They were a rather strange group that, for the most part, all hated each other.
Madara. Obito. Danzo. Tobirama.
"It's not like I particularly care what any of you think," Madara said. He nodded Tobirama's way. "Particularly you. But I just can't help but feel you're being very narrow-minded about this."
"It's narrow-minded now to hold you personally responsible for your own actions?" Tobirama asked incredulously. "Actually, knowing you, I'm not surprised you feel that way. And of course you're an Uchiha as well."
"All I'm saying is that I was dead when most of the problems enveloping the world were going on," Madara said. "It seems a little petty to be blaming a dead man whenever things go wrong."
"Ordinarily it would be," Danzo agreed. "If I wanted to blame Rin dying for turning Obito evil it wouldn't be fair but if, on the other hand, I wanted to blame Itachi and his meddling for driving his brother mad at then Sasuke going after Konoha and me in particular then I don't see how anyone can tell me that's not fair."
"The Uchiha were always prone to madness," Tobirama noted.
"And I really had nothing to do with most of the things that went wrong and never even met these people," Madara protested. "Are we really going to go back to 'well if this person hadn't done this then that wouldn't have happened and then that wouldn't have happened and then fifty years later that wouldn't have happened'? Shall the pair of us and your brother take responsibility for founding Konoha in the first place thus leading to the foundation of the other villages thus leading to all our current problems? We might as well go back and blame the Sage of Six Paths for founding Ninjutsu in the first place."
"I think you'll find that he insists he founded ninshu and takes no responsibility for ninjutsu," Obito spoke up.
Madara rolled his eyes. "Oh please. He was probably literally the first person ever actually born with chakra. He taught everyone else how to use it. Just because it didn't occur to him that if everyone knew how to use chakra sooner or later people would start killing himself with it doesn't mean he gets to just pretend that it has nothing to do with him."
"I think he blamed it on his sons," Obito confided. "That's not great parenting."
"Apparently his not-great parenting is why his sons turned against each other and kept clashing and causing problems from then up until Naruto actually annoyed Sasuke into saving the world," Tobirama said.
Madara glared at him. "No. Didn't I just say we weren't going that far back? The cause of all our problems isn't from a man from a time so long ago that until recently we had no reason to believe he actually existed."
"Well that's fine," Tobirama said. "We're all also fine blaming you for this."
"I was dead! Be reasonable!"
"We are," Danzo said. "But it's not like you were just minding your own business and died and then suddenly you just happened to wake up and be involved in a war against the rest of the world. And that's even if we ignore the fact you attempted to destroy the entire world."
"I wasn't trying to destroy the world," Madara argued. "I was trying to create a more peaceful world where everyone was happy and nothing hurt. It was very important to me."
Tobirama snorted. "You would have conveniently not been subject to the same rules and would have retained all of your memories and powers and had the ability to come and go as you please."
Madara looked remarkably angelic for a man who had done what he had done. "It was a sacrifice I was willing to make."
"And the fact that nobody else wanted that?" Tobirama challenged.
"People don't always know what's best for them," Madara said. "Don't pretend you don't know that, Tobirama."
Tobirama looked annoyed but said nothing.
"And as far as all of the things you judge me for that took place while I was dead, I think we all know that Obito was the mastermind there," Madara continued. "I just gave him a vague outline and allowed him the use of my name and we went from there. I'm good but I'm not so good that I could give him a detailed list of what to do and how."
"But it was all at your behest," Danzo growled. "You are the one who set the plan in motion in the first place and you knew at least a little of what would need to be done to bring you back to life so you could destroy the world."
"I was trying to help."
"You didn't care about the world since you were dead," Tobirama corrected.
"How interesting you bring that up," Madara said, "especially since I was actually alive towards the end there and you weren't. Are you saying that you weren't interested in saving the world since you were dead?"
"I certainly cared about stopping you," Tobirama said though that really wasn't an answer.
Madara smirked. "Thought so. Whatever I may have wanted to happen, once I was dead I was effectively powerless and had to trust others to act in a certain way."
"You can't possibly blame all of that on me," Obito protested.
"More Uchiha refusal to accept responsibility for their own actions?" Tobirama muttered. "Is any non-Uchiha really surprised by that? Or any Uchiha, for that matter, if they were being honest with themselves?"
"Madara can at least say he didn't do much of these things personally," Danzo said. "You did. How is this not your fault?"
Obito crossed his arms and glared defiantly at them. "I was young and vulnerable. I thought I was going to die and was abandoned by my team in a strange land because they thought I was dead. I had just lost one of my eyes and had been half-crushed. I needed Zetsu to even move around. I was trapped in a cave with the master manipulator Madara over here and had no other human contact for months on end. Is it really so surprising that I didn't react so well?"
"I would like to remind everyone that I was only trying to help," Madara said again. "There I was, just minding my own business and not causing any destruction for anyone at all, when suddenly a boy fell into my tunnels. And a boy of my blood, too!"
"We're really barely related," Obito said. "It's just the Sharingan."
"Well what else could I have done? He would die without me. I took him back with me and I decided to help him heal. He couldn't leave, of course, because of his injuries and I was just keeping him company. My plans for the perfect world were never far from my mind and it's not like I knew what young people were talking about in those days."
"Nobody believes you," Tobirama said flatly.
"Well that has very little to do with the fact I'm telling the truth," Madara said, shrugging. "You lot aren't likely to believe anything I say."
"Because you lie," Danzo clarified helpfully.
