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Equilibrium

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As a baby, one doesn’t have any recollection of memories until the age of seven, where one’s brain is able to process information clearly. If he attempted to think back to his birth, he would get fuzzy memories, memories that floating out of his line of sight. But he could remember a few specific details, the light slowly shining into the hospital room, the whispering of shadows in his ears and inky black hands gingerly touching his feet.

 

Shikamaru Nara was born on September 22 XXXX, in the darkness of a solar eclipse. The eclipse was unexpected, so was his birth, screams and shouts of pain echoed throughout the grounds. He gave his parents a fright, thinking that he was dead when he didn’t begin to cry as soon as his mouth was cleared. A figure stood in the shadows, they have been observing the birth in silent, cocking xyr head at the display. Xe never has seen a Nara birth on a solar eclipse before, it never happened.

 

Xe nearly flinched at the hand of Shikaku, gesturing to the bundle in his exhausted wife’s arms. Ah, they remember, xe were supposed to go and see the child. Xe didn’t walk, only glided over to the bed warily, staring at the child who had just opened their eyes sleepily. The child tilted their head in curiosity and reached out to touch xem. Xyr fingers were grabbed quickly and pulled, dark brown eyes looked at him with a cunning look.

 

“His name is Shikamaru.”

 

Shika...the Nara prefix for deer, and Maru...an indication that the child was male. The child was already special, being born during the eclipse. Xyr symbol.

 

The bond between your child and I is stronger, due to his birth being under the darkness of the total eclipse. Xe nodded and glided back into the shadows and disappeared.

 

Shikamaru Nara...huh.

 

This child will be a game changer.

 

The same inky hands also had a hand in his upbringing. The day before his fifth birthday, his father had led him into the forest, taking a path that Shikamaru was prevented from crossing. Even as a child he was curious about the restrictions, attempting to poke it. Bend the rules for him to see fit. His mother would laugh and roll her eyes and tell him to be patient. He was told the same thing by his older cousins and his father. Instead, Shikaku would distract him with teaching him how to play Shoji or getting information from one of their many clan libraries.

 

Now, he was able.

 

They wandered the narrow path for a while, sometimes the path flattening dirt and at different twists and turns it would be overgrown by vines and grass. Shikamaru squeezed his father’s hand tighter, the only indication on his blank face that he was...somewhat frightened.

 

Emotions in the Nara clan were accepted, but due to the mask of indifference and boredom that they all wore, it was hard to drop the mask. But his father simply smiled at him and continued onward, the two of them standing in a perfect circle. Shikamaru looked around curiously, his eyes gazing through the forest depths calculating, taking in his surroundings.

 

“We are waiting for something? Aren’t we?”

 

“Correct,” Shikaku paused, his eyes looking towards a certain direction before taking a step back. “Shika, go in that direction, there is something waiting for you. I’ll be here waiting.”

 

Shikamaru nodded at his father’s words before breaking away his grip. Walking towards the general direction that he was pointing at. He paused for a moment, looking back to see his father sitting on the barren ground, gesturing for him to continue onward. Okay, so this was a test. He was either going to pass or fail. He was going in blind, without equipment or a plan.

 

No, he had a plan.

 

Shikamaru had been listening to the whispers of shadows and darkness since he could remember. The gargled words of the shadows had always been buzzing in his ears, not as an annoyance but a comfort. The first thing he was ever taught was how to separate the whispers from the sounds of the physical world, but to foremost listen to the whispers. The shadows would guide him if he didn’t fight their influences.

 

He won’t fight them.

 

He was going to listen. He continued onward, walking aimlessly through the woods, going in a zig-zag pattern to throw off anyone who bothered to follow. Of course, no one was allowed on the Nara compound without his father’s explicit consent but no cannot be too careful. His clan had so many secrets that his father always allures too, and he was going to discover one of them today. The dirt path had ended a long while back but he continued to walk.

 

How long has it been?

 

15 minutes?

 

30 minutes?

 

Close to an hour?

 

Shikamaru didn’t know but he carried on. As the clan’s heir, he wasn't supposed to fail. It was expected of him.

 

He will not fail.

 

The whispers became to grow louder.

 

And louder.

 

And louder.

 

To the point where it felt like someone was beside him or behind him, yelling clear words into his ears.

