Unspoken Rules

Chapter 6


Konoha Shinobi (Unspoken) Rule #19: Although it remains unknown, there is a reason all Nara males have the word "shi (death)" in their name.


'No!' Neji screamed silently. Ino scowled.

"What do you mean, 'no'?" she asked with clear disapproval. "You need to be hospitalized. I've reconnected the rupture on your windpipe and realigned every misplaced tissue, but it's nowhere near secure. You need further treatment and observation."

Neji glared. He wanted to shake his head violently to convey that no, he doesn't want to go to the hospital, but thought better than straining his sore neck. He couldn't even move it anyway. Ino sighed while everyone else watched quietly, ready to read his lips.

'No hospital,' Neji's lips moved. 'Please. I'll be fine.'

"Right," Ino snorted. "You can't even breathe normally without pain. You can only be pronounced 'fine' when everything in your throat has been healed and secured. That's not really a one-person job, you know. I can do it, but that's not the better option here."

'That's the best option,' Neji mouthed. He looked at Ino intently, eyes full of anguish. 'Ino, please. Just do me this one favor. I swear I'll make it up to you somehow.'

The young medic-nin looked at her charge reproachfully, obviously unwilling to do the requested favor. After a few moments, Neji lost his patience and glared. 'Look. Would you rather we face questions in the hospital than take care of this as soon and as quietly as possible? Because, seriously, I doubt they'll believe my `I fell down the stairs` line. We can try `I walked in to a door,` but-'

A snort came from Genma. "I never knew Hyuugas could be funny."

Everyone turned to him with a glare, but it fizzled once they saw the murderous glint in Genma's eyes. His senbon-adorned smile was as dark and maniacal as Orochimaru's.

Raidou looked away, obviously not liking the view. Iruka visibly flinched. Ino froze as Yamato shifted to cover her from Genma's line of sight in reflex. Sharingan spun faster as Kakashi focused it on Genma, ready to react the second his older friend moved. All of this happened at the same time, just as Neji frowned in realization that he was currently facing an angry Shiranui Genma. Well, hell.

To date, the only people who had seen Genma like this are his lover and three friends in that hallway. Genma doesn't do angry. He does off-color and suggestive jokes, he does fun, he does idiocy, but he doesn't do angry. At least, that was what Neji had thought. He inwardly prayed for a chance to apologize to Shikamaru before Genma killed him in the slowest, most painful way, as indicated by the man's bloodcurdling look.

"Heal him fully, will you Ino?" Genma said in eerie calmness, eyes focused on Neji and frightening grin firmly in place. "The sooner he can talk, the sooner he can tell us what happened. After all, lip-reading can lead to... misunderstandings, don't you think?"

"Let's get him inside first," Ino said hurriedly, her own survival instinct doing its job. "I can't do this in the middle of a hallway."

Neji managed to stand up on his own, mouthing 'I can walk just fine' when Iruka and Yamato scrambled to help and support him while Ino ranted about being careful with his neck. Iruka kept a hand on his arm anyway as he walked stiffly in to, of all places, Shikamaru's apartment, and lay himself down on the couch. Raidou, Genma, and Kakashi followed, closing the door behind them. Ino didn't waste a second before casting her medical jutsu on the wounded man.

"What are you doing?" Raidou asked when he saw Kakashi bit a thumb.

"Summoning my dogs," answered the Copy Nin, mask somehow already pulled up. "We need to track down Shikamaru."

"Good luck with that," Genma snorted. "The guy's in ANBU-mode right now. The only chance we have in finding him is if he lets us."

Kakashi shrugged. "Better than not trying at all."

Genma chewed his senbon languidly. "Well, at least summon them outside on the balcony or something. You don't want to piss off pineapple-head by decorating his new carpet with blood and paw prints."

Kakashi scowled at his bleeding thumb, looking very much like a child who just put a wrong color in his picture. Then he walked dejectedly to the balcony, his good hand held under his bleeding one to catch any drop of blood that might fall before reaching the carpet, while everyone in the room stared after him.

Dogs summoned and well on their way tracking, Kakashi went back in and made himself comfortable on a beanbag. The others eventually followed his lead and found other surfaces to sit on. It was going to be a long wait, after all.

