Inuzuka Hana proves to be just as refreshingly direct as her mother. Well, if a teenage girl somehow ends up with three ninken—and is given the mission lead here despite the three other Inuzuka all being older than her—Izuna thinks she must not suffer from a lack of personality. She bluntly swears on her Clan that she and the mission team won’t do anything but the job they’ve been paid for, and if Izuna notices any prying eyes or hands outside their stated mission parameters he’s welcome to ‘burn the offending body parts himself’. None of the four Inuzuka or their dogs bat an eye at this statement.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he answers, slightly bemused. Inuzuka are still singularly interesting to deal with, it seems.
Inuzuka Hana nods and claps her hands. “Let’s get to work, then!”
The squad is clearly familiar with and therefore really effective at the job they’re here to do. There aren’t any incidents, even when a few of the dogs turn out to be really starving. The Inuzuka’s ninken companions are definitely helpful—they make any of the strays back down quickly. Izuna only has to use his calming genjutsu once or twice and immediately gets questioned on it by a very excited Inuzuka. No, it’s not necessarily tied to use via Sharingan. Yes, it’s possible to teach this to others. Yes, talk to your Clan Head and I might be willing to teach this to people.
Apparently he and Sasuke also own chickens now. He stares at the grinning Inuzuka kunoichi telling him about those when they meet back up. This one was… what was her name again? “There’s several sacks of chicken feed in the nearest building. I gave them some,” she says, “but from the looks of it, the cats or maybe some birds dropped a few dead rats into the pen over the past days, so the chickens didn’t starve.”
He blinks. Yes, chickens will eat anything, but... that’s quite the feat of inter-species cooperation there. Huh. It seems the Uchiha’s cats are still as smart as ever. Although he won’t rule out that the cats ate one or two chickens as compensation. It’d only be fair in their minds.
Speaking of cats—out of the corner of his eye, Izuna is unsurprised to find a cat looking directly at him. He stops abruptly and gestures to the Inuzuka quartet to continue onward; after a glance back at the cat they do so with a huff.
He spends the next several minutes admiring the particular architecture in this part of the Compound. He thinks he might know the person who originally planned and lived in the house on the left because those carvings look a lot like what Reki-sensei’s niece liked to do...
“I don’t know you,” a haughty voice at knee-height finally says.
Izuna glances down at the black-and-white cat, tilting his head a little as he flashes his Sharingan at her for a second as is only polite. “I’m Uchiha Akitsuna, Neko-san.”
The cat stares back up at him, unblinking. “Hmm. Are you?”
They hold eye contact as the minutes drag on. Finally, the cat blinks and strolls forward to weave between his legs, rubbing her head against his shins. “You know your courtesies,” she says, “and you do have a genuine Sharingan.”
“Are you and your kin well, Neko-san?” Izuna asks her.
She headbutts his leg with emphasis. “Of course we are,” she says haughtily. “We opened the windows or doors for those of us who were inside. And for some of the mutts, too,” she adds, voice irritated. “You certainly took your time.”
Ah, that explains the half a dozen dogs straying around the Compound earlier. The cats probably didn’t exactly go out of their way to help them, but if a dog happened to be particularly easygoing, or shared a home with a cat, the cats might’ve still done it.
“My thanks,” he says and slowly crouches down to offer his hand to the cat. She sniffs and noses at his fingers—Izuna is sure she’s checking for the calluses typical for a shinobi—before allowing him to pet her. “The Inuzuka are helping with the dogs, I hope they’ve been considerate around you. Is there something else you may need?”
The cat keeps butting her head against his hand, purring. “Hm. Leave out some proper food for those of us who don’t always want to hunt. We’ll show you a place.”
“Done,” he agrees with a smile. It seems the Uchiha cats are still as lazy as ever.
“... Bring the kitten around some time.”
“Chick,” he corrects absentmindedly. Of course it makes sense for the cats to get to know Sasuke; they are entirely too curious not to stick their paws into whatever’s happening, and—
He withdraws his hand to look at the set of symmetrical puncture wounds with blood welling up. He raises an eyebrow.
“Kitten,” the cat repeats insistently even as she turns to leave.
Izuna keeps his eyebrow raised and seals the bite with a quick flash of fire chakra.
“... the crows have been behaving weird since that night,” she says over her shoulder. “Do something about that.”
Izuna stares into space long after she has disappeared.
The crows that traditionally live around the Uchiha Compound—and seem to have followed the Clan and that tradition here to this Village—aren’t summons, though some of them can and will speak on occasion. They’re at most cousins to the Clan’s Crow summons, but as all crows they love to gossip and ultimately will answer to the Crow Boss. If these crows are upset, chances are the summons are as well.
He desperately needs allies, someone he can trust not only with his own life but Sasuke’s, too… but he thinks of his summons and wants to cry.
The last time he had summoned his Crows was for a scouting mission two weeks before that battle, and before that, for his birthday because they always liked to be included in celebrations. He hadn’t summoned them after being injured, all his chakra being caught up in trying to stay alive, and after he’d given Niisan his eyes everything became a haze and he certainly hadn’t had any strength left for summoning then.
Izuna wonders who told them. Would they have felt him… well, him disappearing? It probably felt much like he died for real; for all intents and purposes he had.
Miu would’ve been so angry.
He drags a hand down his face. The Inuzuka said they’d be done by one at the latest. He’d promised Sasuke to visit him this afternoon, but this still leaves him a bit of time to himself. Time works differently for summons and in the summoning realm, so he’ll try summoning later when the Inuzuka have left.
Izuna sinks down into seiza, eyes still cataloguing the interior shrine room he’s in. He found it because it’s at the exact same location where a shrine had been in the Clan Compound he remembers. It had only been accessible via Sharingan, so it should be private enough… except he remembers all those missing eyes. He knows the stolen Sharingan won’t by any means be easy for anyone to use, but if Itachi is handing out knowledge alongside them, someone theoretically could enter the shrine without being an actual Uchiha. His fingers twitch as he layers another genjutsu over the room, and then one on himself. A third one is more subtle and only encourages any observer to not quite look directly at Izuna. Maybe another one to send anyone coming close to sleep?
