouted, jumping to his feet. "Sasuke and Sora-chan already got a head start on us! We can't waste another minute 'ttebayo!"

I pressed my hand to my face and Ino let out an exasperated groan. I don't know why I was expecting anything else. He was just as loud and oblivious as usual and totally unable to read the mood of the conversation.

Even in this situation, Naruto was going to be Naruto.

"What a drag," Shikamaru stretched his neck, getting to his feet. "You three live to make everyone else's life harder, don't you?" And complained, shooting Naruto an annoyed look.

Naruto balked. "What's that supposed to mean?!"

"Do you see any other genin running after a crazy killer like Gaara?" he shot back.

"Shikamaru," Chōji softly interjected, "Technically we are—"

"They're all gonna die." Ino pressed her fingers to her temples and groaned. And watching as the puppy bit into Shikamaru's leg and he yelled and Naruto started heading for an exit, I couldn't help but worry the same. Anxiously I looked off in the direction Kakashi-san had said the others had gone off in...

Sasuke-kun, I hope that you're alright.

人形 (puppet)

This day just keeps getting better and better.

I shifted on my feet and looked for an exit route, pulling Gaara a little closer to me - shit, he was still totally out of it. What was that monster doing to him - and twisted my hand securely into Crow's binding. Judging from how many miles of fucken trees we've gone through, we only made it a couple miles from the Stadium where Dad and Temari were still. It's good because Temari can make it in no time, but bad because that meant Leaf bastards could make it too. Specifically, a kid with stupid hair and a stupider smirk that happened to move faster than Gaara could catch.

Uchiha Sasuke.

He was ahead of us, about fifteen meters away, and just… sitting there on a tree branch looking like a smug asshole. Blocking our path. There didn't seem to be any trap laying around, but I couldn't really tell with all this damn forest. There could be an entire squad hiding in the bushes, for all I know.

I grimaced, weighing my options. Temari wasn't here, Dad was fucking off somewhere, Gaara was bleeding pretty bad and the monster inside him was getting ready to come out. This Uchiha kid managed to hurt Gaara — like hell if I was going to be able to win this even if he was by himself.

I seemed pretty fucked every which way I looked.

There wasn't much for it, then. I held in a sigh as I lowered Gaara's weight off my shoulder and down on the branch, leaving him slouched on himself. With a twist of my wrist, I pulled Crow off my back and it landed by my feet with a heavy thud.

Realistically, all I could do was buy time until Temari caught up to us. Together we stood a better chance, and if she didn't show up, well… maybe I could at least poison this cocky shit and take him down with me.

His eyes watched my movements and then a smirk lifted his face that kinda pissed me off. I flexed my fingers and extended my strings, attaching them to Crow mechanisms and getting ready to fly.

"Don't waste my time," he called across the distance, leaning against his tree in an infuriatingly casual stance. "Take your doll and scram. You're not the one I'm here for, Sand."

"Tough luck, asshole." I scoffed. This fucking kid.

Sure, the monster could pulverize this kid in a blink, but it'd probably turn me into a smear in the dirt too. Besides, it was Gaara that was hurt and struggling right now. He's never even been touched in a fight before. Shit, he passed out from the shock. He couldn't defend himself from anything right now.

It was up to me to watch out for him.

"You ain't getting to him as long as I'm here." I announced. His smirk faltered then, I drew my strings taut. Ready to anticipate that stupid speed he has used eariler to get one up on Gaa—

His smirk returned, nearly feral and that's when a sudden chill ran down my spine.


My hand trembled hearing that deep, gnarled voice I only heard in my nightmares. Ignoring all the instincts that were suddenly screaming at me to run, flee, escape— I looked over my shoulder.

His sand was cracking along his skin, warping and running with purple veins. His mouth hung open, labored with heavy, strained breaths. His wound was gone, covered in ruddy sand that devoured the traces of blood left behind. My heart was beating in my ears, a cold sweat gathering on my neck, I knew I should get as far as I could from here. But, but — The sand pulsed, and when Gaara looked at me it was with someone else's eyes. Some-thing else's eyes.

"Gaara, wait—"

"Out of my way." he lifted his hand, sand shot out— fuck

群れ (swarm)

My brow furrowed in concern.

My kikaichū have finally returned form their reconnaissance and informed me of the whereabouts of my teammates: It appears that Hinata and Kiba - as well as Akamaru, of course - could not be found in the stadium currently, they had left several minutes ago. Hinata's cousin and his teammate accompanying them in a standard squad formation as they headed eastward, out towards the rest of the Village.

What could be so pressing that they would depart without me? Was there something that happened before my kikaichū reached them?

And then there was the dilemma surrounding the rest of my classmates.

