Origins: Black Victory
"To understand the reasons you must first look at the origins." ― Anthony T. Hincks
Since the very beginning, they were as different as the sun and moon. Her son giggled and cried. He ate and slept. He babbled nonsense and played for her fingers and did all the other cute things that children should do, but Hashira-chan? She did nothing.
Biruda was worried for her child. Her daughter.
Why didn't she laugh? Why didn't she wake in the mornings? Why wouldn't she sleep at night?
She never wanted to eat, never tried to talk, never did anything aside from watching. Just watching and crying.
Kuro-kun was unnerved easily. He was ridiculous, really. He became disheartened when his daughter didn't blow raspberries back at him so he'd picked up their son and played with him instead. And it remained that way for months. Yanemaru would at least grab his finger, even if he didn't blow raspberries.
Idiot. Biruda was frustrated. Babies don't blow raspberries because they're babies, idiot. What the hell do they know?
It's just what they didn't do and, anomalies aside, this was her daughter. Their daughter. Their clan and kin, flesh and blood. Uchiha Hashira.
Biruda could admit that she'd acknowledged her daughter's queer disposition a bit belatedly. In her defense, Hashira-chan napped too often for her to really look for it. The penny dropped one night when Yacchan woke up crying, prompting Biruda to shuffle into the dark room to comfort him. That's when she saw it: Hashira-chan's gaze was as black as the night, wide and empty as they focused on her crying twin.
She didn't look childish, then. She looked desolate. And after her gaze flickered to her mother, she tensed and her eyes snapped closed. Her breathing then softened, and she was asleep. Or, she looked asleep.
But Biruda felt her chakra coiling and stretching in and on itself beyond its natural limits. It vaguely reminded her of a ninja training to conceal their chakra signature but, of course, that was ridiculous. Hashira-chan was just a baby, after all.
Kuro-kun became suspicious when she told him. He became spectacularly anxious. He pestered her frequently with various questions: Did you take on a genjutsu master during your early weeks of pregnancy, before we knew? Has anyone tried breaking Hashira out of one? Who was there when she delivered? — he hadn't been present. She'd told him to be there, and he wasn't, so she didn't care for his inquiries. He was just scared, anyway. He wanted to call in Tajima to check for a genjutsu over Hashira-chan. He wanted to use his sharingan to look for himself.
She'd told him "no" and retreated to the opposite side of the house, daughter in arms, offended that he'd even ask such a question.
Penitently, Kuro-kun must have found his daughter's gaze daunting, and so he focused on his son.
Hashira barely noticed, and so she couldn't care less.
Now, not to be dramatic or anything, but what the heck was she supposed to think of that?
She was an Uchiha now.
The events of that day flickered through her mind on replay, recurring screams sounding like a broken record, a scratched disc in her brain, showing her again and again as the life she thought she knew burst into flames and all that was left was ashes. This can't be real, she thought, scrambling for an explanation. But there was no explanation aside from the fact that it was. It just was.
She was reborn into a fictional universe. Either that or Masashi Kishimoto was secretly an oracle with some serious connections to a different dimension. Somehow. Either way, she was alive and here, where bending was real, and so were talking animals, and so was mind control, as well as running at Cadillac speeds, walking on water, sealing demons into people, and so on and so forth.
All relatively cool stuff if you ignored how everyone only ever used them as accessories to murder. Which was kind of hard to do, because she was Uchiha Hashira. She was an Uchiha and, assumedly, this was the Land of Fire. She was an Uchiha in the Land of Fire while there were wars going on.
So although on one hand this was awesome, she could probably learn to do that kind of stuff too if she tried (thanks to her surname), on the other hand, if she ever left this compound, she might get hit by a flying knife and die. (Thanks, again, to her surname.)
Therefore, the next most pressing matter to her was whether or not she was born like a hundred years before a Hidden Leaf Village would ever be imagined, or if she was born a few years right before its founding. Was she somewhere in between? How could she even begin trying to figure it out?
Because as it was, the Uchiwa fans on the walls made her sick. Her stomach was in a constant knot of fear and reverence for this new life because it suddenly seemed that much more expendable.
(And it probably was.)
She was born into a criminal family in a war-torn world that didn't seem to mind or care that there'd been fire and brimstone raining all on them just months ago. Because they were used to it.
Only she cared. Because she wasn't ready to die again.
One unfair death was enough.
She'd never be ready to die.
"Shi, you're not hungry?" whispered Yanemaru conspiratorially, grains of rice stuck to his face.
Looking up, Mother's back was turned. She and father were distracted by another argument. It was something about food and health, and nothing about wars or Senju, so Hashira didn't bother listening in.
She smiled wearily, pushing her untouched bowl over to Yanemaru. "No."
For a kid, Yanemaru sure was a blessing. As fast as he could, he grabbed his chopsticks in a fist and scraped as much as he could out of her bowl and into his empty one, as fast he could, spilling rice just about everywhere. Hashira quickly scooped them up to put back into the bowl.
"…nd Madara-sama a few days ago. You're worried over nothing."
"Kuro-kun, you know what? You're such a hassle. Hashira-chan, Yacchan, I'll be right ba—…" When Mother turned to face them again, she trailed off, her eyes glimmering with instant joy when they landed on the half-empty dishes. "Oh! You two are almost done!"
Yanemaru didn't react, too busy scarfing down their brunch at the speed of light.
