"Naruto: New Generation"
The night air was cool for the middle of summer as two figures rushed through the gate of the Village Hidden in Leaves, trying their best to conceal their presence from prying eyes as they headed to the center of the village. The two shinobi had been on a top secret mission that had been given to them specifically by the Hokage herself, with their efforts proving successful. The mission had gone off without a hitch during their three-week long hiatus, with the only complication arising towards the end of the assignment, but even that had been overcome with little effort.
The figures finally arrived at their destination after a few minutes of ducking around corners and looking for any unwanted guests, always trying to maintain their invisibility even within their own village. Once they were certain that they were not in any danger of detection, the two figures ducked inside the massive tower that was the part-time residence of the Godaime Hokage. Usually the tower was filled with shinobi day and night, but on this night it was unnervingly quiet as the two young ninja headed to the main office on the top floor.
The Hokage was waiting for them, her pale eyes gazing out over the sleeping village with a mixture of wonder and nostalgia, recalling memories of when she looked out like this during her grandfather's tenure as Hokage. She was still in this position when the two cloaked figures strolled casually into her office, drenched with moisture from their journey and the cloaks a bit tattered, most likely battle damage. The Hokage was not worried, however, about these two mysterious visitors as she headed over to her desk and was seated behind the, oddly, cleared workspace.
"You two have looked better after even tougher missions that this," Tsunade snickered, resting her chin on her hands, "Now why don't you take those cloaks off and report in?"
Exchanging a look, the two shinobi nodded to each other and removed their cloaks and hung them neatly on the nearby coat rack, relieved to be out from under the smelling fabric after so long a journey. After all, the two shinobi had just returned from a mission to the former village of Tonbogakure, their target being quite a distance away from where they were now. Hence why the mission had taken so long to accomplish, due in part to it's difficulty and also due to the distance of their destination, but it certainly felt good for both to be back home.
The first of the two figures was wearing the standard uniform of a shinobi of the Chunin rank, save for he wore his hitai-ate around his left arm rather than in it's traditional place across his forehead. His hair was done up in an odd ponytail that swept up into the air rather than falling back over his shoulders, with two dark studs in his ears that had been given to him by his sensei as a gift some time ago. This man was Nara Shikamaru, one of the head instructors at the shinobi academy, as well as one of Konohagakure's top military strategists.
The second of the shinobi was dressed a bit less like one would expect of a shinobi concerned with stealth and invisibility, as he was wearing a black and orange jumpsuit that almost made Tsunade's eyes hurt. He had a mop of messy blonde hair atop his head that framed perfectly his bright blue eyes, with three whisker marks going across his cheeks like those of a fox. This shinobi was the ever optimistic and ever loud shinobi Uzumaki Naruto, the vessel of the nine-tailed demon fox and the only child of the Yondaime Hokage, Namikaze Minato.
"That's a bit better," Tsunade smiled, leaning back in the seat, "Now, what do you have to report?"
"The rumors that Uchiha Sasuke and his team are gathering forces near the destroyed Village Hidden Under the Dragonfly are false," Shikamaru answered formally, his eyes wandering, "It was troublesome, but we managed to avoid enemy detection until we neared the borders of the Land of Rice Fields."
"The former Land of Sound?" Tsunade asked, looking at Naruto, "What exactly happened there?"
"Well, you see Tsunade-baa-chan, we ran into some shinobi that weren't wearing any forehead protectors, so we don't know which village they hail from," Naruto began, posing dramatically all the while, "They tried to keep us from going any further into that land, but we kicked their...!"
"I believe what my loud-mouthed colleague is trying to say is that after some trouble we got away and headed for home," Shikamaru interrupted, knocking Naruto upside his head, "The mission was a success in that we have eliminated that location as a base of operations for the Uchiha, but a failure in that we were not able to ascertain his current whereabouts."
"A success is good no matter what in this line of work," Tsunade reassured the two shinobi, rising to her feet, "Now, come with me to the main hall. There is a ceremony taking place that I really cannot keep away from much longer."
