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One day Hashirama wakes up and leaves the room without waking Tobirama. He wakes up a while later, when he realises he is still anole and Hashirama is not coming back.

That’s unusual, Hashirama always wakes him and eats breakfast with Tobirama, before they start their stretching exercises. It was a bit strange but sometimes strange things happens.

When Hashirama leaves before Tobirama is finished with his breakfast too, it even more strange, but not wrong. Tobirama scoop in another mouth of rice and drain his tea in three large gulps. He doesn’t burn his tongue, but scaled it just a little.

It’s okay though, maybe Hashirama was simply eager to train today so Tobirama hurries to catch up.

That’s when life to a turn and Hashirama left the road he and Tobirama had so far walked on.

“No, I can’t train with you today.” Hashirama said and kept walking, heading for the edge of the compound.

“Not even hide and seek training?” Tobirama asked confused. They always train together. That was Hashirama code word for playing. They always play together because there was nobody else their age that wanted to. Everyone else was either too young or training seriously for missions.

“No, I have things I need to do and you can’t come. Do you understand?”

Tobirama didn’t but...”I understand. Will we train tomorrow instead?”

Hashirama smiled and hugged him. Is was much lighter than normal and he let go almost immediately.

“Of course we can!” He laughed and disappeared into the surrounding woods. Heading in a straight line towards the Naka river.

Tobirama end up spending the day alone by their koi pond. He stretches and then keeps trying to manipulate the water in the pond with chakra. By the afternoon he is standing, if a bit wobbly, on the water. He presses his hands into the rat seal for focus and slowly an arch of water lifts from the surface. Like a watery half circle hovering above his head.

It takes him another two hours but by then he has the the koi swimming curiously in the fore hovering archways crisscrossing the pond.

Hashirama would love to see this he thinks. His brother is finally heading back from the river so he fluctuate his chakra in the pattern for “come and see”.

Hashirama enters the compound and heads for the Tobirama. Then he turns left and goes into their fathers study. Tobirama blink and almost looses control over the water. One koi fish falls surprised back into the pond before he holds the chakra steady again.

Did Hashirama not notice? That was unusual for him. Tobirama thinks puzzled.

Eventually he has to leave the pond when it becomes clear that Hashirama and Father is going to take a while. Their chakra rises in agitation several times but it eventually smooths out.

When Hashirama walked out the door Tobirama is there, he really want to show his brother the archways he made.

“Hashirama, Hashirama, come to the koi pond with me I have to show you something! He said exited, already turning on his he’ll to head back.

“ I can’t right now Tobirama. I have to move my things into my new room.”

Tobirama freezes and turns around. ”What do you mean?”

“I asked father for my own room so I have to move my things there, but it okay! I’ll grab new futon so you can keep the one in your room!”

“Oh.” He doesn’t know what to say. The day have only gotten stranger. Hashirama never complain about sharing a room, He the one who likes to cuddle most.

Hashirama smiles and quickly squeeze his shoulders before skipping away, presumably to find a futon.
He moves into another room in the main house. Happily humming under his breath all the way. Tobirama can’t remember seeing him this happy before. A cold lump settles in his stomach.

The next day Hashirama is up with the dawn and away to the river again before Tobirama have time to get dressed.

He doesn’t wait the next day either.

They never really play again after that day and Tobirama can never pinpoint what happened

Chapter Text

He’s finally done it! Tobirama jumps and punches the air.

Sunshin no justu. The body-flicker technique.

He is so proud and elated. And It finally worked!

Weeks of trial and error but he’s made it! He actually made it!

He turns around again, looking over the small clearing he has been practising in and leaps. He lands on the other side, lightning fast steps carrying him faster than ever before, faster and than anyone have ever run before.

He laughs out loud. Nobody can hear him out here and he is so happy. If Tobirama can’t be strong, he can be fast, he can be the fastest shinobi there is!

Tobirama flushes with happiness and does a small victory dance. He can be embarrassing and deliriously happy when he is out here, alone. No one to judge him or laugh.

The grass is soft and almost damp under his feet, healing and making him slip around as he hops back and forth. Dashing across the clearing again and again.

It’s working even better than he imagined it would. It takes barely any chakra to throw himself across the open space.

He finally stops, panting, and clenches his fists.

Now he needs to incorporate a blade and then he’s set for battle.

He is going to blow Hashirama away, and maybe then Hashirama will start to talk with Tobirama again. He won’t have any choice but to remember him, when he can show that they are on equal footing.

Maybe he will stay home and not go to the river, not leave Tobirama alone anymore.

....

The next patrol Tobirama and Hashirama is assigned together with their cousins Momo and Mina when they encounter the Uchiha. Uchiha Madara and Izuna and two older unfamiliar men.

Momo and Mina are sibling and always fight together, they’re older and square off against the two Tobirama don’t recognise. That leaves Madara to Hashirama and Izuna to Tobirama.

Hashirama always fight Madara if he is on the battlefield and for some reason Izuna keeps singling Tobirama out to fight.

Tobirama grips his sword tighter and tries to steady his breathing. He hates fighting Izuna. Really hates it. He’s only one year older than Tobirama, but he is still always a step ahead, as if someone’s teaching him all the ways Tobirama fights. It’s unnerving and scares him a little.

This time is going to be different though. This time Tobirama is going to have speed on his side and that will make all the difference. Tobirama will be able to go home and tell his father that he beat Izuna. He will.

They cross blades. Back and forth, party and riposte, until Izuna disengage to rest or approach from another angle.

Tobirama size the opening and uses his new jutsu, sword at ready for a blow to the leg.

Izuna side-steps the first attack.

Do not falter. Tobirama thinks. He still have the advantage, he hasn't come across anyone who reached the speed of his shunshin.

Tobirama pivots and lunges for a second time. This time he will have him.

Izuna shunsin away.

How?

Then he grins. Tobirama has to frenetically back paddle, twisting out of the way of a laughing Izuna who keeps pushing and pushing. Following very desperate shinshin with an equally fast one.

How is it even possible. The thought cling like tar to Tobirama. This was the first time he used it and Izuna can already do it. It should be impossible. The impossible is unfortunately chasing him around the battlefield laughing, and between desperate evasion Tobirama can se Hashirama and Madara flickering back and forth like this younger brother.

All three of them?!

The cat and mouse game ends as most of Tobirama and Izuna fights do. With Tobirama blocking until ha misses a step and the flat of Izuna blade catches him in the temple.

Darkness.

 

...

Father was unhappy and Tobirama has a matching bruise on his other cheek as he slowly trudges back to his room.

His elation from earlier sitting like a leaden weight in his stomach.

Hashirama is back by the river with to familiar chakra precedes.

Tobirama pushed open his door and shuts it behind him again. Crawls down under his covers and curls into a ball.

He’s really tired.

Chapter Text

Tobirama had retreated outside to the koi pond. Father had expressed his dissatisfaction with Hashiramas actions for the past spring.

How Hashirama should have been looking after Tobirama and not let him fall behind in his training. It infuriated Tobirama and also left him feeling ashamed. He tried so hard to be good, but he always fell just a little bit short.

The worst part was that he had followed Hashirama to the river two weeks ago. His brother had met two boys that Tobirama recognised. They had talked. Smiled. Then they had spent the rest of the time training.

Uchiha.

When thinking back Hashirama had started to mention peace with increasing intensity for the
last tear and a half. Ever since... then.

The puzzle that Tobirama had been attempting to solve suddenly became a lot easier to understand when he realised ha had been missing several key pieces. He had suspected that something had changed but realising that it wasn’t Tobirama that had do e somethings. It was comforting until he thought about it again. He hadn’t done anything. Which was the problem, and the Uchiha had.

Hashirama had been happier and a lot more focused since then. So he had finally met people that shared his dream. Tobirama had been jealous... no that’s untrue. He still was jealous, but it had simmer down and become resentment instead.

The Uchiha brothers that Hashirama had met, for some reason they gave his brother what he needed to be happy. What ever it was that Tobirama had not been able to provide.

Was it an emotional response? Or was it the fact that he did not have to slow down when training? Tobirama knew Hashirama was extraordinary gifted when it came to being a shinobi. He even managed to be fathers favourite despite the difference in ideology.

Tobirama fell short. What ever Tobirama did he always fell short. The clan had picked up on the fact that Hashirama barely spent any time with him. He still Hughes and told his that he loved Tobirama, but that was it. Brief moments of affection.

His fathers favour shifted. Hashirama was smart in his special goofy way. Grasping clan business nearly instantly. Hashirama always dominated the battle field, the only person to keep up was Tajima Uchihas elder son, the younger not much further behind. Last came Tobirama, desperately trying to just keep up.

It’s hard to have to re-evaluate his worth. That he is worth less than he thought. That he went from a budding genius to only one of four equally talented Shinobi. Then the least accomplished one of them.

It hurt.

Only the koi witnessed his tears and wet cheeks. Saw his eyes turning puffy and red.

He missed Kawarama and Itama so much. He wanted them back so baldly he had started talking to their gravestones for company. He wanted to dig down into the ground and pull his brother up out of it and their souls out of the pure lands.

He won’t look back to what could have been, if he had his other siblings still here. Hoping they would still love him like they used to. If he still matters to them.

....

He turns ten years old and Hashirama gives him a notebook and another book on sealing.
He smiled before leaving.

One month later he uses the first prototype seal on an enemy. It doesn’t work. Not the first time anyways. He can always try again.

It works better the second time.

He can do this.

Edo tensei.

Reincarnation

Chapter Text

The body convulsed one, twice and the cracks across it widened and then it stiffened before everything went still. Tobirama cursed and slapped his hand down on what was left of the ribcage. It crunched with a ominous sound and crumbled.

He sighed and sat back from the remains. Another failure, but this time the bodily functions remained inactive and he got confirmation that he managed to pull a soul back into the body. Screaming “no, please no!!!” wasn’t encouraging the souls state of mind but it did talk. That was progress.

Progress. He smiled and reached to pick up his notebook.

“Now that was interesting.” a voice said.

Tobirama yelped snatching his notebook up and shunshins away and behind a tree. His heart pounding in his chest.

“No, no, wait!” The voice cries again, trailing off at the last word.

Another person scoffs and Tobirama feels how three people enters the clearing he had been experimenting in.

“Troublesome” the first person says again and one presence drop down on the ground. “Did you see how fast he was? And so small, I bet he haven’t reached fifteen yet”. Another person added. Someone sighed wishfully.

“Look at the seals. I don't even know where to begin.” It was the first voice again, she sounded excited.

Tobirama press his notes tighter to his chest. It’s like tiny bubbles popping between his lungs. It feels weird and light, like he lifts slightly off the ground.

