Basashi is a Real Thing
When Himawari bit down into the sandwich the owner of the Beckoning Cat had made her, she almost cried. She had been eating nothing but travel rations, energy bars, and a bowl of ramen for the past week and a half. The sandwich had layers of delicate flavours packed into it and the young Hyuuga couldn't express her feeling with words, only a low, satisfied moan. By the time she had taken her third bite, her blonde partner was already finished eating.
"Ba-san, that was delicious! Even better than my brother's sandwiches, and that's saying something!" The old woman smiled, wrinkling her face even further, and gave Naruto a kind pat on his head. He had decided not to order anything else as Himawari finished savouring her meal and she noticed that he had started to let his attention wander to the many photos and pieces of art that decorated the small shop. What finally captured and held his attention was a white cat that had been sunning itself in the window. Naruto nearly started when he disturbed the cat causing it to let out a loud meow.
"Oh hey kitty, enjoying the warmth?" He said and gave the cat a scratch behind its ears. The cat settled its head back down, closed its eyes and started to purr loudly. He turned to the old woman and said, "What's his name?" The woman put her dish back into the sink and smiled.
"That's old Shikini. He's nice, don't worry." Naruto turned back to the cat and gave it a stroke along the length of its tail before pausing. "What happened to his tail? Did he break it?" The old woman sighed.
"I rescued him when he was barely a year old. Some superstitious old fool of a woman thought that he was a nekomata and cut his tail off and left him to die out in an alley. I heard his cries and nursed him back to health. He doesn't even miss it." Naruto frowned. Ideas were starting to form in his head and he sat down near the cat, staring at the place where the tail should have been. Instead it ended in a smooth nub with only a little bit of scarring. When he gave it a poke the cat opened an eye to look at him but otherwise continued purring like the world was ending.
Himawari finished her sandwich and paid for their meals before leaning down next to Naruto. "He really likes you. Maybe you smell like fishcakes." Naruto stuck his tongue out at Himawari and shared a small laugh with her. Turning to the old woman he asked, "Do you know of a place that sells good turtle soup? Or any kind of turtle food really, I don't know what else they cook with it." The woman thought for a second before shaking her head. "Sorry, I don't. May I ask why?" Naruto shrugged. Maybe he was wrong. Giving the cat a final pet he stood up and left the small shop.
"Are you still hungry?" Naruto turned to Himawari and shook his head. "I have a theory." he said, looking down the street. The two cloud ninja they had run into yesterday were making their way down the road towards them. The taller of them glared at Naruto but he ignored them. "I think this might be a test. I mean it's only two so far, but is it just a coincidence?" Himawari blinked her large white eyes but said nothing.
"I think we might have to go to places that are involved in some way with the tailed beasts. First a ramen bar with a one tailed tanuki, then a sandwich shop with a cat that was once thought to be a two tailed cat…" He thought for a second, "I bet its food themed too." Himawari was impressed. She did not doubt that Naruto was intelligent. He could plan out battle scenarios better than most Jounin, counting for every twist and turn, but he wasn't the best critical thinker.
"Naruto-kun, that…actually sounds plausible. Did you see any hints about turtles?" Naruto looked at Himawari and pursed his lips. "You sound surprised that I thought of this." Himawari blushed and looked down before Naruto laughed out loud.
"I didn't see anything," he said, answering her question, "but check the guide book. Anything that involves turtles we'll seek out ourselves." Himawari nodded and pulled the book from her small pack and flipped through the pages.
"Three places, two have something to do with turtles in their names and one serves turtle soup as a special this week." The Hyuuga said, and Naruto clapped his hands together. "Excellent."
The next four days passed as somewhat of an adventure that although fun, nearly emptied their wallets. The third restaurant that had turtle soup as the special turned out to be the right one, and that's when Himawari noticed the numbers. However it was the morning of the exam and they only had eight of the nine tailed beasts identified.
Naruto was starting to get irritated. Each of the hints so far had led to some sort of food that was associated with a tailed beast, but he had checked all of the restaurants that had anything to do with foxes and nothing. No numbers or other indications anywhere.
