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A Living Lie @pencyke
Smoke signals

Hello everyone

It's time for a new chapter

Wha'chall think o' tha'?

A lump formed in Sakura's throat as she spotted Ryuto hanging out at the edge of the crowd. In the end, she had decided to try to explain her line of thinking to her teammate, but the words eluded her. Still, she had to say something, had to establish where she stood in the confusing vortex of team seven. Otherwise she would be swallowed whole by the awkwardness.

Sakura looked up, determined to speak her mind, "Ryuto-"

"You know when Sasuke's gonna show?" Ryuto's eyes were on the passing chuunin hopefuls, "If he doesn't hurry we'll have to go without him."

Sakura blinked as her mind tried to switch subjects without losing her original train of thought, "Wha-?"

"Speak of the devil, here he comes." Ryuto stood from his perch leaning on the wall and gestured for Sakura to follow him, "C'mon, we'll meet up with him." He spoke as if she could be anyone, as if she didn't matter.

As the pinkette followed her teammate through the press of bodies she tried to assert her words over the surrounding noise, "Look, I just-"

"Sasuke, let's go in now that we're all here."


Sakura stared at the back of Ryuto's head for a moment. Was he interrupting her on purpose? She took a deep breath and continued to follow. It was too soon to be sure.

The sea of genin parted before Team Seven as they passed on their way to the third floor. Conversations died as they approached, and no one made eye contact. They passed by the genjutsu on the second floor without a word and arrived at the entrance to room 301 without incident.

Then Kakashi appeared before them, "I'm glad you all..." Even Kakashi seemed to be affected by the trio's aura of gloom, "Showed up. Uh, go in, and, uh... Yeah, teamwork." He took their application forms and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Then Team Seven entered the room beyond.

The place was filled to the brim with genin teams all huddled together. All eyes in the room moved onto Ryuto, Sasuke, and Sakura before immediately diverting to look at something else.

Ryuto suppressed the urge to scream. It seemed like everyone in the exam knew about him. They were planning something, he just knew it. But what if that was the part of the plan, what if they knew that he knew and they had already planned for it? Still he would do everything in his power to avoid whatever plan they had for him. He would show them, he would show them all!


"Hiiiii!" Ino's scream echoed through the room as she tried to calm her heart. Then she looked at Sakura, "You look terrible."

Sakura frowned, "I'm not here to bicker with you, Ino."

Ino shook her head with concern, "I don't even mean it like an insult. Did you sleep at all last night? You look sick. And what's wrong with your team, it's like someone died or something. Even Sasuke isn't looking so cool."

Sakura sighed, "Ino,you were always better with people. I need some advice."

"Now wait just a minute." Ino smirked and put her hands on her hips, "Just because you look ready to keel over doesn't mean that I'm gonna let you have Sasuke all to yourself, Forehead."

"Ino..." Sakura pinched her nose, "You know what? Forget it, I'll figure it out on my own." Then she turned around and marched back to her depressing team.

Ino heard a sigh from one of her teammates, "What a drag,"

"Oh shut up Shikamaru, it's none of your business."

"Hm, I guess not." He shrugged, "It's too much of a drag anyway."

Peripherally, Sasuke noticed Sakura's presence return and he grunted at her out of habit. He was too concerned with his own inner thoughts to do anything else. What had happened after he awakened his sharingan and how to do it again.

He'd been trying all morning with little success beyond giving himself a headache and drying out his eyes. It was more infuriating to know that he had the Sharingan but couldn't figure out how to use it than to not have it at all. And then there were the thoughts that awakening his sharingan hadn't made him any stronger, that he was just the last crippled fragment of a deceased clan. After all, Ryuto had knocked him out with a single move despite his active sharingan.

Sasuke was quick to crush those thoughts under the weight of his desire for revenge, but the doubt was still there.

Ryuto stood silently with his back to the wall, arms crossed in an attempt to project as much coolness as possible. Some older genin was showing off his cards to the other rookies and Ryuto totally ignored them. They could be talking about anything, like how nice the weather was for mocking him behind his back. Or they could be discussing how each of those cards had one of his secrets written on it and how they were planning to distribute them to all of the foreign competitors.

When the guy with the cards was attacked by a team from another village, the proctors appeared and then Ryuto turned away from his thoughts with relief.

Then, after all the participants were seated, the head proctor gave a speech that boiled down to, 'This is a written test, don't cheat.'

The test began and Ryuto flipped over the paper. He read the first question and balked, was he the only one with impossibly difficult questions? Judging by the others' reactions, he wasn't. Supposedly, he could wait for the tenth question and take whatever they gave him. In another life Ryuto might've hedged his bets on that, but he was convinced that the village was secretly plotting his demise while cackling loudly behind closed doors. Instead, for the first time in his life, he was going to actually try on a written test.

To Sasuke, it was obvious that the true nature of the test was to measure their information gathering skills. The next step to ask the question, what information gathering skills did he have? Sure, Sasuke'd excelled in every part of the academy's curriculum but that kind of espionage was only doable when you could interact with people, exactly how this test was designed to stop that from happening. Instead they had to steal the answers without moving from their seats.

As an Uchiha, he'd relentlessly practiced his wire techniques, but that was geared toward a combat scenario where the you only needed enough subtlety to get past your opponent's guard.

Sasuke smirked, perhaps he could use that. He was careful to maintain the idle movements of one who was thinking as he flexed his chakra and reached out with it. Carefully, he coaxed a line of chakra conductive ninja wire out of his equipment pouch.

Using his chakra Sasuke was able to guide the wire across the floor unnoticed, but it was slow going. This was his first time doing anything like this, and Sasuke was focused intensely on keeping his chakra under control.

"Number 69, you're disqualified!"