He had to get away though. And destroy the seals, he couldn’t let anyone know about his research, he knew it was a taboo subject from the scrolls and books he read before starting. He couldn’t let them know.

Tobirama carefully didn’t move, a Katon could scorch the grass and erase enough of his seals for it to turn illegible. Hopefully.

But his strength was in water releases. A water dragon could even tear the earth to shreds. It might be overkill but Tobirama prefer overkill instead of Not-enough-kill.

The three people slowly congregate on the body Tobitama left behind. He has to do it now. He shunshins out in the open, hand-seals flashing and he pulls as much water he can from the air and ground. It’s not as big as when he pulls it from an already existing source of water. Tobirama can manage as much as a five meter long when oily long it from his pond. However, he has to rest because his chakra reserves are still low and expanding. Chakra exhaustion is counterproductive to growing, he tried to avoid it if he can. Tobirama manages two meter of roaring water dragon that carves furrows into the ground.

He finally get a look at his opponents. There are three ninjas, one is tall and stocky, thick with the fat reserves of an Akimichi . The other two are a man with red hair and pupil-less eyes. The last is sprawled on her back not far from where Tobirama had inscribed his seals into the ground. They look old. Maybe twenty to thirty years old.

They react with the smooth action of a well oiled team. The Akimichi darts forward and enlargers her arm and hand to try to punch him. Tobirama jumps up and springboards over her and takes two swift steps forward to get closer to her vital points. He doesn’t want to kill them, but he’s will if he has to.

The Yamanaka is swift to try and hit him with a kunai instead, aimed at his legs, avoiding of his throat and other vulnerable areas. They don’t seem to want to kill him either l. Tobirama deflects with his sword and stabs it down into the enlarged upper arm of the Akimichi . It doesn’t do much damage on her but it gives him time to roll away from a second wave of projectiles, this time its shurikens. One snags his leg and cuts a thin line across his calf.

He needs to disengage and disappear into the forest, try to lose them in the thick underbrush maybe, he is smaller than them.

The Akimichi launches forward again and follows her punch up with a kick that turns into a stomp that sends a sizeable chunk of the forest-floor at him. The Yamanaka dives forward and Tobiramas makes a mistake. He can still see the Nara, with that kind in hair and lack of movement she can’t be anything else, on the ground. A thin dark line of their signifying justsu snakes across the ground to the Akimichi. Tobirama managed to evade twice before he is forced to doge a blow from the Yamanaka and it catches him.

It’s like getting locked away in his own body, he can feel everything, even his muscles but it like fighting the air. Ineffective and frustrating.

It terrifies him. He can’t move. Most of Tobiramas fighting style is based around speed. Strike hard and fast and then get clear. Tobirama is ten, he doesn’t have strength for long fights.

They caught him so easy. Tobirama spikes his chakra, but nothing happens. He pushed it out and twists it in his coils, trying to disrupt the layer of chakra that the Nara must use to bind him.

Tobirama remains frozen.

The Yamanaka bounce forward, his reddish hair swinging behind him in two an intricate braids. He has a bright smile stretching across his face and crinkling eyes. He looks friendly. How does he manage that? He had been throwing sharp objects at Tobirama less than a minute ago! Despite being stuck and facing injury and possibles death Tobirama couldn’t help but admire it. He never manage anything other then “murder face” according to Itama.

He stops two meter away and deliberately tucked away his kunai.

Huh

Maybe torture or kidnapping then. Or selling him back to the clan. Tobirama almost wish for the former.

The Akimichi sighs and run a hand trough her short hair and looks up at the sky. “Don’t worry kiddo.” She says. “We don’t kill children, not even if they try and kill us out of fear ”

“I’m not afraid” Tobirama snapped without thinking. He wasn’t!

She just looked at him.

He wasn’t!

“Who cares, I care about the seal you so conveniently destroyed. The Nara said, propping herself up on her hands. ”You made them didn’t you? They look advanced, and you look tiny. Have you even hit double digits yet?”

Tobirama narrow his he’s and doesn’t say anything.

She smirks. ”Come on, you tiny child, I won’t let you go until you talk to me. It’s not often I meet anyone with the brain capacity to bring new things to life.” Her smile widens and turn sharper. “ and you seem especially interested in bringing things back to life” she pushes herself up to her feet then saunter closer.

“It’s not often you find an albino shinobi. How is your eyesight anyway? I’ve heard it’s usually rather poor... but you seems to manage fine.” She comes up to him, still holding him frozen with her jutsu, and crouches down so she looks up at him. Smile softening a fraction.

“My name is Nara Azami” she said. “And is so very nice to finally, meeting someone like me.”

Chapter Text

Nara Azami is calculating and mean. She sits down and force his body down in a mirrored position. Then she starts talking. She is thirty-two, old for a ninja and not very popular in her clan. Her closest friends are Akimichi Kaori and Yamanaka Hayato .

It takes her all afternoon but she eventually gets his name. She bares her teeth in something that looked like a smile but is only smug satisfaction. She already knew it. There are not many albino shinobi she had repeated and twined her hands in his hair.

Azami is the youngest of three sisters. Her mother is the clanhead’s older sibling. She can relate to his situation. It’s not the same but she can understand the challenges of being a member of the main line.

But that not why she sees him she gently explains. Her smile too sharp and knowing.

It’s the way people act. The difficulty of understanding people’s emotions. Azami starts talking and then don’t stop. It doesn’t take long for her to release her jutsu. Tobirama weren’t going unless someone forces him.

It’s the way Azami is just a little ...off. It’s not that she doesn’t have feeling. She have them, they are simply different than most others. Too intense or too dull. Her family can understand but mostly they can’t seem to act in a way that she can relate to love.

She met Akimichi Kaori when she was six and Yamanaka Hayato at seven. Kaori is calm with burst bloodlust that bothers her parents. Hayato would rather live in his friends heads than alone in his own. They give each other the love they need. They make their own family.

She said that you can create the family you need, with the people you want.

....

“My family loves me, I know that, but they don’t act in a way that I can understand. The forget me and disapprove of me. The take a lot for granted and expect me to love them back.” Azami press her forehead to his and fall silent.

“The thing that kills me is that I do. In my own way. They might call it twisted and cold, but I love them. That makes their actions hurt.” Tobirama inhales the scent of steel and oil. “It hurts, and that’s okay. It is okay to feel hurt, If they can’t or won’t give you what you need.” Her hand tighten in his hair.

“Look for love in other places, in other people, where ever you need to. Sometime love is not enough. Not without words, actions or care.” Tobirama gasps, trying to stem tears that stubbornly forces their way their his lashes.

He’s hurting, his chest feels like it being squeezing in a vice and he can’t breathe.

“Love hurts, love drives you crazy, love is the sweetest thing in this world. All are true, and love is worth all the pain it brings if they love you back. In actions, words and care.”

Kaori leans into Azami and presses her lips under Azami ear. Her chakra swirling peacefully. Content and happy.

Hayato sits beside Kaori and his signature is calm . Clear and watchful. He is like a still and clear lake. Hiding the life inside beneath the surface.

Azami’s grip in his hair moves his head in time with the slow shake of her head. Allowing their foreheads to keep resting against each other.

Tobirama have given up on fighting the tears. They run freely down his cheeks. It fells like he has an ocean full of them shut away behind his breastbone and it only now starting to crack to and come rushing forth.

Azami keeps talking. About her family and love and how you can hate and love your family. That blood isn’t everything.

Tobirama doesn’t stop crying for hours.

Action. Words. Caring

Chapter Text

Tobirama walks back home alone. Only The trees witness him passing but he still can feel them. He imprinted their signature into his mind and he tracks them endlessly the coming days.

Tobirama is not alone. They may not walk beside him over but they are with him in spirit. They would always welcome him if he wanted to leave his clan. Tobirama had almost leaped at the chance. The loneliness, his fathers absent love, and the avoidance of the clan. His brothers distance and sight focused in the future.

He thought about Touka’s big smile when she comes home from a mission and he met her at the gate. About the younger children’s beaming smiles and amazement at his water dragon, and cheering when he tosses them into the river in the summers.

About war, about leaving his clan one less member to stand against the Uchiha. He could not count on Hashirama for that.

He thought about running away.

He thought about leaving things unfinished. Regrets.

Azami had sat down with him and talked. About the Edo Tensei. About how he wanted to bring his brothers back.

It had been a difficult conversation. She had said thet bringing people back to life might not be the best idea, and before he could launch his way across and tear into her she had pursed her lips and stared into the distance and said that maybe reincarnation from birth would be better. Just skip the whole possible trauma of waking up after being killed and just give them a second life. They won’t be the same but the again neither would he. The less chance for trauma the better.

Azami then completely switched tracks and started to ask about his research instead. Had he tried the reanimating with just bones? Had he tried with animals as well? Was there a difference between how old the body was? Did the body have to be complete and in one piece? Could he reanimate just the head?!

The last question was said with a unhinge gleee. Tobirama found himself smiling back.

Unbridled enthusiasm and ideas.

Tobirama had looked down on his hand for a long time afterwards and thought about Itama and Kawarama. He missed them, but what if they did not want to come back to life. . What kind life could he offer them?

Did he truly care about them or was he being selfish by bringing them back. It was a hard decision. He still hadn’t made a choice.

Azamis question and ideas was a great way to take his mind of the issue.

The way he had thought about the Edo Tensei was limited, he had been too goal oriented and not open enough to what it could offer.

The dead doesn’t bleed and if he could control them...

Tobirama had hugged each and everyone of them several times. Basking in their warmth before he left. Walking slowly but surely back to the compound.

He was Senju Tobirama.

He did not fear the unknown and he did not run away from himself

Chapter Text

Tobirama walks back home and through the main gate to the compound, and nothing much changes, except that everything does. Tobirama is not the same.

He looks back at his father and his disapproval and it hurts a little bit, he can’t shake a lifetime of caring in one day. The hurt is not as bad though and Tobirama doesn’t linger. He stops sitting by the pond to stare into the water, and starts doing instead. He brings his notes and starts to draw up new plans and possible avenues for research.

Can he bring back animals?

He wonders why he didn't try it the first time. In medicine they usually try experiments on animals first. He knows that most medical jutsu and medication have taken a long time to perfect. That they had started with small animals like mice and worked their way up to bigger and bigger animals. Pigs were supposed to have a heart that was close to identical to a human one. Tobirama had even had the chance to hold one in one of his earlier lessons with Hashirama.

It had been heavy in his small hands. He had needed both of them to properly hold it. It had been warm and had even leaked blood onto the grass.

