Chapter Three: Laceration
A week later, Yui found a hand on her doorstep. She blinked, but it was still there. Taking in a deep breath, Yui gingerly stepped over the hand and went into her hut. After grabbing a ragged cloth, she picked the severed limb and took it inside.
The stump was cauterized, and the hand had already undergone rigor mortis. She didn't have much experience in guessing time since amputation, but by the lack of major decomposition, Yui estimated that less than ten hours had passed. It looked like a man's hand, large and calloused, and it was clenched around a paper. The fingers were bandaged except the ring finger, which had a gold ring with a large, green gemstone.
Her breath caught. Carefully, she pried open the fingers. Yui unfolded the paper, but she couldn't read the writing. Instead of the simple, boxy alphabet she was used to, it was a complicated multitude of symbols that reminded her of Chinese. She tucked the note into her pocket for later and looked back to the hand. She'd have to dispose of it, of course. Keeping severed hands without proper refrigeration was just asking for her clinic to become a disease vector. Yui removed the ring and placed it behind one of her jars. Then, she picked the limb back up.
Yui was in the process of burying it in her garden when Sen returned from his trip to gather herbs. He glanced at the hand and then the hole.
"I don't… I probably shouldn't ask." It had taken a while, but Yui had finally drilled the concept of discretion into her brother's head. Perhaps she should be concerned that Sen was so accepting of her burying limbs, but that was a matter for another time.
With more satisfaction than was probably healthy, Yui kicked the hand into the hole. It'd clearly belonged to the bandit that had terrorized her village, and it removed a weight from her shoulders that Yui didn't realize had existed. She wasn't exactly… glad that he was dead (or at least incapacitated), but she was certainly relieved. No longer would she have to worry about his return.
Yui thought back to the two Uchiha brothers who'd asked about the bandit. It was probably their handiwork, though she wouldn't know for sure until she read the note. The village didn't have too many educated, literate people, but there was one major exception.
Yui tossed the last bit of dirt into the hole and packed it tight. She needed to visit Elder Saburo.
After finishing her errands for the day (and making sure that Sen was actually meditating instead of falling asleep), Yui visited the village scribe.
"Healer Yui," he greeted, opening the door. "What brings this pleasure?"
She bowed. "Elder Saburo. I've a favor to ask."
He welcomed her inside and gestured to a mat by a low table. He offered her tea, which she declined. Once they were both settled, Saburo cleared his throat and spoke.
"I admit that I'm quite curious. What is this favor you speak of?"
Yui pulled out the piece of paper and handed it to him. "I can't read it," she admitted. "Can you? Is it in a different language?"
The scribe examined it. "Yes, I can read it, and no, it isn't a different language. It is a different alphabet, though." He hummed. "I've rarely seen it since my time in the city."
"A different alphabet?"
"Yes. There are technically three for our language. There's the one you know, hiragana. It's the most common form of writing. Then, there's kanji. Each syllable can represent both a concept and a sound. We actually borrowed it from the Land of Iron centuries ago." He tapped the letter. "That's what this is written in. It's a more formal writing system preferred by the upper classes."
The elder rubbed his fingers on the paper and brought it close to his face. "The parchment is of fine quality, and the handwriting is quite nice, too. It's not beautiful, but it's clear and stark… almost elegant in its simplicity. Who gave this to you?"
Yui didn't reply, instead looking down at the table. She didn't need to worry about HIPAA violations, but old habits died hard, and privacy was another issue she firmly believed in—especially that of her patients.
The elder coughed. "Forgive me for rambling. I've talked about everything but the actual contents. Let me read it aloud for you." He cleared his throat again. "Literally, it says, 'The debt has been paid in full.' However, there is a second meaning. The symbols refer to an old saying: to kill two birds with one stone." Saburo squinted. "Wait, there's something else written at the bottom. It says… 'Keep the knife.'"
"I see. Thank you," she said slowly. She'd suspected as much, but it was now clear that the hand had been from Madara. When he'd said 'alternate forms of payment', she hadn't expected that. Yui wondered if the two brothers would return, and if they did, would they continue to pay her in limbs? She certainly hoped not.
"Is there anything else you need, Yui?" Saburo's question brought her back to reality.
She nodded. "Yes. Elder, will you teach me to read the other alphabets?" Yui had considered herself literate enough in this language… before she'd learned the existence of two other alphabets. It was a bit humiliating to have to ask others to read for her.
