Shadow and Wind: New legends

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Disclaimer: Everything that isn't Kishimoto's is mine. The cover was made by Damatris! Many thanks!

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51. New Legends: Bonding

A week in the Forest of Death! …Could be worse, really.

Shikamaru moved away from the outskirts of the Forest and avoided the center, where the famous tower could be found. He settled in the same spot he remembered from his trip here more than six months ago and started to train there.

By the second day, Shikamaru was content. He had finally found the trick behind his new ability, and was going to polish it. It was all thanks to something he recently acquired – a weapon. Well technically it was a pair of black fingerless gloves so it should be called armor… At any rate, a layer of steal chain links covered a thin layer of chakra conducting leather underneath. The order had been expensive, but worth it. He couldn't wait to try them out.

His musings were interrupted by the faint sound of rustling leaves. Someone was about to find him. He first thought of hiding, but he was curious as to who would be looking for him. The newcomer's identity surprised him – in a bad way. This must have been some sort of cosmic joke. Oh well, maybe this time things would go better.

Shikamaru greeted his new teammate. "Tenten."

"Nara. Good, I was looking for you."

"You were?" That didn't sound good. Shikamaru expected trouble, and soon. "How can I help you?"

Tenten's face gave him no clue about her motives. "Thought we could clean the air a bit – we'll be working together after all."

That… actually didn't sound bad at all. His eyes narrowed. "How do you propose we do that?"

Tenten grinned and drew some kunai. "With a spar of course!"

The young Nara sighed in frustration. Why had he expected anything else? What kind of shinobi would his resolve his problems, you know, reasonably – by talking? He took a fighting stance. He had an eerie feeling of déjà vu. A scary blonde crossed his mind – he hoped this time he wouldn't get a rival out of it. Shikamaru casually took out a kunai and started playing with it out of boredom.

"Ready when you are," he said.

Shikamaru disappeared from her sight the second she moved, which he took as his starting signal. In spite of his speed Tenten found him quite easily – it seemed training with Lee had paid off. He gave her additional points for not underestimating her foe. Seeing he wouldn't be able to take her out from a blind spot, Shikamaru dashed forward making some clones at the same time. Tenten jumped back, hitting the five targets almost simultaneously.

The real Shikamaru had waited concealed behind one of his decoys with a shadow kunai at the ready. He threw it between two real ones. Tenten saw them coming out of the dispelling smoke of the clones and parried the one that came close to her. She saw no need to be wary of the two that missed. He had counted on the smoke to make her think so. By the time she realized she couldn't move Shikamaru already had a kunai at her neck.

"Checkmate."

Tenten made a face. "I didn't even see you use your Shadow Jutsu."

Shikamaru shrugged. "I used a modified version for that reason." he explained has he showed her the jutsu in question.

Once she could move, Tenten sighed. "Well you beat me. I guess I should have known, fighting against a Chunin."

"Can we actually start 'cleaning the air now'?" Tenten looked unimpressed so he elaborated. "I'm starting to think you have a grudge against me. Proof number one – you kept glaring at me whenever Neji came to talk to me." Tenten looked surprised, before she coughed, trying to hide her… embarrassment? Shikamaru slapped his forehead. "I can't believe you – Seriously, that again?"

Tenten shrugged. "What can I say? I thought Neji was jealous of Naruto and you. I was right in a way. You must admit that you two hugging didn't not help the misunderstanding."

Shikamaru grumbled under his breath before he changed subjects. "Fine then, how about that abysmal training session with Lee?"

Her face went blank. "Easy. It's called 'doing your job properly'." She rolled her eyes at Shikamaru's confusion. "No matter how I look at it, I still think you were acting like a jerk. I don't get what's so hard about simply watching a spar."

Shikamaru pondered on that. Normally he would dismiss what she just said and he'd simply label it a "dealing with women" incident. No matter how he looked at it, there was no reason to angry about simple questions. Problem was she wasn't the only one who had reacted badly to his questions.

"Chain-Sickle guy, you and the other Genin… something's not right," he concluded out loud.

Tenten reacted by pointing an accusing finger in his direction. "You know Matsuda! So it was you!"

Shikamaru was lost by the girl's sudden animosity. "What, Chain-Sickle guy? What about him?"

Tenten launched into a rant. "That guy won't leave me alone because of you! He's been hounding me for a date since I remember, but now that he took me by surprise and beat me he thinks he has the right to ask me out! I mean, did you get a look at him? He's at least five years older than me!"

Shikamaru blinked as she kept ranting about Matsuda, waiting for his role in the kunoichi's trouble. When she stopped and he realized that none of that was his fault, he answered, "I'm sorry, I suck at dating advice. But I hear Ayame from Ichiraku's is good at it."

