Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: Um. Yeah. Hi? xD; I know it's been more than forever and a day, and I apologize; I honestly don't have much of an excuse, other than that I temporarily had lost interest in Naruto. But now it's back full force, and I'm SO excited for this fic! I could ramble on all day, but I'll save that for the end of the chapter. This didn't turn out exactly how I'd planned it, but... well, I like this better.
Note: Because someone's going to comment - For the remainder of this story, you must assume that CANON chapters 370+ have NOT happened. You'll know why when you get to it, but just keep that in mind.
Chapter Fourteen: Shadelet
He could hear the sand crunching beneath his feet, almost louder than the sound of his heart thumping wildly in his ears. The roar of the ocean seemed strangely muted, the wind still, the air warm. The village lights were but a dim twinkle in the distance, and an endless void of darkness stretched before. He stopped walking, eyes trained on the box that had been the center of his unending nightmares. There was no turning back now.
It was time.
He lifted a hand, ghastly pale in the clear moonlight, and placed it over the hand print carved into the side of the box. For a moment nothing happened, and he had to wonder if perhaps this wasn't all a dream, after all. Eyebrows knitted together, he directed his chakra to his palm. Light erupted from beneath his pam, twisting over the designs etched in the stone; it scalded his hand and he jerked away, only to cover his eyes with his arm as the light grew bright enough to blind him. The image of the lit box still swimming beneath his eyelids, he forced himself to open his eyes. Still dimly glowing, it no longer pained him to look at the stone structure.
Once more he placed his hand on the rock. The light vanished, and he was left with unadjusted eyes, his sense of touch his only promise that the box was still there. As his eyes adjusted, he felt something tug at his hand, and he watched as his upper arm was pulled into the stone wall. He froze, staring with wide eyes at his arm and the pool of darkness that surrounded it. There was a second tug on his arm and, still numb from shock, allowed himself to be gently coaxed into the box.
The darkness he found himself in was absolute. The soft light of the moon had vanished, his fingers invisible as he wiggled them before his face. Rather than panic, a strange sense of calm washed over him; the darkness seemed to soak his skin and seep into his bones. His own breathing was the only sound, and he closed his eyes, savoring the quiet; he felt as if he could stay there forever.
Welcome, little Shadelet.
Shikamaru tensed, eyes helplessly darting around him, searching for the source of the voice.
Shush; there's no need to speak aloud. Your mind is the only voice you need.
"What are you?"
I believe the proper question is 'who am I'; I also believe that you know the answer.
"If I knew the answer, I wouldn't be asking." Shikamaru felt uneasy; a creature that could read his mind had to be dangerous - not to mention that it had been locked in a box for Hokage knew how long.
Mind your mouth, young one; a sharp tongue will do you no good.
"Why did you bring me here?"
The voice barked a short, cruel laugh that sent chills down his spine.
You are the one who is torn in two, are you not? It was not I who called you here - it was destiny.
Not only did this sound incredibly cheesy to Shikamaru, but despite his usual laziness, his patience was wearing thin.
"Tell me what you want, or let me go." He paused. "On second thought, just let me go."
You can't slip away that easily, Shadelet. Aren't you curious? You wish to know what I am, how I came to be here; you want answers... He felt something brush against his cheek; he could feel the faintest form of fingers, soft as silk, against what might have otherwise been a quiet breeze. I can tell you everything.
"... Who are you?"
"Let me put your heart at ease, Shadelet; let me show you everything..."
The sounds of a rushing river blasted in his ears, twisted with the screech of several crows and the distant howl of a lone wolf. He opened his eyes and, to his immense surprise, was greeting with a vibrant blue sky free of clouds. Grunting, Shikamaru sat up, rubbing his head, squinting at the sudden intrusion of light. As he stared at the river that he sat beside, his mind slowly turned. His bitter expression gave way to confusion as he pulled himself to his feet.
"Where am I?"
Shikamaru frowned; he had meant to speak his words aloud, but instead they had formed in his mind.
Near the Valley of End. Follow the path.
Shikamaru's gaze slid to the ground. He stood at the end of a well-tread dirt path. Doing as told, he followed the trail into the trees. The further he moved, the more familiar everything seemed - he had traveled this path countless times with Ino, Chouji, and Asuma when they should have been training... His heart twinged in sadness.
Be calm, Shadelet; we're nearly there.