Mother practically trembled in excitement as she waited for Hashira to eat in front of her too.
Hashira grinned sheepishly at her mother, hiding her clean chopsticks in her lap. Behind Mother's head was a banner of the clan crest that draped next to the window. Hashira's stomach churned at the sight. She really wasn't about to eat shit. "B…Be right back?" she asked nervously.
"Oh, right. I'll be right back." Mother wiped her clean hands on her unused apron and went to turn off the stove. The blue flame under the burner only grew. "Kuro-kun, you sure it's alright if she stays there? Taji-taichou's whole household is kinda mean."
"Don't use nicknames on a superior, Biru," Father chastised, reaching over to shut the stove off for real. "And I'm positive that he wouldn't mind; he owes me, after all. Like I said, don't worry yourself." He fixed his high collar to make sure it stood at its absolute height where only his eyes showed from above it, before scanning his family in a way he probably thought looked cool. It secretly did look kind of cool. "Besides, he has four sons who are around her age."
Mother, well aware that high collars equaled missions (whereas yukatas were home clothes), grabbed at his sleeve before he could hop out the open window and disappear for weeks. "Wouldn't they all be just as hard-headed as he is? We shouldn't expose my cute little baby to that kind of stress just yet."
"Please refrain from insulting your superiors."
"Whatever." Mother bit her lip, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "Kuro-kun, really, if it's for the twins then I could weasel out a few more years, to stay home with th—"
"Preposterous. They're nearly four, Biru. Your leave is almost up. Take care of your health in preparation for that. Go now."
Hashira glanced away from their conversation. Father and his stupid big words. Every time he opened his mouth she lost track of what they were talking about.
When Yanemaru finished his bowl, she swiftly switched it with hers and he cheerily resumed eating.
"But they need me!" Mother shouted in her Father's face. To his credit, he didn't even even blink. "Taji-taichou's firstborn is eight and he already has wrinkles! Do you want that to be Hashira-chan? Huh? How would she ever find a husband? Look at her, she's in dange—huh?" Mother paused in forcefully turning Father's head to face the children when she noticed Hashira staring at them curiously, an empty bowl in front of her. "Hashira-chan, when did you finish your rice?"
"Uh… Go now!" Hashira echoed Father's earlier words, smiling impishly. She waved goodbye.
Yanemaru looked up in time to shout "go now, Mommy!" with a full mouth, imitating Hashira and waving with his chopsticks still in his hand, scattering grains of rice on the floor.
Father snorted while Mother huffed, saying, "Alright, alright, I'm off." Then they departed the same way when Mother refused to let go of his sleeve and let him show off his admittedly pretty cool ninja-leap out the window skills to his kids in peace.
Hashira's smiled faded as they left.
Finally! They talk too much.
But if she closed her eyes and focused, she could still locate her parents bantering as they walked out of the dining room and down the hallway, where they paused before the front door for a few seconds, before separating — Mother off to another room in the house, and Father right outside to what Hashira assumed was another mission. She couldn't feel him passed that.
This was her new exercise.
Hashira nodded to herself, satisfied. Even if she couldn't feel him when he passed the threshold, it was fine. Outside there was too much bustling to really pinpoint anyone in the courtyards anyway. But if she could control that annoying sensory quirk of hers during the day, then maybe she could suppress the ability to feel life during the night. If she did that, then she could better sleep at night, stay up more during the day, and thereby have more time figure out when the hell in the timeline she was.
She practiced this whenever she had time. Which was almost always. There was nothing else to do, really.
At this compound, her mother didn't take the kids out much. It made Hashira regret all the daily outings that she took for granted at the old one, where she maybe, possibly, might've seen a fireball or at least a few kunai knives if she'd looked hard enough instead of napping on Mother's shoulder. Yanemaru probably saw everything.
No wonder he wasn't scared during the attack. Jeez.
Or… she thought, maybe he's just like me. He could be a reincarnation too. He is my twin, after all.
Hashira licked her lips pensively, before turning to her brother. He was scraping up the last few grains of rice in the bowl with his finger. Could someone like that be reborn? He really seemed like a regular inane toddler but hey, maybe he was an actor in his last life.
"Yacchan," she called.
He looked up, popping a finger in his mouth. "Shi!" he chirped. (He bit his finger as he spoke, wincing momentarily.)
Okay, that was kind of cute, she admitted.
He was either a cute toddler or a really good actor.
She pursed her lips and crawled over to his side of the table, his curious eyes trailing her the entire time. When Hashira reached him, he immediately reached out for a strand of her hair and tugged. It hurt a bit when he pulled so hard, but she was able to ignore it, already used to it.
"Hey, do you know, um…" How was she supposed to ask this? How did you say reincarnation in Japanese? Reborn? "…Naruto? When you're alive two times?"
Yanemaru smiled at her, leaned over, and headbutted her.
"Ow!" She roughly shoved him off, clutching her forehead. "What the hell?"
"Hahaha!" He laughed at her from the floor, clutching his stomach like this was the funniest joke in the world. "S…Shi, you—haha!"
That was a no, then. Jeez, what a brat. A four year old, through and through. Got it.
Hashira was, as it seemed, the luminescent baby of this family; not even her twin had this quirk. But, in that case, why was she the only one reborn? What would this mean for her?