"Of course, but I have a condition of my own."
Yui was taken aback. The elder, despite his age, was in good health. And surely he had to know that she'd treat him regardless of any favor. Still, she waited for him to continue.
"Take my grandson as your apprentice," he said. "Unlike my granddaughter, he's taken no interest in scribing, but he's in need of a profession. Even worse, he's been enamoured with the idea of becoming a soldier."
"You think I'll convince him?"
"He respects you a great deal. He always has, ever since you fixed his arm all those years ago." Saburo sighed. "Even if he refuses, I'll still teach you… but I'd appreciate it greatly if you made an effort."
Yui considered it. With spring in full swing, it would be nice to have another hand around. (She privately winced at her phrasing.) Even with Sen, business had increased dramatically, perhaps more than two people could comfortably handle.
"Alright," she agreed. "I'll ask."
The more Yui thought about it, the more she warmed up to the idea. With another student to share the load, Yui could focus on the issues that had long been pushed to the side, from distilling penicillin to studying chakra to simply writing down what she knew in a proper manual. Yui could actually plan for the future instead of simply reacting to what came.
She smiled. It would be nice to have ambitions again.
Eiji, the scribe's grandson, was surprisingly eager to accept the offer to be her apprentice. Sen was happy to have someone to share the workload, but Yui privately thought he was a little jealous of the divided attention. The two boys had already been friends, but now their relationship took on a slight, competitive edge.
She didn't mind that. Sen threw himself into studies even more, and Eiji was just as eager to catch up. As Yui expected, with two boys helping, things ran a little smoother. Sure, it was a little more work to teach two people, but the payoff was worth it.
Along with the practical, hands-on style that her old teacher had used, Yui also lectured the two boys. Not just about herbs, of course, but some of the more technical, scientific knowledge she remembered from her last life. Cells, germ theory, and so on. It was during one of these same lectures that Yui noticed Eiji writing down everything she said in a little bounded book. She trailed off, suddenly hit with an idea.
"Can I see that?" she asked Eiji.
Startled, he looked down at the pages and back up. "The book?"
He handed it to her, and Yui flipped through the pages, impressed. The handwriting was neat, the information was nicely organized, and there were even detailed, accurate drawings of various plants and bodyparts.
Yui did have her own notes on medicine, but they were haphazard ones written in both languages she knew. (She couldn't use just one; she didn't know the equivalent terminology half the time for either science or chakra.) But Yui was learning how to write properly, and she might as well put it to good use. What if she made a little medical primer? Not necessarily a textbook like Gray's Anatomy, but something more accessible, more colloquial. Something that emphasized cleanliness and proper habits, explained simple tools like a stethoscope, and so on. She knew merchants who dealt in parchment and literature. Perhaps...
"Oh, sorry." Yui handed the book back to him and continued with her lecture. First, she had to teach her students. She could complete that thought, pursue that idea, another time.
Yui opened the door to see Hashirama standing there with a smile and a small brown pouch. She hadn't seen him in a couple weeks, but he looked just as cheerful as she remembered.
"Yui-san!" he greeted. "How are you doing?"
"Fine." She gave a small smile of her own as she gestured for him to come inside.
Hashirama abruptly stopped when he saw the inside of her house, and his eyes darting from the scarf-less walls to scuff marks on the floor. Finally, he turned to her and stared at her cheek. She touched it self-consciously. It had mostly healed, but there was a shiny pink scar where the man had struck her. Hopefully, it would fade in time.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice soft and gentle even as a strange static filled the air. Hashirama reached out with his hand but stopped, letting it rest by his side instead.
"Bandits. Rounin. They... made a mess." The understatement rang loudly in the room. She glanced at him, oddly nervous. His eyes were darker than she'd ever seen.
"Is that so?" His voice was still soft, but it had a deeper undercurrent that gave her pause.
"It got taken care of," she said.
He sighed. "I'm glad." Then, just as quickly, he perked up. "How? And by who?"
Yui thought about Madara and his brother as well as the angry way they'd spoken about a Hashirama. She wasn't sure if they were talking about the man in front of her, but it was a rather odd coincidence. The Senju and Uchiha didn't get along regardless; was it that general animosity, or was some sort of personal enmity between the two?
No matter the answer, it was none of her business.
"It got taken care of," she repeated, quiet but unyielding.
He looked at her for a moment, thoughtful and slow. For a second, Yui thought he'd continue asking. Instead, Hashirama dropped the subject and held out the pouch, his face returning to its usual cheer.
