Shadow and Wind: New legends

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Disclaimer: Everything that isn't Kishimoto's is mine.

Many thanks to Zanros for Beta-reading.

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53. New Legends: Family

Naruto and Shikamaru are in more trouble! Will they even reach Mizu at this rate?!

Someone somewhere hated Shikamaru.

It was the only logical explanation he could come up with. How else could he end up in a four-man team with Naruto, Yugao, and Anko? And here he thought Team Gai was bad. Oh, now he got it – this was just a nightmare, a horrible, absurd and terrifying nightmare. He'd wake up in his house and he'd laugh it off. Yeah, that must've been it.

"Now looked what you've done! You broke him!" he heard faintly.

"Well that's no fun! I mean, I haven't even started with the teasing and the mind games yet."

Yugao crossed her arms and waited for Shikamaru to get his bearings. "Is there something wrong, Whiny?"

Shikamaru retreated from his delusions when he heard the kunoichi's voice. "Yes. This whole situation is wrong." Saying this out loud made him realize how true that last statement had been. The whole thing stank of wrongness. Shikamaru took a good long look at her... mask. He let out a frustrated sound – those damn masks would be the end of him. "I can't believe I fell for it. You're despicable, you know that?"

Naruto looked upset. "You mean this was a freaking joke?"

"For the record, the limb cutting thing, that was a joke." The Chunin didn't believe her. "Seriously, you have a tendency to greatly exaggerate my threats."

Naruto looked skeptic. "You drew your sword on me."

"... To sell the bluff." She retorted.

"You beat me up," Shikamaru accused.

"And you'll learn to mind your business. I'll be glad to pound that particular lesson into your head any time you need it – free of charge."

What he needed to learn was a way not to piss off people by the simple act of being in their presence. Only his friends were immune, and even then it was more that they built a tolerance to his annoying character.

Shikamaru decided to ignore the jab and focused on the important matter. "So, again, why are we here?"

"We're going to need contacts while in the Mist. You two are the top shinobi in your group in the stealth department."

Shikamaru looked at his friend in surprise. "Stealthy? You?"

"I told you! You never believe me!" Naruto replied coolly.

"You wore orange – no way to hide orange."

"Screw you!" Naruto fumed. "Orange is an awesome color! Besides, how good do I need to be to paint the Hokage monument while wearing orange?"

"And here I thought it was because four of the six ANBU squads were on leave that day."

"Well yeah, but how do you think that happened?"

It was at that moment of their argument that the felt and intense pressure coming from the side. Yugao stood there, arms crossed. "That morning was the worst security breach in years. And you two knew about it. Explain."

The two Chunin exchanged a skeptic glance. Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. Naruto snorted.

"Well, I'm pretty much awesome, but especially at pranking," his friend told him.

So Naruto had delayed two squads, eight ANBU, with only pranks – at thirteen. And then he had managed to lose the other two squads after him. That same guy was currently learning about seals.

The world was doomed.

Shikamaru shrugged in resignation. "I'm good at noticing things. And I get bored easily." Naruto blinked twice, shook his head and rolled his eyes. If the young Nara didn't know better he would think his had simply given up on the idea of understanding his little charade.

The ANBU stared at both teens. "Funny," she remarked, before returning to the matter at hand. "Be on the lookout for any suspect behavior from our old friends from the Sound. And be wary of the Mist."

"So, aren't you gonna tell us why having Anko here isn't a terrible idea?"

Said kunoichi moved from the spot she was sulking and grinned. "Finally! You guys kept ignoring me for Yugao – and she's boring! Now, what about the beautiful and sexy Anko?"

Shikamaru turned his gaze to the ANBU. "There's a relevant explanation for that. I just keep forgetting what it is. You don't seem to like her though, so that's always a bonus."

Shikamaru made the equivalent of a mental gasp. So the kunoichi did have a sense of humor. Seriously though...

"I hope whatever it is covers the fact that the Sound will know that she's in the area," Naruto said, "because with her cursed Seal, she's like a human radar." Anko's eyes narrowed. "You should mind your business brat. I got it covered. How the hell do you know about that anyway?"

Naruto shrugged. "You know about Sasuke, right? Kakashi explained everything because what happened to him."

"Stupid virgin," Anko muttered angrily. "Never minds his damn business."

Naruto couldn't hide his evil grin. "Kakashi is a virgin?" The blond went through some many ways he could use this information that he ended rolling on the floor in maniacal laughter. "Oh man, this is great! Thanks Anko, I owe you one"

"Don't you forget it brat. I take my payments in cash or dango." Seeing how Shikamaru rolled his eyes she turned his attention on him. "Hey, don't worry Whiny, I'm sure I'll find something to make you realize how awesome I truly am soon enough."

Shikamaru frowned in aggravation. "Considering you two are cut from the same cloth, I doubt it." The realization of what he just said gave him a headache. He turned to Yugao. "Please, please tell me she isn't going to jinx our mission more than Naruto already will."

"Screw you, Shikamaru!"

Yugao looked from Anko to Naruto. "You've got to be kidding me."

