ezyl: (miuramusic)
m nemonica ([personal profile] ezyl) wrote in [community profile] narutobang_fic2010-08-30 06:56 am

Day one. "Succession"

Title: Succession
Pairing: Chiyo/Danzo
Rating: PG
Warnings: It's poetry! But free-verse! And there's a story! No rhyming, no iambic pentameter, but lots of. Repetition. And unusual punctuation. Definitely not to be read once.
Summary: Danzo's life in... free-verse poetry. Yep. Emphasis on his changing views on family and relationships throughout his life. Did I mention there's Chiyo/Danzo, and this affects him a GREAT deal? Explores relationships with Orochimaru, Itachi, and Sai, likewise.
Notes: Wordcount 10,430

*Authors—please reply to your comments after reveals or anonymously.*


Spring was the first season.

And with the spring came the boy.

The first boy.

But before the spring, there had been the winter, and the summer.

And before the boy, before the fall, there had been his mother.

Danzo had met her in the summer of his seventeenth year. It had been a hot summer, and a busy one, and a hurried one.

A summer of war.

Likewise, their love had been hot, busy, and hurried.

And war was her business.

She was a Sand ninja, and.

No, not unusual, not.

Strange, or.

She was exceptional.

Danzo had a difficult time coming up with words to describe her.

What was the word for when two things could contradict each other and yet remain entirely accurate?

A paradox.


That was what she was.

The girl with the soft face and the sharp words, the girl with the delicate hands that could move the very mountains with just a twitch of her fingers.

Mountains and limbs.

And hearts.

What made his heart pound about her left him unable to think clearly for what seemed like.


What made his head reel about her made his heart.


It had been exceedingly difficult catching her alone.

She did not have any sort of woman's role.


Not a consort of the Kazekage, no.

A companion.


An apprentice.

Not that, but.

A protege.


He had met her on a diplomatic mission to Sand. Her strange, knowing smile had drawn him in, and the added mystery of why such a high-ranking official, why a Kage would have a woman, much less one so young, at his side.

Her weapons were Monzaemon Chikamatsu's Ten Masterpieces.


Astonishing enough, in his eyes, on its own.

But what was even more impressive was the fact that she was not even a descendant of Chikamatsu, which had been his initial hypothesis for her having such valuable weapons on her person. They were not a woman's weapons.


The puppets had been given to her because of her raw talent alone.


She was, he later learned, a skilled medic. A healer and, apparently, a renowned maker of poisons. And their antidotes.


She held life in one hand and death in the other. She wielded weapons and medicines with equal skill.

Nothing she did seemed to conform to Danzo's preconceptions, his paradigm, whatever the proper term was.

He had a hard time coming up with words to describe her.

She spoke almost like a man, even when being polite. She was well-educated, and articulate. She could make a crude joke and yet manage to twist in some sort of philosophy or history in the process.

Her eyes were beautiful and dark, concealing many things.

But the one thing they made plain was her ambition.

They were a man's eyes. A conquerer's eyes.

She was exceptional.

Therefore, Danzo was almost not surprised when she was the one to proposition him first, with a soft, outstretched hand and a smile that said a million things and yet nothing at all. Almost.

The two of them would talk for hours at a time, when it allowed, usually late at night, when the day's negotiations had wound to a close and the desert cold had settled over Sunagakure.

He could look.
Had looked.

Into those ambitious eyes for hours.

They shared their dreams, their aspirations.

And, eventually, their feelings.

And it made Danzo happy. Knowing he had a woman by his side that felt the same way he did about the way the world should be run.

That had that same vision he did.

When there were no more words to give to each other, they shared each others' bodies.

Beneath those dark robes she was as soft as her words.

She was the first to say "I love you," the words that the man always said first. Danzo found himself not minding this terribly.

They were parted early, Danzo called back to his country, she back to her missions. But their correspondence continued, letters once a week, crossing the deserts and into the forest and there and back again.

He fantasized, sometimes, of when he would one day be Hokage.


She would be Kazekage.

Of course.

They would be responsible for the most powerful union between countries in history, this he knew for a fact. Leaf and Sand would be allied against the stormy north, against the rumblings of the Rock and the Cloud nin who seemed never to be satisfied with anything.

And then, there was the letter.

It was short, for a message from her.

You're going to be a father. The baby is due in six months. Don't worry about me.

- Chiyo.

Naturally, he began to worry almost immediately.

Drafting up a letter to her, demanding to know everything.

How long had she known, how was she going to raise it, was she going to move to Leaf so he could help?

He wanted to ask her a million things but found the ink and paper far too limiting.

She lovingly chided him in her reply, saying.


That he didn't need to worry about her.

And she answered his questions and told him how much she missed him.

The paper smelled like her perfume.

It took a while for it all to really sink in.

The scent of the paper had long since faded by the time the panic ended.

And the bliss began.

Danzo took to his new situation very.


He was going to be a father. The very thought caused him to smile uncontrollably.

Him! Having a child with the smartest, the most beautiful, the most capable woman in the entire world. Never mind the fact that she was from Sand, that was not even an issue.

He began making plans, immediately.

Resolving to be a good figure for the child. Boy or girl, he didn't care.

If a boy, he would be a strong ninja, undeniably, just like Danzo.

And a girl?


If she did not take after her mother then he would be very cross indeed.


There was no doubt in his mind that any daughter of his would resemble Chiyo greatly.


Oh, how he sighed when he imagined this child. Six months seemed like forever to wait, but he would wait. And he would be an amazing father.

Of course.

People who knew him wondered mightily at what was making him so cheerful.

She had asked for him not to visit during this time and he had respectfully honored her wishes, instead visiting her with his thoughts. Grinning, humming to himself, the happiest man alive.

In private, at least.

On his missions, Danzo was the model ninja. Stoic, focused on the task at hand, and separate from his emotions.

A family would change nothing.

Privately, he was already beginning to wish for a daughter when his and Hiruzen's teams were shipped out to Cloud with their Hokage, Tobirama, to deal with the insurgency there.

And it was there that he was offered a choice.

And it was there that he realized how much of a fool he really was.