 

Unum tenebris

 

Unum tenebris

 

Shikamaru stumbled, startled, and tripped over an upended root in his path. He hissed as he hit his knees on the ground harshly. The ground was just grass and soft moss but there were still traces of rock where one was least expecting it. But he wasn’t focused on that.

 

The whispers in his ears were on yelling, it was all he could listen too. It overwhelming him and he felt like he was drowning in it. Drowning in the darkness. His mind was spinning, twisting and turning attempting to find a way out of the dark.

 

He couldn’t focus.

 

It was too much. Too much.

 

His chest hurts, he couldn’t breathe.

 

It was hard to breathe.

 

His body suddenly felt cold and he started to tremble where he laid. It felt like pins and needles pricking his skin, his feet, his hands.

 

It was the feeling of being underwater, just below the surface with nothing under him and there was no way to get up for air.

 

No.

 

Be still.

 

Breathe.

 

His body continued to tremble, tears of panic threatening to spill from his eyes as he crossed his legs, placing his shaking hands in the meditation pose he seen his parents do many times. Maybe that’s why they do it so much, to lessen the noise. To lessen the fear and the overwhelmedness.

 

Focus.

 

Breathe. In and out.

 

Shikamaru shakily sucked in a breath and closed his eyes, letting the tears fall down his face. He shivered again and continued to take in deep breaths until his heart didn’t roar in his ears. He focused on trying to listen to the sounds around him, deafening the yells in his ears.

 

It eventually died down, the whispers sounding apologetic. Shikamaru scooted back underneath the shadows of the tree behind him, suddenly exhausted. He let out a small whimper and wiped the tears away. He shouldn’t act like this. It wasn’t normal.

 

“Little one, why are you crying?”

 

Shikamaru sharply looked up and yelped, looking at a shadow. Correction, it wasn’t really a shadow, more like one of the stags that he has seen his father tend to. It was taller than them all with eerie yellow eyes, and their body was constantly shifting as it kneels down to his level. Shikamaru closed his eyes again before a cold hand touched his face. He opened his eyes again seeing that the shadow took a normal humanoid form.

 

“I believe that this form...is more useful, especially to young children. Though I’m surprised that your parents decided that you were to meet me this early.”

 

What?

 

Shikamaru reached his hand out, the creature flinched, “Hey...I’m not going to hurt you.”

 

“Force of habit, little one.”

 

“The Undimmed Eyes...that’s what you are.” He got a confrontation by the creature’s nod, his brain immediately turning the wheels in his head. This creature was practically the symbol of his clan, the one that one of the heirs of the clan had negotiated a deal with. The same creature that sometimes he saw in the windows, staring back at him.  

 

The creature moved into a comfortable position in front of Shikamaru, their yellow eyes unblinking and seemingly staring into his soul but he wasn’t scared. Not anymore at least.

 

“The shadows, they call to you…”

 

The Undimmed Eyes gave a low rumble in its throat, “I see your parents have produced an insightful heir, you may be smarter than your father. That is correct, the shadows do call to me. In my presence, they increase their voices.” They paused seemingly to think of something before speaking again.

 

“The voices overwhelmed your sense of hearing. I am sorry.”

 

Shikamaru wiped his face again, thankful that the tears stopping flowing, “Based on the shadows’ response, I doubt this has happened before.”

 

“Correct; normally, the voices feel like they’re right next to you, doesn’t it?” Shikamaru nods just slightly and the thing before him hums,

 

“You were born under my symbol of power Shikamaru. As a result, you have a deeper connection to those that linger in the shadows. Do not be alarmed, you are merely a child, you will grow accustomed to it.” The thing offered his hand to him and Shikamaru looked at it for a moment before slowly taking it. The creature helped him up, their eyes seeming to smile at him. Shikamaru sucked in a breath and smiled back. The creature tugged on his hand lightly and they began to walk back together through the woods, Shikamaru slowly beginning to feel better.

 

“I see you are still bothered. What is the problem Shikamaru?”

 

“Your symbol of power is a total solar eclipse, but it doesn’t explain much of why I’m able to hear the shadows much more clearly than everyone in my clan. Assuming that is the case.”

 

The creature paused in its steps, head tilted as if they were appearing to be thinking.

 

Xe was caught off guard by the question, xe didn’t expect the Nara heir to ask so many questions about their abilities. But xe shouldn’t have been surprised, xe’s speaking to a Nara after all. Xe looked around for a moment before xyr eyes settled onto a tree stump. Pulling Shikamaru’s hand, xe led them to stump before kneeling down before it, gesturing for the child to do the same. The creature tapped on the wood for a while before speaking.

