This is a rather old story which was my first attempt at writing a few years ago. After four chapters I got completely ruined by my first experience of writer's block and ended up not updating it anymore. I've given this story several attempts to pick it up again, even wrote as much as three whole chapters past the forth. But every time I either couldn't get anything on paper, or when I did I was just so disappointed with it that I tossed it all out again.

Finally I managed to get a burst of inspiration barely a week ago and gotten back to it. Reread my earlier work thorough, correcting some rather strange typo's, and started working on a 5th chapter. Right now I'm proofreading everything again, and editting minor things.

There's most likely a rather sudden change in writing style from chapter 4 to 5, as far as I've noticed myself atleast but I hope that works out for the better.I'm kind of hoping that there's people out there that remember my story from back then, cause their praise and constructive criticism really helped me and meant a great deal.

I'd like to take a second real shot at this story, and this time I already got some important lines set out for me that'll last for quite a bit. I won't abandon this story again!

As for the disclaimer. Last time I mentioned not owning Naruto and that donations were welcome to remedy that. I'll stick to not owning Naruto, as that might just make it prone to suddenly go on Hiatus for several years. *Cough*

Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: Prologue: Aftermath pt 1


Their screams fade out almost instantly as their strongest moves collide with one another, the immense amounts of chakra leaking from the collision forming a black sphere around the two. The last thing Naruto's mind registered is his Rasengan being overcome and something piecing into his chest before darkness overcame him.

Moments later, on the edge of the flowing river, Sasuke stands over the unmoving body of Naruto. He gazes down at the blond with a cold, emotionless look in his eyes as his forehead protector slowly clatters down to the ground, a horizontal scratch visible through the Konoha symbol. Slowly looking up as drops begin to fall, swiftly turning into a heavy downpour as a fitting conclusion to their battle. A sudden jolt shooting through his body as his right hand moves to tightly grip his heavily aching left shoulder while he clatters down unto his knees, coughing up a little bit of blood.

As his eyes open a moment later he finds himself with a close up view of Naruto's pain-filled face. A sneer slowly spreads across his face as he reaches for his kunai holster. Slowly standing up and stepping to the blond's side, he draws a kunai and jabs it down through Naruto's hand. His hand moves to the holster again as he draws another kunai which he jabs through the blond's other hand.

'This time.. You won't follow me.. Naruto.'

Kakashi sped through the forest quickly, jumping from branch to branch as his gaze fixed at the distance. A moment earlier he noticed the outflow of chakra and could only relate it's source from one thing as he picked up his pace. 'I have a bad feeling about this.' he mused as he approached the edge of the forest, halting on the cliff overlooking the battlefield.

His eye spotting the boy laying on the ground almost instantly and he dashed off towards him. His eye widening as even with his face covered almost entirely one emotion was easily readable from his face, shock. Laying on the ground, in a pool of his own blood was the unmoving body of Naruto. Kakashi kneeled down over the boy and inspected the large chest wound before pressing two fingers against his neck to check for a pulse. Pakkun walked over and sniffed the forehead protector that lay on the ground.

"Sasuke's.." he said as he tried to follow the scent in the air. "We won't be able to follow his trail long in this heavy rain."

"Naruto's condition takes priority now, we must get him back to Konoha before it's too late." Kakashi said as he pulled the Kunai out of Naruto's hands and tossed them aside before carefully picking the boy up in his arms. "I'm sorry I didn't make it in time, Naruto.." he said before dashing off back towards the village. "Let's go, Pakkun!"

The dog nodded as he followed after his summoner.

Deep in the forest further ahead, Sasuke's stumbling slowly halting as he turns slightly to look back over his shoulder. His eyes glaring while a scowl forms on his lips, his right hand tightly clenching unto his left shoulder. The words of his brother repeating in his head. "The mangekyou Sharingan.. You too have the potential to unlock our bloodline's final and most powerful stage. The only requirement for it is.. That you kill the person you consider your closest friend."

His eyes narrow slightly as he turns back again, stumbling on towards his destination. Sound and more so, Orochimaru. 'I.. Will NOT do as you say! I will not follow the road you directed me into. I will obtain power in my own way, I will surpass you in my own way!' he mused to himself, his stumbling reduces slightly, his determination stronger than ever as he approaches Orochimaru's base.

