Trial of Man

[AU - Historical Fantasy] The peaceful city of Akatsuki is taken over by hostile forces when the country of Amegakure is invaded. Suddenly, what they once had is now a luxury, but their will to survive burns strong beneath newfound oppression. fem!Deidara/Sasori. Cover image does not belong to me. Loosely based on Ip Man and the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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Author's note

Starts off relatively lighthearted, but then escalates into darker themes.
AA

12. Part II: Aconitum

As soon as Udon screamed, heads snapped upward. Udon fell back on his butt, chest heaving as Orochimaru stood over him with a look in his eyes. More shady characters fanned out behind Orochimaru—five teenagers carrying with them the same menace as the long-haired man. Udon's mouth closed and open in terror, and he scrambled backward, completely forgetting about the rag he had been retrieving.

Orochimaru stepped forward, his shoe squashing the cloth.

"Ooh, nice place," the only girl in the group said, grinning viciously. Her eyes gleamed in anticipation, and she cocked her hip to one side. "A lot of people together like this... means that there's probably food and money around here, right?"

"Man, get that greedy look off your face, Tayuya," one of her teammates said, holding his arms behind his head. He licked his lips. "Look at how thin they are. Forget the food, let alone the cash. I'd give their difficulty level a solid..." He smirked. "One."

"Fuck off, Kidomaru," Tayuya replied calmly, flicking a lock of messy red hair to the side. "Once we get out of this shithole, we're gonna need the ryo, and Orochimaru-sama brought us here, so take it up with him. I'm sure that he's right about this place; it is one of the only factories still open. Right, Orochimaru-sama?"

"Correct, Tayuya," Orochimaru purred, and the girl preened. Compliments and agreements must have been rare with the snake-like man. "Now." He looked around the room, staring at gaunt, fearful faces. "Obito-kun... why don't you come out? I know you've been itching to hit me."

There was an uncomfortable shuffling, then Obito appeared, arms seemingly relaxed by his sides. His expression was one of false warmth, and anybody who looked closely enough could see the cold fire burning in his onyx eyes.

"Orochimaru," Obito said levelly, the usual -sama that accompanied his name forgone. He scowled, shifting his weight on his right foot. "What the hell do you want?"

It was a pointless question. Obito knew what they were here for. Food and money. And they're more than willing to fight for it, Obito thought grimly. Still, if he could get Orochimaru to monologue a little, perhaps he might be able to use it to his advantage...

"Oh, it's a funny little story, actually..." Orochimaru chuckled, causing the rest of his crew to snicker along. A bead of nervous sweat dropped down Obito's forehead as Orochimaru strode up to him slowly, his hair curtaining his face. Then the snake tilted his chin upward, and their gazes met.

Obito resisted the urge to shudder. FeralDesperate. These were the only words adequate for the Hidden Snake's grandmaster. Orochimaru had been narrow to begin with, Obito remembered, but the older male looked almost shrivelled. His cronies looked slightly better, but their physical conditions were also poor for taijutsu users. At least, that's what he assumed they were. Orochimaru didn't seem like the type to waste his time on civilians. I don't even know what this bastard did to his last team... He did not remember their names, so he tried not to dwell on their fates.

"Your business is one of the only in the city that is still open," Orochimaru stated. "And the only one lucky enough to own a truck for transporting your goods."

Obito's blood chilled. He knows. Nobody was supposed to know. That truck... it was one he had bought two months before the war started and he distinctly remembered bragging relentlessly about it to whoever was willing to listen. Kakashi, mostly. It was because he would have had the honor of being the first vehicle-owner in the city. And Kakashi had listened.

His heart still ached for his friend.

But that truck. It had arrived not even a week before the night of the invasion, and the subsequent enemy occupation. He normally kept it in a garage in the back of the factory. Nobody but he, his family, and some of his workers should have known about it. Think, Obito, he urged himself. The last time you saw this truck was about five days ago, when you were drunk and delirious and alone and needed something to do. You sent it on a cotton run... I think... yeah, yeah that's right. And it never came back until

"You didn't," Obito spat hatefully, suddenly straightening.

