Madara looks like he has a headache already, and Izuna isn’t even halfway through his mission report! Rude.
“So,” his brother says, “you deliberately revealed your successful involvement in this mission to the shinobi hired by an opposing party because…”, he sighs, “‘it was funny’?!”
Phrased like that it sounds pretty ill-advised, but it had really been a perfect opportunity! “But Niisan! Their faces were hilarious!”
Madara sighs again and shakes his head, watching wearily as Izuna acts out some of the most memorable expressions and curses.
He stops and looks up at that particular tone in Niisan’s voice. Madara’s expression is serious—in that way that always makes him look like Tajima—as he gazes at Izuna.
“... Don’t fool around in fights you can’t afford to lose.”
Izuna huffs. “As if I’d ever do that!”
Hatred boils up in Izuna’s veins, his carefully controlled killing intent bursting out across the field. All he can see is a mountain of corpses in terrifying clarity, all their eyes missing, THIEF THIEF THIEF echoing through his head–
His next moves are by instinct.
He throws his entire body into a spinning kick against Inu’s side that shatters the man's arm he brings up in defense.
A reverse strike with the hilt of his katana down on Inu’s right hand makes him drop the tanto.
A sound like dozens of birds fills his ears, along with killing intent to almost match his own–
He snaps his left hand up to catch Inu’s wrist blazing bright with Raiton chakra–
His sword swings around, Inu’s broken arm with a kunai too slow to block it–
His body, his sword; a hairbreadth away from Inu’s neck, even part of his chakra—it all stops.
His left hand goes numb.
The noise stops.
Shadows entangle his feet.
Unnatural calm descends on his mind.
And Maito Gai catches Izuna’s blade between his bare hands.
“—ha-san! Hatake’s eye was a gift sanctioned by your Clan Head!!” This is the Jōnin Commander shouting from behind him, where he must have his hands folded into his Clan’s traditional seal with his shadow stretching out to meet Izuna’s and Inu’s. “He has had it for several years,” Nara Shikaku adds.
Izuna shatters the calming genjutsu—Yūhi again—with a flash of his Sharingan, irritated. The scar on Inu’s—Hatake ’s face does look old… And he was using it, so it can’t be a new transplant. Can it?
He takes a breath. His left hand is numb and trembling from the Hyūga’s Jūken strike against his wrist. At least the man struck Hatake’s hand at the same time, interrupting the Raiton jutsu somewhat faster than Izuna’s method would’ve been—he had caught Hatake’s wrist, so he would’ve melted right through the man’s flesh and bone to stop the technique if needed.
He could use his Mangekyō to end this all here and now… but there are too many things left to do in this Village.
And Sasuke is here. He can feel Rowa vibrating with tension and all but poised to swoop down and grab the boy to unsummon him along with herself back to the safety of the summoning realm, but still.
Izuna relaxes his grip on his katana as much as he can, caught in the shadow jutsu as he is. The blade hasn’t budged an inch from where Gai caught it between his palms despite Izuna having put his entire body weight behind his strike. It’s annoyingly admirable.
Hatake’s eyes are both wide, lips under a cloth mask drawn up into a snarl. There’s a hint of uncertainty there. His lone Sharingan is spinning.
And yet… scars can be made to look older, skill could be gained by other means… “Humour me,” Izuna grits out, baring his teeth, “with the story of how exactly this happened.” He looks directly into Hatake’s eyes. “Or need I remind you of the several dozen Sharingan eyes still missing?!” He wouldn’t put it past this thrice damned Senju Village to have stolen from corpses before, like the vultures they all are proving to be—hells, he can vividly imagine something about ‘utilizing all assets for the good of the Village’ in Senju Tobirama’s stupid monotone voice. He’d probably think other people deserve the Uchiha’s bloodline more…
A pause. “In the Third Shinobi War, a treasured Uchiha comrade of my friend was injured in such a way that he would die and couldn’t be retrieved. Uchiha Obito,” Maito Gai then says, his voice solemn and quiet. “And because Kakashi lost his own left eye earlier in the same battle when defending this comrade, the Uchiha decided to give his Sharingan to him. A talented field medic did the transplant at his request. I believe Fugak—the previous Uchiha Clan Head reluctantly accepted that but chose to… have the Clan keep their distance?” He sounds reproachful.
But, a field medic who apparently wasn’t an Uchiha herself did that transplant?! Izuna’s list of people he needs to properly research grows daily.
Hatake is silent. His face is entirely blank, nothing indicating whether or not Maito is telling the truth.
Izuna sneers at him, not breaking his stare. “Show me,” he demands. “Show me it happened that way.”
“... ‘Show you’, Akitsuna-san?” Nara Shikaku finally speaks up in a leading tone.
Maito Gai is frowning.
Hatake’s face has morphed into a soundless snarl.
“Memory sharing is one of the first Sharingan techniques an Uchiha learns,” Izuna says. “Fuck, is the only thing you’re doing with that eye copying?!”
Copying is always the one thing other people covet about the Sharingan, probably because other people are all fucking stupid.
He can almost feel the Nara frowning thoughtfully behind him.
For Amaterasu’s sake! “Focus on your memory of how you got it,” Izuna says, increasingly impatient, “and then channel it through your eye like you would with a genjutsu.”
No wonder this man is leaking chakra over the place when using his Sharingan—no one taught him how to use it. Izuna can understand this era's Uchiha Clan’s apprehension, but if the events as being told earlier are true… leaving Hatake to stumble his way through learning Sharingan techniques entirely on his own is just fucking dumb. Arrogant. A mess waiting to happen. Someone else could just grab this eye because Hatake can’t fucking use it!
