Chapter 1: Backfire
Tobirama wakes to the sent of scorched wood and ozone, the prickling of pine needles against the side of his face and a headache drumming at the back of his skull. Despite the unknown source of the headache, there’s no chakra signature large enough to be a person in the immediate vicinity and he doesn’t bother to feign unconsciousness. Opening his eyes and sitting up causes the world to tilt violently, but Tobirama presses a hand to the ground and takes several long, slow breaths. After a minute, gravity starts playing by its usual rules and Tobirama notices what he probably should have earlier - he’s not wearing any clothes.
Shifting into a crouch, Tobirama draws on his chakra and readies himself for… he’s not entirely sure what. He’d know if there was someone nearby, and it’s exceedingly difficult to successfully cast a genjustu on a sensor. But the last thing he remembers was walking across the Senju compound to call Hashirama and Itama for dinner. The next instant he’s here in a forest, with a large gap in his memory, signs of an uncontrolled chakra discharge and stripped of all his weapons. However he looks at his current situation, it’s not good.
Tobirama’s eyes fall on a small leather satchel at the base of a tree. Wary of traps, he coats a pinecone in a small amount of chakra, chucks it at the bag and darts up a tree. Crouching on a low branch, he watches as the pinecone hits the flap of the satchel and bounces off with a fairly anticlimactic thump. Nothing happens. The bag remains a bag.
Dropping back out of the tree, he walks over and picks it up. Inside are a set of men’s clothes - a casual kimono shirt and sash, loose trousers, a spare pair of shoes and several scrolls. Tobirama blames his headache for not noticing earlier, but traces of his own chakra signature are all over the bag and the scrolls. Given his own lack of clothes, he has no qualms about appropriating those held in the bag. Although clearly a summer design, the sleeves of the shirt reach past his elbows, and the bottom hem halfway down his thigh. Liberal application of a kunai (stored in an outside pouch) to the bottom of the trousers renders them wearable and Tobirama tightens the sash around his waist to hold them up.
Dignity somewhat restored, Tobirama turns and surveys the forest clearing around him. There’s a faintly smoking circle with a book at the centre (remarkably undamaged) and the air is saturated with his own chakra.
Tobirama scowls and folds his arms. He’s beginning to get the feeling that whatever happened here is entirely his own fault. He’s more than familiar with what a failed seal looks like, and the smoking circle at the centre has all the hallmarks of a faulty execution.
Assuming that the charred remains of the seal is his own handiwork, this is far from the first time that a new technique has backfired on Tobirama.
This is, however, the first time that one of his mistakes has resulted in Tobirama missing a chunk of his memories. And he doesn’t currently have a good explanation for the bag either. His best course of action to read through the scrolls to see if they shed any light on the situation before he returns to the Senju compound. He turns back to the bag, but at that instant he detects a very distinctive twist in chakra, somewhere off to the southwest of his current location.
Tobirama has faced a number of Uchiha, and he is intimately familiar with the bend in chakra that indicates an active Sharingan. Placing a hand on the ground, he curses as he locates a group of five shinobi, all of them with sizeable chakra reserves, travelling in his direction.
Four of them don’t have particularly distinctive chakra, but the fifth? He’s undoubtably an Uchiha. Tobirama doesn’t particularly want a fight, despite Butsuma’s instance that the Uchiha must be destroyed, but they’re heading straight for him, and he barely has a handful of minutes before they reach the clearing. At any rate, a group of unknown, likely hostile shinobi can’t be allowed to wander through Senju territory. Picking up the book from the ground, he turns and makes for the river. He can set up an ambush there.
Chapter 2: Collision
So, I am aware that it has been much longer than a week since I posted the first chapter. Whoops? I would like to make it clear in that I did not forget how long a week is. What I did forget was that I would be going to teach on a field course at the end of last week, where I would be without a computer and internet for pretty much the entire duration. And I forgot to post this chapter before I left. Sorry about that!
Hopefully I'll be a bit less forgetful in the future!
Hope that you enjoy it, and if I've made any spelling or grammar mistakes, please feel free to point them out!
“We’re going to be late.” Kagami laments. “We’re going to be late and Sensei is going to kill us.”
Next to him, Homura leaps over a particularly low hanging branch and counters with, “You never know. Sensei might have gotten so wrapped up in his experiment that he’s forgotten that he’s supposed to be meeting us.”