"This is for you!" His smile was surprisingly bashful.
Yui stared at him, confusion present in raise of her eyebrows. "What? Why?"
"Can't I give a friend a gift?" said Hashirama almost cheekily, just borderline enough that Yui couldn't tell if he was being serious.
She raised her eyebrows higher. "You can. But is that why you did it? Or is there something else?"
He blinked at her with false innocence and pressed a hand to his chest. "Alas, how can you cast such suspicion on me? Can't I deign to be kind to a noble person such as yourself?"
Despite herself, Yui chuckled at his overdrawn theatrics. "I like to know what I'm getting into," she said, amused. "How do I know that I'm not signing my soul away in exchange?"
She was mostly teasing, but Yui wasn't immune to the conventions of this world. Gifts suggested obligation, and she didn't want to be beholden, even if it was to Hashirama—someone who'd been nothing but kind to her.
"It's nothing that dramatic, sadly," said Hashirama with a grin. "It's just a couple of seeds from the Senju garden." He opened up the pouch and them in his hand, pointing at a shiny black seed. "This one's comfrey, but it's been specially bred to have no needles. It's still a pain reliever that's great for topical use, and it's an ambient chakra absorber, too, so it's even more effective."
He then pointed at a wrinkled, golden-browned seed. "This is yellowcress. It's great for getting rid of coughs really quickly! It's also another that we specifically bred, so like the comfrey, it passively absorbs chakra." Hashirama paused, giving her a look that seemed almost anxious. "Sorry, I think I might be rambling a bit..."
"You're not rambling enough," she grumbled, mind whirling with a hundred questions. Yui stepped closer, examining the seeds in his palm. "Wait, plants can get... chakra?" Despite her apparent use of it in the salves, she wasn't familiar with what it was or anything about it, really.
"Well," he said, smiling brighter, "all living things create and use chakra, but only a few can store it. Humans are one of them, but some plants and animals can do it also."
She gave a slow nod, still absolutely uncertain as to where and what chakra originated from. Was it like ATP? Was it just magic with no rational laws? "Will it mess with the chakra I put into the salves?"
"Hm, I'm not sure, perhaps—" He stopped suddenly. "Oh right, you make these really great tinctures with chakra! My clansmen were telling me about them." Hashirama almost bounced in place but abruptly became almost formal, looking at her through long lashes. "Would you mind showing me?"
Yui suddenly realized that they'd gotten completely off-topic. "I don't mind." Before he could say anything, she continued, "If you tell me why you brought the seeds."
He looked at her for a long moment. "I was thinking about what you said earlier... about helping people because you can." Hashirama turned away slightly, his face profiled against the sunshine streaming from the window. Despite the light, he seemed rather melancholy. "Ninja don't do that. They don't try to make the world better. At least, they aren't supposed to. So I thought I'd help someone who was."
She nodded slowly. "Ninja like their secrets," she said, pointing out the obvious. "And from what you say, these are special seeds. Won't your clan be upset?"
He smiled. It seemed to be his default response, regardless of how he felt. "They'd have to know about it to be upset."
"You went behind their backs? I thought ninja valued family the most." Yui didn't hide her surprise. After all, it was Hashirama who'd told her that.
"I did, and we still do... It's just, everything is so… I'm going about this backwards, aren't I?" He sighed, collected his thoughts, and continued. "The Senju have the best healers in the world. There are only one-or-two shinobi clans with a better grasp of chakra-healing and medicine, and none of them are as large or have as many resources as us. What we know, what we could do, it could save so many lives!"
Yui waited for him to continue. Hashirama spoke like someone who'd held it all in, just waiting for the opportunity to speak—but once given it, didn't know what say.
His short laugh sounded almost bitter. "We don't, of course. Ninja would never give up an advantage. But it's not just that. I'm not sure how to say this… it's just that, well... healing people is a short-term solution." He blinked and shook his head quickly. "No, no, I didn't mean that it's bad to help people. It's just that without addressing the cause, it—"
"It might help, but it won't fix the problem," she said with a nod. Like bailing a leaking boat with a cup, or putting a bandaid over a missing limb.
"Exactly! If we gathered all our resources and knowledge, and not just for medicine but for anything…" he trailed off, looking almost frustrated. "I don't know if I'm even making any sense."
