Chapter Eight: Visitors and Surprises. (Part one.)
"Wow. Just… just wow." Muttered the form of Barbara Gordon from her post in the Gotham Clocktower as she monitored both news and social media outlets that pertained to the Elections, and the results… were nothing short of staggering. The Kingpin had essentially become an overnight sensation and was the hottest thing in Gotham right now.
"Anything notable Oracle?" Asked the Batman through the comm channel on her computer since he was busy with tracking the movements of Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins since it would be a waste of time for them to both monitor the same persons of interest.
"From what I can tell? Minato is blowing up all over the internet and the news. A lot of commentary involves his relatable character, his speech, and that unlike most politicians, he's prepared to put his money where his mouth is. Most everything surrounding him seems to regard him as some kind of a Saint. Even the narrative behind Thorne's death has been changed by the media.
They're now saying that the Kingpin was and I quote 'Taking a stand against a major figure of Gotham's corruption.' It's like they're now trying to paint him as some kind of a hero." Barbara reported finding it difficult to believe how one man could suddenly flip Gotham upside-down almost overnight with just one speech. Were people really that desperate and in need of someone new to take charge of City Hall?
Even so… she couldn't deny that he made some good points during his speech. "What about his company? Inari Pharmaceuticals?" The Dark Knight asked, prompting Oracle to drag the media feeds to a corner of the screen and pull up what minimal findings she could about the Kingpin's new company.
"His company has been pretty recently established and seems set to open their doors any day now. From what I've been able to find, they seem to be legit. And their public website is highly informative about their products and services. Nothing suspicious so far." Barbara spoke as she rubbed her temples, her report earning a small 'hmm' from the Batman.
"He's using Ivy's powers to grow his product rapidly. There's got to be some kind of twist or catch involved. I'll question Poison Ivy once I deal with the League of Assassins. The others shall monitor his known associates for now since the Kingpin himself isn't showing his true colors, as for the man himself, he is scheduled to appear at a Charity event which Artemis will be covering while disguised as a guest. We'll find the chink in his armor sooner or later." Batman spoke prompting Barbara to nod in understanding.
"Understood. I'll be signing off then." Oracle spoke causing the Caped Crusader to mutter an 'affirmative' as she killed the feed and switched off her equipment. With a sigh, Barbara clenched her fists and forced her legs to move, planting her feet on the floor as she slowly rose up and stood to her full height.
For so long, her wheelchair had been a sort of prison and constant companion, and a reminder of what was almost taken from her, Of what she and her father endured that tragic night when the Joker shot her and kidnapped her dad. She sighed to herself as she stepped forward at a low yet confident stride towards the display case that contained her Batgirl suit.
Her days as Batgirl were some of the best in her life, and she never once regretted a thing. It took time to adjust to her role as 'Oracle' but she had been happy to continue helping the Bat-Family and her dad from behind the scenes… but now it was time to join the Frontlines once again. Batgirl was back. And no elusive criminal or maniacal Super-Villain was going to stop her from saving Naruto Uzumaki. "Just hang on little guy. Batgirl is coming to save you." She whispered to herself and grabbed her old suit from its display. Her 'Batgirl Hiatus' was officially over.
After a few moments, she had donned her suit once more, it felt comfortably snug. Almost as if she were being warmly embraced by an old friend and mentally thanked herself for keeping her suit maintenance and up-to-date on the latest tech so it would always be ready for her. Luckily, she had a means of finding the Kingpin since she had footage of his private limo and its plates.
She could use that information to triangulate its position via her information network. It was now time to go to work.
Meanwhile, Unknown Location.
BLAM! BLAM! Were the sounds that filled the area as Naruto aimed down the sights of a carbine rifle before popping off another round, the bullet ripping through a human shaped dummy that was made out of a special gelatin which made it a very realistic target… and the Uzumaki felt an odd sense of catharsis from seeing the damage he had inflicted on said dummy… largely because he imagined the damage being done to some of his old tormentors from Konoha, like Sasuke or Sakura for instance.
From what he'd been able to discover through his own observations and guesswork, it seemed as if that most humans outside of the Shinobi Nations couldn't tap into their Chakra, most likely since it wasn't widely used or taught as it was in the Shinobi Nations, and thus the people in the rest of the world relied more on technology and such things.
And since he didn't have anyone to teach him more of the Shinobi arts, he'd need to adapt with his current skills and learn new ones. And one of his favorites was the usage of firearms and had already found that he favored revolvers, carbines, and shotguns… plus he really liked seeing those dummies explode. Of course he wasn't negligent in martial arts training either, Selina, Quinn, And Crush were all highly competent combatants to varying degrees… but they were all heavy hitters in their own right. The bruises he attained in their sparring sessions could attest to that.
On another note, he wasn't just training his body, but his mind as well. For years he had one negligent teacher after another, Iruka, Kakashi, Jiraiya, all of them having neglected to teach him anything worthwhile, so the only logical conclusion was that if no one was going to teach him what he would need… he'd have to look to other sources for knowledge and information.
He looked over his shoulder at the hundreds of Shadow clones that were pouring over countless books ranging from all manner of subjects such as mathematics, economics, politics, history, science, learning new languages and so forth. Every few minutes a few clones would dispel, transferring the information they'd gathered which would then enter his own mind, granting him a steady stream of knowledge.
The blonde boy cleared his throat and practiced a few lines in Russian, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and German to exercise his growing language skills. After all, learning things was utterly pointless if it wasn't put into practice in some form or other. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Neo watching him quietly as she playfully twirled her signature umbrella, a coy smile on her face as she held up a small pocket watch and tapped on the edge with her thumb, a not-so-subtle hint about his upcoming appointment.