Sasuke and the rest of the genin nearly jumped ten feet up. The genin in question, a rain ninja, actually stood up, "What? That's unfair, I wasn't doing anything!"

Ibiki just smirked with his gruesome face, "Too bad. Numbers 4 and 20, you're disqualified alongside your teammate." With loud protests, the team was escorted out.

When Sasuke's heart finally stopped trying to break through his ribs, he reached out with his chakra and reanimated his wire with determination.

Now that the first team had been eliminated, it was like a dam had broken, they were dropping out like flies. One guy sitting directly behind Sakura had been eliminated, and she nearly panicked when she'd thought it was her who was getting kicked out.

At one point a guy's chair actually exploded while he was sitting on it. When he'd been carted off for medical treatment and his teammates disqualified, his test had been conspicuously missing.

When the time had finally come for the tenth question to be presented about a third of the teams had been dismissed. Among those teams who'd survived thus far, team seven was right there sweating with the rest of them.

When proposed with the dilemma of either taking the question and possibly staying as a genin forever or voluntarily dropping out for another chance in six months, there was a brief uproar from the remaining genin but it was quickly silenced by the proctor's next words, "I don't care who you are or what village you come from, if you can't answer this question then you're unfit to be a ninja!"

Ryuto nearly growled in irritation. He had no doubt that he'd be stopped from ever taking the exams again. It seemed like just the thing such a two faced village would do to bottleneck one of their own who they secretly hated. Still, even if he backed off now there was nothing keeping the village from stopping his advancement anyway. Ultimately, every village decided for themselves who would be a chuunin and who wouldn't.

Sakura held back a scoff. She'd answered all of their questions so far, there was no way she would back off now. Not when she had something to prove. She needed to see where she stacked up next to the other genin, so she could decide where to go with her own training. She wouldn't be useless anymore.

Sasuke discreetly peered over at Sakura. She seemed surprisingly sturdy in the face of the tenth question, so he turned his attention to his other teammate and the Uchiha was again surprised at what he saw. Ryuto was visibly sweating, and the occasional twitch that coursed through his body did not invoke confidence in Sasuke. Ryuto's mouth was moving but he didn't seem to be signaling anyone. Instead, the words he shaped looked to be a silent chant to boost self confidence.

Sasuke frowned, why was Ryuto suddenly on the verge of a heart attack? There was no way the test was shaking him that much. Heck, Sakura looked more confident than Ryuto. This wasn't normal. Something was very wrong.

Suddenly Sasuke wasn't feeling so confident about his chances in the exams. The proctor had been clear that they had to pass as a team, which meant that it was completely possible that if any of them missed the tenth question they'd all be stuck as genin forever. Ryuto didn't look confident at all, would it be better if Sasuke pulled out now for a chance next time? Sasuke's hand twitched. What was the right decision? Did he take the risk on his apparently panicking teammate who he didn't get along with at all, or did he go for the 'live to fight another day' approach?

Ryuto's head turned, and his eyes locked onto Sasuke's. It was a look that threatened bodily injury and spoke of a fury that could easily destroy him. In that look, Sasuke caught a glimpse of insanity bubbling deep underneath the surface. It was that look that had jolted Sasuke out of his thoughts and he belatedly realized that his hand was raised in the air. Everyone was staring at him, but he kept his eyes on Ryuto.

"I am going to make it all the way to the end, and I am going to win this whole thing. If you get in my way, I'll make you regret it." Sasuke pointed at his teammate among the participants in the front of the room, "There's nothing you can do to stop me!" Then he slammed his raised hand on the table and sat back down with a scowl.

No one else quit after Sasuke's speech.

As it turned out, the question of whether or not to take the last question was the true test. Gathering information had been secondary all along, and everyone left in the room went on to take the second exam.

After the genin had all filed out of the room, the proctor was picking up the tests for later reviewing when he something caught his attention. One of the tests was completely wrong. Every single question had been answered, but with an approach that landed at the wrong conclusion every time. He glanced at the desk number, the test belonged to that kid with all that makeup.

Ibiki grinned.

And that's a wrap! Next chapter's gonna be the second exam with the forest of death and all that. What do you guys think? Where you scared when Sasuke's hand was up? Will this team 7 make it to the end? Will Sakura's change in attitude be enough for her to actually beat Ino?

Only time (and updates) will tell. See ya!

1. Chapter 1 3061 0 0 2. The second chapter 2732 0 0 3. Third time's the charm! 2789 0 0 4. Four Man Team! 2365 0 0 5. Five on One 2229 0 0 6. Six Eyes Watching Me 2654 0 0 7. (Un)Lucky Team Seven 2637 0 0 8. Ate the Dust 3084 0 0 9. Nine Tales 2692 0 0 10. Pending Ignition…10…9… 2800 0 0 11. Cranked up to Eleven 3131 0 0 12. Twelve Tolls of Death's Bell 1761 0 0 13. Baker's Dozen 1970 0 0 14. Break time 3032 0 0 15. Tantrums Work! 2291 0 0 16. Oh boy, FLASHBACKS! 1110 0 0 17. Smoke signals 2153 0 0 18. Great Acting 2812 0 0 19. Days Spent Well 4242 0 0 20. The First Bout 2116 0 0 21. Sasuke vs Kiba 1170 0 0 22. Sakura vs Tenten 1579 0 0 23. The Rest of the Prelims 3112 0 0 24. Emergency Therapy Session! 3230 0 0 25. A Real Bad Time 3083 0 0 26. True to Form 2871 0 0 27. Impact 2434 0 0 28. Aftermath 2859 0 0 29. Day 1 2520 0 0 30. Memory Lane 2884 0 0 31. Midnight Stakeout 3346 0 0 32. Tournament Part 1 3358 0 0 33. Tournament Part 2 2864 0 0 34. Tournament Part 3 2300 0 0