You Call This A Utopia?! - yellow_caballero (2024)

Chapter Text

“Hey, kid. Wanna join a gang?”

Sakura halted, kunai half-buried in the hard packed dirt. She looked upwards, blinking owlishly.

Obito didn’t have to fight the urge to sweat, because he was partly wood and wasn’t capable of it. The desire persisted. Sakura blinked at him.

He was being ridiculous. The girl couldn’t level mountains with a punch or stop hearts with a touch. She wasn’t head of a hospital and inventor of a dozen medical techniques. She wasn’t even married. Not even to idiots. This was a whole-ass civilian child. She could barely stick a leaf to her abnormally large forehead.

“What kind of gang?” Sakura paused a beat. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“I’m not a stranger, I’m a ninja. That’s trustworthy.” Ninjas were pretty famous for being trustworthy, straightforward people. Granted, there was an outlier that should not be counted. “And it’s a fun gang. With…uh, candy.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes. “Where’s your headband?”

“Laundry day.”

Sakura applied every ounce of her genius intellect towards considering this. Obito carefully crouched down across from her, looking down at the small and crumbling hole she’d created. Wasn’t she a bit too old to dig in the dirt for fun?

Finally, she said, “Sorry, Suspicious Ninja-san. I have school, homework, and chores. And a class project due next week. I have no time in my schedule for a gang.”

“Not even if it’s a really good one?” Obito wheedled.

Sakura shook her head solemnly.

Obito sighed dramatically, poking a gloved finger into the small hole. He allowed Sakura to smack his finger away with the kunai, ignoring her glare. It was super cute and potentially deadly. “So you’re too busy learning away, huh? Guess you’re just another kid with no intellectual curiosity. If you’re perfectly happy with the normal classes, I guess you don’t need advanced ones…”

Obviously, that got her attention. Obito knew full well that classes weren’t challenging her. Acing all of them across the board was a point of pride, but she knew that she wasn’t reaching her potential. She wanted to ace more difficult exams, which was more pride, and continue onwards towards higher difficulty in her quest for self-esteem. She searched unceasingly for the most difficult questions so she could experience the vain victory of knowing she was better than everybody else. Gifted kids. They were all the same.

“Is your gang a class?” Sakura demanded. “Is it special tutoring? Like the clan kids get?”

Ah. And maybe she wanted to do the impossible just to be as good as everybody else. That had always been the life of Sakura Haruno.

“It’s a group of people bound together by a shared dream,” Obito said mysteriously. Sakura’s eyes widened. “Yeah, we teach each other things. Special secret techniques that only we know. Here, I’ll show you one.” He looked down at the hole, brushing away stray rocks. “You weren’t using this hole for anything, right?”

“I was digging for worms,” Sakura said, frank and even. Somehow, her little dress didn’t have a speck of mud on it.

“Cool. Uh, why?”

“They have really simple chakra networks.”

“Sorry I asked.” Obito dug his finger a little deeper into the hole, forming a small cavity, before raising his hand and cupping it over the hole. “Watch carefully. A true ninja looks underneath the underneath.”

Anybody looking from a distance - anybody from ANBU to nosy mothers - would have assumed he dug into the hole and pulled it out. But Sakura, ear to the ground and big green eyes fixed on the magic underneath Obito’s hand, saw it clearly.

A wisp of green pushed through the bottom of the hole. It slowly rose upwards, leaves growing and unfurling, as it reached the top of the hole and continued to grow. Petals budded at the top of the plant and unfurled, spreading pink. Spring passed in an instant, and in a slight of hand Obito pulled the plant up by the stem and pretended it had been there all along.

It was a camilla, petals dyed as pink as Sakura’s hair. Obito ceremoniously presented it to her. She was almost unable to take it: she was stupified, surprised stiff. She knew exactly what she had just seen.

She mouthed three syllables to herself: Mokuton. Obito smiled slyly.

Sakura finally took the flower, inspecting it closely. Somewhat critically, she said, “Camillas don’t come in pink.”

“I thought I’d cater to my audience.” Obito leaned in, and Sakura ducked her head to match him. “I can teach you how to do it.”

Sakura’s eyes narrowed, twirling the flower between her finger and thumb. “It’s a kekkai genkai. You can’t teach kekkai genkais. And nobody would, anyway.”

“I would. I’m even offering.”

“Who are you?”

“Guy who wants to put together a gang. With fun and candy.”

Sakura’s eyes narrowed further into slits. “You said the gang already existed.”

“Let’s just say that we’re getting the gang back together for the very first time.”

“Why would we say that?”

She had not warned him that it would be this difficult. Obito remembered little girls as being way more pliable than this. But most little girls would have run away from strangers offering free rides, so maybe Sakura was more gullible than most. Or more susceptible to temptation. But every great ninja was.

“Flowers have simple chakra systems too.” Obito put his hand over the pit again. “Feel for my chakra this time. Earth and water. Watch what I do.”

He made a small sapling this time, which was far simpler and straightforward than creating a flower that didn’t exist. Sakura watched him carefully, eyes closed shut, and when he finished she reached in and ripped out the sapling herself. She studied the sapling carefully before sticking it in her mouth, running her tongue over the leaves and stem. Then she spat it out, brushing dirt over the plant as if burying a body and placing her hand over the hole.

Sakura screwed her eyes shut and lay there for a long time. Obito’s mind almost started spiraling into megalomania again before she began drawing her hand up. She made several small motions with her fingers, almost pinching, and Obito watched in marked interest as a small sapling rose from the soil. It only grew an inch out of the soil, and it was nothing more than a sprout, but so was Sakura.

When she opened her eyes and saw what she had made - when she realized that the no-name and do-nothing girl could create a Mokuton as mighty as the god’s - Obito knew that he had hooked her.

Obito smiled at her, stiff and unyielding. “I have a dream. I’m dreaming of a world filled with meadows of beautiful flowers and forests of the tallest trees. You could help me create this dream, Sakura. I can teach you some of it, but you’ll have to make it the rest of the way on your own.”

The sapling sat in Sakura’s palm, and Obito knew that she found it far more beautiful than any flower. When she spoke, she stared at the sapling. “How?”

“Well…” Obito scratched at the back of his neck, laughing slightly. “How do you feel about crime?”

Crime ?!”

In the end, he had to kidnap her a bit. Technically he could have kidnapped her from the beginning, but a little work now saved a lot of work later. She complained a lot at first about her ‘family’ and ‘school’ and ‘desertion’, but she got over all of that predictably quickly. Her village did too: a disappearing child was not noteworthy in Konoha. Worst case scenario they’d accidentally stir up some ‘but I thought you kidnapped her for your child army’ situations.

Obito would create a heaven on earth, come hell or high water. Anybody who got in his way would die, from the lowliest Suna ninja to the Hokage himself. That was what it meant to be an optimist. And this little girl would be key to it all.

Don’t ask why Obito was doing this.

Don’t question Obito at all. The answers wouldn’t satisfy and the logic wouldn’t make sense to the average person. This wasn’t because Obito was insane. Obito was the last sane person left in this warped and corrupted world. Anybody who didn’t understand just wasn’t tuned into the great truths of the universe like Obito was. They definitely hadn’t spent formative years of their life locked in a cave with a zombie highly invested in sending Obito through the gauntlet of tragedy that revealed the world to you.

Maybe Obito used to be insane. He could admit that, up until roughly two weeks ago, he’d been under some dicey impressions and had subjected the world to some logic that, maybe, only made sense to him. But not anymore. These days Obito was happy with his present degree of sane. A time traveling ghost had helped him out.

It hadn’t even been his idea.

