Naruto Fan Fiction

Wind and Shadow

By Kraven Ergeist

Chapter Three: When The Heart Cries Out

Shikamaru couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. Something was bothering him, and he couldn't place it. It was the day after he and Temari had exchanged their… respective goodbyes on the roof of the Nara household. Ever since Temari had left, Shikamaru had this sinking feeling, as if there was something he should have picked up on.

He'd have a much easier time thinking on it if Asuma hadn't chosen that moment to attack him.

Shikamaru received a fierce blow to the jaw that sent him sprawling on his back.

Asuma stood tall and put his hands on his hips. "You're off today, Shikamaru. Something on your mind?"

Shikamaru stood up. "Not really. And in case you failed to notice, I just beat you."

Asuma blinked. "Oh?"

Shikamaru cracked his neck. Asuma did the same. Shikamaru yawned, which Asuma did also.

Asuma then noticed the line of his shadow disappearing into the trees, emerging again where Shikamaru stood.

"Hah! I figured you'd have something else planned," Asuma laughed.

Shikamaru sighed, and used a variant of his Kage-Mane that, instead of tying his opponent shadow to his, it was tied to another object. In this case, a tree.

Shikamaru left a seal on the bark of the tree and left some of his chakra to keep it going for a while, and left the teacher standing there, helpless.

"This is for the nasty bruise I'm gonna get because of that punch. It should lose power in about an hour," Shikamaru smirked. "Till then, I'm gonna take a walk."

Asuma's jaw dropped. "Shikamaru! If you think you can just leave me here…"

Shikamaru just laughed, and waved as he left. "See ya."

Asuma grumbled, realizing there was no way out of this, and stood there, helpless.

Shikamaru wandered the streets of Konoha, putting some more thought to the nagging presence in the back of his head wouldn't leave him alone.

xxxxx

Temari made steady progress. It was a daylong journey back to the hidden village of Sand, and she wanted to make good time in order to convey her information to the Kazekage as soon as possible.

Usually, her journey to and from Konoha was uneventful, though recently, there had been reports of attacks on messengers going between villages for what seemed to be no reason. Since this was precisely the job she was carrying out, she stayed on extra careful guard, in case an attack should come up.

It'll be at least a few more days before I'm sent back to Konoha, she thought, mournfully. I don't know if I'll be able to handle the wait.

Realizing too late that she'd let her mind wander, she quickly dodged left to avoid a well-aimed kunai that would have struck her in the back of the neck.

"An attack?" she stammered, her senses instantly everywhere. She quickly found a suitable hiding place, and waited for the enemy to show themselves.

She couldn't perceive anything out of place, though after a careful look, she had detected several traps that, if she hadn't stopped moving, she would have hit.

She leaped, suddenly, just barely dodging a kunai with an explosive seal attached to it.

Her eyes dashed left and right to try to locate her attacker. In the back of her mind, she was also maneuvering around the traps she had detected earlier.

Little did she know that they had been placed there specifically to lead her into other separate, better-hidden traps.

Temari stopped dead in her tracks just before she ran into a trip wire that had been carefully hidden. Has she not been an expert in traps herself, she wouldn't have seen it.

This is ludicrous! She cursed. Whoever's after me has me on the run! I need to do something to gain the upper hand.

Biting her finger and drawing blood, Temari performed a Kuchiyose no Jutsu and summoned Kirikiri Mai, the Ferret (A/N: Weasel?) of the Wind, and had him use his nose to scout around.

She found the attacker eventually. Based on his appearance, he was from the hidden village of Mist. He was of medium build, with a Mist type flak jacket on. Based on his position, Temari guessed that he had been expecting to be found, and had something prepared for her.

Keeping her distance, Temari made herself visible. "You there! Who are you, and why did you attack me?"

The man in question just smiled. "What incentive do I have to tell you that? If I succeed and kill you, the information will die with you. And if you manage to defeat me, it will leave you with an unwanted advantage when the next attacker comes."

Temari just glared. "Fine then. You leave me little choice."