Anatomy.

Tobirama starts reading all the medical texts that the clan has. It’s a treasure trove of information. He learns why the hits he deals an enemy are critical to survival. He looks up all the various bones a human body contains. Backtracks and starts all over on any animal he can find.

There is far more information on humans than animals. Most of what he finds is on farms animals, how to care for them, and their different kinds of diseases, or birth complications. The rest of the medical texts are geared towards treating damage that can be fixed. How to set bones and make the patient fit for fighting.

There is no information just for the simple reason to understand. It’s all connected to fighting.

Tobirama can understand why Hashirama is so insistent on peace. What can anyone accomplish if all they do is fight?

It pisses him off. He needs to learn and nobody seems to care that there are giant glaring holes in their understanding of the human body. There are a lot on chakra and what it does to the body. The extreme durability and increased reaction times.

Nothing of why?!

It simply is that way, it's a running theme. Tobirama, after weeks and weeks of studying and increasingly angry note taking on the lacking information, finally puts the last text back on the shelf. He leans back against the wall and stares across the room.

His clan must be full of idiots. He frowns, he hopes it's just his clan, if everyone was this stupid Tobirama’s faith in humanity was going to take a hard blow. Did not everyone want to know why things are the way they are? Were they simply satisfied with the status quo?

He slid slowly down to the floor and put his head in his hands. He remembers the first time he went into the library, how it had barely been organised, the scrolls and books sorted by medicine, fighting, and other . Tobirama has spent weeks sorting through everything until it was organised in such a way that it was fast and efficient to look for information.

His clan were probably not idiots, Tobirama despaired, instead it was Tobirama that defied the standard.

Dammit .

Tobirama sat on the floor just for a little while longer, he needed to think about his next step. Worrying about the lack of intelligence in the population would only drive him into depression.

Back to the problem he was actually here to solve.

If the medical community started with small animals for their test, he could adopt that practice. Mice seemed to be popular, the consequences appeared quickly because of their relatively short life spans and their ability to reproduce at a rapid rate.

He tilted his head back and looked up at the ceiling.

It was time to go catch some mice.


 

He staked out the kitchens for half an hour before he found his first mouse. It was small and grey and was in the process of absconding away with an apple-core.

It nosed around curiously in the basket of weaved bamboo before huddling in a corner under the bit of scrap cloth. Tobirama peered at it for a short while. He had no idea what sex it was. That was a problem for later he thought, and put the lid back on. He would have to seperate them later.

He captured seven more mice before calling it quits. He could figure out what sex they were and maybe dissect a few if he got a lot of males. He would prefer females at this point so he could breed a few more.

He picked up the basket and ignored the little squeaking noises that started when he lifted them up and started back towards the small shed out in the garden by the main house. It only contained some gardening tools that had fallen out of use and fish food.

Tobirama hurried through the house and out into the garden quickly. He could feel Hashirama in the house and he didn’t particularly want to talk to him right now. Usually he would have at least peered in through the doorway, maybe ask a question in the hopes that he might want to talk more. Those conversations had never happened but... he had wanted to try. Maybe this time would be the one.

If he had slowed down walking by Hashirama’s room, no one would know. Tobirama focused on three chakra signatures meandering across Fire County. They were swirling in what he was starting to associate with the feeling of contentment, happiness, and calm.

Tobirama slid the door shut behind him and walked across the lawn, past the pond and into the little shed. He could possibly use it as a laboratory. Nobody but he went out there anyway and if he  cleaned it and put in some new windows it could work. Putting up barriers to keep things out or in was definitely a must, he thought, eyeing the obvious hole in one of the walls. Definitely.

It took a lot of lifting of tails and another few baskets before he had the mice separated. Three females and five males.

Time to get started.

Tobirama went to get a few senbon, a kunai and a lot of notebooks. And he made sure not to forget the ink.


 

Tobirama spent the next three weeks busy from the moment he stopped training to the moment when he went to sleep. He is happier than he has been for years. He had stopped one morning, rice halfway to his mouth and realised he wanted to do things. He still had days when he forced himself out of bed because the prospect of his father's wrath was even worse. But most times Tobirama didn't have to pull himself from the ground to do his training and force his way through the motions.

The weight he hadn’t known he was carrying was not there anymore.

Most days anyway.

The first thing he does after dissecting the first rat is to boil it. He cuts away all the flesh after making as much of a complete map of the organs as possible. He had to, because the smell of decomposing mouse is not pleasant no matter how small it was.

Tobirama carefully takes each piece of the skeleton once it is clear of flesh and rebuilds it. He uses thin wires to string the small skeleton together. It doesn’t work the first time. He loses several of the bones and has to start over with the next mouse.

He manages to squeeze in making a large wooden chest, filled it with insulation and finally put in a slightly smaller box made from clay into it. It fit together after tinkering with it for a while. Tobirama then carved small seals into the upper edge of the inner box with a corresponding one on the outside of the wood.

It’s not very elegant but now he has somewhere to put the mice after they die. They won’t decompose as quickly in the cold.

The next mouse skeleton is a success!

The learning curve is steep and Tobirama continuously has to stop because he doesn't have the tools he needs. The kunai is too large so he needs to get actual scalpels. He tries to preserve only the veins and heart, keeping it whole and undamaged.

He runs into a lot of walls and has to figure out a way around them.

Sometimes he feels like he's inventing a whole new branch of jutsu. The science branch. He snickered at that.  

Senju Tobirama: Mouse expert


 

Yesterday had been a good day. He had finally finished mapping the entire nervous system of the mice and he was ready to start testing to see if he could reanimate it.

The amount of energy a mouse could use and how much energy it needed to be alive.

Tobirama had a theory that he needed to reinforce the chakra network in a tiny body for the seals to take effect. The continuous problem he’d had with the human trials had been the destruction of the vessel.

A stronger vessel was needed, or reinforcing an already existing one.

He didn’t want to have to sacrifice an already living mouse so he was trying this option first.

Tobirama entered his lab and pulled out the prepared sealing array he had worked on the last week. If everything worked as it should the seals should act as support and take a lot of the strain.

Tobirama picked up one of the mice he had captured. It was one of the males that had already been paired with a female. Avoiding inbreeding was always good.

Medical jutsu can start a heart if the medic is skilled enough. It can also stop one.

The mouse died a quick and painless death on Tobirama’s workbench. He carefully laid it inside the array and took a step back.

He carefully pressed his fingertips to the seals and pushed his chakra down into them. The ink wriggled for a second before it rapidly moved across the body and settled into place. So far so good .  Tobirama took a moment to record everything, noting the placement of the seals and the time it took.

The next step was the moment of truth. The mouse was moved into the modified version of the Edo Tensei.

He swallowed down his nerves.  This is it.  He pressed his hand down.

On the workbench the mouse sat up. It’s heart was not beating.




Chapter Text

The weeks practically fly by. The patrols are starting to pick up also. The summer heat that had finally decided to appear has seemingly made everyone completely lose their minds and now tensions were running high. Hashirama was “fighting” with Madara almost every third day now. They weren’t fooling anyone with their fights and the only reason they were allowed to continue was that neither clan head wanted the prospect of their own heir injured. The gap it would leave in their defences was growing too big with the losses and injuries that were accumulating in the skirmishes.

Tobirama was flitting around Izuna’s superior sword fighting. He had poured most of his training into speed. Izuna may be stronger and with more ninjutsu under his belt, but the enemy needs to land a hit for an injury to occur.

Tobirama had tried to make clones in order to make up for the disadvantage but he only had time for one clone made out of water before both the Uchiha brothers counter with clones made from fire. That exploded when he stabbed them! Tobirama’s clones only drenched his enemies in water.

If he electrocuted them the next fight after soaking them then Tobirama was being inventive, not vindictive.

Touka had laughed herself hoarse back at the compound, hand flicking upwards around her hair to illustrate the interesting hairstyle they had sported when he limped away from that fight. It had stood almost straight up for a while, small sparks jumping up and shocking them again.

It had been a bright spot in an increasingly tense month. The clan heads were starting to build up to something. Tobirama’s father and Uchiha Tajima were trading harsher and harsher blows on the battlefield.

It worried Tobirama greatly. He was eleven and Hashirama was fifteen. If their father died now an elder would try to step in as clan head. Or one of their elder cousins. It had the potential for a succession struggle. Tobirama needed them to be alive for at least another eight months. If Hashirama was sixteen years old then the resistance for him to be clan head would have a lot less weight.

If their great-great-grandmother could lead the clan to prosperity at sixteen then potentially so could Hashirama.

The result is that Tobirama sticks close to his father. He’s had to intercept several attacks so far but he doesn't know how long he can keep up.

He has had three months to work on the new and improved Edo Tensei. He’s had quite a few mishaps developing it. He’s had to rearrange the reinforcements and the sealing array several times. It still needs a lot of tinkering but it’s starting to take shape.

Human trials are still a bit away. And it’s nowhere near battlefield ready. The Edo Tensei still needs a lot of time for preparation.

Storage seals don’t.

And Tobirama was good with storage seals. It’s one of the first things he learned along with explosive seals.

In the time he had to regain his chakra he had started to test the boundaries for seals. The limit is your imagination. He could not, however, keep anything alive in the seal. He had put one of his live mice in one for a try and it had been stone cold dead when he unsealed it thirty seconds later. It had even skipped rigor mortis entirely and immediately started to decompose.

That had possibilities…

Tobirama had made a note to come back to the idea and kept working with storage seals. He was carrying one into battle with a nasty surprise if everything went disastrous.

So far he had not needed to use it but he didn’t want to tempt fate.

The gap between Tobirama and Izuna had started to close again. Tobirama wasn't sure but he thought Izuna was experimenting with his jutsus and that gave Tobirama the time to catch up a bit. He, too, had been stuck experimenting but his chakra control had never been better. It was not easy to use chakra to restart a heart. He had accidentally fried or alternatively inflated the mice with water trying to keep their hearts artificially beating. His chakra control had to become better and he had eventually managed it.

That chakra control was really useful in battle.

When Izuna swung his sword Tobirama redirected its momentum and punched him instead.

True to form Izuna throws up an armoured arm that during normal circumstances would have blocked and possibly even hurt Tobirama’s hand. These are not normal circumstances, Tobirama prepared the chakra in his fist and pushed it out.

Tobirama had practiced on the ground and on some of the more remote trees and the results have been astounding. Precisely controlled chakra emitted in a sharp burst could break rocks. He had pulverised the trunk of a tree just by punching it. Izuna's armour stood no chance. Neither did his bones.