Because when his Hokage told him that they needed a diversion, and that said diversion was almost certainly suicide.

He could not say a thing.

Because he thought of them.

He thought of Chiyo, he thought of his unborn daughter or son.

And he thought of his father, who had died when Danzo was too young to clearly remember him. A man who had sacrificed himself for the good of the village, in the chaotic times of the Founding.

He had died doing the right thing. Doing what any good ninja would do.

Danzo was a good ninja. He was one of the best. And to sacrifice himself for the sake of the mission was the good and right thing to do.

But why was he second guessing?

Because if he were to die, who would be there for Chiyo? For the world they were going to create together?

For his child?

And that's when Hiruzen spoke. And he comforted Danzo, giving himself up freely and without any worries.

With a smile.

Danzo might as well have died right then and there.

He lost everything.

His silence burned in his stomach as his team returned to Konoha with the new Hokage.

Hiruzen. His Hokage.

No, not his Hokage.

The Hokage.

The words still did not fit together, not the way that they did with Hashirama or Tobirama, the noble Senju brothers.

Not that he wasn't.


The Hokage.

A letter from Chiyo sat on his kitchen table, and he left it unread for a long while.

It was his punishment.


It had to be his punishment.

Of course.

This was what he got for letting his emotions get in the way of the mission.

This was what he got for fantasizing about being a father who was "there for" his family.

What a fine fiction that was.

It was incompatible with the ninja way. A family was not even on the same level of importance as a mission, as the village.

What was one child to a thousand individuals?

He still loved Chiyo, that was undeniable. The two of them were going to change the world someday.


That was the way things were going to be and there was no changing his mind on that.

Of course.

He did not plan on dying anytime soon. But if he had to, it was not going to be for the sake of a family, no, it was going to be for his village. For the village's future.

His village's future.

When the child was born, less than five months later, it only strengthened his resolve.

Chiyo had been concealing the pregnancy in a display of what was something like loyalty or resolve toward her country, unwilling to halt her mission work for the sake of something as fragile, as sentimental as a single baby.

Danzo's heart swelled with pride when he heard the story, well after the fact.

This was why he loved her, because she was as dedicated as he was.

More dedicated.



Putting the mission before her family in the most extreme way.

And it ruined her.

She went into labor prematurely during a skirmish and her brother had to rescue her when it became apparent that she was bleeding, but not because of any wound, despite her vehement denial. The baby came shortly afterward, scrawny and covered in blood, but otherwise healthy.

It was a boy.

The Kazekage was not pleased by this in the least.

Her loyalty had been misinterpreted as treachery, and she was grilled mercilessly on what else she had concealed from her country, her most beloved Sand. Though she had nothing else to hide, they still forced her into temporary retirement, under the guise of "maternity leave."

She would never be Kazekage.

Even in their failures, they were alike.

Danzo learned quickly to stifle silly, poetic thoughts like that.

It was painful when the letters from her arrived about all this news. Embroidered into her words was a poisonous resentment that always came out of her when she was displeased. He wanted nothing more than to go to her, to be with her and comfort her, to assure her that everything would work out as planned.

That they still had a future together.


But harder still was the absolute inability for him to repress the sick, hot love in his stomach that he felt with the letter that came with a photo and a name.

She had named her son Fuurin.

It was written with the kanji for "wind bell," but, Chiyo wrote beneath, she had his father in mind when she named him as well.

One could also read Fuurin's name with the kanji for "maple grove."

Within kanji for "maple" was the kanji for "wind," Chiyo explained in her letter. It represented her, the wind within those trees.

Why in the world did she have to be so clever?

He began to hate that he loved her so much.

And he hated the child even more.

Fuurin was not his son.

He was Chiyo's.

Danzo distracted himself with other projects.

He went on more missions to try and forget them.

Fuurin had beautiful red hair, no wonder she had named him so, maples were the same color in the autumn. That was the only time she had visited Konoha, was in the autumn. And the memory had stayed with her so.

He lived by the knife and focused only on the task at hand.

He was already saying things like "Mama" and "Hello" at the age of nine months, he was so smart already, he was going to be such a wonderful ninja. Only when he was on a mission was he truly himself. He was a ninja, that was who he really was.


One year old and Fuurin was already getting into everything, he was such a menace around the house, but he was so cute, Chiyo just couldn't stay mad at him for long. Just means he has initiative, yes?

He was not a father on the battlefield.

Of course.

The cutest little boy, oh, Fuurin was just going to break hearts one day.

Relationships with Sand were souring.

Danzo's letters had grown increasingly scarce. Chiyo's hadn't.

He began burning them as they arrived, after reading them.

Soon he did not even bother to read them any more.

When Sand was declared an enemy, Danzo was overjoyed, almost relieved that he wouldn't have to read.

To burn.

Those letters.

Not any more.

It would be easier, now. So much easier.


He focused his energies on new projects.

To end this war would require a new breed of soldier, a new breed of ninja. The same disciplines, the same battle strategies would not work like they used to.

Hiruzen was the one who had come to him about it, of all things. His smile was genuine, almost warm, during the conversation. Apologizing for any bruised feelings, asking if he was okay—though Danzo's bruises had long since healed.

Or faded.

He marveled at Hiruzen's ability so smile so very easily.

Not with everything, all his responsibilities.

He couldn't do everything on his own, he said. Konoha needed greater protection, stronger soldiers—the ANBU program that their second Hokage had implemented needed reform. Other countries were creating their own, similar systems, as well. The competition was stiff. And Hiruzen knew that Danzo was just the right man for the job, and he asked to see if there was anything he could do.

Danzo had more than a few ideas.

If he could not yet be Hokage, he could at least.

Govern a smaller body.

The cream of the crop were his to cull and mold as he saw fit. Like all ANBU, they lacked faces, identities, everything hidden behind a mask. They were the purest shinobi while on their missions, existing only for their country.

Even that was too much.

Once Danzo was finished with them, there would be nothing left but masks.

His success was far too great.

Because they noticed.

He had named the subsidiary Root.

After all, the roots of the tree were the support, digging deep so that the leaves could grow and flourish. But unlike the trunk, which could be cut and damaged and ripped to shreds, the roots always remained underground, untouched.