That's when Kirikiri Mai launched a dashing attack from behind. It did very little in terms of damage, but it provided Temari with the necessary moment of dropped guard.

"Kaze-Tsurugi no Jutsu!" She shouted, swiping her fan open to the first spot.

The mist nin saw the attack coming and dodged, leaping up high in the trees. But Temari had been expecting just that. "Now, Kirikiri Mai!"

Kirikiri Mai performed his wind destruction technique. The mist nin was surprised when the entirety of the forest from where he was to the far edge was completely laid flat. Landing with some difficulty after a prolonged drop, the mist nin dashed at Temari, understandably peeved.

"Kaze-Tsurugi no Jutsu!" Temari cried again, using the second spot on fan.

The attack hit the mist nin, and blew past him. He was completely unaffected.

Temari gasped. "How in the world…?"

Temari blocked the oncoming attack, which sent her recoiled back to a safe distance, where she quickly went over the possibilities in her head.

Ok…he's not using a mizu-bunshin – the chakra level is clearly out in the open. My attack didn't have any holes in it, not at level two. And yet he went right through it, as though…

Temari leapt backwards, avoiding the next attack.

As though he were made out of mist!

Satisfied with her conclusion, she tried for a physical attack. He blocked the attacks with his arms.

Okay, so he can turn his body to mist, or at least, something similar, at will, she thought. That means my wind attacks are useless. Unless…

An idea forming in her head, she initiated a level three wind attack at close range. The attack did nothing to him, but he was also prone and almost completely unable to move. That's when Temari launched immediately into another physical attack.

"Haaaa!" she shouted, letting her best punch fly into him.

She froze.

Her fist had gone inside of him. Inside of him.

The nin turned an irked gaze at her. "Surprise."

Temari pulled her fist back, only to find it stuck inside his chest.

"That won't do you any good," he said, dispassionately. "You're not going anywhere."

Temari unsheathed a kunai. "Only when you're in your solid form, I'd wager!"

She had slashed at his face, before she froze, realizing that he had beaten her to the punch, holding his own kunai up to her neck.

"Now, now…let's not be so hasty, wind girl," he said, with a long, even, droning voice.

Temari glared, holding her kunai frozen inches from his face, sweat beading all over her face. What was she supposed to do now?

That's when her opponent withdrew his kunai. Temari blinked, trying to deduce his motives, before he started acting really funny. Making odd dances of sorts, his face blinked aghast, as though he had no idea what he himself was doing.

Temari blinked. No…it couldn't be…

"Temari!" came a voice. "Take him down!"

Temari looked just to be sure. Sure enough, Shikamaru was standing behind the mist nin, posed as funny and awkward as her foe. His shadow was stretched across the forest floor, locking the nin in a Kage-Mane.

"Shikamaru!" she shouted, unable to believe her luck.

"Now!" he shouted. "Do it now! Before he breaks free!"

Before Temari could figure out how he could break out of Shikamaru's Kage-Mane so quickly after initiation, her foe parted with her.

Temari cursed herself. Of course! If he reverts back to mist, shadow bind won't work on him!

Temari stood at the ready, prepared to face the attacker again. But it seemed that as dispassionate as the mist nin was, he was still coward enough to back down from a two on one fight.

"Looks like he's gone," Shikamaru noticed. "Guess he didn't feel like taking on both of us. Who was he?"

Temari shook her head. "Damned if I know. All I could figure out was that he was from the hidden village of Mist. He was using a mist envelopment technique to give his body the consistency of mist. That made almost all of my attacks completely ineffective against him."

Shikamaru nodded. "I see. Whoever he was, he knew whom he was going after. I know firsthand how tough you are beat. You're capable enough to make any assassin think twice. But this guy had an inherent advantage against you – more importantly, he knew who he was fighting and how to beat them. Whoever sent him sent him specifically after you."

Temari nodded. "That makes sense. The question is who sent him?"

Shikamaru furrowed his brow. "I'd like to say we could rule out the possibility of the Mist village, but I could very well be wrong in doing that. Whatever the circumstances, we should inform our respective Kage's about this."