On his other side, Danzo snorts. “When has Sensei ever missed the opportunity to run circles around us?”
Kagami opens his mouth to reply, but Hiruzen, currently taking point in their formation, interrupts him. “The time he passed out because of that slow acting poison does not count. He was delirious for days afterwards.”
The team shares a collective wince. That had been an unpleasant week.
Apparently Koharu, acting as rear guard, has had enough of their arguing. “If you have breath enough to complain, I suggest you move faster. I can sense Sensei’s chakra up ahead. We can’t be far be off his position.”
A few minutes later, they reach their meeting point - a small clearing several leagues out of Konoha. Usually they don’t travel quite that far away from from the newly founded village to train, but when Tobirama hits the testing stage of developing new techniques he prefers to put a reasonable amount of distance between himself and any inhabited areas.
(Kagami has heard stories about some of their team leader’s previous mishaps, mostly courtesy of Touka. Personally, he is more than willing to travel the extra league if it means that the village remains mostly in one piece).
Kagami is fully expecting to find Sensei glaring at them for keeping him waiting, but to his surprise, the clearing is empty. The team exchange wary looks. They’ve all had enough experience dealing with Sensei’s sneaky, underhand tactics to treat his apparent absence as highly suspicious.
Activating his Sharingan, Kagami studies their surroundings. The clearing is covered in traces of Sensei’s chakra, especially near a sizeable patch of scorched ground at the centre of the open ground. His eyes picks up the subtle disturbance of the leaves on the forest floor and he skirts around the tree line until he reaches a point where the disturbance leads back into the forest. Peering forwards into the trees, he doesn’t have much difficultly in spotting the trail of Sensei’s chakra. That is both unusual and suspicious - Sensei has had a lot of experience in hiding from Sharingan eyes, and for the trail to be this obvious makes it much more likely that Sensei has sort of scheme planned.
Turning the others, busy studying the charred imprint in the forest floor, he says, “Sensei’s chakra heads off in through the trees in this direction. I think he’s heading towards the river.”
Hiruzen groans. “Like he needs the advantage.”
Homura shrugs. “No point complaining. We’d best find him. Kagami, you take point. Keep your Sharingan activated.”
The team fall into a slightly modified tracking formation and follow Kagami back into the trees. Sensei hasn’t left any footprints, only the fading traces of chakra and the occasional disturbed branch, but Kagami can’t shake the nagging feeling that there’s something slightly off with the trail. If he didn’t know Sensei’s chakra signature like he does, Kagami would have thought that they were following someone much shorter and slimmer than a fully grown adult. A bare handful of minutes later, the team hears the river, a low rushing noise up ahead. The shrubbery grows more densely along the river bank, and it’s an ideal spot for an ambush. Kagami readies a kunai from his weapons pouch. From the corners of his eyes, he registers his team members draw their own weapons. Signalling with his fingers, the team breaks into a sprint, bursting through the undergrowth and out into brilliant sunshine on the riverbank. His Sharingan adjusts to the light change instantly, but the river bank is absent of any sign of life. Kagami spins around slowly, searching for any sign as to where their sensei might have gone, whilst Danzo circles him to cover his exposed back.
Slightly perplexed, he announces, “I don’t see his trail.”
Naturally, half instant later everything goes to hell in a hand basket. It begins with the acrid sent of smoke from a forced substitution billowing from behind Kagami, and the expressions of surprise and alarm on faces of his three team members he can still see.
Kagami whirls around, kunai in hand and striking upwards. There is an instant of confusion as his weapon meets nothing but empty air, at what should have been a throat height blow - and Kagami is promptly kicked in the chest by a figure which is far, far smaller than the one he is expecting. Sliding backwards, Kagami takes in a familiar shock of silver hair and slanted red eyes, but the face and body to which they belong is that of a child who barely reaches Kagami’s chin. Kagami has seen numerous bizarre things in his (admittedly short) career as a shinobi, but the sight of a miniaturised Sensei, dressed in clothes that are far too big for him may just have taken the top of his list.
