Longest chapter yet. Woohoo! Thanks to everyone who suggested animals.
I commissioned art of Kyou again! You can find it on my Tumblr at exhausted-dog-mom tagged with Shinobi Isekai or on AO3 in the work titled Shinobi Isekai!: Artwork.
Uchiha Shuji looked down at his daughter. She was curled up under the threadbare blanket on their bed, snuggled close to her mother's side, as if the woman could offer some comfort. She'd been like that since the end of her first battle, refusing to speak to anyone in an infantile show of defiance. Tajima had openly criticized Shuji's decision to take her out a year early, and the faction supporting Kyou as a potential heir to the Clan had fallen silent.
It was his mother's censure which stung the most.
The old woman had looked at him with barely concealed disdain, running gnarled fingers through her grandchild's hair.
"What did you expect, Shuji," she chided softly. "She's still a girl, no matter how you dress her up. There are things she just can't do."
Under normal circumstances, Kyou would have vehemently denied that assertion and proclaimed she was as good as any boy—a sentiment Shuju shared and encouraged—but now she just lay in her grandmother's lap and sniffed pathetically.
Where was the spitfire that insisted on defying him at every turn, eyes filled with mischief? This…lump… was not his child.
He sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. "Kyou."
She burrowed deeper into the mattress.
"Kyou," he said again, firmer this time. "Talk to me. I can't fix the problem if I don't know what it is."
Again, she ignored him. He knew his child well enough to know that forcing the matter would only result in more silence—she got her stubborn streak from him, after all—so he reigned in his anger as he reached out and pulled the blanket off of her.
She curled in on herself, hiding her face beneath a waterfall of hair.
"Kyou," he hooked his hands underneath her, pulling her into his arms. "I understand. A first kill is a terrible thing, but necessary. They would have killed you if you hadn't killed them first."
She didn't reply, choosing instead to hide her face behind her hands.
He was rapidly losing patience, but he held on. "Kyou, you can't keep acting like this. Life will only get worse for you the longer you hide yourself away. I know you know that."
"Would you like something to do?" He forced the words out through gritted teeth. "I can find something for you to work on that will keep you from going on any missions for a while. Would you like that?"
She looked up at him, dark eyes limpid and wide.
Finally, a reaction.
"I'm sure Junsuke-jii-sama can dig up some old scrolls for you," he continued, encouraged. "After what you did with the Fireball, I have every confidence you can bend any of the Clan jutsu to suit your suiton."
Her thick straight brows furrowed and she fisted a hand in his kimono. "C-can I? Please?"
Her voice was weak and hoarse from weeks of disuse, but she'd spoken. It was a step in the right direction, and Shuji privately congratulated himself for holding out as long as he had.
"Of course, Kyou," he said with a smile. "So long as you keep up your training. We can't have you falling behind, now can we?"
Her expression closed off some, but she nodded, burying her face in his chest. He ran a hand over her silky hair, glad she'd finally come to her senses. Perhaps his mother was right, to an extent. He could still vividly remember his own first kill, though his sharingan had not activated until several years after. The scent of cooking meat had made him nauseous for weeks before his friends had managed to coerce him into eating it again. How much worse must it be for his child? A girl of playful disposition, with no friends due to her genius and position in the Clan, struggling alone with only a living corpse for comfort?
If he thought about it that way, she was actually doing quite well.
He stood, carrying Kyou with him as he left their home. She hid her face in her crook of his neck, feather soft hair tickling slightly. He glared at the children who crossed his path, daring them to poke fun at Kyou. They were so different from her, so stupid and immature, and he once again thanked the Gods for granting him an exceptional child. He wasn't sure he could have lived with one like them.
Or if one like them could have lived with him.
Perhaps it was just a father's pride, but his daughter was also, undoubtedly, much better looking than any of the other children in the Clan.
She certainly stood out from the pale, washed out crowd, her mother's darker coloring granting her a vibrance lacking in the rest of their family. She was taller than the other girls her age by at least half a head, and he had a sneaking suspicion she's inherited her mother's willowy frame, as well. Poor thing had his face, though. The idea of a woman with his scowl had him choking on laughter, and he applauded his decision to raise Kyou as a man. Even then, it was a little unfortunate.
He'd never claimed to be a handsome man.
