Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox
Written by Neon Majestic
(DISCLAIMER: The Naruto franchise and the characters therein belong to and were originally created by Masashi Kishimoto.)
CHAPTER 222 – 15 Years Later
"Enishi, you little brat! When I get hold of you, I swear…!"
The tranquility of Konoha Town was broken by the angry shout as two police officers, one sporting orange hair and the other white hair, chased after a small red-haired boy. "Come back here, kid!" the white-haired cop yelled.
Running as hard as he could, the little boy spied a teenage girl with light-blond hair just up ahead; the girl, having heard the commotion, had turned to see what was going on. "Ah! Help!" He swiftly ran up to her and took refuge behind her. "Onee-san, help me!"
"Grab that boy! Don't let him get away!" the orange-haired cop ordered.
The girl complied, grabbing the boy by his arm. "Now, just hang on a minute," she began.
"AH! HELP! SOMEBODY HELP! THIS GIRL'S TRYING TO KIDNAP ME!" the boy screamed.
"Say what?" A sweat-drop appeared on the girl's forehead.
"Oi, oi, oi—what's all the fuss about, eh?"
Everyone looked up at the sound of the authoritative voice, only to see an older woman with bright red hair and a shopping basket in one hand. "Enishi, are you making trouble again?" the newcomer asked.
"No, Grandma!" the child said with an innocent smile.
"Yeah, right!" the white-haired cop snapped. "Your enterprising grandson smeared jam all over the seats of our police cruiser! It'll take days to wash it out!" and he and his fellow cop turned their backs to show that, indeed, the backs of their shirts and the seats of their pants were coated in jam.
"Oh, so that explains how all of my jam vanished so mysteriously today," said the red-haired woman.
"Heh…now Officer Hozuki and Officer Tenbin are in a jam!" Enishi chuckled.
"Why, you little—!" Officer Hozuki snarled.
"Now, now, just let it go, huh, Suigetsu-kun? He's only seven, and you know you weren't much better even when you were a teenager," the older woman addressed the officer. "Listen, I'll personally pay to have your clothes and car cleaned up, what do you say? Just forgive my grandson this time, please?"
"Grr…well…" Officer Tenbin looked reluctant. "All right, fine…but you'd really better take responsibility!"
"I understand, Jugo-kun. I'm truly sorry," Kushina replied, bowing low at the waist.
"Geez…the others at the precinct will never let us live this one down…" Officer Hozuki grumbled.
"Let's just get back and get changed," Officer Tenbin replied, and with that both cops walked off.
All this time the blond girl had watched the scene with bemusement. Now she turned to Kushina. "Excuse me, but they called you Kushina-san…would that be Uzumaki Kushina?" she inquired.
"Ah, yes, that's me," Kushina confirmed.
"Oh, good." The girl bowed politely. "I'm Uchiha Suiren, Itachi's and Yugito's daughter."
"Eh?" Kushina eyed the younger woman carefully. "Oh, yes—it IS you, isn't it? It's been ages since I last saw you!" she exclaimed in delight. "You've grown, Suiren-chan!"
"And you're still looking as youthful as ever, Kushina-san," Suiren smiled. "And this is your grandson," she went on, looking at Enishi. "The red hair must be a family thing."
"Well, it skipped a generation with my son…but red is still all-powerful in our family!" Kushina grinned.
"Grandma says my hair's red because of my boiling-hot energy!" Enishi said boastfully.
"So, Suiren-chan," Kushina addressed the girl, "what brings you here? Are your parents with you?"
"No, I came on my own," Suiren answered. "I thought I'd give Uncle Sasuke and the rest of the family a surprise—they see Dad more often than they see me and Mom, since Dad comes for the regular weekly meeting the company holds."
"Well, since you're here, why don't you join us for lunch? I feel for hamburgers today, but I really don't feel like cooking," said Kushina.
Enishi's eyes grew wide. "Grandma, does that mean…?"
"You know it, little man! Burger Castle it is!" Kushina gave her grandson a thumbs-up.
"…WOW." Suiren nodded ecstatically before taking another bite of her burger. "This is GOOD STUFF."
