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shi-bi no kitsune

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shi-bi no kitsune


i.

Madara, because he's not an idiot, takes about four seconds to realize he's been turned into a furry beast. He's too short to be a person and his limbs feel smaller all around. His muscles are grouped differently, especially in his back legs. He looks down and sees small, shaggy black paws, and confirms his theory to himself: he's somehow been turned into a beast. He has no idea what kind of beast he is, only that he has paws and four limbs.

He has absolutely zero memory of how he ended up in this situation. He had woken up only moments ago, mind groggy and disorganized as his consciousness swam up, leaving him confused. He had laid there for a long moment, just trying to bring his mind back to the present. He had tried stretching, getting his stiff limbs moving, when he had clued into the fact that something was wrong.

Looking at his shaking legs, the black fur bristled up in agitation, he understands that he has no idea how he got himself into this mess.

He can physically feel his ear twitch as sound suddenly floods his senses, a gradual increase that almost overwhelms him. He only barely manages to keep in a whimper at the sensory overload. He tries to scrunch up his face in some semblance of discomfort, but the only thing he manages to do is realize that his sense of smell is just as heightened as his hearing. To put it simply, everything smells green. It's an odd thing to think, especially since colors don't have smells, but green means grass and trees and soft warm winds on a bright, sunny day. Green means flourishing plant life and abundant resources. Green, he realizes, means so much more to him than he ever noticed.

As he looks around finally, trying to comprehend his situation, he realizes green means the border in between the Senju and Uchiha lands where he and Hashirama had once met so many year ago.

The large stream was trickling merrily in the daylight, bugs whizzing around as the leaves of the trees around him rolled softly in the wind. He took in a deep breath, breathing in green, before he forced himself up and shakily made his way to the reflective water. He stumbled on the rocks, wincing when a paw slipped and he almost tumbled straight into his head. He gains his bearings long enough to find his way to the edge of the water, poking his head over the stream to see his reflection.

I'm an incredibly fluffy fox, he thinks, bewildered.

He is black, almost unnaturally so, his fur spiked in a vague reminiscence of his own hair style. The only other color on his fur is a small speckle of white under his eyes, shaped in the lines that usually lay beneath his eyes. Every other part of him is pitch black, from his nose to the whiskers he can just barely make out. The lack of contrast makes his unnatural eyes pop out. They are curious things, he can't help but notice, a dark maroon color that almost seems as if his regular eyes and his bright red Sharingan have been mixed together. He certainly doesn't look natural.

He turns to the side, curious about how big he is, and is surprised when he sees his tail; or rather, tails. Four bushy appendages rest behind up, fluffed up in shock, They twitch behind him, all movement involuntary, as he dumbly stares at them. He is rather fluffy all over, but it just adds to his size, making him look larger than an average fox. He can't quite tell how much bigger than a normal fox he is, but he knows there aren't any foxes around here that look anything close to what he looks like. He tries to moves his tails through his own will, but can't manage it, a bubbling feelings of disconnect quickly making him stop.

He needs to stop staring at himself and instead focus on getting help. This is something he would definitely classify as an unusual situation, and he needs to notify his clan immediately, less they think something worse happened to him. Though, he thinks with incredulous amusement, this is still pretty bad. There wasn't a single chance that any of the Uchiha will think him a regular fox and he hopes that will get him into the gates and possibly in a position where he can somehow signal to them who he is.

With his destination in mind, he turns from his reflection, ready to make his way through the woods, when a screeching sound finds its way to him. He lets out a whine, unable to stop it from forcing itself out of his throat. His ears rings as he dashes forward, tripping over himself until he's cowering in the bushes. Any other day he would be disgusted with himself for his cowardice, but the sound of metal on metal means fighting and he's currently an animal with no means to defend himself; he'll hide all he wants.

There's more screeching and now he can hear the distinct sounds of leaves rustling and the thumps of someone running and someone else giving chase. To his horror, it is coming from the Senju side of the border. It isn't even ten seconds before a blue and white blur bursts from the trees, kunai flying after them as seven other figures emerge in pursuit.

Senju Tobirama has a slight scowl on his face as he twists out of the reach of a masked shinobi, his knee coming up to hit the nin square in the jaw, a loud crack heard on impact. The shinobi gives out a muffled cry before he collapses, his cries muffled as his hands reach towards his broken jaw. A kunai to the head from Tobirama quickly puts an end to the man's suffering.

There are still six other shinobi circling the albino Senju and Madara, now that he's not as clueless about the situation, takes a moment to watch the Senju at work. Madara doesn't interact often with the other Senju brother, most of his attention retained by Hashirama. They are a more even match then he and Tobirama when it comes to battle strength, so it is usually Izuna that fights the grim faced Senju. Seeing him now, without Hashirama to distract him, leaves Madara a little awed. He and Hashirama are powerhouses and each have their own style. Madara is like the flame the Uchiha are so known for, flickering around the battle and allowing the air to flame him higher. Hashirama is very much centered on the earth, steady and quick as he uses his Mokuton to allow him a wide range while still standing firmly in the same place.

Tobirama, Madara discovers, is a river as he dances around his opponents, striking fiercely enough the first time that they fall without needing any extra pressure. Each opponent he lands a hit on goes down right after, whether it's a strike to the head or a well placed kunai to the knee. Tobirama doesn't even bother using any of the higher powered water jutsu Madara knows he knows, so confident in his abilities to dance around his enemies.

Madara, despite himself, it highly impressed.

It's only because he is watching Tobirama so closely that he realizes that one of the shinobi has fallen back, a series of hand signs flashing as they crouch with one knee on the ground. It's the hand signs that make Madara realize that the shinobi that have been attacking Tobirama are from the Kurama clan. The Uchiha have had a standing alliance with the clan for a generation now, ever since his father Tajima Uchiha reached out to make an alliance. The clan specializes in genjutsu and Tajima had thought them similar in the sense that the Sharingan was so proficient at casting them as well. Madara as a sinking feeling in his gut as Tobirama dispatches another Kurama shinobi, leaving only two members of the team left: one that is standing defensively in front of the attacking Senju and the other nin who has just finished moving his hands. For a moment, a heavy chakra fills the air. It's considerably dark and it suffocates his smaller body. He has to force his lungs to move as he watches the man work his genjutsu over Tobirama's mind.

Technically speaking, Tobirama should be at a disadvantage when it comes to genjutsus. He is a talented sensor, the best that Madara knows of, so he shouldn't have a problem with sensing another person near by, triggering his brain into remembering that he was fighting, thus allowing him to break the illusion. The only problem with that is the Kurama clan is not your usual genjutsu based clan.

As a show of good faith, the Kurama clan had imparted a secret to Tajima in exchange for the Uchiha clan's protection: supposedly, once every few generations or so, a clan member will be born with such tremendous skill in genjutsu that their illusions will cause the brain to make anything that happens to the victim in the genjutsu manifest in reality, making any injury or death in the illusion real.

Madara watches Tobirama stumble and then freeze, a glazed look in his eyes signalling that he's fallen to the power of the Kurama nin's genjutsu. The kunai he had been holding in his hand falls through his fingers, clanging noisily against the rocky ground.

With dread, Madara watches as the once defensive nin unfurls, a wicked gleam in his eye as he approaches the frozen Senju. Panic quickly sets in. Madara can not just stand by while Tobirama is killed. First of all, Hashirama would be devastated. While they can't be friends anymore, Madara still cares for the oaf and hearing about his brother's ultimate demise would destroy him. Secondly, Tobirama is a smart man. If Madara can somehow help him, he doesn't doubt that Tobirama would find him fascinating. He was an odd creature to look at. The rumored scientist in the man would be aflutter with the four tailed fox that had made an appearance. Madara could very well use that interest to get his attention long enough to somehow explain who he is.

Forcing himself to move, Madara darted out of the bushes, zeroed in on the crouching shinobi's exposed Achilles tendon, and bit down hard. His teeth tore through the paper thin flesh easily, muscles snapping as he tenses his jaw. His mouths big enough that his front teeth nip the bone, a crack following as the momentum in his bite brakes through the nin's bone. With no reservations, Madara tugs, ripping the muscle away from the led. The man let's out a blood curdling scream, gaining the attention of his single ally.