Obito had a bit of a weird one after the ghost situation. Lots of drunken ranting at Madara’s desiccated skeleton and that ugly-ass statue. Some cutting evil people in half with Kamui, just to see if it would help him feel something. It didn’t. Secluding himself in Kamui and brooding, which literally never helped - the disembodied legs ruined the vibe a bit. In his weirdest one of all, at the end of his bizarre existential crisis and at the forefront of the world’s pain, he showed up at the Akatsuki base and got drunk with Konan.

He thought he’d have to convince her, but after five seconds of squinting suspiciously at the sake bottle and the characteristically depressed Uchiha Madara she succumbed to her own demons and made them the sake bowls from chakra-waxed paper. It actually wasn’t the first time they’d done this - Konan didn’t trust him an inch and she always took the opportunity to get his guard down in hopes he’d spill something - and soon enough they were both drinking with mauldin abandon in her office. The sake tasted like the rain of Ame, and it was a little salty like tears.

“What would you do,” Obito announced dramatically, leaning back until his chair was balanced on two legs and propping his boots on the scuffed table, “if you found out that our plans were destined for failure?” Like: really embarrassing failure. The kind of failure that made other people look great and made you look like a moron.

Konan blinked sleepily. Her posture was perfect and upright, just as always, and she sipped the sake like a daimyo’s wife. “That’s not a productive line of thought.”

“As a hypothetical.”

“I have enough to worry about without worrying about hypotheticals.”

This was why Konan was the administrator and not the planner. She had no vision. Nagato and Yachiko’s corpse filled her eyes.

“You’re an idealist too, Konan. Don’t hide behind Pein.” Obito reached over and filled up her bowl to the brim. She wordlessly performed five toxin detecting jutsus, as she had for the last two bowls. “What would you do if we can’t create peace?”

Konan serenely sipped her drink. “Die trying.”

She probably intended to evoke images of heroically dying to protect Ame. She probably would. People like her always had clever ways of killing themselves. She wouldn’t go until Nagato went, but Nagato was first in line on the ‘die trying’ front.

Obito slowly poured her more sake. Konan had been dealing with Hidan all day, so she took it.

They were well and truly trashed and reminiscing about the early days of the Akatsuki: With Less Psychopaths edition before Obito finally wrangled a real answer out of Konan. As usual after a certain point of drunkenness, she was making origami hippos. They were immaculate. Konan had to be the only person who could do origami like that drunk.

“You can’t ask ninja to stop killing each other. It’s all we know how to do. It’s the shape of the world.” She had learned that lesson the hard way from Hanzo. Obito nodded sagely. “That’s why it has to be drastic. You have to remove the world to bring out the goodness of humanity.”

Obito nodded sagely. “And that’s why you have to kill half the world.”

Which was f*cking stupid, by the way. But Obito didn’t believe in micromanaging.

But Konan’s fingers halted over her hippo, hovering just above the fine paper. “I don’t worry about hypotheticals, Madara. But sometimes I wonder…”

“If creating an apocalypse would bring out the best of humanity and not the worst? If that’s, like, super improbable?” Konan was the sanest Akatsuki member. She had to know it was dumb. Maybe he could just open her eyes and she could do the hard work of changing the plan. That was an idea. He’d trust her with it.

Konan’s fingers worked the hippo into life. “Yes. Maybe the only effective strategy would be to kill the world and start over.”

Nice idea while it lasted. “So you’ve given up on saving anybody?”

“Yes.” Konan caged the hippo with one hand and slowly drew her hand up, raising the hippo’s head and sending it stumbling to its feet. Like Obito and a flower, like a little girl and a sapling, Konan coaxed the ancient remains of death back into life.”But it would save the next generation. Writing over evil words only creates a mess. If we can provide a fresh page for whoever comes after us…I believe that’s the closest we can come to creating peace.”

The next generation, huh? Obito relaxed in his chair, taking a swig of sake straight from the bottle. Faces flashed in his mind, colored with affection and familiarity. A haughty girl with a proud smile. A boy whose smile brought warmth in a frigid life. A boy with his face turned away, who bent and broke under the weight of the world’s hatred.

They could do good. They would do good. If only given the chance.

“Starting from scratch, hm? Not a bad idea.” Obito extended a finger and poked at the slowly tottering hippo, exercising its right to life by exploring its new world. The hippo wobbled with the motion - its first violence. “A new generation that doesn’t know we’re supposed to hate each other…not bad at all.”

Konan dropped her chin on the table, resting it on top of folded hands. She watched the hippo mournfully, letting it stumble about and bump into bottles and bowls. It accepted the knocks with good grace, and the setbacks never discouraged its endless quest for greater adventure.

“We were good children,” Konan whispered. “Until we were punished for wanting more.” Obito fought the urge to squirm uncomfortably. “Without Hanzo…those children could have done well.”

Hanzo and Uchiha Madara. Hanzo and Obito. In his defense, he had been a child too.

“You’re doing well yourself.”

Konan shot him a withering look - ‘I just unabashedly advocated for destroying the world, and because I am saner than you I know that was a freak thing to say’. Not sane enough not to believe it, but sane enough to know that this was a path you had chosen. Obito had only reached that level of self-reflection within the past week.

“If Ame had destroyed itself, and if I were selfish…” Konan stroked the hippo with one finger. It shook happily, arching upwards into the touch. “If I were tremendously selfish. I would take all of Ame’s orphans - the orphans of the world - and create a world just for them. A little village without adults to teach them violence or pain. Without bijuu or ninjas. Just a place where three orphans can be together. That’s all I want, I think…”

“If you were selfish,” Obito said quietly.

Konan yawned. “Yes. If I were selfish. Goodnight.”

Then Konan put her head down on the table and promptly fell asleep. Obito stood up, unclasping his cloak and draping it around her shoulders. He looked down at the animated hippo, who looked up at him with wide eyes. Its guileless and purely stupid air reminded him of somebody.

“Can I put my faith in you,” Obito asked, “the most selfish and surprising ninja of all? Can I pass the world onto you, Naruto?”

The mobile piece of paper, which was slightly smarter than Naruto, squeaked at him.

“You’re right,” Obito conceded. “I need to clean up first. Thanks a lot, Hippo-san.”

Obito reached out and scooped up the hippo. He clenched his fist and reduced it to ash, before opening his hand and letting the ash drift away in the wind.

Obito had an idea. But he’d have to delegate.

It was saner, better, and healthier than his past idea. That had been Madara’s idea, so you knew it was crap. Guy had already tried and failed to create a peaceful world once - no more chances for that withered old corpse. His way hadn’t worked the first time, so why should it work the second?

Obito’s own idea - well, it was still a pretty good idea to him. Infinite Tsukiyomi was the blank slate the world needed. But he had intel from a fairly reliable source that the Infinite Tsukiyomi plan wouldn’t go as well as he expected, and that it would actually bum him out a bit. That would make a good back-up plan, but it couldn’t be his first idea anymore.

He would put his faith in Konan, who was insane enough to understand the world and practical enough to have effective ideas on how to do something about it. Her greatest weakness was pedestrian, and it clouded her vision. Ninjas and their damn loyalty. Obito didn’t have loyalty to anybody or anything, so he could overcome. All he needed was the perfect person to plunge their hand into the scorched earth and draw out new life from the ashes.

Luckily, he had the perfect person in mind. It must be fate.

When Konan woke, Obito was gone. She wouldn’t see him again for many months.

The day of Sakura’s final exam bloomed bright and early. Very early.

