1. Loyalty


I.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

It takes a while before she becomes aware of anything again, before she becomes capable of any sort of cognitive thought. Before those formerly featherlight sensations lingering at the edges of her fingertips began tugging steadily stronger, and before her muddled mind slowly started to regain the needle-sharp clarity that had lately eluded her so.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

At first, there were only the heartbeats.

Ba-dump.

Nothing but the heartbeats thumping gently and steadily in the sea of darkness suffocating her. Surrounding her, ceaselessly, incessantly-

Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.

Then came this strangely intimate feeling of safety, of being ensconced in a cocoon of fiercely protective warmth. Of being carried around and held closely to someone's chest delicately and carefully, as if she was a precious treasure cradled in their arms.

(But it wasn't quite the same. Because treasure was just treasure; no matter all that was said and done, in the end a treasure was just an object. No one would dedicate all their time and attention to an object all day long. Or perhaps they would -but she knew that there were feelings mixed in here for her. Whispers of endearments and soft lullabies sung in the darkness of the night were but a few of the myriad of tiny signs that told her this feeling, that this emotion she was wrapped in and attention she was miraculously given was nothing other than love.)

Somehow, she knew.

She knew that she was safe and she was loved. Loved, loved, loved. Loved and taken care of by a lilting voice and warm hands and someone whose heart genuinely cared for her.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

It was only natural under these conditions that she came to the conclusion that she was safe. That she was safe here; here in this blurry world that she couldn't quite see but nevertheless was able to tell that she was safe and loved in. This was a world where she no longer had anything to fear, where nothing could ever hurt her again.

Ba-dump.

She yawned, drowsy and contented, lulled to sleep by the fiery warmth surrounding her.

Maybe death wasn't so bad after all…

Ba-dump.

She didn't know back then.

She didn't know how wrong she was. She didn't know that her assumptions were wrong, that instead she was in danger. She didn't know that she actually wasn't dead -far from it, really- and she didn't know how wrong those feelings of love and safety that she'd experienced were, how delicate and fragile they were. She didn't know that those emotions merely belonged to a precarious illusion that could easily shatter into a million little pieces -didn't know that it would shatter.

She didn't know.

But she would.

Ba-dump.

II.

Open the set of creaking doors and walk into the dark little cellar. The air is stale in the cramped, musty space, and there's a faint hint of something a little salty and sour mixed in there, too.

A coal-eyed child is lying on the ground. An infant, left alone in the middle of a thin cot to stare up at the rotting wood of the ceiling by itself. A closer look reveals it to be a young baby girl, covered only with a threadbare piece of cloth to protect her from the winter's deadly chill.

(The child was waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for the warmth and protectiveness to come back to her.)

"Is this it?"

The little girl blinks her shiny coal black eyes, and suddenly there's an unfamiliar face swimming into view for the infant. She squints a little at the fuzzy image her weak eyes provide her with. Her eyesight isn't quite so clear yet, but nevertheless she thinks to herself that this black-eyed woman looks vaguely familiar.

Except she held no warmth and comfort and safety; only ice and frustration and danger.

A wailing mewl makes its way out of the infant's throat when the raven-haired ice-lady reaches over to pluck her into her arms after a long, scrutinizing look. It was obvious that this lady had no experience with children -her posture was too stiff as she held her, there was something scratching against her soft baby skin, and it was just plain uncomfortable.

For both of them.

The baby girl squirmed in the ice-woman's arms.

"Yukizome-san?"

The ice-lady is not at all startled when a young man appears next to her, peering at the tiny little bundle she'd just acquired. The tiny little girl wiggled a little more in the too-stiff hold -it felt too cold, too methodical, not warm, not caring, and just plain not safe- before the lady abruptly spun around towards her male companion.

"Kotaru-san. This child. My sister, Yukihana, do you know if she...?"

Another set of raven eyes blur into view for the infant, but this time they are not focused on her. They are focused on the strange ice-woman holding her.

"... I fear I bear ill tidings, Yukizome-san."

III.

She is Uchiha Shiraha.

Hastily named in less than a second by her aunt Yukizome when the woman returned to the Clan from her mission, two others in a tow with her -one sister stone-faced in death and one infant bawling in hunger.

Shiraha is a tiny young girl. An undersized child.

But she is undeniably an Uchiha.