Said mini-Sensei follows up his first kick by blurring back into motion almost too fast for even Kagami's eyes to track, and Kagami just manages to bring up his arms to block a kick aimed at his head. Pushing off the ground and enhancing his jump with a small touch of chakra, Kagami flips off of the river bank onto the surface of the water below in order to avoid a third blow aimed at his kidneys. He promptly regrets his decision as Tobirama’s hands form a rapid sequence of signs and the water around Kagami surges. Cursing, because why had he thought that retreating to the water was a good idea, Kagami just about keeps his balance across the first wave and braces himself for the second. What he doesn’t expect is for someone else to collide into him from behind, knocking him off balance. The second surge of water drags both of them under.
The underside of the river is a violent churning mass of water. Kagami has no idea which way is up and before long his lungs are screaming for air. The violent churning of the water lasts for so long that Kagami almost starts panicking, but finally the water begins to calm. Breaking the surface of the river, Kagami takes in several extremely welcome gulps of air. A little way down stream, Hiruzen’s head breaks the surface as well. Without sensei’s jutsu stirring up the water, the level of the river starts lowering rapidly, and Kagami discovers that it’s actually shallow enough to stand in. In hindsight, he feels a bit daft about panicking. Somewhat irritated with himself, he wades over to edge and hauls himself out. He finds Homura just sitting up on the river bank, the right lens of his glasses smashed and impressive black eye forming.
Behind him, Hiruzen squelches out of the river and comes to stand next to him.
“Anyone seen Danzo or Koharu?” Hiruzen asks.
Homura nods and grimaces. “Koharu’s coming up behind you.”
Kagami turns and blanches. The female member of the team looks ready to commit homicide at the slightest provocation, which is likely due to the generous quantity of mud currently dripping from her frame.
Reaching the group, she spits out, “Not a word.”
For once, Kagami decides to go with the wiser decision to keep his mouth shut. However the confrontation between Koharu and Sensei had started, it would appear that it had ended with Koharu getting dumped into the mud along the river bank. Although Koharu would never sacrifice the practicality of her outfit for aesthetic, she still takes pride in keeping her uniform looking smart. Kagami knows from far too much experience how tricky it is to get mud out of amour folds - usually it’s him that Sensei ends up dumping in the mud.
Hiruzen also decides that discretion is the better course of valour and avoids mentioning her current appearance, instead turning to look for their missing team member. “No sign of Danzo? He was the one who Sensei substituted with first.”
“Up here.” Danzo’s voice calls. As one, the four teenagers on the ground tilt their heads upwards. Kagami promptly starts coughing violently to disguise his laughter. Their remaining team member is suspended upside down from a branch by wire wrapped around his ankles and wrists.
The corner of Homura’s mouth is twitching as he calls up, “Need a hand there?”
“That would be appreciated.” Danzo says, giving them all glare that still manages to look threatening, despite his current predicament.
Kagami leaps up onto the branch above Danzo. “I’d have thought you’d be able to untangle yourself. The wire isn’t that tight.”
“I would, but Sensei slapped a tag of some sort on my leg when he switched with me. It’s blocking my chakra and there’s too much slack in the wire to climb them.”
Kagami shifts so that he’s sticking to the underside of the branch. Spotting a rectangle of paper stuck to Danzo’s right leg, he peels it off and cuts through the wire binding Danzo’s wrists. With his hands free, Danzo makes short work of the wire around his ankles.
When they’re all back on the ground, Homura says, “Well, that was fairly humiliating.”
“Thank you for pointing out the obvious,” Danzo replies, attempting to pull some of the twigs and leaves stuck in his hair.
“Do you think that was Sensei’s version of ‘A shinobi must not judge their opponent based upon their appearance?’” Hiruzen asks.
Koharu, attempting to wipe the worst of the mud off of her, growls, “If that’s the case, I’m going to get my weapons professionally cleaned, and I’m going to tell them to charge it to Sensei.”
Kagami has to admit, the notion does sound like something that Sensei would come up with.
Kagami frowns, ignoring the noises of disgruntlement from his team and focuses on his memories of the ambush with the clarity afforded to him by his Sharingan. He lingers on the grim set of Tobirama’s mouth, the cold efficiency with which he went on the offensive.
Homura, observant as ever, pulls him out his recollection. “Kagami, you’re being awfully quiet. Should we be worried?”
Kagami hesitates, and that’s enough to focus the attention of the rest of the team on him. He doesn’t like the conclusion he’s drawn, but the more he thinks about it, the more certain he is. “Maybe. Just. I don’t think that Sensei knew who we were.”