Naruto, along with Shikamaru, Chōji and one animal had just departed as well, headed in the same direction Sasuke, Sora and Lee-san had run off in before. All of them in pursuit of Gaara from Sand, whom escaped with the puppet-user. However, the two groups did not seem to be linked as Kiba and Hinata were not present for the last match, so I am left to assume that something must have happened between the time they left and we were attacked.

I adjusted my glasses, observing the battlefield from my concealed position.

Where was I needed most right now?

空 (sky)

Shukaku's presence was growing stronger by the minute. The branches creaked under my foot as I leapt, Lee keeping pace right beside me as I guided us towards them.

Following his chakra signature was as simple as running towards a flaming beacon that was shooting off big, violent fireworks that spelled out MURDER, DEATH, KILL. All caps. He was making it easy on us, actually.

And really, have I mentioned how much I LOVE this plan yet? Terra announced. I bit down a wry smile at her dry tone. It's always a great plan to run TOWARDS the danger.

Back to focusing. Ahead of us, three chakra signatures were waiting under Shukaku; Sasuke, Gaara, Kankurō. Thankfully we wouldn't have to encounter too many distractions to keep us from getting to Gaara like it happened originally.

After all hell broke loose and the Invasion kicked into gear I took advantage of Temari's panic over Gaara's freak-out - taking advantage of a Big Sister's worry about her youngest brother being wounded, aren't I the nicest? - and took her by surprise, sweeping her legs and delivering a hit to her temple to knock her out before she could react. Lee had panicked a bit after seeing what I did, but thankfully I didn't have to explain what was happening as the goddamned arena erupted with fighting.

I made quick work to seal Temari safely away in a barrier so she couldn't help Gaara flee and stall us from getting to him first. If we get to him first, then we can slap the Siphoning Seal on Gaara before any Tailed Beast hijinks can happen and everybody is good to go. No one gets hurt and everything is fine. We'll work out the details of Gaara's Talk-no-jutsu at a later point when he's not on the brink of losing his shit.

This can work.


A figure broke away from under the suppressive clout of Shukaku's chakra, and it didn't belong to Sasuke. I held up my hand to Lee and came to a full stop as the chakra approached. We both crouched low to the foliage of the tree and watched as — holy rollers that is a lot of sand — Lee threw a protective arm in front of me as a pillar of sand shot past us and slammed into the ground, skidding and digging into the dirt. My heart leapt into my chest, fear tightening in my throat oh god, please don't tell me that's Sasuke, please no, no, no—

The sand fell down, cascading onto the ground to reveal a very… wooden contraption that began clicking and clacking, opening up to reveal it's master. I let out a silent breath as I could clearly see the chakra signature now that it was separated from Shukaku's.

Kankurō climbed out from under his puppet and began swearing up a storm. Interesting. Kankurō getting sand blasted can only mean that Gaara is pretty pissed from being woken from his nap early. Kind of my fault for tying up Temari, mostly Duckie's fault for waking him up.

That works.

I stayed low, slowly moving to the side. He was distracted with getting sand out of his ears, right now we could just slip past and— Lee stood straight up and did a flip off our branch, landing in front of Kankurō, who fell back on his sandy ass in surprise. Ahh, and what a Naruto move that was. In hindsight, I probably should've expected it. But it would've been nice if we could get to act like sneaky ninjas for once.

Idiot. It hissed.

Lee's back was rigidly straight, expression hard. "You are the one that faced Tenten in the preliminary matches, correct?"

Oh... shit, right.

Tenten had been poisoned, by Kankurō. Then, yah, Lee confronting him made even more sense. That also meant he was most definitely gonna want to stick around for a fight and that did not help my plans. Ah, shit. I shoved a hand into my back bag before leaping off the branch and landing next to Lee. Lee barely acknowledged me with a glance out of the corner of his eye, but in contrast Kankurō's shoulders visibly eased at my presence.

"Well. Fancy meeting you here, Ponytail." Kankurō greeted with faux cheer, his chakra a tizzied mix of fear, dread and worry. He did a good job of hiding it under that makeup of his.

I did a little wave with my free hand. The puppeteer finished standing and re-dusting himself off again, one hand going to rest on the shaggy head of his weapon. The air was hot, and the wind was dead around us but we were finally close enough to hear the sounds of something in the direction Kankurō had been shot from.

If I didn't know better, I'd have thought that there was a beast on the loose.

Well, you aren't wrong, Sky-girl.

"I don't feel like doing much with this concussion, but—" Kankurō tightened a hand around the fabric covering his puppet. "Orders are orders. And that means I can't let you guys get to Gaara."

Protecting The Beast After Being Rejected By It? It sniffed. He Must Have Your Instincts.

Oi! Taking shots at Sky-girl's survival instincts is my bit! Get your own!

