Chapter Fourteen: Extension
Penicillin wasn't a stone in a lake, sending ripples out. It was the earthquake a thousand miles from the shore, causing a pressure wave that dragged across the sea floor, building and building into a swell that towered above unsuspecting civilization—only to crash down onto the world as the dividing line between then and now.
Dr. Makoto, his associates, and the industrialists supporting the venture were pleased about the new drug, but they were cautious. They wanted to see the promised results for themselves. Yui could wait. The letters were her barometers; she monitored mentions of the new 'miracle drug' trickling in among her usual correspondence. In the meantime, she used her samples of penicillin to treat severe infections in her own patients, and she explained the usage of the medication to her new students.
(In this world, the medicine wasn't called penicillin. Instead, its name referenced citrus, after the oranges it came from. But Yui still referred to it as penicillin in her head.)
The first person treated with antibiotics was a farmer with an infected leg wound. Young and stubborn, he had put off treatment until he'd come down with a fever. Yui pointed out the red streaks spreading from injury to lymph node: a dangerous sign, even in a world with antibiotics.
Which this world now was.
She dosed the man with penicillin and monitored him with the chakra scanning technique. He recovered remarkably quickly—as her students noted, perhaps even miraculously so. (The farmer, hearing this, left a not-so-surreptitious offering to the god of medicine in front of her house.)
After her patient left in good health, Yui excused herself, stepped into an empty room in her new hospital, and closed the door. Then, she cradled her head in her hands. For a few brief, stolen moments, she let herself acknowledge the weight of change hanging above her.
Then, Yui got back to work.
With his brother stationed in Chiyuku, Hashirama had a reason to be in town more often. They could pick days and times rather than meeting when the fates allowed. As they'd planned, he visited her for lunch a few days after she treated the farmer. Yui, still buoyed by her success, gave him a bright smile.
"Hashirama!" she exclaimed. She held out her hands to him.
He blinked. "Yui?" Somewhere mystified, he took her hands.
She gave them a friendly squeeze and pulled him to the table. The sun was in high noon, and it shone directly through the open window. "So much has happened!"
"What happened?" The twist of his lips wasn't quite concerned, but his eyebrows rose with curiosity. His eyes scanned the room, as if searching for a threat—something he always did when confronted with something out of the ordinary.
"Remember my project in the shed? With the fungi?" Hashirama barely finished nodding before Yui exclaimed, "It worked!"
She launched into an explanation of its use, the process behind its purification, and its gradual success in the city and other areas. Hashirama was attentive and appreciative, asking pertinent questions and making impressed sounds at the appropriate times.
It had taken her ten years to establish antibiotics: she'd been stumbling blind, unsure how to isolate anything. But now, she had a starting point. Now, other people could take up the search with her. She'd already sent pointers about sulfa-drugs to the industrialists, and there were already whispers about making a more potent version of penicillin… and the medical society had grown quickly thanks to the drug's success and their open access to chakra-techniques.
At some point, Yui realized that she'd been talking uninterrupted for several minutes. Hashirama was watching her with a soft, quiet smile. She trailed off, shifting her gaze from him to the dust motes swirling in the sunlight.
"Sorry," she muttered. "I've just been, ah… rambling."
"You deserve to," Hashirama said, reaching out as if to take her hands again, only to abort the movement and set them flat on the table. "Everything you've worked for is bearing fruit."
Yui slowly set her hand on top of his. "Thank you." She studied him in the bright sunlight. His eyes were bright and full of energy, his shoulders relaxed, but she saw the traces of set-aside exhaustion in his dark circles. Hashirama tilted his head under the scrutiny but said nothing.
"There's a technique I learned," Yui said. "A diagnostic chakra technique. Want to learn?"
His smile was immediate. "Of course!"
She brought a chicken into the clinic—all of them hated Yui by now—and demonstrated the technique. Hashirama picked up the mRI technique immediately, fast enough that Yui was almost miffed. At her surprise, he admitted it was similar to a sensing technique he used.
There was a moment where Hashirama hesitated, teetering between his instincts and his training. "Are you familiar with natural energy?"
She had glanced through speculations about the nature of energy and chakra in various letters and books sent to her, but nothing ever carried much detail. Yui shook her head, curious.
"Chakra exists in every living creature, but there's energy in the world around us too. The air, the water, the earth… that's why chakra that people use can have elemental natures."
Yui nodded to show that she was following. She was familiar with the concept, even if the practice was beyond her.
"It's possible to combine that natural energy with chakra to make what ninja call senjutsu. But, directly trying to use it has disastrous effects."
"Turning to stone."
Yui stared at him. Every time she thought she had a grasp on the limits of impossibility this world had, something came along and punted it into the river.
Somewhat sheepishly, Hashirama admitted, "My… natural ability to grow plants lets me use it directly. Most people can't."
She had already theorized that chakra had some sort of mutagenic effect, considering the physical differences she'd seen among ninja and samurai. Apparently, it could do much more than that, if chakra could theoretically turn organic material into stone.
"And you use this senjutsu to sense people?"
He nodded, looking slightly wary.
Yui leaned in. "What does it let you see? Can you sense anyone now?"
Hashirama paused and then closed his eyes. The air shifted, each particle weighted down for a brief moment, and then the sensation passed.
"It's easier to pick out people I know, and the more chakra someone has, the easier it is to find them. Right now… Uchiha-san is patrolling the borders of the village. My brother and your apprentice are by the marketplace. There's a couple samurai with traveling merchants, and there's a… Hyuuga staying in an inn, I think, and a few Sarutobi. Your new students are all in the hospital—their chakra already feels similar to yours. And there's you, of course."
