By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is for my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. Most of the story, characters, place names and other etc stuff in this fiction are copyright Naruto, Kishimoto Masashi, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any others I might have forgot.
For non up-to-date readers, this fiction contains characters and events introduced post-timeskip and spoilers up to the latest Naruto manga chapters.
I also humbly suggest reading Garden of Sanctuary and Medusa Javelin first before reading this fiction. Although not a requirement, many things in this fiction will not make sense unless they have been read beforehand. The links to both fictions are in my profile.
With that said, enjoy.
- Prologue -
adj – to come together, to form as a whole
It was always the same dream.
He supposed his dream should've actually been a pleasant dream, but for some morbid reason he couldn't quite put a finger on, the dream was something frightening and had him struggling throughout his entire sleep.
It wasn't the face of the woman in his dreams who was causing him this. It couldn't have possibly been, for he could see practically nothing of her, the only clues to her femininity her drabbles of faded red. Instead, what bothered him was the physical contact he had with her in that dream. The woman had a painful vice grip on his left wrist, pulling him along behind her faster than he wanted to move. He staggered occasionally in this dream, unable to keep up with the woman's fast pace. Yet somehow, he was able to run right alongside her, and although he had never been able to see her face in the dream, he already had a vague idea of what she looked like. He imagined her to have a comely face, skin as smooth as a newborn, sparkling emerald-green eyes, and… an enormous forehead? And her hair, the most colorful, beautiful hair he had ever known, her hair the color of roses.
How he knew of this, he had no idea.
The dream went on like this: the woman in his dreams will come to him in a darkened room, shaking him into semi-wakefulness and talking unintelligibly in tones of great urgency, tugging and pulling at him all the while he rose from the floor. He suspected that she might have helped him to dress, and eventually that suspicion always turned into certainty when he remembered that he had been naked. He had no memory of why he was naked in the first place, or how he was even dressed (he really did wish to see how that part of the scene played out), but soon not even that mattered anymore. By now, the woman was leading him through a nightmarish maze of ill-lit, twisting passageways, each of them indistinguishable from its neighbors. She was constantly tugging at him to move faster every time he tried to slow down. He simply wanted to lie down on the floor and never move from that same spot ever again, but the woman would not even grant him that peace. She punches him in the face and drags him across the corridors with her hand on his ankles. He wonders where that monstrous strength comes from.
Occasionally she does stop, pushing him against a wall, leaning her weight against him and holding a hand over his mouth, as though to prevent him from crying out and altering whatever sentinels that wandered around these passageways.
Finally, they will come to a doorway. She urges him to pass through it, but again he hesitates, for he had been accustomed to the darkness of these dungeons underground, and he was afraid of the blinding light that was seething through the tiny cracks of the wooden door. But she ignores his protests and throws open the door and blinds him with the glaring rays of pure light, but still she has him pulled along behind her, dragging him towards the light and in it.
Now, however, she stops. He stops with her, standing without moving for the first time in what seemed like hours, even days. His wrists feel as through they were on fire from the way she had gripped them, and there was an ache in his chest that grew unbearable whenever he tried to breath hard or too deeply. There were noises now, too, coming from somewhere, but they sounded muffled, distant, incomprehensible. He concentrates his ears so he could try listening. Nothing reaches him.
The woman was no longer holding his wrist, he noticed. Ever slowly, he tries to open his eyes. Surprisingly, he only had to cringe a little before opened them fully. He turned his head to look at the woman that was supposed to be besides him, but she had vanished, as if she had never been there at all. He was alone again, in a field of white light, the emptiness stretching across the entire horizon and beyond.
He opens his mouth and tries to cry out her name.
But then the dream ends.
When he opened his eyes, he noticed there was no moon tonight. Easing out his drowsiness, he blinked once, and then twice, and continued to stare at the specially made window that once had admitted moonlight and nothing else embedded high inside the ceiling and wondered briefly why he hasn't seen that heavenly light for quite some time now. And when he said 'quite some time', he meant it. Although he could never guess on the exact time of duration, he suspected that it must've been at least two hundred years since he had last seen the fragments of white rays.