He’s stalling. He knows he is. The room is as safe and hidden as he can make it, but still he hesitates.
Just like the Uchiha, the Crows are most of all resentful, never forgetting the slightest affront. Izuna is well aware that he did all he could to stop himself from dying—or apparently being flung into the far future, even if he didn’t know that was something he needed to consider—but he isn’t sure how the Crows might view that. Or hell, if he’s even still their contracted summoner; he hasn’t found the summoning scroll yet so he can’t check.
Well, he’ll find out. Taking a deep breath, Izuna slices open the back of his arm with a kunai, drags his fingertips through the blood and carefully forms the required seals.
“Kuchiyose no Jutsu!”
Nothing happens for a long moment before the shrine room suddenly blurs and dissolves around him as something grabs his chakra and pulls.
He stumbles, but manages to stay on his feet, blinking away the vivid afterimages travelling through dimensions leaves on a Sharingan. He didn’t expect to be pulled into the summoning realm as if he hadn’t signed any contract. His heart sinks. Summon aptitude may change over time, and he isn’t exactly prepared for questing for a new contract right now—he doesn’t want a new contract.
His surroundings however are achingly familiar.
Izuna cranes his head back and stares at the enormous tree going up, and up, and up, reaching so far into the clouds that the crown and the enormous nest he knows are there aren’t visible. Far above, he can barely make out a few dark specks circling within the clouds. The tree isn’t a specific type of tree—it looks like someone took random traits from every tree that exists and threw them together in a haphazard manner to create something that gives Izuna a giant headache whenever he tries to accurately identify any species characteristics.
Sheer relief forces a laugh to bubble up his throat. This is the heart of the Crow’s territory in the summoning realm, their Home Tree—they have not deserted him after all.
Izuna will climb this fucking tree a hundred times if it means he’ll get his summons back.
He seals the cut on his arm with a quick flash of fire chakra and begins to climb. Chakra can’t take hold of this wood, so the climb will be long and exhausting. A fall would likely be deadly from a certain height up, but Izuna is never one to think of spectacular failure unless it actually happens and he isn’t about to start now. Ideally he would have left a note for Sasuke, but he thinks regardless of what happens here today, the Crows might still be amenable enough to somehow notify him.
He climbs. While he does, he can’t help but remember the first time he did this. He’d been seven and desperate to prove himself in the eyes of Touchan and his brother, both of whom had always looked at him with such worry back then.
It had been the year after Kou-nii hadn’t come back from a mission; and the year Kuro-nii and Toguro-nii had died from the coughing fever that killed almost a third of the Clan’s children.
Izuna had wanted nothing more for his father and remaining brother to stop looking so sad.
Looking back, attempting to climb the Crow’s home tree at seven had been enormously stupid of him. If he hadn’t made it, if he hadn’t ever come back from here—what would Tajima and Madara have done then?
Back then, once he’d reached a certain height, dozens of smaller Crows had alighted on the branches around and above him to mock him. The things they had said had been cruel, taunting, mean; a way for the Crows to test potential summoners. He vividly remembers trading sharp but cheerful barbs back and forth with some of them, distracting him from the strain of climbing.
Now, too, more and more Crows land in the branches surrounding him until Izuna’s sure it must be almost the entire murder—but none of them say anything. They’re all sitting silently and just watch.
He doesn’t try to see if he can pick out his personal summons from among them. With his Sharingan he probably could, but… he doesn’t want to find out about Crow summon lifespans and memories and if they’ll forgive you for things like going ahead and dying.
The nest is big enough in size to fit the Clan Head house into it twice over and have plenty of room left. The nesting material used to build it isn’t limited to wood either; as Izuna tries to find a way around some sharpened branches sticking out, he almost slips when he accidentally reaches for what turns out to be a rusting odachi. It’s framed by three femurs and at least five partly crushed skulls he can see at a glance.
The Crows occasionally eat humans, of course.
He carefully avoids impaling himself on anything sharp for the rest of the climb and finally heaves himself over the edge of the nest.
Miu is there.
He looks up, and up, and up to find her vivid red eyes fixed on him. It’s such a sudden rush of familiarity that opening his mouth, he finds he doesn’t know what to say. His Sharingan activates as he takes her in. She’s looking like she always does, gleaming white feathers, and—
With one quick toss of her giant beak, Miu shoves him right back over the edge of the nest.
He should be terrified, and his body desperately wants to flail, to do something, but he keeps his gaze fixed on the giant nest rapidly growing smaller above him, waiting… waiting… waiting...
Enormous white wings unfurl for a second and then fold again as Miu throws herself into a dive after him.
He grins and finally closes his eyes. A moment later—it feels like forever—talons he knows can rip a grown man apart close around him gently, arresting his fall. He’s grinning like a madman and whoops when he feels Miu’s wings catch an updraft to circle them both back up.
The Crow Boss only bothers throwing someone off the nest when she decides they’re worthy. One final test. Otherwise, people just get eaten.
Back up in the nest, Miu drops Izuna in the middle of it. He rolls to soften his landing, but before he can get up she sits down on top of him, flattening him beneath her. When he tries to crawl his way out she knocks his head back down with what’s probably a very gentle tap with her beak that still makes his ears ring and shoves him back under her wing. He gets the message and relaxes against the soft downy feathers of her belly. It’s very warm and very comfortable. When he presses his ear against her side he can hear her giant heartbeat.
It’s a tiny bit faster than usual.
“Misbehaving chicks get sat on,” she rumbles in an echoing voice Izuna can feel and oh, she is pissed.
“Chicks who just go and die get sat on forever,” adds a different voice very cheerfully. Izuna’s heart skips a bit. That was... Rowa, wasn’t it? His very first personal summon apart from Miu.
He swallows. “I missed you too.”
Then feathers rustle and Miu lifts her wing far enough he can crawl out from under it halfway.
Rowa immediately attacks his hair because of course she does.
With a groan, he rolls over so she can access all of it because he knows exactly how this will go. She rips out his hair tie as if it personally offends her and then starts picking apart his strands.
Miu has turned her head so she can watch them. He grins up at her helplessly. She turns her head away again and starts preening some of her feathers as if she doesn’t care when both of them know she does.
