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Dec 03, 2021 2:22 PM
When she died, Uchiha Tobirama expected her family to meet her at the border to the Pure Land. But, there's only herself here...
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Uchiha Tobirama has always been rather unusually interested in religion, for a shinobi. It's not a practical thing, not something that'll help you win a fight, and shinobi often scoff at debates about ethics and the nature of the world and what path we're on... Even the superstitious ones favor shrines to spirits known to watch over their family.

She's always liked the rhythm of a monk's life. She'd escape to the small, single temple in Konoha, fleeing the shadow of her siblings, and she'd talk to the monks, there. (After everyone died, after Jakuan defected in Jakkou's wake, like their family hadn't been torn apart enough already... Well, she's not part of the order or anything, but the monks hadn't begrudged her a tendency to sleep on their grounds.)

So Uchiha Tobirama knows, as much as anyone can, what the Pure Land should be like.

It's peaceful. That's... Accurate. There's soft moss under her, and the air is cool and heavy with mist, and there's a stream running to her left, trickling down rocks to join a river whose gentle song could easily lull her to sleep. She thinks she hears a waterfall somewhere nearby. Something beautiful, surely, to explore when her wounds have healed.

(There's no marks on her projected body. No sign of the blows that killed her, the searing pain that ripped her apart - she'd expected it to be faster, she'd been a fool - )

 

Tobi sits with her knees pulled to her chest, her chin on her crossed arms, and stares down toward the river, gaze blank and expression dazed.

(The wounds on her soul are so much worse.)

 

You're not supposed to be alone in the Pure Land. Those who've gone before should meet you to lead you across the border. Sometimes one person, sometimes several, sometimes many. Even if you had no one in life - blood looks out for blood, and surely some ancestor or another will come. It isn't just the desperate hope of people scared of death; it's happened before that the monks have spoken to the dead, that the dead have been brought back to life. Rare. A thing of myths, she'd have said, if she hadn't seen the journals and records with her own eyes.

 

Tobi stares into the mist over the river, and not a single member of any family she's ever had the most tenuous claim to appears.

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It's unclear how long she waits. Time passes strangely, here.

But -

A man walks into the line of sight, following a thin, barely visible dry path along the river. His gaze is sweeping around, and it lights on Tobi. He pauses then, at the crux of the stream and the river, and raises a hand to wave and call, softly, "Hello?"

He's strange. Skin rosier than hers, hair pale yellow, clothed in soft brown robes with a cut that's both familiar and unfamiliar. Tall and broad shouldered, a fighter's muscles on his frame, but none of the scars or weathering to show it, other than thick callouses on his hands. There's a metal hilt strapped to his waist that hums with power, and power flows through him.

He's familiar.

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He's the first thing to occupy her mind since she died. The wash of gratitude through her threatens to overwhelm any leeriness. (The wounds on her soul have been only worsened by the solitude, the quiet, the empty gap where love should be.)

...She wants to be leery, at least in the trained part of her mind. Wants to guard herself. Wants to listen to the deep paranoia her training as a shinobi has hammered into her, stamped deep on her, forced through the natural tendencies of her heart.

Tobi is dead. What loyalties are there to protect? He might not be dead, too, so - she shouldn't betray Konoha's secrets -

(She doesn't really know any. She knows Uchiha secrets, but all of the Uchiha are dead or traitors so she can't, really, care anymore.)

(She's dead, and she doesn't want to carry the misery of life over with her.)

 

He's so, so achingly familiar. Like staring into her reflection in a clear pool as the surface ripples. Tobi's always been differently sensitive than most sensors, able to spot the relationships between people far faster than she can parse their strength, their elemental affinities, even their distance from her.

 

"Hello," she calls back, and her voice is perfectly and clear and smooth. She isn't thirsty, here. The fires that consumed her left no marks. The shouting she'd been doing, screaming at her idiot of an older brother - that, too, doesn't matter here.

She doesn't know whether she likes it.

"Are you here to lead me over?"

Maybe he's related to her. She suspects (knows) that Senju Tobirama was her grandfather. He doesn't look much like the Senju at all, but - maybe some ancestor, far enough up the line that none of his descendants remember him anymore. Someone who keeps an eye on his descendants, maybe, and took pity on her.