There’s a moment of silence as Hiruzen, Koharu, Danzo and Homura process that.
Koharu raises an eyebrow at him, and in a tone of frigid politeness, says, “Would you care to elaborate on that last sentence?”
Kagami grimaces. “Well, usually Sensei looks like he’s enjoying himself when he teaches us. But that fight - he wouldn’t meet my eyes at all and nothing about his body language indicated he recognised us."
"He didn’t seem familiar with our fighting styles either.” Homura adds.
Hiruzen lifts his hands to either side of his head and starts massaging his temples. “Are you saying,” he asks, with deliberate slowness, “that Sensei not only has managed to physically reversed his age, but has managed to mentally reverse his age as well?”
“That would be my guess, yes.”
Koharu looks like she bit into a citrus fruit and identical expressions of surprise flit across Danzo and Homura’s faces.
“That would explain why he hasn’t turned up to pick apart all our mistakes.” Danzo offers thoughtfully. Homura hums in agreement.
Glaring at them, Koharu adds, “You do realise that this means that we just got completely wiped out by a preteen?”
A wry smile flits across Hiruzen’s face as he digs in his sopping wet pack for a water canteen. “Funnily enough, I noticed that as well.”
Kagami flops back onto the grass, tilting his head to keep watching his teammate’s faces. Half a second later, a horrifying thought makes itself known and he jerks back upright.
“Dibs not telling Hashirama!” he blurts. Hiruzen chokes on his mouthful of water.
In a moment of joint self preservation, Koharu, Danzo and Homura call “Me neither.”
Hiruzen, still spluttering, glares at them all.
Kagami beams at him and declares, “Don’t worry, we’ll provide moral support!”
Hiruzen chucks his water canteen at Kagami’s head and the situation devolves from there.
Chapter 3: Explanations
Hey, so it was about a week this time! A big thank you to everyone who commented on the last chapter, they all helped me keep writing.
Also, fair warning, I have about two more chapters of definite plot planned and mostly written, and then this story devolves into 'I have vague plot-ish ideas that will hopefully form a coherent narrative as I write them'. And an ending. I do have an ending. So if anyone has any suggestions, I'd happily take them into consideration!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There are very few duties which Touka dislikes as much being stuck on desk duty outside of Hashirama’s office. As Hashirama is the Senju Clan head, there’s usually a fairly steady stream of people meeting with him. Checking identities and making small talk gets irritating exceedingly quickly.
Unfortunately, Touka’s last mission had ended with several poisoned senbon imbedded in her arm and Tobirama razing a slave trader’s hideout to the ground. Although not fatal, the effects from the toxin still linger and the medics have confined her to non-combat activities until further notice. Hence her current situation, playing secretary for her cousin. Still, if one more person with an inflated sense of self importance comes to the desk and start whining at her, she may just end up drop kicking them out of the building, medic’s orders be damned.
Fortunately for her health, the next group of shinobi to approach the desk are her cousin’s students. Hiruzen appears to be currently acting as the spokesperson, as he steps forward and asks, “Is Hashirama in?”
Touka raises an eyebrow at the quintet. She’s seen them in various stages of disarray before - her cousin has no qualms about running his students ragged if he feels that the situation warrants it, but it’s somewhat early in the day for them to look quite this battered.
“He is.” she replies, and watches in some bemusement as a resigned sort of apprehension spreads across their faces in unison. “Although I believe that Mito just arrived for lunch - can it wait?”
Hiruzen pulls a face. “Probably best not to.”
“Very well then.”
She rises from behind the desk and steps over to the office door, throwing it open without bothering to knock.
“Hashirama! Your brother’s ducklings are here to see you!”
From behind her, Kagami squawks in protest, which turns into a yelp part way through as someone kicks him in the shin. Touka is willing to bet that it was Koharu.
Hashirama looks towards the door from where he’s seated at his wooden desk next to Mito. The papers have been cleared to the side to make room for a collection of dishes and a pot of jasmine tea. “I supposed you’d best come in then.” he says. “You can close the door behind you, Touka.”