 

“This stump, what do you see little one?”

 

Shikamaru peered down at the stump with a squint. Was this another test? A trick question? He shrugged mentally and answered anyways, “The rings of the tree.”

 

“Correct, the rings...as humans put it can tell how long a beauty like this has been standing here. The rings get darker and more pronounced as the older the tree is.” Xyr fingers brushed against the stump almost delicately. As if they pressed down harder, the stump would crumble.

 

“The Nara clan, little one, compared to other clans in your village are already apart of the darker rings. You are in particular are a little closer to the centre.”

 

“The centre is...well I am not the only spirit lurking around the village or this country. The supernatural co-exist with humans and the deeper one goes-”

 

“The stronger the pull towards the centre and the supernatural.”

 

“Yes, potentially you could hear more than the echoes of shadows and darkness. The keyword is potential, little one. I may have walked the earth for a long time, but your family is truly the first humans I have made contact with.”

 

Shikamaru nodded his head, his eyelids slowly closing. He gained more of a clear understanding of his clan’s abilities and his own. Though he doubts that he will ever receive a true understanding, he was only human. And normally, humans don’t have connections to the supernatural.

 

Nor, should they dance within the shadows without fear.

 

His eyes were heavy, and his body slumped forward, almost hitting the stump if the creature didn’t catch him in time. The Undimmed Eyes stood, picking up the boy, looking at him with interest.

 

He’s...similar to..Umbra.

 

“I’ll bring you to your parents, little one. Happy Birthday.”

 

They only got a soft snore in return. The walk back was silent after that, the Undimmed Eyes nodding to their brethren as they passed. They knew the child would have more questions to ask, to learn more.

 

If there was any doubt that Shikamaru was a Nara. Even if they didn’t, the little one would search for the answers anyways himself.

 

Troublesome.

 

Tomorrow, they would stay out of sight, until the darkness of night. For it was the child’s birthday and it would officially meet the heirs of the Akimichi and Yamanaka clan.

 

The next Ino-Shika-Cho formation.

 

The child would be put to the test...another test. The mask of a Nara, indifference brewing to the brim with intelligence and sarcastic remarks to go with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect since he is a mere child but enough to placate his new...friends?

 

Can they call them friends?

 

Truly, the two other clans were the only ones that the Nara were true allies with, friends even. Friends that went back to the start of the first Shinobi War, the beginning of the Second and Third in addition to the attack to the village caused by Obito Uchiha.

 

So much death.

 

So much negativity and darkness within human beings.

 

Maybe that was the reason the creature didn’t associate with humans except for the Naras. The Naras...were not like the rest. They were not power-hungry or willing to kill without reason. They wanted peace, peace to raise their children without fear of opposing forces. Without the fear of the outside world finding out what secrets they hold within their lands.

 

The Undimmed Eyes could see it within the eyes of everyone, including Shikaku and Yoshino. Whenever they looked at their child, Shikamaru, they saw love….and sadness. The sadness of their child being thrown into another war. Another battlefield where death glides around with a wicked grin on their face, watching hungrily for the bodies to fall. The blood to spill across the earth once more…

 

All for the sake of peace.

 

Fake peace.

 

The Undimmed Eyes paused in its steps, being angry will not help. The child shifted in xyr arms and xyr eyes soften. Shikamaru was like Umbra....but different. The creature continued to walk forward, determined to help the child in any way that they could. The Undimmed Eyes has seen too much bloodshed being spilt to want it again…it was too much.

 

Xyr heart...ached.

 

But xe continued to walk.

 

+++

 

“He’s out there.”

 

“I know.”

 

“It wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known, Shikaku.”

 

He opened one eye briefly before closing it again. He knew Yoshino meant well with her words but in his mind, the words twisted and festered into something ugly. It was his fault, he still sent out Hyo Nara in his place during the council meeting. He was the one to put one of his clansmen...his family in danger. If he had went...this wouldn’t have happened.

 

Danzo wouldn’t have dared.

 

A hand gripped his chin, warm and calloused not soft as outsiders would like to believe.

 

“Do not turn your head away from me, troublesome man. Look at me.”

 

Shikaku couldn’t disobey her, he wouldn’t dare to . Even if he’d tried, he would have failed within the first few seconds. His eyes fluttered open, gazing at the woman lying next to him. Yoshino Nara, his wife, his partner.

