Hello there and welcome to final chapter of Lone Wolf.
It's been a long way, but finally the story will meets its end right here. Actually, I've been back and forth, thinking of a rather outstanding finish to, in my humble opinion, outstanding story. And before any of you believe that I'm arrogant as to believe my story is outstanding, it's just my fair belief, that's all. I trust that everyone will enjoy this last chapter. I'll warn everyone right now…it will blow your mind, that I can assure all of you.
With the way I written all my stories, none of my readers would believe that I'd end the story this way.
Also, to those who believed I'd focus all my attention on my hunter-nin story, think again. I won't abandon the others, simply because I enjoy writing them all the same. The best, though, are Cursed Eyes and Regret. In case you haven't read it yet, please take a look. Now, last chapter of Lone Wolf, Naruto and Itachi clashed their skills against one another. A vicious display of all forms of ninja arts (Ninjutsu, Taijutsu, kenjutsu and Genjutsu). Also, as I'm devious this way, the end of the chapter didn't really reveal who the winner was. It only showed Naruto thrusting his sword at Itachi. Wonder what will happen now, huh? Was it another illusion on Itachi's part or it was a killing blow?
Only one person knows…me.
Also, the Hokage was surprised with the news of Kurenai's sudden pregnancy and the fact that she would have twins in nine months. What will happen now, you may wonder...Well…read it and find out.
Chapter 27 – Once an Anbu always an Anbu
This fight would be decided by the fastest opponent.
Naruto figured this out as well and the two charged at each other, before meeting half way at the center of the lake. Itachi's Sharingan was having trouble predicting Naruto's increasing speed, but he was able to see his movements quite clearly. When they stopped in front of each other, both realized that this was the final movement. Right then, one would live and other would perish. Positioning his kunai towards Naruto's heart, Itachi focused every bit of chakra on his limbs and managed to overcome the blond. However, when he was about to pierce his heart, Itachi was surprised that the Naruto in front of him was nothing but a bunshin.
It was his last mistake as Naruto appeared on his back, piercing Itachi's back with his sword, going all the way to his chest.
Itachi's eyes soon lost color for an instant as his entire body convulsed because of Naruto's sword piercing his most vital organs. In less than a minute, every day of his life flashed in front of him, as he remembered everything he did up to this point. The way he was raised by his family, his first mission as a shinobi, his first kill…all the way to his days at the Akatsuki organization and how he managed to defeat powerful enemies, like they were nothing.
Uchiha Itachi was always considered a prodigy, a genius by his peers back in Konohagakure. However, that managed to inflate the man's ego up to the point where he considered himself invulnerable.
The disease caused by the Mangenkyou Sharingan was the only thing he knew could kill him. This was his thought until now, as he looked down at Naruto's sword piercing his lungs. It was kind of ironic how he would meet his death, considering the situations he has been through in his life. He managed to kill the Uchiha Clan almost by himself. He was able to go against S-ranked ninjas while in Anbu. He was one of the most ruthless members of the Akatsuki organization. And yet, a single sword managed to end his life. It was kind of a humble feeling prior to his death as Naruto pulled the sword out, before blood started licking away from the death wound.
Itachi was slowly sinking, but Naruto grabbed his body.
"….Akatsuki's intel didn't…do you justice Naruto-kun. You've grown powerful…and skilled in all of the ninja…arts. I chose my…rival well in the end."
Naruto was silent, though, just focused on Itachi's words, as they would be his last.
"I always hoped that…Sasuke would be my executioner, so that…I could reveal some truths to him about my actions…he deserves to know the truth..." Itachi stopped talking as he coughed a lot of blood on Naruto's Anbu vest. His death was already imminent. Naruto saw Itachi's hand going inside a hidden pocket on his pants, before he pulled a small scroll. Coughing once more, his sight was now just a blur as he looked at the clouds passing by.
"Please give…this to Sasuke. I know it won't be enough for him to forgive me, but…at least he'll know the truth." Immediately, Naruto took it before placing it inside one of his kunai holders. By this time, Itachi was almost closing his eyes as he already saw a different plain of reality. In front of him, wasn't Naruto and he wasn't at the Valley of the End. What surprised him the most, for a moment, was that in front of him was a small house located in the middle of a leafy field. Was this heaven or hell, he couldn't figure it out.
"Black Wolf…" Shouted Kakashi before Naruto's team landed next to him, but not once did he take his eyes away from the dying Uchiha.
"I have…only one request for…you Naruto-kun. I know how my brother feels…I know his thoughts…with the truth soon to be unveiled, he'll want revenge… for what I did was for the village's welfare. Please don't let him…" Naruto and his Anbu team knew what Itachi was talking about, since they were privy to Konoha's darkest secrets. They also knew that if Sasuke were to know the truth, chances are that he'll forget the oath he took as one of the village's Jounin and kill the ones responsible for planning the death of the Uchiha Clan. Itachi closed his eyes, not even waiting for an answer from the black masked Anbu.
