Isobu recalled his siblings frequently.
He tried to remember them fondly most times but sometimes, he recalled the hatred he'd felt for them, basked in the longing for their company and the hope they'd one day reunite on better terms.
His memories were tarnished throughout time, years spent roaming across lands and waters which they'd been anchored to for so long. They'd lived lives alongside humans, as they evolved and became the warriors known as Shinobi. The people who eventually enslaved them all, turning them into nothing more than pawns in a pointless war. Bijuu were something to be coveted and feared, they were trapped in their own personal hells.
A prison with skin.
Once upon a time, Isobu basked in the peace of a temple, it had been surrounded by the clearest of waters which were hidden by thick rolling mist. He'd spent his days languishing in the errant beams of sunlight which pierced through the horizon. He'd protected the temple, not out of love for the people there but in hopes to preserve the little peace he'd managed to sequester. The humans did visit though and thanked him with gifts, thinking it to be a blessing for his protection. They may have been fascinated but they were wary all the same.
It was the only home which he'd had, one which he thought about often and dreamed of swimming in the cool waters once more.
A Senju had ripped him away from all of that.
Hashirama had sold him back to the land which he'd once protected, the temple was nothing but smouldering ruins and the village of Kirigakure welcomed him as if he was an old friend.
(He was no friend of theirs, not to Kirigakure and kami help if he ever encountered another Senju.)
The first host which he was 'bestowed' upon was fragile, for lack of a better word.
Eroding so quickly that it wasn't even funny.
Perhaps he was a weapon better left for a rainy day, locked and hidden away.
The last resort to their last resort.
In the thick of war, it was decided that he was a sacrifice they were willing to make. A trojan horse seemed to be an apt description as they forced him into another host, his second. When his chakra melded with hers, perhaps it was a bit presumptuous to expect her to wilt. She was born of Konohagakure blood and all the talk of their shinobi made him expect it, the fragility of his previous host and the cowards of war.
Isobu was met with a spine of iron and a fire which boiled his blood.
Isobu looked upon his host in her own mind- only meeting her face to face as she stood before the shattered seal when they bot began to fade.
(It was not a quick death. It was not a pleasant or kind death. It wasn't a death he wished upon anyone except for the Senju.)
The first time she gazed upon him, as she stood there with a cavity in her chest and blood spilling from her lips, she smiled.
Her hands reached out, brushing gently against the broken seals, the cage which had once contained him. Now, the doors hung on their hinges like drunken soldiers but Isobu couldn't move. Whatever strength he'd had was leeched away, watching quietly as the girl stood there. The water was slowly rising, slowly but surely until it reached her knees, then her hips, seeping through the hole in her torso until eventually, it swallowed her whole.
"I wish we could've met under better circumstances, Sanbi-sama."
The bubbles streamed through her blood and broken lips.
It was the respect.
Isobu remembered his siblings.
He remembered the humans which had looked to him for protection, the ones which had stared upon him with hatred and wonder. Isobu thought about the prisons which contained his siblings and wondered what kind of humans they had been saddled with.
Isobu stared at the cause of his demise.
She stared back at hers.
The smile seared into his mind, a kindness which he didn't deserve and respect he hadn't earnt but was freely given. Even as this girl stood, dying within a cage that had been forced upon her. Isobu hated Hashirama with a passion but he remembered his smile, the smile which the girl now wore.
He was plenty of things but Isobu wasn't a fool.
As far as jailers went, this girl was probably his best bet.
And he didn't have much time.
He didn't ask for permission as his chakra threaded through her limbs, deep within the marrow of her bones and into the roots of her being. Isobu closed his eyes as she screamed, her eyes wide as she stared because wasn't the pain supposed to be over?
Isobu didn't have much time.
It wouldn’t be enough to stop them both from fading but it was enough to sustain them before-
Hatake Kakashi woke up the next day knowing that he had killed his friend.
Uchiha Obito was warped by the death of a loved one at a friends hands.