“Well?” Izuna is still staring unblinking at the unmasked ANBU. The man's Sharingan is bloodshot and fixed right back on Izuna's Sharingan. “I'm waiting.”
Hatake flicks his eyes to behind Izuna for just a moment. It seems that the Jōnin Commander gives him a nod, because while the man's face is still hesitant, there's the barest hint of a foreign memory tugging at Izuna's mind. It’s a lot like attempts made by kids who activated their Sharingan too early, making it just barely enough for him to grab with his own chakra and pull sharply. It’s not the polite thing to do and definitely too close to genuine mind-invading techniques to use it right in front of the Nara Clan Head, but Izuna is done with being fucking polite right now.
Memories flood in, disordered and flashing—some with a Sharingan's total clarity, some without.
A fight. A young kunoichi with a kind smile. Shinobi with Iwa’s symbol on their forehead protectors. Rocks falling. “Those who abandon their friends are worse than trash!!!” ringing out. A blade glowing white with chakra. Newly activated Sharingan. A dying wish. RocksfallingfallingFALLING–
The memories stop making sense, becoming random flashes as Hatake loses control of what he's sharing. Izuna tries to draw back out of the shared genjutsu, but then he sees the kunoichi from before again, and all he can hear is that terrible Raiton technique. He looks down to see his own arm pierce Rin's chest. He looks up to see Kakashi's arm pierce Rin's chest. AngergrIEFRAGEHATEHATEHATE–
Izuna jerks his head forward to connect his forehead with Hatake’s nose with an audible crack.
Everyone startles in reaction to the sudden movement, but the memories finally stop.
Mhhm. Maybe someone who’s not an Uchiha and has been self-teaching himself about the Sharingan… is bad at even the most basic memory sharing?
“What is wrong with you,” Izuna hisses nonetheless, because now he’s getting a headache again and his head is full of new jumbled memories and he wants someone to blame, “I asked for one specific memory, not your entire life story, for Amaterasu’s sake!”
Everyone just keeps looking at him. Ugh.
He lets go of his sword—he already moved when he should be caught in the shadow jutsu anyway—and takes a step back, which also happens to pull Hatake’s hand out of his shoulder. It didn’t go through all the way, but there’s the telltale numbness of a large Raiton burn and underneath that he can feel the edges of a fractured bone grinding against each other. It’s not bleeding much.
He can still move the arm, at least. His hand, however… Izuna glances at the Hyūga, who has stepped back as well. Then he wreathes his right hand in unfocused chakra and jabs it at the approximate locations of the tenketsu points in his unresponsive left hand, brute-forcing his chakra pathways back open.
The Hyūga’s face twitches, his eyes widening just a fraction.
Hah. As if Izuna wouldn’t know how to counter the most basic Hyūga technique. Using force instead of accuracy does tend to stress the chakra pathways, leaving them raw and aching for days, but the ones in Izuna’s hands are used to extra strain from his forging.
Expression unreadable, Maito Gai offers him back his sword.
Izuna sheathes it and looks up in time to give Nara Shikaku a bland smile as the man approaches. With a sigh he then steps back even more and gives a shallow bow half towards Hatake, half towards Shikaku. “My apologies for my outburst. Perhaps choosing someone with a transplanted Sharingan for this spar wasn't quite thought out,” he bites out, “considering recent events.”
What the fuck had they expected to happen?! He lets his eyes slide over to the Jōnin Commander as he straightens up, careful not to sound too accusing. The man had been surprised when Inu had showed up, hadn’t he? Maybe this hadn’t been his plan…
Nara Shikaku looks back at him with a thoughtful expression that, on a Nara, promises nothing good. Damn. Inviting Nara scrutiny is the last thing Izuna wanted to do today—but thinking back on the fight just now he'll probably have everyone's scrutiny now. Fine. He can work with this, too.
The Jōnin Commander finally nods and relaxes his stance. “As last minute changes go, this one turned out rather troublesome.”
Izuna narrows his eyes. The man sounds slightly pissed. Hopefully that anger will come down on whoever had the bright idea to send Hatake here for the spar.
“Hatake should see a medic for the way chakra bleeds through his eye's pathways into the surrounding tissue when he's using his Sharingan,” Izuna then says bluntly. “A Hyūga medic would probably do—the head's chakra pathways are very finicky and he might have already accrued long-term damage.” He shrugs. “Block the tenke—chakra pathways leading to the eye to let it rest once in a while, for Amaterasu’s sake.”
Uchiha children and teenagers learn very early and very quickly that a near-constant active Sharingan has the sort of consequences no one in their right mind wants.
Incredulous silence meets his statements. Maito Gai is frowning, and Shikaku looks as surprised as a Nara can. The Hyūga looks like someone hit him over the head—but then again, they often do.
Izuna scoffs. “What? Since that eye is rightfully his, he should take better care of it.” He might not like the fact that someone outside the Clan has a Sharingan, but the memories Hatake showed him had been real memories. And well. He of all people can’t exactly complain about Uchiha gifting their eyes to someone, can he?
“Gai-san,” Izuna says before the other man can turn away. “Nara-san. Yūhi-san”—he glances over to the spectators, but the genjutsu expert isn’t anywhere visible—“Hyūga-san, I appreciate your assistance with the… timely interruption.”