Tenten's glare could have melted the sun.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Shikamaru was not affected. More preoccupying thoughts crossed his mind at the moment. Things started to make a frightening amount of sense, and he didn't like the conclusion. "So you and Lee weren't expecting me to do anything during else but referee the spar?" he asked to be sure. At Tenten's nod he paled. "What about the other Chunin? They never tried to give you advice or help?"

Tenten gave him an odd look. "What are you on about, Nara?"

Shikamaru buried his head in his hand muttering a long string of curses out of pure frustration. Now he understood everything – why he received this assignment in the first place, Tenten and the other Genin, Matsuda's obstinacy, even Naruto's job… it all pointed towards one thing… Performance analysis indeed! He certainly had his work cut out for him. He was starting to hate the Hokage – she was becoming as troublesome as his mom.

Shikamaru returned to the present situation. "…Right. I think a demonstration is in order."

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Meanwhile, in a more uneven terrain, Naruto was busy fighting an unknown opponent, and the guy was strong. The blond couldn't even get a good read of the man's abilities, only that he used a sword, and fire element jutsu. This was starting to really piss him off - first that, wannabe spy, and now this Konoha Jonin, because unlike the other one, this particular shinobi didn't even bother to hide his forehead protector, or his flak jacket. Unfortunately, he was dressed like your run of the mill Konoha shinobi, so there was no way to identify him besides his face, which was covered by a mask.

Another thing of interest was his opponent's mood.

"What the hell did I do to you?" he asked as he jumped away from a fire dragon. "I don't even know you!" he barely landed that he had to roll under a sword slash meant for his neck. It was annoying! The man seemed to be in two places at once!

"You live still. That in itself is a daily insult to me." Ah, so the Kyubi then? "We should have dealt with you years ago. You're a waste of potential." Naruto did not pause to process this, instead he made a dozen of clones and they all drew their kodachi. "And you killed my brother."

The first thing he could confirm with certainty was that the man was fast. He had only lost two clones to the man so far, but he still didn't know how - the blows had been too fast and had come from blind spots from what his memories told him. The guy was good, real good. And yet, he didn't feel as threatened as when he faced Kabuto. Then again, Kabuto was just plain creepy. He also guessed that the man was so efficient with his jutsu, that he could move the second it had been performed. He could learn from this.

Naruto ignored the stranger's first statement and focused on familiar motives. "You do know that I'm not the Kyubi, right? So who ever died that night thirteen years ago was not my fault." He used a Corkscrew Hurricane to create an opening, but the man had disappeared before the first gust of wind even grazed him. The clone who attacked paid dearly for it.

"I know. You killed my brother six months ago, Naruto Uzumaki. Don't tell me you don't remember!"

That threw Naruto for a loop. He was going to deny the claim, but then he remembered exactly what happened half a year ago. This angered him. "So what? I should feel bad for protecting myself from Konoha shinobi going after me not even a week after the Old Man croaked?" This little information made him realize something else. "You're using Shadow Clones!"

"Why shouldn't I? And you are wrong – this is not a Shadow Clone, this is an Exploding Clone." True to his words, the man suddenly burst, taking out almost half the clones with him.

Taking advantage of the confusion, Naruto's opponent headed for the Naruto who was standing by and pinned him against the nearest tree. "Your luck ends here, brat."

The blond smiled. "You're not the only one who can blow himself up." The sizzle of the burning tag was the man's only warning. He reacted too late and was caught in the explosion.

Moments later, both Naruto and his assailant jumped from branch to branch exchanging swipes, stabs and other niceties. Naruto sported some light cuts, but was fine otherwise. He had yet to even scratch the man's clothes. Finally his foe backed away.

"It seems you're not as worthless as you let on, brat. It's still a shame such a gift is wasted on you." Naruto blinked, was the man referring to the Kyubi? Well that was a first. "Don't you dare get yourself killed, brat. I reserve that pleasure for myself."

Naruto stood on guard long after the man had left. He had to admit that certainly was Genta's style. At least they now knew why the cunning Bastard had been after him in the first place. Now if only there was a way to actually make him stop. From what Shikamaru had told him, Kakashi had some sort of proof of his misdeeds and so did Yugao. The Hokage and the elders – minus Danzo – hated him and yet he was still there.

"Something the matter, Naruto?"

The blond shook his head. Shino was probably the reason the man had fled. Considering they were ready to attack even Kakashi last time, it seems Genta had lost some of his impunity. On the other hand, because of Genta's henchman, he lost some of precious training time he had. Well, Shino had found him. Let's hope whatever he needed help with wasn't too long.