This was the emphasis.

Roots were never to be seen. If visible, the tree would likely die.

That was his first mistake.

He did not make it again.

Publically, he had the group disbanded, to appease Hiruzen, the rest of the council, who worried and tittered about "ethics" and "morality."

Those things did not exist on the battlefield, no more than "love" or "family."

Root was the closest thing to a family that Danzo would allow himself. His faceless, nameless, emotionless children.

He said none of this aloud.

He no longer thought much of Chiyo, both in quality and quantity.

But he still heard things.

Slipping into his life like so many little grains of sand, getting into everything, and irritating, agitating, refusing to leave.

If he wished for a wind within his trees, it would be to have that sand removed.

Time passed.

Roots spread.

The war ended, without much fanfare.

Promises were made for there never to be another.

But Danzo knew better.


Of course.

Given nothing else to do, he added and added to his little family. He twisted and manipulated and changed and burned away.

And he prepared.

So ended the spring.

Summer was the rain season.

And with the rains, the snake.

But before the snake, before the salamander, before it all, there had been Hiruzen.


In the time of peace that had settled over the world, the Hokage had taken under his wing three young students.

Danzo had looked them up well in advance, not with any real intent but to quietly judge.

His roots spread far.

The first was a boy. Came from a clan of no consequence, a normal family, a hot-headed youth. His future was bright, if only because Hiruzen had chosen him as a student.

He had no use for Danzo, at least.

The second was a girl. The granddaughter of the first Hokage. What few expectations Danzo had for her were based entirely on her bloodline. Great things came out of the Senju clan, he was certain she would be no exception, either as a wife.

Or a ninja.

And the third was Orochimaru.

Orochimaru was unusual.


Not exactly unusual, but.

The boy was exceptional.

He had a rare brilliance about him, already so apparent at the academy. His scores had been well above average in every area. In action, he was stoic and focused, calm and calculating.

And in those gold-colored eyes there was a sort of polished gleam that Danzo more than recognized.


And he had no family.

In a sense, the child reminded him of himself.

Among other things.

And so, Danzo watched. Carefully.

The children grew, blossoming under Hiruzen's care.

The boy would disappear for ages at a time. Danzo was not surprised in the least, especially given the... unsavory things he had heard about the boy's outside interests. He remained unattached to any one woman, giving his affection freely and recklessly.

The girl developed as girls did. Her affection was given to others in the form of smiles and powerful strikes, but she remained unattached to any one man.

And then there was Orochimaru. Orochimaru did not show affection. His only love, if he felt any at all, was his love of learning.

He was the sort to spend long, sleepless nights in the archives of the city, poring over scrolls, learning jutsu after jutsu. During the day, he would put theory into practice and exhaust himself in the process, returning home to sleep and then to read. His thirst was insatiable, utterly and completely.

Danzo saw this.

He ensured that Orochimaru had access to whatever he needed. Leaving scrolls otherwise inaccessible to the average ninja within finding distance. Having footnotes included that would lead him to other materials.

So much like the sunlight that was Hiruzen, Danzo stayed in the shadows and supported the prodigy from beneath.


The second war came.

Of course.

Danzo was not surprised.

And the world suddenly felt so much smaller. War had a tendency of doing that to a person. His roots spread past the borders of the forest, out of necessity. His family was growing. And those little grains of sand began, ever insistently, to irritate him.

Chiyo had been very busy.

Sand had a new Kage. He was older, conservative, and cautious.

The sort of person that Chiyo would call an old fuddy-duddy.

The sort of thing that, no matter how hard you tried to shake it out of your clothes, your hair, some grains always managed to still remain.

Danzo tracked Sand's movements carefully, seeing her soft-handed signature in every action, every battle.

In every ninja killed or otherwise maimed by her beautiful, elegant poisons.

He heard stories.

There was sharp-eyed young shinobi, creator of something called the Iron Sand, protege of.

The Shukaku's vessel.

That was where the inspiration had come from.

Of course.


The jinchuuriki himself was thuggish and stupid. The Kazekage was too cautious, conventional.

Danzo had no doubts as to who the child's true teacher was.

Roots and strings.

And then he heard of Fuurin.

The child had grown into a boy into a man.

Not much else could be said about him.

He used puppets like his mother but was otherwise unremarkable.

Danzo found himself thankful for this.

If the boy had somehow been as brilliant, as exceptional as his mother, he would have had a longer file, and with that came more to read and remind Danzo of his.


Twenty years and Danzo was still bothered by such trifling things as this.

The boy was not his son.

And already, he was settling down to have a family of his own.

He was young, a boy in the summer of his twentieth year.

Even Hiruzen hadn't settled down yet.

The child's name was Sasori.

And that was all Danzo bothered to learn.

The war continued, as wars often did.

Of course.

Hiruzen's little team had done well for themselves.

In a baptism by rain, they had been named the Sannin by Hanzo, the salamander, the stubborn, the paranoid.

Danzo would be lying if he said he didn't respect the man at least a little. When a man with such power gave titles, those words had power, as well.

The boy Jiraiya had all but disappeared, recently. Even Danzo, in his vast capacities, could not quite figure where he had gone to.

Then again, this was nothing new. His wanderings had been an annoyance Danzo had all but accepted recently.

The girl Tsunade had been a boon to the village, creating sharp antidotes as forceful and effective as Chiyo's own, soft poisons. She sought to change the system, with ideas of medic nin squads and bright dreams. The council did not agree with her at first.

Danzo assured that they would, in time. A smart idea was a smart idea, no matter its origin.

Through her help, the dead grew fewer and fewer.

And, as always, there was Orochimaru.

Having mastered a dizzying amount of jutsu, more than many ninja twice his age, his research into the higher techniques had begun to narrow. Not exactly to medical ninjutsu, but.

He had begun to experiment.

Danzo found it harder to help him in his usual way. One could not leave out scrolls that had not yet been written, one simply couldn't pass a lab animal under the crack of a door for testing, when the pickings grew slim.

Sometimes he wondered why he was even hesitating. If he were to approach Orochimaru, to outright offer a hand of assistance in his endeavors, surely nothing bad would come of it? He had already been helping the boy so much already.

