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don't trust them, brother (oh, but look at me now)

Chapter Text

Izuna startles awake. Something is different. Something is wrong

He's not in his bed.

He's on the ground.

Outside.

For a wild moment he thinks that maybe they're going to burn his body now, except that he's not dead yet, and panic claws its way into his chest while his fingers scramble at the bandage around his eyes to rip it off. He needs to see

Too late he remembers that there's no point to that, but then the bandages fall away... and he can see.

What the fuck?

Izuna blinks with eyes he shouldn't have.

His unfamiliar surroundings are the clearest he's been able to see in several years.

No. 

What has Madara done?!

Maybe this is a dream. Or a genjutsu? Nothing here looks familiar. The buildings have the right shape, and he can spy a few uchiwas in the decorations, but he absolutely sure he's never been here before. He tries to flare his chakra, but it's sluggish to respond and barely there.

Somehow, he manages to rise to his feet. The movement seems to tear right through his chest, and when he puts a hand to his side, fresh wetness greets him. He must've ripped open the stitches.

Not that it matters now.

He stumbles over something in his path. For a moment, he can focus enough chakra to his eyes to allow him a second of his Sharingan.

It's a still-warm corpse.

He stares at the proud uchiwa on its back.

No. No.

Izuna keeps walking, steadying himself at the wall of a building beside him. “Niisan?” he calls out. “Niisan!!”

Madara can fix this.

But Madara would never allow all the dead Uchiha collapsed here on this unfamiliar street. Unbidden, despair rises up his throat to choke him. Or maybe that's just blood from his reopened wound. Where is Madara—

“Now who's being a bad little mouse?” A incongruously cheerful voice says right into his ear.

Izuna reacts. He kicks up a sword lying right next to the body he's just passed, catching it in his hand, and then whirls around. But he's so slow, fatigue and pain dragging at his limbs, his chakra not responding.

He gets a glimpse of the man behind him when he easily dodges Izuna's clumsy strike—a long coat, unruly hair, a mask with a striking pattern that only reveals a single, scarlet eye—before the man's kick crashes straight into his injured side.

Izuna hits a wall with a crack, sword tumbling from his hand. His entire body screams with pain. He tries to get up to find he can't breathe, something in his chest feeling horribly wrong.

He twists his head to look at his assailant coming closer. Is that a Sharingan?!

“Itachi didn't do his job right, or did he?” the unfamiliar man hums and then crouches down on his heels in front of Izuna. “Are you simply refusing to die yet?”

“...who are you?!” Izuna manages to say, hacking up blood while he does. A lot of blood.

Fuck.

The man cocks his head. “I suppose I can tell you. You're already dying, after all.” He still sounds oddly cheerful. “I am,” he starts and then brings his head even closer, “Uchiha Madara.”

Izuna feels the absurd urge to laugh—he knows Madara's chakra and his Sharingan almost better than his own, this man is not Madara—but the pretender reaches out to press an unforgiving hand against his injured side, so the only thing he can do is scream.


Silence. The man pretending to be his brother has left. Izuna would’ve almost prefer to be struck down by Tobirama again—at least that man knows how to make it quick. This unknown Uchiha, or eye thief maybe because why would an Uchiha do this, however had enjoyed making him scream. Then he patted Izuna’s head like a dog and vanished into thin air.

He has to tell Madara about him. But he can’t move at all, and he can feel Death coming ever closer.

So Izuna does the thing they’re always warning their warriors not to do. He stubbornly focuses on his chakra until it finally flickers in response, and then he lets it rush out through his injured side, burning as it goes. It’s a way to cauterise a heavily bleeding wound in the midst of combat in exchange for making any potential recovery so much more difficult or even impossible.

But Izuna is already dying, he had made his peace with that however much he might have wanted to keep standing at his brother’s side, and now he needs to just hold on long enough to tell Madara about this pretender.

He refuses to believe the reason Madara isn’t here, stopping this madman, is because he’s already dead.

No.

Not Madara.

Not like this.

Chakra slipping away from his grasp again, he gasps for air that now comes slowly. His chest has gone numb, which is bad as far as burns are concerned, but good for him because of the absence of pain.

The stars above him look different.

It’s that detail he focuses on, squinting towards the sky while he counts his own sluggish heartbeats. Why are they looking different...

He has counted to five hundred when a shinobi wearing an animal mask suddenly appears right beside him. He manages barely more than a flap of his arm, but it seems to startle this new stranger.

“I— I found another survivor!” their voice rings out, strangely unrecognisable. Hands glowing a bright green press against his side. “Uchiha-san, we’ll transport you to the hospital in a moment. Please focus on breathing.”

Izuna has a lot of things to ask—what are they doing here as there’s no uchiwa visible on them, what’s up with that mask, what hospital—but the blackness tugging at the edge of his consciousness is very appealing all of a sudden. He tries to blink it away, still squinting up at the stars.

There are more people in animal masks around him now, talking, and he really should listen. He can’t get his hearing to focus though.

Then there are multiple hands on him, lifting him, and the blackness rushes up like an all encompassing wave.

Chapter Text

“Akitsuna... Uchiha Akitsuna,” Izuna haltingly gives as his name when the staff at this hospital ask him. It’s a fake name that has served him well before, even if it shares a kanji with his actual name.

But this is enemy territory. He’s in a completely unknown situation and these people are nice to him.

Like the healing they performed on him. He hadn’t known it was possible to heal such severe wounds so quickly, but various healers have assured him that even the burn damage he’s inflicted on himself will eventually be cured.

The Uchiha have never had these sort of healing capabilities. It stinks of Senju to Izuna, but no one is wearing that cursed Clan mon. Instead there’s a stylised shape everywhere that reminds him slightly of the Uzumaki Clan crest. It doesn’t take much listening to conversations around and about him to realise it’s supposed to be a… leaf?

It’s certainly an advantage that these healers treating him have also noted a head wound and some sort of recent trauma to his eyes. They incorrectly assume either of those are affecting his memory; an assumption Izuna is more than happy to play along with until he’s gathered more intel.

Listening to the conversations around him while pretending to be genuinely confused and in shock, Izuna has come to a few conclusions.

One. This probably isn't a genjutsu or nightmare. He hasn’t ruled out yet that his dying and feverish brain is currently conjuring up a hallucination in which the faces of the two men he hates most loom large over an unknown village, but that’s… a very distant option. Izuna is glad no one but his two unseen watchers—carefully hidden as they are—were around when he first looked out of the window and straight at the giant stone face of Senju fucking Tobirama. The sheer fury he felt at that sight, as well as his instantly activating Sharingan, had spoken against this being a genjutsu, at least.

Two. This village is a shinobi village where several different Clans live and work together under one leader. Somehow, there’s apparently very little backstabbing going on, and they have jointly achieved wonders such as the healing technique they saved his life with.

Three. He remembers how the stars were different the night he woke up in that street. They didn’t fit the season—he had been injured in early spring, shortly after his birthday, but the stars here looked like late autumn. It’s such a random discrepancy that it would fit his genjutsu or fever hallucination theory... if it wasn’t for the giant cliff. Faces of men he hates aside, he knows that cliff. It’s located northeast of the Uchiha Compound and definitely didn’t have ugly stone visages on them the last time he saw it nor an entire fucking village built at its feet.

Either of which would need a significant passage of time for construction, but especially the village.

Which in turn means he’s irrevocably fucked.

Not a thought he likes to entertain.

Four. Not a single person has mentioned Madara or a man pretending to be Madara in some way, everyone only whispering the name of Uchiha Itachi. But “Itachi didn't do his job right ” is still ringing in Izuna’s ears. Curious. Do they not know there was a second man there that night?

Finally—the entire Uchiha Clan here is dead.

Or well. Most of it.

“Is it possible for me to see Sasuke-kun?” he asks the healer in charge of his recovery, Yūhi Ikuko. She’s been making all sorts of alarmed noise about him getting out of bed and testing how his body and chakra respond, but her thorough examination hasn’t revealed any negative effects. Izuna has been injured often enough to know exactly what he can demand from his own body, after all.

“It would be… quite reassuring,” he adds, twisting his face into sorrow and dragging his words with grief, “to see family, I think.”

The expressions of everyone in the room turn to instant pity.

He again notes how everyone is too nice. He has seen a Yamanaka as well as a fucking Hyūga turn sympathetic glances on him, talking about what happened in hushed tones that fail not to reach his ears. It’s eerie. The only thing Yamanaka and Hyūga usually do when faced with him is run into the other direction. This pity he doesn’t know what to do with. Except to exploit it when it suits him, of course.

The healers exchange glances. “Sasuke-kun has only woken up recently, but he’s been asking to see you,” one of them finally admits.

So far the only thing Izuna knows about Sasuke is that he’s the second son of the Uchiha Main Family—which poses an entirely new set of questions, as Izuna has never heard of any Uchiha Sasuke—and has potentially been subjected to genjutsu torture. It’s been difficult to find out more, even with his own excuse of having forgotten most of the events of that night four days ago.

No Uchiha should be alone, especially after such a traumatic experience. An Uchiha child alone in the midst of this unknown village… No.


Finally, the door opens again and a group of new medics enter, a sullen child between them.

It’s like looking into a mirror. 

It’s exactly like looking into a mirror, because his brother has shared a few older Sharingan memories with him and Sasuke looks just like Izuna did at his age.

Izuna blinks. This is… definitely surprising and something to ponder later—a resemblance that close almost screams of a more direct relation.

Sasuke is staring at him with dark eyes full of despair.

“Hello Sasuke-kun,” Izuna says quietly, “I’m Akitsuna. I think we’re… cousins...?” Cousin is a convenient term that covers any distance of relationship within the Uchiha Clan. With how similar they look it’s unlikely anyone will question it.

The boy squints at him, wary. Then he eyes the medics around him, who all give him encouraging nods.

Izuna slowly reaches out with a hand. “It’s very good to see you, Sasuke-kun, I’ve been worried,” he says and swallows hard. He barely needs to pretend—after all, this child is all that’s left of the entire Uchiha Clan.

Somehow.

It doesn’t take long after that for Izuna to coax the boy up on the bed and into his arms. Sasuke almost immediately curls up against him, fists tight where he grips at Izuna’s clothes. The boy looks nothing so much as deadly tired, which is all too understandable.

He can feel Sasuke’s heart beating rabbit-fast against his chest and reaches up to stroke the boy’s hair.

The medics are still clustered around the doorway, watching. He sends them a pointed glance.  Then he turns back towards Sasuke and starts telling him the story of the time Amaterasu hid herself in a cave, using the exact same low voice Madara would use to tell it to him.

... Apparently he has a child now. Little brother? Cousin? Izuna can’t quite say yet, but he’ll be damned if he lets this small Uchiha face anything in this weird Village alone.

Chapter Text

Izuna is staring out of the window, softly petting a sleeping Sasuke’s hair. He’s thinking of Kagami of all people, and it makes something in his chest hurt to know that the small orphan who used to follow his every footstep must’ve grown up without him. Had he even had a chance to say goodbye to Kagami? His last days before—before finding himself here are a jumbled mess of memories, no doubt brought on by his injury, the fever, and of course giving his eyes to his brother.

Thinking of Madara hurts too much to let his thoughts dwell there even for a moment.

Distant sounds from the corridor outside his room make him slide his gaze over to the door as he listens. 

Several footsteps, not in a hurry.

The way his unseen guards react tells Izuna it must be someone important.

Ah. Probably time for his overdue talk with the Hokage or at least someone sent by the ruler of this Village. He tightens his arms around Sasuke. The boy doesn’t make for the worst prop for such a talk, and a slight genjutsu will make sure he doesn’t wake up. Still, part of him wants to use the child as an excuse not to have this talk… but it’s probably best not to delay it further.

There are things he has to do here, after all. He really needs to care for the bodies of the entire Clan, and he needs to figure out how to care for Sasuke and the Clan’s assets. All while pretending he knows exactly how the Clan Compound and the Village is laid out. And figuring out what the fuck happened to him.

A rather standard intel-gathering mission then. With both their lives at stake.

The group coming through the door a minute later is preceded by another quiet, animal-masked shinobi who glances around the room and flares their chakra once. 

They aren’t quite what Izuna had expected. 

They’re all old for one, which makes him wary. You don’t get to be old as a shinobi unless you’re very strong or very very careful—and all four newcomers still move with a shinobi‘s fluid grace despite their apparent age, even the one with bandages and a cane indicating possibly career-ending injuries. Izuna will have to tread doubly careful here; the Uchiha Elders used to be as wary of him as he was of them, but he’s a stranger to the politics here and now.

The old man in the middle is without a doubt the Hokage, going by his robes and the fact that a younger version of his face is up on that horrendous stone monument, although Izuna expected the fourth face on the cliff to show up, not the third. Huh. His three companions are arrayed around him in subtle positions that would allow the man with glasses and the woman to support him from both sides, leaving the one-eyed man at the safest position in the rear.

The Hokage—Sarutobi Hiruzen, if Izuna put what he’d overheard together correctly—meets his eyes calmly, face composed. Behind that steady gaze Izuna can sense the weight of a sharp mind with a hint of the chakra the man can bring to bear at but a moment’s notice.

Not someone who’d be easy to face on a battlefield, even for him; and definitely not a game he would want to attempt winning while in a hospital bed and carrying a child. Izuna looks away, bowing his head slightly. “Hokage-sama,” he says quietly, letting his glance slide over the other three newcomers again. If he had to guess, they’re all armed, and the bandages on the last man are a tad too obvious to hint at a truly devastating weak point.

Not that either of the people in this room need to be armed to be dangerous—Izuna’s greatest weapons are always with him, of course. Thank you, Nii-san.

“I’d get up, but—” he looks down and tightens his arms around Sasuke.

The ruler of this Konoha shakes his head. “No need! Akitsuna-kun, is it?” At Izuna’s nod, the man gestures at his companions in turn. “My Councillors Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura. And Shimura Danzō,” he introduces them. Izuna doesn’t miss that the latter isn’t included as a councillor, despite tagging along for this particular talk. Shimura, with the sort of severe impairment hinting at career-ending injuries… interesting.

The introduced former kunoichi—going by the fluidity of her movements—inclines her head at Izuna. “My condolences, Uchiha-san.”

He blinks. “Thank you, Utatane-sama.” It’s probably wise to be polite for the time being. He can always make enemies later if he has to. 

The Hokage sighs deeply, his face full of sympathy that looks real. “Yes, my deepest condolences, and to Sasuke-kun as well. How is he doing?”

“As well as to be expected,” Izuna answers. “There's genjutsu trauma, apparently, and—well. Not something a child should’ve gone through.” From what he overheard the medics say and what he could pry out of Sasuke with gentle questions, not an ordinary genjutsu either. If Izuna gets his hands on the man who subjected a child to a Mangekyō Sharingan’s Tsukuyomi… he swallows his anger. There’s time enough for that later.

Something curiously close to guilt hovers in the corners of the Hokage’s eyes as he sighs again, shaking his head. “Of course not.”

“You’re not registered as active Uchiha shinobi,” Shimura interjects into the silence, managing to not quite sound accusatory. His visible eye is staring straight at Izuna, making his skin crawl. He’s never been good with eye-related injuries, but then again, every Uchiha flinches at the thought of those.

“I’m not a shinobi, just a smith,” Izuna answers him mildly. It’s only half a lie since he spent any free time when he wasn’t training at the forges, learning under old Reki-san. It’s been his favorite way of contributing to the Clan other than standing on a battlefield.

“Then why would you survive—”

“A weapons smith?” the Elder with glasses—Mitokado—interrupts Shimura, exchanging a keen glance with Utatane.

Izuna finds their eagerness telling. Of course they’d be interested in Uchiha weaponry. It’s good to know his Clan’s skills are still held as superior here, even now. “Is there anything else worthwhile making?” He asks with a raised eyebrow. “But yes, I’m a weapons smith. Mostly blades and shuriken, but the occasional special commission as well.” 

He does not think about Madara’s gunbai.

Mitokado nods along, looking satisfied. "How soon do you think you can start working again? Will you consider out-of-Clan apprentices now that—”

Izuna frowns at him, entirely unimpressed. His expression edges into a glare until the Hokage puts a hand on Mitokado’s shoulder to interrupt him. “Yes, these will be important to discuss... later,” the Hokage says, his councillor immediately subsiding. “Akitsuna-kun has quite a lot on his plate already, don’t you think?” The village’s leader scrutinises Izuna for a long moment. “Did you remember anything else, Akitsuna-kun?”

Izuna decides to dislike the too-friendly address—it’s patronising and he doesn’t even know this man—but pretends to be dejected as he sighs. “I didn’t,” he lies, “it happened so fast—I barely even caught a glimpse of him before…” he raises a hand to his side, looking down.

“…Uchiha Itachi was one of our best. Don’t beat yourself up over not doing more. You survived, that’s enough,” the Hokage offers him after a moment. It sounds so reasonable that Izuna wants to believe him, but… it reminds him that the masked man that night also mentioned Itachi. Then who was he?

