Disclaimer: Naruto and every character of the Naruto universe belongs to Kishimoto Masashi and companies I don't know.

Applause goes for my precious beta reader and friend: Duesal Bladesinger and also a big thank you for the Awesome Authors Coalition members.

Original upload date: 13th of August 2017

Last update:

Chance for a Prophecy

Chapter 35. – Chance for a Prophecy

A harsh, bloodcurdling roar ripped through the air, shaking the rocks and churning the shallow water with its sheer force. Ivory spears so huge they dwarfed houses flung upward to smash down and dig into the earth where a woman with flaming red hair lay helplessly. Only a moment before the claws could pierce her, a flash of gold appeared in front of her to snatch her away from certain death.

Time slowed as Minato grabbed his exhausted wife's shoulder, fingers biting into her flesh as he hauled her off the ground. He stared up at the approaching claws, noting their rough surface, the deep slashes that scarred them, each gash deeper than his own head, the tips still as sharp as needles. Chakra flickered in his gut, and he was about to teleport away when there was another flash of gold. He dimly realized that the enormous claws had stopped mere moments before they would have skewered them both.

He blinked, glancing down at his wife, then up at the blazing silhouette suddenly in front of him.

It was a young man with hair that moved like fire, his entire body wreathed in golden light, a coat made of the same brilliant gold flipped over his shoulder. Minato blinked again and realized in a haze that it was all pure chakra, denser than anything he could even imagine. And it showed. What power… The young man was holding back the Kyuubi's wrath with a single raised arm. With a small movement of the hand, the Kyuubi was forced back, its body plugging a straight line into the landscape, devastating miles of the thick woods.

The demon leaped back to its feet in an instant, but then, to Minato's utter bafflement, the ground flashed in gold under the fox and it was frozen in place.

The stranger held up one of his fingers and shook it like he was simply scolding the Kyuubi for bad behavior. "Down!" he barked, and Minato watched with wide eyes as several giant torii gates appeared. They slammed against the Kyuubi, pinning all of its limbs, the ground shaking as its body was smashed down.

"Good boy. Now wake up, Kurama." A flick of the man's fingers, another flash of gold under the bijuu, and the burning red hellfire of the fox's eyes dimmed even as the sea of killing intent surrounding it paused, almost in confusion. The whirling tomoes surrounding its pupils first slowed, then faded away. The fox blinked, its eyes widened in surprise before they locked on the stranger. It let out a snarl and thrashed against its bindings, but the seal held him tight. After one more violent try, the fox gave up.

"Now, back to business," the stranger muttered, and finally turning around to face them.

Minato observed the man suspiciously. Thick whisker-like marks were on the stranger's cheeks. His eyes were burnished with crossed pupils, and red coloring around his eyes coupled with what Minato knew was nature chakra heralded him as a genuine sage.

The boy nervously shifted from foot to foot under his scrutiny, then seemed to steady himself and sent a wide grin to him and Kushina. The red marking around his eyes faded away, the golden flames flickered around him slower and slower until they gradually died out almost completely, only a single golden flame left lazily swirling on the boy's shoulder.

Minato took a moment to observe him. A young man, maybe around eighteen. His hair was blond and spiky, and now that they weren't red with crossed pupils, his eyes were azure like a clear sky. The strange marks on his cheeks hadn't vanished completely with his transformation, but faded into thin lines. A familiar cloak with black flame patterns on the edge was draped above an orange and black jumpsuit. To Minato's complete shock, the insignia of Konoha was proudly engraved on the boy's forehead protector. He furrowed his brow. He was sure that he'd never seen him before.

The boy shifted his hands and Minato's eyes darted toward the small motion in alarm. He held a small, white bundle in one of his hands he wasn't aware of until now. Something stirred under the white cover, and a displeased cry warbled through the air, echoing amongst the cliffs.

The boy glanced down at his arms and slowly started to soothe the small bundle, gently murmuring into the soft textile. Kushina immediately stiffened, her eyes going wide in horrified realization. She let out a choked sound, shoved Minato's arm away, and lunged forward in a desperate gambit. "Naruto! Give him back! Don't hurt him!"

There was a moment when his breath was stolen away, a moment when Minato simply couldn't comprehend the situation, but then came the understanding, and with it a burning resolve. He blurred into action, one of his kunai in a reverse grip. In the span of a heartbeat he was next to the man, slamming his weapon toward the surprised boy who clumsily jumped back to avoid the attack.

"Minato!" The stranger's voice was surprised, even irritated. Kunai glinted once more, biting into empty air and forcing the outsider to jump back again.

"Give! Him! Back!" Minato snarled, each syllable brimming with sheer rage. He took aim towards the man, while carefully avoiding his infant son.

The boy jumped above the Hokage and landed gracefully next to Kushina, holding out one hand defensively. That proved to be a mistake. Kushina didn't even hesitate, even after having given birth and being separated from the Kyuubi. She launched herself forward and reached for her baby in the boy's hand, but he simply took a step to the side to avoid her.

"Calm down, damn it! I won't hurt him, dattebayo!" the boy yelled, raising his hand higher while holding the crying bundle closer to his body with the other.

Minato paused, chest heaving, and squeezed the kunai in his hand until his knuckles turned white. They stared at each other for a while, anticipation dancing in the air. The boy still weaponless, his chakra restless, but he wasn't building up a technique. He wasn't trying to attack them.

Minato's muscles tensed as he made ready to jump again when the boy slowly crouched down in front of Kushina. He hadn't looked away from him, his hand still raised to ward away their attacks. Finally, his eyes darted down to the baby again, then to Kushina, and another dose of adrenalin rushed over Minato when the boy shifted Naruto in his arm. The stranger noticed it and stopped his motion, unmistakable annoyance flashing across his features. "Calm down, okay? I told you I won't hurt him."

The boy hadn't moved, hadn't twitched, at least not until Minato slowly nodded, eyes still sharp, chakra waiting in his gut for the slightest trigger.

The boy observed him for another moment, then slowly handed over the small bundle to Kushina. She let out a relieved sob when her arms finally locked around her newborn son.

"Geez, see? I won't hurt you. I'm here to help." The boy raised his hands above his head, showing the universal sign of surrender.

Minato didn't relax, his eyes darting between his wife, the stranger and his son. When he found his child unharmed his gaze shifted back to the stranger.

The boy shifted under his gaze and slowly waved a hand at Kushina. "If Kushina doesn't get help she's gonna die. I'm gonna help her, okay?"