Junsuke-jii-sama looked up at him in surprise from where he sat on the engawa of the council hall, the grandest building in the village. He was in the middle of a game of go, his partner, Genma-jii-sama, another of the elders who supported Kyou.
"Ah, Shuji-kun," Junsuke said with a smile and a concerned glance at Kyou. "What brings you here?"
He bowed slightly. "Elders, I have come to ask for access to the Clan scrolls. Kyou will be working on ninjutsu for the next year until he is ready to go out on missions again."
The old men exchanged a glance, their expressions brightening.
"Is that so? I'm sure we can find something that will suit him, can't we Kyou-kun?"
Shuji handed his daughter over to her teacher, watching as the two elders escorted her into the hall. He was confident they would find something suitable for her position as heir, something that would mark her as a step above her peers—above Madara—despite her breakdown.
The dust in the Clan archives was inches thick, undisturbed for who knew how many years. Odd, considering how central some of the jutsu contained there were to the Uchiha identity, according to Junsuke-jii-sama.
She'd spent more time indoors than out in the past few months, and she had a feeling she knew more about the history of the Clan than a lot of the elders at that point. There was no mention of Indra Ootsutsuki, of course, but it made sense that their records wouldn't go that far back. The fight with the Senju went back for centuries, though, and if she wasn't a dimension hopper she might have lost hope for her friendship with Tobirama and Itama.
She hadn't seen either of them since that fateful day on the battlefield. She hadn't even gone to the river in fear they might be there. She wasn't sure how to face them. Would they hate her? Tobirama might. He'd even act on it, too.
Better to just avoid them all together, avoid seeing them, avoid thinking about them, avoid thinking about the battle and the blood and her uncles and—.
Absently, she ran a hand over the scroll in her hands. It was a family tree and finally answered one of her most burning questions. While she'd called all the children in the Clan her cousins, it was especially true of Madara and Izuna, for all they were six generations removed. She and Shuji were the only other branch of the Uchiha main family, with him and Tajima sharing a set of great-great-grandparents. The claim was tenuous, but Satan was the kind of man to cling to something like that. Add to that blood tie her own peculiarities and the grounds for a legitimate claim were laid.
She didn't want to be heir, though.
Fuck, she'd run the Clan to the ground in a week if they put her in charge, out of spite if not pure incompetence.
Satan's training from hell made more sense, now.
The archives were actually pretty cool. She'd never been one for research in her past life—one of the reasons she'd quit school—but learning about jutsus was fun. There were actually a bunch of really cool techniques stored away, forgotten by the Clan, that she looked forward to incorporating into her arsenal.
Most importantly, the fucking tablet was in the archives.
It looked like a particularly squat gravestone, with rows of writing she should have been able to read. Whenever she looked at it, it felt like something was keeping her brain from recognizing the kanji. Even with her sharingan active, she could only read bits and pieces about the Mangekyou and the Bijuu. Only one line stood out as perfectly legible.
The bullshit Zetsu had forged.
Honestly, the fact that she could read about the Ultimate Tsukiyomi without the Mangekyou made it super obvious that the line was somehow different from the others. Looking closely, she could tell that it was less weathered than the other lines, and there were a few differences in handwriting.
Zetsu…hadn't tried very hard, had he?
Then again, given what she knew of the future, he didn't have to, did he?
That one line caused all sorts of shit. Could she erase it? Change what it said? Zetsu had done it, but he was a parthenogenic child of Kaguya. It made sense that he'd be able to mess with something made by one of his siblings. She was an Uchiha, a direct descendent of Kaguya, but the distance between them was so vast, they may as well have been strangers. Odds were the stone would smite her out of existence before she even put a scratch on it.
Wasn't Madara supposed to be the first Uchiha to awaken the Mangekyou? Why the heck did the Clan keep the creepy rock if no one could read it?
She leaned against it, blatantly disrespecting one of the Sage's last mementos as she used it as a backrest. She pulled another scroll from the bottom of a pile, expecting to see either another history or an obscure jutsu. Instead, it was filled with signature after signature, the names written in a reddish brown substance.
It was a summoning scroll!
She'd forgotten about summons, if she was honest. She'd been so focused on mastering her suiton and not dying that the idea of fantastical talking animals had completely slipped her mind.