It was the issue of family, again, he decided.

Danzo already, mentally, regarded Orochimaru as more of a son to him than Fuurin was.

He was not going to deny this.

After all, what was a son but just a child that shared half of your genes?

Family was a construct, just like love.

No more than chemical signals in the brain.

Orochimaru had shared so much with him.

But a son was just a role.

So Danzo said nothing.

But that was beside the point.

If he were to approach the boy, as a father does a son.

No, no.

As a teacher does a student.


If he were to approach Orochimaru now, there was nothing to fear. It would be seen as needed assistance. Danzo had the resources for that young, exceptional mind to grow.

For the good of his village.


And besides, family had a tendency to change its definitions to suit the ninja way.

Hadn't Hiruzen just recently become a father, well into his forties? The very Hokage, raising children at such an age. And yet he did well enough.

He was willing to sacrifice himself all those years ago.

But he hadn't been a father then, had he?

No, no, that had nothing to do with it.

Absolutely not.

And Danzo's own family had grown. The family he allowed himself.

Dozens of ninja under his control, his little doll-children.

Perfectly obedient. Perfect and unfailing in their missions.


But still, he hesitated.


Danzo was looking over the recently-returned reports from activity out in the battlefield. Lists of names.

Casualties. Targets eliminated.

Fuurin. At first he thought he had read it.


But the name was there, printed in clear black ink, along with the name of his unremarkable wife.

Target eliminated.

There was not much else to say about him.


No, that was.


There was so much they could say.

His hair, the color of maple leaves, that was what she had named him after.

He used puppets, just like his mother.

He was a father, and she.

Hadn't they left a son behind.

Chiyo was left behind.

Danzo had to put the paper down. Though none were watching, his face fixed itself into a stern mask.

He could not be affected by this.

He would not.

Fuurin was not his son.

He was Chiyo's son.

Orochimaru was more a son to him than.

They had killed Chiyo's.


The paper was filed away and Danzo went to find Sakumo Hatake.

To congratulate him.

Fuurin was the son of one of the most influential Sand ninja around. It would be a tremendous blow to their morale and overall forces.

Job well done.

Danzo wondered how much Chiyo had been affected by the news.

It was not worry, it was not sympathy, it was not.

It was curiosity.

But why did Danzo feel like.



He did not feel.

Fuurin was not his son.

He composed.


And felt.



Shortly afterward, the Sand's forces grew thin. Their own strength falling through their hands.


And the war ended.

Of course.

Leaving behind a land of rain like tears and torn grasses.



The boy Jiraiya had finally returned from wherever it was he had been, rain in his hair.

The girl Tsunade, a brother, a lover stolen from her, fled almost in response. Wherabouts unknown.

Danzo wondered if all women were that weak.

He wondered if Chiyo was.


He could not think of anything but.


Approaching him would not be as a father to a.

Teacher to a.

It would be as a mentor to a disciple.

Not even that.

From an elder ninja to a younger.


Nothing more, nothing less.

There was nothing familial in this.

There was nothing to.

Why was he even afraid?

Fear was.


Doing anything, offering anything to help that boy with the ambition in his eyes.


So, one night, Danzo came to him with.


A proposition.

An outstretched hand.

And fascinating things began to pour forth.
They would talk for hours at a time, in the beautiful laboratories where Orochimaru did his work as the silence of night fell over Konohagkure. Discussing the future.

Their future.

The way that Orochimaru did things, it would allow even the ordinary to become extraordinary.

Perhaps, someday, applying his findings to the world at large.

To Leaf.

For the good of the village.

Their village.

When he told Danzo of his plans to replicate the Mokuton, that rare kekkei genkai manifested only in the late Hashirama Senju, Danzo could hardly contain his excitement, and assured that Orochimaru would have the genetic samples he needed for his experiments.

Orochimaru required test subjects.

And Danzo provided them.


Of course.

Nothing came easily.

A small grove of what were once children began to grow outside of the laboratories.

Time passed.

Danzo and Orochimaru.





Danzo felt almost proud.


There was no shame in that.

Of course.

Orochimaru even offered to augment Danzo's own arm with the prototypical process, which had so far been a success.

One child out of sixty was not so bad. At least it was not seventy. At least it was not one hundred.

What was sixty lost children to a village of thousands?

Fifty-nine trees like graves.

Danzo had provided them all.

Without guilt.

They were tools.

There was nothing to.


It had been painful and the seal was cumbersome and clumsy, but in application, it worked beautifully.

Things in the village continued to change.

That Jiraiya had taken on three students of his own, the cycle continuing. Among them was a little yellow-haired child.

The boy showed such promise.

Another Uzumaki had been brought into the village, as well. To replace the aging relic that was the Kyuubi jinchuuriki.

This was highly classified and Danzo doubted he was supposed to know but, well.

Danzo knew many things.

Orochimaru's studies continued.

Danzo's roots spread far.

Into the Sand.

They did not thrive there, but.

It was enough.

He was among the first to hear about the new Kazekage.

The sharp-eyed boy with the Iron Sand had done well for himself.

He did not acknowlege Chiyo at all in his mind over this.

Orochimaru was doing wonders for Root.

Where discipline alone had not been enough, medicines, surgeries and seals could suffice.Soon, he had silence under threat of pain at his command.

Soon, he had ways to burn away the unneccessary until only the barest, the most essential of brain functions were left.

Those ninja did not thrive. But at least it was not fifty. At least it was not one hundred.And it was for the good of their village.

Yes, it really was their village now, wasn't it?

He thought of the sharp-eyed boy, and saw beautiful, shining blue strings around his wrists.

The roots supported the tree from underground.

Orochimaru was like a son to him.

And they shared everything with each other.

If he couldn't rule Konoha officially, he could have someone he knew, someone he trusted.

Someone he knew would do the right thing.

Orochimaru was not Hokage material. He was not the kind, warm, approachable figurehead that the village wanted.


Danzo needed a successor.

And Orochimaru was the man that the village needed.

Danzo knew this.



The world had other plans.

The third Kazekage had disappeared, and Sand was pointing fingers in every direction.

And war began.