More smaller Crows land on the nest, inspecting him curiously. It feels less eerie now than when they just watched him climb earlier. With a “... Rowa! What are you doing, you know that’s not how his hair works!” another Crow, small and black with two white feathers in each wing, hops forward and starts to also pull at his hair. It’s Wazuki, who’s always liked his hair too, even if currently he isn’t wearing any shiny ornaments to entice her further.
If Izuna closes his eyes it’s almost like everything is alright again, like it’s a lazy afternoon back at the Compound and any moment Niisan will burst through the door, whatever he wanted to yell about getting swept away in a wave of fondness when he finds Izuna indulging his summons, and he’ll sit down with a huff and allow one or two of the Crows to pick at his hair too—
He opens his eyes to find tears running down his face, and part of him wants to take all of his emotions and shove them back down as he’s been doing the past few days. But this here is so familiar. He’s safe here. The Crows will understand...
He buries his face against his arms and sobs.
“... Oh no,” another crow says, this one male, and oh, that’s Subaru, “someone broke him.”
Izuna snorts. It comes out weak and now his face is full of snot, but his tears keep coming and he’s so, so tired of pretending all the time. The two crows tugging at his hair slow down until it feels almost gentle and comforting.
He keeps crying.
Miu shuffles around until she’s fully facing him again and opens a wing in invitation. He scrambles up to his feet and crosses the small distance, falling to his knees. Then he throws her arms around her neck as best as he can—she is shifting to a somewhat smaller size so it’s less awkward than it could’ve been, and while he can’t quite reach around it’s comfortable enough.
She folds her wings around him, cocooning him in soft, warm feathers. It’s the closest to a hug they can do.
Izuna presses his face against her chest and wails. Words come tumbling from his mouth, too, almost unintentional, but he’s not sure how coherent they are. “Niisan died and I wasn’t there—this stupid fucking technique by stupid fucking Tobirama!! If I had just used my Mangekyo just this once… It’s been so many years… The entire Clan is dead and I’m in the middle of a fucking Senju Village—I don’t know how—wh- what do I do?! Oh gods, Niisan … Fuck–”
“You don’t need to tell me,” Miu says after a while when his words trail off. “Show me instead.”
Miu doesn’t have a Sharingan—though he wouldn’t be too surprised if she had, the Uchiha have been pacting with the Crows for several centuries and of course Uchiha get intense about their eyes—but she’s powerful in her own right and connected to him via the summoning pact too, which means he can just shove memories at her like he would at another Uchiha with the Sharingan. He looks up at her and does just that, pouring all of the past few days into her memories.
… Amaterasu. Fuck.
It’s been less than a week.
“Can I go back, Miu?” He asks her, minutes—hours— ages later, his voice cracking as he wipes his face with his sleeve. “Can I?!” If someone knows, it’s her.
Even before she answers he can read the truth in how she hesitates for just a second, bowing her head down towards him. “Chick,” she says, “you shouldn’t be here. I’m very happy you are”—she gives his head a careful nuzzle with her beak—“but I don’t know how you are here. Time and space and fate don’t bend easily.” She sighs and turns her vivid red eyes back on him. “But you are here, and while there are some fading echoes of a sealing technique in your chakra signature I don’t think it’s something that could be reversed, or should be. Time flows forwards, not backwards. Bringing you here must’ve already cost more energy than I can fathom—bringing you back…” She shakes her head.
Izuna exhales as slowly as he can. Wait. “A sealing technique?! Show me.”
“Izuna-chick,” Miu says, voice still very serious. “You can’t try to undo this. It would only kill you. You’re part of the now, and I meant what I said about the flow of time—trying to go back now would go against the natural order of things. It would tear you apart.”
He considers this. The truth is… he would probably condemn a lot of people to death, to non-existence even, if he could just go back and fix things. For a moment, he imagines that. Going back, killing Hashirama so Niisan can have true peace. With the Eternal Mangekyō Sharingan, he would be able to. He would.
But… killing himself in a senseless attempt just because he can’t stand to be without Madara would be stupid. Not when there are things he can do here, alive.
“Are you sure?” he asks Miu quietly. She nods. He hides his face behind his sleeves again, blinking rapidly. “… I’d still like to see those seal echoes.” Even if he can’t reverse it, knowing how he happened to be here is still important. He doesn’t like loose ends.
“Of course,” Miu says, and shares the memory with him.
She’s right, there are traces of an unknown seal woven into his chakra signature—but he can only see these in the memory because Miu can see natural energy, and that’s interspersed with the seal traces. No wonder he didn’t notice before; natural energy is weird. He memorises what sealing patterns he can see for later.
“Ugh,” he says and then lets himself fall backwards until he’s sprawled out on his back and staring at the sky. Clouds are always interesting here in the summoning realm. Their shapes make sense one moment and then don’t the next. “... What the fuck am I supposed to do, then?” He frowns, and flaps a hand vaguely through the air. “After finding the eye thief, or thieves,” he adds.
Subaru, who has gotten over pouting pretty quickly, pipes up. “Burn it all down, of course.”
“What? It’s a Senju Village, that’s what Senju are for!”
“He’s not wrong,” Wazuki adds. Izuna knows for a fact that she just really likes burning things down and would agree to any plan involving fire.
“As much as your faith in me is appreciated, this entire Village might be a tad too much for me to fight at once,” he laughs. “And there are so many civilians in it…” The Crows might not always understand his hesitancy involving civilian casualties, but they usually respect it. And even though he literally doesn’t know any of these civilians, he can’t shake the sick feeling in his stomach at the thought of condemning them all to a fiery death. “I haven’t even seen any Senju yet, except for those fucking stone faces,” he adds, thoughtful. What’s up with that?
He sighs and flops onto his stomach, glancing up at his captive audience of Crows. “Get close to those in power and then stab them in the back to destabilise the entire Village? That wouldn’t be too hard.” The Hokage, his Elder Council, the Nara Clan Head and then of course the Yamanaka and Akimichi ones along with him, probably the other Clan Heads too so there’s no established leadership left… the rest of the Village would collapse soon enough.
