The Naruto Wiki claims that Takigakure is based on South East Asia, so I am drawing a lot from South and South East Asian aesthetics for this story. I am not South or South East Asian, at all, in any way, so, if, at any point, you feel I am misrepresenting or completely misusing elements of the cultures I am drawing inspiration from, please let me know! Correct me! I take criticism and advice seriously and I am always willing to learn! I'm a historian by training, so I guarantee there's no such thing as too much information! Educate me! (ﾉ`ヮ`)ﾉ*: ･ﾟ
Also! Choumei described as a 'happy go lucky' type. But he sounds like Batman...
When she opened her eyes, it was to the sound of chirping insects. She lay there, staring at a cricket singing away on a fallen leaf, trying its best to woo any potential lovers who may be listening. Her back hurt. So bad. It felt like someone had stomped on her spine right between her shoulder blades. With a groan, she moved her hands beneath herself, sending her cricket friend leaping away. Her arms shook beneath her own weight, her own weakness surprising her. She collapsed back onto the ground, a leaf crunching beneath her cheek. A single, golden curl fell into her line of sight, her eyes crossing as she stared at the foreign object.
Was she…still dreaming?
Oh! You're still here! How lucky! I wasn't sure what I'd do if I got a new one.
Choumei's voice echoed in her head, bouncing off the walls of her empty skull. She groaned, long and whiny. Why? Why did she hurt in a dream? That was against the rules. Her back was killing her. Ow.
Ah, yes, apologies. I needed to get us out of there quickly and I may have used a little too much force. Choumei sounded remorseful, but he was bright and chipper again in an instant, the emotion strange in a voice as low and gravelly as his. Was this the fabled 'gap moe'? Still, you're alive! All thanks to me!
She wasn't entirely sure she should be grateful for that. Every muscle in her body felt sore and over used. Her bones ached, ribs creaking as she breathed and head pounding in time with her heart.
Wow, ungrateful, much? This isn't a dream, you know! Even if it was, haven't you heard that dying in a dream means dying in real life? Choumei grumbled unintelligibly for a moment before sighing. Whatever, we need to keep moving.
What? Ice cold panic froze her veins. Were those people still after her?
Newly motivated, she again tried to push herself up of the forest floor, this time managing to get up onto her knees. The white fabric of her pants was even dirtier than before and there was mud crusted under the slender fingernails of her borrowed dream hands. Really, when was she going to wake up?
Come on, Choumei insisted, that weird push filling her body with the need to move, again. We're almost there. I wanted to get us there on my own, but any longer and the body would have definitely died. That, at least, I need to keep alive.
Right. That wasn't concerning, or anything. Yikes.
There was a fallen log to one side of her, its bark covered in lichen and cute, round topped mushrooms. She reached over and put her weight on it, pulling herself to her feet. She stood there, leaning on it, long enough for the sense of artificial urgency to start boiling over inside her, but her back hurt too much for her to move immediately. Her feet were like leaden weights as she tried to walk in the direction Choumei's weird magic urgings were pointing her, every step like wading through molasses. Was this the part where she woke up? Please, please, let it be that part.
Those hopes were dashed as she pressed on. Her brain was blanketed by a dizzy fog, her body bouncing painfully against the rough bark of trees and her sandals catching on rocks and roots alike. Her poor dream body would be covered in bruises, if it wasn't already.
Seriously. It was super unfair that she couldn't control her dream despite being so aware. Josué was full of shit. The moment she woke up, she was looking up a dream dictionary and looking everything up. Voices, ninjas, pain, the lot. There must be some great prophetic mystery at work, she couldn't accept it, otherwise.
She pushed through the foliage, twigs catching at her clothing and pulling the vibrant threads of the embroidery loose. Such a shame. It was really nicely done, too.
She stumbled. Too out of it to catch herself, she fell, knees striking something much harder than dirt.
Aha! We're here! I knew it was still around!
Her hands were braced on a set of stairs, the ancient stone worn and weathered by time, once intricate carvings now little more than dips and impressions filled with moss and dirt. She looked up, gaze following the staircase up and up and up, the ruins of a building peeking out from the forest that had long ago reclaimed it. Roots wound in and around archways, in some places holding up more weight than the stone they'd eroded. Golden light filtered down through the canopy, making harder to determine where stone ended and forest began.
It looked like a scene out of the Jungle Book. Like King Louis' palace. Would a giant ape be lying in wait if she climbed the stairs, desperate to learn the secrets of fire?
How fanciful. Choumei laughed, voice once again sending agonizing pulses through her brain. Don't worry, little larva. I am the God of this temple. Let us see who is brave enough to face us in our own territory, hm?
Choumei didn't answer right away, hemming and hawing as she carried him up the stairs, one painful step at a time.
Well, he said at long last. Not as you understand godhood, no. I'm not all knowing or anything, and I have a finite beginning. That being said, I'm so much stronger than most humans can ever really hope to comprehend, and my nature defies the laws they have written for themselves, so it's easier for them to simply call me a god and be done with it. Or, it was. He sighed. Until someone decided to defile the temple my father built just for me only to rip me out of it and seal me inside a human. Really, it's so nice to finally be home, you have no idea.
That…sounded really familiar? She'd heard that story before, she knew she had—which made sense since this was a dream and all—and oh but it was on the tip of her tongue!
