A/N: I have never written a fic as weird as this one. Seriously.
Sometimes, though, you just have to stop and headdesk at how unbelievably different things would have been if Konoha's original founders had just made a few little changes...
They would leave them out on the moor Madara had said, never once stopping his motions in the telling of the tale. Winding the catgut around the shaft of the fan, biting the frayed edge clean and spitting out the rancid taste. The wintertime babies had it easiest since they would die immediately.
"But I didn't," Izuna had said.
"No," agreed Madara, "you didn't."
"Because you saved me."
Sometimes when Madara's cries in the nighttime grow unbearable Izuna wonders if he once sounded the same way, stranded on the purpling fields and crying so lustily that the older boy stationed on the night watch had had no choice but to bring him back and ply him with goats' milk and the occasional mashed apple until he grew too old to kill. He reciprocates as best as he can. The apples no longer stay down but the goats' milk does, so he strains endless pans for Madara, and one morning when Madara gestures even this away he sets the pan down, opens his eyes to his brother's closed ones, and begins to weave the genjutsu as his brother taught him to do. He takes one day to lay groundwork so carefully and insidiously that Madara, racked with pain, doesn't notice, takes another to paint the scenes he wants played out with broad strokes of chakra, and by the time the third day is done and the seventy-second hour has drawn to a close, wrenches his eyes from his skull within the tsukuyomi and lays them in a dish at Madara's side.
As his brother screams he drops the tent flap behind him and listens to the tsukuyomi Izuna's whimpers of pain and Madara's no, no, and then he ties a white kerchief around his arm and walks out across the same moor with its purple steppes. Night fog blown over the mountains from the Water Country teases his boots as he passes; he climbs past the outcropping of rock and the lopsided pyre where the bones of sickly children were burnt. He hears the shouts of men below his line of sight as they divide the spoils of a last raid. He goes like a walking wraith until he sees the forest in front of him, and when red-clad Senju drop silently from the trees, arrows nocked, he unsheathes his knife and throws it to the ground, the arm with the white kerchief held straight out.
"An audience with your commander, if you would," he says. The sharingan spin as they maintain the genjutsu. Within the net of chakra he has woven about the sick tent he can see his brother rocking back and forth, pain momentarily forgotten in the rush of what he believes is true.
Truce is an academic smell like parchment and ceremonial ink. The girl from Uzushiogakure with her cold blue eyes watches him in silence as he signs his name and presses the wax seal of the Uchiha next to the Senju's. Hashirama takes his hand in both of his. Throughout the process very few words are spoken; it all takes place in a portentious and nervous silence as if any moment one of them could falter, and the glasslike sheen of the two seals next to one another could break.
He returns to the camp with his arms full of tokens of goodwill. Fresh fruit, thick and clean cloth, herbs grown by the Senju leader himself to make a poultice for Madara's eyes.
By morning the tsukuyomi has ended and the light has gone completely out of Madara's eyes. He is too shaken to protest when they bundle him into the palanquin. Going over the moor for the last time Izuna holds his brother's hand through the curtain and feels Madara's small nails in his palm, clutching and vicious but no longer with any power to hurt. They see the Senju banner snapping from the trees before they the line of men in blue fatigues, without armor or weapons; there is no longer energy to resist it. Madara's blindness has wrung the madness from them all and left them with only bitterness.
Izuna knows that for doing what he did there will be a price, perhaps a vial of poison like the tough skein on goats' milk or perhaps once again the purple moor and its ghosts of dying children, but when he helps Madara's feet touch the ground he is no longer afraid of the Uchihas' retaliation. As his fingers leave Madara's he meets the eyes of the younger white-haired Senju observing him with an incredulous amusement. Over their tankards of ale that night he tells him what he did with the tsukuyomi and Senju Tobirama laughs at the story until he feels that he can laugh too, just a sideways smile, a placeholder.
"What a trip," says the other boy. "You tricked him!"
Izuna throws another coal on the fire. Across the way Madara is regaining his strength on mutton and seared vegetables; after the struggle, he knows, there is blindness, but there is no more pain. There will never be any pain again.
"No," he says. "I saved him."
And Tobirama, to his surprise, knocks his tankard against his, grins, and says, "Yeah, that's true. You kinda did, didn't you?"
