Chapter 42 – The epilogue
"HYA!... HYO!... FuuoohhooAAHH!" Satsuki paused in her pursuit of the destruction of the training dummy. The thing was already hinging on its last remaining straws and was burned in several key areas.
All fatal, of course.
Her hand swiped out and caught the water bottle that almost hit her in the face. It slammed into her hand with a resounding CRACK. She grinned at that. Her already insane reflexes were getting better and better as the days went on. At the speed the bottle was flying, it would have taken the head off of any normal person.
Not her though, of course.
She looked to the person who threw the bottle. Satsuki's grin subsided when she saw who was standing there, hiding her lengthened and very sharp canines under her lowering lips. They weren't meat tearers like what the Inuzuka had, the canines. They were more needle-like, markers to anyone who didn't already know who she was.
The woman she was looking at had platinum blonde hair corded into a braid that went all the way down to her back. Her choice of attire had lots of lavender and dark blue and were also made to allow for good movement and comfort. Although her face may have finally started showing some age in the form of small lines around her mouth and eyes, her body and attitude hadn't changed in the last 20 or so years.
Her name was Yugito, of course.
"Satsuki…" she said pleasantly enough, though there was definitely the underlying tones of 'what do you think you're doing?' in her voice.
Satsuki was somewhat… abnormal for a teenager at the age of 18. She inherited her mother's hair color, but her father's hair quality. Namely, it was really spiky. She liked to put it into a rough ponytail. Her dad would often say that it looked like his late master's hair, Jiraya. Looking at the photographs that he had of the guy, she couldn't refute his statement. Although she was born with naturally lithe, strong, and supple muscles, leading one to assume that she would wear clothes similar to her mother, she liked to wear armor almost constantly. And not just her jonin flak jacket. Like, actual pieces of metal sewn into and around her clothes, all strategically surrounded with cloth so as to mute them from clanking together. Her most identifying features were, strangely enough, her eyes, ears, mouth, and cheeks. Her eyes had natural slit pupils that were covered by almost neon colored yellow and blue heterochromic irises, her ears were tilted and pointy, her mouth was full of the aforementioned feline-like canines, and her cheeks had whiskers on them.
Actual whiskers, of course.
Long, nerve encoded, white, stiff hairs that poked out of her cheeks. They were as about as long as her father's marks and were titled close to her face, so anyone might think at first sight that they were facial markings. They were, however, actual functioning organs that could read the air and notify her of something that her other organs couldn't.
Suffice to say, everyone in Konoha knew who she was by sight alone.
"What?" the somewhat belligerent teenager asked as her mother approached. You see, her and her mother were embroiled in a bit of an ongoing argument. Satsuki was born with naturally super dense muscles and thusly had trouble controlling her strength at times, mostly when she was training and would accidentally destroy her surroundings.
"I think you know what," Yugito responded with motherly smugness. "You said you would always have a spotter with you at all times when you trained."
"No, you said I would always have a spotter when I trained. I never signed off on that."
Yugito pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and index finger. "Satsuki…"
"What? I know my strength. I'm an adult now."
"Okay, no you aren't," Yugito said very sternly. "You aren't an adult. You're 18. Your brain isn't done developing yet. And second, you caused at least four thousand dollars of property damage last month alone."
"And whose fault is that?" Satsuki said accusingly "I didn't ask to be born with the strength of an elephant," she murmured.
Yugito's sharp hearing picked up on that bit. "But you were. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I used Matatabi as much as I did when you were developing. But in the end, it's you who has to be careful about her surroundings."
Satsuki growled in frustration, something that actually did sound animalistic in nature. "It's just… it's just… so fucking unfair."
"Language," Yugito said with her stern face.
"I know, I know," Satsuki said before taking in a deep breath of air and exhaling slowly. Deciding that it was as good as a time and place as any, she plopped down on the ground and stared up at the sky, with her mother following suit.