Madara laughed. "Go ahead and call me a liar, Danzo."
"Let's not forget how you only let me go and told me where to find Kakashi and Rin when you knew that I would be arriving just in time to watch Kakashi kill her and give up all hope in the world," Obito accused.
Madara threw his hands in the air. "Alright, I understand that you do not like me but this is quite frankly ridiculous. Now I'm supposed to have somehow known that your friend Kakashi was going to kill the girl you loved and arranged for you to have shown up in the exact moment when you would have to see that rather than arriving in time to save her or after she was already dead and lessening the impact? Yes I could tell they were nearby but I can't see the future."
"I don't know, I wouldn't put it past you to have somehow been able to predict all of that," Tobirama said.
Danzo nodded. "I agree. Perhaps you did not know that Kakashi himself would kill the girl but if you knew that she had become a Jinchuriki and suspected, as she did, that this was being done so the beast would get loose and attack Konoha it wouldn't be surprising if you foresaw this ending in her death. Even if Obito had joined her and they returned to Konoha together the results would be the same save the fact people would know Obito was alive."
"You are far more of an evil mastermind than I ever was, Danzo," Madara said serenely. "How was I supposed to know that some girl he had a crush on-"
"It was true love," Obito interrupted.
"You said that she never looked your way twice and was always chasing after Kakashi," Madara pointed out.
"One-sided true love," Obito amended.
"How was I supposed to know you'd take this girl's death and decide that her dying means that she wasn't real in the first place and you had to create a genjutsu that covered the entire planet so that in the fictional genjutsu world the 'real' Rin would be alive and older and ready to love you?" Madara demanded. He paused. "At least…I hope you would have aged her up. Because otherwise there would have been a problem."
"I think there would have been a problem either way," Tobirama said tightly.
"How could you not know that?" Obito asked angrily. "You're the one who set me up to see that unfolding! I am willing to concede that it is entirely possible that it wasn't your fault Rin had been captured in the first place but once you saw the situation you made expert use of it."
"Now I'm to be blamed for any misfortune that befalls anyone ever?" Madara demanded.
"That does seem to be the general consensus," Danzo agreed.
"You saw what I did with Kiri," Obito said impatiently. "Are you really telling me you couldn't have convinced them to kidnap Rin and use her to attack Konoha? It's kind of a strange coincidence if you had nothing to do with Rin of all people being chosen."
Madara raised his eyebrows. "Look, if we're going to nitpick strange coincidences we're going to be here for the rest of eternity. How was it, exactly, that Itachi's beloved little brother he went to extremes to keep alive turned out to be Indra reincarnated?"
Obito nodded, conceding the point. "But come on. You had to know how I'd react."
"All I know is that I refuse to believe that you loved this girl more than I loved my brother," Madara said. "And it's not like I went crazy and decided that I needed to destroy the world so I could have him back in genjutsu form when I lost him."
Tobirama openly laughed at that. "Oh, no, you decided you wanted to destroy the world so you could have ultimate power. Don't even pretend that you responded well to Izuna's death."
"I came together with you Senju and founded Konoha," Madara ground out. "Despite Izuna telling me with his last breath that I should never stop fighting you."
"And you never did," Tobirama said flatly. "But I'm with Obito on this one. I'm sure he would never steal his loved one's eyes to gain more power."
"If only because her eyes were perfectly ordinary," Danzo said.
"For the last time, he insisted that I take them after his impending death because he wanted me to be able to more effectively destroy your people and it wasn't like he was going to be using them!" Madara burst out. "Admittedly I got sidetracked and didn't use Izuna's eyes like he wanted me to for a few years but I saw the light in the end."
"Says the man currently trying to say that all of this isn't his fault," Tobirama said derisively.
"If I was driven mad by Izuna's death then I should get a pass on everything I did after that because who blames crazy people for being crazy," Madara declared. "But it also took several years of not only having Izuna died but watching his dire predictions slowly come true and being abandoned by my clan before I dedicated myself to standing against the Senju oppressors."
"You abandoned them when you said you said you were leaving and they could either come with you or stay," Tobirama reminded him. "Your revisionist history won't work on someone who was actually there."
"And just what makes your version of history any more reliable than mine?" Madara demanded.
"I'm willing to bet that virtually anyone you ask would back my side over yours without even knowing what we're saying just because I'm so much more trustworthy than you," Tobirama said.
"If you want to exploit anti-Uchiha sentiment like that then by all means," Madara said.
"There hasn't been any anti-Uchiha sentiment since they all died," Danzo said derisively. "Even the growing complaints about Sasuke's defection weren't focused on the Uchiha themselves."
"Madara, you left decades before the massacre. You can't say that you just saw the end coming and correctly predicted it," Tobirama said.
"Except I did and I did."
"Say it took five thousand years and ultimately the Uchiha went extinct because they refused to look outside of the family for spouses," Tobirama said. "Would you still claim that the seeds of that destruction were planted during our time?"
"At least he's honest," Tobirama muttered. "Well, about this."
"You're the one who killed my brother in the first place," Madara said flatly. "So if that was the beginning of my road to trying to keep the world in a permanent genjutsu you have only yourself to blame."
"It was self-defense," Tobirama snapped. "And the chain of causality is so very questionable there."
"You knew I was an Uchiha."
"And now you're agreeing with me about your clan's instability while still blaming me for your own actions!" Tobirama exclaimed.
