Chapter One: Abrasion

It took a dislocated shoulder to shock Yui out of the monotony of a peasant's life. She'd almost forgotten what to do, but her training gradually trickled in. The kid lay on the ground, whimpering. He had visible swelling and deformation of the joint.

"He fell from the tree," repeated her little brother. He was one of the six siblings she had, which wasn't unusual in these times. Commoners didn't have family planning or effective contraceptives. "What do we do? Should we pop his shoulder back in?"

The Hennepin maneuver, she remembered.

Finally, Yui moved. "I'll do it." She bent down. The boy was already supine and in position, so that made her job easier.

"You sure?" Her brother shifted from foot to foot. "Maybe we should bring him to old Anzu..."

The kid moaned again. "It hurts so bad!"

"We're not moving him," said Yui calmly. "Sen, go get my kosode. The torn one." The addendum wasn't necessary. She only had two pairs of clothing.

For once, her brother listened to her without argument. Yui then turned her attention to the boy on the floor. With one hand, she pressed his arm to his side, and with the other, she grasped his wrist. Yui bent his elbow to ninety degrees and began rotating his upper arm. The boy yelped, and she waited for his upper arm muscles to relax. Then, she continued rotating. After she'd rotated his arm about a hundred degrees, reduction of the shoulder was achieved.

"You popped it back in!" said the kid after he'd finished screaming.

By then, Sen had returned. Yui took the cloth and fashioned it into a crude sling.

"So, your arm works?" Her brother poked at his friend's shoulder.

The boy flexed his hand experimentally. "It didn't hurt as bad as I thought."

"Don't move it," she snapped. "Keep it still for a few days. Put some—" Yui stopped. She'd forgotten that peasants didn't have ice. Or Tylenol. "Keep it still," she said again.

Neither of the boys paid attention, immediately running off. Yui sighed and returned to the hut. Despite her good deed of the day, she still had clothes to mend.

Two days later, their humble home had two visitors. Both were women, but while one was middle aged, the other was positively ancient.

"Elder Anzu," greeted Yui's mother, bowing low. "Riko-san." She bowed again, this time shallowly. "You need help?"

The old woman inclined her head, while Riko bowed much more deeply than she needed to.

"Your daughter Yui has done my family a service." Riko bowed for a second time. "I am in her debt."

"She did?" Her mother gaped at the two guests.

"Indeed. I wish to speak to her," Riko said, hands clasped. Unlike the majority of the village, Riko had been educated. Her father was the village scribe, and he'd taught all his children.

Her mother turned around, eyes darting across her children's faces until she found her middle child. "C'mere, um... come here, Yui."

Yui dutifully approached the adults and bowed. "What can I do, honored elders?"

Another bow, deeper than the one Riko had given to her mother. Her arms were outstretched with a bundle. Stunned, Yui accepted the gift without a word. She looked down. It was a kosode, and it was made of cotton, not hemp.

"Thank you for helping my son," said Riko sincerely. "You fixed his shoulder and sacrificed your own clothing to bind his arm."

Yui mumbled something affirmative, still in awe of the clothing. Cotton. She hadn't worn that since her last life. She rubbed it between her fingers, aware that she was being uncouth. Yui didn't deserve it. She had simply set a shoulder, nothing extraordinary. Yui murmured her thanks, which Riko waved away before taking her leave. The old woman, however, hadn't moved.

"You did a good job, too," Anzu rasped, speaking for the first time since her arrival. "Most people tear up the arm and make it worse. Yours was a clean fix. Riko's son ain't needed my help. You must got a real talent for healing, or you're as lucky as the Sage, bless his soul. I'd be happy with either." Anzu fixed Yui with a hard stare. "Be my student, girl. My last two students died, and I'm not getting any younger. There'd be no healer without me, and heavens help a village without one."

Yui shrugged. Her mother glanced at her, hopeful and eager. Certainly, one less mouth to feed would be one less burden. And it would, maybe, be interesting. The events of yesterday had brought a painful reminder of just how boring this life was.

"Sure," said Yui easily. "I'll be your student."

Anzu was a hard teacher, but she was fair. Yui memorized the medicinal uses of the local plants, their locations, and the various brews and tinctures that could be made from them. The rest of Anzu's lessons, Yui knew. Her hand was steady as she stitched wounds and staunched blood. To her credit, or perhaps against it, Anzu never asked questions. Yui's knowledge was quietly accepted, even when it seemed strange. Her insistence on boiling water, cleaning needles, and washing cloth was soon followed by Anzu herself.

