Sakura could barely breathe. Her heart was racing and her vision was blurry. None of this mattered to Toka though. The women was jogging laps around her as she ran, pushing her to go further faster. Cardio, she had said, was the most basic training for shinobi. The other was their kunai and shuriken accuracy.
Which Toka learned very quickly never to trust her with. She was still sporting a scar on her neck from their first week of practice. In all honestly, she had tried to warn her. She'd been told by Madara many times that she was never to touch his tools for fear of a sonic reaction that would devastate the world. His words, not hers. He still seemed bitter about the stone incident.
It had been three weeks since the Senju warrior had become her master. In that time she'd see a marked improvement in how long she could run without collapsing. She lived for her days of rest. For those she made sure she was far away from the compound so she couldn't be roped back into training.
Somedays she was too exhausted to make it all the way to their secret place. Yet when she did, her friend was often not there. She'd only seen him once since the start of her training. They'd both been pretty tired and she didn't disclose to him about this new period of her life. After refusing to train her after she fell ill, he would not be happy to learn about this.
Didn't matter really, she would do it whether he liked it or not. Desperation drove her forward. She wanted this war between their clansmen to end and she needed to be powerful enough to at least stand a chance on the battleground. So she trained like a madman, letting Toka take complete control of her schedule. Her muscles hated her.
Hashirama and Tobirama watched their little sister from the treetops, impressed by their friend's ability to keep her in line. They'd know her to be mischievous her whole life while parading her innocent façade around. This new determination of hers to direct her energy somewhere besides messing with them was heavenly. And strange.
Was meeting Toka all it took to drive her to this extreme? Didn't seem probable to them. It was impossible to find out otherwise though. For now they would have to believe that this wasn't a long haul trick they were all involved in.
Tobirama didn't appear to share Hashirama's thinking on this matter. He thought this training was definitely sincere. Why this was, he did not bother to explain to him besides a simple long drawn out look at Toka. His brother was more interested in her story lately and it bothered the brunet.
There were too many secrets he was keeping for the woman and he didn't want his nosy sibling to so much as get a scent of the trail. He knew Tobirama wouldn't use the information he found against her, but he'd promised her when she pledged herself to him that he would do everything in his power to hide what had happened to her. His brother didn't need to know.
Sighing, he patted the white haired teen on the shoulder. "I'll head back to the office now. Don't neglect your work." He got a glare of disbelief shot at him. It was always him being told that by others, not the other way around. Saying it to him now was just to make sure he wouldn't spend too much more time sniffing after the woman.
With a flash the brunet disappeared, leaving Tobirama to watch his departure. Growling in annoyance at being chided by the king of procrastination, he darted off to tend to his own work of training their forces. As he did that he let his mind wander between the mystery of Toka and the new jutsu he was creating.
Madara was in his own office dealing with the annoyance that was Izuna. He was rubbing his temples, attempting to erase the headache that was forming. "Izuna, for the last time, I'm not going to authorize you waltzing into Hyuuga territory undermanned and with a suicidal plan."
Izuna, in a fit of rage, slammed his hands onto his brother's desk and threw venom in his face. "Then don't be so weak willed. Give me more men! You're a disgrace to our father's name. You should want revenge!" Red eyes glared down at him, forcing him to activate his own to take on the threat his foolish sibling was presenting.
He stood up himself, ready to put the boy back into his place. "Show me some respect! I have put the Senju fights on hold for you and we have been chasing Hyuuga everywhere. We cannot have two full-on clan wars at once, choose your battles! Either the Senju or the Hyuuga but you have to choose." Face twisting in obvious loathing, Izuna stormed out of his office.
Slowly, Madara slumped back down into his chair, covering his face with his hands. He wouldn't regret anything. His father was an awful man who only breed hatred, his death was deserved. Sakura was a ray of light that he wouldn't allow to be crushed. He'd never regret it.
As Izuna left his brother's office, he marched towards the training area, burning a plant in the hall on his way. Spiteful, but a very much needed release. He couldn't understand Madara at all. It always bothered him a bit that he hadn't hated the Senju as much as he did. This was on a whole other level.
The Senju may have killed their brothers but that was in war. Everyone knew such things happen. Tajima was killed in an ambush, a deliberate attack against them. He knew his father better than he ever had his brothers, making this even more personal than their feud with the wood sprite.