Madara darts away, flesh still held firmly in his mouth, and he once more hides in the bushes, his body shaking with adrenaline. His mind feels like it's on fire, his tails whipping around behind him as he clenches his jaw. The flesh is soft in his mouth, the blood dripping down his jaw, and his tongue feels heavy as he tastes the coppery substance coat his mouth. With a harsh startle, he realizes he's started chewing on the flesh, like he's prepared to swallow it.

Horror at his actions swells in him and he spits out the meat, gagging with a hacking cough. He can still taste the blood in his mouth, nausea swimming in his stomach as he realizes the taste, to his fox tongue, isn't bad. In fact, he realizes with dread, it tastes like ambrosia to him.

A slicing squelch keeps him from having a panic attack, his thoughts abruptly brought back to the action that is happening in front of him. Tobirama has broken free from the genjutsu and he is deftly pulling out a sword from the standing shinobi's stomach. Madara's own stomach throbs in something like sympathy as he watches the man collapse to the ground.

The man Madara bit is still screaming bloody murder, his eyes bulging at the pain as he cradles his leg. Tobirama silences him easily with a sword through the head.

Silence.

"Hello?" Tobirama asks slowly. "I can sense you there."

With trepidation, Madara pokes his head out of the bush, looking up at Tobirama's blank face .The man twitches slightly at his sudden appearance, a white eyebrow raised when he finally registers Madara's form.

"A fox?" Tobirama mutters to himself, crouching down and slowly holding out his hand.

Madara stares at it, not wanting to approach the Senju but knowing that this is his chance to establish himself with the other man. Slowly, he walks forward, neck stretched out as he inhales Tobirama's scent. It's surprisingly pleasant, the scent of fresh, brisk mountain water overlaying a more woodsy scent.

"Four tails?" Tobirama breaks out, the usual blank face nowhere to be found as he openly stares curiously at Madara's swaying tails. He looks back to Madara's face and he tilts his head much like a cat would. He slowly moves his other hand behind him, slipping it into his pack.

Madara tenses and prepares to flee, uncertain as to what the Senju is doing. Tobirama simply shushes softly, bringing his other hand forward to show him a small slice of some kind of jerky. The gesture is a nice one, the idea that Tobirama would go around and sacrifice provisions for an animal that helped him, but it just causes the nausea from before to make itself known once again. The idea of meat is suddenly sickening to him, the memory of the warmth and the taste leaving him light headed.

"This is my way of saying thank you," Tobirama explains to him, holding the jerky closer to him, probably so he was more likely to snatch it up. When Madara just stares at it, frozen, Tobirama lets out a little huff before telling him, "You're supposed to say you're welcome when someone thanks you," and gesturing with his hand to indicate that Madara should take the meat from him.

Madara can smell it, a smokey flavor emanating from the dried food. Still, underneath that all, Madara can smell the gaminess of it and it just triggers him, anxiety flowing through him as he sways, his legs shaking. He sees Tobirama pull back, a concerned furrow in his brow, and he collapses, his vision darkening until he knows no more.

Chapter Text

shi-bi no kitsune


ii.

Waking up is something that Madara does every day, and yet, it feel unnatural as he shifts slightly, head pounding. His thoughts blur together into a sluggish glob of nonsense and he squints his eyes open, hoping he'll see something that will trigger his mind further awake.

A brightly lit wooden room greets his watery gaze, a large window across from him opened to let the soft breeze invade the room. Madara sniffs slightly, the scents in the room invading his senses. There's the vague smell of green that seems to follow him everywhere he goes, but there is also that same woodsy scent that he had smelled on Tobirama when the man had offered his hand to him.

Tobirama?

Madara jolted up, dizzy from his abrupt shift. He blinks, trying to clear his vision, and it is then that he notices the figure hunched over a desk in the corner of the room. Tobirama's back is to him and Madara can just faintly make out the sound of a brush being put against paper. Madara stares at him for a moment, just taking in the situation, before he shakes his head, some of his fur going flying at the motion. He shakily stands, stretching his limbs out as he arches back, satisfied when he can hear and feel his back bone pop slightly, letting built up pressure escape.

So, he's somehow found himself in what he can only assume is Tobirama's room in the Senju compound. He grimaces in his mind when he remembers his thoughts right before he passed out, the incident still sending a curl of disgust throughout him. He vows to stay away from meat for the immediate future, especially if he reacts by gagging and fainting every time he's confronted with it.

"Awake, are you?" Tobirama's deep voice breaks him out of his thoughts.

Madara looks at him from his spot on a bed, blinking up at the man. Tobirama is dressed casually in a dark blue yukata, the fabric wrinkled in spots. It's a startling sight. Madara should have never had a reason to see the younger Senju brother in any state of dress besides armor and it leaves him flustered for a second, his tails twitching behind him.

"My name is Tobirama," the Senju offers, a curious tilt to his head. "I apologize if I offered you offense when I offered you meat."

Madara blinks, caught off guard. Was Tobirama aware that he wasn't a normal fox? Was that why he was talking to him like he had some kind of sentience? His tails twitch again and Madara feels like an idiot. Of course the Senju knows he's not a regular animal; he has four tails for kami's sake! Madara himself isn't a particular religious person, nor does he believe much in the supernatural, but he supposes Tobirama might. Madara had been informed that he was more of a science man, but he guesses that doesn't mean that Tobirama could look at a fox with multiple tails and not think of all the mythical stories that surround such creatures. Madara, with a lack of ability to voice any greeting, simply yips in return, startling himself slightly when the noise is louder than he intended.

Tobirama's lips twitch slightly, something like amusement flashing in his eyes, before his face is once more neutral. It looks more relaxed though, like neutral is just his natural state and not like he's forcing his emotions away. "Do you have a name?"

Madara yips again because, yes obviously, but he isn't exactly sure how he's supposed to communicate such a thing to Tobirama. Or, now that he thinks about it, if he should confess his identity. Hashirama had always been the one with the dream of peace, not his younger brother. Madara doesn't think Tobirama dishonorable enough to hurt him as an animal, but he would believe him smart enough to keep him locked away should he learn of Madara's identity. Resigned, Madara admits to himself that he'll probably have to give a false name if he even manages to find a way to communicate with the man.

"Hm," Tobirama hums in reply, a hand coming up to smooth his hair down as he contemplates something. "I'm afraid I won't be able to guess your name. Would you be offended if I simply called you Shi?"

Madara, relieved that Tobirama wasn't going to start throwing out names and expecting Madara to pick one, simply yipped and slowly nodded, struggling to get his body to move in the way he wanted it to.

"Shi-san it is," Tobirama agrees. "I suppose you're probably hungry and thirsty by this point; you've been asleep for two days already."

Two days?! That was worrying, Madara fretted, his tongue flicking out over his jaw in a sign of nervousness. He supposes somehow being transformed into a fox would take the energy out of someone, but the adrenaline crash he had experienced probably played a larger role than anything else. He'd crashed after fighting before, what shinobi hasn't, but he's never experienced anything close to what happened at the border between their territories. It was an important detail to a puzzle that Madara didn't have all the pieces to.

"Tobi-kun!" a warm voice shouted, the door to the room slamming open.

Madara jumped, hackles raised as a beaming Hashirama made his way into the room, delight written all over his face as he stared expectantly at his brother.

Tobirama's blank mask was firmly in place by the time he turned to look at Hashirama, a dispassionate, "Don't call me that," his only greeting.

"I know you've been itching to get out of the compound, especially since your last outing ended with you being attacked! I recently got a missive from the Uzumaki: a couple of their shinobi have gone missing and they're in need of a sensor. I offered your services!"

"Thank you for consulting me, brother," Tobirama states with no emotion, though Madara was interested to note there was a slight twitching of his eye which gave away his annoyance.

"Oh! Who's your little friend?" Hashirama coos as he catches sight of Madara's disgruntled form, the powerful shinobi practically collapsing at the side of Tobirama's bed to stare at him.

Madara glared at him with the best of his ability, uncomfortable with being in the same room as Hashirama when at such a disadvantage. Hashirama and he had always been equals on the battlefield, unable to beat the other, and with him being unable to protect himself in his usual way left him feeling vulnerable.

"That is Shi-san," Tobirama informs Hashirama, watching as the older man offered the large fox a hand to sniff.