Ah. Right. He was having so much fun shooting stuff that he'd forgotten that he was scheduled to appear at a Charity event, one that involved Children's Orphanages. "Thanks for the reminder Neo." The whiskered teen spoke as with a small smile. He or rather 'Minato' had a charity to attend and he wasn't going to waste a chance to help make the lives of those children better. Especially since he'd been where they were at one point of time.
He set down his firearm, being very much grateful that the Penguin had told him about this underground firing range where his munitions and merchandise could be safely tested away from prying eyes. The Blonde man followed his faithful bodyguard to an elevator that took them to the service and into a private parking garage where his personal limo was waiting for them.
She opened the door for him, allowing him entry and when he was inside, she shut the door behind him and made her way to the driver's seat and started the engine. Before long, it gently drove away as Naruto quietly sat inside as he meditated and absorbed the continued stream of knowledge from his clones.
After a few minutes of driving through the streets of Gotham. A loud Thud sound was heard atop the roof "You've got to be kidding me." The blonde muttered as he quickly changed into his 'Minato' Persona as he expected the form of the Batman to come crashing through the skylight like before… instead the skylight opened with a subtle click and slid open as a figure dropped through.
While the figure was indeed bat-themed… it was distinctly female in appearance and she had a hard piercing gaze that looked as though it could freeze hell over in a heartbeat. "Where's the kid?" She demanded furiously her voice sounding somewhat synthetic, likely having some kind of voice filter to disguise it, and her hands were balled tightly into fists as she stared at him coldly.
"Kid? What kid? I'm not that kind of a person. And who might you be?" He asked with a small smile and found his collar within her grip in the span of two seconds and he found himself staring deep into her eyes… which seemed extremely familiar to him plus she had some distinctive red hair that could only belong to one person he knew, but he wasn't going to jump to any conclusions just yet.
The partition between the passenger side and driver's seat gently lowered as Neo glared at the intruder, very much ready and eager to come to her boss's defense. "...?"
"It's all right Neo. Not the first time I've dealt with a bat." He responded with a light hearted chuckle, prompting the pinkette to slowly nod as she focused on the road, though that didn't mean she wasn't going to pay attention to whatever was going on back there.
The Kingpin cleared his throat and spoke "Now then ma'am. How about we take this down a notch and talk this over like mature adults?" Batgirl frowned a bit but then released him from her grip as she mentally cursed herself for coming in too hot. Stupid. Reckless. Just what she was trying to avoid to begin with. Idiot.
"Fine. I am called Batgirl. I only want to know one thing: Where is Naruto Uzumaki?" She asked sternly at the end causing the Blonde man to briefly frown. But it quickly changed into a serene smile since it didn't seem like this girl had caught on to his true nature, so he still held the advantage in that regard.
"What's your business with him?" The Kingpin asked as he crossed his arms, giving off a light-hearted chuckle while Batgirl narrowed her eyes at him.
"So you do know him. And my business is that a friend of mine is very worried about him and is killing herself trying to find him." She spoke as she stared down at him, her aura and posture making her look quite intimidating, even more so than Batman in some ways.
'Minato' gave a sympathetic smile as he rubbed the back of his neck and replied "I'm very sorry about your friend. Most unfortunately, after that whole debacle with Waller, Naruto-san doesn't wish to be found… by anyone really. And I gave him my solemn promise to not reveal his location to anyone."
His answer earned a small growl from Batgirl who spoke "And why do you care about that? Why help him at all? What's your angle?"
"No angle. My story and Naruto's are much the same, so I felt sympathetic for him. And my word is my bond, I'm not some snake that makes false promises. I'm a lot of things, but at the very least I wish to maintain some integrity and ethics in an otherwise unethical and generally dishonest world." The Kingpin answered with a shrug, earning a small growl of annoyance from the female Vigilante.
There was a tense silence in the air as they stared each other down and both came to the silent conclusion that they were in a stalemate. Naturally, there was only one logical course of action… a compromise.
"I'll tell you what, while I cannot tell you where he is, I can arrange a meeting between your 'friend' and Naruto-san on his own terms. Is that agreeable?" He asked which earned a stiff nod from the masked woman. The Blonde man then reached into his pocket and offered a card with his number in it. A little something Two-Face recommended that he keep on him… as well as having separate personal and business cellphones.
Batgirl snatched the card away and pocketed it within her belt "No funny business." She warned him in a venomous tone, prompting him to shake his head with an amused grin.
"No tricks. I promise. But I gotta say, this almost constant harassment by you Hero types is getting pretty old. We don't have to be enemies you know. We could do quite a lot if we worked together." He spoke in a nonchalant manner to which the crimson haired vigilante only gave him a hard stare before she climbed out through her previous entryway and disappeared from sight.
The Kingpin sat quietly in his seat, casually crossing his legs together as he quietly mused to himself. He couldn't help but wonder where he had slipped up, and believed that it must have been so small that he hadn't even noticed it… but someone else did. Still, it didn't really matter. He knew it was only a matter of time before someone came to him, asking questions about Naruto, his true self. Plus there were plenty of ways that would help throw off the unsuspecting.
He would need to make the necessary arrangements later. For now, he had other commitments to deal with first. His phone suddenly began ringing loudly from within his inner coat pocket, he pulled it out to check who was calling, and found it to be the number belonging to the Penguin. The blonde man pushed the appropriate button and brought it to his ear and spoke into the mouthpiece "Evening Mr. Cobblepot. Something you need?"
