Epilogue: Where things are wrapped up faster than they should be, and one or two plots are left in deep, dark holes.
The tea had gotten cold. He had not noticed.
How long would it be? It had already been a day, but the news that he was expecting should have arrived by now. It was perfectly fine to just wait, he realized, but he was actually beginning to find himself becoming impatient.
Niro had been found dead. That ruined his plans greatly. He did not figure that the one he sent would have actually killed everyone there, nor did he expect Niro to have been defeated so easily. He was the one who had defeated Dejiro after all, and Dejiro was one of the strongest on the planet. To die so easily, was something else at work here?
It was entirely possible that they were involved. The news always seemed slightly suspicious. Niro was one of the Five Lightning Gods, and the last of them to die, but he was always a thinker, not a warrior.
He ceased his idle musings for now, and continued to wait. The messenger had just arrived in the village. He could sense it, and they were rushing here. He lifted the tea to his mouth, but pulled it back down when he realized the temperature.
“Welcome back, my love.” He said simply, as the black shadow appeared beside him, already bowing. “What have you found?” He waited a moment. She was out of breath, clearly the news that she had for him was alarming for her to waste her stamina tracking across country as fast as she had.
“It appears the Mist Ninja has killed them all.” She stated simply. “There were three graves with forehead protectors on them, but the bodies had actually been burned nearby. Their scents confirmed them”
“I see, and the children that were with them?”
“They had left the scene, it seems. Their trail shows them heading back for the Fire Country.”
“Very well. We can leave it at that. If nothing has happened to the children, then we are safe for now. Leave the Mist Ninja to do what he wants. I have a feeling he will not return for payment.”
“Yes, my lord.” He looked at her sternly. She was playing with him again.
“You may leave.”
“Yes, my lord.” He showed nothing as she left him, disappearing once again, as she always did. He would not see her until the night. When he was alone, he allowed a sigh to escape his lungs.
He knew it wasn’t entirely true, there was potential to suggest otherwise, and that was enough for him, but he no longer cared. He was a tool, and he had a more important task to do. He needed to rebuild the country that he was created to be a tool for. With the useless tools thrown away, he would just move on to his next job. He had a lot of work to do.
She woke up, and could immediately tell it was past midday. Her mother had let her sleep in again. She stretched and yawned and got out of bed and slowly got changed, wondering if her mother would mind if she still had breakfast this morning.
All of a sudden, her thoughts turned the day before, and she was amazed at how she had nearly forgotten for a second.
“You don’t have to call me Sensei anymore, Ino.”
“Why not, Sa-yu-ki-sensei? After all, you taught me a lot during all this.”
“Well, if that’s the case I’m going to have to start calling you sensei as well then.” She remembered being almost confused as she saw her teacher smile at her. It looked like the brightest, happiest smile that she had ever saw. It was like the exile from the Hidden Village of Clouds had become the most carefree entity in existence.
It was the last time she saw her. It would be the last time she would ever see her.
She felt like it didn’t matter. It was a perfect way for them to leave, although she would have like to have gotten to know her better.
“Yo, Ino.” She found herself growling loudly, as she turned to face the window, already knowing who it was. Asuma sat, perched on the windowsill, as he greeted his student. “You awake? We have a mission today, so get dressed as soon as possible.” She didn’t hesitate to throw a pillow at him, and he just smiled as the fluffy cushion hit. She grabbed the nearest item and covered herself up, but he was already gone.
She sighed, shaking her head, before moving to her cupboard and getting her top out. Life would just continue, she guessed. Life will always just continue.
It had taken four hours of requesting to be alone for a while, but he had finally got away with the excuse of training. He didn’t feel like training, something about him felt like rolling up into a corner and burning away. He couldn’t understand it, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He just wanted the feeling to go away.
Tenten had approached him, and he had ignored her. Everything about her, he closed all his senses and just repelled her very presence until she gave up and went away. She would probably be back in an hour or so. Why did she care so much?
“I am unworthy of being cared for.” He found himself muttering. He wasn’t sure if he really believed it, but it would do for now. He just wanted to do nothing but hate himself for now. He just wanted to jump down from the tree and land heavily. To then throw himself into the tree. To punch and kick and bite and claw away at his soul until nothing was left. He didn’t want to exist anymore. Not in this cage that he was trapped in, that told him what to do, that treated him and his family as sacrifice, that forced him to kill in order to protect.
