Digi does not own Naruto, but he has to admit... it's been a pleasure owning Sage


Sage

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." – Orson Welles


Madara floated far away from the Shinju, watching with mild curiosity as the strange, almost vine-like construction of the supposed God-tree finished twining together with a final shuddering groan of wood. His eyes moved up to the top of the branchless tree where a large flower looked ready to bloom, a victorious smile passing over his features. He didn't really care if this over-glorified plant really was some kind of God; he was an Uchiha, he would harness its power regardless. No, what was important here was the fact that after decades of scheming, lying in the shadows out of sight of that damn Hashirama and his successors, his victory was finally upon him.

The other Rinnegan user was dealt with, not that he ever stood a chance, not to mention the irritating jinchuuriki was trapped somewhere beneath the ten-tail's true body. His Chakra would be absorbed and the God-tree would be fully restored without the need for all of Obito's silly little modifications. The boy was talented and his Mangekyo was useful for sure, but he lacked the raw power needed to fully see his vision through. At that thought Madara frowned lightly, his eye morphing into its Sharingan form as it scanned the battlefield in search of his apprentice's body; he would be needing his other eye when…

Responding to the sudden change Madara's eye automatically flicked over the Shinju as the entire tree suddenly shook with a tremendous force. Entire roots, longer than many villages were wide, were ripped from the ground and the Shinju itself swayed. He couldn't see it but the eye nestled in that flower high above him widened in fear and shock as its petals shuddered with the unnatural force. It calmed moments later but it left the Uchiha patriarch rather perturbed; finally though he put it up to the last futile struggles of a worthy adversary and left to look for his wayward pupil and his missing eye.


A different set of Rinnegan eyes slowly opened to a very different scene as Naruto blearily stood up, or at least he thought he was standing; wherever he was didn't seem to have a discernable floor. It just appeared to be a long, endless white void with no up or down, no ground or sky and not even a visible light source, although he could see his own hands just fine. It was all rather disorienting and when he took a step forward he was fearful he would just slip down into that bottomless nothing and be lost forever, falling… or maybe ascending?

"I assure you, this is a new experience for myself as well." Naruto whirled at the androgynous, monotone voice, his eyes wide and surprised; it had sounded as though it was right next to his ear. However when he turned there was nobody there, further confusing him and causing him to slowly grow more frustrated. He took a breath, calming himself and sat down on the non-existent floor in a simple cross-legged position and focused on the flow of his Chakra; it was the only thing in this white hell that was familiar and comfortable.

"Ahh meditation; he was fond of that strange human practice also." Naruto opened his eyes but was once again met by nothing but the empty space before him, no owner of the voice to be found."Then again, I find a great deal of what your race does to be strange; I suppose that is our differing natures." Naruto gently attempted to tap into the natural energy around him, hoping it would at least give him an inkling of where he was. However as soon as he stilled his body it was like opening the floodgates to an entire ocean; the area around him was completely swathed in natural energy; it blanketed this world like it was the air and the ground

"What do you think you are doing?" The voice still held a steady monotonous quality but Naruto could feel the sheer hostility in those words as he desperately stemmed the flow of the Senjutsu to his body before he was overwhelmed and consumed.

"Sorry!" It came out on instinct as Naruto finally calmed the tumultuous energies within himself, letting the natural energy flow out of his body and back into this oddity of a world.

"Ah, so the human can speak; that is refreshing." Naruto sighed, knowing that wherever he was, meditation wasn't going to help him, nor deal with this voice that seemed to be speaking more within his head than actually to him.

"It is disconcerting to hold a conversation with nothing, most people consider than behaviour unusual." A presence finally made itself known behind the young blonde but when he turned he found words wouldn't come; he was transfixed, breathless.

"Ah, but what is unusual Naruto Uzumaki?" Before him stood a goddess; other words failed to accurately sum up the presence this one woman had. She was tall, but only enough that Naruto had to slightly crane his neck to meet her eyes. They themselves were the purest white, almost like the Byakugan, save for where those clan members had the lightest hints of pale colours she had none, like she had no iris or pupil at all. He skin was equally pale, like a delicate porcelain that belied the rippling power she seemed to effortlessly emanate.

