Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 2 Chapter 17
Shikamaru was running up the long, long spiralling stairs. His eyes were fixed on the figure running in front of him: Gengo. All his Enlightened Ones were still fighting down in the hall, and the man they revered like a god was making an escape all on his own.
The spiralling stairs had a strangely oppressive feel to them, with the walls of stone that were covering its sides. You kept running up and up and up, and soon enough you started feeling dizzy.
“How about you just end this and give up now?” Shikamaru asked Gengo’s back. Not that he expected an answer.
Some ways ahead of Gengo, there was an iron door. It was a misshapen and crude looking door, without any adornments or decorations. Gengo, running ahead, reached it first and pulled opened the heavy looking door without any hesitation. Shikamaru only caught a glimpse of darkness from within the room before Gengo disappeared inside. The door closed.
Shikamaru put his hand against the closed door, and it creaked open beneath his touch. There had to be a mechanism of some sort.
Shikamaru swung open the door.
It had nothing to do with any plan or strategy. He simply had no choice but to go forward.
What lay on the other side of that iron door was true darkness. There was only one presence in the silent blackness. One person.
Suddenly, the door swung shut behind Shikamaru.
Since Gengo was here in the room with him, it had to be someone else who closed it- that, or the door closing was a mechanism too, and this was a trick being orchestrated by him.
“So you came in by yourself without any hesitation. Please tell me it wasn’t an act of valour.” Gengo’s voice came through the dark.. “You realise, you won’t be able to see or capture me in this kind of darkness.”
“Hey, the Nara clan have been manipulating our own shadows for generations.” Shikamaru told him. “The dark is what gives birth to shadow, right? In a way, you could say that the dark is its mother. For someone like me who lives side by side with their shadow, the darkness in this room isn’t any different from my mother’s embrace. Since the moment you entered here, you were already caught.”
Shikamaru was half lying.
It was true that he was well-accustomed to the dark. But just because you were comfortable in the dark, that didn’t mean you had night vision. Shikamaru was only slightly more sensitive to the strength of a presence in the darkness than other shinobi were. That was all.
“Amusing…” Gengo returned, his voice brimming with self-confidence. “You’re really an interesting man. It’s a shame I have to kill you here.”
Shikamaru and Gengo had both gone quiet, each trying to concentrate their senses on pinpointing the exact location of the other.
“I was originally a shinobi from Kirigakure.”
It was Gengo who had broken the silence. He continued speaking. “Do you know of a man called Momochi Zabuza?”
Shikamaru recognised the name. Back when they were genin, Naruto had frequently mentioned his name. Momochi Zabuza was a skilled ninja Naruto’s team had fought against in a mission.
Gengo continued. “When Zabuza started rousing a coup d’état in Kirigakure, his wish was to bring about my ideal world.”
A world governed by shinobi, huh…
“A betrayer tipped the village off, and the coup was exposed. Zabuza became a missing-nin. At that time, my younger self had been among those who followed him into exile. But then Zabuza, who needed gold to realise his ideals, joined hands with a wealthy merchant, a sham of a mafia, and took on disgraceful mission requests. Zabuza said we were dirtying our hands for our ideals, for a just cause, but many turned their backs on him. I was among those who left his side. Almost ten years have passed since then. I’ve finally obtained this country. And it is only now…”
Gengo’s voice was shaking with emotion.
“It is only now that my ambitions are starting to be realised! And yet to have this happen because of you, you son of a bitch…!”
Shikamaru’s ears registered the sound of something kicking at the ground.
It sounded like Gengo was drawing something out of a metal holder, a blade or a kunai.
He couldn’t see with his eyes. He had to rely on his senses.
But Shikamaru couldn’t pick up much more information other than the fact that Gengo was heading towards him.
“Zabuza left the path! He was in too much of a hurry to realise his ideals, and dirtied his hands! But I am different! After a long road full of hardships, I finally mastered my jutsu! I created a whirlpool that stirs up passion in people, and took control of this country. And that whirlpool will only widen, engulfing the whole continent, every single nation!” Gengo shouted.
There was another noise beyond Gengo’s yelling. A carving sound, cutting through the emptiness…
Definitely a blade. And a very large one, at that. A scythe? No, thinner than that. Something like a halberd or a longsword.
Gengo’s presence had gotten alarmingly close. Shikamaru could feel that blade cutting through the emptiness and heading towards his neck-!
He lunged down to the floor, ducking the blow. Shikamaru felt a sharp gust of wind cut along the path of Gengo’s sword, cutting across the air above him.
“You dodged well. But don’t think I’ll let you go!” Gengo yelled, and the gust of wind changed direction again.
Shikamaru had rolled to a crouch, sitting with one knee up, and he could feel the long sword swinging somewhere above his head.
