Naruto: Shichiyo Gaiden XXXIV
Chapter 34: Anxiety
Koichi, Koji, and Ryoko stroll their way down main district of Konoha in the debt of night. Although late, the village still bustles with life throughout the main streets.
“I can't believe it, we actually made it through the first round!” Koichi says putting his arms over both Ryoko and Koji. His grin is as big as ever as he feels overwhelming joy.
“Well why can't you believe it?” Ryoko says smugly, “There are only a few teams here I'd actually worry about.”
“Oh don't act like you're not relieved yoko-chan!” Koichi cynical smirk on his face. “Your face was screaming anxiety over these exams before we left and you didn't even think I'd make it too you guys today did you?”
Ryoko grabs Koichi's arm and twists it hard and puts him in an arm bar. “Don't ever call me that again you idiot.” Ryoko's tone is still maintained yet her expression is rather annoyed. “We can't afford to get cocky though. The teams along with the proctors aren't going to make this easy for us....and that Lee guy.” Ryoko says, “He worries me the most.”
Ryoko releases Koichi and he expresses a look deep thought. “Yeah, I also noticed something about him when you guys were taken.”
“What?” Koji asks.
“It might have been me just seeing things but I saw a small little ring of chakra around his feet when the proctor shot up to take him. When the proctor completely missed him and it seemed like he was a little disoriented.”
“I still couldn't sense any chakra inside him a little while ago, how could there be a chakra ring around him? Maybe the contest was rigged.” Ryoko suggests.
“No, the purpose of the exams are to create chuunin worthy of the title for one's village. For a country, especially Konoha to rig something like this would be useless. That was all him.” Koichi says. “The way he stumbled though...he's a horrible actor.”
“What do you mean?” Ryoko asks.
“You're saying that nothing he did was an accident, he's trying to keep an image as a mediocre shinobi so people won't worry about him in the contest.” Koji suggests. “When I first met him, he seemed strange and I received a weird vibe from him, however he never came off as more then just an average genin with the exception of his intelligence. That alone though is good enough to fool many people even me.”
“Oh don't think so highly of yourself little bro.” Koichi says. “That whole 'even me' thing makes you sound pretty cocky.” Koichi smiles. Ryoko lets out a small laugh and Koji blushes annoyed. “You know what I say? I say we rest up and focus on the exams tomorrow. Stressing about this is only going to give us more anxiety. Lets go get something to eat.”
“Wow, that's the first good idea you've had in a while Koichi.” Ryoko admits. Ryoko looks around for a moment and she spots a BBQ restaurant and points to it. “There.”
“Sure why not, I'll buy since I'm the hero of the day.” Koichi says.
“Oh get over yourself.” Ryoko says with a smile. “You didn't do it on your own remember what the instructors said.”
The two walk in front leaving Koji behind them a few paces. Koji stops in his place as his two comrades head into the restaurant. Koji stands in the street for a brief moment and heads on his way back to the hotel.
“It smells amazing in here!” Koichi exclaims. The sizzling of the grills is heard all throughout the building, dozens of people talking and the smell of invigorating flavors scents the room. “There's some seats over there.” Koichi says.
As Koichi and Ryoko walk to their seats, they see four waiters pass them, all holding large orders of meals on metal trays. They then see a cart being rolled with three platformed sections, all filled with food. “Is that all for one table?” Ryoko says in amazement.
“Guess there must be a party.” Koichi says, and the two continue on their way.
“*pouts* Choji!” A voice whines. “I said I'd pay for us but you're going overboard.” Tenten says.
“Tenten, in all fairness this is Choji we're talking about.” Lee says scratching his head. “He may have gotten older but his appetite is still bustling with youth.”
“Sorry Tenten-chan, I'll make it up to you.”
“hmmmm, you can make it up to me buy paying for at least mine and Lee's meals, we didn't order much.”
“Sorry Tenten, my wallet is a little dry.”
Tenten and plants her chin on the table and looks at all the food ordered.
“I hope the food here is as good as Ichiraku.” Koichi says. “Say, Koji what are you going to—” Koichi turns and realizes Koji is no longer with them. “Koji?”
“He must not have been hungry.” Ryoko shrugs. “He probably went back to the hotel.”
“Geez, that guy always disappearing.”
