Hey everyone, I think it's obvious at this point that the story is dead. I really do apologize; I lost interest in the Naruto fandom (mostly as a result of Boruto killing any remaining affection I had for the Narutoverse) and between life, work, mean reviews, the natural process of growing self-critical of your old work, and other interests, I just found it difficult to continue the story.
That being said, I thought I would at least leave my final notes regarding how I intended for the story to go and how it was supposed to end.
For those of you interested in what I'm currently working on - the answer is, not much, but for those of you interested in historical fiction I do have an original timeline titled The Forme of Cury over on alternate history dotcom (you need to make an account to view it though, and getting approved usually takes about a day).
Inter-Village War Arc
Front lines against Iwa: Kakashi gives his scroll full of rocks to Tenten (a callback to the chapter where Team 7 is cleaning out Kakashi-sensei's hovel, and they find his kimono collection as well as a bunch of useless things including his scroll full of rocks). Tenten uses her amazing ability to throw lots of weapons very quickly, one of the few things she's good at. Turns out, the rocks are all marked with the Hiraishin seal. So, the Iwa nin get beat up by the same technique the Yellow Flash used a generation earlier, except in a far more ironic fashion because this is Kakashi we're talking about.
As a result of this major loss, Iwa pulls out of the war before either Suna or Kumo can launch their own attacks. Kurotsuchi (Oonoki's granddaughter) launches a coup against him and seizes the Tsuchikage hat. She then immediately gets into a tiff against Temari over some shit about executing prisoners of war and such from the last Shinobi World War.
Meanwhile, Team 7's secret mission was to break up the alliance against Konoha. They kill some Kumo nin on their way to meet up with the Iwa nin, using Explosion Release (or, an imitator). Explosion Release is a well-known Iwa kekkei genkai, and no one knows that Naruto is capable of faking elemental combination kekkei genkai, so naturally Kumo thinks it's really really obvious that Iwa is once again double-crossing them the same way they double-crossed Kiri all the way back then, and they're just lying as usual because they're Iwa nin and it's what they do.
Despite breaking up the alliance and granting Konoha temporary respite against this three-pronged attack, however, they fail to prevent a war in general. Akatsuki took advantage of the temporary chaos to capture more jinchuuriki. Despite having lost a significant amount of their numbers, they still manage to take down Killer Bee because everyone (Pein, Konan, and Tobi included) attacked him all at once. Konoha's not the only one that can use teamwork!
So now there's only Naruto and Gaara left, and Tobi decides the only way they can win is to attack Konoha before Konoha can get its shit together and attack the Akatsuki first. Luckily for Tobi, Konoha isn't getting its shit together because Danzo is being a prick.
The Konoha Civil War
There's a brief respite where Team 7 is being all cool and celebrating. They're fully inducted into ANBU, Ino's position as Yamanaka clan head is secured, Shikamaru finally figures out the Hiraishin for himself and sets about teaching Naruto and Ino. Kakashi seems to be a shoo-in for Hokage at this point after his stunning defeat of the Iwa nin. Except, that's not how it goes down, because things can never be easy for Team 7.
The very night Mei Terumi's delegation from Kirigakure arrives in Konoha, Kakashi runs into Ao. Now, no one is sure who did what first, but it results in Kakashi straight-up murdering Ao, presumably in revenge for his role in sending the rest of Orochimaru's surviving goons after Team 7 during the second Wave mission.
To preserve relations with the new Mizukage, the Sandaime sentences Kakashi to death – a life for a life. Kakashi's always been kind of a loose cannon, and can't be trusted to put the village's best interests ahead of the narrower interests of himself and his immediate team. Just like his father, some of the older people who remember Sakumo's disaster whisper. Unlike Sakumo, however, Kakashi doesn't take this shit lying down, doesn't kill himself for a village that never appreciated him.
