Shikamaru Shinden: A Cloud Dancing in Forlorn Falling Petals
|Shikamaru Shinden: A Cloud Dancing in Forlorn Falling Petals|
|(NARUTO -ナルト- シカマル新伝 舞い散る華を憂う雲, Naruto: Shikamaru Shinden: Maichiru Hana o Ureu Kumo)|
|Previous||Sasuke Shinden: The Teacher’s Star Pupil|
|Pages||226 (JP), 208 (EN)|
|Japanese||July 4, 2018 (ISBN 978-4-08-703456-1)|
|English||February 2, 2021 (ISBN 978-1-97-471349-3)|
Shikamaru Shinden: A Cloud Dancing in Forlorn Falling Petals (NARUTO -ナルト- シカマル新伝 舞い散る華を憂う雲, Naruto: Shikamaru Shinden: Maichiru Hana o Ureu Kumo, Viz: Naruto: Shikamaru’s Story — Mourning Clouds) is an original story written by Takashi Yano and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It is the fourth instalment of the Naruto Shinden series. The events of the Mujina Bandits Arc occur during the novel’s second chapter.
Secret Manoeuvres (暗躍, An’yaku)
Shikamaru Nara wakes up at home after a night out of drinking and smoking. He notices that he neglected to change his clothes before bed, something his wife, Temari, would not be happy about. From his odour, he realises that he also did not wash himself in the bath Temari would have prepared for him, which would also mean he did not eat the dinner she would have left out for him. And, as usual, he did not contact Temari to let her know he’d be home late. To all of this, Shikamaru says, “How troublesome.”
Shikamaru emerges from his bedroom and is greeted by his son, Shikadai, who warns Shikamaru that Temari is in a bad mood. Shikamaru tries to seek protection with Shikadai, but Shikadai is repelled by the smell of cigarettes and instead departs for a mission; Shikamaru wishes him luck. Shikamaru bathes, puts on fresh clothes, and then goes to the kitchen to eat, fearful of what may happen. Shikamaru is cheered to find food waiting for him, yet Temari does not speak to him. He attempts to make small talk, prompting Temari to remind him that the day before was their wedding anniversary. Shikamaru apologises profusely and explains how busy he’s been at work lately, which he in turn cuts short so that he will not be late for work.
As assistant to the Hokage, Naruto Uzumaki, Shikamaru attends the Five Kage Summit being held in Konohagakure. Naruto thanks the other Kage for their help in rescuing him after the recent Chūnin Exams, where Naruto was captured by Momoshiki Ōtsutsuki. Although most of the Kage are happy to have helped, the Tsuchikage, Kurotsuchi, is angry that Konoha continues having incidents like this. Naruto tries to assure her that Konoha will recover from Momoshiki’s attack, but that is not what Kurotsuchi is mad about: the Shinobi Gauntlet was used during the Exams. Naruto insists its use was not sanctioned, but this does not change the fact that the Gauntlet and Konoha’s entire scientific ninja tools enterprise was previously unknown to Kurotsuchi and the other Kage.
The Raikage, Darui, does not see a problem with scientific ninja tools, but the Mizukage, Chōjūrō, agrees with Kurotsuchi: Konoha’s invention of and exclusive access to such devices places the other villages as a significant military disadvantage. The Kazekage, Gaara, attempts to remind everyone that they are allies, but Kurotsuchi is unconvinced, pointing out that Sasuke Uchiha continues to roam the world and send intel that he gathers about other countries back to Konoha; he is like a spy, made all the more troubling by Sasuke’s criminal past. Shikamaru tries to convince Kurotsuchi of Konoha’s commitment to peace, pointing to Konoha’s role in establishing the Shinobi Union. As a show of this commitment, Kurotsuchi demands that Konoha disclose all its confidential information to the other villages, otherwise her village, Iwagakure, will withdraw from the Union; she gives the next Kage Summit as a deadline.
After the Summit, Shikamaru meets with Rō and Hinoko, two Anbu who assisted him years earlier on a mission to the Land of Silence. He tells them about Kurotsuchi’s demand, which they cannot understand: Kurotsuchi should understand as well as anyone else that the purpose of secret information is that it remain secret. They suggest refusing, but Shikamaru says that isn’t an option; Kurotsuchi has made valid points that Konoha seems to be conspiring against the other villages. Given Kurotsuchi’s history with Konoha, she should know this isn’t true, meaning there must be something more behind her demand. Shikamaru tasks Rō and Hinoko to infiltrate Iwagakure and find out what this something is.