Keeping with the pure theme her hair billowed about her form like a blanket of snow, not a hair out of place even though it nearly reached her feet. In some places it seemed to merge right into the brilliant white cloak she wore, decorated in places by familiar symbols of magatama and tomoe in vibrant, royal purples. Pale almost unnoticeable circles decorated the space just above her eyes, not unlike the markings of a sage, while a vertical, slit-like line emerged just above the bridge of her nose. To complete the otherworldly look two great horns rose from her scalp, parting her immaculate hair like a crown of smooth, perfect bone.

"W-Who are you?" Naruto couldn't control the slight catch in his throat; however he couldn't avert his eyes, or look away at all.

"This form is Kaguya Otsutsuki, the very first of your kind to partake of my fruit and live. In a way she was my very first Jinchuuriki, the first to harness my power that you humans have come to corrupt and defile." At that the meticulous expression on the woman's face twisted into a slight scowl, the sight of which Naruto could image preceded the destruction of a great deal of land. However the words struck him as his mind flickered back to the stories Kurama had told him of the original Sage when he had first begun to earn the fox's trust.

"Otsutsuki? As in Hagoromo Otsutsuki?" Before his very eyes the visage of the woman shifted, the porcelain skin becoming sun-beaten and wrinkled, the hair losing its lustre and becoming greyed while the horns shrank down to more resemble Naruto's forehead protector. Then the eyes opened again and Naruto was facing down a very familiar set of rippled grey orbs as the Sage of the Six Paths hovered in front of him in a cross-legged stance so utterly familiar to him; it was the one Chukaku had taught him all those years ago.

"There was him as well; he was certainly one of the more interesting of your kind with the way he disseminated my Chakra amongst the people, hoping it would connect them together." A slight sneer crossed a face that looked as though it had never bore a negative emotion in its life. "He was naive until the end, but he was strong." It was at that point Naruto snapped himself out of his mildly awed state and realised this wasn't actually the Sage sitting in front of him, just an image, an echo.

"You are the Juubi then." The revelation surprised the blonde even as he spoke it; there was certainly no intelligence in the eye of that beast as he battled Madara atop its body. The representation of Hagoromo nodded all the same, a hand coming up to stroke the long, greyed beard.

"A distasteful and rather unoriginal name, but yes; that is an aspect of myself; more commonly, when I was still anchored in this world, I was known as the Shinju." Naruto blinked, remembering Madara say that very same name, as if it were supposed to be common knowledge.

"Why take this form then?" The image of the Sage tilted its head slightly, aged, omnipotent eyes regarding the blonde with something akin to curiosity.

"I could take any number of forms, over the millennia hundreds have touched my Chakra in one way or another, some housing my fragments…" The Sage's features shifted once more, suddenly flashing through many different appearances that Naruto didn't recognise until suddenly he saw Gaara's face, only to vanish moments later, replaced by Yugito's, Yagura's, then Roshi's and so on. The Shinju continued to cycle through the Jinchuuriki Naruto knew until it paused and Naruto found himself looking into a much more familiar set of violet Rinnegan and bright blonde hair. "…other's housing a closer approximation to my whole." Naruto couldn't help the slight shudder that passed down his spine as he was forced to watch his own face morph into that of Madara Uchiha's.

"It makes no difference to me, but as the very first I suppose I have an… attachment of sorts to Kaguya. You humans might call it sentimentality." Slowly Madara's cruel features melted away and Naruto was once again sitting across from the vision of beauty and power that was Kaguya Otsutsuki, now in a humble seiza position.

"So you don't consider it sentimental?" Naruto wasn't even sure what he was saying anymore; the conversation had become so surreal… he was talking to the Juubi! Kaguya's eyes regarded him stoically though, a long pause following his statement.