"I suppose you're conveniently forgetting, Madara, about the fact that the only reason that the Uchiha were under suspicion in the first place was because you betrayed and abandoned the village then came back to try and destroy it and then afterwards you had Obito set the Kyuubi on it?" Danzo asked archly.
"The reason we were under suspicion was because Tobirama over here refused to accept that a truce had been declared," Madara countered. "If it weren't for him, I really think that Hashirama and I could have made it work."
Tobirama rolled his eyes. "Oh yes, blame everything on me. You're just bitter because Sasuke was at one point far crazier than you were until the end of your life and Naruto's kind of an idiot and yet they still managed to get their shit together and bring about everlasting peace."
"I do not believe in everlasting peace," Danzo said.
"We know," Obito said wearily.
"We could just as well blame your brother since I was willing to form a village with you and Izuna never would have come around."
"Well of course you were! The Uchiha were subjugated!" Madara exclaimed. "It was a great deal for you!"
"What subjugation?" Tobirama demanded. "I mean, I can't speak of the things that Danzo got up to after my death but things were pretty good as long as I was involved!"
"My poor clan was imprisoned inside a compound and isolated with the police," Madara complained.
"All of the clans got compounds and the Uchiha got to pick where there's was. It was also the biggest since my clan didn't have a bloodline to connect them and so were inclined to just spread out," Tobirama ground out. "And the Uchiha being in charge of the civilians was a show of trust! They had complete control over who they accepted and it's not my fault they only ever chose Uchiha."
"I do not wish to hear your lies," Madara sniffed.
"You always revert back to that when you're wrong," Tobirama accused.
"Well I for one think the fact that we can't even talk about how I'm the one responsible for everything without it devolving back into how this was all Madara's fault for molding me in the first place speaks pretty conclusively about how it's not my fault," Obito spoke up.
Danzo glared at him. "Oh, you're not off the hook. Madara might have broken you and hoped that you would do exactly what you did – except for the part where you switched sides at the end – but that's what makes him indirectly responsible for your actions and you personally responsible. Personal responsibility is very important."
Obito glared right back. "When have you ever taken responsibility for anything you've ever done?"
"I take responsibility for endeavoring to rid the world of a madman who wanted to destroy Konoha and for keeping Shisui's eye out of your hands," Danzo countered. "That Sasuke saw the light later was completely unexpected and so not something I can be faulted for not seeing. The rest was mostly indirect on my part even if you wanted to judge me for my patriotism."
Tobirama coughed. "It's not your patriotism we take issue with."
"You knew that you needed to gather all the tailed beasts," Madara said. "But those apparently weren't ready to be extracted and stored until fifteen years later and they all needed to be done in order. What exactly was the point of attacking when you did?"
Tobirama was looking pained. "Don't even pretend that you weren't looking to destroy the village!"
"I wasn't. I look back on Konoha fondly. It is flawed, certainly, but well-meant," Madara said nobly. "It is probably the best this imperfect reality can manage."
"Nobody actually believes you," Tobirama said flatly.
"I believe me," Madara said.
"Good for you," Obito said. "I personally remember hearing a great deal about how much you'd love to destroy Konoha and how it sure would be great if I could somehow manage it."
"But did I ever take any steps towards it?" Madara challenged.
"After the first time you threw the Kyuubi at it and Hashirama stopped you and you convinced the world you were dead?" Danzo asked rhetorically. "No. But you were greatly injured and by the time you recovered too old to effectively attack the village. It's the same reason that I don't give Orochimaru any credit for leaving Konoha alone after Hiruzen sealed his arms."
"Hey, why isn't he here?" Obito demanded. "He caused just as many problems as I did."
"Not even close," Tobirama said. "Though he certainly caused more problems than I did. But at any rate, does anyone really want him anywhere near us?"
It was silent.
"That would still make me indirectly responsible. And what about Kiri? You controlled Yagura and everyone agrees he was the worst thing to happen to Kiri ever," Madara said.
"Hey, Kiri is even younger than Konoha and it was already called the Bloody Mist before I got there," Obito said defensively.
"I don't know," Danzo said slowly. "All of the truly horrific things came from Yagura's tenure. Having half of each graduating class be killed by the passing class? Exactly how long do you think you could have sustained that before ninja were in short supply either from the deaths or from their parents no longer letting them risk it?"
"I love how morality is not even slightly involved with your condemnation of this," Tobirama said dryly.
Danzo blinked. "I acknowledge it is a horribly immoral thing to do as well but I can stomach horribly immoral things-"
"To put it mildly," Madara interrupted.
"If it serves a greater purpose. This was just stupid and foolishly cruel."
"I was weeding out the weak ones," Obito claimed.
"Just looking at recent history we know how effective that is," Danzo said. "Naruto and Sasuke were the only ones who could actually defeat Madara and Naruto was never able to graduate by normal means. He would have been killed. Perhaps Sasuke would have survived though he was nothing all that special when he graduated. Tsunade's prodigy Sakura? The heiress of the Hyuuga clan Hinata? Lee and his mastery of taijutsu? None of them would have made it through and Konoha needs them."
"But think of how much better shape Konoha would be in if, instead of training up the untalented, the ones with talent had more training," Obito said.
"That's really not how it works," Danzo said. "Naruto is frankly irreplaceable and Sakura was only taken on as Tsunade over-identified with her and perfect chakra control is very rare. The supposedly superior candidates you speak of never amounted to much."
"That practice was put aside anyway when Zabuza snapped and just decided to kill everyone," Obito said. "He wasn't even graduating but he apparently wanted to enact meaningful social change."