He couldn't give up either though. It would be like giving up his father's will. To the end Tajima fought hard against the Senju. His distaste for them was legendary. Even for revenge he couldn't abandon that. Yet his brother was demanding it of him. How could he ask that of him? The older man was just as much their father's son as he was. He should have some self-respect.
Listening to the angry child's stomping footsteps fade away, the long haired Uchiha stood up and stretched. He hadn't realized just how stressful this end of things was. Previously, all he had to do was go where he was told and battle it out with Hashirama. Now he had to make sure the incompetent idiots weren't dying.
His clan meant a lot to him, but god sometimes they could be such fools. The only smart thing they'd done so far was seemingly start leaning towards ending their fight with the Senju. In their last skirmish Hashirama offered peace. That was when they'd found out about him taking leadership of his clan.
Izuna had shot a fireball off at the man in rage at the suggestion, then went back to fighting Tobirama. Truly that fight needed all of his attention. The little white haired brat he'd first met at the river so long ago had grown into a man. A fast one at that. Taking your eyes off him was deadly, Izuna had earned a long narrow scar on his abdominal for doing so.
He was lucky he'd jumped back or he would have been cut in half. Barely out of the way in time, the sword had grazed his stomach instead. That had put any peace negations on hold, Madara himself being infuriated at the injury. His dislike of Tobirama was growing by the battle.
Strapping his gunbai on his back, he considered what he should do about his sibling's new found hobby of Hyuuga slaughtering. If it had been anyone else he'd have already stopped them, but this was Izuna. He left his office. The boy used to be very kind. Emotional, but kind.
He dodged the incoming patrols as he left the Uchiha complex. It was his fault this was even happening. Making sure he wasn't being followed, he made his way to his second home. If only Izuna would give up on the Senju then this wouldn't be so bad. Forming a peace treaty with them was near the top of his list of things he wanted to do as clan head.
Eliminating the Hyuuga wasn't that far down that list either. Doing both in one shot would be good. There was one good reason for wanting both of these things and he didn't see it, her, as he passed through the genjutsu he had put up. Sakura wasn't here.
It was very rare for this to happen. Most of the time when he came to visit, she was here. It bothered him when she wasn't since this was the only place he knew to look for her. She'd hidden where she resided from him and her chakra couldn't be tracked. A kidnapping was always on his mind. He forced himself to shake off the feeling and laid down to rest while he waited for her.
Busy from their conflicting schedules, it was another two weeks before they met. By then Madara was nearly exploding with his desire to see, hear, touch her. The new Uchiha forces Izuna trained ended up bearing the brunt of his frustrations. He visited the field they practiced on far more than he ever had before.
The dissatisfaction of not being able to go to battle or see his wife-to-be fueled his inferno and scorched the ground they'd been standing on just previously. Several of their troops suffered broken bones by his hands and everyone was feeling with their own body the reason he'd become the head of the clan.
By the fifth time he'd come to visit his sibling with the intent to 'help' with the herd, they shook in their boots at just the sight of him. They turned their pleading eyes to his brother, "Commander…"
Izuna looked at them heartlessly, "Should I join my brother today?" They shook their heads but neither sibling cared very much about their opinion. Together they drove the men into exhaustion. Izuna was wiping his hands of ash as Madara walked away from the carnage. "I'll see you at dinner then?" He waved his hand in acceptance as he darted off.
This time Sakura was lounging on the porch when he arrived. She sat up quickly as she saw him enter, pushing her hair out of her face. Smiling at him, she reached towards him, "Madara." Alarm bells instantly went off in his head as he looked from her to the little house he'd built behind her. This wasn't going to work.
He grabbed her outstretched hand and pulled her off the porch. Throwing her over his shoulder, he ran out from their hidden area. She gave a little shriek at first but was otherwise accepting of the action.
As he ran with her, he decided where he was going to take her. The river didn't seem like a good enough area for today. What he'd been wanting to show her for a while now was the cliff. The place he and Hashirama had agreed to make their village. It was a dream of his, more so than ever and with their fathers gone it was possible.
When he placed his foot on the wall of the cliff and started to walk up it, Sakura freaked out. "What are you doing?! Oh god, no." She shut her eyes tight as she heard him chuckle. The jerk wasn't going to stop. "I really don't like this, Madara!"
