PROLOGUE

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AU Notes:

Age gaps: Izuna and Itama are in their teens, Madara and Tobirama are in their thirties.
Universe: hand-wavy historical fantasy, undefined era, folklore/mythology elements are treated as a corporeal reality.
Abilities: everyone has abilities that are essentially watered down versions of their canon abilities, pulled from a hand-wavy combination of mythology/folklore and Naruto.

WARNING: age-gaps, incest, unhealthy relationships, violence, possibly character death, and likely more things I've forgotten to mention.

This chapter is a prologue that spans several years.


I T A M A

When Butsuma strikes her for the first time, it shocks far worse than it stings. He looks down at her, lying where she's fallen, and the disgust on his face makes it plain that his only regret is in having wasted the energy on her at all. Itama feels as she always feels when he looks at her this way, as though her lungs might give out, chest collapsing in on itself.

She's never understood why her father looks at her as he does, she only wishes he would tell her so she might know how to fix it.

Old bruises ache when he pulls her up by the wrist, jarring her shoulder painfully with the force by which he tugs her upright. His words are quiet but viciously angry, punctuated by spittle. Only experience keeps her from recoiling when he speaks.

"It is not your place to question me, nor any other man who bears the Senju crest on his back. Not even in death."

Itama is rarely alone with her father, and some part of her, the part that always hopes for the best no matter what she knows, had been pleased when it was just the two of them who shared tea this morning. Now, she would give anything for her brothers to be here, and the thought brings with it a fresh wave of grief.

"I only—" Butsuma's grip tightens and Itama's words are broken by a whimper.

"Have you not heard me? Have I not been clear enough with you, child?" This close, Itama can't avoid the sharp edge of his breath, and she doesn't need to be grown to know that if she dares look away from him, she'll see both cup and bottle have run dry.

"I'm sorry, father." Itama's voice is small, it does nothing to soften the anger in Butsuma's eyes.

"What good is sorry, Itama? Do not be sorry, be better."

Itama nods as he lets her go and she collapses, bowing low in apology. It's an easy way to hide her tears as she listens to her father mutter to himself over ungrateful children and wasted opportunities, picking up the bottle left abandoned on the table and setting it down loudly enough she feels her heart jump and her muscles tense. Only when heavy footfalls carry out of the room does she allow her cries to be heard.

She only wants to understand why. Kawarama isn't—wasn't—so much bigger than her, and she knows it's different for her brothers but she can't make sense of it. Her father hasn't told her much, but she overheard him speaking to Hashirama and Tobirama. Kawarama had been alone, why had he been alone?

I Z U N A

Frustration mounts and Izuna feels herself burning up as she tries to cut her way through the underbrush, just the same as her brother had moments earlier. He made it look so easy and whenever she asks him to show her how, he tells her she must learn for herself. She pays the sting of the nettles no mind, but the sharp ache in her knee from an earlier fall refuses to be ignored.

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