Two Years Ago; Valley of the End
A shrill, bell-chiming noise filled the air, so sharp and piercing it hurt the ears. This sound, however, wasn't from a traditional bell; the sheer volume of Wind Release chakra being concentrated into two separate points as a singularity was responsible for this horrifying sound. And the source of this screeching was a young blonde girl with flowing blonde-twintails. Normally wearing trademark orange, Naruto Uzumaki was enveloped in a yellow light that covered all but her skin as she floated in the air, protected by a chakra-effigy of Kurama, the Nine-Tailed Fox.
She was fighting for her life, and, low on chakra, had resorted to the use of Shadow Clones to combine three avatars into one; three heads, six arms. Had she not been so focused on maintaining her techniques, and the natural energy Kurama had worked so hard to gather, she would have appreciated the irony of her current form, so much like Ashura, her ancestor.
Staring her down was Sasuke Uchiha; last of the Uchiha clan, inheritor of their tainted legacy. Formerly consumed by hatred, he was now a man with a mission, and one Naruto had to stop; for her sake as well as his own. She wouldn't allow him to shoulder the curse of solitude again. She couldn't allow it; not when she was standing, right here, in front of him. Why couldn't he see that she could stand by his side if he would take the time to accept that? That he didn't have to be alone?
"I know we're both shouldering different kinds of things right now..." She muttered, but it was loud enough even in all this calamity for Sasuke to hear. She thought back, back to younger days; before the Akatsuki, before their pasts had consumed their present and future.
When they were children, Sasuke had always been one step ahead; Naruto, longing to know him, had always followed behind, and had always been behind, whether it was in class, or in their missions. But she knew that one day, Sasuke could acknowledge her as a friend and a rival; an equal. To be level with Sasuke was what she had always dreamed of. So that day, in the Chūnin exams, when he had said those words:
"You're one of the ones I really want to fight."
It had made her happy. He was finally beginning to see that she was worth more than just the bottom-of-the-class screw up.
And now, she could turn Sasuke's words back at him.
"...Fight me. I want to defeat you properly, Sasuke."
Silence. That was Sasuke's response; he hadn't forgotten his words from all those years ago, and to see that Naruto no only remembered them, but turned them back on him in this desperate situation left him with nothing to say in reply. And just like their first fight in the Final Valley, he knew words would no longer suffice; thus, he had Susanoo raise its bow. Lightning crackled and sizzled within the weapon, as Sasuke pulled the string back.
With a clap like thunder, a Lightning Release arrow, empowered by the Nine Tailed Beasts he had absorbed into Susanoo, shot forward, virtually heating the air with its power.
"But...we can't resolve anything this way! Now the way you are now!!!" She cried, a pained expression crossing her face. "I know you know that as well, Sasuke!!" And she released both Rasenshuriken from the hands of Kurama; the two spheres, black and orange in colouration, spiraled towards the manifestation of nature's wrath that Sasuke had shot in her direction. These spheres were backed by far more than simply Sage and Tailed Beast power; they held the memories of Sasuke that Naruto kept her in heart.
And they would become her weapon to bring him back to his senses. It was here that the conflict between Ashura and Indra; the long conflict of the bloodlines that had birthed the Uchiha, Senju, Uzumaki, and Hyūga, would end here and now, by the hands of the new generation.
Sasuke found himself desperately wishing for Naruto's quick and swift defeat. "Right here and now...is the end of our battle, Naruto. And every battle we've had up until this point." A glare plastered across his face that always masked the true emotions that lay within, Sasuke kept praying to whatever god he could, "Indra's Arrow; the technique I've released, is my strongest offensive ability. Please...just fall!"
With the crashing boom of an explosion followed by a blinding flash of light; Naruto and Sasuke covered their eyes, the light far too bright to allow them to see the end result of their conflict anymore. Wind Release and Lightning Release chakra meshed; the mix was not good for Indra's Arrow, however, both techniques were supplemented by the chakra of all Nine Tailed Beasts, improving their chances of overtaking each other. In the end, they proved volatile, and their massive explosion superheated the air, giving rise to cumulonimbus clouds which began to crackle and roar with thunder and lightning.
The dark clouds overtook the sky, blocking out the sun like night. Electrical currents crackled throughout the billow of air, while dense bolts of lightning crashed to the ground, followed by deafening cracks of thunder. The bolts of electricity collided with the ground on a massive scale only before seen from the Ten-Tail's Tenpenchii; craters were formed as the ground was rent asunder, forests set aflame and mountains began to crumble. The very lake in the Final Valley shook and trembled, creating massive waves akin to a storm that washed over Madara and Hashirama's statues. The winds that this storm kicked up could be felt far enough that Kakashi could sense the trembling of the area; the Shinju's roots, which encased the entirety of the Fourth Shinobi World War's army, began to shake and quiver, the people cocoons swaying violently in the wind.
"This kind of power those two are throwing around..." Kakashi muttered, cradling the form of Sakura, who was unconscious in his arms at the hands of Sasuke. Even without his Sharingan, he could tell that storm was a dense mass of chakra, and such a highly concentrated gathering of chakra meant nothing good for those trapped inside it. "Don't prolong this, you two..."
From the depths of the clouds, the two ninja fell to Earth.
Their battle was not yet finished.
Present Time; Konohagakure
Two years had passed since the events concerning Toneri Ōtsutsuki. In spite of his desire to carry out the supposed will of Hamura Ōtsutsuki to punish humanity for misusing chakra. The terror of the descending lunar body had long passed, and to Konohagakura and even the rest of the world, it was a memory best put behind them. With the world no longer in danger for the first time in many years, Konohagakure — no, the world at large — could enjoy an era of peace that hadn't been seen since the Shinobi villages were first formed by Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha nearly a century ago.
Many things had changed in the village during the time between the Fourth Shinobi World War, Toneri's assault on humanity, and now. Tsunade had stepped down from Hokage at the end of the Fourth War, opting to go back into retirement instead, and promoted Kakashi in her stead. When she could slip out of Shizune's watchful gaze, the woman still seemed to be fond of gambling; mercifully, her debts could no longer be charged directly to the Hokage's office, leaving Konha out of a fiscal crisis.
With peace came the time to divert the village's finances to new projects; while training shinobi was still a practice, Konohagakure had undergone a technology revolution that was truly beginning to show. Convenient forms of communications had been developed, and computers were beginning to evolve with the new technology, becoming easier to use and more modern. But the most staggering development was that of construction; steel was beginning to be seen for its value in the building of towering structures, with Konoha having plans to create a metropolis and widen itself from a simple Hidden Village into a large city. The Hokage Library had been demolished, and standing in its place were the steel skeletons that were the very beginnings of the Konoha City.