Not only his disease, but the wounds inflicted by Naruto's sword were too much even for a shinobi of Itachi's status. He didn't need to worry, though. Naruto wasn't sure he'd deliver the letter to Sasuke. The oath he took prevented him from doing anything against the village's best interests. He would have to deliver the letter to the Hokage, who would decide whether or not to handle to Sasuke. However, should she decide in favor of it or if Sasuke ends up discovering the truth, he would stop him even if it meant killing him.
"I can't promise I'll handle him the letter, Itachi. But if he eventually learns the truth and decides to take vengeance, I'll stop him…" Naruto said, before he took a storage scroll and sealed Itachi's body. "We better leave the premise, immediately" None of the members questioned what happened before they arrived. They just took Naruto's word for it and turned towards Konoha. However, all four of them paled instantly at the feeling of a new presence.
They all looked up and narrowed their eyes as two Akatsuki agents stood on top of Uchiha Madara's head, looking down at them. Neither of them looked familiar, but their chakra levels were off the charts. There were two of them against four Anbu shinobi. However, engaging in battle against more than one Akatsuki member was suicide and their mission was to secure Naruto for now, at least.
"It seems that Itachi did betray us after all…too bad we weren't the ones to finish him off for his treason…" One of the members said, with the strange set of eyes and spiky orange hair.
Naruto did the only thing he could think of, in order to escape. Biting his thumb, he did the necessary hand seals.
Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Summoning Technique)
Suddenly, the lake where they were standing began to rise, surprising the Akatsuki agents and his Anbu team, before a giant blue dragon appeared. It was huge in size and it was smiling towards Naruto, its summoner. (AN: Just think of a blue shen-long from DBZ)
"I was wondering when you'd call for my assistance…what is it that you require?"
"Suiryuu-san, we are in need of an escape quickly." The dragon frowned at the strange request coming from an Uzumaki. His previous summoner would never think of the strategic retreat. The dragon soon looked at its summoner's enemies, before showing his full toothed grin. The dragon recognized the purple eyes as this land's powerful doujutsu, the Rinnegan. No doubt, Naruto wouldn't be able to deal with the man, seeing as he was bearing on fatigue.
"Your request requires no effort whatsoever…" The dragon's menacing yellow eyes glowed just as a heavy mist surrounded the area, blinding the Akatsuki agents. Pein just snorted at the attempt of escape, before he extended his eyes in an attempt to blow the mist away, using his special technique. However and much to his surprise, his technique didn't work. A few minutes passed but the mist was still strong, covering the entire field. Not wanting to lose the Jinchuuriki, Pein and Madara jumped down the river. As soon as they landed, though, the area was cleared with no sight of either the Anbu shinobi or the creature that summoned this heaven forsaken mist.
After escaping from Akatsuki's grasp, the Anbu team decided to catch their breath, also allowing Naruto some recovery time. Prevailing against Uchiha Itachi was almost impossible, let alone not suffering both physical and mental fatigue. Kakashi could only ponder if Itachi used the same genjutsu on Naruto. The feeling of being pierced by multiple swords over and over again traumatized him somewhat. However, Naruto didn't appear to be suffering from the same symptoms, meaning that he managed to overcome Itachi's Mangenkyou Sharingan somehow.
"Naruto, we need to get back to the village. What's your status?" Hawk asked as he laid his right hand on Naruto's shoulder. Hawk's answer, though, came from seeing his partner's state. The blond could barely stand, let alone run to the hidden village in the leaves.
"My head is hurting like a bitch, my body is aching all over the place and I can barely stand...besides that, I'm okay. Unfortunately, that's no excuse…but I could really use some incentive like perhaps a soldier bill" His tone was humorous, but the situation wasn't. Bear supplied Naruto with a special blend of his own making; before he saw the blond's body trembling at the sudden surge of energy flowing through his tenketsus. It wasn't enough to fill a chakra powerhouse like Naruto, but it was enough for him to travel towards Konohagakure at the desirable pace. Naruto did, however, curse Bear from not warning him about taking his special pills, instead of the regular soldier ones, which caused a snort from the big Anbu at the lack of gratitude, seeing as said pill was his last and he had to make more.
The blond smiled and apologized for the kind gigantic man and partner.
"I'm sorry Bear; it's just that my body is really aching right now. I'll help you make new ones when we reach the village" Naruto smiled, which got a nod from Bear.
After that, the team vanished towards the trees as they managed to reach the forests that surrounded the hidden village in the leaves. With each step taken, though, Naruto could feel his muscles suffering from the fatigue. However, he just couldn't waste time crying in pain right now. As soon as he reached Konoha, he would be hospitalized and taken care of. Kakashi, for his chance, looked back at Naruto and smiled at his ex-student's high tolerance for pain. The pill he took from Bear worked differently than the regular ones. Instead of supplying the ninja with a good portion of chakra, it gave strength to the body and limbs. Problem was that Naruto's muscles were already strained from the fight against Itachi, so the pill only managed to increase the pain, allowing a few more minute of endurance.