He suspected the actual time that had passed was even more than that. He couldn't quite explain why he thought of his suspicions in that way, though. It was probably some sort of subconscious memory he had a very long time ago; a memory of an event where he only thought a year had passed when in reality a hundred years had passed in the outside world. But if that ratio were true, did that mean twenty thousand years had passed in the outside world? And hell, even if that were true, the disappearance of moonlight felt like it only happened just yesterday, as he had spent considerable more time watching moonlight rather than without it. So that meant that the twenty thousand years without moonlight was only a fraction compared to the total time he did spend down here.
The outside world… what was it like now? He could only barely remember what it was like before he came here, and they were only the most minor of things. Like how the air moved outside, when it was constantly still down here. Or how the temperate changed or how the light turned from bright to dark, whereas the temperature down here always remained static and he was surrounded in constant darkness. And the outside world was up there, while he was down here. All he knew now was that the outside world was the exact opposite of the world he now lived in. In here, it stayed constant for a long time. Outside, things rapidly changed. Of the two, he didn't know which was the better one. But not like that mattered. He could not leave.
But…saying that things here always remained constant would be a lie. In here, things too did change. The oldest memory he has of something changing was the loss of an object he cherished. All he remembered of it was that it was some kind of note, a small book, and within it, it contained memories beyond his memories that he had hoped to preserve for eternity. But time had passed, and nature came in and took its course. The book decayed, leaving only ash. It had ultimately turned into nutrients that fed his shadowmoon flowers.
He supposed that memory too was something that didn't remain constant within him as well. Come to think of it, wasn't that change just as old as the loss of his precious item? He had tried debating to himself, about… oh, three hundred times at least, about which of the two, the loss of his memory or the loss of his item, was the older of the loss. In fact, or rather, as far as he remembered, the number of three hundred was a random guess he conjured in his mind. It was entirely possible that he had debated to himself about that same topic countless of times more, only that he couldn't simply remember them. With his surrounding so constant, keeping track of things was an almost impossible task.
But he somehow kept track, by keeping track of the little, but still occurring changes that happened after the years and decades and centuries had dragged on. Like the times he felt a tremor, or the times when some unlawful small insect had somehow wandered into his domain, or when gravity took over and caved a small part of the room in, or when the shadowmoon flowers around him started to disappear one by one. Yes, even the shadowmoon flowers were not exempt from the cruel flow of time; they too were no longer a constant anymore. It was even a miracle that they had not faded away from his memories yet, actually.
He once held a distinct assumption that the shadowmoon flower he created would live on forever just like him. As long as he nurtured it with his spiritual energy he remembers it being called chakra as well as photosynthesizing the pale green with the moonlight that periodically shined through the overhead window, he thought that the garden that surrounded him will never wither, and as long as the garden lived on, he believed he would forever preserve the memory of the book forever, the nutrients of decayed paper combining and living within his flowers for eternity.
But all that changed with one sentence.
…THE PINNICAL… IS HERE…
He called it the 'voice', and he didn't like its presence. He is sure he once knew of its name, just like he did his, but the 'voice' itself wasn't very talkative so he remembers its name was one of the first things he had forgotten. He also remembers he hated it when he still had all of his memories, and so he never often tried talking with it although it too usually ignored him when he did try. And when it did speak, it often talked nonsense, and this too was one such case. Or it should've been, at least, but after it had spoken, the moonlight no longer shined through the overhead window. And without the light, the shadowmoon flowers around him slowly withered one by one until all of them eventually died.
Only once did he try asking the 'voice' about why the moonlight had disappeared.
Was it you?
How did it disappear?
Why did it disappear?
Oh how helpful the 'voice' was.