Madara makes exactly sixteen attempts to leave in the first month alone. When the seventeenth culminates in a botched plot to evade Senju watchmen through the opening in an outhouse, Hashirama knows he's won. That's the night he chooses to host the formal banquet inaugarating Konoha, and everyone tries very hard not to sit downwind of Madara.
The eighteenth attempt occurs about a month later, when Madara figures out how to cast genjutsu in spite of his now-defunct eyes, miscalculates, and accidentally makes the doctored bunshin left in his place about two inches taller than he actually is.
"That was a perfect genjutsu," he snarls when his brother blithely drags him back, rhapsodizing profusely about how thrilled he is that they can resinstate their daily practice sessions. Hashirama determinedly doesn't look at him, but when Izuna catches his eye he is unable to stop himself and bursts into laughter. Madara retaliates by setting fire to his shirt, and he considers it a personal victory that it's only an article of clothing that gets incinerated.
"It was an ideal bunshin," Madara is still muttering about three hours later, loitering around Hashirama's drafting table and generally making a nuisance of himself. "The form, the composition, all exemplary."
"It wasn't, if you really want to know," points out Hashirama. "Your brother could tell the difference, as could I."
Madara's head snaps toward him. Even with the lightless irises, covered in their smoky sheen of white, Hashirama registers the searing quality of his gaze. They stay like that, looking at one another without looking. Hashirama is overcome by the frustration in that sightline, as if the the soul behind it has been stoppered in place, a straining and caged thing breaking under the weight of its blindness until finally its rage turns inwards, seals it away from the rest of the world. He opens his mouth to say something and stops.
Ultimately he lies for the first time in his life and says, "It hasn't changed anything—"
Madara reaches out, sweeps a hand over Hashirama's work surface, and deliberately knocks over his ink tray.
Sometime in the next few weeks he is asked to pose for the face on the mountain. Without understanding what he is doing he arrives at the Uchiha compound, lost for words, and Izuna smiles and ushers his brother out. They stand still as the sculptor carefully touches both of their faces, hot wax sliding over their cheeks like tears as the plaster casts are made and under craftsmen's fingers their images smoothen into being, loose and liquid at first and then harder, already acquiring the rockworn quality of things that will become legends. After the mold is made Hashirama takes Madara's wrist and guides his hand carefully over the planes of the plaster cast. Madara's fingers on his cheekbones in the mold, stopping briefly at his eyes. Skating over his mouth and ending with a disdainful lift at his chin.
"Is it accurate?" he asks.
"I don't know," says Hashirama, feeling foolish. "I suppose you can judge that for yourself."
Without warning Madara turns to him and sets a hand against his cheek. The touch is assessing and nonchalant and glides downwards like the heat from a distant fire. Hashirama's face grows hot. Madara smiles.
"I suppose it will do," he concedes. "I trust you will oversee the sculpting."
At their joint inaugaration to the position of Hokage Madara wears a bandage bound about his eyes. He accepts flowers from the Yamanaka and a tithe of venison from the Nara and seems affronted when the wide-brimmed hat doesn't fit him correctly. Hashirama makes a speech extolling Uchiha Izuna's extraordinary foresight and the leadership capacities of his brother, and Madara in turn speaks tersely about the new era and the days to come, the end of the settlement and the beginning of the village.
"The world is changing," he says. "We all bear the marks of that change."
At the celebration that night Hashirama feels the same heat touching both of their faces as Madara sits beside him, head tilted away as if he can observe the dancers whirling about the bonfires. Hashirama sees Izuna's sharingan spinning curiously at Tobirama's leaping form and finally the younger Uchiha begins to dance himself, aping his brother with flawless grace. His young cousin Toka partners him almost shyly. Hashirama laughs aloud and Madara says nothing, merely listens to the laughter and ghosts his hands more insistently over the hat in his lap.
"Would you like to see how it looks?" Hashirama asks suddenly.
Madara hesitates, then angles his head noncommittally.
