Hey guys and gals, long time no see! It's been awhile in the making, but here's chapter 8. The reason why this took so long is that Breath of the Wild came out shortly after Drake started writing the chapter and that kept us both busy for most of March and shortly after finishing the chapter, Persona 5 came out and kept me from editing for most of April. For May and the first half of this month, I was just procrastinating ^^;
I haven't been completely idle in that time, though. There are 10 new commissions over on my deviantart, Djunk855, including Chichi's potential redesign (more details regarding it and a new poll at the bottom). I know I said I'd slow down to save up for a Switch and Breath of the Wild, but I ended up just getting the Wii U version instead (which I hadn't known was a thing at the time).
Anyhoo, I've blabbed on long enough. Let's get this show on the road!
Naruto took a deep breath, enjoying the early morning air as he leaned against one of the fences separating the fields on the farm. Smith and MON had left after eating their fill and Smith promised to have a pass that would let them go into the city ready by tomorrow morning. Until then, Naruto and Kaguya would have to make do with the clothes they brought with them, sans a jacket in the blonde ninja's case. Shaking his head, he turned his attention to the bright pink gelatinous girl who was looking at him with hopeful enthusiasm.
"So," Naruto looked around eagerly. "It's time to get started." He returned his attention to the farmlands. While his clones had removed most of the debris, there was still a lot of weeds and general maintenance to be done.
"Right!" Saboten nodded eagerly. "Let's go!" She cried out as she punched the air, only for the ninja to remain stationary whilst she continued her energetic dance.
"Right!" Naruto paused. "Er… Do you know what I need to do?" He fidgeted awkwardly as the youthful Slime paused in her animated hopping to look at him with a bright smile, her emerald eyes sparkling with passion.
"Of course," Saboten beamed as she rooted around in her jacket. "Papa left strict, detailed instructions on how the farm should look! He never finished it before he went on his long journey, but he left them with me just in case." She opened the coat, frowning slightly as she searched for the elusive plans.
"Detailed instructions?" Naruto sighed in relief. Given his somewhat limited experience of farming, he was glad to have a set of blueprints to work from, "This shouldn't be too hard then."
"Here you go Aniki!" Saboten produced a filthy handkerchief that the Jinchuuriki accepted carefully, holding it by a corner.
'Is this some sort of modern art?' Kurama deadpanned as Naruto tried to decipher the blobs and scrawls on the cloth.
"Er…" Naruto grabbed a corner in each hand and held it up. "Well… It's definitely… er…" Naruto trailed off as he looked at what could charitably be called a plan "So er… What is this spot?" He pointed to a small circle with barely legible handwriting underneath it.
"The rice paddy of course!" Saboten declared proudly. "Papa always said rice is the one true Japanese crop! Plus it makes sake, which all of Papa's friends really liked, and he liked making his friends happy."
"Er…" Naruto looked around at the unploughed fields. "W-well how about this bit here?"
"Ah, that is the hops fields and the potato fields!" Saboten chirped happily. "Papa always wanted to go into brewing. He said something about moonshine. I like moonshine. It's so pretty."
"Ah…" Naruto blinked. "Well, I guess potatoes shouldn't be too hard to grow." He tried to ignore Kurama's chuckles and focused on what vaguely resembled a doodle of a farm.
"That's what Papa always said!" the Pink Slime nodded her head happily, her pseudopod bouncing happily in time with her movements. She moved close to Naruto, joining him in looking at the dirty cloth.
"R-right." Naruto blinked. "What's this skull and crossbones symbol?" He pointed to a small circle with the pirate-like symbol that was located next to a square blob that says 'Forge for forging stuff I guess'.
"That's the compost heap for Papa to put all the dead waste!" Saboten nodded. "He said he was expecting to compost a lot of things that wanted to cause trouble for him." If she understood the implications of what she was saying, her cheerful demeanor hid it completely.
"That sounds… worrying." Naruto laughed awkwardly, although Saboten seemed not to notice.
'He had to get rid of the competition somehow,' Kurama seemed amused by the situation. 'Let's hope he doesn't mind his daughter living with a stranger or else he might try to put you in there.'
"And this?" Naruto pointed to a green stain, while his foxy tenant laughed.
"Ah… That's a boogey," Saboten blinked. "This is also Papa's handkerchief."
"Ah," Naruto handed the dirty cloth back to the girl quickly. "So…" He paused awkwardly, all too aware of Saboten's cheerful gaze locked onto him. "Are there any changes that…"
"No!" Saboten shook her head furiously, causing Naruto to step back, lest her pseudopod hit him, "It has to be just like Papa wanted! He'll be so proud when he gets back home!"
"Right," Naruto bit his lip. "These plans are pretty vague. Maybe your father would be even more proud if you were able to personalize them?" He glanced at the young girl, trying to judge from her expression what she thought of the idea. For her part, Saboten had screwed her face up in thought, which looked more cute than serious to the dimensionally displaced ninja.
"Well, Papa did used to mention things that he never put on the plan…" Saboten tapped her chin. "I wonder if Papa would be alright with me making changes to his super detailed plans." She tilted her head. "Yeah, I think he'd be okay with that, as long as it was me doing it."
"You talk a lot about your father," Naruto chuckled. "But not so much about your mother. What was she like?"
"Mama?" Saboten tilted her head. "Mama is Mama." Her head tilted to one side. "What would you like to know about her?"
"What kind of person was she?" The blonde ninja smiled at the smaller Slime, who leaned against a fence as she thought.
"Mama is super kind and huggy. She used to hug Papa a lot when they were here." Saboten stared off at the forest distantly. "She was so pretty and gloopy!"
"Gloopy?" Naruto blinked.
"Uh huh!" Saboten hopped around, her arms behind her back, "Like when Papa put his clothes on her, they just sunk through her. Mama said she was jealous of my visc... visco… hardness." She blinked. "She was always leaving pink trails around!" The young-looking Slime giggled. "Papa would slip on her trail, and then she would pounce and hug him!" She mimed diving on top of someone and hugging.
"It sounds like your parents loved each other," Naruto smiled. "I'll bet they were good people."
"Papa is the coolest!" Saboten declared. "Mama is a close second and Aniki is third." She turned to face Naruto with a wide smile.
"Thanks," Naruto rubbed the back of his head with an embarrassed look on his face. "So, you mentioned your mother was a Pink Slime like you?"
"Yup!" Saboten nodded as she turned her attention back to the farm. "She was such a beautiful pink color… At least she was most of the time." She paused in her thoughts. "I was kind of jealous that Mama could do that."
"Oh, she changed color?" Naruto raised an eyebrow. 'I wonder if all Slimes are like that?'
"Uh-huh!" Saboten frowned. "The morning after a full moon she was always a much lighter pink, almost like a milkier color. I think she was allergic to the full moon like Papa because he was always really pale and tired the day after a full moon too!"
'Oh… I guess if they absorb too much of a certain fluid they can change color.' Naruto could practically feel the wide grin on the beast that lived inside of him.
Naruto found himself unable to look at the innocent girl and tried his best to ignore the booming laugh of the Bijuu in his head. "Y-yeah." He laughed weakly.
"Say, what's Aniki's family like?" The young girl leaned towards Naruto and tilted her head.
"My family," Naruto sighed sadly as he recalled his parents from their brief interactions and the stories he had heard about his father while growing up. "My dad was the leader of my home… People always talked about how he was an amazing and powerful ninja and how he was able to defeat the great threat that nearly destroyed our village."
'I'll take that as a compliment.'
"He died in the attempt," Naruto looked down. "As did my mother. I'm told she was just like me and… and they both loved me very much." He smiled sadly, remembering the look of pride on his father's face when they had fought Madara and the Ten-Tails together.
"Oh no Saboten! You made Aniki sad! What would Papa do? Hm… Papa said he used to choke the chicken when he felt stressed, but Mama hit him for saying that… Besides, where am I going to find a chicken around here?" The Slime had hunched over with her back to Naruto, muttering loudly enough that she could have achieved the same effect by talking normally. She started to poke her index fingers together and rock backwards and forwards as she wracked her brains for a way to cheer up her Aniki.
While she rocked, Naruto just watched her unsure what to do. Before he could think of something to say, Saboten suddenly leapt to her feet and pointed to the sky victoriously.
"Ah, I got it!" She suddenly spun around and dived at Naruto, hugging his arm to her modest chest before chanting "Sadness go away! Don't come back you're not welcome here!" In a sing-song sort of voice. On seeing his confused expression, she decided to up her game and transformed an arm into a tentacle and started to ruffle his hair.
"I'm okay. Thanks, that um...really cheered me up." The blonde ninja chuckled as the Pink Slime released him looking victorious.
"That's what Mama did to me when I got sad… Oh no I mentioned my parents!" She crouched with her back to the bemused ninja again. "Stupid Saboten." She started poking at the dirt with her fingers.
"I'm fine, honestly. You cheered me up," Naruto assured her with a smile.
"R-really?" She turned around, her eyes sparkling.
"Really," Naruto nodded and stroked the top of her head in a hair ruffling motion, causing the girl to beam happily again. "Now, what do you say we get to work on making our improved plans for the farm."
"I don't know…" Saboten looked uncertain. "I don't want to ruin Papa's dream."
"I'm sure so long as you put your heart into it, he'll love it," Naruto nodded sagely. "At least, if he's half the man you think he is."
"Papa is a hundred times the man I think he is!" Saboten cheered and started to quote larger numbers while Naruto watched her antics, slowly shaking his head at the girl's liveliness.