My brow furrowed as I began to tune out the unhelpful voices in my head, focusing on the present. Can't afford to space off today. Lee took a stance, leveling an outstretched palm, his expression drawn into a look that was as serious as stone.

"Our business is with our comrade and we must reunite with him, but if it is a fight you seek; then I may oblige you."

Before anyone could start doing anything — I slapped a couple of my Siphoning seals into a surprised Lee's hand. He blinked at me with those large eyes as I made a show of loosening up. I signed in Standard for him to go ahead, to aid. I'd told him how to use the seals earlier. He was perfect for this. Sasuke needs some backup, and I was not the kind suited for raging Jinchūriki fights.

The best kind of help came suited in a green jumpsuit.

Lee's heavy brows knitted, and he gave me a look that very clearly expressed how much he wasn't going to do as I asked.

"Surely Sasuke-san is capable—"

My hand shot up, poised in a thumbs up. I was missing a shine to my smile, but I gave my best shot at the Good Guy pose.

The reaction was immediate as Lee's form faltered and his eyes sparkled, he still had a tint of hesitation in his body language but I strode past him and resolutely turned my gaze on a very curious Kankurō. We were comrades and Lee wasn't an idiot, he had to know that Gaara was more of a threat than his brother.

C'mon, Lee. Trust in me...

The puppeteer's eyes bounced between us, unaware of what I had signed but was beginning to get the gist by how he hyper-focused on Lee. Heh. Too bad for him that even if he could anticipate it, he had no chance of keeping up with the blue beast.

"Alright." Lee spoke, firm and resolute. "I'll leave it to you then, Sora-san!"

Lee dashed by in a blur of green before Kankurō could even react. He spun on his heel, dropping his wrapped doll from his shoulder to try and pursue but I threw out a kunai. He jumped away safely just as the explosion went off, sending sand flying everywhere across the forest floor. I leapt upwards, giving myself the high ground as Kankurō reoriented himself towards me. He turned his head up, giving me a rather annoyed look.

"You know, I'd rather not kill you, ponytail." Kankurō began, chakra leaking from his hands and stretching outwards. To his puppet. My body was crouched in preparation, keeping the wooden death machine in the corner of my eye. He continued stalling. "The villages and their spats aside, me and you don't really have to do this. Sure, you're kinda on the crazy side, but someone that offers free food can't be all that bad."

I smiled wryly, and leapt to the side just as the puppet launched forward to stab the part of the tree I was seated on. Adrenaline began to rush through me in a familiar feeling, my sight focused as the world around me began to slow to a gentle twirl.

A hulking cloaked body bent over the hidden blade, wedged in the splintered wood, slowly it's three-eyed head turned towards me and it dashed forward. Surprisingly fast, oh fuck— And so began another dance of death tango.

I ducked, weaved, used a kunai to deflect projectile senbon and leapt off branches as the puppet pursued me with blades hidden in the arms, blades hidden in the legs, bigger blades hidden chest and oh my god I hate this so much.

I kept light on my feet, wishing once more today that I'd have brought the sword to fend off invaders of my personal space. While the puppet wasn't as fast as say, Sasuke, it still had an unnerving amount of flexibility in it's joints that made it a particularly annoying opponent. Especially since some if not all of the blades were coated in poison of some kind.

I flipped back away and slipped on the underside of the branch to get safe from a particularly nasty lunge and heard a 'thunk' at my feet. I looked down in time to see ink burning away to ash on the slip of a tag and—HEY! That's my explosive tag! How did he—

That's my explosive tag.

A sudden static filling my ears, I clapped my hands over the remaining tag and sent my chakra flooding through the ink and seal housing to diffuse it. The end of the paper stopped burning and my heart dislodged itself from my throat.

Fucking hell, if this weren't one of my remote detonation seals, then I'd have for sure been — Okay, I shouldn't make bombs so big. Or around enemy ninja. Both are valid issues I need to remedy. But first I need to remedy the lack of fist in Kankurō's face. That smug bastard swiped one when we were talking the other day, and when I get my hands on him— Clic-clic-clic-clic!

I stumbled to the side to avoid a blade, narrowly saving my arm from a premature detachment. Feet still secure with chakra I ignored the subtle feeling of vertigo from hanging upside down with so much adrenaline pumping through me. The puppet's black cloak whipped, a wooden body opened up to face me again and—

Wait, where was it's head?

Chakra strings jerked taut behind me, I turned and lifted my arms to block on instinct. A blade speared into my forearm. Three blank eyes mocked me as it's unhinged jaw wedged the blade in. Searing, hot, hurt Flicking my uninjured wrist around, I applied the explosive tag to the puppet's head and released the chakra on my feet, going into a free fall. The blade slid back out and I kicked the damn doll as hard as I could.