He also catches a flicker in Shimura’s face as the Hokage says that. And isn’t that interesting? Hm.

“Speaking of, Hokage-sama,” Izuna starts slowly. “I really need to—to go care for the… the bodies.” It’s been too long as it is, but waiting any longer will be an even greater insult.

The Hokage sighs again. “Of course, of course. If you need any assistance there, let me know, will you?”

Izuna is watching Shimura’s face out of the corner of his eyes. There’s something there making his hackles rise. Like the old man finds something hard to swallow… shouldn’t he be glad Izuna and Sasuke survived this? Or is this just village politics that Izuna can’t see through yet?

“Hokage-sama,” Izuna starts again, glancing down at Sasuke. “Going by the bloodline, Sasuke is Clan Head now, but—he’s a child.” Child Clan Heads are never a good idea, which the Uchiha learned a long time ago during one war or another.

“Ah, of course,” the Hokage nods. “I’m assuming you want to stand as substitute Clan Head until he comes of age?”

“Yes.” It’s not like he’ll have much to do for a Clan of two people, but it’s still a matter that should be resolved now. Izuna assumes that he’ll get to play more at politics later—the Clan’s financial assets still exist from what he's heard, for one, which will of course result in eventual politics sooner or later. Not something Sasuke should have to attend to. Izuna isn’t sure he’s staying here in this Village—this time, but he likes to be prepared. “And—I’m afraid I mostly knew the other civilian Clan members,” he lies again, “would it be possible for me to take a look at the files of the registered Uchiha shinobi…?” He trails off and looks down. “For identification purposes.” Those files would likely help him to give him a starting point for orientation in the Village's shinobi system.

“Of course,” the Hokage says after a pause. “ANBU sealed the bodies into storage seals. I’ll send an agent with the sealing scrolls and a copy of the shinobi registry files later. Uchiha cremate their dead, isn’t that right?”

He nods. “We do. Usually— ah, I’ll try to burn the families together…”

Izuna finds everyone’s faces at this reminder of the civilian casualties rather interesting. The hospital staff even called it the Uchiha Massacre in hushed whispers when they thought he wasn’t listening, making it clear how the public must perceive this entire thing. As for these four—the Hokage seems weary. Elders Utatane and Mitokado look away, uncomfortable. Shimura’s face is curiously blank. Not a friend of the Uchiha, is that it?

Sarutobi shakes his head as if in thought and then smiles at Izuna again. “That was quite the interesting story you told Sasuke-kun earlier. I haven’t heard that version before. Amaterasu hiding herself, huh?”

Izuna stares at the man who, with a certainly very well crafted grandfatherly air, just admitted to have his agents report on what Izuna is doing. The Hokage returns his gaze calmly. 

Well then. He smiles sharply and glances down at Sasuke again, who’s still sleeping with his face hidden against Izuna’s chest. “I felt it was a fitting story… who wouldn’t feel like hiding themselves for a while in this situation?”

“And are you going to hide yourself?” Shimura interjects again, once more outright glaring at Izuna.

It almost feels like the Elders Council Izuna is used to.

“Why would I do that?” he asks with a confused air. “Unless... you’re expecting Itachi to come back?” he adds, looking back at the Hokage and letting alarm color his voice and expression. If Itachi—or the man Izuna had met—came back, Izuna would be very happy to show them the error of their judgement. But any other Uchiha in this position would probably be worried about the possibility of running into Itachi again, so that’s how he’ll play this for now.

“No, of course not,” the Hokage says firmly. “The Village’s forces have been put on high alert and I have ANBU guards watching you and Sasuke-kun.”

Ah. So those animal-masked observers with the barely-there chakra presence are called ANBU

… He’s heard the same term whispered by the hospital staff in conjunction with Itachi before, too. Huh. 

“I see. Thank you, Hokage-sama.” 

Sarutobi nods at him. “I think we’ll leave you to rest now. If anything comes up, you can always come to me, Akitsuna-kun.”

Izuna keeps smiling while all four of his visitors and their unseen guards filter out of the room.

What a bunch of vultures.

He listens to their footsteps until they’ve faded away completely. Then he reaches up to tug at a strand of Sasuke’s hair. “Did you overhear anything interesting, hm?”

The boy sits up with a gasp, turning reproachful eyes on him. “You! You did—was that a genjutsu?!“

Izuna raises an eyebrow. “What do you think?”

Sasuke frowns at him, but takes a bit of time to think it through. “I was sleeping,” he starts, “…and then your genjutsu made it look like I was sleeping even when I woke up, didn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“And the Hokage didn’t notice?!”

Izuna hums. “I don’t think so. Keep in mind that this genjutsu mostly worked on you and mimicked your sleeping chakra pattern—and Sarutobi didn’t have any reason to look for a genjutsu, did he?”

Sasuke stares at him. “But… but strong shinobi can see through any genjutsu,” he says stubbornly. It sounds like he’s repeating what he’s heard someone else say.

“Sasuke-kun,” Izuna says gently, “yes, strong shinobi have an easier time recognising and dispelling genjutsu, but they still have to be aware of them.” He reaches out to touch the corner of Sasuke’s eye. “As Uchiha, we have a large advantage here, of course.”

“Because of our Sharingan!”

“Because of our Sharingan, yes,” he agrees, smiling.

“...So you do have it!”

“Oh? Did I ever say I hadn’t?” Izuna responds, bemused. 

Sasuke frowns at him again. “But you just said you were a smith!”

“I didn’t realize ‘not having the Sharingan’ came with that particular job description,” he says, raising an eyebrow.

 “But—” Sasuke falls silent, but he keeps frowning.

Izuna sighs and strokes back some of Sasuke’s hair. “There’s no need for me to go around telling and showing everyone, is there?”

They sit in silence for a while, Sasuke fiddling with the corner of the sheets.

“...Is he really not coming back?”

“The Hokage didn’t appear to think so.” And hadn’t that absolute surety been interesting.

“B-but what if he wants to—to finish the job.” Sasuke’s hands twist in the blankets.

“He can try, but he won’t be able to do it.” Izuna leans forward until his lips are almost at Sasuke’s ear, hidden by the fall of both their hair. “Because if he comes back I'll kill him.”

Sasuke stares up at him with dark, dark eyes and doesn’t say anything for a long time. “Good,” he says finally, voice shaking. “Good,” he repeats and buries his head against Izuna’s chest to muffle his sobs. “Good.”

Izuna carefully pulls his arms tighter around him and rests his head on top of Sasuke’s, closing his eyes. He has a lot of things to consider and plans to make. But those can wait until Sasuke has calmed down and fallen asleep again.

Chapter Text

The gates of Konoha’s Uchiha Compound loom large in front of Izuna. They’re startlingly familiar—if not the same gate as the Compound he’s used to, it’s a very good replica. The walls meeting the gate are a lot lower and less fortified however, and trees outside the Compound grow concerningly close to them.

There’s a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that even higher walls and better security wouldn’t have saved his Clan, not here in this Senju village.

He stops in front of the ajar gate wings. Flimsy, soggy tape warns that entry is forbidden, keeping out only the most indecisive of would-be looters. But… he turns his head to look at a particularly dense tree crown halfway behind him, a dozen steps away. Then he lets his gaze lazily trail over to the other very dense shrubbery, an equal distance away on his other side. And… ah, there: on the roof of the closest building the rough outline of a person flickers infrequently. It’s a pretty good vanishing genjutsu, Izuna has to admit—for someone who’s not an Uchiha. 

He smiles. It’s not a nice smile, but instead the one Hikaku used to call his “eviscerate-dumb-people” smile. At the same time, he smothers his chakra signature down to something he knows is all but undetectable to anyone who’s not named Senju Tobirama or Uchiha Madara—the first because Tobirama is a pretentious asshole with far too many talents, and the second because Niisan got overly attached, of course—and raises an eyebrow. If any of the unseen watchers follow him after this, he’ll respond accordingly.

It’s eerie inside the Compound. Izuna keeps expecting to turn a corner and run into Hikaku or Niisan or old Reki-san because everything looks familiar. It’s not an exact match to his Compound but it’s close enough to make him look twice in some instances.

A small part of him is pathetically glad that he didn’t know these dead Uchiha.

The almost hidden chakra signatures don’t follow him into the Compound. Izuna ducks into the first house he identifies as belonging to a shinobi based on the clear sight lines from all windows and a conspicuous lack of an obvious lock on the door. He sidesteps the dried pool of blood right inside the door—apparently the ANBU collected the bodies but didn’t bother to clean up. He wrinkles his nose. It will probably be the same everywhere and it’s something that he’ll have to take care of sooner or later to avoid really bad smells. 

He taps his foot on the edge of the puddle and uses a surge of fire chakra to burn it to nothing but dust without harming the floorboards beneath it.

Sweeping ashes is a lot easier.

Sudden sound from further inside the house makes his head snap up. A second later something launches itself at his face with a snarl. Belatedly, he manages to stop his instinctive killing blow and instead catch the dog at its scruff, Sharingan laying down a calming genjutsu.

The dog is a white-brown mutt with distinctive fur patterns. Her sides are emaciated and there’s dried blood on her muzzle. 

“Aw, poor girl,” he croons at the dog as he sets her back down on the floor. “Let’s get you something to eat, hm?” He finds the kitchen easily. There’s rotting food on the table and counters, some of it chewed on. He rummages around until he finds something that proclaims to be dog food and also a bowl he can fill up with water.

The dog rushes to wolf down his offerings. Izuna wanders around the kitchen and idly turns the rotten food to ashes, too. He much prefers the burning smell.

Fuck. How many pets were at the Uchiha Compound? Cats he knows would have mostly taken care of themselves unless they had gotten locked in, and even then they’re usually smart enough to figure something out. Dogs, however… he glances down at the mutt and fills her bowl up again. Even if they got out of the house, they might still be hungry and therefore aggressive.

Meaning it’s definitely not safe for Sasuke to be in the Compound right now. Izuna can easily handle as many feral, starving dogs as he needs to, but a child… well, at Sasuke’s age he also would’ve been able to do so, but he’s already gotten the feeling training in this village is started later.

He crouches down to offer his hand to the dog when she stops eating. She sniffs at his fingers and whines until he starts scratching behind her ears. “Good girl.”

There’s a very easy solution to having feral pets in the Compound. He thinks back to that one winter when the Uchiha’s food storages had run empty from a combination of a bad harvest and several missions falling through. They had to severely ration the food, and any useless extra mouths as his father had put it… were to be gotten rid of. He hadn’t had a pet back then, and Niisan’s hawks had been exempt because they could easily contribute via hunting, too. The cats had been a separate issue, of course, but the dogs…

There had been two new young Sharingan users that winter. No one died of starvation. Their father had counted it as a success.

Petting the dog, Izuna finds himself unwilling to repeat Tajima’s solution.

He stands up with a sigh and adds doing something about the dogs to his ever-growing list of things he has to take care of. Then he goes to find what he actually came in here for—ah, there’s a spare warrior coat. It’s too big but he still slides it on over the bland clothes from the hospital with a sigh of relief. Not having the uchiwa on his back had felt so wrong. He also pockets the brace of shuriken right next to it after checking the edges—they’re solid Uchiha steel, which means posing as a smith had been a good idea. There isn’t any spare katana he can find, but a bit of rummaging results in a spool of trap wire, too.

Izuna stops when he passes a mirror in the hallway. After checking again for any observers he glances at himself. He looks like a ghost—white far beyond his usual pallor, dark circles reminiscent of his brother decorating the skin under his eyes. Seeing as he almost died a few days back that’s understandable though.

But his eyes… Taking a deep breath, Izuna slowly lets his Mangekyō whirl to life. A new pattern greets him in the mirror. It’s a perfect inverse overlap of his and Niisan’s Mangekyō. 

Fuck .

His sight is perfect now even though he knows Madara’s eyes had gotten really bad by the time he’d been injured. Unable to read bad, and all because he had to fight the stupid fucking tree man on a regular basis.

That means... the transfer for gaining the Eternal Mangekyō Sharingan works regardless of how much the donor’s eyes have deteriorated. And that means Izuna has held back from using his own Mangekyō in order to preserve as much sight as possible for Madara for nothing .

He almost died because he wanted his brother to have working eyes.

Absurdly, the urge to laugh bubbles up his throat, but if he starts now he knows he won’t stop until he’s crying. He bites the inside of his cheek until he can taste blood and takes a deep breath. No time for that right now. He turns his back to the mirror and, after a bit of thought, leaves the front door ajar.

Back on the main street, he can’t suppress a shudder when he passes—and burns—more and more dried pools of blood. Everyone would’ve felt so safe here in the middle of their own Clan Compound... only to find out they really weren’t.

Worse, Izuna knows himself to not be invincible. He only needs to look up at Senju Tobirama’s giant stone face to become intimately aware of that fact. If only Niisan hadn’t forbidden him to—

But these thoughts lead nowhere now.

Izuna looks up when a fast-moving chakra signature appears on the next building’s roof. His fingers are halfway through curling into seals before he recognizes one of the Hokage’s masked shinobi. The figure pauses a moment, probably giving him time to calm down his initial reaction, before they disappear and then reappear immediately in front of him.

It’s highly irritating to have his gaze slide right off the ANBU’s form without being able to discern any other features but the striking dog-themed mask. It must be a really clever use of a secrecy genjutsu causing that—maybe in conjunction with seals for permanency? He lets his Sharingan flare to life for a second. That reveals a slightly taller, wiry man with a shock of silver hair that definitely warrants the secrecy genjutsu and makes part of him want to sneer. Logically, he knows that other people can have silver hair, too, but he can never see silver hair without reflexively thinking of Tobirama. Izuna hasn't seen any Hatake around yet, nor heard anything about that Clan, but didn’t the hospital staff whisper about that one Jounin with the interesting nickname...?

The ANBU freezes for a fraction of a second. Did he notice Izuna using his Sharingan? He wasn’t doing anything to hide it, but usually people don’t become aware of his usual split-second activation.

Then the man steps forward, holding out a thick scroll on top of a folder to him. “Hokage-sama sends you the Uchiha shinobi registry files along with the body scroll,” the ANBU says in a monotone voice, sounding bored in a carefully calculated way. “There are instructions included on how to unseal the bodies.”

“Thank you.” Izuna takes the offered files. He looks at the ANBU’s mask and decides why the hell not. “A question, ANBU-san. There are probably quite a few now ownerless and feral pets in the Compound, most of them dogs—any suggestion on who could help me care for them?”

The ANBU stays silent for so long that Izuna thinks he might be insulted, but finally speaks. Maybe he’s imagining it, but the voice sounds a bit friendlier now. “The Inuzuka Clan runs a veterinary clinic and animal shelter. Inuzuka Tsume has already expressed concerns about Uchiha pets.”

Huh. That’s more than he expected to get. Izuna manages a more honest smile along with a nod. “Thank you for the advice.”

The ANBU moves his head into the barest fraction of a nod and then disappears in a shower of leaves.

...What an annoying jutsu! Feeling suddenly petty, Izuna burns the leaves before they can reach the ground.


The Clan Head’s house is easy to find from how the Compound is laid out. He stops when he reaches it because... That’s his house. His and Niisan’s house.

Izuna blinks. It’s not exactly their house but clearly an almost identical copy. The layout of the garden is different from what he can see, and the paint in some places is the wrong colour, and yet…

Huh. He shakes his head, almost smiling.

“Sorry for the intrusion,” he murmurs as he crosses the doorstep. He’s greeted by a family photo hanging right where anyone who enters would naturally rest their gaze. It’s a formal photo with everyone in a traditional Uchiha battle coat. Even the toddler who must be Sasuke is wearing a miniature version of the dark blue coat, sitting on his mother’s arms with a rather cute grumpy frown. 

Hm.

The official Clan Head, Fugaku, doesn’t look familiar and is indeed rather bland for an Uchiha. But his wife, Mikoto… Izuna studies her face for a while. She does remind him of someone. Maybe Hikaku’s sister? He huffs when he realises that her eyebrows—the curve of her eyes in general—actually look like his own. That’s definitely interesting, especially with how similar Sasuke looks to him, too.

Finally, he looks at the fourth person in the photo. The one who must be Itachi.

He’s surprisingly young.

Izuna does some hasty calculations based on Sasuke’s apparent age in the photo and Sasuke’s age now—copied off a medical chart in the hospital—and ends up with Itachi currently being somewhere between… twelve and fourteen? That’s quite a bit younger than he expected. He frowns at the photo.

At twelve, he and his Niisan had been long and well blooded on the battlefield. Could they have done what Itachi did? There’s nothing Madara couldn’t have done if he wanted to, and that’s the crucial point—neither he nor Izuna would’ve ever actually done this or wanted to.