Madara, simply because he was curious, gave a few cautious sniffs. Hashirama's scent differs from Tobirama's, though he supposes he shouldn't be surprised by that. They both share the wood scent that Madara is starting to suspect is a Senju thing, but Hashirama also smells like, well, wet dirt. It makes Madara sneeze abruptly, his lip curling up in offense at the scent. It's not bad, per se, but Madara has never been a fan of the way the earth has smelled after a heavy rain. The smell of it was always cloying to his tongue and he realizes that the effect is just amplified now that he can smell so much better.

"He bit out one of the Kurama agents' Achilles tendon," Tobirama informs the giggling man.

That gets a reaction from him, his giggling cutting off quickly as the man pulls his hand back from Madara's mouth. Madara wouldn't have bitten him, has no desire to ever have any part of a human in his mouth again, but he finds it amusing to see Hashirama pale slightly as he stares at Madara's sharp teeth.

"A-Ah, well-," He stutters nervously, laughing sheepishly as he stands and takes a few steps back. He flinches slightly when Madara tracks his movements, his head tilting like he was curious about Hashirama's actions. Mostly he just found it funny to see the slight spark of childish terror that was in Hashirama's eyes. Tobirama, even though he had seen the aftermath, had only looked at him with gratefulness and curiosity. Hashirama seemed to have a much weaker stomach.

"I hope that you can leave soon," Hashirama tells Tobirama, eyeing Madara up out of the corner of his eye as he turns to his brother. "They're hoping to find their comrades alive."

"I can leave before nightfall," Tobirama replies, turning away and ignoring Hashirama now that his purpose has been concluded.

Hashirama grumbles a little at this, but he still looks at his brother with fond exasperation. He gives Madara a nervous look, his eyes finally catching onto the four tails behind him. His eyes widen and he quickly turns and flees when Madara lets out a fake yawn, revealing his teeth in all their glory. The door shuts with a firm click.

"Ridiculous," Tobirama mutters to himself, huffing as he turns around to glare at the door. "Doesn't know how to knock."

Madara yips at that because he relates so much. Izuna never bothered to knock whenever Madara was in his own room, always just barging in to yell or complain about something new. He loved his younger brother, wouldn't trade him for anything in the world, but he deeply wishes that the younger Uchiha would just learn to understand the concept of privacy.

"Come with me," Tobirama addresses him, standing from his desk and making his way to the door. "I can find some blackberries in the kitchen for you to eat."

Madara, embarrassed when his stomach growled at the offer, jumps down from the neatly made bed and follows Tobirama into uncharted territory.

The hallway has the same kind of decor that Tobirama's bedroom had, brightly lit with cool, neutral colors placed everywhere. It wasn't that dissimilar to the Uchiha compound, though there were far more uchiwa fans hanging over everything then there were vajra hanging around the Senju clan compound. The house they're in is relatively quiet, on the soft sound from the outside making any noise. Madara briefly wonders who all lives in the same home as Tobirama and Hashirama, but he is distracted when the make their way into a surprisingly advanced kitchen. The Uchiha, while not the poorest clan out there, weren't wealthy. Most of their clan wasn't decked out in armor like the Senju were. Their wealth seems to be more advanced than Madara had guessed though as he looks around the kitchen. The Uchiha frequently used kamado as ovens still, not having the metal to waste on bigger iron stoves. The Senju don't seem to have that problem, as such a stove was sitting in the clan head's kitchen, other things such as iron pots hanging from the walls.

"Shi-san," Tobirama called his given name, snapping Madara out of his observations.

Madara padded over to the Senju has he set down a small bowl of ripe looking blackberries in front of him, a dish of water following soon after. Madara felt slightly degraded for having to eat out of a bowl on the floor like an animal, but beggars can't be choosers, especially since technically speaking, he was an animal at the moment. With a resigned huff, he bent down and carefully took a few berries into his mouth, their sweet taste bursting on his tongue. There was a subtle tartness to them that Madara thinks he's never really tasted before and he takes another mouthful, now eager to fill his stomach. He licks his jaw once he's finished, swiping up any stray bits that might have escaped. He slowly darts his tongue out, trying to figure out how to maneuver himself into drinking the water. After he manages to only get his fur slightly wet, he pulls back, stepping away from the dishes.

"I'll take that," Tobirama tells him, scooping up the dishes and going to the corner of the room where a sink rests.

Madara stares after him, his mind wandering as his stomach rumbles again, an uncomfortable feeling falling over him. The berries were good and the water refreshing, and yet his stomach is still chewing at itself, a sense of dissatisfaction falling over him. A memory of the way the meat had tempted him, the blood dripping down his throat, makes his entire body lurch, his stomach gaping with want. He shakes himself, quickly dismissing the thought. No, he would be satisfied with berries and insects. He felt no need to crunch on any type of meat, let alone human. It wasn't normal.

"I have to pack for my mission," Tobirama tells him as he approaches, having put the dishes away while Madara was lost in thought. "I can take you back to where I found you once I leave."

Madara yips, standing from his seated position and stalking after Tobirama as he leaves the kitchen. They find themselves back in Tobirama's room and Madara leaps onto the bed, lazily lounging as Tobirama packs a bag for his mission. He isn't quite sure what he's supposed to do when Tobirama drops him off. He'll have to get into the Uchiha clan compound somehow, and with Madara being missing for two whole days, the clan will be on high alert. To be honest, they're more likely to shoot him dead that the moment then to let him in. He finds himself at loose ends as he watches Tobirama tie his bag closed. If he can't return to the compound, what is he supposed to do?

"Are you ready Shi-san? I can take you back now," Tobirama says, hefting his bag onto his back. He had changed into more practical mission clothes when Madara was distracted, the sight now more familiar than the more relaxed one from earlier. The orange light of sunset is filtering in from the window, setting both Tobirama and the room ablaze. Madara stares at the waiting man, ear twitching as he thinks. Tobirama had been kind to him so far, had given him food and kept him safe, so maybe he could go with the man on his mission. It would give him a safe place and allow him to think about a new plan to try and figure out how to change back.

With his decision made, Madara breathes deeply before hunching back and then springing forward, clumsily launching himself at Tobirama. The Senju grunts, buckling slightly in surprise at the sudden weight in his arms, before he straightens himself up, blinking in surprise at his bundle.

"I suppose that means you want to come with me?"

Madara yips in confirmation, tails twitching as Tobirama softly puts him on the ground.

"I suppose I could take you. It would give me the chance to further study your behavior," Tobirama contemplates. "Alright. Let me gather some provisions for you and we can be on our way."

Madara follows the man as they once more head to the kitchen, excitement finding its way into his veins. This would be an entirely new experience for him, traveling with a shinobi that wasn't an Uchiha. Tobirama had proved himself to be rather interesting and Madara finds that he is looking forward to what else he might discover about the younger Senju brother.

Chapter Text

shi-bi no kitsune


iii.

Madara ran, wind rushing past as he pushed forward, the feeling of flying making him stick his tongue out in delight. Tobirama has been kind enough to travel down on the ground and not in the trees, sticking close to Madara as they make their way to the Uzumaki lands. It takes a full day to run there and it's already midday, which means they still have hours of running to go. They should be exiting the forest in a few hours time, only to find a few mile of hilly lands before meeting the coast. The Uzumaki and their kin lived on an island off the coast. They would probably have to rest on the beach for a few hours before Tobirama and he made their way over the choppy waves of the pass between the two lands. In fact, now that Madara thinks about it, the Senju will probably have to carry him across.

Madara grimaces slightly at the thought, his fur spiking as he runs, but he shakes off the uncomfortable feeling. He's already been in Tobirama's arms once, what does it matter if he is again. Besides, he'll need help if he wants to go across the water. He has no idea if he might be able to manipulate chakra. Tobirama had sensed him, which lends to the idea that he has some, but it obviously doesn't feel like his own, otherwise Tobirama would've ever helped him the way he has. He still has no idea how to use chakra in this form, however. He assumes it would take time to form some sort of chakra control, time he doesn't have while he's sprinting across country with Tobirama.

He dodges a tree trunk absentmindedly, keeping pace with the sprinting Senju. Madara sniffs the air, breathing in the scents of the forest around them. It smells clean, the foliage bright and flourishing under their feet. It's a nice day, the cool night from earlier breaking through into a sunny morning and afternoon.