Instead, Kakashi manages to escape prison despite having all sorts of chakra inhibitors stuck to him. He was being held in a forced coma. He shouldn't have been able to move, let alone hack the seals that were binding him, use his Sharingan to hypnotize the guards, or use the Hiraishin to escape. The Sandaime himself oversaw his imprisonment. How could this have gone wrong? And now Kakashi is out loose, a missing-nin, who has sworn vengeance against Konoha for siding with Kiri over him. From his point of view, the lives and safety of his kids, Team 7, are being sacrificed for an alliance over a half-rate village still recovering from years of civil war. Team 7 alone could probably fuck up all that's left of Kiri by themselves, especially if they count Gaara (who at this point is like Ino's little brother and is constantly following her around).
Kakashi ends up meeting Tobi and being recruited for the Akatsuki. Kakashi "learns" that they're not just insane missing-nin causing trouble, but that they actually have an end goal of ending war and ensuring a permanent peace. He decides to join Tobi and the Akatsuki.
Back in Konoha, of all the people, Danzo is…unusually upset by Kakashi ditching the village? One would expect that he would be glad that Kakashi is out of the way. Less competition for the Hokage's hat. What's going on here?
Turns out…Kakashi was his plan. Years earlier, the plan had been to make Itachi the Fifth Hokage to appease the Uchiha, but then they found out that he had a genetic defect that would kill him young. So then it was supposed to be Shisui, but it turned out that Shisui also had the same disease and was in fact further along than Itachi since he was older. Sasuke at the time was too young to be considered, and even then, there had to be someone left to take over as head of the Uchiha Clan after Fugaku died. At the time of the Uchiha clan massacre, Sasuke was the only proper "child" left in the Uchiha clan (although shinobi definition of what is a "child" is a lot looser than we would consider). There was a point when some other Uchiha clan elders were pushing for Sasuke to be made a protégé to become the next Hokage, but they got turned down. Itachi and Shisui were considered because they were already strong shinobi in their own right, but Sasuke, despite being smart, was no genius. A literal quote at the time was, "He's a good kid, but being that young, Kakashi fucking Hatake is a better choice. Hell, the Nara kid is a better choice."
Which, come to think of it, might have been the catalyst for the attempted Uchiha rebellion.
Anyway, Danzo, after failing to kidnap Shikamaru, decided that he was too old to have a proper shot at becoming Hokage. Why not instead live on through his ideals? So, he used Shisui's eye to hypnotize Kakashi where the command was specifically, "do whatever you want until you become Hokage, then act the way I would want, and reform Konoha in my image." He knew if Kakashi was acting too much like he agreed with Danzo's ideologies, the clan heads and the Sandaime would never pick him, so he put in a conditional statement to only start changing things after his position was secured.
Come to think of it, the "do whatever you want" clause might have something to do with why Kakashi was so insane.
In any event, Kakashi managed to figure out that Danzo had hypnotized him. Not because he remembers any of it (Shisui's eye was just that powerful), but because shortly after his Iwa victory, he realized that Danzo wasn't actively sabotaging his highly likely chance to become Hokage. To the average outsider, it might have seemed so, but the sheer incompetence of Danzo's schemes – trying to inject Fuu of all people into the Yamanaka clan, for instance – didn't sit right with Kakashi. Kakashi put two and two together, realized that Danzo was smart enough to have something else planned, had Ino use her mindwalking to help him find any lost memories, and found out that he was Danzo's plan.
So Kakashi, by killing Ao and getting himself declared a missing-nin, a) made sure he'd never become Hokage so he'd never trip Danzo's conditional statement, b) murdered a past threat to his precious students, c) bought the Hyuga clan's loyalty for Hinata and Shikamaru by eliminating the only successful case of dojutsu theft against Konoha from an outside village, d) took the place of the dying Itachi as Konoha's mole in Akatsuki.
Speaking of c), Hinata successfully launches a coup against Hiashi with the help of Neji, Hanabi, basically all of the branch clan, and Shikamaru. That is, in exchange for Shikamaru designing a new seal that could override the caged bird seal (the seal does still destroy the Byakugan upon death but the main family can't use it to hurt and control the branch family anymore), Hinata offers her support for Shikamaru's faction.