 

His other half.

 

Looking at her will never ceased to get old.

 

Ever.

 

She sat up, dragging him into her arms, her chin resting on his shoulder as they both gazed out into the entrance of the forest. Yoshino had come to sit with him a little while after he sent Shikamaru out on his own to meet the Undimmed Eyes. A decision that was...not wise but after the abduction of Hyo, earlier that day, plans changed. He reached up to run his fingers through Yoshino’s hair, bringing the strands to his lips. Her presence always calmed him, and vice versa. They could never grow tired of each other.

 

In life or death.

 

Dare he says it, he was still entranced by her even after all these years of marriage.

 

Smitten.

 

“Shika, it wasn’t your fault. It was a council meeting about the conversion of the Academy’s curriculum. The fact that Danzo used that as a way to claim one of ours is unforgivable, but do not blame yourself. I won’t let you.”

 

A small smiled ghosted his lips. He was the logical one, cold, calculating and ruthless. Always one step ahead just as he was raised, with a mask of boredom and indifference. Intelligence was everything in his clan, they valued it greatly. It was the reason they took in some of the orphans that resided in the village in the first place. Shikaku’s mind immediately going to Orochimaru, Iruka, and Kakashi. He couldn’t dare to think what would have happened to them if the Nara haven’t taken them in and raised them. Plus, there is an alarming rate of orphans in the village that no one has addressed. He placed that idea in the back of his mind, determined to bring it up in another council meeting.

 

Yoshino was his heart, passionate as a burning fire. She was just as ruthless and cunning as him, probably better. He knew full well the lengths she would go to protect him, their child, their clan. He had seen her do it before.

 

Strict.

 

Overbearing.

 

Ruthless.

 

Troublesome woman.

 

He adored her.

 

Their hands reached for each other, their fingers entwined before he spoke, his voice low,

 

“I’ll tear him apart.”

 

Yoshino huffed, shaking her head, strands of her hair tickling his nose, “We. We will tear him apart, limb from limb. Whatever secret that he hopes to find and gain for his sick pleasure will be for not. He will die.”

 

“You’re ruthless, my love. I enjoy that of you.”

 

She looked at him with a smirk, “Meek and submissive to her husband’s will. The supposed Yoshino Nara being driven to a mere housewife, the wife of the Nara clan. Poor woman, poor me.”

 

He laughed, oh-she was more than a mere wife, more than someone to warm his bed at night. They were equals, both heads of the clan in the eyes of the Elders and their allies. They refused to play by the councils' rule and they lead the Nara clan together. They played by their own rules, communicating their wants and needs to each other.

 

But those words. He has heard them through the whispers of the civilians in the village. They do not know her as he did. But those were not the only words he has heard. After Shikamaru was born, two years together, she immediately jumped back into the force, gaining her title as jonin respectfully. A move that some had thought of as selfish. She had been scolded by women, who told her that she was neglecting her child and her duties as a wife. Yoshino had thrown back her head and laughed. She laughed, laughed and laughed until she could barely breathe. Her duties were split between them, even though he himself despised household chores.

 

But he wasn’t going to risk being hit in the head with a kettle or a kunai directed at his groin. Once was bad enough.

 

She was not lesser than him.

 

They were a team. He was a king but she…

 

She was a queen.

 

His queen.

 

“Poor you indeed, having to put with me,” he said clicking his tongue and Yoshino hummed in agreement.

 

“Putting up with your lazy ass and your intelligent mind,” she muttered, flicking open the clasps of the green vest he wore, pleased with his full body shudder when she brushed her fingernails against the mesh shirt.

 

“True...I would kill for you.”

 

Yoshino hummed against, her hand sliding underneath his shirt, “I know, but I don’t like to be distracted Shikaku. First strike.”

 

He closed his mouth, not without growling in frustration as she kept her touches light. Just barely touching him. He almost let out a whine when she pulled away, clasping his vest buttons again.

 

Almost.

 

“Later, sex in the forest is...unpleasant.”

 

“Not something that we haven’t done before.”

 

“Second strike, Nara,” she stated with a stern glare. There was no fire in the glare, however. Still, he shut his mouth, but they knew that he would get the third strike anyways.

 

“Troublesome woman.”

 

“Lazy asshole.”

 

“Yoshino, Shikaku.”

