Over time, the story will change.
It will grow and shrink in turn–certain parts exaggerated, others removed completely. Some events, entirely unrelated, will somehow end up integral to the story.
That is the nature of rumors turning into legends. History turning into myth. Politics misconstrued as romance, an alliance interpreted as marriage. Mercenaries turned into heroes, and heroes turned into gods.
But at the heart of every story is a truth, and in this case the truth is this:
The Corpse Princess was kidnapped by the King of Flowers, and she escapes because of a fruit.
Shikako wakes up.
Which, shouldn’t be all that surprising. But given the last thing she remembers is being kidnapped with chloroform and trying to escape it by using a Touch Blast? Well.
There are many ways that could have ended. Or, rather, one other way in particular.
Take, for example, the Touch Blast eating up the very last bit of her chakra. Ending in her death.
Or, even if she still had enough chakra after that, she just planted a bomb next to her face. Ending in her death.
And kidnapping doesn’t exclude murder–the former is known to lead to the latter. Ending in her death.
So, yes, when Shikako wakes up, it would be accurate to say that no one is more surprised than her.
Here is the thing about the Kusagakure: they do not have any S-rank shinobi.
This is partially out of nature–smaller villages don’t often produce S-rank shinobi, due to a lack of resources, mostly, but also lack of need–and partially by design.
Because those with potential to become S-rank shinobi are sacrificed to the Box of Ultimate Bliss.
The Elemental Nations are in a constant state of war–whether cold war or actual–that is simply how this world works.
It’s something Shikako has become accustomed to, over the years. More than, actually, given who her father is and who her brother will be. Who her teammates might have been and might very well still become.
She does not have the luxury of ignoring potential acts of war.
She just never thought that she’d be one of them.
“Once you tell me how you defeated it, you can go home,” says the man known to Shikako only as King of Flowers. He is the only one that speaks to her, the guards that bring her meals as lifeless as shades.
It would be smart of him, to keep such a secret technique to himself, since it would undermine his power if there actually was a technique to keep secret. As it is…
“I didn’t,” Shikako says, for what must be the hundredth time, tired and always so hungry. She doesn’t have access to a window–no, it’d be far too easy to escape if she did–and so she doesn’t know how many days have passed.
She is underground–no sunlight, no chakra, no hope.
The King of Flowers leaves her, and with him goes her only source of conversation.
Just as well, his small talk sucks.
In one timeline, Muku of the Kantokusha Clan was one such youth with great potential sacrificed to the Box of Ultimate Bliss.
(Of course, that is not how any parent would phrase it–for, indeed, he was meant to open the box not be consumed by it–but that is what would have happened all the same.)
Instead, his father hesitated. Just enough to think things through. Oh, he still believed his son would be the one to open the Box of Ultimate Bliss–would return Kusagakure to its former glory–but not yet. For if a child could be worthy, then wouldn’t a teenager be more so?
No, Mui would wait until his son was older to open the box.
Too bad Muku had other plans.
“Perhaps I could try, Father,” Muku says, as deferential as possible.
Maybe it is because his father has been so frustrated at his own lack of progress in interrogating the Nara girl. So annoyed at having to answer to the other members of the Grass Flowers faction.
So afraid of the growing tensions amongst the big five villages.
Foisting blame onto Cloud may have postponed Leaf’s well-deserved fury, but the ruse would only last for so long and Land of Grass is still a small buffer country. Even if Leaf continues to think their missing genin lost because of Cloud, there may be war soon, and Kusagakure will suffer when Rock comes to their allies’ aid.
His father’s decision to maintain their clan’s supremacy may very well plunge the entire Elemental Nations into war.
It is not a light burden to carry, and he is distracted.
“Yes, my son,” his father agrees, eyes tired and unheeding, “You are the only one I can trust with this.”
The factions of Kusagakure have detailed histories and many, varied motives. That would be another tale in and of itself, but for the sake of this story the difference is this:
Grass Flower wanted to open the Box of Ultimate Bliss.
Grass Fruit did not.
So one could see how, as the boy supposedly slated to open the box, Muku of the Kantokusha clan would be assumed to be part of Grass Flower.
The Nara girl looks sick when Muku sees her. Also, quietly pissed off, but that one’s understandable.
Outside her cell, Muku stands and waits in silence–he has a lot of experience with that, especially recently.
“The king couldn’t get the answer he wanted, so he sends the Prince of Flowers instead?” the girl asks, voice barely louder than a whisper, but audible enough.
