Disclaimer: Still don't own Naruto, sadly. There's so much potential with the whole world...oh I would kill to own Naruto...
'And I'm here.' Naruto noted as he walked into Konoha's Academy.
As he began to walk through the hallways, a few of the academy instructors and students there gaped at his presence. The Uzumaki was arriving twenty minutes before class was scheduled, something he never did. It would be considered lucky if he actually showed up to class and time; he usually arrived ten minutes late, barreling down the door and delivering some insincere apology to Iruka. Arriving early was something nobody had ever seen happen before! It was so unusual that a few of the students and instructors that were already there gave the boy confused looks upon seeing him.
Today was different, however. It was the first time in months that Naruto was looking forward to class, if for no other reason then to see and talk with his new friends.
'Friends. We are friends now, right?' He questioned. He recalled Hinata and Shikamaru defending his dream to the other students. He remembered talking to them after class and having lunch with them at Ichiraku's. A smile developed on his face as he nodded to himself, answering his own question. 'Yep. I think we are all friends now!'
Upon entering the classroom, Naruto looked around the classroom to see if he could spot either Shikamaru or Hinata. While Shikamaru was nowhere to be seen yet, he found Hinata in her usual spot at a table in the back. Naruto's smile widened into a grin as he walked up to her.
"Hey Hinata!" He called out to her. "What's up?"
The Hyūga turned her attention toward him, her eyes widening in surprise at his appearance. A blush developed on her cheeks as she smiled at him, bowing her head slightly.
"H-Hello Naruto-Kun!" She greeted. "Y-You're here e-earlier t-than usual. You u-usually s-show up l-later."
Naruto shrugged his shoulders: "Eh, just felt like showing up early today. Anyway, how are you doing? Mind if I sit next to you?"
'Naruto-kun wants to sit next to me? NEXT TO ME?' Hinata's blush darkened in color as her mind started to race faster-and-faster.
"Y-Yes, of c-course." She said aloud.
Naruto smiled in response as he sat down in the chair next to her.
"T-To answer y-your question, I'm d-doing good." The Hyūga heiress noted, poking her fingers together. "Th-Thank you, by th-the way. F-For the r-ramen."
"Don't thank me!" Naruto said as he started to chuckle. "I need to thank you and Shikamaru. I had a ton of fun yesterday with you guys!"
"I d-did too." Hinata replied, smiling as well.
She had a great time with Naruto and Shikamaru. It had been a long time since went out with anyone outside of her family to a restaurant. That alone made the experience exciting to her. In addition, the ramen tasted good, the ramen chef Teuchi was sweet, and she enjoyed talking and spending time with Naruto and Shikamaru. The two were fun to talk to and it was nice getting to know both of her classmates better.
'Especially Naruto-kun.' Her blush somehow deepened further as she stared at her blond classmate.
Hyūga Hinata had a great time yesterday.
"You know, we should head over to Ichiraku's again sometime!" Naruto said.
"It w-would be a lot of f-fun." Hinata nodded her head in agreement. "We sh-should!"
"I'll go find out later if Shikamaru can go sometime soon! But even if he can't anytime soon, we should just head out!" He said with a laugh.
Hinata's eyes widened at the mental image of her and Naruto at the ramen stand by themselves.
'Naruto-Kun and I eating ramen together? Alone? No Shikamaru? Like...like a date?' She repeated the word in her head multiple times. Her already deeply-toned blush seemed to redden even further as she envisioned their 'date'.
"Hmm?" Naruto tilted his head, finally noticing the color of her cheeks. "You're getting really red Hinata. Redder than usual. Are you feeling sick or something?"
The blond put his hand on the girl's head to check for a temperature. This, along with the proximity to her crush and the thoughts currently running through her head, proved too much for the girl. Hinata fell into unconsciousness right then and there, her head hitting her desk hard.
"Hinata!" Naruto called out to her, getting out of his seat and getting closer to her, trying to see if she was okay.
As Naruto began to shake Hinata's body, trying to wake her up, Shikamaru walked into the classroom. He immediately turned his attention towards Naruto and Hinata and chuckled to himself.
"Naruto, you are really troublesome. If she wakes up and sees you doing that, she will just pass out again." He said as he walked closer to them.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto asked, his eyes narrowed.
For a brief second, Shikamaru entertained the idea of informing Naruto that his classmate had a crush on him. However, that thought immediately left his mind as he shrugged his shoulders and walked over to the same desk and took a seat next to Naruto.
"Meh. I don't feel like explaining. Just don't worry about her; she'll wake up soon." He said, yawning.
"… If you say." Naruto sighed in response, finally letting go of Hinata's body and letting her sit in her chair. He then turned his attention fully to Shikamaru. "How are you?"
"Tired." He replied.
"You were tired yesterday!" Naruto exclaimed.
"It's almost like 'being tired' is something that can occur more than once. Huh. Who would have thought?" Shikamaru said with a chuckle.
"Hmph." Naruto crossed her arms, frowning. "Well screw you too."