Izuna looks back at Hatake. The unmasked ANBU has barely moved, not reacting to what’s said, standing deadly still with his gaze fixed back on Izuna even as his friend tries to pull him away. Well. Izuna lets his lips quirk up into a smirk and watches the other man's scowl grow.
“Why offer advice to Kakashi?” Shikaku asks him, voice low even as the other Jōnin are already drifting out of earshot. “Hatake,” he clarifies after a moment.
Izuna experimentally rolls his shoulders and then shrugs carefully as he memorizes the name. His left shoulder is still mostly numb, but there’s a deep ache starting to settle in. “Before… recent events, what Hatake did or didn’t do with that eye didn’t matter,” he says, speculating about the Uchiha Clan’s motives with the confidence of, well, having been the Uchiha Clan Heir for most of his life. “Fugaku-sama probably hoped he’d die from the constant chakra exhaustion sooner or later.”
“Now, however…” He gives Shikaku a pointed look. “At the very least, he might be targeted by any more would-be bloodline thieves.” A Sharingan that has already been shown to work in someone who isn’t an Uchiha would be highly desirable. “And honestly?” he adds. “I find it rather embarrassing to see him stumble around like this.” Izuna is quite sure that any other shinobi only slightly less talented than Hatake would be long dead by now already, inevitably killed by either the strain the gifted Sharingan is putting on their chakra coils or their brain.
Bloodline thieves rarely learn that lesson because the Uchiha usually kill them much, much sooner.
Shikaku huffs. “That’s unexpectedly fair.”
Izuna shrugs. “Fugaku-sama is dead. I’m not. That’s all there is to it.”
“Speaking of,” Shikaku drawls, “why don’t you tell me how a nominally civilian smith almost kills one of my top Jōnin?" He squarely meets Izuna's eyes again.
Izuna offers him another vague smile as he shrugs again. “Ah, but Hatake-san was also about to kill me, wasn’t he?” he offers, but the tension in Shikaku's jaw tells him he needs to do better. Izuna’s shoulder has a giant hole in it that wouldn’t have killed him, of course, but that clearly was a one-hit assassination technique Hatake used on him, which he evaded rather easily.
He turns his head to both sides until his neck gives a satisfying pop. “I know how to wield the weapons I make so I can better judge the work of my own hands,” he starts with the same spiel Reki-sensei once told him, long ago, when a very young Izuna asked a similar question during his apprenticeship. “And any Uchiha knows Katon techniques. Smiths more than most, even.” What else? “Isn’t it common sense to have fighters in your Clan Compound that aren’t official fighters?” He meets Shikaku's eyes again.
The corner of Shikaku's eye twitches. Ah. Got him. As if a Nara wouldn’t be acutely aware of dangers poised by a defenseless home. They’re all shinobi—Izuna would bet anything that the Nara Clan probably has several people in their Compound that are not registered as shinobi.
And there are the Nara deer, of course.
Then he sighs, letting his shoulders slump. “Not that it helped us this time.” He can't help the bitterness creeping into his voice. There’s something wrong about the ease with which the entire Uchiha Clan was killed—Itachi must have a Mangekyō, there’s no other way to explain it, and maybe the second man Izuna met, too—and any hidden backup defenders died just as easily as everyone else.
Of course, Izuna hadn’t actually been there in any state to do anything himself. In any case, he should consider any potential missing Uchiha from the records…
Shikaku stares at him for several moments before slouching and waving it off. “Fair enough. Well, congratulations, I'm enlisting you into Konoha's forces as a Jōnin.” He sighs. “Normal A-Rank for now, since I don’t want to paint a bigger target on your back than you already have. You had a point about more potential bloodline thieves, unfortunately. It would be too troublesome for me if something happened to our last Uchiha.”
“So for a while, you'll probably only be assigned A-rank missions together with an experienced team,” Shikaku continues drily. “What else...? As official Clan Head you'll have your mission load reduced by half or more, but I'd recommend finding someone to represent you at meetings you might miss when on missions.”
Because Izuna can’t send the only other Clan member, Sasuke, since he’s still a child.
And working in a team? One that’s not a trusted Uchiha squad? That is, to borrow Nara's favorite word, very troublesome. From what Izuna has seen of this Village’s shinobi, if said team doesn’t happen to be either of the Jōnin he interacted with today, he can probably just put them in a genjutsu while he goes and finish the mission by himself.
Shikaku sighs. “There’s the Kumo issue in a few months, too… You’ll need to be in the Village for that. Hm. Well, you won’t be getting any long-term missions any time soon. As for the other issue,” Shikaku lowers his voice until he’s barely audible. “Meet me at the hospital tomorrow morning, same time as today. Bring the bodies.”
Izuna frowns. “No one touches these bodies without me present.”
“Yes, I know, that’s why we’re both going to have an exciting morning watching my expert doing that. Inu will be there as well.”
… That sounds like a wonderful start to the day, watching someone else take apart bodies that have already been desecrated. But despite the conclusions he’s already drawn from their injuries, Izuna isn’t a medic, so Shikaku’s expert might be able to tell them even more.
“And another thing.” Shikaku narrows his eyes.
“How did you get out of my jutsu?”
Izuna grins at him. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Shikaku sighs. “Fire produces light—you severed the connection to my shadow by flaring fire chakra around your entire body for a fraction of a second.” He shakes his head. “Now I need to find a way around that… Troublesome,” he adds.
Of course he would have noticed how Izuna had done it. There’s a reason Izuna prefers to not engage any Nara in close encounters and that’s because they analyse techniques they’re faced with too fucking fast. Admirable, but very much annoying.