"I'm sorry, but Mr. Cobblepot is busy entertaining some of his guests. I took the liberty of 'borrowing' his phone for a few moments." spoke an unfamiliar voice that was both equal amounts of gentlemanly charm and pure authority. Something that he himself often tried his best to emulate.
"And to whom am I speaking to exactly?" The Kingpin asked calmly, the owner of the unknown voice replying back "I am known as Ra's Al Ghul, the Demon's head and the leader of the League of Assassins."
For a brief moment, the blonde paused as he recalled where he had heard those names before… Cheshire had briefly mentioned them during his stay in Arkham. "I trust you're familiar with one of my followers? A certain Cheshire? Let us dispense with false pretenses, I know who you are and I know where you are from. And perhaps most importantly, I know who your parents are BOY." Spoke the voice of the Demon's head, putting extra emphasis on that last word, signaling that he was aware of the Kingpin's true form.
"All right then Ghul-san… let's talk. I'm on my way to a Charity event, we can meet there. I trust you can find me easily enough?" The Kingpin asked, earning a curt 'of course' from Ra's before hanging up on his end, leaving the disguised Uzumaki to quietly think over this interaction. The only thing that came to mind in this situation was perhaps one of the few nuggets of wisdom that Kakashi had actually taught him to 'look underneath the underneath'.
For now, his only option is to meet with the Demon's head and hope for the best. Plus, there was something that wasn't adding up… how could a complete stranger know about his parents, while the Sandaime who was a Grandfather claimed to know nothing at all after all these years? His only guess was that for some reason, the Sandaime had been lying the whole time. Hopefully this Ra's Al Ghul could provide some insight in this matter.
For years he'd always wondered about his parents, he could only assume that they both died during the Kyuubi's rampage. Any knowledge he could learn about who they were and what may have truly happened to them could perhaps bring him some much needed closure. For now, it would be best to focus on the present and keep his head in the game.
Artemis scowled a bit as she observed the ongoing Charity party… and found it to be quite a sick joke. Every single donor and reporter whispered about only one thing, only one person was on their mind, and they only wanted one thing… the Kingpin.
'Mr. Minato is so handsome.'
'Mr. Namikaze could bring some real change to Gotham.'
'I'm glad the Kingpin has his priorities straight. He could clean our City Hall'
These were some of the many lines people spoke, all of them singing the man's praises or fawning over him, likely hoping to kiss up to him and get in his good graces. No one here seemed to care about why this Charity was being held in the first place. How could people be so shallow?
She scowled even deeper when she heard the expected clamoring of reporters followed by the sounds of cameras clicking when the guest of honor himself arrived with a cheerful smile as numerous reporters mobbed him with question after question. "No questions please." Was the repeated reply of the blonde man, showing his disinterest in the reporters as he slowly made his way through them with his pink haired bodyguard close at hand.
Artemis kept to the sidelines, doing her best to blend in, which was pretty easy since no one in particular seemed to be paying any real attention. She watched as her target made the necessary rounds, shook a few hands, politely (yet reluctantly) accepted some lip service from starry-eyed people offering endorsements and so forth.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the form of the infamous Ra's Al Ghul, an extremely notorious and well-connected man that was most definitely on the JLA's most wanted list… and he was eyeing her mark with a critical gaze. "Oh shit." was the only intelligent words that could come from her mouth as she saw the Demon's head slowly approaching the Kingpin… and it didn't seem like he was there to cut the man's throat.
"Ah. Namikaze-san. A pleasure to finally meet you in person." She heard the Demon's head speak as he approached the blonde man with an open palm, to which the Kingpin took his hand and shook it. They then began to speak in low tones, too low for her to hear at this distance, but she managed to catch bits and pieces by reading their lips.
From what snippets she caught, it seemed like Minato was suggesting that they speak somewhere privately to discuss the matter of their phone call, to which Ra's agreed as they departed quietly with Minato's bodyguard following close behind them.
Growling a bit, Artemis switched on her hidden earpiece and spoke into it to alert Batman "Artemis reporting, The Kingpin has been in contact with Ra's Al Ghul. Going to try and gain more information, standby." With that said, she followed them quietly and left the earpiece on so that Batman could hear everything that she did. She received no response from him but guessed that he was keeping the line clear so she could concentrate on the task at hand.
She followed quietly as possible, being sure to maintain a healthy distance from them as they stepped outside through an exit that led to a side alley, perfect place for some privacy away from any rich socialites. If she could just crack the door open, it would be possible to determine what it was they were talking about. If the Kingpin had the support of the League of Assassins… there was no telling what he could do.
As she slowly approached her destination, she felt something sharp press against her flesh as a soft hand grabbed her by the throat. "Shhhhhhhhh. Let's not cause a scene sister." Spoke a familiar voice… Cheshire.
"Jade. Been a while." The Blonde archer spoke as she swallowed a lump in her throat, knowing that one wrong move and she'd be bleeding out like a stuck pig given the very dangerous and lethal positioning of Cheshire's blade.
"Indeed it has. I wasn't expecting to find you here, alone, unarmed, and digging your nose where it doesn't belong. Seems like it's not your lucky night." Her sister spoke and mockingly 'tsked tsked' at the archer.