Of course.

And he began hearing a name tossed around, with a great fear and reverence.

Sasori of the Red Sand.

He was no White Fang, but he was dangerous.

And he was Chiyo's grandson.


He had red hair like maple leaves but he was not named for them.

The name had been her son's not.

Danzo distracted himself with other projects.

Orochimaru made this easy to do.

He began demanding adult test subjects. Living ones.

Dead ones Danzo could manage. Orphans, too.

It was becoming increasingly difficult to provide for him.

But anything for.

Him and.

The village.

Their village.


Hanzo of the Rain had sent a message to Danzo, asking for assistance.

Danzo was almost glad.

He needed something else to.



Work on.

It was not an excuse.

The men Danzo had sent out to speak with Hanzo came back with reports of friskings, double-friskings, complete removal of weapons, and speaking to the elusive, the eccentric behind a curtain, under heavy guard.

The man was cautious, but not a fuddy-duddy.

Sand was easily dampened by rain.

Hanzo had a problem, and he needed someone to deal with it.

Danzo's roots spread far.

There was a resistance movement in Hanzo's territory, at the moment. A group of upstart young ninja seeking to reform their country, used and discarded as a battlefield in the last war.

They were proving to be annoyingly difficult to get rid of.

Hanzo's terms were that, if Danzo aided in getting rid of the annoyances, that he would do anything in his power to ensure Danzo's ascension as Hokage.

Somehow, Danzo doubted Hanzo had the means or the connections to have this done. But the one they called The Salamander would prove to be a valuable ally, if all went well.

And rewards were always up for negotiation, after the fact.

Danzo would be lying.

If he said he didn't respect the man.

So he accepted.

He selected his dolls carefully, and sent them out into the rain.

By all accounts, the mission should have been a success.

And Danzo had been more than pleased to assist in the choreography.

His mind felt clean, having this to preoccupy himself.


The rebellion had the Rinnegan.

Somehow, Hanzo managed to survive.

The rebellion could sort itself out.

It did not concern Konoha, after all.

And Danzo did not need to be Hokage.


He found himself left with nothing to do but.



Danzo had begun to notice.

Or was he finally allowing himself to see?


Small ones, at first. The occasional experiment done on the side. Usually failures.

The occasional success.

Danzo could not be around for every experiment. But the results were always given to him after the fact.

Not all of them were accurately reported.

Danzo did not even touch Orochimaru's personal life, his lover, the kimonos.

He wondered sometimes about it, though.

His thoughts strayed to.


And her man-like ways.

Her conquerer's eyes.

Danzo did not understand the look that Orochimaru seemed to get when the day was over, when he was obviously thinking about.


If a woman could act like a man, then.

Was it so unusual for a man to act like.

To speak like.

A woman?

Danzo's understanding was.


And Orochimaru grew.


Danzo refused to let.

To acknowlege.

When had their worlds become so.


Was that the word?

Had Orochimaru always kept these.


Had Danzo just now been noticing them?


Was he building walls because things had.



His mind drifted to the salamander with the cut-off tail.

And his.




Every option seemed viable.

Danzo couldn't seem to consolidate any.


Another thing Chiyo and Orochimaru shared was.


Danzo had to do something.

When the graduating genin one year had one student left over, Danzo brought it up to Orochimaru, suggesting he take on a student.

Anko kept him distracted, a new project.

It kept him from keeping secrets, more importantly.

And it kept him from growing.


Keeping those.




Danzo wondered sometimes what he had to lose by.

Letting Orochimaru do as he wished.



Depended on each other.


Without Danzo, Orochimaru could not continue his experiments.

And without Orochimaru, Danzo.


It was for the village.


For their village.

Of course.

And time went on.

That student of Jiraiya's with the yellow hair was making quite a name for himself.

He was intelligent, charismatic, instantly likeable.


Danzo approved of him when rumors began flying around that he would be named Hokage. The public already adored him, and he was romantically involved with the current Kyuubi jinchuuriki, that Uzumaki girl.

He could see no better option for the role.

Which was why he was astonished when Orochimaru entered the bidding, requesting he be considered as a candidate for Hokage as well.

He didn't.

How did.

No, this.

Would not do.

At all.

Danzo was not a man that enjoyed using harsh words. He prefered using gentle coersion, applied psychology to get people to do what he wished. And when that did not work, more extreme methods could be used.

None of these would work on Orochimaru.

So Danzo resorted to lectures.

And threats.

Orochimaru would never be Hokage. The sooner he accepted that fact, the better it would be for him.

He simply was not the type. He was not the warm sunshine, the kindly leader.

He was a snake.

And his place was underground.

Danzo needed a successor.

Orochimaru was like.

A son.

To him.

There would be consequences for not following Danzo's advice.

They were not orders.


Danzo doubted that the general public would like to know about the sorts of things Orochimaru had been doing in the dark.

In the lab.

In the bedroom.

Even though it was for the good of the village.

Their village.

Most of it, anyways.

There was a place for Orochimaru already.

Danzo came to him with.


A reminder.

An outstretched hand.

The thing in those golden eyes was ambition.

And repulsion.

Hiruzen spoke, and their new Hokage was chosen.

It was not Orochimaru.

Danzo waited.


Orochimaru came to him.

And said, in precisely that many words:

"I will not be your puppet."

Danzo did not reply, immediately.

And he thought to himself.


Orochimaru was not his puppet.

Because puppets did exactly as they were told.

It did not take long for the word to reach Hiruzen about Orochimaru's experiments.

They found him in his lab, surrounded by Danzo's gifts.

Cutting his lover wide open.


He left nothing behind but a scared little girl with a painful curse mark on her shoulder, wondering why her sensei had left so suddenly.

And Danzo was without a successor.

Left with nothing but his family.


Not a.

Family. Even thinking of them that way was.

Families didn't.

They were dolls.


The ones manipulated with words and medicines and psychology.

Ones that did.


As they were.




Of course.


Just to be sure.

Danzo began to build a wall.

He would be lying if he said that he did not.



And his methods.

None would be allowed in.

Not anymore.

In years following, he would discover that he had done better.

Danzo, that is.

