Master - I.
The sky released a downpour of rain, leaving the afternoon looking like a dreary evening. Indoors was the only escape from the pelting waters, but she'd prefer to be outside anyway.
Hashira side-eyed her brother, twiddling with the bandages on her hand. Her yukata top was folded to the side on the table, allowing her to embrace the coolness. She couldn't help regretting promising to spend the day with him.
She loved him, yes, but this was a complete waste of time. It only confirmed that extended time with children remained a pain for her, even if it was her cute little twin brother.
As it was, Yanemaru was the cause of an annoying sense of ennui. Not the okay kind, where you drift off into daydreams due to the unstimulating reality and proceed to live a virtual adventure. It was the drab kind that grinds against the human mind with an iron fist and metal knuckles, allowing for no escape. She wanted to pass out.
"'Shira-nee, if I knew it'd be raining I'd have asked to do this tomorrow, y'know." He muttered, sensing her boredom. His hand moved a wooden chip across the board.
She blandly applauded his insight, staring at him dryly. Her onyx eyes briefly flashed down to the game, before she looked back up at him, moving her pawn with a heavy hand and capturing his king, making it her sixteenth win in a row.
I could be training now.. She gazed at Yanemaru's frustrated face without an ounce of sympathy. A puff of air escaped her lips.. But a promise is a promise.
"This game is boring!" The sore loser declared, "Let's do something else. 'Shira-nee, train with me." Scowling, the boy swept all the game chips off of the table and back into the box while their mother chucked from the kitchen. Hashira heaved a great sigh of relief, watching him fold up the board. Safe.
"Yeah, let's go." The agreement was immediate, Hashira standing and making her way to the front door. Any longer indoors and she feared she'd actually develop some kind of defect from mental burnout. She grabbed her weapons pouch on the way, hastily tying it around her waist.
Yanemaru gazed after her retreating back, "Weren't you the one who was afraid that I'd get sick out in the rain?"
"I changed my mind," She replied, sliding open the shoji doors. The pitter pattering of rain hitting the ground welcomed her return to the outside world with joy, almost as if it missed her as much as she missed it. "If we'll get sick, let's get sick together. There's no point in worrying about getting sick in the future when we're actually dying in there. Let's live for now. If we get sick, we'll get sick while having fun. You'll regret not coming with me and wasting an entire day away if you stay inside, so let's live without regrets." She ranted.
...She was going a bit far with trying to convince him to do something he proposed, wasn't she? Was she really that excited to go? Yanemaru blinked at her in confusion, "'Dying'?"
"Ah. Yes," Hashira pulled on her sandals and made her way out, "dying. Of boredom, of course." She leaped onto a small boulder that was just sitting there in her backyard and held her bandaged arms out. Closing her eyes, she literally embraced the winds, rain, and cold with open arms as they immediately barraged her half-naked body. "Jack, I'm flying!" There would be no death by boredom today.
Her brother frowned after her, coming to stand at the threshold. His hand clutched the door frame when he felt the harsh weather, "You're going to die of hypothermia first, 'Shira-nee." He informed, voice just loud enough for her to hear. He also ignored her Titantic quote which sort of made her feel kind of offended, but she wouldn't let that kill her vibe. She could only comfortably be herself at home, after all.
It's not like the protective nine-year old was gonna turn in or brainwash his own sister. He wasn't even suspicious. He was only obnoxiously paranoid sometimes, and also she was a hypocrite for thinking that because she literally was too. Yanemaru growled, "Come inside and put your top on! You can't walk around outside in just bandages, alright? Especially when it's raining."
She wryly smiled back at him, looking over her shoulder at his anxious face. "I'm wearing pants, don't worry. And my chest is covered in bandages too. Come here, you said you wanted to train, right?"
"That's not the point," He argued, pointing to the spot beside him. "Get in here and put your yukata on. Bandages aren't enough in this kind of weather, y'know. You can't baby me but not listen when I worry for you too."
A deadpan look flitted across the girl's wet face, rain having long soaked her body. She shouted back so he could hear her over the downpour, "You never tell me not to worry! I say 'don't worry' all the time. I'm already wet so it's too late anyway. Come out."
"Yanemaru-nii, don't worry. I have a good feeling about this."
Yanemaru stomped his foot, "About getting sick?!"
His sister smiled. He's so cute. Brushing her wet fringe out of her face, Hashira shouted, "You should've learned by now that first instinct isn't to ever be doubted. My instincts are telling me that I'll be fine."