All of this was a new sight for Sasuke Uchiha, fresh from his journey around the world.
"So this is what they've done to Konoha," The Uchiha thought to himself as he walked past the village gate, his onyx eyes looking upon the village with new light. It had been four years since he'd truly returned to Konoha — his brief arrival to save Naruto and Kakashi from a meteor during Toneri's attack notwithstanding — and his home seemed to be changing. A recurring theme, he noticed, that the rest of the world was following. Naruto, for once, had been right; the world wasn't the same anymore. Villages were beginning to modernize, and adopt far more peaceful policies that matches the air the world was now exuding; as much as Sasuke couldn't believe it, the world was slowly moving in the right direction. He'd seen it with his eyes.
The world was moving towards peace.
It had taken Sasuke a moment to adjust to being back in a crowded village filled with people; he'd walked past the check-point without even being stopped. Being pardoned for his crimes by the Sixth Hokage had also removed Sasuke's status as a missing-nin, and now, the world's authorities left the Uchiha alone. It didn't take Sasuke too long to meet a familiar face, and it came in the form of Rock Lee, the foremost taijutsu expert, second to only Might Guy. The energetic man had only recently been promoted to the rank of Jōnin, and in a strange form of celebration, had redoubled his training and was currently running laps around Konohagakure on his fingertips.
Lee was on his 250th lap and counting.
It was when he neared the completion of this lap and was prepared to start another that the bowl-cut noticed Sasuke; it took Lee only moments to register who the person was and the implications this had.
At the outcry, Sasuke took notice of the oddly postured Lee. Lee hadn't changed; as energetic and hyperactive as ever, for better or worse. "Hm?"
Craning his head upwards to glance at Sasuke while still on his fingerstand, Lee shouted loudly for the entire street to hear, "You have returned! My life-long rival has returned from his journey!"
At this, Sasuke had more than a few objections, raising an eyebrow. He began to open his mouth in response, but Lee's swift movements cut the man off before he could even form a sentence.
The bowl-cut sporting Taijutsu specialist flipped upright, his weights swinging off his legs in a fashion akin to his Leaf Hurricane, slicing through several trees as they flew off in opposite directions. "NARUTO AND SAKURA! I MUST TELL THEM!" Before Sasuke could even make an objection, Rock Lee took off, running back into the village in a comical whirlwind of speed, completely forgetting his own training as he called back to the Uchiha, "WAIT HERE MY RIVAL SAAAAAAAAAASUUUUUUUUUUKE!!!!"
Sasuke simply closed his mouth, unable to speak due to sheer shock." I didn't know what to expect...that wasn't one of them..." Despite the odd event, and Lee's insistence that he stay where he was, Sasuke continued to walk as if nothing odd had happened. Sasuke took in the atmosphere of his home — he liked the sound of the word, home — and found he wasn't having difficulty adjusting. Perhaps spending time in several other villages, and observing the world, had made him more receptive to life in a village than he'd originally thought.
He passed by a small child who was holding a red balloon endowed with a tomoe, reminiscent of the Sharingan inherent to his clan. This attracted his attention, and in turn, the boy looked at up Sasuke with a kind of curiosity, gnawing on a fried squid. They simply stood there for a moment, before Sasuke decided to move on. As he made this decision, the kid's grip on his balloon slacked and it began to float up into the air. After seconds of following his balloon with his eyes, the boy looked as if he would cry.
Letting out a sigh, Sasuke looked up towards the balloon; within seconds, he evaporated into space, reappearing high in the air. The balloon had appeared in front of the child, as if by magic, and he grabbed it, looking around for Sasuke, who had since landed atop a building's rooftop. He chuckled to himself, smiling wryly before heading off in a familiar direction; considering that his 'good deed for the day', he made his way to see old faces.
"Hrm...." Laying, half-asleep in her bed, covered by a quilt embroidered with the Uzumaki Clan symbol, was Naruto Uzumaki. Her hair undone from her usual twintails, and, in tomboyish fashion, the girl wore only a pair of pants and a loose t-shirt, covered, of course, by the quilt. Gripping the quilt with her real hand, she held a picture frame above her face with her bandage-wrapped prosthetic. She hadn't opened the window by her bed today, and thus the room was dim; the only light came from a flickering lamp she kept by her bedside. For Naruto, this was just one of those days; a day where she hadn't been able to focus on much of anything but the past. Lazily looking at the frame that held the picture of Team 7 in their younger years, she let out a sigh.
Naruto turned her head, looking at a withering plant she kept by her windowsill. She'd forsaken this plant, 'Ukki-kun', for awhile; while she considered her hobby to be gardening and taking care of plants, she couldn't bring herself to tend to Ukki-kun as much as she had before. It was two years since she'd defeated Toneri Ōtsutsuki. Two years since she'd last seen anything of Sasuke. She wasn't one to consider herself obsessed, however, she was concerned, and after the past few days, it seemed to be eating at her.
"I think you humans call that being depressed, kid," Kurama's voice sounded in Naruto's head, attracting her attention as the first bit of conversation she'd had in an entire day, "are you just going to lie in your bed the entire time moping? That isn't like you."
"I'm not moping, I'm thinking," Naruto replied quickly.
"That's not like you either," Kurama didn't miss a beat in his reply.
"Come off it," Naruto replied, turning her attention away from her partner and back towards the frame she held in her bandaged hand. What was it gnawing at her? Sasuke could handle himself, she knew that well enough; was she simply worried about him? She thought she'd been over this kind of feeling once she and Sasuke had fought each other for the final time in the Final Valley. And yet it was at the same time a different feeling than when she was worried about Sasuke losing himself to a curse of loneliness; this feeling was different from that.
Perhaps, for the first time since Sasuke'd begun his journey, Naruto was truly beginning to miss him. Was she beginning to feel lonely without Sasuke?
"NARUTO, SASUKE HAS RETURNED TO THE VILLAGE!" Naruto's window was opened violently, shaking the glass but not shattering it as Rock Lee thrust his torso into the room, knocking Ukki-kun onto the bed as he shouted at the top of his lungs.
"KYAA~!" Naruto shouted shrilly, bolting upright, glaring at her intruding peer. She jumped back on instinct, manifesting a Truth-Seeking Ball under her foot to levitate on, covering her chest with a blanket to make up for the t-shirt's poor job of truly covering her. "L-L-LEE!?"
