Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 2 Chapter 8
The Country of Silence
Shikamaru’s team ran for three days regardless of whether it was day or night, before they finally reached the Country of Silence.
The Country of Silence was a relatively small country, located towards the West of the continent. Most of it was surrounded by mountains and forests, and the remaining land was dotted with fields. None of the towns in those fields were anywhere near the size of a village in Fire Country. The Country of Silence would have felt like a rustic and rural countryside even to the three original founders of Konoha.
The country’s capital, Curtain Village*, was located almost in the very centre of the country. Since they were sneaking in from the country’s borders, Shikamaru and his team had to constantly run through hills and valleys. By the time they reached Curtain Village, it had been about four days since they’d left Konoha.
Although it was a poor country, the capital still had all the splendour of a metropolis. While rest of the country’s villages had had houses with straw thatched roofs, even the smallest home in the capital had a tiled roof. There were many buildings made with reinforced concrete, and the streets were clean and well landscaped. Roads spread out around the city in the same shape as a spider’s web, expanding in radials from the centre of the city. In the little sections separated by those roads, houses and apartments were lined up side by side.
One very large building out in the middle of the city. If one were to look at the city from a distance, this building would be the only one to stand out from amongst the others. It was around 10 storeys high, with a crimson tiled roof, and on the left and right edge of the roof were two gold-coloured lion statues.
“Ahh, this must be the country’s castle which we seek.”
“There’s no need to sound so smug about stating the obvious, y’know.”
Shikamaru half kept an eye on the castle, and half listened to Rou and Soku’s conversation as they walked down the main street.
Of course, they had all long changed out of their Konoha flak jackets.
Just as the customs of every country are different, so is the clothing. Rou and Soku had advised that they should procure their clothing locally so as not to stand out during their infiltration, and Shikamaru had bowed to their experience as Anbu. Along the way to the capital, they’d stopped at the richest looking mansion they could find and gathered clothes for the three of them.
The clothing worn by the people in the Country of Silence was very simple, without any patterns to speak of. The top was an uwagi** robe, wrapped around the chest and tied with a cloth belt. From the waist down, there were wide hakama**, with their cuffs stuffed into laced up boots which came up to the shin.
The clothes’ colours were as droll as the design. Everyone who walked in the Curtain Village wore either black or brown or grey. Even the stores on the streets didn’t have any bright lights or neon signs, their advertisements dull and sombre.
There wasn’t a single bright thing to be found in the entire city.
“Have you noticed, Lord Shikamaru?” Rou asked from his position in front.
Shikamaru was stuck between the two Anbu on their insistence. Rou was their front guard.
The man’s question was very vague. He wasn’t specifying what it was that Shikamaru was supposed to have noticed, so there was no way of replying to him.
“We have yet to see a single one of the Daimyou’s attendants.” Rou specified.
“That’s true.” Shikamaru agreed.
As the two conversed, they were heading towards the direction of the castle. It wasn’t with any intention to start the operation now, but simply from the habit people had of walking towards the largest building in the vicinity. Shikamaru had absolutely no intention of rushing or rashly leaping into the middle of things and risking the mission going south.
“All the people we have seen on the street so far have been the country’s citizens. It is extremely strange to not have seen a single attendant.”
Rou’s observation was right on the mark.
The rulers of countries within their continent were always, without exception, Daimyou. Unions within the Shinobi World were all very well, but shinobi never, ever took the front stage of politics. And Daimyou’s always lived in the capital city of their country, with their places of residence brimming over with the attendants who served them.
Those attendants differentiated themselves from the country’s citizens with great pride, from their colourful clothing to their overbearing and arrogant attitudes. They were always rushing about the capital where their Damyou lived, going around on errands for him.
And yet, they hadn’t seen a single one of those attendants.
“It’s possible there isn’t a Daimyou, y’know.” Soku murmured.
That could be the case. Small countries did sometimes have cases where citizens of the country made it appear like they had a Daimyou in charge while handling matters themselves.
But this country was different. Shikamaru was very sure of that.
He turned around in Soku’s direction, his eyes glancing towards the castle they’d now left behind them.
“Sai’s message clearly said that this country is being controlled by a man named Gengo.”
“But it’s possible he’s not a Daimyou, y’know.”
“You have a point.” As Shikamaru said that, his eye fell on a man who was walking in front of the group.
He was wearing a long, black cloak, and had a sharp, cutting look in his eyes. His clothing stood out amidst the hamakas and uwagis worn by the other citizens.
The design reminded Shikamaru of the Akatsuki’s cloaks, although this man’s clothing didn’t have those red clouds, or the high collar to cover his mouth. There was no seam or fastener down the middle either, only five large, silver buttons.
“See that man in front of us? We saw some others dressed like him too. Don’t you feel like you’re reminded of something when you see them?” Shikamaru asked.
“I say, I noticed that as well, Lord Shikamaru.”
“Wouldn’t a person normally wait a bit instead of immediately agreeing…?” Soku asked.
“Those clothes…the clothes make the target, after all.” Rou made another one of his bad jokes.
“We all want you to shut up, y’know.” Soku groaned.
Ignoring their bantering, Shikamaru continued speaking.
“Rou, what about that man over by the side of the street? He doesn’t look familiar to you at all?”
As Shikamaru spoke, he inclined his head slightly towards a tea house on the busy street.
Rou looked over his shoulder to follow the line of sight Shikamaru was indicating.
“It…It can’t be…”
“Eh? What’s going on? I don’t understand what you two’re so worked up about, y’know…”
“So I was right.” Shikamaru grimly said. “I kept getting the feeling he was a familiar face.”