He laughed some more as he shifted her position to a more comfortable one and her legs wrapped around his hips. "Don't you trust me? I won't let you fall." She was quiet and still shaking. "…I promise you, nothing will happen. You can open your eyes." Her grip tightened on his shoulders and he felt her legs lock around his back, uncaring of the gunbai.
It was as her nails dug in and she let out a whimper that he knew she'd opened her eyes. "Keep them open. You'll see that there is nothing to fear." He couldn't see if she listened to him, but soon after her shaking did stop. Then they reached the top.
When he set her on her feet she stared up at him for a second. Finally, she smiled, "That was amazing! Super cool." She picked up her leg, examining the bottom of her shoes. "You're using chakra right? Like glue?" She was fascinated at the prospect, having never seen anything like it.
Her brothers had never performed this trick in front of her before. They'd tried to show off to her when they spared while she was there so she had no idea why they hadn't used this. It was the most amazing thing she'd ever seen. Her brothers must just not be able to do it. "You're the coolest, Madara."
That seemed to puff him up, as her compliments always did regardless if he knew the act wasn't uncommon at all. Some of the weakest shinobi were capable of tree walking. Water walking was a bit more difficult but still considered easy. She was unknowledgeable enough in the shinobi arts to admire the things that looked the most like magic. How innocent.
"Of course, I'm awesome. Now look over there." He turned her body so she was facing the other side of the mountains. As she gazed out into the vast space below her, something inside of her called out to it. This is her home, the place she fought to protect. The village everyone had protected with their lives. She never thought she's see if again after she'd left it that last time to go confront…she didn't understand. It didn't matter. This was her home.
"It might not look special now, but-" He looked down at her to see her reaction and was shocked to see her crying. "What's wrong?!" He jumped back in surprise, not sure how to handle her tears. This was something that had never changed. "Hey." He touched her shoulder lightly and she turned into his chest with a sob. She was only a head shorter than him now and fit quite nicely there.
"I don't know. I'm just so sad." She cried for a good hour, dirtying his shirt. He held her until she was finished, confused but accommodating. As she calmed, she moved away from him and he missed her warmth. Sniffing, she asked, "What is this place?" He brought her closer to him again, her back leaning against his chest as they looked over the trees.
"In the future, you'll be safe here." She pushed her head against his chest so she could look up at him. "I'm going to end the Uchiha's feud with the Senju. When this fighting ends these lands will be safe for you. Few will want to challenge our combined might." He brushed a stray tear off her cheek. "You won't have anything to fear. I'll keep you safe. Forever."
It was then, as he looked down at her with his dark eyes that she realized she was in love with him. She didn't just find him attractive, she liked the parts of him that were so rarely shown. Dazed by this discovery, she turned her body around, letting his hands stay on her waist, and pulled him down by his neck.
Allowing this, he lowered his head for her, thinking she would whisper something in his ear. Instead, she closed her eyes and brought her lips to his. His eyes widened, shocked at her actions, but quickly fell into her inexperienced kiss. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her, lessening the strain on his back. He felt her smile against his mouth as she wrapped herself around him, giggling.
That made him smile along with her, glad he waited until she kissed him first. In the end they ended up laughing at nothing, breaking off the kiss. They had their foreheads pressed together, grinning while looking into each other's eyes. Removing her appendages from harm's way, he let himself fall back into the ground, having removed his gunbai during her teary session.
From there he kissed her again, stopping her giggle fit. Slowly, he bought his hands up her sides and back down, feeling for nonexistent curves. Tickled, she moved backwards away from his kiss but he chased her, sitting up in the process. He raised his hand towards her chin and pulled her jaw open to deepen the kiss.
Gasping in surprise, she nearly reared back, but was kept in position by his hand. He released her quickly though and she stayed put, wiggling in his lap. This had him groaning and he torn his mouth away from hers. "Stay still." She gazed at him with such yearning with her starry eyed expression that he nearly felt bad for stopping, but he couldn't let it go on.
Closing his eyes in consternation, he forced his arousal down as best he could. This brat was trouble. He leaned his head on her shoulder as he calmed, holding her hips in place so she couldn't move again and make him start the whole process over. He sighted in relief when it went down without her noticing. She was still too young.
She watched him as his eyelids fluttered open and she was suddenly jealous of his eyelashes. No man needed such beauty. He stared at her for a while, as if he was searching for words. Then he sighed, bringing his mouth to her neck to place a kiss there. "I'm going to marry you."