Nevertheless, their worries were put to rest as the village's gate was visible.
===In the Hokage's Office===
After dealing with Kurenai's pregnancy for a while, Tsunade was back at her office.
The amount of paperwork had accumulated since this morning and the woman wondered if Shizune was nuts or just a workaholic. The sudden feeling of chakra invading the room alerted the Hokage, before Naruto's Anbu team shunshined inside, much to the woman's joy, upon seeing the blond alive. However, seeing that he was being carried by Kakashi, she immediately went by his side, as the team placed him on the ground for immediate treatment.
After Kakashi gave her the report on his status, Shizune joined in and assisted Tsunade in treating Naruto's injuries. The blond woman struggled to concentrate as she heard the report from Kakashi.
She wondered how Naruto even managed to survive against Itachi's supreme genjutsu technique, but her thoughts drifted aside for now. No doubt, she would receive Naruto's report on the fight later on. Her focus was on healing his body and mind to at least normal levels, so that he could have some proper rest afterwards. She shot a glare at the Bear masked Anbu, after he told her that Naruto ingested one of his secret pills. As a proud medic-nin and life researcher of new medicine to better heal her shinobi, Tsunade knew that Bear conducted similar experiments and she even allowed the gigantic man access to the Akimichi Clan books, of course asking for the clan head's consent as well. Chouza was a friend of Tsunade's therefore he was okay with lending the book to the Anbu.
As she eased Naruto's muscles a bit, she wondered if given a minute or a mile more, if they wouldn't torn under the pressure, crippling the blond for life.
It took nearly ten minutes of medic chakra, before Naruto's condition was stable and by now, his chakra began to freely pass through his chakra pathways. He was awake and got up from the ground as he looked at his surroundings for a bit. He knew this place quite well, seeing as his team was assigned to the protection of the Hokage on several occasions in the past. His eyes could see his team, the Hokage and Shizune looking at him to see that he was okay. Behind his mask, he smiled a bit, while caressing his hair to stop his imaginary headache. Kakashi could relate to that, as the pain was gone, but the images remained. Itachi was truly vicious in his illusions.
"I'm glad I could heal you in time Naruto…you gave me quite a scare" Tsunade smiled as she helped him get up.
"Thank you for healing me Tsunade-sama. I guess that with the fox's chakra being mixed with my own, it takes longer to heal than before. Nevertheless, my being here shows the success of the mission" The woman nodded with a smile on her face, as anyone who lost in a battle against Itachi either was killed or captured. He certainly deserved the reputation. Naruto, then, handed two scrolls to the Hokage, who suddenly became serious.
Quickly going to her desk, she unrolled the two scrolls, in order to analyze their contents.
"The big one is Itachi's body I captured after he was killed. The Hunter-nin Division will glare daggers at me for doing their job, but at least it's one less S-ranked ninja to worry about. The smaller one is a letter Itachi asked me to give to his brother. It contains everything that was kept hidden from everyone, especially Sasuke. He specifically asked me to keep Sasuke from doing anything stupid towards the ones who ordered the assault on the Uchiha Clan. However, he first assumed I would give the letter to Sasuke, without even consulting it with you. I'll be handling the report of the fight shortly, Hokage-sama…"
After a brief read, Tsunade could see that Itachi really wanted Sasuke to know everything, including the fact that the elder Uchiha wasn't forced into murdering his entire clan by the Sandaime Hokage. However, despite the respect the man deserved for his service, Tsunade just couldn't show this to Sasuke, even though the boy managed to prove his loyalty to Konoha a long time ago, after earning the Chunnin promotion. His trauma was enough to compare it to her own, after she lost Dan and Nawaki and if she learned at the time that one man did both killings, she wouldn't know how to control her rage.
Looking at Naruto, she could see he approved of her fear. If not, then he wouldn't waste time and would have given it directly to Sasuke as a sign of respect for Itachi. However, she would need to tell him that Itachi was dead and that would raise unwanted questions. As much as she would like to admit, Sasuke was no fool as no Uchiha ever was. Besides, Itachi's body belonged to the Uchiha Clan, even if now the entire clan was composed of one person.
"I'll await the report, then. Team dismissed, except for you Naruto. I want to talk to you about something important that happened while you were busy fighting against Itachi"
The blond nodded, a little bit hesitant to think that something bad happened to Kurenai and Tsunade was to be the bearer of bad news. However, he steeled his resolve as his team left the premise. A sudden smile appeared on Tsunade's lips as she happily gave him congratulations. For what, though, the blond wasn't sure. Was it from defeating an S-ranked missing-nin? Something in his mind told him it wasn't for this reason.
"Uh...what for Tsunade-sama?
"You'll be a father Naruto…Kurenai is pregnant with twins…" The blond though registered only the first words; before he did what any man would do at the news.
