To burn so brightly means to burn out faster. Konoha has witnessed this before, has seen the Will of Fire be twisted into madness or smothered by death. Prodigies are admired or reviled but, either way, they are watched–there is something mesmerizing about a crash and burn.
But Suna is different, they endure. They live through scorching days and freezing nights and know that the sun is dangerous in either extremes but, ultimately, life-giving. Moderation, patience, endurance. That is the way of Suna.
We lose something to the void. Every time a Nara uses their shadow, even for something as small as the Shadow Paralysis, we lose something.
For small jutsu, for those easily controlled, it is always something that can be lost. Chakra, mostly, a good night’s sleep or a lack of calm, other times. But those are just casualties of being a shinobi, the consequences of being a trained killer.
For bigger uses, though, the costs also increase. Exponentially. We lose ourselves: Our emotions, for a time. Or our resolve to be a ninja. Or even, in extreme cases, the will to live.
Our bloodline is a bargain, our affinity an exchange. We sacrifice to the void and in return we receive strength
What my daughter did should have been impossible. Or, at the very least, it should have killed her.
It doesn’t matter how changed she is now, how broken or diminished or unbalanced others think of her. I am glad she survived.
Shikako has paid much to the void; but she is the only Nara who has ever demanded a refund.
It began with a stray thought.
There was a mission and a cave so deep that, even though the sun was out, she had to rely on her sensor ability to move around, let alone fight.
Technically, wasn’t the darkness of the cave merely the shadow of the mountain?
It didn’t amount to anything then–a battle was not the time to be experimenting with shadow jutsu. But some part of her filed it away for later, and in the back of her mind, that thought grew even more perilous:
Isn’t nighttime simply the shadow of the planet?
The problem with being the leader in the field of medicine is that if Konoha can’t heal something then the matter is deemed incurable.
But Shikako’s state isn’t something that can be fixed with the careful application of chakra, can’t be contained with seals, or soothed by the Yamanaka mind arts. It’s not something that should be left alone and monitored from a distance. She shouldn’t be put out to pasture, so to speak, like other Nara who have pushed too far; as much a skittish forest creature as the deer which make up their clan’s livelihood.
No, she deserves better than that. Even if she’s not the same Shikako who believed in Naruto at every step, or guided Sasuke down the right path, or supported her friends when they faltered. Even if she’s not the sister Shikamaru grew up with, she deserves better.
If anyone knows about madness–the kind of insanity that screams and tears and bites away at oneself, the kind of lunacy that waxes with the sun and wanes with the stars, the kind of psychosis that deems other people as unreal and thus insignificant–it’s Gaara.
But the difference between Gaara’s madness and Shikako’s is that Gaara’s was done to him; by his father, by his village, by the demon sealed inside him. Shikako did it to herself.
Nara lose things when they use their shadows, but no Nara has ever become their shadow. And while their legendary founder was thought to control the night itself, no Nara had ever reached so far into the void as to become the night.
Shikako lost herself in that battle; sacrificed herself willingly and dispersed all she was into the dark of the night in order to save the people she loved. Every day, they have to deal with the consequences; every day, they have to watch the shell of her fail to be the person they know.
But every night, she comes back, a little at a time.
It may take months or years or even their entire lifetime for her to be fully restored.
Gaara can wait; the desert endures.
A/N: … T_T what am I doing?! This is what happens when I don’t include Kankurou–shit just gets all sad and despairing.
Sorry @tenderwenders, this is what came out of my head for your prompt. But, um, let’s call this a “bad ending!AU” and, uh, I might try again and hopefully it won’t be so bleak as this one…