"Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. I obviously know how mine begins, and I have a pretty good idea on how it will end, but for everything in between I'm just gonna wing it. Let's see how much I can change this narrative without sending everything to hell!"

Poets often like to reference sharp contrasts in nature, and few are more favored than the paradoxical relationship of darkness and light.

Countless pieces of writing espouse flowery words to paint pretty images of the stark differences between the two while also emphasizing their strong connection. Not quite two sides of the same coin, but two irrevocable forces which can only be fully appreciated when viewed in tandem with each other. Writers assault readers with references to black and white, night and day, yin and yang—

Ultimately, the various pretty words tend to boil down to the same message:

'For there to be light, there must first be darkness. One cannot exist without the other.'

Seated at a table amid a fantastic caricature of death and destruction locked deep in his mind, Masaru couldn't help but think perhaps they had a point.

Monochrome flames of black and white danced around him in an perpetual battle for domination even as they stretched for a pitch black sky, reaching for a moon split in equally tinted halves of red and blue. Apparitions of rotting corpses littered the field around him, devoid of color and some shining brighter than others, faces frozen in agony. Wisps of screams and cries and laughter hummed in the background, an eerie chorus of whispers that constantly tickled the ear.

Once upon a time Masaru's fingers would be trembling as he lifted his cup, drops of brown liquid spilling over the rim as the tea audibly sloshed around. Ghostly impressions of the taste of bile might tickle his throat, so faint he couldn't be certain it actually existed or not. The fact that his mindscape took the form of a nightmarish battlefield deeply disturbed him, vicious carnage surrounding a simple low table with four cushions on either side.

Now, though, Masaru felt nothing as he stared at the corpses, holding the teacup nonchalantly as if he were watching a storm. A ghostly orb floated past him, flickers of movement drawing his eye to the misty images playing within the silvery haze.


Eyebrows furrowing with determination, Masaru threw the kunai and held his breath, watching anxiously as it arced across the yard. Shink! The blade embedded into the target set up by the fence, hitting the first ring just outside the bulls eye.

"Yes!" he hissed triumphantly, pumping a fist into the air as his face exploded into a smile. Sure, it wasn't a perfect throw, but it marked a vast improvement over when he first began training.

"Masaru-chan? Are you here?" He perked up at the sound of his mother's voice from within the house, and all thoughts of training flew away as he spun around and raced inside. She stood in the kitchen unloading several bags of groceries, her black braid swinging over her shoulder as she turned to smile at him. "There you are. Training again?"

"Mmhmm! I got it in the second ring this time!"

"That's great!" Sauntering over to the counter, she lifted a colorful bag and held it towards him. "I stopped at a clothing shop on my way back and got some new clothes for your sister. Do you want to take it to her?"

"Sure!" He grinned as he took the bag and bounded down the halls, dutifully heading for his sister's room. He stopped before a traditional shoji door with a simple painting of a tall black crane among tall stalks of bamboo, and he rapped on the wooden frame as he called, "Hey Akari, can I come in?"

"Yeah, of course!" came a cheerful reply, and he smiled as he slid open the door. As usual his sister Akari sprawled in the center of the room with the TV on in the corner, lazily flipping through a picture book. Cool air blasted from fans aimed at the center of the room, and Akari had her dark brown hair tucked into a small bun at the nape of her neck. Rolling over to look at him, her eyes instantly darted to the bag and she sat up. "Masaru, what's that?"

"Mom got you some new clothes," he said, and grinned as she promptly snatched it and began rooting through it. Lifting them out one by one, her dark eyes sparkled excitedly as she surveyed a black t-shirt with mesh netting around the collar.

"This looks so cool!" she squealed. "Just like a ninja would wear!" Turning it over, she then paused and frowned, her face furrowing in confusion. "Huh? The back's blank."

"That's because I still need to take it to the tailor," their mother said from the doorway, watching them with an amused twinkle in her eye. "There's not much point in having the clan crest sewn on if it doesn't fit, is there?"

"Huh, I guess not," Masaru mused, tugging at the high collar of his own shirt with a thoughtful look. Next to him Akari huffed, a dark gleam entering her eyes.

"Then if it fits, you'll take it to the tailor right away, right?" Even as she spoke she began wiggling out of her shirt, quickly tossing it aside to pull on the new one. It hung slightly loose on her tiny frame, just a little too large, but she beamed nonetheless. "Look, doesn't it look cool? I look like a real ninja!"

"You do," their mother agreed with a smile.


Masaru's gaze darkened as he watched the memory play and he quickly averted his gaze to his teacup, his fingers curling around its side. Golden dragonflies danced along the surface of the porcelain, ornate wings fluttering and buzzing against a backdrop of black as they attempted to escape their painted confines.