"Did you not hear me, Naru-!" Lee kept talking, unable to read Naruto's own reaction to his impromptu arrival into her apartment.
"Thank you for your news flash, Lee," She clenched her fist in irritation, a vein protruding from her forehead as she glared at Lee, "now GET OUT!" The girl leaped from the sphere that was her mount, landing a firm jumping kick directly into the bowl cut man's jaw, sending him hurtling from her windowsill and into the earthen ground below. Ignoring the overly-loud crash that told Naruto she hadn't watched her own strength, she slammed the window shut, her face flushing a slight pink.
Sasuke was back?
Then she began to worry; how should she look? What should she wear? Was her hair alright? Sasuke was back, and this would be her first time seeing him in two years; what if she looked like an idiot?
Naruto immediately began to dress herself, quickly slipping into a new outfit with her trademark orange colours. She had adopted a new outfit in the years since Toneri's attack, consisting of a long-sleeved, tube-collared black shirt, the bandages concealing her right arm visible on her hands, with red highlights outlining the trim of her jacket as well as color the zipper trail. She'd changed her hitai-ate for a second time; the metal plate was still from the same original headband Iruka had given her during graduation but the band itself was now a simple, thick black elastic band. She donned a red kama skirt lined with black highlights, tucked around her waist, covering her thighs down to her knees, while retaining a pair of orange cargo shorts. Tying up her twintails, she approached the door of her apartment, slipping into her standard black ninja sandals, before exiting her home without a second looking, leaving a forlorn Ukki-kun on the bed.
"Long time no see, loser,"
Before Naruto had taken even three steps outside of her door, she heard a familiar drawl that attracted the attention of her slightly flushed face. Standing in front of her was Sasuke Uchiha, who was perched with his right hand — his only available hand, due to the aftermath of their final fight — stuck in his pocket, smiling wryly in Naruto's direction.
And thus their reunion began.
"Two years, huh?" Sasuke mused, looking around the village as he and Naruto walked through the crowds of citizens, normal humans and shinobi alike. "Everything's changed drastically in just the short time I've been gone."
"Yeah," Naruto scratched the side of her forehead. She felt awkward, walking with Sasuke like a normal person through the village. If anyone had told her she'd be walking alongside him like this just a few years ago, she'd have stubbornly laughed them off — after all, why would she have cared about something like this back when she was a kid? "Kakashi's been working his butt off as Hokage; I'm surprised, actually. I wouldn't have pegged him for the type to handle this kind of responsibility."
"It never seemed to be his style," Sasuke nodded, remembering their chronically late, lackadaisical teacher. When he first met Kakashi, he'd thought the man was far from proper shinobi material; always late, too laid back, and he gave off the air of a person who was unreliable. Underneath that, however, was a powerful Shinobi with a wealth of skill that Sasuke had come to have a grudging respect for. "He never ceases to surprise, does he?"
"How've you been doing?" The twin-tailed blonde asked, her eyes glancing towards Sasuke's missing arm. Despite having wandered the globe as an amputee, he seemed to be in good health; unharmed despite his physical impairment. Unlike Sasuke, Naruto hadn't needed to adapt to life without her arm; she'd received a prosthetic made of Hashirama Senju's cells a few days after the incident. Sasuke had left Konohagakure before Tsunade had finished his.
Sasuke flashed a thin smile. "Referring to my arm?" His onyx eyes glanced at his own, and then at Naruto's bandaged limb. "You needn't worry — or do you feel guilty? I've adapted pretty well to using my right hand as my dominant arm, though the edge of my blade has dulled slightly."
A laugh escaped Naruto's throat; having fought Sasuke several times before, she knew that his edge dulling was impossible. As the two kept walking, they came up to Ramen Ichiraku, Konoha's ramen bar. The sight of her favorite hangout naturally caught the young girl's attention, and she gestured towards it with a bandaged hand.
"Since we're out like this, why not grab a bite?" She suggested, pulling on Sasuke's arm before the ebony-tressed man could even give his consent. She flipped over the banner that read "ラーメン一楽", smiling broadly as Teuchi and Ayame turned to see their customers . The sight of Naruto was far from a surprise to the elderly ramen chef, as to call Ichiraku her second home wouldn't be an understatement. Naruto led Sasuke to a seat in the bar, plopping down next to him and turning to face Teuchi.
"Naruto!" The man greeted his favorite customer with a broad smile that was only matched by the blonde girl. "Nice to see you again; and you've brought a guest? Sasuke, isn't it?"
The ebony-tressed man was surprised that Teuchi had bothered to remember his name. Unlike Naruto, he was far from a regular customer here; ramen wasn't his favorite food, and he'd only come to Ramen Ichiraku on several short occasions before, and only a few of them had been to actually eat the food Teuchi sold. The only time he'd spoken directly to Teuchi was, ironically, when he was looking for Naruto several years ago. He hadn't even introduced himself, though he supposed his name just happened to float around the village and Teuchi had picked it up.
Sasuke acknowledged Teuchi with a noncommittal jerk of the head, while Naruto immediately began contemplating what she was going to order, not that she needed to think too hard.
"I'll just make you your usual, Naruto," Teuchi was already busying himself with a serving of ramen for Naruto, who no longer needed to even place an order, as Teuchi knew what she wanted before she even arrived in the restaurant. "And what about you, Sasuke?"
Deciding on a ramen order was something Sasuke hadn't ever expected he needed to do, as he didn't have much experience with the food. Naruto smiled to herself, amused by Sasuke's mental struggle to order a simple meal. Knowing him, most of his experiences with food had been home-cooked, and if he had gone out to eat, it had probably been something simple. She'd always found a struggling Sasuke to be cute; while all the girls in her year liked the side of Sasuke that excelled, she'd always preferred to see it when he had to work hard, like he had when they were learning to climb trees with just their chakra.
It was one of those moments where she felt they could relate to each other.
"I'll have the ramen with shiitake and scallions," Sasuke decided after a few more minutes of deliberation, picking one of Teuchi's less-often selected items.
"Whatcha been up to?" Naruto inquired as Teuchi and Ayame busied themselves preparing the meal for the two of them. "I mean, you went all 'soul searching' for years and I haven't the clue where you've been. Did you take a nostalgic tour to the Land of Waves, ore other places where we had our missions as Team 7, or was it something more?"
"I figured you'd ask that," Sasuke sighed, placing his elbow on the wooden bar table, resting against the palm of his hand, "After only giving you guys a vague explanation before vanishing for a few years, only to come back and then vanish again, I think I do owe you an explanation. After you and I came to an understanding in our battle, I wanted to see if what you told me held any merit."
