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A Living Lie @pencyke
Great Acting

Hey everybody, I've just finished the new chapter. Hope you like it!

It's always interesting to watch ninja interact with each other. Doubly so when they're about to tear each other apart.

Kakashi relaxed in the jonin lounge with his orange book. Since his team had made it to the second round, he had a whole weeks worth of free time. Over the cover of his wonderful book, Kakashi watched the other sensei agonize over their teams. He was about to turn back to his book when a spandex-clad silhouette appeared in front of him.

"Yo, Kakashi, you cool cat." One of the other sensei, Kakashi's self proclaimed rival, stood in his skin tight dark green full body spandex.

Kakashi sat up, though his eyes remained firmly on the words(and tasteful illustrations) of his book, "...Yo."

"I see you're as hip a cat as ever, Kakashi. I also see that both of our genin teams have made it to the second exam on their first try." The jonin's eyes glinted, "What do you say to a little wager?"

The genin who'd passed the first exam shuffled around as a loose mob, too cautious to let enemy teams get close, but unwilling to move too far away from the proctor's tent as everyone filled out their waivers.

Ryuto felt Sakura's eyes searing into the back of his head, but he refused to acknowledge her. It would only lead to a situation they could not afford to have. He went over his mental list of who had passed the first exam.

A few teams from the other villages had made it, but the majority of the teams were from Konoha, including the two other teams that had graduated from the same class as Ryuto. He was glad that he hadn't damaged Kiba too much, but he didn't like how Kiba and Hinata looked away suddenly when they caught him looking. Shino just stared back with his accusingly blank expression.

Shikamaru had also been staring with those calculating eyes of his. Ryuto frowned, it was a bad sign if even Shikamaru was paying attention to him. He was deceptively smart, and his laziness had been legendary among their classmates.

Ryuto half turned toward his team, "Have you guys finished your forms yet?"

Sasuke grunted in affirmation and Sakura nodded, " Yes, I di-"

"Then let's get our scroll and get out of here." Ryuto was already walking to the proctor's tent.

He'd do whatever it took to stay ahead of the curve, just like always.

He had no other option.

Sasuke restrained his anticipation as he stared up at team seven's assigned gate. When it opened, they would be on their own in a territory filled with enemies. It would be an opportunity to fight tough opponents and become stronger. He absolutely needed to get stronger, in order to kill his brother and avenge his clan. Sasuke glanced at his brunette teammate, perhaps he'd be able to show up Ryuto in the process.

Peripherally, Sasuke wondered what had transpired after he'd been knocked out, but his pride violently killed the notion of asking his teammate. Ryuto seemed content to pretend that it hadn't happened, and Sasuke was more than happy to go along with it.

Sasuke's thoughts were interrupted by the click and rattle of the gate opening.

Ryuto launched forward, "Let's go!"

Sasuke followed close behind, eyes squarely on Ryuto. This was his chance to become stronger, he had to focus.

He had to catch up to his brother.

The feel of bark thumping underfoot every few seconds, scraping against their ninja sandals every time they landed on a tree branch. That's what Sakura focused on as team seven flew through the forest of death. Ryuto had set a hard pace from the start and it was all Sakura could do just to avoid falling behind.

As they ran, Ryuto began to speak, "It's a waste of effort to try and track down a team, so instead we should set an ambush and use bait to attract the other teams." Sasuke didn't comment, and Sakura was too tired to pay attention to anything. Ryuto continued, "We need something loud to get other teams to investigate. We're rookies, we should use that. If we make a show of being immature and unprofessional, the enemy will let their guard down and that will be when we strike." Then he dropped to the forest floor.

Sakura watched Sasuke land next to her brunette teammate and tried to do the same, but her foot slipped on a rock and fire shot up her leg.

Her scream echoed across the forest, quickly followed by the cacophony of animals moving through the trees, and then silence.

Sakura stared into Sasuke's eyes. He'd caught her. She'd fallen and he'd caught her. She tried to say something, but whatever sounds she had managed to get out were muffled by the Uchiha's hand that was clamped firmly over her mouth. Sakura watched Sasuke's eyes pan to the side and she followed his gaze. Ryuto stared back at them and slowly gestured with his hands. Sakura scrunched her eyebrows, it was hard to think with the throbbing pain that pulsed up her leg, but she deduced that Ryuto wanted them to do... Something?

Still, Sasuke seemed to get it, because he removed his hand from her mouth. Then, in a voice laden with concern, he said, "Sakura, are you alright?"