Meanwhile, Danzo is becoming more and more desperate. He was basically winning the chess game, so Kakashi went and turned over the board. He attempts to kill Shikamaru's dad, but Hinata uses Hidan's cells to make a clone body that looks like Shikaku, and they fake his death. This makes Danzo think that it is safe to come out in the open, at which point Shikamaru kills him for real using the forbidden shadow-split technique...which basically burns through all of Danzo's brain at once before he can use any of his stolen sharingan.
Akatsuki's Attack on Konoha
With Kakashi's "help", the Akatsuki launch an attack on Konoha to get the last two jinchuuriki, Naruto and Gaara. Kakashi is held back by Tobi because he's not fully trusted yet, but that just gives Kakashi more time to study the statue where they were sealing all the tailed beasts.
Kakashi realizes how the Akatsuki plan to ensure their lasting peace – they were making a bomb. Specifically, a chakra bomb that will destroy the chakra systems of all the shinobi in the world. People with a lot of chakra would probably die, but weak shinobi and civilians without chakra would be fine. Basically, the plan was to destroy the shinobi system permanently, without actually hurting any innocent bystanders. Despite himself, Kakashi is impressed, and thinks that he would have supported such a plan (he doesn't care about himself dying) had it not meant the certain deaths of Naruto, Ino, and Shikamaru.
Konoha successfully beats off the Akatsuki, in part because a good number of strong Akatsuki members had already been killed in previous chapters, in part because Itachi was actively sabotaging them, and in part because Kakashi and Itachi had both told Konoha of the remaining Akatsuki members and their weaknesses.
I had some cool fight scenes planned out here.
Naraka Path (kills you if you lie or refuse to answer questions, can regenerate the others), and Human path (can read minds by yanking out souls): these two were sent in while the other Pein bodies caused damage to interrogate people about the location of the real Naruto and Gaara. Ino temporarily confuses the Naraka Path using a boolean paradox as she is neither lying nor refusing to answer, and then uses her mind transfer lighting jutsu to pop their eyes and brain.
Preta Path (can absorb chakra): Lee, Gai, and Tenten hold it back with taijutsu and weapons. A bunch of Naruto clones attack it with glitter bombs filled with glue and industrial cement. And finally they impale it on a tree trunk that a bunch of Naruto clones sharpened into a pike. None of these attacks used chakra, so the Preta path couldn't absorb them.
Asura path (the machine thing): Gaara clogs its joints with sand, and some regular shinobi try dousing it with saltwater which slows it down significantly.
Deva path (controls gravity/Shinra Tensei): Shikamaru figures out the delay between its push/pull. He spots Lee's abandoned leg weights. He has an idea. Shikamaru quickly draws up a bunch of shoddy amplifier seals. Then, he teleports above the Deva path while he's in the middle of a pull (and doesn't have the time to switch to a push), slaps as many amplifier seals as he can onto Lee's leg weights, and throws them down as hard as he can. The Deva path basically pulls several tons of weight onto his own face, crushing his own head and eyes.
Animal path: Jiraiya, Tsunade, Naruto, and basically anyone with summons all go after it. Fighting this one was just a grind; no clever techniques involved.
Konan and Itachi: Arguably caused the most damage with her exploding papers. Team 10 is fighting her, and using a combination of the Heavenly Rotation, Asuma's wind jutsu, and Sasuke's Sharingan to avoid getting exploded. However, in return, they can't land any hits on her, and they're tiring out. Now, at this point, I hadn't really planned for how they were going to defeat Konan, but it involved Itachi being close enough to death / Kakashi showing up, that Itachi decided it would be safe to double-cross Akatsuki. Itachi manages to use his Sharingan to trick Konan into letting her guard down, kills her, and dies himself, but no exact details on how, really. I also planned a scene with Sasuke's actions/reactions but didn't really have plans for what that would entail.
Zabuza and Haku say "we didn't sign up for attacking an entire hidden village by ourselves" and they bounce, having found out long ago that Tobi also had a Sharingan, either real or stolen. They're pretty confident in reporting back to Mei Terumi that they have found the identity of the guy who had hypnotized the 3rd Mizukage. On their way out, they run into Kisame, who asks if he can join them. Surprised, they ask why, and Kisame shrugs. Apparently Itachi had ditched him halfway through, and Kisame decided that these insane Konoha nin weren't really worth it.