"Can I help you with something, Shino?"

"I want us to spar – you fought with Kiba and Hinata. I did not have the chance to test my strength against yours."

Naruto shrugged. "Suit yourself. But I'm in a bad mood, so I'll have you fight some of my clones."

Shino did not seem to mind, because he took a fighting stance. Naruto shrugged.

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Shikamaru had proposed Tenten an experiment. Basically, he'd give a specific signal and she was to throw a kunai at him. She was a bit too happy to agree to it. Hopefully he'd only need one instance to demonstrate his point. After that he challenged her to a mock spar. What was a mock spar? It was a normal one, only slower and with a two meter distance between them. And to top it off, she was to use kunai instead of her staff. Well, the kunoichi had an idea of where Shikamaru was going judging by the way she narrowed her eyes, but apparently she didn't see the end goal yet – at least not before he gave her the signal just after she had made a swipe aimed at his torso.

And then she understood – all it took was for her to almost kill him. Troublesome. Even with the distance and knowledge of what was to come, Shikamaru still had barely managed to stop the kunai.

"Nara! Are you OK?" she called out. Tenten looked apologetic and worried, meaning she had probably aimed for his vitals on reflex.

Still… "Yeah… let's not do that again." Shikamaru decided. The boy had fallen on his rear and was currently blinking to make sure he truly hadn't been stabbed. "And next time, don't aim for my eye." The kunoichi looked amused for a moment, before nodding. Shikamaru made a mental note to never piss her off. "Well, now you know why I asked you about your staff and your range during the spar," he added after a beat.

Tenten cocked her head to the side, trying to understand his motives no doubt. The young Chunin didn't blame her. Apparently he was the only one doing his job properly. Or was he? If he wasn't, then Konoha shinobi program was in need of a complete overhaul. He wondered how many Nara were in charge of training and education of shinobi – probably not many, way too troublesome.

His focus returned to Tenten, who finally decided to voice her thoughts. "It's not like I'm not grateful or anything, but why were you trying to help me? Is this a convoluted way to say you're interested in me? That's cute, but I'm currently in the midst of something and—"

…Him? Going out of his way to actually date a girl? Who had a crush and was probably dating with Neji no less? Shikamaru snorted. Yeah right. "Don't worry. I have absolutely no interest in you in that way." Tenten nodded. Still the look in her eyes made him think for a second that he had said the wrong thing. More precisely, it made him think that next time Tenten should aim for his vitals, it would be on purpose. And that's why he didn't like dealing with women. He wasn't being paid enough for this. Apparently the last statement wasn't a thought because now Tenten was looking at him curiously.

"Anyway, Chunin refereeing the spars are also supposed to help you improve, a bit like our Jonin instructors." Tenten made a face. She had every right to. It was a wonder so many of Rookie Genin made it to the finals of the Chunin exams with this kind of environment.

Still, Shikamaru wasn't teaching Tenten anything new. From the fight against Temari, he could clearly see she was very talented, if not gifted with projectile weapons – to the point she could manipulate hundreds of them simultaneously when she summoned them – and so he simply reminded her where her strength lay. Improvement was his next point.

"So, any reason you haven't made decent use of fuinjutsu in your fighting style besides your sealing scrolls?" he asked casually.

…Was that a twitch? The movement was so fast Shikamaru doubted his eyes and thought he had made it up. Tenten answered vaguely about trying different things before focusing on sealing techniques. The Chunin's suspicion rose. She didn't look like she was lying, but she was definitely hiding something. He shrugged, might as well give her one example of what she could achieve with using seals on a weapon. Maybe he should show her his gloves?

"What's with that glove?" she suddenly asked with interest when Shikamaru took them out. "It's definitely a sort of kusari – stainless steel, nice choice. Is that chakra conducting leather I see underneath?" She was going to gush about potential behind such a tool when she noticed Shikamaru's carefully blank face. "…What?"

"You're a weapon nut." Well, that certainly explained how she survived being in the same team as Neji and Lee. It also explained why she hadn't focused on fuinjutsu yet. Shikamaru decided not to demonstrate what he used his gloves for, like he had intended. That left him with another option, one that would lead to less work, so he decided to go with that.

"Let me give you an incentive to focus on Sealing Arts. Just don't tell anyone I showed you that, Sasuke would be pissed." Shikamaru took a special tag and set it off. Instead of the normal explosion, a dome of electrical arcs appeared with the sound of thunderclap.

Tenten's eyes lit up. "I want one!"