As she mused over it, Yanemaru's jolly presence sprawled on the floor beside her rose like the tides and gradually amplified itself in her mind. Mother's aura — or her ambiance, or her chakra signature — echoed through the walls at Hashira in waves.
The room suddenly was flooded with energy. Or was it her mind?
I can't feel my feet…
Hashira didn't feel her back hit the ground either. One second she was cogitating to herself, and in the next, Yanemaru's chakra signature was hovering over her; he was watching her curiously, recovering from his snickers; he was way too close and she was about to explode. Get away, get away, getaway, getawaygetaway—
"What're you doing?" he laughed. Yanemaru poked her cheek with his sticky rice finger.
Something inside of her grew dense like a balloon swelled to bursting, struck by a needle. Except but the balloon didn't pop. It deflated. Then the chakra that she felt radiating off of her brother steadily dwindled into nothing.
"Yacchan? Are you there?"
She was looking right at his questioning black eyes staring back down at her, but she couldn't feel him. She couldn't feel Mother. She couldn't feel the people bustling outside.
"I see you. And I hear you," she said slowly, cautiously. "But are you there?"
Yanemaru blinked. "…Yes?"
Then why was it like he wasn't?
Furrowing her brows, Hashira tried to focus on him. But the more she tried, the more it felt like she was sinking into herself; like she was falling from her body, deeper into her mind; like she wasn't Hashira, she wasn't anyone. She was a nothing floating through space and time. She had no siblings. She had no mother. She couldn't feel.
She couldn't feel.
Without her control, her face scrunched up. Tears welled up in her eyes without her permission, racing hotly down her face and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Hashira broke out into sobs.
Yanemaru's eyes lit up with concern. "Shi? W-What's wrong? I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I was just playing with you! I'm sorry!"
"I-I don't," she stammered in between gasps and hiccups, wiping at her cheeks. "I d—don't…" I don't know!
Confused, Hashira tried to regain her composure. Naturally — or unnaturally, rather — her thoughts were perfectly composed as she wailed. But that was it, that was the whole point: She just couldn't stop crying!
She reasoned internally, grasping for her bearings. I'm not hurt! I'm not sad! I'm not scared! There's no reason I should be crying! So why the hell can't I stop crying?
Yanemaru messily tried to help wipe her tears with his sleeves, but she couldn't feel him. He was shouting at her, asking if she was okay, and although she heard him, although he was right in front of her, she couldn't feel him.
Another minute passed. He caught on to the apparent new trend of dramatics and started panicking too. His tears were most likely out of worry, though, so at least he had a reason. His little hands clutched tightly at her head and body as he cried, hugging her tightly, and she desperately wanted to roll away but her body was shaking.
Hashira distressingly tried to locate her mother, but couldn't. Her eyes worked perfectly fine, but she felt blind as a bat. She grabbed Yanemaru's arms and tried to pry them off.
"S…Stop it!" she cried. "Stop!"
Only, it wasn't painful at all. She barely even cared that he was touching her. Hashira was simply preoccupied with trying to calm down, and thus annoyed with him for distracting her, so her intentions were to ground out a quick and sharp "stop that" since that always seemed to do the trick.
But this time, he didn't stop. He only got louder. And she was acting like a complete child along with him.
By the time Mother rushed into the room, Hashira felt herself fade out.
The sensation of her mother's panicked chakra swelled and bloomed, drowning her with instant relief.
Hashira opened her eyes to the sight of Yanemaru's face across from her, inches away. They were in her futon — and why on earth was he in her futon when he had his own — but she couldn't muster any real annoyance at the moment.
She blinked drowsily, shifting away from him slowly. How did I end up in bed?
Turning onto her back, a breath of hot air hit her cheek from the other side. She grimaced, glancing in that direction. Mother was bent over the futon, asleep in a sitting position. A graceful blanket of silver moonlight rested on her from outside the window, but her frowning face was the picture of stress. One hand was gently rested on Hashira's. The other supported her chin, elbow rested on her knee.
Mother? I didn't feel her there…
But now that she knew to look for it — ah, there it was. Mother's chakra signature was warm and smooth, like honey and summer. It felt like a beacon somehow.
Hashira watched her steadily. Memories of earlier flooded her mind, along with the burning sensation guilt. I gave Yanemaru food, wasn't able to feel his chakra for a second, and then I started crying. Then I… I passed out? What happened, really? What was the point of that?
Mother's breathing was quiet. She barely moved a muscle as slept
Mother must've been worried.
The girl sighed, sitting up. Somehow, not being able to feel her family from across the house, or from only a few inches away, seemed more scary than the prospect of feeling nighttime predators hunting for food.
Hashira pursed her lips.
Somewhere outside their front door, a cat was stalking a bird. She zeroed in on it, used to the feeling. Closing her eyes, Hashira could envision it: Small, plump, short feathers like down. Could it be a quail?
The cat — fluffy and short-tailed — pounced. Its movements were supple with grace. Its aura connected with the bird's in a second, and then the bird's faded. Dead.
The feline dragged it away.
She shivered, laying back down. When Yanemaru unconsciously wrapped his arms and legs around her, she let him, pressing her face on their mother's hand that was rested on hers. If she drew in on herself, she'd risk upsetting them again.
Hashira got the hunch that news of this made its way to Father's ears.
Mother hadn't been there and also she hadn't questioned her, so Hashira wasn't sure what wayward rendition she'd given Father, but he had something and it made him super cautious when he returned. It wasn't long till he returned.
