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Chapter 172: "Returning Home" – Tsunade is to be officially

announced Hokage, but Naruto diverts her priority to the hospital.


Shikamaru and his father greet Jiraiya and Tsunade, with Naruto
gossiping to Shikamaru about her. Shikamaru and his father have a
little talk about women, which leaves Shikamaru even more averted to
them. Neji and Tenten discuss the news, with Neji distracted by his
training. Chouji and Ino celebrate Shikamaru’s new position of Chuunin
with Asuma treating them to a meal. Tsunade heals Sasuke and
Kakashi, to Sakura’s great relief. However, when she examines Lee,
she becomes highly anxious.

Chapter 173: "Affliction" – Lee’s using the Reverse Lotus and taking
Gaara’s attacks gave him injuries so serious that surgery performed
even by Tsunade’s hands may kill him. With a 50% success rate and
torturous rehabilitation ahead of him, Tsunade advises him quitting as
a ninja. Naruto tells Iruka of his latest adventure over a bowl of ramen
before running off to check on Sasuke’s condition. Sakura, who had
been at his bedside since Itachi hospitalised him, brings Sasuke some
sliced apples. To her shock, Sasuke swats them aside in rage.
Meanwhile, back at his base, Orochimaru commands his four
bodyguards to return to the village.

Chapter 174: "Each and Their Path...!" – With forces still strained
from the attack, almost every Chuunin and Jounin is assigned to a
mission. Ino gives Chouji a little advice on girls, before Shikamaru
mentions she could take some of it herself. They boys have a little talk
about comparing their abilities briefly. Naruto walks in on the scene
between Sakura and Sasuke, who delivers him a murderous look.
Sounding disgusted at Naruto and Tsunade, Sasuke activates his
Sharingan and demands a fight with Naruto – right here, right now!
Even more shocking is the fact that Naruto accepts gladly!!

Chapter 175: "Naruto Vs Sasuke!!" – The team makes their way to


the hospital roof to stage their duel, with Sakura watching nervously.
Both participants exchange some very bitter words before the fight.
Naruto produces a load of copies, but none match Sasuke’s taijutsu
skills. Naruto tries to hit a Naruto Combo, but Sasuke uses the final
part of his hand sealing to block it and take out the clones with
Goukakyuu! On his way down, Sasuke sees one final clone preparing a
Rasengan, prompting him to fire up his own Chidori. Overwhelmed,
Sakura rushes in between them before they kill each other.
Chapter 176: "Bitter Rivalry..." – Neither Naruto nor Sasuke can
stop themselves in time and a violent crash happens… as Kakashi
appears from nowhere and slings them both away to save Sakura’s
life. Their hands both puncture water tanks and Sasuke smirks over
the bigger hole he made. Kakashi talks him down and Sasuke ignores
him, wandering off angry and annoyed after seeing the exit wound in
the tank Naruto made being far larger. Kakashi confronts Jiraiya about
a few things, notably the way Sasuke is developing. Sakura is
reassured that things will be okay by Kakashi afterwards, but Sasuke’s
expression says otherwise, unaware that he is being watched.

Chapter 177: "The Four Sounds" – Introduces Kidoumaru,


Jiroubou, Sakon and Tayuya. Sasuke is tied to the tree… and Kakashi
delivers a stern lecture to him. Sasuke asks Kakashi to step into his
shoes, but Kakashi tells him that everyone close to him had already
been killed and that Chidori is a power to protect the people Sasuke is
lucky to have, then releases and leaves him. As night falls,
Orochimaru’s bodyguards leap into action. Elsewhere, Orochimaru
comments that Sasuke is not powerful enough to deal with them. A
theory to test as Sasuke is introduced to them by name and easily
defeats their decoy attack...

Chapter 178: "The Temptation of the Sound...!!" – Sasuke fights


Sakon. Despite an excellent attack that occupies all of Sakon’s limbs,
an attack from nowhere sends him reeling. Kidoumaru and Jiroubou
join in, but Sasuke still gains the upper hand on Sakon and lands a
Lion Combo directly. Elsewhere, Sakura invites Naruto on a date as
cover to fill him in on the truth of Sasuke’s situation during the
Chuunin exam. Sasuke, meanwhile, is beaten around some more by
the Sound Four then given an offer – the same power they display in
return for his allegiance. Sasuke hesitates in his reply...

Chapter 179: "Don't Forget...!!" – Sasuke is beaten against a wall


and re-asked the question. He responds with his trump card, the Curse
Seal… and gets beaten down again as Sakon displays a Curse Seal of
his very own. He is also warned of his carelessness, as excess use the
seal will eventually strip him of his free will. Orochimaru holds the
answer to obtaining the true power, Tayuya tells him, reminding him of
Itachi. With that, they depart, leaving Sasuke with a leaf in his hand
that he crushes. Elsewhere, Lee reflects on his status, thinking back to
his academy days, Gai’s encouragement and the bizarre rivalry Gai and
Kakashi have. He feels a hand on his shoulder and Gai comforts his
student.

Chapter 180: "It's a Promise!!" – Lee reflects on his past and


segregation in the academy for his inability to use Ninjutsu or
Genjutsu and mild skill in Taijutsu. Gai spurs him on and reminds him
that to give up on his dreams would mean his life so far would be for
nothing. Thinking back to his rivalry with Kakashi, Gai remembers the
risks and goals he set himself, creating the ideal to push his limits
further and further in order to strengthen himself. With supreme
confidence, he tells Lee the life-or-death surgery is just another
challenge to overcome. If it should fail, Gai would end his life too. With
a gigantic hug, Lee reaffirms his way of the Shinobi and faith in Gai.