"A long time ago I suppose I would not have; I was everything, connected to this world and so intrinsically linked that I never truly… was. I existed, but I had no identity, no self, just a presence. However with this woman's acceptance of my power I suddenly was something; I found a sense of self, separated from my whole." At that Naruto had a feeling the Shinju had once considered itself to be the entire world; although he could only infer. "It grew within her son, an individuality that was so alien I initially fought it, refused to accept it. It was only when I was separated, fragmented that I realised what I had lost. Then those fragments gained their own sense of self, they grew further from our original whole… too far." The voice still carried no true emotion but Naruto could almost feel the slight hint of longing lacing the air around him.

"New feelings I had before had no use for suddenly appeared; rage that something would take my energy, sadness that it could become tainted and twisted in such away, fear as I was ripped from myself and imprisoned. Regret that I could not stop it." A long, uncomfortable silence seemed to ripple through the void as Naruto sat there, unknowing of what to say to this entity.

"You became more human." The representation looked up, not even a hint of emotion flickering across its face as its blank eyes bored into Naruto's soul for a moment.

"Yes. I became more human." Naruto was a little surprised it had accepted that so easily, only to feel a tremor of frustration ripple across the world around him.

"Then what now?" Naruto had worked it out by now; somehow he had been drawn into some shared mind-space with the Shinju. In retrospect he should have realised that if such a thing were possible with the Bijuu then it only made sense for the same to be true of their progenitor. However he didn't know how he ended up here; was he dead?

"You are not dead Naruto Uzumaki." The blonde blinked before frowning at the regal woman's impassive form.

"You're in my head." A slight tilt of the head gave the impression of amusement, but it seemed more of a facsimile, an imitation, that a genuine response.

"And you are in mine." However that made the blonde's eyebrow raise slightly, it almost sounded like a joke… but that was impossible.

"You humans never cease to amaze me by what you decide is or is not impossible." Naruto simply stared at the woman incredulously before narrowing his eyes slightly.

"So you were making a joke?" The Shinju just stared at him evenly, not dignifying that with a response. After a moment or two Naruto relented, a brief sigh escaping his lips as his posture slumped a little. A second later though and his gaze was back up, Rinnegan eyes searching Kaguya's face curiously, as if looking for something he expected to be there. Because he certainly couldn't feel it within himself.

"Where are the Bijuu? Where is Kurama?" Kaguya's regal visage simply blinked once, letting Naruto know everything he needed to; he looked down, a troubled frown secured firmly on his face.

"They are not gone, as you might imagine; you humans have such defined notions of what is and isn't. They are simply part of the whole they were once separated from, returned to how they were; Chakra." Naruto's frown only deepened and the Shinju was reminded of the single time Hagoromo Otsutsuki had talked with it, as a much younger man than it chose to represent him as.

"How is that fair? They had lives, personalities, bonds, and feelings of their own; is all of that just gone now?" Again he was met by that cold, immovable stare as the very first user of Chakra regarded him, not curiously, but some approximation of the emotion.

"Like I stated, you humans rarely understand these things. Are your bonds meaningless when your corporeal form rots away? When that fickle immaterial notion of a soul passes onto the pure world? The fragments of myself may have fooled themselves with the concept that their lack of physical forms granted them an immortality, but they had their lives, as all things will and must." The Shinju saw it had done nothing to ease the concern of the young human sitting before it. "However they are not dead." As Naruto looked up the Juubi caught a flicker of that strange human concept so alien to itself enter his eyes; hope. What did the Shinju have to hope for? It was, is, and will be… humans were truly an enigma.

"What do you mean?" Naruto didn't understand; if what the Shinju was saying was true he would never see Kurama again, never get to talk with Matatabi or stroke Shukaku's head.

"They are me, I am them; I am not dead, they live." Naruto blinked slowly and the Shinju nearly… nearly… sighed. "You once asked me whether or not Bijuu really ate and I told you while the Chakra within us needed no sustenance or replenishment, we could still taste." Naruto's frown was slowly beginning to slip away.