"My chakra has a feel?"
"How does it feel?"
He opens his eyes, a hint of embarrassment creasing the edge of his lips. "It's bright. But warm. Like a hot cloth wrapped around a bruise, or calendula flowers, or… your salves. There's something so soothing about it. You've never used chakra to hurt someone, and I can tell."
"Oh. Thank you." Yui smiled. It was flattering to think that her chakra was so pleasant. "You know, I think I felt your chakra before too."
"When you made the clinic…" Yui glanced at the wall, remembering the thrum of power underneath her fingertips. "There was so much chakra. Or when you grow flowers… I thought I was… I think I felt it then."
Hashirama looked like he wanted to ask. She considered the memory, suddenly realizing how difficult it was to put the feeling of chakra into words.
"Your chakra's quiet. Still," she said after a moment. "Like an old forest. But only at first. There's so much life in it, like the beginning of spring." After a second, she added, "It's very nice."
"Oh." He blinked multiple times, at a loss for words.
It was Yui's turn to be embarrassed. "Was it… rude, asking you that?"
He shook his head. "Uh, it's unusual. I mean, you wouldn't ask that question to a stranger. But I think we're friends enough for that."
She raised an eyebrow at that but didn't push. "Right. Different chakra with different feelings… I didn't think about that, but it makes sense. There's so much I don't know."
"But there's so much you've learned," he said immediately. "And you'll learn even more!"
"You're right. We will."
They sat together in quiet warmth. Rarely could Yui find contentment in stillness—silence, yes, but rarely stillness—she needed her hands and mind to be occupied. What had first been a necessity of her situation had become a necessity of her soul. And yet, she found herself at peace in this moment: a friend by her side, the sun in her eyes.
She had missed this.
And she had missed him.
They spent the day exchanging medical techniques and anecdotes. She introduced him to her new students—Dr. Katsuro was petrified by Hashirama's name, and the country healer Ichiyo was still petrified by his occupation. Eventually, both were charmed by his endless enthusiasm, but they kept glancing over to Yui for reassurance.
Some time after Hashirama left to meet his brother, Yui looked at her students and sighed. They were whispering to each other, still spooked from their brief encounter.
"You've treated ninja before," she said, exasperated. "Is it really different talking to one?"
"Yes," said Katsuro immediately. "You don't talk to ninja, you…" He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
Yui shook her head. "You'll get used to it. Just like everyone else in Chiyuku."
Katsuro seemed skeptical, but he was willing to entertain the notion. He'd overcome the hardest part; once someone was willing to truly consider a new idea, it was only a matter of time.
Ichiyo, however, was more hesitant. "It ain't the same out in the villages," she said, slowly. "Ninja are… well, if you see one, that's… it's like seein' death. That's what they bring. Like an earthquake or storm but worse, 'cause they can think. But they chose anyway."
"True," she said, frank. "But they're still people. Like all people, they're capable of terrible and wonderful things." She gestured in the direction of her two students. "You're also capable of terrible and wonderful things."
Ichiyo frowned, but it clicked for Katsuro immediately. Of course it did—he had been breathlessly eager to learn the powers of chakra.
"But what you taught us, it can only be used to heal… right?" he said slowly.
"A scalpel can cut anything. At one point, before I had surgical tools made, I used a shinobi's knife." At their horrified look, she smiled and said, "It was the sharpest blade I had. You're right that medical chakra is less likely to harm. But it's possible. Some of the more advanced techniques are dangerous if used incorrectly."
"But we wouldn't…" Ichiyo shook her head slowly.
Yui let that linger before she responded. "I know you wouldn't, but you could. Don't judge our patients for what they didn't yet do—they still deserve respect." She paused and, frowning, added, "You deserve respect too, from all our patients. No one has been giving you trouble? No ninja?"
If they had, Yui would ensure they learned the error of their ways. Ichiyo and Katsuro were still new, and shinobi were paranoid around people they considered strangers, but she wouldn't tolerate any misbehavior.
"No, no!" said Katsuro hastily. "No, they've been… quiet. That's all."
Ichiyo nodded in agreement.
A fourth voice joined the conversation. "I'm glad to hear that." Hashirama stood some distance away, his characteristic smile missing. In its place was a subdued, thoughtful expression. "All the clans have an agreement about Chiyuku. They won't cause you trouble."
There was a finality to how he declared that—Yui expected it, but her students were taken aback.
"Th-Thank you," Katsuro stammered.
Hashirama smiled in acknowledgement, but he continued. "I understand why you might be scared of shinobi, but you should know that ninja are scared of you."
"What?" Ichiyo was startled enough that the question burst out of her.
"Ninja who can use chakra to heal are the most dangerous," Hashirama said, his tone still light. "If a healer manages to touch you, they can warp your flesh from inside out. It only takes one pulse of chakra to stop a heart or burst the vessels of the brain. And with healing chakra, torture isn't limited by the damage to the physical body. There's also the obvious. You see shinobi at their most vulnerable. You could hurt them so easily."
"We would never," Katsuro said, heated and immediate. "Yui-sensei said the same thing but we wouldn't. Not to our patients! Not to anyone!"
Ichiyo nodded, wariness in her gaze as she took a half-step back. But she still said out loud, "He's right."
Pride bubbled in her heart: she had chosen her students well. Even while they were scared, they looked a ninja in the eyes and reaffirmed what she'd taught them.
"The ninja you treat know that too," Hashirama said. His smile returned, easy and delighted. "Your teacher built that trust, slowly and carefully, and it extends to you. But there are ninja who are cautious because you still could."
