Heh, heh, heh. Well, I'm so, so sorry that it's been ... a couple months. (Looks nervously at all the angry faces) I'm sure you all want to string me up, but behold, I've brought you not just an update, but the end of the story! Hopefully, that's sufficient.
Thank you all who have read and reviewed and stuck with this story. It means a lot to me. I love you guys! XD
The long winter had finally ended, pushed violently away by the warm arms of summer. All around Konoha the leaves were a brilliant shade of green and almost every day sported a brilliant, cloudless sky. Summer had brought more than heat, with its arrival came the end of the war, the end of pain and suffering, and the entire village rejoiced as their soldiers returned home from the battlefield, tired and weary but alive, which was all that mattered.
Today of all days was special--the most important day Konoha had witnessed in years--and in the village center hundreds gathered for the event, watching the Hokage mansion with bated breath for the arrival of the one they had come to see--their hero, their leader. Finally, a figure robed in red and white appeared, walking slowly toward the balcony. The symbolic hat covered his unruly blond hair and the robes swished gracefully around his feet as he moved, giving him a heightened air of dignity that kept everyone spellbound. As soon as he stopped at the balcony, though, and smiled a bright, easily recognizable grin the spell was broken and the crowd erupted into thunderous applause.
The village now had a Yondaime Hokage.
Everyone cheered and whistled, but no one louder than the three teens at the front of the crowd. Obito raised two fingers to his lips and produced a shrill whistled that carried above the crowd easily above the crowd to the man on the balcony. The new Hokage's head turned in their direction and he waved exuberantly when he spotted them, forgetting completely to be dignified. Rin giggled to herself--especially when she spotted the Council's disapproving frowns-- and Obito laughed, shaking his head. Turning, he spoke in Kakashi's ear, raising his voice in order to be heard above the din of the applause. "He looks great! He's waving at us."
Kakashi's eyes curved upward, a signal he was grinning, and he raised his arm and waved almost as enthusiastically as Minato. Up on the balcony, their sensei's shoulders shook with laughter. Behind him, Jiraiya smiled—prouder than he had ever been in his life.
Namikaze Minato was everything this village needed.
Mintao lowered his head again, gazing at the crowd from the shadows of his hat. He could hardly believe that he was the Yondaime Hokage, that he was wearing the traditional robes. They were much itchier than he would have thought, but as stifling as he anticipated. The position was not something he had easily accepted. It would be hell trapped behind a desk with endless mounds of paperwork to read and sign day after day for years. But Sandaime was a persistent old man and after months of listening to ceaseless badgering, Minato had caved under the pressure and told the sly old coot that yes he would be Hokage, providing that Sarutobi leave him alone.
Now here he was.
The irony of it all produced a strange combination of wanting to either laugh or shake the life out of a grinning Sarutobi, but he suppressed both urges--fearful of what the council would do--and took another step forward, raising his voice to address the crowd.
"I have no grand words for you today. It has been a rough road to get to where we are now. And I can't promise it will get easier from now on. I can't promise that things will always be smooth sailing. I can't promise that I will always succeed. I'm only human. But I can promise this: I will give everything I have to Konoha. I love Konoha. And as Hokage, I will do everything in my power to keep it and its people safe, even if I have to give my life. To see this village prosper again, it would a small price to pay. It will take all of us to achieve that goal. A leader must depend on his people. So let's work together to make Konoha great again and maintain the peace we have now. It's a new day, tomorrow's finally here, the war is over," another large grin stole over Minatos's face, "so let's celebrate!"
The crowd cheered, Jiraiya laughed, and the elders shook their heads, unable to keep small smiles from their faces. Yes, Namikaze Minato was exactly what this village needed.
After the speech a celebration was held in front of the Hokage mansion and dozens of people crowded around, wanting to wish the new Hokage well, so it took quite a lot of pushing, shoving, and dodging for Kakashi, Obito and Rin to finally reach their sensei.
As soon as they did, Minato smiled, relief washing over his face. "Hey guys," he said brightly, pushing the Hokage's hat up as it started slipping down his brow.
"Hokage-sama," Obito replied teasingly, dark eyes sparkling with mirth.
Rin and Kakashi chuckled as Minato scowled at Obito. "Don't call me that. It makes me feel like a stuffy old man."
Obito laughed. "With those robes on, Sensei, you look like a stuffy old man."