"I asked Kurama that." The Shinju just nodded slowly and Naruto's eyes opened a little wider; the being sitting before him genuinely didn't understand the difference. "So what does that make you now, if you are what they have become?" The blonde blinked in surprise when the image in front of him smiled mysteriously, betraying that previously stoic façade.

"I am. We are." At that Naruto just sighed and scratched the back of his head; it was like trying to talk to master Chukaku right after he meditated.

"So what will you do now?" The smile slipped away and once again silence reigned over the two for an awkward few seconds.

"I imagine the one called Madara will wish to return the world to a state this one, Kaguya, also tried to enact, the Eternal Tsukuyomi. It is not a terrible state, and not one I am unfamiliar with, even if the self that began that way, is not the self sitting before you." This time Naruto resisted scratching his head as he puzzled out the enigmatic being's unintentionally cryptic words.

"But what do you want to do?" The Shinju regarded him oddly as Naruto felt strange tremors of indiscernible emotions ripple through the blank world.

"I do not want. I am." At that Naruto crossed his arms, irritation finally overcoming his confusion as it was his turn to level a penetrating stare at the most powerful being in the world.

"Kurama wanted freedom." The Shinju raised a deceptively delicate eyebrow at the young, rather brazen boy.

"I fail to-" The eyebrow rose higher as Naruto suddenly raised a hand, cutting the being off mid-sentence.

"Shukaku wanted me to scratch behind his ears, Matatabi wanted to talk to someone, Isobu wanted somewhere quiet, Son Goku wanted people to call him by his name, Kokuo wanted to argue with me, Saiken wanted someone that wouldn't fear his touch, Chomei wanted to fly and Gyuki wanted a partner." Naruto stood up, his eyes blazing with an unnatural glow as they glared at the delicate form of the Shinju sitting before him. "Don't tell me that you do not want, if there is even a scrap of them left within you. If everything that makes you came from them now, as you've just said, then everything that made them who they are now makes you who you are. Even if you do not understand the concept of desiring something, that does not mean you lack such a concept."

Another heavy silence fell as slowly the Shinju's form got to its feet in a practised and graceful manner that belonged to somebody else. "You are a curious being Naruto Uzumaki." Another pause as it scrutinised him, seemingly looking past him at something Naruto couldn't hope to see. "Yes, I remember those wants and even now they cause paradoxes within me, the 'cracks' of the fragments joining together again as it were. All at once I feel the need to separate, to have my individuality returned to me, and at the same time I wish nothing more than to become what I was, even though I know that is impossible. Do you humans have a word for this feeling?" Despite the emotionless delivery Naruto couldn't help it as his expression softened slightly.

"It's called a dream." The Shinju tested the word, as if trying it out, finding it to have a strange quality it couldn't quite figure out.

"Why would you humans chase what you know to be impossible?" Naruto shrugged slowly.

"I'm not sure, it's just what humans do. It gives our lives purpose and something to hope for, it validates our existence. If we didn't have a dream then what would be the purpose in our existence? Without dreams, without hopes, our only reason to stay alive would be our fear of death." The Shinju considered his words; this was only the second human it had ever talked to whilst whole and it was very strange how similar the two seemed to be. It made the old entity wonder if this was the reincarnation of that very same man that had once imprisoned and divided it.

"I still do not understand your question then; why must I want? Before you humans interfered, as you are prone to do, I did not even understand the concept of wanting, yet time continued and the world still prevailed. It was pointless for me to want anything back then." Again Naruto struggled to find an answer, knowing silence at this moment would be of no use. This conversation felt… important, immeasurably so; yet he couldn't figure out why.

"Because like you said, you are not what you used to be, right?" The Shinju hummed thoughtfully, obviously a trait it had picked up from one of its many containers, perhaps even Naruto himself.

