Naruto finally got that audience to meet with the nobles that he may or may not have insulted when he insinuated that devil culture should change. Kumagawa did Kumagawa things and forced Naruto's clone to display its "Shadow" in the fight with Kokabiel, and left to cause more trouble.
Said Shadow did bad things, and popped specifically so that the real Naruto in the Underworld couldn't gain it's memories. And the second Naruto clone that was training Koneko decided to come and investigate!
Naruto was trying not to fidget.
He knew that he should keep his back straight, his head up, his posture set, and his body rigid when dealing with these types. But taking note of these things would always just…draw attention to the problem. Then staying still would eventually get to a point where it was unbearable.
That was a problem when one was dealing with people that valued useless pomp and rigid social customs; everything had to be done on their terms lest you offend them somehow. Something that the blond was wont to do on a regular basis, normally.
Besides him, Rias was languidly resting her arms upon her seat's armrests, posture lax, though her eyes spoke differently. "Thank you for allowing us the chance to speak, Lord Bael. I'm sure that this must be a difficult position that you're in, and I appreciate the opportunity to clear the air, so to speak."
A neutral and cautionary approach to the beginning salvo of what would be a perilous journey through noble devil politics, this was something that Grayfia was acutely aware of as she gazed upon her sister-in-law's tentative first step. Before her and the young man who unintentionally sparked the issues that were being spoken of in this room were several figures that the Queen knew by heart.
Powerful people; powerful devils. Nobles that belonged to the ancient 72 Pillars of the Underworld, one of whom; Lord Furcas, a giant of a man that wore expensive Western-styled armor based off of Medieval European knights, leaned into the table to regard the Gremory heiress. "Rias Gremory –younger sister of our illustrious Maou Lucifer…I'd hoped that this meeting wouldn't need Lucifer-sama's ear." his visor rose to also acknowledge the powerful woman wearing the maid outfit, wary.
"Please don't concern yourself with that, Lord Furcas." Rias sought to assuage the faux knight's worries, flashing a small smile. "I'm not here in the name of my brother, nor is Grayfia. She's to act as a neutral observer whilst I stand alongside my friend here to help assure the upper classes of his good intent."
"Good intent, hm?" Lord Agares, another noble that was able to attend this meeting remarked with a scowl, his sharp eyes hidden behind the clear lens of his thin glasses as he slicked his pale and short green hair back. "All things considered, I seriously doubt that-"
Lord Bael stonily turned to look at his fellow Lord, eerily calm and composed, even as the Agares head shrunk back in his seat. He turned to face the far younger devil with a hollow smile. "Rias Gremory, it's been far too long. I thank you for bringing this man before us today, perhaps he can clear things up for us, if possible?"
The red-head smiled in return. "Hopefully. Though it should be noted that Uzumaki Naruto over here sought you all out himself; I didn't bring him before you, I'm simply along for the ride."
For the first time since he sat on that table, the full weight of the man known as 'Lord Bael' was brought onto Naruto's shoulders through the man's piercing violet eyes. "Is that so?"
Feeling as if he was given a queue, the shinobi nodded firmly as he spread his palms onto the clearly expensive table in front of him. "Yeah, I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings...uh…sir."
Quirking a solitary eyebrow, Lord Bael regarded him over steepled fingers, attempting to dig into the depths of his mind through his violet irises so he could get the answers he wanted out of the boy a few meters away from him. Though if he thought he could achieve such a thing by intimidating him, it was clear that blond was far too headstrong for that.
After the gap of silence widened for just a few more moments, Lord Bael eventually leaned back, making the first foray into this delicate discussion. "Very well then. Uzumaki Naruto; as the representative of the 72 Pillars, we'd like to know what your intentions were when you insinuated that the societal structures that have been put into place for centuries needed to be changed?"
Rias' back straightened, her aquatic gaze boiling. The question was basic, easy for those who didn't understand politics, but there was already a giant landmine placed right before the blond as soon as he answered. She moved to disable them. "Lord Bael, Uzumaki Naruto over here did not purposefully try and destabilize the societal structures that you speak of. He merely stated his intentions for the future in regards to the society we live in." it wouldn't have been hard for anyone here to try and misconstrue an answer to that question as an admission of guilt for the Underworld's destabilization.
Lord Bael smiled thinly. "And those intentions are…?"
"Reformation." Naruto answered, only just realizing what his friend had just pointed out, and the issues it could've spawned.
"I see." a pause. "And whom are you exactly to make such a nebulous gesture? Are you even a devil?"
"That's hardly relevant to the conversation." Rias cut in, a digit tapping against her folded thighs. "This is about Uzumaki Naruto's intentions, is it not? Not about the value of his criticisms."
Lord Bael almost smirked at the retort, shrugging half-heartedly, and Lord Agares regained enough of his courage to cut in. "None of this changed the fact that your 'friend' made a declaration that can be construed as hostile to devils like us. Perhaps he had good intentions, but they were clearly not aimed towards us; there can be no misunderstanding about his opposition to the rightful Noble clans of the Underworld."
Towards the end, the man's voice became more and more heated, and ended with a dark glance at the direction of the sole blond in the room, who met his stare squarely.
Rias kept her voice even and her poise perfect as she lifted her chin. "Circumstances mean everything, Lord Agares. It's possible that someone that declared their own personal opinion against the society we devils live in may have ill intentions towards the 72 Pillars, absolutely, but isn't it also possible that he meant well and intended to save people from a more difficult issue down the road?"
Her left hand crawled towards Naruto's right under the table, ghosting over it with a feather's touch. The message was obvious.
Work your magic.
"Lord Agares." Naruto made sure to get at least the name and 'proper' title right. "I don't know what you thought about what I said; but I can guarantee that you that I don't want anyone to get hurt. I didn't really think about what I said back then, but I think that there is an issue to be talked about, you know? And that that issue will eventually become too big to ignore, so wouldn't it be better to instigate change sooner rather than later, for everyone's sakes?"
Following this piece, silence reigned, its rule so thoroughly enforced to the point that even the slight ruffling of cloth didn't go unnoticed by the individuals in the room. Lord Agares, for his part, seemed peeved, but also less outright hostile. Maybe -dare he say?- even a little contrite.
"A bloodless coup then?" Lord Bael smiled, his eyes cold. "Quite the goal. Though, given your disposition, as well as the power displayed, I have to wonder how you could come to such an erroneous conclusion about our ancient society. Which, again, brings me back to my original point; who is this mysterious young man before us?"
"It isn't important." Rias maintained firmly, very much aware that the knowledge of the young man's identity as a human could be used against him due to the low opinion devils held against humanity. Better to avoid the question entirely. "He has great power at his disposal, and that's all that matters; unless you doubt the importance of power amongst all devils, Lord Bael?"
"Power is everything." he replied, giving way far too easily for her comfort. "Except in the face of tradition. His power isn't in question, especially after that wonderful display against Riser Phenex. No, I simply wonder about his overall trustworthiness of a critic, as well as his sincerity."
"We've been over this-"
"Have we?" the current head of the Bael clan rose to his full height, his eyes as sharp as steel and his lip curled, all traces of faux humor gone. "Tell me; do you think that the past has no bearing upon the present? That prior actions, motivations, or group affiliations don't color the perceptions of individuals? Perhaps your 'friend' here is a part of a noble line; and can thus be trusted since his own interests are on the line. Or perhaps he's a part of the many Extra Demons clans and seeks to upend the apple cart for his own personal gain? One can't say –unless they hear the truth."
Violet flicked to drink in the tightlipped expression on his niece -how strange it was to admit such a thing to the spawn of a Gremory-, the grim features upon the blond whom he was speaking of, and the ever-present stoicism of the queen of the Maou Lucifer himself.
"With all due respect…" Naruto ventured slowly, cobbling together the right thing to say given what he managed to grasp from the ancient man's words. "I think my actions speak far louder than my words."
Latching onto the lifeline inadvertently given, the red-head continued that line of dialog into its reasonable conclusion. "Precisely. Lord Bael, Uzumaki Naruto has not acted against the interest of the Underworld; quite the contrary. But more to the point; he is not obligated to inform others of his personal life, it's inappropriate, and sets a terrible precedent. Should we begin questioning everyone's personal lives if we wish to determine people's motives? If so; then it stands to reason that not only do I have to participate, but you'll have to as well, Lord Bael."
The high-class devil that inhabited the leadership of what was widely considered the most powerful clan of the Underworld, molded back onto his ludicrously comfortable seat with an air of light amusement. Violet eyes gleaming. "And how, pray tell, could information about our personal lives be used? We're nobles. We, for all intents and purposes, are the order of the Underworld. Unlike this young man over here, who most likely doesn't have a stake should the Underworld become destabilized, we have everything to lose. Questioning us about our backgrounds would be redundant."
Got ya. "Not to note the obvious milord, but considering the last few hundred years of the Underworld, do you believe that all of the Heads of the 72 Pillars were loyal to the Maous completely, one-hundred percent of the time in the past?"
All at once Lord Bael's relaxed posture tensed, his assured demeanor shattering much like glass would when slammed against cement, drifting into the wind. Pursing his lips softly, a ghost of a smile almost made its way to him. Though it was forced to battle with the frown that tried to reach him first.
All of this was missed by the two teens, though Grayfia's keen eyes recognized those hidden feelings all too well, even though they were well masked by the outrage that had overtaken Lord Agares. "What!? How dare you insinuate that we may ever be anything but loyal to the current-!"
"Calm down, Lord Agares." Lord Furcas craned his helmet to meet the fury of his fellow noble, though no one could really see what was under that visor. "She wasn't insinuating anything; she was merely stating the obvious, however unfortunate that obvious truth is."