""Do, uh…" Ichiyo hesitated. "Are you scared of us? Or sensei?"
Though Hashirama answered her student's question, at first he looked only at Yui. "No. I trust Yui with my life, and I trust her judgment." He turned to face Ichiyo and added brightly, "Which means that I trust all her students!"
Both of her students were surprised—but their answering smiles showed that they were equally gratified. Nothing was heavier or more rewarding than a patient's trust.
Hashirama spent the day in Chiyuku. He seemed happy to just be with her as she went about her daily tasks. He insisted on making everyone lunch—which was quite good, though her students were blatantly surprised by that. He noticed and laughed about it.
"Being on the road, you have to cook for yourself," he said. "I'm no master chef, but it's edible!"
They spent the evening swapping stories. Eiji and Kawarama bickered while Hashirama and Yui watched with poorly concealed amusement. Her newer students listened to ninja stories with open awe as Hashirama spoke of raising forests and conjuring fire with the same ease as they picked up a stethoscope.
Yui smiled to herself. She wished that Sen was here to see this for himself, to see how far they had come. But for once, the thought wasn't accompanied by pain that stole her breath—instead, a nostalgic warmth grew in her chest, the familiar twinge of loss overshadowed by love.
Hashirama left as the sun set. Yui watched him disappear into the night as the village lamps brought light.
Another letter arrived that sang the praises of penicillin. Yui set it aside into the box for her new scribe—Eiji had bullied her into hiring an assistant for her correspondence. Now that he planned on attending university in the coming fall, he was determined to make sure his absence caused as little difficulty as possible.
"By the time I'm gone," he'd told her, "you won't notice I'm gone."
Her scribe, a young woman named Aoi who'd just finished her apprenticeship, seemed shy. But that was deception of the highest order. Aoi organized the papers with military efficiency, and she insisted on keeping every scrap of writing.
"Some day," her scribe had said, "people will want to know what you thought."
Yui doubted that, but she let Aoi have her way. (Sometimes it worried Yui. So many more people were involved in her various efforts, and it slipped further from her control. But it was worth it to see different people from all walks of life work together for a common goal.)
Between her new scribe, Tama, Eiji, and her two apprentice doctors, Yui found herself with something she hadn't had in years: consistent free time.
Eiji gave commands to the two new doctors with brisk efficiency. "Ichiyo, I wrote down the houses you need to visit this morning. Make sure to check on Daichi-san. His daughter's cough got worse. Katsuro, you'll be keeping the hospital with us today. The council told us that the first summer caravan should be here soon, so we should prepare. Any questions? No? Then…"
Yui smiled to herself. Despite his young age, both of the new doctors listened without hesitation. Once he finished, they gave Yui and him a short bow before leaving for their duties.
Eiji glanced at Yui. "Tama's on shed duty, and Aoi-san went to deliver your letters, right?"
"Good." He sighed. "I'll get to—"
"Sit with me," she interrupted.
He gave her a cautious look but sat down in the chair. "What is it? Do you need anything?"
"No. Just wanted to talk."
"What would you like to talk about?"
Yui had noticed the changes in his speech. Before, he'd say "'Bout what?" or "What's going on?" Now Eiji mimicked a more educated accent, like Katsuro's or their city-educated scribe's. (But Yui had learned too: though her accent was still strong, she'd gotten used to using different words, thanks to both the travelers and the books they brought.)
Eiji had grown so much. They all had.
She smiled. "I'm proud of you."
"What?" His neck flushed as his eyebrows went up. "What got you—brought this—huh?"
"Let me be sentimental. You're leaving in a few months. You're working so hard, and I wanted to tell you, that's all." And Yui had learned that it was better to say what was left unsaid, or she might never get the chance.
"I… yeah. I wanna do well. Uh, I don't want to be the country bumpkin at the university, so… I brushed up on everything." Quietly, he added, "Will they think I'm just a… rube?" He worried at his lip, the buried nervousness peeking through. Eiji had been working hard—a little too hard, maybe, and Yui knew why. He'd picked up the habit from her.
Yui gave his question her full consideration. "They might," she said, honest. "But there's power in being underestimated. You're from the country, yeah, but you also have more connections than most people in the city."
Eiji nodded. "Yeah. I just… want to make Chiyuku proud. I want to make you proud," he said quickly—as if hesitating a moment longer meant it'd never come out.
He'd learned the same lesson she had.
"I promise you, Eiji. You already have."
In a few months, her oldest student would be in the capital: a place so different from Chiyuku it might as well be a different world. Yui wondered how much the city would change him—but she also wondered how much he'd change the city. They had talked about it before. He had the chance to not only learn the foremost center of knowledge, but he also had the chance to establish their work and spread it to others. Eiji was just as determined as she was, if not more so, to see their ideas take flight.
Her little apprentice was also spreading his wings, and the thought brought a warm sense of melancholy. She'd see him again, of course. Eiji would come back when the university gave him time off. Yui knew that Dr. Makoto would watch out for him, so she wasn't that worried… but she'd miss him nonetheless.
"I'll be fine, right?" he said, picking at a stray thread of his sleeves.
"Yes. Besides," Yui said, and her badly concealed amusement made him look at her with suspicion. "If anyone's being difficult, just tell Kawarama to take care of—"
"Sensei!" he burst out, even redder, and Yui couldn't help but laugh.
During a slow day, when she was alone in her home, Yui looked around her table at the piles of letters that had accumulated. Aoi had made a valiant effort, but it seemed like every letter they sent out resulted in a dozen more coming in.