The days flew by like arrows.
There wasn't a single calendar to be found in this entire fucking house. It was frustrating. All Hashira had as a marker was the sun and the seasons, but even they were different here. Everything was different here.
Autumn was warm and sunny at this new compound.
Her own birthday snuck up on her like a thief in the night.
In all her time at the old compound, Autumn was rainy, and Father would burst in at dusk after having nearly missed the kids' birthday, soaked to the bone and shivering, carrying delicacies that he'd swear were the reason he'd been held up all day.
Then they'd eat and laugh, her not knowing that she lives with a clan of murderers, and them not knowing that they live with a reincarnated teen in a toddler's body.
This birthday, things were different.
For starters, Hashira woke to the scent of rice and curry, which could only mean that Father had returned from a mission for his kids' birthday early for once.
He made sure to shower Mother with souvenirs, Yanemaru with affection, and Hashira a very long but strangely fond look and an obligatory "hm" of acknowledgement, before planting her plate of breakfast in front of her first when she finally politely waved back.
Hashira wasn't sure what to think of that.
Secondly, she now knew that the setting of this world was basically the prehistoric inside of Naruto Shippūden's asshole, which is to say that basically this is where shit went down. (No pun intended. (Yes, it was.))
Kids died in wars and no one cared. (Which was bad.) There was also the fact that it was possible to reattach limbs, to talk to animals, and to bring back the dead, but again, no one really cared. (Which was also bad, but by omission.)
So while the rice and curry tasted good, she couldn't really eat with a clear mind when that apprehension rested at the back of her mind.
Lastly, her birthday marked the turn of events that led to her meeting Uchiha Izuna.
But that's upcoming.
Her — their — birthday pulled up out of nowhere. Where Yanemaru gotten a wooden kunai and a set of blunt shuriken, Hashira had received a book on birds from her father. From her mother, she was given the clan crest hanging from a looped chain. (The necklace was later hidden under her pillow to never be seen again, so it didn't really count.)
Suddenly, Father had time to be home almost daily, taking his Yanemaru-kun out on whatever adventures took literally the entire day to complete.
Yanemaru abruptly stopped having time to mess with her clothes or to play with her hair or to clear her plates for her. When he got home, he was starving and tired enough that he did nothing but eat and sleep. When he woke up, it was to hastily be bathed, then to eat breakfast, and then to begone till dusk, where they did whatever it was that they did until it was time to return again. Famished and exhausted. This was their cycle.
Hashira wasn't sure what to think of that, either.
It was good for her, technically; she ate more food and was also able to test the limits of her chakra without him around to worry. However, a terrible sense of foreboding took her over whenever night came with Father and his weapon pouch in hand, and Yanemaru with his bruises.
Mother didn't seem to worry, so Hashira tried not to either. Unless she knew where she was in Naruto, there'd be no use in stunting Yanemaru's progress as a shinobi — if that's what this was. And it obviously had to be.
But she was missing out on something, she was sure of it.
Where's my shuriken set? My training outings? Where's my progress? What the fuck am I supposed to do with a book and a necklace?
It sent a clear sign that she was adamant to reject. She had her own plans, after all. But until she figured out whether or not in today there was an Uchiha Madara (and, frankly, that was the first goal) how would she go about trying to become strong?
Hashira had no clue.
She couldn't really ask her mother "hey, could you teach me to vomit fire? And also walk up walls?" — not to say that even she knew enough Japanese to, or that she was supposed to know the concept of ninjutsu yet, or that she was even that good at walking on the ground.
Aside from that, her parents had run off pretty quickly during that attack a while ago, so she couldn't be sure they were even good ninjas. What if they were sucky genin-levels?
Then they wouldn't be alive, fool.
Right. The average lifespan of this generation was dangerously low.
Well, then. On that note, there was no time to lose.
Hashira knew there had to be kunai somewhere around here, but all her looking and searching (checking cabinets, shuffling through drawers, and ransacking shelves) always came up fruitless; if there were scrolls on secret techniques lying around, she had yet to find them; if there were senbon or katanas, then they were hidden out of sight. In other words, the house was completely baby proofed.
Hashira sat back, stumped. She didn't expect much differently, but where the hell was she supposed to go from here?
"Hashira-chan, what're you looking for?" someone asked from behind her.
Fuck. Leave it to Mother to notice her scouring. Hashira cursed again internally.
Outwardly, she blurted, "Uh, nothing!" But her eyes hit the rumpled tatami mats in guilt anyway.
"And that's why these scrolls are all on the floor?" asked Mother skeptically.
It was ridiculous. The only books and scrolls to be found on the shelves were baby reads — on colors, numbers, different types of ninja weapons, animals, an array of creepy Uchiha™ nursery rhymes that somehow almost all revolved around the moon or fire, did she mention colors (who knew colors were so important to these guys?) — and other trivial subjects that she'd already gone over millions of times by now. The only reason they were still even up there might've been because Yanemaru could never be bothered to read.
But then again, they were just barely four years old. Most likely, she was the weird one.
"I want a new scroll, Biru," said Hashira. One on something useful, like chakra or jutsu. "I finished these already."
Hashira froze. Shit. "Mother," she hastily corrected.
"One — no, new scrolls for bad girls. You're cleaning this up." Mother pursed her lips. "Two — for the last time, call me Mommy."
