Actions

Work Header

Naruto Gods: Heavenly Bodies

Chapter Text

Index:

1.) Kakuzu as a primordial god (God of Destruction) 

2.) Madara as an elder god (God of Hearth and Home)

3.) Tobirama as an elder god (God of Ice and Waterways)

4.) Hashirama  as an elder god (God of Renewal)

5.) Izuna  as an elder god (God of the Forge) 

6.) Izumo and Kotetsu as minor gods (Gods of the Gate)

7.) Kakashi as a minor god (God of Truth and Deception)

8.) Gai and Rock Lee as divine spirits

9.) Tsunade as a goddess (Goddess of Justice)

10.) Dan Katō as a god (God of the Vestibule)

11.) Obito as a mythological creature

12.) Jashin as a primordial god/dess (God/dess of Death)

13.) Kimimaro as a minor god (God of the Moon, Guardian of the World Tree)

14.) Orochimaru as a god (God of Knowledge and Discovery)

15.) Sakura as a goddess (Goddess of Healing)

16.) Hidan as the Chosen of Jashin 

17.) Hinata as Kakuzu's Oracle

18.) Kurama as a star-born power

19.) Mito as a rock giantess

20.) Naruto as a demi-god

21.) Shikamaru as a shadow creature

22.) Sasori as the Harbinger 

23.) The Third Kazekage  (Tenno Notama) as Lord of the Djinn

24.) Shino as a mythological creature

25.) Konan as an elder goddess (Goddess of Shaping)

26.) Gaara as a demi-god

27.) Sai as a shadow creature

28.) Sasuke as a god (God of Oath and Sword)

29.) Indra as a god (God of Shield and Sky)

 

 

 

Mythological affiliation to be determined

 

30.) Itachi

31.) Ibiki

32.) Mei

33.) Kisame

34.) Suigetsu, and Mangetsu

35.) Zabuza and Haku

36.) Iruka

37.) Mikoto

38.) Deidara

39.) Ino

40.) Genma

41.) Tenten 

42.) Minato and Kushina

43.) Shisui

44.) Shikaku

45.) Rasa 

46.) Jugo 

47.) Darui

48.) Yagura

 

Suggestions for additional characters are always welcome up until we hit #50. :D

 

Chapter Text

In the beginning, there is only the shapeless void, Kamui.

A single thought arises from this epicenter of kinetic potential, given a name like a heartbeat by the pulsing ether.

Kakuzu.

It is the first sound to be born, and Kamui shudders beneath the resonation of its power.

The thought quickly grows and gains mass as it suckles at the teat of entropy. It is impatient and rapacious--a violent thing--feeding so rapidly that Kamui must expel it or risk its own destruction. Bleeding photons and quarks, the shapeless void envelopes Kakuzu in a pocket dimension and thrusts the errant thought out into a universe rife with half-formed worlds.

Kakuzu is not pleased to be taken from the nurturing embrace of its progenitor, but is immediately drawn to the warmth of this alien universe. It toys with expanding a gravitational singularity until it grows bored, then takes two mighty halves of debris and slams them together with the force of a supernova.

Kakuzu fashions a physical body for itself out of that same rock composition and establishes an identity, a purpose.

He casts his multitudinous hands out into the newly formed world and terraforms it to his liking. He claws into the rock and crushes it into powder, finding simple pleasure in its ruination. Then, he tilts the small world such that a nearby star catches sight of his pile of sand, warms it, makes it glow red. This, he calls the desert. The inhospitable heat of it pleases him. He brings forth a volley of wind to tend to it and serve as its caretaker. As he was given a name in the void, so too does he gift this power to his creation.

Its name is Konan.

With a sharp crack, Kakuzu tears back into Kamui--using his creator’s unique nature to his own ends--and reappears on the other side of the planet. It is far colder here, likely a result of Konan’s gluttonous warmth. Regardless, there is a certain beauty in the balance between climates. It’s so unlike Kamui’s chaotic lack of consequence to have one action be the basis for the nature of a related effect. It’s all quite intriguing.

He fashions limbs to stand on his newly formed landscape and strides across the frigid valleys. Each footfall scars the surface and sprouts spires of ice in its wake. Massive sheets of crystalline lattice twist upward to pierce the low-hanging clouds and cast the land in blue and green reflections of the distant sun. Kakuzu builds a kingdom of muted light and watches as his breath fills the air with fog. The result is not quite as pleasing as his work in the desert.

He fashions a denizen from the frost on his skin and assigns it the task of molding the fields of frozen ground into something more palatable.

Its name is Tobirama.

An unknowable stretch of time passes. However, nothing Tobirama painstakingly sculpts is to Kakuzu’s liking. It’s still far too cold.  

Furious at the perceived slight, Kakuzu plunges one disembodied fist into the core at the heart of his planet and brings forth a blinding stream of magma. In his rage, volcanoes sprout across the planet’s surface and split the rock face into a field of Pangeaic plates. When he finally calms to a simmer, Kakuzu reclaims his hand and gathers a generous flow of lava in his palm. He gives it sentience, then settles a fiery mantle of command on its shoulders. It is to unmake Tobirama’s icy fortress--unmaking Tobirama itself if it resists--and fill the dark places in the world with light and heat.

Its name is Madara.

Without further clarification, Kakuzu steps back and flashes through Kamui, starting anew on yet another side of the world. This, he paints with clouds of gray and black. He threads his tendrils through the atmosphere and creates sparks as he whips at the hydrogen and oxygen molecules he finds there. Lightning illuminates the cloud cover and spears the planet with barbs of light and searing heat. The result is a blinding panoply of afterimages, soon made even more disconcerting by the advent of the first rain. Kakuzu catches a bolt of electricity out of the air, studies it, then bullies it into a ball of white-hot flame. It sizzles and pops in the falling rain, and shows its displeasure with a mighty crack of thunder. Kakuzu laughs.

Its name is Izuna.

He gives Izuna a body wrapped in molten metal with the flame at its core, in many ways a brother to Madara’s own making. As with the others, he imbues his steward with the power of one of his own hearts, allowing Izuna to manage his interests in his stead. This land of rain and lightning holds promise.

Finally, Kakuzu allows himself a moment of respite, to step back and watch his heart containers tend to their respective duties.

However, his rest lasts a mere millennium before it’s interrupted.

An unfamiliar thought floats to him on a zephyr, clear despite the ambient sound of clashing elements. It has the harmonics of Kamui, though this thought’s name sounds more like the hissing of blood through valves than the three strong beats of his own.  

He shoves his fifth and final heart into the rich, loam soil for safekeeping and takes off in search of this possible usurper.

In his absence, delicate, green tendrils sprout up around the beating heart. They lovingly insinuate themselves into the spaces between muscle fibers and draw on Kakuzu’s power. Roots shoot down far into the planet, teasing at the magma flows and wandering freely. On the surface, the construct arches long, woody limbs towards the sun as it stretches languorously.

Its self-given name is Hashirama.

It resolves to embrace the whole of this burgeoning world, starting with the cold, doleful heart deep in the Northern tundra. A field of ferns blooms in the wake of its smile.

Chapter Text

 

 

Madara winces as the molten slag on his arms contracts and hardens with each touch of the field of frigid stalagmites. He flicks off the gathering obsidian shard and assesses his counterpart--takes stock of the strong, slow beat of Kakuzu’s heart in Tobirama’s chest and how it mirrors his own. They share a similar form, if not function, that much is obvious. Why their creator sought to have this heart container in particular brought to heel is beyond him. Madara finds that, though fire roars in his veins, he does not have a taste for senseless destruction.

Instead, he sweeps through the spires of ice and hollows out a bowl-like depression wherein his flame is safe from the biting wind. Tobirama follows him, hesitant, but intrigued by the creature so like himself. They come together to invent a language based in gesture. When this fails to convey their meaning sufficiently, Madara curls his fingers into fists and storms off across the glaciers in a fit of pique. Lava flows rise up to meet each footfall and dot the land with stepping stones. Sometime later, a mighty yell rattles the landscape and shatters the more delicate constructs.

Tobirama frowns, but chooses to wait.

Eventually, Madara returns, bringing with him sound and the concept of speech to better ease the tension between them. It’s soon realized that they both have much to say. Tobirama speaks of architecture, possibility, and the bending of light. Madara listens intently and responds with foundations, suggestion, and the harnessing of flame. A century passes in shared company as they explore their existence through both words and experimental touches.

The impetus of Kakuzu’s command still lingers in the back of Madara’s mind, but it’s difficult to imagine a world bereft of this spark of intellect. The melting ice under his hands is achingly beautiful, and the flesh beneath even more so.

Still, the cold climes eventually prove to be too taxing.

Regretfully, he pans across the landscape with its mountains of snow and pinnacles of ice one last time and settles his focus on Tobirama’s sharp, red gaze. This he takes for himself so that while he is away, he will see his erstwhile companion in every reflection.

Despite some truly explosive arguments, the landscape has remained unchanged in all his time here. Kakuzu’s ire will be mighty, but Madara cannot find it in himself to care. He says as much and seals his promise to return with a kiss. Ice turns to hissing steam as he flows through the permafrost and is gone.

In his absence, Tobirama continues to proliferate the tundra. Madara’s stepping stones become a well-worn path. Everything else remains a formless blanket of blue, and green, and white.

Roiling in the heat of the planet’s core, Madara discovers traces of other heart-containers like Tobirama and himself. Too, it appears that their side of the world is significantly more hospitable for a creature born of molten rock. It’s the work of a moment to follow the rifts in the earth and flow out to meet them. He traipses the desert and finds himself immediately assailed by Konan’s might. There is little appeal to the shifting sand and the way it turns to glass in his wake. It’s warm, but so unwelcoming it takes him aback.

He howls right back in the face of Konan’s wind, pointlessly posturing, and retreats to the planet’s burning center before the retaliatory sandstorms can bowl him over.

He will not be returning to the thrice cursed desert. He will seal that promise in blood.

His next foray brings him to a land of falling water. Droplets hover, suspended in the air until a mighty crash of sound shatters the balance and sets them in motion. Madara watches the rain sizzle across his skin and smiles up at the sky where arcs of light blind him and leave stark afterimages. Izuna is far more enjoyable company than the last container. That he shares Tobirama’s knack for engrossing, but trying, conversation is a welcome discovery. Even greater a revelation is the kinship of shared flame that burns in their veins and unites them in both composition and brotherhood.

Sometime later, happenstance introduces Madara and Izuna to their final sibling, a strange, mercurial heart container. Hashirama blooms forth from the ground and shakes off a thick patina of frost from his travels.

He is a nuisance, a vine whose insipid sap somehow manages to creep beneath Madara’s standoffish facade.

As Izuna rolls his eyes and busies himself in the atmosphere, Hashirama shows Madara how to shape and mold flora and fauna from the flesh of the planet. He happily instructs Madara in the trappings of simple joy. Together, they fill the night with birdsong and make trees to broach the barrier between ground and sky.

Madara revels in this newfound concept called ‘life.’ It engenders a soft, protective response in him, the novelty of which is striking.

Tobirama would be fascinated.

Despite the pleasantry of Izuna’s love and Hashirama’s camaraderie, memories of Tobirama’s crystalline plains linger. It’s difficult for Madara to leave Izuna and Hashirama’s side, but the tundra calls to him as well. Torn, he resolves to bring together all of his favored brethren.

He scoops up a handful of rich, black soil and holds it out to receive Hashirama’s blessing. A tiny yew seedling is coaxed forth. It’s a lovely thing--deep green with a crown of leaves like spear-heads. On its five branches, Madara hangs a small token of each of Kakuzu’s progeny. They dangle like minuscule fruits: a bright spark for Izuna, a flower bud for Hashirama, a shard of Konan’s hardened silica (gathered from the remnants in Madara’s hair), a kiss of frost for Tobirama, and an eternal ember from his own heart.  

Satisfied, Madara opens a fissure in the country of rain. He glances back one last time and sinks into it, ushered onward by Hashirama’s knowing smile.  

He arises from his long sabbatical in a plume of magma only to find that a new species has taken root on the planet’s glacial surface. Their chests contain the beat of something very much like Kakuzu’s hearts, but more subtle and with a note of Hashirama’s influence. He sets down his divine yew and observes the fledgling race of humans as they struggle to survive in Tobirama’s wasteland, ultimately taking pity on the frail creatures whose penchant for familial bonds mirrors his own.  

Madara offers the heart from his chest to warm them and his fan to stoke the flames. The tundra begins to thaw due to the unmitigated heat of his heart, but the humans seem to fare better.

The fact that Hashirama had failed to mention already having met Tobirama and sharing this particular gift of knowledge rankles. Frustrated by his failed attempt at wooing Tobirama with a new discovery, he storms off in search of his austere sibling.

He does not have long to wait.

Tobirama whips across his territory in a howling gale and takes to buffeting the rapidly melting ice with his coldest temperatures. The odd creations Hashirama left behind to accompany him in his isolation flee his wrath and, in so doing, reveal the cause of his tundra’s injury.

Madara watches him curiously, pale and shining with molten slag as water boils at his feet.

Tobirama wastes no time on greetings or pleasantries. They had an accord, one sealed with something deeper and far more intimate than words. To renege is inconceivable. To be abandoned and then taken apart upon his return cuts deeply, regardless of Madara’s paltry excuses.

Tobirama’s fury is as cold and biting as his element, offering no quarter and no opportunity for further explanation.

Tempers flare and Madara reacts in kind. Lava eats away at the pillars of ice and sends them crashing into a newly formed ocean. Obsidian swords pierce the glaciers that survive the first attack and draw them down into the waves.

The battle is violent, brief, and very much one-sided. In the end, Kakuzu’s wish comes to fruition.

Tobirama’s ice is summarily beaten back.

In its place, Madara’s adopted clan of humans propagates. They forsake their prior god in favor of this new, fiery one, taking his symbol as their name. The Uchiha further claim him as their patron, honoring his strength with the dedication of each new child born, and gifting him with the title of “the God of Hearth and Home.”