She was your first, huh? The virgin kill is always the most delightful.
He stopped as he heard it, looking up and around for the source. He wouldn’t find anything, but he knew it now. This was his destiny. It was inescapable. He would just have to accept it.
“Kiba-kun?” She said, surprised at his presence as much as he was surprised as her. They were at the training post, her hand stuck in mid thrust as she became aware of him walking up to her. Akamaru barked, to indicate that he was there as well, stuffed in Kiba’s jacket as usual.
“Yo, Hinata.” He said, as he finally let a friendly smile come out. It was half hearted, but she appreciated the effort. “Don’t let me stop you.” He was a little more surprised than her, and he was guessing she’ll probably be embarrassed at him catching her training like this.
“I…I was just about to finish.” She said, relaxing her palm strike and standing back. “Do…do you wish to…” she indicated the training post, and he found himself laughing a little.
“There are two, you know?” He said. “We can both train individually.” He allowed himself to laugh a little longer, before stopping. Her face was more glum was usual, and he knew the reason why. He heaved a sigh and felt a little depressed as well, the wounds over his body only making them worse.
“We..” He stuttered. “We need to become stronger, don’t we?” Hinata just looked more saddened, but eventually nodded.
The two of them wouldn’t speak for the rest of the day.
“It’s been too quiet.” She stated, with distinct worry in her voice. “He’s going to come back any second, I know it.” Kouji shuffled uncomfortably. He felt it as well. The storm had pasted for a moment, and the birds were chirping happily for a change. It would be a perfect chance for him to jump out and do something to them.
“To be honest,” she said, still high with tension, “I just wish he would. It’s getting annoying waiting.”
“Yeah.” He said simply. He wasn’t listening fully, the tension was high within him as well. The café was empty, and they had closed up early again. It was always the worst move, since it always made him come back when they let their guard down. He calmed down, and stood up off the table.
“Maybe he isn’t come back.” He said, dropping all the pretenses, as he went to open the café back up.
“I wish he would. I kinda miss him.” Tomo said, a little miserable still, even as she stopped acting as well.
“Hey, tell you what? Why don’t we do a special offer on something? Make a huge profit to mock him with when he gets back.” A grin appeared on her face as she heard this, and she stood up to help him set the place back up.
“Yeah, we can do two bottle of sake for one or something, whilst upping the price of Dango slightly. He’ll be really pissed at that.”
“You get the pens and cardboards. I’ll pull the other sake we have out of the basement.”
“Okay!” She rushed up to the counter with a smile on her face, when she let out a loud gasp that sent Kouji running back to her. On the floor, was an unconscious man, taking up more than half the width of the café.
“It’s…It’s Takeda-san! What’s he doing here?” Tomo blurted, as Kouji rushed to check up on one of their most regular.
“Don’t bother with that now. Help me help him up.” The girl laughed sarcastically.
“Are you kidding? We’ll never be able to pick him up.” Kouji looked at the tall, bulky man and found himself agreeing. How the man even lifted himself up was a big mystery. They were going to do it.
“It is okay. I am fine now.” The jounin stated, standing up fully, shocking the two waiters at his sudden revival. They watched as he immediately fell over again, and spent the next three minutes pulling the fully conscious man into a chair. They were somewhat used to it, and understood the problem immediately. The man had almost no chakra left, Tomo left to cook up some food, as Kouji tended to whatever wounds he had decided not to treat this time.
“Man, you’re completely beat up.” Kouji stated, before almost fainting at the sight of the kunai still embedded in the hip of the jounin. He caught himself and studied it for a moment, before opting to leave it there until they could call one of the village doctors in. “What happened to you?”
There was no answer, and Kouji forced himself to wait patiently whilst the man in front of him gained enough courage to speak out.
“Danjuro-san has left for good.”
“I see.” Kouji replied, in the only way he could think of at the time. He waited a moment longer, to see if anymore was going to come out.
“I think he wanted you guys to keep the shop.”
“Woman…I just can’t understand them at all.” He had said the sentence four times now, and it still didn’t feel like it would ever changed.