Take Sasuke and go somewhere else? The Land of Iron maybe? They could probably use a smith…
It feels like running away.
It’s not him.
Fuck. It all comes back to Sasuke, and what happened to the Uchiha Clan here. Izuna can’t leave that alone. He needs to find the stolen eyes, and he needs to find Itachi and the man pretending to be Niisan.
Then, he can burn the culprits to ashes.
“... This Village was Niisan’s dream, too,” he says idly and chokes on his sudden anger, a red haze descending over his vision as he thinks about Madara’s childhood dreams, “and then they took it and killed him for it. No, I won’t burn it down,” he decides abruptly, “I’ll burn out the Senju from it and then I’ll make it mine.”
Izuna checks if anyone’s around—there still isn’t, at least to his Sharingan and chakra sensing—and performs the hand seals for the summoning jutsu again. He pours in more than half of his remaining chakra reserves; summoning Miu in a small and inconspicuous form interestingly takes more chakra than it does to summon her in her regular giant form, since apparently compressing her being that much costs a lot more energy. His chakra reserves end up being rather low, since accidentally reverse summoning himself already drained them pretty far. He probably should avoid starting any fights in the next few hours...
Miu puffs into being, small enough to easily perch on his shoulder. She’s even smaller than regular crows and rather striking with her all-white coloring, but he knows she can remain perfectly unseen if she wants to. “Hmm,” she says, head turning towards the rest of the Village. “That’s a lot of people here… This will be interesting.”
“Don’t eat anyone,” Izuna says with an eye roll. “You’re here for reconnaissance only.”
“Not even a Senju? This is a Senju Village, surely they won’t miss one or two.”
“... Please don’t,” he answers her dryly, even if that would be hilarious and he kind of wants to see it. “And as I said, I’m not sure there are any Senju here—I haven’t met or heard about any.” Which is definitely interesting, considering the two giant ugly Senju heads towering over the Village. Maybe the Clan is really into… civilian administration now? He frowns. Surely there should be a Senju or two in the Clan Head Council...
“A few hours, then,” Miu decides with an expectant look, rustling her wings.
He closes his right eye and presses two fingers against the lid, forming a hand seal with the other hand. A surge of chakra, and then he blinks open his eye again to a very different world. As always he has to suppress the panic clawing at his throat for a second— his eye is still there, he just traded the vision in it with Miu for the duration of the technique so she can go and spy with the Sharingan’s perfect recall. The overlap with his normal left eye is disorienting, so he closes that one for a few seconds.
There are far more colours now that he lacks the words to describe, and a higher contrast almost similar to Sharingan clarity. But since Miu also sees natural energy, Izuna sees that now, too. She’s also warned him firmly to never try to use it; he can imagine all kinds of unpleasant things happening if he tries so he never has. Just seeing it is enough. As a child, it was incredibly distracting, but he has learned to not let it show. If he has to focus he can always use a genjutsu to stop his right eye from sending signals to his brain.
Izuna glances at Miu. To his right eye she now looks blazing, an enormous amount of natural energy compressed to a needlepoint focus. It’s beautiful.
She turns her head to look back at him—her right eye currently shows the faint shadow of a Sharingan pattern.
He grins before he shrugs his shoulder to unseat her. “Off you go. Have fun!”
She pecks at his ear in revenge and flies off.
The feeling of familiarity surging up in his chest makes him smile. There are more tears threatening again, too, but Izuna will be damned before he cries in the middle of this Village. Never.
“Uchiha-sama?” Izuna looks up. Yūhi Ikuko, the medic who’d been in charge of treating him before, stands in the doorway of Sasuke’s hospital room. “I wanted to ask you a few follow-up questions.”
He nods and waves her in. Sasuke is busy polishing off the daifuku Izuna bought on his way here, so Izuna has a few spare minutes.
“How are you doing, Uchiha-sama? Any problems with your injury?”
Izuna shakes his head. “Nothing so far, Yūhi-sensei,” he says. He hasn’t done more than basic kata and stretching yet, but will have to soon. From what he has seen of their healing techniques he expects he won’t have any issues besides the usual scarring. Any Uchiha has various burn scars and knows how to deal with them. For him, they’re almost the only scars he has anyway.
“That’s good. It's just that we noticed that—You… ah, you don’t seem to have any inoculation records?”
He stares at her. Of course he doesn’t have any kind of medical records because he didn’t exist here a week ago, much less a—a what record? He decides to shrug and wave her off. “Oh, I don’t need those.”
The medic’s expression changes from polite to appalled and back to polite dismay really quickly. She looks at Sasuke, takes a deep breath, and looks back at Izuna to meet his eyes. “Uchiha-sama. I’m aware you… kept to your Clan Grounds before recent events.” Going by her tone, she now thinks he’s a civilian idiot. Great. She squares her shoulders. “But considering your very public position now, not to mention your plan to join the shinobi forces, I must strongly recommend you to reconsider and let us catch you up on those immunizations.”
He raises a bemused eyebrow at her, which thankfully she takes as an opportunity to keep explaining because he still has no idea what she’s talking about. “Our inoculations have all been tested thoroughly and proven very safe ever since Tsunade-hime introduced them.” Oh? That sounds interesting. Another name he apparently needs to read up on. “Since they’re combined with chakra healing upon administration we keep side effects to a minimum. We can now prevent various childhood illnesses, such as coughing fever, and then for active shinobi, there are also a few international as well as chakra-driven diseases we can inoculate you against—”
Izuna doesn’t remember much of the winter in which both he and the twins had been sick with coughing fever for months.
He had gotten better, eventually.
His brothers hadn’t.
“Yūhi-sensei, I apologize for my earlier… refusal,” he says smoothly after she has finished her list of dangers that, these days, healing techniques can apparently get rid of entirely. Another thing this inter-Clan cooperation did achieve... Huh. “Thank you for explaining. Of course I’d like to get those immunizations done.” He smiles at her.
The medic looks taken aback for only a moment, before giving him a hesitant smile. “That’s—that’s great to hear.” She shakes her head as if to clear her thoughts. Izuna has the feeling she usually has to be far more persuasive about this subject. “If we give you all the available immunizations at once, even with chakra healing you’ll likely experience a day or two of mild symptoms, fever and the like, but then you’re done with it.”