"Really," Madara said skeptically.
"I am not even making that up. That's what he told Yagura when he was asked about it."
"And yet you still allowed him to be a ninja," Danzo said, deeply unimpressed.
Obito crossed his arms. "Please. You still used Itachi."
"Itachi didn't snap, he was ordered to do what he did and – for the most part – did it well," Danzo said. "I had no complaints up until the part where he somehow allowed Sasuke to find out the truth about him and at that point Sasuke's sanity was so fragile that he just completely lost it. We needed him."
"And Kiri didn't have need of such a talented child?" Obito asked rhetorically. "Besides, he didn't snap. He was, as I said, trying to enact meaningful social change. That's why he later tried to kill Yagura and became a missing-nin but, to be fair, he did live in a place called the Bloody Mist. It's not the decision I would have made but I can hardly call it snapping."
"And what about the bloodline purges?" Danzo challenged. "You ordered the deaths of everyone with any sort of bloodline limit."
Obito stared at him. "Are you really going to stand there and lecture me about how we shouldn't wipe out people just because they have bloodline limits after ordering the Uchiha Massacre?"
"Regardless of what I'm sure they'd like to think," Danzo began tetchily, "I did not have them killed because they had the Sharingan. I've always been a great admirer of the Sharingan actually."
"We know," Tobirama said, looking at Danzo's arm pointedly. There was nothing to see here in the afterlife but they all knew what had once graced that arm. "I never had the time to sit down and conduct research on it but I've often wondered if the Uchiha madness that connects with the Sharingan can be transmitted to non-Uchiha who have had the Sharingan transplanted."
"They needed to die as they were stubborn and power-hungry and short-sighted," Danzo lectured. "They would bring war down upon all of our heads and probably die as well, if they didn't betray us to the enemy first, just because they wanted more power. They seemed to think that because they were half of the founding clans they should have half of the power forever even after we expanded far beyond that. I didn't order the execution of everyone with a bloodline, just everyone who was treasonous or who would grow up to be vengeful which just happened to be everyone with a Sharingan. And before anyone starts talking about how I couldn't possibly have known that young Uchiha would grow up to seek vengeance, look at Sasuke."
"Sasuke was pushed rather hard towards vengeance," Obito pointed out. "Itachi didn't want him to just die of despair since he was effectively abandoning a highly-traumatized eight-year-old boy."
"And he certainly took to it, didn't he?" Danzo asked rhetorically. "I have my own issues with how Itachi handled the Sasuke situation and the terrible danger it placed Konoha in but that is neither here nor there. I don't think any of us would say that Itachi was the cause of all of our problems even if he certainly didn't help anything."
"He certainly didn't help me," Obito murmured.
"He helped me," Madara said. "When he ended the Edo Tensei he gave me the means to break free of it. Personally, I rather like the kid. I've never met him but I like him."
"There's a good chance he'd be horrified to hear that," Tobirama said seriously.
"Not any more horrified than he would be to find out that Sasuke and I are basically the same person," Madara said with a shrug.
"I think that's overstating it a little," Tobirama said.
"We are pretty much the same person," Madara said again. "Except Naruto didn't have a Tobirama running around spoiling everything."
"And Itachi encouraged Sasuke to be sensible and make friends," Tobirama countered.
"Why did you order the purges anyway?" Danzo asked.
"Hm…why did I do that?" Obito asked vaguely.
Danzo stared at him. "You don't remember?"
"I might have been…no…Yeah, I really don't remember," Obito admitted. "But in my defense, I had a lot going on back then and didn't have time to babysit Yagura all of the time. I'm sure that I had a perfectly valid reason."
"Okay if we're getting to the point that Obito can't even remember why he does all the evil things he does maybe we should declare him the winner," Tobirama suggested.
"That's fine by me," Danzo agreed.
"Hold on a second," Obito argued. "I may have helped Itachi carry out the Uchiha Massacre but I certainly never ordered it. I was just hanging around the village spying on Kakashi when Itachi found me and offered to let me help kill everybody with the government's full approval as long as I didn't touch anyone else and didn't kill Sasuke."
"I had a valid reason for needing them dead. You were just annoyed at them or something," Danzo said.
"That is a good point," Madara agreed. "You have no idea how thrilled I was when I was brought back to learn that not only was Konoha still standing strong but you personally, the boy who I had saved and trained, helped wipe the Uchiha out!"
Obito fidgeted. "It was going to happen anyway."
"Because you attacked Konoha in the first place and they had reason to believe an Uchiha was involved!"
"Hey, you were mad at them, too, and you wanted the entire real world to be destroyed so we could all live in illusions," Obito reminded him. "What's so bad about what I did?"
"The reason I left was because I wanted to protect the clan from the village and they wouldn't let me," Madara said pointedly. "Why in the world would you think I wanted you to help the village take out the clan? The clan should have become a part of my new world. And for real, not just memories of them."
"You know that is not how you sold bringing Rin with me," Obito complained.
"Well maybe but that was the best we could do with Rin. If the Uchiha weren't wiped out we could have had better," Madara replied. "Maybe I was mad at the clan for not letting me help them but I didn't want to let Konoha get away with it. So thanks for that."
"All I can say is that you did not make that distinction clear to me," Obito replied with a shrug. "And what was I supposed to do? Leave a thirteen-year-old kid to kill his entire family by himself? That seemed irresponsible."
