Summary: AU. Vacations are supposed to be fun… so why'd this one have to be troublesome?
Description: Inspired by all of the ghost/horror/supernatural movies I've watched… with an attempt to avoid some clichés though other still seeped through. Heh I can only do so much. It takes place in a highschool time-frame, the characters retain their canon ages of 15-16… which would put them in their Sophomore year if I am correct.
Rating: This fiction will maintain a Mature rating due to content and dark themes.
Gravel crunched beneath the slowing roll of rubber as the van rumbled up the make-shift road to park in front of a traditional Japanese home. The place was massive and built on multiple stories, there were at least three. Although, the uppermost was tiny and probably an attic or single room. Well groomed gardens bloomed from the wrap-around porch, white pea-gravel covering the expanse of ground between bansai trees and other variously sized shrubbery. The house itself seemed to have been restored, painted with deep green accents around finished mahogany. The distant sound of water lapping against a cliff side echoed in on a light breeze, it was much cooler here, so close to Lake Ashinko, than it was in Tokyo. The grounds of the house sloped off into forestation on one side and a low mountainous region that swallowed up the road leading to this place. A small dock spanned out into the lake where the ground was low enough for the shore to meet it. It was a nice place, and relatively economic, given how extravagant it looked. The man they booked it with said his family owned it, but didn't live there so rented it out to 'tourists'. With fourteen people to split the bill, it made for a relatively inexpensive venture.
Chōji nudged Shikamaru awake, the Nara yawned widely, bleary eyes gazing out the window to take in a vast expanse of blue sky with thin wisps of clouds. Hn, shame there weren't more of them. When the van came to a halt, the key turned in the ignition, everyone rushed to be the first outside. Ino, Naruto and Kiba were the loudest of the bunch, with Sakura's voice rising over the commotion telling Naruto to stop shoving. Being the extremely active creature he was, Shikamaru reclined in his seat, shoulders slumped as he watched the crowd of students stumble over each other to make it out. Once the van cleared he snorted and stood, back arching in a long stretch that sent blood flowing to his numb ass and legs, damn sitting for hours sucked. At least they made one stop, halfway, so everyone could grab food and a rest break if needed. They were here now, though, and it was actually nice to move.
"OH MY GOD IT'S GORGEOUS!" Ino's squeal accompanied Sakura's as the two girls bounced on tip-toe awaiting Asuma to open the undercarriage for luggage retrieval.
"Hell yeah! Sensei, do we get the WHOLE place to ourselves?" Naruto, bouncing around like the over energetic idiot he was.
"OUTTA THE WAY NARUTO I'M GETTING MY BAG FIRST!" Kiba's shout was accompanied by a brief scuffle.
"Don't think so dog-bre… OUCH! Hey stupid dog! Kiba your mutt BIT me!"
"Serves you right! Good boy, Akamaru!" A yip was the response to Kiba's doting affection.
Shikamaru rolled his eyes with a sigh, so troublesome.
"It IS a pretty nice looking place, there'll be plenty of room for everyone." Shikamaru turned his gaze from the clouds he had only just looked up to examine, to the house standing about fifteen feet from them. The non-expression tightened as honey-brown roved over the details of their two-week 'home'.
A chill took the air, bringing a gust of wind from the lake as clouds passed over the sun. In the shadows, the building seemed to change, twist, waver as though the fresh paint and manicured garden were merely an illusion. Shikamaru tensed, blinked, but the vision of rotting, burnt wood and weed infested gardens was gone. His gut clenched, he wanted to go home, but Chōji was staring now with that look of polite concern he sometimes got. Shikamaru might as well have been transparent to his friend but he turned and offered a smirk and lazy shrug.
That seemed to be enough to pacify Chōji, or the large boy merely understood he wasn't going to get anything else out of his friend for the moment. Shikamaru watched him turn and go grab his bag, a twinge of guilt at holding things from his best-friend accompanied the ice thawing in his gut. He couldn't tell Chōji though, as trusting and loyal as the boy was, he would just think Shikamaru was crazy. After all, ghosts weren't real, they were just stories to scare each other with.
'Right. Let's see how long denial helps.'