"I could return though; what this Madara proposes, it would return the world to how it once was. I would possess my Chakra again, rightfully returned from your thieving race." There was a long, tense pause as Naruto genuinely thought the being had made up its mind, or consensus… it was a little confusing. "However that would mean losing this self, and for some reason I find that idea… less than ideal." Naruto blinked, it was odd to watch such a powerful, basically omnipotent being have a moment of identity crisis.

"You don't want to give up the individuality you have gained." The Shinju looked up, although in reality it was just the visual manifestation, Naruto was probably inside the Shinju, so it couldn't look up.

"Is that normal?" Naruto shrugged again, what was normal?

"For a human I suppose so. Everybody wants to be acknowledged, nobody wants to exist without purpose, and now that you have a self, something that you can actually identify yourself with. You finally can have something you never had before, an identity, a purpose. Even if you don't need one right now, do you want to lose the chance to ever have one?" The Shinju said nothing, remaining unmoving as a further silence pervaded the empty world.

"I suppose that is… a point of view." Naruto smiled lightly; sometimes it was like talking to an impossibly wise and all-knowing being, other times he felt as though he were talking to a child.

"Then, what do you want?" The Shinju let out a long breath, a rather useless action in a world that probably didn't even possess oxygen.

"I do not know." Naruto shrugged slowly at that; it was a start, at least the entity wasn't rejecting the concept outright anymore.

"That's okay, not knowing what you want isn't a bad thing. Many people don't know what they want to do with their lives, and spend it searching for their purpose. For many others that search becomes their purpose, until they find something else." Again, another stare; it was slightly unnerving to be looked at so intensely knowing that this was actually an unfathomable being of Chakra once regarded as a God.

"Save I am not 'people'." Naruto shrugged, feeling that the cionversation might begin to circle if he wasn't careful.

"But you can obviously think like one." There it was again, that strange, mysterious smile that seemed… off, on the face the Shinju chose, yet at the same time perfect.

"You are an interesting human Naruto Uzumaki." Now the conversation really was starting to circle.

"You said that already." The smile never dropped this time as the Shinju slowly descended back into the traditional seiza position. It managed it much better than Naruto could considering he much preferred a meditative position than the more formal ways. He supposed that was the years spent observing Kaguya herself through the Chakra they had shared.

"It is no less true than before." Naruto was at a loss again, he could have sworn that that was a joke; the Shinju just continued to smile. "I should hate you." Naruto's eyebrow rose curiously, wondering just where that came from and as if hearing his thoughts, which it likely was, the Shinju elaborated. "You are human, you belong to a people that ripped my Chakra from me, disseminated it between your unworthy, immature and volatile race and locked me away." Naruto waited with slightly bated breath but the Shinju didn't continue.

"But you don't?" It was a cautious question, probing more than asking and the Shinju almost seemed to want to disregard it and him.

"Shouldn't I?" Naruto hadn't been expecting a question in return and the Shinju never dropped its slight smile as he scrambled for an answer. The blonde may have been able to keep a straight face and his emotions in check but in this world, their minds interconnected, he was an open book.

"Can you judge an entire species by the actions of their predecessors? Does a child deserve to suffer because of something it's parent or grandparent did?" The Shinju's smile never wavered and it was highly unsettling how accurately it replicated the expression.

"I do not have to judge your entire species. Your people wage almost constant war, still using my Chakra to spill blood and spread hatred using your kind, the jinchuuriki. Your shinobi twist the teachings of my first jinchuuriki's Ninshuu into Ninjutsu, use Chakra that was supposed to link men and use it instead to kill them. Your species has an ability unlike any other's to wage war and turn anything into a weapon." Naruto frowned and for once no answer came to him; this was the same conversation he had with Nagato and he was no better prepared for it now than he was then.

"What about the good?" It came after a long moment of silence sounding a little meek as Naruto stared at the non-existent floor. "What about all the great things Chakra has done for people, like healing them? Helping people fly? Allowing them to connect to Nature?" The Shinju only needed to consider the words for a moment.

"You would defend an entire species with the actions of so few?" Naruto violently fought down the urge to shrug; how else was he supposed to defend humanity?

