Minato Namikaze, fourth Hokage of the village hidden in the leaves, faced the nine-tailed with determination in his eyes. Unrolling a scroll that was the product of a frantic, sleepless night, he prepared himself to seal the fox away for eternity. His everlasting soul was, after all, a small payment for the safety of his village.

"Are you sure about this?" Gamabunta asked from below his feet.

"It's the only way," he told his friend.

The great toad's silence was his acknowledgement, and Minato started the sequence of seals that was the last original technique he would ever create.


Nothing seemed different, and for a heart-stopping moment he thought that he'd failed.

"Ahem," said a voice in front of him. A disembodied hand appeared, which then grabbed the air and pulled it back like the hood from a cloak. Oddly enough, a head became visible, and the hand then proceeded to pull at the air beneath it, revealing a person as it pulled away a shimmery silver cloak and folded it over one arm.

"Who—How—What are you doing here? I told everyone else to stay inside the village," Minato frowned.

"I don't think I was here for that bit," the stranger said, picking imaginary bits of lint off his clothes. "And as for why I'm here, well… You called for me."

"I didn't call for anyone. I don't need back-up for a suicide run."

"Well, technically, you called for Shinigami-kun, but he's on sick leave right now. Indigestion, or something. Ryuk-chan wanted to come, but he'd probably just point and laugh and be supremely unhelpful. So I came instead."

Minato looked the man—who looked younger than he did—and realized there were several things wrong with the situation. The man was standing on thin air as if it were water, which was odd but still possible. He had no armor or visible weapons or any sign of being a shinobi, other than a distinctly odd dress sense. Still possible. The world seemed to have gone quiet and still, and everything was frozen still except for him and the stranger. Curiously, he reached out to touch one of the sparks suspended in the air in front of him. It sizzled, and disappeared.

Less possible. Extremely less possible.

He examined the figure in front of him. Short, slight, civilian build. Wire-frame glasses, messy black hair, pale skin. He was wearing a long black duster, purposefully ripped jeans,button-up green shirt, and a bookbag with a black notebook peeking out. A silver pendant hung around his neck, shaped like a circle inside of a triangle and bisected by a vertical line. And his eyes were an eerie, slightly glowing green.

"You're…" Minato started.

"Potter-Black Harry, Master of Death, nice to meet you," he rattled off. He reached out a hand, and Minato shook it numbly.

"…not what I was expecting."

"I get that a lot," the Master of Death told him. "But if you write a request for help in Celestial and send it to the forces of nature, you can't really complain about what you get back."

"I'm not complaining," Minato said. "Just… surprised."

The Master of Death nodded and gestured to the world around them. "Take your time. We literally have all the time in the world."

"Actually," Minato said after a moment, "I was wondering about that. I thought that this would be more of a frantic last-moment effort to seal away the soul of my enemy, instead of," he waved a hand at the tableau around them, "this."

The force of nature crossed his legs and sat down on the air. "Well, that's the execution part," he explained, ignoring Minato's wince at his choice of words. "Right now, we have to take care of the paperwork."

He rifled through the notebook from his bag before stopping near the center and pulling a page out. Digging out a quill and inkwell as well, he scribbled something on it before handing it to Minato.

"Fill that out," he ordered him.

Minato looked down at the form. It asked him for his name, payment—which the deity seemed to have already filled in as 'eternal everlasting soul', recipient of sealing, destination of sealing, and then a long section on insurance claims which asked about things like his species, patron god, and ownership of ancient artifacts.

He filled it out and gave it back. The Master of Death cast a critical eye over it, and frowned.

"Master of Death-sama? Is there a problem?" Minato asked.

"Just call me Harry. And, well, your soul is enough to seal away… a quarter of the Nine-tails into yourself, to damn to eternal purgatory, or half of it into a vessel on the mortal plane. I'm afraid that you don't have enough power to seal the whole thing, and the rest of it would be left to rampage over that village over there you seem to be protecting," Harry informed him.

Minato's eyes hardened in determination. "That's not good enough."

Harry raised an eyebrow. The world seemed to darken around them, the light and warmth seeping away into the silence and sending a chill down his spine. He was suddenly distinctly aware of the aura of power that the man gave off, dark and tremendous and barely restrained. The man-who-was-more-than-a-man became imposing instead of friendly, seeming to tower over him without moving from his cross-legged seat. His eyes became brighter and sharper, gleaming like unfeeling emeralds in the night.

"Are you challenging me?" he asked. "Me, the Master of Death, ender of civilizations and worlds? Ruler of the boundaries between this life and the next?"

"Yes," said Minato.

The ender of civilizations and worlds smiled, and warmth returned to the world. "Good answer, kid. You've got guts, and I like that. So, do you have any apples?"

He blinked, confused at the subject change. "Ap—well, actually, I do. Why?"

Harry pulled out another page and gave it to him. It was identical to the first, but the line for payment simply contained the word, 'apples'.

"Really?" he asked, not realizing that he was speaking out loud.

"You'll understand if you ever become a shinigami," Harry said. "Mortal apples, when you're dead, are the most delicious things in existence, but it's not like I can just go grocery shopping when everyone I touch dies within the hour. They're just so juicy, and crunchy, and…" he trailed off, a dazed expression on his face.

When Minato handed the form back along with the apple that Kushina had given him the night before while insisting he eat something, Harry grabbed the apple first, biting into it with a small groan of delight.

"Alright," he said between bites, "So that's either sealing the whole demon away in a vessel on the mortal plane, or half of it into yourself to rot in purgatory with you."

Minato felt a bit insulted that his soul was worth about the same as an apple, but wisely kept silent about it.

"Fair warning, though," the being continued, "There aren't any vessels right now on the mortal plane that can contain the entirety of the Nine-tails. The most powerful one right now would be able to contain the Eight-tails, so about half the Nine-tails' power, and that's your newborn infant son. Now, I like you and everything, but payment has to be equal to services rendered—it's one of the rules Clow used to stabilize the multiverse—and I'm not paying the difference myself. Have anything else to trade?"

Minato thought. The safety of his village—and his family—depended on his answer, and the ability to find just a little bit more that the Master of Death would value.

"I'll do your paperwork," he offered finally. "If you seal half the demon into my son and half into me, I'll do your paperwork for the next decade."

The deity tossed the apple core into the air, and ate it on its way down. "I knew I liked you for a reason," he smiled. "Two decades, kid, and you have a deal."