Sorry for the wait. I know, I said I'd be updating more often during this section of the exams but with all these unusual match ups I've gotta think extra hard on who will win and how. Sort of like death battle for Naruto characters.
Anyway, It's time to r-r-r-r rrrrrrrrrRead!
Sakura quietly followed Tenten down the stairs. She hadn't expected to be pit against her newest friend, but she supposed that was just another facet of ninja life that she hadn't considered. They'd spent the last couple of days chatting with each other. Tenten was so normal and easy to talk to that Sakura had lost track of time just hanging out with her.
They had already reached the bottom of the stairs and were standing across from each other. Sakura watched Tenten bounce between her feet, and remembered something she had said.
Tenten balanced on the back two legs of her chair, "My sensei's pretty weird, but he does know his stuff. When we were just starting he taught us all this stance to move around more efficiently in a fight."
Sakura glanced at Tenten and drank from her glass of juice, "You're really lucky. My sensei just made me feel stupid for asking questions on our first day."
"Are you serious? How can you stand having a terrible sensei like that?"
Suddenly, the wall across from Sakura was really interesting, "Well, I do what I can."
The front two legs of Tenten's chair thumped back onto the ground, "Why don't you come train with my team sometime? Don't worry, when it come's to training nothing ever distracts Lee."
"Are you sure?"
Tenten smiled, "Of course!"
"Don't hold back just because we're from the same village."
Sakura blinked, then she said, "I won't if you won't."
Tenten nodded, "Good. Sasuke was pretty impressive, so I'm looking forward to seeing what someone else from my sensei's rival's team can do."
Sakura didn't respond.
The proctor looked between Sakura and Tenten, "If you're both ready, then... Begin!"
Sakura surged forward with a flurry of jabs, but Tenten had pulled a quarterstaff from somewhere and was able to easily fend off her attacks. When Tenten retaliated, Sakura went flying.
Sakura tumbled across the floor, but she managed to get back on her feet and skid to a stop. She threw a kunai and charged back in. While Tenten easily bat the kunai to the side, Sakura increased her speed with a burst of chakra to get inside Tenten's guard. Sakura cheered, "I've got you!" But Tenten's staff twirled, and Sakura was knocked back again.
Tenten smacked the butt of her staff on the ground, "You've seen Lee, right? Gotta do better than that if you wanna take me with taijutsu."
Sakura stood up and wiped the blood off of her chin. She said, "Don't worry, I'm not done yet."
Tenten smiled, "Good to hear! Now it's my turn to go on the offensive." Sakura nodded and began to weave hand signs, then Tenten said, "No you don't!" And threw her staff like a javelin.
Sakura had to dive out of the way to avoid the staff, but multiple Sakuras landed.
Tenten eyed the mass of pink and red with caution. They were simple clones, but Sakura was hidden somewhere among them. Instead of approaching, Tenten pulled a brace of Shuriken and launched them with expert precision. Together, the stars tore through every Sakura in the pile.
In a puff of smoke, Sakura appeared where Tenten's staff had been and kicked at her, but Tenten caught the leg under her arm.
Up in the stands, Ino shouted, "What?! Sakura had her flank! How did Tenten know where Sakura was going to be?"
Asuma put a hand on Ino's shoulder, "While Sakura used the clone technique to mask her use of the substitution. It was a good way to work around the limitations that come with using hand signs to make the technique work. But it looks like that Tenten girl was a step ahead of your friend." Asuma stuck a cigarette between his lips but left it unlit, "She threw the staff on purpose as a feint, and Sakura took the bait."
Back at the fighting stage, Tenten said, "I could brake your leg a few different ways with this grip. Surrender."
Sakura clenched her jaw and tried to punch Tenten, "I can't do that."
Tenten pulled on Sakura's leg and made her punch go wide, then she said, "Look, even if you win with a broken leg you won't be healed in time for the final round."
Sakura said, "So be it." And tried to punch again with the same result.
"Sakura, I know we just met, but I consider you a friend. Don't make me hurt you more than I have to."
Sakura pulled her leg out of Tenten's grip, "What happened to not holding back? I didn't expect you to be so quick to make yourself a liar."
"Well," Tenten averted her gaze, "I was expecting you to be strong."
Ino cringed, "Ouch, I guess she's not pulling her punches anymore." Then she said, "Could you be any more blunt?"
