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On Her Track

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Madara lifted his head from the scroll he was reading and instinctively looked in the direction of the stimulus, even if it was pointless – he was looking straight onto the wall of his newly built residence in the Uchiha compound in the freshly created Konoha. Damn for the compound being so large and walled, he thought pacing out of the room. And it wouldn't do for Uchiha clan leader to start jumping walls out of the sudden.

In brisk pace he walked down the corridor. Hashirama really splurged his chakra on these housings – how many rooms did a house need? That can put them on disadvantage during an attack, he thought pushing the doors open. No. Now they were part of a village. Any incoming attack would need to break through the wall and the system of guards. Until it reaches the living quarters, the alarm will long be sounding and those seconds that used to be so crucial when still in the clan's settlements, won't be important anymore.

Times have changed.

They were part of something bigger now.

Still, that chakra signature made Madara's instinct go on red alert. It was so different from what he was used to, to all the chakras his brain was so accustomed to that it had learned to ignore. Comparing it to a beacon would be wrong, beacons were fiery chakras of the Uchiha and powerful, vital chakras of the Senju. That one was… intricate for the lack of better wording. Complicated. Faint to the point of transparency. And foreign, definitely foreign.

Madara took a turn around the wall of Uchiha compound. The intruder went towards the village center, there where other chakra signatures were the densest. Madara closed his eyes and scanned the perimeter – were there more of them? No, he concluded with relief, just this one.

But stranger wasn't trying to quench it. Or maybe he was? Maybe it was his quenched level? No alarm rang so far, nothing indicated a violent intrusion, but it could as well be the beginning.

The foreign chakra signature moved down the street at moderate pace, occasionally stopping and meandering from one side of the market to the another. It was a market day and between the stalls and the crowd of civilians and women from shinobi clans alike Madara couldn't quite spot the person he was following.

His instinct once again urged him to just charge, push people aside and face the intruder. Old habits die so hard… He was now the major figure in the village, one of the two founding leaders. Heads were turning after him even now when he stepped between the stalls, hushed whispers behind his back. It wouldn't do for him to raise a ruckus.

But it irked him to no end that he, the head of Uchiha clan was the only one who noticed the intrusion. What were the guards doing? Did he have to handle everything himself? But admittingly, with so many people gathered in one place, so many unfamiliar faces, no guard could have an overview who belonged to the village already and who not. Sarutobi clan moved in a mere week ago. There was a constant influx of civilians from the nearby communities. Those who didn't own the rice paddies - the field-hands for rent, the youngest sons of the families – were all swarming to the growing village in hope for a better life. And security. Security from a random raid of that or another ninja clan.

And the intruder was playing his part well – he wasn't moving fast, he wasn't molding his chakra. What was his objective? Did he want to get to the heart of the village and launch the attack there? Or was it a reconnaissance only? A probing of their security measures? Gathering intel about their strength? If it was the latter, then Madara wished him good luck. Their strength was changing from day to day, and even Madara himself had no idea what would it be the next day. Inuzuka clan negotiations where hanging in a sensitive stand-still, the letters were sent just yesterday to the Homura clan. Aburame agreed a week ago, but then three days later came a rumour that they have been approached by a newly-formed Iwa and now they were playing their time and checking if they could get better conditions in the Land of Stone. Aburame's envoy vehemently denied the rumours, but what was the truth no one knew.

Madara navigated the crowd trying to triangulate the foreign presence. The chakra was very hard to spot, he had to give the guards that – it was like a lacey cloth, half-transparent, not quite solid. As if woven.

He reached the other end of the market. No sign of a foreign ninja. Madara closed his eyes – the chakra was there, right next to him, to his left. He spun. Down the narrow street going from the marketplace a pale green kimono just disappeared behind the corner. A kunoichi?

The signature started to move faster. Was she running? Did she notice she was being followed? Several turns and several narrow streets further Madara realized he was making a circle round the market, landing there where he came from. It was difficult to navigate the maze – he only felt the direction of the chakra, but lacked the knowledge about the streets' layout. Embarrassing, it was supposed to be his home turf, but Hashi built this district just last week, and of course the idiot couldn't make the scaffold rectangular. No. It had to be a freaking labyrinth. 'Organic' the idiot of a Senju called it. 'As if it grew on its own'. It was one of few times when his and Tobirama's reactions were the same – a simultaneous eyeroll. Hashirama didn't even notice.

So now, if he was still trying to behave in restrained way, he had to navigate the maze. The glimmer of woman's chakra was meandering in front of him, but she was still out of sight.

