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Path Of War

The year is 2025. A devout Christian named Arthur Bennett wins a lottery to participate in a revolutionary virtual reality experience at a high-tech company called Elysium. The program utilizes a unique VR pod to immerse users in a world based on a popular anime. As the other participants—a mix of personalities with varying degrees of anime knowledge—prepare to enter the simulation, Arthur remains the only one who has never indulged in anime. Upon entering this new world, he discovers an unsettling truth: pain is excruciatingly real, despite the creators' claims of a dampened pain response. Arthur finds himself trapped in prison, unable to log out, and demanding to be released from the program. Calls go unanswered, and the world of ninjas becomes a nightmare where hunger, thirst, hygiene, and even death are real. Angered that he was deceived, Arthur abandons all sense of logic and vows to become a villain no one would have ever anticipated.

AkitoTakahashi · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
72 Chs

Asuma-Sensei

Arthur stood there, calculating things to come. The preliminary matches were far different from what he'd estimated.

Sasuke—Victorious. Hinata—Victorious. Alice—Victorious. Margaret—Victorious. Alex—Victorious. Naruto—Victorious. Jasper—Victorious. Jada—Victorious.

Things had gone awry.

He'd planned for every scenario, studied every character, and yet, the results of the preliminary matches had only slightly thrown his constructed strategy into disarray.

The most significant upset was undoubtedly Naruto's victory. While he may have defeated Kiba like in the original, his overall growth through whatever training William and him were undergoing was misjudged.

Then there were the player characters: Alice, Margaret, Alex, Jasper, and Jada.

All of them had emerged victorious, their enhanced skills and knowledge displaying themselves fully, giving them a significant edge.

Arthur sighed. He knew that his upcoming fight would be a cakewalk. Regardless of his opponent, it's the players that would be his real adversaries. He was the underdog compared to their traits.

Assuming he won his next match, there was still one bigger event to think about: the next arc, Orochimaru's invasion.

This was written to take place after a one-month break once the preliminaries concluded.

Arthur weighed down the variables in his mind—the unpredictable nature of things.

There was approximately a twenty percent chance of Orochimaru's invasion occurring. If it happened, the focus would shift from the tournament to the village's defense. The final matches might even be postponed or cancelled altogether.

Regardless, Arthur understood that he couldn't shirk off his duties. The potential of Orochimaru's arrival could lead to either the former's capture or Hiruzen's death.

Sasuke still receiving the curse mark only made things take a backseat.

Arthur's own priorities still lingered in this tournament. He envisioned the next arc and the events that would unfold if Orochimaru launched his assault.

The key people would undoubtedly be the players themselves. Only by thoroughly comprehending their motives could he be prepared for whatever challenges might be thrown his way.

After considering these things, the cheers of the crowd faded as the next names were shown on the screen: Gaara versus Shino Aburame.

Now it was certain; Arthur would be fighting Chōji for the last match. The irony was that he had killed all of Chōji's teammates.

Shino's hidden face betrayed no emotion as he met Gaara on stage. Hardly any of them received cheers.

Arthur knew the outcome of this fight—Gaara's victory was inevitable.

Shino, despite his unique insect manipulation techniques, simply didn't have the firepower to contend with Gaara's overwhelming sand.

The match started.

Shino wasted no time. Waving his arm, he summoned a swarm of black, buzzing insects from his body. They surged forward in a dark cloud, their objective clear: to devour Gaara whole and disrupt his chakra flow.

Gaara, however, remained standing. He was clearly more annoyed than grossed out, like some of the spectators.

With a mere flick of his wrist, a torrent of sand erupted from his gourd, engulfing the approaching insects in a swirling vortex. The desperate buzzing of the bugs filled the air for a moment before they were ripped to shreds, their tiny bodies swallowed whole by the relentless sand.

The crowd, although disturbed, gasped in unison.

Shino, his brow furrowed in concentration, unleashed another wave of insects, only to be met with the same overwhelming response.

Gaara's sand proved to work well on the offensive and defensive ends. The speed of the insects made the sand seem impenetrable.

Arthur watched as Gaara crushed the insects.