Orochimaru scoffed at the insinuation. "Don't be ridiculous. That truck and its occupants were my only lead to you. To a place with food and money, and all things essential for living." He smiled, and Obito could have sworn the man had fangs. "If you don't believe me... Sakon." He snapped his fingers, the sound reverberating in the mostly silent room.

"Right, boss." There were a pair of twins in Orochimaru's group. One of them slipped through the hole in the wall and brought something back out. A prisoner, was Obito's first thought. No... it's...

Sakon threw the bruised man at Obito's feet, Orochimaru stepping back a bit to allow the Uchiha some space.

"Sorry, boss," the man apologized, groaning in pain and curling into himself.

... A friend.

The man was young. Not even in his twenties yet. Dark-haired, like the majority of the population in the Rain, with skin as pale as an Uchiha's. He could have passed as an Uchiha, definitely, and he...

God, Obito thought numbly, He almost looks like Daichi. No, the man—the pitiful, skinny worker, was not his son, because Daichi was at home with Hikari but

He could have been. If circumstances were different, and Daichi was older, and—

Obito knelt down, the upper half of his face shadowed as his hair—which had grown longer than he would have liked—fell over his eyes. "Maa," he murmured. "What are you apologizing for? You did nothing wrong." He helped him up, and together, they hobbled over to a woman that had been quite plump before the war. She still had some fat on her now, and she held the wounded man—boy, Obito reminded himself, boy—in her thick arms.

"Be thankful that I spared your workers," Orochimaru told him, taking satisfaction in the fact that Obito stood with his head hung. "In times like this, I could have easily slaughtered them for... other purposes."

This man was not human. He couldn't be.

"I have a deal for you," Orochimaru went on. "The goods that I have in my possession—your goods—for all the money you're keeping around here, as well as all the food. What do you say, Obito-kun? If you don't accept... I might have to take extreme measures..."

It was a deal with only one winner, and they both knew that. What was the point of it—what was the point of losing your money and your food for goods that weren't even going to bring in income? Goods that they had gotten from another local business at the other end of the city, where it was a little more rural. Goods that no one could afford, even if they needed it.

Obito almost laughed at the absurdity of it all, and was about to decline with all the politeness of a raging chimera when somebody else beat him to it.

"OI!" Naruto, who was at the front of the crowd of workers encircling them. If Obito's back hadn't been to him the whole time, he would have seen the pure anger and rage slowly contort his face into a snarl that made him almost unrecognizable. "WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! How dare you..." Naruto's voice quietened for a second, but he was trembling now. "HOW DARE YOU COME HERE AND THREATEN US!" Spittle flew from Naruto's mouth and landed at Orochimaru's feet. "TALK DOWN TO US LIKE WE'RE NOTHING, HUH?!"

Oh boy, Obito barely managed to comprehend, he was really angry. Furious, even, at the injustice that was happening right before his eyes, filled with wrathful tears.

"YOU THINK YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS?! YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONES SUFFERING, YOU BASTARDS!" Naruto roared. "You don't even care about other people... people who are suffering like you are..." Tears spilled out of his eyes, and he gritted his teeth. "It's people like you... It's people like you that MAKE ME SICK! So don't you dare..." he growled. "Think you can come here and threaten us like that...! This is all what we have left; we've lost things, too, y'know... You're not coming here and taking it away from us, dammit!"

"Oi, shut your mouth!" Kidomaru shouted. "Don't you dare talk to Orochimaru-sama like he's beneath you, peasant! You know nothing of our struggles!" A vein popped near his eyes, and he grinned manically. "You have no idea how hard or frustrating it is, trying to advance from one level to another. You have food and a home! You do not know suffering."

"Look," Tayuya said, scowling. "I frankly don't give a shit about your painful circumstances, kid. We didn't come here for your fucking angst. Right, Orochimaru-sama?" She looked to him again for approval, but Orochimaru did not acknowledge her this time.

"Obito," Orochimaru said softly. Dangerously. Obito tensed. "Will you accept my offer?"

