A powerful chakra source is making their way towards their provisional camp. They’re fast. They’re very well hidden - if Shikako hadn’t been somewhat paranoid after losing so much chakra healing Izuna she would have missed them. They’re… familiar. She can’t quite place the signature, something that hovered at the edges of her range at some point, but it feels distinctly like water, the roiling waves of an ocean during a storm, so she can extrapolate.
They are so fucked.
She assesses the situation: Sasuke, still tying traps to trees with little Kagutsuchi. Izuna, shifting in a way that means he’s rapidly becoming conscious. They had taken responsibility for these people. There was a child here. An Uchiha child. And Uchiha Izuna. Making Sasuke leave his clanmates behind was definitely not an option.
Not that she would; she might have come a way from Thou Shalt Not Kill, courtesy of Konoha’s very effective desensitisation program but killing 10-year-olds, even through non-interference, is still a big no-no if she can at all avoid it. Of course, whether she can avoid it is still up in the air. With her in this condition — so stupid, exhausting herself in unknown territory again — and Sasuke distracted by having to protect a kid, they’d never stand a chance against the second Hokage. Who was also one of the fastest shinobi who ever lived, so flight was probably out, too. Her nose wrinkled in distaste as her options were quickly whittled down.
She’ll have to attempt the Kakashi Maneuver.
One more thing Sasuke will never forgive her for when he finds out, she supposes.
“Incoming!” She shouts, surging to her feet. Then, more calmly “Sasuke, grab the kid and Izuna and get them to safety, I’ll hold them off.”
Yeah, hold him off. Distract him, maybe get shish-kebabed by a lightsaber.
Sasuke looks at her suspiciously — her heart twinges, this wasn’t really fair to him at all — but he does as he’s told, scooping up Kagutsuchi and clamping a weakly groaning Izuna under his arm.
“Meet up back at the primary location,” he says, rushed, and Shikako gives a hum of assent even though it wasn’t a question and she’s definitely lying. Sasuke vanishes into the trees, but Shikako is already moving, trying to cut Senju Tobirama off, to buy more time. She’s released her weight seals, and consciously lets her chakra flare.
Look at me, fight me, don’t look at my teammate.
Maybe she can talk him down, distract him without dying, she thinks. Who is she kidding? She’s racing towards her doom at record speeds, really.
Then, he’s there and she has a moment of “Shit, the shirt! ” before he sees her and charges.
Tobirama had originally come out to investigate strange nature chakra fluctuations near the border. Sure, Hashirama had said, had in fact explicitly ordered him to “ Just stay away from the Uchiha, brother, you’ve done enough damage as is,” but, well, he does have a responsibility towards the clan. If it seems like the Uchiha are planning attacks on the Senju compound to retaliate for Izuna’s death, if they’ve somehow found access to nature chakra, or worse, to seals , well, he has to prevent that at all costs. Even if it costs him what little esteem his brother kept for him after he’d betrayed Hashirama’s dreams with the Uchiha a final, second time by striking Izuna down.
Striking but not killing, apparently. Because if his senses aren’t fooling him — which they never do — Izuna’s chakra signature is stationary a couple miles in front of him, just beyond the edge of Uchiha territory. And, if he’s sensing correctly, he appears to be doing quite well. Not dying at all, in fact.
What Izuna is doing, just hanging out near the territory border, accompanied by two smaller chakra signatures, one of which must belong to a barely-a-ninja child, Tobirama doesn’t know. But he intends to find out.
As he draws nearer, a fourth chakra signature flares up, which is concerning because barely anyone can actually evade Tobirama’s sensing. Dangerous. This mysterious fourth feels… buzzy. Weak. Almost chakra exhausted. Missing the distinctly Uchiha tang of smoke that is present in the other signatures. Odd. A prisoner? Maybe a non-clan ally... but the Uchiha aren’t known for their alliances. Maybe this is the person messing with nature chakra on behalf of the Uchiha?