"You seem troubled," a voice commented across from him and he frowned, not daring to raise his gaze.

"I am troubled," he admitted quietly, and lifted the cup to his mouth. Steam wafted from the brew as he sipped in silence, phantom tastes of flowery liquid imprinting upon Masaru's tongue. Drinking tea in his dreams had always felt odd. He knew it to be imaginary, the flavor lifted from memories. A single thought could change the taste, and even now he saw the color of the tea shift slightly to gain a more orange tint.

"Chamomile," his guest identified, and Masaru's eyes sharply rose to watch the person across from him closely. They had no particular emotion visible on their face, save for a slightly thoughtful curve to their mouth. "It helps calm nerves, does it not?"

"It does," Masaru confirmed quietly, keeping his expression aloof as he sipped from the liquid. "I discovered it a while back, but I don't drink it much for... reasons. I know it's not real, but... well, if I can imagine the taste, then maybe the placebo effect will extend to my brain, too. Ah," he paused, "Would you like any particular flavor? I can only influence it to resemble ones I know, but if you have any particular cravings...?"

The person across from him made a rumbling noise deep in his throat which could be either confirmation or amusement as he studied their teacup. A mural of a dark blue sky covered its surface, rabbits circling the grassy fields on the bottom and leaping towards a golden crescent moon.

"You are a good host, child," he declared, "But I hardly crave anything. I doubt I can even tell the difference between sweet and sour anymore."

"Is that so," Masaru murmured, and glanced downwards as another ghostly orb floated past playing another memory.


Cicadas screeched loudly outside the window as Masaru laid on his futon, eyes squeezed shut with his pillow stuffed over his head in a vain attempt to block the noise. Beside him Akari slept sprawled atop her blankets in nothing but a tank top and shorts, perfectly undisturbed. Sometimes he envied how deeply his twin could sleep, nothing short of the end of the world seemed able to stir her. Conversely, Masaru felt like he could be woken by the smallest of things: a change in breathing, a shift in temperature, creaks from the house settling... or an army of cicadas.

Resigning himself to a lack of sleep anytime soon, Masaru groaned and quietly rose, rubbing his eyes as he quietly plodded to the door. Feeling mildly thirsty, he made his way to the bathroom to get a glass of water, his bare feet making little sound as they padded softly against the floorboards. Muffled voices made him pause, recognizing the calm dulcet tones of his mother laced with a sharp edge that sent chills down his spine.

Gulping, he slowly turned around and headed back to his room. As he slid back into the door he found Akari sitting up, blinking at him groggily with a large yawn. "What are you doing?" she murmured sleepily, rubbing one of her eyes.

"Mom has someone over," he reported, and she frowned.

"Clan members?" she murmured, more to herself than him. "They won't fight again, will they?"

"I don't know." He didn't mention the edge to his mother's voice even though he couldn't make out any words. Padding to his futon, he flopped onto his back and let his limbs splay freely, staring at the ceiling blankly. Several minutes passed without another word, the silence punctuated only by the shrill cries of the cicadas. "...The cicadas are really loud."

Akari gave a small grunt of agreement, and her lips quirked into a smile. "Wanna play shiritori?"

They ended up playing well into the night, their whispers drowning out the cries of cicadas and the muffled shouting coming from the kitchen.


His guest set his cup down, the clatter of porcelain against wood echoing through the void and briefly silencing the whispers. "While this small talk is admittedly pleasant, I do believe we should get to the point," he declared. "After all, our time is limited."

Masaru shrank slightly, his gaze casting downward once more. "I suppose so." His guest frowned slightly as the boy pointedly avoided looking at him, but he chose to ignore his discomfort.

"I have been observing this world for some time now," the man continued. "Even though my body lost its physical form, my consciousness persisted after death and I have watched the dawn of the shinobi world quite closely. I believe you are likely acquainted with the story of my sons?"

"Asura and Indra," Masaru murmured softly. The silvery inferno quieted around them and dwindled as he lowered his teacup, staring at his murky reflection inside the now green-tinted liquid. "Mom told us about them sometimes. About how you chose Asura over Indra, and Indra got upset... I didn't understand it back then, but..." He trailed off, and the man smiled faintly, his face growing noticeably softer.

"Indra had great natural power, but he lost his compassion and believed peace could only be achieved through force. Asura on the other hand achieved his own strength through hard work, and he never lost sight of the power of empathy. I hoped that he would help Indra regain his compassion, and then they would work together. But instead..."

"Their descendants carried it on for them," Masaru finished for him, raising his eyes to offer a feeble smile. "The Senju inherited the Will of Fire from Asura and Indra's descendants, the Uchiha got... the curse. The Curse of Hatred, I think? I think that's what my mom was hinting at, anyway," he added sheepishly. "She... didn't really make it too clear or obvious. I kinda figured it out after looking at her paintings and notes, I'm still trying to figure out if I'm interpreting some of it right. Like, that one painting of a rabbit with ten tails? Is that what the Ten Tailed Beast actually looks like?"