Pure happiness shot through Sakura at his words. Girls usually dreamed of a fairytale romance with a prince and she was no different. She's wished for that once long ago too. It just didn't stick. Maybe it was having grown up with her brothers, but she knew she wouldn't be able to marry a nobleman.
And though Madara was many things, he wasn't a nobleman. He may be from a family with high status but he was a clan leader, not a prince. There was nothing flowery or tame about him. He literally breathed fire. He was the dragon in the stories the princesses were warned about. A shinobi through and though.
From what she'd seen of the Senju warriors, a life with a shinobi husband wouldn't be pretty. It was blood and guts, everything a girl shouldn't want. Sakura wanted it. She wanted everything that a life with Madara would entail. He was the man she loved after all and she never much liked dresses anyway.
She couldn't have it though. Not yet. Whether he promised the fighting would end or not, she needed to see that happen. It appeared he didn't hate the Senju as much as she thought he might, but she still couldn't bear to tell him the truth. What if he backed out after he figured out who she was? Befriending and creating peace with a Senju was much different than marrying one.
The clans would merge if that were to happen. No clan liked to have their bloodline mixed with another. She'd seen children born from such unions called half breeds. She'd never be able to take that. Naturally, she couldn't see Madara dealing with that kind of thing calmly either.
His lips traced a leisurely line down from her neck towards her breast bone and she knew she had to get out of there to think things over. It physically hurt her to pull away from him, feeling more satisfied with a light touch from him than everything she'd done to herself.
"I have to go." He raised his head sluggishly, almost as if he hadn't heard her.
"Mmm?" It was more of an absentminded acknowledgement than anything else.
She stood up, gathering his attention. "I said that I have to go now."
He caught her hand, worriedly staring up at her, "Why?" She shook his hand off and walked off towards the edge of the cliff, quickly realizing she wasn't getting down on her own. He was unpleasantly surprised by her abruptness, she hadn't even said anything about him saying he would marry her. That didn't bode well for her acceptance. He shouldn't have said anything.
Sakura placed her arms across her chest defensively. "Can you just bring me down?"
He stood up at his own pace, taking time to figure out what caused her sudden change in attitude. "Not until you tell me what's wrong." That, apparently, was the wrong thing to say. He practically saw her eyes darken.
One thing she couldn't stand was being ordered around by people like they had the right to do it. "It doesn't matter, I just want to go home. Do I have to tell you everything?"
Madara was starting to feel like they were already married and he was the fool husband being tossed around by a cheating wife. He didn't like that she was treating his worry as if it was nothing. He was a worrier on his best day and neurotic at his worst. This wasn't a trait that would go away. He grinded his teeth, anger building. "Fine."
Grabbing her, he jumped off the cliff, giving her no time to anticipate his move. Her screech nearly busted his eardrum, but it was worth it. When they reached the ground maybe she would think about her tone a little more.
Releasing her as soon as their feet touched ground, he took two steps back, preparing himself for a fight. He was completely right to do so, she came at him like a crazy spitting mad cat. All jagged claws and sharp teeth.
"You nearly gave me a heart attack! Tell me before you do something so stupid again!"
He tore her hands off of his shirt. "I don't think I will."
Pissed as hell, she wrapped herself around him like a snake and used everything Toka had taught her. "You dick sucking, motherfucking, son of a sow, stupid fucking cunt, with one tit bigger than the other, stinking like piss..."
It went on but by then he'd lost track of it. His mouth hung open as her nails dug into his chest and she bit his shoulder, on his back like a monkey. He was in a state of shock, wondering where on earth she'd learned those words and thinking he needed to kill them. He couldn't even fault her because he was pretty sure she didn't know what she was saying. Just that they were insults.
Finally after a good two minutes of just swearing, she settled down, noticing he wasn't reacting to her assault anymore. Then her tears came again and he was no more prepared than he had been before.
The sky was staring to darken by the time he calmed her this time. Her emotions were everywhere today and he didn't even lecture her for her choice of words earlier. Today was a mess. He sent her home with a smile on her face and a threat on her tongue. "If you follow me I'll never speak to you again." Only after she left did he remember his gunbai was still on the cliff.
Sakura arrived home that night lethargic. She had aches in places she wasn't used to and all she wanted to do was sleep. Hunger urged her to the kitchen instead of her bedroom. Walking through the dining area she realized her siblings were eating dinner.