"Any merit?" Naruto repeated, keeping her sapphire eyes locked on Sasuke's onyx-coloured ones.
"You wanted to show me that my way was wrong," Sasuke went on, "and you were more than happy to fight me until neither of us could move to prove it. Believing in your way, I decided to leave and go see the world; I wanted to see what state the ninja world was in, after the Fourth Shinobi World War, and our defeat of Kaguya. With the kind of clarity you'd given me in our fight, I felt like I could finally see the world in a new light, as opposed to the darkness I'd been wading through for so many years."
"And what did you see?" inquired the blonde, who wanted to know exactly what Sasuke had been doing the entire time he'd been away. But she was also worried; Sasuke hadn't been the best for rationalizing a situation. If he saw something he didn't like, she wondered just how much it would take to send him back towards his previous plan.
"The world isn't perfect," Sasuke replied with an edge to his voice, "but that's to be expected. As I traveled, I noticed there've been several issues since we defeated Kaguya; large and small. Even the defeat of Toneri, which briefly united the world again, didn't completely solve the problems. However, I've managed to come to terms with that. It's taken awhile, but I've come to terms with the fact that this world won't improve itself in the span of an instant, even if you force it."
"You're right," Naruto replied, leaning on her elbow and smiling, proud of Sasuke's decision, "peace won't have any meaning if we forcibly put our ideals on everyone and tell them to see it how we do. I think even Obito and Madara realized that in the end. That their way was as much of an illusion figuratively as it was literally. But just because we can't force the world to see things how it should be doesn't mean we can't nudge them in the right direction."
"Like a horse," Sasuke chuckled to himself, "but you're right. And I've seen more than just the persistent negativity of the world. Having a common enemy seems to have opened the eyes of many people; Shinobi and Kage alike. The villages are currently on amiable terms, having entered treaties with each other after the war to avoid further unnecessary conflict. I believe they're truly learning from their mistakes in the past; it will be a rough road, but the world is gradually moving towards peace."
"I hate to interrupt such heavy conversation, but here you two go, one serving of miso ramen with an extra-large serving of roasted pork fillet, and one ramen with shiitake and scallions," Teuchi cut them off abruptly, placing their bowls onto the wooden bar table with a clunk. "Eat up; these'll be on the house this time, Naruto. I've never seen you come here with a date before, so enjoy yourself to the fullest!"
"A d-d-date!?" Naruto flustered, flushing a vibrant crimson and nearly dropping her chopsticks as she went to pick them up. "I-It's not like that, we're just making up for some lost time!"
Sasuke remained dead silent, but his normally pale face did flush slight pink around the cheeks as he kept his eyes locked onto his bowl.
Teuchi just laughed jovially before turning back to his work, leaving the duo to their lunch.
In an awkward silence, the two ate their meal, the only sound being the slurping of noodles that came from Naruto's direction. Despite how it might grate on ones nerves, Sasuke actually enjoyed the sound, his eyes occasionally glancing at Naruto, who had already ordered two more ramen bowls while Sasuke had yet to finish his first, as using his left arm for eating was still difficult. After Naruto had finished her fifth bowl, she cast a look at Sasuke, and saw he had yet to make a dent in his, fumbling around the bowl with his chopsticks.
Smiling, she let out a sigh, and inched herself closer to Sasuke, taking the chopsticks into her own hands.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke immediately inquired, flashing Naruto a look of mild bewilderment.
"Come on, I'll lend you a hand," Naruto chuckled at her very bad joke, "You're having some difficulty with your chopsticks, and your ramen'll get cold. So here, I'll help you eat."
"As tempting as that offer is," Sasuke replied dryly, motioning to take the chopsticks back from the whiskered blonde girl, "I think I can manage another meal just fine if I could do it for three years after losing my arm."
"Not a chance," Naruto replied, swiping the chopsticks out of Sasuke's range, smirking, her blue eyes shining, "you're just going to put up with me this time, Sasuke. Now, say 'aahnn'~!"
Sasuke was tempted to raise an argument, but knew from personal experience just how stubborn Naruto could be, and thus, resigned himself to the assistance she offered. As Naruto pulled noodled from the bowl the chopsticks, Sasuke opened his mouth, allowing the girl, who was smiling as if she was enjoying this far more than most should, to slip the food in. They continued like this for several minutes, Naruto deliberately feeding him slowly, smiling gently as she continued to ladle the food into the Uchiha's mouth. The two lost themselves in this moment, entirely forgetting that, behind a cloth curtain bar or not, they were still in a public place.
Naruto and Sasuke were living in their own little world at this point, whether they wanted to admit it, and by the time the entire bowl of ramen was empty, it was only Teuchi clearing his throat that the two were jolted back into reality. Blushing profusely, Naruto immediately inched away from Sasuke, as if embarrassed to be caught feeding him, and the two decided they've overstayed their welcome at Ichiraku.
"Don't mind us, you know," Teuchi insisted, chuckling as the flustered Naruto thanked them for the ramen, and prepared to leave with Sasuke, "if you two ever want to spend a free meal, swing by here, I'll cut you a deal."
Ayame couldn't help but giggle as she and her father waved the two off from the shop.
Land of Fire; Outside Konohagakure Village Wall; River
After their meal at Ichiraku, Sasuke and Naruto had walked in silence, but through a mutual understanding, had decided to take their reunion outside the borders of Konohagakure. It wasn't a long journey, merely taking them outside the village's perimeter wall. Doing so gave them a bit of privacy against people who might intrude — who they had only narrowly dodged at the Village Gate, as the bowl cut had recovered from the swift kick Naruto had dealt him, and was currently looking for Sasuke once more.
As they put a bit of distance between themselves and Konoha, a clearing from the woodland appeared, showing a running stream where the water quietly ran through. Hundreds of smooth stones were embedded into the earth on either side of the brook, creating a grey colored ground next to the cool blue water humming northwards, seemingly heading out as far as the eye can see while originating from a forked river path that led to the Village's wall and further south. It was a beautiful sight for any passerby to happen upon during their trek through the wilderness.
"Do you remember our first A-rank mission?" Naruto took it upon herself to break their silence, as the two sat down on the riverbank, the smooth stones proving to be a surprisingly comfortable resting place. She dipped her hand into the river, looking over at Sasuke in earnest. "Back in the Land of Waves?"
