Thank you for the support.
He looked at the large group of people staring at him attentively. Hesitation surged within his heart as he tried to contemplate a way to make the highest commanders of Kiri and Konoha-two of the three great nations understand just what was coming for them all without appearing completely insane.
The Seven Ninja Swordsmen had nearly rebelled against him once when suspicions had arisen over his true identity, if not for Mangetsu's unwavering faith in him...the Hozuki heir had rebuked Zabuza severely for even considering such rumors. Haku, Ameyuri and Jinpachi had backed him making even Kisame relent.
Zabuza had been the lone voice of dissent...or voice of reason in the swordsmen's opinion, and he was not wrong if Naruto was being brutally honest.
If not for the Swordsmen's powers and influence over their shinobi, Zabuza would have been executed. Still, such dangerous actions could not go unpunished and the man found himself silently removed from the top leadership.
Zabuza was assigned command of their Navy, an important position but not one that was as glorious as the role of a Legion's General that would be fighting important battles for the growth of their new nation.
The remaining swordsmen had been relieved to not have one of their own be executed by the Mizukage for entertaining such conspiracies and accepted the verdict that Zabuza had to face.
In fact, this was the first time in a year when the man had even seen his former comrades or the Mizukage considering they had been campaigning while he was left behind to look after Maritime Security and Shipping lines in the rear with the Navy.
Naruto was brought out of his thoughts when his wife gently called out to him and saw even Tobirama looking at him with concern.
"What does Iwagakure have to offer for requesting peace?" he asked calmly, from his seat in the center of the large conference table.
"Immediate ceasefire across all fronts. Land of Waterfall will remain independent with Iwagakure as their security guarantors should Kirigakure make any hostile moves. They are willing to admit their mistake in starting the Second Great Ninja War" explained Tobirama,
"Nonsense! They insult us with such an offer!" said General Jinpachi Munashi angrily,
"They want to end this war with a meaningless apology and no reparations when we have reached their doorstep? They can't be serious, Lord Tobirama" said General Mangetsu Hozuki, albeit a bit more calmly than his fellow swordsmen.
"They killed many of our shinobi and even some of our predecessors in the Seven Ninja Swordsmen!" reminded Zabuza heatedly,
"In response to you launching a badly planned invasion of their lands" retorted Shisui Uchiha, only to have Ameyuri Ringo slam her hand over the table.
"Then we'll just have to finish what our comrades started! Our legions will swarm their lands and crush them once and for all" threatened General Ameyuri Ringo,
"They have more men than you, General. Not to forget three Jinchuuriki now that the Land of Waterfall has allied with them to protect themselves from Kirigakure's relentless march. You have well maintained supply lines now, but if you stretch any further- your legions will be in trouble. Same goes for Konoha, sustaining a war further is not just impossible but foolish. Think about our people than your pride" rebuked Tsunade Senju,
Tobirama watched in painful silence as the two factions argued fiercely against each other, to think they were allies...
He looked at his son and respected him a bit more for being able to keep such fierce and ambitious Generals in line so far. There was no doubt of their power or battlefield leadership, but they were not able to understand the larger picture of the war and its effect on their economies and most importantly their people.
But would his son truly stop his conquest now? Granted the odds were against him even more, but that had never stopped him before. Iwagakure and its Tsuchikage understood this grave threat and wanted to put a stop to it immediately.
The ninjas from both sides stopped their relentless arguments and insults when they heard the thunderous command from the Mizukage himself.
"I understand my General's wishes and to be honest I don't trust Iwagakure to uphold this peace that they are fighting for right now" said Naruto carefully, and raised his hand to silence many of his Generals from commenting any further.
"At the same time, I am a practical man. I will not endanger my nation and my men in another gruesome campaign. We need to focus on building our strength and allow our citizens time to build our economy while we strengthen our supply lines. We cannot ignore what our advance to Iwagakure will do to Konoha who are our allies. So here is my offer for peace, Iwagakure will not only sign an admission of guilt but also sign a non-aggression pact with Kirigakure and Konoha. They will also pay reparations for every Kiri shinobi and the earlier Seven Ninja Swordsmen they killed"
He looked around the gathering and saw nearly everyone was contemplating his offer. The Konoha delegation looked intrigued, as for his own men...they looked divided.
It was no surprise when one of them voiced what they were all feeling.