Hm. That’s not too bad, although it means they need to postpone it a bit. “Can we schedule it for after my Assessment Testing? In two days, then.”
“Of course we can. I’ll schedule you for right after when your assessment should be done, how does that sound?”
“Great! Thank you, Yūhi-sensei.” He smiles at her.
For some reason the medic blushes as she says her goodbyes and finally leaves. Izuna stares after her. Should he be less friendly…? Eh. He prefers to be polite until he’s given a reason to very much not be.
It catches people off-guard very easily.
“Sasuke-kun, are you ready?”
“Yes, but where are we going?”
Izuna hums while he offers him a hand. “I thought you’d like to look at the houses and choose one so I can get it ready for your release from the hospital in two days.” The medics prefer to be careful with Sasuke due to the genjutsu trauma—and the overall trauma—and Izuna tends to agree. “And there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” Miu will have his head if he doesn’t immediately introduce Sasuke to her.
Sasuke takes his hand, but he’s frowning. “Houses…?” Izuna grabs him and then jumps out of the window. He’s seen other shinobi doing it the past few days, and honestly, it’s a rather neat way to come and go. There are multiple reasons for why shinobi might not want to go through the crowded hallways of the hospital.
“We’re two people, Sasuke, we only need a small house,” he gently explains while setting the boy down. Sasuke has gone stiff and his chakra all withdrawn when Izuna grabbed and carried him, so he changes his plans to walking the rest of the way to the Compound. “And… well, personally I’d like something without—without that many memories,” he adds a small lie. Sasuke really shouldn’t have to live in the house where his parents were killed by his brother.
And Izuna accidentally burned down half of it, anyway.
They walk together in silence for a while. Sasuke has dropped his hand, still frowning, but is staying close. Izuna makes careful note of people meeting his eyes—very few, people staring at them in open curiosity, or fear, or both—so many, it’s definitely the Uchiha coat he’s wearing, and people… following them? He concentrates on his sensing.
He’s shit at sensing beyond very close range. No, actually, Madara and fucking Tobirama are just cheating by being so fucking good at long-range sensing they make everyone else look bad.
Izuna always figured being good at close-range sensing might be helpful for after he gave his eyes to Niisan.
… It’s still helpful with eyes now since it’s less obvious than using his Sharingan. There are people following them—two of them he thinks are the same hidden ANBU guards that were watching Sasuke earlier in the hospital. Likely on the Hokage’s orders, then. They’re hidden well, but by now he can recognize the chakra ripples of the same stealth jutsu they all use. The third shadow however… that chakra signature is very difficult to latch on, much less actually hold it for more than a moment. It slides in and out of his sensing, completely disappearing at times. Very slippery.
Annoying. It’s giving him a headache.
And it’s a potential threat.
That chakra signature keeps away from the other two, too, making it possibly an entirely different faction?
Izuna will burn any of these three regardless of who sent them should they choose to step a single foot on Clan grounds.
None of their shadows have followed them into the Compound, so Izuna can focus on Sasuke. The boy is understandably apprehensive, looking around with wide eyes while doing his best not to clutch at Izuna’s hand too tightly.
It’s good that Izuna burned all the visible blood stains away. It’s still eerie, and probably much more so for Sasuke, but not as bad as it could’ve been.
Sasuke comes to an abrupt stop when they turn a corner and the Clan Head house comes into view. “That—when did that happen?!” he demands, voice shaking.
Ah. “... there was a small incident,” Izuna admits, trying to sound glum about the half-burned down building, “but I managed to save a lot of your and your parents’ things.” Mostly all the papers and documents from the office and some of Sasuke’s clothes and toys. Family pictures and the family’s armour and weapons are still safe in the part that’s not burned down, so he plans to look at those later.
He turns Sasuke towards the boarded-up house he’d noticed earlier. It’s a lot smaller than the surrounding houses, but it’s bordering the same central plaza as the Clan Head house and has a lovely little garden. Crucially, it looks like it has been boarded up for years—which means he and Sasuke won’t have to feel like they’re intruding, and there’ll be far fewer things reminding the kid of the recent tragedy.
“I figured this house might do,” he starts, “it’s just the right size for the two of us, isn’t it?”
“Who did it belong to?” Sasuke murmurs, frowning.
Izuna shrugs. “An Elder, maybe...?” he tosses out a random guess. It doesn’t really matter, and Sasuke won’t know either anyway.
Sasuke frowns harder as they walk around the house. “... I think Kaasan mentioned someone who lived here before… before the Fox.”
Izuna hums noncommittally. The fox…? What’s that about?
“I think it was—Hikaku-ojii?” Sasuke continues, and oh.
Izuna almost stops dead, his heart pounding.
His Hikaku? His cousin? He does a few hasty calculations in his head, and—and Hikaku could’ve been still alive a few years ago, yes.
He swallows the sudden grief climbing up his throat, and it’s not fair, feeling like he just missed one of the most important people in his life—
For all those years, it must’ve been Hikaku who missed so much...
“A-Akitsuna?” Sasuke pipes up hesitantly, pulling him out of his thoughts.
He shakes his head. “I thought that sounded familiar”, he says. There’s no reason to lie. “Let’s check this out.”
… Not quite surprisingly, the doors and windows to the house all turn out to be heavily—and pretty cleverly—booby-trapped. Izuna picks the second barrage of shuriken out of the air before they hit anything and dodges a wire aiming for his neck. He frowns back at Sasuke, who’s watching with wide eyes from a few steps away. “I think I’ll disarm these on my own later,” he decides.
Sasuke’s face falls.
Izuna sighs. “Sasuke, I’ll gladly show you how these traps work another time, but disarming them will take me a while and I can’t be sure there aren’t any secondary traps. I don’t want you to accidentally get hurt.” He smiles. “We can check out the house together once you're released from the hospital the day after tomorrow? You get the first choice of rooms.”
The boy ponders this. “Okay,” he agrees after a moment.