Shizune immediately went to his assistance, wondering if something was wrong with his health, while Tsunade started laughing…she couldn't just stop it. Here was the man that faced all kinds of battles…all kinds of monsters out there. He was the one who defeated Itachi, a foe that Tsunade thought was indestructible and he chooses to faint upon the news that he will be a father. She guessed that every man did such a thing, upon the news. She remembered the Sandaime Hokage doing just that when his wife told him the news. Even the Yondaime, when he heard of Naruto's birth.
"Don't worry Shizune his injuries weren't the cause of this. He'll get up in no time and then we'll take him to the Hospital room where Kurenai is resting".
===At the Hospital===
As soon as Naruto awakened, he placed his mask back and vanished towards the hospital where his girlfriend was resting, leaving a bewildered Hokage and Shizune, who wondered where he went all of a sudden. On the way, Naruto smiled at the thought that, in about a few months, he would be a father. Even though his mind was fixed on training and missions all the time, there were occasions when he would stop and consider the path his life was taking.
Even before knowing about Kurenai's pregnancy, he already knew that she was the one. It sucked somewhat that he didn't have the time to do what he wanted. The news about being a father was great, but the blond didn't want it to happen before he could properly propose to the woman. The reason being that doing this after the news would sound as if he was doing just because of the pregnancy and he was sure Kurenai would think this way. Quickly reaching inside his kunai holster, Naruto sighed in relief as he located a certain scroll. Inside was something of great value that he acquired from a store located in Earth Country, a few weeks ago. The store specialized in rare stones and the store owner even engraved a special message on the stone, which would be activated upon channeling a small amount of chakra. Since Kurenai was an expert on genjutsu, she was used to focusing small amounts of chakra non-stop.
Naruto took the advantage of a long term mission once and acquired the stone.
As soon as he entered the hospital, he asked the attending nurse for Kurenai's room. Naruto recognized the woman in front of him as one of the "Chase the Demon" fan club and frowned at the prospect of having to deal with her, without the black mask on. Right now, though, engaging in heated discussions wasn't his priority. Although, it would be nice to put the damn woman in her place for some unbiased hatred that happened quite a long time ago. After receiving the room number, Naruto turned his back on the woman, without even showing his appreciation for the fact that she was just doing his job.
Upon reaching Kurenai's room, Naruto opened the door only to be astonished at the sight before him. Kurenai was fast asleep on her bed, while illuminated by some rays of sunlight that managed to pass through the room curtains.
As he approached his girlfriend, he could see the smile on her face as if nothing was able to bother her at all. Kurenai, for her part, stirred a bit as she started missing the warm feeling of the sun while sleeping. As her eyes slowly opened, she could see a shadow of a person standing next to her. When the image fully appeared, Kurenai threw herself at Naruto, hugging him for all he was worth. She was worried about his fight against Itachi, but seeing that he was here with her, proved that he was fine.
Even before she could ask what happened, Naruto placed both hands on her stomach, in an attempt to feel the baby kicking.
She allowed him time to swallow the news as he rubbed her belly without his battle gloves. She could see his eyes behind the mask and just knew he was smiling. She was slightly worried that Naruto wouldn't handle the pressure of being a father so soon in his life. A lot has happened since he returned from his trip with Jiraiya. But she could see plain happiness by looking at his eyes and she knew that he would be an excellent father.
"Tsunade-sama told me the news, Kurenai-chan. I'm really happy for us." The woman smiled as she caressed his golden locks.
"It was lucky that she was near me, though. She told me that I was suffering from a high fever, that's why she took me here. The only thing I remembered was talking to her on a bench near her building" The news that Kurenai was ill, worried Naruto, but Kurenai waved it off, saying that she was much better now.
"Don't worry Naruto-kun, I was just worried about your fight. She told me that both facts lowered my pressure and my body couldn't handle the strain. She told me I'll be free to go by tomorrow…"
"That's good to know Kurenai-chan. Good to know…"
Afterwards, Naruto started telling everything that happened at the fight, including the supreme genjutsu. Naruto knew that Kurenai was hooked at the mention of powerful genjutsus and even the possibility that an unstoppable genjutsu was dispelled by a ninja. Kurenai, for her part, remembered Kakashi's state after receiving Itachi's Mangenkyou Sharingan Genjutsu, the Tsukyomi. It was a blessing that Kyuubi resided in Naruto's body.
"After Kyuubi broke the genjutsu, Itachi's eyes started bleeding profusely, forbidding him from using more of his powerful techniques. With my mother's sword, I was able to top his speed and delivered the killing blow. It was strange, Kurenai-chan, the moment I started using the sword. I could feel my chakra flow speeding up through my tenketsu and the amount of chakra I was able to flow through my legs was unbelievable. Itachi couldn't even track my movements with the Sharingan"
"I heard something about said ability, but never would I have guessed that it was your heirloom."
After the report was over, Naruto flinched as his mind started processing how he would go about doing what he wanted to. He guessed that it was like a Band-Aid, just rip it off. However, his mind went through every possible scenario and he cursed his Anbu training for interfering with his personal life. Just the thought of Kurenai taking it the wrong way would be enough for his heart to crumble. However, it was one of those things in life when you can't control it, not matter how you wished to. Reaching inside his kunai holster for the scroll, he unsealed his gift and got on his knees for a split second. She saw everything.