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"I'm not sure," he says, and starts walking up the slope to her. "Where were you going?"

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That jolts her a bit, rouses her from the daze her mind's been in, and she turns a more analytical gaze to him.

"...The Pure Land. Someone should - people always meet you at the border. So you don't have to pass away alone."

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He sits beside her, legs crossed, back straight, hands resting lightly on his thighs. "I haven't heard of the Pure Land."

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He moves like a monk. It threatens to put her at ease.

"I'm not sure how you haven't. I - this is where we are. Where everyone goes when they die."

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"Oh."

"I don't think I've died."

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"I have."

"It hurt. But maybe your death didn't, if you were asleep. Or... I know monks talk to ghosts sometimes, so the dead and living can wander where they aren't meant to be... Ending up in the Pure Land accidentally while you're still alive would be weird, but - world contains a lot of weird stuff."

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"I was meditating," he says, thinking. "Though this isn't quite normal for a vision during meditation."

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"Huh."

Normally she'd have more to say. Questions. Thoughts.

Instead her mind's kind of an empty static. She isn't even being visited by some long dead ancestor. Not even by someone who knows what the Pure Land is.

(How little could she possibly matter?)

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Frown.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

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"Dunno."

"Maybe?"

It'd be better than being alone.

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Hum. A moment to think, then: "Who were you expecting to meet you?"

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"My family." There's a spark in her chest that might be anger, if it wasn't so tired. "My mom or dad or uncle or - any of my ancestors... Some people get friends instead, but - I - none of my friends died before me. And if they died after - I'd probably try to meet them." She stares into the distance. "They were alive when I died. I - haven't felt them here, but I haven't felt anyone, and lots of people were dying."

"But I don't know how long it's been, here or in the Impure World. Maybe time won't pass until I make it across. Maybe it's been a century." Shiver.

She doesn't want to have missed her friends crossing. Especially Chihiro - Naruto's got a clan name so he probably has ancestors who pay attention to their blood (though Tobi doesn't...), but Chihiro has no one.

The thought of Chihiro dying alone is - way, way worse than the pain from Tobi's own death, her own abandonment.

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He puts a hand on her knee, squeezing gently. "You'll get to see them again," he says, firm and confident.

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"Thanks, but..."

"You didn't know what the Pure Land is, so..." Shrug. It's a nice sentiment. It'd be nice if it was true.

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"I know the future sometimes." A small quirk of his lips. "Or the shape of it. 'The future is always in motion.' And the shape of your future is - you'll see them again."

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He gets her full attention for the first time, the intense weight of her mind - dragged out of the morass it's been in since she died.

"You have foresight?"

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"Fore-myopia, perhaps." Smile.

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She laughs, startling herself.

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A softer smile, then: "What are your friends like?"

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That jolts her in a way talking about her dead family - probably wouldn't have.

"...I love them. I don't think it's possible to gesture at why in a way that actually communicates it?"

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Serious nod. "I know. The best people are like that. Just... Undefinable." Shrug. "But it can be nice to know how to say all the ways you love them."

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"I - yeah."

"There's three people I'm actually... Close, to? My teammates, Chihiro and Naruto, and our teacher, Kakashi."

"Chihiro's... Someone's hurt her in the past. She came to us just - totally convinced emotions are bad and that she's a weapon for our village. She's been warming up to us, though, and she's super caring and loyal. I think - she'd defy everything she's been told to be loyal to for us, though I don't want her to have to? And... I want her to be happy. To have someone worthy of her."

"Naruto's just, this total doofus? He's dumb in the ways school cared about, but he's sometimes really smart about people. He always makes me laugh when I need it most. He's got this stupidly big heart, like he doesn't care the world's going to keep hurting him for it - and he's stubborn. He wants to change the world. I - I'd wanted to help him."

"Kakashi... He acts light hearted and shallow, really. Like he doesn't care about the people around him, or about any responsibilities - not in a mean way? But - he shows up late to everything, and he gives these really silly excuses when he does. He reads fiction in the middle of important meetings. But he protects us. He cares, even if - he doesn't really know how to say it, I guess. I - want him to be allowed to care."

Pause, then: "There's some other people I know a little, but... I dunno that I'd lead them into the Pure Land. We weren't - basically family."

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"I think you should tell them all that, next time you meet," he says, softly.

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