Naruto Hiden / Naruto Hiden Vol 2 Chapter 18
After restraining Gengo, Shikamaru and his comrades went down the spiralling stairs to find the battle between the Enlightened Ones and other shinobi had already finished. It turned out that the moment Soku severed the chakra flow to Gengo’s tongue, the genjutsu clouding the Enlightened One’s minds had cleared up as well, and that’d been a really big help to ending the battle.
Despite the battle between Enlightened Ones and shinobi being so fierce, there hadn’t been as much harm done as one would think. Other than several heavily wounded people, almost everyone had walked away fight with relatively light injuries. You would think it a miracle that no one had been killed, but it was mostly because the Sunagakure shinobi had faithfully followed Gaara’s orders -”Do not kill unless necessary.”- when they stormed the hall.
When Gengo’s advisors found out that he had been defeated and restrained, all of their shoulders slumped and the will to fight seemed to leave them entirely. They had awakened from their feverish dream, and now turned terribly despondent.
When Shikamaru and the others had arrived at the hall, the other Konohagakure and Sunagakure shinobi were handling the Enlightened Ones well, restraining some and giving medical aid to others.
Shikamaru called out when he spotted the shinobi sitting amidst the crowd of people, receiving medical aid from another shinobi.
“Shikamaru…” Sai sat upright, looking at him with a blank face.
Ino had told Shikamaru about what happened with Sai on the group’s way down the stairs. Perhaps it was because Sai had been dragged out of the genjutsu with such strong, desperate measures that the shinobi’s eyes still looked a little dazed, like some part of him was drifting at sea.
“I’m so sorry.” Sai murmured.
“Don’t worry about it.” Shikamaru kindly said, squatting down next to him and putting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s all behind us.”
Underneath the black material of Sai’s uniform, Shikamaru could feel the shinobi’s shoulders shaking slightly.
There weren’t any tears dripping down his face. But Sai was still crying on the inside.
“I’m pathetic.” Sai muttered.
“You were in a trance brought on by that guy’s words.” Shikamaru said. “Even I’d gotten dragged into it. You have nothing to feel ashamed about.”
“Don’t let it bother you too much. Managing to carry on with a light heart no matter what happens has always been one of your best qualities.”
“Thank you, Shikamaru.” A single tear slipped out of Sai’s right eye, falling down his cheek.
“When we get back to Konoha, take some time off. I’ll talk to Kakashi-san.”
“Thank you…” As Sai said that, Ino appeared to stand by Sai’s side.
“Take care of him.” Shikamaru said to Ino, getting up to his feet.
Ino gave a deep nod, her eyes looking down at Sai. She kneeled down next to him the minute Shikamaru had gotten out of the way.
Just as Shikamaru had let out a small sigh of relief to see everything settled, a man’s voice rang out, bursting with righteous with fury.
“SHI! KA! MA! RUUUUUUUUUUUUU!”
Oh yeah, he’d totally forgotten about that guy…
Rubbing the back of his head, Shikamaru turned his head to look at the voice’s owner.
What he saw, instead, was a fist headed directly for his face.
Shikamaru’s body was thrown backwards, rolling across the ground. His field of vision changed from the floor to the ceiling to the floor to the ceiling.
His brain calmly counted every single roll that had been caused by the terribly powerful punch. Shikamaru’s body finally rolled to a stop when he was on his back.
He sat up on the floor, eyes catching sight of the furious blond man who was now rushing towards him.
Shikamaru has gotten onto his hands and knees to get up, but the next thing he knew, the man had jumped on top of his back like a man would a horse, grabbing the back of his collar. Shikamaru’s neck was jerked up and down and an incoherently furious scolding blasting into his ears.
“YOU – WHY – TELL ME – EVERYTHING BY YOURSELF – ALWAYS LIKE THIS – EVERYONE – WORRIED SICK – EVEN I – GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH – YOU FUCKING IDIOT!”
“I’m really sorry, Naruto.” Shikamaru spoke to the man on his back.
“You’re really a fucking idiot!!” Naruto furiously repeated.
Naruto’s bellowed words had been disjointed and choppy in his worked up state, his feelings spewing out his mouth without structure, but Shikamaru had clearly understood all of Naruto’s concern for him packed into his rant. It was because Naruto had such a fire inside him that he was suited to be the leader of the Country of Fire’s hidden village, Konoha.
“Didn’t you say you were gonna be my advisor, huh?” Naruto muttered.
The blonde seemed to have calmed down somewhat after Shikamaru’s apology had registered, and he’d verified that Shikamaru was indeed alright.
“This country’ll be fine from now on.” Naruto firmly. Sakura had come to stand next to them at some point Shikamaru hadn’t noticed.
“Since the Enlightened Ones ruling this country were all shinobi, there isn’t a single citizen who doesn’t know that Naruto’s the hero from the last shinobi world war.” Sakura said. “Nobody will kick up a fuss over these events once they see that Naruto’s here. And since Gengo’s genjutsu has been broken, things will settle down soon enough.”
Naruto’s influence over the world of shinobi was immeasurably strong. It was just like Sakura had said. Nobody would oppose the hero who had saved the world.
“Hey, from now on,” Naruto sternly said, “If anything happens, tell me first.”
“Aa.” Shikamaru closed his eyes and nodded.
Naruto let go of the back of Shikamaru’s collar and stood up.
“Come on.” Naruto held out his hand.
Shikamaru silently took it.
