There were still a few hours before noon, but members of the audience were already starting to feel the heat that the day promised to bring. The crowd was modest, a hundred people-maybe a hundred and fifty, and they were all seated in the bleachers that circled an arena that had been dug out in the ground. The arena wasn't as large or as spectacular as Konoha's arena, but it was similarly built. It was mostly wood rather than concrete and the actual pit where the fighting happened was only sunk down about ten feet. Chain link fence surrounded the pit to protect the audience. Inside the arena there was a single tree that looked like it had seen better days, and underneath the tree there was a small pond. The pond was under a foot deep, but at the moment a pair of ducks were swimming contently in it, unaware of the hustle and bustle that was about to come their way.
The competitors had their own small waiting area on the opposite side of where the audience sat, and in between the competitors and the audience sat a small shack with thick glass windows instead of chain link fence. In this shack sat Jiraiya and the other judges. The leader of the shinobi forces in Kusa, a man nearing his fifties with a menacing scar running down the side of his face was seated to Jiraiya's right, and to his left sat a woman who appeared to be Jiraiya's own age. She had short brown hair and a severe look. The look didn't stop Jiraiya from trying to chat her up and he was pleasantly surprised to find that she was a good conversationalist. He gleaned that she was a friend of the leader of Kusa and a prominent shinobi from Kirigakure.
Jiraiya's attention shifted from the woman to the line of genin that were filing out into the arena. The audience raised a loud applause and Jiraiya saw more than one onlooker wave a bottle of chilled sake or a fistful of cash. Events like these were always such a good place to gamble. Too bad he was a judge and was therefore not allowed to participate in the gambling. Officially. Jiraiya rubbed his hands together. The judges themselves had bet on their own students down to the exact rounds they would make it to and how they won or lost each round.
Naruto was pumped. He loved showing off. He hadn't had much of a chance to full on fight since he got out of the hospital. Most of the time was spent retraining with Minato and working on jutsu and other techniques with the older blonde. Kushina even started to show him something about sealing techniques after he showed her what little he knew from his previous life.
Himawari on the other hand was incredibly nervous. After she had breakfast with the twins the previous day, Jiraiya and an embarrassed looking Naruto showed up. They took her to the medical tent stationed near the arena and had her eyes looked at. The medic confirmed that whatever had been putting pressure on the vision centre of her brain had lessened. The medic applied a healing chakra to her head for almost ten minutes before telling her that time would heal the rest and she should slowly start to go back to normal, or almost normal. Whatever the medic had done had certainly sped up the healing process because upon waking up at the crack of dawn she was able to see almost a hundred feet before objects started to get so blurry she couldn't see their outlines anymore. Confidence enabled her to walk out into the arena, but she was still extremely nervous. Public fights just weren't her thing.
Naruto scanned the audience and saw his brother and his troupe waving and cheering. He gave them a small wave and a large smile as he lined up beside Himawari. The Hyuuga looked slightly sick so he reached out and discreetly squeezed her hand. Himawari looked up at him and he said, "It's gonna be fine. You're gonna do awesome and your family will be proud. I'll be proud no matter what." Himawari blushed and smiled, but didn't look away. "Thanks," she said, "I really appreciate it. Good luck!" she managed the last part just as the proctor started speaking, cutting all conversation short.
"Welcome!" the proctor said, his voice booming with some sort of jutsu. The arena went quiet save for a few whispers from the audience. "Thank you all for attending the first ever chuunin exam in Kusagakure!" The crowd clapped loudly and several hoots and hollers came from the Kusa members. "And now, without any further delay let's get down to it!" The proctor swung his arm around to a large board that reminded Naruto of an older and smaller version of the light board that displayed names during his first chuunin exam.
A man standing underneath it in the standard chuunin uniform from Kusa flashed through a few hand seals before slapping his hands down on the board. Naruto watched as a name appeared after a few moments, followed by another name. The first name was apparently owned by a large looking teenager from Kusagakure. He was yelling and had his arms raised. The second name dropped a ball of ice into his stomach. Looking beside him he saw Himawari was shaking.