She probably had already prepared a plethora of arguments as to why she needed to at least borrow one, but he already had made up his mind. "Sure. I'm even going to give it to you free of charge." That froze her enthusiasm. Seeing the question in her eyes, Shikamaru answered. "Simple – you take care of producing these for Sasuke when he needs to. He's agreed to buy them so its win-win for you."

The kunoichi looked at him with contempt. "You're so lazy that you'd even turn down money?"

Shikamaru shrugged as he got ready to leave. But before he did, he took out a bag out of a sealing scroll and threw it. She caught it with a grunt – for a small bag the thing was heavy. "Here's your welcome present. See you in three days." And with that he was off to train.

He still had an awesome new jutsu to polish after all.

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Naruto was grinning. He wasn't planning for his clones to hold back so he was looking forward to Shino's performance. So he was surprised when Shino had been able to beat one the first Shadow Clone effortlessly. The clone had remained at a respectable distance, using some wind jutsu to keep Shino's bugs at bay. So it came to a surprise when he had suddenly been overwhelmed by a surge of insects. Fighting with two clones had the same result. One of the clones had tried to punch him, but Shino surprisingly held his ground, before draining that Naruto of chakra.

He started struggling at three, but still managed to defeat them. He was impressed. Kiba and Akamaru still struggled against one each, while Hinata could handle four at the same time without relying on her Protective Sixty-Four Palms – his new kodachi and wind jutsu had been real game changers.

In the end it had taken five clones to take Shino down. One had used the Great Breakthrough jutsu to take Shino out of the sky, and the rest stuck to less destructive moves like the Wind Fists technique – nothing that overwhelming. On the other hand, Shino's bugs had gotten stronger, since Naruto had only been able to repel Shino's Destruction Bugs once with a burst of chakra – it didn't work a second time.

Shino was still on the ground as the blond Chunin approached him. "That was awesome, you know? I'm starting to wonder who is stronger between you and Hinata."

Shino managed to sit up. "I'm on par with Hinata because we are in a deadlock – my insects cannot penetrate her defense, and I am too fast with my bugs for her to attack safely. I can manage a certain number of your clones because you tend to attack at melee range. On the other hand they take too much time to subdue and can attack while being drained. I was eventually outmatched." Shino sounded clinical about the whole thing, but Naruto could feel an underlying bit of bitterness. "Though I thank you for not harming too much of my bugs."

"So, what are you going to do about this?" The Aburame looked up. "I know you're much stronger than before, but you didn't manage to close the distance when you needed to. It didn't work when you were flying either. It's like you have all these cool new tricks, but you need something to string them together, you know?"

Shino nodded. "I have come to the same conclusion, and so I have an idea, but it is still not ready yet."

Naruto did not know what to say. He didn't see how Shino's new tricks connected in anyway. Still Shino was one of the smarter shinobi he knew so he trusted him to know what he was doing. In that case, why did he want a spar if whatever he was working on wasn't ready yet?

Shino answered is unspoken question. "This spar was to determine the size of the gap between us. The fact that you did not need to use as many as your clones as you used to, even with all of my 'new tricks', is quite grounding." The Aburame did not look disappointed anymore. "I am thankful for that as well. You might not realize it, but your growth has been… inspiring for Team Eight. I am sure many Genin we know think the same as well."

Naruto grinned. "That's great Shino. I was happy to see Kiba so eager to get stronger too. But if you have time to figure out how strong I am, you should spend it on getting stronger." He teased. "It's not like by the time you catch up I'll still be at the same level, you know?" Shino nodded in acknowledgment. He had probably come to the same conclusion. "Well, if you have nothing else you need help with, I'm going to be training on my own. I'm hoping you'll be doing the same. See ya!"

Naruto made to move out, but stopped at the last second. "Oh! And here's a welcome gift!" he said, pulling out the same kind of bag Shikamaru had given Tenten. "Have fun with that!" Then the blond truly left.

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Naruto arrived at the meeting spot first. He decided to fight two of his clones in the mean time. It was much harder than he thought. Besides his Storm Mode, which easily gave him the advantage, his clones' only weakness was their frailty. Thing was, since his fight against Kabuto, Naruto had learned the about the terrors of poison. As a result he had worked on his defensive skills and became much more nimble. Ironically he only truly realized that after fighting his clones. He would have to re-evaluate Team Eight's overall strength.

Speaking of Team Eight, Shino arrived a moment after he slashed the last clone in two and Tenten joined him not a minute later. Seeing them there he nodded. "Everyone is here then?"

Shino looked around. "It appears you forgot someone."