Nohara Rin was buried without ceremony and without a grave marker, the location only known to three people.
A year later when the flowers bloomed, the stream bringing life with it.
Hisana owned a tea shop.
Ever the rebel, she’d decided to go against her family's wishes - perhaps burning the marriage contract before their very eyes was a little too dramatic but, as long as she was having fun.
It was difficult for them to contradict her choices when she began to rake in more money than her father would have ever dreamed of. All it cost her was the dowry set aside, something she both revered and sneered at for their backwards thinking. A thing of the past in her eyes though traditions remained ever-present.
It took a few years but she eventually found her peace, content and was truly happy.
Of course, marriage did eventually find her but only when she was good and ready. Sho, her husband to be, was her first customer. He’d valiantly vowed to win her over and to steal her heart.
Maybe some small, very small part of her, the romantic she’d long thought was dead- wanted to tell him that he’d managed it that very day. If she told him that though, he’d get complacent, she needed to keep him on his toes after all because life was no fun when everything was easy .
It was a privileged way of looking at things, perhaps.
A wedding, three children and then a cradle of grandchildren.
She was pleased, content.
Hisana arrived at the shop early, as the sun-kissed the hilltops and she made short work of the cleaning before the morning staff petered in to begin their shifts. The door hung open as she swept out the dust, the dirt and the loose leaves. Pausing every now and then to listen as the thunder rolled in, louder with every wave. Petrichor ripe within the stuffy warm air.
One of the few towns on the heavy trade route between the Land of Rivers and Fire- travellers, tourists and merchants slipped through their roads. It allowed them a lifestyle and the money to live it.
She rolled her eyes as the older women strolled past, noses tipped into the air and their yukatas impeccable. The higher class ladies, someone she could’ve been if she’d sat down and shut up. Accepting a loveless marriage for the hope of wealth.
A soft hum overcoming her, wondering what time her youngest daughter would stop by with her granddaughters. The chilly morning air bracing her as she leant against the door frame and if she closed her eyes, she could hear the rain beginning to tap against the tin roof.
Hisana might’ve run a tea shop but she was a sharp woman.
You had to be quick and you had to know how to defend yourself-
Sharp ears catching the strange shuffled movement and her eyes snapped open.
It was loud against the quiet of their dawn when few were running around to get ready for the day but there they were. A bumbling figure in the distance, a small shadow which stumbled and swayed, limping, so small and petite-
Hisana’s teeth were bared in a snarl.
She didn’t even have to think, throwing her broom down, she sped out of there faster than her aching joints would appreciate. Her body cutting through the empty roads as she peeled off her kosode as she went. The rain was spitting, heavy and thick with no signs of letting up for a few hours and this child was bare-
She was caked in blood and dirt, there was so much blood, why was there so much blood?!
“Are you mad? What’re you doing out here? Where’re your parents? Are you hurt? What happened?”
Too many questions but Hisana couldn’t control her tongue.
The girl, maybe the same age as one of her granddaughters, blinked up at her.
Purple marks stretched across her cheeks.
She looked gaunt, empty in a way no child should be.
“ Where am I? ”
A year later when the flowers bloomed, the stream bringing life with it.
And then almost choked to death on a mouthful of dirt .
In her foggy web of panic and fear, the walls closed in and her eyes stung as she tried to open them. Rin moved in the dark, trying not to recoil in the damp because the more she struggled, the heavier it all became.
Her limbs were deadweight, burning as she reached and pulled and clawed until she breached-
The sunlight was warm on her face.
The air cool and crisp, a morning breeze.
She’d been buried- a shallow grave? What was going on?
Rin didn’t know how long she laid there, her body still half-buried in that shallow grave, mouth agape as she took each panting breath. God, her mouth was drier than the deserts and the world was spinning. It was slanted on its axis as Rin opened her eyes and tried to take it all in.
The blossoms were blooming, bracketing the thin narrow road but there was the rumble of an oncoming storm. A faint trickle from what sounded like a stream nearby.