Minato considered the offer before narrowing his eyes, nodding once. He tensed when the stranger slowly moved to touch his wife who flinched at the contact. Her eyes widened with a gasp, and Minato saw an influx of chakra surge into her body, filling her emptied coils. Kushina blinked in surprise, then slowly sat up, her hands still folded protectively around her small baby.

"Here, this will help with the damage you took from the extraction. You're an Uzumaki, you'll be alright in no time. I promise." The boy flashed her an encouraging grin and gradually straightened himself.

Minato finally let himself relax a bit, but still kept himself ready to fight on command. His voice threateningly boomed at the stranger, carrying clearly through the air. "Who are you?"

The boy tilted his head, glancing over Minato, then at the Kyuubi in the background and a wide foxy grin stretched across his face. He opened his mouth to answer, but paused like the air was stuck in his windpipe. His muscles tensed and his grin melted away from his face. His eyes seemed to darken from azure to royal blue. A second later he closed his mouth and his brow furrowed in worry.

He turned away and ignored Minato's question, leaving it hanging in the air awkwardly. The small flame grew restless on his shoulder, blazing left and right, expanding over his frame until his golden cloak was back again. "The Moon's Eye plan won't succeed," he snarled into the darkness.

Minato narrowed his eyes and turned toward the empty shadows as he looked for the one the boy was talking to. For a long and tense moment nothing happened. Finally, something stirred inside the darkness, then a burning crimson spot appeared. A pale gray mask took shape next with black tiger mark pattern, its only visible eyehole illuminated by the sinister red light of a sharingan.

Finally the figure slowly stepped out of the shadows, and Minato's eyes flashed with anger.

The masked man slowly tilted his head to the side, one brilliant red eye observing the stranger carefully. They stared at each other for a long moment before the man hummed. "You are powerful. You managed to free the nine tails from me, and even subdued it." Minato didn't need to see them to know the man's brows furrowed under his mask. "Who are you?"

Minato glanced between the boy and the newcomer. As much as he'd have liked to know the answer, he already knew two things: the boy had saved Kushina, and the masked man had done his best to murder her. A muscle tensed inside his stomach, chakra flickered, and in an instant he was in front of his wife and shoulder-to-shoulder with the boy. He made the decision without hesitation. It was an easy choice to make. Easy, but risky.

The boy made a sidelong glance at him, then his attention fixed back on the masked man. "You've been lurking for a year, completely duped by that dumbass plan." He slowly shook his head and let out a sigh. "Madara lied to you. The Moon's Eye plan will enslave the world, not bring true peace."

Minato blinked at that. "Madara? But he's been dead for decades. And what's the Moon's Eye plan?"

The boy shook his head again. "He is now, but not because he was killed by the First Hokage. He died of old age, just less than a year ago. Isn't that right, Uchiha? Should I call you by your given name? Or you would just prefer Tobi?" The boy's stare hardened, and the masked man narrowed his visible eye in response.

"Who are you?" The Uchiha, or Tobi as he was supposedly called, demanded again, his voice cold and harsh.

"I'm here to save you," the boy answered.

Minato blinked. Had he heard that right? It seemed their opponent was just as confused by the way he tilted his head to the side. "Save me? Save me from what?"

"From yourself." Silence fell among them, not even nature daring to make any noise. "It's still not too late for you. You don't have to be his tool." The boy's voice was sad, almost pleading.

Tobi tensed his muscles, his visible eye flashing with anger. "Tool? I'm the savior, the one who will bring real peace to this cursed land, not a tool!" he hissed.

"Savior?" the boy repeated, shaking his head. "No. You're not. You want to run away from reality to dream of what you've lost. You're a coward, not a savior. Nothing can bring her back. It would never be real. You're lying to yourself, and in the end you'll realize that it was all for nothing. But you can stop now, before there's more blood on your hands."

"I don't care," Tobi snarled. "I don't care about this world anymore!"

The boy silently observed the masked man's heaving chest. He was an island of serenity in the chaotic atmosphere all around them. "I think you still care."

"Why should I care?! She's dead!" Tobi shouted, waving his arms and taking a threatening step forward.

"She's still alive inside you. You've still got a lot of people who care for you, for her memory. If you worship an idealized version of her, you'll kill her real memory. Savior?" The boy snorted. "Give me a break."

"I am the savior! I will change the fate of this word!" Tobi snarled, his entire bearing dripping with palpable rage.

The young man tilted his head to the side, a wondering expression on his face. He eyed the masked Uchiha for some time before speaking again. "Do you want to see what you'll change if you keep going? Because I've seen it. And that's definitely not what she would have wanted."

The masked man narrowed his eyes behind the mask, while the boy raised one of his hands as he continued. "I can show you what you'llbecome. I can show you what the world will become. I can show this destiny you're so stupidly chasing."

Minato sensed chakra swelling within the boy, massive amounts that dwarfed his own reserves and seemed closer to a Tailed Beast than a human, but no technique was unleashed, no handsigns were weaved. The chakra stalled in the boy's gut, waiting for the slightest command to be unleashed. Minato shifted closer to his family, his eyes still fixed on the masked man.

Tobi let out a snort. "Whatever you show me would be only mere illusion. My eye is sharper than yours. It sees more than yours ever could."

The boy let out a sour chuckle. "I've already heard that from someone. From a blind Uchiha. Someone who was blinded by vengeance and hate. Someone who, in the end, decided to sacrifice his life for me, for the world. For real peace." A bittersweet smile appeared on his face, and a soft, out of place chuckle slipped between his lips while he slowly shook his head. He finally raised his eyes again. "Do you want to see?"

"No." Tobi narrowed his eye and raised his arms threateningly, hands primed and ready for a jutsu.

A bitter grin appeared on the boy's face. "That's not an option."

Minato blinked and the boy was gone, faster than even he could track. Minato spotted him again, standing directly in front of the Uchiha, one finger touching his forehead at the thin line between his hair and the mask. Even from this distance Minato could feel the chakra the boy had gathered in his gut was released all at once, every last drop channeled straight into the masked man.

The world around them suddenly stopped. Everything froze.

"Minato," Kushina murmured in a low voice, and he felt as a warm hand grabbing his trousers loosely. He risked a glance down at Kushina who was watching the exchange with wide eyes, their infant son carefully tucked in her arms, seemingly asleep.

Chakra surged, and Minato whipped his head back. But none of them moved.

The Kage narrowed his eyes and took an unsteady step toward the two, Kushina's hand holding onto him, then her warm hand slipped down on his legs. In the next second the boy dropped his arm and the masked man took a wobbling step backward. His only visible eye was wide, locked on to the stranger in front of him, then snapped to the small bundle burrowed in Kushina's hands. Minato immediately positioned himself between his wife and the masked man, making himself a physical barrier against the threat to his family.