Oh yeah, someone definitely hated him.

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Naruto felt... different the day they set sail. Not because he had made his first exploding tag – though that was pretty awesome – and not because things between him and Team Eight were still strained. It wasn't even because people kept interfering with Team Oblivion. Well, that last one was making him a bit touchy.

Today, they would make a small detour before entering the Water Country. The others didn't know yet, but he and Shikamaru had already discussed this when planning the mission. Instead of heading straight there from the Fire Country port, they would make a one day stop in the Wave Country and they would leave from there. Well, everybody but him. He'd make another detour.

It was that detour that had feeling the blues. He kept telling himself he was expecting too much of this, but how could he not. This was the hope against all hope, the dream the old man had shattered so many years ago, the one thing he had needed since the beginning and only received months ago.

Family.

Leaning on the rails of the ship's bridge, Naruto sighed. He was the only one here besides the sailors. The others had grown bored of the gray skies and billowing seas hours ago. He found it calming. It had even succeeded in distracting his thoughts of his return to the island where he witnessed his first kill. Looking back, they had been damn lucky. He idly wondered if he and Haku could have been friends if he had lived. He was sure they would have made great friends.

But friends weren't family.

There once was a clan of red-haired people like his mother, and a whole village where he could have found refuge out of Konoha. It was hard to imagine, yet thirty years ago... Konoha had the bad habit of screwing things up when it came to the Uzumaki. He was assaulted by a desire to know a ton of insignificant things. Were they all stubborn? Did they like ramen? Were they all geniuses in fuinjutsu? Were they tall? Did their village love them? What did they know of Jinchuriki? What else were they known for? Unfortunately there was no one to answer these questions today.

Suddenly the thought of visiting his ancestral home felt incredibly... lonely. Maybe he should take someone with him on the trip.

The door to the quarters opened and Sasuke came out. His comrade joined him on the rails. "I didn't think you were one to mope all day long," he drawled. "You should head in – it's quite dull down there." Naruto have him a look before he returned to his gazing. Since when was he considered the life of the party? Most of the time, people found him annoying. Sasuke tried again. "Your friends are getting worried."

Naruto snorted. "Does that include Shikamaru?" Somehow he doubted it.

Sasuke grinned mockingly. "Did you have a couple's fight? Is that why you're sulking?"

"I'm pretty sure Shikamaru wouldn't be sleeping if that was the case." Naruto replied without even turning. He hid a smile when he felt Sasuke grunt in annoyance. "Heh, he knows what's up, so he's not worried."

"So...?" Sasuke was starting to grow restless. It wasn't like him to be that invasive. He had thought Choji might have reacted like that since he didn't know why he felt like crap.

Naruto took a moment to think of the best way to answer that question. "I'm going to visit my ancestral home."

Sasuke leaned against the rails and looked forward, thoughtful. "The Uzumaki clan... you found their home." There wasn't much more that needed to be said. "I'm coming with you guys."

Naruto sighed. "Who would keep an eye on the Genin then? Besides, I'm heading there alone."

"You're sure you're not going with Shikamaru?"

Naruto ignored Sasuke's stare and shrugged noncommittally. "He said it would be better if I did this on my own." And that annoyed him for some reason. He was sure Shikamaru had his best interests in mind when he said it, and considering their current mission, leaving nine Genin with only Sasuke was a bad idea – even if they stayed in the Wave Country. He still wanted to punch his friend in the face for even suggesting it. That Sasuke wanted to accompany him instead only made it worse.

Bastard looked like he wanted to say something, but bit his words and left in a dark mood. Naruto didn't know what was eating the guy, but was grateful to be left to... whatever feelings he had for Uzu right now. At least until Kiba and Shino showed

"I'm not in the mood right now. Go away." Unfortunately, the two didn't get the hint. Naruto slowly turned around. "Whatever you want to tell me can wait until I'm on a better mood – go away."

The boys of Team Eight looked a bit uncomfortable. Kiba actually looked apologetic, which frankly, Naruto thought was impossible. He was glad to see that. But damn it! This wasn't the time for that kind of thing. Couldn't he just brood in peace? It wasn't like that happened every day.

"Look, I just wanted to say I'm sorry, OK? I didn't think you'd react like that."

Naruto sighed. He was starting to understand how Shikamaru felt when people kept bugging him. "You still think this only about the hitting, don't you?" Kiba's surprise answered his question. "Yes, the attacks annoyed me, but I was pissed because I thought we were friends."

"Well that's a load of bull'," Kiba answered back. "Of course we're friends! When I'm pissed at someone I hit them, friend or not."

"Oh, I know that. But if you were mad at your friend, you would have given him a chance to explain – after you decked him."

Kiba blinked multiple times, tried to open his mouth, but he finally left, no doubt to think about what Naruto had just told him.

Shino remained behind. "What about Team Oblivion?" he asked.

Naruto looked at him coolly. "As far as I'm concerned, Team Obsidian isn't about friendship, so things are fine the way they are."