All of Sakura’s days started early, because Obito did not sleep and he got bored. But she woke up on her own an hour early that day, and when Obito meandered back into their campsite at four in the morning stinking of espionage she was already up and training. Obviously training in preparation for a fight - she was already soaking in sweat and sticking to a rapid repetition of taijutsu katas, legs unbound by weights and chakra flowing sluggishly and unmolded through her muscles. She stopped immediately when she saw standing above her, perched on a cliff ledge and watching her, and she almost jumped up and down in her eagerness to wave him over. Obito carefully sniffed himself and double-checked that he didn’t smell like blood more than usual before hopping down from the cliff and landing gently in front of her.

“When I pass, are you going to tell me what you do all night?” Sakura cried. “Are you going to take me with you?”

“When you pass you’ll be busy doing far more important things.” Obito smiled mysteriously as Sakura narrowed her eyes. Her love for concise and clear information versus Obito’s refusal to answer a straight question was a recurring frustration for her and amusem*nt for him. “So training’s started already, huh?”

Sakura reflexively threw a punch. Good reflexes: Obito was already diving for her.

Today being Sakura’s Big Special Day didn’t disrupt their schedule. The taijutsu training and meditation first thing in the morning, followed by catching and eating breakfast. Just to congratulate a special girl on her special day, Obito magnanimously presented the eggs he had bought from Hot Water about an hour ago. Sakura knew better than to question the magic procurement of random sh*t and to count her blessings. As the subject of a ruthless psychological experiment conducted upon a hapless and unwitting child, she was under the impression that her life was full of blessings.

After eighteen months of travels, Obito could tell when Sakura was bursting with the desire to ask a question. Or to get her final exam on the road. In her defense, she had been obsessively studying and training to the ground for a month in preparation. Obito may have talked up how important it was.

Obito cleared his throat, and Sakura’s attention instantly snapped to him. They were sitting cross-legged around the campfire, Sakura shoveling eggs in her gullet as quickly as possible. She would have asked about the final exam in about two more minutes, so he was cutting in early.

“You may have wondered why I brought you to this place,” Obito said grandly, resting both hands on his kneecaps.

“I’ve asked you, like, ten times,” Sakura said plainly.

Obito ignored her. He swept out an arm, encompassing all of their surroundings with a flourish: the canyons, the caves, the endless field of bones, the millions of bones, etc. “Why would a dashingly attractive man and an adorable young girl spend two weeks in this disgusting Mountain Graveyard filled with caves, skeletons, and sh*ttiness? You may ask. But you should be asking a better question, my dear student. Why shouldn’t we spend two weeks here?”

Sakura narrowed her eyes. She didn’t fall for his deflections anymore. “You’ve been doing something secret, Sensei. I saw you swallowing up that forest last week.”

“It is the duty of corpses to feed the living. Those sh*tty trees are back in the soil, and will be put to better use.” Obito leaned forward, and he knew his one eye spun with the power of something ancient. Despite herself, Sakura leaned forward too. “We are in a graveyard right now because corpses are the bed from which new life grows. What location is the best place to build new life, my dear student?”

“A graveyard?” Sakura’s quick mind put together the pieces instantly. “You want to make something with Mokuton here ? But the land’s totally dead, Sensei.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing?” Obito asked cheerfully. “And don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’m not making something with Mokuton. We’re making something with Mokuton. That’s your final exam. It’s going to be the most important thing we’ve ever made.”

Sakura grinned, green eyes shining brightly. “What are we waiting for!”

“That’s a girl!”

Sakura had never quite overcome her habit of relentlessly asking questions. This was a terrible trait in an underling and ninja, but Obito discovered that an intellectually curious student was a pleasure. Obito himself was a treasure trove of ancient and lost knowledge of forbidden or forgotten jutsu - creaky-ass men were good for something - and passing on his techniques to an attentive child made him feel smart. Obito usually just told Sakura that she was an apprentice in the school of hard knocks and a student in the ancient ninja arts of anything goes. Yes, anything . Biting included.

If Obito was mysterious and cool enough she usually gave it up as a bad job. Obito kept his mouth stubbornly shut about their adventure of the day, and eventually Sakura rolled her eyes and acquiesced to running across the cracked plains in silence.

She didn’t say anything as Obito took her to the special spot he had scouted and outlined the previous week. It was near a dry riverbed - nothing some specialized top secret Hot Water justu couldn’t fix - and was located at the base of a dry, crumbling mountain. The sun beat down on them, staining his tan skin and prickling his wooden flesh, and the distant sounds of animalia bellowed and skittered in the distance. It was an inhospitable desert, robbed of life and forever devoid of a future. On the surface, it seemed unlivable. That was why you lived underneath the surface in a stinky cave, like Obito.

Always look underneath the underneath. That was nice, pithy quote. Sakura ate it up. Rin used to say it, usually as she peeled back the muscle of a triage patient and proudly showed shattered bone. A good doctor doesn’t stop at the obvious diagnosis, supposedly. A good doctor didn’t mistake a symptom for the solution - they found the rot at the source, and they grabbed the weed by the stem and pulled it out.

The true reason why Sakura’s sandals crunched on the shattered bones of millions was far more complex than a cause of death. It was leagues beyond cruelty. Scratch the surface of cruelty, and if you dug down far enough and found the underneath the underneath the underneath - there Obito lay. Obito was the suffering of the world in a neat little package, delivered to its own doorstep. He was the crime and the punishment. The sin and the sinner. Cut Obito deep, and you saw society itself - the world itself. That was the key to a better world.

The Mountain Graveyard was more than capable of supporting life. It had given birth to Obito. It was just dead. Obito thought he could fix that. This was filial piety or something.

“How big is this circle?” Sakura crouched down and experimentally licked some dirt, testing out the soil composition. Obito fetched his kit from Kamui and tossed the rest of their bags inside. Sakura had never carried a supply pack in her life. “Did you do something to it? It reeks of chakra.” Sakura placed her hand on the ground, eyebrows furrowing. “It’s…fertile. Really fertile. Is this what you were doing with those trees, Sensei?”

“Right again, my super-cute student. Your final exam will be…drumroll please, Sakura.” Sakura obediently clapped her hands, stone faced. With a theatrical flourish, Obito gestured towards the wide and empty landscape in front of them. “Building a tree!”

Sakura straightened. She squinted at the landscape. She looked at Obito. She squinted at the landscape again.

“This is going to be an awfully big tree, isn’t it,” Sakura said mournfully.

“It’s a final exam, not a midterm.”

“As big as the entire ring , Sensei?” Obito shrugged helpfully. Sakura sighed and sped off, running around the circle in a blur of motion. Her shunshin wasn’t bad. She’d master stopping one day. Look, she barely even hit the ground. “Ow! Sensei, that ring is gigantic. I could do half the size maybe .”

Obito made a happy ‘v’ peace sign as Sakura scrambled up. “That’s why your super-cool sensei is going to give you a helping hand on this one!” Sakura breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, now she definitely wanted him to do all the work. No can do. “Do you have any spare blood, by the way? Any ounces you won’t miss? I might need it for the sacrifice.”

“The what ?” Sakura screeched.

“Tree this big ain’t gonna make itself.” Obito withdrew a rolled up series of blueprints from the kit, tossing them at Sakura. She plucked them from midair, increasingly distressed and likely wondering if he had hid shuriken in them. “Memorize those blueprints, they’re what we’re building. If even a centimeter is out of place the whole thing might come crashing down, so make sure to do a good job!”

Sakura scanned the blueprints, eyes darting around the page until the reality of her situation finally clicked. Some of the reality. Honestly, such a small percentage of reality it was pretty funny. “This is a village. This tree will be completely hollow inside - fortified walls, structures inside, irrigation systems…you want to build a village hidden in a tree ?”

We want to build a village in a tree!”

Sakura opened and closed her mouth, flabbergasted. She was still so easy to shock. Life with him had probably made her a bit more easygoing than the average ten year old, but Obito liked to surprise. Prepared her for later in life.