The man's arm shakily rose to grab at his own temple, his eye darting over Minato and Kushina, then back at the boy, only to look back at their baby until his gaze finally settled again on the blond boy. "What—What have you…" he choked. "What are you?"

A grimace spread across the boy face. "Hey, that was rude, ya know." He paused, the grimace slipping into a determined expression. "You know who I am now. So? Did you like what you saw?"

The Uchiha took a threatening step forward, hands curling into tight fists, chest heaving. "Shut the hell up! That was just an illusion! Nothing more! No one has that kind of power!"

The stranger tilted his head to the side. "You really think so? Didn't you feel it? Didn't you feel me? Didn't you feel what I felt? Can your strongest genjutsu do that?" Tobi suddenly froze, and the boy continued. "That was my entire life, all of it stuffed into a minute. Could you feel the pain you caused? Did you see the destruction and chaos at your hands, the deserted lands? You had ruined my life. You murdered my parents, my sensei, my friends, my comrades, countless innocent men, women, and children, all in the name of peace." The words were heavy and harsh, but the boy's voice was calm, caring without even a hint of anger.

"Why did you show me that?" Tobi choked out.

"Because I know I can still save you. You're still not as far gone as you were back then." The boy took a hesitant step toward the masked man. "You can be the savior you think you are. You can save those lives, you can save their future. But you have to accept reality. Accept what you've lost. This is the only way she can live on inside you, and not have her memory defiled while you hide in a dream world."

The masked man hesitated for a second, his eyes softened for a moment, pleading. "If that is the truth, if you have the power, then go back…" His voice died in a plea. "Save her."

"I want to, but I can't. I'm sorry." The boy's voice was sad, almost painful in its sincerity.

"Why?" Tobi's voice was low, broken and lost.

The boy ran a hand through his messy hair and let out a sigh. "I'm limited by my own existence. I wasn't born back then, so I can't go that far no matter how much I want to. If I could, I would go back to save her, save Yahiko, and even save you so you wouldn't meet Madara, but I can't. But I can still save you here and now, before you go further into the darkness. As you are right now, I can still forgive you. You can be a hero."

Minato let out a furious hiss, his nostrils flaring, his patience gone. This Tobi had nearly murdered Kushina, threatened his newborn son, killed those who helped and guarded them during the birth, and the boy was talking about forgiveness?!

"What the hell are you talking about?!" he snarled, his eyes fixed in a glacial stare. "Do you have any idea how many deaths he's been responsible for today?"

He stepped forward, fully intending to finish the fight this time, but the young boy raised a hand in front of Minato's chest to stop him. "I know exactly, what he has done, but please don't interfere."

Minato shot a disapproving glare at the boy, grabbing the extended arm and pushing it away from his chest, but not before a tiny seal etched itself on the boy's skin. "He isn't a hero! He never will be!" the Kage growled, and to Minato's surprise the Uchiha flinched, eyes nervously darting over him. And he could see. He could see the shards of regret, the hurt in the ink-black eye. The masked man took an unsteady step backward, then one more until he gained some space and reached one of the enormous rocks.

The boy glanced down at his arm, then at Minato knowingly and winked. He suddenly froze. A golden flame flickered on the boy's shoulder and he narrowed his eyes. "Zetsu," he hissed into the empty space.

A shadow twitched under the surface of the shallow water, and a strange creature emerged from the cliff next to the masked man. It was shaped like a man, but one half was the darkest black, and the other half was sickly pale. It was obviously not human, especially given the plant-like appendages that reminded Minato of a venus fly trap. It glanced at the Uchiha, then back at the small group, as though silently weighing its odds. After a moment of consideration it slowly nodded. "We should retreat. We won't have a chance against him. The Kyuubi is under his influence now. We'll get it later," his voice crackled.

The boy clicked his tongue in clear disagreement. "You know I can't let you go. And didn't your bastard father tell you that it's rude to interrupt if someone's still speaking?" He smirked, a cheeky grin stretching its way across his face. "Right, Aloe Vera?"

"Aloe Vera?" the creature repeated, his head tilting to one side. The cheeky smirk had vanished from the boy's face, replaced by a serious look as he turned back to the Uchiha. "So, what's your answer?"

The masked man hesitated for a long second and glanced down at his unnatural companion, like he was waiting for his help and advice. The creature didn't even spare him a glance, instead observing the boy in front of them with narrowed eyes. "True peace is nearly in our grasp," it said. "Don't let him manipulate you."

A harsh snort bubbled out from the boy's mouth. "Manipulate him? Me?" He snorted once more before continuing, his voice serious again as he addressed the masked Uchiha. "You were locked up for months. You struggled to get out and go back home, but they wouldn't let you go. Have you ever wondered why, all of a sudden, you were able to simply leave that cave? They even gave you a body to get there just in time to witness her death. Have you ever wondered about how convenient that was? Isn't it suspicious?"

The masked man froze at the words; tension gathered around him so thick it was almost touchable.

The boy continued, "Think about it. The former Uchiha leader who fled from the word, faked his own death, and hates his clan, suddenly became sentimental, saved you, healed you, fed you and trained you? You? Why would he do that?" He paused, waiting for his words to sink in. "I know. He was old and weak and he needed someone to inherit his will. You were manipulated and used all this time. You were used as a mere tool, like some throwaway pawn on a shogi board."

The boy extended his hand and held it there, waiting for the Uchiha to accept it. "I can save you from that."

The edge of the plant man's-Zetsu's-mouth twitched in displeasure as he glanced up at the unsteady Uchiha. "Remember our goal. Your goal. A world where everyone would be happy. Where you would be happy. You would be able to see her again. You would be able to touch her again. I know you still see her when you're dreaming. You call for her."

Nothing happened for a long silent minute. The boy drew in a shaky breath when Tobi took an unsteady step forward, then another more confident one, then another and another until they were face to face. Minato's muscles tensed, and a kunai flickered to his hand.

The boy didn't move from his spot, his hand still raised. Was it because of his naivety, or was it because of his confidence? Or maybe it was plain stupidity? Minato didn't know, but he knew one thing for sure. Something was going to happen; it could be good or bad, but it would happen.

The Uchiha slowly raised his own hand and grabbed the boy's. His grip was loose for a second before a snarl escaped the mask, crimson red pinwheel whirling and glinting with a sudden rage. His hold hardened into a painful grip, making the boy wince in surprised pain.

