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Naruto Hiden - Volume 2 - Chapter 11

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Sai held a paintbrush in one hand, and a scroll in the other, drawing furiously. Every time he lifted his paintbrush from the scroll, an ink tiger would manifest and attack Shikamaru

Shikamaru efforts to fend them off ended with him rolling off the platform and falling right into the crowd.

He didn't have the time to be concerned only about Sai. Shikamaru's mind was in utter chaos.

Why hadn't his jutsu worked?

Why had their disguises been seen through?

Was Soku alright?

Shikamaru dodged attack after attack from the crowd. In the corner of his eye, he could see several Enlightened Ones holding down Rou. The old man was frantically struggling against their hold, but it was impossible for him to shake off that many men at once.

Shikamaru's cheek was stinging from where Sai's ink beast had gotten in a swipe.

The resin mask Rou had put on Shikamaru to disguise his face was starting to peel off.

’’Soon, that mask will be torn off completely, so I imagine you'll feel more comfortable.’’ Sai said with a simple smile.

His paintbrush hadn't stopped moving. Inky tiger after tiger materialised, surrounding Shikamaru.

’’Why are you doing this...’’

’’For a while now,’’ Sai noted, ’’You've been saying things that give the impression you know me.’’

Shikamaru didn't tell Sai who he was underneath the mask. He couldn't, to begin with.

You never spoke your name out loud if there was a risk of you being captured and your name being traced back to your village. Never. It was an ironclad rule of Shinobi.

Behind the Enlightened Ones swarming towards him, Shikamaru could see Gengo still standing serenely on the platform. He kept his arms crossed as he calmly watched Shikmaru's struggles.

If he could just manage to get to him one more time...

Shikamaru leapt on top of one of the inky tigers surrounding him, stabbing it with his kunai and leaping off in one seamless movement. He ran as soon as he hit the ground, free of the circle of beasts. In the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the tiger dissipating into a spray of black ink.

There was so many EO's blocking his way, he could barely even count them.

’’Will it work?’’ Shikamaru grumbled to himself, forming the seal for a jutsu with his hands.

Countless tendrils of darkness slowly started to extend from his shadow in every direction.

His kagenui, the shadow sewing technique, used tendrils of his shadow to attack and bind his opponents like a needle with thread. Since Shikamaru could create a multitude of shadow needles, it was a good jutsu to use against several opponents.

Shikamaru took aim at the tigers and Enlightened ones surrounding him. The needle-like tendrils of his shadow stretched out without any problems. All he'd need was one strong force of will for them to shoot up and off the ground.

’’Work!’’ Shikamaru yelled the word like a battle cry. The tendrils raised their heads slowly from the ground, rearing back and getting ready to strike-

’’Stop your pointless actions.’’ Gengo called from the platform above. The moment his voice rang out, Shikamaru's shadow tendrils woozily sank back into the ground, and drew back into his normal shadow.

’’Wh- WHAT DID YOU DO?’’ Shikamaru roared at Gengo in outrage.

Why was his voice affecting his shadows?

What in the world was he?

’’Hm? I do believe I know that jutsu...’’

It was Sai who made that comment. He'd now come to stand in front of Shikamaru, blocking his way.

’’Sai, don't you dare...’’

’’Your pointless actions are unsightly.’’ Sai calmly said, his paintbrush furiously dancing along the scroll in his hand. The tiger that materialised from his scroll this time was black and white- and far, far larger than any of the others.

’’You will experience it first hand, and understand, soon enough.’’ Sai said, pointing his paint brush at Shikamaru. The giant black and white tiger took that as a signal, and took one great step towards Shikamaru.

’’You shithead...’’ Shikamaru muttered, taking out a kunai and staring up at the tiger, readying himself for battle.

Suddenly, he felt something slam against his right leg. The second he realised that, something else slammed against his left leg, and right when Shikamaru realised the Enlightened Ones were bodily launching themselves at him, it was too late.

He hit the ground face first, several of the Enlightened piling on top of him and holding him down.

’’To think that someone as sharp as you didn't notice that the tiger was merely a distraction...your mind must really be in chaos.’’ Sai commented, looking down at Shikamaru desperately trying to breath under all the bodies crushing him.

Shikamaru's impeded field of vision picked up the shadow of a man approaching from behind Sai.

Gengo.

’’Take off the mask.’’ Gengo commanded of the Enlightened Ones.

A single finger slipped into the crack caused by the tiger's claw, and peeled off Shikamaru's mask in one go.

’’Now see, it is Shikamaru-san after all.’’ Sai said.