"You got that right! Burger Castle does the best food anywhere in Konoha Town!" Enishi, sitting across from Suiren and next to Kushina, said with conviction.
"Ahem…" Kushina gave him a look.
"Ah—I mean—it's the best after Ichiraku Ramen, and Ichiraku Ramen is the best after Grandma's cooking," Enishi amended his statement.
"Much better!" Kushina grinned, appeased.
Suiren took up two ketchup-covered French fries and then popped them into her mouth, savoring the taste of them. "So, Kushina-san…how's the rest of the family?" she asked.
"Oh, they're coming together a little later today, so you should get to see them," said Kushina.
"Well, well, out with the grandson again, Kushina-san? And you have another lunch-mate with you," a female voice spoke up—and looking up, the trio were treated to the sight of its owner, a woman with long blond hair tied in one ponytail at the back and another ponytail hanging over her brow. With her were a tall, lean-bodied man with a lazy expression and a bigger-bodied man with a jolly grin.
"Ah, Ino-chan, Shikamaru-kun and Choji-kun," said Kushina. "Remember Sasuke's niece, Suiren?"
"Oh? Well, well, it IS you!" Choji chuckled. "I really didn't recognize you, Suiren-chan—it's been ages!"
"Well, I'll be here in town for a little while today—maybe we can catch up," Suiren suggested.
"Sorry, kid, but we're here on business today," said Shikamaru. "Choji and I have meat deliveries to do from his butcher store and my deer farm, and Ino here is bringing in a vegetable order from her greengrocery. Although with the kind of fame your husband gets from his artwork, I don't even think you need to continue working," he added, casting a sideways glance at Ino.
"Speaking of which, Ino-chan, how is Sai? I haven't seen him around all week," said Kushina.
"Oh, well, you know, he's quite busy with his latest art show at the Iwa City Museum," Ino explained. "Which means that I got left with watching Asuka…"
"Did somebody call my name?" a much younger voice piped up—and they all looked in the direction of the door going to the kitchen, in time to see a young girl about Enishi's age just stepping out from there, with a much older man behind her. "Oh, hey, Mrs. Uzumaki, Enishi," the girl greeted them. "Mommy, Grandpa and I are here making deliveries today with Mr. Nara and Mr. Akimichi!"
Suiren noticed Enishi's suddenly nervous look. "Hmm…is that girl your friend, Enishi?" she smiled.
"Wh-what? No way! There's no way I'm friends with her! Girls have cooties!" Enishi looked disgusted.
"Well, now, I'm a girl too," Kushina spoke up.
"That's different—you're my grandma!" Enishi said defensively.
"Ha, ha, ha!" Ino laughed. "Anyway, Dad, I guess everything's set now?" she asked the older man.
"That it is," Mr. Yamanaka nodded. "And Asuka here was such a wonderful little helper—weren't you, sweetheart?" he asked, patting his granddaughter on the shoulder.
"Yes, I was indeed!" Asuka said proudly.
"Which means that you two still have to finish up your own deliveries," Kushina addressed Shikamaru and Choji. "So you'd better get to it, shouldn't you?"
"Reluctantly," Shikamaru sighed. "Geez, deliveries can be so troublesome…"
"Well, never mind—we'll still be making a profit after all is said and done!" Choji said happily. "Well, guys, we'll leave you to your lunch! See you later!" and he gave a quick wave and walked away, with Shikamaru following behind him at a slower pace.
"We'd better go, too—Mom's doing dinner today, and she just can't wait to spoil her granddaughter like usual," and Ino rested a fond hand on Asuka's head. "So, Asuka, Dad, shall we?"
"Lead the way, Mommy! Bye, Enishi! Bye, everyone!" Asuka waved to Kushina and the others, and a moment later she was heading for the exit with her mother and grandfather.
Suiren grinned. "I think little Asuka has a crush on you, Enishi."
"No, she doesn't!" Enishi snapped, fangs in his mouth.
"All right, all right," Kushina waved a hand to placate her grandson. "Let's finish up our burgers, shall we? Then you need to go see your relatives, Suiren-chan."
"Right!" Suiren picked up her burger again.