"... No." Obito steeled himself for the lie. Or, rather, half-truth. "I have no money."

And Orochimaru slammed him into a steel post before Obito could even comprehend what was happening. "Do not lie to me!" he hissed. "I'm in no mood for your games. I'm here for resources, and you will provide them for me!"

His head snapped back against the steel post, and Obito winced from the chokehold Orochimaru had on him. "It's... not a lie. I really... have no money." Dammit, I'm too weak! Sasori's words of caution came back to haunt him, and he cursed himself for his carelessness. He was still recovering and too damn fragile, while Orochimaru was as healthy as he could possibly be.

"You Uchiha," Obito cringed when Orochimaru spat in his face, squeezing his neck. "I despise the lot of you. I met my defeat by the hands of an Uchiha, and I trained on the outskirts of the city to better him. It was your wretched family that led to stay in this accursed city and be caged like a bird! Led to my downfall! I was revered by Konoha! What am I now, Uchiha Obito, but a shadow of my former self?! Answer me!"

But Obito could not. Not when Orochimaru had that hold on him. But if he could...

Go to hell, Obito cursed the man silently, blackness dotting his clouding vision.

"Don't, Naruto!" Obito vaguely heard Iruka's voice in the background, trying to keep a riot from happening. "You can't!"

"Let me go, Iruka! I have to help the boss! I HAVE TO!"

And, Obito thought dizzily, wasn't it too much of a coincidence that Chihiro had disappeared just days before Orochimaru showed up? Perhaps they met... perhaps... Is that Rin?

"LET GO OF HIM!"

Rin shoved Orochimaru off her husband, heaving. "Just take it and leave us!" She threw a half-empty bag of rice—the same rice that Obito had won from Madara, Jashin curse that man—at Orochimaru's feet. "This is all we have, I swear it."

Rin, you liar, Obito fondly thought, rubbing at his neck. That would bruise.

"Is that so?" Orochimaru snatched the bag up. "This would last us all a week, at most. How pitiful..."

"Deal with it," Rin said spitefully, narrowing her eyes. "I'm sure a grandmaster like you has other means of survival than stealing from others. Others who are trying just as hard as you to survive."

"Boss!" one of Orochimaru's cronies squawked. "Are you really going to take this?"

The snake ignored him. "A week, then."

Rin's gaze grew wary. "What?"

"I'll be back in a week." Orochimaru smiled wickedly. "And if you do not surrender the rest of your food and money by then, I will forcibly remove them from you." He licked his lips. "And perhaps take a few lives while I'm at it... After all, I have my own people to satisfy..."

"I don't care for the scum you've picked up," Rin hissed hatefully. "Just leave. We've already given you what you want! So take it and go!"

"Very well. You're lucky I have a soft spot for you, Rin-chan. We'll just have to see how soft that spot is when I return... Until then, Uchiha. If you choose to run like cowards, I will not hold it against you. After all, whether you are here or not makes no difference to me." Orochimaru turned. "Come. We'll keep the goods with us for now."

And then they were gone, and so was the truck. The original occupants, formerly hostages, stumble into the factory, dazed.

Rin let herself shudder. "That bastard," she whispered. "He'll... he'll actually do it, won't he? He'll come back here and destroy us..." She looked desperately at Obito. "We cannot let that happen. We can't."

"Yeah, Rin-sama is right!" Naruto voiced, the first to recover. His eyes still burned. "Obito-sama... we're not gonna let that happen, y'hear?! If we all fight together, we can take 'em!"

Obito shook his head. "I'm afraid it's not that easy..." He sighed, sounding like the weight of the world was upon his shoulders. And, in a way, it was. "I'll do everything I can to protect all of you."

"What?!" Surprisingly, it was Tenten who shouted indignantly this time. She had her arms akimbo, and was frowning disapprovingly at Obito's defeated form. "With all due respect, we can't let you do that, sir!"

"I'm with her!" Konohamaru added. "No offense, but you're no match for that creepy guy! You'll be killed, and we can't let that happen! We have to fight!"