"I would like to state for the record that, as unstable as most of them were, I never actually wanted them to all die," Tobirama spoke up.
"No, of course not," Madara mocked. "You merely paved the way."
Tobirama narrowed his eyes. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"Just while we've been having this little chat you've made at least half a dozen inflammatory remarks about my entire clan being evil or unstable," Madara accused.
"Oh, I have not," Tobirama denied.
"You may not have actually wanted us all to die but you were a respected leader and you shaped the next generation of rulers, the ones who did ultimately choose to wipe out my clan," Madara continued. "Everyone always loved Hashirama of course but they never thought he was very practical, especially with that nonsense about giving away eight of the tailed beasts."
"I couldn't believe he did that, either," Danzo said, shaking his head. "Yes, yes, they were never going to trust us if we had all nine of them but they never would have attacked us either! It would have been so much easier to keep the peace and 'trust' is a funny thing in the ninja world."
"I hardly think a few comments led to anyone's death," Tobirama said stubbornly.
"What about the fact that you never forgave and never trusted?" Madara demanded. "Maybe you didn't do it on purpose but you can't deny that your lack of faith and your resentment influenced your actions. And your students who idolized you? How were any of them going to look at you and decide you must be wrong about my family? Hashirama was willing to put the feud aside the moment he was old enough to understand that there even was a feud. I was never as…enthusiastic about it as he was but even I was willing to try. You're the one who never let it go and who ensured that even those who weren't even party to the feud were on your side and mistrusting my clan."
"I cannot control the actions of other people or what did or did not happen after my death," Tobirama argued. "I may have distrusted the Uchiha in general but I wasn't blindly prejudiced. Kagami, for instance, was one of my most trusted people."
"His son Shisui was very loyal, too," Obito said, looking pointedly at Danzo who did not respond.
"Exactly. Individual Uchiha could be trusted but it was the clan as a whole that gave me reason to pause and don't pretend like you had any more love for the Senju," Tobirama snapped.
"I was never in a position to persecute them," Madara said.
"That's not a claim that you wouldn't have if you could have," Tobirama pointed out.
"No but that would be wasting my breath, wouldn't it? You'd never believe it. The two of us were at war but we were supposed to trust you implicitly while you got to hold our past against us?" Madara demanded.
"The village was our idea."
Madara shook his head. "It wasn't your ideas as in a Senju idea. It was our idea as in Hashirama's and mine."
"You gave up on it and Hashirama never did," Tobirama countered.
"It's all well and good for him to propose peace once he had us thoroughly defeated!" Madara exclaimed. "And I agreed, didn't I? Even though Izuna begged me not to."
"You demanded that he kill me," Tobirama growled.
"You rather deserved it. I do wonder what he would have done."
"Or you asked him to outright commit suicide right there."
Madara sighed. "It's not like I actually expected him to. You know I didn't let him."
Tobirama relented somewhat. "Yes, I know. Though we all know that with Hashirama dead I would have killed you no matter what he wanted."
Madara laughed. "It seems in the end neither one of us were very good at listening to our brothers."
"Are they…getting along?" Obito asked, disturbed.
"I don't know but I don't like it," Danzo said, equally disturbed.
"Danzo was one of your students, wasn't he?" Madara asked rhetorically. "Not in a genin team but he certainly learned a lot from you. Since he was from the Shimura clan I can't help but wonder if he learned his Uchiha paranoia from you."
"Or from the two Kyuubi attacks," Tobirama said. "But even if I was the sole reason why he decided the Uchiha were pure evil and needed to be exterminated, he did make his own choices. I'm indirectly responsible just as you were for Obito. Except that most of what Obito did was what you wanted done and I didn't want pretty much anything Danzo did."
"Really?" Danzo asked guilelessly. "You're against keeping Konoha safe now?"
"Yeah, that is certainly one word for what you were doing," Tobirama said. "Not one anyone would agree with unless you had the emotion crushed out of them but there it is. Anyway, Madara, you keep complaining about my anti-Uchiha concerns but it's not like everything I said was inaccurate."
"Are you seriously trying to tell me that you're going to stand by all of that?" Madara demanded. "Really?"
"I'm just saying that the fact that the Uchiha feel more than anyone else isn't really their fault and I can't blame them for that," Tobirama said. "Though their tendency to go on and on about their pain all the time did get annoying, I understood. But we're ninja and death lurks around every corner. Even if we didn't live in such a dangerous world, loss is still unavoidable. Every time an Uchiha lost someone dear to them we risked a mental breakdown and homicidal tendencies."
"You're overstating it," Madara denied.
"I've seen enough of the Sharingan to be pretty damn sure that, despite your clan's legendary reticence on the matter, it manifests itself the first time the Uchiha in question is sufficiently traumatized," Tobirama said. "So it strikes me as pretty bad parenting to hope for and celebrate a really early manifestation of the Sharingan. And then the Mangekyou! An Uchiha must witness the death of someone dear to them and be devastated by it. And you started going around telling people you had to personally kill your closest friend."
"That was never public knowledge," Madara protested. "How did you find that out?"
"I was the Hokage, remember?" Tobirama asked rhetorically. "But if you thought that was how it worked how exactly did you get yours?"
Madara said nothing.
