Alright everybody, welcome to the rewrite of In the Shadows. Expect more fights, more character development, less technical mistakes (all hail Evercold, the one beta) and a better plot.
Most of the story remains the same. To everybody who read up until Chapter 10; Some strange parts will be left out, but most of the time parts will be added to the story, like insight to his training, and a little bit more interaction between the rookie nine. The first 3 or 4 chapters will change, after that it will mostly be beta'd and expanded by a 100 or 200 words.
To the new readers: Welcome! This story is about Shikamaru, the main pairing is Shikatema, but it won't happen immediately.
And remember, I love deceptions. Just because something is stated, doesn't mean it's true. You will find out in the later chapters that some people really like to lie.
I am always open for suggestions, and if you think my story lacks something I am also very willing to change it as long as it doesn't mess with the plot. The next chapter is already at the beta, and is the longest chapter I've written so far with 9.400 words. Just so you know what to expect of this story.
Now, let's begin.
Chapter One: Prologue of End
In retrospect, becoming an ANBU was Shikamaru's first step in self-fulfillment. In other words, it was the first time he actually did something with that big brain of his. By having to use his 'resourcefulness', or laziness like his teacher back then used to call it, in order to survive, he found out that you needed to do more than just watch the world pass by to make a living.
And Shikamaru had watched the world pass by for many years, the same people doing the same things for slightly different reasons in slightly different ways. From a distance, it all seemed so similar, so plain and predictable. Not unlike the clouds he also liked to observe, but more troublesome. Staring off into the distance did not only give him the nickname of 'lazy bum' but as well the skills of a keen observer at a very early age. A skill most people try and fail to attain their entire life.
So, even at the tender age of 12, Shikamaru could see that becoming one of them would be a turning point in his life. In retrospect, a good turning point. He wasn't so 'sure' of that when they first 'approached' him with the 'offer', though.
The door opened and he and his father entered the office. He remembered seeing five other's in the room; two men he remembered as examiners in the Chuunin exam, a woman holding an overdressed pig, an ANBU, probably guarding the last woman who seemed to dominate the room despite her young appearance. Seeing she was sitting in the chair that had been occupied by the late third Hokage until last week, he could guess just why.
His father knew the lady apparently. "Hello Tsunade-sama, it is nice to see you again." Shikaku greeted her. "I see you have been elected…?"
"That's right Shikaku, I am." She replied warmly. "It has been to long since I returned anyway. Might as well make sure this village actually gets somewhere." Judging from their shared glances, he assumed they had a past. Knowing his father and seeing at least 5 empty sake bottles poorly hidden behind the desk, he assumed the scenery had been a bar, and a lot of alcohol had been involved.
"I am sure you will make Konoha a better place." His father replied with the hint of a smirk on his face. 'For drinkers, probably'
The new Hokage, or Tsunade-sama as his father had called her, smiled at both of them but spoke more sternly. "But that's not why I called you here. I have a couple of things to discuss with you two." She motioned the woman, whom he assumed to be her assistance from the way she obeyed the simple hand guesture as if it had been a very detailed written command, picking up a single piece of clothing laying in the mess. "First of all, Shikamaru, we decided to promote you to Chuunin. Here's your vest." And she handed him the vest. Shikamaru doubted a second before he took it, and not a smile of joy or accomplishment could be seen on his face, but one of suspicion before he schooled his features. It did not go unseen.
Though he wasn't surprised, his father being an entirely different story. He eyed his lazy son's appearance for a second, before breaking out into a semi-proud, semi-surprised grin. "Congratulations son." Shikamaru just nodded appreciatively. His father's eyes searched the room for a second, and turned them to the examiners in a silent question.
However, by the way his smile was becoming less and less genuine, Shikamaru was fairly sure he didn't ask the same question that he had in mind. "May I ask why we don't wait for the rest to arrive?"
Something in the back of the room seemed to move, but he was not interested enough to find out exactly what did. He did see the simple but meaningful glance in Tsunade's laughing eyes. "There are no others. Shikamaru is the only one who is deemed qualified to become Chuunin" The examiner answered plainly.