Thirty minutes later, a chuckle could be heard from the kitchen. Kakashi had went in there earlier to get himself something to drink, maybe even raid some of Shikamaru's coffee. He found the coffee after rummaging the cupboards for a while, but he also found out that Shikamaru only stocked ration bars as his daily nourishment. The only other foods in there were various bags of chips in a box that was aptly labeled: 'Akimichi Chouji. Touching will result in death and/or dismemberment.'

"What's so funny?" Iruka asked from the living room.

"Aw, man," Kakashi tried to curb his mirth, "You guys won't believe this."

"Try us," Yamato chimed in.

"Shikamaru only has ration bars. Ration bars. Apparently, he'd rather eat something that tastes like cardboard than cook. Hell, now we know that even stuff with 'Just add water' on it is too troublesome for him."

"You're kidding," Raidou said, entering the kitchen. Kakashi showed him the ration bars. "Holy shit, you're not kidding. Geez, I know he's lazy, but I never thought he's that lazy."

Iruka sighed. "You two do realize that you're currently poking around a kitchen that isn't yours, don't you? Kakashi, get out of there. Our kitchen is just next door; you can go get all of us some coffee from there."

"-not lazy," a scratchy voice was heard after Iruka's scolding ended.

Silence reigned. Neji cleared his throat, obviously not happy with how he sounded. Ino was settling herself on the floor between Yamato's knees, sighing warily as her boyfriend gently massaged her shoulders.

Iruka turned to Neji abruptly. "Neji! Are you-?"

"What did you just say?" Genma butted in.

Neji glared at him. "I said," he tried again, "Shikamaru is not lazy."

Ino snorted at Neji's rough voice. She hollered to the kitchen, "Kakashi-sensei, since you're already there, would you mind bringing back some water?"

Both Kakashi and Raidou were already walking towards them with a few bottles of mineral water. Raidou gave one to Neji, asking, "What do you mean?"

"He meant what he said," Ino answered him while Neji took a minute to soothe his sore throat with some water. "Shikamaru's not lazy. He's just... practical."

"Peculiarly so," Neji confirmed, voice sounding much better.

"Now that's an understatement if you ever see one," Genma scoffed. "The guy's so damn efficient the only reason he freaking breathes is out of necessity."

Iruka frowned. "I don't understand."

"To get all the proper nutrients and calories needed by your body, you have to eat a balanced diet of meat, vegetable, fruit and so on," Neji explained. "A single ration bar gives you the same thing."

"Lazy people eat instant food," Ino added. "Shikamaru doesn't eat instant food because it's not healthy. He just chooses opening a wrapper over cooking a full course meal. Not that he doesn't enjoy real food, mind you. Like I said, he's just practical."

"But ration bars taste like- well, like cardboard. That's why we only eat them when we have to, like when we're on the field," Raidou said with a disgusted look.

"That's what I said," Neji replied. "But he just said that it doesn't matter as if he was saying that the sky is blue."

"But that couldn't be right," Iruka murmured worriedly. "It's just... wrong."

"You might not know this, Iruka-sensei," Ino tried to calm him down. "But that's just the way he is. I don't know if it's a Nara thing or if it's just him, but he's always been abnormally practical ever since I've known him, which is, quite literally, the day I was born. Why do you think he passed the academy with such bad grades?"

"Asuma told me it was because he was too lazy to pick up his pencil and write down the answers," Kakashi offered.

"Hn, I never knew about his grades," Neji mused. "But if that was the case, then, do you think he would have picked up his pencil at all?"

Kakashi's visible eye widened as it clicked. "Shit."

"Just so," Neji mumbled before drinking more water.

"I remember scolding him that time," Ino giggled. "He just yawned and said graduate means graduate no matter what your standing is. What matters is whether or not you actually master the teachings and know how to use it. Writing down all the answers when only half of them are needed to pass is both unnecessary and troublesome."

"I never noticed," Iruka pondered sadly. "Now that I think about it, all the answers he did write were correct if not outright perfect. Heh, some teacher I am."

"Don't beat yourself up, Iruka," Kakashi cheered him up. "He's a Nara. He's supposed to be unnoticed. It's their way. His position as Konoha's War Leader makes him a bit of an anomaly in his clan."

