One of my instructors once told me that the difference between a child and an adult wasn't age or power, it was ability to take responsibility for their actions. And I like to think that Iruka-sensei knows what he's talking about. But after hearing this, I began to question just what all is involved in that. Where does responsibility for an individual supersede responsibility for the village. The Hokage must do what is best for the village at the cost of an individual he has a moral responsibility to protect...? Where does responsibility and duty finally give way to morality. A ninja of many years is given a another mission to end the life of someone he doesn't know. This person could be a good man, a father, a son, could be alone or have a family. But for his duty, the ninja must make his life end. And how does someone choose between the responsibilities of family tradition, of imprisoning a being a great power and using it to protect his home as his mother and her aunt before her, or to himself, to want to be free of the harassment, to be given the chance to seek out his own dreams, to find his own desires. ...I didn't used to think of this, I was happy with my life. But then a certain pink haired and skinned girl literally fell into my lap, and showed me my world is bigger than what I know.
An adult accepts his responsibilities...but his responsibilities to what?
~Excerpt from the journal of Uzumaki Naruto.
Off the San Deigo Seaboard
"Clarice, STOP! You can't beat him!" A group people, young, scared, growing up in a world they are unwelcome in, stared at a monster. A monster not created by nature. A monster named Harvest. And Harvest knew of none that could stand against it. But one knew she could.
"You know I can, Paige. Goodbye my friends." A young woman, little more than a child really, alone in the world, with no one to trust until just a few short hours ago. Born with a terrible power that when first used left her in a pool of blood. "I'm sorry Mister Banshee but I can stop this monster here and now and forever!"
"Can you, mutant filth," Havest taunted before Clarice reached out and touched his forehead. Blink. That innocent sound shattered the world like a pane of glass, slicing everything from the point she touched, including herself and the monster. "What...is...happening...to...me?"
"Clarice, come here quickly now! Before you're trapped by your own powers!" A man flew for Clarice, reaching for her, wanting to help her. "Reach for my hand! I won't let you go, child! I WON'T!"
"I...can't feel...anything," Clarice cried, pain lancing through her entire body.
"Oh god, hang on! Please..." He grabbed her...and her arm just came apart between his fingers before she and what was left of Harvest just vanished.
"No, CLARICE," Paige screamed.
In a forest, walking with a dear friend, was a young man, little more than a child. Though no more than sixteen, the young man had already helped saved him home from a traitor three years pass. Both men were in good moral having finished some training over the weekend when they heard something that sounded so innocent above them.
Naruto looked up and saw things falling. Among them was a girl. Tossing aside the bag he carried, Naruto began jumping up into the branches and reached for the girl. While catching her, something else that was falling scraped his arm. Glancing at the jagged thing that seemed made up of many little cubes, he ignored it in favor of helping her. "Sensei, she's bleeding!"
Coming up to his student, Umino Iruka looked down and saw a young woman with her eyes screwed shut, cuts crisscrossing her body and face, her mouth open with only heavy panting coming out, unable to voice her pain. Oddly enough, the cuts were sealing themselves but there were so many. "I'll gather everything together, get her to the hospital!" Naruto needed no more prompting, he ran as fast as he could. Resisting the urge every now and then to rub his arm.
"Iruka, the girl you brough in is recovering. The cuts you spoke of are...odd to say the least," the head doctor said to the chunin instructor.
"The go through out her entire body, like she was sliced to pieces but they don't actually damage anything and they're sealing back together perfectly. When done, she won't even have a scar. Physically. There is no actual pain, so she is likely reacting to a perceived trauma. She knows she was horribly cut so her mind is making the pain to go with it. I have already sent for Inoichi, mayhaps he can help her but I cannot."
Iruka nodded and said, "Thank you, Doctor. Naruto, we should be going, nothing more can be done here... Naruto?"
Inside the room with the mysterious girl, Naruto sat in the chair by her bed, watching her. He had never seen someone look like she did. Her eyes lacked any kind of iris or pupil, instead being a complete green. Pink skin and...pinker hair, he thought one of the girls in class called that color magenta, with arrows encircling her eyes almost like a jester. Yet these weren't paint and they weren't a joke. "Please wake up," Naruto said, softly. "I know it hurts but if you wake up, the pain will be gone. Trust me I know." So many questions he wanted to ask, who was she and where did she come from. Gently brushing her hair from her eyes, he stood to leave. Stopping when she stirred, he smiled before calling out into the hall, "She's waking up." Going over in time to see her eyes flutter open, he said, "You're going to be fine. You've been through a lot...whatever it was. Are you okay?" Seeing her look to him, she tried to speak but strained gasp came through. "Oh, here." Holding a cup of water with a straw to her mouth, she took several swallows before wincing. "Better?" She nodded. "Cool. I'm Naruto, I caught you when you fell out of the sky." That got a confused look as Naruto rubbed his arm. "You were falling and there was some blood and this thing made up of squares..."
