Chapter 1: Prologue and Academy
This work is inspired by Dreaming of Sunshine by Silver Queen, and makes literally no sense if you have not read that first. Also responsible for this mess is: MathIsMagic with some additional helpful input also coming in from: donahermurphy. I've called this Reverse!Soulmark!DOS, which means that the world Shikako was born in had soul marks, wereas the current world does not.
In this fic I will mostly be using Ashen Author 's Guide to Polychromatic Soul Marks chart, which can be found here: topic/180237/149681642/1/Soulmark-Fic-and-Discussion. The 'mostly' is because in my headcannon, the death of a soulmark leaves behind a Scar that will never fade; and the death of the individual turns every active soulmark on their body slate grey; and the Colour Purple has implications of longing.
The first two (and a bit of the 3rd) chapters were originally posted on pages 1,2 and 6 of the forum linked above, with some additional commentary.
Vita mutatur, non tollitur - Life is changed, not taken away
It took a while to notice the difference.
Not the 'walk on water, spit fire, independently moving shadows' difference, that one she noticed pretty quickly; hard not to really, with the fire-ants of chakra marching under her skin.
It's actually the almost-painful-but-not-quite hyperawareness of chakra that distracts her from the , that and the nightmare-flashbacks of Kyuubi chakra.
But she still knows something is wrong, missing. Some deep yearning left unfulfilled.
She's been resident of this strange new world months when she realises just what it is that's gone.
She knows her own name now: Nara Shikako (that other name she used to have is a distant memory by now, and she remembers it mostly in the context of it emblazoned on the skin of loved ones).
At first it's crushing to see the absence of her name on her mother's exposed arms at bath-time. It's a well-documented fact that 78% of all soulmarks are positioned on the hands or arms. Shikako tells herself that the placement is just unusual.
Except that's not it.
Shikako's new mother has no marks anywhere on her body; also parents have no shame in changing in front of their infant children. Which does make sense, under normal circumstances, but really – so awkward.
Dad didn't have any either.
Children didn't tend to get soulmarks until the age of 3 at the earliest, hypothetically due to the immature nature of their mind and emotional state. A fact that did nothing to alleviate the horror Shikako felt at the acres of chubby, unmarked pale skin that currently housed her misplaced soul.
She tried again and again to reach out: to consciously will those bonds into place. Unfortunately that's not how soulmarks work, and every attempt left her raw and bruised in some very real intangible way.
That had been the hardest time, those next months. It isolated her more than an inability to speak or understand, made her feel more powerless than being trapped in a new-borns skin, and it frightened her more than the Kyuubi's demonic chakra (or at least it terrified her in a different way).
Shikako was, in turns, listless and morose, or running herself ragged, mentally and physically.
Sometimes she was unable to engage with her environment, and tempted to let the thick sludge in the air suffocate her. Or stop eating.
Did she even still have a soul?
Was she even a real person without marks? Without a soul?
What does death even mean in that case?
The rest of the time she exhausted herself, pushing and pulling with the foreign heat in her blood, and thinking. Occasionally, about the matter at hand: why no soulmarks? How? With her newly acquired superior hardware, Shikako turned over in her mind every fact, theory, and supposition she'd ever heard in her last life.
The rest of the time she thought about everything and anything else to distract herself.
It made sense, she rationalised away eventually. In this brutal world of child soldiers and Warrior-Kings, a soulmark would be a liability; a bullseye.
Here everyone I love, please come and kill them.
Or some side effect of having chakra.
Or maybe a combination.
Admittedly 'Away' might be a bit of a stretch.
The unease didn't go away for years though, lingering just out of sight.
It was actually on that fateful day we (and Shikako had become half of a 'we' in those years) met Chouji that things finally came to a head. After that little episode of childish cruelty on the part of Suzu and co, Shikako had remembered that in Naruto-verse, Shika and Chouji had formed their Orange soulbond on the very first day of their friendship.
Shikako curled up in her twins bed that night, blue chakra from her palm illuminating his face; she didn't feel as isolated anymore, but the acute pain of the lost connections still lanced through her heart.
Shikako reached out again, more desperately and forcefully than ever before; uncaring of the dull ache that came with being rebuffed on the spiritual level. Glowing palm against her brothers face, and tears in her eyes, Shikako begged without words for the only thing this world had ever denied her.
Something shifted then. Shikako didn't know exactly what happened then, but it definitely had something to do with the resonance of chakra (so maybe chakra disrupted soulmarks after all), and the warm, gentle, tingling pressure on her palm was unmistakable.
'Nara Shikamaru' flowered in a tiny, lazy, forest green scrawl in the centre of her miniature palm.
That night she slept soundly for the first time on almost 5 years, left arm loped round her brother, right palm pressed against her chest, and a smile on her face.
It wasn't long after that night that the academy debacle happened. Shikako just couldn't understand why it took so much wheedling for dad to let her go. Didn't understand that flash of something painful and sharp across his eyes as he gently cradled her skull with both hands, before finally acquiescing. Why couldn't they see that she had to be with Shika? Had to be strong enough to protect him from everything that was coming.
She won't ever understand how her parents despaired on those bad days, when she couldn't be bothered to eat; didn't even try to control her response to air inundated with the chakra of an entire ninja clan.
Things were so much better now, since that first mark. She was more grounded now.
It was like she'd come to an accord with her chakra or something – because more soulmarks appeared. Not quite like before, no one else was marked in return, for starters. It took longer too… the faint sensation of a forming mark would linger for days while in the named presence; Shikako wondered if it was slowly soaking in their chakra, or maybe their spiritual energy.
Kinokawa Yoshino and Nara Shikaku faded into existence in a perfect Blue ink circle on the inside of her arm, a little above her elbow.
Next came the Silver-Orange (which transitioned to Orange) of Chouji, and the Orange-Gold of Ino, more or less at the same time. Shikako felt a little alarmed at the rate at which she was accumulating 'marks. She'd only had 9 marks all told in her last life, but even a dozen was usually indicative of a bit of a recluse.
Yet more and more names appeared, as the years wore on, Silver-Orange for Sakura and Kiba, and the Blue-Gold mark that neatly proclaimed 'Umino Iruka'. Oddly enough though, a solid Orange name appeared before any of the aforementioned. Thick, uneven script (as if written by a dogs paw in loose mud) spelling out 'Akamaru' appeared bold on Shikako's shoulder one day; and when Kiba's name joined it, the characters were so intermingled that only the Colour difference made reading them possible.
(Sometimes Shikako passed time by speculating about the marks people would have, and everyone got Mentor-Mother Iruka-sensei. Everyone. Especially the Jōnin: they need it most).
Naruto's name appeared surprisingly quickly on her ribs; the Silver-Purple-Orange upwards diagonal stripe of kanji felt like an indictment against her unwillingness to fully reach out to little blond boy, even though she wanted to. Years later, when Shikako made herself a human shield between Sasuke and his adoring fans, his name would appear as an imperfect mirror to Naruto's; beginning where Naruto's ended, a downward slanting spiky inscription that she didn't deserve in the slightest.
It was impossible to think of the marks as a negative in any way: they made not only this world, but also herself, seem more real. They did, however, present a challenge: they had to be protected, and hidden. Not just from her enemies out of fear, but also from her –everyone! Precisely how would she explain magic-chakra names tattooed on her skin to anybody?
Strategic clothing and ink stains were a start, but she needed something more effective, and stable. But it couldn't be something draining, like a permanent Henge would be.
It was something to look into during her research on seals; while she's not trying to find new ways to blow things up.