Though Tobirama survives their battle, Madara’s victory is a hollow one, and not without loss. He invented language to converse, but neither of them had ever mastered the art of negotiation and compromise along with it.

The memory of things said in anger haunts him.

Chapter Text

Infuriated by Madara’s encroachment on his territory, Tobirama bides his time and tallies his losses. It’s ironic that the humans consider Madara a familial god when all Tobirama can attribute to his name is the original betrayal--the destruction of the life they had built together.

Where once great castles of ice stood, there is now a flowing current of water lapping repeatedly against exposed soil. The ocean waves froth with the reverberations of the anger that he keeps choked off inside of his chest. It takes all of Tobirama’s strength to turn away from the duplicitous lover who stole Hashirama’s gift and his home. Rationally, he knows that the Uchiha are blameless in this, but resentment bobs at the surface as freely as an ice floe. He gathers his power in the soles of his feet and strides out across the ocean.

On the shore behind him, a burst of greenery heralds Hashirama’s arrival amongst the patches of moist earth.

Tobirama fails to note his presence, wrapped up in introspection as he is. Not even the cheerful greeting--like dappled sunshine on rustling leaves--registers. Instead, Tobirama reflects on the time that he spent in frozen isolation as he patiently awaited Madara’s return. He recalls dark days and nights spent studying the intricate society of Hashirama’s gift and teaching the humans the stories of their creation in-turn.

With a clenched jaw, he bites down on the flood of remembrance that threatens to unmake his resolve. It should have occurred to him that the profound power of Madara’s love was a double edged blade.

All that remains is to throw himself upon it. He will either reclaim his role as the humans’ God of Ice and Waterways or be destroyed in the process. Either outcome will suffice to dull the pain.

Once his physical wounds close, Tobirama sends forth another bout of frost to retake what is rightfully his. The Earth itself groans beneath the god’s revenge-driven volley and humanity cowers in the caves created by the continental bones of Madara’s Susanoo. For every crystalline buttress that Madara melted to carve out a home for his mortals in the first battle, Tobirama builds five in its stead. The sky grows dark with countless layers of ice. A frigid blanket flows into the valleys and seals the molten fissures with which Madara travels.

Incensed, Madara responds in kind, strength pitted against cleverness.

Volcanoes loose their fiery payload and sear scars though the landscape in a billowing clout of steam. The water churns and shoots up massive geysers with gnashing teeth of foam. Embers glow in the boiling waves.

The conflagration of his wrath is overwhelming. It flickers in his eyes and seeps out on sulphurous breath. Where before he was merciful, in this battle he holds little back.  

Once again, Tobirama finds himself outmatched by Madara’s might. His loss is a bitter, forced thing. Still, his tenacity drives him on unflinchingly. He only gives ground when he is finally bent double around Madara’s fist and too exhausted to continue. He clutches at Madara’s stomach and thighs as he slips to the ground. From his mouth pours the first river, stained blue with his blood.

His ice sheets soon melt completely to form oceans across the world and nourish newly revealed land.

In his defeat, the sun bears down on the rich loam of the Earth and reveals germinating seedlings, reaching up like hands. Madara calls him seven different kinds of idiot, then grasps the tender leaves and pulls Hashirama from his bed of frost.

Hashirama insinuates his vine-like fingers between Madara’s and drops to his knees with a burst of cherry blossoms to gather Tobirama up in a one-armed embrace. He shudders as his power of renewal surges to heal the worst of their wounds. The green glow soothes the hurt, both tangible and not, and provides clarity.

Tobirama’s bolt of realization is a painful thing. He was wrong. It is not Madara’s love that is cursed, but his own.

His lover, his brother, his humans--all have suffered under the yoke of his favor. Filled with a sudden conviction, he digs out the seed of his love from his chest and thrusts it deep into the earthen heart that beats a steady rhythm against his cheek. Best to give it to someone who can better nurture a thing so delicate and tempestuous.

Hashirama releases a long, reedy gasp at the unexpected flood of emotion. When he opens his eyes, it’s to a panoply of color that wasn’t there before.

Chapter Text

 

Hashirama, God of Creation and Renewal, briefly reads the guilt in Tobirama’s pained grimace and the story of struggle in the scarred landscape around them. He knows he cannot assuage his brother’s grief completely, but, with this powerful new emotion pulsing alongside Kakuzu’s heart, he finds that he wants to try. 

With a cry, he crushes his divine brother in a one-armed embrace and takes strength in the smell of hoarfrost. Words of comfort pour from his lips and his heavy breaths harden into a patina of rime where they gather on Tobirama’s skin. 

His pectoral glows between them where Tobirama’s palm lingers, and, when the chilled hand pulls away, a crest of icicles lies emblazoned on his chest. 

Hashirama traces it with reverence, long lines of verdant green blooming from the ice god’s mark. It’s a beautiful addition to Kakuzu’s already well-crafted mold, he thinks. Though, even more wondrous is the sudden up-welling of affection he feels towards his icy brother.

This strange, new concept--love--overtakes him completely.

In return for this gift of overwhelming emotion, Hashirama plants the seed of his own crest on Tobirama’s flesh, and anchors it with a smattering of the power of creation. A gift for a gift, those his is paltry in comparison. 

Finally, he turns to look up at Madara, as if seeing him for the first time.

He takes in Madara’s sharp eyes, the absence of his heart, and the magma flows upon his arms. The fury that Hashirama sees there gives him pause, but then he drops his gaze to their still-interlaced fingers and his smile is like the dawning of spring.

He loves his brother of ice deeply, but he cannot find it in him to tear his focus from Madara for more than a moment. Tobirama slips from his grasp as he rises, instantly besotted. 

With a touch as soft as milkweed, he traces the ragged edges around the hole in Madara’s chest and soothes the obvious ache, filling the cavity where Madara’s heart had once been with his own flesh. This, he imbues with a generous portion of Tobirama’s gifted capacity for devotion. He kisses the newly formed scar while his hands map a path across Madara’s skin. Madara’s anger fades to wonderment as Hashirama grasps his hips and pushes him down into the newly green-packed earth, unashamed.

Mokuton bursts to life around them and erects vast, shapeless pillars of wood. Fire races through the pillars, shaping and forming them until the scent of pitch is heavy in the air. Months later, the dance of heat and creation builds to a crescendo. With an eruption of chakra, the charred timber resolves into inelegant, but functional structures. Houses dot the landscape with streets between, like leaf-bud laden branches. 

The village of Konohagakure is born from Hashirama and Madara’s coupling.

Eyes averted, Tobirama approaches them in the aftermath and falls to his knees. He vows to protect Konoha—his brothers’ progeny—with his life as the first of many reparations. He offers his waters to sustain the humans who will call it home and his icy wrath to ward off any who would oppose its conception.  

Hashirama smiles at him. He runs a hand through his brother’s hair in acceptance of both his vow and the apology driving his words.

Madara leans in—close enough to grasp Tobirama’s jaw and share his winter-frost breath—and imbues Tobirama’s oath with his own will of fire, sealing it between their lips. 

Despite the intimacy, Tobirama feels nothing for the god he once loved. 

Hashirama will now bear that bittersweet burden.

Chapter Text

 

As the bitter cold of Tobirama’s rule retreats, Madara’s clan of mortals arise from the spacious caverns between his Susanoo’s ribs and seek succor within Kohana’s walls instead. There, they establish the beginnings of culture and budding independence.

Content to tend to their cherished mortals and watch them grow, Hashirama, Madara, and Tobirama settle
in. Peace and propagation reign under the elder gods’ tutelage for a human generation.

***

Half a world away, Izuna sweeps through the torrents of rain that characterize his sodden domain. Loud, angry rumbles follow in his wake, the only voice in his domain since Madara and Hashirama left to seek out their brother of ice. The silence between thunderclaps is filled with the sizzle and snap of lightning, but even so, he misses Hashirama’s endless teasing and Madara’s screeched ripostes.

He finds that solitude does not suit him.

The swirling gales of precipitation serve as his companions for as long as he can stand before finally giving in to his own selfish desires. If his brothers can abandon the duties Kakuzu tasked them with whenever they so please, then he can as well, Izuna decides. They all have the same primordial god’s favor in their chest, the same entropic will in their veins. They were all crafted to be equals.

Establishing a means of travel has never been of interest or importance before. His energy has always been focused on being the consummate steward. This newfound purpose burns beneath his skin and pulls skeins of liquid gold up from the earth. They shroud him in armor and pierce his shoulders to reach up into the sky. There, he gathers forth the kinetic potential that thickens the air. It crackles around him—a veil of heat lightning—and pulls forth a wellspring of tin around his feet.

The sensation of building power is promising.

He attempts to drill his metallic will through to the center of the planet, much like Madara and his tunnels of magma. Flame spews forth to surround him and rock melts at his touch, but the incessant rains cool much of his ore before he can fashion it into anything useful.

Ultimately, it’s a fruitless endeavor.

Instead, he pauses to consider the aspects of Madara’s form that are different from his own, no matter how seemingly insignificant—a lava mantle in place of metal, the length and thickness of the smoke plume on his head, the crimson of his eyes.

Izuna adds more smoke to his own appearance, ties up his ridiculous fountain of hair, and labels himself a fool.  

He attempts to rearrange the pigments in his eyes, thinking that perhaps the key to Madara’s means of
transport lies there. It doesn’t. But, as the power of his borrowed heart pulses along his optic nerves, the world unfurls like a flower before him. He can see it all laid out, transparent and filled with light. The beauty of it steals his breath. Intoxicating.

Sluggish veins of minerals flow beneath his feet. They slip through and past each other and tease at the edges of something other. Bright flares of chakra flit amongst each other in the far distance. Green, red, and blue, leaving comet trails in their wake and merging to create a new color palette.  

His brothers have made another god, it would appear.

In that moment, Izuna discovers what it is to desire—to be covetous of a thing.

He grasps for the distant heartstrings of his brothers and feels the pressure of Kakuzu’s pulse beating behind his sclerae. A moment later, the dam bursts and his senses bleed red.

Kamui heeds his accidental call without hesitation and reaches out to devour him whole. Shivering at the frigid darkness, Izuna can just barely make out a field of box-like structures jutting out of a black void before he is abruptly shoved back into the world.  

The coldness that has nothing to do with temperature lingers in his bones.

Regardless, his brothers are close. Their chakra warms him and chases away the ache. The sensation makes him swell with a childlike glee at the sudden influx of sound. There will be time enough to ponder the odd tear in reality later.

Crowing with joy, he arcs across the sky in a blinding flash of magnesium. Only a thin forest canopy remains between him and his siblings. He crashes straight through it to embrace Madara like a vice. Hashirama joins Madara in greeting him with equal parts surprise and elation.

They rush to speak of all that’s happened in his absence, talking over each other in their enthusiasm. Izuna laughs and allows himself to be introduced to Konohagakure, to Hashirama’s mortals—to Tobirama. He notes the way Hashirama’s touch lingers on Madara’s wrist and can’t help but stare at the gaudy tree plastered on the ice god’s chest.

Before he can consider the implications further, Madara tasks him with imparting the knowledge of metallurgy and tool use to the fledgling race of humans.

Izuna, God of the Forge, takes to the given role with aplomb. He finds himself enjoying the company of
creatures who share his commitment to family and interest in flame. As a species, humans glow like sparks cast from an iron anvil--voracious in the pursuit of knowledge and eager to apply lessons learned. They take to innovation quickly, using the elder gods’ collective guidance when needed, but otherwise relying on their own burgeoning independence. As such, Izuna’s direct intervention seems to grow less necessary with each new generation brought to bear. Oral tradition and written language supersede the need for demonstration
of his molten will.

With dwindling usefulness, he begins to seek purpose in other things.

Distractions prove to be helpful for a time. He toys with the idea of designing weapons, pours himself
into reinforcing Tobirama’s aqueducts. But none of it satisfies for long.

His inactivity begins to fester into something raw and poisonous. Time spent idle leads him to think on the symbolism of Hashirama and Tobirama’s shared markings and Madara’s preoccupation with the God of Creation.

Hashirama has become his brother’s lover, his confidant, his anchor. Even Izuna’s worth as the shield on his brother’s back has been subsumed by Tobirama in this strange mortal experiment of theirs. The only tie to Madara that Izuna feels has been left to him is the molten blood in his veins, for what little that’s worth.

Izuna’s eyes shift and bring the cracks of his broken heart into sharp relief. Kamui whispers to him, neither stoking his flame nor diminishing it, simply reaching out to listen to the song of his growing resentment. He uses his newfound connection to the being that spawned his own father and explores the power inherent in his gifted Sharingan.

Genjutsu is a potent weapon, Izuna finds. It’s simplicity itself for him to press up close and manipulate an unguarded mind.

He vows to make the ebullient God of Creation understand his anguish. Hashirama will know the pain of losing a brother.

In the end, Tobirama is far too trusting of his allies.

Izuna eases in and plants a seed of false emotion in the void where Tobirama once felt love. He claims all of Tobirama’s new-found devotion for himself and forces Madara and Hashirama to the backburner of Tobirama’s regard.

Mind filled with faux affections, Tobirama’s laughter rings out like falling icicles, complemented by Izuna’s own thundering mirth.

The moon watches placidly as he steals the will of fire from Tobirama’s lips and casts it to the ground. Together, they disappear under the cover of night.

Chapter Text

Tobirama and Izuna’s absence is glaringly apparent in the lack of dew drops on the morning grass and the strangled coals of fire pits long gone out. 

Irritated with what he perceives as a shirking of his brother’s duty, Madara barges into Izuna’s forge, all bluster and choking ash. However, his tirade abruptly peters out at the discovery of a single metallic drop of Izuna’s blood. The scattered slivers of the will of fire entrusted to Tobirama crack beneath his feet. They paint the ground in a prismatic wash of color as ominous as it is beautiful. 

Madara backs away from the scene with a mounting sense of foreboding, eyes flicking wildly about the room for any missed clues. His pumice mantle fills with magma. It drips from his fingertips and leaves a sizzling trail in his wake as he erupts into action to share burden of his discovery.

