First off, who read chapter 622? Did anyone totally -squeeee- at the beginning? Madara and Hashirama are HILARIOUS. I need to make Hashirama more in character.

Secondly, Kishi just killed me with little Tobirama. No worries, I revived myself via perfect Edo Tensei (not really). But he doesn't have the facial markings, so I wonder how he actually gets them... (here Kishi, take my story and make it canon, lol).

Thirdly: The Uchiha have lots and lots of children.

Fourthly: ITAMA THE POOR THING (he had funky hair, though)

Fifthly: Senju clan = everyone's name ends in -ama. Trolol.

ANYWAY.

Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me, because looook how cuteeeee Madara and Hashirama are! (plus, Hashi's father was mean). That, and my Tobirama has epic mood swings, and pshh Hurricane doesn't exist (or does it? ohoho), and I need to make people more in-character...

Btw, I love Mito. To bits and pieces.

Note: LITTLE HASHI AND MADDY. TOO. CUTE. AND TOBI. WHYYYY.

Tell me what you think, please. This chapter confused me, lol. (that's just...fail. :'D_

Note 2: Check my dA page! I've got an entire Hurricane folder~

ANNOUNCEMENT: This chapter has been edited to make Madara less mean. Izuna will remain the mild character he is, for I imagine he's softened from the times of war. Etc etc.


Chapter 10: Eagle


.x.X.x.


Dreamless.


.x.X.x.


Softly, a dim light entered her vision. Hazy white, cream, with a tinge of sky blue at the edges. She found that her head was tucked on a surprisingly warm pillow; not too warm, but comfortable, as if she fit perfectly into that little niche. She found that when the pillow rumbled a mild "Morning, Shorty", she was not startled. In fact, the familiar timbre of his voice could have lulled her back to sleep easily.

"Good morning," Mariko mumbled, the feeling coming to her fingertips as she realized her hand was splayed across his chest. Tobirama didn't seem to mind, for his breathing was gentle and his left arm serving as half her pillow, careful not to wake her. Mariko shifted, discovering the covers were tangled round her legs. In her clumsy effort to straighten them out so she could sit up properly, Tobirama harrumphed and complained that she was kicking him. "Well," she said back, "who's the grumpy one now?"

"You never showed me those pictures you promised," he suddenly said, changing the topic abruptly. Mariko groaned inwardly, finally starting to wake up. She recalled hoping that he'd forget the pictures, and instead, escape the embarrassment of showing him her baby photos. But he'd shown her his own, so she supposed it was fair.

Tobirama sat up, letting her head fall on empty air, and then pillows. Disoriented, Mariko squinted at him.

"Ow," she said.

"You fell on pillows, Shorty," he snorted as he stretched lightly.

"So?" Mariko pouted and hugged said pillow, looking ridiculous as she melded into the bed itself and glared at him.

"You nearly pushed me off the bed last night, you know?" Tobirama walked over to his drawers and began rummaging through them. When he didn't seem to find the article of clothing he wanted, he stepped over to his closet and roughly slapped through the hangers as well.

"Did not," retorted Mariko, hugging the pillow closer.

"You did," Tobirama justified.

"How long have you been up?" Now, with a creeping suspicion that he was just messing with her, Mariko narrowed her eyes further at him. She definitely did not kick at night, as far as she knew, because she knew for a fact that Katsurou and Sumiko were the distressed sleepers of Hurricane. Ryouichi transformed into a rock at night, while Katsurou and Sumiko could be having some sort of shinobi battle in their sleep. Mariko shifted, sure, but she was more like a floating stalk of seaweed rather than a rock or a crazy ninja. (She vaguely wondered how their spouses dealt with them, those two siblings of hers…)

"An hour or so."

So he'd been waiting for her. Wonderful.

"And what time is it?"

"About ten, I don't really know." He shrugged, pulling out a mesh undershirt from the floor of his closet.

"Do you ever clean?" she asked.

"Well, my room's clean." He gestured to the rest of the bedroom. Mariko approved of this part – at least his bed was tidy each and every day, and he didn't leave things strewn across the floor. His closet, however, seemed to be another story entirely.

"Does your cleaning jutsu not extend to your closet?"

"It doesn't really need to," he replied. "At least I find things that I need."

"You're just making excuses, now," Mariko accused.

"Shorty, did you know that your head weighs a thousand pounds? Seriously, my arm's still asleep," he quipped lightly, rubbing his left arm as if to show her how badly she'd cut off his circulation. He ignored the pillow that was flung his way – the tall Senju was quite used to it now – and promptly pulled off his shirt.

Mariko must've shouted something at him, but she forgot what, because she was mainly focused on throwing more pillows at him. Tobirama scoffed and pulled on the mesh shirt, looking rather rumpled from the series of pillows hitting his head.

"Aww thanks," he grumbled, "you're training me to dodge enemy pillows."

"Have you no manners?!" she hollered.

"Shush, woman, Mito might hear you." Tobirama stalked over and stuffed a pillow in her face, which wasn't very helpful because she could see him and his mesh shirt, and it was a mesh shirt, she could see right through it. She began to question the point of wearing such a shirt. Perhaps all shinobi attire was just as ridiculous. It made one look strong and cool, sure, but did it really serve any purpose? Maybe that blue armor with the fluffy collar was all for decoration. Did it actually shield anything?

"Let her hear me," hissed Mariko, pushing the pillow back at his face, as if it would do her a world of good. That was a bad thing to say, apparently, because he returned by smashing a few more pillows, plus the coverlets, over her face and practically smothering her. It was also a bad thing because he was on top of her now, his smirk incredibly wide and annoying.

Muffled, Mariko tried kicking him. He weighed far more than her, however, so she could not even attempt to roll him to the side.

"Who weighs a thousand pounds now?" she said vehemently. His eyebrows arched, amused.

"Did you know," he said, altering the line of conversation yet again, "that you snore?"

"I do not!" she exclaimed. "That's outrageous!"

He laughed, a light rumble, and then touched her hair. The action immediately silenced her, for now the little blunette was staring at his hand. Well, as much of his hand as she could see, because it was running down behind her ear, tucking her hair back.

"You snore," she said.

"I sleep silently as a cat," Tobirama claimed.

"You sleep like an elephant is stampeding," Mariko returned.

"Lies," he told her, before quickly pressing his lips to hers. She went quiet for a moment. The look on Tobirama's face was smug; he believed he'd won this match. But in reality, Mariko was just plotting her next devious remark.