Could she…sign it?
As soon as that thought entered her mind, she shook her head to dispel it. What was she thinking? She didn't even know what animal this contract was for! She could have ended up with something lame, like slugs or toads!
A plan bloomed in her mind and she scrambled to her feet, taking the scroll with her as she left the archives. She rushed through the halls, stopping to knock on a doorframe.
"Juunsuke-jii-sama, it's Kyou. Can I come in?"
The low murmurs of a conversation came to a halt, and she resigned herself to being dismissed.
"Ah, yes, Kyou-kun. Come in."
She pushed the door to the side, revealing the old man sitting across from Tajima, a go board set up between them.
She bowed to them both. "I'm sorry for interrupting your conversation, Tajima-sama, Junsuke-jii-sama."
The head of her Clan waved aside her apology, not even looking at her as he moved a stone on the board. "Never mind that, Kyou. Don't let me get in the way of your studies."
He'd been treating her better, lately. Likely because she was holed up in the archives instead of making a name for herself where everyone could see.
He was just like Satan, in some ways.
She thanked him and closed the door behind her before kneeling beside the elder in charge of her education.
"Jii-sama," she began, presenting the scroll with two hands. "I found this in the archives. I thought you might know what animal it's for."
He took the scroll and unfurled it, bushy grey eyebrows rising as he took in the contents.
"Well, I'll be. I had no idea there was a summoning contract in there." He pointed to the last signature. "That's Tetsuya-sama's name—your grandfather, Tajima-kun. I imagine this scroll is for the falcons, then."
Tajima held out a hand for the scroll and Junsuke handed it over. Tajima smiled over at Kyou.
"Good job finding this, Kyou. We weren't sure what the old man did with it after his death."
She fidgeted under his praise, carefully avoiding her uncle's gaze.
He stood. "Thank you for your time, Junsuke-jii-san. I think I will show this to Madara and incorporate it into his training. It will be good to reestablish ties with the falcons."
Kyou and Junsuke watched him leave, heaving twin sighs of relief when the door closed.
"Well, that was unfortunate," the old man griped. "That scroll would have given you quite the advantage."
She smiled up at him. "It's ok, jii-sama. I don't want the falcons, anyway." She turned up the cuteness dial, making her eyes wide and guileless. "I was wondering if I could get my own summons, just for me."
Junsuke looked surprised at the suggestion. "Well, I don't know, Kyou-kun. Historically, our clan has only really used the falcons. They've become a symbol of the head family."
Good thing she wanted nothing to do with that, huh?
She twiddled her thumbs in her lap, putting on an act of resignation. "I suppose you're right. Sorry for losing the scroll, jii-sama." She stood, slowly approaching the door.
He sighed, shoulders sagging. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to make your own contract."
Oh, man, this was going to be fucking sweet!
It was not fucking sweet.
While she knew theoretically that a summoning jutsu performed without a contract would result in a reverse summoning, she was not prepared for the reality of it.
Junsuke had insisted she do it with his supervision and they set up in the archives where no one would bother intruding. He showed her the hand signs—Boar Dog Bird Monkey Ram—and insisted she meditate and gather chakra before using them.
In hindsight, he was probably right to do all those things, but at the time she was too caught up in her excitement to appreciate it.
Being reverse summoned was a horrible feeling. How did Harry Potter describe portkeys? Like a hook behind the navel? It felt like that, only the hook was barbed and laced in acid. She was too busy vomiting to notice where she was at first, but it was immediately obvious she wasn't in the Land of Fire anymore.
The ground beneath her was hard and gritty with golden sand that stuck to her skin. She was underneath a scary outcropping of yellow stone, in a semi enclosed cavelike space with patches of greenery clinging to the walls along the ground. She quickly removed herself from the precarious overhang, feeling much safer out in what looked like a rocky canyon. A bright sun beat down on her, the heat a starling contrast to the early spring chill she'd left behind.
Memories of a childhood spent in sandy deserts and hiking canyon trails rose unbidden in her mind, bringing tears with them. When was the last time she thought about that life? About her actual father and his actual parenting skills?
She wiped at her eyes furiously, shoving those memories back into the box they'd crawled out of. No. She did not have time to worry about those things.