"Okay!" Morino Ibiki barked at the members of the police squad, his black bandana in place to cover the top of his head, while on his vest the badge with the words CHIEF, KONOHA TOWN POLICE was proudly displayed. "Give me answers, fast! Inuzuka, Ozaki, what news on that credit card fraud ring?"
The two named officers—their ID cards reading Inuzuka Kiba and Ozaki Haruna, respectively, and both of them wearing badges with DETECTIVE inscribed on them—stood tall. "We've got a suspect in custody, set for interview shortly," Kiba answered.
"And we currently have all the credit cards we confiscated from the suspect's house; Aburame Shino down in the forensics unit is going through the numbers right at the moment," Haruna replied.
"Keep on it; we need this case cracked open ASAP!" Ibiki ordered. "Any further updates, you give 'em to me or the lieutenant," and he indicated the blond woman standing near to him, with her ID card reading Tsuchigumo Hotaru and her accompanying badge bearing the inscription LIEUTENANT.
"Yes, sir!" Kiba and Haruna nodded swiftly, and then hurried out of the office.
Hotaru watched the two detectives' departure with a hint of a smirk on her face. "Those two are surely growing as cops, aren't they?" she asked. "Kiba's really taking after his mother…and Haruna's come a long way since the time I knew her when she was a bratty kid…"
"Well, don't bother going soft on them just because we know them personally—police work is still police work, first and foremost," Ibiki said gruffly.
"I know, I know." Hotaru got a thoughtful look in her eyes. "Still…I guess I can't help but feel a little nostalgic…it almost seems like just yesterday when we had the whole drama with LOVE…"
Ibiki eyed her. "Well, they're out of the picture now, so no need to dwell too much on it."
"Are they, really?" asked Hotaru. "The top players in LOVE might be in jail or dead by now, but the effect they left on society is still with us. Including us here in this department…" She looked away.
Ibiki's eyes narrowed. "You mean Iruka."
Hotaru didn't answer. But her eyes were overshadowed.
"Look…" Ibiki sighed. "What happened with Iruka…it's hard for me to deal with, too, knowing how he could've killed me that time. But we can't let that stop us—we swore to protect and serve, and that's what we're going to do no matter what happens. That's why you stayed with the force, too, isn't it…"
"If I were to quit just because of what Iruka did, then that means I was with the force for the wrong reason all along—just because I was looking too much to someone I saw as a role model. Still, it took me a while to really get that message…but it came through, in the end." Hotaru straightened up and headed for the office window, looking out. "We have a duty to the people where we're assigned…I want to do my duty to the fullest of my ability."
"Right." Ibiki nodded.
Hotaru kept looking out the window…and then she paused. "Say…that's your brother out there, isn't it? And it looks like he's with his significant other…" She grinned.
"Is that right?" Ibiki cocked an eyebrow. "Y'know, between me and you, I'm still not sure what to make of that…but to each his own, I guess…"
"Oh, come on! It's been ten years since we went down the aisle together—don't tell me you're still scared of my family!" Hana teased Idate as they walked along the sidewalk together.
"Your mother's the former chief of police with a temper when it comes on to her kids. Having her as a mother-in-law is scary enough." Idate shivered. "And now your brother's a cop and licensed to kill…"
"And your brother's the current chief of police and likewise licensed to kill, and you don't see me being scared of him," Hana cocked an eyebrow.
"Only because you have the power to wield the one weapon every man tends to be afraid of…the power of the prostate exam," Idate said dryly.
"Ha-ha-ha! Okay, I don't know how to answer that one! You win!" Hana gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Still…if we've been married these last ten years, and neither your mom nor your brother has made to shoot me yet, that should be a good sign…I think," said Idate.
"Then that means dinner at Mom's house tonight?" Hana gave him a sweet smile.
Idate nodded. "As long as you don't have any emergency cases at the hospital, I'm down."
Just then a car drove up the road in their direction. "Oh, hey, look, that's Judge Senju's car! Hello, your honor!" Hana waved cheerfully to the vehicle as it passed them—and she was replied to with a few swift toots of the car's horn as it sped off up the street.