"Why, Lord Fourth? Wasn't it your ambition to keep moving forward until all our enemies are destroyed?" asked Kisame honestly,
"Iwagakure will betray us sooner or later, Lord Fourth. It's in their nature and while they may have more men than us, our forces are far better trained and equipped. Under your command, our legions have never lost. Say the word, and we shall march into Iwagakure alongside you no matter what hell awaits us" promised Mangetsu earnestly,
"Does the fact that Iwagakure killed your mother have an impact on your suggestion, Mangetsu?" asked Naruto sympathetically, for he had destroyed Kumogakure for doing the same to his own mother and family.
"It was my father's dream to crush those bastards. And I would be lying if my mother's death at their hands does not influence my desire to continue our march to their nation. But I also don't want future generations to inherit another war, a conflict which we could have prevented if we don't lose our resolve today" explained Mangestu, earning a firm nod from Haku and Ameyuri as well.
"I share that feeling" agreed Naruto,
"Even so my decision has been made"
The Mizukage's firm declaration left no room for further discussion, considering there was no feudal lord overseeing him like in the past left him with the final say.
Tobirama curiously watched the effect of that decision on Kiri's Generals and Admiral. They looked far from pleased and while they were important figures, it was the army that was fiercely loyal to their Kage. These men and women would have no choice but to accept this decision if the rank and file shinobi agreed with their Kage's choice.
From what he had seen so far, the Kiri army had become an extremely lethal and organized force under his son's command. They were confident and proud, but his own delegation had caught several common shinobi openly discussing their desire to see their homeland and families once again.
They had left the Land of Water for what was nearly two years in a few months from now, they had achieved stunning victories and their conquest of nation after nation had ensured their place in history forever. But thousands of them had died and those that survived had endured brutal conflicts and extreme conditions for what felt like eternity.
But never once had they wavered for their Kage had been right beside them, as had their Generals who shared those same hardships which motivated them to keep going on.
Another campaign with a foe as large as the Land of Earth and its sheer might would mean a prolonged conflict for years and the deaths of thousands more who would never get to see their families again, not to mention risking the future of their vast but young nation.
Compare that to a peace treaty that ended the war in their favor, if not as completely as their Generals wished.
Tobirama had a feeling what the common shinobi of Kirigakure and its territories would choose...
Even if the Kirigakure Generals wanted to continue fighting on their own, their men wouldn't follow easily. Not unless they had their hero and supreme commander, The Fourth Mizukage leading that campaign.
"Very well, Lord Fourth" relented Mangetsu unhappily, earning begrudging nods from all the other Kiri leaders except Zabuza who clenched his fist but remained silent.
"You all have served our nation with pride and courage. We wouldn't have reached this far without your leadership and the sacrifices of our men, but we must let them rest and enjoy the glory they earned in blood. We will continue strengthening our supply lines and increasing our strength, in the event the Land of Earth and Iwagakure make even a minor hostile move against us or our allies, they shall feel the wrath of our legions" promised Naruto,
Tobirama nodded to that promise since it was fair and was much needed to pacify the disgruntled Kiri Generals.
"I will personally announce this decision to our legions" said Naruto resolutely,
He received affirmative nods from his men and smiles from the Konoha delegation and his wife, but they were all quite intrigued when the Mizukage only glanced lower at his entwined hands.
Tobirama saw happiness as well as sadness present on his twenty six year old son's face.
"I've been at war my entire life. As a child survivor of the First Great Ninja War, and now as one of the key participants in the Second Great Ninja War. I've led men into battle countless times, many of them never returned home. They died without realizing the dreams and hopes for which they sacrificed everything..."
Zabuza and the rest of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen couldn't help but remember so many of their own shinobi who had died to get them to this point. Men and women, even young teenagers and old veterans. Many died well which was what any shinobi could hope for, others not so much. Remembering that cost made them all pause for a continued conflict would bring even more terrible suffering for the ones who survived. The shinobi and citizens for whom those heroes had sacrificed their lives...could they let it all go in vain for their pride and fears of the future?
They looked at their Mizukage and for the first time felt as to where their leader was coming from. His decision becoming more understandable instead of it seeming like an act done to appease their allies or out of cowardice.
Tobirama and the Konoha delegation also had sad looks upon their faces as they remembered the countless comrades they had lost to this war. The former Hokage looked at his son and couldn't help but see a shadow of the young Spartan Captain he had met years ago.