Temari nodded. "Right."

Shikamaru stepped ahead of her. "I'll accompany you back to the hidden village of sand in case that attacker comes back. Is that acceptable?"

Temari tensed, but knew it would be petty and idiotic to turn him down. As proud as she was, she was having difficulty accepting his aid. But she knew, more than she was willing to admit, that if she encountered that particular assassin a second time, there might not be a third.

xxxxx

"This is troubling news," Gaara of the sand said, upon hearing his sister's report.

Temari and Shikamaru were both kneeling before the Kazekage. Shikamaru couldn't help but be tense around him. Not only was he the ruler of the entire sand village, but Shikamaru had witnessed firsthand the destructive capability of this particular sand nin three years ago, and with a photographic memory like Shikamaru's, memories like that don't fade.

"Kazekage-sama," Shikamaru said. "Do you have any speculation on who the mastermind behind this is or of any possible motive for these attacks?"

Gaara closed his eyes, pausing. Reopening, them, he spoke. "With the way things are now, it could be anybody, and there could be any number of reasons, most if not all of which are likely. As things stand now, we cannot afford to draw any conclusions. Shikamaru, I imagine that you will want to return to Konoha to inform the Hokage of this?"

Shikamaru nodded once.

"I want Temari to go with you in case another such an attack should arise on the journey. More and more attacks have been made on messengers to Konoha, and I believe it may have something to do with the upcoming Chunin exam. As long as it is agreeable with the Hokage, I would like for the both of you to travel in pairs between our villages from now on."

Shikamaru swallowed hard, before nodding.

Temari nodded as well, though the wheels in her head were running overtime. She knew that her youngest brother must know of her affection toward Shikamaru. The only real question, however, was if he gave a rat's ass about it, and, if he did, was he making this particular arrangement as a helping hand?

Temari stared hard at her brother's face, searching for an answer. But, as usual, Gaara's cold blue eyes gave nothing away.

"If there is nothing else to report, then you are dismissed," Gaara said.

The two nins turned to go.

xxxxx

Shikamaru stared at the ceiling of an unfamiliar bedroom. He had been given one of the sand village's guest quarters, so that he wouldn't have to waste money on a hotel. Temari and her brother Kankuro were on the floor above him, and Gaara was on the floor above that.

Shikamaru lay, awake, prone, and unable to sleep.

Someone, he deduced, doesn't want this Chunnin exam to take place. Why? What about this particular exam makes it any different from any of the others?

Shikamaru ran through all the possibilities. It couldn't be because of the Godaime Hokage; she had been overseer of two exams prior to this one. It couldn't be because he was the examiner – for all of Shikamaru's ego, he couldn't possibly attribute himself as the cause of something orchestrated on such a scale.

It must be because of one of the exam takers, then, Shikamaru decided. There must be a Gennin, or possibly more than one, in Konoha that somebody doesn't want to rise to the Chunnin level. But who? And why?

Shikamaru chided himself. One question at a time: who? Who is taking the exam this year? Shikamaru mentally went over the list of Gennins partaking in the exam. None of them stuck out too much.

Shikamaru's mind branched out, thinking over all possibilities. The list must somehow be incomplete. There must be a Gennin who will partake in the exam who is not on the list.

That's when it hit him.

"Naruto!" he said out loud.

Of course! He'll be returning to Konoha soon. Having been away from Konoha for three years, he has yet to rise to the Chunnin level. He will undoubtedly want to take the exam to catch up with all the others.

Satisfied with his conclusion, Shikamaru went on. Okay, next question: why? Why would someone not want Naruto at the Chunnin level?

Shikamaru smiled, though there was no one to smile at. Well, that's easy enough, now that I know whom. Naruto is the carrier of the Kyuubi. With a Chunnin of his caliber, Konoha will be markedly more powerful than many other villages. Hell, if this is the case, then there is a very real chance that the hidden village of Mist did, in fact, initiate this attack – though, how they could scare up the resources is beyond me.