Eyes crinkled under the lens of the powerful upper-class devil, irritated still. He sensed the truthfulness in the leader of the House of Furcas though, so relented, especially whilst under the watchful eye of the maid that was standing just a mere few meters away.
"…I apologize for my colleague's outburst." Lord Bael smoothly cut into the conversation thanks to the tiny lull, looking for the entire world like a reasonable diplomat that was trying to present a fair middle ground that all parties could compromise over. "I'm sure you know how these talks go; everyone becomes quite passionate in their beliefs, even the more experienced devils aren't immune to this. We are a race of passion after all. Perhaps a short break is in order to cool our heads off?"
His smile was genial and -dare she say?- knowing.
"I see no reason why not." Rias reflected the act of artificial goodwill with one of her own; her twist of the lip was entirely professional and impersonal. A far cry to what such a normally affectionate gesture could and should be. "Grayfia?"
Beside her, Grayfia bowed. "Yes, Rias-sama." she raised her head to face the nobles arrayed at the opposite side of the table before them, no hint of empathy for anyone there in her clear orbs. "If it pleases you, we shall reconvene here once more following a half an hour. Is this satisfactory, Lord Bael?"
"Then it shall be so."
When the Gremory princess left the confines of the meeting room by passing through the light curtains that separated the formal area to the balcony, she felt like she could finally breathe again. Truth be told, she had forgotten what serious so-called 'talks' were like –were they always so taxing? Or perhaps it was the fact that there were actual stakes this time around that put her on edge?
She wouldn't know. So she reached towards the edge of the balcony with outstretched arms just for the sheer need for something to lean against. Anything would do.
A firm hand grasped her shoulder before she could land upon the railings, her shifting balance conspiring to twist her controlled fall into a confounding trip backwards –into the waiting arms of the man that snuck up on her. The voice sounded worried that she was going to land on the railings, but she couldn't focus on anything except the closeness the man in question.
"I'm fine!" let it be known that Rias Gremory never squeaked. Ever. Even when in front of the blond that managed to always throw her off her A-game. That probably wasn't a good thing, but she could never wonder about it when he was actually there.
Said teenager in question tried for a boyish smile in an attempt to alleviate her embarrassment, unguarded and shamefaced. More vulnerable than she's seen him. That made her feel marginally better, she supposed. "I'm gonna be honest; I was lost most of the time we were in there."
Sympathy bled into her; smile quirking in genuine empathy. She decided to throw him a bone in thanks and save him from attempting to wrap his head around the clusterfuck that was devil politics. "That man that acted like the leader among the three clan heads, the one with the dark hair and violet eyes? He was probably looking to discredit you; though thankfully I don't think that even he thinks that you're human."
Moving up beside her, he leaned against the balcony, eyes upturned to gaze at the artificial sky above. Head swirling with thoughts upon the present headache and…something more distant. "And people would just take that and use that against me? Seriously? That's so-"
"That too." Rias chuckled, pulling a few errant crimson strands behind her ear. Forcing herself to keep her voice steady, nerves threatening to make her voice quiver with a growing anticipation of…something. "But that's not all you're thinking about, right?"
That much seemed obvious, what with his strange claim of getting a bad feeling back at Kuoh Town earlier that day. Ever since then, he was strangely reticent, even agitated. It was a minor miracle that he stayed as tactful as he did during the talks.
"Yeah, but you probably knew that." Naruto noted wryly. "I just wanna get this over with by this point. Tell them that I'm not a threat so they don't have to fight against me, and then get back to the human world. If I can just drill that into their heads somehow…"
"Are they in danger?" the young heiress' query had a tinge of concern in there.
"No, at least, I'm pretty sure they're not." he sounded sure of that at the very least. "One of my clones popped, I'm sure of that, but the other one didn't. If there was an issue that I should be worried about; then both of them should've disappeared while giving me a sense of dread. But I only got a vague sense of…grim determination."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"You're right. Which is why I'm a little worried since the feeling I received just…made me feel sick. Literally, if you remember. It was weird."
"Maybe you're just being a worrywart, like all older brothers." the sly upturn of her lips expressed her teasing nature, but Naruto just huffed, refusing to rise to the bait. "Oh, don't pout. It's not cute."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't aiming to be cute." Naruto folded his arms and laid his head on top of them, mouth jutting out a bit, vaguely huffy.
Cyan eyes watched the blond without a word, appreciating the view in an entirely different fashion from what the whiskered boy's eyes were inspecting. From her angle she could see the artificial moonlight softly light the side of his face, bringing attention to his firm jaw and the intense blue of his eyes, the light wind ruffling his casual clothes and golden spiky hair.
Blinking, she managed to drag herself back to reality, albeit with more hesitation that she would've liked. "Yeah?"
Rias had to stop to think about how she should even respond; such was her confusion at the sudden appreciation given to her. "…For what?"
"For not getting dismissing me as soon as I declined your offer the first time we met. For listening to me when I offered a pact between the supernatural people in Kuoh Academy." he remained rooted where he was as he rambled on, casual. "For letting me prove myself to you. For helping Mio. For buying me cell phones. For being here when this technically isn't even your problem."
Mouth dry and throat suddenly contracted, Rias needed the pause that continued on after he finished, nonplussed at the suddenness and novelty of what she was hearing and seeing. "Wait, wait, wait –what?"
"I thought I was supposed to be the dense one?" there was definitely a smile there in the shinobi's answer, though the red-head couldn't see it. At least until he turned around and revealed the easy upward twist of the lips, something that came so easy and seemed so personable shouldn't have been possible, yet it was done all the same.
It was unfair.
"T-That's-" she hated how she couldn't form proper sentences. This was not how these things were supposed to go! "You can't just throw all of this at once, you know!?" it was beyond embarrassing!
"Hoh?" the insufferable grin only widened, his eyes of endless depth dancing alongside the pale artificial moonlight. "What's this? Are you really getting shy because of a 'thank you'? I didn't know you were that innocent! Will the wonders never cease?"
Rias opened her mouth to retort in her hasty defense; to claim that the thanks was only one piece that left her acting like a little girl only just entering primary school, that the moonlight made it hard for her to look at him without an ethereal halo encapsulating him, that his smug grin was just endearing enough to enhance the visual experience.
But instead, nothing came, so she did the only mature thing left to do.
She spun around in a huff, crossing her arms under her bosom as her dress' hem trailed along with her.
"Ah, she's mad."
"I'm not mad."
All became quiet for a few precious moments, seconds that stretched long enough for her to regain her composure. Let it be known that Rias Gremory was no wallflower that would bend over backwards for such sweet talk; she's heard it all before, there was no end to the countless suitors that always tried to play her. Surely this'd be no different-
"I'm serious." He was closer to her now, his rough palms perched upon her slender and naked shoulder as he continued where he left off, unaware of the jolt sent through at the contact. "Many things would've been close to impossible or ridiculously difficult if it weren't for you; so for what it's worth-" he squeezed her shoulder now, confiding a sense of appreciation that was only reinforced by his heartfelt words, clumsy as they were. "-thank you. And I hope that you've felt as appreciated as I have from our friendship."
His words were spoken without a hint of insincerity. There was nothing except the warm fuzziness that suddenly flooded and pooled onto her cheeks. What could she even say to that? What was appropriate? What didn't make her look like a complete tool?
Forget the damned talks, this was what was really driving her blood pressure up, even when the blond behind her let go and took a step back to return back to the railing. For several precious breaths, she was doing her utmost to calm her beating heart, almost jealous of her counterpart's composure.
Once again she has found herself speechless, unable to think or say anything that could possibly make sense given the context of the situation. Never before did she think that such a picturesque moment -one that would've made her child-self jump around in glee- would leave her mute.
She felt more than a little compelled to speak, to say anything that would remove her head from the skies, to get out of that happy place she had inadvertently found herself in. "W-Well, that's not all that's in your mind now, is it?"
Rias turned around properly, praying -ironically- that her flushed cheeks weren't too noticeable, squarely meeting the grinning visage of friend and hero.
"Geez, I feel like everyone's been reading through me recently." the shinobi barked out a laugh, combing the spiky locks at the nape of his neck bashfully. Rias' eyes faithfully following the movements of that stray hand with a measure of rueful affection at the familiar gesture. "Well, yeah, there is one big, big, big thing I keep thinking about, and truthfully; it's the biggest thing."
Dragging herself away from the movement that drew her towards his strong neck, she raised a brow, more comfortable. "You really are a worrywart, aren't you?"
"No, no, no! This one is a biiiiig deal, promise!" blue eyes quickly snapped to and fro around them, searching for eavesdroppers. "It's…kinda embarrassing actually."
There was a surprising amount of things that could make this man in front of her embarrassed, and she found herself curious -maybe a little too interested?- to find another. "Really now? C'mon then, I promise I won't laugh…partially."
"You didn't need to add that last part." his expression was dour now.
Just in case.
Sniffing, Naruto carefully looked around one more time before leaning in a fashion that reminded her of those spy movies that everyone in the human world was so infatuated with, that or those shows filled with dramas and gossip.
Instead of that, she found herself paying more attention to the warm air that tickled her when he came close, his lips suddenly dangerously close to her cheek, his body pressing lightly against her own. Damn those parents of hers! This wasn't nearly as bad until her mother pointed this out! How exactly was she supposed to behave normally when she couldn't help but notice these-!?
"It's Mio." he sounded like he belonged in one of those high school drama plays for how gossipy he sounded. "I have no fucking clue how I'm supposed to face her the next time I see her!"
A pang. How could she forget? Mio. "…Did something happen with Mio-chan?"