The two fell into an easy rhythm. They rose at dawn, gathered plants, created poultices, helped their fellow villagers, and meditated. Yui didn't know why they did the last one, but she gave Anzu the same courtesy by not asking too many questions. After a year, the old woman gave the answer to Yui's silent query.

"It warms the soul," said Anzu suddenly one morning. They had just finished their daily meditation. "It gets peace of mind." Her eyes grew bright. "And it lets us use life itself."

With a grunt, Anzu stood. Yui followed her into the back of the hut where the herbs and other medicines were stored. With shaking hands, Anzu withdrew a small clay pot from the back. Yui knew the ins and out of the different concoctions, but she had never seen this before. Anzu lifted the lid, revealing a thick, almost translucent paste. The bright green color reminded her of neem and turmeric.

"Touch it."

Yui pressed her finger to the tincture. She gasped and jerked back. It had felt cold and warm and sharp, all at once—like static, but deeper and slower.

Anzu smiled. "This my life's work, and the healers' work before me. It just looks like turmeric and neem paste, right?"

She'd been correct, then. Yui nodded, pleased but intensely curious.

"But it ain't just paste." She leaned forward and whispered, "It's infused with my life. Use it only for the worst cases."

Yui was skeptical. Of course she was. That skepticism remained until she saw Anzu make more of it. Pale green sparks drifted from the woman's hands and sunk into the mix.

"I'll teach you how. If you want," said Anzu, solemn. "It ain't something to do lightly."

Her response was the same as before. "Sure," Yui said, and she smiled.

It took months, but Yui eventually learned how to harness the sparks of life deep in her core. The energy danced on her fingertips, sharp and soft and contradictory. It took even more time to mix the sparks with the different tinctures. It surprised both of them that Yui had more life energy than Anzu.

"Perhaps it's your youngness," mused the older woman. "I didn't learn the art until I'd seen thirty seasons. My last student had started when she'd had twenty, and she also had more than me. You've only ten years, and the young've more life."

Anzu only had enough energy for one poultice a month, but Yui had enough for three. Regardless, Anzu hid away all the infused medicine, using it sparingly. As the months passed, Yui increased the amount of life energy she could put in the mixes as she tried to master the new skill. She settled into a different, more pleasant sort of monotony, one that was shaken only by Anzu's death. Her teacher had died a month after she'd declared Yui to be competent. (Privately, Yui wondered if Anzu had lingered for just long enough to ensure that the village had a healer to replace her.)

It had been sad, certainly. Yui and the village had mourned the loss of such a respected elder. But Anzu had reached her eightieth year. Her death was no tragedy or shock. Instead, everyone gave their thanks that Anzu had lived such a lengthy and rich life. They were more practical about death, here. They had to be.

Yui quickly filled her role as a healer. Despite just reaching adolescence, she was treated with respect in matters of healing. (The village had different ideas about age, too. Peasants couldn't afford extended childhoods.) A year passed, and then two. Yui treated the villagers, made her tinctures, and experimented with her life energy. She settled into another, comfortable pattern.

Her monotony was broken again by another visitor, this time of a different sort—shinobi.

The sharp knock on the door interrupted Yui's preparation of the willow leaf paste. She sighed, putting aside the pestle.

"Come in!" she said, raising her voice.

Her little brother entered, face pale. "They need you in the village center," he said quietly, which immediately made Yui worried. Sen was anything but quiet.

"What's wrong?" She wiped her hands and stood. "You alright? Anyone hurt?"

"No—" He shook his head from side to side before hesitating. "Well, we ain't hurt. It's a stranger. I mean, he's hurt. They're hurt. A ninja. Two of 'em."

Yui's breath caught, but she kept up her appearance of calm. "Alright."

She followed Sen out the door, uneasy. They'd built their village in perhaps the worst place. Oh, the land was quite fertile, and the nearby stream fulfilled their water-related needs. There was also a trade route that was close, though few caravans deigned to go off trail to visit them. Unfortunately, the land was also in between the Uchiha and Senju clans. The last few years had been relatively peaceful, thanks to sheer luck and poverty, but the village was no stranger to shinobi conflict.

Almost every adult had gathered in the village center. The crowd parted as she made her way through the people. Everyone whispered, fear present in their hunched shoulders and hushed voices. They formed a wide ring around the elders and the two ninja in the center.