Izuna pulled back with a scream, clutching his broken arm to his chest. He hunched over and staggered away drunkenly from Tobirama. He possibly even broke his ribs.

This was the first time that Tobirama had the advantage. He pushed it ruthlessly. His sword slashed up and cut at the exposed back of Izuna’s knees, if he could cut his tendons Izuna would be incapacitated for several weeks, giving Tobirama time to come up with new ways of defeating him. He got one knee and Izuna collapsed on the ground. Tobirama went for a second strike when something slammed into him from the side.

The world blurred and he was tossed off his feet and hit a tree with a smack. His head bounced off the bark and he tumbled into a graceless sprawl on the ground.

Uchiha Madara stood over his wounded brother with a wrathful look in his eyes. He raised his gunbai and advanced.

He was going to die. Madara was on par with Tobirama's brother, he knew that. And Hashirama completely trashed Tobirama in sparring when he started to try just a little. He stood no chance against the older Uchiha brother.

Tobirama slammed both hands into the ground pushing as much chakra he could control out.

The ground cracked and heaved, breaking apart into a wide field of broken rocks and overturned soil. Tobirama managed to glimpse Madara’s face before he hid between two of the newly created stone slabs. It had been almost comically surprised and a small kernel of satisfaction burned in Tobirama's chest.

Take that. He thought. They couldn’t grasp everything he invented from one glance. It was incredibly satisfying but Tobirama needed to be alive to enjoy it. He could feel Madara hesitate for a short moment before he braved the upended ground and headed for Tobirama. Straight for Tobirama.

Dread overtook any feeling he previously had. Madara must be some kind of sensor, and Hashirama was not interfering, he was backing up their father instead.

He had no other choice. Tobirama wrenched his storage scroll out and just before Madara rounded the last corner he unsealed it.

Three mice and two rats popped out and all five of them lunged at Madara.

At first glance three mice and two rats are not very threatening, they’re small and usually run away from humans. If they, against all odds, attacked a swift kick would kill them.

Madara went for overkill and breathed flames at them. The rats fur caught fire and burned away. They kept running. Their muscles melted from the heat, leaving only bones. They kept running.

Five rodent skeletons shrieking and attacking would creep out all but the most seasoned shinobi. Madara did not even pause and pulsed his chakra as if to dispel a genjutsu.

The rodents leapt up and bit him.

Then he started shrieking. They clawed their way up going for any exposed skin and started chewing. Madara screamed and tried to crush their small bodies against the stone, cut them with his sword or burn them away. Nothing worked.

Tobirama took the chance for what it was. He staggered up to his feet and tried to roundhouse kick Madara in the chest. He missed and his foot hit the boulder and pulverised it. He tried again. Madara might be distracted by undead mice but he could still avoid Tobirama’s taijutsu.

Tobirama attacked but Madara managed to get a hand around his wrist and threw him into another boulder. Tobirama barely managed to avoid smacking face first into that as well and spun around to press his attack.

Madara slashed warningly with his sword at Tobirama and then...his Sharingan changed. The output of tomoe suddenly tripled when Madara fixed his eyes on the rat that hung from his sword arm.

Black fire enveloped the small skeleton and it slowly started to burn away.

Oh no. Tobirama had to get away now. He could still feel the rage and fear coursing through Madara. He wanted vengeance for Izuna’s injuries and Tobirama was not good enough to stop him. His only advantage was his mice but if Madara could destroy them…

Tobirama felt fear hook its claws into his spine. He didn’t want to die.

The rat finished burning away and Madara turned his gaze towards the other lager rat that had sunk its teeth into his leg. Tobirama pulled his hands and arms in front of him and prepared to charge. He didn’t want to die, but his only hope was to daze Madara long enough to give him time to escape back to the dubious safety of his father.

Tobirama felt Madara’s chakra surge again and launched forward. Please let me hit him, just once!

He didn’t.

Hashirama’s chakra signature that had been fending off the Uchiha clan head disengaged and sped towards Tobirama and Madara. He closed the distance quickly and just before Tobirama would have connected with Madara’s undefended flank he dropped between them.

Tobirama's punch was yet again redirected into a newly created boulder, smashing it into tiny bits and pieces. Hashirama gently put an arm around Tobirama’s waist and pulled him close. He grasped Madara’s armour with his other hand and with a surge of chakra leaped out of the maze of stone Tobirama had created.

Tobirama’s loyal little soldiers of bone let go of Madara when Hashirama dropped his friend on the Uchiha’s side of the battlefield, running after Tobirama like small, white, little ducklings after their mother.

Hashirama stopped behind their father and gently put Tobirama down, keeping a steadying arm around his midsection and holding him firmly against his chest.

The mice finished running under the many horrified gazes across the empty stretch of land between the two clans and lined up in front of Tobirama. The flesh hadn’t regenerated as Tobirama had hoped it would but they were still kinda cute.

Tiny creatures of bone seemingly held together by nothing. He loved them.

Hashirama’s warm presence along his back was calming and Tobirama gripped the sleeve of the arm around his form tightly. He had been so scared.

Their father never looked away from the Uchiha and both clan heads gave the signal to retreat.

Tobirama had survived. He breathed out a sigh of relief.  

 


 

Hashirama did not let go of him as they ran back home. He had started out with almost carrying Tobirama home but had to relent and only hold his hand in a vice grip. Worry poured out of Hashirama and Tobirama did not understand why. This was out of character for his brother. Usually after patrols he hurried home and then away to the river, hope running through his chakra. This time it was twisted up and Tobirama could start feeling how he was too anxious in the background.

Something was clearly wrong.

Father led the way home and smoothly passed through the gate, dismissing the others except for his two sons. Hashirama’s chakra was strung even tighter and he pulled Tobirama even closer, pushing Tobirama behind him and away from their father.

They entered the main house silently, removing their shoes and slowly stepping into one of the main rooms. Hashirama kept himself between Tobirama and their father the whole time. It was silent for a short moment before their father whirls around and lashes out with a hand towards Tobirama. It would have caught him across the face had Hashirama not stepped in between.

Their father rears back. “You dare?!” He roars in Hashirama’s face.

Hashirama roars right back, just as loud. “It’s Tobirama, he doesn’t understand that he did anything wrong, you know that! “

“It’s taboo!”

“He doesn’t understand why it’s taboo! It’s our fault for not explaining it better, don’t blame him for something he can’t control!”

Their voices are only getting louder and Tobirama hates it. It grates his head, like shards of glass shifting inside.

They keep screaming at each other until Hashirama slaps away one of their father's hands and screamed back. “Stop screaming, this is not helping!!!” He is still holding onto Tobirama's hand, refusing to let it go when Tobirama tugs at it.

Father takes a deep breath and deflates, Hashirama sagging a moment later. Both turn to look at Tobirama, sadness taking root in their chakra.

Father sighs again and says. “Tobirama, do you understand why you shouldn't have done that… with the...rodents?” He finished awkwardly.

“Because it’s taboo.” Tobirama answers promptly. He does not like where this is going, he’s feeling anxious and he doesn’t understand why they are so sad!

Father 's face crumbles just a little. “Do you understand why it’s taboo?”

Tobirama look at him,”because they’re dead?” He answers questioningly.

Hashirama lets go of Tobirama's hand to put his own hand in his hair and pulls at it, chakra dipping and projecting even more sorrow.

Father drags a hand across his face. “ ...at least it wasn’t people” he mumbled.

Tobirama looked down on the floor. Studying it intently. Both his brother and his father look up sharply.

“Tobirama…” His father begins warningly. Tobirama is not good at lying to his family. He can lie just fine on his missions but they know all his tells.

He hunches down and keeps staring at the floor. “It doesn’t work yet, with humans.” He says. “ I can only do it with small animals so far.”

Hashirama breathes out a sigh of clear relief and winds an arm around his shoulders and gives a comforting squeeze while their father slumps.

“Dammit Tobirama, why?!” Father says, voice raising before he catches it. “Why?!”

Almost three years of loneliness slams into Tobirama. “I wanted Kawarama and Itama back!” He screams. “Nobody talks to me anymore and I’m not good at anything except sealing. Everything I do Hashirama can do better! I just…” he angrily wipes away the tears that starts falling  and looks at what is left of his family.

Hashirama’s usually dark skin is milky pale, he looks horrified and the guilt and shame that his chakra radiates is overwhelming.

His father never looks away from Tobirama and the tired lines around his eyes deepen. He looks like he has aged twenty years in the last hour alone.

Father puts his hands over his face again and sighs heavily.” I have to.” he says.

Hashirama whirls around to face him, still pale but lets go of Tobirama to march up to their father. “No, you can’t!”

Father lets his hands fall, eyes like steel. “I am the clan head and I have a duty to the clan.”

“You can’t! Tobirama is only eleven!”

“It’s that or death, and you know that very well, Hashirama.” Father bite out.

The floor under Tobirama feels like it’s slowly falling away. What?

“Then I will go with him!” Hashirama shouts at their father, teeth bared and chakra violently rolling.

“What about your dream for peace then?” Their father counters. “Is that just talk? You are the clan heir, you will be clan head when I die. Are you willing to leave the clan in the hands of Setsuna or Hana?”

Hashirama falls silent, guilt churning.

Father turns away and walks over to Tobirama, he looks down for a short while before his entire face crumbles and he pulls Tobirama into a hug.

“I am so sorry little one. I should have explained better or we wouldn't have been here today. He lets go and crouches down, echoing Azami’s actions from months earlier. Father grips his arms and holds tight.

“You are going to have to leave” his father says. “You can’t stay here after this.” He hesitates”... a lot of people don’t understand that you only tried to help with your skeleton friends. They think it’s a very wrong thing to do, and if you stay they will either force me to kill you or try it themselves. You can’t stay here.”

He looks at Hashirama and nods towards the back of the house. Hashirama sobs and staggers away, moving erratically around the house stopping in different places, chakra flaring every so often.

Tobirama stares at his father. “I can’t stay?” He asks. What do they mean he can’t stay? They’re his clan… right? He made the choice to come back.

His father’s face scrunches up again and slowly tears begin to drip down his cheeks. Tobirama has never seen his father cry. Not even at Kawarama or Itama’s funerals.

It shakes him to the core.

His father shakes his head and pulls Tobirama into another hug, his chest is big and warm. It shudders with suppressed sobs and Tobirama starts to cry again.

Hashirama eventually comes back with several scrolls in his arms and a thick white fur framed across his shoulders.

Hashirama stuffs all the scrolls into one of their mission bags. The ones with extra straps and hidden pockets. He walks around their father and kneels down as well. He seemed at a loss for words and instead of saying anything yanks Tobirama into a desperate hug. It’s big and warm and everything Tobirama has been longing for.

