AN: Howdy all, so this is it. The last part of PoK. Enjoy.
PS - We own nothing. And that tumblr page is a thing.
PPS - The dictionary is below and a long author's note is at the end. Thanks for following along on this first installment of this great adventure.
Gaki – brat
Gomen – sorry (informal)
Epilogue – Konoha no Hime 「木葉の姫」
Hiruzen walked slowly down the dark corridor, the eerie red lights doing little to illuminate the area, while his student Jiraiya-kun walked beside him. He was getting too old for this. The aftermath of conflict, the threat of war, it was all just too much. He'd witnessed far too much death, far too much destruction for pointless causes. Sent far too many condolences to family members who would never see their loved one again. It was time for someone else to take up the mantle, to protect the village with everything they had, and with any luck, this time it might even stick.
"Is there anything else you need me to do here?" Jiraiya-kun questioned, eager to leave the village like always.
"No. Everything is set for your departure," he replied with a nod, shifting his gaze slightly to catch his student's eye. "You will of course stay for Hiashi-san's funeral?"
"Yeah, the gaki wouldn't let us leave before it. Couldn't pull him away from the Princess of Konoha if I offered a lifetime supply of Ichiraku's Ramen," Jiraiya-kun replied with an exasperated sigh, using Koushi-san's new moniker with a hint of sarcasm that spoke volumes. Out of all his students only Tsunade-san had ever liked the Hyuuga, and Hiruzen was sure even that had more to do with their deep family ties than anything else. Still, there was no need for the tone, Hiashi-san's heir was dealing with enough as it was. She didn't need more hostility aimed her way.
"Not like he's going to miss anything, the real one won't be until April. Got to give enough time for everyone and their mothers to get here right," he continued before Hiruzen could interject, his tone laced even heavier with his sarcastic drawl. "Not like Hiashi-san was an emperor?" he muttered, not bothering to give the deceased man the respect he was due.
Hiruzen turned sharply at that, leveling his student with his disappointed gaze that Jiraiya-kun had the decency to at least look ashamed over. He should have known better. The dead were to be revered. Remembered in all ways, but held in esteem for the great acts of their lives. It did no one any good to wish them ill will.
"Gomen, Sensei. He died a hero, serving his village to the end. I should remember that," Jiraiya-kun apologized, his words honestly contrite.
Hiruzen nodded at the words, accepting the apology for the man that no longer could as he took a long pull from his pipe, keeping the other hand behind his back as they continued on their trek down the corridor. He'd requested to be there, to be the one to tell the Koushi-san, Hinata, of her father's fate. He'd expected crying. He'd expected her to break like Genshirou-san, however, she'd stayed the emotionless girl her father had trained her to be. And he'd felt conflicted.
'I hope the Will of Fire will be strong enough to get her through this,' he thought as he blew the smoke from his mouth.
For a moment longer, they were both sober in silence, the stillness in the air broken only as his student spoke again. "Is she going to be able to escort the Daimyo back to the Fire Capital? After all of this?"
Hiruzen took another pull from his pipe as he contemplated his answer. "The Koushi-sama is a Chuunin now, not a child. She will do what she must," he replied. While he worried about her mental health, he knew that every ninja grieved in their own way. So he would not take this away from her unless she asked for some time off or proved to be otherwise compromised.
Looking at his student, he could see the question at his decision, "She won't be alone." He paused taking another deep pull from his pipe before continuing, "After all, this is a joint mission assigned to our newest Konoha Chuunin."
"Except for Naruto, right? I'm still getting him."
"Hai, Jiraiya-kun. Your request for an apprenticeship has been recognized. Now, just make sure he comes back in one piece so it can officially be approved." The third Hokage paused at a doorway, the familiar howls of pain leaking from the closed room. He sighed, but knew it couldn't be avoided. Times were changing. The invasion had shown him that he was too old for this position. Had seen far too much death, was hesitant when he should have been strong. Konoha needed knew blood for the Will of Fire to continue. And there was only one way the village could have that.
Turning back to his student he spoke again, "Are you sure I can't get you to take up the mantle of Hokage, Jiraiya-kun?"
His student waved his hands and shook his head aggressively as if warding off a curse, and perhaps he was, "No way, old man. I'm not really the responsible type. Tsunade-hime's your best bet for this one."
The Sandaime sighed again at his student's response. Tsunade-san had not been in the village for a long time. It would take a miracle to convince her to come back home. He'd have to think of an alternative, a plan B so to speak, when Jiraiya-kun turned up empty handed.
Continuing on, they reached a solid black door at the end of the hallway. Jiraiya-kun touched it for a moment and the chakra seals glowed red, before he could open the door. Inside of the dark room lit by red lights were three prisoners. Three of their highest security prisoners to be exact, the Sand Siblings.