Finally, she stopped. Slowly, Madara neared to the wall of the house and peeked from behind the corner. By the wall of Uchiha compound, on a sandy square, the woman in a green kimono was kneeling next to a small, maybe five-year old boy from his clan. The brat was grinning at her cheerfully as he held a small package with both his hands. What did she give him?! Was it an explosive? Madara scanned the surroundings - just couple of kids digging with sticks in the sand. Nothing that couldn't be spared. And the package didn't look like an explosive. The woman lowered her head and must have asked the kid something as he made a thoughtful face and then started responding with childish agitation.

Madara stepped onto the square.

He didn't see the woman's face, she was with her back to him. But from the stiffening in her shoulders he knew she noticed him. In one swift movement, she shifted behind the kid, crossing her arm across his chest.

Smart. Now he cannot fireball her away.

For a moment they stared at each other. She had very green eyes, as full of greenness as they were of determination. Her hand was clutching at boy's clothing – she was well aware that this flimsy human shield was the only thing protecting her from his attack. Then, not letting her eyes off Madara, she smirked.

Then her eyes widened as if in fear and for a moment she confused him with such contradictory reactions. He was so focused on her face that he noticed a hand movement too late – the woman weaved complicated, unknown to him seal. An attack?

No. Just a Body-Flicker. The woman disappeared in a puff of smoke. Madara bit down a curse. Coming up to the boy he simultaneously scanned the surrounding.

As he thought – she didn't flicker far - her chakra appeared just a block away. He was done playing cautious. Madara ripped the package from boy's hand and jump on the roof. He would get her.

But when he was half way to her location another burst of chakra flared, and her signature disappeared. Madara stopped abruptly and focused. He couldn't sense her presence. With that weird transparent chakra of her she must have gotten out of his radius. Unbelievable.

Fuming, Madara turned back and headed towards the kids playgrounds next to the compound's wall. The kid was still there, digging with a stick in the dirt with rather dejected face expression. When he saw Madara he pouted even more. He was probably still angry for Madara robbing him of his gift. It was hard to imagine that he, himself, must have also one day been so naïve and simple-minded.

Madara crouched next to the kid. He should summon all his wits to appear gentle and get through with the brat.

"What's your name," asked Madara. Too roughly, the kid would get scared. "Little one," he added after a momentary pause to smoothen the impression.

The kid stared at his dirty feet and mumbled something incomprehensible.

"What was that? I didn't hear you."

"Kagami," whispered the kid trying to hide his head between his shoulders. This whole talking-to-kids really wasn't his forte… Madara sighed and sat down in the dirt by the boy. The brat looked at him with alarm.

"So, Kagami," attempted Madara once again, "can you tell me what did that woman do?"

"Nothing," mumbled the kid. "Nothing wrong... She was very nice and you scared her away!"

"If she escaped at my sight that only means she had something to hide, do you think? And now I want you to tell me exactly what she did and what you talked about."

The kid pouted more. "She was nice. And you're not! You took away my mochi!"

"Your mochi?" Madara blinked and retrieved the small package from his pocket. White paper with a seal of the wagashi seller that settled down as one of the first artisans. He hailed from the capital, but was seeing more commerce opportunities among the common people as opposed to nobles. Madara unpacked the bundle. A mochi indeed. A sakura mochi from the look of it. The kid grabbed at the food but Madara was faster. He removed it from his range.

"Hey, that's mine! She gave it to me!" protested the boy.

The kid clearly didn't realize that he was talking to clan leader. But maybe it was for the better.

"You received food from a stranger and you were planning to eat it? Just like that?" asked Madara. Brat stared at him in defiance. "Did you consider it can be poisoned? Is that what a shinobi would do?"

The boy furrowed his eyebrows. "But she was so nice…"

Madara suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. So trusting and gullible. As if he was seeing that idiot Hashirama… If that was how the new generation of Uchiha was, then they surely would fit well into the village. They had no chance of surviving on their own anyhow.

"Remember this: a shinobi should always look underneath the underneath. She just met you, right? Why would she give a mochi to a random child?"

The kid made a sour face. Maybe not a helpless case in the end. "She was a shinobi? Is that why she disappeared?"

"It was a body-flicker technique. But pretty lousily performed. One could be so much quicker about it." Madara saw a glimmer of interest in brat's eyes. "Maybe I'll teach you how to do it properly if you finally start answering my questions." He saw the kid was considering the offer. "Alright. So, let's start from the beginning. She came to you and then what did she do?"

"She asked my name and my clan."

"And you told her?"

"Of course! Uchiha clan is the strongest!"

Gods give him patience so that he doesn't explode… An ages-long rule of not discerning your identity to strangers already forgotten.