Falling backwards, hair plastered to my cheeks. Blood slipping down my fingers. I braced an arm over my head and detonated the tag with a whisper of chakra.

The sound came first, then a blast of heat scorched my side, and lastly the aftershock of the explosion sent my catapulting towards the ground. Ears ringing, arm aching, I managed to remember my training for falling from heights and let my body go loose, feet pointed at the ground and when you impact— ground, ow, caramel cake everything hurts — you roll to the side to offset the momentum.

I went with the roll and took myself out of sight, ducking behind a tree with a heavy brush around it. Withdrawing my chakra, focusing it up and balling it at my core, I suppressed my presence. I let out a slow breath through my teeth as blood ran down my left wrist and hand, warm and fast.

I grimaced at the wound as I did a quick check for important veins. The gash wasn't life-threatening by any means, just somewhat painful for being an open stab wound— but mostly annoying. I could barely move a couple of my left fingers, but the most annoying drawback of it was, of course… Poison.

I wonder if this serves me right for forgetting to send Tenten a get-better-soon card in the hospital?

I reached down to press the skin around the gash, mouth falling open in pain as I squeezedFffffuck. That hurt. But it was good, hopefully I'll get some of the poison out and stave off Death while I regroup and take stock of the situation. I bled myself for a few more seconds before I pressed the wound to my chest and I slipped off my scarf, quickly tying it around my arm to stop any more blood from leaking. I needed to remain conscious for the rest of the fight, optimally. I replaced the scarf by tying my hitai-ate back around my neck and felt a bit comforted by the familiar weight of it.

That puppet was one hell of a nasty customer.

And for all kitty-ears big talk, he's actually a rather cautious fighter. He had a chance to ambush Lee and I when I was getting him to leave, but held off. He probably gauged from the preliminary matches that Lee's close combat wouldn't bode well for him and even if he attacked one of us the other one would get him. From then, he's kept me at a generous distance, even when it's obvious I'm a mid range fighter and my skills in close combat were trounced by Tenten.

But then, so was he. I wonder, does this distance mean he ranks my Taijustu better than his? Or that he is so confident in his puppets that he thinks he'd be safe over there? He probably didn't stand much of a chance if only his puppet were gone…

Hm. Getting an idea, I checked the seal inked onto my glove. It was still unblemished, the formula stable and passively directing chakra through it. I flexed my fingers and narrowed down Kankurō's position, mentally tracking the wisps of chakra flying through the air as the puppet patrolled the area. He was several yards up and away in the middle ground of the forest and kept having the puppet sweep the area for any sign of me.

Without peeking around to look, I can only assume he's keeping an eye out for any— Clic-clic-clic-clic— the puppet launched and, okay, he just scared the shit out of a chipmunk? Alright then. The plan will work fine. He's jumpy, probably still rattled from being sandblasted earlier. It'll be easy to bait him into it.

I smeared the palm of the glove with my blood, interfering with the ink and rendering it inert. Next, I pulled a brush from my case, gripping it in my teeth and gently filled the head with the blood slipping down my arm.

The rabbit fur soaked it up greedily.

Bringing the dripping pen up to the back of the cloth, I carefully inked a basic quasigram housing base before layering the formula for a storage seal. My habit of excessive flourished lines was ignored in favor of the cold sweat running down my neck and the sudden burning around the wound. The poison was pretty fast acting, then.

One last tweak to the Kanji and I had finished, stashing the brush into the base of my ponytail for safe keeping. I slid the glove onto my right hand. It was as awkward as putting on a glove backwards could be, but it would be worth it.

Sending chakra into my feet and free hand I began to carefully scale the tree, moving myself into a more advantageous position. Once high enough I measured the distance from Kankurō's hiding place in the shrubbery and his puppet. With a little mental guesswork on my part I presumed to be about a dozen feet above him to the left, and about thirty-six from ground level and the puppet. Then I presumed to have any clue what I was doing and launched myself directly at Kankurō.

He noticed immediately, yanking the puppet to intercept me with an attack from the side. A projectile shot from where it's head used to be. Metal, little bigger than a soda can. I resisted the urge to throw a kunai at what had to be a smoke grenade and stretched out my right hand. I heard the metal crack as it opened — chakra pulsing — I let out a breath of relief as the canister successfully disappeared.

The threatening wooden clicks of the puppet's joints echoed in my ears and I prepared myself to maneuver, sparse few seconds slowing in my head as I counted the distance between myself and the flying death trap… twelve feet… nine feet. Four. Two — I twisted my body midair, hand grabbing the giant spike protruding from its chest while the other reached for an arm — my glove grazing varnished wood, chakra running hot along my fingertips — I felt a slice of hot pain in my thigh just as I activated my chakra.

With a delightful 'poof' of white smoke I sealed the puppet away into my makeshift storage glove.