There is movement within their camp, Izuna, the child and the third ninja moving towards where Tobirama knows the Uchiha compound to be while the fourth signature makes a bee-line for Tobirama. A sensor. Dangerous . And apparently arrogant enough to think they can face him in their chakra-exhausted state.
He’s still pondering what to actually do when she comes into his line of sight. He gets a flash of the Uchiha mon on her shirt — a clear indication of whom she is allied to; maybe she’s adopted? — catches the faint chakra buzz of seals all over her arms, and pounces.
An Uchiha sealmaster is far too dangerous to be left alive, even one so young or new that she or her work have never been used in battle. Because Tobirama would have remembered an opposing seal master, certainly.
He feels a twinge of regret as his blade finds itself buried in her chest, just off from where he’d aimed to hit her heart. She’s fast. Not fast enough though.
He rarely gets to meet anyone who knows anything about seals and now he’d had to kill her without even being able to see what her creations could do. Maybe he can look at them when he searches her corpse, if she hasn’t implemented dead-man switches or something similar in them...
Then, tanto still buried to the hilt in the seal girl’s chest and holding her up in the air as she sags and flails, he looks up and finally gets a good look at her face. The thought ‘ She looks just like Touka,’ distracts him long enough that he doesn’t recognize her last desperately reaching movements as a purposeful gesture until two small fingers tap him near the chin and he can feel a seal bloom into existence.
He tries to jump away but he can’t move, not a muscle and the girl is grinning down at him with blood on her lips.
‘Shit,’ flits through his mind, heart-felt, and then everything goes dark.
Freshly out of Shadow State, hole in her chest cavity all healed up, Shikako crouches down to look at an unconscious Senju Tobirama, Second Hokage, Shinobi of legends.
She pokes him in the cheek. The knock-out seal on his chin looks like ink stains from a little further away and for some reason that’s just hilarious. Shikako snorts.
She pokes him in the cheek again. He releases air with a little ‘pfft’ sound.
Maybe the chakra exhaustion and general panic of a few seconds ago are getting to her now. She had expected to die here. Should have died here. One second she was running at her opponent, the next she had had a sword struck in her chest. No time for greetings or monologues or anything. So cool! If she hadn’t had Shadow State, if he had used the Sword of the Thunder God...Well. She did, and he didn’t, and that’s what matters. He’s the one who’s out cold now.
This had been way too easy. She’s just defeated Senju Tobirama in battle. Not in battle battle, perhaps, and she definitely only won because she had a trick up her sleeve but hey, a win is a win, right?
Then, movement at the edges of her sensing range startles her out of her dazed revelry. Right, she’s still exhausted and alone in enemy territory with an unconscious shinobi legend whom she should definitely not let wake up or fall into Uchiha hands.
Don’t disrupt the timeline.
She is in so much trouble. Oh, the Nidaime is gonna be so pissed when he wakes up. Could she be trialed for preemptive treason?
She quickly strips her new prisoner — oh shit oh shit oh shit — of his weaponry, noting with some confusion and disappointment that he doesn’t have the lightsaber with him. That explains why he didn’t use it, at least. She seals a surprising number of knives and shuriken away, and drops everything with a seal on it in her weapons pouch. Then she slaps another knock-out tag on him, a different style of sealing, just in case, and a whole bunch of chakra suppression seals.
There’s Uchiha stragglers coming — possibly looking for that kid, Kagutsuchi — so she had better move quick. She hefts him up over her shoulder in a too-quick movement that has her swaying. She blinks to rid herself of the sudden dizziness. Right, nearing chakra exhaustion. Great. Sighing, she musters her remaining strength and takes to the trees.
A few minutes later, sitting on some tree branches, Senju Tobirama safely resting within the crown of the large oak, Shikako ponders that she could meet up with Sasuke at the primary location, seeing as she’s survived and everything.
She should probably give Tobirama back first, though. And make sure there are no ill effects from the double knock out tag, or her applying knock-out tag seals straight to his skin. What if she dumps him somewhere in Senju territory and Senju Tobirama wakes up weak or severely disoriented and then someone murders him and it’s Shikako’s fault when the timeline collapses into a fiery mess. Also, she’d feel bad.