"It's gonna be fine, Hima-hime. Look at him! He looks like he's all muscle and no brains." Himawari nodded but didn't say anything. Her opponent was glancing around for her and gave her a short nod when she met and held his eye contact. At least he is polite… The Hyuuga let flit across her mind as the rest of the competitors filed off the arena floor. Naruto gave her a wide smile and a gaudy wink, causing her to put on a small smile.
Facing her opponent she saw he was sizing her up and she realized she was doing the same. He was at least 6 feet tall and was very broad in the shoulders. He had long hair, but it was pulled back into a rough looking braid. On his forehead he wore the Kusagakure hiteate and his clothing looked suited to hiding in tall stalks of grass. He had no other weapons other than whatever he was hiding in his leg pouch, but Himawari noticed the callouses and scars on his fists, telling her that he was probably a taijutsu user primarily. Lucky for her. They tended to underestimate her the most.
The proctor motioned for them to bow to each other, the standard Shinobi tradition before an official fight. The proctor held out his arm and let it drop after briefly glancing at both fighters. As soon as his arm was dropped Himawari sprang forwards, her right arm extended and her fingers already full of chakra.
The Kusa ninja grabbed her wrist and pulled it down to his right side, twisting her body in the process so her back was facing his stomach. Briefly letting go of her wrist he swung his arm under her arms and locked her back against his stomach. Himawari heard him attempt to undo the latch on his leg pouch so she struggled until he had to abandon what he was doing to reposition his grip.
When the Kusa ninja finished adjusting his grip Himawari turned bright red. If she had been able to see his face she would have saw that after he realized that he wasn't grabbing her shoulder anymore he turned a bright red too. She recovered from this slip of the hand first and made her move.
Up in the audience Hizashi stifled a giggle. He glanced over at his brother just in time to see him snap two chunks of wood off the edge of the bench they were sitting on, one in each hand. Hiashi's face was intense but held no discernable emotions. Hizashi sighed and turned back to the fight.
Himawari charged her right foot and brought it down as hard as she could on the Kusa ninja's shin. He shouted in pain as she felt the bone crack and the pressure of his arm across her chest loosened for a second. A second was all it took and Himawari dropped down out of his grip and spun on her heel. It only took her a moment to catch her balance but it was enough time for the ninja to put his hand up to signify a break. This caught Himawari off guard but a quick glance at the proctor told her that she could go ahead and attack anyway. She moved to attack but was interrupted by the Kusa ninja starting to speak.
The Kusa ninja spoke in tones quiet enough that only she could hear and said, with a rather arrogant undertone and large smug smile, "Hey wow, you have magnificent tits. Just saying." Himawari turned a dark red and without giving him a chance to raise a hand in defense, slapped him hard enough that Hizashi and Hiashi heard it as clear as day. The Kusa ninja dropped like a stone and not a second later she was announced winner of the first match. As she was being led back to the shack with the other competitors she realized that she had slapped him with a chakra charged hand and had either scrambled the chakra in his brain or closed a few tenketsu by accident.
Naruto greeted her with a bear hug when she was ushered in. "That was great! You took him down with one hit! Way to show off!" Himawari gave him an uneasy smile. "What if it was too short? I didn't mean to knock him out with that… hit. I kind of lost my temper." Naruto just laughed. "Don't worry! Any judge can see that you are not to be messed with in close combat!" He said the last part as a whisper to avoid the many eavesdroppers in the shack that were trying to look as if they were not doing that very action. Glancing towards the judge's shack she saw Jiraiya give her a double thumbs up and didn't know if she should be even more ashamed of her battle. Instead she just groaned and hoped something exciting happened in the next battle and everyone would forget the opening fight.
