Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or it's characters. I don't own my soul either, but that's a story for another time.
I guess I should say, just so you won't be confused, that his happens before Madara was the leader of the Uchiha. I also might eventually change the genre. Also, I hate the summary :3
"And there never was an apple, in Adam's opinion, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it."
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet – "Good Omens"
"The frontier" The man had said "The place where boys become men, where the blood of our enemies rain, the place where I'm sending you and your brother. Only true heroes can protect the borders of our clan's territory."
The frontier, huh? The most dangerous place a shinobi of the Uchiha could be sent to? Even more dangerous than the Land of Earth, where they were currently fighting against the Senju?
He would kill Takehiko.
They were sent to the frontier, alright. They had spent a night in an inn in the nearest village. The place smelled like straw, their rooms like piss and their beds like manure. Fine. When the sun rose from behind the mountains, they went to a forest, to where the Uchiha's land finished in the north in front of a deep ravine. There were already three others there. They told them about the hardships of protecting the borders. Not what they were expecting, really. At least not what he had been expecting, for as soon as the other ninja said they hadn't seen an enemy every since they got there, his brother snickered and said "I told you".
Like their leader said, it rained – quite frequently, actually - , but not blood, especially not of their enemies. The only thing that had fallen from the sky in the two weeks in which Madara and Izuna had been there was water.
Sadly, though, Takehiko had been mistaken in his first statement. Unless being a man meant being stinky, cold, hungry and very angry, Madara didn't think he was having much success.
The oldest brother had openly said he didn't want to spend more time with the three other Uchiha than he had to, thus he and Izuna moved to somewhere else, finding a spot where they could see the deep ravine, then all the valley down below: 'none's land '. It was far too open to anyone plan a surprise attack to their territory. Not only that, climbing all the way up there would be too bothersome. That scenery was impractical, and he couldn't imagine what sort of general would put their troops in such a place when they'd be easily spotted out and killed. All the more he suspected Takehiko had just been mocking him, and all the more he wanted to strangle the man.
It was the beginning of their fifteenth day in those woods, and Izuna was putting their soaked clothes in a wooden structure he had built with green branches above the bonfire to dry faster, while Madara sat down, playing with a rock, throwing it to the ground, picking it up, and throwing it again.
"You know" the youngest suddenly said "You could help with something. I mean, just once in a while."
He grimaced but stood up. He wasn't having fun anyway.
"I'm going to get some food." Izuna merely nodded without even turning to him.
Madara put on his belt, that he had left tied to a tree, and grabbed his shoulder bag and war fan. He doubted he'd need his weapons in that place, but he liked to have his belongings with him all the time.
From where he and his brother had settled in, he knew how to get to the path that would take them back to the village and he had some money to buy them decent food, but maybe he should keep that for when they were traveling back to the stronghold. He could go to the places they usually went to get food, but he was already fed up (not literally) from all the small fruits and seeds, and one of those three morons scouting the frontier even convinced him to eat some kind of moss and it tasted horrible. He wanted something else; meat in particular… he couldn't even remember the taste of that anymore.
Madara decided he'd explore a little and see if he could find something else to eat. If he got lost he just had to walk to east until he found the cliff and follow it back to the camp.
The musky smell of the woods was suddenly replaced with the tender scent of fruits. He felt as if his feet moved on their own as they changed their original route and lead him to a large field, were apple trees sprouted from the ground.
Penetrating the orchard, he noted how appetizing the fruits looked, but one in particular lured him. It was just there, floating above him, as if its tremendous height wasn't a sign of defiance. He could even hear the apple laughing at his face.
Madara raised his arm and tried to grab the snack, but it was still far from him. He wasn't short, but the apple was hung so high up the tree he couldn't reach, not even when he stood on his toes. He growled, as if the poor fruit had decided to grow on that particular spot, just to anger him. He could very well have gone to look for another thing to eat, but that little apple hurt his ego. It was so far up, yet it had the brightest shade of red he had ever seen, and he had to have it. He would have it.