Sasuke realigned his eyes to Naruto, surprised that she'd bring up such an old subject after all of this time, but he had to admit the moment was fitting. He picked up a stone, mulling over his answer as he flicked it across the river; it skipped flawlessly before it made it to the other shore. "It's hard to forget a mission like that. In fact, I paid a visit to the bridge Tazuna had been building, eight years ago. It was back when I first formed my new team. To my surprise, they named the bridge after you: the Great Naruto Bridge."
This had been the first time Naruto had ever heard of the name of the bridge Team 7 had helped defend so many years ago, and the eponymous bridge made her blush in slight embarrassment. "I wish Tazuna had given it a better suited name; it wasn't just me who defended the bridge, it was all of us." She picked up a smooth stone as well, rolling it around between her fingers; tossing it as one would a shuriken, it skipped across the water before leaping onto the shore, moving slightly farther than Sasuke's. "But I wasn't curious about the bridge."
"Then why bring it up?" Sasuke asked doggedly, his eyes flickering to the stone Naruto had thrown; measuring the distance before he picked up a new stone. He had a nagging feeling in the back of his head; he didn't need to ask what Naruto was getting at, he knew why she'd bring it up. However, he wanted her to say it herself. Silently, he threw the stone across the lake, allowing it to skip leaps and bounds across the reflective water surface, leaping past Naruto's own stone across the rocky other shore.
"Do you remember? Against Haku?" Naruto kept on, her voice sharpening as she brought up bitter memories; Haku and Zabuza were the first opponents that she'd ever faced as a ninja. Haku's persistence and devotion to Zabuza had inspired Naruto's own personal nindo. As the first opponent's she'd come to respect as Shinobi, the fight had a lasting impact that shaped Team 7 entirely, having a lasting effect on each member.
She tossed another stone across the lake, the smooth rock hopping across the mirror of the river, clicking across the stones that were embedded into ground. Much to Sasuke's chagrin, Naruto's rock exceeded his distance once more; both shinobi were simply applying more strength with each throw to out-do the other.
"I'm talking, of course, about back when you saved me."
Sasuke, who had been searching for another stone to toss, stopped, his hand tracing the cobblestone ground absentmindedly. "Yeah, I remember. Nearly dying isn't something I forget easily."
"Urgh..." Naruto grunted, pulling her face up from the frozen ground. Her entire body was thoroughly aching; Haku's last attack had sent the girl reeling, destroying every one of her Shadow Clones and knocking her unconscious. And yet the simple fact that she was like had told her one thing; he'd missed her vitals. He hadn't aimed to kill. She wasn't sure if she should be grateful or angry that he didn't take her seriously. Trying to push herself into an upright position, she cast a backwards glance, and, to her surprise, saw the collapsed form of Haku on the ground. Standing in front of her, she could see from the legs, was Sasuke.
"You always manage to find some way to get in the way, don't you?" Sasuke's voice, panting and raspy, came from his shaking form. After he spoke, Naruto truly looked at Sasuke's form, and she inched back in shock. His entire form was impaled by multiple senbon needles which jutted out from his neck, back, legs, and arms. Blood decorated the pavement of the bridge, vivid red contrasting the stone gray of the bridge and clear, transparent ice. She felt herself tremble with shock at the scene, her eyes wide and mouth agape as she inched backwards on instinct.
"What's with that...look you're giving me, screw-up?" Sasuke asked, heaving as he tried to stay upright.
"Why...?" Naruto breathed, her voice beginning to crack and break, "why did you save me? Why throw your life away for me!?"
"How...should I know?" The Uchiha replied, before allowing a smirk to slip across his usual stoic voice, letting out a breathy chuckle. "And to think...I hated you."
"Then why!?" Naruto cried, shouting loudly now, her twintails bobbing with her movement. "Why ME!? I never asked for your help, I never wanted you to save me again!" She remembered earlier on their mission, when they originally just assumed this to be a C-rank escort mission. While she had seized up, Sasuke had taken action and handled two Chūnin ninja with relative ease, protecting Tazuna before Kakashi returned to finish the job. The shame of that moment still remained; looking at the hand where she'd been cut, she felt a twinge of pain.
Not physical pain, emotional pain. The scars had long since healed, but the memories remained. And she'd let Sasuke show her up and save her again; now at the cost of his life. She could feel her body begin to tremble. Why did he have to do it?
"Hell if I know..." Sasuke coughed, beginning to sway, "my body just moved of its own accord...idiot...!" Uttering this final word, Sasuke slipped, losing his footing and falling backwards, directly onto Naruto's lap. His onyx eyes, normally looking so far ahead, had dulled; they'd lost any light Naruto had seen in them before. With these voided tunnels, Sasuke looked up at Naruto, struggling to try and continue speaking. His breath, ragged now, came out in puffs of vapor.
"That man..." He muttered, his voice so low that Naruto could barely hear it, and yet it managed to reach her ears, "my brother...I swore...I told myself...until I killed him...I wouldn't die." He coughed again, blood spurting from his mouth. "Naruto...don't die...as well...before your dream is achieved..." As he uttered these final words, Naruto felt Sasuke's body go limp, and all movement stopped.
That was the first thing that ran through Naruto's mind. As tears began to well up in her eyes, she refused to believe that this could have happened. Sasuke could not have died. This was an impossibility she refused to acknowledge. And yet the evidence that sat right before her was undeniable.
"There it is." A thundering, growling voice began to sound in Naruto's head; it wasn't one she recognized, and yet at the same time she almost felt as if she should recognize it. And whoever it was, there was no denying it spoke directly to her. "I can feel it...you're wounded...desperate...I can help you..Naruto."
As the voice spoke to him, Naruto, trying to make sense of it, heard Haku's voice, almost faded in the background. "That boy...was truly a remarkable Shinobi," Haku began to stand on two feet again, and yet he felt wobbly; the lack of chakra was truly beginning to affect him. "With his eyes, he tracked my movements, and was able to harm me. Furthermore, he risked his life to protect someone precious to himself...someone whose life meant more to him than his own. To protect your life, despite knowing it was a trap, he stood his ground and jumped in to defend you." He gripped his senbon, staring at the silent form of Naruto through his ANBU mask.
"For this, he is a Shinobi worth my respect."
"Give yourself to me, Naruto." The ominous voice continued, speaking to Naruto with excitement edging the coercion. "I can help you kill him. Erase him from your sight. If it hurts you...blot it out. Open your heart...AND LET ME IN!"
"Is this the first time you've seen a comrade fall in battle?" Haku continued, turning towards the Demonic Mirroring Ice Crystals, and stepped through the crystal mirror, his image reflecting from all sides; a Shinigami to reap the souls of two young ninja. "This is the way of the Shinobi."