Her fingers dug into the mud, clinging tightly enough because maybe if she did, the world would stop spinning.
There’s a whisper in her head as she lets her eyes flutter shut, it only takes a second but there’s a flash of light and a shrill crackle which echoed in her ears.
Rin jolts awake again.
It’s not time to sleep.
Her legs are mottled, purple with lack of circulation and they hurt . The first time she tries to put weight on them, she falls face-first back into the dirt, spitting out a mouthful of grass.
It takes her hours to regain any sort of feeling in the lower half of her body.
It takes her longer to find the stream, to move her numb and aching legs so that she could try to wash away some of the dirt and blood which she was laden with. The water is cool and clear, a small waterfall bracketing the small stream, relatively untouched except for an abandoned washcloth which she swiped.
“I was buried, I was buried in a grave -” she whispered as she tried to string together her thoughts.
The pictures, the thoughts are there but she cannot name anything.
All she knows is that her name was Rin and that was livid.
She stops washing away the dirt and the blood, there’s too much and the water is too cold. Not enough time as she listens to the thunder rumbling, eyes firmly open and hoping that the lightning had remained hidden within the clouds.
“I’m alone,” it’s soft and weak and Rin wants to cry.
She was so alone .
Nothing, not even her memories to greet her.
The warmth brushes against her mind and it’s an odd sensation.
“Not alone,” he whispered.
“I’m going mad too!”
“Not mad,” it’s a bit stronger, louder but it wasn’t harsh. “My name is Isobu,” he whispered and his voice was like the stream, gentle and lulling. “We’re very weak at the moment.”
“We?” Rin wheezed.
“ We’re a team now, ” his words inspired so many images, they flicked through her head so quickly that it hurt . The faces were all unfamiliar though despite her mind acknowledging that they were important. Rin couldn’t seem to piece together the life she’d apparently lived. “ You haven’t seemed to have much luck with teams .”
“Who are they?”
“ The past, ” he wasn’t going to tell her, they felt important but as soon as she tried to hold onto the memories, they were just bubbles. Gone before they were really there. “ Are you ready to move on? ”
“Do I have a choice?”
“ Always .”
Rin might’ve been going mad - there was a voice in her head and she was listening to it?
But that, that was something she believed.
“I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality,” Rin bowed at the waist, hair falling over her face, curtains of dark hair which was longer than what she was familiar with. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my gratitude.”
Hisana was quick to smack her over the head, cursing under her breath.
“Don’t bow to me, brat.”
Her upper body lifted, Rin smiled at the woman's gruff affections.
The older woman had physically dragged her into the back of her shop, wrapping her in blankets and giving her something warm to drink and eat. Eventually stirring her enough for Rin to give her name and… the bare bones of her situation . Well, maybe Rin had allowed Hisana to draw her own conclusions.
From the dirt wrapped around her body to the thick scar tissue across her breastbone, livid and pink and tender despite whatever passage of time. The faintest red marks which were scattered across her body like a constellation, highlighting her veins and branches of blood vessels in a disturbing scarlet display. It trailed from her neck and across her shoulders.
Part of her, still innocent and naive and driven by some form of vanity, wanted to cry at the unfairness of it all.
She’d been introduced to Hisana’s daughters, her granddaughters and she stared at their unblemished skin.
Perfect and smooth, dark brown complexions which were flawless when compared to her own.
The scar felt ugly .
A reminder without the memory.
(Isobu curled against her, soft and gentle and Rin thinks about the tide, pulling faintly against her ankles in the warm summer days. He apologizes for not doing more but the other part, the one which woke up with her fingers in the mud, clawing out of a grave, thinks he has nothing to apologize for.)
That was what mattered.
Hisana had bathed her, given her whatever clothes she’d had spare and promptly burnt what Rin had arrived in. Not that she was sad to see the rags go, the apron, the black top which showed a lot more than she’d been comfortable with.
(Rin ignored the singed material, breathing in the faintest perfumes of petrichor, willing herself to forget the smell of burning flesh.)