Kankurō screamed something impolite but I reached up before I fell too far, left hand coated in a thick layer of chakra as they entwined in wisps. I yanked on his loose strings. He tumbled forward off the branch and I leveled my Compressurized Seal at him as we both fell. - twelve feet to the ground, need to land and not fall on my ass - Pressing down on the top kanji, I pulsed my chakra into it and released it's contents, propelling it below.

The can I yoinked earlier exploded into a giant, dull purple cloud right as Kankurō's body met the ground. I tumbled to a safe landing again, hindered only by the sting of pain radiating from my left calf. I glanced down at my leg as Kankurō cough-swore at the smoke. I made a face at the tear in my pant leg and the albeit shallow, probably poisoned cut on my leg.

Stupid puppet.

Kankurō stumbled out of the smoke - my hand slipped into my kunai pouch on instinct - and I watched as he fell to the ground. He was panting heavily on the border of wheezing, I could see sweat racing down his face already.

Poison smoke bomb, huh? Should've guessed that one. At least that saved me having to kick his ass with Taijutsu.

Good thing I learned about poison-users oh-so recently is that they had a habit of keeping antidotes on their person in the unfortunate event that they intake some of their own. Assuming that Kankurō was competent as well as cautiously then — I looked around a little until I spied the remains of his puppet's head, including the elongated blade used to stab me with the first time.

I jogged over to grab it, feeling a distinct constricting of my lungs as I made it back over to the prone puppeteer. Wow, was he paralyzed? Boy doesn't play with his toxins. He might have different poisons for the aerosol smoke bomb and the kind coated on his puppet's weapons, so — I crouched down and slid the blade across his cheekbone.

"ARGH, petty bitch!" Kankurō snarled at me, fresh blood slipping down his cheek.

I sealed away the dagger and shot him a look. It was just a little nic, he didn't have to be a baby about it. It's not like I stabbed him. As I began to pat him to look where he stashed his antidotes, he groaned as it dawned on him.

"Left pouch on the hip." he offered curtly. I smiled, pressing my hands together in a thank you before pulling out a little wooden box. Inside there were a number of unlabeled vials of varying liquids. I frowned and glanced at Kankurō.

His chakra twisted in a lie as he said, "Upper left, second row, third one down."

He was determined, I'll give him that. I grabbed the specified vial and held it to his mouth, arching my brow at him. Kankurō gave me a rather irritated look, not taking the 'antidote' and not giving up. This little shit— I smiled broadly and winked at him, pinching his cheeks a bit more forcefully than needed to make him pucker up. He hissed in defeat before giving up the game of shinobi roulette.

"…thu oune with the redth mark under tha lipf. Rigth thide, fartheth corner." he reluctantly confessed. I swapped out for the correct bottle before putting it back to his mouth. He took it this time. I pulled it away after he'd taken half and checked his mouth, making sure he didn't fake it. He grumbled with indignation before I was satisfied and downed the rest.

It was cool, slightly bitter on the tongue yet had an aftertaste that reminded me vaguely of blueberries. Not bad all-in-all. It'd give it a seven out of ten for life-saving antidotes.

I grabbed my notebook and scribbled down a quick question. "you need anything for the canister, or was it the same antidote?"

He stared blankly at me for a solid ten seconds before saying; "No, you've killed me. Give yourself a pat on the back." he deadpanned.

I reached down and flicked his forehead.

He swallowed his grunt of pain and glared at me, indignant that I would do such a childish thing to an enemy combatant. "No, it's the same strain so I'll be fine. But, you know…" his face twisted up, bitter and confused. "I would have to kill you if our positions were reversed, right? We're enemies."

His chakra told me he wasn't lying.

I smiled a bit sadly, writing; "We're both just trying to protect our families."

To my surprise he chuckled. "Man, you guys really are soft here."

I rolled my eyes, getting ready to stand when his hand suddenly wrapped around my wrist. I reacted badly, the burn of physical contact had me ripping my arm from his grip and I instinctively coiled the muscles up to strike. Only just stopped short after seeing the expression on his face.

His brow screwed up, mouth pressed into an angry line, his emotion beginning to bleed through his chakra. He dragged himself to sit on his knees, head bowed.

His smooth and pliant nature, shifted. Becoming still, resolute and stuck like a broken cog. Filled with waves of frustration, fear, worry, broken pride and beneath all of it was an irrational spark of hope thinner than his chakra threads.

"Hey, listen, I ain't got no place to ask this, but— Gaara. It's, none of this is his fault, okay? It may look and sound like some kinda monster out there, but it's not. Really. He's just a kid, a really screwed up one, but…" his nails dug into the earth, arms shaking with the effort of holding himself up. "He didn't choose any of this! Our old man forced him to become— to become that thing! So, please, please don't kill him!"