To draw some ninja away from Iwa and thus make Rō and Hinoko’s task easier, Shikamaru uses one of his vacation days to visit the previous Tsuchikage, Ōnoki; because of Shikamaru’s position within Konoha, this draws significant security scrutiny. Iwa-nin escort Shikamaru to Ōnoki’s home where they play shogi. Being of an advanced age, Ōnoki is hard of hearing, seemingly going blind, and is possibly senile. Shikamaru suspects this is all an act, which he takes Ōnoki’s victory during their first game as evidence of. As they start a second game, Shikamaru asks about anything that might be happening in Iwagakure that would cause Kurotsuchi to make her demand for information. Ōnoki claims not to understand, then he claims to know nothing, but when prodded offers that “shinobi are shinobi”.
Their game is interrupted by the arrival of Kurotsuchi. She expresses her disappointment that Shikamaru didn’t let her know he would be visiting, to which Shikamaru replies he only came to play shogi with Ōnoki. Kurotsuchi does not believe him and asks what he was hoping Ōnoki would tell him, but Shikamaru sticks to his story. Kurotuschi suggests this hasn’t been a good use of Shikamaru’s free time, especially in the aftermath of his forgotten wedding anniversary. Before they can descend into an argument, Shikamaru opts to leave, apologising to Ōnoki and promising to come back another time. Ōnoki bids him farewell with sadness, as does Kurotsuchi.
As soon as he returns to Konoha, Shikamaru begins going over the paperwork that’s accumulated in his absence. Despite how big the stack is, his years as assistant to the Hokage have made paperwork second-nature to him and he progresses rapidly; he suspects that this has caused his ninjutsu skills to deteriorate, to the point that Shikadai might be better than him. Shikamaru is interrupted in his work by Moegi Kazamatsuri, leader of the team that Shikadai is assigned to. Moegi informs Shikamaru that Shikadai was specifically requested for an S-rank mission to protect a daimyō. Shikamaru begins contemplating whether Shikadai is ready for such a mission, but Moegi cuts him off, informing him that Shikadai declined and could not be convinced to change his mind.
Neither Shikamaru nor Moegi can figure out why Shikadai refused the mission, so Moegi suggests that Shikamaru speak with him about it. Shikamaru does just that when he gets home, sneaking into Shikadai’s room and waking him to ask. Shikadai explains it was “troublesome”, which is all Shikamaru can get out of him before being discovered by Temari; she insists Shikadai be allowed to sleep. The next morning, after Shikadai leaves early for a mission, Temari tells Shikamaru what Shikadai’s reason was: the client for the S-rank mission – a dignitary from some small country – was trying to use Shikadai in order to get close to Shikamaru. Shikamaru is frustrated that someone would try to exploit Shikadai like that, but before he and Temari can discuss it they notice that Hinoko has returned.
Hinoko informs Shikamaru that Iwagakure has been ordered by the daimyō of the Land of Earth to invade the Land of Flowers, a small neighboring country with fertile soil that’s ideal for crops. Shikamaru doesn’t see why the daimyō would want to invade since the two countries have a trade agreement, but that is the problem: why should the Land of Earth trade with a country it could so easily conquer? The Land of Flowers, meanwhile, is allied with the Land of Lightning, which would obligate Kumogakure to defend Flowers against Iwa’s invasion. Because the Shinobi Union forbids its members from armed conflict with each other, Kurotsuchi is looking for a reason to withdraw Iwagakure from the Union; she expects Konoha to deny her demand for its secret intel, giving her the excuse she needs.
Shikamaru finally understands Ōnoki’s comment that “shinobi are shinobi”: shinobi exist to fight and, when a village’s respective country demands they fight, the village must obey. Despite Ōnoki saying this, Shikamaru does not think Ōnoki truly believes it to be true, and suspects both he and Kurotsuchi would prefer some peaceful solution. Which means the looming war is entirely because of the whims of the Land of Earth’s daimyō. Shikamaru instructs Hinoko to return to Iwa and continue gathering information while he heads to work, intent on stopping the war before it can start.