"You have morning breath," she said simply. He made a face. Then, pushing himself up and away, he strode over to his closet, picked up another article of clothing, and threw it around his shoulders. This time, the shirt was of substantial, opaque material – a light blue jacket-like top that closed with a traditional-style cloth belt.

"At least I brushed my teeth last night," he threw over his shoulder, before grabbing his happuri, the faceguard hitai-ate engraved with Konoha's symbol, and sliding out the door. She glowered at the spot where he stood, long after he'd left.


.x.X.x.


Dear Momma,

Do great shinobi ever make mistakes?


.x.X.x.


"I've information on the black market," Mito said, rather formally for a breakfast setting. She slapped a folder down. "He was in Uzu, a week ago."

The look on her face was registered as disgust. It was understandable that any country had a black market, but Mito's homeland was always an honorable one.

"What were they dealing?" asked Etsuko, sipping a cup of orange juice. She was about to turn seventeen, so she was understandably excited. Her family always threw a gigantic party, using up most the Senju complex, and it was such a big deal that the entire clan enjoyed it. Etsuko's father had long since died in battle, so she grew up with her mother, and Arata was the paterfamilias of their family unit, the always steady brother.

Nonetheless, Etsuko was always involved with these matters now, especially since her fiancé was Kell.

"Opium," spat Mito. "And specialized blades."

"Traditional items of the trade," Hashirama agreed. "Drugs and weapons."

"They were also selling human organs," Kell added, glancing at the list inside the folder Mito had placed on the table.

"That one's easier to understand," Mito said. "We have organized donors for organs, but there are many people in need, so plenty of smaller practices obtain their transplant organs that way. Otherwise, the big hospitals are in charge of the formal medicines."

"I've always admired Uzushiogakure for their medical advancements," Kell said, beaming. "They were the first to maneuver successfully around chakra lines during surgeries, right?"

"With the help of Konoha," Mito replied mildly, casting a fond glance at Hashirama.

"Honey, that was the Hyuuga, not me," he murmured to her. Most of the table chuckled at this.

"Senju, Senju, number one," sang Etsuko, giggling.

"Did someone give her too much sugar?" asked Tobirama, jerking a thumb at the cheery younger girl.

"It's the birthday high," Arata sighed, planting his chin in his hand. He was immediately scolded by Mito, who told him to get his elbows off the table. Wisely, he complied.

"Tobirama," Etsuko said, turning to her cousin. "I thought you had a training this morning?"

"With my team?" Tobirama made a face. "Well, Saru burnt the frying pan, so I'll make him wait."

"Does a frying pan even burn?" asked Mariko. She'd been pondering this overly seriously. Frying pans, designed to cook things, should not be able to burn if they were constantly used over a fire.

"No, they don't," mused Tobirama. "But he did it, somehow. The thing was practically melted."

"IT'S GENJUTSU," blurted Etsuko, eyes wide. Her lips pressed into a narrow "o", making her look like a skinny and pale ghost with dark hair. "How was that, did I look like an Uchiha?"

At this, Tobirama smiled slightly, while Hashirama and Mito gave her disapproving glances. Mariko was liking Etsuko more and more. The way she was casual, and especially since she was one of Mariko's first friends in Konoha, due to their age similarities. Etsuko had talked to her during mealtimes, and was always bright and friendly. She pulled Mariko out of her shyness and urged her to talk more.

As if one cue, someone knocked on the door.

And, simply because Etsuko said the name, it was an Uchiha. Mariko sort of recognized his face, the one that looked like Toka's student. It was the man from the interrogation room, and he was looking for Hashirama.

"Senju," he said briskly. "Coded message from Inuzuka Platoon One, sir."

"Thank you, I'll be right there." Hashirama stood and touched Mito's shoulder. Mariko watched the way he carefully guarded his expression at the Uchiha's conflicting forms addressing him – first brusquely as a Senju, and then suddenly, almost unwillingly, remembering his position.

His wife nodded, collecting his plate smoothly as he strode out the door after the dark-haired Uchiha. After Mito had cleaned the plates, Mariko turned and found Tobirama scowling with his arms crossed.

"I want to know how an Uchiha can simply waltz in here," he said darkly.

"Tobi," Mito said firmly, "you're always so negative when it comes to the Uchiha."

"They're bound to go crazy," Tobirama answered.

"They are not," Mito scoffed.

"This is coming from a woman that threatened the Uchiha clan leader with castration by hair pin," Tobirama deadpanned.

"He made me angry," Mito grumbled, dishes clattering in the sink. "You face the same threat, dear brother-in-law."

Tobirama rolled his eyes, despite the fact that any man sitting in the room was now completely terrified out of his pants. Kell was trying to calmly sip his own drink, but his hand nearly slipped. Arata had gone paler than usual. Tobirama, who put on the best mask, offered Mariko a wan smile.

"You're all ridiculous," Mariko stated outright. Mito and Etsuko laughed at this.

"This girl's got it right," Etsuko chirped.


Hiruzen looked beyond startled when Mariko arrived at Tobirama's side to watch their training, and he babbled something incomprehensible before scuttling behind Homura's back. The bespectacled boy tipped his head at his teammate curiously, but did not question him. He knew, for a fact, that Hiruzen had obviously blundered in something or the other, and though he didn't know what it was, the monkey's reaction ever time was the same. Better to save some trouble by shielding the poor boy rather than watch him painfully try to apologize – or run.

"Saru, take this scroll," Tobirama said curtly, no introductions or friendly morning greetings. Instead, he pulled an enormous scroll from nowhere, and tossed it at the boy. Hiruzen, face still rather flushed, stumbled with the weight of it; he was practically the same size as the scroll. "Now, summon something."

"Wait, what?" Hiruzen, baffled, set the scroll on the ground and glanced between the paper and his sensei.

"Open it," commanded the white-haired Senju.

He opened it.

"Summon something. I know your father taught you how."

"But I summon an animal, this isn't a–"

"Saru." Tobirama glared. Startled, the boy kneeled before the now opened scroll hastily. To Mariko's surprise, he bit his thumb and drew some blood. She tugged Tobirama's sleeve and asked him what that was for.

"His blood is the contract with his summoning animal," the Senju explained.

"But doesn't he need some sort of special seal?" asked the blunette. Tobirama gestured to the scroll. Looking more closely, Mariko realized that there was a large blank spot in the middle, surrounded by detailed characters she didn't recognize. Otherwise, the place where Hiruzen was about to put his hand down was blank.