"I think we have some paper in the house. Why don't you go get it for me?" The career Genin chuckled as Saboten took off sprinting happily. "Man, she's a real bundle of energy, huh?"
At the Farmhouse
Chichi yawned as she walked out her room and down the hallway. After breakfast, she had decided to do some light reading, only to find the police training manual she was looking for wasn't on her desk. She had tried searching her room, but had been unable to find it. As such, she had given up on finding it for the time being and decided to get to work cleaning the house. While Handler-san could use his clones to clean the entire building, Chichi felt it unfair to exploit him like that. Besides, it would be some gentle exercise to help her wake up properly. Naruto had kindly healed her aching ribs, but the healing came with a sense of exhaustion that was hard to shake.
As she approached her housemates rooms, she moved to try and wake them before deciding against it. Kaguya was liable to be in a foul mood after the events of yesterday and Toph… Well, the toad-type had been in a strange mood ever since meeting the young Slime.
Chichi let out a sigh as she recalled the innocent little girl. As an only child, the Arachne had always wanted a younger sibling to dote on, but her parents had seemed content with just herself. Still, she had longed for someone to count on and look up to her as a big sister. That desire had just about become nothing but a distant memory, at least until Saboten's cheery smile graced the household and reignited it. Unfortunately, it appeared the young girl had been led astray, and it was up to Chichi to save Saboten from a life of being Toph's underling.
She shook her head of such a horrible thought and walked downstairs into the main living room. Most of the windows were still barricaded, and the room was in a state of disarray. In the middle, a frowning Saboten looked around nervously.
"Good morning Saboten-chan," Chichi smiled, putting on her best 'talking to young children' face. "How are you today?"
"I'm feeling pretty good! Thanks for asking minion of the fascist regime!" Saboten chirped happily, oblivious to Chichi's flinch. "How are you?"
"I'm well. What're you doing?" The Long-Leg Type walked over to a window and began to remove the planks from the windows. Despite the effort that she and Toph had put into barricading the house, it hadn't been enough to stop their assailant. Chichi still struggled to believe that the cute, little Saboten was the same creature responsible for the attack, regardless of what the evidence might suggest.
"Aniki asked me to find some paper but…" She looked worried. "I don't know where it could be. I don't want to let Aniki down!" The girl looked so downfallen Chichi had to fight the urge to envelop her in a hug.
"Let me help you," Chichi offered. "It is the duty of the police to help out people, not hurt them. We have some storage rooms upstairs; Maybe there's some paper in one of those?"
"Okay!" Saboten beamed. "You're kind of like that one police officer Papa said was okay!"
"Really?" Chichi brightened up.
"Yeah, Papa used to give him gifts, and because they were such good friends, the officer would tell Papa lots of neat things like when the evil coppers were going to pay him a visit so he could get all cleaned up to meet them." Saboten continued.
"I… I think he was a corrupt officer taking bribes." Chichi frowned. "Which is a crime."
"Really?" Saboten tilted her head. "So according to the police, it is a crime to be a friendly person?"
"N-No!" The Arachne waved her hands wildly.
"Papa was right. The police are real meanies!" Saboten declared as she headed to the rooms Chichi had mentioned, while the long-legged Arachne just stared into space, her eyes dull. "Maybe Toph-nee san can help me!"
A single ray of light shone through the barricaded window of the toad-type's room, showing the piles of clothes and discarded junk that were as much a feature of her room as the carpets and bed. Atop of one such pile, Narf stood on his hind legs noting with some concern that his mistress had been laid face down for some time.
Hopping across the piles of clothes, he clambered onto the bed where a mostly naked Toph lay motionless. Her bindings were the only thing she was wearing, and even they were half unwound as if the girl had started getting undressed before just giving up and going to sleep. Narf ran along the bed, pausing beside her head and nudging the Bullywug, who grunted and turned to face him.
"What is it Narf? What do ya want?" She grumbled.
The rat merely twitched its nose.
"If you're hungry, just get something to eat," Toph frowned. "I'm deep in thought, ya hear?"
Narf tilted his head.
"It's just… that little girl ya know?" Toph rolled over and stared at the ceiling. "She… reminds me of someone alright?"
In response, Narf simply curled up on the pillow next to her head.
"It seems like a lifetime ago…" Toph closed her eyes. She could still remember the smells of the small swamp where she lived. She started to drift off into a daydream and…
"I'm fed up with waiting already!" A much younger Toph snorted as she sat down in the middle of a swamp. She wore only bindings across her chest as well as some trousers slightly too big for her and held around her waist with what looked like some sort of vines, which were in plentiful supply around her. Her hair was it's natural dark brown and while still in a ponytail, it only extended a few inches outside of it's cloth strip hair tie.
She kicked her legs impatiently as she sat on a stump next to a large tree with several deep gashes across it, one of the few landmarks in this swamp and the meeting point the Boss always told them to use. It was said that each gash was made by a new boss.
Her gang called the tree Old Oakey, although it wasn't an oak. However, the boss said it was, and no one dared to correct the Boss. Well no one except her, Toph thought proudly. The boss recognized her skill and general refusal to give up and had even said that one day Toph might be able to challenge her for the gang. Just the thought of it made her grin. She'd be allowed to have the official hairstyle of the boss! She'd have her very own slash on Old Oakey! Maybe she'd even cut it so deep that the massive tree would be torn straight in half!
She kicked herself off the stump and picked up her bokuto, taking a few experimental stabs, fighting against imaginary foes and diving around the area, imagining herself with the boss's hairstyle smiting stupid Frog-Type Bullywugs and being awesome.
"Wow… Onee-sama is so cool!" A chirpy young voice interrupted her workout.
"Who the hell's there?!" Toph paused.
"Me!" Forward plodded a younger toad-type. She had a black cap on far too big for her small head as well as an equally oversized jacket looking like a student's coat, although thanks to its size on the small girl it was more of a cape, trailing across the floor. The coat's arms were almost double the length they needed to be, leaving the sleeves dangling. Her trousers were clearly an old hemp sack just cut and stitched into trousers with some vines holding them around her waist and much like Toph; she was barefoot with her webbed feet on display. She tried to salute but ended up clumsily smacking herself in the face with the sleeve of the coat.
"Ya took your sweet time arriving didn't ya? The boss said you'd be here ages ago!" The future farm resident crossed her arms angrily.
"S-sorry Onee-sama!" The smaller girl bowed, causing her hat to fall off. In her attempt to catch it, she tripped over her coat and fell face first on the floor. "Ouchie…"
"Geez, it'd be a mercy to kill ya right now. That's the only mercy ya can give to the weak, after all. Still, the old lady said ya were gonna be worth the effort, so…" Toph drew herself up to her full height as the girl put her hat on and stood up, rubbing her nose. "Ya wanna be one o' the best in our gang eh?" She leant forward at the younger Bullywug who nodded furiously, causing her cap to fall over her eyes.
"That's right. Sukeban-boss-sama said to report to you!" The small girl attempted another salute, with marginally more success.
"Well," Toph smirked. "I am Sukeban-sama's right-hand toad." She rested her bokuto on her shoulder and crouched down. "Ya gonna go far with me. Who knows? When I become the boss… ya might even be my right-hand toad."
"Of course,!" The smaller Bullywug vibrated with excitement. "I'll be as strong as Onee-sama!"
"Hehehe," Toph rubbed her nose. "Just listen to me, and you'll go far!"
"Hai Onee-sama! I'll always listen to you!"
Suddenly, the scene started to distort, and a cacophony of thumping sounds started to rise, as if a large group were softly hitting the moist ground with sticks in a rhythmless beat. Her vision was blurry, but she was vaguely aware of the many figures surrounding her, and one figure in particular right in front of her, a giddy smile on it's face. She was sat down with her back against Old Oakey, the pale moonlight casting long shadows of the distorted figures around her, and the one in front of her stepped forward slowly, a bloody bokuto in hand.
"I don't understand…" Toph's voice was strained as she struggled to stand, trying to use the cuts in the tree as hand holds but unable to find the strength to lift herself. The world was spinning around, and she couldn't remember where she was.
"Because Onee-sama… This is the only mercy you can give to the weak…" There was a sudden crash, and the dream ended.
Toph eyes rocketed open, and she sat up breathing heavily and received a worried look from her pet rat before she settled back down. She could still hear the rhythmic thumping from her dream. It was then she noticed her door shaking, like someone was trying to repeatedly pull it further closed than it already was.
"What the hell?" She growled as she rolled out of bed, yelping and muttering curses as she landed on her wounded ankle.
"Someone's gonna get a hiding for this." She tossed her clothes on, watched by a curious Narf. When she threw open the door, she had planned to yell at the person responsible, but on seeing Chichi carrying a vacuum and looking sheepish, she decided to hold back on her rant.
"Oh um...sorry. Did I wake you?" She gestured to the vacuum cleaner. "I got the cord caught around a door handle and it…"
"What the hell are ya doing?" Toph pointed at her. "I was trying to catch up on my sleep."
"Cleaning the house," the Arachne remarked. "Unlike some people, I don't like living in a squalor." She cast a pointed look at the wasteland that was Toph's bedroom, causing to the toad-type to narrow her eyes and pull the door to hide Chichi's view of the room.
"Ya gotta problem with how I live?" The Bullywug crossed her arms. "My room is perfectly fine for me, and the Boss doesn't have a problem with it. In fact, only you do. Maybe it's you that has the problem."