"Shi-san," Tobirama says, breaking their silent journey. The Senju is slowing down, so Madara follows suit, his racing limbs slowing down into a trot until they are both stood still under the shadowy canopy of the trees above. Tobirama crouches, a look of concentration on his face as he lightly skims his fingers over the ground. Madara tries his best to keep his harsh pants from echoing around them, his stomach grumbling slightly as his lungs expand and contrast. He's been starving since last night, desperate for some type of food to sate his hunger. They had stopped earlier in the morning for a light meal and small break, and Tobirama had given him some more blackberries. While still good, they once more did nothing to sate his empty stomach, which now felt like it was eating itself. He ignored both his stomach and his shaky limbs as Tobirama looked off into the distance, a frown finding it's way onto his face. "There seems to be three signatures up ahead that I don't recognize. They aren't Uzumaki, and this is unclaimed land, so there's no telling who could be lurking in the area."

Madara tilted his head and watched Tobirama at work, fascinated by the sight. Madara himself was a bit of a sensor, every Uchiha was. To be able to use the Sharingan meant that they had to be slightly more in tune with the chakra around them. It gave them an advantage when it came to predicting moves and dodging unseen opponents. Tobirama, it seems, far exceeds any sensor Madara has had the pleasure of meeting. Madara can't sense anything himself, and his range is nothing to scoff at, so for Tobirama to sense three distinct individuals, is incredibly impressive. He wonders that the sensory input that Tobirama has the deal with. Almost every living thing has some amount of chakra, though it is mostly so low that it is more of a background hum than any real noise to the senses. Regular animals have a bit more than plants, but never enough to really bother anyone. Madara wonders if not just Tobirama's range is larger, but if he's more sensitive to the subtitles of the chakra swirling around them.

"Let's proceed with caution," Tobirama finally tells him, standing from his crouched position. "Most of shinobi on this side of the forest are usually Senju allies or their kin. I don't recognize them, but they could simply be from one of the smaller unknown clans." Tobirama looks disbelieving of his own words, like there's something bothering him that he can't quite place. It sends a spark of worry up Madara's spine.

They move forward once more, their pace slower than before as they headed through the forest. Tobirama was keeping a sharp eye on their surroundings, head tilted just slightly as he kept himself as aware as possible. Madara tried to do the same, muscled bunched tightly as he runs. They're running when Madara clocks onto the fact that everything around them is silent. Most would claim all forests are silent unless a human is in them, but it wasn't true. Birds sand above in the branches, small rodents skittered across the ground, making crunching noises as they scurried across the leaves strewn everywhere. Insects buzzed about, going about their short lives. It was never quiet in a forest that was alive and safe.

Now, there was no ambient noise from the creatures around them. An eerie silence had descended upon them and Madara let out a chirping noise, looking up to meet Tobirama's eyes as the albino nodded seriously in return, obviously having sensed the same thing that Madara had.

They were not alone.

Seconds passed as they once more came to a stop, Madara's panting the only thing breaking the unnerving silence that reigned. Madara glanced to the side, trying to find anything, and that was when the enemy struck. Kunai flew from the bushes behind them causing them to scatter, Tobirama to one side and Madara leaping to the other, turning to face the oncoming opponent. Madara's heart almost stopped when he saw the white battle armor and the demented grins attached to a figure with flowing brown hair decorated with two distinct buns.

Tobirama was already retaliating, throwing shuriken in response as he dodged another attack. Madara stayed frozen, a feeling of dread almost overtaking him as he watched two members of the Kaguya clan engage with Tobirama. Madara isn't surprised that Tobirama had never run into their opponents, as they tended to stay on the completely opposite side of the country. Madara had run into them when he was younger, just having reached adulthood out of his teens. He'd been in Taki no Kuni on a mission when he'd come across a couple of Kaguya clan members. The carnage Madara had seen them reap onto an unexpected village was brutal and disgusting. Madara hadn't felt comfortable interfering, especially not with the way the Kaguya seemed to love to play with their pray. Watching one of their members push his bones through his own skin immediately put him off confrontation, fascinated horror pushing him to simply watch as they massacred an entire small village. He had left, hours later, only to vomit a few miles away, guilt eating at the lining of his stomach. It was only through extensive search and occasionally asking around when on other missions, that he finally found a name for the clan that was more bloodthirsty than the demons of legend: Kaguya. He hadn't run into them since, not until this moment as he watched Tobirama flip to avoid a devastating elbow from one of his opponents. A second shinobi, this one more built than his companion, took advantage and successfully landed a punch to Tobirama's side, making the man grunt as he pulled away from them. The two grinning Kaguya pushed forward, not letting Tobirama take the chance to rest.

Two members, Madara thinks, mind racing. Hadn't Tobirama mentioned three chakra signatures?

Madara screamed, his flesh burning as something sharp was thrusted through his shoulder, his high pitched screech echoing around them. He struggled to scurry away, whipping his head around and tearing more at his shoulder. He stared at the bone protruding form his shoulder, a cackle being his only warning as another bone shard was thrown at him. He managed to dodge this time, drying out at the pain in his shoulder. As a human it seemed easy to ignore the pain that was inflicted during a fight, but he was a more fragile animal at the moment, his joints different than before. He didn't have hands to extract the bone, having to suffer as his own bone rubbed against the bone stuck in his socket, blood lazily running down his weak limb.

"Shi-san!" Tobirama shouted in alarm, his approach stopped when he once more had to defend himself against the team fighting him. He looked over at Madara, concern in his eyes. Madara wished he could reassure him, give him some kind of sign that Madara was okay, but a fog was starting to over come him, his heart beating quickly as his animal fight or flight response took hold of his slowing mind.

The fox in him, the creature with four tails and a dark hunger, told him to run, so he did. He turned tail and sprinted as fast as he could in the direction Tobirama and he had been traveling, his mind doing its best to ignore the waves of pain throbbing through him. He could hear the cackling Kaguya give chase, the man quickly catching up to him as his longer strides gave him an advantage. Madara was forced to skitter to a halt when they came to a rather large river with no visible way to cross. He might've chanced swimming if he was uninjured, but with his shoulder in the condition it was, even his animal brain put that in the too dangerous column.

He was cornered. He hunched down, staring wide-eyed at the malicious Kaguya in front of him.

"Hello, little buddy," the man grinned, drawing closer. A bone slowly grew its way through the flesh on his hand, the bone sharp and threatening as it became longer and longer. "I've never had the chance to kill such a unique beast. The others will surely be jealous," the man boasted, now wielding the bone in his hand like one would a sword.

Madara's heart pounded loudly in his ears, dread falling over him in an icy hold. He was going to die, he realized, meeting his attacker's crazed beige eyes. No one would know that Uchiha Madara was killed by a crazy Kaguya, stuck in the form of a four-tailed fox. Izuna would be left as clan head, never knowing that Madara had wanted to return. His and Hashirama's dream of have peace between the clans would never be realized, not with Izuna's hatred fro the Senju. The two clans will continue to war among themselves until one side is finally wiped off the face of the earth. Tobirama will be forced to face not two, but three of these deranged psychopaths, forced to look at the blood on one of them and know it was his foxy savior that was slayed.

No. I refuse. I will not submit, a niggling voice sounded in the back of his mind, a sudden build up of pressure leaving him dizzy.

The pressure increased, Madara's limbs feeling light as his tails suddenly started whipping around him, the debris in the area rising as chakra started building inside him, the unfamiliar feeling of an icy burn waking him up, his adrenaline causing him to feel more aware than he has in years. He meets his attacker's eyes, see them widen in surprise, and then flames burst from him, the chakra he had been manipulating coming to form a blue blaze around his body, the flames licking his fur and skin, leaving a chill behind as they danced. Madara knows that that blue fire is actually hotter than red, he is an Uchiha after all, but he somehow isn't surprised that this icy blue fire is burning cold and not hot.

Madara can feel the bone being forced out of his shoulder, his wound knitting back together in a stunning display of accelerated healing. He doesn't focus on it much, instead turning his rising fury to the nin in front of him. This shinobi had threatened his life, had wanted him dead, and his comrades were currently trying to take out Tobirama, the man who had helped him. The man who had seen a vulnerable animal and had nursed him and fed him instead of experimenting on the oddity in front of him. Rage flowed through him as he threw himself forward, a demonic snarl leaving him as he flew at his opponent, so fast that his surrounding blurred as he latched himself successfully to the surprised man's throat. Without a single second of hesitation, Madara flared his chakra cloak ice racing up the man's skin and encasing his chest. The man cried out, fear now making him shake as he tried to reach up hands to dislodge Madara, only to have to wince away when the fire left him close to frost bitten. With no impunity, Madara tore the man's throat out, blood gushing and covering him quickly.