Shikamaru chuckled in response as he laid his head down: "Other than being tired, though, I'm good. You?"
"Doing good!" Naruto replied, his frown turning back into a smile. "Thanks again for coming out yesterday to get ramen with Hinata and me!"
"Well you didn't give me much of a choice. But I had fun, so thanks for dragging me." Shikamaru admitted.
"Heh." Naruto rubbed the brim of his nose, his smile turning more mischievous. "Well based on what you said you do for fun, I'm going to have to drag you to more things. I need to keep you active and doing things, y'know?"
"Or you could 'ask' and I'll probably say yes." Shikamaru noted.
Naruto's eye lit up: "Oooh, so that means-"
"Alright everyone, it's time for class to start!"
Naruto blinked in response. He looked around and noticed that, while he had been talking with Hinata and Shikamaru, the classroom filled up with the other students. In addition, Mizuki – one of the academy instructors – walked in and began to start the lecture for the day.
Naruto's eyes proceeded to move to Hinata and frowned. He then leaned closer to Shikamaru.
"Hinata still hasn't woken up. She's not gonna get in trouble, is she?" He asked.
"Good point." Shikamaru yawned. "I'll… fall asleep too… so she won't get in trouble alone…"
Before Naruto could even reply to Shikamaru's comment, the Nara was already snoring lightly to himself. Naruto blinked, processing what just happened, before turning away from his friend and focusing on Mizuki.
'There's something wrong with him.' Naruto sighed to himself as he attempted to focus on the lecture for the day.
Unfortunately for Naruto, Mizuki's lecture on the fundamentals of genjutsu was boring and long, causing him to quickly lose interest in the subject. He proceeded to pull out a piece of paper and began working on something of much more value to him – a new prank.
'Imagine 'paint bombs' that go off in Iruka-sensei's face. That's not a bad idea. But the question is how do I go about it?' Naruto rubbed his chin in thought. 'Probably could ask Old Man Hokage to make a scroll for me with paint sealed in it. But how do I get Iruka-sensei to read it? Maybe-'
Naruto turned his attention to his right. Hinata was pulled her head from the table and was currently looking around the classroom, gauging what was going on.
"Hey, you're awake." Naruto whispered to her, grinning.
"Ah…" Hinata looked over at Naruto. Memories of why she fainted came back to her and her blush returned to her face. "S-Sorry about that… th-that was s-so embarrassing…"
"Don't be sorry. You're fine. At least you woke up, unlike lazy ass over there." Naruto replied, pointing to his left to Shikamaru.
Hinata giggled in response. The two then became quiet as Hinata started to pay attention to Mizuki's lecture while Naruto returned to brainstorming his next big prank.
An hour passed by and Mizuki's lecture finally finished. He then started to walk towards the door to the classroom.
"Alright class, head on outside. Let's go meet up with Iruka-sensei to work on your weapons training!" He stated.
The students at the academy all nodded at their teacher's words before getting up and starting to walk out. Naruto and Hinata got out of their chairs and were about to walk out together when they noticed that Shikamaru was still asleep in his chair. Naruto rolled his eyes and immediately shook the Nara's body, waking him up instantly.
"Oi, you're going to be late for weapons training. Hurry up!" Naruto told him.
"You woke me up for weapons training? Ugh…" Shikamaru grumbled, stretching as he let out a yawn. "Weapons training is always the same as it is everyday. It's too much work and way too troublesome."
"Everything's too troublesome for you!" Naruto said.
"Exactly." He replied simply with a yawn.
"S-Shikamaru-kun, you r-really should h-hurry. We w-wouldn't w-want to get M-Mizuki-sensei or I-Iruka-sensei mad." Hinata told him.
With a loud, dramatic sigh, Shikamaru finally pulled himself out of his chair and followed Naruto and Hinata out of the classroom.
The three were the only students in their class in the hallway; everyone else had already made it outside. As the trio finally approached the door to the training ground outside, the door opened up, revealing Mizuki.
"Ahh… M-Mizuki-sensei…" Hinata looked downward, avoiding the academy instructor's gaze, and began poking her fingers. "S-Sorry for taking a while…"
Mizuki's eyes moved from Hinata to Shikamaru to Naruto. A frown developed on his face as he shook his head.
"Naruto, I understand you find most of the lectures in the academy boring, but please don't stall Hinata or Shikamaru." He said. "Just because you don't take the class seriously does not mean you should encourage that behavior in other students. If you're late again to lessons, we might have to start punishing you, you know?"
Naruto sighed in response before shrugging his shoulders: "Yeah, yeah. My bad. Whatever."
'Huh?' Hinata blinked in response, looking up at Mizuki in surprise. "N-Naruto-kun w-wasn't stalling us."
"That was me, actually." Shikamaru admitted. "I didn't want to go to the troublesome lesson so I stayed sleeping. They stayed back to wake me up. So it's my bad they're late. Sorry."
Shikamaru knew he was going to get a lecture for 'sleeping in class' again, but it would be less troublesome than Naruto taking the blame for something he did not do.
