We're all just Dreaming of Sunshine
I've come to the realization that we fans of Silver Queen's "Dreaming of Sunshine" need a place to properly discuss this incredible story. So here it is, and have fun.
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An Anonymous Guest

You know with the phantom arm pain situation, I feel like it could be a good thing too?

I mean, normal people with missing arms have phantom pains where they just feel itchy. So with the soul mate thing, you can have your soul mate scratch their arm. It isn't exactly something that would balance the scales with all the bad that comes with that situation. But it still is a benefit.

5/12/2016 #391
Ganurath

Ambush

The elders stood in the Hokage's office, patiently waiting for Tsunade to address them. Danzo had already deduced that he and the others would be denied access to the pertinent details of the mission, but if she hadn't been able to save the Nara girl they would be in a location far less hospitable than the Hokage's office. Overestimating the physical fitness of a kunoichi was an error that Danzo seldom made, but it seemed he was still fallible even in his advanced years.

Predictably, Utatane was the first to speak out of concern for the girl's well-being. "Will Nara Shikako recover, Hokage-sama?"

"She will." Tsunade's visible anger was not eased by either the humility or the formality of her fellow kunoichi. It wasn't surprising, as Hiruzen had made no efforts to contain the temper of Hashirama-sama's granddaughter. Still, he'd hoped she'd make an effort to compose herself. "Despite her most recent deathmark fully progressing, I was able to determine the cause of her health complications and resolve the matter. I can't divulge specifics out of respect for medical confidentiality, but I believe that the text of her deathmark says something interesting. Would any of you care to guess what it says?"

Deathmarks were troublesome things, in Danzo's opinion. They could run the range from clear to obtuse to outright deceptive. His own deathmark of 'treason' was fairly clear, but not so much as Tsunade's 'old age' mark that she made no effort to hide. As for the Nara... "By your asking, I assume her brush with death wasn't due to simple heart failure."

"It said AMBUSH!" Tsunade slammed her hands on her desk as she rose to her seat. This desk, Danzo knew, was a series of steel plates that were framed with wood for the purposes of appearance, and reinforced further against impact with seals. Despite this, he still heard something crack from the force of the impact. "All three of you will be escorted immediately to T&I, where you will be investigated individually regarding recent events. Should what any of you have to say sound suspicious, comprehensive criminal investigations will follow. Any. Questions?"

Danzo could tell that Utatane and Mitokado were exchanging glances, but none of them spoke up. The girl's deathmark was regrettably incriminating, and even with his eye he wouldn't be able to get the others to alter their story in a manner that absolves him of being the decision maker behind the debriefing. That being said, it wouldn't be difficult to compel the interrogator to interpret a carefully worded explanation as he preferred.

At Tsunade's signal, a half dozen ANBU appeared to escort them to T&I. They would have been insufficient to contain the three of them, but with Utatane and Mitokado confident in their innocence it would be impractical to force an escape. Enduring the interview was, at this juncture, his best option to overcome what was looking to be his greatest setback since Tsunade took the hat and proved dramatically less complaint than her late sensei.

Danzo was directed to his own room last, with the full half dozen behind him, as he saw Yamanaka Inoichi in front of him with a smile that could crush stone.

"So, I've heard you had a hand in the death of my teammate's daughter." Inoichi gestured to the chair across the table from him. It was in this moment that Danzo found himself pondering alternate meanings for his deathmark. "Please. Have a seat."

5/12/2016 #392
Juno-nine

Oh ho ho. Danzo is in some serious trouble. *glee*

5/12/2016 #393
donahermurphy
Love this. You know what the best bit is? I bet these T&I sessions are recorded. I bet those recordings are watched. If there IS a weird moment where Inoichi changes his mind and acts out of character, I BET IBIKI CAN SPOT IT ON CAMERA.
5/12/2016 #394
kimchi759

@An Anonymous Guest - that is beautiful and made the hurt that hit me at the idea Kouralia proposed ease away. :')

@Ganurath - I have a pessimistic mind and am fearing for Inoichi, bc Danzo has those OP cheats embedded in his arms.

On another note, does/did Danzo have a soulmate? And if he does, and they're alive somewhere, how would they explain the pain of all those transplants?

Oh, and what if Shikako's soulmate was a member of ROOT? And she felt the pain of the seal on the tongue? When she started her foray into sealing, would she connect that pain to a seal, or would she realize earlier? Or would she not connect it until it was shoved in her face? Hrm.

Also, what if for the whole injuries being gained on both ends thing the phys pain would translate to homologous structures, even if they're vestigial? Like damage to male sex organs = damage to female sex organs because they're from the same embryonic tissue. Or a soulmate with a tail receives an injury, the other soulmate has their tailbone damaged. Or...never mind. I don't even know.

Um. Changing gears a bit. Prompt: What if your soulmate had a mark but only the other soulmate(s) could see the mark? Even dōjutsu would meaning nothing unless you were the right person(s).

Or connecting that to the whole pain thing, what everyone had a visible soulmark, but it was only visible when you were feeling the other's pain? And people who lost their soulmates would have forever visible soulmarks. Because angst. Oooh! The shared pain might even decrease the amount of time it took the originally hurt soulmate to heal! But maybe that's making things too complicated?

I have ideas and absolutely nothing to do with them. I might just dump them in another post on this thread for all of you to pick at/choose/throw away.

5/12/2016 . Edited 5/12/2016 #395
BellOfTheValley

Here's another idea that i've read somewhere: You'll only be able to tell who your soulmate is if you happen to look straight into their eyes.

..or there's that other idea, that I remember from somewhere, where people end up having their chest/heart glow a specific color when near their soul mate. (Imagine how many problems that would cause. Poor ninjas with troublesome glowing.)

5/12/2016 #396
An Unorganized Shelf

What about the version where you can only see colour after meeting your soulmate? How would that affect being a ninja? Finding your soulmate would be a much more beneficial thing, because it gives you an extra edge, but some might not be so keen on the lil killing tools getting to have potentially positive aspects in their lives *cough*Danzo*cough*

Soulmates can be either platonic or romantic, it really depends on whether people involved wanna get romantic with each other.

And then when your soulmate dies you can't see colour anymore, so there's great stuff but also so much risk.

Like, ninja meets enemy in the middle of battle BANG COLOUR EVERYWHERE AND then suddenly everything is grey again.