With a sigh, the Nara retrieved his own bag at the pace of a snail, Asuma raised a brow at him, obviously silently urging him to hurry his pace.
"Everyone got their stuff? Good, I've got the keys to the house, so let's go check it out." A chorus of cheers accompanied Asuma's statement as the man, still puffing his cigarette, released the lock to the front door and stepped inside and out of the way to flick on some lights.
The inside of the house was a mixture of traditional and modern aesthetics. The hallway they all stepped into was quite large and both walls had sliding doors that opened into closets. Directly across from the main doorway was a set of Shoji doors painted with swirling mountains and cranes. The imagery continued around to cover all of the fusuma panels. The hardwood flooring was covered with a basic rug of dark green. The Shoji doors opened into the 'sitting' area which was adorned with large couches and a few chairs. A bookcase stuffed with various texts and a few decorations took up a large space of the right wall and a television sat directly across from it. There was a low table with a Shōgi board set up on it. Shikamaru's fingers twitched at the sight. To the left of the sitting room, more Shoji doors opened into a dining area which was adjoined to the kitchen. The Kitchen could also be reached through an open doorway in the sitting room. To the immediate right of this small door were the stairs to the second level. They were two-level stairs, going up and then curving sharply to continue on. The second set of them was obscured by a large wall with a small door. Another closet, it could be assumed, or the doorway into a lower level. There was a lock on this one and after Asuma attempted to open it, was deemed locked. Kiba offered to pick the lock to get a peek and Asuma eyed the Inuzuka with an unreadable expression, cowed, the boy grumbled and returned to observing everything.
The place was nice and would have been comfy, but Shikamaru couldn't shake the brief glimpse he'd gotten of it. He slid his fingers over the Shōgi board, it was very old, obviously an antique. He frowned, this place was furnished quite lavishly, with paintings on the walls, vases of bamboo and a few orchids. It almost looked lived in, why were they staying here? Surely the owners worried about things going missing. Asuma seemed to follow his mental musings, the man stopped at the base of the stairs and cleared his throat to draw everyone's attention.
"This place isn't really a tourist lodge. The owners do rent it out occasionally and I happen to be an… acquaintance of theirs so I was able to talk them into allowing us to stay here. Usually they wouldn't allow so many. So please, please don't damage or steal anything." The Sarutobi took on a severe look that might've intimidated anyone that didn't know him, however, his students thought of him as a 'huggable' bear of a man and only gave their promise they wouldn't endanger the building. Regardless of their lack of fear, Asuma was pleased and nodded.
"Alright then, second floor is all rooms. Some of the doors are locked, don't try to force your way in." Here he gave a pointed look to a sheepish Kiba. "However, those rooms that are unlocked are available for you to stay in. There are enough for each of you to have a room to yourself, or you can sleep with a roommate."
Everyone gathered their things and followed Asuma upstairs, Ino and Sakura decided to room together. They went barreling through the hallway looking for the largest room possible. Chōji offered to room with Shikamaru but he declined, he'd rather have his own space to sit and brood. The Akimichi took the room to the right of his, which was to the right of Asuma's room. After the rush of everyone else trying to be as far away from their supervisor as possible, those were really the only options left. Hinata's room was directly across from Asuma's and next to Shino's room. Kiba was in a room to himself, unless you counted Akamaru and Sasuke had to bodily remove Naruto from his room, because, no he didn't want a stupid roommate. The blond was crestfallen but quickly recovered.
Shikamaru shook his head, walking into the average sized room with a full sized bed and tossing the duffel atop it. There was a door to the right, a sliding Shoji door that turned out to be a closet. Looks like they'd be making trips to the adjacent building for any hygienic purposes. With a yawn the Nara began to unpack clothing and shove them into drawers. There wasn't much, a shirt and jeans for each day, boxers and socks. A pair of swimming shorts and a couple pairs of shorts in case the temperature took a rise. It was unlikely, being spring, but one never knew.
Asuma's voice drug them all reluctantly from their rooms, it seemed Kakashi finally arrived, the man was loitering in the hall next to Asuma as Naruto and Sakura berated him for his truancy. Shikamaru groaned out a sigh, what did it matter? It wasn't like the man was going to tell them why he was late, they were just wasting their time.