He fell from his hanging, throat in his mouth as the man collapsed with a gurgle, unable to scream now that his throat was gone and his lungs were quickly filling with blood. Madara was in a haze, a dark essence in himself grinning cruelly at his ability to simply destroy, the flesh sliding down his throat as he swallows, bliss quickly filling him. For the first time since he was turned into a fox, his hunger is lessening instead of growing, the meat making his stomach purr in delight. Stuck in a haze, Madara went forward and tore, the dying man's body becoming Madara's first satisfying meal.

Madara woke from his haze covered in blood, standing before a skeleton that had been picked clean. He stared at it, uncomprehending as footsteps slowly approached him from behind.

"Shi-san?" Tobirama's voice quietly asked, wary concern coloring his tone.

Madara looked up at him with wide eyes, his small body starting to shake in shock. Tobirama had some blood on his clothes next to his right arm, the left one occupied with carrying an unconscious Kaguya nin over his shoulder. Madara saw the white clothes on the man and turned to look at the bloody scraps that were laying next to the bones, their pristine color forever dyed.

Foxes can't cry tears, they don't have that very human ability, but Madara feels like sobbing, like breaking down, as he once more looks up at Tobirama, completely lost.

Tobirama carefully puts down the hostage he was carrying, stepping closer to Madara until he was crouched in front of him, brow furrowed. "It's alright," he calmly tells him, a hand coming up to brush against his blood soaked fur. "'It's only in your nature. Fox demons consume humans; it's just what you do."

Madara's breathing picked up, the words giving him conflicting emotions. Of course he was a fox demon, the way he looked with his four tails and maroon eyes certainly gave him the described appearance. He had just been covered in icy flames not a thirty minutes ago, so he was obviously supernatural in nature. But, he couldn't help but think hysterically, my mind is human. Madara should've been strong enough to fight the instincts of the body he's been shoe-horned in. He should've resisted the urge, shouldn't have let himself succumb to committing a sin like cannibalism. His stomach is stuffed full, making a satisfied grumble only Madara can hear, and he can't stop himself from crying out in pain.

There's no physical injury that hurts him; only his burning guilt.

Chapter Text

shi-bi no kitsune


iv.

Madara feels lost.

He knows he's in shock, can distantly acknowledge that his body is shaking severely, that he feels dangerously cold, and that his vision is swimming as he experiences vertigo. His mind can't concentrate as he stares blankly ahead, a whimpering sound rising out of his pained chest. Warm arms wrap themselves around him and he's gently lifted off the ground, brought to rest against a sold chest. Madara vaguely registers this, knows it's happening in the back of his mind, but he can't focus on it; can't wrap his mind around anything that's physically happening to him.

All he can see and think about is that Kaguya shinobi and the fear in his eyes as Madara opened his mouth and devoured.

Madara wants to vomit, badly, but his stomach feels content and not even close to nauseous. It isn't like the last time when he only let some blood trickle down his throat, when he was able to make himself sick at the thought of doing something like eating human flesh. Now, with the beast inside him awake and sated, he can't ignore anything. He ate someone willingly. He was lost in the primal instincts that now plague him, but he still did it. Even now he is satisfied deep down. He realizes that he is scared of himself and these new urges that he now realizes he isn't strong enough to combat.

The motion of Tobirama's stride changes slightly, jolting Madara slightly. He finally blinks, his eyes dry after staring for so long. He warily looks around and he is surprised to see that they're dashing across a large body of water, the foggy image of an island off in the distance. He watches as they grows closer, his body slowly subsiding from the shivers he was experiencing. His fur is growing damp from the moisture in the air, the cool wind chilling him to the bone.

"We're almost there," Tobirama mutters to him, pulling him more snugly against him. Madara isn't proud of it, would stab anybody who called him out on it, but he burrows into Tobirama's warmth, desperate to stay cocooned somewhere safely.

He knows he can't stay in the younger Senju's arms forever. He cautiously thinks back to his fight with the Kaguya nin, careful to ignore all thoughts to the after, and instead focuses on the before. Madara had been terrified that this was the way he was going to die, stuck in the body of an animal, no one knowing what had truly happened to him. He had felt defenseless and weak, hatred for his vulnerability rising up within him. That was when he had felt that first solid spark in his gut, when the chakra he knew he must of had started to boil in his veins. The icy shards of frost had burst forth from his very skin, engulfing him in a sky blue inferno that burnt cold. He had felt slightly chilled at the time, though it hadn't bothered him the way it had clearly effected the Kaguya shinobi. The fire had been so cold, Madara remembered suddenly, that the Kaguya nin's fingers had almost instantly turned black and dying when he made a grab for Madara's hanging form.

Swallowing thickly, Madara cuts of his memories there. Focus on the mysterious combustion, he tells himself. Then you can think about-after.

He has definite proof that he is some type of supernatural powered kitsune. He has powers that he knows nothing about. As far as Madara can remember, kitsune spirits are usually associated with warm fire and not whatever icy hell Madara had been putting out, so he can admit to being a little stumped. Tales of kitsune tricksters were told throughout oral history, so Madara is passingly familiar with the concept. Most stories involve beautiful women and tricks, however, and not a human being turned into a dark kitsune. Because, quite frankly, Madara has to be a darker spirit. He consume human flesh, he admits to himself. Tobirama nailed in on the head when he said that it was what demons did. Madara doesn't linger on it, knows he'll panic if he does, so he looks at it objectively instead.

Demons consume human flesh. Check. They usually come in the form of dark animals with uniquely odd traits. Check. If Madara follows the logic, there should also be other features of his supposed demon hood that he hasn't found yet. Some demons can telepathically communicate, others can shape-shift, and some can even teleport. Madara can't do any of those things, but he will have something to further signify his status. With a huff, Madara leaves his train of thought and once more focuses on their surroundings, watching as the Uzumaki islands come into full focus. Madara can see the deftly built structures from here, fascinated at the bright red hair he can see dotting the towers on the shore.

Tobirama brings them to a stop once they make it a few feet into shore, the chakra being channeled to his feet cut off as the move forward, Tobirama's body sinking slightly into the lose grainy sand that covers the beach.

"Halt! Speak your purpose," a loud feminine voice shouts from one of the towers.

"Senju Tobirama," Tobirama announces, speaking up so the woman could hear him. "I came to try and find the clan members who were missing."

"You know where Harikēn-sama's house is, Senju-san. Please proceed," the woman responds after a moment of silence.

Tobirama makes his way past the guard towers, moving through the foliage with a familiar destination in mind if his easy footsteps say anything. They pass several other Uzumaki clan members, easy smiles and warm greetings thrown their way. Most of the Uzumaki only give him an interested look before they go on their way, no one questioning the midnight black four tailed fox in Tobirama's arms.

They eventually find themselves breaking through the chest high foliage and into a purposely cut clearing, a large collection of huts present. Tobirama makes his way to the biggest one, flaring his chakra slightly when he stops right in front of the reed door.

"Tobirama! Come in," a boisterous voice yells from inside.

Tobirama does just that, adjusting Madara to one arm as he uses the other to prop the door open, making his way into the softly lit hut. "Harikēn-sama," he replies softly in greeting.

"Now none of that, itoko," the man chastises with a teasing grin. "I've told you a hundred times, call me Hari!"

"Yes, Harikēn-sama," Tobirama replies dryly, moving to take a seat across from the laughing man.

The man has the typical red Uzumaki hair, but he's incredibly tan, much more than the other Uzumaki they had passed earlier. His eyes were a deep indigo and his smile sat across a strong, square jaw. He was a rather burly man and there were several dark black patterns inked into his skin.

"I'll get you to lose that formality one day, itoko," Harikēn teased his supposed cousin, laughing loudly at Tobirama's raised eyebrow. "Now then, I trust Hashirama told you of our missing clansmen?"

Tobirama shifted, folding his legs and gently setting Madara onto his lap. A frown creased his face, a gentle pity in his eyes. "I'm afraid I've already found what happened to them."