5/12/2016 #397
BellOfTheValley
Like, ninja meets enemy in the middle of battle BANG COLOUR EVERYWHERE AND then suddenly everything is grey again.

I immediately thought of the third war where Minato ends up slaying so many ninja, which earns him the title of The Yellow Flash. How many of them had soulmates back at home? How many of them were on a different battle field and then everything is suddenly grey? How many of them just saw their soulmate...only to be killed a second later by a flash of light.

...That sounds horrifying.

5/12/2016 #398
Laural Rose

@kimchi759: I actually wouldn't mind the explanation of 'Danzo and Hiruzen were soulmates'. They've got the Naruto / Sasuke thing going on (granted, minus being haunted by chakra ghosts of brothers that need to just get over it and move on already). It would explain why Hiruzen's mind was so easily bent into a pretzel when it came to letting Danzo off the hook, and why Danzo got away with so. much. shit. And, I can't remember who it was, but someone in the recursive thread (or maybe crossover) once mentioned that ROOT's graduation was likely Danzo preparing himself to off Hiruzen. Since we've already speculated that he makes the ROOT kids kill their soulmates, that would fit too.

I don't know that Shikako would put together 'my tongue really hurts' with 'my soulmate must have a seal on their tongue to keep them from talking'. I think she'd be really oblivious to the soulmate thing, until she absolutely couldn't be. That said, her being Sai's soulmate would be abso-freakin-lutely adorable.

In your 'only those who lose their soulmates have marks other people can see' idea; would Shikako's soulmate have her mark visible to the world from Kyuubi attack on? Or does the soulmark reveal itself only when the soul has genuinely left for the pureland, not just when the body of the other soulmate dies?

@ScarletLilyz: Minato is horrifying for anyone who isn't loyal to / allied with Konoha. Everything about the way he fights is complete nightmare fuel. We just don't think about it too much because he's a good guy, and he acts like such a dork off the battlefield.

EDIT: The post cut this off for some reason, but @Ganurath: The Danzo snippet; perfection.

5/12/2016 . Edited 5/12/2016 #399
13LuckyWishes

Feeling the pain of your soulmate is just a literal take on caring so much that their pain is your pain, etc, right? So what about the other half of caring for someone; their joy is your joy.

Walking around having the most miserable day, but there's this little glowing ball of ecstasy in your gut that you can't shake, and somehow it's comforting that a person you've never met is having a much better day than you are.

(Shikako isn't one easily given to strong emotion, positive or negative, but Gaara grows up with a much clearer idea of what serenity feels like even though he knows it isn't his. He is not sure how much he hates them for showing him what he was never born to have.)

Of course this means you'd have to put way tighter parameters around what bleeds through and what doesn't so it doesn't just become a straightforward psychic link. I'm undecided if any emotion of a sufficient strength can get through, or if it's limited to joy and physical pain, or if certain emotions can bleed through more easily/at a lower threshold than others.

(Growing up Shikamaru wasn't apart from his sister much anyway, but he always knew when to go and find her. A stab of choking terror in the middle of the night, followed by Shikako picking her way into his room; the sudden drop of vertigo and then a feeling of floating outside his own body, and he'll invariably find his twin wedged into a corner and staring blankly into space. Like always he sits with her and waits for it to pass. The weeks leading up to the Uchiha Massacre are marked by spikes of dread, and guilt in high enough volume to always be simmering in the back of his mind. He never asks, but he starts to wonder and never really stops.)

5/12/2016 #400
donahermurphy
Oh god that's tragic. And also kid of awesome, becuase Shika would be just smart enough not to ask anything in that instance. (But what a creepy thing to be aware of, after the massacre happens. And the guilts still there, but the dread's just- it's not the same. Faded, maybe, or just a different kind of fear.
5/12/2016 #401
Laural Rose

I, um, this just happened? I was thinking about some of the things I posted earlier in response to kimchi759, and my mind gave me this, and now I'm sharing, and I'm not sure what I'm doing, but here, have a thing.

______

Half-Devoured Soul

That Danzo was Sarutobi's soulmate was known. So, everyone accepted—grudgingly—that they were stuck with the man. Hiruzen could never do anything permanent to him, because even in the Shinobi world, there were lines that weren't crossed (except when they were, but, well). And hurting your soulmate was one of them. Soulmates were pieces of a whole, and those who lost their soulmates were irreparably damaged—there was a hollowness to their eyes that reflected the missing piece of their soul.

After the Invasion, people walked on eggshells around Danzo. No one had particularly liked him, and few even respected him anymore, but losing a soulmate was a kind of living hell most people preferred not to even contemplate, except for exceptionally vitriolic enemies, and for many, not even then.

For Danzo, it felt—odd. Distinctly odd. He'd been wanting, preparing, almost gleefully for the day he could cut out his own heart and become a True Shinobi.

(There was a part of him that chided he'd done no such thing; he'd given Orochimaru what the snake needed to kill Hiruzen, he hadn't had the courage to strike his soulmate down with his own hand.)

But most of him—ached. The fear he thought he'd lose—cowardice, his mind hissed,—hadn't disappeared. But there was a—it wasn't even pain, it was something beyond that. Like a wound received when adrenaline was too high to feel it, only sense the wrongness, feel that there was a hole, a tear, a gap where there shouldn't be, feel blood leaking from it, but the pain hadn't hit yet.

Or, maybe he was beyond pain. Was this souldeath? Was this the Shinigami's stomach? But his only enemy was—himself…

______

Um, so, yeah; moving on to 13LuckyWishes ideas, because that's not edging anywhere near Danzo feels, which no one needs / wants / or would appreciate.

***

I have this mental image of Gai and Kakashi being Youthfully Bonded Eternal Rivals of the Soul (we're not anything, but if you have to call what we're not something, call it soulmates. Because that's the term.) and Kakashi being exhausted all the time because he just can't take the non-stop Youthful Enthusiasm pounding his hind-brain into submission. Then, Lee's told his ninja career is over unless he risks his life on the surgery, and there's this subdued void where Gai's normal emotional range is supposed to fall and Kakashi is TERRIFIED.

But, Gai isn't dead, and Kakashi slowly realizes he's been registering depression, but he's the one who gets depressed, not Gai, and how does that work? And it's not like Kakashi doesn't have his own crap to deal with—coming out of a month long torture coma will give a guy some hang-ups—but, this is the first time, EVER that Gai has needed someone else to lean on, needed Kakashi to pick up the slack and keep him balanced instead of the other way around. And Kakashi's stuck in a hospital bed with a shiny new set of mental traumas and triggers. And is still a completely socially incompetent doofus.