"So, who wants to go into town? We need to grab some food for this place, we brought some but we're probably going to need some more." A quick glance at them and the Sarutobi turned and headed downstairs. Kakashi followed him with a deadpan expression, clearly unimpressed with being left to handle 'the kids'. The silver haired Sensei sighed, offering a plastic smile before gesturing.
"Alright, those who want to go into town come with me."
Of course Chōji, Hinata and Naruto hopped aboard because Sakura and Ino also wanted to go. Well, that left a much more… quiet household. Shikamaru suspected Naruto's involvement was linked closely to ramen.
That left a much less… interesting evening. With a snort the Nara returned to his room to finish unpacking. When he was done, he was going to go check out the bathing and laundry situation. Hopefully this place was updated with a dryer and washing machine… as well as showers. A shiver ran through him involuntarily, bringing a scowl to his lips, now was not the time for reminiscing things that frightened him as a child.
Asuma was smoking a cigarette outside, dark eyes fixed on the landscape of trees when Shikamaru stepped through the door. The Nara paused to observe his Sensei, he seemed lost in thought. Not that that was rare for Asuma.
"Going to stare all day, Shikamaru?" Rich, deep tones broke the teen's trance and he scowled.
"Gonna brood all day, Sensei?" Asuma smirked crookedly, taking another drag and exhaling a plume of smoke.
"Not if I've got an observer." Shikamaru rolled his eyes at the comeback, yeah, make a big deal cause he was staring. The Nara crossed his arms behind his head with a yawn and continued his lazy stroll across the winding porch.
Asuma watched his student sway over to the adjacent building, much smaller than the house, until the boy vanished inside the door. Interesting kid, definitely Asuma's favorite of all his students… not that he played favoritism or anything. He liked to think he was a fair Sensei. Yeah. The man stubbed out his cigarette and returned inside.
Shikamaru slid the door to the bathhouse open with a click, blinking into the hallway lit dimly by wall lamps. He left the main door open before turning to the right, cracking the Shoji door to peer blandly into a laundry room. The lights were out but the falling sun cast yellow and orange hues through small windows behind the machines. There were four total, two of each, probably to quicken the pace of laundry. The Nara smirked, well at least they wouldn't have to wait in a line. The door clacked shut and he turned to the left, a chill traced his spine when thin fingers curled into the dip of the Shoji door.
Shikamaru frowned, really, what was he getting a chill for? Rolling his eyes at himself he slid the door opened and took a few steps into the bath. It was nice, a standard bathing area with tile flooring and walls that were tiled halfway. A large bath, big enough for maybe four people, covered the farthest wall and near it were three 'shower' areas. Seems they went the semi-traditional route to provide a place to shower before relaxing in steaming water. The echoing drip-drip of a faucet drew dark eyes to a leaky tap. Fucking figured, couldn't any creepy fucking house have proper plumbing? Mentally grumbling to himself, Shikamaru approached the smaller door directly across from the entrance and slid it back to reveal a small area with sink, toilet and mirror. There were more sinks in the bath area, two actually, set into a counter with cupboards beneath, probably for towels. Strange, that something just felt… wrong about the place, it made his skin tingle.
A faint whisper echoed through the bathing room, causing Shikamaru's head to jerk from its scanning of his reflection in the dark mirror, to the empty tub and dripping faucet. The whisper echoed again, setting the hairs of his neck on end.
'Get a fucking grip, you're imagining shit… yeah, just fucking imagining it.'
He closed the door and stepped back, the room was stuffy, almost too still, even with the drip-drip of water. A giggle made him freeze, pupils blazing wide in dark irises.
'It's not real. Fuck it's the middle of the goddamned day, shit like this is supposed to happen at night… when you're alone… yeah… alone…'
Shikamaru took another few steps back, eyes darting around the walls he could see, pretending (at least to himself) that he wasn't behaving strangely, he was just… backing very slowly out of a bathing room. Yes, that was exactly it.