Jumping, and hoping none was there to watch him make a fool of himself because of a fruit, he felt his fingers brushing against the soft peel. Finally he lost all the little patience he had, pulled his sword from its sheath and cut the twig that held the apple, quickly catching it.
He took a moment to admire the main dish of his breakfast, as if he had just conquered a treasure and wanted to bask in it before spending everything.
Just then, something came humming in his direction and hit him square in the face. With a scowl, the young man looked down and his dark eyes met another apple – a much less attractive than the one he was currently grasping.
"Stay away from the apples!"
He looked up to see his attacker. It was a girl, a kid about Izuna's age, with black unruly hair tied in a sloppy ponytail, plain looking clothing that was clearly too big for her, and a frown just as deep as his. By her feet lied wooden buckets filled with apples.
"Do you think those grow in trees?" She yelled, but corrected herself quickly, after she noticed the smirk that surged on his face "I mean – do you think they don't take effort to grow? Those apples make for our living, so if you are thinking you're just going to come here and steal them, then think again!"
The ninja raised an eyebrow and his hand at the same time, showing what he was holding.
"It's a fruit." The nonchalant tone of his voice changed to that of mockery "You surely wouldn't deny a starveling man a single fruit?" He wouldn't admit, but he'd put up a fight if the girl tried to get it from him. It meant so much more than a treat to him; it was the memento of his victory over the stubborn apple – as ridiculous as that sounded.
"If I let everyone who walked in here go out with an apple we'd be stripped from them in a day!" Once again she stumbled on her own words and quickly shook her head "Not in a day, but… You know what I mean!"
With an innocent blink of eyes, Madara brought the fruit closer to his mouth.
"Don't." She warned in a serious tone.
The apple approached his lips with excruciating slowness, but he didn't take his gaze from the girl, who seemed to widen her eyes and rise on her toes with every millimeter of distance that was shortened. It wasn't a mere fray because of food on his part – although he was hungry. It wasn't just fighting for money for her – yet, selling apples was everything her father and her could do to make a living. To both of them, it had become a battle for their prides, and the very first hit was struck by him.
With a swift movement, Madara took out a bite of the apple.
"Hmmmm…" He chewed, smiling and closing his eyes "That's the best apple I've ever had."
Words were not enough to describe that scene. In the girl's mind it was simply obscene. With a horrified expression, she watched him take another big morsel, until she decided to take a measure. Swinging the bucket by her feet in her hands, thus making all the apples fall to the ground, the girl jumped in his direction.
He was rather surprised with her actions, and also with the fact that she seemed to have a minimum of taijutsu experience. Obviously, she did not compare to him, even cogitating such thing was an enormous affront. Maybe she'd be able to defeat an ordinary bandit, but no ninja would find her a threat. He found her attempts to hit him funny, even cute, as if she were a small child. They reminded him of his brother, when he was much, much, much younger.
Grinning, he blocked her punch with his left arm (the one that held the apple), and grabbed her wrist with his free hand when she tried to hit his head with the bucket. The girl tried to kick him, but he was faster and pushed her leg away with his own. She let out a yelp when he turned her around, twisting her arm and pinning it to her back, but he quickly shoved her forward, and she stumbled, trying to keep her balance.
"Don't tell me that it's all you've got! But, my, you looked so strong at a first glance!"
Angered – and it showed on her now red face – the girl launched the empty bucket, but he dodged it without trouble and she yelled in frustration.
"What's going on?" A soft, yet clearly masculine voice called from behind the trees, and both turned on that direction.
"Father…!" The girl half yelled half sighed in relief, and ran to the man who had just walked into their field of vision "He… He stole an apple!"
She was clinging to the sleeve of her father's shirt, jumping up and down and pointing at the boy frenetically.