Izuna decides to show Sasuke their chickens instead. The boy is reluctantly delighted—he’s frowning but Izuna can tell, that’s definitely excitement in his eyes—especially when Izuna scoops up a few of the day-old, loudly chirping chicks to carefully set them into Sasuke’s hands. They’re very soft and warm, there’s no way a tiny seven-year old can resist.
“... Their tails are very long,” Sasuke says after a moment, glancing at the mature chickens. Their black-and-white tail feathers drag on the floor. Absurdly, it reminds Izuna of his own ponytail a bit.
“Hmm,” Izuna agrees. “I think these are originally decorative fowl.” Then he shrugs. “But they lay eggs just the same, and they probably don’t taste too bad, either.” Sasuke is looking a bit alarmed at the prospect of eating any of these chickens, staring down at the tiny chicks in his cupped hands in dismay. “Don’t you think they’re in our Clan colours?”
Sasuke blinks and looks back at the mature chickens. They are sort of in Uchiha colours—black and white plumage, though more black, with the combs on their heads vivid scarlet. “They are!” Sasukle agrees after a moment. There’s now an actual smile on his face.
“Want to help me take care of these?” Izuna asks him. “They need to be fed twice daily, and eggs collected in the morning.” It’s actually a traditional chore for children—and pretty easy with these chickens. The pen and coop are both warded against pests and foxes, and the birds themselves are all used to humans coming and going, so the chances of the rooster attacking Sasuke are very slim.
“... okay,” Sasuke decides and sets the chicks carefully back down. They watch them scamper back to the mother.
Izuna glances at a nearby tree and crouches next to Sasuke. “There’s someone I want you to meet,” he says, “but it’s a Clan secret, you understand?”
Sasuke blinks. “Okay?” he repeats, scrunching up his face a bit.
Izuna holds out an arm to the side.
Miu, who has been watching ever since they got to the chickens, swoops down from the tree to land on his head instead. He sighs and holds very still while her small, sharp claws dig into his hair and scalp to get a good grip. “Really?!” he asks her.
“Really,” Miu agrees, mirth in her voice audible. The nearby chickens have all retreated into the far corner of the pen, giving her very wary stares.
Sasuke has clapped both hands to his mouth, trying to hide a surprised grin. His eyes are wide. Well, at least someone is enjoying this situation. Izuna has done worse things than balancing a bird on his head to make people laugh, too.
“... he really does look like you, ‘Zuna-chan.”
Of course, Sasuke immediately frowns at that. He mouths ‘Zuna-chan… ?’. Izuna is proud of his perception, though Miu also was incredibly obvious.
He sighs. “A childhood nickname, Sasuke—Tsuna, like the second kanji of my name?” It’s not that much of a lie, anyway. The kanji is the same.
“‘Zuna-chan doesn’t like to be called that because he thinks he’s too old for it,” Miu says in a conspiratorial whisper as she leans forward, “but that argument doesn’t work on me, of course.”
Izuna shakes his head abruptly, but Miu very rudely fails to fall off. “Sasuke, this is Miu,” he introduces her despite that. “She’s my very annoying but sometimes helpful Crow summon.”
Miu digs her claws into his scalp.
“Oh. Crows like... like Shisui-san?” Sasuke asks.
He can feel Miu nodding enthusiastically. “Exactly like Shisui-kun, yes,” she agrees. Huh. He needs to carefully ask her later about other Crow summoners, then, or find the Summoning scroll. Although this summoner must of course be dead now… but his name isn’t familiar from the files he memorised earlier. Hm.
“She’s actually the boss Crow summon,” he then tells Sasuke, voice low. Sasuke’s eyes go even rounder. “But that’s even more of a secret, of course.” Unlike many other summon species, Miu prefers to be underestimated right until the moment she eats someone.
Sasuke nods, still staring at Miu.
“If you ever need help and I’m not around, you can go ask the crows—any crows, and Miu or my other summons will hear. I was thinking one or two of my summons could keep you company when I’m not here?” Assuming he’ll be sent out on missions at least occasionally, and Izuna will also feel better to have a trusted ally watch Sasuke even when he’s just elsewhere within the Village. “Most of the time it won’t be Miu though, because it does cost a lot of chakra to have her here,” he adds.
Miu picks at his ear. He reaches up to flick at her, but she dodges and now attacks his fingers instead.
His charge still looks a bit doubtful.
“The Crows know all sorts of things,” Izuna says casually, trying to make Sasuke warm up to this idea, “they’re very fond of genjutsu and Katon techniques, too—I’m sure they’ll be delighted to teach you some.” He himself has learned some of his tricks from them, after all.
Sasuke immediately looks more interested. Good. The Crows’ teaching heavily leans towards pranks, of course, but those still confer important life lessons. Shinobi live when they’re tricky enough.
“Oh, there are many things we can teach you, Sasuke-chick,” Miu adds, and Izuna doesn’t need to see her to know her eyes are glinting. “Starting with all these fascinating stories from Zuna-chan’s childhood–”
Izuna abruptly drops his head forward and down, almost into a deep bow. Miu spends a very undignified moment of white feathers flailing before he thrusts out an arm for her to grip before she lands on the floor. He eyes her through a curtain of tousled hair and mouths ‘your own fault’.
It’s a wonderful sound to hear, and Izuna and Miu exchange a satisfied glance.
Amusing bird nonsense usually does the trick for most children.
He eyes the position of the sun. “I think we need to get you back to the hospital for now, Sasuke,” he says with some reluctance.
After he has delivered Sasuke back to the hospital, Miu can tell him what she found out about this Village so far.
Izuna stares after the shinobi who almost shoved him in his haste to get past just now. He didn’t manage, of course, because Izuna heard him coming and stepped out of the way.
The shinobi has a very distinct katana on his hip. It’s Uchiha-made.
He’s under the impression Konoha only has supply contracts for kunai and shuriken with the Uchiha Clan—Katanas take distinctly longer to make and are therefore usually personal commissions. That shinobi doesn’t look like he could afford a personal Uchiha commission. He seems to be a run-of-the-mill Chunin, wearing a non-personalized version of what’s obviously Konoha’s standard shinobi uniform. Curious. Maybe a gift…?
He should check up on that at some point.
“Mhhm,” Miu says into his ear, “I think that dog there can smell me.”