"Ah." Mizuki nodded his head. He then turned to the door. "Well, you all get out there. Iruka-sensei already started the lecture!"
Both Hinata and Shikamaru looked at Mizuki in surprise. Naruto received a lecture for 'stalling them', but when Shikamaru took responsibility, he received no comment whatsoever.
Naruto, meanwhile, shrugged his shoulders and walked out the door: "Come on guys! Don't want Iruka-sensei yelling at us too!"
"C-Coming." Hinata said with a frown, following behind.
Shikamaru sighed, following silently.
Both Hinata and Shikamaru were used to Naruto getting different treatment from other students, even from the 'nice instructors' like Mizuki, but it still bothered them. As far as they saw, there was no reason for it. What seemingly bothered them the most, though, was that Naruto seemed indifferent to the treatment. It was almost as if he was simply used to being treated differently!
It was something they both hoped they would be able to get answers for some day.
When classes finally ended, Shikamaru said goodbye to Naruto and Hinata before heading home to the Nara compound. Lectures today were particularly boring and all Shikamaru wanted to do was go to his usual spot in his clan's compound and lay down, cloud-watching until he fell asleep.
As he was arriving home, he was greeted at the entrance by his mother, Nara Yoshino, who smirked at him.
"About time you got home. I made dinner early and your father and I have been waiting for you!" She said. "Come on!"
'Well, there goes my plans already. Ugh. Troublesome.' Shikamaru sighed before he nodded his head: "Alright, I'm coming."
Yoshino led him to the Clan Head's private dining room, which was rather humble in size; it was a small room with a golden-colored wooden table with only four chairs and minimal decorations – the only decoration was a painting of a deer on the wall. Sitting at one of the chairs was Shikamaru's father, Nara Shikaku, who waved his hand upon seeing his son. On the table itself was three plates that had mackerel, rice, and broccoli placed on them.
"I made mackerel, so you better appreciate it and eat with us and actually talk with us!" Yoshino said sweetly before she turned to her husband. "Especially since your father decided to not go out with his friends for one day finally and actually eat dinner with his family!"
"I'm here six days of the week and she doesn't bat an eye, but I go out once with friends once a week and all of a sudden, everything's different…" Shikaku mumbled under his breath.
He assumed he was speaking quietly, but Yoshino managed to hear him. Her eyes narrowed in on her husband: "You know it's not once a week, don't say that crap!"
Shikamaru sighed as he started to poke at his food with his chopsticks, ignoring his parents' arguing. 'And she wonders I don't talk that much at dinner. Troublesome.'
The Nara heir was left to his thoughts at dinner while his parents continued to argue. As he was eating, his mind returned to his day at the academy. His thoughts returned to the conversation with Mizuki prior to weapons training. A frown developed on his lips as he took a bite of his fish.
'That's not the first time I've seen Naruto get treated unfairly, but that was so blatant. Why did he get a lecture about responsibility and I didn't? That's just completely inconsistent.' He thought with a sigh. 'And it's not just Mizuki-sensei, either. Some of the other academy instructors are the same way. And I've definitely caught that in the streets of Konoha-'
Shikamaru looked up from his food and noticed that his parents had stopped arguing. His parents were both now looking at him.
"You look upset. Is the fish bad?" She asked.
"Nah, it's fine Mom." He shook his head.
The Nara heir bit his lip for a second, debating about whether he should vocalize his thoughts about the Mizuki situation. He noticed his parents still staring at him with frowns of their own. With a sigh, he shrugged his shoulders.
"You both have heard about Naruto, right? Uzumaki Naruto?" He asked.
"Naruto?" Shikaku chuckled at the name, crossing his arms. "That boy gives so many of the jōnin here a headache with his pranks. It's honestly amazing how he's able to get away from them for the most part."
"Okay, so you know him then. Good." Shikamaru nodded his head before he let out a sigh. "Do you know why people here seem to treat him differently?"
Both Shikaku and Yoshino stared at each other for a second. Shikamaru noticed the slight tension that developed in his parents, causing his eyebrows to raise. Before he could comment on it, however, his mother turned to face him.
"What do you mean? Something happen today?" Yoshino asked.
"Well, Naruto got in trouble for distracting myself and another classmate of ours and making us late for class." Shikamaru said. "Except he didn't. I actually got both of them late cause they had to wake me up-"
"Nara Shikamaru, you're still sleeping in class? Even after the last time we talked about this?" Yoshino's eyes narrowed in on her son. "You're about to be a genin! You can't be behaving like this for too much longer!"
"… Whatever." Shikamaru shrugged his shoulders. "Anyway, I confessed that I was the reason that Naruto and Hinata were late for class, but Mizuki-sensei did not care when it was my fault. He lectured Naruto and threatened to punish him again, but when I was responsible, he did not seem to mind." He crossed his arms. "So, I was wanting to know. Do either of you know anything about why Naruto gets more inconsistent treatment from the other instructors?"
"Naruto… the village is sensitive to him. Probably cause of his pranks." Shikaku said, frowning. "But it's not fair. I only know him in passing, but he's a sweet kid. Sandaime-sama adores him."
