Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I just like to crush souls and write tangents.
Warning: This story is the longest I've ever written and the least read over. So there are bound to spelling and grammar mistakes out the wazoo. If you see any particularly annoying ones point them out and I'll fix them.
Harry understood war.
Harry understood it better than perhaps any person alive. He knew the ins and the outs of it. The good and the bad parts of it. He had lead soldiers into battle and he had been a soldier just following orders in it. He had huddled in the trenches and stood at the command table. He had planned out battle strategies with the best of them and watched as those strategies self destruct in the fray. He had been the civilian on the sidelines. The medic trying to heal the wounds of the dying. The rush of adrenaline going into a battle and the fall from exhaustion after one were old friends to him. The blood stained grass fields and buildings that were forever scarred by the combat that had taken place there were almost like home to him. He knew intimately the death and destruction a war could cause.
He knew the necessity and the pointlessness of it.
He knew that despite what the propaganda of either side said, there was rarely ever a truly good and a truly bad side.
He had been on a side that had started a war and a side that had defended against it.
So, he was of the opinion that the best kind of war was the one that didn't happen.
He wasn't surprised when Misuo had informed him about a war she thought was brewing on the horizon. He was even less surprised once he left the plentiful security of Konohagakure.
The Land of Fire, as it was called, was a gorgeous place. Never too hot or too cold. Just enough sun and rain to make the sprawling forests that seemed to be everywhere. The animals of the forest had made this place their territory and they protected it fiercely.
Harry was glad to have been far away from the hidden village the first time he had run into one of the oversized creatures that seemed to run rampant about the land. He wouldn't have been able to stop himself from using magic in his defense even if the overly suspicious ninja were around.
He decided then that maybe having ninja in this universe made sense because if that was what a bunny could grow into he would hate to see what a predator could be. So, human's growing into predators of their own that could take down beasts that large, and eventually even cage demons, made sense.
It was rare that Harry was drawn to a universe where humans weren't the dominant species - though it had happened - it was the ability to adapt to different circumstances and thrive that did it. The humans of this world had more than thrived however and it seemed almost as if they were drunk on that power.
Chakra was the lifeblood of this world . . . and it's downfall.
It was enough to make a man almost invincible and given that despite - or perhaps because of - their ability to survive, people were still people.
The greed for power that lingered in every world he visited made this world reek.
The very structure and economy of their society was based on killing, spying on, and manipulating others.
It was no wonder there was a war about to start.
It was no wonder that there had been battles between clans even before there were hidden villages.
Harry supposed that people became dominant because of their ability to survive and use the tools around them to their advantage. It was unfortunate that the tool that had been given to use and abuse was chakra. It reminded Harry of magic and how even the most glorious things can be used for evil means.
Harry had spent most of his long life on Earth trying to make sure that there never was another Voldemort - another him. He destroyed all the knowledge of horcruxes and tracked down those that tried to meddle in magic too dark because the world only needed one insane immortal and he filled that slot. Magic was an easy power to abuse, the rush dark magic gave its users was addicting and oh so nice. Even the kindest soul could be corrupted if given the right temptations.
And despite everything, people were people.
Capable of the greatest deeds and the worst ones.
Harry liked the idea of ninjas - shinobi - more than he actually liked them.
He came to this conclusion after watching two shinobi with slashes through their hitai-ates destroy a small farming village for what little food they had scrounged up to survive the winter.
Harry had been traveling through the Land of Water for almost two weeks when he came across the small village. They were generally the places that Harry most enjoyed staying. There was something about small communities that banded together for the good of all that made him feel better. It was the little things that tended to make the world livable and the fact that small communities like this existed meant that something was still right with the world.
Harry had been there for two days before it happened, the two men strolled into the village like they were just taking a short walk. Neither had packs, but the clothes that had on were mostly clean and soft looking. If it wasn't for the hitai-ates Harry would have pegged them for wealthy youngsters that were looking for entertainment.
Well, they were looking for entertainment, but it was the kind taken out in blood by sadists.
It was the scratch on their headbands that provided the terrible answer to Harry.
Missing-nin, the tiny Misuo encyclopedia in his head provided. They were a relatively new development in the large scheme of things. The villages had just started to gain power and gather clans. They were becoming more defined though and just because Konohagakure was the first didn't mean that it was the going to be the only. So, shinobi running away from the villages was also new. Harry didn't know much beyond that really and people running away from home had never really been something he worried about. Misuo had told him about Konoha shinobi having to track down a few who had gone rogue, but they had never really done damage, just stole some things.
The two walked through the village calmly, seemingly having a conversation in their own little world and ignoring everything around them. Harry barely paid attention to them. The newness of their arrival worn off in ten minutes after they had both left. There never seemed to be any danger.
To his mind it seemed as if these missing shinobi were just like better trained bandits. Two bandits alone couldn't destroy a village of forty, but two shinobi definitely could, as Harry found out that night.
Harry generally didn't sleep in small villages like this. With almost no money to his name and no desire to intrude and consume resources of the village that needed them had lead to him resting outside the village and scrounging for his own food in the evenings.
Harry had never regretted it more that night.
It must have been around midnight when the screams awoke him from sleep.
Harry was used to rude awakenings, but in a place he thought safe it threw him off more than usual. It took him a minute to wake up and by then the screams had stopped. Harry forgot his shoes in the forest, they weren't important. By the time he got to the edge of the forest next to the village he could see the light.
Someone had set fire to at least one of the houses.
Harry had the start of the fire-hose spell on the tip of his tongue the moment he stepped into the village clearing. He was prepared for the emergency of a house on fire with villagers running around trying to save what they could. After all, with everything made of wood, fires weren't so unusual.
He was in no way prepared for the massacre he walked in on and did something that he hadn't done in ten consecutive universes - he froze.
At least twenty bodies were sprawled in the street, some bloodied, some not. One looked half burned, only half because she was missing the bottom half. The familiar stench of burning bodies filled his nostrils, a scent he could never forget no matter how much he wished to never smell it again. Two of the houses were still on fire, another was already a burnt husk. Harry recognized what little there was left of the leader's house in the burnt rubble and felt the sob grow in his throat. The house had been warm and large, the meeting place where all of the adults relaxed after working in the field - it was nothing but charcoal.
A small whimper caught his attention and he was brought back to the present. Two forms stood in the center of the blazing area. One of them was crouched over a couple sacks. He seemed to do something because after a second later they had disappeared and he picked a small scroll off the ground. The other one was standing tall with his head thrown back - laughing - and clutching the throat of someone in his hand.
Harry took a few mindless steps forward, half reacting on instinct and horror.
"Look a' her. Isn't she a beaut' and all min'." Harry was close enough to hear them now, not that he wanted to.
"Ours, you mean." The other growled back.
"O' course. She j'st the right age too." He laughed again and shook the girl and once Harry got close enough to tell exactly who it was he almost threw up.
Biwako was the youngest daughter of the leader, almost eight if he remembered her excited talking correctly. She was covered in soot, but still had a couple flowers braided into her hair from her older sister earlier in the day. She had fallen asleep in the middle of the braiding and had to be carried home by her father much to the enjoyment of the rest of the village.
"She's got a bit of a spark too, she was the only one that got out of the house. It takes some force of chakra to get past my barriers." The scroll holding murder said lightly, proud.
"Na', you just don't even have enough chakra to keep in a littl' girl." The man chuckled nasally. The other seemed disgruntled, but just shrugged it off.
"Well, it kept in the rest of the screaming wimps, didn't it?"
Harry had heard enough. He was aware of what was going on now, and he was furious. He barely had to flick a wrist before the cutting curse ripped through the air and straight into the throat of the scroll holder.
The one holding Biwako didn't even have time to look surprised at his suddenly headless companion before his head joined him on the floor.
Harry didn't waste time and plucked Biwako out of the dead man's hands before she could even touch the ground.
It seemed she too didn't have time to process this because she was still fighting, squirming in his arms.
"Shhhh, it's okay. I've got you now. They are dead. They can't hurt you anymore." That was a kind lie, but exactly what children needed to hear after something like this. "Shhh, shhhh."
It was gradual, but she stopped squirming and then started hiccupping - another childhood response to danger. Harry kept muttering sweet nothings into her ear, there really was nothing else he could do.
He let his magic coat the area, the fires snuffed out in an instant, only burned out structures remained. His magic also coated the bodies, looking for anything, any faint heartbeat or breath sound.
Nothing but silence. The wind softly blowing over coals made of houses and people. The quiet hiccupping sobs of a eight year old who had her entire family and everyone she had ever known stripped away from her in one night, because of scum.
Harry held her close to him, letting the sobs release from her and soaking his shirt. It was a scene he knew better than anyone should.