"Yeah," Yamato suddenly spoke up. "Weird bunch, those Naras. I swear Shikamaru must've gotten that knack for leadership from his mother."

"How come you're not surprised by this?" Raidou asked him. Yamato just shrugged.

Genma suddenly snickered. Raidou turned to him. "What?"

"He already got his surprise, what, five years ago?" Genma threw it back to Yamato.

"Well, you have to admit," Yamato sighed nostalgically. "You don't see thirteen-year-olds assassinate a target and make it look like suicide in under ten seconds everyday."

"Yup," Genma agreed. "You know what else you don't see everyday? A Hyuuga with a ruptured windpipe, that's what. At least not in a hallway in your apartment building."

The others went from alarmed because of what Yamato said to snapping their intention to Neji because they suddenly remembered the matter at hand. The aforementioned Hyuuga barely managed to stop his flinch.

"So, Hyuuga," Genma started in a chilling tone, "Why don't you tell us what happened?"

Neji looked straight ahead, desperately wishing he was somewhere else -- preferably out there looking for Shikamaru, but right now he'd even take his uncle's bedroom -- before finally getting his resolve. He rubbed his face with both hands and took a deep breath.

"We, that is, Shikamaru and I, had an argument." Neji paused and everyone waited. "I... Well, let's just say I was in a... dreadful state of mind and had, against my better judgment, made him an unknowing target. He said something that, had I better control of myself from the beginning, would have pacified the situation. Indeed, my rage surged unhindered, and I, ah, that is to say..."

"You snapped?" Iruka helped, trying not to laugh at Neji's out-of-whack lingo.

Neji nodded curtly. "Yes."

Ino's patience was thinning, not that she had much to begin with. "And then what?"

"I... don't really remember," Neji answered uncertainly, speech pattern returning to normal as his effort in recalling the incident overshadowed his anxiety and embarrassment. "I guess I just saw red. The next thing I remember is I can't breathe and -- ah, hell -- I must've been really out of it, because Shikamaru had to tell me what to do to stop making things worse. Then he banged on Yamato-san's door screaming for Ino. I can't remember what happened after that, not until the moment I reopened my eyes."

"So you don't know what hit you?" Kakashi asked thoughtfully.

"No, I can't say I do," Neji said in wonder. "I'm pretty sure Shikamaru accidentally wounded me in retaliation of my outburst, though how he managed to do so..."

Raidou looked contemplative. "Well, he wasn't using any chakra, that's for sure."


"Yes, we felt an angry burst of chakra, and Genma's positive it wasn't Shikamaru's so it must've been yours."

Neji frowned. "Then it couldn't have been Shikamaru. If none of you felt his chakra at all, then it wasn't his shadow. I know he's fast- hell, he was fast enough to deck it out with Akatsuki members when he was fifteen. But if you felt my chakra, and judging from the fact that I was lashing out, I must have activated everything in me, my defense included. Even with chakra, the possibility of anyone getting past that is miniscule. Something else must have happened."

"How close were you two when this happened?" Kakashi spoke up.

"Hm... pretty close. Less than a foot apart, actually."

"Maybe he didn't penetrate your defense. Maybe he was already inside to begin with."

"That may be, but still, getting me before I can react takes the kind of speed that can't possibly be achieved without molding at least a bit of chakra. There's no way Shikama-"

Genma sighed uncomfortably, "I've seen Shikamaru slaughter jounin class ninjas without molding chakra. Hell, there wasn't even a stance, much less any chakra molding. Well, I didn't actually see it, even though I was standing right there watching his progress."

The others stared at him. Raidou asked, "What are you talking about?"

"We were on a... mission," Genma replied carefully, emphasizing the word 'mission' to imply that it wasn't an ordinary one. "The uh, target, was protected by ten nuke-nins from various villages, most of 'em jounin class. So we decided that discretion was the game. Get in, get the target and get out, all unseen. He took point, I played back up."

Yamato took a swig from his bottle, having heard the story before. Genma chewed his senbon furiously as he continued, "Everything went according to his plan. But as we headed out, they found the ah, remains, of the target and went in to red alert. I was safely hidden in the trees, and he was speeding towards me when three of them suddenly appeared with teleportation and jumped him."