After a prolonged period of silence, Yugito decided to speak up. "I love you honey. I hope you know."
Satsuki sighed again. "I know… it's just… hard, sometimes."
Yugito hummed an affirmative. "It's not an easy life you were born into. But at least you were born with strength."
"And you weren't? You were born a Jinchuuriki. I was born from a Jinchuuriki. Not much difference."
"Jinchuuriki weren't born with great strength. Well, I guess they were, but they were born normal people. With normal strength. Normal speed. Normal reflexes… we had to earn our power."
"Geez. Ain't that the thing any kid wants to hear from their parent? 'You aren't normal. Bluh bluhbluh bluh bluh.'"
"Not being normal isn't a bad thing, you know."
"It is if you want to attract people who don't have a furry fetish," Satsuki mumbled.
"That was one, stupid, weird looking guy. And I hope you know-"
"Yes, you warned me about Jiiro. Yes, you warned me that he wasn't my 'soulmate'. Yes yes yes yes. You are, of course, correct mother. All judgments that I make should automatically defer to you," Satsuki said coated with a thick layer of sarcasm.
"You don't have to go so far with that," Yugito said. "Let's get back to topic, shall we… what was it again?"
"Ah yes, your strength. You were born with strength many times more powerful than a normal person's, but you still-"
"Can't control it," Satsuki finished. "We've had this argument before. But I'm telling you, I've gotten better. A lot better. I know my strengths and limits."
"But you can understand why I worry, can't you? Please get a spotter. You could ask Umi or Kon for help. I'm sure they would jump at the opportunity to help you."
"It's not that… I just… want to feel in control," Satsuki finished unsurely.
Yugito laughed dryly under her breath. "I can understand that."
Satsuki looked at her mother questioningly. "How can you? You're always in control. Even with dad. He always listens to you, no matter what."
Yugito quirked an eyebrow at her daughter. "Have you forgotten how I first met your father?"
Satsuki rolled her eyes. "On your wedding day."
"To a boy that I didn't even know. Thirteen years old. Not intimidating in the slightest."
"They made this into a movie, didn't they?" Satsuki interrupted.
"I looked at this kid," Yugito continued on, undeterred "and I thought 'Holy shit, I just may end this twerp's life.'"
"Language," Satsuki mumbled.
"The point is," Yugito said, ignoring the jab at her slightly hypocritical vernacular "that I've only been wholly in control of my life for about 20 or so years. No childhood. No teenagehood. No young adulthood. I was a tool that was used by my village and thrown away to bring the villages together. You have it so much better than I did."
"Did you have to worry about accidentally breaking any cup, bowl, or utensil that you hold onto? Did you have to put up with annoying siblings? Did you have to put up with accidentally hurting people when you only meant to shake their hands, or hug them? Did you have to put up with every single person you meet seeing you as if you were-"
"A freak? Of course I did."
Satsuki looked at her mom confusedly. "But I thought all of Kumo praised you… and thought you were like… a savior or something."
"Maybe very later on, but you have to understand, I was the container of the beast that destroyed part of the village and killed a lot of the general populace. People didn't like me as far as they could throw me."
Satsuki was silent for a little bit. "Man, I don't even know anymore. Life is weird."
"Life is weird," Yugito agreed.
"How did you and dad even get together anyway? Like, together together. Dad just seems so… wimpy."
"Your dad isn't wimpy. He just listens to me because he knows that my judgment is better than his. Doesn't stop him from doing stupid things every now and then, though."
"The question still stands."
Yugito sighed. "My love for your father developed slowly and snuck up on me in the end. I didn't even realize I was in love with him until I was."
"The question still stands."
Yugito sighed again and took a while to answer. "In the end, it was because he understood me. He was a Jinchuuriki, I was a Jinchuuriki. He was always nice and accepting, I was… less so. And he never held that above my head, not once. He was happy when I was happy, sad when I was sad. And he was… there for me. The only constant in my life. And I loved him for it. Plus, he gave me you. And I will always love him for that."