After the failed attack Tobito decides that a chakra bomb with 7/9 is good enough and prepares to launch it. Kakashi abandons all pretenses and tries to stop him, Tobi goes "I knew it", they fight, and in the process Kakashi discovers that it's Obito.
Obito tries to use the "because rin died" excuse, but Kakashi decides to call him out on his bullshit.
"NO. I don't want to believe this." *genjutsu. kai. release. whatever.
"Well, you better believe it. I know you've been suspecting me for a while; you just never had the guts to admit the truth to yourself. Well, guess what; your nightmare is real!"
"Why? Why? You know why!"
"It's about her, isn't it?"
"Oh, wow. No wonder they called you a genius."
"You bastard.Rin – jumped – in – front – of – me!"
"I KNOW she did, you idiot! I'm not blaming you – I'm blaming the whole system – don't deny it, Kakashi! You know I'm right!"
"If that's the case, then why didn't you tell me? Why did you just leave?"
"Because I knew you would have reacted like this!"
"I'm only reacting like this because ever since I was thirteen I have been living for you, you bastard! You died for Konoha, so that was all I fought for! You died for your comrades, so that was all I lived for! I've been through the same crap you have, you know! I could have just committed suicide like my father but I lived because that was what you told me to do! And now you're telling me that it was all for nothing? Fine time to finally give me that notice!"
"Well, I'm sorry that I never talked to you after that. Yeah, so she used you as her instrument of suicide. Yeah, so now she's dead, because of something that none of us could control. Yeah, the world's a crapsack place, and it's the good and kind and loving people that go first. So what, right? It doesn't matter. I'm totally fine with how we're living. I'm just going to come home and pretend nothing's wrong – yeah, right! How the hell was I supposed to do that?"
"Oh, really? If it had been me who got killed, would you have started a fucking war? No, you would have just cried a little and then gone home, married Rin, and yes, you would have pretended nothing was wrong!"
"So sorry you feel that way, Kakashi. Here, why don't you commit suicide on my arm so that I can you start a war for you, too! Is that what you want?"
"It doesn't matter what I want! I would have followed you to the ends of the earth! If only you had come back like you were supposed to!"
"Really, now, Bakashi? Are you serious? Would you have really done that, you – "
"YES I WOULD HAVE!"
"Then why did you betray me now?"
"Well, obviously, NOT ANYMORE, because I've already seen firsthand what you've done, what more you're planning to do! Did you ever consider that there might have been someone else waiting for you at home – crying for you – wishing for a miracle? No, because Rin Nohara is the only person on earth who matters, never mind that this war you started probably killed about a dozen reincarnations of her!"
"I LOVED HER, you asshole! Was that not clear before?"
"Oh, well isn't that lovely. How romantic. You think she would have wanted to see you like this? You think she'd appreciate this as a token of love? A fucking dandelion that you pulled out of the weed pile would have impressed her more! If you really wanted to see her again, why didn't you just fucking kill yourself fifteen years ago? It would have saved us all the trouble!"
"Maybe because it wasn't just her! It was everyone else stuck in this system!"
"Oh, really? So basically, what you're telling me is, 'this world is broken; I'm going to be a hero and fix it by blowing it to pieces'? Wonderful! That's the most splendid logic I've ever heard – SAID NO ONE EVER! Don't lie to me, you selfish asshole!It was always about Rin, for you. Even when you pushed me out of the way of that boulder, that only happened because of Rin. Even when you came along and massacred all those Mist nin when I fell unconscious, you only came because of Rin. This entire bloody war you started – it was all about RIN! It was always – about – Rin – and nobody – but – Rin – fucking – Nohara – "
"'All about Rin'? Yes, I loved her, but don't act like I'm not doing this for you, too! I fucking died for you, so don't you call me a selfish asshole, you selfish asshole!"