The salamander's tail grew back, slowly.

But there were things that waited in the rain for him.

And they took.


Danzo did not.


A wife, a child.

That was where he had improved upon Hanzo's.


His walls were strong and they were high.

So ended the summer.

Autumn was the red season.

And though he had been born in the summer, the boy with the blood in his eyes was utterly a child of.

The fall.

But before the red tears, before the red clouds, before the red-stained walls, he was just a boy.

With red hands and black eyes.

In any other circumstance, Danzo would have nothing to do with the prodigy son of Police Chief Fugaku. He would have perhaps expressed an interest, offered him a position in ANBU once he was old enough, trained enough.

But Danzo had had enough.

Of prodigies.

In any other circumstance, he would have kept his distance.

Behind walls, within his roots.

But then October 10th.

And the relocation.

And the unrest.

And suddenly Danzo's interests were all that much more inclusive toward the Uchiha clan.

He kept his distance, but.

His roots spread far, and they spread deeply.

It didn't hurt that when people said Itachi was a prodigy, they meant it.

The boy was exceptional.

Every aptitute test, every challenge tossed at him, he excelled unerringly, without peer.

He had mastered his sharingan by the age of 6.

They said that the gift of the Uchihas was always activated by some sort of trauma.

The boy's hands ran red with blood that wasn't his on that day.

Impractical, really.

In Danzo's eyes.

But despite all of this, Danzo did not approach him.

Not as a teacher, or a mentor, or.


Itachi was a separate sort of creature.

A bird.


That's what he was.

Of course.

A flicker in the trees that came and went as he pleased.

Birds rested not in the roots but in the branches, after all.

Nor were they a part of the tree itself.

There was not much for Danzo to offer him, besides. No scrolls on the table, no orphan children delivered under dark of night.

But there was much for Danzo to take.

The boy had so much promise.

As a tool.

Danzo would let the work be done for him, here.

And then, well.

Another for his collection.


And already, the boy was proving to be so useful.

Chuunin. Jounin.

And he expressed.

Most importantly.


Danzo did not distrust the Uchiha.


But there were records.

And when the leaves in the trees rustled from the weight of a two thousand wings, this bird grew startled.

When the songs of the others grew muted and hushed in the nighttime hours.

The branches quivered and.

This bird chose.

His village.

There was talk of.


On either side.

Birds rested not on roots but branches but.

Within the trunk, there were many holes.

And they ate and ate away.

There are things that birds know.

And Itachi shared them.

Birds knew such worrying things.

But what concerned Danzo most were the.


They seemed so easy to obtain, but.

Such expensive eyes.

And yet Danzo saw nothing wrong with its methods of.


Growth of any sort was the good and the right thing to do.

Such a thing as a "best friend" weighed much less than a mission, a village.

His village.

It seemed almost like a superstition.

You were supposed to bury a puppet with its puppetmaster, so that nobody else would.

Where had he heard.


Danzo did not believe in superstitions.

In voices on the wind.

And neither did.

He brushed the sand out of his eyes.


He believed in.



There would be results.

There was no denying the records.

Everything had to be founded on some sort of truth.

Danzo figured it would be a pleasant side effect if it were real.

He had a natural curiosity.

He and Orochimaru had shared many things.

Like father like.


The target Shisui had to be exterminated.

He was getting too.


His relationship with Itachi meant nothing.

But an unintended side effect.

A bird's song felt silent.

Every challenge, every test, Itachi passed.

Without peer.

Suspicions grew.

On both sides.

It would not be long now.

It would be.


Feathers drifted down the dead river.

Plans were made.

A day was chosen.

And Konoha struck first.

The chirping of a thousand birds.





And it was not.


He came before them to.

Explain, to.



For he had spared.


It was.


Itachi had long ago accepted the nature of his.


And rejected them.


Which was the good and the right thing to do.

His only family was.





Danzo was not alone in his opinions.

The boy had to be.



The voice of reason.

The Hokage.

Fifty years and the words still did not.


The "reason" that Hiruzen believed in did not exist on the battlefield.

No more than "family" or.

Not the reason that supported.


What was one life to a village of thousands?



They both argued.

There was a wind in the trees.

There had been others.

Itachi had not spared.

His father, his mother.

He had no parents.

But he did not remind Danzo of.

He had left.


What was one more?



Itachi had cleared every challenge, every test.



He belonged to Konoha.

And with.



He would be forced to return.

To the blood-stained walls.

Drying from red to brown, like.



To the.


Left behind.


In that moment.

Danzo looked into his eyes.

He did not see a ninja.

Not even a tool.

He saw a boy in the autumn of his thirteenth year.

With red hands and red eyes.



Word on his lips.


The thing in those blood-colored eyes was.


And Danzo considered this.

There would always be.

At least it was not.




But if it had been Danzo, he.

A memory of a sunshine smile was on Hiruzen's face.







The bird left the tree and was.



Into the hazy red clouds of the dawn.

Danzo's roots spread far.

And his walls were high.

But he knew nothing of the sky.

A bird's song travels further.

Orochimaru had done well for himself.

And then there was that name.

That red hair.

The sand in his eyes.


Of course.

He was no Yellow Flash, but he was.




How things like this seemed to happen.

And sometimes Danzo found himself.


He and Orochimaru had shared many things.

Lab reports.

A natural curiosity.

Like father like.


Orochimaru wasn't even a.


Why was it always like this.

Even when he had burned away everything, something.



Always seemed to remain.

Danzo kept himself distracted with new projects.

To keep his mind off of.


Five Uchiha had died with their sharingan still activated.

For a clan so shrouded in shadows, their secrets were all too easily discovered.

Especially in death.

Danzo had heard stories.

Especially about Shisui.

The feathers had long ago been removed.

From the dead water.

His body had rejected the first.




He bandaged his face.

His injuries did not last long, but.


Were a good defense.

In Danzo's eye.

And suddenly.

A hundred minds were in his hand.


What medicines and psychology and everything else couldn't.

He could.


And he burned and burned away.



Nothing was left.

But masks.

Not even puppets.


His arm came next.

It was painful, and the seal was cumbersome, but.

In application.

He was.