"Shut up..." Naruto hissed; the voice that spoke in her head was convincing, in the end. Naruto, vulnerable from the death of Sasuke, willingly heeded the voice of the demon in her head. Her body began to feel hot; a boiling heat, rising up and spilling over.
"I hated you too!" She thought, feeling an immense rage fill her being. The anger, the heat, all of her hatred, began to rise up, boiling over and spilling out of her body in the form of a repulsive red chakra. Her posture altered, setting Sasuke down as her palms hit the frost-covered bridge like paws. Her whiskers thickened and her nails and canines began to lengthen as her eyes flashed a brilliant vermilion hue. Her wounds healed like steam, sealing themselves and stitching up, revitalizating the girl's body.
The red chakra, seeping out, began to rise and take shape, taking the form of the head of a large fox; its very energy ripped into the concrete of the bridge, cracking it and causing physical damage, an ability heretofore unseen in chakra. Standing up, Naruto turned to deliver a sharp glare towards Haku, her vivid red eyes now slitted.
"I'LL KILL YOU!" She declared, roaring in a rage towards Haku.
"When I saw you die...it was the first time I ever flew into a rage," Naruto continued, getting to her feet and gripping another stone. She skipped it along the water with the rest, outdoing Sasuke's record by a few centimeters, looking back at the raven-tressed man and smiling. "If I had to guess, I think that's when I started to feel...something more for you."
Sasuke's onyx-eyes widened, the stone in his palm fumbling for a second. Tossing it absentmindedly, the stone leapt wildly across the river, and Sasuke's eyes spared it only a passing glance as he stood up.
The first thing Naruto noticed, distracting her from her walk through memory lane, was that Sasuke's toss, half-hearted as it was, had exceeded her's by quite a bit. The two glanced at each other, and Naruto's lip's pouted in slight frustration before gripping the nearest stone in her bandaged hand. It bounced across the surface almost violently, landing across the shore in what was to be a growing pile of smooth stones that the duo had thrown.
Sasuke furrowed his brow, giving Naruto a look that was a mix of anticipation and curiosity, before picking up a new stone, sending it skating a cross the reflective pool at equal — no, further —distance, landing with a clacking sound on the embedded stone floor across from the shore.
Before the two were fully aware of it, it had become a full blown competition; Naruto and Sasuke began to throw rocks with increasing ferocity. The impact against the surface of the water began to increase the relative size of the splashes, initially small ripples that licked the shore, dampening the feet of Sasuke and Naruto, and then progressing to sloshing floods, dousing both of the two in water.
"Watch how you're throwing!" Sasuke snapped, tossing another stone across the surface, easily surpassing the current record, hoping to claim victory.
"I can go farther than that!" Naruto insisted, gripping another stone and rearing back, bending her body as she prepared to throw it. This proved to be a bad decision; she lost her footing due to the water covering the embedding stones, taking a tumble towards the river. "W-W-W-W-Whoa!" She cried, instinctively reaching for Sasuke's collar, pulling on it in a desperate effort to regain footing.
"Hey, what are you doi-!?" cried Sasuke as he was pulled into the river with Naruto. The two hit the riverbed, their fall softened by the water, with splashed outward, drenching them both from the clothes to the bone. The end result of the fall ended with Sasuke falling directly above Naruto; he thrust out his arms to stop the fall, breaking the water and softly hitting the cobblestone riverbed. The two immediately recognized the awkward posture they had wound up in, their faces deepening into a bright crimson due to the close proximity.
"This certainly brings back...memories..." Sasuke's eyes darted away from Naruto, and yet he didn't move his face away from the twin-tailed blonde.
"Y-Yeah?" Naruto kept her sapphire orbs locked on Sasuke's face, gulping in nervousness. She couldn't tell how much of the wetness on her scalp was water, or sweat created by nervousness.
"When we became members of Team Seven, your first loser blunder made us share a kiss. I remember the sensation like it was yesterday...and how you seemed only too eager to hold it for more than a few seconds." He shifted, his face moving slightly closer to the blushing blonde maiden.
Naruto took this as the invitation it was, placed her bandaged hand gently on Sasuke's face, looking up at him in earnest. "I think I've gotten a little better at it since then; want to see?" As their faces inched closer, it appeared as if Naruto was seeing into Sasuke's eyes for the first time; formerly so dark, the onyx orbs were filled with a kind of brilliant light, so contradictory to their inherent blackness that she had never truly seen before.
The urge to complete the action soon became unbearable for the pair, as both of their lips soon met. A tentative warmth spread across their faces when their eyes closed, feeling the surface slide smoothly over into a sweet embrace. Exhales followed the fully pressed couple of mouths as they danced in tandem, sliding over and smacking lightly while remaining together for minutes of time. After the feeling of hands curling around wet locks of hair and bodies heating up against close proximity, the water floating couple released their kiss, staring back at each other with soft smiles on their faces.
"Sasuke...I love you," Naruto breathed, her flushed face smiling brightly.
"Heh, I know," Sasuke whispered back, rubbing Naruto's cheek with his thumb as his own wry smile spread across his face.
The two kissed again, the warmth of each other's lips locking them in place. Naruto, who was in no immediate hurry to have break their moment off again. She wove seals quickly with her bandaged hand, before placing it into the river, touching the cobblestone riverbed and imbuing it with life-giving chakra. The rocks began to crumble and crack as a branch poked out from beneath the earth, lifting Sasuke and Naruto slightly out of the river, the branches entwining around them both to keep them locked in their embrace.
From here on, their new life together would begin, sparking a new age in the history of Shinobi.
Seven Years Later, Konohagakure, Hokage's Office
The passing of time changes many things; Konohagakure was not a village to be forgotten. In the seven years since Sasuke and Naruto had reunited, the village's massive 'New Era' project; a reconstruction project designed to remodel the Hidden Villages in extreme ways. As always, Konohagakure was leading the world into a new way of life, with the other Hidden Villages quickly adapting and following the model of the Village Hidden in the Leaves.
The steel skeletons that had decorated the village over a half dozen years ago had become 'fleshed out', so to speak. With the Konohagakure library fully demolished, and moved to a new location, the skeletons had become towering skyscrapers; shining behemoths of steel and glass that loomed over the original village. The new metropolis of Konohagakure was booming, and yet those who still preferred the idle life of the original village remained on lower ground.
