A/N: Hey y'all! It's certainly been a while for this story… oops? Please please PLEASE check out my newest story, it's a Neji and Female Naruto pairing entitled 'A Fiancé's Promise'. Please read it and review, I want to know what you guys think!

Hiruzen kept his face purposely blank, his countenance never wavering as he stared back at the expectant expressions of his shinobi council. The preliminaries of the chunin exams had concluded only a few hours previous; with this meeting hastily called together in record timing. All of the Clan Heads were in attendance, their faces grim as they waited for their leader to officially start.

"By now," he spoke carefully, "most of you have heard the rumors."

Tsume Inuzuka snarled, "Orochimaru is back, isn't he?"

The Hokage grimaced. He should have dealt with his student properly years ago. He had underestimated the snake-sennin's hatred for the Will of Fire, "Unfortunately."

Hiashi, stoic as ever, calmly spoke, "Our children have been thrown in a state of panic, however their story remains the same. Are we to believe that while our ANBU were unable to apprehend the sannin, a mere genin was able to hold him back for several seconds?"

Sarutobi nodded, "Shikamaru Nara, Heir Apparent to the Nara Clan, has embodied the Will of Fire in an attempt to hold the enemy, allowing his comrades to escape. With the help of the Kyuubi jinchuriki, whose masterful use of the B-rank Taje Kage Bunshin jutsu allowed her to make over a thousand corporal clones, Nara and Uzumaki were able to stall Orochimaru long enough to escape to safety."

"Putting aside the idea that we have two genin to thank for the current safety of our children," Inoichi said, "Why was Orochimaru stationed in the Forrest of Death?"

"In accordance to our current intel," Hiruzen took a deep breath, "It seems as though he was after Sasuke Uchiha."

"…Why?" Tsume questioned abrasively, "What could the creep possibly gain from preying on a young genin?"

Hiruzen withheld the urge to sigh. He really was getting too old for this, "As of this point we do not know why he has targeted the young Uchiha specifically, however it can be assumed that it has to do with his sharingan."

Decorum was forgotten in leu of surprised exclamations. When the noise began to irritate the elderly Hokage, he raised his hand to halt the excessive sound, "Sasuke Uchiha has not been marked with cursed seal. Nara was able to capture the sennin in a shadow bind before he was able to mark Sasuke. As of now, all of the genin are safe."

"How're the kids?" Tsume asked with a concerned snarl upon her features.

"No injuries were reported beyond Shikamaru Nara's case of chakra exhaustion," Hiruzen admitted.

"How long was the Nara able to keep Orochimaru stationary?" Danzo questioned shrewdly.

"15 seconds," Sarutobi answered.


"A genin managed to hold a sennin down for 15 seconds?" Inoichi sputtered.

Danzo's voice steeled, "We need to call in Shikamaru Nara for questioning."

Ibiki scoffed, his hands crossed across his chest while a brow raised incredulously, "And just why would you want to question an innocent genin?"

"The boy obviously has information that could be pertinent to the future of Konoha," Danzo explained, "Being able to hold a man of Orochimaru's caliber and then proceeding to win his preliminary match only a day later, despite being diagnosed with chakra exhaustion? This must be further investigated."

Ibiki grinned wickedly as he leaned further in his seat, "Well, it's a good thing that it's not up to you. Regardless, I have already questioned the young Nara myself."

"That poor boy," Tsume shook her head as the council once more began to talk over themselves. It was not every day the Head Investigator interrogated a genin.

An exhausted sigh interrupted their surprised exclamations, "My son had willingly agreed to an interrogation conducted by the department of Torture and Interrogations. His account reflected perfectly with the scene as well as the accounts of all other witnesses. My son, however, will not willingly subject himself to another interrogation."

Before Danzo could argue, the Hokage interjected, "Shikaku is correct, Ibiki has already retrieved all of the necessary information. The boy should now concentrate on the chunin exams, I have high hopes for his performance."

Rather than train, as he probably should at a time like this, Shikamaru was reclined on his couch, his hands brought together in a thinking pose as he contemplated each and every variable. Hundreds of ideas were checked and discarded, some plans were tame and others were bordering on treason, yet each were given the same amount of attention as he ripped them apart to the very seams.

Hours later Shikaku entered his home, only to find that his son had not moved a single inch, "Have you eaten?"

It was an important question. Nara's were widely known for discarding basic necessities while thinking deeply, "I will soon."

With a sigh Shikaku sat beside his son, reclining languidly as his eyes closed in exhaustion. His rest was interrupted as Shikamaru spoke, "The Hokage didn't bring up the fact that Naruto is our ward."