"Where, cough, cough!"
"Easy, easy, whatever it was is destroyed. It just...broke when it hit the ground."
"Are you sure," she asked horsely.
"Are you bothering my patient," the doctor said, walking in with Iruka.
"The...rust cubes..." the girl insisted.
"Broken. When it hit the grass they just dissolved," Iruka told her.
"Did it touch you?"
"A shard cut my arm," Naruto told them, rubbing the spot through his jacket. The girl sudden started tearing at the sleeve, "What are you...doing." A hole opened in the material to show it rust orange beneath. Iruka tore the entire sleeve off and swallowed the lump that formed. Naruto's entire elbow and part of his forearm and deltoid was no longer flesh.
"I'm sorry," she said in sorrow.
Raising his arm and turning it this way and that, Naruto look at it as he bent his elbow. "That's not good, is it?"
"Can it be removed," Sarutobi Horuzen demanded, look at the X-ray of Naruto's arm.
"No Hokage-sama. The infection has already spread along Naruto's chakra path into his main body, going both up to his head and his abdomin. Whatever it is, it isn't acting like a normal infection, heading to the heart. Which means it isn't in the blood. Nor...is how it's spreading like a disease. There isn't a constant pace, the speed will pick up and drop with little to no warning."
"...It can't absorb chakra," the doctor replied.
"What? Everything has chakra."
"Almost. Here, take a look here." Going to a microscope, the doctor motioned for him to look through. "That there is a cell from Naruto, infected, what do you see?"
"It looks techological."
"I thought so at first but it isn't replacing the cell, it's covering."
"Take a look at this." He placed a new slide down. "Do you see the dark spots around the cells?"
"That is the same infection with blood from a different person. It isn't covering it so it's dying. Now look at this sample of donated blood that has lost it's chakra." This time Sarutobi saw something much different. Cells here were completely replaced by the metal. "This infection is incapatable to absorbing chakra. That's why when it hit the ground, it just died."
"But what about Naruto!?"
"We don't know," he replied. "Something about his chakra path is letting it exist within him and its using that to spread through him. Yet it also can't over..."
"Gerrgerrgerr," Naruto, restrained to a table suddenly growled as the infection spread closer to his head on the outside of his shoulder.
"...It isn't converting Naruto like it did the other cell," the doctor finished. "Naruto, can you hear me?"
"Yes," he muttered.
"Can you feel your arm still?"
"...Sorta. It feels odd."
"It isn't numb but it is at the same time. I...dah!" He turned away as it suddenly jumped to his neck and cheek. "GAH!" His head tossed several times before he began making this nose like a music player freezing on one off note before suddenly stopping. "Energy equals matter cubic...01001001 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101111 01110000 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101001 01101101 01100001 01100111 01100101 01110011 00100001 00100000 01010100 01101111 01101111 00100000 01101101 01110101 01100011 01101000 00100001." His head suddenly jerked to the side and he laid there unblinking a moment.
"Naruto, Naruto speak to me! What's going on," the Hokage pleaded him to speak.
"The infection has reached his brain," a nurse replied, scared.
"Inoichi, what's going on in there, what was he saying?"
Yamanaka Inoichi took a deep breath before touching Naruto's head...before jerking his hand away like it was burned. "By all that is holy!"
"It's...alive? It's pouring information into Naruto's mind. So much...I can't even begin to say what I heard."
"It isn't alive, Inoichi-san," Naruto suddenly intoned like a machine before turning his head back to the ceiling.
"Naruto, are you okay?"
"...Uncertain, gzzz. The...information and 'infection' is incomplete, damaged."
"You can understand it?"
"More or less. Until it reached my brain, I lacked the means to. That is also what the strange sensation was in my arm. My brain was incapable of understanding it until now." He head jerked again and he groaned like his old self again. "Gah this hurts." Turning his head to the side, you could see his vision was far off and unfocused. Like he was hallusinating. "It's moving in moments when there isn't chakra."
"There's always chakra," the doctor tried to say.
"No, there's that second chakra within and as it moves, so does the virus." Naruto winced and turned his head again. "Everything it knew before is...being dumbed into my head." This time he looked to the girl. "...Are you a bsKlutor? Did I die fighting?" Whatever the word he was trying to say was coming up garbled.
"A bsKlutor," he said again, exactly the same as before. "Are you here to take me where warriors go?"
"Naruto," Sarutobi said, getting his attention. "What is it, do you know?"