Her brother's voice obeyed the order that wasn't meant for him. "Mommy!"
Looking up from the tatami mat, Hashira found him slouched comfortably on Mother's hip. If he's here then Father must be home. So it must've been nightfall. Had she really been searching that long? And Mother had let her?
"Yacchan, say hi to your sister!"
"Hi, Shi!" sang Yanemaru cheekily. Hashira deadpanned when he waved coyly, both knowing that it was ages since Mother had last lifted her.
"Hey." She waved back flippantly. Showoff.
Mother was wearing a bright grin. "You two are my cute little… ugh!" she squealed, squeezing her son briefly. "So it's gonna hurt me to say this! But, as always, your dad is being a bit pigheaded. Hashira-chan, I'm going on a mission soon. When I do, I'm leaving you in the care of one of your dad's comrades, Taji-taichou. He's a general in the clan so be good, and—and don't get wrinkles!"
Hashira's mind blanked. Her arm froze in its place on the shelf, book in hand. What? Who?
"You're overreacting, Biru. She'll be safe there."
Father sauntered into the room, scratching his goatee. There was a leaf in it but apparently no one told him. Hashira didn't tell him either.
When he glanced back, chuckling softly, she immediately looked away. Why did the floors seem a lot more interesting? The walls did too. So did her hands. The books didn't, though, so Hashira got to shelving them. They needed to be up before dinnertime, otherwise she'd miss it. Hashira made sure to shelve them extra slow.
Father's hand drifted down to audibly scratch at his side. His chuckles didn't cease. His voice was gentle and warm.
But she wouldn't be fooled.
She didn't know much about Father, but she knew that he knew she knew more than she let on. Something about him made it impossible to hide it.
Father had a nervous tick. He'd scratch at the side of his waist and narrow his eyes a bit, before looking away and laughing it off. He did it whenever Mother nagged at him, he did it whenever Yanemaru walked in looking too roughed up after a day of training (cue more nagging, by the way) and also he did it whenever Hashira looked at him. Whenever she simply stared for a bit, pondering over whatever she had to think about in that particular point in time, he would scratch till it looked like it hurt and then he'd look away, laughing it off.
Hashira didn't know what his problem was.
But he had one, and it was there in the way he'd narrow his eyes and reach for his waist and scratch, scratch, scratch. Then Mother would glare at him. But he'd laugh it off and smile wearily.
But with the way that he glanced down at her, Hashira felt like the itch was still there.
I'm leaving you in the care of one of your dad's comrades: Taji-taichou!
"Fuck his comrades. I wanna stay home." — is what she wanted to say, in good nature, of course. But she didn't know how to say "fuck" in Japanese yet and, at this rate, she probably never would. It'd already been four years.
Mother liked to tell her share of jokes (that were actually just unfunny lies) but this sure was uncomfortably strange. Halfway because it apparently wasn't a joke (just unfunny honestly), and a fourth was because Hashira's stupid pink kimono was way too damn tight. The last fourth was because she even had to be babysat.
She could hardly believe it either.
They reached Taji-taichou's home in record time, where Mother knocked so hard on the shoji door that it shook. She was mumbling a mile a minute. "Gonna be late, gonna be so late, gonna be l—"
"WHO DO YOU THINK YOU—!" The door slid open with a loudly revealing a glaring woman with wrinkles around her eyes. A deadpan look swept over her face when she saw Mother grinning there. "It's you."
Hashira scuffled back to the point where only her eyes were left peaking from behind Mother's red kimono. She grabbed on to the back of the fabric like it was shield. Is that a kunai in that lady's hand?
Mother either didn't notice or didn't care. "Shiryo-san, what a surprise! Is Taji-taichou here?"
Shiryo-san didn't look amused. "A surprise, you say…" she dryly repeated, flicking the kunai up her sleeve. The white textile didn't start bleeding red. Heck, she didn't even flinch! It was so cool. And intimidating. Hashira shuffled a bit further behind Mother. Shiryo-san didn't even glance at her. "Tajima-sama is out training the firstborns, and I'm busy tending to the others, so—"
"Oh my, that's tragic!" Mother clapped a hand against her cheek in dismay.
Hashira squinted skeptically. That kind of contradicted the pep-talk she was given earlier about avoiding that asshole Taji-taichou as much as possible so she wouldn't end up aging faster than a mayfly. But whatever.
Wait, wait wait. Shiryo-san didn't say Taji-taichou, she said Tajim—
Hashira almost tripped when she was nudged out from behind her mother. "Unfortunately," Mother continued somberly, in a way that entirely was genuine and not farce at all, "I'll have to leave Hashira-chan in your care then, Shiryo-san. I'm about to be late for my first mission after maternity leave. So do it for an old friend, will you?"
Hashira suddenly was ten times less okay with staying here. Friend? She staring knives into your skull. "Mother, I—"
Mother waved it off, practically jogging in place to emphasize just how hurried she was. (But even this was an unfunny lie because in the next second, she didn't even jog or run off, she leapt over a wall — which was dramatic and uncalled for, scaring the bejeezus out of her already anxious daughter — calling out, "Bye, Hashira-chan! Don't get wrinkles!")
Hashira barely responded in time. "A—Ah! Bye, Mother!" Even though I'm pretty sure you just abandoned me…
Shiryo-san didn't say a word, watching her more or less old friend go.
The silence that followed was loaded.