"A ceremony?" Naruto mused, squinting his eyes, "What kind?"
"You'll see, now come along," Tsunade chuckled, ushering the two youths to the main hall, "I think your going to enjoy this."
The main hall was located on the bottom floor of the Hokage's Tower and encompassed almost 80 percent of the floor plan, it's massive size sufficient for holding the majority of the village all at once. As they entered the room, Naruto noticed that the reason the tower must have been empty was because almost every shinobi in the village was here! He could spot his former sensei, Kakashi, resting against the wall some distance away reading his little orange book, with his 'eternal rival' Guy sitting somewhere nearby talking with some random shinobi.
Most of his other friends from the academy were also present, including the only remaining member of his team, Haruno Sakura, who was seated up on the main stage next to Naruto's teacher, Jiraiya. Why the toad hermit and the pink-haired kunochi were sitting together was a complete mystery to Naruto, but he paid it no mind as Tsunade sat him and Shikamaru at a table near the front. The other two seats were occupied by the two members of Naruto's last Genin team, Hanabi Hyuga and Sarutobi Konohamaru, both of whom looked pleased to see him.
"Naruto-nii-san! Where've you been?" Konohamaru exclaimed, "The old hag said we couldn't start this party up until you arrived. What was the hold up?"
"I'm sure whatever Uzumaki-san has his reasons for being late and would appreciate if you kept your mouth shut," Hanabi interjected, "After all, HE is a great shinobi, unlike some other people I know."
"Unlike some other...HEY!"
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming here tonight on this most joyous of occasions," Sakura's voice boomed over the speakers, "Today, we are here to celebrate a new generation of shinobi who have proven themselves on the field to possess the qualities a shinobi should. In our last Chunin Exam, held in the far off village of Sunagakure, only one team of our shinobi made it to the final exam and out of those three, only two proved worthy of the higher rank."
"Only two?" Naruto thought, "I guess that means me again..."
"The first to prove worthy of this higher rank amazed us all by doing something he had never done before: giving up," Sakura continued, getting a laugh, "This shinobi, after defeating his first challenge came up against a superior opponent and, realizing he couldn't win and was out of chakra, admitted defeat. While many would say this doesn't prove his worth, it shows that he fully understands the limits of his own body and would know when to fall back and formulate a new plan."
"That shinobi, who we honor here tonight, is the grandson of the Sandaime Hokage and our village's new Chunin," Sakura smiled, while two unfamiliar shinobi rose to their feet on stage, "Sarutobi Konohamaru, please come forward."
To say that Naruto's teammate was overjoyed was a bit of an understatement, as he leaped up onto the stage, only to fall in comical fashion, and then almost burst into tears upon being presented with his vest. The whole room was applauding the legacy's promotion and a few young girls were even fawning over him, bringing a blush to Konohamaru's cheeks. Naruto also was clapping, glad for his friend, but could feel the pitying looks of regret from his friends as they looked at him, even Hanabi looking a bit disappointed as Sakura began to speak again.
"Our next shinobi advancing in rank is one who has marveled many of their fellows throughout the years, changing the opinions of many elder shinobi and their peers alike by their exploits," Sakura began, smiling brightly, "Many powerful shinobi have fallen at this young warrior's hands, proving their dedication not only to their village, but to the protection of their fellows. Such selflessness in the face of danger and courage under fire, added to their natural skills, are why we honor this shinobi tonight before the entire village they so love."
Naruto watched with confusion as Jiraiya and Tsunade rose to their feet and walked up to the right of Sakura, Tsunade holding a greenish colored vest in her palms while Jiraiya flashed Naruto a smile. The blonde shinobi at that moment realized what was going on as his heartbeat began to speed up, Hanabi looking at him with a hint of disappointment but also with happiness for her teammate. Naruto felt like he was going to pass out, his body covered with sweat as Sakura motioned for him to come up onto the stage.