Shikamaru, his mind made up about the problem concerning the villages, now turned to the problem he himself faced.

Temari.

"She said she wouldn't be able to just grow up and get married like me," Shikamaru said out loud. "She's obliged to assist her brother, the Kazekage. But I don't see how having to support her family would prevent her from marrying. It's just that…aw, hell! Marrying her would mean that I have to move to the hidden village of sand!"

Shikamaru cringed. He felt no real attachment to Konoha, at least, as far as its populace and geography were concerned. But having to live in the middle of a dessert? Shikamaru wasn't sure he could live like that. How would he be able to watch the clouds when they were hidden by sandstorms? How could he enjoy playing Shogi while constantly having to shield his eyes from gusts of wind?

"Man…don't get yourself into this. I mean…think about it. Do you really want to marry her? She's arrogant, independent, nothing like the kind of woman you ever dreamed of bearing your children… I mean, how is your life supposed to work out like this?"

Shikamaru rolled over, immersed in self-conversation. "But…she's so fun to be around. And she's got such a nice smile, too. She knows how to take care of herself…so much so that I could probably leave home for weeks, and she'd be fine. And I just…aw, man, I really like her."

Shikamaru shut up for a while, lying still, his eyes still fixated on the ceiling. His breath was rigid and even, and his mind was completely empty of thoughts.

He rolled over and went to sleep soon after that. But Shikamaru could have sworn he'd heard someone make a small gasp outside his door.

xxxxx

Shikamaru and Temari met up at the border of the sand village the day after. Kankuro was there to see them off that morning.

"You two be careful," he said. "It's possible that whoever's behind these attacks might anticipate Gaara's decision to put you two together. If what you said is true, and these attackers are specifically chosen for specific messengers, then it's likely that another nin could be chosen specifically for you as well, Shikamaru."

Shikamaru nodded. "The thought had crossed my mind. What's worse is that the risk increases with each passage, and the Chunin exam is still a long way off."

Temari slapped Shikamaru behind the back. "Hey, don't go getting all pessimistic on me. Next thing you know, you'll start crying, and I'll have to drag your sorry butt all the way to Konoha."

Shikamaru stamped his foot. "What did you say?"

Temari stuck out her tongue, before leaping off into the trees. "Heheheh! See ya!"

Shikamaru huffed as she disappeared from sight.

"Is she always like that?" he demanded to Kankuro.

Kankuro crossed his arms. "You have no idea…"

The shadow nin let out a sigh. "Well, better get moving before she gets too far away."

"Hold on," Kankuro said, quickly.

Shikamaru turned to face him. "What?"

Kankuro took a deep breath, closing his eyes. "Treat her well, understand?"

Shikamaru caught his breath, gulping. "Uh…what do you mean?"

"I mean," Kankuro said, turning his back. "Temari's not the easiest girl to get along with. And since you're…well…close to her, I was cautioning you to be patient with her."

Shikamaru frowned, knowing quite clearly that there was more to what he was saying. "I will."

With a single jump, he took off into the woods.

Kankuro walked away. "Gaara…was it truly a wise choice…putting them together…?"

xxxxx

Shikamaru caught up to Temari easily, who had been lagging behind to let him catch up.

"I still haven't forgotten what you said!" Shikamaru hollered. "I'm going to make you eat those words!"

Temari laughed. "Oh really? You're going to have to catch me first!"

Shikamaru watch, astounded, as she blasted away, faster than he could catch.

She must be using a wind jutsu to give her more speed, her deduced. Thankfully, he had a few tricks up his sleeve.

Temari had not gotten far, when she realized that she couldn't sense Shikamaru.

She stopped her advance. "Big dope. He better not have gotten picked off."

She waited a few minutes, still receiving no hint of his whereabouts.

"Idiot!" Temari exclaimed, turning around. "If he's slacking, he's gonna be sorry!"

Temari took one step, before dashing to the right, avoiding a kunai that had been intended for her.