Shino stared at Naruto for a whole minute before he nodded and rejoined his teammate. Well if those two had tried to cheer him up, they had failed – badly. Naruto hoped it would end with that. Moments later, Choji and Ino came out. Naruto took a deep breath.

"Hey, Naruto, are you alright?"

Naruto couldn't fault them – truly he couldn't. At least these guys were truly worried about him. He strained to smile. "Not really, but I'll be fine by the time we get where we're supposed to go. I just need a bit of time to myself."

Again, there was the clear difference between his friends and those who weren't. Ino actually listened and left, though he could clearly see she wanted to do otherwise. Choji went a bit further and gave him a bag of chips before leaving. They were better friends than Shikamaru at any rate. His friend knew about his funk – the least that lazy ass could have done was come and see him too. Even Team Gai had checked on him! That had been awkward.

When the next person that came wasn't Shikamaru he snapped. "Can't you just all get a freaking clue and leave me alone?" When he saw the hurt on Hinata's face, Naruto felt like banging his head on the metal rails. Considering all they went through lately he really felt like a jerk. As she turned back, he wondered if he couldn't just settle their little misunderstanding right now. The others were below the deck and the waters were loud enough – this couldn't be more private. Well... There were sailors, but they were busy, and didn't care anyway.

"Hinata." The girl froze when she heard her name. "Sorry I snapped at you. We need to talk."

Naruto turned and sat. Resting his back on the rails, he prompted the girl again by patting the floor next to him. Hinata blushed, but moved and sat next to him. To two remained quiet for a while, deep in their own thoughts.

"Hinata, you're a good sparring partner and a friend – I really don't like this... awkwardness. So let's settle whatever's happening between the two of us." Hinata nodded, looking relieved. Naruto wasn't done however. "Fair warning – things might get embarrassing, you know? Just keep in mind that I suck at this kind of stuff." This time, the Hyuga heiress was more hesitant to nod.

Naruto took a deep breath. "Right, so I'll be blunt – you like me." Naruto watched Hinata turn into a tomato and babble incoherently. He gave her a look. "I know this is awkward, and embarrassing, but what I'd really like is a yes or a no. Hinata... do you like me?"

Hinata looked at him pleadingly, but he patiently waited. There was no escaping this. Finally she nodded, and when Naruto kept staring, she voiced her answer. "Yes, I like you."

"More than you'd like a friend?"

"Yes."

"So, you really, really like—" Three pokes later and Naruto couldn't feel his arm. "…Right. I guess I did kinda ask for that," he said with a small smile.

Hinata looked clearly uncomfortable, but now that his suspicions were confirmed, Naruto felt sorry for her. Whatever happened next, things would only get more awkward. More than that though he was confused – why now? Instead he asked, "Since when?"

"…A long time." She refused to be more precise.

Naruto decided to change line of questioning. "What's the difference between you and a fangirl?"

Hinata looked at him like he had grown a second head. Naruto raised an eyebrow in challenge. The kunoichi opened her mouth to answer the question but stopped. She gave Naruto another look and said, "Fangirls are at best infatuated, at worst obsessed with their target. They are blind to anything that isn't what they like, and they can be... unreasonable about it."

Naruto mulled that over. That did describe the old Sakura pretty well, and even the old him – before the Hyuga affair. The latter in particular sounded like someone he didn't want to name – even in his thoughts. He turned to his friend. "So you're not like that."

Hinata flushed. "I am... a bit. I have my reasons for..."

He could see she had trouble saying the words, but he had an idea of what she meant. He could understand. From observation, he realized she also was infatuated with him, from her constant blushing and loss of consciousness, and the need to ask him out – that did sound like Sakura and the other fangirls. She had been a friend much more than she had been a fangirl, though. That wasn't like Sakura or... the other one.

"I think you're a great person," she finally blurted. "You are kind, in spite of what happened to you, and you have that courage to never give up."

So she admired him as well. That made him want to boast, but then he gave her a second look. "What's wrong? You look upset."

"I wish I could have done more for you." Hinata played with her hands, ashamed. "I saw you struggle for so long, since back at the academy, yet I did nothing to help you. I was too shy. I'm sorry."

Naruto blinked. Now he got it, the reason why everything was so confusing about Hinata. Somehow he ended being one of her precious people without realizing it. How ironic, this was what happened between Sakura and him – only he had been an idiot about it. Well, as far as he was concerned, this still made things pretty awkward.

Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Thanks Hinata. I think I understand better now. I guess now would be the time for me to answer you." Hinata nodded nervous. Naruto scratched his head. "To tell you the truth, I... never thought of you, you know... like that."

Hinata's smile slowly broke down. She gently turned away to hide her disappointment. "I see..."

Naruto sighed deeply. Why did he suck at this so much? "Let's try again. I never thought of any other girl that way because Sakura was the only girl for me, I guess." Naruto thought the news would upset Hinata, but he didn't expect feeling a spike of killing intent as a result.

"You still like her?" Naruto winced. He could hear the tongue lashing coming a mile away. "Of all the people you could have chosen, you had to take that—whatdoyoumeanwas?"