It surprised him very little that Orochimaru coveted these eyes.

Of course.



Had not softened Itachi's.

It was an exception.

Of course.

The snake did not belong in the sky.

Danzo knew where he belonged.

Truly belonged.

But not in the roots of.

His village.

The snake found new shadows to live in.

And his own family grew.

And so did Danzo's.


The child bird left behind in the shelter of the branches never sang.

But then.

How things like this seemed to happen.

The prodigal many began to come home.

And Sand was involved.


Danzo was almost not surprised that Orochimaru coveted that one's eyes so.


Of course.

It was only a matter of.


For him to overcome.

He and Orochimaru had shared many things.

But many more had been kept from him.


In his absence.

Such progress.

Danzo almost felt proud, but.

There was no shame in that.

The only thing he allowed himself to feel was.

Natural curiosity.

Much like how he felt toward the Sand's boy.

The jinchuuriki.

He had heard many things.

And seen.


To quietly judge, nothing.


He said goodbye to the Hokage.

Not yet, never his.

And hello to the new one.

So she had amounted to.


Within the forests of Konoha, a thousand birds once again began to sing.

And in the sky above.

A single crow.




The snake's young brood came by to collect.

Danzo did nothing.


Could be taken.

And one.


He was in hands that Danzo could trust.


The sun set in a red sky.

So ended the autumn.


The winter was the dead season.

The accidental boy's story began there.

And almost ended.

But somehow he had a way of continuing.

Admirable trait.

If used correctly.

And he was a tool used with expert precision.

He was a boy not meant to exist.

The Uchiha clan was one of many secrets. Many rules, many laws.

But the strictest of all, the most sacred of edicts was.


Marry outside of the clan.

There were things that birds knew.

And only birds.

Were meant to know.

A moment of weakness.

And the boy was begun.

His mother was the daughter of Danzo's old partner, Kagami. She had a life ahead of her.

Emphasis on "had."

She was going to be married. Her fiance well-regarded within the clan and outside of it.


A single explosion changed everything.

Clearing the space for the other man.

He was a man with soft ambition in his eyes. A soft hunger.

He was a soft man in everything.

But his passions, well-disguised in shows of kindness and compassion.


A nice man.

Her downfall.

The affair was quiet, as most affairs were. In her grief she had been respectfully ignored, allowed to work through her loss in whatever way she could.

Danzo did not believe in mourning, but he did not blame the girl for not being nearly as strong.

She was not one of his.


The story continued.

In any other circumstance, nothing would have come of the relationship. It would not have lasted long on principle, just long enough for her to forget, to move on.

To find another.


The soft man had long ago made a cage.

Just for her.

Of his few talents, his strongest was his ability to hold onto things.

Very, very tightly.

She found herself unable to get rid of him.

And then.

The baby.

The man was not her lover.

And he was not an Uchiha.

Neither would be her child.

If it was even born.


Something had to be done.

She had many options.

There were medicines.

In the corner of the Uchiha compound, there was an old woman who sold candy from a stand in front of her house.

She had a room in the back that she preferred to keep locked as often as possible.

She had done her job for years.

This was not a unique situation.

Mistakes happened.


Kagami's daughter refused to do any of that.

Her mistake grew in size, the longer it was ignored.

Something had to be done.

People started saying things.

She denied.



The soft man had long ago been.

Taken care of.

The cage.

Her trust.



This was not a unique situation.


The expectation was that if she did not do anything now, it would be afterward.

Of course.

When she saw what monstrosity she had given form.

That would change her mind.

It didn't.

And there was talk of.


On one side.

This was long before those days of birds and slaughter.

The old woman was skilled at many jobs.

She had medicines.

And pillows.

And a well in her courtyard.

She had to do something.

Kagami loved his daughter too much to see her in such pain.

Though he quietly judged.

And was judged back.

Reading the hate-colored eyes of his neighbors.

And the they had been so well-regarded, how dare.



Her clan.

In such a way.

And so he went to Danzo.

Danzo considered this for quite a while.

His little collection was full of adults.

Broken, then mended.



As they should be.

He had worked so hard on making them so.

He had never attempted anything with a child.

Danzo had a natural curiosity.

And so, in the winter.

He took the boy.

Just another stillborn.

They said.

And it was accepted.

Without question.

The boy was never meant to exist.

And, as far as Konoha was concerned.

He didn't.

Danzo personally oversaw every aspect of the child's upraising.

He would be.


A child raised without sunlight.

His skin was pale enough already.

Like glass.

Nine months old and he was already speaking clearly, articulately.

He could read most texts in hiragana by the age of two.

Kanji mastered by the age of five.

He was a lover of words, and books.

He would be a great ninja, someday.

They had him on missions at age six.

Like so many others.


Danzo was almost not surprised that he took to the brush, rather than the blade.


Those in Root had been trained to remove all that was.


But the boy had a rare brilliance that had blossomed without Danzo's supervision.

Like a weed.

He was not an Uchiha, but it seemed that some things.

Carried over.

His artistic eye was without peer.

Danzo appreciated art of all forms.


There was a technique, the remnant of a clan long since integrated, forgotten.

The only reason it had not died out was because of its very nature.

Ink on paper.

There was plenty of documentation.

Most ninja found the technique too limiting.

Orochimaru had found it, and had no use for it.

He was not concerned in the temporary.

One thing of many that they had in common.

But this was before those days of red clouds and red hair.

He and Danzo had shared many things.

The boy showed plenty of promise.

And so he was trained.

And the boy learned.


And then Itachi.

Even if he had.



A pair of wings.

A disembodied song.

Was not a bird.

The boy was left unharmed.

Of course.

At least.

Not by the massacre.

Like a weed.

Other things grew without Danzo's supervision.

The boy Shin.

He had been the youngest, before.

He still had a name.


He had been allowed.

Danzo appreciated him greatly.

An effective tool.

He had undergone his conditioning with little mishap.

Just another mask without emotions, without family or.




Some things still managed to remain.

He seemed to regard the boy as a.


A remnant, perhaps, of a life long.


Or at least supposed to.

This had been in the wake of the.




Left behind.

Perhaps Danzo had overreacted.