Compared to watching this ninja on screen compared to seeing him in person, there was a mass difference. Gaara's control over his sand was indeed impressive. The way he manipulated it with seemingly effortless precision, morphing it from defense to offense in a blink of an eye, was astounding.

But amidst the display of power, Arthur noticed a subtle flaw in Gaara's strategy.

His reliance on the overwhelming quantity of sand left him vulnerable to a more precise, targeted attack. This weakness, Arthur mused, could potentially be exploited by skilled opponents—opponents who already proved they could beat Gaara head-on.

Arthur's musings were interrupted by insects buzzing on the arena floor.

Frustrated by the ineffectiveness of his bugs, Shino decided to take a more direct approach. He charged towards Gaara while forming a hand sign.

Gaara, anticipating this move, reacted by forming a wall of sand in front of Shino. Tendrils made of sand tripped him amidst his run, causing Shino to crash into the wall with a sickening thud before crumbling to the floor.

"Give up," Gaara's said in a voice devoid of any emotion. "You're too weak; you stand no chance against me."

Shino tried to rise, but his efforts were in vain. Sand relentlessly pressed down on him. By the time he arose, he slumped right back down, defeated.

Hayate scanned Shino's vitals. With a heavy sigh, he raised his hand to declare in a strained voice, "The winner of this match is Gaara!"

There were hardly any cheers from the stands. Gaara remained unmoved, his eyes devoid of any satisfaction to begin with. He simply resealed his gourd and walked past a battered Shino, leaving him for the medical personnel who rushed onto the platform.

Arthur watched the scene unfold.

While Gaara's victory was predictable, the cruelty displayed by him, the disregard for life, was a reminder of the darkness that lurked within this digital world.

As Gaara exited the arena, the medical team carefully transported Shino on a stretcher, and Arthur stretched himself.

Neither he nor Chōji needed a monitor to tell them their fight was next. They both strode to the arena while the players cheered them on.

Naruto's yelled, "Go get 'em, Arthur! Give Chōji a run for his food!"

While the comment frustrated Chōji, Arthur felt odd being cheered on by the likes of the main character. He had never interacted with the boy before, so there was no real reason to be cheered for.

Naruto's enthusiasm was so contagious that it drew smiles and playful nudges from Alice, Margaret, and even Jasper.

The rest of the audience, however, held a more reserved expression. Arthur, after all, wasn't well-known by most of them. The only other characters that should be interested in this fight were Hiruzen and Kakashi.

Arthur scanned the stands, his gaze briefly meeting the Hokage's and Kakashi's. Both looked to be in intense concentration, their eyes scrutinizing every movement.

But since all eyes were on him, now was the perfect moment to seize this opportunity.

"Chōji," he casually said. "I'm sorry about what happened. They were your friends and deserved to see you here."

Chōji was lost for words for a moment. Smiling, he thanked Arthur, stating that this is what he signed up for.

"I'll get revenge for them one day, but before that, I have to grow stronger and win the exams. For Shikamaru, for Ino!"

The match started, but Arthur remained utterly impassive.

'High-speed movement.'

Before Chōji could even launch his first attack, he moved with unorthodox speed. His right arm blurred into a streak, and with a sudden crack, his fist landed squarely on Chōji's chin!

The Akimichi fell to the ground in a heap.

There was a brief moment of silence, broken only by awe and gasps.

Hayate rushed towards Chōji. After a cursory examination, he looked up and declared, "The winner of this match is Arthur Bennett!"

Cheers erupted from the stands, albeit less thunderous than for the previous matches. Only a few were amazed that Arthur had dispatched an opponent with a single blow, for he was the only one to do it.

As Arthur stood, his gaze swept across the crowd.

He saw the looks of their intense analysis. Jasper and Alex, with their Byakugan activated, were clearly unimpressed by the speed. Even Jada, Kakashi, and Sasuke had their Sharingan active, likely dissecting his actions with a similar disinterest.

Arthur knew that, in that moment, he had fooled them all. He was still a low-rated player, hardly worth becoming a subject of study.