The response to penicillin was its own kind of tidal wave. She'd received message after message about how her antibiotics had cured patients, and each one made her heart lift. Almost as inspiring were the messages from people who were searching for other possible antibiotics. Dr. Makoto continued with his updates about antibiotics and his medical society; the success of penicillin meant that the animalcule theory (and microbiology) was becoming a vibrant area of study in the budding scientific community. Yui cracked her ink-stained fingers and smiled to herself. Even if she were to disappear tomorrow, she could be satisfied with the knowledge that others would continue this work.
Yui pointed out the ecchymosis on the tailor's wrist as her students peered over her shoulder. By now, her patients were used to being lessons, and he smiled indulgently at the three trainees as he held up his hand.
"That's right, Ichiyo-san," Yui said. "This just needs—"
Madara burst into the hospital room carrying the unconscious body of his brother. The smell of smoke filled the room, and his red eyes darted around wildly before pinning her in place.
"Help him," he demanded—pleaded.
Yui glanced at her students. "Ichiyo-san, finish here. Tama, grab my supplies and join me next door." She immediately led Madara and Izuna into a different room. Madara set his brother down on the bed, and Yui took his vitals. She set her fingers on his wrist—it was fast, too fast.
"Stab wounds," Madara said. His hands were trembling as he loomed over them both. "Above the stomach. Another around his eye. He was healing fine, but then he started getting worse. Even with the salves. He wasn't getting better. I knew he had a fever, but—but—he said he was fine. I shouldn't have listened, I should have been faster—"
"You need to sit down."
"He fell unconscious an hour ago. I should have brought him to you before, but he wasn't—"
Yui looked up from Izuna's flushed skin. "Sit down, please."
Madara stepped back and sat down in the chair next to the bed. She grabbed an extra blanket from the shelf and draped it over his shoulders.
"I don't need—"
She gave him a look. He fell quiet. His eyes were still red, bright as arterial blood, and dark black flecks twisted in his irises. Madara's chakra smoldered and expanded in the room like smoke. Yui could taste the ashes on her tongue as her clinic burned for a second time, a third time, again and again as her life's work dissipated in the air regardless of how desperately she tried.
"Madara," she said, her voice low but firm.
He took in a deep, unsteady breath. His chakra contracted and the air cleared. He took in another, more even breath. When he blinked, his eyes were black again. Satisfied, Yui turned back to her patient.
The door opened, and Tama hurried into the room with a bag full of supplies and a bucket of freshly boiled water. Yui thanked her and got to work. She washed her hands and started the physical exam. A deep wound stretched under Izuna's eye, curving right around the orbit. Almost as if someone was trying to carve it out.
His torso was bandaged. Yui checked the injury. Puncture wound in the right lower quadrant, about seven centimeters across, clearly infected. Maybe two weeks old. Red streaks stretched from the wound all the way up his torso: lymphangitis.
"When did this happen?"
"Ten days ago. Ambush at the northern border. Izuna threw himself in front of a blade meant for his apprentice. They were outnumbered."
"You used salves and bandages after?"
"Yes," said Madara. "Chakra infused salves on the abdomen and the injury around his eyes. But he didn't… it took a few days for him to meet up with the main camp. He was carrying his apprentice the entire time. She's fine," Madara added. "No injuries. But my brother… the healer did her best, but it wasn't enough. I should have brought him to you."
Yui didn't say anything. She sent a pulse of chakra through Izuna—he moaned faintly—and blinked at the flood of information from the chakra mRI. He had a lower rib fracture too, and some internal bleeding, and the beginnings of pneumonia. She began to clean the abdominal wound, frowning at the exudate. Tama helped, handing her clean cloth and changing out the water as needed.
He didn't look good. The infection had gone septic.
For a moment, she remembered her brother as he'd been in the last few days of his life. She shook off the image.
Izuna wasn't Sen.
This time, she had more options at her disposal. She had fought for that. She had spent endless nights struggling, sleepless, as she sought tools that would give her patients a better chance. This was now a post-antibiotic world. Sepsis could be treated. But even with medicine, septic shock had a high mortality rate.
But Yui would do everything she could to shift the odds in his favor.
She started with aspirin, both for pain and inflammation. Then, she dosed him with a distillation of penicillin. Yui knew the antibiotic worked. She'd used it on several patients before Izuna. But that didn't guarantee that it would work this time.
Madara refused to leave the room. Yui tried gently to encourage him to rest, but he declined. Yui didn't expect anything else. Eventually, she took a break and Eiji swapped in. Yui brought a lunch basket to Madara, knowing that he was too stubborn to seek out food.
Even then, it took additional coaxing. She handed him an onigiri, which Madara took but made no effort to actually consume.
"You gotta eat," she prodded. Yui took an onigiri for herself.
"Yes." Madara continued to hold the rice ball in his hand as he stared at Izuna.
Eiji let out a loud sigh. "For god's sake, you aren't going to help your brother by starving!" He paused to take Izuna's vitals again. "If you pass out, we'll have to treat you too!"
Madara scowled, but that had lost its effect on both Eiji and Yui ages ago. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Madara, eat. For your brother, at least."
Finally, Madara took a bite. Chewing and swallowing seemed to take an exorbitant amount of effort for him, but he forced himself to finish the onigiri.
"Water or tea?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"Tea," she decided for him. She asked Tama to bring them tea and additional blankets for Madara. She knew he'd stay by his brother's side, so he might as well be comfortable.
It was going to be a long day for all of them.
Izuna lived through the night. His breathing seemed to steady at times, but then it would become irregular again. But he kept breathing. He didn't wake up, but he kept breathing.