"He can draw his own seal, just watch. The scroll is actually for summoning more seals, but this works too."

This hardly made any sense to Mariko. Seals to summon more seals? Wouldn't that just give you more scrolls? She made a mental note to go ask Mito, their resident Fuuin jutsu expert, later on.

There was a puff, with the sound of a muffled explosion, as a black seal painted itself under Hiruzen's hand. He yelled out the name of his jutsu – something Mariko found ridiculous, because why would you shout out what you're doing in a real battle? – and a creature appeared. Curly-tailed and wearing matching trousers and a vest, a small monkey appeared on the scroll. It crossed its arms and wiggled its brown tail.

"Whazzat?" it slurred. "You again, Hir'zen?"

Hiruzen swore under his breath. "I was trying to summon Enma!"

"That's Enma-sama to you, brat," spat the little chimp. It could not have been much bigger than Tenzou the cat.

"Good," Tobirama said curtly, breaking the argument. "Now, Saru, perform a–"

"Who ya callin' monkey?" asked the monkey. Tobirama raised a brow at the animal, while Mariko was still marveling over the fact that it could talk. "I swear, Hir'zen, you have to stop summoning me to these weird places."

"This is training!" wailed Hiruzen. "C'mon, work with me here!"

"Uh. Nope. I think I might go home…" the monkey trailed off, twirling its tail around a long finger. It promptly leapt onto Hiruzen's shoulders and crawled around the boy's head, picking through his hair curiously. "Hir'zen, why ya got burnt hair? Did you run into an angry Uchiha or somethin'?"

"It was a frying pan," Mariko blurted.

Everyone stared at her, including the monkey.

"Ooh, you've got pretty hair, I wanna see!" hooted the chimp, leaping from his contracted shinobi's back and towards the blunette. Tobirama quickly stepped forward, grabbed the monkey with one hand wrapped around its midsection, and tossed the poor thing back at Hiruzen.

"Saru, tell your summon not to touch people's hair," he said flatly. Hiruzen cowered when the monkey angrily pounded its fists on his head, wincing. Obviously, he was now continuing his connection between his sensei and the blunette standing behind him, and it was hurting his brain. Koharu scoffed and Homura tilted his head so that his glasses would stop sliding down his nose.

"Your training is boring," complained the brown monkey. His tail wrapped and unwrapped around Hiruzen's neck. "I'm leaving, Hir'zen."

Before the boy could grab the monkey – which wouldn't have helped him anyway – the summon disappeared in a cloud of smoke, the same way he'd come. Dismayed, the boy stared at the scroll dejectedly. He said something about using more chakra next time, but Tobirama stopped him.

"And that," the Senju announced, "is what we would call a summoning failure."

"Sensei, what was the point of that?" asked Homura quietly.

"To show you that if you do not work well with your summon – or your teammates, for that matter – all will fail, and someone will kill you."

"You're terrible, Sensei," Hiruzen pouted.

"I've been getting that a lot recently," Tobirama said thoughtfully, casting a meaningful glance towards Mariko. The blunette stalked over and poked his side angrily. Scowling, he flicked her fingers away, but she simply dodged to his other side and poked him in the abdomen. She corrected herself: she poked a rock, because he was so solid that she could not have inflicted damage upon him even if she tried her hardest. But it was a warm rock, which amused her, so she poked him again.

This finger jabbing match provoked some bewildered stares from the students, who openly gaped – well, Hiruzen gaped – at the two of them. Koharu's face had darkened, and Homura was mildly amused (though also rather confused). Hiruzen made a face, then flushed, then sidled behind his teammates again.

"Koharu, you wanna go to lunch?" he asked softly.

"No." Koharu didn't even look at him.

"Will you ask Biwako if she wants to go to lunch with me?"

"No."

"Ask yourself," Homura said quietly. "Besides that, is there a point to asking both Biwako and Koharu to lunch?"

"Um." Hiruzen laughed nervously. "Yes?"

He was obviously trying to distract himself from the ongoing poke battle a little ways away from them (as far as he knew, Mariko was winning; not that he was paying attention, of course). Koharu, however, was not at all amused, and simply wanted to train. So far, they'd seen Hiruzen fail at summoning a snarky monkey, and they hadn't even drawn a single kunai yet. She had a feeling that Tobirama would try to get Mariko to stand on water again, but at the current moment, the blunette was successfully annoying the tall Senju with her incessantly quick prodding.

"Sensei," she called over. Tobirama glanced up, then frowned when Mariko bumped her hip against his leg. Koharu could've sworn that he flushed, but he was pale and stoic as usual within a second, so she pushed it to her imagination. She didn't want to think about that, anyway. "Are we going to train, or not?"

"I was wondering that too," came a new voice, somewhat behind Tobirama, lounging on a lawn chair. Wearing something that looked nothing like it came from Konoha, a Hurricane top and a silk skirt traditional of the Hot Springs, a royal daughter with bright blue hair arched her brows at them. Gold hoops swung from her ears and her eyes were dabbed with skillfully lined makeup. She'd forsaken the time-consuming white pastels for regular eyeliner and mascara, but she looked stunning all the same.

"When did you get here?" Mariko asked, her voice more acidic than she'd meant it to be. Sumiko hardly batted an eyelash, while everyone else practically had their eyes bulging out of their heads at the little blunette's sudden, uncharacteristic vehemence.

"I've been here for a while, haven't I?" mused Sumiko. "Right, Mr. Suave?"

Tobirama's face went expressionless, and he didn't answer.

"Mr. Suave, answer me this: Did you know that your little student over there, the girl–"

"ARE YOU TWO RELATED?" Homura shouted far too loudly. Now, it was his turn to be stared at, because Homura was never loud. He was sweating, slightly, and obviously nervous. Hiruzen clapped his teammate on the back, proud that the bespectacled genin had had a Hiruzen-like moment. Sumiko glanced from Homura to Koharu, then back to Tobirama. A small realization dawned on her, and then she winked slowly at the two children. Hiruzen remained in the dark.

"We are related," confirmed Sumiko, completely agreeing to the change of topic. The other blunette and her fiancé stared incredulously at the First Princess. "I'm her older sister. I live in the Hot Springs."

"Hot Springs…do you have a lot of hot springs?" asked Hiruzen. He seriously pondered this.

"You could say that," Sumiko agreed. "Besides that, Mr. Suave, Mito told me to find you so that you could show me the way to the interrogation rooms?"