Naruto pulled him up with one smooth, strong motion, and Shikamaru was immediately back on his feet. Shikamaru envied how Naruto could be so honest and straightforward. And he thought that for Naruto’s sake, he had to try and be more honest too.
“This is the last time…”
“Huh?” Naruto tilted his head at Shikamaru.
“This is the last time I’ll act like a kid.”
“After all, I’m gonna spend all my time after this babysitting a kid.” Shikamaru said, poking Naruto in the chest.
“Hey, who’re you calling a kid?”
“Who do you think?”
The two looked at each other, and burst into grins.
For the sake of Roku, Sou and Sai receiving immediate medical treatment, it was decided that their first order of business was returning to Konoha. Naruto, Sakura and others were going to stay behind in the Country of Silence and clean up matters there. Shikamaru wasn’t worried about leaving Naruto behind. With Gengo out of the picture, he was sure things would work out fine.
Sunagakure’s shinobi intended on doing the same, leaving part of their troop behind while the rest headed back to Suna. Konohagakure and Sunagakure’s forces would both head their separate ways home.
“This time around, I’m really in your debt.” Shikamaru said to Gaara, as they stood at the gates of Curtain Village.
Sunagakure’s returning shinobi stood lined up behind Gaara. All the shinobi who had been brought up in the desolate desert of Suna had the same strong, formidable countenance. Every single one of them were looking at Shikamaru with a smile. It was small things like that which let you feel the world of shinobi was really beginning to merge into one.
“Don’t worry about it.” Gaara replied. “You’re someone whose existence is essential to the Union, now and in the future. There’s no need for you to use such formal words like ‘debt’ for an operation like this. Isn’t it natural for someone to go and save their comrade?”
Gaara crossed his arms as he spoke. He never used to be this talkative. Years ago, Gaara used to be someone with an unreadable face, blank of any emotion; constantly bloodthirsty, a dangerous guy.
But now, Sunagakure’s shinobi looked at Gaara with affectionate smiles.
Behind Shikamaru, there was Sai, Rou and Soku. Chouji and Ino, too. As well as another group of Konohagakure’s shinobi. All of them were quiet too, attentively listening to Gaara and Shikamaru’s conversation.
“But I really am very relieved…” Gaara murmured seriously to Shikamaru. “If my sister hadn’t been so troubled, we all would’ve ended up losing a very valuable person.”
Temari was standing next to Gaara, her gaze fixed on some spot above their heads. She had taken on the attitude of completely ignoring the exchange. Shikamaru supposed it was because she was trying to hide her embarrassment, but it was only a little charming, not a lot.
“Don’t worry about Gengo.” Gaara said. “We’ll drop him off at the Union’s headquarters on our way home.”
“We keep receiving your help on every little thing…”
“I keep telling you not to speak so formally.” Gaara said. The Kazekage that held such love and devotion in his village then stuck out his hand for Shikamaru.
“Well then, we’ll meet again at the Union.” Shikamaru said, and grasped Gaara’s hand. He gave a firm, strong squeeze. Gaara returned the handhold with the same strength.
“See you later.”
Gaara let go of the handhold, turning his gaze to look at his comrades.
“Let’s go home.” He said, and Sunagakure’s shinobi unanimously answered in a cheer.
Temari turned her back to leave, and Shikamaru’s voice suddenly called out to her.
Gaara looked almost as surprised as Shikamaru himself felt.
Temari came to a halt mid-step. The rest of Sunagakure’s shinobi looked like they were going to stop too, but Gaara made a gesture for them to go ahead and Sunagakure’s shinobi obeyed, spilling out of the village’s gates and into the main street. Gaara followed, casting one look over his shoulder at Shikamaru before disappearing.
Only Temari was left.
Somewhere behind Shikamaru, he could faintly hear Soku let out a ‘kyaa!’.
Shikamaru ignored her, and drew closer to Temari.
“What is it?” She sourly asked.
Her eyes always had such a staggering power…
Shikamaru felt like he was about to lose his nerve, and took a deep breath to try and calm himself down. He tried to get his thoughts past his mouth.
It was no use. The words weren’t coming out.
“What?” Temari asked irritably, urging him to hurry up. Even now, her body was slightly tilted towards the gates to follow the direction her younger brother had gone.
“Thank you, for today.”
“Hmph.” Temari gave a snort, and Shikamaru continued talking.
“Next time, how about eating a meal together?”
“Are you asking me on a date?” Temari plainly asked.
The look in her eyes was serious now. There wasn’t even the slightest bit of embarrassment in her attitude, nothing endearing.
Why am I asking this sort of a woman out for a meal? Shikamaru questioned himself.
“Well, yeah, it is that sort of thing.” His reply came from somewhere in Shikamaru’s subconscious.
He’d asked her out, so, it couldn’t be helped.
No… He’d called out to her and made her stop because he wanted to ask her out.
Shikamaru felt bewildered by these emotions that he himself didn’t understand.
“I see.” Temari thoughtfully said. “A date, huh…”
It was almost as if she was seated in a war council, talking about preparations for how to deal with a formidable enemy.
Temari put a hand to her chin, starting to think seriously about the matter.
“You don’t want to?” Shikamaru involuntarily blurted out.
Temari gazed closely at the look on his face for a while. Then she let go of her chin, and put her hands on her hips.
Temari’s radiant grin after she said that felt like something incredibly precious to Shikamaru.