As expected, Hashirama takes the news poorly.

 Tobirama’s gifted love is not rooted in rationality. It surges up through his chest like a thing possessed, volatile and covetous, and pours forth from his lips like heartbreak.

He screams his brothers’ names into the dawn air. As the piercing call subsides, birds fall silent and the trees weep in sympathy.

Madara tries to console him to no avail. 

In his grief, thorny vines encase Hashirama’s body and lash violently at any and all obstacles that impede his mad dash into Konoha’s surrounding forest, the living extension of his will. He stoops to gather a sweet gum fruit in one hand and a stem of catchweed in the other. Without pause, he channels the power of creation into their delicate seeds and extrudes two men, fully formed. Before the ichor of their seed pods has even dried on their skin, Hashirama embraces them. He names the one born of sweet gum “Kotetsu” and the one born of catchweed “Izumo,” gifting them with keen minds and armor hewn from his own flesh--bolstered with swaths of sunlight. He quickly molds his hands around their hearts and fills them with the clutching tendrils of his need to see his brothers returned to him. Without question, the chakra-laden godlings turn and race through the canopy on limbs made of dappled sunlight, opening their senses to the dormant wrongness of Tobirama’s ice.

Madara watches them disappear into to forest and pulls Hashirama’s unresisting body into his arms. They take strength in each other and settle in to wait for the godlings’ return.

The search leads Kotetsu and Izumo across vast swaths of forest, over vales of soft grass, and through water-worn valleys bracketed by peridotite and basalt. Never faltering in their mission, they nonetheless make the time to admire the quiet beauty of the world around them and to appreciate the easy camaraderie between them.

When the air turns crisp, they grin fiercely at each other and push their god-wrought forms to all but devour the distance.

The pinpricks of Tobirama’s chakra feel like tiny icicles flickering against their skin, growing harsher and more piercing with proximity. Izumo presses on despite the discomfort—dragging a reluctant Kotetsu behind him—and abruptly stumbles upon a frozen cave pocked with scars of charred earth.  After a brief exchange of wary, but determined, glances, they cautiously pick their way through the patches of stalagmites and pools of slag.

The cave is as dark as Kamui’s heart, illuminated in patches by the cool glow of Tobirama’s chakra. Each crunch of divine slush beneath their feet sets off a transient din as they descend.

When a second chakra begins to flash painfully behind his eyes like the afterimage of a lightning strike, Kotetsu takes hold of Izumo’s wrist and reels him back. They stumble against each other and gape in horror.

Izuna, powerful and imposing, draws himself from the shadows and approaches at a sedate pace. He brushes his fingers along each of Tobirama’s icy outcroppings in an intimate caress and takes pleasure in the sharp hiss of steam. When he introduces himself, his palms are bare and open to show that he is of no threat, but his smile is molten in the lowlight and promises pain.

Kotetsu and Izumo stay close to each other, knees half bent and ready. However, having only known Hashirama’s gentle touch and the admittedly benign dangers of the forest, they are ill-prepared for the wickedness of Izuna’s machinations. 

They are even less prepared for the Sharingan that sears through their minds and devours their will.

Izuna smirks as what are obviously Hashirama’s progeny crumple to the ground. For now, they sleep. He’s not unduly cruel, after all. 

The chill of Tobirama’s palm resting supportively against the small of his back is a welcome addition to this moment of triumph. Permafrost kisses follow soon after, mapping the curve of his neck and only sweetening his victory.

Chapter Text

 

When Kotetsu and Izumo do not return, Hashirama’s despair hardens into grim resolve.

He searches Madara out in the Uchiha clan’s Hall of Learning, heedless of the spectacle his vigorously lashing roots makes. 

With one glance, Madara excuses himself from his favored humans and approaches him. The spindly whipcords reach out to wrap their tendrils around his calves and biceps--binding them in more than just spirit. Hashirama cups his jaw, and presses their foreheads together with a broken entreaty to find their brothers. Fire flares in Madara’s belly--potent and powerful--igniting a conflagration within the hearth of his ribcage.

Hashirama had only to ask. 

He immediately leaves his home behind and sears his way across the world in a roaring gale of fire and wrath. Gods and wild bands of humans alike quake before him. The land bears the deep scars of his passing. 

In the end, Madara finds them, not by following the frost-riddled echoes of Tobirama’s lost love, but by delving into the static charge that resonates from the mirror of his soul. 

Tobirama, healthy and hale, greets him at the cavern entrance with an uncharacteristically open smile and insists on making tea. Madara shrugs off his gentle touch, fists his hand in Tobirama’s crystal lattice hair, and drags him down the scant few inches to place them at eye level. Madara furrows his brow as he assesses the cause of Tobirama’s absurdity. 

There is something there, something wrong, deep in the ice-god’s eyes. It slips away from Madara’s grasp and forces his focus to roll away like water beading on an oil slick. Even so, his resolve is a potent thing. He hooks his foot behind Tobirama’s knees and forces him to kneel, slowing the fall with his vice-like grip. As Tobirama looks up to him--silent and still as a penitent--Madara snatches his chin and locks gazes.

There is power behind his intent.  

Finally, the crackle of chakra gleaming in Tobirama’s stare buckles to reveal the ghostly reflection of Izuna’s own sharingan, cleverly hidden in irises already stained red. 

At the revelation of Izuna’s plot, Madara turns the cavern into a raging firestorm. The air itself burns until the fabric of reality threatens to buckle. Only after the edge of his wrath is dulled can he focus on Tobirama and undertake the arduous task of pulling the iron net from his mind.

This is something he’s never had to attempt, a task he is not innately built for. Between them, Izuna was the one more suited for work of such delicacy. 

Regardless, Madara digs in deep. 

Tobirama’s prolonged cry of agony pierces straight through him and arrests his breath. To hear such a sound from the typically stoic god is nearly enough to unmake him. Out of necessity, he grinds his teeth, redoubles his resolve, and presses on.                                                                    

It takes an inordinate amount of time to find the seams of Izuna’s chakra and wedge his finger nails beneath, but eventually Madara manages to pry the staticy film from Tobirama’s mind.

The hiss and pop of superheated metal heralds Izuna’s presence behind him. How long his brother stood and observed over his shoulder, Madara can’t say. But, judging by the clench of Izuna’s jaw and the white of his knuckles, it was long enough for the shock to wear off and anger to set in. 

Gouts of liquid gold spout from Izuna’s stomach and arch up to spear through his chest, as if to punctuate the very real pain underlying his churlish demeanor.

As he turns to face Izuna, Madara’s own countenance is steely, but his chest aches with the evidence of his brother’s betrayal. Before he can find the courage to pronounce judgment on the twin of his soul, he feels the weight of Tobirama’s hand settle on his shoulder. 

Eyes downcast and visibly trembling in the aftershocks of pain, Tobirama shakes his head sharply. He ignores the raw rasp that his voice has become and proceeds to describe the depths of Izuna’s anguish, explains the insurmountable loss branded into his heart. Despite all, Tobirama understands the reasoning behind the kidnapping, though he makes a point to not condone the method. He offers a solution to avoid the inevitable tempest of Hashirama’s outrage and to restore Izuna’s mental well-being, one which Madara only reluctantly agrees to.

Izuna roars his denial. Their solution changes nothing.  He swears upon his own forge that the force of his ire will overshadow Kakuzu himself. By the void, he will share the love hoarded between his brethren or be struck down trying. Liquid tin drips down his cheeks, belying the emptiness of his threats. 

Without meeting Izuna’s eyes, Madara slices his palm on his own obsidian-laden forearm and allows the blood to pour onto the ground. He takes Tobirama’s hand and pulls him up to stand at his side. Fingers interlaced, Madara presses their conjoined hands first to Hashirama’s crest—emblazoned on Tobirama’s chest—then stoops down to touch their palms to the small puddle of his life’s blood. When they rise together, a man is revealed inch by inch beneath their conjoined palms. It’s slow going and the creation is far from perfect, but it shimmers with promise.

Izuna falls quiet and looks on, forlorn. He can only watch as Tobirama and Madara’s miracle of creation is pulled from the earth, inch by inch. Regret curdles in his stomach and dampens his anger. He had thought Hashirama to be the only one among them imbued with the gift of life-bearing. To think that Tobirama has access to that headspring as well only makes him want the God of Ice and Waterways more. After this, any possibility of that union will be lost. 

Madara names the construct “Kakashi, God of Truth and Deception,” and entrusts him with the duty of enforcing contracts and serving as the keeper of secrets. He traces a molten finger across Kakashi’s left eye—leaving one of Izuna’s lazily swirling tomoe in his wake—and binds his mouth with a mantle of magma.

When asked if he will accept the yolk of Izuna’s shame, Kakashi silently cocks his head and his eyes crinkle under the force of his sly smile.

He meets all of their gazes in turn, pulls the knowledge of Izuna’s betrayal from all but Tobirama, and houses it within himself. He replaces the memories of Izuna’s festering hate and of Madara’s subsequent grief with genjutsu-wrought recollections of a far more benign nature. Izuna and Madara will remember the kidnapping as no more than the machinations of a trickster kitsune. And, if Kakashi replaces Izuna’s passion for vengeance with the initial stirrings of an epic romance waiting to unfold, surely that was part of the kitsune’s plot as well.

Satisfied with his work, Kakashi shoves his hands deep into his pockets and goes to gather the two godlings, Kotetsu and Izumo.  

Meanwhile, Tobirama grimaces and squints in the afternoon sun as he steps out of the cave for the first time in six months. Izuna follows close behind and brazenly snakes an arm around his waist to pull him close under the guise of shielding Tobirama’s eyes beneath the shadow of his own open palm. Good humor sparks in his Mangekyou eyes.

Tobirama considers him briefly, brow furrowed, but doesn’t pull away.

With the burden of Izuna’s truth heavy on his shoulders, Tobirama resolves to halt the growing rift between the elder gods. In so doing, he will restore his brother’s peace and ensure Konohagakure’s continued prosperity. 

Pragmatism will prevail.

The will of fire will burn on, he and his first son will see to it. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Tobirama takes to his self-imposed duty touting the same single-minded focus with which he approaches all challenges.

Knowing the events that led Izuna down the path of hatred and spite allows for him to take preventative measures. He chastises Madara for his inattention and browbeats him into accompanying Izuna on scouting missions for six months out of each year.

The brothers rove far and wide, gathering wild humans to them in satellite villages and sharing with them the knowledge of civilization. The elder gods’ divine spark grows ever brighter, though the weather suffers for the loss of the Uchiha brothers.

Madara’s favored humans have taken to calling the cold days of their absence Tobirama’s winter .

For the six months that Izuna returns to warm Konohagakure with his liquid heat, Tobirama takes a sabbatical from his duties in the village to nurture the bond between them. In love as well as war, he comes to find that the God of the Forge burns as brightly as his namesake. The smoldering coals of Izuna’s devotion flare, ember bright, with each stoke. His wit is as swift and sharp as any blade and he possesses a core of folded steel that Tobirama can’t help but admire.

For all their differences, they are well matched.

In time, Tobirama allows his self-imposed duty to be replaced by something genuine and much more satisfying between them.

The village blooms, prosperous and strong, and Kakuzu’s sons find peace in their purpose and each other.

Though, the peace proves to be a rather novel concept outside of Konohagakure.

Kakuzu frowns as he exits Kamui and steps into a world not as he left it.

Black blood drips from his nails and patters across a bed of what he will come to learn are leaves. While the birth of an unexpected sister required immediate handling, the extended duration of his absence was obviously a miscalculation.

His heart containers thrum with vivacity in only two points now, one on the opposite side of the planet from her amassed counterparts. Tendrils whipping, he takes stock of his altered world and gnashes his teeth.

To have his will superseded by his own flesh is inexcusable.

He bounds up the bole of a massive tree and launches himself past the canopy, bursting through the barrier between dappled light and sky. Lacerating the sunshine with a fissure of nothingness, Kamui’s maw gapes wide to devour him at his call. An instant later, Kakuzu lands heavily on a cliff overlooking a biome that he cannot immediately decipher. There are a thousand sparks of life milling about in what appears to be an elaborate construct of wood, metal, and stone. The small creatures are ungainly, weak.

Unworthy of his notice.

He scoffs at the infestation and focuses instead on the four pillars of interwoven chakra in their midst—how odd that his progeny have blurred at the edges, he thinks. Even stranger still is the additional heart container thrumming with joy amongst his children of fire, lightning, and ice—one Kakuzu absolutely did not craft.

His fists slowly unclench. One by one, they fall lax.

The heart he buried in the earth has given rise to a creature even more powerful than his intentional creations. How bizarre.

Mildly intrigued by the new development, Kakuzu stays his hand and turns from Konohagakure. He resolves to watch these new happenings unfold from afar.

Once more, Kamui heeds his call and deposits him in Tobirama’s abandoned domain with a soft hiss.

Where once Tobirama’s ridiculous spires of ice stood now lies an ocean of such immensity that the horizon is no more than the kiss of blue on red in the distance. Reflections of its glassy surface flit across Kakuzu’s gaze. He observes it all with golden eyes and nods in approval. The little fire-starter, Madara, quickly rises to the position of most tolerable in his regard. The destruction wrought here is so artful that he can perhaps be forgiven the slight of abandoning his post.

Snorting derisively, Kakuzu releases his multitudinous hands to fly forth and pierce the veil between water and air. He washes off the tacky remnants of his sister’s blood in the surf, infecting the sea foam and sugar sand with a cloud of darkness. As his hands continue to cavort in the waves, he walks the length of the beach and ventures out to study the scars of war embedded in the earth. They’re beautiful, deep and redolent with the scent of despair. Enthralling.

Gravel crunches beneath his bare feet as the land begins to change. The topography bucks and twists like heartbreak, unfolding a story both painful and bittersweet. At its epicenter, a small sapling stands alone amidst the sandstone—its boughs heavy with small fruits. Chakra swirls lazily within them, visible through their translucent skin.

It gives Kakuzu pause.

