A/N; This is the end. Id like to thank everyone who reviewed, regardless of whether they followed it all the way through (which, as far as i can tell, very few have). You guys are the only reason I kept this thing going. So let me give a special thanks to Kyouger, darkens4841, Randy, vampknight364, DrunkManSquakin, YamiTheYak, Intelligo, thebigmoose, D-reaper X-20, Sonata82, Kira Shino, blekmedelninjan, BlakexNami, byakuganwalker and C.A.M.E.O.1 and Only. I would also like to give one final, special thanks to Rabukurafuto for not only providing me with Japanese translations of my oft screwed up character names, but also reading and reviewing every single chapter.
Disclaimer: Inoko: "The author of this story doesn't own Naruto or the lyrics to this song. He does own me and Shikazuki and Yuzuki and all are friends though."
"So that's how I learned the lesson
That everyone's alone
And your eyes must do some raining
If you're ever gonna grow
When crying don't help, you can't compose yourself
It's best to compose a poem
An honest verse of longing
Or a simple song of hope
That's why I'm singing, baby, don't worry
Because now I've got your back
And every time you feel like crying
I'm gonna try to make you laugh
And if I can't, if it just hurts too bad
Then we'll wait for it to pass
And I will keep you company
Through those days so long and black
We'll keep working on the problem
We know we'll never solve
Of love's uneven remainders
Our lives are fractions of a whole
But if the world could remain within a frame
Like a painting on a wall
Then I think we'd see the beauty then
And stand staring in awe
At our still lives posed
Like a bowl of oranges
Like a story told
By the fault lines and the soil"
- Bright Eyes, "Bowl of Oranges"
A cool wind blew through an exhausted battlefield. The smells of blood and death still lingered in the air, but it did little to unsettle the young girl as she trudged forward silently amidst her friends. The atmosphere surrounding the group was one of sadness, but this girl couldn't help but feel a sense of guilty content.
Inoko Yamanaka had always respected those who stood up against injustice. She had always admired those who history would one day regard as heroes. But these sentiments had always been observed from a distance. She had always told herself, that her world was a different one from theirs.
Now here she was, her own name fated to be recorded to history, her own bravery to be regarded by others just like her. Only weeks ago she had thought she was a mundane, average girl, set to live a mundane, average life, but now she had accomplished something grand. Though her sister's grief and her own sense of loss kept the full intensity of what she had done to but a slight murmur in her heart, she couldn't help but feel satisfied.
"So, I like hope everyone made it through the battle and stuff," Shikazuki, Inoko's lover and closest friend, started, breaking the long standing silence. Mina, their soft-spoken but beautiful ally looked back at her with a warm expression.
"Loss comes with any battle. It's unreasonable to expect everyone will have survived," she replied in a low voice, her words making her sad. Inoko looked at her sister Yuzuki as they were said.
After a brief pause, Ichiro, the friend they had all thought they had lost, spoke, " judging by these bodies, it looks like the soldiers lost their ability to regenerate when we killed Mangravello."
"They're the real casualties of this war. It's heartbreaking to remember that they all used to be normal girls," Mina said morosely as she looked with glinting eyes at the silver clad bodies lining the battle field.
"We like left the soldiers in the tower alive and stuff. Maybe a cure for the brainwashing will be like developed some day," Shikazuki put forth a gentle smile.
"We can only hope. Either way, it's too late for these girls," Mina's soft voice responded.
"It's sad," Ichiro commented with a sigh.
"War's a sad thing, but we can't keep looking back. We have to look forward, at the future. We've accomplished a great thing today," the young Mitsumarushime heir replied.
"Yeah. We did. Didn't we?" Inoko broke into a smile as she finally spoke herself. Yuzuki though remaining silent, showed approval in her eyes.
"Yeah we were amazing. We like totally kicked ass!" Shikazuki excitedly stated.
"Shikzuki..." Inoko said in a disapproving voice glancing at Yuzuki. Yuzuki was smiling though. Inoko then understood that her lover wasn't being insensitive, just trying to boost spirits. She smiled as well.
"Lauding ourselves is fine, even if we had to suffer through a deal of pain to meet our goal," Mina said in her usual subtle fashion. Shikazuki nodded.
"Yeah. If Ol' Skippy weren't here to like heal us and stuff, with the wounds you and me and Inoko suffered... our party might have been even smaller in the end," Shikazuki said, frowning slightly.