Naruto's eyes slowly opened no further than tiny slits, his body aching all over and he found it hard to draw breathe. "K-Kakashi-Sensei.. W-Where's.. Sasuke?" he grunted out between his painful pants for air before darkness took him again as he fell back unconscious.

Shortly after the blond lost consciousness again three medical nins approached Kakashi. "Kakashi-san. How is Uzumaki Naruto's condition?" One asked as he looks over the boy in Kakashi's arms.

"He's in bad shape. He has a large wound on the right half of his chest and is most likely suffering from chakra exhaustion. He needs medical treatment, and fast." Kakashi responded in his usual calm tone, a serious look on his face.

The medical nin nodded briefly with concern in his eyes. "What about Sasuke? Where is Uchiha Sasuke?" he asked to which Kakashi's could only respond by shaking his head slowly. His gaze returning the the nin intending to change the subject slightly. "What's the situation with the other Genin?" "By Hokage-sama's order, the first and second medical teams were dispatched. We have already taken the injured back to receive medical treatment."

Kakashi nodded slightly in response. "What are their conditions?" he asked the same medical nin.

"Nara Shikamaru's injuries are minor. Inuzuka Kiba has a deep wound, but it is not life threatening. However.. Hyuuga Neji and Akimichi Chouji are in critical condition. Recover for either of them is still uncertain."

Konoha's hospital was bustling with activity as several medical teams were involved with the treatment of the injured Genin. Outside of treatment room 6 sat Shikamaru, fiddling nervously with his fingers while leaning forward. His eyes, filled with concern, aimed at the floor unwilling to look up at the woman across from him. That is, until she began speaking in that demeaning tone of hers.

"It's pointless to be as nervous as you are. Sacrifices and losses are an inevitable part of mission. I'm sure you're aware of that. Didn't you receive emotional training for situations such as these?"

He looked up at her with a slight hint of annoyance in his eyes. "Training and actual combat are completely different. I knew very well what missions would consist of. I thought I understood all what the world of shinobi was about. However.. This was my first mission as a Chuunin. The first mission for which I was appointed team captain. Only now do I realize that I'm not cut out to be a shinobi." He slowly stood up before continuing.
"I shouldn't have been the team captain this time. All I did was put my trust in everyone else. I was too naïve. I wasn't nearly strong enough. This is all my fault." He finished, clenching his hand tightly into a fist.

"What, are you afraid of being hurt?" Temari spoke while gazing at the Nara in disappointment of the young man. Shikamaru, however, granted her no reply as he turned and walked away through the hallway. Passing his father who was resting against the wall around the corner. Shikaku slowly closed his eyes and let out a quiet sigh before looking up again at his retreating son.

"Shikamaru.. You're just going to run away when a woman is talking down on you like that?"

"It's troublesome. I don't want to have an argument, I'm not a girl." replied Shikamaru with a slight glance over his shoulder.

"Yeah.. But you're not a man either. You're being nothing more than a coward. Even if you just quit being a shinobi right here and now, missions will still occur. It will simply be someone else that carries them out. Your friends will just be assigned a new leader. And that time, they might all die. But, if you are their captain your friends might not end up that way. If you look at all of this as a learning experience and grow from it, maybe you'll be able to do better next time and carry your future missions out perfectly. If you really care about your friends then before deciding to run away from everything, considering becoming greater and stronger for the sake of your friends instead! That's what it means to be a true friend, not by running away you damn coward!" Shikaku finished, still glaring lightly at his son as she relaxed back against the wall again.

Just after Shikaku finished scolding his son, the red light above the doors to the treatment room switched off. The doors opened and Tsunade stood in the opening. She sighed softly before a smirk slowly spread across her lips. "He's going to be alright now. I stopped the continuous cellular destructive effects of those pills with an antidote I created." she said as she walked over to the bench where Shikamaru sat just earlier. She sat down and crossed her legs, her hands resting on the bench as well as she leans over a little while looking over at Shikaku.
"I'll have to thank you, Shikaku. The medical manual of the Nara clan was extremely useful. I can only imagine how difficult it must've been to put it all together."

