Rippling Future @airheaded_dude
This Winding Road Part One

Chapter Fifteen: This Winding Road, Part One


Hokage Tower, Morning:

Tsunade had just received word via Kakashi's summon that they have recovered Naruto, alive and in one piece. A big sigh of relief escaped her.

Naruto was alive. He had escaped and caused enough of a ruckus for Jiraiya and Kakashi to investigate.

But the other objective that she had assigned the two was not met.

Kakashi had explicitly stated that every chance to discover a Root base, had been all for nothing. They had no leads other than the last scent that Naruto gave off when he was placed in a body bag. Jiraiya's network was of no help either. Jiraiya had stated that his network mostly works outside the borders of Fire Country. For the inside jobs, Hiruzen covered for him but after the death of the Sandaime, he had no time since then to allocate some of his resources back in Fire Country, what little information he could scrounge up was negligible and unhelpful at best.

When the two shinobi found Naruto, the base that he was allegedly staying at was obliterated down to atoms courtesy of an out of control Kyuubi inside the blonde that he had apparently used.

There was nothing left of the base that could incriminate Danzo and it was one of the frustrations that she was having right now aside from another report that Kakashi turned in before he took his reassignment for another mission.

Apparently, Naruto recovered in just one day and had decided to pursue Shikamaru's group to provide backup out of defiance against Jiraiya.

Both shinobi had suspected that Danzo may have poisoned the blonde's mind with state secrets that he wasn't supposed to know at a certain period of time.

This would normally be a problem if Naruto was on active duty. But during his apparent death, he was listed in the killed in action list. She had been secretly having Kakashi and Jiraiya scour the entire country in finding the boy and the results that she had was not placed in the official records. Instead she had created a forged copy and placed it in the file. Who knows what kind of people would be snooping around in reading the files that she knew was confidential.

The only people that she knew who had the correct files were herself, Kakashi and Jiraiya. And she kept those files hidden exceptionally well and close to her.

When Naruto had woken up, Jiraiya could tell that there was a certain level disillusion coming from the boy and he was treating both Jiraiya and Kakashi as someone he couldn't completely trust as opposed to before his kidnapping. It was troubling indeed. She needed to look at the journals the Sandaime had made for thirteen years since the attack of the Kyuubi on Konoha.

Naruto would remain untouchable for the most part due to a technicality. She grinned when Kakashi had stated that Naruto was willing to accept the consequences of his actions.

A brat he may be sometimes but when the boy said those words, she couldn't help but smile. The boy was growing up despite his petulance.

For now she would continue to look at her paperwork. Eventually, Danzo would slip and when he does, Tsunade was ready to put a hit on the man.

She would not take this lying down.


Shikamaru's group:

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Sakura looked up and the dome of earth had them covered completely.

They were detected and captured by the enemy after observing them for the whole night. Shikamaru had developed a contingency plan just in case, but even a great tactician would fail if he didn't know much of the variables that he was presented with.

Flashback:

His decisions had been sound thus far. From formations to their actions, Shikamaru always took the prudent road and decided to gather more data based on what the enemy could do.

But it was clear that their enemy was better. They were detected by a very thin and almost unnoticeable thread of spider web. The webs that were near invisible were tensile enough that even steel couldn't even break them easily. It became clear that ever since they had arrived, they were already detected.

They just wanted to see what their enemy was about to do.

When the six armed man pulled altogether six people with his webs, Sakura knew they were already backed against the wall.

Without the element of surprise anymore, they were already at a disadvantage. And with very little skill shown by the Oto Shinobi, it meant that they were indeed not a group to be underestimated.

The four shinobi looked at them with sinister grins on their faces, as if they were just handed with the most delectable of prey.

"Well look at what my webs just caught, I thought we would be in for an interesting fight but it looks like we got served with more Konoha garbage and even worse than last time." The six armed man smirked as the one with blue hair gave a chuckle.

"Good timing, I need something to let loose some steam."

"This is a fucking waste of time. The coffin is of the essence. Orochimaru-sama has ordered us to deliver Sasuke on schedule."

"This will only take a few SECONDS!" The man with the blue hair charged at the group with his left arm drawn back and throwing away caution to the wind. Shikamaru saw this as a sign of insult that their enemy was underestimating them. Judging from the one charging, he could say that the one with the blue hear that carried something like a head on his back was a Taijutsu specialist.

Shikamaru gave his best damn poker face as the first one charged. He didn't know what was in store for him the minute he realizes that he had close range fighters of varying degrees of specialties in his disposal.

"Tarenken (Mach Fist)!" His fists were suddenly a blur as if they were multiplying as he shoved his arm forward. Unfortunately for him, he wouldn't be able to connect as Lee had suddenly intercepted the punch or rather several punches with his right arm that moved in quick and precise patterns and angles.

"I can see your movements." Lee said as he moved forward as he got in close and punched Sakon in the stomach. The blue haired man blocked the punch and seemed quite amused and impressed by the bowl cut boy's reflexes and speed.

"Oh? So you're not just garbage after all."

Shikamaru for his part gestured to Chouji with his neck as the boy complied with a nod.

The boy nodded as Shikamaru replied, "Your mistake was that you thought you had us when we were caught and made a move first. Your second mistake was that clearly you underestimated us thinking you could take us down just because we're younger."

Chouji suddenly grew his arms and slammed them on the ground creating a dust cloud.

Kidomaru smirked. They were stupid enough to cast a distraction when they were obviously trapped by his threads? How arrogant could you get?

When he pulled the strings, he had realized that they had all been replaced by rocks caused by the large boy's distraction. Suddenly surprised by all this, Kimamaro spat out four spiked boomerangs from his mouth and threw them at the improvised smokescreen. They were then intercepted by a batch of four kunai from it.

Then, two flying drills charged through the smoke and flew at their nearest target, Sakon. In quick succession, the blue haired man ducked from the attack as Lee kept pressuring him with several punches that left him quite open to Kiba's attack.

Sakon, then instead of parrying and defending himself, decided to jump away at a safe distance.

"Suiton: Ryuusui no Mai (Water Release: Dance of the Flowing water)!"

Tenten slid through the smoke, Suigintou (Mercurial blade) in hand and a splash of surging water beneath her feet and reaching to her knees. She glided on the ground, earning more speed and less friction as she charged. Kidomaru acted quickly and began attacking her with his spiked boomerangs. But Tenten gracefully evaded them gracefully as if she was skating on ice and the blade in her hands glowed blue as she did so.

When she got close, it was then that Jirobo touched the ground and flipped a perfectly rectangular wall of earth beneath him.

"Doton: Doroku Gaeshi (Earth Release: Earth Wall Land flip)!"

CLANG!

Suigintou may be a sharp blade, but it cannot cut solid stone.

Surprised by this, Tenten was suddenly attacked by the red headed girl as she charged at her with a kunai straight to her face.

CLANG!

The sound of metal clashing against metal was all Tenten heard when Sakura blocked the red head woman's attack by brandishing her twin double edged swords.

With a grit of her teeth, Sakura pushed the woman away and attack her but was intercepted by their largest hostile combatant. Jirobo had burst from the earth that he treated like a tatami mat.

The earth shattered as a brute show of strength overwhelmed Sakura who twisted herself around as Jirobo charged with his shoulder drawn. Tenten reacted quick and swung her nodachi sideways at the large man who simply ducked below and continued his charge at the two of them. The large man gave Tenten a shoulder charge to her gut that pushed the air out of her lungs sending her flying back and skidding on the ground as Sakura narrowly dodged a powerful palm strike from the man by leaning back that destroyed a few strands of her hair.

'A little more and that would have completely torn my head off.' Sakura thought, thanking Tsunade's vicious training method in dodging.

A common tactic for medic ninja was that they were usually held back in order to be the last person to be gravely injured.

But she wasn't just a medic ninja…

She was a COMBAT medic ninja.

She had learned to heal even though still very early in her training stages with the Hokage. She could heal shallow and small cuts and a few dislocated bones. She was still far from treating patients with shock and compound fractures.

But she learned advanced combat from Kakashi. Due to the man's methods, she had far better reflexes than she should have and it made Tsunade's training much more bearable than what it should be. Perhaps she had gotten used to the training of learning Kakashi's suggested style, but the way she could dodge even just a hairline of anything that the Hokage can throw at her at lower levels was something that Tsunade was quite pleased and proceeded to increase the difficulty.

It was as if it was a knock off of the Sharingan's clairvoyant abilities.

Sakura jumped back when the red headed woman pounced at her as she swung a kunai at her with her left hand.