Strategy (策謀, Sakubō)
Naruto is stunned when Shikamaru informs him about what’s really been going on. Shikamaru explains that the Fourth Shinobi World War was an anomaly, where an existential threat unified the world; the conflict that would result from an invasion of the Land of Flowers is much more consistent with world history. Naruto quickly grows angry that Kurotsuchi wouldn’t reach out to him for help, prompting Shikamaru to relay Ōnoki’s claim that “shinobi are shinobi”. Though Naruto cannot dispute such a fact, he does not want war: the peace they are living through now could never be achieved again if there was war, and Naruto does not want his children to grow up in a world without peace.
Shikamaru believes the best solution is to speak with Kurotsuchi: if she can be convinced to oppose the invasion, then the Land of Earth’s daimyō will have no army with which to invade. Since Naruto will need to respond to Kurotsuchi’s demand for information at the approaching Kage Summit anyway, that will be the perfect opportunity to confront her and see where everyone stands; Kumo will of course oppose, and Shikamaru suspects that Kirigakure will side with Iwa because Kiri is reliant on Iwa’s help to gather vital minerals. Naruto assumes Konoha should join with Kumo, but Shikamaru believes it is better that Konoha and Sunagakure remain neutral. Naruto turns glum at how complicated things have become, and Shikamaru hankers for a cigarette because of how much work there is yet to do.
Even before the Summit begins, all the Kage are visibly tense; Gaara was informed of Shikamaru’s plan beforehand, but struggles with the idea of neutrality. Kurotsuchi demands Naruto’s answer as soon as discussion starts, prompting Naruto to bring up Iwa’s invasion. Darui immediately becomes enraged, which Kurotsuchi ignores, instead pointing out that this confirms her previous accusations: Konoha is spying on its supposed allies. She continues shifting blame to Konoha, which Darui continues interrupting by reminding her of an invasion’s ramifications. Naruto insists that he, despite his power, would never do anything to jeopardise peace, and will in fact use his power to protect that peace. Kurotsuchi retorts that Iwa can protect itself.
Chōjūrō interjects, observing that a world without conflict has no need for shinobi. This confirms Shikamaru’s earlier suspicions, compelling him to act: he ensnares everybody present with his Shadow Bind Technique. Despite Naruto’s protests, Shikamaru makes clear that he will kill Kurotsuchi and Chōjūrō if they will not be dissuaded from war. Gaara argues that killing them will accomplish nothing, which Shikamaru disagrees with; if Konoha is willing to kill two Kage, then that will be a clear signal that Konoha opposes the war, and Konoha has too much power and influence to be opposed. Naruto, as a jinchūriki, is able to break Shikamaru’s Shadow Bind, and in the same instant Gaara attacks Shikamaru with his sand. Naruto detains Shikamaru and apologises to everyone for his actions, even promising to reconsider Iwa’s demand for information if it will avert war. The other Kage say little before departing, their positions already clear.
Naruto yells at Shikamaru when they return to Konoha, but Shikamaru is even angrier with Naruto: Naruto’s actions undermined Shikamaru’s attempts to protect Konoha, something that Naruto, as the Hokage, should be concerned with above all else. Over the following days, Shikamaru receives continued updates from Rō and Hinoko, reporting that Iwa is near to completing its preparations for war. Shikamaru contemplates what move to make next, but is interrupted by Mirai Sarutobi. Mirai informs Shikamaru that the Land of Fire’s daimyō, Ikkyū Madoka, will be visiting Konoha in a few days to meet with Naruto. Shikamaru anticipates Ikkyū could be useful in stopping the war, and asks Mirai for more information. She informs him that the only complication is that the Mujina Bandits have threatened to kidnap Ikkyū’s son, Tentō.
Shikamaru sees an opportunity: he instructs Mirai to keep an eye on Tentō. If and when the Mujina Bandits try to capture him, Mirai is to allow it, only rescuing Tentō once he’s been taken back to their hideout. Mirai is aghast, but Shikamaru insists there’s nothing to worry about, as they already know all about the Mujina Bandit’s leader, Shojoji. What’s more, for Konoha to rescue Tentō will put Ikkyū in Konoha’s debt. Mirai doesn’t understand what Shikamaru has planned, but reluctantly goes along with it. When Tentō does end up being kidnapped a few days later, he is instead rescued by Boruto Uzumaki, who’d become friends with Tentō during his time in Konoha and went to his rescue before Mirai and her team had the chance.
