Well, it seems I got myself enough time to try and put a temporary end to the first volume. I would request an honest review, not only of the chapter, but of the whole story as well.

I don't own Naruto. Surprise surprise.


"Finally!"

Kiba's excited reaction to the very sight of the village's gates was met with relieved sighs from his teammates. With an impressive burst of energy, he sprinted the remaining distance, with Akamaru on top of his head barking happily.

"He sure is energetic all of a sudden, isn't he?" Tayuya's sarcastic remark stopped Kiba in his tracks. "Hey, shithead! We must go to the Hokage tower for the report first!"

"Fine, just let's make it quick, all right? I don't have the time to fool around all day!" Kiba radiated impatience as usual.

"You heard him. I don't have time to waste either, so drag your feet a bit faster, will you?" she spat behind her shoulder.

"Fine..." grumbled Shikamaru.


"This is disturbing... Good work, all of you. It turned out we got something pretty useful out of this, and thankfully without casualties. You have all earned a break. Dismissed."

Shikamaru left with a frown on his face and headed to the intel department, where his father was working. His last battle had left him with more questions than answers.

"Still worrying about the freaks?" He smiled hearing the familiar voice.

"Yes, I have a hunch they are more... special than usual. No offence."

"None taken. But why don't you let your intel team about it and let them sort it out?"

"Well, as long as the dinner is on you, I am in." Shikamaru sighed. Why did she always have to do things her way?

After getting a clearance to enter (and a rather intense argument about whether Tayuya could be allowed to enter, which ended with a violent and vulgar outburst from her part, and a quick Shadow Possession from Shikamaru, before his rather amused-looking father interrupted) they entered the conference room. Shikamaru described the situation to his father, for only the intel team members could enter the archives of the Leaf's hidden knowledge, they were soon looking at the faces of all the missing-nins from the other villages, and soon they were searching on a wider scale: mysteriously disappeared ninjas, kidnapped or expelled Ninja Academy students, anything they could to help them find a clue for the identity of the mysterious elite of the Hidden Sound village.

The lack of data was something even more disturbing. Shikamaru, after experiencing their strength first-hand, found it hard to believe that ninjas of such power weren't in any records, or in the bounties list. That left only one, disturbing possibility.

"When Orochimaru left the village, it was found that he was conducting genetic experiments." Shikaku started, catching both the teens' attention. "He was trying to infuse the First Hokage's cells with live infants. It is possible to have continued his experiments, and not necessarily with the First's DNA"

"That is disgusting" Shikamaru said with a grimace.

"Yes, but it seems it proved effective nonetheless. But you were lucky to have escaped, even if they were not instructed to kill you, which I highly doubt. If Orochimaru infused them with foreign DNA right after he left the village, they couldn't be over 25 years old. I can say that their lack of experience is what saved you."

"If it has come to that, shouldn't we inform the other villages as well?" Tayuya said in frustration.

"It is hard to tell which village is offended here since they didn't use any bloodline limits. Anyway, Orochimaru is already recognised as an international danger and criminal, so he already has a bounty on his head at every country, save the one he has his base." Shikaku calmly answered.

"This guys hand seems to be as long as his tongue" Tayuya said in disgust. Shikamaru looked confused at the weird statement, and his father smiled. "To have gained a hold of other bloodline limits, something that the ninja villages protect with zeal, and live subjects to conduct such... experiments... even I, his personal bodyguard, never knew about this experiments, if they ever took place. The only man this freak trusts is the four-eyed freak, Kabuto. That one, and that... woman."

"Care to share her name?"


"So, here you are... I thought you gave up on that pink-haired girl; why do you insist on coming here so often?"

"Hello to you too, perverted hermit." Naruto seemed bored out of his mind.

"Or is it that cute Hyuga girl? I see she brought you flowers..."

"HEY! I am not such a super pervert as you are!" Naruto pointed an accusing finger.

"I didn't know you had such an opinion of the great Jiraiya" the Toad Sage pouted. "And when I thought I would teach you another powerful technique-"

The magic works always worked like a charm on Naruto. All his embarrassment disappeared, and he immediately raised to a sitting position, almost immediately regretting this. "Arrghh, damn it!" It was remarkable how easily he got injured, as well as forget that he was injured. The room began to spin around him, due to his sudden move.

When the feeling of vertigo subsided, he flashed his trademark grin. "Will you teach me? Oh great Perverted Hermit, will you be so kind?"

" *sigh* Well, you still need to work on how you show your respect, kid. And speaking of techniques, what the hell was that you tried to pull off there?"

"I didn't try, I totally pulled it off! But it is an attack that takes time, and I am supposed to take my distance and let my clones handle it."

"Well, care to explain?"

"It is simple; I came up with it after a failed attempt to form a Rasengan without a clone"

"And it went wrong"

"..."