But changes beyond simply aesthetics had been made. Within the past few years, Kakashi Hatake had stepped down from his position as the Sixth Hokage, appointing Naruto Uzumaki as his successor. With her dream finally realized, Naruto took up the mantle of Hokage with eagerness. Joining her in this endeavor was Shikamaru Nara and Shizune, who served as her attendants.
Even relationships changed with time. A year after cementing their love with their kiss by the river, Naruto and Sasuke had gotten married. Shortly after this, the two had a child, who was six years of age. And this child, at this very moment, was planning a sneak attack on his own mother.
"...and after you file through these documents, the matter concerning the rebellion group in the Land of Lightning will be resolved." Shikamaru handed Naruto a large stack of official looking forms; the blonde-haired woman cast them a wary look. Normally, this kind of paperwork would have been done through a computer nowadays, but the Land of Lightning's Raikage had a particular liking for old fashioned methods of information storage. Even their mail still came from carrier hawks.
"This normally wouldn't concern us, but the rebellion group are a small unit of Missing-nin from our village," Shizune explained, sighing at the amount of work they had to go through just to sort these documents away from several others Naruto would have to attend to later.
Naruto picked up one of the forms, reading it carefully. "Members of the Yūhi clan, no less..." Setting down a cup of ramen, she let out an exasperated sigh. Even in this world that was steadily climbing towards peace, situations like this still reared their head. "Have we sent out a corps specifically designed to deal with Genjutsu users?"
"Yes, Lady Hokage," Shikamaru nodded; even after all these years, he hadn't gotten used to calling one of his closest friends 'Lady Hokage', but it was her title, "We've sent standard three-man cell of ANBU specifically trained in the art of dispelling Genjutsu have departed to the Land of Lightning just this morning. We should receive word from them within a few days."
Nodding, Naruto let Shikamaru continue to assess the situation; her input was best saved for later.
"Next, we need to go over the ramifications of-" Shikamaru began, going to address the next issue plaguing the village when they heard the door creak open. Naruto's vibrant sapphire eyes narrowed, eyeing the groaning wooden door as it was thrust open. Leaping over the threshold was a young boy, around six years old, had a head full of spiky black tresses, complete with onyx-eyes that so resembled his father's, and yet two whisker marks on his cheeks, a byproduct of Kurama's chakra, inherited from his mother. He wore the tradition high-collar garb of the Uchiha clan, complete with the crest emblazoned on his back, while the Uzumaki clan's red spiral adorned his sleeves. Around his head was a black headband, tied with a cloth so long it trailed behind him.
"Looks like the boy's back for round twenty-five," Kurama chuckled from inside Naruto's subconscious. As being unsealed from his jinchūriki was not an option, due to Hagoromo's wishes, and a personal fondness for Naruto that he was loathe to admit out loud, Naruto's son's repeated attacks on his mother had become a routine Kurama had come to enjoy. Usually because the boy found some way to botch it up.
"And here he is..." The Hokage thought, resigning herself to the situation she was in.
"Mama, I challenge you!" The boy cried out, drawing out the 'oo' in a declaration of war against his own mother. Clenched in his left hand was a shuriken.
"Damn it, not again!" Konohamaru Sarutobi, now a Jōnin, and very much resembling his late grandfather and uncle, tore down the hallway leading to the Hokage's office, thrusting his hand onto the doorway in frustration. His arrival, however, was timed just at the right moment to see the young boy trip over his own two feet, falling flat onto the ground. "Okojo, what have I told you about doing this repeatedly!?"
"Hello pot, meet kettle," Naruto chuckled to herself; the irony of Konohamaru's situation was lost on him.
"Where'd you set the trap this time, Mama!?" Okojo Uchiha snapped, rubbing his forehead, dropping his shuriken in comical pain. "I know you've set the room up!"
"Okojo, what the hell do you think you're doing!?" Konohamaru snapped, dragging the young Uchiha up by his collar, "Your mother has a very important occupation, you can't simply keep bursting into her office, armed to the teeth! Don't you know what kind of position that puts you in!?"
"I don't care!" The boy huffed, flailing his limbs aimlessly, suspended in the air by his collar. "I don't care if Mama's a Hokage! I totally hate Hokages!" Still flailing, the boy continued to scream and shout, upset that his sneak attack had been thwarted. "She's always working, Papa's always busy!" He sounded truly frustrated now, as if he was finally venting more emotion than one should typically keep bottled up. "If I defeat Mama now, she'll have to appoint a new successor! Then she can stay home with us!"
"Okojo..." Naruto's eyes, sharp before, flashed tender now. She sighed; he was just as she had been as a child, brash and undisciplined, but underneath all of that, he just wanted attention. And unlike her own parents, she lacked the excuse of being dead to leave him alone all the time. She sighed, placing her hands on her desk. "Shikamaru..."
"Cancel my appointments for the rest of the day," The blonde-tressed woman stood up from her desk, walking over to her flailing son, smiling down at the boy. "I'm going to spend the entire day with my son."
"N-Naruto, do you realize what you're asking?" Shikamaru dropped the formal terminology, reacting in utter shock at his superior's request. Hokage can't traditionally blow off their duties. "That's a highly unorthodox request; you've got paperwork to handle, a representative from the Land of Lightning is going to contact us today to discuss the situation! This isn't something you can put off!"
"You filled me up with love before placing the Nine-Tails in me. So here I am! Happy and healthy, and I'm glad I ended up being your child!"
"Thank you for letting me be your mother, for letting Minato be your father. Thank you for being our child. T-Thank you....!"
"I haven't done everything she wanted to me to...but I've always tried my best! I have dreams of my own! And I'll become Hokage, just like you Dad! I promise, I will! When you get back there...tell Mom...tell her she doesn't need to worry about me! I'm doing my best!"
"Thank you for letting me be your mother, for letting Minato be your father. Thank you for being our child. T-Thank you....!"
"I haven't done everything she wanted to me to...but I've always tried my best! I have dreams of my own! And I'll become Hokage, just like you Dad! I promise, I will! When you get back there...tell Mom...tell her she doesn't need to worry about me! I'm doing my best!"
The feelings of love she had from both her parents remained strong in Naruto's heart, even all these years after she'd truly said the final good-bye to both of them. And she knew what Okojo needed right now wasn't a mother who stayed up in her office every day. "I'm a mother first, Shikamaru. I'll be a day behind on work, but if it really bothers you," She formed a cross-shaped seal with her the index and middle fingers on both hands, grinning like a child about to play hooky from class.
"Shadow Clone Technique!"