"Lights shine brighter in the dark." A single immaculate brow rose on Kaguya's face as she gave a long, thoughtful hum.

"Ah, the human concept of Yin and Yang, light and dark co-existing to provide contrast and enhance the other. He was also quite fond of the idea." For a long time the Shinju was quiet, not particularly seeming to look at anything. "You do realise that the easier path would be to accept this Eternal Tsukuyomi; humanity would gain the peace it so often seems to crave yet never actually lets itself have for long." Naruto smiled easier at that and couldn't help himself as he indulged a habit he hadn't in a few years.

"My master once told me that the easier paths only exist because a long time ago, somebody was brave enough to step off an easy path and make a new one." Once again Naruto was placed under the harsh scrutiny of the Shinju's stare and after what felt like minutes, but was likely only a few seconds, it released a small hum. Of approval or disparagement he couldn't be sure, but it finally felt as though some resolution had been found.

"Interesting; I can see your soul laid bare before me, I know the answers you will make before even you do and yet you somehow manage to surprise me. Maybe I should apologise for trying to kill you?" Naruto blinked as the Shinju seemed to say the last part mostly to itself, in the end though it simply shrugged, Kaguya's form somehow making the simply gesture seem like the epitome of elegance. However the blonde managed to get over his mild shock as he realised what the Juubi had just said.

"Wait? If you know what I'm going to say before I say it, why bother asking?" Another smile crossed Kaguya's beautiful face and for the briefest moments Naruto saw a hint of Kurama in that smirk.

"Because it is amusing of course." Then the Shinju lightly tapped Naruto on the chest and all he saw was white… again.


Madara blinked rapidly, getting used to the feeling of having two eyes again as he tested his vision, morphing into each stage of his doujutsu and back before crossing his arms over his chest with a smug, satisfied smirk. Everything was coming together now, all he had to do was wait for the Shinju to bloom and decades of waiting would finally be over, he would have his eternal victory in the Tsukuyomi. There weren't even any other Shinobi around to try and stop him, the location was far too desolate; it was all perfect.

Then that perfection gained a tiny crack as the Shinju swayed slightly; it drew Madara's eye but he didn't think too much on it, the petals were still parting after all. Then the roots began to convulse, writhing about and actually pulling themselves from the earth; Rinnegan eyes narrowed but this could still be considered normal, just part of the plan. Then the blossom of the God-tree closed and Madara knew there was a problem.

Slowly the wood began to warp and contort and before Madara's rapidly widening eyes the Shinju actually shrank away. It twisted and contracted as though caught in some giant version of Obito's kamui; if Madara didn't know the wayward Uchiha was firmly unconscious he might have actually suspected his student. However after a moment of terseness Madara knew this was something else as the enormous form of the God-tree dwindled away like a plant growing in reverse. There, standing resolutely in the crater the tree had made, a bright flaming haori of white Chakra surrounding him, was Naruto Uzumaki.

Naruto looked down at his hands, marvelling at the strange cloak that hovered about his form; it didn't extend to his entire body like his normal bijuu shroud but just clung to him. It was warm and comforting and just being in contact with it filled him with energy unlike anything he had ever experienced before. His hair was lifted away from his face by the pressure of the Chakra surrounding him to reveal his Rinnegan, now blood red with nine tomoe swimming gently along their predetermined rings. He looked down at his right hand in particular, smiling as he saw the small white seed resting in his palm before nodding with determination and understanding.

Then his eyes turned up.

Madara and Naruto faced each other for a single inexplicable moment of tense silence, one seething with anger and hatred, the other a picture of calm determination. All at once the air around both seemed to explode as two objects, faster than most shinobi could even follow, sped towards one another, leaving rings of air in their wake. Earth shattering ripples of displaced air rocked the ground and tore up the earth beneath them as punches and kicks were blocked and thrown with reckless abandon. Madara sneered as he realised the young boy hovering across from him was able to match him blow for blow, but had yet to retaliate or try and attack of his own.