"Nah, I'm here," a voice said behind Naruto. Shikamaru came near his friend and asked him, "So, what are we doing now? Team strategy, like you mentioned?" The lazy Chunin had deemed the whole training camp thing troublesome and had left it to Naruto, so even he didn't know what was next on their schedule. Suddenly he smiled. "Guess what Naruto, I found you a fuinjutsu mentor."

"What?" Naruto turned to the kunoichi who had spoken at the same time. "Tenten?"

"You never said anything about this, Nara," the weapon user accused.

Naruto chuckled. "Well, that sounds like Shikamaru. Do you mind?"

Tenten glared at the pineapple-haired Chunin halfheartedly before answering Naruto. "I guess not, I needed to review what I remember about Sealing Techniques anyway." She then turned to glare at Shikamaru again. "You're an opportunistic lazy bastard, Nara."

Shikamaru did not respond – it was true after all.

Naruto agreed. "He is. And speaking of lazy, let's have a spar!" Shikamaru groaned. "You ain't running this time, you know! We haven't got a proper spar since that time on the road to the Mountain Village."

"Yeah, because I don't want to fight you. We had a deal Naruto," his friend retorted.

In the mean time, Tenten and Shino had retreated a bit, curious about which Chunin was the strongest. After another minute of arguing, Naruto simply started the bout by attacking first. He aimed for the head while a Shadow Clone came out of nowhere and dropped kicked Shikamaru's legs.

Shikamaru evaded both Narutos by making a horizontal axel jump in midair. He landed to block a kick with his shoulder. The impact sent him three meters to the side, before he lost contact with the ground and he had to use chakra to stop his momentum when he landed – ten meters further, almost hitting a tree. At least his arm was still functional. The lazy Chunin used the opportunity to make some shadow threads to chase the blond away.

"Instant Shadow Clones without the use of seals, and your taijutsu is just terrible – I can't even take a hit from you anymore. Could you be more troublesome?" Naruto simply grinned and fifteen clones surrounded him, their hands filled with wind-nature chakra. "Of course you could." To prepare for the onslaught, Shikamaru retracted his shadow. He then took a kunai and waited. "Come then."

Even though the all the clones lunged simultaneously, Shikamaru managed to not only survive their assault, but he took out five of them in the first exchange before they had closed even half the distance. Naruto called a tactical retreat. Tricky bastard – the kunai was bait! And the area of his shadow techniques had grown. Shikamaru continued his assault and used his Shadow Sewing to get rid of one more. He quickly recalled his jutsu and waited. He had much more difficulty dodging the rain of kunai, shuriken and wind jutsu that came next, but managed to vanish during the onslaught.

There was a silence punctuated by the telltale sound of clones dispatching. Finally it was Naruto that was smoked out by some tagged kunai. The blond was grinning. "Jeez Shikamaru, you should stop using explosives, it's seriously getting annoying."

Shikamaru snorted. "You should stop using your clones, it's troublesome."

Naruto chuckled. "Okay, so you haven't been slacking off, that's good to know. Round two then."

More shadow clones appeared, some drawing out their kodachi. Shikamaru took a step back and made some clones heading in several directions. As Naruto's clones dispatched Shikamaru's, the lazy Chunin was subtly throwing tagged kunai around, and once again used his shadows to target his foes – that way even if they somehow dodged the shadows, the clones were still caught in the explosions. Naruto still managed to get close to Shikamaru thanks to a well timed Body Switch. He appeared right behind his friend and tried to cut him with his blade, only Shikamaru blocked the blade, grabbed his arm and threw him away.

The blonde landed on his feet. "What's with the gloves? You can stop blades with those?" At the young Nara's nod, Naruto whistled. "Yeah, that's kind of cool." He saw his friend's grin and smiled. Apparently Shikamaru was still too lazy to act on only one motive, meaning these gloves had an extra oomph to them. Still, his partner was panting hard and was clearly running out of chakra as well.

Naruto called out Tenten and Shino. "The spar's over, you can come now."

Shino looked perplexed. "I was barely able to take on five of them. Just how far behind are we?"

Tenten looking curious as well, added, "And I suppose the two of you didn't take the time to take off your weights."

Naruto gave Shikamaru a look. The Chunin sighed. He then fetched a long stick and made a three meter line. At one end he made an 'x'. "This is your average civilian. Your average starting Genin is here, and your starting Chunin is around here," he added marking a spot near the beginning of the line and around a third of the wayr respectively. He then marked the spot around the middle of the line. "This is where we are."

Shino frowned. "If that is the case then you did not need to make this line that long."