"You are." Yui stepped closer to him, eyes wide with excitement. Even after so long in this world, she missed the ease of access to information that her old one had—the universal acknowledgement that some knowledge should be shared for the greater good. If Yui knew the words, she could talk for hours about the propagation and resulting growth of knowledge. "The more people know about something, the more they can improve it. Medicine that only one person knows, a technique that lives and dies with one person, is useless. Some things shouldn't be secrets."
"Yes," he breathed out. "If people could just put aside their differences, we could do so much more. We could be so much stronger."
She held her hand out. "Come with me to the shed."
Hashirama blinked. "W-What?" he said, sounding flustered.
"The salve you asked about." She smiled at him. "I'm going to teach you how to make it."
Yui made all her medicine in the shed to avoid contamination. All the shelves were neatly labeled, with ingredients on one side and the finished products on the other. (She was pleased to see that Sen had washed all the bowls before running off to meet with his definitely-not-a-girlfriend.) Yui began with the same salve that old Anzu had demonstrated all those years ago—the neem and turmeric paste. She explained the properties of each herb and the every step of the process. Hashimara simply listened intently, occasionally asking a question for clarity.
"And this," she said, finished with the initial paste, "is when the chakra is mixed in."
Yui slowly added the green sparks of chakra to the first batch, folding them into the mix with a spatula, like one would do with dough. Hashirama leaned over with interest, his long hair almost brushing against the sides of the bowl.
"Put your hair up," Yui scolded.
"Ah, sorry!" Sheepishly, he gathered his hair in a loose ponytail before realizing he had nothing to tie it with. Hashirama gave her a helpless look.
With a sigh, Yui pulled off the leather strip around her wrist. She didn't have any elastic hair ties, but she continued her last life's habit of keeping a spare. Yui held it out to him. Hashirama took it with a cheerful "thanks!" before attempting to tie it with one hand. After a few attempts, he finally succeeded, but half of his hair was hanging loose.
"Let me," she murmured, stepping closer.
Hesitant, Yui looked at him for permission. Ninja were rather touchy about… well, being touched. Hashirama nodded, and she moved behind him. Carefully, she pulled his hair together. He went completely still under her touch. With a bit of envy, Yui noted that his hair was soft and silky, completely unlike her coarse locks. She tied his hair and stepped back, feeling rather pleased. Hashirama looked different like that, she noted. Sharper, somehow, without curtain of hair framing his face.
"Thank you," he said again with a smile that was almost bashful.
Yui waved her hand dismissively before returning to the bowl. "Continue?"
She resumed her chakra infusion. Hashirama had closed his eyes, but his furrowed brow suggested that he was intensely concentrating on… something. Once the mixture had been saturated with chakra, she stopped.
Immediately, Hashirama opened his eye. "I've never felt someone use chakra like that before," he said, peering at the salve. "Could I touch it?"
Yui scooped some with a spoon and handed it to him. He rubbed the mix between his fingers and made a noise of surprise.
"This is a mix of Yin and Yang chakra," he said. "Most healing ninjutsu strictly uses one or the other, but the way you infused it into the mixture makes it more stable than most like it. How long does it last?"
"It depends on the mixture, though the chakra usually stays for three months or so before it loses strength."
"Interesting!" Hashirama's grin was full of excitement. "Most of the salves the Senju use have more chakra, but they barely last for a week. Sure, the ones with chakra-absorbing plants last a little longer, but even they don't stay for three whole months."
That was interesting but not entirely surprising. Now that she thought about it, she didn't treat many Senju compared to, say, Uchiha or other ninja clans. The few Senju clan members that she did run into tended to have very severe or recent injuries. If they had competent healers, then it was no wonder they preferred to be treated within their clan.
"Want to try making it?" Yui asked, scooping the second batch of neem and turmeric paste into a bowl.
"I'd love to." He raised his hand over the bowl and glanced back at her. "So I just… add chakra to it? Like those sparks?"
Hashirama took a deep breath. the heavy charge of chakra filled the air, followed by a blinding flash of green light and a loud, wet splatter. Yui blinked the white spots from her eyes and stared. The paste had exploded, covering the table, floor—and Hashirama. He stood there shell-shocked as turmeric and neem salve slowly dripped from his cheek.
She blinked, brushing off the paste that had gotten on her neck. "Are… you alright?"
