Disclaimer: See previous Chapters.

We're here at long last! We finally made it! Whoo hooo! I can't believe that I've finally finished a story…for the first time in a LONG time. Wow! This is just…just. I won't lie the temptation to just quit was there, sometimes it was so strong that I almost deleted the entire story—I'm serious! But you guys stuck through it with me and kept me going on and on and for that I thank you. Thank you for reading, reviewing, alerting, or even adding this story to your favorites lists. The overwhelming reception this story has received thus far was what inspired me to continue. Although I am extremely grateful that you all even took the time to read this, I must say that I am even immensely grateful that every single one of you gave this couple a chance. I must admit when this couple came into my imagination, I began to SERIOUSLY doubt my mental stability; my younger sister still suspects I'm a few screws lose for concocting something this random. But you guys stuck with this story regardless how far-fetched and crazy it sounded. You gave me a chance to grow and explore my creativity and talents as a writer. No amount of thanks can convey my gratitude. If you are reading this—if you have made it this far—you are awesome and this author loves you.

PuppetMaster55, I'm glad you liked your birthday present so much that you added a link to it on Twitter. We seem to have A LOT in common seeing as we both imagine Minato being an overprotective father had he gotten the chance. I'm glad that you enjoyed both flashback scenes. I deliberately inserted them when I did in order to give both character's opinions about the Will of Fire. And yes your inner child should be making such a high-pitched squealing sound—if it wasn't then there is something wrong with you. XD. LOL. I mustn't lie I kinda borrowed *cough* stole *cough* the "Fag-aku" thingy from my big little sis. Ahem, stealing is only right when you do it to your younger siblings. Hehe. XD. I haven't forgotten your little challenge to me just in case you were wondering. Although I'll change the story's status to "complete" after uploading this chapter, I will later add the epilogue which will be my response to your challenge. But that will have to come after the Finals. XD. Nothing gets past you huh? I was wondering when someone would ask about the Konoha retrieval team searching for Itachi. For the sake of time let's just say that Madara and Minato's fight takes place far from where the Uchiha brothers'—hey that has a nice ring to it, Hehe—final fight occurred.

As usual YuNa, thanks for being such a doll and reviewing.

Suisho, I just want to let you know that I appreciated all your reviews and minor criticisms of the story thus far, and I hope that you enjoy the rest of the story as you go on.

This chapter is dedicated to the following amazing people: Runtm, Raine, Ambria27, pen-Aine, Udene, YuNa, Minatothebest, Hey, WindiosSiesta, Phoenix Reaper, mi5tan, Snowecat, PuppetMaster55, Imperial Dragon, eh, and Suisho.

Listening suggestion: "Calling all Angels" by Jane Siberry.

Chapter Twenty-four

Calling All Angels

When Minato found the Uchiha ancestor he had to do a double take for the man he saw was so different from the man he had been fighting moments ago. Gone was the ethereal black cloak that had shielded his skin in the aftermath of the Screaming God jutsu. Thankfully, the melted skin and bubbling blood was absent as well. However, what made him halt in his tracks was the man he saw slowly picking himself up from the floor. The daunting cloak of the terrorist organization he helped found was absent; burnt off by the vast concentration of electricity in the blond's last jutsu. The full black armored attire he wore was ripped and burnt in places. However, the illusion of youth had faded from the Genjutsu Master's visage.

Gone were the flowing spiky raven locks that once cascaded down Madara's once-youthful face. They were instead replaced by short, dark, spiky tresses that reminded Minato vaguely of another Uchiha. The once beautiful face was no more; smooth, taut skin pulled over defined features was now somewhat wrinkled and formed bags underneath the wicked eyes of the Uchiha founder. Despite all the changes to his appearance, Madara's eyes remained the same—fiery yet colder than ice.

"..the eyes are the window to the soul…"

Minato watched the ancient raven as he straightened himself up to his full height and realized the reason why the Akatsuki founder had hidden his true form for so long. It wasn't out of vanity on the Uchiha ancestor's part, but for the sake of appearances. To instill fear in the heart of his subordinates and opponents alike. No one would be immediately intimidated by the ancient yet powerful man standing before him now. No one would second guess their first impression of the Uchiha founder when they passed him by on the street. Neither would anyone give him a second glance. Madara in old age looked like any normal, average person on the street. If he ever wanted to, he could more easily fit into any crowd anywhere and at any time. However, in his youth he had been beautiful, exotic, mysterious, imposing, and intimidating all at the same time. He could attract attention without even trying or giving it any thought. That was just the way he had been. Minato could remember seeing pictures of the Konoha founders standing together in front of the newly constructed village gates in his academy days. Back then it had been quite obvious which founder's appearance immediately attracted the attention of he and his classmates. It had not been the noble Senju leader and future Shodai Hokage who he had stared at the longest. It had been the proud Uchiha clan lord who he had had trouble tearing his gaze from.

The faint sound of Madara's labored breathing reached his ears rousing the blond former Kage from his thoughts. Blue orbs focused on the glaring features of the immortal Uchiha.

"You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into Namikaze." Madara growled low and menacing his eyes never leaving the younger man's indifferent gaze.

"Care to explain then?"

"If you think that I Uchiha Madara, the God of Illusion, the Master of Deception and the Lord of the Sharingan will fall to someone that is the paradigm of mediocrity, you are severely mistaken."

"And if you think I will just roll over and die simply because you wield a powerful mutation, you are severely deluded."

"You will roll over and die not because I wield the Sharingan but because I wield the true Sharingan. I who tamed the Kyuubi no Yoko into submission with a simple stare. I who singlehandedly brought the great Hyuuga clan to its knees. I who taught the Shinobi world the true meaning of terror!"

Minato listened patiently to the older man's wild rant. However, his focus was not on the words the raven uttered but on the steady burst of power flowing through him courtesy of the demon fox.

Kit, listen to me. I've fought with and against Madara several times and I can say with confidence that I know him inside out.

If you have something to say spit it out already. We don't have much time left.

What's that supposed to mean?

Just carry on will you.

Very well. Uchiha Madara is not like any normal shinobi or man. Which means that the normal rules that apply to all men and shinobi do not apply to him.

Are you telling me that he is immortal?

No. I'm just letting you know that you have awoken a sleeping demon. There is no force in any world that can quell Madara's wrath…

Madara slammed both of his palms flat on the ground beneath him.

"Demonic Summoning; Chimera!"

Not good. Minato thought as he turned to flee. Behind him he felt a vast swell of malignant chakra which then exploded sending him flying several feet into the air.

Kyuubi, what's going on? What jutsu is this?

Don't be thick Kit, it's not a jutsu…it's a summoning. However, he must be getting desperate if he's resorted to using this…

A monstrous roar caused the blond to divert his eyes towards the sound's source. Blue eyes widened significantly when they fell upon the newest abomination Madara had conjured.