He was still gently rocking her when she fell asleep crying at sunrise.
The walk back to his camp was slow and quiet and guilt filled. He had only the crunching of twigs beneath his sore and blistered bare feet and the sound of the waking birds' tweets - because they stop for no tragedy - to keep him company. He walked slowly to make sure not to wake the girl, and to make sure that he had enough time to let out his own grief.
Murdered villages were nothing new in his life, but that never stopped him from thinking he could have stopped it.
Once he reached his camp he laid her on top of his bedding and started packing up. He still had to bury bodies and gather what little he could from the burnt houses, but he would need to get on the road today if he wanted to make it to another village by tonight. If he remembered correctly there was another small farming village that traded nearby so he might find someplace safe to drop Biwako off.
The rest of the morning was spent sweating while digging out graves and dead bodies from buildings. The work was just as awful and necessary as it normally was. He debated for awhile while if he wanted to show Biwako the bodies or just the grave stones. He didn't know the names of everyone in the village, but did his best to remember what he could. He buried the three babies next to their mothers and tried to keep the families together as must as possible.
Some of the villagers appeared to have died by smoke inhalation and others by some other means that Harry couldn't place so must have been a jutsu of some sort.
He sat for awhile beside the open graves of the thirty-five bodies and tried not to brood over the fact that the small cemetery they had tripled in capacity in a single night. He was still sitting quietly over the open graves when he heard the sob of Biwako waking up.
"Mommy?" The cry made Harry flinch. "Da..." She cried a little more, seemingly recognizing that it wasn't just a bad dream.
Harry didn't move or say anything. He sat there waiting for her to come to him.
Minutes passed before the crying stifled and sounds of the girl getting out of the bed roll appeared. Harry didn't do anything but sit over the graves. He had meditated earlier in the day and gave a blessing to help the dead move on.
He stayed relaxed as the girl sat down next to him on the ground, still covered in soot from the burning house she had escaped.
The sat a few more minutes in silence before she said anything. "You are the hunter that has been around the last few days aren't you?" The girl spoke softly, but stiffly. Harry mourned for the innocence lost and the darkness that had invaded her once bright brown eyes.
"Yes." The gravelly scratchiness reminded Harry that he hadn't had anything to drink in a few hours.
"Are you one of them?" Harry looked at the girl for the first time take morning in shock. The girl in question was looking away from him at the two wooden pyres he had made for the bandits. They couldn't be buried in the cemetery with the people they had killed and he hadn't been quite sure what to do with them, so the pyres made of broken wood sat waiting for a fire.
"No! Why would you... no, I'm not one of them. I'm not even like them." Harry told her quickly. He was surprised when she snapped her head around to look him straight in the eyes.
"How did you do it then?" Her almost black eyes trying to dissect him. "How did you ki..kill them?" She stumbled over the word, but still spat it out.
Harry's eyes softened. "I know how to defend myself is all and others if it comes to it." He turned back to the graves. "You will never know how sorry I am that I didn't make it in time to save the rest of the village."
They spent the rest of the morning in respectful silence. Biwako helped him name the few of the bodies he hadn't recognized and even helped him shovel dirt, not that he asked she just wanted to help and say goodbye.
They were finishing up the last of the graves, those of the blacksmith and his wife when a large gust of wind blew through the center of town.
With it a masked man stood in the center of the empty village road.
Biwako wasted no time jumping behind Harry and peering out at the man in a stiff terrified manner, which made Harry wonder exactly when she had started looking to him for protection.
The masked man had a hitai-ate with four slanted marks wrapped around his upper arm and a belt sash that held the sheath of a long sword. He took a step towards Harry, but stopped when he noticed that there was a girl behind him cowering.
"Citizen, I am looking for a duo of men that might have passed through this way. They are very dangerous and must be captured for..." The man trailed off as he saw the two pyres to his side and the heads that sat on top of very dead bodies.
"Yes, we've met," Harry gave a grim look to the graves behind him and back to the masked man, "briefly."
The man walked over to the two pyres and stared at the men before he started digging through the clothing of the two men.
"Are you looking for something?" Harry asked casually.
"Yes, they had some classified information they were trying to sell. The would have had a scroll on them that had the information." He seemed disappointed before he turned around. "I need to speak with the leader of this village to see about reparations and the return of the scrolls."
Harry glared for a second at the callous man, but before he could say anything he was interrupted by a small voice.
"That's me." Biwako spoke up softly from behind his legs. The masked man stared in what could only be confusion for a minute before looking to Harry for explanation.
"The last surviving member of this village stands before you." Harry pulled Biwako in front of him. "If you have something to say, it would be to her." The masked man continued to stare, giving Biwako enough time to gather courage and stand up straighter.
"Yeah, if you have something to say then say it to me."
The man composed himself before saying anything. Harry gave him credit when the man knelt on one knee before her an hung his head.
"My apologizes, young leader, it was my duty to find these men before they caused any harm and I have failed. My village is only a day's walk from here and there is free boarding if you need a new place to rest. I ask only for the scrolls that we stolen by these men."
"No." Biwako said stubbornly, much to the confusion and shock of Harry.
"Biwako, what do..."
"I already have a protector and a sensei." Biwako gave a vague wave at Harry behind her.
"Wait, I didn't..."Harry tried to correct her to no avail.
"I will of course return the scrolls that were taken from you if you show me how to open them." Harry looked at her in shock, he wasn't the only one.
"Open them, why?" The still kneeling man asked.
Biwako merely crossed her arms. "These men stole from this village and placed my belongings into one of the scrolls. I will not allow you to take my things and I need to know how to access what is inside them."
The man nodded absentmindedly and stood from his position. " Seems reasonable. You give me the remaining scrolls and I will teach you to open them."
Biwako tapped her finger on her chin in a move that reminded Harry eerily of her father. "You have a deal." She spat in her hand and held it out for the man to shake. Harry smiled lightly at the move. Farmers in the Land of Water had weird traditions about deals. The seemed to think if a deal was shook on by hands containing the fluids of the body then it made an unbreakable bond between partners. It was one of the many little things that Harry loved about his travels, learning about traditions of the places he visited.
The masked man held the girls hand gently and shook.
Biwako still looked a little disgruntled when she raced behind Harry to the pile of scrolls that Harry had lifted from the bodies of the men. She carefully picked out the ones that Harry had told her contained her village's food and wealth. She raced back to the man and held them out.
The man sounded amused when he answered. "Do you know how to draw chakra?"
"A little, we are required to know how for some of the machines and taking care of the animals." She told him succinctly, probably because her father had mentioned it to her many times before.
"Alright then, hold out you hand." Biwako stared at him for another minute before she complied with shaky hands. "I'm going to give you a small cut to your fingertips. Channel your chakra into the cut and then swipe it across the seal on the page, you do the same to seal it back up again. It is all about intent." He swiped her finger with something Harry couldn't see and despite the small gasp that came from Biwako's mouth, Harry didn't think she was hurt, but went over to stand next to her just in case. Because even though he had been made guardian of a child without his consent didn't mean he wanted to lose her.
He arrived by her side just in time to see the pile of food and sacks of treasures appear from the scroll. It still amazed him what chakra could accomplish and how quickly. Biwako looked just as amazed as he did though so as least he wasn't out of place.
"If that is all, I would once again like you invite you to my village, Kirigakure." This he seemed to direct at Harry, who he had probably deduced had killed the runaways.
Harry stiffened. "No, I don't think I'm headed that way." Harry answered mostly because he had no desire to get caught up in shinobi politics and getting interrogated by people trained to kill sounded like a terrible way to spend a weekend. He had no doubt that the man was only asking because he didn't know what kind of skills Harry had that allowed him to kill the deserters. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm headed out of the country."
"What?" Biwako looked up at Harry, breaking out of her amazement of her new skill.
Before Harry had time to answer the masked man distracted them both by grabbing onto the pile of scrolls and tucking them away. He then moved over to the two pyres and without even a word of warning went through a quick motion of hand seals and a fire started. The pyres were still burning brightly and quickly when he turned to give a quick bow to the two of them and then disappeared again.
Harry let out a large breath that he hadn't been fully aware that he was keeping.
"So," Harry turned to Biwako, now standing nervously over her opened scroll, "what is this I hear about you having a protector and sensei?"
She blushed and Harry didn't let the smile show on his face. "I just don't...I can't." She looked up at him with teary eyes - little manipulator that she was. "Please, I want to be trained. I need to..." She looked back at the vacant and burned village. "I can't stay here and I can't go to another village and just pretend nothing happened. I need to get stronger." She looked at the graves. "I need to protect people. I have decided this, and you..." She seemed to gather her courage to look him in the face again. "You protected me, and I want to do the same. So, please, will you take me as your student?" Biwako bowed now, deeply, and Harry just wanted to run a hand over his face in denial.