"My hands are stained with the blood of guilty and innocent alike. I have done things I'm not proud of sometimes in anger or revenge"
Mangetsu could not help but remember his own actions in their Civil War and felt a strange kinship with the blonde Kage before him who had made the same mistake.
"I have kept moving forward and the mountain of corpses upon which I stand has only grown higher and higher. We have achieved most of what we wanted. For the first time in my life, I have a choice to stop a war. Do I have misgivings about what Iwagakure will do in the future? Yes! Can I guarantee we will not find ourselves in another war? No! But I can send my men home now so that they could enjoy the peace our dead comrades gave their lives for, so that together we could build a greater nation that would be worthy of their sacrifice. Let's go back together to our village"
Tsunade had heard many tales of the victories her uncle had gained on the battlefield, most attributed it to his genius and power. But she watched just how he connected with his followers...
Mangetsu, Jinpachi and Ameyuri looked at each other before glancing back at their Kage with faint smiles on their lips.
Haku too gave him a tearful smile and a firm nod.
Kisame simply nodded leaving only the last of the swordsmen to look at his Kage for a few more moments...
Ultimately, even Zabuza nodded.
Tsunade looked at her uncle even as his wife placed her hand upon his own and gave him a comforting smile. He had the ability to reach into the hearts of the fiercest warriors and make them believe. Be it a battle, war, peace or the future...
It was a gift only Hashirama Senju once had.
And it had been passed on which had now helped in ending the Second Great Ninja War.
Tobirama excused himself from the grand feast they had been facilitated with alongside the Kiri Generals as the person he was interested to talk further with wasn't present.
Instead he found the man inside his personal tent, completely content watching over his twins.
The sight alone brought a smile upon the Senju leader's lips.
"I can come back later" he said hesitantly,
"Come, Lord Tobirama. Anyway, Mei won't be back from the feast soon...you can talk to me" answered Naruto calmly, even as he offered his thumb for his daughter to hold which made the infant laugh.
The former Hokage arrived by the Mizukage's side and even now he found it both unbelievable and fascinating to be looking at his grandchildren.
"Why didn't you join the feast?" asked Tobirama curiously, even as he saw his grandson-Arima looking at him with a calm expression on his face.
"I barely get anytime to see them since I am on the frontlines and Mei stays with them in Kumogakure. If not for you coming here and my desire to make them meet you, I wouldn't get this time with them" answered Naruto truthfully,
Tobirama understood that feeling quite well, if given a chance he would have very much liked to be a part of his son's early life. Maybe if he had been there, his son wouldn't have endured all he had.
"I appreciate that, although I doubt they'll remember meeting me or Tsunade with them being so young" replied Tobirama with a smirk,
"Even so...I had to make them meet their family. That is their right" whispered Naruto,
"You're a good father"
The Mizukage smiled upon hearing that rare praise from his father and allowed the Senju leader to hold his granddaughter in his arms when he asked.
"Inoue looks a lot like Mei, and Arima takes after you"
Naruto nodded until Tobirama looked at him seriously.
"Tell me the truth, son. You were in no mood to end this war just yesterday, what changed? I'll admit you are quite better than me at motivating people, especially your men. But I feel there is something more than just a desire for peace that made you end this war" said Tobirama suspiciously,
"As expected, you're right. Yes, I have other reasons for seeking peace" answered Naruto truthfully,
"Which are?" prompted Tobirama,
"Organize a Kage Summit between the three great nations, even invite the smaller ones that are still standing. I'll reveal it there since this concerns us all" said Naruto frankly,
"What are you saying?" asked Tobirama once again,
"I'll reveal it there, you want peace and an end to this war then you will do this"
Tobirama narrowed his gaze and had a feeling whatever his son was not revealing was not something he would like at all.
"I'll see what I can do" he replied carefully,
His son merely nodded and Tobirama didn't know why it made him even more uneasy. There was something here that he wasn't able to understand just yet.
Something wasn't adding up, if his son was sending his forces back home once an actual peace deal was signed...then how was he going to achieve his objective in Uzu if the Fire Daimyo and the Hokage gave the go ahead?
His eyes widened as he remembered the Edo Tensei reincarnated Spartans he had met more than a year ago, summoned by Madara himself. There had also been rumors of an Uzumaki mercenary who had been a part of his son's campaign, the only one Naruto would ever trust like that from his own nation would be a fellow Spartan survivor.