Towering above the ruined landscape several hundred feet was a giant beast with the head of a lion, and sticking out of its chest was a noticeably smaller but still prominent head of a goat. Sticking out of the lion's head were two long, black, lethal-looking horns. Its body was a cross between a goat's and a lion's; with the front limbs being the paws of a lion and the hind legs the hooves of a goat. Its great tail was in the likeness of a giant cobra which was baring its fangs menacingly at the shaken blond. The beast reared back as all three heads released a thunderous roar that severely rocked Minato.

The abominable creature suddenly charged at the Yondaime. The sight of the great monstrosity approaching rapidly was enough to jolt the blue eyed man back into action.

Kit, if we're gonna beat this thing you're gonna have to let me out again. But this time you have to trust me to attack on my own.

Fine, you just get rid of that thing while I take out Madara.

Without hesitation Minato willed the seal on the chakra demon to loosen. The great fox sprung out just in time to prevent the abomination from meeting its mark. The blond put as much distance between the fighting monsters as he turned his attention towards finding the man responsible for all this. From the corner of his eye, Minato saw the Kyuubi wrap several of its powerful tails around the thrashing monster. When the snake-tail of the Chimera lunged at the Kyuubi, it passed through the chakra demon without causing so much as a scratch on the giant chakra demon's translucent body.

The Kyuubi tightened the hold of its tails on the monstrous creature causing the Chimera to let out a terrible, pained cry. The loud sickening sound of several bones snapping rent the night air triggering an unpleasant sensation in the Yondaime's stomach. Still screaming in agony, the Chimera released a stream of ethereal jet-black flames from its mouth.

It was the chakra demon's turn to howl in agony as the flames met its body causing it to relinquish its grip on the Chimera. The abominable creature reared its head back and released several streams of jet-black fire that surrounded the Nine tailed demon, preventing Minato from coming to the chakra demon's aid. The blond widened his eyes significantly when he finally spotted Madara standing directly in between the two colossal creatures, his teeth bared in a manic grin. Minato felt himself panic as he was hit with the sudden realization of Madara's true intentions.

He's keeping us apart so that he can take us out one by one. With the Kyuubi within me none of the wounds he inflicts on me will have any permanent effect. However, with it out he can weaken it to the point that even though it returns back into my body it will be unable to heal me with its regenerative powers. Madara knew that by summoning that thing I would be forced to make the Kyuubi manifest again, and if he has his way it will be for the last time…

Without stopping to think, the blue eyed man took off running towards the suffering chakra demon. Paying no heed to the ominous dark flames, Minato continued his approach, the entire time forming two rapidly spinning chakra globes in his hands. The Yellow Flash blocked out the anguish triggered by the flames of Amaterasu connecting with his flesh. He ignored the appalling smell of his own roasting flesh and pretended to not see the thick rivulets of his blood that landed on the ground all around him. On and on he pushed himself, stubbornly putting one foot ahead of the other as he brought himself closer and closer to his destination. Upon reaching the Chimera's feet, Minato leapt into the air and plunged both Rasengans into the thick skin of the hideous beast. A wretched howl escaped the nefarious beast as the spinning balls of chakra steadily tore into its flesh. Minato didn't stop even when he was elbow deep in the beast's leg. Eyes narrowed in determination, the Yondaime directed the Rasengans through the thick muscles and bones of the fiendish creature and only stopped when he had successfully severed the limb from the rest of the beast's body.

The loss of one of its limbs set the great monster off balance causing it to sway unsteadily where it stood. Taking advantage of this, Minato applied as much chakra as he could into both arms and grabbed the severed limb of the Chimera. The chakra in his hands significantly multiplied his strength just like he remembered it doing for his sensei's old teammate Tsunade. Tightening his hold on the severed appendage, the Yondaime spun around in order to gain momentum before swinging the giant limb in his hands in a club-like manner. The limb connected with the Chimera, knocking the giant off balance and sending it crashing to the ground below.

The tremors caused by the impact of the Chimera's body on the ground shook the battlefield violently sending the Uchiha founder crashing to the ground. Not wasting any second, Minato brought his hands together and formed the seals to the jutsu he had forbidden himself from ever repeating.

He remembered years ago when he had first created the jutsu. He remembered the painful spasms caused by the jutsu's backlash, the severe degradation of his body and internal organs as a direct result of the jutsu. He remembered the intensive treatment and surgeries administered by Tsunade herself in order to reverse the effects the jutsu had on his body. He remembered it all in sharp detail and remembered how he had almost come close to prematurely ending his shinobi career. But most of all he remembered his first and last near-encounter with death. He remembered how at the end of it all he decided on his own that despite the immense power the jutsu gave him, it was not worth him dying. He had never been forced to go back on that promise he made to himself until now. But given his current predicament, it couldn't be helped. If Madara was pulling out his trump card now who was he to pull his punches.

He marveled briefly at how easily he recalled all seventeen hand signs necessary for the jutsu's activation before he closed his eyes and willed the jutsu into existence.

"Raging God of Thunder." As the words left his mouth a loud crackle of lightening similar to the cries of his student's Chidori became audible. All around him several tendrils of electricity burst into existence before weaving together around him and forming a bluish-white, armor of lightening reminiscent of a knight's.

Madara's eyes widened exponentially when the blond disappeared in a flicker reminiscent of his own teleportation technique.

Impossible! He doesn't know any teleportation techniques if not he would have already used it before now. I'm sure it has something to do with that jutsu he just activated. Hmm, an armor made of lightening…impressive. However, there must be a reason why he waited this long before calling it forth. That's either his trump card or a jutsu with very severe repercussions for him. If so that must mean that he's reaching the end of his rope as well. Good. I was beginning to think that I had gotten too old for this.

The distant sound of crackling electricity drew Madara's eyes skyward where he caught a glimpse of the Yellow Flash protected by his fearsome shield with a Rasengan spinning furiously in his hand. Madara's lips curled into a smile as he watched the blond flicker out of sight again. He watched the streak of white light reminiscent of lightening descend from the sky and unto the prone Chimera still struggling to rise from the floor. The beast, catching sight of the approaching threat, in a final bid to defend itself released a burst of black flames that did nothing to deter the blond in his approach. The Uchiha founder's eyes narrowed as he watched the flames glided over the blond's lightening cloak, causing no damage whatsoever to the man beneath.

So…the jutsu not only protects him from all types of attacks but also significantly increases his already god-like speed. Interesting indeed. I'm curious to see how long it lasts.

The giant Rasengan connected with the Chimera's flesh sending pieces of its skin and innards flying as it ripped the evil monster to shreds. By the time the Rasengan faded and the Yondaime landed on the ground, the Chimera had been reduced to a grotesque stain on the ground.

Minato turned towards the wounded Kyuubi still lying prone on the floor beside the Uchiha ancestor who was watching him with a strange look on his face. Ignoring the raven, Minato moved to summon the demonic fox back into his body when two things happened in rapid succession. First the blond caught movement in his peripheral vision and turned towards it instinctively. A jolt of shock ran through him when he came face to face with the Akatsuki mastermind who reached out and grabbed him roughly around the neck and waist, holding him firmly in place.