"Uzumaki Naruto, we sent you on a reconnaissance mission three weeks ago specifically to keep this news from you until now," Sakura smiled, hugging her former teammate tightly, "And as your parents aren't here to present you with this honor, Tsunade-sama and Jiraiya-sama have volunteered to do the honors themselves."
Naruto could feel himself cringing with excitement as Tsunade unfolded the Chunin vest and placed it over his shoulders, a new sense of responsibility and accomplishment rushing through him. It had hurt a year ago when he returned home from his travels with Jiraiya only to find all his old friends had become Chunin, with Neji, whom Naruto had defeated, making Jonin! He had worked hard to become recognized as a great ninja, but it had been Tsunade who explained that being strong wasn't the only thing that made a shinobi great.
It also took courage, intelligence, the willingness to put the mission and the safety of your team before yourself to prove your worth as a shinobi, something that Naruto had proven capable of time and time again. What had held him back primarily had been the fact that he never displayed such skills during the Chunin exam years ago and that he had not been able to take the exam since then. That all changed after the incident with Itachi what seemed like an eternity ago, when he was assigned to a new team led by Yamato and forced to remain in the village at most times.
Naruto could not stop himself from shaking with excitement as Tsunade zipped his vest up over his jumpsuit, placing a hand on both his shoulders and kissing his forehead as she had done when she gave him her amulet long ago. Even his former sensei, Jiraiya, looked to be on the verge of tears as his student was inducted into the ranks of more senior shinobi. It was a new day in the blonde shinobi's life and a new day in the Land of Fire as Naruto pulled two items out of his vest, looking them over as a note unrolled in Tsunade's left hand.
"To my son, on the day of his promotion to Chunin,"the letter read, "Naruto, as Hokage, I do not know if I may present this letter to you in person, but know that wherever I am, I love you son. And know that you have done your mother and I proud by becoming a splendid shinobi, one who will carry both our lines to the future and who will defend his village to the end, as a true shinobi should. This gift is the legacy of our family, the only thing I have to offer you other than my love. Congratulations Naruto, and may your Will of Fire burn brightest in Konoha."
"Father, I will make you proud of me by mastering this move which you created, the move not even Kakashi-sensei can duplicate!" Naruto vowed as his friends came up to congratulate him, "I will be not only a great shinobi, but I am now one step closer to my goal...to be the next Hokage!"
Meanwhile, as Naruto and his friends celebrated his promotion to the rank of Chunin, a small group was gathering at one of Orochimaru's old hideouts in the Land of Rice Fields. Among them were the infamous Uchiha Sasuke, who was sitting in a throne-like seat within the hideout's main chamber, his red eyes glaring out at those now entering his domain. They were the other members of the team he had gathered to defeat his brother, the three other parts of Snake, all of whom had come together now in order to form a new dynasty.
They had been sending false leads to pursuing factions for weeks now, with Konohagakure sending agents out to Tonbogakure's ruins to Akatsuki looking for them in the Land of Waves. Nobody would be aware of what was going on until it was already too late and their new home had emerged from the shadows, with the proud Uchiha as it's unquestioned leader. After all, it was he who had defeated Orochimaru, one of the Legendary Three of Konoha, and it was he who had dared to stand up to the considerably more powerful Uchiha Itachi and emerged victorious.
"We have been able to recruit over 200 former Sound shinobi, as well as several dozen refugee's from other villages," Suigetsu began, clearing his throat, "The total stands currently at 21 ANBU, 45 Jonin, 60 Chunin, and 81 Genin or pre-Genin. That leaves a little over 20 non-shinobi to handle craftsmanship and village duties."
"We are currently trying to set up an Academy with mostly Chunin as instructors and will be holding a Genin exam in the next week," Karin continued, "We only intend to pass three teams, each is going to be led by one of us."
"Jugo, anything to add?" Sasuke smirked, looking over at the large man, "Your opinion matters a great deal as well."
