Prologue: Waking Up (Is Hard To Do)
All humans in the final moments of their lives are united by a single thought: I want to live.
This is not always actually true. Sometimes it is just the body hijacking the brain, a visceral desire to survive; a last ditch effort to spur a person into moving, into healing, anything for a few moments more. Other times it is fear of the unknown. What happens after death is a mystery, after all, and surely better the suffering we know than one we do not. And other times still it is just a person’s earthly attachments that make them cling in that final way–who will feed my cat, my best friend’s birthday is this weekend, my family will be devastated–but those slip away easily.
However, sometimes it is true. Sometimes a person will want to live. Sometimes a person dies before they think it is their time and they will want, wholeheartedly, to remain in the world of the living as terrible and wretched as it may be.
Some people are lucky and they get what they want: an ambulance with sirens screaming, EMTs surrounding them lifting them up, telling them it will be okay. Gurney wheeled down a hallway with lights so bright it sears their eyes, doctors and nurses yelling across to each other incomprehensible acronyms and numbers, the codes for a miracle.
Despite all this, it could be for naught. Monitors flatlined, a single resounding tone in a bubble of silence.
Some people are lucky and they get what they want, if only for a few moments.
Some people are unlucky and get what they want for lifetimes after that.
Shikako wakes up after dying and it is one of the worst experiences of her life.
She will not realize the irony of this thought for some time.
Of course, she does not yet know that her name is Shikako, either, only knows of who she was before she died and those awful moments during her death. Waking up after that is much like it, blind and bewildered, uncomfortable to the point of screaming and, seemingly, endless.
It will take her a while to figure out that she has been reborn–reincarnated to be more accurate–it will take her a little while longer to figure out she has been reborn four times.
Infancy is monotonous and drags on for a small eternity. Quadruple it? It is no surprise that when the opportunity came to make changes to her life, she took it.
She knows where and when she is–how could she not with Shikamaru right there, the biggest and most important piece of the puzzle–and sure it is fine to make little changes to her days, different clothes and drawings and books to read, but it is not enough. She is reliving a lie four times over and she just wants something for herself.
She has four lives, surely she’s allowed to be selfish in one of them. Selfish and afraid for she knows what is coming, what dangers await in the lifestyle of her family.
But she loves chakra too much to give it up, and that is its own kind of selfishness.
And so when the time comes, it is not a choice between Shogakkou and the Academy.
No, Shogakkou was never an option.
When the time comes, she makes the same choice three times. And a different choice entirely just once:
For once in Shikako Nara’s bizarrely quadrupled existence, she wakes up in a place entirely new. In one of Shikako Nara’s four lifetimes, she decides to become a monk of the Fire Temple.
She made one selfish, safe choice and when she wakes up the next day back in Konoha she immediately feels guilty. She knows what is coming and isn’t it her moral responsibility to do what she can to alleviate the suffering of those around her? How could she just run away like that?
But that decision has been made. Doesn’t mean she can’t make more–and, for all that this new quadrupled existence is its own kind of hell, there is a upside to it. She can make a very different choice and still stick to her previous one without any conflicts.
In this lifetime she chooses to do everything in her power to fix what she can.
It’ll be two years, a graduation, and arguably the worst genin team placement ever before she regrets this.
The differences between the remaining two lifetimes come about not out of any deliberate decisions on her part. It just makes sense to use her quadrupled existence efficiently, is all.
In one lifetime she is learning the ways of a Fire Temple monk, complete with their own unique techniques and traditions. In another she is already graduated, just the newest in Konoha’s long history of prodigies, completing D-ranks alongside Kabuto Yakushi of all people and trying not to give up any of her many secrets.
In the remaining two, she gets bored easily. Self-study helps with that. And it just makes sense to split up subjects: medicine and genjutsu in one lifetime, ninjutsu and sealing in the another. It also doesn’t hurt that, in the first, she actually pays attention to lessons; awake and, if not eager, then interested to learn what she had passed up for the Fire Temple and early graduation. In the second, those lectures are redundant, but she is much better during taijutsu spars–knowing what her opponent will do before they do makes it so easy, even if it does seem like cheating.
The Academy, despite all their faults, does actually try to make genin teams based on what they think would be best for their students.
It is only somewhat of a surprise when, in one lifetime, Shikako is put on Team One with a Nohara and one of the few boys in the class to show potential in genjutsu.
It’s a much more substantial surprise when, the next day and a lifetime over, she’s put on Team Seven instead.
All humans at the end of their lives think: I want to live.
Nobody suspects it might be granted like this.
A/N: Apparently spite-writing is a thing, because I’m still a little angry from yesterday and I’m just like… well… you don’t like this thing I worked hard on? I’M GONNA WRITE STUFF THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR SHOW!
So… here you go.
I was narcissistically reading through some of my older brainstorms and happened upon the All You Have To Do (Is Stay) post and since the Guide series is also about a dimension-hopping Shikako (though in an entirely different way) I guess my brain was in the right state to tackle it.
I wrote it on google docs first before transferring it here (as opposed to my usual method of writing on a Sticky and transferring) and I guess there’s something to be said about using a different medium because there’s a slight difference in style.
Maybe I’ll experiment with this?