He looked up at me with that desperate hope and my heart broke for him. He loved his brother, yes. He was afraid, but he loved him anyway. But I wonder, if he had been in a more rational state of mind he would realize I had no power over what happens next. Only the Hero was qualified to make the promise to save the day. In the end, all I can do is try to make things better.

"I'll try" was all I could offer. It seemed to be enough as Kankurō let out a sigh and slumped back, taking off his kitty-eared headwear and running a hand through fluffy chestnut brown hair.

"I'll take you at your word then, since you seem crazy enough to keep it. But you make a guy wonder, are all Leaf nin this insane or are you just 'special'?" he asked, daring to look genuinely thoughtful. Sassy too, for someone that just lost a fight.

I gave a faux glare as I flexed my hand, noting that the feeling has fully returned to my nerve endings and I could breathe easier again.

"So… about my puppet." The balls on this guy— I gave the puppeteer one last thin smile before I socked him in the face, knocking him out cold.

I shook my limbs out as I stood, testing out to make sure everything was in working order. It was almost time for the main event now. I sent out my senses to get a look at the battlefield ahead. Lee should've made it to back up Sasuke by now so all I have to do is — A tingle ran along my spine, senses reacting to the oncoming presence. I turned my head on instinct, staring in the direction of the village.

There were several foreign signatures inbound, and they were nearly here.

What. Wait, why! Why were there enemies coming? That didn't happen Before, did it? Didn't— No, wait… I remember, Shikamaru… after the group went to follow Sasuke, Pakkun noticed them. Shikamaru had left Naruto's team to draw them away. They had been sent to kill Naruto and the others, but they were led away in a diversion. Shika thought he was going to die—and he would've if Asuma hadn't shown up, but…

Shikamaru isn't here. And neither is a jōnin to take them out.

It was just me.

Just me in between them and the fight ahead.

If they were from Sand, then they were coming for Gaara, either to put him down for going off plan or to force him to resume the plan, and that meant they were probably going to kill Sasuke and Lee who would get in their way.

If they were from Sound, then they are going to kill everyone and take Sasuke.

A hot flash of emotion ran along my skull, making my fists clench.


My head began to throb. I closed my eyes against the pain to keep my mind's eye on their approach, counting the miles between us that they were closing. The forest around me seemed to shift, the shadows growing longer and I was suddenly reminded of a night like this years and years ago. My breathing became unsteady— A pillar of rock came out of the seal with a 'poof!' and slammed into the man, crushing him. — I heard a wet squelch. — Two dead. — I shook my head, trying to remove the images from my mind and get a fucking grip on myself!

I dug my fingers into my scalp to the point of pain, clearing my vision. I quickly moved Kankurō into the hollow of a tree where he'd be safe and turned towards where the enemies were going to appear, my mind running a mile a minute. With the fact they are more than likely Sound, he was in danger too if they found him like this.

There Is Nothing To Fear It whispered, soothing like an icy wind.

'What bullshit'We Can Protect Them If You Use It

There was a buzzing at the base of my skull, a throbbing that slowly grew and spread to the space behind my eyes. I pressed the heel of my hand against my left eye, the vision in the right doubling and turning shades of red.

Use Our Power To Protect Them she urged. I hissed through my teeth and closed my eyes against the wave of vertigo, leaning my body against a tree. Her voice continued to ring in my ears. We Do Not Have The Time To Waste With Debate. We Don't Have The Luxury Of Waiting For A Miracle - You Will Not Be Rescued This Time

I bit my tongue, holding down the irrational urge to try and scream in frustration, knowing nothing would be heard anyway. I didn't want this.

Why can nothing go as I plan it.

Stop Whining. She snapped, This Is The Fastest Way We Can Rejoin Rock Lee And Assist Indra. We Can Even Intervene Before The One-Tailed Host Loses His Sense Of Self And Begins His Rampage.

She was right, I knew. Terra knew it too. I couldn't sense anyone else coming and they were nearly here now. Only a quarter of a mile away. I didn't have time to set up an array or something to catch them, I didn't have the time or ink to spare on such a big group.

I squeezed the gash on my arm, clearing my head with a painful clarity. I ignored the voice singing in my ears and made my decision. Out of options. Out of time. It was my decision for what came next.

I'd never done this in practice, only theory because there has never been anyone I could use it on, but the concept was simple. A wide area-of-effect genjutsu that affected the brain via sound. It was easy to perform, but the hard part came in chakra usage and the toll it takes to maintain and subdue multiple victims simultaneously.

Taking cover I reached down into my holster and pressed my Ocarina to my lips, welcoming the cool metal against my fevered skin. I closed my eyes and began weaving the images in my head, channeling my chakra into the instrument. The steel sang with my energy, absorbing it in a way I'd never experienced before until it was gently humming in my hands.

