Jiraiya

The field was strewn with the dead and the dying. From all around me came cries of pain and loss. The ground drank greedily, gorging itself on the blood of the fallen. Somewhere in the night, a dying ninken let out its last howl of mortal pain. Even the moon appeared to glow red, as if reflecting the carnage on the ground.

But in the midst of this macabre scene, one thing drew my attention. Minato's body lay alone, broken by its fall from Gamabunta's back, the empty shell of what had been my student. He had fallen nobly.

In the days that followed, we would never find Kushina. It was assumed that she was among the innumerable dead mangled beyond recognition. But Minato's corpse was untouched; it might have been alive, but for the odd position of its broken limbs. It was as if the kyuubi wanted to cause us this one last grief—to see our beloved Hokage dead, to know that it was him, and that his spirit had left us.

A great, keening cry arose from those around me at the sight of his lifeless body, and many came close, trying to draw some slight comfort from each other as they gazed down on their fallen leader. Many hovered a few metres away, as if afraid to draw too near, but one pale-eyed man strode forward and snatched up the babe whose fall had been broken by Minato's protective embrace. He, like I, saw the seal on the infant's abdomen, and knew well what it meant.

"Let us kill it now," he hissed, drawing a kunai. "Let us be rid of it before it can bring us more misery!"

He raised the kunai and made as if to plunge it into the baby's small chest, but before even I could move, the young jounin Kakashi had seized the man's wrist, squeezing it so that the weapon dropped from his hand.

"I think, Hanazawa-san," he said, gazing upon the body of his teacher and friend "that we have had enough of killing tonight."

The man turned his head away. "I apologise, Kakashi-taijou. You are right." Shoving the child into Kakashi's arms, he pressed his way through the crowd.

"Jiraiya-sama." Kakashi held the babe out to me. "Perhaps you should take him?"

I took the infant into my arms. He was squalling loudly now, as if he could sense the grief in the air. I rocked him gently, and he ceased his crying and opened his eyes. They were a bright, alert blue, so like his parents' that I had to blink back tears.

"Jiraiya-sama." A female medic ninja touched my elbow. "You're wounded."

"It's nothing," I said. "Go help Tsunade—others out there need your help more than I."

As she turned to go, the girl looked back at the baby I still held. "What—what will you name him, sir?"

I remembered the name Kushina and Minato had picked for this baby. I had thought of it, actually, just a random name I picked while eating ramen. But now… now I realised that it was perfect. It was a strange name, a wind and water name. Like his mother's. Like his father's. And somehow, it is just right for him.

"Sir?"

"I think…" I said slowly. "I think that we will call him Naruto."

The End