A little seal geeking- ahem, information gathering from him wouldn’t be amiss, either. She and Sasuke have come into this era blind, and she’s already messed with the timeline this much… It would be worth it, to get their stories straight in case they have to interact with more people to get home.
She tries to find Sasuke but he’s outside her range for now. She’s not really worried, though, because Sasuke can definitely handle himself against a kid and an injured shinobi. He’s probably found a place to lay low for a while with their strays and will meet her back at their meeting place soon. In a few hours, maybe. She’s really tired. Sasuke probably won’t mind her getting some rest before coming back to the meeting place.
Sasuke, who had run into Uchiha Madara two minutes into their flight, is somewhat perturbed. Maybe he’s gotten too used to Kako sensing danger, because he’d all but crashed into every shinobi’s worst nightmare with all the situational awareness of a fresh genin.
To be fair, he’s been a bit distracted.
“I’ll hold them off,” Kako had said. Not “I’ll deal with them” or “I’ll lead them away.” Kako wouldn’t actually do something stupid, he trusts her, but... It’s official Team 7 policy to sacrifice yourself for your team mates. Kakashi had initiated them into it in Wave, although the tradition itself leads back all the way to the second Hokage, who had died fighting Cloud’s Kinkaku force to allow his students to flee. Sasuke himself hadn’t hesitated to take deadly senbon attacks for Naruto and would do the same for Kako if it should ever prove necessary. Kako herself had tried to counteract their team sacrificial streak with her “Don’t Die” rule but Sasuke knows that she is very ‘Do as I say not as I do’ in that regard. She’d died more times than any of them, after all.
She’d replaced with him in the Forest of Death to save him from Orochimaru’s kunai, and then less than two months later again to save him from Itachi’s Tsukuyomi.
If Shikako were to see no other choice, she’d definitely die for him.
But Kako is smart and resourceful and an unrivaled force of nature when she feels like it; she’d survived some utterly ridiculous things so Sasuke doesn’t feel too bad for worrying about his own survival right now. Especially with Uchiha freaking Madara bleeding killing intent at him two meters away.
“Uh, hi,” he says and tries to covertly shift Izuna, who is currently almost awake and tucked under Sasuke’s left arm, into a better position to throw at Madara and run with Kagustuchi should the need arise. Apparently he has decided that he’s going to die for this stupid kid that’s choking the life out of him right now, hanging on to his neck to keep from falling from his back. Don’t they teach you tree walking before sending you out in old-times? Apparently not.
Madara’s continued output of potent killing intent is very at odds with how his posture relaxes when he sees them.
“Izuna!” He calls out and moves to take his brother from Sasuke, who gives him up very willingly and uses the opportunity to scoot a few meters backwards. Then he is faced by the novel issue of trying not to laugh at the sight of Uchiha Madara holding Uchiha Izuna in a princess carry. What even is his life? One second he’s a normal Black Ops captain fighting normal nin out to kill him like normal, the next he’s looking at the first missing nin cradling his brother in his arms like they’re in the world’s most dramatic soap opera. He doesn’t know how exactly but he blames Shikako. Sasuke swears vengeance.
Shikako has to be alive for Sasuke to exact righteous vengeance upon her so she better be whole and healthy until he is good and ready to change that, okay?!
Izuna, far more awake now, seems to agree with Sasuke on the overall ridiculousness of the situation (if not the Shikako bits) because he starts struggling in his brothers arms until he’s standing on solid ground again, although he is still leaning quite heavily on Madara.
“Izuna,” Madara starts again, worry warring with anger in his tone, “you are supposed to rest!”
“Rest is overrated.”
“Brother, you’ll die!”
“I’m dying either way, better nobly on the battlefield then wasting away in bed.”
Privately, Sasuke thinks that for someone whom Sasuke had found face down in the mud those were very bold words, but the brothers are ignoring him and Kagustuchi so he doesn’t actually say anything. He’s too busy inching further back into the woods and pretending he doesn’t exist. Madara is still spewing killing intent like a fountain full of pissed-off sharks and Sasuke wants to get out of here before anyone gets murdered.