Only to be dragged down to the ground when Kidomaru threw a thread and latched it on to her. Sakura stumbled as she tried to get up when the red head girl was on top of her with a kunai about to impale her in the face.

But it wouldn't be as Neji took this opportunity to counter with a palm strike on the girl's torso but the girl jumped back. Neji had cut the threads of webbing on her left heel and proceeded to grab Tenten who was recovering as they retreated.

"He hasn't realized it yet, but I now understand the premise of the technique, I thank you for providing me enough time to decipher some of their skills."

Tenten huffed, "The next time Shikamaru proposes something like this then he can do it himself."

"Nikudan Sensha (Human Meatball Tank)!" Chouji, now an overgrown ball, soared through the air and bounced as he landed on the ground, creating a small crater beneath him as he charged at the three of the four sound ninja.

Jirobo was prepared to stop the boy when he was distracted by Tenten who unleashed a hail of kunai and shuriken.

Instead of being able to stop the rampaging Konoha genin, he could only dodge the hail of knives and shuriken from Tenten's quick draw hands from her scrolls.

The rain of metal stopped when Chouji followed through as he charged ahead to Kidomaru and Tayuya. Gritting and cursing through their teeth, Kidomaru and Tayuya jumped back as Chouji went for a sweep all the way towards Sakon who was having a hard time in trying to get through to Lee's quick defensive parries and counters.

Fortunately Sakon wasn't hit yet, unfortunately, he could not dish out in time as Lee quickened his pace. It was like the boy was throwing him of guard as he continued to quicken his movements and throwing Sakon out of his synch. And then that duo that had the speed and agility to land shallow cuts with their claws would appear and try to render him limb from limb. Sakon found it absolutely annoying that these two were seriously very speed oriented like he was.

When Chouji was about to crash to him, Sakon jumped and landed beside Tayuya as Chouji returned to where Shikamaru was who smirked at them.

The only chuunin in the group then said, "All this power, all these options presented, yet you Oto Shinobi fail against people who know how to do shit, seasoned shinobi my ass."

Suddenly, a dark pathway expanded from Shikamaru as all four Shinobi from sound were incapacitated by Shikamaru's jutsu.

"Kage Mane no Jutsu (Shadow Imitation Technique) is a success."

Tayuya grew angry as she looked down. The boy's smug was really getting on her nerves.

"You're the ones who are selling us short, you fucking rat."

Suddenly, Jirobo had escaped the hold on him as he shouted and slammed his hands on the ground with great force that the ground beneath him slowly began forming cracks and then shattered completely.

"Doton: Retsudo Tensho (Earth Release: Tearing Earth Turning Palm)!"

The earth suddenly turned around Shikamaru and the others were too surprised by such a feat that the designated leader of Konoha's team had no time to think of a backup plan when they suddenly lost their balance as Jirobo shouted the name of the technique.

Cutting themselves loose from Shikamaru's shadow, the remaining three looked towards the destroyed earth as Jirobo stood on top of its crater.

"Go on ahead. I'll catch up to you later."

The three members of the Sound Four looked on each other and then back to Jirobo who began weaving another set of seals.

Kidomaru smirked, "Don't tell me you plan on eating their chakra, Jirobo. We're on a tight schedule here."

"I'll be fine. I'll get rid of them."

Wordlessly, the three remaining members grabbed the wooden barrel they left at their campsite as Kidomaru strapped the thing on his back.

"Doton: Dorodomu (Earth Release: Earth Prison Dome)"

Rocks began creating formations as they began piling on one another until they covered the entirety of Konoha's back up team.

Flashback end:

Sakura stared up at the dome as all seven of them were entrapped in this small prison. They were unmistakably overwhelmed. The fact that someone could break up the grip of Shikamaru's jutsu was a testament to their level of skill and power.

She was starting to think that they were way out of their league.

She glanced to her left side and saw the members were on their own coming with multiple ways on how to escape this prison.

Neji had his Byakugan activated, looking at the dome with curiosity. He found it strange that the flow of chakra seemed a lot more on the side where the man was conveniently located and on the other end, it was as thin as a sheet of paper. He also noticed that their chakra was slowly being siphoned from their bodies and flow into the stream of chakra on their earthen roof and then coming to a head towards their captor.

"It seems the man is draining our chakra and using it to feed himself." Neji reported to Shikamaru who raised an eyebrow at this as he looked at Tenten who was rummaging through her scrolls and finding a ream of exploding tags.

"We can't be having that for now. If anything we don't know if our oxygen supply is limited here. If we blow this thing up, we would either be crushed or we suffocate. So we can't use any Katon Jutsus for this one."

Tenten clicked her tongue in annoyance as Shikamaru was silently looking around with his mind running through multiple ideas that he thinks might work.

"There has to be a purpose why there's chakra surrounding this dome and not just our chakra being siphoned."

It was then that Kiba went on all fours and shouted to everyone in the dome, "Whatever you're cooking up Shikamaru, it has to be quick. I'll try and force my way out."

Kiba then jumped and whirled around, performing the piercing fang as it drilled all around the dome. Shikamaru's thoughts turned to the aftermath to the areas where Kiba was hitting. He could see spirals carving out from the earth and denting it even a little.

A few minutes later, Kiba got tired of doing the same strategy and sat down. Frustration was ever present as he growled and gritted his teeth beside Akamaru.

Shikamaru soon took notice of the damage Kiba has done. Before he could say anything, Sakura was the one to speak first.

"I think I get why chakra is surrounding this dome." Sakura then said as she grabbed one of her swords and impaled it to the nearest wall to where Kiba had tried to drill out of. All of them could see the earth slowly regaining its form before Kiba tried to pierce through.

"The chakra he's using acts like a healing jutsu. It's basically self-repairing whenever we try to do any damage to it." Shikamaru had said as he then looked at Neji.

"Find the weakest area of the chakra dome, the one where the point of chakra saturation is the thinnest."

Neji then pointed towards the area opposite to where he was facing.

"Over there, just a meter above Lee."

"Chouji, try to break the wall! Everybody else, steer clear of the area where Chouji is going to plough through!"

Chouji then nodded and turned to the area where the wall was the weakest and expanded his body once more.

"Baika no Jutsu (Multi-size Expansion Technique)!"

Growing into a ball, Chouji then charged at the wall as he spun madly.

"Nikudan Sensha (Meatball Tank)!"

Pretty soon, the ball broke through and the rest of the team charged outside before the jutsu collapsed in on itself.

Behind the dome, Jirobo was surprised. He had never thought that a bunch of brats would figure out the small technique that was vital for this jutsu.

"Neji, can you locate the others?"

Neji shook his head.

"Unfortunately, they have made their escape to leave us here with their accomplice."

"What? Then we should go after them now!" Kiba shouted as Jirobo had cut them off of their impromptu conference.

"You bunch of trash are not going anywhere. This is where you're going to die!"

The man then touched the ground once more as veins began bulging from his huge arms and temples as chakra began to flow wildly around him. The man strained himself as he lifted up a giant boulder almost as tall as the walls of Konoha and as wide as a whole building.

"Doton: Doryu Dango (Earth Release: Sphere of Graves)!"

"That's CRAZY!" Tenten shouted as they all scrambled away from the incoming projectile the Jirobo just threw as if it was small luggage.

The earthen sphere crashed to the ground, it flattened the surface and rolled forward, leaving clouds of dust in its wake and entrenching the ground as it went farther and farther. Jirobo grinned at the destruction and havoc he had just caused as he squatted down and charged ahead like a mad bull.

Shikamaru looked to his side, Kiba and Akamaru were doing fine as are Chouji and Lee. Unfortunately they were not in close proximity to one another. Sakura, Neji and Tenten were not with them unfortunately. Shikamaru stood up when he felt vibrations on the ground. It even sounded like the charge of a rampaging ox and it was headed straight at them. Then through the smoke was Jirobo, wearing a dangerous and sadistic grin, promising agony and death as he looked like he was going to trample all over them.

Chouji then sprang into action, holding the man back with his own strength. The ground behind Chouji shattered and caved in while Chouji himself was skidding but maintained his ground as he stopped the orange haired man.

"As if I'm going to let you harm Shikamaru!" Chouji shouted as he dared to push back. The older man grinned and held Chouji by his shirt.

"Those are big words coming from a worthless piece of garbage!" Then, out of nowhere, Jirobo slammed his forehead on Chouji's face. The boy flinched and staggered back, his nose bloody from the impact as he held his face. Jirobo then leapt forward and landed a vicious haymaker at Chouji who felt his world spin as he was sent tumbling away clearing Jirobo's path to Shikamaru.

"Chouji!"

"Worry about yourself first, trash." Jirobi instantly closed in on Shikamaru. The chuunin was surprised that the man was capable of such a feat of speed even though his build did not even show it.