"...The Techno-Organic Virus," he said in the flat tone once again. "It breaks down organic material to create inorganic from the base componants. Once completely transformed, I would be a 'Phalanx'. Error. Organic Material immune to assimilation." Naruto blinked before saying, "Where ever it was from there was also people immune to assimilation...mutants." Clarice winced at hearing him say that.
"If you're immune, why are you infected?"
"I'm not. The Phalanx is damaged, brain dead, it is using my body as a host in an effort to restore itself. By absorbing materials it can, dead cells, dust, dirt, ecetera, it is creating more of itself and is coating me. Once it has sufficient mass, it may revive the dead phalanx. Who will then use my body in an attempt to 'adapt' pass the immunity. Adedum. Immunity: Chakra. Anything that can conduct and or generate chakra is immune."
"Can it be stopped?"
"Unknown, data missing."
"No," the girl said softly. When everyone turned to her, she shunk down a little but kept talking. "Even if...he died now, it would keep spreading, it might even be faster. I...I can't stop it but I can...kill him when he changes."
"...Then we stop the spread using chakra," Sarutobi suddenly stated, unwilling to think what would happen if such a thing came in control of the Kyuubi. "Get every seal expert in Konoha here now, we're going to seal off the effected areas." Naruto glanced at him before an anesthetic was injected into his flesh arm, knocking him out.
Fumbling awake, Naruto reached for a glass of water only to have it placd in his hand. "How are you feeling," Sarutobi asked.
"I feel...great!" His head and eyes finally clearing enough that he could think and see, he looked to him and smiled. "Wow..."
Naruto grabbed a mirror and looked at his face, the techno infection had stopped, having covered his right eye, up into his hair without changing the strands, down behind his ear and the ear itself, part of his neck, his entire right arm and shoulder, and ended just below his ribs, all with the proper coloring to match the rest of him. Looking back to Sarutobi, his right eye highlighted his face and brought up a file of information concerning him. "If you could see what I see... It's so different. Not better...not worse...just different and beautiful." Naruto got up and went to his window to look out.
"...We used a wall of chakra as a barrier to stop the spread."
Naruto nodded as he traced the line the infection stopped at. "Yeah, I can see it." A red line was highlighted on his skin to his eye. Suddenly a screen appeared, showing his body, the techno parts, and his chakra. Both of his chakra. "You know, this is going to take time to get used to. Especially the having a computer for a brain part. Gah, I just know somehow this is the fox's fault. Though for this view...I'm not mad."
"It's that different?"
Naruto didn't answer, he asked a question. "How are people taking this?"
"...There is some concern. More so what the girl told us. If it spreads..."
"Hmm. That would be a problem. Where is she, anyway?"
"Close by, we weren't sure what to do with her and she's very nervous for some reason."
"Well then, I better go thank her." He found his shirt and pants, discard the patient's gown and pulled them on before stepping out in the hall. Glancing about, he saw a sign and his altered eye focused on the name under it. Again a file with what information he knew was brought up, this time with a picture. "I could get used to this."
"Over here, Naruto." Sarutobi motioned to a room a few doors down with the door open and a guard outside. "Naruto may go in."
Walking through the door, Naruto saw the girl standing by the window also looking out. Gone was that blue, techno suit and in its place was a white sundress with flowers on it. "Nice day isn't it." She jumped at hearing his voice and turned to him. Seeing her face, again the file came up but this time with information carried over by the phalanx. "Whoa...nice. It's good to finally meet you when we're both in good health, Miss Ferguson. And I'm Uzumaki Naruto. And I owe you thanks for saving me."
"How did you know my name?"
Naruto pointed to the techno side of his head. "Phalanx have a hive mind and their information is shared between the drones through the infection. Incomplete my transformation maybe, it still passed on what it knew. You come from a very interesting place. I would like to see it if not for the rest of the things it shows me."
"What else does it tell you?"
"You're Clarice Ferguson, age sixteen, born January Sixth in the Bahamas. And you Blink."
"Yeah," Naruto said before saying it as a sound effect. "Where you teleport things."
"Oh..." She looked real nervous and rubbed her arm at that. "You know about that too?"
"Yeah, its very cool." Naruto stopped smiling the more nervous she got. "You don't think it will be like 'that' here, do you?"
"...You are humans."
"Not like those humans, let me show you." Naruto offered his hand, not really thinking as he put out his techno hand. Closing his fist and chuckling as he rubbed the back of his head, he held out his flesh hand. "That's going to take some getting used to as well." Clarice wasn't sure if she trusted him or not but she could tell he wasn't upset for this happening to him even if it was her fault. Taking his hand, he turned to the door and called, "Old Man, we're going for Ramen, have the guard meet us at Icharuka!" Naruto raised his hand and both him and Clarice vanished in a shushin.