He didn't know exactly what it was that attracted lost ducklings to him, but despite his better judgment he could never say no.
He gave a deep sigh and then looked down at her. "This is not some adventure that you are asking to go on. If you come with me it will be like nothing you have ever done before. I don't stay in one place long, I move quickly and through rough areas. You may go weeks with a proper baths and by no means will I be kind to you. You want me to be your teacher, yes, I suppose I could do that, but I don't know chakra or justsus like a shinobi would. You don't even know what you are asking me to teach you." He paused for a breath. "You could have it easy, Biwako. There are farming villages all around here who would gladly take you in. You could do anything with your life, even become a shinobi if that's what you truly desire. What I could teach you is not more important than that."
She crossed her arms again, but did seem to be considering his words.
Harry nodded at her and started to pack up his things again. They were a good walk away from the next village, but if they hurried they could reach it by nightfall. Someone would probably be awake there and would open their doors to Biwako.
He was still packing his things when Biwako came up next to him and started helping. He looked at her steadily, waiting for her to say something.
"I know what I want." Biwako choked out. "I...this place..." She wiped a tear from her face angrily and in its place was a stoic one that Harry knew all too well. "I know what I want, sensei. I want to help people. I know you can do that, because you helped me. I...my family would want me to stay safe. I can't think of a place I would be safer than by your side." She said in a very convince eight year old tone that made Harry want to ruffle her hair and tickle her and then force her into a village mother's arms, but Harry knew it wouldn't help. He had seen the same look on Hiruzen's face as he went in to take his genin test.
"Well then, if you are so determined, who am I to try and change your mind." Harry smiled slightly and then stood up. He placed a smaller pack on her shoulders and took the larger one himself. She looked surprised at the sudden move and then stared at the bag suspiciously.
Harry just laughed. "Young Biwwy, I knew what you were going to say before you even started thinking it. The bag is your first step to getting stronger. You best get used to it quickly, because it is going to be your new best friend." Harry smiled and then turned to look at the empty village. "You best say your goodbyes student, we won't be coming back here."
Harry watched as Biwako went over to her families graves, her father the leader of the village, her mother, her older sister and older brothers. She knelt by their headstones and said something that Harry couldn't hear. After a minute she stood up and bounded over to him, a serious look on her face.
"Looks like it's time to go." Harry placed his hand in hers and then started walking down the path to the forest.
"Hey, sensei," Biwako paused, "Um, what's your name again?"
Harry just laughed.
"SENSEI, GET ME DOWN FROM HERE!" Biwako screamed from her upside down position attached to the tree limb. Harry merely smiled at her and continued sharpening his blade. He had gotten the machete like sword from one of the smaller towns in the Land of Iron. Samurai were better at keeping control of their land, but stiffer and not very good company in Harry's opinion.
He didn't spare a look for Biwako's stuck position in the tree. It was one of the many things that Harry had been trying to teach the almost ten year old. A year and a half on the road together made for some very interesting training tools, and really it was her own fault that she fell asleep on watch last night.
"I WILL POSION YOUR FOOD TONIGHT IF YOU DON'T!" She screeched much to Harry's amusement.
"If you want to get down so badly, cut yourself out."
"YOU STOLE MY KUNAI YOU BASTARD!"
"Oh? Did I?" Harry asked with mock sincerity. "I guess you'll just have to find some other way out then."
Biwako glared from her upside down position, but didn't say anything. It wasn't surprising that she was having troubles getting down, it was the point of this punishment. He had tied her hands together in such a way that it was difficult to move them, let alone make hand seals.
He watched in amusement as she curled in on herself to try and search her body for something he had left behind to help her. Harry envied the flexibility of youth.
"Hiruzen would have been out by now." Harry said idly trying to motivate her. It was a tactic he had used many times. For some reason Biwako had been jealous to learn that he had another student before her and was upset to learn that he had started learned earlier than she had. Ever since then Harry had tried to motivate her using the fake Hiruzen. She had never met the real Hiruzen, but still used the image of him as the stepping stone to her skills. Harry was sure that she would never have trained as hard as she did without the made up competition.
"SHUT UP! I'LL GET OUT IF YOU WOULD JUST BE QUIET FOR A SECOND." Harry smiled as she continued to struggle in her bonds more enthusiastically than before.
"Don't go in there." Harry advised ten year old Biwako who was about to walk into a brothel without even knowing it. The city of Kurons in the Land of Wind was known for its loose morals and gambling houses, but was one of the few towns that he had visited in the last six months that didn't look like it was preparing for war.
There were of course more guards at doorways, but not a single house had been boarded up. It made Harry feel normal.
"I don't like this place." Biwako said very decidedly, looking down at one of the scantily clad women.
"I didn't really expect you to." Harry said simply. "Though, it is someplace that we needed to go. You need to learn something here, and there will be someone here who can teach it to you."
"Teach me what? I don't think there is a single thing that I would want to learn from any of these people." She said with a sniff.
Harry sighed, "And that is the problem." She looked up at him confused. "Oh, don't look like that, almost everyone in this world thinks the same way. You look a shinobi as the answer to all of your problems, they are the ones that use chakra to the fullest so they are the only ones that know anything about it. Even you, who learned as a child to channel chakra to help in the fields. Do you think that you are the only one who uses chakra in such small ways?"
She looked at him confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that despite everything I have taught you, you still rely too much on jutsus to get a job done. Chakra is in everything, and therefore it can be manipulated in many different ways. Obvious ways, like jutsus." He glanced at the woman standing nearby and felt the tiny shift in the air. A man who was walking pass turned suddenly as if looking at the woman in a who new light. "Or, in subtle ways."
Biwako looked at the woman with dawning understanding.
"Did she just?"
"Yes, she did. It is a talent that is very specific to this region. I traveled through here once before and I was almost caught in its snare, like many others. It is the reason why this place is so very popular. The women that work in the houses know a small way to draw attention to themselves or away from themselves, by manipulating chakra. The first time I was slightly confused by it and if it can confuse me then in can confuse others. It is important to have many different aces in the sleeve."
Biwako nodded and her face gained a rather serious expression.
"I will learn it as quickly as possible." She sped off in the direction of one of the houses and Harry almost smacked his forehead. The enthusiasm was nice, but most of the time not thought through.
"Pass me the bandage." Harry franticly yelled over the make-shift gurney.
The man only had one eye left.
That was not even the worst of it. A gurgle of blood escaped the wound on the man's chest, a large slash from left shoulder to right hip was glushing blood to the floor.
"MOVE!" Harry yelled at the still shocked student of his. Seemingly frozen in the first few minutes after they had seen the man lying in the middle of the forest bleeding out.
The twelve year old shook her head to unfreeze herself. She opened her well-worn and loved pack in a rush. Almost 4 years on the road together had lead to constantly being prepared for most things so the first thing she pulled out of her bag was a first aid kit.
It had been an instance of Harry's that she carry it with her, even after she had started using healing jutsus. It was a habit from Earth after the first adventure with Hermione and Ron that had never gone away.
He pulled string and a needle roughly from the bag and started in on the man. He lost himself in the familiar movements of drawing string through flesh. He started paying attention to his surroundings just in time to franticly grab Biwako's glowing green hand.
"No! Save it." He told her forcefully. He pushed the hand away from the damaged body of the man.
Biwako just looked at him in blank horror. "What...what do you mean?"
Harry wiped a speck of blood off his cheek and nodded out the door of the rushed tent "There are going to be a pile of bodies out there. Each of them will need more help than we can rightly give. To save the majority we let a few suffer in their place." He looked down at the unconscious man on the table with a sigh. He picked up a large bandage from the bag and placed it over the hole where an eye had once lain. "This man will survive without healing chakra and we cannot waste what little we have." He looked sadly at the table then back out the door of the tent. "You will be glad for our stamina exercises today, you will be using all of the chakra you have."
He motioned for her to help him pick up the man and then placed him on a blanket on the floor of the tent.
"What are we...what do I need to do?" She seemed to gather herself and her courage.
Harry stopped for a moment to look at her, proud of the girl she had grown into. He reached over and placed his bloodied hands on her face. He looked her straight in the eyes and then kissed her forehead.
"We will be searching the forest for whoever is still alive. We bring them back here, regardless of who there are. This is about helping those that need it. We need to be quick and stealthy, don't draw the attention of the fighters. Don't get too close to battles," He paused in his lecture to look her sadly again, "Most of all, stay safe."
"We're losing him." Harry's gruff tone called out from deeper into the tent.