"Yeah, he's pretty cool." Shikamaru admitted. "He took me and Hinata out for lunch yesterday. He's kinda annoying, but he's a nice guy."
"You went to lunch with him?" Yoshino's eyes widened. "And who is this Hinata girl?"
"I did." Shikamaru said, shrugging his shoulders again. "And she's Hyūga Hinata. Naruto dragged both of us to some ramen stand called Ichiraku's cause we said he could maybe become Hokage one day."
"And why are we just hearing about this now?" Yoshino asked, frowning once again. "Shikamaru, I'm your mother! Am I not important enough to hear about my son's social life?"
"I mean, all of this just happened. I really just became friends with them yesterday." Shikamaru answered, rolling his eyes. "And-"
"Friends?" Yoshino repeated the word, her eyes widening. "Now you have to tell me about them! What are they like? Do you like them?" Her eyes then narrowed. "And I hope just because you met some new people that you aren't going to stop being friends with Chōji-kun! You haven't talked about him much either!"
"… This is why I don't bring up things." Shikamaru sighed. His mother narrowed her eyes even further, which caused him to sigh. "Naruto's really loud and social and Hinata's very shy. But both are easy to talk to and cool. And they're both not troublesome. And of course I'm still friends with Chōji! But he and his family are currently at a wedding in some civilian village in Hi no Kuni. He's not even here, so why would I be talking about him right now?" He rolled his eyes. "You should remember that."
"Are you insinuating something about my memory?" His mother shouted.
Shikaku laughed to himself as he took a drink from a bottle of sake before speaking: "Quit while you're ahead, Shikamaru. You should know now not to fight with your Mom."
"Troublesome…" Shikamaru grumbled as he turned his attention back to his food.
The table turned quiet as the family started to focus back on their food. The silence lasted for only a moment, however, as Yoshino's eyes widened as an idea entered her head.
"You know, Shikamaru, I'd like to meet your new friends. You should invite them over!" She declared.
Her son rolled his eyes: "Why?"
"Why shouldn't I? I'm your mother! I need to be involved in my son's life! I should be able to meet his friends!" The Nara mother huffed at her son's words. "And why not? Kids your age should like having friends over!"
"And do what though?" Shikamaru asked. "I normally just cloud watch here. I doubt Naruto or Hinata will find that particularly exciting."
"Well, why don't we have a training session?" His mother offered. "Your father can arrange a training session for you all!"
The Nara clan head, upon hearing his wife's words, immediately chocked on his sake. When he stopped coughing and regained his composure, he turned his attention to his wife.
"And what if I were to say I already had plans for tomorrow?" He asked her.
"Well, I'm certain whatever you were planning is not nearly as important as training your son and his friends, right? I mean, he is YOUR son after all! He should take priority over everything else, especially your old teammates that you already go out drinking with each every week! Don't you agree Shikaku-Kun?" Yoshino asked sweetly in a way that dared her husband to oppose her request.
Nara Shikaku, among his fellow shinobi, was considered a beyond brilliant man. He was an excellent shinobi who could easily fight and outwit nearly any enemy ninja that dared to take him on. His wife, however, was someone his brilliance could never beat. The Nara clan head sighed, knowing full well what he was going to have to say and do.
"I agree. I'll train Shikamaru and his friends tomorrow." He sighed.
"I'm glad! I'm sure it'll go really well!" Yoshino cheered.
'He has no say in anything.' Shikamaru noted, rolling his eyes. 'Some 'Jōnin Commander' he is.'
The Nara clan head's wife then turned her attention back to her son, a smirk on her face. "Then it's settled! You'll invite your new friends over tomorrow for training. Shikaku will help train them with you and we can see if they want to stay for dinner! Understood?"
'Then again, I'm not any better.' Shikamaru sighed as he wordlessly nodded his head in agreement.
Nara Yoshino seemed pleased with her work. She was excited to get to meet more of her son's friends at school. She was also quite curious with Uzumaki Naruto. The Nara woman, unlike her husband, had had never seen the boy and had only negative things about the boy – things that she knew were biased misinformation. She was interested in the boy and wanted to see what he was like.
Nara Shikaku, unlike his wife, was dreading the next day. He had no qualms with training Shikamaru, since he had already started training Shikamaru. He also had no problems with working with Naruto or Hinata either. However...
'I'm going to have to cancel my plans with Inoichi. And he's going to bitch about it for awhile probably, especially cause Chōza isn't here to go with him. Troublesome...'The Nara clan head groaned, not looking forward to dealing with his former teammate tomorrow and having to cancel their plans.
When morning came and classes were about begin at the academy, Shikamaru looked for Naruto and Hinata. He found them in the same seats they were in yesterday, chatting with each other.
'So Hinata's conscious this time; Naruto didn't say something stupid and knock her out again. That's a relief. Means I don't have to ask this twice.' He chuckled to himself as he started to walk to their desk.
"Hey, Naruto. Hinata." Shikamaru called out as he took the other seat next to Naruto.