He nodded slowly, stared at the empty bowl, and stuttered out, "I-I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to—"
Yui began to laugh. The sight of Hashirama, standing there forlorn and stunned, was just so funny that she had to lean against the wall for support. She laughed helplessly, and every time she thought she'd gotten herself under control, Yui would glance at his face and burst into laughter again. He joined her, covering his bright-red face with his green hands as he shook with laughter. Finally, she wiped the tears from her eyes as the last few laughs escaped.
"Sorry about the mess," he said, still red.
"It's fine. It won't take long to clean up." She chuckled to herself as she grabbed a rag. "You haven't done this before, huh? Or is the Senju clan's method this… explosive?"
"No, I'm pretty sure we don't do it like that." He joined her, and they began to clean the shed. "You're right, though. I haven't made medicine before," he admitted. "I usually just use the healing jutsu."
There was that odd term again. "So all Senju don't learn medical techniques?" It seemed like it'd be a good idea to teach soldiers how to fix themselves up.
Hashirama gave a wry smile. "It's reserved for women."
She raised an eyebrow at him. While it was true that many village healers tended to be women, it was considered to be a respectable job for either gender. No one had blinked twice at her picking Sen or Eiji to be her apprentices. Apparently, the Senju clan didn't feel the same way.
"But I wanted to learn, so I did." This time, his laugh was grim rather than carefree. "Father wasn't happy."
A world of dull, old anger seemed to be packed into those three words. Her only experience with the man had been when she'd healed Hashirama's brother; he'd seemed like any other desperate father, but ten minutes wasn't enough to judge a man's character.
Quietly, she returned the topic to less sensitive grounds. "If you didn't learn how to make medicine, then what techniques did you learn? What's the… healing jutsu you mentioned earlier?"
It worked. He grinned at her and pulled out a kunai. "It'd be easier to show you."
Yui narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing?" She watched with horror as he made a shallow cut along the top of his hand. "Are you crazy?" she demanded, looking around for a bandage. "Why would you just—"
"Watch this." Hashirama placed his other hand over his injury, and a soft, green glow emanated from it. Then, the skin instantly knitted back together, and it was like he'd never been cut in the first place. She looked blankly at it for several moments.
"Yui?" he asked, looking a little concerned at her silence.
"What the fuck?" she said finally.
Yui grabbed his hands and stared at them intently, rubbing her fingers over the callouses and old scars on his palm as if they would turn green again. Then, she touched the area that was supposed to be injured… but it was completely unblemished. She added a few more choice curse words and expressions that she'd picked up from farmers and merchants and who-knows-where, combining them into one colorful string of expletives.
Yui knew that ninja could do incredible things. She'd seen them disappear and move faster than the eye could follow. A few had even shown her some neat parlor tricks, like summoning a flame or sticking objects to their hands. But they were all things that could be explained away—small magic, like the kind she did with salves and tinctures.
This, though… this instant healing was just so beyond the pale that it was the dreams of science-fiction, the idea that it could just immediately be fixed with a snap of the fingers…
Yui was so used to comparing her old world with this world and being disappointed. The technology was barely in the industrial era, and even that was only in the major cities. The culture was strictly hierarchical, martial, and rooted in tradition and superstition, often to the detriment of women and the lower classes. This world had no antibiotics, blood transfusions, advanced surgical techniques, or anything else that were hallmarks of modern medicine.
She had dedicated both lives to the pursuit of that last one. Slowly, she had made progress working with limits of the human body and this world. Yui had even accepted the role of chakra in her medicine, appreciating its increased efficacy. And now, to see something from this world that defied all her knowledge of medicine, that broke the limitations of the human body, that surpassed any technique she had ever known from her last life—it was world-shattering.
Hashirama was staring at her, wide-eyed. Yui let go of his hands but continued to glare. "How did you do that?"
"I'll need a fish, or something smaller," he mused, saying what sounded like a complete non sequitur. He grinned, cheeky as he parroted her words. "Want me to teach you how?"
Yui sat at the table, exhausted and head pounding. Trying do the magic healing that Hashirama had shown her was utterly exhausting. He'd shown her the simplest healing exercise, but Yui still had failed. She hadn't used chakra in any way besides putting it in the salves or tinctures, so it had been like flying a plane after only ever riding a bike. She was intensely grateful for her sister Ume sending some lunch. Yui didn't think she'd be able to move, let alone cook. At the same time, though, she picked at the rice with chopsticks, feeling hungry but too tired to eat.
Sen was scowling at her while an anxious Eiji glanced between the two siblings.