It was exceedingly rare to witness the young man that was seemingly made out of insane and reckless confidence to squirm in place, but apparently the day was filled with rare sights. "Yeah, you could say that. We went out to get a bite to eat, ya know, just to hang out. Normal, right?"
Rias wouldn't know, since she hadn't, by any metric, lived a normal life. Let alone had a normal family with standard family relationships. Her brother especially…
Perhaps he saw the sour expression on her face since he amended his statement. "Normal for people like us, I mean. Well, everything went pretty well at first, ya know? We hanged out and bonded, but somewhere along the line…something changed."
Fully aware of how his 'day out' initially went, she felt that pang again and irritation rise up her throat. "And then?"
He took another precious second to gather the courage to speak again, eyes furtively checking their surroundings for one final, final time…and then whispered so quietly that even her race's advanced hearing was almost unable to pick up what he said.
"She kissed me!" was all she heard.
Now, the Gremory princess has seen and heard of a lot of strange things over her short life, but nothing has quite made all of her functions as a sentient being freeze up as this. She felt that their interaction seemed a bit too close but…
"I have no clue how I should even look at her the next time I see her!" Naruto sounded suspiciously close to wailing, though he managed to mumble it harshly under his breath. "It's so embarrassing, damn it! I've never even-!"
He stopped there, gaze glazing over as he became introspective, frowning.
Rias recovered enough to ask the obvious. "What? You've never what?"
"…I've never had to deal with something like this before." he admitted in a hiss, flushing furiously. "How would you handle this, Rias!?"
"H-How am I supposed to know!?" the red-head's voice hiked at the query, remembering all of her experience when it came to the opposite sex. It amounted to video games and anime; so basically nothing.
"Bullshit!" Naruto rounded on her, eyes wild with desperate hope. "Look at you! How haven't you been with someone yet!?"
Her jaw dropped, she was lodged somewhere deeply in-between being intensely flattered that he thought as such of her and completely scandalized. "W-Well what about you? Do you really expect me to believe that a guy like you has never handled a situation like this before!?"
It was the shinobi's turn to sputter. "What? Of course not! How would I-?"
His expression loosened, eyes widening as a stark realization flickered across his sapphire-colored pupils, staring off at nothing. Rias couldn't have known, but something clicked distantly at the back of the blond's head; focusing with pinpoint accuracy at an incident that he pushed deeply into the back of his own subconscious for reasons he hadn't really thought of until now.
Of the battle right before he entered the world that was so interconnected with powerful and outlandish supernatural beings, of a young woman with eyes as like the pale moonlight and long hair of lavender. Standing before him. Protecting him.
Words aimed at him right before she charged at a man that had the gumption to call himself a deity…and have the power and charisma to have that claim be taken seriously.
Suddenly those words, so innocuous to him before, seemingly made as to reaffirm the friendly relations that they had prior, seemed to have taken on a new meaning. A new depth that he couldn't have possibly fathomed until this exact moment in time.
"Could it be…?"
Naruto whirled at her when his name was invoked, eyes impossibly wide with wonder and awe. "Rias!"
Eyes widening a fraction of a fraction was the only way anyone could've seen her emote her surprise. "What? Is there something else that's wrong?"
"No, well- maybe." the shinobi spoke through a dry throat, sounding a bit hoarse until he gulped. "Rias, I need to know; can you do me a big favor?"
Eyes of a shade between sapphires and emeralds considered him, glimmering in the shade that the dark sky above provided. She didn't really think about her answer once the wind caught his spiky hair again, hiding deep blue from her as they regarded her with an intensity that only this man in front of her could give. Should she be worried that she was left so amenable to him by a mere look, or did she –in her heart of hearts- admire it? "Whatever you want."
She meant it to, she realized. And it wasn't just because of the debt she felt towards him.
Whatever else she expected from such a general question; from an appeal to utilize her vast resources, to advice…she didn't expect what came next. Not in this century, not really.
Arms drifted towards the red-head's shoulders and held them securely, jolting her in the process at the physical contact, her head tilting a fraction higher so that she could meet his intense gaze from her unexpectedly vulnerable position. She didn't shy away from him though. "Eh? What's wrong? You're acting kinda weird, Naru-"
In regards to certain stimuli while living life, many individuals had their own way of dealing with specific situations, whether they knew it or not. Some people responded to unexpected situations by freezing up, while others manage to take it in stride and go with the flow. Most people, simply put, had defaults.
For the longest time, Naruto had forced himself not to rely on his default reaction to certain stimuli, all too cognizant of the fact that the complicated situation he found himself in sometimes required more thought than he was usually liable to give. More careful planning rather than abrasive action.
However, that was what he did when he was intentionally keeping himself from acting out brashly. The inevitable question then becomes; what happened when Uzumaki Naruto was faced with a situation that he had no prior experience in, was desperately curious about, and was no longer keeping himself in check?
The answer was simple; Uzumaki Naruto unequivocally, unrepentantly, and impetuously rushed in, damn the consequences.
Which explained why Rias found herself bunched up in his hold, hands pressed against his chest as his lips met hers. Her mind shut down at the sudden and intimate contact, the contours of well-defined muscles registering to her through the thin orange shirt he wore as her breasts mashed against him.
If she had the ability to she would've groaned, eyes fluttering underneath her lashes as she melted into the embrace, hands questing for more, unwilling to let go of the sensations that were thrust onto her. Finding herself all too willing to simply…indulge.
Yet it was only when she was starting to get into the embrace that she found herself stripped of it prematurely, the blond before her detaching himself from her without preamble, eyes intense.
Rias was just left there, lips bruised and beyond befuddled. "Wha-?"
It was a feeling that was only made worse when Naruto reared his head back and howled with uproarious and abundant laughter. "There was no way that Hinata meant it like that, I knew it! Mio was wrong, I totally get what love between a man and woman is! Take that dattebayo!"
Rias took a shaky step back and clutched at the railing by the curtains leading inside, needing support for her shaky legs. She seriously wished she understood what went on in that confounding boy's head at times. "Naru-to….what…the hell!?"
"It's ok, Rias!" he was facing away from her, fists on hips, standing proudly as he gazed at the artificial Underworld sky. "With your help, I understand now. I get it. What love between two people feels like!"
He snapped to her, and only now could the Gremory heiress see the swirls that had replaced his blue eyes as his cheeks became aflame with such ferocity that it made the sun look like a mere candle in comparison. "It. Was. Embarrassing! Men and women that love each other kiss a lot, right? So I figured that if I emulated something like that I'd understand what that kind of lovey-dovey feeling was like, and let me tell ya; I can't even see straight anymore! I feel like I'm gonna die! How do you deal with this exactly!?"
"H-H-How am I supposed to know!?" her maiden heart wasn't ready for that!
Naruto completed his test, but he still wanted to crawl into a hole and hide for the duration of his life regardless. At least he could say that he definitively understood what it meant to kiss another, and consequently; what it must've felt for one to love another, at least a little bit. People in love kiss on the lips, thus, surely, he'd understand more about those feelings more by copying that, right?
And what had he learned? That apparently that kind of love made you want to fade into oblivion where you stood.
It was impossible for someone to stand beside someone they loved if that was the standard feeling that they received, meaning that Mio…couldn't have seen him that way! It was completely out there! Unless she was some kind of paragon of courage, there was no way that could be the case.
That meant only one thing; there must've been a misunderstanding. Or better yet –maybe she was confused about what that kind of love felt like?
Huffing with renewed vigor, Naruto resolved to set his adopted sister straight, obviously she heard something weird back at school or on the internet, and it was up to her wiser and more experienced sibling to help her see the light.
Yes. That was it!
If Rias could've seen his thought process, she would've marveled at the feat of logic he had just made.
Unbeknownst to the both of them; their bubble of isolation was about to burst.
In front of the individual that had just entered the balcony to see what the loud fuss was about was the spiky-haired blond who was seriously beginning to overheat in the head as the world spun around him and the esteemed younger sister of the most powerful man in the Underworld…who was barely keeping herself on her feet while looking like she had recently gotten hit by a truck.
This was the scene that Grayfia Lucifuge walked onto, and the two teens responded appropriately.
Which was to say; they didn't respond too well. The young human miserably failed to force the blood down from his face or to look in any way presentable, and her sister-in-law forced herself on her feet only to stumble and fall on her knees, legs apparently like jelly.
Peering onto the wide-eyed looks that both young adults sported, the slight swells upon both of their lips, their equally flushed features, the ruffled state of the Gremory princess' immaculate dress, and that look in her eyes…
Ah. "I understand, Rias-sama, Naruto-sama. Youthful passions are difficult to deal with, but please keep yourselves in check. Once this meeting is concluded, I will personally purchase a room for the both of you to-"
"No!" "That's not it!"
Grayfia cocked her head, expression as stoic as usual despite the outcry. "Am I wrong?"
"You-" Rias bit her bottom lip, shoulders sagging while she took a deep breath to soothe her beating heart. "No, it's not like that. Naruto just wanted to test something out, that's all, right?"
There was no way in hell that either of the teenagers could tell whether the powerful maid believed them or not, but she nodded all the same. "Understood, Rias-sama. I also wished to inform you that you have ten minutes to reconvene, is that acceptable?"
Bowing from the waist down, Grayfia turned and exited through the way she came, composure completely intact with nary a crack in sight. Rias was somewhat envious of her for that.
"I –uh, sorry about that." Naruto sounded pretty sheepish, though she couldn't see his expression since she refused to look at him and stare at the curtains.
She turned, and this time she was able to keep a straight face, though her blood rushed back up again as soon as she looked at this man. "I'd hope so. I know that you're impetuous, but even I didn't think you'd be brash enough as to steal my first kiss."
Blue eyes blinked. Then widened. "Wait, seriously?"