Shikaku gave a brief nod at the Hokage. "Thank you." he spoke with a small smile.

"Tsunade-sama!" yelled Shizune as she ran down the hallway towards her mentor. Panting deeply once before standing at attention. "Hyuuga Neji.. He's in a stable condition!" she said in a rather upbeat tone. Shikamaru's clenched hands loosening slightly in his pant pockets as he sighed softly in release. Shizune's face in the meanwhile grew dark as she resumed her report.

"I've also received information that Hatake Kakashi is approaching Konoha along with Uzumaki Naruto. Naruto appears to be severely injured and is in a highly critical state." she said with a worried look in her eyes. Tsunade's eyes widened at the news as she quickly shot up from her seat on the bench.

"Gather a full medical team and prepare treatment room 5 right away. GO SHIZUNE!" she yelled as she clenched her left fist tightly. Shizune gave a quick 'Hai!' before dashing off into the hallway she came from.

Tsunade turned to Shikamaru as she calmed herself a little. "Shikamaru. It seems your first mission as Chuunin ended up in a failure. Dispite Naruto's condition, I am certain he will survive along with everyone else. That's the most important part."

Shikamaru finally cracked as tears started streaming down his face, trembling slightly. "I promise.. Next time, I'll carry out the mission perfectly!" he spoke with a cracked voice. Tsunade nodded once before she ran off towards the gates at the front of the hospital to await Kakashi and Naruto.

The moment she reached the gates she could already make out a flash of white speeding straight for her as well as the unmoving figure in his arms. "KAKASHI! Treatment room 5 is ready for him, lets go!" she yelled as Kakashi approached her. Both picked up pace as they moved through the corridors towards the treatment room. Tsunade flew through a set of seals swiftly and held her left hand over Naruto's chest wound. The hand glowing a soft green as she analyzed the gaping fist sized wound.

They soon arrived at their destination where Kakashi carefully laid Naruto down on the prepared table and glanced once at the boy and then at Tsunade. A slight bow of his head as he stepped out of the room. The doors closing behind him and the light sprung on, he moved over towards the bench and leant up against the wall next to it. A short sigh passing his lips before he reached into his kunai holster and took out his favourite orange book.

'Sasuke.. How far do you intend to go for your revenge? To betray your friends, kill them even?' he mused before deciding to calm himself by reading from his book. His expression soon returning to it's usual neutral state.

On the other side of the doors, the medical team had already removed Naruto's torn jacket and several markings were drawn across his body. Five lines of markings all leading to the gaping chest wound. Shizune stood above the boy with confusion and most of all shock clear in her eyes.

"How can anyone still live with such a hole in his chest? Any other person would be dead already.." she said while looking at Tsunade who was finishing the last preparations.

"Exactly, any other person would have. The reason he has not, is because of the Kyuubi's regenerative abilities already healing his wound as we speak. Our first concern right now is to fix the damage done to his lung and stopping the bleeding before closing the wound. The remaining internal damage will come after that. Shizune, I need you to clean the wound and stop the bleeding as I heal his lung." Tsunade said while already forming seals quickly before laying one hand un top of the other just above the gaping wound of the blond, her hands glowing brightly green. Shizune nodded and gave a quick "Hai!" as she follows her mentors lead, flying through seals and folding her hands with their own green glow inches away from Tsunade's.

Both mentor and student were focusing hard as a beads of sweat were forming on Shizune's forehead, already exhausted after the several hour procedure she went through with the Hyuuga.

"Tsunade-sama, why are we not using the method we used for Hyuuga Neji to regenerate his cells and heal the wound more efficiently?" she spoke with a slightly strained voice, but still keeping her breathing even.

"Because we know too little about the rate of which the Kyuubi's chakra is healing his wound, thus using such a large scale regenerative technique has a risk of backfiring. Not too mention yourself and a large number of medical nin are exhausted from the procedure. The best we can do is directly boost the Kyuubi's regenerating ability while concentrating on healing the most severe damage first." Tsunade replied in a calm voice, yet her expression betraying she was all but calm.
'Was he actually trying to kill Naruto? The wound nearly pierced completely through him. Damn it, Sasuke!' she mused while gritting her teeth, focusing on Naruto's lung first as she said was the priority while also analyzing further damage done.