Oh? He lets his gaze slide over where she’s looking. Miu, sitting on his shoulder, is cloaked in her usual genjutsu that should hide her even from any Sharingan, so that statement is unusual. But genjutsu and scent is often tricky.
It’s a brown pug… wearing a miniature Konoha headband and shinobi vest?
He blinks. The dog is still staring directly at him—not Miu though—and probably frowning, even if Izuna isn’t the best judge of dog facial expressions. The last time he met a pug he was in a noble’s home for a mission negotiation and the blasted mutt wouldn’t stop barking until he put it to sleep with a genjutsu.
Regardless, he steps over to where the dog is sitting at the entrance to a currently empty alley and crouches down a small distance away. “Clever dog,” he offers, eyeing the headband. It is a proper shinobi headband, sized down to fit the dog exactly.
“... I’m very cute, too,” the dog answers, sniffing surreptitiously and eyeing Izuna’s shoulder. Miu is very still.
Huh. Another ninken, then? “That too,” Izuna agrees with a smile. The dog is ugly but in a cute way. “You’re with the Inuzuka? I met a bunch of them and their ninken this morning.”
“Hmm. Not with the Inuzuka,” the pug says. “I’m Pakkun. Why do you smell like bird?”
“Nice to meet you, Pakkun-san. I’m Uchiha Akitsuna.” Not with the Inuzuka? He thought that Clan was the only one with nin-dog companions. Hatake, maybe? But didn’t they tend to have wolves? A pug is quite the distance from a wolf... “I discovered today I now own several chickens,” he answers the question with not quite a lie. He idly wonders if chickens and crows smell the same to a dog. “Where did you get the headband in your size?” he adds.
“Mhhhm.” Pakkun raises an eyebrow, which is a rather funny look on a dog; he’s still sniffing though. “Depends. Why do you want to know?”
Because putting a headband on his Crows would be hilarious. Even if they would probably just eat them. Or use them for pranks. “Maybe my chickens would like some.” He smiles widely to indicate the joke without so much as a twitch when Miu viciously pecks at his ear. She’s careful not to draw any blood.
Pakkun huffs, not quite laughing. “There’s an official nin-animal test they’d have to pass to get registered.”
Ah. No headbands then. He prefers to keep his summons mostly secret. Unless one of them wants to pretend to be a very smart chicken for the test… He sighs. “No chickens with headbands then.”
“Too bad. Might’ve made for a good dinner, all considerately marked up for us,” Pakkun says, and is he… grinning?
Izuna snorts and grins in return. “Fond of hunting for poultry? Well, I do have a lot of these…”
“I’ve never eaten Uchiha chicken,” Pakkun ponders. “They are those fancy ones, yes?”
“Very fancy,” he agrees. Probably very easy hunting, too, since they are domesticated and their dragging tail feathers would only hinder them when fleeing.
“Hmm.” Pakkun eyes him for a bit longer and then nods. “You’re very polite. Here, you can touch my beans,” he says and holds out one of his paws to him.
Izuna raises an eyebrow but reaches out to do as he says. “... Congratulations, they’re very soft,” he tells Pakkun after a moment, because they are. It’s quite nice to touch them.
Pakkun nods. “Thank you. Well, I’ll leave you to it now. See you!” And with one final glance and sniff into the general direction of Izuna’s shoulder he turns around and leaves.
“Dogs,” Miu hisses into his ear as soon as the pug is out of earshot. “If you try to put that ugly symbol on me or mine I will eat your fingers.”
“I’ve found the Senju,” Miu tells him smugly when they’re back inside the Uchiha Compound and both of them have cast their additional secrecy genjutsu. “Or well, their Clan Compound.”
Izuna hums. “Oh?”
“... I couldn’t get into it,” Miu admits, sounding disgruntled. “It’s empty and abandoned, and all roads leading to it completely overgrown. But the sealing barrier around it is still strong.”
The Senju Compound lies abandoned? Izuna really needs to get his hands and eyes on more history books and general knowledge of the Village. He can’t imagine Tobirama or anyone even distantly related to the man just… well, leaving? No, those ugly stone heads still exist; something else, then. “You couldn’t get through a puny human barrier?”
Miu attacks his ear once more. At this rate he might really need some healing. “There are at least three different sealing masters who contributed to that barrier,” she says, still sounding sour. “And... inside and outside the barrier are trees feeling like they were grown by him. From the looks of it they passively feed natural energy into the barrier, strengthening it.”
Izuna grimaces. Ah. “Fun,” he tells Miu with a frown. Oh joy. He hates the feel of Hashirama’s Mokuton-grown trees, and he can’t imagine Miu particularly likes them either. They make his skin crawl. He sighs. “Tell me the location and I’ll go look at it later.” He has a hundred things to do, but he suddenly wants to break into that Compound really badly if only so he can set the entire thing on fucking fire.
She tells him. Hm. Interestingly, the Senju Clan Compound is located almost exactly opposite of the Uchiha Compound when one takes the Hokage Tower as an axis.
“There’s something else,” Miu says, and before Izuna can even get a sense of foreboding she promptly starts… hacking up a white mask? There’s something really disconcerting in watching her spit out an object larger than her entire body, even though Izuna knows there’s chakra and natural energy at play here.
It’s a mask exactly like the ANBU, the Hokage’s personal guards and the agents occasionally following Izuna, wear.
She keeps hacking.
And finally spits out an entire bloody head, presumably the one belonging to the mask’s wearer. He can’t help but notice that it looks like the neck was first broken and then severed by a giant beak. Or maybe just severed by a giant beak? Miu likes to bite off heads… The facial expression frozen in death looks suitably horrified.
Gross. This is so gross.
Izuna stares at his perfectly unapologetic summon who’s currently busy ordering her plumage without any care in the world. He sighs. “What did I say about not eating people?!”
“He was talking about your Sharingan,” Miu says as if this is a perfectly reasonable explanation, “And he was meticulously avoiding the other ANBU guards sent by the Hokage—so he’s from a third faction.”
Huh. So likely that third signature following him earlier. Interesting, but eating people doesn’t generally solve more problems than it creates. Someone will notice this agent missing.