"Why would you want to go there?" interrupted Hiruzen. He now completely ignored poor Homura, who had shrunk behind Koharu, for he feared for his life. Koharu was a little bit enraged, now holding a personal grudge against both Hurricane princesses, but rather soothed by the fact that Homura had done her a subtle favor. (Well, subtle in reasoning, but not in tactic.)

"Stuff," said Sumiko, shrugging. And so, Tobirama abandoned his eternally waiting team to escort the princess in five-inch heels to the Torture and Interrogation Department. The three of Team Tobirama plopped down in a circle on the training grounds, opened their lunches, and waited. They knew for a fact that Tobirama would eventually escape, because he always did, and when he slipped away from the blunettes, they would catch him and force him to train them. Willing or not.


"Inuzuka Platoon Two has returned," said the same Uchiha. "They've information on the black market dealings at the closest mail station, and also some evidence as to tampered mail procedures."

"I see," said Hashirama. "Bring in the leader of the bandits."

Mariko elbowed Tobirama, hard.

"I thought you said nothing happened," she hissed.

"That was to make you fall asleep," he murmured, shoving her elbow away when she tried hitting him again. When she circled around to elbow him insistently on the other side, his face bent into his traditional scowl and he grabbed her hands. "You do not act your age, did you know that?"

"So?" she retorted tartly.

"Ghost boy, she'll never act her age," Sumiko called over lightly, rolling her eyes. "She'll be thirty and still be like this."

Tobirama shot Mariko an expressive glare, so she obstinately grabbed the sash to his shirt and untied it. He swore under his breath and readjusted his belt, before snatching her hands again and placing them behind her back.

The leader of the bandits was more nervous than the archers, and also more compliant. He blabbered away at how he was only meant to deliver mail, among a few other useless things that they didn't need to know. Mariko wasn't sure why he divulged that the Tsuchikage's son was an outrageous flirt, or why he told them that the next-in-line for the Mizukage title had a penchant for Uzushiogakure wine.

"I already knew that," Sumiko muttered. "That's why the Uzumaki and the Hozuki come to Hurricane together."

"That's so useful," snapped Mariko.

"Well, it helps to know that you can get him drunk," Sumiko returned.

"Why would you do that?" Mariko asked incredulously.

Sumiko shrugged. "Play pranks. Katsurou used to do it."

At the mention of their brother, they went silent. The bandit continued on to tell them a couple more uninteresting facts, among them a few of the things he'd sold to Konoha, and then finally, finally, some useful information. They found the name of their Takigakure dealer: Kakuzu.

"Just the sound of his name is ugly," Sumiko commented.

Almost frantically, the bandit practically cried when he described Kakuzu's abilities. Apparently, this was a man whose body could mysteriously hold more than one heart. After that, he became so engrossed in confusing details that hardly anyone understood him. Even the Hokage was perplexed at the description, especially when the bandit kept muttering about threads and masks.

"Anything of Katsurou?" Sumiko asked, loud enough so Hashirama could hear across the room. The Hokage shook his head, and Sumiko pushed out the door.


.x.X.x.


There are many versions to the Emerald Eagle story. Some say that the Wolf ate the children, and he ate the king's wife, while others say that he cursed them with some fatal flaw that is unknown to this day. Still others insist that rather than being shot, the Emerald Eagle had fallen as a star from the sky, its impact uncovering the emeralds on the island. Its descent through the atmosphere had burnt its star-white feathers charcoal, and his first glimpses of earth were of the precious stones he'd uncovered, forever dying his eyes green.

However, his body was not able to survive the conditions of this world, and began withering away as soon as he hit the ground. Upon this impact, he happened upon the young blue-haired prince, and had tried to ask the boy directions. Frightened, the boy had started running, and happened to run into the evil devil of Hurricane. The Wolf tried eating the boy, but the Eagle saved him. Indebted to the Eagle, the story went so that the boy hosted the Eagle's spirit, a human vessel capable of sustaining life in this world. The Eagle, who had arrived in search of the one thing plaguing his own world — he hadn't come from outer space, but from a different dimension all together — sought the death of the Wolf. The rest of the story plays out similarly, where the Eagle's mission fails, and the boy's family dies.

However, the most commonly told story has the boy with his bow, but also with a twist to the ending:

The birth of a river horse, the mount of the struggling king made from sheer willpower in order to reach the capital and save his family from the clutches of the wolf. A horse — born from river stones — destined to stay on the island, forbidden to leave Hurricane.


.x.X.x.


"You're so tiny," Tobirama commented, flipping through Mariko's old photo album. "How old are you here, four?"

"Seven."

Tobirama scoffed. "Doesn't look like it." He turned the page, and studied a picture of Mariko tilted precariously in the saddle of a stout pony. He chuckled at the next photo, which had Mariko and her too-large helmet, clinging onto the pony's back as it hobbled over a teeny jump.

"Don't laugh," she snapped.

"I can't help it," he said simply, shrugging. "How old are you here?"

"Twelve."

"You look like you're eight," he answered. Mariko threatened to shove him off her bed, the guest room bed that was nowhere near as fluffy as his, but would certainly do for now. The Senju simply wiggled himself deeper into her covers, looking absolutely ridiculous as he tugged the covers up to his chest and slowly browsed the pages.

Mariko harrumphed and sat herself next to him, leaning over his shoulder to look at her own pictures. Casually, Tobirama eventually slung an arm around her waist, but otherwise didn't move a muscle. The blunette suddenly found the ceiling patterns overly interesting, tracing the shadows that ran from the windows and the shades. She didn't notice Tobirama rummage nosily through one of her bags and pull out a few more items.

An old flower book, lined with pressed and dried hibiscus blooms, carefully preserved. The crinkle of the aged pages and careful plastic linings alerted Mariko that the Senju was no longer leafing through her photo albums. Her head whipped around and she saw that he was fingering the flowers curiously. Garnet eyes flickered her way, then back to the page, waiting for her to speak.

Mariko was tempted to pull it from his hands and clutch it to her chest, for she wished not to think of her Aunt Tari, wherever she may be. What if Aunt Tari was dead? No, Mariko refused to peruse that thought at the moment. But there was her collection, practically a novel of flowers, more than just the many varieties of hibiscus. It spine was worn, and repaired many times. The pages were yellowed, though the flowers remained spectacularly bright. However, upon closer inspection, one could see the brittleness of the stems and petals. A single touch to its actual surface would send the flower crumbling, forever dissipated.