… She is also the bastard child of a nameless shinobi who was audacious enough to kidnap Uchiha Yukihana, sister to Yukizome and the eldest daughter of Uchiha Sojiro. Yukihana was the quiet, graceful daughter who'd been groomed and raised from birth to become the perfect wife of the next Clan Head. The demure, delicate daughter he'd carefully nurtured under his personal guidance, the soft-spoken lady who'd never learned the arts of the kunoichi.

The kind, gentle daughter whose broken body had been found stuffed into the empty rice bin in a run-down shack, belly swollen and bulging with an unborn child while another lay on a cot in the same dingy room.

It came as no surprise to anyone that little Uchiha Shiraha quickly became the shame of old Uchiha Sojiro. To him, she was nothing but a stark reminder of his failure -his failure to increase his influence within the Clan, his failure to protect his eldest daughter from harm as he'd promised his deceased first wife to do. To her aunt, the talented kunoichi Uchiha Yukizome, she was naught but a reminder of the dearest sister -her sweetest sister who'd always been there for her with her comforting presence, no matter what the time or circumstances.

It came as no surprise that Uchiha Shiraha was treated with a cautious distance in the Sojiro Household.

IV.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

"You're not allowed to go out there."

Shiny coal-black eyes flick towards the distant cousin following her, then back towards their former target.

"If you take another step forward, I'm going to tell Auntie."

Ba-dump.

Tiny feet padded to a stop. Unconsciously, her hands came up to cradle her body -where the thin yukata draped over it hid hundreds of dark bruises that she'd stopped counting a long time ago.

Ba-dump.

"Why are you always trying to run away all the time?"

Silence.

"I'm doing this for your own good. There's sentries posted on the borders, and they report disturbances -you'll really get it from Grandpa Sojiro if that happens."

Ba-dump.

… Coal eyes narrowed, but she backed down. Even though her heart longed for freedom, longed for wild flames to free her of this icy prison she was held in, it was impossible to escape… for the time being, that is.

She could be patient.

"So, are you finally going to listen to sense now?"

Ba-dump.

Shiraha said nothing as she turned around and followed her cousin back into the deeper grounds of clan territory again. He took it as mute acceptance, but she knew better in her heart.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump, ba-dump.

One day, she'd find a way out of here. Because she knew that there was more to life than this. Than being mistreated by narrow-minded fools and their prejudices, that their was more to human emotions than the frosty blankness that she endured each day here. She was not a simple child -in body, perhaps, but not in mind- and so she clung to life where others in her place would've fallen because she knew. Knew that this life she was living now wasn't the vibrant shade of joy that all lives could be tinted with.

Ba-dump.

And so she waited. She waited and bided her time, because she knew that there was a "one day." A day where she could escape and have life again.

One day...

V.

Naive.

How foolishly naive.

Ba-dump.

VI.

Spin, run, twist, leap. The movements are natural and quick, instinctive at this point, and so fast that they seem like a small black blur. Flying through the air, ducking under kunai and shuriken and running next to water dragons and fireballs -this is the world she now lives in. Where the world of superhuman feats are a common occurrence and death is their constant companion.

Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.

This is the world at war.

Freedom is but a far-off dream at this point. With the war raging on, it's impossible for a child to survive on their own -peasants dying left and right, cities heavily guarded, ninja attacks occurring anytime, anywhere. Being in a clan was actually a boon in this respect… at least, during the times when you were alone by yourself and didn't have to be out on the battlefield.

She still remembers when she first became acutely aware of this perpetual, ongoing war when she was only but three years old, when a knife was pressed into her hands and she had been quietly ushered off to fight along with a dozen or so similarly aged Uchiha children in a grassy field. At that time, her hands had shaken at the mere thought of spilling blood, and so she'd thrown down the knife and refused to fight.

… Not so now. She was not so foolish now as she had been back then, though she was a great deal more jaded and cynical of the world she now lived in.

She was not the only child who'd been thrown onto the battlefield. She was not the only child who'd killed. Sometimes she wondered if the other children really remembered the doctrines while on the field -uphold clan honor, fight for the clan, etc. etc…- because she knew for a fact that she didn't.

All that really mattered was survival. If it would be you who came home tonight or that ninja lobbing a kunai at the back of your skull.

Shiraha was aware that no one in the clan cared much for her. She was acquaintances at best with her cousins. She knew full well that most everyone looked down on her because of her status as a half-blood. A half-breed. Her blood was filthy and diluted, so it was incomparable to the pureness and strength of true Uchiha blood.

It's no concern of theirs if the little dirty wench became another casualty on the battlefield. No big loss, really.