“There’s a seal on him,” adds Miu almost as an afterthought, “it deactivated when he died—or maybe it deactivated in reaction to the natural energy in my body—but it left a really bad aftertaste. And you like seals, don’t you? A puzzle for you to figure out.”
Izuna huffs and rolls his eyes. “Yes, I just love looking at severed heads.” Belying his own words, he crouches down and reaches out to turn the head over. “This is so gross. I hate you.”
Miu looks like she would sniff disdainfully if she could. “Heads are the perfect gift, chick. For courting, too, so you might want to keep that in mind.”
He raises an eyebrow. There are so many things wrong with that statement…. Well, if he’s honest, for Uchiha, eyes are the best possible gift, so maybe he can’t really protest after all. “At least make yourself useful and go make sure no one’s watching.” he tells her. He has layered secrecy genjutsu on top of the ones already on the two of them as soon as Miu had started hacking up the mask, but Miu has her own ways of hiding things. “Without eating anyone else,” he adds hastily.
Miu caws—she’s definitely laughing at him—and finally flutters off.
Leaving him with the head.
“Who are you?” he asks it absentmindedly as he looks at it with his Sharingan. This reveals nothing, so he lets his eyes slide into the Mangekyō. There are some fleeting traces of chakra left, centering on… the mouth? With a sigh and the firm conviction that he will burn anything disgusting off his hands right afterwards, he pries it open.
There’s a seal on the tongue. It’s just a few brushstrokes and therefore probably dormant or highly compressed. It doesn’t tell him anything, so he feeds a tiny string of chakra into it to make it unfurl into the actual seal.
The actual seal stretches out all over the face and towards the back of the neck in extremely intricate sealwork. Nothing else happens. Specifically, there’s no active chakra other than his own and remnants from Miu, so it probably didn’t just give off any signals. A quick glance around tells him nothing’s changed; as long as Miu doesn’t come back screeching he should be safe to stay here for a bit.
Izuna isn’t exactly good at writing seals, but you don’t clash most of your life against Senju Tobirama—and occasionally some Uzumaki cousins, too—without getting very good at identifying them with a quick glance. And destroying them.
In fact, he accidentally became the Uchiha’s foremost sealing expert simply because Tobirama wouldn’t fucking stop throwing the damn things at him. He’d have thought the Senju would eventually learn his lesson but no.
Some parts of this seal look a bit familiar. It doesn’t match Tobirama’s sealing style exactly, but… maybe someone who was taught by Tobirama? Great. Why is it that Izuna can’t ever catch a fucking break from Senju fucking Tobirama even when the man has been dead for several years?! Amaterasu, he should’ve just disobeyed Madara once—and risked the deterioration brought on by using his Mangekyō—and killed him.
He idly pokes at some sections of this particular seal. There’s a part here that looks like it’s for suppression, and another part that specifies a trigger… connected to talking? And some parts remind him of the Hyūga cursed seal he saw once.
Information hiding, then.
A clever seal. Likely very painful for the person sealed. This one looks like it was connected to a master seal or sealing focus, when the ANBU was alive, but that connection has been severed in death. Not of much use for him anymore.
He memorises the seal in its entirety with a flicker of his Sharingan and then burns the head to ashes. Dusting off his hands, he turns his attention towards the mask. It looks a bit different than the other ANBU masks he has seen so far—maybe a different material or maker? The seals on the inside are interesting and, as he figured, mostly for hiding any identifiable traits of the wearer’s appearance.
Huh. He decides to keep it for now, and slips it into his sleeve.
“I think we’re done for today,” he calls into Miu’s general direction. He’s tired and his chakra levels are low from keeping her summoned all this time, along with holding the jutsu to share their sight.
His other summons will cost him far less chakra and, more importantly, won’t just eat people without his explicit permission. He doesn’t quite know enough about this Village yet to know who deserves eating anyway. But since the next day will be full of more information gathering he’ll need his other Crows.
Miu lands on his shoulder and plucks at his hair one last time. “Don’t die,” she says warningly and disappears in a puff of smoke before he can answer anything to that.
He huffs. He certainly isn’t planning to.
“Izuna! There you are! We’ve all been worried, what the hell were you doi–”
His father interrupts himself to stare at Izuna.
Izuna scuffs his feet against the floor. He knows he looks positively filthy. His clothing is torn, probably beyond repair, he has scratches all over, and for once his hair looks even worse than Niisan’s. Touchan will certainly be angry–
“You honour us, Miu-sama,” Touchan addresses the white crow perched on Izuna’s shoulder and bows formally. It looks a bit silly because Izuna is very small so Touchan has to bow very low, too. “Thank you for taking care of my son.”
Oh! Touchan knows Miu-sama! He won’t have to explain anything then! He hesitantly grins at his father. “Miu said she’ll help me not die!”
There’s something crossing Touchan’s face at this, but it’s gone really fast and he takes a deep breath. He smiles at Izuna. “I’m—very glad to hear that.” Izuna bites his lip. Touchan doesn’t seem angry, but he’s not very happy either. Maybe he was just really worried?
Then there’s the sound of running feet in the hallway, interrupting any further thought. “Izu-chan!!” Madara comes barrelling into the room and sweeps Izuna up into a hug in one gesture. “I’ve been looking everywhere, where have you—Ouch!”
Miu-sama fluffs herself up and eyes his brother, who’s almost crushed her in his haste to hug Izuna without noticing her. Madara’s arm is bleeding from where she picked at him with her sharp beak.
“... where did you get a bird?! Is it tame?!” Madara demands immediately, holding his arm, and turns to their father. “Tousan, is this safe?”
“Madara,” Touchan says drily, “this is Miu-sama, the Boss Crow of our Clan’s Crow summons. Please try to be polite, hm?”
“... Oh.” Madara turns back to look at Miu-sama.
“I can see where you got your lack of manners from, chick,” Miu tells Izuna, “... although it’s a lot cuter when you do it.”
Izuna laughs while Madara splutters.
There's now art for this fic! Izuna and Miu by the fantastic RaeGunBlast! Please go and give the artist some love!
(Since you've met Miu now, there's only one tiiiiny spoiler in this art...)