It was just her luck that the next battle was rather intense. It was two Kusa shinobi facing off and Himawari marvelled at the little differences in their fighting styles. It was not often a ninja got to observe the fighting style of another country unless they were fighting each other to the death. Making the journey to watch other exams every six months sounded like it might be a good hobby to consider taking up. Beside her Naruto was grinning like mad. Himawari could tell he was totally in his element. The blonde was her best friend and she saw him in all sorts of environments, but this one seemed to fit him the best. She had yet to see him fight seriously but she had heard through the grape vine that he was just as good, if not better as his brother had been at that age and was going to be a legend in the making.
Naruto gripped a few links in the fence as he watched the battle in front of him. They were the second to last of the competitors to fight, which meant he was next and he was excited. His blood was already pumping and he couldn't wipe the grin off of his face. He couldn't wait to bust out moves he had been developing with his brothers, including one he was super excited to finally be able to show off. The match ended abruptly as the taller Kumo shinobi who he had run into several times in the village during the first test landed a knockout blow on the girl from Kusa he had been fighting. He saw that the boy was a lightning user, and filed that information away for later.
After the field had been cleared of people Naruto finally saw his name flash on the board and gave Himawari an excited grin. This was his chance to shine. He had to hold himself back from running out into the field. After making his way to the centre, walking around the holes that previous fights had made, he waited and watched as a shorter looking boy who appeared to be about 12 or 13 made his way to where he was standing. The boy was wearing a black tank top and grey baggy pants with lots of pockets. His hair was long, but tied back in a ponytail and he had his hiteate tied around his waist like a belt. Naruto noted the four squiggles on his headband indicating that he was from Kirigakure and thus was likely a suiton user if he had been taught to use elements yet. The boy smiled politely at him and the blonde returned the smile.
The proctor raised his arm and let it drop and all of a sudden Naruto was pushed back by a flurry of blows that he didn't even see coming. He managed to block most of them and get a few in of his own, but the kid's speed surprised him and caught him off guard. Had he glanced over at Jiraiya he would have seen him leaning over to chat with a woman who looked fiercely proud.
Naruto finally spotted a small opening and took his chance. He curled his hand into a fit and flattened it slightly so his knuckles had more of a point to them and jammed them right into the boy's ribs. The boy stooped low and rolled away before Naruto could land another hit. He stood up breathing heavily and holding his ribs while Naruto regained his stance, but barely had to catch his breath at all. Both of them were sweating like they were stuck in a sauna. The sun was high above them and beating down hard.
Barely a second had passed before Naruto rushed the boy feinting with a punch to his head, before dropping at the last second and sweeping his legs out. The boy managed to jump mostly out of the way, Naruto felt the bottom of his shoes brush against his leg as he abandoned the sweep and used his low position to reveal a kunai he had hidden near his waist. The boy's eyes widened for a fraction of a second as the kunai suddenly took on a hazy appearance as Naruto used what he had 'learned' from his brother and gave the blade a fuuton edge. Naruto jammed the kunai into the thigh of the boy and was mildly surprised to feel the blade pass through the boy's leg as if he had been cutting butter. The blade came mostly out the back of the thigh with a small spray of blood and a loud cry from the boy.
As the boy faltered and tried to pull the blade out from the back and stop the bleeding from the front, Naruto finished his ducking motion and rolled to his feet. He aimed a quick punch to the back of the boy's head intending on finishing the fight, but was interrupted by the boy swiping at his arm with the kunai he had just pulled out of his leg. A thin looking gash appeared on Naruto's arm and he pulled his fist back. The boy spun to face him, holding the kunai out in front of him with one hand and holding the front of his leg with the other hand. He looked slightly panicked.
Namikaze Naruto decided to be nice and gave the boy a full ten seconds to sort himself right before engaging in a showy flash of taijutsu. This was supposed to be a show after all. He kicked and punched and pulled twisting manoeuvres seemingly out of his pockets. A masterful blend of his brother's fighting style and his own unpredictable style. Naruto could tell after a few minutes though that the boy was starting to tire. A combination of the blonde not letting him catch his breath or finish any of his jutsu (Naruto would reach in and hit his hands apart) and the wound on his leg that was still bleeding, the boy was just about ready to throw in the towel.