She wanted to prove them wrong. She wanted to prove them all wrong.

Her blood boiled under her skin.

Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.

VII.

The Sojiro House of the Uchiha Clan cares for her in a distant, frosty manner that keeps their interactions to a bare minimum just shy of outright neglect. Shiraha flits through the Sojiro House like a ghost, and no one ever glances twice at the unwanted girl. Three of her five cousins are dead, and two of her aunts are pregnant again.

As she glides soundlessly over the old floorboards, she inwardly muses to herself that it's a good thing that she's not really a child. Who knew what mental scars a young, impressionable child would've gained from this type of ostracization by her own blood family?

… Still.

Unlike what one may expect (and to her own surprise as well), her anger towards her family has finally begun to dull. Uchiha Shiraha isn't quite so bitter and resentful these days as she is wistful and hopeful that they will eventually notice her one day. Even though they are a group of heartless killers and murderers, they were still family -a sort of instinctive camaraderie born after years of battle together, of saving and being saved and of helping and being helped.

But only on the battlefield.

She wonders if this camaraderie can be extended into the family off the battlefield as well.

No matter what, family is family. Of course, they aren't the kind and caring family that she recalls having in a different lifetime, but it doesn't change the irrefutable, irrevocable fact that these people are her family now. The ones who provide for her and teach her to survive. They could've abandoned her all those years ago, right? Had they really done so, she would've frozen to death that winter or starved to death, or maybe even died by means of a stray kunai.

So… even though they treat her this way… even if she never realizes her goal and they never acknowledge her… she knows what gratitude is.

Ba-dump.

(There's a little voice in the back of her mind telling her that she's an idiot for thinking this way, that she shouldn't care for them at all. That she doesn't owe these cold-blooded ninjas anything, that this line of thought could result in her death one day. It still doesn't stop her from still feeling this way, though; doesn't stop her from wanting to make herself useful… and gain their approval.)

VIII.

Is it so wrong to want to belong?

You've died. Except somehow you're not dead. And in this unfamiliar world of blood and war, you have a family. Even though your family is distant from you, they're nevertheless always there. They're only anchor that you have in this endless storm of blood and sea of war.

A family that's just always hovering slightly out of reach.

Is it so wrong to want to be noticed by them? To be acknowledged by them? To be accepted by them?

She knows that she should know better. Know better than to feel this way and be caught in a web of her own conflicting feelings towards this family, where a child's unconditional love for her family finally trumped the cold resentment of an adult. Even though her mentality was that of an adult's, ultimately her heart belonged to that of a child's.

A child who yearned to become part of the Sojiro House that she'd grown up in.

Is it so wrong to know that all you're chasing after is only a distant dream, but still going on and chasing after it, anyways?

IX.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

"Remember this place?"

Her head turns at the sound of her cousin's voice, which held both the lingering traces of a smile and faint nostalgia.

Ba-dump.

"That time you tried to run away all those years ago. You made it as far as these training fields around here, right?"

She nodded mutely.

Ba-dump.

"Do you always train here on the farthest grounds?"

Another nod.

"By yourself?"

Nod.

"Hey, Shira-chan. Would you like to train with me today?"

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

X.

What does it take for a dream to become reality?

XI.

Run through the forest. Take to the branches. Tumble off the splintered wood when the trees suddenly tremble and move, and suddenly you're fighting the entire woodland in addition to the fleet-footed ninjas pursuing you.

Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump.

Uchiha Shiraha is now eleven-going-on-twelve, and a formidable kunoichi in her own right. She is young, but no longer untrained. Inexperienced, but no longer useless.

Ba-dump.

And this is no longer the first time that her squad has been ambushed by Senju shinobi.

Ba-dump.

She spins when she catches the signal from the corner of her eye, inhales deeply and breathes fire. Her movement is mirrored by her four other Uchiha comrades. The intensity of their fire is more concentrated together than it is spread out as individuals, thereby creating a hotter flame which burned faster -just in time to burn the oncoming tendrils of Senju wood, which disintegrated into ash upon contact with the stream of fire scorching the air.

She's about to spin and take to running with the others again -they were on retreat, after all- when, suddenly, the trees themselves move, and she's knocked back several feet, falling to the ground and spitting blood as she rolls through the dirt.

Then, right in front of her coal-black eyes, the forest came alive.