While yes, he defeated Chōji in a single hit, many of his spectators knew that they could have easily blocked, countered, or parried an attack like that.

It's not that Arthur was strong; Chōji was simply too weak, too slow to react.

The weight of their gazes never once fazed him. He had achieved his objective—a swift victory that hid his true strength. He didn't at all seem like a force to be reckoned with—a player that would be overlooked.

As medical personnel carried Chōji off the platform, Arthur returned to his Jōnin. She congratulated him on a surprise knockout, but her words weren't purposeful.

Hayate approached the center with the qualifying winners. They all heard him say, "That concludes today's matches! You ten will be advancing to the finals."

With the official conclusion of the Chūnin Exam preliminaries, many felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Hiruzen emerged to raise his hand and hush the murmurs. He declared, "I commend you all on your outstanding performance. You have displayed your skills and determination and earned the right to compete in the final round."

There were some congratulations thrown here and there, but Arthur remained humble. Naruto pumped his fist in the air, excited to fight again. He was the loudest of the qualifiers.

"The finals will commence in one month," Hiruzen continued. "During this period, you are free to continue honing your skills and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead."

All the players knew that this one-month break would be crucial. It wasn't just for training; it would be a period of intense planning and strategizing, particularly for the next arc.

Hiruzen gestured to Anko nearby, who approached the participants lined up. She had a box in her hands. With a sardonic grin, she drawled, "Time to see who you'll all be facing."

Continuing, she approached each qualifier and explained, "Each of you will pick a slip, and the number on it will determine your opponent in the finals."

Naruto, who was originally carefree, now seemed anxious. He reached into the box before snatching a slip of paper. Unfolding it with trembling fingers, he said, "I got number one!"

Anko swept past the remaining participants. One by one, they pulled out a slip of paper from the box.

Gaara picked out a slip and saw the number two. Hinata received number three. Margaret picked number four, while Alex got the number five. Jasper picked number six, followed by Alice, who received the number seven. Jada picked number eight. Sasuke was assigned number nine. And finally, Arthur, who received the last number—number ten.

Anko presented a board that displayed a bracket for the upcoming battles.

Naruto, with number one, was paired against Gaara, number two. Hinata, number three, would face Margaret, number four.

The remaining participants were paired accordingly, following a simple number-based sequence.

However, the bracket held little surprise for Arthur and the other players. They already knew who they were going to face the moment they received their numbers.

Arthur's gaze drifted towards Sasuke, who was paired against him. A silent exchange passed between them.

Who knows what that Uchiha was thinking? He gave Sasuke a slight grin, only to have it reflected right back.

The other participants, oblivious to the undercurrent of the player characters, dispersed, each engrossed in their own thoughts.

Naruto, brimming with nervous excitement, began peppering Sasuke with questions about Gaara. Margaret and Hinata, their paths converging in the bracket, exchanged a nod of acknowledgement. Jada and Alice couldn't help but smile due to their mutual understanding.

Everyone else, such as Alex and Jasper, seemed to be mentally strategizing their upcoming fight. One thing was certain about those two: neither of them was going to back down.

Arthur decided to use this opportunity and sought out Asuma, who stood observing the dispersing crowd. He raised an eyebrow as Arthur approached.

"Arthur, I assume," he said in a low monotone. "What can I do for you?"

Arthur met his gaze head-on and stated, "You did a great job as a Jōnin raising your team... I'd like to know that it wasn't at all your fault things turned out the way they did."

Asuma remained impassive until he said, "This is the price of being a ninja. By the way, congrats on your fight against Chōji. It's not easy to take him out so easily."

Arthur could tell that Asuma was being modest. So he leaned in and said, "If you ever need anything, Asuma-sensei, you let me know."

Asuma's eyebrow shot up a little. He hadn't expected Arthur to be the respectful type. In truth, Arthur simply knew the right time to lower himself.

"You're a fine ninja," he said, slightly intrigued. "I'll be sure to let Chōji know how you felt."

The building was eventually winding down. Announcements were made, directing participants towards designated areas for post-match medical evaluations and information for the finals.

And so, under the setting sun, the preliminaries ended.