It was not a question. Regardless, Shikaku answered, "No, he did not. I suppose merely telling the council about your interaction with Orochimaru had already put you too much into the limelight."

Shikamaru hummed, "Danzo wanted to bring me in, I presume?"

"He did. The Hokage and Ibiki both argued against it."

The younger boy leaned back in contemplation, "Ibiki is attempting to earn my trust, I take it?"

"It certainly seems like it. He made no mention of your discretion whilst providing a spy to his department," Shikaku agreed, "Meanwhile I don't believe the Hokage has forgiven you for making Naruto a ward of the clan. Yet it seems as though he realized what Danzo's reaction to the news would be, especially taking into consideration the new interest surrounding your prestige."

"Troublesome," Shikamaru muttered, "Orochimaru's interference has changed my entire plan, delaying it by quite a bit of time. How long would you predict before the Hokage announces Naruto's new status to the clan."

Shikaku stroked his beard, "It is hard to predict with the current political climate, however I do not think he will wait until the finals of the exam."

"I thought so as well," Shikamaru nodded, "Then I need to make sure I am far from the village by that time."

"The Hokage will not agree to let you out on a mission whilst you are supposed to be training."

"I'll think of something. I always do."

Jiraiya squirmed as the little blond refused to relent her piercing glare upon his incredibly handsome visage, "It was the only way!"

Naruto crossed her arms in anger, spitting out through clenched teeth, "You threw. Me off. A mountain."

The sennin rolled his eyes, "Well you survived, didn't you?"

"You threw me off a mountain!" she screeched as the two began crossing through the random training field Gamabunta had dropped them off in, making their way back to the hot springs.

"It was a small mountain!"

"A mountain is a mountain! I could have died!"

Jiraiya scoffed, "Well, you didn't. Plus you managed to summon Gamabunta, so I'm going to document this as a win in my book."

"You're insane!" Naruto cried, "I could have been crippled for life! Or, oh I don't know, dead!"

Jiraiya rolled his eyes, "I would have caught you before that happened."

"Oh Kami, what did I do to deserve such a moron as a sensei," Naruto muttered towards the sky, her eyes closed in melancholy.

Jiraiya's eye twitched in annoyance, a hand coming down to smack the girl in the back of the head, "Oy! You're the one who blackmailed me into helping you, you disrespectful brat!"

Naruto rubbed the back of her head as she scowled, "Yeah, well I was desperate."

"I am a sennin! You should be thanking every deity you can think of that I even give you the time of day!"

"I reiterate: you threw me off a mountain! What am I supposed to be thankful for? My murder?!"

"Can the two of you please be quiet? I'm trying to nap over here," A lazy, drawling voice interrupted them.

The two previously arguing ninja's turned in tandem to see the resting visage of Shikamaru, his eyes closed with his hands behind his head. Jiraiya sweatdropped at the sight before whispering, "Did you notice that the kid was here?"

Naruto blinked, "Nope. You?"

"Not at all," he answered candidly, before his voice rose, "Kid, what are you doing here?"

Shikamaru groaned before opening one of his eyes, "Well, I was trying to sleep. But the two of you saw fit to make sure that couldn't happen."

"Shika, what are you even doing here? I thought you were allergic to training?" Naruto questioned with a teasing smile as she skipped over to the boy, taking a seat besides him.

"Asuma heard about my run in with Orochimaru. I guess he started panicking about my safety," Shikamaru rolled his eyes, "It's all just too troublesome."

Jiraiya's eyes widened in understanding, "You're the Nara kid. The one who was able to hold back my teammate for 15 seconds."

Shikamaru's eyes met the sennin as he slowly nodded, "I am, Jiraiya-sama."

Naruto scrunched her nose up, "Why are you showing the old pervert such respect?"

"He's a sennin, Naru. He was teammates with Orochimaru and Tsunade the Medic," Shikamaru explained with a groan as he sat up, "The real question is why is he training a genin?"

Naruto grinned proudly, "I blackmailed him."

Jiraiya's eye twitched, prolonged exposure to this girl was certainly bad for his health, "Stop telling people that you brat!"

Naruto stuck a tongue out, "It's not my problem, you old pervert!"

Shikamaru watched their interaction with calculating eyes, "Yes, I'm sure that's the reason."

Jiraiya paused to level a stare at the Nara, "How did you manage to hold back Orochimaru?"

"Adrenaline, mostly," Shikamaru shrugged, "He was too busy with Sasuke to notice my approach. I got lucky. If your interested in the particulars, I'm sure Ibiki will be all too happy to narrate my report."

Naruto tilted her head, "Wait, that scarred man from the first part of the exams? Did he interrogate you?"