Yui tried to coax Madara into sleeping more, eating more, taking care of himself more. She was only marginally successful, but that was what she'd expected. Late at night, when Yui made her last rounds in the hospital, she saw Madara hunched over in his chair, staring at the prone body of his brother.
Izuna's soft rasps were the only sound.
She approached him and touched his arm, a brief gesture of acknowledgement. The light of the half-moon poured through the window, illuminating his pale face and dark eyes. She stood next to him in silence. Yui wished, sometimes, that she had the gift of words—that she could provide comfort as easily as Sen had, or Hashirama, or any other person who didn't have to think three times before speaking once.
Her instinctive words weren't something she'd say to a patient. However, it was something she might say to a friend. Yes, a healer was supposed to keep distance. But too little empathy was worse than too much.
"I know how you feel," she says quietly.
As was typical, Madara's anger was sharp and sudden, a crack of lightning across the planes of his face—but it dissipated just as fast, smothered by realization.
"Perhaps you do." He straightened in his chair, but he didn't stand. "I wish you didn't."
"I wish no one did."
They had both fought for that dream in their own ways. Peace and panacea. It was a prayer that filled their lives and yet remained out of reach.
Madara let out a long, choked sigh. "Can you heal him? Truly?"
She had never lied to him. "I'll try."
"I don't want to lose him," Madara whispered finally. "I don't want to be alone."
Yui didn't have an answer to that. She didn't want to be alone either. Sen wasn't with her any more, and it was a truth that still hurt every day. But Eiji was here, and so were her siblings, her friends and her community. Yui had heard platitudes from others before. It hadn't helped to hear that then. It wouldn't help Madara now.
So she stayed next to him as he held vigil, hoping her company could provide comfort that her words could not.
Several days passed. Yui monitored Izuna's heart rate, his breathing, and the wound. He was recovering, slowly: occasional moments of lucidity interspersed delirium and silence. On the third day, at high noon, Izuna's eyes slowly opened.
His muscles tensed. His eyes darted to her face as he took stock of his surroundings. When he realized where he was, he let out a short sigh. But even now, barely conscious, he tried to sit up. Yui put her hand on his shoulder and prevented him—something she would never be able to do if he wasn't so weak.
"Yui-san," Izuna rasped. "Where is my brother?"
"I'm right here." Madara had been dozing in the chair, but the moment that Izuna woke, he was awake and standing. He glanced at her restraining hand and placed his own on Izuna's other shoulder.
"The Senju…" Izuna's eyes fluttered, but he kept them open with visible effort.
Yui looked at Madara, frowning. "The Senju didn't do this, did they?"
Madara shook his head. "We've had a truce for almost a year now. It was—not them."
She didn't press any further, but Izuna wasn't finished.
"Brother. My eyes. It's almost too late. If I die… take my eyes. Don't listen to their lies. Don't—"
Madara's eyes flashed red as horror crossed his face, there and gone in an instant. "Quiet. Save your energy."
That was the extent of Izuna's brief spurt of activity. His eyes drifted shut again, and his rapid breathing settled back into the even pattern of unconsciousness.
Yui wasn't sure what to make of his statements. More delirium, perhaps? But Madara's reaction wasn't that of a man who was hearing nonsense from his fevered brother. And Izuna had mentioned his eyes, which had severe ocular symptoms. Yui hesitated, her hand still resting on Izuna's shoulder.
"Do I need to know?" Yui asked, stepping back. "His vision… there's something wrong with it."
Madara held himself in that unnatural stillness that ninja seemed to default to—the absence of movement that preceded the storm. Once he reached a decision, he slowly, deliberately sat back down in his chair.
"I have your secrecy, do I not?'
"I've told you briefly about the gifts that my bloodline gives," he began. "I would not normally say anything to an outsider, but you have proven yourself. And... and for my brother—" he stopped. "If it helps my brother, I will... I will do what I must."
It was rare to ever see Madara hesitant: his confidence was an integral part of him. But Izuna was gravely ill, and the one truth even more integral to Madara's person was the love he had for his brother.
"Don't tell me anything that I don't need to know," she said gently.
Madara gave a sharp nod. "My clan's eyes—the Sharingan—give powerful abilities to those who use them. However, some abilities cause strain to the user's vision. Blindness is not… an uncommon consequence."
That made sense to her. The abilities were clearly chakra-based, and she knew that chakra overuse could lead to exhaustion, internal burns, and other nasty consequences. (More than one ninja stumbled into her clinic suffering what she called chakra depletion syndrome.) Channeling chakra near the eyes would be even more dangerous, considering its delicate nerves and muscles. Yui made a mental note to insist on frequent eye exams for her Uchiha patients.
He continued. "Transplanting the eyes, particularly those of blood relatives, is said to cure this blindness. Izuna wanted me to take his eyes upon his death for that reason. But if Izuna were to take mine, would that help him?"
Yui was, frankly, dumbfounded.
She wasn't even sure where to begin with those three sentences. After a pause long enough that Madara started to look visibly anxious, Yui had ordered her thoughts enough to ask questions from most immediate to least.
"Are you and Izuna going blind?" she asked. "Do you mean a whole eye transplant?" That hadn't been possible even in her old world.
"I do not use my more dangerous abilities to the same extent that my brother does." Madara looked taken aback. "Though I have noticed slight changes in my vision, it hasn't been significant. And yes, I mean the entire eye. Are there other types of transplants?"
"Yeah," Yui said, distracted. There were corneal transplants and the like, but that was impossible to do with what she had. "You've seen people with whole eye transplants?"