He tried to picture Gengo in the darkness. He pictured the length of the sword based on the sound it made as it cut across thin air, mentally measuring its length from tip to handle. Behind the axis of that swing, there was Gengo.
Shikamaru couldn’t use his shadow in this deep darkness. It would be impossible to bind Gengo with his ninjutsu.
He had nothing to use but his own body.
Shikamaru was poor at taijutsu, and he didn’t have any weapons left. He grumbled to himself that if things were going to turn out like this, it would’ve been better if he’d taken some taijutsu lessons from Lee.
Shikamaru let out a single laugh, satisfied to see his usual way of complaining had returned to him.
The swing of Gengo’s long sword brushed the top of Shikamaru’s ponytail.
Using all his concentration, Shikamaru rolled towards the direction he calculated Gengo to be in.
Long swords lost their advantage when you got in too close. If you wanted to disarm your opponent, than rather than running around, it was far more effective to get in close to their chest.
If you ran away while trying to hold onto your life, then you’d die. But if you faced the possibilities of death, then you’d live…
It was the very basics of war strategy.
Shikamaru heard Gengo’s longsword cut into the floor behind him. He had stopped rolling into a crouch, right in front of where he calculated Gengo to be, and now he pushed his legs to spring up, launching himself in a headbutt.
“Got you!” Shikamaru grunted as he felt his head collide with Gengo’s body.
Gengo let out a surprised yell and stumbled into a crouch. Shikamaru stepped on Gengo’s bent knee with his right foot for momentum, and kneed him in the face.
He’d done well. He’d successfully been able to calculate right where Gengo would be, using only his sound and strength of presence as a guide to his movements.
But, even though Gengo had received such a severe blow, he hadn’t collapsed.
Gengo had used all his strength to stop his upper body from falling to the ground, pulling himself forward. He had let go of his sword, and grabbed onto Shikamaru’s sides with hands.
Shikamaru was viciously thrown back, flying through mid-air and then landing with a sharp pain piercing down his spine.
By the time Shikamaru took stock of his pitch black surroundings, he sensed Gengo’s presence already getting back to his feet. There was a clattering sound, like iron being scraped against the stone floor.
The sound was most likely Gengo picking up his sword again.
All of Shikamaru’s limbs felt numb. He blinked several times, but couldn’t move his body as quickly he wanted to.
“In Kirigakure, due to the tradition of the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen of the Mist, every single villager strives to master the techniques of the sword from their childhood onwards.” Gengo said, swinging his longsword down.
His target was Shikamaru, still lying dazed on the floor.
Shikamaru only had one way to defend himself.
And it was an absolutely ridiculous idea.
It was a stunt Shikamaru would never have dreamed of trying to pull off.
But he didn’t have any other means of escaping the blow.
“Oh, screw it!” Shikamaru groaned and raised both his arms.
His palms slid out into thin air, waiting to try and catch the longsword’s blade as it swung down.
Shikamaru felt cold steel slide between his palms.
…he had actually caught the blade.
“L-looks like I somehow pulled that off…” Shikamaru said to himself.
“Impossible,” Gengo stammered, dumbfounded.
Not that impossible, as it turned out. At the end of the day, Shikamaru’s palms had firmly caught Gengo’s sword between them.
“Well,” Shikamaru commented, “I guess you could call this the ninpou of ‘Seriously Trying to Catch a Sword with Your Bare Hands’.”
“Is there no end to your mockery?” Gengo’s voice was bristling with outrage.
Gengo’s sword quivered between Shikamaru’s palms as Gengo’s increased his force, trying to force it down.
At this rate, it was a question of muscle power. The limits of strength between Shikamaru, who was down on the floor with both his arms up, and Gengo, who was standing with a swordsman’s perfect stance above him, were terribly different. Gengo had the advantage.
The longsword’s blade was slowly being pushed down.
“I am going to kill you here, you son of a bitch.” Gengo grit out, “And then I’m going to make those scum in the hall share my ideals. And I will continue on the path to my ambitions.”
“Oi, oi, since when were you so foul mouthed?” Shikamaru asked, “Someone who doesn’t even notice when their mask of politeness has slipped away, there’s no way they could possibly rule the world, now is there?”
“Look at the situation you’re in and watch what you’re saying, you ignorant bastard. You’re a fool who couldn’t hope to comprehend the potential of others.”
“Now, I wonder,” Shikamaru mused. “Who was it that kept asking this fool to be their right hand man?”
“Senseless quibbling. You have nothing but empty words.” Gengo’s force on the sword increased.
Shikamaru’s arms were shaking from trying to hold back the blade. Warm sweat was gathering on his forehead. He was nearing his limit.
He’d been cornered.
And yet, Shikamaru kept smiling.
“Sometimes,” he said to Gengo, “There are things that’re strong because they’re empty.”
“I have no intention of continuing this idle talk.” Gengo said. “In a very short time, you are going to die.”