Biwako put down the lightening shinobi hazardously and went to go help, but was stopped by a weak hand clutching her trousers.
"Wh...ho ar.."At this point the shinobi in question started coughing up blood so Biwako placed a hand on his forehead and forced him into sleep. It was quickly becoming her best jutsu just because of all the practice she had with it today.
She wiped her hand on her bloody blouse to clean it up a little and then rushed into the tent - which was much larger than she remembered.
"Don't just stand there, I had to enlarge it to make sure that everyone fit. I also had to throw a notice-me-not over it, we're safe." He said not even looking up from his patient.
Biwako was still amazed every time he did magic in her presence. It was probably the way he was so casual about it, like it was an everyday thing to make the inside of a building larger than the outside - it wasn't. Biwako learned enough about chakra to know that it wasn't possible to do things that Harry did with a flick of his hand.
"I'm here." She told him standing on the other side of the oozing body. She blocked off her nostrils with a bit of chakra to keep the smell of decay from distracting her. "What do you need?"
"I need you to force the severed nerves in his left arm to reconnect." Harry said nonchalantly while forcing the mostly detached arm back onto the body. Harry's hands never glowed while healing people, but sometimes just by being around him people got better. Biwako ignored the thoughts drifting through her head and focused on the task at hand.
She put her hand on the seam between the body and the arm and pushed chakra into it. The reconnecting of nerves didn't take a lot of chakra, but it took an insane amount of control on the chakra that you did have. She mostly ignored the world around her while healing, it was the only way to get the job done. She relied on Harry to make sure nothing hurt her and lost herself in the body of another human.
It was easy to really, once you got used to the full immersion of it. Most people would never really understand the connection of chakra to the body except in a purely theoretical sense.
Healers didn't have that option. They had to know the ins and outs of anybody that they came across. Which first meant speeding a lot of time investigating your own body and then the bodies of others. The first thing that Harry had taught her to do to become a medic was teach her how to place her consciousness inside her chakra, to be able to see and influence exactly what it does. In the months after learning the technique it really seemed as if she spent more time traveling her own body than traveling outside of it.
Placing chakra inside her muscles or really anywhere else she wanted to put it was easy after that.
Then, the next step, putting her chakra in someone else's body to manipulate it - to heal.
There were no shortage of volunteers for practice, because no matter where they went there would always be injuries. The only person she hadn't practiced on had been the person closest to her. Not that she hadn't tried, but no matter how she tried to get into his body, there was always something blocking her.
It was then that she realized just how different her sensei was from the rest of the world. Harry didn't have chakra in his system, not that she could find. Instead, he had something similar, but very different. Chakra was the life force of the world, it was everywhere in all things - all things except Harry. The energy that he had was foreign and when he used it he didn't just manipulate a thing, he changed the very nature of it.
This was perhaps why chakra avoided him so, why she couldn't get near him to figure out how he ticked. Chakra was nature, and Harry was unnatural.
The first time she had ever seen him transfigure something - that's what he called it at least - she had been shocked and slightly sickened. The chakra in wooden cup had been forced to appear to be pillow until it wasn't really chakra anymore. It was only her advanced knowledge of chakra in the world that allowed her to see it. In a horrified tone she had asked if he could do it to her, make her something that was not her. The very idea of it was terrifying. It didn't become any less so when Harry had shrugged and said that he had never tried, but probably could.
She would never get used to the foreign energy that surrounded her sensei, but for some reason it always made her feel safe in its own way.
She pulled her mind back to the task at hand. The small slice of her chakra that was running down the length of the body and the length of the arm, placed inside the nerves and arteries and muscles. Then the tug, the pull to reconnect. Similar chakra wanted to group together and all it took was a tug from her to make it happen.
She didn't know how long she had been standing there.
The tide of the chakra in the body was consuming. There was a beauty in the push and pull of different body chakras. It welcomed her when she was helping it reconnect with itself, but after awhile it thought that it could do a better job than she could and tried to push her out. She had learned long ago to never push the natural inclinations of chakra unless someone was in dire peril. It was easier to go with the flow.
She was swaying lightly, coming back to herself slowly.
"Do...there...rem...nobi..." A man's voice, not familiar.
"I don't...permis...do what..." Another man's voice, very familiar, warm. She latched onto it, trying to follow it back to the real world.
"Ki...people...stop us." The other man sounded angry, he was yelling maybe.
"This is my... I won't allow you to..." Sensei - Harry- he also sounded angry, but more tired really. Unsurprising, he had been working at this longer than she had.
"I don't think you're really in a position to argue...We have your..." They had his what? Someone was threatening sensei, that couldn't be allowed, not after all that he had done for her. He had saved her that night. She could never repay him, but she would protect the kind man with everything she had. He was kind to everyone he met, no matter their station or nationality. She respected him more than anyone she had ever met. She had to protect him from these men... if only she could focus.
"I'm warning you once to let her go. I've healed all those that have come across my path, I will not allow you to kill my patients..." Wait, let who go? There was a hostage? Her rage was sudden and fierce. She had carried these mean all across the forest to this tent, like hell she would let anyone of them die on her watch. Hostage - she needed to save.
She forced her body to reconnect to her mind, rougher that usual - rushed.
She gasped a little and then - the world shifted. A man's hand was on her arm, a blade on her throat - lightly pressed - not doing damage. A presences behind her, arms free to move quickly if she needed to. She must had been floating in the chakra for a long time to not have noticed this. They didn't think she was dangerous, that was plainly obvious - and very mistaken. Biwako had been training with Harry for four years, she knew what she was doing.
The tips of her index and middle finger tucked into the belt at her waist. She pulled a kunai from the pocket with the least amount of movement possible. She didn't open her eyes, but carefully released chakra into her surroundings to get a feel of her surroundings.
Madam Juiknama had been a harsh mistress while teaching her the chakra manipulation of Kurons. She had never been more glad for the lessons though.
All it took was a slight manipulation of the chakra around her, to make people stop paying attention to her. It was similar to what Harry referred to as a notice-me-not charm, Biwako had thought it appropriate.
She gripped her kunai tighter, and then opened her eyes.
The tent was the same as it had been when she started on the patient, it looked full, but with enough space between patients to get to people quickly. Most of the injured shinobi were unconscious still. Half of the shinobi had the mark of Kumogakure, the village hidden in clouds, lightening shinobi, the other half had a swirly leaf design, Konohagakure, the village hidden in the tree leaves, shinobi of the Land of Fire.
As far as she could tell it was the Kumo shinobi that were causing the problem. The man holding onto her was still bandaged down his arm as far as she could tell, which meant that he had woken up and reacted badly to being surrounded by enemies. This flashed by with one important piece of information - his arm was weak.
She wasted no more time. She pushed the blade off her neck and in a flurry reversed the grip he had on her arm. A bend the wrong way to force him to release his weapon. Using the body against itself - the first thing Harry had taught her.
It all happened so fast and before the Kumo shinobi could do anything Biwako's hand was on the back of his neck. Biwako grimaced at the tug on her chakra as she put the man to sleep again, she was starting to run low. She let the man fall to the ground limp once she was sure he was unconscious.
She rubbed her arm absentmindedly, it must have been bruised by the man's grip. She was still grimacing as she looked up at her sensei.
There was a man laying on the bed near the down, Harry was standing over him with a small proud smile on his face looking at her. She nodded to him with a smile and then looked to the man he was protecting.
It only took a glimpse of red armor plating and a very distinctive family symbol for her eyes to widen in horror.
She franticly bowed low to the ground, despite never having seen the man before she knew exactly who he was, "Hokage-sama."
The man had a large swath of bandages across his chest, most of them dyed blood red much to her horror.
"Biwako, come meet the Hokage." Harry waved at her casually, like it was an everyday thing to meet the leader of a shinobi village - though knowing her sensei like she did, maybe he did. She moved closer tentatively, not wanting to disturb the powerful man. Harry just smiled at her and dragged her over once she was in range. "Hashirama-sama, this is my student Biwako."
"Hari-san, Biwako-chan, it is a pleasure to meet you."
Biwako didn't know what to say, couldn't say anything really. In fact, she was pretty sure she had forgotten how to speak. She gave a little nod and then focused her attention on something other than his face, because looking at that was definitely a bad idea. She focused on something easier, something that wouldn't freak her out - the large chest wound.
"Hashirama-sama, how is your day going?" Harry asked like they were taking a casual stroll, not in the middle of a medic tent off a battle.
The Hokage gave a laughing coughing that immediately endeared him to her. "I've been better, Hary-san. How has your day been?"