Minato returned his gaze back to the spot where he had originally seen Madara and wasn't surprised when he saw the Uchiha ancestor still standing there.

A shadow clone…no this thing feels very different from a normal shadow clone. For one thing it's breathing and has other human characteristics absent in shadow clones. If I didn't know better I would think that this was Madara himself—however, I know that Madara wouldn't dare come this close to me especially after witnessing my proficiency with close-range Lightening Style attacks firsthand. But what is this holding me? And how come it isn't affected by my lightening cloak? Normal shadow clones can not withstand a jutsu as powerful as the Raging God of Thunder. Maybe that's why he's relying on a cloning technique of a different form.

Minato leaned back experimentally against his captor his mind working furiously as he noted the feel of other's body against his.

Hmm, okay, its too thick to be a water clone…however, its not thick enough to be a mud clone or earth clone…lightening clones are unheard of and wind clones as much too unstable to be relied upon. So what elemental clone is this? Is it a hybrid clone—a mixture of two different styles? And if so what styles does it compose of? If I know its composition I can easily form an elemental counterattack to repel it.

"A counterattack is impossible Namikaze, so you might as well stop trying to figure out what elemental nature that clone is." The Uchiha founder said his amusement clear in his dark eyes as he slowly approached the trapped blond.

"I am well aware of you mastery and in depth knowledge of all five elemental styles and thus I formed an attack that would be impossible for you to counter with any elemental attack."

"What do you mean?" The Yondaime said narrowing his eyes slowly as the Uchiha came to a stop directly in front of him.

Madara was silent for a long time as he studied the younger man contemplatively as if debating whether or not to answer the younger man's question.

"That clone was fashioned from my very blood. The reason for this you will find out very shortly." The Konoha co-founder reached out towards the younger man and captured a lock of his sun-colored hair between two long fingers, stroking it absentmindedly as he continued to watch his prey distractedly.

Minato jerked away from the Uchiha, forcing the captured strands free from the fiend's clutches. Madara snapped out of whatever reverie he had been in and turned to walk away before stopping in his tracks and voicing an afterthought.

"Itachi really has bad taste in lovers; I really don't see the attraction." The Uchiha muttered in a voice loud enough for the blond to hear. Before Minato could formulate a verbal jab in retaliation the raven haired shinobi flickered away and reappeared several hundred feet from where he stood trapped in the blood clone's grasp.

"Flames of Hell."


Before Minato could comprehend what was happening, his senses were overwhelmed by an impossible amount of agonizing pain that drew out a loud cry from his throat. Behind him he felt the Blood Clone melt away into oblivion, allowing him to double over as he was overwhelmed by the immense pain he was experiencing. The smell of burning flesh was the first cue that alerted him of his current predicament. A quick peek through one eye confirmed his earlier suspicion causing the blond to reconcile the bitter truth.

All around him dark-red flames with noticeable accents of black here and there were licking at his skin, singeing the flesh there beyond recognition. The flames passed through the rapidly fading armor of lightening he had woven around himself earlier, greedily peeling off large chunks of his skin leaving behind both blood and liquefying flesh in their wake.

Gritting his teeth, Minato closed his eyes blocking the sight of his burning body as he summoned the Kyuubi back in. The demon fox readily accepted the summons and pretty soon Minato could feel the familiar flow of the demon's power flowing through his veins. Minato opened his eyes and caught sight of Madara who stood watching him closely from a safe distance.

So, even he is not immune to the flames. That explains why he needed a clone to hold me in place instead of doing so himself.

The Yondaime gathered as much of the fox's energy as he could to the soles of his feet before kicking off forcefully from the ground. The blond leapt into the air, far beyond the demonic flames' reach. He noted the raven's frown with satisfaction and began the preparations for his next and final move.

While the Kyuubi worked on healing the internal and external injures the blond has sustained, the Yellow Flash willed his signature jutsu to begin taking shape in the palm of his hand. Eyes still focused on the Uchiha founder, Minato called forth a portion of the Kyuubi's chakra which then formed a temporary cloak around him as he began to descend. The instant the Yondaime's feet touched the ground, Madara took off running towards his nemesis. The Uchiha founder removed a scroll from an inner pocket in his shirt and unrolled it before him. An eerily glowing sword was summoned from within the scroll, which Madara immediately wielded before hastily discarding the scroll.

Employing his impossible speed once again, the Yellow Flash charged at the bane of his existence armed with the furiously spinning Rasengan. The distance between both men finally began to grow short as the two men drew closer and closer. In the brief moment preceding the collision two things happened simultaneously. The sword in Madara's hand began to emit a steady, high-pitched sound reminiscent of a tuning fork's as its master focused all his rage into the weapon in his hands. The Rasengan in Minato's hand changed form as it adopted a more lethal appearance. Although it retained its spherical appearance, the sky blue hue of the Rasengan faded until it was a very pale electric blue. The once spinning threads of chakra had transformed into humming tendrils of lightening that spun rapidly, giving the jutsu its shape. The once roundish edges of the Rasengan were now jagged and uneven, made entirely of a thousand needles of lightening.

"Lightening Style; Heavenly Rasengan."

The moment ended and both men met half way where they came to an abrupt stop as each plunged their weapon of choice into the other. Hot steel pierced the tanned skin of the Yondaime's chest, while the angry ball of lightening tore open the Uchiha ancestor's ribs. Both men bowed their heads before collapsing to the ground heavily. Blue orbs noticed the fading light in the Uchiha's fiery gaze before their owner's eyes finally closed.

"Who's there?" Zetsu called slightly startled by the sudden presence that appeared within the shadows of the dimly lit cave.

"Relax." The lighter half said as it recognized the newcomer's chakra signature. "It's only Kisame."

As he spoke, the tall Kiri missing nin emerged from the shadows with his hands raised slightly in a show of surrender.

Zetsu's darker half calmed down but maintained its suspicious gaze which it fixed on the shark-like swordsman.

"Thought you were headed to the northern hideout?" The light half of the plantlike shinobi said as the giant swordsman drew closer.

"Eh, change of plans I guess." Kisame said with a noncommittal shrug of his shoulders. "Besides I never was the loner type, sitting in that gloomy cave by myself isn't exactly a welcoming thought."

Although that answer satisfied the lighter half's curiosity, the dark half was not convinced. It narrowed its lone eye at the Kiri missing nin before addressing the swordsman.

"You're here to see Itachi aren't you?"

Kisame started slightly at this before catching himself and allowing a somewhat sheepish grin to grace his features. Reaching up to scratch the back of his head, the Kiri swordsman opened his mouth to address the Akatsuki spy.

"As observant as ever aren't you Zetsu?"

"One has to be given our line of work."

Kisame nodded absentmindedly as his beady eyes turned to sweep the cave in search of something.

"Say, Zetsu, you haven't eaten him yet have you?"

"No," the light half replied carelessly. Kisame nodded as he processed the information he had just received.

"And why is that, might I ask?" Kisame said his tone conversational. The darker Zetsu sensed danger however his white counterpart did not and continued on blindly.