 

They both turned and stood up, Yoshino immediately leaving his side to go towards the Undimmed Eyes to gently grab their son out of xyr arms. His own eyes met the creature and he raised an eyebrow.

 

“What happened?”

 

“The child is clearly your child, he asked a lot of questions. Advice- teach him meditation, as it seems that your theory was correct, Shikaku.”

 

Panic attacks.

 

Those were common through each Nara in the compound, either due to an overwhelming feeling of sinking deep within the shadows they danced with every day. Or almost failed missions, even he had his moments. Shikaku wordlessly gestured to his son, his little fawn. Kami above, Shikamaru was a goddamn miracle, there were so many complications and issues.

 

Yoshino almost didn’t make it.

 

He brought his son close to him, his child blinking up at him with sleepy eyes before his head slumped down onto his chest again.

 

His little fawn was truly a Nara.

 

“Hyo.”

 

The word was enough for Shikaku to start speaking, “I doubt Danzo had learned of the contract symbol. Hyo must have slashed through his symbol in an effort to hide.”

 

The Undimmed Eyes turned to look at him, eyes unblinking, “Hyo’s disappearance was noted through everyone’s bond. That’s why you decided to the little one to meet me, not after his Academy graduation as tradition.”

 

There was no lying, it was the truth. Ideally, that was the plan, like how his mother shown right after his Academy graduation. Shikaku rubbed his head, suddenly exhausted. With clan politics, village politics and Danzo…

 

How did they manage to keep this fragile peace?

 

He was going to lose his mind. It would have been acceptable to go out and tear Danzo apart, there was a reason why the Naras were the most successful assassins in the village. Hell, their clan were assassins.

 

His own name meant assassin.

 

Danzo would be dead by the dawn but the would cause complications within...almost everything in the village. It would upend the transfer of powers of the high powers of the Leaf and people were still suffering from the effects from the Kyuubi attack. Danzo had called himself the Shadow of Konohagakure, undermining the true shadows in the villages. He can try to bend the shadows to his will but he will fail.

 

That failure will get him killed.

 

The man was a little too interested in gaining clan secrets, seeing how he almost lusted after the Uchiha’s for power.

 

“This man...Danzo, he must die.”

 

Yoshino reached out to grab Shikamaru from his arms, she had been listening to the entire time. He could see the churning anger within her, bubbling forth. Not at the Undimmed Eyes and not at him. He knew she had levels to her rage, but never had her true wrath fallen onto him. And he was grateful for it.

 

“We attack him now, and the village council will grow suspicious and begin an investigation. That investigation will them to the Stag and you. We would die before that happens, but we will not let Hyo suffer under the hands of a madman.”

 

Her words calmed the creature, its form shifting into a Stag itself, “Forgive me for my harshness. I know your clan means well, any information you find, you know where to find me.”

 

They both nodded, “Of course.”

 

The two parents watch the creature flee back into the forest before heading back to their own home themselves. They will claim vengeance on Danzo.

 

He thought he was the master of shadows.

 

He’ll find out who the true masters are.

 

+++

 

Shikamaru awoke to birds chirpings and the sunlight on his face. He let out a small whine, his face scrunched up as he pressed his face against the warm body of the person lying next to him.

 

“Hm, I retract my previous statements. The Nara men are all vampires.”

 

“...No comment.”

 

The child pressed his face closer as the person rose up into a sitting position. He wanted to sleep a little longer before he was thrust into the festivities of the day. It was his birthday after all. A hand reached over to pinch one of his cheeks and he growled smacking the hand away.

 

Yoshino looked at her son, unamused, “He gets that from you, truly the son of Shikaku Nara.” Her husband opened one eye and rolled over to face her, his untied hair flowing out from behind him and some strands falling onto his face. She restrained herself from reaching out to push them to the side. His hair was getting longer…

 

“What time is it?”

 

“Six in the morning.”

 

She bit back a laugh as Shikaku groaned and threw the covers over his body, curling up in the ball, “I agree with our little fawn. Sleep more, we don’t have to arise until nine.”

 

Yoshino had to agree, they were all mentally exhausted from the events of yesterday. She looked at the two in the bed, Shikaku was immediately back to sleep based on the rising and falling of the blankets. She won’t try to awake them, leaning over to kiss them both.

 

“I love you both.”

 

She moved closer, with Shikamaru between her and Shikaku. They will be okay.

 

She could afford to sleep a little longer.