Orochimaru laughed loudly. His snake form made him invisible to the senses of the Bijuu, and while the sharingan using girl had not been part of the equation, she wasn't a problem, because he had a pair of his own.
The true question was if Nagato had a final ace in his sleeve to play before his death.
He blamed the Uzumaki resilience for the fact he still had to keep his guard up against the Rinnegan user. It wouldn't last long; mythical eye bloodline or not, he'd fall like all the others eventually. His thoughts were shielded, and in the event of another stalemate, he'd resort to that technique.
Still, Naruto pounced on the wounded prey as a shark would a bleeding man in the ocean, just as he expected him to do. The black chakra blade he wielded fizzled out of existence as Nagato's eyes twirled against the boy's form. He didn't capitalize on the moment to strike further down Nagato.
Better to let them waste chakra.
He dug himself beneath the ground, leaving a copy of snakes above. He could hear the tremors in the ground, signaling the pink-haired girl's attempts at aiding Naruto, weakened as she was.
There was a saying about leaving a broken winged bird unguarded in a nest.
He didn't remember it well, but it had something to do with snakes and their very large jaws.
The girl was no Itachi. She was no Uchiha. He had two Mangekyou, and she had one since a few minutes. There really was no contest.
He broke out of the ground with his jaws extended, ready to chew down on the girl with maniacal glee…when a buzzing light green thing snatched her away in a blur of speed, before crashing on the ground a few meters away from his point of exit.
He hated it when things took a wrong turn.
He really, utterly, loathed unpredictable variables.
The Seven-Tails wasn't meant to arrive for another hour at least!
"Sakura-chan!" Fu said with a bright smile and a grin, clutching the doozy Sakura by the shoulders, completely uncaring for the situation around them —or the destroyed Konoha, for what mattered. "I missed you! We have to eat dinner together, right!?"
Fu frowned, and looked around a moment later. "Uh. Where's Karin-chan? And where's Konoha? Did I miss it?"
Orochimaru hissed out in frustration. Konoha was nothing more than a green and luscious plain of grass now, and yet apparently the girl was— oh, oh, smart girl. Smart girl indeed.
"Trying to feign ignorance," Orochimaru mused out, "So that your Bijuu gives you answers, uh brat? I underestimated you," he stood up, just as his copy rattled its tail and circled around the two girls.
Fu grinned widely. "You're an evil snake-man! I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm going to eat you."
Her red tube opened, as the buzzing sound of carnivorous insects soon reached an all-new high, the swarms emerging and surrounding her and Sakura in their multicolored wings and carapaces.
Fu then turned towards Naruto. "Hi!" She cheerfully bubbled out. "We're eating together later, right?"
Naruto clenched his fist, and tried a soft smile —it came out as a grimace, really, was there no 'reading the situation' with her? He was a few feet away from Nagato once more, his previous attack being ineffective.
"Sure," he said. His chakra twirled and rose, as he ground his teeth in a wicked smile. "Dealing with trash gets me hungry!"
Nagato's eyes narrowed. "As long as I possess the Rinnegan, there is no amount of chakra you can wield that will stop me."
"Good!" Naruto smiled, extending his hands as if to embrace, "Because after Sai's death, I wasn't counting on dealing with you cleanly at all!"
He dashed ahead, right fist ready.
"Once more, this is futile," Nagato replied, twirling his eyes. The magnetic pressure hit Naruto head on, but the boy just grinned and slammed his head against the invisible force.
"If you've got a problem, then deal with it!" Naruto howled, his black chakra anchoring him on the ground as he charged a Bijudama into his chakra-shroud mouth. "You can't keep this up forever!"
Naruto smiled. Nagato's eyes narrowed and he brought his hands, palm opens, in front of him. The blast erupted from Naruto's mouth with unholy strength, turning immediately to glass the path from him to the man. Yet an invisible barrier held up, as Pain's Rinnegan kept flaring in order to subdue the incredible amount of chakra.
"The Sage of the Sixth Paths could easily control the Ten-Tails," Nagato snarled. "You using his energy is just making this fight easier for me!"
"I'm not just a mass of energy and power, Nagato-chan," Naruto replied with a wicked grin.
The blast ended. Naruto's Tanto struck cleanly, piercing through the thick skull of the God of Rain, as Nagato himself could do nothing but widen his eyes.