So, he's trying to think back on all the ways Gai's ever pulled him out of one of his snits—and, when that doesn't work, he forces himself to remember what Gai did for him after legitimate breaking points, because Gai needs him to. And most challenges are out, because he's physically (and mentally, but he never counts that, because it's a constant) unwell, and he doesn't really do loud speeches or teeth pinging or thumbs up. So, he sits there stewing, while Gai's pretending his mood isn't getting blacker and blacker, and Kakashi's feeling useless, and worthless, and like Trash, because Gai NEEDS his soulmate, right now, for the first time ever, and Kakashi is abandoning the man to his pain, and Kakashi knows just how painful it is to get stuck inside your own head with what-ifs and if-onlys.

Then, Shikako comes in, curls up against Kakashi's side, and Kakashi finds out what had happened to her and that it was the same thing (according to Gai) that had happened to him and that is in no way acceptable, because he'd been through hell (again) and she was his genin and failing her almost makes him forget what a crappy soulmate he's being.

But then Shikako falls asleep, at his side, curled against him, and the contact, the warmth; its like an anchor. She was hurt, but she's safe, here, now, he can feel her pulse, and his mind starts to clear. Clear enough to be able to watch Gai, watching him and Shikako, with this painfully un-Gai-like expression of warmth and longing and all these soft things that just aren't Gai, and Kakashi, kinda, snaps, a little bit.

"He's just like you; too stubborn to die. And no matter what, no matter how he progresses, or doesn't, he'll always be your student." And where did that come from?

But wherever it was, Gai smiles, and it's not the normal over-the-top Gai smile, but its not forced either, it's a genuine smile, with genuine tears that aren't Manly but it doesn't matter, and Kakashi feels something shift between them, like things are realigning. He didn't fix it, but he hasn't made it worse, and maybe it can still get better, and that's more than he's usually able to pull off, so he can live with that.

*

And Gai, though he never tells Kakashi, feels this very tiny swell of pride through their bond, and it warms him, knowing Kakashi wanted to help and felt better, himself, after helping, because Gai had felt what Kakashi had been going through, he'd known what the Tsukuyomi had been like, emotionally, for Kakashi, and that Kakashi is feeling even a little bit lighter now, that he hadn't added only added to that burden, when Kakashi carries so much—far more than anyone should, no matter how strong. Yeah, that's a little better, then.

***

That wasn't supposed to turn into a snippet outline / not-fic; that started out with just Kakashi-as-Gai's-emotion-sharing-soulmate finds out about Lee's surgery chances because Gai feels depressed, then it just…kept going. Sorry?

5/12/2016 #402
Juno-nine
Kakashi and Gai as emotion linked soul mates is amazing.
5/12/2016 #403
shirokuromokona

A little random, but I've always wondered why is there not any stories about Sasuke and Itachi being soulmates (platonic/brotherly of course). Its always Naruto and Sasuke. While I understand the whole reincarnated/haunted by chakura ghosts situation, I really want some Uchiha stories. The potential angst fluffy stories that we could get from those two.

5/12/2016 #404
Love Elemental

Gaara runs a hand over his side, brooding. It was four years ago when the little pinches started. Every day, at around noon, he'd feel a pinch in his side for the count of ten, then it would fade.

Every day.

Then, it started not happening some days. He didn't understand for a while, until he felt a terrible pain. It scored his face and broke his arm and every part of him hurt. But then, a few hours later.

A pinch.

Right there on his side. He counted to ten, and then it faded.

It's nice to know his soulmate cares enough to let him know they're all right.

.

It's been twenty-four days.

5/12/2016 #405
ByeByeBriar

I love both snippets Laural Rose.

5/12/2016 #406
The Real Chys Lattes

So is Kabuto and Orochimaru a soulmate kinda thing? I dunno.

5/12/2016 #407
ByeByeBriar

@Lionhead Bookends, yes this is great!

5/12/2016 #408
MathIsMagic

OMG, Laural! These are great! My feeeeeeeels. Poor Kakashi. Poor Gai.

Lionhead - NO. HOW COULD YOU??? (Wait, unless it's Shikako. Was that Shikako gettign knocked out by the tsukuyomi?)

5/12/2016 #409
donahermurphy
Laurel rose and lion head, those are awesome. (And now I feel like I need to know who Gaara's is. I'm hoping Shikako's just in her coma. Hoping.)
5/12/2016 #410
The Real Chys Lattes

Or Gaara's is someone who needs an injection now and then.

5/12/2016 #411
BoPeepWithNoSheep

That Gaara snippet has me so CONCERNED

5/12/2016 #412
Love Elemental

Gaara tried to pinch himself, when he realized. But his sand stopped him; he'd need another method.

Spitting sand out of his mouth, he concluded that biting his cheek or tongue wouldn't work. Also? Sand does not taste very good.

Trying to push a nail into his hand doesn't work. Neither does attempting with only a fingernail.

He scratches his head. Trying to scratch harder doesn't work.

Gaara might hate his Mother.

5/12/2016 #413
Ganurath

Prompt: In the Forest of Death, Orochimaru finds out that Shikako has no deathmark, and is fascinated.

5/13/2016 #414
essex2
Gaara tried to pinch himself, when he realized. But his sand stopped him; he'd need another method.

Spitting sand out of his mouth, he concluded that biting his cheek or tongue wouldn't work. Also? Sand does not taste very good.

Trying to push a nail into his hand doesn't work. Neither does attempting with only a fingernail.

He scratches his head. Trying to scratch harder doesn't work.

Gaara might hate his Mother.

Not sure the sand can stop him from pulling his hair, although that makes me wonder how he manages to cut his hair in the first place.

5/13/2016 #415
Ashen Author

Totally agree the idea of the sand stopping all hurt instead of all harm never made sense to me when he could bite his tongue or cheek or hyperextend a joint a get sore from sitting too long in the wrong position or

there's a lot of stuff you expect he could do if he wanted to feel hurt that much

really shouldn't be taking the time to do this so last comment and bye!

5/13/2016 #416
Laural Rose

Author's Note: Finally done! This is not what I meant when I said 'I'll make you feel sorry for Izuna'. When I said that, I was talking about a completely different scene that won't be coming for awhile. This happened when I tried to write the next chapter, the Izuna PoV kept stalling out on me, and I decided to kick-start things by writing a—supposedly—short flashback.