"And what then?"

"Then she asked how am I liking it in the village and I told her that very much because there are many kids to play."

"That's… nice… And then?"

"And then she asked if my parents like it as well."

"And what did you say?"

"That my mum is happy that there is the market here. And that dad is at home more. And then she gave me the mochi and then you appeared and ruined everything! Now I want my mochi back!"

"For the last time: you cannot have it, it might be poisoned."

The kid started crying. "No, it's not! No, it is not!"

Madara decided his patience just ran out. He stood up and headed to the market. First – the wagashi shop.

The seller remembered the intruder, as he confirmed with a dreamy expression that earned him an elbow to this side from his wife. The woman had been asking about availability of mochi rice, and rice in general especially in the times just before the new harvest. And about the prizes. And how was the business going. She had paid with capital money.

Even more confused, Madara left the shop.

It turned out that she as well had spoken to an old lady running the fish-stand about the delivery days of fresh fish. And the prizes. And to the cloth-seller about his reasons of moving the business to Konoha.

The mochi turned out not to be poisoned as a dog and a cat, that Madara force-fed it to, proved.

And he was in complete darkness about the woman's incentives. And her identity.

He didn't tell it to anyone, mostly because his pride didn't allow him to. Later he ended up telling himself that as several days had passed, the trail was cold anyway. But he kept thinking about that irking encounter from time to time. He was also pretty sure the girl wasn't wearing a henge – her coloring was so bizarre that during every outing Madara was on a look-out for a combination of pink and green. And for her chakra signature that even more unique – not quite ninja-like, yet developed in a way. She was one big puzzle.

Until some weeks later, on a trip back from the capital of Land of Fire, Madara spotted a glimmer of familiar chakra. He made his squad stop and spread his senses. The signature was there – faint and far away, and different than that woman's but of the same woven, diffused kind.

Madara sent the squad away and stayed to investigate. He tracked down a man with that chakra without any problems, and followed him to a small, hidden deep in the forest settlement. A settlement unguarded by any barrier seals nor with protective walls. A poor, civilian village on the first look of it. But all inhabitants bore that strange type of chakra.

He prepared an emergency camp up in the crown of the biggest tree he could find in the perimeter, set up barrier seals all around the trunk and on the branches creating virtually a cage to sleep in, summoned a hawk (thought admittingly an owl would have been much more useful) and managed to steal a couple of hours of shallow slumber before the rising sun woke him up.

The next day he paid heed to the round-abouts of the settlement. There were crops planted under the trees – in half-shade which was surprising at first, but understandable at the second thought if one considered how close to the Land of Wind this area lay. Villagers worked on the fields over the day, moving in groups of four to six people. Around the noon he spotted the girl. She was carrying basket of harvested fruit towards a larger building, apparently a communal storage. Nothing of her behavior indicated her being a kunoichi, but Madara was sure – it was the same girl. Even without the Sharingan he would have remembered.

Of course, he could have barged in, terrorized the villagers, and demanded the answers. And torture couple of hostages in case someone would be inclined to play a hero. But somehow… he didn't want to. That whole village-founding business was having strange effects on him, Madara concluded. It must have been Hashirama's influence.

So he spent another two nights in the tree – it was getting damn uncomfortable – until on the third day he saw the girl walking into the forest. Alone.

When he grabbed her from behind, muffling her scream with his hand, he felt an odd dose of satisfaction. He made a quick job of binding her hands behind her back, gagging her with a strip of cloth ripped from her own sleeve and teleporting them deeper into the forest. A rudimentary silencing jutsu spun between the trees, the girl bound to a tree with a length of rope and he was ready for interrogation.

She glared daggers at him when he removed the gag.

"So," said Madara conversationally sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of her, "I believe I don't have to describe everything I can do to you. I bet you have enough imagination." The girl reluctantly nodded. "So I suggest you start talking without further ado. Let's get straight to the point. What have brought you to Konoha?"

The girl gaped. "What?"

"Didn't you understand the question? Why were you spying in my village?"

The girl blinked. "I wasn't... spying…"

"Then what exactly were you doing?"

"You came after me because you thought I am a threat?!" The disbelief in girl's voice sounded just too genuine. And Madara was a bit irked that she didn't seem particularly afraid of him.

"I think it will be time that you answer some questions instead of posing them."

The girl tilted her head. "Is that what you want from me? Answers? You are a very gracious abductor."

It was Madara's time to stare in disbelief. He had never met such a cheeky woman.

"The answer is very easy – my people are considering joining one of those newly-formed villages. And we wanted to know how is life there. If it will be a good decision for us. That's all."