"Fine, you do the talking"

"Well, I formed a Rasengan, but it got unstable, and while I had finished the second stage, I couldn't contain the chakra. So, it exploded, and sent me flying back a few meters. Then I remembered that the same thing happened when you taught me the Rasengan, and I made it through the second stage. So, the idea I came up with is to make a few clones, since I can only do this only once and it hurts like hell, and have them make a cycle around the target, so that he doesn't get away, and then BOOM!"

"Why didn't you take your distance this time, and joined the clones instead?"

"Well...eh he... I got a bit carried away..."

"...And you miscalculated because you hadn't used this on a real enemy until then."

"Sort of."

"That was VERY reckless, Naruto. You cannot realize the danger that behaviour could have gotten you into. Let me tell you this: the man you hit with that, you know how many pieces of him were found? Five! And there are many still missing. You could have lost a limb, or died in that explosion, let alone harm your teammates who were nearby."

Naruto felt a pinch of guilt and horror at his heart when he unconsciously brought the image of a wounded Hinata. He nodded slowly. A hand came to his shoulder, and he raised his head to see Jiraiya's bright smile. "Reckless... but genius! As expected from my pupil!"

"Your..."

"Oh, it seems I got ahead of myself-"

"Will you really do this, perverted Hermit?" Naruto grabbed Jiraiya's sleeve and tugged impatiently and excitedly.

BONK!

"Ouch! Why you did that?" Naruto rubbed the top of his head, where his tutor's fist had landed.

"If you are going to be my student, you will refer to me as the great Toad Hermit, Jiraiya-sama! You got that?"

"Like hell I will! You said yourself you are a super pervert!"

"I am not!"

"Oh yea? Then eat this! Harem technique!"

'Shit'

-later-

"Nurse! Come here quick! The perverted hermit passed out and his hands are cold, and his nose won't stop bleeding, and-"

"Fine, fine, I come! And who is this – Jiraiya-sama! What happened to him? He has lost much blood! Did he got attacked? AND WHY THE HELL HE LOOKS SO HAPPY?"


"It seems we have even more questions than answers... again..." Shikamaru stretched as he rose from his chair. It had been a long four hour session of research, but nothing had come out. "Some Ichiraku's ramen would be good after all this... care to join?"

"Of course" Tayuya seemed to be equally mentally tired. "And don't forget it is on you."

"Yea, yea..."

"Whaahhh, that was great!" Tayuya said while patting her stomach.

"You know, you remind me of Naruto sometimes" Shikamaru grumbled as he paid for the meal. They entered the main road of the village, who was almost empty at that time. They walked in silence for a few long minutes, until that silence was broken. "Hey, Shikamaru!"

Shikamaru turned around to see Ino rushing towards him. 'Great, just what I needed now, a raging thunderstorm' "Hey Ino"

"How are you? I heard you just got back from your mission, and you were in a bad shape!"

"I am fine, Ino, thank you for your concern."

"Do you have any plans for tonight?" Tayuya tensed at the very sound of those words. 'What the? She said she was not... what the hell am I thinking? It is his right...damn it all-'

"Nah, I will just go home and rest, it was a rough mission. Thanks anyway, I appreciate your concern"

"Bah! Aren't you bored at all? That's what you do almost every day!"

"Whatever. It is troublesome to even try hanging out with the other guys. Well, maybe except Chouji. Or Shino. See you later!" Shikamaru jumped to the rooftops and ran for it, but the expected chase and girl fury didn't come. Brushing it off, he dashed home. The sooner he was under the protection of the four walls, the better.

"Jeez, he ran away" Ino pouted, and then turned to Tayuya flashing a smug grin. "So, be sure to keep him occupied at home!" she chirped.

"What the-" Tayuya stammered.

"Tayuya-san, this is me you talk to, not Shikamaru or Naruto" she interrupted. "Shikamaru is a smart guy all right, but he sure is slow when it comes to relationship stuff, almost the same as Naruto. And he is too lazy to take the first step. Heck, maybe even the rest of them. No wonder that the Nara clan men marry mostly women who take matters to their own hands." she giggled.

Tayuya's face kept changing various shades of red. "Don't you think you are way ahead of yourself this time, Ino-san?" her voice was a bit above a whisper, but still it showed embarrassment. "Why would I want to be with him? Isn't it a bit selfish yo play matchmaker without asking the others-"

"Fine, have it your way, you can play the tough kunoichi if you like" she interrupted nonchalantly "but keep in mind that until the time you sort out your feelings and get over your hesitations, you might have missed your chance. While he was nowhere as popular as Sasuke-kun, some more serious girls are taking notice." and with that, Ino left her with her mouth slightly open.

'...might miss my chance? First step? What the fuck was she talking about?'