There was a tense silence between them as Jade took note of the earpiece Artemis was wearing and then quickly plucked it out before crushing it underfoot. "Come on Sis… let's go, catch up. It'd be rude to eavesdrop after all." Cheshire spoke in a slightly husky voice before dragging her sibling away to get… reacquainted with her.
"I do apologize if I alarmed you, but it was necessary for us to meet. My followers have secured the perimeter so we can speak freely. You may dispel the Henge, at your leisure." The Demon's Head spoke as he briefly gestured towards the shadows were numerous shapes seemed to be moving about within the darkness before vanishing altogether.
'Minato' hmmed in thought but decided to revert to his true form since the jig was up anyway. His form was briefly covered by a brief puff of smoke before his true self appeared. "You have my undivided attention Ghul-san. Neo? Be a good girl and kindly deliver my donation for the sake of those orphans." Naruto spoke before signing a check… with an exorbitant number of zeros on it and then handed it off to the pinkette.
She accepted the check and tipped her hat "... …?" in response to her question her boss shook his head and replied "No, that won't be necessary. Bring the car around after the donation is made. I came here for the sake of the children, not to entertain sycophants." At his instructions she nodded and tipped her hat again before vanishing back inside.
"Now then… let's cut to the chase. How do you know my parents?" Naruto asked, earning a small chuckle from the Demon's head since the boy was getting straight to business. He liked that very much.
"In all honesty, it is mainly your mother that I knew on a personal level. I never met your father directly, but I am more than aware of his reputation. Your mother's name was Kushina Uzumaki, often referred to as 'The Red Death' or 'The Evil Uzumaki' because of her violent temperament and brutal tactics during the Shinobi war. Furthermore… she was the Nidaime Kyuubi Jinchuuriki." Ra's spoke as he observed the boy's reaction and could tell the gears in his mind were hard at work.
"If my mother was the previous Jinchuuriki… then how was it possible for the Kyuubi to go on a rampage on the night of my birth?" The blonde questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"A fair question, and one that hasn't yet been answered. But I strongly suspect that some outside influence was involved. If you want to know more, I suspect that the beast itself may have some answers" Ra's spoke since he himself didn't have all the answers, just speculation.
"And my father? Who was he?" Naruto asked as he crossed his arms over his chest, his question earning a small chuckle from the League's leader as he replied "The very man that sealed the beast within you, and the namesake and likeness of the guise you wear."
The realization hit the Uzumaki like a ton of bricks… he was the son of the Yondaime Hokage?! Now things were starting to make sense! It would explain why (at least in part) that he was chosen to be the Kyuubi's container if his mother was the previous host, and also why the Sandaime refused to tell him about his parents.
It stood to reason that his parents had plenty of enemies that would likely seek revenge or try to exploit him, and if he himself knew of his parents and accidentally revealed his identity to the wrong people, it could have put him in great danger. Additionally, this also confirmed his theory that they had died during the Kyuubi attack. He would have to sort through the rest of the details and fill in the gaps if and when he made contact with the fox, but for now, at least he knew the truth.
Sure, Ra's could have been lying, but he didn't sense any deception from him nor did he see any reason why he'd lie about his parents anyway. Plus he was certain that the fox would be able to confirm this as well. "And your relationship with my mom was..?" The blonde boy asked as he tilted his head, and saw a somewhat saddened expression on the Demon Head's face.
"I am old. Much older than you know. I have been revived a number of times, and with each resurrection, a little more of me is worn away. I fear that one day, when my body is revived again… that I won't come back with it. And if that happens, who will rule the League? Who will watch over my daughter?
I met your mother by happenstance while I was seeking potential recruits for the League. And I saw firsthand your mother's brutality and skills, she was ferocious, but full of promise and so much potential. I believed she was a strong candidate to take over for me when I could finally be put to rest once and for all. Unfortunately, she died before I could extend the invitation… and then you came into the picture when you encountered Cheshire in Arkham, and everything changed in almost an instant." Ra's spoke and at the end a crooked smile appeared.
"You think I'm a potential candidate?" Naruto questioned, earning a slow nod from the Demon's head.
"You escaped from Arkham, masterminded the death of Amanda Waller, took the name of the Kingpin, persuaded multiple Super-criminals to aid you, killed Rupert Thorne, and you made almost the entirety of Gotham fall in love with you with one heartfelt speech. All in a very short amount of time. So yes, I strongly believe you to be a potential candidate." Ra's spoke, listing off each of the boy's accomplishments with a grin.
"If you take control of the League, you'll have a veritable army of highly trained Assassins at your very fingertips, ready and willing to serve your every whim. Additionally, the League certainly isn't lacking in wealth and resources that would also be yours." Ra's spoke which prompted Naruto to adopt a thinking pose.
"What's the catch?" Naruto asked since that all sounded a little too good to be true. Such a thing had to have certain strings attached. Ra's clasped his hands behind his back and replied in a professional tone "The only requirement is that you must earn it. But we can discuss this at a later date." Once the Demon's head had finished speaking, a Kunoichi appeared next to him and whispered something in his ear, earning a nod from her master.
"It seems that we will be having company shortly. I advise you to put on your Henge 'Namikaze-san'." Ra's advised prompting the Uzumaki to nod as he once again adopted his 'Minato' persona… though now he felt a bit weird for having unknowingly taken on the form of his father. For now though, he'd just keep up the act and sort through all of the information he'd learned later.
He was shocked when a young blonde woman was roughly shoved forward as she fell to the ground, her mouth gagged, some kind of cloth having been stuffed in her mouth which was kept in place by some tape and her hands, thumbs and index fingers tied behind her back with zip ties. The woman protested loudly, staring up at the two angrily as the form of Cheshire appeared and planted her foot on the girl's back.