The very forest itself attacked them, under the directions of the Senju shinobi. This was why you avoided fighting Senju ninjas on their home turf. It was like something out of a horror film or a Senju nightmare -the former of which didn't even exist in this world yet, mind you- and terror struck her heart and paralyzed her limbs.

Ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump.

Panic. Fear. Desperation. Swimming through her mind, muddling her sight, clouding her thoughts.

Ba-dump.

Ba-dump.

Ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-

Heart beating like a swift war drum in her ears, she never realized it when her eyes bled red and the world became clear again. She never realized mid-slaughter when Uchiha reinforcements came until the nightmare was over again, when she was somehow inexplicably blinking back tears and standing in blood.

She never forgot her first dance of unadulterated terror and pure madness, of mindless insanity.

Ba-dump.

XII.

Gaining a pair of Sharingan eyes changed her standing in the Clan.

Warmer gazes, quick conversations. Not as much derision as before.

Power means everything to the Uchiha Clan. It is what this world is defined upon, after all.

Shiraha thoughtfully sharpened her kunai that night.

The Sharingan bestowed power. The Clan needed power. It was a way to become useful… so how could she become more useful to her Clan? Useful in a way that most weren't? The men were strong -already, legends of the Clan Heir Madara were spreading like wildfire- and even she, swift as she was on her feet, found it hard to hold her ground with them. There were many talented close-combat specialists in the Uchiha Clan. Maybe it was due to her small stature that she had difficulty fighting them, but on the other hand it just meant that she had an easier time while hiding…

That's it.

The next morning, Shiraha woke up early and headed towards the training grounds.

Ba-dump.

XIII.

Kyuujutsu was a rarely practiced art amongst ninja. From all angles, it was considered an inferior weapon for their line of work -the large bow used in archery was hard to carry around and remain inconspicuous, enemies wouldn't give you time to stop and pull back and aim, and you couldn't cut anyone with a bow when they got too close to you.

Shiraha was small. She'd always been small for her age. She'd always snuck around the corners of the Sojiro Household -and so she knew how best to walk in the shadows no matter the circumstances. Her eyesight was good. She could glance over the battlefield once and be able to make deductions -where the greatest threats were, where she needed to attack. Her eyes had only become better after gaining the Sharingan. Aiming was not a problem for her, and neither was close combat.

(Even though she wasn't quite as skilled as the others while fighting in close-quarters, that only applied to those within the Clan. Close combat was a specialty of the Clan with their pinwheel eyes -and she was not a Uchiha for nothing.)

There weren't many long-range fighters in the Clan. There were a few middle-ranged jutsu users, but skilled long-range fighters were a rarity who came few and far between.

A long-ranged fighter could be useful against the Senjus while fighting in the forest.

IX.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

"Shira-chan?"

Bloodred eyes slowly faded to dark coal, and the girl turned to face her cousin.

Ba-dump.

"What're you still doing out here? C'mon, it's time to go. Otherwise, we'll be late and Auntie is definitely going to strangle us ali- whoa, what happened here?"

Ba-dump.

A mini warzone. Darkened charcoal marked where flames had fallen, and uplifted sections of the torn ground the grace of chakra-enhanced blows.

"... Are you alright?"

Acceptance of the Clan. Recognition. What in the name of earth had she ever been thinking? She was a fool. Such a foolish idiot, to even have entertained the hope of-

"This wouldn't have anything to do with when we determined chakra natures during training earlier, would it?"

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

She suppressed the instinctive flinch of her body without so much as batting an eyelash, but he saw through her anyways. He always did.

"Listen, chakra nature is something we're born with, Shira-chan. It's not wrong to not be-"

Not be the same as us, because you're not a real Uchiha…

"-fire-natured. Wind is fine, too, isn't it?"

Uchihas are known for their brilliant flames, which shine as red as their eyes…

"Shira-chan. Shira-chan!"

Wind. Her nature was wind, not fire.

Ba-dump.

"You're overreacting, Shira-chan. So what if you're wind? It's not like you're water -if anything, you should be happy. Do you know how many people in the clan want a dual fire-wind nature? Water will douse our flames, but wind can augment it."

"Look, we'll get back to this later, alright? You're my official training partner now, and I'll help you with this wind stuff. But if we don't get going now, we'll never make it to the funeral on time and Auntie will make it our funeral next."

A small laugh. A spark of brightness.

There was still hope.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

X.