That last part was too fast for Naruto's mind to make sense of it, so he was surprised when she suddenly stopped wagging an accusatory finger at him to grab his hand. Her face was full of hope.

He inched back in response. "Well, I kinda don't like her in that way anymore, you know." At first Hinata felt euphoric about the news, but she calmed down relatively quick.

"I'm sorry. I know you liked her." she remarked.

"Nah, it's alright. Me and Sakura… things were always complicated."

That word perfectly summed up his relationship with Sakura. On one hand he loved her, like he loved all of his precious people. On the other, since his friendship with Shikamaru blossomed, it was hard from him to separate Sakura from her previous behavior. That date simply served to confirm it – he could never see himself seriously dating his teammate.

That didn't make him happy at all. And the sudden appearance of fangirls only made things worse.

"You need some time," she concluded.

He knew it was true the moment she voice it. He needed time to think about this, so he nodded. "Well... there's this thing I need to do, you know? I want to focus on that first."

Hinata understood – she didn't like it, but she understood. With that settled, she got up to leave. Naruto shouted after her, "You're a good friend, Hinata."

"Thanks." Her smile didn't reach her eyes. Cleary she wanted to be more than that.

He let out a breath. That went well. Still Shikamaru never came around to check up on him.

Lazy bastard.

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Shikamaru was surprised by 'The Great Naruto Bridge'. Not by the name, after all he knew what team seven had done for the Wave Country. He was shocked by how important it was – that bridge looked twice as big as any other bridge he had ever seen. That guy never half-assed anything – the one thing named after him was huge. He was a bit envious, and judging by the looks the rest of Team Seven were giving him, they were jealous as well.

"How come they named the bridge after you?" Sakura wondered. "They could have named it 'The Leaf Bridge', or 'The Team Seven Bridge'."

Naruto looked out of it. As the others shared worried looks, Shikamaru frowned. He knew why his friend was so distracted – it would be odd if he hadn't been. What was off was that Naruto was still in a funk... unless something else had him distracted. One thing was for sure, after that boat ride, Sasuke was upset and Hinata was being... odd.

The group tensed slightly once they crossed the bridge. Someone was hiding and following them. Naruto was the last to pick it up, but when he did, he smiled for the first time that day.

"Stand down, guys. I got this."

The next moment a bolt flew straight for his head, but Naruto caught it out of the air. After the third try, Naruto grinned. "Is that the best you can do?" The attacker replied by rushing at him with a steel pipe waving it around like an amateur. Naruto dodged each blow expertly. Shikamaru could see his friend was enjoying this. But then Naruto startled, suddenly kicked the weapon away and caught his opponent into a headlock.

"Ouch! Naruto! Stop it! I give up!"

Naruto was having none of it. "What the hell, Inari! Not even a year since I last saw you and you already grew that much? You trying to grow taller than your big bro?"

So this was the boy Naruto had mentioned. He definitely didn't look like a whiny breast anymore. The kid was wearing a dark-blue jumpsuit that reminded Shikamaru of a certain blond knucklehead. At least the kid hadn't inherited his mentor's awful sense of taste.

Once Naruto let him go, Inari gave his hero a one over. "Looking good, big bro. You look cooler and stronger."

Naruto have him a deadpan stare. "I get it, I get it, you don't like orange. Everybody hates orange," he muttered.

Inari smiled. "Is not like that, big bro. It's just that you're the only one who can make orange look good."

Naruto perked up immediately. "That's true," he said, messing the kid's hair to reward him. "Thanks – that's my pupil for you! Anyway, how have you been, Inari?"

Shikamaru could see why Tsunade had made him a teacher at the academy – the guy was a natural with kids. He gave them all his attention, and in return they gave him theirs. So much that Inari forgot that Naruto wasn't alone.

"Hey we're here too, Inari," Sakura snapped.

The boy finally noticed the presence of the other shinobi. "Oh, you're the girl that was with him before." He said coolly. "Do you still hit big bro for no reason?"

Sakura flushed. "No. Naruto and I are good friends now."

"In that case, it's good to see you again, Sakura," the boy had suddenly remembered her name. "Uchiha," he nodded to the other Chunin in mock seriousness before his focus turned back to Naruto. "What's up with all the people, big bro? Are they all part of your team? Are you the leader now?"

While they headed to the boy's village, Naruto explained what he could of their current situation and made the presentations. For some reason, Shikamaru was the only person Inari had a problem with. No matter – if his past experience with Toshiro and his friends had taught him anything, it was that he was no good with kids.

"Hey where are you guys going?" Inari stopped them from heading to the inn. "There's no way I'm letting our heroes sleep in an inn! You're coming with me!"

"The there's no way the twelve of us can sleep at your place. And I don't want my group to split up." Naruto explained. "Besides, I won't be spending the night here – I have an errand to run."

"Huh? You're not staying?" Inari wasn't the only one who was surprised or disappointed by Naruto's announcement. Shikamaru knew so he wasn't troubled. He was surprised that Sasuke knew though. The Uchiha snorted and looked away, upset for some reason.

"Sorry Inari. I'll still come to check on old man Tazuna and your mother."

