And here's Chapter 28. The final chapter of Bring the Hammer Down. Enjoy folks. Readers, Reviewers, Thank You...Strike of the Ninja by Dragonforce.
TenTen watched in horror as Itachi crawled off the ground and stood on shaky legs. How could he have survived? It shouldn't have been possible, not even for him. Her breath began to hitch and Jiraiya stepped up to her.
"TenTen, what's the matter?"
"I…Itachi…he's standing up…"
Jiraiya looked over in that direction and blinked, squinting against the sun.
"No, he's just lying there. He's not moving."
TenTen made to stand and shoved Jiraiya back.
"No! Stay back!"
"TenTen! He's not moving! He's dead!"
She rounded on the man, her eyes shining.
"Then he has you in a genjutsu! He's moving and he wants to keep fighting!"
The rest of the Konoha ninja looked around, several trying to dispel the so-called illusion, and failing miserably. Murmurs went up that perhaps TenTen's mind had finally shattered.
She turned back to Itachi, her sword pulled and ready to defend Naruto, when a soft hand touched her shoulder. She turned her head and found herself looking into the kind eyes of Kami herself.
The woman smiled and nodded her head.
"Rest easy, TenTen. Yours and Naruto's journey ends here. I'll handle the rest."
She strode past the girl and stood before Itachi. The desperate man narrowed his eyes and looked past her to the blonde on the ground.
"Move. My quarrel is not with you. This fight was promised to me so that I may test my capacity. It has not yet been reached."
"Your fight is over, Uchiha Itachi. Let it go. Let it all go. Your journey is complete. You have reached the apex of your ability."
Itachi shook his head violently and pointed his finger at the woman.
"No! This isn't over! I'm still standing. He hasn't done his job and I can hear him breathing. It isn't over."
Kami stepped up in front of him and put her hands to his cheeks. Itachi tensed and froze. For some reason, he couldn't bring himself to strike the woman. She fixed him with a soft, yet stern gaze.
"It is over. Neither of you won. You were the yin to Naruto's yang and neither of you could overcome the other. Accept it, Itachi. You finally met your match."
The Uchiha set his shoulders again and started to push past the woman.
"I will not accept that. I will never accept that."
He pushed the woman's shoulder, shoving her to the side, and stumbled toward Naruto's prone body, when he felt a tug on his heart. He looked down and found a blue string coming from his chest. A turn of his head found the woman standing with the thread in her hand, tugging on it slightly. Every time she did, his heart felt like it was being pulled, as if he was on a leash.
"Look, Itachi. Follow the thread and see the truth."
His eyes followed the thread to her hand and past it to…his body? His eyes widened exponentially and his breath hitched.
"How…how did you do this?"
A tinkling laugh floated to his ears as the woman padded up to him again and cupped his cheeks, bringing his head down to her level. He blinked in confusion when she kissed his forehead and then slowly lifted his face back to its prior level.
"I didn't do anything, Itachi. You fought for so long, you've been so sad and lonely. Your life has been so hard, but now, it's finally over. You can rest, Itachi."
He turned his head to find TenTen and Sanosuke slowly helping Naruto to his feet, his charred skin slowly healing, his wings already growing new feathers to replace the burnt ones. Itachi slowly let her guide his vision back to her as he whispered, his voice sounding so small and lost.
"Who are you?"
She gave him a benevolent smile as light began to shine around her. Itachi watched with wonder before it finally clicked in his brain. A glowing woman, angels, his body…he began to shake before falling from her grasp and kneeling on the ground.
"Kami-sama…forgive me. I meant no disrespect."
Her bell-like laugh swirled in his ears again as he kept his vision trained on the grains of sand. She giggled as she laid her hand on his head.
"Now this scene seems somewhat familiar. I believe a certain blonde did the same thing when he first met me so long ago. Rise, Itachi, for I must speak with you."
Itachi, having been trained his whole life to follow orders, rose immediately and stood at attention. Kami's soft gaze seemed to burn through him.
"You poor, poor child. Your whole life has been nothing but tragedy, one after the other. You have sought to do good, and yet, have always fallen into one insidious scheme after another. You aspired to do good, Itachi, and that is commendable. Your resolve is to be admired."
She turned to the now standing Naruto and TenTen, her face serious. The boy wiped the soot from his face and fluttered his wings, ridding himself of the black dust.