"Even though you were part of a harem? See, I still really don't get that at all."
Child rearing in the shared Uzumaki household was… delicate to say the least. No one really wanted to explain why each mom had 4 sisters all living in the same house and sometimes didn't make it back to their rooms from their father's room, or why they had so many cousins that all looked a lot like them, or why they all called the same guy their father. So, they were given half truths and full lies until the age of 14, where they would be told the truth by their father. And it was a good thing that everyone seemed to have silently agreed that no more children was a good idea, because Naruto never really got the knack for telling his kids that they were the product of a man who practiced polygamy, something they were taught was very immoral in modern society.
They all came to terms with it though, of course.
Yugito shrugged. "You get used to it."
Yugito hmm'd "Well, your father used shadow clones often and used shadow clones well, so it wasn't like I was one to complain."
A giant blush blossomed on Satsuki's cheeks. "Moooomm. Stop it. You're my mom."
"And who do you have to thank for that?"
The blush grew. Satsuki mumbled something.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Dad," Satsuki said sourly.
Yup, that's right. Yugito's daughter decided to put her natural strength and keen mind to become a member of the International Fighting Force. And even though she and her mother argued, Yugito couldn't have been more proud of her if she tried.
Kurotsuchi slurped up the last remaining vestiges of soup from her bowl and brought it down with a shout of "SECONDS!" Immediately, another bowl of 'surprise flavored ramen' slid in front of her and she began to eat once more with gusto.
Not much had changed for her over the years. She packed on a few pounds from her pregnancy and she wore more 'motherly' clothes, but she retained her more notable traits into adulthood. Her hair was still neck length, she was still rather brutish when it came to heartfelt feelings and conversations, and had a stubborn streak to rival her husband's own.
She was offered the seat of Tsuchikage, but she gave it to Akatsuchi instead so she could focus on rearing her child.
"Geez," said the person dining next to her "still putting it away as always?"
"You know it Tem."
Temari chuckled a little bit at her antics and began slurping up her cooling ramen. Temari grew her hair out a bit over the years; it now was at her upper back if she let it down, though she never did. She didn't know why, she just really liked her quadruple ponytail style.
"So how's the ramen tasting?" the chef asked.
"Great as always, Momo," Kurotsuchi said, spraying half-eaten ramen and broth over the counter.
Momotsuchi sighed a little bit at the uncouthness of her mother and went back to the pot boiling the broth. It turned out that because Naruto had the red hair allele from his mom and Kurotsuchi had the pink hair allele from her mom (something he was surprised to find out that she had), it became plausible that any offspring between the two could have reddish pink hair. And happen it did. Momotsuchi was born with hair a shade darker than Sakura's and unruly enough that she never really bothered much with it. She kept it a lot shorter than her mother ever had. And although her hairstyle was boyish, she would never be confused for a male because of her very feminine frame and face, something that drew the ire and jealousy of any female she became acquainted with
"Don't speak with your mouth full, mom," Momotsuchi said chidingly.
Kurotsuchi paused for a second to pout at her daughter. "But it's so goo~d. How am I supposed to be away from it for even a second?"
"The way you're doing right now?" Temari suggested.
"Yeah, real special."
"Hey, when are you going to pop a kid out? Lord knows you need something better to do than heckling a poor old woman just trying to support her daughter," Kurotsuchi said with crocodile tears.
"Few things: First, I don't ever want a kid. Second, 37 is a bit too old to start thinking about it anyway. Third, you aren't an old woman. Fourth, you're annoying your daughter, not supporting her."
"Aww, don't say that Temari," Momotsuchi said from over her shoulder. "You'd make a wonderful mother. Plus, it's not like dad lacks for time."