What was there to understand? They had irrational mood swings, and acted constantly different to how they really felt. Then if you either noticed or didn’t notice, it didn’t matter, they would get angry at you for either pointing it out or not pointing it out. It was too troublesome.
She had hugged him as they parted ways. She had hugged all three of them, with the most unique smile he had ever seen on his face, but it felt like she had hugged him for a major reason.
“You’ll be a great ninja one day. Just remain true to yourself like you are doing, and you’ll be fine.”
What had that meant? He couldn’t be bothered to analyse it. He just wanted to sleep, but the pest next to him wouldn’t let him.
“You should have seen it Shikamaru.” The idiot next to him shouted far too loudly. “Kakashi-sensei was giving it to this Mist Ninja and beating his ass, whilst me and Sasuke handle this guy who looked like a girl.”
“Be quiet.” Shikamaru muttered. The boy ignored him.
“And he could control water and everything. It was way cool. He was firing these spikes of ice at us and everything. Sasuke was taking all these hits, but I was dodging them and pouncing about easily.”
“Well, actually I don’t really remember most of what happened. It went fuzzy at one bit. But the guy said I had beaten him, and gave up. Isn’t that cool?”
Shikamaru said nothing and glanced over at the boy lazily. Naruto stood there, with an excited look on his face, waiting for any kind of compliment. Compared to his last month, this Wave Country business sounded boring.
“Why do you have to be so loud, you moron?”
“What? You’re the one who wanted to know?” Shikamaru resisted the urges flowing through him at that one moment. “Besides, it’s natural for the hero to tell of his deeds after he returns from battle.”
“You’re hardly the hero.”
“Of course I am.” Naruto replied, brimming with his usual energy. “After all, I am the main character!”
The two genin sat there, on the rooftop. They had met up half an hour or so ago, and both seemed to find themselves having to be polite and associate with each other for a short while. Even so, each had barely said a word to the other.
“Didn’t get much air time, did we?”
“So that’s everything then?” Danjuro asked, as Sayuki placed the last piece of soil over the third marker. It was Itako’s marker. The girl’s body had been burned, along with Yamato’s and Megumi’s. Cremation had been the only real option. Regardless of everything that had happened, they were still ninja, and techniques could be extracted from their corpses. At least by doing it herself, those that hunt the exiles wouldn’t give them a shoddy death later when the corpses were found.
“Itako…sorry girl. It looks like I won’t have to suffer as you did, but I think I understand your situation a bit more now.” She wasn’t crying. She felt no reason to cry now, their deaths set them free in their own way. Now, all those that she cared about were free, and she could leave happy.
“We should go. The trackers are on their way.” Danjuro stated plainly, as he sensed things Sayuki could not.
“How much time?”
“About twenty minutes. This one’s fast.” They were in the Country of Fire now, officially anyway. They were on Mt. Kaminari and although it was just literally a few feet past what counted as the boarder, there were no markings to show it. Those coming after them wouldn’t have legal ground to past over the line, but it didn’t mean that those coming might not be willing to risk it.
Sayuki finally got up and held her left arm out, and Danjuro watched as she pulled off her forehead protector. She had never once put it around her forehead, she noted. Was it an instinctive way of showing that she didn’t view herself part of the village or something? She decided not to think about it, and placed the blue ribbon around Itako’s wooden marker.
“That’s not going to work.” Danjuro pointed out, as he guessed her intentions. “Even if it did, they would be able to tell it was you who buried them.” She didn’t reply at all and brought her right hand to her nose, holding two fingers vertically to it as she concentrated.
It took him more than a few seconds to notice, but he found himself impressed when he did. She had used her chakra to scatter the air currents at such a precise level, that it moved her scent so that it covered the fire where the bodies had been burned, leaving the assumption that her body had been burned as well. When she finished, nothing about it felt unnatural.
“Can you tell?” She asked monotonously, although the smile he saw on her lips that showed she was proud with herself.
“Only because I saw it. It should work fine in hiding your trail.” He answered honestly, and she decided to take his word for it.
“Sorry, but I’m going to leave your scent. Make it just look like you escaped.”
“No problem. I haven’t exactly created my legacy yet, although a return from the dead would have been good.”
“You do realize what they said is probably true. You probably won’t be allowed back in your village after all this.” He flashed his trademark grin at her.
