“Are you sure it's not just a passing ninja or something, Tobi?”
Hashirama's repeated inquiry coaxed out an irritated huff from the younger, white-haired Senju. “Yes.” He snapped. “The signature isn't that of a shinobi’s- it's very… Abstract. It seemed to be everywhere at once, but is concentric at one single point.”
Hashirama eyed him strangely, but said nothing as they continued their trek to that particular point. Madara kept quiet beside them, contemplating the reasons for the chakra signature being as strange as it was.
At one point, the forests they had been travelling through seemed to change. It looked more alive, almost, the branches and leaves vibrant and swaying with invisible wind. The air felt charged with power and vitality, and the clouds overhead seemed to be protecting them from the rays of the sun. Tobirama furrowed his brow. This was very strange.
“Does the forest seem… Different to you?” Hashirama asked quietly. The air was still, even though animals still sounded their calls and occasional rustling in the shrubbery and trees hinted at wildlife. Madara nodded, Sharingan eyes scanning the periphery keenly for anything suspicious.
Hashirama had felt in his bones, how potent the energy in the air was. He, as a wood user, was very much connected to the forests, and he could feel the power emanating from the trees, like they had a magical or otherworldly qualities. These weren't normal trees, he could say for sure. Normal trees only had the hum of chakra underneath them- these trees pulsed with life and more.
A figure dropped down in front of them. All three jumped. ‘How did I not sense her?’ Tobirama thought in panic, eyes widened and stance tense. Madara had his hands on a kunai, while Hashirama had taken a defensive stance. The figure in front of them- a woman, judging by the height and breadth- took off the hood of her cape and smiled.
She was beautiful, looking somewhere between 17 to 21 years old. Her features were youthful and elf-like, with her large viridian eyes, button nose, pouty lips and round cheeks. Her hair was a very soft shade of pink, like cherry blossoms, and her skin was smooth and peachy. The woman stood in a relaxed and confident stance, her eyes expressing nothing but pure delight. She also reeked of the same thing the trees did.
This woman was not a normal woman.
“Welcome!” Her voice sang, sweet and joyful. It was a sound that exuded happiness, and coaxed others to smile. Hashirama found himself doing just that. “I’m sorry that I didn't come to greet you earlier, but I had gotten engrossed in mixing up a new potion for a friend of mine that I forgot.” She bowed in apology, pink tresses spilling over her shoulders like silk.
Her tone conveyed genuine regret and sheepishness. Tobirama relaxed despite himself - this woman did not prove to be a threat. She was an open book. Madara paused, before turning off his Sharingan.
“It's quite alright, miss,” Hashirama, ever the charmer, interjected. She rose from her bow. She seemed to be studying them. “What brings you here, friends?”
Friends. Was she that trustful, or was she that confident in her power? Tobirama mulled over the thought. This woman's aura suggested that it was a bit of both. She was not one to mess with, then.
“Ah, we come bearing no ill will. We simply intended to find the owner of the new presence near our home.” The elder Senju smiled disarmingly. The woman perked in interest. “Your home? Are you from Konoha, by chance?”
There was no way she could have known that since none of them were wearing forehead protectors, Tobirama mused, eyes slightly narrowed. What gave them away?
The woman either expected a question, or had the ability to read minds because her next statement answered his unspoken question. “I could tell since I'm quite familiar with that village; I have a friend there. Your accents, and with one of you being an Uchiha, also gave you away. I would have known either way since my networks reach very far into these forests.” She winked, her tone every bit playful and coy. Tobirama pursed his lips.
The Konohan accent was actually just Uchiha and Senju accent mostly, since they were the founding clans. Most of the villagers in Konoha were from either clan, and there were only a sparse few non-clan villagers. Eventually, he knew that the accent would be adopted by the villagers as more joined them, since so many spoke with it. This particular accent softened the syllables and somewhat mashed them together, giving the impression of not fully saying a word or phrase. It was also spoken quickly, and most tended to pitch their voices with vowels, and focus less on their consonants, resulting in a rather soft-spoken speech.
This woman spoke clearly, in a standard accent. Her words were pronounced cleanly and did not miss a single syllable, so she sounded very formal and strict in spite of her playful tone. Obviously a stranger, or someone who was still getting used to the language.
The woman suddenly gasped, as if remembering something important. “Oh, excuse my manners! I am Haruno Sakura. May I have the pleasure of knowing my friends’ names?” Her eyes searched theirs imploringly, lips tilted in a happy little grin.
“I am Senju Hashirama. This is my brother, Tobirama.” He gestured to his white-haired brother, before switching to his other silent companion. “This is Uchiha Madara. We are the founders of Konoha.” Sakura's smile widened. “What a pleasure to meet you. Would you like to stop by my house for a cup of tea?” She offered, ever the gracious host. “I know you have questions, but we should get comfortable before that.”
Hashirama looked at his brother and best friend. They both nodded, so he agreed as well. Sakura smiles again, happy to have her first guests in a long time. “Follow me, then.”
She walked ahead of them, her strides confident and large, but she still spoke to them over her shoulder.
“Tell me, shinobi, what do you feel different about this part of the forest?” Her voice rang like wind chimes, soothing but clear. Tobirama spoke up first. “The vegetation is much more vibrant and larger than usual.” She nodded in affirmation. “What else?” Madara spoke up next. “The trees. They don't have chakra, but contain another substance more powerful than chakra.” They could hear her smile in her next words. “Hmm, I wonder what that could be?”
Hashirama cleared his throat. “Pardon if I sound silly, but could it be a sort of magic?” Sakura turned around abruptly, eyes sparkling in her glee. “You're absolutely correct, Hashirama. This part of the forest is sustained by magic.”
She turned back around, a skip in her step. “My magic!”
It left the founders in slight awe, considering the sheer size of the magic-dependant area they had come across. And the trees grew so big, too. How much magic did that woman have?
Sakura, oblivious to their awe, continued her march towards her humble abode. The clouds were shielding them from the sun once more.