"Yui-san," greeted Elder Dai. He was the de-facto head of the village by virtue of his age. Beside him were the three other elders, including the village scribe. None looked happy. She inclined her head and murmured a greeting to each. They nodded in response, frowns etched deep into their faces.

Finally, Yui could clearly see the two ninja in question. One was a grizzled, scarred man in red armor, the picture of a lethal assassin. His right arm was bleeding and limp by his side, while the other clutched an unconscious child. The other ninja was no more than a boy. The child had pale brown hair, though the unusual hair color was overshadowed by the enormous gash on his chest and his shallow breathing.

"Please." The older man looked close to falling on his knees. "I beg of you, please help us."

"Why should we, shinobi?" Elder Dai fixed the ninja with a cold glare, though sweat gathered on his forehead and his hands shook. "Your kind has harmed our village before."

The man did not even blink at the accusation. "If not me, then the boy. He is innocent!"

"He is a shinobi, just as you." Still, the elder's eyes shifted to the child in his arm. "If we help you, then other ninja will come. They find you, and they will kill us all."

"I swear on it." The ninja's voice cracked. "I swear on every god that will hear me, I will never allow for that, if only you help us."

"What is the word of a shinobi worth?" Elder Dai sighed, weary. "You are just as likely to kill us yourself. Regardless, it is not my choice. That belongs to the healer."

The village was waiting for her decision, and Yui realized that they would defer to her. For some reason, that surprised her.

The ninja were murderers, surely. Yui had heard all the stories. Assassins for hire, mercenaries willing to fight for any lord, men who could summon fire and storms... many considered them to be the children of demons. At the very least, they were callous and unconcerned with collateral damage. But if Yui did not help, they would die soon. The boy's chest barely rose, and the man had lost a great deal of blood. She had a responsibility to help and heal. Didn't she? Yui's memories of her last life blurred with her present one. She'd taken an oath. Had she?

"I… yes," Yui said. "I will heal them." She glanced and the village elders and added, "But that's it. I won't offer any sanctuary. They'll leave after that."

Elder Dai nodded, satisfied. "Very well. This village is no place for you, shinobi, but our healer has offered her help."

The ninja's shoulders sagged further. "Oh, thank you," he croaked. "I am in her debt." He did not say another word as he followed Yui to her hut. She couldn't help but wonder if she'd made a mistake by deciding to help him. All the same, she methodically tended to their wounds.

The boy had the most serious injuries, including a broken leg and the chest wound. She set the leg, and the boy only moaned softly. Yui grimaced before cleaning the gash. It wasn't infected, but the wound was very deep. It was nothing short of a miracle that the cut had avoided everything vital. After stitching it shut with hemp thread, she moved to add poultice and bandages.

"Wait." The older man was holding her arm, now, and it was too late to flinch. Yui's heart rate sped up. She hadn't seen him move. Not at all. Yui became hyperaware of how easily he could kill her, even in his weakened state.

The man took the poultice jar from her and stared. "What is this?"

"T-Turmeric and willow bark," she stuttered. "To avoid infections and help with the pain."

The ninja took a deep breath and exhaled. Finally, he nodded and handed it back.

At first, her hand trembled, but she forced it to still. Yui wrapped the bandages and washed her hands. After she had disinfected everything, she approached the older man. His eyes were glazed over, and his muscles were taut.

"Shinobi-san," said Yui, slowly, respectfully, trying to hide her fear, "I need to tend to your wounds."

He jerked and glanced around. His gaze settled on hers, blank, before slow recognition petered in.

"Very well." The ninja's posture was the embodiment of rigidity.

She fixed his arm quickly, though Yui worried that he'd lost too much blood. He bore the ministrations with stoic silence, which Yui was happy to mimic. The second she finished, he stood.

"We must go." With great care and tenderness, he picked up the child. Before the man left, he paused by the door. "What is your name?" he asked, though it was more of a command.

"Yui," she answered, flinching as she met his dark eyes.

"I am Butsuma of the Senju clan." He spoke in a low, quiet rumble, though Yui could hear sincerity in every word. "I am in your debt. Ask a favor of me or my clan, and I will grant it."

Yui blinked, and he vanished. She jerked back. Had he… had he truly disappeared into thin air? It seemed like the fantastical stories she'd heard about ninja may not have been exaggerated. She inched forward, examining the place where he'd last been. Perhaps Yui was imagining it, but she could've sworn she felt a trace of life energy by the doorway.