His father did not seem satisfied, nor unsatisfied, and Shikamaru assumed he too had lost interest. He did not ask any further questions.
"Moving on to the next topic: Shikaku, I have a mission for you and your team." His father's pose straitened and Shikamaru watched in slight awe as his father transformed in seconds from lazy drinker to qualified Jounin. He nodded. "I want you to determine how far the city is damaged by invasion, and how we can prevent it from getting destroyed again."
Shikaku nodded, "Anything else?"
Tsunade handed him a scroll, and Shikaku pocketed it away. "Nothing but that, and just find start right away. We can't remain this vulnerable to enemies for long, the elders even speak of a possible 'aftershock'."
Shikaku nodded, and bowed. "I accept"
And with that, he left the room through the open window. His son was about to do the same, though he preferred a door, when he was stopped by the new Hokage.
"Please, close the door, Shikamaru. I have something else to discuss with you that will not leave this room." Her voice held a threatening edge that made him wonder whether or not he would be leaving this room safe and sound either.
Slowly, taking in his surroundings better in order to regain some control over the situation, he closed the door and returned to the desk
"Sit down please." She said, a pleasant smile edged into her face. There were no traces of ageing in that smile, but they were obviously there in her voice. "I know you already have a suspicion of what I am about to propose to you."
He was about to answer that that smirking examiner in the back did not make him any less suspicious. However, he realized that he would get in a lot of unwanted trouble for saying it, so he kept quiet and merely nodded. After all, it was true.
"I've heard about your performance in the chuunin exam, and we agreed you should be promoted. But your skill level is too low for a chuunin, yet your ability to plan your moves is remarkable and far above Jounin level. You sure gave us a hard time, but- "
"I refuse." He cut her off calmly, but clearly not amused.
Tsunade frowned slightly, but replied just as calmly; "You haven't even heard my offer."
"I am well aware what it is, why else would he be here after all?" He said, pointing at the ANBU in the back of the room. The ANBU waved back mockingly. "And I am well aware what the job entails. You just said yourself that my skill level is already too low to become a chuunin. So with all due respect, Hokage-sama, I refuse."
The Hokage's expression deformed slightly and the smile had been washed of her face during his words, but she did not acknowledge or respond to them. The way she pulled a bottle of sake out of the nowhere and opened it with a frustrated sigh did not quite complete of a woman who tried to convince him of something. Her thoughts must have been something like, 'What a great way to start my new career, can I still get out of here?' or something like that.
Shikamaru did not feel an ounce of sympathy.
After she had lurked down at least half the bottle, she sighed.
Then she leaned over the counter slightly and looked him firmly in the eye, looking thoroughly pissed. "Listen brat, I don't have time for your sentimental bullshit and teenage insecurities or whatever is keeping you from following my orders."
The entire room held his breath.
"I am not just some woman who decided to sit down in the Hokage's chair and promote random children." She continued brutally, her tone becoming more dangerous and dominating with every passing word. Shikamaru noted that she indeed wasn't whom he had thought het to be. "I was once one of them, hell, I held every single rank available in this village. I know what I'm doing. So listen to me, brat; You are going to become an ANBU, whether you like it or not"
"You just said yourself-" He started weakly, but was interrupted by the sound splitting wood.
The sound of her fist splitting the desk in two echoed through the office, and everybody safe for the woman herself was momentary paralyzed from surprise and listened to her every word when she spoke again. "I don't care about fancy Jutsu, I don't care about bloodlimits, and I most definitely don't care if you actually defeated that girl or not, if that was your next question. Skills like that can be taught, either by experience or by training."
"Strength, stamina, jutsu, they can all be taught easily. To teach someone to plan like you do, or to be use so little to accomplish so much… It simply cannot be taught, you either can or can't. And currently we are in a dire need of people who can." The ANBU from the back of the room suddenly supplied, and retreated to his corner.
"Thank you, Tenzou." Tsunade said slightly more relaxed, but still frighteningly tense. "Shikamaru, I am well aware that your age and your motivation are the problem here. I admit you are quite young. However, you have to understand that the invasion cost us more than the village leads on. Many people died, and most of them were capable ANBU."