"Is it that much of a surprise?" she grumbled that out with a growing pout forming upon her lightly bruised lips. "Just what do you see me as exactly?"
"Someone that probably has most of the guys at school at her beck and call."
The princess waved that comment away with a most unladylike snort as she shut her eyes and shook her head. "That sounds like up Akeno's alley, though neither of us has ever even entertained the idea of anything with the boys at school. Too immature."
The left eye opened a fraction, peeking through crimson tresses, pools of cerulean wavering like the tumultuous waves deep within the depths the ocean. Demeanor timid, but somehow determined. Naruto felt that it was pretty adorable in a way. "You're not like them, right?"
"Depends on what you mean by immature." was his easy response, shrugging, unwilling to give himself undue praise. Always strangely humble in the red-head's opinion. "I do stupid shit sometimes, but I won't shirk my responsibilities, that's just how I roll."
Bingo. "Then you'll take responsibility, right?"
Rias had managed to gather herself for this moment. Utilizing every lesson she had learned while taking those classes that her mother had forced her to take in order to deal with the ever harsh political climate of the Underworld, for what very may well be nothing more than a minor infatuation.
And yet…that kiss, that smallest meeting of the lips, the innocence displayed afterwards…
It felt so right.
Besides; no decent princess worth their salt could simply allow someone to steal a kiss from her without repercussions, even if it was someone that her heart hammered for. "As an heiress for the esteemed Gremory clan, I can't just let people I like take my first kiss. It was literally quite valuable, you know? Some could even consider me to be spoiled for an arranged marriage now; so I'd like it if you could at least make such a move worth my while." she wasn't lying either.
"I ruined any arranged marriages? Really?" the shinobi had to blink again, at least before a giant smirk took slid over his features. "Good. Now you'll never have that choice taken away from you again, right?"
That was Naruto, always looking at the positives. Damn him –even this was enough to bring out the smallest of twitches at the ends of her own pink lips, and he wasn't even trying. How frustrating. "I suppose you're right, but I'd like for you to still act like you owe me for that kiss for appearance's sakes." she paused there, playfully tapping her bottom lip in mock thought. "And because I'm spoiled."
"Sure, I don't mind, what do you want me to do?"
The smile she made was positively beatific. "I want you to take me out somewhere when we get back to the human world, maybe a few weeks from now when things die down. When there are no issues and we can relax again."
"Oh~ so like a friend's night out then-"
Rias put an end to those thoughts as soon as they came. "Nope. This is a date."
Naruto's reaction was immediate, and admittedly satisfying to see, especially after he made her go all 'doki-doki' earlier. "E-Eh? But…shouldn't we only do that when we're with the people we love dattebayo?"
Devilshly, the Gremory princess adopted an adorable pout used only against family members when she really wanted to get her way in something; and she was pretty sure that it'd work splendidly on the opposite gender.
Apparently it even worked on a dense guy like Uzumaki Naruto, who hesitated for just a moment longer before giving in with an awkward chuckle. "Alright, alright, if it's that much of a big deal; then I'll do it. Didn't know these weird customs affected you in the human world; not just the Underworld, sorry about that."
"No need." Rias felt as light as feather, a childish excitement throbbing in her chest at this development. Maybe this really was more than the hero worship that her mother figured, maybe this was…more. "I'm sure that you'll make it up to me."
At the tail end of that sentence she frowned, turned towards the entrance of the balcony with a raised eyebrow, and then frowned. They just ran out of time, and she couldn't help but wonder where their brake had gone –it felt that it had only been a spare few minutes since they went to the balcony… "Looks like it's about time to get back to work, Naruto."
"Sounds like it." the shinobi heard the sound of movement behind them inside, alerting him to the renewal of the 'talks'. "Unfortunately, was kinda hoping that those guys would just get the hint."
The Gremory heiress offered an apologetic smile borne out of authentic sympathy and patted her close friend affectionately, wishing to idle closer, but held fast. That can wait; it was time to get serious. "You can't change everyone, Naruto."
Those words hit him more than Rias could've known, prompting him to curl his lips. "Doesn't mean that I can't try."
Lord Bael wasn't happy. He was already in a foul mood when he was asked to entertain the child that had spawned this recent headache for those who inhabited the upper class such as he, this feeling was only aggravated when Rias Gremory -his niece of all people!- just stopped him from possibly utilizing him as a scapegoat should things go further south.
But of course; the day had somehow managed to get worse from there. One of his allies in the game of power politics; Lord Furcas, was convinced by the unknown child's arguments -or should he say Rias Gremory's arguments?- and wished to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
It aggravated the lord of the noble House of Bael that men such as him occupied the head of one of the remaining Pillars of the Underworld; that someone could be so naïve and ignorant of politics truly tested his patience. The natural order of the Underworld needed to be preserved, regardless of what unsavory actions were needed to be taken to help in that endeavor.
Utilizing that rabble rouser as a lightning rod for all of the ills of the Underworld should've been an obvious tactic, and yet he was the only one among the three clan heads that seemed to be even considering such a move. The leader of the Bael clan could only shake his head in shame.
Unfortunately, his horrid day would only get worse when a magic circle bearing the crest of the House of Bael appeared right before he moved to reenter the discussion with that strange youth, interrupting the schemes that he was busy concocting in order to find out that child's real identity, identifying it as the key to undermining him.
The man in question froze, and the lords behind him froze as well; they all knew who that voice was, and a pit of frozen fear began to spread across his stomach. Violet eyes hardened quickly enough though, unwilling to show weakness, even in front of the first Head of House Bael himself.
Within the meter tall construct, an esteemed face with similar eyes as his own and jet black hair appeared, his very presence commanding all who were in his vicinity to stand at attention, lest they draw his ire. Nobody would ever dare to question his status as a venerated elder of the Underworld, not even behind his back.
Lord Bael bowed, swallowing his pride for this man alone. Not even the Maou Lucifer; Sirzechs, could make him bow as deeply as he just had, not willingly. "Zekram Bael-sama; my esteemed ancestor, is there anything that you require of me?"
The infinitely older man regarded him through the magical construct, studiously ignoring the other lords behind him as if they were unimportant. In all reality, they were, at least when compared to the two conversing men. "I've heard about the talks that Sirzechs Lucifer created for you to attend, as well as the identity of your 'guest'."
If the Bael leader could've cursed without the ancient being in front of him seeing it, he most certainly would have; did nothing of importance in the Underworld escape this man's notice? "Yes, I was about to see him, is something the matter, great ancestor?"
Zekram Bael waved off the arbitrary honorific given to him, wishing to focus more on the topic at hand. "I've contacted you to make sure that you don't do anything stupid, my young descendant."
"Foolish?" the idea that he could be foolish didn't sit well with him, but in front of this man he could afford to be a little more lenient. "Whatever could you possibly mean?"
Flicking his wrist in a dismissive manner, another magic circle appeared beside the one revealing his features from who knew where; revealing an entirely different scene from the feed of a single calm and distinguished man. Yes, unlike the ever-cool visage of Zekram Bael, the current leader of the Bael clan saw a multitude of faces twisted in frustration and anger, bunched up together with placards and signs hanging overhead. Though the feed was muted, he could clearly see that there was some kind of chant being repeated over and over by the movements of the mouths upon the masses.
He understood what he was looking at, though it made him twist his lips in scorn. "Another protest so soon?"
He could already guess at the demands being made; from the founding of a school system that would provide a means for lower-class devils to achieve higher status, to laws that would guarantee that certain jobs and positions weren't kept from others due to their class, a push for a more meritocratic society, and no doubt even more lofty goals.
Amongst the many placards being raised in the air by zealous men and women, he noticed that some carried a portrait of a young blond man with familiar whisker marks upon them…
"Yes, another protest has sprung up in Lucifaad, and the last one in the capital of Lilith hasn't died down like pundits predicted. This isn't going away, you realize this, correct?"
It wasn't going away? Surely not. This wasn't anything like the last war; this was just a bunch of hooligans pining for idealistic measures that would disrupt the natural order of their race. Not a war that was driving devils to extinction. "But, my ancestor, how could this-?"
"Times are changing. A spark has been lit and radical change is about to occur in our society; which is why I'm checking in. It would behoove you to claim to be a part of that change rather than stand in clear opposition to it; ruining the standing of the Bael clan in the process."
Lord Bael couldn't believe what he was hearing. "…You want me to help the rabble…?"
"No, I want you to stay out of their way. It's much easier to be a part of a transition and retain political power than it is otherwise. Don't be stupid."
"With all due respect-" the younger Bael leader's voice became more than a little heated. "-it shouldn't be possible for such a wave of discontentment to change the Underworld as much as you seem to be implying! If I play my cards right then I'm sure that I can stop this, so I don't think that I should allow commoners to upend tradition to just-!"
He petered off when he saw the violet eyes of his ancestor, so much like his own, harden into diamonds. "Don't be a fool. For the sake of the stability of the Underworld, a clear hierarchy must be maintained when radical changes are introduced; the Bael clan must retain its power as the leading House in the Underworld… in de facto rather than in de jure."
Retain their massive influence over the Underworld in fact rather than by right; culturally than through the literal law. Lord Bael glowered at the idea, pride stung that he might have to aid a relative unknown -he still didn't even know what family that child was a part of!- and do nothing when the lower classes usurped the authority of his family and the rest of the upper classes.
"Do. You. Understand?" there was no question that this was Lord Bael's last chance to end this talk with his position in the Bael clan secure. There would ne quarter given if he turned his back on this man following this conversation.
"Excellent." Zekram Bael was plainly pleased, and the disappearance of the suffocating atmosphere that had weighed on the nobles in the room had proved it. "Remember my inexperienced descendant; you represent the House of Bael, so do your best to continue to prove that our clan deserves its distinction as the 'Great King' amongst the Pillars, would you?"