“There’s already a village hidden in the leaves,” Sakura said weakly. “We can’t have two …”

This girl never focused on the right things. “I don’t know what a village hidden in the leaves is. A tree bore me like a fruit and I have wandered the world ever since.”

“Sensei, my mom says lies make your tongue fall out.”

“Your mother thinks you’ve been kidnapped by an evil child stealer and that you’re probably dead in a ditch somewhere,” Obito said patiently. “Your mother is not the expert in the universe. Trust me, your sensei. Now read those blueprints.”

Sakura read the blueprints, somewhat sulkily. Obito made a blood sacrifice to the thirsty earth.

A good teacher played mind tricks and acted as if only an idiot couldn’t do the impossible, but truth be told he was actually asking her for the impossible. A tree on this scale, with this level of precision - only Hashirama would be able to do it. An untalented ten year old had no chance. Realistically, maybe not even Obito.

The impossible and possible melded together in Obito’s mind, forming a misty haze where dreams and reality stood hand-in-hand and the next world overlapped the last. So, like, he could probably do this. He could definitely do this. All he needed was the help of an untalented ten year old and rampant cheating.

Mokuton required an absolute f*ckton of chakra. It was objectively impressive how Sakura managed the technique despite her absolute deficit. Hashirama’s chakra could be measured in the metric f*ckton, and the surplus of mad scientists in the world creating little Hashiramas replicated those large stores. Wasn’t it about time to kill Orochimaru? It absolutely was. How wonderful was it to put plans in motion.

Between the Uchiha genes, the genetic experimentation, and Zetsu’s whatever , Obito had chakra to spare. Soiled, dirty, debatably evil chakra, but chakra all the same. Time to fertilize.

Obito walked into the circle. He withdrew a kunai from his pouch, holding the edge to a major artery. It would bleed heavily for a few seconds before closing up, so he’d have to remake the cut several times. Super lucky he practiced with all those unsuccessful suicide attempts.

But just as Obito began to press the blade into his palm, he froze. He looked at Sakura, who was lying on the ground surveying her blueprints with increasing excitement. She had pinned them all to the ground with kunai, and her little pencil was working furiously as she made little footnotes to every measurement. She was a spare piece of paper away from making flash cards. As usual, she overcame her moral qualms quickly.

Wasn’t this meant to be a new society? Free of the sins of the forefathers? He couldn’t mix his dirty blood into Sakura’s new world. Sure, the world wasn’t perfect, he’d have to involve himself at first, but he knew that one day he could take off the training wheels and let Sakura fly. Mixing a soiled heart into this earth would only bear soiled fruit.

Look at what happened to Konoha. It was founded on unresolved sexual tension and a f*cking curse of hatred. That was terrible juju. Obito was the final son of that curse. He couldn’t afford to mix it into this new world.

“Hey, kiddo!” Obito called. “Can I borrow some of your blood?”

There. Wholesome.

“What?” Sakura screeched. “What for ?”

“Nothing weird!”

“I’m busy with the blueprints!”

“Come on, just a little …”

“Ugh. Fine.” Sakura scrambled upwards and jogged towards him. She stood in front of him, scowling and sticking her arm out. “I hope this is for a good reason.”

It didn’t have the chakra at all. But life force was life force. She could heal her own arterial spray, anyway.

Obito took her arm, ready to press the kunai against her artery. But he found himself pausing instead. He looked at Sakura - patiently waiting, as Obito held a kunai over her pulse. What absolute trust. What absolute innocence. Obito had preserved that innocence.

“Sakura,” Obito murmured. “Do you remember what I told you back then? About my dream?”

Sakura nodded, pigtails bouncing. “You said you wanted to create a meadow with pretty flowers. Is this the meadow you were talking about?”

“Yes. Thank you for helping my dream come true, Sakura.”

Her cheeks flushed, and she hurriedly looked away. “You could have made as many flowers as you wanted by yourself, you know. You never explained what you needed me for.”

“Who would I have made the flowers for?” Obito asked. Sakura’s eyebrows creased in confusion. “I would find no joy in them. Flowers are just flowers to me. But they’re very beautiful to you, aren’t they?” Somewhat slyly, he added, “They remind you of somebody even more beautiful.”

“Sensei!”

Obito rasped a hoarse laugh. He reached out with his wooden hand and patted Sakura on the head, ignoring her scowl and flushed cheeks. “Forgive your old sensei, Sakura. I may have lied just a little.” Sakura was not surprised. Rude! “What I really dream of is…a world where flowers are beautiful to everybody. A world without stupid adults who mess everything up. A world that’s led by only the very smart and very kind, where no kind person is punished for being kind and no smart person is abused for being smart.” A smile flashed in his mind. An invisible scowl lingered. “I’m a silly old man who bears a stupider old curse. I needed a fresh face like you to make my vision reality.”

Sakura had never heard of a curse. Her eyebrows furrowed, as if he was teaching her something innocent and new and nothing more. “Who put the curse on you?”

“Two people who loved each other way too much,” Obito said, “and who lost faith in a world that wanted them dead.”

“What was the curse?”

“A curse of hatred,” Obito said simply. “A curse to hate and be hated.”

“Oh.” Sakura thought hard, turning the new concepts over in her mind. Finally, she only said, “I don’t hate you. And you don’t hate me?”

“Only when you use up the hot water.”

“Does that mean the curse is broken?” Sakura asked. “Does it work like that?”

No. Not at all.

“I think so.” Obito slowly withdrew the kunai, replacing it inside the kit. He’d have to do without for right now. This stage of the plan was too delicate to take a risk. “Now. Are you ready to rumba?”

“Born ready, Sensei!”

“That’s the spirit!”

There was nobody around for miles on miles. Obito had checked, and had enforced that rigorously. Nobody saw a new world born from dead soil and millions of graves, and history was changed in silence.

Nobody but the ghosts. If the ghosts only looked at Obito and Sakura, they would have found a very boring sight - just a young man and a little girl prostrated on the floor, as if praying to a god for a sublime favor. They had changed into a tank top, camisole, and shorts, maximizing contact with the warm earth. They did not move for hours. They only stopped once the girl collapsed from exhaustion. She had lasted far longer than Obito had expected. Exceeding expectations in every way, as always.

But Obito had felt it, in every passionate root and agonizing second that ticked by. Sakura believed in his dream too. Sakura wanted it more than anything. She had memorized the blueprints and loved them already - she could already understand his vision to completion. When Obito looked at what they had made, he saw that she had built the most beautiful version of his vision in her own mind. Something so beautiful was far, far beyond him. The sakura leaves blew the world into pink. Girl had a signature.

Of course it was beautiful. The most beautiful sight in the world was the bouquet of flowers held in the soft hands of a ten year old girl’s crush. Obito could only remember the memory of a memory of Rin’s unparalleled beauty. Beautiful forever and lost to time.

Hopefully the ghosts were watching the tree grow instead. After the first hour the view probably wasn’t that exciting, since they had to build the outside shell and moved towards establishing the far more difficult internal work. But it must have been a sight to behold, a sight unseen since Hashirama argued with nature and built a forest from the ground up.

In Obito’s infinite generosity, he force-fed Sakura chakra pills and waited by her bedside until she woke up. She probably needed medical attention, but she could walk it off. Shodaimes were big kids.

It took hours before Sakura groaned herself awake. She flopped onto her back, gasping for breath. She extended her tongue, and Obito helpfully fed her another chakra pill. It went down the wrong way, but after a minute of coughing she finally found her breath.

“Did it work?”

“See for yourself.”

With trembling muscles and heaves for breath, Sakura pushed herself upright. She twisted around to look at what they made together. Their baby, even, if that wouldn’t be incredibly weird.