"A village cannot go without a certain amount of ANBU for long, so neither of us has a choice: you will become an ANBU."
Shikamaru, defeated but slightly more understanding than he had been before, just nodded. No need to fight for a lost cause.
Tsunade smiled, but it was not the smile of victory. "You are a bright kid, your teacher told me you passed the academy without opening your eyes?" She asked much more softly.
Shikamaru smirked ever so slightly at the nostalgia before she reverted to her role as Hokage. You will have to leave that attitude behind though, together with your former sensei. You will be trained by Tenzou from now on!"
"What?" His eyebrows hit his hairline at the statement. "I have to leave my team behind as well?"
"Language, brat" She retorted. "And no, you will still be doing some missions with them to cover up for your position in the ANBU. But you will not be trained anymore by Asuma-kun"
"Is that it?"
She nodded. Shikamaru watched her in defeat, but didn't argue any further. He wasn't going to get out of this, and he knew it.
Then, the ANBU suddenly moved and a second later, he stood right in front of him. "My name is Tenzou" He said, as he removed his mask to reveal his face. "And I'm going to be your sensei."
"Nara Shikamaru" He replied, shaking the man's offered hand without much excitement. Tenzou did not seem to take this personally, and before Shikamaru knew it, the events started to blur into each other. He vaguely remembered closing the door before hearing the Hokage mutter something about leadership, and a bet. He didn't sober up from his little trance until he realized that he stood outside the office with an ANBU in civilian clothing, leading him to the headquarters and most likely, his doom.
So yes, he had to admit to her that he had been forced into ANBU under no uncertain terms, but many things in his life had been forced on him! Becoming a ninja for instance, turned out to be a hell lot less troublesome than he had originally thought it would be. Okay, that was a lie, it was worse, but he did enjoy more than he had assumed he would. He had also been forced into making friends by his parents when he preferred the presence of the quiet clouds over his loud classmates, but he was eternally grateful for Ino and Chouji's friendship.
And even though their relationship was forced on him, he was in the end rather grateful to have known his teacher.
After a short travel to the more deserted parts of town and being led under the ground through some pretty tricky constructions, they arrived at their destination. It was not exactly a building, more like a series of linking rooms under the village, no doubtly with multiple exits. He almost laughed at the irony of it; the most secretive organization was right under their noses, literally. Tenzou mistook it however for surprise or even excitement at seeing the place.
"Welcome at your ANBU training, Shikamaru. This is the ANBU headquarter." Tenzou said as soon as they had reached one of the more inner rooms of the complex. Apparently they were going somewhere. "And, do you like it?"
"It's dark." Was all he said, but in reality, a lot more went through his mind as he took in his surroundings. Most rooms were dark, no windows. The rooms were slightly lid by candles, but they all seemed much the same. Shikamaru was sure that, given some time and some really hard thinking, he would be able to retrace his steps and escape. But not before they would find him.
Tenzou brought him to another dimly lit room. This one was obviously smaller, and meant for individual use. There was a bed, which looked really tempting after all this mess, and a small table with a chairs in the other corner of the room, with a single lit candle on top of it. He noticed the entire left wall was a built-in cabinet. The room was extremely small, and the floor and ceiling were obviously unequal. It was so much unlike his home that it made him shudder, especially when Tenzou told him that he would be staying here for the next month.
For what seemed like the twenties time that day, he merely nodded and swallowed his protests. ANBU had a no-nonsense policy, or so he assumed.
"We have lots of things that require our attention." He resumed, and motioned Shikamaru to the the chair. He himself sat down on the bed. "I will train you in the following months, starting right away, and you'll have to stay at the headquarters for the at least the first month. We have to get you used to what you can expect as an ANBU."
Shikamaru's head got tired of nodding. "I assume you told my friends and family I'm on a mission"
"Yes, Hokage-sama got that covered." And Tenzou chuckled, probably wondering what kind of excuse she had come up with. "But about your training. I know you aren't exactly motivated, so I have an alternative. You will still have to work, and slacking off will not be encouraged, but…"
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, signaling him to continue. "You've got my interest, what do you propose."