Ino paled while Genma went on, "There was no moon, so it was dark and he had no shadow. I was watching carefully, ready to throw senbons whenever, but the mêlée didn't even last a second. The way Shikamaru moved- it was- hm, how should I put it? Efficient. Yeah, that's it. Practical."

"Can you elaborate?" Kakashi requested. Genma gave him a look that said, 'Of course I can, you ass. I wasn't made tokubetsu jounin examiner for nothing.'

"At first I thought it was a form of pure taijutsu, you know, one of those efficient, kill-with-each-move types. But I couldn't see it. I saw him move, but I didn't see the form of his movements, the jutsu itself. It was..." Genma trailed off thinking. "Let me just describe it to you. An opponent attacked, he reacted, the opponent dropped dead. Just like that. Action and reaction. No more, no less."

"Which means... what, exactly?" asked Raidou.

Genma rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. Sometimes he forgot that not everyone could see and analyze jutsus or movements in sordid details like he could. "Look, he moved when his enemy moved, not before. It was like he just moved accordingly to what his opponent does, and said opponent dropped dead. There was. No. Form."

Kakashi rubbed his temple. "Are you saying it was pure reflex?"

"But that's impossible," Iruka stated. "People don't kill in reflex. It's basic knowledge that reflex is faster than thinking process because it comes from survival instinct, hence dodging or covering body parts or, in rare occurrences, retaliating. That last one could sometimes result in death or injuries, but if Shikamaru killed with only one move then he must've hit a vital part. That requires aiming, which means it couldn't have been reflex."

"Yes, Sensei, thank you for sharing that information and reminding us of our first year in the academy," Genma said sardonically. He caught the empty plastic bottle Kakashi threw at him while prattling on, "I asked Shikamaru about it after- um, everything that happened afterwards, and this is how the conversation went:

I said: What did you do? No chakra means pure taijutsu. Was that it?

He said: Something like that.

I said: But it doesn't have any form. It's like reflex, but with deadly precision.

He said: It's troublesome.

I said: You can train your reflex to be fast or even accurate, but not to be that specific.

He said: True. That would be very troublesome.

I said: How do you train a form of taijutsu that doesn't even have a form?

He said: In a troublesome way.

I said, no, I wailed: Agh! Shikamaru!

He said: Tsk. Troublesome.

And that was it. He won't say anything else other than troublesome. Literally."

Raidou snorted, "Well, he can't actually tell you anything, can he? After all, they don't call those kinds of jutsus 'clan secrets' for nothing."

"Hn, a jutsu is also called a jutsu for a reason," Neji piped in. "Jutsu literally means technique. For a chain of movements to be called a jutsu means that chain of movements required technique. However, Genma-san didn't see any technique."

"Exactly," replied Genma. "Which means it wasn't a technique. It was. Pure. Reflex."

Iruka groaned, "It's just- ugh... wrong. Reflex is honed with practice. It came automatically. You don't specifically train reflex."

"And in his conversation with Genma, Shikamaru agreed with that," Kakashi said. "Which means that he probably wasn't trained."

Yamato's eyes widened as it clicked in his head. "Conditioning?"

"I don't see any other possibility," Kakashi answered him while the others gaped. "Each clan developed techniques to survive in situations where their respective blood limits aren't accessible, and Na-"

"Shit," Ino swore suddenly. "No wonder Shikamaru takes naps as much as Chouji eats snacks. His blood limit's practically useless when it's dark, so he must've been practicing other things with his dad at night! Damn, now I feel guilty for all those times I yelled at him when he was sleeping instead of training or playing with us."

"And I feel guilty for all those times I scolded him when he was sleeping in class," Iruka added miserably.

"As I was saying," Kakashi glared at the two of them for interrupting him. "Naras aren't born with above average physique or chakra reserve, so they must've had developed something that doesn't require any of the two. With their limitations, conditioning their senses and reflexes to react efficiently in a deadly manner would be logical."

"Conditioning takes a considerable amount of time and specific forms of torment," Neji said with a frown. He didn't like where this was going. "For sense and reflex to be habituated that purposefully, the conditioning must be... severe."