Their faces on the mountain are strange forbidding things in the firelight. Worn and warmed stone and Hashirama fits Madara into the deep crevasse made by the the juncture of their cheekbones in the sculpture, the mathematical curve of the proud carved chin approximating but not even remotely mirroring the way Madara's own chin tips back, the ends of the bandages over his shoulders like whiplashes. With one hand braced against the rockface Hashirama kisses him until his shoulders grow loose as the liquid wax. Underneath the robes his body is firm and real. For years he has been a malevolent form seen through smoke; in the absolution of touch he is a soul made tangible for the first time. They rock against the stone and the ceremonial beads on the edges of their robes click together, the rhythmic tock-tock of a sculptor's chisel, the clack of Madara's nails as he gropes for a hold against the softest part of the stone—and when finally they meet their release growing weak-kneed against their statue the story has played out to its close; Hashirama smooths his thumb over the fluttering eyelashes behind the bandage, and thinks to himself that the landscape of their village is absolutely flawless.
The most hilarious development in the history of Konoha, in Tobirama's opinion, is the fact that Uzumaki Mito and Uchiha Madara routinely meet at a teahouse to lob veiled insults at one another about various theoretical matters including but not limited to the control of tailed beasts, the maximum lifespan of the human body, and occasionally Hashirama's hair, although Izuna informs him that he may have made this last one up in a fit of boredom. Hashirama in any case seems to encourage these academic strops, as they inevitably result in unprecedented innovations such as the chakra transmitter the two design one year, or the age-regeneration jutsu they patent in another.
"You are an asset to our village," Hashirama usually says when something like this happens, and never notices the way Mito's cheeks flush. She holds herself with remarkable control. Tobirama teases her mercilessly about being in love with his brother until he realizes it's true, after which he stops and attempts to make amends by bringing her some Kirigakure silks, whereupon she sees fit to verbally castrate him in front of her entire sniggering cohort of library-dwellers.
"It's terribly cheap material," says Izuna lazily, running his hands over the bolt of cloth. "Perhaps she would have appreciated something more luxurious."
"Oh, shut up," snaps Tobirama. "Just because you're a married man, or whatever—"
"I never give Toka clothing," says Izuna in a display of staggering awkwardness. "It might give the wrong impression," and then Tobirama kind of has to throw his gauntlet at him just for talking that way about his cousin, even if he was the one to tie the ceremonial knot at their wedding. He remembers Izuna as being scrawny from a young age, but after some years of peacetime his skin has become tanned and smooth; he is often seen lounging in the sun like a dolphin. His eyes are always grey. Tobirama has never once seen him activate his sharingan; he knows the mangekyou's story, and so neither of them mention it.
He doesn't give Mito another gift, but he brings her dinner at the library one day, and to his surprise she actually accepts it and invites him to stay with her. He wanders aimlessly among the stacks of scrolls and occasionally peers at her from behind a convenient shelf, noting the way she gets her sleeve in the ink and adjusts her monocle as if she's about four hundred years old. It's extremely unattractive. By the time she's done with whatever she's doing and has coolly rejected his offer to see her home, he realizes he's kind of sort of maybe a little bit in over his head.
"That would be very sweet if she weren't unfortunately infatuated with your brother," is Izuna's completely serious response. Tobirama tells him he's a slimy piece of shit and Izuna smiles and bows a little because he still hasn't gotten the hang of the whole casual friendship thing, but Tobirama holds on to the hope that someday he'll act like a normal human being.
He decides it might help his cause to neurotically stalk her. His misperception is duly corrected after his cover is blown by Madara, who is so needlessly puritanical the village teenagers have actually taken to referring to their other Hokage as "cockblock-sama" in private. The only reason he gets out of the situation with his limbs intact is that neither of them are willing to perpetuate violence in a library.
She keeps researching and ignoring him and growing more and more intriguing by the day, to the point where he actually misses his mouth eating one supper because he's too busy attempting to puzzle out exactly how many strands comprise the lock of hair she's got wrapped around her finger. Sometimes he's distracted for months at a time: the village spirals outward in vine-twining curlicues of growth; new clans settle in the borders. A clan without bloodlines called the Sarutobi press one of their children upon him as a tithe of sorts, and after he spends a sufficient amount of time bemoaning his fate and inhaling Izuna and Toka's tonkatsu, he admits that he sort of likes the brat and they have some inspired bonding sessions spitting watermelon seeds off the top of Madara and Hashirama's faces on the mountain.
Years slip and tumble and he becomes fluent in wanting her, in understanding the brittle consonants of his need and its slow vowels as fluid as nights. In his bow to her at ceremonial events he says everything he would say in a letter if he could be certain it wouldn't end up forgotten between the pages of one of her interminable books. Because he can't cook, he brings her badly done noodles when she stays later than she should, and tells her increasingly worse jokes when her eyes occasionally wander to Hashirama's face as he laughs at something Madara has said. Sometimes whatever he says is so inane she actually turns away and comments on it, and at those times he feels a subtle triumph like being knocked on the shoulder, because it means that sometimes he's distracting to her as well.