Obito blinked slowly as voices all around him chimed in grim agreement. "Everyone..." He turned to Rin for help, but she shook her head.

"They're right," she admitted. "You won't stand a chance against him. But..." Rin was torn, Obito could see as much. She grimaced. "It's been a while, but I'll fight with you."

"Rin—!"

"Obito, you're not going to change my mind," Rin said calmly, holding up a hand. "What kind of person would that make me, if I just let you do all the fighting for us? No, I'm staying with you and I'm going to fight."

"Ma'am," Lee said politely, raising his hand as if he were in a schoolroom and not in a dusty factory full of irate individuals. "You can't expect the two of you to defend all of us. If I am to ever be worth of notice by Gai-sama, then I will fight. The fire of youth... burns within me, and all of us!" He said it so solemnly that Obito almost did a double take.

"Bushy-brows is right!" Naruto declared. "We're all in this together. Boss, we all know you're good, and that the rest of us we'll probably never be as good as you..." He swallowed. "But train us! Train us so we can fight against that dirty snake bastard, y'hear?!"

"Train you?" Obito repeated, flabbergasted at the many nods he got. It's been so long... so long since I've trained students. Everyone from my school is either dead, in hiding, or unwilling to learn due to fear of persecution... If he agreed to train them, it would have to be in secret, or Madara might start to fear a revolt and exterminate all of them. The wild-haired man only let the rice competition run because there were few enough martial artists to not pose a huge threat. Hmm... There was this rather large private courtyard at the back of the factory, surrounded by stone walls. It was how Naruto normally escaped from doing work without anybody noticing (or so the boy had thought). Soldiers would never find them there; they only patrolled the streets. They only poked their noses into private establishments when something raised their suspicion. A lot of civilians still went out every day, because they were non-threats. That was probably how Orochimaru got by, despite the loudness of the truck. A non-military vehicle, despite how strange, meant civilians, and civilians equated to non-threatening.

"Yeah!" Naruto nodded vigorously.

Rin and Obito exchanged glances. They had nothing to lose, anyway. If they fled, their workers would most likely be slaughtered vindictively. And if they chose to flee as a single, large group... they'd never make it far enough.

No, they would have to stay. And if they stayed, everybody would stay.

And fight.

Obito took a good look at all of their earnest faces, caked with dirt, soot, and sweat. Some of them angry, most of them scared, but all of them determined. And those looks on their faces... It lit a fire in his belly.

"Alright," Obito relented, grinning as he watched all of them perk up. Konohamaru and Udon even exchanged a high-five, and Naruto whooped loudly enough for the world to hear his joy. "All of you... follow me."

There were yells of excitement as everybody followed Obito and Rin to the private courtyard.

Their hands brushed together, and Rin grabbed Obito's hand, intertwining their fingers.

"We're lucky," she murmured. "Luckier than a lot of people."

Obito had to agree.

"Naruto-nii, we did it! We're going to be trained!" Moegi exclaimed. She was one of those who paled a little at the thought of fighting the Sennin, but she got over it as quickly as a child her age would. "I swear I'll put everything into it!"

"I won't let another child go again," was Tenten's muttered promise. "Not like Chihiro."

"I'm not going to let him scare me again," was Udon's promise.

"I will make Gai-sama proud!" Lee threw his fist into the air, burning with the fiery passion of youth.

"You guys are like my family!" Naruto proclaimed to the orphans, giving them a thumbs-up. "No way I'll let any of you die, dattebayo!"

If these kids didn't make it out alive, Obito wasn't sure what he would do.

----

"Have you heard?" Chiyo said to Sasori that afternoon, over lunch. "Obito's factory was attacked by that Orochimaru from the north this morning."

Sasori, who had been reaching for a sliced bit of potato at the center of the dinner table, paused. "Is that so? Is everything fine?"

"Obito?" Deidara butted in. She and Hitomi were sitting beside each other today. "That knucklehead... He's okay, yeah?"

"That's Daichi-san's otou-san," Hitomi muttered to herself.