"I caught this little rat snooping. Master, Mr. Namikaze, meet my sister, Artemis." The black haired Assassin spoke with a low bow.
The disguised Jinchuuriki felt happy to see the familiar face of Cheshire and was glad that she made it out okay but he couldn't help but comment "Being kind of rough with your sister, aren't you?" His words earning a giggle from the olive-skinned Assassin.
"A bit. Though to be fair, she didn't give me much choice." Cheshire replied with a shrug before pulling her sister up to her feet and kept a tight grip on her hair to keep her from trying to run.
Ra's then turned towards the Kingpin and spoke "I believe our business is concluded for the time being Namikaze-san. As my personal gift to you, I offer you Cheshire. She is now yours to do with as you please. Cheshire? I absolve you of your duties to me and the League of Assassins. After all, an Assassin cannot serve two masters. With that, I bid you goodbye Namikaze-san, or… should I say Sayonara?"
The Demon's head chuckled and then walked away into the shadows as he disappeared from sight, leaving behind no traces that he or his followers were even there to begin with. And now… only the three of them were left in that alley. Cheshire smiled in a haughty manner and spoke "I'll be more than happy to serve you now my new master. Give me a task, and I shall do it for you… no questions asked. If you want… I'll even join you in your bed. We can even pick up where we left off the last time." She spoke the last part in a husky manner, her sister shivering uncomfortably at the obvious implications.
"Now what should we do with my dear sister? She's quite rebellious, but I'm certain she'd make a nice pet. I'm open to a little sister on sister action if you ask me to." Cheshire spoke and planted a short kiss on her sister's cheek, the blonde archer paling in horror and quickly jerking her head from side to side in protest.
"Wow. Someone's horny." The Kingpin joked but he supposed that being a tease was a strategy she used to throw people off. A tactic his dear friend Anko often employed, sometimes mixed with a bit of sadism. He smiled sympathetically as he slowly stepped forward and brushed the back of his hand against Artemis' cheek.
She flinched and tried to jerk her head away as Jade made some shushing noises while keeping a firm grip on her. The disguised Uzumaki sighed as he spoke "The Batman sent you to spy on me… well… tell him that this whole 'stalker' thing is getting old really fast. Furthermore, tell him that like I told Batgirl, we don't have to be enemies. Okay? Now Cheshire? Kindly release your sister."
Without a word, the black haired woman released her sibling from her grip, making Artemis stumble forward a bit and bump into the Kingpin's frame. He grabbed her by the shoulder and then pinched off a corner of the tape over her mouth before tearing it off in one quick tug, earning a pained yelp from the archer. "Sorry about that." He said in an apologetic tone as he pulled out the cloth from her mouth, allowing her to speak once again.
"No hard feelings." Artemis muttered since she had gotten herself into this predicament to begin with. The blonde man sighed and asked her out of concern "Do you need anything? A ride somewhere? A hospital?"
"Ohhhhh. He's a sweetheart, isn't he sis? Tell me you don't want a piece of that." Cheshire asked as she slapped her sister's rear, making Artemis jump a bit and let out a small snarl. Obviously Jade was enjoying tormenting her a little too much.
Before the female Archer could say anything, a black limo pulled up and the familiar form of Neo appeared from the driver's seat with a small scowl "..? …? …!"
"No Neo, nothing to worry about. Cheshire here will be joining us, and Artemis was almost ready to leave. More importantly, my donation for Gotham's orphanages?" The Kingpin asked as crossed his arms, his question earning a thumb-up from the pinkette since she'd taken care of everything like he asked.
"Good. Thank you Neo. I'll put in a request for the legal teams to track the money. I want to ensure it is being used appropriately for the sake of the children. The last thing I want is for it all to be embezzled or misused." He spoke, his words earning a look of genuine shock from the blonde archer.
"Wait… you… you actually care? About the kids?" She asked in a stunned tone since many donors only attended Charity events to look good in the public eye and had no real care about where the money went or how it was spent.
'Minato' sighed and nodded as he answered her "I do care. It was for a brief time, but I did spend some time in an orphanage. I met a lot of kids there. Some were abandoned, others lost their parents, and others were given up because their parents couldn't properly care for them. But each and every one of them wanted the same thing as me… a fair chance. Tell me Artemis-chan… were you given a fair chance?" He asked at the end, his question making her stiffen up. Where the hell did that come from?
"Why… do you ask?" She spoke as she felt those piercing blue eyes looking into her own, she felt helpless, bare, and exposed under his gaze. In response, he gently brushed aside a lock of her hair and answered "I was lonely too growing up. That kind of pain can leave noticeable scars… if one knows where to look." At his statement the archer said nothing… but she could tell that he too bore the scars of true loneliness, she could see it in his eyes.
"You… you should go. Right now. Cheshire broke my earpiece, so the calvary should be here any second. They might get the wrong idea and try to hurt you." Artemis spoke in a worried voice, not wanting a kind soul like this person being harmed, least of all by a paranoid control freak like the Batman.
The Kingpin smiled in appreciation as he replied "Thanks for the heads-up. I hope we can meet under better circumstances in the future. If you ever want to help out and do some real good… I like to keep an 'open door' policy." When he finished speaking, he gave a two-fingered salute and entered his limo with Cheshire following close behind, her elder sibling winking at her before the door was shut.
