Epilogue

Snafu's Notes: The song used in the previous chapter is from The End of Evangelion, called Kom, Susser Tod (Come Sweet Death). This was the song that was playing in the Third Impact scene of the movie. I originally was going to use a quote for the previous chapter, but I thought the song would be more fitting as Konoha is destroyed. Just YouTube the title of the song and Evangelion to listen to it. I chose that song because I was reading the scenes of Konoha's invasion and destruction while a buddy of mine was watching said movie.

'Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. '

'Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.'

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Ruins of Konohagakure no Sato – three weeks after its destruction.

It was a strange homecoming of sorts.

Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze, Hinata Namikaze, Anko Mitarashi, Kitami Akashiya, and Team Misfits were returning to Konoha after being away for so many years. They were not alone, though, as an escort of Neo Uzu ANBU were escorting them, as well as Minato and Hitomi Namikaze was accompanying them to their parents' ancestral village.

It was an S-ranked assignment ordered by Naruto himself – the recovery of the ashes of the first four Hokages – Hashirama Senju, Tobirama Senju, Hiruzen Sarutobi, and Minato Namikaze – as well as the ashes of Naruto mother and predecessor, Whirlpool Damiyo Kushina Uzumaki Namikaze.

Unlike the Konoha team, whose trip had taken them two weeks just to get to Whirlpool, it only took Naruto and his team one week from start to finish to arrive in Fire Country, then onto the Konoha ruins.

The destruction of Konoha came after the conclusion of the Whirlpool Taijutsu tournament. Tsunade and Jiraiya were dead, as were the majority of the Hyuuga clan. Aside from Tenten and the Ino-Shika-Cho Trio, several main and cadet branch members of the Hyuuga escaped, and had hooked up with the four missing jounin, from what Naruto had learned from his information network.

Hikaru and Kasumi Sarutobi, ages 10 and 7 respectively – the daughters of the late Asuma and Kurenai Sarutobi – had escaped with the civilians when Konoha ordered its civilians to be evacuated. Before heading out of Fire Country, the Ino-Shika-Cho-Trio and Tenten found them and retrieved them from the civilian remnant that was in hiding before fleeing the country.

They owed Asuma and Kurenai that much. Luckily, they found out that their parents did not poison their minds about the Jinchuuriki. Deciding to keep their crimes in regards to the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki a secret, they decided not to tell Hikaru and Kasumi, which would destroy their impression of their parents. Better to have them think that their parents died honorably.

Naruto knew where they were hiding, and even he knew from experience that the life of a mercenary/missing ninja was not an easy one. His own children were born in Suna, and had traveled with him and Hinata before he decided to revive Whirlpool.

So after talking it over with Konan, he decided to do the one thing nice for anyone from Konoha. After all, only Shikamaru and Chouji were the ones who showed him kindness despite their parents' attempts to kill him. Ino had grown out of her obsession over the Uchiha following the retrieval mission, deciding to let Sakura have him. Then there was the fact that Tenten was now a widow, having married Neji in secret, thus making Tenten the de facto head of the Hyuuga, as she carried the Branch Clan head's child in her womb. The marriage became public thanks to Hanabi, but before Neji could be reprimanded for marring someone out of the Hyuuga clan, Rashoujin Hanzou had invaded Fire Country.

With Konan approving of the situation, he dispatched an Neo Uzu courier ninja to Sea Country with the following terms: Asylum in Whirlpool Country, with the rank of Jounin. Of course, they would be on probation for one year and their missions would be limited to mostly patrols in Whirlpool, Wave and North Whirlpool. Should they wish it, Hikaru and Kasumi would be enrolled in the Neo Uzu Shinobi Academy. The offer was also extended to the surviving Hyuuga, with the promise that the Caged Bird Seal would be forever banned so long as the Hyuuga serve Neo Uzu.

Both Naruto and Hinata were dressed in their combat gear from their days as mercenary ninja. Even though Naruto was the Damiyo, he was still a ninja overall.

As they approached the destroyed village, Naruto and Hinata separated themselves from the group to walk around, while ordering Maru and the others to meet up at the graveyard, but not before taking Minato and Hitomi with them. Kitami decided to tag along with the Namikaze family.

"So...this was your home? Where you and Mom grew up?" Minato asked as they followed their parents through the village.

Naruto nodded. "Yeah. Things were different back then. I was an orphan denied my family legacy, despite Old Man Sarutobi's efforts. She was the heiress to the Hyuuga clan. Your uncle Maru...he was not that much younger than me. I met him inside Sarutobi's office. He accused me of stepping on his scarf, which was longer than he was."

"So what are we doing here?" Hitomi asked. "This place is a wreck."

"Closure, mostly," Hinata replied. "Konohagakure has tried to kill your father and me for a long time. Only when he became the Whirlpool Damiyo did they almost stopped altogether. We didn't tell you this, but they tried to kidnap you a couple of years ago."

"Because of our dojutsu?" Minato asked.

Naruto nodded. "Because of your dojutsu."