2K words later, I was ready to put the little punk's head through a wall for making my life so needlessly complicated.

6K words later, I was ready to put MY head through a wall, because why do I do these things to myself?

Aside: Maths has been diligently working on some awesome prequel stuff detailing the Uchiha sibling's childhood, and I have been shamelessly stealing plot points. So, anything in here that deals with them growing up or Izuna having flashbacks, those were all Maths ideas. I just pilfered them. Again. (With permission.)

Further Aside: I'm breaking this into two posts because ff.net doesn't like it when I try to post long things, and I'm so done with letting this thing frustrate me. Sorry for the inconvenience.

________

Matching Scars: Interlude

Izuna did not believe in soulmates. Oh, there was anecdotal evidence, but he refused to believe even a world as dark as theirs allowed for a child to be bonded to a warrior, to suffer wounds that would cripple a grown man, because of some arbitrary whim of fate or chance.

These so-called soulbonds were an attack; a jutsu none had found a counter for, or a seal only the master who set them could detect. Izuna had long theorized that one party could use these so-called soulbonds to transfer their own wounds to their chosen victim, that it allowed the caster impunity from physical damage so long as the one they'd ensnared was alive enough to take the hit.

It was the only explanation that made any sense to him, and he would accept no other. Their sister was the victim of some terribly malicious soul who had somehow struck her, perhaps in the chaos of the attack that had claimed their mother, despite Madara's best attempts to guard her, perhaps during some other incident when her protectors were deployed and she was left in the care of the aging and injured of the Clan.

Izuna did not believe negligence or ill-intent of his Clan; but a single determined, reasonably skilled Shinobi could probably penetrate their defenses when their warriors were away, particularly if the goal was something subtle, like hurting Clan morale by targeting the Clanhead's daughter with something not immediately lethal.

Ever and always, Izuna had scanned the field of every battle with his powerful eyes for the enemy who was struck but did not bleed, did not move as if wounded once the weapon was removed.

He never spied his quarry. He didn't dare wonder how much more time he had to look before it ceased to matter; before the man took Izuna's greatest light and escaped, unable to be tracked.

He could not tear the bastard limb-from-limb. Nor did he need to. The limbs were useless without a mind to guide them, and the mind was his domain.

But, until the culprit was identified, there was little Izuna could do to prevent harm to their sister. So, that left him with the responsibility to best serve the Clan.

To the Clan, Madara was heat and life; he was wildfire itself on the battlefield, and comfort off it. He was loved, for how deeply he loved in return.

Izuna was not loved. He was feared as much as he was respected. Few knew how far Izuna had gone to protect the Clan, but enough guessed that he was kept at a respectful distance.

Izuna could not inspire others, the way Madara could. When he fought, no one stood in awe; he was no ferocious force of primal fury. No maps would ever need redrawing after his duels.

He knew his worth; large, impressive displays didn't suit him.

Madara chose to use only one facet of their Clan's famed eyes. For all that Madara was master of the Uchiha, it was Izuna who was master of the Mangenkyo Sharingan.

Izuna's could, with a series of glances, turn the psyche's of his opponents against them. It was devastating when employed on enemy command; even hardened Shinobi faltered while watching their leaders claw out their own eyes or beg for death.

Izuna could not inspire. But he tried, over and over, to lighten his brother's load. To handle as much of the running of the Clan, the planning, the preparation of the battlefields as he could. He did recon. He organized patrols. He sparred with the field commanders, to keep them sharp and reassure them of their leaders' power.

Izuna ran darker ops, too. All the things Madara thought the Uchiha were above, the burden of tainted blood, Izuna took upon himself, and if he was able, himself alone.

For the Clan. Always and everything, for the Clan. There was nothing his Izuna would withhold from the Clan. Not even honor.

What he did was necessary. Perhaps it was evil, but their world was evil, and if it would keep his people safe, he would become evil itself. Better he alone carry that terrible burden, pay and repay the price of the Uchiha's continued survival.

It improved morale, that he didn't foist unpleasant work onto others. It shielded his Clan-mates from some of the darkness of the world, let them walk in that much more of what little light Shinobi were afforded.

He would not burden them with shadows, not when he could hold the darkness back, merely by steeping himself in it.

But it was his mind that had begun to wear under the constant strain. Even a heart of stone could erode when a river of blood washed it. He did not think his heart was stone; it should be, but—

He was not as strong as the Clan needed him to be, and the Clan was suffering for it.

He just needed to outlast his Clan's enemies. Once his Clan was safe, once the Senju fell and their allies scattered, he could rest.

Then he would no longer matter.

Madara believed in Hashirama's peace.

Mikako believed in peace; she and Madara spoke of it often.

Izuna believed in peace, too. But the peace he saw was won by the crushed corpses of the Senju. Only when all their enemies were dead could the Uchiha be secure, unafraid of resistance or reprisal. That was the only peace their broken, corrupt world allowed; the peace of absolute victory.

Hashirama's so-called peace was at best delusional, at worst, dangerous. The blood-debt on both sides was too high for co-existence. The Senju's 'hand of friendship' was meant only to better position the Uchiha for their knives.

But, Madara was so worn by losses, so tired of what he'd always seen as endless, pointless bloodshed, he was willing to grasp at an illusion, just to have some hope of a happy end to cling to.

Izuna empathized with wanting a better way. Izuna spent much of his ever-dwindling free-time wishing the world were not as it was. But, unattainable wishes whispered a siren, treacherous hope that promised only madness for those foolish or desperate enough to listen. His second greatest fear—he couldn't quite be shamed that Mikako always came first in his heart—was losing his brother to hope before Madara even realized its danger.

Izuna had no illusions about what staining his soul meant for him, personally. Once peace was won and there was no evil left to fight, something as twisted as he'd made himself would become a liability. Even so, he was proud of every drop; in painting himself, he'd spared his Clan pain.

He did not need the love of the Clan; he loved the Clan enough for both sides of that equation.

The love his family offered was more complicated, and far more painful.

His eyes were exceptional, even within the Clan possessing the greatest of all dojutsu. They often caught Mikako watching him when she didn't realize he could see her. In those quiet moments, there was something like grief on her face.

To their sister, he was a disappointment. A source of pain. He wondered if she could see the darkness he had steeped himself in; if that was why he was so rarely gifted her bright warmth, that she gave so freely to the rest of the Clan.