The best way to face a Nara is to not do it at all.
The second best way to face a Nara is to kill them before they notice you’re there. And then you have to kill either even more Nara or very pissed off Akimichi and Yamanaka, too.
Izuna prefers the first method.
“It was an instinctive thing,” he lies. “Similar to what I did when I melted the kunai earlier—it’s a more… ah, intuitive application of jutsu we traditionally use at the forge.” This much is true, but he very much has thought extensively about how to best counter Clan specialities in battle. Most of it has been tested successfully, too.
Shikaku stares at him long enough for Izuna to become somewhat concerned. Damn Nara scrutiny.
“Well. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
Izuna nods and, with a bow, takes his leave.
Many of the curious spectators have dispersed by now, but some remain and are obviously gossiping, shooting glances at Izuna now and then. Ugh. He really wishes this spar would’ve been private.
Nothing to be done now, except… well, what persona is he aiming for now? Izuna showed his hand about being a shinobi, but he can probably still play up how young he looks and how inexperienced he’s thus with politics and Clan leadership. Some people will see through it sooner or later—Shikaku for sure—but he remembers the patronizing tone of the Hokage very well. There’s only a few people he absolutely needs to fool. He should find out what people are saying about this spar, regardless…
Sasuke rushes right up to him as he steps closer to him and the Academy teacher. “Your arm!!”
“It’s not so bad, Sasuke,” Izuna tells him with a shrug he deliberately uses both shoulders for without flinching. He still can’t really feel his left one, but he can definitely fake that.
Umino clears his throat. “Uchiha-sama, Hatake put his hand through your shoulder–”
“Half my shoulder,” Izuna interrupts him with a sharp glance. There’s no need to make Sasuke worry. “I’ve had worse.” The good thing—or bad thing, depending on who’s answering—about Raiton injuries is that they don’t hurt very much.
Sasuke keeps scowling up at him. “Okay,” he says with a nod. “... But you told Yūhi-sensei you’ll come by the hospital for your vaccinations after the test, so she can look at your shoulder then!” He squints at Izuna’s hand. “And your hand too!”
He looks very determined, and—Izuna had forgotten he’s due at the hospital anyway.
Izuna laughs and reaches for Sasuke’s hair to ruffle through it. “What would I do without you! Alright, off to the hospital we go. Umino-san, you wanted to talk about the Academy. Are you accompanying us towards the hospital?”
The teacher nods and easily falls into step beside them.
“How’s security at the Academy usually handled?” Izuna asks him.
Umino startles, but his expression turns to understanding. “All the staff are ranked Chūnin or higher,” he starts to explain. “We do regular evacuation drills and are trained in trapping and delaying potential threats.”
“Since the Massa—well, for the past week, an Ino-Shika-Cho Jōnin squad has been taking alternating shifts with a second Jōnin team usually led by a Hyūga,” Umino says and then hesitates for a moment. “And… there’s usually a few ANBU around the Academy, too. I believe they would intervene regardless of which child is threatened, but…”
Izuna hums as he walks. ANBU around the Academy? Does the Hokage have a child or grandchild as student, maybe? But if the ANBU aren’t there to explicitly protect all the children, he can’t and won’t rely on them.
“I obviously can’t contribute personnel,” he tells Umino, “but I can and will pay for making that protection an official mission for the next several months. And I want two full Jōnin teams there every shift.” He’s read enough about how the Mission Desk works that in this case, it really is just a matter of throwing money at the problem. He has more than enough of that—the entire Clan’s coffers—and he only wants these shinobi there as backup anyway. He’ll send one of his Crows with Sasuke for the foreseeable future, so his summon just needs a few extra moments to grab him. “Would you mind arranging that for me?”
Umino’s eyebrows have climbed up high on his forehead, and he seems a bit flustered. “Ah, yes, I can—if you’re sure…?” He probably worries about the cost of this mission.
Izuna gives him a look. “I am, yes. Thank you, Umino-san. I want a few more days with Sasuke, so I’ll be sending him back to the Academy next week.” He glances down at Sasuke, who gives a tiny nod after a moment.
The teacher nods. “Of course. I’ll do that, then.” He stops. “This is a street leading back to the Academy. Thank you for the talk, Uchiha-sama. Take care, Sasuke-kun.”
“Bye, Iruka-sensei,” Sasuke adds.
They watch the Academy teacher leave.
“... He explained what was happening in your test,” Sasuke then tells him as they turn back towards the route to the Hospital. “You’re a really good shinobi for a smith.”
“Hmm.” Izuna winks at Sasuke. “Told you, didn’t I?”
Sasuke grabs his hand a little more tightly. “You did. But I–” He interrupts himself and scowls at the ground for a few steps. “Can you teach me those fire jutsu you used?” he finally asks.
“I will,” Izuna promises him. “You can already do the Gōkakyū, right?” At Sasuke’s proud nod—which is really cute and okay, maybe Niisan has a point about Izuna being cute as a child, too—he continues. “Most of our jutsu build on that and then each other. There’s a few different orders in which our techniques are best taught; it depends a bit on your learning style and personal preference. Have you figured out your chakra affinity yet?”
A frown. “Chakra affinity?”
