It was a great honor to be cremated when you died. He had always believed that he wouldn’t be cremated after he died—the villagers had hated him for so long, he had given up on ever being honored by them. Even his dream to become Hokage, something he had dreamed about since he was a child, had died after the years of relentless abuse by the people he wanted so badly to protect.
He never told the people he loved that he had given up on his dream—he continued to spout his Hokage nonsense, whenever a difficulty in a mission or something else came up. No one could even tell that he had given up on his dream. He made his daily meetings with Tsunade, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell her. He already knew—even if she made the decision to make him Hokage after her, the villagers would rebel against it. That being said, he already knew that Kakashi was next in line to be Hokage—Tsunade had long since informed him of her decision, saying that Kakashi was sure to pick him when the time came to pass the title.
That is, if he even lived to see that day.
It was common knowledge that the council would do anything and everything to get rid of Konoha’s “demon,” and lately, he had come to accept any and all missions that they threw at him. The amount of S and A rank missions he successfully completed could rival that of any ANBU’s, but he knew that his luck was bound to run out sometime.
Ino had taken to visiting him whenever he returned from a mission, making sure to bring a vase or basket of flowers each time. She would tell him the meanings of them, always hoping that he would get the message and stop accepting the missions. He never did. After a while, it had gone from her visiting him in his apartment to her visiting him in the hospital. The missions had steadily gotten worse—Kyuubi no longer healed his wounds, and he started getting sick. It wasn’t as though the fox wanted him to die; both of their chakra was being steadily depleted.
When Ino made her last visit to Naruto, she knew he wasn’t going to make it. His skin had turned a sickly pale color, his eyes had lost their vivid blue color; he knew he was dying. He was even resigned to the fact. All she could do was sit there with her wilted flowers, and try to find her voice to tell him the meanings.
She never expected for him to reach out his hand, palm up and waiting for her to take the offer. She held his hand and listened to him. He needed someone to be there for him when he died; his greatest fear was not having someone there—his greatest fear was dying alone.
So she sat there, unshed tears glistening in her eyes, as he struggled to take his last breaths.
“You still come visit him?”
Ino looked up to see Sakura standing next to her. So much for ninja training. Can’t even sense it when my best friend comes up beside me anymore.
“I can’t blame you.” Sakura sighed, kneeling down and placing a small bouquet of flowers on Naruto’s grave. “I should have been there for him, too. You were the only person he had when he was dying, even though I swore that I would always be there for him.” Her fingers traced patters in the ashes. “I’m glad he was cremated—it shows just how much people loved him.”
Ino held her tongue—she didn’t have the heart to tell her friend that the reason she neglected to visit her teammate was because she was far too obsessed with a certain Uchiha.
“I thought I would bring fresh flowers,” Sakura stated, looking up to her friend. “The ones you had put here before disappeared...” Her eyes widened as she noticed the new buds of flowers growing from the ash-covered dirt.