A/N: Part Five of Seven planned. Writing experiment testing different PoVs telling the same story. Each part is a different PoV with more of the story is revealed as you go along. ... Perhaps I should call this the Experiment of the Perpetual Cliff-hanger?

I was going to save this chapter until later, but Honoka / Shikako is still being difficult to write and this chapter is done so... Here you go. :)

P.s. Next chapter will be Honoka and (hopefully) tie everything up. It will either be an extra long chapter, or two chapters with half Honoka's PoV each. It keeps growing you see.

-/-

Shikamaru knows. He knows before the newest version of Team 7 is almost carried in through the gate, missing their sensei. He knows before his father is called to a meeting with the Hokage. He knows before his mother breaks down in the kitchen when he walks in through the door.

Shikamaru knows.

Because the indistinct feeling that he only realises now was his twin is gone. Shikako, and whatever vague tie they share, is gone, broken, lost. He doesn't want to understand what it means at first, not until all of the above happen. And so he doesn't. But on some level? He knows.

Shikako is dead.

And he... He has lost his twin.

-/-

He doesn't quite remember what he says to get on the mission to try and retrieve her body. Not that that is the mission aim of course - the primary aim of the mission is to locate the so called 'missing nin' that dared enter Hi No Kuni and show them why that was a bad idea. The primary mission is to hunt down whoever thought it was a good and reasonable idea to target one of their genin teams and eliminate them with extreme prejudice. But for those going - Kakashi, Sasuke, himself, Sakura, Ino, Sai and Naruto? The aim was to destroy those who had taken someone so precious from them and find out what happened to her - how was it the Shikabane-hime had been brought low? The aim was revenge, and the retrieval of what is left of their precious comrade - his twin.

It's overkill sending them all, more than overkill, but... Tsuande doesn't deny them. She understands.

-/-

The cold flames of fury that had kept him going, that had pushed him on on on after those stupid fucking cowards, were gone. All that was left in their place were heavy coals in the pit of his stomach, and a smothering of ash suffocating his spirit. They'd found them, every last one. Ino had made sure they had got them all, and Sakura had ensured that the two they were taking back to Konoha were perfectly stable if never able to serve as shinobi again.

Ino was standing by his side.

Shikamaru let himself lean against her, his eyes not moving from the swirl-patterned patch of burnt ashes where his sister's last stand had been. The ashes spiralled out in a perfect mimic of the Uzumaki symbol. Naruto had let out a choked sob when he'd seen it. Shikamaru hadn't asked what that had been about, he'd find out later in the debriefing. Kakashi and Sasuke had recognised it too - the look they'd exchanged was telling.

Not that it mattered.

Shikako was dead.

And there would be no body to bring home.

No hope either.

-/-

He doesn't come here more than thrice a year. The anniversary of their graduation, her birthday, and the day she died. Each time he does, he brings a stick of incense and sits in front of the stone with his legs crossed, just... thinking. He doesn't need a stone to talk to his sister. (He does it often enough - in his head, silently.) The stone is just so that people leave him alone to think, while letting him be found if need be. Far less troublesome than hiding himself in the Nara forests or anywhere else so that he can find time to grieve in peace.

It has been seven years since his twin was lost.

Dead, like so many others he'd known.

Her death was different though. She had been destroyed completely in some manner the Uzuamki invented to ensure that nothing - not even Edo tensai - could bring them back and use them against their loved ones.

He was certain that he was imagining it when he heard the sounds of music at the edge of his senses.

-/-

He hadn't imagined it. The music had not gone away, in fact, it had become a constant annoyance, just out of reach of his senses. Neither Ino or Sakura, nor any of the Nara or Yamanaka clan medical specialists could find anything but... He wasn't going crazy. Ino at least was certain of that. Which didn't leave many more options. There was still seeking out Tsunade and throwing himself on her mercy but...

Then there was a sudden spike in the sound. No, not spike. He could hear it clearly now.

Eyes narrowed, he followed it. Chouji had been with him at the time and trailed after him discretely, looking worried. He had no reason to be. Shikamaru wasn't going to follow it out of the village, or into some isolated alleyway for an ambush. He wasn't going to follow it into any mysterious underground or hidden tunnels either, though Konoha had enough of them. He just... wanted to see how far he could follow it.

Apparently it led to his little sister.

The girl was chattering cheerfully with her teammate's - the two boys making the most noise and wild movements as was proper for any team with a Nara in it. Shikamaru carefully didn't frown as he fell into step and listened to her recite the details of her mission. It was a simple courier mission from the sounds of it - their third C-rank and simple enough. Not like any of hers had been.

"And then Kako-nee's stone started humming quietly and I woke up and there was a fox trying to steal our supplies! Keiso-kun hadn't even noticed! But I scared it away and-"

"The stone?"

Shikamaru remembered the stone. He hated it and was typically happy that his little sister kept it tucked beneath her t-shirt. His sister's so called lucky charm. The charm she didn't have with her that mission long ago. The charm she had left with her little sister as both a good luck wish and an apology for missing her first day of shinobi academy. He had never understood either of his sisters' fascination with it, nor believed Kako's claims that it was the remnants of a failed experiment. No, Kako had never done anything with it. It was still the same stone that Tsunade had dug out of her all those years ago.

"Yeah! It was really weird! But we were heading home and no one else could hear anything and Sensei didn't think it was causing any problems..."

Shikamaru sighed. "Troublesome. Let me see."

Pouting at him, she took the charm and handed it over. To Shikamaru it was like the world took a deep breath the moment his fingers closed around it - a deep breath followed by a thrumming sound that rattled his bones and quite literally brought him to his knees. To the rest of the world, he collapsed forward, staring at the finger sized stone in shock.

"Shikamaru!"

There was shouting and worry around him, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter because behind it all, and through the sudden crackling of flames in his ears, he could...

He could feel Shikako again.

-/-

It took him a while to turn his focus to the outside world again. He was too focused on the feel of his sister, the crackling of flames and the steady hum that still throbbed through his bones. He had to be certain. He had to be certain that whatever Kako had done to survive, to come back to him, that it was real.

He wasn't stupid.

There was very very little he wouldn't do if he thought there was a way to get his twin back. He'd half contemplated using edo tensai once, but he wasn't sure Shikako would have ever forgiven him for that. She wouldn't have been happy - they'd clashed too many times on what she could and couldn't do. He still believed he had been in the right - look at that mission! - but he understood she disagreed. It was infuriating, but he wanted his sister back, not a slave.

"Shikamaru."

He blinked, looking up to see Chouji looking down at him. Around them, he could see other shinobi watching cautiously with the civilians vanished - no doubt shuffled off out of potential danger range. His sister and her team was gone... And there was a team of ANBU on the rooftops nearby too - half either side. He sighed. Well that told him something about how bad it had looked.

"I'm alright Chouji."

He scowled at the sky, the back of his mind running over the many many ways that this could mean his sister was back - he didn't particularly like any of them. If it was his sister's doing, she'd have come back earlier. So it wasn't. It was something else. And of course the bloody stone would have reacted...

He sighed, an edge to it that hadn't been there in ooh... nearly 8 years? "We need to talk to the Hokage."

Chouji hesitated, before nodding and heading off at a slow pace along the street. Shikamaru huffed but didn't comment on the need to move quicker. The civilians were still missing, the other shinobi were still focusing on them even if they had resumed their normal tasks, and the ANBU team was still shadowing his steps.

He didn't let go of the stone in his hand, his fist not relaxing for a second.