At first blush, she was underwhelmed. It was just a wall of bark. Very, very sturdy bark - bark that wouldn’t catch fire if an Uchiha did their gosh darn best, bark that couldn’t be punctured if a rambunctious Naruto had too many cups of coffee that morning. But just bark. Bugs were already crawling on the surface, fascinated. They’d lose interest eventually. The thing was sealed up tight. Bugs, animals, poison gas - nothing could penetrate those walls.

Then Sakura looked to the right. In this infinite expanse of nothing, she saw the bark stretch. And stretch. And stretch, far into the horizon. She looked to the left and saw the same. If she fed a stream of chakra to her eyes - there she went! - she could see the bark curve into the horizon. When she looked upwards, the bark stretched upwards until a thick copse of branches and sakura petals obscured their vision. A bird flying high in the sky would put together the strips of bark into a tree, but a human would be hard pressed.

The sound of roots bursting from the ground had probably shaken the forest. There was a root as high as Sakura’s head only a few paces from them, and if Obito stepped back and walked around he would see even more. Some were small, only about as wide as Sakura and five times as long, while others were twice as tall as Obito and wider than two Kisames. Upturned dirt crumbled at their feet, sending shaking worms scrambling for cover.

Sakura stared at her work with wide eyes for a very long time. She craned her head backwards and stared transfixed at the sakura leaves above them, folding the world into an explosion of pink. A tear track ran down her face, and Obito politely pretended he didn’t see her.

Finally, she whispered, “Did I pass?”

“You betcha. Congratulations, kid. You’re officially a graduate of the School Of Hard Knocks.” He reached out and ruffled her hair again, rubbing specks of dirt into her already muddy pink hair. “Class of Age of Lameass Old Guy, graduating population one. But what a one she is!”

“Graduate?” Sakura gasped, horrified. “Are we - are we done ?”

“Yep! Bye!”

Sakura burst into tears. Holy hell. Sakura cried constantly and Obito never knew what to do about it. At this point he just let her cry herself out until she could talk about things like a normal adult person instead of some sort of tween girl or something.

“You’re ditching me!”

“Yep!”

The crying redoubled. Whoops.

Oh, well. Such was reality. Obito opened up Kamui and dropped a giant sack on the ground, then another. Sakura stopped crying from sheer confusion, watching the bags land on the floor with sick fascination. There were seven in total, all full to bursting.

“Welcome to the village hidden in the sakura blossoms.” Man, that felt cool to say. He was glad he went with Sakura. Would hate to found a village hidden in the fishcakes or something. “You’re its new Shodaime. Yipee!”

Sakura stared at him, horrified.

“Instructions are in there. Somewhere.” Obito pointed helpfully at the massive pile of sacks. “Guidelines, suggestions, utopia outlines, the works. Economy and taxes and leadership guides too. I got a five for one deal on used scrolls on how to be a good manager in the workplace, so I stuffed a ton of those in there! Everything you would need. Oh, and one sack is just a sh*tton of money. There’s a book on investing in there, you could do that. Or just spend it. You’re ten, you’re old enough to have money. And a village.”

Slowly, Sakura said, “You are…leaving. Me. So I can… lead a village . Without an adult.”

“Rule of the village is that no adults are ever promoted beyond genin, actually.”

Without an adult ?”

“Adults are evil,” Obito said patiently. “We’ve been over this.”

Sakura lay back down, flopping face down in the dirt. Obito sympathetically patted her back.

“I don’t want a village ,” Sakura moaned. “I’m ten . I can’t do infrastructure .”

“Sure you are. You’re Sakura Haruno. Nobody ever said dreams are easy, kid. If they were easy then they’d be reality ages ago. But you said you wanted to make our dream come true, right?” Sakura moaned in miserable assent. “Then suck it up, buttercup. You’ve got a hard path in front of you. But one day you’ll stand in a meadow of flowers and you’ll realize you have everything you ever wanted. As a maniac would say, just learn the genius of hard work!”

Sakura turned her head to face him, cheeks red. “Why can’t you stay?”

“I’ll be putting my own hard work. It’s our dream, remember?” Obito poked her in the cheek, making her puff out her cheeks adorably. “One girl can’t create a village on her own. I have a lot of work to do behind the scenes. So just trust that your super-cool sensei is pulling his own weight and helping you out from the sidelines.”

Sakura’s brow furrowed, and she pushed herself upwards. “Is why you disappear all of the time? Are you doing your behind the scenes work?”

“You caught me. Creating paradise isn’t exactly 1-2-3, you know.” Obito grinned brightly, holding up two peace signs. “By the way! This is probably the last time you’ll see me like this in a while. When we meet again, I’ll be very different. Just know that I’m always your good old sensei deep down! And that if you don’t act natural in the slightest bit then I am going to be very, very sad. I will take out that sadness on you. Rigorously.”

Sakura’s eyebrows skyrocketed up, and she pushed herself fully into a sitting position. Obito rolled to his feet - gotta keep the high ground. “What does that mean? ‘Like this’? Are you going undercover?”

“Maybe! That would be fun!”

“Sensei, that’s not an answer .”

“You’ve graduated from my school of anything goes, blossom. No more easy answers for you. So I’ll be back with thirty kidnapped children…” Obito pretended to check a watch. “Three months from now? So make sure the village is all ready for them! You should expect the next group of kidnapped children three months after that. They’ll be the subject of genetic experiments, so be extra nice to them.”

“Aaaa,” Sakura said.

Obito patted her neatly on the head. “I believe in you. Dattebayo and all that.” It would be a long time before grabbing Naruto would be remotely intelligent, but Obito was a patient guy. It probably even wouldn’t be a smart move, but the Plan Ruining Time Travelling Ghost might cry if he split up her little polycule or something. “I’ll be back soon! Remember the dream, Sakura! Remember the dream!”

“Sensei -!”

But Obito had stayed long enough, and he was already gone.

He shouldn’t have stayed at all. Raising students involved throwing them out of the nest and going out for tobacco and never returning. He should have made a cleaner cut - left her on her own, ready to act as the implement of Obito’s vision.

But a certain Sakura had too many cruel and silent goodbyes in her life. Obito had decided to spare her those little cruelties a long time ago. His implement needed to be an innocent and happy child. It was for science.

“Rin,” Obito whispered. “Would you have liked this plan a little bit better?”

When that time traveling ghost downloaded the whacked-up future into Obito’s head, Sakura Haruno seemed like her very own ghost of Rin. Saving Sakura and giving her a happy life (for science) felt a little like a second chance that the world so rarely gave.

After eighteen months, he only saw Sakura. In its own way, it was a loss. Her childish face would never be as perfect as Rin’s. But, for the first time in an exceedingly long time, Obito found himself preferring the company of an imperfect living and breathing little girl - a little girl he hadn’t failed yet, who still had a chance to create a better world - over the company of a perfect ghost.

Obito left a shadow clone hidden in the sakura leaves. Just in case.

“Sixty five bottles of beer on the wall, sixty five bottles of beer - take one down, pass it around, sixty four bottles of beer on the wall, sixty four bottles of beer - take one down, pass it around, sixty three bottles of beer on the wall!”

“Looks like we’re almost there,” Kisame said. “Goodie.”

Obito screeched to a halt, arms failing and almost tripping over his feet. Kisame fell to a far more natural stop beside him, landing lightly on the balls of his feet despite his easily four hundred pound weight plus fifty pound sword. Kisame would not let Tobi touch the sword and it was so unfair.

Obito squealed, jumping up and down. He leaned forward and shaded his eyes, making a show of looking around the empty plains. There was really only one thing to see. “Are we? Where? Where!”

Kisame stared flatly at him. “Should I be the one asking you that?”

“I get lost easily,” Obito said plainly.