"What did you do? What happened?" demanded Sen. "We were only gone for like three hours!"
She sighed, massaging her temples. "Later," said Yui, voice hoarse. "Sen, can you infuse the rest of the neem and turmeric paste with chakra?"
"Didn't you say that you were going to finish that today?"
"I… something came up. Can you and Eiji handle it?"
"I'm not very good at the chakra thing," Eiji mumbled.
She closed her eyes and rested her head on the table. "I"m sure you both can handle it."
The sound of a scraping chair suggested that Sen had gotten up. Yui, though, kept her eyes closed. She would just rest her head for a minute… and before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
The next month passed as routine, but two more items were added to her list: Yui worked on trying the new chakra exercise that Hashirama had shown her, and she roped Eiji's help in writing and illustrating the primer. While with the former she'd made little progress, Yui completed the latter in less time than she'd expected. This was probably because she'd already written it down in one way or another, so the real issue was with compiling it together.
Toshihiro, a paper merchant, came through the village about once every three months. He and his guards were rarely injured, though; instead, he was one of the many merchants who simply bought her medicines or used the village as a rest point. Toshihiro was a dramatic person, with brightly colored clothes and the flowing accent of the capital, and he was also a bit forward.
"Oh, Yui-san!" he said, bowing with a flourish. "It has been too long since I have seen your shining face. How my heart has longed for you!"
He, of course, ignored the apprentice present: Sen seemed nearly murderous, but he stayed quiet, knowing better than to interrupt a conversation with a client.
His four guards shifted, also clearly uncomfortable. They all looked young and inexperienced: two were samurai, judging from the armor, sword, and hair, but the other two seemed to be ninja. The red fang tattoos on their cheeks and the giant dogs at their side gave them a fierce, savage appearance in direct contrast to their polished samurai counterparts. It seemed like an odd combination to her, but Toshihiro had always been a man with too much money and not enough good taste.
Yui politely nodded. "Toshihiro-san." She looked at the guards. "Need anything?"
They shook their heads and refused politely, though one of the shaggy dogs let out a plaintive whine.
"Shut it," muttered one of the ninja. The dog let out a low bark before settling down.
She looked back to Toshihiro, who was still waxing poetic about the "gleam of her dirt-brown eyes" and "limp, wooden hair."
"Toshihiro-san, I have a business proposition for you."
He stopped abruptly. "Oh? Have you decided to accept my declarations of love?"
"Business proposition," she stressed.
"Business? In that case," Toshihiro pulled out what seemed to be an actual ink pen from his pouch, "take this token from me, though it pales in comparison to my feelings! It was first made in Lightning Country, and now you can own it for just half the price! Just for you. Unlike a brush—"
"How difficult would it be to publish a book?" she interrupted, though the idea of owning a real pen was admittedly tempting.
That threw him off guard. "Well… with the printing press, it's easy to make copies. To gain access to a press, however, you'd need a sponsor or someone with connections. Why do you ask? Is there something you need a copy of?"
"I want to publish something I wrote."
The merchant let out a short, sharp laugh. "A book? You?" He opened his mouth once, closed it, and resumed his flattering tone. "My dear, you have wit and beauty beyond compare, but a book…"
Yui handed him a copy of the primer. She'd agonized over it, rewriting it twice before getting help from both the old scribe and Eiji. It was simple but clear, with helpful tips on herbal medicine, how to make a basic stethoscope as well as the most important rule she followed—basic sanitation. Clean medical instruments, boil water, and of course, washing hands. Simply doing so before eating and after defecating could cut the incidence of diarrhea and similar diseases by half. (But putting this information out there wouldn't guarantee that people would listen; the first doctor to suggest washing hand in between surgeries had been ridiculed and shunned until his death. Still, Yui had to try.)
Toshihiro took the booklet with an amused grin and began flipping through it. His smile faded, and his eyes instead gleamed with something shrewd.
"It's a little rough and unedited. The pictures are a nice addition, admittedly," he said, closing it. "It has potential, but I might have difficulty finding a sponsor. If—and I stress that it's unlikely—if I find someone… it could perhaps be sold. I doubt it'd sell well, but it could be sold. Now, on the off chance that I do find a sponsor, I'd take, say… seventy percent of the profit minus whatever the sponsor asks. What say you?"
She haggled with him over his cut but only half-heartedly. Considering that she already lived comfortably, Yui didn't really care about the profits; she just didn't want to be ripped off. After discussing the details more in depth, including the actual cut of the hypothetical sponsor, they agreed on two-thirds for him and one-third for her of the remaining profit.