The whisper sighed out around the room again, a shadow shifting in his peripheral and Shikamaru spun, sped walked through the door, shut it roughly and left the fucking building.
Mild air blasted him in the face, failing to chase the chill from his skin. Fucking figured. He walks in the bathroom and starts hearing shit. He took a few steadying breaths, rubbing the back of his neck and mumbling the mantra 'it's not real' under his breath.
Asuma was double checking a travel guide when Shikamaru gruffly opened the door and stepped inside to plop across one of the couches. The man regarded his student through his lashes, almost certain Shikamaru could feel eyes on him, from the way he kept fidgeting and scowling at the door without really seeming to focus on it.
"Would you stop staring?" The teen grumbled out, forcing his hands to still and dropping his eyes closed.
"Wouldn't stare if you didn't seem so worked up about something." The Sarutobi chuckled at the unimpressed look shot at him from cracked eyelids. Shikamaru huffed and waved him off.
"How do I seem worked up about something, Sensei? I'm quite comfortable."
Liar. Asuma didn't voice the thought but shrugged, not caring if his student saw or not. He turned the page of the pamphlet and pondered a moment before speaking.
"You're fidgeting." Shikamaru stilled again, too still, eyes staring at the ceiling.
"I don't like this house." He whispered, almost to himself and Asuma barely caught it.
His brow furrowed, looking up fully at his student. "Why? I thought it was nice and everyone else seems to love the place."
Shikamaru shrugged noncommittally. "I just don't. Old houses are troublesome… and their plumbing sucks."
Asuma chuckled at this, Shikamaru was grateful he let the subject drop. "Strange kid."
The Nara snorted at the comment and waved a hand dismissively. "How 'bout a game of Shōgi?"
"Why not." The Sarutobi smirked, dropping the pamphlet on the table and adjusting himself in a sitting position on the floor. Ah, if only they were outside, then he could smoke. Shōgi with Shikamaru always led to smoking, no matter how he tried the loss was almost ordained.
"You lose again, Sensei." Asuma scowled, if he wasn't mistaken, his student sounded quite smug. Not that he should by this point, he won every damned time they played. The Sarutobi sighed and made to stand.
"Third time in a row, I don't know why I bother anymore." The smirk on Shikamaru's face dropped, eyes casting to the side and Asuma chuckled.
"I was teasing, Shikamaru." The boy's cheeks flushed slightly and he shrugged, eyes darting to the window. The fallen low in the sky, only the barest traces of yellow touched the sky.
"I wouldn't blame you for wanting to stop, if I lost all the time I wouldn't play." Another smirk quirked the edges of his lips. Asuma snorted and shook his head with a smile of his own as he extricated his cigarettes and tapped one out, making a gesture outside to invite his student along.
At some point, Shino came out and was sitting on the porch with his small notebook computer on crossed legs. Kiba was playing with Akamaru in the garden that surrounded the house on almost all sides. Asuma lit his smoke, drawing in a deep breath and reclining against the banister.
"I'm surprised they've got wireless out here…" Shikamaru noted with a lazy drawl, Shino looked up a moment before nodding solemnly and returning to his computer.
"I as well. I am researching the area, there are some pretty interesting things here." Monotone and to the point, just like Shino. Shikamaru snorted derisively and shook his head.
There was a commotion inside that drew all eyes to the door still sitting open as a blur of orange and yellow streaked by followed by shouts of.
"RAMEN TONIGHT! RAMEN RAMEN!"
The blur and shout were followed by a harassed looking Kakashi and everyone else. Sakura and Ino were blabbering about something between them and occasionally shouting for Naruto to shut up.
"Guess it's time to eat." Asuma stated with amusement, Shikamaru's eye twitched. Why did they have to be so loud?
Dinner was an interesting affair, Kiba and Naruto bickered. Ino and Sakura threatened everyone to shut the hell up, Asuma and Kakashi sat back to enjoy the show while mostly everyone else was relatively calm. Leave it idiots to make it loud enough for a house party. By the time it was over, Shikamaru had a headache and wanted to sleep but was held downstairs by an over exuberant Ino who wanted him to stop being so antisocial and join the fun.