"Oh, you know, the usual." Harry moved to the other side of the make shift table to give the man some air. Biwako got a better look at the wound on his chest and gasped in horror. Something had cleaved his chest almost in half, it was a surprise that he was even still alive, let alone joking. "Biwako, I'm going to need you to stabilize..."
"No! No, you shouldn't. Save yourself for someone who can actually survive. There are many more that are more deserving than I."
"Hokage-sama, kindly shut up and let us do our jobs. No one is going to die today on my watch." Harry almost growled as he bent over the powerful shinobi's chest.
The Hokage grabbed Harry's hand in some sort of effort to stop him. "Hari-san, I am serious. My shinobi are more important than I. My brother is more than capable of taking over my post and Mito..." He coughed again and sadness crept into his eyes. "There is honor to dying in battle."
"That's an honor I'm afraid you will have to miss out on." Harry said very seriously. He then reached over and placed one of Biwako's hands on the Hokage's forehead. Biwako knew what he wanted, but didn't really want to comply. Who was she to be putting shinobi leader's to sleep? Nevertheless, she followed Harry's order. The light green escaped from her hand and immediately the man relaxed.
Harry sighed and then pushed his hair back, "I need you to stabilize him while I work. Make sure he doesn't die, keep the blood moving and the heart beating. If you can do that than I can take care of the rest." He said that like it wasn't the hardest thing he had ever asked of her.
"Sensei, I don't know if I can. This is..."
"I know it's a tough job, and I know exactly who it is I'm asking you to work on. We are the only ones here Biwako, the only ones capable of this. So, we will do it. Do you understand?" Biwako looked at Harry's serious face and hardened her resolve. "Gather yourself, we will need all of the concentration you have to survive this night."
Biwako nodded and looked to the body in front of her. This wasn't the Hokage, this was a dying man who needed her help and she was fully prepared to give it.
She placed her hand on his chest, pushed chakra into it, and then she was gone.
Harry placed the sleeping child onto the bed outside of the tent. She deserved a good rest after the past few days. Hashirama had been one of the hardest patients he had ever had and at times it even seemed as if he was meant to die, but Harry didn't abide that thought.
It was his duty to change the fate of a world and that included saving people that were meant to die.
It had been a slight game of his to see if he could think of the things that he had changed just by being around. People's entire lives could change because of single instances. He could save people from death, but even just teaching them something they hadn't known before could be possibly life atlering.
Harry didn't know if saving Hashirama changed anything, maybe he was always meant to have been saved and even if Harry hadn't found him then maybe someone else might have. Of course, it did make him feel better to feel wanted. He had saved a lot of people today, people that would have died. It gave him a rush of satisfaction like nothing else.
He pulled the blanket over Biwako's body and then walked back in the tent. The patients were in two rows on each side of the tent. One side had those from Kumo, the other side had those from Konoha - including Hashirama. After the hostage situation Harry had put up some more obvious wards. Those from one village would not be able to see or interact with those from the other.
He sighed a little as he walked the rows between the patients. Almost thirty bodies from two villages. People that were so convicted of their own ideals that they were willing to give everything to the competition of those goals.
Something didn't feel right about this. No matter how he thought about it, something about these ongoing skirmishes between villages was wrong. It wasn't full out war yet, but that didn't mean people weren't dying. As far as he could tell there wasn't any real reason for them to be fighting except that it was all they had ever done before.
Harry had spent almost six years on the road now, Hiruzen would be fourteen now, he thought sadly. Biwako would like him, Harry was sure. Well, would have liked him as a child. Harry had no idea what that smiling young boy had turned into after all these years in service to the village.
Harry went from patient to patient making sure that all of them would survive the night. It wasn't that hard to place monitoring spells on the men, but it made him feel more secure if he checked all of them personally. He smiled at the two men than Biwako had healed completely by herself. It was weird to think that a 12 year old had saved lives, but this was a completely world from the one that he had grown up in.
Harry settled in to a seat next to Hashirama. He was by far the patient that needed the most attention, which meant that either Harry or Biwako constantly kept watch over him. He sighed again and leaned back trying to relax his tense muscles.
"Rough day, Hari-san?" Harry jumped and looked at Hashirama in shock.
"You are not supposed to be up yet." Harry told him seriously. He bent over the man and started checking bandages. "Are you in any pain?"
"Much less than I should be. I told you not to save me." Hashirama stared him down seriously. "Thank you for ignoring me."
Harry nodded in understanding. "Your village needs you. You are the creator of Konoha, you aren't allowed to go out in a blaze of glory. Maybe this is something that you shinobi need to learn, leaders don't go into battles, not unless they absolutely have to. It is the duty of a leader to survive every battle, it is their jobs to pull everyone together afterwards. It is unfortunate that the only people that really want to be leaders are self-sacrificing idiots." Pot calling the kettle black, really. Harry sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. He like Hashirama, but the man had almost died today in a small skirmish that he never should have been in.
"Hari-san, why are you doing this?" Harry looked at the man to see him looking at the beds around him.
"I like saving people, Hokage-sama, it's a character flaw." He answered with a grief filled smile, it was the entire reason he was in this mess to begin with.
"I don't think so. I own you my life, Hari-san. I am in your debt."
Harry laughed, what was he going to do with someone's debt? "You want to do something for me, Hashirama-sama? Get yourself better bodyguards."
The shinobi smiled at him a little and then leaned back to relax. "Thank you." He sighed.
"Hashirama-sama, who did this to you?" Harry pointed to his chest.
"An old friend I am afraid." He looked grief-stricken as he admitted it. "I am beginning to think he is the cause of all my resent troubles."
"Madara Uchiha?" Harry asked, remembering the name from Misuo's ranting.
Hashirama nodded sadly. "Madara-san was a close friend for awhile, but he became obsessed with power. He blinded his brother in his quest for power and still can't let it go. I did my best to save him, but he never wanted my help. His paranoia made him see everyone around him as an enemy." Hashirama looked away from Harry towards the ceiling of the tent. "I cannot help someone who doesn't want to help themselves, and I fear the worse. I fear his insanity has taken over his common sense and he will draw the villages into a war."
"Is that why you sent the tailed beasts to the other villages?" Harry asked sincerely. It was one of the worst kept secrets in the shinobi world. Hashirama had spread the tailed beasts through the other powerful shinobi villages, at the time Harry hadn't understood, but he was starting to get it. "You thought if they felt secure in their own power you could prevent war."
"Mito, chose the life of a prison for herself. I will never forgive myself for forcing that life on others that don't chose it, but I had to think of my village above all." The man was old in terms of shinobi years, but was only actually 29 years old, not even middle aged in Earth's terms. In those moments, however, he looked ancient.
Harry sat back in his chair and sighed. "Tell me truthfully Hokage-sama, do you really think that Madara is the only one to blame?"
Hasirama's face turned away from him. "As much as I would love to blame Madara for all my recent troubles, no, he is not the only one at fault for the oncoming war. The clans used to have battles all of the time when they were feeling stronger or weaker than before. It is in a shinobi's mindset to kill those of threat to him. The villages are simply thinking on a larger scale. Madara might be an excuse, but there is not a single Kage who wasn't already thinking of it. The tailed beasts were a delay tactic really, but perhaps the wrong sort." He rubbed his eyes. "My only consolation is that they won't be able to use that power in the oncoming war."
Harry scowled. "They are thinking long-term, not this war, but the next."
"Next?" Hashirama gave a morbid laugh. "That's assuming we all survive this one. Shinobi haven't worked together on this large of a scale before there is just a big of a chance of wiping out your allies as your enemies."
"Don't start doubting the ingenuity of people Hokage-sama, if there is one thing that they are good at it is surviving against all odds. As I'm sure your friend Madara has taught you." Harry told him. "You shinobi are very good at slipping away right at the cusp of death, as I am sure you are now aware." Harry said pointedly to the man who had just survived his own brush with death.
"I just want peace Hari-san, for all villages. I fear that I have only caused more violence in my life. Maybe creating the village was a bad idea, it stopped clan wars and started even worse ones." The man sounded despondent. "Even the clans in the village still doesn't work together. The Hyuga and the Uchiha are sticking in their own districts, never even touching the village as a whole. The Nara, Akimichi, and Yamanaka have been the closest allies even before the village and still they almost never let the rest of the village see them in action. Was I mistaken in the belief that we could work together, too caught up in my own ideals to see the world for what it is. How was I ever so stupid to believe that shinobi could learn to trust anyone?" The man ranted.
Harry listened silently, he had no advice to give this dejected man.
"Even my own clan, Senju, have started thinking themselves better than the rest of the village merely because of me and Tobirama. I never wanted this. How can we possibly fight a war when we are all so divided?" He stopped for a breath.