Sakura couldn't help the blush that crept onto her face, "U-um," Suddenly she realized just how close Sasuke's face was to her's and with how he was holding her almost completely pressed against his body. She felt that if they stayed like that she might melt into nothingness. That might not be too bad, she thought.

*Now wait just a minute!* Inner Sakura said, *CHA! This is too weird, why is Sasuke acting different all of a sudden!?*

Who cares? Thought Sakura, I don't.

*CHA! Yes you do!*

Well, maybe I do, thought Sakura, but what am I supposed to do? This has never happened before!

*CHA! Get away from him! It might be an imposter!*

Sakura yelped and pushed her way out of Sasuke's lose grip, but when she tried to stand on her own the pain in her leg intensified and she fell over.

Sasuke glanced at Ryuto, then reached out to help her up, with that strange look of concern, "It looks like you sprained your ankle, it needs to be treated immediately."

Sakura held out her hand and shook her head, "No! Uh, I can do it myself." There was no telling who these (probable)impostors could be or what they would do to her once her guard was down, "I have to contribute somehow, right? Heheh?" Sakura ignored the pain in her chest.

Sasuke and Ryuto shared another look, then Ryuto said, "It's still early but we'll set up camp here. I'll look for some firewood, you guys keep watch." Sasuke sat down on a rock as Ryuto disappeared around some trees.

Neither Sasuke nor Sakura spoke when she slipped out of her sandal. Sasuke just sat and stared as she pulled out a roll of gauze and began to tightly wrap her ankle. This Sasuke was more natural to her, the Sasuke that didn't react when she grunted in pain when she pulled the bandage too tight, who's facial expression didn't change even as he watched her struggle to secure the bandage.

After Sakura managed to pull her sandal back on over the bandages, Sasuke spoke in that concerned voice of his, "Sakura, I knew the truth, but I didn't realize what it meant until now. This test, it's dangerous. We could be killed at any moment. I thought we could handle it, but where do we even start?" Sakura watched Sasuke's expression morph into something she didn't recognize, "We should just give up our scroll to the first team we find and get out of here."

Sakura couldn't believe what she was hearing, her Sasuke was losing his nerve? It had to be an impostor, it had to be!

"In that case, why don't I take that scroll off you hands?"

Sakura jerked her head around to try and spot whoever had spoken, "Hey! Why don't you come out and talk to us?"

"You rookies are all the same, weak and naive. I swear, it just cracks me up!" The disembodied voice cackled, "Now, if you don't want to die before your friend comes back, just leave your scroll on the ground and walk away."

Sakura looked at Sasuke. He wasn't really gonna do it, right? He couldn't! Neither of them even had the scroll, Ryuto had it! But what were they gonna do now? Now that they had the attention of an enemy team, they couldn't just say, 'Woops, we don't actually have the scroll. Sorry guys, better luck next time.' That could prove disastrous. What would could she and Sasuke do against three hidden opponents? Sasuke might make it, but her? She hadn't even started her serious training yet. There had to be something she could do! Something. Something! SOME-!

Sakura's frantic thoughts were interrupted by the thump of an unconscious body on the forest floor. She stared at it, "Huh?"

Ryuto touched down in the middle of their clearing with two more unconscious bodies, one under each of his arms. He dropped them next to the other one, "Good job guys. your acting was," Ryuto gestured into the air for a moment before he kissed his hand with a flourish, "Superb."

Sasuke scoffed, "Took you long enough to finish. I could've done it in half the time."

Ryuto rolled his eyes, "Maybe, maybe not." He shrugged, "Maybe you should be an actor instead of a ninja, Dusty. Looks like it suits you."

"Shut up."

"You first."

Sasuke clenched his fists, "Just help me search for their scroll."

"Wait." Sasuke and Ryuto looked up from what they were doing, "You mean, this was all an act?!"

"Uh, yeah. Didn't you hear when I said to lure in the bad guys with bait?" Ryuto squinted, "You mean you didn't slip on purpose? It was so perfect even Dusty went along with it."

Sakura blushed, "W-who didn't slip on purpose? Definitely not me! Hahahaha! Ow." As Sakura tried to scrounge up whatever was left of her dignity, she changed the subject, "Uh, did they have the scroll we needed?"

Sasuke nodded and held up the scroll of heaven. Ryuto clapped his hands, "Then we should get going to the tower, this has got to be some kind of record." Ryuto half-turned to Sakura, "Can you keep up on your own?"

"I think I can manage."

"Okay then." Ryuto nodded, "Let's go."

And so, team seven was able to make it the rest of way to the central tower without incident.

After the random chuunin who'd appeared out of the scrolls finished explaining the true meaning behind the poem/code and had led team seven to their provided rooms for the next few days, the three genin had gone their separate ways.

