It is a deceptively peaceful night.
Amidst the quiet, a figure tears through the trees, uncaring of the sticks and leaves that whip at her face. Her foot steps are laced with terror and despair as she speeds up upon nearing the village.
"Please don't let me be too late. Please don't let me be too late." She murmurs in a desperate mantra as she wills her legs to go faster. The moment she enters though, she freezes, horrified at the slaughter she sees.
There is no sound, no movement, no single survivor left spared from the merciless slash of a blade. In the usually festive village, there are only bodies, blood and the lingering echoes of what might have been a scream and a desperate fight for survival.
She averts her eyes from the young mother who lies motionless in a pool of blood, a bag of groceries lying innocuously by the side. Turning her attention to the child held protectively in her arms, she touches a cheek, surprised to find it still warm.
There is no heart beat.
Far worse are the states of those who tried to fight back. Their bodies are slashed beyond recognition with the smells of burning flesh. She spots the body of a middle-aged man that may have been her uncle lying face-up at the open doorway of his house and knows without doubt the fate of those inside.
There is no one to be saved here.
With that thought in mind, she leaves for home quickly with dwindling hope in her heart.
In the silence, her heartbeat is loud enough to be heard.
"Shisui...nii...san...why?" She arrives just in time to hear the choked whisper. There is no time to pay mind to the piled up bodies of her parents, a familiar katana skewered through them both.
She slams the doors open, panting hard from the exertion of continued chakra use and the hard pressure in her chest.
The sight that greets her stuns her. In the middle of the hallway stands Shisui, eyes cold and remorseless, a katana held loosely in his right hand, blood still dripping off it. Her younger brother, eyes wide and absolutely terrified of the stranger before him is struggling helplessly against the hand pinning him by the neck to the wall. It is with heaviness in her heart that she knows he the only one she has any hope of saving now.
As she slides her katana out of its sheath, her heart is pounding hard, the stone in her stomach is heavy with dismay. There is a well-known fact in the village. In any test or exam, Uchiha Shisui will never fail to be the best there is and as long as he is there, Uchiha Sasuke will always be second to him.
Shisui is smarter than her, faster than her, stronger than her. He is the best, and she has never beaten him before without him letting her win. (She knows he does whenever he gets that fondly exasperated look in his eye because otherwise she would never win.)
She still doesn't hesitate to strike the one she knows to be her better.
He moves to block her with a force that makes her hand tremble with exertion, his other hand releasing Itachi to fall to the floor with a hard thump.
It takes all of her willpower to slam down on the desire to run over to check on him when he lets out a cry of pain and curls up quivering.
There will be time for that later, she hopes desperately. She prays to every higher being that has even the slightest conscience for that to be true. If she even spares a moment to consider the alternative, she wouldn't have the strength to keep going.
Blows are parried but slowly she is forced to go further on the defense as his slashes become deeper, sharper, faster.
When she finally gets a chance to look him in the eye, her breath catches in her chest upon seeing the mangekyou and her grip on her katana falters.
It is her first time seeing it outside a scroll.
Her moment of distraction comes at a high cost. Shisui knocks her katana from out of her hands with one sweep and she is slammed to the wall in a position not to different from what she witnessed earlier.
The hand around her throat tightens when she tries to speak and her visions blackens as her head spins with dizziness.
"You shouldn't have come back, Sasuke," he snarls.
She disagrees but can't reply either way and she finds just enough strength to slide her hand slowly into her pouch as she weakly grips a kunai in her hand. She chokes as the hand grips harder.
Never before has the difference between their body sizes seemed so stark.
"Did you think you could possibly defeat me?" He continues, the pinwheel in his blood red eyes spinning mockingly at the sight of her own sharingan.
Whether it was her own pathetic wishful thinking or reality, she imagines she sees a flicker of hesitation and resignation in his eyes.
"Sasuke!" There is a sharp cry out in the streets.
It is pure instinct and the desire to live that she takes the gift as it is when Shisui's attention is diverted and drives the kunai right through his shoulder, just a few inches short of his heart. She silently curses herself at the proof of her weakness. However, she still can't separate the image of her gentle cousin from this unrepentant man who is her family's murderer.
A grunt of pain escapes him, he hadn't expected it and she manages to escape from his weakened hold. She lands clumsily, grabbing hold of her katana once more.
However, he is no longer looking at her, glancing around briskly for an escape route, his wound sluggishly bleeding.
"Sasuke!" Kakashi's voice was getting nearer, and increasingly desperate.
Shisui meanwhile was heading towards the garden, presumably to escape before cavalry arrives. And in a moment of supposed insanity and baseless courage she charges at him.
An Uchiha on defense is even more dangerous than one on attack.
Kakashi arrives, crashing through the door, just in time to witness her being slashed right across the chest, a wound that stretches from collar to hip. When Shisui jumps out the window, the copy ninja is too preoccupied with attending to her to make chase. With haste he presses a bandage hard onto her chest to staunch the bleeding.
"Itachi-" she gets out.
Surprised, he looks around, whilst continuing to press on the wound. Finally, he finds the boy on the ground, eyes blinking wearily at his surroundings and turns back to nod with the same assurance that has carried her through so many missions together. Bending closer to her ear he murmurs, "Leave it to me, just rest for now, a medic team is on the way."
It's a testament to how much faith she has in him that she listens and gives in to the black that has been threatening to take over.
"She's alright kiddo-"
She doesn't hear the rest.