Setting down in front of his favorite stand, Naruto blinked in confusion before rubbing his head. "You know, I just realized I shouldn't be able to do that yet."
"What was that," Clarice demanded.
"Hey, relax, Blink. That was called the Shushin. We use it to move around."
"We? As in others can teleport?"
"It wasn't teleportation, more of releasing all our kenetic energy at one moment to achieve super speed. Can't do it long or through walls but in open areas it is like a teleportation. The thing about it is that only our speed increases, not our minds. And yes, most people in this village can use it. Come on, let's get something to eat, you must be sick of hospital food."
"I..." Her stomach grumbled, cutting off whatever she was going to say. "Could use something."
"Cool," he said as he ducked inside. "Hey Old Man Icharuka, can I get a miso ramen! What kind would you like, Blink?"
"Do you have seafood?"
"Yeah, that's miso. Two of them!"
"...Why do you keep saying Blink?"
"Because that's what you do and it sounds cooler than Clarice." That made the girl blink her eyes at him as he chuckled.
"Hello, who's this," came from behind the counter as the two sat down.
"Ayame-oneesan, this is Blink-chan."
"My name's Clarice," she said softly, looking down.
"She is a cute one," Ayame said with a smile. "She your girlfriend, Naruto?" She looked to his changed features but didn't say anything yet.
"Nah, we only just met. Pretty, isn't she?"
"Very, I can tell you now, Clarice, that you are going to be beating the suitors back with a stick. And what happened to you, Naruto? Some new jutsu or something?"
"Or something," Naruto said proudly. "It's incredible, Neesan, I just know this will help me become a great ninja!" Clarice watched, confused, as Naruto started going on about all the great things he was going to do like this now, excited for the change instead of afraid, as well as that, now that she though about it, no one was staring at her having pink skin and hair.
"As you can see, the infection has stopped spreading and has been adapted into Uzumaki's body without rejection," a doctor said, going over the images of what he looked like after the sealing. "The changes, besides the obvious, are rather great. Individual tissue such as veins spread the infection through its entirety yet does not spread the infection beyond, his entire blood circular system has been infected yet does not infect muscles or organs connected. This has begun a secondary regulation to his cardiovascular system as well as blood adreneline levels, improving his overall condition and endurance. His altered eyes shows increase perception and there is an increase in hand eye coordination as well. Desite the slow exansion elsewhere, his entire skeletal structure has also been infected. This as well as the rest of the infection has increased his weight by near thirty kilograms. As wounds to the infected area still have cells divide and heal as normal, it is likely that he will continue to grow. The bone structure, as with the blood veins, shows no sign of spreading the infection." The doctor spoke to four people, Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen, and his advisors, Homura, Koharu, and Danzou.
"What would be the the result of continued spread," Elder Homura asked.
"...Unknown. The original infection area has been revealed to show a different type of infection then that to the newer."
The doctor showed them a picture of the original phalanx infection. "This cell shows signs of rudimentary sentience, it is alive in part." He changed to a newer cell that appeared more 'organic' in design. "This cell though lacks these parts here and here and have become saturated with chakra."
"The originals were being killed as they spread. It is possible that the original fear of a complete inorganic transformation is no longer viable. It is also possible as that this is the adaptation needed to overcome chakra immunity. We would need to test it on a subject...with less potential of mass destruction should the second be true. But I would recommend not increasing it any more. The change is permement and further increase will threaten those down the line. I think this is just a random benefit to a bad circumstance."
"Very well," Koharu replied. "What of the girl?"
"Clarice Ferguson has a genetic stucture not dissimilar to that of a ninja. That odd part though is this." He did a few handsigns and water rose up in the form of a DNA strand from the bowl set between them. There, the water colored itself in a combination of red, blue, yellow, and green with one bar of black. "As the council will remember from the study some years ago comparing the DNA of a ninja to that of someone unable to produce chakra in usable levels, there is an extra gene in ninja. This black one here." He touched the strand and the black bar shifted to a new location. "Ferguson Clarice though, has her's here."
"What does that mean?"
"...DNA is a very complicated thing that cannot be changed. Of the one hundred thousand prossesses that happens inside the body, there is only thirty thousand genes to go to it. This means that the genes not only have multiple functions, they also work together with others to create new functions. Without the material of her parents, I could only guess how this affected them but if they were similar, then the Ferguson family had a completely different way of producing and using chakra. Meaning..."
"A kekkie genkai."