"But how can you find anything in that pig sty?" Chichi pointed to the room. "I'm pretty sure that living like that can't be good for you. I'm also fairly certain that it's violation of several health laws such as…"
"It ain't a pig sty! It's… er… organized chaos!" The delinquent amphibian defended herself.
"Organized chaos?" If Chichi was annoyed by being cut off, she gave no indication of it. "How can you find anything in there?"
"Well, I use the Narf system." Toph declared proudly.
"The… what?" Chichi frowned as she tried to think of what the acronym could mean.
"Narf! Bring me that book I was reading will ya?" Toph called over her shoulder, pushing the door open slightly so that her rat could get in and out.
"Narf...you don't mean that rat from the other day?!" Chichi's six eyes widened when she saw the rat in question dragging a book along in its teeth. It pulled the book to Toph's feet and squeaked noisily until Toph tossed a piece of her breakfast out of her jacket pocket at the rat, who picked it up and headed back into the room.
"See?" She picked the book up, grinning smugly.
"Did… Did you train that rat?" Chichi was torn between being impressed Toph had trained a rat to such a degree and reprimanding her for letting it roam free. Who knows what kind trouble it could cause?Trying to move on, she tried not to think of the many regulations that Toph was probably breaking.
"Useful, ain't he?" Toph waved the book. "So ya can stop judging me now."
"Wait a minute," Chichi snatched the book and rubbed the strange stains from the cover. "This is my police training manual! I was looking for this earlier." She paused. "Wait a second… Were you reading my book? Does this mean… You're starting to think of becoming a police officer too?" Her eyes lit up. "Have I been a good influence and shown you how much better it would be to be a respectable member of society rather than a deadbeat dropout?" Chichi's many eyes seemed to shine with hope, although it didn't last long.
"Like hell ya have. I needed something funny to read." Toph snorted. "Like get this, there was this bit about a hostage situation, and it said ya should talk with the criminal!" She let out a howl of laughter. "Yeah… 'cause that'll work. Ya gotta go in all guns blazing like a loose cannon! And there was this bit about de-escalating a conflict. Why'd ya wanna do that? There's nothing like a good brawl!"
"I suppose it was too much to hope you'd seen the light," Chichi mentally chastised herself. "Still, I would appreciate if you would ask before taking my things. Stealing from a fellow exchange student is a punishable offence as outlined in Article…"
"Yeah, yeah, sure. I'll ask your fat-ass next time I wanna steal something from ya." The delinquent rolled her eyes and slammed the door in Chichi's face who merely shook her head, already having gotten used to the rowdy girl's behavior.
"My abdomen is perfectly normal sized!" Chichi she called through the door before taking a deep breath and returning to work cleaning the house. "At least one of Handler-san's guests should try and help him out." She glanced at the door to a certain former goddess. "And I doubt Kaguya-san is going to do much."
"Look at him." Kaguya frowned as she stared out of her window at Naruto on the farm. Currently, he had his army of clones running around and pulling up weeds while a cheerful Saboten scribbled on some paper next to a fence. The Naruto she assumed to be the real one was laid down on the grass next to her. "Dropping his guard around her. Is he truly so foolish as to let that pile of gloop so close after what it did last night?"
On her neatly made bed, Usagi twitched its ears and watched as she stared out of the window, which Kaguya took as its response, glancing over her shoulder at the small creature with a pained expression.
"I know he spared me, but I am a completely different case," Kaguya scowled at the rabbit. "I am unable to challenge him in my current state." She frowned as she glanced at the empty kimono sleeve hanging loose. Her missing arm was a constant reminder of her loss, yet it was one that she would have to deal with. Without her powers, she wasn't going to be regenerating it anytime soon, and she refused to allow Naruto to use that healing power. Her cheeks flushed slightly as she recalled the warm sensations that his power invoked in her. "A-anyway, without my powers I pose little threat to him and others and out of all of the… guests I am unfortunately the weakest physically. I am unable to defend myself against the threats of this strange world, and the other residents are more likely to be the cause of my suffering rather than my salvation."
Usagi's nose twitched as it stretched out on the pillow and there was a bang from outside followed by Toph's angry voice. If Kaguya noticed this, she showed no signs, choosing to focus on her own problems. In her defence, "loud and angry" was Toph's normal tone, so it wasn't alarming to the former Goddess.
"Taking all this into account, allowing a potential threat to get this close to me is unacceptable. If our roles were reversed… Well… I probably would have killed the idiot servant the instant we arrived here and then simply gone back home." She paused, trying to ignore the pang of guilt she felt at casually talking about killing Naruto, but found herself unable to shake the unsettling feeling.
Sensing Kaguya's turmoil, Usagi leapt from the bed then hopped towards the former goddess, who kneeled to stroke the fluffy mammal's ears. She crouched there for a good few minutes, feeling the soft fur beneath her fingers as Usagi leaned into her hand.
"Still, there is no sense in trying to reason with him." Kaguya let out a soft, almost fond sigh. "Clearly critical thinking is not his strong point. It just makes it all the more maddening that he defeated me. I suppose even a Goddess can be defeated if the right conditions are met." She paused as an idea formed in her head. "I wonder if the Slime has any weaknesses that I could exploit even in my current state? The vulgar spider mentioned something about goggles that answer questions on some sort of web. Perhaps I will find the answer to my questions there." She smiled as she glanced at the rabbit. "I swear from this moment on, I shall be prepared for whatever this strange world throws at me!"
There was a sudden noise from outside that Kaguya had never heard before. It sounded like some sort of feral monster roaring, and she leapt backwards from the door fighting back a cry of alarm, before remembering herself and glared at the rabbit. "It is fortunate you do not speak. My reputation is safe." She opened the door as confidently as she could and paused at the site of Chichi holding a strange contraption.
"Oh, sorry Kaguya-san," Chichi turned the vacuum off with one of her many legs. "Were you sleeping?"
"Only layabouts and good-for-nothings stay in bed this late." Kaguya declared, appearing upset that Chichi would even suggest that she would compose herself in such a manner.
"It's like eleven in the morning!" Toph yelled from her room. "Some of us need our sleep, damn it!"
"Point proven," The former goddess had a slight smile as Chichi shook her head. "What was that infernal noise?"
"You mean the vacuum cleaner?" Chichi gestured to the strange device next to her. "Didn't you have these where you come from?"
"What purpose does it serve?" Kaguya regarded the strange machine suspiciously as if expecting it to attack her at any moment.
"It's used to clean up," Chichi explained briefly, "It sucks up dust and dirt to keep everything clean."
"Then why are you using it?" The former goddess looked at the Arachne with a look of mild confusion. "I would have thought that a filthy house would better suit your people."
"My… people?" Chichi opened and shut her mouth several times, not sure how to react to her words.
"Well yes, you are part spider, are you not?" The former goddess raised an eyebrow quizzically. "You eat insects and the likes?"
"Oh," Chichi sighed as she realized what Kaguya was implying, "I may be an Arachne, but I'm also just like any other girl. I like to live in a clean house." She paused as she glanced at Toph's door, "Unlike someone who I could care to mention."
"Fight me!" Toph yelled from her room.
"That would be a violation of Article…" Chichi started to explain only for the indignant toad to interrupt her as usual.
"Bah! Excuses!" The toad-type scoffed from the other side of the door.
"How surprising," Kaguya tapped her chin thoughtfully. She looked the Arachne up and down, noting that her clothes were crease free and looked well maintained, unlike Kaguya's frayed Kimono, which needed some repairs. "I never expected such a civilized point of view from you."
"Is it really that shocking?" Chichi frowned slightly. "I thought my appearance made it clear that I look after myself. I keep my hair tidy, and I polish my chitin regularly." She glanced at her hands, which glinted in the light.
On closer inspection, the former goddess could tell that they had been looked after, being both incredibly sharp and clean. She suddenly felt self-conscious as she noted the dirt under her fingernails as well as the fact they had grown uncomfortably long for her. Even the Arachne's hair was well maintained while the hair of the bunny goddess was fraught with split ends and in need of a good cut. Realizing this, she subconsciously started to run her sole hand through her long white locks.
"To think my hair and nails have fallen into such states that even a vulgar spider can look better than me," Kaguya let out a sigh. "Perhaps I should learn to care for my hair," she mumbled as she twirled a lock around her finger, noting the split ends.
"You don't know how to look it yourself?" Chichi sounded surprised. "Given how nice it looked, I had assumed that you would."
"Thank you," the former goddess felt a bit of her pride return at Chichi's compliment. "I used to have people to do it for me," Kaguya admitted, "Beyond combing my hair, I never had to look after it. I only started washing it myself after the idiot servant got us stranded in this world."
"I could help you out," Chichi saw the opportunity to bond with Kaguya and took it, noting the latter's distressed expression. "I cut and style my hair," Her voice had a clear edge of pride to it.
Kaguya didn't immediately reply, instead staring into space. After what felt like an age to Chichi, Kaguya finally shook her head.
"While I appreciate that you appear to have the beginning of what could be called skill at maintaining hair, I am afraid my hair requires a great deal of skill to return to its true splendor." Kaguya nodded her head respectfully. "I am… thankful for the offer, however."
"Don't mention it," Chichi smiled. "After all, since we're all members of the Exchange Program, it's only natural to help each other out, right? We're all from different walks of life, here to learn how to live in this new situation."
"That is somewhat true," Kaguya conceded. "Although I doubt the bandit toad shares your opinion."
"Ha! It's every toad for themselves ya hear?" Toph snorted from the other side of the door.