"Warriors. Tell me, what color is Itachi's soul?"
The angels squinted at the shocked man and spoke as one.
Kami nodded once and put her hands on Itachi's shoulders.
"Neither evil nor good. A conundrum. Warriors, what shall I do with him?"
Itachi, not caring for what was being said, merely stared at Naruto.
"How does he stand as if nothing has happened? How?"
Sanosuke had made his way over to stand by Kami, in case Itachi tried anything, and spoke up.
"He's an angel, Uchiha. Has been for years."
Itachi's mouth opened slightly.
"An…angel? Then, he was telling the truth…"
Sanosuke nodded, but said nothing more. Naruto's voice wafted out over the clearing.
"He should not go to Hell. But…he should not be admitted to Heaven. Is there a place where one can go to atone for their sins?"
Kami closed her eyes and nodded, a small smile on her face.
"TenTen, what do you think?"
The brown-haired girl took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Itachi should atone for his sins, but he doesn't deserve Hell. He's never done anything except follow orders and ensure the safety of many at the cost of his own family."
Kami nodded again and gazed deeply into Itachi's eyes.
"Your punishment shall be purgatory, a purgatory of your own. You will atone for your sins of pride and gluttony. Pride of your power and name; gluttony of power and your pursuit of such. For your pride, you shall carry a stone, the weight of your sins, until such time as I see that you have been forgiven. The stone will not drop from your back until that sin is washed away."
"Your sin of gluttony, the pursuit of more and more power, shall lead to your second punishment. As you hungered for power in life, so shall you hunger for food and drink in death. Your hunger and thirst will sap your energy and make carrying your sins all the more difficult."
"Your purgatory shall be one of the forest and hilly plains. There will be streams you must cross but, bent though your back may be, you shall not drink from them. Their waters will break away from you. The forests you walk through will provide a plentiful bounty, but any animal shall run from you and fruit trees shall lift their branches away in your presence."
She looked deep into Itachi's eyes and gave him a sad smile.
"You expected Hell when you died and you shall not receive it. Your soul is to be redeemed and then we shall see what to do with you. Sanosuke, take him."
The brown-haired man nodded once and took Itachi by the shoulder.
"Come. We go to prepare you for your trials."
Itachi could say nothing as he began to fade out and vanished from existence. Kami turned back to Naruto and TenTen and smiled.
"You both have done well. Now say your goodbyes. Your time here is done."
The two stared aghast at the notion and made to disagree, but Kami raised her hand.
"No. Do not argue. Your trials here are done. You are my Warriors and I have need of you in my court."
She smiled again as she began to fade as well.
"Besides…since when have angels ever been of the mortal coil?"
Naruto and TenTen slowly turned to face the stunned Konoha ninja with sad looks upon their faces. Tsunade saw their downtrodden faces and asked what the matter was. Naruto gave her a small, sad smile, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes.
"Our mission is done. We have to leave."
Jiraiya came up beside a shocked Tsunade, his fist clenched.
"What do you mean 'we have to leave'?"
TenTen sighed dejectedly and lowered her head.
"We're not really alive, Jiraiya. We haven't been since we became angels. We've been living on borrowed time, given to us by Kami-sama. We can't stay in this realm any longer."
Their friends were around them immediately, hugging, crying, and pleading with them not to leave. Naruto and TenTen did their share of shedding tears and squeezing their loved ones tight. After their friends had finally stood back, TenTen and Naruto wiped their tears and faced the people that they admired the most. Tsunade and Jiraiya stood, their years of training not allowing them to show any emotion as the two angels walked forward, holding hands.
They stopped right before the two older ninja and bowed at their waists. Tsunade's lip wavered and Jiraiya squeezed her shoulder hard. Naruto spoke first, his body still bent.
"I am grateful to both of you for everything you've done for me, for us. I can't ever repay you, so all I can offer is my thanks…Baa-chan…Ero-Sennin."
Tsunade broke and wrapped the blonde in a hug, her massive mammaries punishing his nose and making it difficult to breathe. TenTen smiled at the scene and turned to Jiraiya.
"Thank you for everything you did for us. You kept Naruto alive all this time and helped train me to be an effective kunoichi. I can't ever thank you enough."