Temari cupped her head in one of her hands and stared into the noodly broth, absentmindedly stirring the noodles in lazy swirls. "Honestly, the worst part would be the naming process. I just know Naruto will insist on something to do with flowers. You know your mom and Naruto argued for 2 solid weeks when they had you? He wanted Pinkutsuchi and she wanted anything but that."
"And they settled for Momotsuchi in the end. I know, I've heard it a thousand times."
"Then you also know-"
Temari's train of thought was interrupted when a tanned, green-haired blur slammed into a seat next to Kurotsuchi. The insect wings folded against this blur's back, trying to make it look as inconspicuous as possible. "Hey, Momo," the blur said friendlily.
Momotsuchi looked at the now not so much of a blurred figure exasperatedly. "What did you do this time, Jiraya?"
The man situated on the stool next to Kurotsuchi looked like a near carbon copy of his mother from when she was younger, only he would have towered over her and he was born with insect wings, much like how Satsuki was born with natural strength, whiskers, and all the other stuff. He had short green hair and a frame with good muscle definition. Because of the wings on his back, he rarely wore anything over his torso other than a few belts for keeping things on, and that was only when he had something to carry that he didn't want to get dislodged from his pants. In the end, Fu was ambiguous as to what she wanted to name her boy and accepted Jiraya when it was put forth by Naruto.
"Oh, a little bit of this, a little bit of that," Jiraya said very quickly, not settling on any solid thought for long. With anybody other than him, that might have seemed like a nervous tell, however, anyone who knew him, knew that that was just the way he was, very flitty, very fast in his speech patterns "So watcha talkin about?"
"Baby names, mostly," Momotsuchi supplied.
"Oh, Temari, looks like I can be waiting on another half-sibling, huh? Huh? Huh?" He asked with eyebrow wiggles aplenty.
"You do know that there are two other women of rearing age right next to me? And you also know that I want nothing to do with kids?"
"Ah, Momo ain't gunna settle down. Too tied down with becoming the best ramen chef in existence."
"Damn straight," Momotsuchi said with a nod, allowing for a moment of uncouthness to slip out of her normally calm and polite disposition.
"And Kuro ain't gunna go for another either. Too" he stopped to make whistley sounds as he rolled his eyes and made finger motions like there was a fly in the air "scattered. Wants to focus her energy on Momo. No time for another kid."
Kurotsuchi blushed a little bit and didn't raise her head from her ramen. She still had a little bit of tsundere in her blood, it seemed.
"But you, you're perfect for a' rearin. Bit hard, but just soft enough. Disposition-wise, of course. I'm not trying to make insinuations here."
Temari sweatdropped. "Geez, thanks Jiraya. And what are you doing here anyway? Don't you have your courier business to take care of?"
Jiraya got a bit nervous at the mention of his business. "Ahahaha," he laughed nervously "'bout that… I was actually on my way toURK"
His babbly stream of words was cut short when a hand reached through the curtains, grabbed him by the nape of his neck, and pulled him out very quickly.
Kurotsuchi and Temari poked their heads through the curtain to make sure he was still alive with minimal effort and saw Fu, if her skin were darker and had more wings jutting out of her back than usual.
"Hey Chomei," Kurotsuchi greeted as if her… let's call it 'motherly chastisement' was just another daily occurrence.
Because it was.
"So what'd he do this time?"
Chomei turned slowly to face the two women with anger pouring out of all orfices. "He did this to me," she growled out, pointing to her face. On it, were markings of phallus symbols ejaculating seminal fluid all over her face done in permanent marker. Not just in the standard black either. He got the whole rainbow of dicks on her face without her noticing.
Naturally, Kurotsuchi and Temari spent the next several minutes busting a gut at the hilarious defacement of one of the most powerful beings in the world while said powerful being beat the crap out of her adult son-by-proxy. Even Momotsuchi had to vacate the kitchen to see what was going on outside her ramen stand, which she managed to contain her laughter from, if only just barely.