"Of course." the current Lord Bael's voice was audibly strained.
Intelligent violet shifted minutely towards the two men beside the younger Bael, a smile accompanying it. "Lord Furcas, please do as you do best. And Lord Agares? Please do rein in on your skepticism unless the situation calls for it would you? I'm sure the boy; 'Uzumaki Naruto' I believe, would appreciate it."
"O-Of course, Bael-sama." "U-U-Understood, Bael-sama!" came the respective replies, both nobles rimrod straight in posture.
Zekram Bael; the first lord of the Bael family chronologically as well as the most influential, smiled. "Then I believe our business is concluded, good day gentlemen."
With a snap of the fingers, both magical circles snapped shut, leaving the trio of high-class devils with nothing except silence left to greet them with.
Lord Bael welcomed the silence, and was doing his utmost to temper his fury in response, but eventually managed to do a well enough job to create a transportation circle bearing his own family's emblem, preparing the group for a teleportation.
Reflecting on what had just happened, he could only come to the conclusion that this was a horrid, horrid day.
Still, nothing had changed, not really.
He would follow through with his ancestor's 'advice' for now, at least publicly, but this was one situation where he wouldn't simply take this lying down. If there was a way to ensure that the status quo remained…then he'd find it. This he swore.
Rias Gremory must've looked as if she had lost more than a few brain cells, but what she had just heard justified the look she was giving.
Even with the most naïve of readings of the political situation, she doubted that anyone could've predicted what was occurring in front of her right at that moment. Especially when one factored in the sheer lack of time that had passed since they started these talks.
And yet her ears weren't lying. "Does what I say surprise you so much, young Gremory?"
Rias blinked and spared a glance to the blond beside her, whose droopy eyes and occasional flutter of eyelids indicated that he was just plain lost. While that wasn't particularly surprising –the fact that Naruto became lost after a mere minute of restarting talks was what made it such a spectacle.
"I'm…not so much surprised as curious, milord." in the end, the Gremory princess opted for the diplomatic approach. Yes, she was more suspicious than anything else, but 'curious' sounded better.
"Your words made an impression upon us." Lord Agares cut in, eyes clenched shut as he leaned against the headrest of his seat, breathing a little labored for a reason that Rias couldn't fathom. "How could we demand of someone else something that we wouldn't ever acquiesce? Beside; from our understanding, it seems that he has earned the Maou Lucifer's favor, so who are we to question such a man?"
Lord Furcas nodded almost eagerly, but he seemed more earnest in his words, though she couldn't see through the man's closed helmet. "Indeed! And with the power he displayed in his match against the child of the Phenex Clan; Riser I believe, proves that he could indeed be a powerful voice of moderation during these troubling times. The devils that inhabit the lower classes respect power more than tradition after all."
The clone of Uzumaki Naruto studied the shattered gym that was right on top of the area where it sensed its fellow clone pop into chakra. The remnants of that energy seemingly hanged over the shattered recreational center like ominous storm clouds, giving the blond a chill when it drifted closer towards the recently battered building.
'Naruto' knew that the clone here was supposed to follow Freed Sellzen and pinpoint Kokabiel's base without being seen, right? Well, obviously they failed in that objective since a fight broke out, but why exactly didn't the other whiskered copy inform its brother before popping? Was it attacked before it could do so?
Cautious at the possibility of a trap, the last clone of Uzumaki Naruto spread its awareness out and kept its guard up as it entered the rundown building, studiously stepping over the doors that have been knocked off their hinges…for whatever reason.
The second it did, the clone tripped over itself, the sight of what was inside making its eyes widen and mouth hang open in horror at what the brain was registering through sight and smell alone.
Whatever made him pale was strewn around the room and left haphazardly throughout the sparsely furnished interior.
Corpses littered the gym floor and the blond had a sinking feeling that the clone here knew exactly what had happened here.
The second this specific clone entered the broken gym it felt the remnant of chakra that couldn't return to the original Uzumaki Naruto , and as a consequence, now sensed…something.
Chakra was very much the lifeblood of the shinobi, and every ninja -Naruto included- knew that chakra itself had properties that allowed to be affected by the general attitude of the user. If someone was a twisted fuck, then the chakra would adopt that feeling in accordance to its user.
And what the clone sensed was cold hard logic devoid of any other considerations outside of the self; pure unadulterated belief of serving the self over anything else.
But it didn't end there, not after it took another step and felt the cold sensation of a metallic handle held within the teen's palm. Its edge painted red with blood.
Blue eyes blinked, and the sensation disappeared, palm empty with nothing but the lingering sensation to clue the shinobi in that something was ever there at all. Clenching teeth with more force than necessary, the youth took a few more steps forward to inspect the body of one of the men left on the floor, rotting, breath hitching when the clone found the mortal blow that ended this particular man's life.
There was a sizable hole that was created cleanly and with precision in the man's throat, it's dimensions reminding the blond of a particular weapon that was not used by any group it could recall, barring one.
This looked like a wound created by a kunai knife.
"Just…what happened here…?" the clone whispered harshly, fingers biting down into palms with enough force that the copy's entire body wavered for a moment before it let go with a deep inhale.
As it did, another image popped up to it, random memories coming forward since the original Naruto was nowhere close enough to receive the chakra and memories. This left them up for grabs for a random clone with similar chakra to reintegrate it since it hung precipitously in the atmosphere with nowhere to go; fragmented.
And this recent image spurned the shinobi to turn on a dime and exit through another opening in the gym, stalking towards a different figure from the dead men that surrounded it. This time; the shinobi was heading towards a woman. A fallen angel.
A few sparse moments later and the clone stood over the woman, lips pursed, before kneeling and gently shaking her. Careful not to startle her.
Continuing this trend for at least a couple of minutes with increasing intensity, fingers dug into Raynare's slender shoulder a bit right until violet eyes finally fluttered open, dazed pupils flitting around without thought right until they landed upon the stationary teen hanging over her to the side.
They snapped open then, and the fallen attempted to scramble to her feet, though the sudden movement forced her back to her knees with a headache. Groaning, she peered up at the clone through dark lashes, wary. "Y-You…why the hell did you-?"
She blinked once, peering into powerful human above her with blue eyes as clear as summer spring water, missing the cloudy texture that seemed to characterize the one that acted so callously before; the one that acted like the man she knew. And yet here, before her-
Again, she needed to blink to check whether she was seeing things, but the vision before her hadn't changed at all. Uzumaki Naruto was bowing before her, completely contrite, completely serious, and completely at her mercy.
It made her feel delirious at first, but eventually those feeling changed as she thought back on her moments before getting knocked out, deflating her all too temporary high at the sight before her.
"…You're not the only one who should be sorry." she replied bitterly, arms crossing under her bust while glancing away, ashamed. "You couldn't have known, but I was having some pretty twisted ideas crossing my head before you knocked me out."
Raising its head an inch, 'Naruto' frowned in confusion.
She gripped her head with a scowl, but managed to continue ahead anyway. "It's…this power; this duality that I have access to. I don't know if you remember it but my…unique state gives me access to a power that has only been copied as a special property; not as something that has ever had its full capabilities explored. But when I ever touch it, it feels like…I suddenly want more –from everything."
Violet eyes narrowed with venom. "It's greed. Complete and overwhelming greed that drives me when I'm like that; and the thoughts that were drifting through my mind while I was like that-" she shook her head, viscerally more frustrated for her lack of control than the blond could possibly know. "I hate that feeling, especially since-"
"That's what your mother was like, right?" the copy concluded grimly, sympathetic to the woman's plight all too easily. "Don't want to follow in her footsteps?"
"Absolutely." the fallen angel growled, allowing a sigh to escape the confines of her lips. "I'd be happy if I never had to touch that power ever again, there's a reason why it was locked away from all angels, including fallen ones. I don't understand how it's possible I have access to it though, especially since the God of the Bible would no doubt stop it. Regardless, I'd prefer that I don't touch it ever again, especially after seeing what happened to Kokabiel and his pride…"
Raynare stopped there, releasing a slow breath to release the tension she had inadvertently built up.
Staying that way for a few minutes longer, she eventually snapped her eyes open once she finally managed to force herself back onto her feet, studying the copy's features carefully. "And? What about you? Why'd you go all insane on me?"
Naruto's clone regarded the supernatural woman, lips twisting downwards, mouth opening a second later to speak. Then it shut its mouth immediately afterwards. "…I guess you told me all about your powers, I'd be kinda hypocritical to stay quiet about it. More to the point; I'm beginning to think that staying quiet about this would just place everyone in more danger than less..."
Raynare rubbed her abdomen, phantom pain reminding her of that exact danger that the teenaged human was referring to. "I…I don't think that you are a danger or anything, just that-"
"It's ok." 'Naruto' eased her worries, grinning in spite of the fact that their heart was beating rapidly, breath short. "This was something that needed to happen eventually; circumstances just made it sooner rather than later dattebayo."
Taking a second to compose itself for the inevitable response, the shinobi exhaled…and admitted to one of the few things that made the clone fidget nervously. "From what I remember of what happened here; I'd have to say that someone broke my clones' concentration while gathering natural energy."
The fallen's violet gaze fluttered under her lashes, cocking her head. "Natural energy…? Why would-?" her stomach sank as something clicked in the back of her head. "No, wait, you didn't-!"
"I gathered natural energy so that I can utilize senjutsu." the blond said it so plainly that it could've been commenting on the architecture of the gym, a fact that infuriated her more than she'd like.