But still, three words were more than he'd ever expected out of the voice, and he had plenty of time to speculate about their true meaning. But he also knew he himself wasn't that smart when it came to figuring about cryptic messages from voices from the ancient past, so that topic was something he soon gave up on and he moved on to different, more important manners. But then he would eventually realize that there are no other important matters, or rather, there are no such things as other things, and so eventually he just let his consciousness drift out into the void and let it wander around aimlessly. Occasionally it stumbled upon this stone, and when he did he tried asking the 'voice' about it again, but since then it had never responded. Actually, now that he thought about it, a long time had passed since last spoke with the 'voice'…
Are you there?
No response, as expected. He should've known better, but well, obviously, he didn't. He tried again.
Are you there?
Still no response. Well then… how did that famous saying go…? Oh yeah, third time's a charm…
Hey you, ass for brains, you there?
Well, at least that was something. He heard its silence.
Now that you have my attention, I would rather appreciate it if you respond in kind.
…WHAT DO YOU WANT?
He was a little surprised and unconsciously opened one of his eyes into the surrounding darkness. The 'voice' was talking to him and it was not talking to him in nonsense language.
I WAS ASKING YOU A QUESTION, BRAT.
By now both of his eyes were open, fully alert for the first time in what felt like millennia. A corner of his aged mind told him that he supposed he should've been thankful that the 'voice' was unable to read his thoughts, but then again he wasn't exactly speaking to the 'voice' through his mouth but his mind. He wasn't exactly sure how it worked, only that somehow, when his mind dictated that he was speaking, the other heard him. The explanation, at first seemingly simple, was probably false and the truth most likely complicated. Well, not like it mattered. He was no expert in psychology even through he had the years under his belt. Having a ageless disembodied voice as the only companion did that to you. He decided he would just accept facts as is.
Thinking it over a little bit more, he finally decided on an answer.
No reason really. What about you, though? What made you change your mind about maintaining that veil of silence?
…THERE IS NO MORE REASON TO.
He did, and the emotion of surprise, an emotion he had once thought long forgotten, suddenly resurfaced and shocked the every corner of his sleepy mind.
The moonlight had returned.
…SOON… WE WILL BE FREE…
He wanted to ask more questions, by what the 'voice' meant by their freedom. But he wasn't even given that chance when the emotion of surprise washed over him a second time when he heard it.
It was another sound that he had forgotten. A sound he thought it was foreign to the world inside here, the sound of… an explosion.
It was far away. He could only barely hear it, and he guessed it came from the surface right above. But considering how deep he was here underneath the ground (or at least, what he assumed, since he never remembered exactly how deep he was underground), the actual shockwave would've been on a grand scale. Indeed, seconds later when he first heard the faraway sound, the actual force of the shockwave reached him within here and, for a brief second, rocked every corner of the small world he knew for a long time.
What was… that?
BAH, JUST GO TO SLEEP, BRAT. YOU WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND.
The 'voice' was retreating into its cryptic habits again; what it had just said made no sense to him, again. He was about to ramble on about how the 'voice' was so uncooperative with him when it was obvious that the 'voice' was far more intelligent that he could ever be, and he would prefer it if he would just speak to him in layman's terms so he could understand… but the feeling of deep fatigue suddenly washed all over him.
He knew it was the doing of the 'voice'. That bastard. It was forcibly robbing him of his consciousness and was trying to put him into sleep. He struggled against the lure, resisting the coming tide, not wanting to let the 'voice' do as it wished with his own body. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
YOUR ANSWERS WILL COME.
It was getting hard now, the tiredness the 'voice' was forcing upon him was just too grand. Never before had the 'voice' tried something so direct like this before. Just what was going on? He had to ask.
There. The sound of explosion echoed throughout the entire dungeon yet again. It sounded closer this time, coming from directly above. Before he could even fathom a guess on what they were, the 'voice' talked to him again.