"Simple tool, isn't it? Yoroi Toshi, designed to pierce through samurai armor. Danzo gave it to me a very long time ago. I always kept it. No chakra required to use it. I didn't really trust my aim though, so I had to blind you with the blast to get close enough."
Naruto's hand held on to the blade's handle, as his eyes locked on with Nagato's Rinnegan. Naruto smiled, and twisted the blade before pulling it free.
The God of Rain, Pain, Nagato Uzumaki, whatever name he wished to be called with…fell back on the ground, flopping down like a dead fish, with glassy eyes empty of everything.
"Nice, quick, to the point and anti-climactic like hell," Naruto nodded sagely. "I'm sure Danzo would approve of this."
"Of all the powers in the world," Orochimaru hissed. "You used a Tanto to—"
His snakes opened their mouths, releasing streams of cutting air to slice away the thousands of flesh-eating beetles that came for him. His eyes narrowed on the Jinchuuriki of the Nanabi.
They spun in their Mangekyou form.
"Fu! Get down!" Sakura yelled, biting on to a chakra pill as her Mangekyou revealed itself once more, countering whatever Genjutsu the snake tried on the Jinchuuriki.
Fu howled as she gripped her chest, coughing out a pained wheeze.
The beetles grew frenzied as the chakra cloak of the Nanabi covered the girl.
"You!" Fu howled, "You'll pay for this!"
"Can't stand the truth, little girl?" Orochimaru cackled. "You ate your parents, you ate your teammates, and that makes you nothing more than a twisted cannibal! You're a monster of your own! You can't ignore the truth once spoken!"
"Shut up!" a Bijudama erupted from Fu's mouth, condensing into a ray of pure energy that blasted ahead, slicing neatly through the ground and tearing away a large chunk of ground and forest on its path. It blasted away at the Hokage Mountain, neatly chopping off the Shodaime's head.
"Why? It's so amusing, watching you pathetic worms squirm under the weight of your guilty consciences!" Orochimaru grinned, dispersing in a swarm of a thousand snakes, which slithered across the ground in a hundred different directions.
"Where do you think you're going, Orochimaru?" Naruto asked, twitching his right hand as the black chakra that imbued his body bent to his will, forming waves of fire that washed away the snake swarm, leaving behind nothing but cinders and glassed ground.
A hand emerged from the glass ground, and as Orochimaru pulled himself up, he chuckled softly.
"This is so unfair," he mumbled. "Three against one is really unfair," he added.
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "We're shinobi. We're born to be unfair."
"Maybe," Orochimaru acquiesced. "Still," he added, "If I have to die, I'd rather die after getting a weight off my chest. You'll give me that much, won't you?"
"No," Naruto snarled, his blade of black chakra rising. "I won't."
"A true pity," Orochimaru whispered. "To think I had—"
Naruto slashed ahead, cutting in half Orochimaru before the man could finish his sentence.
The body fell on the ground with a dull thud, and as Naruto breathed in deeply, he gagged a moment later. Blood seeped out of his mouth as he clutched his chest. "Well," Orochimaru remarked. "It took long enough."
"W-What?" Naruto growled.
"You're an Uzumaki. You're a pretty strong kid, and I'll give you that," Orochimaru acquiesced, appearing out of thin air as the body Naruto had cut morphed into another, one with tanned skin and green hair. "But you made a lot of stupid mistakes," Orochimaru grinned. "You forgot the Mangekyou I possess, for one thing. Secondly, you didn't realize until now that all that power is a hefty drain on your life force. You don't have the Mokuton, or the chakra chains of your mother, or any form of Doujutsu to control it. You are power, without control."
The Snake Sannin smiled. "And every time you used it, it shortened your life," Orochimaru sweetly grabbed a scroll from within his vest. "I admit, I never thought I would really have to use this contingency, but frankly, I find it oddly fitting."
He opened the scroll. "Like father like son, I suppose. You really are the worst of your parents put together. Your mother's stubbornness, your father's cunning, and yet you played right into my hand. Seals of Jiraiya or not, you never would have lasted long," he licked his lips. "You even killed your friend," he giggled. "And you can feel it, can't you? The anger in your body, asking you to murder me, to kill me, to defy me…but you stop, because you know what this scroll contains. You know if I open it, we all die."