Tobirama touched a sapphire blue one, hues deviating through its once-lush petals. Mariko feared, suddenly, that his finger would slip through the plastic laminate, and her favorite blue hibiscus would disintegrate before her eyes. She reached for the book.

"What's this, Shorty?" Tobirama asked, holding it slightly out of her arm's reach. Panicked, she lunged for it now. He held it even higher, up and away from her, inspecting it in the afternoon light. After a few moments, he glanced at her hands, which were clenched tightly around the coverlets, and then returned the book to her. Mariko took it gratefully. "If you don't want me to touch something, say so," he told her flatly. Guiltily, Mariko silently clutched the book to her chest and scooted away from him.

But he'd picked up something else:

An emerald necklace.

Just a single jewel at the end of a gleaming silver chain, one once worn by Queen Manami of Hurricane. Given to her by her aunt. One woman, she would never see again, and the other, she couldn't be sure. Of all the things he had to do, it had to be going through her things? These were items she kept close so that she had the memories by her heart, warmed, comforted, but they were not things to discuss, for they hurt out loud. Mariko was now surging with alarming thoughts, ranging from her mother dying and turning into Katsurou and Aunt Tari and—

She snatched the necklace, and to avoid breaking it, Tobirama immediately let go. But the blunette had grabbed the article of jewelry so violently that he was staring at her, shocked.

"Don't touch my stuff anymore," she said quietly, not looking at him. Tobirama pushed the covers off his chest, picked up her photo album, and dropped it before her. She wasn't sure if he was sarcastically making a point by touching her things, or if he was just returning it to her. His hand brushed her knee, and it was cold.

He stood.

"Training Grounds 5, if I'm needed." Briskly, he strode to the door and slipped through, closing it quietly behind him.

Bewildered and puzzled, Mariko stared after him.

Had she angered him? She was just confused, very confused. And so, in this dazed manner, head whirling with images of Katsurou dead and Aunt Tari on her deathbed, and her mother lying prone in her coffin, Mariko stumbled outside. She automatically made her way to the stables, hoping to pass Tobirama in the process. But he was already gone, and she could not explain her reasons for her unexplained harshness. She had not meant to relapse into her antisocial closed doors; she thought she'd adjusted to Konoha. There were far too many things that contributed to this, things that she could not factor into a simple equation and produce an answer.

The blunette found Yodel, who quietly munched on his hay, lifting his nose to greet her. In addition to the trusty bay gelding, a second visitor. Eyes wrapped and arms casually leaning on another horse's stall door, Izuna stood a ways down from her.

"Hello," he greeted cheerfully, offering a smile in her direction. "How are you?"

"I'm…okay, thanks," Mariko sighed, peering over at the horse he was observing. She noticed that it was a larger stall, and realized that he was not observing, of course, but rather listening to the two animals inside. One was a pretty paint mare, and the other was her foal, an equally paint-splotched colt. The overo baby had a splash of white on his rump that Mariko rather liked, for it was a little island separated from a mainland pool of white a ways away on his stomach. Most of him was a deep brown, a mahogany sea.

"You're upset," Izuna commented. As always, his senses were sharp, his perception capable of reading people simply with their presence.

"I'm working it out," Mariko told him. "Instead of me, how about you?"

"I'm well." Izuna ran a hand through his long hair, which he'd left untied today. Mariko noticed that one of his fingers bore a round ring, its top holding a small stone with a character on it.

"Is that a new ring?" she asked.

"Yes, it is," Izuna confirmed. "My brother gave it to me just the other day. He said it would bring me power and protection, so of course I took it." Izuna offered a mild smile. "He's got ten of them, though. I find it kind of funny. They all have different little symbols, he says, one for each finger."

"That's interesting," Mariko commented. "Do you feel empowered?"

A smile from the Uchiha, and then the shake of his head, subtly. "No more so than usual."

"How long have you been here?" asked the princess, changing the topic.

"About half an hour," Izuna replied. "I was going to bring Yodel a bran mash, but I couldn't find any apples to put in…he likes apples."

Mariko incredulously wondered how the blind man could possibly make a meal for the horse if he couldn't see a thing. But Izuna gestured to a bucket beside him, filled with grains and other horsey foods suitable for making a warm bran mash, with a bag of carrots beside it but no apples. Mariko knew that horses would like the treat with or without apples, but she supposed that she should help find them anyway.

"There's a bag in here somewhere," she said, striding to the tack room and fishing through a few boxes. She found a bag of fresh apples behind a few other sacks of horse feed, and pulled it out. Izuna seemed to sense — or whatever it was that he did — the bag in her hands, and smiled.

"Thank you. Now, I need—"

"I'll help you," Mariko offered, hoisting the apples, carrots, and bucket in her arms. She found that the bucket was heavier than she'd expected, what with the other things in her arms, and nearly dropped it. Conveniently, Arata rounded the corner and found them there.

"Is that bran mash?" he called exuberantly. "Let me help you with that."

He gracefully scooped up the bucket from her arms, handing Izuna the bag of apples. Mariko now felt completely and utterly useless, with only a plastic bag filled with a few carrots in her hands.

"Thank you," Izuna said, offering Arata a kind smile. Arata nodded; it seemed that he and Izuna had been on good terms before, and used to be riding partners. Arata once told Mariko that Izuna had been "that Uchiha hunter" who could out-leap him in the plains, back in the day. Mariko wasn't quite sure how long ago "back in the day" was, because neither of the two were very old.

"No problem," Arata chirped, extremely cheerful today. "Here, do you have enough molasses?"

"Well, I was about to look for it."

"And here I was, thinking you had everything," Arata replied, winking at Mariko. "You've got the bran and the supplements, right?"

"He's got creaky hocks," was Izuna's answer. "He only eats it in bran."

"Are you sure you put the right supplement in, then?"

Izuna held up a small container and let the dark-haired Senju see it. Approving, Arata finished his inspection of the now super-important bran mash. The three set to pouring in hot water and mixing the grains, dicing carrots and apples and creating a nice bran mash.

"You don't feed this often, do you?" Arata said.

"Of course not," Izuna said. "It's so that he takes the supplement."

"Good," Arata approved. He began off on a long list of things that bran mash was uneven in, random nutrients that were unbalanced in this feed, horse's diets, among other things that the two others completely understood, while someone like Tobirama would not. It was like talking to Mariko about ninjutsu. "Lady Princess," Arata suddenly said. "I believe Kell is at the gate again."