Then, Madara’s head snaps towards Sasuke and he knows his grace period has run out. “Did you,” Madara angles his body like he wants to round on Sasuke but for Izuna, who is still hanging off him,”assist my brother in leaving his sickbed?”
“No?” Sasuke tries.
Madara ‘hn’s in a way that translates directly to “I do not believe you whatsoever.”
Sasuke really wishes for Kako to be here and deal with this. She is definitely better at all this diplomatic stuff.
“Listen, I found your brother passed out in the forest, I don’t know how he got there.”
“That’s true, you know,” Izuna finally deigns to save him from annihilation by irate Uchiha Madara. “I walked out of the house on my own strength.”
Madara glares at Izuna again and seems ready to continue his lecture, but then he looks back at Sasuke and little Kagustuchi, who is still doing his best limpet impression on Sasuke’s back and seemingly reconsiders. “Alright, follow me.”
Sasuke isn’t thrilled about that, he’d been planning to go back into the forest where Shikako was presumably still fighting unknown enemies, but before he can make up an excuse to leave, Kagutsuchi decides to forego being as quiet and unassuming as possible to loudly ask “But what about your sister?”
“Sister?” asks Madara, sharply.
Sasuke is too professional to shift guiltily but he is sorely tempted. The thing is, he doesn’t actually mind meeting his old, distant ancestors so long as they don’t attempt to kill him, even if seeing Uchiha walking around being all alive and breathing does funny things to his chest. He still wants Uchiha Madara, missing nin extraordinaire and certified future unhinged lunatic, as far away from Shikako as humanly possible. Just to be safe, you know?
Once again his hesitance is his downfall, as Kagutsuchi resumes talking.
“Yeah, Sasuke’s sister! She went to hold off enemies! We gotta help her!”
Why had they rescued that brat, exactly? ‘We’ would be doing nothing, thank you very much. Sasuke was going to do something, alone.
To prevent any other unfortunate revelations from passing Kagutsuchi’s traitor lips, Sasuke clears his throat.
“Uh, yeah, my sister, ah, Nakano wanted me to get Kagutsuchi to safety while she led the hostiles away. And now that you’re here he should be safe. So I’m just gonna go see if she needs any backup now, alright? Madara-sama. Izuna-sama.”
Sasuke nods at the men courteously and tries to leave, which is made somewhat difficult by Kagutsuchi still doing a great impression of a burr on his back. His attempt to detach the little limpet from his back to go find Shikako is interrupted by Madara yelling.
Sasuke is slowly getting somewhat annoyed with the man because well, who made him ANBU Captain in charge of the mission? But the man is still clan head, absolutely terrifying, and putting out enough killing intent to give a chunin heart problems, so Sasuke tries to keep a civil tongue.
“And why would that be, Madara-sama?”
Sasuke has finally succeeded in getting Kagustuchi to stand on the ground where he belongs but the kid is still hiding behind him and clutching at his pants leg and absolutely refusing to let go.
“You don’t have any gear!”
Sasuke has a full kunai pouch and a sword so he doesn’t know what Madara is on about and quite frankly, he’s getting irritated. He holds up the Tanto he carries in the hand that hadn’t been holding Izuna for inspection, careful to make the gesture seem as non-threatening as possible, and levels a blank look at Madara.
“You don’t have armor, you don’t have a jacket, you don’t even have a shirt!”
And now Sasuke is getting treated like a child who doesn’t know basic chakra tricks. He doesn’t need a jacket, his shirt is fine and it’s not his fault that he’s left his ANBU chestplate with Shikako. Also, he’s been on enough successful missions without any kind of body armor and he’d rather fight naked than in that clunky monstrosity Madara is wearing. He can’t actually say any of that, tempting though it is. Sasuke’s jaw clenches.
“Right. I’m still going to go find my sister.”
“No, Sasuke. You are going to go back to the compound where it’s safe, with Izuna and Kagutsuchi. And then I’ll go back to find your sister. Understood?”