If you want to test your strength, as Izuna had overheard two nurses nervously whisper to each other, you went and killed as many Senju as you could. Or matched yourself with your brother or as many Clanmates as would volunteer in a spar. Granted, killing Senju might be a bit difficult given Izuna hadn’t heard anyone say that name unless they were referring to their precious Tobirama or Hashirama—what a fucking nightmare—but this? Entirely out of proportion.

Where’s the strength in killing people who look to you for protection? Elders, children, civilians. Your own family.

Itachi might have gone the way of true Uchiha madness… but even that bottomless rage rarely turned on the Clan outside lovers’ quarrels gone entirely sour. And even those could often be mitigated still.  

The entire Clan… Izuna meets Itachi’s eyes in the photo and shakes his head. 

Something is really wrong here. 

The first doorway leads him into a well-stocked weapons room. Izuna ignores the two sets of traditional armour on their armour stands in the corner and instead checks the battle coats again. To his relief, one of the sizes—the medium one, probably Mikoto’s—fits him almost like a glove, so he discards the earlier coat for a better fitting one. There are swords here, too; several, in fact, hang on the wall in positions of honor. He runs a critical eye across them and finally chooses one of the more plain katana without as many decorations. It’s solid Uchiha steel, well weighted and in perfect condition, meaning it’s either not been used often or has been well cared for, or both. He also grabs two long knives, almost tantos, to conceal inside his sleeves. Glancing at the traditional armour again he decides he’s supplied enough for now. Wearing full battle armour is rare in this Village from what he’s seen so far.

The kitchen is uninteresting except for the rotten food he quickly burns. The upstairs bedrooms are easy to match to the former residents. Izuna stops at what’s obviously Sasuke’s room. It’s strewn with toys—mostly shinobi ones—in the typical telltale disarray he would expect from a boy his age. He picks up what must be a well-loved, bright green... plush dinosaur? With a smile he pockets it since Sasuke would probably like to have something to hold on to.

The next room is clearly an office. He stops in the doorway and flashes his Sharingan. His glance reveals several Sharingan-based genjutsu that, while mostly low-level, generally would suffice to keep things hidden from people without one. There’s a thick old scroll immediately drawing his attention because it proclaims itself as the peace treaty between the Uchiha and Senju Clans. Izuna wants to read it badly, but he should probably do that another time. There are some weapons hidden, too, and an old wall painting that tugs at Izuna’s mind. Possibly a layered genjutsu there?

A rather slim The History of the Hidden Leaf book isn’t hidden by any genjutsu and seems more added for appearance’s sake. It’s curious, so obviously Izuna goes to pick it up from the shelf. After a moment he decides to use his Sharingan to flip through it and memorize its entire content. It can’t hurt to have more general ideas about this Konoha, and he is curious about how this all happened.

He grimaces when a light headache immediately makes itself at home behind his eyes—the drawback of using the Sharingan to memorize content like this, his brain straining to rearrange the sudden influx of new information.

Uchiha Madara betrayed Konoha and was eventually killed by the Shodaime Hokage, Senju Hashirama

The book turns to ashes in his hands.

I told you so, Niisan, he thinks, I fucking TOLD YOU—

He has a sudden visceral understanding of his brother’s constant rage because right now, Izuna wants to set several people on fire and this house and maybe this entire fucking village, too.

The brand new information in his mind also tells him that it’s been several decades since all of that happened, which is a really fucking problem, too, and means he’s entirely and irrevocably fucked—since he has the good sense to not go and try to mess with time—but it pales compared to the naked hate boiling in his veins. He tries to ignore the flickers of bright violet at the edge of his vision as he presses the heels of his hands against his eyes and breathes. One. Two. Three.

All he can see is those words.

Four. Five. Six. 

Oh, Madara.

Seven, eight. Nine.

Ten.

Izuna opens his eyes again.

There are things he has to do.

He brushes the ash off his hands and goes to look at the desk. It has genjutsu-hidden and locked drawers that take him only a few seconds to pick. The genjutsu are a bit unimaginative if he’s being honest—standard ones without any personal creative touches—but they appear unbroken. 

And… There. Last year’s tax records for the entire Clan. A quick leaf through the file confirms that it will provide him with the names, addresses and occupation of every single Uchiha. He takes a deep breath and then flashes his Sharingan while flipping through the pages.

His headache gets worse.


After Itachi’s room yields nothing at all of interest, Izuna finally looks at the pool of blood in the house’s dojo where Fugaku and Mikoto were killed. There are bloody footprints all over, and a set of very small hand prints that look like Sasuke’s. He studies the scene for a while. Yes, Sasuke must’ve been in here. He probably ran straight into the room after seeing what had happened in the streets outside… 

Izuna will have to gently check if Sasuke awakened his Sharingan.

With a sigh, he crouches down at the edge of the pool of blood and stares into nothing.

The dogs and other pets, the Compound, the bodies, the how and the why, this entire Amaterasu-forsaken Village, even Sasuke

They are not his problems.

This Uchiha Clan is not his Clan. Not really. A head full of recent Sharingan memories of names and faces doesn’t make up for that.

He could very easily leave. Disappear. Find a new reason for living, far away from where giant Senju faces loom above.

Izuna wonders if he even can live without his life being a constant war.

Would it be so difficult to find out?

And yet…

He closes his eyes and all he can see is Sasuke. Who trusts so easily—fatally—and woke up from nightmares four times in a single afternoon. 

Izuna could take him with him, but that’s not a life he’d wish on any child. 

And certainly not on this child.

Not in this village.

Not when the entire Uchiha Clan has been murdered.

Not when he can already smell conspiracies from miles away.

A startled laughter bubbles up his throat when he realises that truly, there isn’t a decision to be made here. He probably made it the first time he looked at Sasuke.

The dried blood turns to ashes at a touch of his fingertips.


Cause of death: single stab wound to the heart.

Izuna puts down the scroll, his Sharingan swirling and adding the sentence to his memories. It’s not easy having to read the exact same thing several times in a row—but this time it comes with the hastily scrawled addition age: estimated at below twelve months.

He lets go of the parchment before he can crush it in his fists. Instead he closes his eyes and focuses on breathing. His Clansmen had died early back in—back in the Warring Clans era as they now apparently called it. Too early and too often, even after Madara and he had strictly punished any of the child hunting squads from their father’s days.

And yet Izuna can’t remember any of his kin ever dying this young.

Logically, he knows at least one of his older brothers had been killed by Senju assassins at barely walking age, but that was before Izuna could remember. And yet… isn’t this time, this village supposed to be better?

He recalls one line from the history book he’s looked at earlier. Founded to prevent the death of younger and younger children—Sitting in front of a scroll containing the bodies of his entire Clan, Izuna thinks this village can’t be anything but a failure. 

He sighs again and decides he’ll use his Sharingan to copy the entire scroll at once into his memories after all. He’d wanted to honor his dead Clansmen by taking the time to read each entry individually, but now he feels it best to get it over with quickly.

He can rage later.

His Sharingan spins as the new information floods his mind. Huh… There’s a pattern here. Roughly half of the dead Uchiha have a single stab to the heart listed as their cause of death—this includes all of the children, he notes, a large number of the civilians, the Clan Head and his wife, and the two pregnant women. The other half, including most of the Uchiha Police force, have far more varied causes of death. Multiple stab wounds, blunt force trauma, multiple broken bones, severe burns… 

Izuna thinks of the man who had enjoyed making him scream that night. The man who can’t be Uchiha Itachi.

The man no one but Izuna seems to be aware of, since this Village and the Hokage seem more than happy to place the blame for the entire ‘Uchiha Massacre’ on Itachi’s shoulders.

And yet, Izuna knows he wasn’t working alone.

He’s a stranger to this village, unfamiliar to its workings and without any allies. He’ll have to tread carefully here; he wants to find out what happened, but there are too many unknown variables outside his control. 

He needs to focus on keeping Sasuke safe first.

Izuna follows the instructions on a scrap of paper attached to the sealing scroll to unseal one of the bodies that, if his theory is correct, was killed by someone other than Itachi. It’s a man listed as Uchiha Satoshi, a special Jounin working for the Uchiha Military Police.

Carefully scrutinizing injuries, his Sharingan tells him exactly what happened. A crippling blow to the legs to prevent any escape, and then a few more blows to the rib cage that eventually killed the man. 

Whoever did this was angry

Out of habit Izuna checks Satoshi’s eyes since he’s listed as having an active Sharingan. To his relief they’re there and not tampered with, and—

Wait.

He frowns down at the man’s face. Something there... Why were his thoughts so quick to turn to other things?!

He slides a bit more chakra into his eyes, calling on his Mangekyō once more. There’s—

Izuna reaches out to touch the blurry patch right at the corner of the man’s eyes. Something under his fingertip dissolves.

He’s left staring at the empty eye sockets.

Chapter Text

Madara pulls Izuna’s hair back into a warrior braid more severe than his usual style. Then he checks the armour is securely fastened despite the fact that he himself tied it on just minutes ago. His hands linger on Izuna’s shoulders.

Izuna huffs and turns around to swat his hands away. “Niisan, what’s with that face? I’ll be back in three days.” He’s going alone, so he doesn’t need to take squadmates into account and can run full speed across Fire Country and up into Lightning. A day to get there, a day to burn those bastards to a crisp, a day back.

Easy.

He flicks his brother’s ever present wild bangs—the day that Madara will accidentally burn half his own hair off is coming ever closer, he can’t wait—and narrows his eyes. “Are you still sulking you can’t come with? That would be overkill. Lightning needs most of its mountains, they’d notice one being reduced to rubble—”

This time Madara is the one who irritably slaps his hand away and turns to the desk. He comes back holding their father’s tanto—the one he’d given to Madara before his death. Izuna only ever sharpens it occasionally, enjoying the faint feeling of familiarity.

Now his brother presses it into Izuna’s hands. “Burn them,” Madara whispers, fingers curling around the decorated hilt for a moment. “I want them and their entire camp dead. Burn them all, and bring Kazane back no matter what.”

Neither of them acknowledges that what Izuna will bring back is most likely Kazane’s body. Specifically, her eyes, with the rest of her rotting in the wild wherever those fucking thieves left her. Kazane hadn’t returned from a mission a week ago; information of a stolen Sharingan being seen had been confirmed just this morning. 

Bad timing for Niisan since there is an Akimichi trade delegation arriving tomorrow they simply can’t have anyone but the Clan Head meet with.

Good timing for Izuna, then. His brother is always so conflicted when he has to kill any civilians or younger teenagers on these vengeance missions. Their Clan simply has to make an example of eye thieves so they remain as rare as they are.

Unlike his brother, Izuna has no pity for anyone associated with eye thieves by whatever degree.

He shoves the tanto into his belt, ignoring the short pang of grief with the ease of the four years since their father died. “I will,” he promises, the sharp edge of anticipation in his voice, before he steps back to bow. “I’ll be off, then.”

Madara is still as a statue as he nods in answer. But when Izuna turns to leave, his brother catches his sleeve. They look at each other for a moment. His brother’s Sharingan is active, so Izuna’s activates in response.

Madara looks so tired with the clarity of their doujutsu. And as always there’s sorrow tugging at his eyes.

He can’t say who moves first—but then they’re pressing their foreheads together, blinking away the Sharingan at the same time. Madara’s hand digs into Izuna’s hair, probably undoing all his earlier work, but it feels grounding to Izuna as he clutches back at his brother. 

“Come back, Izuna,” Madara whispers into the small space between them, their breath mingling. “Above all, come back.”

Izuna smiles. This, he can promise as often as his brother needs to hear it. “Always.”

 


 

With every new pair of eyes he had found missing, Izuna’s rage had given way to something far colder and bitter. He turns his back to the burning house—he hadn’t quite managed to suppress his first instinct of burning everything—and looks into the direction of Konoha’s center.

This Village is vulnerable to attack from within. It’s too full of civilians, the shinobi forces spread all throughout it and focused on the walls as well the central Hokage Tower, to properly defend it.

If such an attacker doesn’t mind the civilian casualties.

Izuna stares up at the Hokage Mountain. Now that he has no reason to not use his Susanoo, he’d probably be able to bring the cliff down on the village, burying almost half of it under rubble. It would take him a while and he’d definitely be noticed , but there are few shinobi Izuna thinks can withstand an entire mountain coming down on their heads. If he went for the Hokage right after… most of the Clan shinobi would probably fall back to protect their own Compounds, especially with the ‘Uchiha Massacre’ fresh in mind. Izuna could easily burn what remained of the village, then.

He grips the hilt of his borrowed sword tight enough to hurt before he deliberately lets go with a sharp exhale.

No.

He knows better than to follow his first impulse; he’s not Niisan. He has spent too much time convincing Madara to just wait a bit, to come up with proper strategies, to make sure they’re on the right path, to now do the exact opposite.

And both he and his Niisan, no matter their arguments, had always avoided civilian casualties when they could. As Uchiha they were very aware of the destructive nature of their fighting style—which is why Izuna could understand Madara’s quiet relief at fighting Hashirama, because those fights never involved civilians by design, even if he couldn’t condone it.

Both he and Tobirama have always been far more practical, of course, despite their fights having the potential of being almost equally destructive. But neither of them have ever gone out of their way to increase the amount of civilian deaths on purpose.

Of course, eye theft definitely requires wholesale slaughter of the thieves as the only proper answer… but Izuna doesn’t know who did this. Itachi comes to mind, and the second man pretending to be Madara, yes, but with these things already not adding up about the ‘Uchiha Massacre’, he’ll need to be thorough here. Burning down the entire village—with all the people in it—simply because he doesn’t like it much anyway would be foolish. At the very least, he can use the Village’s resources in finding Itachi and the other man.

And there’s Sasuke, too. 

No, he needs to keep a clear head about this for now.

...and he should probably stop the rest of the Clan Head’s house from burning down.


“The Hokage is in a meeting,” the secretary tells him. “You—you have to wait like everyone else.” The man is shrinking back from Izuna as he speaks, sweating nervously.

A shinobi of middling talent at best, judging by how the man’s eyes and fingers twitch at being confronted with the vicious look on Izuna’s face. Definitely unsuited for the job he’s doing. Maybe civilians are more easily cowed? But then again, those probably rarely need to see the Hokage directly—everyone on this floor is a shinobi, and everyone but the secretary is carefully not looking at Izuna while still focusing all of their attention on him.

His anger must be leaking past into his chakra again.

Izuna studies the man for a moment. “I need to see the Hokage now ,” he repeats softly.

“He’s—he’s in the Clan Head Council, you can’t just—”

Izuna leans back and smiles. And isn’t that just perfect? “Oh? Well, it happens I am the Uchiha Clan Head and apparently late for my meeting.” He raises an eyebrow. “Would you prefer making me even more late?”

The secretary only belatedly takes in the unmistakable Uchiha coat Izuna is wearing and pales. His eyes twitch toward the great double door at the end of the long hall, past the more decorated one that proclaims to lead to the Hokage Office in bold letters. “Uchiha-sama, I—”

Izuna lets his smile grow. “I think I can find the way,”—his eyes flicker back to the nameplate as if he didn’t memorise it as soon as he saw it—“Furuya-san.” His voice rings with disdain.

The secretary flinches.

Izuna keeps smiling and steps past the desk and down the hallway.

When he’s halfway to the door, two of the masked shinobi—ANBU—materialise in front of it. Because of course they do. One of them is his old friend, the dog-masked ANBU; the other is wearing a stylized cat mask.

“I’m late for the Clan Head Council,” he says with an expectant air.

“...Uchiha-san, you’re armed and your agitated chakra implies aggression,” the cat-masked ANBU tells him without any inflection in his voice. It’s creepy. Their chakra is tightly controlled, too, so Izuna can’t get a read on their emotions at all. “We can’t let you through—”

Izuna steps right past the guard’s personal space and reaches for the door. Predictably, the ANBU immediately tries to stop him. He dodges the grab and punches the cat ANBU, aiming for the unprotected throat. The man jerks aside so it becomes a glancing blow instead. The dog-masked shinobi then almost manages to grab Izuna’s hair of all things—he can appreciate someone going for an obvious weakness, but fuck that —so he grips the cat ANBU’s shoulders and uses the momentum of the other man to swing himself around and kick the dog ANBU into the chest. As the man goes crashing straight through the window, Izuna whirls back around to face the second ANBU again. He bares his teeth. “Get out of my way or I will go through you,” he snarls, letting his killing intent rise to match his spinning Sharingan. The entire interaction has taken a few seconds only.

The ANBU hesitates for a single moment, glancing at the broken window, before he slaps a hand against the door, glowing with chakra, and then disappears in a small shower of leaves.

Amaterasu, that’s still a really irritating jutsu.

The door is glowing with protective seals now he has no patience for picking apart slowly, so Izuna summons part of his Susanoo around his shoulders for just the fraction of a second, just enough to smash through them. There’s only a moment of resistance before the seals break and wood splinters. He kicks open what remains of the now unguarded doors to stride into the Council Room. At the far end, the cat-masked ANBU crouches right next to the Hokage, bending down to whisper into his ear. All around the table surprised faces turn to look at Izuna. 