It bothered him more than it should. Mikako was smart. No, a genius. Her mind, in a few years, would outstrip the swiftest in the Clan, if it had not already. He suspected—feared—she saw what Madara chose not to—his tattered, unclean soul; the darkness he'd allowed to consume him.

He hated touching her. Too many times, he'd gone to hug her, to hold her, before she'd healed, and she'd tried to hide how much his selfish need for touch had cost her. Too many times, he'd rushed to get help after finding she'd collapsed, his heart tearing with every whimper she clamped behind her teeth as careless steps and stumbles jostled her. Too many times he'd seen her expression shift to something closed and wary when he argued with Madara, urging caution.

Too much remembered blood he couldn't conscience soiling her with.

Her smile was bright enough to eclipse the sun. But, smiles she saved for Madara, the moon to her tides. Always, she sought out their eldest brother, her love for him as fierce as he was. Izuna, when he found her, stole twinkling starlight quirks of her lips. With Madara, she shared her hopes and dreams. For Izuna, she saved her sorrow. It was to him she ran, when nightmares woke her. It was in his bed she hid when she could no longer hold back the tears she always, always refused to let Madara see. Did Madara remember she knew how to cry? Izuna almost hoped not. He would be glad to let Madara see her as untainted light. Izuna could easily shoulder her little darkness; it was nothing compared to his own.

Izuna took as much comfort from what she refused him as what she gave him; with the exception of her attraction to the Senju's lies, she showed good sense. That she could see his failures, his failings, was proof of it. When she grew older, when she saw the thorns beneath Hashirama's flowery words—but no, by then, it would not matter. He would not leave this burden to her; he would see his Clan brought safely through to a brighter future by his own power.

Mikako was the beating heart of the entire Clan. She was their beacon, in a world growing ever darker under the rising tide of blood. Always, Madara's thoughts turned to her; on the battlefield, he fought for her future. Off it, he sought her company. She grounded Madara, in ways Izuna could only marvel at. Her cheerful greetings even chased away Madara's horror of the charnel fields Shinobi must walk—and create.

Most of the Clan had noticed her effect on him, and there was a constant tension in the air. If Madara was her moon, she was his sun. The Uchiha knew, should the monster who had so afflicted Mikako finally push her past her body's tolerance, Madara's grief would be all-consuming. Without her, Madara would plunge into a darkness too deep for even Izuna to tread it. Grief would blot out sanity, and in his madness, the Clan would fall with him.

It was self-evident that of his siblings, Madara loved—needed—Mikako far more than Izuna.

Izuna was the Clan's near-perfectly honed blade. He allowed his brother to wield him, and occasionally wielded himself to protect Madara from what Madara didn't need to know was necessary. But, no matter how well crafted, a sword was replaceable. Mikako was not.

So, he would protect her, protect Madara, protect them all, with his blessed eyes and self-cursed soul to the final beat of his blood-blackened heart.

***

5/13/2016 #417
Laural Rose

At each skirmish Izuna sought his chosen quarry, reading the signs, stalking a frozen heart and blinding white brilliance. No one else could match Tobirama; he was too crafty in his strength and too powerful in his cunning.

Hashirama was dangerous, certainly, but it was his brother who won battles. In open combat Hashirama's Mokutan was well contained by Madara's Sharingan, and for all the skill he employed twisting people to his will with artful words, Hashirama was no strategist.

Madara was a true leader, no matter how much shadow work Izuna did to help him remain in the light, it was precisely that; shadow work.

Tobirama was the true threat; the shadow king of the Senju clan, a puppet-master ensconced behind his figurehead of a brother.

If Tobirama were removed, Hashirama's failures as a leader would shortly splinter the Senju and their allies. Once scattered, the Uchiha could rout them, and the greatest impediment to peace would be so much trampled ash and blood.

Izuna was proud of his unmatched artistry with the Sharingan, his physical skill, his mental strength. But, his pride did not blind him; he could see when he was outmatched. And in their duels, Tobirama had been steadily gaining ascendency.

Their two-man war bore unsettling parallels to the states of their clans; support for the honey-tongued bastard who used impossibilities to manipulate the hearts of others was waxing, while the Uchiha wavered, swayed by empty promises.

Off the battlefield, Izuna was stretching himself too thin, taking on more than he could handle—though not nearly as much as was needed; on it, his performance suffered.

Of late, each time Izuna tried to overtake his rival, Tobirama parried with a new technique, a new jutsu, a new strategy. Izuna could no longer keep pace.

In both energy and creativity, Izuna was flagging.

If Izuna couldn't change the pattern, eventually Tobirama would land a blow Izuna couldn't counter. Izuna would fall; Tobirama had no mercy, and soon, even Izuna would no longer be a match for him.

Izuna was running out of time.

He had to find a way to do his duty by his clan; to end things between himself and his counterpart. Once, he would have been foolishly confident that he could finish his Senju counterpart, with perhaps some difficulty. Wiser from too many losses, his ideal outcome, his hope that he was poised to break himself upon, was that the two younger brothers would clash, and fall to each other's blades.

Galling as it was to admit, the younger Senju's death would serve the Uchiha Clan better even than Izuna's continued life.

If Tobirama cut Izuna down, before Madara's eyes? Even as Madara's third love, Izuna knew his brother would never forgive Izuna's butcher. And, if Izuna spent his dying breath on a renewed plea for caution, he could hope his brother would finally hear him over Hashirama's dulcet lies.

But if Izuna's death drew his brother away from the cliff over which Madara held his own heart, Izuna could choke down even the lees of that bitter cup.

Izuna knew his death would be a burden, but not one Madara would break under. Izuna's life could be spent freely without leaving the Clan leaderless or unmoored.

Mikako would shore up their brother. She was worth both earth and sky to Madara; for her, he could hold himself to the light, no matter how his ground crumbled beneath him.

And Mikako, too, loved Izuna enough she could never embrace his killer, or that man's family. But not so much that this would wound her past healing.

Perhaps she would be relieved, to no longer need fight her own heart to love the brother that held her sorrow. Though it shamed him, he was still too selfish to wish it, even for her sake.

He was a poor brother, perhaps.

But, it was balm, knowing before he closed his eyes that final time, he would be leaving the world a little brighter. He would be allowed to glimpse that future that had always been beyond even his vision; a peaceful world, for the Uchiha.