"And I for one don't trust people who think that a little power, or even a lot of power, is worth killing someone dear. I know that not everyone in your clan did it. Most did not. But the temptation was always there. I may not know if my brother would have ever killed me, and I'm not pleased with that, but I know for a fact that that I never would have killed him. In our line of work, snapping is a risk we all must take," Tobirama continued. "The fact your clan is unable to properly handle their emotions make them so much greater of a risk. I was merely keeping cognizant of the curse on your clan and, to some extent, I pitied them for it. If others did not understand why I reached the conclusions I reached and responded inappropriately to just the conclusions then it is a regrettable occurrence but not one I can do much about now."
"The fact you cannot change it now does not absolve you from any responsibility for your actions!" Madara cried out.
"I'm going to pretend that it's not completely ridiculous for you to start lecturing me about personal responsibility," Tobirama informed him.
Madara inclined his head. "That's kind of you. But did you ever think that maybe, given my clan's unfortunate tendency to not deal with loss as well as others might, it might not be the best idea to start treating them differently and giving them grievances they might not handle as well as others?"
Tobirama held up his hands. "Any discrimination happened after my time."
"Even if you laid the roots," Madara said.
"If we're talking about roots," Obito said, glancing Danzo's way. "We really can't forget everything that this one has gotten up to."
"Everything I did was only for Konoha," Danzo said chillily.
"I appreciate that, Danzo," Tobirama told him. "But you can do everything you can to try and serve Konoha and still manage to do it wrong."
Danzo shook his head. "I don't think you can actually."
"You can," Obito and Madara said at the same time.
"I'll have you know that I was authorized to found Root by your chosen successor, Hiruzen," Danzo pointed out.
Tobirama sighed. "I'll agree that was a bad idea but Hiruzen overindulging you and refusing to have you killed after everything you did, including trying to have him assassinated, really doesn't convince me I should have picked you instead."
"All I'm saying is that maybe I wouldn't have had to try and assassinate the Hokage and scheme with despicable people to become Hokage if you just gave me the job in the first place," Danzo grumbled.
"Okay, I understand how you feel about not being Hokage but even I can tell you that that's just not how it works nor should it be," Madara said. "I'm not going to go around saying that if I had just been Hokage I wouldn't have done anything that I had done and we'd all have a lot less problems. I mean, it's technically true but if you're the kind of person who would react so badly to not being Hokage there's probably a reason they didn't make you Hokage."
"Thank you!" Tobirama said, looking vindicated.
"Of course, that's no excuse for everything else you pulled, Tobirama," Madara added.
"Root was a terrible idea from the beginning," Obito said. "Taking and torturing children, isolating them and getting rid of their previous identities? I can tell you how well that works out for a person. I, for one, was a lot more clear-headed when I reclaimed my own identity. Getting rid of any and all emotion? You were complaining earlier about how the Kiri graduation exam involved killing half of the students. Well what about Root?"
"I see no contradiction."
Tobirama rolled his eyes. "Of course you don't."
"What you were doing served no true purpose. My methods were having Root growing up like brothers and then proving that they were capable of killing their heart by killing the people closest to them. Only the strongest, psychologically speaking, would survive. Perhaps we'd lose a few promising ninja that way but the weaker ones at the start can be trained up and they'd be useless to me if they couldn't carry out their darkest orders quickly and with no hesitation," Danzo explained. "It truly was essential."
"And why did you need emotion-less weapons anyway?" Tobirama demanded. "Wasn't ANBU enough? Itachi managed to kill his entire family without being an emotionless tool and your Root wasn't any help with that. You still had to have him do it."
"Itachi was exceptional," Danzo allowed. "But most regular shinobi weren't like that. And even Itachi developed an enormous brother complex and had to have Sasuke spared or he wouldn't do it. He could have lived a long, productive life as a spy but we insisted on throwing it all away on a missing-nin who hated him."
"I'm pretty sure he was sick and going to die no matter what so why not let his death help his brother?" Obito asked.
"If he weren't so guilt-ridden and miserable he probably would have been fine," Danzo said dismissively. "Does anyone really know what was wrong with him? If he took Sasuke's eyes it probably would have all cleared up."
"I don't know much about the situation but I'm pretty sure that's completely wrong," Madara said. "And you know that you've hit a new low when you emotionally blackmail a thirteen-year-old pacifist into killing his entire clan by threatening the life of a small child."
"Not everyone is prepared to make the kinds of sacrifices I am," Danzo said, bowing his head.
"Except by the sounds of it you didn't make any sacrifices at all, just forced others to do so and maybe feel bad about it sometimes," Tobirama noted. "Not that it makes a difference as that doesn't stop you."
"What kind of a ninja would I be if I let things like 'feeling bad about something' stop me?" Danzo demanded.
"Root might have had its purpose at one point but once Hiruzen asked you to disband it because it was ridiculously evil you didn't listen," Tobirama lectured.
"I haven't trusted Hiruzen's judgment in years," Danzo countered. "What kind of idiot just lets someone who admits to having tried to assassinate him go if he promises that he'll dedicate his life to Konoha? He didn't even remove me from power! There's a reason he stepped down when he did and he never should have retaken the position."
"I'm pretty sure the reason he stepped down was because he wanted to appease those who were mad that he made peace in the Third Shinobi war," Obito corrected. "Including you. This was the worst war anyone had ever seen. It certainly led to my…questionable life choices. We were running out of people and so regularly sending children to their deaths. It was stupid and never should have happened and should have ended sooner than it did but you didn't think we won quite conclusively enough. Something about how, in not allowing every single person in Konoha to eventually be killed by this damn thing, we were insulting those who died."