“Do you think we should go too? Remember what Lee said about being vulnerable.” Ryoko says.
“Koji can handle himself just fine, we'll have our meal and meet him back later.” Koichi says.
At the hotel, Koji sits on his hotel room floor. There are several green medical scrolls open around him. Koji leisurely reads through the scrolls until he reaches a scroll of techniques. The techniques state emergency aid descriptions, detailing the common practices. Suddenly Koji's focus becomes sharp and serious as his eyes browse on a particular passage...
After reading the passage Koji begins to think of his mother. Koji's face becomes gloom and he sits against the edge of the bed looking down at the scroll.
The skies of Konoha are a thin morning blue as the sun just peeks over the horizon. Koichi, Ryoko and Koji arrive to the scene of the next exams and as they do, they notice a significantly decrease in the amount of people from yesterday.
“It looks like he was right about this.” Koichi says looking around. There are at least 9 teams missing from yesterday's passing bunch.
“Hey, I see you three got off without a hitch.” Lee says approaching the three genin. “According to the reports from my team, they saw several of the other teams fleeing the village, guess they couldn't handle the anxiety of the exams. I think we're missing about 12 teams from yesterday. I just figured I'd let you guys in on it since I'm really interested to see just how far you guys can last.”
“Thanks, but maybe you should be worrying about yourself.” Koichi says with hostility in his voice.
“Yeah, you're probably right. One more thing before I go though, last time I was here in Konoha I got a glimpse of this place when they were doing the Instructor Exams here. This is going to be brutal.” Lee says walking away.
“Instructor Exams?” Koichi says with question. Just then, a large cloud of smoke appears in front of the large building. From the smoke the proctors from yesterday appear in front of the building with one shinobi standing in the center in front of them. The head shinobi standing in front has the standard Konoha uniform with the green flak jacket navy blue shirt and pants and the Konoha headband. He wares glasses and he has a small little stream of snot running slowly from his nose. His expression is stern and serious as he looks around at the genin.
“Good morning, my name is Udon and I am the head proctor for this exam.” Udon continues to shift his head from left to right looking over the genin. “Now, before we begin I will offer everybody the same option many have already chosen. If you don't think you're up for this exam, then leave.”
The crowd is silent, nobody giving a moments thought to the option as those who have already left have done so. “Very well then, I will now explain the details of this exam.” Udon turns to his side and holds his arm out towards the building. “This is the Chuunin Academy for Konoha. This is where we train our chuunin to become academy instructors. This is unlike any other academy training facility in any other village. Konoha is the only village that holds this method for training instructors. After the mental exam is taken by the chuunin applicants, they are sent here for the physical exam.”
One of the proctors in front of the building unwraps the chains around the door and opens it. The area inside is pitch black. Nothing inside, is visible from the outside. “This building was once destroyed during a prison break in Konoha and in the term of Godaime Hokage it was rebuilt and modified and the tests became much more demanding. I've received permission from our current Hokage to hold the test here.” Udon says.
“Well obviously.” an Iwa shinobi says in the front row. Udon's glasses reflect light off them as he turns his head towards the young shinobi. “You're beating around the bush, just get onto what we have to do already.”
“Pipe down you little—” Udon holds his hand out stopping his subordinate.
“Very well, you and your team shall be the first to enter the facility and take the test.” Udon motions for the other proctors to move out of the way. The Iwa shionbi look with smug faces as they step forward. “You simply have to make it out of the building without falling victim to the various traps that you might find along the way. Go.”
The head genin brushes past Udon without a second thought smirking arrogantly followed close behind by his two friends. As they enter the building the overwhelming darkness consumes their bodies and they disappear from sight. A few moments pass and the rest of the fray outside is silent. Suddenly the sound of kunai shooting through the air can be heard from inside the building.
“Watch it!” A voice says from inside the building. The sound of blades clanking together are heard from inside. “AHHH!”
“Damn it!” another voice says, as the sound of blades entering flesh is heard. “I can't see shit!” Another voice says. A wire is snapped and the floor can be heard shifting and a yell from another one of the shinobi and then the impaling of flesh is heard. “No...NO!” Another wire is snapped and suddenly a flicker of light is seen just before a huge explosion.