He and Rou were looking towards a man seated at one of the benches in front of the tea house, and drinking tea. He, too, was wearing a long coat that stood out.
As they watched, the man called out for the owner of the tea house. An old shopkeeper immediately rushed out from the tea house’s interior, bowing his head several times and gushing praise and excuses towards the man.
That style of buttering someone up was exactly how citizens usually behaved to the Daimyou’s attendants.
“He used to be in the Anbu,” Rou said, stunned. “His name is Minoichi.”
“Was supposed to have gone missing in action during the war, right?” Soku guessed, finishing Shikamaru’s sentence for him.
The three of them kept walking past the tea house, careful not to let their observation of Minoichi be noticed.
“It’d be fastest to get the answers to this incident firsthand, wouldn’t it?” Shikamaru said.
Fireworks were going off inside Shikamaru’s heart. His mouth twitched up in a smile.
“You won’t be able to move anymore.” Shikamaru drawled to the frantically twitching man in front of him.
They were in an alley between two of the concrete buildings. Shikamaru had specifically chosen this place because it wasn’t a hotspot, practically abandoned even in the middle of the day.
Rou and Soku were keeping watch at where the alley opened up to the main street. They’d blended into the shadows as expected of their experience in Anbu, staying completely motionless and concentrating fully on the task at hand.
A shadow even darker and deeper than the shade of the alley was extended from Shikamaru’s feet. It had crawled along the alleyway like a jet black snake, all the way up and around the body of the man in front of him. The shadow tendrils turned into dark hands around curled snugly around his captive’s neck.
The Kagemane Neck Binding Jutsu…
Shikamaru’s family, the Nara Clan, had been shadow jutsu users for generations. The Kagemane Neck Binding jutsu let you use your own shadow to stop your opponent’s movements. The Nara shadows were physical embodiments. Their jutsu didn’t stop at just binding with their shadows- they could inflict physical harm with them as well.
“Just letting you know.” Shikamaru dryly said. “I can very easily crush your neck with my shadow.”
“You don’t know me?” Shikamaru asked of the Anbu. “I know you, Minoichi-san.”
“I- I don’t know that name.”
“Don’t play dumb. You were originally a shinobi from Konoha, weren’t you?”
“I- I said I don’t know it.”
Shikamaru’s shadow moved along the man’s throat, dark hands tightening around Minoichi’s adam’s apple.
“Ugh…” He let out an anguished groan.
“You were born in Konoha.” Shikamaru said. “You must’ve heard about the Nara clan’s jutsu at some point, right? And what it can do…”
If you keep this up, I’m going to strangle you to death.
That was the threat Shikamaru was making.
“So why’re you, a Konoha shinobi, in a place like this, wearing clothes like that?”
“I-I’m not a shinobi, anymore.” Minoichi hoarsely said. “I am…an enlightened one.”
“Enlightened one? What do you mean by that?”
“P-people like you who sluggishly live in the…never changing world of Shinobi…could never understand our noble will.”
“Look at you babbling. I asked you who these ‘enlightened ones’ are.” Shikamaru willed a little more strength into the fingertips of his shadow around the man’s neck.
“Geugh…” Minoichi groaned.
“I’m fine with strangling you if you keep this up.” Even Shikamaru himself felt sick at the words coming out of his mouth.
His heart was getting covered in darkness…
“There’s no way you could understa- neugh!”
Shikamaru had tightened his shadow’s hold firmly around Minoichi’s bobbing Adam’s apple.
“If you keep up that idle talk, I’m really going to kill you.”
Shikamaru’s pupils had dilated to leave his eyes almost as dark as his shadows.
“Shouldn’t that be, ‘I understand, sir’?” *
Shikamaru weakened his shadow’s hold, and Minoichi immediately began coughing and spluttering, tears in his eyes.
“Now, you’re going to answer me. Who exactly are you ‘enlightened ones’? What’re people who were originally shinobi doing gathered around here?”
Seeing the ruthless expression on Shikamaru’s face, Minoichi took in a deep breath, and started talking.
“We ‘enlightened ones’ rule this country. There aren’t any low born Daimyous around anymore. The title ‘enlightened one’ is earned when you are a shinobi who has opened their eyes to the noble ideals of Gengo-sama. Our goal is to create a true revolution in this world together with Gengo-sama. Anything you scum plot or scheme is powerless before him. Anything you hear from me won’t let you understand the truth of this country…!” Minoichi began to laugh, opening his jaws to bite down on his tongue in a suicide attempt.
For a moment, Shikamaru was sure Minoichi was dead, slumped to the side from biting his tongue. But then, his eyes caught up with his brain.
In an instant, something had flown and pierced the side of Minoichi’s neck…
“I used a paralysing chakra needle for him, so he won’t be able to move for three days or so, y’know.”
It was Soku who spoke. She had come to stand at his side without Shikamaru even noticing.
“Feh, ‘enlightened ones’…that sounds both arrogant and annoying, y’know.” Soku said, glaring down at the knocked out Minoichi.
The ex-shinobi’s face looked disturbingly peaceful in his paralysed sleep.
* Yes, Curtain Village is really the name. I couldn’t believe it either. I spent 20 minutes looking for a kanji that didn’t exist, lol.
** The clothing described is easier explained seen than read.
*** This is a little tricky. Basically, Minoichi said ‘I understand’ with casual language, but Shikamaru demanded he use polite inflections. Adding ‘sir’ was the closest I could get to that sentiment.