"Gatsuuga (Fang over Fang)!" Kiba tried to intercept the man but was suddenly blocked by a wall of earth springing up from the ground when Jirobo stomped on it.

Kiba was suddenly blocked as the older man grinned who looked down on Shikamaru who was already in a handseal with his shadow already on Jirobo.

The man laughed, amused by Shikamaru's desperate tactic.

"You've already failed at holding me down. What's the point of doing this jutsu again?"

"To distract you." Shikamaru replied plain and simple a large and outstretched hand was sent slamming on to him in great force.

"Bubun Baika no Jutsu (Partial Multi-size Expansion technique)!" Chouji shouted, his expression was filled with contempt and a gaze that told everyone that could see that he was serious.

CRASH!

It was then that Jirobo was slammed at the opposite side of the trench and on to the other side.

Jirobo crashed to the ground and skidded back, surprised by the amount of power that the other kid possessed. When his trajectory finally stopped, he was then met with a hail of kunai coming from above. Jirobo got up and began to evade them quickly. He was then met with another kid, this time containing the eyes of the feared Byakugan. The boy danced as he moved around the hail of knives as he began to assault Jirobo.

The guardian of the southern gate of Oto expertly avoided the Hyuuga's deadly Juuken attacks as the older man stepped on the earth to make Neji lose balance. That had a certain effect as Neji missed the man completely before he saw a pink haired girl jump on her shoulder with two swords brandished out and glowing blue.

Sakura thrusts the two swords directly above Jirobo's head downwards. But Sakura was surprised when she felt suddenly drained a little as her swords' blue aura vanished without a trace in just less than a second before she was slammed hard on the ground with the earth caving in from Jirobo's unmatched strength.

Sakura coughed out blood from her mouth, the shock of Jirobo's strength had not prepared her for the pain that he was capable of dealing. She felt some parts of her left shoulder were dislocated. She felt like a ragdoll as only the shock of being splattered on the ground registered in her mind, she could not hear the man shouting in glee as she was hoisted to the air once more by her legs and then slamming her to the ground.

"DYNAMIC ENTRY!"

A straight flying kick came from Lee as he smashed his way to Jirobo's stomach who was then sent flying and losing his grip on Sakura's leg. Sakura recovered enough of her senses to tell that she was saved by Lee who held her on her lower back. Sakura gritted her teeth and popped her shoulder back into place as a certain green chakra glowed on her right hand that held her shoulder. She staggered back up and gave a huff as she dusted herself off.

"This is ridiculous. We're fighting when we're losing ground to Sasuke's captors. Unfortunately we will need to split up or else we will never catch up and we will fail with our objectives for this mission." Neji stated looking afar to where Lee sent their opponent to as Jirobo slowly tried to get up. Shikamaru, Kiba and Chouji had managed to make their way to them and their team leader spoke up.

"Loathe as I hate to admit it, Neji's right. We can't keep getting blocked here. Time and distance are of the essence we need to catch up to their group before they are out of range of Neji's Byakugan or any other tracking techniques that we might have."

"Who said you're going anywhere?" Jirobo said as he made his way towards them, Chouji frowned at this and said to Shikamaru.

"I'll take him while you guys go. I could keep up with his strength. I can take him."

Sakura then spoke up, "As the medic of this team, I'm staying as well."

Shikamaru looked at Sakura with a raised eyebrow.

"If you're thinking in the same thoughts as me, then I can be rest assured that Chouji and the rest of the team are in safe hands. Just don't charge in blindly. Out of all of us, you're the one with the least combat experience."

Sakura nodded as did Chouji. They both understood the implications of their decisions and thought it was for the best.

It was then that Shikamaru understood just how an excellent ally Sakura was now. She may have not as much offensive capabilities as Kiba and some of the more physical members of the team, but she had enough brains to figure things out on her own.

Sakura was an underrated kunoichi that had been stunted by her own infatuations. Now that her crutch was gone, she was now a kunoichi that could have been able to make it to the final rounds of the Chuunin exam several months ago.

"I promised myself that I would obtain the necessary strength to not let tragedies of the past happen again."

Sakura looked at her right hand and clenched it into a tight fist her eyes closed as she focused herself on the fight, "I swore on his memory and I will fight in keeping those moments within me."

Sakura then stood up as she held her swords in both her hands, "This is my oath."

Chouji then looked at Shikamaru with a grin, "Shikamaru, get going. I'm not about to let that bastard insult my friends. I'm staying behind. And you heard Sakura, didn't you? This is my promise as well."

Shikamaru gave a solid nod as he looked at both Sakura and Chouji before turning to the rest of his teammates.

Chouji didn't show it, but he was already at boiling point against Jirobo ever since he had been calling Shikamaru and his friends as trash. Chouji was never one to lie down when people insult those closest to him. More than losing the last piece of food, more than ANYTHING that was enraging in the world, for the honour of his comrades to be insulted so callously like this man, it is an unforgivable sin to him.

"Let's go." Shikamaru said, back turned to Chouji and Sakura who was staring at the man with a scowl on their faces. Kiba then pointed to the both of them.

"Both of you better catch up, you hear me?"

Sakura smirked, "I'm the medic here. I can patch you up while on the way. It's better for me strategically to be in the back to see you all alive. Don't worry. Chouji and I are not planning to die here today."

With that, five of the ninjas vanished from sight in an attempt to keep up with their pursuit.

"So that piece of trash has left you two pitiful rats to die, huh?" The man smirked as both Sakura and Chouji readied themselves.

"No matter how serious you are, you will never be able to beat me."

"We'll never know unless we try!" Chouji then grabbed a pair of ninja wired that were tied with kunai. Chouji encircled them around him loosely as if it were a ream of bullets. The boy then shouted the name of the technique.

"Baika no Jutsu (Multi-Size Expansion Technique)!"

The seemingly harmless loosely tied kunai around the wiring stood up as if the knives had a mind of its own and stood up, with Chouji now looking to have spikes surrounding him. Is Chouji planning to shred their enemy to pieces with those? He needs more help than just his rotation based from Jirobo's display of strength. To pierce through that man's grip, there has to be a force strong enough for Jirobo to cave in. Not to mention, Jirobo had the ability to absorb chakra. Her chakra blades will not work unless she uses the swords themselves which puts her in a dangerous position and too close for the man to overpower her. She did not yet have Tsunade's legendary strength afterall.

Sakura began to think and her mind drew a blank. Jirobo was a little fast for his build, but certainly not incredibly fast. He has more power than speed though, and his movements were straightforward if rather slow. He wasn't tricky to figure out, that much she was certain.

So they need something to bypass Jirobo's guard and let him slip up at one point or another. Then an idea hit her, their enemy was a straightforward fighter. His moves were simple yet destructive enough to completely maim, cripple or kill with just a single blow. She had one key element that could tip the scales to their favour and she was considering it even though it was dangerous.

'Disable him. Hit whatever there is to hit to create an opening for Chouji to finish the job.'

Manoeuvring around their opponent would be time consuming. Also, she was still prone to errors in judgement whenever she decides to attack. She had the agility and reflexes to perform counters, what she didn't have was a body resistant enough to the force that Jirobo could dish out, so blocking is completely out of the question for her. Sakura scowled, this was not going to be an easy battle.

Then, Chouji charged, spinning madly as the kunai that he surrounded himself with pierced the ground as he went straight for Jirobo.

Sakura scowled at this, without Shikamaru to direct his attacks, Chouji is prone to commit the same tactics as that of their opponent.

Jirobo, from what Sakura could tell, is the one who has the edge. Although not really shown, Jirobo had one thing that Chouji didn't.

And that was a certain level of control.

The man could control his strength, adjust how much he will deal and add more if needed.

So when Chouji went after Jirobo, Sakura wasn't surprised when their enemy stopped the boy dead in his tracks. She was however, impressed when Chouji managed to push Jirobo back a little, drawing blood from the seemingly indestructible man.

'We have a shot!' Sakura said as she ran towards Jirobo swords drawn. This time, Sakura didn't go for activating her chakra blades as they would be useless for this fight.

Jirobo who was still holding Chouji back, suddenly felt a stinging pain at his arms and then to his injured right leg as Chouji was gaining ground with the kunai making it dangerously close to his face.

'This guy would not let something outmatch him in strength. He doesn't recognize Chouji's attacks as a threat. If I can cut him down and weaken him, Chouji can overpower him. He's as good as dead. His pride is his worst enemy.'