To have an effigy of his elemental natures so prominently displayed is off-putting at best. That the insipid thing can apparently reproduce those same powers without need of the primordial god’s seed is absolutely infuriating.

Without waiting for his hands to rejoin him, Kakuzu wrenches the offensive tree from the ground with his teeth and attempts to ignite it using the overwhelming force of his will. Amazingly, the tree resists the God of Destruction and shudders as new buds burst forth along its branches. Thousands of tiny fruits roll across the ground and settle amongst the small crevasses. Some are flung so far from the ferocity of Kakuzu’s thrashing that they plunk into the ocean and bob in the sunlight before sinking slowly beneath the waves. Others still soar between the clouds and fall like rain half a world away.

Roaring through a mouthful of bark, Kakuzu recalls his hand of air and snatches the sapling away, thrusting it so far into Kamui’s folds that it would take a force mightier than any in existence to unmoor it.

Even so, such a dangerous font of power is not to be taken lightly. Kakuzu rallies his strength and rips great chunks of rock from the moon above. He molds them into the shape of a man—pale and glimmering—while careful not to allow his construct to touch the earth.

Unlike his heart containers, this golem will remain unadulterated. It will bend beneath his word without question. He gives the creature a name and purposes him with guarding the world tree that his children so impetuously birthed.

With the flick of a mass of tendrils, Kakuzu sends the man hewn of moonlight into the darkness of Kamui and turns away without remorse.

***

Off in distant climes, infinitesimal chakra fruits fall to the earth.

They bounce and roll, eventually settling throughout the forests, upon the grasslands, beneath the hot desert sands, and within the waterways that bind the earth. They take form from the land around them and give birth to the first animals.

Where greater quantities of fruit gather—those of all five chakra natures—amalgamations of godly influence arise. Some take the guise of the humans they see around them, some the animals and plants. Others are content to flit about in the elements as ephemeral spirits.

In Hashirama’s forest, one such spirit dances along the mighty roots that provide sustenance to Konohagakure’s ever-expanding body. He assumes his name to be Gai after a human traveler addresses him as such.

It’s a joyous experience to have an appellation.

Grinning, Gai races through the forest as he hunts for chakra fruit that failed to germinate. Twigs crack and trees shudder under his boisterous expedition, each graceful step made clumsy by his self-imposed time limit. When his arms are too full to hold his bounty, he begins to devour the berry-sized fruits to make more room.

Each bite fizzes gently on his tongue and suffuses his body with strength. At a point, his translucent skin begins to crack and hiss under the sheer force of the power contained within him.

The forest around him glows red and ominous.

However, like the fruit from which he was spawned, Gai simply segments himself into eight equal pieces and shoves that overwhelming might behind gates of pith, taking up his game again with a jaunty tune.

In time, he masters the art of the hunt and sets off in search of the next challenge. Though, over and over again he finds that there is little that can occupy his attention for very long.

Leaves explode into the air as he drops to the ground, bored. The sun rises, splintering through the trees and refracting through Gai like a crystal. He takes pleasure in the panoply of rainbow colors his body makes, watching them as they dart among the leaves.

It’s such a beautiful world he’s been born into.

While he ponders his next test, he pulls out a handful of the leftover fruit from his arm. He peels them gently and delights in the various colors he can make by combining their juices. Nectar drips down his forearms and stains the stones he rests on.

Intrigued by the concept of making, Gai channels a small bit of power into the slurry he’s concocted and imagines a companion, a spirit like himself. He focuses on it for some time, but nothing happens.

It wasn’t nearly this hard for the other fruit spirits.

He grunts and redoubles his efforts.

Still, nothing—a challenge, then.

He keeps at it for a fortnight, brow furrowed and lips pursed. His roiling chakra draws the interest of Konohagakure, who stretches and sends its consciousness along the pathways of its massive root system to search him out. What it finds is an aura of delight, girded by dogged purpose.

The sudden rush of sap through its xylem is surprising.

Konoha’s rootlets creep through the soil and taste the potent mix of chakra fruit. It curls around Gai’s ankle to get a more accurate measure. From that brief connection, the stone splits and a spirit bursts forth.

He stands tall, mostly transparent and a mirror to Gai’s own good cheer.

Gai looks down at the rock in wonder, then back up at the gaily laughing spirit. He names him Rock Lee—because naming conventions are beyond him—and leaps up to embrace the embodiment of his determination.

Konohagakure bemusedly pulls back to relay the story to its fathers.

Hashirama will be overjoyed to know there are even more founts of godly life taking root in the world around them.

Chapter Text

 

 

Word travels swiftly on Konohagakure’s rootlets. Its limbs crack sidewalks and rattle foundations in its rush to share the news of strange, new creatures to house.

Ever wary of threats to his adopted family of mortals, Madara immediately roars forth in a gout of flame and sears his way through the underbrush to assess the interlopers. The larger of the spirits watches him in wonder and grins in the face of the elder god’s mighty posturing, then rushes forward and prods the magma on his arms.

There’s no ill-effect, no pain-filled cry at touching what is essentially the God of Hearth and Home’s power made tangible. The ferocity of the world’s core is housed in his bones and this ridiculous thing treats him as if he were little more than a curiosity.

Absurd.

Madara slaps his hand on the nape of the spirit’s neck like a collar—it goes by the name Gai, apparently—and gives the same treatment to the smaller version that watches him, wide-eyed and unblinking. They happily trot alongside him to Konoha beneath what should be a crushing grip—doing so with the same animated idiocy as Hashirama in a summer shower.

Perhaps if he could muzzle them as he did Kakashi, the spirits would stop chattering so incessantly.

He attempts it.

He fails miserably.

Drawn by the commotion and intrigued by the resigned slump of his Madara’s shoulders in the village proper, Izuna joins his brother of fire. Madara’s hair is salt-stiff under his fingers and smells of sulfur as it always does when he’s feeling particularly put-out.

This is going to be interesting.

Echoing his sentiment, Konohagakure eagerly draws forth its father and uncle from the distant fields. They ride a current of water suspended in the air and land without sound on the hard-packed dirt as it dissipates.

Pleasantly surprised by his new audience, Gai tells of his inception into a world of diversity—plants and animals and people all united in the miraculous bond of camaraderie. His words spin a tale of a monstrous force scattering chakra fruit to the farthest reaches of the world, then thrusting the life-giving World Tree deep into a void of nothingness.

Madara blinks, long and slow. He had forgotten about his proposal gift to the ice god. Circumspectly glancing at Tobirama’s crossed arms and severe expression, he thinks that perhaps it was for the best that Kakuzu returned the sapling to Kamui.

After all, even during the time love thawed his tundra-like heart, the only gifts Tobirama ever really accepted from him were the scarred war wounds curving down his cheekbones and chin.

Hashirama’s vibrant laughter finally draws him back from his maudlin thoughts.

Too intrigued to give even passing notice to Madara’ internal crisis, Tobirama asks pointed questions and harries the spirit on any and all inconsistencies in his narrative.

When pressed, Gai reveals that not all of the chakra-based creatures have integrated with the world so easily. In fact, some might be a little adverse to the miraculous bond of camaraderie.

His face falls with the forced admission but Rock Lee is quick to interject. He expounds at length regarding the curative power of friendship despite not having met the creatures Gai speaks of. Surely they would understand if things were explained to them.

Izuna sputters, then explodes—pure, unbridled laughter spilling from his lips. Hashirama can be a bit much at times, but these spirits are entirely beyond his ability to cope in a sensible manner. Not even his husband’s narrow-eyed gaze can stop him from clutching his stomach in mirth.

It’s completely ridiculous.

Joining in on what is surely a great joke, Gai echoes him with hearty guffaws that are soon taken up by his doppelganger. The spectacle drives Izuna to copper tears and sets him to wheezing. It’s too much. Tobirama’s icy hand on his shoulder is sobering, but not enough.

Sighing heavily, Tobirama exhales a roiling cloud of frost and excuses Izuna and himself, disappearing before the fog dissipates. The chakra fruit spirits are undeniably powerful, but not a threat. Izuna’s blasé approach to diplomatic relations, however, is an affront to nature.

After extensive discussion, the God of Creation and Renewal asks to see these creatures not of his seed. He soothes Madara’s protests with a gentle kiss and motions for the spirits to guide him, to show him the world as they have seen it.

Gai and Rock Lee take to their task with aplomb.  

In the space of a heartbeat, they sprint through the trees like sunbeams. Gai runs from biome to biome and excitedly points out the creatures he’s discovered. Some are strange forms that Hashirama’s never seen, animals, apparently. Others are odd amalgamations of animal and human or spirit—rock giants, sphinxes, eldritch beings and the like.

Hashirama’s eyes glow green in wonderment.

Along the way, they excitedly compare the differences they’ve observed between the Uchiha and the wild humans and spirits.

The mortals in Hashirama’s care, like the others Gai has met along the way, have figured out the mechanics of sex. That much is obvious.

Why, Gai himself was able to master the techniques in a day using the same single-minded determination with which he approaches all challenges.

It wasn’t difficult.

But, what he could make neither heads nor tails of was why there were no little people made by human unions in Konohagakure. The animals and spirits could make fruit in the forest. Why not them?

He brings his concerns to the God of Creation’s attention, who lights up at the discovery. Together, they manage to formulate a plan for the Uchiha to propagate as well.

When they finally return to Konoha, it’s with a fevered spark in their eyes.

Brow pinched, Madara promptly leaves the home he shares with Hashirama and holes up with Tobirama and Izuna in relative solitude until the dust settles. He feels no shame in the strategic retreat. It’s a nice sabbatical to banter back and forth with his brother and sip at the tea Tobirama serves them—so bitter it dries his throat.

He wants nothing to do with whatever makes Kakuzu’s most powerful heart-container smile with that many teeth.

Eventually, Hashirama joins them, exuberant and bursting with glee. Dispersing a portion of Gai’s near infinite chakra wells throughout Konohagakure had astonishing results. There were now little people amongst the figures Hashirama had pulled from the earth. The population of Uchiha could grow and propagate without divine influence.

The God of Creation goes on to describe the strange thing their humans call aging, where the little people grow into bigger people if given the correct kind of care, like tender shoots. It’s all so fascinating.

Despite his initial hesitance, Madara leans forward and listens as his love tells sweet anecdotes of humans caring for their progeny. It’s so incredibly different than the abrasive introduction to the world Kakuzu gave them. He can’t help but to tangle his fingers in the vines twining about his legs and hang on every word.

Tobirama, however, is far less adept at weathering his brother’s long-winded speeches and rises to pick apart this new discovery for himself. Small spires of frost trail in his wake as he easily sidesteps Madara’s aura of flame.

He comes to see that Hashirama’s recollection pales in comparison to the reality of what the humans call children. In an instant, he is smitten. The icy planes of armor he adorns himself with chip and spill down his body.

Uchiha watch him cautiously, but—seeing the soft reverence on his face as he goes to one knee and holds out his hands in supplication—offer to share with him their small joys. For the first time since his creation, the ice in Tobirama’s chest well and truly thaws.

Sometime later, the other gods join him—even their own children—and marvel over this subtle gift of divine providence. Tobirama eases his precious burden into Madara’s arms, gently cradles its tiny fist in his palm, and takes his leave to make arrangements of a more pragmatic nature.

There will need to be a way of protecting these younglings from the new dangers of the forest. He will see to it.

Meanwhile, Gai and Rock Lee bracket a long-suffering minor god, clutching an arm each with tears in their eyes. They waver in the sunlight, shifting between translucency and solidity, overwhelmed by the elation they can sense radiating from the elder gods and their root-bound child. Konohagakure is such a vibrant, lovely place—peaceful and resplendent in divinity.

As one, they trade thumbs-up and decide to settle there.

Kakashi shifts uncomfortably between them, knowing a portent of doom when he sees it.

In the coming days, the village continues to thrive under the careful watch of its pantheon and the fond guidance of the elder gods. Tobirama establishes protection details, but the gods’ seasonal movements fail to make coverage as comprehensive as it should be. Too, without walls to protect their flank, much of their defenses would be reactionary.  

Surprising his more detail-minded brother, it’s Hashirama who suggests a fitting solution.

Tobirama critically inspects the plan for weaknesses or unforeseen variables but, finding none, agrees.

Job done to satisfaction, he slides his hand into Izuna’s and stoically demands to return to their hidden home.

Though, it’s uncharacteristic of the ice god to give up control of a situation so readily.

Suspicious, Izuna studies his red eyes and stalactite jawline for any sort of tension that could belie an as of yet unforeseen motive. He finds none, but there is an intensity to Tobirama’s focus usually reserved for planning infrastructure.

Izuna follows the line of his husband’s gaze—a mother soothing the fussy child at her breast—and takes a moment to interpret the meaning between the domestic scene and this inexplicable urgency to leave.

Oh.

Oh.

When the pieces of the puzzle slot together, Izuna grins with the sudden knowledge that they have work of their own to do.

They vanish on a lightning strike.

Besotted by the budding delight in his brother’s soul, Hashirama sends them off with his blessing. In turn, he calls forth Tsunade—the result of an experimental dalliance with the rock giantess Mito during his travels—to bear the burden of Konohagakure’s safety.

It takes some convincing and a touch of bribery for her to accept the responsibility, but when she does, she takes to it with unparalleled competence.

Fissures open beneath her feet with each measured stride as she navigates the circumference of Konohagakure. She observes the village with a critical eye and deems the humans within it worthy of her protection. With a mighty bellow, she strikes the earth with her war hammer and erects a massive wall around the fragile mortals’ homestead.

Sheer walls of stone and vine burst into the sky and settle with a shockwave that flows out into the forest beyond. The monsters of the forest shy away from the thrumming power of the Goddess of Judgment and a new age of prosperity dawns on Konohagakure.

 

Chapter Text

There’s so much to take in. Too much. In an instant, he’s bounding through wet underbrush on paws the size of dinner plates. They split into legs like spokes out of the long, sinuous body of a centipede.

Chitin gives way to the thick thighs of a spirit more man than beast.

Bipedal legs turn into fins.