Scowling, Touka exits the office and pulls the door shut. Gossip is almost a form of currency in their village, and Touka hasn't had any interesting pieces to barter with for weeks. There's no hope of attempting to listen through the door - when closed, the solid wood door muffles the conversation behind it to little more than indeciferable murmers. Touka considers sneaking around the outside of the building to listen at the window, but eventually decides that she'd be unlikely to make it there without being detected.
Grumpily, she sits back down, eschewing the seat behind the desk in favour of sitting cross legged on top of the desk itself. Abruptly, a loud wail emerges from the office. The door flies open, hitting the wall with a loud thud as Hashirama comes barrelling through it. Touka jolts to her feet in alarm, but Mito has already moved to interfere. Darting across the length of the office, she hooks a foot around her husband’s ankles and sends him sprawling face down on the hallway floor with a shriek.
“Mito!” Hashirama wails, rolling over onto his back. “What was that for?”
Mito’s facial expression doesn’t change, but manages to convey deep disapproval all the same. “Husband, dearest,” she begins, “What exactly were you planning to do? Wander around the entirety of the forest surrounding Konoha, yelling your brother’s name?”
Hashirama waves his arms around, looking rather like an upturned turtle as he denies, “I wasn’t!”
The collection of teenagers peering into the corridor look exceedingly doubtful at the denial.
Mito takes a sip from her teacup, still miraculously unspilt, despite her movement across the office to intercept her husband. “Your brother is a sensor. I have no doubt that he is fully capable of finding you. And you’ll make it much easier for him if you stay in one place.”
Hashirama blinks up at her, then beams.
"Wait one moment," Touka growls. She's missing part of this conversation, and she's not all that happy about being currently out of the loop. “Why does Tobirama need finding? What happened to him?”
Hashirama opens his mouth to reply, but at that point Madara comes barreling around the corner, only to come to an abrupt halt when he sees them. He looks somewhat surprised at the odd gathering of people - Hashirama, still flailing on the floor; Touka and Mito glaring at him and various teenaged heads peering through the office door - but ploughs on regardless. “Hashirama, a distress signal just came in from our eastern most patrol - they’ve clashed with an enemy force.”
“That’s where Sensei was!” Koharu blurts, eyes going slightly wide with panic.
Hashirama jolts to his feet so quickly that Touka doesn't register his movement, just an abrupt alteration in his position. “Change of plan." he says, "I’ll head out there.”
Disregarding (or possibly simply not noticing) Mito’s warning glare, Hashirama darts back into his office and over to the window, slides a panel across and jumps out. Half a second later, the assembled shinobi are left staring at his rapidly shrinking form as he bounds across the rooftops.
The clink as Mito sets down her tea cup on the desk echoes in the vacuum left by her husband’s departure. “I suggest you follow him. The last thing we want is Hashirama over reacting and sprouting a new forest.”
Snapping out a salute, the Tobirama's students form up and follow the Senju clan head out of the window.
Madara turns to the two women remaining in the office. “Would someone care to explain exactly what that was all about?” he enquires. “If Tobirama was in the vicinity then that’d be a very valid reason for Hashirama to stay here, not go tearing out of here like he was trying to avoid the daimyo’s wife’s cat.”
Mito looks unconcerned by his interruption and pours a second cup of tea, handing it to Touka. Touka takes the cup - jasmine tea has always been her favourite - but says, “Bribing me with tea is not going to get you out of an explanation.”
Madara nods in agreement and Touka privately thinks that this might be one of the few times that Madara and herself have agreed on anything.
Mito sits down in the chair behind her husband’s desk. “Tobirama apparently managed to de-age himself. From what his students say, he’s likely around ten years old.”
Madara splutters slightly. “What do you mean, de-age himself? Do you mean he shrunk himself?
Touka had thought that she was done being surprised her younger cousin’s capacity to find trouble. She should have known better, really.
“How on earth did he manage that?” she asks. A second thought arises, and she gives a hoot of laughter. “You mean that he beat his entire team of ducklings whilst limited to the capacities of his ten year old body?”
Mito shakes her head. “It was a more thorough job than just a physical de-aging, according to his students.” She gives Madara a calculating look. “We’re not entirely clear on all of the details, but it would appear that his memories have also regressed.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Touka sees the shock flit over Madara’s face and he seems entirely lost for words.
Mito continues, addressing the both of them, “Hashirama will likely keep both of you informed of how the situation progresses, but for now there is that little any of us can do.”
