A/N: So, here we are at the end of this story. It's been a long journey. About three years of writing and hiatuses but a lot of you have stayed with me and I'm glad. Please enjoy, read and review.

Takuma woke up to darkness. He heard the sound of his heart monitor beeping slowly. He tried to move but his body felt so weak and frail that it was a strain to do anything. Frustration strangled Takuma's heart. His heart monitor started to beep louder and faster.

"Takuma," a voice said. Honami's voice. Her hand touched Takuma's arm and the Uchiha flinched at the surprise feeling. Takuma's head went in every direction.

"Honami?" he asked. His voice was weak and course. His throat was dry. "I-I need water…" Takuma heard some shuffling.

"I have a straw," Honami said. "Will you be okay with a straw?" Takuma nodded quickly and the next thing he felt was a plastic straw at his mouth. The rush of water in his mouth was refreshing and after he moistened his mouth, Takums sighed softly.

"How long have I been out? Where am I?" Takuma asked. Honami rubbed his hand.

"It's been three days. You're still in the hospital," Honami replied. Takuma sighed.

"Oh." He shifted in his bed to get more comfortable. His head pounded. "What happened during the tournament? Who won?"

"Hajime ended up winning the whole thing. Only because Shogo and I conceded the second round to come see you," Honami replied. Takuma shook his head.

"So, Hajime is going to become a chunin now?" Takuma could almost see Honami's smile when she answered.

"No, he's not. Shogo and I are." Takuma smiled.

"Good, I guess the Kages and daimyo were impressed with your matches," he said.

"Well, Shogo certainly impressed but no…it was because we were concerned about you." Honami squeezed Takuma's hand. "I'd rather be by your side than fight in a stupid tournament. You're my friend, Takuma."

Takuma sniffled and Honami's hand cupped his face. Her lips touched his briefly before Takuma heard the door open. The sound of plastic rustling and the smell of flowers hit Takuma's senses.

"Yo! You're awake," Shogo said. Takuma heard him walk forward, deliberately stepping a bit harder so Takuma could hear his approach. "How are you feeling?"

"Weak," Takuma answered. He truthfully felt utterly exhausted, like he normally felt after a strenuous training session. Only, this felt much worse. He'd been resting for two days straight, hooked up to IVs and monitors meant to replenish his chakra system yet, he felt worse than he had when he had conceded his match to Hajime.

"Well, the doctors did mention it'd take a bit longer for you to recover. I don't know why though," Honami said. Shogo sighed.

"I don't even think they know why." There was a pause and Shogo said, "If it has something to do with your chakra system, maybe you could take a look, Honami?"

"I don't know what I'd be looking for. I'm not a doctor." Shogo sighed softly.

"Just check his chakra network. See if there's any fluctuations in the flow," he said.

"But…" Honami started. Takuma gripped her hand.

"Please," he said, his voice a pleading whisper. "Look for me." Honami's hair brushed Takuma's arm, like she nodded.

"Okay." There was another mild pause and he heard Honami gasp softly.

"What is it?" Shogo asked. There was another pause and Takuma got nervous. He started to hyperventilate again and Shogo placed a hand on his chest. "Takuma, calm down…" Takuma's breaths slowed and Shogo asked Honami again. "What is it? What do you see?"

"I-I…your chakra isn't flowing how it should," Honami said. Takuma shook his head.

"What does that mean? What happened?" Takuma asked.

"I don't know for sure. But, normally a shinobi's chakra network is constantly flowing from their core and spreading throughout their body but yours is…" Honami sounded as if she was about to cry. Takuma exhaled sharply.

"Damn it…" he said softly. He gripped his sheets in one hand and then put his hands on his face, only to realize that he had bandages still wrapped around his head. He remember how the medics had been horrified by what they saw and warned him not to try to move his eyes. He was tempted to ask Honami what lay underneath the bandages…

"Takuma! Thank God!" Takuma's head snapped to the sound of his mother's voice and the patter of small footsteps.

"Taku," Hikari cried. She was in mid-sob as she continued to try to speak. "I…was so…Mama!" Takuma heard his mother shush his sister.

"Are you okay?" Kichiro's voice. Takuma tried to smile but he ended up feeling like it was more of a grimace.

"No," he answered. "Not really." Takuma kept trying to turn his head to talk to people. He looked in the direction where his mother's voice last came from. "Mom," he called.