“Ah, sorry,” it was better to be blunt and to the point with the older woman. Whatever niceties were long forgone and the woman had little time for small talk. “I won’t forget and I will pay you back someday.”
“You’re always welcome,” Hanako insisted from her seat on the front steps, Hisana’s grandchild perched on her hip, Emiko valiantly tried to hold back tears as Rin waved goodbye.
“You better visit.”
Hisana was an abrasive woman, unrelenting and unwilling to bend, whatever gruff edge there was to her was softened by the tears in her eyes. Something which Rin mirrored because these were the first people she knew.
It didn’t matter what she’d forgotten, these were the first faces and names which she could hold onto other than Isobu’s and her own. Her teeth sank into inside of her cheek, trying to stop herself from crying.
She’d spent two weeks with them.
It felt like a lifetime.
(It felt like seconds.)
“I will,” Rin promised.
“Where will you go?”
Everywhere was probably not the best answer but it wasn’t too far from the truth.
“ My siblings were scattered across the land, we were never supposed to meet again, ” Isobu told her quietly as they walked down the roads. Despite being covered, layered beneath her clothes, Rin felt oddly bare as she walked through the thrum of traffic. Wagons coasting through the trodden streets, obviously the livelihood of the small settlement she’d been with. “ You’ve already encountered one .”
“I have?” Rin’s mind is Isobu’s playground and the round face of a woman appeared at the forefront.
( Warm smile, kind eyes, blood-like hair which looked unreasonably soft - )
“ Kurama is . . . volatile,” Isobu tried to pick his words, truly he did but he remembered his brother angrily. There had been a lot said between the nine of them before they were swiftly captured. “ He has a good heart though, very- what’s the word for it? Tsundere?”
Rin choked on her laughter, stifling it if only to stop the odd looks she received as she continued down the road.
“That’s not something I thought I’d ever hear,” a small smile pulling at the corner of her lips.
“ He’s suffered at the hands of humans, I’m not sure if he’ll be the same as I once remember him ,” it’s sobering to think about and the smile easily falls away. “ A fox is never to be trusted, a fox is cunning and wily. Humans make many assumptions .”
“I suppose we do.”
“ You don’t disagree? ”
“I don’t know - some can be kind and understanding,” her mind drifts to the warm sensations, the smell of a perfume, the warmth of arms around her waist and the smiles of people who she can’t remember but they were obviously important to her. The sweet becomes bitter though, porcelain to steel as she thinks of the scar across her chest, the fear and agony that haunted her in the dead of night. “Unfortunately, they can be far and few between.”
Isobu hummed and it’s like a bell chiming, heavy and ringing in her head.
It’s uncomfortable to share, like being too full for her own skin.
He’d tried to explain that her seal wasn’t common, it had been loosely based from his previous host had sported. The minor tweaks which they’d granted her - whoever they were - was not for more pleasant purposes. It had been a ticking time bomb, they hadn’t considered functionality in the longest of terms which gave Isobu a lot more freedom.
In the time they had together, even if it was only a couple of weeks she could recall, he hadn’t overstepped.
They were partners in some odd way, unable to part and forced to share, Rin wasn’t unhappy about her circumstances. Perhaps once her memories started to come back she’d think differently but for now, she was pleasantly surprised with her reptilian chakra roommate.
“Where are we going first?” Rin eventually asked.
(Isobu is tempted to ask to go home, to his home , where the waters had once been so clear but he’s not naive enough to believe it would be what it once was. That Kirigakure hadn’t tainted it and there was no guarantee that Rin wouldn’t remember something if they came across the very same people that had forced him upon her.
It wouldn’t bode well when things were so fragile to begin with. He knew eventually that she’d reunite with Konoha but now wasn’t the time for that, their freedom, his freedom wasn’t guaranteed. Isobu was too selfish to put it at risk just yet.)
“ I’ve heard that Kumo is nice this time of year .”
“Do you even know what year it is?” Ah, what a brat.
“ We’ll work it out eventually .”