Neo smiled and gave a small tip of her hat to the archer before entering the driver's seat and then drove the limo away. All the while, as the limo vanished from view, Artemis couldn't help but quietly think to herself. Growing up as the daughter of a villain, it would be a serious understatement to say that it was tough.
And learning the ropes as the Green Arrow's student showed her that heroes often skirted around the law every single day to uphold their ideals of justice. Artemis wasn't like most heroes though… she had seen firsthand and experienced both sides. In her opinion, the heroes were just perpetuating a cycle of never ending violence and destruction without any lasting solutions. It seemed like the only 'solution' they offered was just beating up the bad guys and then putting them out of sight and mind until they escaped.
"What is the point in beating down and arresting criminals both standard and Super, if they don't STAY in prison or somehow manage to escape the law through some method or another? Each and every escape gives them another chance to improve their schemes and techniques, and thus more and more lives are at an even greater risk." those were the Kingpin's words during his speech… and there was a deep truth to them that countless Heroes refused to acknowledge.
There had to be a more efficient means of dealing with this cycle. Could the Kingpin have a potential solution? He seemed to be using Ivy's powers for something positive like his pharmaceutical company. Those medications, if they're for real, could help a lot of people. Her musing was broken when she heard the roar of an engine approaching, which came to a sudden stop a few feet of her revealing the Batmobile.
It opened up revealing the forms of both Batman and Black Canary inside, the latter showing open relief that she was okay while the former asked "What happened?" Artemis pursed her lips for a moment before replying "It's a long story. Cut me loose first please? I can't feel my fingers."
Later. Naruto's private penthouse.
"Am I an animal?" Harley asked as she drummed her fingers against a table, wearing nothing but her underwear and a pair of fuzzy pink socks to keep her feet warm. A card stuck to her head with a band as she tried to figure out what was written on it. As it so happened, she and the others were given the day off to do as they liked… and suffice it to say they were all feeling lazy and decided to stay indoors.
"Yup." Killer Frost replied, making Harley hum in thought before asking "Am I famous?" to which she earned a nod of confirmation from Crush.
"Am I part of a movie series?" Quinn asked, earning a series of confirmations from the others, all of whom were also in their underwear as well. "Did I die?" she asked, with Selina saying a quick 'getting warmer'.
"Am I King Kong?" Harley asked, earning a round of applause from everyone since she had correctly guessed the name written on the card making the blonde clown squeal in delight.
"This is fun and all, but I think we should invite the boss to play strip poker or some shit like that. I wanna see if he'll get one of those anime-style geyser nosebleeds." Crush spoke with a chuckle causing Harley to giggle since she would love to see that happen. They heard the lock from the front door click signaling their boss had returned home. Heh. Speak of the devil and he will come.
And it seemed he was joined by someone other than Neo, someone familiar to some of them and new to another. "Cheshire! You made it out!" Harley greeted warmly as she waved at the Kunoichi. The black haired Assassin waving back as she answered "Yup. Nice to see you girls again. Having a party?" She asked at the end, taking note that the girls weren't wearing very much at the moment.
'Minato' felt his cheeks burn a bit as he blushed at the fact the ladies were in their undies, but he maintained (or at least tried to) keep his cool as he spoke "Cheshire will be working with us from now on." at that, they all nodded in understanding and chose not to ask any questions, if the boss felt like telling them the whole story, he would. Regardless, it didn't really matter to them.
"Yo. Name's Crush. Welcome to the crew." The white skinned girl greeted in a casual manner, earning a giggle from Cheshire. Deciding not to be left out of the fun, the Assassin quickly shed her own garments leaving her only in a loincloth and chest wrappings to maintain her modesty.
'Minato' rolled his eyes at their antics as he planted himself in a nearby chair and spoke "As enjoyable as it is to take in your finely curved forms… we might have a problem. Your Batman's little spies are getting more and more aggressive. Two of them jumped me back to back. Batgirl and Artemis."
At his words, Catwoman, Harley and Ivy all paused and looked at each other with the agile burglar asking "Wait… you saw Batgirl? No one's seen her in… a really long time." At her words, their boss seemed to be a little confused as he crossed his arms.
"That so? Why's that?" He asked out of curiosity, it seemed like there was a story behind this. At his question, Poison Ivy answered "No idea. She worked really closely with Batman for some time, then suddenly dropped off the grid a few years ago. No rhyme or reason why. But then again we don't exactly send Christmas cards to each other… speaking of, can we ban the cutting of Christmas trees when you're elected?"
The Kingpin wasn't sure if she was being serious or joking at the end and gave a noncommittal shrug as he spoke "Is it possible that this Batgirl suffered some kind of an injury in her daily life and was forced to quit?"
"Probably. But no one knows for sure." Selina answered, causing her boss to hum in thought since he already had an idea on who Batgirl was… and now this knowledge clenched it for him. Her eyes and distinctive red hair tipped him off… but if she had suffered an injury that had forced her retirement then Barbara Gordon was the strongest candidate to be Batgirl. It was possible that she had recently recovered from her injury or was using something to help move around, in either case, he was certain about his hunch. And it seemed her strongest motivation to take her mantle again was to find Naruto Uzumaki, showing just how much she cared for him.
He would need to address this as soon as possible, and thankfully he had an idea on how to handle it. "You know Selina… I just remembered something… you and Batman seemed pretty familiar with each other when he dropped in on us." The Blonde man spoke as he recalled their interaction during that time.
"Ohhh, I guess I forgot to mention my on-again-off-again relationship with the Batman. Sorry about that." Catwoman spoke with a wink, though Harley didn't seem to like that. Not one little bit.