"Shinobi clans negotiate openly, otherwise it is an act of hostility."

"But we're not ninja!"

"Bullshit. You used jutsu. You have a developed chakra system, so do others in your village. If you want to lie than do it smarter."

"We're not!"

"Infiltration of a ninja village is a declaration of war."

The girl paled. "We meant no hostility! You have to believe me! We are just looking for a good place to live! You must understand!" She pushed against the bounds as if trying to lean towards him. "We made reconnaissance in the Hidden Sand already! We wanted to know a bit more before we come out of our hiding! You have to believe me!"

"Hidden Sand? And they didn't catch you?"


"Good to know," he murmured Madara to himself. "Did the man that was in the Sand had same abilities as you do?"

"What abilities?"

"Your ninjutsu."


"Are you stupid? Or are you trying to make me angry on purpose?"

The girl paled again. "No! I'm not! I wasn't using any jutsu!"

"Body flicker. How is that not jutsu?"

"Jutsus are for war! All those fire-spewing and water dragons and wind that cuts through the flesh! All those horrible things that you do! Are arts are different!"

"Fire spewing and water-dragons are ninjutsu, and so is body flicker."

Girl blinked. "Those are just our ways of escape! Our anzenkikan-waza! Those are not ninjutsu!"

Madara closed the distance between and grabbed girl's chin. "Who are you people exactly?"

The girl gulped. "We are called Haruno. People of the spring. We live in this forest. We live from what we grow…"

"And…? What do you need those coming-back-to-safety methods for?"

"We were running away from other clans. We never fought, that craft is foreign to us! So over the years we perfected the art of hiding and escaping."

"And…? You seemed quite at home in the buzzling village… Not a girl torn out of the deep forest."

Girl's eyes escaped to the side. "Since we've been hiding and escaping for so long, we got pretty good at it. So, sometimes, to earn more coin we offer our services as spies… But only to the merchants and daimyos! Not to you, not to the people of violence!"

Madara sat back on his heels. Ok, that was an explanation that made sense. Girl's semi-translucent chakra suited pretty well to the tasks, she was virtually invisible for all, save the best, sensors. Yet, unlike a person quenching their chakra, as shinobi did for stealth, the girl still she had full access to hers. Now, from up-close it seemed like a lace spread broad due to how much space in-between there was left. Madara wondered what would happened it the fibers of her chakra got thicker? Would she have huge chakra reserve?

"So… will you untie me now?" suggested the girl. Really, quite some cheek. "I won't escape…"

"You don't seem very upset by kidnapping…" commented Madara.

"Well, if the answers are all that you want… That is actually really an easy kidnapping. I provided you all, and we don't have anything to hide. Our intentions are honest, but seeing how much you overreacted I will advise the elders against joining the village."

Madara ignored her remark about 'overreacting', he was never called out like that and he refused to dwell longer on that. To show that he wasn't overreacting he proceeded to unbound her from the tree. "So, what kind of kidnapping were you expecting? Are you so experienced in it?" he quipped.

"Oh, I am. You see, my colouring makes me a good target. When I was fourteen my prize on slave market was ten thousand ryō. I don't know if by now it has risen or fallen…"

"It has fallen. Younger ones are more expensive."

The girl pouted in response, Madara concluded with satisfaction. She was really far too cheeky.

"And how come that you know your prize so exactly?"

"Oh, I was kidnapped twice already. Once I was even sold. That is where this ten thousand ryō number come from… It is because of those kidnappings that I worked hard on my escaping skills."

"So, how are you still here? Whole and unharmed?" He had to admit that with that statement she surprised him.

"Oh, the slavers aren't that bad, they don't damage their wares. And if you play docile and scared enough, they even unbound you and make you cook their meal…" finished the girl fiddling with her torn sleeve.

Madara arched his eyebrow encouraging her to go on.

"Well…" she dragged smiling. "I poisoned their meal, of course."

"Thank you for the warning. I will make sure not to eat anything that you will serve me."

The girl laughed. "What makes you think I will serve you food?"

"Won't you? I was camping on the tree waiting to single you out from the crowd for three days."

It surprised her. "And why should I be grateful for it?"

"Because alternatively I could have set your village on fire and save myself the bother." His words sure were threatening, but he couldn't quite muster a correct tone. Somehow it sounded like teasing. That was strange. He never did any teasing. With anyone.

"I see," answered the girl and sent him a smile. "So…" she mused. "three days, huh? Then why don't you overnight in our village, and get some proper food and sleep?"

Entering the settlement was awkward. People were just too afraid for his liking. He never raided civilian villages, and during the outings to the other clan's villages he was met with fear but the one mixed with aggression. Different kind of fear.