"Yes, love…" his mother answered. Takuma truly smiled this time.

"Have you talked to the doctors? What are they saying?" He heard his mother sigh. After that, he heard his guests leave. Hikari whined a little but the noise faded after the door was closed. A chair skidded closely to Takuma's left. He felt his mother's hand on his cheek.

"Love…I need to be honest with you and this is one moment where I really just don't want to." There was a pause and Takuma touched his mother's hand on his face. It felt extremely cold.

"Just tell me," Takuma said. He heard his mother sob and then compose herself. Takuma's mind began to race. "Tell me, please." His voice raised an octave, unintentionally. His mother rubbed his face.

"Your chakra isn't replenishing itself. Your reserves kicked in yesterday and they've been exhausted trying to keep you alive. We can't blame it fully on Hajime as it seems to be a heightened and more aggressive form of your original diagnosed disease but fighting someone with Gentle Fist techniques didn't help at all. Um…" his mother sobbed again. "It's…we're looking for ways to reverse the damage done. I'm looking through every medical book we have and ordering the ones I don't to be brought here within the day."

Takuma laughed.

Not out of any joyous relief that his mother was doing all she could to try to fix what was wrong with him and not she cared so much about him. He was overwhelmed with so many mixed yet powerful emotions, all he could do was laugh. When he was finished, he ventured to ask another question.

"What about my eyes? I had the Sharingan and then…I just went blind. Now, I have these bandages on. Hell, Mom…I can't even cry," he said. His mother sobbed and sighed again.

"Your eyes…those are a different matter entirely. You…" Another sigh. "You burnt them out. Hajime hit your occipital lobe's chakra point in a way that increased the flow of chakra so much that it burst through the blockage caused by the disease. It redirected the chakra to your eyes and the rest of your body, thankfully avoiding our aneurysm hypothesis, but…"

"What?" Takuma asked.

"Your eyes ruptured. There was just t-too much buildup and…" Sakura stopped. Takuma pursed his lips. "Using the Sharingan in the way that you did in such an intense combat situation did most of the harm. So to keep you from getting infected, we had to surgically remove the dried, ruptured eyes. They're bandaged now with ointment from the Hyūga clan that's fighting the infection vigorously."

Takuma sat back and let the information circulate his brain. Hajime had not only assisted in activating his Sharingan but he had also inadvertently caused his eyes to rupture and his entire body's chakra network to essentially shut down and stop repairing itself. Takuma's own exuberant and zealous use of the Sharingan, despite knowing that he shouldn't have even been to activate it also led to him lying here. If he had even known how to deactivate it, maybe he would've.


He just wanted to win. He just wanted to stick his foot squarely in Hajime's mouth and prove him wrong. He wanted to show his father and everyone else watching that he was a powerful shinobi, capable of finding a way to defeat the Byakugan without any visual prowess and power of his own. He wanted to prove that even an Uchiha without a Sharingan was still better than any other shinobi and he had ended up with two empty eye sockets to show for his efforts. Hajime had sought to expose him and his failures to the world. To break him. And he had done just that.

With everything processed enough for words to form to his mouth, Takuma asked his last question.

"Where's Sosei and my father?"

Sosei very rarely spent one on one personal time with his father. He knew that the man was proud of him and his accomplishments and saw himself in Sosei, yet Sasuke Uchiha was always a distant figure who preferred to watch from the shadows and enter the light when he saw fit in order to fix a problem. Traveling with him for the past two days had been a similar experience except this felt much more like an urgent mission than a haphazard bonding trip. Sasuke Uchiha had uttered little more than the same two word phrases.

"Let's go."

"Wake up."

"We're leaving."

"Hurry up."

Sosei had barely been a step behind his father but given the roughness of all his commands, it seemed as if even that was too slow. Sosei would normally complain but given the sensitivity of this trip, he understood.

Takuma had been so close to victory. Sosei had been on the edge of his seat with Kichiro next to him cheering and calling out Takuma's name loudly. Then, Hajime dropped into a stance that Sosei had never seen, learning later that it was a secret Hyūga clan technique. After that, the match was over. Sosei had assumed that Hajime's attacks had actually succeeded in shutting down Takuma's chakra network temporarily. He wasn't prepared for what he saw when he got to the hospital room.

Takuma's eye bandages had been completely filled with blood. Then Sakura told his father that Takuma's eyes were a completely lost cause.

Sosei knew exactly where they were going after that.