"Kurenai-chan…" Naruto said, as he opened the small black box to reveal a beautiful diamond ring.
The woman's eyes were immediately hypnotized by its beauty. It wasn't exaggeratedly detailed or overly shiny. It was perfect. The ring was made of yellow gold and in the middle of it, she could see a small diamond stone, similar to those found in caves scattered around Earth Country territory. She remembered going once to one of those caves, while on a genin mission a long time ago. However, despite being mesmerized at the sight of the gift, she also realized her boyfriend's intention.
"Naruto-kun, are you…"
"Ever since you came back into my life, my feelings for you only rose and now, they are up to the point that I cannot imagine my life without you" Kurenai's heart was pounding as Naruto confessed his feelings to her. "I want you to be with me for life Kurenai-chan…"
He took off his mask all of a sudden and stared at her loving red eyes, with all the courage he could muster.
"Will you marry me?"
By the time he proposed to her, Kurenai's eyes softened. Half of her mind, the analytical one, believed his actions to be justified given the fact that they would be father and mother in less than nine months. Normally, in this type of situations, the man would take the responsibility of being a father and extending it to being a husband as well. Not for the sake of his or her happiness, but for their offspring. However, the woman knew better than think this about her lover. Naruto may be young in age, but he was more mature than others twice his age.
He knew what he wanted and it was her.
Also the fact that she knew that Naruto wouldn't find this type of diamond in Konoha was a plus in her book. For him to acquire it, would have happened a few weeks or even months ago, meaning that he was already thinking of proposing, even before the pregnancy news.
"Naruto…" She smiled with as much affection as the first time they'd been together. "Just like you, I want us to be with together. Looking one year back, I thought we weren't meant to be, but I was delusional. One look in your eyes was enough for my heart to race. And I trust my heart with utmost confidence. Yes, I will marry you my darling…and raise our children together" As soon as the words left her mouth, she saw the big smile on his face and the bright blue eyes, that she always enjoyed getting lost in, facing her. The man in front of her was one of the strongest shinobi in the village, hardened by the missions he went through. Still, she smiled at how happy he was right now because of her acceptance.
Naruto and Kurenai immediately shared a hug together, before the blond asked for her hand so that he could give her the ring.
"I asked the man for something special just for you, Kurenai-chan. Please channel a bit of chakra into the ring…" She wondered what could possibly happen, but did exactly what Naruto asked her to do.
The surprise manifested in front of her like a show of magic. Slowly, as she focused a thin line of chakra, a message was being written on the diamond's sides. On the right side, the word "RED" was soon finished, before the word "ROSE" was written on the left side of the diamond. Kurenai had to put her hand in front of her mouth so that Naruto wouldn't see her gawk at the surprise. She remembered hearing these two words two times in the past and she wished the blond said it more often, although she never complained about the lack of romance between the two.
At least once a week, Naruto would whisper something romantic to her ear, whether they were on the street or cuddled up inside either his or her apartment.
"Naruto-kun, this is wonderful. I've never seen it before. It must have cost a fortune…"
"I'm glad you liked it. I…" Naruto was interrupted by someone clearing her throat and looked towards the door to see Tsunade there with a huge grin as she looked at the couple. The blond immediately bowed in respect to the Hokage, while Kurenai, since bedridden, bowed her head slightly for appraisal. Tsunade dismissed the formalities, before approaching the other side of Kurenai's bed. She could see the ring on Kurenai's right hand and smiled at remembering the scene of Naruto proposing to the older woman, as soon as she opened the door. They were so engrossed, that neither of them felt her arrival.
She couldn't be happier that they hadn't turned to meet her.
"Congratulations you two once more, it seems that not only you'll be mother and father, but husband and wife as well. Now Naruto, I came here for us to discuss your future and Kurenai's. She will be off duty of course as I expect that she will come to the hospital at least once a week for a check-up. I'll be here personally checking you or Shizune, in case I'm too busy. As for you Naruto, seeing as you'll be a father in nine months, I'm giving you a choice. You're one of the best Anbu in this village; as such you could hold your position along your team. Or, given your service to the village, you have enough points to be an elite jounin. You don't have to choose right away, think it through and tell me tomorrow. Now, a nurse will soon arrive and give you one final check, Kurenai. After that, you're free to go. I'd advise, though, that you two start making arrangements for the future"Naruto seemed to contemplate Tsunade's offer, leaving Kurenai to thank the Hokage.
She knew what her fiancée was thinking about. After Tsunade left, it didn't take five minutes before the nurse came and analyzed Kurenai's condition. Another ten minutes and the couple was now leaving Kurenai's room. They couldn't leave the hospital together; otherwise Naruto's cover would be blown. Therefore, she turned to Naruto, now with his mask on, and laid a kiss on it.
"I'll be at home Naruto. Bring dinner at eight, so we can talk about everything, including your career." The blond in turn just smiled, before giving her one last hug and left in a shunshin.