A couple of hours later the sliding doors opened as Tsunade emerged from the fifth treatment room. The door sliding back shut behind her while both Kakashi and Shikamaru, who had joined him only half an hour earlier, looked up at her. Certain she had both their full attention her lips curled into a smirk as she gaze a brief nod.

"We've closed the hole in his chest," she paused for a moment as she glanced at the Nara who's eyes widened at that, however she didn't grant him time to process it as she resumed. "the internal damage in the right side of his chest will take time and a lot of rest to fully heal. He's out of life-danger now after we healed the most severe internal injuries, however the mended parts are prone to tear just as easily if he doesn't rest. His head also seems to have taken a heavy blow, but other than a severe concussion there seems to be no further injuries other than scrapes and cuts." Tsunade crossed her arms while speaking to her audience.
A light chuckle escape her as she said "Also, he'll be happy to know that dispite the holes in his hands, he will still be able to eat his precious ramen."

Shikamaru looked at the Hokage in disbelief at the extend of Naruto's injuries for a brief moment. He had already recovered to his trademark bored expression while waiting for the Hokage, and other than his brief surprise he gazed lazily at her. "So, it seems this mission seemed to be doomed to fail from the start wasn't it?" he spoke in his usual dull tone, yet a hint of frustration was mixed into it.

"Why is that, Shikamaru?" asked Kakashi as he and Tsunade looked over at him.

"It's troublesome, but.. We were told to bring him back alive, with or without force. Setting out considering him a fellow Leaf-nin that went missing, none of us even thought about killing him. Considering Naruto's state it seems that Sasuke however was more than ready to kill any of us if we tried to stop him. We would have had more chance at killing him than returning him alive." Kakashi nodded slowly in agreement.

"So it would seem. I can only imagine only jutsu that Sasuke knows that could have caused that large chest wound, Chidori." he finished with a sigh and a slight hint of shame, knowing full well he taught the Uchiha that move.

"We'll discuss our conclusions in my office later on, I expect a full report form both of you in three hours from now. Dismissed." The Hokage said. "Naruto's is resting from the procedure and won't be allowed any visitors for today, the same goes for both Chouji and Neji. You're free to visit the rest of your team to see how they're doing, however." she said with a gentle smile before turning around and walking back into the room while the other two left. 'What I would do for some sake right about now..' she mused as the doors slid shut behind her again.

Two days later.

Groaning lightly, Naruto slowly opened his eyes a little before flinching them shut again while shooting his left hand up to his head groaning in pain. 'Ugh.. My head.. Where the hell a-..'

"Sasuke!" he yelled, interrupting his thoughts as she shot up in the hospital bed. Flinching in pain, yet this time the source more so seeming his chest he crashed back against his pillow while blankly staring up at the white ceiling. 'Sasuke, why..?' he thought to himself while closing his eyes again as the fight with the Uchiha flashed through his mind. A completely lost look in his eyes as he thought about what Sasuke had said during their fight, and his cold emotionless demeanour while he said those words. Sasuke had referred to him as his closest friend, which only confused Naruto more. 'What meaning is there in killing your closest friend?' He shook his hand against his pillow in denial. 'No.. He wouldn't kill me, I'm still alive aren't I?'

Continuing his inner discussion he didn't notice the door to his room opening, only snapping out of his thoughts when he heard a familiar feminine voice. "N-Naruto, you're awake!" sounded the surprised Sakura with a smile, yet her eyes betraying her downcast mood. As she slowly walked over to the bed Naruto's eyes widened slightly as he remembered his promise, his now failed promise, he made to Sakura. Before Sakura could say another word Naruto averted his eyes from hers and spoke quietly.

"I'm sorry.. Sakura. I failed to keep my promise, I couldn't bring him back" Upon hearing this Sakura had to fight away her tears as she gazed down to the ground, trying to keep a strong face she looked up to the boy with a wear smile.

"Don't apologize, Naruto.. Tsunade-sama told me in what-in what state you came back to the village. I'm sure you did everything you could.." she spoke softly, remembering the words of the Hokage clearly.

Flashback - Two days ago.