Their enemy still hasn't recognized their strength and seeing as it was agitating the man as Chouji and Sakura kept adding on the pressure, Jirobo grew irate and raised Chouji above him. Chouji couldn't do anything. If he dispelled his jutsu now, he would be left vulnerable and the kunai he had wrapped around himself would be used against him.

Jirobo then turned around to Sakura, who was looking at him with surprise as he punched Chouji's ball form towards her with a strong and intimidating force.

Sakura dodged the giant ball as she could literally feel the air that accompanied Chouji as he was sent hurdling away. Jirobo was looking at her, growling as his eyes showed a rage never before present from this otherwise quiet man.

"You annoying pest, I'll take care of you first!" Jirobo said as he growled and then charged at Sakura paying no mind that his right leg had a deep cut that would have otherwise staggered any other person.

Sakura looked on in surprise. There was no way a man like this could just maintain a certain physique even when injured. Sakura performed the Shunshin no Jutsu so she could easily get away as she jumped back. Jirobo smashed his bloody right hand down and the earth beneath him fissured and gave way.

Soon, his face was now covered by the familiar black marks that appeared sporadically in the same way as Sasuke's although the patterns of the black marks were much too different.

"A cursed seal user that is just like Sasuke-kun, huh? This fight just got more dangerous."

Sakura could feel the sweat dripping from her brow. This was how nervous she was.

Behind her Chouji slowly recovered as he felt his stomach churn from the man's strong punch.

Blood seeped from his mouth as he got up. Growling as the man's appearance slowly changed with the appearance of strange black marks.

'Just like what happened to Sasuke…'

Chouji wiped the blood from his mouth as he went for his pouch. He looked down to see what he had grabbed from his equipment and looked at the item in his hand with trepidation.

In his hand was a transparent case with three coloured pills inside. One green, one yellow and one red, each are being contained in their own storage boxes. Chouji then looked back towards Sakura who was trying to dodge Jirobo as best to her ability and keeping away. Chouji scowled as he opened the green spinach pill.

'I'm sorry Shikamaru, everybody. But the way things are now, I can't afford to let my fear take over me.'

He took the pill to his mouth and bit it. Soon, he felt his chakra reserves going back up as Chouji looked on.

'Not when a comrade is risking her life and giving everything she has to win. I can't afford to be left behind!'

Chouji smirked as the vision of his comrades and one particular orange clad blonde his back against him entered his mind, 'Wouldn't you say so?'

"Bubun Baika no Jutsu: Ude (Partial Multi-size expansion technique: Arm)!"

His right arm, enlarging much more than his previous attempts swung back and rammed it towards an oncoming and powered up version of Jirobo who was suddenly smashed by a gigantic fist back.

Jirobo, however, instead of letting such a thing affect him, simply set his foot on the ground and pushed the gigantic hand back even though several meters were lost just so he could stop the Konoha ninja's attack.

"Don't get cocky, trash!" Jirobo stated in complete annoyance as he pulled the gigantic arm back, earning a smirk as Chouji was sent back to him quick. Jirobo reared his fist back as Chouji's attack is dispelled. He then smashed Chouji to the ground as the boy looked on in surprise.

SMASH!

The worst thing about it was the certainly disturbing grin that he gave off as he punched Chouji to the ground.

"CHOUJI!"

Jirobo then heard that voice and Jirobo immediately scowled as he heard a girl's voice. He turned around and saw the pink haired girl swinging at him two swords downwards in an x-like pattern.

Jirobo simply would not have any of that and grabbed the swords by their blades and not even a tiny bit of blood was spilled.

"What on earth?" Sakura asked as she was then kicked in the gut by Jiroubo as she was sent flying with her losing grip with her blades.

Sakura skidded on the ground as she stumbled back and a minor trench appeared beneath her.

Sakura coughed up terribly after that as she could feel a few of her false ribs were broken. She winced as she tried to get back up. Blood escaped from her lips but wiped it away as she got up. Jirobo was smirking at her and at Chouji who literally was under his foot. The man threw her swords away from him just halfway between him and Sakura.

"Trash like you being left behind means you are the weakest member of your team. You two, being at my mercy, are enough proof. To a whole team, you two are completely negligible."

Sakura stood up while panting with a smirk despite the amount of pain she's in, "Keep telling yourself that, you're probably a reject too, right? What? You think your projection and compensation is subtle? You've been doing that a lot since the start of our fight. The way you don't have anything else other than brute strength to deal with leftovers or bottom feeders- that right there is the epitome of sad."

That seemed to rile the man up as he went after at the soon to be paste in his sights as he said, "I'm a proud member of the Sound Four, Jirobo of the Southern Gate! You're nothing to me!"

Sakura didn't reply, instead she wordlessly evaded Jirobo this time and made a break for her weapons. She got on one of her knees and held them in her hands. Her left hand holds one of her swords in a reverse grip while her other sword was resting its flat side on her adjacent shoulder. She wordlessly got up as she said to Chouji.

"Don't worry Chouji, we won't lose. I'm going to create an opening while you finish the job."

Chouji got up, a yellow pill in his mouth as he said with a sincere smile on his face, "Let's take him down."

Sakura then turned to Jirobo and the rage of battle took her over like a raging fire. Her adrenalin was pumping at a fever pitch as she used an unfamiliar stance.

'Shinobuto (Dance of Death)'

She walked, walked as if each step was calculation, as if she were a stalking predator. Then a few steps in, Sakura vanished via a wordless shunshin.

She reappeared almost immediately right before Jirobo who swung a fist at her. Sakura, as if she were in a dance, spun around Jirobo and redirected the man's knee with a simple tap of her sword's hilt with her left hand thus escaping Jirobo's powerful strike. She jumped and raised her right hand and swung horizontally intent on cutting Jirobo's neck with her other sword. The man simply leaned back as Sakura landed on the ground. She raised her left hand, sword still in reverse grip, and pushed the hilt of her blade with her right hand for a thrusting manoeuvre. To Sakura, in her mind, everything was vague yet very clear. It was as if her body was on autopilot.

Jirobo had stopped Sakura's thrust just in time as the very tip of the blade was poking at his rotund belly. The man smirked as Sakura seemed to have come to her senses when she noticed that she had been stopped.

Jirobo may have stopped the blade, but his hands bled with Sakura's thrust. But he smirked at the result. The girl clearly had the agility and the reflexes to get around his movement, but she was still a rookie prone to many mistakes and this one proved to be fatal.

Sakura took this opportunity to use her other sword to slash at the man's arms.

Jirobo let go of the blade and retracted his hands back when he noticed that the girl wouldn't let up. She hadn't noticed that he had consumed some of her chakra as well.

Chouji watched as he could feel Sakura's animalistic instinct taking over. She was walking as if she was in a trance and when she finally engaged Jirobo, he was surprised when she began to whittle him down although that was soon short lived when Jirobo had stopped her advance when he decided to once again overpower her.

Seeing his chance, Chouji began to mould chakra as the effect of the yellow curry pill began to take place. His chakra levels were now higher than usual.

He enlarged his arms once more and swung them to his front in order to flatten Jirobo with them. Sakura jumped backwards, flipping back as Chouji began his attack.

Jirobo stretched his arms sideways and widened his feet in order to brace himself and stop Chouji's attack at him. The Akimichi's appendages, despite their current size were remarkably fast enough as they slammed on to the Oto Nin.

SMASH!

There was a loud shockwave as the two forces collided. Sakura, who had been at midpoint, skidded back by the show of force. Behind her, Chouji had jumped, left leg stretched above his head and enlarged as he swung it down to where Jirobo was.

The axe kick shattered a good ten meter diameter worth of land as it gave in to Chouji's leg. Chouji didn't stop there, with momentum on his side now, the boy retracted his leg and grew his right hand large enough that it could tower a fully grown adult.

With a shout, Chouji threw his punch straight down once more to Jirobo who was disoriented from Chouji's crushing axe kick. Before he could do anything, a giant fist slammed on to his entire body as if he had been rammed head on by a herd of stampeding enraged bulls. The earth caved in once more, forming now a sizeable crater as Jirobo was embedded on the ground. The man, who was reeling in and realizing that he was suddenly overpowered, looked up and saw Chouji not growing his limbs anymore but instead his entire body was enlarged as he descended to the earth like an asteroid.

Sakura decided it was a good time to run away as Chouji decided to flatten the entire area but Jirobo remained. He was not flinching, not even scared to say the least. He was looking at the dark shadow looming over him as Chouji crashed down from above.

The black marks that were on his face slowly turned red as they crossed over to his sclera and turned black.

He had not anticipated that his own strength was overshadowed by such a set of brats who only had nothing but guts and wits about them. They should have been scared, scared of his power, rattled and in despair.