===At the Anbu HQ===
Quickly summoning a couple kage bunshins, Naruto immediately attacked them with particular finesse as he dashed through them. In less than a few minutes, he managed to beat ten of them. He had a lot in his mind to grasp. Ever since he came back from rescuing Sasuke, the Anbu mask was his companion. He felt complete wearing it, it felt right…he reasoned. By all means, he wanted to march to Tsunade's office and say that he wanted to remain as an Anbu. However, thinking about the type of missions he undertook on a regular basis, the enemies he faced, his current job was dangerous.
Before, he shrugged it off, saying that aside from Kurenai, it was worth it. Now, though, two new members would arrive in nine months and they would depend on him for proper care and such.
A ghost replica of himself soon appeared in front of him as they danced in the middle of the training ground, each one pairing the other's blows. Naruto knew from other members, that the fear of dying in battle wasn't for the Anbu, but their respective families. Some were afraid to die and leave them alone, without a father or a mother. He now knew what they were talking about. The replica began a few hand signs, before a water dragon charged at Naruto. Quickly evading the technique by jumping to the left, Naruto focused chakra on his limbs as he took his ninjato. The replica was surprised and didn't move in time, before he was impaled by Naruto's sword.
"I figured you'd be here…Naruto" The voice of Kakashi awakened him from his daily slumber.
"I was just sorting some stuff that's all" Naruto said, as he placed the sword inside the scabbard and approached Kakashi's position. He could see the smile on Kakashi's face, which meant that the man already heard the news. Kakashi, for his part, knew it from the Hokage who trusted him enough to share Naruto's life with. However, he also knew that Naruto would have to make a choice just like every Anbu who was about to have a family. Thus, he came in order to help his student through this life bifurcation. He already spoke with Hawk and Bear and both of them were okay with whatever Naruto chose. Kakashi smiled at that…these three made a nice unit…one of Konoha's best actually.
"First of all, congratulations on both accords Naruto. Kurenai is a nice and beautiful kunoichi. No doubt, you both were meant for each other"
"Thanks sensei, but that wasn't the reason you came here, isn't it?" Kakashi faked being saddened by his student's words, but Naruto let out some laughs at his expense.
"Indeed, it wasn't. Tsunade-sama told me of your choices now. And I was hoping to help you, since I know more than most, what it means to let go of the mask and step out of the shadows" In truth, besides Itachi, Kakashi was the only man Naruto knew was an ex-Anbu. However, even as a Jounin, Kakashi was always the mysterious type…just like Itachi. Both of them held so many similarities now that actually scared Naruto. Aside from Itachi going rogue and joining Akatsuki, his and Kakashi's records were the same. Even the skills matched, because of Kakashi's Sharingan.
"This mask has been with me for almost two years now. I look at my reflection in the mirror and it's there, even though I'm not wearing it. How could I just let that go? Also, with the babies coming, I can't just go on Anbu level missions anymore and risk being killed. They would need me…Kurenai would need me at home. I…just don't know what to do Kakashi-sensei" The scarecrow Anbu nodded and placed his right hand on Naruto's left shoulder. Naruto was growing up faster and now, his life came to one of those decisions which no right answer would ever be found.
It was just a matter of listening your heart and mind.
"Believe me Naruto I understand what you're going through. Right now, there are two doors in front of you, which will lead you through different paths. The point is no matter how much you think about it, you won't be able to choose the right one. Not even using your Kage Bunshin. It's one of those times when you must let your heart do the choosing. Your ninja side will no doubt point out the pros and cons of both situations, as expected of a high caliber shinobi. But right now, you must choose as a normal human being. This isn't a mission, it's your life"
Naruto remained in silence after Kakashi's words. However, Kakashi knew that the blond's choice by now.
"Once an Anbu, always an Anbu Naruto…" A familiar voice startled Naruto and Kakashi, before they turned to the door, only to see their comrades Hawk and Bear. "We are family the minute you join the ranks, even if you leave afterwards. You have something to protect now, besides yourself and your teammates. None of us would expect you to continue to wear the mask you so proudly carried through the last two years. We can have our daily spars outside the Anbu corps, you know, there are lots of hidden training grounds out there that no one thinks of exploring"
Naruto laughed at his friend's words and appreciated the advice.
"It won't be as fun without you around that's for sure. I just wonder whom Yamato will place in our team as your replacement" Naruto smiled at that as well.
He made a family here in the Anbu corps and Hawk was right…once an Anbu, always an Anbu.
Kakashi couldn't help but smile at the scene of these three. He once hoped that the same feeling was shared by his genin team, but now that he thought about it, back then, it was the worst possible choice for a team. He smiled once more, before reaching for a small scroll hidden inside one of his pant pockets and released a hidden item, which surprised the three Anbu a bit.
"Since you've already made your choice, I'd like to give you a small gift that will certainly come in handy while being an elite jounin"
Kakashi threw the item for Naruto to catch, before the blond analyzed it. It was a black face mask, similar to Kakashi's blue one. Looking at his sensei, he could see the proud smile on his face, which wouldn't leave for a while and he smiled in retribution for what Kakashi did for the blond.
