Dreaming of S(erpents), a DoS remix drabble (2016-01-14)

After Jiraiya, Shikako is the closest thing Konoha has to a seal master. It’s not a surprise, really–this fact has been brought up before on multiple occasions–but she’s never felt it so keenly as she does in the moment.

“You want me to… what?” Shikako stammers, her shoulders tensing with apprehension.

Anko’s unusually solemn gaze does not waver–Shikako wonders if it’d be less unnerving if the older woman had her trademark smirk.

“I-I don’t think I can do that,” she tries, before reconsidering: technically, she might have the ability. She’s just not sure if she’s allowed, “I mean, I don’t see what I can do that Jiraiya-sama couldn’t. And I don’t know if–”

“Kid,” Anko interrupts, before scowling, “Shikako,” she tries again, “I’m not expecting you to pull a miracle out of your ass and get this damned thing off me.”

Shikako’s face freezes, uncertain on how to proceed.

Anko snorts, a rueful grin on her face, “I know a little about seals myself, okay? I just want you to take a look, see what you can learn. With your teammate marked up, too, I figure you’ve got a stake in this.”

And it’s no secret that Shikako’s been formally, officially banned from examining Sasuke’s cursed seal.

But no one said anything about Anko’s.

Shikako straightens out from her hunch–not relaxed, but focused–her body a few steps ahead of her brain. Verbally, she dithers, “I’m not sure…”

But Anko pounces on the hesitation, “I’m not asking you to somehow be better than Jiraiya and that damned bastard. I’m asking you to be different. Just look at it. Please, Shikako.”

It really is a good opportunity. And Anko has already stated she’s not expecting any solutions or modifications. If anything, this is more of a favor to Shikako–she’s been itching to get a closer look at the cursed seal and even a prototype is better than nothing.

“Okay,” Shikako agrees. And then, because she will always be a lucky seven at heart, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This.

This is the worst that can happen.

Shikako, standing in an impossible void, water up to her ankles and a giant white snake with Orochimaru’s face on it.

A part of her–a very tiny part, the smallest bit that isn’t reeling in confusion and horror or preoccupied with the flurry of escape and combat plans flickering in an out–can only sigh. She should’ve known. Orochimaru is a crazy, evil psychopath but he’s a genius for a reason.

And it probably didn’t help that she jinxed herself. She just didn’t expect to be pulled into some kind of mental space like Naruto does whenever he talks to Kyuubi.

The seal is on a complete different person, though, how does this even work?

She can ponder that later, this is very obviously not the time.

“The little Nara on Sasuke’s team,” the giant Orochimaru-faced snake says, it’s body uncoiling and slithering towards her. He… it… continues, “So you’ve managed to–”

And then the explosion.

Good news–seals somehow work in this mental space even though it may be the inside of a seal. She’d been worried about structural instability, one of the basic tenets of sealing, but she’d still done it; touch blast is a staple of her fighting style, after all.

Bad news–she’s going to need a whole lot more than a single touch blast to take down this fragment of Orochimaru.

Also, she’s made him… it… angry.

Very angry.

Normally alliances are a good thing, especially the one between the Akimichi, Nara, and Yamanaka. In fact, given their compatibility and foundation of friendship, the clan alliance has literally never been anything but a good thing. Not like weak flimsy false alliances that break or fester and fail.

But in this very specific, extremely particular case, maybe it’s not such a good thing.

Because being allies with the Akimichi and Yamanaka means that each clan can comfortably stay in their niches and trust each other to focus on their own specializations.

And that means Shikako has absolutely no idea how to handle herself in a mental battle. How the hell does Ino do this all the time?

She had always thought that the Yamanaka mind jutsu were similar to genjutsu–overlaying their own will and personality onto a person with copious amounts of chakra and finesse. Emphasis on the finesse.

If she had known that it was more like a telepathic caged grudge match, well. She’s always had great respect for the Yamanaka clan, but now she also has extreme fear. Also, bewilderment–how are they not all batshit insane?

And they don’t even have the benefit of seals like she does. Jutsu doesn’t work here, which means that all the Yamanaka have are their own mental representation of themselves.

Then again, most of them are up against normal humans and not freaky giant snakes with human heads.

Ino survived; she just has to hold onto that thought. Shikako may not have the same training in the Yamanaka mind arts, but she has seals and she’s up against an earlier version as well. She can survive, too.

She doesn’t know how long she’s been here. There is no sun or moon or sky, just Shikako and the Orochimaru-snake and the void. If it weren’t for the cuts and bruises on herself and the huge missing chunks of flesh on the Orochimaru-snake, she’d think she was stuck completely. Frozen in some monstrous tableau–like some kind of fairytale, a lone human trying to take on a dragon.

As it is, she thinks maybe she’s been doing this for days–weeks, months, and eternity. And she can’t help the chilling thought that she’s trapped herself into an infinite hell of some kind (sometimes Tsukuyomi still haunts her, when the sun sits red and heavy in the sky).

But as she’s about to set off yet another round of explosions–there are only so many strategies involving touch blast she can implement–she’s suddenly yanked back and up and, thankfully, out.

Her mind is shoved back into her body, the abruptness causing her to gasp. Then cough as she chokes on air.

Lungs, why this again?

A hand covered in the green glow of medical chakra is pressed over Shikako’s chest, but another hand bats it away.

“It’s just her body being stupid, Sakura” Ino says, angrily, pointedly, “because only an idiot would try to do what she did without having any training in mind jutsu,” but Ino’s hand, curled around Shikako’s wrist, is gentle and warm. Her brow is furrowed not with irritation, but concern.

Shikako is lying on her back, the prickle of grass uncomfortable on her neck. Kneeling on one side of her is Sakura, ignoring Ino’s reprimand and using a diagnostic jutsu on her, and on the other is Ino. Standing above them, with an expression muddled with guilt and relief, is Anko. Shikako can sense some other bright points of chakra–members of the kunoichi group, the older ones at least–just beyond her line of sight.

“Did you call everyone?” Shikako coughs out, because it’s one thing to fail utterly. It’s another to fail utterly in front of an audience.

Anko raises an eyebrow, “Well it was either them or the Hokage.” Which, point. Shikako isn’t exactly looking to get yelled at by Tsunade-sama for blatantly flouting proper procedure. Again.

And given Ino’s experience and Sakura’s apprenticeship, they are basically the most equipped to handle the situation, besides the Hokage, that is.

“I’m pretty sure we still need to tell shishou about this,” Sakura says, apologetic but firm.

(“And that’s the real reason why I’m here,” Shikako says, with a not quite obnoxious grin on her face.

Kankurou squints at her, suspicion etched into the line of his jaw, the tilt of his head, “You fought a giant imaginary snake and got assigned as the Suna ambassador… You’re fucking with me.”

She just grins wider.)

~

A/N: I’m sorry anon, I’ve had so many starts and stops with this prompt of yours that when I finally wrote a thing that had a decent length to it, I just decided to keep it.

So probably not what you were looking for…

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