Harry let the silence rest for a second before responding. "You have more to bargain with that you might first assume."
"What?" Hashirama looked at him in confusion.
"You want your clans joined then you must do something about it. I will not lie, war is a good enough binder of men as anything, so is the loss of a leader..." Harry looked pointedly at him again. Showing that he had seen through some of the Senju's reasoning for trying to die. He was not so ignorant as to ignore the Senju clan's renown healing abilities - that Hashirama hadn't even tried to use to stall his own death."But it is not the sort of bindings that you really want. All of the trenches between your clans can be mended and a war is not necessary for any of it. The bonds made between men fighting on the same side of a war can be some of the most binding and long lasting, but you have already said yourself that they don't trust each other. War bonds are caustic, made between individuals and not clans. After the war is over there is no guarantee that the clans will continue to work together well. You have an opportunity to change the nature of your clans, to change the village for the better." Harry looked at him in the eyes. "Tell me this, why are you declaring Tobirama-sama as your successor?"
Hashirama looked taken aback. "I...He is my brother. I know how powerful he is, how worthy of the position. The people like him, just like they do me. He is the most reasonable choice."
"Is he the strongest after you in the village?" Harry asked seriously.
"Well...yes, I think so." He paused in thought. "Maybe the Uchiha clan head, or the Hyuga could beat him in a battle every once and a while, but it would depend on the settings."
"So you admit to two of your clans having acceptable replacements for Hokage, and yet you choice your own brother. Why?"
"I just...Uchiha-sama and Hyuga-sama are strong shinobi, but they are too clan focused. They would only be looking out for their own clans good, not the good of the village. Uchiha and Hyuga are too isolated they don't interact with civilians or other clans." The man looked saddened by this. "The Hokage needs to put the village before everything and I can't be sure that the clan leaders would..."
"That's the problem then. For all your complaining about the clan leaders being isolationist and not connecting with the village it is you who is holding them back. Take the Uchihas, you keep judging the family on the flaws of one man. They chose you didn't they? Despite the fact that Madara had lead them many years as head of the clan, they chose you over him for Hokage. That has to mean something and yet you can only see them through the lens Madara put over your eyes." Harry looked at him seriously. This might not exactly be the problem, but if he could help this one village than maybe he could help others. "It is you who is at fault here Hashirama-sama. You are treating this village like it is your clan, and you are putting in your place as Hokage your clan heir."
"That's not true, Hiruzen..." The Hokage look bewildered.
"Oh, so the boy you are training to take over your position, who you would have adopted into your own family if Sasuke-san hadn't been a model shinobi in his own right." Harry said seriously. "Your flaw is that you can't see past your own family. It was apt for you to try and make the rest of the clans part of your family, but you see everyone that tries to keep their distinctive history to themselves as somehow at fault. The clans joined you, Hashirama-sama, and yet you don't seem to trust them. Maybe it is you that is at fault for your current clan troubles." Hashirama was in stunned silence. Harry shrugged. "Well, what do I know."
He stood up and stretched.
"What do you suppose I do then?" The defensive voice asked.
"I don't know, Hashirama-sama, that is up to you, but I would do something fast. I have been traveling for many years now Hokage-sama, and do you want to know what I see?" Harry asked seriously.
"Discontent." Harry tightened the bandages on one of the Konoha shinobi. "Discontent breeds ill-will. There are not many people happy with this change in circumstance. Bandits and other criminals could get away with much during clan times, but now there is something there wasn't before. The hidden villages provide protection to the small villages everywhere, and yet right now they only seem to want to have a pissing contest with each other. The civilians aren't happy which makes the daimyo not happy which conversely makes the shinobi not happy. You need to make peace with the other villages, say you aren't looking for a fight." Harry told him seriously. "People are scared of the hidden villages, they don't know what to expect. There have only ever been clans lightly spread around and now there are armies of people that can do unnatural things running across their homes like it is nothing. People have seen nothing good come from the changes the hidden villages have created, just more murder and mayhem."
"I cannot change the minds of men so easily as you might have assumed. I am still one man." Hashirama spoke seriously.
"The people like you Hashirama-sama, that is not the case of all the Kage out there. Which means that you have a chance now to do something with that good will. Even the other Kage respect you." Harry paused at the noise from outside, but then continued. "You have the power to change things, Hashirama-sama, and the responsibility to use that power. That is why I saved you, because of all the people that can spot the war, you are the only one I believe truly could."
"You are mistaken." Hashirama saddened at the words. "It is inevitable. The Kage of the other villages want it to happen, so it will. One person cannot stop a war."
Harry couldn't contain the snort that escaped him. If that were true than he wouldn't even be here right now.
"You aren't even trying."
"There are advantages to war."
"Then you are with them? You want war?" Harry said with a raised eyebrow, setting himself in front of the door of the tent.
Hashirama didn't answer.
"Well, it is set then. If you don't want it to stop, then that's what you will have." Spoke Harry's monotone voice.
"You are trying to simplify it too much."
"It is simple." Harry didn't look back at the man. "Either you want war and you let it happen, or you don't want war and you do something to stop it." Harry didn't move as the flap to the ten opened. "It seems as though our conversation is over unfortunately, Hashirama-sama. I believe your fellow shinobi are here."
The white haired man that entered the tent was more than familiar to Harry.
"Hari-san, it has been awhile since I have seen you."
"Tobirama-sama, is your loyal team around?" Harry asked with a smile.
"Yes, they're wandering around somewhere. Ahh.." He seemed to spot his brother behind Harry because within the next few seconds he was standing right next to him.
"I'll leave you to it, I'm sure you have some things to talk about." Harry smiled at the picture the two brothers made then exited the tent.
He was greeted by the amusing sight of his apprentice glaring at a much taller Hiruzen. The girl was holding a kunai in her hand and had placed herself in a fighting stance.
"Put that away before you hurt yourself." Hiruzen was fourteen years old, and had a new accessory. The chunin vest still looked a little big on his frame, but he seemed used to it. He dug a finger into his ear - relaxed.
"Don't ignore me! I am more than capable of protecting sensei."
Hiruzen looked the twelve-year old up and down, then snorted. "I'd like to see you try."
As Biwako growled Harry decided it was time for him to show himself to the teens. "Monkey, stop annoying my apprentice." Harry smiled as Hiruzen snapped out of his relaxed stance and whipped to him in surprise.
"Hari..." Harry could barely keep track of him and within two seconds the boy was crashing into him.
"Hiruzen-kun, it's good to see you too." Harry smiled at the boy as his arms encircled his waist.
"Yes, that is me." Harry gave the boy a quick squeeze and then pushed him away. "Let me look at you. Ahh, what's this?" Harry pulled up on the shoulder of his vest.
Hiruzen blushed slightly, but smiled brightly. "Okaasan misses you."
"I miss Misuo too. How is everyone?"
"Danzo made chunin a year after me and my team. Otousan has been on many missions recently."
"You haven't?" Harry asked the boy amused. Hiruzen blushed.
"I have been out of the village many times for missions, but not as many as some. Tobirama-sensei and Hashirama-sama have been keeping me busy training though." The boy's eyes darkened at this. "How is Hashirama-sama?"
Harry grimaced. "He wasn't in good shape last night, but thanks to Biwako he should heal up nicely. I do worry that he won't fully heal though. He might never be able to go back on active duty." Harry glanced at the tent. "Might be for the best though. I've never been of the opinion that the leader should be in the field."
"Ah, you've already met her. Biwako!" Harry waved to the girl over one shoulder. The twelve year old appeared by his side in a second still glaring at her rival.
"This is your apprentice?" He looked her up and down again. "Doesn't look like much."
Harry laughed. "Neither did you the first time we met, and yet here you are with a chunin vest looking like you could take on the world without sweat."
"That's mostly thanks to Koharu and Homura. I would never have gotten this far without them." Hiruzen said without pause. "They are patrolling to make sure that the area is clear."
"An important job." Harry nodded at Hiruzen.
Hiruzen looked at the tent and then back to Harry.
"Will you come back to the village with us?" Hiruzen asked softly.
Tobirama exited the tent with a exasperated look on his face. Harry grimace again, "I'm sorry, monkey, I don't think so."
"Hiruzen, summon you monkeys we need some help getting these people back to Konoha." Tobirama almost shouted at him.
Hiruzen gave a confused and saddened look to Harry and a nod to Biwako before running off to his sensei.
Harry looked after him dismayed, but shook it off. Hiruzen's sensei had to be the most important person to him, he understood that. He looked down at Biwako who was staring at Hiruzen in a confused manner.
"You like him?"
Biwako snapped to him in shock. "What? NO! Of course not." She glanced back to him. "I just might not hate him, is all."