She would not meet a ninja for quite some time after, but the bustle of village life more than kept her busy. Yui's life was made more complicated, though, by the arrival of the traveling market. It was business as usual as the villagers bartered with what little cloth and surplus food they had. Then one of the merchants fell ill, as did several of his companions, and the caravan's healer was unable to cure them. Now truly desperate, the cohort asked Yui to help.

Yui approached the sick area the merchants had set up and grimaced at the delirious moans and the stench of human waste. Whoever this healer was, he had clearly triaged poorly, to say nothing of his quarantine procedures. Well, she couldn't entirely blame him. This place didn't have advanced medicine. With that in mind, Yui ignored the doctor's snide comments about her social status and gender and got to work.

The patients had varying symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and cough. Several also had blinding headaches and pneumonia. All the symptoms were indicative of a gastrointestinal disease, which gave Yui pause. The cause was most likely contaminated water.

After organizing the half-a-dozen patients in order of priority, Yui returned with her remedies and firewood. Despite the doctor's protests, Yui began boiling the water (her own supply, not the merchant's) and administering pain killers. She explained the rationale behind her "irrational" behavior, but the man wasn't convinced. It took the sharp words of one of the prone merchants to convince the man to back off.

Over the next week or two, the most patients recovered. The doctor also turned from skeptical to curious, which Yui considered as another achievement. Unfortunately, she could not cure everyone. An older woman passed away a few days after treatment had started. Yui knew that diseases like these had a ten percent mortality rate at the best of times. It was impossible to save everyone, and this wasn't her first death, literally and metaphorically. The woman's passing still stung, however. It could've been easily cured back in her time. More than ever, Yui really wished she had modern antibiotics.

(Though…they had plenty of citrus fruit here. She could certainly try to make some penicillin. It was a real pain in the ass to distill, even with fancy technology, and Yui didn't have even the bare minimum of lab equipment. Perhaps she could use life energy as a substitute for some of the missing equipment? The train of thought was certainly one to pursue.)

After giving her some spare clothing and food in thanks, the merchant caravan left soon after. Yui was quickly caught up in the bustle of planting season and all the injuries that it caused. She also helped her family when she could. On a farm, an extra hand could make a world of difference.

Four weeks after the merchant caravan's departure, another group of merchants arrived. Now, that was certainly unusual. The village wasn't big enough for a name, let alone frequent visits by outsiders. The new group of merchants had apparently come to have their wounds treated. They'd fallen prey to a bandit attack, escaping only with what the bandits had deemed unworthy.

Yui wasn't one to talk when treating patients, not beyond the minimal soothing words and explanations. But as Yui bandaged the last man, she couldn't help but sate her curiosity.

"Was it luck that you stumbled upon our little village?" she asked, looking the man over.

He shook his head. "A friend of mine mentioned getting treatment for his stomach sickness in a village by this route, one marked by three orange trees. After the attack," he swallowed here, eyes darting to side, "I decided to try my luck. I made the right choice, obviously." The merchant gave her a wan smile.

Yui smiled back and pronounced him free to go. This time, the group gave her several earthen containers in return for her treatment and one metal pot for a container of her salve. Yui gave them a life-energy infused one for that; the metal was worth more than everything she had.

That marked the beginning of the steady trickle of merchants and travelers that would stop by their village. Despite being lucrative, the trade route that passed by wasn't the safest; it frequently fell prey to bandits and ninja warfare. The travelers quickly took advantage of nearby village with a competent, willing healer, a rarity in these parts.

The villagers also took advantage of the increased traffic. One of the women began to make extra pastries to barter, and the blacksmith began offering his services and spare nails, and so on. One girl even gained a merchant sweetheart, much to the dismay of her parents. With all the traders, money began to be used more frequently as a method of exchange.

Yui began to treat the occasional ninja, too. Most came with the caravans as guards, but they also appeared at all hours, often in the middle of the night. She never asked for their names, and they usually never gave it. Most of the times, they'd disappear after treatment. The occasional ninja with severe injuries might have stayed for a little more time, but they also disappeared without warning. Sometimes a ninja paid before treatment, sometimes after, sometimes vanishing without paying at all, only for a pouch of coins or bread to appear on her doorstep days later.