"At least, you won't have to show your whisker marks to people, meaning that those who don't know you, won't recognize you"
"Thanks a lot Kakashi-sensei, you've been with me through every step in my life and career and I appreciate it…more than I can explain" A lone tear escaped his eyes as he looked at his sensei and friend.
"It was a pleasure Naruto. At first, you were my genin student, quite obnoxious and hyperactive beyond normality. Now, though, you became a friend. No matter what happens to you, you can always come to me…" Afterwards, the both shook hands together, sealing forever their friendship. It didn't take long for Hawk and Bear's hands to join theirs as well.
…Once an Anbu always an Anbu…
===At Kurenai's apartment===
At precisely eight, Naruto arrived with some sushi for her and his fiancée. Kurenai smiled at his presence, while wondering what changed his mood for the better. She knew about Naruto's interaction with his black mask, and simply taking it away, couldn't be easy. Despite it all, she knew he would be able to overcome this obstacle and grow up both in skill and humanity. Her soon to be husband was strong and won't be deterred by it.
"Good evening Kurenai-chan, I brought some sushi for us…where can I put it?"
"Wow Naruto, you brought too much, even you couldn't eat it all" Kurenai smiled as she set the table for two plates, wondering why Naruto bought more sushi than they could eat.
"I just thought that with the twins on their way, you'd be eating for three now" Naruto smiled as he took his mask off and helped Kurenai with setting the table. The woman, for her part, smiled at the blond's idea. Surely, with the pregnancy, a woman is expected to eat more for the baby. In this case, two babies. After setting the table, the couple happily ate it and Naruto found that he was right. Kurenai couldn't stop eating the delicious sushi and sashimi that stood before her. Even the small temakis didn't stand a chance against a pregnant woman. Naruto was beginning to wonder if he needed to buy more, when Kurenai finished eating.
"Well, that was delicious Naruto-kun, but it's still too much food left"
"Give it to me, then. I'm still hungry…"
After dinner, Naruto and Kurenai began discussing plans together, seeing as in nine months, their new family would grow. The blond told her about his conversation with Kakashi and she was happy that he managed to choose. She was okay with the possibility that Naruto remained in Anbu, but some part of her figured that it would be nicer if he could spend more time with her and the kids. While in Anbu, she only saw him at night and when she woke up, he was already gone for another Anbu level mission. Now, with being an elite jounin, he would have more time between missions, thus more time to spend by her side.
"I'm happy for you Naruto-kun. I could see at the hospital that you're in doubt after the offer. So, I didn't want to pressure you"
"Yeah, it's been a long time since I was a regular shinobi. It will take some time getting used to, being exposed and all…"
With that out the way, Naruto and Kurenai started discussing their life arrangements, hence, their place to live, once the kids arrive. Naruto's apartment wasn't even enough for the couple to live and Kurenai's was average at best. None of the apartments were fitted for a family to live. Kurenai told Naruto that she knew of a nice neighborhood where a few houses were for sale. In their right mind, there wouldn't be a need for anything big, just a two story house, with two or three bedrooms, a nice living room for starters.
Also, a regular sized garden for the kids to play.
With both their incomes, they figured that buying a house wouldn't be so hard. Plus, with Naruto's position as elite jounin, his income would practically double and thus, he would have a steady income. Not to mention the fact that Naruto would receive his inheritance. Minato's will was firm on the belief that Naruto became a jounin before receiving it. Of course, the man hoped that Naruto wouldn't need the money before that. But Naruto managed in the end, with his job.
Naruto, then, began to study the available houses and smiled at Kurenai's most devious plan. Most of them were located near Anko and Yuugao's clan houses. However, it was indeed better since she would have help from them in taking care of the twins, while he was on a mission. Also the blond knew that Anko would never…ever…let any harm come to Kurenai or their kids, so It was all for the better. After some deliberations from both, they managed to decide their ideal house. This one had three floors, one being below the ground, which was perfect for maybe a library or a hidden training ground. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms, all of them located at the last floor. Add to the fact that the living room was rather spacious and the garden, while not to so big, was adequate for two children.
Kurenai asked Naruto if she could negotiate the deal herself, to which Naruto accepted. He will need to deal with Tsunade in the morning anyway, about his decision.
===At Hokage's office===
Two days later, two jounins stood in front of the Hokage, waiting for their next assignment. Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura, despite protests from the Uchiha in particular, became what Tsunade hoped it would be a team later on. Sasuke grew up a lot, now mimicking his father Fugaku in choice of clothes. He also had his Kusanagi strapped on his back, just like when he was a ninja from Sound. Sakura, for her part, abandoned her tight black shorts and settled for a nice Anbu style pants, same color. She wore her jounin vest, on top of her usual red shirt.
According to Tsunade, the last member of the team was still due to be selected. So, while they waited, Sasuke and Sakura performed missions wish different jounins, even a seasoned Chunnin on occasions.
