Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto.
Notes: Hello all. This is the first time I've written for FanFiction although I've been an avid reader of the fiction here. I hope my work is appreciated. Reviews are also appreciated since I know I'm not perfect, not even close. Improvement is always a good thing right?
Although this particular story is adventure/action-based, there are plenty of references between Shikamaru and Temari. Out of all the couples in Naruto, I find this one stands out the most due to the contrast of their relatively well developed personalities, despite not being the main characters. Please enjoy.
THE FALLEN LEAF
The flame that is Fire Country has never always been strong. Often, in the face of unimaginable danger, it has flickered, but never died. It has never become a wisp of smoke, only faintly visible and lost upon the unending azure sky. It has weathered every conflict and continues to burn because of those who defend its gentle glow with their lives. Now, it stands on the brink of extinction from exterior forces, who seek nothing more than the very destruction of the soul of Fire Country, Konoha. Once again, heroes shall be catapulted into the midst of carnage and death to keep the flame alive...
"Heroes are not born, rather the product of their endurance and will against the insurmountable odds of evil."
Chapter 1: The Flickering Flame
"I still don't get how you managed to become a Chuunin after giving up to that Suna girl like that. Your motives aren't exactly hidden from the examiners," fumed Ino. She couldn't help but be furious and proud at the same time, maybe even envious. Regardless, her cheeks were highlighted with a slight hint of magenta.
"Hey, why are you complaining? I didn't want to be a Chuunin in the first place. What a waste of time that exam was. I thought giving up would've been enough of an incentive to put me on the 'don't-promote-me-list', but apparently not. Man, whoever heard of trying hard not to get promoted?" complained Shikamaru. He wasn't actually annoyed, he was just trying to comfort Ino. Women were trouble when left to simmer or so he believed. His mom was like that anyway, how his dad managed with her, he didn't care to know.
Then, there was Temari...
"I'm not complaining, I guess I'm just a little jealous," sniffed Ino. Shikamaru rolled his eyes, all thoughts of Temari being rudely dispersed from his mind.
"It looks like you won't be cloud gazing any time soon with all the new duties you'll be getting as our fearless new Chuunin" remarked Choji with a little humour in his voice.
"Oh shut up, please..."
"Maybe, you'll even do a good job with this year's Chuunin exam," smirked Choji.
"Man..." sighed Shikamaru. He honestly didn't mind it, and Choji and Ino didn't know, but he had already grown accustomed to his additional duties. He had also been training in relative secret but only due to Asuma's overbearing insistence. As a fresh Chuunin, he was going to need to be better at defending himself.
"Hey, Shikamaru, turn off the 'I-don't-give-a-shit' act," said Asuma as he leapt down from a nearby rooftop. "As a newly promoted Chuunin, you've been given the privilege of leadership. That isn't to be taken lightly."
"See?" Choji gleefully pointed out.
"How troublesome..." said an unenthused Shikamaru. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.
"Anyway, what's up Sensei?" asked Ino curiously. Choji also looked at Asuma expectantly.
"Something big has come up. The Hokage is requesting for all available ninja of at least Genin level," replied Asuma. Shikamaru noticed a real note of worry in Asuma's voice.
"What? I thought Konoha was still trying to rebuild from Orochimaru's assault?" Ino blinked, incredulous after hearing the announcement. "She wants to mobilize a force now of all times?"
"Yeah, but I can't explain it now. Confidential. You'll have to wait until the debriefing. Meet me in an hour at the academy, I got to find Kakashi first," said Asuma.
"Asuma, how bad is it?" inquired Shikamaru quietly. He had opened one of his eyes and was glancing at Asuma, almost as if studying him. Ino and Choji didn't know it, but his mind was currently taking in the situation, ready to reach conclusions as soon as the facts were presented.
"Bad. Like I said, you'll know more at the debriefing," repeated Asuma carefully. With that, he flicked his cigarette into a nearby can and leapt up on to the orange-tiled rooftop of a nearby shop. "Remember, one hour. Don't be late."
A gust of wind later, he was gone, leaving the trio in a state of unease, the cigarette smoke still lightly permeating the air. The sun was beginning to set and the world had a crimson hue to it. They stared at each other and began to walk speaking in hushed tones.