"I have nothing to add, Sasuke-sama," Jugo answered quietly, "Your wish is my command."
"Then it is settled, our village is on the fast track to recognition in the shinobi community," Sasuke chuckled, rising to his feet, "And we will show the other lands just what our village is capable of as we rise from the shadows to strike!"
"Like a snake in the grass, eh?" Suigetsu muttered, "And what will we call this village? It would have to be something quite imposing..."
"And fearful, something that would put the other lands on edge just hearing about us," Karin agreed, putting a finger to her lip, "We could just keep the name Otogakure. That would guarantee fear and respect."
"No, that was Orochimaru's village and we will not use that name," Sasuke shook his head, throwing down a forehead protector, "I designed this while you were away, so what do you think?"
"A yin-yang?" Karin wondered, "The darkness inside the light?"
"Exactly, just as the yin-yang represent light and darkness, now it will represent a village that is shrouded in mystery and exists in shadow," Sasuke chuckled, rising from his seat and tying the band around his forehead, "We will lurk behind the scenes and strike fear into the hearts of other shinobi nations, up until the day when we finally reveal ourselves to the rest of the world."
"Interesting description Sasuke, but that doesn't answer our question," Suigetsu grumbled, "What will we call this village?"
"As all four of us are considered to be Kage level, I can think of no greater title than Kagegakure!" Sasuke smirked, his Sharingan spinning excitedly, "The Village Hidden in Shadows."
Back in Konohagakure, sitting atop the five heads of the Hokage, Naruto could be found gazing out over the village that his father had died to defend, the same village that Naruto himself had come to love in that same way. He had come here rather than staying at the large celebration back in the Hokage Tower, twirling the oddly shaped kunai he had received as a present between his thumb and forefinger. He was to be given his first mission as a Chunin in the morning, leaving him little time to train, yet he was excited beyond words at the thought of finally being let out on more missions.
The blonde shinobi was still there when an old friend strolled up and lay back against the rocks beside him, cigarette smoke swirling out from his mouth as he gazed up at the stars. Shikamaru hadn't changed a bit during the last several years, though he was noticeably more scarred and a bit more haggard-looking, not to mention considerably more powerful. After all, he had defeated the so-called 'immortal' member of Akatsuki, Hidan, without any aid from his allies and was now considered one of the most powerful and influential shinobi in the village.
"Congratulations, bonehead," the shadow user exhaled, "It's about time you got your act together."
"If that's your way of saying good job, then thanks," Naruto laughed, "What are you doing up here anyway?"
"I came to gaze at the stars, I like to this time of night," Shikamaru responded, taking in another puff of smoke, "Also, I came to give you some news before it spreads through the village."
"News?" Naruto's ears perked up, "What news?"
"Tsunade-sama is retiring, giving up the title of Hokage before she passes away and the council chooses a successor for her," Shikamaru answered, sighing deeply, "She was going to tell you in person, but was so sad that she asked me to."
"I see...so Granny is going to retire from her duties," Naruto almost cried, "Has she picked anyone to replace her?"
"She has, but the council decided on three different candidates and now they're going to hold a sort of exam and tournament to decide who it'll be," Shikamaru shrugged his shoulders, "Not that it matters. There aren't many people in this village with the hubris to challenge Tsunade's pick, much less beat him."
"He must be pretty strong if she doesn't think he can be beaten," Naruto smiled, tucking his kunai into his vest as he stretched out, "Who is the super shinobi that Tsunade-obaa-chan picked to succeed her?"
"You already know him," Shikamaru smirked, blowing out some more smoke as he rose to walk off, "Congrats again Naruto, and remember to report in early."
"That doesn't answer the question!" Naruto shrieked, "WHO IS IT!?!"
Author's Notes: And you will find out when he does, in the first chapter of the new and, hopefully, improved version of this story! I hope you've all enjoyed the changes and I hope also to hear from you again soon. See ya next time!