Hashirama starts crying and mumbling into his shoulder but Tobirama can’t hear him over the rushing sound in his ears. The clues are starting to form a picture that he doesn't want to be true. It can’t be true, but his brother and father are both crying and hugging him within an inch of his life.

Eventually Hashirama pulls back and before his father steps forward again he wraps the white fur around Tobirama’s small shoulders. It’s almost too big for him but it’s incredibly soft.  His father then nudges Hashirama out of the way and crouches down yet again to stroke his hair with both hands and then rests them on the sides of Tobirama’s face.

“Tobirama.” He says. “You need to leave, and you need to run away fast. You can’t come back for a while, probably not until I have left to reunite with your mother and your brothers.” The wet shine becomes more pronounced, eyes red rimmed from tears.

“I want you to know that I truly, deeply, love you, even if I haven’t been the best father lately.” He rubs his thumbs across Tobirama's cheeks and smiles tenuously.

“You are my son, no matter what. Remember that. And Hashirama is your brother, and does love you, even if he too has not made a very good show of that lately.” Hashirama wilts behind their father and he feels so, so guilty.

“That means you have to survive, do you understand?” His father says and waits for Tobirama to nod. “No matter how hard it will be, you have to survive. Go to Uzushio, if you can, they are our allies and will take care of you.”

He pulls Tobirama forward and presses his lips to Tobirama's forehead.

“Now run, run and don't look back.”

Chapter Text

Tobirama staggered and weaved unsteadily on two feet before slowly sinking down onto folded legs.

He feels like all his energy has left him. Like it all stayed in his father's hand when he was gently holding him steady. He has nothing left now. He doesn’t have a home, a clan. Nothing he can call home.

He gasps and clutches the soft fabric over his heart. It feels hollow, left bleeding on the tatami mats he had learned to walk on, shredded by the branches he passed on his way out of Senju clan territory.

He is standing by the last marker signifying Senju territory. It’s a carving in one of the oldest trees that grew in this area. The Senju crest is a part of the bark now. Carved into the tree over and over and over again by different hands for generations. Once Tobirama passes this mark he might never see it again. Might never see anything of his clan ever again.

It had not been the best clan, it had not loved him as he had hoped, but it had been his. He had been born here. Been loved once, was still loved, if he believes his father's words.

If he believes the grasping hands and the desperation hidden in hugs stronger than steel. Tobirama casts his senses out, desperate for any source of comfort but the nearest person is Madara Uchiha.

Tobirama bent over his knees and planted a hand onto the ground. Contact with the earth had always helped him concentrate and stretch his range. He could feel his home, his father a dark presence alone in the main house, sorrow and pain churning in the depths of his chakra. It was slowly receding, pushed down by his iron will and pressure from the clan.

Touka was a swirling storm on one of the training grounds, her chakra lashing out in attacks and causing havoc to the surrounding area. Cousins huddled in fear away from her wrath. Touka always had a fiery temper. Equally quick to anger as to laughter, but this time it was bone deep and showed no signs of stopping. He would have felt pity for whoever was forced to try and reason with her. She would not be easily placated.

Hashirama…

His brother was retiring from the river. Guilt seeping into the surrounding woods. The roses were wilting as he walked past, the grass dying from his footsteps.

Why was he feeling so guilty? He had not forced Tobirama to break their taboos, he didn’t do anything!

The ever nearing rage caught him off guard. Tobirama’s breath stuttered. It was overwhelming, a toxic river in a body full of poison. His hand trembled against the ground. He wants to break something, wants to take it apart with both hands and twist until it gives. Tear at it with his fingers, kick it with his legs until it lay shattered before his eyes.

But Tobirama would only have the wreckage of his own actions laying scattered around him.

A small white paw settles on his hand. It felt chilly in the heat of the summer, strange and other .

The remaining mice and one rat sit beside him, bare skulls and bones standing out in the lush greenery, inquisitively tilting their heads in different directions. His lip wobbles but he smiles anyway. He wonders if they are trying to swivel ears that no longer exist.

Why would anyone hate this?

Tobirama can admit he's not gifted when it comes to social interactions, he is too stilted, not charming like his brother Itama was, or happy go lucky as both Hashirama and Kawarama. Despite, in Hashirama’s case, his many traits that should have made people infuriated or even at the very least irritated, they mostly made people laugh or mock him in a joking tone.

Tobirama was cold, unnerving and too intense. He hardly made any friends and most of them were friends his brother made, who endured Tobirama’s company for the sake of his brother’s friendship.

A bitter pill to swallow, and an early experience to have.

Tobirama had turned to books as a refuge and then to science. There was always so much he could learn and discover! The world was full of questions that no one had any answer to and Tobirama wanted to find each and every one of them.

He even had one such answer sitting before him. Nosing at his fingers where they dug deep into the ground.

Slowly his emotions settled, Tobirama let the small rodents scamper around him. Following his unconscious desires for protection by forming a widening ring of defence around his slumped form.

He could regret being banished, breaking a taboo, having to leave his family behind because of that, regret risking never seeing any of his family ever again, but Tobirama could not regret them. The mice lived again, in a new, sturdier, form and they would never be a mistake.

Tobirama slowly ran a finger across the bumpy spine of the closest mouse, the smooth, chilly, bones rising underneath his fingertip. He could feel the threads of his own chakra thrumming in its body. The chakra would eventually run out and the mice would slow and finally crumble to dust, returning to nature and the cycle of life. Today though, they were a part of him and would remain so for years, companions that would stay, never to falter or betray him. The only family he could count on to never willingly leave or send him away.

He choked back a sob, he didn’t want to think about that, his father loved him, Hashirama loved him. They had said so but they were not here, nor could they be. He was alone, all alone. Before there had been a hope that he would be apart of something again, be a brother Hashirama cared to spend time with. Maybe one day he would have stood on equal footing with Madara Uchiha, on the same footing as the person Hashirama sought out.

The same person that was coming this way.

Tobirama didn’t want to leave. He wanted to sit here at the very edge of his home and never leave again, but the prospect of fighting an overwhelming opponent was daunting. He should move, hide, do anything except stay rooted to the ground by a slow creeping rage. Tobirama would like to say he wasn’t ruled by emotion. Lately though that seems to be the only reason he had done anything at all.

Feeling abandoned? Create a way to bring his brothers back, unwise or not. He is glad he met Azami. She could see him and break the unwanted truth to him.

Do you want happiness at the cost of others? At the cost of those that you love?

Still feeling lonely? Make friends that can’t die. Fail to recognise the social aspect and end up banished and lonely with barely any hope of reconciliation with his family.

Tobirama would probably never see his father again. It was like losing his mother again, like losing Itama and Kawarama. The only hope he had was with Hashirama.

Hashirama. Tobirama grabbed a handful of grass and tore it out of the earth. It always came back to Hashirama.

Hashirama left him. Hashirama started meeting the Uchihas. Hashirama’s dream of peace. Hashirama, as friends with them. Hashirama, Hashirama, Hashirama! Tobirama wanted to matter! Tobirama was the spare, the younger son, not as important to the clan, not as skilled.

He wanted to be seen too! He wanted to be more than just Hashirama’s strange little brother, more than a footnote in someone else's life. He wanted to live a life in the light and not one in Hashirama’s shadow, as comforting as that could be. If Hashirama hadn’t left for the river and left Tobirama behind he may never have known the difference. He could have been content. His brother was larger than life in many ways and his love and care was overwhelming and addicting.

But he did leave. And Tobirama had to learn how to live life on his own. Earlier than he should have maybe, but no life is perfect and… Tobirama had started to enjoy his life again. He loved the thrill of discovery, that moment where the pieces started to fall into place and he could see the bigger picture, it was still in miniature but he could see how everything was starting to connect.

It’s addictive and he can’t stop, he wouldn’t even if Hashirama had asked. He has other things to live for now and he won’t let go as easily this time.

Madara had won over Tobirama when it came to his affections. Hashirama still loved him, Tobirama could see that, his brother would never have cried like he did if he didn’t love him, but the value of his relationship with Madara was greater than Tobirama’s.

Their chakra seemed to resonate with each other on a deeper level, the underlying rhythm the same. Different high notes but the same beat playing to the same song. Singing a duet together for a shared dream.

Tobirama didn’t even know what Izuna was. He was Madara’s brother. Always a few steps behind, but Izuna had a brother that seemed to drag him along no matter what, never mind what he wanted. Madara was an overprotective brother and it seemed like he wanted Izuna as strong as he could possibly get him. If that meant training with a possible enemy, so be it.

Tobirama wasn’t angry with Izuna most of the time, frustrated and envious of the time he spent with Tobirama’s brother, but never angry. Izuna, at least, had to work for some things. He was good, excellent even, but Tobirama was a sensor whose range only grew. He had felt the failed jutsus and countless hours of training. The repetition of exercise until it flowed seamlessly.

Tobirama’s range had not been very good until the last year, that had been when he could sense them at the river from the compound and he started to be able to track and understand their dynamic.

It had surprised Tobirama at the beginning. He had thought that they had all been friends together but the more he paid attention the more it became clear that it was Hashirama and Madara that were different. Izuna had been dragged along and was forced to interact with them. Tobirama could be wrong but… it fits.

Madara and Hashirama are the true prodigies of the battlefield, and from what Tobirama has been able to piece together, so was Madara with understanding the undercurrents of running a clan the size of the Senju or Uchiha.

Tobirama didn’t know where that knowledge came from. Or what had caused Madara Uchiha’s hatred for him. The only time Tobirama had met Madara had been on the battlefield, and those rare times they had crossed blades Madara had almost run him through. Hashirama had to interfere and block the strike. Later, when Tobirama was still huddled away in his room, shaking from left over adrenaline and the fact that he had been a hair’s breadth away from a slow, agonising death, had he noticed the flaring of Hashirama and Madara’s chakra.

That had been one of the few times that Tobirama knew that his brother and Madara had been fighting.

Madara avoided engaging in combat with Tobirama after that. The undercurrent of hate had still been there though, and Tobirama couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out what he had done to deserve such anger and hate.

That same mix of emotions was still approaching. Only a short distance away and Madara was a sensor too, nowhere near possessing the same range and detail as Tobirama, but still, a good sensor. Madara would definitely have discovered Tobirama’s presence by now and he was still approaching.

Tobirama pushed himself away from the ground and turned around. His mice climbed close and hid in the folds of his clothes, gripping the fabric with their tiny, sharp claws. He would still lose in a fight against Madara but if Madara was coming to him willingly then it could only be Hashirama that sent him. Madara would never voluntarily leave his brother and clansmen to seek out Tobirama.