"Excellent. That's settled, then."
"Shouldn't we sign a contract? Yui asked pointedly.
"Ah… if you wish." He looked not even a little regretful. Yui had no doubt that he'd have neglected it entirely had she not brought it up. Toshihiro pulled out a long strip of parchment and a brush with inkwell. His new ink pen, she noted with amusement, was nowhere to be seen.
With a sigh, Toshihiro pulled out a second one and wrote down three lines on each paper. "Are you satisfied?" With a smug smirk, he belatedly added, "my dear. I can read it out loud to you if you so desire."
Yui took a copy and read it carefully, looking for any loophole, but found it to be surprisingly straightforward. His handwriting was as flowery as his speech and far more elegant.
She looked up. "Sen, come here." She glanced to the men in the back and gave a polite smile. "Shinobi-san and Samurai-san, could you witness this contract as well?"
The two Inuzuka exchanged startled looks, but after some silent decision making, the taller one stepped forward, his long-furred hound following after. The samurai were much more unanimous. Immediately, the one with the red sash around his waist walked to the table.
The merchant frowned briefly but said, "What a wonderful idea!" With something that was almost a sigh, he added another line to each scroll stating "witnesses."
Yui signed first, taking the ink brush and writing her name in small, neat letters at the bottom with the simple script she was most familiar. Toshihiro signed after, taking out his fancy pen and adding large, elaborate flourishes. He tucked the pen back into his pocket and gestured for his two guards to use the ink brush. In the more complicated alphabet (sans the ornamental flourishes of his boss), the samurai wrote his name carefully, while the ninja dipped his thumb into the ink and pressed it onto the page. Finally, Sen wrote his name in wide, sloppy strokes, seemingly taking his anger out on the brush.
"Are you satisfied?" Toshihiro said with just a hint of irritation.
She smiled. "Actually, about that pen…"
Yui watched Eiji practice his suturing skills on a banana peel when there was a sudden gust of air from the now-opened door. She hurried over to it and checked to see if anyone was outside. No one. It couldn't have done so of its own accord, and it wasn't windy enough.
Frowning, Yui turned around and nearly jumped out of her skin at the sight of Madara standing casually in the back. Eiji was more vocal, yelping and throwing the banana at the intruder. It landed a few feet in front of the ninja, who barely gave it a disdainful look. He raised an arched eyebrow and turned his coal-black gaze to her student.
"Eiji-kun," she said, eyeing Madara with slight disapproval, "could you join Sen in the shed?"
The boy gave her a nervous look. Unlike her brother, he had absolutely no experience with ninja. "A-Ah, alright, sensei." Ducking his head, Eiji rushed out.
Yui made sure both doors were closed, flipping the sign to "closed" as she usually did when treating ninja. They really were unhealthily paranoid at times. (Then again, perhaps it was the right amount of paranoid. She wouldn't know.)
"You didn't have to scare him."
"Oh, I think I did." He smirked back at her, smugness radiating from his languid posture.
She shook her head and bent down to pick up the banana peel. "Don't do that."
Madara made a noncommittal sound as he prowled around the room, oddly reminding her of the feral cat that lounged in her garden. "Perhaps." He paused when he noticed the knife he'd given to her on a side table. "Healer," he said, still smirking, "have you made much use of it?"
"Of course," she reassured him. "It's very sharp and works excellent for surgeries. Thanks for that."
"I see." Perhaps it was just her imagination, but Madara seemed a little taken aback by her answer. Just as quickly, he resumed his haughty mask as he inspected her home. Despite his grace, Yui couldn't help but notice the way he favored his right leg, always standing in a way that put all his weight on the other. She waited for him to announce why he'd arrived, but he remained silent.
"Did you need something?" she asked as he toyed with the glass beads that Tsubaki had once given her.
"Hm?" He looked up as if he'd forgotten her presence. "Oh, right. Could I purchase more of that salve from you?"
Yui nodded. She pulled two jars of the antibacterial salve from the cupboard and two more containers of the pain-relieving ointment. These ones were actually the first batch that used the special chakra-plants that Hashirama had given her. They were much more potent than the medicine made with just chakra.
"Excellent." Madara placed a bag of coins on the table, pulling open the draw strings so that she could see the mix of copper and silver coins inside.
"This is too much," Yui protested.