***

He miscalculated Tobirama's skill; even in this, Izuna's final stand, when he had come to this field with the intention of exchanging his life for victory over his opponent, he was not enough.

He faltered, leaving an opening, and knew, by the twist in his gut, by the wrongness of the rushing world, that Tobirama had bested him. Had once again invented some new horror Izuna was unprepared to match.

He could not die alone; he would not be that much of a failure.

But, it was not death that he found when the strange pull ended. He was standing at Tobirama's back, unharmed, if disoriented. But what he saw—

His Sharingan had been active, but he desperately tried to dispel the genjutsu; it had to be genjutsu; this couldn't be—

Real. It was real.

"Senju!" The sound ripped from his throat, part snarl, part curse. Somehow, impossibly, the Senju had hurt him, much worse than death, much crueler than torture.

He stumbled, screaming her name, tearing past his enemy. His enemy did not matter. What did it matter if Izuna was struck? He was already in hell; death meant nothing to him.

And even his hate for the monster that had done this, had finally ripped their sister's life from her too-small body and too-big heart, could not match his love for the precious form pinned by the Senju's sword.

He cradled her awkwardly around the blade; so small, too small, and pale and cool. Mikako was warmth and life and should never be cold to the touch, but her skin was—

He had begged, pleaded with Madara for years to see through Hashirama's deceit.

He had railed against the universe that he could not outmatch the younger Senju in cunning, that he could find no proof his brother would accept.

Well, now he had his proof, and he was poorer for it. Even in his Clan's self-defeat, the Senju had wrung a near-perfect victory.

Izuna had made a promise to her once, a rash, childish promise they both knew he couldn't keep, but he had meant it, more than any oath he'd ever sworn. He could not give the pledge his heart howled for; that she would not die. But he had vowed her she would not die alone, no matter how or where death found her. That he wouldn't allow it to steal her unnoticed.

The universe had twisted his words, but in this, he wouldn't fail. Mikako was bleeding out, gasping for air, on a battlefield she didn't belong anywhere near, and even if he could not be the one she loved without shadows in her eyes, he knew he could offer her some comfort. He would keep his promise. He was not the one who shared her hopes, who earned her smiles. He was not the one she wanted. But, he was better than being alone.

He would hold her until her heart failed, while his own brittle one shattered finer and finer with every spurting pulse.

If he could steal the unused beats from his own heart, and give them to her—

If he could strip his life of years and transfer them, they would all be hers. What need did someone like him have for decades?

If stopping his breath could make her lungs work—

If he could rip out the heart of the murdering bastard who had caused her this pain and gift her with the time he'd stolen from the less deserving—

But he knew of nothing that could avail him; no jutsu, no seal, no technique. He could not even imagine where to start.

Madara roared, like a wounded beast, and it felt like condemnation.

Madara was at his back, striking the dog who'd done this, keeping it at heel. Izuna knew he should call his brother over—she would rather have Madara. Madara needed her so much more— but, the words stuck in his throat.

He should rise. It was Izuna who must guard Madara, Izuna who must shoulder the brunt of the world's darkness.

It was Madara's hands that should cradle her—Izuna's were far better suited to dealing death than comfort.

Izuna was his brother's shadow, holding back the dark so Madara could shine.

Madara was a warrior; Izuna an assassin.

Only one of them at a time was ever allowed time and space to mourn. He was leaving Madara unaided, undefended, against both Senju, hoarding his brother's dwindling seconds with the light of their Clan. Stealing his brother's chance to grieve, taking it for himself.

But he could not make himself move. He could not—was not strong enough—to let her go.

He was not strong enough to set aside his own heart, not in this, not this time. The knowledge ached; pain piled on pain until he found himself gasping as if it were he whose lung was pierced.

He could lose them both, if he didn't find that strength.

He could not tear his eyes from her pale face, from her blood stained, bleached lips.

He was a poor brother.

Failure piled upon failure. He couldn't protect her. He could not do his duty.

A fresh cut tore open her cheek and an animal keen of pain tore from his throat. It was enough, surely? Too much by far already; could she not be spared further suffering, even as the flame of her life flickered out?

Was there truly no mercy at all—

But, that he knew the answer to, had for years, since the first time he'd watched her, laying too still and still blood-stained.

The liar spoke behind him, soft and urgent, but the sounds had no meaning. He couldn't hear anything over Mikako's wet, choked struggle to breathe.

"Sorry."

It took Izuna too long to realize she was trying to speak, and he wanted to stop her, to tell her to save her strength, her breath, to horde the time she had left, but that was selfish, but it was hard enough when he had to watch her die by inches in his arms, to hear it, hear her voice that should be laughter and strength, go thready with pain, with—

"I didn't know. But, had to—"

Blood loss had stolen her sense; that bright intelligence, that whip chord mind, finally worn ragged, and he couldn't, he couldn't let her trade her final breaths for gibberish.

He didn't want to hear what she thought she couldn't do, what regret she was harboring, when there was no way he could reach her to carry it for her.

"Kako, enough." Too sharp; he hadn't wanted it to be sharp, but he was not a comforting person; He should let Madara—

The liar was putting on a show behind him, but Madara cut him off with a bellow of truth. Izuna could only hope his brother had sense enough to finally claim the fool's head.

"I can heal her." The Liar offered, and Izuna wanted to spit in his face, to gut him, because it was a trap like all his promises were a trap, but even knowing, even seeing, Izuna couldn't bring himself to lash out at Mikako's only hope.

Not even if it was a false one.

He turned to glare, unable to accept, unable to rebuff, when he saw

The Senju dog was on his knees, bleeding from wounds Izuna never scored. Izuna was allowed a single breath of pride in his brother for besting the beast, one heartbeat of triumph, before he notes the cut on the Senju's cheek.

And how it was identical to Mikako's, because he had memorized her every mark, would have, even without the Sharingan's power etching each one into his brain.

The Senju had—

The Senju was—

The Senju dared

The marks matched, but to what purpose? What did he gain, if he wasn't transferring his wounds?

Was it pure malice; 'if I must bleed, so must another'?

Izuna did not, could not, believe in soulmates.

But he didn't know how to parse what he was seeing.

He couldn't see the purpose. He knew it for a trick, but he couldn't see the shape or nature.

But, perhaps he could. Not all of it, but a piece. Had they shown their hand? He wasn't sure, but if he looked well enough, with eyes unclouded by grief, perhaps, perhaps he could spy the pattern.