Kyou looked around for any signs of life, but found none. An errant wind stirred the sand, long tufts of grass casting shadows as they swayed. Her skin already felt burnt, and she knew from experience that she'd need water if she was going to be in this weird desert place for too long.
Luckily, she had her own supply of the stuff.
Was drinking water she vomited into existence weird?
She made her way through the canyon, sticking to the shadowed edge and keeping an eye on her surroundings. She was supposed to find the animals she most resembled or something, right? It made sense that it would be a desert creature, then, since it was technically her native habitat, too. Thing was, a fuck ton of animals lived in the desert.
It could be lizards! Some of her fondest memories involved lizards, like the lizard carpet at the airport and finding lizards in places lizards should not be! A trademark desert experience.
Or mice! Scorpion killer mice howled like wolves, only tiny and cute! That would be fun.
Ooh, scorpions! Fuck yeah! Classic desert beasty.
Something moved and she froze, hackles raising as her sharingan activated instinctively. She turned her head slowly, trying to catch sight of whatever it was, only find herself completely alone. Was she being paranoid? Surely her sharingan would be able to pick out camouflage, right?
Laughter cut through the tense atmosphere, echoing off the walls of the canyon shrill and sinister. She suddenly felt every one of her three and halfish feet, so small and little. This was a stupid idea. Once again, she'd rushed into something she wasn't ready for. She'd only just begun acting like her old self again, how long would she be out of commission this time?
Another laugh answered the first, with more and more voices joining the spooky chorus.
She stood perfectly still, back against the wall of the canyon and burning eyes searching for the source of the voices.
"Well, this is unexpected." The voice sounded female, but it was husky and deep, like a geriatric chain smoker. "It's been a long time since we had any visitors."
Another round of laughter rose in response, and Kyou looked up. Something—a whole bunch of somethings—looked back, shadowy silhouettes outlined by the sun. She caught a squinty eyes glimpse of big, round ears, but everything else was lost to the play of light and shadow.
"H-hello?" She called up to them. "Um, I like your canyon."
"Oh, a cub with manners. How rare." The group tittered as their leader spoke. "What brings you to us, cub?"
She swallowed thickly. Fuck, what did she say?
"Um, I wanted to form a summoning contract," she started honestly. "But, I'm not sure if I want to anymore."
They laughed at her expense. "Really? Have we scared you, cub?"
Kyou smiled tremulously. "A little," she admitted. "But being summoned feels really gross. I can't imagine anyone signing up to do it on the regular, let alone forcing you to do it. I don't think I could, to be honest."
It was true. Having been summoned, herself, the idea of forcing anyone to go through that horrid, literally gut wrenching experience over and over again at someone else's convenience was an evil concept.
"Oh? How kind of you." She did not like that emphasis. Nuh uh. "Tell me, cub, would you really go home without signing a contract?"
She squinted up at the speaker and their posse. "It's not like that was my decision to make in the first place, right? Can't you just spit me out if you don't like me?" That was the assumption she was going off of, anyway. "I mean, sure, it'll be disappointing and I'll probably get in trouble, but this is your place, right? It's your decision."
She'd get in so much trouble if she went back empty handed, but the more she thought about it the more the whole summoning system felt like slavery and fuck but she hadn't thought this through.
"Hmm, it is my decision, isn't it?" A shadow leapt down from the lip of the canyon and Kyou covered her head reflexively. "None of that! Show me your face, cub."
She lowered her arms slowly, cautiously revealing herself to what she knew was likely a large predator from the size of the shadow being cast over her. She was right.
A hyena stood in front of her—explained the 'laughter'; honestly, she felt kind of dumb for not realizing it sooner—many times larger than the kind from her old world. Kyou only came up to its knee and it looked down at her from atop an uncannily long neck. Its fur was the same gold as the stone around them and covered in black spots. Its ears were large and very round and focused on her, black muzzle wrinkling as it scented the air.
It lowered its massive head, blowing hot air into Kyou's face.
"What's your name, cub?"
"Kyou," she answered without hesitation. "Uchiha Kyou."
The hyena cocked its head. "That's not your only name, is it cub?"
Oh. Oh. Oh no.
She cleared her throat. "Ah, um, my n-name used to be…Julia Rodriguez."