"Aa," Chiyo nodded, "He is fine. I heard from Miwa-san, who is friends with Torako-san, who works there..."

Obito. Sasori continued to eat at a leisurely pace. With his injuries, there was no way he could have escaped Orochimaru without help. I wonder what happened? And now he's training his workers?

"It's been a while since I've seen Obito," Deidara said wistfully, chewing thoughtfully on her chopsticks. "We should go see him, un." She said this to Sasori, looking at him expectantly.

Well, it had been a while since he had checked up on Obito, Sasori thought. "We can, after lunch." He glanced over to Chiyo, but since she showed no disagreement, it was decided.

----

A Nara was naturally lazy, but they more than made up for it with their natural superior intelligence. Shikamaru was no exception, but his emotional intelligence sometimes left things to be desired for.

So, Shikamaru was thankful that it was not he that had to handle a furious Ino. A week ago, she had come out of her stupor for the seemingly the sole purpose of lecturing all of them.

"I can't believe you!" she had shouted at Sakura and Itachi and Izumi. The former had winced slightly, but the Uchiha couple were able to keep their calm. "Why the hell didn't you stop her?!"

There really had been no excuses. The Underground Nation had just begun to form back then, and were still trying to get things running when Hitomi had left.

Now, Shikamaru exhaled, knocking on the surface of the small hut he knew Ino was staying in. It was right next to Sakura's. "Ino... It's me. Are you in there?" He hadn't dared peeked it, lest he get something thrown at his face. But when he received no reply, he took his chances. It was empty.

"Shikamaru?"

Annddd... she and Hanabi had just walked in on him standing awkwardly outside Ino's hut.

This is such a huge drag... but I need to see if she's okay. He didn't think he would be able to forgive himself if she did something drastic. He'd already been absent enough from her recovery. It was mostly Sakura and Hanabi that'd been there for her when she needed it.

Ino looked... different, to say the least. Her blonde hair, which she normally kept in a high ponytail, had been cut. She still wore a ponytail, only a much shorter one.

"Ino," he greeted as nonchalantly as he could. "I just wanted to check up on you."

"I'm not going to go berserk, if that's what you mean," Ino scoffed, Hanabi giving her an uncomfortable glance. "I've been training my ass off with Hanabi-chan—she can testify that." She paused, biting her lip. "Sorry, I... You didn't deserve that."

Actually, he thought that he kind of did, considering he'd been too scared to make her recovery time worse for her and had hardly visited her, but he kept his mouth shut.

"How's the sealing going?" Hanabi questioned in an attempt to break the ice. Pretty much everyone had heard of the seal on the steel iron doors by now, and the efforts of Itachi, Kisame, Shikaku and Shikamaru to try and unseal it.

"We're about halfway there," Shikamaru replied. "Hopefully, we'll be able to decode everything by next week, and have the ability to get the hell out of here whenever we want to."

"You really are geniuses," Ino commented, sounding envious. "Ne, Shikamaru... Do you think, that once everything's over, you'll have time to spar with me? I mean, I haven't seen you for a while..."

Goddamn, some things would never change, would they? Shikamaru had walked right into this without even realizing. He let out an exasperated groan, and Ino smirked triumphantly. "Fine, fine..." Choji's not going to be happy, but I won't get out unscathed if it's just me and her. He'd have to get the chubbier teenager to join, somehow.

----

When Sasori and Deidara arrived (Hitomi staying at home) at Obito's factory, it came as no surprise to them to find it void of any people. Yet, they could hear the familiar kiais coming from the back...

"Ha!"

It was like a scene from a movie. Deidara blinked slowly at the sight of Obito standing in front of rows of workers, each one of them looking an odd combination of dead serious and nervously excited as they did their best to copy the basic katas that Obito was demonstrating to them.

"Again!" Obito ordered, going through the same series of stances and moves.

There were a variety of characters in the crowd, including a woman that had once been extremely plump, a thin man with a hunched back, a skinny teenager with an almost comical receding hairline, and many more.

"Hey, Obito!" Deidara called out, announcing their presence. "It's not polite to just keep us waiting here, un."