"I can't let you leave," Naruto snarled. "So many died—"
"But you will," Orochimaru replied. "You will let me leave, because you know there is no other choice available to you. I am sure you expected a final battle, worthy of hundreds of years of tales and legends. But you won't have it. You will never have it. I applaud you for stopping my plan to become god. I applaud you for barging in, taking over, and stalling me. But at the same time, I pity you. You're going to die, Naruto Namikaze. In ten years, in twenty years, maybe if you're lucky in thirty years, you will die. I'll be back then, to take the Ten Tails."
"I won't let you," Naruto snarled, taking a step forward as Orochimaru drew blood from his lips, letting his very long tongue bring it down to the scroll.
"All I need is some blood on this parchment, and all hell breaks loose," the snake sannin smiled, laughing throatily. "Nobody wins. Everyone loses. This is why trying to bring peace in the shinobi world will never work, Naruto Namikaze. One day, you'll find an enemy shinobi willing to commit the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring the enemies down. One day, you'll find an enemy so uncaring for his own life that he will die to stop you. You will find enemies who will never surrender. You will discover hurtful truths about the nature of man and life itself. And when that day will come, oh I can guarantee you that it will come, you will remember this moment clearly."
Orochimaru smiled. "You should look after your teammate; the one that remains. She's barely standing. Of course, if you turn your back on me I'll leave. If you don't, she'll die from the strain and then I'll leave. You should take this important lesson by heart, Naruto. Sometimes, you just need to know when to fold."
"I refuse," Naruto growled. "I refuse to let…I refuse, I refuse this! You can't—"
"I can," Orochimaru nodded. "And I will. You didn't lose, Namikaze, but you didn't win either. On the other hand, you did what the prophecy asked of you. You saved this world and you destroyed it. No longer will there be the shinobi system of the Villages, but there will still be a system of shinobi. You'll spearhead it, won't you? Shinobi will no longer fight shinobi, but they'll fight samurai, or common men and brigands, and maybe kill lords and topple them. There will one nation, one day, and one country, and a single Daimyo, and maybe that day mankind will forget their difference and become one, accepting and understanding each other through the fact that there will be no more enemies, no more differences…"
And here Orochimaru laughed loudly. "And that is a fool's dream! Hear my words, Namikaze! When that day will come, differences will sprout from tiny things! People will hate those with a different hair color! They'll hate those with different eyes, or those too weak to live! They'll hate, and keep on hating, for as long as they'll draw breath! Humankind is a pathetic excuse of hatred piled on hatred! There is no peace, and there will never be! Conflict is eternal! It is through conflict that humanity evolves! We are creatures of war, death and despair, and we will never be sated without violence!"
"Now come on, Namikaze!" Orochimaru brought his right hand forward, clenching it in a fist. "Prove me wrong! I dare you! Prove me wrong! Do something unexpected! Do something I cannot foresee! Come on! Prove me wrong! You're the child of the prophecy! The one Jiraiya had hopes for! The one that would change this world! So prove it to me! Prove to me that the suffering will end forever! Give me everlasting peace! I don't think you'll be able to, but prove me wrong," Orochimaru cackled, a half-strangled sob in his throat. "Everything I engineered, everything I did, and yet I have some hope you'll prove me wrong in the end," he whispered.
"But you won't," Orochimaru finished. His eyes narrowed. "You don't have anything to prove I'm wrong. I stacked the deck in my favor too much. You can't even give me a worthy fight, because you're unable to see another way."
"Are you done…with your monologue?" Naruto hissed.
"I am," Orochimaru sighed. "Unfortunately, I am," he gave his back to Naruto, and to Sakura, before starting to walk away.
Sakura's hand gripped onto the Mangekyou eye, as she growled and spat out blood. She tried to take a step forward, but could not. She had no more chakra in her. All of her muscles pained her.
Naruto felt empty inside. What had he fought for, in the end? Peace. Had he achieved it? Orochimaru was getting away. Oddly, the man who had been the keenest in obtaining power had also been the first to give it up. He couldn't understand him. He knew he'd be back, maybe years later, to get at the Ten Tails now sealed within his guts.
And the man had told him how to get it under control.
Why had he blurted out such a thing? If only he knew, then he could act on it. He couldn't read his mind. He couldn't understand him.