Minato gripped the kunai tighter, ready to strike, but wooden vines exploded out from the soil, forcing him to jump away. He retreated back to his wife, kunai still raised. From the edge of his vision he saw as the masked man snarled and yanked the boy toward him.

Three golden clones poofed into existence, one bolting toward Zetsu to engage him in a fight, another settling down next to Minato and Kushina, watching the exchange with a worried expression. The third took a step toward his original to aid him, only to freeze in motion for a second then suddenly turn around and bolt into the woods. The original let out a snarl, "Hey! Where are ya going?!" But no answer came. He clicked his tongue in displeasure. "Stupid fox."

A kunai went straight toward the original's neck and he yelped in surprise, but stopped it easily, grabbing the hand that held it in an iron grip, . He didn't move otherwise, his fingers curled around the Uchiha's, his eyes determinedly locked with the crimson pinwheel shining with annoyance. "I know you. I know what you've had to go through. We're alike. The people important to you died and you're lonely. And this scares you," the boy said in a hushed tone. "I know your dream was once to become Hokage. You wanted someone to acknowledge you." The boy exhaled tiredly then shook it off, his eyes hardening, his brow furrowed into one thin line as he snapped, "But look at you now!"

"Let me go," the Uchiha snarled, yanking his arm to free himself. But there wasn't real force behind the motion, and the boy didn't comply. He kept his hands tight on him and leaned even further.

"No one, not even the people important to you, would ever acknowledge the madness you're chasing right now! You're abandoning everything and running away! Nothing a real Kage would do!"

The boy finally loosened his fingers, and Tobi slipped out of his grasp and jumped backward. He nursed one of his joints and stared at the boy. Minato could see again the faint unsteadiness in his posture and the shards of realdoubt in his eye. Not anger or hatred, but doubt.

It wasn't clearly visible, but it was more than enough for Minato to know that the boy achieved something important. He wasn't able to shatter and change Tobi's conviction, but he was able to shake the base of it. A little bit more and it would lose balance, crumbling entirely.

Tobi narrowed his eye under the mask. "I'm doing exactly what a Kage would do, but I have the guts to go even further. A Kage's goal should be to bring peace to their village. I'm bringing peace to the whole shinobi world, erasing everyone's pain with the Infinite Tsukuyomi."

The boy frowned, his eyes narrowing in immediate disapproval. "That's bullshit. A real Kage would never choose this kind of shortcut. A real Kage would walk in front of everyone, enduring the pain, breaking through dead ends, and guide everyone to real peace, not running away in a dream word."

A clone joined the boy's side, breaking the conversation, a small opened scroll fluttering in his hands. Minato traced back the clones sight and found it locked on the plant man who was jerking on the ground, fighting against the inky blackness binding his body. Most of his white half was shrouded by an ink black pattern, connected to the scroll by a thin ebony line. The clone pumped more chakra into the seal, and the string instantly twitched and continued dragging the bounded body toward the container seal with renewed force.

The boy jerked a finger at Zetsu. "Go ahead. Ask him how they knew she was in trouble. Ask him why he never helped her. Why he lured you out."

Zetsu started to thrash more violently against the bindings, but it was a lost cause. He tore one string and two grew in its place, lashing around him as they forcibly held him in place. The plant man stilled. An eye flickered up to the masked man, observing him, silently waiting for his next move as if expecting him to help, to aid him like he did before. But Tobi hesitated and didn't move. They stared at each other, the crimson eye shining with a newfound suspicion. Tobi tilted his head, hesitating for a brief moment before breaking the silence with a question. "Is it true?"

Zetsu voice was raspy and alien, knifing through the silence. "Do you believe the words of our enemy? He stands against our goal. If you stumble, you will never see her again."

The Uchiha didn't answer or even move. He silently watched as Zetsu was dragged further and further toward the seal before averting his gaze and glancing at Minato.

Zetsu narrowed his eyes when Tobi didn't even look at him, instead keeping his eye fixed on Minato and the boy. Its black and white face searched Tobi's form with a frown, and when he found what he was looking for he let out a sigh. "You fool," he hissed. "I'd prepared for this moment, but I thought it would be decades later." He let out another disappointed sigh and the black half flinched, but not together with the rest of its body... more like a second skin draped over it. To Minato's horror it melted away from the motionless white carrier and wriggled its way toward the Uchiha.

Tobi took a step backward in pure surprise, but he was too late. The blackness hurled toward him and connected with a loud splash. He cried out not in pain, but in horror, and stumbled backward as the blackness overwhelmed half of his body, slithering over him like something right out of a horror story.

Black strings snapped to life and pierced through his skin while everybody stood there completely motionless. Only the boy's eyes widened when Tobi howled as the twines burrowed into his chakra coils, then the man dropped on his knees, arms clutching his head. Only his harsh breathing and low whimpers echoed inside the clearing. Minato made a glance at the stunned clone and his wife and jumped forward alongside the original boy.

"No!" the boy exclaimed when he landed, his chest heaving with worry as he slowly inched toward the hunched form.

Minato narrowed his eyes and stopped the boy from getting too close by placing an arm against his chest. In that same moment, Tobi shook himself and awkwardly, lopsidedly straightened like an invisible weight was pulling down the right side of his body.

He finally raised his head and the boy's eyes widened. Tobi's face was still shrouded by his mask, but the only visible eye didn't shine with awareness. It was blank, foggy, and dead.

"What the... what are you?" Minato exhaled, his voice unsteady as he took a step backward, arm slipping down from the boy's chest.

"What have you done to him?!" the boy shouted, fists clenched at his side.

Zetsu's raspy voice echoed in the clearing. "He is not here anymore. His body is mine now. I am Madara's will. I will eliminate whoever stands in his way. You and Namikaze will be next." Zetsu's face scrunched up in a grin. "The Moon's Eye plan will succeed with or without him. Madara only needs his body anyway, so throwing out his consciousness wasn't something he wouldn't approve. You were right. He's always been nothing more than an expendable pawn in this game—" Zetsu's borrowed mouth froze, and his hand rose shakily by a mere inch.

"How are you able to…" Zetsu snarled.

"I a—am not a p—pawn…" Tobi stuttered, eyes sharpening as he flung himself toward the boy. "Whatever you're planning, do it now!" he shouted, this time with power and the blonde flinched a step back, gritting his teeth.

"But I can't! I don't want it to happen this way!" the boy shouted back, but still fished out a small scroll from one of his pouch.