The man chose to neither confirm nor deny his statement, instead giving a noncommittal hum. Weathered lips quirked upwards into a small smirk, his leathery skin crinkling around his eyes as amusement flickered across his features. "It impresses me how well informed your mother was about that time. Not many people know my son's names anymore, and most of their descendants didn't even know the origin of their rivalry. What do you think of it?"

Masaru smiled sheepishly, eyes darting to the side as his thumb rubbed circles over his own porcelain cup. "I... really didn't understand it. I was really young when mom told us about it. She said the Uchiha got the Curse of Hatred, but it was more complicated—"

"Stop," the man interrupted, and Masaru gave a small start, his mouth obediently clamping shut as he looked at his guest. Ringed eyes bore into him, their intent unreadable and sending shivers down his spine. "I do not care what your mother may have said," he stated bluntly. "I am asking what you think of it." Masaru felt his polite smile fade, and his bangs fell into his eyes as he lowered his gaze once more.


"Sorry I'm the only one who came. Akari fell from a tree and hurt her leg and mom had to take her to the hospital."

Masaru apologized to the grave with a small shrug, wiping down the stone reverently just as his mother had shown him. He'd never actually met his uncle, but he'd grown up hearing stories of him from their mother and visiting his grave. He'd died in the war, she told them, not even getting a chance to reach adulthood. It struck the twins as quite sad, so they made a point to visit the grave at least once a week and tell him about their day.

"She said she saw a cat up there," he explained, expanding on his previous sentence. "She thought it was stuck and she wanted to save it, but while she was climbing one of the branches broke and she fell." Silence followed, and then he paused before adding, "Two feet. Yeah, it was a really low branch. She was totally fine, just a bit dirty."

Smirking, he set down the cloth and continued in a vaguely taunting tone. "So I bet you're wondering, 'huh, why's she at the hospital', right? Right? Well, see, when she fell..." He paused, waiting a moment for a dramatic silence to build, and then once he felt the tension had reached optimal capacity, "The cat jumped down on her and bit her. And so mom had to run her to the doctor because cat bites can actually be really dangerous!"

Masaru grinned as he finished, proud of his storytelling ability. All good stories had a twist, and he thought he did a good job at surprising his audience with the actual reason for their hospital visit. Even if his audience was an empty grave.

With the story finished, he wrung the cloth in the bucket and resumed wiping the grave, musing aloud to himself as he did so. "You know, I didn't think that cat bites could be bad, but mom says that they can be really bad. Like, you might need to get your arm cut off, or you might die."

The last part gave him pause, a thoughtful gleam entering his eyes. "...You know, maybe I should use cats when I become a ninja? I bet if they bite my enemies enough they'll die really fast! I won't even need kunai!"

Distantly, Masaru thought he heard a quiet chuckle nearby. He decided it was his imagination, and not because he was definitely alone but instead because no one would ever laugh at such an awesome idea.


"It's all... complicated," he began quietly. "The way it's told, you'd think it meant the Uchiha are bad and the Senju are good. The Uchiha were selfish and prideful, and they churned out a lot of bad people. The Senju had three separate people become Hokage though, and the first two Hokage died to protect Konoha. But... It's not that simple."

As he spoke the dwindling flames surrounding the table regained their energy, the widespread blazes surging across the battlefield to converge in a single point next to them. Black and white twisted together to form a spiraling column of silver, the dual-colored moon hidden behind it as it sprouted high into the black void. Flickering arms of light extended from the pillar as it continued to twist and morph into a mockery of a tree, monochrome embers sprouting from the branches in an imitation of foliage.

"The world isn't black and white," Masaru stated firmly, his grip tightening on the teacup even as the blazing foliage grew thicker and blotted the sky. "It's gray. Your heritage doesn't automatically define you as good or bad. There were plenty of good people in the Uchiha, just like there were bad people in the Senju. Just because one came from Indra and one came from Asura doesn't mean they'll automatically be just like them."

Bulging spheres began protruding from the branches as he spoke, the ghostly white embers parting and curling away like a flower in bloom to reveal human figures nestled in the blossom. The corpses littering the battleground flickered from existence one by one as their faces reappeared within the petals, black eyes opening to gaze at the world.

One of the branches snaked out and trailed towards the tea table, the blaze blossom parting to reveal the silvery silhouette of a girl. Hair rippled and crackled behind her as she stepped forward to circle Masaru, black sparks curling into the crescent outline of a smile framing brilliant white flames for teeth. Silver light reflected on Masaru's face as the apparition hovered behind his shoulder, arms wrapping around him in a loose caress.