"It'd be easier for you to talk with us if you'd just open the door," Chichi sighed. "It's clear you want to be a part of our chat."
"Like hell I do! You're just talking far too loud for me to sleep." The door swung open, and a now fully dressed Toph stood arms crossed in her doorway. She adjusted her cap before limping out of the room. "I might as well get something to eat. You're clearly not gonna let me get a wink of sleep."
"One moment please," Kaguya cleared her throat. "It appears that I have been misjudging the vulgar spider…"
"You could call me by my name," Chichi prompted, an almost hopeful look on her face.
Kaguya didn't respond immediately. Instead, she turned to face Chichi with an aghast expression. "You would expect me to say such… such a vulgar term?" Her look of genuine horror was so great that for a moment, Chichi almost felt guilty about suggesting it. Eventually, the goddess shook her head, "No. I am afraid that would be a betrayal of my bloodline to spout such… vulgarity." Kaguya looked away with a faint dusting of red on her otherwise hauntingly pale skin.
"Ya could just call her spider pig," Toph shrugged dismissively as she leant against the doorway, putting her hands in the pockets of her trousers. "Or fat ass copper."
"Getting back to the topic at hand," Kaguya coughed genteelly, "I was curious, do you actually work at looking as uncouth as you do?"
"Well of course," Toph puffed out her chest, "Ya don't look this awesome by accident. Ya don't wanna know what I had to do to get this outfit together, I gotta warn ya, it was pretty violent." She cracked her knuckles as she turned her head away with a serious expression on her face.
"I'm guessing she stole it from a human washing line," Chichi remarked dryly, not noticing Toph's change in demeanor.
"I earned these clothes. Spilt blood to get 'em." The smaller Liminal clenched her fists as if recalling a past fight. "They're a reminder of… actually, you know what. Ya wouldn't care anyway."
"Was like your heroic escape from Agent Smith when she was bringing you here?" Chichi smiled sweetly. "And every fight you've ever attempted to have with Tio-san?"
"Fight me!" Toph snapped as she pointed her bokuto at the Arachne who merely shook her head.
"Getting back to your appearance, is the smell intentional?" Kaguya wrinkled her nose, "Did you decide that smelling like a rubbish heap was a part of being a delinquent?"
"Smellin' like a…" Toph sniffed at her armpits before returning her attention to Kaguya, who was somewhat amused by the toad-types antics. "I'll have ya know I bathe once a week!"
"If I lived in that landfill you call a room, I'd need a shower every time I stepped outside it." The long-legged Arachne shivered at the thought.
"Ya just jealous of my natural musk," Toph declared proudly before limping past her two housemates.
"Where're you going?" The Arachne glanced at the injured toad, who stopped and leant on her wooden sword for support before looking over her shoulder with a scowl.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I'm gonna go for a wander 'round. I gotta make sure nobody is encroaching on my turf." Toph continued limping away.
"Remember, you cannot stray too far from Handler-san as stated by Article 21-D subsection…"
"Ah, bite me ya pig," Toph grunted. "Ya can shove the rules up your fat ass. God knows ya got plenty of room for 'em up there."
"I am a perfectly healthy size for my age and species!" Chichi blushed slightly. "Kaguya-san?"
The aforementioned lady had walked past Chichi, following the toad. "There is little for me to do, so I might as well overseer my servant's work." She paused. "If you wish to join me I would not be completely averse to the idea."
Chichi was physically shocked at Kaguya's offer. 'It must be my hard work paying off! The training manual on dealing with difficult civilians was right!' "Sure." She happily scurried alongside Kaguya.
'That is fortunate.' Kaguya smiled to herself. 'Should the slime attack, the vulgar spider may assist in my chances of survival... and I suppose she is not entirely unpleasant to spend time around either.'
Back to the Fields
"So… What're you drawing?" Naruto crouched down next the enthusiastically scribbling Saboten.
"I'm not drawing, I'm planning!" Saboten pouted cutely, earning a ruffle of her head slime by Naruto. "I'm trying to remember all the cool things Papa wanted to put on the farm. I remember he wanted a big meadow for Mama because she liked pretty flowers. They taste real good!"
"Oh?" Naruto smiled, "So do you eat plants as well?"
"I can eat anything since my body just breaks it down!" Saboten proudly declared. "Papa said I was such a good girl for not being a picky eater." She beamed at Naruto before returning her attention to the sheet of paper that she was drawing on.
In Naruto's opinion, it was less of a plan and more of a fantasy drawing, as he was pretty sure that a farm didn't need a moat and battlements to keep out 'nosy coppers and rival farmers'. Still, as the young girl doodled away, laid on her front and lazily waving her feet, Naruto felt happy. There was something about the scene that lifted his spirits. In the pleasant weather, he started to feel tired and decided to have a quick rest to refresh himself.
"I'm going to have a bit of nap okay?" Naruto glanced at Saboten who nodded energetically before returning to her doodling. The blonde ninja laid back on the grass, enjoying the gentle breeze and the rhythmic noises as his clones got to work weeding and repairing some of the barns that had yet to be looked at in any detail. He closed his eyes and allowed his senses to wander, taking the moment of quiet just to relax. As his clones finished up the weeding and started to dispel themselves one by one, he started to drift into a state of semi-consciousness.
Suddenly he was stirred from his relaxed state by a chill, as if someone had stood between him and the sunlight he had been soaking in. "Is something the matter Saboten?" He opened an eye before realizing Saboten was in the same place as before, looking behind him with fear in her eyes. He slowly stood up, making sure he kept his back to whatever was causing the shadow, so it didn't attack. From what he could see the figure behind him was clearly a giant, with what appeared to be a scythe in its hands.
"On no… It's true…" Saboten started to shiver, "Papa said if I was a bad girl a big monster would come and take me away, but I stayed up late last night… I'm so sorry Papa!" She whimpered, her entire body quivering like jelly as she started to step away from the shadow. The look of horror on the young girl's face was enough to make Naruto leap into action.
Before anyone could even blink, he had spun around and launched himself at the newcomer, who tried to use the scythe to block. Given his ninja training, Naruto easily slipped by the clumsy attempt at a guard and grasped the overalls of the blue skinned intruder, using his chakra to supplement his strength and lift the giant up before throwing him across the floor. The assailant rolled around, dropping his scythe and struggled to his knees before bowing, his head on the floor.
"I'm so sorry!" He cried out in alarm.
"Eh?!" Naruto blinked while Saboten watched on, stars in her eyes at how cool her Aniki was.
"Please have mercy!" The giant repeatedly bowed his head, probably doing more damage to himself as his head hit the dirt than what Naruto had done with the throw. The blonde ninja was getting a headache just watching the giant.
Before Naruto could think of a response, his instincts told him to jump back, which he did just in time to see a brunette blur fly past him and strike the prostrating giant, sending them both scuttling across the floor. When the dust settled, Naruto found himself staring at a brunette wearing dirty overalls. Her muscular build showed she was no stranger to hard work and after recovering her bearings, she gave Naruto a hard glare.
"Hey? What's the big idea? Don't go picking on Fremont!" The girl had a thick country accent.
"Fremont? You mean the big blue guy you're sitting on?" Naruto gestured to the giant who had gone silent, although the fact that after the collision, the girl was straddling his face may have had something to do with that.
"Ah crap!" The girl leapt off of him, "Sorry 'bout that big fella. You alright?"
"I-I'm fine. Thank you, Jackie," Fremont mumbled, a thick blush on his face.
"I guess your name's Jackie, then?" Naruto gestured to the girl, who nodded fiercely.
"Damn straight I am," She smirked. "The name's Jackie Shuukaku, best dern farmer for at least fifty miles."
"Shuukaku…" Saboten frowned. "That's the name of the man who owns the farm next to this one. I remember Papa mentioning him! Wait… She's here to spy on Papa's farm!" Saboten pointed at her plan. "This is why Papa wanted walls and a moat!" She declared, flailing her arms wildly.
"Walls and a moat?" Jackie snorted with laughter, "That does sound like something the guy who used to run this farm would want. I remember he did always seem to dream big. I'm the daughter of the guy who used to run Shuukaku farm. Pleased to meetcha."
"Um...not to sound rude, but could you explain why you're here?" Naruto asked.
"Well, the spider-gal and the toad-punk said ya could use some help getting your farm up and running so I figured me and the big boy here would come and give ya some tips. Well, until ya went and threw him like a sack of potatoes anyway." Jackie frowned slightly and crossed her arms. "I don't appreciate that, ya hear?"
"Why did he sneak up and not say anything? Saboten-chan here was terrified!" Naruto challenged.
"I… You see…" Fremont looked away. "I'm sorry!" He fell back into the prostrating position, "I'm not the best at dealing with new people. I was trying to work up the courage to say hello!"
"Get on ya feet ya big softy," Jackie sighed as she watched the blue giant struggle to his feet.
"Oh. sorry," Naruto rubbed the back of his head with an embarrassed smile. "I've heard bad stories about people with scythes back where I come from. Anyway, my name is Naruto, and this is Saboten, the daughter of this farm's owner."
"Hi!" Saboten waved cheerily. "Papa always said your papa was a bit of a rube, but a nice guy."
"R-rube?" Jackie blinked. "This kid is pretty blunt, ain't she?"
"Eh?" Saboten tilted her head in a cute manner. "Is rube a mean word? Papa said it meant someone who lived away from the city. Ah… I guess that means we're all rubes." The girl beamed cutely, earning a soft chuckle from Naruto and Jackie.
