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show me a hero

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He and Koharu are the ones who find it, and Kagami will never be entirely certain if he’s grateful to have been there or not.

They are not, technically, even supposed to be looking; Kumo squads frequent the area, bold and brash with their recent victory, and the new Sandaime Hokage has decreed it lost territory until Konoha can secure its hold on other, more vulnerable areas. But—

But the new Sandaime Hokage is also Tobirama’s student, just like them, and when Hiruzen and Danzō catch them at the village gates Hiruzen only offers a token protest. Danzō is more fervent about it, right up until the moment Koharu finally loses her temper.

Saru, Shimura, you can either get out of our way or stand there while we go through you. I’m not leaving Sensei’s body out in the wilderness to rot.

There’s a war raging and Konoha can’t afford to lose any more shinobi, but they’re all his students, and they’re all grieving.

The site of the ambush is burned into Kagami’s memory, not something he would ever forget, and by the tightness of Utatane’s mouth as they step into the clearing she feels the same. Kagami glances at her, because this long after the fact his Sharingan will be practically useless, and for a long moment she doesn’t move.

Koharu keeps her eyes fixed ahead of them, the pearls on the end of her kanzashi swaying slightly with the breeze that whirls the trees around them, and then takes a breath. She’s always been so steady that it’s one of the greatest surprises of Kagami’s life to see her press her hand over her eyes and laugh like she’s about to cry.

“I don’t know what I’m more afraid of,” she tells Kagami, and it’s half-muffled but all too clear. “That we won’t find him, or that we will.”

Kagami doesn’t answer, because he fears each of those things equally. He looks away instead of answering, and says, “He would have led them east.”

The blood trail starts barely a hundred meters into the trees.

It’s not something Kagami lets himself think about, as they run. The shuriken Utatane finds, the sword with the chipped blade that Kagami pries out of tree, the marks of water damage and electricity burns in equal measure on the forest—he doesn’t want to understand what they mean, what they imply.

Senju Tobirama is every last fucking thing in Kagami’s heart, and he can’t bear it.

The drops of blood grow thicker as the trees thin, and there’s something wild and terrified and so, so angry rising like a great beast in Kagami’s chest. He knows what it means but he doesn’t want to, doesn’t want to consider Tobirama here, the Kinkaku Squad around him, finally out of cover and forced to make a stand.

Koharu’s sharply indrawn breath may as well be the sound of something inside of Kagami shattering irreparably.

There is no body, but there is ash. Ash on the ground that could only come from fire fueled by chakra, with scattered bits of metal melted and warped out of shape. Raijin is gone, though the saya is discarded on the ground, beautiful lacquered wood crushed beneath some bastard’s sandal, and the blood is thick here. It pooled, and Kagami can the rust-red earth where it sank away.

His stomach churns, and his entire chest aches like it’s been hollowed out and filled with flames.

He turns away, fury rising like a seething tide. Stalks off, leaving Koharu to pick up the pieces of Raijin’s sheath, and—

Stops dead.

Drops of blood scattered thick across the ground, like rain against the dry earth, and battered metal gleaming dully in the sun.

Kagami takes a breath, and it feels like he’ll never breathe easily again.

The broken edges of Tobirama’s faceplate cut into his hands when he picks it up, and Kagami sinks to knees and lets his head fall.

Teardrops scatter in the dust, and the arid ground drinks them away.