The girl - Sakura, she as she introduced herself - had him settle in her house, in a spare room that reminded more a closet than a room. Girl's mother was terrified and so were her siblings. The atmosphere in the hut was so oppressive that Madara immediately wanted to get out. To his luck, the girl was not against his company, it seemed. She gave him a tour around the village (pretty empty, with scared faces peeking from the doors and windows) and then through their forest-agriculture system to a river with a picturesque waterfall.

"You do know that your anzenkikan-waza are simply jutsu?" Madara picked up the previous topic when they were sitting at the river bank. "They even have names. You use your chakra to perform them, just like us," said Madara.

Sakura looked at him, confused. "But jutsu are for killing…"

"Everything that uses chakra is a jutsu. And you can use it for fighting but also for all kinds of other things. Spying, creating, building, healing." Madara stood up and took several steps on the tumbling water of the rapid. Girl's face was full of awe, he concluded with satisfaction. "All kinds of things," he gestured at the water under his feet. "all those things you can do with chakra. And you have a very developed chakra network."

"I have a chakra network?"

"You do. Just that you don't use it consciously, it seems. Which is quite amazing, because it means that you can perform jutsu instinctively, you must have an inborn proclivity, some form of talent…" With the corner of his eye he saw Sakura smiling. She liked the compliment. "Can you tell me how do perform your anzenkikan-waza? If you are thinking about joining us that would be good to know more about each other…" he saw skepticism creep on Sakura's face. "A token of trust after you came spying on us, if you will?"

"Inviting you to my house wasn't a token of trust enough?"

"Given your experience in poisoning, that's hardly a sign of good will," he quipped and the girl laughed. "Plus, I'm just curious."

"I'm calling up my emotions. The most basic ones, those that we share with animals. Fear, panic of a hunted animal. I trigger this state even if the rational part of my brain knows that thanks to my abilities, I have a route of escape. Paradoxically, it is exactly that short-circuit of panic that creates my way out. Then I feel a surge of power, I concentrate and then it happens.

"I wonder what would happen if you trained properly…"

"Train? I've never ever considered it, I always thought all that horrible, cruel shinobi stuff, but if you're now saying that it is for all kind of things…" she put her fingernail between her teeth. "We can for sure make use of some of those things…"

"Want to try?"

She looked at him. "Would you share your knowledge with me? All altruistically?"

Madara shrugged. "I can afford it."

"In what way?"

"You or your people will never be a threat to me and mine."

Sakura arched her eyebrow. "Overconfidence was the downfall of many great men."

He first showed her how to mold her chakra, how to summon it. She in principle knew it, she just needed to do learn to put her volition into the act. Madara theorized that her clan's techniques were based on spiritual energy combined with whatever small part of physical energy it dragged along.

He told her about chakra pathway system and tenketsu, and went through all those basic exercises they were obliged to do as kids – recognizing the flow, speeding up the flow, directing it.

The overnight stay elongated to two days, then to three… On the third day Sakura's family stopped choking on the food when he was leaving his closet. But still he preferred not to stay in the village, so to the forest they went, onto the clearings, or at the river's bank.

Sakura lacked any form of bodily training, so her low physical energy was a limiting factor for her. He had a really sense of achievement when he convinced her to practice basic katas argumenting that they were training the fitness and not only necessarily combat abilities. It was a long time since he had to actually discuss and argue with someone. In the clan no one dared for a long time already, since Izuna's death there was no one who stood up against him. His eternal Mangekyō and unsavory rumors about he got it, might have been at least part of the reason. And this girl was surprisingly opinionated and he had to actually make an effort in argumentation.

Nevertheless, she was making a swift progress. Once taught about chakra, she was astonishingly skilled in directing it. It came to her naturally, chakra almost seemed to listen to her will as her hands and feet were. And Madara just couldn't stop marveling at how the energy flickered and flared at her command, firing and filling up that lace-like chakra signature of her. And the more she trained the thicker were the threats of her aura. He almost regretted it loosing at subtlety, but he could already see where it was going – if trained properly Sakura's chakra reserves could be huge.

During the breaks in the training they talked about all kind of things. It was a new experience as well to talk with a woman about stuff, to just converse. All the issues he was ever discussing were with men. He almost didn't remember holding a substantial conversation with a woman since his mother had died. He was never the one for idle talk, and had he been, he could imagine only having those with fellow shinobi. What could a woman say that would be of any interest to him? How to swaddle infants?