"Leader-sama's." The white half replied somewhat wary.

"If I recall correctly, the bodies of all deceased Akatsuki were to be destroyed as quickly as possible in order to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands and giving away the organization's secrets."

"You can take whatever grievances you have with the way things are being run with Pein-sama when he returns from Konoha." The black half snapped.

"Leader-sama is planning on bringing him back." Kisame stated his voice low and distant as he stared off into space absentmindedly.

"We don't know Leader-sama's intentions and we won't pretend to. We were simply given orders which we are now following…"

"I won't let you imprison him in this wretched organization again!" Kisame roared reaching back to unsheathe Samehada.

Zetsu only had enough time to assume a battle ready stance before the Kiri swordsman charged.

Karin would have readily ignored the sounds of struggle coming through the door of the underground bunker had it not been for the clear disturbance they posed to the sleeping raven. She felt her temper rise significantly when she saw Sasuke grimace in his sleep in reaction to the steadily growing noise outside. After making sure that the Uchiha would not wake from his slumber prematurely, the redhead turned and aimed an angry glare at orange-haired shinobi squatting by the fireplace.

"I thought Suigetsu said he was going to look for the bathroom not trouble?" She hissed through gritted teeth.

Jugo shrugged his shoulders helplessly as he too turned his attention to the door. His eyes narrowed slightly as a frown became pronounced on his features.

"That's not Suigetsu fighting." He commented.

"Well whoever it is, I'm gonna go tell them to take it outside." Karin said rising to her feet and marching towards the door which burst open seconds after she reached it, flinging her to the side.

The silver-haired Kiri teen bolted into the room, taking no notice of the redhead squashed flat against the wall, as he slammed the door shut behind him.

The loud sound of the door being slammed roused the Uchiha from his slumber and onyx orbs stared at the ceiling above in confusion before their owner registered his surroundings.

"BAKA!" Karin said peeling herself from the wall and throwing a hard punch that collided with the side of Suigetsu's head. "You woke Sas-cakes up!"

"Ow! Karin, what the hell?" The Kiri teen cried as he moved to put as much distance as he could between himself and the redhead. "I'm even surprised that he could sleep through all the racket going on outside!"

"Where are we?" Sasuke called his voice low and sharp. Elbowing Jugo out of her way, Karin moved to settle on the ground beside the Uchiha where she began explaining what had transpired after his fight with his brother.

After recovering from the blow to his gut, Jugo turned and took Suigetsu aside.

"What's going on out there?" He asked his voice nothing more than a hushed whisper.

"It's anarchy out there." Suigetsu replied his eyes wild and alarmed. "I think Konoha's invaded the hideout and are giving these Akatsuki freaks hell out there. All I saw was that aloe guy fighting off someone I couldn't quite make out in the dark."

The orange-haired shinobi nodded his head in understanding as his gaze shifted to the door over his teammate's shoulder.

"Seeing as Sasuke is wanted by Konoha we cannot risk him being captured." Jugo finally tore his eyes from the doorway and fixed them instead on his teammate.

"I'll go find an escape route, why don't you hold them off in the meantime." Suigetsu offered as he turned to exit the room. The orange-haired shinobi nodded in understanding.

"Jugo, Suigetsu what's going on?" Sasuke called freezing both boys in their tracks.

"Sorry Sasuke gotta go. Jugo will explain everything to you." With that the silver-haired swordsman swung the door open and departed from the room in a flash.

"Personally, I won't cry for him should he never return." Karin commented matter-of-factly as she crossed her arms over her chest.

Ignoring the redhead, Jugo turned to fill Sasuke in on what he and Suigetsu had been discussing. At the mention of Konoha Sasuke's eyes narrowed slightly and he slowly hoisted himself to his feet.

"Sas-cakes, no you need to rest." Karin said trying in vain to force the Uchiha back down onto the futon.

"No I don't. I've already accomplished what I set out to do and I don't care what that wretched village does to me anymore. Besides, I have a score to settle with someone."

The sound of approaching footsteps interrupted their argument and all three teenagers turned their eyes towards the door where the footsteps came to a halt. They all saw the knob turn as the door was slowly eased open. Jugo rose to his feet just as a head poked into the room from the half-open doorway.

Sasuke's eyes widened when they registered spiky yellow hair and sky-blue orbs staring back at him from the open entryway. Jugo moved to charge at the intruder but the young Uchiha placed a hand directly in front of him blocking his way. Sasuke narrowed his eyes at the newcomer when he noticed the absence of whiskers on the familiar face. A distant memory from many months ago returned to him, prompting a rush of realization as he recognized the intruder as the imposter he had met in Orochimaru's hideout.

"You're not Naruto." The Uchiha stated flatly. Blue eyes continued to watch him somewhat distractedly before the blond finally opened the door fully and ventured further into the room.

"Uchiha Sasuke, you're coming with me." The intruder stated monotonously, his eyes narrowing slightly when he registered Jugo's defensive stance.

"I don't think so." Jugo said stepping around Sasuke's outstretched arm and aiming a punch with his now-monstrous hand at the blue-eyed man. The intruder easily dodged the attack and the one that followed causing Jugo to lose his balance when his second punch met thin air. Taking advantage of the teen's vulnerability, the blond aimed a kick at the boy's skull knocking him unconscious.

Suigetsu appeared from nowhere, sword flying as he slashed violently at the tall man. Needless to say none of his attacks met their mark and pretty soon the blond rendered him unconscious at his feet.

"Tch, as useless as ever." Karin said in disgust referring to Suigetsu's prone form before turning to the object of her affection. "Sasuke you can't fight him in your current state, here quickly bite my arm."

Before either teen knew what was happening, the blond had moved from the door and had the young Uchiha pinned to the wall behind him where he held him by his throat. Karin let out a shocked gasp when she realized what had just happened.

How could he have moved that fast? Speed of that nature is humanly impossible…

"You really don't want to mess with me as I'm in a particularly foul mood at the moment." The intruder said in a deadly tone his gaze frigid. "You will come with me whether you want to or not."

Not one to give up easily, Sasuke aimed a Chidori-laden fist at the intruder whose hand clasped firmly over his wrist before the jutsu could meet its intended mark.

Blue eyes lowered to study the crackling jutsu curiously before meeting the raven's gaze.

"Chidori…" The man muttered absentmindedly to himself.

"You know this jutsu." Sasuke stated his eyes narrowing at the blond as he tried to discern the man's identity.

"I must admit, your version is a lot more impressive than the original." The intruder said before adding. "Sasuke, I think it's about time you returned home."

"Who the hell are you?" The Uchiha asked finally giving up his earlier attempts to discover the man's identity.

"Namikaze Minato; Yondaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato."

"You're lying!" Sasuke screamed covering his ears as he moved away from the blond man.

Minato watched the teen from where he sat by the camp fire sympathetically. He had known that the boy would not take it well even before he began his tale. However, it was imperative that he knew the truth about his clan and the man he had sworn to kill before they arrived at their destination. On the second night of their journey, Minato had asked Kisame to ensure that he and Sasuke were left alone before proceeding to relate the story he himself had had trouble accepting when he had heard it a lifetime ago.