If only he pushed himself faster than Orochimaru, if for a single second, he could kill the man and get the scroll. If he failed, everyone and everything would disappear. If he didn't, he'd win. Sai's sacrifice, Fu's death, Konoha's destruction, the betrayal of Yamato, the death of Pain, the Akatsuki, Aoba-sensei's death, everything that had happened to him until that very moment would be…meaningless, if he didn't win.
Yet what would happen if he did win?
Would they return?
He had fought, he had bled, he had believed himself a cut above everyone else. All-mighty, all-powerful Jinchuuriki, and in the end, Orochimaru had smashed away his arrogance and threw his face on the ground, making him eat the dirt and the dust his pride had lifted. There wasn't a clear-cut victory in the shinobi world.
Suffering, pain, death and despair were what surrounded their world. He had tried to destroy a system, and all he had obtained had simply been a change in it. There would still be money to be made through deaths, but there would no longer be many villages doing it.
There would no longer be shinobi of Iwa, of Suna, of Konoha, of Kiri or of Kumo, but there would be Shinobi.
There would be a united front, and…
And that explained why Orochimaru had slaughtered his way through the minor villages. Even back then, he had been preparing the ground. How far back had he planned everything?
A curling sense of dread filled Naruto's soul. Just how far back had the man foreseen the events to come? How had he been able to plan everything, to let the pieces fall into place one after the other so neatly, so perfectly, that there had been no way to counter it?
Orochimaru of the Sannin was a genius, a prodigy, a betrayer and a traitor. Yet he hadn't won, had he? Naruto hadn't won either.
But then, who had won? In the end, after all this carnage, all this death, and despair, after the sacrifices made and the bleeding…who had won?
"In war," Naruto muttered as understanding dawned on him, "There is no victor."
Naruto's shoulders trembled, as he stood in the grassy field covered in blood, as the grass grew taller with each passing minute. He brought a hand to his mouth and laughed bitterly, a half-strangled sob escaping his lips.
"When people fight, when people die, there is never a victor."
"Some deaths are cheap," Naruto said to the crowd in front of him, the people that believed in him as their leader. "Some deaths are hard. Some heroes fall, and some rise."
Iwagakure's population listened on raptly, as Naruto spoke after the war's end.
"We spill blood so easily," he said, "We forget what a life means. Potential, unlimited potential, goes to waste with each breath of life that we take away."
Sakura stood awkwardly behind him, in a corner covered by shadows. Her forehead protector, with the symbol of 'Shinobi' covered her Mangekyou eye.
"There is a lesson that took me my entire life to learn," he said. "A person can become anything he wishes to be, and when he dies, we do not simply lose the man or the woman he has been, but also the person he would have become."
Naruto grimaced. "We have lost countless lives, countless, precious lives. We have been bred for war, taught to relish it, to use it as a mean to an end," he shook his head. "We have twisted the words of our ancestors to justify our violence. We have used our bonds to elicit revenge, rather than look for understanding."
He chuckled grimly. "We value our friends, and grieve their deaths. We seek revenge, bringing grief to the friends of those we murder. It is an unending cycle of hatred, one where one side must always hate, for without hate, the cycle is broken and a side loses."
He exhaled. "We do not seek understanding, for it is a longer path, a strenuous path, whereas a kunai in the neck solves disputes easily. We seek the easy way, the route that holds the shortest path to our destination. In doing so, we forget, or maybe we try desperately to hide, our inner longings for peace. We all want peace, but we want it at our rule, at our decisions. We don't want peace for peace's sake. We want a peace where we rule unquestioned, where we are the strongest, where we stand unchallenged. We want a peace born of supremacy, of despair for others," he clenched both of his fits on the balcony.
"I refuse," he said. "I refuse to be the leader of such a peace. I want a peace where everyone is content. I want a peace where there is no jailer and jailed, where both sides understand and let their grief go."
"Death is cheap; do you understand what it means?" Naruto asked the crowd, larger still as he stood in the middle of what once had been the Land of Fire. Years had passed. He was tall now, and his white mantle billowed with the wind. His hat had the symbol with 'Kage' on it, and surrounding him were no longer only those of Iwa.