"You're calling me the selfish asshole? Look around you, you FUCKING IMBECILE! CLOSE YOUR EYES AND COUNT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOW FOREVER GONE, ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOW IN MOURNING, BECAUSE OF YOU! HOW MANY OTHER RIN NOHARAS HAVE YOU DESTROYED, you HYPOCRITE! And don't tell me that you are simply 'revealing the evils of the system' – you ARE the evils of the system!"
"THEY MIGHT BE DEAD BUT AT LEAST THEY DIED ALIVE!" Obito roared. "YOU might still be breathing, but look at YOU! You're DEAD on your FEET! Look at THEM! They're ALL DEAD! AT LEAST MY WAY WILL ENSURE THAT NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER HAVE TO DIE AGAIN! Konoha – the shinobi villages – everyone – THEY'RE SENDING THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD KIDS TO WAR, and you're calling ME the – "
"YES I AM! You've deluded yourself into thinking you're the savior of the world, as if taking away chakra and destroying the hidden village system is going to magically make everything better – all you're doing is killing millions of innocent people!
"And you're any better – "
"Getting rid of shinobi is just going to make things worse! Shinobi wars are horrible, but they only kill a small amount of people at a time! Have you seen civilian wars? People call us horrible, but some civilian battles have seen more deaths than all the shinobi world wars combined! You seriously expected this to work?"
"I don't like the smartass way in which you said that."
"I've always been a smartass, Obito, but this has got to be the downright most idiotic thing you've ever done, and that includes losing a fight with Maito Gai because you choked on a fucking piece of candy. WAKE UP from your illusions, dumbass! They're nothing but a lie – a big, fat, empty lie, just like everything you've accused me of, everything you've accused everyone else of!"
"Kakashi – "
"You're substituting a lie with more lies! You rail and you cry against our lie of a world, but you – you, you pathetic bastard, are the BIGGEST LIAR OF THEM ALL!"
"Kakashi – "
"I THOUGHT I WAS THE WORST PERSON TO HAVE EVER EXISTED, BUT YOU – YOU'RE SO MUCH WORSE THAN I AM, I CAN'T EVEN START TO DESCRIBE YOU! CONGRATULATIONS, DEAD-LAST; YOU'VE FINALLY SURPASSED ME AT SOMETHING! HOW DOES IT FEEL, BEING THE MOST DESPICABLE PIECE OF SHIT ON A PLANET MADE OF TRASH AND SCUM?"
"Shut up! You don't know what you're talking about – "
"No, I don't, and neither do you! Who are you and what have you done with Obito? Who are you?"
He'd lost all his energy and anger. There was nothing there, except for a defeated sadness so dark and heavy that he'd have an easier time escaping from a black hole.
Who are you and what have you done with Bakashi? Bakashi hates everybody, Bakashi doesn't cry, Bakashi isn't supposed to have feelings –
"Why, Obito? Why did you never say anything?"
"What, and give myself away? You wouldn't have agreed."
"Obviously not now. Now I have Naruto and Ino and Shikamaru. Now I have people who I care about. But if you had just walked up to me all those years ago and told me to come with you, I would have. I swear, I would have dropped everything and followed you to the ends of the earth."
Obito blinked incredulously. "Would you have?"
"Because I loved you," Kakashi replied, "or at least, I thought I did."
"No. It's like you said, isn't it? The Obito I knew is gone. You're nothing but a lie. Don't touch me. How would you like it, if it turned out Rin was secretly an Iwa spy the whole time, if she arranged her own capture to trick you into coming after her so they could kill you, if this whole time she was alive and she never told you because her personal plans mattered more than your suffering? Oh, she would never do that, because she's perfect precious nice-to-everyone Rin, but then again, I thought the same of you, Obito I-care-more-about-helping-old-ladies-cross-the-street-than-my-own-reputation. Sucks, doesn't it, you fucking piece of shit, knowing everything you've done your whole life was unnecessary and useless."
"Kakashi – "
"I said don't touch me. I would rather die."