Yet Sakura had a lot to say – she had stories to tell, she had opinions. She knew things about civilian society he never gave any attention to – the politics of the capital, the fractions on court, new movements like that religion originating from the east continent or that invention that was allowing making copies of scrolls in almost unlimited amounts. And she had own opinions about all these – her points of view, preferences and reflections about long-term results. He was starting to think she had quite a lot to say in her village.

"So how will your clan decide which village to join?" he asked one day – the sixth as far as he recalled, but he stopped keeping track of time that exactly by then.

"First we will decide if to join?" Sakura tilted her head in response. "But to be honest, it seems we won't have much choice. It's that or a complete marginalization. I can already see the wars that we're up to – they will roll through the land, and if we're not a part of a larger community, we won't survive it."

"Wars? We are uniting the clan to prevent wars!"

"There will be just wars on a different scale. Much bigger scale."

Madara kicked a stone. He also had such a budding suspicion.

"And how did you like in Konoha?"

"Oh, I liked it. Common people seem happy. Ninja weren't messing with them."

"We need common people. We realized it really soon in the process of building of the village. We need people that would construct, maintain the infrastructure, trade. And craftsmen too, with so many ninja's we cannot manufacture the gear on our own as we did in the past. And people born civilian can still become ninja, it is not in the blood, but in the training. Of course, certain abilities are inborn, but a lot you can just train. And who knows what potential may hide in people that seem completely common." He glanced at Sakura. "Luckily incorporating civilians isn't as difficult as incorporating new clans."

"Why is it difficult?" she asked conversationally splashing her feet in the water. Her yukata was hitched high up and he could see an unusually much of her legs. It was making him slightly unconcentrated. "Because you used to be blood-enemies?"

"Well, our feuds – except for the one that my clan had with Senju – don't run so deep. We are mercenaries – once hired here, another time there. I often fought in alliance with people whom I fought against a year earlier under a different contract."

"Then why?"

"They all want to negotiate the best position. The largest possible influence. If you let them feel that you are not respecting them, or plan to neglect them in decision making – they get wary. The clan heads want to keep their power, and they want to have a say in village matters. That's why I would prefer more civilians…"

"And how do you deal with all these clan heads?"

"Badly. So far everyone thinks Senju and Uchiha want to dominate the scene. And since the leader of Senju – his name is Hashirama…"

"Yes I know. I did my research," interrupted Sakura.

Right, he was speaking with a spy in the end. "So, since Hashirama married an Uzushio princess," continued Madara, "now there is talk that he doesn't care about the local clans and the mood is rather sour. Hashirama tries to fix it by arranging a marriage of his younger brother to the next most powerful clan, but it is going badly. That selfish prick of a Senju is trying to wiggle out it. Which I don't really understand because the girl they offer is very pretty." Shimura girl was actually quite a beauty with her long, lustrous hair and haughty demeanor of a princess. She looked almost like an Uchiha. Hmmm, maybe that was what was putting Tobirama off. Madara almost laughed at the realization.

"It sounds a lot like the daimyo court!" commented Sakura. "Same endless struggles for the favour of those in power."

"Is it? I wouldn't even care, but it can create created a dangerous precedence. The next clan joining will demand the same…"

"And this is dangerous why?"

"Because Hashirama doesn't have more brothers…"


"And it may mean that they will start to pressure me."

"Why would it be so bad? Everyone has to marry at some point…"

"Oh no. I don't thinks so. But maybe nothing will come out of this idea... The next clan joining is such that won't want their kekkai genkai to be besmudged by outsiders. And even less to let those kekkai-genkai-holding kids out of their hands…" Madara couldn't hold the knee-jerk reaction back when thinking about pompousness of the Hyūga. He only hoped that the Sarutobi clan wouldn't want to make a statement through demanding a marriage alliance. He was at the negotiations in Sarutobi village and all the girls serving at the feast – and they must have been girls from the main families judging by their white skin and undamaged hands - looked like crosses between a monkey and a rat.

Madara sighed. Maybe it won't come to this. "And my clan doesn't want my blood diluted."

"Why? Are you one of those who have special inborn powers? Those kekkai-genkai?"


"And because of that you only marry within the clan?" Sakura's eyebrows traveled up.

"Yes? How else?"

"Don't you have a lot of stillbirths? Sickly children? Couples that remain childless for a long time?"

Madara glanced up. He never thought about that. But women were indeed losing their unborn children a lot. A woman going around heavy with child and no life babe ever appearing was almost a common sight. Maybe Sakura had a point there… "Anyway, I don't even want to marrying within the clan. It makes no sense. Uchiha blood won't improve my offspring. I, myself, bring to the table all that Uchiha can bring. Crossing me with another won't enhance it further. There is no further. Only a different ability could improve something."