"Yo, Shikamaru!" Naruto greeted, grinning. "What's up?"
"Okay, I know this is last minute and stuff so you both can say no, but my mom invited you both to come over to my clan's compound for some training after class." Shikamaru told them with a sigh. "No pressure or anything, of course."
"I'm game; I got nothing to do today! What kind of training? And what time?" Naruto asked, his grin growing.
"I don't know. My dad's going to oversee the training but he never said what he was going to work on. As for what time… well, sometime after classes." Shikamaru told him with a yawn. "Maybe two hours after class?"
"Works for me." Naruto nodded his head, giving the Nara thumbs up. "I'd love to hang out anyway. Training just sounds awesome to me!"
The Nara heir gave the blond a smirk back before he turned his attention to the Hyūga heiress. The girl was looking down on the ground, poking her index fingers together.
"I… um, n-need t-to ask my father if I c-can come. He usually l-likes t-to train after c-class, s-so I'll need t-to see if it's okay…" Hinata said, frowning. "S-Sorry…"
"How about we all meet up in front of my clan's compound house in two hours after classes end?" Shikamaru suggested to them both. He then turned his head directly at Hinata. "If you don't show we will just assume your father said no. Again, no pressure or anything."
"O-Okay." She replied.
"Fine with me. Hope you can come as well Hinata!" Naruto told her, which caused her to blush. "I'm really excited though! I can't wait to see what your dad has planned for us!"
"Mom may make us dinner after, too." Shikamaru noted with a shrug. "Just letting you know."
"Sweet !" Naruto exclaimed, grinning.
Class began shortly after, but Naruto did not even bother trying to listen. He was way too excited for his plans after class!
When classes ended, Hinata told her friends farewell before she hurried off to her clan's compound, hoping to convince her father to let her attend the training session with her friends.
Hyūga Hiashi said at a desk in his study, reading reports on an incident that had occurred within his clan. As the clan head, Hiashi had many responsibilities and duties he needed to perform. As such, he needed to keep up to date on everything going on within the clan to prevent any problems from developing.
The incident was a father in the branch clan was refusing to allow his son be marked with the caged bird seal. The issue would have to be dealt with soon, if the father continued his protests...
'The elders are going to get on me soon if I don't enforce the seal.' Hiashi sighed, bringing his hands to his head. 'I… understand his concerns though. I need to have another conversation with him-'
The Hyūga Clan Head looked up. He noticed the door to his office opening. He immediately composed himself, setting the report to the side, as his eldest daughter walked into the room.
"Hinata." Her father greeted, nodding his head at her. "Is there something you want to discuss?"
"F-Father…" She started, trying to get out the request she wanted to ask her father. "I…I was a-asked about…um…"
"Hinata, we have talked about this before. Please, work on your stuttering." Hiashi's eyes narrowed on the girl. "It is unbecoming for a Hyūga of the Main House."
Hinata looked downward, away from her father. She took a deep breath, working up some resolve, before speaking again.
"I…I was invited to attend a training session w-with the Nara clan. I request permission t-to accept the invitation." Hinata told her father as confidently as possible. Her voice was little more than a whisper but she managed to get out her words with minimal stuttering.
Hiashi's eyebrows rose after hearing his daughter's request.
"May I ask what kind of training would you be working with?" He asked.
"I-I'm not for certain. I was invited by S-Shikamaru-San in class today and h-he never specified. He did say that his f-father would be overseeing the t-training." Hinata answered.
"I see." Hiashi responded as he closed his eyes momentarily.
'So Shikaku will be in charge of this training.' The Hyuga clan head made a note in his head. Hiashi, although displeased by his personality, had a great deal of respect for Shikaku. The Nara clan head was known throughout Konoha for his intelligence and skills as a shinobi. He wasn't Konoha's Jōnin Commander for nothing. Hiashi couldn't help but feel curious about how Shikaku trained with his clan and heir.
Hiashi's eyes wandered over to his daughter, who was looking at her father nervously. The elder Hyūga repressed his desire to sigh. Although he hated to admit it, as it injured his pride, Hinata was a disappointment to him. The girl was not making too much progress in her daily training at the Hyūga Compound with him. Any progress she makes is overshadowed by the skills of her cousin, Neji. Even her younger sister, Hanabi, was showing more progress in the clan's Gentle Fist Art. Hiashi was at a loss on what to do with his eldest daughter. If she couldn't find a way to improve her skills, she would soon be replaced as the heiress of the clan.
'…perhaps training with Shikaku would be beneficial for her. Maybe he could show her something to help.' Hiashi thought, thinking back to the request his daughter made. He turned his head back to his daughter, who was still nervously waiting for his response. 'Clearly my style alone is not helping her make progress. Perhaps this would be beneficial for her.'
"Very well. I will allow you to attend this training with the Nara clan." He informed his daughter. Hinata's eyes widened at his approval. "I expect you to not be a burden to Shikaku-san and the others at his training."
Hinata looked downward at her father's final words, but she still smiled at obtaining his approval.
"I won't, father." She told him.