"Who said I was done?" he replied. "That's your starting Jonin," he continued, marking a spot near the second third of the line. He then marked the other extremity. "That's our goal."

Tenten frowned. "I did say that I aimed to be as powerful as the Hokage, but why should we aim for Kage-level so soon?"

Shikamaru shrugged. "Because most of Naruto's enemies are around there," he said, circling the last half-meter. He gave the two another look. "I'll be blunt with you. There's a group of S-rank criminals after Naruto because of his Jinchuriki status. We don't know how they operate exactly, but we know that Itachi Uchiha is one of them."

Tenten whistled. "Orochimaru and Itachi… you sure know how to pick'em Uzumaki."

Naruto looked scandalized. "Hey! It's not like I did this on purpose. I'm so awesome that S-rank threats are naturally attracted to me!" He coughed when everyone was staring at him. "Anyway, you spent these couple of days training, but I suspect you thought more of the path you're going to head on and about what improvements you can make. We're going to discuss those now."

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Shikamaru said goodbye to his new teammates and headed straight to the Hokage's office. The only idea occupying his mind was that of a long shower followed by a date with his bed. The thought was so distracting that he almost bumped into a civilian. Unfortunately, there was this thing about his task and Naruto's he needed to confirm.

There were introduced and noticed their leader was eyeing the paper work with a tic. He and Naruto exchanged a look. Would she have the courage to do what the previous leaders couldn't and burn that paper work?

"Something the matter Aunty?" The Hokage twitched but did not rise to the bait this time. Naruto threw a perplexed glance at his friend. "Whoa I think this could be actually serious," he whispered. Shikamaru gave him a look and the blond Chunin chuckled. "Oi, Aunty, Shizune stole your sake again?"

"Yes, and even my secret stash. Now if I don't get this done by tomorrow she's going to flush it." Naruto winced. He had seen the kind of alcohol the Hokage favored – it was pricy. "What do you want?"

Shikamaru sighed. "Did you expect a verbal report or did we have to write one too?"

Tsunade lowered the papers she was reading to look at them. "What are you talking about, Chunin Nara?"

The young heir snorted. "You, know you could have told us the real reason you gave us those jobs. If not for Tenten being my new teammate I might have never figured it out."

Their 'job' wasn't to look after the Genin and academy students like they were told. It was quite the opposite really. They were to analyze their fellow Chunin and figure out what was wrong. Shikamaru had never thought about the way Chunin were supervised at their task. Apparently they simply made use of new Chunin. He had to admit that was an interesting method of doing things.

So Shikamaru and Naruto reported about their observations. What they had expected and what they had discovered. In few words, if they had understood their tasks properly, then those two jobs were in need of a complete overhaul. Shikamaru had a few ideas of the improvements Chunin advisors needed, but decided not to voice them. He wanted to be sure he was right in the first place.

The Hokage sighed after hearing their report. "I should have known you two would somehow find a way to screw this up for me." The Chunin exchanged a surprised look. Tsunade elaborated. "You guys are too perceptive for your own good – there is no secondary objective."

Ah… right.

If they used every Chunin that way they shouldn't know about it. That explained much. Well at least now Tsunade would have to use other Chunin to do that. On the other hand, he would have to learn to play into people's expectation, if only to be catch them off guard if need be. Unfortunately, Tsunade thought he should still remain a Chunin advisor for the foreseeable future, furthermore, he was now tasked with fixing that mess, and so was Naruto. At least this was considered a long term B-rank mission.

"Aunty, I have a favor to ask." For the second time in this meeting, Tsunade Senju glanced at the Chunin in front of her. "I want to learn about Yang element chakra."

Tsunade looked surprised. "And why would you ask me that?"

"Because that healing chakra thing you do is based on the Yang element."

After a small internal debate, Tsunade went to fetch a scroll. "This is the deed to a certain area of Konoha. It belongs to the Uzumaki clan. You should find what you need there." Naruto's eye grew wide, but as he went to grab the deed, the Hokage brought her arm back. "Before I give you this there's a mission you will receive." She looked at both Chunin earnestly. "You complete that mission and you get this scroll."

Shikamaru gave Tsunade a second look. Apparently this next mission was going to be troublesome.

"Don't worry, Aunty. I won't die before I break the old man's record for longest time in Hokage's seat. You just keep that scroll for me until I come back."

As they left Shikamaru sighed. They had just got a new team and now they had a troublesome mission to deal with.

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Naruto truly did not want to come back here. Things had changed a bit, like the fact that his mindscape no longer had water going up to his knees like before. His contempt for the Kyubi hadn't changed however. From what he understood, the Kyubi had nurtured his dark self with the goal of breaking the seal through him. That was enough for the blond to want the bastard Fox sealed forever at first, and so he had unplugged the Bastard Fox's 'TV' and cut the communication the second he had dealt with his dark self.