"This really can't be good then if Asuma is that worried. I wonder what's come up now?" wondered Ino.
"No idea, but it might be connected with the Orochimaru attack," replied Choji uncomfortably.
Shikamaru reached back and lazily scratched the back of his head.
"Ah fuck, and right when I get promoted too," muttered Shikamaru. He resumed rubbing his temples. He felt uncomfortable with being responsible for people, and in particular, his friends. His current status demanded it. His friends completely misinterpreted his meaning.
"What are you moaning about? This is your chance as a newly promoted Chuunin to reach for the top," Ino pointed out.
"Yeah, that's right. Imagine little Shikamaru as a Juunin?" asked Choji. His good humour from earlier was slowly returning.
"It's too much work; imagine my bitching then if I'm already pissed off about being promoted to Chuunin status." Shikamaru was joking when he said this, but with his reputation, his friends didn't notice. "Anyway, you guys are forgetting something."
"As a Chuunin, I now lead this group. Do you know what that means?" asked Shikamaru seriously.
"It's not the Ino-Shika-Cho trio anymore?" joked Choji.
"No. It means your lives are now my responsibility. I have to protect this team and its members with my life. It's a pain in the ass but with power, comes responsibility."
"Damn," said Choji. His good humour was leaving him again.
"Yeah, like I said, ah fuck."
The sun was sinking into the horizon when the trio arrived at the academy. Immediately, they noticed the other three man cells that had arrived with their Sensei's. The tension in the air was quite palpable. They also noticed a number of familiar faces almost as soon as they stopped to look around. Naruto was grinning like an idiot conversing enthusiastically with Hinata who simply stood still while biting her lower lip. Her eyes were showing signs of apprehension. Sakura sat on a weather-worn bench nearby staring intently at the ground with both arms supporting her head. It was clear she was still thinking about the fight that broke out between Sasuke and Naruto earlier. Kakashi was lying down on top of the brick wall which surrounded the academy reading his perverted book. The tension didn't seem to affect him or Naruto although the latter was probably out of stupidity.
Further down from that group was Kiba trying to calm Akamaru and Shino who was speaking with his father. His father nodded once and then leapt away into the darkening gloom. Neji, Tenten and Rock Lee were huddled into a little group discussing. No doubt they were trying to figure out what was happening as well. It seems everyone was given the same cryptic message.
"Asuma!" waved Ino.
"Are you three ready? We're going up to the Hokage first."
"Let's go," nodded Shikamaru. "It'd be better to get this over with anyway," he thought.
"Welcome Asuma," said one of the guards. Asuma nodded in reply.
Shikamaru was surprised. What were the Anbu doing guarding Lady Tsunade? Another bad sign he thought and if it was possible, the tension in the air was becoming deeper.
"Is the Hokage ready for us?" asked Asuma.
"Yes, please enter."
The doors seemed to open on its own accord as the two Anbu stepped aside quickly. Numerous Juunin were already within speaking amongst themselves, all of them anxious. Another six Anbu were standing guard around the perimeter of the room but no one seemed to notice them. Lady Tsunade was busy signing letters clearly meant for the other major ninja villages. To her left was a small cup of tea, pale ginger in colour, releasing a faint scent of citrus. Some of the Juunin turned to see who the newcomers were.
Lady Tsunade looked up from letters and nodded curtly at the two Anbu who had let them in. The doors closed swiftly behind them with a soft click. The six Anbu within performed a quick set of seals preventing anyone from listening who did not reside in the room. She looked gravely at the trio. Asuma took a step back and joined the Juunin group and tugged out his cigarette pack and lighter. He calmly lit a cigarette and breathed out a grey plume of smoke.
"Before I begin..." said Tsunade slowly, "let it be known that any information that is exchanged here is considered confidential and must never leave this room. Am I understood?" She peered at the members within the room. Each of them nodded in turn.
Choji gave Shikamaru a nervous glance. Shikamaru quickly shook his head prompting Choji to return his attention to the Hokage. She began outlining the situation.