The orphanage where Naruto had spent the first six years of his life was nothing but rubble, as was the run-down apartment where Sarutobi had set him up in. The Uchiha District had long since been destroyed, as the Hokage had cordoned the entire area off. The Konoha Hospital, nothing but debris, the final resting place of Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno.

Last, was the Hokage Tower, Jiraiya's resting place. Naruto made good on Hanzou's suggestion and promptly emptied his bladder onto the debris.

In truth, this was Naruto's second time in returning to the village. When the attempt to kidnap Minato and Hitomi had failed, Naruto had personally infiltrated Konoha, disguised as an ANBU Black Ops operative with the intent of killing Sasuke Uchiha. But instead stayed his hand. He had beaten Cell Seven, and that was the end of it. The dead last was clearly stronger than his former teammates and sensei.

Using a ROOT ANBU which he had hypnotized with his Rinnegan, he gained access to Danzou's underground ROOT headquarters. There, now under the henge of a ROOT operative, Naruto found Danzou's files on himself, Hinata, their two children...and those regarding Hanzou the Salamander and Rashoujin Hanzou and the Tsuchigake, Kurotsuchi. Danzou kept meticulously detailed files on those who he in his eyes were the threats to Konoha and to himself.

Danzou also left detailed information about how he betrayed Hanzou in the Second Shinobi War, of how his ROOT ANBU slaughtered Hanzou's family and supporters, and of his plans to assassinate Rashoujin Hanzou should he ever come to power in Amegakure, not to mentionorchestrating the assassination of Kurotsuchi's grandfather, Onoki.

Even damning was the fact that the Fire Lord himself had signed the blackout order.

It was then, Naruto decided to formulate a plan. A plan which would lead to Konoha's downfall.

He left with the files and escaped from Konoha once again without drawing the attention of the Konoha ninja...but not before torching Ichiraku's Ramen as payback for Teuchi and Ayame poisoning his ramen. Once he was in Wind Country under the pretense of visiting Gaara, he sent the copies of the files to Ame. Hanzou did not know who had sent the files, of course, but Naruto knew that should Hanzou come to power, then Danzou will try to assassinate him.

As expected, Hanzou was on his guard. So when Naruto received word that Ame had invaded Fire Country, he was not surprised. Hinata knew, of course, as he was the one who told her the same day that the notice about the invasion came in.


[Flashback]

Office of the Hokage.

"You know that Konoha will more than likely ask for our help," Hinata said. "They always believed that you would defend your precious people in their darkest hour."

Naruto scoffed. "The people that are precious to me are here. Konoha chose a traitor over me. They did not see me as a human being, but rather the Nine-Tails reborn. Some of them hate the Uchiha runt, but they despise me even more. People I thought were my friends tried to kill me over the years. Teuchi and Ayane with their poisoned ramen...your own sensei with her genjutsu. Even Tsunade and Jiraiya wanted my death for their own selfish reasons."

The Damiyo of Whirlpool rose from his seat. "I will not aid Konoha in this mess of their own choosing. Even if they offer me the position of Hokage, I would not accept it. They made their choice. Now they have to live with it...which is not for very long."

"Is there something you're not telling me?" Hinata asked.

"Whatever you mean, Hina-hime?"

Hinata folded her arms across her chest. "You're a lousy liar, Naruto. I know you're up to something."

"So? It's part of the job."

"Naruto..."

"Fine." Naruto reached into his desk drawer and pulled out several manilla folders. He handed two of them to Hinata. "Remember when the Uchiha and Hiashi tried to kidnap our children by using the Hyuuga ninja and the ROOT ANBU?"

Hinata nodded.

"I left a shadow clone here and followed the Hyuuga Ninja back to Konoha," Naruto confessed. He then gave her the whole story, about how he planned on using the Rinnegan to cause havoc, but instead snuck into Danzou's ROOT headquarters and stole the files on his family and on Rashoujin Hanzou."

"You made copies and sent them anonymously to Rashoujin Hanzou?" Hinata guessed. "To warn him of Konoha's intentions?"

Naruto nodded. "I thought about going to war with Konoha for the slights they had done to us. But instead, we'll let someone else do the fighting. Someone who has a valid grudge towards Danzou and the others. I knew that Konoha would try something funny, so I sent him the files as a heads-up warning. It can't be traced back to me. For all he knows, it could be the Shinigami who sent him those files. I'm also betting that Iwa would also want in on destroying Konoha, due to the bad blood between the two from back when my old man Hiraishin-ed most of the Iwa forces into oblivion. But...since we both had ties to Konoha, they would worry about us joining in on Konoha's side. So they will need some reassurance in us keeping out of the war. Once I make my intentions personally clear, only then will they invade the Leaf and burn it to the ground."

"And how will you do just that?" Hinata asked.

"Easy. Ame will come to us. Afterward, we sit back and wait. Too bad we have to leave for Azura. I would love to be there when Konoha finally get their comeuppance. Just sit back and watch the mayhem unfold with a nice drink and some popcorn."

"And what about the Konoha 11? Not all of them are guilty. They did treat us with some kindness."