Gaara-san lay motionless in the induced sleep Jiraiya-kun had placed him under, while his brother Kankuro-san glared at them. His face dark without his face paint on, his expression angry. And finally…
"That Aburame kid really did a number on her, didn't he? I don't think she'll ever be the same again," Jiraiya-kun stated, voicing a mirror of his own thoughts.
'Hai,' Hiruzen thought as he gazed on. 'Subaku no Temari will need a miracle of her own if she ever hopes to be a ninja again.' But after everything that had happened, they'd all need a miracle to recover. War was on the horizon. And the future looked grim.
AN: (KJ) Finally, we've come to the end of book one, the Princess of Konoha. It's been a long journey, with way more bumps that could have meant this never happened. (We're twins writing this remember, and we argue often about nearly everything…) But we're both really proud of this work, and can't wait to get started on the next book, tentative title the Seal Master of Konoha.
Everything you need to know before starting book two has been wrapped up in the epilogue. With that said, don't expect the next book anytime soon (it took us 3 months to write the first ten chapters, although we were fighting a lot so…). Best estimate is six to eight months. Side note, we probably won't be getting much work done in the next several weeks as I (KJ) am going to a Drosophila Neurobiology Cold Spring Harbor course (yes, I'm tooting my own horn, this is going to be so freaking awesome).
With this done, we'll probably wait a couple of days before diving into all of the reviews that have remain untouched. Any questions you've got, go ahead and ask away. The tumblr page will get us both to look at it in a timely fashion (you don't need an account, you can ask anonymously). In addition to all that jazz, there were a couple of scenes that got cut (didn't fit in the timeline or chapter pacing). So, we'll be posting those nuggets on tumblr exclusively (we don't have anything against the fanfic site, just want to close up shop for this fic).
Anyway, thanks for joining us on this ride. It's been really fun, and the conversation between you guys and us have made the story way better than we could have expected (not going to lie, I knew this was going to be super awesome). Peace out.
(BR13) So now that this is done, we want to thanks all our dedicated fans and readers. Your reviews shaped the way we approached writing this story (which is one of the reasons I don't always read them when I'm in the middle of a heavy writing session) so know that your opinions and thoughts mattered even if we couldn't incorporate them into the story we're trying to tell. Special thanks goes out to our biggest fans listed in no particular order:
Dragon Man 180
And an extra special thanks to:
MYK-ON for being with us this whole time (you stuck it out over the rough patches, so thanks a bunch);
euroteres for giving us epic long reviews that really dug into the characters and motivations;
and Wacko12 for giving us the most unique ideas to incorporate into our story even if they all didn't get in there.
And to anyone else we might have missed. (KJ just looked through a couple of chapters to get a good idea, so he probably missed some of our most dedicated fans, sorry.)
While we could have done this without you, this story would not have been shaped as well as it is now. Without ya'll there to challenge and criticize us, we couldn't have formed this epic tale. So thanks goes out to you for helping us create our own little War and Peace (because its honestly has more words than that Russian novel).
We'll see you when we see you,
-BR13 & KJ
*Points into crowd of readers* Here's looking at you Wacko.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Amaya's heels tapped a rapid rhythm against the hard stone floor of the corridor as she strode quickly towards her lord's chambers. The echoing sound of her footsteps followed her as she walked through the stagnate stronghold hallways. As far as they were from a home she could only remember in stories, endless stretches of ocean having been replaced by the harsh mountainous view long ago, news typically traveled much slower than she would have liked. Often taking weeks to reach them, making the information almost useless.
However, that had been the primary reason she'd developed her complex information network. Strategically and stealthily maneuvering key individuals to places of interest, each assignment uniquely dependent on her operatives' overall skills. It had taken years of work to organize the venture, the task both slow and daunting, but in the end all her efforts had paid off, especially in times like these. Times where the news traveling across the great nations was so important that it could affect everything she and her lord had worked for, change the entire political atmosphere and throw a horribly huge wrench in their plans.
Not that she would presume to know her lord's will of course. No mere mortal could, but as his head councilor she was privy to more information than most. So she knew, without a doubt, that her lord would want to know this.
In her haste, she knocked only once as she arrived at the large ornately carved door, waiting only a fraction of a section before entering without acknowledgement. Her lord, Taizong-dono, would forgive her rudeness, hopefully.
She entered the room with her eyes already on the floor, moving forward just enough to get her out of the doorway before bending at the waist, the low bow held as she moved to speak, "My lord, I bring news from Konoha."
Silence filled the space between them, but she held still, patiently waiting for her lord to acknowledge her now, knowing that to do otherwise would be an action worse than treason. It would be a slight against the gods themselves.
His irritation easily penetrated the space between them, his dark energy felt even from her position across the room, so she braced herself for the worse, expecting the hollow chill that would send shivers down her spine. "Amaya…" He held her name out, drawing each syllable in a measured drawl that crawled under her skin to grip at her heart. Had she been a lesser person, she would have cowered in the face of such divine might, but that wasn't her. It couldn't be, not when she held so much power within her lord's court. Taizong-dono did not permit such weakness.