The words are a clear dismissal. As much as Touka hates it, Mito is correct - even at ten, Tobirama is more than capable of looking after himself, and with his abilities as a sensor, tracking down his brother shouldn’t cause him much difficulty. Madara looks like he'd be willing to stay and argue, but Mito picks up the top sheaf of paper from one of the many stacks in front of her and makes a shooing motion with her hand. The resolution in her eyes, so similar to the implacable will of her husband, is what convinces the pair of them that no more information will be gained from pressuring her.
Touka is still stuck on the notion that Tobirama is literally ten years old. Because Touka has known Tobirama since he was barely a few weeks old, and she remembers Tobirama at ten. She remembers how her cousin was when Butsuma ruled the Senju with an iron fist. How his father accepted nothing less but utter ruthlessness and Tobirama, with his ironclad will and genius mind, was almost always the focus of his attention.
With alarming rapidly, the situation loses its humour entirely. “His team are lucky Tobirama didn’t kill them.” Touka says.
Madara gives her a narrow eyed look. “Oh? Care to explain that?”
Dammit. She’d forgotten that the Uchiha clan head was still in the hallway. Still, the conclusion is logical enough to anyone who cares to think about it.
“Tobirama is ten. As far has he’s concerned the clans are all still at war with each other, and Butsuma certainly didn’t raise him to show any mercy to enemy shinobi.”
Madara considers that. “He didn’t though. I wonder why not.”
Touka lifts a shoulder in an approximation of a shrug. “I have no idea.”
Then she scowls, her tolerance for Madara’s presence waning abruptly. “If you’ve no other business here, then I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
Madara huffs at her, but stalks down the corridor towards the exit. Touka watches him as he leaves. She’s not forgotten that Tobirama is the one who mortally wounded Izuna, and there is a strong possibility that right now Tobirama isn’t even aware that fact. Touka resolves to keep a careful eye on her little cousin for the foreseeable future. Just in case.
Thanks for reading, and if anyone spots any spelling or grammar mistakes, please feel free to point them out!
Chapter 4: Realisation
Argh, I'm not entirely sure this chapter flows as well as I would like, but it needed to be written.
And we might actually get Tobirama meeting up with his remaining family at some point soon... (Maybe. If the scenes in between stop expanding.)
Hope you enjoy!
Tobirama flattens the final member of the shinobi team with a kick to the kidneys, turns on his heel and disappears into the forest. He doesn’t head in the direction of the Senju clan compound, just on the off chance that the shinobi decide to give chase, but weaves a zigzagging path through the trees. Tobirama doesn’t stop moving until he’s left the river bank far behind.
Eventually the forest thins near the top of a set of bluffs. Tobirama leaps over the edge and skids down the rock face, coming to a halt partway down and hiding from view beneath a small rock overhang.
Now that he has a chance to think about it, the entire encounter with the unfamiliar shinobi was just plain odd. To begin with, none of the looked like they were related. Although it’s not unheard of for clans to sometimes form temporary alliances in pursuit of common goals, the death of Kawarama has pushed tension between clans particularly high.
Butsuma will not be pleased that Tobirama merely left the ambushed shinobi with injures, rather that fatal wounds, should he find out about the confrontation. Had they been adults, Tobirama would have left them dead, but they barely looked older than Hashirama's 13 years, hardly into puberty. And with the loss of Kawarama a wound not yet beginning to heal, Tobirama could not bring himself to inflict that loss on another.
(Later, he will bury his emotions again; he will remember to drown them in logic and a steel-clad resolve to protect.)
Shaking himself from the darker turn his thought have taken, Tobirama lingers over the final oddity in his fight. Just before he dumped the second boy in the river, he is certain that the boy had called him 'Sensei'.
Tobirama can take two and two and add together to equal four.
If - if Tobirama is correct, then he is very, very out of place. He has never been one to shy from the evidence, however discomforting it might be. Taking a calming breath, he reaches into the bag and pulls out the scrolls. Opening the first, he recognises his own penmanship, even if he has no recollection of recording the contents. It appears to be a record of seal variations. Flipping through to the final entry, he begins reading.
Several minutes later he has an answer. Of sorts.
Tobirama pinches the bridges of his nose in an effort to prevent his headache from getting any worse. A temporal reversal seal - designed to reverse the age of objects located within its sphere of influence. Clearly that part had worked fantastically. Somehow, Tobirama gets the impression that he was not supposed to be included within that sphere of influence.