Izuna nods. “Yes. Remember the five basic elemental nature transformations? Yes? Well, every person’s chakra will tend to be particular to one of these. That means you’ll have an easier time learning jutsu of that type. Most of us have an affinity for Katon, naturally, but my cousin has a Raiton affinity.” And Hikaku certainly loves to—loved to use it. “At a certain level, affinity doesn’t really matter anymore, of course, since the Sharingan allows us to copy most if not all elemental releases.” Unless it’s a cursed mutation like the Mokuton, but then again, no one in their right mind would want to wield that. He shrugs. “So later it comes down to a matter of personal preference instead of affinity, though usually we still stick to just burning the shit out of things.” He grins down at Sasuke. That was a lot of chakra theory, but it’s important to know and will help with understanding how the Sharingan works, too.
Sasuke looks thoughtful. “How do I know my affinity?”
Izuna smiles approvingly. “There’s a series of tests we can do, which conveniently will help with your chakra control as well. It’s a bit tricky, since our expectations—for example, you assuming you’ll have a Katon affinity like most Uchiha—can influence the results. But,” he adds when Sasuke starts to look a little crestfallen, “I’ve helped my—I’ve helped kids with this before so I’m pretty good at it.” Niisan, the cheating bastard, can usually just tell someone’s chakra nature with his sensing if he concentrates hard enough, but they’re not all sensing freaks so they’ll have to do it the normal way.
“I might also be able to tell,” Yuu suddenly chirps up from within Sasuke’s collar. Sasuke jumps. “If you do those tests, Sasuke-kun.”
Huh. “Thanks, Yuu-chan,” Izuna tells her. “Are you still alright with being here?” She has been here for a rather long time now, and while the draw on Izuna’s chakra reserves is neglectable, it must be quite tiring for her.
“I’m very comfortable, Izuna-sama.”
Sasuke carefully cups a hand over the small lump in his collar indicating where the Crow is sitting. He smiles.
Yūhi Ikuko takes one look at his shoulder, blanches only very slightly, and tells them she’ll fetch an expert for this.
Said expert is Shikabane Nodoka, who stares at Izuna’s shoulder with an expression full of unholy glee. It’s somewhat concerning. “I usually only see this on corpses!” the medic exclaims cheerfully to the room at large, their fingers inside the injury. “Does this hurt?”
Izuna smiles at them with the smile he usually reserves for people he’s about to kill. “You’re repeatedly tapping the edge of my broken collarbone, so yes, it does.”
Shikabane beams. “Fascinating! The Chidori uses high-intensity Raiton, which should deaden all the nerves in the area, but apparently the brute-force impact negates some of that. Hm, I wonder if the fact that the technique was stopped halfway through affects the injury type…”
“Nodoka-san,” Ikuko says with a rather fixed smile of her own. “I’m glad this satisfies your scientific curiosity, but can you help me heal this? Or tell me what to do?”
“Tell me how you stopped it first,” Shikabane demands, not looking away from the injury.
Izuna raises his left hand to wag his fingers in front of the medic’s face, even if that shifts something in his shoulder painfully. “I grabbed Hatake’s wrist before it could go through. Then a Jūken strike disrupted both our chakra pathways.” Good for Hatake, since Izuna didn’t end up melting his hand off—bad for Izuna, since his own hand is now prickling with both a mild Raiton burn and the after-effects of forcing his pathways open again.
“That would do it, yes,” Shikabane murmurs, inspecting Izuna’s hand. “I see you opened your chakra pathways back up already… hm. The Raiton burn here is surface-level only—we can give you a salve for that. Your shoulder…” He glances back at the other medic as he drops Izuna’s hand again. “Ikuko, come here. You do the bone, I’ll do the soft tissue.”
What follows is two people sticking their hands right into Izuna’s shoulder, which makes the total for today come up to three people with their fingers somewhere they really shouldn’t be. Ugh.
“Don’t do anything strenuous with this arm. Come back in a week, I want to know how this’ll scar.” And with that, Shikabane disappears, mumbling something about notes.
Ikuko goes to fetch Izuna a glass of water, which he immediately hands to Sasuke, who between the two of them is probably looking far more pale.
Izuna smiles at the medic. “Yūhi-sensei, can you recommend any shinobi equipment stores for me? Since I’ll be doing missions quite soon. I’m afraid I’m a bit unaware of the best spots.”
She frowns thoughtfully. “I guess you won’t need any weapons—no? Mhm. For clothing and the like I can definitely recommend Madam Kurumi’s in the sidestreet off Treaty Square. She does custom commissions of very high quality. If you don’t mind a store catering mainly to kunoichi…?”
Izuna shrugs carefully. “Quality is quality.”
Ikuko nods at Sasuke. “I know that Mikoto-sa–” She comes to a stop as she realizes what she’s saying. “I mean—well…” She clears her throat. “... Uchiha have shopped there before,” she finishes slowly.
“I'll go take a look. Thank you,” Izuna tells her, ignoring her slip-up. “Are we almost done here, then?”
The half a dozen needles Ikuko sticks into his good arm instead of a response hardly compare to having a whole hand inside his shoulder earlier.
“Absolutely no training for the next days,” she says sternly and starts rummaging in a drawer to hand Sasuke a handful of packed sweets.
“Yūhi-sensei,” Izuna says, “there’s a hole in my shoulder. I won’t exactly do any more sparring today.” Then he holds out a hand in a silent demand.
She gives him a sharp look, almost as if she doesn’t believe him.
Izuna has been such a good patient so far! And now he has one Raiton injury and suddenly he’s eyed with suspicion?