"You're going to make a move on the Uzukage" he deduced, his voice turning cold when he saw a smirk upon his son's face.
"Do you really think I'll wait for permission from the likes of the brat Hiruzen and your Daimyo? My target has always been one man" replied Naruto calmly,
"If you make a move on the Uzukage-"
Tobirama was silenced when his son's eyes turned blood red as he gave him a murderous glare.
"It is happening. I have waited for more than a decade for justice to be served, I thought you would be sensible but clearly I was mistaken. I'll make it simple for you, stand aside or else I'll join with Iwagakure and finish what it couldn't" threatened Naruto,
"You would dare?" challenged Tobirama, his own anger unable to be stopped upon hearing that stark threat to his nation.
"And you would dare risk a war with your own son over the Uzukage? It was leaders like you that got my men killed, there will be a reckoning for that. Uzu is my motherland and we will ensure the wrongs are corrected. You call me your family yet always put Konoha's interests above my own. I guess I was foolish to expect anything from you... my mother knew that which was why she left and never revealed my existence to you for Konoha would always be supreme to you above even your own family" chastised Naruto,
"You know that's not true" said Tobirama sadly, only to hear the young Kage scoff.
"Then stand aside and let me do what has to be done. That is if you were truly honest about correcting the injustice done to the Spartans, the promise you gave to my brother that day"
Tobirama remembered his vow to Nagato Uzumaki quite clearly, yet to permit a direct attack on the Uzukage and their oldest ally...
"Why do you have Hashirama's cells in your left arm, Naruto?"
Ever since he had arrived here, he had known something had been off about his son. At first, he hadn't been able to detect this dark reality for the Mizukage had gone to great lengths to suppress this power from Tobirama's sensory grasp. But now he was certain...there was no mistaking this.
He looked in the eyes of the young Kage to see no remorse or hesitation.
"What answer would you like?" asked Naruto,
Tobirama clenched his fist as he had a terrible feeling in his heart.
"Whatever you are doing, this end goal that is driving you forward...there will be consequences for it one day, son" whispered Tobirama sadly,
"Is that a threat?" asked the blonde Kage,
"No. I do not agree with your hastiness and am disappointed with your lack of faith in me, but I made a promise to Nagato and those Uzumaki children. That I will help them get justice, one they never got in life but will in death. It was mine and Hashirama's mistakes as well as the Uzukage's decision that led to their deaths...my elder brother died before he could get the chance to correct the wrongs. But I am still here and accept the consequences of our actions" confessed Tobirama calmly,
"You'll get in trouble if you hide this from your people when they come to learn about it after the deed is done" warned Naruto,
"That is my problem to deal with, not that you give a shit"
Naruto flinched upon that harsh but deserving remark which made him lower his head for causing his father additional trouble.
"We don't plan on killing the Uzukage if it can be avoided. If he confesses to his actions and resigns, there will no need for bloodshed" answered Naruto truthfully,
"Would you do that if you were in his position?"
And there it was.
The everlasting bitter truth which the Mizukage was forced to face by his own father, the Senju leader looked at his son with a knowing gaze.
"Every action has a consequence, son. This one will be no different, walk on this path if you want to but ensure the children don't end up suffering for the sins of their father's. It's something which I failed in..."
Naruto's eyes widened in shock and his gaze instantly shifted towards his son and daughter, there were risks to his plan but he had planned for every possible contingency.
He looked back and found his father had already walked away.
Anger surged within him as he clenched his fists bitterly.
"It's exactly why I must atone for my sins and create a better world...for their future. Something which my comrades never got"
Mei watched the Konoha delegation leave for their own village in order to finalize the terms of the ceasefire with Iwagakure and thereby bring an end to the Second Great Ninja War.
The news had been met with overwhelming support from their own legions barring a minority that wanted to continue fighting but were stopped when their Mizukage himself declared his desire to end this conflict and send them all home, back to their families and loved ones.
While publicly she had voiced her support in favor of her husband's decision, as had the Seven Ninja Swordsmen...she couldn't help but feel something was wrong.
It started with Naruto's insistence of Tobirama Senju and his grandniece being allowed to meet their children, then to the way he had signed off to a probable end to this war with less harsh terms for Iwagakure's surrender, and now he wanted to organize a Kage summit inviting all the leaders of the world.