"Wh-What kind of garbage is that?" Yanemaru murmured incredulously, before calling out, "'Shira-nee, don't make stuff up! Come in now!"
Hashira tilted her head teasingly, "Or you'll cry? Crybaby."
"Like you're one to talk!" His face glowed bright pink. "I don't cry! I sweat from my eyes!"
"You're such a mule, Yanemaru-nii."
He crossed his arms to demonstrate ironic stubbornness, and in response, to emphasize the steadiness of her composure, Hashira stuck her thumbs into the waistband of her pants.
A few long moments passed in tension, the wind billowing both their clothes and hair, but the bullets of rain reaching only Hashira. Though she didn't seem to mind standing out there with the straightest of faces, Yanemaru, from his perch on the veranda, felt a little more unease by each passing second, before swiftly turning around and striding inside.
She blinked blankly, but when he returned moments with her black yukata over his shoulder, her poker-face broke into a pearly white grin. What a worrywart. She also conveniently ignored how hypocritical she apparently was. She'd never noticed until now, actually..
Yanemaru rushed down to meet his sister, hastily throwing her clothes onto her small shoulders. "You're definitely going to get sick." He complained, grabbing her hand and pulling her under a tree.
"I can take care of myself, Yanemaru-nii. I'm a Medic-Nin." Hashira reminded, absentmindedly tying her obi into a bow. She then stuck her thumbs under it. A smile adorned her features at the notion of productivity, "Now, how did you want to train? I wanted to show you a new technique of mine, anyway."
His dark eyes gazed up through the trees, towards the sky, where fat drops soared down and broke through the leaves, "..Let's not do ninjutsu today."
"Hm?" Hashira questioned.
Her cautious brother looked back at her, "Not taijutsu, either. Mom will be really mad if we get the house muddy."
"What, then?" Those were all she had to offer him. It wasn't like they could train weaponry in this heavy rain, right? "Don't tell me you want me to teach you Medical Ninjutsu."
"Nope," Yanemaru shook his head, lifting his hands into the tiger sign, "I want to do genjutsu, alright?" He smirked in glee, looking so proud of himself that it pained her. She was abruptly reminded that her precious brother has had a fix on genjutsu for the longest time.
"Ah, g-gen..." It was like a weight fell on her back. Hashira slumped where she stood, eyes suddenly looking empty. A wry smile draped across her face.
My only neglect.
She could see through genjutsu, sure. Heck, she could always feel it being cast on her. Fiddling with a sensor's chakra signature wasn't an easy task, after all, so it was never too terribly difficult for her to break out of. But still, that was the literal extent of her abilities.
What the hell do I know about genjutsu? I don't know shit about genjutsu!
She didn't want to. She didn't like it; mixing chakra signatures with others made her feel violated; she just plain wasn't interested in it. The series didn't go as in depth about genjutsu as it did with pretty much everything else, anyway. There were, what, two genjutsu masters? Maybe three? Whereas almost all the best characters were good with ninjutsu and pretty much everyone was beast at taijutsu.
It was hard, it was a hassle, and it was totally, utterly unnecessary. To her it was, anyway. But she couldn't very easily say that to his face.
A bead of sweat slid down Hashira's face. Her lack of aptitude for illusions was never really spoken of. No one noticed, because no one mentioned it, so no one cared. They probably assumed that she could, as an Uchiha. Yanemaru never questioned her on it. Only Naoru and her mother definitely knew the truth – along with Rai Holmes, possibly.
"Ah, are you sure? You don't want to, uh, spar instead? We haven't sparred in the longest, Yanemaru-nii."
He arched a brow curiously, because she never liked to spar. With anyone. Ever. Something about trauma was always her excuse. "'Shira-nee, are you okay?"
"So she's not okay." Yanemaru mumbled to himself, pursing his lips.
"I'm fine," She repeated, crossing her arms, "..Genjutsu isn't something I can do, though." It was a low mumbled that just barely escaped her lips. Her cheeks brightened with that irritating warmth as she sat down, legs crossed.
Yanemaru blinked, "What?"
"Genjutsu is hard," Hashira stressed, looking up at him, "and I don't need my chakra getting that touchy with others', anyway. You try letting foreign substances in your pathways."
"Hehe," He chortled, "Mom will get mad if I do drugs."
Hashira groaned, "That's not what I meant."
Yanemaru continued laughing long enough for an embarrassed blush to gradually flush onto her face, before a grin stretched onto his own. "So I'm still stronger than you," He snickered cheekily, "And here I thought your being better at ninjutsu would cancel out my expert taijutsu." He beamed in childish smugness.
