Catelyn was furious with him.
Ned could sense it as soon as he entered her bedchamber. He hadn't seen her since breakfast this morning and not from the lack of trying. He spent most of the morning, searching for his newest ward, who made it clear to him about what she thought of his wife and her treatment to his son. It was the first time in his life where he had to make a compromise with a child, just so she would attend her lesson. Once this was done, he spent the rest of the day, trying to figure out how to tell Catelyn about what one girl thought of her.
His wife stood in front of him with her arms crossed and as the flames flickered, which made her fiery hair even more fiery as if warning him about how he should choose his next words. The wrong words would earn him his wife's wrath.
"I talked to Naruto," he said calmly. "And I had a talk with her about skipping her lessons."
Catelyn didn't say anything. She just kept her lips pursed but he knew his wife long enough to know that she was judging the young girl for her behaviour. Despite having Arya, his beautiful wife didn't understand or know how to appease the wild nature of those two. Although Ned wasn't any better. He failed with his own sister so his daughter and ward would not be any different.
"And what of Arya?" His wife said coldly.
"What about Arya?"
"She skips lesson just like the girl," Catelyn stated and Ned sighed, knowing where the conversation was going.
"She skipped lessons before the girl came."
"Yes, she did," Catelyn admitted. "But she used to skip every three days but ever since that girl came, Arya has been skipping every day. The girl sets a bad example to her. All that child does is make jokes with boys and fight them with her fist. Arya asked me why she couldn't do the same thing. She kept asking me why wasn't Naruto scolded for it while she was! Ned, she is setting a bad example to her! Arya is getting confused on what's right. Sansa is old enough to know what is expected but Arya is still easily lead."
"That might be true."
"When the girl-"
"Naruto," Ned injected and Catelyn's eyes flashed angrily at his interruption.
"When Naruto stopped attending her music lessons and the Septa's teaching, Arya complained about how it isn't fair for her to keep attending! She is demanding for us to stop her lessons!" She placed her hands on her hips and shook her head vigorously.
Maybe it was time for him to tell him of why Naruto does what she does.
"I asked her why she skipped her lessons," Catelyn blinked her eyes and Ned took a deep breath. "And do you know what her answer is Catelyn? She believes what the Septa teaches is a lie."
"The Septa does not lie!"
"If the Gods exist then why do people suffer? This was her question to me," His wife blinked and Ned didn't blame her because Naruto was young. By all accounts, she should not be having such deep thoughts. "The girl does not worship the gods or rather, Naruto does not believe praying to the gods would solve anything. She once told me that praying to the gods doesn't save people. She thinks that if God truly did exist then he wouldn't blame Jon for being born. Do you know what her exact words were to me? 'God will not want kids like Jon to be sad and act older than they should'."
Catelyn narrowed her eyes at him. "What does a child like her know? She doesn't attend any of her lessons because of what the Septa says about bastards!"
"It's different from where she is from," His wife narrowed her eyes at him. "Her village is filled with baseborn children, she told me that their mother, father and even the stepparents love the child."
His wife scoffed. ". "I did more than enough for that boy! I let him stay with us and be raised with our trueborn children did I not? What does a mere child like her know about what I did!"
"That mere child you are talking about is judging you base on your actions," Catelyn's eyes flashed angrily and Ned knew his wife was going to argue with him about this. "She is a mere stranger and yet she is already judging you, what would the gods say?"
"The gods look…"
"If the gods look down on bastards then why let them be born?" His wife blinked and frowned at him. "This was the question that Naruto posed to the Septa and the Septa could not answer a child's simple question. She has only seen twelve namedays but she already pointed out something that one must consider when it comes to bastard children. She knows Jon shouldn't be made accountable for my sins."
"The place where Naruto comes from must be barbaric," His wife suddenly said, taking a seat on her bed. He didn't question her about her change of topic, not when she must take the time to process what he said. "For them to think like that about bastards and to not have taught such a girl on how to respect her elders."
"The place where the girl come from must see the world differently," Ned suggested. "There are a lot of countries that need to be discovered and perhaps the country Naruto was born in, have a different set of beliefs from us. The girl, herself, told me that the lord in her village always visited her with his grandson and gave her money every month."
"What of her father and mother?"
"They died on the day of her birth," Ned answered, closing his eyes as he remembered the sadness in the girl's bright blue eyes. He did not need to open his eyes to know that his wife was gaping at this revelation. "She did not tell me how they die but for her to lose both of her parents tell me that it was tragic."