After another long moment she drops a single candy into his hand, not quite frowning anymore. There might even be the hint of a smile. “I don’t want to see you here any time soon unless it’s for a checkup, Uchiha-sama. Now shoo.”
“Oh, wait.” Sasuke looks left and right before reaching into his collar and carefully pulling out Yuu, who must’ve hopped onto his hand. “Here,” he says and holds the Crow up to Izuna. “For your shoulder. She can help, right?”
Izuna, who has dropped a genjutsu over them as soon as he realised what’s happening, smiles down at Sasuke, his heart feeling ridiculously fond. “Thank you,” he tells the two of them and gently cups his own hand around Yuu. She really has very soft feathers. “You don’t have to help me with the healing though,” he murmurs to Yuu, “the hospital is pretty good at that.”
He carefully drops her inside his own collar. His shoulder immediately starts feeling a bit warm. He sighs. Crows are stubborn.
“Why do you want to go to a kunoichi store?” Sasuke asks him when they’ve made their way to the market district, making a face that’s stuck halfway between disgusted and confused.
Izuna laughs. “Well, do you have any ideas why?”
Sasuke kicks at a stone in their path. “Kunoichi are loud and annoying and dress stupid,” he says, sounding the most annoyed Izuna has ever heard him. “I don’t see why you want anything to do with that.”
Oh? “And where does that opinion come from, if I may ask?”
“My classmates. They’re stupid and they’re always giggling,” Sasuke tells him, sounding reluctant.
“Yūhi-sensei is a kunoichi, too,” Izuna says, voice mild. “And Yūhi Kurenai-san, the woman who beat me at the genjutsu match earlier.” Yūhi are always good kunoichi, but he's possibly a bit biased there. “And your mother, Mikoto-sama, as well. Do you think they are stupid and loud and annoying?”
Sasuke stops dead, clenching his fists. His face has gone blank the moment Izuna mentioned his mother.
Sasuke’s face starts to go through a worrying amount of different emotions really quickly, and there’s a moment when Izuna thinks he’ll start to cry, but then it settles on… badly suppressed anger. “I’m leaving,” he finally chokes out, his shoulders hunched up—and then he not quite runs away.
Izuna blinks after him until he raises his eyes as he feels Rowa’s reproachful stare from a nearby tree. He flashes his Sharingan at her, asking her to Please watch him. She immediately takes off in a huff.
He sighs, frowning. Avoidance isn’t the best way for an Uchiha to handle grief, but it also isn’t the worst by far. Still, he probably shouldn’t have brought up Sasuke’s mother so casually.
Well, it’s done now. Izuna has a few errands to run that will go more quickly without Sasuke there. Some time alone will do the boy some good, anyway, and Rowa will make sure nothing happens to him.
His last stop is the kunoichi store Yūhi Ikuko recommended. And she was right to do so, because the fabric quality in the clothes on display is excellent. Even when he checks with his Sharingan, there are hardly any flaws. The store offers a variety of different styles and garments as well as currently fashionable fabrics.
The store owner herself is dressed immaculately, her hair streaked with gray and twisted up into an elegant style Izuna finds familiar. A—now older—style from the Capital, maybe? Her eyes are vibrant orange and highlighted with kohl. Currently they’re narrowed into his direction like he’s something disgusting that accidentally crawled in from the street.
Izuna smiles his most polite smile, the one that makes him look elegant but harmless. He’s in the wrong clothing for this—she’d probably be more inclined to view him favorable if he’d made an effort to dress up in anything other than the plain Uchiha battle coat which also has a bloody hole in the shoulder—but she doesn’t have to particularly like him to accept his money.
“Good day to you, Madam Kurumi,” he says. “Yūhi Ikuko-sensei recommend you to me quite highly.”
She inclines her head. “... That depends entirely on what you’re looking for.”
Hm. There’s a very slight accent to her words, reminding Izuna of... Iron? Samurai and their families are notoriously formal and difficult to please.
“I need several pieces for both missions and formal settings inside the Village,” he says. “How durable are your fabrics?”
Madam Kurumi narrows her eyes and reaches under the counter to hand him a brightly colored folded kimono. “You can test that out yourself, Uchiha-sama.”
He accepts the piece of fabric and immediately tries to set it on fire. It resists remarkably well and only starts smoldering when he eventually uses one of his hotter forging jutsu. Prolonged exposure to fire at a lower temperature would probably do it, too, but this is more than satisfactory. A quick test with a very small Fūton jutsu and a kunai reveals it also holds up admirably well against those.
Izuna smiles. “I would like to commission several custom items,” he tells her with a nod.
Madam Kurumi offers him paper as well as a brush and ink without a word. Her eyebrows climb higher and higher as he sketches out details and notes on what he has in mind. She now and then adds a few notes herself regarding production and fabric choices, but her demeanor notably warms with the knowledge and detail orientation Izuna is displaying. She doesn’t comment on his obvious preference for styles that are now more old-fashioned.
Good. Izuna would prefer the people who are responsible for making the clothes protecting him on missions to not hate him.
“My assistant will help with taking your measurements in just a moment,” she says when he’s done and she has added her last note. “And there’s no need for bringing Sasuke-kun here for measurements—I should have fairly recent ones on file from Mikoto-san. We’ll add some more fabric to account for some growth.”
Izuna raises an eyebrow.
Her face turns pensive. “Mikoto-san was a regular customer, and I quite enjoyed conversation with her. That reminds me…” She trails off and clears her throat. “I also organize the Uchiha Clan’s yearly supply of new battle coats. I... took the liberty of putting that order on hold.”