He had discovered the Mountain Graveyard when he was looking through the Uchiha clan's history in order to search for a way to save Takuma's eyes. When he had returned home from a night out walking, his father had been sitting on the couch with his Sharingan active and the book on his lap.

"The horrible truth" about the Uchiha lied within the hidden laboratory inside the Mountain Graveyard and Sosei was both eager and afraid to discover what that truth was. If it could save Takuma, Sosei could only imagine one possible conclusion…that hidden lab had Sharingan harvested from dead Uchiha inside of it. Why that was a horrible truth was what troubled Sosei. He couldn't imagine that his father had had anything to do with it though as time had gone on and he learned more about his father from other people, there was less Sosei put past his father in his youth.

"Sosei," Sasuke said. "We're here." Sosei looked around and saw a large stone, covered with vegetation with dead trees and a small acidic pool of water bubbling nearby. Half a skeleton from a giant creature lay submerged beneath the dirt. The place seemed untouched but Sosei's father moved cautiously.

"What's wrong?" Sosei asked. His father's eyes and head shifted from left to right. Sosei got the eerie sense that something was off. He instinctively activated his Sharingan. He glanced up at his father and the man's eyebrows deeply furrowed.

A giant fireball infused with the midnight flame of Amaterasu burst forward and encompassed the entire stone. The overgrown leaves burned away and exposed the rock underneath.

Sosei narrowed his eyes. There was an odd heptagram seal over the way. Sosei looked at his father. "That your handiwork?" he asked.

"No," Sasuke responded curtly. Sosei wrinkled his brow.

"Who else knew about this place other than you?"

"Three people. Obito Uchiha, Kabuto Yakushi and Orochimaru. Kabuto runs an orphanage in Konoha. Obito and Orochimaru are dead." Sosei's father sounded confident but Sosei heard a slight tinge of doubt.

"You don't think Orochimaru is dead…" Sosei posited. Sasuke looked at him.

"I killed myself, and then your Uncle Itachi sealed away his soul. During the war, I resurrected the bastard but placed a ten-year time limit on him. I thought he was dead then, but…"

"Then you saw me…" Sosei whirled around and Sasuke followed. Sosei's Sharingan eyes widened.


The tall, slender blue-eyed man grinned behind his dark hair that draped over his face like a curtain. His black clothes were new, but retained the markings of the Three Deaths. Yet, he was alone.

"Seems we're missing an Uchiha…" Yashagoro said.

Sosei stepped forward but Sasuke spoke. "You set this seal and you will remove it or I will every inch of you to ash. Every molecule, I will incinerate and I will move on to your surviving accomplices and your safe houses. Nothing connected to you will remain. If you run a country, I will level it. If there is even a child that has regarded you in any level of admiration or respect, I will bleed them to a husk."

Sosei did everything he could to keep his mouth. He tried desperately to believe that his father was bluffing but as smoothly as the words flowed from his mouth, Sosei knew that his father had meant every syllable. Sosei remembered the stories that his mother had told him about his father. How he slaughtered armies, sacrificed friends to satisfy his thirst for revenge. Sosei had believed that that monster had passed away but now, Sasuke's chakra was cold that Sosei literally shivered in his sandals.

Yashagoro laughed. It echoed through the clearing and the man enjoyed himself so much that he gripped his sides. "You know," he said, "You actually may have convinced me to unseal your little laboratory but I think it will be even more entertaining to watch you break that seal after you kill me."

"I'll manage," Sasuke said.

"You won't. The seal becomes permanent if I die." Yashagoro unsheathed his sword. "So, we're at a stalemate."

Sosei looked to his right and saw Yashagoro's sword next to him. His father was next to the man, encased in Susano'o armor. The monstrous embodiment of Sasuke's chakra grabbed Yashagoro. Sosei heard Yashagoro's bones crunch and tear as the Susano'o ripped one of his arms off.

Sosei shook his head. He wanted revenge. Yashagoro and the Three Deaths killed Noboru. They triggered Takuma's disease. Sosei wanted Yashagoro dead.

But Takuma's life had to come first.

Sosei ran forward and stood beside his father as he tortured Yashagoro.

"Dad, stop! Don't you realize that Takuma is dead the second that he dies?" When it seemed as though his father did not hear him, Sosei continued. "You will be every bit as much a reason to blame for Takuma's death as he will be. You have to stop!"