"How do you know this?" Mariko asked, heading towards the door. She believed that people had the ability to sense emotions, intentions, presences — or even send them, perhaps — but this shinobi perception had an incredibly wide range. How could Arata, standing at the back of the barn, tell that there was a man waiting outside the front?

"Magic," replied Arata, to which Mariko frowned slightly. At the moment, it wasn't the type of answer she wanted to hear.

"You should go," Izuna urged. Again, Mariko wasn't in the mood to be rushed. Nonetheless, she trudged outside and found Kell pacing the path again.

"I got another piece of mail," the young man said simply, his large rounded glasses making his eyes look huge.

"When?" demanded Mariko. "From where?!"

But Kell didn't answer, only shoved the envelope at her.

"I think it's encoded again," he said. Then, he glanced around nervously. "Hurry, I'm not sure when they'll find out."

"Find out what?"

"Just read it!"

Kell was right — the message was in cipher. A thinner lock of Katsurou's hair had been included, and the envelope was littered with messages. The clearest ones included:

Takigakure underground police.

Five hearts Kekkei Genkai.

And lastly, Get Ryo, Mist. Second.— once more, Mariko could not decipher the rest of it. She doubted that the part after the call for Ryouichi was correctly translated either.

"Have you showed this to—"

"Hurry," Kell cut her off, grabbing her arm and running towards the complex exit. "We'll get there before they can get us."

Then they were sprinting towards the Hokage Tower, Mariko out of breath. She thought they were going to suddenly take flight and fly up to the windows of Hashirama's office, but instead, Kell actually veered away. He began down the main road, then branched off the side, southeast.

"They saw me," Kell hissed, pulling her faster. "Hurry, there's one more place we can stop first, they wouldn't think of it."

Then there was a big, black bird flying next to them. Mariko thought she was hallucinating, and the Emerald Eagle was gliding alongside her, wings outstretched and eyes gleaming. But she caught a glimpse of those eyes, and they were black, emotionless. It was a black hawk, its talons dipping down for the envelope. Kell hurriedly read the clan symbol on the bird's leg, and released the envelope. The bird soared away.

"Hey!" exclaimed Mariko, nearly spinning to a stop. Kell pulled her along.

"Hurry, Etsuko's buying us time!" Kell exclaimed. She was tugged along until a tall man on her right side snatched her up like a sack of potatoes and leapt up into the trees. Everything was a blur; was she being kidnapped?

No, Kell appeared before her after a few moments of tree-hopping, being hoisted by a dark-haired man; the interrogator. The person carrying her dropped her in front of Kell, then shouted for the gates to close. Mariko looked up and found herself staring at the Uchiha clan leader, a man whose eyes were impossibly keen, burning holes in all that he saw. He was tall and dark, with a mane wilder than a lion's.

"My apologies, Uchiha-sama," Kell panted. "Etsuko is—"

"Enough." Kell was waved off brusquely. "Izuna. Collect this girl and call Hashirama. Boy, grab that bow and arrow and set yourself beside those three men." Madara, tall and fearsome, commanding his brother and Arata to their posts. Mariko was both amazed, but then suddenly overwhelmed. Since when were Arata and Izuna here? Hadn't they been in the stables?

She sat, dazed, where Izuna guided her to a chair. It was a nice chair, a porch swing that was padded with gaudy green and white striped cushions, but comfortable all the same. It had a small, evergreen awning, unnecessary but a nice touch. Mariko swung back and forth absently, accepting the cup of tea that a boy offered her. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be Toka's student. She'd forgotten his name again.

"Hello Lady Princess," the boy chirped. "I'm Kagami, if you've forgotten."

That was quite embarrassing. Mariko offered a smile, though.

"Thank you, Kagami," she said quietly.

"Anything else you'd like? I can—" Kagami paused to push a younger child off his leg, "—get you anything. Seriously, Hansha, get off me!"

The child tumbled from Kagami's leg, and cried something about his nii-chan being mean to him. Kagami, exasperated, scooped the child up and brushed the hair away from her face. "Seriously," muttered Kagami again. "Be good for once, will you?"

Hansha sniffled; she dribbled on her oversized shirt that seemed to be Kagami's.

"Nii-chan, I want cake," she cried.

"Fine, I'll get you cake," sighed Kagami. "Lady Princess, this is my little sister, Hansha."

Mariko thought it amusing that one child should be named mirror and the other reflection. It suited them quite well.

"Kagami, can you tell me why I'm here?" Mariko suddenly inquired. The boy shrugged, struggling to keep his sister from patting his head and grabbing his hair painfully.

"I have no idea, Lady Princess. Izuna-sama might know."

Of course, Izuna would. Mariko looked around for him as Kagami left, but the effort proved to be futile because now the Uchiha were shouting and someone was barging through the gates. Several of the men stationed at the main entrance turned their weapons on the intruder, one of them threatening to lob off heads.

"Idiots, let him through!" spat Madara, running a gloved hand through his hair and glaring. "Senju, I want you off my property as soon as possible," he added, contradicting himself.

"I don't want to be here anyway," replied the man. Mariko wondered how in the world the gatemen had not recognized him, for he had bright white hair and red eyes, wore blue armor and had arrived practically on a river. "I come in the place of my brother."

"I didn't call for you," Madara retorted, rather tiredly. "Tell mop-head that he'll gain weight sitting in that desk of his all day."

"I will," Tobirama answered curtly. The two exchanged red glares before Madara continued his stalk towards the now cowering guards and Tobirama yelled for Kagami. The boy trotted out and saluted eagerly, before spooking and straightening when Madara glanced back at him. "Where's my—"

"Over there!" Kagami pointed at the back of his house. Tobirama peered around, where the blunette was calmly sipping her tea nonchalantly, trying to figure out if he'd just called her his. Mariko felt a strong urge to stand up and wrap her arms around his cold blue armor, but refrained from doing so. She supposed it was the need to have someone solid to hold onto, because she had no clue what sort of mess she'd just waltzed into. Then again, Mariko didn't think that if Izuna, or Hashirama, or Arata, or even Katsurou could have stabilized her as Tobirama would. So she kicked her mental restraints away and went with her gut feeling.

As soon as Tobirama was within reach, she stepped forward and threw her arms around him. She didn't care that his armor was hard and cold, she didn't care that because of that stupid blue armor she couldn't reach all the way around him.

He lifted his arms and peered down at her, taken by surprise. Mariko grumpily told him that his armor was not very comfortable.