’’So this is Konohagakure's genius, Nara Shikamaru, huh...’’ Gengo's voice sounded like he was a collector who'd found an item he'd been seeking for quite a while.

Shikamaru craned his head to look up into a pair of suspiciously glowing blue eyes. Gengo's gaze didn't leave his for a moment.

Shikamaru cracked a smile. ’’Just so you know,’’ he said, ’’If you don't get rid of me now, terribly frightening things will happen later.’’

’’I have no fears. You'll be living right along with me.’’

Gengo's confident words were followed by a sharp pain in Shikamaru's neck, and he lost consciousness.

*

This was true darkness.

There was no light whatsoever, to the point that Shikamaru couldn't even see his own hands held an inch from his face.

It was in this kind of dark that he sat, and sunk deep into his thoughts.

He wasn't sure how many days had passed. Judging by how frequently they'd fed him, and the state of his stomach, it had been at least five days.

How did things turn out like this?

No matter how many times Shikamaru turned over the events in his head, he couldn't find a complete answer.

It wasn't just the problem of Sai.

He'd extended his shadow all the way to the platform Gengo had been standing on. But his shadow hadn't been able to ensnare his legs, losing sight of the target.

And Gengo had been aware of the presence of Shikamaru and the others. He'd called them 'mice'. All this despite them perfectly disguising their chakra.

It was as if there'd been a barrier around the man that rendered all their jutsu useless when they got within a certain distance of him.

Could Gengo really disable jutsu?

Shikamaru couldn't tell. But there was no mistake that something had interfered with both Shikamaru and Rou's jutsu.

Shikamaru's shadow couldn't reach Gengo. When he'd tried to use the kagenui against Sai's monstrous tiger, as well, his shadow had suddenly faltered and lost power.

The most appropriate conclusion was that either Gengo or an influence in Gengo's surroundings, had weakened the potency of his kagemane.

Following that train of thought, there was a high possibility that Rou's jutsu had experienced the same effect and been watered down. Then, Shikamaru's own chakra signature had likely leaked outside the disguise, allowing Gengo to notice their presence.

That was the theory he had been going on for now.

Jutsu didn't work against Gengo...

But why?

Shikamaru hadn't had the time to gather enough information to figure out the truth behind the phenomenon. He hadn't had rhe chance to investigate anything, even a little, so of course there was nothing for him to work with.

Not having anything more to go on, not being able to think about the reason, it irritated him.

He was losing his presence of mind...

’’Geugh! Urghh!’’

Somewhere in the darkness, Rou's groans of pain reached Shikamaru's ears. Soku's cries came from somewhere in the darkness as well too. They both sounded like they were being held somewhere close to him. It sounded like they were undergoing severe torture. He only ever heard their voices in moans and whimpers.

For some reason, Shikamaru wasn't tortured at all.

’’I'm sorry...’’ He murmured, looking towards the direction of Rou's pained voice, although it was doubtful the man had heard.

This was the result of Shikamaru's own hasty actions.

Wouldn't it have turned out so much better if he'd just investigated Gengo a little more before acting?

There had been so many other plans he could have followed...

Shikamaru struck out with his fists blindly in the dark, hitting the cold, stone floor beneath him. He struck again, and again...

’’Are you alive?’’

Gengo's voice came to Shikamaru in the darkness.

’’Or are you dead?’’ His captor's voice took on a tone as if he worried about there being no answer.

Shikamaru's chakra was depleted, but he wasn't dead, and he knew Gengo was perfectly aware of that fact. Asking questions he already knew the answer to was nothing more than sarcasm.

’’I see you've been eating all your meals.’’

Shikamaru ate everything they gave him. Of course, only after checking if it was poisoned. Being able to taste the presence of a variety of poisons with just one lick was another of the basic foundation for shinobi.

Shikamaru was eating because he hadn't given up.

As long as he was alive, there was bound to be some chance of escape. If his body couldn't move as he willed it to when that chance came, then he would die.

No shinobi gave up the hope to live. To continue to survive no matter what, to keep carrying out your duties no matter what, that was a true shinobi.

We are shinobi because we endure.

That's why Shikamaru had to believe that Rou and Soku hadn't given up either.

’’Have you calmed down a little, after so many days spent in the dark like this?’’ Gengo asked. ’’Do you feel like listening to my words now?’’

’’Unfortunately for you,’’ Shikamaru said, ’’The dark is a very close friend of mine.’’

’’You're an interesting one.’’ Gengo laughed. ’’I'll come again.’’

The man's presence disappeared as soon as it had come.

’’ARRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!’’

Rou had started screaming again.



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