"I have." The last two days, Madara had been submerged in fear for his brother, but a different type of confusion and concern was breaking through the surface.
"And they work?"
"Not always. If someone tries to steal an eye—"
"Steal an eye?" Yui interrupted. "What d'you mean steal?"
"Ninja with doujutsu—chakra abilities tied to the eyes, like those of my clan and the Hyuuga—are at risk of being hunted. Thieves," he spat the word like a curse, "will steal eyes to gain our power."
"And it works? The eye and… the abilities, the thief can use them?"
"Sometimes. Often enough that it's worth the risk. But no thief can use it as well as the original wielder."
There had to be some sort of chakra healing involved. There was no other possible explanation for full eye transplants that connected to the recipient's nervous and chakra systems—to the point that both vision and clan abilities were transferred.
Feeling lost, Yui asked, "How does that cure blindness? If it's the Sharingan that causes corrosion, why would a different Sharingan help?" If anything, Yui would assume that a foreign organ would make it worse, even between siblings.
Madara looked just as lost as her. "I was hoping you would know the reason for that."
"Well. Huh." Yui stared at Madara's dark eyes, wondering about the strange secrets of chakra and biology that were hidden in his pupils—and about how she had to personally give Madara a full eye exam when everything settled. "No, I don't got a clue. I hope we don't find out."
An ironic smile flickered across his face. "You and me both."
By now, Yui was used to grappling with the shifts in world view that came from the immense power and versatility of chakra. She went through the day while musing on the nature of this world without missing a step. The presence of the Uchiha brothers did change her routine, though—she and Eiji provided the bulk of Izuna's care, and Yui found herself spending more time with a singular patient than she usually did.
She wasn't happy that Izuna was injured. Not in the slightest. But a part of her did enjoy being able to focus on treatment instead of all the administrative work that she'd taken on over the years.
God forbid that you join administration, she thought to herself, unsure where it came from. Yui hadn't had those disconnected flashes of memories from her past life in a long time. She had a feeling that 'administration' meant something different in this context. Something about… paperwork and bureaucracy, hospitals and companies—the expressions administrative bloat and target benchmarks came to mind, and Yui pulled at that thread, unraveling the skein…
She let it drop. "Yes, Tama-chan?"
"Um, Izuna-san wants to talk to you." There was a crash from that room. "He, uh, wants to leave, and his brother is arguing with him."
Izuna's recovery had been slow. He was profoundly unhappy about that, and he was determined to make his displeasure the problem of everyone else. More than once, Izuna had ranted about his weakness to any listener. Even Ichiyo and Katsuro had started to look bored rather than frightened when he began one of his tirades.
Yui opened the door to Izuna's room and was surprised to hear that he had taken a different approach.
"—recovered enough for the trip," Izuna was saying. Words like wheedled or cajoled were too undignified for him, but there was a distinct note of pleading to his tone. "It would be both safer and easier for all of us."
Madara crossed his arms, but his fingers tapped against the crook of his elbow. "Perhaps," he began, looking torn.
Yui interrupted him before he could go further. "No."
"No?" Like his brother's, Izuna's surge of anger was immediate—but his lightning struck tinder and burned. His face flushed a bright red as he struggled to sit up. "No? You mean for me to die in this sickhouse, surrounded by strangers, enemies, and—"
She kneeled by his bed. "Izuna," she called him directly by name, without honorifics, and that was enough to startle him quiet. "Stop it. Look at yourself." She rested two fingers on his wrist, checking his pulse. Elevated, along with his respiratory rate. "Don't work yourself—"
"I'm not an invalid! I'm—" His breathing became heavier, almost rasping. "I'm—I'd rather die as a ninja should—"
"No. I want you to get better. Your brother wants you to get better."
Izuna stopped again. When he resumed his speech, he spoke softer, and his breathing was beginning to normalize. "I can get better with my clan."
Yui gave him a look as she felt his heartbeat begin to settle. "You think I'll keep you here if it wasn't the best thing for you? Do you really think I'm trapping you in my village for fun? I want you to go too."
A second late, Yui realized how that could be misconstrued, but Izuna looked faintly amused rather than offended.
"I suppose you do."
Yui sighed and decided to not explain herself. "I swear to you that the moment I think you're ready, I'll let you go home. I swear on the shrine outside my home. Trust my judgment."
Izuna let out a sigh. The brief excitement had worn away his energy. "Very well. But only because you have sworn on your honor." He tried to close his eyes with deliberation, but it was obvious that exhaustion rather than dignity was his main motivation.
Yui stood up from his side and raised an eyebrow at Madara. "Let him rest," she said. "Join me for lunch?"
Madara's forehead creased with worry as he watched his brother sink deeper into the pillow. "Perhaps later."
With his eyes still closed, Izuna grumbled, "Perhaps now. Get out of my room. I'm trying to take a nap, and I can't if you're hovering like an anxious weasel."
He let out a quick breath. "Izuna—"
"No, get out. The healer's annoying students will be here to bother me about every possible ailment, anyway. Let me breathe for ten minutes."
"Ten minutes," Madara said, reluctant. "If you're—"
"Yes. Good. Leave."
With one last backward glance, Madara followed her out. Yui led him to er office. It was a cozy space that had originally been a patient room, but Aoi had insisted that Yui needed a working place that wasn't her home. (Yes, sometimes she still did answer her letters from her dining table. But Yui admitted that it was nice to have a room dedicated to her work.)