The farmer smiled kindly at his daughter and looked at him. He was tall and bonny, with very thin black hair that greatly contrasted with the dark mane the other two had. There was also something about his eyes that made Madara… slightly worried, but he'd never say that out loud.
"Are you fighting?" The man asked with a same small smile "In the frontier, I mean."
"Yes." He answered dryly, feeling as if he was lying. What he was doing couldn't be called fighting (unless the occasional arguments with Izuna counted) and he wasn't feeling like he was doing anything useful to the clan.
"Why didn't you let him have the apples, then?" This time, the farmer turned at the girl who was still tugging to his clothing "You know I told you to be nice to the ninja. They're protecting us. The least we could do is giving them food."
"B-but…" the girl whined "Father! He hurt me!"
"And I assume you did nothing to provoke him first?" She blushed and retreated, staring at her feet, while Madara just smirked.
"But at the same time" The man proceeded, this time talking to him again "it's not something you'll want to tell your companions. Hurting a girl does not denote courage, if you ask me."
He frowned, but inwardly had to agree. Fighting her would do him no good. She was not even remotely close to his level, and besides, they were on the same side.
"My name is Katsuro." He introduced himself politely "And my stubborn daughter is Ringo."
"Ringo?" The youngest man snickered, and the girl shot him a dirty look "Well, that's creative…"
"And you?" Katsuro asked
For a moment, he hesitated, but realizing he had nothing to fear, uttered his name.
The expression on the peasants' faces changed in a flash. Ringo looked back at him with her jaw dropped, and the man, while not nearly as astonished as the girl, still showed surprise by his arched eyebrows.
"So you've heard of me?" He asked. It wasn't really that shocking; his fame began growing exponentially after he had defeated one of the highest ranking squads of the Obake clan all by himself, and - dared he say - he was as well known by the Uchiha as that bastard Hashirama was by the Senju.
"Of course" Katsuro replied in a careful tone, and Madara mentally praised himself for intimidating the man "Everyone has… And we are very thankful for what you've been doing…" He moved his hands in an ample gesture "…for all of us"
He wasn't really sure as how to reply, so he settled with a curt nod of his head.
"You must be hungry." The farmer stated "And tired. Would you like to come in?" At that, the girl made a high-pitched noise, but her father seemed to ignore "If there is anything we can do to help…"
"I just came here to get something for me and my brother to eat" He replied.
"Well, then!" Katsuro's smile only widened "Bring him too! You can't live just on apples. We'd be happy to get you both something better to eat."
At this point, Ringo had already given up and walked away talking to herself angrily, but Madara didn't pay her any mind. The only thing he cared about right now was what the man said.
Something to eat. Something better to eat. Good food was one of the things he missed about being away from the clan compound, along with a bed to sleep on and regular baths. He was so tired of sleeping on the hard forest ground, with only dead leaves to work as a mattress; he couldn't stand the taste of berries and nuts anymore; and just now he noticed he didn't smell of roses either.
With the new promise of food, he sent all the mistrust to the air and returned a smirk.
"Our house is just on the other side of the field. It's the only one, there's no way you could mistake it." Once again, he just nodded, his mind too filled with images of warm dishes to pay attention "We'll be waiting for you, Madara-sama."
Even if his eyes gave him mixed feelings, the man seemed to be aware that if he tried anything funny, his head would be rolling before he could count to three. Madara liked people who knew their places and people who gave him food, so Katsuro was doing quite well on his concept.
No more words were needed: Madara gave the apple another bite and turned to the other direction, running towards the same place he had come from. The longer he took to get to Izuna, the later he'd get to eat.
'Madara-sama' He thought to himself with a smirk 'I like how it sounds…'
1 – Izuna isn't really "a child". Personally, I pictured him being two-three years Madara's junior, but that's just how Maddie sees him.
2 – Ringo means "apple". Hur hur hur /trollface
3 – If you're curious, here's Ringo: ht tp:/metal-amaya. deviantart. com/ art/ Ringo-282004592 (just remove the spaces, 'kay?)