Kisame rolled his eyes, but he didn’t snap at him. Kisame’s deep well of patience ran further than his sea of chakra. Tobi could even bug Itachi-kun, but Kisame was impervious. Probably helped that he had sussed out that Tobi had been the shadow Mizukage for a few years before he tossed the hat to Mai and booked it. Kisame was politely pretending he didn’t know, Obito was pretending he didn’t know that Kisame knew, Kisame was pretending that he didn’t know that Obito was pretending he didn’t know that Kisame knew, etc, etc. It was very relaxing. Kisame was a calming presence.

He was also a loyal one. For whatever reason, he was loyal to Obito. Obito hadn’t figured out why, but you didn’t look a gift shark in its exceptionally sharp teeth. This gift shark was the optimal choice for a re-gift. The metaphor was stretching a bit.

Kisame pointed straight ahead towards the horizon. They were so far away that the tree looked like a real, if absolutely ginormous and overwhelmingly pink, tree. With Obito and Kisame’s stamina they would be there by the end of the day - or, if Obito kept singing, in a few hours. “There is nothing around here for days but that suspiciously pink tree. It has to be what you wanted to show me.”

Obito hummed, crossing his arms and tilting his head. “Why would I want to show Kisame a tree? That’s a lil’ weird. Trees have bugs and Tobi doesn’t like bugs. Gah- ross .” There was more than one way to plant a seed. “Okey dokey, back to running!”

Out of respect for Kisame’s clearly churning mind, Obito cut out the singing. It was pleasantly novel to see the tree slowly encroach on the horizon - normally Obito just kamui’d their new arrivals straight inside. But Kisame needed the time and space to come to terms with what Tobi was doing, and Obito liked making his life difficult.

After a long half hour filled with hops, Kisame said, “Is the Akatsuki going to disband?”

“Why would Tobi know something like that?” Kisame shot him an extremely unimpressed look. Man had figured out he was the shadow leader of the Akatsuki ages ago. He knew Obito’s style by now. Obito heaved a heavy, exasperated sigh. “Maybe-daisy. Leader-sama hasn’t asked us to yoink any jinchuuriki lately. Or make any peace treaties go oopsie. Maybe Leader-sama’s trying out a ‘do as we do’ approach instead of a ‘do the exact opposite of what we do, which is stabby stab, so like try being stabby stabbed and don’t stabby stab anybody back, that’s how people work yay peace’ thingamabob. Um. I think that was their plan?” Tobi poked at his own mask. “Was I supposed to tell you that?”

“I didn’t understand a word, so I think the secret is intact,” Kisame said wryly. Obito exhaled gustily in relief. Kisame had a suspicion, but he’d have to investigate a little to figure it out. There was no way Kisame would agree, so his defection at this point was guaranteed. “So that’s why the Akatsuki’s changed its M.O.? Our dear leaders have experienced a change of heart?” Obito shrugged and made a loud ‘I’unno!’ sound. “Tobi’s experienced a change of heart too, hasn’t he?”

“Sixty two bottles of beer on the wall, sixty two bottles of beer -”

“You can just tell me not to ask!”

The wonderful motivation of song placed them at the base of the tree in only a few hours. Even Kisame was panting a little, but that was probably just because his gills didn’t agree with the punishing sun. He relaxed a little underneath the cool shade of the sakura petals, and Obito watched him exhale and lean against the tree. He looked upwards, surveying his relief.

Like Sakura, he was transfixed. Obito didn’t disturb him. He silently rocked on his heels and let Kisame stare at the komorebi and hear the gentle shuffle of flowers for as long as he wanted. The sakura petals drifted downwards in an ever-falling dance, and when Kisame held out his hand he let a few petals settle delicately onto his palm.

“Ocean’s better,” Kisame decided finally, “but this has its own charm. You going to tell me what this is all about now?”

“Tobi will show you.” Obito turned on his heel and strode up to the tree, politely rapping his knuckles on the smooth and impenetrable bark. “Knock knock! It’s Tobi!”

Kisama craned his head, looking around. “Where are the guards hidden? Is it a genjutsu?”

What a smart minion. “Who would guard a big tree in the middle of nowhere? That’s a bit weird.”

“I’ve heard stories of a new hidden village.” Kisama stared Obito down, slitted yellow eyes blinking. Obito pretended to sweat. “A quiet one, where nobody enters and nobody leaves. Small, with many civilians and genin and no powerful ninja. Its genin are lawless. They’re closer to vigilantes.”

“Wow, Kisa-chan, you’re so smart.”

“I hear they have strong connections with Ame and the Land of Rain too,” Kisame said pointedly. Obito folded his hands on his back, rocked on his heels, and began whistling. “You happen to know anything about that?”

Obito made a small hand gesture within his cupped hands, and a large door slid open behind them - just large enough for Kisama and wide enough for the both of them. He dropped his arms and whirled around happily, Akatsuki cloak almost floating in a pirouette. “Yay, they let us in! I thought they might ban me after last time. They keep kicking me out and I have no idea why!”

“What a mystery.”

Obito grabbed Kisama’s hand, ignoring his growl, and pulled him inside the darkness.

It was true darkness. Maybe not for Kisama and his cool shark eyes, and definitely not for Obito and his lame trauma eyes, but the tunnel was long and dark and intimidating. Obito chattered lightly the entire time about something absolutely useless, and Kisame tuned him out as he kept one hand trailing along the wall. The wall sparked with chakra, and he quickly withdrew his hand. Electrified. Kisame stopped and bent down, prodding at the floor with one stubby hand and smelling his finger - undoubtedly noticing that the floor was just as electrified as the walls.

“We could be crushed like grapes in here,” Kisame muttered.

Obito gasped. “They wouldn’t do that ! We’re friends! Tobi’s friends wouldn’t be mean to Tobi, no no no no no no -”

“Kakuzu’s mean to you and you call him a friend.”

“Senpai’s just making little jokes. Kakuzu secretly likes Tobi. Tobi just knows it.”

Kakuzu f*cking hated Tobi. It was so funny.

Breaking free of the sticky darkness into the village was always like taking a breath of fresh air. You always felt the sunlight first, streamed in through the one-way reinforced windows stretching across the walls. The noise always hit you second - the acute acoustics that bounced around the cylinder and made every inhabitant far too audible. Obito and Sakura would have to fix that before they brought in new people.

Right now they had a basic population of 200 - 30 ROOT kids, 30 ex-Orochimaru kids, 70 various and assorted young missing nins running from bad circ*mstances, 50 civilian orphaned children from Ame As Per The Agreement, and 40 civilian adults. Yes, that was a gigantic disparity of child: adult ratio. It was fine. Ninjas were adults regardless of age. By that logic, they only had fifty children.

It was Sakura’s logic, anyway, and Sakura’s logic goes. Obito let Sakura’s logic run rampant so long as her plans worked. Fascinatingly, they almost always did. Couldn’t have picked a better eleven year old to run a village.

The landing floor was mostly residential, containing civilian homes. It was also where the bored tween guards met them, inspecting the very rare visitors. They both winced when they saw Tobi.

“Hi-hi! Tobi is back and better than ever! This is Tobi’s friend Kisame.” He gestured proudly at Kisame, who was completely ignoring the guards in favor of craning his head and taking in the village in subdued shock. “He’s really nice. Can we go see the Shodaime please please please?”

The guards glanced at each other. Tobi helpfully flared his chakra. The black haired guard sighed and waved him through. “Welcome back, Tobi-san.”

The redheaded guard who sensed his chakra wrinkled her nose. “Permission to visit the Shodaime, Tobi.” She paused pointedly. “Right now. Vamoose. Man, I hate guard duty.”

“Thank you Karin-chan! Tobi loves you!”