"The poor girl but why would a lord take so much interest in an orphan girl?"
"Naruto did not tell me," Ned answered, thinning his lips. "I think once she learn how to speak our language well enough then I would ask her about this."
"Still, is it not strange for a lord to take a lot of interest on an orphan child?" Catelyn asked, giving him a small frown. "Perhaps, he was her father. This could be the only explanation on why the old Lord might have taken an interest in her."
"There is a possibility."
When Naruto could speak the language fluently, Ned would ask more about the girl's past and her relationship with the lord, who took so much interest in her well-being. It was very unusual for a Lord to have so much interest in a child, especially an orphan girl like Naruto. There was a chance that he could be her father or grandfather but Ned doubt it. If the man was her grandfather and if he loved that much then he would take her in. No, the man must have seen something in the girl to care for her.
She should be married," Catelyn said, snapping him from his train of thought.
He blinked his eyes at her before shaking his head. "No."
"Why not? She's of the right age!"
"Barely," he argued, remembering the number of namedays Naruto told them she had. The girl's body was a little bit too developed for a girl her age that much Ned knew from the amount of times he caught the girl wearing one of the boy's tunic but, it didn't mean the girl was ready for a big commitment.
"The servant told me the girl had already experienced her first bleeding and there're many men in Winterfell who would require a wife," His wife continued eagerly before sighing. "Though if the girl continue in her ways any longer then there are not many men who would want to marry her. But if you find her husband now then she accustom to the ways of Winterfell more quickly than I ever did."
"If you think Naruto getting married would make Arya start acting like a lady then you are wrong," Ned said, closing his eyes as the memories of his sister ran through his mind. His wife pursed her lips at him. "If you think Naruto marrying someone would make her act like a lady then you need to find another mode of action as I doubt Naruto would change her ways for a man. The girl is too wild and free to consider the words of her husband. I'm not doing this to hurt you, my lady but as long as the girl's actions doesn't impenge on the honour of this house. I will not change the girl's beliefs."
He would not tell her that even if he wished to change the girl's ways and her beliefs, he would find problems to do so. After all, how does one change a person who came from the old gods? Or change someone who brought joy to the lives of his children? He could not find it in himself to do so.
No, it was better to leave Naruto the way she was now.
Naruto folded her arms and watched closely as Robb unhand Jon's wooden sword. If there was one thing she noticed about those two, it was that Jon hold himself back whenever he fought with his half-brother. It was obvious if someone took the time to observe them that it was truly Jon, who was the better swordsmen. Why doesn't he just show them that he was a better fighter then his brother? If it was her, she would be showing of.
Seriously, what was the point of holding himself back?
"Did you find enjoyment from watching the match, milady?" Robb asked her when Jon and him approached her. She scowled at him, earning a bigger smile from the red-haired boy. If it weren't for the fact that he was Ned's son, she would have punched him in the nose for calling her a lady.
"Did you skip another lesson again?" Jon asked.
Naruto grinned and nodded. "I know how to sew. No point of me going."
"You know how to embroid people's sigil into cloths?"
Naruto didn't like the way Jon looked at her. Did he really believe she couldn't know to embroid a stupid wolf into a cloth just because she always skipped her lessons? It was a little bit more difficult compared to mending her torn pants and shirts but it was still something. Besides, whenever her clan's sigil was torn from her shirt then Naruto always had to stitch it back together.
She had to do it in honor of her mother's clan.
"Only my mother's sigil," Naruto admitted, gazing out at the sky. "Don't know others and don't want to."
"You'll not embroid your husband's sigil?" Robb asked her, blinking his eyes.
Naruto pursed her lips and shook her head. "Why? Man should do it too, not just female. Do you think everyone is lucky? Not every boy and girl have parents or servants. Boys must learn if they want to survive. The world isn't nice to the weak. To survive, you must be willing to do anything."
Even though she had been here for a month now, she still struggled to find the exact words to explain what she meant and could never stop herself from going back to speaking in her own language. Maybe she should practice the language more but Naruto couldn't bring herself to do it.
"What does that mean?" Robb asked, knitting his eyebrows together.
Naruto licked her lips and stared at the tower, where she could see Robb's mother staring at her with her lips pressed into a thin line.
"Not everyone is lucky," Naruto replied, smiling sadly. "People don't have what you have. Not everyone have parents."