Shikamaru nodded, "Of course he did, Naru. I encountered an S-ranked missing-nin, he needed all of the information I could provide."

"Right," Jiraiya drawled, his eyes firmly on the young man before him, "And I'm certain it had nothing to do with recruiting you."

Shikamaru leveled a stare at the older man, his words deceptively calm and slow, "I'm not certain what you mean, Jiraiya-sama."

The older man smirked, his arms crossed, "Naruto, your little friend here is quite the interesting one."

Naruto looked between the two males in confusion, "He is…"

With a troubled sigh, Shikamaru rose to his feet, "I'm going to the hospital to check on Lee and Choji. Naruto, would you like to join?"

Naruto nodded as she grabbed onto Shikamaru's hand and lifted herself up, "I'll come with you. Do you think we should bring them something?"

Shikamaru bit his lower lip, "Choji should be out soon, and I already brought him a basket of food. I'm not sure what we could get Lee."

Naruto looked downcast as she muttered, "I just… I feel so bad for Lee. He's a great ninja, and now it's all over for him."

Shikamaru frowned as he pulled the small blond into a hug, "I'm certain they will be able to cure him, at least some day."

Naruto brushed away her tears as she leaned out of the hug, "The medics here have said it themselves; there's nothing they can do for him. His ninja career is over."

The Nara sighed dramatically, a hand running through his hair, "If only Senju Tsunade was still in the village, she'd be sure to cure Lee."

Naruto blinked, "Tsunade? Didn't you say that was the name of Ero-sennin's other teammate?"

Jiraiya paused. He did not have a good feeling about this.

Shikamaru nodded slowly, "She's the greatest medic in the world. If anyone has the chance of saving Lee, it's her."

"Where is she?"

"I'm not sure," Shikamaru shrugged carelessly, "Even though she's still technically a ninja of Konoha, she travels around a lot."

Naruto spun in place to look at her newest sensei, "Ero-sennin, do you know where she is?!"

Jiraiya shuffled in place awkwardly, "Well, I'm not sure… There are a few rumors about where she could be…"

"We need to find her!" Naruto exclaimed, "Lee was injured beyond repair from his fight against Gaara! She's his only chance at recovery."

Jiraiya swallowed, "Naruto, I don't think Tsunade will want to come back…"

Naruto shook her head resolutely, "I don't care. Lee's life and health hangs in the balance. We need to find her. Please, Ero-sennin."

Jiraiya winced as Naruto's voice cracked with emotion. She really looked too much like Minato, "Kid—"

"Please," Naruto begged, her eyes filling with unshed tears.

Jiraiya sighed deeply as he looked up at the sky, "If you want us to be back by the time the finals are conducted, we better leave tonight. Meet me at the gate in two hours."

"Yes!" Naruto exclaimed, "Shika, I'll see you at home. I've got to go pack!"

Jiraiya and Shikamaru watched as the little blond fled the scene, waiting until she was gone from sight before Jiraiya directed a glare at the slouching genin, "Is there a reason you manipulated both me and Naruto into searching for Tsunade?"

Shikamaru shrugged, "Lee really does need the help. Tsunade really is his only chance."

"And you couldn't have asked me yourself?" Jiraiya asked with clenched teeth, "Instead you had to manipulate your clan's ward?"

Shikamaru raised a brow, "I'm assuming you spoke to the Hokage regarding Naruto's new status?"

"Answer my question Nara. Give me one reason why I shouldn't hand you over to the Torture and Interrogation Unit for this."

"Easy," Shikamaru slouched, "Ibiki is already aware of my actions."

"Explain. Now."

"You already know that Naruto is a ward of my clan. I believe the Hokage has already informed you that it was due to my suggestion?"

Jiraiya nodded with a clenched jaw, "He did."

Shikamaru frowned a bit as he responded, "Naruto has become… important to me. She has lived a difficult life, being a jinchuriki is never an easy cross to bare, so I want to make sure that I can help her accomplish her dream. Ibiki is a mere accomplice to my plan; you were correct in thinking that he wanted to recruit me."

Jiraiya ignored the fact that the boy obviously knew an S-ranked secret, "You want to make Naruto the Hokage."

"I do. She has the disposition for it. She's kind, intelligent, and has the potential to be the most powerful shinobi in this entire village. There is no one better suited for the position," Shikamaru freely admitted.

"Perhaps, but for not she's only a genin. You're only a genin."

"The best of plans start early."

"Why? Why go through all of this trouble for Naruto?"

"Like I said, she truly would make a great Hokage. As a Nara it is my job to make sure that the future of Konoha is preserved for the next generations. I can think of no better future than having someone as caring as Naruto Uzumaki as our leader."