Hashira glared in response, but the chilling effect was ruined by her corresponding pout, "That's not a fair comparison, stupid. Every time I say 'no ninjutsu allowed', you still have a sword so it always ends up being taijutsu verses kenjustu."
"It's called a katana. And you still have your kunai, right? That evens it out, right?"
His speech habit is coming out. Hashira smiled wryly with a twitch striking the corner of her lip. How excited is he getting over something like this? "Whatever. Ken, katana, it's practically the same word. And we both have kunai so it's still always to your advantage."
"But you can heal yourself whenever, right?" Yanemaru pointed down at her, "That's unlimited regeneration, so it's fair."
Hashira tilted her head back to look up at him dryly, "My chakra isn't unlimited, Yanemaru-nii."
He hummed, smiling pleasantly. The expression was a clear copy-and-paste of Naoru's. Hashira huffed in exasperation, before rolling her eyes to the rainy skies.
Genjutsu was important to those who could use it, but anyone who couldn't use it got along just fine without it, right? For all the praise that Madara would (eventually) sing about Hashirama being the perfectly well-rounded ninja, he never did use genjutsu, right? He still was the God of Shinobi though, right? And later on, the Hokage, too.
Hashira couldn't let her chakra mingle with others' without getting paranoid and shaky. It was too sensitive for that.
"Who needs genjutsu?" She muttered under her breath, "I can be a good Fire-Bender even without genjutsu. Zuko needed no such garbage to become the Fire Lord, so neither do I."
"What was that, 'Shira-nee?"
"Nothing." Hashira said a bit too quickly, turning her face away.
"Hm. Don't let Madara-sama find out. He'll be even harder on you."
Again, Madara was pretty good, for a kid. He really was. But he showed no mercy in any circumstance. If she wasn't just about ready to crawl into a hole and die, they weren't done training. That's how he saw it. No wonder this clan started going insane when he became leader. The girl frowned. "I don't plan to."
Yanemaru flashed another closed-eyed smile reminiscent of her teacher's, before allowing for a few comfortable seconds of silence to pass by. Save for the whooshing of the light wind and the beating of the rain, there was quietness. The coolness of the breeze gently caressed them as they simultaneously sighed in tranquility.
Yanemaru shifted the katana on his back horizontally in preparation to settle down. His sister side-eyed his motions as he sat beside her, legs outstretched and regarding her posture, and then she released a huff when he finally spoke the dreaded words: "That's not the proper way for a girl to sit, 'Shira-nee." It was only a matter of time before he noticed.
Hashira crossed her arms with a frustrated moue on her face, "Tch."
The sky thundered and lightning flashed. Yanemaru glanced over at her, and she glanced back. We'd better hurry up and choose.
"You can practice casting genjutsu then, and I'll try to break o—"
"So the two of you are out already?" From above came a gentle voice, adorned with a special alertness that wasn't regularly there.
They looked overhead and saw Naoru hovering over them from a perch on the tree. Somehow, she was completely dry despite the fact the fact that it was pouring around them. Her standard Uchiha garb just barely shimmered indigo with the atmospheric moisture. Hashira noted that she was wearing a kunai pouch and her mission shoes.
"Eh? Shishou?" Did something happen?
She smiled that prettily squinty smile of hers with implicit urgency as she focused her pupils on Hashira. They were dilated. "You even have your weapons on you. That's good; we have a mission."
Yanemaru ran beside me, our feet squishing and splashing against muddy puddles and soggy leaves as we made our way to the intended location. Wherever it was. I really had no clue. Naoru, in her beauty and perfection, hardly said a word as she dashed ahead of us, not making a ripple or a sound. All we had to go off of was a short briefing.
"Backup?" I echoed.
"Yes, Hashira-chan," Noaru repeated testily. She was very obviously trying to express how she wasn't up for chatting at the moment, but I really didn't care. She'd have to deal with it since I didn't feel like dying by my own ignorance. Or having Yanemaru die, for that matter. I'd be sad to lose Naoru as well. I only had a few more questions, anyway.
"Backup for who?"
"What happened for them to need backup?" Yanemaru added curiously.
I nodded, before ending our inquiries with, "And why us? We definitely weren't the first resorts, right?"
Naoru remained silent, invoking a frustrated grunt from exasperated me. Tch.
We ran in that manner for the next few minutes, lightning occasionally illuminating the dreary skies overhead. I briefly wondered if my teacher didn't trust our chakra control to let us tree-hop while it was raining.
After another half an hour or so of running, the rain lightened, allowing for better vision. This was more beneficial to Yanemaru than any other of us, since he was the only one present who didn't have his sharingan.