This was completely unlike his usual behavior and his plans of conquest which he had shared with her nearly a year ago.
She could understand not disclosing his reasons to the Seven Ninja Swordsmen and their legions, even their allies...but she was his wife, the mother of his children, not to mention his chosen successor in the event of his untimely demise.
Their marriage had been made for political reasons which had elevated her clan's status to the highest level within their nation, matched only by the prestigious Hozuki clan. Even her own future changed for the better as she finally managed to get the respect of her countrymen with her actions in the war and in her efforts of building their nation.
She owed everything in her life including her two beautiful children to Naruto, and if she was being honest he had been anything but the ideal husband. He had cared for her with all his heart and there had been moments when she had seen a gentler side of him. The way he was with their children truly pleased her...
And yet she knew deep down that he was keeping quite a few things from her.
He never talked about his family or his past, never even discussed about his previous wife and had even shut her off quite harshly when she had tried to comfort him on that woman's death anniversary. That had been the only instance when he had behaved in such a way towards her...and it had given her a glimpse as to how much he had loved Ino Namikaze.
And how she would probably never get the same place in his heart, no matter how hard she tried.
She found him back inside their quarters going over a few reports after he had left early from bidding farewell to Tobirama Senju and his entourage. She had not missed the tension between them or the way the Senju leader had reacted upon seeing her children.
It was as if he was looking at his lost family and that unsettled her quite deeply.
"Mei, I will be leaving for a few days tomorrow" he said calmly, without even looking at her.
"What is going on?" she asked seriously, making him finally look up to see a heavy frown on her hardened face.
"I don't understand" he answered, confusion evident on his face.
"I backed you in public but you have to tell me why you suddenly changed your mind about ending this war. A few days ago, you were discussing your plans of invading Iwagakure with me" said Mei harshly,
"I told you-"
"Don't you lie to me"
Naruto was quite taken aback and rose from his seat to walk towards her and placed his hands upon her shoulder.
"You're right, there are important reasons behind my decision. All I can tell you now without additional investigation is that I ended this war because we may need our legions alongside every available fighter of this world for a possible threat that concerns us all. One which we won't be able to face if we are at each other's throats" he answered patiently,
"What is it?" she asked with concern,
"There is a group out there that is greatly interested in seizing the chakra of this world, even more in the power of the tailed beasts. I'm sure the Six Tails inside of you may have heard of them in the past...The Otsutsuki"
Mei had never felt her tailed beast react so swiftly as the giant slug became fully alert and she could clearly feel the urgency it felt.
"Let me speak to your husband" it demanded,
"I don't understand-"
''Do it, girl. Haven't I given you enough to trust me by now? Besides, you know I can't get free from your body with him being there to restrain me" said the Six Tails irritatedly,
Mei could not help but acknowledge the truth behind those words as the Six Tails had remained dormant and not tried to break out of her when her seal had been at the weakest during childbirth. It was also true that the Fourth Mizukage had defeated not just it but also the Three Tails in single combat together during the Civil War which made both the beasts belonging to Kiri to be wary of launching any further rebellions and be punished severely by the young but powerful Kage.
She allowed its request but also ensured her conscious was active as the beast looked at the Kage seriously.
"Where did you hear about that?" demanded the Biju flatly,
"Judging from your alarm, you haven't forgotten about them since the days of the Sage of Six Paths. That myth may just become a reality as a Scout showed up on this planet and was dealt with swiftly. If my guess is correct, the main army won't be far away. We need to prepare" said Naruto seriously,
Mei was increasingly alarmed when she felt the beast's resolve harden considerably as it glanced at the Fourth Mizukage.
"Old man Six Paths told me and my breatheren that those guys are a threat to everything on this planet, including us tailed beasts. That we had to set aside all differences and stand with mankind if they ever came.." whispered the Six Tails honestly,
It was surprised when the young Kage extended his right hand towards him.
"I once told you and your breatheren that someday I shall help improve your conditions. This is our chance, help me in this war and humanity will remember your contribution. Instead of being regarded as wild beasts, maybe you will be instead remembered as guardians of our world against all threats that await us. Leave uniting humanity to me, and focus on uniting your fellow tailed beasts, while you are at it brief my wife as to what we are truly up against for I need to go"
The tailed beast sighed at being ordered around like that but it was willing to cut the man some slack considering the possible threat he was trying to investigate.