"You mean you never told Mistah K? I thought you already told him about it! I think that kinda thing would be pretty important to mention! What's to stop ya from running back to B-man when he starts showing you a little lovin'?" Harley asked as she stood to her full height and put her hands on her hips with a deep frown on her face.
"Whoa now Quinn. That was personal business, and I didn't think it mattered so long as I didn't sell out or betray the boss. And I should ask you the same thing. What's stopping YOU from running back to your 'Mistah J' when he starts to call on you? You have a nasty tendency of finding your way back to him." Catwoman pointed out with a small growl, her words making Harley shrink a bit since that was true.
"Now girls, let's not fight. We're all friends here. I don't make it a habit of prying into other people's business, but we need to trust each other. Loyalty is what matters here. Catwoman could have told Batman about me back in the limo but she didn't. And Harley? I trust you to make the right choice for yourself when the time comes, just like Selina did at that time." The Kingpin spoke, his words of trust melting Harley's heart since he put his faith and belief in her.
"Besides, let's not get all hypocritical. I myself have a few secrets that I've been holding back for personal and professional reasons. So let's not go pointing fingers." The disguised Uzumaki admitted as he glanced over at Crush, who was as he explained to Cheshire on the ride over, the only person on his personal entourage that wasn't aware of his true nature.
"Eh. I don't really give a flying fuck. Doesn't matter to me what your big secrets are. So long as you're loyal, none of that shit matters." Crush spoke since she was on board with the boss in that regard.
"Really now?" The Kingpin asked with a chuckle and then spoke in a half-serious and half-joking tone "What if I told you that I'm secretly a fifteen year old teenage ninja from an obscure continent that is home to countries full of ninjas?"
"Dude… how much anime have you been watching?" The white skinned girl asked as she scratched at the valley between her breasts while the others couldn't help but snicker a bit at her expense. The Kingpin simply shook his head in response and decided that he'd have to tell her the truth. He had a strong feeling that she was trustworthy with his secret, and… he was feeling like a gambler since every move he made carried certain risks.
While there were certain risks to telling her, he believed that not telling her would have even greater consequences in some form or other. "About that…" he responded and then dropped his Henge that dispelled in a puff of smoke. "Nice to meet you Crush. My name's Naruto Uzumaki… and this is what I really look like."
There was a long silence as everyone waited to see Crush's reaction, for a few seconds she could only stare at him in stunned silence. Then she slowly approached him, her crimson eyes transfixed on his face which for some reason worried the whiskered teen. "Uh… Crush? Xio? You're kinda creeping me out. Say something please?" Naruto asked, wondering if he blew her mind or something.
"Whiiiiiiiiiskeeeeers." She spoke in an almost zombie like tone as she pinched his cheeks, her eyes wide with fascination as she stared at his unique birthmarks. "PAAAAAAAAIN!" Naruto screamed as he felt almost like the flesh of his cheeks were about to be torn off.
"Whiskers. Whiskers. Whissssssskers." The punk-like woman muttered as she continued inspecting them earning some laughter from the other girls who couldn't help but agree with Crush since his whisker marks were indeed adorable.
"Help! Pain! Excruciating pain! Security! Security!" The Jinchuuriki called out, begging for their assistance which only made them laugh harder at his expense. After a few moments, he was finally released from her grip and Killer Frost was using her icy touch to help numb the pain in his cheeks.
"Sorry boss. Didn't mean to pinch ya so hard. That shit was my fault." The white skinned woman apologized as she rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment. That was… kind of an out-of-character moment for her if she were honest.
"All things considered, you took the news pretty well. Though please… no more cheek pinching. My whisker marks are freaking sensitive." Naruto whined a bit, the numbing sensation offered by Frost's cool fingertips giving him some much needed relief.
"No kidding… but still I'm a bit worried. With Batman and his friends breathing down our necks, we're in some pretty serious shit. I can't tell ya the number of times the Batman and his allies have beaten the crap out of us." Frost muttered with a frown, earning some nods from the others with the exclusion of Crush since she hadn't yet tangled with any Hero types.
"I wouldn't be too worried. Batman came off as something of a bully to me. Also, someone I once met told me that one can be truly strong and can get stronger when they fight for someone precious to them, someone they care about." Naruto spoke, recalling what Haku had told him during his time in Wave. Kami… he wished that Haku might have lived… then maybe they could have been good friends.
"Oh yeah? That sounds kind of dumb. The only thing fighting for others will do is get you put into an early grave." Frost spoke dismissively as she shook her head, and then paused when she saw her boss staring up into her eyes.
"Were you thinking about that when you, Cheshire and Selina came to my defense in Arkham?" He asked which stunned the ice user into a dead silence… he got her there. She wasn't thinking about that at that time.
"Wow… you just… just wow… wow. I did not think about that." Muttered a stunned Frost… maybe he did have a point then. Most everyone in here was only ever out for themselves, and as a result, had gotten their asses handed to them on countless occasions. This kid… really was something else. It would explain why he was always so friendly with them… and if what he said was true… then perhaps they could get stronger. Perhaps they should take a few pages from his book?
For now though, Frost knew this much. First, she liked this kid a lot. He was awfully kind to them and he treated them like regular people, not deranged animals or psychopaths. Secondly, this kid… he had the makings of greatness in him. No question about it. And anyone that doubted this or underestimated him, was nothing short of a fool.