This sobers the smiling Harikēn, the man's grin wiped from his face as a frown forms. He watches Tobirama with weary eyes, a sigh dragging itself from his barreled chest. "I was afraid of that," Harikēn said softly, sighing again before he motioned for Tobirama to continue.

"While on the way here, my companion and I happened to run into three shinobi. I'm not familiar with their clan, but the two I fought were rather chatty. One mentioned keeping an eye on 'those island savages' and the other dismissed him, stating that they had a little time to 'play with some food.' I dispatched one and I knocked out the other. He's currently unconscious in one of the sealing scrolls you gifted me."

Harikēn looked grim at the news, his knuckles white as he gripped his own knees harshly. "And the third man?"

"My friend Shi-san took care of him," Tobirama answered, glancing down at Madara.

Harikēn did the same, finally acknowledging Madara. He studied him with curiosity, taking in his four tails with a raised eyebrow. "Where did you find such a handsome friend?"

Tobirama huffed at that, rolling his eyes in response. "He helped me out of a situation."

"A nogitsune helped you?" Harikēn asked in surprise, a curious tilt to his head. He studied Tobirama this time, humming under his breath. "You must have done something spectacular in a past life."

Tobirama shrugged, simply lifting his head to lightly pet at Madara's head.

"Well," Harikēn said after a moment, the man once more serious. "It seems I'm going to need help with an interrogation."

"Where is Mito this fine evening?" Tobirama asks, his hands gliding down Madara's back. It's rather distracting, Madara thinks hazily, arching slightly into Tobirama's warm hand.

"She should be home," Harikēn responds. "Would you mind getting her? I'll take the scroll and get him set up."

Tobirama shifts slightly, his hand reaching down and then handing off a scroll to the larger man. "I'll leave Shi-san with you," Tobirama says, glancing down at Madara's blissed-out form. "He doesn't look like he's up for walking around right now."

Tobirama sets Madara down on the hard floor and quickly exits, going to search for whoever the Mito woman was. Madara pouted slightly, upset at no longer being in Tobirama's comfortable embrace. He shook his head, letting his fur fly everywhere, and he yawned, his jaw growing wide.

"You really are a beautiful beast," Harikēn informs him with a chuckle, making Madara blink. "I've met a few kitsune in my day, but I've never had the pleasure of meeting one as imposing as yourself. You're rather intimidating, you know," he laughs, making conversation as he unbinds the scroll in his hands. "All that black fur and those eyes! Truly a sight to behold."

Madara, much to his shame, can feel his skin grow hot at the compliments. He huffs, sniffing loudly and turning his head to the side in a gesture of dismissal. Harikēn just laughs in delight, cheerfully laying the scroll out on the ground. Tobirama appears in the doorway, a young woman following in his footsteps. She is rather pretty, Madara notices. She is dressed in the same guard armor that the others on the island had worn.

"So we think these shinobi are responsible for Arashi and Raiu's disappearance?" Mito asks as she closes the door behind her, her attitude business like as she addressed her clan head.

"That's what Tobirama believes," Harikēn agrees, motioning for the two shinobi to move forward. Madara watches on curiously, head tilting as he watches the three surround the open scroll. Madara has seen seals before, though they're usually the crude work of tradesman who had gotten their hands on Uzumaki made seals. They were never as elegant or efficient as the island made seals, always too sharp or too crooked to be effective. Seeing the elegant sprawl of the writing on the scroll is an incredible opportunity and it makes Madara wish he still had his Sharingan, simply so he could activate it and memorize the useful seal.

"He should still be knocked out, but just to be careful, arm yourselves," Tobirama addresses his companions, drawing a kunai out of his pouch.

Mito draws the sword from her side, hand steady as she watches the scroll intently. Harikēn simply slaps his hands together with a grunt, the chakra level in the hut rising abruptly, before he slams his hands down on the ground, a thick puff of smoke following quickly afterwards. There is a moment of silence before there's a slick sound and a harsh grunt, and then Madara is greeted to the sight of the Kaguya shinobi, who is very much not knocked out, attempting to stab Mito through the eye with a sharp bone jutting out of his palm.

"Mito!" Harikēn shouts in alarm, the man's gaze flickering with anger as he growls at the attacker.

"Quit yelling and start helping!" Mito snaps back, grappling with the hissing man.

Madara looks at the man, sees his snarling face, and a burning anger from deep inside him rises up. This isn't like the hunger from before, where he wanted to stuff himself full. No, this is an intense feeling of loathing, like the man reminds him of someone that he wants dead. Far more comfortable with this volatile hatred than with the hunger from before, Madara springs forward and latches onto the man's ankle, digging his teeth in until bone crunches. The man yowls, surprised, and Mmito successfully punches him in the face, making him drop. Harikēn is there a second later, inked seals on paper applied to the man's wrists, a blue glow alighting for a moment before disappearing. Tobirama does the same thing to the man's ankles, waiting patiently for Madara to extract himself. Once the man's wrists and ankles are bound, the three shinobi take a step back and look at their struggling victim.

"Now," Mito says, a cold chill falling into her voice as she stares menacingly down at the whimpering man. "Tell us what we want to know and we'll kill you swiftly."

The Kaguya nin simply whimpers, the white of his eyes growing red as tears start to stream down his face. He looks shocked, like he can't believe he's as scared as he is, struggling futility as he's glared at by three armed captors.

"Fine then," Mito scoffs, returning her sword to her sheath and instead pulling out a rather thin kunai from the bag around her waist. "You will die slowly, spilling the secrets of your clan."

Madara watches on, morbidly fascinated by the proceeding bloodbath.

Chapter Text

shi-bi no kitsune


v.

"I've never heard of the Kaguya clan," Mito says with a frown once their captive has fallen unconscious. Madara can see the man's chest shakily rising and falling from the seal he's been placed in, the soft pulsing of the active seal a fascinating sight.

"In Senju legend," Tobirama starts with a frown, a furrow in his brow, "she is mentioned. A moon goddess that was the mother of the Sage of Six Paths. She's not mentioned beyond that though."

Madara's ears perk up at the detail, his ears twitching as he finally moves from his position by the door. He had seated himself there during the interrogation, not wanting to be any closer to the blood that was being spilled. While watching the rather effective torture techniques Uzumaki Mito used was interesting in a way, Madara was still slightly afraid of being to close to human blood. It had become quite clear to him that he didn't know how to control himself around a person who was injured. He hadn't felt the need to go forward and consume the injured nin's body, so he thinks he might be safe. He's cautious as he approaches, his nose twitching as he slowly breathes in deeply. Blood is in the air, but it doesn't stir any type of hunger in Madara. Happy, Madara's tails whip in contentment as he trots over to Tobirama, unashamed as he climbs into the white haired man's lap.

"That doesn't give us much to go on," Harikēn replies with a frustrated huff. "We've gotten all we can from him. I was hoping that we might have been able to treat him as a hostage in order to meet more of hi clan, but if his words can be trusted at all, his clan doesn't seem to deal with hostages."

"His clan is barbaric," Mito adds with a sneer sent in the man's direction.

"We have no idea if they'll send more of their kin to spy on the Uzumaki or not," Tobirama points out, one of his hands finding its way into Madara's thick fur. Madara lets out a content chirp, eyes growing heavy as Tobirama's nails scratched lightly downs his back.

"Scouting to find a way to kill off the Uzumaki," Harikēn scoffs at the reminder of the nin's supposed purpose. It hadn't taken him long to break, surprisingly, as he had looked paler and paler the longer that Mito had him in her clutches. He had puked several time throughout her harsh treatment, tears streaming down his face as he gave up his mission and his clan.

"They'll have to try harder next time," Mito replies in an equally scornful mocking tone. Harikēn snorts at her tone, quite obviously used to her sense of humor, but their conversation was cut short when the man gasps loudly, a retching sound summoning their attention to him.

Madara looked on in surprise as the seals that were supposed to keep him unconscious were flickering, their glow struggling to do their job before they puttered out, once more being covered by a disgusting looking putrid vomit. Madara wrinkled his nose at the smell that assaulted him, disgusted by the wafting scent.

"He shouldn't be this sick," Mito says slowly, concern starting to find it's way into her voice.

"Go get Shida-san," Harikēn tells her as he climbs to his feet to approach the groaning man. He crouches down, letting his large hand rest against the man's shiny forehead, an eyebrow raising in surprise at what he feels. "He's burning up," Harikēn says in surprise, looking up to meet Tobirama's eyes as Mito quickly exits the hut.