He couldn’t feel any more aggression than normal so the chance of Madara stalking him to kill Tobirama was small. Not nonexistent, but it was not likely that would be the end game. Hashirama might have had some harebrained idea that the Uchiha would take him in, to keep him close. Well meaning, but moronic.

Tobirama brought his hands up in a defensive stance. He would not run away from this confrontation, he had been forced to flee twice already today, he would not do so again. When he leaves, when not if, it would be when Tobirama chose to do so.

He didn’t have to wait long. Madara emerged out of the forest and came to a stop when he spotted Tobirama. He raised a mocking eyebrow, eyeing Tobirama’s fighting stance, clearly not seeing him as a threat. It grates that he can’t even resent him for that. It’s true. Madara would be the undisputed victor of any kind of confrontation, he is simply that good.

Madara steps closer, wary, watching his surroundings. What is he waiting for?! Is he expecting Tobirama to have rigged the entire area with explosive seals? What would be the point! Tobirama would have a harder time avoiding them than Madara.  

Tobirama swallows and takes a fortifying breath, he can’t show how scared he is of Madara.

“What do you want?” He asks instead.

Madara looks over at him, having finished canvassing the shrubbery for any traps. “Your brother said you were banished, he asked me to… help you.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

Madara blinked slowly, surprise threading through his chakra. “Why would I do that?” He asked.

“Because you hate me.” Madara pursed his lips thoughtfully and turned his head to the side. “No,” he said slowly. “I don’t hate you.”

That was such an obvious lie that Tobirama can’t help but laugh. “You don’t hate me.” He echoes. “That’s the only thing you have ever done! You hate me! I can feel it even now! Chakra doesn’t lie! You hate me!” Tobirama is exhausted. This day has been horrible, he’s lost his clan, lost his family, and on top of that, had almost been killed. Now Madara is trying to lie and say he doesn’t hate him.

“Don’t lie to me. Not now. I’m leaving and you get to have Hashirama to yourself and you might have peace in a few years.” Madara is backing off and hesitantly says, “Yes peace, you won’t be allowed to sabotage it. I won’t allow it. “

Tobirama stared at him, dumbfounded. That’s what he’d been worried about? That Tobirama, all of eleven years old, is going to ruin his peace ?!

“Are you serious?! What could I possibly do to...to… sabotage your peace!”

“You are..!”

“I’m what?!” Tobirama interrupts him, rage clawing at his lungs. ”I’m nothing! My brother barely loves me, my own clan doesn’t talk to me, I’m nowhere near the fighter you or your brother are! What kind of threat do I pose to your peace?! Any one of you could kill me if you really, actually wanted to. Stop toying with me!” Tobirama reached out his arm and pushed at Madara’s chest. His jaw was level with Tobirama’s eyes and he looked so large . Tobirama hadn’t even noticed he had started walking towards Madara.

Fear and rage was fighting for dominance inside him and it felt like Tobirama was seconds away from bursting out of his skin.

He took a quick stumbling step back. He couldn’t afford to make a mistake now.

Madara didn’t attack him, which was a relief but his chakra halted for a moment before his Sharingan flared to life. Tobirama recognized the flare in Madara’s chakra that heralded the Sharingan and quickly dropped his gaze to Madara’s mouth. It was turned down into a frown. Baby fat was still clinging to Madara’s face. His shoulders were the gangly width of a person who had just started growing into their adult body, muscles clinging to bone and not keeping up no matter what you did.

Tobirama doesn’t look in the mirror too often but he knows he is small and has chubby cheeks. Not exactly the image of a dangerous shinobi. Not to mention the shine of tears in his eyes. That’s only in your head, tears don’t exist before an enemy.

Madara looks at him and sees something he doesn’t like. It wasn’t dislike for him exactly, but neither was it the guilt that Hashirama had almost seemed to drown in before Tobirama had escaped over the garden wall into the forest.

“You…” Madara began, halting and taking another look at him, taking in the pack on his back and the lack of any clans symbols. “Are you leaving?”

Tobirama huffed out a wet laugh. “I’m banished from my clan, if I stay they will kill me. Breaking taboos is not acceptable.” He still doesn’t entirely understand. Why would anyone be afraid of his creations? Did they not see what a boon they could be? Sentinels that didn’t get tired or lose focus. A force that wouldn’t die from a wound and could ease the strain on their already tired forces.

“Your little demon rats?” Madara’s disbelief didn’t tinge his words so much as it soaked them. “You could raise your clan’s own dead and your clan wouldn’t throw you away. You’re too valuable.”

“Valuable? In what way? I come up with something new and you grasp it and then perform it better than me. I’m not valuable. I’m the least accomplished of four prodigies and I can’t grasp conversations or people.” Madara is looking at him strangely now, but Tobirama’s fear is starting to recede and is leaving behind only the embers of his anger and an overwhelming exhaustion. Tobirama has a far distance to travel today. He can’t be near when the morning comes.

He turns around to leave. There is nothing left here for him. Madara is not here to kill him, Hashirama clearly didn’t explain the situation. He shouldn’t have sent Madara in the first place. Did he know how it felt to have him rub it in Tobirama's face the person Hashirama loved more than him?

“You are not allowed to leave!”

Tobirama freezes. How dare he?! He turns around slowly, rage igniting and running hot and destructive through his veins. “Oh, I’m not allowed to leave . Are you going to stop me?” Tobirama sneered.

Madara outclasses him in every part of combat. He is stronger, faster and has an ocean of chakra compared to Tobirama's lake. Madara still hesitates. He looks conflicted, the outright disgust is for once absent and Tobirama wants to claw his precious eyes out.

He has his suspicions as to why Hashirama is so absent beyond his own carelessness.  

Madara looks at him as if Tobirama is carrying some dangerous disease, too afraid to touch him.

“Why do you even want to stop me?!” Tobirama continues. “Is it because Hashirama will be sad?! You don’t have to worry about that.” He spits the words out, years of bitterness welling up. He had started to learn to cope, but the fist that’s squeezing his heart tells him that he had underestimated that ability.

“You can have brother all to yourself without any guilt! Hashirama doesn’t love me anyway! What did you tell him! Why does he not love me anymore! Why! What did I do?! Tell me!” Tobirama screams at Madara. He doesn’t want to cry in front of the person Hashirama choose over him.

He can’t seem to stop.

“Why did he choose you! What do you give him that I can’t?! Why am I not enough?” He trails off, hiccuping and looks up at Madara through the tears in his eyes. Tobirama has cried far too much this day. He didn’t know that he had any tears left. The other boy has gone chalk white and is staring back at Tobirama.

Madara opens his mouth, closes it again and looks horrified.

Tobirama clenches his jaw shut and snarls at him. He doesn’t need answers, he can survive without them. He doesn’t want to feel this way.

He turns away, disappearing into the darkening forest around him.

Madara remains where he stands. He doesn’t follow.






Chapter Text

Hashirama is sitting by the Naka river, watching how the water passes by, a leaf swirls by carried down by the current, and disappears. The leaf won’t make it to the ocean, it will get tangled in a root or become so matted that it will sink to the bottom. There it will start to decay, bacteria eating at its edges and it will ever so slowly turn into dirt and nutrients for the earth and fauna. 

Hashirama isn’t a sensor but Madara’s fiery presence is difficult to miss. When they first woke up here, three years ago in the past, in beds Hashirama could barely remember and as old men in young bodies, Hashirama had been overjoyed. He had been, he was determined to make things better this time around, and the damage to Konoha and the devastation wrought by Kaguya's manipulation would never become reality again. 

Hashirama had not been blameless, he and Madara had been part of another pair of reincarnations that had failed to achieve peace. Hashirama, failing to set aside his friendship with Madara when his friend had descended into madness. Madara had been manipulated, unable to let go of his grief and move on. 

Izuna had been a tipping point. This time he had to survive, if not, Hashirama dreaded that Madara would lay waste to Fire Country, burning it down and unleashing all the destruction he could on the world around him. Hashirama knew that, right now, he could still stop his friend, but not without a high cost. A price this entire endeavour was supposed to avoid. Nothing good came from going down an already failed road. 

The training and inclusion of Madara's little brother had been the wisest choice at the time, make Izuna fast and strong enough to defend himself and avoid the pitfalls that would lead to catastrophe.  

Izuna had been drilled in all manner of fighting, they had been teaching him all the tricks and jutsu that Tobirama had invented to try and prevent the two of them from clashing and killing each other. 

Tobirama…

Hashirama pulled up his knees and pressed his face against them. His only little brother, who had stood by Hashirama’s dream, wrestled with other clan heads to build the academy and the framework for a village larger than any shinobi congregation had ever seen before. 

His brother, who had taken up a mantel he had never wished for. Raised his students, who he had loved…

His brother who is dead. 

Hashirama tried to remember the exact way his brother used to smile and he can’t quite get it. Memories are imperfect and self-correcting. He will never meet his brother again, Hashirama is truly the last of his siblings and he killed his only remaining brother himself.

Hashirama has always been a crier. He cries when he’s happy, when he’s angry, and most of all, when he is sad. 

Sorrow is twisting a sword through his chest and Hashirama knows that it will never go away. He will learn to live with it. He has before but this is a fresh wound and it hurts all the same. 

His brother that had once lived would have been disappointed. He would have forced Hashirama to his feet and made him keep moving. Love and impatience mixed together in a familiar blend.

Those days will never come now, because Hashirama has been so focused on tomorrow that he forgot about today. 

He has seen who his brother would become but he forgot that this Tobirama was not his capable, sharp brother who had a million ideas that couldn’t wait to burst to life. The brother who danced with the fish in the Naka river and had loved food but hated to cook it.

He had forgotten. Ha had not seen that this Tobirama had become quieter and quieter. Had started stepping lightly on the floor and stopped seeking out Hashirama.

He had let them drift apart. Had looked at his baby brother who was eight and saw his adult brother and all his potential. He had taken it all for granted. That his brother would grow up to be the same person, maybe a little more friendly, allowed to be kinder, and not as harsh as the world have forced him to become.

Now he will have nothing. Because he has lost both this Tobirama and the person that he once became.

All gone. 

Are they destined to lose their families? Has Madara kept Izuna at the cost of Tobirama? 

Guilt has followed Hashirama throughout his life and he had hoped to escape some of it in this one but that is a hope dashed to pieces on the ground with Tobirama's tears. 

He had looked so small. Tobirama had cried when he understood that he had to leave and it had been like knives in Hashirama’s chest. 

He hugs his knees tight and breathes a wet sob into the fabric of his pants. 