"Deidara?!" Obito instantly fell out of his stance and whipped around, eyes wide. I can't believe it! "You..."

She held out her arms almost mockingly. "Are you just going to keep standing there?"

"DEIDARA!" Rin broke out of the rows with a wide grin on her face, sidling up next to her husband. She'd been far back enough not to notice Deidara and Sasori's almost silent arrival.

Immediately, Rin tackled Deidara into a strong hug that was more like a chokehold than anything else. Chuckling, Obito invited himself into their hug as well, wrapping his arms around both of them. All the while, Sasori stood at the side, looking faintly amused at Deidara's pleading expression. But then it dissolved into a grin and Deidara barked a laugh, pushing back toward Rin and returning the embrace.

"It's good to see you, too," Deidara said sincerely, grinning widely. "Ne, Obito, I didn't realize you took on some new disciples... when did this happen?"

"Honestly? Literally an hour ago." Obito pulled away from his wife and good friend. "Hey, Sasori, my man!" He waved at the puppeteer. "It's been a while. Why didn't you join in?"

Sasori's withering stare was enough of an answer, and Obito sniggered and reached toward him.

"Don't—" Sasori hissed before Obito brought him into the group hug. He sighed in defeat. "I hope you're happy."

"Of course I am! Two of my best friends—including one that I haven't seen in a looong time—just came to see lil' ol' me! Why wouldn't I be happy? I know you are, too, you know, you don't have to hide it!"

The four of them were pressed tightly against each other, and Sasori had to admit that he found some solace in their touch, slowly relaxing.

Obito's disciples had enough respect to simply keep practicing the katas, though they did look noticeably happier. Obito's smiles were truly infectious.

Eventually, they let go of one another.

"What's the story behind this?" Sasori wanted to know, gesturing with one arm at the mass of people gathered and training.

"Ah, well..." Obito rubbed the back of his head, frowning. "Remember that Orochimaru guy? The one that got his ass kicked by Itachi?"

Obito gave them a short summary of the events that had transpired. "And that's it. Now I've got about twenty people learning the Uchiha Style under me."

"You bet!" Naruto, who was in the front row of people, called. "I can't wait to beat Sasuke-teme with the Uchiha Style the next time I see him! His face'll be priceless, dattebayo!"

"What about you two?" Rin asked, looking at Deidara and Sasori. "How did you find each other?"

"It was pure luck," Deidara answered. "I'm staying with him now, and," she dropped her voice to a whisper, "he's taking me to the Underground tonight, to see Itachi and the others." She turned to Obito. "Got any idea where the rest of the Big 4 went?"

"Well," Obito hesitated, "I'm not sure where Gai is. He just kind of... fell of the face of the earth, almost. And for Shisui, well..." His gaze flattened. "I'm almost one hundred percent sure that he's with them."

"You..." Deidara faltered. Shisui? With the enemy? "You're kidding."

He wasn't.

Deidara let out a huff. "I can't believe...! No, there has to be a reason for this. Shisui wouldn't betray us like that, un."

"I've seen him in passing," Obito stated. "He's in Sasuke's patrol group." He eyed his disciples. "I have to get back to teaching now. I'll see you tomorrow? Maybe you can even help."

"I doubt that we'd be much help," Sasori cut in, and Deidara had to agree. After all, they were learning Uchiha taijutsu, while Sasori and Deidara had almost completely different fighting styles that they had developed on their own or with a sensei from a different country. Sasori had spent most of his childhood in Sunagakure, learning the puppet arts and the fighting style that came with it. Deidara, an Iwa orphan that had travelled to Ame a few years ago, had mostly trained by herself and had an entirely personal fighting style, much like Itachi and his Amaterasu.

Obito shrugged. "Leaving me out to hang like this? Maa, you're so cruel, Sasori. Deidara, how can you stand him?"

Deidara smirked. "Practice?" She looked around the courtyard. "You know, we don't have much space in Chiyo-baa-sama's apartment. Mind if we come here to spar, Obito?" She didn't want to dwell on Shisui's possible defection right now; training would be good for her.