Yet here he was, about to be squashed by a boy who only has resolve to fight against him.

That would not do.

BOOM!

The earth shook and a shockwave was sent in all directions with Sakura planting her swords on the ground and grabbing on to them for dear life in order to not be blown away.

Chouji looked down and smirked. He had never felt so relieved that the battle ended just now. He had never felt more satisfied than the fact that he had literally crushed the man who insulted and belittled them like they were gnats and he didn't even have to resort to the third pill to do it too.

Then, Chouji could feel something stir beneath him. Chouji's eyes widened when he could feel the entirety of his body being lifted off to the ground.

"I can't believe that a couple of worthless pieces of filth made me go on to the second state."

'There's a second stage?' Sakura asked to herself as she now saw the hulking figure of a man now turned red, warts sprouting at the bald areas of his head and a pair of yellow eyes with black sclerae. Smoke wafted out of his mouth as he gave a powerful palm thrust at Chouji's stomach that sent him hurtling to the sky and dispelling his jutsu.

"CHOUJI!" Sakura shouted as the boy fell down to the ground and rolled to the side.

Chouji couldn't even move at that.

Sakura was now frightful of what might happen to Chouji. The boy had a nasty fall and from the look of things, the pills he had been consuming had terrible side-effects to them. She was still a novice in concerning antidotes and cures for poisons. She wasn't going to be of much help if Chouji continued to degrade at this rate.

'W-we're completely outmatched from the beginning.' Sakura thought as she looked on towards Chouji, unmoving but clearly not out cold.

Her voice had attracted the attention of the currently monstrous form of Jirobo, his eyes turned to her and his smirk was ever present.

"Have you come to a realization? You were never a match for us in the first place. You are only a nuisance, a fly that needs swatting." Jirobo then smashed his hands together to make a point.

The man then disappeared and reappeared right in front of Sakura.

"In this form, I can give out ten times the power output that I'm used to."

And just like that, cold and vicious fury rained down on Sakura who barely dodged in time as she was grazed on her left shoulder by the man's huge fist that buried beneath the ground and shattering it upon impact. Sakura counterattacked, and swung her blade with her right hand her sword had once more made contact but now, her swing had seemingly no effect as it stayed perfectly still on Jirobo's neck without a speck of blood being shed.

'His skin has gotten thicker…'

"Don't think you can do your tricks more than once!" Jirobo then sent a palm strike on Sakura's stomach and felt the shockwave hit her so fast that she had no time to register what just happened as she was flung away, swords in her hands and entrenching on the ground once more. She slowly got up, struggling but otherwise persevering. Her left arm had been badly cut from Jirobo's punch and blood seeped from her mouth as she looked down, her eyes being covered by her pink hair.

'We can't win…'

Jirobo smirked when he realized his strength had finally managed to weaken the resolve of his two opponents. Granted they were like cockroaches, resilient to the very end. But he supposed trash always clung to a false sense of hope.

"Heh, after this, I'll go after your trashy leader that left you at my mercy. You were fools to rely on such an idiot to be your leader. Well, I guess idiots always attract their own kind."

Jirobo raised his fist about to bash Sakura's brains out of her head when he felt something blunt and painful mashing on his gut.

The man looked down and saw Chouji, now emaciated to an almost unrecognizable degree elbowing him on his right flank. Jirobo could honestly not tell how he was suddenly flung from his position as he was sent like a bowling ball to a forest of trees and proceeded to level a fourth of it into the ground.

"I've just had about enough of your mouth. You can insult me, fine, and I wouldn't give a damn." Chouji's hand flared with chakra and butterfly like wings made of pure chakra appeared behind his back as if it was some sort of apparition. It was ethereal, beautiful even.

"But how dare you insult and threaten my friends, my comrades!" Chouji's mouth was raised as he charged to Jirobo with fists flowing with energy.

"For all the pain that you've inflicted on me and all the insults that you've thrown, I'll return it to you in favour and then some!"

Chouji knew that eating the red chilli pill was their only chance left, even if it would kill him, Chouji knew that he wouldn't let this man follow through. Or else he would kill the rest of his teammates.

That's why he attacked with desperation before anything was too late, he didn't know how long the effect of the pill was but he was determined to end the fight then and there. If it failed then the risk that he was willing to take was for nothing.

Chouji got within the man's range and ducked, delivering one punch to the man's gut before he jumped and delivered another vicious haymaker to the man's face.

Jirobo went spinning twice before a kick sent him away crashing to the opposite side while Chouji followed suit.

'He's gotten faster and more agile and his blows are even enough to penetrate through my skin!' Jirobo thought as he skidded to the ground before he gritted his teeth out of anger.

"I refuse to be defeated here!" Jirobo righted himself in mid-air and landed on the ground as he skidded back, he crouched and used his right hand to get hold of the earth beneath him as he went backwards finally stopping as Chouji went after him fast.

Sakura, meanwhile, still looked down in shock as she felt all her confidence shatter into dust. But a thought had snapped her out of her own stupor just then.

'When are you going to stop worrying about your lack of strength and just get up?'

Sakura looked up, only she saw nothing as she turned around.

'That voice…' Sakura stood up and continued to look around.

'I won't always be there to have your back…'

It was then that she felt something tap her shoulder and saw a blonde boy smiling at her as he took a step forward.

'Come on, get out there and get to work.'

Sakura felt tears threatening to fall from her eyes for a second as she looked around. There was no sign of her departed teammate anywhere. She held her cheeks with both of her hands as she felt tears running down on them.

'That's right, I can't always hold on to your memory. You taught me to stand by my own two feet even if you didn't actually mean it.'

She smiled, tears continuing to run down her face, 'Thank you. For now, all that I can do to keep everyone safe…'

Sakura tightened the hold of her swords as she picked them up and got up while flinching.

Her eyes opened up as she looked out towards Chouji and Jirobo who were duking out in the field.

'… Is to win!' Sakura vanished from her position and reappeared quickly between Jirobo and her teammate.

Suddenly surprised by Sakura's second wind, Jirobo lost his balance as Sakura pounced.

She encircled her opponent as Chouji charged dead ahead. The two surrounded Jirobo as Sakura let out a vicious slash at the man's back and blood seeped out of them.

'His skin isn't tough against blades, but it was my doubt that couldn't cut him.'

Sakura then spun around and kneeled just as Jirobo tried to clothesline her to the face missing her completely as Sakura slashed his left kneecap and behind it forcing Jirobo to kneel down as Chouji bombarded him with punches left and right continuously.

SLASH!

SLAM!

SLASH!

SLAM!

Chouji jumped back and gathered as much chakra as he could and focused everything on his right hand just as Sakura turned to face Jirobo now and one sword back in a thrusting motion. The earth shook and trembled under the immense power Chouji was gathering as debris began floating all around him while Chouji gritted his teeth.

'This is everything I have. I will put everything in this one punch!' Chouji thought as his right hand became surrounded by chakra as his wings disappeared and went on to his hand.

Sakura gritted her teeth as she pushed forward thrusting the sword to her front. Jirobo, in a panic, once more used both hands to block the blade in the middle unfortunately, Sakura did not follow through.

Instead, Sakura changed the trajectory of her sword and she thrusts it downward to his injured leg. The sword pierced through his tough skin. Blood flew everywhere and some were even splashed on Sakura's face as it went through and through and planting itself on the ground through the other side of his leg. Jirobo roared in pain but Sakura was not done yet.

Sakura then used the other sword and thrusts it forward to where Jirobo overreached his arms and planted her sword there, pinning both forearms together and moving it back slightly pointing to the man's neck.

"Souryu no Kajo… Kamitsuku (Bite of the Coiling Twin Dragons)" Sakura mumbled as she jumped in time to see Chouji running straight at him with right hand glowing in majestic blue chakra.

"Chouji! Finish him off!"

Chouji shouted from the top of his lungs and punched the hilt of the sword with all of his might. The sword moves as did Jirobo's hands and tip of the blade pierced through his neck and outgoing through his cervical spine.

"Choudan Bakugeki (Butterfly Bullet Bomber)!" A shockwave escaped behind Juugo as blood dripped from Sakura's blade that was now securely planted on Jirobo's neck. The man looked in surprise as no words escaped him. His jaw twitched for a few seconds and his eyes rolled on to the back of his head before he fell down on the ground completely lifeless.

The cursed seal receded now revealing the face once more of the man that they had just effectively killed. Sakura and Chouji gave a sigh of relief as Chouji plopped down on the ground finally feeling the effect of the three pills.

"We won…"

Chouji looked on to the sky, a smile written on his face as he gave deep breaths. Sakura approached his side, looking down on him as she kneeled and said, "Come on Chouji, let's get you to Konoha. The effect of the pills must be too much for you."