In May of her tenth year in Konoha she and Madara get carried away in the course of one of their theoretical discussions and leave the village in search of a bijuu spotted in the border forests. Hashirama frets over them for the entire three weeks they are gone and nearly hyperventilates when they return staggering and covered in blood. Madara is supporting Mito against his shoulder. The moment they cross the limits of Konoha proper she collapses in a dead faint.
"She will live," Madara tells him as he paces madly in front of her room. "You are being absurd, Senju."
"It's your fault," he shouts. "You did it to her, you sacrificed her, and now she's going to—"
"She did it to herself," corrects Madara, disdainful. "And she will live. Considerably changed, perhaps, but she will live."
As it turns out she is not the one who changes. Within weeks of understanding what the word jinchuuriki means Konoha turns nasty overnight; the walls in the red-light district splattered with caricatures of her face, old shinobi clicking tobacco-stained teeth as they criticize her foolishness. The kyuubi itself rages within her and batters her from the inside to within an inch of death. In her cot she sucks in lungfuls of air and retches, wipes her lips dry of its seething chakra until they are chapped and salmon raw. She has endless successions of nightmares and he stays the night with her often as she can, because she is afraid to go sleep and will never tell anyone, but he can see it in the way her eyes grow haunted.
"I should go back," she says sometimes. "I am no longer welcome here."
"I had no idea you were so maudlin," Madara usually tells her dryly, and Hashirama rushes to reassure her that she will always be welcome in his village. One day when Tobirama is accompanying her in the marketplace she simply stops, hand poised over the flushing skin of a peach, and when he casts a glance at her face he is stunned to see that she is crying in great gulping sobs like a very young child. He takes her arm and guides her to a bench, and she hides her face in kimono sleeves and sobs out her anger and frustration and fear. Her basket falls on the ground and the peaches smash in sunny halves around them. A sweet sweet scent, buoyant taste of ripeness. He takes both her hands away from her face and when he sees the small hands scoured with ink stains under the nails the feeling swells and swims, hopeless tenderness in his veins, heart like something golden and soft.
"I cannot rest even for a moment," she says, "I am always awake, watching—watching its fire."
"Then rest now," he tells her, and when he kisses her open palms he knows he has slipped into a newer, stranger language, simultaneously the oldest language in the world. His lips move along her wrist and when she catches hold of his collar he rises to his knees, catches her mouth with his. No further talk of fire, simply the sun on the back of his neck, her closed eyes, the scent of peaches like a rare and glistening heat.
Later he will think that the best part of that day is that she sleeps, for the first time he can remember in months, all the way through the night.
After their wedding, he tells her it's something he'll let her do on occasion—but not often.
In the end Senju Mito's injunctions against mortality are useless; Hashirama is killed under siege abroad just after Izuna's second grandchild is born. Word of the fledgling war comes back to them by courier birds. Madara removes the satchel of ashes sent by Konoha's field agents and allows Tobirama to scatter them as is his prerogative.
The sole remaining Hokage of Konoha directs his Uchiha into battle and wins back the border and tortures one of the instigators of the conflict to death under an exquisitely orchestrated genjutsu, setting an example for the remaining rebels, and when the First Shinobi War has ended and he has nocked his fan back into its display harness at his room above the Hokage Tower, he finally sinks to his knees, places his head against the wall, and grits his teeth against the fact of his friend and lover's death crashing against his ribs like an agitated heart. When he rises again he knows his eyes are dry and his shoulders steady, and he is like a statue cast in wax. An old man softened in peacetime, yet still understanding of the nature of war and its sacrifices. His sightless eyes reflect like a mirror the last time he saw Hashirama; it had been before truce, skin darkened under Indian summer, supporting himself on the branch of a beech tree and backlit by an intensely golden sunlight Madara knows cannot have existed in those early days. Time creates its own illusions, and as he did with his own once, he observes them and lets them pass and waits for the world to turn on its axis until the grief is past.
Once he would have sought vengeance. Once, however, he had never had what he does now—limbs made strong by proper food and back straight without the weight of the kusarigama. Somewhere along the years loving the man who made the village became confused with loving the village itself, and he became wrung dry of his hatred.