"Of course we don't mind," Rin answered for her husband, Obito nodding along. "You guys are welcome here anytime."

"Well, Danna?" Deidara grinned at him. "How about it? Taijutsu only."

Sasori popped his neck, the sound satisfying to his ears. "You're on, brat." As much as he hated to admit it, he hadn't been training as much as he would have liked, busying himself with other things. "Deidara... here's to a good fight."

The rest of the afternoon went by in a flurry of blows and kiais.

----

Dinner was had before the sun set at the factory, and it was much louder and joyous than usual. They all sat down at rows of wooden tables, chatting excitedly, but also hurriedly eating their thin, watery congee. They all had to return home before dark; before the curfew was in play.

The sun was in the middle of setting when Sasori and Deidara took their leave.

"The Underground, huh," Obito said with a small smile. "I wish I could go, but..." He had family he cared deeply for above ground, and he could not leave them alone at night. He wasn't like Hanabi, who had an agenda other than survival.

"We understand," Sasori assured him. "As do they. Goodbye, friend. Don't do anything rash while I'm gone."

"Hah! I'll try not to. See ya, Deidara."

"Later, yeah." She gave him a mock salute. "Don't drive Rin crazy from anything that's not love."

Obito scoffed. "Just go."

Laughing, Deidara did, letting Sasori lead the way to the beer hall. It was time for Obito to leave, too. He could trust Iruka to lock up later in the night. The man actually lived in an apartment that was connected to the factory, as did a few of the workers. Unfortunately, it wasn't big enough to house the orphans as well, and, as such, they slept in the factory.

Rin left earlier before him to spend time with the children, as well as cook them dinner. It had mostly potatoes and the remaining amount of rice Obito had gotten from fighting two Tsukigakure taijutsu masters in Madara's competition.

When he returned home, the cupboards were utterly bare.

Shit.

He'd have to go out again very soon. His body was almost done recovering in his opinion, and that was enough for him. He wasn't a total fool—he'd only be fighting one this time, not two. He swore it.

"Otou-san?"

Obito nearly hit his head on the inside of the cupboard as he pulled his head out. "Itai... Daichi, is that you? Why aren't you in bed?"

Daichi shook his head in the dark room. "Couldn't sleep, that's all." He chuckled a little sheepishly. "I'm... kinda hungry? But there's nothing there, so whatever. I'll go back to sleep."

Obito's eyes grew sad, and he was glad that it was dark. "Sorry. I'll make sure that you'll be able to eat next time."

"Eh?" Daichi frowned. "Does that mean... you're gonna fight again?"

"Yes." He palmed his son's head after some fumbling around, ruffling his hair. "There's no other way. I promise I'll be careful—I won't fight two this time, or I'll never hear the end of it from your mother."

"Heh, yeah." Obito pulled Daichi into a hug, and the boy nuzzled against his shoulder sleepily. "Otou-san, you have to win, okay?"

"Don't worry. I will. Those taijutsu masters won't stand a chance against me!" Obito would not allow himself to be killed or beaten by those brutes—he was too good for that, and he knew it. This wouldn't be the first time he'd gone there. Everything would be fine—he'd win, bring back the rice, and they would all eat well.

"Good," Daichi said with finality in his voice. "Don't come back all beaten up again, 'cause that'd be really uncool, okay?"

"Ouch, kid!" Obito hugged him one last time. "Back to bed, you go. I don't want to see you until the sun is up."

"Fine, fine. Night, otou-san. Love you."

Obito couldn't help but smile. "Love you too, Daichi. I'll see you in the morning."

He'd leave at dawn, he decided, then he'd come back triumphant with a bag of precious rice before afternoon. Then he'd train his disciples, take a break to draw some pictures with his young daughter, Hikari, go back to the factory to train some more, and kick Orochimaru's ass at the end of the week with Deidara and Sasori.

That night, Daichi couldn't sleep, staring up at the ceiling and the sword that Sasuke had given him—the one that hung on his wall.

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