Fins merge into scales.

Scales into stone.

He’s disjointed.

Gone.

And then, suddenly, the god can breathe again. 

And he does, taking in great, greedy swallows of air tinged with sandalwood. Each gulp brings his wandering spirit back to his body and the senses within. 

There’s dirt at his back and warmth in ten points across his temples and jaw, puzzle pieces that connect into the lose shape of hands. It’s juxtaposed by the cool breath that flows across his forehead and tames the storm raging in his chest.

The weight of his duality is taken from him and anchored around a much stronger neck. Only then is he fully moored back in his body.

When he garners the courage to finally open his eyes, the bleary image of a face hovers over him. The figure is lovely in her strength. Familiar.

Then she speaks and everything slots together. This is Tsunade, the Earth-Heart’s daughter and scourge of the forest according to the more vexatious spirits.

Katō Dan—yes, his name is Dan, he remembers now—smiles, eyes soft, and reaches for her face. Skin as smooth as river-kissed stone meets the scales of his palm for a brief second before she pulls back and tosses him over her shoulder like a sack of particularly irksome potatoes.

She’s enchanting.

Truly.

Though, he should have expected the less-than-gentle treatment after being so casual. It’s obvious she also has no clue who or what the hell he is despite his knowledge of her.

Dan placidly watches the ground crack and reform beneath her heavy footfalls as she takes him…somewhere. His tail drags through the leaf litter and tears up eddies of Kamui, but the Goddess of Justice doesn’t notice.

Between the space of two thoughts, the interior of Konoha’s walls rise up around him and Tsunade leaves him in the care of two smaller gods as she storms off. 

To call on someone? In a fit of pique? He has no idea. It’s a state of being he’s well acquainted with by now.

Kotetsu and Izumo introduce themselves and study him brazenly, tapping a horn with grass senbon, waving their hands through the void of what they would call a stomach.

He’s a curiosity, he knows.

The gods are soon satisfied by the results of their inspection and begin to weave fantastical tales of Dan’s origins. He laughs as the tales grow taller and attempts to interject with the truth of his nature, but the effort is half-hearted at best.

They’re such innocent constructs of ragweed and sweet-gum—fingers intertwined in their excitement as they come to a consensus on a story that suits both of their interests. Their conclusions are wrong, but, seeing their delight, Dan doesn’t have it in him to correct them.

If anything, it would seem anticlimactic to know he was unintentionally cobbled together scale-for-scale by the echoes of Kakuzu’s footfalls through Kamui. It’s not as noble a beginning as the godlings seem to think.

They clap him on the shoulders like long-time friends.

This flood of camaraderie is a joyous one and sets him to laughing so honestly his scales flutter. 

His mirth continues, taking on a deeper resonance and echoing for perpetuity.

Massive roots glitter with bio-luminescence around him and he finds comfort in the many arms wrapped around his chest. The chill of his naga companion’s body nestled up against his own is heady.

It’s so nice to have the partner of his soul so near, whispering sibilant promises that they both know are empty, but are comforting nonetheless. Dan leans down to kiss the purple tracks on his companion’s nose and whispers promises of his own.

These are much more believable. Honest. Raw.

The naga sighs, amused but long-suffering, and burrows in close enough to take root in Dan’s heart.

The blue glow of bio-luminescent fungi fades and coalesces into the Earth Heart’s blinding smile. Katō Dan looks around, disoriented, and wonders for a moment where his body took him while his spirit was transferred.

Izumo and Kotetsu are gone, replaced by a spread of new faces.

In one of Konoha’s clan holdings, Hashirama blooms before him with power that spreads petals all the way to Kamui. Izuna, the Lightning-Heart, Dan has actually seen before. There had been a brief exchange when the god tore through Kamui’s depths some time ago, with all the finesse of a rock fall. The other elder gods gathered there are familiar as well, to a lesser extent.

He greets them all in turn and pulls forth chakra fruit from his own flesh as an offering of respect.

Surprised, Hashirama accepts the translucent fruit—the size of a peach—and takes a bite of what is his own earthen taste. Spring bursts forth on his tongue, summer slides into his stomach, and the autumn harvest fills his veins with renewed power. He hadn’t even noticed the gradual fractioning of his own power over time, and he readily admits as much.  

Dan nods and gestures for the other elder gods to partake of their own offerings.

As they do, Konoha fades away.

His proffered arm is snatched at the wrist and lowered back to his side by a Djinn Lord with wild, wind-swept hair and an expression as flat as the desert he claims. Kamui flutters around them and peels away in places to reveal the first imaginings of red sand. It’s not the world Dan knows, but too real to be a hallucination.

He cocks an eyebrow at the strange creature’s power and subsequent refusal of the chakra fruit.

Typically, the godlings don’t hesitate in accepting the healing infusions. Though, now that he looks down, the fruit isn’t there. He struggles to remember if it ever was.

Taking advantage of his confusion, the Djinn Lord calls forth a wave of iron sand and reveals a platter of delicatessens of his own. He offers these up, face splitting into a clever smile.

Dan politely declines and takes a step back, closing his eyes against the odd pull of the meat and cheeses.

When he opens them again, it’s to a look of wide-eyed wonder and Hashirama’s strong hand in his own.

Kamui’s walls press in close from all sides. The change in location is startling—he doesn’t recall his body even bringing them here in the first place—but Dan rallies quickly. It’s obvious what he intended to do.

He leads Hashirama, Izuna, and the other two elder gods he doesn’t know by name through the folds of Kamui’s entrance and walks the paths of its womb. The World Tree sits at its center, large and swollen from the currents of power in the gray pillars on which it has taken root.

Dan introduces them briefly to Kakuzu’s quiet specter—the moonlit god who keeps watch over the chakra fruit—but doesn’t tarry. He instructs them in the ways of travel to and from. They learn quickly, all of them, and the Ice-Heart navigates their way back to their village without need for guidance or correction.

Katō Dan feels his spirit bolstered by a job well done. The gods will be able to heal their ails and travel the paths of Kamui just as several chakra-creatures have already been taught. He announces his satisfaction that their well being will be ensured and goes to take up his travels once more. Before he can depart, Hashirama grasps him by the shoulders and tearfully thanks him.

Though, his gratitude swiftly darkens to something nefarious and wrong.

The Earth-Heart’s tear tracks lengthen into red slashes, indented and oozing like wounds.

He looms, furious and powerful, and the world explodes into pain.

Dan clutches at his eyes and impales his fingers on the sharp vines he can’t tear away. The Ice-Heart screams his name with such desperation and fear that Dan finds a well of emotion-driven power he didn’t have before.

He may be blind, his Sharingan may be torn, but the static crackle in the air guides him out of the path of the next attack.

Again and again he dodges cleanly until chilled hands cup his face and he knows that he is saved.

This time, the return to his body is a harrowing thing.

He reels away from Hashirama’s concerned face and falls against a chest that might as well be a wall for all the give in it. Tsunade holds him by the elbows and lowers him to the ground as he trembles.

It’s fine. Truly. He explains that temporal and spatial rifts are simply a side effect of his being. They’re not always realities that come to fruition. Even so, his claws gouge the flood-boards in his attempt to backpedal away from the Earth-Heart.

Hashirama holds up his hands as a show of his nonthreatening nature. He squats down next to Dan in concern, the Ice-Heart in interest.  

Subsequently, a pointed bout of questioning—snidely deemed interrogation by the Fire-Heart—leads to the root of his malady. Kakuzu’s disjointed strides, much like Dan’s spirit, both exist and don’t within the same space-time. The thrum of that power bandies Dan’s soul about and creates a constant state of semi-being.

It’s fascinating, according to the Ice-Heart.

Terrible and sad in the words of his brother, Hashirama.

Together, the elder gods and their progeny arrive at a solution, though it’s a loud, boisterous affair. 

The kotatsu had certainly begun the day in one piece.

Too, the curtains hadn’t smoldered quite so obviously.

Regardless, Tsunade manages to instill a mote of fear into her uncles and takes hold of the situation. They still with varying levels of reluctance and allow her to do what needs to be done.

She removes the crystal holding seal from her neck, a gift from her rock giantess mother, Mito, and places it around Dan’s with reverence. Hashirama imbues the delicate necklace with his power, to lash Katō Dan’s spirit to his corporeal body using vines of earth and power. His threads bind the seal tightly.

Instantly, Dan can feel the thrum of infinite paths of space-time converging into one stream. It’s everything he could have imagined. Bright, and sharp, and real.

He thanks the gods profusely and leans forward to kiss Tsunade’s cheek.

The shaft of her war hammer creaks ominously in her hand, but he is away before the blush on her cheeks can be fully realized.

There is a world to see.

One.

Singular.

 

And he wants to experience all of it.

Chapter Text

 

 

Before the dust of Katō Dan’s whirlwind departure even dissipates, Tsunade settles an arm each atop Kotetsu and Izumo’s shoulders. She pulls them close against her side and grins dangerously at her younger brothers. It’s with a twisted glee that she names them the “Gods of the Gate,” and forcibly guides them to their newfound post at the massive entryway to Konohagakure. After all, with Kakuzu’s unintentional spawn roaming wherever they will and popping out of the ether when the whim takes them, there’s going to need to be a pair of eyes on the woods at all times.

They bemoan their fate, but self-preservation moves their feet to match Tsunade’s stride.  

Kakashi watches their plight with no small amount of sympathy, but his eyes crinkle all the same. He shrugs his molten shoulders and focuses instead on trying not to drip magma onto the pages of the first book to have ever been written. The influence of Jiraiya—a puckish spirit imbued with the essence of a coyote—is overwhelmingly evident in the sweeping tale of forbidden dalliances between gods and mortals. The scintillating exploits bring color to the tips of Kakashi’s ears as he skirts the gate and wanders off into the forest to hassle the trickster for part two.

Distracted as he is, it’s almost fated that he crashes headlong into the one creature who didn’t get Tsunade’s rather forceful memo to steer clear of Konohagakure’s forests. He rebounds off of a muscular chest and stumbles slightly, reaching out to keep himself from falling.

Kakashi blinks several times and arches a brow at the hard body beneath his hand. He makes a mental note of the page number he’s on before he looks up.

Huh.

It’s a shame he had to stop reading right before the climax, but this may prove to be just as titillating. The set-up is ridiculous—mirrors the first chapter of his romance novel pretty much exactly—but, by Madara’s flame, he’ll take it.

Now to follow the damsel’s lead.   

The ancient creature realizes where Kakashi’s hand is going and shuffles back in alarm, exhibiting none of the grace suggested by his leonine half. He falls onto his dappled rump and shoots Kakashi a look of such pure, unadulterated affront that he can’t help but shudder with silent laughter.

Not a storybook intro, then.

Kakashi rolls his eyes and holds his hands up, waggling his book with faux innocence.

The half-man, half-lion doesn’t buy the act. Instead, he blusters and rails so vehemently that Kakashi can feel the sting of it against his skin. Embedded somewhere between angry sputtering and a rather uncalled for slight against his mother, Kakashi is able to parse out that the charming thing’s name is Obito.

At the tail end of his diatribe, Obito crosses his arms and demands an apology for the assault on his person and the so-completely-not-accidental groping.

Kakashi steps between Obito’s massive paws and languidly waves his book at the magma binding his mouth. The implication that he can’t apologize if he can’t talk is obvious.

In the space of a heartbeat, a dimensional gate tears through the fabric of space-time behind Obito and wrenches the molten mantle from Kakashi’s shoulders. Kamui swallows it instantly and closes with a snap, more felt than heard. Obito grins so wide his scars wrinkle.

As Kakashi stands frozen in place, eyebrows raised almost to his hairline, Obito deftly snatches the book from his boneless grasp and takes off into the trees. He announces that Kakashi can have it back when he learns how to say he’s sorry for being a clumsy, lecherous ass.

For the better part of the afternoon, Kakashi and his new-found rival skip lengthy introductions in favor of cavorting like kindred spirits. Obito’s laughter rings out—redolent of the sweet sound of wind chimes—as they race across fields and attempt to best each other by whatever underhanded means necessary. Chest filled with adoration and fit to bursting, Kakashi opens his mouth to offer his name and an insult on the same breath, certainly not an apology, but can only stare in horror as smoke billows forth when the first word is uttered.

Obito lopes over and hovers a pace away, afraid to approach too closely with the miasma of memory and secrets pouring from Kakashi’s lips.

For a brief instance, the glade goes dark.

 

In the home they share, Izuna pauses where he lies buried between the benediction of Tobirama’s thighs. The steady thrust of his hips stops abruptly as the memory of betrayal stabs through him, raw and more painful than any blade. Sheets of copper sweat continue to roll down his back despite his dying coals.

Noting the quiver in Izuna’s arms and the dawning horror in his eyes, Tobirama pulls him down into an embrace as inevitable as the kiss of morning frost. Izuna tries to push back, to pull out of the cool body beneath him, but Tobirama holds him steady with legs like a vice.

Gold wells at the corners of Izuna’s eyes and cuts furrows into his cheeks, leaving behind molten tear-tracks. He props up onto his elbows and stares down at the ice god incredulously, heat lightning crackling across his skin.

Every second is agony. He tries to ask how Tobirama can stand his touch, how much of this is some idiotic, self-imposed duty, but chokes on the words.

He knows him, knows how he thinks, knows how pragmatic he can be. Not all traps are genjutsu wrought.

Tobirama cups his face and blows a crisp winter wind to arrest the flow of words and metal both. Uncharacteristically gentle, he closes Izuna’s eyelids with his thumbs and plants a chilled kiss on each.

Izuna tries to speak, but his mouth is filled with ash. Words always come so easily to him, except now, when they matter the most. He continues to weep for what he’s done to the man who owns his heart, asks for a forgiveness that he doesn’t deserve.

In that moment, his battered heart-song of fire meets with a resolve of ice.

Tobirama answers that despite the less than fortuitous circumstances that lead to their joining, forgiveness has already been forged in the shape of a consummate husband and two wondrous sons—the recasting of a love once lost to him. There is no more to be discussed on the matter. It’s inefficient to linger on past wrongs.