He blinks and two more ANBU drop from the ceiling with their weapons drawn and pointed at him. Behind Izuna, the dog-masked ANBU reappears, now with tanto drawn as well. The sudden sharp smell of ozone makes Izuna wary enough to turn his head slightly in order to keep the man in his field of vision.

The raging part of him really wants to let his Susanoo flicker to life again and see what everyone would do then . It would be hilarious to make them all scatter like ants.

“How rude,” he says instead, voice biting, “it seems I wasn’t invited. This is a Clan Head Council, isn’t it?” He glances around the room. There’s a very obvious Nara—complete with a bored expression but eyes that sharpen when they look at him—flanked by an Akimichi and a Yamanaka; he easily identifies the Inuzuka and Aburame as well, followed by a Hyūga. There are a few others he can’t immediately place, but the three Elders he was introduced to a day ago sit next to the Hokage, all wearing indignant expressions.

Sarutobi Hiruzen meets his gaze squarely. “Akitsuna-kun. I assumed you were busy caring for your Clan’s bodies—surely there’s no need for you to barge in here like that?” His tone is gently chiding, but his chakra flares out with a cold edge. “And I wasn’t aware you had an active Sharingan,” he adds, voice sharper. Beside him, Shimura is frowning at Izuna.

Izuna pushes forward until he reaches the edge of the Council table, ignoring the ANBU moving along with him to keep their weapons aimed at him. “Speaking of bodies,” he says, slamming the scroll in his hand down on the table. A twist of his chakra unseals the bodies of Uchiha Mikoto and Fugaku right there on the tabletop.

There are various gasps. The Hyūga Clan Head almost overturns his chair in his haste to stand up and move backwards away from the table, his face looking appalled as he raises a sleeve to cover his nose. The Nara rescues some papers with a swift gesture but stays seated, expression inscrutable as he looks down at the bodies. 

“What’s the meaning of this?!” the Hokage demands, voice now gone ice-cold. “I understand you’re grieving, but this is—”

“If everyone would do me the favor,” Izuna interrupts him, voice barely civil, “of looking at their eyes.” He nods towards the Hyūga Clan Head. “I’d be especially interested in what the Byakugan can see here.”

The Hyūga has stiffened as soon as Izuna mentioned eyes but still looks towards the Hokage, who nods after a long moment, looking suddenly weary. The Nara also leans forward again, a slight frown on his face. Over his shoulders his Akimichi and Yamanaka companions frown, too, even if the Yamanaka seems more interested in staring at Izuna.

“This—this can’t be right,” The Hyūga says after a long pause in which he stares at the bodies with his Byakugan activated. His voice is horrified. “It looks like…” He reaches out to touch the corner of Fugaku’s eye.

As before, the concealing genjutsu dissolves to show the room nothing but empty eye sockets, bloody marks around them indicating where someone must’ve gouged out the eyes. 

The Nara hisses quietly as his careful probing reveals the same thing on Mikoto’s body.

“Bloodline theft,” the Akimichi Clan Head states solemnly, turning to look at the Hokage as he does.

Eye theft!” Izuna snarls, barely managing not to shout. 

The room erupts into shouting. “Impossible!”— “This can’t be real!”— “Sarutobi, this—”

Silence!” The Hokage roars and the entire room backs down. Izuna stares at the man who meets his activated Sharingan without a hint of fear on his face. “Akitsuna-kun, your report.”

Ah. Well. If the old man wants time to gather his thoughts, he can have that.

“I was preparing a Clansman’s body and checked his eyes as is customary. Something struck me as off, so I activated my Sharingan to check.” Izuna takes a deep breath. “That revealed that disgusting genjutsu.” His voice goes cold. “I checked every body. Every single documented Sharingan is missing.”

He stares into the pale faces around the room. Even the Nara now looks worried, breaking his usual apathy. The Elders’ faces are blank… Izuna meets the Hokage’s eyes again. “This is bloodline theft on a level that has never been seen before—not in the Warring Clans era and not in the Uchiha’s history before it. Never.” His killing intent rises again until all he can do is keep his Sharingan from whirling into the Mangekyō and his Susanoo from manifesting. Around him, the ANBU’s grips tighten around their weapons. He is well aware he isn’t doing his fake identity as a civilian any favours, but can’t bring himself to care. “So,” he says, “Hokage-sama. What are you going to do?!

“You’re impertinent, Uchiha, how dare you—” Izuna looks at Mitokado until the man, unwilling to meet his gaze, shudders and falls silent. Shimura’s face hardens, Utatane’s lips twist into a sneer.

Multiple people subtly shift their weight around the room, but attention is divided. The other Clan Heads are looking at Sarutobi, too, even if their body language makes clear they’re regarding Izuna as a threat.

Good. They should.

“Certainly Itachi wouldn’t… This is—” The Akimichi interrupts himself, frowning. The Nara and Yamanaka exchange glances. “Maybe a third party…?”

This promptly starts a discussion as every single Clan Head seems in a hurry to throw in their own opinion. Izuna hears the name Orochimaru mentioned more than once, as well as Kumogakure, the Shinobi Village of Lighting. Hm...

“As far as I’m concerned,” Izuna finally interrupts them, tired of their seemingly baseless assumptions, “either Itachi is handing out those Sharingan to Konoha’s enemies as we speak, in which case everyone should be highly concerned, or…” he glances at the ANBU still surrounding him. “The bodies were in ANBU custody.” He smiles with all his teeth and lets the statement hang in the air. 

“You dare accuse Konoha’s elite forces—” Izuna focuses his killing intent on Utatane until she falls silent with a gasp, paling.

“What else am I supposed to make of this?! Konoha failed to keep my Clan safe, and now you’ve even failed to keep their bodies safe.”

“This is enough,” Sarutobi tells him. “Of course this is a serious matter of security that Konoha will treat with the importance it requires. Shikaku, you’re going to lead the investigation into the eye theft along with... Inu.” One of the ANBU despite the ANBU being under suspicion? The Hokage must trust this particular agent quite a lot. “Akitsuna-kun, you’ll hand over the bodies of those who had their eyes stolen to—”

Izuna crosses his arms. “No. I will not let anyone touch these bodies again without my presence.”

The room falls silent once more, half the Clan Heads staring aghast at his blatant refusal. The Hokage raises an eyebrow. He’s probably not used to hearing someone say ‘no’.

Then Shimura Danzō speaks up. “For an investigation of such grave importance, naturally we can only allow shinobi to take part.” He pauses before a glint of something flickers through his eye. “Of course, an Uchiha with the Sharingan would be a great help...”

Expectant eyes turn back on Izuna. 

Ah. Well played. They all have noticed his Sharingan since Izuna hadn’t bothered to hide it, much less his chakra, which would tell anyone he’s at the very least somewhat trained with it. Well, he’s already tired of playing the hapless civilian anyway. He shrugs and smiles a bit hesitantly. “... I suppose it won’t make such a difference whether I heat up metal with a Katon or use it to set someone on fire?”

Predictably, Mitokado frowns. “Uchiha-san, your presence in the forge is need—”

Sarutobi waves him off. “Yes, we’d like you to keep producing weapons, if you can, but Konoha’s forces will welcome you with open arms.” Of course they will. They have just lost every single Uchiha shinobi—a serious blow to their fighting strength, and even more so, their international reputation. And of course they want to have more control over Izuna himself. The Hokage nods towards the Nara Clan Head again. “Akitsuna-kun, you might not be aware of it, but for someone older than Academy age joining the ranks there's established Assessment Testing to determine your skills. Shikaku, as the Jounin Commander, will set up a date for that.”

Nara Shikaku sighs, but nods. He looks thoroughly disgusted by all the work that has been dumped on him in the last ten minutes. 

Izuna nods in agreement as well. “I look forward to working with Nara-san, then.”

“...Hokage-sama.” All eyes turn to the Hyūga Clan Head as the man unexpectedly speaks up. “With such an unprecedented case of bloodline theft, wouldn’t it be wise to take certain... precautions so that Konoha will preserve their remaining Sharingan regardless of what happens?”

It takes a moment for the implication to sink in, but then Izuna pales with rage. How dare he

Once, in his teens, he killed a Hyūga kunoichi when their respective mission aims had been opposing. Their fight had been close combat, so Izuna had been very much close enough to see the seal on her eyes and its activation, burned into his memories in vivid Sharingan-clarity. He along with other Uchiha with more than passing sealing knowledge had later tried to decipher it with an eye towards reengineering for their own use, but he’d made everyone stop once they realized that the seal component that prevented theft was irrevocably intertwined with the control component.

He wants to vault over the table and stab his fingers straight into the man’s ghost-white eyes. He wants to breathe burning ash directly into his face and watch his skin melt. He wants to tear off his head and then crush the stupid fucking Byakugan with his bare hands—his chakra lashes out wildly before he can force it back under control. “Of course,” he says, and then has to start again because it comes out as snarl, “of course I wouldn’t dream of interfering with how Hyūga-san is running his own Clan. But that same courtesy should extend to me.” He takes a breath to stop the insults and threats almost spilling out over his lips. “But if someone even so much as thinks about the Sharingan in relation to that abomination of a seal again,” —I will kill you and then burn the rest of your gods forsaken Clan to the ground—”I’ll take Sasuke-kun and all our belongings and leave.”

The thought is so alien to everyone that even the Hokage startles. The Inuzuka Clan head barks out a laugh.

Finally, Mitokado huffs derisively. “This is nonsense. Hiashi’s suggestion aside, leaving the safety of Konoha would needlessly endanger you and young Sasuke—”

“My entire Clan was murdered and their eyes stolen! It can't really get any worse, can it?” Izuna casually glances down at his hand to admire his nails. A few are cracked—he needs to find time to take care of that... “I'm sure someone would be interested in having access to Uchiha steel in exchange for protection, anyway,” he adds with a casual shrug. And the chance to throw several women at him, too, which is probably something that comes to mind to everyone with half a wit in the room. Some of them don’t hide their horror at the thought of another Village with access to both Uchiha-forged weapons and new born Sharingan users well. Ah. They're so predictable.

“Your suggestion is badly timed,” Sarutobi admonishes the Hyūga Clan Head finally, but, and Izuna will remember this, notably doesn’t refute the suggestion entirely. “Akitsuna-kun, I understand your anger, we’re all deeply affected by your Clan’s... tragedy. If you want to remain in this Council, however, I must ask you to rein in your temper and curb such talk of… sedition.” The words are accompanied by a glare of steel and the oppressive weight of chakra flaring as the Hokage clearly wants this particular discussion to end now.

Izuna wants to throw himself against this heavy-handed intimidation, wants to show all of them who really is standing here, wants to show them what happens to someone who hurts the Uchiha Clan—but he takes all his anger and shoves it back down again to let it simmer. Then he looks away as if chastised, letting the Sharingan fade from his eyes for now. “Of course, Hokage-sama.”

At an unseen gesture, the cat-masked ANBU materializes behind Izuna to… drop off a chair? He eyes it apprehensively. There’s something off about it, but it does appear to be the same chair all the other Clan Heads sit in. It just feels.. new? He frowns and sits down after a moment. 

The Hokage clears his throat and glances at the two bodies still on the table. Ah. Those. Izuna feeds chakra back into the sealing scroll to make them disappear in a puff of smoke. Would Sasuke still like to see them…?

With that, the Clan Head Council finally turns back to their regular topics, though rather focused on security issues and international response to the ‘Uchiha Massacre’. It’s in some ways refreshingly mundane squabbling—the same problems a Clan faces internally and externally, magnified by the sheer magnitude of the Village. It provides him with a wealth of knowledge of both affairs within Konoha’s borders and without.

Izuna abstains from voting on anything while he leans back and ponders the politics at play in the room as well as potential allies for himself.

The Hokage continues to be an interesting man. The Sarutobi have always been traditional Senju allies, which explains his leadership in this Senju Village. He’s very old and while Shinobi skills don’t dull with age, his body certainly must have. Izuna would expect a successor being trained up alongside him, but no one in the room appears to be taking that role. It’s foolish—entire Clans have been destroyed over succession disputes before, and the Village won’t be immune to such a crisis. He needs to research how the leadership system works and see what might be going on here.

As long as Sarutobi continues to underestimate Izuna at least somewhat, Izuna can handle him. The man is keeping secrets, of course, but any man in his position would. Those secrets are only of importance to Izuna if they concern the Uchiha. There’s something off about Sarutobi’s reaction whenever Itachi’s name comes up, but so far it’s just a feeling and nothing more. Perhaps he was the man’s student or protégé...?

The Nara Clan Head, Shikaku, would bring along the Akimichi and Yamanaka Clan Heads. But dealing with those three Clans has almost always been more of a headache than expected, and Izuna is painfully aware of the current gaps in his knowledge. Best to wait for a while, then, since he has no desire to intellectually spar with a fucking Nara while caught on his back foot. He’ll get to know Shikaku more through the investigation and the testing anyway. As the Jounin Commander he must have quite a lot of power….

The middle-aged Yūhi matriarch—and he really needs to find out all the names of everyone in attendance surreptitiously—had been one of the only Clan Heads to calmly meet his gaze while his Sharingan was active. Izuna is predisposed to like her simply because of that, and he’s always gotten along well with the Clan in the past. He glances at her traditional clothing. An invitation for tea, then, and soon. At the very least they can always talk about genjutsu.

No matter how much of a common cause he might have with the Hyūga Clan in regards to the eye theft, he wants nothing to do with Hyūga Hiashi after that damned suggestion. He hopes someone digs out the man’s eyes with a rusty knife and laughs.

Inuzuka, Aburame, the half a dozen Clan Heads from other smaller Clans—he’ll need more time to get a better grasp of the politics here.

The two civilian representatives are an interesting option. Neither of them speaks up much, but they do appear to have a vote each, even if they always vote with the majority. One of them is likely representing the trade guilds, and the other… maybe the administration? Civilians always have reservations about shinobi that he doubts living in such close proximity alleviates completely, so that’s something he might be able to exploit.

Which brings him to Shimura Danzō. The man clearly dislikes Izuna—or maybe the Uchiha—for some reason, but… As Izuna watches him carefully nudge his fellow two Elders and occasionally even the Hokage towards specific opinions and votes with nothing more than a well-aimed comment or even just a gesture, he can’t help but respect him.

Shimura is a master manipulator. He’s clearly content to let especially the Hokage take the brunt of everyone’s attention while carefully implementing his own agenda through other people. If Mitokado and Utatane aren’t working for him they’re at least working with him. Pity, he might have been able to get somewhere with Utatane; kunoichi like her often have hidden resentments he could’ve done something with.

If Izuna wants certain things done in this Village at the very least he needs to avoid getting any more on Shimura's bad side.

The way Shimura works reminds Izuna of the way he and Niisan have dealt with the Uchiha’s Elder Council. Madara was always good at commanding everyone’s attention—the two of them hardly even needed to plan that—and then Izuna had gotten their plans pushed through against all opposition with all the precision of a well-honed knife, finding chinks in everyone’s arguments and casually offering threats with a soft smile on his face.

Shimura looks right back at him while he’s musing on this. Izuna smiles noncommittally and ducks his head. 

This Elder will be difficult to trick into underestimating him. 

He always liked challenges.

Eventually, the Council’s meeting ends, and the Hokage leaves immediately, ANBU guards following him.

Nara Shikaku waves Izuna off with a lazy “In three days, eight in the morning. Training Ground Five.” so he goes to stop the Inuzuka Clan Head before the woman can storm off—this seems normal for her as no one is surprised—and explains about the ownerless dogs in the Compound. 

“Hmpf, call me Tsume,” the woman tells him after a long measuring glance. “Put in a request for an urgent Inuzuka-only C-Rank with a length of... half a day, if you want them to take care of any perishables in the fridges, too? Are there other pets?” She doesn’t wait for either his nod or his answer. “I’ll send my daughter along as the mission lead. She’s a good kid and will take care no one is snooping where they shouldn’t.”

Well then. He can definitely appreciate someone who knows what they’re doing. “I appreciate that. The cats—and the crows—take care of themselves, I believe. Thank you, Tsume-san.”

“Cats”, she huffs, shaking her head. “We’ll sort out fees for taking care of the poor mutts once we know what we’re working with. I’ll keep you updated. See you around,” she adds over her shoulder as she turns away.

Izuna finally remembers the dinosaur plush toy he shoved into his sleeve earlier. He has enough of the Village’s promises and politics for today—now he has his small Uchiha to visit.


“Sasuke,” he says after they’ve been sitting silently for a while, and the boy turns to look up at his serious voice. “I need to tell you something that some people probably wouldn’t like you to know—something terrible—but you deserve to know about it.” Sasuke deserves to hear it from him, too.

And Izuna tells him about the eyes.