Yup, that's right. Kurotsuchi's daughter decided to become a chef and create the best tasting ramen in the world. While Fu's son decided to open up a courier business, picking up and sending packages all across the elemental nations. Since he was so fast, he made quite a mint too. Even though Momotsuchi rejected becoming a shinobi and even though Jiraya had a bit of a prank streak, their parents loved them unconditionally and were proud with what they accomplished.
"Hey Daddy, why's bro on the stone?"
"Hm?" Naruto asked, looking at the tombstone in front of him. Realizing that the little boy who was pointing at the stone didn't know who was buried beneath it, Naruto smiled a little and ruffled his hair. "Well, it's kinda a long story. But the Jiraya buried here is a different Jiraya than your brother."
"Mmhmm. The Jiraya buried here was an old, lecherous man, who was very brave and very gutsy."
"Maaaahhh," a little girl of about 11 years whined next to him and began tugging on his clothes. "Daddy, this is booooorrring. Why're we here anyway?"
"Because honey," an older woman with auburn hair that reached to the small of her back said, kneeling next to her and bringing her in for a hug. "Today is daddy's and mommy's anniversary."
"aahh, really?" she asked, a little surprised. "Then what're we doing here? Aren't graves sad?"
"Mmm, I guess, a little bit," Mei said softly. "But this spot right here has the best view of the sun in all of Konoha."
These two children's names were Umi and Kon, belonging to the girl and boy respectively. They were twins and both shared the same dirty blonde hair and bouncy personalities. Kon decided from very early in life that he didn't want to fight ('cuz he sucked at it), while fighting seemed to be the only thing Umi wanted to do. It didn't help that her father's potent wind release merged with her mother's lava release and gave her dust release. When Kurotsuchi found out that Mei's lava release got her child dust release while her child got nothing from her lava release, she was pretty annoyed for a few weeks.
Mei also had a dozing week old baby snoozing in the crutch of her arm, burritoed up in a cotton blanket with starch blonde hair in a small tuft on the top of his head. Naruto and Mei still didn't have any names for him. He was going to be the last child of the Uzumaki household and Naruto wanted something grand, while Mei wanted something nice and humble. If she were to be honest though, she'd have to say that she was coming around to the name Minato.
All five of them were on top of the monument, on Naruto's earthen head, next to Jiraya's grave, looking at the beautiful sunset.
It was a nice moment for the two seconds it lasted until Kon got antsy and challenged his twin sister to a game of tag, which she took way too seriously immediately and hurt him accidentally. He started crying, then Mei chastised Umi, which made her cry, which made the baby in Mei's arms cry.
Mei started bouncing the baby up and down, trying to get it to stop crying. Naruto did a hand motion for 'I'll handle this' to Mei, and picked up Umi and Kon in either arms, then sat then down on either side of him in front of his master's grave. "Now, I wanna tell you two a true story."
They both stopped crying for the most part. Though they were still sniffling and sending death glares by the time he started his story.
"Once, there was a man who was born into a world that only knew of pain and hardship," Naruto looked down to make sure they were still listening. Neither would look at the other and both had their arms crossed, but Naruto knew that they were listening from his fatherly intuition.
"This man's name was Jiraya. He wasn't born into an especially wealthy family, nor an especially poor family. He wasn't very smart, and he had bad grades in the academy. Even so, he became one of the greatest shinobi of all time."
They both started to pay attention a little more in earnest, even if they tried their hardest to feign disinterest. Naruto smiled. He really liked that part about being a dad; about knowing exactly what his kids were thinking when they were angry.
"How did he become the greatest shinobi of all time, you ask? He had a fantastic teacher and great friends, people that he loved and he wanted to protect at all costs. And it was that feeling of wanting to protect the people that he loved that motivated him to make the world a peaceful, better place for them to live. He loved them because they were family. Just like you two are to each other."