He can’t regret encouraging Tobirama's foray into sealing because he knows it had been one of the few things his brother had always enjoyed. That he would recreate the Edo Tensei, that had been a surprise. 

The mice of living bone hadn’t been something Hashirama had ever seen before but that was the theme of the day, wasn’t it?

He had been so sure that he had avoided all the pitfalls of good intentions this time around and instead he ends up losing his brother twice over.

It cut like knives.

Hashirama stared listlessly at the passing water. The Naka river would ever run on a winding path down to the sea. It would take days but eventually the sweet water would run its course and add to the salty ocean and restart the cycle again. 

The heat of the sun would carry the moisture up into the clear blue skies and crowd together in heavy dark clouds that would release it burden and drench the trees again. 

Hashirama would still be here, rooted to the dream that is Konoha while Tobirama burnt away like fog under the morning sun. The fog might come again but it would never be the same.

He forced his legs to carry him out in the river, just to feel the water run over his feet and calves. It’s cold and Hashirama shivers. 

He is here. He has a chance to make things better. The day may seem grim but he can’t give up. He can’t.

Hashirama has made his choices and Tobirama ( his brother is dead! His brother is eleven years old and all alone!) has paid the price. 

Guilt is an old companion and Hashirama can’t remember living without it anymore.

He feels so old. He has lived and died and lived again, he is immeasurably lucky to have this second chance and things are better this time around. 

Had his brother stood beside him right now, Hashirama knows what he would have said. His brilliant brother that had looked with clearer eyes than anyone into the future that had been built. 

Hashirama knows that Tobirama would have weighed the loss of his life against his happiness and he would never have hesitated.

Tobirama would not have regretted this but Tobirama is dead and Hashirama has, with his neglect and blindness, caused so much pain. 

The guilt gnaws at Hashirama's bones and he knows that it will never go away. He will cry and it will do nothing. He will regret and it will mean nothing.

He will leave Tobirama to face the world alone and he will hate himself for it but he will do it. 

He will raise Konoha from his memory and Hashirama knows that it will not be the Konoha from his memory. It will be worse for the loss of his brother and maybe greater for the cooperation of the Uchiha clan. 

It will never be the same and Hashirama is a fool to have ever believed he could recreate the past into a better shape without any mistakes. 

He will keep on walking this road he set himself on and he will carry the pain and loss with him every step on the way. 

He has lost his brother twice over today and Hashirama longs for Mito’s iron will and unending strength. 

She had always been the strongest of them and the love she had brought into his life had been overwhelming and one of the most precious gifts he had ever received. 

When... if he meets her again he can not make the same mistakes he made with Tobirama.

Hashirama can’t rewind time and even if could he will never be able to beg forgiveness or ever lay eyes on his brother again, Hashirama will learn from his mistakes.

When Hashirama wades out of the water he sees the forest around him has grown into twisted shapes. There are bright flowers on trees and bushes, poisonous and beautiful. Thorns grow long and sharp on far too many of the trees that shouldn’t have them at all.

The ground has soaked up his grief and grown from it. It’s a hateful thing that lives inside Hashirama and he can only be grateful that he can let it out, that he can release it before it eats him up from the inside.

He doesn’t want to know what he would have become if he couldn’t. 

Hashirama can feel Madra approaching the last stretch. It was a foolish hope that Madara might have persuaded Tobirama to seek shelter with the Uchiha but Hashirama can’t feel Tobirama anymore. The swift watery chakra that is Hashirama’s brother is beyond his senses. He can only hope now, hope that his brother makes it to the Uzumaki clan. 

Please let him live.

 


 

Madara can’t decide if he is sick with fury or guilt. Whatever the feeling is that twists his stomach into knots and makes his hands tremble around the kunai he holds in a white-knuckled grip is unwelcome.

The demon that had killed Madara’s brother would never have looked at Madara with tears dripping down its cheeks. The person that Madara had spent most of his life hating would not have cried anywhere near Madara, and certainly not over some perceived idea that Hashirama didn’t love him. 

It has to be a mistake, some kind of new twisted plan to defeat the Uchiha and put the Senju clan ahead in this stupid war their fathers continue to wage. To claim that he desires peace, when all he creates is tools for war. 

Madara refuses to believe that the little demon also desires peace. It’s much more likely that Hashirama has done something that let the pale little demon that is his brother misunderstand and run with it in the completely wrong direction. 

He can’t have been banished! Madara would be the first one to say that the ideas the littlest Senju comes up with are terrifying in new, horrifying ways and are a nightmare to deal with, but they don’t deserve banishment.

Right?!

The small mice that had attacked him earlier will give him nightmares about their stubborn survival. He had needed Amaterasu to burn them away. The little brat was eleven ! He was younger than Izuna, who still messed up his math calculations. Madara couldn’t imagine how that brain worked. How did he even come up with a worse idea than his zombie jutsu! Madara didn’t want to think about it. 

Or about how small he had looked, standing between the trees and losing his battle with his tears. They had run down ruddy cheeks and dropped down from a jaw still round with baby fat.

Madara shook his head violently to clear the thoughts from it. He needed to speak with Hashirama. 

The idiot was predictably by the river and Madra angrily stomped up to him, baring his teeth in a snarl.

“What the fuck, Hashirama! What the hell just happened? What have you done!”

The idiot was stubbornly staring down into the river, flowers blooming at an alarming speed around his feet. His dark complexion was paler than usual. He looked terrible, Madara studied him in surprise. 

Hashirama looked like he had been crying. 

The demands that had been waiting on Madara’s tongue for the entire run back die a quiet death. He hadn’t allowed himself to consider the fact that Tobirama might have actually been banished. But if Hashirama was wearing the face of a man at a funeral...things must have gone horribly wrong.

Madara swallowed the unease building in his throat. This is not good and it’s not fury that’s twisting in his belly. 

“I have done nothing and that is the problem.” Hashirama’s voice is hoarse and slightly nasally, his nose clogged from crying. 

Madara hesitantly stepped close, he wants to reach out but something is holding him back. “What do you mean? Hashirama, tell me. What happened?”

Why did he choose you! What do you give him that I can’t?! Why am I not enough ?

Hashirama still doesn’t look up from the river, a leaf slowly floating by and away on the current.

“Tobirama has been banished, the variation of the Edo Tensei is taboo and the clan would not have allowed him to remain alive on Senju lands. Banishment was the only option.” Hashirama takes a sudden, harsh breath and chokes it back in a sob.

“I have lost my brother. He doesn’t believe I love him and now he’s gone !” The last is said with a shout and Madara takes a step back.

Hashirama finally turns around to face him and Madara has never seen that look on his friends face before. Hashirama's eyes are cold and flinty, his mouth an ugly slant across his face and there is anger radiating from his friend. 

“Kill yourself or kill your brother. Isn’t that what you told me all those years ago? Well you can finally be satisfied. Tobirama is dead. I will never, never, meet my brother again. Not even in the pure lands because he doesn’t exist anymore. He never will. And the Tobirama of this time is banished for transgressions he doesn’t understand, I have been a terrible brother and the chances that my eleven year old brother will survive is slim.”

Hashirama takes a step back from Madara and he takes a slow, measured breath, visibly calming himself. The trees around them shiver and grow.

Hashirama straightens and meets Madara's eyes again. Defiant, in spite of the crystal clearness of an active Sharingan. 

“My brother is dead. I have, by my own actions, driven away my brother.” Hashirama's face twists again and Madara wants to look away and hide but…

“Are we the same now? We are both the only ones left of our families now.” Hashirama blinks slowly and Madara feels like he’s judging him. 

Hashirama looks like he’s barely an adult, with limbs a touch too long and still growing.  A smooth face and almost no scars. Nothing to indicate the seasoned ninja that had been called the God of Shinobi. 

Hashirama smiles. A twisted, ugly, smile full of tears.

“I will not falter.” He says. “Will you?”

Madara can remember the long, empty years hiding in a cave. How the sun had almost turned into a memory and the long stretches of nothing that had let the creeping madness take root in his head. How he had died alone, with only a broken pawn as company, his body a weak vessel around him that had eventually broke apart and let him die. 

The fresh breath of air in lungs gone still for decades. Betrayal.

Madara drops his gaze to the wild flowers growing around his feet. He won’t make the same mistakes again. If he does then what good was this entire time endeavour? He has Izuna back. The infuriating brother that is happier and brighter than he can remember… but what is the truth anymore? 

Is this his true brother? Who is Izuna actually? That’s a road Madara won’t set foot on. That way only lies madness and doubt and if anything is to matter Madra has to learn from his life. He will love the brother he has and he will lay the ghost of his other life to rest. 

He thinks back again to how his enemy had looked at him. A face he has hated for the majority of his life, younger than he remembers from the life they had lived. Smaller, and with desperation grasping at the edges. 

Madara has never seen Tobirama cry before today, has never seen fear paint lines in his face as he had today. 

He had been shorter than Izuna. 

Tobirama had looked into the Sharingan, defiant like his brother, and cried for the loss of his entire life. 

A life bare of affection that Madara had helped create. Part of him still doesn’t care, Tobirama had killed Izuna and Madara won’t ever be able to forgive that. However, if this is a second chance Madara can’t hold the past against Tobirama before he makes his choices.

Madara was forgiven for all the death he had caused. He had faltered in his dreams of peace when Izuna had died. Madara broke and never managed to repair the shards of himself that had shattered. Even now, with his brother back and with Hashirama’s support, he was still in pieces. Madara doubts that he will ever be able to fully heal but it’s enough so far. He needs time to take all his shattered pieces and put them together into a shape he can live with. 

The sting of Hashirama words cut deep, and Madara wants to hide away from his friend. Their friendship is not the thing it had been with, unbound enthusiasm and sparkling dreams of a perfect world. 

Madara had crushed that under his foot. 

They had to rebuild it from the foundation again, fill it in with long conversations and compromises. Compromises that had Hashirama keep Tobirama away from his brother and in return they never used the jutsu that Tobirama created before he does. Madara’s fear for Izuna’s wellbeing and Hashirama’s stubborn insistence that he get to know Madara’s brother so they can communicate and learn to live side by side. 

Their friendship is better than it used to be, both of them reaching out this time, to try and create the village that had lived in both their dreams for so long.

Madara wonders how that is going to change now. 

If Madara knows anything, it’s that the loss of the people you love leaves wounds behind. It damages you and the hurt leaves scars. 

Hashirama would not falter, not even in the face of the same thing that broke Madara the last time. No, both of them have lost their last siblings, and Madara got to keep his second chance while Hashirama lost his.