"I think it fits quite well," he rumbled simply.

"It's not a good pillow," she complained.

"I can't imagine why," he replied sardonically, rolling his eyes before shooting a curious Kagami a look that told him to shoo.

"Sorry," Mariko murmured. It seemed she was telling him she was sorry, but she never received an answer. Tobirama was still, the clink of his armor and a few arguments among the Uchiha the only noises heard. Then, a hand on her head, sliding down to the nape of her neck and resting just above her shoulders.

"Shorty, sit back down. Do you know where Arata is?" Of course, no verbal response to her apology. Mariko wondered if she should stop apologizing. Actually, she wondered a lot of things. She had enough questions to drive all of Konoha insane. It didn't help matters that when an arrow came flying past the gate and an Uchiha idiotically sent a fireball at it, Mariko was still half clinging to the Senju, hands gripped around the loose fabric of his trousers.

Tobirama, without even turning, produced a wall of water that stopped the flaming ball-arrow in its path. He looked over his shoulder at the Uchiha, who scrambled back to his place, embarrassed.

"I thought Uchiha were elite," he called out to no one in particular.

"We have bad eyesight," deadpanned Izuna two houses down. He was tapping a code with a pen onto a piece of paper, with Arata telling him the message. Again, Mariko questioned if the blind man was really blind. He managed sightlessness well, but this was beyond being blind and needing a walking stick and raised letters. Izuna practically lived like a regular person with full vision. "I don't think he could see that white head of yours, Tobirama."

"Izuna, please," said Arata, fingers twitching his impatience. It seemed the message was important. Izuna finished the letter and attached it to the leg of a black hawk. Arata had probably urged him to finish because he'd read the clear, irked expression on Tobirama's face.

"Where's Kell?" Mariko asked. "Why are you here? Why is everyone here? What about—"

"Quiet, Shorty. I'll let you know later."

At that moment, Hansha wobbled over to them and offered a few flowers. She whispered loudly to Tobirama, "Please give this to the princess for me. I wanna be a princess too."

Tobirama accepted the little bouquet of three wildflowers and grandly swept down onto his knee, holding them out to Mariko.

"Lady Princess, a bouquet for you," he said, his voice deep and reverberating through her ears. It was as if they were in a grand stadium, and he was proposing to her.

"Thank you," she said lightly, accepting the flowers. Holding them to her nose for little Hansha to see, Mariko smiled. The young Uchiha girl gestured to Tobirama again, and the tall man bent down. Mariko almost wished she wasn't seeing his softness with children (Uchiha or not), because it warmed her heart and stoked feelings that were also confusing her again.

"Lady Princess, Miss Hansha would like you to know that there is freshly baked bread and jam inside, if you would like some." He smiled, almost sweetly, to the point where she wanted to wipe it off his face. This led to a deep contemplation of how she would take it off his face, and watching his lips was not helping. In fact, it would probably increase that gentlemanly smile, one that had subtle undertones of an amused smirk.

"Thank you Miss Hansha," Mariko replied. "I'll take you up on that offer in a little bit."

Grinning, Kagami's little sister bounded away in her billowing shirt, her brother's tee turned into a long, navy dress.

Still on his knees, Tobirama leaned forward and put his hands on either sides of her. He didn't seem to realize he was pushing on a swing, because when the entire seat swung away from him, he fell forward. Mariko yelped as he collapsed onto her, his face hitting her chest and stomach as his elbows hit the edge of the seat and nearly unseated her.

"Thanks for the pillow, Shorty," he said, muffled by her shirt. Tobirama appeared to decide that her chest was a comfortable stay, and did not move except to allow the seat to slide back into its original position. His hunched shoulders indicated that he was not overly fond of that slip-up with the swing, but was not at all bothered by his current position. Mariko, on the other hand, was watching a white head and ignoring the strong arms that were wrapping around her waist and the silly blue armor that was digging into her and pressing her knees.

Tobirama turned his face up to look at her, chin resting on a spot that she found immensely awkward.

"What are you doing?" she asked. Tobirama pulled back and stood, brushing himself off and clearing his throat. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly before eyeing the Uchiha that had been stealing glances at the two of them. "Did you know that that armor is stupid?"

At this, he made a face.

"I'm serious, it's too hard."

He scoffed. That's the point, Shorty, said the roll of his eyes.

"How do you even bend over?"

He bent over, and she cursed herself again, because now it brought them face to face, and her preoccupation with his mouth was frustrating beyond belief. He was tantalizingly close; in fact, he seemed to be taunting her. She nearly grabbed his fur collar and pulled him to her when he brushed his lips gently against hers, prior to pulling away and straightening. He folded his arms in an attempt to look stoic and official (at least, somewhat less mushy than a man far too obviously in love).

Kagami giggled somewhere, and they knew it was him for his giggle was practically a snort, a guffaw, and a cough combined. Hansha was also at his side, smiling boldly at the two of them. Mariko suddenly felt like they'd gone through a very awkward, watched scene. Besides, shouldn't she have been harping on about the situation? Where was Kell, anyway?

Her question was answered when Etsuko came in whooping, galloping on that one white mare and riding double with Kell behind her. Mariko thought back. Kell had been with her when she'd entered. After that, she didn't quite remember. She was now trying to figure out how in the world people were travelling so quickly and disappearing without her knowing it.

"I've got it!" shouted Etsuko. She threw a scroll at one of the Uchiha, the clumsy one who'd shot a fireball at Mariko and Tobirama. He fumbled with it, before Izuna calmly plucked it from his fingers and unrolled it. He stared at it for a total of two seconds, then held it out — read it, came his silent command.

"East Hyuuga, branch house," read another Uchiha. "North Inuzuka river, Training Grounds Two."

"How many?" asked Izuna.

"It looks like fifteen," replied the clan mate.

"Fifteen more?" Kell asked incredulously. "I read five."

"Nope, fifteen," replied the Uchiha.

"Plus the fourteen we already have," replied Arata, abandoning his post. "The three first archers and seven of the next few archers, and all the bandits have escaped."

"No, no, that doesn't make any sense," Izuna retorted. "We've got eight bandits, plus seven more that escaped our light cells, making the fifteen loose in the village."

"Right, then three archers and eleven…more archers?"

"Yes."

"But Odzalaigh doesn't count, he's on our side," reasoned Arata.

"He's already in a different department, then. So two initial archers, eleven secondary archers, and fifteen bandits." Izuna counted off his fingers.