"Yes. During physical examination, we found this on her right leg." He passed out a picture of red tattoo in the shape of an eye with a bar extending from the pupil left and right the sizee of a plate. "Relevance of it is unknown but it might be the clan symbol or her position or strength in it. Eye structure similar but different to ours. Green instread of white, no pupil or iris yets sees to better detail than most. Perfect physical condition. No signs of chakra training but again with what little we know of her... She does appear to have a regeneration ability as when she was first discovered she was riddled with cuts that all healed within an hour. That or it was in conjuction to her sudden appearance in the air. A side effect of whatever brought her here. Honestly, if it wasn't for her genetics, I would recommend her for a possible candidate for any of the bloodlines. Test performed, as standard to all those new to living in the village, shows a great capatibility to strengthen many number of kekkei genkai. I do not know where she is from but from how valuable she appears to be, it isn't from around here."
Sarutobi listened to this in silence while also using his crystal to keep an eye on the interraction between Naruto and Clarice. From how she suddenly blushed and started laughing, he had just told a dirty joke. "From what I heard between Naruto and Clarice, she appears to be an orphan. And Naruto has made mention of her ability to 'Blink' several times" he said to his advisors.
"Blink," Homura asked.
"Obviously he isn't refering to her closing her eyes so she has some ability we do not know yet and she was hesitant to speak to me about anything beyond the phalanx. Withdrawn personality, hands and arms held in close, protectively, common signs of abuse or assault. Possibly for her difference in appearance. It is..." He trailed off wen he noticed touble starting in the crystal. "Captain, have an ANBU member check on the two, they are at Icharuka Ramen."
"Aye, aye, sir," the captain replied before vanishing for several moments.
"So he just took playing cards, threw them and they blew up," Naruto asked.
"Not just cards," Clarice corrected. "Anything he charged, up he could blow up."
"...Wow, what else could these 'X-men' do?"
Before she could answer, someone entered the ramen stand. "Amazing, and here I didn't think you couldn't end up anymore of a freak." It was a boy with spikey black hair, a scar on his right eyebrow, and a few years older than Naruto. Like Naruto he wore ninja suplies and gear but unlike him, he wasn't wearing a headband.
Naruto dropped his head a little and sighed. "Blink, meet Muramasa Hyate. He was in my class a year ago."
"Yeah, and I beat the hell out of you there," Hyate interjected. He glanced to Clarice, smiling, before turning back to Naruto to see him facing his ramen again. "Don't you ignore your betters, freak! Or did you forget that lesson I taught you!?"
"Hey, there will be no fighting in my stall,"Icharuka Teuchi said sternly, holding one of his knives.
"Calm down, old man, I'm just reminding him of his place."
Naruto closed his eyes a moment before replying with, "What is that place now? As I'm the one that actually made ninja, and you didn't, Hyate."
"You little punk," Hyate said, grabbing both Naruto and a kunai. Only to feel that kitchen knife pressed to his throat and a kunai tapping his inner thigh.
"Need I remind you the penalty of starting a ninja/non-ninja fight, Hyate," Naruto said calmly.
The scowl didn't leave his face, it grew. "I wouldn't be punished for hurting you, freak, I would be thanked. Never forget that. You don't belong here and you will never be accepted." Letting him go, Hyate stepped back and faced Clarice. "If you're smart, you'll ditch this loser before something bad happens."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Hardly. Pretty girl like you, nah. One day, he will get his and it will be messy, I would hate for a pretty girl like you to get caught in it."
Clarice kept her face nuetral as she said, "Thanks for the advice. But I don't think I'll listen to an insecure bully who feels he needs to attack others for his obvious lack of a penis. Especially when he has grown insanely jealous of larger size of his victim's." That got a snort from Naruto.
He began to glare before saying, "Bitch," and leaving.
"...What was his problem?"
"I don't have any parents or friends. Easy target," Naruto replied. "You pretty much got it right, he doesn't have a..."
"Watch out!" Clarice threw her hand forward with a Blink, catching a shuriken before it would have hit Naruto's throat. It vanished and hit the wall behing Naruto in three pieces. Naruto spun and threw what was in hand, one of his chopsticks.
"My hand," Hyate cried as the stick pushed through his palm. He grabbed it only to spin as Naruto was suddenly on him, fist slamming into his nose and breaking it. Hitting the ground, he began to get up until Naruto stepped in his wounded limb. "Agh! Get off, get off!"
"Not yet," Naruto said, crouching down, digging his foot in a little. In his hand was the other chopstick and it was beginning to glow ominously. "I really do have to remind you the penalty for attacking a ninja. If you survive the fight, its two years in prison. Damn prick."
"Genin Uzumaki, get off him," An ANBU said, coming up to them.