"You could let me draw you naked before you leave."
A wing smacked him upside the head and TenTen gave him a smile.
"Even though I hate when you act perverted, I'm going to miss you."
She gave the man a hug, reminding him to keep his hands above waist level, and stepped back to help him peel Tsunade off Naruto. The boy gasped for air and stumbled back, held up by his sensei. Jiraiya gave him a mock glare and hoisted him back to his feet while TenTen steered Tsunade away.
"I've been trying to get to that spot for years and you accomplish it in two seconds…damn brat."
The two stood for a moment, regarding the other, before each sniffed and wiped away the single tear in their eyes.
"I'm going to miss you, you brat."
"Your books still suck."
Jiraiya was not known for being an emotional person, nor a touchy-feely one, but on this rare occasion he could allow himself to let go. He pulled Naruto into a bone-crushing hug and patted him on the back.
"Promise to show me the beauties in Heaven when I get there?"
Naruto half snorted and half sobbed.
"If you keep up your lechery, you'll never get there."
Tsunade held TenTen tight as she whispered into the girl's ear.
"Take care of him and don't let him get into any trouble."
"I will...and I won't."
"Promise me that you'll guide me to Dan and Nawaki when I come?"
"If you stop drinking, you'll get to Heaven a lot sooner."
The two women chuckled and stepped back, regarding each other, before TenTen stepped back beside Naruto and took up his hand. They stood for a moment before a familiar brown-haired man appeared beside them.
"It's time, you two. There's only one thing left to do. Naruto, you have to destroy your chain. It's what is holding you to the mortal coil."
Naruto nodded and ordered the chain to slide off of him and to the floor. It seemed to shudder as it coiled up in front of him.
"How do I destroy it and why am I doing this?"
"Take your hammer and smash it. As for why, that chain is your link to Kyuubi. Once it's destroyed, the fox will be taken by the Shinigami to decide its fate."
Naruto let out a sad sigh and raised his hammer over his head. The chain seemed to droop, knowing what was coming, and shivered as the hammer came crashing down. The links shattered into tiny pieces and clattered to the ground. Red chakra came out from the links and formed a fox's head in the sky, its dark eyes glaring at everyone with malevolence.
It opened its mouth and roared to the heavens when suddenly a knife stabbed up through the roof of its mouth and it became quiet. Everyone watched as the Kyuubi's head turned in midair and its eyes became fearful. Only Naruto and TenTen could see what caused it such fright.
The Shinigami let its long tongue hang out of its mouth and grinned at the Kyuubi as it drove the knife further into the mouth. The Kyuubi whimpered as the horned Shinigami grabbed the knife with one of its pale hands and clamped onto its mouth with the other. It gave a horrid laugh before dragging the Kyuubi away into the abyss, its frightened shrieks of terror wisping away into the wind.
The Konoha ninja gaped and looked around for any trace of the Kyuubi, their weapons drawn. When it was decided that it had disappeared, its evil aura gone, they all cast their gaze back to Naruto and TenTen, just in time to see them fade from existence. The two angels waved to them all and their last words carried lingered in the air.
"We love you all. Goodbye."
It was many days afterward that Jiraiya stood beside Tsunade at a memorial carved for the two angels in their likeness, his head hung low. He couldn't help but feel sad that all his students had passed on before him. Tsunade stood with her hands clasped in prayer, offering up her daily thanks for having known the two and praying that Jiraiya would go back to his normal jovial self. After all, the two were in Heaven, beside Kami, and there was no reason for sadness.
Jiraiya sighed again and closed his eyes as he felt a warm wind flow over his skin. It felt like two arms wound around his shoulders in a gentle embrace and a soft voice whispered in his ear.
"I promised you once that I would allow you to see him become a fine man. That prayer was granted and you have nothing to be melancholy about. He became a fine man and surpassed all your expectations. Rejoice, man, for your pupil is happy."
Jiraiya smiled and looked over his shoulder for the voice, but found nothing. Tsunade opened her eyes and started at the broad smile on her friend's face.
He sighed happily and turned to her.
"Are you all right?"
He nodded and took her arm in his, surprising her, as he guided her back to Konoha.
"I've never been better. Let's go get a drink."
"I'll just have tea, thanks."
He closed his eyes and felt that warm wind carress him again.