"That was the doctor who gives you your annual physical, wasn't it?" Orochimaru, seated in the passenger seat of Tsunade's car, glanced back at the young woman waving after them. "And she's with her husband, too…such a nice couple they make…"
"No argument there," said Tsunade. "Hana's really come a long way these last few years."
"We ALL have, haven't we?" Orochimaru said thoughtfully, leaning back in his seat. "Fifteen years…so much has changed…you've become a senior resident magistrate for the Fire County division, I'm now the Fire County liaison in the office of the Ministry of Local Government…"
"…and Jiraiya is a pariah." Tsunade's tone was humorless as her grip on the steering wheel tightened.
Orochimaru looked at his car-mate, his smile slowly vanishing. "You have news about him?"
"Sarutobi-sama has been kind enough to provide me with updates every so often," said Tsunade. "We know Jiraiya was brought before a commission of enquiry into the events of his accidental killing of Gaara's parents and his subsequent efforts with members of the government to cover it up. There were a number of resignations from various ministries, including from the ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs…and Jiraiya received the heaviest sanctions. He can never return to political office."
"Yes…and shortly after that he left the country, and has yet to return since then," said Orochimaru. "By the way, was there ever any substantiation of the rumors that Jiraiya was going to use the people in the Kyuushingai's training program to…silence Ms. Shimada for not agreeing to that cover-up?"
"As far as anyone's aware, the investigators never found anything to support those allegations," Tsunade answered coolly. "And quite frankly, Orochimaru, I really don't want to know at this point. I just want to remember Jiraiya the way I used to know him…as the goofy pervert we went to school with. I don't want those memories of him to be tainted any more than they've been already."
"Yeah…I understand what you mean." Orochimaru looked away sadly. "It's already hard enough to fathom that his actions led to the 365 days, to LOVE, to Akatsuki, and to that incident at Parliament fifteen years ago, no matter how unintentional his role in all of that may have been…by the way, is there anything new on those persons from those organizations?"
"Akatsuki and LOVE?" Tsunade remarked. "Well…"
"Kira Hachi, Gyuki the Bull, he's currently doing life, in a maximum security facility, for a whole slew of charges—murder, conspiracy to murder, identity theft, and others," the blue-haired woman said to her table-mate as they sat on a park bench in the shade of a large tree, nursing bottles of lemonade.
The woman's companion took a swig from his bottle, before turning his cat-like eyes toward her. "I still can't believe it, though, Konan…all this time, we'd been taking orders from a Kyuushingai…"
"He had every one of us hoodwinked, Kyusuke," Konan said dryly. "The people who knew his real identity and helped him in his endeavors are also now in prison, too, but the ones who offered to turn state's evidence against him got lesser sentences—including me, you, Yahiko and Kakuzu…"
Kyusuke chuckled. "You and I were lucky…thanks to the deal we cut with the government prosecutors, we got nicer arrangements than we'd had up to that point…too bad our sentences weren't shaved a bit—but oh well. At least we're not serving multiple life sentences like Kakuzu and his patsy Shiore are for the attack they pulled on Konoha Town's precinct."
"The only reason we got a break was because the court determined that our circumstances were extenuating," Konan noted. "And Yahiko got a bit of a break, too, since he offered himself up as the prosecution's star witness against Kira. He got a fairly decent sentence…40 years, with a chance for parole in 20. He'll be eligible in the next five years, I believe."
"Well, at least we're alive, unlike Deidara, Hidan and Monjin," said Kyusuke. "Alive enough to be able to enjoy lemonade like this," and he held up his half-empty bottle.
"Well, now, you two, basking in lemonade, are you?"
The duo glanced up and saw a man clad in a black trench-coat, approaching them. "So you're here too, Zabuza?" Konan asked. "What, is the big man ready to head out?"
"Not for a little while—he still has his little personal get-together to attend," Zabuza replied.
Kyusuke chuckled. "Who'd have thought…us as former Akatsuki members, and you as a former member of Isobu the Turtle's Blood Mist Gang, working together under that man because the government said we should in exchange for getting time shaved off our sentences…what are we, their personal suicide squad or something?"