Problem was, as much as he hated what it tried to do, ignoring the Fox until the next nasty surprise was a bad thing. Besides, he couldn't be too angry at the Kyubi for simply trying to run away. As far as it was concerned, it was still a prisoner. And from what Jiraiya had told him, the Nine Tails had been imprisoned for quite some time. So as much as he disliked the Fox at the moment, this conversation was necessary. Plus, if his next mission was as dangerous as the Hokage feared, he needed to prepare.

"You lied to me, you stupid Bastard!"

Well, he never once thought of being politically correct about it.

The Fox snorted derisively. "You've got guts to come back here, brat."

"Believe me, the feeling's mutual, Bastard Fox."

The Kyubi smiled. "Oh? And about what, brat?" The condescending look he gave Naruto was irritating.

"At least two important things to me," the blond elaborated. "One is that you do care about the Village Hidden in the Leaf"

The demonic chakra fluctuated to dangerous levels. "You dare…?"

Naruto rolled his eye. "I didn't say you loved the village, I said you cared about it – as in, you care about what happens to it?"

The Kyubi paused in its rage and peered at his jailer with interest. "Ah, so you aren't as stupid as you look."

Naruto ignored the jab. "You hate us. I'm pretty sure you want to devour some of us as much as that 'certain someone'."

"You're wrong boy. That one is special." The Kyubi smiled again, but that smile… as much as Naruto was the jailer of the Kyubi and currently in control he was glad he wasn't the Nine Tails' target. "Compared to him, you might even say that I like Konoha."

"Really? You like the village that enslaved you for ages?" That touched a nerve, because the Kyubi tried to rip Naruto with his claw. "You'll destroy Konoha the second you leave this place." The Tailed Beast made no motion to deny the claim, but was still trying to reach him. "You're just full of hate."

"I am hatred, brat," snarled the enraged fox.

Naruto shook his head. "You're not. Though you've hated and been hated for so long I can see why you'd think that." When the Fox scoffed, Naruto added. "Believe me – Nega-Naruto spent his whole existence hating. He wasn't happy."

That was the ultimate understatement. Nega-Naruto had been lashing out at everything from what he could tell. He wasn't even trying to be happy, only to make everyone else as miserable as he was. The Kyubi was probably the same – only it was out to destroy everything and that mysterious someone in particular. Naruto didn't get it. Was Bastard Fox lying about being living chakra as well?

"Unless you've been lying about the Sage of the Six Path, I don't think he'd go out of his way to create nine creatures made of hatred for the heck of it. If he did, he must one hell of a—"

"Don't you dare mock the great Sage of the Six Paths, vermin!" if Naruto thought the Fox wanted him dead a second before, he was clearly mistaking seeing his surroundings shake as the Kyubi tried to free himself to end his life. "You should not speak of things you know nothing about. The Sage was thousand time the man any your self-righteous 'Kage' could even dream to be!"

Naruto's grin turned into a small smile. "Ah, so you don't hate him." Kurama stopped his trashing and looked at Naruto in surprise. "That's good – I suppose he's a bit like your dad? You think your dad would be happy hearing things like 'I am hatred' and 'I'm gonna destroy everything around me'?" The Fox looked like he wanted to react – either to crush or berate him. "What did he truly want for you guys?"

"Again, brat," he growled slowly, "you shouldn't speak of things you don't know. I am what I am."

The blond Chunin chuckled to himself. "Heh, I knew it I'm a genius." Naruto turned to his tenant with renewed determination. "Hey Kurama, I'm still going to free you somehow, you know."

"What did I tell you…" The fox started angrily before realising what its jailer had declared. He laughed mockingly. "You must be the most idiotic brat ever conceived. You realize that means your life and your village will be forfeit."

"Nuh-uh! But thanks for caring." Naruto shrugged at the glare sent his way. "I'm going to free you without dying. After all, I really don't like having you in my gut. And before I do, I'm going to rid you of your 'dark self'. And if after that you still want to destroy my village, I'm just gonna have to kick your ass is all!" Naruto stopped when he saw giant eyes looking at him in confusion. Somehow that didn't surprise him. "Let me guess, your previous Jinchuriki never were as awesome as me, were they?"

The Kyubi scowled at the thought. "No. Mito and Kushina… Those two had the leisure of using my power without bothering to ever speak to me." There was the tiniest amount of acknowledgment when he added, "Then again, they rarely needed my power to begin with."