"Do it now, or—" And just like that he was gone again, his eyes dimming. The body darted toward the boy who jumped backward to avoid the direct hit.

"Get a hold of yourself!" he shouted at Tobi who launched at him again, then froze, Zetsu's black form flinching on it, then suddenly melting from his body.

It snaked in the shallow water, turned sharply, and lunged at Minato. The Kage was about to release the chakra he was holding in his gut for a hiraishin when a sharp pain tore through his legs. He swept his eyes down, eyes widening at one of Zetsu's tendrils piercing through his leg. He fished a kunai from his pouch, raising it toward the hurling black entity still aiming for him.

The Kage didn't have time to blink nor slash down with his weapon. A body appeared between him and the attack. Zetsu didn't stop. He pierced through Tobi's chest, expanding from the body, stopping a breath away from skewering him.

Minato didn't hesitate. A rasengan roared to life between his fingers and he thrusted it forward even as he spun around his former enemy who had shielded him, hitting the black blob with a squealing sound. He blinked and the boy was next to him with a flash of gold, the long scroll flipping behind him. Minato glanced down at the huge pattern, but couldn't recognize it. It was a kind of container seal for sure, similar to the one the boy had previously used.

Golden chakra flared and the seal pulsed like a beating heart. The ink jumped out of the paper like distilled light given form, as Zetsu lunged out of the pierced chest, tearing out from Minato's leg with the same motion.

The golden ink whirled around Zetsu, ensnaring it entirely and sucking it back into the paper with a frustrated wail, and the seal immediately swirled closed. The seal tag oozed a thin line of smoke, then everything fell silent.

Minato grunted in pain, grabbing his injured leg immediately. He heard the shallow water splashing around him as the Uchiha fell to his knees next to him, one hand grabbing his white coat, seeking support. He shook it off, flinching several steps back, eyes wide with surprise. He swept his coat where the Uchiha grabbed it, like the touch was infectious, but released it in disgust as soon his fingers touched something wet. He raised his hand, his fingertips stained red from blood, but not his. His felt his own slowly trailing along his shin, disgustingly sticky, but still pleasantly warm as it was snaking between his cold toes. His gaze wandered down his coat, dimly noting his side painted in flaming crimson where the Uchiha touched him.

Minato stared up into the lonely eye, held the contact for a long unnerving second, then his gaze traveled down onto the lacerated chest. It heaved unstoppably, oozing thick blood and spilling onto the already dark water.

A gurgle echoed, and Minato raised his head toward it, staring into an eye flitting between black and crimson. It finally settled on ebony after the sharingan flared one final farewell to the world, and the figure stumbled into the shallow water.

The Kage was pushed over when the boy had rushed over the prone Uchiha. The golden flames that had surrounded him were gone, revealing his real clothes underneath. "No, this shouldn't end like this," the boy mumbled as he collapsed on his knees next to Tobi.

"It's… It's okay. I'll finally see her again." Shaking hands rose and grasped the worn textile of the stranger's cloak, one visible dark eye watched back pleadingly behind the cracked mask. "Don't… let them… know," Tobi choked out. His voice was weak, barely enough to call it a whisper, but the boy nodded.

"I won't," he whispered back.

The obsidian eye shined once more with gratitude, then its inner light had faded and the man was gone.

The boy let out a sigh and slowly straightened himself, taking a step back. In the next second his chakra flared again, hands dancing through a series of handsigns, and the corpse was bathed in an inferno, flames eating away the evidence of his existence in mere seconds. By the time they died out, only fine black ash remained.

The boy let out a weary sigh and ran his hands through his hair before he finally turned around to face the Hokage. There was a small ruffle behind Minato. He didn't have to turn around to know Kushina had finally gathered the strength to stumble next to them with the help of the clone that had been guarding her. He turned anyway, folding his arm around Kushina's waist when she faltered. When the clone was sure Kushina won't fail, it gave her a small reassuring nod and popped out of existence.

The boy eyed them for some time, a warm smile replacing the sadness on his face when his eyes fell onto the small crying bundle in Kushina's caring arms. He took a hesitant step toward them, but he immediately stopped at Minato's stern voice. "An explanation, now," he demanded. "Who were they?"

The boy's face soured. "The Aloe Vera was called Zetsu. He was some kind of clone or whatever you wanna call it of Uchiha Madara. The real Uchiha Madara. As for the man in the mask, he may have been misled, but in the end he was a hero."

Minato stared in disbelief and anger. "He was a hero? He killed people from my own village!" he snapped, every bit of anger rising to the surface in an instant, boiling white-hot in his heart. "He ripped the Kyuubi from my wife and left her for dead, he tried to kill me and my infant son, and you're saying he's a hero?!"

The boy tiredly closed his eyes, then opened them. "Yes. Despite everything, he is. With his last actions he saved countless lives. Let him rest as a hero." A sad smile appeared the boy's face and he opened his mouth to say more, but he was silenced by Minato's demanding gaze.

"Who are you?" the kage asked, pushing all of his authority into the question.

The boy blinked, clearly musing on just how to answer that question, then shrugged carelessly as a wide smile stretched across his face. "Konoha's Number One Unpredictable Hyperactive Knucklehead Ninja, the one and only Uzumaki Naruto, dattebayo! The Rokudaime Hokage, the previous jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, and the present jinchuuriki of..." He trailed off. "… Well, of all of the others. And I'm… I'm your son. That's me right there." He pointed toward the bundle in Kushina's arms.

His only answer was silence and a raised eyebrow from the Fourth Hokage.

His wide smile faltered into a sheepish grin as he scratched the back of his head awkwardly, clearly not knowing what else to say. Minato held his hand in front of Kushina, who tried to take a step forward. The Kage narrowed his eyes, deciding to humor the boy for the moment. "How?"

The boy blinked, almost as though he hadn't expected the chance to explain himself, then folded his arms in front of his chest and tapped his chin. "Well, first of all everything basically went to hell with the war against a zombie army. Then there was the ten-tailed monster, a resurrected Uchiha clan head with with an evil master plan, and this whole mess to seal them away, only that bastard got me with the sharingan and forced me to live through a whole year with you two in a genjutsu that was smooshed into minutes of time in the real world, but I finally broke out of it, then I got rid of that damn Uchiha Madara with the shiki fuin, then that weirdo super-gramps appeared with the rinnegan, then he sealed all of the bijuus inside me and with their help, I traveled back in time to prevent all of this mess from happening in the first place…" He sucked in a breath and glanced up at Minato, unfolding his arms to scratch the back of his head sheepishly. "So yeah, something like that in short."