"Senjutsu? Senjutsu!?" the woman had to take a shuttering breath, but her voice remained incredulous when she leaned towards the human. "Do you have any idea what that stuff does to you? I can't think of a more dangerous power off the top of my head, hell; it's a miracle that you didn't end up worse than you did. Why would you –no, how would you-!?"
"I'll explain that to you Raynare, but not now. Better to do it all at once with everyone; no one should miss what I have to say." blue eyes narrowed, more conscious than ever that certain secrets shouldn't be kept anymore. Not when it placed others in unnecessary danger.
Not everything needed to be aired, of course. But the critical things; the things that could one day lead to a life-or-death situation in the future –those things needed to be told.
For a moment, the clone's hand passed over their stomach, hovering there. The moment passed shortly. "I promise."
Raynare sniffed. "Hmph…fine, I suppose I can wait a day or two. But I expect some revelations; my mind better be blown for all of this trouble, Naruto."
A flash of amusement passed through those crystal blue eyes of the human copy and all traces of worry faded away. "Be careful what you wish for."
"Wanna bet on it, then?" the ravenette appeared composed with a mere delicate eyebrow being raised, but she was admittedly interested in this secret that would apparently leave her astounded.
"Alright then, how about we promise that either of us do anything the other wants if we win? Within reason."
"Easy win." the fallen angel walked past the clone with the smallest of smug grins, making her way towards the broken gym.
Watching her go for with a grin, the duplicate trailed after her, feeling companionable with someone that had a similar 'alter-ego' issue. Even Uzumaki Naruto's issues with the kyuubi weren't as troublesome as this.
When she stopped inside the gym her eyes fell upon the bodies of the many exorcists that were lain across the cold floor, frowning at the sight. "They didn't deserve this."
"I know." while the clone still wasn't sure about the exact details, it still had a dark impression, and thus; felt morally responsible. Especially when it recently recalled a bit where the one of the exorcists mentioned something about their families being held hostage by Kokabiel. "I'm thinking that I could talk to those exorcists earlier about this. Maybe they could talk to some bigwig about their families being held captive by a traitor in their ranks, give them a chance at a normal life."
Sapphire drifted towards a specific exorcist, the light of recognition in its eyes. "I'm sure that's what they would want."
Yes, regardless of what happened, the least the blond could do was help out their families. The boss would definitely want to make sure that their bosses in Heaven were notified about this; and he definitely wouldn't take no for an answer.
"Hey, at least that asshole Freed is dead." the lookalike heard Raynare growl, though it was too focused on a flimsy piece of paper that was left lying on the floor while striding towards it. It's purely white presence contrasting sharply with the rustic colored blood-stained corpses around it. "He was irredeemable."
"You'd be surprised about who can change." Naruto's clone remarked whilst crouching to grab the piece of paper, raising it to eye level to inspect it, surprised to see writing on it.
The longer that the blond scanned through the slip, the wider its eyes became, at least until it turned the paper. What it saw almost made its grip falter, though it contained its complete alarm from consuming its visage.
"That…can't be right…"
"Something wrong, Naruto?"
Jolting, the shinobi rapidly stuffed the paper into a pocket, turning to give a reassuring smirk in the fallen angel's direction. But it admittedly didn't expect another stray memory to hit it in response to this action rather than Raynare's deadpanned retort.
And what it saw left it cold, and this time there was no stopping the alarm that overtook it completely. Not when it hit this close to home.
"Raynare, do your best and clean up the bodies! I gotta go!" the copy roared out, rushing past her to escape the confines of the shattered building. Ignoring her sputtered questions in regards to its unfathomable behavior.
The boss would apologize to her afterwards, but this couldn't wait!
It saw something, one last memory that it couldn't ignore. A vision of a skinny youth with a dark high school uniform and his twisted smirk, walking away towards a very specific direction.
The clone that let him go knew exactly where he was going and what he was going to do, worse; the duplicate expected it. It let both; that boy and Kokabiel specifically for that purpose.
To leave the option of their friends getting attacked by hostile forces wide open.
The sole clone in Kuoh Town raced back home, grabbing the cell phone within its pocket to make a quick call…
Pillows worked well when individuals sought a comfortable object that would help make their descent to sleep transition easier. But many a teenager knew full well that a pillow had other uses outside of sleeping; it could also be used to try and hide your head from civilized society for the rest of time.
Naruse Mio had recently learned of this function, and had subsequently stayed on her bed and covered herself with her comforter while sticking her head into her pillow. With nothing but the occasional pitiful moan indicating that she was even alive.
She supposed that she should be getting some rest, but every time her mind drifted back towards her date…
"I want to die…" Mio moaned pitifully, wiggling deeper into her self-made cocoon, wishing she could stay there forever and simply disappear. Unfortunately, nature waited for no one, and it seemed that her body wouldn't be denied. Feelings be damned.
Sighing, the half-devil raised her head just enough to peek outside her window, quickly deducing that the night would eventually give way to the morning soon. Not that it mattered; the weekend had come, and she wasn't planning on doing much.
Much else besides sulk that was.
It was only a few hours ago where the young red-head woke up from unconsciousness, remembering everything that had occurred earlier that same day, and she had quickly wished she could reverse time because of it.
What had come over her!? Right then, with the ever-confident Naruto seemingly so lost and innocent in front of her, she just wanted to –no, needed to take a chance. A chance for something more profound, for a deeper relationship than the one that suddenly seemed so inadequate in comparison.
But instead, she may have just made things incredibly awkward for the two of them now.
Maybe it was for the best that Naruto ran off to who-knew-where for a day or two. Mio can maybe figure something out to salvage this dynamic and return back to the status quo.
"…But do I really want that?" she asked to no one in particular as she trudged down the hallway aiming for the bathroom in her pink pajamas. Bare feet pattering softly against the smooth cold floor.
It was a question the budding teenager didn't really have a ready answer for. So with another forlorn sigh, she simply focused on going through her natural functions and opted to get as much rest as she could before getting dragged out of bed literally and figuratively.
Preferably from Maria. Perverted her guardian may be, but she'd prefer her stupid innuendoes over facing her blond brother in all but blood at the moment.
Moving to take a turn past Naruto's empty room, Mio closed in on the restroom, keeping a yawn at bay. But paused before she could complete the move, tensing.
Pink eyes snapped away from her original destination and towards Naruto's room, the room that was supposed to be empty. The room that she had just heard the faintest of ruffling from, distinct enough to indicate that only human-like clothing could've caused such a sound.
At first Mio figured that her brother had simply returned earlier than expected, but something clawed at her that something was not right. No, there was something very off-putting about this that made her skin crawl, and prompted her to create a small flame on her palm and take a step into the room that held so many quiet curiosities for her.
With trepidation and an extreme wariness of her surroundings, Mio creaked the door that led into her secretive blond's room open.
What she saw chilled her.
Mio hadn't actually seen much of the room since her last little foray, and hadn't been inclined to see it again after that…incident. But nothing there appeared to have changed much since then, nothing that could give cause for alarm at least. There was but a single exception.
Right in the middle of the room, sitting on top of the bed with legs crossed lazily was a pale, thin, and dark-haired youth with the widest of smiles on his pasty lips. Idly staring at an item that he held clutched within his fingers, smoothly swiping a digit upon its metal surface.
She managed to keep her fiery palm trained on him, but she was so taken aback by this sight that she faltered before she growled in animosity. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here!?"
The boy's long dark hair accentuated his pallor as he tilted his head up to warmly smile at her, though it did more to unnerve her than reassure her. There was something intrinsically off about the youth casually invading someone else's privacy with nothing but a smile. Even when she entered the room more than a month ago she was more than a little nervous at the idea.
This one either didn't know about such basic social rules, or more likely; didn't care.
「Ara? What's this? An unknown pretty girl coming by for a late night visit? Can it be that I've finally attained the rank of 'sub-standard harem protaginst'!?」
Mio already hated his guts. "I won't ask you a second time."
「Ah! It's a joke! A joke! Please don't hurt me, I'm a friend, pinky promise!」 the unknown teenager cried out, covering his face protectively as he bunched into a ball.
The red-head frowned, scanning for deceit. "How do I know that, exactly?"
「Naruto-kun!」 he cried again, pitifully in fact. 「Naruto-kun said I could come here!」
Her hostility stalled thanks to this response, but she immediately tensed again after she actually thought about the possibility. In all likelihood she knew that Naruto wouldn't just send someone to them without informing either her or Maria beforehand. Though she couldn't outright dismiss the possibility that there was a mistake somewhere along the line; the red-head didn't hold her breath or let down her guard.
"If you what you claim is true." Mio drawled, head inclining towards the object clutched over the boy's face as a defense mechanism. "I doubt that's yours."
The boy blinked, and then smiled when he twisted the item -was that a headband?- and stared at its metal frame, inspecting it casually. 「Do you even know what this is, Naruto-kun's newest sibling?」
Newest. Latest. Next in line. Current iteration of something that existed prior to her.
She's heard this before, in the presence of another, of a woman that demanded that she bowed in her presence and claimed to know more than Mio about the one she lived with. Her temper flared, as it always did at the idea. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Smiling brightly in a fashion that gave her the creeps, the teenager raised the headband up to her eye level.「It's not important actually. It's just an antique that Naruto-kun collected to protect his head with. A cheap knockoff, really.」
Mio didn't physically react to this revelation and kept her gaze squarely upon him without batting an eyelash, hand still holding the flames that could easily be released as a deadly stream. "What's your point?"
He was grinning widely now, and it was decidedly unpleasant. 「I don't really like Medaka-chan you see, and she has a vested interest in keeping you in the dark about Naruto-kun's past. So here's the deal; I'll tell you everything about the life he led prior to meeting you. I hurt Medaka-chan, and you understand Naruto-kun more. Aren't I such a nice sempai?」
The first-year's hands shook, though she kept her aim steady and true. "How do I know that you-?"
