Elegy of the Wronged
Unbetaed so all mistakes are mine.
Final chapter. To everyone else who have read, reviewed and is following this story, thank you, and I hope it meets your expectations. Comments and critiques are very much appreciated.
VII - La Torre (XVI). At the End of the World
Naruto collapsed on the grassy plain. He had dragged Sasuke's insensate form with him to the ground. His heart beat like a drum, great sharp jabs that felt it would send him into a crashing mound of agony. He breathed. In, out. In, out, until his heart ever so slowly calmed. He turned exhausted eyes at Gamabunta who gave him an exasperated shake of its massive head before disappearing.
He turned to look at his unconscious companion. It had been too close, watching as Danzo nearly skewered him. Naruto was nearly a fraction of a second to late. He thank his foresight with the hiraishin. He had been able to teleport to grab Sasuke and flee. He summoned Gamabunta and did not look back.
Naruto could feel a terrible rage and grief bubble through him. Remembering how the idiot didn't even dodge.
'The suicidal fool', Naruto thought viciously. He was so angry, thinking that Sasuke did not care whether he lived or died. That the selfish idiot didn't even care about the people he would leave behind. Naruto choked back a sob. Was it relief, grief or anger? Who knows? Naruto did not even know what he felt.
"Interesting," a cool voice interrupted his descent to a confusing morass of emotion. Naruto whirled to face the source of the voice. He found himself staring at the familiar masked man decked in the Akatsuki colours.
"Madara," Naruto spat out. He muscles tensed, ready to fight. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Madara shook his head almost chidingly. Ire rose through Naruto at the sight, he can't believe the gall of the man to stand here and judge. It was an overreaction, he knew, but he was spoiling for a fight. The man who he truly wanted to punch lay obliviously unconscious.
"I came to see this through," Madara spoke at last. There was strange tilt in his posture, a tension Naruto could not put a finger on. But he didn't care to dissect the motives of manipulative bastards that looked at people as if they were chess pieces at a game.
Naruto burst out in belligerently. "I'm not going to lie quietly and…"
"You silly child," Madara snapped back in equal annoyance. It put a stop on the steamroll of Naruto's determination, he stared dumbly at the man. "Not everything is answered by fisticuffs," the elder Uchiha continued almost haughtily, yet there was a certain almost entreating quality to his voice. "I am here to ask what you're going to do?"
"Why do you care?"
"Answer me," Madara spoke in his familiar imperious tones. Yet in an odd show of vulnerability, he removed his mask. It was a notion that Naruto has never seen in all the moments he had spied upon the Akatsuki and their shadowy puppet master. "Are you going to abandon him? Will you turn and crawl back to Konoha?
Naruto reared back, affronted. "Never! I go where he goes."
His shout echoed through the air. Madara had turned the full force of his stare to Naruto. They studied each other, and ever so slowly, the tension between the two eased. Whatever they saw with the other, it was enough of a justification to calm them both.
"That's good enough for me," Madara at last spoke. From the folds of his cloak, he brought out an ancient fan and tossed it to Naruto. "Here," he spoke as Naruto fumbled to catch it. It was surprisingly heavy, Naruto observed, noting the stolid delicacy of the frame. It was a fan made out of iron, a war fan. The iron was ancient and well-used, but still lovingly cared for.
"Give this to Sasuke," Madara instructed, firm and resolute. "I think he deserves to carry Izuna's tessen. It was the weapon passed down from each generation of clan priests," he explained as his voice took a misty quality of nostalgia. "When my brother died, I couldn't bear to let it go. It was my only link left to him, but now I think I can…Tell him that."
Naruto could feel that he was simply gaping in surprise. It certainly got him an amusedly disdainful look, an expression he used to get from Sasuke, even Neiji and Sakura when he was being particularly dim. A pang of grief pulsed through him just as Madara turned to go.
"Wait," he exclaimed. "What about Konoha, will you still…"
Naruto's voice trailed off. Madara had simple stood as still as a statue, a sentinel born out of the shadowy depths of a bitter past. Naruto had gotten a raised brow in response. In a way, he understood why. His allegiance had already been stated. No one should serve two masters at a time, it will only bring in failure and tragedy. But still, old loyalties and loves are hard to erase. Naruto sighed out in contemplation, "I guess it doesn't matter, does it? But what are you going to do?"
Madara gave a start of surprise at the question. He peered curiously at Naruto. 'Such a strange forgiving boy,' he mused. He supposed the young man, nay, the young head's companion deserved an honest answer.