Minato only observed the young man in front of him silently, his guarded expression carefully not giving anything away. "Ten-tailed monster?" he repeated. "Zombies? Time travel?" The boy shrugged helplessly, and the village leader couldn't stop himself from bursting out in laughter. All of his gathered stress and tension exploded from his body in the next ten seconds, earning a confused look from Kushina and an indignant pout from the boy.

"What's so funny?" The boy demanded petulantly, folding his arms in front of his chest, slightly turned away from him.

Minato's face mirrored nothing more than sheer disbelief, but the analytical part of him couldn't help but notice the sudden change in the boy's behavior. In one minute he was dead-serious with an air of power that rivaled any kage, then in the next he sulked like a small child. Minato finally gathered himself and shook his head to clear away his thoughts. "You can't be serious," he chuckled. "That's just insane."

The boy's pout deepened, then turned into a wide and foxy grin. "You don't believe me? What if I showed it to you? I got this cool memory transfer jutsu, like Inoichi-ojisan. I got it from Ino's mind barrier, you know."

Minato frowned, but Kushina couldn't restrain herself any more and stepped forward. "Back then when you healed me, I felt—I felt the Kyuubi's chakra in you. You gave the Kyuubi's chakra to me."

The boy nodded with a small smile on his face and tapped his abdomen, right above his navel. "Yeah. Kurama's also sealed inside me with the other eight bijuu."

Kushina cocked her head to the side, her eyes shined with curiosity and confusion. "Kurama?"

"Yeah. That's his name." He nodded as though they were discussing weather.

"It has a name?" Kushina asked incredulously.

The boy's eyes narrowed just a bit, but not enough to be hostile. "Kurama's a him. And yeah. All the nine bijuu have names." The blond raised his hands and counted his fingers as he talked. "The one tails is called Shukaku, the two tails is Matatabi, then comes Isobu, Son Gokū, Kokuō, Saiken, Chōmei, Gyūki and finally Kurama as the nine tails."

They stared at each other for some time and the boy watched with concern when Kushina visibly gathered herself, swaying a little on her feet. Minato grabbed her arm to steady her, but she easily shook off his hand and started to walk toward the boy. She finally stopped only a few feet from him. Her eyes shifted down to the sleepy gaze of her newborn son, to his impossibly tiny features, then to the whisker marks on his chubby cheeks. Naruto hadn't moved an inch, but his mouth had curved into a smile.

Kushina hesitantly raised her hand, her graceful fingers slowly closing the distance between her and the whisker marked cheeks. The boy slowly closed his eyes, the tension from his shoulder disappearing as soon she made contact.

Minato watched the exchange with a wide eyes, his shoulder slightly tensing when the boy gently took hold of Kushina's small hand and pressed it against his cheek, leaning into her palm.

"You're really Naruto?" Her voice was warm, Minato realized, just like the first sunbeams on a cold morning.

The boy parted his lips, but his voice almost failed him. It wasn't quite enough to be called a whisper, but it was still somewhere close. "I am."

They stayed like that, and after some time the boy's breathing became jerky, his cheeks shining wet in the faint moonlight.

Kushina squeezed his hand. "Why are you crying?"

The boy let out a choked sound. "Because I'm happy. Because I did it. You're here. You're really here, and you're not an illusion this time."

"You were always a drama queen, Naruto." Three heads flung toward the new voice where one of the boy's remaining clones stood. His arms were crossed over his chest and technically he looked the same as the others, but only in the broadest of terms. The differences would have been obvious to anyone. His eyes were crimson with slit pupils like a beast's. The whisker marks on his face were thicker and darker, giving him a more feral appearance. As he grinned, his teeth were far sharper and longer than any man's had the right to be.

The boy immediately rubbed away his tears with the back of his sleeve, "Your timing is crap, you know that? And quit possessing my clones, Kurama." His eyes twitched with annoyance. When he received no answer, herolled his eyes and stepped next to the clone, flinging an arm around his shoulder. Even with the boy's clear familiarity and ease, Minato and Kushina both tensed. The clone's name was Kurama, just like the Kyuubi's was supposed to be. Not even registering their apprehension, the boy grinned at them. "Mom, Dad, this is Kurama, the almighty Nine Tailed Demon Fox."

Kurama rolled his crimson eyes in annoyance and shook off his arm. "Don't touch me. I still don't like it."

The boy snorted. "You're using my clone. Basically my body. I can touch myself whenever I just want." Kurama made an amused expression, observing his companion with a pointed look until his face twisted in disgust. "Forget what I said," he grumbled, flushing. He cleared his throat and glanced at his clone. "Where were you anyway? Why'd you steal my clone?"

A foxy grin spread on Kurama's burrowed face. "I had some business to take care of with your bastard master."

The boy narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to retort, but suddenly he froze, his mouth still open. Minato took an unsteady step closer, a concerned frown on his face, but stopped mid-motion when the boy jerked and fell to his knees.

Chakra flared violently and bubbled over his body, then it disappeared as suddenly as it came. "The other bijuu," he choked out, holding onto the fabric of his jacket over his stomach like his life depended on it. "They're gone," he gasped out, panting helplessly. Minato slipped an arm under his armpit and helped him back to his feet. The clone had popped out of existence, the boy's grip on the technique slipping. He grabbed onto Minato's arm, "No, my seal on Kurama will-"

An enormous roar echoed between the cliffs, and the boy flung his head toward the cry. "I thought I'd have more time... He's free."

His hands moved rapidly through a long chain of hand signs. Before he could finish his technique, glowing golden chakra chains exploded from Kushina, snaking around the nine-tailed fox. She let out a grunt and pulled the chains tight around the fox, slamming it onto the ground again. With gritted teeth, she pushed the newborn into the stunned Hokage's arms. "Minato! I'm going to drag it back into me! You need to close my seal again! "

The boy vehemently shook his head and stepped in front of Kushina. "Your body can't take another shock, and I can't heal you like I did last time. You'll die if you do that again. Kurama needs a different vessel."

Minato watched as his eyes looked deliberately to the crying bundle in his arms. It was like a hand of ice was squeezing his heart. "No."

"Dad, there's no other way. It has to be done. You knew this the second that Kurama was extracted. You know what it's gonna take to stop him."

Minato opened his mouth to answer, but closed it almost instantly. His eyes become foggy, looking far into the distance and away from this terror for a moment before he managed to choke out a plea. "There has to be another way to stop it. You managed to do it once, why can't we do it again?"