The blade was inching closer to Shikamaru’s forehead.
“Well, listen anyway. I really like watching clouds.”
“Y’see clouds, are things that can never be caught by anyone, because as long as there’s wind, clouds will be blown away before you can catch them. They’re sneaky things, empty of any substance.”
Shikamaru felt the blade’s cold edge touch his forehead. Still, he continued speaking.
“But even those empty, sneaky things have their uses. They can water the earth with rain. They can strike things down with lightning.”
“So what?” Gengo asked.
“So, I’m telling you that it’s wrong to keep thinking you have to be full of substance to be worth something. Even if your insides feel empty… Even if you don’t have an unshakable core. As long as you hold a resolve not to become twisted as a person, then you’ll be fine. But you don’t even know that. An idiotic bastard like you who honestly thinks everyone else has to become the way you want them to be, you wouldn’t understand what I mean even if you died, would you?”
The blade had cut into the skin of Shikamaru’s forehead by now, and warm blood was leaking out.
It was precisely because he was still talking despite being in such a grave situation that Shikamaru’s words had caught Gengo’s attention.
Gengo was distracted by a human’s natural curiosity, and as he concentrated on Shikamaru’s words, his grip on the sword loosened.
That was the opportunity Shikamaru had been waiting for.
Lying down on the floor as he was, he swept his leg fiercely towards where Gengo’s.
Gengo stumbled, and the sword lurched forward. Shikamaru turned his head along with the direction of the sword’s momentum, and the blade skimmed past his forehead without cutting any deeper than the surface of his skin, hitting the floor. Shikamaru rolled out from under Gengo’s legs, getting to his feet.
He was out of that corner.
Shikamaru allowed himself a small exhale, before he turned and leapt towards Gengo, sticking out his right foot to where he calculated the man’s face to be.
Shikamaru felt his kick land against something thick and soft, most likely Gengo’s nose.
Gengo staggered back.
As soon as Shikamaru landed from his mid-air kick, he jumped back one more time, putting distance between himself and the longsword.
“So, how does it feel?” Shikamaru asked, “Getting a taste of the genjutsu of my words?”
“Don’t look down on me, you brat…”
“Oi, oi, I’ve gone from ‘bastard’ to ‘brat’ now?” As Shikamaru spoke, he could hear a grating sound behind him, like metal being drawn against metal.
The room was suddenly full of glaring light.
“Are you okay, Shikamaru?!” Chouji’s voice.
Shikamaru looked over his shoulder. In his field of vision, he could see his comrades standing in the doorway of the room.
There was Chouji and Ino and Sakura, and Roku and Sou, who seemed to have broken out of the genjutsu as well.
And, of course, there was Temari.
While wondering what had happened with Sai, Shikamaru turned to look at Gengo one more time.
“Prepare your jutsu, Ino!” He shouted.
Behind his back, Shikamaru made a signal with his hands that he knew Ino would understand. Team 10 had worked together for many years. Their communication was flawless.
“Got it!” Ino replied.
“Until I give my signal, nobody should make any move to get involved.” Shikamaru said.
The blood dripping from his forehead was obscuring his vision. He brought up his palm to wipe it away, and then reached inside his vest to retrieve his Konoha hitaiate that had been safely stitched on the inside of his clothing. He tied it firmly around his forehead. He wasn’t really worried about how effective it’d be in stopping the bleeding though.
“Aren’t you acting so composed?” Gengo snarled, swinging his longsword overhead with bloodshot eyes. “Shikamaru!”
Shikamaru’s fingers moved in a quick handseal.
His shadow started extending from his feet, heading towards Gengo.
“I’m not such a fool as to be caught in your petty tricks,” Gengo said, leaping away before Shikamaru’s shadow could reach his feet.
Gengo landed and lunged at Shikamaru without pause, his sword flashing out to slash at him.
Shikamaru was sliced in two from his forehead down.
But then his flesh lost its colour, turning black, and then disappearing.
“Just a kage bunshin.” Gengo snarled.
Behind him, Shikamaru was approaching with a kunai in his hand.
The kunai slashed towards the back of Gengo’s neck.
Gengo dodged the blow brilliantly, a fine example of Kirigakure’s brilliant upbringing in sword techniques. As Gengo dodged, he shifted his body, bending his knees and swinging his sword horizontally.
Shikamaru’s abdomen was pierced.
But this Shikamaru also lost his colour. Another kage bunshin.
“You impudent little…” Gengo snarled.
“Preparations complete!” Ino called out.
Shikamaru’s plan was complete, too. A large part of it hinged on the successful application of Ino’s jutsu.
She stood quite a distance away from Gengo, both her arms up, palms spread out. Her thumb and index fingers were brought together to make a triangle-like formation, and she was looking directly at Gengo.