"Well, I know your a quick learner, so instead of drilling something into you, I will give you a list of what you have to do every day. You'll study that after our work-out, and then I will test you. After you've done that, you'll be able to do whatever you want, until the evening work-out and dinner. Except for leaving of course."
Shikamaru smiled meekly. The man was not as strict as he had assumed him to be. Later, he would find out that he had been blessed with one of the few other ANBUs with an 'attitude problem', as a teacher. And that the main reason for his altered training was not Shikamaru, but the man's interest in his own already rare spare time.
"We will start every day with training to increase your stamina and chakra from 6 till 10, and when you get better, I might teach you some jutsu. After the training, I'll give you a scroll like these," he opened his pocket and pulled a couple of small scrolls out of it. "And you study and master whatever I write or store in it. You can take as long as you want, but you can't do anything else till you're done." He handed him a scrol
Shikamaru read it with mild interest. "Human Anatomy?"
"All human bones and muscles for tomorrow. Human Anatomy is basic ANBU knowledge, since we use many techniques that require it." He had obviously expected the question, judging from the textbook answer. Sure, ANBU were known for their assassinations, or the one time they actually had to hunt down a missing-nin. But in reality, that hardly ever happened. Unlike common belief, ANBU weren't trained on brutal power and ways to kill, but usually ways to spy, paralyze, kidnap or just guard someone unnoticed.
Shikamaru was well aware that teaching him all these things would take some effort from his side. He sighed, but saw it was not the worst deal he could make. "Reasonable."
Tenzou stood up, and took one last look at the room. "This will be your room from now on." He said before closing the door, looking at his new student for one last time. "Do with it whatever you want. Most ANBU call their room in the headquarters their 'second home', and many have requested to move in permanently, because they hardly ever visit their real one anyway. There was once someone who wanted to move his family in along, but I think..." He stopped mid-sentence as he saw the look on the boys face.
Then, he closed the door and left without a single word. Shikamaru let the scroll fall on the floor and laid down on the bed, trying to wrap his mind around todays events, and how his life had been forcibly changed to a point of no return. There was no control, no choice left for him. He turned his back to the door and pretended to sleep for the world.
The feeling of would haunt him for years to come, conscious or subconscious.
Admitted, he sometimes needed a push, or rather a shove in the right direction. However, there was limit, he told her. And this was it. But he hadn't known that when he had been just 12, not even when he was 15. It was not that he hadn't known it could happen, he had seen it happen in his family quite often. It was a tradition.
Every culture, every civilization and even every family has its traditions. The ANBU, being an organization dating back from the foundation of Konoha, was no exception to this rule.
One of their famous traditions was dumping new arrivals in the maze under the city and record the time it took them to get back. This ancient old tradition was still the source of many nightmares for ANBUs. However, traditions do not necessarily need to be ancient or even old. New traditions can be created. Like Tenzou's tradition of trying and failing to scare the ANBU by letting miniature trees pop up right under their noses. Another relatively new tradition came to be during Shikamaru's first month, after Tenzou had actually complained that Shikamaru could memorize everything with a single - disinterested even! – glance that told him that really, he didn't care. The other ANBU had told him to stop complaining and keep challenging him.
On Tenzou's part, this was not fun. However, the other ANBUs got a break from their usual serious work to see their colleague spend hours thinking of new ways to trick Shikamaru into becoming motivated. And after Shikamaru had been ordered to challenge Konoha's lead strategist in Shougi and won, the famous tradition began: when will Tenzou crack and give up? It soon grew out of proportions.
However, as you might be able to understand, Shikamaru was not pleased. Even though nobody told him about it, and really, most of them were really friendly, he easily found out. And confronted Tenzou, the man he had started to dislike a lot after too many crazy assignments.
"Then why won't you at least act like you are at least slightly interested?" Tenzou retorted that particular Sunday evening when they came back from training.
Shikamaru snorted. "Because I am not interested."
"You are still too rude." Tenzou sighed, most likely internally commenting his lack of respect for authority again. Both of them were calm on the outside, but on the inside… "You could at least be slightly honored by the fact you were given this chance. Many would have killed for the opportunity you're getting, but you're throwing it away."