Her mind was instantly everywhere. It's the same guy from last time! And he used the same attack! Which must mean…

She leapt upward as high and as fast as she could, avoiding a timed explosive seal that detonated half a second later.

She had been intended to step right on it!

Temari cringed, twisting her body into a spiral of kunai flying in every direction. That ought to keep him on his toes long enough for me to get situated. But where the hell is Shikamaru?

Her ears picked up the rustling she was listening for, as her target dashed to avoid the kunai she had thrown.

There! She thought, dashing forward to meet her foe head on.

"Ah…if it isn't the Wind Girl," the mist nin taunted. "Where's your friend? I hope you didn't have the spunk to come out alone a second time."

Temari smirked. "I never make the same mistake twice. And I know that you won't either."

All of the sudden, the mist nin froze, making a familiar set of weird dance moves.

Temari smiled. "Spoke too soon…"

Instantly, Temari laid down a seal at the nin's feet, just as he broke free of Shikamaru's shadow bind. Temari snapped her fingers, and the seal burst, erupting in a plume of ice.

Instantly, the nin froze into a blue sculpture of ice.

"Kage-Tsurugi no Jutsu!"

In a flash, the nin burst into a thousand pieces.

Temari ran her finger through her hair, sighing. "Cutting it a little close, don't you think?"

Shikamaru landed in front of her. "Not really. I was right with you the whole time."

Temari blinked. "Huh? How come I couldn't sense you?"

Shikamaru chuckling, turning around. "You can't sense shadows. Now come on. He most likely didn't come alone this time. Let's hurry."

The two of them made their way to Konoha.

xxxxx

"You're positive about this?" Tsunade questioned.

The two nins found themselves in an almost identical situation. Though this time, the environment was much more comfortable, as Tsunade meant little else than Hokage to either nin.

"Positive," Shikamaru bowed his head.

"Actually, it's had used feeling pretty gloomy," Temari smiled, bowing as well.

Tsunade sighed. "This is no time for jesting. If what you say is true, then-"

"There's more," Shikamaru said. "After thinking it over, I determined that the reason for these attacks must be to prevent the Chunnin exam, or at least, to delay it. I believe that it may have something to do with Naruto's scheduled return to Konoha."

Tsunade scratched her chin. "It's a possibility, but I'd like to think over the matter further. Now, concerning the Kazekage's decision to have the two of you paired as liaisons between our respective villages, I think it's a good idea. You two shall be paired in all transactions henceforth between our two respective villages."

Shikamaru bowed again. "Hokage-sama…does this mean that I am relieved of my duties as examiner?"

Tsunade smirked. "Don't think I'm letting you off the hook that easily Shikamaru. Dismissed."

xxxxx

Shikamaru and Tsunade propped toward Nara house with heavy hearts. The upcoming weeks, though spent in each other's company, were not going to be fun. As messengers, they would be in constant risk of attacks. Though they both knew that the two were both very competent in their respective skills, and well slated for this position, the fact of the matter is, when you go fishing, it never works out too well for the bait.

"So…you staying over tonight?" Shikamaru asked.

"Am I invited?" Temari smiled.

"Of course you are," the boy sighed. "You're wearing that pendant, aren't you?"

"That silly thing?" Temari laughed. "I threw that out the night I go it."

"What?" Shikamaru gasped. "You threw it away?"

Temari smirked, removing the pendant from her clothes. "Just kidding! It's right here!"

Shikamaru frowned. "That was a dirty trick!"

Temari stuck her tongue out. "Just consider it payback for hiding when I needed you in the woods."

Shikamaru huffed. "I stayed hidden to obtain a strategic advantage. Besides, that was payback for making fun of me before."

Temari pouted. "Well…you deserved it!"

Shikamaru sighed. "Can we stop? I've had enough bickering for one night."

Temari smirked. "Oh, had enough already?"

Shikamaru winked. "No…I just want you to be quiet."

Temari's eyebrow twitched. "Why…you…"

Temari chased the shadow boy all the way home.

xxxxx

A/N: Sorry for taking so long. I haven't been in a Naruto mood lately…