... Well, good thing she thought of that, because Izuna sure hadn’t. “Thank you,” he tells her sincerely. With all the abandoned houses in the Compound, Izuna and later Sasuke probably have enough battle coats to wear a different one each day, as long as they don’t mind some of them being slightly over- or undersized.
“What else?” he asks, because her face is still hesitant.
She sighs. “I have several more finished or almost finished commissions from members of the Uchiha Clan. They’re all paid for already. But of course I’d be willing to refund you–”
Izuna studies her face. Refunding him for these orders would put her out of a lot of money and the fabric she used for them… and if anything is obviously made for an Uchiha, she won’t even be able to sell them to other customers. “No,” he says. “Tell me about any pieces with our Clan mon or recognizable uchiwa patterns—how difficult would it be to alter them to fit either me or Sasuke?”
Madam Kurumi blinks once before she inclines her head and starts telling him about the commissions from memory.
There’s a number of reinforced uchiwa and folding fans, which Izuna accepts eagerly; a few kimono and obi that are probably too colorful for him but he takes anyway—he can always wear these around the house or to make other people flustered—and two mission outfits for a child and young teenager that will fit Sasuke eventually; as well as a few miscellaneous items that would make a few mission-ready outfits for Izuna, if he doesn’t want to use one of the battle coats. “I’ll take these. The rest...” He shrugs. “I don’t want you to refund me. Would you offer them to kunoichi—or shinobi—who usually couldn’t afford them?”
“I can do that. Thank you, Uchiha-sama.” There’s no hesitation in her voice now, and is that… the vaguest hint of a smile? “If you’ll step into the back now, please? My assistant will take your measurements.”
Following Rowa’s huffed advice, Izuna eventually finds Sasuke at the small lake tucked into a corner of the Clan Compound. It’s probably the place where young Uchiha learn their first Katon techniques and control over them—water as precaution is only needed at the beginning.
Sasuke sits at the end of the small pier. Izuna lets his steps fall audibly on the wood as he draws closer.
Sitting down beside the boy, he unties his sandals to let his feet dangle into the water.
“Sasuke,” he says and then stops when he feels an unblinking gaze on him.
There’s a large grey cat on Sasuke’s lap, purring. Izuna raises an expectant eyebrow at her.
The cat yawns and smoothly hops back onto the pier, winding around Sasuke one more time before leaving without even glancing at Izuna again.
“Sasuke,” Izuna repeats softly. “My point about kunoichi still stands—but I’m sorry for bringing up your mother so casually. I shouldn’t have done that.”
Sasuke keeps staring out over the lake, his face drawn into a frown. “... it hurts,” he whispers after a long time. His voice sounds very small. “Hearing about Kaa-san.” There are a few blisters on his hands and lips, probably from overdone Katon practice.
Izuna knows the feeling of trying to silence his own thoughts with training.
“I know, Sasuke. But… not speaking about our dead doesn’t make it less real.” He smiles sadly even as something in his heart hurts. “I like to imagine they would’ve wanted us to think and talk of them fondly. And here’s the truth: for us Uchiha, for us who are gifted with the power of the Sharingan bloodline, not speaking and not thinking about our loss can make it grow bigger and bigger within the solitude of our own mind, and then one day—one day it will eat you up and leave nothing behind.” It’s something Tajima had always told Niisan and him, and as flawed as their father had been, this much has always proven true.
He carefully reaches for Sasuke’s hand. The boy doesn’t draw it back. “And Uchiha never go quietly, and we don’t go easily.” He swallows and focuses his thoughts on Sasuke and Sasuke alone. “But you’re not alone. You’re not alone. I’m here, and someday–”
Izuna draws in a shaky breath and shakes his head. “No. It will always hurt, I’m sorry. But I’m here, and someday—someday you’ll speak about your family and your Clan and be able to smile through the pain. I promise.”
Sasuke’s eyes are very big. His face crumples, and he lunges into Izuna’s arms.
“I miss them,” he says, voice muffled against Izuna’s chest. “I miss them so much.”
“Me too,” Izuna whispers into Sasuke’s hair and thinks of Madara and Hikaku and a Clan long, long gone.
Their late lunch is the snacks Izuna remembered to buy earlier. They eat in silence until he turns to Sasuke to ask him, “Want to learn the first two sword katas?”
Sasuke offers him a hesitant grin, and then a firm nod.
He’s quick to learn the stances.
He pouts for only a moment when Izuna tells him he should practise drawing and sheathing his tanto first and foremost, along with holding it properly. “Technique, speed, that can all come later—but not if you drop your blade or cut yourself handling it.” He reaches out to adjust Sasuke’s belt. “Or if your whole sword and your belt clatter to the ground because you tied it wrong.”
Madara and Kou had certainly laughed their heads off when that happened to Izuna. Before they had helped him, of course. It’s one of the clearest memories he has of Kou—their brother died before he or Madara had a Sharingan to keep perfect memories, but Izuna can almost hear his wheezing laugh.
Sasuke is good with kunai and shuriken already, anyway, so picking up the basic habits and reflexes for a sword won’t be too difficult.
They end the day’s training with an all out spar on Sasuke’s part, which means that Izuna first closes one eye, then both, as he steps away from or blocks everything Sasuke throws at him. And Sasuke throws a lot of things. Where did he get all these shuriken from?