"Reporting for mission, Tsunade-sama…." Sakura said, with such a cheerful demeanor that contradicted with Sasuke's normal broody one.
"Ah, I have the perfect mission for you two…now where it is. Ah I found it…"
"Tsunade-sama, any news about our third member?" After hearing the question, Tsunade smiled at the memory.
Tsunade was busy sorting out the mission pile, when she sensed someone teleporting inside her office. Said chakra was familiar, she reasoned. When the small tornado ceased, Black Wolf Anbu stood with his arms crossed. Today was the day Naruto came to tell her his choice. His Anbu armor was pretty damaged and a few cuts could be seen on his left arm from a scouting mission his team performed last night, which turned to engaging an A-ranked missing-nin from Kirigakure, who was trying to infiltrate the village.
"I guess you already made your choice, Naruto?"
As much as it pains me to take off this mask, I now must make the best choice for my family" Tsunade smiled at his proclamation.
"It was a wise choice, Naruto. I'd like to extend once more my congratulations for your new family. Also, congratulations on your new status as Elite Jounin of this village. You may take your mask off now" Naruto nodded, before slowly holding his mask and removing it from his face, revealing to Tsunade, his black mask that covered half of his face, including his birth whisker marks.
"As it turns out, I have an opening spot for a special jounin team I've assembled. I believe you'll fit nicely. Report here tomorrow, same time…dismissed"
"As a matter of fact, Sakura, yes I believe I found your third member and he's due to arrive in approximately two minutes" The statement surprised Sakura and Sasuke.
To think that said man had such sense of punctuality was unheard of. However, the knock on the door showed proof of what Tsunade said.
After the permission from the Hokage, the door opened to reveal a jounin, from the looks of it. However, it didn't take two seconds, before they recognized the third member's identity. Of course, the blue eyes and blond hair was a dead giveaway, but the mask that covered his face was new. Naruto, for his part, pretended not to be surprised, upon seeing his old teammates waiting for him at the Hokage's office. However, by the looks of it, it seemed that these two were part of the team Tsunade spoke about and he was the third member.
"Uzumaki Naruto, reporting for mission Tsunade-sama"
His tone was neutral, which surprised both Sasuke and Sakura. What surprised them more was the lack of intimacy that one would expect from being on the same genin team a couple of years back. Sasuke remembered his fight with Naruto, and how fiercely he fought to bring him back to the village. Looking at his back, now, Sasuke couldn't recognize him. He half expected the blond to simply turn and give him thumbs up or his goofy smile, but nothing happened.
Sakura, for her part, looked at his back and could sense the power he emanated. She remembered the time he passed the Anbu jounin exam and wondered if Team 7 would reunite once more.
"Good, now that the team is assembled, there is a B-ranked mission for you to perform. Sakura here will be the leader, as said mission involves Konoha Hospital. There is a village near Amegakure's borders that more often than not, sells powerful medicine to us. Your mission is to go there and acquire the medicines. Be careful, though, Amegakure is a mess right now, probably some missing ninjas around the area. I expect great things from this team…dismissed"
Afterwards, the three vanished in a shunshin, before Naruto appeared once more, like Tsunade expected him to.
"What you think?" The Hokage asked, before she saw Naruto's smile behind his black mask.
"I think it's going to be a disaster…however, you won't be hearing any objections on my part" Upon hearing this, Tsunade couldn't help but smile as well. "You didn't tell him yet, did you? About Itachi's letter"
"I haven't decided yet. I'll have to run it with my advisors, seeing as they are involved in this as well" Naruto nodded and was about to leave once more, before he turned to the Hokage.
"In case he doesn't take this well and decides to retaliate, I won't think twice in dealing with the situation appropriately" Tsunade could sense the seriousness behind his statement and nodded.
"When a jounin rebels against his Hokage, I won't expect anything less of you, Naruto"
With that, Naruto vanished once more towards the gate where Sasuke and Sakura would be waiting for him. The path ahead was clouded for now. Akatsuki received a huge blow from Itachi's betrayal and their lack of numbers. However, Naruto couldn't put it past him that the threat still remained. Also, seeing as he had a family now, he couldn't allow the possibility of that damned organization going after Kurenai or his children. Another thing was this new team of his.
I only hope that history doesn't repeat itself.
Ok and that was the end of the story.
In the end, Naruto did end up with Sakura and Sasuke just like before. Tell me what you think. (Reviews…lots of reviews and PMs if you wish).
I haven't decided yet if I'm going to write a sequel.
Plus, I placed a challenge in my profile page. I was meaning to create a new story, but hey who I'm kidding! I don't have the time to properly update the already existing stories, let one throw another one into the mess. It's an idea I had after seeing the last Shippuuden Movie. It involves one of the bloodlines mentioned at the last Naruto Shippuuden Movie called Jintou (Swift Release). If anyone is interested, please check it out and let me know.
Last, seeing as this is going to be my last update in 2010, I want to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!