Sosei heard a pop and a crunch as Sasuke crushed Yashagoro's body into a bloody mess in Susano'o's hand. The young Uchiha's eyes widened as Sasuke deactivated the technique, dropped Yashagoro's body and walked towards the rock. Frozen, Sosei could only stare at the ground. Takuma's only chance at surviving twitched as the last spasms of neural commands were sent to his body. Sosei went from being still, to shaking uncontrollably.

"What in the fuck is wrong with you? Do you have any idea what you've done?!" Sosei shouted. His father turned and Sosei felt all anger wash away in a flood of fear. His father's eyes were sharper than the blade that rested at Sosei's throat.

"Have you lost your mind?" Sasuke's monotone voice chilled Sosei so much that he shook. He did not answer. He could not. Sasuke continued, "I read his mind. I know the hand seals to break through the barrier and that was not Yashagoro." Sasuke gestured towards Yashagoro's body that was no longer a pool of blood but a few shards of broken ice.

Sosei let out a breath that fogged the steel of Sasuke's sword. Sosei didn't move until his father moved his sword away from his neck. Sasuke didn't say a word and moved away. The fear that held Sosei in place subsided enough for him to catch his breath and calm himself. He raised his head and watched his father perform a long stream of hand seals before he touched the stone face. The heptagram seal swirled and then disappeared. The rock shook and slowly rolled away to the side, revealing an opening.

Sasuke turned fractionally, as if to beckon Sosei forward. The young Uchiha followed his father inside. The two Uchiha slowly descended a flight of stairs. The stairway transformed from a hollowed out rock into a dark room. Sasuke looked around and Sosei did as well. When they arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Sosei smelled a strong odor and Sasuke Uchiha paused.

"No," he said softly. Sosei looked around and then back to his father. Sasuke moved forward and disappeared into the darkness that was the lab. Sosei waited at the base of the steps for a while and listened out for his father's call. Impatience and curiosity got the best of him and he activated his Sharingan and stepped into the darkness after his father.

The further he went, the worse the smell became. Then he stepped into liquid. The lukewarm, horrendous liquid touched his toes and Sosei paused. With his Sharingan active, he could his father standing in the center of the room. He was shaking in fury.

Sosei looked around. There was nothing in the room aside from a table. The glass wall was destroyed. Whatever Sharingan were supposed to be in the room, were either gone or destroyed.

"This…this is wrong," Sosei said. "There's nothing here." His breath stopped. "Yashagoro…" Sosei shook his head and looked back at his father. "Dad…we should get back to Takuma." When Sasuke didn't move, Sosei stepped forward.

"Go," Sasuke whispered.

"Dad, we need to…" Sosei stopped himself and sighed sharply. He was done talking to someone who didn't listen. His brother needed him. Sosei turned and started to the steps. When he reached the bottom, he turned and looked back at his father.

After that last regard, Sosei ascended the stairs and left his father in the darkness.

Takuma woke up to darkness and thought that the lights were off, forgetting momentarily that he was blind. He licked in dried lips and lifted his hand to the left. He hit something hard that sounded wooden. Takuma hoped desperately that his water was there. He tapped the table until he felt plastic and heard the jingling of disturbed ice. Elated, Takuma grabbed his cup and lifted it, carefully bringing it to his mouth.


Honami's voice startled the Uchiha and his water spilled on his chest. Takuma squirmed in his bed and he heard Honami rush over to him.

"Oh my God, Takuma…" she said. She patted him down with a towel. "I should've let you drink." Takuma sighed.

"It's ok," he said. Honami stopped drying him with the towel and there was silence until Takuma heard water running. It stopped and there was more silence until Takuma heard Honami's footsteps and got the smell of her hair as she leaned down.

"Here," she said. Her fingers guided his chin up and he felt the cup brim on his lips. Takuma licked his lips as water fell from the corner of his mouth.

He smiled weakly. "Thank you." Honami rubbed his cheek.

"No problem…" she said. She put her hand back on his hand and Takuma heard the squeak of leather as Honami sat down. Takuma laid his head back on his pillow and did the only thing he could do.

He began to fall into the abyss of his thoughts. In the beginning, it was like a pleasant dream.

Takuma stood in the center of the Konoha Stadium and across from him was Hajime. Rock Lee dropped his hand for the match to begin. Hajime activated his Byakugan and Takuma activated his fully blossomed Sharingan.