Angry, tobito tries to launch the bomb again, but instead of it doing what he wants, he summons Kaguya instead. And since it's freaking Kaguya, everyone realizes it at the same time Obito does.
Shikamaru realizes something else, too: the chakra blanketing the earth feels familiar. Turns out, his father's forbidden technique where he splits his consciousness is actually just a rediscovered, more refined version of the technique Kaguya used to make Black Zetsu. It's the same reason why Shikamaru got all screwed up when he touched Black Zetsu, the same reason why rabbits were the easiest animal to practice on at first.
The truth comes out. Kaguya, the mother of chakra, wasn't evil at first - she was a loving mother and benevolent queen, but she had a bad habit of dangerous experimentation. Having two sons, the Sage of Six Paths and his brother, she sometimes wished she could be in two places at once to give them equal amounts of attention. After all, it wouldn't be fair to give one a shadow clone while the other got the "real her". So what if she could split herself in two? Not a clone that could dissipate at any moment, but for real?
And she accomplished that...but unlike Shikaku who figured out the split slowly, failed to figure out how to put herself back together. And so, missing half of herself, she slowly went insane, which prompted the Sage of Six Paths and his brother to mercy-kill their mother. And they did succeed in killing her, but they didn't realize that the part she'd split off from herself Horcrux-style didn't die with her and was still floating around. And now it's trying to kill everything, with Tobito as her puppet, in the hopes that by reabsorbing all the chakra in the world, it will fill the void left by the missing soul-half that was dead (spoiler, it won't).
Anyway, instead of the bomb she comes out of the statue right as team 7 arrives, which is how Shikamaru figured out all the above. Obito realizes he screwed up big time, but before he can say sorry, Kakashi is killed via a hole through the chest when he uses the Hiraishin to jump in between Kaguya's attack and the general vicinity where Team 7 (and Obito) are still standing.
He dies with his mask off and a smile on his face, the first real one Obito or any of Team 7 had ever properly seen.
Obito, feeling extremely guilty at this point, knows there's nothing he can really do to make up for what he's done, but at least he can save Kakashi's students. However, it quickly becomes apparent that none of them are strong enough to stop Kaguya, and Obito also dies trying to buy them more time.
In desperation, Naruto summons the Dog Boss (Cerberus) who in turn summons the Shinigami. The Shinigami agrees to take care of Kaguya, for a price. At which point Naruto furiously tells him, "You don't deserve extra rewards for doing the bare minimum of YOUR JOB! People suffered because of her half-soul wandering around, and maybe you don't care about measly humans, but you should care about your own incompetence!"
Cerberus is terrified that the Shinigami is going to punish Naruto for his insolence – he's done way worse for way less. At the same time, Kaguya's half-soul (along with the other half-soul that has sort-of made its way back to the surface when the Shinigami was released) realizes, she can't stand up to the Shinigami, and Death is essentially going to make her miserable for a long time, the same way he is an asshole to Tobirama, Minato, Orochimaru, and anyone who the Shinigami decides "deserves it". She decides to possess Shikamaru with Ino's help and they cut each other a deal: she will die, but Shikamaru and she will suicide-bomb the Shinigami together. The shinigami can handle 1 soul, or half a soul, but 1.5 split souls in one body is not something that has ever happened before, and it should be enough to take him down.
All the souls that the shinigami has neglected, including Naruto's parents, the Nidaime, Orochimaru, etc. rebel too. The shinigami can't "die", but it is basically supplanted by the collective will and spirit of humanity to become something less "other" and more empathetic to suffering and life.
In short, the shinigami held no meaning towards humans, because humans held no meaning towards each other. The only way to change that was to explicitly work for common good and mutual consideration. Life and death are meaningless except for the meaning we choose to give it, but as long as people kept making each other suffer out of their own selfishness, nothing was ever going to get better.
And now, maybe, it will.
The shinobi were severely weakened. Though the chakra bomb did not work as Obito intended, Kaguya did kill lots of shinobi. The hidden village system collapsed, though it was probably for the better in the end. No more child soldiers, no more highly destructive ninja magic. Humans still found ways to hurt each other, but never quite so badly as before.