The only thing Sasuke wants less than to be unable to find her himself is for Uchiha Madara to stumble upon Nara ‘Not an Uchiha’ Shikako and decide to murder her for trespassing crimes. Shikako has survived some truly questionable enemies but even Sasuke wouldn’t bet substantial amounts of money on her winning against Uchiha Madara. He can’t just come out and say that, either, though.
“Listen, I’m not just going to abandon Shi- Nakano like that!”
“You going out like that is going to get you and your sister killed, stubborn child!”
Madara is getting louder now, and closer to him, and he is terrifying but two months ago Sasuke had stood on the snout of a tailed beast and offered it friendship and honestly? At this point he has just accepted his fate. Some day he was going to go on a mission that wouldn’t spontaneously evolve to include Sannin or Time Travel or Uchiha Madara but today is not that day. So he stands his ground.
Or, he tries to, because Madara makes sure Izuna can stand on his own and then Sasuke goes flying, his sword gets slapped out of his hand and he finds himself lying on an armored shoulder, being carried like a sack of flour. He goes for the neck.
Or tries to, but at that moment there’s a blast of killing intent that renders him immobile just long enough to assess his recent life choices. Maybe launching a lethal attack on Uchiha Madara is not the greatest idea. And even if he wants to help Kako, he should best stay alive to do that. Otherwise she would be really cross with him, his panic-addled mind goes and he resists the urge to laugh hysterically.
He’s gonna die, he’s gonna die, why does killing intent make him freeze up like that god damn it, he’s gonna die.
When the killing intent subsides, he is limp on Madara’s shoulder. That affords him a good look at Kagutsuchi, who has gone paler than a corpse or a chakra-exhausted Shikako. He looks horrified at Sasuke. There are tears.
The kid is probably expecting Sasuke to get murdered any second now. Sasuke isn’t entirely convinced he’s wrong yet, but now that he can think without the killing intent clouding his mind, he can class it as unlikely. Izuna is chuckling, Madara is grumbling underneath him and they don’t seem like they’re planning the execution of a fellow clanmate. So there’s that.
“It’s alright, Kagutsuchi,” he tries to calm the trembling child down. “Would you go fetch me my sword?”
That snaps him out of it and he goes hurrying off outside of Sasuke’s current field of vision.
Instead he now sees Izuna wobbling towards them. “Stay put,” the younger Uchiha brother says, pointing at Sasuke, and scowling.
His behaviour is understandable as Sasuke had just almost attacked his older brother, but also annoying. Sasuke is already uneasy because he can’t see Madara’s movement anymore, dropped over the man’s shoulder as he is, and his abdominal muscles are straining to get him into a position where he could see anything but Madara’s back.
Frustration makes him tetchy, okay? And Izuna was walking and talking and putting strain on his wound unnecessarily and should damn well take his own advice. Sasuke can’t be blamed for responding with a testy “Izuna-sama, my sister treated your wound very carefully, I’d thank you not to let her efforts go to waste.”
That brings Izuna up short. Madara goes very still for a second and then shifts abruptly so that Sasuke can no longer see either of them. Great. Yeah, he’s fine here, helpless with two of the strongest shinobi of all time in his blindspot. Just hanging out.
“Izuna, your wound! Doesn’t it hurt?!”
“It’s- no, I feel... it doesn’t feel like before. It’s still there but… better. I can breathe again. I can think clearly.”
“Can you walk?”
“He shouldn’t ! He’ll just aggravate his injuries again, you know?” Sasuke really needs to stop talking. Also, had Izuna really just noticed his fatal wound being healed?
“Well, what else do you propose, Sasuke?” asked Madara in a growly tone that suggested that he had just about enough of the commentary and that Sasuke was about to meet a painful but short end. Not that that really deterred Sasuke.
“You could just put me down, pick him up and-”
“No,” say both Uchiha in unison. So, they walk. Slowly. Or, in Sasuke’s case, are carried. Right into the Uchiha compound.
When Sasuke finds Shikako again, he’s going to kill her, he swears.