"But what about family members? They can take care can't they?" Her friend asked, looking so confused that the blonde forgot that the boy wasn't like her. It was so easy for her to forget that Robb didn't know how lucky he was to have a loving family or to be rich. All her life, she heard rumors that the nobles were stuck up but seeing Robb and Ned and even the others made her doubt the rumors.
"Not if they are dead or if they don't like their family," Naruto answered, remembering how one of the orphans in the orphanage admit they had a family out there but the uncle didn't want to take care of him. That boy had been so nice that she had been tempted to prank his uncle's business for being cruel to him.
If it weren't for the fact that the boy was soon adopted by another loving family, she would have done it.
"Then where do they go?" Jon asked, looking at her in concern.
Naruto smiled. "Home for orphans of course."
The blonde tilted her head and nodded her head, earning a frown from the two boys, who looked so sympathetic that Naruto just wanted to scowl at them. "It isn't bad. The kids treat each other like family…people take you in if they like you. Don't act like you know what it means."
The last few words were a struggle for her to say but Naruto figured out how to say those last few words to them. She wished she could have a dictionary shoved into her head because it was getting difficult to tell them about what life in her village was like. She needed them to know an orphanage wasn't all that bad for kids not like her. Even though her experience of the orphanage wasn't all that great, it had been a safe heaven for the other kids.
In fact, the orphanage would have been better if it weren't for the matron, who hated the sight of her.
"And you do?" Jon asked.
Naruto nodded her head. "I've no parents. No aunts or uncles. I'm alone."
Well that wasn't exactly true. Before she came to this world, she had Inu. Inu, who told her stories about the Fourth Hokage from the shadows. He was the one who comforted her when she had nightmares, the one who told her that she could be whatever she wanted. He was the one person, besides the Hokage, that Naruto could trust to put down her guard.
In some ways, Inu was more then just her guard and friend, he was like the big brother that she always dreamed of.
"How old were you when you lost your parents?" Robb asked, looking so curious that the blonde couldn't bring herself to be hurt at remembering her lack of parents. Even though it had been years since she lost her parents, the blonde couldn't help but feel the loneliness an orphan could feel.
"They died on the day I was born."
Or so that was what the Hokage had told her when she asked him if her parents were truly gone and didn't abandon her like the other villagers said they were. Sometimes, she wondered if it was better for her to have never know them. At night, especially on the cold nights, she dreamt of what her parents would act like. Her mother would give her a warm smile and tell her that the people were wrong in calling her a monster.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
Naruto shook her head and looked at the wooden sword in Robb's hand. "Why are you sorry? I didn't know them."
"But aren't you sad? You never got to know them. I can't imagine not knowing my parents…"
"I'm okay with it," Naruto answered, undoing her hair from the braids. "Some kids lost their parents when they know them. They are sadder then me…they knew them."
Sasuke had it worse than her because unlike her, he knew his parents and watched them get murdered. Even now, it was easy for her to remember how blank the bastard's eyes were when he entered the classroom. All the girls had swoon, wishing to heal him from his broken heart and the blonde hated them for making his pain so romantic. No matter how much of a bastard he was, not even he deserved his problems to be treated like that.
"Hey...let's play a game!"
It was better for her to try to forget her problems for now.
Catelyn felt her lips twitched as she stared down at her dirtied female ward, who didn't even try to look sorry for not looking one bit clean. This girl would be an even more beautiful little girl if she learnt her manners and dressed properly, not like a little boy from the streets. Did she not care about what people would say about her? No, if she did then she wouldn't even bother being friends with that boy.
"What do you have to say for yourself? Young lady! Ladies don't dirty their dresses!"
Naruto stared back at her and shrugged her shoulder. "I'm not a lady."
If it weren't for the fact she was taught that ladies didn't shake people then Catelyn would shake this little girl and slap her for her rudness. Even if she was not a lady then she should be honored for being taught what a noble woman should learn. So many girls would kill to learn what Naruto was supposed to learn.
"As long as you live here then you are going to be taught how to be a lady," Catelyn said, reigning in her temper.
"Why? I don't want to be a bitter old hag like you."
Catelyn clenched her hands into a fist. She did not need to be proficient in the girl's language to know she insulted her. Did these people not teach her how to respect her elders? Not even Arya would speak like this. This girl was a barbarian for speaking so rudely to her. She needed to make Septa teach the girl about the importance of respecting people, who were higher then her.