"Troublesome girl." The Nara grumbled as he browsed through the books stacked in the shelves while Ino was busy herding everyone around into a comfortable arrangement. The Nara picked a book and plopped down onto a sofa some distance away from his peers. Ino shot him a look but he ignored it in favor of flipping through some pages.
'A history of Lake Ashinko… sounds interesting enough. Maybe this'll cut the work I gotta do for that troublesome paper.'
"ALRIGHT EVERYONE! How bout we tell ghost stories yeah? " Shikamaru looked up as Ino shouted out her 'genius' idea. He rolled his eyes when several faces lit up. Hinata seemed uncomfortable and Sasuke gave his usual dark non-answer. The blonde nodded, satisfied and sat back down.
"Okay, so we're gonna take turns telling ghost stories we know. I'll go first okay? Then whoever wants to go next can. Everyone has to share at least one story… THAT INCLUDES YOU SHIKAMARU!" Ino gestured valiantly to the Nara who stared blankly in return before looking back at his book. She huffed and turned her attention back to everyone with a wide grin.
"I'm going to tell you about Daruma-San." She announced, Sakura gasped, obviously she knew the story. Hinata was fidgeting, Naruto sat forward on his knees, intrigued and everyone else held mixed expressions of amusement, curiosity or indifference.
"Daruma-San was a woman who fell in her bath, hit her head on the rusty tap that went through her eye and killed her." Ino paused for affect, glancing around at everyone before continuing.
"She's now a ghost that will haunt whoever summons her. To do this, the person has to go into their bathroom at night before they go to bed. They turn out the lights and fill the bath with water. When it's full they sit in the water, in the dark and wash their hair while repeating 'Daruma-San fell down. Daruma-San fell down. They HAVE to keep their eyes closed the entire time, it's the most important part. In their mind they should visualize a woman standing in a bath who falls and hits her head on the tap, killing herself." Another pause, more staring, Sakura giggled and Naruto's eyes were the size of saucers.
"The person should continue washing their hair, repeating 'Daruma-San fell down, Daruma-San fell down.' Until they feel a presence behind them. But don't look! Never open your eyes. When they feel the presence behind them, they are supposed ask 'Daruma-San why did you fall down?' then immediately get out of the tub and leave the bathroom, closing the door behind them. Then they can open their eyes. The next morning they let the water out of the bath and Daruma-San haunts them for the entire day. She gets closer and closer and closer as the day goes on and if the person sees her over their shoulder. When she's too close they shout 'Tomare'1 and then run away as quickly as possible. To end the game, the person has to catch a glimpse of Daruma-San and shout 'Kitta'2 and make a vertical slash through the air. If the game isn't ended by midnight, Daruma-San enters their dreams and haunts them forever."
Ino finished to silence, Sakura began clapping and giggling and Naruto looked disturbed. "Why would anyone wanna play a game like that!" The Uzumake questioned, settling himself back down and Ino laughed.
"It's only for fun, I doubt it's real." Shikamaru snorted from his place on the couch. Great they were going to sit around like idiots telling urban legends. Whatever, at least they weren't anything real. He could probably tell them a few that'd give them nightmares, if they didn't still haunt his own sleep.
"I'll go next!" Sakura announced with a nod, green eyes shimmering with excitement. The pink haired girl adjusted her sitting position an cleared her throat, as though about to make some sort of formal speech.
"Kuchisake Onna3 preys on children, she haunts lonely streets and will stop people to ask them a question. She always wears a surgical mask and carries large scissors around. She'll ask the people she stops, 'Am I beautiful?' before they can answer she rips off her mask and asks 'Am I beautiful now?'. If they say no she cuts off their head, if they say yes she slices their mouth to look like hers. If they run away she hunts them down and kills them. If Kuchisake Onna stops you, you're supposed to give a non-committal answer to confuse her and then run away."
There were varying degrees of perplexity about this story, only Naruto seemed to be really affected. Apparently, scary stories, especially about ghosts weren't his forte. "B-but she kills you if you run away, how is confusing her gonna help?" Shikamaru snorted in amusement while Sakura rolled her eyes.