Several of the genin display looks of hidden terror as they hear the events going on. “Now as you can discern from their cries, they're all dead.” Udon says bluntly. “However they had asked what was needed of them for them to pass and I told them. All you have to do is make it through the other side without falling victim to the traps. Now if anybody else believes that information is all they need to continue then so be it, you may enter.”
Nobody even flinches, understanding the situation.
“I can see most of you are smart, that's good. Now as I was saying I have been given permission to use this as the site of this exam, however with the intense difficulty of this mission you shall have some help and guidance. This task is something all the proctors here would find fairly difficult for them, and they are all chuunin level shinobi.” Udon says. One of the proctors from behind Udon steps up with a large box in his hand and puts it down in front of him. “The building is over 2km long and it has been constructed as a labyrinth. Each team will be assigned a path to take and will be given a map as to how to move themselves through the maze. There are 5 paths; paths 1-3 are the longest paths and have the most amount of traps, however the traps are beginner and intermediate level. Paths 4-5 are the shortest paths but they have the most difficult traps and obstacles to move through. The contest is simple, a race to the finish line, where the first three teams to make it through will advance to the third round. The orders of five have already been set up based on the order of those who passed in the first round. Since there were five teams that avoided taking the first round, all those teams will be placed on the 5th path for the 5 teams taking the exam at a time. The other four teams taking the exams are based on the order of which each team finished. The top of each order will be taking path 4 and then the next team path 3 and so on. When your team is called approach me and get the tools for your exams.”
The first five teams have been called up and each team is given a map and a scroll. Lee and his team are among the first cast and the first cast and they are to head to the 5th path. After the five teams receive their items, 10 of the proctors disappear in clouds of smoke. “You will enter through these doors and a few paces down the hall hall you will come to the intersection where each of your paths will be marked for you above the entrance. Two proctors have been assigned to each section to make sure there's fair play, meaning no crossing into other paths or sabotage. They will also make sure you don't end up dying on your way. Now without further ado the first five teams may proceed onwards.”
“I wish we could have the maps now to figure out what we have to do.” Koichi says watching the shinobi enter the room. The doors are closed behind them as the first set of teams begin their assignment.
“If they did that for us, it would be too easy, we'd have ample time to prepare, this is supposed to be on the spot.” Ryoko says. The doors closed block out much of the sound within the building but the larger anomalies can be heard such as explosion and avalanches. “We're going to need to stay on our toes though.”
Hours pass and from the trees on in the back of the building the passing three teams make it back to the fray. Lee and his team emerge however Lee is held up by his comrades as his right leg shows is bloody with a stab wound in it.
“Alright time for the next teams.” Udon says.
“Looks like you guys had a tough time in maze but you still made it.” An Iwa shinobi says to Lee and his team.
“We would've finished sooner if Lee didn't get caught.” One of Lee's teammates says.
“Well we still finished first so it's alright.” Lee says scratching his head.
Among the second string of teams, the mysterious masked shinobi from Kirigakure are the second team pit up against the 5th path as they receive their map and scroll and enter along into the academy building. This time around the exam is shorter, lasting a little over an hour before the three teams make it back. The masked Kiri team is among them.
“Next line up: Path 1, Team Shi of Kirigakure, path 2, Team Neji of Konohagakure, path 3, Team Goku of Iwagakure, path 4, Team Kankuro of Sunagakure, path 5, Team Maiyuri of Sunagakure!”
The tension of hatred rides in the air and blows past Koichi as he looks over to see Masaomi and Koga glaring directly at him with hostility and Shizuko's stare towards the ground holds feelings of pain although her feelings of anger towards Koichi far exceeds that of both her teammates.
Koji places his hand on his brother and snaps Koichi out of his trance of guilt. As the teams get their map and scroll they head into the dark building. It takes a while for their eyes to acclimate to the darkness of the hall. The five teams make it to the great intersection where all the paths are labeled out. They all head to their respective gates and await for the signal to start.
“Every time a team passes a bell will go off.” A voice echos through the hall. “The bells are your warning signs. The scrolls you've received are forbidden to be opened until you reach the half way point of your maze which will be marked with one of the proctors. Now, begin!”
The gates shoot open and each team darts and the second test begins for Team Kankuro.
To Be Continued...