Inari was upset, but accepted Naruto's apology. His house was big compared to the ones in the village. Team Seven looked around, somewhat nostalgic. A small man with gray hair greeted them at the front door. From the clothes he was wearing he probably worked in construction.

"Naruto! Our hero comes back! And if course your friends are here as well. How have you been?"

Shikamaru took the time Naruto spent talking to the man to look around. Even here you could see the mark his friend had left behind. The house still had homely feel to it, but the telltale look of new material spoke of a recently built wing. Around the back, poles held straw men filled with bolts – someone has definitely been practicing.

He returned just in time for Tazuna to invite them inside. He step foot on the porch and involuntarily shuddered. Shikamaru didn't have gut feelings; he preferred to rely on cold logic. However, when his instincts kicked in, he'd have to be a fool to not pay attention.

Naruto blanched. "You know what? Maybe the inn isn't such a bad idea after all."

"What? Why? We got a wing here with four guest rooms just waiting to be used. And I know Tsunami would have her hands full with all of you, but we have some extra help around the house. And she's cute, too!"

Every kind of internal warning mechanism Shikamaru possessed went full tilt. It was time for a strategic retreat. The Chunin had already made to the back of the shinobi group and turned to flee, but almost bumped into Tenten in the process.

"And where are you going?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. He ignored her and tried to sidestep her but she moved to once again block his path.

"Damn it, Tenten! Move!" he hissed. This only served to pique the kunoichi's interest. He didn't have time for this! Any second now and…

"Oh! We have guests? Let me take a peek."

It was her voice.

Screw subtlety! He wasn't staying one more second in this place. Three body flickers later and he was back in the village, where he fled towards the bridge at full speed. Only after crossing it did he stop to catch his breath. Now he felt bad for Naruto. Between Aya and Hinata, his friend would have a lot on his plate.

"Sorry, Naruto."

Only for said person to smack him to the ground.

"Like hell you are you are, you lazy bastard! That's the last time you run away on me like that, you know! Every time a girl's involved you bail on me."

"Women are troublesome," was his only explanation. As he picked himself from the ground, Shikamaru decided to be careful about angering Naruto in the future – his smacks really hurt. "What are you doing here, anyway? Your destination is on the other side of the village.

Naruto grinned. "I came to pick you up. It's not like you can go back, not if you want peace."

Shikamaru sighed. "Naruto, we talked about this..."

"No, you talked about it. I wanted us to go together from the beginning. As far as I'm concerned, you're my brother, so the least you could do is be there for me when I need you."

Well, when he said it like that...

"So here's what's going to happen. We either leave now, or I kick your ass and then we leave."

Shikamaru blinked. "Did you just threaten me?"

Naruto snorted. "'Course I did! Didn't you hear what I just said? You're my brother – I don't have to sweet talk you or convince you of anything."

So now they were brothers? Was this an upgrade or a downgrade from best friend? Shikamaru took it in stride.

"If I'm your brother, then I'm the oldest, so I get privileges."

Naruto spluttered in indignation "What? No way! I suggested this – I should be the older brother."

"Not only am I older than you, I even mentored you. I'm definitely the older brother here."

"You're only fourteen days older than me!" Shikamaru raised his brow as if to ask how that mattered. "I hate you."

Shikamaru grinned. "Well let's get this over with – little brother."

"I am so kicking your ass for this..." Naruto mumbled trailing behind.

Well, this trip wouldn't be boring at least.

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The trip to the Whirlpool Country was uneventful. Well, Aya almost caught up to them, and the ferry didn't want to go anywhere near the island, so they had to water walk there. Oh, and the whirlpools there were out to get them. The sharp rocks didn't help. And to top it off, Naruto's ancestral land was surrounded by rather tall cliffs, so actually setting foot on the island required at least as much chakra as they needed to get there. But other than that the trip was rather boring.

Naruto watched his friend collapse when they could finally rest. "And now I remember why I didn't want to come with you on this stupid trip." He managed to wheeze out.

"Shut it, you wimp. Just catch your breath so we can go exploring already." Shikamaru glared, but decided to remain quiet.

Once Shikamaru recovered, Naruto started to wander around, his friend following silently behind. From what he could see, the village span throughout the island. Even the place they had first climbed showed traces of ruins. Ruins and bones... that was pretty much all that remained here. It sent shivers down his spine.

Naruto wondered what he was looking for in this desolate place. There was nothing that remained here besides the signs of a battle lost decades ago. There were traces of Mizu nin, Iwa nin, and even one forehead protector belonging to Kumo, but nothing that even hinted at an Uzumaki clan. This was disappointing to say the least. Looking back he wasn't the only one feeling uneasy.

"What's wrong, Shikamaru?"

His friend shifted uneasily. "Don't know – I can't quite put my finger on it."