"Who knows?" Madara shrugged after a minute of silent contemplation. He glanced at Naruto before he turned to look at the horizon. "Maybe I'll continue my quest. Or maybe I've done enough, so I can die."
His voice lowered into a hush. Giving a nod of farewell, he disappeared. He left Naruto standing, looking far out into the horizon where Konoha would be if he just moved forward. A final stare, as if memorising the near familiar skyline, and Naruto turned his back at it.
Sasuke drifted to consciousness. Madara's imperious tones and Naruto's brash ones drifted to his ears. He managed to open his eyes and found himself staring at the blue blue sky. He struggled to get up. His body was a mass of pain. He was surprised to find himself alive. When Danzo had moved to kill him, he had expected the man to succeed. There had been no impetus for him to live, Sasuke had done all that he felt he needed to do.
He found himself staring at Naruto's equally azure eyes. The man's brow was furrowed. His features were set into a ferocious scowl. Sasuke realised they were both alone. Maybe he had dreamed of Madara's voice, or maybe the elder had left, but it wasn't so important. What wholly captured his attention was the seething tangle coming from his then teammate. He gave a bemused glance at Naruto, confused as to why the man was so affected. It was only his life, nothing else.
"You idiot!" Naruto roared as he lunged to grasp Sasuke's collar. His hands were quivering in rage. He was literally shaking Sasuke with sheer fury. "Why did you just stand there. Did you want to die?!"
Sasuke's features softened at that final shout. Naruto's voice had echoed in the plain. He looked like he was ready to crumble, all that pent up pressure expelled by his holler. Sasuke didn't know what to say. He didn't know how he could explain his state of mind. He had been so tired, and now everything had been finished. To Sasuke there was nothing left. There was simply none.
"I still haven't found my reason for living," Sasuke at last explained ever so gently. He let his hand rest at Naruto's trembling ones. Steady, he had wanted to say. You'll be alright, he willed the dramatic dead-last to understand.
"You selfish fool," Naruto lamented. "You blind blind idiot." He gave a short barked laugh. "Then let's go and search for it together, no matter how long it takes."
Sasuke could feel his eyes widen in shock at the statement. He couldn't say anything. His mind felt fuzzy. The only thing he felt certain was the whistling wind at his ears. He felt his mouth move. He whispered out. "And If I can't?"
"I'll still be with you," Naruto replied in equal fond gentleness. Slowly, carefully, he enveloped Sasuke into a hug. "Then maybe, in time, I'll be enough for you. That we'll be enough for each other. Okay?"
"Okay," Sasuke agreed as he closed his eyes. He buried his face at Naruto's shoulder as if to shut the world. The arms that enfolded him were warm and comforting. Distantly, he could hear Garuda's incoming screech of happiness as the hawk slowly circled towards them.
Sorata peered at the horizon. He noted a distant figure that was swiftly moving towards the temple. It was a surprising sight, the temple and its lands have all but been forgotten. Rarely did anyone knowingly come to visit this part of the world. He squinted to get a better view when the form morphed into two figures riding a hawk's back. A smile tugged his lips. The figure of the hawk was too familiar. It could only be Garuda, and for sure, one of the figures was young master Sasuke. Though he did wonder about the companion. Heaving his ancient body upward, Sorata went out to the courtyard to greet the returning figures.
"Well young master," Sorata addressed Sasuke who was dismounting off Garuda. He gave the hawk a questioning stare, who returned it with a near grin. His heart light, his eyes nearly devoured the young man's form. He noted the cuts and bruises, and the constellation of pain his clothes could not hide, but it did not detract Sorata from the thought that the young man was here and alive. "Have you come to join us?"
"Yes," Sasuke replied simply, much to Sorata's pleasure. It wasn't just because of the answer, but because the young Uchiha clan head's form radiated a sense of peace and lightness. No longer was he seeing a man wrapped in the hollows of grief and betrayal. Now all he saw was a confident young man with his firm stance, fluid movements, and the easy way he wore his sword, the Kusanagi. Sorata surreptitiously glance at the blond companion, noting the gentle way the man looked at the young master or the equally soft look young master would bestow. It was a fine sight to see.
"I see you bought company. Am I to assume you have found your reason for living?"
Sasuke stared at Sorata, at first in surprise then in amusement. The question had been bold, but the old priest had looked too content for Sasuke to find any offence. Sasuke met the old man's joyful gaze, and simply replied. "Perhaps…"
Sasuke turned to give Naruto a gentle smile. Naruto stared at him in astonishment, and a slow dawning delight.
*La Torre - Roughly translated as The Tower. In this case, this alludes to "The Falling Tower", the 16th card of the major arcana in the Tarot deck.