"It seems to me that those who died for Konoha did so so that others might live and that one day their actions could bring peace," Tobirama said. "Which is pretty much the exact opposite of your rationale, Danzo."
Danzo stared at him in shock. "How can you say that? You always told me self-sacrifice was a shinobi's duty."
"And it is," Tobirama said. "But you can't expect literally every single shinobi to get themselves killed in action. People can sacrifice themselves in other ways, by killing their heart and doing what needs to be done. It's like you personally judge every living shinobi not having managed to sacrifice their lives yet. It also strikes me as a little indulgent for a shinobi who sacrificed their life to help the village to want to hurt the village by continuing a war that they died in. Konoha should be a place that people wish to live for and not just to die for."
"I…don't even know what to say to that," Danzo admitted. "You really probably should have told me that before you sacrificed your own life."
"We were kind of in a hurry," Tobirama said, shrugging. "And I thought that was rather obvious. Clearly I was mistaken."
"So that's another point in the 'it's all Tobirama's fault' column then," Madara said smugly.
Tobirama just rolled his eyes. "We're not done with Danzo just yet."
"Oh there's a lot on him," Obito said, nodding. "Still during the Third Shinobi War, he completely screwed up Amegakure by allying with Hanzo the Salamander against the peace-seeking factions in his village. It's because of him that Hanzo was still in power and strong enough to kill Nagato's one friend which led to Nagato hating Konoha once he discovered this. It didn't help Konoha ninja killed his parents. And Nagato hating Konoha, of course, led to his attack on it later on which wiped out half the village. And yes, maybe he gave his life bringing them all back but that doesn't take away from the fact he killed them all."
"He was a member of your precious Akatsuki and attacking for that purpose, to claim Naruto," Danzo argued.
"I think we know that that was just why he finally allowed himself to let loose on Konoha and he didn't have to do it that way," Obito said. "Of course, let's not forget that he wouldn't have gotten half as far as he did if Madara hadn't given him the Rinnegan."
"It's not my fault what he did with it," Madara said. "And I didn't fan the flames of his hatred. All I wanted him to do was bring me back to life. Which he never did."
"You were also in league with Orochimaru and sanctioned the illegal and horrific work he did that led to his expulsion from Konoha," Obito added. "And then you tried to have him killed as well which might explain why he wanted to destroy Konoha when he returned."
"He can't have been too angry with me," Danzo said. "I wasn't the one he tried to kill."
"Well, no," Obito conceded. "But if his plan had succeeded he probably would have went for you afterwards. Most people actually didn't even know who you were while the Sandaime was a much higher-profile target."
"I do definitely have to question how you got my brother's DNA in your arm," Tobirama said.
"Don't forget that he helped him transplant at least some of the Sharingan he had," Obito said. "And he was working with him after Orochimaru left despite also trying to kill him. All of those Konoha citizens, including those sixty infants used to try and transplant the Mokuton, were taken on Danzo's watch. And how many of them came back? I don't want to know how many died horribly."
"But look what we got out of it," Danzo said. "Hashirama's gift reborn!"
"Yes," Obito said dryly, "that was very useful for me during the war. I must compliment you on the sheer diabolical genius that was what you did with Nono and Kabuto."
"What happened?" Madara asked.
"Kabuto, of course, was the creepy snake or dragon or whatever medic that helped me with the Edo Tensei and ended up being convinced by a completely dead Itachi to heal Sasuke," Obito said. "Danzo here went to an orphanage, which was heavily populated after the war, and forced someone who had once worked for him back into his service or he would cut off funds from the orphanage. Kabuto was trying to spy on the conversation and apparently showed promise for someone untrained so Danzo took him, too. They both went off spying and Danzo promised Nono that he'd send her pictures of Kabuto as he grew up since they had spent many years apart. But…somehow or other he managed to send her pictures that diverged into someone who had the same coloring as Kabuto but wasn't him at all."
"That's strange," Madara said. "Was he planning on having the two kill each other all along?"
"I can only assume so," Obito said. "Otherwise it would have been really awkward when they were reunited and Kabuto looked nothing like the picture. Apparently they were just too good at their job of loyally serving and protecting Konoha so he planned to have one kill the other and Orochimaru kill the survivor. Well, Kabuto remembered what Nano looked like and tried to save her but failed and Orochimaru wanted a minion so that didn't work out."
Everyone was looking like they were judging Danzo at that point and he shifted uncomfortably. "It was essential."
"Did you seriously plot to have loyal Konoha shinobi murdered because you thought they were just too useful?" Tobirama couldn't believe it. "I mean, keeping an eye on them to see if they would turn is one thing but while they were still perfectly loyal? What the actual fuck is wrong with you?"
"I couldn't risk it," Danzo said unrepentantly.
"Then of course we get to the Uchiha Massacre, which I consider the crown jewel of your complete and utter soullessness," Obito went on.
Danzo glared at him. "You have no right to talk about that. I had legitimate reasons to do what I did and you just wanted to kill some people. Your own clan."
"That's fine," Obito said. "I think it's just as effective if you're being judged by Madara about this."
"This is a subject I'm well-familiar with despite how long after my death it took place," Madara said eagerly. "It really started, I think, with the Kyuubi attack. Sure my clan was restless and problems were brewing before but it was nothing all that serious. It definitely didn't warrant a massacre. You were so worried that an Uchiha would somehow manage to capture and contain the rampaging Kyuubi and that somehow nobody would notice that you wouldn't even let them fight and made them protect the civilians."
"The civilians needed to be protected," Danzo insisted.