The boy slowly shook his head in defeat. "Coming back to the past and applying the first seal on Kurama drained a lot of my reserves. And now the other bijuu are gone. Even if I can't change everything, some things I can definitely do. Let me make the seal."

Kurama let out a gruesome roar, freed a paw and demolished the side of a mountain with one strike. Kushina moaned in despair as another chain shot out to replace the previous one and Minato hesitated. "I don't know you. You can't prove your insane story."

The boy clicked his tongue in annoyance. "You're just as stubborn as your projection was in that stupid genjutsu! Just believe in me!" he snapped.

Minato's eyes widened with disbelief, and the boy snapped his head to the side when a furious roar tore through the air. Golden flames appeared around him again, and he turned back to Minato. "We're running out of time! Dad, please. Trust me." His voice was desperate.

Minato took an unconscious step forward, the small baby in his arms. "You call me your father, and in the next sentence you ask me to let you sacrifice yourself in my place? I am the Yondaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato! It's my fate to die for this village, not yours!" the kage shouted, and the baby in his arms started to wail.

The boy scoffed at that. "There's no such thing as fate, and you already fulfilled your duty once when you sealed Kurama inside me. I won't let you make that same mistake twice! I won't die from this, but you will if you go through with it! This is why I came back in time! You two will live even if I have to knock you both out to make you stay alive!" he was nearly screaming at the end of his rant, his determination clear and unshakable.

"Why are you doing this?!" Kushina's cry echoed from the other side. Her voice was harsh, weary and sore, but still strong.

The boy turned to Kushina, his tone pleading as he spoke, "I'm doing this to give a new chance for a prophecy. Both Minato and little Naruto has the power to change the word and bring peace to all of us."

Minato grabbed the blond's shoulder. The flames licked at his skin, but he wasn't burned. There was only a pleasant warmth. "If you are really Naruto, why would you use yourself?!"

The boy averted his eyes, unable to meet Minato's gaze with his own. "Because there are some things which have to happen. And there are things which can't. And…" He paused, steadying himself and finally glancing up at Minato. "And because that isn't my duty. It's Naruto's duty. He still got a long way to go, to grow up, to become an awesome ninja, to become the Hokage who will surpass everyone before him, except this time he'll have his parents there to support him."

Minato peered into the determined eyes for some time, "This time? What happened to us in your timeline?"

The boy closed his eyes for a moment before opening them again, and Minato finally realized, really realized just by looking in those sad blue eyes, that in another timeline he died. And not only him, but also Kushina. That the baby in his arms grew up into the same boy in front of him without parents to welcome him home after a long day at the school, say "Good job," after getting a good grade. That there was no one for him who would kiss his cheek, ruffle his hair, hug him, or cheer him up when he was sad.

Minato let out a sigh, then slowly nodded.

The boy, no, Naruto, because he was his boy for sure, let out a relieved breath. "Thank you."

Minato took a step to the side, eyeing the fox as it fought against its bindings. "So what now?"

Naruto narrowed his eyes, staring off into the distance as he thought aloud. "The Shiki Fuin you used in the past to seal away half of Kurama's chakra isn't an option. But I can seal away all of the chakra with the Hakke Fuin you used on me. I've got enough power to do it." He glanced up at his father. "You should summon the altar."

Minato observed the boy for some time before eventually nodding. A small flicker of his hand and a small altar appeared in front of him. He didn't hesitate, gently laying the baby down and crouching down himself.

Naruto glanced at the fox, then at his father, his face softening. "Everything will be alright. You'll be a great dad."

Minato sent back an unsteady smile.

"I'll make a key for little Naruto like you did for me. Some day he'll be able to open the seal with it, like I did. Please summon Gamatora." Naruto motioned to Minato.

The Kage nodded, bit down on his finger, and a second later a strange toad popped into existence next to Minato, a giant scroll making up his entire torso. He flung his head in pure panic when the Kyuubi roared, then glanced over the field. His eyes rested on the blond boy's flaming body, then locked with Minato's, who nodded toward Naruto. "He'll give you a key. I want you to keep it safe until I need it again."

The toad unsteadily glanced up at the golden figure who sent back a beaming smile. "It's ok. Here we go." His hand danced through some handsigns before he reached out and touched the toad, who flinched away. "Ok, go now. Give it to the pervy sage."

The toad looked once more at Minato, only vanishing when he nodded his permission.

Naruto let out a calming breath, looked at the fox, and with a wide smile he waved toward it. "Hey, Kurama! Don't be rude to this guy here! You'll take a liking in him, I swear!"

The fox snarled, and Naruto let out a loud laugh. A golden chakra arm emerged from his shoulder, lunging toward the still struggling fox, grabbing into his fur and holding him down. His physical hands were already running through a long chain of hand signs. He crouched down, a small smile on his face, and gently touched the baby's exposed stomach. "Hakke Fuin," he whispered.

At first nothing happened and Minato feared something went wrong. But all at once everything became white.

With each blink Minato's vision pierced a little more into the blinding light, making sense of the world as he struggled to focus. He glanced down at the altar, watching his infant son happily playing with one of the folds of his blanket.

He glanced up where the nine tailed fox used to tower above the landscape, but there was no struggling bijuu, only the evidence of its previous rampage.

Kushina stumbled next to him, and almost crashed down from sheer exhaustion, her hands grabbing at Minato's white coat to keep herself steady.

A weary sigh left the boy's lips as if a great burden had lifted from his shoulders. Indescribable ecstasy and euphoria flashed through his face, and suddenly he pumped his fist into the air, his victorious yell filling the landscape. Minato and Kushina stared at the scene with wide eyes and open mouths. The shinobi who ordered the nine tailed fox with only the movement of his finger was jumping all around like a ten-year-old kid.

"I did it! Take that, fate!" With this last yell, he made a rude gesture towards the sky, where the first beams of the upcoming Sun already started to force themselves through the darkness of the night, painting everything to warm orange and red, just like a flaming fire. Minato watched him, the same joy slowly bubbling inside him, then finally exploding out in laughter. But it died in his throat as the boy stumbled, took a wobbling step backwards, and fell to his knees. "I didn't think it would be this fast. I wanted to tell you so much more," he gasped as he tumbled onto his side.

"Naruto!" Minato was immediately by his side, Kushina following only a second later with their infant son in her arms.

Minato's eyes roved over the body of his future son, looking for any injuries, but he found nothing beside his fading chakra. It wasn't only slowly fading, it was rushing out of his coils like it didn't belong there. It swirled around them restlessly like the whirlwind his son was named after. He could feel as the Kyuubi's chakra writhed around them, looking for its proper place, and then finally finding it as it slowly seeped toward the baby.