Spring comes early this year, and it brings a sinking feeling to her heart. The snow and ice will melt soon, and the plants will grow -perfect for the Senju shinobi. She remembers the year of the long summer, when the clan was forced to burn what precious few crops they had and depended solely on their income from the local daimyos.

(There's too many self-proclaimed "daimyos" for her to keep track of nowadays, each rise and fall of power too quick to be of any real threat to the more established, formal daimyos.)

She is young. She knows that she is fourteen now, after the winter has passed. She also knows that becoming fourteen means that she is of marrying age, that she is now eligible to become a mother and bear children in the eyes of the Clan.

But she is not too concerned. She is a half-blood, after all.

… Besides, she has her cousin/training partner helping her ward off unwanted attentions, too. Good ol' Kensei.

Ba-dump.

XI.

Shiraha does not know that others are talking about her until she accidentally overhears a conversation on a supply run to town.

"-an' since when have the Uchihas been going into archery, anyways? Damned chakra-arrow almost took my arm off when-"

He slumped over. His friends thought he'd finally drunk himself silly -they too were downing bowls of sake one after another, tossing it back like water- and none of them notice a coal-eyed girl walking away, one knife less in her arsenal.

She hated leaving her jobs unfinished. It was a personal pet peeve of hers, one that had been with her far before this bloody lifetime even started.

Ba-dump.

XII.

Uchiha children are traditionally trained in pairs. Shiraha had never had a training partner before Kensei came along, and had never paused to wonder why.

"... So that half-blood has the Sharingan gift, eh?"

Now she knew.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

Under the crimson light of the dying sun, shedding tears for the first time in years, the young girl tightly held close her cousin's body, as if that action could somehow stop his lifeblood from spilling and pooling on the ground. He was the one who'd been the first to reach out to her, the first to stand next to her and fight with her wind, the first who'd been there for her and-

"Don't cry, Shira-chan." He murmured, with that soft gentleness in his nature that surfaced only for his little cousin. "I like it better when you smile. Won't you smile for me, please?"

Ba-dump.

His blood scalded her lips when he leaned forward and kissed her, a single hand tangled within raven strands as it braced the back of her head. She wept bitterly, uncontrollably, as the lovingly sweet kiss turned desperate and wild.

He broke away with one last breath.

"Your eyes are beautiful, Shira-chan."

Ba-dump.

Lips raw and scarlet, eyes crying tears of blood, Shiraha wept and screamed.

XIII.

Her name falls into notoriety when she is fourteen-going-on-fifteen, when she is providing long-range support for an attack on a Senju camp. They were guarding a valuable politician inside, one whom the Uchiha Clan had been hired to eliminate.

Blood splattered her eyes and she hissed in mild annoyance before spinning around and drawing her katana with her other hand, lashing outwards. There was the familiar resistance of flesh on steel, the familiar splatter of blood from too-close combat with an enemy shinobi, and she swiftly body-flickered to another spot on the rocky mountain ledge.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

Bold chakra sensors who tried to take on the enemies themselves often ended up like that. He looked to be only ten. If things continued this way, was it possible that there would be precious few chakra sensors in a few generations?

Ba-dump.

She shook her head, casting her thoughts back towards the battlefield as she wiped her eyes and raised her bow, nocking an arrow again.

From her vantage high above, the ninjas fighting below were only the size of the tiny plastic figurines she'd played with in her childhood a lifetime ago. It was hard to put identities to each person down there, even with her Sharingan active -and a trickle of sweat rolled down the side of her face from the force of her exertion.

Ba-dump.

She had to find the politician and shoot him down.

It was the only way. The Uchihas were outnumbered by the Senjus present, and the Senju camp was surrounded by their infamous shinobi-grown plants. There was no way for the Uchiha to break in according to their original plans, and now that they no longer held the element of surprise...

For my brothers and sisters. For my family. For the Clan.

She cast aside her arrow, instead replacing it with her katana. The wood of the arrow was too fragile; it'd never be able to stand the strain of being imbued with chakra like her sword would. Gathering wind chakra in the sharp steel, rising to her feet, eyes flickering over the tiny figures in the Senju encampment, raising her bow-

For Kensei.

It was more chakra than she'd poured into any of her other shots before. More concentration than she'd devoted to anything. Her Sharingan eyes spun, and-

She released it.

Ba-dump.

The sword flew straight upwards into the sky.

Running away from the Senju camp were a small team of ninjas. One of them was carrying a humanoid object on their back.