'Whoever you are, thank you…for everything.'
Naruto and TenTen knelt before Kami's throne in Heaven, a cavalcade of angels around them. On bent knee, they waited for Kami to speak. The benevolent woman smiled at her Warriors and rose from her throne.
"I welcome you, Naruto and TenTen, to my court. You are my soldiers, my chosen Warriors, my bringers of divine justice. You will bring harmony and purge the lands of evil. Now rise and face the court."
Naruto and TenTen stood and turned to face a sea of angels and spirits, all cheering their appointment. The two smiled and turned back to Kami, asking where they would start. She grinned and sat back down on her throne.
"Well, as you are part of my court, you will help bring peace to those ruled by me. After all, there are more worlds than your own that exist."
"And the first place we will visit?"
The grin threatened to split her face as she buffed her nails.
"A place called Seireitei. Those under my rule there are having some difficulty with a problem concerning a traitor, I believe."
The two let twin grins split their faces as they hefted their weapons, crossing them in the air. The two hunks of steel seemed to emanate a happy aura at the thought of dispensing divine justice. Their wings flared behind them as they walked out of the throne room to raucous cheers.
Kami watched proudly as they walked out the door and the cheers died down, the court settling back into its normal state. She was just about to call the next order of business, when a blonde head and a brown head popped back around the doorframe, both looking quite sheepish.
"Um, how do we get to Seireitei?"
Kami leaned back into her throne and sighed. Why had she chosen those two again?
Itachi walked slowly around the creek, the huge stone on his back weighing him down so much that his footsteps made the dust rise. He ignored the pain from his stomach and trudged onward. His eyes cut to the two angels watching him, making sure he never strayed from his path.
He grit his teeth and took a deep, calming breath. He couldn't allow himself to get angry. He had to remain calm. Anger would lead to wrath and he didn't need another sin added to his load. He continued onward, his head bobbing as he went.
He would atone for his sins. He would pay his debt to Kami. And then…he would settle his score with Naruto. He needed to know who was stronger. A draw was unacceptable.
His load got a little heavier, but he didn't notice. The two angels sighed and followed along behind him.
It would be a long atonement…
The Shinigami looked up into the white masks of the two Hollows and cringed. He hadn't been prepared enough for this and now these things were going to kill him. They had already incapacitated his comrades and he was the only one left. The Hollows shrieked in victory and started to bear down on him. He closed his eyes and prepared for the inevitable when the shrieking suddenly stopped.
He heard his teammates gasp behind him and opened his eyes in time to see one Hollow's mask cut in half by a giant feather and the other's head crushed by a massive warhammer. As the Hollows faded out of existence, the Shinigami gaped at the two holding the weapons.
The man holding the hammer was blonde and wearing a white shirt with the back cut out to accommodate his large white wings. The woman, with her brown hair tied up in buns, was wearing a golden Chinese battle dress that was slit all the way up to her thighs and her brown-tipped wings were fluttering behind her, the sword held in her hands seeming to hum in happiness along with the hammer.
The blonde man turned to the Shinigami and grinned as he shouldered the massive block of steel, waving one hand jovially as he did.
"Yo. We're the backup that Seireitei requested. Who the hell is Yamamoto?"
The woman nodded and swung the feather to rest behind her head, her arms resting on top of it, making her chest thrust forward.
"And do you have anything to eat? Traveling dimensions is so tiresome…"
The Shinigami stared and fainted dead away…Naruto sighed and put an arm around TenTen's shoulders.
"Well, shit. Our awesomeness was too much for him. Now, we gotta wait for him to wake up."
TenTen rolled her eyes and wrapped an arm around his waist. Eternity would never be boring with him by her side.
Eternity...at one time it sounded so big and intimidating...but now, she looked forward to it. She smiled as Naruto nudged the fallen Shinigami with his foot.
How she looked forward to it...
And that, my friends, is that. I appreciate all of you being here for the ride. This was a fun one to write, totally off the beaten path of most Naruto fanfiction. This marks my third completed fic on this site and I have to say, I'm still having a blast. For those of you who were along for the whole ride from the beginning, thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you in the future who read this fic to the end, thank you as well. Hope you had fun reading. I had fun writing. This is pudgypudge signing off Bring the Hammer Down for the final time.
Let me know what you think.