Muku knows from the guards that the Nara girl calls his father King of Flowers–which isn’t too far off, given his influence within the faction. He also knows that she hasn’t been eating much: worried about drugs in the food, no doubt. And rightly so.
He shrugs, in response “I send myself. And I know you have been telling the truth. I was there, I know you didn’t escape my jutsu. You fought without chakra, and won without chakra.”
She laughs, a meager exhalation of air that could just easily be a scoff.
Through the small grate allotted for food trays, he rolls her an apple–harder to tamper with in secret. Hopefully she’ll eat it. More importantly, maybe she’ll understand what it means.
“Gather your strength, Shikabane-hime,” he says, a pointed reference to her own royal moniker, “You may very well have to escape without chakra, too.”
It’s not too long after, that events start to get a little mixed up.
Konoha’s Team Seven, heedless of the Hokage’s half-hearted protests, blazes into Land of Grass to rescue their own. Lightning crackles ominously, fire spreads across the fields, the wind claws great gouges into the earth, and trees sprout angrily where none have been before–sky and land, nature itself balking at the Corpse Princess’ kidnapping and imprisonment.
The Grass Fruit faction, growing braver as their their fear of another world war comes closer to reality, decide to raid the Blood Prison–though no such siege has ever been successful before–in an attempt to end Grass Flower’s dominance.
Within the walls of the prison, a riot breaks out: prisoners steadily adapting to their lack of chakra, yet retaining their deadly educations. And grudges.
All guards and Grass Flower shinobi available are called to handle the escalating situations.
They will never have a better chance than this.
Muku remembers how fragile the Nara girl’s bones had been. How easily he snapped her arm, how gentle he had to be for the rest of the fight.
He had not wanted her dead then, even as she strangled him with her hair, and he does not want her dead now.
He protects her as they escape. Stealth is their best tool in this–he knows the walls well and can avoid the majority of the rioting. The few enemies they encounter are easily taken care of, for it seems Shikabane-hime remains singular in her ability to defeat shinobi even without chakra.
He is not expecting a wall to explode.
For a brief moment, Shikako loses consciousness. Her ears ring from the blast as well as her head bouncing against the ground.
The Prince of Flowers meant well in throwing himself on top of her, but he is still heavier than she can handle right now.
There is dust in the air and luminescent spots in her eyes, but she can still sense well enough.
“Sensei,” she calls out weakly, so relieved.
But then Muku’s body is pulled off hers roughly, killing intent spilling into the air, the crackling of a familiar jutsu across her senses.
“Sensei!” she calls out again, this time panicked, “Wait, don’t!” Except for Naruto, the chidori cannot be undone. “He helped me!” She says, half stumbling half crawling to where Kakashi’s chakra stands.
Two pairs of hands–both so familiar–help support her when she tries to rise. Team Seven reunited.
“He helped me escape,” she gasps, when her eyes finally take in the scene, Kakashi holding Muku up by his shirt, the lightning crackling in his hand barely constrained. “Killing him won’t help me,” she says.
Later, she won’t be able to remember if she had meant to be so pointed. Bitter from imprisonment, exhausted and dazed.
“Who, then?” Kakashi asks, a barely leashed attack dog just needing a target.
“Mui of the Kantokusha clan…”
An alternative provided, Kakashi drops Muku, who collapses awkwardly to the ground, before continuing, “… my father,” he chokes out, preemptive grief and shortness of breath, both.
Sharingan no Kakashi goes to dispense his wrath, leaving his students to watch Muku mourn his father’s death.
History will say that it was premeditated: Muku having his father killed by foreign ninja in order to become head of the Kantokusha clan and switch its allegiance to Grass Fruit.
Legend will say that he betrayed his father after falling in love with the Corpse Princess, turning to his family’s enemies for aid; the two lovers eloping in a land far away.
Occasionally, Muku will even be written out completely–father and son conflated into one person; the King of Flowers so enchanted by the girl that he kidnaps her for himself.
Sometimes, the Box of Ultimate Bliss will receive a much larger role in the tale than it deserves. And often, Team Seven’s temporary fourth member, known only as Tenzo, will be interpreted as a woman.
That is the nature of stories, changing over time. But it is not so far from truth:
A lightning wielding father avenging his daughter. Her brothers of wind and fire scorching the lands that imprison her.
The Corpse Princess escaping from the King of Flowers because of a Fruit.
A/N: Aaaaaaah, okay. So, I was trying to go for a reverse Persephone – Hades thing. Unsure how well that came across, but hopefully it was an enjoyable read anyway.