Chapter 1: Settling In (For The Long Haul)
The first day Shikako wakes up in the Fire Temple dormitories is a Tuesday.
She is, depending on how one counts it, both five years old and twenty years old. If her existence continues the way it has since being reborn (and reborn and reborn and reborn) she’ll be simultaneously twelve and forty eight by the time the events of the story she knows will come to pass. In this lifetime she has said goodbye to Konoha, to her family, and to any culpability for what will happen in the future–she has removed herself from the situation entirely. Or so she hopes.
Still, being free from the fetters of canon does not mean this life will be a vacation. She is serious about learning the ways of the Fire monks, ready to do whatever is needed to prove herself as an initiate. As is, she has her work cut out for her:
She is, it seems, an anomaly amongst the novices. Most of her peers are orphans or from impoverished families who cannot afford to feed them. They are not forced into monasticism–it is a satisfactory, if repetitive way of life–but considering the other option for most them are to live on the streets and starve, well.
In contrast, she had a family who could take care of her. The resources and opportunities to do near anything she pleased, anything else besides become a monk. Not much guessing is needed to see why her choice to join the temple is bewildering. Frustrating, to some.
Of course, that shouldn’t matter–or so says Sister Annai, the monk in charge of guiding novices, “The past is to be learned from,” she says to the group of five year olds facing the first day of the rest of their lives, “not held against each other. Here, we are family. Here, we are the same. It is through unity that we achieve enlightenment.”
Some of her fellow novices seem mesmerized or, at the very least, captivated by the thought of family. Shikako tries not to feel too skeptical about this speech. She is, after all, here to learn, and surely doubting Sister Annai’s words will only make her stand out more.
“At this time you are separate, unconnected; different backgrounds and experiences causing conflict between you and others. But today you all start on the same path, together. And tomorrow and everyday after that you will wake up and continue on that same path, together.”
It’s overall a nice sentiment, though a little concerning in some places. She’s not sure how much the other novices have absorbed, given they are actually children and not whatever she is stuck in a child’s body, but probably it is a message that will be repeated in the future.
That night, after a full day of learning what will eventually become routine, Shikako goes to sleep in the Fire Temple dormitories. It is Tuesday.
The next day she wakes up in Konoha, in her bedroom next to Shikamaru’s. It is Tuesday. (Again.)
So much for waking up tomorrow on the same path as everyone else.
The next three days–all of them Tuesdays. (All of them the same Tuesday)–are practically identical.
She may be able to change what she does–what clothes she wears, what books she reads, what she doodles in the margins of her notes during class–but that does not change what happens around her. Mum will burst into her room at the same exact time, Shikamaru will make the same exact complaining quip about mornings, and Iruka-sensei will give the same exact lesson about the geography of the Elemental Nations.
The first time around is the easiest, everything is honestly new to her, and so she reacts honestly. The first time around she is startled by Mum’s loud entry, wrangling herself into clothes as Mum does the same to Shikamaru next door. The first time around she laughs at Shikamaru’s complaining, responds with a one liner of her own. The first time around she… well, the lesson on geography is boring no matter which lifetime it is–she read about that months (years?) ago–but the first time around she at least tries to pretend she’s paying attention to Iruka-sensei.
The second time around her reactions are different. In bed she’s rolled up into a ball, head under her pillow, muffling Mum’s entry–it’s not her scolding that gets Shikako up but the sudden lack of blanket and pillow, vanished with a no-nonsense tug. On their way to the Academy, she will laugh at Shikamaru’s complaint but offer nothing else in return. In class, she reads a book on medicinal herbs and what regions they can be found and figures it is close enough.
The third time around…
Mum opens the door, reprimand on her tongue, only to find that Shikako is already dressed. Shikamaru’s complaint gets a short sigh in response. Iruka-sensei’s lesson is accompanied by the soft snores of not one but both Nara twins.
This is not fair to anyone. This is not sustainable.
It was easier before. Without the structure of the Academy, the only people she were beholden to were her family and, later, Chouji through Shikamaru. Her parents did not particularly mind if she read one book instead of another. Once she made sure she didn’t interfere with Shikamaru befriending Chouji in all of her lifetimes, they were willing enough to cloudwatch in different spots.
Even with the Fire Temple being her source of novelty in her quadrupled existence–ironic the thought may be, considering every day at the Fire Temple is designed to be the same–three times a lifetime of more and more people doing the same exact thing is unbearable.
She needs to make another, bigger change.
The opportunity, horrifyingly enough, presents itself on Friday, three days (almost two weeks) after she both did and did not become a Fire Temple monk:
Itachi Uchiha picks up his little brother from the Academy.
Well, she did want to make a big change; Shikako walks up to the most lethal and stressed out preteen ever and introduces herself.
She has less than two years (eight years?) to stop the Uchiha Massacre.
A/N: … my spite is dwindling which is now both a good and bad thing? I mean, being spiteful isn’t exactly ideal, but it was such a good motivator! Aaaaah, we’ll see what happens… I’m sure I’ll probably get frustrated again soon enough. It is that time of year so…
edit: I realize now that this naming/numbering system might be confusing. This is Chapter 1, yes, but there is a Prologue before this that should hopefully make things clearer!