"Well ain't you the cutest little… er…" Jackie tilted her head, "Sorry but I reckon I've never seen a Liminal like you before?"
"Liminal?" Saboten tilted her head. "I"m a Pink Slime like mama!"
"Pink Slime?" Jackie glanced at Fremont who merely shrugged. "Well nice to meet ya lil' Sabby-chan. We farmer's daughters should stick together!"
"Right!" Saboten beamed before turning to Naruto for confirmation, "Is that okay Aniki?"
"That's fine by me," Naruto shook his head with a wry smile as Saboten cheered and ran up to Jackie, bombarding her with questions. Jackie was unable to get a word in edgewise until Naruto cleared his throat.
"So...you said you were here to help me out?" Naruto ruffled Saboten's head slime when she pouted at him for interrupting her.
"Eeyup," Jackie nodded. "So… Whatcha ya know about farming?"
"You grow crops and raise animals," Naruto nodded.
"And rice!" Saboten chimed in, "Then you make it into Sake and give it to your friends!"
"I get the feeling I might've bitten off more than I can chew," Jackie chuckled as she took in the farm. "Ya got to work weeding the place though, so at least ya can do that."
"So! Trying to invade my turf, are ya?!" A boisterous Toph yelled as she limped over towards them. "I'll have to show ya why ya don't mess with me!"
"Oh, hey Toph," Naruto glanced at the toad-type. "You know, I can heal that ankle if you want me to."
"Feh!" Toph spat on the floor. "A little injury like this ain't gonna stop me!" Despite her bravado, it was clear her ankle was causing her some discomfort as she stabbed the bokuto into the floor then leaned on it to try and take the weight off of her wounded ankle.
"Plus, it gives her an excuse to use whenever she fails," Chichi added cheerfully as she and Kaguya joined the group.
"As the lady of this land, I welcome you," Kaguya bowed her head softly. "Please forgive the others they are…" She paused as she regarded Toph, "A work in progress, you might say."
"Fight me!" Toph challenged before an icy glare caused her to look away and mumble under her breath how lucky Kaguya was that she had plans today so couldn't kick the bunny goddess' backside.
"Well, the name's Jackie and this here is Fremont. Say hi big boy." She glanced at the troll who was trying to cower behind the much smaller girl. "It's a pleasure to meet ya," She offered a hand to Kaguya, who frowned before lightly gripping the cleanest finger and shaking it. "Ha! Your a barrel of laughs!" Jackie snorted.
"I am Kaguya, the lady of these lands. I am assuming by your… dialect that you are a local. If you require something from me, request if from my servant," Kaguya paused. "You seem acquainted with him and the other… guests at the house so I shall not waste your time with introductions. May I inquire as to your purpose on my lands?"
"If ya wanna take the farm I'll take you all on!" Toph added her two cents. "You'd better be ready for an ass kicking like no other!" She posed proudly, Saboten gazing at her in admiration much to Chichi's displeasure.
"Jackie has kindly offered to teach me a few things to help us start up the farm," The Arachne shook her head as the toad-type started stretching out as if getting ready to fight, with Saboten looking just as pumped up as the toad-type herself.
"Yeah, though I wasn't really expecting ya to be so… inexperienced and for the farm to be in such a state." Jackie laughed weakly. "Don't get me wrong, the living area is pretty nice, but the actual farm needs some love."
"Unfortunately, the servant's repairs were quick fixes with limited materials. I expect him to remedy this in due time." Kaguya gestured to Naruto who was shaking his head at Toph and Saboten's antics.
"By himself?" Jackie gestured to the farm. "This is a pretty large area. Even Fremont here would need help to work all this land and get everything up and running. Ya'll need an army or something."
"You called?" Naruto smirked as he summoned another wave of clones.
"Wha…" Jackie blinked as she walked up and poked one of the clones. "I… Are you a Liminal as well?" She glanced at Naruto who shook his head.
"Nope, 100% human!" Naruto proudly announced as the summoned clones spread out to work on the farm.
"Well," Jackie grinned, "I'll guess that means ya might have a chance of getting this place up and running. Fremont here can help ya with the heavy lifting. He's a pretty tough fella," She playfully punched the giant who blushed and looked away.
"He doesn't look so strong," Toph boasted. "I could take him on!"
"W-well…" Fremont started twiddling his fingers while resting the scythe against his body. "I wouldn't want to… I mean I could hurt you…" He kept mumbling as Toph tried to goad him into a fight.
"Tell ya what," Jackie rolled up her sleeves, revealing well-developed arms. "I'll challenge ya to an arm wrestle."
"Ya wanna rumble with me?" Toph took her jacket off. "Your funeral!"
"Er… I don't think you should," Fremont looked at Jackie nervously. "You might get hurt, and if something should happen to you I don't know what I'd do…"
"It's just a friendly arm wrestle," Jackie laughed as she slapped the troll on the back. "Quit your worrying!" She walked over to a tree stump, with Toph taking her position at the opposite side, and the two got ready to wrestle, watched over by a worried Fremont and bemused Naruto, who was ready to step in should it be required.
"On the count of three?" Jackie grinned as she locked hands with Toph.
"Sure," The toad-type grinned. "I'll even let ya count down. It won't do ya any good, though. You're gonna lose!"
Naruto watched as the match begun. While Toph could take a good game, most of her strength came from her legs and leaping attacks. She had a bit of strength in her arms, but no more than say a Genin from his village. Admittedly that did put her above a normal human. Jackie, on the other hand, appeared better built for such a contest. The hard life of a farmer had built her strength to impressive levels.
After five minutes, the two contestants were starting to get fatigued, and Chichi was getting increasingly worried that Toph would hurt Jackie, but it appeared her fears were in vain as the human girl released her grip with a tired sigh.
"Damn, you're too strong for me," Jackie laughed. "That was pretty intense."
"Ha! Another bows before the almighty Toph-sama!" The toad-type posed victoriously, much to Naruto's amusement. She started bowing to an imaginary crowd and picking up an imaginary trophy, making the peace sign at the other Liminals. "I figured I'd take it easy on ya so I didn't hurt ya."
"Such a sore winner," Chichi shook her head.
"That was awesome Onee-sama!" Saboten cheered, unaware of the flinch from Toph who merely grunted a quiet thanks before falling uncharacteristically quiet.
On seeing Saboten's reaction, the Long-Legged Arachne was struck by inspiration. "S-say Jackie-san?"
"Yeah?" The female farmer smiled at the Arachne, "How can I help ya?"
"Would you care to arm-wrestle me as well?" She coughed awkwardly, aware that Saboten had turned her attention to Chichi. "As a potential police officer, I need to be able to overpower and restrain people if necessary and feel as if you would be a good test of my own physical abilities."
"You want to arm wrestle too?" Saboten walked over to her and Chichi's heart swelled as she imagined the young Slime calling her cool and seeing like a big sister.
"That's right," Chichi smiled.
"You want to oppress Jackie-chan?!" The small girl looked horrified. "Papa was right! Police only want to bully those who can't fight back! You waited until Toph-nee wore her out before pouncing!"
"Er… No… That's not…" Chichi deflated as the Slime girl wagged a finger at her as if scolding a child.
"Papa said police are bad people who brutalize the innocents!" Saboten stood between Jackie and Chichi.
"They sure do," Toph nodded sagely, having recovered from the strange quiet spell. "She's finally showing her true colors!"
"Hai!" Saboten saluted Toph, leaving the devastated Chichi slumping her humanoid torso forward, a bemused Naruto patting her shoulder as a confused Kaguya and Fremont watched on.
"What a lively household," Jackie laughed boisterously. "Ya must have so much fun here."
"It is certainly… different." Kaguya frowned. "Only last night we all almost got killed by a slime monster and about a week ago I nearly got killed by a large vehicle."
"I did get hit by that truck," Naruto pointed out in a cheerful voice, somewhat at odds with the topic of conversation.
"Ya got hit by a truck?" Jackie's eyes widened as she looked for any signs of injury. "Huh, guess if ya can make solid clones of yourself, it ain't that surprising that you survived being hit by a heavy thing like that."
"You believe him?" Chichi blinked, surprised at the easy-going nature of the country girl. Even she took a bit of time of witnessing Naruto's abilities before accepting that he would have survived such an impact.
"Well, I already seen that him make clones," Jackie laughed. "If ya can't believe your own eyes, what can ya trust? Plus, he seems decent enough." She nodded, fully confident in her ability to judge people. It hadn't steered her wrong yet.
"You and the idiot servant will get along swimmingly. You both seem to trust people on sight," Kaguya sighed wearily. "It is a trait that will no doubt put you in as much danger as my servant has put me in."
"Hey, I've saved you almost as many times as I've nearly gotten you killed," Naruto pointed out somewhat defensively.
"Ohoh?" Jackie laughed. "So he is like your prince charming? Swooping in to save ya?"
"I am unfamiliar with this 'Prince Charming', but if his name is anything to go by, the servant is nothing like him," Kaguya stated with certainty. "Still he is… almost competent."
'Coming from her that's practically a confession.' It always amused Naruto how he could visualize Kurama's expressions by his tone of voice. Naruto could see him grinning smugly, happy to poke fun at Naruto and Kaguya (at least out of her earshot). 'So, when's the wedding?'
Naruto chose not to respond, but silently chuckled to himself.