Hashira glanced around. Could it be too late to run? Would she be stopped by Shiryo-san? Would she get lost?
She looked up at Shiryo-san, who definitely had a knife or two or ten hidden up her long sleeve, dressed in a shimmering white yukata, her deep green braid resting on her shoulder, also shiny. All of her was so glossy, like the leaves of poison ivy. Hashira wringed her hands. Shiryo-san stared off into space for a few more seconds like there was an invisible camera and this was The Office, before her eyes flickered down to meet Hashira's for the first time. Her gaze was a solid grey, sharp like iron.
"How irresponsible." She sighed harshly. "Four whole years of leave? Those fools shouldn't have had kids so early…"
"Huh?" asked Hashira.
Shiryo-san folded her arms into her sleeves, rolling her eyes. "Nevermind that. Hashira-chan, was it?"
It only sounded right when Mother said it. "Y…Yeah," she said, wincing when her voice cracked. You're already technically nineteen, she immediately chided herself. You shouldn't be this anxious just from being around strangers.
Another side of her laughed. It was the disbelieving kind of laugh that said: Uh, this isn't just any stranger! This stranger just answered the door with a knife ready to shank your mother! So be anxious till you die, it won't be long anyway. — Which was kind of morbid, but the self-deprecating humor of it all made her giggle apprehensively anyway.
Shiryo-san arched a brow, observing her silently.
On impulse, Hashira reached out to make sure she wasn't really alone, but she couldn't feel those three familiar chakra signatures anywhere: Mother, Father, and Yanemaru weren't around. It was just her and Shiryo-san, who still had a kunai knife hidden in her sleeve. Who still had that iron gaze trained on her.
"I suppose you should come inside," she said. "You can meet my son."
Son is singular. I'm only meeting one.
Shiryo-san had multiple sons but two were apparently out training, one was still a diaper baby who took naps, and the last one was in his room waiting for his mommy to return, which she was currently doing.
Hashira got to sit at a kotetsu and wait while Shiryo-san went to retrieve him. Nice.
She took the time to observe this place.
The first thing that struck her was how the inside of the house had the distinctive smell of mint. Then she noticed how everything was polished and shiny, including Shiryo-san. Hashira felt a bit out of place here, despite her sakura-themed kimono and ponytail hime-cut doing their absolute best to make her fit in. Sorry guys, it's not working, she thought, notwithstanding how it was her fault for putting up a fight when Mother took to long to cream her hair.
The sliding door that Shiryo-san had left open in her search for her son revealed (shiny) hallways that led to even more sliding doors but, from her seat, Hashira couldn't see anything passed that. On her other side, the sliding door on the opposite wall was closed.
She was getting kind of bored. Did Shiryo-san just, like… leave her here? Was that allowed? Wasn't she mothers sort-of-not-really Old Friend? Taji-taichou Father's comrad—
Hashira backpedaled mentally. She distinctly recalled Shiryo-san calling him Tajima-sama. As in, Uchiha Tajima.
The name Uchiha Tajima rang a bell in her mind. It also raised red flags. She knew that name.
Isn't that… isn't that Madara's father?
"Madara's…" Hashira wryly repeated, a deadpan look sweeping across her face. "His…" His dad? His house? Ah, jeez, she felt another headache coming on, because — Madara Who? Uchiha? Madara Uchiha? Uchiha Madara? Warring States Period Madara? That one?
Would it really be this easy to find him, after all her worrying?
Was this really his house? What the hell?
She impulsively glanced around to see if he'd jump out from behind the walls with a gunbai at the ready.
"Sama!" a voice added abruptly, making her flinch. Then she realized that it was high-pitched and kind of cute.
Hashira looked to the open sliding door and found a small boy standing there, holding Shiryo-san's hand. In his other arm was a huge stuffed kunai pressed up against his chest and a smaller wooden one tightly grasped in his hand.
The wooden kunai was no surprise — Yanemaru had one too, after all — but he had a plushie. A plushie. This clan had plushies? And no one thought to give one to her? Wow. She'd have to ask Mother about that later.
"Hey! Don't ignore me! That's mean!" The boy snatched his hand from his mom and came up to her. When he was arm's length away from Hashira, she just barely resisted the overwhelming urge to grab at the plushie and squeeze it, just for kicks. "The name's Madara-sama!"
Why was he stressing the suffix? She knew damn well that 'sama' wasn't actually a part of anybody's name. "Nice to meet you. My name's Hashira." She nodded politely and dutifully resisted the impulse to steal his stuffed weapon.
"Wha— no!" He waved his hands frantically, dropping the toys. Hashira's hand drifted toward the plushie without her consent. "It's not me!"
Huh? Her hand stopped. "Uh… it's not…? Then why do you care what I call him?"
Not-Madara's face flushed pink, his eyes watering. "Because he's my brother!"
Ah, Overprotective Sibling Tendencies no Jutsu, the second bloodline limit of the Uchiha Clan.
Hashira blinked awkwardly, glancing up at his mom.
Said mom was dryly shaking her head from her spot at the door frame. "It's no use with them," she mumbled, sliding the door closed. Before she disappeared behind it, she paused to tell him: "Hashira-chan was clearly already told your names, but introduce yourself properly anyhow. This is unbecoming of a son of the Eastern Compound."
Not-Madara pouted, wiping his tears, but obeyed his mom's order. "My name is Uchiha Izuna. Call me Izuna-sama."