"What does this have to do with finding Tsunade?" Jiraiya questioned suspiciously.

"Ah, well that's a bit harder to explain," Shikamaru grimaced, "In short, I need to leave the village as soon as possible, at least until the chunin exams begin again. This was the easiest solution that came to mind."

"You have a lot to explain."

"I do," Shikamaru agreed, "But I can do it when we're not pressed for time. We do need to leave the village soon, after all."

"Who said that I'll willing take you with me?" Jiraiya questioned as he crossed his arms, "You just admitted to manipulating my student."

"I only did what I must for the future of Konoha. Regardless, Lee truly does need the assistance. The sooner Tsunade comes the better chance of recovery he has."

"Why didn't you just ask me yourself? Was manipulating Naruto necessary?"

"Because we both know you would do anything for Naruto. Even deal with a calculating Nara, as long as you know he truly does it for her sake."

Jiraiya laughed bitterly, "Oh really? And what makes you think I care about Naruto like that? She may be the jinchuriki, but I'm not obligated to care for her well being beyond keeping her alive to act as our weapon."

Shikamaru raised an amused brow, "You could care less that she's the jinchuriki. It's the fact that she's Minato Namikaze's daughter that has you so concerned for her well being."

A trickle of blood fell from Shikamaru's neck as Jiraiya murderously held a kunai to this throat, "How do you know this? Who have you told?"

"I have told nobody, Jiraiya-sama," Shikamaru calmly spoke as though a sennin was not holding a weapon to his throat, "And as for how I figured it out, it was quite easy."

Jiraiya withdrew the kunai as he stood back, "The whole story. Now."

Shikamaru Nara nodded as he began, "Naruto has always known that her parents were ninja's who died during the Kyuubi attack, however she never knew their names. It took a bit of research, but I was able to find a list of all those who perished that night, and yet there was only one name of consequence: Kushina Uzumaki. As the only person who shared the last name of Naruto, it was quite easy to deduce that it was her mother. It took a bit of research to have it confirmed however, but after realizing that the only children capable of holding the potent chakra of the nine-tails were from Uzushiogakure, it was proven that Naruto was a true Uzumaki and that Kushina must have been her mother.

Finding the truth behind her father was a bit more difficult, but at the end it turned out to be quite simple. I looked back at Kushina's academy registration, since it's statistically 73.2% more likely for a ninja to marry someone in their graduating class. You could imagine my surprise when I realized that Kushina shared the same class with the man who would become the Fourth Hokage. At that point all it took was a seeing a picture of the man to have my hunch confirmed: Naruto Uzumaki was the daughter of the fourth.

It had explained every inconsistency regarding Naruto. Why the Hokage refused to name her parents despite knowing of them, why he always looked after her since being kicked out of the orphanage. Why Kakashi Hatake of all people was assigned as her jonin instructor. The final piece of proof lay in her name; for there it was when I picked up a copy of The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi. It made sense for the Fourth to want to honor his sensei by naming her after a character he had written, one that happens to share all of her inherent beliefs. It all came together quite neatly in the end."

Jiraiya paused, "You are quite intelligent, Nara. Now, what do you plan to do with this information?"

"Do? I plan on doing nothing," Shikamaru scoffed, "I am far from an idiot, Jiraiya-sama. I am well aware of the danger Naruto could be in if her lineage were to ever be discovered. There are many out there who still hold a grudge against her father, and would fine no qualms about taking them out on an innocent genin."

The older man's eyes narrowed, "You truly plan on making Naruto Hokage?"

"I do," Shikamaru nodded, "She would make an amazing Hokage. And my plan is already in motion. Five years from now, Naruto will be Hokage. This I swear."

"Do you truly believe the Third can handle another five years with the hat?"

Shikamaru scoffed, "There's another reason I want to find Tsunade, you know. One that has precious little to do with getting me out of this village. I'm certain she can deal with the burden for a few years until Naruto is truly and fully prepared to take the mantle."

Jiraiya laughed, "You think Tsunade will agree to be Godaime? Tsunade?!"

"I think if anyone has a chance to convince the woman, it's Naruto. She has a way with people that baffles me no matter how many times I see it."

"You have a lot of faith in Naruto."

"She's my best friend."

"Why do you need to leave the village in such a hurry anyways?"

Shikamaru grimaced, "In the process of executing my plan, I may have found a few ways to purposefully irritate Danzo. I'd rather not be here for the fallout."

Jiraiya burst out into laughter, throwing his arms around the lazy boy as they walked away from the field, "Shikamaru Nara, it looks like you and I will get along just fine."