"You mean I can't see him yet?" Sakura asked Tsunade as she sat on the bench. Tsunade stood next to her with a hand on her hip and the other on Sakura's shoulder.

"His body has been under a lot of stress, both from the injuries he sustained as getting the worst of his internal damage healed. He'll be moved to a room in the morning, but we're keeping him under close observation in the treatment room for now."

Sakura nodded slowly, twiddling with her fingers nervously while biting her lower lip. "W-what about Sasuke-kun? He didn't come back to the village..?" she asked quietly in a downcast voice. Tsunade frowned at the girl and lift her hand from Sakura's shoulder, letting it slide down along her side.

"Naruto is in there, recovering from a severe mortal wound and you're worried about Sasuke? Your 'Sasuke-kun' is the one responsible for the state of your team-mate, as he was trying to kill him!" sounded with a harsh tone to her voice. Glaring down at the girl who looked up at her with wide eyes.

"W-what? That has to be a mistake! Sasuke-kun wouldn-"

"Chidori." said Tsunade, cutting the pinkette off with a more calm voice this time. "Kakashi confirmed it, that wound is unlikely caused by any other attack than Chidori. A fist-sized open wound by something that tore easily through his flesh. Several minor burns around the wound caused by the surging electricity as the attack didn't fully pierce through Naruto's chest." Sakura could only look down at her fingers while fighting her tears to no avail, sobbing quietly.


"Naruto.. Tsunade-sama told me that it was Sasuke-kun who did this.. That's not true is it? Please, tell her she's wrong!" she cried out as she couldn't hold it in. The past two days she had done nothing but thinking about the Hokage's words, desperately trying to convince herself it's all a mistake. Yet seeing the boy covered in bandages all over, hearing him groan as he tried to speak she was crestfallen by the clear evidence of Tsunade's words.

Naruto's eyes widened slightly as he noticed the pain in Sakura's voice. "O-of course he didn't try to kill me.. Sasuke would never do that, right?" he said weakly, trying to cheer the pinkette up. But also because he still truly wanted to believe that himself. He considered Sasuke as his brother, how could he just accept the possibility that he tried to kill Naruto? Even during such thoughts Naruto already felt the answer ringing in his ears. "I consider you my closest friend, that is exactly why killing you will have meaning for me."

Those words kept haunting Naruto, that cold expression on Sasuke's face. He meant every word of it, he showed no intent on letting the blond live throughout the entire fight.

Sakura was watching the boy closely. She heard the crack in his voice, but in her denial that Sasuke did this she interpreted it as doubt rather than a lie. "Why.. Why don't you say it like you actually believe that, Naruto? You know Sasuke-kun would never do that! He's our friend, our team-mate!" Sakura yelled, her watery eyes glaring down at Naruto who looked at her with wide eyes. His lie had been seen through.

'Ofcourse she figured it out. I can't lie to Sakura-chan..' he thought as he decided to be honest with her. "Sorry, Sakura-chan.. It's true what Tsunade Baa-chan told you. Sasuke said tha-" he flinched as he was interrupting by a firm slap across her face from a furious Sakura.

"How dare you even try and say that! Are you trying to make me like Sasuke-kun less so you have a chance, is that it? Fine! If you've lost faith in Sasuke-kun and intent to break off your 'promise of a lifetime' then I'll go get him back by myself!" she spat at him before turning on her heel and stomping to the door without looking back at the boy that simply gazed at her.

The door slammed harshly shut and he slowly turned his gaze to the ceiling. His chest ached, though more so on the left than the right at the moment. He never had any intention of breaking, or giving up on, his promise even if Sasuke wanted to kill him and possibly would try again next time they met, if there was going to be a next time. It suddenly dawned upon him. When had he made up his mind, when did he convince himself? Since the moment Sakura started on the topic he was adamant in his opinion. His eyes watered slightly at that realization.
'He really did want to kill me.. Sasuke..'
were his thoughts as the exhaustion of that confrontation took it's toll as he slowly drifted to sleep, tears rolling down his cheeks.

His sleep was restless, not only Sasuke but Sakura too haunting his dreams. He had never known family, he never knew the pleasure of having friends until after becoming a Genin even. And now, both the boy he considered his brother as well as the girl he has a crush on seemed to hate him. Their words repeatedly echoing through his dreams, their faces circling before him. Sasuke's scowling face and his cold eyes blurring out into Sakura's angry face, her words repeating in a venomous tone while glaring daggers at him.