Mixing and molding, I made the Rat seal with my free hand as I began the first notes of the song. Slowly I cast the genjutsu across the area, building up with somber tones gently placed in a wistful melody until the first of the chakra signatures finally landed in my trap.

My eyes bled and I brought the nightmares to life.

保護者 (guardian)

Security breaches in a number of places across the village, several in the east and a handful of skirmishes were happening at the southern gate. The final civilian evacuations were set underway after the first sign of attack with a number of them already secured within Hokage Monument from this morning.

We had been prepared for an attack from Sound and suspected hostilities from Sand, but… For Orochimaru to have been disguised as the Kazekage himself? Not only able to conceal his identity but also his chakra signature from all our sensors?

There was a reason why that man is renowned as one of the Legendary Sannin.

Currently, there was a barrier keeping us from aiding Hokage-sama and we've yet to figure out a way into it. It was a specialized type of barrier-ninjutsu, one that utilized synchronized jutsu casting and an ability to fall into a state of intense concentration to maintain the field.

I couldn't help but think if Sora were here she'd begin scribbling in half-coherent statements about how the structure of the walls were somehow inelegant, or the energy put into it was highly inefficient at some end. Then I would probably have to restrain her before she could investigate it closer and possibly set herself on fire.

I glanced down at the arena from the corner of my mask, seeing the skirmishes spill out of the stands and onto the rooftops. There was no sign of where any of the genin were either. Kami, I hope that she's not getting herself caught in any of this mess. Though it'd probably be too much to hope for that she had hunkered down with the other children somewhere to ride this out.

"I didn't miss any of the fun yet, have I?"

Wooden geta clacked against the roof tile as Jiraiya-sama landed. Despite the casual tone he had announced himself with, his expression was carved with grim lines as his eyes began to shrewdly examine the barrier.

With a signal I ordered my squad to stand down, some of them too young to have met the Toad Sage the last time he had been within the Village's borders. This is a surprise to myself, I thought he would've been stationed towards the Villages walls.

Jiraiya-sama pulled a notepad from his haori and began taking notes. I moved to his side in front of the barrier, my white cloak fluttering against a harsh wind that swept up from the arena. Behind the tall luminescent walls, Hokage-sama was locked in an intense battle with Orochimaru as they exchanged high-tiered jutsu.

"Assessment, Jiraiya-sama?"

"Get in touch with the Barrier squad and locate the summoning array they used for that," he directed a thumb towards the three-headed snake thrashing through the eastern districts. "Get them to reverse the formula used. They should know how to take it from there."

I sent Crane to do exactly that. While I turned away, Jiraiya-sama had produced a peculiar piece of paper along with blank pages. I spied expressive swirls of ink interlaced in intricate designs on the first tag before a smear of blood crossed it's surface, a cut thumb belonging to the man holding it.

The Sannin sighed, giving the barrier a skeptical glance before he began to draw with his blood. Making adjustments to the tag, I realized, something I had seen Sora do before off-hand. I also heard him mutter under his breath about how he should 'stop listening to pushy girls, no matter how cute' and I felt a strange pang of sympathy alongside my bewilderment.

He lifted a number of tags, holding several out to me. "This'll open a door. It's self activated but try to be delicate about applying it, huh? Might want to focus on catching the little ones too because they are gonna notice the disturbance immediately."

"What is this?" I asked. Inspecting the seal for myself. I was no expert, but I'd never seen a formula like this in any kind of standard explosive or barrier Fūinjutsu.

"'Barrier Bomber' or something, I think it was?" he muttered uncertainly, brow screwed together. He waved it off and I, less assured than I had been a moment ago, passed half the tags out to Lieutenant Bear and ordered him to take Boar and Spider to the other side of the barrier.

I eyed Jiraiya-same from behind my mask, feeling a cold sensation run along my skin as I asked my next question.

"And Orochimaru?"

His lips shifted into a wide, bitter grin. "You kids better just keep out of the way of this little… reunion."

Then he pinned the Fūinjutsu to the wall with kunai and a hole tore into the side of the barrier, allowing a mudslide to come rushing out.

Finals Arc,

Chapter Fifty-Five: "SNAFU"


A/N: so, uhm. You come here often? I apparently don't! Ehehe... welp, it's August but the chapter is finally here! It's been a long time coming and a lot has happened to me these last few months of both highs and lows. i'll spare you the lows and tell you the highs, like the fact that there is a discord for Naruto Fan Fiction. it is amazing. full of great people that are writers and readers alike. i almost adopted a kitten. and I made a tumblr account to post art and interact with peoples across the Internets! (If one were to ignore the fact there has yet to have anything been posted on the tumblr—)BUT! if you want a way to contact me and ask me questions, you should be able find me there as: nilhilisticbunny

Okay, i need to get to responding to all the wonderful reviewers I haven't been able to get back to over the last few weeks before diving into writing again! but first a wonderful , huuuuge Thank You to ClosetCase for being a wonderful friend and making sure I stopped rewriting everything. I finally became satisfied with this result. and to my new friends on the discord that cheered me on!