None of them were running anymore when a sword shot down from the heavens and sank hilt-deep into the politician's head, and the wind chakra exploded.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

Heart like ashes, she slowly lowered the bow.

Ba-dump.

XIV.

Uchiha Shiraha is deadly.

She is fifteen-going-on-sixteen, and she has already walked over far more war grounds than she can ever even hope to begin counting. She is the most noteworthy long-range fighter in the Clan, known for her black longbow and sharp winds.

She is Hawk Eyes, and she is currently the Clan's strongest kunoichi.

She is finally, finally recognized, but this is not the recognition she wants.

"The elders of the Main Family have made a marriage proposal. I've accepted. You will be the wife of Uchiha Tajima."

Ba-dump.

This is not what her heart wants.

XV.

Uchiha Tajima. Head of the Uchiha Clan. The man whose name was feared throughout the shinobi world, whose battle prowess was equaled only by Senju Butsuma.

He was forty-one. She was sixteen.

Ba-dump.

Logically, it made sense. The strongest shinobi with the strongest kunoichi for the strongest offspring. It didn't matter the age of the man -only the woman had to be of childbearing age, and Shiraha most certainly qualified.

She hated it. No matter how hard she tried to convince herself that this was good, that this was for her family, for the Clan -there was a part of her that screamed and wailed in anger and despair at these disgusting, depraved people who would do this to her after all that she'd done for the sake of the Clan.

She was silent during the ceremonies. Silent during the festivities. Silent during the congratulations.

Ba-dump.

She hated it, but what could she do?

Ba-dump-ba-dump-ba-dump.

When Tajima took her in bed, he did not hear the war drums beating in her heart.

Ba-dump.

XVI.

She meets Madara for the first time off the battlefield when she's cooking dinner. She isn't quite sure what to make of this red-eyed demon, but he simply nods at her and leaves her be so in return she decides to remain silent and doesn't make trouble for him.

Not so for Tajima.

To him, she is only his toy.

So one day, Shiraha smiles and tells her husband that it's only natural that she familiarize herself with the surroundings of the Main Family's compound.

During the process, it's only natural that she would meet and greet the people living here, too.

Ba-dump.

They were all taught from a young age to make use of their advantages; and when there weren't any, to make them.

XVII.

"Y'know, not everyone supported your marriage. The age gap is just too large this time, even for most of the traditionalists. But Sojiro-san was very insistent, and some of our own elders… well, they fear Madara-sama. Madara-sama's own faction within the Clan is growing stronger, and they fear that he'll overrule Tajima-sama soon. That's why they decided to support the marriage and sent the proposal. If you bear a son to Tajima-sama, then he'll have enough grounds to be able to challenge Madara-sama."

XVIII.

She has no intention of bearing Tajima a child.

XIX.

It was only a matter of time before he finally approached her.

Ba-dump.

"Shiraha-san."

Shiraha-san. Not Haha-ue. Well, it must've been awkward for him to call her that, especially considering that he was actually older than her.

A small smile crept over Shiraha's lips as she turned to face Madara. His face was as cold and smooth as marble, but that didn't mean she couldn't read him.

"I believe you have many of our clansmen's… support."

Talking with them. Getting close. Between the power struggles, no one had spared thought to the others in the Clan -and so, under the guise of the concerned Lady, she'd came and listened and consoled and gained their confidence.

"Judging by the virtues and vices of your current position, I can make you an offer that I'm sure will be beneficial to both parties."

Ba-dump.

XX.

Madara was strong. Charismatic. Bold.

It wasn't hard to convince others to support him.

XXI.

What is freedom?

XXII.

Tajima was dead and so were his Elders.

"The Mangekyo."

Ba-dump.

Shiraha turned around when she heard his velvet voice sounding beside her, spinning to see the raven-haired man gazing at her speculatively, "So you do have it. The rumors were true, then."

She blinked, and the man behind her who'd been about to impale her on his blade burst into midnight flames with an anguished cry.

"You're an interesting woman, Hawk Eyes." It was the first time she'd seen Madara laugh, and for a moment she was speechless. "My father shouldn't have made an enemy out of you."

Madara became the new Clan Head overnight, and Shiraha remained the Clan Lady.

XXIII.

They said that he changed. That something snapped in Madara when Izuna died.

Ba-dump.

She didn't think so.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

She knew Madara better than that.

Ba-dump.

She didn't love him like she did Kensei, but she did care for him in her own way. He helped her against Tajima, and he was someone who she could actually think of as a husband. You don't live with someone each day and feel nothing towards him, you don't fight with someone on the battlefield with a frozen heart when you lay your lives on the line with each other.