The hyena sniffed her again, coming uncomfortably close. "Well, then, Uchiha Kyou, once Yuria Rodurigesu, what can you offer my Clan?"
Kyou pressed her weight into the canyon wall behind her. "U-um, well, I'm not sure. What do you want?"
The massive predator huffed in her face. "What can you give?"
Kyou bit her lip to keep herself from mouthing off. Sweat dripped down her forehead as she considered her answer. "I don't know. I'm still a cub, so I can't really give you anything. Maybe a meal, if you eat me—!" She pressed her hands over her mouth, cursing her stupid mouth for getting ahead of her brain.
The hyena laughed, its teeth gleaming in the bright desert sun. "Indeed, you are still a cub. Tell me this, then, what do you want from us?"
That Kyou could answer. "Well, I want to learn. I'm the only one in my Clan with suiton chakra, so I have to figure everything out, myself. I was hoping a summon might be willing to teach me, or something."
The hyena lay down on its haunches and Kyou watched as the others came down into the canyon, arranging themselves behind their leader. "Your mother cannot teach you?"
Kyou cocked her head, confused. "My mother is sick. She can't do anything. Even if she wasn't, my Clan doesn't teach its women."
The entire group, some thirty or forty strong, gasped. The canyon was suddenly filled with scandalized chatter. The leader barked at them and they lowered their voices, whispering angrily among themselves.
"If that is so," the big one drawled. "Then how are you here?"
Oh, sweet! They knew she was a girl! Obviously, Kyou, they have noses. Why are you so stupid?
She shrugged. "My father told everyone I was a boy and made sure I learned. He's only doing it so I can take over the Clan for him, though."
"You are a Princess?"
Kyou smiled wryly. "I guess you could call me that. I'm a member of the main family, in any case. Only men can inherit, so a man I must be."
The leader scoffed, stirring up dust with the force of its breath. "Human folly at its finest."
Kyou nodded in agreement. Her mind dredged up a memory of an Animal Planet marathon and she remembered that some hyenas were matriarchal. The big one must be female, then. No wonder they were all so insulted by the patriarchy. Thank God they were insulted by the patriarchy.
"I want," she ventured, somewhat nervous to be speaking out of turn. "To be strong enough to survive as a woman in a patriarchal world. I want to be strong enough to live however I want, to do the things I want to do, without having to worry that a man will take that choice away from me. I want to dress like a woman, talk like a woman, walk through the woods as a woman without having to fear a man will take anything I don't want to give."
The hyena Matriarch smiled, the expression weird and scary on her soot black face. "We can do that. Can't we?"
The Clan behind her all voiced their raucous agreement and Kyou felt a little warm and fuzzy, the high of speaking her mind putting a wide smile on her face.
"Well, then, Uchiha Kyou," the Matriarch said as she got to her—very large—feet. "Follow me."
The long legged hyena slowed her gait considerably so Kyou could keep up with her, some of her smaller Clanmates following in their wake.
"My name is Emi," she said as she led the way through the canyon. "I am the leader of this Clan and all humans who wish to sign our contract must go through me. I am not the final gauntlet, though."
Kyou nodded, thinking back to her memories of the toads. "That makes sense. Do you have elders? My Clan does."
Emi chuckled, the sound an odd mix of grating rocks and dog barking. "Yes, we do. The Grandmothers are the final authority when it comes to summoning. Though my word carries weight, they are the ones who will or will not allow you to sign."
Kyou hummed in understanding, wiping at the sweat on her forehead before it could drip into her eyes. She had not missed the desert heat, that was for sure.
The canyon opened up into a wide basin, a large pool of water taking up most of the space, the cloudless sky reflected on its surface. Emi lead the way around the edge of the mirroresque pool, each hyena taking special care no to disturb the water. On the other side of the basin, three massive hyenas—even larger than Emi—lounged on a raised stone shaded by a lone acacia tree. As one, they raised their heads to watch Kyou's entourage approach.
They were all old in an obvious way, their muzzles fully grey and their coats shaggy and scarred. The biggest one looked right at Kyou with eyes as reflective as the watering hole, gaze unseeing yet somehow piercing.
"Ah, Emi," she said, her voice even more grating than the younger Matriarch. "You've grown soft."
The other two elders tittered and Emi sat beside Kyou with a humph.