Like her home, the office was covered in a menagerie of objects from across the nations. A beautiful hanging scroll took the space of the adjacent wall, depicting a soft blue mountain scene painted by a samurai from Iron Country. Next to it was a woven tapestry from the Land of Wind and carved goat figurines from Lightning.
"I see your decorating tastes haven't changed," Madara said, amused.
Yui wasn't a materialistic person, or at least she liked to think she wasn't, but she did like having all these small reminders of the people she'd met from across the world. She could never bring herself to buy luxuries, not after so long with so little. The gifts she was given, however… she cherished those.
Still, it did look rather eclectic.
"I'm glad you approve."
She kept her notes and textbooks on a shelf across from her desk, and Madara paused to read the titles on the spine. Then, his gaze shifted to a beautifully made porcelain teacup with a knife in it. The hilt was simple and well-worn.
"You kept it."
"Of course. I don't use it for surgeries anymore—" Yui had specially made tools for that, "—but it served me well. And it's a good story to tell my students." She smiled. "After all, it was a gift from a dear friend."
Madara picked up the knife and tested its heft. Then, he pressed a finger to the edge. "You maintained the edge."
"Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones," she said automatically. Yui had given that lecture a thousand times while stitching up cooking-related injuries. "It's easier for a dull knife to slip on a carrot and slice open your finger."
He let out a breath of air that was almost a laugh. "Please tell me that you haven't used the same knife for vegetable chopping too."
Yui cleared her throat and gestured for him to take a seat. "Let's eat."
"Yui!" This time, he actually laughed. As they ate the prepared onigiri together, he was still smiling.
A week passed. With each day, with each treatment, Izuna got better. Madara continued to worry, but as his brother grew stronger, he (reluctantly, at the frequent insistence of his brother) began to leave his side. Madara was still the head of the Uchiha clan, Izuna reminded him scathingly. He couldn't neglect all his other duties.
Though Izuna physically improved, his attitude did not. It was no surprise to Yui when she heard Eiji raise his voice as she walked by Izuna's room.
"How many times have I told you to not bother me when I'm working!"
She stopped and turned to see Kawarama in the doorway, holding up a basket. "God, I was only bringing you lunch—" He finally comprehended that this was Izuna's room, and he stopped mid-sentence. Kawarama didn't leave, however: instead, he walked inside, placing himself between Eiji and Izuna.
Yui sighed and followed Kawarama.
Izuna's eyes flickered to her briefly, but they settled on Kawarama. "Come to finish me off, Senju?"
Kawarama's shoulders were stiff, but he tilted his head up and met Izuna's gaze with his own. "I'm just making sure you don't stab our healers."
Izuna immediately bristled. "How dare you suggest I would break my clan's oaths? Why would I possibly hurt them?"
Kawarama sputtered. "Well, why would I kill you?"
Izuna didn't dignify that with a response, instead giving him a flat look.
"Okay, sure, there's a lot of reasons why. But there's a dozen reasons you could kill him!" He gestured to Eiji.
Eiji huffed, unimpressed. "Yes, but none of them are good."
The two ninja didn't say anything to that, and Yui was unsure if they were agreeing or disagreeing with the statement.
Yui stepped further inside the room, touching Eiji's shoulder as she did. Her student jumped, startled, and Kawarma's eyes widened. He almost skittered to the side, angling himself between Eiji and her, before twisting around so that he faced Yui. The bedbound ninja didn't acknowledge her entrance, keeping a dark glower on the Senju.
She inhaled and exhaled, slow and steady. Yui lifted her chin and stared at Kawarama. He met her eyes and immediately looked away. Then, she turned to Izuna, who stared back for several moments longer than Kawarama before directing his gaze up.
Steady but sharp, Yui said, "That's enough excitement, Eiji. If you would take your friend with you…"
Eiji grabbed Kawarama's shoulder and started to pull him out of the room. A smile flickered on the ninja's face as he let himself be dragged along—though he put up a token protest.
"Hey! You don't have to grab me!"
"You never listen! So I gotta—have to!"
"I was gonna listen to Yui-sensei!"
"But not me?"
Though Yui closed the door behind them, she could still hear them bickering. Izuna stared at the door with an odd look. Not hostility, not surprise, but something approaching understanding.
She raised her eyebrow in silent question.
He gave her a haughty frown. "It's impressive that you've learned to spread out your chakra."
"What?" Yui knew he was deflecting, but she couldn't help but be curious.
"Your presence carries weight. It is not dissimilar to a ninja's killing intent, but your version seems to lack a genuine threat. Did you not know?"
"Oh. No." Yui was familiar with a ninja's killing intent by this point (fire, thunder, blood and steel). She found it deeply unpleasant and forbade anyone from attempting that in her clinic. "It doesn't hurt anyone, does it?"
Izuna opened his mouth, closed it, and with some difficulty, said, "It does not. It merely feels like a focused pressure. It worked quite well on those children." His gaze drifted back to the door.
She tried not to smile. No doubt he barely restrained himself from insulting her weak 'attempt' at intimidation. "But not you."
He scoffed. "I'm not one to be cowed by displays like that."
"I don't think I could ever scare you," Yui said, letting her amusement show. "I'm surprised that I can scare anyone."
Izuna let out a laugh. "No, you could never scare me, but I understand why weaker willed fools may find you intimidating."
"Fools like my apprentice?"
"Your apprentice is no fool." Izuna looked faintly offended on Eiji's behalf. "But you are his teacher, so naturally he would respect your authority."
"Something like that, yeah." Though Eiji was reaching the end of his apprenticeship, and their relationship had shifted closer to one of equals. "I heard from your brother that you got an apprentice too. She was there when you were injured?"