Naruto was silent as he backed up. Hyate started to smile until the ANBU grabbed him and started to restrain him. Looking to his glowing chopstick, he discarded it and headed back inside, ignoring the pop it made. Sitting back down, Naruto smirked and said, "That's two I owe you."
"Yeah...I wouldn't count the first, all I did was say stuff. As for that one...you're lucky I didn't cut your face off."
"Yeah. The first time I did that...someone died. I passed out and woke up in a pool of blood. The body was never found. And I never used it again until Harvest."
"Huh. What can I say, luck has always been on my side when things get interesting."
"Don't joke, Naruto! If I was even the slightest off..."
"But you weren't," Naruto interrupted. "And instead of hurting someone, you just used that to save me. So, Blink, I'm going to have to think of something big to pay this back."
Clarice just gaped at him before shaking her head. "You are infuriating."
"Thank you," Naruto replied cheekily.
Sarutobi had watched what happened intently, especially the part where she bent space around Naruto. He wasn't the only one. "And there it is, how she got here and what her kekkie genkai is," Homura offered.
"It is interesting," Koharu agreed. "Imagine what we could do with a bloodline like that. Sarutobi..."
"If you are about to suggest I force this young woman into an 'arranged marriage', I will be rather upset."
"You cannot deny the value she is," Danzou suddenly said, having been silent this whole time. "Of course, there would be problems with such a thing."
"And that would be," Sarutobi asked carefully.
"First is like you said, Hiruzen, she is a victim of abuse. Given her ability and what she said, I could see why. If we pushed too hard, she may lash out. A gentle hand would be needed for this, not a forceful. Second, given her uniqueness, she may adversely effect her offspring if they too have a kekkie genkai. So individuals such as the Uchiha or Hyuuga Neji cannot be chosen. Maybe in a generation or two when she has more mixed with us. Thirdly, because she is an abuse victim, she will be slow to trust anyone. Especially anyone that is overbearing. But these also tell us how to pull her to our side." He waited a moment and when no one interrupted, he continued. "Where ever she is from she was ostracized from her differences. Here, those same thing make her desirable. We offer her safety and community, a home if you will. Finally, we offer her importance. Say we need her to do something that even we may not be able to."
"...You want her to be married to Uzumaki," Koharu said slowly.
"Correct. Clarice has already demistrated that she can 'deal' with a problem if it arises. Tell her that we would like her to get close to Naruto, to keep an eye on the infection. I can tell she wants, needs, to be part of something of importance. Protecting her new home, and maybe even a new friend, is that something. Make it sound that marriage is the only way to get close enough."
"Offer her a choice, make her think it is her idea, and we still get what we want," Sarutobi said softly.
"Correct. And given the aptitude Uzumaki possesses, as well as the ability his father had with space time jutsus, I believe she is actually the best choice of a future mate. Take into account her own apparent skill, able to block that attack despite not praticing her ability and it is likely any offspring between the two will be powerful indeed."
Sarutobi sighed and said, "Danzou, you remain...Danzou."
The maimed ninja bowed his head at that. "I shall take that as a compliment."
"That is also why your remain Danzou," Sarutobi finished.
When the two were finished, they began heading back to the hospital. "Man, even with my arm aching I do not want to go back," Naruto muttered.
"Nah, it just aches but I 'have to stay in the hospital until such a time that we are certain there are no side effects'," he replied in a good imitation of the Hokage.
Clarice shook her head a little and said, "It isn't a bad idea. If you knew what those...things could do, you would be careful too."
"Yeah, well...I can live in fear of it or I can embrace and take control of it," he said, holding up his hand. "Maybe one day it will kill me. But until I actually stop breathing, I'm going to use this to help people." Clarice watched him closely, she wished she had his enthusiasm, she really did.
"Miss Ferguson," an ANBU with a hawk mask said, appearing before them. "I am to escort you to the Hokage, he wishes to speak with you on a matter of some importance."
"Alright, we'll go see the Old Man," Naruto said happily.
"I was also instructed to remind you that you are to return to your room, Genin Uzumaki," the ANBU replied, making Naruto drop his head.
"Man, I hate hospitals," the blond grumbled before continueing on. "See you soon, Blink."
"Um, yeah. What does the...Hokage want with me?"
"I am unsure but I believe he is concerned about how you are getting along." The ANBU started walking and Clarice fell in step with him. "You did kind of drop in unexpectedly."
"...How long has this village been waiting to use that?"
The ANBU turned his head and rubbed his hair before saying, "I've been waiting since I heard about you." Clarice sighed but relaxed a little, if he was making jokes, bad though it was, it couldn't be something worrying. "You seem in better spirits than when you arrived, enjoying yourself?"