She held him the night Izuna died. She took out his eyes and replaced them with his brother's.

Then she stopped sending controlled bursts of chakra to her womb and soon bore him twin sons, Itami and Itachi.

(She saw that he cared for his two children, just as all fathers would do for their own blood. That he truly loved them. And this was perceived by the Clan as the behavior of a warmongering madman?)

The Senjus were seeking peace. Under the leadership of Senju Hashirama, they sought peace with other ninja clans. They wanted to build a village -a village for their children to grow up in safely, a place where there didn't have to be meaningless battles and a struggle for survival.

The Clan was full of romantics. Romantics and cowards. Most either supported the Senju's peace plans, or had already ran away, defecting to the Senju.

Hatred. Disdain.

Shiraha was a good actor. She buried her skepticism and went along with the flow of the others in the clan, assuring them that she'd do her best to persuade her husband to see sense, so that there'd be a brighter future for them all.

She watched silently each night as Madara vehemently rejected yet another of the Senju's damned peace proposals.

XXIV.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

"When will you stop spouting your childish dreams?! We can't come to terms!"

It was the first time Madara had ever lost his composure like that to the Senju leader, and it showed in the black-violet flames of Susanoo. She felt her heart clench, and resolutely turned to commanding what remained of the Uchiha's fighting forces as she left her husband to duke it out with the Senju Head.

That battle lasted an entire day.

Madara fell.

Ba-dump.

She had an arrow nocked, hidden high above the waterfall. Even now, as the Senju men surrounded him, she was prepared to take aim -rotate her wind chakra in a manner that would slice through the enemies and protect her husband.

Then they spoke.

"Isn't there another way?" Pleadingly, hopefully. The Senju Head's voice tugged on her heartstrings, and her eyes widened when she saw that he made no aggressive moves. "Can't we settle this like we used to?"

"You know we can't. I'm not the same as you anymore. Go ahead, Hashirama, you've won."

Then he stepped forward, sword in hand. The white-haired water-devil.

"This is the end, Madara!"

She shot the arrow.

In the split second that it took for her to body-flicker down for her husband, the Senju Head had caught the arrow, shielding his men from the destructive nature of the wind chakra imbued in it. It took less than a heartbeat for him to destroy it, but in that same heartbeat Shiraha had realized she couldn't escape with another person and had raised her bow again.

Her arrow pointed straight at Senju Tobirama.

Ba-dump.

"If your arrow takes my life, I guarantee that you won't make it out of here alive. Both of you."

Cool, calm, detached.

"You may not care about your life, but I'm sure your brother does. Now, the question is, what will he do?"

Ba-dump.

XXV.

"I can't trust you. I can't trust you or your Clan. If you want an alliance with the Uchiha Clan, then give me proof that I can trust you. Give me your brother's life -or give me yours."

XXVI.

After the Uchiha finally joined hands with the Senju, constructions for the village began. With ninjas of both Clans working together and more Clans joining each day, it wasn't long before the village itself was completed.

Konohagakure.

The village hidden in the leaves.

"...didn't mean it so literally…"

There was a nice wind today, so she'd left the sliding doors open. Birds were singing in the spring, and sunlight spilled gently onto the food-laden table in the room.

"...it! You never change, do you…"

She lightly flared her chakra before stepping in.

Who'd ever have thought that Madara had been childhood friends with the Senju Head? It was almost a bizarre sight to see them eating together, talking like old friends when they'd been fighting as bitter enemies for their entire lives.

It was a pity that good things never lasted long.

XXVII.

"Haha-ue, when will chichi-ue come back?"

XXVIII.

Ba-dump.

She'd known. She'd known that the Uchiha Clan wouldn't be treated fairly here. And Madara had known that as well. Why else would they have opposed the Clan's decisions?

They were fools to believe in the empty promises that Hashirama had made, and look at where it landed them now.

Well, her. Madara had left, and she was the only sensible person left in the Clan, desperately trying to hold things together.

XXIX.

Itami was too young to take over the Clan matters, and the Uchiha Clan was highly patriarchal. Shiraha settled for using a puppet by the name of Uchiha Daichi, a young shinobi who was a talented son of the Main Family.

(The Clan had rejected Madara when they truly needed him, and were unaware of the mistake they'd made by doing so.)