Uchiha Izuna. Now that name rang a bell. Or a few hundred bells. But while the memories flooded in, she felt her faint headache fade to nothing.
She remembered him too. Better than she did Tajima, even. Uchiha Izuna was definitely canon; he was the knockoff Sasuke who'd sooner or later get killed by… by someone who's also canon. Whatever. The point is that his death would be important, unlike the rest of his brothers, who'd die nameless. Yeah, she definitely remembered him.
Izuna retracted a balled hand from the top of her head. "You in there, Hashika?" he asked.
"Tch." She glanced at him, then did a double take when this time she didn't see a manga character who'd die for plot meta in the future — she saw a kid. Pink cheeks, full lips, wide eyes, and what seemed to be that same annoying intolerance for being disregarded that Yanemaru used to have. His babyish face scrunched up and made her second guess her nonchalance to the thought of him dying — is that even human? Don't be so amoral! — but…
But if it was canon, what could she do about it? It's not like he was real. He was a fictional character, right? Right!
If he doesn't die and the Hidden Leaf Village isn't founded, then what? If I stick my nose places it doesn't belong and die in the time I could've been safely hidden in the leaves, then what? And that wasn't an option. It wasn't her business, her only mission was to survive.
"I'm here, Izuna-chan," she replied, narrowly dodging his fist when it came flying at her forehead. Hashika? Really? And not even Hashika-san, from the kid who wanted her to call him sama?
Hashira interrupted, leaning her elbows on the low table. "Why are you here when your brothers are not?" (*read: Where's Madara?)
Izuna's face dropped into a pout. "Father's a general. He's on a mission at the capital compound. A lot of generals are going there since one of the compounds got attacked, and Father's going too. Since he's a general." He plopped down beside her, watching her with those wide black eyes. Why were they so wide? "Toshuie-nii and Madara-nii got to go with him for training, but Mommy says I'm too small to."
"Hm?" Too small to? He couldn't be any younger than she and Yanemaeru were, but he wasn't allowed to train? "What's the capital compound?"
"You don't know?" Izuna reeled, surprised. "Are you even an Uchiha? It's where the clan head lives!" He nodded to himself. "But where it actually is is a secret. Only the generals know that. Which my father is — a general. He's a general."
Hashira squinted. Was he implying that it was common knowledge for an Uchiha? She didn't even know that there were other compounds before her old one burnt to a crisp.
"Izuna-chan, how old are you?"
He dramatically ruffled up his hair. It was already looking kind of ruffled so nothing really changed, except for the fact that she now saw that he was dramatic.
"You're one?" she guessed.
"No!" Kids didn't have a very good feel for sarcasm. "I'm almost five! I'm turning five next month! And when I am, I'm gonna join group training with everyone else," he informed proudly. "Did you know that this compound is the only one that has Group Training? It's to… to pronote teamwork and conrady in the clan! Which is important! My father thought it up, and that's 'cause he's the smartest genera…"
What the heck is he even saying? Hashira tuned him out, picking up his plushie from the floor. Jeez.
It was strange, really. Everyone at this compound was just so stiff, yet he was bubbly to the point that it was obnoxious. Yanemaru never tried to play with her anymore, yet Izuna was here to mess around instead of out training too, even at age four.
So are you, fool.
The day passed more quickly than Hashira thought it would.
She and Yanemaru had this unspoken understanding where he could mess with her hair, muss up her clothes, play with her fingers, crack her toes, and—basically do whatever he wanted, whatever he thought was fun, so long as he didn't expect her to reciprocate such annoying gestures or distract her from her sensory exercises.
She and Izuna didn't have that understanding. Or any, really. If you didn't answer him, he got louder. If you slapped him away, then—… Well, his kunai-wielding mother that you feared was still in the house somewhere, so you didn't really slap him away. So you didn't want him loud in the first place. So you responded. Which wasn't too bad after you've had, what? Six, seven hours of it? With extremely short but frequent snack breaks which were actually just him trotting to the fridge and retrieving fruits.
It was nice.
She didn't think she'd get comfortable in that house with the woman who hid knives in her sleeves, but dusk found her lazily sprawled across both her and Izuna's zabuton while he, sitting cross legged on the table, rambled enthusiastically from above her.
"Wait, wait, so you are training?" she asked.
Izuna smirked, excitedly clapping his hands into a seal. "I finished stretching before you got here! It wasn't hard b—"
"Just stretching?" Hashira squinted doubtfully. For four year olds, stretching should be a cake-walk. Why would stretching be training?
"You're kind of slow, Hachira-kun," Izuna commented.
"Pardon?" Hachira? Kun?
Izuna pressed his hand against his forehead demonstratively. Hashira wasn't sure what he was trying to demonstrate. "I'm training with my chakra too, obviously!" It was not obvious at all. "I'm not supposed to do strength training since my body can't build muscle yet. Father said so."
Oh, word? Then why did Yanemaru come home bruised every day?
Hashira blinked up at him. "How do you do chakra training then?"
"Your father hasn't showed you how yet? You're gonna be a poor ninja at this rate."
"He's been busy." She scowled.
Izuna rolled his eyes. It made him look so much like Shiryo-san that Hashira's lips automatically curved into a nervous smile. He reached into his obi and pulled out a few crumpled leaves. Why the heck did he walk around with leaves in his obi? "The leaf exercise," he said.