It was expected. Hashirama, after all, had never lost a battle for something he wanted.
A year later he goes to visit the jinchuuriki and finds her schooling her small granddaughter in chakra control in the garden of the Senju enclave. He says nothing as he listens to the little girl chatter away, slapping his knee and even catching his hand to help him feel the new fruit on one of the peach trees. When the lesson is over, the girl has bowed, and he hears the sliding door shut behind her, he listens to Mito straighten the deer-chaser next to her bench. A click and the sound of water running; two elderly people they sit there together and reorienting themselves as the garden dies just that little bit around them. Finally he says, "You told me once that the longevity technique was reversible."
"I also told you that it was never a technique," she replies. "It was the same principle as a sealing. You held your life force in check within you, and it would—"
"—sustain you for as long as you wanted."
"That is correct."
She says, "Age, if you must. But this village is still in need of you."
So one night in autumn he releases the life force he has sustained since Hashirama caught him against their mountainside selves and lets himself grow old overnight. He feels his hair greying as it should have the year Konoha was struck by famine and Hashirama had stayed all night in the fields, growing acre upon acre of crops, skin curdle with spots as it should have when he passed his fortieth birthday and Hashirama, who had refused to attempt the longevity seal, had gone fragile as rice paper within weeks, feels his bones bend under the decades-old revelation of Izuna's peaceful death in his sleep—and when he rises to his feet his body is as old as the soul that still burns under his skin. As he lets his fingers fit themselves to Hashirama's walking stick he feels its weight on the floorboards like an hourglass turning over.
Under the guidance of his teacher's wife Tobirama's old pupil grows into a fine shinobi who against expectations strikes up an unlikely friendship with one of his classmates, ultimately presiding at the wedding of the other boy to Izuna's oldest daughter. Madara likes the young man, with his old-world attitude and slavish devotion to the village; he likes the perfect way his cynicism balances Hiruzen's idealism, and when his own hands begin to shake so hard he drops a kunai during a demonstration at the Academy, he decides the time is correct to appoint Sarutobi Hiruzen and Shimura Danzo as the next pair of Konoha's Hokages.
They fight and they plot and they argue so much over policy that Hashirama and Madara's Konoha remains completely static for several decades, which was Madara's precise intent. Konoha's citizens celebrate when the hats eventually pass to Namikaze Minato and Uchiha Mikoto, who are both expecting children when they enter office and as such enact a series of softhearted laws that make Madara scoff—age limits for Academy entrance, qualifying examinations for shinobi decorations.
"The world is changing, ojii-sama!" Mikoto tells him with her smile in her voice, and he mutters and shakes his head and thinks to himself that she sounds like Izuna; she is so like him that it is as if his brother has reached out across the ages to tell Madara that Konoha is in the best of hands, that the hourglass has nearly emptied and his time is nearly over.
But it is yet more years before he believes it fully, cooling a saucer of tea as he listens to Uchiha Itachi's serene voice dictating orders to a disgruntled Uchiha Shisui across the desk that once belonged to the Shodaime. From time to time Itachi replenishes the tea without being asked. They inhabit their comfortable closed space of shuffling papers and the scratch of ink on parchment, and then he tells Itachi that he is a credit to the name of Uchiha and the boy sets his brush down and places one hand deferentially at Madara's sleeve.
"I am honored, ojii-sama," he says, and Madara swats irritatedly at his hand and tells Itachi that there is no need to be maudlin; he simply wanted him to know this before going. Itachi is a different breed of Uchiha than Madara would have envisioned once but the line rings true in him, as Madara can feel, the taut competence of his genjutsu, the cool arrogance that he remembers from his own youth and the strange backwards kindness that he remembers from Izuna's. Only in his old age has he realized how intelligent his brother was, allowing him to lose his greatest weapon so that when the time came he would have no choice but to stay inside Konoha's four walls.
There is some silence, and then Itachi says, "Hold still, ojii-sama."
He tenses when he feels the tsukuyomi take hold with a telltale hitch. Itachi is not as good as it as Izuna was, but perhaps this is fortunate, for when the room bleeds into full color for the first time in decades Madara has time to stifle his astonished gasp. Behind his bandages Itachi slowly paints the Hokage Tower with its walls that have changed only in the pictures that now adorn them, brushes his own form into being soft at the edges so much like Izuna, so much, outside window and the city the Shodaime trapped him inside that somehow he has never wanted to leave, that in the process of growing old has become part of his own body. A blind old man but he sees every inch of it. Drinks it in like distilled sunlight and gazes through the window to the illusory mountainside.