“Ninpou, shintenshin no jutsu.”
Gengo instantly leapt to the side, escaping Ino’s trajectory. Seeing him evade her, Ino smiled to herself.
And she shifted her palms, just slightly, to head for her real target: Shikamaru.
Shikamaru’s body stiffened.
He knew that Ino had entered his mind.
The jutsu lasted for only an instant. In the time where one could take one breath in, and maybe let another out, the jutsu had already broken.
“Rou, Soku,” Ino called out to the two the instant she broke the jutsu.
It’d all gone according to plan…
The shintenshin jutsu that could enter people’s hearts was also capable of doing one more thing: sharing knowledge.
Shikamaru had taken advantage of that fact.
The plan that he’d carefully laid out in his head had been transmitted to Ino. And she had transmitted it to Rou and Soku.
Shikamaru had decided that he was going to bring down this scumbag with Rou and Soku. The three of them would do it together.
“Let’s go!” Shikamaru called out the two.
Rou and Soku nodded.
Shikamaru ran towards Gengo, while Rou and Soku ran to opposite ends of the room, stopping then they faced each other from their parallel places.
“Whatever you do, it’s useless.” Gengo said.
“Oh come on now.” Shikamaru said. “This is the last fight we’ll have. Might as well enjoy it.”
Kunai and longsword clashed in mid-air. There was a large difference between the mass of both of their weapons.
Shikamaru was pushed back from the force of Gengo’s longsword, tumbling to the floor.
Gengo’s sword came after him, slashing across his chest.
But it was just another kage bunshin.
“How long do you intend to keep playing games?!” Gengo snarled, spittle flying from his mouth.
Shikamaru attacked Gengo from above, aiming at his head. Gengo swung at him with his sword. It was another bunshin.
And another, another, another, another, another, another…
Gengo’s sword had sliced Shikamaru in half countless times. But no matter how he sliced and swung and raged, every single time Shikamaru was just another kage bunshin, disappearing from sight as soon as he was injured.
“Where are you hiding, Shikamaru?!”
The real Shikamaru had long disappeared from the front of Gengo’s field of vision.
He was, in factm standing right behind him. Not that Gengo noticed.
“Checkmate.” Shikamaru murmured in Gengo’s ear.
Gengo snapped his head to stare over his shoulder, the colour draining from his face.
Either way, he was too late…
Shikamaru’s shadow had already slithered out of his feet and linked itself with Gengo’s body.
The plan had been executed well. Shikamaru had first made countless kage bunshin and then, using Rou’s jutsu, given them all the appearance of having a very thick and dense chakra.
Gengo’s mind had naturally started recognising the bunshins chakra. And then, after fighting bunshin after bunshin, he’d unconsciously started seeking that chakra out, blocking out other senses in favour of that specific chakra signature.
Finally, the real Shikamaru had his chakra’s traces erased by Rou’s jutsu, and quietly snuck up on Gengo in the background.
Gengo had been attacked from a complete and utter blind spot. Until Shikamaru had locked him in his shadow, the man hadn’t had a single clue as to what was going on.
“SHIKAMARU, YOU BASTAAAAAAAAAAARD!” Gengo screamed, turning his head to spew out vitriol at him. As he seethed and shrieked, his tongue flashed a deep crimson inside his mouth.
“Hinoko.” Shikamaru calmly called.
“Aghhhh!” As she gathered her chakra on her index finger, the girl let out a shriek that almost burst Shikamaru’s ear drums. “I keep telling not to call me by my name y’knowwwwwwwww!”
Shikamaru’s eyes clearly saw the orange glow of Soku’s lightning chakra fly towards Gengo and pass straight through his tongue.
“Ga- gaaah?” Gengo made a dry, breathy sound.
“She just severed the chakra flow to your tongue.” Shikamaru told him. “From now on, you’re stuck in a body that won’t let you breathe another word.”
Tears were leaking out Gengo’s eyes.
“I’m definitely going to make a world without war, so you’ll have to forgive me for snatching away yours.” Shikamaru said, and signalled for Rou.
Rou, who had stayed strong after suffering both torture and genjutsu, came running immediately.
“Put him in restraints, and accompany him to the Union.”
“Understood, sir.” Rou nodded, eyes shining with admiration.
Shikamaru rubbed his index finger against the bridge of his nose, trying to gloss over his embarrassment.
Rou wrapped Gengo’s arms in countless layers of metal rings and seals – the specialised handcuffs used by the Anbu. Shikamaru pulled his shadow away from Gengo. The man was well restrained.
Shikamaru suddenly noticed that Soku had come to stand behind Rou as well.
“The mission’s complete, huh.” Shikamaru said. “It might not have gone very smoothly, but…”
Shikamaru smiled at the two, and Rou and Soku’s faces crumpled like they were about to cry as they nodded back.