Naruto didn't like the assumption. "So you're calling me weak, Bastard Fox?" The Fox grinned. "Anyways, I don't think what happened to you was fair. So I'm going to set things right my way. But I will always protect Konoha! That's where my friends live after all."

"You would still want to free me, after I lied to you and tried to escape?" The Kyubi looked… confused for a lack of better word. More like refusing to understand. "Even though you realize that I still might destroy your precious home in the process?"

Naruto snorted. "I'm not that generous. I just don't want to deal with you anymore. I don't want to be a Jinchuriki and you don't want to be in this place. So, I guess I'm proposing an alliance of sorts, you know?"

The Fox cocked his head, before letting out a small chuckle. "You sure have an arrogant way of crawling back, brat. You could have just admitted you wanted my chakra, but I guess you humans have your pride."

"Whoever said I needed your chakra?" Naruto countered, once again catching The Kyubi off guard. "I'm going to the top, with or without your help – preferably without. I asked for an alliance, because we want the same thing and the sooner we get you out of my stomach, the better for both of us."

There was a pause. "Yet you still refuse my chakra?"

Naruto returned a blank stare. "You think I'm stupid enough to fall for the same shit twice? If you're not willing to share, then no I don't need it. I'm only proposing because it was the decent thing to do. Besides, you just told me my ancestors barely needed it. How am I going to surpass them if I rely on you?"

The Kyubi appeared thoughtful for a moment. "Come closer." Naruto shrugged, but did as told, only to be crushed by a gigantic paw. "I still don't trust you, brat."

There was a puff of smoke and the real Naruto spoke from the shadows. "Well, what a coincidence, I don't trust you either." There was a silence while the Kyubi was trying to find his host. "But since I proposed the alliance, I guess I should be the one to make the first step. You just got the intercom and TV back. I'm not going to ask Jiraiya to remove the seal just yet. Talk to me when you're ready to strike a deal."

Naruto left once he said his piece, leaving the Fox to his musings.

It's finally here! The next big mission! But what kind of mission is it?

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A/N: Happy Canada day! I can't believe it's been 50 chapters already! Also, I can't believe my last update was in April… sorry guys. Anyways, things are going to start next chapter, so look forward to it not to spoil anything, but I don't think what I have in store has been done before. Then again, there's thousands of fics out there.

Also shout out to a guest review since I can't PM you and all. I'm glad your cousin enjoys this story I'll make sure to finish it.

Anyway, that's pretty much it for this chapter. Enjoy!

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

Rev: I'm officially in love with you, Shun **
SShun:
…Wait what?
Naru & Shika: Ha! Justice!

R_: You've earned yourself a fangirl xD
SShun:
…Wow, that's kind of…
Naru & Shika: *laughs*
Naru: How do you like that karma!
Shika:
Payback!
SShun: Still one thing though – we'll never meet in real life. So no women trouble for me. She doesn't even know my real name.
Naru & Shika:
SShun: Besides…

R_: PS Aya, you have my full support, missy! Go get Shika and ravage him, maybe Hina and you can share Naru, I'm a major NaruHina supporter
Naru & Shika:
*jaw drops*
Aya: Oh, I like you! You're my new best friend. So Shika, shall we get to it?
Shika:
*runs* Damn you Shun!
Naru: *cries in the corner* It's not fair!

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Rev: Nice to see that one of the two people I suggested as members of Oblivion made it to this round of the selection process.
Ten:
Thanks. And don't worry, even though I'm not the kind of girl to chase people with pointy things, I might make an exception for Shikamaru.
Shika: …Troublesome
Shino: *stares at reviewer* Any reason I wasn't picked?

R_: Oh before I forget! Aya, if you don't start messing with those two a lot more, I will do nothing to stop that rumor about you being a hardcore lesbian that gets sickened at the mere thought of a male touching you. Ja ne!
Aya:
you can't do that! That's not fair I'm not even there!
Naru:
So that's her weakness?
Shika:
She really /is/ like Jiraiya.
Aya: *rocks in foetal position* No males… No males…
Naru & Shika:

SShun: *Drags Shino and Tenten* By the way, here, Two new victims! Have fun!
Ten:
*sweatdrop*Actually, you really don't have to anything. Clearly you're busy with the others.
Shino:
…I think I'll pass.

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Rev: Poor Hinata.
SShun:
Oh come on! You make it sound like I bash her!
Naru: Compared to what he makes us usually go through that was a little tap on the wrist.
Shika:
I agree.
Ten: … Um, is it too late to back out of the R&R thing?
Shino:
SShun: *grins evilly*
Ten & Shino: *gulps*