"It's just a story, idiot. It's not real, just something to scare people with." Naruto didn't look convinced though but dropped the subject with a grumble.
Shino cleared his throat and sat up, drawing everyone's eyes, including Shikamaru's. Wow, the Aburama was going to speak without being addressed? This would probably be worth hearing.
"I was doing some research about this place while you were gone. I found some interesting information, rumors mostly, about how the house is haunted." Ino gasped, excitement lighting up her eyes as she urged Shino to continue. Apparently she was expecting some in-depth story. Shikamaru sat frozen, forcing his eyes to slide along the lines of text and tune out Shino.
"The rumors say that people have been pulled into the lake near this house, something grabbed their ankle and drug them under but they managed to get away. Some say you can hear children singing in the forest at night. Some of the others say there's the ghost of a woman who haunts the bathhouse…"
The snap of a book being closed cut Shino's narrative, the Aburama looked over to Shikamaru who was standing. He wore an expression of forced calm, dark eyes turning to look at them and quirking a brow.
"What's wrong Shikamaru?" Ino, obviously miffed about the story being interrupted.
"Ghost stories are stupid, this is troublesome and I'm going to bed." He began to stroll across the room, leaving the book behind on the sofa he abandoned. Ino made a noise of frustration and made to grab his arm. The Nara stopped, staring at her unamused.
"What's wrong, Shika-kun… You scared of ghost stories?" She had that smile, the one that made her look more catlike than should be possible. Shikamaru rolled his eyes, jerking his hand free.
"Like you said, they're just stories." He muttered turning to leave, Ino's laughter following him.
"Shikamaru's afraid of ghost stories! HEHE. Don't even lie! You used to have all those nightmares remember? When we'd sleep over at Chōij's house we had to stay up with you, because you were scared!" Ino looked ridiculously triumphant as Shikamaru turned to fix her with a cool stare.
"We were what, five?" She pouted at his lack of response and huffed when he left the room without another word. The sound of Naruto's voice, indecipherable, followed him from the room and up the stairs.
What were the chances this place was really haunted? It was fucking troublesome and Shikamaru couldn't shake the chill that clutched him since Shino began talking. Leave it to the Aburame to fight the single, potential of an actual ghost story and share it. As though this place wasn't already giving him the creeps.
The Nara tossed himself gracelessly atop his bed, a shower could wait til morning, there was no way in hell he was going into that bathhouse tonight. Not after what happened earlier. Voices of people talking and laughing drifted from downstairs, the sound eventually lulling Shikamaru into a light doze.
Tapping woke him, light raps jittering out on the other side of his door. Shikamaru rolled over, eyes slitting open blearily. Everything wavered with sleep and regardless of his silence the tapping continued, pausing occasionally before starting again. Dark brows knit themselves as he shoved himself up.
"Who's there?" Voice husky with sleep, Shikamaru wasn't sure they heard.
Until it giggled and the quick, light patter of steps dashed away from his door. He felt his blood run cold, body tensing sharply and sleep forgotten.
'What the fuck was that?' Shikamaru wanted to go check, to peek into the hallway and assure himself that I was just Naruto or Kiba being an asshole. His body refused to move, refused to cave to the curiosity.
The patter of steps was coming back now, quick, as though a child were dashing down the hallway. They approached and passed the door, giggling rising and fading with the steps. Cold beads of sweat sat atop his skin, chilling him all the way to the bone. When the footsteps began to return yet again, accompanied with what sounded like fingers being drug along the wall, he jerked down and tugged the blanket up to his brow.
'You're fucking dreaming, calm the fuck down. It's not fucking real.'
Not real, not real, not real. A lie he repeated to himself so many times it was like second nature. The noises continued intermittently, accompanied by booming silences that were almost worse than the awful giggling. Even with his eyes squeezed closed, breath managed in a steady in an out, counting in his head; sleep wouldn't come for some time.
Daruma-san is a legitimate 'urban legend' in Japan. I found the story on scaryforkids
Kuchisake Onna is the legend of 'The Slit Mouth Woman' also found on scaryforkids but there are also movies on it
Tomare means 'stop'
Kitta means 'release'