"If that's all you had to ask me, then you are dismissed." The Hyūga Clan Head stated.
Hinata nodded in response. She bowed her head and left her father's study, getting ready for training. Hiashi turned back to his report and his work as if the conversation had never happened.
Two hours had passed quickly. Hinata rushed over to the Nara Clan compound. As she arrived at the entrance, she noticed Naruto and Shikamaru were already there.
"Ah! I-I'm sorry f-for keeping you g-guys waiting..." She mumbled, bowing her head at her two classmates. She quickly shook her head, resisting the urge to tear up. "I'm r-really sorry…"
"Don't worry about it Hinata! We are all actually early anyway." Naruto told her, smiling at his classmate.
Hinata blushed in response, starting to calm down slightly.
"Yeah, you're not late at all." Shikamaru informed her. She took a deep breath, finally feeling relaxed again completely. The Nara then turned his attention towards the front doors to the compound. "But since we're all here now, we should probably head inside and meet up with my parents."
With those words, the three academy students walked into the compound. Naruto and Hinata followed Shikamaru as he led them towards where his parents were waiting.
"Shikamaru, your place is huge! I can't believe you live here!" Naruto exclaimed as he took in the sights of the compound.
"Well, it kind of has to be. My clan has a lot of members in it. Probably not as big as yours, though, eh Hinata?" Shikamaru asked the Hyūga heiress.
"Um...I t-think they are s-similar in size. M-Maybe the Hyūga compound is a l-little bigger, b-but I l-like yours a l-lot!" Hinata informed him with a smile.
"No need to be humble, Hinata. I know your clan has a bigger compound. You got the Main and Branch clans, after all." Shikamaru said with a chuckle.
"Wait, yours is bigger?" Naruto turned his head to face Hinata. She blushed in response, but nodded her head. Naruto whistled in approval. "Geez, I need to see that place too!"
The blond knew that his friends belonged to notable clans in Konoha, but he never really thought about it too much. As he looked around the Nara Clan compound however, noting the fine wooden floors, the various branching hallways, and the various scroll decorations hanging on the wall, he began to fully understand what big deals the 'Nara' and 'Hyūga' clan were.
Conversation stopped for a moment as the three academy students walked through the hallway until they reached a glass door. They walked out into a small courtyard in the back of the compound. The courtyard was filled with large trees and had a table sitting out underneath the tallest tree. Sitting at the table were Shikamaru's parents. The two immediately noticed the presence of Shikamaru and his friends and smiled.
"There you are! I take it these are your friends, Shikamaru?" Yoshino asked.
Shikamaru nodded in response before turning to his classmates. "Mom, Dad, these two are Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuga Hinata. Naruto, Hinata, these are my parents."
"I-It's an honor t-to meet y-you both." Hinata bowed to the Nara Clan Head and his wife.
"Nice to meet you both!" Naruto stated, grinning. "Your son's really lazy, but he's pretty cool."
"The hell?" Shikamaru grumbled.
Shikaku snorted in response while Yoshino started to laugh loudly. This only caused Shikamaru's grumbling to continue as he crossed his arms, mumbling something about 'stupid blonds'.
"I already like them, especially Naruto!" She declared, a smirk on her face. "Perhaps we can pound some responsibility into him and get him less lazy!"
Naruto laughed as well, joining his parents. Even Hinata was unable to present herself from giggling.
"Troublesome…" Shikamaru shook his head, scowling.
"Well, as much fun as it is to mess with my Shikamaru, you all should really start your training! Best of luck!" The Nara mother told the students before she walked off to the side to watch the training.
The students turned their attention to Shikaku, who had been quietly observing the conversation. With attention drawn to him, he sighed as he pulled himself out of his chair.
"Okay, you guys ready?" Shikaku asked the three students. All of them nodded in response. "Good. Now, before we begin… Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Shikaku made the necessary hand sign and a poof of smoke appeared. By the time the smoke vanished, three clones of Shikaku stood behind the man. Hinata's eyes widened at the sight while Naruto's mouth nearly dropped to the floor.
"Whoa! How did you do that? Those look so much cooler than the clones they try to teach us in the academy! They almost look real!" Naruto exclaimed excitedly, staring at the clones.
Shikaku smirked in response: "That's because they are."
"Really? Okay, those are so much better than the stupid clones Iruka-sensei has been trying to teach us! I HAVE to learn this instead!" The blonde-haired student declared.
The Nara clan head gave a small laugh. "One day, kid. But the Shadow Clone Jutsu isn't taught to academy students. Requires way too much chakra. Maybe one day, when you have more chakra."
The Nara's eyes widened ever so slightly in realization as he brought his hand to his chin in thought: 'Although, with the Kyūbi, you probably have enough already... Hmm. Maybe he would benefit from it.'
Naruto grumbled in response but seemed to drop the subject.
"Anyway, I made my shadow clones for the purpose of sparring with you all." Shikaku told them. "With the exception of Shikamaru, I really don't have any knowledge of your skills or weaknesses. Therefore, I will have my clones fight you while I observe them. They won't be giving it their all; just enough so that they test you and give a good fight. I'll see your fights with them and find out what your strengths are. We will then go on from there. Any objections?"