Although it was against his lover's wishes, Minato could not hide the truth from the boy, especially if it could save him from sinking deeper into the impenetrable darkness Itachi had died to protect him from. The boy was a severely misguided and misunderstood soul, an easy prey for people like Madara and Orochimaru. Had the Uchiha founder gotten to him first, Minato was sure that the nefarious fiend would have undoubtedly spun all sorts of lies false accusations that would have won his descendant's trust and loyalty.

He was infinitely grateful that Kisame had found him on the battlefield when he had. The Kiri missing-nin had returned in order to apologize to Minato for keeping him from saving Itachi when he had found him half-dead on the battlefield. When Minato had finally come to and most of his injuries had been tended to by the Kyuubi, he and Kisame had set off for the other Akatsuki hideouts in search of Itachi's corpse. When they were unable to find it, Minato decided that instead of wasting any more time on a lost cause they should find Sasuke. And so they had. Minato had sent Kisame in first to distract Zetsu and engage him while he slipped into the hideout to search for Sasuke. After his little skirmish with team Hebi, Minato had then proceeded to forcefully removing Sasuke from the Akatsuki hideout with Karin and his other teammates in tow. Seeing as they didn't pose any threat to his mission, Minato had allowed team Hebi to accompany him on the journey back to Konoha.

Watching the play of emotions on the young Uchiha's face Minato contemplated—for the umpteenth time since their second encounter—the teen's uncanny resemblance of his brother. For the umpteenth time a pang of sorrow followed those thoughts causing the blond to bow his head in an attempt to block the raven from his sight.

Sasuke noticed this and misinterpreted it as a gesture of guilt and unease. A dark look, very much like his ancestor's, marred Sasuke's soft features as he watched the older man with increasing rage.

"You…y-you knew about the massacre didn't you?" The raven accused his voice somewhat alarmed and shaky. "You authorized it didn't you? Told the Sandaime exactly how to take care of it should things get out of hand."

Minato reigned in his emotions and stilled his temper from erupting. After all it wasn't the child's fault. After hearing such a tale, it was only natural for him to distrust any person not of Uchiha blood. But this was just…ridiculous.

"Aren't you supposed to be some kind of genius?" The blond asked raising a questioning eyebrow.

"You're one to talk. Some genius you are if you honestly think I would willingly return to the same village that authorized the annihilation of my entire family! The way I see it, I have every right to raze that place to the ground for what they did to me and my family."

Something in Sasuke's tone harkened unwelcomed memories from his fight with Madara.


"Have you heard a single word that just came out of my mouth?" Minato asked his tone blank.

"Yes. Have you?" Sasuke challenged his eyes darkening in anger. "My mother…my father…I was young…too young…Itachi—he h-he was…aniki!" Minato's eyes widened when he heard the icy tone of the Uchiha's voice break with emotion as the teen collapsed into a sobbing mess on the floor. The Yondaime rose from his place on the ground and scooped the suddenly fragile looking boy into arms where he began to cradle him as he waited for his tears to subside.

The Uchiha clung to the blond and buried his tear-streaked face into the loose material of the older man's vest as his body was wracked by uncontrollable sobs. Minato gently pressed the teen's unruly mane of dark hair to his shoulder with one hand while the other hand began rubbing soothing circles on the boy's back. They remained like that for several moments until Sasuke finally spoke up in a strangely calm voice, breaking the silence.

"This changes nothing."

"You really think you're entitled to some sort of revenge don't you?" The skepticism in the blond's tone was hard to miss. Sasuke withdrew from the blond and rose to his feet, directing a heated glare at the Yondaime who met his glare with a stern look.

"And you don't think I do?"

"No, I don't. For two reasons, first of all that would be grossly inconsiderate of Itachi and all that he did for you and Konoha. Secondly, believe it or not there are people in this world who have had it far worse than you can even begin to imagine and although to us they have every right to enact their revenge on the world, they do not go around bearing a grudge against the world."

"Such persons do not realistically exist." Sasuke said dismissively.

"How much do you know about your sensei Kakashi?" Minato asked suddenly in a quiet voice.

Onyx orbs narrowed suspiciously as they regarded him until their owner finally admitted grudgingly, "Not much."

"Then I'll bet you didn't know that your sensei's father was once an honored shinobi of Konoha having fought bravely in the Second Great Shinobi War…"

The Uchiha cut him off here his tone curt and borderline rude.

"I fail to see the connection."

"Shut up, for once in your life and listen to reason." The Yondaime snapped adopting a stern tone that had always succeeded in sobering another Uchiha many years ago.

"You must have heard about Konoha's White Fang, Sakumo Hatake. That was Kakashi's father. However, during a lengthy and particularly dangerous mission Sakumo was faced with an impossible decision; between the lives of his teammates and the successful completion of his mission. Contrary to our shinobi codes of conduct and teachings, Sakumo pulled out in order to save his comrades resulting in the failure of the mission which eventually set the stage for the outbreak of the Third Great Shinobi War. Shinobi and civilians alike of the village scorned and humiliated Sakumo for his "poor decision" in their opinion. And in time their harsh criticism of him drove Sakumo to suicide. Your sensei Kakashi was at least three years younger than you had been when Itachi had slain your clan, when his returned home to find the lifeless body of his father cooling in a pool of his own blood. Needless to say the incident permanently scarred Kakashi, however unlike you, instead of festering his hate and thoughts of revenge and retribution, Kakashi embraced the harshness of life and accepted the lessons his father's death taught him.

As fate would have it, his father's death would be only the second of many tragedies to follow. Years later, during the Third Great Shinobi War, Kakashi acquired the Sharingan at the cost of a dear friend. Shortly afterward he lost another friend and teammate. And unlike you Kakashi did not allow the pain of his losses to hold him back, rather he learnt from them and improved himself accordingly in order to prevent them from ever repeating themselves. I've seen shinobi defect for a lot less. Yet Kakashi remains and will forever be a soldier of Konoha eager and willing to put his life on the line, like he's done countless times already, for his village and beliefs. So to answer your earlier question again, no I do not think that you have any right whatsoever to destroy an entire village simply because you're too stupid to learn from the mistakes of others."

"I will not be lectured to by the very man who sealed a demon inside his infant child!" Sasuke said swirling around to storm off. But the blond was having none of it. He roughly grabbed the raven by the wrist and twisted the teen around until his hand was pressed to his body in a very uncomfortable manner. The Uchiha's pride did not allow the pained gasp at the tip of his tongue to become audible as the Sharingan Heir swallowed the sound with some difficulty.

Ignoring the stabbing pain in his arm, Sasuke turned and met the older man's icy blues with the ruby red of his Sharingan. He reminded himself for the umpteenth time that despite the great resemblance, this man was nothing like the hyperactive, blond prankster that had been his friend so long ago.