"Wha? You're still calling me that?!" Ichiro was taken aback.
"Yup!" Shikazuki affirmed, carefree.
"I in particular don't think could have hung on much longer with Ichiro's aid. It's a wonder that I'm able to even walk now," Mina said with a soft smirk.
"Healing us... providing us with valuable info and support... man, I wonder what like happened to the old useless Skippy," Shikazuki teased, continuing to smile.
"Well... I guess it changed me. I don't feel like standing back and letting things just happen anymore. I decided, when I got my second chance, I'd throw everything out there!" Ichiro explained with emotion. in a slightly meeker voice he then informed, "and also, having Masanzi's soul inside me seems to have left me with a some of his residual chakra..."
"I bet she would have been happy to see you progress," Inoko said sighing, not daring to use the name of their lost comrade. Ichiro nodded. Yuzuki smiled softly.
"Right! That's why I'm not going to stand back anymore. Not when it comes to anything!" Ichiro seemed driven. "Not even when it comes to admitting my feelings to Mika.
This final claim was followed by silence. Everyone looked at the young man in pity. Shikazuki started, "about Mika... you know... she sorta like..."
"Hey look!" Inoko shouted as her lover trailed off. They were approaching the Konoha camp. In the distance, a small group of very familiar faces was established on the outskirts. It was enough to get Inoko and Shikazuki at least to run forward in excitement. Yuzuki, Ichiro and Mina proceeded forward at the same pace as before.
"Well, I'll be damned, you guys actually got out of there alive," the warm voice of Konohamaru, Inoko's sensei said as his two female disciples approached him.
"So all of you got together to wait for us?" Inoko smilingly stated as she looked from face to face. Assembled there was Konohamaru, Chohiro Akimichi, Suzume Shiranui, Mika Inuzuka, Ino and Temari Yamanaka, Shikamaru and Yohizu Nara, Lord Ponybear, Maori Akamatsu, Aimi Hirase, and Nanako Hachisuka.
"That's right, dear," Temari said softly as she embraced her younger daughter.
"Looks like our daughters like did a good job," Yohizu smiled as she petted her child on the head. Her husband just stared on aloofly as if he didn't even know where he was.
"Hell yeah! So I guess since we made them and they saved the world, it's like the three of us saved the world again!" Inoko excitedly cheered. Temari shook her head while Yohizu nodded.
"So how did the battle go out here?" Inoko asked, remembering the lingering unease in her heart.
"With our combined forces we were able to keep casualties to a minimum. It was a grueling battle of endurance until the end, but we managed to stay alive for the most part," Chohiro conveyed confidently.
"Masako's whole squad took on a vast number of enemies. They were all injured. They'd be here to greet you as well if they weren't," Konohamaru explained.
"And of course our third team member only appears when she feels like it," Suzume said with some disdain for her absent serpentine comrade.
"So Mangravello is really dead? We're actually free now?" Aimi asked, smiling hopefully.
"Yup! Yup! We like totally won and stuff!" Shikazuki cheered.
"That is news both unforeseen and alleviating," Maori smirked softly.
"What you didn't think we'd win?" Inoko asked with a smile.
"I don't think either of us thought you had a chance to be honest. We're glad you pulled through though," Aimi said, appearing genuinely happy.
"Well it seems you guys did your part too," Inoko brightly said, glancing toward Nanako. "You look to be doing well, Miss Nanako."
"Yes. Dr. Aya was quite efficient. There's still a little pain, but it's manageable," Nanako replied distracted; her eyes were focused on the other Yamanaka sister's somber face approaching in the distance. Her gaze was so obvious that soon everyone was following it. When Mika stared out in that direction she gasped.
'W-what...?" the pink haired girl's face paled. Her young lover, in concern stared in the same direction, allowing herself to see what Mika saw. She began to go a little pale as well.
"Yeah... i kind figured this'd be like a problem..." Shikazuki muttered as she watched Ichiro's face light up as he finally noticed Mika in the small crowd and quickened his step.
"Mika! Mika, you're here," Ichiro looked determined. "Mika, i have something I want to tell you."
"Oh, Ichiro... I thought you were..." Mika started, trembling unsure of how to handle the situation. Suzume let her hand slip into hers and held it tightly and that seemed to make things a little easier.