"It is easy to murder your way through problems," he said. "Death is cheap. We buy it, because it's cheap. We'd rather be accused of being cheapskates, than try another mean to an end. We'd rather pay little now, not understanding the hurt we're bringing to those around us. A man I knew once told me that shinobi were creatures of greed and money, that we had no soul, for we sold it to the devil."
Naruto inclined his head to the side. "He was a disillusioned man, one who had been around for as long as the shinobi village had been, and his words, back then…had been right. Shinobi were demons, who sold their own mothers for money. They sold their strength, their skills, for money; it was how the world worked in his mind. He told me that Shinobi came from Shinobu, 'those who conceal themselves'. Yet, it could also read as 'those who have faith in death', or 'those who extend death upon others'."
Naruto chuckled. "He wasn't wrong, but he wasn't right either. A tool is a tool; how we use it determines its worth! A sword can cut and cleave a life just as well as it can protect one! A murderer and a protector share the same blades! The same soul! The same blood and flesh! It is us who make the ultimate call! We are Shinobi! We can choose! We are free to choose our own path! Our own destiny! It is us who decide who lives and dies, and why that happens! We are free! We restrain ourselves, but we are free to choose!"
He stood proud as he spoke to his people, where once there had been Kiri's capital, and now only his men remained.
"Time has proven, history has proven, life itself has proven that mankind cannot survive with peace alone! There is always conflict, and there is always war! There is despair, and death behind every corner! An utopia of peace is impossible! A perfect society and a perfect world are impossible! Those are but a fool's dreams! But this does not mean we cannot strive for it! This does not mean we can simply lay down our hearts and let them be trampled! Dreams are there to be our guides! The moment you let go of them is the moment you give up, cradle your body and die! I refuse this!"
He roared, "I refuse a world which I cannot better! I refuse to see a wall and stop against it! I will crush all walls and remove all that stands in my way! I have a dream." He widened both of his arms, as if to embrace the crowd in front of him. "And I will fight with tooth and nail for it! I will grip with my dying breath at its edges and persist with determination until I see it completed! If I have to clasp at the edges of life, if I have to stare death down and tell her to still time and let me live, then I will! I have a dream, and I will see it completed!"
He pointed his right hand forward, pointing at the crowd. "What is yours then!? What do you wish, what do you dream, what is it that you desire!? Wealth can disappear, love can become hatred, everything you cherish and hold on to might one day be gone! But in the end, we are humanity! If we cannot find unity through our nations, if we cannot find unity through our bonds, then find it through what we are! Through what we all share! We have the same sky above our heads, and the same earth beneath it! Our hearts beat together! Our breaths hold together! We all live and die under the sun's glare! We all laugh and cry! We are humans, we are humanity! Before being shinobi, before being samurai, before being anything else, we are humans!"
He caught his breath. "And as humans, it is our duty, our sacred, utmost important duty," he wheezed out. "To understand each other. To accept each other. We are all brothers and sisters under this sky. We are all family. We are, deep down, connected to something far greater than any of us. Extend your hand, rather than your fist. Accept your brother, accept your sister, believe, if not in your neighbor, in my words. I…"
He closed his eyes. "I have done so many wrongs in my life, that I will never be forgiven for. I stand here, in front of you all, not as your conqueror, or as your dictator. I do not stand here as your new leader, or as the whip that will crack down on you. I stand here as your fellow man. I stand here, because I believe in my dreams for a better tomorrow. I stand, and I hope you will stand too, by my side in my quest for peace. If you cannot believe me, then try. It is that simple. It is that easy."
Naruto grinned. "You just need to believe. Once. In me. All it takes is for you to believe."
Then he turned, as the crowd remained silent for a moment, soaking in the words of their Kage. He had said the same words year after year, battle after battle, and always, in the end, he had kept them.
He left the balcony of the Kage Tower, nestled in the center of the Land of Fire —or what once had been, before the unification by the Land of Earth— and overseeing all the important trade roads and the Capital.
It had been hard to convince the headstrong old men of the other villages to leave them to build a new one. In the end, he had managed.
"Father," a dark haired boy —all his mother— crossed his arms over his chest as he neared him. "You should rest."
"I'll rest when I'm dead, brat," he replied with a chuckle of his own. It had been years past Orochimaru's deadline. Yet he still lived.
