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Epilogue: 20 Years Later

As oppose to nineteen

Did anyone else think that was stupid?

Hiraku slipped silently into the room, a solemn expression on his features as he regarded the closest thing he had ever had to a Mother. For once, the legendary medic looked her age. She no longer possessed the strength to maintain the illusion of youth. The only other person in the room was his former sensei.

Tsunade had seen this day coming, having proclaimed Konohamaru Rokudaime a few months before. She had had no intention of putting things off the way the Third had. Knowing the council, they would have given the position to Sasuke, and what a disaster that would have been.

To be honest, the shapeshifter had seen this day coming as well. Jiraiya had passed on a few years before, his bad habits finally catching up with him. Old age was one of the few things the pair could not defeat, or perhaps it was just that they chose not too. Orochimaru had tried, and look where that got him?

A pair of golden hazel eyes fluttered open. "Is that you Hiraku?" Tsunade asked, voice weak.

The younger kage knelt at her side with an unconscious grace. The years had been kind to Hiraku. He looked like a man in his late twenties, as opposed to the forty-five years he had actually seen, a testament to his demonic blood. "Yes Hokage-sama," he said softly. "I am here."

Tsunade smiled faintly. The overly formal address was something of a joke between the two of them. "I am not Hokage anymore," she pointed out.

Hiraku just shrugged. In his mind, she would always be Hokage. "How do you feel?" the shapeshifter asked.

A choked laugh came from the infirm woman's throat. "Like shit," she answered honestly. "It won't be long now." As a medic, Tsunade was more aware of her own mortality than most. She had lived a long life, especially for a ninja, and had no regrets. Well, almost none.

"I just wish," she whispered. "I hadn't given Naruto that cursed necklace." Tsunade's eyes focused on the other. "You remind me of him you know," the medic confessed. "What he was really like, behind the act he put on for the villagers." It was one of the reasons she liked the shapeshifter so much.

Hiraku's eyes almost widened. He hadn't thought anyone had noticed. No one had ever confronted him about his behavior back then.

"If I hadn't," the Slug Sannin continued. "Then maybe Naruto would still be alive."

Sharp claws dug into the shapeshifter's palms as his fists tightened. He couldn't let her think this way. Not on her deathbed. Slowly, Hiraku reached down to pull First's necklace out from beneath his shirt, ignoring Kakashi's gasp. "You're wrong baa-chan."

Shakily, Tsunade raised her hand to cup the younger man's face. "Naruto," she breathed in disbelief.

The shapeshifter simply nodded, not entirely trusting his voice.

"But," the medic searched the other's features intently. "Your eyes? What happened to your beautiful blue eyes?"

"Kyuubi helped me," Hiraku answered.

"I'm glad," the hazel-eyed woman managed. "I'm glad you're still alive." Then her hand dropped back to the bed and Tsunade's eyes slid shut, her last breath rattling in her chest. She was gone.

Hiraku closed his eyes, whispering a soft prayer before rising to his feet. He turned, his gaze locking with that of his former sensei.

"Naruto?" the gray haired man took a tentative step forward.

Firmly, the demon vessel shook his head. "Naruto Uzumaki is dead," he stated. "He has been for a very long time."

There was a moment of silence. Then Kakashi bowed his head in acknowledgement of the truth of the other's words. "Naruto Uzumaki is dead," he agreed, and no one would ever say otherwise.


Yes it is over. Before you kill me The Nukenin Chronicles are still going and I may write Kabuto One Half after that. For the most part though, I am Naruto-ed out. I just need a break for this Fandom, for a while anyway.

For those of you who are curious about Hiraku and Katsumi, yes, they did get married, as I like happy ending. They had two kids, a boy and a girl, plus Annika. I think I will make a picture of them later and post it on my journal. I already made one of Akira and Temari's daughter.

And finally, a big thank-you to all the people who reviewed.

You have no idea how much you helped.