After becoming accustomed to the secretive nature of ninja, Yui couldn't help but be surprised when one marched to her front door and knocked.

She opened the door to see a tall teen about her age. His long, untied hair framed his face, his skin was tanned, and he wore tight-fitting red armor over dark clothes. Everything about him screamed ninja—everything besides his bright smile.

"Hello!" he said cheerfully. "I'm Senju Hashirama. Are you the healer Yui?"

She blinked at him and nodded. Yui certainly hadn't expected an introduction. Nevertheless, she stepped aside and gestured for him to come in.

"Great! So I'm in the right place." He bounded inside, ooh-ing and aah-ing over her humble little clinic. With all the merchants that came by, her rooms had a disparate sense of decoration that clashed with the neat, organized supplies. Scarfs from the Land of Wind hung besides pottery from Earth and hairpieces from Lightning.

After a few minutes of his enthused examination, Yui finally asked, "You hurt?"

Hashirama stopped in his pursual of a porcelain cup and stepped back with a sheepish grin. "Not… exactly. I'm returning from a long trip, and I've heard a lot about you, so I thought I'd stop by and thank you."

She raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

He dipped his head, dark eyes meeting her own. "For saving my brother's life, of course. Without your aid, he wouldn't have survived the journey."

Yui stared at him, uncomprehending.

"His name's Kawarama." At her continued silence, he added, "You treated his stomach wound?"

"Ninja don't usually tell me their names," she said dryly, "and I've treated many stomach wounds."

Hashirama gave her a smile that was surprisingly rueful, though it soon brightened to its former intensity. "He was with my father, Butsuma. He had a gash on his hand."

The memory returned in full force. She couldn't forget the first two outsiders that she'd ever treated, though years had passed since then.

"I remember now." Yui could see the resemblance clearly. The hair, skin, even the armor… though Hashirama was far more buoyant and bright than she remembered Butsuma—or any ninja—being. (Then again, she only met them when they were injured.) "He said that he owed me a favor." She paused, unsure if she should continue. It was Hashirama's turn to be silent, though the silence was more encouraging than standoffish. "Did he mean it?"

"Of course! Ninja might not follow a code like the samurai, but we have our own sense of honor." His response was immediate. For a moment, Yui worried that she'd offended him, but Hashirama's following words dispersed her fears. "And what we value most is family." He stepped forward, and his dark eyes shone with sincerity. "We truly are in your debt."

Yui was somewhat mollified, though doubt remained. He'd been receptive to her earlier question, though, so she went ahead and asked. "That was a long time ago. Why come now?"

He laughed and scratched his head. "Well… I was busy."

She stared at him. Hashirama stared back. He began to fidget, though it was far more graceful and fluid than random twitches had any right to be.

"Alright, also because I wanted to know if the rumors were true," he admitted. Hashirama's words were both sheepish and soft and just a little hesitant. "Do you really heal everyone who comes to your door, regardless of what they can pay? Ninja, nobles, and farmers alike?"

Yui nodded.

"So you do," Hashirama breathed. And his incandescent smile softened with respect and hope. "Why?"

She shrugged, looking away, uncomfortable and embarrassed. Yui occupied herself with adding kindling to the fire. Medicine wasn't a basic right in this time. it was something that people paid for if they could and died for if they couldn't. Through no intention of her own, her ideas were revolutionary. She let the crackle of the fire fill the silence for a moment, then two, then three.

"Why not?" she answered in the end.

Before Hashirama could respond, the door opened.

"Hey sis!" Sen chirped as he stuck his head in. "I was wondering if—" At the sight of the ninja, her brother froze as if struck dumb. After gawking for an embarrassingly long time, Sen found his voice again. "S-Sorry, I didn't know that you were treating, um… I'll come back later?"

Yui glanced at the man in question, wondering if he'd revert to more ninja-like behavior in the presence of someone else.

"No, no, it's fine!" Hashirama waved a hand with good cheer. "I'm Hashirama, by the way. I came to talk to your sister."

"Oh?" Sen's doubt was clear as day, but he stepped in all the same. He eyed both the ninja and her. "You alright?" he mumbled, sidling up to her.

She gave him a half-smile and squeezed his shoulder in response. It wasn't like Sen could do anything if she was in trouble, but the thought was sweet.

"Anyway," Sen said louder, "Can I eat lunch here? Ume-nee is bringing over her newest man." He wrinkled his nose. "He's a huge ass, but she threatened to whip my hide if I said anything."