「Naruto-kun isn't from around here, you know that, right?」 he said that so softly that even the hybrid's ears strained to hear it. 「He's from a different land altogether; a super continent called the Elemental Nations.」
The daughter of the Original Lucifer's interest was piqued, and the complete confidence in which this statement was given gave her the impression that this youth at least had an idea about what he was talking about. There was also the fact that his words confirmed something that she had suspected for a while now; Naruto's foreign nature.
Maybe he was lying to her, that was still a distinct possibility, but the tantalizing idea that she could learn something hanged over her. So she swallowed nervously and took a mental step forward by carefully prodding for more. "…I see, and where is this-?"
「Ah-ah.」 the man that called himself Kumagawa Misogi tutted disapprovingly, grin crooked. 「Before we delve into memory lane, I want you to do something first. 」
There it was –the catch. She'd play along up until he became an obvious threat onto her, Maria, or her home; if out of curiosity rather than anything else. "Depends."
Kumagawa raised the headband he had been carrying seen she saw him, its metal plate reflecting the warm glow coming from the flames she had created upon her palm, finger landing on the strange stylized symbol at its center. 「I just want you to scratch out a horizontal line from one end of the plate to the other. That's all. Simple, see?」
Mio's eyes fell upon the symbol right in the center, eyes scrunching. Jaw flexing. "Why?"
「'Cause I stubbed my toe on it when I snuck into Naruto-kun's room.」
The half-devil had no idea what she should say in answer to that statement, she could actually see that answer as being legitimate for a guy like this. She wasn't too sure, so she studied the metal plating minutely. Wondering whether his words of it being just a random item that Naruto grabbed up to protect his head was true or not.
Then she inexplicably had it tossed to her by the strange man, inciting her to catch it, and gloss it over further.
Looking at it further, the item looked like a dark bandana that had the metal piece attached to it. The dark cloth was worn and the metal itself looked as it if had seen better days, what with the many scratches and nicks that occupied its clear surface drawing her attention.
If this piece of equipment was important to the blond at all, why wouldn't he take better care of this thing? Barring deadly combat for years, she couldn't imagine why it would look as battered as it did. But that couldn't be the case, right? If so; why hasn't she seen him wear it at all during his fights?
Things didn't add up, there was no way that this item would be seen as important to Naruto. Now with how poorly it was being treated. Which opened the question then; would he even care that this metal headband would get a large scratch across its weird symbol?
Her fingers twitched, and an index traced the cool metal idly, contemplating. Mio couldn't deny the temptation to learn more, to understand just who the man was before her. How couldn't she?
The finger stopped and wind came to its tip, drawing a sharp knife edge that was strong enough to at least carve up any metallic substance. It wasn't particularly powerful, but it was enough. All that was needed to be done was a careful swipe across, and it'd be done.
If this man was lying to her, then surely it wouldn't matter too much to her blond, right? And if he wasn't lying then-
Mio froze, seeing in her mind's eye the pained disappointment in Naruto's features.
This had happened before, soon after she met him. She was curious then, worried like family should be, but as a consequence she overstepped a private boundary. A line that shouldn't have been crossed without his consent.
And she was about to do it again.
Mio took a breath, and in the back of her head sensed the application of demonic energy somewhere in the house. Internally, she smiled. Damn that succubus.
In a flash, the boy stood up, a gesture that the red-head acknowledged as the prelude of a fight, and she responded accordingly. The red-head stuffed the headband into her pink pajama pocket and raised her fiery hand, smiling as it expanded dangerously. "Actually, no, scratch. I'm not sorry at all."
Kumagawa blinked, only just registering the threat. 「Eh?」
The world exploded into flames.
When Maria received an emergency called from a certain mischevious blond, she assumed that it was done because he was being a naught boy again. Seriously, if she didn't know any better, she'd assume that there was some tension there.
Not that he blamed him.
But the alarm that she heard in his voice convinced her that there was more to this very, very early morning call, and she soon shared in this feeling when she heard the contents of his words. A feeling that only grew when she sensed her charge; Mio, flare her powers against something.
Or, more precisely, someone.
The succubus worked quickly then and prepared a barrier for the area, taking extra care to make it as large as possible, And then made extra sure that Mio-sama sensed it before releasing it. Wouldn't do to surprise her after all, at least not with her pants down.
…Maybe she should instigate something like that the next time? Mio-sama's and Naruto-sama's blushing faces were adorable.
Purple eyes hardening, Maria waved her hand while dressed for combat, her built up power expanding to encompass a wide berth across the house, street, and a large slice of Kuoh Town as a whole. Right on schedule, an explosion rocked their sanctuary, and the fight was sparked.
Devil wings spreading to their full length after jumping out of her window, Maria quickly descended upon the detonation site and joined the red-head that casually trudged out of the wreckage. Face tight with determination and with only mild apprehension.
She had to ask though. "…Wasn't that Naruto-sama's room?"
If she could've she would've laughed up an uproar at the horrified expression that replaced her subtle confidence, whirling to gape at the large hole and decent fire she had created. The hybrid turned to her, jabbing a finger at the mess. "Y-You don't think there was anything important in there, do you?"
"Maybe some sex toys?"
"I'll kill you one of these days, I swear it."
Before a sly retort on how exactly Mio-sama would kill her, both women were forced to soar into the sky when the what initially looked like metal spikes shot up from the ground and nearly impaled them. Looking down, Maria had to correct herself by noting they were metal screws of all things.
「Now, now.」 the home invader casually stepped out of the cloud that Mio's flames created, no worse for the wear and hands in pockets. Smile bright and innocent. 「Sneak attacks aren't very Shonen Jump-like you know? How about we have a worlds martial art tournament instead?」
Floating beside her, Maria heard her charge growl. "He's very annoying."
"Had plenty of time to get to know him, did you?" the succubus chortled lightly, glancing at Mio through the side of her eye with mirth, before practically snapping her head to stare at her with wide eyes. "Uh, Mio-sama? Since when did you-?"
Words were lost to the wind when a vicious gust picked up after the hybrid devil of ancient royalty called upon her powers, viciously slamming against the curious boy below and throwing him down the street. He was sent skipping across the concrete before crashing into another building, caving it's wall upon entry.
Not quite through yet, Mio jerked her hands above her head and forced the earth under the building to rise, tearing it apart and slamming the ground into the ceiling before the entire structure collapsed in on itself.
Pink eyes surveyed the damage minutely, nodded in satisfaction, and then turned to her guardian with a raised brow. "Now what was it that you said before-?"
Mio barely managed to swerve out of the way when something blitzed through the rubble, nicking her across the elbow and coming straight towards Maria without abandon. The silverette barely managed to raise her arms and viciously clamp down on the screw that was aimed squarely at her exposed stomach, leaving her face-to-face with their newest foe.
He blinked at her, and then grinned. 「Say, aren't you a little young to wear that sorta outfit? Maybe Naruto-kun is in to that sorta thing? Do I need to call the cops?」
Ok, now she was irritated. "Ohohohoho~ So you'll question my sex appeal will you!?"
Thrusting her arm out to grip the teenager's thin arm and using her wings for maximum effectiveness and more than a little vindictiveness, Maria swung about and threw the man down towards the concrete below. Shattering it on impact and splattering blood across the dark material below.
Before even managing to get back to his feet, pillars of earth rose around Kumagawa, cutting him off from all avenues of escape. Soon after, gallons of water formed above the pillars as a large blob that eventually came crashing down into the hole and battering the man trapped inside with the powerful pressure.
Lightning arced and cracked violently in Mio's magic circle, held aloft beside her, and it immediately followed suit after the water wave she had sent. Striking the man-made currents and violently conducting its power, sending every volt she had created to spasm all across his body.
Arm raised in order to keep the attack stable while held within the wall made of earth, the hybrid regarded the combination with hard eyes. If she thought about it, she might've marveled at mindset, but accepted it as a consequence of the situation she found herself in. Seeing it as a necessary measure.
She'd seen more than enough combatants hide within the shadows of attacks and prepare for a counterattack, so she'd be forgiven if she didn't want to suffer such a response.
Unfortunately, as her alarm bells rang in her head, she wouldn't be able to pull through on this concept.
Barrier forming in front of the red-head, screws that were meant to slice through her instead cracking the ruby magical construct meant to protect her. Her concentration was forced to focus on her defense, leaving her attack below to falter and sputter into nothing.
At first, through her tinted and see-through construct, all she saw was a dark and broken form hunched and soaked under the shadow of her earth pillars. Then in a blink, that form became recognizable again, and the intruder stood up to his full height with nary a scratch, eyes locked towards her with the easiest of smiles. 「You're being really mean, you know that? Bullying your sempai like this; what'll you do if you actually kill me?」
Just what was going on here?
Mio felt like she was like a hamster stuck on a hamster wheel, working hard while getting nowhere fast. No matter what she did to this home invader, he kept coming back for more; wounds physical and mental nonexistent.
The only thing that came to mind was some kind of incredible healing factor, but if that was the case; then she'd need something more…permanent then water and lightning.
Mio didn't have much time to ponder this, not when the boy known as Kumagawa MIsogi's smile grew wicked and he casually stomped his foot onto the ground. An echo reverberating from the minor impact, far beyond what should've been possible.
Unpleasant surprises was the common theme for the day Mio felt, a belief driven home when giant screws shot out from the ground like overgrown cherry blossom trees that have lost their luster, forming a forest of steel that threatened to shred both hybrids into pieces.