What did he have to blame himself for?

It was the boy who had.


Formed the.




No matter how much Danzo tried to.


He was sure that the boy had been.


Every aspect had been.

So carefully.



But how.

It had not been anticiplated.

Something that.

Under the surface, there was.

An infection.

There was no fever, no.


Until it was too.


It was winter.

On the surface he was calm as his glass face.

The finest of masks.

His most.

Not beloved.

Not adored but.


Valued as a swordsman values a sword.

He followed orders.



The boy's progress had been.


And Danzo could not deny the.

Lack of.


That the boy had.

Which was the good and the right thing.

Of course.

When he was asked the meaning of happiness, the answer was.

A question.

How can one clearly define that which has no concrete form?

The only way one could give happiness any sort of form was.

Through writing.

This was a good sign.

So why.


Was this happening.

Why was there a boy.


In his room.






Danzo was.


This was in the days of his new arm.

And his eye had served him.



In his collection.

Still had.


On occasion.

Where the things that he and his.





Had come up with.


They would not work on every.


And the boy had been so carefully.


The walls had been built very tall.


Something must have.



Danzo would.



Whatever it.


Or was not.

The boy sat alone in his room with a book in his hands.

He had been.



They were not harmful.

It was documentation.

On either cover, a boy.

A diary.

He kept very careful record.

The pages he had turned to, however.

Were blank.

The boy's eyes were red.

From tears.

He did not understand.

What it was he was.


But it was undeniable that.



Danzo began to unwrap his eye.


The drain was immense.

But it was for the good of.

The boy.




There was.



The boy was still crying.

While Danzo burned and burned away.

He could not do everything, but he did.


To last.

The boy did not speak for.


It was no matter.

What was done was.


But Danzo still.



No matter how hard he tried something.


Seemed to.


These attachments, these.




Was it always like.


With every thing Danzo had ever done.

He could not deny that he had held onto every piece of information that had come in.


Not her but.


Hiruzen and his wife.

And his two children.

And his grandchild.

And her and her grandchild and his.



He had.


Long ago.

That families were.

They were.




He built walls for a reason.

Danzo had nothing.

And he was.



Without the weights of a family to keep him from.

He surrounded himself with objects.



Only the things he.


How did any.



Much less Hiruzen.

How did Hiruzen.

Because he was the sunshine.

He was the warm, the.


Not his.


And Danzo was.


And he was.

That was how it was supposed to be.

All that mattered was the village.


His village.

He was the roots that supported the tree, he kept everything.




Like normal.

But still he wondered.


How there seemed to be so many that were able to.

Go on.

Like that.

He had a difficulty finding words for the.


What was the word for when two things could contradict each other and yet remain entirely.


He did not allow himself anger as he walked back to his office.

He told another member to take care of the.


His boy.



He had long since gotten over that sort of.


Fuurin was Chiyo's son, Sasori was her.


She had named him for the trees, she had named him for.



He never even knew the boy.

He did not.

He could not.



Orochimaru was an orphan, the closest thing to a family he had was.

But hadn't he given Orochimaru so much, hadn't he.

The way that he smiled when he worked.

That brilliance, hadn't Danzo.

But there was so much he didn't know.

Orochimaru kept.


He had.


Danzo was not.

It was Hiruzen.

Jiraiya, Tsunade.

Were his family.

The Sannin, that was their name, and there were only.


And Itachi's only family was.

Birds nested not in the roots but in the branches.

With other birds.

But this bird stayed in the branches and.

Danzo wasn't even close to him but he still felt.

Their village.


And the.


Left behind.

And then.

The boy.

The little half-thing, who did not even exist, who.

Painted the most beautiful things.

Who was so smart, charming in the way he loved.

No, he didn't even love, that was.


But a.


Chemical signals in the brain.

No more important than genetic links.

Reading into things that did not.


Danzo had raised him by.


But he was.

An experiment.

A carefully maintained creature.

He was not a son.

He was not.


There was nothing familial in this.

It was cold, it was.


He and Orochimaru had shared many things.

And she had.

Chiyo had, not.

Danzo had later discovered.

Done something of her own.

Even in their successes, they were the same.

He had the records on hand.

His roots stretched far.

The fourth Kazekage was a man of ambition.

Though he was short-sighted.

His idea of success was attained in an instant and.

Danzo was certain it would last just as long.

But all he could do was quietly judge.

Nothing more.

Their current jinchuuriki was not.


The Kazekage had it removed, re-sealed.

Into his wife.

Killing her.

And unborn child.

A blank slate.

Just like Danzo's own.


Danzo would be lying if he said he didn't.


His resolve.

Though he had a wife, two, now three children.

The man showed no.


Not even to his own flesh and blood.

To his own wife.

He needed no walls.

Not even Danzo had that.

Danzo did not have any children, any.


And yet.

He still felt these.


When across the world, they were doing things like.


He was certain they felt.


The thing in his heart was.

Yes he had a.


An organ, anything else was.


Chemical signals.

There should have been no shame in this.

And there wasn't.

So funny how the council had forced him to end his.







Did not exist in a ninja's world.

No more than.

He treated his own son as a tool.

And the boy was.

A monster.



Somehow, it didn't seem.


It was Chiyo's doing.

Of course.

If the Kazekage could do such things.

If she could.

Then why did.



The boy was not even related to him by blood.

His mother had been.

Burned away.

Just like everything else.



Tiny crack in the glass.

Underneath the perfect mask there was still.



And Danzo had burned it away.



Why had it existed in the first place?

The question would not answer itself.

So Danzo left it.


As the sand behind his mask got into his eyes and itched and burned and irritated and.

How was it that she always.

But she.


There were no further.


And the boy returned to his normal business.

It was for his own good.

So he could live without the.

Restraint of.


He asked the boy, later, if he could remember anything about the incident.

The answer was a question.

"What incident are you referring to, sir?"

And when Danzo looked into those ink-black eyes he saw.


There was not even a crack in the mask any more.

Just pure.


And it was good.

And Danzo returned to his business.

And his business was war.

This was the days before the Sound.

The Sand.

In his eyes.

But he was always.


So ended the winter.

But the spring always came.


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