"Yeah, isn't it great! I didn't die! Even under the incredible pressure of the soul of a vampire lord, my unshakable will kept my spirit alive," unease spread throughout the crowd at the boy's enthusiastic words.
"I'm sorry, Ichiro. I have nothing against you," Suzume said kindly but while shooting Ichiro the killer glare she was famous for.
"What? What are you sorry for?" Ichiro remained oblivious.
Mika held Suzume's hand tightly, as agonizing concentration ran through her expression. Eventually she articulated her decision, "I'm sorry... When I thought you were gone... me and Suzume... we... we..." Mika remained shy and nervous, unable to finish.
"Me an Mika have entered a relationship with each other," Suzume completed the thought in a strong voice, but with a noticeable blush. Ichiro's face quickly paled.
"W-what?! B-but you aren't like that, are you Mika?" Ichiro responded in an uneven voice.
"Suzume makes me feel strong... and secure...and relaxed. I don't care about whether it's a boy or girl if it's someone I love," Mika explained meekly.
"But... you just... you just were doing this because...I wasn't there. Right?" Ichiro asked with earnest hopefulness.
"I really like you Ichiro, you're nice... and sweet, and I enjoy talking with you.. .and maybe if what happened didn't happen things would be different.. but Suzume brought me comfort when I was alone. On the battlefield, we fought side by side, supporting each other. I realized then how strong my bond with her really was," Mika said quietly, but with enough conviction to persuade the boy that dissuading her would be hopeless. His face went pale as his mouth closed and stayed that way.
It was at this moment that Mina and Yuzuki finally caught up with the rest of the group. Yuzuki and Nanako locked eyes almost immediately. Though Yuzuki's expression was a sad one her eyes showed happiness.
"There's my other cute daughter! here, let mommy hug you!" Ino charged forward, to embrace the sad looking girl before her and Nanako could exchange any sort of words. Yuzuki stood still as she took on the full impact of her mother's enthusiastic hug. As she pulled away, Ino seemed to notice the sad look in her daughter's eyes. She, along with everyone else soon noticed that someone was missing from the group.
Nanako stepped forward and replaced Ino in embracing Yuzuki. Cradling the girl in her arms she said softly, "She's not here; the girl who saved my friends, the other girl you chose to share that wonderful dream with you and I."
"She's gone," Yuzuki muttered in a muted voice, collapsing into Nanako's arms.
"It must be painful. Don't be afraid to let it all out. I'm here for you. Always," Nanako spoke in a wispy voice as she held Inoko's sister within her warmth. Yuzuki began to cry softly.
"I like never would have expected that girl to be the one who didn't make it..." Yohizu said, sadly, seriously.
"it seems the story doesn't have as happy an ending as I would have guessed," Temari gave a melancholic sigh.
"Our daughter's strong. Despite her loss, I'm sure she'll pull together in the end," Ino assured staring at Yuzuki and her beloved as they intertwined.
Finally Nanako began to pull away. in a warm voice she said, "I know she was important to you. I understand if you want some space for a while. I'll be there whenever you want me."
After a brief pause, Yuzuki responded. She started by pulling Nanako back into the embrace. She brought them even closer than before until they were face to face. Yuzuki placed a soft, sweet kiss on Nanako's lips. Pulling away, she then said, "I need you now. Don't go anywhere."
Nanako gave a soft giggle, then said while cradling the girl, "I understand." They kissed again.
"Well, that's sweet," Inoko said in a serene voice as she and everyone else watched her sister. She felt genuinely glad for her and Nanako.
"Yup!" Shikazuki nodded. She bent in and planted a kiss on Inoko's lips just for fun.
"Well, it wasn't without loss, but it looks like, we won today," Chohiro said evenly.
"Krzzzzzzwwwwwwwllllll mrffrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr grfrgggggrrrrrrrrrrrrr brhwlllllllllllllll!" Lord Ponybear said in a collected fashion.
"Yup! That about sums everything up like perfectly!" Yohizu nodded.
"Yeah," Shikazuki agreed. Everyone else just politely nodded, unsure of themselves.
"Anyway, I say it's about time we head back," Konohamaru suggested looking in the direction of the camp.
"Yeah, let's go," Inoko replied, smiling brightly.