"I won't lie; I have never been particularly fond of you ever since I heard about your reasons for defecting to Otogakure. And even now I really don't see what all the hype surrounding you is all about. Quite frankly I've seen what you can do and I'm really not impressed. And if I had my way it would be your brother standing here with me not you! But you're all that's left of him—you are his legacy. And whether you like it or not you will live up to his expectations because I'll be damned if Itachi's life's work was all for nothing! He lived his life for you now you're gonna return the favor!" Minato said through gritted teeth applying slightly more pressure to the wrist in his grasp.

"My brother and I are two entirely different individuals." Sasuke seethed ignoring the growing pain in his trapped limb. The Yondaime let out a sound of disgust as he finally released the Uchiha from his grasp. As he returned to his original spot by the campfire, Minato addressed the retreating Uchiha.

"You're in a rare position Sasuke, that's what is so amazing about your generation. It's not because you guys are much more talented than the previous generation. It is because you guys have a greater chance than we ever did to change the world you and your children will live in. Don't make the mistake your clan made years ago when they doomed Itachi to a life of eternal suffering and pain." Although Sasuke said nothing as he continued on his way, the blond knew that he had heard every word he had just said, and for now that would just have to do.

Sasuke returned to the campsite several hours later and found the blond lying cuddled in his sleeping bag on the ground by the fire staring at the slowly dying embers absentmindedly. Kisame and the rest of his team were all fast asleep in their individual sleeping bags. He felt the blond's gaze on him as he settled into his own sleeping bag. He chanced a glance at the older man and was met with sad blue eyes gazing somewhat longingly at him. It was almost as if the blond was looking right through him as opposed to looking at him, and something about that look in those cerulean orbs made Sasuke uneasy enough to avert his gaze.

"I won't force you if you don't want to go back." Had it not been for the relative silence in the forest clearing Sasuke was sure that he would have missed what the older man had said. He froze in his tracks mulling the words over in his head before dropping the sleeping bag and turning to face the blond.

"What do you want from me?"

"Sasuke, I'm sorry for being so harsh with you earlier…it's just that…it's been a very long day. I understand your reluctance about returning to Konoha and it has nothing to do with cowardice. It's pride that's keeping you from returning home. You convinced yourself that you didn't need your friends back home and now even though your work is done you still can't bring yourself to return home because it's always difficult to admit that you were wrong especially to those that you care about."

A brief moment of silence followed this as the last embers of the fire finally died plunging the dimly lit clearing into darkness. Although he could only make out the young Uchiha's outline in the dark, Minato could tell that the raven was watching him closely and he held his breath without realizing it as he awaited the teen's response.

"You look so much like him," Sasuke said a far away tone in his voice as he stared at the outline of the older man in the darkness. "But, you act nothing like him. You're much…quieter, much more somber and melancholy. Like a toned down or more mature version of him."

"He misses you, you know?" Minato said recalling his brief encounter with his son many months ago.


"You mean enough to him that given the choice he would give up the chance of ever becoming Hokage to return you back to Konoha."

"He never was very gifted in the brains department." The Uchiha said with a barely detectable hint of amusement in his voice as he recalled fond memories of the times he had spent in the company of Konoha's number-one hyperactive knuckleheaded ninja.

"It's not a matter of intelligence or not Sasuke. Naruto, like Itachi is willing to go over and beyond for what he strongly believes in and for those he loves. You happen to fall into both categories for him. The exact same way you pursued Itachi all these years, so will Naruto pursue you. Until you return home."

"I know." Sasuke said his voice low and distracted as he retreated into the depths of his mind trying to find a way to describe the feelings at war within him. "I just can't return back to Konoha. I can't go on without Itachi."

"What do you mean?" Minato asked narrowing his eyes as he propped his head on the palm of his hand.

"It was all supposed to end with Itachi. I was supposed to die in battle against him. I had already decided to end it myself after killing him. Without him I would have no purpose in life. Even before the massacre my purpose in life was to catch up to him and maybe even one day surpass him. He was my reason and now he is dead, so it only made sense that I die too. Then you come and tell me all this and now I'm too much of a coward to kill myself because then it would mean me facing him without having accomplished nearly as much as he has…and I just can't return back to Konoha. I abandoned them all…Naruto, Kakashi…and Sakura. I've never had to apologize for something this big and I don't know how to go about doing so."

"Sasuke, you returning home will be enough of an apology than anything you could possibly utter."

"I can't return…I don't belong in that village—I just don't. How can I show my face there again and stand the shame of being labeled a traitor? After all I have done."

"I'm going to tell you something my sensei once told me. 'Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind'. In short when you return to Konoha there will be those who will scorn you and detest you for your abandonment, it is an inevitable consequence for your actions and something you will have to confront on a daily basis. However, those closest to you, that know you better than anyone else will accept your defection as a temporary lapse of judgment on your part—a mere blunder—and accept it as one of your many flaws. They will accept it and forgive you because they love you and they accept you for who you are; flaws and all."

Even in the dark Minato could make out the teen's actions and noticed how Sasuke was stubbornly shaking his head, unable to accept what he was being told. He rose from his sleeping bag and approached the young raven, who stopped to gaze up at him.

"I'm not as strong as Itachi to confront hatred and animosity head-on and still come out intact. I'll eventually break and it will all be in vain."

"No you won't. You are stronger than Itachi could ever hope to be mentally. You who had the courage to kill your beloved big brother. Despite the fact that deep inside you still had doubts and reservations about killing Itachi, you still went ahead and did it anyway because when the time came to do the deed, you could bury any lingering doubts about your brother and get the job done. Itachi could not bring himself to end your life seven years ago and he couldn't do it again when the opportunity presented itself two days ago. But you, you could…"

Sasuke spoke up here cutting the blond off.

"I didn't kill Itachi. He just sort of died on his own."

"What do you mean?" Minato asked his brows creasing in a light frown.

"He approached me with considerable amount of effort and no matter what attack I threw at him he just kept coming until…he reached me, said his goodbye, poked me one final time and just fell to the ground dead. I didn't do anything. When it came down to it I couldn't kill him."

Minato listened patiently and only when he was sure that the lone Uchiha survivor was done speaking did he finally open his mouth again.

"Believe me Sasuke, Itachi would not have died when he did if he had even the tiniest doubt that given the power you would not end his life. Itachi saw in you the will to kill him despite the love you still had for him as your brother and it was because of what he saw that he was finally able to die and rest in peace. You're right, back then you couldn't kill Itachi, however that doesn't me that you wouldn't. The only reason why you failed to kill Itachi that night was because you lacked the physical power to do so. In all fairness to you your older brother was a shinobi of unrivaled talent, so matching his skill was an almost impossible task for you or most people for that matter to accomplish. However, as much as it pains me to say this it is imperative that you know this now. Regrettably, there are shinobi in this world that are far more powerful than Itachi, and unlike your older brother when you encounter them they will not be pulling any punches. If you want to stand a fighting chance against them you have to attain power of your own. There is no shortcut in life. You can't continue narrowly escaping death through happenstance and sheer dumb luck. You don't have the curse seal to rely on for power anymore, and Itachi isn't here to aid you any longer. He's fought all his battles and now he is dead and gone. It is your turn to come into your own and realize your full potential."