Ah. It was Naruto. Duh.
"You're that Choumei?" She asked, breathless from the steep climb. "The Seven Tails, Choumei?"
She could feel Choumei preening inside her mind. Yep! Took you long enough to realize it. I was beginning to wonder if you had some kind of amnesia—that seems to be a trope your people enjoy.
She was missing something, but it didn't matter.
"Wait," she began. "Does this mean I'm a jinchuriki?"
Could a disembodied voice pop their Ps? Somehow, Choumei managed it. It was so strange, given his ongoing Batman impression, but his positivity was actually helping her through the pain that she shouldn't be feeling because this was a dream.
You're really clinging to that, aren't you?
She stopped, leaning against a crumbling wall covered in worn etchings as she tried to catch her breath. "This is totally a dream. Naruto is fictional, after all. Ergo, a dream."
Hmm, I suppose I can see where you're coming from. Choumei sighed, the sound low and gravelly. I must admit, I was very surprised to learn my reality is just a story in some worlds. How unlucky am I, to be bound to a world like this.
He fell silent as they reached the top of the staircase, a stone paved area sprawling out in front of them. At the far end, a tall building stood half erect, one side reduced to a pile of rubble. It wasn't just time that brought it down. She could clearly see giant claw marks in the stone, like something was dragged against its will, and a giant statue of a monkey was cut clean in half, its torso lying on the ground looking up at its legs forlornly. There were other statues, too, some of them in better shape than others, and she was distantly reminded of South Asian temples.
"What happened here?"
She could feel his sadness welling up in her mind. They came for me. They took me and sold me to the highest bidder and sealed me away.
Ah. She remembered a little about that, but she couldn't remember if the anime had gone into any detail about it.
"So, it was Hashirama?"
Ok. Note to self, don't mention Hashirama.
It was a shame. Looking at the ruins around her, they had obviously once been a sight to see—the still were, but she couldn't help but wonder what it looked like before the First Hokage tore it apart.
Come, Choumei urged, tugging on her mind, again. Let's get inside.
She followed his lead, carefully stepping over piles of rubble and eyeing the crumbling archways as she passed under them. A chill ran up her spine, that center of hurt between her shoulder blades flaring up with a hissed exhale through her clenched teeth.
Oh! The wards are still in place! Lucky!
"The fuck's wrong with my back?"
Hmm? Oh! That's where the seal is, duh. It's pretty fresh, he continued as she twisted this way and that to try and see the spot on her back that still burned with pain, the blue fabric of her shirt rubbing against it and setting it aflame. So it's probably a bit sensitive. It'll get better.
She pursed her lips, sucking her teeth in a loud expression of her doubt until she cut herself off with a small laugh. What did it matter? She was gonna wake up, soon, anyway.
She picked her way through a decaying corridor, patches of sunlight illuminating the path through holes in the roof. A little thrill filled her, a smile spreading across her face. She felt like Indiana Jones, combing through an ancient temple for cultural artifacts to steal from the indigenous cultures and lock away in a museum none of them would ever be able to visit.
Her smile faded. Yeah, no. Those movies really hadn't aged well.
Harrison Ford had, though. Rawr.
Her less than respectful thoughts about her favorite actor vanished from her mind as she stepped out of the musty hall through another dilapidated archway and beheld the scenery before her.
It was a courtyard, tall stone walls standing mostly intact on all four sides. To her left, there was a large, square pool, a group of monkeys sitting on the wall above it and watching her with wide, dark eyes. Horses and cows with long horns—but not Longhorn cows—ignored her, drinking from the pool like she wasn't even there. There was a large bull that raised its head and stared her down before snorting and turning back to the water.
It was a magnificent sight. The kind of thing that warranted a fancy painting. An idyllic slice of nature, making easy use of manmade ruins.
A look to her right showed a place where the wall had collapsed, providing the larger animals a way out of the enclosure and answering her unspoken question about how they managed to survive in a paved courtyard. There was a smaller building tucked against the wall immediately across from her. It looked to be in better shape than the one she'd just exited, its walls still standing and the empty doorframe relatively intact. There was a tuxedo cat sitting on the roof, licking at a white paw as the tip of its tail flicked back and forth with agitation.
Ah, Choumei sighed. They're still here. I didn't, he took a moment, his rough, grumbling voice even rougher with emotion. I didn't think they'd stay.
She reflexively raised a hand to bat at a buzzing in her ear, her hand coming in contact with an obnoxiously large beetle.
Hey! Don't hurt him!
Oops. Smacking beetles out of the air was probably bad form when the Ultimate Beetle™ was living in her head.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly. "It was instinct."
The beetle she'd assaulted flew up to her again, coming to rest on her chest. It was one of those fancy Japanese fighting beetles with the horns and she was reminded that Choumei sort of looked like that.
You've returned, a teeny tiny voice whispered. Welcome.
She stared down at the beetle in horror as Choumei started weeping in the back of her mind, his sorrow like grating rocks.
Of all things—the ruins, the ninjas, the pain—it was the talking bug that drove it home.
Holy shit. This wasn't a dream.
Have any of you watched the show "Monkey Thieves"? It's about a clan of macaques living in a temple dedicated to Hanuman, in India. It was my favorite show for a while there. :)