"How can he already be sick?" Tobirama asks, gently shifting Madara so he's no longer in his lap. Madara won't admit it to anyone but himself, but he pouts a little at losing his comfortable seat, ears drooping slightly as he follows Tobirama to examine the sick shinobi.

"He shouldn't be," Harikēn replies, his eyes roaming the prone body before him. "I wouldn't be surprised if Mito's methods left him sick to his stomach; that's usual. This fever? On-setting so quick? No, something else is happening."

Mito returns then, an older woman following her through the entrance. Her once red hair is now graying severely, Madara notes, revealing her to be older than everybody in the room. Her face is wrinkled as well, but it doesn't detract from her pleasant features, her eyes a shade or two lighter than Harikēn's.

"Shida-san," Harikēn greets respectfully, standing from his crouching position to give her a nod. The woman nods in return, not saying anything as he approaches the whimpering man with a sharp gaze.

"What is he suffering from?" Shida asks, her hands confidently going to replace Harikēn's on the man's sweaty forehead.

"We don't know," Mito admits grudgingly. "I didn't do anything differently when interrogating him."

Shida hums thoughtfully at that, removing her hand from his face and instead using it to check his pulse. She frowns at whatever she finds, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. "He has a rash," she mutters to herself, pulling down the man's collar to reveal the red patchy skin that was hidden from their sight before. Shida hums again, studying the rash, before she lets his clothing fall back into place, her focus going from his neck to his tensed jaw and clenched teeth. "Bite me and I'll castrate you," Shida says with no inflection in her voice, causing Madara to wince at the image he forms in his head. Shida takes her hands and pries open the man's jaw, turning his head so they could all see into the man's mouth.

Madara recoiled slightly, in sync with Tobirama as the man does the same, both of them surprised at the sores forming in front of their eyes. The man's pallet and tongue are covered in painful looking sores. New ones form in seconds, no buildup required as they painfully start to ooze liquid. Shida closes the man's mouth with a disgusted noise, letting him return to his whimpering through clenched teeth.

"What the hell was that?" Mito asks, her voice airy from shock.

"Well," Shida says, her voice gravely now that it's at full volume, "if I had seen any of those symptoms through a period of a week or so, I'd say this man had been cursed by a Hōsōshin."

"Smallpox?Harikēn asks is disbelief. "But that takes weeks to go through a full cycle of symptoms! He wasn't even feverish when Tobirama brought him in."

"Yes," Shida hums, eyeing the man's writhing body. "It's rather curious isn't it." She watches him for another moment, the stunned silence from the others leaving the only sound in the hut coming from the sick man. Finally, Shida turns and looks directly at him, her gaze piercing as she meets his eyes. "You wouldn't have anything to do with this, would you yako-san?"

Madara puffs up at the implication, his mouth twisting into a snarl. He hadn't done anything to the man! He hadn't even been near him during the interrogation process. The only time he dared approach him was when-

Madara blinked, losing his ferocity as he came to an abrupt realization. With a hesitant step, he slowly approaches the writhing man and Shida, passing her kneeling figure and instead going down to the other end of the man's body and nosing at his ankle. Madara pulled back quickly once he did so, surprised at the reek the man's ankle gave off. He couldn't even get a whiff of the curling scent when he wasn't right next to it, so it caught him off guard when he nudged the man. Shida immediately moves closer to the man's leg, pulling up his pants to reveal a nasty bite wound. The area around Madara's bite had turned black at some point, lines similar to poison spreading out from the afflicted wound. Scars that looked identical to that of smallpox were spread all over the man's leg, the skin on his muscles rubbed a raw red as new scars formed slowly, their path traveling up.

"Gross," Mito coughs, unable to hide her nauseous expression.

"Ah," Harikēn adds, unable to say anything else at the sight before them.

"Note to self," Tobirama said after a moment, "do not let anija around you; you will bite him out of sheer self preservation and I refuse to be the clan head."

Madara gave Tobirama a miserable look, unamused. Well, he thinks with a grimace, he had found his demonic power rather easily after all.

Fortunately for Madara's stomach, they don't stick around for much longer. The man will be dead in only hours, the process that usually takes over a week accelerating and occurring in only a few hours. Madara allows Tobirama to pick him up and carry him, unwilling to exert much energy in his current state of fatigue. Shida had confirmed that since the disease seemed to be spread by Madara's bite, it wasn't contagious as it should have been. While slightly grateful he wasn't going to be responsible for any Uzumaki getting sick, he still felt emotionally drained from the experience.

With this, it truly confirmed for him that he is a fox demon. He is a dangerous mythological beast. He is stuck with four paws, four tails, and a growing attachment to an albino Senju that before these past few days, he had shown absolutely zero interest in knowing.

The journey home is no where near as active as the race to the Uzumaki was, the scenery around them blurring as Tobirama carries them across the water, through the plains, and then into the trees that surround the Senju occupied lands. Madara just allows his thoughts to drift, plans fleeting and unfinished. He has no idea how to get himself out of this situation. Hell, he doesn't even know how he got into the situation to begin with! His last memories are distorted and he has no idea what he was even doing before he found himself waking up as a nogitsune.

It is the early morning by the time he and Tobirama approach the Senju compound, Tobirama having only stopped for a minute or two to rest before continuing on. Madara understands, he would want to get back home as soon as possible himself. It's when they approach the compound, however, that Madara's heart drops and finds its way into his stomach. Approaching from the opposite direction are flags that bear the Uchiha clan symbol; accompanying them, in a twist Madara never thought he would get to see, is the white flag of parley.

"What in the world...?" Tobirama says, his steps faltering slightly as he catches sight of the approaching Uchiha party. His voice is incredulous and a quick peak up at his face shows that both of his eyebrows are raised in complete surprise. They reach the clan's entrance before the Uchiha do, both of them greeted by a tense Hashirama, who is accompanied by several of his frowning clansmen.

"The Uchiha sent a messenger hawk ahead of time," Hashirama quickly updates them as Tobirama found their way to his brother's side. "It was signed by Izuna, not Madara. I have no idea what they want."

Tobirama grimaces at this, glancing back at the Uchiha shinobi who are now only a few hundred feet away. He glances down at Madara, his lips pinching into a concerned frown, before he gently puts Madara on the ground, crouching down quickly to look him in the eye. "Shi-san," he whispers to Madara, his red gaze soft. "Will you please do over to the walls and hide in the bushes? The Uchiha could be completely honest with their desire to discuss some type of terms, but they could also be lying. I don't want you getting hurt."

Madara feels conflicted. One one hand, the Uchiha are his. He is the clan head, he should be screaming with joy at seeing his brother and his kin. And yet, he looks at Tobirama's concern and he can't help the bubbling of pleasure that fills his chest at Tobirama's undisguised concern. He isn't Madara at this moment, he realizes. He is Shi-san, the nogitsune that has inexplicably attached itself to Tobirama. So, with a soft chirp, Madara brushes against Tobirama as he dashes to the full looking bushes that line the inner walls of the Senju compound, hiding close enough so that he can hear the two groups should they actually start discussing anything.

"Uchiha-san," Hashirama greets as Izuna comes into view, several others following him as they stop a dozen or so feet away from the waiting Senju.

"Senju-san," Izuna responds, a slight grimace making its way onto his face. None of the other Uchiha look excited to be there either, sneers and glares adorning their faces as they stand behind his little brother. Hikaku is at his brother's left shoulder, one of the few Uchiha gathered that doesn't watch the Senju with derision. Burūmūn, one of the Uchiha who was always willing to listen to Madara's talks about peace between clans, was situated at Izuna's other shoulder, his face blank as he stared down a female Senju who was standing at Hashirama's side.

"To what do we owe this visit?" Hashirama asks amicably, eyes sharp as he looked over Izuna.

Izuna's eyes were dark as he returned Hashirama's intense gaze, his face twisted into something similar to grief. It surprises Madara, the intense looks of sadness that fall over his clan's faces. Why were that grieving? Had someone dies in the few days Madara has been stuck as a fox? Anxious, Madara perked his ears up and strained to hear Izuna has he finally answered Hashirama's question.

"The Uchiha are looking to officially make peace with the Senju," Izuna says, whispers breaking out from the Senju at his words.