"I think 'black-ops' is the politically correct term here," another voice spoke up, and all three looked up to see a dark-skinned youth with white hair emerging from behind the tree.
"Heh…you must be glad you got the same deal as us, Darui, to work in this little arrangement under that guy's supervision," said Konan. "Especially with LOVE's fate after the Parliament incident…"
"Say, whatever did happen to the rest of your little club?" asked Zabuza. "I know they've got Yagura in Water County's toughest maximum-security facility with the rest of our Blood Mist Gang, but I wasn't following up on the rest of them…where are they now?"
Darui chuckled. "Their fates are wide and varied, my friend…"
"The members of LOVE? Why the interest?" Hatake Kakashi eyed Yukata.
They were sitting in Kakashi's living room together with Terumi Mei, Yuhi Kurenai, Shiranui Genma, and Mitarashi Anko, with textbooks and lesson plans in their laps and on the coffee table before them. "Just late-blooming curiosity, I guess," Yukata replied. "Me, I was only ever paying attention to what happened with Chi-sama and the rest of the Tiger Dragons, following the whole Parliament incident. I know Chi-sama got a deal with the prosecution that only let him spend 10 years in prison, in exchange for his testimony…and now he's back in Sound City, keeping a low profile and behaving himself…"
"And we know now that LOVE was behind Yamato being the Spiral Reaper—you testified about it during the trial, didn't you, Yukata?" said Genma.
"Vice-Principal Yamato…who'd have thought?" Kurenai scowled. "He caused our town some serious trouble…but at least he's in an asylum now. But what about the rest of them?"
"You'd be likely to know, Kakashi—you had a personal clash with one of them, didn't you?" asked Mei.
"Yeah…the one named Yura." Kakashi nodded. "He's in prison, doing 35 years for several white-collar crimes and for attempted murder. Kurotsuchi, the one from Iwa City, she's doing 40 years for arson, plus a bunch of firearms charges and attempted murder. The one named Matsuri, I hear she got 35 years for murder, assault, and breaking and entering…that guy Menma, the one who flew that helicopter the night Konoha Town was under siege by LOVE, he died when the cops shot him down…and the smuggler Chojuro, he was shot dead during the Parliament incident."
"Plus several of their agents got arrested after what happened at Parliament, thanks to courtroom testimony from a couple of LOVE defectors—that dominated the news for weeks," Kurenai put in.
"As for the leaders…they should still be in prison by now, shouldn't they?" asked Genma.
"They are," Kakashi confirmed. "Temari was on bail previously, but after she got arrested, that bail was revoked, and now she's serving a life sentence. Kankuro was directly connected to the Spiral Reaper incident, and when the court combined that with his break-in at the Hyuga mansion and his actions at Parliament, he got a life sentence as well."
"And the other one—Gaara?" asked Anko. "He was underage, but he was tried as an adult…"
"Given the circumstances, I don't think they'd handle it any other way," said Kakashi. "I understand that the authorities put him in solitary confinement in a government facility, with assistance from his uncle, Sabaku Yashamaru. Then, after that arrangement was made, Yashamaru himself stepped down as CEO of Sabaku Limited as his way of apologizing to the public for not doing enough to rein in his relatives' antics…and Baki, the former mayor of Suna City, he resigned from public office because of his connection to them setting up their technology to control those missiles they'd launched that day."
"Hmm…I see." Yukata looked to one side. "Well…all said and done, justice has been served, I guess."
"Including for you, too, dear," Mei said with a small smile. "Before he retired, Danzo-sama made sure to exonerate you of that charge the former Hall Monitors' Guild had brought against you."
"Yeah…that was nice of him…" Yukata muttered.
"And now here you are, a junior teacher with us at Konoha High, after having gotten your college degree!" Anko grinned. "Talk about unlikely outcomes, huh?"
"Not as much as when Danzo-sama made Kakashi his successor—how'd that happen?" Kurenai asked.
"Oh, stop complaining—at least you made vice-principal," Kakashi countered. "What I find weird is you two," pointing at Genma and Anko, "becoming an item. Oi, Genma, what do you see in her, eh?"