YOUR ANSWERS WILL COME… AS WELL AS… HER.
His overwhelming curiosity won briefly over his urge of sleep.
…Who will come for me?
SLEEP. AND YOU SHALL FIND OUT.
And sleep he did.
The only thing that stayed constant, always, was the dream.
The dream was no different this time too. Again, the woman in his dreams came to him in his darkened room. Again, she shook him into semi-wakefulness and talked to him in unintelligent tones of great urgency. She was tugging and pulling at him, just like he remembered, and he was still naked. He was then subsequently dressed with no recollection of the process, and found himself with the woman leading him through the nightmarish maze of ill-lit, twisting passageways, each of them still indistinguishable from the others.
Sometimes, he tried to slow down, but she was still constantly tugging at him to move faster. Deep inside, he always wanted to stop, because there was some unearthly desire deep inside him that wished that he had simply remained in his dark room and stayed there. He wanted to lie down and rest for eternity, but the woman still would have none of that and punched him with her monstrous strength, and dragged his limp body across the dark corridors with her hand on his ankle like always. The scene plays out so she does periodically stop, lifting him off the ground and forcibly pushing him against the wall, leaning over and against him, holding a hand over his mouth so he would keep quiet lest the unknown sentinels catch them.
And finally, they come across the dreaded wooden door of light.
Again, she urges him to pass through it, but again he hesitates. No matter how many times he had seen the crack of light seeping through the closed doorway, he was afraid of it. But wait, why was he afraid of it? What was he afraid of? Did he actually take comfort in staying within the flow of time that passed so slowly for him, the dungeon he had stayed for so long? Had he grown attached to it? Was he afraid of leaving it all behind? Was he afraid of… change?
Or was he perhaps afraid of regaining his memory?
But in this dream too, the woman ignores his silent protests and throws open the door, blinding him with the overwhelming pure light, dragging him towards and beyond. Then she stops, and he now no longer feels her hand on his ankle. The feeling of pain aches his wrists and ankles, the burning feeling embalming inside his chest, and he remembers that he should open his eyes just like he did in all the other dreams. He expects to see nothing but the empty white horizon around him, but…
There she was.
In front of him was the woman. Wearing the dress of red, her comely face, the newborn smooth skin, the shining emerald eyes, even her forehead. And her hair… her hair… pink, just like he had always imagined, just like he had remembered after all this time.
He noticed she was smiling.
Smiling… at him!
His eyes are flooded with tears, and he opens his mouth and tries to cry out her name, but he holds back at the last second and squeezes his eyes shut, afraid that the woman would vanish in front of him again, leaving him all alone, all behind. But eventually his hesitation is waved off in favor of the courage he somehow found and opened his eyes again. She was still there, still smiling.
His dry mouth opens.
He crawls forward and stretches out both of his arms, trying to reach her. She seemed so close, but at the same time she seemed so far away. He did not want to let go of her image.
He does not know how much time had passed, but he finally reaches her. His pale hands brushes over her cheek. Her smile never wavers, and instead, she responds in kind by cupping both of his cheeks with her hands.
His tears of happiness were now flowing with no restraints, and he finally cries out her name.
Her angelic smile widens, and she speaks in the dreamiest of voices he ever heard.
"Good night, Naruto."
Shock was the first response to her words. He cannot comprehend.
"I… I don't… understand…"
"You don't have to."
"…Are you going to leave me again?"
He does not understand in the meaning of his own words anymore. He does not know if she had indeed left him all alone, he doesn't remember. Yet the words flow out of his mouth and mind as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
A sorrowful expression crosses over her before she shakes her head and grinds her face back into happiness. She pinches his cheek.
"Silly Naruto, you think I'm going to leave you?"
"I left you… before."
She lets go of his cheek and the sorrowful expression returns. She does not answer. He speaks up again.
"Do you… hate me?"
Silence returns between the two. An undeterminable amount time passes before she answers him.