He slides a hand down Izuna’s arm and intertwines their fingers, digs in with his heels.

For Tobirama, the soft, tentative love-making that follows is an unecessary apology.

For Izuna, it’s barely even a start.

 

Towards the center of the village proper, Madara slowly sets down his cup of tea and hangs his head as if the curtain of hair can hide him from his shame. He viciously rubs his face against his palms, red-tinged and stormy.

That Tobirama would so willingly live a lie—that Madara himself was so selfish as to let him…

His companion in all things, Hashirama, sees the tense set of his shoulders from across their chabudai, and goes to him with footfalls as light as falling leaves. He kneels next to Madara and gently lifts his chin until their eyes meet. They exchange a lifetime of joy, sorrow, and truth in a single glance. As Hashirama’s ever-present smile falls in increments, Madara vanishes with a blast of furnace warm air and the lingering scent of Gyokuro and regret.

 

Back in the glade, Kakashi slaps his hands over his mouth, but it’s too late.

 

Chapter Text

 

(A/n: Hidan is depicted in the art for this part, but he won’t show up until later in the lore.)

When Madara, the God of Hearth and Home, appears before his wayward creation, it’s with an aura of rage so palpable that Kakashi’s nervous sweat evaporates in the heat between them.

Noise like crackling tinder fills the vale with each of Madara’s heaving breaths. He wrenches streams of molten earth from the ground and cloaks himself in his element as he approaches, as strong and sure as an eruption.

Shifting his weight, Kakashi cocks a hip and offers a nonchalant waggle of his fingers in greeting.

It’s the exact wrong thing to do.

Madara explodes.

Apoplectic, he roars about the imperative nature of Kakshi’s duty, the far-reaching consequences of his failure.

The strange sphinx-like spirit pressing up close behind the target of his ire is inconsequential, so too are the black spheres that begin to float around the creature’s shoulders. Nothing matters but for fixing the disastrous situation Kakashi’s negligence has caused.

The sun moves steadily through the sky as Madara rails and beleaguers without pause. A good portion of his anger is directed towards himself, but even so, it only adds more fuel to the expression of his mounting rage.

For all of Tobirama’s justifications, the bond of love between him and Izuna is a twisted thing. Madara knows this now—though, he’s not so selfless to say that he wishes the circumstances were different. If this is what it takes for his brother of lightning to still have a home and a place by his side, then so be it, let Tobirama absorb the burden of that tributary into the river of responsibility he already keeps.

It was his choice to begin with.

It’s for the best. For all of them. Things can settle and his family’s story can continue to unfold. Surely Hashirama will understand. Right?

But, he knows that the God of Creation and Renewal, for all his warmth and kindness, has a core of ironwood. He will be unbending in his condemnation once he finds out the whole of it.

Perhaps Izuna’s visual prowess could be used to—

Mortified by his own thoughts, Madara clutches his hair and screams.

Kakashi doesn’t bother trying to interrupt the elder god’s explosive diatribe nor subsequent breakdown. He realizes that his father is all but deafened to anything other than the echoes of his own fear at this point. There’s no point in trying to explain the perfectly benign circumstances behind the broken contract.

 

Finally, the fire in Madara’s eyes burns itself out. He stands before his son, gasping in great gouts of air through flared nostrils and expelling sulfur.

He demands a solution, though the words that fall out are too broken to be taken as the stern command he intends them to be.  

There’s a pause wherein Kakashi appears to be collecting his thoughts.

There is no easy solution as his father seems to think. What has already been released won’t be making a home in his throat again. Instead of considering the elder gods’ novel-worthy dramatics any further, he studies the dirt beneath his own nails--looks up at the shifting canopy above.

Wondering what taste will be like occupies his attention for a few minutes.

Eventually, Madara grows impatient and begins to pace as pressure builds behind his eyes once more.

Obito follows his movements--one predator measuring the threat of another. The conflagration in Madara’s gaze builds back to a crescendo and begins to revolve, slowly at first, then gaining speed.

Tension thickens the air, dry and stale like ash.

Before it can break, Obito cautiously pulls Kakashi against his flank and extends an arm out to warn off the thunderous elder god. His soft, chiding order to practice restraint only serves to stoke the flame of Madara’s wrath higher.

Once again, it’s the exact wrong thing to do.

Madara lashes out and grabs Obito’s wrist with the intention of divesting Kakashi of his misguided leonine shield. However, the moment his searing palm makes contact, Obito hisses against the pain and calls forth Kamui on instinct. In an instant, the void reaches out and shreds the sky above them. Shards of blue and green swirl violently as reality warps and hones in on its summoner.

Teeth bared, Madara digs in his heels and holds on tightly to Obito’s arm with both hands. He hisses that his son is not going anywhere until this travesty is fixed—until Izuna’s folly is wrenched from their minds and put back where it belongs.

A struggle ensues.

Claws catch in the folds of fabric gathered at Madara’s waist as Obito fights to both keep the god at bay and gather his new-found friend close. The air is rife with curses so vile the grass blackens and curls around them.

It’s then that Madara warns Obito of what the wrath of an elder god will entail—fire and blight so potent that the world’s bones will cry out from the ache.

Obito laughs at the threat, holds up the middle finger on his trapped hand, and sends his black chakra spheres to converge on his right bicep. They slice right through. The sudden release of resistance sends Madara crashing to the ground in a burst of leaf litter.

Hissing in an odd amalgamation of pain and triumph, Obito coils back onto his powerful hindquarters, scoops Kakashi up as best he can, and launches into Kaumi’s gate. It closes behind them with a loud snap.  

Silence lingers in the forest as Madara continues to lie on his back and stare up at the canopy where the rift once was.

He sits up slowly and takes in the empty forest around him, the weight of regret replacing his anger and settling around his wrists like shackles. This isn’t what he intended. To attack his own son--there is no excuse worthy enough to consider, much less voice aloud.

Every attempt at rectifying the situation has been a stunning failure. He cannot see a way out.

The final twitches of the disembodied limb in his hand is what brings him out of his stupor. Realizing what it is, he flings Obito’s arm to the ground with a shout. Death has never truly touched the world they live in. To hold a piece of flesh without the spark of life in it is horrifying on a soul-deep level.

It lands with a sickeningly wet squelch. As he watches in dismay, the rosettes on Obito’s arm seem to peel away from the skin and merge with the pool of black blood and grass flowing beneath it, far more than one arm should contain.

The fabric of existence pulses once, powerful and disorienting, and a small fissure opens in the ground to devour the amputated flesh with teeth of stone and a tongue of darkness.

Daring to venture closer, Madara crawls over and peers down into the void, recoiling when something more than Kamui alone stares right back with obvious interest. He scrambles away, sharp peals of laughter haunting each frantic scoot.

Jashin, God/dess of Death, ascends from the puddle of gore, massaging it into their skin with relish as they shudder through the final vestiges of their ascent. Tall and reeking of copper, they cut an ominously striking figure. Thick swirls of shadow flow about their head like the bands of a hurricane, the eye so bright it stings.

Madara balks as they offer him a coy smile and greet him with faux deference, all the while perversely fondling the golden rods piercing them through.

The creature feels so similar to Kakuzu, the only difference being a discordant note in the power thrumming beneath their flesh of boiling pitch.

Jashin explains that they don’t have the time to toy with small-fry, toothsome though he is. Madara splutters—magma cooling and popping erratically. Before he can retort, they flick their wrist and banish the little godling through the realms, laughing.

He’ll be a fun diversion when Jashin has the luxury of savoring their victory, but, first things first.

Freed from their imprisonment, they have a world to devour and a sibling in desperate need of a thrashing.

The imagined pleasure of Kakuzu’s furrowed brow and clenched jaw pressed beneath their foot has kept their flesh hungry and yearning for centuries. Finally, it’s time to open the sluice gates of their resentment.

There is a brother to enslave and a world to destroy.

Jashin laps a long line of blood from their fingers and licks their lips clean. Nothing will remain when they finish with their dearest Kuzu.

 

Absolutely nothing.

Chapter Text

 

 

In a vale perpetually kissed by faux starlight, Kimimaro, God of the Moon, stands vigil over the chakra-laden World Tree. Its pendulous branches are laden with fruits that phase into and out of existence from one glance to the next. He tends to the tree’s needs with a gentle hand and endless patience, caressing each chakra fruit as he assesses their health. Flames flicker in the seeds of some, tiny cresting waves in others. All elements favored by the elder gods reside within these branches.

The gods appear regularly throughout the nonlinear flow of time—some navigating Kamui’s treacherous terrain in the shadow of Obito’s sure-footed paws, others in Katō Dan’s wake, others still under their own substantial power—but stay only long enough to collect their tribute.

When he comes, Hashirama, the God of Creation and Renewal, offers Kimimaro words of gratitude and a spring-soft smile. He brings with him the curl of autumn on his breath, hair fanning out behind him like wavering wheat, as well as two new spirits with which to commune.

Kimimaro does not speak in the conventional manner Madara invented, instead communicating in flickers and pulses of moonlight as it waxes and wanes beneath his skin. It’s a rarity for any but Hashirama to make even a stumbling attempt towards reciprocal conversation, but these spirits, Gai and Rock Lee, take to him like kindred fireflies.

He finds a rare pleasure in telling them of the other gods’ comings and goings, of the things he’s seen in brief glimpses and flashes among the ether. Their joy, though unusual, rattles his bones and makes his ribs sprout from his chest to make room for the fullness of reflected sunlight within him.

Together, they braid the roots of the World Tree into the bowl of a fountain, into which they juice the miraculous fruits from its boughs. The resulting concoction gifts immortality in one sip instead of five to offset the chill of Kamui when it threatens to seep into the gods’ souls as they harvest.

It’s a practical solution and one not characteristic of the verdant god and his sun-bright attendants. That it derives from Tobirama, the one god whose essence Kamui cannot adulterate, is ironic, but makes far more sense.

Eventually, even the bright fertility spirits find the vale too unsettling, the cold too invasive to linger.

They retreat with a promise to return. As the echoes of their good cheer are displaced by the void, sentient darkness envelopes him once more.

Kimimaro’s duty is a lonely one, but he has never know anything different.

Time passes in snarls and tangles with events of no more than passing interest. Obito habitually flits about in his periphery, the fountain burbles sluggishly, and the liminal space around him continues to pulse with Kakuzu’s will.

It’s rhythmic and unchanging--until it’s not.

As humans continue to populate the planet connected to Kamui, the world tree’s roots stretch towards the numerous sparks of life and feed on their radiant energy. Kimimaro is treated to phantasmal images of mortal life and allows himself to live vicariously, cocking his head in wonder at their joys and furrowing his brow at their pain. He observes their comings and goings rapturously and thinks that for the first time in his long existence, this is what it is to feel.

Distracted as he is by visions of ephemeral souls, Kimimaro fails to notice the prolonged absence of Kamui’s guardian sphinx, Obito. It’s an uncharacteristic, near unforgivable lapse of duty for them both. In Obito’s absence, the strict control of the supernatural comings and goings in the vale falters.

Thus, it’s with a jolt of surprise that Kimimaro realizes his failure in greeting the next god with all due alacrity.

A naga—calcite pale and kissed by moonlight—cuts a striking image as he lounges amongst the black branches of the world tree. His scales rasp against Kimimaro’s exposed bones when he descends to drape the god in his seemingly infinite coils. He introduces himself as Orochimaru, God of Discovery, and all but devours Kimimaro with the intensity of his golden gaze. This god is unknown to Kimimaro, but the stars in his hair seem familiar, shimmering with the light of gods that have come before.

Obito’s absence only grows more worrisome, until Orochimaru observes Kimimaro’s plight and offers to share his burden, to hold the loneliness at bay. A god so charitable must surely be worth trusting, Kimimaro concedes. As Orochimaru proceeds to fill the space between them with his sibilant voice, there is no secret left undiscovered by his sharp mind and no inch of skin or bark left unexplored by his deft fingers.    

Kimimaro has never understood the subtle intricacies of emotion, but he thinks that this is what the gods experience when they speak of love.  

The hunter’s moon illuminates his skin from within.

***

In his distraction, he does not notice the slow twilight of the souls he once watched. He does not see them flicker and die in intervals beneath the weight of something eldritch and old.

Chapter Text

Orochimaru, the God of Discovery, tends to his schemes with the same diligence and tender care with which Kimimaro dotes on his arboreal ball and chain. It’s the work of a moment to insinuate himself into Kimimaro’s vacant heart and fill it with the cloying taint of hope and empty promises.

He holds Kimimaro’s pliant body in his embrace and cards his claws through the god’s moon-kissed hair. The glimmering strands catch on Orochimaru’s scales, disappearing into a pocket void only a moment later. Crystalline fragments of bone and light soon follow.

Each unique opportunity for study that Kimimaro unintentionally presents is snatched up and consumed by Orochimaru’s clever fingers and critical eye. However, the pretty moon god is a mystery easily solved. As soon as the secrets of the stars are covetously gathered and stored in his coils—each burst of new discovery shimmering like a diamond embedded in the waterfall of his hair—Orochimaru’s interest wanes.

Finally, his golden gaze turns to the World Tree.

The branches of the World Tree bow beneath the weight of their bounty and offer up fruit bulging with the juice of elemental chakra. Its potent perfume invades Orochimaru’s senses and slams into his chest with the staccato beat of Kakuzu’s primordial hearts. Tendrils of unease insinuate themselves beneath his scales with each fruit plucked, but he brushes the unfounded warnings off as if they were dust motes.

Belief in omens is the providence of mortals, after all.

Incidentally, serving as the subjects for divine experimentation is also the providence of mortals, Orochimaru thinks. He grins, his smile holding far too many teeth, and fades out into the depths of Kamui with his bounty of chakra fruit in-hand.

He flickers past the tall, gray plateaus and narrowly avoids a burst of fetidness, even blacker than the void. Oddly enough, fire blooms bright in its wake, tasting of angry elder god.

How interesting.