“And about time too. I’ll guess I’ll miss my café, but at least I won’t have to see that bureaucratic, miserable, old fart again. Except on the day that I kill him.” Sayuki laughed at this a little, before she began to walk away. He noted he could only follow her with his eyes at the moment. She was gone to both his ears and nose.
He felt the usual small trace of frustration build up inside of him again. The last fight had made her stronger. He may have had a mental realization during all of this, but so had she. He would need to pay attention or she would be his rival no more. He couldn’t allow this, not when he now fully understood the nature of the relationship. They were rivals, and they were friends. He stopped in thought and smiled at this. She was his rival. His rival. She was his friend. His friend. It sounded nice in his brain and he found himself muttering it almost deliriously before he realized she was getting further away from him. He walked up quickly to catch up with her. She turned around with a stern look on her face.
“Why are you following me? I still hate you.” She said it hatefully, but he saw through it this time.
“Hehe, earlier you called me rival-san. Admit it, you accepted that you are my rival.”
“That doesn’t mean I want to be friends.”
“Ha, so you do admit it?” She turned around pompously and began to walk off, sticking her nose up at him.
“I only said that so you wouldn’t give me any fuss. Fighting against three jounin was going to be hard, so I just figured I’d use you to lighten the load.”
“Oh suuure.” He retorted. “Just because you free yourself from all that mental bondage crap doesn’t mean you can go ahead and use others. Just shows you’ve learnt nothing.”
“Hey, I’ve learnt plenty.” She shouted back, pushing him slightly.
“Oh, I’m sure. Like how to play with grass, how to constantly wound and burn yourself by jumping into attacks, oh, and my personal favorite, how to trap yourself in an irrational mind setting for the larger portion of your life. Hardly the greatest of achievements for one of the top jounin of The Hidden Village of Clouds.” He pushed her back in response.
“All this from the person who fights with a stupid weapon and misses entire countries.”
“Hey, you used that one already. No fair repeating mistakes.”
“Who said war is fair?”
“Who said this was war.”
“I did.” She said, jumping up to kick him. He exhaled slightly, and leaned back hard to avoid her kick.
“You bitch.” They both just grinned at each other, as he went to tackle her, missing as she jumped over him. He grabbed her leg however and pulled her back down. She responded by rolling underneath him and kicking his stomach, the momentum causing him to roll over her. She jumped back on top of him and he disappeared in a puff of smoke, landing back on top of her.
“Hey, no fair, using techniques.”
“Oh, so you’re allowed to repeat mistakes, but I’m not allowed to use techniques.”
“But, they’re completely different.” She whined, as she tried to push him off of her, but he weight was down on both her arms, and he was using his hands to hold her legs down. They were technically at a stalemate. She struggled for a little, and he had to use all his strength to hold her down.
Then they both stopped, the smiles dropping from their faces.
“We should get going.” She said, waiting for him to lift off of her.
“Yeah,” he replied, taking his weight off her and standing up. “We can sort this out later.”
“Indeed, after all. We have all eternity.”
She watched him with a pout as he burst into laughter. “What?’ She complained.
“You, using melodramatics. I can see why you laughed at me.”
“Oh, come on. Let’s just get moving.” Not waiting for any protest, she jumped off the side of the mountain. He almost screamed after her, as he fell down after her, not quite sure what she was planning. He looked below, to see her using the wind pressure to control her fall. He allowed himself to catch up with her, and then use his chakra control to mould to the side of the mountain, allowing him to ski down next to his friend.
“So Sayuki…” He said after a moment. “What was your dream? The one that guy mentioned.”
“Oh that?” The girl said smiling, as the wind rushed through her hair. “I always wanted to fly.” He turned to her and saw her joy as the wind continued to hit her at heavy speeds and he knew this was where she was most happy. It sort of explained a lot. “What about you?” She said after a moment. “What was your dream? When I think about it. I barely know you in some respects.”
“Heh, actually you know me in all of them. There isn’t a lot to me.” He commented wisely. “As for my dream, I always wanted to capture the King of Lobsters, and cook him.” She looked at him gone out for a second, before responding the only way she could.
“Hey, you asked.” He retorted.
“Still. I think we can arrange that…”
The storm continued in the distance and all around. It felt like just another day for the both of them. Another glorious day in the rain, just like that first time they fought.