With that Inoko headed off with the others in the direction of the Konoha camp, prepared to reunite with even more of her friends. Seeing the smiles on everyones faces as they were greeted, hearing everyone laud her for what she had done, it all made her realize how much they had accomplished. All these people were still alive because of her. What's more, because of her they had been granted freedom from the overlord's rule. They were all smiling. Inoko felt proud to know that she had stood up and fought and as a result, everyone she cared about was safe.
After the war, Maori Akamatsu and Aimi Hirase moved to the Village Hidden in the Darkness. They became some of the foremost researchers in magical arts and scientific discovery there. They developed several useful inventions in combining technology and magic, their first discovery being a reversal method for the surviving soldiers afflicted by Mangravello's brainwashing. They were married after five years of living together.
The Village Hidden in the Darkness dropped it's isolationist policy after the war, allowing any and all to enter and leave as they please. The Grand High Council met more than a few changes over the years. Isamukenji Daigo died shortly after the battle due to injuries sustained. After the villagers were aloud to leave, Yujiraiden Tokudaiji's wanderlust saw him leave the council and the village permanently to instead explore the seas on a ship. Grand Elder Kamizakunarakamito led his village for another 14 years, to the age of 127, when he died. He was remembered as a leader just as great as his "noble" father. Chikabunto Kaijuji succeeded him as the first female Grand Elder. Kevin remained a mainstay of the Council for all eternity.
Dr. Azusa Aya kept at her practice, quickly becoming one of the most well regarded and sought after doctors in the world. Eventually she was able to finally move on from Yohizu, entering into a pleasant relationship with a young nurse.
Lord Ponybear stayed on with the high council, and also stayed the ever doting grandfather. With his strength and perseverance, he was once again appointed as an envoy to the outside world, making his village know and helping those in need after the war at the same time.
Minashizumayuko Mitsumarushime was inspired by the death of Takako Hyuga-Aburame. The scene of that day playing in her heart, she realized the truth of the sadness that had her prisoner. Holding the Omega-power-blade-stick firmly, she cut her father down in cold blood, bringing an abrupt end to his control over her and his blind lust for power. After that she disappeared. It is said that she roamed the world freely with the wind, a pleasant song always on her lips, helping anyone who needed her aid.
Yumetsuki was praised for her valiant efforts in the war. The Sand Village came to see her as an irreplaceable hero. Fifteen years later, the Kazekage, her uncle Gaara, retired from his position and she was appointed in his place. As she ascended into greatness her personal life remained atypical. Her and her two companions, Eri and Hoshi, developed a deep three-way relationship. The two girls quickly adjusted to their roles as their mistress' slaves.
Mika Inuzuka and Suzume Shiranui remained committed to each other. They both supported each other and brought out one another's strength. Everyone was rather supportive of their love, even if it was quick to be teased by Izuna.
Izuna Mitarashi continued to work in the shadows to aid her sister Masako Sarutobi in her rise to prominence. The truth of their "sisterly bond" was never discovered, even well after the wise, cool-headed Masako was appointed Hokage. Izuna retained her playful nature all her life. When she was assigned a genin team, they were quite frightened of her.
Norio Hyuga, injured gravely in the battle, found himself pledging for a second time that he would change his ways. Little by little he made good on the promise, becoming a son his father could deem a worthy successor.
Shiori Hatake, continued to have bad luck when it came to finding a partner. Her tough attitude and belief that Masako might eventually look her way left her single well into her 30's when she finally found a sweet girl to care for her. Her love-life lacking, Shiori had more than enough time to devote to her career as a ninja. She quickly rose to the position of head ANBU captain.
Chohiro Akimichi remained the dutiful friend and son. He followed in his father's footsteps, raising his won son to carry on the name. He remained close friends with Inoko and Shikazuki.
Ichiro Watari, though heartbroken at losing Mika's attention, quickly realized that for everything he had lost he had also gained something. The time he sent as a vessel to Vampire Lord Masanzi's soul left his body with almost triple the chakra of before. He quickly rose to become an elite jounin of Konoha. The Watari clan was established as one to be feared by Konoha's enemies.
Tsunade, the fifth Hokage, though still distraught over everything her village had lost, was relieved to see the Overlord's shadow erased from the world. She would serve proudly as hokage until she inevitably succumbed to her true greatest enemy, age.
Ino and Temari Yamanaka, remained the happy, sex-crazed, bickering couple they always had been. They were both very proud of what their daughters had accomplished.