It didn't take a series of tests to pinpoint Hajime's weak point. The Sharingan's amazing accuracy enabled him to find the vertebrae and get Hajime to constantly stay on his toes. Takuma unleashed a powerful fire jutsu that he copied from his father. The flame was so powerful that Hajime's Heavenly Spin failed and the fire burned him.

Takuma stood over Hajime victorious, smiling proudly as everyone around him cheered for his victory. His father was proud. His brothers were impressed. Honami…she lathered him with kisses as her pale eyes bore into him.

The dream collapsed into itself as the memories of crashed down into the stadium, breaking it apart. The images flashed lightning and became meteors that buried deep into the center of the stadium. Takuma fell into the sunken hole, grasping and clawing at the grass and dirt as he tried to pull himself up. He reached out for his parents, his brothers, Honami…and no one could save him.

The perfect vision of his life burned to ash, the pale remains of shattered dreams. In this freefall, in this darkness, Takuma was nothing. He had accomplished nothing and he mattered to no one. He was a stiff, rigid husk of the boy he had once been. The happiness and joy he once felt were nothing but faded, hazy hallucinations as if they too were dreams. Takuma's heart sank as he descended through the midnight abyss.

Where were the people that he needed? His father and Sosei had departed, gallivanting to a different country for some secret reason, his mother was nowhere and Honami, despite her efforts, could not fill that hole. Takuma thought he wanted her and wanted to be with her for as long as he could.

And he had been.

Honami could never be with him. Not only was he a failure as a shinobi, he was a blind, withered, diseased boy. Takuma wasn't worthy of her. He wasn't worthy of Honami's warmth, her laugh, her love, her kindness. He wasn't worth spending this time with. He wasn't worth the stress.

He was just…

"…tired," Honami said as she rubbed Takuma's arm. "It's getting a bit late too." Takuma nodded.

"Y-yeah. You should go," he said. Honami scooted the chair back and there was a brief pause before Takuma heard her gasp.

"Wow, it's snowing," she said. Takuma turned his head in the direction of Honami's voice as she spoke again. "Is there anything you need before I go?"

Takuma nodded slowly. "Could you open the window for me? It's…a bit warm in here."

"I don't know. The snow might blow in here. Your room is up pretty high and the wind is gusty. I'll come in here tomorrow and see an Uchiha snowman," Honami said. Takuma laughed.

"Is it snowing that hard?" he asked.

"No, its just flurries. It might clear up, I guess." Takuma heard the sound of the window clicking and felt the cool air as the window slid up. "There you go. Better?" Honami asked.

Takuma nodded. "Yes," he said. "Thank you."

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Honami was close again. Takuma reached up and felt her hair, dampened and slightly cold from the snow yet soft as feathery down. Takuma touched Honami's face and felt tears form when she guided his hand. For the first time in three days, he could see her face again.

"Kiss me…" Takuma said. Honami didn't move forward immediately. Her finger wiped away one of his tears.


"Please," he said. Honami stayed still for a little bit until she came forward. The kiss was everything he wanted and simultaneously, he felt there was something missing. When it was over, Honami rubbed Takuma's face.

"You're going to get better," she said.

Lies. Takuma thought.

"I know," Takuma said.

"I'll see you tomorrow. I'll see if I can find your favorite wagashi," Honami said. Takuma smiled. It had been a while since he had had hanabiramochi.

"Ok," Takuma said.

"Stay strong for me," Honami said. She rubbed Takuma's chin. Takuma didn't answer her but he heard Honami leaving. The sounds of the hospital hallway crept into the room until Honami closed the door.

Again, Takuma was alone.

In the darkness, Takuma counted to himself.

Seconds ticked by.


Half an hour. A nurse came and dropped off more water and a small meal. When she asked if he still wanted the window open, Takuma nodded.

He then carefully ate the bowl of soup, blowing to avoid his tongue from being burnt.

Takuma licked his lips. The soup was good. It gave him enough strength to move out of his bed and stand up. His legs shook as he walked but Takuma persevered until he made it to the window.

The wind had slowed up now. When Takuma held his hand outside, he felt that the snowflakes were thick but fell slowly. He smiled. It must've looked beautiful.

Takuma stepped onto the windowsill and ducked beneath instinctively until he stood outside. The cold air was pure and refreshing. Takuma took in a deep breath. A tear ran down his face.

I'm sorry, Honami. I couldn't be strong for you.