"Calm down Naruto-kun. We're going to be fine." Himawari's voice cut through his irritation like a sharp kunai. Glancing over his shoulder at her he realized he had been scowling and quickly gave her a smile. Himawari blushed and looked away. Naruto had been sitting on his pallet reading the guide book over and over in the morning sun and hadn't bothered to put a shirt on. The Hyuuga had been staring at the tanned back ticked with little scars and marred by the large splash of paler scar tissue under his left shoulder blade. Kushina had told her what had happened after he lost consciousness and she had nearly fainted at the time. If she looked closely she could kind of picture where the spear head had to be pushed through, followed by the rest of the shaft and various other splinters. The scar he had on his chest was far worse looking, parts of it were still pink and tender looking after all of this time, but the one on the back was more interesting to her. She bit her lip at the thought that it was probably because she was too embarrassed to stare at his chest for as long as she had been at his back.
"I'm not nervous. I just really want to find that last clue! Who knows what we get if we find them all!" Naruto scooted around and reached for his shirt, a simple green sleeveless one with no symbols on it. Himawari sighed when he pulled it over his head. Giving the neatly organized pile of supplies in front of her one last check over, she packed them into two bags and let Naruto tied two sleeping bags to the bottom of them.
Standing up she hoisted the bag over her shoulder and said, "How long do you think we will be in there for?" The only clue they had for the first test was that they needed to pack rations for a 'few' days. Naruto shrugged and slid his mottled green jacket on. Jiraiya had surprised him with it two days ago and told him to pack away his black and orange jacket somewhere where he never had to see it again. Naruto was horribly offended by the sennin's choice of words.
"Well, whatever. We have to leave now anyway. Is ero-sennin meeting us there or here?" Himawari held the door open for him and said, "He's meeting us there." Naruto nodded and shut the door behind him, locking it and dropping the key off with the receptionist.
The roads were empty this morning. It was 4:30 am and still dark, but when Naruto had decided to go for a brisk jog a few days ago at this time, the farmers were already heading out to their fields at this time. "Where is everyone?" the blonde said and Himawari put her guard up. "I don't know… Maybe because it's Sunday?" Naruto shrugged and let his hands fall into a more relaxed position. Himawari softly whispered at him to relax and he really tried.
The short walk was uneventful, but when they passed under the arch that was supported by two totems Naruto stopped and barked out a laugh. Himawari nearly jumped out of her skin. Moving in closer to the inky haired girl he stage whispered, "Look, about three feet up from the ground. I bet it's number 9." When she looked, Himawari couldn't help but smile. The totems were all sorts of animals holding each other up, but where Naruto mentioned was an abstract carving of a fox trying to protect his bowl of noodles, rather than support the other animals.
The smile couldn't leave their faces as relief from a week long hunt flooded them. Not even the glares from the taller of the cloud ninja could wipe it from their faces as they both stood back and watched the teams trickle in. By about ten minutes after they arrived the teams stopped arriving and Naruto assessed his competition. He didn't know any of the other Konoha teams, and the rest of the teams seemed fairly normal looking, save the odd scar or hair style. He smiled somewhat arrogantly. Piece of cake. Nothing was going to stand in the way of his promotion.
At 4:45 almost on the dot, ten Jounin appeared in a whirl of leaves and grass. Naruto glared with envy. The oldest looking one stepped forward and raised his hand. The crowd was instantly silent and he cleared his throat.
"Thank you all for attending Kusagakure's very first chuunin exams. As you are aware things are a little different around here, but not to worry, most of it is relatively the same." He paused and looked around to see if anyone looked over anxious. No one did and he continued. "Behind me is a large training area that we only let our Jounins use. It is about 15 kilometres in diameter and is completely flat. The grass averages at about ten feet tall, and if you watch closely-" he picked up a fair sized stone and tossed it over the fence towards the grass. About half a foot above the top of the grass the stone hit a wall of sorts and bounced back with a loud snap of electricity. "It is completely surrounded with an electrical field."
Whispers started to crop up in the crowd but the proctors hand silenced them all again. "The point of this exercise, other than to test your survival skills, is to find these." In his hands he held a large totem, about 4 feet long. "You have to find the individual pieces to put together to form this." He pulled the top totem off to show that they were in pieces. "There are nine. One for each of the tailed beasts, as some of you may have noticed, this was our theme for the first test. I wonder how many of you have passed it." This set the entire crowd into a flurry of whispers and frantic motions.
Another hand made the silence come, albeit more reluctantly this time. The proctor was not finished with the rules and he was looking a little sinister with the power of it. "There is a twist. There is a one tailed totem for each of you, and we have put jutsus on all of the totems that restrict you to one of each kind each, as to prevent hoarding. However as you start looking for the next piece they are going to decrease in number until finally, there are only eight kitsune totems. That is the maximum number of teams that will pass." Naruto could tell most of the crowd wanted to talk but the proctor had his hand up again. Himawari looked incredibly nervous so Naruto reached down and squeezed her hand. She jumped before looking at the confidence on his face and relaxed slightly. She squeezed back and Naruto didn't bother letting go.