The blonde spun on his heel intending on finally taking the boy out with a heavy blow to the back of the neck. But just as he started to raise his arm the younger boy, realizing this was probably his last chance to do some damage, managed to sneak an elbow into the bottom of Naruto's ribs on the left side of his chest. Naruto felt fire race up his chest and arm where the boy hit, which was directly on the large scar that was still not fully healed. He still managed to strike the boy, knocking him down and out of commission, but he barely heard his name being announced and the clamour of the audience through the fire that was stealing his breath. The blonde finally coughed after a few moments and spit out a bit of blood. Looking grimly at the red phlegm in the dirt he wiped his mouth and headed back towards the shack where Himawari was looking happy but concerned.
He was greeted by the Hyuuga as well as by a medic nin that was acting as a supervisor for the competitors shack. "Take off your shirt please." The medic said and Naruto looked at her. "Woah, you haven't even told me your name yet." He gave the medic a gaudy grin and she just rolled her eyes. Himawari clicked her tongue and Naruto pulled his t-shirt over his head. The scar that was splayed across the top right section of his chest was red and angry looking where the boy from Kirigakure elbowed him. Naruto saw a few of the other competitors looking at his scar with faces that showed ranging emotions from curiosity to a grimace. Himawari was more part of the grimacing group.
She had seen the scar many times but it always tugged at her heart that he had almost died and would likely continue to have small problems with his lung for as long as he was a shinobi. The medic's hands lit up in the familiar warm green light and she placed them over the scar. Closing her eyes she moved them slightly up after a few moments before releasing the chakra and instructed Naruto to put his shirt back on.
After the blonde's shirt was in place the medic said, "All he did was aggravate the scar tissue in your lung. Nothing permanent and nothing that will stop the healing that is already taking place. Are you aware of the foreign chakra that is lingering around your chakra system near your lungs?" Naruto nodded. "Yea, chakra poisoning. It's why it's taking so long to heal. The chakra saved my life but ripped up my pathways around my lung, if my doctors are to be believed." The medic looked slightly interested, but not enough to ask. She just nodded and shooed him back into the main area of the shack. A girl with hair so blonde it appeared almost white watched him move to the back of the shack and quietly made her way a few steps back.
She watched Naruto mumble something to Himawari before saying quietly, "Um, I don't want to be rude, but I saw that you had a scar on your back too. Can I ask what happened?" Naruto glanced at her and saw a slightly disturbing amount of intensity in her large green eyes. He gave a small nervous chuckle and quickly glanced at his partner, but she was too busy watching the girl for hostile intentions. "Uh, sure I can tell you I guess. I was on a mission and got caught in the middle of a fight. I took a bamboo spear through my chest. Luckily my brother's girlfriend knows how to think on her feet and saved my life." The girl sucked her breath in through her teeth and straightened her posture. She started to ask him more questions about little things like his name, his age, and Himawari watched the entire thing with a closed mouth and an intense stare. An unfamiliar feeling was starting to well up in her stomach and she didn't know what it was. The audience started to cheer again and the Hyuuga's attention was brought back to the arena. The proctor had started speaking again.
"Wow what a fight! Let's recap the winners of the first round before we take a 15 minute break and move to round two!" The proctor listed off the names, starting with Himawari's and ending with Naruto's and then pointed to the large signboard that now had a large clock counting down from fifteen on it instead of names. Himawari grabbed Naruto's hand, interrupting the conversation and said, "C'mon Naruto-kun. I can see Minato-san coming this way." Naruto smiled at the blonde girl and apologized quickly before letting the Hyuuga lead him away.
End Chapter 24
Sorry this one took a bit longer! The weather finally broke out into summer and I was enjoying the sun! It's been nothing but clouds and rain for the past few months so I couldn't resist! I also want to apologize for the fight scenes, I am awful with them and I hope they are easy to follow in the very least!