It had been at least two weeks. And he really should be coming back. Why did he even linger so long in that shitty little place? The Sakura's chakra was intriguing for sure, and Konoha could use more people, but neither of those would normally be reason enough for Uchiha Madara to invest two weeks of his life.

He was leaving the next day, it was already decided. He dallied too long.

Sakura insisted that they went towards the waterfall on the last evening. He didn't quite understand the reasons, especially as it looked like her mother killed a chicken in morning and the fresh meat was to be had. But Sakura insisted so they went. She led them to a viewpoint above the ravine, a place that was baking in sun all day long, so even now, during the sunset, the stones were still warm.

They sat down and none of them spoke for a while. Madara didn't have anything to say, and honestly was wondering if something would be left from this chicken once they returned. What was surprising was that Sakura was silent as well – she always had something to say, silence was not her friend.

And then she broke it with the most unusual question.

"If I asked you to give me something to remember you by, would you?" she asked turning and leaning towards him.

Madara raised his eyebrows. "No reasonable person, and definitely no ninja would agree on such a thing without knowing the request."

Sakura's entire body minutely retreated. As if what he said hurt her.

"But what would you want from me?" he asked trying to keep his tone mild to blunt the blow. Sakura lowered her eyes. She was always so bold, why was she playing coy out of sudden? Madara grabbed her chin and made her look at him. "If you need something, if you think I have something that may be useful for you, just name it, don't make such a big affair out of it."

For a split of second she gazed at him, her eyes seemed bigger than usual, as of some very young animal. And then she quickly leaned in and kissed him full on the lips. He was so stunned that he failed to react in any way. She moved away and looked at him from the shortest possible distance. What a peculiar way to see a person. And then she leaned back in and this time her lips connected more decisively. She opened her mouth and let her lower lip graze against his. She was soft and he could feel her breath. Following some strange, novel reflex he moved his lips against hers.

The tension seemed to leave her body, as she opened her mouth even more, deepening the kiss. Her hand travelled up and encircled his nape. He almost didn't notice it, so enveloped he was in that new sensation of the wetness of her mouth against his. He noticed though very much that she had his neck in her hold when she started to lean back and back, until he had to prop himself with his hand not to lose balance. And then she pulled him even more in.

She didn't have much strength, not at all in comparison to him, so he couldn't really blame her for the fact that he ended up lying on her. He did it out of his own volition – he just didn't want to let go off her lips nor to oppose the hold she had on him.

He tried putting his weight on his forearms, afraid not to crush her, but it was still only the smaller part of it. She wiggled under him and opened her legs – now he could place the weight of his lower body directly on the ground, he realized with relief. Sakura molded into him, he could acutely perceive the planes of her body under his, her soft mounds pressing to his chest, the warmth between her legs that he was nested against… That warmth was making him lose his focus, almost forget about the kiss, even though it was so deep now that their tongues kept touching.

Sakura moved her hips in a languid motion. And then again. Soon he realized she was intending to keep doing that – slowly rub herself against his groin. Which had already a dramatic effect – he got hard so quickly as never before. She must have felt it, his erection was pressing directly against her core. Madara was sure she would move away, it would be a perfect time to move away, take couple of deeper breaths and come back to the village.

But she surprised him again. She rubbed herself against the tip of his cock as if deliberately letting it slide from her front to her middle and back. Madara broke the kiss and hid his face in the crook of her neck. It took all of his willpower not to respond, not to snap his hips into her. The flaps of her yukata slid to the side and he would swear that apart from the heat he felt wetness there. Was it even possible through all the clothing they were wearing?

"Sakura," he said lifting his head. "I think we should go back."

She blinked at him and stared. "Why? Don't you like it?"

"That has nothing to do with what I like. We shouldn't be doing it much longer, that's serves no purpose."

"Purpose? Does there need to be a purpose in it? Can't a person simply want it?"

"Are you telling me that you want it? I cannot offer you anything, I'm the head of my clan, and you are not even from Konoha… I cannot marry you!"

Sakura burst with laughter. "Thank you!" she said and kissed him full on the lips. "Thank you! I was so desperate, so sad that you're leaving. My gut was clenched past two days and now you've made me laugh." She leaned back, her laughter disappearing. "I know you cannot marry me. I know you're leaving. I know that there is a good chance we won't see each other ever again. That's exactly why I want it." She maneuvered her hand between her legs, moved her robe aside and found the lacing of his trousers.

"Why would you want it?" With last shreds of his will Madara latched to this question. Her hand against his crotch was making it borderline impossible to formulate thoughts.