"So?" Kon asked. "The world's already peaceful 'n stuff. An' I dun wanna be a shinobi. 'Specially not to protect her," Kon punctuated that remark by sticking his tongue out at Umi. She growled at him menacingly and pounced on him, but was caught by Naruto before she could make contact with her twin.
"A-Anyway- Anyway…" Naruto stuttered out, trying to keep his growing kids from pulling each other apart and keep them sat down. "Anyway, the point about family is," Naruto grabbed them from the nape of their necks and forcibly sat them down. He put his serious face on and looked at both of them in the eyes. "The point about family is, that you share a bond that cannot be broken. Because you share this bond, you can never give up on them."
They both pouted and refused to meet their father's eyes.
Naruto flashed them his million watt smile. "'Cuz I'm your dad, I'll always love you. No matter what you do, I'll never give up on you. That's what a family is."
"And how." Mei said, coming back into the fold with the unnamed snoozing baby resting in the crook of her arm.
Looking at the sun draw to a close on the horizon, Naruto grabbed all four of them and brought them all into one giant fatherly hug.
And he smiled, because he was happy. Because there were ups and downs over the last twenty years since he, Sasuke, and Sakura stopped Lady Kagura. Because he was a proud dad to so many wonderful kids and a happy husband to his wives. Because the sunset looked beautiful. Because… just because.
In fact, that little moment would have made a wonderful ending to this story.
But no, this is the epilogue. It ended last chapter.
Naruto and co. were snapped out of their reverie by the excited voice of a certain bug girl who poked her head out from under the lip of the earthen head they were sitting on.
"Guess what I found!"
Naruto sweatdropped. "I don't know Fu, what did you find?"
Fu raised her hand up in the air, which was clutching a long, thin blade that glimmered a slight green in the sun.
Naruto's eyebrows shot into his hairline from surprise. "Is that the Kusanagi?" he asked, flabbergasted.
Fu smiled a wicked smile. "And that's not all," she said "but if think that it would be best for everyone to hear the rest of it back home."
Naruto put his face in his hands. "Does that mean…"
"Yup," she said ecstatically. "I'm calling the Fourth Uzumaki-Nii-Sabaku-Terumi-Tsuchi-Fu Family meeting."
All five (including the baby) blanched at such the suggestion. None of their family meetings ended with anything less than broken limbs and shouting matches that last for weeks on end.
The Uzumaki family might be a well-knit, very loving family, but holy shit, they could shout out a pack of howler monkeys if they worked together.
If Fu was calling one, that meant something serious.
Naruto sighed in the fatherliest way possible and stood up with Umi and Kon in either arm. "Looks like our anniversary is going to be cut short," he said to Mei.
She sighed a little bit with a light smile on her face. "I'm getting too old for this shhhh…tuff. I'm getting too old for this stuff."
"Could have fooled me," Naruto said huskily.
Umi and Kon "Ewwed" and "Grossed" and he laughed and Mei blushed and they all made their way down to their compounds.
Nothing's ever really finished. Every end has a new beginning.
But this is an epilogue, not a prologue. Sadly, you won't be hearing this tale. Just be happy knowing that it all works its way out in the end.
I don't want to say much.
I just want to thank everyone who read this story. I want to thank everyone who read from the first chapter to now and everyone who's reading only this last chapter. I want to thank everyone who got on halfway and who left halfway. I want to thank even the people who stopped reading through the first chapter, deciding that it wasn't the story for them.
I want to thank everyone who reviewed. More than a thousand have been sent in and I have read every single one of them.
Some made me sad.
Some made me happy.
Some gave good criticism.
Some gave advice.
And some were completely illegible.
I just want to thank you. Everyone who mustered up the courage to send a few words of advice or discouragement my way. Every single one of those helped shape the story into what it is now.
So thank you.
Have a gentlemanly day.
Have a gentlemanly week.
Have a gentlemanly year.
But most importantly,
Have a gentlemanly life.