"This is Uchiha Kyou, Princess of the Uchiha Clan. She wishes to sign the contract."
The big one hummed, a terrible, hair raising sound. "Is that so? Step forward, cub. Let us see our would be summoner."
Kyou hesitated before obeying, stiffening as all three hyenas reached over to sniff her. The blind one took in a long breath before sneezing—all over Kyou.
"Ah," she complained. "You're a strange one."
"Hmm, yes, strange."
Kyou scrunched her brows as she looked up at the old animals. "But not bad?"
They laughed, the eerily human sounds in perfect sync.
"No," one of the smaller ones said. "Not bad."
"Not bad at all," the other affirmed.
"Just strange," the blind one finished with a huff. "You may sign."
What. That was it?
Kyou managed to stop herself before she said that out loud. She really shouldn't be complaining.
The two smaller elders stood, moving to lay behind their larger counterpart. She, in turn, gestured with her giant head for Kyou to approach. The human girl climbed onto the rock with little trouble, using her chakra to scale it, and shrank beneath the hyena's blind scrutiny. She moved a foreleg, revealing a list of names written onto the stone itself.
"We are a selective Clan," she said, likely sensing Kyou's confusion. "We do not leave things to chance."
Kyou could appreciate that. She knelt beside the blind elder, raising her thumb to her mouth and—after a moment's fumbling—biting through it. Quickly, she wrote out her name, her blood immediately fading to match the other names on the stone as she made the final stroke. She placed her dusty thumb into her mouth, looking up to meet the Grandmother's gaze. It was hard to tell from so close up, but she thought she might be smiling.
"Who will go with the cub?" Emi's voice broke the silence, and Kyou looked out at the gathered group of hyenas. They chattered among themselves, not all of them using human words. Finally, one stepped forward.
"I will, Matriarch." This hyena was among the smallest that Kyou could see, and its voice was softer than either Emi's or the blind elder's.
Emi's lip curled. "What do you have to offer the cub, Warai? What can a Princess learn from a young male?"
Oh fuck. Was that misandry? Were these hyenas reverse chauvinists?
The male, Warai, wilted under his Matriarch's glare. "I am small, so the human Clan will not fear me. I am male, so they will value me, and thus the Princess. I have suiton, so the Princess may learn from me."
The other hyenas all nodded along with his reasons and Emi barked her approval. "Good! Warai will accompany the cub to the human realm."
Kyou slowly made her way over to the edge of the raised stone dais, fully expecting to be scolded for moving without permission. When no one spoke out against her, she slid down onto the ground and bowed to Warai. He really was small—at least, compared to Emi—with his ears standing level with Kyou's eyes. He was probably around average size for actual hyenas.
"Thank you for volunteering, Warai-san. I will do my best to be a good student."
It was hard to tell, but she got the feeling he was uncomfortable. "Y-yes, Princess."
She winced. "You probably shouldn't call me that. No one is supposed to know."
He nodded. "C-cub, then."
Kyou smiled at him, glad to know she wasn't the only one with nerves. "Yeah, cub works."
Junsuke's expression when she reappeared in the archives with a whole ass hyena was priceless. Kyou half suspected he'd had a heart attack from the shock, but the smile that broke out on his face burst that bubble.
"Ah, Kyou-kun! You were successful, I see. Er…who is your companion."
Kyou looked to Warai only to find him looking to her. "Ah! This is Warai-san. He is a hyena and will be teaching me suiton."
Warai bowed his head to the human elder who looked positively ecstatic. "Oh, will he? Wonderful, just wonderful, Kyou-kun! I will admit, I was getting a bit worried. You were gone for quite some time."
Was she? It hadn't felt like that long.
"Um, jii-sama," she began hesitantly. "Will I get in trouble for this?"
Junsuke's exuberance faded. "Ah, it's not likely. Falcons are the symbol of the head family, so this…hyena…shouldn't pose a problem. If anything, I'll have to fend off other boys looking to gain their own summons. Not everyone can stand level with you and Madara, I'm afraid."
She nodded, glad to have that base covered. "Thank you, jii-sama. Is there anything else you need me for, today, or may I go tell my father the good news?"
The old man smiled at her. "Go ahead, Kyou-kun. I'm sure he will be proud."