Minato helplessly watched Naruto's decreasing reserves and grabbed his son's shoulder in despair. 'You're dying, aren't you?" He let out choked sound, "But you said that you wouldn't die!" Minato's voice was harsh, full of regret. If he'd known, he never would have agreed to this. Damn it!

Naruto's eyes met his for less than a second, but that was enough for Minato to see his son's guilt and shame. "I'm sorry. But I know you, Dad. You never would have let me do the sealing if you knew what would happen. It would happen even if I wasn't the one doing the sealing. I knew the moment the other bijuu left me that something is going to happen to me and I won't have much time. But don't be sad, that means I succeeded, the future changed, I'll never have the other bijuu sealed in me, nor I need to come back to save you. My body can stay here, but Kurama can't. He's made of chakra, and he's almost gone. He'll join his counterpart in little Naruto, just like the other bijuu went off to join their present selves. But my body can't live without Kurama."

"I can give you chakra! I can give you back the nine tail's chakra!" Kushina touched his arm in a rush, but Naruto shook it off immediately.

"No! You cannot!" Naruto yelled, but regretted it immediately after one look at his mother's hurt expression. "I gave you enough for you to get better, but if you give me even a little you'll also die. I'll never forgive you if you do that."

Kushina let out a sob and hugged her dying son for some time. Naruto reassuringly stroked her back until she recollected herself.

"Hey now, Mom. I'm alive. Look at the kid in Dad's arms, I'm right over there." He pointed a shaking finger at his younger counterpart who playfully grabbed it.

Naruto let out a small chuckle, and placed back his hand on his stomach. The baby in his mother's arm started to cry in his displeasure.

"Shhh. I'm sorry," Naruto murmured, lifting his arm again, to gently stroke the puffy whiskered cheeks until the cry died down to small whimpers. The infant suddenly opened his eyes, and with a jolt Minato realized the baby's eyes and Naruto's were one and the same. "Hey, little brat. What're you up to?" Naruto's soft voice drifted their ears like a soft, warm breeze. Neither of his parents dared to speak and break the moment. They stayed in silence, watching as their two sons had their first and last moment together. Both of them were at the edges of their existence: one at the very beginning, born less than an hour ago, while the other had mere minutes until the end.

"Promise me something. Take on the family legacy. Konoha needs a number one prankster. Painting the Hokage monument was one of my biggest achievements, you know. And it would be great if that bridge in Wave was named the Great Naruto Bridge again." Naruto let out a small chuckle while his younger self let out a giggle, like he understood the request.

The time-traveler locked his eyes with Minato's, his movements slow and labored. Despite that words spilled forth from his mouth in a torrent. There was too much to say and too little time. "The fate of the ninja world is in your hands. Speak with the daimyo, hold meetings with the other Kage. The shinobi need to unite to stop another war. Don't blame the Uchiha for what had happened here, they've got nothing to do with this mess. But keep an eye on them. They're too important for Konoha to lose. Don't let some stupid old feud between the Senju and Uchiha be what makes Konoha lose an entire clan. Then you need to speak with the Hyuuga and erase the caged bird seal. I don't have to tell you why. Tell Jiraiya-sensei to make a visit to Rain. Nagato and Konan are still alive up there, still seeking peace between the nations. They can help. But first, when all of this has settled down, go to the fourth district as soon as you can with your best ANBU. There's a small clearing with a hidden passage to an underground tunnel; it'll lead you to a secret lab under the Hokage monument. You won't like what you find there. Do not let him escape. He cannot escape. Save Captain Yamato." Naruto waited for his father's response, and when Minato finally nodded he averted his gaze and looked into his mother's watery eyes. For her sake, he smiled, and dying hurt just a little less.

"Mom, tell Naruto not to be afraid of that stupid old fox. He can be nice when he works at it. Naruto has the power to help Kurama turn away from hatred. Everybody is yearning for peace, even the Tailed Beasts. Help him and the other jinchuuriki. Teach him my nindo: Uzumaki Naruto never goes back on his word. He might be clumsy, irritating, loud and stupid, but he'll be the one who can unite everybody. And please don't stop him from wearing orange. It's the best thing since ramen."

He chuckled at himself until he started wheezing, and as he struggled for breath his hazy blue eyes flickered back to Minato, "And Dad, teach him the Kage Bunshin. That jutsu was made for me. And I got a personal request for you, too." Minato nodded, not sure of his own voice anymore, and Naruto continued. "Speak with the Kazekage. His third child, Gaara, is the jinchuuriki of the one-tailed beast. The seal is weak. Fix it. For me, please. He'll be good friends with Naruto."

Minato nodded once more. His voice was weak and sour. "I promise."

"Good." A satisfied smile appeared on Naruto's face before he closed his eyes. "I'm tired."

"Naruto," Minato exhaled as his son's eyelids slowly fluttered open. He gulped down the lump in his throat. "Happy birthday, son."

A small smile spread across Naruto's face as his eyes slowly closed, and he whispered in a voice so weak Minato strained to hear it, "Thanks, Dad." He let out another small breath, but his chest didn't expand again.

Minato's eyes widened in alarm, fingers desperately searching for a pulse on his neck, chakra in his coils but he didn't find either. He glanced up at his wife who held the small baby close to her chest, silent tears streaming down her face.

"He's gone," Minato murmured.

"He really was Naruto," Kushina sobbed softly.

Minato slowly shook his head and rose. "We'll never really know. But he saved us. He saved you, saved Naruto, saved Konoha. We owe him."

Minato glanced down at the already cooling body, and a frown appeared on his face. The edge of a small scroll peeked out of its pocket. He crouched back down and grabbed it, running a finger over the fine vellum before tugging at the end of it and rolling it open. With a flicker of his chakra, he unlocked the seal to reveal several items with a small poof of white smoke.

He stared down at items with wide eyes, his gaze lingering on the countless photographs of born or not yet born people. Kushina curiously leaned over his shoulder when he grabbed a faded orange notebook, childish handwriting scribbling out a name on the cover.

"Property of Uzumaki Naruto," she read out-loud.

She glanced down at the baby in her arms. "Hey, that's your name. But then, what will happen to his name?" She glanced up at Minato. "I can wait for another child to name Uzumaki. Namikaze has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

Minato's face softened. "Yeah," he agreed. "Namikaze Naruto sounds good."

Author's Note:

Yes, I know, I'm a bastard. But I still love you!

One more epilogue is still on the go. :)

I'll be back soon, but until that time you can find me on facebook.