The Liar wasn't offering Mikako healing; he would heal his brother, regardless. He was twisting self-interest into altruism, for only self-interest would spur a Senju to help an Uchiha. The Liar was using his brother's injuries, leveraging them for future concessions. That the Uchiha would make, out of a misplaced sense of debt.

The Uchiha understood debts and honor.

It was not the whole, but it was the most immediate piece. If he could keep collecting them, keep grasping and sorting, the picture would come clear.

But it did not matter; because Mikako was running out of time.

He would not be shamed that Mikako came first in his regard.

He tore his eyes from Mikako, the movement drawing his brother's attention as he knew it would. This answer was for Madara; the Liar wasn't coming at it any more directly, why should Izuna show more courtesy than he was shown?

"They," The word had soft emphasis. His glance flickered to the crumpled, frozen-hearted bastard whose soul possessed less mercy than his blade—still lodged in Mikako's chest, "Are out of time."

'Do not trust them.'

Madara stiffened at the message received, face a blank mask covering despair.

"Let him repay his brother's debt." A narrow-eyed, quicksilver glare at the Liar, a flick of the tongue over chapped lips.

Pain bled back into Madara's expression; he'd been holding himself too still for emotion to register, so relief resembled the grief he dared not show before.

'They are using us; we shall use them in return.'

Madara understood. Izuna returned his gaze to their sister. He could hear his brother shifting to the side, to let the Liar pass. Izuna shifted, but not out of reach, not so far Mikako could not feel him, if she were still able to feel.

He wanted to shake her, to call her back to the waking world, to keep her with him; but he couldn't draw her back to pain, he was not—quite—that selfish. If he was to lose her, he would not rouse her only to make her suffer.

She was not safe and whole, yet; he dared not let hope carry him high enough to crush what sanity he yet held.

Later.

After.

Not yet.

It was another empty promise he knew he couldn't keep.

"I want to get her stabilized, then, when I tell you, if you could remove the blade, slowly?" The Liar murmured, dark eyes solemn and serious. Izuna gave a sharp nod, but kept his sharper tongue behind his teeth.

He knew who this was for, what it was about. He was not so easily swayed by silvery words; silver was a poison, too.

Madara was a solid presence at his back, leaning in, supporting. His brother made an abortive grab for the hilt, but Izuna caught his wrist, took a deep breath, and shook his head. Izuna moved so Madara could kneel in his place, and placed Madara's hand over Kako's, leaving Izuna's free to do what was needed.

Izuna, so late in allowing Madara what was his by right, feared meeting Madara's eyes. When he stopped being—quite—such a coward, the gratitude he found there nearly undid him.

The sword was heavy, and seemed to grow heavier as seconds slid toward minutes. It had to be held perfectly steady, smoothly sliding out while the Liar healed behind it. Sweat beaded Izuna's brow, and his muscles, held taut enough to snap, threatened to shake.

He forbade them, through the power of his will alone.

His stomach clenched. His shame churned with his revulsion at the wet, sucking sound. At the sight of the Liar's green-sheathed hands hovering over his baby sister. At the sight of the speed with which the wound was closing.

No wonder the Senju were dominating. The combat between Clans was a war of attrition, but the Senju were inhuman and could remake bodies as if no wound had ever touched them, bodies with wounds far beyond aid any Uchiha could give save final comfort.

Every Senju they cut down could get back up again. The Uchiha died where they fell.

The sword came free. Izuna's first impulse was to use it to cut off the Liar's head before he could further corrupt Madara. But, for all that the Liar had done this for his own gain, the action had saved Mikako when no Uchiha could have. Izuna could acknowledge that result, however ill-intended, deserved civility be returned.

He tossed the blade contemptuously away and glowered at the Liar who was too slow in removing himself from Mikako's side.

Izuna, late in rectifying his dereliction, took his position of guard over his siblings. The monster who'd caused all this was finally stirring.

"Well, Senju, it seems in healing my sister, you've saved two lives." It was part mockery, part warning.

'I know your tricks.'

"What was she thinking." Madara growled.

Izuna's mind stuttered. What had his brother seen that he'd missed? Had not the Senju somehow brought her here—but no, that pulling sensation, that had been—

Their sister used to play games with the other children who were not destined for the battlefield. He joined them, on occasion. That sensation, it had been part of her game—Replacement Tag, she called it.

She had—no—she didn't. She couldn't have.

She had put herself in the path of—

"The girl?" The bastard slurred, sounding groggy, and Izuna's mind flared in indignation.

"Mikako." He snapped, because insults to their sister, dismissing her as a mere girl, that was so much easier, so much more comfortable to think on.

"Mikako," The monster deigned, like a concession, and only the fact that it would steal their sister's breath as well stayed his hand from strangling the man, "She, what happened?"

He wanted to snap 'you would know' and wring the answer from the Senju, but—

But, he knew this particular snake, knew how he twists, and knew how he's twisted. That meant he could read the bastard, and the Senju was genuinely confused.

"She wanted to protect her older brother." The Liar murmured, and it had to be a lie, because if it was not, she did this, suffered this, for Izuna, and that was—

Unacceptable.

"What were you thinking!" It had been a lament, before, but now it was full voice, but Izuna's heart soared to hear it.

She had returned to them.

Izuna took a breath, and realized he had not truly done so since he'd first laid eyes on her, dangling like a broken puppet on the end of the Senju's blade.

"I was thinking," Mikako bit off each word, and Izuna had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. When their sister got into a mood like this, she resembled nothing so much as a riled kitten, "that we were close to peace!"

Humor fled from the dark tempest of emotions brewing within him.

"I want that too, Madara! I want the fighting to end!" So much conviction; Izuna didn't need to turn to know her eyes were old and fierce, the eyes she rarely showed Madara, but Izuna almost always saw.

He had never been sure if she meant to show them to him, but he was glad to hoard that piece of her she kept so close, however painful it was to bear.

"That would never happen if the Senju Clan leader's brother killed Izuna!"

His vision greyed and tunneled. The words drove into his gut, harder than any blow he'd ever taken. It cost far more strength than Izuna knew he possessed to stay upright.

She'd known. She'd known what he intended, and she'd—

Oh, Mikako.

Why?

His mind raced in helpless circles repeating the word like a mantra while Madara kept screaming, and Mikako kept her voice low and fierce.