"Leave the other beasts to me. Do you really think you can unite your prickly race?" asked the Six Tails doubtfully,
"I will. No matter what it takes" promised the Mizukage resolutely, much to his wife surprise's as she witnessed his iron clad resolve.
(Two Days Later)
Kushina Uzumaki had been standing atop her boat and observing the land in front of her, the sight of which alone brought back so many memories.
Happy and tragic alike.
This was where her story began, a nation for whom she had dedicated her heart and life only to be betrayed time and again. She could not help but love and hate it at the same time.
She closed her eyes when she felt another person appear beside her in a black flash.
"It's just as I remember" he whispered nostalgically,
"The preparations are done. Yet I must still insist that you don't need to be here...let me handle this" she insisted, only for the young Kage to smile ruefully.
"I can handle this" he promised,
"There is no telling how the Uzukage will react, besides you have a family now" said Kushina hesitantly, and tried her best to hide the sadness within her heart. She knew his marriage to the Terumi girl had to be done as a part of maintaining his cover identity, but it still hurt to see him with a family that he shared with another woman.
A dream which she had ever since she had been a young girl.
But as she had learned, this world was a cruel reality where most dreams didn't come true. She saw him pointing at one of the peaks near the ocean.
"It was right there...where I was set upon this path"
(More than A Decade Earlier)
Tears fell from young Minato Namikaze's eyes as the disgraced former Spartan Captain knelt near the edge of one of the mountain peaks overlooking the vast ocean. With trembling hands, he grasped the sword at his hip and unsheathed it carefully before placing the weapon right above his heart.
He glanced at the sea and the beautiful beach upon which he had taken his oath alongside his comrades.
Only to fail miserably and get all his friends killed.
Words couldn't describe the shame and misery he felt within his heart, he had survived their last battle with only the hope of avenging their deaths by destroying the ones who killed them, before he joined them in the afterlife.
But with the war now itself over with the declaration of a ceasefire negotiated by Hashirama whom his comrades had saved...there was nothing left for him to live for.
He had already accepted the blame for getting his men killed on the Uzukage and the elder's suggestion...he had confessed to his people that it was his mistakes and cowardice that got their beloved Spartans annihilated without ever revealing the suicide mission that their own leadership had sent them on with false promises of reinforcements should things take a turn for the worse.
Aid which never came.
It had saved the reputation of their nation as well as its leadership, even earning them much needed reparations from Kumogakure for saving their honor as well for the Spartans had not only destroyed a large portion of their military but also murdered a tailed beast, a secret which they were desperate to hide. Even now the Uzumaki were still mourning the lost Spartans and they would be remembered for their sacrifice...and those Spartans who had families would be taken care of by the village for the rest of their lives.
It was all he could give to his fallen comrades and nation...to atone for his failure.
Even though it would never be enough.
Many of his own people had called for him to be executed, a demand which was strongly rejected by the Uzukage and the elders but was one-Minato himself would have accepted if only to end his suffering.
Instead he was dishonorably discharged from service and stripped of all his accomplishments...
A living death was his fate.
He would never be able to fight again as a shinobi of Uzu, never get a chance to avenge his comrades and was a pariah avoided and hated by everyone.
It was why he had came here to bring an end to his suffering himself.
Maybe if he was lucky then he would finally get to meet his family and comrades, maybe even get a chance to apologize for failing them all.
"You can't hope for a happy ending with a tragic story" he whispered with a twisted smile,
If only he could have gotten a chance to live a different life...
With that regret and pain haunting his heart, he raised his sword and brought it crashing down upon his chest.
He abruptly stopped before the blade completely pierced his chest and only resulted in a minor wound which the man who had stopped him healed instantly by kneeling beside him.
"Why won't you let me die? I've done everything you asked!" he whispered miserably, not even having the energy or desire to fight this man.
"Because your story is not yet over, Captain Fox. You'll die on a battlefield like your comrades, not in this manner. I forbid this" said Hanzo Uzumaki fiercely, making the young boy laugh mirthlessly.
"I'm no longer a ninja! I don't take orders from you anymore or will get a chance to die like a shinobi...all thanks to you" replied Minato bitterly,
"It was the only way to spare your life, the people's anger over the loss of the Spartans was more than we had expected" confessed the Uzukage hesitantly,
"Death would have been mercy, but you don't know what that means do you?"