Nothing really changed for Shikazuki's parents either. Yohizu remained the promiscuous house wife while Shikamaru continued to find alternate means to cope with his hectic life. Shikako grew to be a mesmerizing beauty of a different sort from her sister, only adding to the father's troubles. Shikako surprised everyone when, in the end, it was a man she married.
At the news of her daughter's death, the strength Hinata Hyuga had forced into place crumbled all at once as she was overcome by unconsolable grief and guilt. Purposely isolating herself from everything, the woman refused to birth another child, thus ending the many generation old Hyuga main branch.
Yuzuki married Nanako roughly a year after the victories over Mangravello and Masanzi. Shortly thereafter, they left Konoha to see the world together and help in the effort to rebuild what was damaged during the Overlord's reign. Eventually they settled down in a remote village where they helped care for refugees and children left orphaned. They would adopt two young girls to raise as their own daughters. They remained in constant contact with their old friends and family. Yuzuki led a content life with Nanako, but she never forgot Takako's sacrifice or her love.
Inoko and Shikazuki were also promptly married, to cheers from both their families. Settling in Konoha, they led a quiet happy life together. They along with Yuzuki and Takako
were labeled as heroes of Konoha an statues were erected much to Inoko's embarrassment. Despite her new found celebrity status, Inoko tried her best to maintain an ordinary life, concentrating instead on being a model kunoichi and a loving wife. Shikazuki was much the same, though in her case she reveled in all the attention, sometimes concocting exaggerated versions of their story to tell. There was nothing in their life but happiness.
A/N:The end. I know, i can't even think of some summation to tack onto the end (I know I could do some cheesy lines about how the fragile wind had swept across the world, restoring tranquility and peace, but I thought I'd spare you guys that this once). Anyway, so concludes my first ever "long" story. I hope you don't mind my Fire Emblem-esque character based epilogue thing at the end, I just didn't want to end it without telling you what happened to the characters in the end.
So this is the end. It was quite an ordeal. 25 chapters. I'm amazed I finished it. I know that few people read it, but I at least hope that, those who did, enjoyed it. I know it could have been better. It is what it is, a reckless mixture of action, adventure, drama, romance, and lots and lots of stupidity. It was a story that didn't take itself seriously unless it was convenient or necessary.
The story looks quite different in the end than what i envisioned in the beginning. You won't believe how many things i changed from my original plans. there were lots of little plot lines i wanted to include in this story that there simply wasn't enough room for. I wanted to spend a bit more time with Masako's team (who were criminally shorted when it came appearances), particularly Norio, who just sort of faded out of sight there; I also wanted to do more with the generals. I actually wanted to spend more time on the war, but I realized the story would work better if I just got to the point quickly. I obviously wanted to do more with Mina. Even if i didn't completely get to it, I don't think she turned out useless. Mangravello didn't get enough time to shine either (in cane you were wondering, though his initial three forms were planned ahead of time, his final appearance was thought up off the top of my head as i was writing the chapter).
Then of course there were a few thing I just changed completely. In my initial plans Takako X Yuzuki wasn't even considered beyond the hospital lemon. Then I realized I and a lot of you liked them together and I decided to tweak my ending a bit. In my old ending Ichiro stayed dead and Takako survived. I'm glad I made the change though, cause thinking about it now it wouldn't have been near as dramatic nor would have it even been really logical.
Anyway, I'm happy with the story despite its flaws, but I'm ready to move on. As I said before, another 20+ chapter epic will come eventually (likely a serious, maybe even dark Bleach fic), but that won't be for a while. So that leaves me with the question of what to do with this now magically open slot in my writing schedule (I know it may seem I'm still off schedule, but that's just because I spent the whole of labor day weekend playing Disgaea 3 which is awesome while neglecting my writing).
After some consideration I've decided to continue my Bleach fics and use the other spot to do whatever the ell I want to do. I know that may sound selfish, but, eh, most author's don't ask for fan input in the first place. As I mentioned in an earlier author's note for one of my Bleach stories, Im going to use this time to write a story based on something other than Bleach or Naruto. Back when I wrote that note, my main interests were in doing a Soul Calibur story. Well, SCIV's been out for a mont now, and it seems i've mostly got that out of my system for now (though I'll still probably write SC stuff in he future). For now, I'm going to start a Death Note story that I've been contemplating a while.
Anyway, I digress. I thank you all again for reading this. Please be kind and review.