Minato gave an offended snort and crossed his arms. "I'm only twenty-seven, thank you very much."
Rin shook her head, "Ancient." She struggled to keep a straight face and failed miserably, especially in the face of the outraged look the new Yondaime adopted.
"You know," the Minato said, casually examining his nails and blatantly displaying a wicked smirk. His three students tensed at the sly note in his voice. "As Hokage I'm now in charge of your paychecks." Three sets of eyes widened in horror. "I can see them decreasing as we speak."
"NO!" All three teens cried at once.
"C'mon, Sensei," Obito pleaded.
"We didn't mean it," Rin added hurriedly.
"Yeah, you're a great Hokage," Kakashi quickly supplied.
Minato chuckled, shaking his head. "So young and already obsessed with money."
"Hey that's not fair!" Obito cried in outrage. "We're not money obsessed, we've got bills to pay!"
Kakashi snorted. "You mean, I have bills to pay. You never pitch in."
"Because I'm always broke!"
Minato watched with great amusement as his two male students cowered beneath the weight of Rin's glare. Who knew someone so delicate could be so forceful? It was wonderful to see his students back to normal, even closer and better than before. These past six months his heart had swelled with pride every single day he saw them take one more step toward full recovery, helping each other along the way. It wasn't perfect by any means--they still woke up screaming every now and then, Obito often looked at Kakashi as though he might vanish at any moment, Rin still worried and doubted far too much, and Kakashi still became cold and distant every now and then. But none of that mattered. They were here, they were alive, and they were all right. They were laughing, smiling, bickering, and finally being the teenagers they had every right to be. It made Minato's heart soar.
Kakashi suddenly stepped forward, sightless eyes serious. "I meant what I said. You're going to make a great Hokage, Sensei."
Minato smiled gently and shook Kakashi's outstretched hand. "Thanks, Kakashi."
Rin took his hand next. "I'm proud of you, Sensei. You're going to do great things for this village."
Minato patted her head. "So will you, Rin." He grinned brightly as she blushed and moved to stand next to Kakashi. One day, he knew she'd find the confidence she needed to succeed.
Last was Obito. "Konoha won't know what hit them." Minato frowned, opening his mouth to offer a retort. Obito continued before he got the chance. "But, you're exactly what they need."
Minato shook his head again, smiling wryly. "You three. What am I going to do with you?"
"We'll stay out of trouble, Sensei," Obito said solemnly.
"We promise," Rin supplied.
"I'll keep them in line," Kakashi finished, ignoring Obito's glare and Rin's sigh.
"I'm sure you will," Minato laughed.
Across the gathering, someone shouted for Minato, gesturing for him to come over. The Yondaime sighed. "Well, gotta go. Duty calls. Meet me after this at the ramen stand. There's something I want to tell you guys."
And with a swish of robes, he was gone, leaving the three teens alone again.
"Let's get out of here," Kakashi murmured.
Someone bumped into Obito from behind, nearly sending him to the ground. "I agree," he huffed, glaring angrily at the offender's retreating back.
Rin linked one arm through Kakashi's and one arm through Obito's and together the three pushed their way out of the crowd and set out on the dusty streets toward the training fields. As soon as they were away from Konoha's crowded center Obito let go of Rin's arm and ran ahead. He did a little dance on the street and Rin grinned at his antics. Kakashi's eyes danced, for even though he couldn't see his teammate, he could guess what Obito was doing.
"What do you think Sensei wanted to talk to us about?" Kakashi turned to Rin.
Rin shrugged. "I'm not sure. Maybe Kushina is going to have a baby."
Kakashi blinked in surprise. "You think so?"
"It's possible. He'd make a great father."
"Yeah," a dry chuckle, "he would."
"Can you believe it?" Obito exclaimed, turning to face them and walking backwards along the road. "So many good things have happened over the past six months!"
"I know," Rin agreed, nodding. "The war's over, you and I became jounin…"
"Kakashi can't boss me around anymore," Obito cut in.
Kakashi glared at him. "Well, I still have superiority."
"You're only two months older than me!"
"But I became a jounin ten months before you so…"
"Boys!" Rin cried, glaring again.
Both stopped and rubbed the back of their heads in surprisingly similar gestures. It still amazed Rin how close they'd grown. Kakashi near-death had been the catalyst Obito needed to break free from the chains of his clan, swallow his pride, and embrace Kakashi as the teammate and friend he always should have been. On Kakashi's part, Obito's unexpected reconciliation had loosened the final remnants of ice in his own heart and he slowly grew into the relaxed and more open person Rin always hoped he'd be. At last, they were a team.