There was a rustling under the covers of Toph's bed as Narf decided to officially start his day. Much like his mistress, he was a firm believer in not doing much before dinner time, besides eating breakfast that is. He would have travelled with his mistress, but decided to do some more exploring instead. He had entered this household some days ago, and he and the toad-type seemed to bond instantly, that is to say, she gave him scraps, and he was perfectly happy to eat them. Add to that the fact his mistress's room had plenty of cozy places for him to hide and sleep and you had the perfect living arrangement for the rat.
He crawled down the bed, sniffing the air and skittering to the door without any sign of fear or caution. As far as he was aware, his mistress ruled this place (at least she made it sound that way to Narf), and as such, he was also high up in the hierarchy of the household and free to go where he pleased.
On previous adventures, he had explored the giant spider girl's room, finding it too clean for his liking. There were no scraps of food to eat, and everything smelt wrong to the rat. This time however, she seems to have started putting down traps in response to his mistress's living conditions, and while Narf was far too smart to fall prey to one, it was a clear "stay out" message that the rodent was happy to oblige...especially since there was nothing in that room he wanted.
The blonde one's room was bare bones with even fewer decorations that the spider girls. He had left what looked like, to Narf anyway, some sharp metal sticks and stars lying on his table. There were a few pieces of paper there as well, covered in human words and pictures of farm and forge related things, but they seemed mostly untouched. There was also a note on top that smelled of the giant spider on them, suggesting maybe the blonde one had asked her to get them for him. None of this was of interest to Narf however, as there was nothing to eat, so the room was very rarely visited.
The newest arrival unnerved his mistress somewhat, and Narf wasn't sure why. Her room was also mostly empty, with a picture of what the rat assumed where her father and her hugging. Once again there was no food here, and he only checked it for clues on why his mistress was so uneasy around the girl. When no clues materialized, Narf quickly gave up looking and instead headed to the last room for him to explore. In his short time here, he had always gotten strange vibes from the pale, horned woman's room, but with nothing else to do, Narf decided to investigate. The rat approached the door cautiously as it had been left slightly ajar by its occupant before she had left with Narf's mistress. His nose twitching slightly, he peered around the door and slowly crept into the strange room.
The first thing he noticed was the low level of light, even around this time in the afternoon. The curtains were drawn to allow only the barest amount rays in that were required to safely navigate the room. Beyond this was a small calligraphy set to one side, which Narf ignored as it wasn't edible. The rat paused in its travels as he sensed eyes on himself. Looking towards the bed, the curious rodent could see the sparkling of what seemed like hundreds of equally curious eyes.
Not one to back down from a challenge, Narf stood his ground, almost daring the onlookers to approach, to which one did.
Usagi had been confused when the rat first entered the room. This was the rabbit's territory and as a representative of Lady Kaguya, lady of the house, should have been viewed as sacred by the other residents. That a low breed rodent dared to tread inside was a shock to Kaguya's favored rabbit, but that shock grew to anger as Narf refused to leave.
Hopping from its spot on the bed, the rabbit slowly advanced on Narf, weighing up the other rodent. Narf, for his part, found himself unnerved by the unyielding glare of this lead rabbit as well as the other eyes watching him, waiting for a moment to strike.
The two animals stood staring each other down, waiting for the other to make the first move. The glare of the rabbit made it clear that the rat wasn't welcome here, yet the rat was not going to back down. This was his mistress's house and he definitely out-ranked some fluffy bunnies.
After a tense standoff that lasted several minutes, there was a clattering noise from downstairs, and Narf chose to retreat. He had made his point and if the bedroom's owner were to return, things could get nasty. Still, he tried to leave the room as slowly and casually as possible to let that prissy rabbit know he wasn't fleeing, merely that it wasn't worth his time.
If Narf's actions were designed to get under Usagi's skin, they succeeded and the rabbit watched the rat leave, resisting the urge to leap after it and chase the thing away. It was below the rabbit to act in such a manner Usagi decided before hopping back onto the bed.
But if that vulgar rat thought it could trespass on Lady Kaguya's sacred territory and get away with it, then that it was clearly misinformed. Usagi would have its revenge.
Back in the Fields
Naruto wiped the sweat from his brow and leaned on the hoe as he watched his clones industrially toil away under the quiet guidance of the troll Fremont. There was something satisfying about seeing his clones hard at work like a uniformed task force, plus the fact they seemed to be making good progress was heartening.
Unfortunately, not everyone was being as helpful. Toph, having defeated Jackie in an arm wrestle, was feeling pretty good about herself and decided to return to the house to get something to eat and revel in her glory. Kaguya, having grown bored of standing around watching clones of Naruto digging up dirt, joined the toad-type in returning to the household, followed by Chichi who had sworn to keep them out of trouble. All Naruto had said is that he knew she would as he trusted her and the Arachne's earlier gloom had been lifted, and the group left, all of them in reasonably good moods. Toph had won a fight; Chichi had been praised and Kaguya… well she wasn't as vocal as usual in her complaints, so Naruto was taking that as a sign that she was in a good mood.
Saboten was cheerful as always and fully committed to helping rebuild her Papa's farm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm was not converting into progress, as the cheerful slime girl had been hacking at the same patch of weeds with a small sickle for about twenty minutes now with little progress, but every sign of enjoying the work she was doing.
"Well," Jackie wiped her forehead with the back of her arm, smudging some dirt across it before leaning on her shovel. "There's nothing quite like a bit of hard work to get the blood pumping." She glanced at the clones, "I'll imagine that ya grateful for the clones eh?"
"You can say that again," Naruto chuckled. "This would be an impossible task without them."
"I sure wouldn't mind having ya on my farm," Jackie nodded, unaware of Fremont's sudden look of horror. "Ya could really ease the workload on the big guy and me. Them clones o' yours are something else."
"Thanks," Naruto let out a chuckle, "Kind of funny that the one technique I always failed at the academy would be my go-to technique now."
"Oh?" The farmer's daughter tilted her head, "That's a learner technique?"
"It's an advanced version of a basic technique known as a Bunshin," Naruto grinned.
"Say… You're definitely a human, right?" Jackie frowned. "I don't reckon I ever heard of anyone who could do these magic tricks like you."
"Magic? They're ninjutsu," Naruto explained.
"Ninjutsu? Like what ninjas are supposed to use?"
"I am a ninja," Naruto gestured to his forehead protector. "From the Village Hidden in the Leaves, Konoha."
"Fancy sounding name," Jackie chuckled before stretching out. "Ya reckon ya could teach me how to do it? I imagine having lots of me running 'round my farm could be plenty useful."
There was a sudden choking noise from Fremont, earning Naruto and Jackie's attention.
"Ya okay there, big fella?"
"F-fine," Fremont mumbled before returning his attention to the clones.
"I don't think so, see I use stuff called chakra to perform jutsu," Naruto rubbed the back of his head. "It's kind of like an internal energy source that is composed of physical and spiritual energy. Humans from here don't seem to have much, if any, so I doubt you'd be able to learn anything as demanding as the Kage Bunshin."
"Well ain't that a kick in the teeth," Jackie let out a disappointed sigh.
"If you ever need some help though I'd be happy to send you a small group of clones," Naruto offered. "Thanks to… certain circumstances I have plenty of chakra to spare."
"Well, I might take you up on that next harvest time," She chuckled. "I don't have a shortage of hands to work, but cheap and trustworthy labor would definitely help." She glanced at Fremont. "Can't leave all the hard stuff to Fremont over there."
"It's no trouble really," Fremont smiled at her.
"How'd you two meet?" Naruto asked.
"Same way as you and the girls, I'd wager," Jackie glanced at the afternoon sky, "Signed up as a host 'cause I figured I might get a Liminal that could help on the farm, and next thing I knew Fremont showed up. Been thanking my lucky stars since. Running a farm like my old man's ain't easy, but with a good friend like Fremont to help out… things ain't so bad." She smiled warmly at Fremont who suddenly found the ground very interesting.
"So, is it just you two on the farm?" Naruto asked.
"Most times," She nodded, a little bit of a distant look in her eyes, "I mean, the old man shows up to help in busy times, but he trusts me to run the farm 'round here."
"Just like my Papa!" Saboten cheerfully announced as she continued hacking away at the weeds. "He told me to look after his farm for him while he went on a journey with Mama."
"Still, it ain't an easy life. I mean, if I'd believed the rumors I probably wouldn't have bothered with the program, and the big lump and I would have probably never met."
"What rumors?" Naruto glanced at Jackie, who chuckled in response.
"Can't believe ya haven't heard none! When I went to sign up for the program, I had plenty of people telling me why it was a bad idea." Jackie lifted the shovel over her shoulder. "There were tales of some Liminals using the program as a cover for criminal activities and plenty of stories about humans being attacked by their guests. None were true mind you, but it seemed everyone knew someone who's auntie's cousin's niece's best friend had been attacked by a Liminal." She shook her head sadly. "Seems some people just wanna cause trouble and chase out anyone who isn't like them."
"Are there really people who are against Liminals?" Naruto frowned, realizing the only other human besides Jackie that he had interacted with since coming here was Ms Smith, who would probably required to be pro-Liminal given her job, and the delivery driver Ken, who didn't seem to get fazed by much.
"Yeah," Jackie nods, "Word is not so long ago there was a group who tried to attack Liminals. Of course, this was all just after they were announced to the world and no-one really understood each other. I'd like to think that after two years of interacting and livin' with each other, things have gotten a bit better. I certainly ain't had no issues, but I guess we are out in the sticks here." Jackie glanced at her watch. "Man, time flies! I'd better be heading back home."