Harry smiled down at her.
"Did you hear? The Hokage is stepping down to let his brother fill his shoes." The men were sitting at the bar gossiping to each other. Harry was eavesdropping from a few seats away.
It had been almost two years since the last time he had seen Hashirama. Something from their conversation must have stuck because despite all indicators to the contrary no war had started between the hidden villages, at least no obvious ones. No matter how much the shinobi might protest otherwise their fights were always fairly obvious - well, the aftermath told a good story.
"After all that politicking it was about time." His bar companion grumbled. "They took so long just dancing around the announcement. First it was Uchiha, then Hyuga, then Nara, back the Senju, Hyuga again, I mean seriously."
"I hear it was put to a vote in the village. All the shinobi of Konohagakure got together and voted." The man shuddered.
"Better hope the Tsuchikage doesn't hear you. He would be furious if anyone implied that he might need to step down to a more youthful shinobi. That old man is as stubborn as a rock. If anyone suggested the next Kage be put to a vote him would grind them into dust." The two Iwagakure residents laughed.
Harry had arrived in Iwa with Biwako about a week ago. They had spent most of the week in the hospital helping out. Biwako was turning into a very skilled medic and defender under Harry's tutelage. The fourteen year old currently sat across from him moaning into a glass of sake.
"Sensei, everything hurts." She let her head thump on the table beside her.
"Good, it means you are learning."
"I don't think so. I think it means you are really good at torture."
Harry smiled down at her aching form. "That too I suppose."
"...Madara acting up again." Harry immediately tuned into their conversation again at the name.
"Shut up, we can't talk about that here."
"Bah, it's just a civilian bar, no one is going to know what we are talking about or even listen in. Besides I want to hear your opinion on this."
"On what?" The other man was leaning into the first now. Despite his refusal he was just as interested in Madara as the first one.
"So apparently he came into town a few days back to talk to the Tsuchikage." The man gasped.
"To say what?"
"Warn him, some say, others say to threaten him. Last time he visited was a couple years back, but ever since the Hokage distanced himself from Madara the man has been treated as kind of a joke or a pariah." The first man took a sip of his drink and Harry saw the shine of a tucked away hitai-ate, shinobi. "Anyway, he comes into town looking to make some chaos and Tsuchikage-sama throws him out after the conversation."
"He could do that?" The second shinobi asked.
"Took two squads of elites to make him leave." The first man said knowledgably.
"I'm amazed he got away with it."
"Yeah well, seeing as our current peace lasts only as long as everyone keeps minding their own business and Madara definitely isn't Iwa business."
"I don't know about that. Madara made himself everyone's business. Senju is the only one who has ever stood up to him and lived. Tsuchikage-sama tried once and ended up in the hospital for two weeks." The shinobi took a sip of his sake. "As long as he is around making trouble there will never be peace between villages."
"You really think that?" The first shinobi asked the man.
"Who knows what to really think. The man is a menace, made obvious by the fact that Tsuchikage-sama threw him out. He's a powerful menace though, which makes it worse." The man threw back the rest of his drink. "This is much to heavy conversation for tonight. It isn't up to us to stop the man, greater men have tried and failed."
"I suppose your right." The first man threw back his drink as well and stood up. "So are you going to join the competition group." The two of them exited the bar after that sentence and Harry came back to his own table.
"...sensei?" Where apparently someone was trying to get his attention. "Are you paying attention?" No, he was worrying about the orders he just received. "What orders?"
Harry jerked up, he had said that aloud without even meaning to. "Ah, don't worry about it Biwako. Just a trip I have to make soon."
Biwako was looking at him confused. "What trip?" They had just arrived in Iwa after all. They usually stayed a week in a place before moving on.
"You are going back to Konoha."
"We're going to visit Hiruzen?" The excited happy tone of her voice almost made him chuckle. It wasn't too long ago that the girl glared at even the mention of his name, but after they had met on a mission two months ago they had become close friends. Harry had never learned what really went down those two weeks, but the fifteen and fourteen year old had come out of it acting like best friends.
"You are." Harry told her seriously. He wasn't lying about the orders.
"You aren't?" She asked confused.
"No, I've got other business." Harry stood up. "Meet you back at the hotel."
Harry had some things to think about.
Biwako's confused, "Sensei?" followed him to the street.
Harry sighed and looked at the clear night sky. Nowhere on Earth had there been such a perfect view of all the stars in the sky, pollution had made sure of that. It did make him homesick though, because the perfect view of the sky only served to remind him that it wasn't his sky.
"Is this what you want from me? To kill his Madara character?" Harry asked the sky seriously. The gods - or whoever it was the held his contract - never could speak to him directly. Which made for some very awkward jobs and many mistakes - at first. After awhile though, Harry had gotten accustomed to people have conversations about things they generally shouldn't in the nearby vicinity of him. At first he had thought it merely luck, but figured after a few universes of the same routine what exactly was going on.
If whoever it was thought that he was taking too long they would send him a sign. It would usually tell him what they wanted him to do. It also usually meant the end of his stay on a world.
The phrase that bounded his contract was vague, 'where he was needed', could change in the middle of a job. Which meant that to hurry him along they would take to dropping hints.
Uchiha Madara, Harry had run into his name enough times to figure out the connection. Madara was making trouble in this world and would continue making trouble until he somehow upset the balance of nature. Harry knew this because that is what always happened. The only times he was ever called to a world was when the very structure - the nature - of that world was being twisted.
The people that meddled in that sort of thing and thought they could get away with it were powerful and disturbed. Generally they didn't think about the consequences of the rest of the universe, because in an ecosystem based on balance a single piece thrown off could cause the entire house to crumble. Harry was the preventative measure to that. He was the piece that went to make sure those worlds got back into place, the handyman of the universe- or gods, or whoever it was that made sure everything was going according to plan.
Which meant that this Madara person was messing in some pretty bad things.
Harry sighed and rubbed the invisible pain out of his joints. His body wasn't old, but his mind caused everything to feel weighed down. He was a senior citizen in a toddlers body.
He made his way back to the hotel slowly trying to think of something to say to Biwako.
Harry looked up at - red eyes, spinning - the crater he had made. He was dirty and bruised and covered in half healed scratches, but he was alive - not that there was any hope of something different - and that was more than he could say for his opponent.
Harry forced his tired head to the side to look at the corpse of the man who had caused all this damage - Black hair and red swirling eyes versus black hair and sharp green eyes, clean clothes and armor, weapons tucked away nicely - torn in half, or maybe more than that, pieces of his bottom half were spread across the crater.
The two mile wide crater had been caused - green and red and gold and silver swirled, chaos by definition, and black consumed. Not quick enough though and too much. The sucking was overpowered, ground began to shake beneath his feet - by a rather spectacular collision of magic and chakra.
Madara hadn't held back, neither had Harry of course. Madara was a worthy opponent - a sword made of fire flashed into his vision, making him duck - one of the finest he had ever faced. It was unfortunate - Harry pushed his hand onto the Uchiha chest, forcing a bludgeoner charm under the skin - that Harry didn't play fair.
Harry's rather unique healing ability - the laughing man mocked, "Did you think that would..." green eyes sparkled and blood unspilled from his neck, leg reattached, arm unbroken - was the real winner of the fight, like most of his fights. Harry wiped away some of the blood dripping into - speed, faster than sound or light or anything he had ever encountered before...it wouldn't save him - his eye. It took pretty much all of the energy he could - the red eyes were dead, the body just didn't know it yet. Still moving slashing, trying to finish him if it was the - muster just to try to sit up.
He looked down at the rags on his body trying to remember if they - feet aching and pushing on the ground, no, not the ground. It was part ground though, it must have been with all the rocks and the fire shooting from its eyes - started like that. He didn't think they had, but his brain wasn't - thrust, block, spin, counter, slash, slash, parry, push, flick, swish, slash, thrust, twist, hit, whack, slash, cut, block, counter, counter, counter, parry, thrust, blood everywhere...not his - responding to him like it normally did. At least he - don't stop, can't stop, no choice - hoped that it normally didn't do this.
Looking at the crater, that was what - "You think you can stop me?" the man was laughing, he shouldn't have been - he was doing, right? It was pretty - the malicious red eyes wouldn't stop spinning, pushing into his mind. They didn't belong there though, so he pushed them out - in a destructive way. He tried to remember what it looked like before - the trees in the clearing were rustling, such a beautiful day for a fight. The rain started to fall on his half sitting form, it felt nice.