No, Rin thought with a smile, we're a family.
"Sorry, Rin," both boys muttered in almost perfect unison, pulling off sheepish looks perfectly.
Once again, Rin couldn't keep a straight face.
They reached the training grounds and soon there was grass instead of dirt beneath their feet. Obito spun around in fast circle and Rin watched him, thrilled that his cheerful demeanor had returned. The goofy, happy-go-lucky Obito was back.
"What's he doing?" Kakashi asked when Rin giggled, watching Obito stop spinning and stumble, dizzy.
It was Obito who answered. "Celebrating!" He grabbed Kakashi's arm and spun the silver-haired jounin in a circle.
Kakashi gasped and waved his arms comically, struggling to maintain his balance. Once he found his footing again he glared in Obito's direction. "Don't yank me around with telling me first!"
Obito hardly looked apologetic. "Sorry."
Kakashi shook his head, but Rin could see his eyes dancing. Those eyes, though sightless, were so alive now that Rin never got tired of looking at them.
"Hey," Obito said, "Now that we're all jounin, we're going to be the best team ever. Someday, we're going to be legends."
"You think so?" Rin asked doubtfully.
"Yeah," Obito replied with a confidence bordering on arrogance. "We're going to rock the world!"
Rin and Kakashi laughed as Obito moved closer to them and stuck his hand out. "To Team Yellow Flash."
"To Team Yellow Flash," Rin echoed, placing her hand on top of Obito's.
"Team Yellow Flash." Kakashi placed his hand on top of hers.
"The best team in Konoha," Rin proclaimed, looking at her two teammates with a wide grin.
"In the whole world!" Obito corrected.
"Oh, you're humble," Kakashi teased.
"Break!" Obito yelled, ignoring Kakashi's comment.
The teens moved apart and Obito elbowed Kakashi in the side. "Bet I can beat you to the edge of the training field and back."
"In your dreams," Kakashi responded with huff.
"We'll see," Obito countered and in a blur of blue, green, and orange, he was gone.
Kakashi blinked in surprise for a moment, then gave an indigent shout at being left behind and tore off after Obito in a flash of silver.
Rin watched them go, marveling at how full her heart was—so full it felt like it was going to burst. She had never been happier in her life. With a sigh of contentment, she looked up at the sky—a brilliant blue with a few clouds racing across its vast expanse, propelled along by the summer wind that caressed her cheeks and tugged at her hair.
"Arigatou, Kami-Sama. For everything you've given me." A triumphant shout rose up from the trees and Rin smiled. "For everything you've blessed me with. Thank you."
"Rin!" Obito appeared at the edge of the trees, waving to her. "Come on!"
"Okay!" Rin called and leaped into the trees, laughing at the wind in her face.
She was excited for what lay ahead. Somehow, she knew in her heart that they would be legends someday. But that could come tomorrow. For now, she simply wanted to enjoy today.
Translation for what Rin says: "Thank you, God, for everything you've given me."
I doubt that I will ever get around to writing a sequel to this story. Life is crazy these days and I barely have time to write at all, plus I'm also struggling to finish another story for Final Fantasy VII that is far more epic and time-consuming for this one. Also, Naruto no longer holds my interest like it once did. But you never know. Perhaps, inspiration will strike me one day and I will continue with Strings, but please don't expect anything. I don't want anyone to get their hopes up.
I do plan on continuing with Seasons, though, since it is much easier to write. You can most likely expect updates every once and awhile when the mood strikes me. Inspiration is such a fickle thing.
Again, thank you, to all the wonderful people who reviewed this story, both times I had it posted. It's been quite a journey. I first started brain storming this thing three years ago and now I have a whole universe in my head that I don't think I'll ever be able to fully translate into words and stories, but I'm very happy to present you all with a sliver of it. Revising Shards was a blast, and I'm happy it drew in as many reviews as it did the first time. I wouldn't be anywhere without all my dear readers.
And now, that I've said all those mushy things, I'll finish with not good-bye, but see you around. I'm sure I'll pop up every now and then. The Shards universe holds a bit of my heart, as all stories do, and I don't think I'll ever be able to completely abandon it. :D