What had he done so wrong for them to hate him so? Sakura he felt he could understand, he always went about yelling how it was his way of the ninja to never go back on his word, to never break a promise. And that's exactly what he did, he broke his promise by failing to bring Sasuke back with him to Konoha. But Sasuke, what did he do to Sasuke to be hated by him so? So much as to wanting to kill him even.

He suddenly found himself at Konoha's main gate. In front of him, outside of the village, stood Sasuke with a hateful look in his eyes and a kunai in hand, ready to attack him at any time. Behind him stood the villagers, with Sakura in at the front all glaring down at him. That same glare he always received from the villagers where ever he went. Was that how it was going to be? Was he going to be all alone again? He hung his head low and looked at the ground, gritting his teeth and clamping his eyes shut tightly as she saw his shadow. It was not one of a thirteen-year-old boy. It was the shadow of a fox with nine tails wavering in the wind.

"Demon!" "Monster!" sounded from the mob behind him, the words he would always ignore yet could never forget. There was one voice from the crowd that felt like it boomed louder than the rest, a familiar voice only filled with hatred.

"Liar! Useless, good for nothing liar!" It was the voice of Sakura, spitting venom like she had in his hospital room.

"Dobe, that's what you are. Dead last. A drop out who's only skill is to be in the way and annoy people." came from his front, the harsh and cold voice from Sasuke. Gripping his head tightly Naruto dropped to his knees, screaming at them to stop as she shook himself while keeling over towards the ground. An object piercing into his back ending his dream.

His eyes shot open and he gasped, finding Tsunade standing over him who shook him a couple more times until she was certain he was fully awake now. He panted deeply, his upper body and face covered in a layer of sweat as he slowly pushed himself up a little. Looking at Tsunade, still speechless.

"Bad dream, hmm? You were thrashing like crazy when I came to check on you." she said as looked down at the boy with a slight look of concern in her eyes. Placing her hand over his chest, channelling her chakra through it in the form of a green light. "Good, you didn't damage anything with that thrashing of yours. God kid, even when sleeping you just know how to disobey my orders huh?" she smirked at him.

She sighed when no response came and sat herself down on the edge of his bed, she had expected him to be down over not bringing Sasuke back but not so far down the pit into depression. "Care to tell me what happened? Or what that dream-nightmare, was about?" Naruto shook his head slowly, looking up at the elder blond as she spoke in a uncharacteristic tone.

"It's nothing, Baa-chan. It was just that, a dream."

"And the thrashing and looks of agony on your face was just a genjutsu playing tricks on my mind, huh?"

"Okay, a really bad dream then.. Still a dream." came the muttered response from the boy. She flicked a finger over his forehead but this time without fusing any chakra in that deadly finger of hers. He flinched a little before looking back at her frowning face as she slowly stood up.

"As you wish. Well, you're doing just fine. I'll check up on you later when you've calmed down a bit so I can get a decent evaluation of your health." she said as she lightly grazed her hand over Naruto's head before turning towards the door. Before closing it behind her she looks back at him. "Don't bottle it all up Naruto. By the way you were thrashing, that was not just a dream. Bottling it up will do you no good." she said before closing the door and moved down the hallway. 'He's taking this harder than suspected. Naruto, what the hell happened at the Valley of the End?'

In the meanwhile, elsewhere in the Konoha hospital the three Genin from Team 10 were gathered in Akimichi Chouji's room. The normally overweight boy who had lost a lot of weight as one of the effect his special soldier pills, one of the few positive effects according to a certain blond kunoichi, was sitting up in his bed with his back against the backboard. He seemed to be doing fine as his somewhat cheerful manner had returned not long after he had woken up.

Shikamaru was leaning back against the wall not far from the bed, arms crossed and one foot resting against the wall while he addressed his team-mate and best friend. "So when did the doctors say you would be discharged, Chouji?"