Madara rolled his eyes. "Like you would have even thought of them if you didn't want my clan out of the way. Tell me, even if there had been someone like me there who could have controlled it, it was already attacking Konoha. Just what were you worried about happening? Someone would make it attack Konoha more? And then afterwards you started spreading rumors and suspicion and isolating them because you thought that maybe an Uchiha might have been somehow involved in the attack despite any clear motive or possible gain."
"But I was right!" Danzo exploded. "Your little protégé was there! He released the Kyuubi when its human host was the weakest and sent it after Konoha! You can't blame me for suspecting it was an Uchiha who had started this whole mess when this whole time I was right!"
"Maybe that might have been me," Obito agreed, "but it wasn't the clan's fault. They didn't even know I was alive."
"And maybe if you took responsibility for your actions, even if you left after having identified yourself, things wouldn't have progressed like they did."
Obito actually laughed at that. "Are you serious? If I had just shown up, identified myself as an Uchiha, admitted the attack was my fault, but sworn that the rest of my clan was completely innocent you would have accepted that? You saw how the civilians blamed poor Naruto for the attack and he was the only thing that stopped the attack and prevented another one."
"Perhaps I made a few miscalculations there," Danzo admitted, looking very much like the words pained him to say. "Though I was ultimately right with my suspicions, I just got the target wrong through no fault of my own."
"Where, exactly, do you feel you made the miscalculation then?" Tobirama asked pointedly.
"But they are the ones who just wouldn't wait until the suspicion died down and worked to prove themselves and instead planned on taking power in a coup," Danzo said.
"So you're blaming them for not being Naruto," Tobirama concluded. "That's reasonable."
"You almost sound like you're against the massacre," Madara said, shaking his head in disbelief.
"That's because I actually am," Tobirama said. "It was far too much and the fact that they came to that point in the first place is shameful."
"And the single biggest thing you did to prove that you're just evil and not merely trying to help was what you did to Shisui," Obito said frostily.
Danzo stiffened. "He couldn't be trusted. His eyes were far too powerful. The ability to put someone under a genjutsu so completely you can control them and they'll never even know? And they were his eyes so he didn't even need such a long refractory period. I did what I had to do."
"He was literally on his way to go see the clan leader and going to use his genjutsu to convince him to stop plotting a coup," Obito said. "Literally. He even had just left the Sandaime's office after getting permission to do so. He was on an official, if secret, mission from Konoha when you attacked one of maybe two loyal Uchiha in the village and stole his damn eye. Completely unprovoked. Did you just want the coup to happen or something?"
"Of course not," Danzo snapped. "I couldn't help what he was doing when I encountered him. Tell me, if he was really so dead-set on saving the clan and he still had one eye then why didn't he go to Fugaku and get him to stop the coup anyway instead of committing suicide?"
"Are you even serious right now?" Tobirama demanded.
"It's a perfectly reasonable question!"
"It really isn't," Madara said. "And if you've got me and Tobirama on the same side of an issue you just know that you're wrong. It doesn't even matter what the issue is. You're just wrong."
"Maybe he was too traumatized," Obito said. "Maybe he was afraid that if Fugaku saw the missing eye he wouldn't be able to get him to stop the coup and it would make the situation worse. He did pretend he crushed his eyes when he gave the remaining one to Itachi. Maybe he didn't think that he'd be able to succeed after all if clearly the leaders in Konoha were willing to randomly attack him and steal his eyes when he was on their side. It doesn't even matter. Stop blaming the victim."
"It always was Hiruzen's biggest flaw," Tobirama said, sighing. "Forget letting Orochimaru go or his many, many screw-ups involving Naruto. Clearly it was refusing to punish Danzo for his blatant acts of treason that was the real problem."
"I was never treasonous!" Danzo argued.
"You may not have ever been charged with treason, no," Tobirama said. "But if nothing else you tried to assassinate a Hokage."
"And everyone was worried he'd target Tsunade as well when she was in her coma," Obito added.
"As much as I would seriously like to blame everything on Tobirama, I'm just so overwhelmed by Danzo's actions that I move that we conclude everything bad that happened was ultimately his fault," Madara said. "And I'm not just saying that so I don't get the blame."
"I do, too," Obito said. "And I'm also not just saying that so it won't be my fault."
"I agree as well," Tobirama said reluctantly. "Though I still don't know why I was even in the running."
Danzo glared at him. "I see how it is. Fine. Blame me. A shinobi's duty is self-sacrifice after all."
Tobirama groaned. "No. Just…no. You don't to make being called out on all the crap you've pulled a study in nobility and quiet heroism."
Danzo said nothing, just sat there looking quietly noble.
"Why were we even talking about this anyway?" Obito wondered.
Madara shrugged. "It's a long afterlife. I suggest the next order of business be trying to figure out why Naruto never actually responded in any way to Hinata's love confession and whether or not he actually even heard her."
"Okay," Tobirama said, nodding. "But after that we need to work out if you or Orochimaru would have been a worst Hokage."
"What about me?" Danzo demanded.
"You had the title for like five minutes and already got everyone to agree not to acknowledge you as the Hokage," Obito said. "Seriously, you won that round. We just have to figure out who gets second."
"Would we actually need to invite Orochimaru for that discussion?" Madara asked.
Tobirama hesitated. "Well, it would be only fair…"
"Fortunately, I've got a lot to say about the topic of Naruto and Hinata," Obito said. "Far, far more than I had just two minutes ago."