Sasuke cries and finally goes very, very still. He reaches up to touch the corner of Izuna’s eye in a gesture very similar to what Izuna did yesterday. “You have the Sharingan, too, you told me so,” he whispers, “what if someone comes back for yours?! What if—I’d be—” His voice cracks, but it’s clear what he meant to say. I’d be all alone. His other hand is clutching the dinosaur plushie very tightly.

Izuna swallows and gently touches Sasuke’s hand before he can withdraw it. “I told you before: whoever comes for me, or for you, I’ll kill them,” he says softly. He lets his Sharingan whirl alive in his eyes, and after a thorough glance around to check for anyone watching he lets them flash to the Mangekyō for just a moment so Sasuke can see. “I promise.

 

Chapter Text

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.

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.

Fuck.

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.

Izuna falls. 

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.”

Silence.

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. 

… Hm. 

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.”

Izuna snorts.

“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.

And then?

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.

And… 

“... 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—”

Oh.

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?

Fucking great.

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.

Hikaku.

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—

But.

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. 

Who’s Shisui?

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’.

Sasuke laughs.

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.

Hm.

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.

Huh.

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.”

Izuna grins.

 


 

“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.

Well. Fuck.

Amaterasu, Miu–”

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.

Ugh.

“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.

 


 

https://64.media.tumblr.com/18e1a2ee4436695b9ebfb053b773d6f4/adb402fe78b262ad-43/s1280x1920/9a9ebe6d48081311dc91c45e076934a0c614501e.jpg

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...)

Chapter Text

Izuna grins at his brother. “Well, I don’t need a giant club to hit people over the head with–”

Madara growls and lunges at him. 

He laughs and neatly sidesteps the attack, pivoting with a kick at Madara’s back.

Sparring without weapons and ninjutsu with Niisan is fun even if it will inevitably dissolve into indignant screaming and hairpulling at some point.

… It’s not Izuna’s fault Niisan has so much damn hair it’s practically an invitation to pull. In any case, Madara should get used to someone using his hair against him if he insists on the most impractical hair style under the sun.

It’s also not Izuna’s fault that Niisan has been gifted with an overabundance of stamina to the point where Izuna doesn’t even want to try keeping up. Hair pulling is really the only choice here.

Well, that, and using the idiot’s unfair amount of muscles against him. Izuna laughs when he trips Madara for the fourth time in as many minutes. He is and always has been quicker than his brother, after all.

“Izuna,” Madara growls at him as he rolls and springs up again.

He clicks his tongue in answer, shaking his head sadly. “You’re aware your feet can leave the ground, Niisan? I mean, with all that extra weight it’s probably not very easy, but in theory they should…” 

Madara narrows his eyes. “Izu-chan–”

Uh oh. This time, Izuna doesn’t dance out of the way fast enough as Madara tackles him with a vindictive snarl, slamming them both into the ground. He hammers his elbows down on Niisan’s back even as he has all air pushed out of him.

Grappling with Madara is a really bad idea, because–

Izuna shrieks as Madara’s hands find the few spots where he’s actually ticklish with unerring aim. “Unfair!!” he manages to get out between bouts of hysterical laughter and trying to punch at Madara’s face to make him STOP.

He finally gets one foot between the two of them and kicks up. And because Madara already cheated, the bastard, Izuna uses a small push of chakra to put a bit more force behind his kick.

Niisan goes flying head over heels to crash into the side of the Main House.

Whoops. 

That was perhaps a bit too much chakra.

He stays on the ground, trying to catch his breath as he listens to Madara’s groans. Tilting his head back, he glances towards his brother to ascertain he’s not actually hurt. 

He’s not. The wooden side of the house he just hit, on the other hand…

Well. They wanted to do renovations anyway, right?

“Madara. Izuna,” says the chilly voice of their otherwise so friendly cousin, standing on the engawa. Hikaku’s face is expressionless. “Please tell me I only just imagined you destroying your house, again, when I explicitly asked you not to.”

Izuna immediately lets contrition show on his face, along with a—hopefully—pitiful wobble of his lips. “... Niisan started it–”

Izuna!!!”

 


 

“Kuchiyose no Jutsu!”

For just a moment, Izuna feels the echo of Miu’s vast chakra latch onto his own as she gets a sense of the situation—but since it’s nothing urgent, after a second he gets the feeling of a dismissive huff and she instead shoves a handful of other chakra sparks at him. 

His personal summons puff into being all around him. Rowa, already eyeing his hair. Wazuki, more interested in finding something shiny in the room. And Subaru, who might not entirely have forgiven him for dyi—disappearing, yet. 

“My darlings,” he croons at them and is delighted to see them all perk up at the familiar address, “We have some work to do.” He turns to the male Crow first, raising an eyebrow. “Subaru, can you go sit outside Sasuke’s hospital room and keep watch? Without those ANBU guards noticing you?”

Subaru inclines his head. “Can I?! There isn’t a Senju alive who can notice me if I don’t want them to.” It’s probably a lost cause to try and convince him that no one in the Village so far is an actual Senju, but Subaru really is the best spy among them. “… And I want to meet the chick, too,” he adds, a bit smug. Oh well. Sasuke can probably handle some tough Crow love, he seemed fascinated enough by Miu.

Izuna shoos Subaru off with a smirk after telling him Sasuke’s location via Sharingan, though before he does, Wazuki hops forward to offer a genjutsu to him. It’s accepted after a moment of intense haggling.

Crows.

He turns to the smaller crow with two white feathers in each wing next. “Wazuki, would you go talk to the crows around the Compound? I’d like to know their view on this whole ‘massacre’.” Especially whether they also noticed two people carrying it out. “And if you happen to see those hidden ANBU guards around anywhere,” he adds, “I’d really like to know how their secrecy genjutsu works… ways around it… the usual.” He winks at her.

Wazuki’s eyes sparkle. Besides watching things burn, she also loves gossip and people being worse at genjutsu than herself, so this task is perfect. “Sure thing, Zuna-kun,” she chirps at him before flying off.

Rowa huffs and eyes him. “Our usual too, then?” 

Izuna grins. “Yes, but before that… who’s Shisui?” That’s a name he keeps hearing, yet it’s not a name within the files of all Clan members murdered in the Massacre.

His first personal summons sighs. “He didn’t quite get up the entire Tree but far enough.” 

Ah. Another Crow summoner, as he thought, but one who would have only been able to call on personal summons and not Miu. 

Rowa eyes him for a bit longer. She’s looking apprehensive. “... he also was Kagami’s grandson,” she finally adds quietly.

Oh.

And just like that, Izuna is assaulted by memories of the cheerful boy who—

Who—

He closes his eyes and tries to will the sudden emotions warring in his chest away. “Did Kagami ever—did he,” he rasps, his throat feeling tight but he has to know, “did he ever come to you?”

Rowa is silent for so long that he opens his eyes again to glance at her. She’s looking away. “He did come, yes,” she says. “I think he would’ve made it up to the Nest… but Miu-sama flew down to meet him halfway.”

Izuna swallows. That’s—that’s not good.

“It was just a few years after you die—disappeared ,” Rowa continues. “We’d heard that there was peace and this Village now. Kagami-kun… he looked a lot like you.” She falls silent for another long moment before she raises her head to look at him. “Miu-sama told him to bring her Senju Tobirama’s head and that only then she would let him sign the summoning scroll.”

Izuna fights the urge to laugh even as his heart seems to stutter in his chest. That's such a cruel demand to make—and impossible. The thought of his little Kagami going up against Senju Tobirama… “But he—but Miu… she didn’t—he–”

“Miu-sama let him leave after he refused, of course,” Rowa says, “we all knew how much he meant to you.” With that other impossibility—the Crows always eat failed would-be summoners, or so he thought—he releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. That’s… that’s something.

“... Shisui’s body and name weren’t in the body scrolls for the Massacre,” he says abruptly, not wanting to dwell on the—now distant—past. There’s nothing he can change about it, and now isn’t the time for grief.

Rowa nods, sighing. “He died a few weeks ago. Suicide, officially.” She doesn’t sound like she believes it. “His personal summon hasn't yet come back to the Home Tree. Even though Miu-sama hasn’t felt her die.”

Oh. That’s—that’s interesting. Summons often die with their summoner or return to the Summoning Realm at their summoner’s death. But for Shisui’s Crow to do neither… “He is dead for sure?” 

“He is,” Rowa confirms. “Our Summoning Scroll can’t be cheated.”

Except—it did of course get cheated with Izuna’s own ‘death’. 

But going around assuming everyone supposedly dead without a corresponding body has been yanked into the distant future by a mysterious jutsu is not helpful. This Shisui is probably actually dead—even if there isn’t a body.

“... I think Shisui was close to Itachi,” Rowa adds after another moment.

He exchanges a glance with her and wonders at the tales Shisui’s summon might be able to tell.

“That’s interesting, but unless the summon comes back to the Home Tree there’s nothing we can do.” Izuna sighs. Miu might be able to make that summon come back, but interfering with someone else’s summon like this—if he asked her to do so, for example—just isn’t done, ever.

“We’ll see what Wazuki finds out from our cousins,” his summons reminds him. “And for now—didn’t we have more work to do?”

Izuna snorts. “We do. I need to go take a look at all these Training Grounds to see what I have to deal with here.” The Shinobi Assessment is tomorrow—he needs to be able to blend in. He grins at her. “Whereas you have the very dangerous job of moving around in the Clan Compound for a bit.”

Rowa puffs herself up.

He throws up his hands in a half-hearted Tiger seal for a lazy Fireball. It’s not like he really needs hand seals for this jutsu—unless he wants to make it really big—but it does help with focusing his chakra.

Rowa picks the fireball right out of the air and eats it. Then she hops onto his shoulder to nudge his ear. “Ready.”

“And… now.”

At the same time Izuna compresses his own chakra down into nothing, Rowa uses his chakra from the fireball to flare it brightly in an identical copy of his usual chakra signature. They wait for a second, assessing the other’s chakra signature before nodding.

Rowa now feels like him, whereas he himself is undetectable. 

They grin at each other.

“Still works,” Rowa says a bit smugly. “Unless they have a sensor that’s better even than him, that should’ve been unnoticeable.”

Izuna originally got the idea for this technique because he was annoyed by Niisan always managing to find him, though of course it had far more practical uses against Tobirama, too. The trouble had always been the moment of switching and him being able to actually compress his own chakra signature into nothing, but he and Rowa worked on this while on missions to countries outside of Tobirama’s assumed sensing range.

They know it works because it had allowed Izuna to run a few critical missions while the Senju thought he was at the Compound or somewhere else entirely. Tobirama must’ve eventually realised there was something going on, but Izuna had been careful to never use this technique anywhere close to actual combat with him, so he doubts the Senju knew the particulars or found a way around it.

“Well, enjoy lazying around the Compound, you overgrown chicken,” Izuna tells her. “Please don’t eat the actual chickens, though.”

“I’m your favorite overgrown chicken,” Rowa corrects him cheerfully.

Izuna doesn’t deny that because none of the other Crows are here to hear them, and Miu is of course outside all competition. He doesn’t think Rowa would be disappointed to hear the boss summon is his actual favorite—she might even expect that.

He gives Rowa a stern look. “And no eating any people, you hear that?”

She tilts her head, eyes glittering. “Depends on the people,” she says, and then flies off.

He sighs and hopes she doesn’t run into anyone.

Izuna now goes to do a task that might finally prove interesting: spying on the Village’s Training Grounds. He needs to find out how the shinobi of Konoha fight so he can show an acceptable level of fighting at the Shinobi Assessment—just enough to be believable and blend in—and he’s also honestly curious. Having an interclan Village like this should result in better trained shinobi, shouldn’t it?




 

Five hours later he is thoroughly disappointed and wants to take all his earlier thoughts back. Better trained shinobi, hah!

Trust Tobirama to fuck it all up.

Yes, the Village’s shinobi seem to overall have a greater range of skills, which is just the Senju nonsense of being the Clan of a Thousand Skills or whatever they like to call it writ large. The Uchiha, of course, have always been diversified enough in their techniques; with their focus on bladed weapons, their Sharingan’s genjutsu, and their Katon jutsu they cover the three Shinobi Arts perfectly well. But Izuna knows that many other Clans do—well, did, since he’s now in the fucking future—tend to hoard their jutsu and overspecialize in consequence. Therefore, theoretically, it might make sense to ensure that every shinobi has sufficient grounding in various techniques.

Too bad they all suck at it. 

And the so-called ‘standard’ jutsu they do all know are… 

A weak-ass genjutsu clone?! Izuna laughs at this technique for ten minutes because literally every single Uchiha child over the age of eight can do better genjutsu.

An equally weak genjutsu for changing features? Again, Izuna can do better disguises in his sleep without even using genjutsu.

The Kawarimi no Jutsu does look moderately useful for people who aren’t good at dodging, he admits. As does the Shunshin no Jutsu—he watches long enough to be sure it’s far too slow to be the jutsu Tobirama used in their last fight and that his Sharingan can still follow a user’s movement. He thinks it's actually a more formalized way of enhancing your body’s movements with chakra; Izuna doesn’t need a hand seal to move this quickly but others might. He still copies the jutsu to test it out later. Maybe he can make it even faster.

Izuna does end up copying various elemental jutsu. Usually people fighting him (who aren’t Senju Tobirama) are stingy with these for obvious reasons, and then they’re dead, which means he doesn’t always get many new jutsu to test out. But here, no one notices him watching—also disappointing!—so he copies to his heart’s content. There’s a slew of Raiton and Fuuton jutsu he wants to try out soon.

Their Katon techniques are boring. One or two Uchiha jutsu seem to have been dispersed among the forces, but that’s about it. The rest are mostly Sarutobi techniques and a few low-ranked others. Eh. He can always come up with better ones himself if he has to.

The shinobi ranking system is disappointing as well. All it really does is point out which shinobi it might take Izuna a second or two longer to kill. The Genin? Izuna is sure his ten-year-old self could have killed all of them without breaking a sweat, even the adult ones. The Chūnin? Mostly the same unless they’re Clan shinobi, in which his hypothetical self killing them might need to be 12 or 13.

The Jōnin are at least slightly interesting. It’s from their training Izuna mostly copies the elemental jutsu. There are a few interesting taijutsu styles he also copies just because it’s fun to come up with ways to counter them. Again, he finds the Clan shinobi among the Jōnin to be likely the strongest, but he has tried copying the Nara shadow techniques and the Yamanaka mind jutsu before and failed so they aren’t all that interesting to watch aside from their fabled teamwork. Izuna doesn’t intend to work in a team but he should come up with some strategies to counter these just in case… One or two Clan shinobi seem to almost notice his presence, but a closer look reveals they’re an Inuzuka and an Aburame and therefore unsurprising. Those two Clans are always more tricky to fool since they don’t rely on standard sensing.

One Training Ground makes him stop because of the current inhabitants—the young man looks suspiciously like the Hokage in his features, making him almost definitely a Sarutobi. The woman is quite obviously a Yūhi. They’re discussing her recent promotion to the rank of Special Jōnin? Or rather, Sarutobi is congratulating her effusively on that—if he’s trying to flirt, he’s failing miserably—while Izuna is pretty sure Yūhi is plotting ways to kill him behind her mild smile.

He keeps listening. He will freely admit he’s partial on behalf of the Yūhi but then again, Uchiha usually are—his own great-grandmother was a Yūhi, as is Hikaku’s father... Was. Being that good at genjutsu isn’t the only way to an Uchiha’s heart but it certainly can help.

Sarutobi offers to teach her… a secret jutsu only known to Jōnin? Well, this sounds mildly promising, although Izuna prepares himself to be disappointed again.

The technique is called a Kage Bunshin. A Shadow Clone. Hm. While Izuna ponders how and why the Nara would need a clone jutsu and then share it with the Village, and why it would be a secret technique, Sarutobi uses a single hand seal to perform it.

Izuna’s Sharingan has of course been active the entire time, but even with it he can’t tell the difference between clone and original. The chakra network looks identical.

He blinks and tries again. Nothing. Except there’s something

Frowning, he lets his eyes whirl further, into his Mangekyō.

Ah. Now he can tell which one is the clone—the clone’s chakra network looks raw and new, unsettled somehow. As he watches it settles a bit more, but still retains a rough quality to its chakra coils the original body hasn’t.

Huh.

Of course he commits the sight to memory. If this is a technique many of the higher ranked shinobi know he needs to be able to identify and counter it. Preferably even with his normal Sharingan, but he’ll need to test that extensively first.

He listens to Sarutobi’s—ah, his name is Asuma—continuing explanation of the technique. Hm. The high chakra cost would bother Izuna less than most since he has plenty to spare. It can apparently be used for intelligence gathering because a clone’s memory is transferred to the original

Oh.

He doesn’t really need that for intelligence missions since he has his Crows for that, but Izuna thinks about all the reading he needs to do. If a Kage Bunshin of himself can use his Sharingan

He smiles.

Neither Sarutobi nor Yūhi ever notice him watching.