"You don't speak to me in that tone," Catelyn finally said once she regin in her temper. "I'm your elder and superior, you must speak to me with a tone of respect."
Naruto raised her eyebrows. "You're not my boss, Catelyn. You cannot tell me how to talk. You are mean to Jon. You hurt him because he isn't your son. You hate him because he is Lord Stark's son. If Jon had another father, you would be nice to him?"
Catelyn could see that Naruto was struggling to say those words but it was the first time the girl spoke in complete sentences. She stared at the young girl, who honestly looked curious to hear the answer to her question. If Jon had a different father then would she be nice to the boy? There was a possibility. He would not be the proof that Ned had loved another woman or slept with another woman during the war. If the boy wasn't even near her then she would be happy. She opened her mouth but closed it when the blonde shook her head.
The girl dared to look at her with disgust.
"Jon is good," Naruto whispered, staring at her with so much anger that Catelyn almost felt like she could turn to fire from the anger radiating through the girl's eyes. "He is kind. He loves his brothers and sisters. He protects them but you don't trust him. He stares at his brothers and sisters with envy when you hug them. He wants to be loved like them but you are a monster. You can't love a boy who wants to be loved."
"You don't know anything girl."
The blonde smiled and laughed at her words. "I know more then you. I don't believe in words that are not true. I see the world as it is. You cannot love Jon because he isn't your son. You hate him because he looks more like Lord Stark then Robb and Bran does. You think girls must not fight because men hate girls who can fight. You want Arya to be like Sansa and ignore her being bullied by Sansa because you think it will make her change her ways. You want me to act like you and Sansa. I cannot because I am my mother's daughter. Inu told me that I act like my mother. You think bastards are born from sin."
Where was the girl learning this language from? Catelyn couldn't help but ask herself as Naruto stared at her with eyes that looked older then they should be. Just one week ago, Naruto could not speak this fluent but now she was almost talking like a native speaker. She was saying things that no child should be able to notice.
"You are wrong."
"One of the village leaders was a bastard," Catelyn blinked her eyes and Naruto smiled at her. "The Fourth Hokage's parents were not married when they had him or so Inu tell me. He was an orphan like me too but, he climbed to the top. Inu is a bastard too. His parents were not married when they had him but he is good and kind. He protect me from the people who wanted to hurt me. He tells me stories when no one else did. He is not a child born from sin. He is a child born from parents that loved each other."
"You do not understand child," Catelyn said, clenching her hands into a fist. "If your husband cheats on you and brings another woman's child into your house then you can talk."
She should not feel so irrational. Catelyn knew better than to let a child's word influence her but it was hard not to let the child's words anger her. Naruto spoke as if she knew everything, like she experienced her pain but the child had not. She did not have to come to her new home to find out that her husband had another child. She did not have to hear whispers about the boy's potential mother.
No, the girl could not understand.
"If he brings me another woman's child then I leave him," Naruto stated. "I do not need him to give me happiness and if he loves me then he would fight for me. If he cheats on me then I give him a chance. If he cheats on me twice then I will leave him. A man that cheats on me twice, does not love me."
In some ways Naruto was like Sansa, Catelyn thought, staring pitifully at the little girl. She thought marriage was about love and not about politics. The moment Ned took in this girl and decided to give her lessons like their daughters, her chances of marrying for love was lessen. This young girl had a small potential of being married to some lord's fourth son or perhaps a third son if she was pretty enough.
She did not realize that the possibility of love is based on luck.
"You think I'm stupid for thinking like that."
"I did not say anything."
"I do not believe in fairy tales," Naruto declared. "I have no prince to save me but I will not marry unless it is to someone that I love and respect."
"You cannot stay here forever!"
"I will not stay here forever," Naruto pointed out. "I will become a warrior like the stories Arya loves. I will be a strong woman like my mother was. I will find a man like my father. Inu said my father loved my mother even though she was not like the other woman. I will find someone who will accept me. I will not marry a man who loves another."
I will not have your fate.
Naruto did not need to say those words but Catelyn could hear it clearly.
"You will not find anyone who will accept you the way you are."
"I will not change my way for a boy," Naruto declared. "I will be a warrior."
And with those words Naruto left her to ponder over their talk.
A/N: I know it has been a long time since I updated but it was hard to write this chapter. Please review and tell me what you think.