"Yes...but I worry for my friends at home."
"I don't know. There is no place like Konoha in all the world that I know of. A community of mutants, maybe an entire continent full, I've never heard of this. I'm not even sure this is the same planet."
"...I can't say I understood all of that but I understand the meaning. But in truth there is no place like Konoha anywhere else. During an age of war, two great leaders brought their people together in an effort to bring peace. Konoha was the village they created. One of them was chosen to be the first Hokage, the first face to the left on the mountain."
"I see...why does that fourth face look so much like Naruto?"
"..." The man paused and looked to the monument. "...Don't know. That's another part of this village, secrets, shadows, and half truths hide around every corner."
"Not really, we were all raised for this. Konoha, to support itself, is a... What's the right word here... Mercenary company, maybe? We're hired by individuals who want things done. Some clandestine...others not so much."
"I could tell you horror stories of chasing a cat," he offered, completely serious. When she snorted, he said, "I'm serious. There is this demonic cat, older than I am, that is bane of existance for all new ninja." Clarice began to laugh, trying to cover it up with her hand. "This isn't funny, I have scars," he said, waving his hands a little and getting more giggles. Although he smiled that he made her laugh. His Hokage said to make her feel welcome, like this was to be her new home so he would do so.
"I'm sorry," she wheezed, her head starting to hurt from laughing so hard.
"It's alright," he waved off. "You should be smiling more. So, what has you worried with your friends."
"...The phalanx is spreading, quickly."
"Hmm. Then I have to say that whatever it is, its already over." She turned to him questioningly. "Judging by what all you have said, the 'phalanx' is very quick and your people move about from one point in the world to another just as quickly. So either the phalanx has...assimilated your world, or it has been stopped. Either way, there is no longer a need to worry."
Clarice stopped walking and whispered quietly, "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Viruses with a fast infection, kill rate always end quickly, good or bad." Clarice rubbed her arms like she suddenly got cold before nodding. Again, this was something his Hokage asked of him. Lessen her desire to go home so that she will want to stay.
"...You're right," Clarice said, a bit sad. "I just wish I knew how it ended."
"Now that I can't offer any pearls of wisdom," the hawk mask ANBU replied. "Other than have faith in your friends, that they made it through. And keep in mind the burden they had, should they fail. When things are the worst is when most are at their strongest." Can't completely write off her old world, that might make her untrusting. But by telling her to remember the stakes, she won't forget how bad it may have gotten.
"...Paige made it through," Clarice said, suddenly filled with confidence. "If anyone can, it would be her and the others. Even Mister Sabertooth." It made her smile, thinking that. "Thank you."
"For everything. You and your village, especially Naruto. I can't say the last time I felt this...safe."
"Well then, maybe you should offer your thanks to him instead," the ANBU replied, motioning to the Hokage's office door. Clarice looked around and realized that during their talking they had walked all the way here. "And you are welcome, Miss Ferguson." Stepping back, he suddenly vanished, leaving her alone in front of the door.
"...That is so cool," Clarice said before knocking.
"Enter," came the aged voice of the leader of the village. Sliding the door open, Sautobi smiled at seeing her. "Ah, Clarice-chan, good to see you." The man stepped away from a canvas he was working on, setting down the brush he held in hand. Seeing her look to it, he smiled and said, "Trying to relax a little, now that most of the worry is over. Tell me, how are you?"
"I am better. Better than I have been in so long."
"That is good to hear...I think. Is or was something wrong? The phalanx?"
"No," she replied, shaking her head. "People like me aren't well accepted where I'm from."
"I see." Sarutobi moved to his desk and the tea pot set on it. "Would you like some?"
"Yes," she said, moving over to take the offered cup.
"Well, forgive an old man for saying so but if things are so bad, do you even want to go back?"
"I don't think I would forgive myself if I didn't. At least, I felt that way before, now I'm not so sure."
"Then take your time, think about what you can and should do. Until then I would like to ask for your help."
"My help? What can I do, according to Naruto, there is nothing your people can't do. You beat the techno-organic infection even!"
"We can't do everything and it concerns Naruto. Nothing bad, I assure you. Rather I would like you to keep doing what you already are. No doubt, you noticed Naruto doesn't have many in the way of friends, correct?"
"Nor does he also have a family to be there for him. That means there is no one to watch to make sure he is okay."
"His arm," Clarice muttered.
"Correct. I care for Naruto a great deal so that worries me. That we might have missed some of the infection even more so. I am already watching him when I can but I would appreciate another set of eyes if you are willing."
"...I just have to watch the spread?"
"If there is any. I would also ask you to watch his behavior but I don't think you know him well enough to do that. So I ask you just be his friend and keep an eye out."