 


 

Izuna is heading back to the Compound when he notices one of the Training Grounds being violently destroyed… by a lone taijutsu user? He alights on a tree branch and watches with increasingly rapt attention, Sharingan spinning. There’s a dizzying amount of different taijutsu styles, all woven together beautifully. 

Finally, someone competent. Izuna really wants to fight him.

Even if he’s clad in rather unfortunate green, skin-tight clothes. They might make for good camouflage in Fire Country’s dense forests but Izuna wouldn’t be caught dead in something like that. And the haircut, a stupid bowlcut, immediately gives him flashbacks to his least favorite person in the entire world.

The taijutsu user stops in the middle of the field. He looks up and— directly at Izuna? “It’s generally considered impolite to watch someone’s training uninvited, friend,” his voice booms across the field, and even his voice sounds like Hashirama’s and his smile looks exactly like his, too. Is this his nightmare spawn?! “Why don’t you come down and we… talk about that?”

Izuna checks himself over for a second, but his chakra is still compressed with iron-clad control, and his genjutsu are still in place. This man is apparently just that good. Huh. Maybe he actually is a Senju.

He jumps down the tree, letting his chakra slightly unfurl and his Sharingan inactivate, and then slowly walks towards the other man, raising his hands appeasingly while affecting for a rueful smile.  

The other man appears momentarily surprised, studying his face. “Uchiha… Akitsuna-san, right?” At Izuna’s nod, his bright smile comes back, but there’s a certain sharpness to his eyes. “Ah, you will go through your youthful Shinobi Assessment tomorrow, isn’t that right?”

Izuna shrugs and looks away. “Yes. And I haven’t really sparred in a long while... I fear I may be a bit rusty.”

Which is of course a bold lie. But he hasn’t sparred with Madara for almost a week now and likely never will again, and that sudden thought lends some actual pain to his words. 

The man immediately starts crying, which—what ?! “I get it now! And of course you wanted to ask me for help, but were too considerate to do so directly!” the man yells, still crying. “Of course I’ll help you!!” He bows. “Konoha’s Noble Green Beast, Maito Gai, at your service!!”

Izuna blinks at him. Maito Gai is really loud for a shinobi. And this… is a really roundabout way to pressure him into agreeing to a spar? Efficient, though, because now he has to agree or reveal that he actually was spying..

This is rather a lot like what Hashirama was always acting like.

Still disturbed at that thought, he nods belatedly. “Ah, thank you, Maito-san…?”

The man’s eyes turn intense. “Call me Gai, friend!! So, a spar then! Tell me, what’s your preferred way of fighting?”

Izuna lets his hand settle on the grip of his borrowed katana and rattles the blade to loosen it. “I use a sword.” Not many Konoha shinobi seem to, surprisingly, so it will be easier for him to pretend to be only moderately skilled with it.

Gai’s eyes widen as his smile seems to get even more bright. “A kenjutsu user! Excellent! How youthful! Let’s begin with a spar using only our bodies and your sword!” He makes the Seal of Confrontation.

Izuna finds this ritual for beginning and ending spars a bit silly but, having witnessed it multiple times today, returns it.

He immediately has to dodge a fist coming directly towards his face. Gai is fucking fast, and Izuna rapidly reevaluates his plans for this spar. He’s not sure he can keep up without his Sharingan, even; certainly not enough to pretend to be only an average swordsman. 

Gai doesn’t appear to want to use any weapons, even though he’s probably equipped with the standard issued shuriken and kunai. The way he dodges away from Izuna’s blade makes it clear he doesn’t need any weapons. There’s still a disturbingly bright smile on his face.

Izuna flips out of range, breathing rather quickly. Both his forearms and his right shin are definitely bruised—if Gai wasn’t holding back he suspects they would be broken. He has the sudden disconcerting thought that this is how others might feel sparring with Madara or him using their full power. 

He also really wants to stop holding back so they can have a real spar. He can’t, of course, but this is the first shinobi he’s met here whose skill isn’t severely underwhelming.

“You can use your Sharingan if you want!” Gai yells from across the field and gives him an encouraging thumbs-up.

Izuna snorts but takes the opportunity to do just that.

Gai’s focus immediately shifts towards his feet. Oh. He’s experienced at sparring with Uchiha, then. A friend, maybe? That’s a useful skill and habit to have.

Tobirama was annoyingly good at this, too, though Izuna could usually find ways to still catch him in a genjutsu regardless. Immune to provocation? Not that Senju.

Using his Sharingan does speed up their spar considerably. He soon stops avoiding aiming for lethal points because yes, Gai can and will dodge or deflect seemingly deadly strikes. Their sparring gets more even though—his opponent ends up with a few superficial cuts and he himself doesn’t gather more bone-bruising hits quite as quickly. Izuna sticks to standard Uchiha sword styles; there are some other styles he has copied or developed that would work better against Gai, but his goal is to seem mostly average here after all.

Izuna comes to a startling realization really quickly: Maito Gai is not someone he can beat in a match like this, without using ninjutsu or genjutsu. That’s—that’s not something he’s used to.

Though he will admit that he’s having fun. Holding back enough of his skill against an opponent like this without making it obvious he’s holding back is tricky and difficult enough to make this very interesting. Gai is also holding back too, of course, but for this Izuna is mostly guessing based on the ever-present smile and encouraging shouts as well as his Sharingan picking up on all the openings Gai must be purposefully not taking.

He’s reluctantly pleased there is at least one decent opponent in this entire Village. He might actually learn something sparring with Gai—he’s copying his entire fighting style right now—and that’s almost an alien thought.

He can’t keep this up forever, though. A taijutsu master such as Gai might soon pick up on Izuna still holding back, and that just won’t do. There’s only one solution, even if it’s incredibly irritating. Oh well. Izuna does prefer to be underestimated, even if he’s not quite at Miu’s level there. He sees Gai’s next punch coming and makes himself just a hair too slow to dodge.

Gai’s fist hits him straight in the jaw—ouch—and flings him directly into a tree on the other side of the Training Ground. He loosens his grip on his sword enough for it to tumble out of his hand, too, and stays down on the ground when he finally comes to a stop.

Good thing he still went with the blow somewhat to soften the impact, or his jaw might be broken. He dramatically spits out blood from biting his tongue and stares up at the sky with a groan.

There, that’s convincing.

He’s actually somewhat lightheaded anyway. The last time someone punched him this hard was Niisan when they did a no weapons-spar a few weeks ago. Izuna of course got back at him by throwing Madara face first into the side of their house—Hikaku yelled at both of them—but they had both run around with a bruise across half their faces for a week.

He swallows and blinks a few times to clear the welling emotions away. Focus, Izuna.

Maito Gai comes to a stop beside him, holding out a hand. “That was a good fight, my friend!” he says as he heaves Izuna to his feet. “Are you alright, Akitsuna-san?”

So he does know manners. Huh. Izuna carefully moves his jaw a few times and then offers Gai a hesitant grin, crouching to pick up his sword. “I think I’ll live. That... was quite the punch there.”

“And you’re still standing! Amazing! How very youthful of you!” Gai beams at him. Izuna doesn’t point out that he’s only standing because the man helped him up. “I’m sure you have nothing to worry about tomorrow!” There’s a bit of a glint in the man’s eyes as he says this, and Izuna is sure he must be wondering how an Uchiha smith got this good with a sword.

Izuna steps back and bows. “Thank you for your guidance, Gai-san.” He smiles again. “I have some work to do at the Compound though, so please excuse me.”

“You’re welcome! Join me for a youthful spar anytime you want!”

… well, Izuna just might.




 

Rowa takes one look at his face and almost falls down from her perch laughing. “What did you do?!”

Izuna takes a half-hearted swipe at her as he sits back down on the back engawa of Hikaku’s house. “Sparring with the only decent opponent in this entire fucking Village,” he says and reaches up to touch his fingertips to his jaw. It’s going to be a spectacular bruise tomorrow.

“... this bad?” asks Rowa when she finally stops laughing, noticing his mood.

He shakes his head with a sigh. “Pretty sure I could kill my way through the better part of their forces without anyone leaving a single scratch on me.” It’s a bit disappointing. No wonder two people could just kill an entire Clan, if this is what was facing them. It’s likely that he didn’t catch any of the really high-level shinobi training—any number of them would be out on missions, or training privately somewhere else—but the overall level of the bulk of these Village’s shinobi… Meh.

“I dismantled most of the traps here in Hikaku’s house,” Rowa tells him after they sit in silence for a while. “There’s one left in the main bedroom and another one at the cellar door, because these were so rude as to require hands to undo them.”

“Very rude,” he agrees with a snort. “Thank you.” None of the traps were probably meant to be dismantled by a bird, but Rowa is smart and the lack of hands doesn‘t usually deter her, so the remaining traps must just be exceptionally difficult.

“I need to test this new jutsu,” he then adds, and forms the required single hand seal. “Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!”

… That’s indeed a perfect copy of himself right down to the slight smirk. Although… Izuna reaches up to fix the few crooked hairs sticking out of his own ponytail. This might be more practical than a mirror. And that bruise on his jaw will probably cover half his face tomorrow.

Huh.

So it turns out this shadow clone can use his Sharingan, and the recorded memories transfer back to Izuna in perfect Sharingan clarity when he releases the clone. The rush of memories is somewhat disorienting for a moment, but he’s used to that with his Sharingan. It’s similar to sharing information with another Sharingan user.

What a shadow clone apparently can’t use is any of his Mangekyō techniques. Which is interesting because why wouldn’t these work? It probably would’ve been too much of a good thing… and he doesn’t need to be careful with using his Mangekyō now anymore, anyway.

“Alright,” he says when he’s made sure that a clone can also transfer an entire Sharingan-memorised book from Hikaku’s bookshelf. This is going to make things so much easier for him. He forms the hand seal again and focuses his chakra. Now, how many should he make…

Eleven sounds like a good number to start with. The chakra cast does make him stagger—he’s not left in a state where he should fight anyone without backup—but dissolving the clones later will give him part of the chakra back, and a good night’s sleep will recover most of the rest of his chakra resources. He’s used to scraping the bottom of his reserves for particularly dangerous missions with Senju involvement anyway. 

Hm. Izuna is past the age where regularly emptying his chakra reserves will grow them much more, although being accustomed to low reserves still isn’t a bad thing, and this jutsu is ideal for that. Something to keep in mind.

In the meantime it’s somewhat disconcerting to look at eleven identical copies of himself. All of them are staring at him and each other with a slightly annoyed frown. Izuna does have other people’s—mostly Niisan’s—Sharingan memories of himself, so it’s not as bewildering as it could’ve been, but still, it’s a lot.

He smoothes out his own features as he nods at one shadow clone at random. “Find a dōjō in one of the houses and try out the techniques and taijutsu styles I copied earlier.”

The clone sighs at him and mouths ‘boring’ but turns to leave. 

“I’ll deal with the remaining traps and make sure someone can actually live in the house. Get some food, too,” says a second clone and disappears into Hikaku’s house before Izuna can say anything more.

“Clothes disguise, genjutsu, scope out the Village districts some more,” a third one recites and disappears with a whirl of chakra.

He blinks as the clones of himself start assigning themselves tasks without him having to say anything.

… This will take some getting used to.

“I guess that leaves me to go take a closer look at the seal barrier around the Senju Compound. Fun,” snarls one of the remaining clones when six at once leave for Sharingan-reading any written material in the entire Compound, bickering at which starts where and how they should organize their reading. “Maybe I’ll get to kill someone...”

Izuna stares after him.

Is he… is he like that? How much intelligence is retained with this jutsu?! It probably depends on the amount of clones created, but still...

The remaining clone gives him a slow, lazy smile. “I’m the backup for when you get into trouble, boss,” he says with Izuna’s typical smirk, and yes, it absolutely is disconcerting to see it on someone else, even if that someone else is himself.

“Go feed the cats and our chickens,” he tells this clone sternly before he can do something like stretch out for a nap.

The clone salutes him sloppily and finally saunters off.

Asshole.

Izuna blinks. Well, he knew that about himself already, didn’t he? Amaterasu, this jutsu will be so much fun for pranking Niisan with–

He clamps down on that line of thought hard and holds out an arm for Rowa instead, who’s been quietly cackling the whole time. “Now, let’s go be a smith.”

 


 

The forges aren’t difficult to find, and neither is the main one. The layout is still eerily similar to Izuna’s Compound. He’d almost prefer it to be slightly less so because he keeps rounding corners and expecting people who aren’t there. Apparently someone wanted to replicate their entire old Clan Compound here.

… he knows it must’ve been Niisan, but it hurts to think about.

In passing, he notes that there aren't any unattended—and thus failed because he only checks on them now—clay tatara for smelting steel, which means that the smiths weren’t making new steel right before the Massacre. There could be many reasons for that, but it’s interesting.

He goes to check on the storage.

Hm. Not much or any charcoal and iron sand—he’ll need to check and probably renegotiate the supply contracts for these, then—but an overabundance of raw steel—all high quality tamahagane at a glance—and steel blocks folded halfway or more to completion. There’s a definite focus on making kunai and shuriken instead of swords. It strikes him as rather poor planning, unless…  the Uchiha suddenly switched to wanting a lot of weapons in the short term, neglecting the long term and the high-quality katana who had a long production time?

Huh. Either a very demanding client—pressure by the Village comes to mind—or…

He balances a mostly-finished blade on the back of his hand to check its quality. A reason for suddenly wanting a lot of weapons in a short time…

Izuna and the other smiths always worked late nights when they’d planned a big attack on the Senju for the next months.

He frowns and puts the mostly-done sword back down. He really needs to know more about the entire situation in this Village.

Time to find the smiths’ records, first. Not only does he need to take a look at the supply contracts, but more importantly, at the current and open weapon commissions. He’ll probably have to renegotiate most of them, as he can’t possibly do the work of what looks like at least a dozen smiths with apprentices by himself.

Hm.

That’s a thought...






Izuna and Rowa sit down in Hikaku’s kitchen to ruminate on his findings. He’s carefully dividing the yakitori one of the clones got from somewhere between himself and the Crow, throwing every second piece in the air for her to catch.

“Moving?” Rowa offers as a potential explanation for the smiths having thrown all long-term planning to the wind.

He makes a face even as he thinks about that. “Moving… out of the Village?” That would require more weapons in the short-term, for defense and trading, but… it sounds unlikely. Nothing else he has seen points at that direction.

“... Your clones might’ve read or found something that helps us with this,” she finally says.

He nods. “Time to find out,” he tells her and raises his hands in the seal required to dispel the kage bunshins.

Eleven different memories in vivid Sharingan clarity hit his mind all at once.

Oh fuck

 


 

Izuna blinks his eyes open again and finds himself facedown on the ground. Blood is steadily dripping from his nose and there’s bright pain blazing behind eyes, crystallizing into a migraine as so much new information tries to rearrange itself inside his mind. He rolls on his back and winces at Rowa, who’s watching from close up. She looks like she’s been sitting there for a while. Her cocked head might even indicate some slight concern. “Let’s—let’s not do that again,” he whispers, wincing at even that volume.

“... you think?!” Rowa shrieks and promptly attacks his hair with a gentleness that belies her tone.

He sighs and closes his eyes again because even the dim light in here hurts and why is his vision blurry?! He tries to focus his thoughts but there are too many–

The pain gets so bad he manages to force himself to the side and up just in time to throw up and not get it all over himself.

“Summoning jutsu,” Rowa hisses at him when he’s done.

What? He curls up again and tries to ignore her.

“Summoning jutsu, now,” she repeats, and picks at his hand hard enough to draw blood.

He obeys simply because he wants her to stop talking. He’s pretty sure his ears are bleeding. Even focusing chakra hurts. Fuck. This was a really stupid idea.

Rowa’s chakra mingles with own in an interesting way as he painstakingly forms the hand seals. She’s… searching for something?

A puff of smoke.

Izuna manages to pry one eye open and stares at the tiny handful of Crow he just summoned. He doesn’t know her. She’s even smaller than Miu, slate-grey with downy feathers sticking out all over—she must be really young. He isn’t even sure she can properly fly yet.

“Oh dear,” the new Crow chirps, and hops forward to sit on his chest. Warmth starts radiating from where she perches, slowly spreading through his body. When it reaches his head, his pain—it doesn’t disappear, but it’s suddenly blanketed under the vague feeling of soft feathers and a hint of smoke.

He shudders and takes a deep breath. “... Ow.”

“This is Yuu,” Rowa says with no small amount of smugness, “she does healing.” 

Crows have never been much interested in healing from what he knows. He blinks hastily when he realizes what this means. Then he sighs when his pain keeps receding. “It’s very good to meet you, Yuu-chan,” he greets the small Crow. “Thank you.”

He knows where he went wrong. 

Using the Sharingan for several hours straight to memorise a lot of information is doable, even if it results in a migraine and Niisan yelling.

But he just used several of these shadow clones who all spent several hours doing nothing but using the Sharingan to memorise things.

