Sakura cried softly into Sasuke's shoulder.

Ryu stood off to the side, Cale with him.

Rose was mourning silently with Rishka and Leban.

Naruto reached up to wipe his eyes angrily as Kakashi put a hand on his shoulder, eyes shining with tears he could never let fall.

The small funeral gathering stood on a cliff, overlooking the crystal clear ocean, as a single boat with only two passengers was detached from the white sand beach below.

"It is what they would have wanted."

Ryu's voice was strong, but tight from unshed tears.

Rose began to sing, a high keen for the twins as they set forth on their final journey together, over the horizon.

The group watched until the funeral ship was only a white spot in the setting sun. It was hard to believe they had lost them. Barlos Renily and his twin sister Xeni would see the ocean, but not through the eyes of this world.

"At least they are together. It is how they would have wanted it." Leban's voice washed in calming waves over the small congregation.

"He was a good man."

Ryu's voice was softer then before, softer and more pained.

"One of the best. And she…I will never meet her equal. They always said that we were very alike, but it wasn't true. They were so much better then I can ever hope to be."

The group stood in silence for a while longer before turning back towards the road. They walked in comfortable silence for a mile or two, each in their own thoughts until they reached a fork in the forest path.

One trail traveled home and to more mapped paths, speckled with light as the sun shone between the branches onto the well trodden dirt, while the other was falling apart, the path overgrown. People long ago forgetting where it led.

Ryu paused, unblinking eyes gazing down the almost invisible trail.

"I leave you here my friends."

The others had kept going, but stopped at his words, turning back to him.


Naruto, as always, was the first to speak.


The dragon raised a hand, a bitter smile playing around his lips.

"I am being called."

There was a sullen silence.

Sakura's tears began afresh as she gave him a quick hug.


Ryu pulled away, slowly coming to stand before Sasuke. He glanced back at Sakura before he spoke to the stoic boy.

"We may not like each other Sasuke, but I ask you a favor."

The Uchiha heir raised an eyebrow in reply.

"Look after her."

The silence between them was tense. Then, Sasuke smirked.

"I would have anyway."

The young men shook hands, rivalry momentarily forgotten. Ryu moved around the group shaking hands and bidding farewell. He reached Cale and smiled forlornly.

"It was good to see you again. I am sure this will not be the last time we meet, Cale."

The Viking smiled and slammed his hand into Ryu's back, causing the young man to stumble slightly.

"Off with you, rough."

A lone figure walked down an overgrown path. His trench coat draped over one shoulder as a warm breeze ruffled his hair. The man had been walking alone for an hour or two.

He smiled wistfully as he let his thoughts wander back, to a time and a place thousands of years past. The voice of the Ancient echoed in his mind as if he were a young dragon in his mighty chamber again:

"Each of our lives is a story. Once upon a time we saw the light of day for the first time, and our story began. Through the newborn fog we meet the cast of characters: first our parents, then later on our friends and enemies.

We discover the setting, whether it be in this world or another. And each of us starts on a quest, be it for happiness, meaning, love, or, as mine, for repentance. At times we travel along sunlit boulevards and sometimes we stumble into darkened back alleys.

Along the journey we find out who we are, what we're made of. We learn, hopefully, and we grow, and the more days that pass - truth be told - the closer we draw to the end of our story. Or, maybe, just the end of this chapter.

I can only hope, by the end of my story, someone will have found me; and led me from the alley, into the sun."

He sighed, his old soul beginning to weaken in the despair that weighed him down. A bird began to call and was suddenly cut off in the wilderness to his left. A black creature leapt from tree to tree, passing the wanderer in a blur.

The traveler smile, shrugging on his black coat. He scented the air; nothing mortal for miles around.

His violet eyes began to change, fingers elongating, and fangs forming.

"Let's see where you lead."