Shikamaru is angry with Mirai that there was enough of a delayed response for Boruto to be able to act, as there could have been any number of other outcomes, but Shikamaru lets it go since the results were the same: Ikkyū now owes Konoha a favour. When Shikamaru notifies Naruto of all this, Naruto becomes frustrated that Shikamaru continues to not trust him enough to share his plans ahead of time. Shikamaru insists that it is precisely because he trusts Naruto that his plans work at all. To calm down, the two go up to the roof for a break, where they discuss their respective vices: Shikamaru’s smoking and Naruto’s ramen consumption, which they’ve both taken to doing more of lately. Naruto requests that Shikamaru accompany him when he makes his request of Ikkyū. Shikamaru agrees.
Naruto and Shikamaru meet with Ikkyū at his mansion. He thanks them for Tentō’s rescue, but does not understand the purpose of their visit; he is already in the process of contacting the Land of Earth daimyō, as Naruto requested when they met in Konoha. They explain that Iwa’s invasion is now imminent and that any diplomatic tactics Ikkyū may be planning will probably not be enough at this point. Because the Kage were unable to sort things out between themselves, Shikamaru believes the next step is to try and involve the daimyō: a Five Great Countries Summit. Ikkyū is pessimistic that the daimyō would be able to resolve the conflict, prompting Shikamaru and Naruto bow to Ikkyū in order to convince him. Moved by their gesture, Ikkyū relents, reasoning that, since he wouldn’t be personally affected by this war, he owes it to the shinobi that might die to try and find peace.
Hard Fights (奮戦, Funsen)
Shikamaru spends a night off at home, a last chance to relax before things get underway with the Daimyō Summit; he has decided not to tell Temari or Shikadai anything about it. Shikamaru avoids Temari, who he worries is still angry about forgetting their anniversary, and seeks out Shikadai, who himself is hiding so that Temari won’t reprimand him for playing video games. Shikamaru watches Shikadai play a roguelike until his character dies. Shikamaru asks if any part of what he just watched was “fun”, but understands little of Shikadai’s answer.
Shikamaru apologises to Shikadai about the S-rank mission, feeling guilty that Shikadai was inconvenienced because of him. Shikadai doesn’t understand why Shikamaru would be sorry. Shikamaru explains how, when he was Shikadai’s age, he wanted to relax all the time and would dismiss any sort of responsibility as “troublesome”; he fears Shikadai is now taking after him. Shikamaru explains that it was only when he stopped avoiding responsibility that he started feeling fulfilled as an individual. Although he still regularly calls things “troublesome”, he no longer does so as a way of complaining or avoiding. Shikadai smiles with new appreciation for the word and asks if Shikamaru can try teaching him shogi again. Shikamaru responds with, “How troublesome.”
When the Five Great Countries Summit begins, the Land of Earth’s daimyō, Danjō, is unmoved by Ikkyū’s appeals for peace; he does not feel the alliance between their villages obligates their countries to be allied as well. Tekkan, the daimyō of the Land of Lightning, believes this is poor justification for an invasion. Danjō insists that alliances are a handicap, arguing that, if not for the pact between the Lands of Flowers and Lightning, the invasion could have already happened and there would have been no fuss; he alludes to Darui, who evidently does not feel the Land of Flowers is worth going to war over. Danjō and Tekkan continue arguing between themselves until Ikkyū calls for a break.
Ikkyū meets Naruto and Shikamaru in an adjoining room, where they’ve been watching the Summit remotely, and shares his concern that there will be no resolution. Naruto brings up Kurotsuchi’s previous request for Konoha’s secret intel, which Naruto believes will balance disparities between the countries and will diminish Konoha’s perceived supremacy. Ikkyū does not believe it would suffice, as the involvement of the Five Daimyō now demands something more substantial. Ikkyū proposes turning over some of the Land of Fire’s territory to the Land of Earth; the land previously belonged to the Land of Flowers, so should be just as appealing.