"...I will. And I want to help out the best I can. You have all been so kind to me, I have to repay that. Tell me what signs to watch for in his behavior."
"Clarice, I can't," he tried to deny. "You don't have the training and even if you did that would require things I'm not willing to ask you."
"Let me decide what I'm willing to do, please."
Sarutobi sighed and said, "Alright, alright. Stubborn, aren't you? If I was talking to one of my ninja, I might ask them to get close, as close as possible to him to see all the changes. Naruto is a very open personality, he wears his heart on his sleave, you could say. But only to those close to him. He has kept up a mask of happiness for many years to show that being..."
"An orphan doesn't hurt," Clarice muttered.
"I take it you are familiar to that pain."
"I lost my parents when I was young."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Children suffering has never sat well with me."
"But the world isn't nice, it will happen and you can do little to change it," Clarice said, almost bitter.
"Well, I like to think I can help those around me," Sarutobi offered. "That mask is why you would have to get close. Again, if I was talking to my ninja. Alone or with friends, Naruto is very lonely. But when you are with him, he has this smile that shows the happiness of the world. You saw it when you ate ramen with him, right?"
"I know the smile," she said, thinking back. "When he was bragging about being this great ninja and how he would do so many great things...I said I believe he would and I meant it. I just know that he will. And then he just gave that smile."
Nodding, Sarutobi said, "Not many see it or the good person he is. To get close, a ninja might try to recreate themselves as his ideal date."
"Yes. That's why I didn't want to ask this of you. A ninja would because it might mean the safety of the village. But this isn't your home, Clarice-chan."
"Wait, I never said that..." She trailed off as she caught herself. "I'm actually considering staying," she muttered in shock realization.
"We would welcome you," Sarutobi said. "If you are sure, that is. This is a military village, as you have seen. Everyone pulls their weight."
"I can do that," she said with determination. "You don't survive alone as long as I have without doing it."
"We shall see. Shall we at least continue with Naruto?" At her nod, he cleared his throat. "This would require being close to him during missions and training when he is assigned to a team as a ninja. It might even come to one of my ninja's dating him and other things. Which is why I'm not asking you. You aren't a ninja, I'm not going to ask you to..."
"Enough!" Sarutobi blinked in surprise at her outburst. "I'm not going to let you create someone as Naruto's ideal lie only for him to be hurt for it later!"
"Clarice, I know this seems cold and hurtful but its for Naruto's safety. This is why I didn't want to tell you."
"So I should have just left well enough alone while you lie and abuse the trust he has for you?"
Taking a deep breath, Sarutobi closed his eyes a moment, carefully judging what he would say next. "I have made many decisions in my life I regret, decision I had to make as the leader of this village. One of the few that I don't regret is everything I have done to help Naruto. This is to protect him, Clarice. Unfair though it may sound, Naruto has gained something that if it gets loose will hurt him and others around him. So unless you are going to offer a solution where you are there whenever something may go wrong, I will do what I have to."
"...I will!" Those words so easily came out. "I will be."
"Do you know what you just said? You agreed to be his...significant other, girlfriend, wife. Do you, do you realize that?"
Clarice suddenly looked down, rubbing her toes in a circle. "I don't want you to...compromise your friendship with Naruto just to protect him. And I want to protect him too. Besides, it makes sense, I killed Harvest, if..."
"No," Sarutobi suddenly interrupted. "If ever it comes to it, that Naruto has to be, I shall be the one to." He saw her confusion so he simply said, "We are a complicated people, Clarice-chan. I care for Naruto like my own grandson, if it must be done, ever, it will not be on an order or by someone that hates him."
"...So what do I do now?"
"Go back to your room at the hospital, you are still recovering from what happened. I'll make up some story but know, it will probably involve forcing the two of you together. I'll have it together in a few days." She began to get up and walk through the door. "Does he mean so much to you already, that you would do so much for him?"
"...I hurt him but he doesn't care," Clarice replied. "He wants my friendship, nothing else. He... is sweet and kind and I want his friendship in return."
When the door closed behind her, Sarutobi sighed. He wasn't sure how well it would go but now that it is done, he felt just a little bit more...filthy for manipulating her to that. It was a feeling that, as Hokage, he had to become very familiar with. "Don't ever take this chair, Naruto, you're too good for it."
Author's Notes: This story was a challenge by Fan of Fanfics. Now, as for why it has been so long since I did any kind of update, my computer went to crap. Everything I had on it was lost. Everything. I can't even say how disheartening that is. I lost several gigabytes of documents, story ideas, notes, and other things I needed to write. Some of it is still in my head, yes, but the heart to do it is gone for most.