Yui gave an amused sigh. Ume was their older sister, and she had somewhat of a reputation when it came to men. Her latest conquest was a hired hand with plenty of muscles but little manners, if Sen's ranting was to be believed.

She looked back to Hashirama. He was looking at Sen with a rather wistful expression, though it changed when he noticed her scrutiny.

"Lunch, huh?" Hashirama's mien remained longing, though now it was an entirely different sort. "A warm meal… I'm sure you'll enjoy it. How wonderful." He gave a deep, bone-weary sigh that seemed overly dramatic.

Both Yui and her brother exchanged looks of disbelief. She then turned her gaze back to Hashirama, whose wide eyes were a touch too innocent.

"Do you wanna join us?" said Yui slowly.

He lit up, and his grin was bright enough to wash out the sun. "Why, thank you! I'd absolutely love too."

Yui knew that she made a decent soup. She had plenty of extra herbs, and she'd spent time experimenting with different combinations. Still, her soup didn't deserve Hashirama's blissful expression and praise.

"This is the best soup in the whole world!" he enthused as he ate with rapture. "I've never eaten anything so amazing!"

Sen poked at a chunk of vegetable in his bowl. "Uh, Yui-nee's food is okay, but it's not that good."

Hashirama chuckled. "Well, I've been traveling for a long time. Try eating nothing but dried meat and stale rice cakes for two weeks and then tell me if the soup tastes good."

"Two weeks?" Sen gaped. "Where were you going?"

He winked at the boy. "It's a secret."

Yui raised an eyebrow at that. So Hashirama could be surreptitious and ninja-like, then.

"Were you fighting against samurai?" Sen's eyes were big and excited. "Oh, maybe against demons? Or the giant sand snakes that the merchants were talking about?"

Hashirama shook his head, amused. "No, not this time. The mission wasn't very hard, but boy, it was tedious. I'm afraid that I can't say much more about it."

"Huh. Okay." Sen ate the vegetable he'd been prodding with his spoon. "Hey, shinobi-san... what's it like being a ninja?"

Hashirama was quiet for almost a minute.

"It's hard," he said finally. "It's… it's not a life that most would willingly choose. Family and," a slight pause, "friends are lost faster than you can blink. There's so much violence and blood… just a never-ending cycle of death."

His hand clenched the spoon, though his bowl had been empty for a while. Yui served him another ladle full, and he gave her grateful smile. He made no move to drink anymore, however. He simply stared at the bowl.

"It makes me wonder if peace is even possible," Hashirama murmured. "If there could ever be a world where children don't have to fight." His smile faded. "That's been my dream for so long… naive as it is." He gave a weak laugh. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this. Sorry, I've ruined the mood."

Yui set her own spoon down. "It's possible," she said, calmly but clearly. "I don't think people can live in a world without any fighting. We're too violent for that. Fighting can be controlled, though. There don't have to be so much violence like now. It can become and be more rare, until finally, there's something that's close to peace. A world where most kids don't need to go to war is definitely possible. It'd be hard and it'd take years and years, but it's possible. Even if it doesn't happen in our lifetime."

She spoke with all the conviction of someone who'd lived in country where children were required to go to school—where child soldiers were seen as an atrocity and tragedy, not an unavoidable fact of life.

Both Sen and Hashirama were staring at her now, and Yui suddenly felt self-conscious. This was the most she'd said at once in a long, long time. She normally didn't speak much in this life. At first, it had been because of the difficulty of a new language. Afterwards, it had simply become habit.

"You really think so?" There was no hint of a smile on Hashirama's face. He was entirely, completely serious.

"Of course."

His eyes were full of bemused wonderment. "Of all the places…" He shook his head, a grin tugging at the corner of his lips. "I didn't expect to find a kindred spirit here." Hashirama ate another spoonful of the soup and sighed, this time contentedly.

"It's no trouble at all," she replied. And Yui smiled back.

AN: This is an old fic that I edited and rewrote. The style isn't my usual one; it's a little more exposition-y, but I think it sort of fits.

One thing I've been musing over: how do you feel about romance? I don't have a preference either way, and I'm perfectly alright with keeping it gen. No matter what, romance will not be the main focus of this fic, but I thought I'd ask anyway. Are you interested in any pairings, straight or otherwise, with OCs or canon characters?

That's about it, really. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.