Shikamaru advises that surrendering land would be equivalent to admitting defeat. Ikkyū does not mind: he’s long felt uncomfortable about having the land at all, and believes its inhabitants would be happier with the Land of Earth. Shikamaru notes that this change of borders will need to be approved by all the surrounding countries, and suggests holding a Continental Summit to discuss it. Ikkyū relays Shikamaru’s idea to the other daimyō when they reconvene. Danjō disapproves, explaining that he’s invested too much money into the invasion to not go through with it. Tekkan and the other two daimyō, however, like the idea of a Continental Summit, and are willing to let the Land of Flowers’ future be decided there. When Danjō continues to dither, Ikkyū raises a third option: war between the Lands of Fire and Earth. Danjō finally relents.
After a night of working late, Shikamaru decides to wander the mountains near Konoha rather than return home. He wraps his shadow around a tree and tries to crush it. The tree groans and strains, but remains intact until Shikamaru finally releases it from fatigue. Shikamaru reflects on how rusty he’s become, and shudders to think what might have happened if he’d actually gone through with trying to kill Kurotsuchi and Chōjūrō. He starts imagining what his life would be like if he’d achieved the mediocrity he used to want, but is interrupted by Sasuke.
Sasuke reports that Kumo is preparing for war, something he was on his way to Konoha to report to Naruto. Shikamaru says he hopes war can be avoided, which Sasuke thinks he’s doing a good job of achieving: first the Kage Summit, then the Daimyō Summit, and now the Continental Summit. Shikamaru insists he’s ultimately powerless to make any of those efforts succeed. Sasuke responds that Shikamaru’s support enables Naruto to be Hokage, and consequently benefits everyone; Sasuke doesn’t feel he’s around enough for the same to be said of him. They continue to debate which of them is more valuable to Naruto – each asserting the other is – until they break off the conversation, both feeling better about their respective roles.
Before departing for the Continental Summit, Shikamaru informs Temari and Shikadai that he’ll be going to the Land of Iron. Shikadai asks what’s going on, as he’s noticed Konoha is teeming with ninja that have been recalled from missions elsewhere, a sign that Konoha is preparing for battle. Shikamaru tells him not to worry and to instead enjoy some time off with his friends, a sentiment Temari echoes. However, as Shikamaru is about to leave, Temari confides that she’s frustrated by his refusal to talk about work at home. She understands he does it to spare her from worry, but she would just assume be told from now on. Shikamaru apologises and starts criticising himself, but Temari cuts him off, telling him he’s a good man and that that’s enough for her. They part ways, both trying not to show their tears.
The Future (未来, Mirai)
The Continental Summit is attended by hundreds of people: the daimyō of every country on the continent, each of the Kage, as well as a sizable retinue of aides for each country’s representative. Although such a gathering has never been held before, the Land of Iron was able to construct suitable accommodations in only a week. Anyone present will have an opportunity to address those in attendance, after which the daimyō will vote, with a simple majority deciding the Land of Flowers’ fate; if the majority authorises the Land of Earth’s invasion, the war would be guaranteed.
Mifune, the Summit’s chairman, allows Danjō to speak first. Danjō argues that shinobi are strictly warriors, taught from the time of their birth until their death how to fight. This has been the purpose of shinobi for so long that the continent’s present makeup is inextricably a product of the bloodshed caused by shinobi. Danjō asserts that to allow the invasion to proceed will restore shinobi to their purpose: some will fight to oppose the invasion, just as some will fight and die to ensure it succeeds. He concludes war would be to the benefit of everyone, as without war there would be no shinobi, and without shinobi the world would have no defence against future disasters.
Danjō’s speech is followed by Ikkyū’s. Ikkyū fundamentally disagrees with Danjō’s assertion that shinobi exist only to battle. As evidence, he uses the Continental Summit: it was thought up by shinobi, advocated for by shinobi, and has been such an unprecedented undertaking that no one daimyō could have hoped to arrange it. It is true that shinobi have fought in wars in the past, and that those conflicts made the world what it is today. But now shinobi are fighting for peace, and Ikkyū believes it is the responsibility of the daimyō to give them a chance, to see what new world can be made. Ikkyū believes he is ill-suited to speak on the behalf of shinobi and instead invites Naruto to the podium to speak for himself.