Ryuto had left in search of food and Sasuke just locked himself inside his room, leaving Sakura to explore the tower with nothing but her thoughts for company.

Sakura wondered how Ino was doing. Would Ino's manage to make it or would they get hurt and disqualified? As much as they had argued back in the academy she had missed her friend and wouldn't wish that on her. Then Sakura wondered if she would've made it past the second test had she been with a different team. It wasn't like she'd contributed that much, but it must not have been so hard if her team had made it through without a scratch.

As she walked, Sakura passed a balcony and paused to look at the view. The sun was just beginning to set and it bathed the clouds in a pinkish hue that reminded her of herself.

Right now, thought Sakura, I'm as weak as those clouds, and I've only made it so far because of Sasuke and Ryuto. Her eyes dipped down, That's a depressing thought.

Then Sakura noticed a baby bird nested in the crook of a tree high in the air. It was calling for it's mother. She smiled, "Aw, you're so cute." As she watched, the bird's mother soared in on her powerful wings and landed in the nest with her baby. The mother dipped her head, as if to feed the baby. In it's excitement it hopped around and chirped even louder. Then with a flick of her beak the mother bird pushed the baby bird out of the nest.

Sakura watched in horror as the baby bird plummeted to it's doom as the mother bird watched, "No!" Then something amazing happened. The baby bird flew!

Sakura stood there at that balcony long after the sun had set. Thinking.

It was interesting for Ryuto to experience someone else's cooking. He'd learned to cook by helping the matrons back at the orphanage, and at the time it was because he was curious about what went on in the kitchen. When he finally was on his own he was able to take care of his own food, and he even found that he enjoyed it. He'd make everything to his own taste and if something wasn't good he would change it. It was cool to taste another's flavor profile, but he wondered what could make it better.

"Check it out, one of the leaf teams finally made it." One of the sand genin, the one in the hooded black pajamas, spun a chair around and sat on it backwards across from Ryuto.

Ryuto raised an eyebrow, "Nice makeup, how long have you been here?" He recognized this genin, this one was part of the team that the other teams from the sand avoided.

The sand genin smirked, "Well aren't you original." He traced a pattern on the table, "So how'd you make to the end so quick?"

"As if I'd tell you."

He shrugged, "Fair enough."

They sat in silence as Ryuto had another bite of food, "You find any good spots to pass the time yet?"

"Now that you mention it, I do remember passing a game room on the way here. My sister's a hard ass-"

"So you came to see if anyone else was here."

"And I found you. So what do you say, you up for a friendly game with a genin from an allied village?"

"I don't mind a game or seven, but I don't wan't to just call you... Well, you."

"The name's Kankuro," He stuck out a hand, "You?"

"Ryuto." They grinned at each other as they shook hands, "Lead the way my friend."

"You got it."

Sasuke stared at the ceiling in his room and tried to activate his sharingan. His only reward was another spike of pain right behind the eyes.

He thought back to the forest of death. It was hard to believe that they'd made it through such a supposedly dangerous place practically unscathed. He needed to be patient if he was going to attain his goals. That lesson was the only good thing that had come from provoking his teammate, and it had cost him his sharingan, his confidence, and his pride. So decided to try playing nicely in the forest and his reward was even more time to sit and do nothing when he could've been out there fighting and getting stronger.

Sasuke rolled on his side and stared at the wall of his room. He tried to activate his sharingan again without success. All this thinking was giving him a headache and making him irritable. Sasuke rubbed his eyes and rolled off his bed to work his legs a bit.

Just as he grabbed the doorknob, two sharp knocks sounded.

"Hahaha! I bet we broke like a record or something!" Kiba strode proudly at the front of team eight as they followed their random chuunin guide through the tower. Besides that sand team with the scary red head they were pretty much first to show up. Kiba grinned, "Now I can rub it all in Ryuto's face! So what that he got the drop on me? I did better in the test, so take that!"

"Why are you so loud, Kiba?"

Kiba stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the pinkette in front of him. He pointed, "How the hell did you beat us here?!"

Sakura shrugged, "I'm not to sure myself." Then she moved right past them. "Hey Hinata. Hey Shino."

Hinata inclined her head, "H-hello, Sakura." Shino just stood there.

Sakura paused in her stride, "Oh, and I think Ryuto is somewhere around the mess hall with one of those sand genin."

Kiba furrowed his brow, "What is going on?"

So what did you think? Are you disappointed? Did I leave out your favorite scene? Are you wondering where the heck is Orochimaru?

Leave a review and tell me about your problems.

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