"I have." His expression turned blank. "She is fine."
Yui expected a boast, some statement about how he wouldn't have been injured without someone to protect, how his skills were significantly beyond his pathetic assailants, but Izuna only looked pensive.
"I'm glad she's doing well."
Izuna scowled. "Yes. But she was injured because she was coddled. There is no strength without pain."
Coddled by who? she wondered. She frowned back at him. "Harsh words."
"It's the truth. Healer, we may never agree, but I know you worked for every scrap you have. Your students have it easier than you ever did. Do you not see the difference between them and you?"
"I don't want them to have it harder than me."
"And so you doom your students to mediocrity." Izuna smiled, baring his teeth as he sought blood. "The children of this time are soft. Look at your brother and the younger Senju. They bicker pointlessly. There is no discipline between them, and each generation grows weaker."
She saw no point in engaging him in this circular argument that the two of them had tread too many times before. This time it was about their students, but before it was about revenge, or family, or power, or a dozen other thinly veiled insults that came back to a central truth: Izuna didn't believe in preventing suffering. He believed that pain brought strength, and what he'd experienced was normal and expected. Yui remembered Izuna at Eiji's age—all passion and poorly contained fury. This older version was more bitter, and his fury better chained, but the core beliefs were the same.
She was glad her students weren't like him.
"You weren't like them when you were younger," Yui agreed, a hint of derision slipping through.
"No, I wasn't. I never got the chance." The words were meant to be sharp, like a quick blade, but to their mutual surprise, Izuna simply sounded tired.
Do you wish you had? she thought but didn't say. Now subdued, Yui asked, "Do you wish your apprentice was different, then? Less soft? Do you wish she was coddled less?"
Izuna answered the unspoken question instead. "Like you, my brother fights so that she may be coddled. So that all the younger shinobi may be soft."
And again, Yui came back to the same conclusion. "Is that really so bad?"
Izuna turned on his side, pulling the blanket up to his chin. "None of your questions have anything to do with my health. Either treat me or leave me be."
Of course. Their beliefs were diametrically opposed. She had expected no other result. Yui walked to his bedside and began to take his pulse, absent in her routine. She started with his carotids and worked her way down.
You could lead a horse to water, but you couldn't make them drink it. That didn't mean she would stop leading them to the trough, but with Izuna, he could be dying of thirst and still refuse. Or be dying of infection and pretend like her only skills were dispensing medicine—as if the penicillin that saved his life hadn't been created because of her efforts in collaboration.
You could lead a ninja to a clinic… She smiled to herself, amused by this new analogy.
Izuna bristled, pulling away his hand from her grasp as he sat up. "Do not mock me!"
"I'm not. I didn't say no—"
"I see your smug superiority! I hear it in your voice." His face twisted into a snarl. "Do you think that I'm stupid? I wish that softness had a place in my world, but it leads to ruin! It leads to—to this!" Izuna gestured to his healing wound. "I almost died for my weakness. I almost got my student killed because of sentiment."
Yui watched him, her hand frozen in place. "Almost," she said finally. "But you didn't."
"No! No! If I had been a moment slower—I was trying to… I didn't train her enough—I'm not like my brother—I'm not strong enough for this! I'm not—I'm not—" Izuna began to cough, deep and hacking, his breathing irregular as he tried to force out more words.
"Breathe." She reached out a hand to him, only for it to be batted away as he hunched over, gasping for air. She felt the edge of his chakra flicker and surge, like a knife being pressed to her skin and abruptly withdrawn, and each surge made him cough more.
"Izuna, breathe with me," Yui repeated.
Carefully, Yui extended her own chakra and tried to think of calm. Walks in the forest. Quiet nights. Her garden, opening up in bloom. She didn't know if it would help, but if chakra intent could bring fear, it could surely bring peace.
Slowly, Izuna's breath began to steady. He closed his eyes and bent forward, his forehead almost touching his knees. "Don't tell my brother about this," he rasped.
Yui sighed. "I won't."
Izuna continued to take deep breaths. Yui pulled up a stool and sat next to him. She didn't say anything, but she did rest a hand on his wrist, feeling his pulse. As his heart rate and breathing steadied—save for some sporadic coughs—Yui withdrew her hand.
He looked down, knotting his fingers in the sheets. "Yui-sensei, do you truly believe in peace?"
"I've never understood why."
He unbent from his hunched position, sitting straight up as if his episode had never happened. "I don't think I'll ever understand you," Izuna said, his voice clear but quiet. "You, or my brother, or that Senju… No, I'll never understand you."
Yui gave him a tired smile. "Izuna-san, have you ever tried?" He opened his mouth, and Yui held up a hand to forestall any protests. "I'm going to bring you a hot tincture," she said in her brisk healer voice. "Your lungs are better, but I think this will help. I'll be back in just a moment."
Just as she was about to leave the room, Izuna said something in a voice too quiet to make out the words.
She paused, looking behind her. Izuna was still sitting up, but his gaze was fixed on his hands. "What was that?"
When she didn't receive an answer, Yui closed the door behind her.
AN: Surprise. There's going to be a chapter fifteen. The update might be surprising, but my wordiness never is. Thank you again for reading. Seriously. Every comment brings me back to writing this.
Once I'm done, I plan on collating everything into an ebook format with all the side stories for ease of access. You can find the sides stories now on my AO3 account. If you would like to follow my original work or side projects, I'm on Tumblr, Ko-Fi, and Discord with the same username.
Special thanks to GwendolynStacy and PyrothTenka for beta-reading.
And again, thank you all. We're almost there.