"But how do I do all that?" The raven asked genuinely lost and curious. Minato cast him a warm smile as he turned to watch the faint light in the sky heralding the start of a new day.

"Return home Sasuke. Learn, build and grow with your friends and teammates like you did before once again. Together you all can inspire each other to achieve feats that would have been impossible had you been by yourself."

"But how do I live? What purpose do I have to wake up every morning and get stronger?" The Uchiha asked. Minato reached out and ruffled the teen's hair fondly before replying.

"Live for Itachi. Grow and get stronger for him."

Onyx orbs traced the blond man's gaze back towards the brightening sky as a faint smile tugged at the corners of the raven's mouth.

"Aniki, look the sky is so pretty early in the morning. Nii-san, how come the sky doesn't remain like this throughout the day?"

"Because if it did Sasuke then it would no longer be beautiful to you anymore because then you would get to see it all the time and it wouldn't be rare and unique anymore."


"Yes, Sasuke?"

"I'll always love you no matter how often I see you or don't see you."

"Likewise Sasuke…likewise."

"You loved him didn't you?" Sasuke asked turning to watch the blond. The Yondaime nodded as he let his gaze fall from the sky.

"Yes, very much." A sad look that had no business being on the blond's face flickered into existence as the blond watched several ravens take flight into the distance sky. "But he loved you more. And no matter how much I begged him he wouldn't stay…I'm sure if you had asked him to stay he would have."

Not knowing what to say to that Sasuke said nothing and turned to watch the flying birds as well. The comfortable silence between them stretched on until the sun became visible in the horizon.

"We should start getting ready to leave." Sasuke said rising to roll up his sleeping bag. "It's a three day trip to Konoha and I want to make it there as soon as possible."

The blond didn't bother hiding the huge grin on his face at the raven's words as he rose to gather his belongings as well.

Kakashi turned to stare at the blond male seated beside him for the umpteenth time that day alone. For the umpteenth time he expected to see the other man fade away as a figment of his imagination. And for the umpteenth time he was glad when the blond man didn't so much as flicker out of sight. The blond felt him staring and heaved a low slightly exasperated sigh.

"How much longer do you honestly plan on doing that Kashi?" The Copy Nin was slightly startled by the question and felt a sheepish smile cross his features.

Yup, it's definitely him. Only sensei could make me feel like a little kid regardless of my age.

"I can't help it…after all it isn't everyday that the dead come back to life sensei." The silver-haired shinobi said shrugging his shoulders. The older man chuckled as he closed his eyes as if recalling fond memories from long ago.

It had been almost a month since the Yondaime had returned to find Konohagakure in ruins. As if that hadn't been a sight to behold on its own, in his company was the notorious Uchiha Sasuke alive and breathing. Understandably, the villagers had been suspicious about the blond's true identity and so they had immediately had him whisked away by the Interrogation and Intelligence Squads of the ANBU Black Ops where he had been put through all sorts of tests and interrogations to validate his identity. Not only had he passed all the physical tests designed in such a way that only the Yondaime could survive and successfully complete, but he had also managed to convince the sadistic Ibiki that he was truly who he claimed to be.

With the village in ruins and their Godaime Hokage in an indefinite coma, the morale of civilians and shinobi alike was at an all time low. In order to avoid raising any false hopes among the villagers, the higher ups had decided to keep Minato's presence top secret until they were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he was truly the Yellow Flash of Konoha. However, even after his identity had been validated and he had been cleared of all suspicion the blond had requested that only a select few be made aware of his presence. At first the request had seemed very odd to the ANBU, however, seeing as he was a former Hokage the Black Ops had no choice but to honor this request. He had given them a list of persons to be alerted of his presence and amongst them had been the remaining members of team 7 and its jonin sensei. As emotional as his reunion with his son had been when they had met during Naruto's stand against Pein, it was nowhere near as emotionally overwhelming as it been when they finally met face to face. The whiskered teen had barreled into the man that had given him life knocking him to the ground while laughing through his tears of joy. Kakashi could honestly say that after valiantly fighting and defeating the Akatsuki leader, Naruto deserved all the happiness in his life right now.

With his best friend safely back home and the threat of the Akatsuki eliminated, Naruto was having a hard time going through a single day without hugging 50 random people at the most random of moments.

At first Kakashi had been reluctant to believe his eyes and ears when he came face to face with his sensei grinning sheepishly at him as Inoichi and Shikaku took turns explaining the situation to him. He had entered a lengthy period of denial which involved him avoiding contact with his once-deceased mentor and ignoring the man whenever avoiding him proved impossible. Minato had then sought Kakashi out and forced his company upon him until the Copy Nin had been forced to accept the fact that his sensei really was alive again. However, with Kakashi's acceptance came difficult questions that began to raise suspicion. The most common question being why the villagers were not to be alerted about his return from the dead. Although such a story would understandably be tough for the villagers to accept at first, further exposure to facts and reassurances from the village higher-ups would eventually make them see reason. When that happened, the morale of both civilians and shinobi alike would increase exponentially seeing as Minato is reputed as the most popular Hokage in the history of Konoha. All in all his public presentation would be for the better so why the secrecy.

When Minato had been unable to bullshit his way out of providing a reasonable explanation, he had submitted himself to a series of thorough medical tests which all concluded the same thing in different ways. The Yondaime's body was rapidly degrading and wasting away; damaged beyond repair by his extensive battle with Madara and later use of a the Raging God of Thunder jutsu. With Tsunade in a coma, there was no medical nin that could even hope to fix the damage done to his body. The least Shizune and the medical corps could do was make Minato's last days as comfortable as possible. As long as he remained on his medication, the Yondaime was allowed to have visitors and also leave the safe house in which he was being hidden. Over the past few weeks Minato had spent almost every waking moment in the company of his student and son. Naruto had flat out moved into the safe house with him, while Kakashi and the other members of team 7 dropped by the house to visit regularly. Needless to say, their presence comforted Minato and he always looked forward to everyday.

Today they had been given the green light by Sakura, who often filled in for Shizune, to leave the house with Minato as long as the proper precautions to ensure he remained unseen were taken. Knowing how bad Naruto was at all things concerning stealth and finesse, the pink-haired kunoichi decided to tag along as well. Sasuke, who preferred to spend his time training, had been roped into the excursion by Naruto against his own will.

They had climbed a hill overlooking the woods surrounding the village where they had shared a picnic before moving to the nearby lake for some relaxation. Minato and Kakashi had refrained from joining the hyperactive blond and his teammates in the water, preferring to soak their feet in the lake instead as they watched the blond try his luck at asking Sakura out on a date.

From where they sat they couldn't quite catch what Naruto had said to draw the ire of the medic-nin, who sent him flying with a single punch from her monstrously strong fist.

"Reminds me of how you always got turned down by Kushina-san back in the day." Kakashi said as the watched the blond teen peel himself from the tree he had crashed into with some difficulty.