"Kiba wanted to get into your pants. Neji still hates your guts after you kicked his ass twice. Sasuke and Sakura, they want me dead. Shino and Rock Lee are somewhere down the middle...and the Ino-Shika-Cho and Tenten...they were the only ones who didn't treat us like crap." He smiled evilly. "I know that Konoha will send someone here to ask for aid in this war. Kinda ironic don't you think? That their intended savior is the one responsible for their destruction. Konoha's downfall was bound to happen sooner or later. I'm just giving it a little nudge in the form of Hanzou and Kurotsuchi."

"Some people would call that hubris," Hinata said.

"It's only hubris if I fail," Naruto replied. "Either way, the files can't be traced to me."

[End Flashback]


"I never should have doubted you, love," Hinata acquiesced. "You truly live up to your title of being the most unpredictable ninja."

"I know. It was one hell of a gambit, though," Naruto admitted, as they stopped in front of what used to be the Hyuuga Compound. All was left was a smoking ruin, just like everywhere else. "But it paid off."

"Indeed it has," Hinata replied.


Konoha Graveyard.

The graveyard was left untouched, as per Hanzou's orders. Once Naruto and Hinata had arrived, the digging began; Maru and Naruto uncovering the ashes of Hiruzen Sarutobi, Minato Namikaze and Kushina Namikaze, while the ninja unearthed the remains of Tobirama Senju and Hashirama Senju.

In all, four urns were recovered, one of them containing the remains of both Minato and Kushina, as it was in his will that their ashes share the same urn, thus being together in death. With great care and reverence, the urns were stored in a storage scroll.

With nothing else left for them in Konohagakure, the Neo Uzu contingent left for Neo Uzushiogakure.


Neo Uzushiogakure no Sato – one week later.

In a quiet, solemn ceremony, the remains of Damiyo Kushina Namikaze and her husband were laid to rest inside the Uzu cemetery. The Senju brothers and Hiruzen Sarutobi were also laid to rest by Maru's hand.

Returning to the village, the Namikaze family and Team Misfits found an unexpected surprise waiting for them.

The Konoha Remnants, consisting of the Ino-Shika-Cho Trio, Tenten, and thirty Hyuuga ninja. It was apparent that they had received and accepted Naruto's invitation of asylum. While Naruto was away, the courier ninja found Shikamaru and the others and delivered his message. After spending several hours taking about it, they decided that working for Naruto wouldn't be a bad thing.

Having been elected as spokesman (not by his choice), Shikamaru approached Naruto. The Whirlpool Damiyo did the same.

"I see you received my message," Naruto said.

"We did," Shikamaru said.

"And...?"

"We all agreed. We don't know you and Hinata survived as mercenary ninja, but it's too troublesome for us. We accept your offer of asylum."

Naruto nodded. "Good. How many you have with you?"

"Thirty cadet branch Hyuuga, five main branch Hyuuga, Ino, Chouji, myself, Tenten, and Asuma-sen...I mean Asuma's girls."

"Sarutobi had kids?" Naruto asked.

"With Kurenai."

"We'll have them enlisted in the shinobi academy immediately. I will warn you only once. This is a one-time act of mercy, as you and your three friends showed kindness to me and Hinata. Any acts of treachery from you or the others, and they will not be around to argue. Are we clear?"

Shikamaru nodded. "Very."

"You may go. Konan will see to it that you and the others are given a place to stay."

"Thanks." Accompanied by several ANBU, Shikamaru and the others left.

Naruto returned to Hinata and the others. He dismissed the impromptu honor guard and returned home with his wife, the smile never leaving his face.

It was the smile one would have where friends were reconciled. It was one of victory and of vengeance having been served. Sure Hanzou and Kurotsuchi had destroyed Konohagakure, but he was the silent partner of sorts, delivering the damning evidence he found inside the ROOT Headquarters into Hanzou's hands. He was able to do what Orochimaru had failed to do.

He crushed Konoha. What made his victory even more sweeter was the fact that he did it without drawing his sword.

Ironically, Konoha had banished him because he was capable of destroying Konoha. In the end, they were right, but they brought it down on themselves, aside the fact that Naruto did not need the power of the Nine-Tails in order to do so. In the end, it all came down to honoring the final wishes of the Yondaime.

Had Konohagakure and the former Sannin did what Minato had asked, then none of this would have come to pass. Konoha would still be the most powerful of the Shinobi nations, Sasuke would have been imprisoned for his attempted defection, and Naruto would have been recognized as a hero as per his father's wishes.

'Those who do evil will eventually face judgment, either in this life or the next,' Naruto thought. 'Konoha loses...and I win. Through this, Fire Country will fall and Whirlpool will rise. Oh who am I kidding, Whirlpool has already risen to great village status. Only difference is that I used diplomacy rather than Danzou's method – by the edge of a sword. A tradition that the Namikaze will follow for as long there is a need for shinobi.'

Ironically, the day of Konoha's destruction had fallen on a significant date.

The day of his banishment following the Uchiha Retrieval Mission, which made his victory all the sweeter.

It had taken twenty years, but Konohagakure had finally received its just dues.

End...not yet