In a puff of smoke, an exact duplicate of Naruto was created, who sauntered back over to her chair behind the desk, grinning. "You can't possibly complain about it now, can you Shikamaru?"
"You would pull this kind of stunt, wouldn't you?" The Jōnin Commander groaned, shutting his eyes tight in frustration while Shizune felt a simple wave of déjà vu. "Dealing with you when you're like this really can be such a drag..." The man muttered but resigned himself to the situation.
"Come on, Okojo," Naruto placed her hand on the boy's spiky black tresses as Konohamaru let him down, "let's go home and see Papa!"
"R-Really!?" The boy's onyx-hued eyes glittered with excitement.
"Mama, when we get home, can we go outside the village?" Okojo asked eagerly, tagging along behind his mother's larger gait as they returned to their home, the Hokage Mansion. "I want to play!"
"Let's wait till we get home, Okojo," Naruto chided, placing a finger gently on her child's forehead, smiling. "If you're not careful, Papa might ask you to wait until next time, and we don't want that, do we?"
"Papa always says that!" the young Uchiha boy fumed, but his mother's touch brought a smile to his face that he couldn't hide. He hadn't felt this happy in a long time, and he wanted his entire family to enjoy today.
As Naruto reached the mansion, she looked up at it, smiling at a memory from the past. The first time she'd come to this mansion was years ago, when Hiruzen Sarutobi was still alive. It was hard to believe that she was now living in a mansion she originally arrived in to pillage for its secret scrolls. Sighing, she turned the knob on the door, entering the mansion and kicking off her shoes, Okojo hot on her heels. Navigating the hallways she'd grown accustomed to, mother and son made it to the sitting room, where Sasuke Uchiha sat, cradling a sleeping infant in his arms.
"I'm back," Naruto called out in a hushed tone, as her eyes saw the sleeping form of her daughter in her husband's arms, she was careful not to wake the child.
"Welcome back," Sasuke looked up from the sofa at his wife, giving her a wry. "You're home ear—" His eyes then realigned to see his son standing next to his mother, and he knew everything without needing to ask any further questions. "Okojo again?"
"For the two-hundredth time," the woman replied, smiling as she walked over to Sasuke, greeting him with a kiss, "has Sakuya been doing fine?"
"I just managed to put her to sleep," the raven-tressed man replied, standing up, walking over to a crib where he gently placed his daughter, "so I believe we have a few hours of quiet at the most."
"Papa, let's play a game, can't we?" Okojo tugged in his father's pant leg, pleading.
"Come on," Naruto tugged on her husband's arm, pulling him away from the crib, "while she sleeps, let's give our son some quality time."
Relenting with a thin smile, Sasuke let his wife and son lead him into their frivolity. Seventeen years of hardship and trails had led Sasuke and Naruto along a path of suffering, but they finally earned something worth keeping after all of those years; something both children had lacked and yearned for so long.
A/N: So this is a story I had on the backburner since I first ever started my solo-writing gig. First off, before we start any shipping wars in the comments (if there are any), let me say I am a staunch NaruHina shipper. Additionally, I am fully aware of what Kishi intended for Naruto and Sasuke's relationship; contrary to the jokes thrown around by the fandom (and the many many fangirls, I see you hiding in the shadows), the intent wasn't meant to be romantic. Kishi was going for depicting a bond that's stronger than brothers, but he outright admitted that some people seem to think Sasuke and Naruto come off as a little crazy. Given the chemistry appeared to be there, I took the story and gave it a twist. I've always liked Naruko, always, so I wanted to write a Naruto and Sasuke story with Naruto as a girl. However, I bid my time, waiting for Kishi to end the series because I wanted it to have details from canon without conflicting (barring the whole...um...gender thing). So I took the concept, ran with it, and I hope its well received. Please do not put any shipping war remarks in the comments.
So, some things to go over first; I LOVED doing the recap of the scene where Naruto first tapped into Kurama's chakra. I started the Naruto anime during the fight with Haku (started the manga around the time Gaara tried to kill Lee, but that's neither here not there), and that scene has been, to date, one of my favorites. I completely loved writing it, and I tried to rewrite the dialogue to the best of my ability!
Okojo's introduction scene will look familiar to old time fans. In the same way Kishi brought the series full circle with Boruto vandalizing the Kage monument, I took it in a different path, and made my scene a call back to Konohamaru's first appearance in the series instead. Okojo (and Boruto, for that matter) have similar issues that Konohamaru had, so I found it to be fitting, personally. Okojo's name is a good move on my part; I wanted to pay tribute to Itachi, but I couldn't come up with a name at first. But I settled on one with the weasel motif Itachi's name had; 'Okojo' (おこじょ), which refers specifically to the short-tailed weasel, or ermine. Other candidates were Chousen, from "Chousenitachi", the Korean Yellow Weasel, 'Izuna', the least weasel, and also 'Obito', as a reference to, well, Obito. But I settled on Okojo to give the boy a more original name.
While we're talking about names, Sakuya, Naruto and Sasuke's daughter, comes from Konohanasakuya-hime (木之花開耶姫), the blossom princess of Japanese mythology. This follows up on Kishi's penchant for taking mythological names and applying them to either characters or jutsu.
Another fun fact, the 'New Era' project, the name I gave to the construction project that's reshaping Ninja villages around the world, is a reference to the 'Naruto New Era Project', of which The Last and several other new pieces of Naruto media are a part of. Even this story's name, 'Silhouette', comes from one of the Naruto openings from the anime. After reading the English lyrics, I found the song to be fitting.
Before I close out my Author's notes today, I'd like to make a mention of Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY, and the animator for both that project and Red vs Blue, among several other videos. He was admitted to the hospital in January in critical condition, and passed away just yesterday, February 1, 2015. I didn't know Monty, nor was I familiar with any of his projects beyond RWBY, however, the man earned a great deal of my respect for the level of devotion and dedication he put into his work, to the point of foregoing sleep (and possibly food), to bring projects to his fans that they would enjoy. He worked hard to realize his dream and develop his own talents, and he will be sorely missed. In lieu of creativity, this is the most I can do.
R.I.P. Monty Oum.
Despite that heavy note, I'll bring my story to a close. I truly hope you all enjoyed this one-shot, as I put my primary story on hold for about a month to get this little project out to you. If you like my Naruto works, stay tuned for NARUTO: Getsuju Monogatari, my sequel to the main Naruto series that will be coming out after I finish the Erased Chronicles! And, as usual, let's give my friend Mangetsu20 a thank you for helping me brainstorm and proofread the story to make sure it's viable for uploading!