Mommy won't stop crying. And Daddy's always working. There's no going back.
July 4, Year 3 (II Sandaime)
Uchiha Itachi carefully opened the door to his house's private dojo. It wasn't a real dojo; it lacked a full-time sensei and had no students. But it was a sparring floor, and the surrounding area had several nooks and crannies that would be particularly useful to a Sharingan user. He was only nine, and he was still a little small for his age, but he was plenty skilled and his height only made it easier to crouch and watch.
The actual door only opened centimetres; just wide enough for Itachi to be able to see.
His mother had a sparring match.
His mother practically never had sparring matches. His father said she wasn't a good fighter anymore, because she hadn't used any of her skill in years. Itachi vaguely remembered the last time he'd tried to steal a cookie, and his mother's reflexes.
When he'd tried to steal one of Sasuke's cookies, she had struck the back of his hand with the flat of a spatula. He hadn't been able to pull away in time. And she'd been so casual about it, too, not even looking over at him to see if she'd hit him. The spatula had been hot, and though he never said anything about it, he'd filed that little offence away somewhere in his head. Just one more proof, he thought, not sure what he was proving.
If she wanted to, she could still kill a man with a flick of her wrist. Itachi knew that, and for some reason his father didn't. He was starting to think his father was more than just a reactionary conservative. He seemed blind, sometimes.
"We all thank Gong De Tian for her small graces," the sparring partner said, and Itachi knew that he was a Hyuuga.
His mother laughed. It was a long, low sound, and he remembered, for a moment, a conversation with his father.
—Because she was very beautiful, and I was a fool.
"And what graces are those this time?"
There was something wrong with his mother's voice. His mother was always a little cheerful, but her tone now was lighter, lilting. Teasing. She was making fun of him.
Women weren't supposed to make fun of men. Or was it wives and husbands? His father's words— except for the ones that made him angry— had all begun to blur in his mind. He was a knee-jerk conservative, reactionary, completely consumed in propagating a system that didn't work anymore.
"At the moment, combat graces. But perhaps they'll be something more after we're through?"
You weren't supposed to make fun of people, and Hyuuga got especially tetchy about it, but this one didn't sound like he minded. It made him sound wrong.
"Hmph. And you accuse me of breaking our rules too often!"
"I don't think we ever set down rules for sparring."
"Those weren't the rules I was talking about."
Itachi's brows furrowed. He peered through the gap.
The Sharingan activated.
The man was already moving in the distinctive circular footwork of the Hyuuga family style. His mother watched him, chakra wires in her hands.
Her face was completely calm. Serene, like still water. Unmoved and unmoving.
That. That was what he strove for. That sort of calm, even when you were facing down your family's enemy in your own home— he wanted to have that for the rest of his life.
Not just during combat.
The wires snapped out. The Hyuuga whirled away. She struck out with them again, and again he dodged.
It continued like that for several minutes. She would attack and the Hyuuga would dodge. Itachi watched every moment of it, every single fleeting second. Her wires looked different with the Sharingan activated. They almost seemed to glow.
Then it stopped. The Hyuuga circled and whirled around Mikoto, who stood still and silent and ran her wires through her hands. Neither of them looked short of breath.
"Take me seriously," the Hyuuga growled.
Mikoto tilted her head to one side. She was probably smiling. "I do."
"No, you don't."
Her head tilted to the other side. Itachi knew from carrying on conversations with her, and watching her argue with his father, that she had discarded the smile. She'd probably raised an eyebrow.
The Hyuuga's voice went quiet, deep. "Open your eyes."
Mikoto stopped moving. She tilted her head down, and then lifted it back up. The Hyuuga stood there for a long moment before tossing back his head and laughing.
"Are we ready to go now?" His mother asked. Itachi could hear small amounts of tension in her voice— a tell-tale sign of Sharingan activation.
"We're ready," said the Hyuuga with laughter in his voice.
The spar became a dizzying whirl of white, silver, and black. Even with the Sharingan activated, tomoe spinning in lazy circles in his eyes, following them was difficult. Everything became single snapshot moments.
Glowing white chakra strings. Razor wire and wispy will-threads. Whorls and lines and deadly, deadly curves. A graceful arc, five half-moons hanging in the air, glinting.
Hyuuga hands outstretched. Arms that swept and bent. Hair that drifted one way and then another as he ducked.