"Probably what your reporter lady Rin sees in you—it's been, what, five years since you guys tied the knot?" Anko shot back. "Though I don't see what the hell Mei could've seen in my ex…"
"Oh, Kotetsu's not all that bad, Anko," and Mei smirked. "Unless he gets bad enough to warrant me buying a police uniform and handcuffs—"
"Okay, these workbooks won't review themselves!" Kurenai said loudly. "Back to work, everybody!"
"Right!" Yukata nodded vigorously.
"So you're here, Suiren…" Sasuke, clad in a dark blue suit with a red tie, looked his niece up and down. "I'm just surprised Itachi and Yugito didn't send bodyguards to accompany you."
Suiren rolled her eyes. "Please, Uncle Sasuke, I'm a big girl now," she answered.
"But you'll always be their little girl, if Itachi's constant threats to use chainsaws on the balls of any guy who knocks you up before marriage are any indication," Sasuke deadpanned.
"Don't remind me…" Suiren sighed. "So, where's Aunt Sakura? At the hospital right now, I take it?"
"Not today—she took the day off to help with preparations for this get-together over at your Grandpa Kizashi's place," Sasuke explained. "The party's at 4:00. Wanna come with?"
"Sure! It'll be great to see everyone again, all right!" Suiren nodded eagerly.
4:00 at the Haruno home saw the place abuzz with activity. Out in the front yard, four long tables and benches had been strategically placed in a square formation, and on top of the tables were dishes of rice, beans, potato salad, fresh vegetable salad and coleslaw, strips of baked tofu and whole grilled snappers, and in the very center there were three roasted chickens simmering in their pans. And…
"C'mon, honey, I'm starving!" Minato pouted. "At least just a drumstick, huh?"
"Minato, NO!" Kushina snapped at her husband. "Leave the food alone! Everybody needs their share!"
At that moment Enishi came out of the house, followed by a black-haired boy his age. "Hey, Enishi, I bet my dad can beat up your dad!" the black-haired boy said tauntingly.
"Nuh-uh, Lando! My dad can beat up your dad, easy!" Enishi yelled.
"Now, now, boys, stop your fighting and go sit at the tables," an older female voice admonished them, before its owner—a familiar pink-haired woman—stepped out after them.
"Yes, Mom," Lando said in sudden submissiveness, and he and Enishi went and sat down.
At that moment Tenten arrived outside, carrying a pitcher of lemonade. "The old argument again, eh, Sakura?" she asked the pink-haired woman. "Some things never change…"
Sakura chuckled in spite of herself. "If only they knew, right, Tenten?"
Just then a tall-bodied figure stumbled out with a cooler in hand. "Where does this go?" Han asked.
"Right next to the tables, sir Han," Sakura directed him.
"Hai!" Han carried the cooler over to the tables and set it down.
Tenten shook her head. "Who'd have thought…another of the Kyuushingai, here in town, and now acting as bodyguard for your old man, ever since Dr. Haruno became Minister of Health…"
"I know. Wonders never cease, right?" said Sakura. "After the whole Parliament incident, Han turned himself over to the government and underwent a tribunal like what Naruto went through back in the day. I guess Dad's testimony on his behalf swayed the adjudicators…"
"Yeah…" Tenten looked more thoughtful. "I'm just sorry Fuu isn't alive to have gotten her own life's wishes granted…but at least she got a decent burial, and now she's at peace."
Just then other persons emerged from the house—Hiashi, Hanabi, Neji, Lee, Kabuto, Dr. and Mrs. Haruno, Fugaku and Mikoto. "Well, now, everything seems to be in readiness," Hiashi remarked.
"And…" Fugaku glanced toward the road, having just spotted two cars approaching the yard from opposite directions. "We have more guests coming in. Let's go greet them, eh?"
One of the cars pulled over on the curb, and a moment later out came Sasuke and Suiren. "Hi, everyone," Suiren greeted the group.
"Well, well—my dear granddaughter!" Mikoto exclaimed in delight. "But I thought you and your parents would've come together…"
The second car came to a stop close to Sasuke's car, and out came Itachi and Yugito. "Hey, everyone!" Yugito greeted them with a wave of her hand. "It looks like we're just in time!"