"When you assemble all nine of the totems we will come retrieve you. Now, as for the first test, as most of you noticed the cryptograph our kind leader left for you was a clue. There were nine clues to find nine tourist destinations in our wonderful village. When you enter the tents to sign your waivers, the proctors will ask you some questions. For every correct answer you will be given a ten minute head start. For those who have all nine, you will be rewarded with an extra 30 minutes giving you a two hour head start." The proctor smiled and said, "You have 5 days, good luck!"
The crowd exploded with people talking and more than a few mini freak outs. Naruto heard the pair closest to him try to comfort each other over the fact that they didn't even make it to the first clue.
The tents that they had passed coming into the clearing started calling team numbers and Naruto and Himawari didn't have to wait very long before their number was called. Walking into the tent they both signed their waivers along with the proctors signing as a witness.
"Alright, what was the first destination?"
"The tanuki special at Bake Tanuki." Naruto answered. The proctor ticked his board.
"Shikini-chan from the Beckoning Cat." Himawari said, quietly. Another tick.
"The snapping turtle soup at the Pussy-Willow Inn." Another tick.
"The monkey's paw on the wall of the Goku family's deli shop." Another tick, accompanied by an impressed look.
"And the fifth?"
"The basashi ice cream from that little stand near the big water fountain, I forget the name of it sorry." Himawari said, her cheeks turning a bit red. Another tick and her cheeks turned redder.
"I can't believe you got us to eat slugs. They were gross by the way." Naruto said and Himawari looked slightly green at the gills. "The slug dish at Ken's Diner." The proctor laughed and ticked his board.
"The zazamushi bowl at that nice little place by The Beckoning Cat, I can't remember the name of this one either." Naruto said. The proctor looked at his sheet for a moment and made a small tick.
"The fried tako and beef kabobs at Hachiko Kabob." The guard smiled as he ticked and said,
"And finally, did you find the ninth?" Naruto smiled and said,
"The hardest of them all. Was it the statue of the Kitsune eating udon on the totem? I literally couldn't find anything else in the village." The guard didn't write anything on the board and Himawari felt a small tinge of disappointment rise in her gut. She should have looked harder.
"Alright you guys are done here; go find your gate number. They should be starting the announcements soon." Naruto and Himawari gave a short bow and left to find their gates.
"He didn't write on the board, what if we got it wrong?" Naruto rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, we got it right. Have a little faith in my genius, please." Himawari laughed quietly and they sat in relative silence at their gate. There was a gate for every team and they circled around the tall grass. It vaguely reminded Naruto of the forest of death, and, in retrospect, that's probably where they got the idea. Naruto shuddered. He was glad there wasn't likely to be anything that dangerous in the grass. He hoped. He prayed. The gut wrenching feeling came back and he sighed, this was going to be a long five days.
A voice crackled out over the speakers mounted on the gates. "We have the scores totalled and we will begin with teams that get a ten minute head start…" 14 team numbers were rattled off and Naruto was surprised that so many people only go the first clue. The first two were dead obvious. 6 teams had a 20 minute head start, 1 team had a 30 minute, and no teams had a 40 minute head start. No teams again for a 50 and 60, while another three teams had a 70 minute head start. Himawari perked up. They were listening for their number for 80 minutes. If they didn't hear it that meant they had the 2 hour head start and would probably be the envy of the whole tournament.
"Teams 3 and 18 both have an 80 minute head start." They were team number 4 and Naruto wanted to shout out with joy. "Teams 4, 15, and 23 passed the first test with flying colours and we congratulate you with a two hour head start. Use it wisely. When the clock hits 6 am, the gates will open and the second test will start." Naruto was practically dancing at this point, but they both readied themselves as their watches indicated it was 5:59. They posed ready to spring into action and when the gates buzzed and opened, they both sprinted right into the grass as fast as they could manage and disappeared into the sea of green.
End Chapter 18
Woo, sorry! Not as long as I would have liked but I'm already working on the next chapter! School is out for the summer and I have so much time! I had forgotten what free time felt like! Thanks to everyone who reviewed and favourite my story! If I didn't reply to your review at all I apologize! Some of them I only had time to read and I just forgot about replying later! Sorry! ALSO I will save you the trouble: Basashi ice cream is raw horse meat flavoured iced cream (oh japan you so silly) and zazamushi is a fried river insect medley.