Thumbing through his scroll again, Tobirama is remarkably unsurprised to find that his older brother is the reason his future self decided that developing this particular temporal seal was a good idea. (Something to do with a ruined book. Very likely the one he collected from the clearing, in fact.)
As Tobirama is, amongst other things, an inventor and someone who abides by logic much of the time, he knows well the importance of testing a hypothesis with multiple lines of evidence.
Temporal seals are notoriously finicky, and it is possible that there is some other explanation. The remains of the charred seal in the clearing; the adult sized clothing; the children who knew him whilst he did not and these scrolls, written in his own hand but unfamiliar, all lend credence to the theory that he did, in fact, succeeded in de-aging himself by over a decade.
There is one additional piece of evidence that would solidify his theory. Tobirama has been able to sense the chakra in the living things around him since his birth, and he is well aware that a person’s chakra signature does not remain the same over their lifetime. Training in the shinobi arts strengthens and tempers a person's chakra, and age only compounds this effect.
Tobirama is well aware that training is not the only thing which alters a chakra signature.
Hashirama is strong, yes, but.
Kawarama is less than two weeks dead, buried in a grave that seemed far too small to hold his once energetic form. And fifteen years is a long, long time in their blood-soaked world. Tobirama has hardly come to terms with the moments when Kawarama’s chakra had flared, bright and desperate, his brothers too far to reach him, before flickering and vanishing like a candle blown out in a gust of wind.
(It took more willpower than Tobirama had thought he had possessed to keep moving when he felt his youngest sibling die. To hesitate on a battlefield is akin to signing your own death sentence, so Tobirama buried his heart somewhere in his chest and did not stop until the fight had been finished.)
As he did then, Tobirama does not allow himself to falter. Placing a hand on the ground, he reaches, searching for the chakra that is more familiar than his own hands.
It takes longer than Tobirama would like to find his brother, but Hashirama’s chakra is utterly unique, a blazing sensation reminiscent of pinecones and sunshine. Tobirama’s legs go slightly weak as tension that he wasn’t even aware of drains out of him. Even at a distance, he can feel the difference in strength from the day he remembers as yesterday. Despite the changes, his brother’s chakra is a steady presence, not punctuated by fluctuations which would indicate that he’s particularly agitated. What is more curious is the variety of different chakra signatures near to his brother’s location. More than those belonging to the Senju clan - Tobirama can recognise the Uchiha, and the Sarutobi clans immediately, but the rest would take more time to decipher.
A village. A village where people from different families can live without trying to destroy each other. Such a thought is almost incomprehensible, but Tobirama’s ability to sense differing chakras has yet to deceive him. Tobirama is used to locating all three of his brothers amongst the strength of the Senju clan chakra signature, but the blaze of the village is something different entirely.
Tobirama places his hand back on the ground. Hashirama has always been the easiest to locate, but Itama’s chakra signature, rather like his personality, is soft compared with to his siblings. It often fades into the background unless Tobirama focuses. Reaching out again, he locates Hashirama and then spirals outwards, searching for the signature of his other brother. A week is not long enough to completely remove the habit of locating Kawarama either, and Tobirama is forced to make a deliberate effort not to search for the youngest of them.
But Itama’s presence is absent from the village. It is possible that he’s currently out on a mission, but a person’s home tends to carry small traces of their chakra and Tobirama was exceedingly thorough. To be certain, Tobirama widens his search, pushing to the very boundaries of his range, until the effort leaves him dizzy from trying to make sense of the information that comes back.
Tobirama’s chest feels tight and a lump seems to have settled somewhere between his rib cage and his throat. Nothing. He swallows the scream that wants to tear from his throat with difficulty. Breathing in a steady, controlled manner, he concentrates on reining in the upset shimmer of chakra leaking into the surroundings. He has just about succeeded when he senses a violent surge of chakra not far from his current hiding place, followed by the faint sound of an explosion. Automatically he focuses, registering numbers and location of the shinobi.
A frown pulls at his face - there are at least a dozen fighters, and two of them are definitely Senju. Slinging the bag back over his back, he leaps up the cliff face and sets a course to the north. Even adrift in a time and place not his own, Tobirama will always come to the aid of those he calls his.