Madara let go of the tight grip around his kunai and looked up at the sky. It’s a cloudy day with slashes of blue peeking out. Like someone has taken a kunai to the clouds, tearing at them to let the sun shine through. 

“I will not falter.” 

I’m sorry.









Chapter Text

Dairoku Sugihara was almost seventeen when he left his village. It was a small farming village with no name. They had grazing animals in the forest and a few fields they tried to grow rice in. 

Unfortunately the coastal parts of Fire Country don’t receive the amount of rain for rice to grow in plenty. The rice paddies always look just slightly too dry and the rain that fell was never enough.

Dairoku, had almost every early spring, looked longingly at the bare ground, before the plants started growing and blooming, wishing for the summer heat and harvest. Many evenings were spent lying on the floor, curled around a hollow stomach. 

But that is behind him now, Dairoku is leaving the village behind and starting over. His mother's grave, beside his father’s, is slowly turning green with fresh grass. The winter had kept it bare of life but with the chill thawing from the ground Dairoku could see the grass starting to sprout.

He had nothing left in the village except for angry words and disdainful eyes. 

The time is right for Dairoku Sugihara to finally walk the road to his new life! He will take his father’s staff and protect the weak and become known as the greatest warrior in Fire Country! His name will be known far and wide for his bravery! 

His mother had always said that he was brave. To stand up against all the things that sent him running home even when they scare him is brave.

Facing the unknown is brave and Dairoku is doing just that. Maybe he will save a princess or the Daimyo and he will be rewarded for his bravery! 

The thought cheered him up and Dairoku flashed the road a beaming smile. He may be poor, with only a little food in his satchel, but he is ready for anything the world will throw at him. 

He will remake himself into the person he wants to be! Brave, kind, and an amazing fighter! His name will be known far and wide, in all of the lands!

Dairoku Sugihara! Master swordsman and adventurer!

Dairoku gripped the long wooden staff in his hand and set it firmly onto the ground. He may only have his staff and no sword yet, but all legends have to begin somewhere, and this legend begins here! 

 


 

Three days later, and more rain than Dairoku has ever seen before in his life having fallen on his head, he is feeling a bit less enthusiastic. His food supply is running low and he hasn’t managed to snare even a hare. He’s soaked to the bone and he can feel his skin pruning from all the rain. He is not that far from his village, so why does the rain pour down here? Couldn’t it be bothered to move just a little bit further inland and do some actual good?

No, Dairoku is not bitter. Not at all. He’s simply… venting his frustrations, yes that’s it, venting.

He has to stay positive because the road will be long and aurdu… aourduru… ardour… difficult. A legend is not built in one day and neither will his be. 

In all the stories he heard there is either someone that dies before the journey begins, or the hero saves a person in need! Usually it’s a prince or princess but those kinds of people usually don’t end up in Dairoku’s village. 

He has lived at the edges of everything all of his life. If he had to describe it, it would be… quiet. A quiet village where the most exciting thing that happens is when the rain finally arrives and when someone falls in love with their neighbor and gets married. 

Otherwise it’s quiet. 

Dairoku wants other things for his life. If he stayed he wouldn’t have gotten married. He would have inherited his parents old house and waited for the rain to come each year, until he turned too old and fell asleep in his bed and never woke up again. 

That would not have been living. That would have been slowly dying by inches until one day he would only be going through the motions. Dead, while his body kept on breathing for another year.

Dairoku looked ahead to the road. It was a dangerous place to live. Bandits, ninjas, politics that he doesn’t understand and other things he hadn’t even heard of yet. People died on the road, died bloody and painful deaths but at least they lived!

Dairoku is taking that gamble. If he dies at least he will have tried. He will have lived before he dies.

The rain continues to fall but it’s not pushing him down anymore. It’s a call for freedom. Wet shoes are nothing in comparison.

 



He hears them before he sees them. The sound of steel ringing against steel. Telltale signs of sword fighting. 

It starts behind him, coming closer and closer and Dairoku almost expects the fight to tumble out into the path but it never does. It moves around him instead, circling around his right side and in front of him. 

His stomach drops down to his feet in a familiar sensation. Fear was an almost constant companion for most of his childhood, it doesn’t freeze him in his tracks anymore. He gripped his staff tightly in both hands and brought it up into a defensive position. 

It was most likely bandits clashing against each other, maybe even against a samurai. It could be a ninja but shinobi and kunoichi were a rare sight to see. They were few and far between if one didn’t seek them out. Even if they were there, they might not be noticeable, they could climb trees and drive you crazy with their special kind of magic. Even a young ninja was a dangerous opponent.

However the chances that Dairoku had walked into a ninja fight was slim. He doesn’t need to worry. If it was a fight between the Daimyo’s samurai and bandits then this was the opportunity he had been waiting for. He needed a teacher and the samurai were the undisputed masters of the sword. 

Therefore he followed the sounds of fighting instead of hiding like he secretly, really wanted to do. But Dairoku Sugihara was nothing if not brave, so he lifted his walking stick and followed the sounds of battle.

There was the sound of tree branches breaking and the ringing of steel against steel echoing in the forest several times before the fighters spilled out onto the open road and into view. 

There are four of them in total, three men and one much smaller form that tumbled out of the greenery. Dairoku’s first thought is that the child is in danger and one or two of the adult men are protecting them, but that changes quickly. 

He watched in stunned disbelief as all three of the adults fall back and try to surround the kid. Dairoku can’t tell if they’re a boy or a girl, not from a distance and he can’t see any defining clothes. The thing that stands out is the oversized, bright white fur that the kid is wearing across their shoulders. It almost dwarfs them as it hangs down and frames their face. 

When Dairoku thinks back to this meeting he will end up slapping himself in the face for missing such an obvious clue. All three of the men had been covered with dirt in several places, one even had his whole left side caked in mud, while the child barely had any scratches or scuff marks from fighting. However, Dairoku had never been in a real fight before and he had never been the most observant of people even before this. He doesn’t think that it’s weird, he can only see three adult men ganging up on a child and he is in a position to try and do something.

He has the chance to be the hero he wants to be. To save someone. To make a difference in the world and live.

Dairoku definitely doesn’t notice the two kunai in the kids hands.

He rushed forward and with a yell swings his staff at the closest mans head. 

It whirls over his head as the man ducks under the staff but the other end hits him square in the stomach instead when Dairoku twists to bring the staff around.. A pained breath wooshed out and the man bent in half. Dairoku brought his staff down a third time and clubbed him over the head with it. The man crumpled silently to the ground, out cold. 

Euphoria ran through his veins for one successful moment before the man with mud across half his body is upon him. The man batted away Dairoku’s staff blows with contemptuous ease. A sneer prominent on his otherwise plain face. 

He has a short sword in one hand and it is all Dairoku can do to try and stay out of its range. The edge is sharp and has nicked him several times when he had been too slow to parry or move away. 

The elation from before plunged into a heavy feeling in Dairoku’s stomach. He might not actually survive this. The thought is terrifying and all his earlier musings about death is instantly blown away. 

He doesn’t want to die!

The fear is an electric feeling in his muscles and his swings with the staff are getting wilder and less precise. Sneer face is starting to grin, showing off a startlingly white smile. 

The man suddenly feints to the left before, in a quick burst of speed, he charges forward and swings with his unarmed right hand. Dairoku tried to step back to avoid being hit but Sneer Face was faster. He takes the blow in his upper arm and it hurts. His whole arm is numb from the impact and he loosens his grip on his staff to one hand. It’s wrenched out of his grasp shortly after. 

The man keeps attacking him and drives a shoulder that feels like it’s made out of rock into Dairoku’s chest. It doesn't lift him off his feet but it sure feels like that before all the air in his lungs disappear into the void. 

He falls back hard onto the road. He might have landed on a rock because his back is trying to kill him but the most urgent feeling is to try and suck in any kind of air that seems to have rapidly vacated the area. 

Dairoku fists a hand into the fabric at the front of his shirt and tries to breathe. He can’t lay on the ground! He is in a fight and if he doesn’t move he will die! Panic is clawing at him and Dairoku kicks out at the person moving closer. 

Sneer Face nimbly side steps his feeble kicks and brings up his sword. 

Dairoku looks up at the dreary clouds and regrets leaving the village. He doesn’t want to die. He wants to see the world change and he wants so much. He can’t die here! He can’t! 

The sword doesn’t come slashing down. Sneer Face twitched slightly with his sword raised before he dropped it entirely, his hand going to clutch at his chest. Sneer Face shuddered and swallowed jerkily before coughing wetly.

Red starts running down from his mouth and the man folds down onto his knees before tipping over to the side, limbs spasming in his death throes.

Dairoku looks up at the tiny person standing above him. This has got to be the most inefficient rescue in the history of rescues, If Dairoku stands up he’s pretty sure the white haired boy won’t even reach his chin. His head would probably be level with Dairoku’s chest. Not the most glamorous start to his career as a famous adventurer. Dairoku groans in pain because his back is killing him. He definitely landed on a stone. 

The person, who is definitely a child, looks down on Dairoku’s sprawling form. 

He has red eyes! Dairoku gapes up at him in surprise. He’s heard of people with white hair and red eyes. He looks like all the colour has been drained from him and only left the red blood in his veins to give him any colour. 

He’s short and angry with a decidedly ruffled appearance. There is a smear of dirt on his nose and cheek. 

Dairoku smiles wide and happy. It must be a sign that he is on the right path! The hero always meet someone different and in danger. 

Dairoku and this strange, angry boy are going to be the best of friends. He can feel it!

 


 

“Hello! My name is Dairoku Sugihara and I am very pleased to meet you!” He bows and looks down into a pair of very big, very startled eyes. They are large in the tiny murder machine’s round face and they are very red. 

Dairoku has never seen actual red eyes before, even if he’s heard stories of people with red eyes. There’s a rumour that some ninja clan or another is supposed to have red magic eyes that grant the power to see the future. Dairoku may be from a small no name village but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. No one can see the future.

He smiles the widest, most charming smile he has and watches how the tiny murder machines tries not to expire on the spot from embarrassment.

Clearly he’s not used to praise if this is his reaction. 

It takes a lot of pointed looks and raised eyebrows before the small boy stutters out, after several aborted false starts, “Tobirama”. 

”Hello Tobirama!” Dairoku smiles and bows again. He takes a deep breath and prepares himself for his destiny. This is clearly a sign from the gods. He will follow the road of fate to wherever it leads him and he has seen the sign!

“Please allow me the honor of accompanying you on your journey!”

This is it! His whole body is tingling and Dairoku is rejoicing in his decision to leave his village. His life has finally begun! He will start his epic journey to fame and fortune and…

“No”.

What…?