Karin gagged.

The central plaza of the landing floor was a collection of shops, advertising civilian and ninja needs both. If you stood in the center of the circular plaza and looked upwards you could see straight upwards to the very tip of the street. Besides the turrets and protective measures that was it for the landing floor.

Kisame’s eyes traveled upwards, and Tobi’s eyes followed him. Each floor was really just a ring of wide ledges circling the tree, circling around an empty center. A few staircases connected each floor, but the majority of inhabitants just walked along the side of the tree to get around. Obito could see them now - as many kids running around on the walls of the tree as on the ledges, chasing each other around or traveling in gossiping teenage packs. The third floor were typically the ninja homes, since they preferred just stepping off the ledges and landing on the landing floor. That was why it was called the landing floor.

Second floor were the self-sustaining farms and greenhouses, fourth floor was the administrative level, blah blah blah enough with the tour. At the very tip of the tree an upside-down building stretched downwards. It was the very picture of the Konoha Hokage tower, rooted firmly upside down. Its very tip jutted above the third floor, and Kisame watched the ninja on the fourth floor casually jumping into the open windows in the Kage tower and jumping back out again.

“Try and keep up! This is how we get around in Sakuragakure!”

“Sakuraga what ?”

Too slow! Obito crouched and jumped, and Kisame stumbled for a second before following after him.

This was always too much fun. Obito bounced from a ledge on the second floor to an adjacent ledge on the third floor, swinging upwards and grabbing a handy staircase between the floors. He bounced off the staircase and sailed through the air, Akatsuki cloak billowing in the midst of a ninja’s flight, and aimed his jump very precisely so he sailed through the air and straight into one particular open window on the very bottom/top floor of the Kage tower.

Tobi tumbled into the Hanakage’s office in a messy jumble, rolling across the floor ass over teakettle before finally colliding back first with a filing cabinet. A massive stack of files slid off the top of the cabinet and landed directly on top of Obito’s head, making him whine and clutch his head as scrolls and files rained down on his head.

Absolutely masterful. Had Kisame seen that? Kisame had to have seen that.

“You’re re-organizing those!”

Tobi bounced to his feet, and although nobody could see it he grinned widely behind his mask. “But I can’t read, Shodaime!”

The Shodaime Hanakage threw her scroll at him. Tobi let it bounce off his head with a cartoonish thump, and he dramatically leaned backwards on one foot as if from the impact. “Owie!”

Sakura was looking good. Every time he came back she had always visibly grown up a little. Her diamond hat was perched jauntily on top of a ‘very mature’ fishtail braid, and her oversized green haori was draped on the chair behind her. She was wearing an outfit befitting any student of Obito’s - bandaged canvas pants and a short-sleeved red shirt with a long-sleeved net shirt underneath. The back of the haori read 'HANAKAGE' in bright pink embroidery. Obviously, she was armed to the teeth.

The two ANBU in her office didn’t bother to flicker into visibility. Tobi allowed them to sense him from a mile away, and crash landing into Sakura’s office was his favorite way of greeting her. He had more art supplies for Sai stashed away in kamui, but he’d have to pass them on when he wasn’t on the clock. It would embarrass Sai so much to get gifts on the clock. At least Shin supported whimsy.

“It’s been months!” Sakura screeched, grabbing another scroll and throwing it at him. “You don’t get to drop off ten missing nin on my doorstep again and vanish! When are you going to stop doing this?”

“Ow, ow, ow!” Tobi held his hands over his head, protecting his valuable personage from the miniature assault. “Kisa-chan, help me!”

“Uh,” Kisame said.

Sakura turned around, acknowledging Kisame for the first time. He was crouched on her windowsill like a tiger on a curtain railing, taking in the sight with a blank face. His eyes lingered hard on the Hanakage hat.

Sakura propped her hands on her hips, glaring down Kisame. “Sensei. Why did you bring Hoshigaki Kisame to my office?”

Sensei ?” Kisame cried. It was the first time Obito had actually seen him genuinely shocked. Rude!

Tobi skipped forward, scratching the back of his neck balefully. “I just wanted my favorite super-cute student to meet his favorite super-cool coworker. Isn’t he cool? He looks like a shark!”

Sakura crossed her arms, scowling at Obito. “I told you your coworkers are bad news, Sensei. Why are you dragging them into my house?”

“Aw, Sakura-chan, some of them are real nice -”

“I do look at a Bingo Book, Sensei.” Left unsaid: and keep track of your coworkers. What a control freak. “Are you going to be mysterious about this again?”

Tobi wriggled mysteriously. “Tobi is like a spooky ghost.”

Sakura sighed gustily. She turned around to Kisame and stuck out a professional hand. Kisame took it, as if it was a particularly proportionately tiny bomb. “Hanakage Haruno Sakura, at your service. I’m sorry about Sensei. He’s only this bad almost all the time.”

Kisame released her hand and slowly said, “Just to clarify. The Village Hidden in the Cherry Blossoms, which…isn’t a myth, exists in a giant tree. The kage is a ten year old girl. With pink hair. And her sensei is…Tobi.”

“You never debrief anybody, Sensei!” Sakura condemned. “I’m eleven !”

Kisame looked at Obito, pointing at Sakura. “Tobi. Does she know…?”

“Know what?” Tobi said guilelessly. Kisame stared flatly at him. “She knows I’m an Aquarius.”

AKA: wouldn’t you like to know? Kisame was undoubtedly wondering if Sakura knew Tobi was faking stupidity, but the idea of Tobi taking a student was so hilarious Obito wanted to keep the bit going. It was his favorite Sakuragakure gag. Never got old. Most of the citizens had decided that Sakura became amazingly strong despite and not because of Tobi.

Obito clapped his hands happily. “We’ll let you get back to work, Sakura-chan! Tobi just wanted to introduce his two favorite people. Will you two be friends? Tobi would be so happy if his bestie was besties with his adorable little student!”

The bestie and the adorable student stared at him, mutually somewhat dead inside.

Sakura visibly gathered her strength and majesty as a Hanakage and bowed shallowly to Kisame. “A guest of my sensei is a guest of Sakuragakure, Hoshigaki-san. Please stay as long as you like. Sakuragakure is a friend of anybody who would like to be friends with us.”

“Even missing nins?” Kisame asked, somewhat incredulous. “And Akatsuki members?” Sakura silently pointed at Tobi. Tobi waved cheerfully. “How the f*ck -”

“Kisa-chan! Sakura is a very busy girl and she has to get back to her homework!” With no further ado, Obito smacked Kisame’s chest and pushed him backwards against the windowsill. Kisame got the memo and swung back onto the windowsill, one leg hanging off the side. “Tobi and Kisa-chan should leave Sakura-chan alone to work. We can get dinner! And a nice bath! Kay-kay?”

Kisame sighed and swung himself onto the roof. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Tobi .”

Well, it was inevitable. Tobi was about to swing himself up after him when he felt Sakura’s chakra flare. He stopped, one foot on the windowsill, and turned around to see Sakura standing in front of him. Her anger had dropped, and she just seemed awkward. At the end of the day, she was still in her awkward phase.

“Um. Sensei?” Sakura shuffled her feet a little. In that second, she looked just a little like an eleven year old girl. “When am I going to see you again?”

Not Tobi. Obito knew what she was asking. When am I going to see Obito again? When am I going to see the face of my very own sensei again? Sakura said that she missed him. But when Obito promised to return more frequently, she said that Tobi only made her feel lonelier.

“Work’s been very busy lately, Sakura-chan,” Obito said lightly. “I’m working a lot of overtime. But I’m sure all the fun will calm down soon. Then I’ll zoom right home and we’ll have lots of student-teacher bonding time, okay?”