"We are all your descendants," he declared, his eyes flickering and shining in the glow. "We are two branches of the same legacy, no matter how far apart we've grown. We all have the ability for the Will of Fire, and we all have the ability to bear the Curse of Hatred. In the end the paths we choose is up to us as individuals, not our heritages."


"And now make the most angry faces you can!"

Masaru and Akari stared at their mother in silence, their irritation showing in their stubbornly blank expressions. Clicking her tongue, she snapped a photo anyway and lowered her camera as she mused, "Well, you got the glare down."

"Mom, we're gonna be late," Akari deadpanned.

"Okay, okay, I get it. Sorry if I wanted to memorialize this special day so we can always remember it." The twins rolled their eyes and headed out the door with their bags, their mother trailing behind cheerfully. While they made a show of their exasperation, internally both were leaping in the air and squealing with joy. The academy! At long last they were going to the academy and were going to be ninja!


A familiar voice drew them from their thoughts, and they spun to see a stern-looking man from their clan approaching. A young boy their age trailed closely behind him, peering at the twins curiously as the man addressed their mother. "It is good to see you. Are your children already of age for enrollment?" The question could be either an insult or just thoughtful musing; his bland tone made it hard to tell for sure.

"Of course," their mother replied primly, placing a hand on each of their shoulders as she spoke. "They turned six a few weeks ago. I expected you would have realized this," she added, her lips curling into a thin smile, "seeing as you're the clan head and should be keeping track of when someone is old enough to enroll." The man merely grunted, not bothering to make excuses for his surprise.

"Then perhaps they shall be in my son's class," he said, and turned sharp eyes on them. Masaru stiffened under his stern gaze, feeling as if the man was staring right into his soul. Akari, however, blithely ignored him and bounced over to the little boy, dipping in a polite bow.

"Hello, I'm Akari, and that's my brother Masaru," she greeted, gesturing to her twin as she spoke. "What's your name?" The boy shifted slightly, hesitating to answer, but his father tapped his shoulder and he quickly offered her a small, shy smile.

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke. I-it's a pleasure to meet you!" His father grunted in approval, apparently satisfied by the greeting.

"I trust you two shall place a large amount of effort into your studies," he stated, prompting the twins to look at him curiously. "Your mother was one of our best kunoichi, so I expect you to follow her example and become a valuable claim to our name." Something about his tone prompted them to straighten up, their eyes flaring with determination as they looked back at him.

"Yes, sir!" they chorused in unison.

If Uchiha Ryoko's polite smile grew a bit more strained, no one noticed.


Across from him the Sage of Six Paths smiled, satisfaction flickering in his eyes.

"Well said, Uchiha Masaru. Well said."

"Love can be so twisted sometimes, but it can also be amazing. No wonder people write so many stories about it, the power it holds is so incredible."

Author's note (9/18/17):

Hey everyone, welcome to Echoes of Light! This is a fun project that's been taking up a lot of my free time lately, and I'm excited to share it with you.

Right now you're reading a revised version of the prologue. Originally it was just the flashbacks, but I realized that wasn't a very exciting way to start the story and decided to fix it up a bit. At the time of this note I've JUST posted Chapter 33, and I have the draft written up to at least Chapter 38. This has been in the works for a LONG time now (since Chapter 15!), but I've only just now settled on the best way to execute it.

The story will mostly follow Masaru, but in all honesty, he's not the exclusive focus. Echoes of Light is about the Naruto universe as much as it is about him. His and Akari's existence causes a serious ripple effect on the world which spans a large swathe of the cast; some of the changes are small and indirect, but in other places they take a pretty direct role in causing some massive changes.

I want to feature a quick disclaimer that Masaru and Akari are absolutely normal Uchiha kids. They will not be overpowered and/or steal anyone's role from the canon plot. They'll play important roles in the story, but they won't be the single driving force behind saving the world, or take the place of major characters like some OCs. (If it's any indication, I'm still not sure if they'd ever even activate the Mangekyo, and if Masaru does... well, he won't use it much, I can guarantee that.)

To be honest, even now I'm not 100% sure where the plot will go. Like the quote at the beginning, I have an idea of some big twists and events, but I'll pretty much be winging it. Most of my writing process for this story seems to just consist of trying to avoid or totally twist the usual cliches and tropes in this type of fan fics as much as possible. But there's a lot of fun twists. For the record, I consider Chapter 16 ("Life Has Twists") to be the chapter where I really start to shatter canon, so if you have any doubts about the story, at least try to read up to there.

With all that said, whether you're a veteran reader or just discovering this for the first time, I hope you enjoy Echoes of Light!