All three students shook their heads. Naruto eyed one of the clones with determination, ready to take it down. Hinata looked at one a little nervously, hoping that she would be able to give a good match and show the Nara Clan Head what she was capable of. Shikamaru just stared into space, thinking of a strategy he could utilize to best his father's close as quickly as possible.
"No objections? Good! Then we'll begin the spars now. Good luck." Shikaku told them.
With those words, the three clones immediately charged at the students. Their sparring began.
The real Nara Shikaku stood off to the side with his wife, watching the individual sparring sessions. Both were silent as they watched the spars.
Shikamaru spent most of his match keeping himself distanced from the clone. Shikaku knew his son wasn't too skilled in taijutsu, and therefore, would try to keep his distance during the fight. Shikamaru used kunai and other weapons to attack from a distance while trying to trap his father's clone in a trap based on their surroundings. Shikamaru eventually led the clone into the trap, getting it close to a nearby tree. Shikamaru caught the clone within his shadow and forced it to smack its head against tree. He then threw one final kunai at the clone, dispelling it and winning his match.
Naruto's fight was a less complex to watch; the boy kept charging at Shikaku's clone, trying to take it down with as much force as possible and as quickly as possible. The plan backfired, as the clone was able to dodge most of the attacks from Naruto's predictable moves. The more the spar went on, though, the more Naruto took advantage. His moves and fighting were getting more spontaneous with each passing second. He was also not getting tired at all, despite all the time and energy. Eventually, Naruto was able to get enough sound, strong hits on the clone and dispel it, causing instant relief.
Hinata's fight showed that between her and her classmates, she was the most skilled in taijutsu, most likely as a result of training in her clan's fighting style. Hinata was much harder for the clone to avoid and strike at. She, however, was unable sometimes to get in for finishing blows that would have ended the spar quicker. There was the smallest bit of hesitation in her fighting that the clone was able to take advantage of. Hinata's fight grew harder as time went on, but she was eventually able to finally make a finishing blow and dispel the clone.
With all clones dispelled, Shikaku gained their memories, which seemed to confirm his thoughts. He proceeded to get up and walk over to the students.
"Well, good job you guys. Not too bad at all. Granted my clones weren't fighting with nearly any of the power they could have, but I was just trying to analyze where you all were at in terms of skill, and I think I got a good idea now." The Nara clan head informed them.
Shikaku first turned his head to his son. "Shikamaru, we've discussed this before in previous spars: you are clearly resourceful and intelligent on the battlefield. Your strategies are good and will only get better with more experience. However, your taijutsu is lacking as well as your offensive attacks overall. That needs to get improved on if you want to get stronger as a shinobi."
"Yeah, we've discussed this before." Shikamaru nodded at his words, giving a slight yawn as well. "I'll get better soon."
"Naruto." Shikaku continued, turning his head to the blond-haired boy. "Your overall taijutsu was lacking. You started off rather uncoordinated. Your speed could also be worked on a little. Having said that, you have some remarkable stamina and strength. You also became rather spontaneous as the fight went on: harder to predict and harder to avoid. That's a great trait to have: something that would be good to develop further!"
Naruto started off frowning but, by the end of the Nara's analysis, couldn't help but grin: "I don't know what that means, but I like the sound of that!"
"Basically, you're hard to predict." Shikaku clarified.
"Gotcha. Then hell yeah am I spontaneous!" Naruto exclaimed, cracking his knuckles.
The Nara Clan Head finally turned his attention to the final student: "Hinata, I noticed you could have ended the sparring a lot sooner but failed to take initiative and do the finishing blows. That's something you need to work; not wasting time. You also seemed to get more tired as the fight went on."
"U-Understood…" Hinata bowed her head, feeling the urge to tear up again.
"Having said all that, though, you clearly have the best of taijutsu amongst your friends and you maintained a level head during the fight. Amongst all three of you, you probably would be the strongest from an offensive standpoint, and that's good!" Shikaku finished, smiling.
The Hyūga looked up in response, her eyes widening. She quickly wiped her eyes, the water instantly drying up.
"Are… y-you sure about that?" She asked.
The Nara Clan Head nodded his head: "I'm not the kind of person who lies just to make someone feel better. If I say something, then accept that it's my opinion."
"I s-see." A smile developed on Hinata's face as she bowed once again. "Th-Thank you!"
"Well, that's basically the things I noticed in a nutshell. There were some little things that you all can work on, but I'm hoping to work on your major issues right now." Shikaku informed them.
Naruto, Hinata, and Shikamaru nodded at his words. The Nara clan head motioned for his wife to come over. Yoshino rushed over to her husband's side and stared at the three academy students.
"We're going to try and work on your major weaknesses that I noticed from the sparring. Naruto, Shikamaru; you two are going to work with me on getting your taijutsu styles stronger. Hinata, you will be working with Yoshino on your stamina. She'll also try and make you more 'decisive' in terms of finishing off opponents if she can."