"H-How did you know about the side effects?" Chouji asked, Sakura merely smiled and said, "A medic has to look out for anything and everything involving their teammates. If he or she can't find a single problem, then they are ineffective as medics."

Sakura slung Chouji's right arm just above her shoulders and looked back.

'I'm sorry but it looks like we won't be able to catch up for a while, Shikamaru.'

Sakura then leaps towards the treetops and made her destination back to the village.


Shikamaru's team:

Shikamaru looked to both his sides and clicked his tongue in frustration. Just as they were about to be caught up with their enemy again, they were stalled once more. This time, it was the one with the six arms who was looking at them at a fair distance. He looked towards Neji who already finally cut himself loose while Lee who had not been moving for some time, caught a sharp weapon with his feet.

The one with the six arms looked mildly impressed, "Oh? How did you get out of my webs so easily?"

Neji answered by pointing to his group that were already loose from his webbing.

"You have not realized it but during our first encounter, we have already deduced your skills and the weakness of your jutsu rendering your capturing techniques useless."

Kidomaru raised one of his eyebrows and gave a slow clap.

"That is impressive for a genin. It looks like I get to have some fun with your group now seeing as that fat fuck Jirobo failed at his one job."

Kidomaru gave a sinister grin and chuckled, "A fair warning though, I tend to play rough and my idea of fun may involve breaking some of my toys for a game."

Neji scowled as Shikamaru and the others were now just behind him.

"Leave him to me. I can deal with him faster than the rest of us."

This time it was Tenten that spoke up, "He specializes in long range. He's probably subpar when it comes to Taijutsu but his range is dangerous. I can't leave you alone like that, Neji."

"Your skillset would benefit more against that man with the blue hair. I can get close to him and stop him from there." Neji replied but Shikamaru contested his logic.

"The same could be said to you by this guy. If anything, it's Tenten who should be the main force to counter this guy."

Neji smirked, "Clearly, you do not know me well."

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow at this, "I suppose our sempais have to be vague and have an idea on how to fight this guy? If that's so, be sure to make short work. I don't want any more holding the lines here. Chouji and Sakura are enough to handle their big guy."

Lee turned to Neji and Tenten and gave them a thumbs up, thankful for his teammates to have set him loose.

"Neji, Tenten, I know that you tire from my words and speeches about youth, but I must say it again…"

Lee then grinned at Neji, "Your fire is strong. Never let it be extinguished, both of you! One day, I will reach towards your place and then, we will have our match, Neji!"

Neji gave a small grin, Lee may be loud and sometimes rambunctious but in no way was he a simpleton. On the contrary, he always applied himself whenever possible. His self-designated rival simply implied that he should not die in this place. They still had more unfinished business to do.

"Don't die." Kiba added in, Akamaru barked in affirmation on top of his head.

"Easier said than done, Konoha nin!" Kidomaru then unleashed half a dozen spiked projectiles at them. All six of them evaded quick enough with Shikamaru, Lee and Kiba managing to get away via shunshin.

Neji and Tenten turned their attention back to the six armed man, their grins were now scowls as Tenten craned her neck to hear it pop while Neji's Byakugan activated.

Both of them were walking slowly and just as much they began to pick up the pace. Tenten grabbed a scroll from her pouch and tossed it in mid-air as it spun vertically before landing on her hand. When it did touch her palm, both she and Neji disappeared from view as Kidomaru was on full alert.

Neji had reappeared just to his front very quick and a hail of knives rained down upon him in different directions.

Neji jabbed two fingers to his chest that Kidomaru nimbly evaded as he did the same with the rain of steel that was meant to pierce him.

The knives all landed and pierced the tree branch that they were standing on with one narrowly hitting Neji on his feet.

'The girl is damn accurate with her weapons! That much space is enough to cause any person into a panic.' Kidomaru thought as Neji quickly closed in on him with his Byakugan pointing out the numerous tenketsu on his opponent's body.

Neji pushed forward, both hands ready to strike his opponent down. This time, he aimed one on the man's upper right arm while another went to the abdomen. Kidomaru had to block both but was surprised as this time it was senbon that was raining down on him.

The six armed man cursed inwardly. This was the perfect duo if there ever was one. They covered their shortcomings very well. The close range fighter would lock him down preventing him to move towards their long range user and the long range user would provide cover for their close quarter combat specialist to prevent him from overwhelming his opponent.

Not to mention the angles in which she attacked, it was like she was on constant movement!

It was then that Kidomaru decided that he should be using long range too as jumped back and shot out a web from the trees to swing and get as much distance between him and his opponents as much as possible.

Tenten then unsealed a giant windmill shuriken from her scroll and concentrated enough chakra to it as she spun it above her head. With a mighty throw, the weapon sounded in the air like a powerful rotor chopping the atmosphere as it tore through the web like paper and Kidomaru crashing to one of the thick branches of trees.

Kidomaru rolled on to the wood as he landed with a thud and got up while gritting his teeth. He was not prepared when Neji had already caught up with him via Shunshin.

"You are within the range of my divination."

Neji then lunged.

"Hakke Rokujuuyonsho (Eight Trigrams Sixty-Four palms)!"

Kidomaru looked up and saw Neji in a stance he was not familiar with as Neji suddenly closed the gap between them and bombarded him with precision strikes.

"Two strikes!" Two points in his abdomen were hit.

"Four strikes!" Neji's hands worked fast as he focused on hitting Kidomaru's tenketsu.

"Eight strikes!" Kidomaru staggered back as he was pushed backwards.

"Sixteen strikes!" By now Kidomaru was at the trunk of a tree

"Thirty-two strikes!" The trunk splintered, embedding Kidomaru deep in its thick bark as Neji spun around and continued to bombard Kidomaru at a blistering pace.

"Sixty-four strikes!" By now, Kidomaru had gone through the thick wooden trunk of a large tree and fell down to the other branch. Neji was quick to follow through and step to the other side.

He was momentarily surprised when Kidomaru got up, a smirk on half of his face as something metallic shattered from it and fell to the wooden floor with a flat thud.

'Gold?'

Neji raised an eyebrow before turning back to Kidomaru still wearing that smile of his.

"I guess that was your ace in the hole, wasn't it?"

Neji was amused that this man would think so.

Certainly, that last attack was one of his strongest if not THE strongest attack he had. However, it didn't mean that he was out of options.

"Your juuken, I've heard some pretty nasty things concerning your style. I can't let you get close to me or have a way to access my chakra circulatory system. I made your whole taijutsu style useless!"

Another rain of knives soon fell down as Kidomaru looked up and didn't bother to dodge this time, seeing as his armor had protected him.

"Did you really think that you had a chance? It may have been troublesome but I wanted to see what you and your teammate were capable off. Now that I saw this, I wouldn't have to worry!"

Neji smirked as he once more lunged forward, right hand drawn back, this time in an open palm.

Kidomaru stepped back prepared for another onslaught of strikes coming from the Hyuuga Prodigy. His golden armor seeped through his pores to give a protective cover to him once more as he faced Neji head on.

Neji ducked from a punch and easily slipped inside Kidomaru's guard. The guardian of the eastern gate had his other arm to intercept the boy who evaded it without much loss in momentum as his hand made it all the way to his abdomen.

Kidomaru was confident his armor would protect him. The chakra that the boy had in his palm wouldn't be enough to penetrate his armor. Just then, he felt a sudden jolt of pain enter his entire body as if a thousand prickling needles pierced his skin. It gave a crackling sound as he could feel his body lost control for a second and reacted to the jolt in midair.

'Raiton: Raisho (Lightning Release: Lightning Palm)' Neji thought as he slammed his palm on the man's stomach causing Kidomaru to fly back and spit out blood from his mouth.

"W-What?"

"Surprised? Unfortunately for you, your armor is made up of gold."

Neji's right hand then sparkled with a streak of lightning giving a small crackling sound. Neji then spoke in a stoic manner, "Gold is a good conductor of electricity. The moment you have entered my field, you have doomed yourself against me"

Kidomaru grinned, "All kinds of prey say the naughtiest of words before being ensnared by me."

Tenten then jumped down, unsealing a Kusarigama from her scroll as she tossed the weighted chain at Kidomaru and wrapped it around his ankle.

With a shout, Tenten pulled her chain back and jumped below as she spun Kidomaru around and slammed him to the ground. Tenten followed it up with four kunai laden with explosive notes and tossed them towards Kidomaru in quick and fluid succession.

Four kunai landed around the body as Tenten held out a single hand seal.

BOOM!

Neji and Tenten landed on the ground, guards still up. They looked on as the debris, fire and smoke cleared.