None of it looked appealing to her and she bypassed them to go scrounge up her own meal. They called out for her but she didn't stop. Going on her way, she scavenged through the cupboards, until she found the cocoa bread and the sweet sauce she didn't remember the name of.
Ripping open the wrapping around the bread, she sat on the floor tearing off the cover to the sauce. After dipping a piece of the bread into the sauce, she shoved it into her mouth whole. Hearing some shuffling, she looked up to see her brothers standing in the entryway, gaping at her. Her face was stuffed but she spoke anyway. "What?" Small bits of bread erupted out of her mouth. Tobi's face scrunched up in disgust.
"We were just wondering if there was anything wrong." Her face transformed into that of an Oni, worse than Madara's had ever been. Hashirama jumped back as if he was burnt, dragging Tobirama with him. Swallowing the food in her mouth, she picked up the lid on the floor and then threw it at them.
It hit the wall and they turned their eyes back to her, but it bounced, hit the edge of the counter and came at the younger brother from the side. He sensed it and threw his head back rather inelegantly. Hashirama turned at the last second and took it to the nose. The brunet fell to his knees, holding his face and crying out in agony.
In a nasally voice, he called out, "I'm sorry." The white haired teen scratched at the red mark on his chin, turning away with eyes sparklingly in humor. "We'll leave you to…whatever this is." Grabbing Hashirama by the back of his shirt, he pulled him from the room. She heard her eldest sibling whining about being unloved as he was forced to leave her be.
Later that night she tossed and turned in bed, unable to get comfortable. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, she fell into blissful unconsciousness. It was only a few hours later that a maid came to wake her for her training. Her eyes were drooping in exhaustion as she pulled herself up in bed while the maid ran to get her bath ready. She'd always preferred breakfast before a wash.
Yet as she crawled out from her cocoon of blankets, she felt something gush out into her panties. Untying her yukata, she looked down at her underwear and screamed bloody murder. She was dying, she knew she was dying. As her door was yanked open by a group of maids she quickly closed her yukata and crouched down.
They stared at her facing them and she screamed at them, "Bring Toka here!" There was no way she was going to discuss a wound in this area with anyone but that woman. She didn't like any of her handmaidens very much and her brothers were out of the equation.
One determined maid marched forward, walked passed the pink haired girl and pulled back the blankets. There, for everyone in the room to see, was a bloodstain on her sheet. Suddenly the other maids were giddy with excitement and for the life of her Sakura couldn't understand why. Where they happy she was dying? How cruel.
The one who had come into her room without permission rushed back out. She ran to inform the elders of their clan what had transpired. They needed to know before the girl's brothers found out. If the duo had too much of a head start they might try to hide the girl-no, woman-from them.
As a female heir, she was profitable. The group of old man would be able to marry her off to a nobleman that was beneficial to them. There was really no use for more Senju woman; there was no reason not to give her to an outsider. Somewhere faraway would be preferable. She was a distraction to their clan leader and the true heir.
If they were trying to watch over her, protect her, they could put the clan on the backburner. That was not an option. She'd need training as a proper lady, but her looks weren't bad. There would be hordes of suitors out for her hand. Surely, they'd be the ones to pick the best match for her, for the clan really.
Now that she was marriageable, anything was possible. Hashirama wouldn't be able to do a thing. He'd have to do what was best for the clan and stand by their decision. Tobirama would be forced to listen to his will, their will, or be exiled. Sakura would make a very pretty bride, they should be thankful.
Right after receiving the news, the elders quickly picked one of their personal guard to go watch over the girl. Running away with her wouldn't be an option. Plus now that she had bled, her interactions with the opposite gender needed to be monitored.
Men had a sense for knowing when a woman was ripe. They couldn't have anyone trying to move up in the world by impregnating her. To keep the line legitimate they'd be forced to marry them. For now, the guard would keep her safe from that fate at least.
Sakura was still sitting in her room, near tears, waiting for Toka after another maid had went to summon her, when a strange man appeared in her doorway. The maids moved aside for him and didn't protest at him entering her domain at all. He came inside and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her up. "It's time to visit the elders."
He didn't address her with any form of respect. Not a princess or even a miss anywhere in his words. It was as if she no longer deserved it after suffering from such a wound. Like the blood leaking from her vanquished her standing as a person. She didn't know how to take this and felt incapable of objecting as he began to lead her out of the room like a small child.