The last dealings Orochimaru had with Kakuzu’s sibling were less than auspicious--he was the one to design the bars to their cage, after all--but even so, Jashin’s freedom will prove to be an invaluable asset. It’s a convenient distraction from his own machinations.

Too, with the pantheon of elder gods preoccupied, he’ll be free to experiment in peace.

Face split into an adder’s grin, Orochimaru burrows down deep and slips between realms.

The mortal world stretches before him, ripe with possibility. Near vibrating in his eagerness, he disseminates each fruit into a dozen smaller portions and scatters them amongst the food markets in select human settlements, one distinct chakra per country. He returns to his earthly nest and settles in to watch the flow of events unfold. Pupils dilating fully, he wonders what the elder gods will do when their tempestuous little pets rise up and demand their own pantheons, wonders how they will react when he’s found out.

Regardless, by the time they realize his hand in this, it will be too late. The humans will have matured his gift and blazed their own path of discovery under his patronage.

When he takes his fill of those appropriated mortal incubators, he will have such ample stores of new and differentiated chakra patterns that Kakuzu himself will falter in the wake of his knowledge and power.

Kimimaro—poor, trusting godling that he is—will likely take the brunt of the primordial god’s wrath. It’s unfortunate, but a necessary sacrifice. After all, no knowledge is without cost.

Orochimaru yawns hugely and scents the currents of power blooming in the distance.

 

Blinding flashes of lighting crackle across the horizon to the Northeast.

The ponderous grinding of stone reverberates from the Northwest.

Suffocating heat rolls in to kiss his face from the South.

Gales of wind buff his scales with sand from the Southwest.

And the crisp bite of spring water laps at his coils from the Southeast.

 

He tips his head back and fills his senses with the siren call of novelty.

Meanwhile, Kimimaro continues to sleep soundly in the embrace of the World Tree’s roots—content, satiated, and dreaming of pale lips.  

 

***

 

In a land thrumming with a discordant note of unease, Madara wakes to darkness.

He presses up from the floor and hangs his head with a heartfelt groan. Dirt and something tacky that he’d rather not think about coat him like a second skin. His hair sticks and pulls as he tries to scan his surroundings.

It’s disgusting and he wants nothing more than to burn it all off—burn damn near everything.

Rage adding more tinder to his abductor’s pyre, Madara reaches deep and pulls at the molten core of himself. He calls forth the flaring hearth fire that sweeps up flues and plants embers in roof thatch, the lava floes that destroy all in their path. This is the all-consuming supremacy of his wrath.

A moment later, he continues to stand in the darkness and gnash his teeth, arms upraised. Nothing happens. The volcanic veins beneath his bare feet remain dormant. His head remains light with the loss of his godly crown.

Again, he tries. Over and over until he works himself up into such a state that he can no longer do anything more than collapse to his knees and scream through a mouth full of froth.

Time has never been a linear thing for the gods, but in this sightless prison, Madara loses his grasp of it entirely.

Minutes are measured by the rattle of his shackles when he turns in his pacing.

Years are measured by the occasional flash of silver and the raucous, expletive-laden laughter that damn near breaks him each time.   

It doesn’t matter, though. Hashirama will come for him.

Izuna.

Tobirama.

Anyone.

Please.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hashirama, God of Renewal, sits seiza at the gates of Konohagakure and waits for a glimpse of unkempt hair returning down the forest path.

The once-golden fields of grain around Konoha wilt and the rice paddies dry up in the harsh sun. The mortals suffer for his inattention, leaving offerings to the Gods of the Gate to speak to him on their behalf. Kotetsu tries to convince his father to tend to the fields with mild, measured words that steadily increase in both volume and biting sarcasm when Hashirama fails to react. He begins to gesticulate wildly until Izumo manhandles him into silence and drags him away before they are both summarily unmade.

They instead report to Tsunade, Goddess of Justice. She listens, stoic and calm, but internally seething. She realizes that, after the revelation of Tobirama’s abduction, Madara’s sudden defection would hit Hashirama impossibly hard, but this is ridiculous. She rises slowly from her desk and cracks her massive war hammer against her sternum, opening a gaping hole.

Izumo and Kotetsu backpedal as a woman bursts forth from the rent in Tsunade’s chest, hair stained pink with bloody froth. She lands on her knees in a smattering of cherry blossoms and gropes blindly for her progenitor’s ankles. She clings to them like lifelines as her newly formed body makes the necessary neural connections to function. Tsunade quickly seals the chasm in her own flesh and leans down to set her lips to her other-self’s forehead. Green sparks explode across the new goddess’ skin and mingle with the shifting flowers that comprise her being. Tsunade names her Sakura, Goddess of Healing, and gifts her daughter with a touch of her own strength.

Even the softest of gods must bear steel at their core.

Tsunade holds Sakura to her breast and imparts the message of Hashirama’s need in the code of her fluttering heartbeat. A lifetime of knowledge passes between them in an instant.

With a soft sigh, Sakura rises and lets the blood of her making fall from her skin like so many petals. She instinctively understands that Hashirama is the sturdy trunk from which all other life has branched. He is the heartwood.

The pain of Madara’s loss is her pain as well.

And so, she graces Tsunade with a curt nod as she flexes her fists and takes her leave. Before she steps past the gate, Sakura honors Hashirama with a chaste kiss to the top of his head. There is no reaction, no visible cue that indicates he even knows she’s there.

With a sigh, the canopy shifts, and she disappears in a burst of sakura blossoms.

Wind buoys her pollen high into the air and disburses it far and wide. Her consciousness flits between each tiny grain in her search. Finally, her notice alights on something not of the forest and her body coalesces once more into a colorful being, strong of stalk.

She immediately takes pursuit.

Following the trail of Madara’s guilt is simple enough—it smells of boiling pitch, after all. But, Sakura is ill prepared for the sudden, cloying taste of wrongness on her tongue. The stench clings to her skin and stings her eyes as she nears what appears to be a tear in the fabric of their world. Madara’s crimson crown is cradled amongst the half-desiccated flesh that was once an arm. If she were a lesser being, Sakura would have taken the scene at face value and reported Madara’s defection and Kakashi’s death as painful, but very real truths. Instead, she studies the coarse strands of hair caught within the prongs of the crown and the translucent hair roots at their ends. She notes that curls of his skin glow beneath the rotting fingernails of, not a god, but something bestial and ancient.

Why the elder powers can’t curb their impulse to abduct each other or be abducted in turn is beyond her. Decision made, she girds herself with bands of fortitude and uses her borrowed knowledge to follow the faint echo of Madara’s power into the abyss.

Time passes differently in Kamui, even for those gods typically immune to its ravages. It’s a frigid, cruel place, filled with eddies of unmaking. Sakura continually heals the frostbite that threatens to encroach on her very center and uses the ambient glow of her power to light her path. She bounds across an endless field of rectangular plateaus for what seems an eternity before she unintentionally stumbles upon the thrumming source of Madara’s signature.

Kakashi she knows without introduction—being a distant brother to her blood branch—but the gentle sphinx curled up against him like a house-cat is a riddle in and of himself. Regardless, she recognizes the tension in Kakashi’s eyes and, after a brief introduction, sets about replacing the flesh that Madara apparently took from his companion.

Not an abduction, then, she realizes.

Obito buries his face in Kakashi’s neck as she works, blinking slowly when the pain fades into no more than an unpleasant memory. He turns just enough to gape at her in wonder and thanks her profusely. He doesn’t stop stumbling over his words until she finally settles a hand on his shoulder and favors him with a huff of laughter. The moment of unexpected camaraderie warms him like an errant sunbeam. However, her cold fingers break the fragile moment.  

With a shout of realization, Obito gathers his paws beneath him and crowds into Sakura’s space. The ice crystals forming on her skin immediately retreat at his proximity—his thrumming heat even more powerful than her own touch of Spring.

Kakashi languorously rises from where he was enjoying a rather pleasant cuddle session and climbs astride Obito’s withers, draping his arms over his dappled shoulders. He motions for Sakura to join him and, after only a brief moment of hesitation, she does.

Obito’s long, loping strides tear through Kamui and take them to the only place of reprieve from the bitter void—a place they will be able to speak without the threat of fellow travelers and frost.

When he finally stumbles to a standstill, Sakura unlatches herself from Kakashi’s waist and flexes the stiffness from her fingers. She dares to open her eyes only to find herself beneath the boughs of a massive tree and caught in a gaze as green as her own.

 

Chapter Text



Hidan’s fifth life rolls around with the same tedium as the four that came before, balls deep in farming the fields of Konoha. This time, though, he intends to at least make it interesting.

He watches as the elder god’s diadem flashes in the sun and eyes the way beads of tin well up along the divot of his spine. Pure and simple, the God of the Forge is hot. It was predestined or some shit.

Snorting, Hidan picks up his scythe and tosses it over his shoulder. There’s a swagger to his gait as he navigates the rows of soil and animal crap. He’s crafted his body in the god’s image, all long, black hair, honest working muscle, and casual confidence.

Not that the sexy bastard even notices his efforts.

Izuna is too busy entertaining the icicle he has perpetually shoved up his ass to even look up when Hidan stops and leans on his farm tool not a pace away. The dirt feels colder here—like permafrost—as it seeps through the calluses of his bare feet.

Fucking Tobirama.  

Izuna doesn’t even deign to look up from where he slowly feeds steel deep into the ground. Something about pipes and underground rivers or something.  

Who cares about any of that crap? The rain was good enough before.

He says as much and sidles close—gestures with his scythe, completely unabashed in his forwardness.

He’s summarily ignored.

However, his brazen proclamation that the God of the Forge would be better off with a mortal on his cock than a snowball finally gets the elder gods’ attention.

Lips twitching into a sly grin, Izuna takes his coveted husband by the waist and pulls him into an absolutely filthy kiss. It lasts long enough for Hidan’s already tenuous patience to break. He spews curses and epithets that would sear the seed rice if he were anything more than human. As it is, all he succeeds in doing is inciting mocking laughter from Izuna and drawing Tobirama’s blood-red gaze. Disapproval radiates from him in frigid sheets despite his flat affect.

Mortals shouldn’t know the pangs of jealousy; Kakashi truly should have guarded Izuna’s secrets better.

The god of ice slams his palm into Hidan’s chest and tells him to try again.

When Hidan’s soul anchors this time, it’s in the body of a woman getting nailed by a volcano. At least that’s what it feels like. Sand stretches out in all directions and cooks his nethers. He’s heard stories of the desert and the windy bitch who owns it from Madara two lives prior. But this—this is bullshit.  

Ignoring the shouts of silhouettes on the rise of a dune, he realizes that his harvesting scythe apparently carried over from his past life. He sinks it deep into his naked chest and prays to whichever awful thing made the gods that he ends up somewhere with a temperate climate and a view.

He ends up in the ass-end of the ocean with a fish nibbling on his dick.

He promptly drowns himself and tries again.

The void passes him in a flash and deposits him in the depths of a forest. At least this time he’s back in a younger body with a head full of shiny hair and a cleft in his pecs.

He wanders aimlessly for a time, swinging his scythe at leaves and twigs. Finally, he reaches the outskirts of a village and chats with a lone stranger on the road.

Turns out, as cyclical as mortal lives are, it was inevitable that he wind up back at Konoha-ga-fucking-kure.

There’s no excuse, he’s just flat out pissed. His temper seems to get worse with each remembered reincarnation and the smug, sanctimonious ass-wipe singing Hashirama’s praises puts him over the edge. Screaming, he rushes the man and buries his scythe blades so deep into the poor bastard’s shoulder that his torso gapes wide all the way down to the navel.

Blood spurts—arcs so strong they seem to propel the man to the ground—then putters until it’s no more than a steady dribble.

He tells the body to try again and laughs until his stomach aches.

Oh. Oh, that’s funny.

Sure, the dipshit’s essence will just pop back up somewhere else, but it still feels good to send him packing.

As if on cue, the flesh suit flakes away and is set adrift by a strong, chakric breeze. Whatever.

In the following years, Hidan takes to the world at large and slaughters indiscriminately. Knowing there are no real repercussions to anything he does makes reincarnation not quite so unbearable, especially when he gets to be his own god by dictating when the other humans get reborn. Their shared pain never stops being divine.

That is, until one day the body doesn’t dissipate.

Hidan stares at it, manic smile falling. This isn’t how his ritual works. He toes the body, rolls it over, sits on his haunches and watches it for a couple of days. While the bloating is kind of cool, it’s unnerving the way the little spark of Hashirama just…goes away.

After a time, he finally scratches the back of his head and wanders off to take up his nomadic mauling once more.

Except that it happens again.

And again.

And again.

The dumbasses just don’t get reborn. Apoplectic, he raids an entire encampment of wild humans and returns them to the ether. Except they won’t go. Somehow, the rules of the world changed without Hidan realizing and now a pile of charnel is exactly that—guts, and bone, and no Hashirama spunk to speak of.

He screams up at the night sky and claws deep furrows into his face.

Pain is divinity.

Pain is grace.

A hot wind blows and rattles broken shoji screens as he tears into the pile of gore with his bare hands and drags it into a loose remaking of the circle of rebirth. Inside of the circle, he snatches up limbs and deposits them in haphazard lines to represent his own inability to do anything other than bounce around the thrice cursed loop like a fucking Kemari ball.

The sticky lake of blood surrounding the pile of the dead curdles and turns black around him.

Silent and slow, Jashin rises and cocks their head at the grisly monument. They remove a golden pike from their body and shift one of the lines so that the internal glyph is more triangular in shape. Their disembodied feet likewise make no sound as the mud squishes between their toes at the symbol’s center.

It pleases them, this show of their gift.

Hidan pleases them.

Jashin stalks forth and takes Hidan’s torn and filthy face in their hands. They kiss his forehead and croon saccharine promises of belonging and power. There will be pain—so much pain—and through it Hidan will break Hashirama’s cycle. He will become Jashin’s harvester, the bearer of their will.

With another lingering kiss, Jashin smooths back his hair and devours his adoration.