"Oh trust me, I can do that!" Yoshino said with a wink. Shikaku felt a sweat drop go down his face while Hinata could feel her nerves acting up.
"Anyway…" He mumbled with a slight cough. "Let's get back to training. Hinata, follow Yoshino. She'll be working on your stamina. Shikamaru, Naruto, stay here. I'll work on getting your taijutsu stances and styles better."
All three students nodded in response. Shikamaru and Naruto opened up their stances while Hinata was being escorted by a happy Yoshino off to another part of the Nara compound.
"That should cover it for today." Shikaku noted with a yawn as he noticed the sun starting to come down.
Naruto and Shikamaru gave no response except their heavy breathing. Shikaku spent their time working on taijutsu nonstop. Both boys, even Naruto, were tired and ready for a break.
"You all about finished too?" Yoshino called out.
The Nara matriarch was coming back to the courtyard with an equally tired Hinata. The Hyūga heiress was also covered in bruises and looked like she was about to pass out.
"Oh yeah. And the boys here are exhausted." Shikaku noted with a smirk. "See your training went just as well, though."
"I think I did a good job today! Wouldn't you say, Hinata-chan?" Yoshino asked the girl with a wink. The indigo-haired girl only nodded slightly in response, too tired to give a full nod.
The Nara woman then turned her attention to Naruto as well as Hinata. "I hope you both had a good time and that training helped! We are actually about to start eating soon, if you both would like to stay for dinner as well. I'm sure you are both hungry after that hard work!"
Naruto seemed to get significantly less tired at the mention of food: "Sure! Thanks a lot! And yeah, today helped a lot! Thank you so much for that too!"
Hinata was still significantly tired, but was able to make out a response. "T-Thank y-you s-so much f-for everything, Yoshino-sama, Shikaku-sama."
"No need to be so formal. I thought we discussed that during out training. Any friends of Shikamaru can just call us Yoshino and Shikaku!" Yoshino replied with a laugh. " I'll call you all when dinner is ready. For now, just relax!"
With those words, Yoshino headed back into the compound and towards the kitchen. Her husband followed shortly behind, leaving Shikamaru and his friends behind.
"That was… some workout, eh Hinata?" Naruto asked.
"Y-Yes it was…" She replied, still slightly panting. "It… It w-was helpful though."
"Oh of course! That's probably the hardest I've trained in awhile! No doubt I got tougher from that! If I could keep training here like that all the time, I'd be strong enough to be Hokage in no time, y'know?" Naruto declared excitedly before turning to Shikamaru. "You're pretty lucky, you know that Shikamaru? Getting to train like that all the time."
The Nara gave no response. He was laying on his back on the ground and did not seem to have any reaction.
"Oi, Shikamaru! Did you seriously fall asleep?" Naruto asked.
"No. I'm relaxing and trying to get my energy back." He replied tiredly.
"Oh." Naruto said.
"I'm cloud watching." The Nara said as he pat the ground next to him. "You two should try it."
"Huh?" Hinata blinked.
"You're both tired, still. It helps. Trust me." Shikamaru said nonchalantly.
Naruto and Hinata looked at each other for a second before they both nodded in response. They then laid down on the ground by Shikamaru and stared at the clouds in the sky.
The three academy students were quiet for a moment as they stared at the clouds passing by. Then, the Uzumaki noticed one cloud float by.
"You know, that one looks like a bowl of ramen." Naruto said with a chuckle.
"You would notice something like that." Shikamaru shook his head, trying to hide his smirk.
Hinata giggled in response, feeling a little less tired and more at ease: "Y-You have t-to admit, Shikamaru-kun, that N-Naruto-Kun is right. It d-does look like r-ramen."
"Eh. I guess." The Nara mumbled in reply.
The three academy students remained in the same spot, watching the clouds. They didn't speak much, except to mention whenever a certain cloud looked like something bizarre. Instead, they spent the remaining few minutes in peaceful silence.
'This IS actually relaxing. Who would have thought…' Naruto mentally noted, chuckling to himself. 'Guess Shikamaru is right about this.'
'This has been an amazing day…' Hinata sighed in contentment.
Shikamaru glanced over at his friends, noting the relaxed looks on their faces. He did not bother hiding his smirk this time as he shook his head, chuckling: 'Heh. Guess these two can appreciate a good cloud watching session too.' He leaned back more in his spot, putting his hands underneath his head. 'They're making things much more interesting around here…' '
The three friends continued to relax under the clouds, unaware of anything else going on in the world.
Author's Note: Well there's chapter two everybody! Hope that was a quick enough update for you guys :) I do intend on updating faster though sometimes, so I hope to get the next one up even sooner! I'm still looking forward to later chapters in the story, where certain plans will come into play...but we shall all have to wait for that! :P
I was pleasantly surprised at all the early support I got! Thank you all so much! I hope you all enjoyed this chapter as well! Let me know what you all think so far and let me know of any concerns or criticism you have! I'd love to hear it! :) I'll see you guys!