They only saw remnants of gold, scorched earth and splintered wood all around them.

Kidomaru had finally room to breathe when he saw the two within his sights and smirked.

'Those two are too dangerous to be around if they can see me. I need to find out the weaknesses of those two before I can make an attack.'

He smirked as the cursed seal began to do its work.

'And I know just the thing.'

He clasped his hands together and weaved five hand seals before biting his thumb and slamming his hand on the branch above him.

'Let's see how you handle a swarm of monsters!'

Down below, Tenten crouched down as she grabbed a piece of gold from the ground, she raised one of her eyebrows in curiosity as she said, "Kawarimi at the very last second. I never even saw him weave any hand seals."

Neji scowled at this, their opponent may not be as good in taijutsu but he had the makings of a crafty tactician if it were to be observed.

His Byakugan scanned all around him and finally noticed a huge concentration of chakra that now multiplied to several specks of blue dots in his vision descending towards them very quick.

"Tenten, look above you!" Neji warned his teammate

Tenten turned her attention up and saw multiple giant spiders, the size of a pet dog descending to them like hungry predators. Their fangs were dripping with clear fluid and both of them could tell that it was most likely poison.

Tenten unfurled two scrolls in her hands and out in the open were more than a dozen seals within them.

'Soushoryu (Rising twin dragons)!' Tenten then let loose a rain of steel and iron as the weapons launched from their respective seals. Tenten looked up and saw a lot of her weapons in the air impaling and killing multiple spiders at once.

Tenten had a bead of sweat falling from her face as she looked up, and saw the never ending swarm of spiders in sight being ruthlessly butchered by her weapons.

'Now, what's going to run out first, my Amagumo (rain of spiders) or your arsenal?'

Tenten gritted her teeth as her inventory was exponentially consumed by this situation. The second wave of spiders brought forth more and more of the creatures and her supply was depleting faster than anything.

A short time later when the second wave had stopped, Tenten looked towards her scroll and her eyes were wide in surprise.

She had run out of weapons to throw. It was then that the next wave of spiders appeared and as another surprise, a volley of golden spider stingers whizzed in the air and landed between them. Tenten growled as she ran for cover all the while her right shoulder was impaled by said projectiles as Neji evaded and began attacking the small spiders that were descending on him and his teammate.

'Find our target Tenten, I will hold him down for as long as you need.'

This was what Neji was hoping for his teammate. Tenten knew that Neji had wordlessly put himself as the target in order to find their opponent. She twitched and silently groaned in pain as she pulled out the offending object on her right shoulder and she took a deep breath.

A few seconds later, Tenten jumped into the air and unfurled a red scroll from her pocket as she went up the treetops.

Neji continued to defend himself against the swarm of arachnids that were descending on him. He had already known that they had web strings on their abdomens as they went to him. They hissed as they attacked while Neji kept slamming them with his palms. He was fortunate his hands were used to the speed of strikes he was dealing with. When another swarm had jumped to him, Neji simply turned around and expelled chakra throughout every tenketsu point in his body and spun around like a top.

"Hakkesho Kaiten (Eight Trigrams Whirl)!"

The said creatures were tossed out every which way, killing them instantly with the web strings falling helplessly around him.

Neji looked up once more and another wave had closed in on him instantly. The Hyuuga prodigy once more relied on his kaiten to deflect the spiders.

However, he soon noticed that his spin was getting weaker and weaker with every use.

Neji was a very observing individual, any small changes to anything ro and he would know immediately. He noticed the web strings that were laden all across the floor with him staying virtually untouched.

'The strings are hindering any further movement.' Neji stared up as another wave of spiders descended upon him. This time, the number was almost enough to engulf the view of the leaves atop.

Neji scowled as he stared upwards, 'He's locking me down.'

The Hyuuga Prodigy looked within his hands, and a spark of lightning chakra escaped from them.

"I just have to destroy every single thing above me even without the Kaiten. Raiton: Souraisho (Lightning Release: Twin Lightning Palms)!"

Neji then went into a familiar stance and altering ever so slightly as his hands began a flurry of strikes faster than what he had shown before.

Neji focused as time seemed to slow down, his Byakugan counting the enemies that were getting closer and closer, each spider about to meet its ultimate fate in his hands.

"Hakke Rokujuuyon Hari Sho (Eight Trigrams: Sixty Four Needle Palms)!"

Spiders began dying at very rapid pace, the field of surging electricity from Neji's hand piercing the body any small spider within his reach and in turn, the lightning pierced another spider with the current flying in every which way acting as small and unstoppable spears throttling anything in its path.

Up above the canopy of leaves, Kidomaru looked on in surprised as he saw the minions of his summon getting wasted even faster than before. Deciding to disrupt his opponent's momentum, Kidomaru created more weapons from his mouth and threw them downwards as his cursed seal began spreading all over his body.

'Not good. I'm getting too hooked into this game'

Two of the spider-fang like projectiles spun in mid-air before they changed direction just as Neji was about to kill the last set of spiders.

Neji flinched when he suddenly felt something sharp and debilitating on his lower left flank and just above his right shoulder blade. He was almost maimed by three small spiders if it wasn't for his focus.

Kidomaru smirked. Perhaps he had found a weakness after all? Did the Byakugan truly have a blind spot to it? He wanted to test it out so he once more threw three pairs of his Kumo Nenkin (Spider Sticky Gold) and threw it out to Neji who was now stuck by the spider web threads that he was now trying to cut out.

Just then, he had noticed some of the weapons that Kidomaru threw at him were almost unnoticeable if it weren't for the edges he had seen. Surprised by this, he was not quick enough to dodge three of the six weapons and impaled him on his back in different places except for his spine.

'Damn… He has an idea that the Byakugan has a blind spot. He got me with that one.' Neji coughed out blood from his mouth as he fell down and breathing heavily.

Up above, Kidomaru grinned wickedly as the seal had fully transformed him. His long hair got even longer and changed in color from black to almost dirty white. His skin was maroon in color as he gained a third eye just above the bridge of his nose and eyes and a pair of horns on his forehead with the sclerae turning black while his irises turned yellow.

'Let's see you try to survive this, now!'

Just then, the gigantic spider summon let go from her perch on the branch and began descending at Neji at a quick pace. Kidomaru chuckled darkly waiting to see what might happen. He was about to rejoice when an arc of light had almost hit him in one of his arms. He was utterly surprised when he felt that and looked on to where it might have come.

Up above and hidden well behind the cover of the leaves Tenten stood straight with a bow as red as blood with a hexagonal pattern each in the middle of its two limbs, each hexagonal pattern had seals written on them with the upper as written as 'divine', the lower written as 'truth' and two pairs of string grooves on its upper and lower limbs. The said bow was held in her right hand standing straight as she was with part of right pant leg torn and covering her bloody shoulder.

'He's in that general area.'

Tenten's stone faced look remained as she touched the supposed arrow rest and chakra began to take shape into a formless arrow. The said object shined bright with power she reeled her left arm back with the two pairs of string grooves forming a line that lit up beautifully like a minstrel's golden shamisen string before letting the formless arrow fly straight and true to Kidomaru's hiding spot.

The spider like ninja gritted his teeth as he set out to abandon his perch and not see the fact that Neji had just pierced his lightning induced right palm straight up the abdomen of the giant spider queen and killing it instantly.

His former hiding spot was then obliterated by another arc of light this time, destroying the upper bark of the tree that Kidomaru was hiding.

The spider gave a horrifying screech as it died before vanishing in a cloud of smoke with Neji now covered with blood and fluids from his victim.

"Anytime now, Tenten…"

Neji said this as he pulled out the two bladed weapons behind his back and winced in pain. His chakra was running low and the general area was now littered with dead spiders as Neji was panting heavily.

Kidomaru had found the perfect spot once more and had certainly deduced enough information to hit the Hyuuga. But the long range specialist was still nowhere to be seen.

Kidomaru was cutting it close. He knew he had to finish it now or else he would be found by the kunoichi that apparently still had a weapon hidden within her somewhere and a powerful one to boot.

Tenten panted. Soushoryu had eaten away at her chakra but the new bow she had from the research department was just as taxing if not even more so.

It concentrated her chakra to a point it became dense and sharp enough in massive quantities before she could even let it fly. Due to this, the weapon was her last resort as she could only fire chakra arrows with three shots. Granted, the bow was still a prototype, but it nonetheless had the power and the speed to be considered a worthy part of her arsenal.

It was indeed fitting of its name as her co-workers had dubbed it.

'Shinkyu (God's bow)'

Down below, Neji followed the sound of the noise of a tree falling from above all the while asking out aloud, "Has she found our enemy?"