Of course, that was shy why she stood here today, the youngest member of the council and already her lord's trusted ear. Her fear would not stop her from serving her lord. Not now and not ever. So, she held firm, waiting for Taizong-dono to continue. "I did not wish to be disturbed. Not even for news of Konoha's destruction."
He was annoyed with her, but she pushed onward. This was too important to wait for another time, "My lord, Konoha still stands."
Amaya let the statement hang in the air, each second passing like a heavy weight as she waited for her lord's reaction. This was not great news, and worse yet, there was still more to come. Far more disturbing information than just one failed invasion. No, this was far more important and she wondered how her lord would respond. Would she die as the messenger? Or would Taizong-dono still favor her, still value her words?
Finally, after several long silent seconds, her lord's chair turned towards her, the light sound of the wheels turning her sign that she would see another day. Pulling up from her bow, Amaya knew that the luck of Akira-dono was with her and she silently thanked him for it before continuing. "There is more, my lord," she stated, answering his unspoken question as she handed him the news article she'd brought with her.
Taizong-dono took hold of the article with a disinterested tilt of his head, willing to trust her judgment, but obviously expecting an over exaggeration of the circumstances. Undisturbed by the aloofness of his stance, Amaya's gaze shifted backwards, landing on the myriad of seemingly disjointed images that covered the surface of his wall.
There, posted behind him, were seemingly random articles. One of the legendary sucker, Senju Tsunade, a copy of her likeness tacked close to what amounted to nothing more than petty gossip. Another of a red-headed orphan in Kumo, the length of his long red hair matched only by the odd tribal tattoos etched across his body. And many more articles like those.
Some of them just pictures. Splashes of red hair standing out more often against the mostly black and white images. Others surrounding those, the small print of detailed articles clustered together in groups, similar subjects explored in depth at each opportunity. But there was one article circled in red that stood out the most. Tacked to the center of the wall stood the one article that she knew her lord had been obsessed with for the past two months. The article covering the announcement of the Konoha Chuunin Selection Exam Final matches.
A harsh shift in the wind brought her back to her lord. The article falling to the floor in tiny pieces. The clean rips in the page were expected. After all, her lord had a short temper that was easily triggered, but she'd come prepared for this possibility. Pulling out a second duplicate of the article she handed it back to her lord confident that his rage had been satisfied for the time being.
Taizong-dono took the second copy of the article without acknowledging her, as if he'd expected nothing less from her. Instead, he spun in his chair, gaze landing firmly on the center of his wall, to calmly pin the article right next to the Konoha Chuunin Selection article. Lost in his own thoughts, he stared at the two pieces placed side by side, unable to rip himself away from such obvious acts of heresy.
"The hubris," her lord began, the dark timbre of his voice matched only by the shadow that blanketed his features as he slowly turned back to face her. "To disgrace the gods in such a way," he continued with a hard shake of his head. "Someone's been playing with fire, arrogantly calling on their wrath. Uzumaki Naruto, your sire steps on the memories of our gods without hesitation with an egotism that knows no bounds."
As the words left her lord's lips, Amaya's gaze flickered to the effigy of the father of their gods that stood proudly perched at the corner of Taizong-dono's desk. No one had ever dared name a child after him, the first and all powerful and as far as she was concerned, no one ever should. It was an insult to the gods. One she didn't dare entertain for fear of the repercussions.
Amaya's eyes snapped back to her lord as he deliberately took the rarely used red pen from the top of his desk, turning the blood red ink to the article in question. Taizong-dono circled the heretic's stolen name in one swift motion, adding a few short strokes to designate him as the winner of the much anticipated match. All the while, studying the image of the boy with all the intensity of the gods that inhabited him.
"Will this be a problem, my lord? With a name like that, he could challenge the legitimacy to your divine sovereignty," Amaya questioned, finally bringing up the point that had caused her such urgency in the first place. If it were true, then so much more was at stake than the simple foundation of their beliefs. A legacy was at risk, a dynasty that had only really just begun. And it could ruin everything.
At her question, Taizong-dono turned sharply towards her, the fire burning in his eyes matching the bright red of his hair held back atop his head. "I am Emperor," he bellowed, the full force of his temper let loose with the howl of the wind that ripped across her skin, sharp cuts marring her exposed flesh. "Nothing and no one will change that," he continued before pausing to collect himself.
The winds slowed to nothing as her lord turned away from her once more, dismissing her with a wave of his hand, a sinister chuckle darkening his voice as he sent her away, "It doesn't matter who he is, Amaya. In times such as these, anything could happen to the boy."
Acknowledging her lord's wishes, Amaya bowed low in reply. "Hai," she stated simply before slipping from the room. She trusted her lord implicitly, but she would not leave anything to chance. And for that, she would need to see if this boy truly was the threat to her lord's divine reign that he appeared to be. Now, she would need to get her hands dirty.