For some reason though, the atmosphere seemed unusually warm now… almost like… a family. It was a good feeling. And she hoped to feel more of it to warm herself. They all settled into a comfortable silence as the night dragged on and all came to the silent conclusion that the bonds and trust they shared would help them grow stronger. Together.
Meanwhile. The Gordon's apartment.
"At least I have a lead now." Barbara muttered quietly to herself, feeling glad that she was able to get in contact with the Kingpin and that he had offered a meeting. While she wished that she could have found Naruto, she couldn't really blame him for wanting to stay off the radar given his encounter with Waller. It was also likely that other interested parties may try to locate him as well.
For now though… she wanted to break the good news to her father about her legs. Barbara had spent hours free-running across the rooftops in her Batgirl suit, and she felt good as new. Better even. While it would be a good idea to double-check with a doctor, she was quite certain that she had almost, if not completely recovered from her injury.
Her suit and gear was safely tucked away back at her clocktower and it was time to break the big news to her father and the Bat-family. She was ready and eager to rejoin them on the field. For now, her father needed this most of all.
"Dad? Can you come in here please? I need a little help." She called out as she stood to her full height a confident smile on her face as she waited for him to enter. She heard his footsteps approaching and saw the doorknob twist as it opened, her father entering her room as he asked "What's up Barb, is your wheelchair stuck a...g..ain?" His voice failing at the end as he saw his daughter standing on her own two legs without any assistance.
She smiled warmly as she stepped forward and spoke "Hey dad. Surprise." Her father was stunned into silence… and then tears welled up in his eyes as he approached her. "Barbara? You… oh my god. Oh my god! You're walking!" He shouted gleefully as he embraced her, weeping tears of joy as she hugged him back.
"Yes dad. I'm walking. I've been working hard to regain the use of my legs. I wanted to wait until I could walk all on my own and then surprise you." She explained and could easily tell that her father was over the moon. If he weren't hugging her right now, there was a strong likelihood that he'd be bouncing off the walls or running up and down the street screaming in joy at this moment.
She sighed happily as her father held her close, neither of them wanting this moment of pure joy to end… until they heard a deep rumbling noise as the ground and walls around them began to shake violently, as numerous objects fell to the floor. Was it an earthquake?! Why did it have to be now?!
There was suddenly a loud explosion outside and the rumbling stopped as suddenly as it started. They both looked outside and saw a female figure standing in front of what appeared to be a large hole in the streets, undoubtedly the source of the aforementioned explosion. The Gordon's exited their apartment and went down to the street to see if the woman was all right, fearing that she might have been injured.
"Ma'am? Are you okay? What happened?" Jim asked as he and his daughter approached the woman… and then stopped when they found that she was completely naked. The woman turned to face them and stared at Jim in quiet bewilderment and asked him "Are you my daddy?"
"Um… no Miss… I'm not. What happened to you? What's your name? Do you know where you are?" He asked as he tried to get to the bottom of what was happening since this poor girl seemed obviously confused… and he was trying his best not to stare at her body.
"Umm… dad? Maybe you should get a blanket or something for her first?" Barbara asked, prompting her father to nod as he rushed back inside while trying to avoid looking at the unknown woman.
"Are you my mommy?" The blonde woman asked, which made the redhead frown sadly and shake her head negatively. The girl hummed quietly as she looked out towards the streets of Gotham, almost as if she were looking for something… or someone. Her parents possibly?
"Hello? Can you tell me who you are? What happened?" Barbara asked as she approached the unknown woman and found her frame to be fairly muscular but still very much voluptuous. She didn't seem to be injured though… but why was she naked to begin with? Unless…
"Galatea. I think that's what I was called. I woke up and found myself all alone… so I smashed my way up here." The now identified girl spoke as she gestured to the hole in the ground… Now that Barbara thought about it, this girl had a very strong resemblance to her friend Kara aka Supergirl. If that was the case… then this girl was a Kryptonian? Another escapee from Krypton… or perhaps a clone? What the hell was going on?!
Galatea squinted her eyes as she experimented with her vision and focused her eyes as she gazed through walls and buildings… until her gaze landed on a large poster depicting a blonde man with a kind looking smile called 'Minato Namikaze'. She blinked her eyes and then looked towards a nearby window that showed her reflection and saw that she too had yellow hair. "Daddy?" She asked herself and felt a powerful urge to locate this man. Without even thinking she smiled and screamed out "DADDY!" and took to the skies flying away through pure instinct alone, almost as if it were completely natural to her… and leaving behind an awe-struck human girl.
"This… could be bad. Really, really, really bad." Barbara muttered to herself as her father finally emerged once more with a blanket in tow… only to find his daughter alone.
"Barbara? Where's that girl? She can't go running off in her birthday suit like that!" He spoke as his daughter slowly turned towards him.
"Ummm about that… I think we should call up Batman and see if he can get Superman here… I think we might have a rogue Kryptonian on our hands." Barbara explained, earning a look of shock from her father. While that girl didn't seem particularly dangerous… that didn't mean she wasn't dangerous.
If she doesn't have a handle on her powers, or if someone does something stupid and tries to mess with her… things could go seriously wrong. There was but only one choice… he'd have to call Batman and get some Kryptonian 'experts' on the job before this unknown girl sneezed and knocked down a building by accident. God… why can't he enjoy one precious moment with his daughter?
Some days, Gordon felt like the city or perhaps even this world was just screwing with him. Even so… he still had a job to do. The people of Gotham and that poor girl needed to be kept safe. Period.
"Come on Barb. Let's get going to the GCPD."
End chapter eight.