Takuma stepped forward and dropped.

Kichiro couldn't stop crying. His heart was so low in his stomach that he felt weighed down by it. The pit in his stomach was insufferable. He ran to the bathroom and threw up, hoping that would relieve something in his stomach, but there was nothing. So, he just knelt in front of the toilet, weeping.

Takuma was dead.

A shinobi visiting their wife and newborn son found Takuma lying with his head split open directly below his room. The news had spread throughout the village like wildfire, even more so when the coroners ruled it a suicide.

Kichiro had only the faintest grasp of what a suicide was. The idea that someone could willingly take their own life filled Kichiro with uncontrollable sadness.

His mother told he and Hikari only a few hours ago. Hikari only understood that Takuma had been in the hospital and died. Kichiro refused to let her know the entire situation.

Kichiro heard the front door open and he felt a sense of relief. His father had—

"Kichiro…" Sosei said. Kichiro turned and saw his older brother standing in the bathroom doorway. He threw himself into his brother's arms. He cried and left snot on his brother's shirt.

"Sosei," he shouted. "Takuma, he…"

Sosei shushed him. "I know. I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was late…" Kichiro looked up through tear-filled eyes.

"Where's Daddy?" he asked. Sosei slowly shook his head.

"I…don't know."

Kichiro cried some more and Sosei rocked him in his arms. Hikari came in soon after and cried with them. After a while, Sosei stood and rubbed both of their faces.

"I love you both. I just need to go to my room, ok?" Sosei said. Kichiro nodded and Sosei went to his room. When Kichiro heard the door close, he left the bathroom with Hikari at his side. He raised his index finger to his mouth as they listened.

It didn't sound real.

Sosei was crying.

The next few hours were silent aside from spurts of crying from Kichiro. He and Hikari entered Takuma's room and looked around. Kichiro clutched Takuma's forehead protector close to his body and tucked his head down.

Why, Takuma? He thought. Fishing for more answers, Kichiro walked around the room. As Kichiro expected, there was very little physical evidence to indicate what exactly caused Takuma to do what he did. His brother was such a private and quiet person, but Kichiro knew that the signs had to be there. Someone as practical as his brother had to have planned, made contingencies, and weighed the pros and cons before he made a decision this heavy.

The front door opened again and Kichiro left Takuma's room to go into the living room. Part of his immature brain wanted to see Takuma walking through the door. But the rapidly maturing portion of his brain accepted that it wasn't going to happen.

Instead, it was his father, mother and the Hokage. The three shinobi silently entered the house with only Naruto even attempting to crack a smile. It was pained and forced as if the blonde man was trying to defuse a situation that simply couldn't be defused. Kichiro turned his head when he saw Sosei come out and stand behind him. The Uchiha's were red from crying.

The Hokage looked between them all and wiped a tear from his eye. "Uhm…" he said. He sighed. "This is a bit harder than I thought it would be."

"You don't have to say anything, Lord Hokage. We…" Kichiro saw Sosei look at him and back at the Hokage. "We know what happened. How Takuma died." Naruto nodded quickly.

"Ok." He rubbed his head and sighed. "Never thought I…ok. Uh, the ceremony will be held at the end of the week. Hopefully, the weather clears up by then." Naruto flashed a tearful smile and then he and Sakura exited.

With them gone, Kichiro, Sosei and Hikari were alone with their father. As per usual, their father said absolutely nothing. He just stalked off to his room. The lack of input scared Kichiro and he looked to his brother for reassurance. Sosei only watched their father walk away with a mixture of frustration and sadness before he went to his room.

No one talked to each other until the weekend came and despite Naruto's wishes, the weather didn't clear up. The clouds were a smoky great and snow fell steadily to the ground but didn't stick.

On the day of the funeral, there was barely any standing room. Emissaries from other villages and countries came bearing gifts and condolences from the Kage that weren't able to attend, which were all except the Kazekage, Gaara.

Takuma's body laid on top of a pyre and Kichiro cried as he gave it one last viewing. Sosei rubbed his shoulder as they passed by. Everyone was dressed in black, even the Hokage. Kichiro had never seen a black Kage cape before but Naruto wore one over his clothes. Solemnly, Naruto raised his head and sighed.

