It was early morning, and the sky was just beginning to lighten with the coming sun. Dew clung to the grass tenaciously, and wisps of morning mist danced in between the trees as if alive. Normally a serene morning such as this would have been wasted, with no one awake to appreciate it, but not this morning. If one looked close enough a small black and orange spec could be seen atop the Hokage monument, facing the rising sun.
"Ne Ero-Sennin do you remember the times we spent up here watching the sun rise together?"
A soft chuckle floated in the air.
"Yeah gaki, I do. This was always the best place to watch the sunrise. It's always so peaceful, and quite."
"Yeah…it's funny, ya know? Two of the loudest ninja of their generations appreciating the peace like this."
Another soft chuckle met this comment.
"Too true Naruto. Too True."
"What's it like?"
Jiraiya glances at his young apprentice, with a thoughtful look on his face.
"It's…. not what I expected, but I can't tell you all about it because that would ruin the surprise. You're too young to be thinking about that anyway."
"Yeah…I guess your right."
For several minutes there was a comfortable silence between Master and Apprentice, the only sounds were those of the world waking.
Jiraiya glances at his apprentice again before speaking.
"I'm proud of you kid. I don't think I tell you that enough."
A small smile ghosted across Naruto's face.
"I know. Even though you don't say it a lot, I can see it in your eyes."
"Che! I must be getting soft in my old age, if some brat can read my eyes so clearly."
"Hey give me some credit! I was trained by one of the Legendary Sannin after all."
Jiraiya's face split with a wide grin.
"That you were. And a damn good job he did too!"
This time a full blow grin spread across Naruto's face.
"There it is! My salvation. So…what's on your to do list for today gaki?"
"Well…I just got back so I'm gonna go see the old lady, then Sakura-Chan, and then….probably hit Kakashi up for some sparring."
"Oh? Sparring with Kakashi now are we. Isn't he a little out of your league?"
"There you go again! Doubting the apprentice of a Sannin."
"Ah that's right! I really have to stop doing that. It's making me look bad."
Naruto laughed at the disgruntled look that flashed across Jiraiya's face.
"Stop pouting ya big perv! It's not becoming of a man of your age and status."
"Ah shut up gaki! By the way kid, I have to ask something."
"Sure what is it?"
"Why are you still going for that pink haired girl? Sure, she has begun to come around, and she is powerful in her own right. I would not be surprised if she passed up Tsunade within the next couple of years. I got nothing against her, it's just I think you deserve someone better. Someone who you know isn't gonna shatter your heart if the Uchiha brat comes back."
"…We've talked about this before Ero-Sennin."
"I know, and your argument was just as weak then as it's going to be now. Find a girl that will appreciate you….all of you."
"Where am I ever gonna find a girl like that? Not in Konoha, that's for sure."
"…..Now who's making me look bad gaki!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Either you are the densest person I have ever met or you're just plain blind."
"What do you mean?"
"Naruto I know for a fact that quite a few girls your age have started to notice you as more than just a goofy friend. Even if they hadn't you have quite the resume. There isn't a single Genin in the world that could even touch you right now, not to mention quite a few Chunin, and even a few Jounin. You are the Apprentice of one of the Legendary Sannin. You are the son of a Hokage, the strongest one Konoha has ever seen. On top of all that, you are perfect boyfriend material. Sure, you may be somewhat dense, but you are fiercely loyal. You would go to hell and back to protect someone you view as precious. You're funny and kind hearted. What girl in their right mind would refuse a date with you?"
"Tch, yeah so? I'm also the freaking container of the strongest demon the world has ever seen. None of that shit is gonna matter when she finds out about that."
"You'd be surprised gaki. I don't think many of the girls your age are going to care about that. I just want you to find someone who is going give you they same devotion that you are going give to them, and I don't think that Sakura is that girl. I want you to be happy kid. I don't want you to end up like me, old and alone."
"Don't worry about that. I'm a lot more handsome then you ever were."
A slight tick appeared over Jiraiya's left eye.
"Damn you gaki! Here I was giving this great advice and worrying about your happiness and you had to go and say a comment like that."
Naruto tried to keep a straight face, but one look at the old perverts face and he burst out laughing.
"You should see your face right now! It's freaking hilarious!"
"Yeah yeah. I'm glad I amuse you."
Naruto couldn't help it. The dam that had been holding his happiness and laughter back had suddenly burst.
"I haven't laughed this much in a while. Thanks Ero-Sennin."
"I'm glad I could help. Seriously though Naruto. Find a different girl. There are a few other girls your age you know, and a few that are a bit older."
"I'll give it a try, and go on a few dates with anyone that's willing. I just don't think it's gonna work out."
Jiraiya frowned at his young charge.
"Well ya never know unless you try. How do you know Sakura's the right girl? You haven't even given any other girl a chance since you were ten."
Naruto sighed and ran his hand through his sun kissed hair.
"I know, it just that I saw myself in her. She was always alone until Ino came around. You know how I get around people that are like me. I just kinda have a weakness for them I guess."
"I know kid, I know. That's what drew you to the Uchiha, and Gaara. You have to realize though that you aren't alone anymore. You aren't living a life of loneliness anymore. Branch out; find someone that will be good to you. You can't wait around for Sakura forever you know. Shinobi don't exactly have the longest life span out there."
"Look whose talking Mr. Over Fifty."
"…damn it. You got me there kid."
Naruto gave him one of his infamous cheeky grins. It didn't last long though.
"How come our time together is always so short?"
Naruto looked up when he felt the old pervert's hand on his shoulder.
"That's just how life goes I guess. I'd gladly spend all day with you, but we both know that wouldn't work. Besides, I thought you couldn't wait to get away from me a little while ago?"
"Well yeah, but this is different!"
Naruto's shoulders began to shake, as unshed tears began to fall. Jiraiya knelt down in front of Naruto and put both hands on his shoulders.
"You listen to me Naruto, and listen well. What happened was not something I planned, but I went there fully prepared to die. I would do it all over again, even knowing what I know now. Everything I learned from that battle is going to help you stay alive, and put an end to Pein."
"I know all that! It doesn't make the fact that you're gone any easier! I didn't even get to say goodbye!"
"It's not really goodbye Naruto. We'll see each other again one day, but not yet. Not yet. You still have to become Hokage after all. One like the world has never seen."
"I wanted you to watch me; I wanted you to see me become Hokage."
"I am always watching you Naruto, even now. You are my pride and joy; there is no way that I would miss any of your accomplishments. I'm not the only one either. Your parents have always been watching you. They are both very proud of the man you have become. You can't let something like this stop you! You're on the path to greatness, like your father before you. Become stronger from this; let it push you to new heights."
Naruto wiped the tears away on his sleeve, and Jiraiya wrapped him up in a firm embrace.
"Don't worry Jiraiya Sensei. I'll keep the Will of Fire burning strong and bright!"
As the sun finally crested the horizon and Konoha's morning mist burned away, Jiraiya's ethereal form faded. On the wind among the sunrise's burning leaves, a strong voice was heard.
"Do us proud kid!"