Ino and Naruto bond over their shared grief over Kakashi and Shikamaru's deaths. Though they find solace in each other temporarily, they are incompatible as partners because the solution to being broken isn't filling in the holes with another broken person, but fixing yourself and presenting the best version of yourself as you are able. They amicably split, but remain good friends, find their long term SOs far from home in their late twenties/early thirties (rather than marrying classmates from what is essentially middle school), and continue their mission to spread peace as one of the few chakra-bearing survivors left. All their kids have chakra, and while they know how to use it, they want to be engineers and artists and writers and doctors and diplomats, not shinobi.
Shikaku and Yoshino end up having another kid, a little sister Shikamaru never got to meet. She was an accident (they totally didn't expect her given how old Yoshino was), but they love her anyway.
Hinata is the Hyuga clan's most badass clan head. Her and Tsunade's medical knowledge were highly valuable after the disaster. She now runs a successful hospital network that stretches across borders.
Sasuke takes Jiraiya's advice to heart and rebuilds his clan with over a dozen different women. The child support payments are through the roof.
I planned to have plans for other people too, but those were the only epilogues I had so far.
She used to hate her name.
She had had no idea what her father was thinking when he named her Sayo. He would always tell her it was for her brother. When she was younger, she hadn't understood. She had only been thinking about how the other children would tease her. Sayo is a good name for anyone whose last name isn't Nara! I bet you didn't name my brother Sayo!
It was strange, thinking about that lost man as her brother, his name gone but his presence felt forever. It was strange thinking of him as a man, too, for when everything had…happened…he had been younger than she was now. It was all long before she had been born, of course.
A brother was someone of your blood, someone you knew and grew up with, not a legend who everyone was too awestruck or too sad to speak of. It was for this reason that she envied Fugaku, oldest of nine siblings (soon to be ten) and still the only boy. He constantly complained of how everyone in the crowded house was always squabbling and making noise, especially the little ones and the "evil" twins, but Sayo would have preferred nine insane siblings to the empty quiet that was her own home.
Her existence had been a surprise, a "little blessing" as her mother called it, for both her parents were quite old when she was born. Eighteen years later, and they were older still. Even if she wanted siblings, it would be impossible now, unless her parents chose to adopt. Of course, with how her mother always complained of her father's laziness, she doubted they would agree to the extra effort it took to raise a child, now that they were up in their years.
"Shut up, Kakashi. I swear, that joke stopped being funny since before I was born." She was smiling, though. It didn't bother her as much as it used to anymore.
"Ha, sorry Sayo." He had a shit-eating grin on his face. "Nara."
"Whatever. At least my parents didn't name me fucking Scarecrow."
"Hey. I was named after a great hero, all right?" Which was, technically true. More than once, the people from the previous generations had commented on how much her childhood friend resembled his namesake in personality – Kakashi, after all, had his mother's inherent skills of psychological warfare as well as her fucked up sense of humor. Together, they made a dangerous combination. "Is it true though? I heard you were leaving!"
Sayo rolled her eyes. Trust a Yamanaka to gossip worse than a bunch of housewives. Kakashi was the worst of all of them. "Yes, it's true. I was on my way to say goodbye to your mother."
Big fat sloppy crocodile tears rolled out of the corners of his eyes. "Don't forget about us when you're in the big city!"
"Oh, shut up – "
"Here's a used napkin with my name on it, so you'll remember your poor provincial childhood friend when you're all rich and famous like the rest of them city folk – "
"Get that filthy thing away from me!" She laughed, slapping his hand away. "It's only Tanyu; I'll be home on weekends and holidays. And stop talking like some country bumpkin; Konoha's practically a city, too, now…" She lifted an eyebrow. "Did you write your name with a crayon? Where did you even get crayons? You're eighteen!"
He grinned and crossed his arms. "Getting older is mandatory; growing up is not. I have to get back at my mom somehow, right? She deliberately named me after a man who pranked her half to death growing up so she could prank me growing up, but ha-ha-ha, joke's on her. Uncle Naruto is furious that she had me and snagged that name first."