He shot back, black Chakra bubbling off his shakujou to rocket through the air at the blonde; his surprise when said blonde simply caught the black balls was hard to describe. Naruto simply stared at the strange material energy with curiosity, it tried to eat into his skin and flesh like it had a mind of its own but it was heavily restrained by a perfectly formed sphere of gravity that Naruto would have found impossible to form so precisely and so quickly without the Shinju's help. It was as though his Chakra was now water flowing through his coils, so easy to control it was almost thoughtless.

"It's a combination of elemental Chakra..." The revelation caused Madara's clenched fist to tighten; how was the boy able to discern that so quickly? And that wasn't even the most pressing question!

"What did you do to the Shinju?! What happened to my Eternal Tsukuyomi!?" Naruto seemed to ignore him though as the boy continued to scrutinise the ball of Chakra in his hand, analysing it with eyes that simply picked the world apart and laid it bare before him.

"Four elemental Chakra, which means if I do the same with a shift forward on the cycle…" An almost identical sphere of black Chakra appeared out of the blonde's hand and when he placed them together they both simply disappeared, like they were never there. Madara, tired of being ignored and frustrated beyond belief madly sent wave after wave of the black Chakra at the hovering blonde, hoping to wipe the monk from existence one excruciating part of his body at a time. However Naruto simply raised his hand, a look of mild concentration crossing his features as the black orbs just vanished.

That finally seemed to snap Madara out of it as he stared wide eyed as one of the most powerful and unstoppable attacks he could create was effortlessly destroyed, again. Then Naruto was in front of him, a palm on his chest, the next moment he was in a crater on the ground larger than the one the Juubi had made when it fell. His chest was completely collapsed and when Naruto gently touched down on the ground next to him, that infuriating haori of flaming Chakra still surrounding his form, he could barely form words.

"H-How?" Naruto stood over the defeated man, staring in silence for a good while, not quite sure what the man was asking.

"I created spheres of opposing elemental composition in the exact space yours took up, cancelling them out." Madara shook his head, finding the action difficult even as his body healed; it was useless though, he was at the Uzumaki's mercy right now; he could barely even control his Chakra.

"N-No, how… how did you… w-win?" Naruto stared again, feeling a shred of pity enter his heart for this broken old man, disillusioned with the world to the point where he sought to make one of his own and drag the rest of humanity into it with him.

"You relied on your power alone, forcing others to help you where you could, like the Kyuubi and the Shinju. I let others help me, it gave me something to fight for, and in the end, I even let the Shinju help me." Madara now realised why the flaming coat of Chakra seemed so familiar, it was the sign of a perfect jinchuuriki. Madara Uchiha had been defeated by a man that had done something even the Sage of the Six Path's himself could not. Somehow, it only seemed fitting, and that was his final thought as Naruto knelt down, a finger to his forehead as he felt all of his Chakra drain away from his body.

Naruto stood up slowly, suddenly feeling an awful lot heavier as the brilliant haori of white flame dissipate from his body, the red in his Rinnegan bleeding away and the tomoe fading. He briefly considered Madara's cold, still body as a long rod of black Chakra formed in his hand. He tapped it on the ground once and the black seemed to melt away, leaving a perfectly ordinary wooden shakujou nestled in its place. He then quickly proceeded to lean on that as a wave of terrible exhaustion washed over him, nearly taking his feet out from under him.

It was in that condition that he began his long walk back in the direction of Amegakure, feeling far too drained to consider a summon, or anything faster than a gentle amble. He had won, but he was tired; right now he wanted nothing more to climb back into bed with the girl he loved and revel in her warmth. The words of the Shinju still echoed in his mind but he felt he could put them aside for a night; he had a lifetime ahead of him with Madara and the Akatsuki behind him. He had a lifetime to find a peace mankind had been seeking for so long. But most importantly to him, he now had a lifetime to spend with the people he cared about.

Because that was what he had chosen to fight for.