"Thanks for the help and it was nice to meet you," Naruto grinned. "Feel free to drop by anytime."
"Thanks, I might take ya up on that." Jackie grinned as she walked over to Fremont.
"Sorry about the whole throwing you around thing," Naruto offered a hand which the blue troll shook lightly.
"Ah, It's nothing." Fremont bowed his head. "I'm sorry for scaring you!"
"It's okay!" Saboten waved her arms energetically. "Bye bye Jackie!" She gave the other girl a hug and fist bumped a confused Fremont.
"See ya Sabby-chan," Jackie called over her shoulder as the two guests left the farm, Saboten bouncing up and down and waving until they were out of sight.
"They were nice," Saboten nodded. "Papa always said rubes could be nice if you get on their good side."
"I think you should probably stop calling them rubes," Naruto shook his head as he headed back to the farm. "Say Saboten?"
"Hai?" The slime girl tilted her head adorably.
"Have you ever had any strangers come here to attack you because you were a Liminal?" Naruto glanced at the young girl to see if she looked worried, but she merely screwed her face up in thought for a few second before her usual cheerful expression returned.
"Nope," Saboten swung her arms as she skipped. "Plenty of people came to try and take Papa's farm, but I scared them all away."
"That's a relief," Naruto frowned as the two made their way back to the house, Saboten cheerfully chatting about the plans she had for the farm with Naruto paying barely any attention. This talk of people targeting Liminals was worrying to him. Living on a farm with quite a few Liminals meant such a group could possibly target them in the future, and while he was confident he could deal with them, he was still concerned for the others.
When they entered the house via the kitchen, they saw Chichi hard at work cleaning it. The utility belt that she normally wore on her hip had been replaced by a belt full of cleaning supplies. Currently, she was wiping down the kitchen counter , so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't even heard Saboten and him enter. With a mischievous grin, Naruto approached her quietly and tried his best to eliminate his presence before clearing his throat right next to her. The Arachne suddenly leapt backwards with a cry of alarm, before noticing the bemused Naruto and giggling Saboten. She looked away with a blush to compose herself.
"H-handler-san!" Chichi took a deep breath, "I apologize. I should have been paying more attention. As a host, you deserve my full attention as stated under…"
"It's okay," Naruto cut her off before she could get started. "You were hard at work. You know, you don't have to do this. You could just leave the chores to my clones."
"I don't want to feel as if I am taking advantage of your good nature," the Arachne returned her attention to the counter she had been cleaning. "I know the others are… less than helpful in looking after this house."
"W-well," Naruto laughed weakly. "I guess Toph and Kaguya don't really help out that much but still, you and Saboten do."
"Papa told me to work hard for my dreams!" Saboten declared.
"He was a wise man," Chichi smiled to try and get on Saboten's good side.
"He also said coppers are only nice when they are planning to arrest you and need you to lower your guard to get evidence," Saboten added.
"Er… That's not always the case," The many legged girl shook her head softly.
"Where are the others?" Naruto decided to interject before Saboten said something to depress Chichi again. The Arachne sighed and returned her attention to the blonde ninja.
"Toph is in her room playing pretend," Chichi rubbed her forehead. "She's been hopping around fighting imaginary enemies. Kaguya said she wanted to use the computer."
"Oh?" Naruto blinked.
"Well she said she wanted to goggle the webs for answers," Chichi smiled, "But I got what she meant."
"Goggling webs?" Naruto and Saboten had matching blank expressions.
"Oh… I forget that since Saboten grew up in the surrounding woods, she probably doesn't have much knowledge of computers and that you're from a different world." She smiled weakly, "I apologize if I seemed insensitive."
"Don't worry about," Naruto laughed, "It's just another thing that makes you a vital member of this household. You're the only one who really gets this technology stuff."
"Thank you," Chichi found herself feeling warm inside. This feeling of being needed, of being relied upon… She enjoyed it. The fact that she could tell Naruto was being honest was also a strange experience for the young woman. Most humans found it awkward to talk to her due to her spider-like body yet Naruto didn't even seem to notice. He just treated her like she was a normal girl.
"Don't mention it. Say, I had a few questions if you don't mind," Naruto sat down at the kitchen counter, while summoning a few more clones to start work on preparing some food.
"Article 21-E subsection 3 states that a guest must answer their host's questions unless it conflicts with another law. Plus, I would be happy to answer your questions regardless," The Arachne resumed cleaning as Saboten decided to help her with more enthusiasm than skill.
"Great," Naruto beamed at her, "So I was wondering if you'd heard anything about Anti-Liminal groups?"
"A little," Chichi paused in her work, a small frown on her face. "As I have previously mentioned, such a group lived near my village and although it only happened once, they did burn down a Liminal's house. Fortunately, no one was hurt badly. From what I've heard, there have been attacks on Liminals, which is why the rule about being no further than 100 yards from their handler was added, to ensure a Liminal didn't wander off and get ambushed."
"I see," Naruto frowned.
"Still, these all happened in the earlier days of the treaty when it was new and there was plenty of misinformation going around." The Arachne smiled at Naruto. "There are a couple of groups that are still Anti-Liminal, though. One of them seeks to get the treaty annulled, but they have so little support that they're largely ignored. There were rumors of a terrorist organization a few months back, but I think that was just a story to sell newspapers."
"I don't get it," Naruto sighed. "I mean, have they even talked to a Liminal before? Both you and Saboten are good people."
"And Toph?" Chichi smiled.
"I don't get why people would want to hurt you," Naruto chose to ignore Chichi's question, much to the larger Arachne's amusement.
"It goes both ways, much like humans there are Liminals who don't want to mingle with humans and think the program is a plot against us." She resumed cleaning while Naruto frowned. "Others do have less than stellar motives for joining the program as well."
"It's stupid," He finally declared. "Liminal, human… we are all just people at the end of the day. We should all just get along."
"That would be nice," Chichi nodded. "But even with the laws we have now, they are designed to keep distance between hosts and guests."
"Yeah, I mean isn't there a rule saying that you can't be too close or something?!" He let out a sigh.
"It's a crime to become intimately involved," Chichi looked away with a soft blush.
"But what if a Liminal and their host falls in love? Isn't there a law saying you can't hurt each other. I'd wager loving someone but not being able to be with them is pretty damn painful." Naruto shook his head.
"Speaking from experience?" Chichi asked curiously.
"It's nothing," Naruto sighed and waved his hand dismissively, so Chichi tactfully chose not to continue with her questioning.
"Do you really think you could fall in love with a Liminal, though?" Chichi gestured to her spider half, "We aren't exactly what your species considers attractive. For example, I am basically part spider, a feature that many humans find unsettling."
"Don't sell yourself short," Naruto chided her. "You have a pretty face and eyes, even if you do have more than a human usually would. So, what if you have lots of legs? To some people that'd be a good thing. Plus, you're a nice person that I'm glad to know. I can easily see how a human could like you." Naruto nodded sagely. 'Ero-sennin could probably add a few more reasons to that list.'
'If it was female and had a pretty face, he had all the reasons he needed to try and seduce it,' Kurama's voice carried a sort of disdain. Biological functions were messy and complicated to the giant fox and he was perfectly happy not getting involved in such things. He was fine with relationships, but the added trappings seemed too much like hard and messy work to the proud fox.
"O-oh," Chichi was somewhat taken aback by his honest response. "I… er… Thank you."
"How about you?" Naruto smiled, "Could you see yourself with a human?"
"I-it would be illegal!" Chichi went bright red, "B-but if my heart said yes… I guess… I don't know it's too soon for me to comment." She suddenly buried her face in her hands, much to Naruto's confusion, but before he could comment there was an angry snarl that snapped Chichi out of her daze.
"VULGAR SPIDER! YOUR WEB IS FILTH! PURE FILTH!"
"Eh?" Naruto and Chichi shared a glance before heading to the computer room where a furiously blushing Kaguya was stood with her hand over her eyes and her back to the computer screen.
"Is everything alright?" Naruto blinked.
"No! This enemy of all morals has tried to corrupt me!" Kaguya snapped.
"I don't understand," Chichi glanced at the computer.
"W-well I was researching pink slimes," Kaguya remarked. "To find their weaknesses. There is… little information available. Then I realized none of the images really fitted the monster that attacked us, so I tried the "image search", as the vulgar spider had suggested and searched for 'Pink slime attacks girls with tentacles'." Her face went bright red, which when compared to the usual pale nature of her skin was rather impressive. "AND I GOT THAT FILTH!"
Naruto and Chichi glanced at the screen that Kaguya was refusing to look at.
"Oh." Naruto blinked. "That is… yeah… Ero-sennin would probably like that."
The picture involved a fairly, attractive girl being molested by tentacles. It looked like the kind of thing that Ero-sennin would have put in his books. Even with his resilience to such material, the explicit nature of the image had his cheeks starting to heat up. He looked away when he became aware of Chichi and Kaguya's pointed looks.
"Suddenly your interest in keeping Saboten here is explained," Kaguya narrowed her eyes. "To think that my servant is such a degraded pervert. Clearly, the vulgar spider has gotten to you!"
"It isn't like that," Naruto shook his head furiously. "Honestly!"
"Handler-san," Chichi looked a little concerned. "Was your earlier speech about the relationships between Liminals and humans related to your… unconventional desires?" The Arache looked torn between embarrassment and and condescending. "To engage in such acts would be in violation of…"
"It's not like that!" The ninja protested his innocence repeatedly. "You have to believe me!"
"What's going on in there?" Saboten cheerfully called from outside the room.