For the first time he sees his face and Hashirama's on the mountain and realizes what his life has been worth.
"I hope it is a credit," says Itachi.
Madara says nothing, but they both know that it is.
Strangely enough, it is the young Uchiha Shisui who becomes Mito's dearest friend after Madara passes away and she is the only one left. The easy chivalry he wears like an adornment reminds her enough of another young man that she finds his presence reassuring, and he has inherited his kinsman's skill with scholarship. They discuss chakra control and seals and when he shows her the mindbend that he has developed himself, she is proud enough to nod and tell him that he has done well.
Like Madara she has allowed herself to age in graduated increments. Many things about Konoha have changed since their conversation in the garden: she turns off an electric light before she goes to sleep instead of a kerosene lamp; she buys peaches in an air-conditioned convenience store instead of the old marketplace where Tobirama kissed her. At the helm of the Uchiha clan Shisui discusses radical ideas: outlawing clan compounds and building integrated neighborhoods, encouraging intermarriage until the bloodlines have been completely negated by genetics. Mito shakes her head and hides her smile and thinks that Uchiha Izuna would have been pleased.
The frontier as she once knew it has not vanished, simply changed as Madara once said it would, children still trying to find their places. Uzumaki Kushina, sent from Uzushiogakure to take the kyuubi when Mito's time is finished, suggests the transfer multiple times until she is too old for it to work successfully, and her son encourages Mito to consider him instead.
"Come on, obaa-chan," he wheedles, casting imploring looks up at her over a bowl of the instant noodles they both love and no one else can really stand. She makes a gesture at his bulging cheeks and he rolls his eyes and slurps a noodle into his mouth exaggeratedly.
"I'd be a really good jinchuuriki," he says excitedly. "Seriously, everyone says so. And I wouldn't mind if—you know. If anyone gave me shit about it."
"Language, Naruto," says Mito. "And I never doubted that you would."
Still she hesitates and then one night she gets out her monocle and the old notes she made with Madara, who had always known more than any person living about the control of bijuu. She scans his spidery and curt sentences until she finds what she is looking for—beast will die if the jinchuuriki dies first—and then she summons Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Shisui to her one day sitting out in her garden and listening to the deer-chaser click. As his ancestor would have done Itachi is silent and coolly respectful as Shisui begins to swear, and when he takes her hand with his typical courtesy she is grateful for the shinobi within them both that knows to hold grief at arm's length until after the fact.
"I would like to request something from you," she tells Shisui. "Your mindbending should serve very well for the purpose."
Shisui is white-lipped and angry but he nods, because his best friend is looking at him with the Hokage's eyes large and serious in his face. Mito smiles at them both.
Then she reaches for one of the seal tags in her hair and unties it. As it drops she is suddenly too old to bear it; a crone, a relic of the distant past. When the other tag joins it on the ground she is unable to keep herself from falling forward. As it realizes what she is doing the kyuubi roars within her, writhing and trying vainly to fill her body with chakra, but she is a seal expert and has always been able to control her own life force.
Never again, she says. You will never again menace the world we made.
"Shisui-kun," she says out loud. "Please—"
And Shisui eyes filled with tears twists her consciousness as gently as he can until she feels her mind pulled free of its moorings. His technique takes hold, filling her consciousness with a kaleidescope of images before she dies.
She is seventeen years old and coming to what was not yet Konoha for the first time, entering the Senju compound with a satchel full of seal tags, heart beating faster at the sight of the kind-faced dark man who grew trees and futures with equal , escorted blithely around the compound by the boy she had not known then would become her future husband. She sees Madara for the first time and trades cool glances with him as an adversary and later as an ally, she evaluates Uchiha Izuna over the papers for truce. With the soul of an old woman she looks out through her young blue eyes, and she knows she can tell that young woman with all certainty that her life will be exactly what she wants it to be.
The kyuubi implodes into itself disappearing leaving her insides clean and free for a moment. Ultimately it is as only herself that she closes her eyes, clutches at the grass of her garden, and claims her long-awaited rest.