"Currently, the assault led by Orochimaru leading to the death of our Third Hokage is common knowledge. He was assisted knowingly by the Sound Ninja and unknowingly by the Sand Ninja as he had assumed the veil of the Kazekage. However, although it appears that this attack was primarily to assassinate the Third Hokage, there may have been an ulterior motive. Orochimaru may be a part of a much larger criminal organization that not only spans the Fire Country, but the entire continent."
"Wait, what organization could possibly be that large and more importantly, powerful enough to be capable of hiring Orochimaru?" asked Ino.
"Orochimaru's desire to attack his previous Sensei may have been the only motivation he needed so we may be able to assume that they aren't quite powerful enough to be cooperating with highly skilled ninjas. However, we don't have any substantiation of that. Fortunately, the organization itself is known to us. Do you remember Gato?" inquired Tsunade.
"Yeah, wasn't he that wealthy businessman who was beheaded by Zabuza?" asked one of the Juunin.
"The very same."
"What about him?"
"He was quickly replaced by their board of directors but this time, they sought someone who was just as ruthless but also personally more powerful. They found such a man, a ninja no less, who promptly re-invested the company's finances and transformed it into a fully fledged criminal organization. Without the need to focus on keeping a legitimate business front, they've been terrorizing the continent giving promises of lucrative deals. They have begun their assault on the Fire Country and we believe the assault on Konoha was ultimately championed by this company in hopes of weakening the country as a whol-"
"For which he has succeeded in doing," interrupted Shikamaru.
"Unfortunately, yes. However, another troubling thought is the origin of this new leader. Although he began the assault on the continent months ago, this is the first time he has ever directly targeted a ninja village. This is strange because the company had enough power to attack a village right from the start. Why start now? This suggests only one real conclusion: the new leader is a ninja of this village who may have be an unknown outcast of one of our many fringe clans. He may very well be in this room as we speak," uttered Lady Tsunade. She paused, almost as if for dramatic effect, as she reached for her tea.
"This is indeed troubling news. Is there any proof of this incredible allegation?" asked the Juunin who replied earlier.
"Again, we don't have any physical evidence to prove this, but it is a definite possibility."
"So, what do you want us to do?" Shikamaru wasn't confident when he said this, but he was certainly prepared.
"Each of the three man cells will be performing scouting missions. Your particular cell will be scouting the north-eastern area of Fire Country, east of the Valley of the End, although you will be receiving assistance from Sunagakure. They wish to make up for their mistakes it would appear."
"Can we really trust them?" Ino raised one of her eye brows as she asked. She wasn't comfortable working with the same ninjas who attempted to destroy their village. This of course, was understandable.
"We're in dire need of information if we want to be capable of fighting back this threat, I'm hoping these scouting missions will uncover something," said Tsunade. Even the Hokage was wary of the Sand, but at the moment, there was very little they could do.
"I see, when will that assistance be arriving and when will our mission commence?" inquired Shikamaru. He curiously wondered if his suspicions were correct about whom this group was.
"They should have already arrived by now. Shikamaru, after this meeting, I'd like you to go meet them at the Consulate. Your scouting mission will commence in three days time. I want everyone to be fully rested before undertaking this mission. Due to the danger at hand, I am classifying it as a B class mission, is that clear?" Tsunade studied Shikamaru wondering if he lacked any resolve. Shikamaru nodded slowly, his eyes betraying not a single emotion.
Tsunade nodded her head in turn. "You are dismissed."
As he walked through the opening doors, Shikamaru was contemplative. It was a lot of information to digest, and doubt began to plague his mind. He was torn out of his reverie by one of the Juunin, in particular, the only one who spoke during the meeting.
Shikamaru turned his head slightly, and looked up at the Juunin. It was then he noticed his peculiar appearance. Although his facial features weren't any different from a normal person, his eyes were bizarre. His right eye was as normal as any, but his left appeared to be a photographic negative of his right. Shikamaru was taken aback, but if the Juunin noticed his reaction, he chose to ignore it.
"My name is Janus, I was ordered to give you some of the specifics of your scouting mission, but perhaps tomorrow would be better for everyone involved, yes?" Janus gave Shikamaru a weak smile.
"Yeah, it would be," admitted Shikamaru.
"Splendid, meet at the academy at noon tomorrow then?" inquired Janus.
So ends Chapter 1 of The Fallen Leaf. Read and review please!