He wondered if the snake had lied to him all those years before to make him hurry. He couldn't kid himself. He knew the day would come where he'd die. He was getting old anyway —past a certain age, no matter the training a shinobi began to lose its edge. Although, he had never had much of an edge to begin with, and since he fathomed himself a giant warhammer, he didn't need one.
"You'll make mother worry," the boy insisted primly.
"Your mother always worries," Naruto deadpanned. "I'm not going to keel over and die. I mean, how stupid would that be? Do you think I'll just miss a step and fall down dead?"
His son looked sideways.
"You really do think that, don't you?" Naruto remarked dryly.
"Well…you are old."
Naruto ruffled Kokuyoseki's hair. He always hated it when he did that —well, he was 'peeved' at it.
"I still kick your ass during spars, 'ttebayo."
"I'm letting you win," he retorted hotly.
"Even with your brother and sister helping you, I still win," Naruto pointed out. "Hands down, my eyes blind, and my legs tied."
Kokuyoseki grumbled something akin to 'Do you need to say it this loud' as they passed by a couple of now snickering guards in the hallway.
Naruto suddenly stopped walking.
"Would you mind checking on your brother and sister, Koku?" Naruto said softly.
"Father, is something—"
Naruto just smiled. "There's an old friend waiting for me in my office."
Kokuyoseki frowned, but walked away without another word.
Naruto finished his trek to his office's door, and dismissed the guards.
He took a deep breath, and entered alone.
"It's been a long time, Naruto-kun," Orochimaru said offhandedly, his grin just like he remembered it.
"So," Naruto said. "You've come now?"
"I heard your speech," he acquiesced. "I heard all of them. You are surprisingly boring and dull, and a bit repetitive with it."
"Why are you here? I'm not dead yet."
"Tell me, Naruto," Orochimaru said. "Have you made the world a better place?"
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"All those countless millions that died before, do you think their souls would be happy, knowing what their deaths brought forth?" Orochimaru said. "There is peace now, isn't there?"
"I suppose," Naruto replied, "That I'll never know until the day I die."
"I know," Orochimaru smiled. "Differently from you, I'm not one who can be patient for long. I had to ask. I did ask. And they're happy. Sad that they're dead, of course, but happy that there is peace. I did good in the end, didn't I?"
"You did?" Naruto asked, an eyebrow rose as he calmly took a step forward.
"I did," Orochimaru grinned. "I created you, didn't I? You're my creation. You brought forth this," he gestured around. "Shinobi who live and fight not to murder and steal, but to protect and cherish, shinobi who do not bring their blades to the necks of children, and do not make shady deals to backstab those around them."
"You're giving yourself too much importance now, Orochimaru."
"You think?" Orochimaru said. He took a step forward. "I sacrificed everything I had for my chance to change the world."
He smiled softly. "And in the end, I knew you'd manage it, Naruto. You did what I would never have been able to do. You changed the world. You broke the system. You flipped the table, turned the cards, and you did it all without becoming the main villain, without being the devil or the monster I thought you'd have to become. I admit…I am glad."
He chuckled softly. "I'll be leaving now, Naruto. Live your life, die when you're ready, and don't worry. I've got even less to live than you do."
"See? That's the problem with playing the part of the liar. Nobody believes you when you tell the truth," Orochimaru chuckled. "I've always wanted peace, Naruto. I chose a most convoluted way to obtain it, taking all the variables, the variants, the possibilities and then acting on them…but I got peace in the end, didn't I? And I lived long enough to watch it grow into something beautiful."
He shrugged. "It's done. The technique I use for immortality was never complete. It requires a fresh body, every time. The time between changes shortens up too, and I'm not going to be changing bodies once a day, or once an hour, to live on."
"I see," Naruto said. He turned thoughtful.
"You never told me why Hebi was important."
"She wasn't. I genuinely wanted her to leave. See? The problems of being a liar…you're never believed when you speak the truth."
He unclasped the scroll. "On the other side, the zero-tails was sealed within Danzo thanks to the Death God seal. I wouldn't have had the time to both call Danzo's corpse forth and unseal the Zero Tails from it if you had struck."
Naruto clenched his right fist.
"I'm not going to trash my office," he said.