"With annoying sleep darts," Tobirama added from the porch. They all turned to him, and some of them glanced at Mariko, who was still holding onto his leg, and then started conversing all at once. Izuna called for silence, but no one listened. A smart bandit took that chance to string another boy and have it whiz past the group.

Tobirama easily caught the thin shaft in his hand and snapped it in two, the wood splintering between his fingers.

"Are they all archers?" cried Kell.

"No, these new ones are. The seven original ones can only throw kunai, shuriken, and set traps. And darts." Tobirama dropped the ruin arrow on the ground, turning back to Mariko. "Shorty, stand up."

Mariko stood. She held down a startled noise that would have sounded awfully similar to a kitten mewling in terror as Tobirama slipped an arm around her back and under her knees, picking her up bridal style. Being tilted backwards and hoisted into the air was not her idea of fun. Then again, this was not about fun at the moment.

"Where are you going?" demanded Arata, as Tobirama made for the door.

"Back to the Senju," replied Tobirama, brushing past him.

"No, stay here," Arata said firmly, brows creased into a frown.

Tobirama did not take heed of Arata's order, and stepped past the Uchiha guards. One of them tried blocking his way, but Tobirama forcefully pushed past him. Mariko wrapped her arms around his neck, comforted by his scent and warmth.

"Tobirama!" shouted Arata. "Get back here!"

Tobirama whipped round then, and Mariko clung to him like a burr. He glared, and a few men stepped back. However, their captains immediately pushed them forward harshly, demanding that they show Uchiha pride correctly. Tobirama put Mariko down for the moment and stalked up to Arata, gripping his shirt.

"You know I hate them," he hissed at the dark-haired Senju. "You know how much I am withholding myself every time they are near." He let go of Arata with a shove. "I've seen Hashirama hit enough times to know that working with them is pointless. If you're going to hold me back now, I may as well have a shuriken in my back."

"Shut up, Tobirama," spat Arata. "You only think of yourself."

Everyone stilled, watching to see if either Senju would lift a hand. The two men stood firm, Arata glaring at the taller albino. Tobirama was livid; he was about to snap.

"They're no different than us, Tobirama," Arata said, quieter now. "They know the same amount of death as we do. This has nothing to do with that."

"This is not about that anymore," Tobirama replied.

"Then what is this about? Itama?"

Tobirama punched Arata across the face, so hard that the shorter man flew to the side and landed in a heap, clutching his nose. Mariko gasped, horrified. Tobirama was always prone to mood swings, and it seemed that his overall hue at the moment was dark, cloudy and angry. But hitting Arata was completely unnecessary. Mariko stepped up, but a soft hand touched her shoulder.

She glanced back, and Izuna shook his head at her.

Tobirama turned on them.

"Get your hands off her, Uchiha," he shouted viciously. Izuna immediately backed away; he was wise enough to know when to let an angry Senju cool off on his own. Arata had picked himself up now, still holding his nose.

"Stop it!" exclaimed Mariko, when Tobirama reached for her. Surprised, he shot her a hurt expression. "Why'd you hit him?! What are you doing?! Why are you suddenly being so…so awful?!"

Then, confused and horrified, Mariko shot out the gate before anyone could say a word. She hadn't thought of the dangers outside, but at the same time, she had no idea what the situation was anyway. But she ran, her feet pounding relentlessly on the gravel path, with no inclination as to where she was going. There were shouts, when the group finally reacted, but by then, she'd already skittered around a few turns and was lost in the streets.

It was upon seeing a bright flash of an explosive tag in front of her that she realized that there were shinobi coming for her. And they were not Uchiha or Senju, or even Kell. A man lunged for her, kunai in hand. Mariko stumbled backwards, and the man was quick. A few men wielding swords and two more with arrows notched at close range quickly surrounded her.

Mariko must've screamed for Tobirama, but she didn't quite remember, because the first man with the sharpened dagger had given the order to shoot.

I'm going to die.

The arrow flew, whizzing in the air sharply. Mariko held her hands over her head, fingers gripping her blue hair, and cringed. Just before she closed her eyes, another arrow launched into her sight.

It intercepted the first arrow and expertly pinned it to the ground.

In a matter of seconds, every single bandit surrounding her was shot down with a single arrow to each of their chests. Mariko, still cowering, could not tell where these life-saving shots had come from. She had no time to think anyway, because the archer himself had appeared, dressed from head to toe in camouflaged attire, his face smeared with dried blood and his hands gripped around his bow.

It was a lovely bow, Mariko thought vaguely. It was the only thing she could think, because she was already sure she was about to die at the hands of this archer.

When the man lunged for her, she shrieked, and he tackled her to the ground.

A gigantic shuriken flew above them, where she would have been had she been standing there at the moment. The man gripped her by the shoulders and shook her a few times. He murmured something in her ear and her eyes widened – but she hadn't replied before he lifted his bow again.

A stunningly easy shot took down another enemy shinobi, and two more dealt with his comrades. He drew the beautiful bow with practiced ease, pulling back a string that most men could not have. The arch of the weapon fit him perfectly, as if it was a part of his body, a natural limb.

Covered completely, with a scarf wrapped around his face, she'd only glimpsed a portion of his face. But that was not what Mariko focused on. Tobirama appeared around the corner, Arata behind him – his nose oddly bent – and Kell still after. Etsuko leapt onto the scene in full battle armor, her hitai-ate gleaming proudly in the afternoon light.

Tobirama was enraged, looking as if he'd murder the whole lot, friend or enemy. A few bandits fled the scene, and he lifted his arm to take care of them, but was intercepted. Four arrows pierced their hearts, fired from the masked archer. He stood, then, and held out a hand for Mariko to stay. He paused a moment, to make sure that she followed his signal. Mariko thought that it was quite unnecessary, for she would have obeyed him even if he told them all to leap off a cliff together. She would have trusted him, completely.

Tobirama threatened to take down the man, but Mariko shook her head when he cast them a suspicious glance. Three simple words and one deciding trait had told her who this man was. No, it was the way he gracefully slid his arrows into place, drawing them rapidly from his quiver, gliding a smooth pivot to take out all the enemies prowling through the trees. A shot that could not be matched, and the sleek white birch arrows lined with owl feathers for silent flight; items that she recognized.

Fly, Eagle, he'd said to her.

And his eyes were green.


Always updated: Behold, mention of Itama!

Last minute addition, but hey! It fit well.

Microsoft Word page count: 168.