"Uh, Mom, Dad? You knew about this get-together?" Suiren blinked.
"Oh, we got an inkling here and there," Itachi answered. "And if you hadn't come to Konoha Town all on your own, we'd have had time to tell you about it. Then you'd have saved that much bus fare."
Suiren groaned. "Oy vey."
"Well, never mind—at least you're all here now!" Hanabi said brightly. "And everybody can get a taste of the newest lemonade batch fresh from our factory!"
"No artificial sweeteners, all organic, all healthy!" Lee trumpeted.
"Oi, Lee, you don't have to be Hanabi's sales manager right now—save it for when you guys are back at the office, eh?" Neji grunted.
Tenten walked over to Neji and lightly rubbed his back with one hand. "Don't try fighting that battle, Neji. Lee's energy will win every single time. You'd think you would've learned by now."
"Sigh…yes, Mrs. Hyuga," Neji assented.
"That's right, Neji-kun, know when to submit to the wife's wisdom," Dr. Haruno chuckled. "Take it from a man who's been there long before you."
Mrs. Haruno looked around. "Say…aren't we missing some people?"
Kabuto smiled a little. "Oh, I think they'll be down when they're good and ready…"
And…at one of the upstairs windows overlooking the yard, there stood Uzumaki Naruto, beholding the scene below. "Hmm…so it's all come together, now, huh…"
Turning at the sound of the musical voice, Naruto beheld Hinata watching him from the doorway. "Let's not keep the others waiting," Hinata said gently. "Plus you don't want to lose your share of the food to Enishi and your father." She reached out a hand to him.
Naruto chuckled. "Coming, hon." And he walked toward her and took her hand in his.
Together the two headed downstairs and toward the front door, and the growing noise of the diners out in the yard sounded more boisterous the closer they got, with Itachi poking fun at Sasuke, Hiashi and Fugaku getting into their usual bickering, Lee sounding even more energetic with Hanabi giving him awestruck admiration and Tenten having to subtly restrain Neji from strangling him, Yugito overseeing Suiren's plate of food, Kushina blocking Minato's and Enishi's efforts to sneak extra portions, Kabuto graciously serving Dr. and Mrs. Haruno while Sakura and Mikoto fussed over Lando's servings, and Han standing quietly by with his own plate and watching every movement…
Naruto's smile reached right up to his eyes. I wouldn't trade this for the world.
END CHAPTER 222
NEON MAJESTIC: …whew. After 222 chapters, we've reached the finale.
No, none of the kids in this chapter are original characters. Enishi is based on a brief moment of imagination Naruto had in canon when he wished he'd had red hair like Kushina; Lando was an orphan from Toniko Village; Suiren was a shinobi from the Hidden Mist; and Asuka is the name I gave to a young girl with sandy-blond hair who was part of the Thundercloud Unit of the Allied Shinobi Forces.
Yes, Minato has new members of his black-ops unit: Konan, Kyusuke, Zabuza and Darui. And yes, I did insert a Suicide Squad reference in there, but not because of the movie—I have no plans to watch it, since its trailer was way too off-putting for me. I was drawing more from the original comics and the team's iteration in Justice League Unlimited, both of which obviously came before the movie.
And yes, I stand by the declaration I made way back when—that this would be my final fan-fic effort, and that after all's said and done, I'll be retiring from fan-fic writing. This simply means that the supplementary material I wanted to include in the Gaiden Chronicles will have to include any additional material that wasn't covered in this main story proper. And, again, anything in the Gaiden chapters is in fact canon to this story's universe. That includes Ajisai being Roshi's granddaughter in this universe.
And yes, I created a childish attraction between Enishi and Asuka, for the fans who'd been hoping for a Naruto x Ino pairing. What didn't happen with those two is hinted to maybe happen with their children.
I'd like to thank all of you who stuck with the story from beginning to end, and I hope you'll continue to stick with the story via the Gaiden chapters. Though I do wish for one certain set of reviews to have been more detailed than simply saying "awesome story" for each and every chapter, but at least there was patronage there. So, once again, thank you, one and all.
And so, to all of you here at the site…on a fan-fic writing level…sayonara!