"And must begin in early childhood," Raidou added, scowling. "Well, shit."

"Geez. That's just... I don't know," Genma gnashed his senbon. "That's just fucked up."

"Yep," Yamato sighed darkly, "Those Naras make a weird bunch, alright."

"God, all this time when Naruto, Kiba and Chouji jumped him when they were playing around..." Iruka shuddered. "He could've accidentally killed them."

"No, he couldn't have. I think I understand the mechanism now," Neji took a shaky breath. "It's killing intent. He doesn't react to movement. He reacts to killing intent, which means I was the one who was going to..."

"Really?" Genma gasped dramatically as Neji trailed off with a stricken look. "I didn't even notice," he said sarcastically. He took no pity at all on the young Hyuuga.

"Ah, well," Kakashi tried to lighten the situation. "Asuma always did say Shikamaru's ninja sense is first rate. Apparently he wasn't just bragging about his student."

"True," Raidou joined him. "It's good enough to pick up killing intent, and that's something only some jounin level shinobis can do."

"Yes, yes," Iruka also brought in some effort. "So now we know what happened."

"You mean we've theorized what happened," Yamato corrected the assessment. "This stuff about killer reflex and all is just theory based on half-assed observation. For all we know, it could've been just a fluke."

"Theory, fact, whatever," Ino laughed gleefully. "A Hyuuga just got his ass handed to him," snort, "by a Nara!" chortle, "Oh, such black mail material!"

"Ino," Yamato reprimanded.

"What? You guys worry too much. Shikamaru is the most cool-headed person I know. He's a Nara, for god's sake. Just give him some space, he'll snap out of this in no time."

"Exactly," Raidou muttered darkly. "He's the most cool-headed person there is. Yet this time he was upset enough to lock himself in... in that."

"Raidou-san, I..." Neji trailed off before trying again, "How do I... What do I do?"

"Nothing," Genma answered him. "You've created enough damage already."

"Genma-san," Neji said firmly, infamous Hyuuga glare in place. "I will do something to fix this. Give me a chance to do whatever is necessary, and if you still want to kill me afterwards, I'll give you a chance to try."

Genma smiled slowly. "Do you know why people don't usually stay in ANBU Reserve too long? It's because they either break down or come to enjoy what they're doing too much. Other than me, Shikamaru is the only one, the only one, that doesn't come to either of that after more than five years. So I'll be damned if I let you destroy him."

Neji swallowed. "Genma-san, listen-"

"No, you listen, Hyuuga." Genma pulled his senbon out of his mouth. "If you are to him what Raidou is to me, then you have done not one, but two things that would have broken even Morino Ibiki. First, you tried to kill him."

"I didn't-"

"His body wouldn't have reacted that way if there was no killing intent. You said so yourself. You, the one person who makes him feel safe, the one he trusted not only with his life but with every part of him, attacked him with killing intent. For people like Shikamaru and I, that's pretty much having your whole world ripped from under you."

Raidou tried to interject. "Genma-"

"Secondly, he very nearly killed you." Genma threw his senbon. It whizzed through Neji's hair, a mere millimeter from his right ear, and pierced the wall behind him.

"Shit, Genma!" Kakashi jumped to his feet while the others paled.

"We lock our humanity away to separate the monster from the man, keeping it apart from what we have here, what gives peace to our soul. You, Hyuuga Neji, are his peace. And thanks to you, what was separate almost became one, and worse, by his own hands. If it was me, I'd be locked in a padded room by now if not already dead in my bathtub."

Silence permeated the room long after Genma finished his tirade and pulled out another senbon out of nowhere to chew, grin still in place.

"Then it's a good thing that Shikamaru is not you," Neji finally said. "And that I am not to Shikamaru what Raidou-san is to you."

Everyone was still too stunned by everything as Neji stood up. "No matter what you think or what I wish for, Shikamaru and I are only best friends... or were best friends if I don't make sure all was not lost. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find him and do so."

Neji teleported away, leaving a cloud of smoke and six bewildered shinobis in his wake.

All was eerily quiet until Kakashi suddenly said, "See? I told you they're not a couple."




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