The Uzukage sighed tiredly as he gained a seat beside the young and sole survivor of the now extinct Namikaze clan.
"The village is all that matters. Not you, me or a thousand Spartans or all of our shinobi. My son taught me that when he gave his life to buy our clan time to get to this island and make it our home. If we hadn't done that, the Uzumaki clan would have been eventually wiped out like your Namikaze clan in the turmoil of a new emerging world. This island saved us all, gave us hope for a future and for that alone it's worth fighting. This nation and its destiny is something greater than any of us, it's a hope for which my son and your comrades gave their lives..." answered the Uzukage truthfully,
"Does the reparations we received from Kumogakure and support for your continued rule from Konoha also a part of this noble endeavor?"
Hanzo was quite taken aback and looked at the former Spartan Captain in surprise, it would seem even after being discharged he had still managed to keep a few tabs on their leadership without them even noticing.
It was a testament to his skills and their weakness, but it also gave him a solution to the problem they were facing.
"If I had known this was the price of freedom for this nation...I wouldn't have paid it" confessed Minato honestly, his gaze pointed at his feet solemenly.
"Do you remember the first day we met?" asked the Uzukage,
Minato remembered the day clearly as it had been the funeral of his adoptive father-Yahiko Uzumaki who had died while battling Kumogakure and saving his comrades.
"If Yahiko had not died, you wouldn't have developed a vengeful heart towards Kumogakure" said Hanzo honestly,
"Is that why you chose me to lead the Spartans?" asked Minato seriously,
"Your abilities were truly impressive more than anyone else as was your leadership ability. But to be honest, it was the hate that I saw in your eyes that made me believe. One which turned even more stronger after your mother's death at the hands of Kumogakure...you were willing to set the whole world on fire to avenge your parents. You were willing to become a devil for the sake of victory, willing to walk the dark path if it got you your vengeance...none of your comrades including your brother had that darkness in their hearts. It was that resolve of yours that helped us bring an end to this war" confessed Hanzo,
It only made the boy beside him weep as he understood the heavy price he had paid for that victory.
''There is still a way left for you to avenge your comrades and atone for your sins" said the First Uzukage, but the boy still didn't look up.
"The First Great Ninja War may have ended but another one will start soon enough. You may no longer be able to fight as a frontline shinobi, but you can still protect this nation for which your comrades died. I want you to go to Kirigakure as a Spy and help us forge an alliance with them, in the event Kumogakure attacks us again or Konoha turns on us for some reason...it would be good to have a backup ally for such a situation" said Hanzo seriously,
Hanzo sighed upon hearing such a predictable answer from the broken Spartan Captain which made him procure a familiar photograph-the sight of which made the boy tremble and grasp his head even as tears fell from his eyes.
"I am giving you a chance to avenge your comrades and family" said Hanzo patiently,
"I don't feel anything except...guilt and pain, Lord Hanzo" whispered Minato sadly,
"That's more than enough"
The shocked boy finally looked up to see the Uzukage glancing directly into his eyes with a judgmental stare that made him tremble.
"The reason I am giving you this mission is because you chose the path of vengeance. If you hadn't, maybe you wouldn't have become a shinobi which may have saved your brother's life as well since he enlisted to protect you. You had a choice and you still accepted that suicide mission for otherwise you would have lost your path of vengeance since Uzu would have been defeated in the war. If you had made a different choice, maybe you would have suffered...but your brother and your men could have been alive today. Nagato could have lived a peaceful life and Kushina could have married you and fulfilled her dearest wish. But you chose to go into that hell and take them all with you!"
Minato trembled as those very words vindicated him of the guilt he felt deep within his heart, one that ate away at his very soul.
"I allowed my son to die for this nation, and ordered so many shinobi including the Spartans to meet their end for the sake of my clan's future. That is my sin as is yours for choosing vengeance which led to this result. We both are selfish men and until the day we get what we deserve, we must keep doing what must be done" said Hanzo seriously,
"It is what we owe our dead"
Tears fell from Minato's eyes as he glanced at the photograph of his graduation class. A memory in which he could see Nagato, Kushina, Hayate, Kasumi and each and everyone of his comrades smiling at him.
A memory in a long and miserable life where he was truly smiling and was at peace.
"Minato Namikaze shall die today on this peak as a disgraced shinobi who took his own life over the guilt of getting his comrades killed. He shall get no honor in the end and will be remembered as a traitor by his own people"
Hanzo was satisfied when he heard no protest from the broken boy who only looked at him for a solution to end his suffering and atone for his mistakes before meeting his end.