They looked around more carefully, but neither could find the cause. When they reached what would have been the center of the village, the surroundings had changed for the worst. While near the coast the constructions still remained here and there, everything here had been methodically torn down. To his horror, Naruto figured out what was missing here. Weapons, shinobi gear... There was nothing like that here. Instead there were traces of slaughter everywhere. Naruto was finding every step harder, more painful as he registered the full extent of Uzu's destruction. This tortuous march reached its peak when Naruto reached what looked like the only remaining building, or maybe a monument, seeing it had no doors or anything to speak of. Gashes, burns, scratches adorned the structure – a fitting memorial for three deduction that happened here. But what grabbed Naruto's attention was the stench of death. He couldn't bear anymore of this scenery and fell on his knees, tears falling freely.

"How can people be so horrible? Shinobi killing each other, I get it, you know? But this – this..." He couldn't find the words to describe how he felt. Shikamaru for closer and sat near his friend in support. "Damn it, and they call me the monster?" He paused again trying to gather his bearings. He already knew about his grudge with the two hidden villages. "What I am going to do? I'm going to get us killed."

"I trust you." Naruto looked at Shikamaru. "You're not the smartest person I know, but you can be wise. And you're the kindest soul I've met – even more than Hinata. If you think those bastards need to get their asses kicked, then I'll find a way to make it happen.

That cheered Naruto somewhat. Shikamaru had to ruin the moment though. "I hate to interrupt your brooding, but we have company."

The teens got up and found they were surrounded. Naruto frowned. Those were clones.

"This is a really bad time to attack me, you know. You're from Konoha – you of all people you should have a little respect for what I'm doing here."

"Exactly. Yet, this a fitting place for your life to end."

"You can't kill me here," Naruto assured him.

"I know. But the second I capture you, your life will end."

Something snapped inside of Naruto. For the first time in the last two months, he felt at peace. The blond cracked his knuckles. "Fine with me. I wanted to let out some steam anyway." He moved towards Genta's pawn while channeling his wind chakra. The clones had gotten closer, but he ignored them, and when he finally jumped to attack his foe, they remained stuck, thanks to Shikamaru.

Naruto ran straight to his target, sidestepping, ducking, and jumping over the fireballs sent his way with an ease that surprised him. And when Naruto and his mysterious assailant clashed, he overpowered him. The feeling was kind of familiar. It was like the rush he had felt back when he had fought Kabuto. The masked shinobi stood and canceled his clones in favor of channeling fire through his sword – things were getting serious. Naruto had a good idea of what would happen the next time they clashed, but was too angry to care.

Naruto lunged to start round two when black tendrils suddenly yanked him back. That gave him a perfect view of the next scene. The area in front of him was blasted from the side taking the mystery Jonin with it. What the hell? Naruto saw the masked shinobi turn into smoke. So it was another clone – no wonder he felt like he had the upper hand. Focusing on more pressing matters he turned to Shikamaru for explanations.

His friends sighed. "For a deserted island, this place sure is crowded."

Naruto turned, and yes, a woman was standing on top of small house. She must have been the one to interrupt the fight.

"You have some guts – trying to settle a grudge here of all places, shinobi of the Leaf."

Naruto gave the kunoichi a second look.

She had crimson red hair.

He blinked back tears. Could it be... Family, after all this time? He gave her another look and smiled nervously. He had to convince her not to kill them first. He then remembered a very troubling fact about his heritage.

"Oh Shit! Shikamaru, I don't have red hair! what is she gonna think?" his friend shrugged, clueless about his predicament. What a useless brother.

The woman sneered. "I'll make you regret coming here." Having said that, the Uzumaki woman jumped from her vantage point and started walking towards them. Her features grew more defined and he could see a mid-height woman reaching her forties. Her defining traits were her red straight hair and her red eyes; other than that she looked pretty fit, and ready to kick some ass. Naruto took a step back – who knew walking could look so threatening. "Any last words?" She asked them.

"Wait! You can't kill me, I'm an Uzumaki as well!"

"Those are some crappy last words," she said after a beat.

"I'm not lying!" there was a small pause where the woman's glance shifted to his hair. "Oh screw the hair! Just because I have blond hair I'm not an Uzumaki?! That's discrimination!" He shouted with an accusing finger.

"Fine then." The kunoichi smirked. "If you truly are an Uzumaki this next move won't hurt you at all."

Suddenly, spiked chains sprouted from her and attacked the two Chunin. Naruto was slower to dodge and one of the chains nicked him in the shoulder, only... it didn't hurt? Naruto looked at his shoulder – while the blow ripped the fabric, his arm was fine. Taking a chance, Naruto let the next chain pierce him right through the stomach. Naruto blinked. Nothing. He wasn't dead or anything. He turned to find that something else happened instead.

"Awesome! I got my own chains! How cool is that?" only to see them disappear a second later. "Aww..."

The other Uzumaki had retracted her chains. She was looking at him with wide eyes. "You weren't lying. You truly are an Uzumaki. An Uzumaki from Konoha... Could you be Mito's descendant?

Naruto was too happy to have found another Uzumaki to be careful of his answers. "I don't know about her, but my mother's name was Kushina."

The woman's features brightened. "I see... If Kushina was your mother, that would make you the heir of the Uzumaki clan." Naruto threw his friend a superior look. Shikamaru rolled his eyes. "I am Kasumi Uzumaki. Are there any other Uzumaki in Konoha?"

