A/N1: Nyehehehehe…  Part Three! 😀

Also, now with title, “Lies Beyond The Morning”


Something is wrong.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

Across the room stand three creatures, so colorful and defiant against the stark impossible room.

She doesn’t want to approach them.

They do not move and do not speak.

She doesn’t want to break them.

“What do I do now?” she asks, though she knows the not-Sai creature will not say anything.

He only smiles at her, sad and apologetic.

“Upwards and onwards,” she says, walking forward.

There is only one way to go.

If she has to spend an eternity in this strange place, she will not spend it waiting for nothing to happen.

She comes to a stop in front the three familiar creatures, not-Sai following behind her.

“I’m sorry,” she says to the creature that is not Ino, reaching out for its hands. The creature is neither warm nor cold, lifeless and empty like the room around them.

But as she pulls at its hands, its arms move. No longer is not-Ino covering its mouth.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

Something has changed.

In not-Ino’s eyes pale blue eyes are a matching set of thin slit pupils.

She steps sideways, in front of the creature that is not her brother. Here, she hesitates.

Under her fingers, not-Shikamaru is lifeless and empty, neither warm nor cold. But at least he’s whole.

She doesn’t want to break him again.

Sensing her hesitation, not-Sai moves, walks around these fake Ino-Shika-Cho and stands opposite from her.

Sad and apologetic, he no longer smiles.

She pulls at not-Shikamaru’s hands, its arms moves. Not-Sai nods, silent.

No longer is the creature covering its eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she says, turning away, tears forming in her eyes.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

Her cheeks are wet.

There is only one hand in her own.

Another step to the side, and not-Sai follows, an inky reflection defiant against the stark white room.

Between them stands not-Chouji, hands over its ears, face blank and empty and lifeless.

Nothing like the real Chouji.

She hasn’t broken him.

Not yet, anyway.

There is only one way to go. Upwards and onwards.

She takes its hands in hers and pulls until it is no longer covering its ears.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

Nothing changes.

The silence spreads.

“I don’t understand,” she says, looking around.

There is nothing here. Not-Sai watches her, waiting.

“What do I do now?”

“Upwards and onwards,” a voice says.

Startled, Shikako springs away.

In this strange eternal place, there are only two sounds: the noise, like gears in a machine, and her own voice.

Something is happening.

“What?” she asks, glancing around. The fake Ino-Shika-Cho have not moved.

Neither has not-Sai, who stands and waits, watching.

This is different.

“Fight,” says not Chouji. But not the not-Chouji that is silent and lifeless and empty.

“Who–?” –are you–do I fight–have I forgotten–is doing this to me–

“That old fool,” the not-not-Chouji voice says, sad and apologetic.

“Fight,” it continues, as a noise, like gears in a machine, sounds off.

The doorway appears, and not-Sai walks toward it, waving her forward.

She follows. She remembers what happened in the room with not-Sakura.

But on that first starlight step, she looks back.

Ino-Shika-Cho, unmoving, broken.

“Upwards and onwards,” the voice finishes, as the doorway seals itself shut, impossible room lost to the eternal void.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

Not-Sai walks ahead of her on stairs neither stone nor metal.

Something is happening. Something is wrong.

But it’s not her.

Above her the helix spirals forever, but in front they appear only a few steps ahead.

Starlight and the endless void of space.

Colorless, lifeless, silent.

It’s different, and yet…

“I’ve already been here,” she says out loud.

“This has happened to me before.”

Or near enough.

At the top step, not-Sai waits for her, sad and apologetic smile on his face.

“I understand,” she says out loud.

Not-Sai looks at her, startled.

“You’re not Sai,” she continues, catching up.

“You’re his brother.”

In front of her is an invisible wall where a doorway will appear. Beside her is a ghost.

Not-Sai… Sai’s brother fades, image changing as he does. Instead of the familiar ink dark features, she sees dimming starlight and a smile that is no longer sad or apologetic.

“Thank you,” she says as he dissipates, “Thank you for helping me this far.”

Sai’s brother nods, as kind in death as he must have been in life.

A noise, like gears in a machine.

Shikako blinks. Dark then light.

The doorway appears as well as the last impossible room.

She is not surprised by what she sees, the worst of it yet.

A tableau of her nightmares meant to break her and stop her and keep her trapped.

Across the room are two figures, frozen in time: mid battle, mid death blow. 

Sasuke as he might have been, Curse Seal fully bloomed across his skin. 

Naruto partially transformed, caustic red chakra cloaked around him.

Chidori against Rasengan.

These are not her teammates.

She walks toward them, neither move, as empty and lifeless as the room.

The corruption of natural chakra should claw at her skin, should burn in her lungs, but it does not.

Because none of this is real.

These empty creatures, this strange place. Impossible starlight and eternal voids. Ink and color like defiance.

Something is wrong.

Just not here. There is nothing for her here and so there is nothing here to be wrong.

Something is happening.

Out in the real world.


Shikako blinks. Light then dark.