"Yes it does. Sakura really is a lot like her…I can see why Naruto would be attracted to her."

"Don't just stand there watching me you bastard!" Naruto hollered at the Uchiha who had been observing the pair of them the entire time. "Come over here and help me."

"I don't think so, dobe." Sasuke replied bluntly before turning his eyes skyward, no doubt to check the time.

"Oi, baka. When we get done here you're gonna have to make up for ruining my training earlier by sparring with me."

"You feel like losing today Sasuke-teme?" Naruto shot back a mischievous grin on his face.

A strangely familiar sensation overcame Minato at that moment causing him to miss the raven's retort. Although the feeling passed, the older blond narrowed his eyes suspiciously as he scrutinized his reflection on the clear lake surface.

"Sensei?" Kakashi asked noticing the Yondaime's frown. A humorless chuckle escaped the blond man as he balled his hands into fists experimentally.

"I don't have much time left. One bad thing about the drugs is that they eliminate pain which is usually a warning that something's wrong. But I can feel myself slipping away steadily with each passing minute."

The pale skinned man lowered his mismatched eyes a dejected look on his features. A single tanned finger rose his chin up until he met the warm gaze that could only be his teacher's.

"I apologize for all the pain this must be causing you all over again. But I had to see you and Naruto again. I had to see Konoha one last time; if only to say goodbye properly."

"Sensei, you don't have to apologize for anything. I would have done the exact same thing." Kakashi paused, unsure of how to continue. Minato placed a comforting hand on his shoulder rousing the younger man from his musings.

"I've told you and the ANBU all that there is to know about Madara and the remaining Akatsuki. My fight with him significantly weakened him so defeating him will be fairly easy."

"I will do my best to prepare Naruto and Sasuke for the upcoming war."

"I know you will. However, do not give Naruto the key I gave you until he is completely ready to master the Kyuubi's powers." The blond warned as he began to slump noticeably in his seat. Noticing this, Kakashi leaned forward and adjusted the blond until his body was leaning almost entirely against the silver-haired jonin's frame.

Kakashi felt the labored breathing of his sensei and tightened his hold on the man unconsciously pulling the man deeper into the embrace. He could feel the life rapidly bleeding out of his sensei but he refused to let his emotions get the better of him. He was a full grown man now, he was no longer a scrawny teenage acting a lot older than he really was in order to be taken seriously. Life had matured him and now he was beyond tears. Because no matter how much it hurt him to see the man he aspired to be die all over again, he refused to let his sensei's last memories on earth be of him shedding worthless tears.

Instead he held the rapidly weakening man and lowered his ear to his lips in order to catch his sensei's final instructions.

"I'm sorry Kakashi, I failed you all." The sincerity in those enchanting azure orbs made something ache deep down inside Kakashi. "I failed to kill Madara again."

"It wasn't your fault sensei. Thanks to you now we know about the Izanagi so if he ever tries to use it again we will know exactly how to counter it. You provided Konoha with everything she needs to take down her greatest enemy. You didn't fail us sensei, in fact I've never been prouder of being your student." The blond went on almost as if he hadn't heard a single word he had said, although Kakashi knew that he had.

"I can't imagine the pain you and Naruto will go through when its all over…Kashi I'm so…" before the blond could say anything else his former student shushed him before proceeding to rock him gently.

"That's enough sensei you've done your part. That's why we are a shinobi village as opposed to a one man army. We are united meaning that one person alone cannot carry the burden of the entire village. You might be the Yondaime; however, you're forgetting that we too have an obligation to protect Konoha with our very lives. You have given your life for this village twice already. So rest easy now sensei, trust me you've done more than enough."

"I want… you to tell…Naruto that I… love him with… every… fiber of… my… being and…that…"

"Sensei, quit stalling and answer the call." The Copy Nin said his voice low and comforting.

"What call Kakashi?" The blond questioned slightly puzzled by his student's choice of words.

"The call that summons all angels back where they belong in heaven. Go now sensei. Rest your eyes…you've had a long day…"

"You're right; it's been one hell of an adventure. Kakashi, I don't deserve this much kindness from you especially after I subjected you to this pain twice in your lifetime."

"I'm not alone anymore sensei…it's just like old times." Kakashi straightened up in order to allow the fading man a glimpse at his son as his best friends.

"There's Obito," Kakashi said pointing a gloved finger at the scowling Uchiha. "There's Rin…" he said indicating Sakura. "…and there you are right there." His finger rested on Naruto and he couldn't help but return the fond smile that graced the Yondaime's exhausted features.

"In that case…Kakashi…I leave it all to you. Ja mata nee."

Kakashi congratulated himself for not crying when the life finally left his sensei's eyes. Although parting was never an easy thing to do, this time it didn't feel at all like goodbye. Rocking back and forth slowly, still cradling his mentor's lifeless shell, Kakashi directed his gaze at the newly reunited Team 7 shouting and bickering just like old times. A small smile twisted the corners of his mouth as he watched them absentmindedly. He was not sad for he knew that this was not the end. It was only the beginning.

First and foremost I want to apologize for not updating in a long time. I decided to take a break during Thanksgiving from school and writing so I did not get started on this until earlier this week. Exams are coming up and rather than keeping you guys waiting I decided to get this done before then so that I could proceed with a clear conscience. Woot after I post this I get to change my story's status to complete! We did it, we finally made it. I want to apologize to YuNa and all those of you who wanted a happy ending where I bring Itachi back and they all live happily ever after. When I first started writing this story that was not the ending I envisioned so ending it like that would have been deviating from how I believed and would ideally end a story like this. In order to maintain the integrity of this story I decided to end it the way I always planned to end with both angels finally returning to their place in heaven. With a few minor adjustments of course. Writing Minato's death was very emotional for me and I still can't believe that I killed him off but I had to. He has lived his life and neither he nor Itachi belong in this world anymore. This is the time for the new generation to rise and fight for the Will of Fire they inherited from their parents. If Minato had lived he would have been delaying Naruto's rise to greatness and eventually his becoming Hokage. I really wanted to kill Madara off but I just couldn't first of all because seeing as he possesses the Izanagi Minato killing him would have been unrealistic canon-wise seeing as Madara could have easily escape death by altering reality—which is what he did here. Secondly, I left Madara alive because if there is no looming threat in the horizon Naruto and the Rookie 12 will have nothing to rise up against. Sure I could have killed Madara off but who really can hold a candle to the Akatsuki and their awesomeness. I sincerely believe that after Madara and the Akatsuki there will be no other antagonist that could possibly surpass Pein and his gang of terrorist (Hehe.) Hence why Madara is still alive. It had been Itachi's hope that one day Sasuke would defeat Madara, and so by allowing Madara to live I can allow for his dream to finally come true. I'll be posting an epilogue as soon as I get done with my finals. However it's not a continuation of the story it's just merely a response to a challenge PuppetMaster55 issued some chapters ago. I had a blast writing this fic and I hope that despite the ending you guys enjoyed it. Thank you for giving this couple a chance and seeing this story all the way to the end. Sayonara.