Gnashing her teeth, the half-devil took on evasive maneuvers, thanking her training with Rias-sempai once again for the enhanced reflexes that she had earned while Naruto was gallivanting around Kyoto. Making sure to tuck her wings in accordance to the tight spaces she encountered all around her, all of which was joined by new screw spires that scraped the skies that sometimes aimed to cut her off or predict where she'd be.
Concrete, gravel, dirt, and fragments of what could've been pipelines flew into the air and occasionally pelted her, showering her painfully with the ridiculous velocity they had. Regardless, with her attention focused and eyes sharp, the half-devil kept on her toes and twisted, slowed, and sped right back up where necessary.
She was mostly forced to keep moving, unable to stick in one place for too long lest another screw pop out of the earth and tag her. But this game of cat and mouse couldn't go on forever; she'd tire eventually, and there was no way to turn the tables like this.
Ears perking in the distance at the distinct crunch of metal being reduced to shards every now and again, an idea was being conceived, and she'd need Maria's help to-
Sound ruptured behind, right next and in front of her when a phantom of a being used the twisting spires as platforms to quickly traverse the steel forest. Mio was forced to stay in place as her ear drums recovered from being within the ground zero of the speedster, but when she did; she couldn't stop the grin from forming on her face.
She had an idea who that was.
Right on cue, several spires shattered into pieces when something crashed into the center of the artificial biome, drudging up dust that made visibility almost zero. Almost.
Rolling her shoulders, Mio descended down towards the impact zone, smirking at the golden spiky hair that was visible through the dust cloud. Across from her, Maria came forth too, no worse for the wear herself, barring a few scratches.
Feet meeting the ground again, Mio saddled up next to her brother, side-by-side while Maria took the other flank, staring resolutely ahead at the figure that was literally slammed into one of his own towering screws. Head stuck deep inside with his uniform shredded and blood oozing from the hole he made.
"Was wondering whether you'd come back or not." Mio remarked glibly, the adrenaline rushing through her removing all awkwardness that such a meeting should've produced when considering what happened the last time they saw each other. "Figured you couldn't leave this well enough alone."
"Of course not." the blond grinned at her in return, memories of their date all but left to the past until further notice. "I wouldn't miss this for the world, ya know?"
"I think Naruto-sama was gunning for a foursome, Mio-sama." Maria positively beamed at the glares she received. "Don't act like it didn't occur to you two."
""It didn't."" the siblings were unanimous with this.
"Tch. You two are no fun sometimes."
Movement held their tongues from further small talk since Kumagawa decided to finally stick his head out of the steel he found himself in, any traces of combat gone like it always did. His bright blue eyes blinked, a pout on his lips. 「That wasn't very nice, Naruto-kun, interrupting me like that.」
"Can't say I feel too sorry after the stunt you pulled!" the clone growled, visually aggravated, finger jabbing at the boy. "I won't let you lay a finger on anyone here, Kumagawa, and that's final!"
He blinked again, as though surprised by this declaration. Then he grinned widely. 「Hey! You're not emo anymore!」
Now that was a charge that Mio didn't think she'd ever hear lobbed at the blond next to her, and she craned her neck to give him her look of incredulity for it. "What the hell is with this guy exactly?"
The shinobi sagged a bit. "A weirdo that I met earlier today, unfortunately. He messed me up pretty good too."
"Is it because of that instant heal thing he has going for him?" the hybrid turned back to focus on him, studying for anything that told her that her attacks left any lasting damage whatsoever. She found nothing. "Unless I've gone insane."
"I wish it was that simple." 'Naruto' growled, feet spreading and hand digging into the kunai pouch for supplies. "I'm pretty sure I literally killed him before, but as you can see; he's just fine. He doesn't just have some kind of healing ability."
"I thought so too." the succubus piped in, head jerking towards their mutual enemy. "Look at his clothes; what kind of healing ability not only heals someone's body and their clothes? Naruto-sama's experiences just reinforce this."
"Then how are we supposed to beat him?" Mio clenched her fists, frustration bearing its ugly head. "He'll just tire us out at this rate."
「Ah…I'm being ignored…」
"No worries, I've got a plan." the shinobi kept digging into their tool pouch, looking for something in particular, opting to create another clone for this operation. "Just do me a favor and bring him over here, would ya?"
Occupying both sides of the blond, Mio and Maria glanced at one another minutely, sharing their thoughts without a verb or noun being spoken. Apparently they both liked what they found as they grinned.
Without a signal, both women shot out and flew straight towards the teenaged boy that had crouched on the floor, depressed that everyone had ignored him.
He brightened up immediately. 「Ah! Two girls coming for me! It's a dream come tru-urgh!」
Maria shot past Kumagawa with her arm stretched out, catching him by the neck and crashing him against one of his pillars, snapping him and it all at once. Twisting out of the way when he was imbedded enough, a vicious cyclone of artificial wind came through and crushed him into the falling debris above, sending him careening uncontrollably high into the air.
Hands directed the four meter wide cyclone towards the waiting blond without much resistance from her captured foe, was this guy really not much of a threat outside of his annoying ability?
This was a thought that the clone of Uzumaki Naruto shared as it reared back to finish the fight, frowning in suspicion once chakra flooded through it and onto the item in its palm.
Then a grin came along, poignant and strong, much like the screw that nearly skewered it from the ground. Jumping up from their position right before the earth cracked and split to make way for the metallic weapon; 'Naruto' thrust its right hand forward, only a millisecond or two away from making contact.
At least until a second screw shot out, far away enough from the blond to not register as a threat to itself at all. And truthfully, it normally wouldn't have been one.
To the contrary; this newest spire shot out and pierced Kumahawa Misogi himself, shooting him further into the air as guts squelched from the vicious and inanimate invader. Drawing him up and away from the blond's hand that would've impacted him otherwise, leaving him nothing more than a mere meter above where the clone calculated him to be.
Blue eyes widened when it registered a twisted smile…
Kumagawa's screw, held firmly in hand, pierced right through the clone below him, drilling through it from back to front, a cough filled with blood and spittle coming out of it's while the twisted boy above whistled appreciatively. 「Oh, I hope I didn't do anything too bad, Naruto-kun.」
Taking a shallow breath, the clone grinned. "Nah…it's all good, just do me a favor, would ya?"
Arm rising to stretch and reach the impaled teenager, a slip of paper with intricate words upon its surface was placed on Kumagawa's forehead, prompting a blink. Then he paled a bit.
「Ah- no wait a min-」
"Sorry to say, I was just made, so you just nailed a clone of a clone." the doppleganger drawled. "And you are gonna stay here until the boss' boss figures out what to do with you."
Applying a burst of chakra, the man known as Kumagawa Misogi, the pain in every Naruto clone's rear end, popped into smoke, disaeppearing from view. The clone followed immediately afterwards, leaving the slip of paper to drift down from the spire, only to get caught by the figure waiting there.
The original clone of Uzumaki Naruto whistled, grinning. "I guess making contingencies help when dealing with annoying opponents, eh? Wouldn't want all the info for the boss to dissipate…again. Bullet; dodged dattebayo."
"I'll say." a dry voice noted, coming from the red-head that had her arms crossed, eyes staring at the spot where two teenaged boys popped out of existence. "I don't think I could've ever seen that one coming."
"Yeah, that was definitely one of the better climaxes I've ever seen!" Maria beamed, trailing after her charge.
"Right." the copy murmured, turning to face the two, going mute once its blue met with Mio's pink pupils. The silence growing into a small chasm that widened ever so slightly the longer they waited.
It ended with a smile. "Hope you didn't break anything while I was away."
Mio paled immediately. "I -uh-"
"Mio-sama blew up your room." snitching would become a new addition to the succubus' repertoire.
Especially when it produced such a beautiful result in the red-head's flushed face. "Maria!"
"She did what!?"
"I didn't mean to! I'm sorry!"
"M-My bed…is that at least safe…?"
"Last I checked it was on fire…"
"…All my savings were under that bed…"
"It was!? We're broke now!?"
"W-Well I couldn't take it to the bank or anything…wait, why am I the one apologizing here!?"
'Naruto' was fuming, stomping all over the battlefield, roaring like a rampaging tyrannosaurus, and Mio couldn't blame him. But she sensed a slight positive side to the situation and dug into her pajama pocket, tentatively pulling out an item. "W-Well…not everything was lost."
Turning to snap at her, the blond's voice died when it took in the sight, eyes going wide and becoming speechless as it regarded the item in her hands with something approaching to a holy respect. Suddenly, her defiance was made all the more worthwhile.
Exchanging hands, the headband fell into the clone's hands and it carefully brushed through the cool steel that had the intricate symbol at its center. Features softening like those blue eyes were regarding an old friend that had finally come home.
In the end, all her troubles were worth it just for the sheer gratitude displayed by her brother's bright smile, teeth shining like the sun, despite the spires surrounding them.
"No problem." she smiled, fingers tentatively brushing against the ribbons holding her unique hairstyle in place, recalling where they came from with warm cheeks. "You'd do the same for me."
"I would." Uzumaki Naruto's clone affirmed, gaze squarely placed his base of operations…and the hole coming out of one of the rooms. The boss' room. "Come on, you two should get back to bed dattebayo. You both have a long day tomorrow."
Mio shared a look with the dimuntive Maria, prompting the question that was no doubt being bandied in their heads. "Whatever do you mean, Naruto-sama?"
Blue eyes hardened, fist clenched, chin raised, and lips flattened. "It's about time I tell you and everyone involved with us more about my life."
AN: Like I said; the worst bits about the drama are pretty much done for now. At least the volume of it. This is a more of a return to form in this chapter imho. Hopefully you all enjoyed this chapter, feel free to give me as much criticism as you wish! Lord knows most of you didn't hold back last chapter! :D