It was more than enough for Uzushiogakure's future as he would still be useful.
"Each of our operatives acting as spies receive new names as part of their assignment. The same goes for you as well" said Hanzo honestly,
"A name with a meaning and purpose, one which will help you to do what must be done and give you strength that was stolen by this cruel world"
Minato hesitantly nodded earning a brief smile from the Uzukage who placed a hand upon his young shoulders.
"Honestly, it is quite an uncommon name not used very often in this world. In truth, it can trace its origins to a ramen topping" said Hanzo with a chuckle,
He sighed when his attempt to make the boy smile a bit only failed miserably as he simply stared at him blankly.
"However I personally believe that it also stands for a person who keeps moving forward no matter what challenges are thrown at them. Against all odds, this person shall keep fighting for a better world, freedom and peace" said Hanzo honestly,
"What shall be my name?" asked Minato hesitantly, some curiosity finally appearing on his sad face.
All those feelings from that day came back to him as he stared at his homeland, for which he had blindly walked upon that self destructive path until he had met Ino.
He had resigned himself to die in the service of an ungrateful Kage and a nation that hated his very memory...until they disrespected his wish of letting the last Spartan live in peace.
They had messed with Kushina's freewill when she had tried to reveal the truth to their people, tried to turn her against him...even going as far as giving her proof to expose his true identity if he didn't tow the line.
The only way he could atone for his failures was by restoring the lives of his comrades with Madara's help.
Lives that were sacrificed in his path of vengeance.
But they would never be able to return to their nation as long as Hanzo Uzumaki ruled and did everything to hide his own crimes. If what he had done to Kushina and even to him in the past was any indication, the man wouldn't stop to eliminate the Spartans which would render all his efforts pointless.
"You can still turn back"
He smiled and placed a comforting hand upon Kushina's shoulder for she was truly a kind person who found it in her heart to accept him after he told her the truth.
She looked up in the sky as several familiar faces appeared on the horizon and a smile arrived upon her lips as their deceased comrades joined the two of them.
Naruto turned back to look at his comrades and saw nothing but determination in their hardened gazes.
He clenched his fist and thumped it over his chest, it was his confession and apology at the same time.
"For you, we give our heart"
Nagato, Hayate, Kasumi and every Spartan including Kushina clearly saw the apologetic eyes of their Captain staring back at them all.
"I can finally make this right. Madara has promised to bring you all back to life once this is done" promised Naruto sincerely,
"We're not here for that, Captain" replied Hayate honestly,
"We're here for you, Elder Brother. To restore what was stolen from you" promised Nagato,
"And kick that old geezer off his mighty throne. There will be a reckoning for that bastard tonight" assured Kasumi fiercely, her anger at being left to die still burned deep within her dead heart.
"We are here to break the cycle so that future Uzumaki children don't end up like us and hold the Uzukage responsible for what he did to all of us" said Kushina with determination,
The Fourth Mizukage had a brief smile upon his lips as he looked at the resolve of his comrades. He remembered his promise of bringing them back, whether dead or alive and how miserably he had failed in that. Looking back, he shouldn't have made such a promise in the first place but the younger him had not seen what he had in the past decade.
No matter, it was time to finally honor his promise and atone for his sins.
He looked back at their island nation even as his comrades arrived by his side and said the words he never thought he would get a chance to say again.
"Let's go back to our village"
Author's Notes: End of chapter.
Hope you guys liked it.
Happy new year! Thank you to everyone who reviewed last chapter and shared your thoughts!
I've waited a long time to write this chapter, for it was from here Naruto Namikaze was born. He is honestly one of my most favorite and complicated written characters, for many he is a hero and for others a devil. The Spartan story arc is the one closest to my heart and was the foundation for this entire story.
I get some well deserved flak from some of my readers sometimes for the shit I put Naruto through, his story is one big tragedy if I am being honest for the world he lives in, but as explained in this chapter he took the meaning of his name given by the Uzukage to heart. Your anger or anguish over what he goes through is a kind of proof that you feel for him which is difficult to evoke after the brutal shit he has done in his path.
How do you think his story would end? If you have any predictions, I would love to hear that.
Otherwise, let me know your thoughts on this chapter.
Until Next Time,