The Hidden Leaf's sky was almost clear, a few clouds drifting by. In other words, the perfect conditions for cloud watching. Shikamaru sighed as he laid down on his roof, with some rice cakes and tea, as per his usual relaxing ritual, though lately it was not as relaxing as it used to be. Taking a few deep breaths, he tried to empty his mind and just stay unfocused and empty, his gaze fixed on the clouds runnung above him.

"What is so exciting about the clouds, anyway?"

So much for peace and quiet. He sighed. "What is it?"

"I just dropped by. Is there a problem?"

"Even if it was, it wouldn't matter, would it?"

"I see you get wiser by the day"

A few moments of silence followed, but she made no move. It seemed that she wouldn't leave on her own. Frowning, Shikamaru sat upright. "You want some?" he pointed at the rice cakes.

"Why, thank you!" she grabbed one and started chewing. "You are still concerned about the freaks?"

"Well, to be frank, yes. Their strength is way out of our league, and sooner or later we might face them. We have to get stronger. I have to get stronger." he was grateful she offered him an exit route from the uncomfortable silence. Besides, he did mean what he said.

She sighed. "You know, I am amazed that even you can be motivated at times." When he turned and shot her an annoyed glare, she smiled. "I kind of wonder what would happen if you were motivated as that Naruto guy."

He smiled in return. "The Will of Fire. This is what drives this village. The will to protect the village, no matter what. Strange thing, that one. It is what kept us united and strong throughout the ninja wars. I couldn't be called a Leaf ninja if I didn't have it in me."

"Maybe so, but you are still weak as hell."

"And you still suck at Shougi-" he rolled immediately as her fist landed where his head was. "...and controlling your temper."

"Says the one who gave up on his first fight in the Chunin finals, and against a girl no less. Don't you always say that a man cannot lose to a woman?"

"Hey! Who told you-"

"Naruto, when I met him at the ramen stand."

"Damn that Naruto..."

He rolled back to his previous position, cautiously.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure"

"When you beat me in the forest" he could almost feel her tense "why didn't you finish me off then?"

Silence.

His eye caught a metallic shine. 'oi, oi, is that a kunai?'

Tayuya pulled out her flute and admired it. "Do you mind if I play some?"

"Do as you wish, I told you I am hopeless at arts, so it doesn't matter to me."

She raised an eyebrow. Sitting beside him, she took a deep breath and started her melody. Shikamaru smiled. It wasn't such a bad way to enjoy his few moments of peace. Risking a glance at his visitor's face, he felt the now familiar heat rising in his chest. When the angry scowl was missing from her face, she was actually cute. He soon caught himself staring at her focused yet calm expression. He turned his gaze skywards, quite embarrassed, hoping she didn't see it.

The melody died down. He waited patiently.

"Truth is, I don't know why. I told myself that you would be useful for the Snake, but I knew better. I just don't know."

"..."

Tayuya started playing another melody.


"So, are you ready?"

"Ready as always, Perverted Hermit!" Naruto seemed energetic as always.

"Won't you say your goodbyes, brat?"

They both turned, and saw a little farewell party, consisting of Tsunade, Iruka... and Hinata. Naruto blushed furiously at her sight. Tsunade leaned and kissed him on the forehead. "Good luck brat."

"Thank you Granny Tsunade! I'll be back stronger than ever! You'll see!"

"I can't wait"

Iruka was next. "Take care out there, Naruto."

"Thank you, Iruka-sensei"

The last one was the most awkward. He hesitantly shook Hinata's hand.

"Ehh... farewell, Hinata-chan"

"F-farewell, Naruto-kun, and good luck."

He turned around and started walking, his face flushed.

"Naruto-kun!"

Naruto turned just in time to see Hinata doing something equivalent of slapping her father.

She hugged him tight.

All the blood he fought to force from his face came rushing back at full force, and judging from the heat of her face, she was in the same boat.

"Please be safe" she whispered in his ear.

"Don't worry, I will"

Suddenly he was sad to leave and he was sure everyone was looking, he was sure the pervert of a teacher would make his life hell for this, but he didn't mind. The sound of his teachers sandals brought him back to reality, and he let go of Hinata unwillingly.

"Time to go."

"Yeah."

Hinata stood at the gate for as long as she could see the orange-clad figure.


OK, here goes:

-I can't decide whether Orochimaru's next assistant will be Karin, Guren or another character.

-I know Tayuya and Shikamaru are not as far as I wanted them to be, but it can't be helped. It is Tayuya after all. I intend to make a fic for the period during the time skip (isn't that ironic?) about them. I also follow a bit more the manga here, I bypassed a LOT of fillers, but I have to end the story somewhere and gather ideas.

-The next part (time skip) will be done in a VERY slow manner. At least the third part has a bit more ideas, the Shippuuden has a lot of material :)

I intend to start a crossover fic to keep me going, because once you stop, it is difficult to start.

As per usual, read and review. A whole story review can be also really helpful, because I WILL edit it. Nothing too grand, but the story needs editing badly.