"Why? To have something to remember when you're gone…"

There was still a voice in his head screaming at him that he shouldn't. It was screaming when Madara was unlacing his trousers. It was shouting even louder when he took himself out and pushed Sakura's underwear to the side. He ignored it. And when he sank halfway into the hot, wet tightness, the voice wasn't there anymore. He had to brace himself not to plunge to the end, to go slowly, or… He didn't really know what to do, how to make it the experience she wished for.

"That's alright," she said, stroking his cheek, "you're not hurting me. You can move. Just move."

Three more plunges into her depths and he could think a bit clearer. The impossible tension lessened somewhat. "You're not… innocent?"

She stopped responding with her hips and he felt as she tensed, also around him. "No. I had a fiancée… Two years ago he simply didn't return from the mission… We looked for him, but never found a trace…" She looked to the side and swallowed audibly. "Does it bother you?"

Did it? Madara honestly never considered such an option. Marriages were to propagate the clan; he never imagined that women would want to engage in these affairs outside the claims their husbands had to them. The women in the clan certainly didn't look like they wanted to have anything to do with men in general. But did he mind? She would be able to compare him with another man – what a strange thought. After a moment of puzzlement, Madara came to a quick conclusion that it didn't matter. He wasn't afraid of comparisons.

In response, he picked up the pace. Sakura wound first her arms around his shoulders, then legs around his waist. He was sliding freely, her meeting him halfway. Her breath was getting raspier, morphing into strange half-whimpers, half-pants. They sounded almost as if pained, but he assumed they weren't sign of discomfort as she kept working with her hips at the same pace. And he was founding they bizarrely arousing.

But he wanted more, he wanted to reach deeper. He grabbed her leg, bending knee to her side, and grabbed at her shoulder for better purchase. Now could snap his hips more. He did, simultaneously pushing at her shoulder. He reached deep and she screamed.

It felt amazing. He would come any moment, any moment now, she felt so tight, she squeezed him so much. With last shard of willpower Madara pulled out. Sakura gasped in protest, her eyes snapping open. Oh, how he wanted to come back to that wet, hot channel, to plunge inside once more. Instead he grabbed the cloth he used for binding his haori, and looking at her, at her flushed face, at her spread legs, he pumped his cock with another hand.

Not letting her eyes off her, he came, spilling into the material. He came in long spurts, so much as never before, her surprised expression prolonging his release. When in the end he was all spent, Madara tossed the cloth to the ground – he will have to burn it later - and slumped heavily next to her.

"Why did you stop?" she asked with reproach. "I was so close!"

Madara snapped his eyes open.

"Close? So, you know where you were going?" Was there pleasure in the act also for a woman? He always assumed there was a lack of discomfort at best.

She sent him a look that would make many men cower.

Well, apparently there was something that she now missed that was making her so irritated. What should he do? He wanted nothing more than to drift away, to gather her to his chest and just fall into sleep. But it seemed that wouldn't do.

"Then show me the way… Will you?" he asked shifting closer to her.

She grabbed his hand and put it onto her mound. Then placed her own on his and started to press gently. He took the cue and moved his fingers. He didn't know the track he was following, but he must have done something right as she responded with the hips. She was so wet under his fingers, he couldn't believe it. He leaned down to capture her lips. She was moaning into his mouth, writhing under his hands and Madara felt himself growing harder again. No, that wouldn't do either. Now, thinking a bit clearer, his paranoia kicked in and he started to consider if it wasn't a clever ploy to steal the Sharingan. But only for a split of second, because then she led his finger inside of her. When she led in another one, he forgot all his doubts.

He tentatively curled and twisted his fingers before deciding that pumping motion would be the best. Good choice, apparently. She seemed to like it.

"Faster," she panted.

He obliged, but his all into the task, actively fending off his own desire. She began to arch, gasping for air, her eyes tightly shut. And then, with a shrill cry, she pressed her hand to his palm over her mound, tilted her hips and shivered. Couple of seconds later, couple of seconds that felt like eternity, she laxed, opened her eyes and gently pushed his hand away.

She lied breathing heavily and Madara was coming to conclusion that even more then burying himself inside of her again, he wanted to see her in the moment of her bliss once more.

Sakura turned to the side and cuddled to his chest adjusting her robe against the evening cold.

Evening cold. It was almost night.

There won't be a next time, they should get up and head back.

They reached the village half an hour later. The next morning he left for Konoha.

It was four months later, when a frail-looking man asked for the audience with Hokage. He announced a desire of one Haruno clan to join the village of Konoha and was asking for conditions. Madara made sure that the conditions presented were most favourable.

Six moths after the memorable night she stepped her foot within Konoha's walls once again. They were married three days later.