"I know," Orochimaru smiled softly. "I'm leaving the scroll with you. I'm the only one who knows how to counter the Death God seal, and no one else will ever know. With my death, the circle closes." He began to disappear in a twirl of the Mangekyou. "There are no more Sharingans. There are no more Rinnegan. The fabled eye bloodlines are all gone with me…live on, Naruto…but remember…"
Orochimaru disappeared in a soft chuckle. "I have saved the world…but make sure no one ever learns of it. It wouldn't do well to my image."
Naruto's office door opened with startling speed, as he couldn't help but groan at the sight of Sakura clutching her bleeding eye-side, where the Mangekyou had once been. "Naruto!" his Anbu Captain exclaimed, "Orochimaru's—"
"I know," he said softly. "Come here," he added. "You're bleeding."
Sakura scoffed. "It's nothing. I—"
"Mom," a pink-haired teen rushed inside —followed by Kokuyoseki and Naruto, the kid— "You're bleeding."
"It's nothing," Sakura retorted hotly, half-bothered. "I was saying—"
"Nothing," Naruto said calmly. Sakura's only eye looked at him wide for a moment, before he simply shook his head. "Not in front of the children."
"I am a Chuunin," the pink-haired girl said primly.
"Shut it, Mebu," Naruto —the teen— grumbled. "We're getting a promotion too when the exams come around again."
"Mom! Naruto's being mean to me again!"
"Father, I wonder why I have to be in the same team as—"
He didn't know if his peace would last.
He didn't know if his dream would become reality.
He didn't know what the future reserved for him —he wasn't a genius, like Orochimaru apparently had been.
What he did know, however…
Was that whatever happened, whatever was meant to happen, whatever would happen…he'd never let go of his dream again.
He owed that much to all those that had come before. He owed it to all those that had died for him, because of him, or in his name.
He was Naruto Namikaze. He was the Kage of the Shinobi.
He was the bringer of peace in the Shinobi World and the elemental countries.
And he'd be damned if he didn't force the history books to write a few chapters about Orochimaru portrayed in a good light just to spite the man.
Then again…that was probably his intent all along.
He'd never know.
Naruto shrugged mentally.
A life where you know everything must be extremely boring, after all.
Lots of stuff happened in my life. My angst in real life turned up the hype, and my muse became fickle. I'm not going to bore you. I solved my problems. I found the muse, and I finished this Introverted story of mine with the precepts I wished to impart.
Death is cheap, and sometimes isn't 'climactic' at all. That's life.
People die, sometimes for no reason at all. That's life.
There isn't always a clear solution, a clear ending. That's life.
You don't always have to choose a single path. That's life.
In the end, Introverted is about life.
Naruto's grown a lot. He's done a lot. He's changed a lot, and in the end, whereas one would expect a final confrontation…
There isn't one.
Because that's life. In games, in books, you reach the final stage and expect the Boss Battle. You expect it, you prepare for it, and you fight it. Life isn't just made of final stages and Boss Battles.
Orochimaru's real motifs, objectives and whatnot will never be clearly revealed. Was he doing it out of madness, out of the desire to become powerful, out of what? He's a liar. We'll never know because liars are that, Liars. Even when they claim it's the truth, it can pretty much not be it.
Naruto's final speech would have been a good way to finish this, but I wanted some more. I wanted the final Orochimaru-Naruto conversation. Because doubt is everlasting.
Who was right in the end? Who was wrong? Are dreams things that will never be achieved? Did Orochimaru actually aid Naruto? He certainly appears to have —no Doujutsu around would mean no way to keep a check on the Bijuu.
But still, the story's done.
The other characters –Ayame, Hinata, Kurotsuchi- weren't written in the last chapters. I couldn't find myself to write snippets. While you can and should understand that indeed, Kokuyoseki is Kurotsuchi's and Naruto's child, she didn't really need a part in the end. Neither did Ayame or Hinata.
Were they saved, or were they left in despair? Make your own idea of it. Maybe Naruto did save them both, or maybe they died in their horrible conditions. Life has this funny thing of giving you the Choice.
I hope you enjoyed this work.
I hope you liked it.
And even if you didn't, I'm happy I finished this. It's done. It's over. I feel a weight off my chest as I finished something so big.
I feel…happy. It's a feeling those who complete something can feel.
I hope you're happy too.
Which is why, I thank you all for reading 'Introverted'.
Thank you, from Shadenight123.