He looked around at the body next to - such a magnificent presence Madara possessed because if Voldemort, and everyone after him, had taught him anything it was to appreciate the beauty in such madness - him. The eyes were no longer red - blood red, everywhere in his mind. Covering Biwako, Misuo, Hiruzen, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Ravois, Hubris, General Gnensansf, Kaisi, Loankil, FoorensFredGeorgeHashi - but a nice brown, they were just as dead though. He wondered idly - his leg was still oozing blood after the reattachment, but he wouldn't die because of it, he laughed - if all Uchiha had such nice eyes when they weren't trying to kill you.
He relaxed back onto the ground then - gushing from his hands, the bright silver stag filled the sky, pushing away crows, happy thoughts only - he didn't have enough energy to do anything but that. He would only rest a few - the man stepped into the clearing, smiling at him, or maybe baring his teeth at the challenge - minutes and then he would apparate. He need to get back to - the curse was working, it hit the bottom half of his still moving body, tearing, ripping, shredding - Konoha.
He had to - say goodbye, please don't take me, I need to say goodbye, I need to say goodbye, Ineedtosaygoo...
Harry flew to the ground boneless in front of a dazed Biwako - he had made it.
"SENSEI?" Why was she yelling, was something wrong. Harry tried to look at his surroundings unsuccessfully, he had to save her, he could do that if only... "Don't move okay?" That was a nice hand, cold against his burning forehead. "Hiruzen I need you to get me some burn salve."
"Is someone hurt?" Someone slurred out, it kind of sounded like him so it might have been.
"Yes, sensei, someone is very hurt, but I will take care of them." She was watery, sad, that wasn't right. Biwako should never be sad, not after everything. "HIRUZEN!"
"Here! Here take it." Something was getting pushed into his mouth. "The pill should help revive him." That voice also sounded familiar, Harry smiled, surrounded by friends, what a perfect way to go. Go...where was he going again?
"You need to swallow sensei. It will help, I'm sure of it. I designed it just for you, to make sure that you would be safe. Do you remember that?" Biwako still sounded distressed, but serious too, her healer tone. He did remember something like that, Biwako spending months trying to figure out a way to heal Harry, Harry had thought it a waste a first because he wasn't going to be around all that long, but after thinking about it some more he decided it was good practice.
Harry gasped as the rushed of energy flooded is body. He felt more alive than he had in four days, ever since the start of the battle with Madara.
"I have something for you." His voice was gruff and everything still felt sore, but he ignored it to pull a scroll from his bag. He handed it to Hiruzen with as much of a grin as he could muster under the circumstances, he didn't really feel all that happy. Hiruzen looked taken aback at the scroll - the kind that held dead bodied. "It's really for the Hokage, or is it just Hashirama now? Is Tobirama the new..."
"Sensei, shut up and don't move! Pay attention to me, I trying to save..."
The coughing chuckle made his sore throat ache, feeling as if he was hacking up bits of himself, he decided not to do that again. "You can't do anything for me right now my beautiful little apprentice."
"Yes I can! If you just..."
"No," He looked at her sadly, "there isn't enough time." Because the tugging was getting worse. The nausea had started two hours ago, he didn't have much time left now. "Ten years wasn't enough time."
"Sensei, why are you talking about time?" Biwako sounded so confused, distressed.
"I don't have enough, not enough, never enough." He wouldn't get to see Misuo again. It wasn't enough time.
"You have plenty of time, sensei. I'll make sure of it." She sounded so sure, he liked that. He rubbed a bloodied hand onto her face.
"I wish you could. I wish I didn't have to go."
"GO? You aren't going anywhere, you staying right here, with me and Hiruzen and..."
"Hiruzen?" Harry looked upwards at the boy, remembering that he was still in the area, that was nice, surrounded by friends was a perfect way to, he shook his head. He was still kind of out of it after the battle. Harry pulled the boy down to the ground and hugged him. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too Hari." The boy sounded so distraught.
"NO YOU WON'T! NO ONE WILL MISS ANYONE! YOU AREN'T GOING ANYWHERE!" Biwako sounded more like she was trying to convince herself at this point.
"I don't want to go." Harry said seriously, staring into the boy's eyes trying to make him understand that he didn't have a choice. Hiruzen nodded with watery eyes and then backed away. Biwako was looking between the two of them worried.
"Sensei?" The voice was small, worried, upset.
"Come here little one." Fourteen was too young to lose anyone really, eight was even worse. Harry pulled the girl to the ground next to him and wrapped an arm loosely around her body. "I'll miss you more than anyone, understand?"
"Please don't leave..." Biwako's voice wobbled, wavering with tears.
"I don't get to chose little one, or else I would never leave. Maybe that it why they pull me, because they know I would never leave of my own free will."
"Who are they?" She sounded slightly angry now with the tears, because if there was someone to fight she could do something about the feelings. Harry would have laughed if he didn't remember how much that had hurt before.
"Not exactly sure myself..." He told her truthfully because there was no reason to lie now.
"Sensei..." The voice was pleading, praying, hoping. Harry tried to hold on, really he did, but there was no use fighting the pull of the contract.
"I love you all." Harry's eyes turned upwards trying to take in as much as possible before the pull. It wasn't very often that he got to be surrounded by family when the pull happened, he intended to treasure it. He took one last look at the first boy he had ever met and the apprentice that he had spent so much time with. He focused on them in his mind, putting them into the part of the heart that was saved for family and loved ones left behind.
He gaze then turned to the surrounding village, at the wooden buildings on dirt roads surrounded by anachronistic electricity poles and almost laughed.
He had ended up exactly where he started, that was just...
The crying was definitely the worst part of the birthing process Hiruzen decided as he blew his nose and wiped the remaining tears from his face. The Hokage should never be this emotional, too bad he had skipped that day of the Academy.
"She's just so beautiful." Hiruzen held up his handkerchief against the rush of water from his eyes.
"Quit crying so much, you are the Hokage, start acting like it. You didn't even birth the thing." Biwako looked at her husband with soft eyes and down at the life they had made.
"Our daughter is beautiful, she is no thing." Hiruzen scolded her mockingly. He knew how much she had wanted this - how much they had wanted this.
"Men are such weaklings." Biwako waved her hand at him and kept her eyes upon the baby girl.
"That's not true!" Hiruzen protested weakly.
"Hmm, maybe you're right. There was one man who was worth his weight." Biwako said seriously while waving her fingers over the baby's grinning face.
"I am sure he would be proud of his namesake." Hiruzen said with kind eyes, knowing just how much his wife still missed her old sensei.
"That's right Hari-chan isn't it? You will be a great kunoichi and cause your father all sorts of trouble."
"Like she could." Hiruzen scoffed, but grinned when his wife gave him a fond look.
"I want another one." Biwako smiled at her husband chocking on nothing. "A boy this time."
"Fine." Hiruzen said after a minute. "But I get to name him."
"And what exactly will you name him, husband-mine?"
"Asuma." Hiruzen nodded to himself. It was a proper name for a boy.
Biwako grabbed his hand and clutched it. "Sounds great to me." Hiruzen smiled at her. "Just remember if he turned out anything like that Minato child it was your fault."
Hiruzen groaned, "Don't remind me. I don't know what I was thinking assigning Jiraiya a team."
"You were trying to make him more respectable if I remember correctly. That or trying to punish him." Biwako grinned at him.
"Tobirama-sensei should have been more forceful in his advice not to chose him, sometimes I am my own worst enemy." Hiruzen kissed Biwako on the sweaty cheek.
"Don't worry darling, I'll protect you from yourself." Biwako smiled at him. "Now are you ready to show our child to the world?"
AN: Wow, so that took why longer to update and write than I had hoped. Finals are my excuse for taking so long to finish this, and they are a reasonable excuse. I also have to tell you that this story didn't turn out anything like I thought it would. My first plan was to start skipping years into the future into Minato's time and saving Obito and preventing Tobi. Then Biwako came up and I follow tangents like nothing else when I'm writing so I just went with it. (Not sorry)
I kind of got back to the point of the story at one point I hope. I did kill Madara which would prevent the Obito/Tobi/Fourth Shinobi war from happening. I also stopped the First shinobi war, or at least postponed it because really? of course ninja's are going to fight and kill each other, it's in their job description.
Gah, someone told me last chapter was really preachy and i kind of have to agree. This chapter is also kind of preachy, I hope you don't mind too much. I figure everyone can write at least one preachy story, right?
I don't know what I was thinking. I kind of wanted to give you this for a holiday present, but I'm not sure I would even want it for a present.
Nevertheless, I kind of like it for what it is and I hope you do too.
PS: I'm a terrible writer and I'm sorry for all of the pain and suffering this story has put you through. You should stop reading now.
EDIT: In the rush to finish this last night I didn't do much in the way of proof reading, so I've done that now. I've also marked as completed because I forgot to and it is.