Naruto deflated with that question. "No. I'm the last one there. The name's Naruto, by the way. What about you? Are there any other survivors on the island?"

"No. We... I wasn't there when it happened. My mother and I were visiting a relative. The only other Uzumaki I knew before you... was my daughter."

Naruto and Shikamaru exchanged a look. Judging by the pain on her face when she mentioned her daughter, there was a story here. His friend looked like he didn't want to know, but this was a potential cousin they were talking about – he had to know what happened to her and so he asked.

"Someone took her from me. I've been looking for her for years now. I was hoping I would find a jutsu or a seal that would help me here..." She stopped as she looked at Shikamaru. His friend quickly looked away. She frowned. "You... you know something."

Shikamaru gave her a look. He then looked at Naruto and frowned. "I might. And I will tell you, if you promise to leave Naruto and I out of this."

Kasumi took a step. "I can promise you that I will kill you slowly and painfully if you don't start talking about my daughter right now."

Shikamaru took an unsteady step back, his eyes wide. "... What? But I'm his friend!" he argued pointing at Naruto.

"I'll make sure to write that on your tombstone." She acknowledged, taking one more of those menacing steps.

"Come on," he was pleading with both Naruto and his relative at this point. "We actually are on a crucial mission – we shouldn't even be here. All I'm asking is to let us return to our mission. We'll be lucky to make out of this one alive as it is." He said, glaring at a particular blond.

Naruto shrugged unrepentantly, but he knew that his friend was right. He sent an apologetic look at Kasumi, hoping it would be enough to change her mind. Fortunately it was, because she nodded.

Shikamaru let out a breath. "... Right. I've seen someone that could be your daughter. She has the same hair and the same eyes as you, and she wore glasses." Kasumi paled. "The only other thing I can tell you is her teammates called her Karin."

Naruto saw the change when she mentioned the girl's name. For a slight moment, Kasumi had a look of deep hatred, so much that he thought Shikamaru might have been wrong. But then he heard her mutter, "That's what he wanted to call her." Whoever he was, Naruto was glad he wasn't him.

"That could be her." She answered honestly.

"To tell you the truth, I have no idea what happened to her after the second part of the exam." Naruto heard him mutter, "that Chunin exam was a nightmare from the beginning." Before going back to the conversation. "I guess your best bet would be to pay a visit to the Village Hidden in the Grass."

The kunoichi pondered her options for a moment. She finally looked at Naruto. He somehow had the feeling that she was all right. Maybe a bit on edge, but wouldn't be after losing their child? As they observed each other she let out a small smile. He smiled back. They were thinking the same thing.

Family.

This made it all the harder to accept that they would have to leave each other so soon. She had to find her daughter, and he had a whole team depending on him – even though two of them he couldn't care less at the moment. This didn't need to be forever though.

"Hey, when you find your daughter, how about you come to Konoha? We even have land there – we could rebuild our clan, maybe?" He said, hopeful.

"That's sounds nice, Naruto." She approached and held his hand in a firm handshake. "Let's rebuild the Uzumaki clan."

Naruto smiled. No matter what happened he was sure they would meet again.

/-/ /-/ /-/

Shikamaru and Naruto were running late, but fortunately not so much that they couldn't catch up to their ship. After their eventful day on Uzu, the whirlpools and the storm they had to face seemed relatively tame in comparison. Still there was one little detail that nagged the young Nara.

"Naruto?"

His friend seemed lost in his thoughts. He blinked and focused his attention on Shikamaru. "Yes?"

"I know we didn't really talk about this, but you realized how this would've been a bad idea if Kasumi had followed us, right? You know, with all the political clusterfuck we're already in?" His friend nodded. "And surely she had to head to the Garden Country in order to find her daughter, right?"

Naruto gave him a look. "Yeah. What's your point, Shikamaru?"

His point? The young Chunin twitched. "My point is quite simple really." He pointed to the kunoichi casually traveling with them. "What the hell is this?"

Kasumi bristled. "This? Naruto, your friend is rude. I must recommend you to find proper friends in order to cement your place as a clan heir."

Shikamaru twitched. That woman...! Next to him, Naruto rolled his eyes. "You realize you're talking to the heir to one of the most influential and richest clans in the Fire Country, right? Though I agree that Shikamaru is being rude – his mother would be appalled, really."

Shikamaru felt a vein throb near his temple. Screw this, he had neither the energy nor the mood to try and put up with them, so he pushed more chakra unto his feet and went ahead of them.

Naruto and his aunt rejoined him seconds later. "Oh come on! That's my aunt right there! We're family! Did you really expect us to just leave each other like that after we just met?" He remained quiet, partly because he had known something like that could happen. "Besides, Kusa should be at the Chunin exams as well right? We might meet Karin there."

Damn it, since when was Naruto able of using compelling arguments? Still, his friend had inadvertently found the reason he was so frustrated with the situation.

"Perfect, another group of people to piss you off. That just what we needed," he deadpanned.