He didn't need to see especially well, either. We all felt it equally; the heavy killing intent that suddenly fell on us like a weight.
Abruptly stopping, I glanced at him to make sure he was okay, before scanning the area with my eyes, feeling Naoru do the same.
The atmosphere was dark and dreary, so even if we weren't literally in a forest with like a million trees, it'd still be hard to find the source of the KI. However, chakra was supposed to stick out like a sore thumb. But all I saw was Naoru's, Yanemaru's, and mine, despite feeling that there was another presence somewhere.
Then came the laughter. It was the dark, maniacal kind of laughter that you wouldn't think people actually seriously do in real life. Shishou stiffened completely at the sound of it, and my face paled drastically while Yanemaru froze beside me. The killing intent in the atmosphere then doubled.
Out of thin air, a man appeared on a tree just before us. He was standing on the lowest branch of it (which was actually still quite high) and was gazing down at us with a stony face, his pitch black eyes seeming endless.
What the heck? Is that possible without the kamui?
I gazed up at him. Who was he? The chakra and KI was definitely coming from this guy, but could such a grim-looking person really have laughed like that? His shiny black topknot dubbed him as nothing short of absolutely noble, and he wore typical Senju armor.
Topknot's eyes fixed themselves on Shishou, ignoring the rest of us. Immediately, she reacted, drawing her weapons.
"So we meet again, young one." He smirked, holding his hand up in front of his chest in the tiger seal.
Dark swirls of black and purple leaked from the man in a physical way that I was certain even Yanemaru (and his normal non-dōjutsu eyes) could see.
Eh? The hell?
My eyes flickered to Shishou. She wasn't doing her usual smile. When faced with enemies, it was always her initial expression to hide her true emotions (kind of a like alternative to our clan's Don't Show True Emotions propaganda). But right now, she wasn't smiling. Or glaring, even. Her face was strangely blank. She seemed more like an Uchiha than ever.
"Hashira-chan, Yanemaru-kun, stay on guard. He's a genjutsu master." Naoru informed, holding her senbons between her fingers in a way that made her look like a low render version of Wolverine. I instantly went numb.
A genjutsu master.
Immediately, I felt my chest tighten with anxiety, my pupils dilating. This was a problem. Not a whimper of 'Oh no' kind of problem but a shouted out 'Shit!' through gritted teeth with fearful, crying eyes.
Fortunately, I knew very well how tears blurred vision, which was the last thing that I needed. Quickly reaching into the depths of my pathway, I scanned it for foreign chakra. I searched for even a minuscule amount of it, small enough and thin enough for a sensor to miss. After three thorough self-inspections, I lightly sighed. Clean.
Right as the thought rested on me, feeling a cool wind brush across the top of my head, I instinctively ducked a blow from behind. Thereafter, leaning forward, I aimed a high kick backwards with every intent to hit the person under the chin. My gaze flickered back to Top-Knot, standing in front of me. He was still idling there with a heavy game-face on. "I have no time to spend on children."
Then, who snuck up on me? Why did I not sense them?
As my foot connected with the person's jaw, their teeth clank shut and high-pitched grunt escaped them.
I traced it back to determined onyx irises and my own eyes widened.
He kicked back up into a standing position, drawing his katana as soon as he was on his feet. Then he leaped, swinging it towards his sister's throat.
Kunai already in hand, Hashira held her ground against it, sparks flying as she looked into his eyes. His pupils were dilated completely.
"Genjutsu," She hissed. She let chakra cover the kunai, leaning heavily onto the foot closer to him. If she could graze him with the chakra, he'd come out of the illusion, right? "Snap out of it, Yanemaru!"
He leaped back in time, evading the blade. Hashira didn't mind drawing a bit of blood from her brother if need be, but he was deftly dodging each of her lunges with the kind of fluid skill that Hashira knew her brother definitely didn't possess.
Just as the thought occurred to her, he went on the offensive.
His katana was quicker, his steps were swifter, and he was just better, altogether. He wasn't holding back, unlike her. As if she'd seriously try to kill him! She ducked another high kick and then jumped back to avoid getting stabbed, before a solid punch met her back and she was sent flying meters away into a lake.
The hell? Yanemaru doesn't even know how to body-flicker!
A chill zipped up her spine as she rolled across the surface like a skipping stone, before finally plunging under, face-up. Why didn't she stand on the surface like the water-walking ninja that she was? Well, her question was: Why couldn't she?
Why couldn't she move?