Shikamaru's eyes widened and his voice was reduced to an angry hiss. "Maybe because I don't want it, give it too somebody else if it's such a honor!"
Tenzou's eyes widened, but he turned his back to Shikamaru. "Well then, go!"
"Maybe I will." He hissed back, turning his back to the man as well.
They both kept on walking away from each other until they were at least a few meters away from each other, silently and slowly stepping out of each other's lives when-
"But think, while you were here, a friend of yours ran away as well." Tenzou suddenly said. "Maybe he was forced to, maybe he left by choice. However, he was brought back, but at a price. A member of the retrieval party was wounded in the process, and might never fully recover. If he hadn't run away, that man would have been able to live a normal life."
Shikamaru turned around to see that Tenzou had done the same, and was looking a lot more serious than the man's usual mock seriousness. "What does this have to do with me?"
"Maybe, if you run away tonight, you will be able to follow your grand scheme of things." He explained. "However one day, when you are stronger but not as strong as you could be, there will be people who could have been saved if you would have been."
"And then is the question, will you be able to life with yourself?" He questioned, his eyes almost hollow. He remembered asking himself if it was natural. "Will you still be able to pretend to be an average person, who can only accomplish average things averagely, never exceeding expectations because you were to immature to just follow a single order?"
Shikamaru paused for a second, all silent anger from before transformed into actual calmness as he muttered honestly; "Maybe, I just didn't want to be like this. I always just wanted to be an average ninja, living an average life and be done with it."
"Life can never be planned, not even by you." Tenzou shot back, though considerably more relaxed. "You could always encounter causalities that would be lethal. You could also be lucky and die old and broken in a hospital bed with a tube in your throat. It does not matter if you would walk out that door or not, time and it's cruel ways remains."
"I am aware of that. But the control of my entire life was taken away from me in a few seconds. Would you like that?" Shikamaru almost pleaded, feeling like a child for a second.
"Control over your life? Please!" Tenzou said, as if Shikamaru had just told him he believed in fairies. "As long as we live in this village, not a single citizen will be in control of their own lives. Control? Best genjutsu ever, I would say. In that way, we are all one and the same."
Then he paused.
"However being special, which you most definitely are, is nothing to be alienated of. Why not at least try to except that part of yourself, and make the best of it?" He asked, and for the first time in, Shikamaru really felt like the man asked something of him, and not just because he was ordered to do it.
"Okay" It pleased him.
"And please, do me a favor and make both our lives easier by at least looking like you give a shit, because really, I have a life outside of making yours a hell."
Shikamaru brought his hand to his chin in mock seriousness, considering it."…. Are you sure?"
After that, Shikamaru did not suddenly show a display of motivation or an exceptional drive. He did smile little bit more though, and altered his life plan a little. Not too much of course, but Tenzou could live with that, or so he told himself.
It took him over 12 months to pass all ANBU tests, until he became a rookie ANBU. Basically being a genin all over again. Including the very 'troublesome' substitutes for D-rank missions in the decryption unit, and occasionally a few joined missions outside of the village until his aversion for the job was reduced to the occasional grunts of 'Mendokuse'.
A tradition, one could say.
A tradition, like many others, lurking in the shadows of their everyday life, he told her.
A tradition he didn't know he detested this much until she-
She hit him for being such a sap, but laughe. They continued their journey, the road looming ahead of them in the shadows of their torch, 5 years after that day in the office, long before the start of his tale.
Well, the end of the first chapter. The next chapter will be up as soon as Evercold is done with it. If you want to read the original story, I can send it to you. Just ask. Also, beware of the symbolism, and fear it. Tell me what you think, and please, PLEASE, suggest something if you know an awesome plot point. I am far from allknowing.
Well, the end of the first chapter. The next chapter will be up as soon as Evercold is done with it.
If you want to read the original story, I can send it to you. Just ask. Also, beware of the symbolism, and fear it.
Tell me what you think, and please, PLEASE, suggest something if you know an awesome plot point. I am far from allknowing.