As Naruto takes the stage, Shikamaru goes outside to smoke. Mirai reprimands him, but Shikamaru reasons that his job is done, as Naruto’s speech can only result in one outcome. Naruto states that shinobi are no different from any other person: they want to raise their children in a world without complications. It is true that shinobi have fought in the past, but they always did so in the hopes that the battles would eventually end. Shinobi are defined by more than the battles they’ve fought; a shinobi’s knowledge and abilities are just as essential to a shinobi’s existence. In keeping with this, Naruto announces that Konoha will be publicly sharing all its secret intel, a precedent that he hopes others will follow. In the short term, this will correct the imbalance of power that Konoha has inadvertently created. But in the long term, this will enable shinobi to exist throughout the world, independently of battle.
Naruto’s speech is broadcast live throughout Konoha. Shikadai watches with his teammates, Chōchō Akimichi and Inojin Yamanaka. Chōchō informs them that, according to her father, Shikamaru accompanied Naruto to the Continental Summit and, because of that, peace was guaranteed; without Shikamaru, war would have been a certainty. Shikadai is astonished by this, trying to reconcile Chōchō’s claim with Shikamaru’s unimpressive behaviour at home. Inojin says that Shikamaru is amazing, which Shikadai doesn’t respond to for fear of crying. Temari also watches, at home by herself, and she sees Shikamaru’s influence in Naruto’s words and posturing. She’s never been able to decide if Shikamaru regrets not achieving his childhood dream of living without responsibility. Even if he does, the fact that he would set aside his own dreams for the sake of Konoha, Naruto, Shikadai, and herself confirms the goodness of his heart.
Shikamaru is able to hear Naruto’s speech from outside, as well as the overwhelming applause that follows when Naruto finishes speaking. Because every daimyō is expected to address the Summit, Shikamaru finds a comfortable spot to recline in during the long wait. Many daimyō use their time at the podium to agree with Ikkyū and Naruto, with some making the additional step of condemning Danjō. Kurotsuchi eventually has her own turn, and she takes the opportunity to accept Naruto’s offer of information: she will always worry that Konoha is disproportionately powerful, but she now accepts that her suspicions against it were unfounded. Shikamaru is elated to hear this, as this means that Iwagakure will not take part in an invasion of the Land of Flowers, which in essence means there can be no invasion. He becomes tired, all the work he’s done to reach this point suddenly crashing upon him, and takes a nap.
Shikamaru is woken up after the Summit by Naruto. Even if he wasn’t present, Shikamaru already knows what the outcome was: the daimyō have approved the Land of Fire’s offer to transfer land to the Land of Earth, thus sparing the Land of Flowers from invasion. Naruto thanks Shikamaru for helping them reach this point. Kurotsuchi soon joins them, and apologises for her words and actions at the previous Kage Summits. Naruto assures her that, if ever Danjō tries to exploit Iwagakure again, he will offer any assistance she needs. Naruto and Shikamaru smile at each other after she leaves, but quickly become depressed when they realise that there’s bound to a bunch of paperwork waiting for them back in Konoha.
The Land of Flowers’ daimyō visits Konoha a few days later; he is about the same age as Shikadai, only having become daimyō recently following the death of his father. The daimyō heaps Naruto with gratitude, as he’d been prepared to allow his country to be annexed by the Land of Earth, and it is only because of Ikkyū and Naruto that this was prevented. Naruto informs him that Shikamaru deserves most of the credit, making Shikamaru uncomfortable as the daimyō’s praise shifts to him. When the daimyō returns to his country afterwards, he is escorted by Shikadai and his team. Shikamaru sees them off, and is pleased that Shikadai is not chaffing at the responsibility of such an important task. He wishes Shikadai luck before he departs, who responds that’s it’s “troublesome”.
As a show of thanks, the daimyō leaves hundreds of flowers with Naruto. Needing to get rid of them, Naruto insists that Shikamaru take some home with him after work, forcing an armful upon him. Shikamaru hurries home, embarrassed to be seen carrying so many flowers, and suspects Naruto did this intentionally. Temari is initially confused to see him with so many flowers, but guesses this is to make up for when he forgot their anniversary. She thanks him, then (only now remembering) reprimands him for not putting away his dirty clothes before he went to the Land of Iron. He apologises and, when changing out of his clothes later, is careful not to repeat the mistake. “Troublesome,” he concludes.
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