His scoff was entirely derisive. "Do not undervalue your own work. It's insulting to both parties involved."
With a sigh, she conceded the point and took the bag. "How is your brother?" Yui asked politely. Izuna hadn't come in for a follow-up, so she assumed that he'd done well.
"Doing well," he conceded with something resembling manners. "The medicine was more than adequate and decreased his recovery time."
"Good." She stepped closer. "And you?"
Madara's eyes narrowed slightly. "What do you mean?"
"Do you need healing?"
He chuckled. "Of course not."
As Yui had noticed earlier, Madara was still favoring his right leg. Even of the ninja that came into her clinic expressively for treatment, many were rather cagey and evasive about their injuries. It surprised her not at all that Madara might be the same. Now that she thought about it, many of those same ninja tended to be Uchiha. Yui only occasionally got Senju, but on the contrary, she treated Uchiha rather frequently. Did they not have healers like Hashirama's clan did?
"Your pant leg," she said. "Could you lift it for me?"
"What?" His voice was quiet and sharp as a knife's edge, and chakra-pressure filled the air.
"Show me your right leg." She stood resolute, her pure exasperation clashing against his stony expression.
"Do you really think you can demand anything from me?" Perhaps it was her imagination, but his eyes seemed to flicker with red.
Yui breathed through the tense atmosphere and continued, feeling more annoyed than scared this time around. "This is my job. I treated your clansmen and brother. You pay me for salves. Let me treat you."
His gaze drifted to the side, and his glower deepened at such unnecessary affront and indignity—Gods, she'd asked him to show her his leg, not take off his pants.
"Fine." Madara abruptly sat down. Reaching down, he rolled up his pant to his knee. Yui knelt down him and grimaced. His shin was black with bruising. The swelling present wasn't indicative of a broken bone, but it sure looked painful.
"I'm going to put some numbing cream before bandaging it. Do you want pain medicine?"
With a fearsome scowl, he shook his head. Yui decided not to push her luck. She thought back to Hashirama's healing technique and wished she could just magically make the bruise go away. Unfortunately, Yui hadn't yet been successful, so she'd have to do it the normal way: After washing her hands, she began to administer the medicine. Yui was surprised at how warm Madara's skin was.
"Do you have a fever?"
Madara looked at her. "No," he said after a pause.
"Perhaps I should check—"
"No." The dark edge of finality in his voice made her flinch back, but Yui continued to bandage his leg like nothing had happened.
Once she finished, she looked up hesitantly. His pale skin was just a tad flushed and feverish. "I… would you like me to also pack some cold medicine?"
He closed his eyes. "If it will get you to shut up."
Yui didn't sigh, but it was a close thing. She added a container of willow bark and yellowcress tincture to the collection of four jars. "I've included a small cup with the medicine. Drink one full cup a day until the cold gets better."
"Fine," he said curtly, gathering the different medicine into a sack.
"And stay off the leg," added Yui.
"That's not an option."
She sighed. "At the very least, be careful with it."
He scoffed in return. Then, after mumbling something that sounded oddly enough like "thank you," Madara left.
"Next time, knock," she called out after his retreating form.
The door slammed shut. Madara probably hadn't heard her, and even if he had, he wouldn't have listened. Yui shook her head. Ninja could be such a pain.
AN: Again, thank you so much for your support, for all the favorites, follows, and reviews. As I said earlier, I'm horrible at predicting scene length. Sometimes, the dialogue and characters run away with me. Thus, I've decided to stop worrying about the number of chapters. It might be six chapters, it might be eleven, but that won't matter. I'll write until I've completed my outline. Rest assured, I'll do my best not to bloat it. In fact, I've trimmed down some extraneous subplots so I can focus on the ones that matter. If, at anytime, you are unsatisfied with the direction of the story, please let me know. I always appreciate criticism.
Another post has been made on the tumblr blog about the time period, technology and characters. Also, I've stuck to pretty much the same approach as before when it comes to pairings; I'll keep writing and see what develops. As before, if you feel like there's chemistry between any characters, do tell. I'll definitely take it into consideration. Of course, romance will never be the focus. (Perhaps I should set up a poll...)
Special thanks to Enbi, Iaso, Monster Cat Music Girl, and Riv for looking over the chapter. Their help was invaluable, and they're all great writers themselves. And thank you all for your continued support! It definitely gave me the encouragement to finish this chapter in a month instead of my usual year.