He stepped though the end of the brush, the magnificent waterfall looming into view. It was different from the waterfall he remembered; there were no statues poised at either end, and the cliffs seemed significantly taller. Shikamaru squinted up at the high cliffs, and spotted two figures, one on either side of the waterfall. The air around him seemed to grow tense, and when the voice spoke again, it held a fire that had not been present before.
Do you know what it is you see, Shadelet?
"Is this the Battle of the End?"
Indeed it is; you are a clever one. And do you know who was in the Battle of the End?
"The First Hokage and..."
And a man by the name of Nara.
Above him, the First Hokage initiated the battle; before long it was a blur of movement, the occasional flash of silver glinting in the bright sunlight. Shikamaru found himself unable to move, staring at the battle above with glazed eyes. How could his ancestor have fought at the Valley of End? And to what purpose?
They were great friends, you know. But the grand Hokage grew jealous of Nara's power. He wanted it for himself, so that he might conquer the small village of Konoha. Naturally, Nara refused to give up his power, and thus they battled.
"The First Hokage was not greedy," Shikamaru protested, shaking his head.
How do you know that? The voice hissed. You weren't alive. Do you know the source of Nara's power?
Shikamaru watched as a thick veil of darkness seeped from one of the figures, crawling over the landscape, until the second figure was consumed.
Your Hokage was a strong man, I'll give him that. The battle fell into a draw, and Nara agreed to leave.
Shikamaru found himself surrounded by cool darkness yet again. His heart still racing, he found it comforting. In his short time in the Cervatrerus, he'd grown accustomed to the strange voice; he could feel the ghost of an embrace wrapped around his shoulders.
"That explains the monument, then; Nara wouldn't want to leave his family and friends behind in Konoha, but he had no choice..."
Something still troubles you, Shadelet. It was a statement, not a question.
"You haven't told me why you're in this... box. Or what happened to Nara after the battle - somehow he returned to Konoha, didn't he?"
You know how the story ends. The villagers of Suna revolted against Nara - they feared him and his power. The council took me away from him...
Images flashed through Shikamaru's mind. A torch-lit chamber underground; a young man bearing a strong resemblance to Gaara performing jutsu signs; wide, fearful eyes of a man that reminded Shikamaru of his father; blood-curdling screams that sent fast chills down his spine...
You wanted the truth. They took me away, and sealed me in this wretched box. Nara's son attended the proceedings; he was twelve years old. Nara himself went insane. They shipped his son back to Konoha and killed Nara the moment after.
Shikamaru felt sweat slick against his skin; if he could see his fingers, he would notice their heavy trembling. The scream of his ancestor still rang in his ears, his panicked gaze burned into eyes...
Calm yourself, Shadelet. The ghost touch was cool against his skin as it brushed away the bangs plastered to his forehead. Shikamaru closed his eyes, washed over with a strange sense of calm. He leaned back against the stone wall behind him as invisible arms held him close in a comforting hold.
As his eyes fluttered open, Shikamaru was not so sure he'd opened them to begin with. A familiar darkness greeted him, the stone wall still chill against his back. Ghost fingers brushed his cheek as he attempted to gain his bearings.
Did you sleep well, Shadelet?
"How long did I sleep?"
Keep calm, young one; there is no time in this infernal contraption.
"... Do you get lonely, Kumorianei?"
You remember my name! The voice sounded pleased. Yes, it does get lonesome. Something brushed against his fingers.
"... Is there a way to free you?"
You must use my power, little one, like the Nara before you.
"Will they try to kill me, Kumo?"
You're a clever one; if they never know, they'll never try. It will be our secret.
"And you won't hurt me?"
I would never hurt you, young one; never.
And suddenly his skull erupted in an intense pain, like a thousand bullets shooting through his head. He screamed in agony, a twisted, deafening sound that reverberated off the walls back to him. He clawed at his head, nails piercing the scalp, droplets of red blood splattering his fingers and hands, meshing with his sweat and matting in his hair.
And then, as abruptly as it started, it was over. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as he fell forward, unconscious.
A/N: Well, I hope you liked it! Some of this kind of freaked me out when I was writing it. Anywho, this chapter might be a bit confusing; if you have any questions, ask them in a review, and I'll be happy to answer them! Make sure they're either signed reviews, or that you leave an email address, however, or I won't be able to respond. The soundtrack on my profile has also been updated!