Author Question!

"What Genin squad would you want to be a part of, and who would you tag out with?"

Honestly, I do not envy Sakura's position. Anyone a part of Team 7 is going to have their hands SO full—that being said, i think i'd like to be a part of Team Gai and swap out with Neji. Team Gai is just so wonderful, I'd be able to be friends with Tenten and Lee (and technically save Neji's life, so woo!)

Be kind and receive kindness back.
It might not be an immediate return, and you certainly don't get a receipt, but it will come back around.

Until next time, love. Stay safe.


Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Prologue: Starting Over 1179 0 0 2. New Leaf Arc, Growing Pains 5710 0 0 3. New Leaf Arc, Hello World 5603 0 0 4. New Leaf Arc, Red Ribbon 5323 0 0 5. New Leaf Arc, About a Blonde 4280 0 0 6. New Leaf Arc, Hoodwinked 3920 0 0 7. New Leaf Arc, Kunoichi-to-be 4452 0 0 8. New Leaf Arc, ENTER, SORA! 5184 0 0 9. New Leaf Arc, Lucky Number Seven 5599 0 0 10. New Leaf Arc, Ninja 101 7283 0 0 11. New Leaf Arc, Smells Like Duties 5977 0 0 12. Breaking Waves Arc, Whats-his-face 5334 0 0 13. Breaking Waves Arc, Don't Lose Your Head 8216 0 0 14. Breaking Waves Arc, Our Roots 6882 0 0 15. Breaking Waves Arc, Precious Things 7963 0 0 16. Breaking Waves Arc, Tidal 6671 0 0 17. Breaking Waves Arc, Back-up Plan 7379 0 0 18. Breaking Waves Arc, Ripples 5523 0 0 19. Interlude, Hatake Kakashi Jonin-sensei 7396 0 0 20. Formula Arc, New Plan 8974 0 0 21. Formula Arc, Crossroads 9220 0 0 22. Formula Arc, His Word 4666 0 0 23. Formula Arc, Our Normal 7622 0 0 24. Formula Arc, The Art of Revenge 5170 0 0 25. Formula Arc, Kakashi Love Song 7416 0 0 26. Formula Arc, Arena 11642 0 0 27. Written Exam Arc, Chuunin Selection Exam 5540 0 0 28. Interlude, The Princess 8304 0 0 29. Written Exam Arc, Ache 7601 0 0 30. Written Exam Arc, Head and the Heart 6108 0 0 31. Dark Forest Arc, Bloodline 8738 0 0 32. Dark Forest Arc, Wake Up 9656 0 0 33. Dark Forest Arc, Fractured 5537 0 0 34. Dark Forest Arc, Day 2 4940 0 0 35. Dark Forest Arc, Distraction 9860 0 0 36. Dark Forest Arc, Dark Temptations 6455 0 0 37. Dark Forest Arc, The Day Icha-Icha 8984 0 0 38. Dark Forest Arc, Who Needs Sleep 10472 0 0 39. Dark Forest Arc, Match, START 8685 0 0 40. Dark Forest Arc, Life-risking Battles 5138 0 0 41. Dark Forest Arc, Monsters Afoot 7307 0 0 42. Interlude, Soldier-Mask-Man-Cat 9129 0 0 43. Montage Arc, Back into the Groove 7851 0 0 44. Montage Arc, New Development 8527 0 0 45. Montage Arc, Fritillaria Meleagris 6114 0 0 46. Montage Arc, Devil Woman 7410 0 0 47. Montage Arc, Sweet Thaaang 7387 0 0 48. Montage Arc, Back to Basics 6958 0 0 49. Montage Arc, Going With The Flow 3762 0 0 50. Montage Arc, Writer's Block 11988 0 0 51. Montage Arc, Moonlight Serenade 9331 0 0 52. Montage Arc, The Girl with Red Hair 10328 0 0 53. Montage Arc, Let's Talk 7039 0 0 54. Montage Arc, What is Love? Baby, Don't— 5310 0 0 55. Montage Arc, Now, theoretically… 5959 0 0 56. Montage Arc, Holster and Kunai 6835 0 0 57. Montage Arc, Cram Sessions 17057 0 0 58. Finals Arc, Let the Games Begin 18753 0 0 59. Finals Arc, SNAFU 9433 0 0 60. Finals Arc, circum venire I 5745 0 0 61. Finals Arc, circum venire II 11107 0 0