"Thank you all for attending," he said. "We have gathered here to celebrate the life and put to rest a fallen son, friend and shinobi. Takuma Uchiha…" Naruto paused. "Was an excellent and promising shinobi who eventually fell ill to a debilitating disease. He always desired to be the best that he could be, inheriting the Will of Fire that drives us all. So, now, we give him to the flame and put him to rest," Naruto said. He nodded to Sasuke.

Kichiro's father rose and walked to Naruto, stopping only when he stood in front of the pyre. Sosei tapped Kichiro's shoulder and the young boy stood up with everyone else. Sasuke Uchiha stood in front of Takuma's pyre for what seemed like an eternity before he raised his fingers and made a hand seal.

Fire streamed from his mouth and burned the pyre, encompassing Takuma's body. Kichiro had to admit that the flame was beautiful. He watched carefully as his brother was absorbed into the flame, wiping a tear as Takuma's figure became charred into nothingness. When it was confirmed that Takuma's body had disappeared, Naruto dipped his head. Sasuke absorbed the fire chakra with an outstretched hand and the pyre was covered with a coffin top with the Uchiha symbol brilliantly emblazed.

The crowd that gathered came forward, each of them placing a white chrysanthemum flower on the coffin and around it. Some of them greeted Kichiro's parents, others simply left. Kichiro saw his aunt Ino grab and hold his mother closely. His mother wept in her arms and Kichiro sighed softly. The young Uchiha looked around for any of his friends from the Academy and was shocked when he saw an entire crowd of his classmates, led by Kataki, come forward.

Kataki held a bouquet and smiled as he passed by Kichiro and placed them on the ground in front of Takuma's coffin. Kataki then turned to Kichiro and held out two fingers. The seal of reconciliation. Kichiro nodded and performed the seal with Kataki. The boy dipped his head and punched Kichiro's shoulder softly and walked away. Setsuka was one of the last in the crowd of children. She blinked through tears and grabbed Kichiro in a hug. Kichiro felt it deep in his soul and squeezed the girl. After an exchange of glances with her purple eyes, Setsuka went after he classmates.

Takuma's old teammate Shogo passed by and he looked completely broken and pained. He swallowed as he placed his flowers on Takuma's coffin, sighing heavily after he had. he gave the family a look of consideration and turned. Kichiro watched his gaze and saw Honami next. Her face was flushed red with puffy eyes. She shook as she sobbed. Her mother rubbed her shoulders and whispered to her as they passed the coffin. From what Kichiro understood, she was the last person to visit Takuma. After everyone had made their rounds and passes to the family, the Uchiha family stood in front of Takuma's coffin, in silence.

Finally, Sosei said, "It didn't have to be this way. How did this happen?" When nobody said anything, Sosei continued. "We could've saved him. We were so absorbed in our own bullshit that we didn't notice that Takuma felt the way he did." His gaze then went to Sasuke. "If you had been there, he wouldn't have died." Sasuke shifted.

"Are you blaming me?" Their father looked tired and angry. "Takuma's body failed him and –"

"No!" Sosei stepped forward and pointed his finger at Sasuke. "You failed him. You abandoned him. You refused to train him and looked down on him because he wasn't me. You doomed him from his birth with your expectations and relentless demands. All of us worked hard to be the best that we could be but Takuma wanted to impress you and be a worthy heir to your name so badly that he broke his mind and body for you."

"Sosei," Sakura said, stepping forward to try to take his hand. Kichiro saw his father flare. "Please. This isn't the time or place." Sosei scoffed.

"This is the only time and place." He turned back to Sasuke. "You were so caught up in your own power that you damn near sacrificed any chance to save Takuma at the Graveyard and then, instead of rushing back to your son's side, you wallowed in self-pity? If that is what it means to be a shinobi to you, I refuse to follow that vision." Sosei turned his back. "And I refuse to stay here or anywhere near you."

Kichiro's eyes widened. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Sosei…don't go," he said. Kichiro's brother looked back at him and Kichiro could see his tears. He could feel his pain. Kichiro reached out to Sosei but his brother walked forward. Kichiro turned to look at his father and mother. Sakura watched Sosei with the saddest look that Kichiro had ever seen on her face. His father stared forward at Takuma's coffin.

Hikari began to cry and grabbed Kichiro's arm. But, Sosei kept walking. Eventually, he disappeared into the gray haze of the day. Kichiro felt as if he had been punched in the stomach then numbness washed over him. He couldn't cry neither could he scream. He just stared off in the direction that Sosei had disappeared.




Next, Adulthood