He couldn't understand it. Why, for him? Surely she knew how much more precious she was? Surely she trusted him to do what was best for the Clan? Surely she knew that saving her from even one wound was worth a thousand of his own?

Surely this wasn't his fault; the weight of his sins was already slow suffocation, but this one would crush him.

Then, as the rest of the conversation filtered into his mind, for a wild, terrible moment, he wasn't even sure which she'd truly been willing to go this far for; peace or his own life.

If it was for him, he could never forgive himself.

But if it was for peace— The LIAR'S false peace—

The Liar's mellifluous make-believe could not have sunk so deeply into her mind to poison her heart. He could not accept that.

"Because peace is your dream!" The words reverberated through his soul like a death knell.

He turned his face toward Madara, because he was a coward, and it was easier to blame Madara's weakness for the fool, to retread their threadbare arguments, than to try to plot a future course where their sister could be both safe and happy.

It would bury her, if she trusted the Liar too well.

It could break her, if she was denied the chance, when she would go this far for it.

Madara could bear Izuna's accusations now. Izuna was ensuring his brother would still be given their sister's smiles, once Izuna bore her wrath for doing what was needed to protect her.

"Please calm down, brother. I'm okay." She placated, in her Eminently Reasonable tone. Izuna was never sure it it was meant to sound condescending, or if she hadn't perfected it yet, but it never failed to draw Madara's temper to the surface. He'd say she did it on purpose, but somehow she always looked bewildered when arguments made in that tone backfired. "Your friend," Mikako's hand waved toward the Liar, and Izuna had to close his eyes, or there was a very real possibility he'd tear that very forced smile off the Liar's very fake face. "Healed me, and now we get your peace—"

Madara cut off her words with an embrace, and Izuna concentrated on forcing his muscles, one group at a time, to relax before they tore.

Once he was certain he would not lose control, that his voice would not shake, Izuna gave his brother a very pointed reminder of the score, even if he directed it toward their sister, because she was back, she'd come back to them, and he could no more ignore her than forget to breathe. "He could hardly do otherwise. If you had died, his brother would have, too. It was self-serving, really."

Izuna did not outright scoff at the Liar's transparent plea to leverage his recent good-will. Izuna was here to advise; Madara was the true leader, so ultimate decisions rested with him.

Whatever he chose, Izuna would abide. For as long as the Clan was safe.

Mikako's squawk of protest, normally amusing, rimed the pit of his stomach.

Then, the devil made his move.

"Izuna," The even tone almost perfectly mirrored Kako's, and Izuna had to bite his tongue to keep from scoffing. Definitely patronizing. "You do realize that if the fighting continues, I will continue fighting, and when,"

Izuna froze at the subtle stress placed on the word, the delicate, deadly threat of it.

"I am next hurt, your sister will bear my wounds with me."

His sisters words had been a blunt blow; these were sharper than throwing knives, expertly and methodically placed for maximum harm.

The demon was brilliant; Izuna had long acknowledged it as his most dangerous feature.

It had never been so terrifying, before.

Izuna's failure to kill this beast before it could sink claws into the heart of the Clan now held his people hostage.

If begging to take her place, to bear this false-bond in her stead would—

But, the Senju had no mercy. His anguish would more likely amuse the bastard than affect him.

He could not break down, could not falter, dared not show weakness.

"So, we join you, or you get yourself killed and take our sister with you. Rather self-defeating, Senju, don't you think?" He was proud of how even he held his tone, though he feared the Senju could hear his thunderous pulse in the too-quiet space between them.

"A truce, then. Since we hold the better hand, and I would hate for you to feel coerced," The Senju bared his teeth in imitation of a smile, and Izuna soothed himself that he'd upset, at least temporarily, the demon's plans. "The burden of proof of goodwill rests with the Senju. You cannot harm me without harming her," Red eyes met his, a challenge in them—deny me, and reap the consequences, "So, I will surrender to you until peace talks are completed."

Izuna narrowed his eyes in concentration; if he could see the pattern, if he knew what the bastard was aiming for—

But, did it matter? The Senju clearly felt this connection, however he'd formed it, would grant impunity when he attempted his further plans. He was underestimating the Uchiha—underestimating Izuna. And Izuna could use that as easily as the monster had used Mikako, all these years.

Izuna didn't know, couldn't guess, how the demon had managed to bind himself to Mikako, why he'd chosen to hurt the Clan through her.

There was something poetic about the symmetry; from the poison would come the cure. The Senju intended to once more hide behind that bond, and with Mikako as his hostage, hurt the Uchiha. But, it was precisely the connection the Senju so exploited that had delivered him into Izuna's power.

The bastard had miscalculated; it was plain in his speech.

There was a continent-wide chasm between 'harm' and 'hurt'. Izuna could not 'harm' him, true, but Izuna could hurt him.

Izuna, with some effort, kept a smile from stretching his lips. It would not do to tip his hand, with victory teasing his fingertips to reach, just a bit, and grasp it.

"You are all impossible." Mikako groaned, and Izuna did smile then, fond and indulgent, because she had been too well protected from the world. Her eyes, too used to seeing only love, were not yet trained to see the daggers hidden by enemy smiles. He was glad of that, even knowing how much he'd forfeit if he could not convince her of her danger.

If he could not eliminate the danger to—he was shamed, but he would not change which came first in his regard.

_________

I do have a question for you all; would this work better coming before Chapter Two, to parallel Tobirama's PoV first chapter / section / part, whatever, or would that bog things down too much? Once I finish something, I promise, I'll start posting this stuff as actual stories on my author's page, so feedback on this will be good for chapter ordering on that far-off day.

5/13/2016 #418
Canisse

Would chapter 1 be everythin g else you've posted until now? Then yes, I think this would be a good chapter 2. We need some Izuna POV at that point, because otherwise, his actions are unexplainable.

5/13/2016 #419
PhaedraZev

Story prompt: In the world where you get marks for relationship connections, what if someone created a seal or something that cursed soulmarks? Stealing this idea from Sarah Jane Adventures' episode 'The Curse of Clyde Langer'. Basic premise is that a specific name gets cursed. The moment anyone hears or reads that person's name they become so repulsed by the name that they go out of their way to hurt and/or remove that person from their presence. In this case, maybe anyone with your name on their skin automatically turns brown and their minds are warped to see you as an enemy? (Not sure if I got the colour right. Brown=hated enemy, yes?)

5/13/2016 #420
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