"I don't hate you. It wasn't your fault."
"It's always my fault."
He hears her sigh.
"You haven't changed, have you? You always blame yourself. What happened was not your fault. It was beyond your control."
"…I could've done… something. The only reason I'm here is because of my selfish desires of wanting to shut away from everyone, from you."
"I told you, I don't hate you."
He is about to respond, but she places a finger over his lips, silencing him.
"You don't need to say anything."
Light suddenly envelops her. He panics. She was slowly disappearing from him. His hands reach out and tries to grab her but he only grabbed some sort of wispy substance as her non-corporeal form slowly dissolved into nothingness. His happy tears soon turn into sorrow. He screams out her name.
He feels a rush, and then suddenly an enormous pain slams into his mind. Clutching his head in a futile attempt to curb the sudden pain, his mind's eye sees images, sounds, and the very essence of thoughts suddenly resurfacing within his already frail consciousness. The five senses within him are kicked into maximum drive as he struggles to comprehend.
He was regaining his memory.
He remembers her voice.
"…I've always felt… that I belonged here."
"No matter what happens, I'll be back, ok?"
"Good night, Naruto."
He screams out her name again.
Then he hears her voice one last time.
"And good morning."
The dream ends.
When he wakes up, the first thing he notices is that the moonlight had indeed returned, its rays trickling through the window high above. The second thing he notices is that he is naked, which was strange, because that should've been a given since his clothes had already decayed ages ago and he wonders for a second why he even noticed that. But the reason soon became clear enough when he notices the third, most important thing.
His head was resting on someone else's lap.
It wasn't the 'voice' speaking to him, that's for sure. The source came from outside, not within him, and it sounded entirely like someone else. His gaze shifts so he is now looking directly above him, peeking into the face of the girl that was cradling his head in her lap. He notices something fall from her face and the wet liquid hits his dry face. Water, he realizes, and he looks up and carefully stares into the girl's pale white eyes. They were indeed tears.
It takes only a short time for him to finally come to terms with the identity of the girl above him. Her white eyes were different from her usual green, and her forehead was covered with white bandages, but when he saw her hair he finally recognized her for who she was.
adj – to come together, to form as a whole
- Prologue -
For those new to the story, welcome! For those who have previously read the Garden of Sanctuary and Medusa Javelin, I extend my welcome as well as my thanks for showing interest in the sequel! I finally found the time to write this story! Well, the Prologue of it anyway. Hahaha… ha… (uneasy laugh)
Ahem. First things first, my apologies for the sequel coming out so late, almost ten months since I first declared that I would be writing this story. Ten months! Wow, just imagine. Then, after I had finished Medusa Javelin two weeks ago, I was struggling with a whole bunch of technical issues to make this story work with the twists I revealed in Medusa Javelin so the story flow will stay smooth. I also had to keep in mind about the setting of this AU universe Naruto will now find himself in, and how he would react to it all and how he will learn of the changes to the outside world. I had originally planned to explain it all in one go, but I personally felt it was better if the two incidents were separated, so I settled with the Prologue only introducing Naruto's views while he was still within the dungeon and ended it with the long-awaited reunion with Sakura. All in all, it was something that was quite difficult to write.
What would happen after that is anyone's guess. Yep, you heard me right. Myself, the author still hasn't quite figured out just which direction this story is headed to! Hahahah- (gets pelted by tomatoes)
All joking aside, I do have a general idea of the whole plot outline, but I still find it difficult to explain a few issues that still need to be worked out in order to explain the whole thing in detail. So please, don't expect the First Chapter to come out anytime soon, but I will swear that I will do my best to crank out my chapters as fast as I can and hopefully in good quality.
Also, for previous readers of Medusa Javelin, I must say, wow! I never expected the Epilogue to trigger so many responses! I can't tell you guys how happy I was to see so many reviews flooding my way. Thank you very much, everyone!
Thanks for reading!
- Nes Mikel