"Then where is your clan head?" Tobirama asks with suspicion. "Should Madara not be here to see this through?"

Izuna's cold gaze lands on Tobirama, the dark bags under his eyes causing Madara to softly whimper. His brother looks so pale in the early morning light, as do the others behind him. Hikaku actually looks close to tears and it makes Madara's stomach drop in dread.

"Madara," Izuna draws out, his throat clicking towards the end, like he too is fighting back tears, "was discovered dead towards the border of our lands. He had taken his own life."

All of the air seemed to suddenly be sucked out of Madara's lungs, his mind going blank at Izuna's words.

"What?" Hashirama gasped, his words sounding distant as Madara started to drift.

"His dream was to one day have peace between our two clans," Izuna says, grief finally making its way into his voice. "I will make that dream a reality if its that last thing I do."

Madara doesn't hear anything after that, because suddenly, he remembers.

Chapter Text


shi-bi no kitsune


vi.

There's a voice in the back of his head. It whispers to him at all times of the day and night, the words dark and sinful as it warns him. You can't trust the Senju, it tells him. They are your enemy. They have killed so many of your kin. Your brothers are dead because of who they are; because of what they are. Monsters, all of them. How could you even think of trusting them? The dream you carry, the hope for peace; it is foolish. It will never work. You will work towards serentiy while the Senju plot behind your back. The Uchiha will never be equal in their eyes. Your dreams are hopeless.

It's a constant drumbeat in his head; the warnings and hateful whispers following him as he goes about his day. He starts to see things as well; visions that feel like fever dreams. His actual dreams are equally disturbing. He'll wake up in a sweat, distorted images of his own clan turning their backs on him, their eyes fulls of hate and betrayal. He sometimes sees blood pooling beneath bodies, a small figure piercing a sword through flesh and bone. The images are occasionally accompanied by nonsensical whispers, words that make no sense coming from voices he's never heard. A laugh far off in the distance. It sounds insane as it gets louder, a chuckle falling into a spiraling laugh that turns into a demented sob. Choking and short breaths.

More images eventually come, these featuring portraits of a pale woman with equally pale eyes. Every time he meets her gaze he feels small. There's a desperation eating away inside of him whenever he sees her cold and calculating gaze. Fear and despair come soon after, a biting worry that she's waiting for him; that she wants something from him, something that he doesn't even know he has.

He'll wake up with a shout, sobs clawing their way out of his chest and raw throat. He'll stare ahead, lost and confused as he tries to breathe through his cries. He spends weeks, months, like this. He hears dark whispers, dreams of even darker events, and soon enough he can't sleep. He slowly grows to fear his own mind and the events in conjures up.

It shows him Izuna, killed by Hashirama's younger brother. He can hear the words Izuna will utter to him, the hatred he holds in his heart for the Senju. His eyes burns sometimes. He will remember the dreams he has, the ones where Izuna plucks out his eyes and presents them to Madara, asking him to become stronger. His eyes burn and he cries at the crystal clear nightmares, fear clogging his throat as he chokes down a frightened scream.

He hides his nightmares from the clan. No one sees the downward spiral he is in. He smiles at the young children that greet him every morning. He teases Izuna good naturedly, laughing along with Hikaku as Izuna sputters in an embarrassed rage over a dry comment from Burūmūn's elderly mother, Yūki.

He sits through clan meetings with a stoic expression, nodding along to Hiroto-san's lecture, making sure to wink at Kazuko-san when she rolls her eyes at her fellow elder's stuffiness. He plays all the parts he usually does, keeps up with all the connections he has made through the years.

He doesn't allow them to see the way his mind is breaking.

Madara is having a particularly bad day when he comes home from a mission, clothes stained with blood as he informs their single healer, Mayu. that one of their youngest fighters, Yūto, has come back sans arm. There's a small chance that he'll survive, that Mayu can save his life, but Madara can't bring himself to stick around and find out.

Instead, he meanders around the compound, unseen forces whispering in his mind. He blindly walks forward as he exits the walls that keep them safe, following footsteps from a past full of longing.

He comes back to himself when he finally registers the familiar trickling of water that is seared into his brain. Madara looks around in a daze, finding himself standing in front of the stream that separates the Uchiha and Senju lands. He wants to muster up some type of melancholy reaction, but he is so very tired. Months of dark dreams and visions of a living nightmare. It is dark out, no moon to give any light, and the only thing that allows Madara to see is his activated Mangekyou Sharingan. Everything is eerily tinted red as he calmly sits down, knees tucked underneath him.

It's quiet, he vaguely notices, his mind foggy from sleep deprivation. It's quiet and there's a shadow twisting and moving across the stream from him, black tendrils inky as they make their way from the tree line. Madara stares at the black mass, silent as the whispers grow louder with its approach. Madara sees wide yellow eyes, the glowing orbs shining with malice as the approach him.

And suddenly, Madara can't take anymore.

He draws the katana that is strapped across his back, his usual gunbai having been left in his room before he had departed on his latest mission. He takes the handle in both of his hands, meeting the yellow eyes of the darkness in front of him. The black mass has stopped moving, angry whispers telling Madara that he is being weak, that he must stop this. That he must be alive to see the end of the Senju clan.

Madara sneers at the hallucination, his red eyes glowing as he stabs himself in the chest, pain racing through his nerve endings. The whispers stop abruptly. There's warm blood pooling underneath him as he falls forward, landing in to the rocky ground face first. He can't breathe, choking on his own blood, but he feels at peace. No more whispers. No more dark mutterings from his own messed up mind. Only silence and a numbing wave of tiredness.

It's been so long since he's been able to sleep.

Madara closes his eyes and stops breathing.

"When did you find him?" Hashirama's devastated voice brings Madara back to the present, breaking him out of the memories that had ensnared him. Tobirama is standing stiff next to his brother, his brow furrowed as he too listens to the new Uchiha clan head.

"Almost a week ago," Izuna says, grief in his voice. "A patrol found his body laid out in the water. We suspected an attack at first, especially given the location where we...found the body. After our healer took a look at him, however, we were forced to face the truth. My brother took his own life. We still don't have any clues as to why he did it."

There's a solemn silence after Izuna cuts off, both clans not finding the right words.

Hashirama looks destroyed, openly crying at the news of his old friend's passing. Tobirama just looks confused, like the information he has gained doesn't quite make sense to him.

"I wouldn't usually share such private information," Izuna finally breaks the heavy silence, staring blankly at Hashirama, "but I wanted to get the questions of 'why seek peace?' out of the way. We don't know why he did it. We never will; but all I can think about is the last time I spoke with him. He was getting ready to go on a mission and we were arguing as he got ready. He told me that he was tired of fighting all the time and that he wanted peace. I laughed in his face. I told him his dream was foolish and that he should give it up. He looked so startled after I said that. He had seemed haunted by my words. He left right after, no time for me to even think about apologizing. My last words to my brother had be scorning his life's dream of making peace with the Senju. I'm the head of the Uchiha clan now, Senju, and I will do everything in my power to make my brother's dream a reality."

Madara wants to cry at the guilt that layers over Izuna's words. Madara hadn't even remembered those damning words. Izuna wasn't at fault for Madara's actions. The whispers and the hallucinations were at fault. The sleepless nights as he was haunted by visions of death; they were at fault. Never Izuna.

"I think it best if you and your party come in," Tobirama finally breaks the stalemate, nudging a teary Hashirama. The Senju line breaks open, creating a pathway for the Uchiha party to enter and make their way into the compound.

Madara wants to stick around and see the two clans take the first steps towards peace, but he can't bring himself to watch his dream become a reality. Instead, he waits until the last Uchiha steps inside the walls of the Senju compound and then he darts out from beneath his bush, streaking past a few startled shinobi and escaping out into the surrounding woods. He thinks he hears Tobirama shout his name, but he doesn't dare stop.

He runs until he splashes across the familiar stream and once more stands in the place where he met his supposed death.

There's no blood now, he absentmindedly notes. There's no sign or hint that a man committed suicide in this exact spot, driven to take his own life by hallucinations. Madara doesn't know how he ended up in the body of a nogitsune when his original body is dead. The body that he stabbed in the heart. The same one that would've been burned to ashes per Uchiha tradition.

"You're so focused on the 'How?', when you should really be asking 'Why?'."