And then he dumped the acquired information—gained over what accumulates to more than an entire day—into his mind all at once. No wonder he’s almost insensible with a splitting headache. Even Uchiha brains and eyes aren’t made for this.

Being careful with unknown jutsu they copied is one of the first things they tell Uchiha who just gained their Sharingan, for Amaterasu’s sake. But he had to go and be really impatient about all the things he had to do...

Stupid, Izuna,” he murmurs to himself again. Whoever created this jutsu clearly didn’t consider the Sharingan perfect recall. He idly wonders if there’s a way to adapt the jutsu for better use with a Sharingan—maybe... figure out the ideal time frames for a clone making a new clone before dispelling itself to give a manageable amount of information back to himself? He should test that out soon.

Just as he thinks that, one of the new tidbits of information clouding his mind pushes itself to the forefront, a throwaway line from a Jōnin’s diary… The creator of the kage bunshin is Senju Tobirama.

Ah.

Well, that explains things.

Also, fuck Tobirama. Izuna is going to take this stupid jutsu and make it work for his Sharingan and then he’s going to dedicate one entire shadow clone to finding untraceable ways to demolish that stupid fucking Stone Head monument. Apparently Senju Tobirama is at fault for absolutely everything, and if Izuna just assumes the asshole is behind something he might get pleasantly surprised some day when it’s actually someone else.

Fucking wonderful.

“You should really sleep,” Yuu interrupts his thoughts with a chirp, “the Sharingan memories would integrate better and I can maybe make the headache go away by tomorrow…?”

He opens one eye to glance at the tiny crow again. “As you say, sensei,” he teases her before looking at Rowa. “Wake me a few hours before I have to be at the Training Ground to meet Nara Shikaku?”

“Sure,” she says. “Go the fuck to sleep now.” Her words sound annoyed, but he also feels the edges of a genjutsu pushing at his mind. It feels like her and Wazuki and is honestly a really nice thing to do—dream genjutsu are an art that the Crows excel at—so he lets himself be lured into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

“Sometimes there will be missions where you don’t want to be Uchiha,” Touchan says, “missions that the Uchiha can’t be seen doing.”

Izuna nods along. They can’t officially get involved in the conflicts of other noble Clans, but he also knows that sometimes there are secret assassinations in the Capital that always coincide with a significant increase of the Clan’s coffers.

“So on those missions we hide the uchiwa on our backs, and we hide our skill with fire and genjutsu, and we hide our eyes . We become someone who can do the mission instead,” Touchan continues. “Putting on a mask, without actually putting on a mask. You understand?”

Izuna nods again.

Touchan’s gaze becomes more serious. “There are many things a nameless and clanless shinobi can do that Uchiha Izuna can’t . Things that are easier to do without a Clan name weighing you down.” He pauses a moment. “Things you might not want to do—things you can only do because afterwards you can go back to being yourself again.

“But, Izuna, and this is important: Even if you put on a mask like this, you need to remember that here,” Tajima places one hand over Izuna’s heart and reaches out with the other to tap at the corner of Izuna’s eye, “you are, and always must be, yourself.”




 

 

“Wake up,” says a soft and chirpy voice, and Izuna does. 

Yuu excitedly chirps at him from where she’s still sitting on his chest. 

“Rowa-nee went to watch Sasuke-chick, and the others went back to the Summoning Realm to rest,” she dutifully reports and then has to stop to yawn. Ah. He’ll have to hear what Wazuki found out later then.

He reaches out and gently runs a finger along the Crow’s head. “Thank you, Yuu-chan. Since I’m awake now, you can rest a bit… ?”

Yuu stifles another yawn and tucks her head under a fluffy wing.

Izuna runs a hand down his face. Ugh. There’s blood crusted under his nose and he feels like he got repeatedly hit by Niisan’s gunbai.

His headache is barely there, however. There’s blessed silence inside his mind. The problem about memorising so many things quickly via Sharingan is that all the information is there, but he doesn’t consciously know it’s there until he thinks about something related to it.

Hm. He stares up at the ceiling and carefully considers all the various issues he needs to know about, delicately skirting around any thoughts about Niisan because he has things to do today, and he can’t afford to spend more time either grieving or angry.

So. The Senju in Konoha.

Ugh.

There’s a flood of thoughts at that, some of which he immediately shoves back someplace where he doesn’t need to think about it for now—if he has to recall any more about Senju Hashirama’s honor or Senju Tobirama’s unparalleled genius he is going to scream. Those statements are from undoubtedly biased history books anyway... The most interesting tidbit here is that the Hokage position is an increasingly biased appointment based on nepotism, if not outright blood-relations. Which wouldn’t be a problem—Clan Leadership is hereditary—if it was described as such in the original Founding Charta, which he now also has a memory of reading and which clearly states it’s a position based on merit and a vote by the Village population.

Hah.

… the Sandaime Hokage and his three Elders all were students and personal guards of him. Figures. Izuna was planning on being wary around these four anyway but will be even more so now. 

One of the early Village Uchiha—or rather, two, since the handwriting changes halfway through this journal—apparently had the extremely convenient hobby of tracking Senju genealogy. Which strikes Izuna as a bit obsessive, but the same person also did the same thing for the Uchiha Clan, which is important, if only to avoid either too-powerful or too-weak offspring.

Both he and Madara had been strongly asked to consider marrying either a woman from the civilian Clan branches or even someone from outside the Clan, because there’s a point where the gain in Sharingan strength isn’t worth the increased probability of insanity and… other issues in the wielder. Apparently the Clan Elders had looked at him and Niisan and… Well. Considering how things ultimately turned out, maybe they weren’t wrong ?

As far as discoveries go, Uchiha Mikoto was Kagami’s grandchild as well, along with Crow-summoning Shisui. Little Kagami apparently had one daughter really young, and then another shortly before he died… 

Before Kagami died on a mission long before he was even thirty. Stupid boy, Izuna was not the example to emulate.

Maybe if Niisan had been there…

Izuna grits his teeth and wills his thoughts somewhere else.

The fact that Sasuke is Kagami’s great-grandson explains how he looks so similar to Izuna.

… Anyway. Back to the Senju genealogy someone has so handily compiled—there’s something familiar about the way some of the characters curve in the writing, but Izuna can’t recall from where or how—it fills him with no small amount of glee to realise that all of Senju Hashirama’s children and grandchildren with that Uzumaki sea witch died very young. There’s a single surviving granddaughter who’s noted as having left the Village.

He closes his eyes and laughs. Quietly, because he doesn’t want to wake Yuu, who’s napping, but this is the most satisfying thing he’s heard since he woke up here. Or well, read. Recalled reading. Ugh, has in his memories now.

Senju Tobirama never married or had children.

Izuna presses a hand against his mouth to stifle his giggling. There’s something incredibly funny about Konoha being a Senju Village with no actual Senju around and the last one having abandoned it. A Village supposedly made by the Senju and the Uchiha—and now look at it! Not a single Senju, and the Uchiha massacred!

What a wonderful demonstration of peace. He couldn’t have orchestrated it better himself.

His laughter is edging its way towards being hysterical, so he reluctantly sits up and scoops up Yuu in a hand so she doesn’t tumble down to the floor. There’s cold tea on the counter that Rowa probably made earlier. It still tastes pretty good.

There might not be actual Senju in the Village, but this slightly-obsessed unnamed Uchiha also tracked their dispersion across the Village—because apparently Hashirama made them all marry out. Which… was probably some kind of ‘the Village is now your Clan’ bullshit that can only come from someone whose entire’s Clan’s culture is not based on a highly coveted kekkei genkai. And apparently the Mokuton was—what, not important enough for that tree bastard to try and see if it crops up again in the next generations?

Izuna frowns. Trying to guess Hashirama’s thoughts is likely pointless since Izuna has far more intelligence than a sentient tree, but… if someone’s kekkei genkai is too strongly expressed, the usual thing to do is have that individual marry a civilian or someone with little chakra in the hopes of providing some stability to that bloodline, and then also have any close relatives have as many children as possible to see if a more manageable version of the kekkei genkai crops up.

Hashirama married Uzumaki Mito, who brought a whole slew of Uzumaki kekkei genkais with her, for Amaterasu’s sake! That’s the last thing you want to do with a strongly expressed kekkei genkai! And then his most direct relatives, Tobirama and that cousin of theirs, Tōka, both hadn't had any children at all.

That’s not how you get strong, but not too-strong kekkei genkai expressions.

… it’s how you get rid of a too-strong kekkei genkai. He frowns and pours himself another cup of cold tea, heating it up with a flash of chakra as he dips a finger in. No, if someone wanted to get rid of a kekkei genkai entirely, they shouldn’t have any children, should they?

Trying for something even stronger than the Mokuton by combining it with the Uzumaki traits, then? Except combining kekkei genkais usually doesn’t work—a child would just inherit one from their parents, or none at all—and as the Uchiha know very well, there’s a point where the downsides of a really strong expression of a kekkei genkai are not worth the strength.

Hm. None of Hashirama’s children or grandchildren are noted as having either the Mokuton or any of the Uzumaki kekkei genkai. That rogue granddaughter is apparently a war hero and also a renowned healer, which she probably got from Hashirama, but it’s not an actual kekkei genkai.

Izuna shudders when he recalls Hashirama casually pulling an entire sword out of his chest and smiling as he healed it in less than a minute.

… Maybe it is a kekkei genkai?

He’s glad that this Tsunade has left the Village to gamble her Clan’s fortune away, as he remembers one of his clones reading in a letter.  Hopefully she drinks herself to death and Izuna has to never see her face. She probably looks like that stupid tree.

Whooops. His third cup of tea has boiled away into nothing. He sets the cup down and flexes his hand. He’s usually better at control, but he also has a head full of fresh memories about reading so much stupid ‘the Senju are fucking wonderful’ shit.

Izuna closes his eyes again and tries to get a more general overview about all the information his clones memorized yesterday. As expected, there’s a multitude of books; everything from various history books—all these other Hidden Villages! …interesting—to novels—though why did one clone decide to record an entire set of trashy adult romance novels —and… Bingo Books? 

Huh. Those are interesting. Every Hidden Village has their own one and regularly updates it with any dangerous enemy shinobi…? There are several different editions of Konoha’s own Bingo Book, which will be no doubt useful in the future if he can get a timeline established of which is the current one. Or maybe they’ll just give him a new one for himself after today.

Other Village’s Bingo Books were apparently far more sparse as well as torn up and bloody; most likely scavenged from enemies’ bodies. One of those Bingo Books, from Kumo, features Hikaku as an active frontline fighter, which means it probably dates back to the First Shinobi War—there have been three of those and Izuna will find Hashirama’s grave just to laugh at the man. Hikaku’s nickname in the Bingo Book, Singing Blade Hikaku , makes him grin at empty air. His cousin probably hated that nickname, but Hikaku’s bladework always was really beautiful.

So, no convenient up-to-date listing of Konoha ’s current most dangerous shinobi for him until he steals a Bingo Book from an enemy on a mission.

Fine.

There’s also a lot of letters in his memories now, for which, of course, he’s missing half of the conversation but are interesting nonetheless, as well as a handful of journals. Uchiha don’t really write journals a lot, so that isn’t surprising. Some of the letters might be written in code—there are some patterns his clones’ Sharingan picked up unconsciously, but he’ll have to make time to see if they’re actually code.

Huh. Apparently Hikaku wrote some journals, too, but the clone here in the house yesterday didn’t read them because they’re sealed with both a blood sealing array and a genjutsu that apparently requires more than the three-tomoe Sharingan to undo, so the clone just shrugged after a moment and whispered ‘your problem, boss’.

Lovely.

He should read those when he has more time and privacy though. More than a normal Sharingan, Hikaku?! What happened?

There are some formal essays, research, and otherwise, with a lot of notes on experimental katon jutsu and genjutsu, and one Uchiha apparently wrote a ten-book series on the three Shinobi World Wars simply because they felt like it. It goes into a lot of the political details and meticulously lists losses for both Konoha and the other Villages. The sheer scale of those wars… Izuna clicks his tongue. 

What’s the point of having a Village made up of several Clans if the death toll just increases exponentially? It’s wasteful .

Then there are the official documents. The Clan register—in which the responsible clone carefully wrote in an ‘Akitsuna’ into a fitting civilian family line— and a separate Uchiha shinobi register, supply contracts for a whole slew of things, more tax records, so many different bank accounts, several letters stamped by the Hokage which are either commendations or condolences or both in one, and then a death register which details how and when every single Uchiha in the Village has died.

… Should he complete that?

Izuna snorts when he reviews a memory that’s just one of his clones taking the time to find writing utensils and carefully writing out ‘official Village register, idiot’ before immediately crumpling and burning that slip of paper. The clone does have a point—while the Clans keep their own records, the Village will definitely have records about civilians somewhere, and Izuna definitely won’t be in it.

Hm. As long as no one has any reason to look him up, trying to break in and add himself might be risky and only draw unnecessary attention. The Village will have protocols about enemy infiltrators, but Uchiha ‘Akitsuna’ is quite obviously an actual Uchiha, so he doesn’t know how that would go. Would he be counted as a traitor instead? The thought makes him laugh.

Well. He is.

He cracks his neck and hums, mind made up for now. Another night or two of sleep and all these memories will be integrated better. The clone sent to try out jutsu and fighting styles has blended the new copied techniques that seemed common in the Village forces together with his usual fighting style so that any spar in this Shinobi Assessment will probably be doable. He doesn’t want to stand out too much.

Speaking of. He glances at the lightening sky outside and then down at Yuu, still curled up in his hand. “Yuu-chan?” he asks. “You worked hard. Do you want to go back to the Summoning Realm?”

The small crow stirs, blinking up at him hopefully. “Do I have to? I’ve never been to the human realm before.” 

Izuna smiles gently. She’s really cute. “Of course you can stay! Though I’ll have a spar later, so would you mind staying with Sasuke-kun for a bit?”

Yuu shakes her head. “No, I’d like that.”

He doesn’t bother with a shower—he can take a bath after whatever happens at this Shinobi Assessment, so for now he washes up and finds a new set of clothes to wear under his Clan coat. The armour mesh he’d found in various houses and at the forges is interesting—the Senju used to wear something like that, didn't they—but Izuna isn’t wearing something he hasn't tested yet to a spar as important as this one.

He checks on the sword he has currently claimed for himself. He’ll likely not have the time to make himself a new one in the near future, so it will have to do for now. A thought he had earlier strikes him, and… his clones’ memories from all around the Clan Compound contain very few Uchiha-made katana. Blinking, Izuna calls up the memory of the smiths’ records. According to those, there should’ve been a decent number of older and newer Uchiha swords within the Compound—other Uchiha usually can acquire an Uchiha katana with a hefty discount or trade for favors instead.

Another mystery to unravel. His lips curl with disgust. Really not much of a mystery except that there is likely an appallingly high number of people willing to steal priced swords from the dead. Izuna had been unconscious and in the hospital for a few days, which must’ve given would-be thieves plenty of time.

Fucking vultures.

He knows that checking an enemy’s body for valuable items is a solid strategy, but the Uchiha katana all have histories. They’re highly valuable, of course, but they’re also heirlooms. Several months of work. Gifts. The Senju learned soon enough that wielding a stolen Uchiha blade anywhere in Izuna’s vicinity was a good way to die even more quickly than they would have otherwise. This Village will, too.

Cracking his neck, he deliberately focuses on his breathing for a few moments. The clone responsible for the house yesterday thankfully went and got groceries, too, so Izuna can make himself a quick breakfast and pack something for Sasuke-kun as well.

 


 

Sasuke goes worryingly silent when Izuna presents him with the bento box and he has opened it.

Izuna raises an eyebrow. “Not to your liking?” He’s not the best cook, but he fed himself and Niisan more often than not after Touchan died. And they turned out alright!

“There’s—there’s a tomato…?”

There’s a tomato in the bento box because Uchiha Mikoto used to write down her favorite recipes and several of those had additions such as ‘with an extra tomato for Sasuke’.

Sasuke stares at the food for a bit longer. “Thank you,” he finally says, and digs in.

When he’s done, he obediently changes into the small Uchiha coat Izuna brought him. He looks taken aback when he’s handed a weapon pouch next, but secures it to his belt. The small tanto Izuna found in the Main Family’s weapon room however he just clutches in his hands and looks back up at Izuna with wide eyes.

Izuna rapidly reviews all memories he has of seeing any shinobi children in the Village and—they don’t carry around weapons, especially not swords? Even when they’re old enough and clearly going to the Shinobi Academy? 

Ah.

He’d assumed… Well then. “Kenjutsu is very traditional for Uchiha—we have a variety of styles adapted to use with or without the Sharingan. Would you like to learn, Sasuke?” he asks the boy with a secretive smile. “I think this tanto belonged to Mikoto-sama,” he adds. The blade is old enough and the inscription on the decorated sheath hints at a more feminine wielder, so he’s mildly confident in this guess.