"Stay out!" Naruto and Chichi called in unison, the former quickly shutting the door before turning his attention to the two girls in the room.
"Yes… It is probably a good idea to keep you apart from that creature." Kaguya narrowed her eyes. "The dishonor of having a servant who indulges in such activities would be overwhelming." She shivered and refused to make eye contact with the tearful ninja, her rage being replaced by disgust momentarily, before returning to rage as she caught the obscene image out of the corner of her eye. "Now do something about that… thing before my servant gets any more ideas!"
"I'm not… You've got to believe me Chichi!" He turned to the long-legged Liminal who was unable to meet his gaze. "Chichi…" He slumped in despair. "Not you too…"
"Handler-san…" Chichi placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It's alright. As part of my training, I have read many books on helping criminals rehabilitate themselves. Together I am sure we can help you out."
"...It's not like that…" Naruto left the room, a cloud of despair hanging over him. A curious Saboten was waiting outside the door, pouting cutely and tapping her foot.
"Ah Aniki! Can I go into the room yet? Oh no… Aniki is sad again! Did someone mention your dead parents? Ah… I mean… Sadness go away!" Saboten went to hug him only for Naruto to dodge her clumsy lunge. "Aniki?"
"It's probably best you don't get too huggy with me at the moment," Naruto offered her an empty smile before trudging to his room.
"Aniki?" Saboten watched him head to his room. "I have to cheer Aniki up! But how?"
Back in the computer room, Chichi was trying to defend herself against Kaguya's slander, with little more success than Naruto had achieved.
"How dare you subject me to such filth! Your web is obscene!" Kaguya glare threatened to burn through Chichi. The former goddess was radiating an overwhelming aura the likes the Arachne had never witnessed before. She was almost biblical in her overwhelming rage and Chichi found herself almost believing her claims of godliness.
"It isn't my web… It's just called the web, but it has nothing to do with Arachne. It's actually a collection of pages that are stored on servers and connected by..." Chichi trailed off as she realized that Kaguya's expression not softening in the slightest. "I guess that sounds like a lot of made up nonsense to you."
"Are you implying that I am too stupid to understand?" Chichi was pretty sure she could hear latin chanting in the background as the sheer force of Kaguya's displeasure started to smother her like some ancient evil that Chichi had unwittingly released from its tomb.
"Someone must have turned the safesearch off." Chichi mumbled, unable to think of anything else to say,
"Oh, that'd be me," Toph poked her head in, having been attracted by the loud noise and the sight of a sad looking Naruto dragging his feet along the floor towards his room. "So what did ya show the boss that put him in such a funk?" She glanced at the screen. "Ah… I get it." She paused as she saw the image on the screen. "Well… I ain't gonna judge ya copper...but I'm totally judging ya right now."
"Why did you suspect this is my search?!" Chichi was confused by Toph's remarks.
"You're far too uptight, so ya gotta have some sort of dark secret. Honestly, being into slime porn would probably be more normal than the weird crap I was expecting, but I guess it shattered your image as a perfect little goody two shoes. The boss will never be able to look at ya the same again." Toph snorted. "Personally, I had imagined you'd be into tying people with your webs and doing all sorts of messed up crap to 'em."
Kaguya opened her mouth to chastise the toad on her topic of conversation, but Chichi cut her off, eager to defend her honor.
"I can't make any webs!" Chichi frowned. "I would imagine that of all people would take care to know the differences between breeds!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Toph narrowed her eyes, trying to work out whether she was being insulted or not.
"You'd hate to be mistaken for a frog type, right?" The Arachne crossed her arms.
"We're completely different! Ya couldn't mistake a toad-type for a frog type unless you were blind!" The Bullywug scowled. "You Arachne all have loads of legs and fat asses! Plus ya all have different markings even in the same breed!"
"My abdomen is the perfect size for my species!" The officer in training frowned. "And for the record I am a long-legged type."
"You must be the useless breed then if ya can't even make webs. How the hell are ya gonna do all that kinky stuff like tying people up and…"
"I don't want to hear this!" Kaguya shook her head furiously. "Can we just remove this… obscenity from my view?"
Chichi and Toph paused in their argument, silently calling a truce to avoid triggering a cataclysmic response from the already incandescent former goddess. Toph leaned against the door, ignoring Saboten's 'please let me in' coming from the other side while Chichi walked over to the computer and tried to close the image, although for some reason the computer seemed reluctant to respond to her actions.
"It must have crashed." She paused before turning towards the disinterested toad-type. "Why would you even remove safesearch in the first place?!"
"'Cause I'm a badass," Toph smirked. "I don't need no 'safe' search! A badass thrives on danger!"
"That's not what it means!" Chichi clicked furiously, but somehow accidentally enlarged the image instead, much to the rabbit goddess' displeasure.
"You're making it worse foul cretin!" Kaguya jerked her attention away from the screen and stormed out of the room, leaving the door open and allowing the newest addition to the farm to wander inside.
"What's going on in there?" Saboten beamed as she walked in. "Oh, are you looking at something?"
"It's nothing!" Chichi shielded the screen from the young girl.
"Lemme see!" Saboten declared as she tried to peer around Chichi, however her abdomen was shielding the entire screen, a fact that Toph took great amusement in.
"It's not for you! Now leave!" Chichi made a shooing gesture. "Please."
"Looks like that fat ass of yours is actually useful for something," The toad-type cackled as she left the room with a slight limp, her ankle still not fully healed.
"T-Toph!" Chichi paled. "I could use your help here…!"
"Help a copper? Fat chance!" She snickered as she walked away, cheerfully whistling a tune.
"TOPH!" The spider girl watched the toad-type walk away, all the while still trying to keep Saboten from seeing the screen behind her. "Please! Get back here and help me! Toph?"
"Let me see!" Saboten frowned as she tried to peer around the Arachne. "Is that what made Aniki really sad? Was it your fault?"
"It wasn't me! Well… I suppose I may have played a small part," Chichi paused. "But either way I can't let you see this screen, so please please just leave the room."
"Papa warned me that coppers keep files on innocent people to bully them!" Saboten challenged, "I saw a Pink Slime, so you must have something on me!"
"That's not true!" The Arachne shook her head furiously, repositioning her spider half to completely block the screen.
"Then show me the image or prove me right!" Saboten had a triumphant look on her face. "Hehehe… Saboten is a master strategist," She added to herself in her loud whisper.
"I… I can't do that…" Chichi started sweating nervously.
"Papa was right. Police are all big jerks! Toph-nee sama would have let me see it! She's way cooler than you! I'll bet you are the reason that Aniki told me not to hug him! Stupid coppers ruin everything!" Saboten stuck her tongue out before running away.
"S-Saboten-chan." Chichi froze as the young girl ran away. "She's never going to accept me as a big sister…" She slumped her shoulders as the screen finally responded and closed the image. 'Too little, too late,' She thought as she left the room, mirroring Naruto's own exit several minutes earlier.
...and that's the end of chapter 8!
This chapter was a fun one. We learned a bit more about Saboten's parents, got a glimpse at Toph's past, got to see Naruto's neighbors again, and the great rodent rivalry has begun! Oh, and Kaguya discovered internet porn.
Next chapter we'll be wrapping up this day with one more special visitor and possibly finally starting that shopping trip as well as Saboten's interview with Ms Smith. Hopefully this chapter won't take as long as the last two.
Regarding Chichi's redesign, while "No" won the last poll, I decided to commission a picture of it anyway, as I hope to be able to possibly use Chichi and my other characters in other no-fanwork projects outside this story and I wouldn't be able to use Oyakado's Long Leg Arachne design in that case (I may even still need to tweak several of the designs if/when I do do such a project, but that's something to worry about later). If "No" wins the poll this time, nothing in the story will change and the design will just be for myself. If "Yes" wins, I'll go back and edit it in where relevant, as well as use it as an excuse to do some cleaning up I've been meaning to do, like cut down some of Kaguya's speeches from when I barely knew Drake and was more hesitant to give him criticism and fix up Toph's dialogue in Chapter 3 like I promised way back. Personally, I hope "Yes" wins ;P
This won't be relevant for a good while, but there's something I wanted to inform you all about so it doesn't come as a surprise later and you don't get your hopes up. Draco is a planned farm resident, but she will NOT be love interest for Naruto and will be strictly a lesbian. The reason for this is I had originally made plans for the story around character dynamics involving her and planned for her to be a love interest for Naruto, but the more a thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with changing that aspect about her and any attempt I made to come up with an idea to work around it just didn't feel right. However, I still like what she adds to the planned dynamic, so I've decided for her to remain a farm resident, but not end up with Naruto. She's going to have her own love interest though, and you may or may not get Naruto trying to help her get a date as her wingman.
Oh, before I forget, there's been a slight change to Chichi's backstory. The village she's from is in Hokkaido, not a place near the farm as mentioned in Chapter 2. Her village started interacting with humans not long after the reveal of Liminals to the world, which was several years before the treaty was established, which itself was a few years before the Exchange Program was set up (in this version of the Monster Musume universe, anyway).
Off the top of my head I can't think of any expected questions that aren't just spoilers, so I'm just going to leave you with some lore I've come up with this iteration of the Monster Musume universe: As the cost of reimbursing hosts for food and damage as well as free remodeling of homes can be quite expensive, the Exchange Program is partially funded by donations, including those made by Liminals. Because the majority of them are independently wealthy, donations from Kobolds alone make up more than a third of the Program's funding.
See ya next time!