"Well the doctor said I should be discharged by tomorrow, but that I would still need to rest a lot. No heavy training for a week at least, preferably not at all. And Tsunade-sama said I wasn't to go on any mission for two or maybe three weeks as right now my body is still fragile from the degeneration caused by those pills." he said with a somewhat serious tone before breaking out into a smile as he continued. "Asuma-sensei said that he'd take me out for an all-you-can-eat barbeque dinner once I feel better too!"

The kunoichi sitting next to his bed in a comfortable chair sighed at this, frowning at her team-mate. "Chouji, you're not seriously thinking stuffing your face with barbeque the moment you're discharged are you? I mean, you look so much healthier like this. It would be such a shame to.. Eat your way back to your former..figure." she said, her voice growing more careful near the end as she struggles to not use the words that are considered 'taboo' around Chouji.

"What? It's a part of my training!" the boy responded quickly with a look in his eyes as if he trully believed that. Shikamaru looked up at Ino with a bored expression on his face.

"Troublesome woman.. You know that his size is vital for the efficiency for his ninjutsu don't you?" Ino instantly snapped her head up to glare at her lazy team-mate. "What did you just call me?" she yelled at him with shaking her fist lightly. Shikamaru decided to just keep quiet and look the other way now, muttering something about troublesome women in his life.

Chouji just smiled at the antics of his friends before deciding to change the subject for the Nara's wellbeing. "Shikamaru, how are the others doing? Has Naruto woken up yet?" he asked curiously. Though surprisingly it was not Shikamaru that answered his question, but rather his blond team-mate.

"For what I heard from the nurses they are all doing fine, even Neji who, like you, was in a critical state. Kiba is being released today, though I heard Hinata mention Akamaru still needed a lot of time to recover. And about Naruto, we met Sakura at in the lobby on our way here. She said he hadn't woken up yet, but he too should be fine with lots of rest. I wonder how he'll be once he wakes up, though." she said calmly stating the facts she had heard from around the hospital. All three went silent at this for a moment, wondering how it would feel if one of them did what Sasuke did.

"Hmpf, he'll likely be up and yelling he'll become Hokage in no time and acting like the hyperactive idiot we know." Ino looked up at Shikamaru and didn't seem convinced by his words but choose not to speak. Chouji, however, did.

"Do you think he'll go after Sasuke again even after what happened?"

"Probably, he's too stubborn to give up like that. But I have my doubts about his odds for success about this. That troublesome Uchiha clearly had no intend on returning to the village." Shikamaru said in a slightly aggravated tone, his respect for Sasuke diminished greatly as in his eyes he was well on his way to being a traitor to Konoha. Ino nodded slowly, seeming to ponder something.

"I still can't believe Sasuke would just leave the village like that, practically betraying all his friends and even his own team. I thought they'd become good friends since their team formed."

This earned a look from both boys as they noticed Ino didn't call him Sasuke-'kun' anymore. Shikamaru just let it be, thinking it to be too troublesome. Chouji looked at Ino curiously, but decided to join his best friend in simply not mentioning it. After another moment of silence Shikamaru eventually broke it.

"We should get going, visiting hours are almost over and Asuma-sensei told us he wanted to meet with us for some training." he said as he pushed himself off the wall and tucked his hands down his pockets. Ino nodded and stood up aswell, smiling at Chouji.

"Take care, Chouji. We'll be back tomorrow to pick you up when you're getting discharged." she said. The boy simply smiled and nodded. "You better make reservations for barbeque though, it's been too long already!" he said, earning a sigh from Ino and a slight nod from Shikamaru. "Later, Chouji." said Shikamaru before leaving his team-mate's room.

"Hey Shikamaru, you wanna go see if Naruto's awake yet?" Ino said as they walked through the hallways of the hospital. Shikamaru looked back at her with a raised eyebrow.

"I'll stop by once he's awake. It'd be troublesome to visit his room if he's still out. Why the sudden interest in Naruto anyhow, I thought you disliked him?" said the Nara, receiving a frown from Ino as she responded in a higher-pitched voice than normal.

"Don't act tough, Shika! I know you want to know what the hell happened to him as much as everyone else. And even if I don't like him, he's part of the Rookie Nine. He's one of us, like it or not." she said. Shikamaru sighed and gave in to her, nodding as they changed their direction towards the blond's room.