Sasuke stares down at the small sword and swallows. “... I—Yes, I’d like that.”

“Alright!” he says, crouching down to show Sasuke how to fasten the blade to the back of his belt in a horizontal position. “Now, usually it’s a good idea to not have weapons on you that you can’t wield yourself,” he continues, “but today we’ll make an exception, hm? And I’ll show you a warm-up kata later. Here, that will do for now.” He leans back to survey his work.

Sasuke stands up straight and uncertainly rests his hand on the hilt of the tanto. “O–okay.”

Izuna smiles again and reaches into his sleeve to pull out Yuu, who immediately uncurls in his hand to blink up at Sasuke. “Sasuke-kun, this is Yuu-chan. Yuu-chan, this is Sasuke-kun,” he introduces them.

“Hello Sasuke-kun,” Yuu chirps.

Sasuke blushes. “... Hello, Yuu-chan.”

 “Yuu-chan would like to stick around for a bit longer,” Izuna tells him, “but I’ll probably have to fight in the Shinobi Assessment, so can you keep her company for that?”

At Sasuke’s nod, he tugs Sasuke’s collar away from his neck and then just... gently drops Yuu in there. 

Sasuke blinks and hesitantly curls a hand over the place where the small crow is nested. The small bump is barely noticeable through the stiff fabric.

Izuna grins at the wide-eyed surprise on Sasuke’s face. “Collars are convenient, aren’t they? Some cats like to curl up there as well, but they’re more likely to… ah, suddenly and vehemently decide they’d rather be somewhere else so make sure it’s a nice cat.” He winks at the boy.

Sure, a purring cat wrapped around your neck might be very comfortable, but trying to extract a suddenly yowling and scratching cat from inside your collar is decidedly not

Izuna had looked like someone tried to brutally murder him for an entire week. That incident gave him one of the few scars he actually has, and it was a damn cat . His Crows were so much better behaved!

Well. Mostly.

He glances outside, where Rowa is sitting in a tree. She gives him a wink, which always looks ridiculous on Crows but they still love it, and flies off.






At the Training Ground a small crowd is already waiting.

Of course.

Nara Shikaku is there along with a few assistants. Izuna almost mistakes the Hyūga beside him for the Hyūga Clan Head, Hiashi, but… this man’s chakra feels different and he wears a Konoha hitai-ate across his forehead. Beside the Jōnin Commander there are a few other curious spectators around, differing in how obvious they are or aren't. 

It's interesting that the assessment isn’t done with more privacy—a shinobi's skills are his lifeblood and better kept as secret as possible. But well, it's not like he plans to actually reveal much... It still grates at him. Spectators to spars should be invited, not invite themselves.

Most of them are surprised to notice Sasuke with him. He keeps his hand on the boy’s back and glances around the Training Ground, wondering where’d be a good place for him to wait. Rowa is just alighting on one of the trees on the left, so probably somewhere close to her just in case…

A young man with a scar across his nose looks around as well and, with a determined expression, marches over to greet them. “Umino Iruka. I teach Sasuke-kun’s class at the Academy,” the man introduces himself. 

“Uchiha Akitsuna,” Izuna replies. “Good to meet you, Umino-san.” A quick glance at Sasuke reveals his face lightening up seeing the man, so he’s probably actually his teacher.

“Uchiha-sama, I’d like to talk to you about Sasuke coming back to the Academy,” the Chūnin—going by his uniform—continues, still looking determined. “After your testing, perhaps?”

Izuna raises an eyebrow. “Sure,” he readily agrees before he turns to Sasuke. “Sasuke, would you mind staying with Umino-san while I get my ass kicked?”

Umino snorts, surprised, and tries to hide it with a cough while Sasuke just frowns up at Izuna. 

“I don’t mind,” Sasuke says, “... don’t get your ass kicked too badly.”

“I’ll try,” Izuna answers with a wink before he nods at Umino with a sharp edge to his smile and turns towards where the Jōnin Commander is waiting. He doesn’t miss Umino’s somewhat skeptical glance.

Well. While Yuu-chan really helped a lot, Izuna currently must look like he has a bad hangover. Or just got up from a sickbed.

Both of which are… technically true. Sharingan memory hangovers are bad. To Niisan’s permanent frustration Izuna is somewhat of an expert at these because if he can’t use his Mangekyō he’ll damn well use all other Sharingan abilities to his advantage as much as he can–

Izuna fixes a vague smile on his face as he nears Nara Shikaku. Better to focus on outthinking a Nara for now.

“Nara Shikaku-san,” Izuna greets the man.

“Uchiha Akitsuna-san,” the man drawls and sounds incredibly bored already for all that it’s only early morning. His eyes are very sharp. “Gai told me that apparently we don’t need to test your skills in bukijutsu.” He glances over to the side of the training ground, where Maito Gai gives them a thumbs-up along with a blinding smile. Ah. “Or in stealth and infiltration.”

Izuna smiles as if in embarrassment. “Gai-san generously offered a practice spar that was very… enlightening.”

Nara Shikaku snorts. His eyes say ‘oh, was it’ and Izuna thinks of nothing in particular as he meets the man’s eyes. Nara are usually fun to verbally and mentally spar with, but with so many secrets on—no doubt—either side it’s also quite dangerous.

“Well, we’ll test you on ninjutsu, too, and there’s a spar as well–”

Izuna stops listening to the man’s words because there’s a very sneaky auditory genjutsu wrapped around his voice. Ah. They probably want to test his abilities in all the shinobi arts, and of course he’s an Uchiha with a Sharingan, so genjutsu would be a given. This particular genjutsu is not cast by the Nara himself… hm. Impressive.

He activates his Sharingan, which doesn’t help much with hearing-based genjutsu, but he thinks this one is a genjutsu with an auditory trigger and visual components, and–

His hand flies up to catch a senbon a few inches from his throat. 

It melts in his hand.

He steps to the side to avoid a barrage of kunai—one of which is real—and then flares his Sharingan. The figures of Nara Shikaku and his assistants crumble into nothing, the men having long moved back towards the border of the training ground to observe the fight.

Pure genjutsu spars are somewhat boring for any audience, but that’s not Izuna’s problem.

He doesn’t break all the genjutsu thrown at him as soon as he can, because they’re genuine art, so he spends a few seconds admiring each. He can’t see through all of them immediately anyway.

… He’d bet a lot on his yet-unseen opponent being a Yūhi. Fully rebuilding the environment and making him believe it even for a moment needs great skill, and his opponent always has another layer of genjutsu waiting the second he breaks one, seemingly unfazed by how quick he does so.

It’s not his own preferred style of genjutsu in combat—Izuna prefers to weave small genjutsu into his close-up fighting to trip opponents, confusing them for just that one second he needs to kill them. Here, he keeps shattering his opponent’s illusions as he tweaks only parts of them, trying to find and trip up his opponent.

Fighting genjutsu against genjutsu like this means it isn’t just using genjutsu in the end. Unless the aim is to use genjutsu to drive the opponent insane or unconscious, there’s a necessary physical part; often kunai or shuriken. Wire works well, too, and can have particularly gruesome results. The mind has of course the most important role in a genjutsu duel... and Izuna can be moderately confident that this Village probably doesn’t want ‘Uchiha Akitsuna’ to end up insane or brutally dismembered.

His unseen opponent grows a tree that entangles Izuna.

A tree.

And–

And–

He knows it’s a genjutsu. He knows. And yet, because it’s a masterful genjutsu it feels real, his own mind unhelpful as it conjures up memories of being caught in Hashirama’s Mokuton, bark creaking as wood wraps all around him, cutting off his air, pressing in from all sides, something snapping in his ribs–

The cold edge of a real kunai comes to rest at his throat.

Izuna slowly releases a breath and holds tightly onto his chakra to rein it in. “I yield.”

The tree dissolves and the kunai disappears as a petite woman steps around him. The same Yūhi he spied on yesterday gives him a long measuring look.

He nods at her, face blank. This was… well, she couldn't have known that a damn tree of all things would be effective in capturing him inside a genjutsu for the moment she needed to win, could she?

“And?” Nara Shikaku asks as he walks back towards them. “This is Yūhi Kurenai, Special Jōnin,” he introduces her to Izuna. 

“Hm.” Yūhi tilts her head. “Not the most elaborate caster himself—but quick in breaking genjutsu layers, even with a Sharingan.” She narrows her eyes at him. “Very interested in the details of my illusions.”

Izuna keeps his face deliberately blank. Those had been really nice genjutsu.

She looks back at the Jōnin Commander. “Familiar with using genjutsu in fights,” she adds. “I can’t say much about his creativity, but I don’t think he needs to worry much about enemy genjutsu on missions.”

“Thank you for the instruction, Yūhi-san,” Izuna tells her with an appropriate bow. What’s wrong with the Village’s ranking system?! This kunoichi only got promoted to Special Jōnin recently when she’s a genjutsu master?

Yūhi Kurenai returns the bow and considers him for a moment. “I believe my aunt and my great-grandmother would appreciate an invitation to tea, Uchiha-sama,” she finally says.

Izuna nods in response, mind reeling. The middle-aged Yūhi he met at the Clan Head Council is probably her aunt then, but a great-grandmother… She wouldn't remember Uchiha Izuna, would she?

“We need to test your ninjutsu, too,” interrupts Nara Shikaku his thoughts and nods towards the target poles on their left. “Five ninjutsu of your choice, if you would?” 

Izuna huffs and breathes out a fireball in the same breath. Too late he remembers he’d seen most shinobi still use hand seals for their elemental ninjutsu, so he raises his hands in a lazy Tiger seal as he breathes out the flames.

Sloppy. Probably not fooling the Nara, but maybe most of the other watchers.

The targets are already on fire after his first jutsu so they only serve as a vague direction reminder for him. He takes his time to go through all of the hand seals for the next jutsu. “Katon: Karyū Endan,” he says and watches a roaring fire dragon rapidly strike the targets from all sides. Well, there go the remains of those target poles.

The heat feels familiar on his face.

For a jutsu he came up with simply because Tobirama’s stupid Water Dragon annoyed him to no end it’s pretty good.

Hm. As for the next jutsu… staying with Fire jutsu only, of course, and maybe just keeping the dragon theme, too? Katon: Ryūen Hōka no Jutsu, then. 

Three dragon-headed fire balls strike the places the target poles used to be.

Izuna turns to look into Nara Shikaku’s direction and raises his voice to ask over the roaring of the fire, “Anyone have a non-Uchiha steel kunai for me?” 

Nara doesn’t react—which means he’s either using Uchiha steel or doesn’t want to part with his weapons—and neither does the Hyūga, but someone who’s probably Shikaku’s assistant tosses a kunai to Izuna after a nod.

Izuna catches the kunai in his hand... and melts it. The glowing metal drips down harmlessly between his fingers to land on the grass, immediately sizzling and burning the ground. He shakes off any remaining metal droplets and turns back towards his audience. “Done.”

“... But—that was only four jutsu–”

The Jōnin Commander’s raised hand interrupts his assistant. “One jutsu for melting the steel and another for protecting yourself from the hear of the metal?” the Nara asks. At Izuna’s nod, he hums and eyes the burning patch of grass at Izuna’s feet. “Can you do that in a fight?”

Izuna shrugs. “Catching bladed weapons with bare hands isn’t something I’d recommend doing,” he says drily, “but… possibly?” Melting steel weapons—steel in general—takes a few moments of direct skin contact. He much prefers breaking enemies’ swords since the Sharingan and his forging knowledge lets him hone in on weaknesses in the steel and then exploit those.

“Troublesome,” declares the Nara with a sigh. “But useful for sabotage, in any case. Now, what’s left is a full spar you'll do against–”

Izuna catches a fast-moving chakra signature a few moments before one of the masked ANBU appears beside Nara Shikaku. All he can identify is the dog-themed mask, the rest of the shinobi's appearance blurred into sameness again. He narrows his eyes and lets his Sharingan slide back into them for a second—revealing a very familiar dog-themed mask and shock of silver hair. 

Ah. He can guess what the man is here for. To be fair, if someone had kicked Izuna out of a window, he’d want revenge, too. As public as he could get it as well.

It’s a bit of a shame he has to lose—probably by a large margin—against someone who’s obviously a trusted elite agent of the Village. The Hyūga stepping aside with a hint of displeasure on his face would’ve been fun to fight as well, but not as fun to have to lose to.

“Uchiha Akitsuna-san?” Nara Shikaku calls him over once he has finished a quick, tense back and forth with the masked ANBU. “A change of plans. Your sparring partner will be Inu.” The Jōnin Commander looks somewhat unhappy about that, going by the tension beside his eyes.

Izuna steps forward and bows slightly. “Please take care of me, Inu-san.” He doesn’t quite manage to keep the smugness out of his voice. He’ll let this ANBU win this spar, but they both know that Izuna already won their actual confrontation.

The ANBU just stares at him for a long moment before finally making a gesture that only a very generous person would interpret as a nod.

Shikaku sighs. He's looking even more annoyed now, even for a Nara. “As a reminder for both of you, the goal today is to assess Akitsuna-san's combat capabilities. I'll be monitoring, but don't hesitate to call for interruptions.” He looks between the two of them. “Either of you.”

Huh. Now that's interesting. The slight hesitation there could indicate the Nara doesn't truly expect Inu to have to call for a break—which gives Izuna an estimate of just what kind of ANBU he's facing here. From what his clones have memories, ANBU doesn't necessarily have to mean extreme fighting strength; in fact large subdivisions of Tobirama's Shadow Corps include sabotage and infiltration specialists.

Of course, the Nara Clan Head might also just be messing with him.

Izuna lets his face go blank as he jogs back towards the midst of this training ground, the familiar calm of battle washing over him. He'll need to be very careful not to give too much away, doubly so because he's up against an unknown opponent. At the very least he knows he can throw this opponent around...

“Begin!” Shikaku calls, and Izuna is halfway across the field with his sword slashing down and Sharingan spinning.

Inu meets him there, blocking with a tanto and following up with a barrage of kicks.

Izuna weaves between them, dropping small, finely crafted genjutsu on the ground and his sword and his opponent's sword as he goes. They might as well not be there for all that they manage to trip the ANBU up, which is not at all.

Mixed genjutsu user, Izuna thinks and can't help but smile. The genjutsu fight before was fantastic—except for the ending, he’ll admit—but he always loves fighting mixed users, too. The Senju usually never bother to even try against him.

He blocks another kick to his face a second too late and has to roll with the blow, flipping up to his feet as he throws a handful of shuriken.

His opponent switches places with a branch right behind Izuna, wasting no second to strike at his back. Izuna throws himself forwards and, with another grin, sets everything within fifteen feet around him on fire.

The water dragon that instantly raises to quench his fire is not what he expected and puts a damper on his mood.

… He hates this fucking jutsu.

Tobirama is—had been—such a pretentious fucking asshole.

It also means his opponent is likely one of the few true allrounders this Village has, if he can throw around high-level ninjutsu interwoven with his close-up fighting like this. Interesting, but annoying for Izuna to play his little charade around. Which entry from the other Villages’ Bingo Books could his opponent be… wasn’t there a Hatake entry, although that book had looked pretty old–

He ducks under another lightning-quick tanto strike and then has to hastily prove his flexibility by evading the earth spears trying to disembowel him. They crumble to dust when he vaporizes the water in the ground with a slap of his hand and a flare of chakra, but it gives his opponent enough time to get behind him again.

Well, it's not like anyone expects him to win here so he lets this next kick actually connect with his side, going with the movement and throwing another handful of shuriken as he dives to the side. Maybe he can catch enough of this ANBU's movements with his Sharingan to later identify the man out of the general Shinobi population? 

It's still a shame Izuna needs to hold back and lose this match, because his opponent is really good. He uses a wild variety of sword styles, too, some of which even Izuna doesn’t recognize. A few of the moves, the kicks especially, remind him somewhat of Maito Gai. Sparring partners, maybe?

The next flurry of strikes he exchanges with Inu is again much faster than before. The ANBU keeps up, though, even if Izuna repeatedly prevents him from disengaging long enough for another elemental technique. It's irritating the man, his strikes becoming more forceful but not losing their pinpoint accuracy.

Izuna prolongs this match more than he should. Their blades are blurring between them, still faster and faster, and he's wondering how the other man can keep up, but neither of them is stopping. He parries a clever feint and uses that moment to punch the ANBU across the face so he gets at least one satisfying blow in before finding a way to lose gracefully–

The mask shatters–

And Izuna looks straight at a single Sharingan in a face it doES NOT BELONG IN–









Chapter Text

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. 

“Izuna.”

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. 

“Yes?”

“... 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.

And then–

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–

And–

everything stops.

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.

Another breath.

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.”

Silence.

“... ‘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.

“Yes?”

“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.”

“And now?”

“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.”

“Goodbye, Umino-san.”

“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.

Well then.






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.

Ah. Children.

“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.

Fuck.

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…”