The boy leaned on a trunk. There were still two golden spider-like fangs stuck on his back. Running low on chakra, he preserved every bit of his strength and focused on activating his Byakugan.

'Need to find the enemy… He's still there… I can feel it.'

Kidomaru gritted his teeth, now he had two choices, he would have to shoot down the Hyuuga first and draw himself out to be targeted or he would find his shooter first and deal with her before delivering the final blow to the taijutsu user.

The second option would be a good choice, if he had set up a few web strings beforehand. But seeing as he couldn't have set up a trap in this match, he would have to risk it and draw attention from his shooter.

He began moulding his kumo nenkin (Spider Sticky Gold) once more in his mouth and pulled out a golden long bow and arrow. His third eye kept Neji in his sights as his hands were each grabbing on to a thread of web while his legs pushed the bow down and the arrow tip firmly just in front of the arrow rest of the bow.

Kidomaru grinned.

'Kumo Senkyu: Suzaku (Spider War Bow: Terrible Split)!' Kidomaru then let his arrow fly, a string of web tied to its back as it went to Neji at a high speed. It was pile-driving the forest floor, picking up dust and speed as it whizzed into the air at an impossible speed.

The arrow head flew and turned. It was aiming for Neji's back, right to where his suspected blindside was.

"KAITEN (Whirl)!" Neji shouted, and spun once more as the arrow made contact with the Hyuuga's ultimate defence. Kidomaru was surprised when Neji stopped his spin and grabbed the arrow from its stem and then to the thread before he applied his electrocuting chakra into it.

The effect was instantaneous as Kidomaru was suddenly shocked and his limbs spread out going to a temporary tonic seizure with his muscles giving off strong spasm for a moment before he fell down from his perch as Neji gave it everything he had in his run.

'Keep fighting, push yourself AND WIN!' The Hyuuga Prodigy repeated this mantra in his head over and over again. He had never thought that he would be thinking of those words, he had never thought that he too like the rest of his peers would be tasked to overcome insurmountable odds. It was a feeling so foreign and surreal that Neji couldn't help but smirk.

Neji jumped, as much as his weakened legs could take him now, he had been bleeding terribly. But it was enough to close the gap between him and Kidomaru. Neji charged his right hand with electricity once more and shoved his palm directly on Kidomaru's chest.

BZZZZT!

Kidomaru froze for a moment once more. The string in his mouth fell as his heart was startled by the shock introduced to him resetting its beat causing the conduction process going haywire.

At that very moment, Tenten appeared from the canopy of leaves above, left hand drawn back and the formless arrow flew towards Kidomaru in a straight line heading for his right eye.

"YOU'RE DONE HERE!"

SPLAT!

The arrow pierced Kidomaru's right eye and going through the back of his head, boring a fist sized hole onto the back of his skull and brain.

Blood and cerebral fluid splattered all around as Kidomaru fell down to the ground dead.

Tenten landed beside Neji, who began to do some emergency treatment on him as she pulled out the two kumo nenkin weapons that were protruding to areas where his hands couldn't reach.

"We won…" Neji muttered with a smile on his face as Tenten replied, "I know…"

"We should catch up with Shikamaru and the rest…" Neji replied while Tenten shook her head, "No, we can do that later. Right now we need to stop your bleeding and recover our chakra."

Neji gave a weak nod, too tired to argue, "Right…"

"Don't worry, even if we're late, the other three are too tough to be taken down easily, especially Lee…"

Then, blissful sleep had claimed him.


Somewhere in Fire Country:

A fully bandaged Naruto followed a small pug in front of him as it traced the scent of their target. As they jumped from branch to branch, Naruto noticed that it was now close to midnight. Pakkun looked back at the blonde who looked at the dog back in wonder before the dog turned his head back.

"We should take a breather for a few hours."

Naruto's looked confused at this, "Why? I can still make it on time."

Pakkun shook his head, "Not in your condition, kid. Your arms are still healing. I can smell the blood coming from you and from what I can tell, your tenketsu are still regenerating which is an amazing feat in itself. That kind of regeneration is unheard of even if it is just a bit faster than your average. Normally, chakra points hardly recover when they are damaged. Even so, I can't let you go into battle with that kind of injury. We should take a few hours of rest and let your tenketsu recover. Sending you out there in that condition will be suicide."

Naruto gritted his teeth but just thought that he should bear with it. If he wasn't in full capacity he would be deadweight. In that regard, Pakkun was simply looking out for him out of Kakashi's orders. That had somehow made Naruto feel better.

'You're getting impatient again, take a deep breath and calm yourself.' Asura had advised, the boy turned to his predecessor in his mind. Ever since he had been here, the being of chakra had been very helpful.

'You do this kind of thing too?' Naruto asked.

Asura smiled, 'To relieve tension in your body. It is one of the things my father taught me when I was younger. I was an impatient boy, so my father drilled into me on how to think under duress. It helped me with the training that both he and his disciples had given me. I believe your master has done the same, no?'

By that, Asura was pertaining to Jiraiya, Naruto nodded quietly and asked again, 'Oh right, he had followers. But why did you have to train with his followers too? Wasn't the training from your dad enough?'

Asura simply retained his smile as a memory of a distant past crossed to his mind, the chakra being looked up and replied with melancholy escaping his voice, 'I never inherited my father's prowess with ninshu. I was dull and often overlooked for my older brother, you see. Father saw my struggles yet he never turned me down. His five most trusted disciples saw my father's contemplation and with their wisdom, trained me in their ways and the aspect of understanding my father's complicated thoughts on ninshu.'

'How come they were never mentioned in the legends?' Naruto asked and Asura simply gave a sigh.

'His five most trusted disciples never craved for anything but the understanding of the world. It was through their attitudes of understanding Ninshu that my father had dubbed them as the Godai Myo-o (Five Wisdom Kings). They too wanted to spread the word of Ninshu but also saw the duplicities of humanity and because of that, they are wary of using my father's teachings for their potential to twist it for perpetuating warfare. All of them had understood that possibility so that is why they chose to teach very little and to those willing to go the distance, the five disciples would use harsh training methods in order for their followers to understand suffering. Over time, they began to lose followers because of it and soon enough, they lived the remainder of their lives isolated from everyone and the title of the Godai Myo-o changed to Godai Sennin (The Five Sages).'

Naruto looked surprised by this, 'And they trained you?'

Asura scratched the back of his head in embarrassment and gave the boy a wry smile, 'Well even though they were willing to train me, I still had to undergo their trials. I almost died in every challenge that they gave me. They were strict but they had compassion. Soon enough, I understood what they were trying to teach me: That suffering is but an aspect of life and to alleviate it, we must look further and beyond of what lies under the guise of pain and damnation.'

Asura couldn't help but be amused with Naruto's confused expression, the boy reminded him so much of his own youth.

'You will understand once you become of age, Naruto. Someday, I hope you follow in the footsteps of my father and I would wish nothing more than to see you succeed as well.'

There were still many things that Asura were keeping but those secrets will come in due time. Today was not the day for Naruto to have it yet, he was still young and still immature.

Naruto woke up, eyes wide at the dark and star riddled night sky. The moon was out in full tonight as he looked at Pakkun who was sitting on a branch just above him while he was below. The boy stood up as Pakkun sniffed the air twice before turning to Naruto below.

"We've got company." Pakkun said flatly as three shinobi behind Naruto dropped down from the branches above.

"Is that you, blondie? Why is your face covered with bandages? Your hair's longer too! There's been some nasty rumors concerning about you since we got there. People said you were dead!"

That familiar voice made Naruto turned around. He looked at a set of familiar faces and gave them an eye smile.

"What are you guys doing here?"

"Back up." The other one replied. It was flat and monotonous but certainly not hostile.

Behind them, another blur followed suit, his features remained relatively unknown as he moved at a much faster pace.

Naruto looked at his arms, they were healing slowly and he could feel his chakra trying to mend his arms. He just hoped that he would be of use if there was going to be a battle.

To be continued…


So, I have to apologize, the length of the chapter has been getting pretty damn long and I had to make it to several parts or else you guys might just give up by the length, originally the length reached to over 20,000 and it still wouldn't be enough, so maybe three chapters for the finale. I wanted to expand on many of the battles against thee sound four now with new dynamics especially for the likes of Tenten and Sakura.

Anyway, sorry for this, I've been too busy. Next chapter is already reaching ten pages and I'm going to be pushing it for thirty as for the finale, it'll probably be short and sweet probably just below the ten thousand mark but who knows?

Sorry, no previews, the chapter before this has already given you what you need.

Read and Review everyone!

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