"Come on, don't flatter yourself, Kakashi. Half of those wouldn't have worked without my help."
He snickered. "No, they wouldn't have. Seriously, though, good luck. Engineering is tough."
"You're one to talk; you're in the ninja version of medical school. Anyway, it's better than what it used to be, right? I mean, sure, there's still plenty of job security for ninja, and learning jutsu for self-defense is good, but think about what we were like when we were twelve. I couldn't imagine going out and killing people then, can you?" she asked.
"Well, not all of them did. Most of them were older. But you're right; I would have probably died in five minutes." He shrugged. "I suppose the pay's good, though. Better than the average soldier. They are special ops, after all."
Ninja were still needed, of course, but as part of their training they had to complete courses in all five of the major villages and at least two of the minor villages of their choice, depending on their field of specialty (though most people now referred to them as "cities" – with proper civilian supports – that simply happened to have military bases inside them).
It took many years to complete this gruelling program, and only those who were absolutely sure that they were willing to make the sacrifices made it through to the end. The graduates could be as young as eighteen, though most were older. It used to be in the mid-teens, but over time people found ways to make the shinobi training programs more difficult until the graduation age was finally raised to what it was now, so that even the craziest prodigies couldn't make it through so quickly.
Then there were children born to traditional ninja clans, like her. She, too, was trained in her family techniques, enough to hold her own in the big city, certainly – but she'd never wear the hitai-ate. Even if she could, she wouldn't. Too much of a hassle. She wasn't the slob her father was, but she undeniably had a certain lazy streak to her. A willingness to think and an unwillingness to do actual labor is what makes a good engineer, she joked to herself.
"What's the point of pay if you're not going to live to use it?" she asked.
"See, she has the right idea."
Kakashi shrieked and jumped about a foot in the air. "Mum! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
Ino Yamanaka shrugged. "Ninja."
Kakashi scowled. "I'm a ninja too! Sort of."
"There is plenty of prestige in becoming a doctor, and don't let any of the old conservatives look down their noses at you for being a non-combatant shinobi," she said, lips twitching.
Sayo sighed. Even though she had grown up with Naruto Uzumaki and Ino Yamanaka as close family friends (both of whom insisted that she refer to them as older brother and sister, even though she was of the same age as their kids), there was still a part of her that froze up in their presence. It hadn't escaped her notice, that every time they looked at her, there would be some sadness in their eyes. The last two remnants of her legendary brother – except brothers were supposed to be actual people, not mysterious figures – aside from her parents. Legends, too, in their own right. Ino Yamanaka, whose mind was claimed to be the greatest of anyone in existence, and Naruto Uzumaki, one of the last remaining jinchuuriki and the summoner of the Guardian of Hell.
"Yamanaka-sama – "
"Sayo, what did I say?"
"Ino nee-chan…" she muttered.
Ino gave her head a pat. "What's up?"
"I just came to say good-bye. I mean, not forever. I'm coming back, of course. Just – "
"I know, I know. Leaving home for the first time is scary. You'll be fine, sweetie."
"Make me a better cell phone, please," Naruto yelled. "This one is too slow and the letters are too small."
"That's not how it works!"
"Then make it work! You're supposed to be smart!"
Sayo rolled her eyes. "Bye, guys."
She spent the rest of the morning going around and bading farewell to family friends. It was noon by the time she was done.
Well, almost done. There was still one person left.
Not exactly a person. Not anymore.
But he's still my brother.
Luckily, she didn't have to travel far to find him, because he was everywhere.
The setting sun cast great long shadows across the grass. The old Konoha had been practically leveled more than twenty years ago, and yet the Memorial Stone still stood as firm as ever, a giant middle finger to the sky.
There was a moment of silence, and then Sayo began laughing uncontrollably, so hard that she cried.
It was impossible to have a life devoid of all suffering, but now, as they headed further into her future, she could see something else there, too.
For joy and sorrow come in pairs. As eternally joined as light and shadow. Forever blended together into one perfect painting of the universe.