"I know right? But I got you to calm me down, you know?" Naruto reassured him.

Shikamaru twitched. So on top of trying to make sure the Genin in our team don't get killed or worse, and ensure they don't kill people they have legitimate reasons to hate, making damn sure the Sound doesn't do anything troublesome – fat chance! – And hoping that since Sasuke is a Chunin, he'll behave like one, he had to watch over Naruto as well?

"Yeah, piece of cake," he answered neutrally, yet the tone was icy enough to make his friend flinch. "Problem is... who's going to take care of her?" He said, pointing at Kasumi.

Naruto looked at her and paled. Kasumi had a smile Shikamaru knew quite well – it was the same smile Naruto wore before his pranks became particularly vicious.

"N-now, you wouldn't be thinking of doing anything... rash, would you?" Naruto asked.

"Tell you what," she said with the same smile, "I promise I'll make damn sure they know I'm not affiliated with Konoha."

Well, well... informing a shinobi that her most hated enemies and the ones who might keep her daughter might be gathering at the same place for and reasonably long amount of time was a bad idea – go figure.

At least now he knew for certain someone had it for him. No, that wasn't right. It was more like he was the butt of some cosmic joke. The worst part was, if he was that cosmic being, he'd find this pretty funny too.

Shikamaru spared a glance at Naruto, who shrugged apologetically. "Well... it could be worse, right?"

Shikamaru twitched.

And then, there was this guy. "I hate you."

Naruto winced. "Um... well, we're still brothers and all that right? After all, you can't choose your family, you know?"

"I really, really hate you."

More allies and more trouble. And the mission hasn't officially started yet! This sounds like a promising adventure!

/-/ /-/ /-/

A/N: It's over! After 700 chapters Naruto is finally over… sorta. Anyway, yeah, sorry for the romance, but don't worry, knowing Naruto, he will have this wrapped up by next chapter. Other than that, The Chunin exams should be starting next chapter. Oh, how much fun will that be! Prepare to be surprised. Till then, happy Thanksgiving... and Happy Holidays, probably.

Don't forget to review!

*SPOILERS* NaruHina is Canon! I'm somewhat surprised, actually. It's seemed Kishimoto had a change of heart… or he feared the backlash of all the NaruHina fans. Anyway, I'm glad it was finally over. Also Choji! If there ever was a pairing out of left field, it would be that one.

R&R Snippet

Rev: and since you liked the french now a bit german. brav burli, mach weiter so
SShun: *
Looks it up* hey, thanks man, I appreciate it. Though, what does 'burly' mean? I couldn't translate that.

/-/

Rev: I'm beginning to sense just a bit of Naruto about to lose it. I may be wrong, but he just seems more volatile now.
SShun:
Well, between Naruto, who had patience, and Yami-Naruto who had none, this was bound to happen.
Naru:
…Just in case you haven't realized it yet, me and Yami-Naruto are one now.

R_: I love the way you've taken Shikamaru and fleshed out his character.
SShun:
Me too. Who knew he'd turn out to be a sarcastic douche
Shika:
Oi!
Naru:
Sarcastic Douchebag! That's exactly what he is! Thanks Shun, I'm using this next chapter.
Shino:
I like it.
Ten:
It does roll off the tongue
Aya:
I prefer Shika, but sarcastic douchebag fits.
Shika:
Et tu, Aya? Anyways, you all suck.

R_: I like how the enemies in this fic aren't just ninjas. There's a lot happening in the background unseen, even if I can't see it all yet.
SShun:
I know right? I can't wait to put some Yakuza or Samurai into the mix. It's going to be awesome.
Shika:
Great. Even /more/ trouble.
Naru:
This could be awesome.
Shino:
I will be part of this.
Ten:
Count me in as well.
Shika:
… You're all crazy.

R_: Aya...hmm. Crazy as hell, but if you think about it, aren't all Nara's supposed to have crazy spouses?
Shika:
You're just lucky my mom didn't hear you.
Naru:
But seriously, Shun, maybe we should just leave Aya and Shika for a while, see how it goes.
Aya:
Yes, you totally should
Shino:
I agree
Ten:
Ditto
Shika:
Oh, I get it. This is the 'Annoy Shikamaru Day', right? Troublesome.

/-/

Rev: ok i'm a little confused on what shika and ayame were talking about...i get some of it, but fell i'm missing something
Shika:
Basically some of the villagers are treating Ichiraku's poorly, because they are friendly with Naruto. The same goes for Team Ten now, and some are even starting to dislike Sasuke because of it.
Naru:
…what?
Shika:
*slaps forehead* I knew I forgot something!
SShun:
Yeah, that'll go well in the fic, you might want to wait till you survive the mission before telling him though.
Shika:
Gee, thanks.

R_: shika's dressing down of neji was awesome, was also nice showing that naruto thinks more then neji...or at least was reading between the lines more, though it also made it seem neji to be out of chacter
SShun:
…Well, more to show you the difference of how Neji and Naruto deal with people. Neji deals with them on a more superficial level.
Naru:
I kind of do the underneath the underneath thing, but with people.