“You have a lot left to teach me,” Sakura said. “You promised.”

Obito reached out and ruffled her hair. “No matter where Tobi goes, Tobi is right here,” Obito promised solemnly. “Don’t be sad.”

“Of course I’m not sad!” Sakura cried, instantly offended. She was so easy. “Go get out of here and do something other than bumming around annoying people this time, won’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am! Tobi loves you!”

“Ugh!”

Obito swung out of the Hanakage tower and joined Kisame on the roof, slightly resentful that Sakura’s time traveling ghost had made him remember what guilt felt like.

They stood on the jutting eave of the Hokage tower, watching the village teem underneath them. Kisame obviously heard their conversation, but he didn’t say a word. Children prowled on upside down-ceilings, chasing each other down, and a merchant was hawking a soft and ripe fruit. Five coins, five coins. Sweet, delicious, fresh. Five coins.

The sun never rose or set in Sakuragakure. There were no seasons, no summer-fall-winter-spring. There was no graveyard or memorial stone. And so Sakuragakure existed in perpetuity: an eternal barrier between the soul and its pain, isolated from an outside world that changed so mercilessly. Things grew tumultuously and shakily now, but Obito wondered if one day every day would feel just like another. If the word peace would disappear from the vocabulary of these people in a bottle, and be replaced with ‘boring’.

“How did this even happen?” Kisame asked. He still seemed a little shell-shocked, which was a natural reaction. “What did you do to create this?”

“Well! One day Tobi adopted an ultra super-cute student. And Tobi wanted the student to be the happiest little girl on the planet, so he helped her put together a big house with lots of people. Now the little girl’s happy! Yay!”

“Madara, you’re a psychopath.” Wow. First time he had dropped The Name. Or openly acknowledged Mr. Swirly Orange Mask and Mr. Spooky White Mask as the same undoubtedly ugly as sin guy. “You don’t give a sh*t about a random kid’s happiness. What are you after?”

Obito hummed, rocking on his feet. This would probably be a good time to Go All Madara - but, well, it took some effort to code switch out of Tobi. And he didn’t really want to sully this place with Madara. There was one place where Madara would never be welcome.

“Tobi’s not buddies with Madara. Tobi doesn’t know what Madara likes. Uh, Tobi thinks Madara doesn’t like anything?” Tobi adjusted his mask, faux-nervous. “ Maybe - Tobi never really knows, he gets so confused and turned around too - Madara thought that maybe everything he did was uh super f*cking useless and never ended up in anything but people murdering other people in new and inventive and just increasingly weird ways. There’s a god of literal torture murder, that’s so whack. Madara thought that if he had to see one more piece of fleshy garbage ruining innocent babies then he might explode and also give up a bit. So Madara thought maybe that the world would be nice and quiet if some hooligan decided to take better care of the babies. The end. I dunno. Madara’s stinky and old.”

And f*cking bizarrely, Kisama softened. What was with that look on his face? Like he was Obito’s dad ? How old was this guy, forty? Ancient ? “So Madra’s stopped thinking about world peace and started thinking about peace and quiet, huh?”

“Old people love that sh*t. All they do is sit on porches and snooze on rocking chairs. You’re old, Kisa-chan, you ever think about that?” Tobi nodded sagely. “I think Kisa-chan should sit on porches and snooze on a rocking chair. That’s my opinion as a professional. Tobi’s a doctor!”

Those words, out of everything, hit Kisame strangely. His face twisted through a lot of emotions that Obito couldn’t hope to understand. He had, like, four emotions left, and his ugly-ass face couldn’t show any of them. Sometimes Obito felt as if the orange mask was more expressive than his own face. Sakura said that it wasn’t true - apparently it was all in his eyes. She said that real smiles always crinkled his eye. Obito wasn’t sure he had real smiles, but if anybody would know it would be Sakura.

“That can’t be why you brought me here,” Kisame said. Obito could tell that he had some brief hope that Tobi was throwing him a retirement party. Tobi would love that sh*t. Obito, unfortunately, still had a few to-do lists for Kisame. “You want me to join this village, don’t you?”

“What, are you busy?”

Kisame narrowed his eyes. “I swore to never give allegiance to another village ever again. I’m tired of getting screwed around by sad*sts in a hat telling me who to kill. I’ll kill who I want to kill. I’ll be corrupt on my own. I don’t want a system to do it for me. Keep your headband, Madara.”

“Sakura’s eleven,” Tobi said plainly. “Romance novels make her cry. She’s tried using shadow clones to make babysitting easier and she never learns. Sakura-chan hasn’t even killed anybody.”

Kisame’s eyebrows flew up. “She’s a ninja. Of course she’s killed somebody.”

“Not Sakura-chan.” Tobi shrugged. It wasn’t very enthusiastic. “Tobi wanted to protect her. Tobi was kind of hoping you’d help out with that.”

Kisame was silent.

Helpfully, Obito said, “Sakuragakure legislature states that anybody over the age of seventeen legally can’t be promoted above a genin, anyway. So, like, nobody cares about your kill count?”

Kisame thought, long and hard. So long that Obito began to get kind of bored. He started whistling ‘ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall again’. When that didn’t get a reaction, he switched to ‘song that never ends’. Nothing cracked this guy.

Finally, he said, “I’m open to a bargain. But I have a condition.”

AKA, ‘yes but I want something too’. “Tobi doesn’t live here! You gotta bargain with Sakura-chan. She’s a real tough haggler, so watch out.”

“This is a you problem.” Kisame stared Tobi down, hard and immovable, as deep as his chakra pools and infinite as his patience. “Itachi gets an invite too. He’ll want to join as a civilian. Give him whatever medical help he needs. That’s my condition - civilian Itachi with medical help. Take it or leave it.”

“You want Sakura-chan to allow a spooky family killer into her cute village?” Tobi gasped. “Kisa-chan, I can’t let you do that! He’s evil !”

“I want you to do something you were going to do anyway,” Kisame said flatly. “If I know he’s more of an idiot than a baby killer then you do too.” Oh, he really had no idea. “Hearing about your little peace project might make him cry happy tears of blood. If you want me to throw my weight behind yet another of your pet projects, we’re doing things my way too.”

Well. Itachi was Obito’s fault. He had always meant to bring Itachi here eventually. He was an innocent who became too late to be saved age five, but Obito could respect a ninja pacifist. It was such an insane stance he might as well collect ‘em all.

“Sakura’s the final call!” Tobi sang, folding his hands behind his back. He paused, humming in mock thought. “Buuuuut…Sakura-chan does love her old sensei, so maybe she’ll do him this itty bitty little favor. Don’t tell anybody, but Sakura-chan’s weak for Tobi. She always lets him have ice cream after dinner.”

“Did you even ask her before recruiting me?”

“Sakura-chan’s afraid of sharks so I decided it was better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Just kidding. Sakura dealt with whatever he dropped on her doorstep. Or vice versa - Obito had dumped her in Nagato’s chamber and told her to sort out an alliance with them. Kid rolled with it. Konan could take notes.

“If Kisame wants to be very very very happy,” Obito said, “all he has to do is ask.”

Kisama laughed, a short bark closer to a dog than a shark. “You think it’s that easy?”

“Sakura-chan does.”

“And Sakura-chan controls the universe, does she?”

“If you help out a little,” Obito said, “then maybe she could.”

To that, Kisame had no response. He stood with Tobi and watched an experimental world in its isolated terrarium - watched the only society that could ever be truly happy. No matter how long Tobi stared at him, he couldn’t see what Kisame was thinking at all.

But Kisame probably thought the same thing of him. That was called fair play. Utopias had things like that. Maybe they could get used to it.

You Call This A Utopia?! - yellow_caballero (2024)

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