A silhouette landed on the water, causing ripples that distorted her view of the grey sky.
Her eyes widened minutely, locked onto the the form above her, standing on the surface. Yanemaru's eyes were as black and hollow as the open night, piercing into her.
Quickly, Hashira tried to struggle. Maybe throw a kunai or two to the surface, or maybe blow a fireball skyward and make the lake pop! like Old Faithful, but she couldn't do a one of those.
She could only sink. Her movements were sluggish and her chest was heavy.
There was a moment of something like fear...
Is.. Yanemaru going to kill me?
...And something like desperate anger, before her mind went as blank as the cool waters that she was sinking through. Her hair swayed in front of her eyes, and her chest tightened, but she couldn't move.
It was dark, and it was lonely. There were muffled voices around, but one voice was the clearest: "Hashira-nee!"
Swiftly, he cut down through the water with inhuman speed, his katana pointed straight toward her chest. His movements were murderous, but his eyes were flooded with tears.
She felt her heart wrench, looking into those onyx eyes. So desperate and hopeless. It wasn't a stretch to say that she was looking into a mirror image of herself. It pained her.
Her small body boiled with a sudden heat — or was it the water around her that was heating up? — and her field of vision overlaid itself with translucent waves of orange. The lake bubbled into steam that dissipated until she was laying onto the ground. She was definitely lying at the bed of the lake, but she still couldn't breathe.
When she heard the faint sound of crackling around her, Hashira turned her face. The ground that she was lying on was charring to black.
She became highly aware of her clothes slowly but surely becoming ash.
Fire-Covered Fire-Bender of Mass Destruction no Jutsu...?
Was it possible to unconsciously do a jutsu? Hashira put a halt to her chakra flow before she became completely naked, and water flooded back to overtake her once the boiling heat was gone. Hashira weakly held her breath until she floated to the surface. Where was Yanemaru? Was he okay?
Once her nose and mouth touched the air, she panted, just lax and floating. Where was Yanemaru? Eyes turning, she instantly spotted him on the bank some meters away, back turned to her as he lay limply on his side.
"Y-Yane.." She panicked, immediately crawl-swimming towards him. Her fingertips touched the muddy bank first, and then she dragged the rest of her onto the moist and grainy shore. Grabbing hold onto his shoulder, Hashira roughly turned him onto his back.
He wasn't unconscious or anything. No, his eyes were the size of saucers; He was definitely awake, but flaccid, with tears running down his cheeks. His glazed eyes slowly became focused on her.
"I'm sorry." He croaked. His voice was tired and listless.
"No one's blaming you." She responded, sitting up her knees. She then stood, brushing off her butt idly as she stretched her chakra out like winds from a fan, feeling for her master. Where was Naoru? She was still fighting, wasn't she?
Yanemaru shakily sat up after her. His clothes were scorched and falling apart too, just like hers; his yukata slid right off his body. He really is a mirror image..
He didn't seem to plan on stopping crying anytime soon either. "'Shira-nee.. I trained so hard to be good at genjutsu," he sniffed, "but I was so weak that I almost k—"
Hashira's hand went up to cover his mouth and she could feel it drop open in a dead gape. At least he'd tried. From where she stood, it looked like she'd played right into Topknot's hands from the start. No, from the very start, when she'd completely written genjutsu off.
She felt her heart squeeze. If she'd died, there'd be no one to blame but herself. But now wasn't the moment to let it take over. She sighed, pressing her hand more firmly against his mouth when he tried to whimper her name again. Yeah, maybe that was a bit insensitive, but she'd just picked up on her teacher's fighting chakra signature and, frankly, there were bigger fish to fry.
Shaking her head as if warding off bad thoughts, she zeroed in on the locus.
"Now's not the time, Yanemaru," She used his full first name in this moment of seriousness, "we still need to find Shishou. So stop sweating from your eyes and let's get to work. I'd bet that the Topknot's plan was to separate us in the first place." She offered a hand to hold.
He blinked, before a weak smile settled on his face. He took her outstretched hand and let her pull him up.
Over the treetops, faint swirls of visible chakra — colored purple and black — could be seen floating up into nothingness. A booming killing intent emitted from it, suddenly flooding her with anxiety and dread, but she rushed it anyway, feeling her twin running beside her.
Wait for me.. Shishou; Master. We're coming.
A/N: So this chapter originally ended up being a bit too long for my liking, so I cut it in half. It's the start of an arc. There's a huge deal of foreshadowing in it. Can you guess what they are?
Thanks for reading! I'm also looking for a Beta-Reader (finally)!