He can tell the boy is getting frustrated with how few of his attacks are actually connecting, so eventually, he lets one of Sasuke’s kick slightly impact his left shoulder—Sasuke tossed his earlier caution about not aiming for Izuna’s injury aside pretty quickly as he got more frustrated—and crumples dramatically to the ground.
He lies utterly still right until Sasuke, scowling, pries one of his eyelids open, at which point he shoots up with a grimace to startle him. “Don’t always take me too seriously, Sasuke,” he tells the kid while laughing at his outraged face. “That would be sad for both of us.”
Sasuke huffs and sits down beside him. “... You are a really strong shinobi.”
The statement hangs in the air.
Izuna hums affirmatively and tries to gauge the look on Sasuke’s face. “You still want to be a shinobi too, right?” Izuna can’t say yet if being a shinobi would still be the best idea for Sasuke, but he’s hardly one to judge here. And there’s a matter of the Sharingan, too—Sasuke should by all expectations have it already because of the day his Clan was massacred, but… the kid hasn’t said anything, and there aren’t any of the typical signs of someone having a newly active Sharingan. Something else to think about later.
Sasuke nods, face determined.
Izuna nods back. “Then you have to remember: Dress it up however you want, make speeches about friendship and helping and peace—in the end, Sasuke, being a shinobi will always mean to kill. Someone will stand between you and your goal, or maybe you’ll stand between them and their goal, and the only way forward will be for someone to die.” He sits up, turning fully towards Sasuke. “And I always want you to be the person to walk away alive, you understand?”
The boy stares back at him. He looks pensive. “No one ever told me that so bluntly,” he says after a moment. “I thought—I thought ANBU mostly do the assassinations.”
Izuna shakes his head as he scoffs. “Senju Tobirama’s Ansatsu Senjutsu Tokushu Butai may do them more often, but regular shinobi of this Village might be tasked with them as well.” Everything he recalls reading made that very clear. “It’s a rather convenient misbelief, isn’t it?” He shrugs. “Of course there are nuances. Civilians you almost never need to kill unless you’re on an assassination mission—you can incapacitate them otherwise very easily. And there are roles you can take on that mean there’ll be fewer reasons and opportunities in which you have to kill. Yūhi-sensei at the hospital, for example, probably has very few encounters with enemy shinobi… but then again, healers are often faced with other kinds of life-and-death situations where they have to make a decision.”
Sasuke, of course, focuses on the entirely wrong part of Izuna’s speech. “Why didn’t you say Nidaime Hokage, but used his name instead?”
Because Izuna will literally die before he ever uses that man’s title. He sighs because that’s not something he can just say to Sasuke. “A title, especially one like that—it tends to make everyone forget that the Hokage are just people like you and me. People with their own, very subjective opinions… and flaws and weaknesses.” Even this much is probably dangerously close to treason against the Village, but he can’t sense anyone nearby at the moment.
“But Sasuke,” he adds gently, “the important part was the part where you promise me to always do your best to come back home to me, no matter what you have to do or who you have to go through.”
It’s something he and Niisan, he and Hikaku, and once upon a time, he and Hitomi had made each other promise again and again.
And then Izuna went and broke every single one of these promises.
“I promise,” Sasuke’s serious voice interrupts his thoughts, “but—but you have to promise as well!”
Izuna smiles, and gives yet another promise he doesn’t intend to ever break. Satisfied, Sasuke flops down next to him.
He could almost take a quick nap like this, lying on the grass and shielding his eyes against the sun, except Sasuke sits back up abruptly. “The chickens!”
Ah. The chickens.
They go to feed them. Sasuke is so good at it—and eager—that Izuna doesn’t feel too bad about probably forgetting about them again in the next few days.
On their way back, another cat steps into their path with a very reproachful glare, and Izuna promptly remembers that he promised to feed them, too.
Fuck. This is why the only good animal companions for him are the Crows who feed themselves and with whom he’s more likely to have to worry about who they eat than anything else.
Izuna gets out of the situation with the cats by promising to buy them something fresh from the market tomorrow. He’ll probably end up with a feline tagalong for that but he’ll survive.
Later, Sasuke tests the futon Izuna is airing out in one of the vacant rooms curiously, but eventually chooses one of the rooms that has a more modern bed off the ground. It looks a bit empty with nothing but Sasuke’s plush dinosaur in the room, so they fetch a few more things out of Sasuke’s old bedroom in the half-destroyed Clan Head house.
It’s a bit awkward, spending the rest of the day in a house that isn’t really theirs yet, but then Sasuke asks about fire jutsu again as they make dinner. Izuna can talk about these as long and animatedly as he needs to—after all, Uchiha children always adore tales of great fire techniques—so they make do.
It’s only when it’s time for Sasuke to go to bed that the boy gets uneasy again. He fidgets and keeps glancing from the window to the door and back, hands fisting in the blanket.
Izuna sits down on the edge of the bed. “How about a bedtime story?”
Sasuke’s skeptical expression is answer enough.
He laughs. “It’s a good story, I promise—a Crow story.”
That has the boy perk up. “... Really?”
“Yes, they have fantastic stories.” If one is willing to suspend their disbelief a bit. Then again, the Crows are summons, so Izuna supposes anything is possible. “Ready? Keep in mind it’s told from a Crow perspective.”
Sasuke chews on his lips until he finally gives a nod and settles back onto his pillow. “Okay.”
Izuna smiles as he starts the story. “There was once the strongest Crow that ever lived. She was so strong all others bowed before her; so quick-witted even the foxes would yield in a battle of words; and her gleaming feathers outshone the bright moon herself. She even had a human…”