Hashira didn't reply, narrowing her eyes. Was that in the show? She didn't remember that…
"Stick it to your forehead using chakra," he requested. Really, it sounded like an order but if she interpreted it as on order then she'd probably refuse to, so Hashira decided to take it as a humble request. She reached up and swiped the crumpled leaf from his fingers.
"How?" she asked, bringing it near her face.
He rolled his eyes again. "Hachiro-kun, sit up first. You can't beat gravity or our enemies laying down."
How did this kid know what gravity was? Wasn't he only four? Why were Naruto kids such overdeveloped mutants?
"Enemies?" Hashira frowned. "You mean the Senju?" He'd already been told that they were training to fight and kill others? Was this common knowledge too, that her just parents hadn't told her? (Only, she already knew too. So maybe it was only Yanemaru being left out.)
Izuna blinked in confusion. "Huh?"
"I see you've taught her some things, Kuromasaru-san."
Hashira sat up hastily while Izuna frantically dove off the table and back onto his cushion, accidentally kicking her hand with the leaf in it. She ignored it, eyes focused on the shoji door as it slid open. A few more hundred bells sprang to life in her mind. How long have they been listening in?
Shiryo-san was there standing tall with a baby in her arms. At her side was Kuromasaru-san, Kuro-kun, Hashira's father.
Time froze for just a second, before she stood and quickly approached him, the sound of Izuna's footsteps trailing behind her slowly. Hashira brushed her hands off from grains of dirt. "F—Father, you're here!"
He hummed, handing her her geta sandals. He must've grabbed them from the genkan on his way in. Then, when Father turned to thank Shiryo-san for "watching" her, there was the brief but swift feeling of Izuna stuffing leaves into the back of Hashira's obi.
What the fuck? She turned to eye him. Her "what the fuck" face must have looked to him like "thank you" because he smirked and flashed a thumbs up, mouthing the words don't mention it. Hashira mouthed what the hell to try to get him on the same page that she was on while Shiryo-san waved Father off.
"Don't mention it," she told him.
Like son, like mother, like son.
The way home was tense.
Nothing really happened to make it tense, but it just was.
When Shiryo-san and Izuna disappeared behind the closing doors of their home, Hashira to face her father, only to be startled by the sight of a calculating frown.
"We're going now," he informed, picking his daughter up and carrying her in his arms. Hashira grabbed onto the high collar of his shirt, stunned. Mother never picked her up anymore.
Questioned raced through her mind. Why did Shiryo-san actually point out that Hashira was ignorant? Why did it feel like she was right? Why did Izuna know so much that she didn't? Why did he treat it like facts on the whole country were a dime a dozen, whereas she still didn't know her own clan leader's name? It wasn't Tajima, like she'd assumed. He wasn't clan head, he was a general. Izuna made sure that tidbit was impaled into her brain.
Father took slow steps as he walked. "Shichu." His low voice cut through the silence. "How do you know the name Senju? From where did you hear it?"
Hashira blinked. She was an Uchiha, how could she not?
From my last life, it was in Naruto Shippūden — part of her supplied as an answer. That must've been the devil on her shoulder. The angel on her other shoulder nudged her in the direction of something like I remember you yelling that name when the other compound was attacked, which sounded good and well if you didn't consider how she wasn't supposed to know the words to say all that yet. She was only barely four. Finally she settled on: "I heard Izuna-san."
Well, she did hear Izuna. She heard him ramble on about lots of things. Just not foreign enemies. But Father didn't need to know that.
Still, by the frown that pulled at his eyebrows, she felt that she'd given the wrong answer.
He sped into his usual brisk pace, evidently done with conversation. Figures. First time she sees him in a while and the first thing he does is question her and then pretend she doesn't exist.
It took forever to reach home. No matter how close it was — ten meters, five meters, one meter, till they even stepped in the door — if Mother wasn't there, home felt so far away.
They skipped dinner.
Mother was the only one really big on family dinners, so with Hashira having already eaten at Tajima's place and Yanemaru currently falling asleep in his seat, Father decided that it wasn't all too necessary.
For Hashira, things worked out better that way.
Now she had more time to adjust to her mother not being where she could feel her, and still get to falling asleep sometime before the night time predators woke.
She's just on a mission, jeez. Don't be such a baby.
That night, one predator was unaccounted for.
Hashira awoke to red. There were three comma-shaped buttons swirling unsuspectingly in his gaze.
She squeezed her eyes shut on impulse, feeling her chest clench. Her breath sped up and drops of sweat slowly formed on her brow. This was another dream. This had to be another dream. So they were nightmares… And she'd forget this in the morning too, just like the rest of them.
Hashira groped at her side for her brother but felt nothing but sheets. So Yanemaru wasn't in it. She was alone.
"H…Help," she breathed. She was an Uchiha now, right? So what sense did it make for her to be seeing sharingans in her dreams?
Cool fingers dragged gently across her cheek. Her breath caught.
She heard her father's voice, gentle and warm. "I'm here, Shichū. I just need to you open your eyes."
But the sharingan she saw was his, wasn't it?
The fingers on her face went up to her hair, stroking the strands with care. She felt his lips plant on her forehead. They smelled of cinnamon and ash. "You're still dreaming. Wake up."
So, she did. Opening her eyes slowly, the girl was met with spinning black-on-red once again. And then it faded, to black. Everything faded to black.