Tenten ignored Ino, "Your technique's not bad, but it's the same academy style that we all learned. You're aiming for the right places, but there's not enough speed or power to reach. You're smart about using your jutsu, but you can only get so far with the basics that everyone knows." Tenten looked at Sakura, "I'm sorry, but you don't have what it takes to make it past this point."
"You think I don't know all that?" All eyes focused on Sakura, "Do you think I didn't realize how far out of my depth I am right now?"
"If you already know, then why haven't you given up yet? Why do you insist on-"
"Because I still need to find my starting line." Tenten's words died in her throat, "I went into the chuunin exams knowing that I wouldn't make chuunin because I needed to see where I am relative to the others and to find a goal to strive for." Sakura had found her words, "You holding back won't help me. I need to see just how far behind I am." She pointed at Tenten, "You offered to let me train with you after all this was over, and I'm gonna abuse the hell out of your offer. So don't chicken out now, Tenten. This is just the beginning."
Tenten didn't immediately respond, and they stood in a tense silence. Her lip trembled, "Damnit, Sakura." Tenten's eyes were brimming with unshed tears when she said, "You've inspired me, now I really can't hold back against you."
"Uh, are you gonna be alright?"
Tenten used the back of her hand to rub her eyes, "I'll be fine." She sniffed, "You should be worrying about yourself right now." In a puff of smoke, Tenten was suddenly holding two swords, "You might die if you don't."
Sakura gulped, "Bring it on."
Tenten nodded, "This is what you have to catch up to." Then she charged in with her swords already flashing through their first movements of her kata.
Sakura was able to dodge the first blade, but was immediately sent flying by a kick to the face. Tenten didn't stop her approach and Sakura would've lost a few inches off the top if she had stopped to feel the pain. Albeit pink hair did go flying all over the room, but on the bright side Sakura was only bleeding from the nose.
Sakura clapped her hands in a hand sign and concentrated chakra into her feet. Because of that she was able to make some space between her and Tenten's swords. Tenten continued her swing but let go at the apex, and the sword flew at Sakura. There wasn't time to think as Sakura bent over backward to avoid a blade to the gut. She blinked and then it was over.
Tenten stood over Sakura with a blade resting on her jugular. Tenten looked Sakura in the eye, "Call the match."
Sakura's arms shook as the proctor called out, "Winner, Tenten!"
Sasuke looked down at Sakura's collapsed and heaving body with new eyes, his interest peaked.
Ryuto chuckled and elbowed Sasuke in the side, "Heh, she looks just like you, Dusty."
Sasuke grumbled but didn't respond.
Ino looked over at Ryuto, "What do you mean, 'just like' Sasuke? She had no chance of winning."
Ryuto nodded, "Exactly."
Ino shook her head, "You sure have changed since the academy, Ryuto." She ignored the look that her fellow genin sent her in favor of watching her old friend pick herself off the ground. She whispered, "It looks like you've changed too, Sakura."
When Sakura managed to drag herself back up to the balcony, she greeted her fellows with a wry smile, "Well, I lost."
"You did well, Sakura." Kakshi patted his pink haired genin on the shoulder.
Sakura was slow to respond, "Hey, Ino."
Ino fidgeted, "Look, uh, your hair got really messed up in that fight, and I, uh, just wanted to let you know that I might find enough kindness in my heart to properly trim your hair if you maybe asked."
Sakura nodded, "I see." Then she smiled, "Thanks for the offer, Ino. How about after the preliminaries finish?"
"Uh, yeah! Sounds good."
Sakura turned and waved, "Hey Tenten! Wanna join?"
Ryuto didn't look at Sakura, "It's time for the next match."
The electric display glowed with the names of the fighters who would enter the ring next:
Dosu vs Shikamaru
And that's a wrap!
Thanks for sticking with it for so long you guys.
As always, please review. Who will win? Dosu the sound ninja? Or Shikamaru the smart guy?
Omake - Peckish
Sasuke was trying to watch the fight, but he just couldn't focus. The reason? His teammate.
At some point, Ryuto had obtained and popped a bag of popcorn and was currently munching away at it with an open mouth.
Sasuke turned to Ryuto, "Will you cut that out?"
Ryuto swallowed, "All this fighting has made me peckish." He shrugged and went back to eating.
Then Choji said, "I'll trade you some chips for some popcorn."
Then they both started chewing loudly.