Chapter 39: Preliminaries Part 3

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"I wonder which loser I'm going to be fighting."

"Just make sure you don't end up being the loser..."

"Shut your mouth, Koji!"

And they're at it again... At least Maru is excited for his fight. I was so caught up wondering about myself that I almost forgot about Maru and Koji. They're also going to be fighting here. I just hope we won't have to fight one another.

The display screen starts beeping again, rapidly scrolling through the remaining participants' names. Who is it going to be...?

"The next match will be..."

It's...!

"Maru vs Hana."

What?! No way! I look worriedly at Maru. His eyes are wide open with shock.

"Out of all people... Why Hana?"

Hana on the other hand doesn't seem to really care. Maru really likes her... I just hope that doesn't make him lose focus.

The two of them make their way down to the centre of the arena. The proctor coughs.

"...Begin."

Unconsciously, I reach for Gaara's hand, who's standing right beside me, and hold it firmly in mine. I feel his hand gently closing up on mine.

"Don't worry. He'll do fine."

I slowly nod at his words of encouragement. I have to believe in Maru! He'll do great, I'm sure.

Hana takes out her katana. She stands on guard, waiting for Maru to act. He's just standing there with clenched fists. Come on, Maru. You can definitely take her!

"What? Too chicken to fight me?!"

Hana is provoking him. That might actually be a good thing, though.

"Me? Too chicken? Hah! You really don't know what I'm made of!"

Alright! He's getting riled up!

Maru starts by throwing some kunai knives at Hana who intercepts them with her sword. She then runs towards him and swings her sword downwards at Maru. He easily steps out of the way and positions himself behind her, preparing to deliver a kick. The kick connects and knocks her to the side. She quickly gets up and does a few quick hand signs while holding her katana. Her katana then starts glowing in a bluish aura.

Maru also makes a bunch of hand signs.

"Fire style: Galloping Fire!"

Flames then materialized and started chasing Hana.

"Wind style: Shockwave!"

Hana swung her glowing sword and gusts of wind came out of each swing, knocking the flames off course. However, while she's busy doing that, Maru's able to sneak up on her and deliver a powerful punch to her stomach, knocking her on the ground.

"Hah! Who's the chicken, now?"

His smug grin then almost immediately disappears as he see Hana in pain. She then starts coughing. She's coughing way to much. She's clearly faking it! But it was enough to catch Maru off guard for her to give him an upper kick to the chin, causing him to fall backwards.

"Idiot! What are you doing?!"

Koji screams at Maru. I squeeze Gaara's hand more. This is not good.

"Haha! What a little softy you are. Too bad I'm heartless."

Hana then goes and steps over Maru's body and brings the edge of her katana to his neck.

"Bye bye!"

She says cheerfully as thrusts her sword down. I close my eyes in fear.

"Stop!"

The proctor's voice resonates. I open my eyes and see him holding the sword back, which has already broken through Maru's skin, but didn't go too deep.

"Hana wins this round. We don't want any unnecessary deaths to occur."

What...? Hana wins?! I feel rage welling up inside me. She completely humiliated Maru! He couldn't win because he liked her so much and she totally took advantage of that!

"Hah, what a loser."

Hana says as she walks away from Maru who's still on the floor. Maru get up, blood flowing from his neck. He doesn't seem to care about that, though. His eyes are downcast and he seems like he just had a huge blow to his pride. As soon as Hana makes her way past me, I give her a death glare. She grins smugly at me and joins up with Jun and Mari who congratulate her while laughing. Maru finally makes his way up. I let go of Gaara's hand and head to him. I put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"It's alright, Maru..."

That's all I have to say. I don't know what else to say. Of course, that's not enough to make him feel better.

The preliminaries continue. Two more names are displayed.

"The next match will be Temari vs Tenten."

Temari makes her way down. A Konohagakure kunoichi with her brown hair in two buns up-do is there too.

"Good luck, Tenten!"

A loud cheer comes from a guy in a bowl haircut and a green bodysuit. It must be his teammate.

"Begin."

The bowl haircut guy cheers harder while an older version of him tells him to cheer louder. Is that their sensei? For some reason it's funny how similar they both look. The girl named Tenten throws a bunch of weapons at Temari who easily counters them with her fan, using wind jutsu.

Tenten then takes out scrolls and jumps in the air, opening and twirling the scrolls around her, summoning an array of weapons at Temari. Again, it's useless. The weapons are sent back at Tenten and injure her along with Temari's wind attack, knocking her out in the process. Tenten falls down, her back landing on Temari's closed fan. Oh that must hurt...

"How boring."

Temari... Now you just look like the bad guy here. Then again, we are supposed to be planning a surprise attack... I still don't agree to that.

"The winner is Temari."

As soon as the match's over, Temari mercilessly throws Tenten's body off of her fan. The green jumpsuit boy quickly jumps down to catch Tenten before her body falls on the many sharp weapons on the ground.

"Nice catch."

Temari sounds so mean... She's not normally like this. It's all because of that damn mission.

"What are you doing? Is that how you treat someone who gave their all in battle?!"

"Shut up. Take that loser and get out of here."

This seems to have snapped that guy. At an incredible speed, he delivers a spinning kick.

"Lee! Stop!"

A guy with white eyes like Hinata's shouts at the Lee guy. Temari however easily blocks the kick with her fan.

"What?!"

He seems genuinely surprised that Temari's able to block his kick.

"Just as I thought. You're also as pathetic as you appear to be."

Temari gives a smug smile.

"What did you say...?!"

"Lee, stop!"

His sensei, I presume, comes down and calls to Lee. I see Gaara frowning. He doesn't like it either.

"Temari, get up here! You've already won."

Temari frowns but turns away and heads up. I sigh in relief. This could've ended badly. After they're cleaned up the weapons, the display board starts beeping again. I wonder... who it's going to be.

My eyes widen at the result. My lips stretch into a small grin.

"The next match will be... Kiu vs Mari."

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