The warmth of hours-old blood creeps up Hidan’s legs and flows up over his shoulders—a mantle of death as black as the void embedded in his skin. White bones slip out of the ooze to stand out in stark contrast against the darkness. Jashin grins.

This is their chosen.

He’s twisted by too many rebirths and an absolute delight. Too, this once-mortal man brings unexpected opportunity, providing the key to Kakuzu’s destruction. A loyal human is just the thing Jashin needed to slip past Kakuzu’s guard and creep close enough to bind him, as only a lowly, insignificant human could.

The void pulses in time with Jashin’s good cheer.

***

While the wounds from the thrice-cursed bracers wrapped around Kakuzu’s wrists sting, the pain is inconsequential compared to the shame that sits heavy on his shoulders. To be bested in combat at the height of his power would have been an agonizing defeat, but a palatable one. Instead, he sits in a damp prison cell, blindsided, waylaid, and bound to a mortal body by his conniving little sister and the devout human refuse she calls her chosen. They’re an even bigger stone in his craw than his own offspring—a noteworthy feat—he thinks sardonically.

The floor chills his blood and brings back bitter memories of the distinctly unsatisfying creation of his child of ice. Between that pale upstart and the accidental container of his earthen heart, Kakuzu can’t decide which conception was most bothersome. Likely Hashirama, the progeny that dared to use Kakuzu’s seed to make life of his own. One day he’ll pay for the slight. But, lingering on past unpleasantries does not resolve Kakuzu’s current internment.

He chooses to direct his impotent rage towards the only other target in the room.

Madara, the Child of Flame, finally stirs with the assistance of a series of vicious, well-placed kicks. His body rocks several times before the pain registers. When it does, he snatches Kakuzu by the ankle and cocks his fist back, more than ready to dance.

However, once he recognizes the primordial presence shining out through a dead man’s eyes, he abruptly drops Kakuzu’s leg and shifts away.

Kakuzu snaps and rails at Madara for his purported weakness, calls him seven different kinds of fool. It’s a relief to release some of the anger building in his chest like steam, a rage that Madara takes and makes his own. The fact of Kakuzu’s overwhelming supremacy doesn’t stop his little spitfire son from spewing vitriol like the volcanoes he commands.

The breadth and originality of his curses stings like sulfur.

There’s a reason Kakuzu likes this one.

***

 In the space between time, nestled deep in the World Tree, Sakura watches Kimimaro with no small amount of wonder. He’s lithe and ethereal in ways her earthen blood can’t quite seem to grasp.

Light bends around him and through him, a panoply that she can hear as well as see.

It’s mesmerizing.

Finally, Kakashi clears his throat and Sakura comes back to herself with a sheepish grin. She shoves away from the warmth of Obito’s flank and pats him absently on the rump.

The God of the Moon continues to watch her—unblinking, expressionless, and still. When there’s no more than a stride between them, he breaks the silence and points out that she is new to his vale and in need of instruction.

That she can translate the underlying pulse of his moonlight draws Kimimaro up short. Unused to being understood so readily, he pushes so close in his eagerness that Sakura’s eyes cross.  

The subsequent exchange is awkward enough to make her laugh, voice like river stones on glass. It startles Kimimaro just enough to interrupt his lightning fast stride of flickers, to calm his waxing and waning.

His erstwhile naga companion had laughed like that.

He slowly cocks his head and offers Sakura his elbow. It’s cool beneath her hand.

Together, they navigate the bole of the Tree, trading information for a boon. In the end, Kimimaro agrees to assist in the search for Hashirama’s husband within the ether in exchange for Sakura’s assistance in helping him search for Orochimaru in the corporeal world.

Gratitude blooms in her hair like cherry blossoms and gathers at their feet.

Chapter Text

 

 

Kimimaro’s mellifluous voice washes over Kakuzu’s oracle, Hinata, like the notes of a familiar and cherished song. With a soft smile, she answers his call and rises from the depths of the Font of Immortality. Water sluices down her body and makes the thick curtain of her hair cling firmly to her shoulders.  

She listens patiently as her cohort explains Sakura’s plight, down to the minutia, until Obito growls in frustration and bullies Kimimaro out of the way. Ignorant of the way the God of the Moon’s bone-armor sharpens in threat, Obito barrels on with his own significantly more succinct retelling.

Hinata laughs softly and agrees to assist the elder gods’ pantheon in their search for the misplaced God of Hearth and Home. It’s with shared relief that Sakura releases her death-grip from Kakashi’s shoulder.

The cool waters of the Font of Immortality rise up to meet Hinata and offer forth skeins of pure chakra. These, she binds together into intricate knots, weaving until the panoply of color and light folds in on itself. The Gordian knot of color begins to blend and swirl into a darkness so all-consuming that Sakura and Kakashi have to avert their eyes lest the void consume them.

Something oily and undefinable takes root in their chests.

In contrast, Obito feels the flesh of Kamui rise up to greet him like a siren’s call. It’s only thanks to Hinata settling a hand softly on his withers in warning that he is able to resist his own unmaking. He shudders violently and retreats into the cloister of the minor deities’ arms. With one last glance at her shivering companions, Hinata sinks to the ground and dips her hands into the void that is Kakuzu’s violently shifting flesh.

Tendrils rise up and engulf her wrists in their hungry maw. She blushes and averts her face demurely when they snake up her arms and gravitate towards her chest to find her heart. As if able to sense her discomfort, the tendrils retreat and allow themselves to be coaxed back into stillness with a tender touch.

Hinata smiles shyly in the face of her creator’s favor and fits his heart strings comfortably around her wrists. Immediately, her hands begin to shine with the radiant color of each unique chakra fruit in quick succession. Cracks appear across her neck and chest—stemming from each point of contact where the tendrils had writhed against her—and her skin flakes away to reveal a body made of pure energy. Without fanfare, she delves into the world connected to Kamui and allows her life-force to race along the chakra pathways embedded in the Earth. She is surprised to note the thousands of mortals who have somehow drilled down and attached themselves to the World Tree’s roots. She pauses long enough to detach the parasitic hooks with gentle fists, then continues onward.

True to her word, Hinata seeks out the conflagration of energy that is Madara, the God of Hearth and Home.

Her hands stretch and brush against the world outside.

Izuna pauses on the hillside, back taut and sickle flashing in the sun. Sweat beads on his forehead and shines as golden as the wheat he harvests in spite of Hashirama’s negligence. Intimately attuned to Izuna’s body language as he is, Tobirama aborts his discussion on the technical workings of aqueducts and turns away from his crowd of enraptured mortals. He teleports across the field and immediately begins to chase the unease from Izuna’s shoulders with a touch of frost. Izuna lowers his blade and instinctively presses back against Tobirama’s solid chest.

Hinata disengages herself from Madara’s kin and races on.

Madara’s crown—discovered soon after Sakura’s disappearance—clatters to the floor with a cacophony that is more felt than heard. Echoes of flame thicken the air and, for one brief moment, the woody scent of a crackling hearth rises up like a fever dream. Hashirama glances up sharply and pivots away from the kitchen counter so fast that he stumbles on the trailing edge of his unkempt obi. However, the divine diadem rests upon the floor of his living room, as cold and empty as the two tea cups in his hands.

Brow furrowed, Hinata dives back into the chakra network. It has never been this difficult to find her way in the ether.

In the distance, she can feel something like Madara’s chakra, but it’s a banked ember compared to his typical firestorm. Suddenly, it’s joined by the gnashing teeth of her sire’s rage and the subtle scent of copper and death that only ever lingers around Jashin.

Hinata takes a moment to collect herself and tentatively reaches out to Kakuzu. The brush of her chakra is a question, one whose delicacy is brushed aside and aborted with sudden and bludgeoning force.

Hinata gasps and clutches feebly at her throat as the pain of being forcibly returned to her body overwhelms her. She chokes on a sob, eyes rolling towards the back of her head as the world fades.

When she awakens, it’s to the warmth of Sakura’s arms around her and a ring of concerned faces. Hinata burrows against Sakura’s neck and breaths in the floral scent, grounding and so unlike the sickly sweet smell of Jashin that lingers in the bruises on her own throat.

She murmurs the secret of Madara’s location and Kakuzu’s imprisonment into Sakura’s ear and wishes her luck in the oncoming days of her mission.

She’s going to need it.

***

It takes a while, but Madara and his sire eventually run out of insults to hurl at each other.

They sit in the dark, panting and exchanging the exact same vicious glare until Madara finally scoffs and looks away, admitting defeat in their idiotic power play. Kakuzu is anything but gracious in his victory, sneering and flaring what little of his power he has access to while wearing a dead man’s flesh.

They’re pathetic, Madara thinks.

With the pecking order established, they settle on the more important task at hand.

Possible ways of breaking the seals that bind their powers are bandied about and shot down with ruthless efficiency. They take offence at each other’s scathing commentary, but with a bit of creativity and abstract thinking, they arrive at a tentative solution.  

It’s almost embarrassing how easily Madara, still woozy from Jashin’s influence, staggers to his feet and passively gathers the kinetic energy from the air. He dances with graceful fluidity until he’s garnered enough to make his palms heavy with it. In so doing, he manages to bypass the inked seals on his body that prevent any outward expression of godly influence. Kakuzu rises and follows in his flowing footsteps with absolutely none of the fire child’s grace. Even without the length of chain connecting his bracers to the wall, he could never hope to achieve that level of elegance.

The wake of energy amasses around the mortal tethers on Kakuzu’s wrists long enough to disrupt the knot his chakra is twisted into.

Why Jashin thought that it would be a good idea to place the two of them in the same cell is beyond him. She is a transient, petty thing at the best of times, and, like always, her own lack of forethought ultimately proves to be her undoing.

The primordial god, Kakuzu, bursts forth from his host in a swath of gore that coats the walls and puts a disgruntled frown on his least-hated child’s face. They stand silent in the gloom, clothed in nothing but mortal blood, crownless, and looking for all the world like the dregs of existence.

Bemused, Kakuzu graces Madara with a derisive snort.

Though he tries to remain stoic in the face of his sire, Madara can’t help but let slip an answering bark of laughter at the ignobility of it all.

Madara pointedly holds his arms aloft, indicating his own predicament. The seals pulse an angry red in time with his heart rhythm.

Grinning, Kakuzu pats Madara’s head patronizingly with a newly disembodied hand and slips through a rent in reality. He’s gone in an instant.  

Miraculously, Madara manages to find several expletives he had missed earlier for his ensuing diatribe. Curse all fathers everywhere, worthless, spiteful villains that they are.

He continues to rail even as he plucks a shard of femur from the gore on his chest and uses it to pick the lock to his cell. He steps out of the holding block—steeped in the foulness of their incarceration—shields his eyes, and scans the bustling city around him.

Meanwhile, Kakuzu cracks back into existence in the town center. He snarls at an ostentatious fountain and idly wonders if his child of fire will figure out how to break his seals.

He will or he won’t.

Either way, Kakuzu has more important things to address.

Lightning crackles and sets the ground aflame with each of his thunderous strides through Takigakure. He pronounces to the town at large that it will suffer for this insult. His rolling baritone demands a sacrificial heart to be delivered each year, for perpetuity. Only in this way can they atone for their sins. Mortals scream and cower in his wake. The scent of fear and piss turn the air acrid.

It’s a heady aroma.

Hissing in anticipation, his tendrils whip wildly and coil around the nearest mortal. Their heart throbs weakly when he tears it from their chest and devours it whole. Even flavored by terror, it’s unremarkable in the way all mortal hearts are. However, the familiar taste of his own stolen chakra draws him up short. Apparently his sister has been quite busy in his absence.

Time holds its breath.

A quick dip of his tendrils into Kamui reveals the telltale signs of the theft of his power.

His Oracle reaches out to greet him once more, aura filled with empathetic concern. For her, he stops to listen, graces the hidden veil with one of his ether clones. There’s an odd assortment of lesser gods at her back, but Kakuzu ignores them in favor of attending to the narrative tapestry she weaves. It’s a melancholy tale of the World Tree guardian’s seduction and unintentional betrayal. There’s a discordant note, though. Obito’s role is conspicuously absent in the retelling, as are the reasons for godlings being allowed to linger.

Kakuzu narrows his eyes at the inconsistencies, but with one glance towards the god with silver hair and clever eyes at Obito’s side, his suspicions subside abruptly. Satisfied, he brushes his knuckles across Hinata’s brow and turns away.

Time exhales and, back in Takigakure, Kakuzu’s face splits into a rictus grin. Jashin and that opportunistic naga will burn for this.

Despite the massive waterfall that obfuscates the village’s entrance, sandy streets sweep out in all directions like the spokes of a giant wheel. The dry air sucks the last remnants of blood and dampness from his skin.

He appears before his sibling in a maelstrom of elemental jutsu, looking for all the world like the bastion of vengeance that he is. Jashin flinches violently at his unexpected arrival and the mortals gathered before them fall back from where they kneel in supplication.

All but one—a human who seemingly bears the marks of Jashin’s favor—are extinguished and robbed of their hearts with a casual wave of Kakuzu’s hand. He snatches his sibling out of the air when they try to flee and pulls them back flush against his chest. He binds them with tendrils the way they bound him with bracers and whispers promises of retribution into their ear.

Each brush of his lips sears their flesh like a brand.  

Jashin calls out, voice tight, and the human who wears their skin lunges at Kakuzu with a series of loud, hysterical expletives. He swings his scythe wildly, but catches only the trailing edge of Kakuzu’s laughter as Kamui devours them.

***

Sometime later, Madara stomps naked through the streets of Takigakure, cursing primordial fathers and upstart humans alike. He cuts through the tableau at the town’s center, using bodies like stepping stones instead of simply walking around them.

Hidan looks him up and down and laughs uproariously before raising his scythe in the hopes that a sacrifice will give Jashin the power advantage she needs to best Kakuzu wherever they vanished to.

It’s a noble thought, but ultimately fruitless.

Despite his lack of magma-infused might, Madara is still a far sight stronger than any human could hope to be. He lashes out with a vicious strike of his heel and spins with the momentum, never breaking stride.