She'd tried to help them. She'd told Daichi what to say during the meetings to gain a council seat for the Uchiha Clan, told him what to do in order to be involved with the village's activities.

It wasn't enough.

XXX.

Ba-dump.

"Madara! He's here!"

XXXI.

Ba-dump.

XXXII.

Shiraha stood wonderingly at the edge of the valley. The Valley of the End. The one that was created from the battle between Hashirama and Madara.

How many years had it been since she last saw him?

Multiple times he'd come back to destroy the village. She couldn't help but feel that she couldn't understand him anymore, couldn't grasp his way of thinking.

Why was he doing this? For the Clan? For his brother? For himself?

But what about his children?

XXXIII.

"You're an idiot to be thinking of dividing the tailed beasts amongst the other villages, Hokage-sama."

XXXIV.

"Please teach me!"

Shimura Danzo, a child of the Shimura Clan. Shiraha blinked at the young child bowing before her, who was a few years shy of her own sons' age.

XXXV.

No one in the Uchiha Clan could understand why their beloved Hawk Eye took on an outsider apprentice. In fact, even the child himself (despite asking) was surprised when she accepted.

They didn't know that she was losing faith in her Clan.

When the First Shinobi World War began, Shiraha left her loyal apprentice with a mission.

"If the Uchiha Clan ever threatens the village, I don't want you to hesitate, Danzo-chan."

For the Clan that had used her and abandoned her over and over, but she couldn't bring herself to personally destroy. For the wild-haired man that she had respected, who would've wanted to bring the village down with his own hands if he so desired.

"Hai, shishou."

XXXVI.

"I knew you were there."

A massacre. Bloodstained bodies strewn everywhere over the ground, some sinking into the muddy swamp, others impaled into the trunks of mossy trees by the Hawk Eye's wind-arrows. There was a scarlet mist hanging in the air from the recent slaughter, but that didn't bother her.

She was born and raised in blood.

Shiraha coughed from her fallen position on the ground. There was a sword in her stomach and poisoned senbon biting into her body. Fatal wounds. Blood flowed from her lips as she watched the raven-haired man approached her.

Madara.

I knew you were there.

"... Why didn't you call for me, then?" A glimmer of something in his obsidian eyes, "I could've helped you. Maybe you wouldn't be dying, then."

She steadily gazed back at him with coal-black eyes before replying.

"It's a good day to die."

He wouldn't understand her choice. She didn't suppose anyone would.

(Just like how no one really understood why he'd left Konoha.)

"... How are the children?"

Her last moments, and he was making small talk with her?

"They're… good. Itami has a good grasp on jutsu now, and… Itachi has good eyes." Her eyes fluttered closed, "Stronger than mine."

Silence.

"Before… before I die…" Black spots dancing in her vision, she opened her eyes again, "... Madara…"

He'd given her revenge, she'd given him power. He'd given her care, she'd given him children. But he'd given her back the power when he left the Clan, and made them uneven again.

She hated leaving things unbalanced, and there was one more thing she could give him.

"In… In my memories… dig deep enough, and you'll… find knowledge."

How else would she have survived her younger years? When others were struggling to remember human anatomy and she didn't have to think twice? She was once a doctor, a medical expert -and while most of those memories were blocked, they were flooding her mind now that she was near death again.

Her vast medical knowledge was the last gift she could give him.

Then she could die with a clean conscience.

XXXVII.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

She was tired of working for the Clan, for the Clan, for the Clan. Madara's children were old enough to take care of themselves without their haha-ue. Danzo had received his instructions. She no longer owed Madara anything.

Ba-dump.

Maybe it was time to see Kensei now. She definitely had a lot to tell him, and he'd listen to her stories with a small smile on his face like he always did. They'd hold hands and laugh and talk together just like they used to.

Then they'd settle down and watch blood spill forth one war after another.

She knew, just as Madara knew and Hashirama never quite understood, that there was no such thing as peace in this world.


The life of a girl who held no foreknowledge of the Naruto-verse that she was reborn in, a pure white feather that was drowned in blood.


.

...

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Author's Notes

... Guess who's still alive? xD Little something that's set around the same period as Senkei, hope it isn't too bad. An SI who doesn't know anything about Naruto. ;) ... Planning to make this into a little series of SI's that last through the entire Naruto timeline, but we'll see how it goes. :D

I feel a little out of sorts after writing something quick/kinda long, so I guess I'll just leave everything at that for now. -.- Remember to point out any errors you see!

-XxZuiliu